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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

A sumptuous kettle of Fish

By
November 17, 2008 |

Enterprise music critic

The legendary Barry ÒThe FishÓ Melton will headline a benefit concert taking place from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday at the Davis Art Center, 1919 F St.

The performance line-up also includes County Supervisor Mike McGowan, Cindy Tuttle and The Dropped Roses. The event, the seventh annual Blues Harvest, will raise funds for the Yolo Adult Day Health Center. The admission Ñ $35 general, $20 children (under 12) Ñ will include food, wine and nonalcoholic beverages. For additional information, call (530) 666-8828.

The Yolo Adult Day Health Center is a program designed for adults struggling to function independently. For 24 years, the center has offered a diverse program of health, social and rehabilitation services that promote the well-being, dignity and self-esteem of individuals.

The Blues Harvest hopes to raise enough money to help purchase a much-needed, 18-passenger, wheelchair-accessible bus to transport participants to the center on a daily basis.

ÒThis show is for a good cause,Ó Melton said, during a recent phone chat. ÒPeople think in terms of charity for children, but one of the services needed out there is for the elderly. Maybe theyÕre not as attractive as children, but they need every bit as much help, care, sympathy and understanding.

ÒIt means a lot for me to play for the Blues Harvest every year.

ÒWeÕre not making any money; the audience is cool, and the event draws really nice people.Ó

Back in 1965, Melton co-founded Country Joe and The Fish with ÒCountry JoeÓ McDonald. The band was famous for its anti-war stance and the hit Vietnam protest song, ÒI-Feel-Like-IÕm-FixinÕ-to-Die Rag.Ó Melton subsequently had an illustrious career as a guitarist and singer with his own bands, and also as a solo artist.

He now lives in Davis and works as the Yolo County Public Defender.

Although Melton enjoyed great success with Country Joe and The Fish, he has no interest in playing in a Ònostalgia band.Ó

ÒI donÕt want to be doing steps in Spandex at the age of 60,Ó he laughed. ÒI watch old doo-wop groups on Channel 9. I understand people get trapped, and itÕs the only way they can earn a living; on another level, I think itÕs tragic. Having to do the same notes for 40 years sounds really horrible: a fate worse than death.

ÒItÕs like being a human jukebox.Ó

Melton and his current band play originals and standards.

ÒWe just played a 400-year-old folk song from the British Isles.Ó

And is that typical of the bandÕs output?

ÒItÕs rock, folk and blues based,Ó Melton said. ÒItÕs similar to jazz, in that we set a basic structure that we can improvise from.Ó

MeltonÕs current line-up includes bass player Peter Albin (of Big Brother and the Holding Company), rhythm guitarist ÒBananaÓ Lowell Levinger (The Youngbloods) and drummer Roy Blumenfeld (The Blues Project).

ÒThese are my old friends,Ó Melton said. ÒEverybody in the band, at one point, has played at a world-class level.Ó

Then he laughed.

ÒThatÕs not to say we play at a world class level every night.

ÒThis is about me getting together with guys IÕve been playing with for 30 or 40 year or more. Peter and I have played, on and off, since 1965. I enjoy every time I perform with him. Sometimes weÕre better than others. When itÕs good, we all have a wonderful time.

ÒLike my old drummer Spencer said, weÕre like old guys playing poker on a Friday night, but everybody wins.

ÒWhen itÕs really good, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When everything comes together, thatÕs a special feeling. Part of music is looking for that altered state that you get to, when the synergy of players gets beyond who they are. ItÕs like seeing a great sporting event: ItÕs a very special place, where everything syncs up in harmony, better than you would have expected.

ÒThatÕs the best place you can get to in music.Ó

Besides playing music, Melton loves his work as a public defender.

ÒWhat IÕve done in my life, what I did in the Õ60s, this is a part of me, and a continuation of where IÕve come from. WeÕre very fortunate to live in a country where itÕs assumed that people have a right to be defended, if theyÕre accused by the government.Ó

The pending election certainly has been on his mind.

ÒIÕm not going to say anything political in this interview and ruin it,Ó Melton said, Òbut IÕm glad this gig is after the election. Everyone can relax.

ÒItÕll be a good place for people to unwind, in a nonpolitical way, to celebrate whatever they want to celebrate.Ó

Ñ Stay up-to-the-minute with local live music by visiting www.davisenterprise.com and clicking on ÒClub Crawl.Ó Bloggers and bands with inquiries or information can contact Landon Christensen at landonissuch@hotmail.com. Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com

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