Review & Photos | Michael Franti Soulshine Tour | Troutdale

Words by: Donovan Farley
Images by: Caitlin Webb

Soulshine Tour feat. Michael Franti & Spearhead, SOJA, Trevor Hall, Brett Dennen & Sonna Rele :: 6.29.14 :: Edgefield :: Troutdale, OR

Read Donovan's review below Caitlin's gallery!

In today’s world, it’s a lot easier to cynically scoff at people talking about love, energy and positivity who are trying to affect change than it is to actually go out into the world and make those changes. In fact, it can be exhausting just to look at the calamitous ocean of hate that the world can be at times and even think about trying to make it better, but Michael Franti is the type of person who not only thinks he can improve the world, he knows he can, and he's going to bring as many people as he can along for the ride. That adamant belief in the power of positivity, music and understanding is at the heart of everything he does and the impetus for the Soulshine Tour, a hybrid of music, yoga and green living that rolled into Troutdale, OR this past weekend at the absurdly gorgeous Edgefield Amphitheater.

McMenamin's Edgefield concert lawn's forest-like setting was beyond idyllic for the Soulshine tour, and the cloudless skies and 75 degree temperature only amplified the tranquility. The house was absolutely packed for both the yoga and all four musical performances, and a smile was seemingly plastered on every face throughout. There were several families with small children in attendance, and the kids may have been enjoying themselves more than the dreadlocked-and-smelling-of-Marionberry-Kush devotees in attendance. For $35-$50 fans were treated to a 90-minute yoga session (which Franti participated in and played a few acoustic numbers before and after) and sets from Trevor Hall, Brett Dennen, SOJA and Spearhead, along with an appearance by newcomer Sonna Rele.

Trevor Hall and Brett Dennen got things off to a perfectly pleasant start, and the now loose and limber crowd couldn't have been digging their respective sets more. It was an absolute trip seeing all the yoga mats spread through out the venue, and the delicious and locally brewed beers Portland is famous for only served to further lubricate people's smiling muscles. Both Dennen and Hall are skilled showmen with easily-enjoyed music and both proved to be wonderful openers for such a show.

SOJA typically falls under the reggae category (and rightfully so), but the band is very adept at other styles of World Music, and melds them very well together. The Washington, D.C.-based band proved to be just at ease with a Latin-inspired section that recalled Phish's "Punch You In The Eye" as they were with their trademark laid back reggae. The band's last record, Strength to Survive topped the Billboard reggae album chart, and their upcoming release, Amid The Noise And Haste, features guest spots from the likes of Franti and Damien "Jr. Gong" Marley, and will likely do the same.

Sonna Rele took the stage for a brief, three song interlude before Michael Franti and Spearhead hit the stage, and right away it was apparent why Franti brought her on the tour. Rele has the look, the looks and the voice of a pop star, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprise if big things are in store for her. As my photographer noted, Rele's sweetness and positive message are tailor-made for Disney-esque stardom.

Michael Franti has built a career on socially conscience music and causes, and is one of the few entertainers who puts his money squarely where his mouth is - from his film I Know I'm Not Alone, which dealt with the effects of war on the citizens of Iraq, Israel and Palestine, to receiving the Domestic Human Rights award from the Global Exchange organization, to the entire concept of the Soulshine tour, Franti absolutely practices what he preaches. Seeing Spearhead live, it's nearly impossible not to get caught up in the positive vibe that Franti and company exude. It's a palpable feeling that's literally contagious, and one that leaves even the harshest cynic bobbing their head and smiling. The man truly and genuinely wants to help people and make the world a better place, and is using his considerable talents to do so.

Franti sang songs about social consciousness, songs about love and songs about makin babies. He dedicated songs to soldiers, songs to the innocent victims in countries at war, songs to the sick people in attendance thanks to his Do It For The Love foundation and a song to his longtime partner Sara Agah, who was standing side stage. He brought out Dennen and SOJA's Jacob Hemphill for a positively smoking version of "Could This Be Love" and Rele for a duet of their "11:59." He took to the audience more than once, and towards the end of his set spent about ten minutes singing and dancing around literally the entire venue, smack dab in the middle of the packed crowd. To put it simply: the dude is a showman is the truest sense of the word.

Being just a few miles outside of widely progressive Portland, Edgefield served as the perfect setting for such a forward-thinking tour. Hemphill said as much during SOJA's set, mentioning that Portland is a place where "We don't have to explain it (the Soulshine tour and its goals) as much" as other cities. With the obvious success of the Soulshine tour, the rest of the eye-rolling populous should take a step back and begin to appreciate artists like Michael Franti and their efforts. Besides, if changing the world for the better can be this much fun, why spend all our time contemplating the dark? As Ernest Hemingway once wrote (somewhat ironically, given his fate) "The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for."

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[Published on: 7/3/14]

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