Words by Erin Keating; photography by James West and Sarah Sarty.
Harvest Saturday is always bittersweet. On the one hand, Harvest is soon coming to an end for another year, but on the other hand, we know that the new memories we’ve made, new friends we’ve met, and new music we’ve discovered over the course of the week will stay with us long after all the festival tents come down.
The final night of the festival not only had bucket list performances like Steve Earle & the Dukes, Blackberry Smoke, and Dawes, but also plenty of new musical discoveries across all venues: The Main Squeeze had the Mojo dancing; Turkuaz had the Blues Tent seeing in technicolour; Aquakultre’s genre-bending R&B/hip hop set took the Barracks on a musical journey; boogie-woogie piano player David Vest had the Blues Court completely charmed (you can catch David Vest at the free show in Officers’ Square this afternoon, by the way).
The Mojo Tent was the most bountiful home of up-and-coming music discoveries last night. Mojo headliners The Main Squeeze turned the tent into dance party central with their fantastic funk-rock-soul fusion. Their lead singer could give CeeLo Green a run for his money, and their guitarist could keep up with the best guitarists who’ve crossed the Harvest stage. Combine that with a knack for turning the party – including a keytar battle! – and the result was one fun and memorable show.
Southern Avenue warmed up the Mojo crowd prior to The Main Squeeze with a high-energy set of soulful Memphis blues. Harvest’s Artist-at-Large Taz made another surprise appearance during the Southern Avenue set, joining them on stage to shred his way through a smoking cover of Bill Withers’ “Use Me.”
Opening the Mojo show were the adorable and talented Roots of Music – a big brass band comprised of under-privileged kids from New Orleans, bringing their NOLA big brass sound and indomitable spirit to the stage. The Roots of Music will also play the free afternoon show in Officers’ Square today.
Over in the Blues Tent, the evening started off with the loudest of bangs with Blackberry Smoke making a triumphant return to Harvest, playing two hours of blistering southern rock and country jams, including some amazing covers, putting their smokey stamp on classic songs by The Beatles and Elvis, among others.
Later, Dawes opened the Blues Tent main show with a brilliant set of straight-up great tunes from top to bottom. They brought it up, they took it down, they jammed, they rocked, they got emotional. No matter what they did, the Harvest crowd couldn’t get enough.
When it came time for Steve Earle & the Dukes, they came hard straight out of the gate with “Copperhead Road” to open the show and things only went up from there. Steve was clearly having a great time on the Harvest stage, putting on an amazing show and telling personal stories to the sold-out crowd.
“This is one of the best audiences we’ve ever played for,” he said at the end of his set with a big smile on his face. Gauging by the roars of the crowd all night, the warm feelings were mutual.
To end the night – in the final tented shows of Harvest 2018 – there were two very different but equally energetic parties raging side-by-side. The rainbow-clad super funky Turquaz had a wild dance party at the Blues Tent Afterburner, and the hard rocking Ross Neilsen Band slayed the Blues Court, giving Ross the unique distinction of opening the Festival on Tuesday night and shutting it down on Saturday.
Join us starting at 1pm in Officers’ Square for one last show to officially close Harvest 2018.
And then – bittersweetly – all that’s left to say will be see you this time next year.