Sappy Time Singular
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Last week, I went to Sackville for Sappyfest, the best music festival in the world. This was my third time attending, but my first without Sean's voice there to guide me. For 7 years, Sean wrote a little newspaper for the festival called the Sappy Times; every year, he attended as many shows as he could, then stayed up 'til sunrise typing out accounts of everything he saw that day, the things he heard and the feelings he felt.
Sappyfest is a pretty magic-feeling festival - it's incredibly tiny, the town is idyllic, and every weekend I've attended the weather has been absurdly summer-sunny, like it's being directed by someone with no sense of subtlety. The town, too, feels almost comically lovely - there's a perfect bar that feels like the best living room you've ever been in, attached to the town bowling alley; there's one cinema filled with dreamy soft light next to a perfect terrible diner; there's a hidden tobacco store where you can buy a 25 cent mug you'll treasure for years or a baseball cap with an incomprehensible logo ("ALLERGY 2000") across the front. And somehow, just like in a normal dream, your friends are there. Not all of them, necessarily, but a lot; old friends, new ones, people you haven't seen in years, people you didn't know were coming. By the end of the weekend, everyone starts to look like someone you might know or have met at some point - people from bands, people from your life, people you stood next to at the house show yesterday - so eventually you just give yourself over to smiling and nodding and waving at everyone you see.
Done right, the whole weekend feels like a dream, and I honestly can't think of a single writer better-suited to transcribing its strange swamp magic than Sean. It's a really specific kind of pleasure (one whose exact analogue I've never felt anywhere else) to wake up every morning, amble into town, and pick up a copy of this secret note that feels as though it belongs to you alone and to every single other person around you all at once. Seeing everyone walk around town with their copies creates a kind of loose, sweet, camaraderie, one that's as diffuse as it is palpable, not just because you know everyone's reading the same thing as you, but because you know everyone's feeling the same thing while they read it. You get to see the things you saw yesterday (plus all the stuff you missed - Sean is somehow everywhere, always) from a new angle. Clear-eyed and dazzled all at once. There's this feeling like yes, everything you felt and heard and did and saw was real, but also yes, you were not wrong to think there was something else to it, something shimmering you could not quite touch or describe but that ran through your experience like a charge. Yes, this is all real, but real isn't all of it.
But Sean has a life, one that's getting bigger in all directions all the time, and so this year's Sappy was my (and many other people's) first without the Times. Though I'd realized in the past how good it felt to have the paper around, I don't think I was quite prepared for how different the whole festival would feel without it. Missing its paper of record, the whole festival felt as though it were missing a crucial thread, a through-line or a third rail. More and less real at the same time.
My favourite shows were almost all in the bowling alley this year: Shotgun Jimmie's heart-swelling one-man party, Un Blonde's sweet, electric calm, Nancy Pants and Julie Doiron making my heart all jangly. Jay Arner turned my sorry hangover into a subtle synth melody and floated it away on the breeze, and Tim from Ought reading his poetry on a sleepy early afternoon in the cinema made me feel young-Montreal-lucky. I liked Nap Eyes like I always like Nap Eyes; I liked Weird Lines and She-Devils and Mauno; I liked a bunch of other bands whose names I forgot to write down because I was too happy listening to their music to hunt around for my phone or my notebook, because in my heart of hearts I am a good listener but a terrible journalist. I only heard most of Cakes da Killa's set from outside the mainstage tent and it still fucking knocked me sideways. I loved Partner's joyful shredding so much I thought I might faint every time they played a solo, and when Josée cried while dedicating a song to a dog she loved I cried too. I loved the perfect puppy I saw in the tank park behind the mainstage; I loved the raspberries Mike and Tree found and picked and shared with everyone; I loved eating fish and chips on the steps of the United Church while staring into the most gorgeous sunset I've seen all summer, hearing strains of Julie Doiron float over to me on the light; I loved driving with Carlo; and I loved missing a few shows to go swim in the ocean.
Sappyfest is magic. Go next year if you can, and even if you've never been before, do yourself a favour and get lost in some of the old Times.Posted by Emma at August 5, 2016 9:30 PM
I really missed Sappy Times this year too.Posted by Brenda at August 9, 2016 9:57 AM
I don't know Sappy Times and I don't know Sappyfest, which is doubly unfortunate, but your words here made me feel ever present and alive for music and for writing and for people. Thank you for that.Posted by Blayze at August 13, 2016 6:17 PM
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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
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.
Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.
Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.
Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.
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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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casa + sala + the hotel
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montreal improv theatre
cinema du parc
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe
The Morning News