Hope Your Heart Holds Up: A SappyFest 7 Diary
by Kaley Evans, host of Way Out West, Thursdays 9-10pm

First things first, SappyFest (and to a lesser extent, Sackville) is difficult to describe. It truly must be experienced to begin to be understood. That being said, here's my feeble attempt at trying to capture some of the “swamp magic” that was SappyFest 7.

Friday, August 3, 2012

I wander from my temporary home for the weekend, a dorm room in the Hunton House on the campus of Mount Allison, towards Bridge Street. After navigating one of the most confusing crosswalks/intersections ever created, I pick up my wristband for the weekend. “THIS IS NOWHERE” a banner hanging on the silvery white main stage tent exclaims. Everybody knows.

Man Forever, the drum-centric brainchild band dreamed up by Oneida's Kid Millions, is set up on the floor across from the merchandise tables. The Sappy incarnation of the group features six drummers, flanked by tones of dirty bass and squelching organ. They hurl into action, and for twenty or so unflinching minutes they conjure a storm. Those of us inside the eye of the storm are left battered, broken, bettered. The cobwebs acquired on my bus ride from Halifax to Sackville are long gone. SappyFest 7 starts with a drum circle, a demented drum circle. This bodes well.

The Inbreds' Mike O'Neill is first on the main stage. He plays mostly songs from his fantastic new solo album and tells a story involving the Sackville railroad station. And in a place filled with beautiful people, he may be the best looking.

Once a Deadly Snake, now hiding behind Blue Fog, Andre Ethier and his band traverse his fantastic solo discography next on the main stage. Long a fan, I'm in awe finally hearing these songs live.  They play my favourite, “Pride of Egypt,” last. The best for last.

Having seen them once before, I have the faintest idea of what to expect from METZ. That was years ago, though, and they are different from what they were then. Older, stronger, wiser. Faster, louder, better. They still play with the lights off. The man who sings is like an electrified Mark Mothersbaugh. He convulses and twists and turns, and the band does the same. I am rendered disoriented. Their long-overdue debut album cannot come soon enough. (Editor’s note: METZ’s self-titled album is available now from Sub Pop. It is amazing.)

Fresh from seeing them at Amigos, I am somewhat prepared for Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. Dressed mostly in black, and with their faces painted, the members on stage begin as the two front-women weave their way through the adrenalized crowd under the guise of a Japanese dragon. They make it to the stage and for the next forty or so minutes lead the band and audience upon a fantastical journey. Though the magic of seeing them is slightly diminished with this second viewing, their set is still a perfect amalgamation of art rock, culture, and theatrical performance. There's good reason why they're one of Canada's fastest rising stars.

I'm soon inside the nearby Uncle Larry's and am trying to make sense of the evening as Steamboat play. They are the perfect rock and roll backing band (this is a compliment) and I want them to play until the sun comes up. Of course they don't, so neglecting any of the night's final shows, I walk back to my room. Unease washes over me just before I fall asleep, as I realize I missed Yellow Teeth.