Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
September 11, 2010
As the early morning fog lifted, over a thousand yogis saluted the sun and visualized peace, setting up the vibes in the meadow for the glorious day that was to follow.
On 9/11/1999, Michael Franti spearheaded Power to the Peaceful as a small free annual event in Dolores Park to bring attention to the imprisonment of Mumia Abu Jamal. It quickly outgrew that venue, and then took on broader peace consciousness and social activism following the events of 9/11/01.
12 years later, well over 700,000 streamed into Golden Gate Park to raise their hands in the powerful sunshine, delighting to the sounds, smells and visual treats. Many came just to party, but the messages of peace, change, and activism resounded throughout the day.
Loco Bloco, Sambada, and Rupa & The April Fishes warmed up the crowd. There was a push towards the stage as dreadlocked and pierced American Idol favorite Crystal Bowersox walked on stage, guitar in hand, and shyly announced, “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done.” Even though many had not heard of her, most paused from their afternoon delights to focus on the passionate solo performer.
By the time U.S. reggae act Rebelution began their set, it was nearly impossible to move within several hundred feet of the stage or around the sides of the venue where the crowd should have flowed. The popular Santa Barbara band played a tight set, getting the masses to their feet, mixing up their roots-rock party vibe with socially conscious lyrics.
After another uplifting speaker, Steve Hollingsworth of C.A.R.E., yoga master Seane Corn led the sea of souls in a meditation to the 4 directions.
And then it was Spearhead’s turn. From the first note, they tore up the stage and riveted the crowd. Playing old favorites as well as new hit songs from “The Sound of Sunshine,” and alternating between high energy dance tunes and slow thoughtful words of wisdom, Michael Franti led the group on an amazing journey. While he doesn’t jump around quite as much on stage since his emergency surgery and near death experience for a ruptured appendix, his obvious joy in life has torched a bonfire of creativity.
Franti likes to touch his fans, both literally and figuratively. The photo pit was T shaped, creating a pathway from the stage to beyond the sound booth. Michael ran back and forth in it, as well as jumped out of it and roaming the crowd, singing directly to the people, many of whom grabbed his hand, held his shirt, or touched his locks. While Michael is certainly the charismatic leader of Spearhead, the band members are each outstanding musicians who work well together and clearly love what they do.
As fog drifted back in from the sea, the stage filled with excited children for the traditional finale. Then people began to pack up their blankets, food, babies, and animals and make the long trek through the concert bowl, past the vendors, past this children’s area, to the exit at the far end of the venue. With such a massive crowd, it would have been better to have more ways out. But crowd logistics aside, Power to the Peaceful continues to be a wonderful annual family treat. Many thanks to Michael Franti for his vision and leadership.
Article & Photos by: Lee Abel, ReggaePortraits.com