It’s a Friday night and a trio of musical buskers are plying their trade on the Inner Harbour as the summer sun begins to sink behind them.
This group has something special about them, something that’s hard to describe outside of the fact their harmonies blend extremely well.
Then, before they launch into a Beatles song, lead singer and acoustic guitarist Caleb Kennedy lets the cat out of the bag for anyone just arriving. His musical mates are his kids: son Cairo, 15, is on the upright bass, while daughter Autumn, 18, sings some leads and provides backup vocals.
“Playing with my kids is probably the most rewarding bit of music I do,” Caleb said later, noting that he’s played four years on the harbour with his children. “There’s just something special about playing with your kids.”
Involved in local bands for a number of years, Caleb these days sings and plays guitar with the all-original unit Weak Patrol, and plays bass and keyboards with another original band, Fortune Killers, which played during the Canada Day festivities.
With dad’s influence, music has long been a constant around the Kennedy family’s Victoria West home. A teacher at Vic West elementary, Caleb used to spend his off time working at summer camps. While he enjoyed it, he got into busking as a more fun way to earn summer cash and spend more time with his kids.
“It started out with me busking and they would just watch the jugglers and join in for a song or two,” he recalled. Once Autumn and Cairo got older and had honed their musical skills more, they slotted right in.
“Just the whole visual spectacle of a family playing together was cool,” Caleb said. “For me it was like, I don’t have to be out working for eight hours, we can do busking for a couple hours in the morning, then maybe go to the lake.”
Autumn recently graduated from Esquimalt High, where she was involved in everything musical, from choir and R&B band to musical theatre and singing with the jazz band.
Making music with her dad and brother hits the right note with her.
“Even before busking, my dad would perform with us constantly,” she said. “It’s such a huge part of the household, if we’re not singing we’re listening to music.”
Cairo began playing electric bass at age 10 or so and picked up standup bass a couple years later – before he could actually reach all the notes – as the City of Victoria has a no amplification rule on the harbour.
He’s also having fun with the family band as part of his musical training. “You get to do a lot of stuff that most people don’t get the opportunity to do by playing music together,” he said. “Because of all the stuff we do, we end up going to a lot of shows and festivals and hearing music together.”
The siblings also have their own rock band, The Colts, which is made up of neighbourhoood friends and schoolmates from Esquimalt High. Caleb manages the group and helps get them gigs.
While dad and the kids do their own things musically, they often collaborate on songwriting.
And, of course, if there ever an issue with finding those elusive harmonies, they can turn to each other for help.
“I feel like when you play with your family … there’s a connection,” Autumn said. “Once you’ve performed with someone you grew up your entire life with, you don’t have to look at each other to know what’s coming up.”
Dad pointed out the coolest part about all this is that they play together not just because they’re his kids, “but because they sound really good.”