SappyFest Sackville NB August 1 to 3

SappyFest Sackville NB August 1 to 3
It’s a sure sign of growth for a music festival when its main venue moves from an art gallery parking lot to a large tent on a closed-off street. It was a necessity at SappyFest, where the sun didn’t shine once and rain was frequent. Remarkably, weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the larger than ever crowds for Sappy Records’ self-described "third and possibly maybe still annual music festival.” Things kicked off Friday with ragged indie rock courtesy of Sackville’s own Shotgun Jimmie, whose happy-go-lucky attitude resonated with early arrivals to the festival. Incongruously scheduled to follow the peppy pop rock of the Bicycles, Ottawa’s Jim Bryson delivered an easy-going set that got by on folksy charm and humility. Later, the Acorn gave their pretty pop songs an added rhythmic intensity by using two drummers. Julie Doiron followed with a surprisingly edgy set, screechy guitar soloing and all. Halifax groups the Superfantastics and the Just Barelys were among Saturday afternoon’s highlights, but it was the evening show on Bridge Street that really cooked. The Burning Hell played an offbeat version of roots music that ranged from sounding serene to rollickingly hard. Following wonderful synth pop from the golden-voiced Katie Stelmanis, Halifax’s Old Man Luedecke played a masterful set of lovely folk music. It’s odd to think one man and a banjo can completely dominate an audience, but Old Man Luedecke’s songs have a transcendent quality. His encore, called for as the third-last act on the main stage, was the purest moment all weekend and entirely warranted. Even a stellar performance from Chad VanGaalen afterwards could not erase the buzz he created. Sunday was the most consistently enjoyable, highlighted by the spooky folk of Ghost Bees, the beautiful fragility of Sandro Perri, and thoroughly engaging sets from the Luyas, Dog Day, Miracle Fortress and Eric’s Trip. Yet the last performance of the weekend at George’s Fabulous Roadhouse pointed to an area where SappyFest could improve. Think About Life put on a thrilling show that started the weekend’s first-and-last dance party. Having followed Deloro and Quest for Fire, two guitar rock bands distinguished by scruffy beards and little else, Think About Life showed that the festival could do with a few less dudes with guitars and more block rockin’ beats. But that’s one small complaint for what’s come to be the best little music festival east of Montreal.