SappyFest is set to take over the Town of Sackville this weekend.
Previous editions of the popular music and arts festival have boasted some of the biggest names in music, including Arcade Fire, while also featuring buzz-worthy acts such as Metz, The Sadies, Polaris Prize-nominated Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, Wintersleep and PS I Love You.
This year, a large contingent of Maritime-based acts will perform at SappyFest, including Moncton’s John Jerome & The Congregation, Halifax’s Joel Plaskett, Saint John native Adam Mowery and Sackville’s own Shotgun Jimmie.
Unlike many music festivals which have small beginnings only to outgrow themselves, and not always for the better, SappyFest has grown but maintained its sense of community.
“The easiest thing to pinpoint about what makes Sappyyfest unique is the physical location and site of the festival,” organizer Paul Henderson says. “Most festivals are either large multi-venue urban experiences or rural folk events in a field. SappyFest has inadvertently created something that falls between the two, a small-town, walkable, collective experience, with cutting edge programming, where you can camp, get a hotel, swim in the ocean, and get a fabulous espresso as well as free Wi-Fi.
“Something that is harder to pinpoint however is the atmosphere or spirit of the event. SappyFest is essentially free of corporate branding, lineups and the various trappings of most festivals and industry events. The festival has come to embody the creative community that is on the stage and often in the audience. We tried to create the event we wanted to attend,” he says.
From its humble beginnings, the festival has grown into a destination festival attended by music fans from all corners of North America.
It was in 2006 that Henderson, Jon Claytor and Eric’s Trip alumni Julie Doiron relaunched the Sappy Records indie label. To celebrate, the trio planned a small festival featuring performances by Eric’s Trip and others.
Since then, the festival has been growing modestly year after year en route to becoming one of the most recognized events of the summer in Atlantic Canada. “The community of Sackville, its citizens, businesses, and municipal government has been extremely supportive since the beginning,” Henderson says. “We rely on an incredible amount of volunteer, in-kind, and financial support from over 65 business and 125 volunteers in the town. SappyFest generates an estimated $400,000 in economic activity and has become the premier summer tourism event attracting over 1,500 people to Sackville.”
While many music festivals tend to rely upon one or multiple headliners to bring in the crowds, SappyFest has always been more interested in making the entire festival an experience unto itself.
“We have never been particularly interested in the idea of headlining acts,” Paul says. “It is very much about creating a whole experience. We stand behind every artist that we bring to the festival and feel the work they produce is as interesting, accessible, and creative as anything you’ve actually heard of.”
Offering a selection of music that resides outside of the mainstream is par for the course for SappyFest. Like previous years, this year’s festival lineup brings together a diverse range of music from all corners of North America. Arguably one of the best-known this year is Halifax’s Joel Plaskett Emergency.
Other performer highlights include the gypsy poetry of Montreal’s AroarA, twisted electro bass from Doldrums, laid-back calypso jazz from Brodie West’s Eucalyptus as well as Sarah Neufeld’s (Arcade Fire) evocative solo violin work.