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          American Music Masters Series wraps up week with Janis Joplin tribute

          Reem Azem

          Issue date: 11/20/09 Section: Focus
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          The remaining members of Janis Joplin's breakthrough band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, augmented with Mary Bridget Davies on vocals, opened an extensive tribute concert to Joplin at the Playhouse State Theatre last weekend.
          The remaining members of Janis Joplin's breakthrough band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, augmented with Mary Bridget Davies on vocals, opened an extensive tribute concert to Joplin at the Playhouse State Theatre last weekend.
          [Click to enlarge]

          [Click to enlarge]
          When Janis Joplin spoke about performing, she described "getting into the feeling" of the music and getting turned on by all the energy surrounding her. When Janis sang, anyone within earshot heard her on another wavelength. Part beatnik, part bohemian, and a whole lot of soul woman, Janis Joplin is known as one of the leading ladies of rock and roll. Last week, the Baker-Nord Center for Humanities worked in conjunction with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to pay homage to Joplin's immense contributions to rock and roll, folk, and the blues by honoring her as an American Music Master.

          A weeklong chain of events serving to educate the public on Joplin and her career included a spotlight presentation, documentaries, films, panels, and guest appearances by some of Joplin's family and old friends, like Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane. To conclude the celebration of Janis and her work, a reception and tribute concert were held at the State Theatre this past Saturday night, complete with an open bar and plenty of mingling.

          Of the reception, senior Megan Ritchey commented, "The VIP reception was really well put together.  It was a great way to chat with faculty, Rock Hall staff, and anonymous Janis enthusiasts - many complete with leather ponchos and purple-tinted sunglasses - and hear the influence Janis Joplin's music and life has had."

          By the end of the reception, guests received gifts with a host of Joplin-related merchandise such as a CD, poster, and a pair of her legendary purple-tinted sunglasses. Afterwards, the crowd filed into the State Theatre to take their seats for the performances.

          Once the lights were dimmed for the show, it was clear that the theatre was filled with intense, animated Joplin fans. The entire evening consisted of a blend of performances, pictures, video messages, old clips of Janis, and much storytelling. Many of Janis' friends, including Guy Clark and Ray Benson were present to perform and share memories. Several female performers, Susan Tedeschi and Lucinda Williams, were there to testify to Janis' impact on women in rock.

          The first to perform was Guy Clark, who sang of the blues, something Janis was well versed in. Following Clark, Rocky Erickson of 13th Floor Elevator (a band Janis was rumored to have wanted to join) performed, featuring a cover of a Little Richard tune. Next to take the stage was Woodstock veteran (like Joplin herself) Country Joe McDonald, best known for his catchy anti-war "Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag." Clips from both Country Joe and Joplin's performances are available on the Woodstock documentary, including Joplin's legendary rendition of "Work Me Lord."

          Acts that also performed throughout the night were Powell St. John, Gregg Rolie and Michael Carabello of Santana, Nona Hendryx, Bettye Lavette, and of course the house band, who provided backing during the whole show.

          There were a few performances that really stood out, somehow channeling Joplin's spirit. While Carolyn Wonderland isn't quite yet a household name she should be. When she began playing her electric guitar and singing the opening lyrics of Joplin's "Down on Me," Wonderland gave enough soul to give the entire audience goose bumps. Not only is she a phenomenal guitar player, her voice is powerful and emanates intensity. Another talent that stole the show was Susan Tedeschi ,who performed "Try Just A Little Bit Harder," "Kozmic Blues," and Etta James' "Tell Mama." She was soft-spoken when talking to the audience, but when she sang, her voice was rough, raw and full of character.

          Closing the show was the bold Lucinda Williams, who performed songs that Joplin transformed into classics, "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Ball and Chain." She also wrote a song for Janis, finished just before she took the stage, titled "Difficult Child." The acoustic performance of the song was moving, especially when she sang, "When you call my name, please call me Pearl," a name which Joplin liked to be called off-stage. Even with all of the fantastic performances, Williams was right when she said that no one could truly do Joplin's songs justice other than Janis herself.

          Aside from musical performances, the show really gave the audience a sense of what Janis was like as a person through interviews, excerpts from letters she sent to her family, provided by her brother and sister, and clips of some of her performances. One particularly impressive performance was of "Light is Faster Than Sound" with Big Brother and the Holding Company, who all really did belong to each other when they played. Additionally, Kris Kristofferson as well as Big Brother and the Holding Company left video messages, sharing memories of Janis, some of which were humorous.

          Bob Neuwirth shared a story of how Joplin used to sing a poem written by beat poet Michael McClure that actually ended up on one of her albums. Most of the audience wondered what the poem could be, until Neuwirth began to play it and the whole audience started to sing along to "Mercedes Benz." It's as if all were in tune with each other and with the music, creating the type of mellow vibe that Janis lived for. With a voice bursting with the blues, Janis in her shimmering, colorful clothing and vibrant feathers in her hair, was truly a one-of-a-kind pearl.
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          In This Issue

          News

          • A Conversation with Caroline Goulding
          • Don't blow it all at once: financial tips for recent graduates
          • International student session to debut during 2010 orientation
          • Name That Place - 4/23/2010
          • Relay For Life raises $76,000, short of goal but not short of spirit
          • Student Leadership Award Winners
          • Tanning dangers abound as summer approaches
          • What Now?
          • Mass funding successful for some, headache for other organizations

          Sports

          • Case falls to Wooster at Progressive Field
          • Spartan Spotlight: Obinna Nwanna
          • Spartans are optimistic heading into UAA's
          • Spartans extend win streak to six
          • Spartans snap long losing streak
          • The next step
          • Top 10 Spartan stories of 2009-2010

          Opinion

          • 2009-2010 Year in Review
          • Letter to the Editor: Straight Answers to Questions about Greek Life Funding
          • Living - and dying - on your own terms
          • The last hurrah: experiencing senior week
          • What are you doing this summer?

          Focus

          • A final fling for finals
          • Despite an oppressive crowd and disappointing opener, Ben Folds continues to impress on stage
          • MaDaCol performance distinguishes dance as alternative communication medium
          • Parting word of advice: Express yourself
          • Springfest blowout to feature activities, student bands and national headlines
          • The best bars in Cleveland
          • Tri-C Jazz Festival features stunning jazz organ performance, among others
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