Festival Quickies: Rothbury, Pemberton / by Jason

The North American festival scene continues to gather strength as two more excellent-looking festivals have thrown their hats into the ring trying to capture our limited entertainment dollars. I wish I could quit my job for the summer and go to all of these festivals. They just keep getting better and better. On paper, at least, the competition is paying off in two areas: venues and greening.

First, the venues seem to be improving. Rothbury and Pemberton, both eponymous for their host towns in Michigan and BC, respectively, look to be much nicer than Manchester ever could be, if only for the weather. Neither festival is likely to hit 95 degrees, even in July, so hopefully these festivals won't be as much of an endurance test. And the actual physical locations look good, too, especially Pemberton with its stunning Rocky Mountain backdrop. I was born in BC and if I hadn't already made arrangements for Lollapalooza the following weekend I'd be looking very seriously at going to Pemberton. And both sites seem to be working hard to make the experience of staying at the festival even better, with relatively affordable upgrade options including cabins, better organized RV camping, and hotels with shuttles. Hopefully we'll start to see improvements in the general camping areas in the not-too-distant future.

But what about the greening? Well, both festivals are making a lot of noise about how green they're going to be. They're setting the bar high for themselves, especially Rothbury, which has adopted a theme of "Achieving Energy Independence" for the festival and has scheduled an interesting-looking seminar with some big names including Hunter Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Oddly, though, Rothbury's list of green initiatives is focused on waste management, with green energy coming in only at #8 on their list of 12 greening initiatives. Like Bonnaroo and Langerado, the festival is going to be experimenting with a shuttle bus service. Here's hoping they don't screw it up as badly as Langerado did. But it looks very much like Rothbury is taking the greening seriously, even to the point of secondary sorting of recyclables.

Pemberton has much less info available on its greening initiatives. What little there is doesn't suggest it will be spectacularly green--yeah, the festival will be powered by hydropower, but dams aren't green, dammit (pardon the pun). On the other hand, Pemberton is a family-farming community. Organizers have stated strongly that they'll buy as much food as possible from their neighbors and even if the food isn't 100% certified organic you can be assured that it will be minimally coated in pesticides and herbicides and other cides. I'm firmly of the opinion that buying and eating locally produced food from a farmer you've met is just about the greenest thing you can do. This is a very good move, one I would like to see other festivals in farming/agricultural communities (I'm looking at you Bonnaroo and Langerado) copying in the very near future.

As we get closer to July I'll try to round up some interviews with these two festivals and do a more in-depth look at their greening campaigns.

By the way, since this is still a music-related blog, Rothbury's lineup is freaking amazing. Here's some Dynamites to take it home: