Performer Mary Bridget Davies stars in the tribute show, A Night with Janis Joplin, eight times a week on Broadway, belting songs with a rough, bluesy howl, identical to Joplin.
Kat Bowser, who will return as Joplin for a tribute concert at C2G Music Hall on Saturday, will be the first to attest that that is not an easy feat for even the most experienced singer.
(Davies) has a rough gig – it’s different than normal singing, Bowser says. If you’re not in the right voice, you can really do some damage.
Bowser will put her voice to the test as she performs a selection of Joplin songs with the Band of Blues.
Joplin, a blues-rock songstress and wild child, hit the height of her fame in the late 1960s; however, it was short-lived. She died in 1970 after a long struggle with substance abuse. She was 27.
Bowser says the title of their show, Buried Alive in the Blues, comes from the title of an instrumental track on Joplin’s posthumous album, Pearl, which was released in 1971.
Whenever an artist dies at such a young age with so much talent, I think it magnifies their body of work, and knowing that we don’t get any more from that artist makes us even more aware, she says.
She really embodied an amount of energy that it’s charming and intoxicating. People are drawn to it.
Bowser says she and her blues band have been playing Joplin songs for years as part of their gigs, but last year, the band decided to program a full performance to honor what would have been Joplin’s 70th birthday.
It went over like gangbusters, she says. We were thrilled with the turnout.
This year, Bowser says the band has added more songs to the playlist, and they are encouraging audience members to dress in hippie-inspired attire for the all-ages concert.
It’s just a fun experience. Music is a brilliant way to flood the memory bank. You hear a song, and it rekindles a love for the music and the era, she says.
I was surprised how many kids were there the last time. There was a young girl who was a singer who wanted to know more about Janis Joplin. I think the younger generations seem pretty interested in that era, and I’m glad for that.
Although Joplin experienced a short-lived fame, she has left a legacy that has survived nearly 50 years. Besides the Broadway biopic opening in October, Joplin’s music has also inspired documentaries and anthologies of her music. In 1988, a bronze sculpture was unveiled for the Janis Joplin Memorial in Joplin’s childhood home of Port Arthur, Texas.
Her legacy also garnered an induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
A clothing line called Made for Pearl features apparel inspired by Joplin’s bohemian look.
She definitely broke a lot of barriers. She was just that wild character on stage and just had a raw energy. Her (Joplin), Tina Turner and women like that, opened a great era of rock for women, Bowser says. They had the guts to go out there and be that wild woman on stage. Janis is definitely a pioneer.