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Taken from Monterey Herald (Oct 18, 2007)

Minds & Music

The inaugural Monterey Music Summit hopes to establish itself as a music festival with more on its mind than music

by BETH PEERLESS, Herald Correspondent


One thing most people will agree on is that Monterey is a festival kind of town. It's been brilliantly blessed with historical events known the world over.


This weekend's inaugural Monterey Music Summit at the venerable Monterey Fairgrounds has the potential to join ranks with such hard acts to follow as the 50th Monterey Jazz Festival.


With its focus on contemporary popular music though, it's difficult to ignore comparisons to the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival of 1967.


But it's not realistic to compare it to a festival that happened once, more than 40 years ago. Because that was then and this is now.


And the lineup does nothing but reflect the current landscape of what is popular on the concert scene today.


What is abundantly comparable is the level of talent being presented throughout both Saturday and Sunday's programs on three stages, with headliners The Roots, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Cake, Ozomatli, G. Love & Special Sauce, and a host of up-and-coming hot concert acts that are either regional favorites or what will soon become your next favorite band.


What the folks at Joe Fletcher Presents — the event's producer and one of the country's top production outfits — want you to know is that this is a green event that will not only act as a responsible steward of the planet, but will encourage attendees to exchange ideas and learn what feasible ways exist to effect change in the world.


Whether it is for the environment or to make a difference in how our government representatives represent us as a caring nation, there will be ample opportunities to be inspired and motivated by music and a number of multi-media presentations.


"There are artists on the bill that you've never heard of or lots of fans haven't heard," said Fletcher in his Seaside Highlands home-office, where he conducts business on an international level. "But I guarantee you that they're going to love that. They are going to be introduced to someone like West Indian Girl, a band out of Los Angeles that is just phenomenal. Or CéU, the Brazilian singer. She's on the Starbucks label; she's just a genius, you know, just great, great stuff. So part of it is you hope that people want to come and see The Roots and Ozomatli and Cake, names that they know. But you also want them to walk away being surprised. The best thing for me would be for someone to go, 'My God, I can't believe how great some of these artists are I've never heard of before.'"


Truly there is something for everyone, from the jazzy hip-hop of The Roots, the laid-back bluesy rhymes of G. Love, the Latin and reggae rhythms and socially conscious rap of Ozomatli, to the funky jams of Meshell Ndegeocello and the garage psychedelia rock of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.


There's also the awesome vocal and songwriting talents of young women like Brandi Carlile, Colbie Caillat and Jessie Baylin. San Francisco jam bands Tea Leaf Green, New Monsoon and ALO will get the fans grooving like it's Bonnaroo.


Zap Mama will definitely be blowing some minds with its leader Marie Daulne's beat-heavy yet sophisticated blending of African and European soul.


Local talent Jonah and the Whalewatchers, Rushad Eggleston and the Butt Wizards and recent imports Holiday and the Adventure Pop Collective will also be on hand to put their stamp on the event that may well grow to be a cultural landmark of our community.


New to this area as of January, Fletcher's deep musical background and long history in concert production lend credence to his music choices for this festival. His personal experiences with activism prepare him to lead this amalgam of socially conscious musicians in producing fertile ground for organizing and learning how to become empowered.


You can read about his history in The Herald's Friday Life & Times section.


Michael FrantiNo one else better embodies the heart and soul of this festival than Michael Franti & Spearhead, a group that 10 years ago played The Catalyst in Santa Cruz regularly but now commands the stage at major festivals around the world.


San Francisco-based Franti has long been a social activist through music, starting with the interracial punk rock band the Beatnigs.


He went on to form the influential Disposable Heroes of HipHoprisy in 1990, and while touring as support on U2 tours in 1992 and '93, he came to know lead singer Bono well.


"I got to spend a lot of time with him talking and hanging out," Franti said in a phone interview from a tour stop in Norfolk, Va. "He's somebody who is really inspiring to me, because he's somebody who believes in concrete things. He's not somebody who goes just, 'Oh well, let's talk or hold meetings about stuff.' He's really somebody who believes in action. To have concrete results."


To that effect, Franti has applied himself to the goals of "shutting down the prison camp and torture center at Guantanamo and ending the war in Iraq."


The issue of global warming and climate change is important to him and he walks his talk by having his tour buses run on biodiesel and vegetable fuel. He's banned plastic cups and bottles from the band's rider. The venues he plays must also provide recycling at the shows.


And with no fear of standing up for what he believes in, he says "This election coming up is critical, not only for what's happening in this country, but for the way the rest of the people view America and are affected by our policies."


"I really think music inspires consciousness and consciousness inspires action," he said. "If you can't get people to dance, move and to shout saying, 'Jump up and down,' it's really hard to get people inspired to do anything. So that's what we do as a band. As a performer I'm always thinking, 'In what way can I engage the audience?' Lyrically, musically, rhythmically, performance wise, the stage set, every aspect of it, we spend time thinking about it. As a performer, I really dedicate my day, my life, to making sure I'm there when called upon."


Franti hosts a free annual music festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park called Power To The Peaceful each September. This year marked the ninth event, and he is expanding to Brazil for an international Power To The Peaceful this Dec. 1.


In 2004, he traveled to Iraq, Palestine and Israel armed with video cameras and his guitar. His documentary "I Know I Am Not Alone" details the trip, and he produced a studio recording titled "Yell Fire!" Just out is a live version of the CD's music on the Anti label.


"I believe in love. I believe in the power of love to promote positivity," he said in response to the question of whether he uses spirituality as inspiration. "It can be anything like smiling at somebody to making sure that everybody in our community is taken care of. And to make sure that people in other parts of the world aren't killed by our military. And people have peace, safety and prosperity, everyone on the planet. And my foundation for that love is my yoga practice. I practice yoga every day."


Franti will close the Summit Stage (main arena) Sunday night, but the music will continue with Carlile at the Monterey Stage (the fairgrounds' Garden Stage), and a late night jam will ensue with ALO on the Dog House Stage (King City Room) before the music fans drift off into the night.


The list of all the bands and their stage schedule is on the event's Web site at http://www.montereymusicsummit.com/.


"We're trying to develop something," Fletcher offered. "This is just the seed. We hope that this is successful, and we'll have the opportunity to grow each year, getting bigger and bolder and more eclectic."


Beth Peerless can be reached at peerless@mbay.net. GO!

 
 

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