The Electric Factory is plastered with red, gold and green posters that invoke the spirit of peace, tolerance and reggae music. Young, colorful roots enthusiasts from the various Philly college campuses sway energetically on the bottom floor. Older heads pack themselves close to the bar upstairs with bodies spilling over the balcony to get a view of the stage. Both groups of fans have come to enjoy the Caribbean music of Ziggy Marley and the reggae, hip-rock fusion of Michael Franti and Spearhead.
Michael Franti, the loc-haired frontman of Spearhead towers above the crowd and his fellow bandmates with his 6'6" frame. His demeanor is surprisingly welcome as he strums through old favorites and casts an easy smile on the audience. He weaves in quirky stories during song breaks that encourage self-acceptance, creativity, and of course, love. Close to the end of the set, Franti tells the audience to embrace whoever they came with as he pushes his global love agenda. As something of a hip hop jam band with strong reggae influences, Spearhead coasts through the set with a relaxed approach that makes the 2500-person venue seem more intimate.
In contrast, Marley plays his set as though it were a small session with his band. He seems fairly indifferent towards the thousands of fans in the sold-out Electric Factory. Marley pours his scratchy voice into the microphone, eyes closed, and plucks his guitar. His demeanor does not change regardless of the swell of appreciative yells throughout the set. A highlight of the show is Marley's saucy back-up singer who blends her electric soprano vocals well with his. The band's comparatively animated stance nicely supports his introverted performance.
Marley brings the traditional roots reggae sound, evocative of both island tropics and messages of social change. His repetoire does not deviate much from this formula, but it is satisfying and beautiful. Spearhead's sound is more daring by encompassing elements from several forms of music. This inclusive approach extends to their performance style as well. Spearhead and Ziggy Marley each pay homage to Carribean music by espousing tradition and incorporating elements of other genres. Ultimately, the live show is a good chance to enjoy complex styles of music and the equally intriguing performers.