Each year, Harvest’s diverse lineup includes some artists appearing at the festival for their very first time and other artists who have been invited back again and again.
This year, at long last, a hometown favourite will make their anticipated return to Harvest when the reunited Blind Dog takes over the Cox & Palmer Blues Court stage.
Throughout the 90s, Blind Dog played throughout Fredericton and the surrounding area “at any of the bars, the festivals, all over the province, the whole region, actually: New Brunswick and into Maine; in Carleton County, where the bikers loved us—and we’d play from midnight til’ dawn!” said rhythm guitarist Bruce Hughes.
The band arrived on the scene right around the same time Harvest started and soon secured themselves a slot at the festival’s second incarnation, where they played “a four and a half hour megaset, and that established our name right there. We were playing everything that night—wasn’t just blues, that’s for sure … We had to dig out everything and the kitchen sink, but it went over well.”
From that second festival in 1992 until the end of the decade, the festival had “something for us every year,” whether it was headlining a show, opening a set or organizing a post-Harvest party for all the festival’s volunteers.
As the new millennium neared, though, the band felt in need of a change. “After a decade, a couple recording sessions, we had day jobs, families … It was time,” explained Hughes. “We had a good run, but it was time to move on with life.”
The band felt that it was also time to make room for other artists at the festival.
“For ten years almost, it was Blind Dog, Blind Dog,” said drummer Allison Hovey. “We needed to roll over and let other bands come in and start doing their thing.”
The band remained involved in each other’s lives, but also in the festival, with Hughes serving as a volunteer every single year—whether he was performing or not. The members all stressed the integral role volunteers play in ensuring Harvest is a success year after year. Without them, they believe “the festival would go nowhere.”
“They have so many repeat volunteers because the festival shows so much respect to its volunteers,” Hovey said. The band encouraged students to seek out one of the many volunteer opportunities available—and those volunteers “might even get to go to some free shows,” they added with a wink.
Through his annual volunteering, Hughes kept noticing something: at each year’s festival, people “would talk about Blind Dog constantly” to him. After a decade of wanting to hold a reunion, Hughes finally decide that the timing was right. He reached out to the four other Blind Dog members, found that everyone’s schedules lined up, and sent in an application to be part of this year’s lineup. Both the band and the organizers were thrilled by the decision.
Though the reunion has come with some slight hiccups—Hughes suffered a stroke shortly after planning the comeback gig, which bassist David Cunningham jokingly attributes to “the huge bucks they offered us!”—the band has had no trouble picking up where they left off, with all the old tunes easily coming back to them. They’ve even been able to put together a CD of their studio recordings, which were only ever available on cassette—cassettes they’re told some fans still have; this CD will be on-sale at the show. (Personal disclaimer: they kindly brought a copy of the CD for yours truly, and I can confirm: it’s killer!)
Despite any setbacks experienced along the way, the band seems eager and energetic for their big return, promising “rock and blues and a good time.”
“Let me tell ya: it’s gonna be a special time,” said Hughes, eyes twinkling like those of a young musician about to play for the very first time.
For a band that has given Harvest so much, they certainly deserve it.
Blind Dog will make their long-awaited Harvest return at the Cox & Palmer Blues Court on Sept. 15 at 8:45 p.m. For tickets and more info, visit Harvestbluesandjazz.com.