LAKEWOOD – Area residents enjoyed some blues, folk, jazz and rock infused tunes by guitarist and singer-songwriter Alex Kates at Yesterday’s in Lakewood on Friday evening.
According to Kates, playing at Yesterday’s is always a blast thanks to the owner, Tammy Magnuson, and John Streed, his booking agent.
“It’s my neighborhood bar, other than Mojo’s of Jamestown,” Kates said. “If I go out to be with friends I either go to Yesterday’s or Mojo’s. I’m on the road a lot, so it’s nice to come home to a place where I know everybody – it’s not as intimidating as picking up my guitar in front of a new crowd.”
Kates’ performance, which included Streed on djembe drums and Dan Shanahan on harmonica, featured original tunes from his 12-track album “Vagabond,” such as: “Vagabond,” “This Town,” “Baby Its You,” and “Iron Horse Blues.” But, Kates also drew in the audience with a variety of covers that ranged from The Grateful Dead to Simon and Garfunkel.
“These songs are derived from my travels and the personal experiences that I’ve had,” Kates said. “Pretty much every song that I write has some personal experience inflected into it.”
Kates, who is 34, has been playing guitar since he was eight, but he started playing violin when he was four. He’s been touring professionally for the last several years, but he also spent some time in California as a street performer in his youth.
“I was kind of a vagabond, and lived on the road,” Kates said. “I didn’t necessarily have a place to sleep every night, but it was a romantic idea that I had when I was a kid. I didn’t want to have some spectacular career in anything – I just wanted to travel and play music.”
Kates ended up back in Chautauqua County after his father passed away. Kates’ father was the owner of Chautauqua Music, and his mother ran the shop until she retired recently. Kates’ brother, Billy, who is also Kates’ drummer, ended up taking over the business, which gave him the freedom to travel again.
According to John Streed, of Blue Moon Management, one of the main things he likes about Kates is his originality.
“His intricacy when he plays lead is very precise,” Streed said. “Every note has its place, but yet he’s able to be multi-genre even playing roots-blues. With his attitude and demeanor, he’s also able to win people over – which is an enhancement to his music.”
Those interested in catching Alex Kates live will have a number of opportunities, including the appearance of his full band at The Q, 104 W. Second St. in Jamestown, tonight at 10 p.m. He’ll also be at The Tap Room, 43 E. Main St. in Westfield, on Friday at 9:30 p.m. He’s also got several more performances scheduled before The Great Blue Heron, which is set for Friday, July 4, where he’ll play with the Claire Stuzcynski Band.
Kates also recently landed the biggest gig of his career yet, he said. On Thursday, July 17, at 7 p.m. he’ll headline on the Landshark Stage Navy Pier in Chicago. “I’ve played large festivals and in front of big crowds before, but this is going to be my full band headlining – it feels awesome,” Kates said.
For more information, visit www.alexkates.net or search for “Alex Kates Music” on Facebook.