Messtival Continues Thinking Outside The Box

Photo by Martin Cormier
Photo by Martin Cormier

For the last seven years, Messtival, a festival centred on music, art and more, has built a fiercely dedicated following by consistently thinking outside of the box. Driven by their amusing, self-depreciating style of marketing, the Messtival’s organizers are comfortable with their position as a niche festival, albeit a rather popular niche.

As the festival prepares for its eighth edition, held this Saturday in Anagance, its roots as a Moncton house-based party continue to influence the tightly knit atmosphere that permeates the celebration each year.

The festival’s impressive longevity could be attributed in part to the diverse range of groups that typically can be found on its stages: Messtival 8 is no different, and boasts artists including Moncton jazz-fusion band Les Paiens, bluegrass-inspired group Mother Jugs & Speed, Montreal one-man band Jon Cohen Experimental, Saint John’s roots-inspired act Earthbound Trio, along with many more.

Messtival Artistic Director Ian MacMillan has been involved with the festival since day one and quips that he has helped shape the festival into it’s “weird, sarcastic glory,” but has also enjoyed seeing the way in which it has evolved.

“We aim to make Messtival the type of festival that each of us would like to attend,” he says.

From virtually the outset of the festival, the Moncton-based TBA Collective, a volunteer-run, non-profit cooperative, has been a driving force in organizing the festival each year. MacMillan says that as the collective’s membership has dwindled, the responsibilities that each member must take on have understandably become more numerous.

“My role and responsibilities have gotten larger with each passing year, as we’ve seen a decline in TBA’s core membership. The benefit of that is that we have learned to work smarter, not harder.”

Since locating to its current rural home on Windmill Road in Anagance, Macmillan says the festival has been constantly striving for infrastructure upgrades to help make each year run a little more smoothly.

“These past few years, we have been working on incorporating and building more permanent infrastructure at the festival location. Having a good base that allows us to focus on art installations and interactive art exhibits is important. Ultimately, we want to see the community continue to develop, while also ensuring we don’t stray too far from the original Messtival ideals,” MacMillan notes.

While the goal of many music festivals would be to see year-over-year financial growth while also attracting larger headliners to fill the bill, Messtival’s aspirations are considerably more modest.

MacMillan believes the intimate nature of Messtival has played a significant part in the festival’s enduring appeal.

“We are going to continue to be an intimate festival, which is a reason why we limit ticket sales every year. We don’t necessarily have the aspirations to grow into a larger festival; we like the small community that we are cultivating. It’s fun when everyone who attends ‘gets it.’ I think the sarcastic slant we have leant to the way we market and advertise the festival, telling people they aren’t allowed to have any fun, ultimately helps us reach the people who would be interested in attending.”

Like MacMillan, Moncton’s Jonah Hache has been a driving force behind Messtival from the very beginning. This year, Hache, with the assistance of set designer Wasko, is helping coordinate the production and design of the festival’s stages.

As with prior editions of the festival, Hache says that Messtival 8 has a wide array of non-music offerings to help amuse attendees, including a duck race, video game competition, live art, on-site screen-printing, laser-tag and VJ projection installations.​​

​​What: Messtival 8 featuring Heethcliff, Plural, Mother Jugs & Speed, Jon Cohen Experimental, Earthbound Trio, Xania, Papa Ya, Frase, Durians, Les Paiens, After Funk, Elephant Skeletons, The Hornitz, M.K.W., Darryl and his Boogie Buttons, Chairman Meow, Snug, The Bass Babas
When: Saturday Aug. 8, Noon
Where: 333 Windmill Rd., Anagance
Tickets are $60 in advance, available for purchase at Spin-It Records, 467 Main St., Moncton and online at