Tag Archives: Michael Franti

Interview with Gary Chetkof: Founder of Mountain Jam Festival and principal owner of Radio Woodstock 100.1

Interview with Gary Chetkof: Founder of Mountain Jam Festival and principal owner of Radio Woodstock 100.1
Interviewer/photographer: Vernon Webb

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The history: What was your inspiration for Mountain Jam and how did it come about? What was the inspiration?

It is Radio Woodstock 25th year anniversary. I wanted to put on an outdoor party. Found Hunter Mountain and it’s a beautiful location. We had five bands and it was a one day event. After everyone said how amazing it was we decided to do it again the next year. The following year the festival was two days; the next year three days. The growth in size and sound was organic, it was unplanned and spontaneous. Gov’t Mule was the first headliner, they were onboard from the get go. I had been at Woodstock 94, 99; Bonnaroo and thought it was the coolest thing in the world to escape from the world and meet new people and experience new music. Michael Franti has been on the bill since the second year. The Avett Brothers, Grace Potter, almost every year. The community of musicians and fans that get together shows musical diversity, it’s a good mix of old and new. Ya, it’s incredible and bigger than we ever imagined. Mountain Jam I and II, started out with half a dozen people, now it’s probably thousands of people. Every year it’s like wow, I can’t believe it.

The town budget has increased. By year three Phil Lesh and Friends; year five Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule’s Levon Helm Tribute. Last year, we had the Black Keys and Robert Plant. Never imagined they would have this level of talent.

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I’ve heard rumors of it being moved, is there any merit in that? If so any thoughts on a good place to move too?

It got big, we are constantly thinking of ways to make it good but not too crowded. We do not want to change location. You always look to see options but no intentions of moving. It’s an incredibly beautiful spot, green rolling hills, hiking trails, biking trails, it’s hard to beat. We’ve moved things around so there’s not as many hospitality tents. We want to keep it at Hunter mountain as long as possible.

What are some of the bands that represent the feel of Mountain Jam?

Gov’t Mule and Michael Franti are the soul of the festival. Warren is an amazing guitar player, they are the nicest guys. Franti is on a whole other level where he lifts people’s spirits. The combination of the two is very powerful. Franti has a way to make it stop raining, sunshine for Franti. There was one year there was a rainbow when Franti played. (In fact in stopped raining and the rainbow came out during The Sound Of Sunshine.)

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How does rain affect Mountain Jam?

It doesn’t rain every year, you’re there for 4 days, it’s going to rain at least 1 or 2 days. Years 2 and 3 we had a lot of rain and you develop a reputation. Years 4 and 5 no rain but there is the reputation of rain. The perception isn’t really the reality, it is unpredictable. Franti said it’s the only festival where you get all four seasons at one festy. Everybody knows to come with all different clothes to the festival.

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What do you like most about putting on Mountain Jam?

Putting the music together is the best part. You get some of your favorite bands together to create the festival. Seeing the creation come to life is my favorite part. There’s a million moving parts, improvisation things that happen where you have to deal with the unexpected. I have a large staff that takes care of most things and only contact me when there is really important things.

What advice would you give to someone who’s wanting to create a festival?

Don’t do it! (lots of laughter) It’s hard to start a festival now. There was a time and place where it was easy. Now it’s very regulated, competitive it was a lot easier and fun at the start. It’s an honor and a privilege to be creating the festival. I feel really lucky. You get to see your friends, like extended family, like a reunion. Cool thing to do but it’s hard to get it started now because of big competition.

Why you got rid of smaller stage on the side?

The only reason we got rid of the small stage was we simply ran out of room and needed the room for something else and issues with sound bleeding over. There’s not a lot of space so you have to compromise.

What are the plans for next year?

I’d like to have all the bands I couldn’t get to this year. I have pie in the sky dreams of who I have in mind.

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Wish We Were Back at Wanee

This morning was a bittersweet start to the day. Today was the day that the Wanee wristband was finally snipped, stored among a box full of ticket stubs and plastic bracelets, destined to live only in memories.

The memories, however, are bright and beautiful – as days frolicking among the live oaks should be. The majestic wonderland that is the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida is difficult to describe in words, especially when it’s filled with brothers and sisters, music lovers, fans and families, and some of the greatest live musicians ever to assemble. There’s only one word that can even come close to epitomizing Wanee:  magic.

