June 29 event features mass yoga class at McMenamins

Upbeat singer songwriter Michael Franti likes to stretch himself musically and CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Michael Franti & Spearhead will get the feets amovin at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale June 29.

That’s why he’s bringing a massive yoga class to McMenamins Edgefield’s amphitheater on June 29. Franti and his band, Spearhead, will play instrumental acoustic music for the 90-minute yoga class, which has already sold out. (Tickets for his “Soulshine” show were still available as of June 10.)

Franti says he’s been doing yoga for 13 years and looks forward to hosting the class.

“For people who’ve never done yoga, it’s a great way to learn,” he says, adding that the practice helped him as a performer.

“It’s helped my ability to focus, to stay centered in my heart when things are very stressful,” he says. “I’m 48 years old now, and I still run around every arena we’re playing. I’m in better shape now than I was in my 30s.”

From Hiphopcrisy to healing

Franti comes to our area on the heel of his latest release, “All People.” Franti’s music combines the latest trends in electronic dance music with older sounds rooted in hip-hop, funk, reggae, jazz, folk and rock. Boil his sound down, it’s conscious party tunes, often featuring uplifting lyrics and easy-on-the-melodies.

It’s less abrasive than how his earlier music sounded, when he was with the Public-Enemy-like Disposable Heroes of Hiphopcrisy, a politically and socially charged industrial-hip-hop outfit that drew a lot of critical praise as well as an opening slot on U2’s 1992 Zoo TV tour.

Despite his softer, barefooted vegan sound now, he’s still just as concerned about politics and acknowledges some disappointment in Barack Obama, for whom he performed three times at 2008 inaugural events.

An advocate for gay rights, peace and feminism, areas where he praised the president’s actions, he notes he’s nonetheless critical of Obamacare — he would prefer a health system more like Canada’s or Sweden’s — and expressed sadness at the use of drone weapons in Afghanistan and the loss of innocent children to their strikes.

“I am far more to the left than any president we could ever elect,” he says with a chuckle. “I look at the president not as the perfect answer to all of my political dreams. I look at the president as the rudder of a very large ship that can be pulled in different directions by all sides. If it can be pulled a little in the direction I want, I’m grateful.”

Seeking sounds

As of late, Franti says he’s been listening to the Nassau sound, the funky Bahamaian music popular in the 1970s, and notes he’s pushed hip-hop to incorporate live instruments since his own beginnings in the music business.

A former nightclub doorman, Franti says he’s seen hundreds of bands and learned from every one of them, and never wanted to be just a rapper with a deejay like many of his peers.

“When I first started I always felt for hip-hop to be a great live show, it had to be a live band,” he says, adding he believes Spearhead’s latest album “plays really great live.”

He also says his band will also test out new songs for its next album on stage.

“We change it up every night.”

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