Taken from Aspen Times (March 18, 2017)
Michael Franti returns to Aspen to headline World Cup Village
by Andrew Travers
Michael Franti photographed at Belly Up Aspen during a December show.
Aspen Times file
Of course Michael Franti is playing Aspen during the town's big World Cup Finals weekend.
The singer, songwriter and activist — much-beloved in these parts — is a regular on local stages, making tour stops here with seasonal regularity. He returns with Spearhead for a free performance in the World Cup Village in Wagner Park tonight.
Franti has developed an intimate relationship with Aspen off stage, too, over the years. He's volunteered with the Buddy Program and Aspen Yoga Society and, in 2013, launched his wish-giving nonprofit Do It for the Love foundation here.
The deep connection to Colorado and Aspen, he said before a December show with the Michael Franti Trio at Belly Up Aspen, is rooted in the local love and respect for natural resources here.
"I've been a lot of places in the world, and it's one of the most beautiful places," Franti said. "I feel like no matter who you are, no matter what your political situation is, people cannot help but be moved by the natural beauty. That makes Colorado a unique place. And Coloradans have a spirit of having the land they're stewarding be there for generations. I think that changes people."
The San Francisco native's affinity for Colorado also, naturally, comes down to music and the dedicated traditions of local music lovers.
"Nowhere else in the world do people say, 'Hey, let's hop in the car and go to a concert,' and that's a four-hour ride," he said with a laugh. "It's the best music fans in the world."
Franti's most recent album is "Soulrocker," released last summer. It continues the 6-foot-6 singer's career-long tradition of socially conscious but affirming songs that meld elements of folk, pop and hip-hop. The new album, like 2013's "All People," also introduces some new elements to Franti's musical palate — integrating some electronics and dance beats in sunny, celebratory dance tracks. We'll have to see if Franti, who traditionally performs barefoot and customarily ventures into the audience with his fans, will do so in the snow Saturday.
The singer has a long history as an activist for peace, social justice and environmental causes. President Donald Trump's election brought a new urgency to that work, and since November he's played rallies and protests around the U.S.
"I think it's '11:59,'" he said, referring to his pre-apocalyptic 2013 song. "Really, it is for people who have been called to protect water, to fight for social justice, to speak up and be allies of the LGBT community, who believe that America can be a place for all people and not just some. If you believe in standing up for inclusion instead of bigotry, and not bullying, then now is the time when all of us have to kick it into gear and find ways to apply our skills and energy to really standing up."