The 12th Annual Happy Birthday Janis Honors Her Work At First Avenue


“There are 4 Janises tonight” That statement by one of the stagehands at First Avenue raised one of my eyebrows in a questioning way. Once again I had walked into a show with little clue what to expect. I was busy admiring the gold decorations covering most of First Ave and marvel at the outfits many of the concert goers were sporting.

Being held for the 12th year the “Happy Birthday, Janis Joplin” bash had taken over the famous venue and liberally dressed it up in gold and glitter. Vinyl records were hanging from the ceiling, there was sparkling photo booth and were bands usually sell their merch, there was a distinctively 70s mini fashion store and an information booth for a charity. So this was definitely not going to be your run of the mill concert….

Reed Grimm started the evening. Known to many for his appearance on American Idol in 2012, he release his first solo album “Reminders” last year. According to his bio, his first time on a stage was at age 2 with his parents’ band. I liked the solo portion of his set, an interesting mix of Jazz, Soul and Rock. Seeing him return to the stage for “Turn On Your Lovelight” showcased his stage presence. Freed from his drum kit, raised his energy to the next level to the loud cheers of his fans.

Grimm also brought reinforcements for his set. I had first been steamrolled by Mae Simpson last summer and been a fan since. To be honest, seeing her name on last night’s bill led to me covering the show. Not having her regular band backing her up, did not seem to slow her down one bit. Simpson combines her Soul / Blues sound with a stage presence that will make most hard core punk band take notice. Her energy ignited the room and when asked if they wanted a second song, the place erupted in cheers.

The Happy Birthday Janis event got its start 12 years ago in NE Minneapolis in front of 200 people. It’s quite obvious that the growth and being able to hold it at First Ave fills the organizers with pride. The love an effort they bring to this is visible in all the little touches that show. From the decorations, the wide range of fans, to the joy that the performers exhibit on stage. And yes, there were 4 main performers switching up every few songs. At times there was more than one “Janis” on lead vocal and sometimes the others shared backup vocals. Reed and Mae made guest appearances. Each of the performers brought their own style and personality but the respect for Janis Joplin was evident. Joplin would have been 76 this year. At the time of her death I was a scant 4 years old, so other than her most prominent songs, I had little knowledge of her music., so I heard many of the songs for the very first time. In her short life Japlin created a body of work that makes one wonder, just what she could have created if things had turned out differently.

Set 1

Buried Alive In The Blues / Half Moon / My Baby / I Need A Man To Love / Woman Left Lonely / Move Over / One Night Stand / One Good Man / Raid Your Hand / Women Is Lovers / Call On Me / Watch Me Lord / Turn On Your Lovelight / Maybe / Try A Little Bit Harder

Set 2

Mercedes Benz / Amsterdam / Piece Of My Heart / To Love Somebody / Summertime / Dear Landlord / Trust Me / Turle Blues / Tall Woman / Little Girl Blue / Cry Baby / Bobby Mcgee / Kommie Blues / As Good As You’ve Been / Ball & Chain


Bye Bye Baby / Get It While You Can



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