Musician Michael Franti is known for his positive messages and exuberant live performances of his hip-hop/reggae/folk fusion songs. He’s in Maine this week for a Wednesday night performance at Thompson’s Point with his band, Spearhead, and he’s taking some time to spread the love in Portland, on the streets and on stage.
Franti and his band got into town on Monday night and attended a vigil held on the steps of Portland City Hall to remember the victims of Sunday’s nightclub massacre in Orlando.
“I wanted to be there for personal reasons,” Franti said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I’m saddened and angry, and I wanted to be around other people that were grieving and empathetic to what happened in Orlando… We think we’ve come so far with gay marriage but you never imagine that this kind of hatred could be exacted in this kind of way at this time in our nation’s progress.”
Franti said that his shows are celebrations with fun and dancing but there’s always a purpose to them. “The purpose is that I believe in people on the planet and I believe that people should have the freedom to be their authentic self without living in fear and that we should be, in this day and age, building bridges not walls… I mean that across ethnic divides, religious divides, gender and sexuality. There are so many things that are held up to divide us.”
While some people will incite hatred in response to the Orlando shooting, he said, many people will turn toward love.
“We need to encourage the many and that’s my message right now, to encourage the many to turn toward love,” he said.
Three years ago, Franti and his wife, Sara Agah Franti, launched the nonprofit Do It For the Love Foundation, a wish-granting organization that brings people living with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges, and wounded veterans to live concerts.
Before the Portland performance, Franti will be granting three wishes, from Maine people who wanted to come to his show. Two fans are undergoing cancer treatment and one is a 6-year-old with autism. Franti said that his special guests are given tickets and brought backstage before the show. “We spend time with them and talk with them and listen to what their story is. Then we find them a good place to watch the show from.” Franti said it’s been a great experience and is the part of the day that he looks forward to the most.
Some of the wishes granted by Do It For The Love include providing wish-seekers concert tickets to see Elton John, Billy Joel or Justin Bieber. Do It For The Love has arranged meet-and-greets with big-name artists, including Britney Spears, Paul McCartney and The Band Perry.
The last time Franti was in Portland in 2013, when Do It For The Love was new, a wish was granted to a Maine woman who was in an advanced stage of cancer. She had been planning to come to the show, but she couldn’t, Franti said.
“So we went to the hospice where she was living her last days,” he said. Her family members and friends were there, and they started singing songs. “We started to dance, and she got up out of her bed and was dancing, and this was a frail woman. We had this beautiful moment. I just remember hugging her body and feeling how frail she was, she was basically skin and bones but she gripped me so strong and gave me the biggest hug, and it stayed with me and that’s the greatest gift that music brings us.”
Franti doesn’t mean just his music but all music. “Whether it’s in hospital room, whether it’s in a gay nightclub where people feel safe to be themselves or whether it’s at a big festival with 10,000 people, music is a way to break down barriers and divides, and create magic.”
WHEN: Gates at 5 p.m., show at 6 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Thompson’s Point, Portland
HOW MUCH: $39 in advance, $45 day of show
OPENING ACTS: Rising Appalachia, CHali 2na & The Funk Hunters