Plaskett loves this town

Karissa Donkin – The Aquinian

Joel Plaskett on stage at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in Fredericton  - Karissa Donkin/AQ
Joel Plaskett on stage at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in Fredericton - Karissa Donkin/AQ

The second night of the Fredericton Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival showcased one of Atlantic Canada’s most exciting and charismatic performers – Joel Plaskett and the Emergency.

This performance is his first of two at the Festival, but his only performance with the Emergency band. Plaskett received thundering applause even before he stepped on to the stage in the Mojo Tent.

But the first time Plaskett hit the stage in Fredericton, it was to a much smaller crowd.

“I can remember playing here to literally three people, one was my mother,” says Plaskett.

Plaskett’s star has risen dramatically since then, and his most recent solo album, “Three”, which he describes as “a lot of acoustic and a lot of rock and roll”, has been nominated for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize. Plaskett will find out next week whether he is the recipient of the coveted award.

Plaskett admits that Fredericton’s music scene has changed a lot since the first time he played here.

“There’s a lot more of a music scene here than I realized, a real love of music,” he said, citing the success of the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival as proof of Fredericton’s reputation as a cultural hub.

Before Plaskett got the crowd singing, clapping, dancing and swinging their arms around, the night began with a free concert open to the public. The Roberto Lopez Project brought a unique blend of music genres from all over the world to the Harvest stage. With members hailing from Colombia, Cuba, Uruguay, Panama, Brazil and Quebec, as well as special guest Joel Miller from Fredericton, the sound of the band can best be described as multicultural.

The audience seemed appreciative of the free music, as both young and old danced to the eclectic dance vibes of reggae, R&B, jazz and a smattering of other sounds – something that the band describes as “nu-afro Latin”.

As the crowd from the free show left the tent, those anxiously waiting to see the headline act piled in. Fredericton’s own Ross Neilsen and the Sufferin’ Bastards took the stage to warm the crowd up with some electrifying blues rock, which drew the crowd closer to the stage.

Plaskett took control after Ross Neilsen and spent two hours performing some of his hits with the Emergency as well as some solo favourites. The crowd gained energy and excitement as the night drew on. Plaskett performed some of his best known hits such as “Love This Town”, “Nowhere With You”, “Penny For Your Thoughts” as well as many hits from “Three”. As soon as the performance was finished, the crowd demanded more. Eventually, Plaskett emerged back on stage for encore performances featuring the songs “Come on Teacher” and “Fashionable People”.

Kate Wilson, a second-year St. Thomas University student, has seen Plaskett play three or four times, and enjoys herself each time.

“I thought it was amazing. I love Joel Plaskett, he’s a great performer,” Wilson says.

Plaskett recommends that anyone who has not been to the Festival should attend a show.

“It really is a great festival; I think it’s really well-organized. I get the sense that people here come out to shows whether they know the acts or not because they like the way the festival is curated,” says Plaskett. “So if you’re a music fan, I think it’s not just about jazz and blues.”

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