We’ve all had that friend, that one kid on your block who was pushed into music lessons and had the patience and dedication to stick with it. He’s the one kid you wouldn’t see on random Saturdays or Sundays, and while other kids were out playing pick-up football or shooting hoops, riding bikes or throwing rocks at passing cars, that one friend was locked away in the bedroom practicing. He was the friend that had better taste in music, and the friend who now can pick up that instrument and do things with it you can only do in your imagination. He’s the person that makes you question why you didn’t have the patience to stick with your piano/guitar/trumpet lessons. In New Mexico, that kid was Levi Platero, a blues guitar player performing May 18 at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. Opening the show are Kirk James and Larry Carver.
“My dad brought home a really cheap, pawn-shop guitar and a how-to video of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and ever since then I’ve always been infatuated with Stevie Ray and I just kept playing his songs; I was 9 years old,” said Platero in a recent phone interview.
There are certainly worse guitar players to emulate. Listen to the music of Vaughan and you’ll hear that he did his homework, honoring the early and influential blues players that pre-date rock ’n’ roll along with Jimi Hendrix. Platero is doing what he can to solidify his place in the guitar world, attempting to create his own sound, while honoring the greats that came before him. Listening to the young guitar player and you’ll hear lots of influences, but it’s Vaughan that is the major catalyst; not necessarily for the sound, although that’s there. Not for the flash, or Vaughan’s outrageous scarves and fancy hats, but for the soul. There is just something about the late Texan’s playing that struck an early chord with a young Platero, and that chord never left.
“It wasn’t just the style; he could have been any kind of other guitarist. He could have played rock, or jazz, or been a country guy,” said Platero. “But it was the blues he really loved, and it wasn’t the style I was so infatuated with, it was the way he played, with such raw emotion. I was captivated by that, so every time I play, it flows through me. I love to play like him, but not play every single note by him.”
Platero is growing into a great player, attempting to join the long list of blues-rock dudes that have wood-shedded long enough to whip up some guitar theatrics via a Fender Stratocaster. He’s soft spoken and a humble guy, and like his playing, solid and honest, yet void of chest-thumping and frills. His playing and stage presence is as natural as a kid learning basic motor skills; there’s not a lot of memory of learning how to, just an ability in the now to do it well. It’s all just part of what is turning out to be a natural progression in his pursuit of playing the guitar.
“I’m having fun just making, writing, and playing music,” said Platero. “And if I take care of the music, I’m sure it will take care of me.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. firstname.lastname@example.org.