When you hear the name Love Your Mother Earth (LYME) Festival, it’s hard to keep invasive assumptions from sprouting in your mental lawnscape. Tree-hugging dirt-worshippers. Crunchy folks with beaded dreads. But as the “make an ass out of you and me” saying advises, it’d be best to check your presuppositions at the gate. “To call it a ‘hippie festival’ would be kind of undercutting it,” says Ben Nachman, whose company Earthbound Productions is putting on the two-day music festival.
With a bill featuring over 25 bands and 20 DJs, Nachman reports, “We’ve got anything from bluegrass to rock to emo to hip hop and reggae.” The lineup features local favorites such as funkmeisters Reverend Slanky, psych-pop-rockers Arrows to the Sun and the soon-to-disband Hermans, as well as groups whose bread and butter is the summer festival circuit. Two touring outfits from Colorado, Elephant Revival and TAARKA, bring Missoula a thin-air blend of gypsy pop, experimental Americana and riotous tunes fit for fancy stepping.
But rocking out to music is just one layer of LYME’s onion. The “love your mother” idea is also about using the music festival as a model for green innovations.
Commenting on LYME’s mix of music and earth-friendliness, Earthbound manager Synba James leans in and excitedly says, “Music festivals are great, and sustainability’s awesome. Put ‘em together. Somebody thought of cake and chocolate at one point, and then they put them together. Chocolate cake—there you go.”
Two stages, a geodesic party dome and round-the-clock DJs by the outdoor hot pool are the obvious entertainment zones for the weekend. But the sustainability aspect—just in its infancy—is behind the scenes.
“We’ve green-tagged our energy,” says Nachman, “We didn’t do that last year.”
Indeed, from LYME’s 2007 reliance on normal grid power, this year’s green-tagged energy—a carbon offsetting program in which revenues are reinvested into the development of renewable energy sources—is a step in a better direction. And while some critics might call the move a corporate-friendly cop-out, LYME has no plans to stop with green tags.
Instead of worrying about possible charges of green-washing, Nachman and company are focused on taking gradual steps in their quest for the elusive “sustainable” moniker. “Every year we’re going to try to be more and more progressive with it,” he says.
According to Nachman, one Missoula-based company investigated the possibility of supplying some power needs with on-site wind and solar systems, but that window of opportunity closed before a deal was struck. “I think in the coming years we can work with local companies to do that type of thing,” he says.
One local company that might step in to green up LYME’s energy is Lolo Hot Springs itself. Owner Brent Olson, who bought the resort in 2007, reports that his own focus on energy independence could soon enter into the equation. Olson has been studying options for generating his business’ power—one of which includes making use of Lolo’s abundant geothermal energy.
Asked whether he envisions the LYME fest eventually running completely on geothermal, Olson says, “I think there’s a good possibility of that happening.” He notes that several renewable energy technologies are still under consideration. “We want to be noted for that,” he says.
And while Missoulians might enjoy wearing their energy consciousness on their sleeves—or bare biceps, as the pools go clothing-optional after 11 p.m.—this weekend’s more than a zero-footprint exercise. As can be the case with camping festivals, activities that take place away from the stage are often just as appealing.
Attendees looking for non-musical distractions will find plenty going on. A few options include a round on the new nine-hole folf course, horseback rides, Burning Man-style cruising atop a member of the Free Cycles checkout fleet, a Sunday morning farmers’ market and a slew of eco-workshops and green info tables. And this year, the festival has expanded the children’s area so that parents can go get their groove on in good conscience.
As with most large events, volunteers form the core of LYME’s operation, doing everything from checking wristbands and orchestrating parking to ensuring fest-goers’ safety as they cross U.S. Highway 12, which effectively splits the festival in half. LYME’s volunteer “road watchers” are charged with guarding potentially stumbling guests as they travel from the camping and stage area on one side of the road to the dome and springs zone on the other.
From booting underage drinkers—yes, you can be asked to leave on your second offense—to ensuring that no water-related mishaps occur, Nachman and James stress a renewed focus on safety and organization this time around. And they’re ready for a diverse crowd.
“Last year we saw people that were 60 years old up there and people that were five years old running around and having the same great time. There were Vietnam vets and people that were anti-war,” says Nachman. “That’s one thing about Missoula, I think, is that we’ve got a big conglomeration of different types of people and part of the purpose of the festival is to reach everybody, not just one type of person.”
The Love Your Mother Earth Festival takes place Fri., May 30–Sat., May 31, at Lolo Hot Springs, on U.S. Highway 12 east of Lolo. Tickets are $45 and include camping and hot springs. Visit loveyourmotherfestival.com.