Friday, July 3, 2009

Rothbury Reminiscin'!

Since I won’t be at Rothbury this year, the next best thing is…Reminiscing about last year’s Rothbury!  Thought I’d share some photos and tales from the festival’s inaugural year, 2008.

It was my first trip to Michigan, and it began by flying into Indiana and driving north to pick up some friends in southern Michigan.  The flight into Indy was delayed because of a massive rainstorm that kept us grounded for many hours.  It was getting late and I was starting to fall asleep in the airport—never mind having to make a connecting flight and THEN rent a car and drive an hour and a half to my friends’ house.  But, of course, I made it, and stayed the night with them.  The next morning, we drove another two and a half hours to the Rothbury Festival site on the Double J Ranch.  The site was utopian, skies were blue—what more could we ask for?

Not to be camping on sharp hay and puddles of mud, apparently.  But we persevered, my friends set up their tie-dye stand and began the great American festival weekend chill.  I, meanwhile, proceeded to march the mile or so to the stages.  Turns out that despite early entrance to the site, we were still camped at exactly the farthest point from all the music.  Not to worry; I would get a ton of exercise over the next few days!

Note: It’s a great idea to break new sandals in before getting to the festival.  Although I’d worn these new Chacos a few times, nothing could prepare my feet for the torture they were about to be put through, resulting in me not being able to get the feet into the Chacos by the last day.  Chacos, for those of you who are in the know, are slip-ons.  Slip-ons.

I was lucky enough to be attending the festival as the guest of the festival producers, Madison House, and over the next few days would have the opportunity to interview many of my favorite musicians.  I chose to attend this festival rather than, say, Bonnaroo, because not only was it a music festival with music I love, but it also had aims to become the “greenest” large-scale gathering in the country, music or otherwise, with an eighty-percent trash diversion rate for the weekend.  This was achieved by having hundreds of volunteers who worked "trash duty"—basically, standing near stations of three garbage cans labeled "Compost," "Recycle," and “Landfill.”  The festival’s aim was to make young people aware of climate change and get them involved in solutions. 

With killer music that weekend that included Phil Lesh, Dave Matthews, Widespread Panic, Gov't Mule, an acoustic Trey set and a Mike–Trey reunion (and debut of two new Phish songs), there were also little “think tanks” happening on site every day where musicians, climate change scientists, music fans, and festival producers would get together and talk about solutions to global warming and how to reduce the waste produced by festivals.  I attended one with Michael Franti from Spearhead and another with Dave Murphy from Sound Tribe Sector 9.

Conscious Alliance was also on hand all weekend, collecting donations of canned food from concertgoers.  That weekend, Conscious Alliance set a Guinness World Record for “Largest Canned Food Sculpture,” made from 45,725 cans that had been donated by Whole Foods market and would be donated to a local Michigan food bank at the festival’s end.

I attended a Greening Panel that featured the festival’s incredible Greening Chief, Sarah Haynes, who detailed the festival’s zero-waste plan: No items were handed out that might wind up in the trash.  All the disposable items that go along with food vending were mandatorily compostable.  We’re talking beer cups that looked like plastic, but were actually made from corn, and plates that looked like Styrofoam, but were actually made from sugarcane.  Wheat cutlery rounded out this picture, and all would be composted onsite after the festival.  The fuel for the generators was run not only on Biodiesel fuel, but recycled Biodiesel.  Water bottles weren’t sold; attendees were asked to bring their own, refillable ones, and load up at filling stations throughout the grounds.

The festival also featured a local Farmer's Market.  


While I was walking around, checking out the fresh selections, I started talking with a woman named Patrice at a stand called Full Circle organic farm.  Turns out Patrice was a teenager at the original Woodstock.  She went without a ticket and wound up serving food with the Hog Farmers that weekend.  Here she was, 40 years later, with her own organic food stand at yet another music festival!  It was a pleasure meeting Patrice and hearing her tales.

The weekend was incredible musically, weather-wise, and vibe-wise.  Highlights for me were the Dave Matthews set when he was joined on stage by awesome fiddler Anne Marie Calhoun, and running into my friend Nick just as Dave busted into Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer."  

Taj Mahal never disappoints, not to mention the near-Phish reunion, my first Greensky Bluegrass set, standing about ten feet from Trey for his first appearance back from the bust, the afternoon Steel Pulse set, and a 3 a.m. rave with Sound Tribe Sector 9 at the edge of Sherwood Forest--the best part of the Double J!  The forest is a few hundred yards of perfectly straight pine trees that separate the two main stages, and is decorated with webbing in the trees, little tipi chill huts, hammocks, weird colored lighting, and even a secret stage.  

There was also this really bizarre swinging monkey exhibit that looked to be some sort of amusement park ride that lay dormant during the day.  But one night, after coming back from a late-night show, the monkeys were in action.  The "ride" turned on, blaring techno music and a strobe light, so that it looked like the monkeys were swinging from branch to branch.  It didn't, of course, start moving until I was almost right underneath the thing--and, seriously, when that strobe began, it blinded me and I lost everyone in my party, who had all gone in search of...anything...that's...not...flashing...The monkeys still haunt me one year later, but I'll make it; don't worry.

If you’re headed to Rothbury this weekend, HAVE FUN, and definitely stop by and visit Carrie at the  Vintage Dead booth for your old-school tour t-shirts!  

I encourage everyone to attend Rothbury at some point.  Everyone floated around on an elevated consciousness vibe all weekend, with concertgoers actually staying on the main concert fields after the music was finished for the evenings and picking up trash to help the green crew. It was the cleanest festival I’ve ever attended, hands-down.  Hopefully they are keeping up and even improving upon their green aspirations.  Here are some more photos from the weekend.  Enjoy!

What's a festival without some dude in a sarong playing with devil sticks??

No festival at all, my friend.  None at all.

Guess who??

...and Happy Independence Day!  On July 4, we celebrate the declaration of our indepedence from rule that doesn't recognize our consent.  Let's not forget what this country was founded on: the right of all people to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.  ALL PEOPLE...



Brunson Hill said...

Those monkeys had some evil intentions. I can't believe we suddenly get to go this year. You hit the nail with the "elevated conciousness, other worldly" statement. I can't think of anything I'd rather experience 8 months pregnant. But it just won't be quite the same without you Joy (and Milton)!

Love always,

K.B. Keilbach said...

Thanks for the trip, Joy. I feel like I was right there with you.


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Joy said...