Veteran boogie woogie blues performer David Vest is about to step into a boxing ring for the first time in his life.
His opponent: a 10-foot Steinway grand piano.
The Alabama-raised Victoria import will hit the centre ring at Colwood’s Olson’s Gym (520 Mt. View Ave.) on Saturday, June 1 to play the inaugural musical concert at the sports venue.
Playing with the likes of Big Joe Turner and Tammy Wynette, Vest learned his chops from some of the best, before going on to become a noted musician in his own right.
A Canadian woman drew Vest to Victoria, and he has since played across Canada. Last year he won a Maple Blues award for best piano player of the year.
“It’s great to be away from tornados and rattlesnakes and alligators,” Vest said. “I have a nice following here.”
This will be Vest’s first show on the West Shore.
“It’s my first time ever, except coming to shop at Costco,” Vest said, laughing.
Performing in the gym reminds Vest of the chicken shack dances he used to go to as a young man in the deep South, even if he wasn’t supposed to.
“Young and old, black and white, all forgetting themselves and having a good time on the dance floor,” Vest said. “I’d like to be able to make this happen. We’re going to try our best.”
Vest will bring drummer Damian Graham with him, along with some other supports he’s keeping quiet about for now.
Olson’s owner Alan Olson, a longtime jazz and blues fan, saw Vest play at Hermann’s Jazz Club and was blown away by the talent and energy. He sensed at once this is music to dance to.
“I’m thinking ‘why don’t we put this guy in a boxing ring,’” Olson said. “His music just gets right inside you. It’s that kind of music. He sings, he talks, he’s just a total-package entertainer.”
Part of the gym will be set aside for dancing, while another will have tables. The gym also has a liquor licence and will offer wine and beer.
“I find at my shows, even if people are ordered not to get up and dance, they do it,” Vest said.
If the event goes off well the plan is to host other concerts at the gym.
“We’ve got all this Western Community and if you want to go in and listen to music, basically nobody out here is doing it,” Olsen said. “(There’s) world class musicians and they got nowhere to play.”
Tickets are $20 for floor and $30 for balcony, and are available Lyle’s Place, Ditch Records and CDs and Olson’s Gym. Call 250-474-4424 for more information and reservations. Doors are at 6:30 p.m., with a 7:30 p.m. start time for the show.