Music And Freedom In Three Days Of Eden

By Stephanie Garrison

Friday, July 12, afternoon

Two of the most important causes, great music and freedom of speech, have joined together for a three-day blowout called EDEN Musicfest, in Southern Ontario. The self-described "modern rock festival" is a huge coming together of over 60 name bands, including Porno for Pyros, Bush, The Cure, Live, Spacehog, Love and Rockets, The Tragically Hip, Catherine Wheel and Sloan.

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Photo by Dax Ross

But music isn't the only reason for this huge outdoor party, and the underlying aim of the event is to raise awareness and financial support for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and its Canadian counterpart (EFC). Their goal is to promote freedom of speech online, and they hope to do so during this event.

The first day has passed fairly smoothly, although the occasional problem -- like Poe jumping offstage to get hoisted into the masses in the mosh pit during her performance, or the Canadian band Slone driving to the wrong venue in another city, or the Refreshments having van trouble -- has occurred. Crowd control has experienced few challenges as of yet, however, as the Mosport Park venue, a huge racetrack east of Toronto, has already let in 30,000 music fans through out last night. The number is expected to climb up to 45,000 by tonight, and escalate even further as people finish work for the weekend to come out and join the happening.

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Photo by Dax Ross

Luckily, bands big and small have been playing a main and second stage in sunny weather since this morning and the forecast looks good for the rest of the weekend. Now that the sun is setting, the audience is finding the bathroom and shower lineups more bearable. And even though The Refreshments started things off on the main stage hours ago at 11 am, the crowds have been slathering on sunblock in order to brave the warm weather and cheer the bands on, body surfing and checking out each other's tattoos.

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Photo by Robert DeWitt

"Music, sun, a message and fun- all in the land of Eden"

Popular distractions beyond the beer tents include a Global Village of vendors offering everything from T-shirts and skatewear (the ultra-cool Spazz boutique), to band signing sessions with Catherine Wheel and Everclear (Chart magazine). There's also an Internet Expo with seminars that talk about your rights and responsibilities on the 'Net, plus a bank of computers for more hands-on education and Internet surfing. People are expected to be able to partake in the online chats from here both in text form as well as actually asking questions via a microphone directly into the chat studio. The whole ball of wax is sort of a combination between a huge English music extravaganza (Glastonbury or Big Day Out) along with interactive technology expo being brought to the masses.

One of the fun things the EFF has got up its sleeve includes cameo appearances from actors Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure) and Mark McKinney (Saturday Night Live, Kids in the Hall) between mainstage sets in the evening. They'll keep the audience entertained while touching upon the freedom of speech issue on the web. Since many of the kids attending this festival are already familiar with the Internet and World Wide Web, it's a great way to reach out to and make them think about how this issue affects them and the future of free speech that awaits them if they don't become politically active today.

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Photo by Dax Ross

Censorship is an issue that has a profound effect on musicians as well as people who use digital technology. That's probably why the combination between music and online education seems to gel well at this event. When you consider how many music fans on the Web and in special interest groups are helping to support bands on a grass-roots level, shows like these can help further the cause of art and expression in meaningful ways. To make a donation to the non-profit EFF, click to the EDEN-cast web site (

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Photo by Robert DeWitt

Coming soon: band updates, the camping situation, and the high cost of eating!

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