Rock The Green returns for a greener, brighter second year

Rock the Green, the now annual fall green music festival, showed it was doing its part to help progress the idea of near-zero waste lifestyle practices for a second consecutive year. The near-zero waste music festival had a slow and gloomy start in 2011, but its second year has proven to be the charm.

While last year was equally as well intentioned as this year, rain and wind essentially ruined the festival. One year later though, the good people of Milwaukee were witness to an extremely beautiful fall day on the lakefront.

Many successful ideas were also carried over to this year’s bigger and better show. The all too common water bottle has been transformed into a green and fully recycled water bag. Every fan in attendance received one and better yet, Rock the Green filled them continually throughout the day free of charge thus reducing waste and the festival’s overall carbon footprint; something that is almost unheard of at modern music festivals.

Rock the Green also featured local and organic foods throughout the grounds it had set up in Veterans Park. Fans were able to eat food that isn’t the norm at music festivals. We’re used to deep-fry everything, but Rock the Green is different. Clean foods were everywhere. Foods that don’t make your tummy turn; well maybe they do, in a good way though! Click here for a list of all the great food.

What would a music festival be without beer?! Of course there was beer on hand, but fans were encouraged to drink water as it was more environmentally friendly and produces less waste than a plastic cup full of beer.

Already, the second year of the now annual green music festival was 1oo times better than the last. Even Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett made a brief appearance at the festival to tour the grounds, and announce the day, September 15th, as “Rock The Green day” throughout the city of Milwaukee.

Rock the Green isn’t just an educational festival teaching the pros of recycling and reducing carbon footprints. There’s music, and a lot of it. Last year Rock the Green had a pretty good lineup featuring The Fray, Ben Folds and Michelle Branch among others, but there was room for improvement.

They really stepped up this year and brought an even better lineup to town featuring some killer performers. Third Eye Blind, Metric, Switchfoot, Imagine Dragons, Atlas Genius, and Morning Parade dominated the main stage whilst other smaller acts played the side stage including local artist Evan Christian.

The sound at Rock the Green was remarkable. On site sound techs really knew how to make the music sound crisp and clear throughout the grounds and even into the streets. Even the bands and managers were impressed.

VIP areas surrounded the general admission area and were available to sponsors, media, and anyone with an upgraded ticket.

Rock the Green isn’t about the money though. They are an official non-profit music festival and rely on ticket sales and local donations to stay alive. So far, the idea has caught on with many local restaurants, food stores, and other companies. Heck, the bio-diesel generators are even partially run on grease from local restaurants.

Morning Parade kicked off the day off to a good amount of fans. Starting shortly after doors open can be a bit hard as there aren’t that many fans on-site yet, but the early crowd was pretty decent.

In from England, Morning Parade played their eight songs with endless energy and love for Milwaukee. They commented on how cool this festival concept was and asked Milwaukee to show them a good time since this was their first time visiting.

Atlas Genius was somewhat similar to Morning Parade. They too came from another corner of the world; Australia. The boys from down under also played a set filled with their best songs. Both Atlas Genius and Morning Parade tended to be more on the alternative and soft rock side, but that tends to be the overall style of Rock the Green.

Since the release of their debut album, Night Visions, Imagine Dragons has jumped to number one on many people’s iPods. Their music is indeed catchy and different and I commend them for that. After I heard Night Visions I immediately looked to see if they were touring and was pleasantly surprised when I found out they’d be at Rock the Green.

Front man Daniel Reynolds was noticeably brought back by the sheer size and reaction of the Rock the Green crowd. They loved Imagine Dragons, and Imagine Dragons loved them right back. Although he commented that he’d picked up a sinus infection, he could not cancel as he thought Rock the Green was such a great idea. He soldiered on through the set and inspired Switchfoot and Third Eye Blind to comment on how great their set was backstage.

After each set the bands on Rock the Green’s bill had some time to interact over food and beer backstage. I was extremely impressed at how much they put their ego’s aside and relaxed with one another for lunch and snacks throughout the night. Even I, the dreaded photographer was welcomed to sit around and eat next to members of Imagine Dragons, Switchfoot, and Morning Parade. It was all very chill.

