I arrive to my second day of Harvest without a plan.
I do this somewhat deliberately. I had a heckuva time the first night and I feel recharged, rebooted, reborn—but I know that if I place too much pressure on the follow-up, I’ll only be disappointed; it’s a strange sensation, coming back after a night like the first. I want it to be recreated exactly, and yet at the same time, I do not.
So instead, I have no expectations. I do not seek to find, see or hear anything in particular—and that’s precisely the point. I simply go.
I begin by wandering. I once had a teacher who called himself a flâneur—a Parisian stroller, a man about town, a connoisseur of the streets. I honour his legacy tonight by flâneur-ing around Fredericton. Queen Street’s full of vendors, firebreathers and food trucks; in some ways, this is my favourite part of the festival. Many of the artists I spoke to—especially the local ones—associated Harvest with “community;” tonight, it’s easy to understand why. The streets are packed with people of all ages: families of four, high-school kids, a young couple out on one of their first dates, a special one, and an old couple on a date—not their first but still special.
Along the way, I bump into familiar faces. I see a kid I helped tutor a few days before. I see a guy who had my back when I was heckled at an open mic night. I see my fiction prof. I see someone who used to sell me jars of soup from a stand at the Boyce Market. I know each to varied extents, yet we greet each other like long-lost pals. Community indeed.
On Wednesday, I hadn’t ventured beyond the Moose Light Blues Tent, so tonight I decide to find the other stages. I hear nearby music, so I head for it, wandering without a map but following a scent like a bloodhound… only to realize I’ve once again ended up at the Blues Tent. (“Old habits…”, I guess.) I decide to venture in anyway, see Marcus King and his merry band making a wonderful racket onstage—but it feels inappropriate, too soon to be back, so I head out. On the way, I pass the picnic table where I had sat with Rick and Peggy last night, but I see neither of them there nor anyone who looks anything at all like them. Disappointment starts to rise and I wonder if I should scan the surroundings and seek them out, check in and catch up; soon, though, I squash the idea. After all: if our paths are meant to cross again, they will.
In the parking lot behind the courthouse and the craft college I enlist a kind volunteer’s assistance. I’d been told about the importance of volunteers to the festival’s success and I can certainly confirm this; green-shirted staff were spread throughout the grounds, always ensuring all ships sailed smoothly. The volunteer orients me towards the Cox & Palmer Blues Court (my second stage, at last!) where I watch The Honeyboys lay down licks, certainly proving the credibility of their venue’s name.
Determined to continue my exploration of the grounds, I make my way back towards Queen Street and find the Barracks Tent, where City Natives commandeer the stage like military generals, owning the room with their intense, politically-charged rhymes. I don’t want to leave, so I don’t; I stay for their entire set and then wait for Stephen Lewis and his Big Band of FUN.
With an arsenal of loop pedals and all geared up to groove, Lewis quickly and easily transforms the tent into a true party. He’s an heir to the throne of Matinee Slim if ever I have seen one (only my hometown readers will understand the reference; shoutout to you, NOTL). The band is fresh off a stop at Burning Man, but there’s no need for a trip to the desert when a festival like Harvest is in your backyard! I feel no FOMO as they mash hip-hop classics with fast-paced originals. Someone beside me is wearing an animal mask, a raccoon tail and glitter body-paint, all while spinning lights-on-strings. I’m jealous of the person’s freedom and confidence, and I wish I had the courage to dress so boldly. Inspired by their exuberance and the glee with which they move, I put my notebook in my back-pocket and lift my hands high in the air, timid but trying. Though I cannot claim to be a dancer, I do my best.
As the clock nears ten I exit, headed for the final stage, the TD Mojo Tent, where I’m determined to get a solid spot for Sloan. They seem to be one of the day’s most anticipated acts, and they’re certainly one of the ones I was most familiar with when I first saw the lineup. I’m front and centre just as I was yesterday for Matt Andersen—I can practically look the guys in the eyes while they’re singing. The band comes out swinging; hit after hit, each song bleeds into the next, from one chord right into another—and the crowd, perhaps familiar with their Maritime roots or maybe just familiar with one of their many radio singles, is eager and enthused, pumping fists and singing along. I do, too (if it feels good, do it). The band’s bringing out the good in everyone, and I feel as though I could stay at their show for the rest of my life. You wouldn’t even have to coax me.
The show ends, and I take one last walk up and down Queen Street. I spot the storefront where I watched a busker last night; somehow, with the new arrivals around it, all of its movie house-mystique has vanished and I hardly recognize it. I expect myself to feel disappointed by this—to want to cling to its memory, to resent the change in context—but I’m not; I’m fine with this. It would be so easy to spend my time staring at my shoes, kicking up dirt, moping about how “Last night was better ‘cause of this and that,” desperately wondering if maybe “That Thing From Last Night”—the Ricks and Peggies, the antique buskers—is over here, or even over there.
But to experience Harvest in such a way—to demand that one night continue where another left off—would be to completely miss the point. The movie house-mystique hasn’t gone at all—it’s merely shifted and something else has come to take its place. This festival is fluid and always in flux so that no two nights of Harvest are alike; this, I’ve come to realize, is something that should not be resisted, but revered. With Harvest, as with life, each day must be taken as it is.
Though I must admit: I sure do miss that busker.