Published Aug 03, 2010With only a momentary smattering of rain, the fifth annual SappyFest filled the streets of Sackville, NB with a mixture of everyone's best old friends, best new friends and best friends they've yet to meet. Fans worry each year that the festival's ever-growing popularity will cause it to lose its community atmosphere; so far, that's yet to happen, although with more shows, it's officially become impossible to catch everything awesome.
The main stage tent filled up gradually on Friday as the sun went down and people trickled in from their drives up after work around the Maritimes. Julie Doiron played one of her rock'n'roll sets, with a song about being in love in Sackville in the summer becoming a crowd-pleaser. Toronto's Steamboat and Welland, ON's Attack in Black followed to get the crowd loud and rocking, setting up for the Felice Brothers. Out of the wilds of the Catskill Mountains, the band's five members took the stage in their scruffy glory, switching up performers and instruments each song and ensuring an abundance of foot-tapping, hand-clapping and finger-snapping. After a long set and encore, the music moved to the Sackville Civic Centre, where Holy Fuck played to an accompaniment of Sackville's roller derby league and wrestling.
On Saturday, the latter portion of the afternoon was jam-packed and heavy on the Halifax acts. At a rocking, noisy afternoon bar show, the three-month-old Long, Long, Long (rising from the ashes of York Redoubt) built up a wall of sound, and cemented their status as Halifax's most unpredictable, exciting new band. Halifax/Ottawa pop punk foursome Cold Warps played one surprise set on a trailer and then another on the main stage while filling in for the under-the-weather Moonsocket.
On the main stage in the evening, Apollo Ghosts wowed the crowd with their surf rock vibe and crowd-surfing antics. They were followed by Jim Guthrie's calmer sounds, then Lullabye Arkestra played one of the heaviest sets of the festival, leaving shaky student houses quivering through the town. The tent became jam-packed for Chad VanGaalen's set, as he lulled everyone into a trance with his sweet sounds. Past midnight back at Uncle Larry's, Toronto post-punk three-piece Metz killed it on the last set of their summer tour, followed by the reunited Rockets Red Glare, whose energy didn't quite match the intensity of the previous band. Nevertheless, everyone left with ears ringing.
Sunday held some sonically lighter fare. At the Vogue Theatre, Halifax's It Kills (ex-I See Rowboats) were fresh off a July cross-Canada tour with their string-heavy, instrumental-orchestral sounds coupled with minimalist vocals and looking right in place in an old movie theatre. As the sun sank lower, the lineup spiralled around the block for Daniel, Fred and Julie's church show with Old Man Luedecke. Those waiting were not disappointed: the trio put on one of the most memorable performances of the festival, with the audience entranced by their beautiful old-timey ballads (or else the heat in the building).
One Hundred Dollars played another great show with some new songs off a new album in the works and a Sappy-specific EP; they ended their set with a heart-wrenching performance of "Careless Love" and the crowd's ceaseless cheering unfortunately never resulted in an encore. They were followed by Rick White's trippy psychedelic strains and the honky-tonk Sadies. Rumours of a secret Sloan show had been circulating through the East coast music scene all summer. These rumours proved true as the band took the main stage post-Sadies (the Eric's Trip rumours did not). Keeping it semi-secret, they wowed a crowd of people who'd been Sloan fans since Halifax bar shows in the '90s, and a younger generation of Maritimers who just wished they'd been there, making for one fitting SappyFest finale.