Constantines

Mainstage Tent, Sackville NB, August 3

ConstantinesMainstage Tent, Sackville NB, August 3
Photo: Stephen McGill
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"Anyone who sang at the festival can come sing this one with us," said Bry Webb. And so they took to the stage: Paul Saulnier from PS I Love You; Shotgun Jimmie; Basia Bulat; the Weather Station's Tamara Lindeman; even Sappyfest Creative Director Lucas Hicks joined in (who technically did sing, even if only "Hungry Heart" at Saturday night's karaoke afterparty). The song is "Young Lions," arguably the Constantines' most iconic track, and before some in the group dove into the crowd to surf the waves of limbs, they belted along: "Loosen your collar/ Shake off the wires/ Run like a river/ Glow like a beacon fire."

It's not necessarily surprising to be seeing the Constantines again nor, given the individual members' regular appearances in Sackville, is it odd they'd play Sappyfest. (Heck, when the bulk of the band was in Sackville two years ago for separate shows, the entire festival was buzzing that they'd play a secret set; they didn't.) But there almost wasn't a Sappyfest this year, with financial troubles nearly dooming the festival. And everyone also knows that a 10-hour drive to the east, simultaneously, Canada's largest weekend music festival, Osheaga, is happening in Montreal — and shouldn't a reunion of arguably Canada's greatest band of this century play the largest stage available to them?

But here they were, playing a tent in the middle of the busiest street in tiny Sackville, in front of the first-ever completely sold-out Sappyfest crowd, tearing into Tournament of Hearts' "Draw Us Lines" with a passion matched by the rabidly enthusiastic crowd in front of them. The Constantines were back, Sappyfest was back, and everything was close to perfect.

It's the hokiest, tritest of notions that we don't appreciate what we have until it's gone — but what the hell, Sappyfest is no place for emotional subtlety. The Cons should have been icons, and we let them become just another band, releasing great albums that kicked the shit out of most bands' records but, perhaps because they were a tiny notch below Shine a Light, became ordinary to us.

There was nothing ordinary about Sunday night's set: no sense of routine, no "going through the motions" in their third such show since the band came back together again. The Cons tore through their greatest material — "Young Offenders," "Shine a Light," Soon Enough," "Hotline Operator," "Arizona" — like they never left us, like they never abdicated their throne. The guitars crackled and hummed, the crowd buzzed in kind and together, in a fever, what could have been a nostalgia experience became immediate, present.

"You do what you can do with what you got," the Cons sang, as they wound down Sappy 2014 with their final song from their final album. And what more could one have asked for, really? Broken apart in our own separate ways, we find each other again and sing along when the song sounds right. Sappyfest, more than any other music festival I've been to, feels like family — and, last night, the Constantines sure as heck sounded like home.

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