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Thursday, March 22 News

Teen band draws inspiration from music of the '60s

Brandon Alexander could not keep his long hair out of his eyes while he played his guitar on Saturday. He repeatedly tossed his head back or tried to blow the hair away from his eyes as he strummed his guitar, but he never stopped playing.

His band mate Trevor LaVecchia didn't have that problem as his hair was kept short and out of his face. Despite the hair or lack of hair creating minor distractions, Alexander, LaVecchia and the third member and drummer of Birdwalk, John Bemis, moved from one song to the next apparently without issue during their performance at New Canaan's Village Fair & Sidewalk Sale Saturday.

Pinetop Starks' "Every Day I Have the Blues" has been covered extensively since it was released in 1935 -- from B.B. King to John Mayer. Birdwalk, a new band formed from the classrooms of New Canaan's School of Rock, joined that group of musicians.

During their performance in a small space in front of Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild, the threesome -- Alexander, 17, of Lewisboro, N.Y.; Bemis, 15, of New Canaan, and LaVecchia, 15, of Darien -- drew a crowd of passersby, some of whom sat at a table to continue watching, while others paused briefly to listen.

During "Every Day I Have the Blues," the first song of the band's set, two young girls jumped and danced.

Next to the band's stage was the New Canaan School of Rock's tent, the school where the three met, but not where they have remained.

After playing a set on the School of Rock stage at the 2013 Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport as part of the school, a man from the audience approached them and asked if they were a band.

The boys looked at each other and realized they could be a legitimate band.

Their influences range from Phish and Frank Zappa to Lettuce and The McLovins.

"I just love '60s music," Alexander said about his personal influences. "That's where it all starts."

Their Saturday performance included original content.

"We just jam and play random stuff until it sounds good," LaVecchia said.

From there, Bemis writes lyrics.

All three teens played instruments before enrolling at the School of Rock two years ago.

LaVecchia is part of an a cappella group at Darien High School; Bemis plays drums for the New Canaan High School jazz band and pit orchestra; and Alexander is a self-described "bedroom rocker."

The future of Birdwalk -- which is a word Bemis overheard in gym class one day -- is uncertain, though. Alexander, who at 17 refers to himself as "positively ancient" according to Bemis, will be a senior next year and where he decides to go to college could determine the fate of the band. For the time being, though, the three just enjoy each other's musical company.

"I don't feel like I need to impress anybody when I'm playing with these guys," Bemis said. "There's no pressure to be good or bad or be anything."

Even when they mess up during practice, the three laugh it off, LaVecchia said.

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The three have plans to record an album and continue playing shows where they can.

"We'll take any gig, that's our motto," Bemis said.

mspicer@bccnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews