Sweaty hugs, informal dance-offs and Sammies

A homecoming: Michael Franti & Spearhead’s October 10 performance in Sacramento felt like a long-overdue homecoming show. The show took place at the two-thirds full Sacramento State University Union Ballroom, with much of the audience—which included the frontman’s friends, family and even a former volleyball coach—dancing their asses off.

It was the first time he’d played in the Sacramento area for a long time, the singer explained near the beginning of evening. Franti grew up in Davis, where he attended Davis Senior High School (graduating class of 1984), before launching his music career two years later with the Beatnigs, an experimental hip-hop and punk-influenced band. After another group, the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, came and went, he formed Michael Franti & Spearhead, which since 1994 has won over audiences worldwide with its blend of hip-hop, punk, reggae, funk and (more recently) EDM.

Despite his music’s rebellious nature, Franti’s latest local show exuded a safe, family-friendly atmosphere. There were dozens of kids in attendance, thanks to the fact that the gig was all ages.

Multiple times during the show—which included a barrage of hits spanning the last decade, including many from his latest album, All People—Franti wove through the audience for sweaty hugs and informal dance-offs. At one point, Franti’s former volleyball coach tossed a ball at him, and the performer set it back into the crowd. Another highlight featured 20 giant orange and yellow balloons tossed around during “The Sound of Sunshine Going Down.”

Then, a small gang of friends and family joined the performance, dancing onstage to the deep ska grooves of “Gangsta Girl.” About two-thirds of the way through the evening, Franti told a few VH1 Storytellers-esque anecdotes about his mother who adopted him at birth (he’d eventually bring her on stage to great applause), the time he went to Iraq and the Middle East to play for troops and foreign civilians, and the time his friend’s mom took him to see the Commodores. These stories slowed the pace down a bit, but heavy bass and upbeat songs quickly got the crowd moving again.

With probably the most diverse crowd I’ve ever seen, and constant commandments from Franti to hug, kiss and dance—it felt like an extra-big house party, but with better music. There were even a couple of security guards shakin’ their butts, police duty belts and all. The set closed a bit after 10 p.m. with “Say Hey (I Love You),” featuring a bunch of kids dancing around onstage, past their bedtime. Much like Michael Franti & Spearhead’s last four albums, the night produced a positive vibe that extolled the virtues of hope, unity and diversity.

—Jonathan Mendick

All’s fair in love and voting: Just a reminder that the ballot for the Sacramento Area Music Awards—the Sammies—is up and ready for votes at www.sammies.com. Of course, if you are at all interested in local music, then it’s not likely that you missed the voting rollout because, of course, it was all over the Facebooks and the Twitters. In addition to plenty of vote requests, I also saw numerous shout-outs to fans for nominating an artist in the first place. That’s the spirit, right? Totally. Of course, I did get more than one email asking just how exactly that nomination process takes place. Fair enough question. Since you asked, the Sammies ballot comes together following a lengthy open-nominations process via SN&R’s website. Staff then checks the ballots and also gets input from an editorial board comprising local bookers, music writers, etc. This last part is key. Listen, we’re all adults here, and we know that ballot-stuffing is a thing. That said, here inside the hallowed halls of SN&R headquarters, we do everything we can to ensure fairness. In other words, if nominations consisted solely of a category’s top vote-getter, then the resulting ballot would feature the same artist in every single category (oh, so you’re a folk artist, heavy-metal band and hip-hop producer? Please, tell me more). Anyway, no doubt fan nominations play a huge, integral role—there’s just some editorial contributions as well.

Enough with the boring details. Voting continues through 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, November 6, and the resulting blowout party takes place Friday, November 8, at Ace of Spades (1417 R Street). Tickets are $10.

—Rachel Leibrock