Thousands attend Earth Day concert on Mall despite stormy weather

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Torrential downpours did not stop thousands of people from attending a free concert on the National Mall Sunday in support of this week’s Earth Day. Lightning did cut the Green Apple Festival short, however.

Before organizers cancelled the concert because of impending thunderstorms, large crowds watched as rock bands O.A.R., Gov’t Mule and Umphrey’s McGee took the stage with the Capitol as their backdrop. Celebrities from a variety of fields came out to indulge their penchant for environmental activism, including well-known New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman and actors Chevy Chase and Edward Norton.

“If everyone who came today changes one thing, that’s what will make the big change,” said O.A.R. front-man Marc Roberge.

This marked the third year the festival has held free concerts in cities across the country in an effort to “make Earth Day as big as possible,” festival Executive Producer Peter Shapiro said.

“This festival alone won’t change the world, but it is a big part of what will,” Shapiro said to a crowd of soaking wet students, families and activists who filled the mall.

Presenters urged the many young people in the audience to consider the Earth’s future and to become environmentally friendly.

“I’m not trying to change (Congress),” Roberge said. “I’m worried about the kids out here. They are the next Congressmen, (the next) presidents, the next leaders. When we are old, I want them taking care of us in green ways.”

Ed Begley Jr., an actor and long-time environmental activist, said environmentalism is gaining traction among youth.

“Global climate change is a big deal that has gotten the attention of the people you see out here on a wet Sunday,” Begley said in an interview with The Hatchet.

Greg Seidner, a GW freshman who braved Sunday’s rain to secure a spot near the concert stage, said a course he took last semester on the environment inspired his interest in the festival’s cause.

“Now more than ever it’s important that so many young people are out here,” Seidner said. “We are going to change the world.”

Though many concert-goers huddled under umbrellas on the National Mall, others happily embraced the rain.

“We were already soaked, we might as well hear the bands,” said GW graduate student Sanjay Bahtic, who trekked down to the Mall to hear the rock music.

As the mid-afternoon storm grew stronger, concert organizers decided to end the show early at around 4 p.m., leaving scheduled headliners The Roots without the chance to perform.

Although the inclement weather caused a premature end to the highly-anticipated event, many of those gathered said the concert had an inspiring impact.

“We’ll be on tour Tuesday,” said O.A.R. saxophone player Jerry DePizzo. “But we are going to use (the tour) to raise awareness. We want 100 percent organic shirts, recycling at our venue and to fill our tour buses with biodiesel.”

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