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Years ago, while interviewing blues guitarist Walter Trout in the minutes before his set at a Street Scene concert, we talked about the rising youth factor in blues music, about the sudden crop of dazzlingly competent kids with electric guitars.

“It’s getting so there’s a teenage guitar slinger in every town I play,” he said.

True enough. So who was the teen shredder that was invited up on stage to play with Gary Hoey a couple of weeks ago in Ramona?

Meet Matt Holmen.

He blew the headlining guitarist's doors off, by most accounts. After the concert, "Gary said he wants me to stay in touch. He said he wants to help me. He gave me his email."

It started when Hoey explained to the audience why a song he was about to play was so sad:

"He said, it’s sad because it starts on the turnaround," Holmen explains by phone from the Mission Valley home he shares with his parents.

"He asked if anybody knew what turnaround meant, and I said yes. I was in the front row. He heard me say that.”

The turnaround is, in this case, the last chord in a standard 1-4-5 blues chord progression – the five chord, in other words, which is resolved by the one chord.

“He asked me how old I was. I told him 17. My name's Gary, he said. What's yours?" Matt. " And then, he played “Almost Over You."

Later, Hoey invited Holmen to come up on stage. The teen guitarist recounts: "He said, do you want to come up and play some blues? It's in the key of B. Do you know what that is? And I said yes."

Holmen says he started playing guitar only five years ago. He's had a couple of local instructors (Chris Shannon and Greg Balomey) and he's attended the Vista branch of the School of Rock and Roll.

"Even in the 8th grade," he says, "I blew most everybody away." As far as playing style goes, Holmen favors Kirk Hammett, Metallica's lightning-quick lead guitarist.

Hoey brought Holmen up on stage a second time for an encore of sorts. Keep in mind that there was only one guitar/amp set up on the stage, meaning Hoey's own, and that's what he let Holman play both times.

"The second time we played "Foxy Lady."

Matt Holmen is in a band that is at this point without name.

"We're trying to find one that isn't already taken, or, completely stupid." He shrugs off a small laugh. The band's only been active for a few months now but they've already recorded a demo. So what does Holmen’s future hold?

"Hopefully I'll be playing out. That's what I'd really like to do, play music." Later, he will email that it was fun gigging with Hoey.

“Or more so, his band.”

Any stage fright? “I was not nervous at all to be dead honest. I've played a show before which was in front of my entire school.” He says the head count then was much bigger -- 2,500.

“In Ramona, I think excitement drowned out any nerves.”

Holmen says he dreams about being a member of, or sitting in with a national touring act such as Gary Hoey. “I'd do it in a heartbeat. “No doubt about that.”

Photo: Connie Bolger

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