BY NATHAN PAYNE
TRAVERSE CITY — The name is the Traverse City Microbrew and Music Festival, but this year, the music might take the show.
Sure there will be more than 300 varieties of beer tonight and Saturday at the fifth rendition of the annual event, but there are at least two must-see musical performers at the show this year.
Of the 14 musicians or groups who will hit the stage, The Wailers and Michael Franti and Spearhead probably are the most recognizable.
The Wailers of Bob Marley fame will headline Saturday night with their roots rock reggae following an afternoon of music and tons of beer tasting. But it’s probably Franti, Friday night’s headliner, who will bring something new to the grounds of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
Last month Franti launched his group’s latest album “All People.” The group has been out touring since May, but now is out promoting the new record, he said.
The record ventures into new territory for Franti, combining two types of music he loves.
”This record that we’ve made is a combination of dance music and acoustic guitar,” he said. “Historically, acoustic guitar has always been for dance music. The rhythm that the acoustic guitar brings is really connected to making people dance.”
And that’s just what Franti intends to make his audience in Traverse City to do.
Franti prides himself on getting his audiences into the music, getting them up and dancing. He often performs at least a few songs from out in the crowd, he said.
“Our show is very energetic making music with the audience,” he said.
“Our shows are really well known for all ages.”
Franti said he’s excited to be in northern Michigan. His adoptive parents lived for some time in the Upper Peninsula and he spend many hours during his childhood walking the woods with his adoptive father.
But, he’s never performed in Traverse City, Franti said.
Franti said he was raised by a family who embraced and celebrated people’s differences, something that he carries through his music. Recently Franti and his girlfriend launched a charity that arranges for people with advanced life-threatening illnesses to go to concerts and meet their favorite performers.
The Do it for the Love foundation launched last month and has been inundated with requests and donations, he said.
“I think almost everything I do is shaped by the fact that I was adopted,” Franti said. “We have this saying around our house, ‘be your self and be your best and serve the greater good by rocking out.’ Find ways to serve the world by rocking out. Find something positive to connect with.”
That’s what Franti hopes to do tonight when he takes the stage.
For more information and to buy tickets, go to tcbeerfest.com.