“So here we go, get the fuck out your car, walk, it’s good for you; stop consuming blindly, get by on what you do have and then scale that down too,” sings Leah Song of Rising Appalachia in a gospel-like wave of rhythmic verse, on the track Scale Down.
Rising Appalachia – a four piece eclectic folk band that sprouted in Atlanta and blossomed in New Orleans – is spreading the message of scaling down and slowing down through what lead singer sisters Leah and Chloe Smith call the “Slow Music Movement.”
The rapid lifestyle of touring musicians is often associated with frequent plane flights, minimal contact with local communities and a disposable culture.
“The Slow Music Movement is an effort to bring in local outreach to each event, reduce single-use waste at shows, source farm-to-table food for backstage, and continue to create and promote sustainable touring practices within the music industry,” explained Leah. “Musicians are not just part of fast-paced entertainment world, but instead influence the cultural shift as troubadours, activists, story tellers, and catalysts of justice.”
Leah and Chloe have been sharing this vision through their music and practicing “alternative touring via horse, sailboat, and train” for over a decade, but they just recently introduced the Slow Music Movement in a Ted X talk. “When we gave a voice and a title to that intention it became much more powerful,” Leah told Planet Experts.
“We are getting a wide array of support and interest for the Slow Music Movement from all sorts of people in and out of the music industry,” said Chloe.
“Fans are wanting to dive into the more intimate spaces we are creating along our tours to get to know each other and the band by coming out to Action Days and giving back to their community in hands-on ways.
“The managers we are talking with and our agents are invested in keeping us healthy on the road and are working with us to build a more intentional platform by which to express our art and the many passions we hold dear.
“Festival organizers are seeing the need to stretch deeper outside of the weekend’s festivities to provide intensive workshops, action days, or meet and greet artist/activist sessions.
“We are beginning to see more people interested in extending the movement beyond the dance floor and into the schools, gardens and community centers, all of which is very exciting to be a part of and watch grow!”
The musical change-makers are experiencing early success with the Movement and they see opportunities to nourish its roots.
“We are working on refining what the Slow Music Movement is, how we can express it and get folks involved in direct and integral ways,” said Chloe.
“In the coming years, we hope to open up the platform of Action Days before and after concerts to other bands so that gathering around music and art can have a greater impact. We want to expand the concept from permaculture to incorporate our many other passions – including prison reform, youth arts and expression, environmental stewardship, diversity training, medicinal and wild plant identification, plastic consciousness, waste reformation and more – and generally keep up the work while taking care of our personal needs so that this can be a long lasting expression of love and music.”
But the Movement Isn’t All Fun & Games
“One of the biggest challenges is the thin line between slowing down and being productive! It’s a slippery slope and moving slow is not exactly something our culture holds in high regard,” says Chloe.
To better understand the intricacies of incorporating the Slow Music Movement ethos into the broader context of music event production, Planet Experts spoke with Kevin KoChen, co-producer and co-owner of Symbiosis Gathering.
“The biggest challenges to implement these ideas are money and entitlement. When people go to big shows thrown by corporate overlords they feel they are owed something because their ticket price is high, fees are added, and sponsorship is the rule,” KoChen told Planet Experts.
“Trying to get people to pack in/pack out or even throw waste into receptacles suddenly is challenging because people don’t usually feel part of the community. They think ‘someone else’ can pick it up and throw it ‘away.’ We’re trying to bring up that there is no ‘away’ and ‘someone else’ is our community.”
Symbiosis Gathering – like a growing number of eco-friendly festivals – works to incorporate sustainability into their party culture by purchasing “organic, fair-trade and local” products, encouraging festivalgoers to minimize their carbon footprint by taking alternative transport and promoting conscious community.
“Symbiosis doesn’t necessarily ‘change the world,’” said KoChen. “We aim to create a peak experience for people in an environment framed by the permaculture principles of ‘Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.’”
In other words, dancing to the sunrise over the lake in a trance too deep for words with your new family isn’t just about having the best time of your life, it’s about taking the love and respect for community and environment with you wherever you go.
“We are living in such a mass-produced, single use, turn your head and walk away society that we’ve created very harmful habits in the last 70 years,” KoChen said. “We feel that we are part of unlearning some of our rights and reintroducing our responsibilities.
“The Gathering is a microcosm of how the people’s worldview needs to change if we hope humans can live on this beautiful planet for centuries into the future. We attempt to create community guided by principles that support healing and harmony.
“We hope that we inspire people to shift or crystallize a worldview in which these principles are shared by more and more people.”
He added, “Everyone knows in their heart of hearts that the principles of the Slow Music Movement lead to a more connected and collaborative world. Join in, because it feels good to do good.”
As Rising Appalachia sings, “Each and everyone of us, we are doing something that’s too hard or too fast or too long and there’s none but ourselves to make this thing last, there’s none but ourselves.”