Harvest: bigger and better

I don’t know how they do it. Every single year they blow my mind a little more. I can never get in all the shows I want because there are Just.Too.Many.Great.Shows. This year I had to sacrifice a couple acts I knew I would see someplace down the road.  Since I only had the one show this year I got to see A LOT of shows. What a treat. here’s a some highlights:

Wednesday. My plan was to take it easy Wednesday and ease into it but when my best friend texted to say he had a “go out” pass from the wife I knew my plans had changed! Had to go check out my home boy Matt Andersen play with Halifax’s funkiest dudes, The Mellotones with The Wood Brothers Opening up. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show. I’ve seen Matt a bazillion times. So I’m always curious how a new line up will translate. I know folks love Matt best when he’s solo but I really dig this. Nice playing and suited him well. I had a real nice moment midway through the show just absorbing it all. My pal, superstar to be, in the jam packed Blues tent. People going OFF on a Wednesday night. Real proud! The Wood brothers were great as well. Started a little mellow for my needs but they had me halfway through the set. Probably the best three piece version of Ophelia ever! Of course you can’t be out on a Wednesday and not visit the Wilser Room for some Reggae. Dub Antennae sounded as good as ever and was a nice way to wind it down.

Thursday: I was pretty pumped to see Lee Fields. If you saw Charles Bradley a few years back then this is in the same Dap Tone vein. Killer, Killer, Killer. What a powerful singer. Seriously tight band and one of the finest bassists I’ve ever seen. Only downside was not enough people there to witness it. I’m sure he’ll be back another year. After Lee it was the good Doctor his’self. Dr. John has been a musical hero to me forever. A living icon that embodies the very spirit and soul of an entire genre of music. Mac sounded and looked as phonky as ever. I must say though, for me personally, I prefer his old band, The lower 911. This new band gets it done but isn’t fully my cup of tea. After Dr. John, I hit up Wilser Room again to catch a bit of local Dead cover band, Just a Little Light, before I returned to the Blues tent to see Robert Randolph. Man, am I ever glad I went back to the tent. If you live under a rock and didn’t hear, late in Randolph’s set he started offering a guitar to a few people in the crowd. I thought to myself “that’d be cool”. By the time I thought that Robert had someone up and I thought “oh well”. The first guy he had up there didn’t last long before he got the boot. When that happened I stood up from my seat in the bleachers and decided to go for it. By the time I had my gut against the barricade Robert had a second guy up there. I still wasn’t giving up. I asked the gal to my left to hold my beer while I went and played Robert Randolph’s guitar and then I informed the security guy that I was gonna jump the fence and go play that guitar. He said I had to wait and get Robert’s attention. I said no. He was kind enough to allow me to walk around the barricade and stand right below Robert Randolph where I stared at him until he made eye contact. Then I made it clear that I wanted to play that guitar. He said “ok” and I jumped over the subs and onstage to remove my coat and get my hands on the guitar. Soon as I had electricity I went right for the throat. I knew if I pussy footed around I’d get booted off the stage. He turned around and gave me a big smile and nod indicating I was safe. So I rocked the next 5-10 minutes out with him and his band. Super fun and mind blowing to say the least. Here’s a pic my good pal Rob Pinnock snapped of the moment:
After the mind blowing show from RR and The Family Band I went back to Wilser’s Room to sit in with Just a Little Light and play a Dead tune. What a crazy fun night. Definitely on of my top Harvest Moments ever!

