Friday July 16th 1999.
The Mother Earth Music and Arts Festival
Story and pictures by: Paul Fodden,
As my wife and I arrived at the Festival grounds and after we parked in a field, we could hear singing in the distance as we trudged to the location of the concert. As we drew closer we realized that it was Melanie and daughters! I felt a shudder as I approached the stage. Was I actually going to see Melanie, after all this time? and sooner than I expected Sound checks are an interesting thing, and I'm sure vary by performer.
Melanie and Co. were perfect as they sang to test the sound system; didn't really need to warm up, they were ready to go. But the sound check was all business, and when they needed to they would stop suddenly mid note. I often wondered how an artist could stop partway through any presentation of something they created.
The small crowd cheered and Melanie said "thanks, your the best sound-check audience I've had". (I bet she says that to all the guys).
The stage was built in the middle of a newly mown hay field, with a gentle role down from the stage. The stage, and the sound-system, were adequate to project well into the field, and would have satisfied thousands of onlookers.
The Peaceweavers, who hosted the show, appear an interesting and very spiritual group. The offering of prayers/blessings started the concert by a variety of persons, some in native tongue.
A local Rochester group started first and offered acoustic covers of a variety of popular songs, many 'oldies'. Safka followed them. My first time seeing and hearing them. They performed admirably, and while I enjoyed their music I knew my daughter would enjoy them more (a shame she couldn't make the trip because she's a big Melanie fan).
10,000 Maniacs then took the stage. If you haven't had a chance to see them, I recommend it. They were excellent. An enjoyable style of music that I find difficult to describe. Very rousing, and the music drew the audience in. People got up and danced or got closer to the stage. Their singer, Mary Ramsey, started slowly, but soon warmed up. She has a nice voice and plays a marvellous violin (actually she said it was a cross between a viola and a violin, but the name escapes me). They played for 2 hours, and as enjoyable as the music was, I was anxious to see Melanie.
I certainly wasn't disappointed. When Melanie came on I slipped into another world. I took some pictures, and wandered around for different perspectives, but my mind was agog the whole time. I couldn't believe I was actually seeing her.
Later, for the actual performance, it was still hot. Beau's guitar wasn't right and Melanie wasn't sure whether to start. "Well should I just do something on my own?" she asked him, to a mumbled response. So, as if she were sitting with friends in the park (and she was), she started strumming and singing.
My first impression? She didn't need anyone else, she can do it on her own. The sound from her guitar is full and marvellous, and her vocals were stronger than any piece of plastic can record
There was a large fan (not a person, the electrical kind!) turned on Melanie to cool her during the show. Several songs into it she coughed, and said "I swallowed some dust". Well, up popped Peter and over to the fan he went, and he turned it so it wasn't blowing directly on her. "No. could we just? maybe a little?" she protested as he turned it. "Well OK". She turned to the audience and said, "it's hard on my voice".
A few songs later, she started to get raspy again. Peter popped on stage and handed her a little bottle. "This is my secret" she told us. "Vitamin A", as she placed some drops in her mouth. "It helps keep my voice.. but it tastes bad..". "Whiskey works too, but only for a few songs..... only for a few years".Her voice remained strong throughout the 90 minute show.
She came down from the stage and sat at a table to meet people and sign autographs. I was second in line, but still quite stunned. It didn't help that when she raised her eyes to look at me; her face reflected that she was genuinely interested in meeting us!
What a classy lady.
Before the show my wife asked me what song I would most like to hear. I answered "Beautiful People" but said it really didn't matter. Well I was too stunned to ever call out the request, and I wasn't disappointed when Melanie left the stage and I had not heard that song.
But she came back for an encore and sang 'Beautiful People" and I was almost in tears. I mean, I had certainly plenty from her set and now couldn't believe I would get to add this song to my experience!
During the show and between songs Melanie chatted with the audience. It would start as the normal introduction of the song, and expand with a tale sometimes related, sometimes not. Increasingly, and with humour, she would interject "did I tell you about my life?..".
Unfortunately, and probably due to insufficient marketing, the crowd was quite small. I estimate 2-300. They were all quite lively.
All age groups were represented; children, grandfathers, teens. Glancing at them and their attire made one think that they fell back into the sixties. The vendor's tents at the back of the fields helped to remind us that this was the nineties.
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