What: 11th Annual Power to the Peaceful Festival
Where: Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
When: September 12, 2009
Why: Michael Franti & Spearhead plus Alanis Morissette
The Scoop: Five a.m. thunderclaps threatened to put a damper on Michael Franti's annual Power to the Peaceful love fest in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, due to kickoff at 9:00 a.m. with a two-hour "1,000 Yogis for Peace" morning yoga practice. Maybe 1,000 yogis didn't show, and maybe it did rain a little, but the weather wasn't going to stop this 11th annual tradition that pre-dates yet coincides with 9/11 and which has grown into a call for world peace on the weekend closest to the 2001 tragedy.
PTTP epitomizes San Francisco, as one speaker told the assembled. Where else can you wander into an urban park on a Saturday and stumble across a free concert with top-shelf talent, displays of art, a healing sanctuary, zones for kids, booths for environmental and social justice organizations, and vendors selling eco-products? Oh, and 70,000 close-knit friends.
Power to the Peaceful, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco (9/12/09)
After sets by politico hip-hop artist Truth Universal, San Francisco poet Sellassie, Malinese guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, and the powerful vocalist Cherine Anderson (see her before she hits the big time), sultry songstress Alanis Morissette took the stage. The reportedly newly vegan Morissette, looking happy and healthy, delivered a hits-filled acoustic set that pleased all.
The final act of the afternoon was, of course, Michael Franti & Spearhead, complete with the legendary Sly & Robbie rhythm section and Anderson on supporting vocals. The band was on, which may or may not have had something to do with the sweet smoke filling the air or Morissette's recurring guest star role on Showtime's Weeds. It's all just coincidence. To be honest, there seemed to be more of the herb at the Outside Lands Festival two weeks prior, but then again, who's token?
Franti obviously lives for this weekend (though his tour bus arrived in the early hours of Saturday he was still spotted at the morning yoga session). And he should. The festival he has created has now reached that stage where it is an annual San Francisco tradition, and much better than most of them. In his trademark bare feet he prowled the stage with more energy than anyone should be allowed to have, filling the gaps between songs with stories of his recent appendectomy and how he wrote his current hit song, "Say Hey (I Love You)," while in Woody Harrelson's bathroom. "Woody only has one medicine in his cabinet," confessed Franti, to a roaring crowd.
Michael Franti closes the Power to the Peaceful Festival