After the sudden cancellation of the Langerado Festival last month, many bands played at the first annual Harvest of Hope music festival, a benefit for the Harvest of Hope Foundation, which took place March 6-8 in St. Augustine. Unlike Langerado, it offered camping and much lower ticket prices starting at $19.50. Needless to say, it was a much better deal and lacked the annoying corporate sponsorship Langerado has acquired over the past couple of years.
According to their mission statement, Harvest of Hope provides financial, educational and service oriented aid to migrant farm workers across the country. President Philip Kellerman informed me the idea started in 1989 with a hotline in upstate New York where migrant workers could call for help. In 1992 it became the foundation it is today, after Kellerman used an inheritance to get it off the ground. With the support of No Idea records and other local non-profits, Harvest of Hope snagged 144 diverse bands that played on four stages over the three-day weekend. Approximately 15,000 people attended.
Friday featured mainly local bands on the smaller stages, like the experimental/ noise quartet Reptile Theater, whose performance included smashing maracas, repetitive sounds and Tom Waitsstyle vocals. Many local performers like Reptile Theater were involved in social and political action, including related migrant worker organizations like the National Farm Worker Ministry. Indeed, the grassroots principles of sharing, cooperation and goodwill were alive and kicking at Harvest of Hope. Upon arriving, I encountered a guy who was also looking for the press tent; he offered me a ride when I surely could have walked. I returned the favor later by giving him one of my campsite’s extra wristbands. Similarly, a fellow photographer shared his electricity with me since he had the foresight to bring a whole power strip. This aspect of the Harvest of Hope made it stand out in comparison to other corporate, non-benefit festivals and was certainly part of its appeal.
Also noteworthy on Friday were Berliners King Khan & the Shrines, whose front man looks like Elvis and James Brown’s lovechild. Their soulful party tunes kept the crowd jumping, led by their cheerleader aptly named Bamboorella. Closing the first night, punk collective Bomb the Music Industry! tore up stage four with their lively folk sentiments and sing-a-long, hand-clapping tunes. They allowed a perfect transition into the chaotic campgrounds where intoxication reached new heights during impromptu jam sessions, bonfires and Bob Saget, which became everyone’s mantra.
Saturday morning, power punkers None More Black woke sleepy hung over Harvest of Hopers from their delirious slumber. Singer Jason Shevchuk admitted to “having a f**king blast,” and asked the crowd if None More Black should come to Miami. The answer was a resounding “yes.”
The day was scalding hot and most bands had a beer in hand as they played. Meanwhile I struggled to stay hydrated, as security wouldn’t allow unsealed water bottles into the festival area. Many times throughout the weekend I became frustrated by their inconsistent policies on what could and could not be brought in and where I could shoot during bands. Luckily I still managed to capture bands like Paint it Black, who rocked out with a vengeance, inciting one of the largest circle pits of the day and rendering it impossible to breathe without a bandana (or take a decent photo). However, hearing Dan Yemin compare the band to a Dr. Seuss book made the black boogers I produced worthwhile. The night was brought to a close by a Tilly and the Wall and Against Me! duel. Their sets overlapped so I ran back and forth between them. I have to admit Tilly won me over with their bright costumes and tap dancing goddess Jamie Pressnall.
Following a crazy night of traveling drum circles led by a naked guy with a tambourine, Tokyo Police Club’s postpunk bliss energized me while hipstersturned hippies danced by my side. Tel Avivers Monotonix put on the best show by far that day, abandoning the stage and doing their set in the crowd. Singer Ami Shalev rubbed dirt on himself and his fellow band members, poured water over the drum kit and the crowd, mooned us multiple times, passed a drum through the crowd, crowd-surfed, climbed speakers, and had everyone sit and stand in unison during one of the songs. What more could you ask for?
Although there was quite a bit of hip-hop pounding from stage two all day, KRS-ONE was the only artist that made an impression. Well known for his thought-provoking lyrics, KRS-ONE rapped about his past, present, and future. He explained how he meditates on his 50-year-old self, comforting his 17-year-old self in order to progress as he is right now. While I welcomed the change of pace, I was thrown back into the punk o’ sphere with the closing band This Bike is a Pipe Bomb’s set. Security could barely hold back the screaming fans that were delving in that last ounce of punk pleasure before it was time to go home.
At the end of the last night my feet were throbbing from gallivanting between stages and the campground. Delirious with visions of fifty bands or so swimming in my mind, I felt thankful to have been a part of an amazing festival for a worthwhile cause to which I could only hope was the first of many to come.
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By Liana Minassian