The sun set on the first day of Sappyfest, only to give rise to a memorable Day 2. After some much needed brunch from the Sackville institution Patterson’s, many of us drank our gatorade, downed our coffees, and got back into festival mode.
I arrived to the grounds as the Montreal two-piece Solids were ending, a band which I scorned myself for missing. These guys hit hard and really pull no punches – their energy and ferocity could be felt from across town. Also, children were up front rocking out, making the rest of us seem like geezers.
One of my newfound favourites in the last month or two is Adrian Teacher. He’s a Vancouver-based artist that cut his chops in the bands Apollo Ghosts and COOL TV, but now going out on his own along with his band The Subs. A true DIY warrior, he’s been releasing music on his own for the better part of a decade. He’s collaborated with the likes of Julie Doiron, Dirty Beaches, Karl Blau, Shotgun Jimmie, just to name a few. Not only was he Polaris-nominated in 2010, but he was also the Sappyfest Songwriter in Residence in 2011.
Adrian Teacher’s set was definitely one of the highlights of the festival. Having had the pleasure of presenting a show with him (along with Human Music and Shotgun Jimmie) the prior week. His fun and witty antics on stage got people moving instantly, which I might add included giant smiles. He sings about simple things that we all think about or experience, like calling in sick, getting older, and of course, love. His delivery is irresistible, as is his music – his pseudo-crooner stage performance is supposed to be cheesy. He’s sort of like a more loveable Mac DeMarco.
At one point Adrian Teacher even invited up DJ Coconut – a DJ that happened to be dressed in a full body gorilla costume – who ended up jumping into the crowd and crowdsurfing, and Adrian followed suit. He played several songs off the recently released Sorta Hafta EP, such as “One Thing Your Money Couldn’t Buy” and “When Did I Get Older?” and also surprised us with a few Apollo Ghost tracks such as “I’m In Love With the USA.”
We chugged our craft beers down and rushed over to the Vogue Theatre to catch Moon Socket, and finally got to sit down and take a load off. The Vogue Theatre is a beautiful art deco style theatre and cinema built in 1946 with a capacity of nearly 300. The white lights were dangled everywhere behind the stage, and the mood was set.
Moon Socket (Halifax via Moncton) is the solo project of Chris Thompson, who was also part of Eric’s Trip with Julie Doiron and The Memories Attack. The self-titled debut LP by Moon Socket came out in 1995, which is before many of the younger people at Sappyfest were even born. He also played the inaugural Sappyfest in 2006, which made it extra special to have him and the band back for the 10th anniversary of the festival.
The music definitely had a 90’s vibe to it, but it also contained interesting and intricate arrangements that, in my mind, transcend time. The music was neither fast nor slow – it was a mixed bag of crunchy and dissonant tones along with moments of atmospheric reprieve. I didn’t know about Moon Socket’s music coming in, but I enjoyed the nostalgic feel of his music and appreciated that it could stand the test of time. Fans of anyone from Elliott Smith to Sloan could easily get on board with this project.
At this juncture the festivities were put on pause and we went back to grab some food and have a few drinks. It was the calm before the storm that would be the second half of Day 2.
As our group made our way back to the festival grounds, the piercing and penetrating vocals of Caila Thompson-Hannant, a.k.a. Mozart’s Sister (formerly of Shapes & Sizes) boomed throughout the streets of Sackville. Heads turned, and people were drawn towards the beautiful sounds.
Mozart’s Sister was easily one of the highlights of Sappyfest this year, as her jaw-dropping, near-perfect performance converted us all into believers. This was another act that I had been anxious to see for a few years but had never gotten around to it. Her strong, sexy disposition got the crowd in a frenzy as she danced and let loose on stage. Mozart’s Sister was a fun way to take us all into the night, bodies moving and the catchy pop rhythms pulsing through the town of Sackville on a perfect evening. Her angelic voice carried us all away and made us forget about the world around us, if only for a little while.
With the tone set, Toronto’s DIANA were up next on the main stage. Carmen Elle (also of Army Girls) and the band were stunning as usual, having a few years of playing under their belt since their 2013 release Perpetual Surrender. The synth-heavy, atmospheric feel of their music was accentuated during their live performance, playing songs such as “Perpetual Surrender” and “Born Again” to keep the energy of the night going. Using the cable going across the stage as a prop throughout the set, Carmen Elle interacted with the audience and captivated the entire tent. If there was one band that could get people dancing in each other’s arms and making sex feel imminent, DIANA was that band.
We didn’t end up staying out too late on this night, mainly due to how late we had stayed up for the Foundry show the night before. However, New Fries played at The Royal Canadian Legion down the road later on. This band has gotten a lot of positive attention and acclaim over the last while, and they proved why on the small Legion stage. Although I didn’t catch all their set or really know any of their music, New Fries are one of those bands that sound completely different than anything else you’ve ever heard.
New Fries deconstruct conventional notions of what music is “supposed” to sound like. Abrupt, and at times, incoherent arrangements command the audience’s attention, while atypical time signatures and technically genius maneuvers reinforce how good the band really is. Beautiful chaos. They reminded me of Gatineau’s Fet.Nat, another band that is in a world of their own. Ottawa should be looking forward to catching New Fries at this year’s Arboretum Festival.
With another day done, we all hit the hay hard and got some well-deserved shuteye for the final day’s festivities.