Words by: Forrest Reda :: Images by Mark Davidson

Solutions For Dreamers Festival
02.24.07 :: Arlington Theatre :: Santa Barbara, CA

Spearhead – Solutions for Dreamers :: 02.24.07
The problem with some benefit concerts is that promoters hire bands that will sell lots of tickets, but who don’t necessarily care about the cause as much as the paycheck. The Solutions for Dreamers Festival was a shining example of a group of passionate artists making the world a better place through music with performances as outstanding as the event’s intentions.

The Arlington Theatre was decked out for the event. Outside the theater, the Spanish courtyard was filled with attendees browsing the vendors and information booths for the evenings’ sponsors. Inside, the atmospheric interior sparkled with underwater decorations created by McAvene Designs befitting the night’s theme, Heal the Ocean. Built in 1931, the Arlington has a ceiling of twinkling stars. The overall visual effect gives the illusion that the viewer is outside in a small Mexican village with faux-Spanish villas, lanterns, windows and staircases adorning the walls. On this night, a celebratory mood prevailed as people gathered to raise money to save their lifeblood, the ocean.

Jack Johnson – Solutions for Dreamers :: 02.24.07
Like most celebrations, there was plenty of beer. In fact, while much of the VIP crowd was still enjoying the open bar at the beer garden outside the theater, Culver City Dub Collective took the stage. CCDC is a new collaboration between Adam Topol and producer/engineer Franchot Tone. Topol is best known as Jack Johnson’s drummer, but Topol is also a student of rhythm, as expressed previously by his solo record, Ritmo Y Canto, which reveals his love for Cuban Rumba music. CCDC gives him another chance to explore folkloric music including Jamaican roots-reggae, funk, ska and dub.

This project is all about jamming in a loose environment while paying tribute to the early days of dub and reggae. The Arlington performance got a boost from special guest Jack Johnson, who took the stage unannounced to blend his guitar and voice into the mix. Johnson sang lyrics over a previously instrumental track, “Lel’s Song,” off the group’s self-titled debut. Later, Johnson said they were the “lyrics from a new song which doesn’t have an official name yet.” Johnson seemed just as stoked to jam with his friends in the still half-empty theater as he does when he is in front of a packed stadium. Later, Topol said he’s relishing the experience of “paying his dues” with a new band and playing smaller venues for attentive fans.

Matthew McAvene – Solutions for Dreamers :: 02.24.07
Keyboardists Money Mark and Zach Gill (ALO) also joined them and the jam session became even more fun, the musicians and the no-longer-seated crowd releasing the flow, celebrating the night with music and “I can’t believe I’m catching this show” high-fives.

Artist/musician Matthew McAvene was up next and his performance was equal parts visual art exhibit and musical performance. McAvene also supervised the art for the evening and some of his creations – ornately decorated fish and tiki-head – moved back and forth behind him, held aloft by friends. During his performance, McAvene admitted to being a little bit nervous, “There’s a lot more people here than at the coffee shop.” What he lacked in experience, he more than made up for with his songwriting. McAvene brought out Zach Gill for the ballad, “Heal the Ocean,” available on the compilation, Solutions for Dreamers – Season Two. The warm Santa Barbara crowd embraced their favorite new musician and McAvene grew more comfortable throughout his set.

Johnson, ALO, Money Mark :: 02.24.07
ALO is the musical ambassador of Santa Barbara and the band and city wouldn’t have it any other way. Bolstered by this love and support, the band has blossomed into a festival darling and its hometown shows are always high energy celebrations. During ALO’s set, the freaks in the front let the band know how loved they are from the opening strains of “Pobrecito” to the last notes of “Wasting Time (IV Song),” which featured a true all-star lineup with Jack Johnson on guitar and vocals, Topol on percussion and Money Mark on melodica. Earlier in ALO’s set, McAvene joined the band to sing his best song, “Brighter,” and Money Mark joined them for “Plastic Bubble.” The crowd knew every song, including a moving new ballad from Gill called “Maria.” Johnson was onstage for the final four songs – the aforementioned “Wasting Time,” The Untouchables’ “What’s Gone Wrong,” ALO’s “Girl I Wanna Lay You Down” and a Johnson song also called “Wasting Time.”

Michael Franti :: 02.24.07
Solutions for Dreamers
Just when it seemed like the energy couldn’t get any higher, Michael Franti and Spearhead took the stage, their amps draped in camouflage. Franti is as charismatic a frontman as they come, and his rebel music inspires as much as it entertains. Franti is truly an agent of light in a time of political darkness. With a head full of dreadlocks, the barefoot political minstrel bares his heart and soul and backs up everything he says with his actions, from visiting Iraq to throwing his annual Power To The Peaceful free concert in San Francisco. He is a tireless ambassador of hope, and the man must hold the record for most benefit concerts performed. At the Arlington, he bounced up and down, rallying the crowd with his energy. Passionate anthems like “Yell Fire,” “Radio Taxi,” “Hey Now Now” and “East to the West” not only demanded participation, making it physically impossible to resist. Even those who drank too much beer and were slumped in their seats were bobbing their head.

Franti is all about creating the best possible show every night. During a raucous sing-along of Sublime‘s West Coast anthem, “What I Got,” Franti invited a member of the audience up to help sing. The entire crowd was part of the event, and there was a sense that anything is possible, even something as audacious as Healing the Ocean, when everyone works together. Oniric Records‘ Jacob Tell, who spent ten months putting together this concert, is already planning next year’s event. This is just the beginning of his mission.

While our government has the means to cure these ills, it’s left to private citizens who can’t bear closed beaches, environmental catastrophes and the carcasses of marine life to take action and stand up to those who would treat the ocean, the birthplace of all life, as a sewer. Luckily we have heroes, artists who put their talents to use to promote sustainable living.

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