Michael Franti and Spearhead


Michael Franti and Spearhead host special two-performance Harvest ball

:: 1st Bank Center ::
:: November 27 :: (two shows)
::  2 p.m. matinee show featuring
The Big Tadoo Puppet Crew, Jaden  and Conscious Carnival Games :: (sold out)
:: 8 p.m. evening show  ::

By Fallon Anderson

There are few who tread upon this weathered Earth with a clenched fist who ooze peace from between each finger. There are fewer yet who unravel such a kind hand to those in dire need of  the most help. But there is only one man who is attributed to doing so in bare feet, while also playing music.

With the new album The Sound of Sunshine released just at the end of summer, Michael Franti and Spearhead have embarked on a fall tour with dates sprinkled across the country. But when the group touches down in Colorado they will be hosting more of a celebration than a concert.

This trip will mark the 7th annual Harvest Ball for Franti and company, which will feature two shows, a matinee with a family theme, and an evening performance later that day. The series of Harvest Balls first began as a tour up the coast of California in celebration of the North Coast harvest and served to acknowledge what it means to be truly abundant in life.

“The Harvest Ball was just a sort of fall party that we wanted to put together,” said Franti in a recent interview with The Marquee. “As we’ve looked to the fall and things that we’re most grateful for around the time of Thanksgiving, it’s really a celebration of the abundance that we have and the best way to celebrate that is to preserve it.”

But just celebrating and preserving it isn’t enough for Franti, and neither is just one tour date. For their entire fall outing, the band is teaming up with Soles4Souls to bring in 100,000 pairs of shoes this tour. “There’s one-and-a-quarter billion pairs of shoes in American closets that haven’t been worn in over a year. We’re trying to collect those shoes and then give them away to people in need,” Franti said about Soles4Souls, who celebrated the distribution of their 10 millionth pair of shoes earlier this year.

“With the world feeling the effects of massive consumption of natural resources, the Harvest Ball’s goal is to share the message of environmental consciousness by inspiring communities to wake up and plug into simple ways of saving the environment,” Franti wrote in a release about the event.

Amidst all the do-gooding, Franti and his band are still focusing on their music and their latest release. The Sound of Sunshine debuted higher than any other release thus far in their career. The album’s first singles have already gained large amounts of momentum on radio, with “Shake It” hitting the Top 40 and HOT AC radio formats, and the album’s title track climbing to number one on the Triple A charts.

The album is said to be the band’s most cohesive, romantic and life-affirming release to date, eschewing, in large part but not entirely, the political overtones that dominated the themes of All Rebel Rockers (2008), Yell Fire! (2006) and Everyone Deserves Music (2003).

Inspired by a devastating stint in the hospital in 2009 from a ruptured appendix, Franti found himself having to turn to places he never had imagined to find life’s sunshine. “I would peel back the curtain and if it was sunny I’d say, ‘Yes! It’s gonna be a great day, I’m going to feel better.’ If not, I’d try to find sunshine in something else. I wanted to put that feeling of optimism into song,” said Franti. “Music is sunshine. It gives us new energy and a stronger sense of purpose. You can’t hold it in your hands, smell it, taste it, or even see it, yet somehow, just coming together and feeling these little vibrations that tickle your eardrums can somehow lift us all up and out of the most difficult moments in life to unimaginable heights.

“When I was in Iraq playing music in the street, I found people who were in the most difficult circumstances. They say the same thing every time: ‘Play us something that makes us sing and cry and laugh and dance,’” Franti said, with a genuine sincerity. “Music is best when it helps us get through the day.”

In fact, the recording process for the album was one of the things that Franti used to get himself through the days after his appendicitis. The album was recorded in a ton of different places, mostly through a single laptop and two mics. Franti and his guitarist, co-songwriter and engineer Jay Bowman, set up their make-shift recording rig in hotel rooms and dressing rooms throughout the country on Spearhead’s late winter and spring tour earlier this year with John Mayer.

Ironically, Franti admitted that many of the drum tracks on the album were pieced together from different recordings, since their environment was often not acoustically dialed in enough to capture the full range of drums with the proper levels.

For concert-goers unfamiliar with the Franti experience, it is not one that is taken lightly by devotees. Serenading the audience through melodic guitar riffs and goose bump-raising lyrics, a live show’s energy pounces from wall to wall; unstoppable by anything but the dreaded post-encore silence. Those who say that love is an ocean have never been to a Spearhead show. To Spearhead’s audience, love is omnipresent, electrifying fingertips and vibrating vocal chords in some crazy unison that comes out as a completed puzzle in the form of song.

Franti is not exempt from this vulnerability, either. “It makes me really happy when I look out into the audience and I see people hug and put their arms in the air and scream and dance ecstatically. They’re letting go of something. We have people who come up and tell stories about how music has moved them. In the band, we’ve always said we don’t just want to move one person. We want to be a band that affects thousands of people. That’s why we keep touring. We feel really lucky to be able to perform music every night,” he said.

Franti went on to say that he and his band feel even more lucky when they get to play Colorado. “We love playing there. The fans are the most knowledgeable about new music. They’re willing to drive incredible distances, through all types of weather, to go have a great time,” Franti said. “I think there’s something about being in the mountains and being in the Colorado beauty that music just enhances the experience so much. If you’re driving, or if you’re snowboarding, or if you’re fishing on a creek in the summertime, or hiking, or mountain biking; music just enhances that experience. I’ve found that Coloradans are always striving for that peak experience in everything that they do and that’s why I identify with them so much.”

The soldout early afternoon show will be a Family Matinee, with kids activities including local kids bands, puppet shows, organic food samples, a kids recycled costume show, contest and parade,

and eco-friendly painting followed by a kids concert. The Harvest Ball will also include a food drive and all attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods to the shows.

:: Michael Franti and Spearhead ::

:: 1st Bank Center ::

:: November 27 :: (two shows)

:: 2 p.m. matinee show featuring

The Big Tadoo Puppet Crew, Jaden and Conscious Carnival Games :: (sold out)

:: 8 p.m. evening show ::

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