Written by Photojournalist Richard Brackett
: All photos ©Copyright by Richard Brackett
MICHAEL FRANTI Loves everybody!
Michael Franti and The Spearhead Band’s highly anticipated performance at The Mountain Sol Festival tucked away in a gorgeous, forest brim meadow of The Santa Cruz Mountains at Felton, California was majestic nirvana to say the least. The free spirit, conscious dance party atmosphere that Michael sparks globally anywhere he performs seemed to reach new heights, well evident in the pure smiling delight of the 3000+ sold out crowd of fellow peace lovers. Blessed with a warm and breezy blue sky dome during sundown hours when Spearhead took the stage, all tribes all generations were harmoniously united to receive Michael’s infectious upbeat messages of hope and optimism.
Moments before The Spearhead Band took the stage, a five-minute introductory video, narrated by Michael, briefly silenced the festival goers. Michael hit home immediately with the announcement that one of his best friends Hal Wilmer, his uncle Jim, and his biological father Thomas Hopkins all passed away from the ill effects of the pandemic. He reveals how he rediscovered gratitude and some important things that he has learned, burned and earned during the pandemic. He goes on thanking all the front-line workers and volunteers. Then he admits, “All I’ve been wanting to do is to be with you!” Then busts out a very energetic opener of How We Living, which instantly starts off with “Throw your hands up, let me know that you’re feeling alright!” Next up was I’m Alive and its bouncy beat and sing-a-long chorus that thrusts you towards the sky. The party of the year was underway!
Michael’s 11th studio album was released last summer in June of 2020. WORK HARD & BE NICE is pure bliss for those soul searchers who’ve been yearning for a beacon of light during this seemingly never-ending, confusing, planet-wide pandemic. Michael poured his heart into this album dedicated to finding meaning, joy, love, ease of heart, moments of letting go and lots of dancing during the challenging times we are currently living through. The 17 songs of deeply digestible lyrics can help enable you to rise above personal and global hardships. He offers soulful remedies of how to overcome issues such as depression, complication, devastation, heartache and inequality by never giving up and yearning for inclusion and compassion. During his 23 song, 2 hour set the crowd got turned on to 8 of those new heartwarming songs including: I Got You, Good Shit Happens, Start Small Think Big, Sun and Moon, and All My Friends.
How to classify Michael’s music is a wild mystery! Under music genre on Wikipedia its list is endless, claiming: Hip hop. Funk. Reggae. Jazz. Fusion. Folk. Jam Band. Dancehall. Ska. Punk Rock. Pop. Industrial. Avant-garde. There should be a new inclusive genre title for Michael Franti music… For All People!
Michael’s lyrics are fully loaded with inspirational, positive, simple messages that deal with personal challenges and the battle between cynicism and optimism.
These lyrics from WORK HARD BE NICE paint it best…
“So when it’s dark, look on the bright side
And when it rains, wait on the sunshine
Everybody likes gettin’ them good vibes
‘Cause everybody got a heart on the inside
We could take all the hard lessons
Add a little lovin’ and turn em into blessings
Don’t complicate it
Keep it simple
Just work hard and be nice to people”
His soul-lifting crowd interaction radiated a maximum bond of true love amongst all peoples. Michael spent one-quarter of his performance in the thick of the golden sun-drenched crowd. He elevated upon two small platform risers where he invited a cast of nearby potential participants to come on up and boogie down spontaneously with him. Some of the lucky ones got to share his microphone too! Meanwhile, Spearhead’s rock solid, boombastic rhythm section of Carl Young on bass, Manas Itiene on drums, Mike Blankenship on keyboard and happy-go-lucky Jay Bowman on lead guitar team up to lift you airborne. During the final song, Say Hey I Love You, a dozen children from the audience joined the stage to catch some thrills. As twilight began to fade the Spearhead Band stood together arm in arm for a few minutes as John Lennon’s universal anthem, Imagine, played on. The gleaming audience swayed together feeling the love. As a permeating ritual Michael spent 30 minutes after the show hugging just about the whole audience. Michael listened intently to anything anyone said and continued to please those who wished for a selfie photo opportunity with their beloved 6’6” barefootin’ vegan soul brother.
Michael is very active with social awareness media. His most recent lengthy film, Stay Human, from 2019 is 90-minute feature documentary. It is a celebration of life. The captivating film centers around five people from around the world. It depicts their struggles and their resilience to cherish every single moment. Against all odds, Arief Rabik, Steve & Hope Dezember, Busisiwe Vais, Robin Lim, and Sive Mazinyo embody the triumph of the human spirit. Despite varying backdrops from economic status, political affiliations, race, gender and sexuality his film focuses on that we all experience joy, pain, triumph, tragedy, and even death in much the same way. This profound thesis weaves in and out of each story, embedded with Franti’s own globetrotting story-telling, in a truly purifying way. Stay Human reminds us that no one is exempt from enduring tragedy. But it’s how we bounce back and get back up that really matters.
Some more excerpts of lyrics that Michael conveys with empathy:
“Don’t let your love be so confidential and please let your heart be more influential.”
“Let’s join together and make a sacrifice, to give something back to life!”
“We can be the healing, we can be the flower in the gun.”
“Are we part of the solution or part of the pollution?”
“Reach out your heart to somebody torn apart”
“Take my hand, I’m by your side”
“Life goes quickly so let’s take it slow.”
“Easy come, easy go.”
“PS. I Love you!”
Michael’s self-made mini documentary video on YouTube reveals his affectionate mission. Michael says, “I love to make music because I care about people and I care about the planet we live in. Right now the world needs music that speaks out against hate and violence and speaks up in support of our planet and justice for all humanity and oh yeah I wanna make you all dance! I keep having a renewed sense of purpose as a musician to feel compassion for all. When people leave our show I want them to feel just a little bit taller!”
One of Michael’s most gratifying engagements was the honor to perform a few songs Live at Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday celebration at The Honda Center in Anaheim in front of 18,000 reactive guests. The next day Michael was again invited to perform in a more intimate gathering at the Global Compassion Summit at UC Irvine campus. That’s where he played solo on acoustic a rise up song named Once A Day, which had everyone present hugging and kissing and extra cheerful. An ensuing seven-minute sitting and conversation between His Holiness and Michael became quite sentimental. His Holiness held Michaels hands snuggly and while observing his arm tattoos and dreadlocks claimed that “external appearance is not important, although I do not have much interest in music and those kinds of things, what you did for this audience was very special, you performed with a lightness that brings joyfulness to the people.” Dalai Lama playfully interacted with Michael getting quite animated at times. When Michael told His Holiness that, “when I first saw you in this traditional maroon and gold robe that I just got to get an outfit like that!” He heartily laughed and told Michael, “If you want to be a monk like me it’s not so easy, first you will have to shave off all that hair on your head and then take the vows of celibacy! So, you Michael remain as a lay person and retain your OM heartedness and sense of responsibility for the betterment of humanity and community.” To sum up their handheld visit Dalai Lama said to Michael, “I’m a monk but with restrictions there, you are monk but without restrictions!”
You can support many worthy causes by going to Michael Franti’s activism page on his personal website, which currently focuses on gun violence and the climate crisis.
Michael Franti has recently joined up with highly inspirational
Activist Artists Management activist.co/affiliates
spearheaded by founders Bernie Cahill and Greg Suess along with Matt Maher and Liz Norris
whose unifying team motto is:
OUR DIVERSITY GIVES US STRENGTH