Sappyfest 6 set for this weekend

Although U2’s upcoming show on Magnetic Hill has been justifiably garnering attention since the winter months, a homegrown music festival is confidently standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the behemoth that is U2.

SappyFest, a music and arts festival held in Sackville, is holding its sixth annual music festival (cleverly titled “With Or Without You” this year, a reference to one of U2’s biggest hits) that just happens to coincide with the U2 concert here in Moncton. But with celebrated independent music acts such as The Sadies, Owen Pallett and Chad Vangaalen set to perform throughout the course of the weekend, music fans looking for some of the country’s most under-rated talent will certainly be in their element in Sackville.

Historically, Sappyfest has conducted their festival on the same long weekend every summer – the New Brunswick Civic Holiday weekend. In fact, the timing of the festival has been so consistent that fans who have attended the festival in the past never question whether the August long weekend will play host to the festival or not; they simply make plans to be there.

SappyFest organizer Paul Henderson says there was no question as to whether or not they would reschedule this year’s festival once the U2 show was confirmed.

“We love operating on the long weekend, it really works wonders for us,” he says. “We felt that with 90,000 people in the region for the weekend, we would only stand to benefit. The festival starts at 6 p.m. on Friday and wraps up at 2 a.m. on Sunday night – Monday morning. You can still enjoy 85 per cent of SappyFest and still see the big show in Moncton.

“SappyFest’s second largest market is actually residents of Toronto and Southern Ontario, most of whom have no idea there is a U2 concert in Moncton that same weekend and likely could care less. This isn’t a matter of David and Goliath, this is apples and oranges.”

In fact, Paul says that the sale of individual day passes and weekend passes is up dramatically compared to previous SappyFests.

A big part of the enduring success of Sappyfest is the support shown to the festival by the Town of Sackville. Henderson has nothing but good things to say about the phenomenal support that the town affords them each year.

“The Town of Sackville is behind us 100 per cent. They have been tremendously supportive both financially and through various in-kind contributions like materials, promotion, garbage and recycling, administrative support, labour… the list goes on. Almost every municipal department from the town pitches in, in some way. The town’s support is equalled by local businesses who step up with donations and financial contributions of all sorts.”

Sackville resident and SappyFest performer Shotgun Jimmie says the fact that the festival is conducted in Sackville instead of a major city is a plus, as far as he is concerned:

“You really have to make an effort to attend Sappy and because of that, the festival ends up having an amazing audience of inspired and excited people,” Jimmie says.

While there are many performers including Shotgun Jimmie and The Sadies who are returning to perform at SappyFest, Henderson notes that there are a number of first-time SappyFest performers and events taking place this year.

“Since the inception of SappyFest, we have tried to find an artist that can make us feel as good as our Stax and Atlantic R&B compilations which we spin more often than anything else in the office, at shows, and at parties. We found Charles Bradley just in time. He actually flies to Los Angeles the next night to open for Stevie Wonder at the Hollywood Bowl,” Paul says.

“We also have a great program of jazz improvisation scheduled,” Paul says. “No More Shapes is made up of Eric Hamelin (Chad VanGaalen’s drummer) and recent Calgary-to-Le-Havre,-Nova-Scotia import Jay Crocker. Jay is a great singer-songwriter in his own right, but he isn’t afraid to freak out on the guitar or on a variety of homemade instruments.

“Drumheller is a intensely talented quintet made up of some of Toronto’s finest improvisational jazz-rock weirdo’s including Eric Chenaux, Brodie West, Doug Tielli, Nik Fraser and Doug Clutton. They seem to bend some traditional jazz into subtle and strange corners. I am also really excited and honoured to have Jerry Granelli who really floored me at St. Matthew’s at Jazz Fest. He is just one man at the drum kit and is incredibly good.”

* If you would like a taste of what music will be offered during the Sappyfest Festival, a free Sappyfest music sampler is available for download at zunior.com/redeem. Enter coupon code sap2011x3d to receive your free music.

Article published in July 25, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript