Things might have been a little loose and uneven at Monday's tribute to Jimi Hendrix at the Roxy, but one incident suggested that there was nothing casual about the underlying motivation.
When Fishbone's bassist Norwood Fisher broke a string during the opening bars of "My Friend," he didn't just lie back and fake his way through the tune.
Waving his arms, he finally managed to stop the music--which in this case was like stopping a train just as it was picking up steam--and as he switched basses he explained to the audience, "I've been hearing this song since I was 3, and I want to do it right."
It was a gratifying sentiment, especially coming from a fellow wearing steel-framed sunglasses and a baseball cap with a propeller on top. That dichotomy between looks and actions was a reminder that, as with Hendrix himself, the event carried the potential for crossing the line into indulgent clowning.
But for the most part, the members of the Los Angeles rock community who formed various ad hoc combinations played it pretty straight.
In the case of the big band headed by the Fishbone contingent--Fisher, guitarist Kendall Jones and singer Chris Dowd-- straight is a relative term. The front line went through typical Fishbone antics, careening around and at one point flying into the crowd, in a tacit tribute to Hendrix's pioneering of rock theatrics.
And rather than attempt to emulate Hendrix's sound, the vast, picturesque ensemble was simply true to his spirit: The pounding rhythms, wriggling Ornette Coleman sax lines and soulful singing added up to an iconoclastic, adventurous, lively, wiggy display of personality and freedom. The mix of blacks and an Asian, of hippies and punkette peacocks was also a reminder of Hendrix's role in erasing cultural as well as musical boundaries.
Not everything during the evening was that inspired. Talk Back singer Kevin Williams and some of his cohorts provided a reminder that Hendrix didn't influence only great artistes but mundane bar bands as well.
Singer-guitarist Alain Johannes preceded Williams and company with a solo performance that filtered the Hendrix muse through the dense, moody style of Johannes' group What Is This. His deliberate pace and deep concentration created a sacramental tone that illuminated one more facet of the Hendrix legacy.
Hendrix died in 1970, but his influence on everything from heavy metal to neo-psychedelia to modern funk remains incalculable. The Roxy show--scheduled to conclude in the wee hours with a band led by members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who have made no secret of their devotion to Hendrix--was an instructive and intermittently thrilling acknowledgment of his legacy.
It may not be as easy to blow minds as it was in '67 when Hendrix set his guitar on fire at Monterey (a clip of that historic rock moment was one of the Hendrix visuals screened between sets), but moments during Monday's tribute came as close as you'll get these days.