In an extraordinary occurrence, a collection of high-profile musicians performed throughout Kirkwood on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, just five days before a new president is sworn into office. The looming latter event inspired some swearing, too.
“We’ve got to keep our minds positive while that shit’s going down,” Fishbone frontman Angelo Moore told a packed crowd in the 7800 Bar & Grill, the show that concluded a full day of music at the ski resort.
With his eye on the future, a well-connected Kirkwood resident has brought outstanding music to the village this winter. On Sunday, the litany of artists who turned out for the civil rights leader’s celebration was especially remarkable.
Los Angeles indie rock band Lantz Lazwell & The Vibe Tribe performed on the Plaza in the early afternoon while skiers and snowboarders mingled about taking breaks from runs down the slopes. After the sun dipped below mountain peaks, L.A. guitarist Eric McFadden, San Francisco bassist Mike Anderson and 13-year-old Dallas, Texas, drum prodigy JD Beck donned fingerless gloves and played a fiery yet extremely frosty set. It was cold.
The amps and drums were moved to the Kirkwood Community Association for a one-of-a kind open mic session. Children and adults walked to and fro in towels and swimsuits, taking saunas and dips in a crowded hot tub, and men lined a horseshoe-shaped bar watching the Steelers-Chiefs NFL playoff game. Others sat at chairs behind several tables and in a couple of couches and listened to the musicians perform.
The event was called Rock School and was hosted by Beck, who turns 14 in May and has been homeschooled since he was a fifth-grader to focus on a promising music career. Charismatic punk rock singer Delphine led the vocals, Anderson played bass, McFadden guitar, and Moore waved his hands over a Theremin, a heat-reading instrument that sounds like an space-age slide whistle.
Most of the people in attendance probably never heard of the musicians.
“That drummer’s pretty good,” a man eating a piece of birthday cake noted to his wife.
A couple of preteens, one a drummer the other an acoustic guitarist, took turns with songs backed by the all-star musicians. Kirkwood massage therapist Karen Sacherman sang harmonies with Delphine on the Joan Jett song “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Grammy-winning drummer Thomas Pridgen (The Mars Volta, Suicidal Tendencies) groggily arrived after a long car trip and later said, “Man, I don’t even know where I am.”
McFadden, Queen delphine, Moore and Pridgen make up the supergroup Tasty Face, which performed at the finale with JD Beck and Lantz Lazwell. The musicians were dubbed the 7800 MLK Day Celebration All Star Band.
Before the show started, and in an effort to trump the future inauguration, Delphine led an “oath of positivity to defend and protect everybody.”
Moore added: “That’s the black, the white, the red, men, women, gays, transgenders, everybody.”
Nicknamed “Dr. Madd Vibe,” Moore was both gravely serious and clownish during the night. He also displayed the talent of singer James Brown and his saxophonist, Maceo Parker – both in the same song. He also free formed poetry: “Kirkwood, it’s all good.”
The Kirkwood community is a tight-knit group of young and older adventurous hard-partiers. One celebrant crowd surfed and there was some moshing, but the only one to take a spill was Moore, who tripped while stepping over a speaker and a clutter of cords and power strips on the floor-level stage. He fell but instantly bounced up during the song “What Goes Up Must Come Down.”
The players onstage were black and white, men and a woman, Delphine, who marveled at the young drummer Beck. “Why wait until you’re older,” she said. “If you dig what you are doing, do it now.”
Moore brought up a man who wore an orange shirt sold at Fishbone shows that reads “Fuck Racism!”
“Think that every time you see that … Orange Hitler,” Moore said.
McFadden cut the tension: “There is a bright side — Ben and Jerry’s has new flavor. It’s called “Im-Peach-Mint.”
“Let’s stop talking about that dumbass,” Moore said, and the show continued with laughter, dancing, drinking and a musical mix of McFadden’s psychedelic blues, Delphine’s punk rock, Moore’s free jazz, soul and one ska tune for the Fishbone fans. The sound’s concoction could be called First Amendment rock.
It ended with a hopeful gospel song, “Love Come Rescue Me.”
On Dr. Martin Luther King Day, a microcosm of the first black president’s America did not go gently into that good night.