At my recent Hillside Festival gig in Guelph, I was amazed to learn that I'd be playing on a stage powered entirely by one 6-foot-square solar panel.
How inspiring to hear the numerous mics, amps and instruments running directly on the local rays. Who knew such a small patch of sunlight could be so loud, so lyrical? And so productive. That one solar panel not only fuelled the amps but also produced an excess of energy that was then stored in batteries for a "rainy day." That way, there was no fear of interruptions - one day's sun could easily produce two days' music.
This environmental activism was typical of the whole vibe of the festival. For instance, there were no paper plates, no huge, vomiting garbage cans of trash, slop and gunge. Instead, teams of volunteers earned their tickets by taking four-hour shifts washing recyclable plastic dishes.
Of course, the festival is a long way from having a zero footprint. All one had to do was look at the fields and fields full of the parked fossil-fuelled vehicles that had transported all these people here to know that. But the experience does awaken a dream.
How about an entire sustainable music festival? Eco-conscious singers playing green instruments made from sustainable forest products and recycled plastics, using local energy to play for an audience that arrives on foot, bicycle or public transit.
And there are lots of other energy sources to call on if need be. H-power, for instance - human motion. If the dance floor is made of the same material as touch monitors, every footprint, every heel stomp can be absorbed, relocated and fed wirelessly to the mainframe. Even in the dark, lots of people dancing can generate incredible volume - perhaps even a sustainable laser show.
Looking anew at the great guitarists, you can see a yearning for the sustainable guitar in their till-now incomprehensible moves. Weren't Pete Townshend's flailing power chords and ZZ Top's synchronized guitar spins a kind of glimpse of or code for the windmill-powered guitar of the future?
Factor in small portable windmills on everyone's beanies, hooked up wirelessly to the mainframe, and such a concert could even be an energy-plus situation. Instead of more coal-fired generators, we could just have more sustainable concerts. And when the sustainable band leaves town, there's no smog, no pollution.
The only evidence they were ever there is that song, that sustainable song that no one can get out of their head.