“That’s like a match made in Heaven for you.”
I had two different friends tell me that same phrase after it was announced Moon Taxi would be opening for Michael Franti & Spearhead in Madison in the final week of September. Both of these artists are in the exclusive group of my top 5 favorite artists, finding themselves consistently on my playlists.
This was my 2nd Moon Taxi show, with the first coming last summer when they opened for Matisyahu in Milwaukee. This show was very similar in all aspects, including a great set. Before their show, I got a chance to interview 2 members of the band thanks to my cousin (whom I’ll be writing about soon) who is close with the band. Read the interview here.
Although the set was just a half hour, the musical quality far exceeded the quantity. Moon Taxi opened their set with “Running Wild,” a fresh track of their new album Mountains Beaches Cities. A stand-out moment in their set appeared in the “Morocco,” also off their latest album, with some trancey exploration, showing off their jamming capabilities. Their set closer featured a rocking “Cabaret” that featured keyboardist Wes Bailey’s exceptional keyboard wizardry.
Moon Taxi Setlist
Running Wild, All the Rage, Morocco, The New Black, River Water, Mercury, Cabaret
After a brief intermission, the main attraction took the stage. Having seen Franti 5 previous times, I was expecting the opening song to be a track off their latest album, as the norm for Franti shows. I was not wrong, as “I Don’t Wanna Go” opened the show, from All People. Franti didn’t wait long before jumping in the crowd. In the second song of the evening, “Stay Human,” Franti hopped off the stage and navigated through the general admission pit on the lower level, stopping along the way to give high fives and dance with fans. He found his way back to the stage for “Yell Fire!”, and before “The Sound of Sunshine,” he shared a story with how he wrote that album: in the hospital after suffering a ruptured appendix. The mood quickly elevated as what seemed like a hundred of over-sized yellow beach balls came from back stage and flooded the crowd, dancing through the air after bouncing off the hands of anyone able to touch one.
A surprise “Ganja Babe,” appeared in the middle of the set, apparently inspired by whatever Michael smelt in his journeys throughout the crowd. A feel-good moment occurred in “Gangsta Girl,” in which Michael brought several fans up from the crowd with him to join as dancers, with one fan truly seizing the moment as he ran back and forth on the stage, encouraging the crowd to do the wave. After the song ended, Michael jokingly offered him a contract to the join the band.
To close the set, Michael lead the crowd in a sing-along of “Happy Birthday” to one of his crew members before bringing up members of Moon Taxi to join for an upbeat and funky “Let It Go.” As expected, he encored with his biggest hits, “I’m Alive” and “Say Hey,” welcoming any children fans on the stage for the latter, but surprised me with a very well placed “Long Ride Home” between the two for an impressive sandwich.
Michael Franti Setlist
I Don’t Wanna Go, Stay Human@, Yell Fire!, The Sound of Sunshine#, 11:59@, Closer to You@, Ganja Babe, Life is Better With You@, Gangsta Girl^, Hey World (Don’t Give Up)&, Bomb the World&, All People@, Say Goodbye@, Hey Hey Hey@*, Let It Go+
E: I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like), Long Ride Home, Say Hey (I Love You)~
@ Michael singing in the crowd
# plethora of beach balls released into the crowd
^ random fans brought on stage to dance
& Michael on acoustic guitar with Minus on djembe drum
* Get Lucky (Daft Punk) verse
+ with members of Moon Taxi
~ kids brought on stage
Moon Taxi consists of Trevor Terndrup (vocals, guitar), Tommy Putnam (bass), Spencer Thomson (guitar), Wes Bailey, (keyboard), and Tyler Ritter (drums). Before their show in Madison on September 25th, I was lucky enough to get a few minutes with Wes and Tyler for an interview. The interview was recorded and I was able to transcribe it to here.
Me: Thanks guys, for doing this. Wes Bailey and Tyler Ritter, keyboardist and drummer (respectively) of Moon Taxi. You guys formed at Belmont in ’06, is that right?
Me: First album was Live Ride?
WB: First album was Melodica. That was our first studio album, and then we waited a few years until 2009, with Live Ride, then we waited a long time, til 2012, then we released Cabaret, and we followed that up a year later with Mountains Beaches Cities.
Me: So, how would you describe how your sound has developed and changed with your first two albums, and then moving forward with your most recent 2 albums in the past year?
