Michael Franti, for the love and for Gunilla, at Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Who: Michael Franti
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Sunday, Nov. 11, 8:30 p.m.
How much: $75-$135
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
There is something otherworldly about a Michael Franti show in Aspen.
It’s never just a concert when the genre-bending singer, songwriter, activist and master of uplift makes his seasonal appearances here.
In August, when he headlined the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience, his sunny onstage optimism seemed to will away gathering storm clouds and manifested in a resplendent double rainbow over the festival crowd. Last year, when he performed to an international crowd during the World Cup Finals in Wagner Park, he covered John Lennon’s “Imagine” while fireworks burst over Aspen Mountain behind him in an instantly iconic Aspen moment that seemed to bring a divided world together for a few brief moments.
Franti, who returns to Belly Up Aspen on Sunday, Nov. 11, always puts on a memorable show. He’ll always make his way into the crowd for a chunk of his performance. He may hug you while he’s there. (His opening act on Sunday is Victoria Canal, the 19-year-old who Franti discovered on Instagram and who wowed the Jazz Aspen crowd in August during a duet performance of their song “Flower in the Gun”).
Visiting Aspen regularly, he’s given his time to local nonprofits like the Buddy Program and the Aspen Yoga Society. He launched his own — the wish-granting charity Do It For the Love, which creates live music experiences for the ill — with a fundraiser here at Belly Up owner Michael Goldberg’s house in 2013. It was there that Franti met Gunilla Asher, the late Aspen Times publisher who was in the middle of her battle against breast cancer and who spoke at the event.
“She was captivating and amazing as always,” recalled Belly Up’s Erin Heintz. “And Michael was moved by her. They started a relationship from that point on.”
Franti hosted Gunilla backstage at a local concert after that and stayed in touch with her.
“She was always very inspired by him,” said Shannon Asher, Gunilla’s niece and Belly Up staff member.
Gunilla died, at 42, in June 2014. But Franti is helping her legacy to live on with this Aspen performance, which coincides with an annual Nov. 11 celebration of Gunilla’s life hosted by her friends and family. Her tribe of friends and family, for the past three years, have had a grand get-together on Nov. 11. “11/11” holds a deep meaning for Gunilla’s loved ones.
“When she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, the doctor told her she had a few months to live,” Shannon said. “So she started looking at other ways to beat this thing. She asked that all of her friends and family, when they saw 11:11 on the clock, to send her good vibes or prayers. So 11:11 around Aspen became her time.”
It remains a twice-daily reminder for her loved ones to connect with her memory.
This year, as the 11/11 celebration approached, the club’s bookers reached out to Franti to schedule a Belly Up show and bring together Gunilla’s celebration with the wider Aspen community to toast her memory.
“We said, this would be perfect — Gunilla loved Michael Franti, let’s see if we can get him that day in the club,” Shannon said.