Country Joe McDonald
Bob turned 70 last Tuesday. Maybe San Francisco didn’t notice, but over at Ashkenaz the room was at capacity by 9pm. Dozens of local artists paid respects to America’s greatest living songwriter. The evening began with acoustic songs and then went electric. The highlight of the evening came shortly after 9, when Country Joe McDonald conquered “Masters of War.”
Eric and Suzy Thompson (of Aux Cajunals and Bluegrass Intentions) played throughout the evening but their pinnacle came just after Country Joe when they played “Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I’ll Go Mine).”
Two songs later, we were treated to “Only a Hobo,” a song Dylan rarely played live. Before playing it, Marc Silber admitted it was Rod Stewart’s live performance of the song that initially turned him on to it. Pat Nevins and Stu Allen (of Workingman’s Ed) came on next with a nice “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” The first set finished when Stu Allen was joined by Planet Waves to play “Mighty Quinn.”
It was exciting to imagine an electric set that worked as well as the acoustic set, but as Quinn the Eskimo predicted, we were heading deep into Grateful Dead land. Wait a minute, who is this tribute for? Unfortunately all of the songs that included the Planet Waves band had nonstop Jerry Garcia guitar all over it. I know, I know, this is Berkeley but enough is enough. There were some nice treats in the second set, including “Idiot Wind” by a guy named Joe, plus an appearance by Tippy Canoe herself (on ukelele of course). She played a mean “All I Really Wanna Do” before attempting “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” with Planet Waves backing her up. Where were the Paddlemen? I yearned to hear some Dylan and the Band type shit, and we were finally offered a taste when The Dedicated Maniacs played “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
Blues guitarist Johnny Harper had the guts (and licks) to take on “Visions of Johanna” before the whole crew returned to the stage for the grand finale: “Forever Young.” I always forget how great art thou, Ashkenaz. Turning 38 this year, there is no other venue quite like it. Great energy and a tremendous dedication to music of all varieties. Long may you run. Hey, who is going to host the Neil Young tribute night?