WB: Well, I think back then, we didn’t really focus at all on making a studio record. It was solely relying on the live setting. And then one thing lead to the next, a few bad tours lead us to the next logical option which was making a great record. We worked for about 2 years demoing and recording Cabaret, and learned a lot through that process, and we were able to record our last record fairly efficiently.
TR: The demoing process was really one of the main things that changed how we write songs. We went from writing in a room all together, like Wes was saying, for a live setting, to sitting in Spencer’s apartment on a computer and starting from scratch, making all these songs. Some got scratched and some ended up making it on the record, and just starting a good skeleton of a song and piecing it all together.
Me: When you formed at Belmont, were you doing it just to do it or were there always aspirations of becoming a nationally touring act?
TR: There were always aspirations for bigger things. You gotta realize, too, Moon Taxi existed before Wes and I were even in the band. There was a different drummer, but it’s always been Trevor, Tommy, and Spencer, and they had Moon Taxi, and the drummer left and I came on, and Wes came on about 6 months later. And, I think, I can speak for Wes too on this, we both realized going into it that it was something serious. That it wasn’t just, “Oh, let’s play some bar gigs and make a little bit of money.” We were in it for the long haul from the get-go.
Me: Correct me if I’m wrong, but, you all studied some form of music at Belmont?
WB: Actually, no. Tyler, Spencer, and Tommy studied music. I studied music business. I did private music lessons also but I was music business. And Trevor was a management / philosophy double major.
Me: So pretty much, with all that, you had a cohesive understanding of how to get a successful band going.
TR / WB: Yeah. Definitely.
Me: With your album, Cabaret, Matisyahu has a verse on the song Square Circles. How did that relationship start up and come together?
WB: At the time we had 2 managers. 1 worked with a company called Artist Organization and Matisyahu was a part of that management group. And his subordinate was our day manager, and is now Matisyahu’s full manager. So we had that connection. We actually recorded his verse in Square Circle’s at Hangout Music Festival. On the tour bus. He literally walked off stage on came right on the tour bus after his set and we knocked it out in about 30 minutes.
Me: Very cool! So also with that you guys have toured with him. I’m curious how you approach a show coming in where you’re an opening act for someone like Matisyahu, or tonight, Michael Franti, versus when you’re out with a headliner spot at a festival like Hangout, or you had a big crowd at Forecastle, or even you’re own headlining show like Live on the Green. Does it vary?
WB: We take it all very seriously, we do our best, we bring as much energy as we can into each show, not depending on how long the set is or how big the crowd is. You know, you’re hanging out with us 15 minutes before the show, we’re not like in a huddle or anything (laughs). We’ve done it so many times we know what to expect and we’re pretty comfortable with it right now.
Me: Okay. So do you try to think of different set lists?
TR: These kind of shows, we have only 30 minutes, so we cater our time slot to what we think the crowd might be like. Honestly, with Michael Franti it’s different than what we might do with Matisyahu. We’re not playing as much darker, minor material as we might do with Matis. We’re still playing songs we feel are powerful and you know, we’re gonna draw people to our records.
Me: The song, Beaches, on your new album, has a more electronic intro. That sound wasn’t featured much on Cabaret or Live Ride. Is that more of an evolution, going with the trends of today?
WB: That one was cool because we had started that, as like Tyler was saying, as a demo, those drums that are on the album are the demo drums. And we jammed on it live and realized we like the demo drums, and we also loved Tyler really pouring the form and space into the latter half of the song. So it’s both, very electronic intro to Tyler just doing his thing.
Me: One more question. I got a chance to listen to your New Years Eve show, and you have a very cool, unique, of now what seems a tradition you guys do: a medley of the top hits of the year, about 7 or 8 minutes or so. What inspired that idea? Was it an original concept?
TR: That was your idea (to Wes).
WB: Well, yeah. I think it was 2008. We’ve been doing it a long time. 5th one coming up. We should probably start on (laughter). Cause they take a while to put it together. There’s a lot of work that goes into that. The origin, in 2008, in that year, Kids by MGMT was the big song, and it was a Gaga song…
TR: Poker face.
WB: Poker face! And I realized those two had the same chords, so I thought let’s try to mesh these together. And then, oh we wanna play this song too, so it’s like let’s just play a little bit of everything. So, Spencer and I started to demo it like we demo our records. Write down the ideas, foundations, got together and piece it together as a band pretty quickly.
