Entering into its twelfth year of existence this weekend, Michael Franti's Power to the Peaceful music and yoga festival doesn't appear to pack quite the big name punch on (recycled, written on with hemp ink) paper – the Talib Kwelis and String Cheese Incidents that shared the bill with Franti in years past have been cycled out for Rupa and the April Fishes, SambaDa, and other relatively little known acts. But we caught up with Franti a few weeks ago to talk about this weekend's (Fri/10-Sun/12) life-loving festivities while he was driving through the Nevadan desert, and he says there's a method to the grooviness.
“It's like being in a western movie out here,” Franti tells me after our call is dropped for lack of service. Reconnected, I ask: Michael, how'd you choose your supporting lineup for the concert you created to free Mumia, spread love, and perpetuate peace in Speedway Meadows?
“Last year we had Alanis Morrissette, lots of groups that we brought in from afar. This year we wanted to highlight Bay Area music,” says Franti, a Hunter's Point resident himself. He took me through the lineup, which truth be told will probably make for a far more fun crowd than that of the year I had to throw bows to make it through the Indigo Girls crush.
The patchouli-heavy roster includes the Santa Cruz capoeira crew SambaDa, bringing in a high-energy sound straight from the beach. All the acts involved have some smattering of multi-culturalism, including the Rupa and the April Fishes, of whose front lady Franti tells me “her family is Indian, but she grew up in America and sings in French and Spanish. She's a M.D. half the year, and tours the other half of the year. I've always thought she was an amazing person.” We've got Rebelution to look forward to, surf-reggae boys from Santa Barbara, local emcee Sellassie, and... American Idol's Crystal Bowersox? She's from Ohio, but hey she's got dreadlocks – she's in!
Most of the acts on the roster share the distinction for explicitly progressive social thinking, pretty key for a concert that Franti says he started to raise awareness of the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Black Panther sentenced to Death Row for his alleged murder of a Philadelphia police officer. Tied to the concert, which focuses on promoting peace on an institutional and personal level, will be a 9 a.m. "1,000 Yogis for Peace" mass sun salutation (Sat/10), and a variety of paid shows meant to raise funds for future PTTP events. Though the Saturday Golden Gate shows will be the only free events of the weekend, the Fillmore Theater will also play host to Franti's vibe, starting on Friday night when he'll perform his new album, The Sound of Sunshine, continuing with a Talking Heads tribute Saturday night, and yoga-Brazilian dance workshops during the day on Sunday.
But before I hung up with Franti we had another hard-soled issue to discuss. That being, his lack of them. Franti threw off the shackles of tounges and laces a decade ago – kinda. “It comes up quite regularly that I go into a restaurant or store and they'll ask me to wear shoes. So I put on flip-flops.” Damn the man! Oh, and he wears them running as well.
Must we ask why? We must. Franti tells me through the savannah-induced static that he had been playing a lot of shows in developing countries, and the kids there thought his fragile, callus-free feet hilarious. Once back in SF, he decided to go unshod for three days, and the rest is history. Ironically, he's been pretty involved in getting those things back on the feet of people that need them – donations are being collected at the concert for one of his favorite charities, Souls 4 Souls. That group will join over 100 social justice organizations at the concert on Saturday, where they will be offering information on everything from environmental issues to gang intervention. So wait, we're listening to propaganda here? “The idea is to plug people into serving,” Franti says.
As a willing member of the liberal media, I'll be at Power to the Peaceful all weekend, and how! Check out my take on the downward dogs and loosely cinched fisherman's pants in next week's print edition of the SFBG
Power to the Peaceful
main concert: Sat/11 9 a.m.-5 p.m., $5 suggested donation
Golden Gate Park, SF
other live events: Fri/10-Sun/11, times and prices vary
1805 Geary, SF