Blues campers kick off fes­ti­val week­end

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page - JEFF HICKS Water­loo Re­gion Record jhicks@there­ Twit­ter: @Hick­sJD

KITCH­ENER — The house was, as the song pro­claimed, a-rockin’.

So 15-year-old Alex Van Cap­pellen, an aspir­ing blues gui­tarist from Kitch­ener, fin­ished a Stevie Ray Vaughan-in­spired solo by flip­ping his Gib­son Fly­ing V over his head and play­ing be­hind his neck.

The move was as smooth as his caramel-coloured gui­tar. But bring­ing the gui­tar back over his bushy red hair was a lit­tle trick­ier.

Van Cap­pellen ac­ci­den­tally knocked off his blue-tinged John Len­non spec­ta­cles as he made the ma­noeu­vre.

He didn’t panic. His cir­cu­lar sun­glasses dan­gling, Van Cap­pellen con­tin­ued play­ing and kept on keepin’ on for a full down­town tent of about 600 on Fri­day af­ter­noon as the Kitch­ener Blues Fes­ti­val headed into a free-ad­mis­sion, clear-skies week­end.

“I im­pro­vised that,” said Van Cap­pellen, one of 48 kids putting on a 22-song, two-hour con­cert on Fri­day af­ter at­tend­ing Grand River Blues Camp .

This was not Van Cap­pellen’s first blues camp, a non­profit fix­ture at the blues fes­ti­val which sees lo­cal blues mu­si­cians work with youth — ages 12-18 of vary­ing mu­si­cal train­ing — from Water­loo Re­gion and as far away as Mas­sachusetts and Louisiana.

Van Cap­pellen, whose in­tact glasses hung from his T-shirt col­lar af­ter the show, has come to the camps since he was 10.

A year later, he saw B.B. King, his favourite blues per­former, play at Cen­tre in the Square, just less than two years be­fore King’s death.

“He just kind of blew the en­tire stage away,” Van Cap­pellen said.

Pres­ence is im­por­tant to a blues singer. So is at­tire.

Haydn Hag­gart, a wiz­ened 13,

stuffed all the worldly at­ti­tude and grav­elly-voiced grav­i­tas he could muster be­hind a dark fe­dora and sun­glasses.

The Tot­ten­ham teen joined three fe­male singers for the con­cert opener in front of Van Cap­pellen’s freestyle riffs.

The Jake-and-El­wood Blues look framed his com­mand of the stage.

“I like get­ting into char­ac­ter so it feels like an op­por­tu­nity to be­come the singer, to be­come part of the song,” said Hag­gart, whose home­town is best known for its mu­sic fes­ti­val of blue­grass, not blues.

“It makes you feel like you own the stage. I like that feel­ing.”

Hag­gart was pol­ish­ing off his sec­ond blues camp this week.

For Lon­don’s Hai­ley Lalonde,

17, it was her first. The bari­tone sax player — as she pre­pared for a “Night Time is the Right Time” solo on Fri­day — said she had an amaz­ing time at the camp, which is based out of Kitch­ener-Water­loo Col­le­giate.

“You’ve got to groove with every­body,” Lalonde said.

The kids in the blues camps had Ge­orge White, camp found­ing direc­tor, gush­ing.

As they took the stage, White chan­nelled his in­ner Jon Lan­dau.

“I have seen the fu­ture of blues in this town,” White said of the ta­lented campers. “We are in very good shape. We are in very good hands.”


Alex Van Cap­pellen, 15, loses his glasses while shred­ding a solo at the recital for the Grand River Blues Camp dur­ing the Kitch­ener Blues Fes­ti­val on Fri­day. Young mu­si­cians, work­ing with men­tors steeped in the blues, were taught to play to­gether as a band.


The Grand River Blues Camp has be­come a non­profit fix­ture of the Kitch­ener Blues Fes­ti­val, with men­tors work­ing with youth ages 12-18.

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