Life as a rock star can be a dream with the big stage, private jets and the ability to travel the world to perform in front of thousands of fans. As luxurious as it is, the music industry can be a real waste. illiterate light, a Virginia alternative rock duo of singer-guitarist Jeff Forman and drummer Jake Cochran, recognize him as successful performers. They decided to try to make a change by setting an example for the music industry on how they can reduce their energy consumption – with a bicycle scene at the Newport Folk Festival 2022.
A big idea with small beginnings
Initially, Illiterate Light was a small group cycling around Virginia, towing instruments on a trailer. According to Cochran, it was around this time that they first encountered bicycle generators and began to think about how they could experiment with this concept at larger shows, such as outdoor festivals such as the Newport Folk Festival.
Cochran says they came to Newport Folk Festival before the COVID pandemic in 2019, one of their most memorable performances. Before this show, they were more or less unknown, but really connected with Newport audiences and started to gain popularity. Cochran mentions that they still have fans who come up to them and say, “I found you in Newport!” So the band is super excited (as are the fans!) to be back at Folk Fest this year.
The Illiterate Light experience in Newport gave them the confidence they needed to ask for help as they created the idea for the bike stage during the pandemic. Cochran points out how supportive the Newport community was of their ideas.
How it works?
With the stage on a bike, they are excited to bring “DIY energy” to the big stage. Stage audio and lights will be powered by a combination of solar panels and bicycle generators. To work on the bikes, six lucky festival-goers at a time will be chosen to ride for a song or two.
They say “the power of the bike is the power of the community” and the feedback they have received from fans has been overwhelmingly positive. Cochran talks about the exciting chemistry that can occur between fans, riders and audiences following a performance on the bike. Riders will have an intimate and personal experience with the music and performers as they play an important part in the show.
The group is excited about the performance, but they’re also excited to facilitate a conversation about a move towards renewable energy. Cochran explains how this conversation continues and notes how bands like Coldplay and U2 have spoken about the waste of touring. One of the big issues he mentions is integrating renewable systems into an industry that works well with current energy systems that run on coal, oil, and fossil fuels.
“We would need to take a step back and start over,” Cochran says of stepping out of those powerful industries and into renewable energy. It’s a daunting task, but their approach is experimental, to see what works, and most importantly, to connect with people. Cochran says the beauty of it all, for the group, is to engage people in the conversation and work towards a more renewable world. They want to build a community of people who want to work together to protect the beauty of this world.
A local group joins the initiative
Providence native Roz Raskin and their band NovaOne will also perform at the Folk Festival on the bike stage. Raskin describes their band as “cosmic pop… dreamy and sometimes heavy”. Their sound caught the attention of Illiterate Light a few years ago on tour and the two bands became friends. Illiterate Light invited them to perform on their bike stage and participate in their renewable energy and climate change initiative.
Raskin and Nova One are excited to perform on the bike scene and are hoping for what the message brings.
“I think what Illiterate Light has built for this milestone is really special,” they say. “I would love to see other festivals be inspired to put on a similar stage in the future. The music industry is often so wasteful that the movement towards the importance of environmental justice is inspiring.
For those lucky enough to secure tickets to the now sold out folk festival, be sure to catch Illiterate Light and Nova One on the energy-efficient stage, along with other artists such as Sheroes, The Deslondes, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Nora Brown, Yasmin Williams, Disgraceland with Low Cut Connie (solo), JP Harris, Danielle Ponder and Izzy Heltai.
If you weren’t able to purchase tickets, keep an eye out for what Illiterate Light and Nova One have planned for the future and what impact the bike scene could have on the festival and the music industry. live music.