Big Feel
by Emma
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 

Beverly Glenn-Copeland - "Ever New"
Lido Pimienta - "La Capacidad"
Partner - "Remember This"

I've been trying to figure out exactly what to say about Sappyfest 12 since I got back home from it more than a month ago. Everything I felt about it then I've been feeling ever since, but it all seems too hard to describe without making you (and me) cringe; too enormous, too outsized.

A few years ago, I wrote about the first time I ever saw Partner play - in the Thunder and Lightning bowling alley, where on the last night of the weekend they blew out the power with their first chord. A token carried over from the other world, the better one. The gold coin, the note. Proof, shining. Incredibly, impossibly real. Part of this feeling has to do with the simple chemistry of Sappyfest itself; the dreamy town in picturesque midsummer, the sunny marsh walks, all your friends. Guitars. It's a given.

But there have been summers where those parts of the festival - the parts of it that are going to be there no matter what - were the entire source of its shimmer. Sometimes the music almost feels incidental; a few bands you like in a sea of bands you saw. But this year it was different. Lineup-wise, this was the least plain white male Sappy I've ever been to, and it made a difference; for a weekend, the place felt utopian, an oasis of pure electric feeling. It meant more. I cried like eight times: at Lido Pimienta, who stirred the crowd like she had us under a spell; at Fiver, channelling the ghosts of Rockwood Asylum real sympathetic and sharp; at Beverly Glenn Copeland, who held an entire cinema full of people speechless for the better part of an afternoon; at Willie Thrasher, whose electric kindness you could feel from blocks away.

I loved the glittering exuberance of the Big Budi Band and the echo of the Courtneys, who if you closed your eyes sounded like a power pop band played through a haunted Gravitron. I loved wandering into the cinema just as Kirsten Olivia was hitting a high note and watching everyone's eyes get wider. I loved walking back from Teenanger at the Legion in the middle of the night and catching a faint melody that got stronger and stronger until I reached a schoolbus strung through with Christmas lights, with 15 passengers on the inside and Bry Webb quietly crooning his last song of the night. (And then a guy on the steps offering me some Chex mix because he felt bad I'd missed most of the set). I loved seeing Penny shred guitar in Tough Age and then laughing with her while we watched the Protruders blast through their set in the packed bowling alley. I loved watching the expert DJs in BAHNAHNAH dance joyfully to their own set and I loved the little guided meditation Josee lead the crowd through in the middle of the Partner show and I loved the full moon that did not seem to fade all weekend. The poet Sue Goyette said, to a crowd of us lying on the grass at the reading on Sunday, that we were all feeling big feelings because of it. We were, I think. Or at least I was.

It's hard to explain how big this all was without resorting to cliche. I think that maybe this year, like everyone else, I have been manically switching back and forth between raw-nerved vulnerability and total self-protective terror; trying to be open enough to the world that I stay aware of what's happening in it; trying to hold myself at arms' length away from the endless avalanche of horrifying news so I can sustain that openness long enough to be of use. There is no way to do this properly, there are only new and different ways to fail. It's easy to retreat into habit and repetition. The bonds between you and the world - what's exciting in it, what other people make from the wildness of their own lives - can begin to slip and fray and loosen. Earlier in the summer, I'd fallen into the easy trap of using music as a distraction, a backdrop; something to take me away from the truth of the world instead of pushing me back toward the centre of it. It can be frightening to let yourself be moved when the ground already feels like it's always shifting under you. It felt good to remember what good can come of being overwhelmed. Weeks later, I'm still feeling it.

[Buy Keyboard Fantasies, La Papessa and the basically perfect In Search of Lost Time]

Posted by Emma at September 17, 2017 10:50 PM
Comments

Thank you for this. These kind of dreamy, transportive posts are why I keep coming back here.

Posted by Rob at September 19, 2017 12:31 PM

You have the knack, which should be more prevalent on the Internet but somehow doesn't seem to be, of sounding like an actual thinking, feeling human being.

It's nice.

Posted by RPS at September 21, 2017 1:16 AM

I'll echo Rob's comment. I am tucking away parts of that last paragraph and sharing this post with friends.

Posted by Philana at September 22, 2017 12:13 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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