Long before I knew that I’d be covering Harvest for The Brunswickan—long before I knew that I would be working for The Brunswickan at all—I knew where I would be spending Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.
I knew this because that was the day Hollerado was playing at Harvest.
Hollerado is my favourite band. They have been since before I was even old enough to drink, and my loyalty to them has never wavered. Back when I lived in Ontario, I used to go see them every chance I could—so much so that the band started to call me by my first name. (I am not sure whether this is something to be proud of or not.)
But since moving out east three years ago, I haven’t been able to get to one of their shows. I’ve missed them, so when I saw the Harvest poster pop up around town, back in the spring, and saw their name included on the roster, I marked the sacred date, months away, on my calendar, and began counting down the days.
Finally, last Saturday, the day finally arrived and, with it, the last day of Harvest ‘17 begins.
Since I’m always preaching the Hollerado gospel to my friends and loved ones, I convince my partner and classmates to come along, too. I begin the anticipated evening by leading them around the Harvest grounds like a tour guide, as I am, by now, so familiar with the area. “On your left, you’ll see the Blues Court. Up ahead, there’s the water station. Come this way, round the corner—see the logo shining on the wall? Great photo opportunity! Now who wants me to take their picture?”
I lead my tour group into the Barracks Tent well before 8 p.m., for I don’t want to miss a moment of the show. What I had not anticipated back when the lineup was first announced was how invested I’d end up becoming in not just my hallowed headliners, but the other bands on the bill as well. I spoke with both Brookside Mall and Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire and have become big fans of both, so this is a night where I will not be wandering between stages, but staying squarely in one spot—hopefully as close to the stage as I can be.
Brookside Mall starts the show, delivering a strong set of songs with a sound so big it’s hard to believe there are only three of them onstage. Speaking with frontman Brendan MaGee, I’ve come to learn how important this festival is to him—years back, his attendance at Harvest inspired him to learn to play music, and now he’s here, playing the Harvest stage himself.
Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire is up next, delivering the band’s strange, rowdy rock tunes, with frontman Serge Brideau commanding the attention of all in the room. He shakes and struts and at some points he stands at the edge of the stage, back to the audience, mock-conducting his band like they are some kind of psychedelic orchestra. He banters between songs, riffing on politics, self-obsession, social media and whatever else comes to his mind. He’s totally captivating—a singer with the swagger of Jagger but the wit of Wilde.
But the band I’m really here to see is Hollerado, of course, and soon they’re up. We’re reunited at last, and they do not disappoint. They have a light show with them, with flashbulbs strobe lights and a backdrop of doodled hands flashing the peace sign. I can’t help but feel proud, for though this only one of many shows they have played in their day, I clearly remember the dingy dive bar where I first saw them play back in London, Ontario and realize how far they’ve come. The band has grown up—and, I suppose, I have alongside them. They rip through their set, some old songs, some new ones, and I jump and sing each one with shameless abandon. Some guy beside me has a broken foot, but his cast has done nothing to deter him from rocking out, and soon we have our arms around each other, screaming and shouting the words. Only at Harvest.
Near the end of the set, the band plays a real old one, a deep cut, called “Thank You For Sticking Around.” They dedicate it to us, the audience, but as I sing the song’s chorus I’m dedicating my performance right back at them. Hollerado: thank you for sticking around.
The show ends with a cover of Blink-182’s “Dammit,” with its repeated refrain “I guess this is growing up.” The line strikes me, and I think again about how far the band has come, and how far I’ve come, too, since I first became a fan.
After the show, I meet the band members by their merch table near the Barracks. The lead singer remembers me, tells me it’s nice to see my smile, and I blush like a Belieber. We hug and say farewell, and then I’m off into the night. I’m not quite ready for Harvest to end, so I take my partner back to the outside of the Moose Light Blues Tent, where my festival experience began four nights prior. It’s my favourite feature of the festival, this great indigo display, shining on the brick, the logo anointing the area like the Hollywood sign. I think about the times I have had here at Harvest, the music I have heard and all the people I have met. I could linger for awhile, try to get a solid grip on the ever-slippery present, try to preserve the moment and make it last forever, and before all this started I would’ve thought that this would be precisely what I’d want to do in this moment. I might have thought I’d feel terribly sad when it’s all over, and I do, of course—to an extent. But, more than anything, I’m just grateful for what I have had, but especially, for what I have. Harvest has left me with ringing ears, stamps on my wrists, some good stories and a few new friends, but mostly it has left me with this.
We walk home, hand-in-hand. We do not see any buskers on the way, but I am not disappointed. After all, there’s always next year.