Wednesday, August 8, 2012

SappyFest 7 - Notes and Remembrances (by Keltie Harding)

(Photo Courtesy of SappyFest & Karren Stentaford)

SappyFest 7 - Thoughts & Rememberances (by Keltie Harding) 

Well, another SappyFest has come and gone.  On all accounts it was a success.  I had a great time in SappyLand, as did roughly 2000 other folks.  But I'm paying for it now!  I'm still trying to catch up on my rest.  This boy isn't as young as he used to be and 3 days of music and warm temperatures takes its toll. LOL. Sleep is usually overrated but right now, sleep sounds like a great plan.  

Andre Ethier onstage at the Main Stage tent

Despite being a completely enjoyable time for me, there were a few snags that kinda irked me.  Firstly was the sound at the main stage tent.  All other years I have went, the sound mix was excellent.  This year, the engineers had a lot of trouble balancing out the vocals with the rest of the band. During the set by Yamantaka/Sonic Titan, the guitar was buried in the mix.  The other venues sounded fine but the main stage guys seem to have been struggling during some of the acts.  Oh well, its me being picky.  I'm sure others found the sound fine. 

 Yamantaka/Sonic Titan closing the night at the Main Stage Tent

Because of an event this size, there are so many acts I wanted to see,  and sometimes acts overlap and you have to decide on one or the other.  Oh the decisions!!!!  I think I saw pretty much everyone I wanted to see. But missed a few that I would have wanted to see.  For example I missed an excellent (so I was told) set by Halifax's Bad Vibrations to see the "Talking Exploding Diamond Talk Show".  The Bad Vibes are playing in Moncton next weekend so I'll catch them again.  But I felt bad, being friends and all, I like to be there to support my buds.

The festival held many highlights for me. Some of them were:

Man Forever - This barrage of 6 drummers, a bassist and keyboardist created a free-form 20 minute long drum solo jam from which there was just no letting up. Just when you thought it was gonna wind down, it just kept going.  

Mike O'Neill - Last time I saw him was about 10 years ago and his new material is really strong and catchy. Taking a break from the scene hasn't diminished his performance or songwriting.  And his backing band (featuring Laura Peek and Charles Austin) were the perfect accompaniment for Mike.  

Banded Stilts - They played their infectious folky country on the town bandstand and it was a great experience to hear such relaxing music in the middle of the sunny downtown.


John Cougar Bandcamp -  The next generation of SappyFest artists were showcased at this family friendly late morning event.  Sackville youth between the ages of 6 and 14 got up to play all original songs.  One song was about the City Mail project run by Alison Creba at the last 2 SappyFests.  It was fun.


F*cked Up -  Loud, aggressive, hardcore punk metal with strong melodies.  The singer was an energy bomb waiting to go off.  He took a beach ball and bit into it and wore it as a poncho.  It was great. He's a pretty big guy and was even crowd surfing.  what a blast.  And tight TIGHT musicianship.  Check them out.  


The Talking Exploding Diamond Talk Show -  A new event this year, it was a live talk show held at the Vogue Theatre.  The line up to get in was huge.  My friend Sonia and I managed to get in for the second hour.  There was a smackdown wrestling match between a Sasquatch and a cougar, Calvin Johnson entertained us with one of his quirky songs, Cat Pontoon interviewed herself instead of having the host ask the questions.  Pure fun.

The Pining - These gals from Toronto were really easy on the eyes and played a great groovy country feeling set at the town bandstand.  Talented musicians, soaring 4 part harmonies and the mid-day sunshine made this set very enjoyable.  I didn't get a chance to pick up their vinyl at the merch tent. Sucks to be me.


Julie Doiron - Canada's first lady of introspective song never ceases to amaze me.  Ex-Constantine & Wooly Leaves main man Will Kidman joined her on drums and guitar for "Borrowed Minivans"  When she performed "The Wrong Guy"/"No More", her energy is intense.  Pouring her heart out on stage for all to witness, and you can hear a pin drop in the theater.  Welcome home Julie.  Its nice to have you back in Sackville. New album in the fall.  I can't wait.  

 Julie & Will Kidman on drums

Dog Day -  2 piece guitar and drums from Halifax.  Last time I saw these guys, they were still a 4 piece, so its been a while for me.  Energetic power pop with grunge overtones.  Well worth seeing.

This Is Not For Everyone - A collage of film, music, poetry was a nice way to start off the Sunday events.  Writer/filmmaker Ian Roy showed a short, humorous film & Artist/filmmaker Jon Claytor showed his short film "The Animals".  Mike Feuerstack also played 3 of his newest songs for the attentive audience.  I even helped clean the Vogue theatre for the performance.  I was hanging around waiting for it to start, and I saw my friend Jon (Claytor, one of the directors &  founders of SappyFest) and asked if he needed help cleaning up after the live talk show the night before.  So I grabbed a broom and garbage can and did my part.  It was great.  A sappy Volunteer for a brief moment in time.