Although the festival did not “technically start until Friday, you wouldn’t know it by the throngs of RVs, vending booths, and glow stick-adorned body parts that had already filed in. Early campers were not only treated to the best camping spots nestled amongst towering oaks draped with Spanish moss, they were also rewarded for their promptness with Wednesday sets from Groves, Juke, Beebs and her Moneymakers, Kettle of Fish, local Florida favorites Cope, and a funkalicious Mushroom Stage jam session from New Orleans’ own Ivan Neville’s Dumstaphunk.

THURSDAY

Thursday brought sunshine and a diverse line-up to the magical Mushrooom Stage, planted firmly amongst the oaks and surrounded by swinging hammocks and neon orbs hanging from the branches. British blues guitarist Oli Brown kicked the afternoon off, followed by psychedelic San Francisco soul outfit, Monophonics. Lead singer and keyboardist Kelly Finnegan wasted no time bringing the energy level up and getting the crowd going with choice covers from Curtis Mayfield and Funkadelic, sprinkled with tracks from their latest album In Your Brain.

wanee2013-4Monophonics was the perfect lead in to Tab Benoit’s supergroup of New Orleans musicians, Voice of the Wetlands Allstars. This group of musicians have made it part of their mission to help preserve the wetlands in their native state by raising awareness and providing education through music. The beautiful tune “Louisiana Sunshine” perhaps summed their intent up best, and guest appearances from Florida native Damon Fowler and Starship vocalist Mickey Thomas ensured the Wanee tradition of phenomenal collaborations would be continued in full force, a point hammered home  after the next group took the stage.

When Royal Southern Brotherhood frontman Devon Allman introduced his father and fans got their first look of the weekend at Gregg Allman, the energy was palpable. He joined his son and fellow RSB members on guitar for a rousing, shredding rendition of “One Way Out,” foreshadowing good things to come.

A solid set from electric Hot Tuna bid goodbye to the sunshine, and hello to the late night funk, courtesy of Karl Denson and the Greyboy Allstars. The Mushroom Stage was bouncing and glowing, the power pulsating through the eager crowd, just so ready to get down.

FRIDAY

Friday brought the opening of the second stage – the larger and more prominent Peach Stage – and with that came more music and choices to be made by fans. The Peach Stage could have well been dubbed “Southern rock central,” as guitar slingers and long haired men in bell bottoms filled in the ranks for most of the day.

Blackberry Smoke carries the Southern rock torch from Atlanta, Georgia, and they gave the crowd a nice dose of their brand of American country/rock, despite their set being cut short due to a creeping rain shower. Their version of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” was too much for the clouds, and suddenly they opened wide and spilled their drops, as if on cue.

The Mushroom Stage saw early sets from rockers Flannel Church, New Orleans soulful up-and-comers The Revivalists, Jaimoe’s Jaissez Band, and the Wanee debut of Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang. Half concert, half comedy skit, Claypool’s pairing with guitarist and longtime collaborator, Marc Haggard (aka Mirv) kept the crowd laughing and stomping, intertwining jokes and audience haggling with tunes from Primus, Oysterhead, and Johnny Cash, to name a few. Warren Haynes joined the duo onstage for Johnny Horton’s classic “The Battle of New Orleans,” and closed the show with Primus classic “Jerry was a Racecar Driver” and Flying Frog Brigade’s “D’s Diner.”

wanee2013-3The rain cleared up just enough for Mr. Haynes to find his way back to the Peach Stage in time for his band, Gov’t Mule to get things rocking. Kicking off with choice originals “Outta Shape” and “Thorazine Shuffle,” Mule’s set gained momentum throughout, finally culminating in one of the greatest collaborations of the weekend. Members of Widespread Panic – John Bell, JoJo Herman, Dave Schools, and Jimmy Herring – joined and launched into an epic version of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.” The trading of piercing guitar licks and wailing vocals once again brought the clouds, and the grey thunder rolled in as if brought forth by the music itself.

Widespread Panic was up next, and despite the now soggy conditions, the crowd swelled and was not disappointed. Starting with standard originals like “Ain’t Life Grand,” “All Time Low,” and “Space Wrangler,” once again the real treats came at the end, when the band was joined by Warren Haynes and Danny Louis for blistering renditions of ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and Parliament’s instrumental opus, “Maggot Brain.” Even though it was raining, the fans didn’t spare their bottled water during the “Chilly Water” closer, and it didn’t matter because everyone was already soaking wet.

