A little over a week ago, I braved threatening skies and a severe thunderstorm warning to visit with Jack Johnson on the kick-off of his 2008 summer tour. The show was in Noblesville, Indiana right outside of Indianapolis where I live when not in hotels and airplanes around the country. I hit the show with my husband and good friend, photographer and director Matt Mays.
Let's be honest, this isn't the first blog or even the first TreeHugger post about the mellow, eco-loving musician, and it's not likely to be the last. But here's why I think you'll enjoy this. I was invited to the show to check out Jack's All At Once program and the on-site Village Green, where local and national non-profit organizations gather to talk to concert-goers about ways they can get involved in causes from voting to city cleanup operations. I didn't expect any time with the famed musician himself. He has a strict no-press policy when he's touring (he tours with his wife and two little boys and wants the cozy, family feeling to remain intact), which I honestly respect and appreciate. But Jack, it seems, has this way of feeling at home whether he's grubbing back stage or mingling with volunteers before a show. And so it was that I got to tag along with Jack and his wife, Kim, who he labels as the brains and ambition behind the Village Green, as they chatted up volunteers before the show.
I walked contentedly along with Jack then watched as he doled out hugs like it was candy at a parade. (And to see the faces of the lucky hug recipients ) Some of the guys, like from Vote the Environment and the Surfrider Foundation, he knew because they'll be at shows all across the country. But volunteers manning booths for Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and Friends of the White River were floored that he took the time to come and meet them in person; just hours before he would take the stage before a packed house. So what? So now they are doubly committed to their causes, now that they see that someone in Jack's position cares about what they pour so much of their energy into, and they feel a sort of validation and re-inspiration and, beyond that, they've got a great new pic for their Facebook page.
As Mason Jennings finished up and Jack took the stage, the lawn and pavilion seats were full of youngsters and oldsters, all wet and muddy from their trek in during the downpour. I wonder if they see the whole Jack. They clearly love the groovin' fingers of this mellow fellow, but do they see how he inspires everyday people to tread a little more gingerly on our precious planet, and to, as he sings, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," I think they do, because from what I've seen, there's no separating the two sides of Jack Johnson. He's the read deal.
Jack Johnson's Eco-Rider
Together with Music Matters and Adam Gardner from Reverb (also famous from his band Guster) Jack and his team developed a program for creating an environmentally friendly concert tour. His road manager, Nik Tischler, keeps it all in line. Where most celebrity riders call for Evian water, green M&M;'s and a bottle of their favorite libation, Jack's calls for recycling centers, the use of local foods, reusable bottles, water-refilling stations and a request that venues offset their energy consumption. He and his team (you can hardly call it an entourage) tour the country making stops at well calculated fueling stations for their bio-fueled tour buses and trucks. And at each show a Village Green pops up, encouraging change and small commitments amongst concert-goers. Because, as Jack told me, if you get together to play music night after night, then it's just about the music. But add another element in, such as this, and you can really make an impact.
Take a look at my stroll through the Village and backstage in this video.
Video Credits: Host: Sara Snow; Camera/Edit: Matt Mays; Audio: Vincent Manganello; Company: Mays Entertainment.