Sunday night was a very heavy and bittersweet night of music at the El Rey Theatre. The night was a tribute and benefit concert for Ikey and Aaron Owens presented by Goldenvoice. Just over a year ago, Isaiah “Ikey” Owens passed away from a heart attack while on tour in Mexico with Jack White. Tragedy struck the Owens family again not five months later, when Ikey’s brother, Aaron, passed away from congestive heart failure. The Owens brothers were staples of the Long Beach and Orange County music scene for years, with Aaron playing with Long Beach Dub Allstars, Hepcat, and Pocket Lent, while Ikey played in and produced more bands than can be listed here. Proceeds from the concert are going to the building of a new boutique recording studio celebrating the memory and lasting creative influence of Ikey and Owen.
The evening stepped up a gear as LA rapper, 2Mex, took to the stage with a full band including Daru Jones, Jesse Wilder (Look Daggers, The Specials) on guitar and keys, and Kelsey Gonzalez (Anderson Paak, Via Leaves) on bass. The performance was a bit of a tribute to 2Mex and Ikey’s project, Look Daggers. The highly energetic set was a perfect example of why I love seeing rappers with a full band, the energy is greater and the performance is more dynamic.
Following up 2Mex was the highly anticipated performance of Free Moral Agents. The band, which Ikey not only played keys in but produced, was my personal highlight of the evening. Singer Mendee Ichikawa and band was in fine form, playing their hearts out. Filling in on keys was J.P. Bendzinski (Wild Pack of Canaries, Crystal Antlers). J.P. was a longtime collaborator and friend of Ikey and it just made sense that he was the one to fill in and he played the role well. FMA brought out a few guests during the song, “North is Red” including trumpeter Todd Simon (Ethio Cali, Antibalas, Breakestra) as well as 2Mex.
Long Beach Dub Allstars, who both Ikey and Aaron played with, were up next with their rotating cast of players from bands like Pocket Lent, Aggrolites, Suburban Rhythm, and more. Miguel Happoldt and crew represented Skunk Records and Long Beach properly with their punk meets reggae meets hip hop stylings.
Closing out the night was the legendary LA ska band, Hepcat, who Aaron played guitar for. With people dancing like nobody was watching, singer Greg Lee summed the night up when he said that the evening was not about eulogizing anybody, but to celebrate Ikey and Aaron.
Words & Photography: Ceethreedom