Jennifer Castle Mainstage, Sackville NB, July 31

Jennifer Castle Mainstage, Sackville NB, July 31
Photo: Stephen McGill
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The organizers of SappyFest routinely book artists who are poised to make a splash by the time the festival rolls around. Fresh off a Polaris Prize shortlisting of her excellent, critically-acclaimed 2014 album Pink Castle, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Jennifer Castle fit slickly into a mid-evening slot on the first night of the festival. Castle followed an energetic full-band (Montreal's Heat, in this instance) and a less-than-muted folk rock set from Michael Feuerstack, but Sappy organizers have learned how to start off with a bang and mix things up. It's worked in past years with artists such as Basia Bulat and it worked here again.

It's been four years since an Exclaim! reviewer noted that "Castle's silky twang is probably better suited for smaller venues for now," but she found a way to command stage presence for those who were prepared for it at this quaint festival. Castle's well-documented impressive vocal range and guitar tinkering were on display to help grab attention from the competing interests of friends meeting up and getting settled in for a full weekend. Juxtaposed with the flying shoes and crowd-surfing during the PUP set that closed the Mainstage for the night, Castle's self-described "pretty folky set" will be remembered as a pleasant, sonically appealing change of pace when all is said and done.