A previous version of this article misidentified the final song in the set by the band Umphrey's McGee. It was "Plunger," not "All in Time." The article also misidentified a guitar used by Warren Haynes. It was a D'Angelico New Yorker, not a Gibson Les Paul.
A Watered-Down Lineup
Monday, April 21, 2008
Earth to Earth Day concert attendees: Hey, kids, get off my lawn! (And take your dime bags with you!)
They threw an environmental-themed party yesterday on a grassy patch of the Mall, but Mother Earth turned out to be a most disagreeable host. The Green Apple Festival was interrupted by a mid-afternoon electrical storm, which sent thousands of concertgoers scurrying for shelter in the nearby Smithsonian museums. After a 50-minute delay, the concert resumed -- but not for long: Organizers soon canceled the rest of the show because of the weather.
"Without rain, there'd be no Earth," the event's executive producer, Peter Shapiro, said philosophically backstage. This as three members of the legendary reggae band Toots and the Maytals trudged through the mud, headed back to their tour bus without having played a single note here. "I'm bummed about the weather," Shapiro said, "but I felt good about the atmosphere. And with an issue as important as the environment, you have to take things like getting your show canceled halfway through."
The Green Apple Festival partnered with the Earth Day Network to stage free concerts in eight U.S. cities yesterday, from San Francisco to New York. "And," Shapiro said, "we had great weather -- sun -- in the other seven cities." But the concert on the Mall was to have been the largest of the eight, a 7 1/2 -hour event featuring an eclectic lineup of artists and an equally eclectic group of activist speakers, from actor Edward Norton to NASA climatologist James Hansen.
Shapiro said he'd hoped to draw more than 100,000 people to the Washington concert, but the inclement weather kept attendance down: He estimated the crowd to be about 30,000 people throughout the day.
Still, spirits seemed to be high, as did some festival attendees themselves -- this being a green-leaning concert staged on April 20, which, of course, is shorthanded as 4/20, which, along with 4:20, happens to be counterculture code for smoking marijuana. (T-shirt slogan spotted in the crowd: "It's 4:20 Somewhere.")
"I heard you might be smoking some funny stuff," Alfred Duncan, frontman for the go-go band Mambo Sauce said before the group ripped through its signature song, "Welcome to D.C."
In fact, the pungent odor of cannabis wafted across the east end of the Mall early and often. "It smells like California," observed Marc Roberge, singer for the popular college-rock band O.A.R. So much for the sign at the cinnamon-almonds stand that read "This Is What You Smell."
As always at a concert-for-a-cause, art and message mixed and sometimes collided here. O.A.R., for instance, performed a cover of Bob Dylan's enduring protest anthem "The Times They Are a-Changin'," along with five of its own breezy, perfectly pleasant songs, which are a little bit reggae, a little bit lite-rock-and-soul. (Think Jack Johnson. Only from Rockville.) The group usually performs as a six-piece but pared down to an acoustic trio for the festival. Three dudes on stools, strumming and singing about love and memories, but also, in "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker," about revolution. Which would be, like, the most laid-back revolution on record.
Several blocks from the stage, there were information booths for environmentally friendly everything: flooring and technology and siding and laundry detergent, etc.
In the crowd, which seemed to be filled with college-age people, plus or minus a few years, somebody was passing out "Meat Is Murder" fliers, and there was a kid wearing a poncho with Bob Marley's dreadlocked visage on the back. There were guys going shirtless, and girls wore shorts and flip-flops, which kept getting stuck in the soggy grass. Garbage bags became popular rain slickers. A Frisbee was used as a rain hat. When the skies cracked open and drenched the festival-goers, which happened more than once, the festival-goers responded by cheering.
The weather didn't harsh the crowd's mellow so much as simply waterlog it.