As the towering curtains slid back, the red, green and blue psychedelic-era lights hit the stage, the crowd let out a thunderous applause, but not nearly as thunderous as the first chords that rang out from a classic red hollow-body Gibson ES-335, stage right.
Patrons of all ages filled the Strand Center in downtown Plattsburgh Friday night for “Experience Janis,” a Janis Joplin tribute act that plays spot-on renditions of the bands hits. Not to say they only play the hits, as some deep tracks were included in the setlist.
The band is composed of seven musicians that appear to have transported straight from 1969.
Not only did they look the part, they played the part to boot. Experience Janis is not your typical bar cover band. For this show, the band aimed to recreate the experience of Woodstock music festival that was held in Bethel, New York, 50 years ago.
The band started out with a punch, playing “As Good As You’ve Been To This World,” an upbeat song with a groove, moving straight into “To Love Somebody,” a slower ballad that pulled on heart strings throughout the theater. A few songs later, the band busts into a crowd favorite, “Piece of My Heart,” that literally brought the crowd to their feet. The song was made famous in 1968 by Big Brother and the Holding Company, and featured Joplin’s whiskey-soaked vocals overtop of the distorted guitar, drums and bass.
Rodney England, an Austin native who has been listening to Joplin for 53 years, described Experience Janis as an awesome tribute. England went on to say that he really wanted to hear the Joplin song “Mercedes Benz,” a song recorded in 1970 that was backed by the Full Tilt Boogie band.
Another patron of the show, Mary Beth Williams, also described Experience Janis as awesome, and wanted to hear “Me and Bobby Mcgee,” a song that was originally written by country artist Kris Kristofferson but was posthumously released in 1971 after Joplin’s death in 1970.
This type of event is not the first of its kind for the Strand Center Theater in downtown Plattsburgh. Although the Strand tries to bring artists of all kinds to the Plattsburgh area, tribute acts have been a large part of the revitalization of the venue and Plattsburgh music scene as a whole.
Tom Lavin, a volunteer at the Strand Center who has been volunteering since the venues reincarnation seven years ago, sees the increase in patronage at the theater, and knows first hand why people should support the theater.