Bry Webb - The former Constantines frontman played a very mellow, countrified set in the Mount Alison University United Chapel.  The understated musical backing mixed with the church's acoustics gave it an eerie, yet comforting feeling. Bry's infant son was around and you could hear him say "Dada Dada Dada" and giggle & coo all the way through the set.  It was cute.  Highlights for me were Bry's composition "Rivers Of Gold" and an exquisite cover of "Summer Breeze" by Seals & Croft.  When he started that song, a nice beautiful warm breeze came through the venue.  Coincidence?  You tell me.  It was very calming.  I closed my eyes and just drifted away to the sound of his rich baritone.  If there IS a heaven, then seeing Bry Webb in this setting was a brief taste of it.

Mt. Silver Zion Memorial Orchestra - Intense, loud, experimental, guitars, bass, drums and violins.  My first time seeing these guys and I was speechless.  The music would gradually build up to a wall of sound and then explode like a mighty orgasm into frenzied musical chaos and beauty.  My favorite song of the set was "Psalm 99".  You MUST see them if they come through your town.  

Some acts didn't turn me on as much.  Others enjoyed them but they didn't do it for me.  "The Blow" was dance techno music and I am not into techno. I'm sorry.  1 girl dancing around an empty stage singing to a pre-recorded backing track just didn't seem to hold my attention.  "Timbre Timbre" may be the newest thing from Canada, but I didn't see the appeal.  I felt it was boring, slow and dreary.  But that's just my take.  you may feel differently, and that's cool, man.  But such is an event of this magnitude.  There's bound to be an act here or there that doesn't appeal to you.  And that is fine.  It gave me a chance to nip out to use the washroom, get a bite to eat or just a breath of air.

This year the Sappyfest subtitle/ theme was "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", the title song of Neil Young's classic second album.  In the past 2 years, there was a "Secret" show at SappyFest that this year rumors were flying again.  Various names that were batted around were Neil Young (of course), Gordon Lightfoot and The Constantines.  I could possibly see a min-Constantines reunion as 3 of the 5 members were in town to play, but nothing materialized.  As the weekend drew on, rumors of a secret show quietly subsided.  Maybe next year there will be another coup for the Sappyfest organizers, maybe not. Who knows.  As with all things Sappy, surprises are bound to happen. 

  "Nowhere Tent" picture courtesy of Sonia Noel

The event was (and is) always so well organized.  So much work goes on to put this event on.  Thanks to Paul and Jon for doing so much for the scene.  Thanks goes to all the people who volunteered their time to work the merch tables, the box office and general helping out. 

And the merch.  THE MERCH.  There was so many records, CD's T-shirts, and cassettes (yes, cassettes are making a BIG comeback in the indie world) that I needed at least $1000 to buy one of everything.  I wasn't able to, unfortunately, but I did get a great "You've Changed Records" T-shirt, the newest Marine Dreams and Baby Eagle vinyls (both from You've Changed Records.)

Ian Kehoe & Tamara Lindeman of Marine Dreams

Marine Dreams - Marine Dreams (You've Changed Records) 

 Baby Eagle & The Proud Mothers

Baby Eagle & The Proud Mothers - Bone Soldiers (You've Changed Records)

I also got newcomer Eamon McGrath's "Young Canadians" album on vinyl, Fred Squire 's "Sings Shenendoah & Other Popular Hits" from Toronto based Blue Fog Records.  I also had a special delivery of the second "The Memories Attack" CD.  I knew Ron Bates (of TMA) was coming this way and asked him to bring a copy if he had one kicking around.  Lucky for me he did.  Bless ya Ron.  You're a great friend and I LOVE the CD.  My friend Sonia bought more merch than me and I'll get her opinions on some of her purchases.  But there is never lack of merch (and fairly priced too) at SappyFest.  I'd rather buy from the artist themselves and that way they see more of the profits.  

 Eamon McGrath - Young Canadians (White Whale Records)

L-R: Mark Gaudet, Eamon McGrath & Julie Doiron

Frederick Squire - Sings Shenandoah & Other Popular Hits (Blue Fog Records)

So, all in all, SappyFest 7 (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere) was a success.  I had tons of fun, listened to so much music, got turned on to some new bands, met old friends, made new friends, and got away from life as I knew it for a few days.  Now that I am back in my usual life, I am going through Sappy withdrawal.  I miss the feelings that the event gives me.  Well I have to wait. 363 days left till next year.  I have all this time to catch up on the bands that played, get turned on to some bands that will play next year, and save more money to blow on merch and goodies!

Toronto grunge rockers METZ

I strongly STRONGLY urge anyone who loves good music, to check out the festival when it returns (hopefully) next year. Open your ears, your eyes and your hearts.  Your life will be enriched & forever changed for the good.

(Sappy Times Newsletters by Sean Michaels - I'm missing the Monday (looking back on Sunday) edition.)

Keltie & Peter Rowan,

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