Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rockin' in the Free World

I had to do a double take when I first heard who the Nibroc organizers had signed to play at this year's hootenanny: Starship and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. Although both are a good 20-25 years past their prime, they were both nationally known in their day, so I had of course heard of them. The same couldn't be said for past years' attendees. As a matter of fact I can't name any of them. They may have been in the same tier, but I think they were country acts, so don't ask me. Anyway I'm not sure whether the appearance of these two bands says more about the Nibroc or less about them.

Of course I had to work Friday night when Starship played. Or let me rephrase that: Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas. Here's where it gets confusing. As if the various incarnations of Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship / Starship et al. dating back to the 60s weren't complicated enough, here we have the latter-day reunion groups. Please allow me to illustrate:

  • Jefferson Airplane, 1965-1973. The classic 60s psychedelic rock band, with Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, and Grace Slick.

  • Jefferson Starship, 1974-1984. Updated name. Balin and Slick leave in the late 70s. Mickey Thomas joins, and Slick returns.

  • Starship, 1984-1991. Forced to drop "Jefferson" by Kantner. The golden age of pop for the band. "We Built This City", "Sara", "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now."

  • Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation (I am not kidding), 1992-present. Paul Kantner, occasionally Marty Balin, and others.

and, of course,

  • Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas, 1991 - present. Mickey Thomas and some other guys.

So no, Grace Slick wasn't there. Apparently she's retired from singing and now does art. I didn't envision seeing her in Corbin anyway for some reason. One of my earliest MTV memories was being really creeped out by her in this video. I still wish I could have gone, though, considering I did pony up $20 for Over the Edge, Mickey's recent Italian-produced effort featuring a couple of decent songs with a couple of the guys from Journey.

But I did get the chance to drop in on Joan Jett. Lots and lots of other people did too.

The opening band was The October, a sort-of-local 80s-New Wave-inspired power pop indie band. I got a little impatient with their long set, but in spite of myself many of the tunes grew on me. They have sort of a shimmering, melodic melancholy to their music. Their name and their origin sort of sum up their sound.

But the guys in The October and their stylish coiffeurs didn't suit everybody in attendance...soon calls of "git off the stage!" shot sporadically out of the crowd and, after one final call from the stage for "you guys over in the Value Pawn Shop area" to show more enthusiasm, they were done. The lead singer milled through the crowd afterward selling t-shirts and their latest cd.

Then Joan Jett came out and rocked pretty good. It wasn't very loud, but she played all her well-known stuff and seemingly about half of her new album. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, even though the subject matter in songs such as "A.C.D.C." and "Androgynous" no doubt made the more perceptive parents in the audience wish they had left the kiddies at home.

I moved closer to the stage for the encore, which featured songs less well-known but louder and with more tremolo virtuosity by the spiky-mohawked lead guitarist.

A small crowd gathered behind the barricade near the dressing trailers after the show. After some time, JJ emerged and got right into the waiting van, much to the chagrin of the assembled autograph-seekers. Fortunately for the fans, though, the van had to back right through the crowd to get out of town. Soon enough JJ had rolled down her window and was signing for the more pushy and fleet-footed people present.

Yes, that's her.

Bad timing, sorry. But that's her, I promise.

After a couple of minutes of slow acceleration, the van was gone.

I'm not holding my breath for next year, but who knows?

NIBROC 2027...



Not too much of a stretch, I'd say...



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