The perpetually shoeless crooner Michael Franti flooded the 1stBank Center on Saturday afternoon with his occasionally drippy message of love and peace. Franti’s annual Harvest Ball saw hundreds of moms and dads dancing with their shoulder-mounted tykes to Franti’s effervescent pop-funk.
The lanky peace prophet, backed by his Bay Area band Spearhead, delivered his most kid-friendly songs to the all ages arena. “Hello Bonjour” kicked off the 90-minute set, a musical finale to the nearly five-hour ball, which saw a shrieking puppet show, arts and crafts and Franti happily mingling with star-struck parents and their often nonplussed kids.
Photos, below, from the evening performance.
Nine-year-old Lafayette singer-songwriter Jaden Carlson opened the show with her reggae-roots sound. The miniscule singer with the powerful voice and nimble fingers jammed strong renditions of the Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels” and the Flobots’ “Handlebars.” Carlson’s original “These Walls” revealed a true songwriting gift from the girl who was led to learn guitar only a few years ago after seeing Franti.
Franti’s now-famous Harvest Ball fit perfectly at 1stBank, with its ample seating for weary parents and even more room for boogying. (Previous balls at the cozy Fillmore sold out in minutes, so the extra space also widened the party.) Franti, even though he was due for a scorching concert in a few hours, bubbled over with enthusiasm, seemingly inspired by the shrill cheers of the under-10 crowd. He leapt throughout every stanza of his new “Sound of Sunshine” and “Yell Fire.” He raced through the crowd, guitar slung over his back, to a center-of-the-floor stage for “Hey, Hey, Hey.”
Describing how he grew up with his adopted family that urged respect for all people, Franti’s delicate, Zydeco-tinged “Say Hey (I Love You)” filled 1stBank with all kinds of gooey hugs between dads and daughters, moms and sons. The song’s signature line “seems like everywhere I go / the more I see / the less I know / but I know / one thing / that I love you,” resonated throughout the parking lots afterwards, with hosts of kids and parents singing the refrain to each other.
Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.
Joshua Elioseff is a Boulder-based freelance photographer and regular Reverb contributor. Check out his website.