11:16 PM. So these like Zulu dudes in loin
carrying talking drums or something equally out-of-place in 1995 San Francisco
go running by me, heading for God knows where. As it gets later and later, the
masses of tuxedo-clad people who each paid $72.50 to be here seem to be
disintegrating. What I mean to say is that men and women who were once
well-behaved are now fast approaching an animal state in which they are mauling
each other, draining huge plastic cups of beer, ingesting handfuls of strange
pills (hey, not really), and getting way, way out there.
Just getting back
into the "Alive" tent again means risking life and limb, but as it is my duty
to get into that tent in order to bring you a report on the state of Spearhead,
1995, I am doing just that, pushing my way past all manner of bobbing and
weaving Spearhead fans. And there are lots and lots of them. In fact, the tend
is totally jammed with Spearhead heads.
By the time I'm up front, Michael
Franti and his rather flamboyant crew are doing "It's A Crime To Be Black In
America." Franti is jumping up and down as if on a trampoline, which is what he
tends to do as he gets more and more excited. And he gets very excited as the
set progresses. Spearhead are Franti's answer to Parliament-Funkadelic, if
P-Funk had lived in Jamaica for about five years and were young enough to have
grown up on rap.
Franti has thick dreadlocks. He's tall and thin, wears
baggy green army-style pants and a short-sleeved B-Boy shirt. To say that he
sees the world in political terms, is to say it like it is. For example, the
lyrics to "It's A Crime To Be Black In America" include the lines, "It's a
crime to be black in America, it's a crime to be a Mexican in America, it's a
crime to be a woman in America, it's a crime to smoke weed in America." Get the
idea? And, by the way, that last line elicited a massive roar from the crowd
who seemed to be indicating that it should not be a crime to smoke weed in
The very make-up and look of Spearhead is a political statement.
Franti's got a female keyboard player and a female singer. Everyone in the band
is black. He's got this one dude in long African robes who looks like a rasta
George Clinton who is called Ras I Zulu. I kid you not. Mr. Zulu seems to
mostly be there to add a certain ambiance to the show. While he occasionally
delivers these rasta rants, more often he bobs and weaves in time to the
rhythm, drifting back and forth across the stage, behind Franti.
familiar with Spearhead's material, among the selections they performed were:
"Piece O' Peace," "Where The Love Goes," "Red Beans & Rice," "Dream Team,"
"Slave Ship," "Love Is Da Shit" and "Hole In The Bucket." And no, this was not
a lesson in Black history. Well, actually, it was, but it was also a totally
When Spearhead get a reggae groove going, you are gone. Carl
Young is a mega-bassist and in tandem with drummer James Gray, you can almost
smell the ganja. Hey, that is some ganja that that dude to the left of me is
Bottom line is that Spearhead are probably the funkiest thing
happening here, with maybe the exception of War, who are also pretty damn
And although I would love to stick around to provide you with more
Spearhead details, it's time to seek out the Gin