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August 17, 2003

Evolve: Music for the Revolution

Music for the revolution
http://www.rabble.ca/news_full_story.shtml?sh_itm=ff87c3f992ba98f8c160f3f8825a81ed&rXn=1&

"One of the worst mistakes any revolution can make is to become boring. It leads to rituals as opposed to games, cults as opposed to community and denial of human rights as opposed to freedom." Abbie Hoffman

>by Chris Arsenault
August 29, 2003

Don't worry, Abbie. Last weekend's mini-musical revolution, Evolve, which took place in Antigonish, NS, was anything but boring. More than 5,000 people and 50 different musical acts camped out for this fourth annual music and awareness festival.

Evolve is unique because unlike other large scale concerts, it doesn't accept any corporate sponsorship or advertising.

“We're trying to create a community space to let people connect,” said awareness co-coordinator and long time activist, Nadi Fleschhut.

The festival's location, in rural Nova Scotia, gave youth from Cape Breton and other traditionally marginalized areas, the chance to experience some solid alternative culture while connecting with progressive ideas. There was a definite 1960s-like vibe surrounding the whole place — plenty of dreadlocks, clouds of marijuana smoke and even some nude body painting.

Most music fans could find something in their scene, as three stages represented some of the best in world beat, house, reggae, bluegrass, hip hop and electronica. Tickets were $50.00 for the three days, which some considered expensive. However, with more than 50 acts, the economics work themselves out.

Evolve's example as a non-corporate success story is an ideological boost for those striving for community and local power, but the non-corporate angle also had more tangible benefits. Water didn't cost $5.00 a bottle! It was free! You could pee in peace, as the porta-potties weren't covered with Molson ads. The concession stands were run by small business people; tofu burgers, from Café 4:20, at $3.50, were especially tasty.

And you weren't surrounded by unsightly garbage, as festival organizers did their best to minimize Evolve's ecological imprint, instructing people to compost their fruit and recycle their many beer cans.

The dualism of music/awareness meant people could dance to acid jazz, jungle DJs and instrumentalists and then take in workshops on Reiki healing, bio-diesel or fair-trade coffee.

Some in attendance downplayed the political significance, saying it was just a big drunken party. “Today I saw a bunch of kids sitting in the water [there was a waterfall near the site] drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, and I don't think that's too environmentally friendly,” said Steve Brooks, a former McGill student

Even if some participants would rather chant drinking songs than protest slogans, the festival's beginnings were uber-political. “For a whole lot of us, the idea of having something like Evolve happened after the anti-World Bank protests in Washington, DC in 2000,” said Fleschhut. “We wanted to demonstrate for something. We wanted a celebration.”

Volunteers scrounged what little savings they had, borrowed money from parents and did everything possible to get the cash for the first festival. It was a success and thousands more come out every year. The well-regarded Wasabi Collective showed up in their propane powered school bus, as part of their cross-Canada tour. And headlining this year's festival were Jam-Jazz superstars Medeski, Martin and Wood, who flew from California just to be there.

Tan-Nee NG hosted a workshop on racism and white privilege, and spent most of the festival behind a table selling radical literature and giving away flavoured condoms. “Of the thousands of people who are here, only a few hundred checked out the info tables,” she said. “But that's better than nothing. Besides, it doesn't have to have the label revolution to be a revolution.”

Chris Arsenault is a Halifax freelance writer.


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