Folk-Roots Society starts season with ghost stories

Patrick Alexandre remembers how one of his uncles influenced his musical journey

Paul Tessier

For The Morning Star

Patrick Alexandre remembers how one of his uncles influenced his musical journey.

“My uncle Barry gave me a harmonica. He told me to keep it in my pocket for a year,” Alexandre said. “He figured if I didn’t learn to play harmonica in a year, something was wrong.”

Alexandre now mostly plays the stand-up bass and will perform live for the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society Saturday at the Vernon Lodge and Conference Centre.

Growing up near Winnipeg, Man., Alexandre gravitated to the blues by listening to lots of records from his uncles. He started digging into music history quite naturally.

“When I was a teenager and listening to music, I started to gravitate to the past,” Alexandre said. “I would find a band I liked and start reading about their influences. I’d be listening to some Led Zeppelin records and keep seeing the name Willie Dixon in the songwriting credits. It turns out Willie Dixon was a blues giant and an upright bass player. Once I discovered blues stuff like that from the ’40s and ’50s, I was hooked.”

His show in Vernon is part of a Western-Canadian tour promoting the release of his new album, In The Blood.

He’ll be accompanied on guitar by Dwayne Dueck and on drums by Jeffrey Laird. He plans to play many of the songs from the album that was mostly written in an abandoned candy factory in Winnipeg’s tough north end.

“I was in there for about six months,” he said. “Originally, it was an old vaudeville theatre. It’s an amazing, beautiful old buiilding, but scary though. So scary.”

Alexandre firmly believes he wasn’t alone in the abandoned building.

“It’s located in one of Winnipeg’s sketchiest neighbourhoods,” he said. “So I’d be waiting in my van till everybody’s past the building, then take my guitar and run to the door and lock it behind me. Then I’d run upstairs where it’s just as scary because the place is haunted. I ended up spending hours and hours in this huge empty building — practising and writing songs with no one there but me and these ghosts, scaring the heck out of me.”

Other than some ghost stories from the abandoned building, Alexandre anticipates an eclectic evening of blues.

“We start at a very minimal place with our sound and draw the crowd in,” he said. “We try to bring the crowd along with us for every word and note. We try to play many types of blues and focus on some of the lost traditions of rock and roll, country, rockabilly and more.”

Alexandre expects to give it his all on stage.

“There are a few points in the show where I push my body to its furthest. Usually I push my voice to the maximum. I also push myself to the limit with the stand-up bass which gets really physical. So when I’m almost blacking out and I have to lean on my bass and my guitar player takes a step towards me in case he has to steady my shoulder, that’s when I know I’m empty and gave it my all.”

He just might have enough in the tank to tell the odd ghost story as well.

The Patrick Alexandre Trio kicks off the fourth season for Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society Sept. 23 at the Vernon Lodge and Conference Centre. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with a bar and food options available. Tickets are $25, $20 for members. Tickets are available through The Ticket Seller, www.ticketseller.ca, 250-549-7649, the Bean Scene Coffee House or at the door (if available.)

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