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Taken from The Age(AU) (Feb 27, 2005)

Frisky fans - Music

Michael Franti, one of the headline acts at the MelbourneInternational Music Festival this weekend, reflects on why he lovesthis city of misfits.

by The Age

Michael FrantiI have the best job in the world. I get to sit in a park with my guitar, spill my soul onto little scraps of paper, and then travel the globe playing my heart out for people who want to party, raise their voice against the system or heal broken dreams.

In 17 years of touring, I have driven past more great buildings, bridges and museums than I can count, but because of the hectic schedule of road life, I have rarely set foot in any of them.

So to me, what makes a place memorable is the interactions I have with people along the way. It is with great pleasure that I return to the eccentric, soulful populace that is Melbourne. I love this town.

You see, being a San Franciscan, I feel at home here, because my city is a haven for misfits, people from "somewhere else" and creative freaks. Rarely have I met a Melburnian who did not happily fit into one of these categories. The music scene rocks.

The first person I met in Melbourne was a Maori named Tina. We happened upon each other at The Lounge, the legendary late night spot in Swanson Street. She had left a painful life in New Zealand that she describes as part Once Were Warriors and part Whale Rider. She ventured to Los Angeles, where she found a husband and soon after had a baby.

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When I met her, she was a single mother, high school drop-out and self-taught hair stylist who had just opened Mudd Hair Sculpting in Prahran.

Thirteen years later, she runs one of the most successful salons in town. We have remained friends ever since, and last June when I decided to go to Iraq, Israel and Palestine, she raised funds for the trip and ended up coming along. Who better to watch my back in the Gaza Strip than a Maori warrior hairdresser who runs with scissors?

Melbourne's cultural diversity makes for some of the best eating in the world. It's impossible to have a bad meal in this town - Vietnamese, Lebanese, Greek, African, Chinese, Thai and Italian can be found with ease.

I have driven past more great buildings,
bridges and museums than I can count,
but . . . rarely set foot in any."
Michael Franti

Anyone who still chooses to eat at McDonald's deserves it.

At Bledisloe Cup time, Tina and I were at Caffe e Cucina, slumped in a deep food coma after an uneventful first half and bellies full of the best pasta in Melbourne.

The shriek of the final whistle brought us back to life, only to discover Australia had lost.

We left the "Bloody Slow Cup" with 80,000 mourning fans. Nothing a bowl of ice-cream at Brunetti's off Lygon Street couldn't cure.

Last year, in the lead-up to a show at Festival Hall, one of our biggest fans emailed me saying he had been introduced to his girlfriend at one of our shows and the two of them had since been to every concert I had performed in Melbourne. He told me he wanted to get on stage with me to make a special announcement. In front of 6000 punters, he dropped to his knee and proposed to his partner. The crowd roared.

After the show, I autographed her back - her request - and sent them off with my blessings. The next time I saw them, they were happily married and his wife was eager to show me her new tattoo - my signature on her back.

Only in Melbourne.


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