Niagara Gazette

June 10, 2013

Legendary performers taking the Artpark stage this week

By Thom Jennings
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — This is a good week to make two trips out to Artpark for a couple of great shows by legendary performers. On Tuesday, Artpark hosts Joan Jett and the Blackhearts for the second installment of First Niagara’s Tuesday in the Park series, and the following evening Gov’t Mule kicks off the Coors Light Wednesdays series.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are best known for their version of “I Love Rock and Roll,” a song originally recorded by a band called The Arrows. What made Jett’s version superior is that she took a good song and made it tougher, and better. The result was a song that remains in the top 100 selling singles of all time more than 30 years after its original release.

Jett began her career as a founding member of The Runaways, an all-girl rock band that also featured Lita Ford. The band’s story has been chronicled in documentaries and a major motion picture. The Runaways were extremely popular in Japan and are best known for the song “Cherry Bomb,” which Jett has performed at various times with The Blackhearts.

The more interesting story is how Jett managed her post Runaways career. After the band split, Jett hooked up with American record producer Kenny Laguna and the pair began shopping songs like “Bad Reputation,” “Do You Want to Touch Me,” and “I Love Rock and Roll,” to all the major record labels. After 23 record labels rejected her, Jett and Laguna formed Blackheart Records, and the result was that Jett became one of the most important and popular female rock performers of all time.

The first time I saw Jett was Feb. 11, 1982, when she opened for Bobby and the Midnites, a band fronted by Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. Jett was added to the bill late to help boost lagging ticket sales and at the show her fans were in the back of the venue (it was a reserved seat show) and the Deadheads were in the front. During Jett’s set, the Deadheads waited in the lobby and the orchestra section was barren.

In spite of it all, Jett played one of the most memorable performances I have ever seen, and after the show I bought her two albums and became a fan.

Speaking of Deadheads, the night after Jett’s performance, a band well known by Deadheads will be at Artpark, Gov’t Mule, fronted by Warren Haynes, who has performed with Weir and the other surviving members of The Dead. Haynes is also a member of The Allman Brothers Band.

Gov’t Mule started as a side project for Haynes and it took on a life of its own. Haynes is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, and Gov’t Mule shows are the perfect platform for Haynes to showcase his guitar and vocal skills.

Like the Grateful Dead, Gov’t Mule allows their shows to be recorded (they also offer high-quality recordings of their shows through the band’s website) and they change their set list every night. They play long jams and incorporate some great cover songs, ones that you might not expect.

Gov’t Mule put on an incredible show last year in Lockport, and I am really looking forward to seeing them at Artpark, it’s the perfect venue for their type of music.

General admission tickets for Joan Jett and Gov’t Mule are $10. Check the Artpark website for availability of VIP and front of stage tickets.

Both shows start at 6:30 p.m. The Matt Facciolla Band opens for Joan Jett and there is no opener for Gov’t Mule.

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for the Gazette.