Shortly after Imagine Dragons’ jaw dropping performance, the California rockers, Switchfoot, took the stage brewing a lot of excitement. Usually Switchfoot headlines while they’re in Milwaukee, so I was unsure as to why they were as early in the day as they were. (Check out 2011 Summerfest photos).

A cool Jon Forman took the stage with the other members of Switchfoot and stated off with “Afterlife” from Vice Verses.

He naturally took the lead on all the songs from random running around on the stage, jumping on drums, climbing the sides of the stage and crowd surfing. He’s extremely interactive with the crowd and they were just loving it. It was all good fun too. No one got hurt, and everyone was smiling.

Included in their quick eight-song set was a tribute to the late Adam “MCA” Yauch. Jon Foreman explained to the crowd how much of an inspiration he’s been in his career and proceeded to play “Sabotage” with the rest of the band.

Metric was also featured at Rock the Green. You may recognize Metric from a few of their newer songs being played on radio especially “Youth Without Youth” from Synthetica released this past June.

I enjoyed Metric. They’re kind of an electronic, alternative, soft rock mix and are pretty entertaining. Singer Emily Haines was enjoying the Milwaukee crowd, often running around and jumping on stage, though never getting down in the pit by the crowd like Jon Foreman of Switchfoot.

Michelle from Milwaukee’s 102.1 had the honor of introducing the headliner, Third Eye Blind. She also interjected a short story on how she was kicked out of the last Third Eye Blind show she was at and how she was excited to be able to stay for the entire show this time.

Third Eye Blind played in a very mysterious manner for the first half of their set. The lights were very dim and front man Stephan Jenkins sported a hoodie concealing his face.

Eventually Stephen lost the hoodie and was a little more open and outgoing for most of the show. A large sign reading “THIRDEYEBLIND” dominated the rear of the stage among stacks of guitar amps, drums, and a mini grand piano.

Stephan talked about recording a new album back in San Francisco; even playing a new acoustic song that might make the album. “This is breaking the rules, we usually don’t do this because we could mess up and people will get mad, but I believe we’re amongst friends here so it’s okay!”

Stephan also invited up Daniel from Imagine Dragons to sing the last chorus in “Jumper”, saying he had been “extremely inspired” by his set.

Third Eye Blind played many of their hits and even a song that was previously banned by their record label, “Slow Motion”, according to Stephan.

Coming back for a two-song encore was what fans had been screaming for since Imagine Dragons.

Capping off the night was a flashback to the 90’s encore featuring “Good for You” and “Semi-Charmed Life”. This pleased the crowd because they finally got their encore and because most of the crowd was at the age where you could tell they grew up with these songs. They were before iPod and iTunes and the only places you could hear them was on the radio or with a CD. These songs are deeply engrained in a lot of our generation; some of us don’t even know it.

Rock the Green has grown since the 2011 inaugural year. They’ve experience the worse conditions a festival can hope not to have and they’ve survived. I think with the success they’ve achieved Rock the Green will continue for many years to come, and maybe even grow into multiple days.

And the best thing about it; there’s barely any waste. Not even a garbage truck full. Last year there were 40 normal sized garbage bins full of trash at the end of the festival and I’m willing to bet this year was even less. Now that’s something to be proud of.

Finally, the success Rock the Green has been waiting for.

Evan Christian

Morning Parade

Atlas Genius

Imagine Dragons



Third Eye Blind

Morning Parade setlist: Marble Attic – Blue Winter – Carousel – Close To Your Heart – US & Ourselves – Headlights – Under The Stars

Imagine Dragons setlist: Rocks – Radioactive – Tiptoe – Demons – On Top of the World – It’s Time – Nothing Left to Say

Switchfoot setlist: Afterlife – Meant to Live – Mess of Me – Sabotage (Beastie Boys cover) – Dare You to Move – The War Inside – Dark Horses – The Sound

Metric setlist: Youth Without Youth – Speed the Collapse – Help I’m Alive – Synthetica – Breathing Underwater – Sick Muse – Gold Guns Girls – Dead Disco

Third Eye Blind setlist: Thanks A Lot – Anything – Never Let You Go – Can You Take Me – Graduate – Wounded – New Song – Jumper  (w/ drum solo) – Slow Motion –  Motorcycle Drive By – Monotov’s Private Opera —- Good for You – Semi-Charmed Life

2011 Rock the Green article and photos.

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