Move over Glastonbury: Newport Folk Festival showcases its green roots by powering stage with bikes

Move over Glastonbury: Newport Folk Festival showcases its green roots by powering stage with bikes

The great folk musician Pete Seeger once sang: “Without our brain and muscle, not a single wheel can turn.”

Mr Seeger, of course, was referring to the union movement. But this summer, at his beloved Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, attendees quite literally used their brains and muscles to turn some wheels.

At the “Bike Stage”, one of many festival venues, some attendees powered the artists’ performances on stationary bicycles that were hooked up to generate electricity.

The idea came from the band Illiterate Light, whose frontman Jeff Gorman told the Associated Press that it was the first-ever bike-powered performance venue at a music festival.

It’s a folk music festival, not an EDM show, so it’s not as if the performers need a ton of electricity. Even so, the bikes needed an additional boost so the stage also had solar panels hooked up, AP notes. However the bikes became an opening gambit for discussions on cleaner forms of energy.

“It’s a way for them to just do something different and for us to start the conversation around energy use and just thinking differently and trying out new ways of creating electricity,” Gorman told the AP.

According to local news outletWhat’s Up Newp, the event from 22 -24 July, also featured sustainable initiatives like food composting, water bottle refill stations and parking for those who arrived by bike.

The Newport Folk Festival has a long history of political activism. Formed in the late 1950s in part by musician and activist Pete Seeger, the event was associated with the civil rights movement from early on including a 1963 march through the city of Newport.

Over the years, it’s played host to many a protest anthem, with sets from Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie, among others.

This year, the festival saw appearances from folk legends like Joni Mitchell, with in her first performance in 20 years, as well as younger artists like Brandi Carlile, The Roots and John Craigie.