February 2017

Getting to Know Michael Franti

By Travis Drageset (allmusic.com)

Since his days as a member of the Beatnigs while in his early twenties, Michael Franti grew from an angry young hip-hopper with a political, socially conscious bent (the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Spearhead) to a man who channeled his seriousness, social unease, and desire for change and merged them with his love of music, particularly old-school R&B, soul, and hip-hop. What he left behind in brash, make-some-noise aesthetic, he gained in compassion. And through his use of his own raw power — charisma, sex appeal, sense of social injustice — he carried out in his music a community-generated passion in much the same way as Gil Scott-Heron or Marvin Gaye.

Franti was adopted at birth by white parents in the predominantly black community of Oakland, California. That set of contradictory circumstances instilled in him a hyper-awareness of his own cultural identity, as did the sobering fact that his more thoughtful, less provocative style of expression was not accepted by the African-American audience that had embraced a harsher, more combative faction of the hip-hop movement. In 1986, Franti formed the drum’n’bass/industrial duo the Beatnigs with turntablist Rono Tse, disbanding after one album. He then formed the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, whose combination of jazz-influenced heavy rap set out to challenge the materialism and misogyny of what had become mainstream rap.

His next project, Spearhead, produced the critically acclaimed Home in 1990. The album contained the single, “Hole in the Bucket,” a thoughtful lament on the plight of the homeless, and “Positive,” which addressed the growing AIDS epidemic. The album boasted adept funk samplings, sinuous guitar vamps, and soulful, melodic tracks about family and social injustice. Released in 1997, Chocolate Supa Highway was not as pop-friendly as Home, but neither did its themes of kidnappings and police brutality lend themselves to such overt accessibility. Its mixture of harsher musical styles — techno, rock, and funk — was a step forward for Franti as his world view broadened and deepened. In 2001, Franti released Stay Human. In it he expresses his anger at the system, his advocacy of love, and his belief in freedom through individuality and self-expression through a set of songs that revolve around a fictitious death penalty case. In it, his embrace of the genres that inspired him is achieved with eloquence.

Songs from the Front Porch was Franti’s first proper solo album, appearing in 2003. It was an acoustic affair that had him focusing even more on his singing, but not at the expense of his intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics. In 2005, Love Kamikaze: The Lost Sex Singles & Collectors’ Remixes appeared. Again billed only to Franti, it was a collection of Spearhead tracks that didn’t quite fit into the albums they were originally recorded for (as well as a couple different mixes from the Stay Human album). In 2006, Franti and Spearhead released Yell Fire! The album was partially recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, and, along with the book and film I Know I’m Not Alone, was part of a trilogy that shared the theme of documenting Franti’s then-recent visits to Israel, Palestine, and Iraq. Numerous live releases took Franti to 2008 and a new album, All Rebel Rockers. The album was once again recorded in Jamaica and featured the legendary rhythm section of Sly & Robbie. It also featured the Top 20 hit “Say Hey (I Love You).” Franti and his band spent a few months touring in support of John Mayer before settling down to record again, releasing The Sound of Sunshine in 2010. After a tour, some humanitarian work, and time off, Franti returned to recording; All People was released in the summer of 2013. Soul Rocker, from 2016, featured more electronic music in the mix, thanks in part to producers like Stephen McGregor (son of reggae legend Freddie McGregor) and Dwayne Chin-Quee, aka Supa Dups, from the Black Chiney Sound System.

Michael Franti & Spearhead at Cape Cod Melody Tent on June 23rd.

Dark Star Orchestra Celebrates 20 years of Tribute

One day in 1997, two Dead Head musicians were ruminating about life without Jerry Garcia and simultaneously came up with the same idea: “Let’s recreate a Grateful Dead show.” Around forty people came down to Martyrs’ in Chicago on November 11, 1997, to hear the brand-new Dark Star Orchestra’s rendition of the Dead’s show of 10/8/81. They’d planned it as a four-week experiment; ninety folks showed up the second week, then two hundred, then a 400-person sell-out…so it seemed like a good idea to keep going.

Since the idea behind the “Orchestra” part of Dark Star Orchestra is that this is a tribute to a body of music, lots of people have come and gone over the years—one co-founder, Scott Larned, passed on in 2005, the other, John Kadlecik, went off to play with the Dead’s Phil Lesh & Bob Weir in Furthur. But DSO keeps rolling, to the point that they’ve played well over 2,600 shows – 120,000 people in just the past year — and incredibly enough, are looking at an approaching 20th anniversary. This calls for celebration.

