The lineup for the “Experience Hendrix” tour is a guitarist’s nirvana: Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brad Whitford, Robert Randolph, Dweezil Zappa.
It’s an eyebrow-raising list for any fan of fancy fretwork.
But it’s a cast that is also tipping over with testosterone.
A little equality will be added to the mix for Saturday’s show at the Fox Theatre when Atlanta soul/funk/R&B burgeoning superstar Janelle Monae joins the boys for this local date.
In its earliest form as a tribute concert in 1995 at Seattle’s Bumbershoot Arts & Music Festival, “Experience Hendrix” worked to solidify Jimi Hendrix’s legendary status with a troupe of dazzling guitarists performing his work (and some of their own).
Through the years, the tour has featured a rotating cast. For the Atlanta stop, artists such as Billy Cox – Hendrix’s longtime bassist – and Guy will represent the old-school, while young hotshots Lang, Randolph and Monae reflect Hendrix’s everlasting influence.
Earlier this week, the bright, creative Monae, an old soul at 26, chatted about her appearance on the Hendrix tour, what’s changed for her as an artist and the status of her ‘soul clock.’
Q. How did you get involved in this show?
A. Janie Hendrix [CEO of Experience Hendrix, L.L.C. and Hendrix's sister] is a big fan and knows we’re really inspired by [Jimi], especially my song ‘Mushrooms & Roses.’ He represents black music; he’s the father of the electric guitar and guitar playing. So [Jani] felt that if I was going to be in Atlanta, we should perform at the show.
Q. Do you have any idea yet what you’ll be doing?
A. Kellindo [Parker], my guitarist, and I are going to play with the house band. But past that, who knows? I’m a spontaneous performer. I don’t always have to stick to the script. However the spirit moves us.
Q. Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to performing with?
A. Billy Cox. I’m glad that I can maybe meet him and get some stories. I’m huge fans of all of them.
Q. You’ve had a pretty amazing couple of years with the tour with Bruno Mars and a big Grammy performance platform [in 2011]. What’s changed for you as an artist?
A. It’s definitely given me proof that music is a universal language. The music we’ve created has brought so many people together. I’ve been able to perform at the White House and get the president and first lady to listen to the music and be inspired. From that to meeting my musical heroes, Prince and Stevie Wonder, to having young girls in London or Brazil come up and say certain songs, ‘Cold War’ in particular, are touching their hearts. That lets me know that the music I’m creating is necessary and inspiring. I don’t make all of my music for me. I’m always thinking of the next generation and inspiring other young artists.
Q. Since you’ve become a role model, is it difficult to always maintain a certain public persona?
A. I accept being a role model wholeheartedly. When you’re born, all you know is that you have to die, so that time that you’re here, what are you going to do? So many people gave their lives for me to vote and to get an education and I want to make black people proud. I definitely feel I have a responsibility to my community to lead by positive example.
Q. So are you still planning to release two albums this year?
A. According to my ‘soul clock,’ I will be releasing music. I’m always working on music. I don’t really keep track of time, I just know that it’s part of my DNA and when it’s in your DNA, you’re constantly thinking about it. But I’m going to Australia in May, then Canada and in July, Europe, and probably back here [in the U.S.] in the fall. We’re still putting everything together.
Q. What is keeping you in Atlanta?
A. It’s a great place for artists to keep a clear mind. The people are really sweet, it’s not cluttered with so many things. It’s a place where you can grow and live. This is where I started as an independent artist so my support system is here. I love going places where people are progressing, and Atlanta is great for that, especially for black people.
With Janelle Monae, Billy Cox, Buddy Guy, Keb’ Mo’, Jonny Lang, Robert Randolph, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Dweezil Zappa, Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, Slide Brothers, Chris Layton of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Eric Gales and Mato Nanji of Indigenous. 8 p.m. March 10. $41.50-$66.50. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.
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