Flea. Some might refer to him as the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Others might refer to him as “God.” Bottom line, he is Flea, and he is a very unique person. Jaco Pastorius, Bootsy Collins, John Paul Jones, Sid Vicious, and those before them, whether they realized it or not, were part of the world’s anticipation for the arrival of bass guitar’s savior, Flea.
Though do not be mistaken, Flea wasn’t always the great bassist he is today. Flea, early in life, was a child prodigy in trumpet playing and had no interest or extensive knowledge of any kind of rock music until high school, preferring jazz. His childhood inspirations included Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. In high school, befriending Hillel Slovak meant befriending punk rock, opening doors to so much different music. Funk became a common ground and the foundation for the Chili Peppers when they were established a few years later. Jazz’s influence on funk made the transition very natural for Flea. Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak and Flea all around the same time became enamored with George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, the greatest music collectives of funk.
Similarly, I started playing trumpet in elementary school, but by no means was I a prodigy. After struggling with guitar in high school, I discovered the heart and soul of bass. My friend Keelan and I started learning at the same time, and we tried our best to out-Flea each other. He formally introduced me to the Chili Peppers – though sadly he could not join me Wednesday to meet the man himself, he had school.
Flea and Anthony Kiedis acted as executive producers for the Sundance Film Festival contestant Low Down, a film on the life of jazz pianist Joe Albany, based on the memoirs written by his daughter Amy-Jo Albany. Flea starred in the film alongside John Hawkes and Elle Fanning. It premiered on January 19th, 2014 at last year’s Sundance and was later released on October 24th, 2014 in New York, and a week later on Halloween in Los Angeles.
Flea and Amy-Jo Albany decided to host a DJ set in promotion of the film’s soundtrack on August 26th, 2015 at 5PM at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. I found this out at about 12:30AM, 15 hours prior to the event. My friend Evan told me as we were sitting in his apartment, midst me teaching my girlfriend Francecsa the Chili Peppers’ cover of “Higher Ground” on bass guitar. We had immediately decided to go. Evan and I stayed up all night, hoping to write poetry, which we half accomplished until the 6 cups of highly caffeinated tea hit my stomach wrong when I took my medication, Norflex, an anti-cholinergic muscle relaxant. I launched into a panic attack as it hit me: what if I have to go to the hospital and miss meeting Flea? Well, thinking about that didn’t help my anxiety at all. I made myself throw up for about an hour and a half, and slept for a few hours. We left for LA around 11 o’clock in the morning and made it to Amoeba in about an hour.
After we bought the merchandise applicable for signing (just in case they sold out), to kill time we decided to visit Hillel Slovak’s grave at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery, about 15 minutes away. It was hot, hot, hot, red hot in fact, and we sat under a tree for a little while. Hillel became one of three Chili Peppers we would come in contact with that day. My girlfriend, Evan and I left back for Hollywood (not without saying goodbye to Hillel) to get some food and with anxious excitement, we returned to Amoeba. After this, the day only got weirder.
We hung out in Amoeba, contemplating which R.E.M. or Tom Waits albums to buy, when Evan jerks my arm down the aisle as I’m browsing for what John Frusciante albums the store carries. I’m not sure what I expected. Maybe Evan found an album we both love. Nope, even better.
Flea. Flea walked down the aisle a few feet from us and runs into some fans and poses for a quick picture, then disappears into the back room. I run up to the fans and talk to them about what happened, and no sooner than we finish our conversation, Flea comes back out, about 10 feet away from me. During the drive, I wrote a very nice letter to Flea, explaining how his music led me to the gospel that is music, and some other personal things about my life and music. The letter was probably 10-12 sentences long and in nervous, messy handwriting. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to give him the letter. So I walk up to him, not saying a word, and a friendly Flea says jovially, “Hey! What’s happening man.” Still, no words come out. I hand him the letter. “Thanks man, I’ll read it.” I wave goodbye, and faint on the hard linoleum floor. My girlfriend and Evan come and drag me up, and I get up unhurt, but definitely shaken.
We go outside for a cigarette and a much needed conversation. A gentleman walks up to us and pulls out a cigarette, and joins our conversation. He just got done taking a picture with Flea himself. The gentleman looks very, very familiar. He mentions he’s in a cover band, the Red Not Chili Peppers, who I only saw with my girlfriend about a week before. Angelo, the band’s new guitarist, is an incredible guitar god, very much worthy of holding the John Frusciante role in the RNCP. I shake his hand and take a picture with him. The four of us proceed to spend the next couple hours together.
The set started a bit late, but in the time between, I make eye to eye contact with none other than Anthony Kiedis. Standing around waiting for Flea and Amy-Jo to hit the stage, this time it’s my turn to pull Evan’s arm, and tell him semi-quietly, “Look! It’s Anthony! It’s the porno stache!” Sure enough, Kiedis is standing about 6-7 feet away from us, donning a black helmet and what I believed to be some kind of handkerchief. Kiedis makes his way down the aisle behind us and we exchange a quick and unforgettable glance. He is soon gone, nowhere to be seen.
A flea hard at work
The DJ set featured mostly jazz tracks, particularly from the Low Down soundtrack they were promoting. Highlights included “Angel Eyes” by Joe Albany, and “Ruby My Dear” by Thelonious Monk. The energy of jazz felt alive, and the crowd slowly danced along and bopped their heads to the sweet sounds of brass. Flea was dancing too, in only the way Flea can. The set lasted about 45 to 50 minutes. As the last song was announced, we soon made our way to the line that was forming.
As the line drew shorter, so did my composure. Even the employee watching the line made note to Flea and Amy-Jo later on that I was “overwhelmed.” Indeed. Evan, in front of me, had only bought the book written by Albany, so indeed he took out a nearly empty cigarette pack of Marlboro 27’s to which Flea gladly signed. I handed Flea the vinyl and managed not to faint. I can’t even remember everything I said, even when I tried to retrace my words immediately after leaving the store. I said hi to Flea, and he returned the hi with his iconic smile. “I…I really dig you man.” I don’t remember his exact response, but it was a positive one. There was a moment where we just looked at each other smiling. I mentioned I was having trouble expressing myself and that I hadn’t really proofread the letter. He said it was no problem and that he understood. He said something along the lines of, “Sometimes silence speaks more than words.” I exchanged words with Amy-Jo briefly and told her that I was very anxious and had problems with anxiety. She acknowledged she suffered from similar issues. As I stepped away I managed to squeak out, “I love you Flea.”
“I love you too,” says Flea. I am elated.
I wait for my girlfriend outside of the line, and then the three of us waited for Angelo. My last words to Flea were “Have a good day Flea!”
“You have a good day too man!”
I wanted to ask him about the new album. I wanted to ask him about his bees. But, my mind just shut down when I was face to face with Flea. Lenin is quoted as saying, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”. There are minutes where lifetimes happen. I had just been thinking the other day how cool it would be to meet Flea. Then, the opportunity just arose so spontaneously. I saw three Chili Peppers in one day. That’s not by any means an average day, but it was an awesome one. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ music has been upheld by many great people in my life, and not all of them are here today. But the power of funk that they taught me I simultaneously keep hidden and wide open, for my heart to keep and the world to see. They are the ultimate fans’ band, a band who loves music just as much as their fans love theirs. It’s truly a beautiful thing. The Chili Peppers still got me by my soul to squeeze.
The Low Down soundtrack is available here for purchase on Amazon.
To find out more about the Red Not Chili Peppers, Angelo’s band, visit their website here.
To visit Flea’s twitter and view his wisdom, click here.