Music City Loves Mountains

Just a few hours removed from the after party, I wanted to give a quick report on last night's star-studded Music Saves Mountains benefit concert to end mountaintop removal coal mining.  When I locate my camera (!) I'll post some photos and later add some video of the big show, but for now I'll just describe the scene a bit.

First, this concert represents a pivotal moment in the fight against the world's worst coal mining.  Some of the country's most prominent musicians have committed to revealing to the world the tragedy taking place in Appalachia.  Last night was just the beginning of the music industry’s charge to end mountaintop removal -- and what a beginning it was!

The historic Ryman Auditorium is considered the "Mother Church of Country Music", which as Emmylou Harris noted to the crowd, made it an appropriate venue for the concert given that the Appalachian Mountains are the sacred birthplace of Country Music.  So there we sat -- a sold-out audience of thousands -- sitting below high stained-glass windows on wooden pews in worshipful rapture in the face of so many talented and legendary musicians and singers on stage.  From the looks of it, all of Nashville turned out and then some for this special event.  The artists, who were effusive in praise for NRDC and our grassroots allies and adamant about stopping the scourge of mountaintop removal, were downright dazzling.  Words simply cannot describe their performances.  And the sheer star power on display was mind-blowing.

The Tennessean covered the concert, quoting Emmylou:  "(The Appalachians), the oldest mountain range in North America, are responsible for seeding all the wonderful greenery we have across this great land of ours, and responsible for seeding the rich music we call 'country music.' "  An even better, more detailed, account of the show can be found on CMT's website.

Consider this: There were so many brilliant peformers that Naomi Judd opened the show by speaking about the cause -- she didn't even sing!  Of course, Emmylou kicked off the entertainment portion of the program with her famous rendition of "Green Rolling Hills" and that just about brought the house down.  As she continued singing, Kathy Mattea walked out to join her for a duet.  In a seemless transition, artists would be joined by a successive singer or introduce the next performer and all would pour their hearts into every song, backed by an all-star house band led by the great Buddy Miller and the finest musicians on each instrument.  Several singers gushed openly about the "dream" lineup and how Nashville had never before seen so many amazing singers and musicians gathered together for such an event.  And, of course, they all spoke passionately and eloquently about the meaning of mountains to them and the need to put an end to their senseless destruction.

Other artists -- again, apologies for no photos yet! -- included Patty Loveless, Patty Griffin, Big Kenny, Alison Krauss and, of course, Dave Matthews.  I'm a long-time Dave fan and have seen him perform with his band a few times.  But last night he seemed simultaneously awed by the cavalcade of talent in the show and inspired to new heights with his performance.  He came out alone, with no backing band, and played four songs with such power and grace that I was left light-headed.  I know that sounds ridiculous but it's true.  He connected with that crowd in a way I've never seen a performer do.  In a word, he was amazing.

After the show I got the chance to go backstage to meet and mingle with the performers.  If you can believe this, every single one thanked NRDC for making the show happen even though we were honored by their participation.  It was clear that each and every one of the artists cares deeply about this cause and they all said some variation of "Tell me how I can help" or "Whatever I can do, name it."  Some even offered to perform this concert every year until we win this campaign.  Of course, as much as I'd love to experience this amazing event again, I hope victory in the fight to end mountaintop removal will make that unnecessary.

The night ended with me hanging out with many of my Appalachian friends who came to Nashville for the concert.  They saw the show from a special section we set up for them in the middle of the main floor.  After telling them for years that we would pull off this show to shine a brighter spotlight on their plight, it felt so good to deliver on that promise.  I'm so glad they had such a wonderful time and were able to experience the special evening together.  And I'm delighted that I got to share it with them.

As Emmy told the crowd: "We hope that our music can help save mountains."    

And if you're looking to help save mountains, please visit our website to learn more and take action:

[UPDATE: Nice promo of tonight's companion MTR film screening -- Movies Save Mountains -- in the Nashville Scene.]