Mickey & Bill @ Green Apple Fest
Green Apple fest rooted in Earth Day
Eclectic event aims to promote awareness of environmental issues
BY JAY LUSTIG Star-Ledger Staff
The Green Apple Music & Arts Festival is intended to keep Earth Day itself from becoming extinct.
Earth Day -- "a global holiday to celebrate the wonder of life on our planet," in the words of its creator, John McConnell -- has been around since 1970. Yet it has never picked up much momentum. Some years, it seems to pass by with very little fanfare.
"(Earth Day) was huge, 20 years ago," Green Apple producer Peter Shapiro says. "The irony is that it's faded a bit in the present, even though the environment is as pressing and important an issue as ever."
This year, Earth Day takes place April 22. The inaugural Green Apple festival, which runs from Wednesday to April 23 at dozens of New York venues and at the Mexicali Blues Cafe in Teaneck, will seek to increase awareness of the day in particular and environmental issues in general. Green activists will distribute literature at shows and recruit volunteers.
The festival is, on one level, an attempt to resurrect the spirit of Wetlands, the New York nightclub Shapiro once owned. Wetlands, which closed in 2000, frequently hosted environmental benefits and had an area devoted to disseminating environmental information, promoting rallies and gathering signatures on petitions.
Like Wetlands, the Green Apple festival will feature lots of jam bands, but not be exclusively devoted to them. Locations will range from CBGB to Carnegie Hall. Artists will include Grateful Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, rapper Ghostface Killah, reggae stars Toots & the Maytals, and the New York Philharmonic.
There will be shows for children and a one-day film festival (featuring environmentally themed movies) at the American Museum of Natural History. The festival's closing event, at the Ziegfeld Theatre, will be the premiere of a documentary, "Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Rock Club," with vintage footage of groups like Phish, the Dave Matthews Band and Blues Traveler.
Green Apple has no central location, and there are no discounts for people attending multiple shows. "The idea was to be all over the city, and to be eclectic," Shapiro says.
While most of the shows are scheduled for April 21 and 22, the festival begins Wednesday with an appearance by the Rhythm Devils (featuring Hart and Kruetzmann) at the Canal Room club. The biggest event -- the sixth Jammys award show, devoted to honoring excellence in the jam-band scene, with lots of live music between award presentations -- takes place Thursday at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
As in the past, the Jammys sets will mix artists -- everyone from jazzman Chick Corea to classic-rocker Peter Frampton -- in odd and often unprecedented combinations. The late Frank Zappa, whose intricate, eccentric and emphatically countercultural music influenced many jam bands, will be honored with a lifetime achievement award.
"Everybody has different feelings on what the term jam-band means," says Steve Bernstein, publisher of Relix magazine, which is co-producing the festival and featured Zappa on the cover of its April/May issue. "To me, it's about the highest quality of musicianship, people who really perfect their craft. People in the jam-band scene know good music, and Frank is very much embraced."
Jamming was not necessarily Zappa's focus, Shapiro says, "But I think the spirit of the Jammys is that it's unexpected. No one knows where it will go. (Zappa's award) doesn't make any sense in a lot of ways, but it makes a lot of sense in a weird way."
B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 W. 42nd St., (212) 997-4144
April 22, The Mutaytor, featuring Mickey Hart, $16.50
Canal Room, 285 W. Broadway, (212) 941-8400
Wednesday, 9 p.m., The Rhythm Devils, featuring Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, sold out; April 21, 8 p.m., Steve Kimock & Stephen Perkins, $25
EarthFair at Grand Central Terminal, East 42nd Street at Park Avenue
April 22, the Mutaytor, with Mickey Hart and Baaba Maal (6 p.m.). All free.