Tag Archives: music

Sky Full of Fans: Social Media Fuels the Advent of Common Kings’ Rule

You were there, lighting the path. Under a sky full of stars, they saw you, breathing the air that was electrically charged with all your great expectations. In a wrap-around line leading to San Diego’s House of Blues, on Sunday, November 9, they saw you as an indelible light in a sky full of stars.

And you didn’t care to be anywhere else in the semblance of real time, but shimmering in this technological fairy tale that you helped spin out of millions of YouTube views and Facebook likes–each cumulatively ensuring your chosen band, the Common Kings, that elusively sought-after, social-media-driven jettison to the stars.

And just as in that exuberant Coldplay love song you can’t get out of your head, ultimately, in a sky full of stars, this is about you–a determinedly influential and avowed fan–and the fabulous and highly laudable Common Kings. For what impossible Universe would allow one without the other? Isn’t fandom a universally relatable and most importantly ,reciprocal, experience? One neither fan nor artist can live without.

Is it an island thing? In the uncommonly thrilling shared experience of catching the Common Kings fresh off their head-spinning Australian and New Zealand leg of the Justin Timberlake tour, you should know, in your heart of given hearts, that although not physically, you were spiritually there as well, as part of that preternatural force that catapulted them onto that all-enviable world stage–playing arenas–so why not wear that plumeria or hibiscus blossom in your hair–whether you’re Polynesian or just play one on TV?

It is an island thing. One that was demographically waiting to happen, but, ultimately, one to be shared by everyone as The Common Kings are on the cusp of going internationally viral, taking the world stage by storm now, so stop fretting and enjoy the show.
And a great, supercharged, beat driven, sold out show it was. Just as you dreamed. As part of a standing room crowd, you swayed to Hawaii’s own Maoli, as Tennelle drove the performance to a charged-up level worthy of mention for a stand-out, opening act. But as the Common Kings took the stage, they had your heart aflutter as it was already given to them. And they were exhilaratingly on fire. And didn’t the House of Blues turn into that proverbial house without a roof?

Seeing the internationally rising stars, the uncommonly thrilling Common Kings, comprised of bassist Lui Kirimaua (Ivan), lead singer Sasualei Maliga (Junyer), drummer Jerome Taito (Rome), and lead guitarist Taumata Grey (Mata), proved to be its own irrefutable reward. Being able to sing the lyrics to their rock, reggae, and R&B fusion driven hits “Alcoholic”, “Wade In Your Water”, “Fly” and “No Other Love”, with them took you to another level–the one where both you and the band exchange music as oxygen and where musicians and fans recognize each other as being mutually indispensable.

Backstage, they would have told you that. Affably and incredibly humble, bordering on contagiously jovial, the band remains accessible and playful. Citing their shared passion for their art, confirming their chosen name as bearing tribute to their Polynesian roots, waxing poetic about their collective collaborative and how to maintain their childhood friendship during this wild trajectory from Costa Mesa–in the improbable O.C.–to a world stage.
Yes, they obviously have people from Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii and Samoa in the O.C as evidenced by each member. But, most importantly, if your name was Annie, rest assured that they’d regale you with an impromptu chorus “Of It’s A Hard Knock Life” in which you’d join in, giddily off key and deeply moved.

In this Cinderella story of a band with a debut album still awaiting its January release, we come to the conclusion that the same internet that Kim Kardashian unceremoniously professes to want to break–by sitting on it?–can ultimately be utilized to make and take a music career to nearly unprecedented nose-bleed heights. But it couldn’t have happened without you. As you gaze expectantly upon your heroes teetering on the verge of that world stage, each Common King wants you to know that in this shared sky full of stars, they saw you, too, and from their vantage point, you’re such a heavenly view.

A Bridge Between Beach Boys’ Great Brian Wilson and Noah Lennox, aka, Panda Bear

I came of age listening to Bowie, the Velvet Underground, T. Rex, Iggy and The Stooges and The New York Dolls. Easy to predict that I would go on to loiter about in art school with my ears finely tuned to what was then referred to as underground music, so predictably enough, very little that was “commercial” seemed to register on my radar. It all sounded like “the shrieking of nothing” as Bowie so aptly and tauntingly sang in “Ashes to Ashes.” The Beatles, as you can imagine, were everywhere else but on my turntable—and, sadly, so was one of my now favorites: Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. It took a lot longer to find him amongst what I had so erroneously dismissed as commercial, though beautifully harmonious, beach drivel. “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Barbara Ann”, I thought, were annoying or—get this!—dismissible. They are commercial, but they clearly were not what they seemed.

