Smile Politely

The inside of OUTSIDE 2012

Few things are more Champaign-Urbana than an eco-friendly, free-for-all summer festival. This year, OUTSIDE returns to the Research Park with the Giving Tree Band and Nation Beat as its headliners and sustainability as its message.

The event originated in 2007 as Fox/Atkins Development was forming an amphitheater space for the University of Illinois Research Park. Fox/Atkins then contacted the Krannert Center and their collaboration resulted in a free summer concert series that aimed to promote sustainability, support local musicians, and provide affordable entertainment for the Champaign-Urbana community. Since its launch, the festival has continued to grow and attract bigger crowds without losing sense of the original message.

“The event has always been a place where we help share our message of sustainability,” said Bridget Lee-Calfas, the Advertising and Publicity Director at Krannert. At the Research Park, biodegradable generators for power are used and the food sold is packaged in recyclable or corn-based biodegradable pieces. Additionally, the latter of the two dates will include a green fair featuring local businesses and organizations making sustainable choices. Just like the concerts, the green fair is also free to the public, as well as to the participating businesses.

At a festival that pushes going green and has a strong focus on community, Krannert aims to choose musicians that promote similar values. “We do look for artists that have sustainable messages and a commitment to community through their work,” said Lee-Calfas. “I think that the Giving Tree Band and Nation Beat both hold those values as well so it’s wonderful that we can connect the artist with the mission.”

Nation Beat

The opening act of OUTSIDE 2012 is Bow-Dacious String Band, kicking off the series on Friday, July 13. The local Champaign-Urbana ensemble is composed of musicians that very much range in age, including seven-year-olds and twenty-somethings. Closing the evening is Nation Beat, a New York-based band that successfully blends the cultures of New Orleans and northeastern Brazil. Fusing American and Brazilian sound for long enough to officially know what they’re doing, Nation Beat plays the kind of music to which not moving is not an option. After listening to just a few recordings, it becomes clear how easy it is to dance along. Their July 13 performance will also feature a guest vocalist from São Paulo, Brazil, Fabiana Masili.

In proper OUTSIDE spirit, the band’s setlist will include songs off of their latest Growing Stone, an album that shines light on family farming. The issue became important to the band after playing a Farm Aid show with Willie Nelson in 2008.

“[Nelson] was talking to us about the struggle of the family farmer and how important it is to start eating locally. That really inspired me to write the song “Growing Stone,” which is the struggle of the family farmer,” said Scott Kettner, founder of Nation Beat. “It’s a real situation that people need to become aware of. Our food comes from a farm; it doesn’t come from the supermarket. We have to support the farmers.”

The concert series will resume on Friday, August 3, and then come to a close that evening. Distinguishing the second date from the first is the green fair and, of course, the differing lineup. Once again the opening act, Mo’ Betta Music, is a local ensemble composed of young musicians. The Giving Tree Band will follow, marking the end of OUTSIDE 2012. Their folk sound is reminiscent to some of rock’s classics, such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and their eco-friendly actions resulted in them being recognized by Mother Earth News as “the greenest band on land,” making it clear why Krannert chose them as one of the headliners.

OUTSIDE 2012 only adds to the C-U culture. Although only four artists are performing, they are as diverse as ever — not only from each other, but also from what we are used to hearing. The event, according to Lee-Calfas, is “a great opportunity to come out and enjoy wonderful music in a beautiful setting and be part of our community, and to really celebrate the rich diversity of Champaign-Urbana.”

OUTSIDE at the Research Park kicks off this Friday, July 13th with Nation Beat and Bow-Dacious String Band, show starting at 6:30 p.m.

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