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Jeff Moehlis: An Evening of Electric Music for Mind and Body

Jefferson Starship headlines a Unity Shoppe benefit concert at Oreana Winery

Santa Barbara felt the reverberations of Woodstock more than 40 years after the original concert, courtesy of Oreana Winery’s benefit for Santa Barbara’s Unity Shoppe.

Friday evening began with Country Joe McDonald, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. McDonald started with the tease “Give me an ‘F’” — a reference to his famous “Fish Cheer” at Woodstock — then joked, “Thank you very much. I needed that.”

McDonald proceeded to wow the crowd with the sing-along “Entertainment Is My Business,” “Flying High” from his acid-soaked masterpiece Electric Music for Mind and Body in a solo acoustic treatment, and a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”

Next up was “Colorado Town,” a somewhat paranoid tale about trying to get home with a stash of marijuana without getting busted by the police. Toward the end of the song, the sound system had a glitch and spewed out some serious feedback. This seemed very apropos, as if McDonald’s song was being shut down by “the man.”

After getting the system back up, McDonald did the full “Fish Cheer,” which led into his best-known song, “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” for which he tellingly updated the lyrics to say “Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn / Next stop is Afghanistan.”

Folk singer Ronee Blakley came out for an a cappella version of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart.” Then McDonald led the crowd in Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” with help from Blakley and Linda Imperial.

McDonald is a true national treasure, and it was great to see him still performing in good spirits and good voice.

Next on the program was Quicksilver Messenger Service, featuring original members Gary Duncan on electric guitar/vocals and David Freiberg on acoustic guitar/vocals.

Their set began with a cool, long, jammy version of Bo Diddley’s “Mona,” a track they had covered on their classic 1969 album Happy Trails. They then played their biggest hit, “Fresh Air,” followed by the Latin-tinged “Close Enough For Jazz,” the Imperial song “I Don’t Want to Live in Fear,” and later Quicksilver song “Gypsy Lights.” Their set closed with the Nicky Hopkins-penned “Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder,” which presented a thrilling workout for Chris Smith on keyboards.

But great as these performances were, the best was still yet to come. Jefferson Starship — featuring core member Paul Kantner on rhythm guitar/vocals, longtime associate David Freiberg on acoustic guitar/vocals and newcomer Cathy Richardson on vocals — was far out, man!

They drew heavily from Jefferson Airplane’s songs, truly one of the richest songbooks from the 1960s, including several that the band performed at Woodstock.

The opening number, the Kantner-penned “Crown of Creation,” was a welcome surprise, appealing to hard-core Jefferson Airplane fans. This was followed by a rousing version of their hit “Somebody to Love,” sung by Richardson with the passion of a young Grace Slick.

Next up was former-Quicksilver Messenger Service singer Dino Valenti’s nugget “Let’s Get Together,” one of the best-known hippie anthems, which had been covered on Airplane’s debut album. Richardson then sang a great, intense version of the Slick obscurity “Lather,” a real gem. This was followed by “Wooden Ships,” the epic song that Kantner wrote with David Crosby and Stephen Stills.

The band fast-forwarded to the 1970s with the upbeat and enthusiastically received “Count on Me,” then returned to the 1960s with “Good Shepherd” in the psychedelic arrangement from the album Volunteers. Another Slick obscurity followed, “Eskimo Blue Day,” sung again with passion and intensity by Richardson.

The playful “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil” followed, then Richardson sang the Alice-on-acid “White Rabbit,” probably the show’s biggest highlight out of many. After a very quick break, the band returned to the 1970s for their hit “Jane.” The night closed with the raucous “Volunteers,” still an effective call to action after 40-plus years.

Sadly, the 10 p.m. outdoor music curfew prevented the band from continuing, but a splendid time was had by all. Kudos to Oreana Winery for putting this show on for the Unity Shoppe, and long live the Woodstock Nation.

Setlist

Country Joe McDonald

Entertainment Is My Business
Flying High
For What It’s Worth
Colorado Town
Fish Cheer / I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag Your Cheating Heart (Ronee Blakley)
This Land Is Your Land

Quicksilver Messenger Service

Mona
Fresh Air
Close Enough for Jazz
I Don’t Want to Live in Fear
Gypsy Lights
Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder

Jefferson Starship

Crown of Creation
Somebody to Love
Let’s Get Together
Lather
Wooden Ships
Count On Me
Good Shepherd
Eskimo Blue Day
The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil
White Rabbit
Jane
Volunteers

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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