On a ski trip to New York’s Bear Mountain, with all the conjurable images of pristine snow blanketing the world as we ascended, my friend John was playing a Beach Boys compilation when “The Warmth Of The Sun” finally hit me. I told him—not in so many words—to pull the car over! It was momentous! I wanted to slap myself for having been so obtuse as I was reduced to tears for never had I heard such achingly beautiful longing in modern music before. Did it take having to hear the greatness of Brian Wilson literally and geographically out of context? Yes, at least that’s what needed to happen for me. I had to hear it in winter, going up a mountain surrounded by snow with no beach in sight, to shake off all my ill informed and vastly erroneous prejudiced.

Needless to say, from that moment on, I had to rewind back in time to listen to the Beach Boys with a new awareness. I proceeded to go on and become a voice in the wilderness, touting the genius of Brian Wilson as greater than the Beatles’. My argument persists beyond this facile conclusion: is it fair to pit three geniuses against one? Beyond that, stands the fact that Brian’s music is simply symphonic. Furthering this incontestable side of the argument, is the heartbreaking realization that Brian Wilson had to go against his own band, who weighted him down like dead albatrosses when it came to backing him into the unmapped urgency of his artistic expression, while equally running up against the suffocating confines of an ominously and commercially driven stage father. Reminds me of a modern day Mozart tragedy waiting to happen. And it did. As we all might well know, Brian Wilson’s brilliant foray of coercing music into yet unexplored places, came to a screeching halt following a series of nervous breakdowns. That’s where all the longing in and out of music for this genius began and never ends. As an aside—don’t get me started with telling you how I feel about the Beach Boys going on about business as usual without Brian, as this little ditty will then devolve into pulp fiction—falling ever so short of invoking haplessly competent goons .

Today, nearly fifty years later, the story brings us to another musician. His name is Noah Lennox whose solo side project apart from Animal Collective, is known as Panda Bear. Aside from finding his music fiercely innovative and capable to transform the universe within and around me—not an easy feat—I also find him reminiscent of the great Brian Wilson. Often, we are left to wonder what music might have sounded like if Brian Wilson was not forced to exit it so long ago. Upon hearing Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, the thought invites further pondering. What may be the similarity between such greatness? Speculatively, it could be just the angelic voice. Yet upon closer listen, a certain strange element becomes not only more discernible but, thankfully, almost inescapable. That’s when you may realize the same achingly beautiful longing that is not only a trademark, but a bridge between time connecting both artists.

Bowie Pulls a Salinger, aka, Disappearing Act Under Our Very Eyes

Planet Earth is bluer— these days— and there’s nothing I can do, with Bowie nowhere to be seen. How did this all happen? Following his onstage heart attack during his 2004 Reality Tour in Germany, the Thin White Duke has made but a scant, highly select handful of appearances. A solid decade later, a whole wide world is realizing, in an inconsolably sobering way, that he’s pulled a J.D. Salinger. I ask myself, why does this keep happening with my truest of heroes?

Didn’t Bowie appear on a collective radar with “Space Oddity? And didn’t Salinger register most—particularly amongst the bookburners—with the iconic Catcher In The Rye? Sadly, didn’t the protagonist of either inescapably embraced phenomenon distinctly forewarn of this tendency—to pull their own plugs on society— within their own storyline? I’ve had to often explain that astronaut Major Tom chooses not to come back to Earth. What in the world does that mean? Well, it means, specifically, that he’s chosen to spin off into oblivion in his tin can. And whatever else could that mean but suicide amongst the stars? The unsettling image also conjures scenes of the film, My Life As A Dog, as its 12 year old protagonist admits that his life may be rough, but not nearly as horrible as the Russian cosmonaut dog, Laika, who was sent spinning into space without a return clause.

Alas, Holden Caufield, similarly and distinctly, describes wanting to go and live in a cabin in the woods. And so, his creator, did just that. For decades, I recall journalists’ plaintive cries that decreed landing a Salinger interview would be as newsworthy as establishing the existence of life on Mars. A Salinger interview was, arguably, the most sought-after coup on the planet, yet nobody was able to pull it off. There was the expose’ by Joyce Maynard, a young writer that admits to having shared his cabin in the woods in Cornish, New Hampshire, but I won’t go into the incendiary controversy that ensued, nor the chastising and blackballing that was unleashed upon her by the literary community as it struck out with vehemence in deference of Salinger’s reclusive integrity.