Friday: I woke up pinching myself and looking at mulitple photos from the night before. STILL can’t believe it hapened. Super surreal! Friday afternoon I caught some good blues in Officer’s Square from Shirly Jackson‘s band where her guitarist, Dylan, put on a clinic in tone! Saw a little bit of Bharath and his Rhythm four. For old school Chicago blues it doesn’t get any better than these guys. After I checked in to my Hotel I went back across town to meet up with my Mom as we had a date to see John Hammond. We did a little bit of Ruthie Fosters show in the Mojo tent first and then after a quick interview with my pal, Chris Kirby, we hit up the Playhouse. Sadly I had to sacrifice seeing Blackberry Smoke for John Hammond as they were on at exactly the same time. I’ve missed four or five Hammond perfomances in the past year or two so I NEEDED to see him. Man I’m I glad I did. Rick Fines opened up and killed as he always does. Rick has been a great influence on me and it’s always a treat to get a lesson from his live shows. The John came out. He delivered exactly what I expected. His voice is as soulful as ever and he absolutely destroyed his guitars. It was an incredibly inspiring performance from a true master of the blues. Post John Hammond, I ventured back to the Blues tent to see Blues Traveler. Not a show I expected to enjoy due to my aversion to harmonica but they killed it. They also seemed to have a really, REALLY good time doing it. Top shelf performance for a Friday night headliner. The afterburner Friday was the New Orleans based, The Revivalists. I missed these guys last year so made a point this year. Glad I did. Great vibe. Killer singer/frontman and everyone in the band was laying it down. What a party! After their show I went back to my hotel to get a nights rest. After all, I had “work” to do Saturday.

Saturday: I slept in. Woodshedded a few tunes in the afternoon to prep for our Blues by Invite show at the Hoodoo. After getting prepped I went over to load in and sound check. We had a killer tech crew in the tent so I was super comfortable already. Shortly after sound check I got word that our show was sold out!

With the Instigators and the Perpetrators on the bill I was real happy. Both are killer trios with two of my favourite badass guitarists and I was real happy a lot of peeps would be there to see them live.  Since I had a few hours before I needed to return to the Hoodoo I ran down the street to catch 45mins of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. I’ve been a Robinson fan since day one. One of Rock’s finest frontmen and vocalists ever. Period. This band is super groovy and brings that San Fran vibe hard. Neal Casal on lead guitar doesn’t hurt either!!! After seing as much as I could I went on back down to rock the hoodoo. We had a great time. Morgan Davis, Jay Nowicki, Chris Kirby, Keith Hallett and Peter Rioux all sat in with us. Super grateful so many people came out to support and REALLY thankful to the other musicians for sitting in with us to make so much fun for everyone. Here’s a pic of my and Newfoundland heartthrob, Chris Kirby, singing back ups on some Neil Young that Jay Nowicki from the Perpetrators was dishing out. Photo by Ryan Barton:

After our show I ditched my van and ran back to the blues tent for Galactic. One of the finest displays of musicality and showmanship I’ve ever witnessed. Easily one of my all time favourite Harvest shows. They repeatedly blew my mind. Their new singer, Maggie Koerner is DEADLY. The duet she did with the front man from the Revivalists was nothing short of perfect. Absolutely stunned me. Everyone I spoke with was on the same page. We witnessed musical greatness. Thank you HARVEST!!! NOTE: I awoke the next day with feeling a little ill in the AM. Pretty sure I got pregnant during Galactic’s set. It was THAT good.

After my brain stopped dripping out of my ear from Galactic, I went to an undisclosed location with some undisclosed Harvest volunteers to drink some undisclosed bevvies and wind down. Amidst the haze and fun, I had another Harvest moment. There were many volunteers there. Instead of talking about anything but work it was quite the opposite. These folks, after a grueling five days (not counting the work put in pre harvest) were not hating on anything. They were in fact, already brainstorming about how to make next year better. I was blown away. These are VOLUNTEERS people. Do you know how incredible that is? That people in this community have been inspired to take ownership of this festival, for zero money, and make it something that takes up their time throughout the year and they want, NEED to do this?! They work so hard. Put so much into it. I love it. I love them and I love this festival.

People often ask me, “What does Harvest mean to you”? I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s hard to put into words and I always fall short. It would be like saying what does you heart mean to you? or what does oxygen mean to you? Why is your family important to you? You know? questions like that. W all know in our heart and soul what it means but that’s the part of our existence where human language fails and you just KNOW something. This is how I feel about Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in beautiful Downtown Fredericton, NB. BIG LOVE.

Oh, and ummmm….Next year….25th anniversary…start getting excited, now.