On a particularly bold and balmy day in the cerebrum of a physics student, music and sustainability married, some neurons fired … and Ecochella was born.
“Ecochella is one of those mistakes that actually came out of my mouth once and we had to go with it,” said Rachel Woods-Robinson, a fourth-year physics student and founder of Ecochella.
Ecochella is UCLA’s first bike-powered concert presented by E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity happening at Sunset Canyon Recreation Amphitheater today. Ecochella will feature student and local musicians, a mini sustainability fair, submissions to the UCLA Bicycle Coalition’s bike film contest, artwork from E3’s Sustainable Art Competition, free yoga classes and a light show. Also at the event will be sustainable foods from the UCLA Student Food Collective, Honest Tea, Green Truck, KIND Healthy Snacks and Peddler’s Creamery.
“There’s never been a 100 percent renewable energy concert (at UCLA),” Woods-Robinson said. “Music and renewable energy together should be done everywhere, all the time.”
Woods-Robinson originally conceived the idea for Ecochella when talking with her friend Misha Khalikulov, a UCLA alumnus who will perform at the concert with his Americana rock band, Blind Willies. Last year, Khalikulov set out on a 200-mile carbon-neutral music tour around the San Francisco Bay with the band, Rupa and the April Fishes. The ensemble partnered up with Rock the Bike, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that rents bike pedal-powered speakers, stages, lighting and more.
“They rode bikes the entire time,” Woods-Robinson said. “No cars. (Misha) carried his cello on his back, setting up equipment at parks, and it took no fuel, no coal, no oil, no nothin’.”
Woods-Robinson wanted to create something similar at UCLA, and Rock the Bike is providing bicycles at Ecochella to make it possible.
“Music and sustainability are extremely integrative,” Woods-Robinson said. “Playing music is something that is natural. The energy comes from within you and renewable energy is really similar.”
To power the event, both volunteer teams and “freelance armstrong” individuals signed up on the website to ride around 10 bicycle generators hooked up to the sound system and film projector. Some enthusiastic volunteers have even vowed to ride bikes for the entire four hours.
“I hope that (everyone has) fun, obviously; that’s the No. 1 priority,” said Joanna Wheaton, a fourth-year political science student, who is helping to organize Ecochella. “But hopefully people will start thinking about all the different things in their daily lives that require energy.”
And harnessing the power of the pedal by no means ends at the stage. Woods-Robinson has built her own bicycle generator connected to a blender to make complimentary smoothies for volunteers and musicians during the concert.
The homemade bike generator works like a motor in reverse, Woods-Robinson said. Instead of putting electricity into it to start spinning, AC electricity comes out of the motor as leg-power is converted to a form of energy that can charge a phone or computer, or in this case, a blender.
Meanwhile, the Ecochella team has been busy designing and ordering T-shirts, buttons and posters for the event, said Jasneet Bains, a fourth-year environmental science student, and facilities assistant.
“It’s a new event, and you don’t really know what you need unless it’s been done before,” she said.
But the team is quickly learning and is already planning for next year. Woods-Robinson said she hopes utilizing more resources within the UCLA community will make Ecochella even more sustainable for future years.
“Not only is (Ecochella 2014) going to happen, but instead of renting from Rock the Bike (next year), I want to have an engineering competition and have engineers build bike generators and hook them together in a circuit,” Woods-Robinson said. “(That way), we can use everyone’s design.”