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Earth Day's moment in the sun

ralph stanleyTariq "Black Thought" Trotter performs with The Roots at Sunday's Climate Rally. (All photos by Bill O'Leary/TWP)

By Chris Richards

(Full photo gallery; video recap.)

Sting, Mavis Staples, the Roots -- some big stars came to Washington to perform at Sunday's Earth Day Climate Rally on the National Mall. But there was one unexpected surprise guest. Ladies and gentlemen, the sun!

It punched holes through the overcast early in the day -- a welcome change for an annual concert that's been particularly soggy in recent years. Last year's event was gray and drippy, and 2008's concert was thunderstormed out before the Roots, who were headlining, could even walk onstage.

Mother Nature must have gotten the memo that this year's awareness-raising, free-admission concert, organized by the Earth Day Network, marked the 40th anniversary of the environmentalist event. Tens of thousands gathered on the grounds between the Capitol and the Washington Monument to hear activists, celebrities and Congress-folk speak about the importance of renewable energy, green jobs and shrinking carbon footprints.

Oh, and there was some music, too. The Roots, the great hip-hop group that recently, finally earned household-name status as the house band on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," made a triumphant return to the Mall, scheduled to back performances from Sting, John Legend and a slew of others.


Sting was one of many of Sunday's high-profile performers.

They took the stage late in the afternoon, propelled by Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson's firecracker drumming and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter's dexterous rhymes. But their set ended rather unceremoniously when the sound system blew out.

Once organizers resuscitated the P.A., the Roots returned with Staples, the great soul-gospel singer, in tow. After that came Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump, who crooned Bobby Womack's "If You Think You're Lonely Now." As surprising as this transformation from emo-dude to blue-eyed soulman: Stump has slimmed down into quite the trim Fall Out Man.

Up next, micro-performances from the inimitable Booker T, the intolerable Joss Stone and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead -- the Roots playing it cool throughout.

Fans threw their hands toward the sunny skies. Not a raindrop in sight.

The only moisture launched from on high came from the rally's most fiery speakers. More than a few barbs where chucked at Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who on Saturday withdrew his support for a comprehensive climate and energy bill.

As frustrations curdled, issues blurred. "It is time to say no," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) declared from the stage. "No to those that deny the science, no to the flat-Earthers, no to the birthers!"

Backstage, Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers was more lucid but equally frustrated. "We have a stunning amount of scientific information that points to tragedy," Rogers said. "We're losing ground every single day in this country and I think the American public deserves to know that we're taking a back seat in the global economy by reducing efforts to go green."

Also backstage, a calm James Cameron was swarmed by reverent photographers as if the director's work on the blockbuster film "Avatar" had transformed him into some kind of eco-deity. His voice barely carried over the hyperventilating camera shutters: SnapSnapSnap "Hopefully, this is a consciousness-raising event . . . " SnapSnapSnapSnap.

Out on the grounds of the Mall, Avi everywhere. A gaggle of attendees roamed the grass-and-gravel in blueface, having just had visages painted like "Avatar" characters in a tent promoting Cameron's Avatar Home Tree Initiative, an organization committed to planting new trees.

"Welcome to Pandora," said one worker as she handed out seed packets to passersby who seemed interested in saving a metaphorical planet -- or maybe even their own.

Cameron was expected to speak from the stage before Sting's set. The Rev. Jesse Jackson came earlier, leading a call-and-response: "Go green! Let me hear you scream!" They were just two of the 60-plus speakers to grab the mike over the course of the eight-hour event.

To make room for all of the soap-boxing, many of the musical performances were cut woefully short -- most artists were allotted one to five songs apiece -- but many sets remained remarkably sweet.

Boston indie-rock troupe Passion Pit slapped the crowd awake after a spate of speeches, with young fans dancing wildly to the group's fat synthesizer riffs and singer Michael Angelakos's thin falsetto.

