Rockin’ Out With The Ghost Of Jimi Hendrix

The EMP threw a little party Saturday night for the opening of their new exhibit Hear My Train A-Comin’: Hendrix Hits London…I personally don’t believe in ghosts, but if I did I think Jimi’s would have been pleased. Some of his old friends were certainly having a good time. His old Army buddy and Band Of Gypsies bass player Billy Cox, Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers who he played with before going to Britain at the insistence of The Animals bass player Chas Chandler, and a gaggle of musicians inspired by Jimi’s music, many of who were not yet born when he died at the way too young age of 27. Case in point, two of the best performers of the evening: Blues-Rock guitarist Eric Gales did loose interpretations of Hendrix classics that seemed to capture the let-your-freak-flag-fly spirit more than a lot of the more faithful song renditions that night (He even plays left-handed), and apparently he’s a very funny man because Billy Cox was still laughing when he hit the stage. And Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready is almost as brilliant and fluid a guitarist as ‘ol James Marshall himself. He’s also had quite a bit of practice doing Jimi’s version of the Star Spangled Banner before Mariners games. As any rocker in Seattle knows, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is a Hendrix fanatic, and the Experience Music Project museum and  its Frank Gehry designed building were originally conceived so that he could share his ever-increasing collection of all things Hendrix with the public, and the new exhibit is an expansion of that, with a fair amount of Jimi’s flamboyant wardrobe on display, broken hunks of his hand-painted psychedelic Fender Stratocasters, a nice sampling of Jimi’s personal record collection (Paul Allen now owns over 200 of them), and lots more. Paul was getting a guided tour of the exhibit from its curator while I was in there, and I’ll admit I tried to eavesdrop (Maybe I could snag a hot stock tip! Who knows what info you can glean from a multi-billionaire? I don’t usually hang out with them.), but my attention….being a drummer and all, quickly zeroed in on the Mitch Mitchell portion of the exhibit, and in particular a couple of hand-written letters from female fans just dripping with sex…in a kinder, gentler, innocent 60’s kind of way. It’s a nice look into the swingin’ London Carnaby Street Mod scene fo the mid 60’s that had been ruled by The Yardbirds holy trinity of guitarists (Clapton, Beck, Page) and Pink Floyd until Jimi showed up. All in all a very nice evening of rocking in the spirit of Jimi that came to a feverish head when all the performers got on stage at once for an extended jam on Red House that marked the first time I have ever heard Paul Allen play guitar…he’s pretty damn good, not confining himself to the rhythm part, but taking a solo with confidence and power. If this billionaire-software mogul thing doesn’t work out for him, some lucky local band might land a good one.

-Scott Vanderpool/KZOK

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