Me: It’s very cool. I heard that and thought this is something special.
WB: Yeah, it’s cool, lot of work, but it’s something we look forward to for the new years show.
TR: Wes and Spencer demo the whole medley in this track, and they do a really great job picking out all the big hits from across the board. From a really Top 40 vantage. But sometimes we even throw in some really obscure songs. Like I think the first one had a Mastodon song in it.
WB: We pick songs that we like, and a few that we absolutely hate. One thing we always try to do is cap it off with a big kind of joke hit of the year, kind of like the “Hide your kids hide your wife” (laughs).
TR: Call me, maybe.
WB: Gangnam style too. Always the really goofy songs. But we always try to end it on the really weird note. And it’s always the last song of the first set, and then we come back for the ball drop. So yeah it’s a fun tradition.
Square Circles feat. Matisyahu: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCJNZQpRLjE
2012 Medley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=231suYG0jNs
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.”
He’s been compared to the likes of Jack Johnson and Ben Harper. Some have said he’s the next Bob Marley. But no. He’s the first Michael Franti. Already with a worldwide influence, having played in Australia, Indonesia, Europe, Canada, Jamaica, all across Europe, and even Iraq, Israel, and the Occupied Palestenian Territories, the much anticipated release of All People will surely be a hit.
Since I first started listening to Franti about 5 years ago, he instantly became my favorite lyricist. His songs convey messages of positivity, love, and unity, while also taking on issues of war, poverty, and injustice. All People is no different, as the title itself designates it’s worldwide aim for unity.
The album-titled track starts the album off with a nightclub-esque dance tune that is sure to make everyone move with the rhythm. “11:59″ allows Franti to show off his hip-hop roots with a few rap verses. The previously released single, “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like)” is an instant classic hit for Franti, right next to “Say Hey (I Love You).” “Long Ride Home,” “Closer to You,” “Let it Go,” all provide the listener with a perfect melody for a great sing along. “Life is Better With You” has captured my heart as a true great love song that should be played at every wedding for the rest of humanity. “Gangsta Girl” surprised me with a funky jazz rhythm as a good chance of pace. “Do it for the Love,” is probably my favorite song off the album that should be getting more attention. All in all, this album is another success for Michael Franti & Spearhead, giving the listener a chance to sing and dance along with the feel good Spearhead vibes, able to lift anyone’s spirits.
- All People (featuring Gina Rene)
- I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like)
- Long Ride Home
- Life is Better With You
- Earth From Outer Space (featuring K’Naan)
- Closer to You
- Gangsta Girl
- Show Me a Sign
- I Don’t Wanna Go
- Do It For the Love
- Let it Go – Deluxe Edition only
- On and On – Deluxe Edition only
- Wherever You Are – Deluxe Edition only
- Say Goodbye – Deluxe Edition only
- Life is Better With You (acoustic mix) – Deluxe Edition only
Catch MF&S on tour! www.michaelfranti.com/tourdates
WATCH: MF&S perform “I’m Alive” on David Letterman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igrlJNW2DQo
WATCH: MF&S perform “Life is Better With You” with Warren Haynes at Mountain Jam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02OPPoHxeiw
I’ll be seeing them for the 5th time at the end of August at the Minnesota State Fair. Can’t wait!
So through my first two days here at Summer Camp, I’ve come to realize the culture that exists here. Three Sisters Parks has become its own city, separate from the rest of Chillicothe, as well as the rest of society, where everyone here is here for the same reason – to celebrate life and enjoy the music having a great time. Yesterday I celebrated life with several fantastic concerts, spanning nearly 8 hours of music.
I started out my day waiting in line for Umphrey’s McGee’s Golden Ticket merch event. What this was is they were selling 600 bags of random merchandise, with 24 of those bags luckily including a “Golden Ticket,” redeeming the recipient with random great prizes from winning 2 tickets to every show to a year to an umVIP pass for the rest of the festival for an on-stage viewing experience, among other things. Unfortunately, I did not win a Golden Ticket, but still got a solid bag of merch goodies including a t-shirt and a coozie. Stasik was there taking pics with fans and I was able to snap one.
Medeski, Martin, & Wood was next for me. I’ve never listened to the psychedelic jazz trio before this show, and was blown away by their chemistry and flow in their music. They were all on the same key throughout the show and kept the crowd dancing throughout their set under the beautiful sun.
