IMPRINT Newspaper - August 8th, 2000
Melanie draws largest crowd in Bluegrass Music Festival
By Charlene McMahon
She was described as an "Icon of Woodstock"
But, when Melanie walked on stage at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival in East Hartford recently she joked with the audience, "What do you mean Icon? I was there."
So were some of the fans who came to see the award-winning songwriter perform at the festival which attracted its biggest crowd since the bluegrass festival was started five years ago.
"I saw her at Woodstock, so I had to come and see her. She's awesome," said Heidi Gulino who brought all her albums from the 70's for Melanie to sign. "She sounds exactly the same only a little more mature."
Melanie told her fans she was just 22 years old when she performed at Woodstock in 1969 along with rock Icons like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. During the Woodstock reunion concert last year Melanie performed "Purple Haze" in a moving tribute to Hendrix.
She surprised her fans when she announced that the guitarist performing with her that night was her 19 year old son, Beau-Jarred. "I married my producer, (Peter Schekeryk) had three children, and this is one of them," said Melanie. Her two daughters also perform in a band and use their mother's maiden name "Safka" for the name of their group.
Sometimes she performs with all three of her kids on stage. "We just have a really good time. They schlepped along with me (when they were little)," said Melanie.
They were there for the hits and there for the bombs. They lived through it all."
She said her family was very close and the first time her son performed on stage with her was in Europe. Melanie's song, "Beautiful People" won "Song of the Year" in the Netherlands last year.
She often kidded about how long she's been performing and said her son once told her he really liked a song she sang and asked where she heard it. "I told him it was on my third album," said Melanie. She said some of her younger fans discover her music at rag sales.
In the 30 years since Woodstock she has recorded more than 30 albums and CDs. During the concert Melanie's fans shouted the names of her hits from the 470s like "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)" and "Beautiful People" while young girls in the audience yelled, "Beau, you're hot!"
Melanie received some of the loudest applause that night when she performed "Ruby Tuesday," "Look, What They've Done To My Song Ma" and "Brand New Key". There was loud applause as she lingered on the phrase, "I've done alright for a girl" from that 70's hit.
Melanie added social commentary at times and true to her 60's ideals encouraged her fans to "vote for less government" and question authority figures. "Help me relive the fabulous 60s and 70s," she said.
But Melanie also performed some of her newer music and proudly announced that a song her son wrote will be used in a movie.
Beau said actress Diane Ladd told him she wanted to use his song in the movie, "Hot Water Biscuits" that she is producing when she heard him perform it at a party in California.
Beau said he has performed with his mother for the past three years and admired her talent. "She's so versatile. She can do my style," he said. He said his mother encourages him to improvise when they perform together, and he hopes to record a rock CD with her some day.
Although the fashions of the 60s are back in style music has changed a lot since that era.
"It is amazingly inspiring that she has continued to grow as an artist. Woodstock was the just the beginning of her career and a great musical journey. At a time when pop artist are singing about themselves Melanie sings about the whole world and peace." Said Mark Bailey, director of the Yale Russian Chorus and Manchester Chorale.
Michael Dagon, one of the festival organizers who helped arrange Melanie's performance at the festival, said he had seen Melanie perform at Powder Ridge in 1970. "She was the only performer on stage and it was a stirring experience," said Dagon.
He said they were fortunate that a singer with her name recognition and "cross over appeal" was available to perform this summer since Melanie helped draw not only their highest crowd but more publicity for the festival.