Locals Thinking Globally

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The O.C. Loves Japan benefit concert Sunday at the House of Blues in Anaheim will feature, from left: singer-songwriter Tini Grey; Shiro Nobunaga of One Hot Mess; Kayoko Inoue, Kazu Masukawa and Hiro Lennon of the Mockers; and singer Jennifer Kumiyama, front. (Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Entertainment Editor

ANAHEIM.–“Whatever we raise, it’s just going to be a drop in the bucket,” concert promoter Larry Morgia said of Sunday’s “O.C. Loves Japan” benefit at the House of Blues at Downtown Disney. “We just want to get together and let people over there know that we love them.

“We want to send a message of love,” he said.

Morgia has assembled a night of music from a talented group of local musicians, each with distinct styles and followings. The lineup includes singer-songwriter Tini Grey, Disney performer Jennifer Kumiyama, newcomer trio Soul Identity, Beatles look-alikes the Mockers and 1980s retro band One Hot Mess.

Yours truly will serve as the program’s emcee.

Shiro Nobunaga, who first played at the House of Blues with One Hot Mess as part of Morgia’s “House of 80s” series, said he jumped at the chance to return to the venue, especially for this cause.

“It’s an honor, because I’ve loved the House of Blues since it opened and now I get to come back and be part of this,” said Nobunaga, who lives in Brea but has remained a Japanese citizen. He spent several years touring and playing for various groups there.

Sunday will mark the public debut for Nobunaga’s new trio, Soul Identity, a combo for which he has written several songs that he said offer a timely and appropriate message for a gig like this. “It’ll add extra meaning for me and hopefully it will be an extra draw for the band and for the benefit.”

Kumiyama, who is the reigning Miss Wheelchair California and sings in the Aladdin show at Disney’s California Adventure, will sing a selection of pop standards with her band.

Lennon, Masahiro Takahashi, and Masukawa perform as the Mockers at the Red Car Brewery in Torrance, where the all-Japanese Beatles tribute band are regular fan-favorites.

“I’m really excited and happy to help Japan in any way,” Kumiyama said. “My heart goes out to every one who’s been affected, and hopefully, we can raise enough money to make some sort of impact.”

Grey, a native of Pearl City, Hawaii, has spent the last several years primarily performing with Polynesian groups in and around Orange County. His new project, which includes a new CD, features his own compositions in a more mainstream style.

This is the second of three benefit concerts that will include the Mockers. They were scheduled to take part in a fourth, but released their stage time to allow another group to perform.

Hiro Lennon – yes, that’s his real name – who plays the “George Harrison” role in the Mockers, said the band has felt a duty to help in any way they can to assist those victimized in their homeland.

“The earthquake and tsunami were unimaginable,” Lennon said. “Larry created this special event and we all want to be part of it.”

After being stationed in Japan with the U.S. Marine Corps, Morgia studied at Waseda University in Tokyo before embarking on a career in music promotion.

“The only thing I really know how to do is put on a production” he explained. “When everything went down in Japan, I felt like I wanted to put on a benefit show and try to bring the community together. It’s more of a sense of wanting to get people together to recognize the culture here and to support each other.”

Once he heard about the Mockers, Morgia said he immediately knew he had to include them on Sunday’s bill.

“Whenever you hear about a Japanese Beatle tribute band, it just makes you smile, and that’s what I want people to do at this show,” he boasted. “We all have seen the images of what’s going on over there and we don’t need reminders of that, so we hope to spread a little bit of happiness, if just for a few hours.”

The O.C. Love Japan Relief Benefit takes place Sunday at the House of Blues, in Anaheim’s Downtown Disney. Doors open at 6 p.m., first act takes the stage at 7. Tickets are $25 plus service charge and include five hours free parking. Call (714) 778-BLUE for information or visit www.houseofblues.com/anaheim.

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