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…

By: Pat Knibbs

Green Apple :: 04.22 :: SF by Flanigan

Chicago’s part of the second annual Green Apple Music Festival and Earth Day celebration was filled with numerous performances throughout the city by artists from many genres over the span of four days.

Kicking off the extended weekend at the House of Blues was Backyard Tire Fire, New Monsoon and headliner JJ Grey & MOFRO. The night was packed with head-bobbing drinking songs, neo-psychedelic improvisation, and dirty “Country Ghetto” anthems.

The powerful trio Backyard Tire Fire opened with a short, intense set. Having seen them the previous week at the Wanee Festival, I was surprised by how much better they sounded within the confines of a club. They plowed through their set, and even welcomed out MOFRO’s saxophonist for a slow, funky “If It Makes You Feel Good Its Alright.” The other highlight was the humorous “How In Hell Did You Get Back Here,” which mashed together country lyrics with punk attitude.

The Marley Brothers
04.22 :: SF by Flanigan
Spewing forth a unique blend of genres and influences, San Francisco quintet New Monsoon was the meat in the night’s southern rock sandwich. Their uncanny ability to mesh together everything from bluegrass to Eastern polyrhythms makes them an intriguing live act. Though each individual is very talented, it’s their impressive rhythm section of drummer Marty Ylitalo and bassist Ron Johnson that hold the group together. Johnson’s smooth consistency and in-the-pocket grooves were masterfully in sync with Ylitalo throughout their set. Highlights included the up-tempo opener “Sweet Brandywine,” a nasty “Romp,” and the poppy, lyrical “Water Vein.”

Beneath pictures of two curling snakes and the phrase “County Ghetto” draped across a pair of gigantic banners, singer/guitarist/organist JJ Grey and his band MOFRO strutted confidently onto the stage just after 11:30 p.m. The Florida born bandleader admitted to the swelling crowd how much fun he’s had on the current tour, and how he’d been looking forward to this particular night. After his first sip (of many) from what appeared to be a glass of whiskey, Grey turned up his snazzy looking Gibson SG and unleashed an onslaught of raw, emotive guitar-driven rock songs. The self-confidence exuded by Grey was borderline cocky but provided an edgy chip-on-the-shoulder feel to the music. “Dirtfloorcracker” was a perfect example – gritty funk undertones complemented Grey’s raspy full vocals, slick guitar solo and a mid-section jam that included the children’s song “Jimmy Crack Corn.” Other highlights included a slow, foot-stomping “Country Ghetto” and an impressive “Cool Jerk” jam that focused on individual solos.

All three of these groups played solid sets, and helped draw attention to a worthy cause.

Continue reading for San Francisco’s Green Apple celebration…

By: Nick Boeka

Karl Denson :: GBA :: 04.22 :: SF by Flanigan
San Francisco provided the West Coast backbone of the Green Apple Music Festival, featuring performances at over 20 venues throughout the city that culminated in a free outdoor concert coinciding with the Chicago and New York City events at the Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park on Earth Day. Even the Earth was geared up for the Sunday event, with the weekend’s rain halting Saturday evening, leaving behind perfect, clear blue skies and warm April sun which tanned bodies all day Sunday.

The citywide festival was a great success and offered performances from many premiere acts including Willie Nelson, Railroad Earth, Tea Leaf Green, Yonder Mountain String Band, and The Greyboy Allstars, who closed out the San Francisco portion of Green Apple with a Sunday night performance at The Independent. In true festival fashion there were many collaborations over the weekend. Sit-ins were reported at nearly every event, unique bands created from the talent around town.

Josh Clark & Eric McFadden – TLG
4.20 by Flanigan
On Friday night, Jemimah Puddleduck, made up of Bruce Hornsby keyboardist J.T. Thomas, drummer John Molo (Phil Lesh and Friends), Ratdog guitarist Mark Karan, and bassist Bob Gross, played at The Sweetwater in Mill Valley. That same night, Tea Leaf Green was joined by ALO‘s Dan Lebowitz prior to his own show at the 12 Galaxies. Eric McFadden, who was performing with his trio at the nearby Boom Boom Room, lent his axe work to an inspiring rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Young Lust”, and again joined TLG during their second set at The Fillmore. Lebowitz hurried out to make his own show, which featured an extended opening set from DJ Motion Potion and an entire night of jams, improvisational music and funk. Lebowitz was joined by Bay Area keyboardists Jordan Feinstein and Eric Levy, drummer Inx, bassist Mark Calderon and Sean Leahy, who scurried from venue to venue all night. In true Mission fashion, this 12 Galaxies performance reportedly ran until 5 a.m.

