Flea had a brilliant birthday. The same goes for the music school he co-founded and which has become an institution in Los Angeles.
As the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist turned 59 on Saturday and his Silverlake Conservatory of Music turned 20, they celebrated with a joint party in the Los Angeles school parking lot that often serves as a de facto performance space for its teachers and students. .
Flea led a band reunited for the occasion through a series of funk standards, including “Gonna Have a Funky Good Time” by James Brown, hitting his head with orange caps and scissors on the makeshift stage.
âIt’s the best birthday present I could have imagined, being here with everyone, celebrating the fact that we’ve been able to do this for 20 years,â said Flea. âI am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of a community and to work with people to raise young people. “
His band mates for the evening included keyboardist Cory Henry, members of Fishbone – another punk-funk hybrid band from the 1980s in Los Angeles – and members of the school’s youth choir, who joined them in as backing vocalists on Meters’ âHey Pocky A-Wayâ.
The children, who have barely performed in front of people since the pandemic began, took center stage earlier in the evening to sing Patti Smith’s âPeople Have the Powerâ.
“It was really good,” said Isla Farris, 13, of Pasadena, one of the song’s soloists. âWe were all a little panicked, but it was a great experience for all of us. We enjoyed it after getting out of our heads.
She and other students got to know Smith when she recently went to school to record a podcast with Flea – one of the perks of being a conservatory student.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” actor and comedian Jeff Garland, who was the master of ceremonies for the evening, expressed his jealousy after hearing the children sing.
âNo one told me when I was a kid that people had power,â Garland said. âIf I had known Patti Smith, I might have known. But I only knew the Partridge family.
Flea, born Michael Balzary, founded the nonprofit school in 2001 with his longtime friend and sometimes musical collaborator Keith âTreeâ Barry. It is open to everyone, but specializes in serving the youth of the surrounding community in eastern Los Angeles, offering scholarships to children in need.
The Saturday night crowd was full of current and former students, some of whom are adults who were young children when they started studying.
Even at 13, Farris remembers singing in the small space of the Silver Lake neighborhood the school was stuck in before building their more comfortable current digs a mile and a half in Los Feliz five years ago, with rehearsal rooms named for prominent sponsors like Eddie Vedder.
âI have been here for so long and have an extreme attachment to it,â she said. âIt’s just an amazing place. I have always enjoyed doing the choir here.
Another school ensemble, the Hollywood Highsteppers, a second-line New Orleans-style marching band, performed tunes including, naturally, “Happy Birthday.”
Flea received a cake while they played, but COVID precautions meant no candles. And much more was missing, for it has outgrown the decadence of youth for decades.
âNo sugar, no wheat, no dairy,â he said. âIt’s a flea cake. I’ll eat it right away.