Sappyfest 2010 - Sunday Re-cap // Good-bye Sappy!

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If Sappyfest had ended on Saturday night, we wouldn’t have been able to complain (we had already gotten more than our money’s worth), but Sunday’s line-up proved that the organizers still had a few surprises up their sleeves. Sunday ended up being a fitting final chapter; leaving everyone with a feeling of closure, but still wanting more.

Sackville’s own Corey Isenor was playing the main stage as we went for our final coffee runs and picked up some last minute merchandise. Isenor’s lazy, wistful tunes echoed everyone’s disposition. He exuded an intimate singer/songwriter quality reminiscent of “Harvest” era Neil Young.

Cousins, another two piece, brought the energy back up by cranking up to eleven and pummeling the audience with rough, ragged power pop mixed with blues and punk. The Halifax natives easily put on the most rockin’ show of any of Sunday’s main stage afternoon acts.

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We spent some time lounging in the park behind Uncle Larry’s listening to a bit of Michelle Mcadorey. She played a very mellow set. Her beautiful melodies and minimalist sound had just the right balance of dirt & shine.

The Baird Brothers kept things going on the main stage. If you haven’t guessed by now, they are a two-piece. They played a mixture of country, rock and blues with that great rough around the edges feel that two-piece bands often have. All of the two-piece bands in the festival proved that two people can form a band and play practically any genre of music (from country to heavy metal) with as much power and feeling as a five-piece. The Baird Brother’s weapons of choice were guitar and drums. They chose to use these instruments as a way to deliver big crushing beats and soulful blues inspired guitar licks.

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Halifax’s It Kills were playing next at Vogue Theatre. Much like the rest of Bridge Street, the movie theatre looks to be pushing a century. The theatre was the perfect venue for It Kills. Their set was full of lush orchestral arrangements, dreamy hooks (consisting mostly of “oooooh”s and “aaaaah”s) and astounding musicianship. Although It Kills’ sound suffered somewhat from being same-ish, mostly due to the lack of lyrical content in the vocals, there was no denying the band makes beautiful music together and nothing else at the festival sounded anything like them.

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At this point, Dan and Tiff headed to Uncle Larry’s to check out Braids, Shapes & Sizes and By Divine Right while Isaac went to the United Church for Daniel, Fred & Julie and Old Man Luedecke.

Outside the church, people were lined up as far as the eye could see to take in the all ages show. It was scorching outside but that was nothing compared to inside the packed church. It was like sticking your face in an oven. People were sitting restlessly, fanning themselves with no real way of escaping the heat. There was a fellow we had spotted a few times over the weekend who had spent the entire festival walking around in a giant red mascot suit. The poor schmuck had decided to keep the mascot routine going in the overheated church. His body language looked like he was having the time of his life, but he must have felt like passing out.

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Once Daniel, Fred and Julie took the stage the heat was forgotten. The trio displayed haunting melodies with harmonies to die for. Everyone in attendance was blown away. The acoustics in the church were perfect for the group’s mournful country style.

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The beloved Old Man Luedecke performed next and as a testament to his popularity, most of the audience stayed right were they were, slowly cooking in their pews. As always, Luedecke played a fun set of quirky bluegrass numbers while the audience clapped, tapped their feet and sang along with every word. At one point Luedecke spotted the furry red mascot dude and related a story about how he had once had a job as a mascot but was only legally allowed to wear the costume for a short time to prevent dying from heat stroke. Luedecke chuckled and nodded at the mascot, “so, yeah, good luck with that”

Meanwhile at Uncle Larrys…

Braids' ethereal pop tunes proved just right to start a long day of intense music. At times more like a sound effect collective than a rock band, there was no shortage of melody or rhythm among the washing vocal collages, the heavily delayed bells and chimes, and the pitch shifted, breath sounds that emanated from every band member. While at first it seemed like there was a keyboard player, some guitarists, and a drummer on the stage, if you close your eyes all you could hear was a soundscape of ambient riffs, beats, and totally unidentifiable sounds. While we haven’t actually heard their record (tape), we can’t imagine any live band being closer to their recorded sound – the noise coming off the stage sounded more like a Boards of Canada record than a live band, a seemingly ultra studio constructed, sample intensive ambient sound collage that was, in fact, coming out of suitcases full of pedals and stacks of tiny combo amps.

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Shapes & Sizes’ music was a very different style than Braids, but they had enough similarities in their execution that the two acts fit together well. Shapes and Sizes were a good bridge between Braids’ strange sonic excursions and By Divine Right’s old school power pop because they were just that: Old school power pop surrounded by strange sonic excursions. The Montreal natives have a diverse sound with both female and male vocals, guitar that rip and jangle sometimes and then take you to outer space other times.

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Next up were Toronto’s By Divine Right. The band came to national attention in the 90s and at one time had Canadian indie legend Fiest on guitar. Front man José Miguel Contreras started things off by lighting some sort of incense and bathing the stage with it before resting it on his amp in some sort of porcelain incense holder. The band proceeded to prove to everyone that they hadn’t lost a step. They played a fantastic set of power pop, shoe gazer rock and roll. The energy was high and the audience was appreciative. By Divine Right got everyone pumped and ready for some main stage rock and roll.

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We grabbed some more organic burgers and Picaroons beer and watched 100 Dollars play the main stage tent. 100 dollars played straight up rock and roll and they played it well. Their lead vocalist had the raw quality of Janis Joplin and the band’s sound referenced 60’s and 70’s rock & roll greats.

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Then there was Moncton, N.B’s favorite longhair troubadour, Rick White. The main stage was growing packed so we took in White’s show from a safe distance. White’s band plays a dark retro style of rock that is powerful but ghostly and dissonant.

Headliners The Sadies came out next to rock everyone’s socks off. The Sadies mix traditional music, Celtic music, rock, country, rockabilly and indie-rock for a sound that demands you shake your ass. They manage to be non-stop fun without ever being a joke. Their music comes across as sincere but never gloomy. They set the night on fire playing one hit after another, even doing a short encore.

This was the point when the main stage show was supposed to end, but there had been rumors all weekend that there would be a special surprise act. There were also rumors that the surprise act would be Sloan. Luckily both rumors were proven to be true. The M.C. came out, cracked a few lame jokes about how the show was over and we should all go home before introducing Sloan.

Sloan took the stage to thunderous applause. Sloan are DIY, indie rock legends and they showed us why by playing their classic album “Twice Removed” in its entirety. The band sounded as great as they ever have and so did the songs. “Twice Removed” has been touted as one of the greatest Canadian albums by countless people - the songs on it are indeed some of Sloan’s strongest and many of them (especially the melancholy ‘Coax Me’) have a timeless quality to them. Sloan was the perfect band to end the night and perfect fit for the very thing Sappyfest was celebrating: the value of independent, Canadian music.

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Hats off to whole Sappyfest team (and all the bands) for packing so much amazing music into one short weekend (luckily most of us had the Monday off to recuperate). We look forward to next year, though it will surely be hard to top this years incredible lineup.

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TNaugler

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