Thursday, April 13, 2023


I keep reading about how live music will never be the same, after Covid and thanks to ridiculous Ticketmaster prices. Well, I think people gotta forget about their mega superstar shows in cities and look at how we do it out in Festival Land. One of North America's very best (and it has been for a couple of decades), Fredericton's Harvest Music Festival, has just announced its lineup for September, and it's like Covid never happened. It's back to the size and high quality of before the pandemic, featuring a finely-curated lineup of big live music stars, reliable favourite veterans, and well-chosen newer acts that are making waves with their festival sets.

Harvest is going with a "getting our Mojo back" theme, thanks to the return this year of the well-loved Mojo tent, missing in the downsized Covid era. That means there will be a full 23 ticketed shows this year, the same number as 2019, after only 16 last year. Plus, there will be about twice as many free sets on various side stages, and all the extra events at all sorts of pubs and pop-up venues.

Taking a look at all the other music festivals in the wider area, including the Maritimes, Quebec, and New England, seriously, I can't find a reason to travel elsewhere. Harvest pretty much equals or betters everyone else's lineup on a night-by-night basis. Each venue, all within a couple of blocks of the next, has two or three excellent acts, from opener to headliner. Take a look at the fourth, fifth, and sixth lines of the above poster, the fine print.. These aren't the headliners, but there are names there that I'm sure many music fans will be excited about seeing. So, it's top to bottom top quality.

Let's look at some highlights. Harvest gets the first show of a new tour by what is called Trey Anastasio with Classic Tab. That's Anastasio going back to the sound and band configuration of the classic Trey Anastasio Band (TAB), a four-piece including keyboards, and very much in the Phish style. And Harvest gets it first, jam fans. Kaleo, best known for its huge hit "Way Down We Go," has become a big touring act thanks to a fantastic live show featuring its heavier blues-rock mixed with surprisingly sensitive tunes. Plus, they're all from Iceland, which is just cool. Trombone Shorty is simply one of the greatest New Orleans performers of any generation. Gov't Mule continues its huge popularity, and Matt Andersen ... well, we'll just consider that a sell-out right now.

I'm especially pleased with the solid lineup of Canadian acts from several different fields, from the alt-rock of CanRock faves Broken Social Scene, to the Brandi Carlile-approved folkie Allison Russell. Plus there are more great names such as Daniel Lanois, Joel Plaskett, Big Sugar, Wide Mouth Mason, and David Myles. Heck, I'd go to a festival with those five names alone. And as usual, there's a huge commitment to East Coast artists as well, great pairings such as Slowcoaster featuring Carmen Townsend, and Wolf Castle with Olympic Symphonium.

You know, I've been going to this festival since its very first year, when I stumbled into a downtown bar by accident, and discovered Holly Cole singing Marvin Gaye songs just for the fun of it. Every year I expect to be jaded (my natural inclination) and not care a whole lot when the lineup is announced. But every year, I take a look and shake my head in wonder of what Fredericton accomplishes with its festival. Tickets go on sale April 20.

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