A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Channeling Janis

Big Brother and the Holding Company at Stearns Square tonight--another one of those '60's holdovers that can't decide if they want to be a tribute band to themselves, or something progressive and fresh. Sam Andrews, Peter Albin, and Dave Getz from the old lineup, still playing their signature San Fransisco summer-of-love psychedelic rock.

These are the guys who played the Fillmore, the Avalon Ballroom, the Monterey Pop Festival. Who lived in Haight-Ashbury, and personified sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. In their 60s now, and still doing probably the only thing they know how to do...with the inevitable jokes: "In the 60s, we used to take acid. Now, we take antacid." Har, har.

They joked about the old days; they hyped their new album. They played up a storm. The one word they never said was "Janis." They didn't have to: they had an 18-year-old from Largo, Florida whom they apparently picked up in NYC, and who is trying her darnedest to channel Janis Joplin.

JJ was only with BBHC for two and a half years, and not too long after that she was dead of an overdose. She never studied music, and she only ever recorded two albums. But she was an act noone is ever going to be able to follow.

Janis Joplin hit her stride singing the blues, and blues is the music of suffering and pain. She was one messed-up chick, an ugly duckling from Port Arthur, Texas, a backwater she hated. Homely, but full of intelligence and spirit: a combination guaranteed to spell a lifetime of misery for a woman. Noone was more surprised than Janis to learn she could sing--and not only sing, but belt out a song with startling power. "I can't even talk about singing," she used to say. "I'm inside of it and it is inside of me. I can't know what I'm doing. If I know it, I lose it."

Chloe Lowery is a very pretty teen with an excellent voice, who sang and strutted with energy. I felt like I was watching American Idol, live. She had the whole Janis thing down: the hair, the rings, the bracelets, the boots, the slutty clothes. She threw herself into classics like "Summertime" and "Piece of My Heart" with creditable intensity. But what does a pretty teen from Largo, who was "discovered" as a child and has undoubtably been made much of ever since, know of misery and pain?

Precious little, and I don't wish it on her, either. She really was a little trouper. And the fans were loving it. The real Janis had to go and shoot herself up and die, or maybe she would've been up there with her old bandmates. We'll never have Janis again, so maybe it's ok to have a little pretend with Chloe.


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