Nothing would stop The Allman Brothers Band, however, and they turned out a set full of beautiful classic originals, and again, more collaborations galore. “Blue Sky” and “Rain” were the band’s homage to the tumultuous weather of the day, and the arrival of Widespread’s John Bell and Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle launched a soulful and lovely rendition of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Home.” Jimmy Herring reappeared for “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, and North Mississippi Allstars brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson made an appearance for a “One Way Out” closer, the second of the weekend for Papa Gregg.

Boombox and a late night set from reggae mainstays Steel Pulse rounded out the night on the Mushroom Stage, and sent fans off into the woods for a little damp rest.

SATURDAY

After a long rainy night, the morning finally gave way to some relief, and the skies cleared up in time to provide goers with some much needed sunshine. No one worshipped the rays and the good vibes like Michael Franti and Spearhead, following a solid set from Leon Russell on the Peach Stage. Franti’s contagious energy and positive message had the crowd enjoying and making merry, complete with an onstage birthday party for the man himself. Birthday hats, beach balls, head stands, and celebratory sing-alongs (some upside down!) ensued, and not one frown was to be found anywhere near that stage. Even the most seasoned Franti fans were overheard whispering about how “special” this particular show was, and that energy could be felt by everyone.

The Mushroom Stage spent Saturday getting its funk on, with Sacred Steel gospel funk masters The Lee Boys, New Orleans horns The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, funk and soul jazz saxophonist Maceo Parker, and R&B brass masters Tower of Power keeping it rocking and bopping along all afternoon.

wanee2013-2Following Franti on the mainstage, Wanee family favorites Tedeschi Trucks Band felt just right for the moment, with their slinky, silky brand of gospel-flecked soulful blues. They highlighted tunes from their upcoming album, as well as favorites such as “Midnight in Harlem” and “Bound for Glory.” It also marked the arrival of new bass player, Bakithi Kumalo, who made his debut as replacement for Oteil Burbridge, who announced earlier this year that he would be taking some much needed time off after years of relentless touring with the Allman Brothers and various other outfits.

As with all the other acts of the weekend, their cover choices were on point and referential. “The Sky is Crying” by blues guitarist Elmore James, “The King of the Slide Guitar,” paid homage to those who came before, and so heavily influenced Trucks and his guitar brethren, including Skydog himself, Duane Allman.

Widespread Panic got another shot to do what they do, and this time, there wasn’t a raindrop in sight. They wasted no time, kicking it off with a loud and dirty “Imitation Leather Shoes,” fan favorite “Climb to Safety,” and the Robert Johnson blues standard, “Stop Breaking Down.”

The real treats, however, came when the band was joined by the lovely Susan Tedeschi on vocals, Derek Trucks on guitar, and Artimus Pyle on drums for a fantastic version of Van Morrison’s “I’ve Been Working.” Tedeschi and Bell traded vocal verses, and complimented each other while Trucks laid down the slide and made the sound even bigger. He stayed around for Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West” and the Panic classic, “Fishwater,” which quickly turned into a lick-trading musical cacophony, delighting the listeners and preparing the crowd for a final set from the Allman Brothers Band.

wanee2013-1ABB turned in a performance that was nothing short of perfection. Full of fan favorites like “Mountain Jam,” “Midnight Rider,” and “Melissa,” Gregg Allman sounded like a man on a musical mission and his fellow bandmates followed suit. Covers such as “Long Black Veil” and Albert King’s “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” rounded out a set that ended with epic renditions of “Whipping Post” and “Southbound.” Brothers fans united in the music and basked in a solid outing from the band’s ninth Wanee appearance.

Funk soul masters Galactic promised to cap the festival on a wicked note, and boy, did they. The Mushroom Stage swelled as the band, along with some of their famous friends, treated the crowd to one final Wanee throwdown. Dave Shaw, frontman for The Revivalists, took on vocal duties and did not disappoint, killing the crowd with versions of “I Am the Walrus,” “I Am a Ram” and Galactic’s own “From the Corner to the Block,” complete with segue into ODB’s “Baby, I Got Your Money.” Saxophonist-at-large Skerik brought his horn out to play and his liveliness was felt throughout the crowd, eliciting jumps and screams from excited patrons. “When the Levee Breaks” appeared yet again, but this time, instead of bringing the rain, it brought the end.

