Big Brother and the Holding Company headline Venice Beach Music Fest 13

By Bliss Bowen

“Cheap Thrills” is an enduring testament to a music community and
a cultural moment

Everything old is new again, as the old saw goes. The artwork and lineup for Saturday’s Venice Beach Music Fest certainly reflects an appreciation for psychedelic sights and sounds, as well as vintage music and seasoned musicianship.

Along with headliners Big Brother and the Holding Company, veteran sidemen schooled in classic rock, country, funk and blues backbone the ranks of the Disreputable Few, Moonalice, Samba Soul, the jammy Venice Philharmonic Orchestra, and Maureen and the Mercury 5. Local rock trio Looner and BOA (aka multi-instrumentalist Chris Noonan) are also onboard for the festivities planned for Windward Plaza Park.

Big Brother and the Holding Company, of course, achieved their greatest, most lasting renown as Janis Joplin’s band — even though when they first met, amidst San Francisco’s fervid mid-’60s psychedelic scene, Big Brother was peer to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and Joplin was just a bell-bottomed, love bead-wearing Texan with granny glasses and a wail like Bessie Smith’s. How things change.

BBHC’s 1968 R. Crumb-illustrated album “Cheap Thrills” is an enduring testament to that community and era, though barely four years later Joplin was gone, and guitarist Peter Albin and drummer David Getz were touring with Country Joe & the Fish; not until the late 1980s did Big Brother reunite in earnest.

But they’ve stayed faithful to the muscular, guitar-driven sound they developed back in the day. Albin will be plucking bass Saturday alongside Getz and guitarist Tom Finch, who shares front-of-stage duties with singer Darby Gould; she approximates Joplin with her raspy tone but leaves the flash to Finch’s note-bending runs up the fretboard.

The musical merrymakers are joined by participatory dance performances, visual art displays highlighting local artists, and some of those earnest civic groups so easily overlooked at festivals. The Westside Food Bank, for example, will be collecting canned food (as well as tax-deductible donations through a button on the festival homepage). The L.A. County Registrar will be on hand too, registering voters for the Nov. 6 election because this year, more than ever, it matters.

Venice Beach Music Fest 13 happens from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 25) in Windward Plaza Park, 1 Windward Ave., Venice. Free, Visit venicefestivals.com.

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