Joe McDonald - guitar, vocals; Barry Melton - lead guitar; Joe Byrd - keyboards; Peter Walsh - bass; Steve Pocaro - drums
Country Joe McDonald's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin To Die Rag" was the anthem of the 1960s draft resistance, and he became one of the most visible artists during the Vietnam War protest movement. More importantly, he was one of the first of the Bay Area musicians to take an active role spotlighting the plight of returning soldiers and demand they be treated with compassion, at a time of great political and social confusion. For all intents and purposes, no musician has been more relentlessly supportive of Vietnam Veterans than Country Joe McDonald.
It's no wonder that McDonald was given the opening slot on this night, as his compassion and integrity, as well as his gift for creating songs that are equal parts political device and entertainment, would set the tone for this memorable evening. The set features a wide range of material spanning McDonald's entire career, from his early days fronting Country Joe and the Fish right up through his 1981 release, Into the Fray.
Following the reggae-flavored opener "Oh! Jamaica," McDonald pairs up two classic older numbers, "The Return Of Sweet Lorraine" and "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine," before launching headfirst into some of his best social commentary songs. It's remarkable how older songs like "Sexist Pig" and "Kiss My Ass" remain relevant even today. McDonald's innate ability to mix scathing critical sarcasm, political humor and compassionate understanding are the keys to the success of this set. McDonald addresses environmental activism issues with "Blood On Ice" and "Save The Whales." He speaks directly to veterans and their families alike in numbers such as "A Vet Still Alive," "The Agent Orange Song," "Wang Pao Bang" and the set close "Pix And Lasers" - not to mention the ever-poignant "I Feel Like I'm Fixin To Die Rag," complete with his notorious "Fish Cheer" at the beginning.
McDonald put together an excellent backing band for this performance, which included his old cohort Barry "The Fish" Melton on guitar. McDonald's thought-provoking lyrics and the serious nature of the issues he often addresses are perfectly balanced by his humor and warmth.
An excellent set and a perfect choice to kick off the night's proceedings.