Eco Rock -- Stars Help The Earth By Singing In The Gorge
by Patrick MacDonals

To see what's it all about, look around you.

The "Rock and the Environment" concert tomorrow at Music in the Gorge is in a perfect setting. What better place for an environmentally concerned event than a breathtaking natural venue like the Columbia Gorge?

"All the production that we could want, Mother Nature has already supplied for us," says guitarist Chris DeGarmo of Queensryche, the headlining band. That's one reason the group sees no need to bring its giant video screens and other special effects to the spectacular natural amphitheater.

"We're doing a real stripped-down sort of show," says lead singer Geoff Tate.

"It's just the musicians and the music," DeGarmo added. "We're really trying to limit everything else so that we can get the maximum impact off that concert-ticket dollar to go to Washington-state based environmental groups."

Fourteen environmentally active organizations have been targeted to share proceeds from the event, which will also include Heart Unplugged (an acoustic version of Heart), the Walkabouts, Bananafish, Metal Church, Rumors of the Big Wave and War Babies.

Surprises are also in store, including video messages from rock stars who can't make it to the show, guest musicians sitting in with the bands, and a big jam at the end with many of the participants and more guest stars.

Information booths will offer tips on recycling, conservation and related topics, and speakers from environmental groups will fill the gaps between bands.

While the show has a serious purpose, it will also be a celebration of Northwest rock. It is the only performance Queensryche will do this year, and will be quite different from the band's sold-out shows in the Coliseum last New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

"We're going to pull out some of the old stuff," DeGarmo promised, "because we focused primarily on post-1988 Queensryche in the Coliseum. We've had a great fan base here for a long time, and I think a lot of people are returning to see us again, so we want to show them something a little different."

Tate and DeGarmo said they didn't want to reveal too much, but hinted that Tate and Ann Wilson of Heart may sing together on stage - which should be something to hear, since both are known for their powerful delivery. Together, they could be natural force as powerful as the Columbia itself.

"That would be fun," is the only comment Tate had to offer, followed by a mischievous chuckle.

"Will we have to learn some Heart songs?" De Garmo asked, wondering what the two could sing together.

One thing Heart and Queensryche already share is a commitment to the Northwest. Both bands have opted to remain here and do as much of their work here as possible. Ann and Nancy Wilson are partners in Bad Animals, the new, state-of-the-art recording studio in downtown Seattle, and also regularly appear locally as the Lovemongers, which has already done other "Rock and the Environment" benefit shows.

Queensryche has made the Seattle skyline and the Northwest environment familiar to millions around the world through their recent videos. For instance, the clip for their current single, "Is Anybody Listening," includes scenes of the Olympic National Forest, Elliott Bay, Discovery Park, Whidbey Island and Geoff Tate's sailboat in Puget Sound. Queensryche will be working here on a new album, the followup to the multiplatinum "Empire," for the rest of the year, and may record it at Bad Animals.

All the bands on the bill - who are all performing free - are from the Northwest. Music will start at 4 p.m. and probably go to midnight. The show sold out just hours after tickets went on sale last month, but additional seating was made available in the upper reaches of the amphitheater, and some of those tickets may remain.

The concert site is in George, Grant County, near the middle of the state. It is easily accessible from Seattle via I-90. A new road from the highway to the site should make travel in and out of the parking lots much quicker.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.