Melissa Etheridge lights up the June night in Union, drawing a crowd, and cows, for concert
UNION — Melissa Etheridge left no doubt that she remains on top of her game June 16, as she moved across the stage with one of her many electric guitars, belting out songs with radiant and unrelenting energy. She is a powerhouse of American rock music, her voice strong and confident, and when she set her guitar down and picked up the drumsticks, the woods of Union pounded with rhythm.
Fans adored her, and she loved them.
“It’s all about the love,” she said at one point during her performance at Savage Oakes Winery. “Isn’t it?”
The crowd — 2,000 in total — agreed. They danced sang along with her, waving light sticks and otherwise encouraging her to rock the stage.
Every summer, Savage Oakes Winery, tucked up from Route 17 at the end of Barrett Hill Road in Union, hosts a concert series. Bud and Holly Savage like music, and they have a perfect venue for a controlled and organized event. Their rules are simple and straightforward, and the music is always outstanding, because the performers appreciate being there beside the vineyard.
Mainers love it, too, and they are predominantly who attend the concerts. They park in the field, haul lawn chairs from cars, and hike over to the barn. They come from across the state, others from next door.
“I is a lot of fun, but immense pressure to do things right,” said Elmer Savage, two days after a concert and then Father’s Day at the vineyard. “The good reputation we have built is how we attract the high level of talent that we do.”
At the Etheridge concert, many were diehard fans of hers, going back to the 1980s.
“I know you Maine,” said Etheridge, at one point during the show. “You’re crazy.”
Mainers like their privacy and the cold weather. It’s what makes the place special, she said.
Etheridge had arrived in a large red bus that was parked alongside the Savage Oakes red barn. Stretched out behind is a large field, before the dirt road ascends toward the grapes. It’s a lovely field, and a stone wall separates it from a cow pasture next door.
Etheridge spotted the cows at one point during her concert, pausing her guitar.
“Oh, look,” she said, delighted. “The cows are even coming.”
Half the crowd stood up to look at the cows. The other half didn’t. They had seen cows before.
Behind her, the tall trees were in full green bloom, and the sun was setting in the cloudless June sky. It had been a hot Saturday afternoon, and the audience began arriving as soon as the gates opened at 5 p.m., setting up lawn chairs close to the stage, but with plenty of personal space. Everyone was in a good mood, anticipating the concert, lining up to get their picnic dinner, beer and wine and water, and Stone Farm ice cream.
With her trademark honesty and authenticity, Etheridge pelted out songs of love and desire, the broken hearted and the complications of love. She evokes Janis Joplin and other musicians who preceded her; but through all of her music – her lyrics, guitar, harmonica and drumming — she is distinctly Melissa Etheridge, her voice strong and confident.
According to her press release, In February 2007, Etheridge: “celebrated a career milestone with a victory in the Best Song category at the Academy Awards for ‘I Need to Wake Up,’ written for the Al Gore documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. As a performer and songwriter, Etheridge has shown herself to be an artist who has never allowed ‘inconvenient truths’ to keep her down. Earlier in her recording career, Etheridge acknowledged her sexual orientation when it was considered less than prudent to do so. In October 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer, a health battle that, with her typical tenacity, she won. Despite losing her hair from chemotherapy, Etheridge appeared on the 2005 Grammy telecast to sing ‘Piece of My Heart’ in tribute to Janis Joplin. By doing so she gave hope to many women afflicted with the disease.”
Two years ago, she released Memphis Rock & Soul, her first album since the 2014 album This Is M.E.
By night’s end in Union, the fans were calling for more. Etheridge had finished the concert, giving her band — Brian Delaney, drums; Max Hart, keyboards and guitar and David Santos, bass — a rest as the night fell into full darkness over the winery.
But they were called back onto the stage, where the band launched into a long performance that rounded out when Etheridge danced back to the percussions, picked up another set of sticks, and drummed the doors off of Union.
The audience packed up and strolled back to find their cars in the field, as Knox County Sheriff’s deputies rolled the traffic onto Route 17 and home. Those left behind sat in lawn chairs by the farmhouse, waving their hands with a friendly goodbye to all those who came to visit that night.
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