In 1969, a small group of art students on our campus organized an event called “The Art Happening,” channeling the spirit of the times into a celebration of love and creativity known today as the Whole Earth Festival. In the same year, on the other side of the country, a weekend-long celebration of peace and music informally named “Woodstock” became a pivotal moment for our society.
Forty-four years later, Whole Earth is proudly playing host to two emissaries of that larger happening, who remain forever linked to it through their era-defining music.
Barry “The Fish” Melton, best known as co-founder of the seminal ’60s rock band Country Joe and the Fish, will be one of the big names present on Saturday evening at the festival’s main stage. This will mark the second time Melton has visited the event in capacity as a musician, having graced the stage at the first festival circa 1971.
He has long played a prominent role in the local area, retiring in 2009 from the position of Yolo County Defender. His upcoming campus performance is yet another reason to claim him as an upstanding community member.
Melton will be playing alongside the immensely popular blues-rock band, Canned Heat, whose 1969 performance of the hit song “Goin’ Up the Country” was immortalized in the Woodstock motion picture. Colin Borges, a member of the local band Tha Dirt Feelin, is particularly excited about Canned Heat’s performance, and with good reason.
“I’m hoping to play flute on stage with Canned Heat on ‘Going Up the Country,’” said Borges, who has been practicing the song with friends in the last few weeks. “The ‘back-to-nature’ lyrics and driving tempo really get us into the festival spirit.” In addition, Borges will have song sheets available for audience members keen to join in.
The sense of anticipation around the musicians and their important cultural legacy is reflected on the choice of theme for this year’s festival, the enigmatic but evocative phrase “Time is Art.”
“Art is timeless and is an expression of belief, conviction and dedication to a cause, springing from the mind of the interpreter,” said festival director and fifth-year sociocultural anthropology major Brett Lemke in an email interview. “This year we are taking the festival back to its roots with two timeless bands from the Woodstock era that transcend labels.”
Lemke has also worked closely with Canned Heat as a web designer, biographer and tour manager, making the group’s appearance at Whole Earth possible.
Saturday’s performances will be a highlight of the weekend and prove that the festival is a vital celebration of music, art and community. Skip Taylor, the longtime manager for Canned Heat, provided a closing word for this standout event at 2013’s Whole Earth Festival.
“Personally, I do hope that as many folks as possible come out to enjoy a band that is still at the top of their game and take this opportunity to watch and listen to four of the best musicians anywhere in the music industry, in any genre of music today. And, as one of the founders of Canned Heat, Bob “The Bear” Hite, who is now playing the blues in heaven, used to say, ‘Don’t Forget To Boogie!’”
ANDREW RUSSELL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.