The first “festival” I ever went to was Live Aid in 1985. The show raised $286 million for Ethiopian famine, while putting superstar artists on the stage including Black Sabbath, The Pretenders, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and Led Zeppelin (with, odd as it may sound, Phil Collins playing drums). As someone who came of age under the shadow of Woodstock and all that ’60s potential of music being a force for social good, I thought it would be the beginning of a renewed push for music to be more than music videos. I think it was, though somehow the mass-market packaging of the ’80s made it feel pompous. But musicians today seem more able than ever to both create music that’s socially relevant and to use their status to champion important causes.
Since this is our festival issue, in which we profile music and musicians performing in Colorado’s stunning natural venues, I wanted to call your attention to two Colorado based-organizations that are doing amazing work on two important issues.
Founded by cancer survivors Mike Peters (guitarist for iconic ’80s band, The Alarm) and James Chippendale (the founder of a music industry insurance company), the Love, Hope, Strength Foundation (lovehopestrength.org)buys equipment and raises money for cancer centers across the world. The organization does this by, among other things, hosting concerts in mountainous settings—previous shows have taken place in Kathmandu with a hike around Mt. Everest, on Peru’s Machu Picchu Trail, on Pikes Peak here in Colorado, on Mount Kilimanjaro and even atop the Empire State Building.
This year, I have promised to register as a bone marrow donor, through Love, Hope, Strength. There are 30,000 people in the U.S. who need blood marrow transplants but only 3,000 will find the right matches. Love, Hope, Strength will be registering donors at many of its events including the Mile High Music Festival here in Denver in August, as well as at Lollapalooza in Chicago and Bonnaroo in Tennessee. It’s a simple process to register that takes just five minutes and if you do it at one of the festivals, you don’t have to pay the normal $65 fee.
Founded by Boulder-based musician Todd Anders Johnson, The Risan Project (risanproject.com) raises awareness for the health of the planet though multi-media presentations about climate change and energy efficiency. It toured this past spring on the big-mountain heli ski and snowboard circuit in Alaska. Alongside the education on a warming planet and ways to lower carbon footprints, music came from Johnson’s band Salem and films included Sweetgrass Prodcution’s authentic core-flick Signatures and Protect Our Winters/Teton Gravity Research’s Generations, a ski/snowboard film that also attests to the effects of climate change.
So go enjoy your festivals, but know too that many musicians are doing something beyond playing on stage. •