I took a break after MMW to grab some food and head over to the Sunshine Stage to catch the first set of Umphrey’s McGee. The crowd was raging along in full force as the full moon began to shine in the east as the sun set in the west. Closing the set with a sandwich of one of my all time favorites, Nothing too Fancy, I felt good about stage hopping over to check out Roster McCabe. As always, they did not disappoint as I danced along with the smaller but energetic crowd at the Camping Stage before heading back to catch the latter part of Umphrey’s second set. I’m disappointed to have missed Dominic Lalli sit in with them for Bright Lights, another of my favorite song, but they still killed it the second set, and encored with Rebubula. Yes, you read that right, Rebubla by moe. Truly an epic moment in UM history that will be talked about for years to come of Summer Camp Highlights. – Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hze_chSCO5U&feature=youtu.be
After Umphrey’s I headed to see Nahko & Medicine for the People at the Campfire Stage. Medicine had the vibes with them tonight as they packed in all the love for music in a tight hour long set, but only left us wanting more. For those unfamiliar with this band, they sound a lot like Michael Franti and Matisyahu. Nahko even sang a few verses of Matisyahu’s “One Day,” but instead changed the chorus to “Today,” representing his message of making the world a better place right now.
^Nahko & Medicine for the People
After Medicine, I caught the final half of Big Gigantic’s set over at the Sunshine, a show I’ve been ready for for quite some time. Big Gigantic’s fusion of jazz and dubstep is unlike any other band I’ve heard before, and they truly feed off the crowd’s relentless energy. I am absolutely stoked to see them again tonight for the late night. After Big G, I headed to the Barn to catch moe.’s late night set. The Red Barn is such an intimate venue, I was truly captivated by that feeling of everyone in there just loving the music so much, and could tell that moe. felt the same way; they were relaxed and just having a good time. Unfortunately I couldn’t last long enough to make it through Yonder Mountain, so I called it a night after moe.
Today, as crazy at it seems, looks to be even better than yesterday; the best part I’ve learned about Summer Camp is that the next day is better than the last. I’m looking to check out Victor Wooten & Friends at the VIP Lounge, (a very nice perk of being a CIT!), Thievery Corporation, 2 sets of Umphrey’s then moe., and a late night with STS9 and Big Gigantic.
If I could quickly sum up Sunday’s experience it would be: dance party.
I peeled myself out of my tent around 9 (the latest I’d been able to sleep all weekend), got ready, and headed over to the Summer Camp offices to load up pictures and blog posts. When I got there, I found out that I’d been cleared to interview Michael Franti after his set that afternoon. I spent a few minutes freaking out with excitement, and got to work on prep.
Around 3 I met up with some buddies at moe.’s acoustic set on the Starshine Stage – so much fun! They kicked it off with St. Augustine, which is a favorite of mine, and the dance party began. At this point in the day, you could really tell that the heat index was well over 100 degrees, so a big thanks goes out to all you nice festies who were smart enough to bring Super Soakers to spray the crowd… we really appreciated it!
After moe., I took a short break to collect myself in time for the Franti interview, and headed over to his set. I spent about the first 3 songs in the VIP area (thinking I didn’t want to get too dirty or sweaty before meeting him), but quickly it became apparent that this wasn’t going to happen — dance party #2! We rushed to the middle of the crowd, kicked off our shoes, and got down to some amazing tunes. About halfway through, Franti popped up with a makeshift stage in the middle of the crowd, right near where we were standing. It could not have been more perfect; it was like out own little performance. That’s what I love about Franti – he brings people on stage, comes into the crowd, and generally makes every show feel like a community experience. After the set, I got my big interview, which will be posted on the site sometime this week… let’s just say, it was a dream come true and I am still smiling about it.
Next up, it was time for Pretty Lights. I’ve seen him before and although I’m a fan, we had planned just to stop for a little bit before moving over to Galactic. But once we were in the crowd, we knew we had to stay… dance party #3! Somehow, a group of people had managed to take over one of the golf carts and use it as a party platform… how this happened, I have no idea. But they looked like they were having a ball, so we joined in.
We walked over to Jane’s but stayed way in the back so we could scoot back to Moonshine quickly and catch moe.’s last set from up close. It was a perfect set and – as expected – dance party #4! We danced the night away sharing swigs from a bottle of Jameson and soaking in the last bits of Summer Camp… because, as always, it just went too fast.
