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Halfway Through Live Earth | The Nation

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Halfway Through Live Earth

Approaching the midway point of the Live Earth concert, with the biggest acts still a few hours away, and fans are continuing to stream into Giants Stadium. Max and I, however, have streamed in and then right back out again, after learning that our badges get us into the press tent in the parking lot and not much else. Our quick tour of the stadium concession area led to observations both expected -- $30 t-shirts, $7.00 beers, beefy security guys who wouldn't let us sneak onto the floor -- and unexpected, like the special veggie hot dogs, hamburgers and kabobs; and the compostable brown paper that much of the food came wrapped in.

Recycling stations are everywhere, many of them staffed by volunteers in light blue shirts emblazoned with a Pepsi logo who are there to help people recycle correctly. We spoke to one, Anne, who works as a scientist and recently relocated to New York from Chicago. She signed up for the gig online because she's always "cared about the planet" and wanted to lend a hand however she could. She wants to see more of these mega-concerts-with-a-purpose in the future, maybe one about balancing the budget and another about putting an end to the war in Iraq. We asked Anne whether she thought other volunteers and concertgoers were as concerned as she about the day's political message. She wasn't sure, but was staying optimistic.

Afterwards, we retreated to the press tent to watch a few of the live acts on a projection screen -- Fall Out Boy, Ludacris, Taking Back Sunday, KT Tunstall, and, most memorable thus far if only for sheer presumptuousness, a version of "Gimme Shelter" featuring Keith Urban and Alicia Keyes. An excited MSN press flack informed the assembled media folks that Live Earth was shaping up to be the "largest online entertainment event in the history of online entertainment events," and by midafternoon the MSNBC.com live feed was warning viewers that "Due to the huge number of fans tuning in, the site is a bit slow right now." Press people huddled around speakers and scribbled notes furiously during a brief stage appearance by Al Gore, during which the Live Earth champion promised to keep fighting for a "sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the twenty-first century."

Confined to the media tent, we spent a majority of our time near the press conference stage sitting through a battery of performer interviews. Most answers have been in keeping with the Live Earth script, and the questions rather innocuous: "So, what have you done to make your household green?" Well, Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall added solar panels to her London flat and plans to insulate the walls with wool if you must know. She also tours in busses powered by bio-diesel, but has yet to solve air travel, aside from endorsing Virgin Air and Richard Branson, who's committed the company's profits to global warming research you may remember. Naturally, making touring more eco-friendly appears to be a common plank with artist here. And so does opting to lead by example rather than browbeating your audience. Interestingly, Senegalese-American hip-hop artist Akon admitted to not really knowing what "green" was before showing up at Live Earth to perform. But now he knows, and when asked about how important an issue addressing climate crisis is in Senegal or Africa, the rapper deflected the question, alluding to the fact that they may have bigger fish to fry -- like poverty, if you're listening, Mr. Geldof.

There have been some sour notes to report. First, not every guest at Giants Stadium was here to support the cause. A gatecrasher, in the form of a small airplane pulling a banner, asked the audience not to believe Al Gore and to demand debate at www.demanddebate.com (word has it from an anonymous Nation stringer that this airplane was spotted flying over Jacob Riis park in the Rockaways hours before the show -- no word if Cheney has a pilot's license). The second sour note involves one of the short videos they play between artists' sets. The particular one in question involved a close-up of a cattle's ass as it prodigiously produced cow pies. I believe it had something to do with going vegan or becoming a vegetarian, but couldn't keep my eyes on the screen long enough to really read the text.

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