By: Brian Bavosa

Green Apple :: 04.22 :: SF by Vann
When we last left off, New York's favorite gardener and former owner of TriBeCa Mecca the Wetlands Preserve, Pete Shapiro, was tending to the finishing touches of 2006's inaugural Green Apple Music Festival. Since then, the seeds planted have thrown roots out from the concrete jungle of New York City to Chicago and San Francisco this year. While Green Apple incorporates JazzFest style late night performances in all three cities, the heart of the concept lies in the free festivities outside of Grand Central Station, Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo and San Fran's Golden Gate Park. The weekend, centered around Earth Day, is designed to raise awareness about environmental issues, Shapiro's passion since his Wetlands days.

Day 1 - 7:30 P.M.

The Duo :: 04.20 :: NYC by Chapman
Unique collaborations, pairings that wouldn't happen in any other setting, are one of the most exciting aspects of the Green Apple Festival. Old bands mixed with new ones full of "green" ideas at almost every event this year. At The Knitting Factory, The Duo, consisting of Marco Benevento and Joe Russo played two "acoustic" sets. Faves like "Something for Rockets" and "Scratchitti" mixed with mellow, jazzy jams in a comfortable, relaxing way.

Day 2 - 12:00 P.M.

Friday, outside of New York's Grand Central Terminal, things started at high noon, with a performance on Vanderbilt Avenue by the Paul Green School of Rock All Stars with Jon Anderson (Yes). Like the popular Jack Black film, students accompanied Anderson through an extremely impressive set of Yes' covers, peaking with a rousing "Roundabout." Heck, even the unseasonably cold weather decided to cooperate with a lovely 70-degree day.

Day 2 - 1:15 P.M.

Next up was Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams. These guys were part wizards, part Bob Dylan and part plain old New York freaks. They delivered a performance that featured Dylan's "Gates of Eden" and nods to The Who.

Day 2 - 4:30 P.M.

Particle :: 04.20 :: NYC by Chapman
A lengthy break let us stroll down Vanderbilt Avenue's booths full of healthy food and energy efficient light bulbs before last year's breakout stars took the stage. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have certainly gained more confidence since winning last year's Jammy Award for "New Groove of the Year," and this performance showed it. Potter's voice continues to make me shake my head in happy disbelief – a powerful, soulful voice with shades of Janis Joplin. She also steals your heart with her quaint, Vermont look.

Day 2 - 5:45 P.M.

My highlight of the day's activities came when Ozomatli busted into their Los Angeles flavored funk and ska. Just the right amount of horns, tequila and infectious rhythm spilled off the stage, inspiring an impromptu conga line through the crowded streets, a quasi-tradition that started in the very same spot last year. Shapiro commented that with the sound echoing off the buildings, Beer Bar overflowing, and the crowd at the foot of the stage stretching backwards, it all had a mountain-like feel right in the middle of the city.

Day 2 - 8:30 P.M.

The Radiators :: 04.21 :: NYC by Chapman
Since a successful and well-received reunion last summer, Zero finally made their triumphant return to NYC for the first time in almost a decade. Their performance at the newly opened Gramercy Theater introduced the city to the current incarnation consisted of Steve Kimock, Greg Anton, Martin Fierro, Melvin Seals, Liam Hanrahan, Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay and John Morgan Kimock. An opening "Anorexia (Is Not For Everyone)," an emotional, soul-raging combo of Kimock's familiar "Cole's Law" > "Tangled Hangers" and a surprise stripped-down version of "Franklin's Tower" solidified the fact that Zero are still major players in this game.

Day 3 - 12:00 P.M.

Zero played the first set outside Grand Central on Saturday, where highlights included "Catalina," "Chance in a Million" and a rare Melvin Seals vocals on "Me and the Devil." Again invoking the power of the Grateful Dead, an encore rendition of "Franklin's Tower" literally saw the sun turn the corner to join the crowd for one final dance before the Heroes of Zero returned home to the West Coast.

Day 3 - 3:00 P.M.

AOD :: 04.21 :: NYC by Chapman
After lunch in Bryant Park with some local media moguls (dubbed the "Bryant Park Breadstick Brigade"), we sauntered back to Grand Central for Assembly of Dust. Leader Reid Genauer has always had a light, poppy feel to his music, and this serving was perfect for the bubbling energy of this 80-degree day. "Westerly" was a tip of the hat to Strangefolk days at The Wetlands and a reminder to "settle down" - something easily forgotten in this dog-eat-businessman city.

Day 3 - 10:00 P.M.

Saturday night saw a double dose of Vermont quartets. Well, sort of. Touchpants, featuring Jon Fishman (Phish, Pork Tornado) opened for RAQ at the Bowery Ballroom. Touchpants was sort of comic relief but had degrading songs about women that didn't sit well. However, their onstage shot-downing antics had the place loaded by the end of their set.

The part of RAQ's set that I caught reminded me just how tight these guys are. Guitarist Chris Michetti was extremely impressive. Some of his solos were so blistering they could cause some serious brain aneurisms.

A quick cab ride to B.B. King Blues Club in Times Square got me there just in time for Phix's last New York City show before their impending breakup. They opened with "Buried Alive" > "Tube" and "Slave to the Traffic Light." They may be a Phish cover band, but they don't take themselves too seriously. Their music is spot on, which allowed for a very enjoyable time culminating in an extremely funky "Wolfman's Brother" and a peaking "Divided Sky." A familiar encore of "Loving Cup" sent us spilling out onto the New York City streets after 3 a.m., still riding high, remembering "What a beautiful buzz" the magical music of Phish can be.

Day 4 - 9:00 P.M.

After the free children's festivities in Central Park, by The Laurie Berkner Band it was time to put the kids to bed and make my way downtown to the Fat Mama reunion at the Knitting Factory. Anchored by Joe Russo on drums, these guys obviously enjoyed themselves, and their playing was extremely loose. A jazzy, slightly electronic horn extravaganza is the only way to describe Fat Mama, who was once a Wetlands regular. Overall, a successful reunion, and a fitting wrap up to the weekend.

Continue reading for Chicago's Green Apple celebration...

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