Sunday, October 21, 2007

Echo Project reviewed by Reid McCreary - Pictures coming soon!

After walking around a damp open field during a cold Georgia night, I start to feel icy grass blades numb my toes. Surrounding me are nothing but south Fulton county trees, the star-filled sky, and five towering stages. As I look down to the VIP bracelet that granted me access to this bitter empty field, I notice the rolling hills in the distance, covered by tents. Ten-thousand campers are preparing for three days of mind-blowing live music. I soon realize that this moment will be the most peaceful experience of my weekend, and that’s fine with me.

It’s mid-October in 2007, marking the very first Echo Project, an Atlanta-based event that blends concert atmosphere with environmental activism. Aiming to set the standard for earth-friendly festivals, the three day experience features five stages and approximately one hundred bands with musical stylings ranging from alternative folk to crunk beats. Through collaboration with other organizations including Sustainable Waves, Rivers Alive, and Clean Vibes, organizers have dedicated themselves to use hard work and the latest trends in technology to make a positive change on the earth. Throughout the weekend, the Echo Project pushes environmental concerns to the crowd, and mainly focuses on energy usage, waste management, and habitat restoration. Festival-goers are encouraged to participate in echo system activities spanning from climate seminars to recycled arts and crafts.

Entering the concert field Friday morning, I quickly choose to leave the aluminum crafts to the more tie-dyed and dreadlocked festival-goers. The most important concern in my mind is seeing as much live music as humanly possible and, thankfully, the media badge, plastered on my chest, allows me to do so. My concert endeavor begins with the Polyphonic Spree, a two-dozen member indie-pop band dressed in eccentric militant uniform. As the weekend continues, memorable performances are made by well-knowns like Common and the Killers, as well as lesser-knowns like the Album Leaf and the Secret Machines. Regardless of the act, each concert tends to have the same aspects: a sparse comfortable crowd, dedicated fans magnetically drawn to the front of the stage, and good-vibe seeking dancers in the back with their feet stirring up a cloud of dust and other substances.

The weekend comes to a high-point Friday night as Wayne Coyne and the rest of the Flaming Lips take the main stage as the first-ever headliners of the Echo Project. After Coyne rushes into the crowd via a human-sized hamster ball, a gathering of superheroes, Santa clauses, and aliens assemble on stage, among of the band. Playfully assaulting the crowd with balloons and confetti, the Lips tear into a heavy amount of music from their three most recent albums. In between each song, Coyne takes the opportunity to address the crowd with environmental and political issues. This culminates with the band dedicating a beautiful performance of “Waitin’ for a Superman” to war victims in Iraq. Other highlights of the evening include a bed-time sing-along to ‘Yoshimi Battle the Pink Robots,’ a confetti-heavy ‘Do You Realize,’ and an encore performance of ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ and the Rolling Stone’s ‘Moonlight Mile.”

Upon exiting the Echo Project late Saturday night, leaving the flickering stage lights behind, I realize that the festival has a bright future. The organizers of the event claim that 2007 marks the first of a ten year commitment to change the way festivals are powered. But, with great bands, comfortable crowds, and minimal carbon emissions, let’s hope the next nine years can live up to the first.

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