A few months back, our own Del Rees attended one of Jam Space’s Jam Academy classes, to interview teacher Dave Allan (known to many as the drummer in such local acts as Explode When They Bloom, Area 51, Poughboy, Which Witch and Cellos) and hang out with all the talented young kids who were attending Jam Academy. Jam Academy is a localized “School of Rock” if you will. Allan, alongside fellow teacher Jason P. Testawich (from Surdaster, Luna Borealis and The Unquiet Dead), instruct upwards of 30 or 40 students, not simply in honing their respective instruments or song writing, but to also show them the sheer joy of performing in a band, and showing them how to interact with each other socially and musically.
This past Sunday TWZ was at their latest performance (which is essentially the full musical “graduation” of the students of the past set of seminars), held at Villains Beastro (256 Pelissier St.) in downtown Windsor. It was a full house to take in the many performances, centred around this classes’ Beatles theme. With the calibre of teachers and the level of commitment Jam Space, we were expecting some real talented kids. Not only were they talented kids, there were some damn talented musicians in the bunch as well. It was a fantastic show from start to finish.
The kids all came from different corners of Windsor-Essex county – many of whom had never played with other musicians until signing up for Jam Academy. Over the past summer, the crew of Jam Space have done a fantastic job honing these kids’ skills, polishing them and releasing them to the public with a confidence and swagger well beyond their years.
The show opened with two performers – 14-year old multi-instrumentalist Sam Poole and 15-year old vocalist Samantha (Sam) Bourque – doing stripped down versions of Beatles songs. These two are vets of Jam Academy and their poise and confidence levels showed that these two were no strangers to the public or the stage. Bourque has a powerful voice for one so young and is very comfortable on the stage – which is perhaps why she’s been performing in musicals since she was 6. Her voice is very theatric and she could easily have a career in Musical Theatre. The duo performed some great Beatles selections – including some not often tackled such as “Dear Prudence” and “Because”. They were joined mid-way through their five song opener by a pair of percussionists, in drum students Sierra Heil (15) and Sierra Simoni (13). They were subtle and restrained, and accompanied the vocal duets of the two Sams, and Poole’s fine keyboard and guitar work.
They were followed by the first official “band” from Jam Academy, Fifth Element. These four kids range in age from 12-year bassist Kael Currie, 13-year old drummer Michael Clayton to 14-year olds Dominique Gatty on vocals and Julia Mammerella on guitars. These four had an edgier punk-pop sound that really came out in the first original composition of the event, the brilliantly poppy “We Are The Young”, which closed out a set that included covers by The White Stripes, Guns N’ Roses and the obligatory themed Beatles. But it was on “We Are The Young” that they truly shone, showcasing their own bravado and creativity, with a truly memorable and catchy pop-punk anthem for the tweens. Hopefully they record it soon!
Atomic Spawn was the next band up and this band was a monster of a jam band. The two Sams from the opening act re-took the stage as co-vocalists, and both percussionists (the two Sierras) returned as co-drummers. If I was to hand out an award for coolest image of the day, it would have to be Sierra Simoni – she walked with a swagger most men can’t pull off and the tall boots holding her drum sticks gave her just enough attitude to hang in a room full of older adults. Fifteen-year old bassist David Gleason held down a solid groove and 16-year old guitarist Dylan Zak (great rock and roll name) towered over the rest of the band and held down the sweet rhythm guitar. But it was the immense talent of 15-year old guitarist Kess Carpenter that caught most people’s attention. Only playing for two years (and playing alongside others for less than one), Carpenter’s sheer confidence and bravado on the electric guitar was head and shoulders above everyone on the stage that day. In fact, she commanded the stage more than many older, more “established” musicians in town can. She attacked the guitar like AC/DC‘s Angus Young and unleashed a hurricane of fret work worthy of some of her heroes like Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Steve Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix. Remember her name, because she will be a musical force to be reckoned with when she builds on her stage experience (immediately after her performance, TWZ secured her an opening slot performing at Phog Lounge (157 University Ave. West), alongside Windsor veterans The Locusts Have No King and Vancouver’s garage blues darlings and Mint Records recording artists, The Pack AD, on Wednesday October 19. She’ll be performing her own original material, backed by her teachers Dave Allan on drums and Jason P. Testawich on bass). Carpenter and the rest of the crew from Atomic Spawn rocked through a set list featuring “Come Together”, “Heard It Through The Grapevine”, “Pride and Joy” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”, as well as an untitled original.
After a small break, the third band of the night hit the stage, the instrumental experimental heaviness of Octomen. This band was highlighted by another guitar virtuoso in 13-year old Nathan McNevin, who hands seemed to move with an empathic dance around the guitar, showing a real precision on timing yet a loose comfort in letting the song lead him. Drummer Chris Cunningham (18) – arguably the best drummer of the night – showed an equal precision behind the kit. Following their Beatles cover – “Day Tripper” – Sam Bourque lent her vocals to the event once again for an Avenged Sevenfold cover, before they closed out with two instrumental originals, “Octoman” and “Octowoman”. The bass duties were filled out by instructor Jason Testawich.
The final band of the night were easily the loudest and heaviest, but were also easily the tightest. Perhaps the fact that three of the four members of Yet To Come – 16-year old Caleb Workman on drums, 17-year old Jesiah Workman on bass, and 16-year old Nathan Workman on guitar – are brothers has something to do with that. Add in 16-year old Dayne Garant on guitar, and you have the prime components for a future hardcore/metal staple at the legendary Coach & Horses (156 Chatham St. West). While a few of the parents began to filter out while these four guys unleashed the primal sludge doom on their ears, many still stuck around to witness the thunder these guys brought superbly to the stage. And due to time, these guys had to cut their Beatles’ cover and went with an all-original set list.
All in all, this was a fantastic showcase of young Windsor-Essex musical talent. It showed not only what an amazing job that Jam Space owners Jeffrey Bourque and Jason Testawich – as well as Jam Academy instructor Dave Allan – have done nurturing these kids, but also what a plethora of talent lay waiting in the wings to hit the stage once they’ve added a few more years. An incredibly exciting event that left me with goose bumps of anticipation. In the immortal words of AC/DC: “For those about to rock…we salute you.”
Jam Space is a fully functional musical haven suited for band rehearsals, sound recording or even karaoke parties. Located at 2680 Ouellette Ave., behind Tepperman’s and beside Steimar Bakery, it is reasonably priced for all your musical jam needs. Call (519) 972-0008 for more info on Jam Academy’s next sessions or any of their features!