Jay Kipps Band performing at Island Lake for Canada Day

June 23, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Isabel Buckmaster

A blend of classic rockabilly and bluegrass surf on “spaghetti western waves”, the Jay Kipps Band want to get Orangeville residents “rocking and grooving,” this Canada Day.

A staple performer at the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival since 2014, Jason Kipps is the lead vocalist of his self-titled group, the Jay Kipps Band. Playing with a different ensemble for their performance on July 1 at Island Lake Conservation Area, Kipps will be accompanied by Morgan Smith on lead guitar and Frank Pesci on bass, with the show running from 6:30-9 p.m.

“It’s such a great venue and we’re thankful to Orangeville for thinking of us,” said Kipps, who’s band was the first to play the Island Lake Conservation stage when “it was still a concept.” He was hired to test the sound quality and how the music may travel over the water.

“We’re an original act and while it’s easy to book wedding bands and play all those classic favourites, this is an original music act from Orangeville and Mono, this is how our community sounds and it’s nice to see that we’re supporting original local artists,” said Kipps.

While music was something that he always wanted to pursue, when his child was stillborn, it pushed him back to his roots. An avid traveller, Kips often relied on his harmonica and harp during his world travels and just as his instruments had always “taken him to safe harbours in remote wilderness,” they guided him towards a new path.

“I’ve been shy for most of my adult life, never really played publicly,” said Kipps. “And then I subbed in for a band and people really liked it. Their reaction was more than I could have ever imagined and so I just started doing more.”

Whereas the dirty grit of the bass brings the band’s sound to alternative classic rock, Kipps’ vocals are woven with the harmonica adding country warmth and the home he loves. Originally an outlet for grief, the music of Jay Kipps Band digests the “pain of five generations of Canadian roots” and develops it into inspiring endings of “authenticity and love.”

Playing a mixture of covers and originals, Kipps’ prides himself on playing “different covers,” leaning towards the B-sides of popular artists and making them his own. He knows he’s been successful if the audience mistakes the piece for a Jay Kipps Band original.

“What makes up (our) originals is they’re heartfelt from the beginning. I’ve chosen every word to reflect a specific circumstance so we try to choose covers that reflect that as well,” said Kipps. “When I choose our covers, they’re the ones that have impacted me or represent a place in my life. I find it really hard to cover any song that doesn’t have that meaning so we try to select songs that almost feel original.”

The pandemic challenged the band’s momentum, cancelling all 30 shows in their lineup. The band had thought 2020 was their year, following a successful album release but while they performed nationally at festivals like the East Coast Music Festival, the events came with additional legwork and less creative release.

“To perform virtually, you’ve got to set up cameras, video and essentially you’re putting together a music video, which is a whole other layer of editing and work in addition to just putting on the show,” said Kipps. “You’re also playing for a computer rather than an audience so you just didn’t get the vibe and the energy from the audience and that’s why I do it.”

But with the pandemic sparking a “new appreciation for live music,” the group has high hopes for the future.

“It’s a lot of legwork to book shows and so to have to start again from scratch has been daunting,” said Kipps. “But the fans keep us going, you know, there’s no better feeling than when somebody in the audience knows your songs.”

To see the Jay Kipps Band Live, visit Island Lake Conservation Area’s Amphitheatre from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on July 1.

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