Festival Guide: SappyFest 13, Forever Changes

Where: Sackville, N.B.
When: August 3-5

What it is

Attending camp as a kid is a blast. It’s a break in the routine where you get to hang out with old friends, make new friends and do stuff you just can’t do at home. Unfortunately, eventually there comes a moment where you’re just too old to go away to camp.

SappyFest has been described as summer camp for adults, which is mostly true. Although a peek around the festival grounds every year, it shows that SappyFest is a place for friends, music-lovers, lovers, ex-lovers and music-lovers with kids who love music. It’s a special place. And best of all, you’re never too old or too cool for SappyFest.

This year, the 13th edition of SappyFest goes down and comes with the tagline “Forever Changes”. It’ll be full of music, poetry, art, food and drink gravitating around the central point of the Bridge Street main stage.


While all the dates artists play have been announced, the actual hour-by-hour schedule is yet to be finalized. The big ones playing this year include U.S. Girls, Jennifer Castle, Jeremy Dutcher, Dog Day, Julie & The Wrong Guys, Nap Eyes and Rich Aucoin.

To listen to (almost) all the bands playing Sappy this year, check out our SappyFest 13 playlist on Spotify.

Mix Picks

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

At its core, most songwriting is about story telling. To say Leanne Betasmaosake Simpson excels at telling stories is a great understatement. The Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg artist, author and scholar shares stories on the pages of books but also through music. The music is compelling, creating a backdrop for the detailed spoken word stories. The song “Under Your Always Light” is a perfect example of this synergy. With an electronic beat laying below the surface as Simpson tells a story they describe as “both love song and battle cry of defiance against colonialism” and “a whispered declaration of love for land and place set to a hypnotic rhythm of sinuous sounds.” The performance at SappyFest will be a chance to learn and experience something special.

Recent Polaris short-list artists play SappyFest

While there are flaws with the Polaris Music Prize, the short list and gala is the most-hyped music award event on the Canadian music calendar. The short list is always announced in middle July, after the SappyFest lineup is already out. A sign of the excellent curation of the festival, Sappy once again has short-list artists performing this year with Jeremy Dutcher (Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa) and U.S. Girls (In a Poem Unlimited)

Last year, Lido Pimienta and Weaves played Sappy and were on the 2017 Polaris short list. Pimienta went on to win and those who attended the Sappy performance (maybe one of the best Sappy shows ever?) certainly know why Pimienta received the prize. We’re not saying Sappy is the secret to a potential win by Dutcher or U.S. Girls but we can confidently say these are a couple of the best Canadian artists out there right now.

(Also worth noting, SappyFest 13 performers Bonjay and Jennifer Castle both were on the 40-album Polaris long list.)

The return of Dog Day

After a hibernation for around five years, Dog Day is back at it and making its return at SappyFest. The band remains centred around Nancy Urich (Not You) and Seth Smith along with the return of original member KC Spidle and first-time member Meg Yoshida (also in Not You). Lots of stuff happens over five years so there’s a good chance lots of people will see Dog Day for the first time ever at Sappy. And for some of us old dogs, it’ll be like nothing has changed.

Mix Tip

Bring a bathing suit. There’s a lake nearby and the ocean is a short drive away as well.

It’s also a good idea to have some cash on hand. There’s a zine fair, a big merch table for performers and a merch table with official Sappy gear. There are good spots near the venue to grab a coffee and street vendors to purchase food from. And drink tokens. All of the things.

Press photo of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson by Nadya Kwandibens