While you can’t credit Country Joe McDonald with inventing psychedelia, he sure helped define it.
McDonald, who will perform at Sandpoint’s Panida Theater Thursday night, was part of the politically active San Francisco folk scene that mutated into psychedelia in the mid-‘60s.
McDonald and his band, Country Joe & the Fish, married a savage political ideology with wry wit and quavering guitars, and produced two classic albums of the genre, “Electric Music for the Mind and Body” (with its haunting anthem “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine”) and “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die.”
They entered pop mythology at the Monterey Pop Festival by leading the crowd in the “Fish Cheer” (think of another four-letter word that begins with “f” and you’ll get the idea). The “Fish Cheer” endeared them to a generation of rebellious young funseekers and made the band persona non grata at most of the country’s city-owned buildings.
In 1967, Country Joe and the Fish took their full-blown show to the East Coast, giving those fans their first glimpse of the light shows which had become a staple of the West Coast rock scene.
The band splintered after a few years and McDonald launched a solo career that included several memorable, if little-known, albums, including 1991’s “Superstitious Blues,” with the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia guesting on guitar.
Also on the bill is another San Francisco band with ties to the Dead - the New Riders of the Purple Sage. In the beginning, the New Riders were a project band for members of the Dead, inspired mainly by Garcia’s desire to play pedal steel.
But the band’s psychedelic cowboy chic caught on and the NRPS took on a life of its own. They enjoyed a good run well into the ‘70s and though their fortunes waned with the end of progressive FM radio, the group has made a strong comeback in the ‘90s. Their 1993 CD, “Midnight Moonlight,” was well-received and those who have seen their live show recently say they haven’t lost the touch.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Country Joe McDonald Location and time: Panida Theater, Thursday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $12, available at Java Adagio in Sandpoint and Street Music in Spokane
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