Words by Erin Keating; photography by James West and Sarah Sarty
There was musical diversity across all Harvest venues tonight – true blues in the Mojo and Blues Court, fun, fun, funk in the Barracks, and singer-songwriter folk at The Playhouse. The Blues Tent itself ran the gamut of musical offerings throughout the night – from soul, to southern R&B, to outlaw country rock, and back again.
Although the Blues Tent didn’t have a common theme in genres, there was another common theme that threaded the acts together: sheer stamina.
At the early show, Mavis Staples brought pure joy into the tent, with all the soul, sass and swagger only a true icon can possess. At 79-years-old, Staples was full of fire from start to finish – both while singing and interacting with the audience.
“My family – The Staples Singers – we’ve been taking y’all there for 69 years. And I’m not tired yet,” she told the cheering crowd in the middle of the Staples Singers’ classic “I’ll Take You There” that had the entire audience singing along.
Opening for Sturgill Simpson, Southern Avenue brought nothing but energy as soon as they hit the stage. Charismatic lead singer Tierinii Jackson sang and danced her butt off the entire set. not a single moment went by where she wasn’t giving it absolutely everything she’s got, while her sister Tikyra did the same on the drums. If you didn’t get the chance to see them in action, don’t miss them at the TD Mojo tonight, opening for The Main Squeeze.
Then it was the country outlaw Sturgill Simpson’s turn to show the Blues Tent what stamina is really all about, playing like a freight train blasting down the track at 1000 miles per hour, and still somehow picking up momentum with every single note. In a final feat of stamina, he closed with a face-melting medley version of “Call to Arms” that clocked in at an unbelievable 17 minutes long.
The final act in the Blues Tent, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds lived up to their name, bringing some dirty, crunchy blues rock jams to the Afterburner. Harvest’s Artist-At-Large – the insanely talented fifteen-year-old Brendan “Taz” Niederauer – made his first of several surprise appearances of the festival, joining Sister Sparrow on stage to guest shred for a song mid-set.
Keep an eye out for Taz tonight – you’ll be lucky to see this kid in action.
The Atlantic Lottery Barracks tent was all about fun and funky vibes all night long, culminating with headliners Five Alarm Funk, who were weird and wonderful and every bit as funkadelic as their name suggests, with banana costumes, inflatable sharks, and many other highly-entertaining hijinks up their sleeves.