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    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Power To The Peaceful @ Golden Gate Park, 9-9-06

    Ah, San Francisco. That epicenter of American liberalism, that bluest of blue cities. Only here could an event like Power To The Peaceful, a daylong festival dedicated to peace, art, yoga and music, occur in such a magnitude. I decided to attend on a whim, even though I was expecting the usual stereotypes: guitar-plucking wailers rhyming "curtains" and "Halliburton," people who haven't showered since the first Gulf War, drum circles and peace signs and Green candidates handing out hugs.

    And to a degree, it was like that. Getting up to the main stage meant traversing a gauntlet of brochures, protests and philosophies. The air was as foggy as ever, although it was now thanks to the dank perfume of pipes, spliffs and joints. And Bush was still the worst obscenity you could utter. But it was surprisingly much deeper and more diverse than that. The crowd, reported at 50,000 strong, featured an inspiringly board swath of people-- babies, grandmothers, mohawked punks, blond mallrat types, men in dashikis, minivan moms, pierced-face skaters, young hippies, original hippies, yuppies, yippies, trippies and more.

    That diversity extended to the music admirably, with both the main stage ("Soulshine") and the second stage ("Feelin' Free") providing a nice cross-section of genres. There were the expected jam bands and folk-rock offerings, but there was also hip hop, soul, reggae, Latin, funk and a lot of fusion. There was also a DJ tent where willowy hippie chicks could twirl and contort to the slippery beats. The first act my friend Colin and I caught after handing over our suggested donations was New Monsoon. "They sound just like Phish," he noted. "That's pretty harsh," I replied. "Dude, Phish is awesome," he countered. "Um... oh yeah," I said. So we caught a few songs and swam through the crowd, people-watching, accumulating a rapid contact buzz.
    Moving through the park, we passed by the cluster of food booths. The oddly global scents of Ethopian, Thai, falafel and vegan burritos were mingling with the weed. People were also selling all sorts of drug-filled desserts out of baskets. Reaching the second stage, Colin and I found a stocky rapper named Radio Active trying to hype up a weak crowd. Radio Active turned out to be the find of the concert. Sometimes rapping with a grizzled growl, he spat out clever and thoughtful rhymes. His swift, charming flow seemed to come as naturally as speech. Then just to unequivocally assert his talent, he started freestyling about the green balloon someone was holding.

    After Radio Active's sadly abbreviated set, some redhaired kid named Brett Dennen came up. He didn't do anything for us, so we ventured back into the main stage hordes. As the intro to "Paragraph President" shot out, I sped up to the front. I knew I couldn't miss this, having already seen Blackalicious live twice. I pressed right up against the soundsystem. I could literally feel my chest cavity bouncing and my eardrums shaking. The ground shook too when everyone started jumping for "Alphabet Aerobics." And so Gift of Gab meaty lyrics and Chief Xcel's pumping beats proved as reliable as ever.

    Following Blackalicious, Michael Franti introduced some speakers, most of whom said the usual things (free Mumia, bring the troops home) but a few stood out. First, there was Robi Damelin and Nadwa Sarandah, an Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman respectively, who both lost family members in the ongoing conflict. It was moving to hear them talk about breaking a cycle of violence that had hit them so personally. Damelin read a letter she wrote to the parents of her son's killer before the two women tearfully embraced. Also, Wavy Gravy, '60s activist, official clown of the Grateful Dead and delicious namesake of the Ben and Jerry's flavor, made an appearance.

    Michael Franti and his band Spearhead came back after the speakers. I’ve admittedly never been much of a Franti fan, finding his delivery pretty bland and his lyrics too simplistic and oversincere. But if there was anywhere to appreciate his music, Power To The Peaceful was definitely it. As the force behind the festival, much of the giant crowd was in his corner. He did have a genuine stage presence and convinction, eliciting spirited cheers like a pastor draws a chorus of Hallelujahs. And he rocked harder than I expected, quickly creating a sea of fiercely nodding heads. Although I still found his lyrics overwrought, I had to respect his efforts. Anyone that could bring so many people together, all leaping into the air in one glorious frenzy, is a power to be reckoned with. And for one day in Golden Gate Park, it was a power that we'd all created and shared and sustained.

    * MP3: "Powers" - Blackalicious from The Craft [Buy it]
    * MP3: "Paragraph President" - Blackalicious from Blazing Arrow [Buy it]
    * MP3: "Alphabet Aerobics" - Blackalicious from A2G EP [Buy it]
    * MP3: "We Don't Stop" - Michael Franti and Spearhead from Everyone Deserves Music [Buy it]

    Comments on "Power To The Peaceful @ Golden Gate Park, 9-9-06"


    Blogger Sarah said ... (6:44 PM) : 

    I love San Fran and their many liberal efforts. I was going to go, but I've taken too many days off work :)


    Blogger Sarah said ... (1:21 AM) : 

    Who could forget the Bronze Age and the Paleolithic Age???????

    Of course!!!!


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