It’s already May and, consequently, Sappyfest is just around the corner. Frequently described as “the best music festival east of Montreal,” the yearly musical weekend never fails to disappoint, having featured in the past bands and artists like Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, and Mount Eerie. Being consistently enjoyable for a diverse audience is a challenge with which even large festivals struggle, yet year after year Sappyfest never fails to have so many good shows, often requiring one to run around town in an attempt to catch every single aspect of the weekend’s itinerary. This year promises to be no different; despite only the first five bands and artists having been announced, it appears as if the festival is going to exceed expectations.
Here is a brief overview of the five bands that are currently scheduled to play:
The Luyas, a four-piece band hailing from Montreal, have a carefully curated sound of haunted beauty in their music. Their traditional pop aspects are accompanied by dark undertones and orchestral overtones, which lend the music a coldness that convey an unforced sense of dread and tension. These subtleties help to differentiate the Luyas from other bands of the same genre, and often the same city. Featuring some very odd instruments in their arsenal, including the French horn, an electronic organ, and a moodswinger—a kind of electronic zither—with carefully placed electronic and strings accompaniment, they have a particularly complex and fascinating soundscape at their fingertips. Recently graduating to headliner status with the release of their new album The Animator in October of last year, the band has embraced the opportunity to experiment that is often a result of even minor success. If musical aesthetics are your thing, the Luyas are a band to be excited about.
Washington D.C. garage rockers Chain and the Gang combine their early punk stylings with elements of funk, blues, and a multitude of other genres, resulting in an end product that can be described as fluctuating punk that ranges from the intensely politically-motivated to the downright hilarious. Most notably, their music exudes an air of political satire at times. A live performance promises to be a great one, considering their oath to “bring a movable riot into the local clubhouse” on their record label’s website, which isn’t surprising at all considering the openness and raw ability for their brand of music to draw in even an unfamiliar crowd.
All music brings people together, but Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens’ blend of soul and gospel music forges a particularly powerful bond between audiences. The raw spirituality that can be felt in every song encourages belief in something transcendental and builds a true sense of community—all through a shared musical experience. Shelton herself has a lifetime of experience in singing, hailing from a family of singers. According to a variety of reviewers, her voice is unique and capable, and is enhanced by the seemingly eternal youthful energy and power that she demonstrates while performing. Her long career has taken her from singing gospel in churches while growing up in Alabama, to the cultural Mecca of New York, where she spent a majority of her life performing soul music, as well as the international stage of our own Sackville, New Brunswick. This isn’t going to be one you want to miss, folks.
When it comes to hip hop, the Underachievers may be right: “music ain’t been this good since, like, the ‘90s.” Representing the Beast Coast, a large New York collective, which includes Pro Era and A$AP Mob, the Underachievers released their first full-length album, Indigoism, in February of this year. The beats, which tend toward the ethereal and allow for their impressive lyricism to truly shine through, keep their flow relentless throughout the album. Despite the often contrasting pace of beats and lyricism, Issa Dash and AK, who comprise the duo, work well together because of their common psychedelic influences. As a whole, their influences are extremely tame, with none so overbearing as to dominate a listener’s focus, a fate that many hip-hop albums fall victim to; this self-awareness allows the album’s originality to exist as its focus. There are elements of ‘60s psychedelic rock, ‘90s era Wu Tang Clan, southern rap, ambient house, and countless other genres that are expertly blended to create something that feels new and instantly likeable.
Coming off the release of his fifth full-length album, New History Warfare Vol. 3 (a review of which is featured in this issue), Montreal saxophonist Colin Stetson is the fifth and final of the announced artists. As a contributor, Stetson is ubiquitous, having appeared alongside Bon Iver, Tom Waits, Feist, and the Arcade Fire, to name a few. His experimental take on jazz has resulted in the creation of his unique, often abrasive, and perpetually interesting sound. Various saxophones provide the backbone of his recordings, with a large amount of effects layered on that allow for massive variations in his sound – a sound that ranges from drones to melodic cascades; at various points in his music, Stetson can even be heard singing through his horn. Despite his range, there is very little overdubbing found throughout Stetson’s discography, with almost all music recorded as live, single takes. This means that during a live set, one may be justified in expecting the unexpected. Free jazz has a loose form by definition, but combined with Stetson’s mastery of the live take, this show will undoubtedly be a festival highlight.
Sappyfest’s line-up focuses on artists with storied live performances, as every act announced thus far appears more than capable of proverbially burning the house down. And this is only the tip of the iceberg; to speculate on what is to come and get caught up in the rumour mill gets the heart pounding and makes it seem like sitting at a computer and hitting refresh on a page all night is a night well spent. While one can expect most of Sackville’s local favourites to be in attendance, the rest of line-up could consist of anyone.