Words + Photos by Tom Dellinger

A musical milestone has been crossed with the recent passing of Sam Andrew, guitarist for iconic San Francisco band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. As a founding member, he was one of the key architects of what has become known as the psychedelic San Francisco sound that emerged in the 60’s. On Sunday, many of his friends, fans and fellow musicians gathered to pay tribute to him and his legacy at the venerable Great American Music Hall.

Many of Sam’s musical collaborators were in the house and the show was split in two sets with other features along the way. The band for the first set consisted of Barry “The Fish” Melton and several friends such as David LaFlamme, Kurt Huget, David Aguilar, Snooky Flowers and many more as they backed guest vocalists Mari Tamburo, Stefanie Keys-Pisarcyk, and Kristina Kopriva-Rehling. This set also featured an appearance by blues man Nick Gravenites.

The second set found surviving members of Big Brother, Peter Albin (bass) and Dave Getz (drums) joined by three guitarists in the lineup: Tom Finch, Ben Nieves and Tommy Odetto. As in the first set, they continued with the Big Brother catalog featuring female artists Andrew and the band had worked with over the years, and included vocalists Lisa P. Mills, Darby Gould, Sophia Ramos and vocalist/violinist, Kate Russo Thompson.

Over the course of the evening, it became apparent that Andrew was much loved and admired not only for his musical abilities, but also for the person he was as anecdotes were shared from time to time. Former road manager, John Byrne Cooke also shared some personal stories as well as a film he had put together from the band’s heyday.

Set to a Big Brother soundtrack, it was fun to watch grainy scenes of the band on and off the stage from an insider’s point of view. The respect and love for Andrew was also evident as everyone played at an inspired level – the kind of mojo only certain circumstances have the power to conjure. It was bittersweet for many, but the joy of the moment was palpable. In every way, this was indeed “A Celebration of Life.”


TheWaster.com | California