Josh Bravener remembers the moment he stepped on stage for his first major performance at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in 2016.
Lights flared, people danced and the band was euphoric to perform at one of Fredericton’s largest annual music festivals. It was the biggest gig to date for Josh Bravener and his band, The Hypochondriacs.
Playing at Harvest was a dream come true for Bravener.
“I can now think back to my 15-year-old self and say, ‘Hey buddy you did it. Now what?’”
Since 1991, the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival has been a stepping stone for local musicians and a gathering place for experienced and promising artists, like Bravener.
Bravener has grown up with the festival and said it has been a source of inspiration and a record of his ascension in the musical world. He believes it’s one of the best times of the year for Fredericton.
“No matter what you do, no matter who you are, no matter how much money you have or how old you are, you can walk down the street and take in all sorts of music … It’s a sense of excitement and pure happiness,” said Bravener, whose music career has produced two albums and several tours across Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario.
“It’s that one festival every year that we can all enjoy.”
From busking to the big stage
Harvest has been a part of Bravener’s life ever since he was a child. He remembers watching a pianist play for one of his music classes when he attended Leo Hayes High School. At the time, he was already a fan of blues and country music. After seeing the ragtime pianist play, he convinced his family to watch her performance later that night downtown.
“Being a lover of music … I was inspired by all sorts of buskers and stage performers during the festival,” Bravener said.
“I was super excited and I remember telling my parents we gotta go see this girl. She’s playing in Officers’ Square.”
“It was probably one of my first memories of actually kind of wanting to go and see the music.”
Bravener also busked with his father at the festival when he was a child.
He said an elderly woman once asked him to play Buck Owens and after, she cried and hugged him and his father. Buck Owens had been her late father’s favourite musician.
“It’s moments like that. Like having someone come up to you and talk and ask for a song. It makes for a great experience for the both of you.”
Bravener remembers playing at Tony’s Music Box and Cedar Tree Café with his band, then called The Josh Bravener Band. Six years after he started playing at Harvest, his band began playing on one of the main stages.
“[It] feels great to go from busking to playing a main stage … I still would love to busk, but playing stages is such a luxury.”
This year, Bravener’s band, The Hypochondriacs, performed on Sept. 13 at Harvest as a pay-to-enter act on one of the main stages. It’s a step up from last time’s free show, Bravener said.
“We love what we’re doing and hopefully there’s many more Harvests to come, as well as other festivals around the world [where we can] have the same opportunities.”