Michael Franti & Spearhead w/ The New Respects 6.26.22

Salvage Station
Asheville, NC

Words & photos by C Alan Crandall (Rocky Mountain Jams)

It was a hot and muggy day at the Salvage Station, afternoon rains had made it additionally humid early before the Michael Franti & Spearhead concert, Sunday, June 22, 2022. Luckily by show time, the skies had cleared, and the breeze had cooled down the outdoor venue to a very comfortable 85 degrees, an almost perfect temperature for a concert next to the French Broad River, in Asheville, NC. The Soulrockers, a self-named moniker for fans of Franti, began arriving well before the 5:00 p.m. venue opening time. The line to get in was filled with exuberant fans, ready for the show. A half-full venue greeted The New Respects, a 4 piece band out of Nashville, that has secured the opening position for this show and many of the Summer 2022 "Follow Your Heart" tour dates. The New Respects played an energetic show that really got the crowd hopping and ready for the main act.

Franti shows are well-planned events that are not just focused on the music performance. For this show, the venue had bins for recycled, compostable, and landfill items. The cups and containers were compostable reducing waste and helping the goal of being a green event. Conscious Alliance was taking food and monetary donations to help with their mission. Head Count was on hand to register voters so that everyone that wanted to could have a voice. Representatives from "Plastic Free WNC" gave a presentation on the problems with single-use plastic containers and asked for support. Franti encourages green initiatives at all of his performances.

Michael Franti took the stage in front of a large, enthusiastic audience of Soulrockers. Franti just dropped the new, highly acclaimed album, Follow Your Heart in April 2022 and played nearly every track on the album over the evening. Franti mentioned how good it was to once again be performing in front of a live audience. Creatively, the last couple of years of the pandemic were good for Franti as Follow Your Heart is his most positive album to date. "I poured my soul into all of the lyrics on this album and I hope it inspires you to listen to your voice within, be your authentic self, and continue to follow the light even in your darkest moments," said Franti. "Writing the 11 songs on this album was cathartic for me during the ups and downs of the past couple years, and I hope they inspire you to let out what’s inside your soul and live your life to the fullest!" The show was dripping with positivity, Franti engaged the audience from the moment he took the stage with his band Spearhead. He is great at getting the audience dancing, smiling, and following along with his uplifting music. After the third or fourth song, full of smiles and exuberance, Franti mentioned that they had a set list but had not followed it at that point in the show.

The fans were right there with Franti, smiling, dancing, and following along with the lyrics. At points, Michael would point into the audience and simply ask if the selected fan knew the words to the song he was performing which he followed with an invitation to join him, on the stage, with their own microphone, to join in the performance.

There were two mini-stages set up in the audience where Franti would head out with one crew member to perform for the audience from about mid-way back in the venue. While on these stages he continued with his sharing the music inviting several fans up to join him during a song. Eventually, Franti would make his way back up to the main stage.

The band and crew also put on a top-notch performance. Not since Govt. Mule's Brian Farmer (R.I.P.) have I seen a guitar tech so in sync with the performer. Many times Franti would, without looking, reach back and a guitar would appear and be placed right into his hand, get plugged in, and strap connected. The Franti organization has produced quite a few "visualizations" that the crew would have playing on a huge screen behind the stage in almost perfect sync with the actual performance. The band and Franti's sound were fantastic, sounding as good or better than the recorded performances which is quite the feat considering Michael Franti is rarely still on stage and is instead dancing around, leaving no portion of the stage unvisited during the show.

Michael Franti is engaged with his audiences maybe more than any other performer I have seen. He invites all the children to join him on stage. He tells stories of affirmations and family insight. He speaks of relationships, hard times, and looking for the best person you can be... just like his music, he is present, engaging, and uplifting. Attending a Michael Franti show is a kind of musical therapy. It's not just the music and the message, but the community and the shared hope for a better world, free of plastics, where everyone votes their mind. It is a, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and look forward to a brighter day kind of event. When attending his show, if you do it right, if you dance, if you listen, if you learn, if you vibe on the scene, if you smile, you don’t come out of a Michael Franti show just feeling better, you come out of a Michael Franti show a better person.

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