Words by Erin Keating; photographs by James West and Sarah Sarty.
The tents were packed, the streets were alive, and downtown Fredericton was bursting at the seams with Harvest magic on Thursday – the first of three big nights for the festival – with great music, electric energy, and memorable moments around every turn.
Headliners The Sheepdogs absolutely rocked the sold out Moose Light Blues Tent crowd with a hard-driving set, while Alan Doyle hosted a straight up hootenanny in the TD Mojo Tent and invited a thousand screaming Harvest patrons to the party.
After Alan Doyle finished bringing down the Mojo, the hootenanny moved back into the Blues Tent once again, where Dwayne Gretzky took over hosting duty – only this time, instead of a raucous kitchen party, the theme was a good old-fashioned Canadiana singalong. Playing the best of the Tragically Hip’s many hits, along with some other note-perfect covers, the audience couldn’t resist belting out along with the band all night.
For the big finale of the Thursday Afterburner, The Sheepdogs’ lead singer Ewan Currie joined Dwayne Gretzky on stage to tackle Joe Cocker’s classic rendition of “With A Little Help from My Friends” in one of those special collaborative moments that Harvest is known for.
“This is why you stay ‘til the end!” The emcee yelled over a deafening crowd when the song ended.
Indeed, part of the Harvest reality is not wanting to miss any of the many magic moments festival weekend brings. But with so many quality shows happening all around us, while bustling around from venue to venue, it almost always feels like walking into a special moment no matter where you go.
Beyond the big tents, the Atlantic Lottery Barracks Tent had an energy that kept climbing up, and up, and up with Motherhood then Elliott BROOD, followed by their co-headliners Grand Theft Bus cooling it back down in the best possible way with some easy-riding jam-infused rock to end the night.
The Cox & Palmer Blues Court showcased its first of three nights celebrating nothing but the best of Maritime blues. Tonight’s roster included powerhouse blueswoman Theresa Malenfant and a jumping set from John Campbelljohn and Matt Sobb. Harvest staples, The Downtown Blues Band will headline on Friday, then Ross Neilsen on Saturday.
If Thursday night was any indication of how the rest of Harvest weekend will go – and with Friday alone offering acts like Mavis Staples, Sturgill Simpson and the Legendary Downchild Blues Band – 2018 is on track to become one of the best festivals in Harvest history.