After the support bands, when the room was filling up, a roadie in white trainers and a Hawaiian shirt came on and set up some guitars and fiddled about with them a bit. Eventually the promoter appeared and asked us to please give a warm welcome to Country Joe McDonald. At this, the roadie in the Hawaiian shirt blinked shyly at the audience, asked "Can I get the guitar through the monitor? I can't hear the guitar through the monitor," and...was Country Joe himself!
He looked younger than I was expecting - life and Berkeley, California have treated him well. There was a laid-back vagueness about him that made him seem slightly stoned, and an underlying wisdom that suggested this was merely what he wanted us to think. He also has very nice eyes, and as I had somehow positioned myself directly in front of the microphone, every time I looked up he appeared to be making eye contact with me. Although I'm sure he was just gazing out into the audience, I spent much of the gig feeling awkward and staring fixedly at his hands instead.
What I really like at a gig is one bloke, a well-played acoustic guitar and some great lyrics, and Country Joe delivered. I could have listened all night. For some songs he played harmonica, fumbling around for the right harp from the half-dozen piled at his feet, and for a couple of numbers he was accompanied by friends on a washboard and a skilfully-wielded pair of spoons.
My companion's favourite number was 'The Man from Athabasca', a poem by Robert Service after which the current tour is named. This was beautifully performed and made me want to seek out Service's complete works (especially as I believe he also wrote about huskies and things). I think mine was 'Rock Coast Blues' with spoons accompaniment.
He did the "Gimme an F!" routine, and I gleefully yelled along, closed my eyes and pretended I was at Woodstock. Half the audience was my age and half grizzled-looking souls who must have been fans first time round - and there we all stood, singing about a war long over. Country Joe is an ardent feminist and apologises on his website for the lyrics of 'I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag' making the sexist assumption that only men die in war, so I gave him a special clap when he sang "Be the first one on your block to have your kid come home in a box", rather than the 'boy' of the original.
It was heartwarming to see so many people having a last hurrah before July 1st prevents anyone enjoying a toke at a gig, though the air was so potent by the end I began to worry about my ability to ride home.
Halfway through the evening I realised I could have taken a sleeping-bag and toothbrush to work, let myself back into the office after the show and had a nice lie-in this morning. Oh well.