The end of another magical Wanee. It was a gathering of the good, all in one place, that filled the hearts and souls of music lovers and merry makers to the brim for another year. And now, we wait……

Click on the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Brad Kuntz

Franti, Shorty and Joytime take over the Greek

Michael Franti & Spearhead (with Trombone Shorty and Pimps of Joytime)
The Greek Theatre
Berekeley, CA
October 8, 2011

 

The Greek Theater in Berkeley, California is a magical place. When things align just right, this 8000 seat venue, that boasts impeccable acoustics, can seem downright intimate. Saturday October 8 was one of those nights when a triple bill consisting of funk, R&B and hip hop made its way onto the famed stage.

Courtesy of The Pimps of Joytime, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue and Michael Franti & Spearhead, the Greek was transformed into a dance party of gigantic proportions; and for those who didn’t make it out to the gig, the show was carried to the masses via an online simulcast which will also be available on DVD sometime in the future.

As an appetizer, The Pimps of Joytime put their best foot forward and opened the evening with a brief high energy set and set the table for the stage’s successors. This New York City based band made it clear as to why their climb up the circuit’s ladder has been as steadfastly upward as it has by making the audience — that was primarily gathered for the evening’s headliners — infectiously move to their funky beats.Following the Pimps, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue brought their “Supafunkrock” New Orleans sound to the Bay, and it seemed that no soul could stand still while listening to Shorty and company dirtily funk it up.

Trombone Shorty in the crowd at the GreekTroy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is one of the more recent stars to emerge from The Crescent City. Over the past few years, Shorty has appeared seemingly everywhere. From a cameo role on the popular HBO show Treme to European treks with Lenny Kravitz, the trombone prodigy has bolstered his reputation to one of large notoriety through high energy sets that are long on improvisation and short on breaks in energy.

Drawing heavily from the ensemble’s most recent studio effort, ForTrue, Shorty and his group of fellow young New Orleanians served up an intoxicating shot of funk as danceable grooves efficiently lubed up the large Greek crowd for the evening’s main attraction, Michael Franti & Spearhead.

As the lights dimmed and a subsequent introductory film shone, Michael Franti and Spearhead made their way onto the stage. Well known for his positive and uplifting shows, it was no surprise that Franti delivered the goods to their  hometown crowd by not only reaching from the recent top 40 crazed numbers, but also by digging deep from the ensemble’s deep repertoire. Whether going poppy with “Sound of Sunshine,” getting political with “Yell Fire,” or plucking the heart strings with “I’ll Be Waiting,” Michael and  crew covered all of the bases.

From the onset, it seemed that Franti had the Greek gathering in the palm of his large hands, evidenced by the energetic response shown to each imploring urge from the front man to “make some noise,” “jump” or respond to the “how ya feeling” question that the lanky source of positivity cannot help but ask.

Michael Franti has successfully moved out of hip hop and into the mainstream with songs being featured commercially and while this has caused some members of the “too cool to listen to pop music” club to question his authenticity, what has actually happened is that the door has been opened for a further reaching broadcast of a message of the peaceful and though provoking message that has always been at the heart of Spearhead.

 

Click the thumbnail(s) to see photos from the show by Susan Weiand

 

 

 

 

Rebel Rappin’ with Michael Franti : an Honest Tune Interview (VIDEO)

Michael Franti is a poet, an activist, a guitarist, a vocalist and an avid yogi. It is safe to refer to him as a renaissance man. However, barring his immense presence and length of body and extremities, any personal exchange with Franti is like an exchange with an old pal.

The past couple of years have brought more commercial success than in the collective previous decade and a half with his current project, Michael Franti and Spearhead. But the Michael of today is the same Michael of yesteryear and it is this quality about him that is perhaps most endearing; and this presence is what is continuing to reel in fans of all ages who witness the Spearhead live experience — one in which the separation of crowd and band is all but completely extinguished.

A few months ago while amongst the luscious green fields of Mulberry Mountain at Wakarusa, David Shehi had the opportunity to speak with Franti on topics including: songwriting, his recent Top 40/mainstream success, the situation and relief efforts in Haiti, the intimacy at a Spearhead gig and so much more.

 

Rebel Rappin’ with Michael Franti 

For more on Michael Franti & Spearhead, log on to www.MichaelFranti.com

Jam Cruise Artist Testimonials, Part One: Franti, Grace, Cornmeal and Everyone Orchestra (VIDEO)

Sunset.jpgIt is a well known fact that we absolutely love Jam Cruise. Simply put, there really is nothing about the five day adventure that is not lovable. The sun in January, the vast and endless sea as a backdrop and sit-ins that literally only happen on Jam Cruise all make for an annual event that is in a league unto itself.  Of course all of this fails to mention the camaraderie  of the passengers, better known as “jamily.”

