Michael Franti & Spearhead brought back the artist’s issue-focused Harvest Ball event last Friday at the Mission Ballroom in Denver. Formerly a day-long gathering to educate fans on cannabis, Franti retooled this year’s Harvest Ball to discuss the pressing climate crisis.
“We rely so much on the Earth for everything that we take into our bodies whether it is the food we eat, the air we breathe or the water we drink,” Franti tells Billboard. “It was a fitting way to say thank you to the Earth by protecting it and regenerating and restoring places that have been damaged.”
While on tour to promote his latest album, Stay Human, Vol. II, and documentary film Stay Human, Franti decided to transform his Denver tour date into the Harvest Ball with food trucks, activities for kids, a yoga session and a live podcast taping on the subject of climate change with environmental non-profit Protect Our Winters.
“The issue was how to keep the mountains cold,” Franti says of the live panel discussion. “Colorado relies on winter. Over the past 10 years the winters have become very inconsistent. It is important that their mountains stay cold for their economy.”
Franti was joined on the panel by professional skier Chris Davenport, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and entrepreneur Rob Schuham.
“In talking about advocacy, I like to think of it as a journey,” said Davenport at the panel. “Climate is a very partisan issue, as we all know. In my own journey, I started by dipping my toes in a little bit and now I am sort of riding the wave, but I fall off a lot and have to get back up. I am learning as I go while working with POW (Protect Our Winters).”
“It is easier to be optimistic when you have better choices, so we need to deliver some better choices for the climate and then I think we will get some more optimism back into the hopper,” said Hickenlooper.
Schuham added, “Do research on your own. Check out all of the other stuff that is out there, there is a lot of data, a lot of information and it is really up to you and your own discernment, just be knowledgeable about it on your own.”
Franti explained that the panel was intended to help educate families about the best ways to tackle environmental issues on a micro and a macro level from growing more plant life to encouraging big businesses to switch to renewable energy sources.
“It takes political will to change that. It takes the adventurous spirit of entrepreneurs. It takes the wisdom of indigenous people and it takes the common sense of everyday families. It takes the cooperation of governments to really make this happen. We need everybody on board,” he tells Billboard.
Franti, who believes all concerts should be for families, especially wanted fans to bring younger generations to the day-long activities. The musician understands that young people are more receptive to adopting traditions that will help combat the climate crisis and hoped the day would be informative as well as entertaining.
The Harvest Ball closed out with an acoustic set by Franti followed by the main concert inside the venue with Franti and his full band.
“It's hard, slow work and things don't change at the rate that we want them to. So, it's gotta be fun and when you bring it into music, it does something different than when a politician is talking about it and citing statistics,” Franti says about the climate crisis. “It brings heart into it and it brings feeling into it and it brings storytelling into it and it brings dancing into it and celebration and people have a chance to let go through the music.”