Lawrence brings power vocals to Headpins

Kat Lawrence is the wailing, screaming second coming of Headpins.

Classic rock concerts in the modern day can bring audience members back to the halcyon years shared between bands and fans. It can also be a flash-forward when someone like Lawrence steps into a spotlight once occupied by others.

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In her case, Headpins had already been home to three of Canada's best loved female power-rock vocalists - predominantly Darby Mills but also Chrissy Steele and Denise McCann.

Now Lawrence is grabbing that microphone.

She's now the ghost of Headpins Future, but she couldn't do it without vocal abilities that let her sance the ghosts of Headpins Past. It ain't just any singer who can handle songs like Winnin' or Stayin' All Night or Turn It Loud or their iconic hit single Don't It Make Ya Feel.

Her journey to the Headpins stage seems almost preordained, when she looks back on it now. Sure, as a veteran vocalist out on the circuit, she had crossed paths with Darby Mills from time to time, but Headpins was initially built by Brian "Too Loud" McLeod (along with Ab Bryant, still with the band today) and she did more than cross paths with him. Lawrence's uncle was East Coast music personality Rick Edgett and he often performed with McLeod.

Thanks to her talented uncle Rick, members of April Wine, Powder Blues, Dutch Mason and performers like that were always around her as a kid.

"I was very young, but I remember snippets," Lawrence said. "I definitely remember them sitting around playing guitar, and I'm a little girl absorbing all this. It was fascinating. Anytime somebody'd break out playing music, I was nowhere else to be found but there."

Lawrence was born in Bermuda and moved to Canada as a child first to Nova Scotia but then to Kitimat. She still considers that her primary hometown.

Singing was always a part of her life. Her mother joked that she was singing before she was speaking. As a teenager, Lawrence was getting recruited into northern B.C. bands and had to obtain fake ID so she could perform on the bar circuit.

"My first actual paid gig was in Prince George (at The Generator). There's some history. I had a great time," she said.

Her sister Tamara and brother-in-law Bob are still northerners.

She moved to Vancouver by age 17 to pursue music. Again, there was McLeod. He and Edgett had her over for a visit on McLeod's boat where they had dinner and listened to the unreleased recordings of a new vocalist McLeod was excited about. It was 1988 and the singer was Chrissy Steele.

She called McLeod a couple of years later to arrange another dinner so he could meet her newborn son Jess, but that's when McLeod broke the news to her that he was suffering from cancer. He passed away from it in 1992. Her uncle also passed from cancer in 2013.

Is it ever daunting to step into a role that is so synonymous with an icon like Darby Mills?

"I think the real question is when is it not? Of course she is one of my idols. To be doing that is nerve wracking. And I can't be Darby; I can only be myself. And I hope everything Darby does soars," she said. "It's actually Brian's spirit that's most with me on stage. I always say hello to him and thank him."

She also thanks her friend Alfie Galpin, who lives not far away from her neighbourhood in Kelowna. Gilpin is a member of Headpins and spotted Lawrence singing at a local gig just when the band was separating from Mills who was off to pursue a solo project in 2016. Lawrence exudes the power and growl of Sass Jordan or Lee Aaron and he knew they had the frontwoman they were looking for.

He asked her to audition, she flew to Vancouver to meet the band for a singing session, and according to Lawrence "It's been a blast from the first verse of the first song."

Now, she and the band are coming to Prince George where she will be the most northerly and local performer in the whole Cariboo Rocks The North roster. Tonight she comes full Prince George circle, from her first professional gig to her latest one.

Tonight's lineup includes Lawrence and her Headpins, Prism (Ab Bryant was also a founding member of that band) and Honeymoon Suite (first band at 7 p.m., last band starts at 9:30 p.m.).

Saturday the roster is Nick Gilder & Sweeney Todd, Toronto, Little River Band and Kim Mitchell (first act at 4:30 p.m., last act at 9:30 p.m.).

Sunday's marquee features Harlequin, Platinum Blonde, 54-40 and Randy Bachman (first band at 4:30 p.m., last act at 9:30 p.m.)

Get tickets at the CN Centre box office or online at the TicketsNorth website.

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