Off stage, Kevin McKeown is a calm, collected individual. On stage, he transforms.
The frontman for Black Pistol Fire was the talk of town after he and drummer Eric Owen closed out the Wapiti Music Festival weekend in Fernie.
The high-octane rock duo based out of Austin, Texas were the final performance on Saturday night, and concluded the festival with a bang.
McKeown didn’t let the stage define his boundaries. To the joy of the audience, the guitarist repeatedly made his way off the stage and into the crowd where he would continue to play his solo, while crowdsurfing.
“You always feel a little more connected to the crowd when you get to get in there with them, because they’re just as much a part of the show as you,” said McKeown.
“They kind of dictate man, if they’re into something then you keep rolling with faster songs, slower songs, whatever. I think it’s important to get in there, see what they’re doing, see what their vibe’s like,” he said.
For about seven years McKeown has been immersing himself in the crowd during shows. It started when they played smaller shows and realized that not many people were paying attention.
“It’s just something that I think we learned early on; give everything you’ve got on stage and do whatever’s necessary to connect with the crowd,” he said.
McKeown said it’s great to see people put their phones away and become involved in the show.
But this skillset doesn’t come easy for McKeown. Before each show, he meditates to calm the nerves.
“I always get nervous,” he said. “I always have about an hour before the show, I’ve got my rituals that I’ve got to do.”
From vocal warmups to meditation, McKeown likes to be prepared.
Minutes before the show he closes his eyes and visualizes the lights coming on, people losing their minds and being filled with joy.
“It’s this weird thing, I always picture the last note of the show, and the lights come on, looking out and seeing the crowd, just smiles and people having the best time, and for some reason that gets me in the zone; visualizing that,” said McKeown.
“I think we just look forward to playing. The sooner and sooner it gets, closer to showtime, we’re getting antsy like we’re caged lions. Let’s go, let’s get it on,” he said.
This is their first Canadian tour in over a decade, and McKeown said it was great to tour again in the north. Asked how his first experience at Wapiti was, McKeown said he had a blast, despite the rain.
“The weather was a little shoddy (poor), but the people that did show up, man they were way into it, they were real rowdy,” he said. “We always say that if there’s at least a handful of people that are really into it, we’ll be able to make it work.
“We had that in spades.”