Sappy Records Music Festival Sackville, NB August 3 to 5

Following last summer’s inaugural event, the 2007 Sappy Records Music Festival (or Sappy Fest) avoided a sophomore slump. Forty different musical acts performed over the course of the three-day event, which ran in conjunction with the OK.Quoi!?! Contemporary Arts Festival. An outdoor concert and barbeque on Friday was a perfect introduction to Sappy Fest’s laidback vibe. Stellar sets came courtesy of Snailhouse and Sappy Records co-owner Julie Doiron, plus a charming solo appearance from indie legend Calvin Johnson. His a cappella performances were particularly delightful, freeing up Johnson to breakout his herky-jerky dance stylings. Later at a prototypical small-town watering hole, Halifax groups the Maynards and the Got To Get Got brought the goods, giving fiery performances that energised the spectators. Vancouver’s They Shoot Horses Don’t They? tried to do the same, and despite some fine moments, their hyperactive brand of pop grew tiresome. Fortunately, the Constantines finished the night with their ever-dependable rockers and rollers. Playful trapeze performances by Montreal’s Poisson D’Avril and a shimmering set of delicate pop tunes from Toronto’s Forest City Lovers were Saturday afternoon’s peaks. An early evening outdoor show introduced the audience to Constantines singer Bry Webb’s softer side with the Paramedics; Webb’s Springsteen-esque growls meshed well with the calm folk melodies, benefiting further from some delicious pedal steel. Mt. Eerie followed with delicate songs and twisted lyricism, and the hushed ambience of the crowd worked to the music’s advantage. The heat didn’t hurt excellent late night sets by the bluesy Castlemusic, the chaotically controlled madness of Motion Ensemble, and the triumphantly orchestral pop of Toronto’s Ohbijou. Polaris Prize nominee Chad VanGaalen played a fun solo set that was marred slightly by starting so late. Festivals can wear you out. Sunday afternoon was hit-or-miss. Hit: Laura Peek’s piano pop. Miss: the Wintermitts, who appeared worn-out from recent cross-country exploits. But the night put things right. There was a lot of demented-energy in B.A. Johnston’s greasy performance, while the Stance, Memories Attack and Dog Day all smoked. Local heroes the Monoxides were tight and heavy during their all-too-brief set and the reunited Eric’s Trip immediately followed their old New Brunswick friends with some fuzzed-out pop juggernauts. They were a cheerful bunch onstage, even when little gaffs occurred. The festival could not have ended on a higher note — literally, the piercing feedback was near deafening.