Green Music Fest Not Like The Rest

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 20, 2014 6:00PM

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Photo courtesy Green Music Festival

Once upon a time street fests were dominated by faceless food vendors and crap beer and soundtracked by Mike & Joe and U2 cover bands. And those were the higher end affairs. Then suddenly bands like The Flaming Lips and Spoon—who were both just starting to hit their rise to mass popularity—started commanding the stages and the brews turned craft while the food turned fine. And we rejoiced.

But oh lord, what happens when we get too much of a good thing?

Now we are inundated with street fests clogging every weekend trying to position themselves as mini-Lollapalooza's with awesome food. They complain about not making enough money but in the end who even knows where the money they're making or not making goes? What it all amounts to is a glut of street festivals fighting each other for eyes, ears and stomachs and while we are gifted with choices galore the actual experience has plummeted into the category of barely tolerable.

So it takes a lot for us to actually recommend a street fest, but with this year's Green Music Fest we have found something interesting.

Let's begin with the bands. Instead of grabbing two dozen "hot" bands in hopes of attracting the dude-bros that subscribe to hip Pandora stations, organizers have instead stocked the main stage with bands that just might thrive in a street festival setting. Saturday's bill is the strongest, featuring Chicago's Geronimo!—whose latest album Cheap Trick is growing into one of our summer faves—and Meat Wave supporting bigger names like the crowd pleasing Bobby Bare Jr. and the eternally drunk, eternally rousing "hell no we can't play after 10 p.m. because we wouldn't still be standing" Guided By Voices, who by my last count have put out about 16 albums in the last 4 months. or something like that. Sunday's main stage is a little less exciting for us, but still well booked for maximum crowd approval and we have a really hard time not imagining a mass sing-along with AM Taxi when they hit the stage. The point is this is all great music but it's also music that seems perfectly suited to the venue of asphalt, beer and sun.

2014_06_green_music_fest_logo.jpg The second stage is stocked with lesser known bands but we'll be there for the sheer audacity of what organizers are trying to accomplish: they want to power the stage with bicycles. Seriously. They are going to have people pedaling through the sets to power the amps, spotlights and all the other gear. Either this is going to be amazing or we're going to hear a lot of acoustic sets. Either way, how can you miss this? It's amazing! In fact, if you want to power the stage, email organizers ahead of time to let them know or just show up day-of and volunteer on the spot. No word on whether the bikers fueling the stage will be fueling themselves with New Belgium Brewing, the fest's beer sponsor and famously bike friendly brewery. We presume they will.*

And that's only the biggest PR hook of the festival's ambition to truly be green. Because underneath the music and the food is the desire to truly push ecological and environmental initiatives to the forefront. Everything from what vendors serve food and beverages in to how they dispose of waste onsite and how they power the vehicles moving stuff from one place to the other all reflects their mission to "to connect eco-conscious Chicagoans with environmentally-sustainable companies, products, ideas and services, and inspire change in the community and lifestyles of its members."

So this is why we will be at Green Music Festival this weekend. As the Chicago street fest landscape has become so littered with carbon copies of each other it is truly refreshing to come across one that has a well stated and practiced mission, coupled with music, food and booze that truly speaks to the environment it's occupying. Well done.

*This is a rare moment for this writer given my longstanding animosity towards the beast that is Big Star, but if they happen to have it on tap I HIGHLY recommend you stop in during the fest to try out some of the Juvenalia they brewed up with New Belgium. It is light, citrusy, so so crisp and the perfect summer thirst quencher.