Both Bowie and Salinger, strangely, might have wanted to metaphorically go to Lhasa, so to speak. Stranger yet, there is anecdotal evidence that may hint that this hyperbole might not have been strictly metaphorical as these controversial and profoundly influential artists shared a definitive quest for Buddhist tenets inclusive of daily rituals of the most esoteric transcendental arts . That too, I sadly shared-in without fulfillment, ad infinitum. Last year, Bowie did produce an album that I’ve yet to fully explore. Don’t ask me why, for the answer may be as devastating as finding out, as a ten year old, that Tibet was under Chinese occupation and nobody could either get in nor out of it.

As Bowie remained a no-show at February’s Brit Awards, while Kate Moss claimed the coveted doohickey for Best British Male (artist) 2014 on his behalf, there has been rash and persistent speculation about the frailty of his body and mind. As for myself, the thought conjures what some of us can only speculate as being proof that Iman is keeping him in a dungeon—preferably a sex one—while sending her Ubermodel friend to the event on their behalf.

There continues to be a flurry of shrill speculation stirred by several photos that emerged wherein either the caption read something to the tune of: “Rare sighting of a frail Bowie in NYC shuffling about disoriented with lunch bag” or another such: “Unidentified woman seen with reclusive Bowie near his NYC residence”. I’m not going to play the game of outguessing anybody about the state of his hypothetical Alzheimer, possible strokes, nor the presumed maleficent intent in his looming absence. All I know is that I may be one of the few left who can laugh at the caption beneath the photo of the unidentified woman. So, I’ll ask in defiant jest, am I the only one who can identify Coco Schwab—his long time assistant and confidant—in and outside of a police lineup, if need be? Time wears bafflingly strange on us all, but I, more so, should have seen hints of this heart-wrenching disappearance as part of a plausible escape clause, laid out a long, long time ago.

A Rather Low World: Fallout from Bowie’s Low Album Continues to Impact Today’s Music

If you scored a copy of David Bowie’s Low back on its original release in early January 1977 and chose to hear it in its entirety, you need to be congratulated for partaking in an unapologetic feat of both grandeur and audacity because you got to experience then a future that is happening now in music. One that could have easily alienated you into a serious fear of music for the rest of your days. Or, you could have been a hapless geek, like yours truly, that gleefully sustained all the intentional weeding-out of ill-fitting fans that followed each of Bowie’s post-Ziggy releases. Bring it on! was my motto and Bowie did.

I am and have been an avowed Bowie nerd. These days, when I look back onto the nearly four decades that have passed so swiftly without my consent, I can see a landscape of forever changed music that lays waste in Low’s wake. Looking back, I can clearly hear the rumblings in that first startled listen of all the exultantly electronically driven beats of Skillex’s truimphant techno. I can watch Panda Bear’s (aka Noah Lennox) flawless rendition of “You Can Count On Me” live at the Electric Ballroom in London, circa 2011 on Youtube— or anywhere else in the more imminent present—-take me back to the night where Bowie first imposed the sparse yet mesmerizingly alien, new sound of synthesizers onto a mass audience at Madison Square Garden during his Stage tour, also dubbed the “Low” tour, of 1978. I can tell you, unequivocally, that it was a moment in music history and being there was its own reward.

This purely otherworldly masterpiece, with its still unapologetically avant guard sound, pushed all existent standards in music into the unknown—into a future. From its hauntingly instrumental, sparse, classical B side, to its fragmented yet more relatable intro, Low was released to critically mixed reviews and to the dismay of RCA, that considered it the final nail in the coffin, fearing it to be a suicidal move by its reckless maker, particularly as it related to their bottom line. Was it any wonder that it proved to be the hardest album to buy back then? I had to walk two miles in the snows of NYC as a hapless teen. Record stores were returning it in droves—only to fuel RCA’s paranoia.

Bowie, however, was steadfast, not giving a damn, reassuring me that all these factors combined, heralded the mark of genius. And he was right. Suffice it to say, RCA was wrong, not in the fact that the world wasn’t ready, but in their premature prediction that Low was the final nail in the coffin—because Bowie went on to crank out two more albums much like it, known as the “Berlin Trilogy”, that would further change all landscapes in music. Never underestimate a genius driven by no other motive than that of discovering where his art fits into the grandest and most expansive scheme of things.