Four musicians from two bands that played at the original Woodstock Festival are set to headline the 44th annual Whole Earth Festival, bringing art, crafts, education, food, music and dance back to the UC Davis Quad this week.
Canned Heat will play a free show at 8 p.m. Saturday. They’ll be joined by guitarist Barry “The Fish” Melton of Country Joe and the Fish.
The student-run festival’s opening ceremony is slated for 1 p.m. Friday. Performances and other events run until 10 p.m. Friday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. until the closing ceremony at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Bringing to the campus Canned Heat — whose song “Going Up the Country” was No. 1 on the charts during the first Whole Earth Festival, in May 1969, and which was the unofficial theme of the Woodstock concert film — has been a labor of love for co-chair Brett Lemke.
The fifth-year anthropology major has known members of the band since 2003, when he interviewed them for the music magazine Maximum Ink.
He later met the band at the Wisconsin Blues Festival, which led to his work redesigning Canned Heat’s website, researching and editing a new edition of drummer Fito De La Parra’s book “Living The Blues. Canned Heat’s Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival,” and serving as tour manager from 2007 to 2009.
Melton, the anti-war musician turned Yolo County public defender turned private attorney, has been friendly with Canned Heat since the blues revival music of the 1960s. He played with members of the band as Canned Fish for a 2006 tribute album to guitarist John Fahey.
Blues aficionados Alan Wilson and Bob Hite formed Canned Heat. Wilson committed suicide in 1970; Hite died of a heart attack in 1981.
De La Parra, who has long been the band’s leader, is joined in the band’s current incarnation by two others from the Woodstock lineup, bass player Larry Taylor and guitarist Harvey Mandel, as well as by journeyman singer, guitarist and harmonica player Dale Spalding, who joined up in 2007.
In his research about the band, Lemke discovered the long list of blues musicians whose work was championed by Canned Heat’s members, including John Lee Hooker and Albert Collins.
Band members tracked down blues pioneers like Sunnyland Slim, who was driving a taxi in Chicago, and Skip James, whom they found in a hospital in Tunica, Miss., and brought them to the attention of a new generation of audiences.
“What they did was so selfless. Their dedication brings tears to my eyes,” Lemke said. “When nobody knew who these guys were, (Canned Heat) lifted them up and said, ‘These are our heroes.’ ”
Now Lemke will have a chance to introduce the band and its swirl of blues, rock and boogie sounds to students who may never have heard it before.
“Fifty years of musicianship and tireless work on the road will allow (the audience) to see a group that is so experienced and that plays so well together and that is so tight and are so happy to be playing together, 50 years later, that I can only imagine — it could be life-changing,” he said. “I’m hoping that everybody will be absolutely amazed.”
Whole Earth started in 1969 when an art class taught by José Argüelles organized an “art happening” at UCD. After the United Nations established Earth Day in 1970, the event was renamed the Whole Earth Festival.
This year’s festival has a staff of 65, headed by Lemke and co-chair Lauren Cockrell, including, for the first time, a hired accountant. More than 300 volunteers — the Karma Patrol — will be on hand to make the event go smoothly.
Some of those volunteers have returned for decades, each year passing on the festival’s history and ideals to newcomers.
Education remains central to the festival. Among this year’s speakers include authors Kim Stanley Robinson, a Davis resident whose latest critically acclaimed novel is titled “2312,” and Tobias S. Buckell, the New York Times bestselling author of “Halo: The Cole Protocol.”
The pair will discuss climate change from the point of view of science fiction at 1 p.m. Saturday in Young Hall.
The documentary “Edible City: Grow the Revolution” will be screened at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, also in Young Hall.
Also listed in this year’s program: 21 food booths, from ice cream to Indian cuisine; 12 education booths, on topics from midwifery to using gray water; and 15 service booths, ranging from henna painting and community supported agriculture.
Dozens of crafts vendors will sell jewelry, art glass, clothing, toys and more.
Also back for another year: a kids’ space for crafts and other activities, an art space featuring works in a variety of media and a sacred space for open mic, poetry reading and other activities. A “hoop space” will feature, well, you guessed it.
An eclectic range of music — including reggae, jazz, progressive rock, funk and hip-hop — and dance — including samba and belly dancing — also will be offered.
The festival continues to strive to be a zero-waste event, and annually composts or recycles more than 97 percent of its waste.
This year, there will be no charge for the use of reusable plates, mugs and silverware from food booths, which visitors are asked to bring to dish-return stations for reuse. The festival previously has asked for a deposit or charged for their use.
The forecast this weekend calls for temperatures to top 90 degrees. Since water and soda aren’t for sale at the festival, it’s best to bring a reusable water container to fill up at the hydration station.
* First aid and other assistance can be found at the Karma Dome, the festival’s headquarters, at the northeast corner of the Quad.
* UCD is again emphasizing a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol.
* No camping is allowed on campus.
* Dogs are allowed, but must be kept on leashes.
* Organizers encourage walking or biking to the event. For those who drive, most campus lots are free on weekends, $7 on Fridays.
For a festival map and full program of events, see http://wef.ucdavis.edu.
— Reach Cory Golden at [email protected] or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden