As any traveling band will attest, life on the road can be a grueling routine of lousy fast food and gas station cuisine. The daily mission of getting from one city to the next safely and on time can make it hard to stay green. But that doesn't stop the Steep Canyon Rangers from trying. Singer/guitarist Woody Platt and his band decided to be eco-conscious early in their musical career.
"It's a challenge to go green when you're on the road," says Platt. "All the water bottles are pushed onto you at the festivals and clubs. One thing we did early on was getting a vehicle with a refrigerator in it, which allowed us to pack food from home in reusable containers and cut out the fast food. It's a great thing for our bodies, too.
"One frustrating challenge that we've noticed is recycling on the road," Platt says. "Very few gas stations have recycling bins. A Steep Canyon Rangers mission down the road might be to go out on our route and encourage recycling."
Recently, Platt and his bandmates — mandolinist Mike Guggino, banjo player Graham Sharp, fiddler Nicky Sanders, and bassist Charles Humphrey — hosted a green event of their own, the Mountain Song Festival in their hometown of Brevard, N.C. The show featured the likes of Doc Watson, David Holt, the Jerry Douglas Band, the Kruger Brothers, Darrell Scott, and others in the bluegrass and roots world.
"We compost all of our materials, and we have a really intensive recycling committee that's on site," says Platt of Mountain Song Festival.
Back in 2001, when they were just a bunch of college guys tinkering with musical ideas and working up their first setlists, the Steep Canyon Rangers had no idea they'd be hosting their own annual musical festival or collaborating with famous comedian, actor, and banjo player Steve Martin. Over the last 10 years, under the leadership of Platt, they've honed their skills and achieved artistic and commercial success. These days, they're a go-to headlining act, ready to perform at just about any special event, festival, or venue.
"The Rangers have been wide open all year, man," says Platt. "We haven't really let up at all. We've kept the hammer down. We're just happy to be working and happy to feel like we've had a lot of growth as a band."
In 2008, the ensemble started working with Martin while the actor was recording his first bluegrass album, The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo. Things turned into an ongoing partnership. Martin and the Rangers toured the festival circuit together this year, and they recently wrapped up a full studio session in Los Angeles for a forthcoming album.
The last time the Steep Canyon Rangers played in Charleston was at the Music Farm in July. They were on the road supporting their new studio collection, Deep in the Shade.
This week, Platt and company headline the third annual Charleston Green Fair, set to take place in Marion Square on Sun. Sept. 26. The Coastal Conservation League and AESS present the band, alongside Shannon Whitworth, Platt's wife, and a roster of local acts.
"We've participated in a lot of events that are environmentally based, so we're excited to be involved in another one," Platt says. "I look forward to getting out in front of more people in the city there. I love the idea of playing outdoors along King and Calhoun streets."
Platt adds, "We've been spreading the word. A lot of people from Charleston were up here for our festival, so I look forward to experiencing the Green Fair. Plus, Shannon will be there, too, so it'll be really fun."