Nothing in this world makes me crazier than the guitar. Its sound is impeccable and its power is not only impressive, it’s addictive. At this year’s “Experience Hendrix” tour, I felt a familiar ache that I felt the first time I ever heard The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin — the ache to play, sing and completely lose myself in the groove of rock and roll music. Though this is a desire I feel often, this time was special. I got to see some of my favorite guitarists of all time play the songs that defined a time in music history, all while paying tribute and a great deal of respect to the rock lord who started it all, the one and only Jimi Hendrix.
I was fortunate enough to see “Experience Hendrix” twice on its tour this year, first in Milwaukee and the next right here in the heart of Minneapolis. Now don’t get me wrong I love my city, but my experience at Milwaukee’s stunning Riverside Theater completely blew me away. Call it nerves; call it whatever, but the fact that I was in the same room as Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger was an indescribable rush. The second my good friend Sam and I sat down in our seats, I spotted Robby backstage. My heart dropped. I couldn’t believe I was finally about to see one of my music heroes play live. I was freaking out!
Unlike myself, Robby was cool, calm and collected onstage in his old school Badgers t-shirt. Right away I recognized the unique sound of his guitar. With ease he took us on a musical journey that built up to a crazy “Manic Depression” solo, and I couldn’t help but jump out of my seat. Unfortunately, I wasn’t standing long after that, as the entire crowd was sitting down for most of the show. That was the one thing I could not handle; it was so uncomfortable to stay seated! What I was seeing on stage was truly amazing, but it bummed me out big time that I couldn’t let loose the way I needed to. I honestly couldn’t stand up for a second without upsetting the people behind me. With so many talented musicians jamming onstage together, it baffles me that the crowd didn’t have the same compelling urge to stand up as I did. Sadly, the State Theatre show had the same problem. It felt incredibly strange to sit down during songs like “Foxy Lady,” but at the same time it was kind of funny to see the whole crowd do Garth’s dance from Wayne’s World from their seats. Tracy, one of my fellow KQ promotion chicks, made a good point that night that I stand by: this show would have been way more fun at a venue like The Cabooze or anywhere that has a “stand up and groove” sort of vibe.
Occasionally at both shows I saw random people sprout up and dance, which created a nice energy, like budding flowers at springtime. During Billy Cox’s soulful rendition of “Red House,” one guy in the audience stood up, threw his hands in the air and rocked out the whole time. It was awesome. I knew there was no way in hell I was sitting down for “Voodoo Child,” so at the Milwaukee show I stood up and did some classic head banging of my own. But my moves were nothing compared to when Kenny Wayne Sheppard started playing his guitar behind his head near the end of the song.
Now it’s hard to pick a favorite, but Milwaukee’s “Hey Joe” performance was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever scene. Robby Krieger is a maniac who plays the guitar like no other. His presence is mystical and you can’t help but be consumed by it. During his entire performance I was picturing him onstage with Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarak and John Densmore. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like to see them live back then.
In Minneapolis, Jonny Lang’s roaring pipes during “Fire” mimicked the notes of his guitar so perfectly that I sometimes didn’t know if it was his voice or his guitar I was hearing. He threw his entire being into that song. “Angel” is my favorite Jimi Hendrix song of all time so I was really happy that I saw Doyle Bramhall II do a beautiful tribute to the song at both shows.
My experience at both “Experience Hendrix” concerts can be best described as fun. I created memories both nights that I will never forget, and had an absolute blast rocking out with some of my closest friends in two of my favorite cities. Dreams came true for me and I only gained more love, and an even deeper appreciation, for live music. I live for moments like that, and I’ve never been more excited to continue on this ride.