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Blues & Roots Goes Green

Blues & RootsXavier Rudd tapped his bare feet to a grassroots beat. John Butler brought Fremantle-inspired compositions to the stage. Wolfmother owned the stage like the rock stars they are. The Waifs strummed folk ditties. Missy Higgins unveiled new songs, a new band, and (equally important to many fans) a new haircut. Ben Harper had the whole of Freo jiving with his soulful anthems. And that was just the main stage…

Thirty-nine acts on three separate stages overtook the Fremantle Esplanade for the 4th annual West Coast Blues & Roots Festival. Some ticket holders arrived as soon as the gates opened to secure a front and center spot for their favorite act later in the day. Perth’s lesbians, myself included, were out in force, hip and shouldering all and sundry in the rush to get to the front rows to watch Missy Higgins as she twirled adorably (and somewhat like a Thunderbird) around the stage.

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While the festival was undeniably about the music, there was so much more to the experience. Alongside Blues & Roots, the Fremantle Fringe Festival brought local talent to the broader community in free performances throughout Fremantle. With even greater community support and an expanded 2-day format, Blues & Roots was not just bluesier than ever before, it was greener as well.

The concert this year implemented Green Roots, a range of environmental programs to minimize the festival’s impact on the earth. Recycling stations were set up throughout the festival grounds and a Green Team ensured waste found its proper bin. Meanwhile, ticket holders could contribute to the cause (and earn five Green Dollars to spend at the concert) by filling a biodegradable bag from the recycling centre. To combat the carbon emissions caused by the event, Blues & Roots has undertaken a tree planting program with the City of Fremantle. Other eco-friendly festival touches included a solar-powered mobile phone charging station, fliers printed on recycled paper, and vehicles running on bio diesel.

The green theme did not go unnoticed by concertgoers or the musicians. As the Cat Empire’s lead singer Felix Riebl pointed out, the two causes go hand in hand, ‘It’s the world we’re living in and if we stuff it up, there are no more festivals’. Meanwhile Ben Harper, the festival’s headlining act, opened his set with the song ‘With My Own Two Hands’, and as I held up my hands along with thousands of other fans, the energy of the festival seemed a true catalyst for change. When the sets finished and only the echo of music remained, the promoters promised further progress (and more toilets) for next year.

With its cruisy blend of world-class music, ample chillout space and a festival village atmosphere, Blues & Roots was one of the best music events I’ve been to. As for Blues & Roots 2008, I, for one, have already started counting down.

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