Michael Franti should feel right at home when he performs for participants and fans between sessions at the Soul Pose MLB All-Star Yoga event on July 9 at Waterfront Park in downtown San Diego, as part of the Pepsi Music Series during Major League Baseball's All-Star Week.Yoga, after all, is
Michael Franti should feel right at home when he performs for participants and fans between sessions at the Soul Pose MLB All-Star Yoga event on July 9 at Waterfront Park in downtown San Diego, as part of the Pepsi Music Series during Major League Baseball's All-Star Week.
Yoga, after all, is a fact of life for the 50-year-old California native and frontman for Michael Franti & Spearhead. It is a key part of the fitness regimen that keeps him going strong during the ongoing 2016 Soulrocker Tour through mid-September, and he is a certified yoga instructor and the co-founder of Soulshine, a yoga retreat and "place of happiness" in Bali, Indonesia.
"Baseball and yoga may not seem like an obvious pairing at first, but I'm stoked to be playing music for something that brings people together, makes us more limber and increases our focus for whatever's next," Franti said. "It's a lot like the seventh-inning stretch."
MLB.com Entertainment just launched Franti's new artist feature at mlb.com/e. There, alongside links to the band's tour schedule, Soulrocker album and Good to Be Alive Today acoustic remix video, you can see Franti's Instagram pics, and one that shows him in a downward-dog pose on a mat backstage before a recent Philadelphia concert.
"When I first started music, I could play a show, stay up all night partying, wake up early the next day, and do all the promo and things that were required to play another show the night after, with no problem," Franti said recently in a "Why I Make Music" mini-documentary. "But now I have to train every day, for better or for worse, to stay in shape, to do what I do."
Considering that All-Star Week is a setting that exudes happiness and passion -- especially with the first-time addition of the large-scale yoga event -- Franti seems like a perfect fit. He is an outspoken supporter of peace and social justice worldwide, a champion of helping others and overcoming personal challenges, whatever they may be.
"This mountain's tumbling down, but still we try to climb it," he says in "Good to Be Alive Today" -- a lone voice maybe, but a loud voice, one of optimism and a big group hug, blasting across North America, and coming soon to an All-Star event.
Amid the unique din of this particular U.S. presidential election year, that voice is a veritable oasis.
"I make music for one reason, which is that I care about people, and I care about the planet we live on," Franti said. "Right now the world needs music that speaks out against hate and violence, and that speaks up in support of justice for all humans. ... Also, it makes you dance.
"I believe that the world needs music right now more than ever -- the most positive, that combats hate, that combats violence, and that builds community across nations and across religious differences, and that helps people to have fun and have that sense of purpose and being a part of every cell in the body. That's what the Soulrocker Tour is all about."
The Soul Pose MLB All-Star Yoga performance will allow Franti to be in an intimate setting with likeminded people who are looking to center themselves while celebrating life. His bent toward close interaction with his audiences comes from what he calls a lifelong history of wanting to connect at concerts.
"When I was a kid, I would go to tons of shows, and I would always pay for the cheapest seat in the house, way up there, and I would try to work my way down to the front and sneak my way up there," he said. "It would mean so much to me when I would see an artist if they would just acknowledge me a little bit. I'd be way up in the top section, and they would point, and they'd have no idea who they were pointing to. But to me and my group of friends, it felt like they were pointing right at us.
"That's why I love going through the crowd. I love this idea of the 360 experience, a three-dimensional show, where that barrier between audience and performer is gone."
Franti's definition of a "soulrocker"?
"A person who lives from the heart, and who has compassion for all with a tenacious enthusiasm for music, for life and for the planet," he said.
Signups are underway to join Franti at Soul Pose MLB All-Star Yoga on the Saturday before the 87th All-Star Game presented by MasterCard. Just go to allstargame.com/yoga, and then look over the Soulrocker Tour schedule to find a concert date near you.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.