September 29th marked the 5th time I have been lucky enough to see Michael Franti and Spearhead in concert. And as always, he brought the love and energy that’s expected, and then some, to liven up the crowd. Unfortunately I was only able to catch a little more than half the show, as it was an early start time and I had to drive over 2.5 hours straight after class ended on Thursday to get there. He was the opening act for Train, but that didn’t take away from the quality of his show at all.
Fresh off the debut of his latest album, All People (which I wrote about here: http://summercampfestival.com/2013/08/03/album-review-michael-franti-spearhead-all-people-deluxe-edition/), many of the songs from the setlist were off tracks from the love-spreading album. Nearing the Grandstand entrance, Closer to You could be heard already from afar and the excitement settled in. Michael kept the crowd jumping throughout the rest of the set, as several times he went in and out of the crowd keeping the fans engaged and enthusiastic. In the midst of the Sound of Sunshine track “Hey Hey Hey” he snuck in a verse from Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” a pleasant surprise that excited the portion of the crowd that was only there for Train, the evening’s headliner. The next song actually featured Train’s saxophonist, “Let it Go,” with a nice little jam for him to lead which featured a tease from their hit song, Hey Soul Sister. Michael Franti and Spearhead then closed their show with his two most popular song, I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like) and Say Hey (I Love You). As per Michael’s tradition, he brought all the children in the front rows on stage to help him out for Say Hey, and gave one little girl the microphone to sing the lines, “Seems like everywhere I go, the more I see the less I know, but I know one thing, that I love you.” We love you too, Michael!
Latter part of the setlist:
Closer to You, Life is Better with You, All People, Hey Hey Hey@, Let It Go#$, I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like), Say Hey (I Love You)%
@ with Get Lucky verse (Daft Punk)
# featuring Brian from Train on saxophone
$ Hey Soul Sister tease (Train)
% with children on stage and one girl singing a verse (with help from Michael)
After he finished, my girlfriend and I were able to sneak up to the front and snag a picture with him as he was greeting fans in the front row
We then ventured around the Minnesota State Fair grounds for a little bit, as neither of us were that committed to seeing Train, and it was our first time at this fair. We returned to the Grandstand to see about the last half hour of Train’s performance, which was an entertaining show. As we entered, Train, like Franti, had several kids up on stage and teased a little bit of Bob Marley’s Can be Loved in one of their songs. Everyone left the stage, and front man Patrick Monahan invited a girl on stage to help sing their latest single, “Bruises.” At the conclusion, they played a 2 minute medley mix of pop songs with a tease of dubstep as well. They then played their hit “Hey Soul Sister” that segued right into Macklemore’s “Ceiling Can’t Hold Us,” before closing the set with “Drive By.” For the encore, they performed their long time hit song “Drops of Jupiter,” and then surprised the crowd with a final cover of Aerosmith’s classic “Dream On.”
Bohemian Nights is the cornerstone of the summer in Fort Collins. It is a celebration of music and highlights some of the incredible homegrown acts in Colorado. The musical performers are a literal smorgasbord of everything this great state has to offer. The nice thing for any music fan is that you can pick and choose your experience to suit your tastes. Being a fan of bluegrass and jam it was easy to cull through the offerings and check out what was appealing to my preferences. In addition to the great local acts performing across six stages, New West Fest brought in several headliners that are some of the most sought after live acts touring today. With over ninety concerts over three days there was a lot to take in for everyone in attendance. Friday night witnessed a three pack of Summer Camp Alumni on the main stage, which was a nice touch.
On Friday I made the choice to stay at the main stage for Dubskin, Euforquestra, and the headliner Michael Franti with Spearhead. Dubskin began the night with their brand of fiery American Reggae. Jamal Skinner has an amazing authenticity that permeates everything he does on stage. With the power duo of Ryan Jalbert and Mike Tallman on guitar this band exudes raw talent. Their approach to the reggae genre leaves nothing to be desired. This 7-piece lineup has everything going for them right now with shows at Summer Camp, Red Rocks, and Wakarusa under their belt the future is looking bright. Their show at New West Fest was simply a blast. They brought a powerful energy and really invigorated the crowd for a night of music.
Next up was Fort Collins transplants Euforquestra. It’s no secret that I love these guys. They bring the heat every time they play. With the recent departure of bassist Ben Soltou the band has shaken up things a bit. Adam Grosso went back into the bass slot while newcomer Craig Babineau has taken his spot behind the kit. Grosso has a more “driving the bus” style as opposed to Soltou’s funky roots, which makes for a distinct change in the band’s sound. That being said, this was the first time I had the chance to see the reformatted lineup and I was definitely impressed. Awesome versions of “Soup” and “Road Funk” really hit the mark in a big way. The crowd definitely began to fill in; in anticipation of Franti. Euforquestra did a great job opening for the headliner. Their version of Beck’s “Nicotine and Gravy” was a high water mark of the show.
Michael Franti and Spearhead took the stage around 8:30 PM to a capacity crowd on Mountain Avenue. This guy is a bucket of liveliness and his show in Fort Collins was no exception. Within the first couple songs he was off the stage and in the crowd. A common occurrence at Spearhead shows to be sure, but it’s always a thrill for those in attendance. Versions of “Everyone Deserves Music” and “Hey Hey Hey” were highlights of the hour and half set. Franti bounced around the stage while Carl Young on bass and Manas Itiene on drums held the rhythm down tightly. While Franti may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I have to say his positivity is simply infectious. It was an excellent end to the first night of New West Fest.
The Bohemian Foundation in association with the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association went above and beyond in the creation of this one of a kind event. They worked tirelessly for months to make it all happen and it is one of the best-run festivals in Colorado. In their eight year the organizers continue to raise the bar every summer. With countless volunteers and some incredible staff they give local musicians an astonishing opportunity to perform in front of massive crowds.