A longhaired punk with facial tattoos and an anarchy symbol inked on his arm strolled by wearing leggings, a black utili-kilt and combat boots. Then, a mixed-race couple, both with dreadlocks, passed by with a cafe-au-lait-complexioned child in tow. The Sacramento area’s most Berkeley-like event—the UC Davis Whole Earth Festival—was replete last Saturday with a diverse crowd, food, music and workshops. All jokes about “trustafarians” (the much-maligned trust-fund hippie), patchouli and New Age silliness aside, the festival is a great time. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re the type to get real tats or to stop at henna.
Booth browsing provided some entertainment between music and other events. You could pass the time by getting a massage (charged by the minute), a tarot-card reading or an analysis of your natal chart. You could shop for homemade wind chimes, T-shirts, radical literature, “Karmaflauge” tie-dyed clothing, and blown-glass swirled jewelry to go with your bong. There were also plenty of handicrafts, pottery, clothing and artwork. The all-vegetarian food vendors offered up falafels, salads, sandwiches, chocolate-dipped bananas, coconut milk served in the shell and other treats.
The main attraction at Whole Earth, though, clearly is the music. On Saturday, the lineup included Fana-Fi-Allah, Sufi devotional music sung by some mysteriously Caucasian-looking youths. Later in the day, Baba Ken Okulolo and the Nigerian Brothers played some “West African highlife” that had the crowd dancing. Other musical acts were very wide-ranging: there was folk, funk, reggae, hip-hop, Latin, Celtic rock and pop-punk. Local performers included Anton Barbeau and mother-daughter poetry team Straight Out Scribes. A short distance from the main stage and booths was a DJ stage for those who wanted to get down to some house music or breakbeat.
Throughout the day, there were a variety of speakers and workshops on subjects related to global justice and the environment. Here, you could pick up some knowledge about permaculture, organic farming, soil care and gardening, biodiesel and do-it-yourself bicycle maintenance. The UC Davis film room provided a shady sanctuary to get off your feet, kick back and view films on globalization, genetically modified foods, solar energy and reggae music.
The Whole Earth Festival has been around for quite a while—since 1969—and there’s no mistaking the fact that it is a seriously lefty event. While preserving the spirit of a past era of activism, the message of most speakers at the Whole Earth Festival was that social movements have to stay dynamic and continue to change. Complaining about what’s wrong with the world and hand-wringing about pollution, global warming and war aren’t enough. So, the festival demonstrated solutions by recycling, composting and trying to create an event that was inclusive and inviting … even to SUV-driving Republicans. Whole Earth feels more relevant now than ever. Oh yeah, and it’s fun, too.