Michael Franti and Spearhead’s September 9th concert at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon was perhaps summarized best when my companion mentioned that Michael Franti deserves some sort of humanitarian award.
Michael Franti and Spearhead came through town on the appropriately named Love Out Loud tour, bringing a much-appreciated breath of fresh air to Oregon fans. The roots rocker has always been one to break down barriers between the band and the audience, and Saturday was no exception. The afternoon before the show, Franti hosted a hangout session that included yoga and a potluck. During the show, kids were brought on stage and offered microphones to sing the choruses of their favorite songs, cheered on by the crowd. There was a wedding proposal. Fans were brought on stage to videotape as the band played. And, of course, there were hugs. Lots of hugs.
Toronto’s Choir! Choir! Choir! opened the show and got the crowd participating early on. Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman lead audiences through their arrangements of pop songs, and use humor as a disarming force to get people involved. It was goofy, but it was an inclusive goofiness that welcomed everyone to sing along. Their set culminated in Franti coming out to help everyone sing Bob Marley’s “One Love.”
Michael Franti and Spearhead took the stage and got down to business. With Carl Young on bass, Manas Itiene on drums, Michael Blankenship on keys and J Bowman on guitar, Spearhead is capable of delivering some deep grooves. The dance party started in earnest when the band dropped into revolution anthem “Yell Fire!” from the 2006 album of the same name.
Just three songs in, a young gentleman was invited on stage to help the band sing “The Sound of Sunshine.” This touching moment was intensified when a light mist began to fall from the sky — the first moisture the area has received in months. People questioned whether this show would even take place due to fires burning in the beloved Columbia River Gorge, which had caused the closure of Interstate 84 just east of the venue. For those in attendance, Spearhead’s songs of hope and compassion were the perfect soundtrack for the return of some much-needed rain.
After a few more songs, including the lighthearted “My Favorite Wine Is Tequila” and a run through 1997’s “Ganga Babe,” Franti moved to a small platform in the middle of the crowd to deliver a few thoughts and several songs. The band stayed on stage and backed Franti as he played songs from 2016 album SOULROCKER, including “Good To Be Alive Today,” Summertime Is In Our Hands,” and “Get Myself To Saturday.” There was another small riser set up even farther back in the venue, allowing Franti to directly connect with even more concertgoers before heading back to the stage.
The end of the show found more than a dozen children up on stage dancing along to the music. Frant would then offer heartfelt thanks to the band, fans, and others who helped make the show happen. He even brought out the driver of the tour bus who doesn’t get to see many shows because he is usually resting up for the drive to the next town.
Live music provides a great opportunity to get out of our usual routines and forget about our troubles for awhile. Somehow, through his music and message, Michael Franti is able to take it a step further, helping us get in touch with our humanity and innate capacity for compassion. People who attend Spearhead shows often receive a remedy they didn’t even know they needed. On Saturday, the Edgefield was a concert venue, and also a healing ground.