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Solar Music Festivals Help Local Communities Shine
by Alex Cosper (7/3/14)

Solar energy technology has remarkably improved in the 21st century to the point that it can no longer be ignored as a viable and renewable energy source. Its rapid improvement in quality combined with cost efficiency has put solar in the spotlight as one of the biggest stories in cultural transformation of the new century. While the 1960s through 1990s marked a preview of its awesome rise in social and political consciousness, its rapid development in the 2000s and 2010s has shattered countless myths about energy that is freeing the world from oil strangulation.

One of the most innovative events to showcase solar energy from a pop culture perspective is an annual solar music festival in Tinmouth, Vermont every summer. Known as SolarFest, the three day event brings a community together to celebrate and investigate sustainable energy solutions. The festival is completely powered by solar energy. It began back in 1995 and has been running every July since then. Exhibitions at the July 18-20, 2014 event include energy firms, educators and journalists. They showcase electric charging stations, electric bikes, greenhouses and many other eco-friendly exhibits. Here are some of the 2014 vendors:

Central Vermont Solar & Wind
Foxfire Energy
Green Living Journal
Green Mountain College
Green Mountain Power
NRG Residential Solar Solutions
USA Solar Store

The idea of mixing music and art with social concerns goes back decades, with roots in the folk, jazz and blues communities. Many of the regional bands playing at SolarFest fit that realm. It's an excellent way for local acts to get exposure in their communities while associating with an important cause. Some of the artists performing at SolarFest 2014 include Start Making Sense (a tribute to Talking Heads), Keeghan Nolan, Entrain, Bow Thayer, Soule Monde, Waylon Speed, Martin Swinger, Barika, Sleepy Wonder & Geometic Echoes, SolarFest House Band and many others.

A similar solar festival that has been held in the past is the Taos Solar Music Festival in Taos, New Mexico. Although there was no festival in 2014, Mumford and Sons headlined the show in 2013. The festival was started in 1997 by the world's first solar powered radio station, KTAO 101.9, run by Brad Hockmeyer. He launched the station in 1976, although the call letters didn't become KTAO until 1986. It first went solar in 1991. The festival has attracted thousands of patrons and has become internationally known.

Even though mainstream media has not given solar much coverage in its surging popularity, some of the amazing developments in recent years include the first solar plane to fly at night called Solar Impulse in 2013, a crowdfunding campaign to create roads out of solar panels in 2014 called Solar Roadways and Tesla's idea to integrate solar homes with electric cars. You are guessing correctly if you believe solar energy will only get stronger. The fact that solar has become a $30 billion industry while the music industry is stuck at $7 billion is a wake-up call for the music industry to start aligning itself with this amazing solution to high energy prices. It could actually bring the music industry back to life.

That's why it would make a lot of sense for communities to mix entertainment with the environment by staging more solar music festivals. The California band Cake would make an excellent headliner for such events since they were the first recording act in history to hit number one on the Billboard album chart in 2013 with an album recorded entirely with solar energy. For bands and DJs that need help planning out setlists that reflect the solar revolution, here are some song ideas:

The Beatles - Here Comes the Sun
The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
Bob Marley - Sun Is Shining
Stevie Wonder - You Are the Sunshine of My Life
Sheryl Crow - Soak Up the Sun
The Stranglers - Always The Sun

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