Railroad Earth 4.20 by Weiand
On Saturday night, the city came alive once again. Railroad Earth played a second evening at the Great American Music Hall, while Colorado’s Yonder Mountain String Band filled the Fillmore with their unique style of new-grass. Yonder spent a little extra time in California and offered additional performances throughout the state, including Sunday in Santa Cruz.

Returning to the 12 Galaxies, Falcor and Friends presented the funkiest band from across the pond, The New Mastersounds, and the powerful Big Organ Trio for a Hammond filled night. Both very impressive bands in their own right, but together the vintage intensity shook bodies into motion.

Martin Sexton :: 04.22 :: SF by Vann
On Sunday, a small, centrally located section of Golden Gate Park was transformed into a festival playground offering free performances from an eclectic set of artists, which drew a truly eclectic audience. People of all ages and races descended on the Speedway Meadows in a celebration of the Earth. The Green Apple Music Festival – who pledged a total Carbon offset for the event – boasted attendance of 15,000+ people in both Chicago and New York City. At the end of the day, San Francisco organizers estimated nearly 20,000 people showed up for the Bay Area performances.

Jonah Smith started his set to a growing crowd before noon. The New York City based singer/songwriter has been on tour supporting Martin Sexton, who also performed at the SF event. Smith has a unique approach, performing in front of his piano or switching to guitar after he’s started a loop. His short set was a perfect start to this day in the park.

Martin Sexton was next, and the Massachusetts guitarist/songwriter had a stage presence as big as his voice. Two songs in, “Candy” provided great lyrics and a vocal solo that emulated a lead guitar. Midway through the set, the band circled around two microphones for a stripped-down jug band feel, offering great renditions of Johnny Cash’s classic “Folsom Prison Blues” and Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round in Circles” that made the crowd sing.

Stephen Marley :: 04.22 :: SF by Weiand
Following a quick set change, Southern California’s Greyboy Allstars brought their NOLA-style funk with a great selection of songs, both old and new. The Greyboy Allstars just released their first album in 10 years, What Happened to Television, and are hitting the road hard in May to support it. Drummer Eric Kalb from Deep Banana Blackout is the newest addition to Greyboy, and seemed to take the new position in perfect stride. The band is fueled by the incredibly skillful work of brass man Karl Denson, and vintage key maestro Robert Walter. Their set immediately changed the vibe of the afternoon and quickly, starting with their sound check, had fans rising to their feet in anticipation of the boogie.

As the afternoon drew on, the stage was cleared to make room for the nine-piece Stephen Marley Band, who caused the field to suddenly swarm with folks eager for the sounds of Jamaica. The festival was quickly transformed into a scene from Burnin & Lootin. Looking around, it was inspiring to see an event bring together such a diverse group of people. Midway through the set, Marley was joined by Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley who played MC for the rest of the set, which included a medley that included “Could You Be Loved.” Stephen Marley performed again later that evening at the Fillmore.

Hagar & Weir – Ratdog :: 04.22 :: SF by Mark Davidson
Bob Weir and Ratdog closed the afternoon with a classic set that began with an opening tuning jam that segued into a “Jackstraw” > “Cassidy” > “Book of Rule” combo. Continuing the guest spirit, FM radio legend and booze merchant Sammy Hagar joined the band for a well-played “Loose Lucy.” Later in the set, ex-Spearhead MC Radioactive joined them for a jam that showcased his rapping and beatboxing skills. The encore paired a strong “Samson and Delilah” with an a cappella version of “Attics Of My Life.”

This extremely successful debut weekend for the Green Apple Festival in San Francisco prompted a lot of positive comments from attendees at various events around the city.

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