Written by Traci Rogers
Dec 16, 2011 at 09:00 PM
ImageHouston’s Kozmic Pearl, a Janis Joplin tribute band, proved that they are not your grandmother’s pearls during a two-for-one performance with their alter ego band Zigg Zagg at Galveston’s Old Quarter Acoustic Café Friday night.
Zigg Zagg first supercharged the audience with Woodstock/psychedelic anthem tunes from rock god greats like CCR, Crazy Horse, Cream, CSN, Jefferson Airplane, The Stones and more.
Not only can leading lady Myrna Sanders sing from a long ranging, vocal spectrum (she’s not always in Joplin voice), she also can play rhythm guitar on a personality-fitting, chartreuse Gretsch. Depending on the current tune, she might swap the rhythm for a bass.
The multi-talented firecracker leads a band that is just as talented. With Canadian native Greg Barr on bass/vocals, he led the eclectically mixed audience into an Animals’ “It’s My Life” sing-along. Dave Thomas enduringly beat the hell out of his drums while coordinating his playing with back-up harmony. NOTE: Never challenge this man in a boxing match. You’ll tire long before he does. The quiet one, lead guitarist Paul Nussbaum, might fool you with his soft-spoken and gentle demeanor should you ever meet up with him during a smoke break. But get a load of his meaty guitar action during CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” and see for yourself that he is a walking contradiction. Tickling the ivory on her newly acquired Nord Electro 3 is Laura Alexander- Magers, the latest member to the Zigg Zagg/Kozmic Pearl ensemble. Magers’ exceptional keyboarding talents will knock a listener off of her chair later in the Joplin segment.
As Zigg Zagg dismissed for a costume/persona change, Old Quarter owners Rex “ Wrecks” and Janet Bell entertained the audience with some sing-along Christmas caroling, but no one was knocking on neighboring doors and singing for candy or coinage. Considering the audience’s resulting buzz from the Zigg Zagg performance, Mr. Bell was generous enough to display Twelve Days of Christmas cue cards while Mrs. Bell, a music teacher by trade, led the singing. The couples’ half-time, Vaudeville act caused many a belly laugh!
“It’s not your Mother of Pearl,” Wrecks announced as the tribute band took the stage with “Janis” sporting her trademark head boas and violet sun glasses. They blasted off with “Move Over,” and I did just that. . .well, I moved closer to make sure that the real Joplin had not returned after living in a remote, tropical island for the past 40 years with Morrison and Hendrix. Sanders is a dead ringer with the same vocal emotion and intensity as The Queen of Rock.
Between tunes, the barefoot “Janis” would often saturate her vocal chords with something out of a flask. Might its contents have been something of a southern and comforting nature?
ImageEven with the microphone skipping in and out for a spell, Sanders belted out “Women is the Loser”.I was only expecting to hear the most popular Joplin songs from the tribute band, so watching Sanders perform a less popular one with a strong feminist viewpoint revealed to me that the impersonator is more than just a voice.Sanders confidently conveyed the frustration of what many women in Joplin’s generation had come to know as the glass ceiling in most major institutions like government, family, religion, education and corporate America. Similarly, she held her own in the a cappella “Mercedes Benz,” social protest song while the audience provided the hand-clapping beat and eventually sang along with her.
When she launched into “Cry Baby” with the uninhibited right to liberation heard in a tigress’ protest, I felt compelled to back away from her, as if she was too hot to touch. The audience seemed quietly in awe as the singer with the behemoth lungs began, perhaps showing reverence to the late Joplin she invoked.
The minute the crowd recognized the melody to “Me and Bobby McGee,” few remain seated. The band’s magnetic charisma spread like last summer’s Texas wildfires. As the Joplin signature song gained the locomotive momentum, Magers took the lead on keyboards. With myself being partial to ebony and ivory, I could hear the southern gospel, Gregg Allman influence in her playing. Although Sanders lit this firework of a tune, Magers threw it at the audience!
Sanders plans to release a solo album in February 2012 on the Sugar Hill label. She told me that she has been saving notebooks full of lyrics since releasing her last solo work in 2004. When I inquired about her writing style, she responded in true Joplinesque form: “I’m not surreal or poetic. What comes out is what you get. I can’t write when I’m happy, only when I’m pissed.”
Folks, don’t miss an opportunity to see this two-for-one act! If legendary Texas musician and owner of the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe Wrecks Bell allows anyone to play at his venue, they have to be good—exceptional for that matter! After the New Year, help Zigg Zagg/Kozmic Pearl raise funds for Texas Children’s Hospital at Houston’s House of Blues January 19, 2012. Tickets are on sale now at the House of Blues web site.