Michael Franti & Spearhead first wowed Northern New Mexico soon after the band's 1994 founding, touring in support of their debut album "Home" and groundbreaking single "Positive." They've been back many times since and have amassed a loyal fan base here.
This Saturday (June 9), Spearhead will headline a concert in Kit Carson Park, presented by AMP Concerts. Gates open at 5 p.m. An as-yet-unannounced opening act will play at 6 p.m.; the legendary Original Wailers begin at 7 p.m.; and the headliners take the stage at 8:30 p.m.
The concert is part of Spearhead's Stay Human Tour, named for Franti's upcoming self-directed documentary film. The documentary premiered at the Asbury Park (New Jersey) Music + Film Festival in April, and will be screened at U.S. and international film festivals throughout 2018. The film's soundtrack is drawn from the band's brand new release entitled "Stay Human 2."
"I've traveled the globe making music," Franti said in a press release for the tour and film. "Throughout the years, I've always hoped that it could inspire small steps towards making the world a better place. Struggling with the challenges of the world, I began filming my new documentary, telling the stories of heroic everyday people who helped me to discover more deeply what it means to be and stay human."
Franti began writing music as a way to process both the political landscape of the late 1980s and the unique sounds and ideas of his Bay Area upbringing. Touring with Spearhead, he saw inequality and injustice both at home and abroad.
The band released its seminal "Stay Human" album in 2000. The album was a reflection on injustice and an attempt to make sense of our common humanity in juxtaposition to near constant violations of human rights.
Franti released his first self-directed documentary,"I Know I'm Not Alone," in 2005, to widespread critical acclaim. The film depicts his mission for peace in the Middle East, with a focus on the human cost of war. Franti visited war zones in Iraq, Israel and Palestine, again finding common connection, playing music to soldiers and civilians regardless of affiliation.
Michael Franti & Spearhead continue to foster community both on and off-stage, hosting large yoga meetups prior to each show. A portion of each ticket sold for Saturday's concert will be donated to Franti and wife Sara's Do It For The Love Foundation, a wish-granting nonprofit that brings those with life-threatening illnesses, veterans and children with severe challenges to concerts.
"I know that Michael loves Taos," said Jamie Lenfestey, AMP Concerts' Northern New Mexico director of operations. "Taos has been so very supportive of his career since early on. Brad Hockmeyer at KTAO-FM 101.9 was an early supporter on radio, and Franti, of course, was a featured headliner at the Taos Solar Music Festival for years."
Lenfestey recalled last year's concert when rain blanketed the park and forced postponement of the date. "When the rainout happened last year, Michael spent that time just hanging out in Taos and had dinner over at Doc Martin's while the bar there at The Taos Inn was packed with fans who had come to Taos for the show. One of the many things that is great about Michael is that he personally promised to make up that date. He wanted to come back and make good, and we are very happy to have him as a warm, sunny kickoff to summer, where he belongs, in Taos!"
Lenfestey has been promoting shows in New Mexico for 27 years. He said that for much of that time he was told that Taos was too small and too hard a market for ticket sales.
The 2013 Mumford and Sons show proved the naysayers wrong. "That happened and sold out so quickly," Lenfestey said. "That really caught my attention. Then I had the opportunity to bring Alabama Shakes in the summer of 2016, and the rest, as they say, is history. We really feel like Taos has the potential to become a major concert destination, not just for the state of New Mexico, but for the region. We're committed to working with Taos for years to come. We have gone from one show in 2016, to three in 2017, to five shows this summer: Franti; free Fourth of July with the legendary Family Stone; Taos Vortex with Flaming Lips and Thievery Corporation; the New Orleans 300th anniversary celebration with Trombone Shorty's Voodoo Threauxdown; and we are about to announce an August date with Old Crow Medicine Show and special guest."
The Original Wailers are a very special addition to the Stay Human Tour. In 1974, when Bob Marley reinvented his musical lineup to tour as Bob Marley & the Wailers, he brought on New York City-born guitarist Al Anderson.
Fans will recognize Anderson's stunning lead guitar work from such classics as "No Woman, No Cry," "Three O'Clock Roadblock" and many more. Since Marley's passing in 1981, Anderson has been an in-demand musical collaborator for artists from Lauryn Hill to actor Steven Seagal. He formed The Original Wailers in 2008 with Marley-alum guitarist Junior Marvin (who left the group in 2011).
Anderson and the band continue to celebrate Marley's legacy of beloved and timeless music. The Original Wailers received their own Grammy nomination in 2013 for their album "Miracle."
Lenfestey spoke from the heart about what fans can expect: "Music is joy and love and connection. Michael Franti is one of, if not perhaps the greatest, at using the power of music to lift people up. We at AMP love bringing people together to share in that. We love giving people the opportunity to escape, to get away and come to beautiful Taos and experience music on the cool grass of the park, in the heart of town. It is really a wonderful thing that we hope to keep doing for many years to come."