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Earth tones

The 2009 Boston Green Fest cleans up nice
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  August 18, 2009

OMNI-CONSCIOUS MC Mr. Lif headlines when GreenFest 2009 opens on Augst 20.

Last year, I went to a landfill. It was awful. Our trash-filled van was briskly waved past a row of methane vents (each perma-farting blue flames into the sky) and toward a road that coiled up around the main hill — which wasn't so much a hill as it was 4.25 million tons of fucking disgusting.

As we circled toward its peak, we felt the ground gradually softening beneath our tires, the wind whipping by in a gauze of mysterious brown. At the top, a pair of massive insectine vehicles used their spiky wheels to lurch across the heap's spongy surface, as hordes of gulls shrieked and dove around us. We tied T-shirts around our faces to block the smell and frantically hurled our bags of unwanted shit into (or onto) the unknown — which, it turns out, has Q-Tips, chicken bones, and soda bottles sticking out of it.

Have you ever been to one of these places? I think it should be like jury duty. If landfill trips were compulsory for all citizens, not only would we all come away with a reason to buy some nice new sneaks, but we'd leave equipped (or burdened) with a cruelly clear perspective on just what we're doing to our little planet. Which is very, very bad.

As much as my idea might be do to traumatize people into eco-consciousness, it's a tad impractical. When I relate my landfill visit to Lauran O'Neal, she winces in a discernible "eww." She's the programmer of the Boston GreenFest, which is set for City Hall Plaza this weekend, and her approach to making people mindful of the environment doesn't involve trudging up squishy mountains of discarded tuna cans and coffee grounds.

"We're trying to teach people how they can make small changes in their daily routine," she says. "It's overwhelming to think of how you can change the world, just by doing some really small things."

This year's GreenFest would not count as one of those small things by any stretch: O'Neal (herself of Boston rockers Cheater Pint) and her fellow organizers have booked more than 60 musical acts (many of them local — van journeys aren't so green), put together a recycled runway show, assembled an exhibit of fuel-conservative concept cars, and planned a bunch of workshops on urban farming and green technology. Everything from the festival banners to the 'Gansett tallboys in the beer garden is recycled and recyclable. And if you do happen to catch a whiff of something landfill-esque, you're either standing too close to the T kiosk or you've strolled past the on-site composting center.

"The idea was to make this as diverse a festival as possible," says O'Neal — and the bill of performers she's booked bears witness to her mission. Omni-conscious MC Mr. Lif headlines Thursday, West African fusion sensation Mamadou tops Friday night, and beer-destroying rockers Lucero will close Saturday. There's also a family stage (for the kiddies), and a host of green-minded local acts including Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents, the Gentlemen, the Neighborhoods, the Dirty Truckers (at least two not-green things about that band that I can see right off), and Cassavettes — to name just a peck.

If it seems incongruous to celebrate the rich splendors of our earth atop the brutalist brickyard that is City Hall Plaza, O'Neal feels you. "Yeah, I know. It's a sea of brick, but it's a great spot. We're actually trying to get some trees donated." With the expected 50,000 people coming to party (and expel invisible tons of CO2), the scenery seems like less of an issue than the aftermath. "We just don't want a Plaza covered in plastic bottles when we're done. That would be bad."

BOSTON GREEN FEST 2009 | City Hall Plaza, Boston | August 20: 5 pm–10 pm; August 21-22: 10 am–10 pm | Full line-up and event information at

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 See all articles by: MICHAEL BRODEUR

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