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JANIS JOPLIN
AND
BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY

"Janis was so nervous, it was crazy. But as soon as she hit that stage, she just stomped her foot down and got real Texas."

JOHN PHILLIPS

This was Janis' big debut. She had been playing around clubs in Berkeley and the Bay Area for a couple of years and had developed a good local following. Being a hick from Central California, I had only heard of her, but not heard her perform. A former girlfriend had been a go-go dancer in Berkeley clubs and had raved to me about "Big Brother" so I was really looking forward to hearing them. Wow, was I shocked. I had never in my life heard anyone put so much of herself into a performance. She screamed, she cried, she stomped her feet, she sang her heart out. I am not exaggerating when I say the air was so filled with electricity that the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Man! No one has ever moved me the way Janis moved me that day...uh...oh yeah, except my wife.

Prior to this weekend, the group was only known as "Big Brother and the Holding Company" and Janis was "just" the chick singer in the band. But at Monterey Pop Janis Joplin came into her own and established her reputation as a dynamite singer. During the festival she was signed to a recording contract and although Big Brother continues to perform to this day, compared to Janis' fame, they kind of faded into the background. Now, I have never felt Janis' studio recordings lived up to the live performance I heard that weekend. The live recordings from that weekend included in the Monterey Pop boxed set are really good, as is the set on the Pennebraker documentary, but Janis Joplin was bigger than just a voice on a track. You needed the total experience and I believe she needed the live audience before she could give her best.

COMMENTARY CONTINUED

The opening night was quite an eye-opener for the two of us. My friend and I were used to being about the only two long-hairs in our little red-neck town and we took a lot of abuse for it, too. But Monterey! Hippies everywhere! Bearded and long-haired guys and beautiful little hippie girls everywhere. Man, we just knew we were in for the time of our lives. Volkswagen busses and old cars painted up with peace symbols and flowers all over them. One group was (living?) in a big old bus that was painted all psychedelic looking. People walking and hitchhiking everywhere with big backpacks. People wearing furs and skins and moccasins and beads and feathers and flowers. It looked more like a fur trappers' "ron-day-voo" from the 1800's than a music festival.

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