Blues campers kick off festival weekend
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.