Monday, January 21, 2013

Jacob Lavigne-Ippersiel

The first time I heard street musician Jacob Lavigne-Ippersiel was back in early November, when he was busking outside of Birk’s at the corner of Government & Fort.

Being a fan of country-rock singer/songwriter Gram Parsons’ music, it was not surprising that hearing Jacob singing one of Gram’s songs In My Hour of Darkness would catch my attention. When Jacob finished the song, I tipped him and asked if he knew any more, and he played Return of the Grievous Angel, which he told me was his favorite.

On a number of occasions over the next few weeks, I ran into Jacob busking in the library courtyard. It was there that I had the opportunity at the end of November to interview him before he headed back home to Québec. 

Jacob is from Lévis, which is located the south side of the St-Laurence River, across the  bridge from Québec City.

He first picked up the guitar when he was 15, and almost immediately thereafter, began taking his music to the streets. Although he had lived and busked for a couple of months in Ottawa and Toronto, most of Jacob’s busking experience has been in Québec City.

“I’ve been busking for seven years now, [and] I’ve been able to support myself for sometime with that, sometimes not, but that’s part of life, huh?”

He has played many of Québec’s uptown and downtown locations, however, he said he feels most at home on Rue St-Jean. 

“When I was a kid, my father told me everytime I asked what was there to do There is always something happening on Rue St-Jean,’ and it's true, street musicians, festivals on the Carré d'Youville, outdoor stalls, speciality shops and restaurants. It's a little bit like Government [Street], only with more space, as it crosses a big square.”

This past June, Jacob packed up his guitar, and spent the next month and a half crossing Canada, making stops and hanging out along the way. He busked in Ottawa and Toronto (again), and also in Calgary and Vancouver.

He finally arrived in Victoria in mid-August, rented an apartment, purchased a city busking permit, and spent the next few months trying out various spots on Government and Douglas Streets, until he found what would become his favorite spot, the library courtyard.

“I am pretty much the kind to stick to one place that I like, and go there all the time, [and] the library must be the best place. The sound is awesome, there’s a big echo, [and] you can just sing softly and be heard anyway.”

Having busked in “pretty much every big city in Canada”, I asked Jacob which one was his favorite. His answer: “Well, Québec holds a big place in my heart. It’s the one I played the most, and I’ve got all my friends there.”

“Toronto was great,” he said. “I found [in] Toronto, there was a big respect accorded to buskers, like the kind of commentaries that I would get there, is ‘Wow, you work hard.’ It’s cool being told that you work hard, and people acknowledge that you’re doing something, like busking was a job.”

Jacob also said that he really enjoyed Victoria. “It was a great place, people were laid back and fun, and I had a lot of good times here. I’m really sad to leave in fact, [but] I hope I’m gonna come back here soon.”

Jacob arrived back in Québec the second week of December, but hasn’t done any busking as “it is too cold here in Québec. Maybe in a month or so.”

Jacob also writes his own songs and has recorded a demo under his pseudonym Buckingham. The demo is titled Something Exciting Coming Soon, and you can listen to samples and purchase tracks at Songster Records.

Jacob busking in the Victoria Library courtyard

Much better quality video of Jacob busking in Québec City

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Old-Timey Folk Music on the City Streets

Last February, I was wandering down Government Street when I heard the strains of fiddle and banjo wafting up the the street. As I approached the source of the music, I came across a trio of street musicians playing some old-timey, backwoods mountain folk and bluegrass tunes outside the Bay Centre.

The three musicians, Jackson Allan (fiddle), Travis Smith (banjo, vocals), and Thom Hess (guitar, vocals) all live on Pender Island and they occasionally make the trip into Victoria to do some busking.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me the first time I saw them, but was able to film the guys a few days later when they were busking again outside the Eddie Bauer store.

I had forgotten about the footage until I ran into Travis busking a few months back, and made mention of it, but, it found its way onto my creative back-burner again. I crossed paths with Travis again a couple of days ago, and was reminded that I still hadn’t finished editing the footage, but, I promised him that I would get to it this week. I am glad to say that it is finally done.

Unfortunately, as the wind wasn’t very co-operative when I was filming, the sound quality is not the greatest, but still, the musical energy was there, and in the end I managed to have some fun with the editing process. 

Jackson and Thom also play in a 5-piece old-time folk band called The Pesky Alders. You can get more info and check out their music at their website.