Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips rolls onto the Mall in his giant bubble © C. Taylor Crothers
After a weekend of green volunteer service, yesterday's Green Apple Festival in Washington, DC, was the nation's biggest environmental "thank you," an awesome gathering of activists, politicians and celebrities who came out to rally what organizers called a new "green generation." Meanwhile, visitors enjoyed booths along the mall for a range of organizations, like PETA (which featured a cute walking ball that could have been a chick or a chick pea), Motorola (touting a phone made of recycled plastic) and NASA, whose flimsy brown plastic tote bags (!) drew long lines. But by far the better use of plastic -- and the highlight of the show -- was the entrance of Wayne Coyne, the oddball dynamo behind the Flaming Lips.
Coyne in Bubble
With the Capitol as the backdrop, Coyne emerged in a bubble and rolled out over the crowd of thousands before launching into one of the most memorable sets Washington, DC, has ever seen.
As Coyne told us before the show, he's not interested in being an environmentalist; labels end up dividing people, he said (stay tuned for our full interview). He just wants people to be aware of the world around them, and of each other.
Deep readers might have heard "Race for the Prize," the opener, as a dedication to clean tech research, like the kind being exhibited half a mile behind the stage at the EPA's student-driven National Sustainable Design Expo. And the whole show was a call to arms -- and a call to dance -- for an eclectic, passionate audience. "Our entire set today is dedicated to the idea of believing in something and wondering to what extent its worth fighting for."
And when he sang "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Part 1," Wayne probably wasn't thinking of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, whom he had hugged earlier, with his cartoonishly large rubber hands. But, considering the struggle Jackson could face in implementing a new policy regulating CO2, she came to our mind at least: "'Cause she knows that/ it'd be tragic / if those evil robots win /I know she can beat them"
Flaming Lips play Fight Test
And though the Lips toned down their show slightly to match the glorious Capitol Hill backdrop -- and the environmental message that echoed throughout -- they kept some of their famous stage gimmickry to create the communal, exuberant vibe for which they're known.
Yep, there were fog machines and strobe lights and plastic confetti. But Coyne trusted the audience to help pick up the trash afterwards. "If I go to jail, I'm blaming you," he told thousands of fans, some of whom had waited for five hours for the Lips to take the stage on the mall, where millions had massed months earlier for the inauguration. Twenty minutes after the show, Coyne looked out at the emptying Mall, as a scraggly fan picked up the last bit of confetti. "We did it, didn't we?" he asked TreeHugger. "We really did it."
Climate bill author Ed Markey also spoke, DJ Spooky gave us a taste of his upcoming film/remix about Antarctica's melting ice, EPA head Lisa Jackson made an appearance, and Chevy Chase battled through an allergy to emcee the whole thing.
Also in attendance were Hilda Solis, U.S. Secretary of Labor, actor Boris Kodjoe, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus. Other performers included legendary jam bands Los Lobos and moe.
In addition to the DC event, there are 10 cities of coordinated volunteer activities across the U.S. - Washington DC; Austin, TX; Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; New York, New York; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA.
Stay tuned for more interviews and footage from the festival.