Over the years, so many incredible talents have graced the decks and theatres of the various boats that Jam Cruise has called home. So with this upcoming sailing being the monumental tenth one, we thought that a series featuring artists (who have played on the boat) telling Jam Cruise stories and testifying to the event’s greatness would be appropriate.

In this first video of a yet unknown amount of footage yet to come, we sat down with Michael Franti, Grace Potter, Cornmeal’s John-Paul Nowak, and the Everyone Orchestra’s Matt Butler to get their perspectives as we all long for what is sure to be another epic Jamuary.

 

 

Jam Cruise Artist Testimonials, Part One:

Grace Potter, Michael Franti, John Paul-Nowak

(Cornmeal) & Matt Butler (Everyone Orchestra)

  A look back at Jam Cruise 9…

Echo Project adds to line-up

The Echo Project confirmed the second round of performers slated for the inaugural three-day eco-responsible music and arts festival in Atlanta, Georgia this October 12-14, 2007. 

The additions to the lineup include: The Flaming Lips; Thievery Corporation with their full live band; Les Claypool; The Bravery; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah; Secret Machines; MSTRKRFT; JJ Grey & Mofro; Son Volt; The Egg; The Album Leaf; Man Man; Tea Leaf Green; The Benevento/Russo Duo; Lazaro Casanova; and Telepath.


The Echo Project kicks off its annual eco-responsible music and arts festival in Atlanta, Georgia this October 12 – 14, 2007.  The three-day, multi-stage camping festival will be held on 350-acres of scenic Chattahoochee river front property on a privately owned 1250-acre farm just south of metropolitan Atlanta.

With a green focus and philosophy, The Echo Project is set to revolutionize how music and arts events affect our environment through eco-friendly event production by ways of carbon emissions, power consumption and creation, alternative energy sources, and waste management and recycling initiatives. For its inaugural event, The Echo Festival along with Sustainable Waves and Rivers Alive is also launching a major Chattahoochee river clean up prior to the festival.  Tickets go on sale Tuesday, July 30th and are available at www.the-echoproject.com.

Featuring a diverse range of talent, from rock to hip-hop, The Echo Project also announced its first round of performers today, which include The Killers, Phil and Friends, moe., Stephen Marley, The Roots, Cypress Hill, Polyphonic Spree, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Umphrey’s McGee, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, The Disco Biscuits, Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues, Brazilian Girls, The Avett Brothers, Lyrics Born, RJD2, Toubab Krewe, Spam Allstars, ALO, Greenskeepers, and Afromotive.

The Echo Project is promoted by Nicholas Bouckaert of Rivertown Entertainment, LLC. in conjunction with Meatcamp Productions. Greening partners include Sustainable Waves, a national provider of mobile solar powered sound and staging solutions; Green Mountain Energy Company, the nation’s leading provider of cleaner electricity and carbon offset products; and the Environment Media Association (EMA) which mobilizes the entertainment industry in a global effort to educate people about environmental issues and inspire them into action.

Tickets go on sale for The Echo Project on Tuesday, July 31 at 10 AM EST. Three-day tickets begin at $145 and are available online at www.the-echoproject.com and 1-800-594-TIXX.

Getting political with Michael Franti

Michael FrantiMichael Franti is a man known to speak his mind through his actions and his music – his songs have an extremely refreshing political message.  His 2006 release, Yell Fire!, was inspired by his travels in the Middle East, where he met with Iraqis, Israelis, and Palestinians.  He had a chance to talk with the people being affected most by the current state of affairs, and captured it all on the film I Know I'm Not Alone.   

 

Honest Tune contributing writer Brian Heisler got a chance to talk with Franti about his Harvest Ball, his influences, and politics.  

Honest Tune:  We just had the first installment of your Harvest Ball here in Denver, the other three being in San Francisco, can you explain how that came about the first time?

Michael Franti:  I have a lot of friends who are, um, uh I guess I call ‘em farmers; they grow pot [laughs].  And we wanted to put together a celebration of the harvest season, because they all work so hard all summer long and then they harvest and they wanted to celebrate.  So we were just talking about that.  And at the time one of my friends, his name is Todd McCormick, he had spent five years in prison for growing medical marijuana in LA.  He was just about to get out and so we were excited about that too.

Continue reading Getting political with Michael Franti