Radiant energy, or electromagnetic energy, is a term typically used to describe radiation when it is emitted by a source and absorbed by the surrounding environment. The exchange of photons can materialize in ways that can be visible or invisible to the human eye. And ever since Michael Franti & Spearhead's flight landed at Miami International Airport on Tuesday, the State of Florida has been doused with endless waves of positivity and humanity.
After a volunteer performance for the kiddos over at All Children's Hospital in Saint Petersburg as part of Franti's Do It for the Love initiative to bring music to those who can't necessarily make it to a show themselves, and before heading a yoga fundraiser event in Orlando (100 percent of proceeds go to the cause), Michael Franti & Spearhead treated Fort Lauderdale to a much-needed dose of that electricity last night with their All People tour.
Serena Ryder, who has been touring with Spearhead for the past month of the tour, took the stage around 10 p.m., after some weird promotion in which plastic cups were launched at the heads of audience members. Some were spared, as furry devil horn headbands cushioned the impact that Halloween night. Others were entirely oblivious to the impact, given that the feeling was absorbed entirely by their wigs or polyester costume accessories. What was in the cups, no one will ever know. Actually, a lot of people probably know, but not this humble reporter. If you wear glasses, you're keen to dodging airborne promotional tools.
Ryder is neat. She stands all of about five feet tall or maybe a few inches more. She belted out an a cappella version of "Melancholy Blues" in the dark and with all the drama a tiny Canadian vocal powerhouse can muster. Her songs are bluesy and poppy, and it is hard not to like her.
Between Ryder and Spearhead, there was a good amount of handclapping demanded by the performers, as well as a lot of audience checkpoints. "How ya feelin'?" is a Franti staple. Once the costumed crowd got a sample of it for the first time, the stage flooded with band members. It was apparent that the time for positive mental attitudes had only begun.
Franti burst out onto the stage in a skeleton suit, tended to by stagehands in coordinating attire. The energy was so high at one point that the guys running around swapping guitar after guitar were grooving out onstage with the band, until one of them couldn't take it anymore and, overwhelmed with the spirit of PMA, jumped into the crowd for a surf on the magical wave of magnetism, only to be met by a group of people who obviously have no idea what a crowd surfer actually is. This was a crowd for the books, man -- parting like the red sea, allowing skeleton stagehand man to fall full force and face-down into the gnarly booze-stained floor of the venue.
Franti's jaw fell to the floor, but the music didn't stop. Lucky for skeleton-stagehand man, Franti's girlfriend, an emergency-room nurse, was just off stage to check his vitals. He must have been OK. He continued to swap and tune instruments for the musicians.
Keeping the energy up is effortless for Franti, who frequently abandoned the stage for some one-on-one time with the group swirling and dancing to the rhythms of Manas Itiene's drums and Carl Young's bass. Here he comes... And there he goes, hugging everyone he brushed up against like the mayor of sunshine or the ambassador of snuggles.
Some hugs lasted longer than others. How does Franti decide who needs a longer hug? Some of the mysteries in this life may never be resolved.
Here he comes... And there he goes again, dreads flying, people hugging. To the balcony on both sides, into the VIP area, which is always a desert but had one or two folks occupying the six couches and four tables this particular night.
Over and over again, in and out of the crowd, barefoot, belting out tunes and prefacing them with simple and unintentional "Everyman" logic, "This song is about some bad days. And some good days. You know how you have some good days and then some bad days?" or "I wrote this song when my appendix ruptured and had to have emergency surgery." Or he launched into a reality check about life and death, kindness and charity -- addressing the dark without entirely destroying the light that can exist behind those stories. It was the kind of storytelling that is so human that it borderlines on mundane, but it forces the listener to get the underlying message: Yeah, you're not the only one who does this or feels this or hears this or thinks this. You are not special, but you are an integral part of all of this.
The set covered a broad range, including key tracks from the latest release, All People, as well as tracks peppered in from Yell Fire! and The Sound of Sunshine (insert heart melt). In the fashion of a true lover of life, Franti recognized this weekend's Dia de Los Muertos holiday and slinked into Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," executing a sincere tribute as an offerenda to the late and soulful troubadour.
Michael Franti's goal is to connect. To not only ride the wave of electromagnetic energy that binds us all but to remain a driving force behind that wave. Last night, one hug at a time, he got into the brains and hearts of Fort Lauderdale and flipped the human switch to the highest setting. Now if he could only convince the ladies in the audience to never wear spike-heeled shoes to a show where most folks are barefoot or in sandals. "This song is about receiving medical attention for a spiked heel wound on Halloween one year..."
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