Thu, Mar 21, 2013.
This snowy start to spring may be getting you down, but consider this: It's only 173 days until this year's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. That's September 10 - 15, in Fredericton, of course. And to get the excitement started, Harvest has begun rolling out the names that will be gracing the marquees this year. The festival likes to tease the public by releasing the names of the headliners and support acts over several weeks, instead of all in one big lump. I think it works well, because the rumour mill gets going, then the talk of the confirmed acts, and it keeps the festival on people's thoughts and lips for much of the spring, leading up to the start of ticket sales in May.
So, here's the first wave of acts: Gov't Mule, Big Sugar, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk and Harper and Midwest Kind. Some familiar and very popular names there, for this festival crowd. Gov't Mule was here back in 2007, and are huge favourites at festivals all over. Led by Warren Haynes, what started out as has side project from The Allman Brothers is now 19 years old, and almost as big an institution. They can jam, yes, but they can also blow you away with inspired covers, including legendary sets recreating entire albums such as Who's Next and Houses Of The Holy.
Big Sugar is easily one of the most popular bands to ever come to Harvest, and live audiences can never get enough of the band. I think the last time I saw them, the main tent was as full as I have ever seen it, and as loud. Leader Gordie Johnson has deep ties to the Maritimes, and always gears up for shows here. The band just rocked the annual SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, appearing on a bill with Peter Buck and Mike Mills of R.E.M., Alejandro Escovedo and more. Both these bands are playing the same night, and in a special, Harvest-only performance, Haynes and Johnson will team up for an early evening acoustic set before taking the stage with their respective groups. I anticipate some inter-band activity there as well.
Any Neville is of course, New Orleans royalty, and Ivan Neville is soaked in the family tradition. His group Dumpstaphunk is groove-crazy, and all about the party. They specialize in funk, and for this tour are including a tribute to Parliament-Funkadelic to end the set. And there's a debut for the Harvest as well, a blues group all the way from Australia, Harper and Midwest King. Peter Harper and his band mix up a lot of styles to come up with their international sound, a kind of world music blues. That includes some obvious Australian influences, since Harper digs out the didgeridoo, so that should be an interesting set.
Watch for more announcements in the weeks ahead, and for those tickets to go on sale May 11th.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).