by Ted S. McGregor, Mike Corrigan, Leah Sottile and Brian Everstine
It was 30 years ago this month that a white guy from Miami took the reins of disco music and drove it deep into the pleasure center of America's brain. Harry Wayne Casey grew up singing in his church choir, and he was exposed to the Latin sounds of Miami as a kid. So when a new wave of dance music called disco made a splash in the early '70s, he had the tools to shake his booty all the way to the top of the charts. Casey -- he prefers "KC" -- will bring his 15-piece band and massive catalog of hits to Northern Quest on Saturday night.
During the week of Aug. 30, 1975, "Get Down Tonight" was the country's No. 1 song. It was KC's breakthrough moment. Yet from his home in Miami, he traces his success even farther back.
"I started hanging out in the record warehouse in Miami when I was about 17, and it had a studio," says KC of how he was able to get his first record out. "I always loved music; I sang in elementary school, and was in a band when I was 15. But I started writing at 13. Whenever I had a problem in my life, these melodies would come into my head. I would write my problems out on paper."
KC's music is all about good times, so it's clear that his personal psychology calls for a celebration to put his mind at ease. And his kind of therapy was just what the country needed in the early and mid-1970s.
"Prior to [disco], we were coming out of Vietnam, everything was pretty much depressed, and all of a sudden came this high-energy, upbeat music," recalls KC. "The '70s was a celebration of everything everybody was hoping for in the '50s and '60s."
Along the way, KC and the Sunshine Band had an amazing run of success, with two triple-platinum albums and four No. 1 hits in a year -- a feat previously accomplished only by the Beatles. His sound combined simple pop lyrics with complex arrangements that compelled your feet to move. Still, KC says ruling the disco universe was hard work. He didn't get to bask in the glory much in those days, as he was working as a singer, a songwriter and a producer. "Back then, we didn't do a lot of live shows. I was working seven days a week, 365 days a year."
All that work paid off, and KC's music has practically become the background music to our lives. It has appeared in TV ads and in films like Boogie Nights and Forrest Gump. Now, 30 years later, with KC and his gang doing as many as 200 gigs a year, America still seems to love his brand of music. So how does he explain disco's crash in 1979, when "Death Before Disco" became a kind of mantra?
"It was the same with Elvis and the Beatles," says KC, who considers himself an R & B artist, "there was a backlash to the change. But people have been dancing since the beginning of time. Even though they said [disco] died, it never died -- it never went away," KC continues, referring to the '80s bands that replaced him on the charts. "How much more disco can you be than Flock of Seagulls or Madonna?"
Music and a Movie
Summer festivals have always been a great opportunity to go out and take advantage of the season. Two of the most popular festival activities are outdoor film showings and outdoor concerts -- and the Friends of the Pavillion Park in Liberty Lake have put the two together as part of their annual Summer Festival.
This Saturday, Pavillion Park will feature jazz man Craig Marquardo, who will be joined both by his band and a 30-person choir from Spokane. Marquardo has also been involved heavily in the movie industry, and this performance will be filmed for a forthcoming film that he will be starring in. As a bonus, after the music has ended, there will be a screening of the kid-friendly 2000 film Spooky House, which Marquardo worked on and which features Ben Kingsley.
In addition to the film cameras, even more cameras will be used to broadcast the show on local television, while the audio will also go out over public airwaves.
Craig Marquardo's musical career started when he was 15, performing backing vocals on tour for rock legend Sting. Later, he worked behind the scenes in the music industry before forming his own band. In the near future, he and his band will release an album -- a blend of pop, jazz, funk and rock.
The Friends of Pavillion Park have held the annual summer festivals to a growing audience, which comes from surrounding areas for the performances and park's environment. The summer concerts are put on using funds raised by the group's winter ball, which was held at the Davenport Hotel.
The summer series is made up of six concerts. Marquardo's concert is the fifth of the series -- and it's free. Closing the series on Sept. 3, Eckart Preu will conduct the Spokane Symphony in a Labor Day weekend classical concert.
Craig Marquardo and a free showing of Spooky House is on Saturday, Aug. 6, at 7 pm, at Pavillion Park, Country Vista Drive and Molter Road, Liberty Lake, Wash. Free. Visit www.pavillionpark.org or call 755-6700.
