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Beacon of Light: Franti Headlines California WorldFest

July 13 to 16, Grass Valley
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Info: 21st Annual California WorldFest, Franti plays Sunday, July 16, variety of festival ticket options available, Nevada County Fairgrounds, Grass Valley,

World got you a little down right now? We’ve got the remedy.

After globetrotting the world on their Love Out Loud Tour 2017, Michael Franti and Spearhead are coming home. Franti, who grew up in the Bay Area, is a musician, filmmaker, and humanitarian who has continually been at the forefront of “lyrical activism,” using his music as a positive force for change. The band, basically on tour since the 1990s, released their ninth studio album, SOULROCKER, last year, featuring their signature blend of hip-hop, rock, folk, and reggae with an added dose of electronic music. They are accomplished studio artists, but their live shows are arguably where the real magic happens. I don’t exaggerate when I say I’ve left more than one of their shows nearly levitating.

“Right now is a time in the world people are looking for inspiration,” Franti told Moonshine Ink in an interview. “And they are looking to come together with other people who are concerned about what’s happening in the world but at the same time haven’t forgotten how to enjoy life. That’s really what our shows are about.”

Franti and Spearhead come to the area to play at California WorldFest, which music industry magazine Pollstar calls a “festival of discovery.” Go on, discover how Franti and Spearhead can make you forget what ails you.

You’re passionate about the planet and Tahoe is a special place. Do you get a chance to recreate when here?  

These days, having been on tour most of my adult life during the summer, it’s few and far between. When we go do shows there, if we can get out we’ll go jump in the lake or dip our toes in the Truckee. I love the mountains. When I was a kid, we used to go backpacking in Desolation Wilderness, learning how to poop and bury it (laughs) … important skills to acquire when you’re a kid with a backpack on. I have fond memories of growing up in Northern California.

How is the tour going so far? Are you excited to be coming back to the area?

Yeah, so, we’ve been in England, South Africa, Indonesia, Hawaii, Japan … [but soon] we fly out to New York and get on a tour bus. And that’s when it really feels like we start touring, when we’re on the bus. We’re like an old family, excited to be on the bus together and to spend our summers making people happy through music.

WorldFest is a festival that seems connected to your mission in life, with its message of “music connects us all.” What aspects of the festival speak to you?

One of the things that I’ve learned, really in the last six months of traveling, for every artist making millions of dollars playing music, there are millions of musicians and millions, millions more people who love music just because of the way it makes them feel. For so many places in the world, music is not just something recorded in a studio or that you listen to on your headphones, it’s something you do every night.

I saw you play at the Truckee Amphitheater in 2000, and your 2005 KVMR Folsom Prison show is also one of my go-to albums. Do you think you’ll be able to find a way to do shows at this intimate scale again?

You know, it’s funny, we travel all over the world and in some places we play really big venues, and in some really small. We approach it all the same way. We give it our 100 percent effort.

One of the things we’re doing on this tour is SOULROCKER events — soulrockers are what we call our family of people who enjoy our music. For example, this weekend in San Diego, we’re doing a SOULROCKER yoga class and I’ll be playing acoustic music there. Then we’ll do a meet-up with whomever wants to show up, and it’s tied to a community event. Maybe we could organize something for the Truckee/Tahoe area.

We would definitely be down for that. You’ve done a lot of work geared toward facing the challenges in the world today. What ways do you personally counter the propensity for giving up?

In our house, my wife Sara and I have a family motto actually on the inside of our wedding rings. It says, “Be your best, serve the greater good, and rock out wherever you are.”

A positive outlook on life is like shooting free throws. Steph Curry didn’t become a great shooter by just waking up one day. He went out there day after day after day and he became that. Positivity is the same way. You have to practice positivity even in the dark times to learn to shake off skepticism and move into optimism.

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February 14, 2019