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Taken from Creative Loafing - Tampa Bay (Feb 10, 2017)

Michael Franti brings sunny tunes, faith in humanity to sold out Jannus Live


by Michael Fritz

Michael Franti & Spearhead play Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, Florida on February 10, 2017.
Photo by Kaylee LoPresto

For anyone familiar with Michael Franti and his style of music, he is the chillest mother fucker on the entire planet. Franti and his backup band, Spearhead, play a unique type of reggae rock that sounds like what a smile feels like on a sunny day. Most people unfamiliar with the artist’s name will likely recognize him for on of his two biggest hits, “Say Hey” or “The Sound Of Sunshine.” His concert Thursday night at Janus Live was the first of his new Love Out Loud tour, preaching that Americans should love and not hate, a message he felt was important in our current day and age.

Before the show, Franti was hanging out near will call and taking photos with fans. Since my name was accidentally listed as “Michael Franti” instead of “Michael Fritz” on the press list (which delayed me a good while getting in), I thought it would be fun to relay the story to him. My voice got lost in the bustling crowd, I had to repeat myself a few times before a manager pulled him away, causing me to miss both a conversation and a photo op.

Opening for Franti was Montana based soul/funk/hip hop group, Satsang. They played sunshine-y, pluck heavy music and really set the stage for Michael Franti & Spearhead’s energetic and soulful performance.

All of Janus, packed to the brim with your drunk moms and dads, smiled along with Franti as he expressed his joy through song. His bass player, Carl Young, sported a grey beret and sent thumping scales through the spine of everyone in the alley. His piano player, Michael Blankenship, grabbed a keytar at one point in the show and killed with the blues/soul melodies he laid throughout.

Michael Franti & Spearhead play Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, Florida on February 10, 2017.
Photo by Kaylee LoPresto

About two songs in, you could see employees blowing up beach balls behind the set. As he began the opening measures for “The Sound of Sunshine,” about 20-25 beachballs appeared from behind the stage and began to traverse the crowd thereafter. Towards the latter part of the song, Franti called up a tie-dye wearing, long haired kid named Owen to help him sing the rest of the song. After he finished his solo, Franti let the kid stay on stage the remainder of the song, dancing and rocking out with the band.

At one point in the show, Franti got off the stage and went to sing a good deal of “My Favorite Wine is Tequila” from the middle of the crowd. It was during this song that he let his long dreads down to hang at his side, as well as his bassist losing his beret and switching his instrument to a white jazz bass. They even pulled out a girl, backwards flat bill and all, from behind the stage to shred country violin for the duration of one of his folksier diddies.

On his guitar strap, you'll see a large red rectangle emblazoned with the words “Stay Human.” This is a large glimpse into who Franti is as a person, with his all of his humanitarian efforts and strides for global peace, Franti numbers among the relatively few musicians in today’s scape who are actually making a difference with the platform they’ve been given. Though his music, films, and poetry, Franti attempts to send a message about self worth and peace to his fellow people. We were all dealt a different hand in life, but we were all born with the ability to love and the ability to smile.

If you, too, want a slice of the zen that Franti displays both on stage and in his music, you can actually rent a room in his personal yoga oasis in Bali. His hotel benefits the local town of Ubud and provides jobs to its many residents. Or if you’re fast, catch him on his second stop tonight in Jacksonville.


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