Harvest Jazz & Blues maintains reputation

After 24 years, the Harvest Jazz & Blues festival has created quite a reputation within the international and local Canadian festival scene. Providing plenty of free entertainment is just one way Harvest Jazz & Blues maintains that reputation. “We believe that every international festival is measured by the strength of its free programming, but also just simply the ability to bring families downtown and take part in an event like Harvest Jazz & Blues,” said Brent Staeben, music programming director for the festival. Nearly a third of this year’s festival is free. The festival kickoffs on Wednesday at 7 p.m. with Gypsophilia. Free Harvest will showcase acts such as the Alex Bailey Swing Band, The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer, Sugarbomb, She Roars! and Buckwheat Zydeco. If you can’t make it to a free performance, Queen Street shuts down for Harvest for 48 hours beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. until Sunday at 5 p.m. offering free live art and musical performances. Harvest is the largest music festival of its kind in the province which means there are several opportunities for local bands to be heard. “Having the kind of presence we have now, it’s our responsibility to feature local acts,” said Staeben.  “To feature them in free shows, to recommend them to bars and pubs, to make sure they’re included in the Galaxie Rising Star competition- we really take our commitment to the local music industry seriously.” Fredericton’s Own Stage is made entirely for local talent and will feature Jennifer Russell, She Roars!, The Arlens and several more. Keeping up with other festivals also means offering entertainment for every age group, something Staeben says has helped tremendously. “We figured out more than a decade ago that if we wanted to sustain ourselves as a festival the new had to feature a much wider variety.” With bands like The Arkells, The Stanfields, Joel Plaskett Emergency and Force Fields, there’s something for everyone. “I think  first and foremost this is way more than jazz and blues – it’s a full spectrum of music now but the heart and soul of Harvest is blues.” If you plan on checking out this year’s Harvest Jazz & Blues, Staeben recommends checking out Gord Downie & The Sadies for $25 on Friday night, as well as Moe., Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Galactic for $57 on Saturday. Both shows take place in the Moose Light blues tent. “Having (Gord Downie  & The Sadies) early in the evening makes it a great deal. It is still expensive I understand that but from our perspective I don’t think we have ever really presented a night like that in the blues tent.”

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