Earlier, Honor Society offered some similar soul-inflected emo-rock (R&B-mo?) and salsa icon Willie Colón performed with his nine-piece band, horns blazing.

Reggae great Jimmy Cliff, hot off his recent induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was joined by Legend for an impassioned rendition of "Many Rivers to Cross." Almost on cue, the smell of marijuana began to waft on the breeze.

It was actually a bit of a surprise. Yes, the concert drew the requisite shirtless bros kicking a hackey-sack, but this year, young indie rockers made their presence felt. Ray-Ban sunglasses outnumbered tie-dyed T-shirts by a considerable margin. Are hipsters the new hippies?

No matter. Under sunshiny skies, the Roots keeping the beat, we were all one planet under a groove.

john legend

By David Malitz  |  April 26, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  In today's Post  | Tags: John Legend, Joss Stone, Mavis Staples, Passion Pit, Patrick Stump, Sting, The Roots  
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Comments

Wow - that was Patrick Stump? I thought we'd been rickrolled. That set was my favorite, and Legend's my least, but I didn't know any of his songs.

Posted by: Hemisphire | April 26, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Thousands upon thousands rally for Earth Day throughout the country, and the national media barely mentions it. But, let a group fat old white men wear tea party hats, and the television news broadcasts it 24/7. Will someone please remind me again how the media has a liberal bias.

Posted by: Continuum | April 26, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Sure looks like the moderate middle is energized to come out and send a message to the science-haters and throw Republicans out of office in November, right?

Sounds like the Tea Party is a Hoax.

Posted by: thebobbob | April 26, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

In Alaska, home of America's largest forest, the Tongass National Forest, a battle is currently under way - being led by Alaska's congressional delegation sponsoring legislation to privatize nearly 100,000 acres of highly sensitive areas of our national park system, including large old growth reserves teaming with wildlife. Their intent is to turn these lands over to a private logging corporation for clear cut harvest. Something like this should never be considered, let alone sponsored at a time when people around the world are realizing the importance of protecting fragile ecosystems critical to maintaining environmental balance.

The Tongass is a rare jewel - a temperate rainforest that stores huge amounts of fresh water reserves, and draws in vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere daily; functioning as the lungs for our planet. S.881 and HR.2099 are the twin bills threatening the future of this critical planetary habitat.

The residents of eight communities who are surrounded by the National Forest area in question on Prince of Wales and Kosciusko Islands have come forward in opposition to these bills. 100% of people attending public meetings in these most affected communities have testified as being opposed. Yet their sponsors still push to move them forward; even to the point of trying to have them included in an Omnibus Lands Bill.

The people of Southeast Alaska who love their rainforest home are asking for your help. You understand something our Alaskan anti-environmental congressional delegation and this corporation do not; we have to find better ways to use and benefit from Earth's resources.

We must think of future generations. The answer to this unacceptable situation lies in the hands of New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. S.881 sits in his committee. Tell him to let this bad bill die.

In honor of Earth Day, take time this week and please call, or email his office and let Senator Bingaman know that you do not want areas of America's rainforest turned over to a private clear cut logging corporation. Please help the residents of Southeast Alaska working to protect
our planet on this 40th anniversary. Stop S.881/HR.2099 today, our children will thank you.

Posted by: rogerdipaolo | April 26, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Wow - and this breaking news didn't make this blog:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2010/04/25/GA2010042502728.html

Posted by: Hemisphire | April 27, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Great post - thanks for your excellent coverage of this event!

Posted by: jennifermarley80 | April 27, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

"Thousands upon thousands rally for Earth Day throughout the country, and the national media barely mentions it."

I was at the first Earth Day rally. Forty years later I'd guess the media is sort of bored with it all. Actually, they were bored with it the 2nd year.

The media covers smaller rallies if they're new and they think it'll bring a few laughs to the viewers.

And I've a big Joss Stone fan for years.

Posted by: JohnBT3 | April 28, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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