Like the Dead, DSO has developed an extraordinary relationship with its audience, and to honor the long strange trip they’ve shared, DSO will offer, for the first time at regular shows, beginning with their spring tour, a VIP Soundcheck and Poster Signing package. Participants will get exclusive pre-show access to the venue, a chance to hear the soundcheck, meet the band and get their 20th anniversary posters signed, a souvenir laminate and sticker…and more. Only 25 such tickets will be offered to each show.

Anyone who has seen – and heard – DSO will tell you this is not a “cover” band. It’s on a higher level, and you just have to be there to get it…kinda like the band whose music they play.

Written by Dennis McNally, former publicist of the Grateful Dead

Buy Tickets to Dark Star Orchestra


Throwback Thursday…On this Day…

Lots happened on this day in music history…

1935Sonny Bono is born in Detroit. He finds success as a producer and record executive before marrying Cher, with whom he forms the duo Sonny & Cher. He is elected to Congress in California, where he serves until the time of his death.

The 6.5 Special, Britain’s first pop music program, debuts on the BBC; the year is 1957.

In 1963 Beatles top British rock charts with “Please, Please Me”.

They also made their second appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on this day in 1964, one week after their debut on that show.

In 1997, Michael Jackson sings “Elizabeth I Love You,” which he wrote for the actress Elizabeth Taylor, at her 65th birthday celebration. The event airs on ABC on February 25th.

2004 Doris Troy, who wrote and recorded “Just One Look,” passes on, at age 67.

2011 Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way” makes history, becoming the Billboard Hot 100 chart’s 1000th number one. “It is a tremendous honor,” GaGa tells Billboard. “To be the 1000th number one on Billboard. I would be silly not to say this is the greatest honor of my career.”


Vanity- in the 1980s.

2016 “Vanity”, Canadian born singer/songwriter/dancer/actress/model, the former leader of the girl group Vanity 6 (1981 to 1983) passes away.  They made the single: “Nasty Girl,” which was produced by Prince and topped the Billboard dance charts.


More Shows Added to the 2017 Season

HYANNIS, Mass. February 13, 2017– The Cape Cod Melody Tent just announced more shows for the rapidly-approaching season.  Hunter Hayes returns to Hyannis, bringing new songs.  Another country singer who will rock the theater in the round this summer, is Phil Vassar. Also added to the lineup are the family favorite, Kaleidoscope Theater with several children’s shows; An Evening with the Fab Four for all the Beatles fans, and Grammy-award winning trumpeter Chris Botti. With the list of shows growing and the word getting out, the time to purchase tickets is now.  It may be cold outside but why not warm things up by mapping out some summer plans today.


As one of the only two continuously-operating tent theatres in the United States, the Cape Cod Melody Tent and its sister venue, the South Shore Music Circus have been bringing world-class entertainment to the region for over sixty years. Both venues provide intimate and unique settings, with theaters in-the-round, allowing patrons to get up close and personal to their favorite acts.

With booking continuing throughout the spring, the Cape Cod Melody Tent plans to release further announcements in the coming months. Fans can view the full line-up, purchase tickets and stay tuned to future announcements by visiting the venue’s websites – melodytent.org and themusiccircus.org.


Cape Cod Melody Tent 2017 Line-Up

6/16 — Hunter Hayes

6/17 – Cape Symphony

7/12 –  Kaleidoscope Theater presents Jack and the Beanstalk

7/14 –  Pink Martini

7/15 –  Phil Vassar    

7/19 –  Kaleidoscope Theater presents Goldilocks and the Three Bears

7/23 – An Evening with The Fab Four

7/26 – Kaleidoscope Theater presents Frog Prince

7/30 – Dark Star Orchestra      

  8/2  –  Kaleidoscope Theater presents Rapunzel

  8/6 — An Evening with Tower of Power & Average White Band

  8/8 — ABBA The Concert

 8/11 — Kaleidoscope Theater presents Cinderella      

 8/18 – An Evening with TajMo: The Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ Band

 8/19 – An Evening with Chris Botti

 8/25 –  The Temptations & The Four Tops


*Partial Listing as of 2/10/2017 – additional shows to be announced


About South Shore Playhouse Associates, The South Shore Music Circus & The Cape Cod Melody Tent:

The South Shore Playhouse Associates (SSPA) is a not-for-profit organization which runs the South Shore Music Circus and Cape Cod Melody Tent.  The only two continuously-operating tent theatres in the United States, the South Shore Music Circus and Cape Cod Melody Tent have hosted world-class entertainment in the round for more than 60 years, serving nearly 200,000 patrons annually.  South Shore Playhouse Associates supports arts and education in Southeastern Massachusetts.  In the past decade, the SSPA has distributed more than $3.8 million to other local non-profit organizations.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Cassie Vitali at 781-383-9850 or email cvitali@themusiccircus.org.




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