Six years ago when Akron-based folk/rock trio The Ohio Weather Band formed, they likely never envisioned themselves knee-deep in mud together extracting old tires and waste barrels from a river bank, but that’s exactly what happened recently in conjunction with In Good Company, Living Lands and Waters, and CLIF GreenNotes. The band spent two and a half days cleaning the Ohio River alongside other volunteers, then played an energized set for them on the Living Lands and Waters’ barge next to the historic town of Ripley, Ohio.
Though the band has rocked for good causes before, most notably with performances benefiting Pelotonia and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, this is the first time they have partnered with several key organizations to help out the environment.
“Honestly, we didn’t really know what to expect,” said Corey King, the band’s singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter. “We knew we were going to be doing some dirty work on the Ohio River, but that’s about it. In the midst of the project I think we were all surprised by the group’s energy, welcoming nature, and shared passion. It was awesome to see that many of the volunteers who were on the project lived halfway across the country and still took on the job with as much excitement as those who lived near the worksite.”
Living Lands and Waters, the world’s only industrial strength river cleanup operation, has been working to restore and preserve the nation’s rivers and watersheds for over twenty years. In Good Company, a CLIF-led alliance of values-driven companies who come together to work toward shared purposes, aligned with LLW to organize the event. Goals for this project were simple: assemble a strong and committed volunteer workforce, get dirty, have fun, and remove as much trash from the Ohio River as possible!
Over the course of six days, the volunteers put in long hours, often in inclement weather and on challenging terrain as they extricated over 30,000 lbs. of waste. These projects require a big effort, and adding music to the equation often helps to galvanize and invigorate the group as they work toward a bigger cause.
Working closely with local communities has always been an important component of the In Good Company ethos, so inviting an Ohio band was important. “We knew that we wanted a local Ohio band to perform for our celebratory dinner on the Living Lands & Waters’ barge,” said Bisharat, “but we also wanted to identify a band who would be enthusiastic about cleaning up the Ohio River. Since In Good Company and CLIF GreenNotes are both CLIF-led programs, we knew that CGN would be able to recommend just the perfect band!”
The band members worked hard alongside the other volunteers, easily integrating and becoming fast friends with other members of the group.
“Corey also played campfire DJ, which made for a pretty fantabulous s’mores making experience!” said Bisharat. By the time Thursday evening rolled around, both the band and the volunteers were ready to rock.
“I was actually nervous to play in front of all those great people who I’d come to know rather well in such a short time,” said drummer and vocalist Ray Lumpp. “Everyone seemed curious to know what life in a band was like and I wanted to make sure our performance lived up to expectations.”
Bassist Derek Strata echoed his bandmate’s sentiments.
“It was a performance I won’t soon be forgetting. Getting to play for people that we had been getting to know and work with was for sure a little more intimidating than our usual outings, but clearly worth it once the group started the cheers. I was just hoping I didn’t run into any motion sickness in the middle of the set!”
The Ohio Weather Band played their brand of soulful, blues-infused rock to a dancing group of enthusiastic volunteers who cheered them through three encores as the Living Lands and Waters barge cruised along the river.
“Absolutely!” said King. “It was definitely one of the more unique experiences I’ve had as a performer. The barge was cozy but the crew came with their dancing shoes tied tight. I loved it.”
Bisharat offered some additional sentiments regarding the band.
“As musicians they have an unbelievably powerful role in educating and inspiring their fans to take action and create a ripple effect of positive change. We have a sneaking suspicion that they’ll do just that.”