You couldn’t enter the Mainstage Tent at SappyFest without passing a sign that said “Ambiguous At Best”. I didn’t notice the sign until Sunday, the final day of the three day festival. Maybe I was too excited to get into the tent, grab a beer and catch some tunes. Or maybe I was too busy pulling my right hand out of my pocket to show my wristband to security. I’m not really sure how I couldn’t see such a large sign. The reasons are unclear. Ambiguous. At festivals, I end up asking friends and strangers questions like “who was your favourite band this weekend?” or “who surprised you the most?” Instead of writing a million reviews of every performance this weekend, I present to you the Ambiguous Awards. The Ambies are a bunch of completely made up awards handed out to performers from SappyFest based on my observations and conversations with friends, strangers, fellow music writers and musicians.
1. Best Dressed – Shotgun Jimmie
This award goes to Shotgun Jimmie. He could be found all weekend walking around wearing Hawaiian shirts and a friendly smile. He wore a blue shirt while performing solo and a red one while performing with Shotgun & Jaybird. (video by marrooncateyes)
2. Best Snailhouse cover band – Michael Feuerstack
If you closed your eyes and listened to Michael Feuerstack, you’d think he was Snailhouse. If you opened your eyes, you’d notice it actually is him. The ol’ Snailhouse moniker has been retired by Feuerstack, but the songs live on. (And so does the man behind the songs.)
3. Best band to crowd surf to – The Constantines
This is a tough one. Adrian Teacher kicked off the Cool show by crowd surfing on the tiny crowd that had gathered as the Mainstage tent had just opened. The Cousins show had the most moshing which naturally led to crowd surfing. The most epic crowd surfing occurred during the Constantines set. During “Young Lions”, they invited anybody who played throughout the weekend on stage to sing along. With the energy and excitement going through the roof, a bunch of the performers including the Weather Station, Matt Cully of EONS and SappyFest creative director Lucas Hicks, jumped on top of the crowd and surfed. And yes, Adrian Teacher took his shirt off and crowd surfed during the Constantines show.
4. Best Hat-trick – Julie Doiron
Sackville resident Julie Doiron is an important cog in the SappyFest wheel as she’s been there since the beginning and her influence in the music world has helped draw in friends and performers to the festival. It’s still a treat to see her perform on stage and she scored the hat-trick on Saturday. First, she performed as a backing vocalist with Vancouver band Cool. She then headlined her own show on the Mainstage tent, backed by Will Kidman of the Constantines. Finally, she appeared with the new Sackville supergroup Weird Lines featuring Christopher Leigh McLauglin, Jon McKiel, James Anderson, Chris Meaney and Michael C. Duguay. An honourable mention goes to Misha Bower who performed with EONS, the Weather Station and Michael Feurstack.
5. Most divisive band – Ought
After Ought finished performing, I talked with a few fellow music writers about how good the show was. How the band controlled the pace of the show, building up songs, then tearing it all down. But then I talked to a few other people afterwards who thought they had one or two good songs but the rest was pretty meh. Maybe a post-punk band seemed a little out of place at a festival that was dominated by straight forward folk and indie rock music. Lead vocalist and guitarist Tim Beeler had an incredible stage presence, channeling David Bryne’s weirdness and vocals on stage. While the band are young, they seemed like veterans on the stage with a well developed live show. The clincher came when they brought Josee Caron from Sackville’s The Mouthbreathers on stage to play guitar for a song.
6. Best Hip Hop band – XXX CLVR
The runner up for best hip hop band goes to…nobody. XXX CLVR and the Weirdos (Weirdo Click) had the legion jumping Sunday night.
7. Best Banter – Rae Spoon
I’m always skeptical of the whole electric guitar and then laptop playing an instrumental track routine. It seems clinical, like it’s going in a linear direction with no room for spontaneity, adventure or disaster. Rae Spoon pulled it off however, playing songs and engaging with the crowd through hilarious banter. Before introducing a grunge song, Rae said “somebody said I should make a whole grunge album. That’s the worst idea. Look at my personality.”
8. Best Beard – Spencer Burton
Best beard is a toss up between Nick Ferrio and Spencer Burton. The scales tip slightly in Nick Ferrio’s favour since we don’t want to hurt his feelings. Also, Ferrio was selling beard oil at the merch table. This man is passionate about his beard and the care of his fan’s beards.
9. Best Show – The Constantines
The entire SappyFest weekend felt like it was built around the Cons show. Yes, there were lots of great performances, including sets from Cons side projects Bry Webb and Baby Eagle. But this reunion was moment everyone was waiting for. The festival’s slogan of “Bring It On Home” seemed like a welcoming banner for the reunited Guelph band. The band rocked on stage. Bry Webb brought his mom on stage. Musicians and festival staff jumped off the stage. It was a special show.