Green Apple Fest | 04.20 | USA

San Francisco | Chicago | Denver | Washington, DC

Words by: Nick Boeka

Green Apple Music Festival :: 04.20.08 :: Speedway Meadows/Golden Gate Park :: San Francisco, CA

Mickey Hart & Tommy Lee :: 04.20 :: SF, CA
By Susan J. Weiand
Marking its third year, the Green Apple Music Festival once again took over and hosted this year's largest Earth Day event in the world, now throughout eight participating cities in the United States. Peter Shapiro, Green Apple founder and organizer, reported approximately 200,000 people attended the completely free events over the weekend, which highlighted not just musical acts but also painters, sculptures, writers and a wide range of vendors showcasing eco-friendly and forward thinking products. In San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is a perfect venue for an event of this magnitude, and in the second year in a row this SF spot drew the largest crowds of any of the Sunday events. By days end, the tally hit over 25,000 people.

What this means is that as you enter the enormous park your experience begins long before you even make it to the concert grounds. There are many people around you, all walking briskly following the faint sounds of music playing in the distance, converging on Speedway Meadows. The meadow is actually a large flat field nestled in a small valley in the center of the park. There is always a large stage setup, and even though the music doesn't start until noon, by 8 a.m. there are already hoards of people squatting spaces and setting up shop. The weather was beautiful on this weekend tribute to Mother Earth - a little windy but full of blue skies and warming sun.

Brett Dennen opened up the afternoon with a strong set. His sound is a bit mainstream and poppy but his great songwriting and a charismatic style are appealing. Once he started playing it immediately attracted people wandering into the area. Following Dennen's set, Mill Valley's Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks took the stage with special guest Michael Kang of The String Cheese Incident. Hicks' classic folk-lounge band style featured two female back-up singers and a full string band. Hicks has an incredible sense of humor and the rapport he has with his bandmates allows him be funny, crude and somewhat rude in an acceptable manner. Midway through his set, he introduced Kang, who emerged with his electric mandolin and jumped right into trading licks and strumming along. Despite having a violin next to him the whole show, Kang never went to the fiddle and instead produced some pretty standard but still impressive solos.

Joan Baez :: 04.20 :: San Francisco, CA
By Dave Vann
During the intermission, one of the hosts of the event, Radio Active, emerged and provided a beat box and pan flute mini-set. A small green puppet emerged on stage to announce it was running for President. Once the break was over, Yonder Mountain String Band came out for a perfectly placed, fast paced set. As the sun hit the top of the stage, Jeff Austin led them into the opening notes of "Casualty" and they were off and running.

This was the ideal atmosphere for Yonder - outside in the sun with no shoes on. It didn't take long for bassist Ben Kaufmann to take over the lead vocals and by the middle of the set the crowd had nearly doubled in size. There was a "Traffic Jam" segue that led to fan favorite "Follow Me Down to the Riverside," which eventually ended up in a reggae jam tease before settling into "2 Hits and the Joint Turned Brown", which arrived just as the clock passed by 4:10 p.m. At the close of their set, master of mischief Wavy Gravy came out to kill time while they set up for the next group. I feel bad for him because so many of the young attendees, sadly, did not know who he was and were heckling him.

At this point I noticed someone backstage standing next to Mickey Hart whose name was not on the bill. In an unannounced appearance, Bob Weir joined Hart and his Mass Drum, taking the stage with his former bandmate for a set opening "Blackbird." Hart is so bad ass that he didn't need a whole kit, just two drums and he was ready to rock. After fine- tuning their instruments, the pair were joined by Kaufmann and Kang for Dead staples "Friend of the Devil" and "Peggy-O." In another surprise, towards the end of this opening collection of songs, Joan Baez emerged. Afterwards, the friends left the stage and Hart was joined by a collection of drummer that led the crowd through a half hour of tribal drum music. Included in the morphing ensemble onstage was Jon Fishman, Tommy Lee (yes, Tommy Lee of Motley Crue), Bobi Cespedes and the Rhythm Village. The performance ended with a truly extraordinary version of "Not Fade Away" featuring Weir, Hart, Kang, Baez and Lee.

Later in the evening, the official post show party at 1015 Folsom paved the way for an electronic super group calling themselves Symbiotic Orchestra consisting of Kang, Steve Molitz, Aaron Holstein, KJ Sawka, Jamie Janover and Audio Angel. There was just too much good music to be seen by just one person, and that's the way a true festival should be. Kudos Green Apple!

Green Apple Festival :: San Francisco, CA by Dave Vann
Wavy Gravy & Tommy Lee by Dave Vann
Yonder Mountain String Band by Dave Vann
Joan Baez and Mickey Hart by Dave Vann
Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks w/ Michael Kang by Dave Vann
Michael Kang by Susan J. Weiand
Ludacris by Susan J. Weiand
Joan Baez by Susan J. Weiand
By Susan J. Weiand
Tommy Lee by Susan J. Weiand
Brett Dennen by Susan J. Weiand
Hart, Weir and Kang by Josh Miller
Mickey Hart & Bob Weir by Josh Miller
Mickey Hart & Tommy Lee by Josh Miller

Continue reading for Green Apple coverage from Chicago...


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