If 2012 had a rough end for Rrazz Room owners Robert Kotonly and Rory Paull, the pair is starting off 2013 with a bang.
Despite leaving Hotel Nikko under difficult circumstances, they booked Jefferson Starship to play the official opening of their new space, Live at the Rrazz (in the former Cadillac dealership building at 1000 Van Ness Ave.) on Thursday.
The veteran Bay Area rockers, who appeared at the Rrazz Room last year, are doing something new in the new club: playing Jefferson Airplane’s groundbreaking “Surrealistic Pillow” and Jefferson Starship’s first album, 1970’s “Blows Against the Machine,” in their entirety.
“It’s an experiment we just did in Japan,” says guitarist Paul Kantner, an original member of 1960s supergroup Jefferson Airplane and founding member of Jefferson Starship.
Enthusiastic response to those shows gave Kantner an incentive to do similar shows here in The City, where both bands have a long history.
As a youth, Kantner, influenced by Pete Seeger and the Weavers, played banjo and guitar. He was recruited to Jefferson Airplane in its early days. The band became a household name in 1967 with the hits of “Surrealistic Pillow”: the bold, unhinged “Somebody to Love,” and haunting “White Rabbit,” both sung by Grace Slick.
Today, Cathy Richardson — whom Kantner first saw when she portrayed Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway production “Love, Janis” — performs those famed vocal parts.
“After singing 16 bars with her I knew she would be really good for us,” he says. “Her voice is extraordinary. She puts her own vocal texture into the music and her attitude onstage is unique to her.”
After 40 years, Kantner remains in humble awe of his success: “I’m just waiting like Al Bundy in ‘Married with Children’ for the roof to fall in on me,” he says. “I’ve had a marvelous time. We’re still carrying on with the adventure of music. There’s this soaring, elegiac beauty in music that moves me in ways I can’t explain and don’t understand and don’t need to. I’m just swept away by it.”
If you go: Jefferson Starship