Hey Scampers, one week till Scamp time! Yesss!
I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to attend Summer Camp 2012 as your Counselor in Training. It truly is an honor and a dream come true. I’m going to tell ya a little bit about myself so you can get to know your CIT a little better, and then I’m going to tell you what I’m most excited for at SC.
Since 2005 I’ve been attending 1-2 music festivals each year, and they have more or less turned into my home away from home each summer. I always choose which festival I attend each summer based on who has the best lineup for my tastes. And this year it was a no brainer, Summer Camp 2012 all the way! (I must admit though that I do have a soft spot in my heart for Wakarusa and the Harvest festival with their spectacular scenery up on Mulberry Mountain. Just check out this breath taking aerial shot!) In St. Louis, I’m always attending shows. Especially the shows of Aaron Kamm and the One Drops (check them out!). One thing that’s great about my city is that there’s always free shows going on year round, which is a great way to get into and support local bands. I usually attend shows at small venues such as the Firebird, Broadway Oyster Bar, the Old Rock House, Lemmon’s, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the Schlafly Tap Room, and the Schllafly Bottleworks. As for the larger shows, I usually go to the Pageant or Pop’s.
As for SC, I’m most excited to see some Gogol Bordello. I’ve seen these accordion playin-fiddlin’ strummin’-wine splashin’-gypsy punks several times, and their energy is enough to blow your face off! If you need a quick energy boost to get ya through the rest of Friday night, make sure you check out this band. (Just don’t forget to find me during their set and dance with me in the front!) I also can’t wait to see some Umphrey’s, I’ve been seeing these guys 2-3 times a year since 2005, and like everyone knows, every show is always different and better than the last! Now let’s just hope that we can all make it to every one of their 5 of their sets in 3 days at SC. And I can’t wait for some Primus, especially since I haven’t seen them since they put out their new album Green Naugahyde. It’ll be quite a set with some new tunes in rotation. Plus, you can never go wrong with the lovely bass playin’ of Les Claypool, side project or not, he always puts on a spectacular show. I also can’t wait to get on my dancin’ shoes and hit up some Rubblebucket! This will be a first for me, but just the sound of Kalmia Traver‘s sultry voice puts me in a romantic daze. I’m also excited for some Keller Williams, Galactic, The New Orleans Suspects, The Infamous Stringdusters, Gov’t Mule, Michael Franti, G. Love, Common, Jane’s Addiction, Wooten, Zoogma and many more!
Once I first found out that I made it to the top 6, the planning and packing began. Well, mostly because I had a horrible nightmare that I showed up to SC with only my tent and the clothes on my back. That was frightening. But anyway, my festival essentials include my eno hammock, lots clean under drawers, costumes, sunscreen, baby powder, apples, and my blow up mattress. I’m always lookin’ out for the Scamper, so I purchased some goodies to give away to my fellow Scampers such as hundreds of glowsticks (for glowstick wars), glow paint, and fuzzy pink moustaches. I am also apart of the Umphrey’s street team, so you can expect some sweet Umphrey’s goodies from me as well! As your CIT, of course I will give you a personal perspective of my SC experience through technology, but I’m all about you, the Scamper. I can’t wait to get to know you and make lifetime friends in the process. I’m going to be running around in costumes half of the weekend, so if you’re dressed in a costume too, I wanna meet ya and award you with a fuzzy pink moustache! And as promised, I will be bringin’ those apples! So if you’re a fan of the apple, be ready to catch one headed in your direction. Also, I’m coming to SC with my main squeeze Adam. If you watched my contest video, he was the dude that was trying to “rob” me. One of our favorite things to do together is swing dance, so you’ll probably see us bustin’ some swing moves during sets and especially at Gogol Bordello. I’ll also be hangin’ with my friend Joe (who I met some years ago through my best girl E-Flat) and his friends who are SC veterans.
I am excited and proud to say that this is going to be my first Summer Camp! And I can’t wait to spend it with you. So if you see me out and about, don’t be shy, come say “hi”! I’d love to chat it up with you or dance our booties off together to some tasty tunes. So let’s make it the best one yet! (Not only because my birthday is on Thursday of SC, but especially since I heard some crazy rumor that the world is supposed to end sometime late this year…it’s probably a buncha psssh, but let’s do it up anyway!)
Love, hugs, and thugs,