10th Annual Topanga Earth Day Festival
Topanga Community Fair Grounds
Topanga Canyon, California
April 18-19, 2009
What do you get when you put together a weekend of organic food, alternative energy, belly dancers, kids, Native American ceremonies, meditation and a full lineup of music on two different stages?
The Topanga Earth Day Festival, held in the mountains in a communal area a few miles above the Pacific Coast Highway.
It started as a way for the community to come together and give back to local and global environmental programs such as the California Wildlife Center. There was something for everyone including handmade art, jewelry, environmentally friendly clothing and accessories as well as a wide variety of healthy and vegan foods.
The sponsors included WeEarth, an online community that promotes unity, environmental awareness, and encourages coming together to work towards common goals to benefit the planet. WeEarth worked to successfully recycle and compost over 90 percent of all waste generated during the day, and improved from the 14 bags the previous year with only ten bags of trash being sent to the landfill in 2009. They also powered the Mountain View Talkhouse stage and a few vendors with solar energy.
Saturday began with a Native American prayer ceremony and meditation and morphed into song and dance as the sun moved across the sky. Some of the highlights included Mystic Journey – a fusion of many different world music styles led by Suzanne Teng’s superb flute playing. They created a full, rich native sound using the electric sitar, didgeridoo, and many types of drums. As the band hails from Topanga, one of their songs was appropriately called, “Topanga Dreams.” Simultaneously while they performed, a painter on the left of the stage created a tapestry inspired by the emanating sounds.
Leon Mobley and Da Lion brought the African rhythms to the audience with an arsenal of drums like the Djembe and dancers out in the front. They really got a lot of the crowd on their feet dancing in the hot sun, bringing the energy to another level.
Later in the evening, Maetar with special guest Lily Hayden came out and brought their special fusion of horns, bass and drums into free flowing jams. Lily added electric fiddle, which sounded like an effects laden guitar.
Big Organ Trio capped the evening as the air cooled and the stars began to show. Highlighting the set was special guest Marc Ford, of Black Crowes fame. He had never played a show with them before, yet led them through an electric set of covers and originals. They played an excellent jam of “Are You Experienced?” into “Corrina, Corrina” and back again which was quite a journey. Marc and Mike had some nice call and response with guitar and organ. They finished with an instrumental version of “Magic Carpet Ride,” “Green Onions” along with a couple of songs featuring Ford on vocals – “Smilin’” and “Date to Meet Her.” While the crowd that remained danced away under the stars right next to the stage.
An increasingly hot day in the canyons of Topanga found a variety of people and families roaming and taking in all there was to offer of the 10th Annual Topanga Earth Day. Sunday, April 19, found the second day of the festival running smooth. Full of more music, art, workshops, and opportunities to learn about the environment, the day was a beautiful ending to a spectacular weekend.
All in attendance were in a collectively peaceful and joyous mood. One could stop at the drum circle between two large teepees or participate in a workshop on the resolution of stress, trauma, and anxiety. Somewhere amidst the activities and a visit to the community house to see all of the artists, who work only with recycled materials, on display there was a plethora of new, local, and world musicians to be heard.
In the cool shelter of the Community House, artists such as Linda Vallejo could be spoken with about her striking sculptures and vibrant paintings. People could also write down their wishes to add to the Yoko Ono Wish for World Peace Tree. Even designs created from recyclable materials worn by such celebrities as Sharon Stone could be seen. It is here that many new emerging artists and local bands took to the stage with the canyon as a gorgeous backdrop.
Singer/songwriters such as Kristi Bride and Chris Shannon opened the day. Shannon said this of his experience performing at Topanga Earth Day, “entertaining people who grasp the cause of the day makes me really feel apart of what’s going on.”
The Breathe Deeplies showed off their ability to meld the didgeridoo and instruments such as the violin and saxophone while keeping a rhythmic and upbeat vibe, and their set included a great cover of “Can’t You See,” by the Marshall Tucker Band. The afternoon was rounded out by the sounds of Sun 7’s mountain bluegrass.
With the peak of the afternoon nearly gone, the Nate La Pointe Band took the stage. While playing “Dragonfly” as the sun began to set, a sun-stroked crowd was re-energized. Closing this stage and capturing the essence of the day was young rockers Swamp Daddy, who fed off the energy of the crowd and the heat of the day as the sunset illuminated the stage. Unable to leave amped from how much fun they were having, the lead singer and drummer rocked the mic with an impromptu spoken word jam.
Down the hill at the Big Stage attendees were treated to the lively tones and uplifting messages of the Luminaries. With luscious and powerful vocals, on point and sweet rhymes, the infectious energy of the Luminaries got the crowd dancing, lifting peace signs in the air, and declaring, “peace worldwide starts from inside.”
Counter Clarkwise with Steve Molitz & Josh Clark was a fun mix of southern mountain rock and Irish whiskey drinking good times. Beginning with an original and catchy love song called, “ I got a crush on my girlfriend” and ending with the bluesy tune, “Dragon Dance,” the ripping guitar and the piano solos highlighted the bands collaboration.
Luis Conte’ & Afro Cuban Latin Jazz was an opportunity for all to shimmy and shake in the sun. Conte’s percussion and the female Spanish-speaking lead singer’s low sensuous alto were irresistible.
The evening’s music came to a close with a classic Tea Leaf Green set that a perfect piece to the rising moon after the long and hot spring day.
Ending the evening and in keeping with the locale and community all attendees were invited to stand in a circle to participate in a moving and gorgeous Native American closing ceremony, hosted by Edwin Lemus.
A “May Peace Prevail On Earth” flag ceremony followed this and people were invited to hold a flag representing and reciting all of the countries on earth while drummers, flutes, and other musicians beat the spirit of the evening into the Topanga Canyon twilight sky.