The Dirty Nil Mainstage Tent, Sackville NB, July 30

The Dirty Nil Mainstage Tent, Sackville NB, July 30
Photo: Stephen McGill
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It may have been 4 in the afternoon, but Dundas, ON's the Dirty Nil were going to bring it whether SappyFest was ready or not. With a sound that's one part grime, one part grit, they proved that rock'n'roll is alive and well. Chiselled jaw guitarist Luke Bentham wore a star studded shirt (as always) and was a shining (literally, due to sweat) example of how to dole out showmanship with the utmost sincerity — chords strummed hard on his clear guitar in a power stance, some windmills here and there, wide mouth screams and shouts, arms outstretched and a smile now and again.
 
Bassist David Nardi, dressed all in black with a black guitar, was the stabilizer, ferociously sing-screaming and playing like his life depended on it, while drummer Kyle Fisher madly kept it all together. "It's been five years since we've played the Sack," Bentham said, and the Dirty Nil sure did everything in their power to make this a set that would make up for lost time.
 
Hearing 2011's anthemic "Fuckin' Up Young" is always a treat, and the boys have sure come a long way since then. Buzzing through their freshly released album, Higher Power, these three were reckless and vicious, with nary a break between each fuzz fest number and yet always stopping on a dime, particularly during the less-than-a-minute-long Fugue State, which felt like a slap in the face (with a satisfying sting, a musical masochism of sorts).
 
A piece of Fisher's stick broke off and hit Bentham in the neck during "Zombie Eyes," and when they rolled into "Friends In The Sky" it was almost too much when a string broke on his guitar and he casually ripped it off. The only rock'n'roll stereotype that was missed was an annihilated guitar by set's end, but that move always seems a little boorish and, well, silly.  Instead, there was a man standing stage left that was sketching a cartoon version of Bentham, which was a sight to see.
 
"And now, some Big Star!," Bentham said before the band went into a nice cover of "Mod Lang." Watching him wildly swing his guitar to achieve a stretched-out groan effect during "Helium Dreamer" and later blowing a gum bubble as they dove into "Bury Me At The Rodeo Show" drove the point home that these three recognize the importance of fun, and still deliver in terms of endless energy and a set as tight as a jar lid you'd ask your dad to open.