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Taken from Duluth News Tribune (July 08, 2011)

Singer Michael Franti brings 'stay human' message to Duluth

Shane Bauer of Laughingstock Design is so into Franti’s music and lifestyle that he built a festival around it. The first-time Twin Ports Bridge Festival is a mix of events playing off Franti’s “stay human” theme.
by Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune


Michael Franti
Micheal Franti and his band, Spearhead, bring their rock/reggae hybrid music and message of compassion toward the Earth and other human beings to the Twin Ports Bridge Festival on Saturday. (Submitted photo)

When Michael Franti & Spearhead tour, there are no plastic water bottles allowed. The tour bus is powered by biodiesel whenever possible. Franti performs — in fact, does practically everything — barefoot to bring awareness to the plight of children and adults who cannot afford shoes.


Shane Bauer of Laughingstock Design is so into Franti’s music and lifestyle that he built a festival around it.


“It was all about getting (Franti) to Duluth,” Bauer said. “Then we planned everything around that.”


The first-time Twin Ports Bridge Festival is a mix of events playing off Franti’s “stay human” theme, which is the name of his 2000 album and has become his brand of yoga apparel. The all-day event starts with a Free the Hikers rally that will include freed hiker Sarah Shourd and family members of Shane Bauer — no relation to the event organizer of the same name — and Josh Fattal, who remain in an Iran prison.


The rest of the festival includes live music from local musicians and the famously easy-on-the-Earth band Cloud Cult. There also are guest speakers, group yoga and children’s activities. Tickets are $29 and children 10 and younger get in free.


Franti started out as an industrial punk musician in the mid-1980s and has been playing as Michael Franti & Spearhead since the mid-1990s. The band always has had a social justice and global awareness to their reggae-rock hybrid. But with the song “Say Hey (I Love You)” — a kicky pop song, the band broke through to mainstream airplay.


“Suddenly it was like, 15 years of overnight success,” Franti said. “A whole new crowd of people started coming to our shows. I’d been touring since 1986. We’d never had a song in the Top 20,000.


“We were very grateful to have more people knowing about our music. We’ve always been a band that had a social message to our music. That message is about compassion for other human beings and the planet.”


The band’s most-recent album “The Sound of Sunshine” is Franti’s ode to life, which he wrote after his appendix burst while touring and he almost died. It is thematically different from his previous albums, which included strong social messages. This is the album that fans tell him they put on in the morning for a burst of optimism.


“The whole album is about appreciating things we overlook, like the sun, being with friends or our family,” he said. “This is a really personal record.”


Bauer said this festival has a one-community message.


“It’s the perfect theme for us at the perfect time for us,” Bauer said.

 
 

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