SappyFest is a special place for Shotgun Jimmie. Not only did he live in Sackville, N.B., home of SappyFest, for over a decade, but he was in the room when the idea for the festival first came up around a dinner table. He’s played the festival numerous times and has written about it in a handful of his songs.
“SappyFest is very important to me. That’s why I make the trek from Manitoba to New Brunswick every year,” says Shotgun Jimmie, the stage name for Jim Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick has a busy SappyFest this year, playing a reunion Shotgun & Jaybird and his own solo show.
Shotgun & Jaybird called it quits in 2007 and hadn’t played together until this spring when they played a show in Toronto as part of the SappyForever book tour, a fundraiser project to cover the debt incurred by last year’s SappyFest. But Toronto is a long drive from Sackville, so many SappyFest devotees missed out on the reunion — so they’re bringing their show to their festival fans this weekend.
“It was (the organizers’) idea and there’s no other plans to do anything else on the books. And I don’t think there will be. This is it. It’s a nice return to nostalgia for one weekend. The Toronto show went really well and was a lot of fun,” says Jimmie.
Shotgun & Jaybird started in 2003 as the duo of Kilpatrick and Fred Squire. Eventually Paul Henderson joined the band on drums and the band played as trio. After this, Julie Doiron joined them on bass. The reunited band’s lineup features the original duo of Squire and Kilpatric.
“It’s a return to this old friendship I’ve had with Fred for 20 years,” says Kilpatrick. “It feels really natural to come back to playing with him and sort of winging it to. That was the basis of our band for a long time. It was experimentation, keeping things free, loose and steady. We were really focused on holding things together, but at the same time have it teeter towards disaster.”
It’ll be a step back in time when Shotgun & Jaybird open for the also recently reunited Constantines. Shotgun & Jaybird were pals with Guelph, Ont. band the Constantines, touring together. SappyFest’s slogan this year is “Bring It On Home” and the lineup is reminiscent of the early days of the festival when the lineup featured friends of the organizers. In addition to the reuniting bands, Julie Doiron, Baby Eagle (Steve Lambke of the Constantines) and Bry Webb (Constantines) are playing.
Kilpatrick has noticed some big changes in the festival over the years. As the festival has grown in size and popularity, it has been able to branch out and bring in artists that aren’t part of the SappyFest friend group. For example one of the most talked about SappyFest shows took place in 2011 when American funk and soul singer Charles Bradley played the festival.
“The main change I noticed over the years is that the pallet of who (the festival) could chose from or what different things they could try got a little bit bigger. But it’s always nice to have those standards, like to have Michael Feuerstack. Having Mikey there every year is really nice. It’s what makes it feel like SappyFest to me,” says Kilpatrick.
The festival has been important for Kilpatrick as he has made lots of friendships through the festival, including the one with Feuerstack. When he writes songs, he writes them about things that are important to him. It’s not surprise songs “Swamp Magic” and “Bridge Street Stage”, two songs about SappyFest, are on his two most recent records. The trend will continue with his next album as it also has a song about the festival.
“At the end of the day, feeling like you’re part of a really cool scene is priceless. It just makes it all worthwhile. For me, Sappy is part of that scene,” says Kilpatrick.
SappyFest takes place August 1-3. Catch Shotgun Jimmie play music, including a new song called “Constantine Believer”, on acoustic guitar at Thunder & Lightning on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. For some rock and roll, catch him play with Shotgun & Jaybird on Sunday at 10 p.m. on the main stage.
Photo of Shotgun Jimmie: Supplied