Published Sep 22, 2009Fredericton, New Brunswick is a small town, even by Maritimes standards. However, for the past 19 years, it has come alive each fall as the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival brings in some of the world's most exciting jazz and blues artists. If there's ever a time to be in Fredericton, it's during the Harvest Festival, and this year was no different.
The festival kicked off on Wednesday, with a headlining performance by the Joel Plaskett Emergency. Plaskett has appeared at the Festival a few times over the years. This, coupled with his ever growing popularity, saw the band playing to a sold-out crowd that was as diverse as Fredericton could produce. Plaskett is no longer a bar act, and he and his band-mates' act now works wonderfully on a large stage.
Plaskett also kicked off Thursday's performances with a solo show. Interestingly enough, he played many of the songs played by the band the night before. Plaskett still came off as a charmer, but seemed naked all by himself on such a large stage. Nonetheless, he humoured the crowd by attempting to play "Fashionable People" on acoustic guitar, asking the audience to help him out with the high notes. Many of the acoustic numbers off his latest album, Three, also made a welcome appearance on the set list.
Later Thursday evening, the United Steel Workers of Montreal played a great set full of rambunctious old-timey country before Fredericton's own Grand Theft Bus took the stage to show off some of their new material.
With buskers scattered throughout the city, there was always something to listen to while walking home. One standout was Petunia, whose folk/country/yodelling combo, complete with a kazoo, has been one of New Brunswick's best-kept secrets for years.
Original P, who follow in the footsteps of funk pioneers Parliament, headlined Friday night and brought plenty of humour along with the funk. Despite losing a few members on the border crossing, the band managed to put together a fun set, sticking mainly to hits, such as set closer "Flashlight."
Fredericton's Downtown Blues Band later played a late night set of classic R&B covers. The 11-piece band is Fredericton's best response to a quiet Friday night. Their midnight set has long been a tradition at the festival, and a sold-out crowd was happy to dance along until well past closing time.
Saturday's headlining act was Los Lobos. But they came off a little underwhelming, while Shad's show down the street was easily the surprise hit of the weekend. Sourcing largely from his most recent album The Old Prince, Shad threw in a number of freestyles as well, easily showing why he's one of the best wordsmiths going in Canadian music.