Music fans of the 1960s will be in for a gem of a show when the music of Janis Joplin rocks C2G Music Hall. The concert takes place Saturday, which would have marked Joplin's 70th birthday.
Kat Bowser, accompanied by her musician husband, Mark Hornsby, and other locally and nationally known musicians, will perform the tribute to the soulful, bluesy Joplin — nicknamed Pearl — who died in October 1970 from a drug overdose.
“Pearl” also is the name of her last album, which was released posthumously in 1971 and features “Me & Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz.” Joplin's other hits include “Ball and Chain,” “Kozmic Blues” and “Piece of My Heart.”
Though Bowser will be the first to say she hopes people don't attend the show thinking she is a Joplin imitator, one cannot ignore the signature raspy voice, the free-flowing frizzy hair and the cackle laugh as Joplin had. Bowser is quick to admit the raspy voice comes naturally, because she does not smoke.
“I like what she tried to embody in her work and wanted others to feel,” Bowser said.
It is that feeling Bowser tries to emulate for the audience.
Bowser hails from Kansas City, where she became involved in choirs and bands as a kid.
“It's just something I've always enjoyed,” she said.
Her love of music led her to gigs in Nashville and Florida. She has toured with Oleta Adams and Jon Secada and has opened for Tony Bennett.
She also sang Joplin tunes when performing with blues bands.
“We got a good response,” she said.
From there, the idea was born to develop a tribute show.
“We tried it once, and it continues to grow,” Hornsby said.
They have played a half-dozen Joplin tribute shows, which are difficult to do because they perform 1 1/2 hours of pure Joplin-style music.
Bowser's vocals are accompanied by Brian MacLeod on drums, Daniel Fisher on keyboards/organ, Mitch Gallagher on guitar, John Hinchey on trombone, Chuck Surack on saxophone, Brett Kelsey on trumpet and Hornsby on bass.
MacLeod lives in Los Angeles and has accompanied Sheryl Crow and Tears for Fears. Fisher helped form the Pink Floyd tribute band Pink Droyd. Hinchey is an accomplished arranger, composer and music director. Surack is owner of Sweetwater Sound, and Hornsby is director of music production and artist relations at Sweetwater Productions.
An editorial director at Sweetwater, Gallagher has written for Premiere magazine and was editor of EQ magazine.
“To work with people of that caliber as a player is inspiring and fun,” he said.
Hornsby and Bowser, who moved in 2012 to Fort Wayne, look forward to booking more Joplin tribute shows.
“People enjoy Janis' music,” Hornsby said. “She was one of a kind for her time.”