'God Bless the whole world; we need each other,' shouted international reggae star Rocky Dawuni to a crowd of about 5,000 people during the Fourth of July concert at Palisades Charter High School's football stadium.
Dawuni, a Pacific Palisades resident and the headliner for the pre-fireworks concert series, opened with an upbeat performance of 'My Love,' followed by 'This Is Reggae,' 'Wake the Town,' 'Walls Tumblin' Down,' 'Extraordinary Woman,' 'Jammin' Nation' and 'Afro Roots Vibration'.
Around the stage, people jumped up and down, clapping their hands to the beat and singing along to the uplifting music. Happy children sat atop a parent's shoulders, waving American flags.
Pleased with the turnout, Palisades resident Keith Turner, who has organized the concert before the fireworks show for the past four years, said, 'People are definitely making it a part of their tradition. Every year, we see more and more people packing up the barbeques early and coming down here to enjoy the music.
Connie Kail, an 18-year Palisades resident and reggae and world music lover who met Bob Marley in 1973, certainly had a great time: 'I loved Rocky and his group; they were terrific.' She received four passes to the concert for winning the Fourth of July dolphin-naming contest with her entry, 'Splash.'
In addition to Dawuni, Kail was also impressed with the UCLA Cello Quartet's heavy-metal performance of Apocalyptica's 'Hyperventilation' because of it's unique sound.
The group, (Chloe Knudsen-Robbins, Suji Kang, Eunice Heo and Phoebe Ping), played an eclectic selection of music, including Astor Piazzolla's 'La Muerte del Angel,' The Beatles' 'Eleanor Rigby,' Peter Schickele's 'Aria' and John Philip Sousa's 'Stars and Stripes Forever.'
The 34 Palisades High and Paul Revere Middle School band members delighted the crowd with classic Americana songs such as 'Fantasy on Yankee Doodle,' 'March of the Belgian Paratroopers,' 'At a Dixieland Jazz Funeral' and 'Heroes on Parade.'
Later, The House Band (John Nahra, Keith Turner, Doug Masterson, Sheldon Cohn and Andy Stewart) had concertgoers on their feet dancing to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' 'American Girl' (with a guest appearance by Rob Weber on the drums), The Move's 'California Man' and Chuck Berry's 'Back in the USA,' plus two original songs.
With huge grins, Paige Glover, 7, of Bel-Air, and Katie Gallagher, 7, of Beverly Hills held hands spinning in circles.
'We come every year for the parade, concert and fireworks show,' said Katie's mother Juli. 'There is nothing like it in Los Angeles. It feels like small-town America ' it's exactly what you want on the Fourth of July'.
Pacific Palisades residents Scott and Ruth Weston, who have been married for 21 years, boogied near the front of the stage.
'In college, Scott got a license plate that said 'Dance or Die,'' Ruth said, noting that the license plate is now on her car. 'It's kind of our motto'.
The Westons, who have lived in Pacific Palisades since 1995, decided to attend the concert for the first time this year. They are friends with members of The House Band, and the couple also wanted to see Dawuni and Set Theory, a band of Harvard-Westlake and Windward School graduates who are friends with their 18-year-old son.
Set Theory entertained with their own arrangement of 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home,' John Ellis' 'All up in the Aisles,' Paul Simon's 'Still Crazy After All These Years' and Duke Elton's 'Caravan.' The jazz band members include Jordan Bryan and Hank Adelman (Pacific Palisades residents), Isaac Wilson, Spencer Horstman, Nick Chuba and Gabriela Leslie.
When Bryan came off stage, he smiled, saying he had wanted to play at this venue since he attended his first concert there three years ago. 'It was awesome. I have never played in front of such a large crowd'.
At one point in the concert, Palisadian-Post Citizen of the Year Rich Wilken asked everyone to sit, so the veterans could stand and be saluted for their service. Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless the U.S.A' played over the loud speakers, and when Greenwood reached the point in the song where he sang, 'and I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today,' everyone in attendance rose.
For the last song of the night, Palisades Americanism Parade Association secretary Rob Weber and his daughter, Tamar, took the stage alongside Dawuni singing, 'This Land Is My Land'.
'It was a thrill,' Weber said afterwards. 'Rocky is a wonderful musician and person'.
Then came what everyone was waiting for: the fireworks display by Pyro-Spectaculars, with master blaster Venice Hartwell and powder monkeys Kendrick and Getty Hartwell ceremoniously setting off the first pyrotechnics.
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