Jimi Hendrix was an absolute supernova. He was born in 1942, dead by 1970, and blessed and cursed with an insurmountable level of fame and artistry that he achieved during one flaming four-year period that commenced with the recording and release of 1967’s Are You Experienced. Hendrix was a harbinger of all things psychedelic, a player who pushed the boundaries of what black music and white music could and should be. Not only was he one of the best rock-jazz guitarists and most experimental soloists, but he was a snappy dresser to boot.
The entirety of the man and the myth is part of Hendrix in the Fire, a one-night event curated by Drugbunny Booking’s John Cecil Price and starring such local luminaries as the Dead Milkmen's Rodney Anonymous, underground metal marauders Stinking Lizaveta, Thorazine's industrial goth queen Jo-Ann Rogan, Shawn Kilroy, Brown Sugar's Jay Medley, Col. Mike Tyler, BlaqMel, West Philadelphia Orchestra's David Fishkin, GhettoSongBird, Rachel Radick, Dena and the Mellowton3s, and more.
“This tribute is one done with love, action, and service,” says Price, a guitarist known for his work in Baptist Preachers. “With Hendrix, you thread one long needle through the eye of styles ranging from funk, jazz, and rock to noise, jam, and the avant-garde.”
That's why Price can include on the same bill jazz saxophonist Fishkin’s eight-piece Deep Sea Fantasy to tackle Hendrix classics such as “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” and “Purple Haze,” while rapper Melvin C. "BlaqMel" McKnight does hip-hop versions of songs from Hendrix’s time as a session man playing guitar for the Isley Brothers, and punk Anonymous caterwauls his way through “Manic Depression” and “Little Wing.”
“Jimi is the source of so much, it's hard to pin down what it means to me because the context is so huge,” says Kilroy, one of Philadelphia’s most eclectic electronic artists, who will play with a group he calls Chess Queen and will concentrate on several hypnotic Hendrix tunes with a few twists. “From a guitarist's standpoint," Kilroy says, "all of what we know about electric guitar has been touched by his overdriven, melodic spirit. From the perspective of band leader, he travels on the same historic thread as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Rick James, and Prince — complete and total visionaries with abilities that changed the course of popular music. From the vantage of pop icon, he is the quintessential hedonist shaman.”
But this tribute goes beyond Hendrix and musician. Poet GhettoSongBird, among others, will look as Hendrix's role as African American lion and social avatar. “It is also no accident that this Hendrix event takes place the night before Martin Luther King’s birthday holiday,” says Price. “All that will tie together peaceful and nonviolent services in memory of another black life that mattered, what it meant to an American.”
Hendrix in the Fire, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, The Fire, 412 W. Girard Ave. $10, 215-925-6200, www.thefirephilly.com.