Once you’ve been in Lansing a while, the 6 or 8 blocks around the Capitol start to feel like a pretty small place. Folks who work downtown are busy saving the world, or their clients’ favorite piece of troubled legislation.
There’s plenty of time to make small talk waiting for meetings and conference calls to start, but those frenzied moments hustling down Washington Square often don’t leave space for much more than a nod and a quick “Hey, Jane, what’s up?”
But what about those familiar faces no one bumps into just outside the Senate Chamber? I’m a curious guy, and wanted to start learning more about them. I thought you might like to, as well, so I snuck out a little early for lunch and went downtown to introduce myself to one of them.
The guy with the red electric guitar and the rock and roll shades? That’s 43-year-old Kevin Felder. He lives “around,” and that’s probably where you’ll see him. He’s been playing Hendrix for years on different corners downtown.
I made a donation and asked for a few minutes of time. He was excited to share his passion for music, and for the people he’s met because of that guitar.
Here’s a quick Lunch Break with One of the People You Meet Downtown…
So where are you from?
“Well, originally, I’m from Detroit, but I’ve lived here most of my life. I was raised around Lansing. I was actually a student at Holt High School, class of 93.”
When did you start playing guitar?
“When I was young, I wanted to do art – drawing, sketching – but when I was 8 years old I heard my first Hendrix album, and it just grabbed me. So, wow, 35 years. Guitar started as a hobby, but before I knew it, it became something more. It’s what I know.”
Is performance art a full-time gig?
“This is what I do, and I play at the Meridian Township Farmers Market on Saturdays. I’ve worked in telemarketing, in the restaurant and service industries, and even done door-to-door sales, but I always come back to the guitar. I have a license as a street performer.”
I typically hear you playing Hendrix or classic rock. Is that your favorite genre?
“My roots are rock and roll. I actually studied Jazz Theory for a long time. When I was 11, I got my first George Benson record. At first I didn’t get jazz. Jazz isn’t easy for a kid. Eventually it all came together, and I love to play the greats. But I always come back to rock and roll and those driving, powerful rhythms.”
If you had a single message for folks downtown, what would it be?
“I appreciate those who appreciate what I do. I’ve met a lot of great people downtown, and I hope to meet more. Oh, and come make a donation.”
Felder said with a laugh that a good day is “any day when I can actually feel my wallet.” He plays the lunch rush, 11-2, downtown every weekday, weather permitting. He even braves the cold during the winter months.
Next time you hear him playing down the block, don’t be a stranger. Swing by and say “Hey Kevin, what’s up?”