File Under: "Huh?"
It's almost perfect that Ozomatli is coming to town during the week of The Inlander's annual Philanthropy issue. Few musical acts are collectively driven by any force other than getting signed or making bank, so to find a band like Ozomatli -- one that names social justice and political activism as its motivators -- well, that's about as likely as getting discovered while singing in the shower.
Ozo needed to appeal to the masses from the very beginning. The band formed and began playing shows to benefit the Peace and Justice Center in Los Angeles. As a cultural community center of sorts, Ozomatli helped fund the project by donating their show earnings toward funding art projects, skateboard ramps and other necessities of the center. Touting their activist tendencies and political notions only got Ozo so far; after that, their music took them all the way.
With a busload of members hailing from different musical backgrounds, the band quickly developed a reputation for hammering out a dozen different styles during one set -- and miraculously, being able to do it with style. The members of Ozomatli are masters not just of rock 'n' roll, but of salsa, hip-hop, Latin jazz, funk and even Middle Eastern music. Instead of simply naming a front man and going with his preferred genre, the dozen-or-so members melded all of their specialties together to create a unique sound. Mariachi-esque ballads were punctuated with sound hip-hop vocals. Funk songs were penetrated and thrashed by heavy rock guitars. Stylistic turntable scratching was thrown into every song alongside horns and garish percussion. Roll that all together into an album and you've got Ozo's debut self-titled collection: a risky album of impossible-to-categorize genius. It's hip-hop jazz; it's world-music-that-doesn't-suck.
Ozomatli is a genre of its own, sold somewhere between crusty alternative rock and old Gloria Estefan records.
Lucky for Ozomatli, Chali 2Na and fellow Jurassic 5 band mate Cut Chemist flaunted their styles and support for the Ozo effort on that debut album. That partnership put their debut in the hands of underground hip-hop and scratch fans, who told their friends, who told their friends. Ozomatli skyrocketed from talented newbie-status to the-next-big-thing overnight. Everyone started to listen in on the Ozomatli trend -- punk rockers, frat boys, moms and dads -- and suddenly world-beat inspired songs like "Super Bowl Sundae" were commonly heard party anthems and dance-floor mainstays.
And even now, after two albums and more than a few member changes, Ozomatli is still serving fresh scoops of auditory bliss for fan consumption. It's music that Mom, Dad and Junior can get their groove on to.
Ozomatli plays with Los Lonely Boys on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 7:30 pm at Riverfront Park's Lilac Bowl. Tickets: $35. Call 325-SEAT.
Tacoma native Vicci Martinez is just 20 years old, but she writes, sings and plays guitar with the maturity of a music industry veteran. An acoustic-based performer with strong pipes, a flair for songwriting and a way with an audience, Martinez is currently enjoying a growing grassroots following that only seems to swell after each performance. This Northwest singer/songwriter -- who has already shared the stage with the likes of Sting and Annie Lennox, among others -- is playing at Bear Creek Lodge (out on Mount Spokane Road) this Friday night.
Further evidence of her music career's current ascent can be found in the fact that her eponymous Vicci Martinez Band was just recently given a slot opening for mega-fabulous corporate punk rocker Avril Lavigne at the White River Amphitheatre on Monday, Aug 8 -- just two days after the Bear Creek show. She'll also be giving the Dave Matthews Band a private performance when that group comes to the Gorge on Aug. 21.
Martinez has been touring the Northwest nonstop since the 2003 release of her third album, Sleep To Dream and has just recently finished up a brand-spanking-new album called On My Way (the CD release party for which -- with Martinez and Laura Love performing at Seattle's Triple Door -- was packed). She has flirted with mainstream stardom (successful appearances on CBS-TV's Star Search and winning the regional tryouts for American Idol in 2000 at the tender age of 16, for example) but she prefers to chart a successful path for herself on her own terms.
You can get your Vicci Martinez Band show tickets at Vino!, Lotions & Potions and at the Bear Creek Lodge. To keep the show intimate, only 150 tickets will be sold.
The Vicci Martinez Band plays the Bear Creek Lodge, 24817 N. Mount Spokane Rd., on Friday, Aug. 5, at 8 pm. Tickets: $12; $11 for Inland Empire Blues Society members. Call 238-9114.