Melissa Etheridge on High Octane

  • by Sari Staver
  • Wednesday July 18, 2018
Share this Post:

Melissa Etheridge will rock the Bay Area this month with two outdoor evening concerts on the weekend of July 21 and 22. Etheridge, the Grammy- and Oscar-winning rock music icon, will sing her greatest hits on Sat., July 21, at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, and on Sun., July 22, at the Rodney Strong Vineyards in Healdsburg.

The concert, called the "The Rock Show," will include many of the songs the performer and songwriter made famous over the past three decades. Although the set list for each concert is different, a few songs - "Come to My Window," "Bring Me Some Water" and "I'm the Only One" - will likely be performed at both shows, according to promotional materials for the concert series.

"I'm diving into my catalog to bring the audience all the hits they know and love," said Etheridge in a telephone interview with the B.A.R. from her home in Los Angeles. "It's a high-octane summertime concert." Etheridge said she'll be performing the concert around the country through September, when she'll begin touring with her 25th anniversary concert to celebrate her seminal album "Yes, I Am."

Known for her confessional lyrics and raspy, smoky vocals, Etheridge gained a huge following in the LGBT community after she came out in 1993 at the Triangle Ball, a gay celebration of President Bill Clinton's inauguration.

"As a lesbian who also happens to be very liberal, I believe deeply that the Founding Fathers' vision of our nation was equality for all," she said. "I feel there's been a great backlash to the enormous movement forward that we gained" during the Clinton and Obama administrations. The gains made by the left "apparently scared a lot of people who saw the world changing" and supported Donald Trump, "who lit a fire under" many people and frightened them into voting for him.

But Etheridge is optimistic that the popularity of the Trump administration is temporary. "In the end," she said, "I believe the voters will bring about great changes that will prevent any future attempts" by politicians who want to make the "frightening grab for power" we have seen under Trump.

Etheridge, 57, the mother of four children, became an advocate for breast cancer research after she was diagnosed in 2004. Despite losing her hair from chemotherapy, Etheridge appeared on the 2005 Grammy telecast to sing "Piece of My Heart" in tribute to Janis Joplin. Her bout with cancer led to her passionate advocacy for medical cannabis, which she credits for helping her deal with the painful months of chemotherapy she faced.

For the past 10 years, "I've been trying to bring the topic of cannabis into the medical conversation. I had such tremendous relief [using cannabis], and have learned how much good plant medicine can do," she said.

When California legalized recreational use of cannabis in 2016, the development actually turned out to be a setback for medical marijuana, she said. In addition to new laws making it more difficult for indigent patients to receive free medicine, the new laws also eliminated some products. Etheridge knows because several years ago she launched her own cannabis brand, Etheridge Farms in Santa Cruz, to manufacture and distribute a wide range of products. Among them was a cannabis-infused wine, now deemed illegal by the state. "I put a few bottles away," she said, "and will revisit the idea" once the legal atmosphere allows it. She plans to introduce a line of other products, including tinctures, vape pens, and flowers.

When she's not on the road performing, Etheridge says she is "very involved" with her 11-year-old twins, who go to school in Los Angeles. She also has two older children, a 21-year-old daughter who is a senior at Columbia U. in New York, and a 19-year-old son whom she describes as a "wildness man."

If fans miss Etheridge's appearances in the Bay Area this summer, they can look forward to hearing her new songs, released soon in her upcoming, 15th album. She says they will reflect "the tensions in a Donald Trump-ruled America." The songs are "guitar-based" and based on "emotional experience."

Emphasizing her optimism, Etheridge says she finds current times to be "really inspirational." While she "had to stop reading the news every day," Etheridge says she is still aware of the political power struggle in our country. "I believe 'we the people' will prevail," she said.

Tickets, July 21 at the Mountain Winery ($29-$329):; July 22 at the Rodney Strong Winery ($89-$129):