The 11th Annual Power to the Peaceful Festival began with a thunderclap and ended with an affirmation of love. The season's first storm hit in the wee hours, bringing warm, tropical showers – but no lightning. Most of the rain had passed over Golden Gate Park by the time the music started, at noon, although sprinkles permeated the morning yoga jam–featuring hundreds of downward dog-leaning folks–a ritualistic blessing symbolizing the purification of the earth by the heavens. That was it for the actual rain, but a fine mist lingered in the air for the rest of the day.
This year's lineup was one of the best-ever, talent-wise. After short sets by conscious rappers Sellassie and Truth Universal, Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure continued the tribal theme with an electric take on traditional African blues. But things really got going with an extended set of live dub reggae by the legendary Jamaican duo Sly + Robbie, who brought on vocalist Cherine Anderson to sing two Bob Marley songs near the end of their performance.
By then, the crowd had swelled to about 70,000 folks, who extended from the Speedway Meadow stage all the way back to the DJ stage at the festival entrance. After all the heat generated by Sly + Robbie's classic riddims, Alanis Morissette cooled things down a bit with an acoustic set which featured chilled renditions of her hits “Thank You” and “You Oughtta Know.” After yet another blessing, by Tibetan lama Namkha Rinpoche (who told the crowd there was a possibility of bringing the Dalai Lama to the event in 2010), headliners Michael Franti and Spearhead appeared almost immediately afterwards. Franti's set was upbeat, highlighted by collaborations with both Sly + Robbie and Cherine Anderson and joyous renditions of “Yell Fire” and “Say Hey (I Love You)”. After it was all said and done, it seemed the show's organizers packed a week's worth of activity into one day. The sun never quite made it out that day, yet there was plenty of sunshine in the hearts of festival-goers, as they gradually trudged out of the meadow. Indeed, a peaceful yet rockin' time was had by all.