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Music » Sound Stories & Interviews

Turning Lemons into Sunshine

Michael Franti's decade-long occupation of Bend



"Political climate changes by critical mass," said Michael Franti, the absolutely most overwhelmingly positive person on the face of the planet, in a recent interview with the Source. "And it only takes one person to share an idea with a few others."

Using examples like Oregon's recent overturn of a ban on same-sex marriage and the west coast's freedom of individuality, Franti explained the ways in which music can be a vehicle for social change.

"Music helps to familiarize people with an idea, and make those ideas a part of everyday life," said Franti. "It opens your heart and that's much more powerful, over the long term, than what can be accomplished by a congress or one person. Music goes on forever."

It's this heartwarming rhetoric, along with his work with a slew of nonprofit causes—including his nonprofit, the Do It For Love Foundation, that brings people with advanced stages of life threatening medical conditions, kids with severe challenges, and veterans to live concerts—that have built Franti a reputation as a humanitarian, activist and general do-gooder entertainer. Those same things continue to draw listeners to his globally conscious pop hip-hop music and to his hyper-positive gigs, despite the fact that he has graced the Les Schwab Amphitheater with his presence five times in the last seven years.

This year, Franti's Soulshine Tour will combine his socially conscious, high-energy music and one of his other passions, yoga.

"I started practicing yoga 13 years ago on tour as a way to figure out how to keep my mind and my body and my heart all connected together," explained Franti. "I started going to different yoga schools and met hundreds of yogis. Last year when we played Red Rocks we invited people to come to a class before the show while I played acoustically and we had 2,000 people show up. We thought why not do this at every tour stop in every city? Even if you've never been on the mat before it will be a great experience."

In Bend, Franti has done a similar practice before past shows leading cruiser rides through the Old Mill and participating in outdoor yoga classes with the men and women of local advocacy nonprofit, World MUSE.

"We've done a couple of bike rides and yoga sessions and it's been really great," said Franti. "It's exciting to see the whole community, men, women and kids of all ages connecting together. Being on the map and riding together, and then all coming to rock out at a concert."

Those fuzzy feelings are mutual.

"Michael is definitely one of our favorite 'Man Muses,'" explained MUSE founder Amanda Stuermer. "World Muse is all about inspiring women and girls to create positive social change. Michael does that through his work both on and off the stage."

This concert also presents a unique opportunity for global connectivity as, by happenstance, during the week of Franti's show, a group of Tibetan Monks from the Gaden Shartse Dokhang Monastery is in Bend. World MUSE has set up a meet and greet for Franti and the monks who are on tour as a part of a special project of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The groups may come from opposite sides of the globe (Michael Franti's home in San Francisco is 7,294 miles from Xizang, Tibet where the monks' monastery is located), but they couldn't have a more similar mission of sharing positive and diverse cultural experiences with the world. In spreading his cultural experiences—beyond jumping up and down, shaking hands and embodying the Energizer Bunny of happiness on stage—Franti hopes to open doors for a new and lasting positive outlook.

"We try to take our skepticism and turn it into something really positive. My son is really actually great at that. He inspires me," said Franti. "I told him, 'Your new name is lemonade because you can take something really bad and turn it into something really good.' There's no word in the English language, to take something bad and turn it into something good. That's my journey, to try and find a word for that."

Soulshine Tour featuring...

Michael Franti & Spearhead, SOJA, Brett Dennen and Trevor Hall

Sat., June 28 | 5 pm

Les Schwab Amphitheater, 344 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr. | $42

Check out bendsource.com for a full listing of public events with the visiting Tibetan Monks.

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