A surge of environmental consciousness has started to bore massive holes in the brains of mainstream Americans.
Things such as recyclable straws, cloth shopping bags and compost bins have sprung up everywhere in a concerted effort to reverse, or at least slow down, the negative effects of previous disregard for the planet.
However, with Hollywood heavyweights and a myriad of musicians sporting bags that read “I’m Not A Plastic Bag” and driving the coveted Toyota Prius, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between clever PR trends or a genuine support for global change.
Michael Franti of Spearhead is as real as it gets. The San Francisco-based artist has garnered significant recognition as an outspoken activist committed to causes such as health care, alternative energy sources and greening the music industry. For the past several years, he has produced the “Power to the Peaceful Festival,” which has drawn more than 20,000 people to Golden Gate Park. As corny as it may sound, Franti’s vision for a peaceful world appears to be his sole focus. Jamie Lenfestey of Fan Man Productions, the promotion company behind the upcoming Franti and Spearhead show, has similar thoughts.
“I think that music has the power to at least make people think and, in my mind, there is nothing at all wrong with anyone trying to get people actually thinking through whatever means are at their disposal. Making people stop and think is invaluable,” Lenfestey tells SFR.
All Rebel Rockers, Franti’s latest collaborative work with Spearhead, was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica by dynamic duo Sly and Robbie (Peter Tosh, No Doubt, Black Ururu). Their slick production work gives All Rebel Rockers a smooth reggae feel, but also allows for plenty of breathing room. Hip-hop, funk, soul, organic techno, folk and, surprisingly, trance are all uniquely represented. Franti and Spearhead’s evolution has soared to a new level, not only stylistically, but lyrically. As usual, a message of peace, love and human compassion is at the core, but Spearhead also touches on current topics such as Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq.
“The key to Franti is that it’s not just the lyrics,” Lenfestey says. “While his songs almost all carry messages of respect, love, understanding, peace and hope, he never comes off as preaching to his audience.”
Because of Franti’s political message, Fan Man Productions has decided to broadcast the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain during Franti’s show “not because we want to further politicize music but because being aware and informed as a citizen is important. We felt it would be borderline socially irresponsible to just ignore this moment in such an important election,” Lenfestey says.
The show opener Daniella Cotton, a New York City-based rock and blues singer, takes the stage for an early 6:15 pm set. The debate follows her set and, after the issues have been hashed out, Franti and Spearhead claim the stage.
There have been very few public figures in the last few years who have invigorated young people toward activist causes, and Franti and Obama are certainly two of the most inspirational. To have the two share a stage, even from thousands of miles apart, in front of a large audience, may just be the change that both men are fighting for.
Michael Franti and Spearhead, presidential debates and Daniella cotton
6:15 pm Friday, Sept. 26
Paolo Soleri Amphitheater
1501 Cerrillos Road