Buddy Guy, Billy Cox, Johnny Lang, among others at the Mondavi Center
With its roots grounded in slavery, blues music is the basis of the modern American sound. Braided deep under the soil, the history of blues music stabilizes all that grows forth: the hefty trunk of rock and roll; the sprawling branches of soul; the leaves of punk; the blossoms of EDM.
My own love of music has a similar lineage. My grandpa was a native San Franciscan during the 1960s, a firsthand witness to the burgeoning rock scene, and my dad was a self-proclaimed teenage metalhead and spectator of 1990s grunge.
So when the three of us arrived at the Mondavi Center on Feb. 23 holding tickets to The Hendrix Experience, the night had an overwhelming sense of heritage.
“From fruits to roots,” explained Janie Hendrix, the CEO of Experience Hendrix and the sister of Jimi Hendrix. Featuring a variety of musicians such as the legendary Buddy Guy and Johnny Lang, the show was memorable in its explicit homage to Hendrix and his diverse sound.
In fact, as Zakk Wylde thrashed his guitar against his teeth (“strummed” is too soft a word to describe the cacophony of twanging guitar), my grandpa assured me: “That’s a Hendrix move.” He added, with a grin, “I’ve seen him do it.”
Jimi Hendrix wasn’t the only highlight of my grandpa’s concert-going experiences. While the three of us slurped eggplant at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen before the show, we wrote down all the shows my grandpa could recall attending: B.B. King, Cream, The Doors, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, Jeff Beck and Janis Joplin, among others. Either from jealousy or the spicy eggplant, my eyes were hot with tears when he added that each concert included three performers a night — at the low, low price of $5.
So of course, my dad’s first concert was with his dad: the Rolling Stones’ “Tattoo You” tour. Together they’ve seen Tom Petty, Foreigner and even met Judas Priest backstage. I, too, have been to shows with my dad, albeit less legendary in scope: cellist Ben Sollee and bluegrass group Punch Brothers.
“Three generations of rockers,” my grandpa called us — and that we are.
Watching the two consume music was in itself an educational experience. I observed how to “rock” and how to “roll” without their uttering a single word. When your head bounces and the music is messy, and the guitarists are coloring outside the lines — this is rock. When you feel a lateral sway, a sort of sideways gravity yanking your gut — this is roll.
Though the audience at the Mondavi Center was diverse in age, it was predominantly made up of older fans who, like my grandpa, were reliving the renaissance of rock music. But among these fans, few had an excitement that matched the tone of the show. My dad and grandpa, on the other hand, were as engaged as the musicians themselves. From melodic oohs and ahs to girlish squeals to grunts, they were easily the most authentic fans in the grand tier of the Mondavi Center.
When Keb’ Mo’ uttered his first growl, or when Kenny Wayne Shepherd absolutely wrecked on guitar (alternatively, he “slathered the Mondavi Center in gasoline and set it on fire,” according to my dad), there was a uniformity to our movement. Like dominoes, the three of us leaned forward, heads bobbing, approaching the edge of our seats as if the extra two inches would improve our hearing.
When I turned to my grandpa, his eyes wide with excitement, hands thrashing around as he further analyzed the night’s wonders, I understood that my own fervor for music was merely a reflection of his own — he the roots, and I the fruit.
Written by: Ally Overbay — firstname.lastname@example.org