GAINESVILLE — Band tour buses and vans from all over the country are trucking to a 350-acre farm near Atlanta this weekend to participate in the first Echo Project music festival that will take place Oct. 12-14.
The event will bring more than 60 bands from around the country to the eco-friendly setting, including local acts from Athens, Dahlonega and Atlanta. National headliners include The Flaming Lips, Les Claypool, The Killers, Medeski Martin and Wood. Local acts Dead Confederate, the Spencer Durham Band and Perpetual Groove are also slated to perform.
The goal of the festival is to power all 60-plus performances on three different stages with alternative energy sources. The company Sustainable Waves focuses its energy on reducing carbon emissions and plans to help power the festival with solar powered sound and staging.
Local volunteers also gathered at the privately owned Bouckaert Farm, the site of the festival, about two weeks ago to clean up parts of the Chattahoochee River, which runs through the festival’s campground areas.
Nationally touring act Umphrey’s McGee is participating in the eco-friendly festival and encourages all fans to travel to shows in groups to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles.
Joel Cummins, keyboardist for Umphrey’s McGee, said bands are being presented with more and more environmentally-friendly options for travelling and performing. And in turn, bands like them who tour nationally are encouraging their fans to think green as well.
The average attendee at an Umphrey’s McGee show travels 150 miles by car to see the band play, producing approximately one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile driven, according to a brochure from the band.
"We want to be as environmentally conscious about the things we do and the decisions we make as possible, and we want to provide options for other people to do the same," Cummins said.
The Chicago-based band gives ticket buyers the opportunity to donate 40 cents of their ticket purchase to Native Energy, a company that aims to offset carbon emissions by funding renewable energy sources. For 15 cents more, fans can fund the planting of a tree each time they buy a ticket to see the band play.
Vince Iwinski, manager for Umphrey’s McGee, said the band has used its influence in Chicago and elsewhere to support music venues to implement green habits, such as providing corn-based cups, recycling bins and trash cans with biodegradable linings at shows. Iwinski also said the band is having its tour bus outfitted with the capability to use biodiesel.
Local bands say it’s not so easy to use alternative fuels such as biodiesel when you’re simply trying to get from point A to point B without running out of fuel.
"Most original bands are poor and being eco-friendly and buying a converter kit to put in your van is hard to do when you’re trying to put out an album," said Chance Walls, lead singer of Atlanta-based rock group The Lord is My Shotgun. Walls will be performing at Echo Project and said he would like to equip his five-member band’s van with the necessary technology to use biodiesel fuels such as vegetable oil.
"It’s just a matter of time and accessibility," he said.
Rick Durham, father and manager of Spencer Durham of the Dahlonega blues group the Spencer Durham Band, said the five piece band tours all over the country nearly year round. The 45-foot long tour bus takes 150 gallons of gas to push the fuel gauge to full.
He said the band uses recycled paper for fliers and posters and hopes to someday alter the bus to run off vegetable oil from restaurants. Durham said that since the vegetable oil can be obtained at little or no cost, he believes the equipment would pay for itself in the long run.