Big Brother and the Holding Company set off Sunset Center in Carmel.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
By the time Big Brother and the Holding Company played the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, record companies had already been drooling at the chance to sign the Bay Area rock band, fronted by vocal phenom Janis Joplin.
The psychedelic blues quintet was known for its murky guitar improvisation on tunes like “Combination of the Two” and of course, the unmatched voice of Joplin on soul-wrenching pieces like “Ball and Chain.”
Despite those strengths, guitarist and original band member Sam Andrew never thought BBHC would still be playing today. “I thought we would be lucky to make it to two years,” he says.
More than 40 years after BBHC’s first gig, Andrew finds himself touring with original members Peter Albin on bass and Dave Getz on drums. Singer Casee Clanton will be filling the colossal shoes of Joplin on Saturday at the Sunset Center.
“Janis was a phenomenon,” Andrew says. “You can’t replace that, all you can do is find someone that will sing the songs strongly and Casee does that in spades.”
Andrew explains that the ’60s were an ideal breeding ground for creativity and positive thinking in general.
“I thought we were going to stop the Vietnam War, make major steps in civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, and it would all be over and we could relax,” he says. “Since then, has there been a cultural movement that big? Forty years have gone by and I can’t think of anything.”
As the group’s primary songwriter, Andrew doesn’t deny that LSD had a crucial role in his writing process. “Emotion remembered in calmness,” he says, reciting a line from a poem.
“I’d have insights during intense experiences on LSD then try to write down these songs that would characterize them,” Andrew says. “I’m sure if I took it today – which I would never dream of doing – I’d look out to all these trees and have an empathy with them that I usually don’t have.”
After playing landmark festivals like Monterey Pop and Woodstock and long-gone legendary venues like the Fillmore East, Andrew says every show stands out.
“They are all memorable gigs including the prairie where we played last week in Edmonton, Alberta,” he says.
Later this summer, Andrew and BBHC will continue their long, strange trip by touring Europe.