Before ever visiting the east coast, my partner, who I met in Ontario, repeatedly told me that not only was the east coast the best place in the whole world but Sappyfest was the best weekend of the whole year.
I went to Sappyfest 12, and during my flight home, I felt like I was missing something – why didn’t I feel how my partner told me I would feel? The weekend was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting; I couldn’t keep up with the names and faces I was being introduced to nor were there many moments where I felt at ease.
After graduating from my Master’s program this spring, my partner and I decided that we would spend our summer in Sackville before moving to Halifax mid-August. Although I was apprehensive, it didn’t take much time in Sackville before I felt what they told me I would feel on the east coast. I have seen the landscape, I have gotten to know the faces that I previously (yet briefly) met, and I have been answered when I’ve asked for help or support.
Sappyfest 13, though still exhausting, was a beautiful and life-giving experience. I felt less like an outsider – or an extension of someone else – and more like a whole person that contributed in some way to the moments that make Sappyfest as special as it truly is.
Before offering a few of my favourite moments – that maybe you bore witness to as well – I want to make a quick note of something about Sappyfest that I think is notable, though shouldn’t necessarily have to be noted.
Sappyfest promotes diversity, marginalized folx, and Canadian artists. The line-up, of all Canadian artists and musicians, was predominately womxn: queer womxn, womxn of colour, indigenous womxn. I applaud Sappyfest for having a lineup that celebrates music from non-men, and especially non-men with intersecting identities, and encourage other festivals to do the same.
Anyway – here are not your boys club top three Sappy 13 moments:
1/ Witch Prophet (TO) is Ayo Leilani, an independent, queer, Ethiopian/Eritrean mother. She played early on Saturday night as people were just starting to make their way back to the tent after an already full day of music and art. Her layered vocals and harmonies over hip-hop and jazz inspired beats captivated the crowd and had everyone in the tent dancing. What had already felt like a powerful performance, brought me to tears before her last song, Love Shock. Ayo told us how she wrote this song for someone she fell in love with too quickly who didn’t reciprocate these feelings until they heard this song. They asked Ayo if she would perform this song, and confessed they would like to be present every time – and they have been – this person is Ayo’s DJ, Sun Sun, who was on stage with her.
2/ Rotten Column (TO) played late on Saturday night at the (sweltering hot) Legion after Washing Machine (HFX). Penny, who fronts the band (vocals/tin whistle), kindly asked everyone to be pillows for each other once people started to mosh. A friend of mine, who was enjoying the show from the front, was definitely not enjoying the boy that kept bumping into her despite her obvious irritation. Jarrett (bass) not only recognized this discomfort but also stepped in and placed his body between the mosher and person who didn’t want to be moshed against without missing a single note. Taking care of each other and keeping people safe is as punk as it gets.
3/ On Sunday night, Julie & the Wrong Guys (TO) closed the main stage. I know it was a great set because I remember recognizing how much fun everyone was having, but I had a difficult time being attentive to Julie’s soft vocals and the Wrong Guys heavy rock music. Earlier that day, I promised my partner that I would crowd surf for the first time with them and the anticipation made me too nervous to focus. I had never crowd surfed before for two reasons, 1) I’ve never trusted a crowd to keep me safe, and 2) I’ve never wanted to put someone in a position where they involuntarily have to keep me safe. I still stand by the latter, but I do trust the crowd at Sappyfest.
Also – many of you said hi to me and expressed you knew who I am and what I do, visited me at the zine fair, and even bought and wore an nybc shirt or pin. Thank you. Your support and encouragement is so meaningful to me.
See you at Sappyfest 14.