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Roscoe Village Bikes Answers Call for Pedal Power at Green Music Fest

 Bikes will generate the power for one of the two music stages at Green Music Fest.
Bikes will generate the power for one of the two music stages at Green Music Fest.
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Rock the Bike/The Daily Bruin

ROSCOE VILLAGE — Here's a conundrum: How do you bill your music fest as "green" when amps, guitars and spotlights are voracious consumers of electricity?

The answer: pedal power.

Cyclists — eight at a time — will be providing the wattage for one of two music stages at Wicker Park's Green Music Fest, set for June 21-22. Recruiting is now underway for riders willing to expend energy in order to conserve energy.

"Bikes are gosh-darn green," said Matt Marsden of Criterion Productions, the fest's event management company.

Patty Wetli joins DNAinfo Radio to chat about pedal power at Green Fest in Wicker Park:

Roscoe Village Bikes, 2016 W. Roscoe St., committed to covering a two-hour power shift on June 22 and received such a positive reaction to a call for cyclists posted on its Facebook on Tuesday, shop owner Lesley Tweedie said she's considering taking on another time slot.

"I was little bit surprised" by the outpouring of interest, she said. "You never know what people are going to respond to. But it's not a hard sell for people who like riding bikes."

Having attended college in Eugene, Ore., where she said "it would be weird to not have" alternative-powered stages, Tweedie was intrigued when approached by Green Music Fest organizers.

"I think it's really cool. It sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun," said Tweedie, who plans to jump into the saddle herself. "It's my understanding that if people aren't providing power, this thing goes acoustic."

California-based Rock the Bike, which has produced more than 150 pedal-powered concerts, is providing Green Music Fest with wheel-spinning expertise and equipment, Marsden said.

"You have to have specially modified sound gear," he said. "This sound system costs three times a normal sound system, but that's part of the deal. We're trying to showcase green technology."

Rock the Bike's tricked-out cycles will be plugged into a generator — the faster people pedal, the more energy they create, Marsden said.

The amount of power needed depends on the performer, he said, with a DJ requiring less juice than a band with four guitars, two amps and a keyboard.

"We know the maximum output of the bikes and we're only booking bands that can work with that," Marsden said. "We could have 50 bikes and power a video wall and lighting show, but we're starting small."

With nearly 20 hours of music programming scheduled on the pedal-powered stage, Criterion is partnering with West Town Bikes and reaching out to folks like Tweedie to make sure the idea has legs.

Marsden's goal is to find 500 volunteers — be they experienced cyclists or complete novices — willing to ride for anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours. The more recruits, the more frequently they can hop on and off to take breaks for water — or beer, he said.

Eventually, Marsden sees the concert industry moving toward wind- or solar-powered stages but that's "still a little far off," he said. "We're not fools thinking we're changing the world [with pedal power]. It's baby steps."

People interested in riding with the Roscoe Village Bikes team at Green Music Fest can email info@roscoevillagebikes.com. Otherwise, just show up at the fest's south stage during the event.

"We'll take anyone," Marsden said.