June is upon us once again, the sun is shining, the smell on sunscreen is the air, and so are the sounds of the hustle and bustle emulating from the Del Mar Fairgrounds. On June 5th, the fair festivities at the Del Mar Fairgrounds began once again, this summer’s fair theme is ‘A Fair to Remember’ and they certainly didn’t skimp on trying to spark your memory with the opening musical act. It couldn’t have been more appropriate, a nostalgic yet energetic performance by KC and the Sunshine Band. For those that don’t recognize the name you will defiantly recognize the songs KC has made and helped produced over the decades hits like; That’s the Way I Like It, Shake Your Booty, Boogie Shoes, Get Down Tonight, I’m Your Boogie Man. KC and the Sunshine Band have put together their first album in over 10 years and are taking it across America and even down to Chile for an inter-continental tour. Surprised and excited to review the Sunshine band, I didn’t quite know what to expect. The band has always been a genre defying Neapolitan blend of Funk, R&B, Disco, and Soul. With a full arsenal of songs spanning decades, I wondered if it was going to sound like a greatest hit compellation, or your parent’s iPod set to shuffle.
Feather boas draped the mics as strobe lights and disco balls silently adorned the outdoor stage in preparation. Fans were piling into the stands as the festivities started with an entertaining tongue in cheek game of Bingo. As most of the crowd had filed in the musicians shuffled on stage, and the sun began to set. When the music began there was a mystic glow that started to fill the air, something more than just the glare of the sun dipping below the horizon, there was a strange golden mist descending from the stage onto the crowd. It began slow but grew heavier and heavier as the music grew louder, I felt as if there was a strange sensation pulling the crowd closer to the stage. The golden light grew brighter as the music kept building to a climax, until the light was almost blinding and finally the trumpets and percussion exploded as the crowd was sucked through a rift in time and transported from the Racetrack of Del Mar to the light-floor disco palaces of the early 70’s. Out from the techno colored haze of the dance floor a voice shouts out “Let’s go back to Saturday Night Fever 1978” as his shouts were returned with kicks and screams from bell bottomed pants and big boogie shoes. It was the arrival of KC; he stepped out into the dance floor and became our guide throughout space and time transporting us through the decades, our retro music shaman.
As we danced away in the Studio 54 disco club illusion, glimpses of the present slipped in between songs. His set intermittent with playful and semi-self deprecating remarks like, “I was your mother’s version of N’SYNC” and “Get a good look cause this is what Justin Timberlake is gonna look like in 40 years”. One time overlaying the subtle with a remark to his own age, “I’m 64 now, what the hell happened?!”. His remarks were met with playful laughter followed by more groovy tunes. He was aware of the age gape and his own self-relevance, but by addresses it honestly, and poking fun at it, he disarms any potential antagonizes and then impressively continues to play out the rest of his set. Most guys his age would be in meetings at work, or on the couch with a beer in hand watching the game. This guy is out on a stage busting out high kicks and getting an entire crowd on their feet pumping nostalgic sound waves through the air. This is a slice of life reserved for those willing to let loose a bit, have some fun, and be a little silly. As he played his set there was a moment where he stopped and thanked all his fans as he had a real heartfelt sentiment about being rich in the heart, “I believe if you do what you love, you are rich”. The man may not have screaming fans falling over each other to see him, or be a gazillionaire, but up there in that moment; he looked like the richest guy in the room.
As the set began to slow down, the rift in the time space continuum started to close back up. The golden haze of the transcendental dance floor diffused into the gleaming florescent bulbs from the fair’s carnival rides. Unsure of what just happened to me or happening around me, I strangely like it. It was fun, soulful, energetic, funky time. A show truly impossible to watch sitting down, it doesn’t matter if you cant define the genre, the melody seeps out of the trumpets and explodes out of the drums, it finds a way in your body, picks you up off your chair, taping your toes and shake, shake, shake your booty. Yes you could poke fun, but if you chose to do that, you would really be missing out on something special. It was a performance truly genuine, and I would go again to see. That night I was getting flashbacks that I never had; I was reliving the 70’s and 80’s through osmosis. There were tie-dye die-hards in the stands, funkadelic divas, and dance floor destroyers, They all had a sickness that was spreading through the golden mist hanging latent in the air. It was disco fever, and by the end fo the night I started to feel my temperature rising.