A Semiahmoo Peninsula musician will represent the White Rock Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis this coming January.
David “Boxcar” Gates, 30, was one of four musicians who performed Sunday night at the West Beach Bar and Grill in White Rock for a panel of judges comprising blues historian Glen Page, retired professional guitarist Robbie Keene and Glen Pearson, a local blues musician.
Gates’ vintage sound – described by WRBS president Rod Dranfield as a trip back to the 1920s and ’30s in Memphis or Mississippi – helped him stand out just enough to win the judges’ favour over Wes Mackey, the Blue Voodoo and the duo, The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer.
“The panel of judges had their work cut out for them,” Dranfield told Peace Arch News this week. “All four blues acts were worthy of the honour.”
Even Gates, who has been working on his music since he was a teenager, is reluctant to call himself the winner.
“No, no, it was not a contest. I can’t stand it being called a contest. Give me a break. There was so much talent in the room,” Gates said. “All of us were hugging, we’re all really happy.”
While in Tennessee, Gates will perform in front of blues lovers and people in the music industry, making contacts and getting exposure – both of which are crucial to a lesser-known artist.
“All the acts get a good bit of opportunity to be seen and to make connections that help in developing their career,” said Dranfield. “Each year they pick the top three bands or artists, but from what I’ve learned, it’s not about winning, or getting the cherry on top of the cake, it’s about the cake.”
Receiving this opportunity is just the most recent layer on Gates’ cake. The last two months have been a whirlwind experience for the musician, who was also featured in a video series created by Jonathan Fluevog – son of the acclaimed shoe designer.
As for the cherry on top, right before being chosen to go to the IBC, Gates’ 59-year-old father, Ed, who was diagnosed with cancer, was given the OK to be released from the hospital.
“He’s my landmark, he’s always supported me and he always said, ‘David, I knew you would do something,’” Gates said. “The last few weeks have been like a dream. I can’t believe it.”
Gates – who grew up in Whalley and got his nickname from his teenage hobby of hopping onto freight trains – said that if anything comes from the festival and he has the funds to do so, he plans to build a homeless shelter in his old neighbourhood.
“If I ever make any money, that’s what I will do. Getting into this band stuff helped me out. I was growing up in a rough neighbourhood, and I was able to break the mold and get to do this,” he said.
For more on the WRBS, go to www.whiterockblues.com