News & Press
Jon Korn recently featured Foreverland in an article for The Bold Italic, a San Francisco online magazine! The article, “I Dude,” is a groom’s guide to planning a wedding in San Francisco. He recommends Foreverland as a tribute band that “re-creates Jacko’s hits with thrilling accuracy,” and says we’re “effective at starting a dance party.”
Thanks, Jon, for the great article! Everyone should check out The Bold Italic.
Matthew and Mark stopped by KSEE 24 in Fresno to plug our show tonight at Fulton 55. Check it out!
Park concerts, party drew largest-ever crowd Saturday
By Art Garcia – Telegraph Correspondent
Menka Belgal • The Telegraph
Matt Lee, 17, of El Dorado Hills, break dances to the music of the Foreverland band on Saturday. He said he’s self-taught and has been doing this for three years. Organizers estimate 6,000 attended the festival.
Saturday Night in the Park ended its summer season series last Saturday with a full moon and a full house estimated by an El Dorado Community Services District official at “6,000-plus.”
“It’s our largest turnout ever in four years of the event,” said Mike Cottrell, CSD recreation supervisor. “It’s just kept getting bigger and better every year.”
“Everything went great,” he concluded as the monthly affair came to a close on what transformed into a weather-perfect evening. “The crowd was very polite and gracious. It’s nice when you can get that many people together in one area and not have one problem.
“It says wonders about this community,” Cottrell said.
Those attending the combination fair, carnival and block party agreed, as did vendors promoting their businesses and organizations and sellers of food and trinkets.
“It’s great,” endorsed Cathy Carry of Cameron Park, whose family attended for the first time on the invitation of friends who live in El Dorado Hills. “It’s very family oriented.”
Larry Oreskes, who heads Serrano Search, an El Dorado Hills executive recruiting firm, called the night “a great time for all of us.”
He was holding his 1-and-a-half-year-old son, who Oreskes said particularly enjoyed the night out “because he gets to stay up late.”
His 7-year-old son was off dancing with dozens of others to the music of the featured Michael Jackson tribute band Foreverland.
Attendance at the start time of 4:30 p.m. at the CSD’s North Field was light but the crowd began expanding rapidly as the day’s heat faded into evening pleasantness.
The final event was organized by the CSD and the El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce, backed by local-area business sponsors.
There were 37 vendor booths and six food outlets.
By Rich Freedman
Posted: 08/14/2011 01:00:21 AM PDT
There’s no Michael Jackson impersonator in ‘Foreverland,’ which boasts four vocalists and four horns in the band that peforms at the Uptown Theatre in Napa. (Courtesy Photo)
There was only one Michael Jackson and Morty Okin would be the first to say it. And that’s one reason why “Foreverland” is a 14-piece band with four vocalists and not some stale tribute band with a quasi-Jackson futilely attempting the late pop star’s moves.
“Sorry, but one person cannot cover his vocal range,” said Okin, the group’s manager and trumpet player.
It took four vocalists to equal one Jackson, but Okin said that’s the way it’s got to be.
“Our vocalists cover his full vocal range,” Okin said. “Michael had a four octave range, which is unbelievable. We definitely benefit having four singers.”
Oddly, perhaps uncomfortably, “Foreverland” was born at Bimbo’s in San Francisco five days before the star died June 25, 2009.
“It was very, very weird,” said Okin, who started the band with drummer Alex DeCarville, guitarist George Adelson “and two guys who are no longer in the band.”
It was going to be “Neverland,” but the Jackson family squashed that, claiming it had trademark rights to the word.
No big deal. “Foreverland” began, rehearsed four months, and did well out of the gate. Next up: A “Michael Jackson’s Birthday Bash” concert Aug. 27 at the Uptown Theatre in Napa.
“We’re pretty busy, though we can always be busier,” Okin said, with an eye on several East Coast gigs.
“We’re starting to get around,” he said.
It helps that the Oakland resident has long-time Bay Area music roots. When you know club managers and agents, gigs are easier to come by. Still, there’s that “Michael Jackson impersonator” stigma, Okin said.
“The phone call is when the selling begins,” he said of booking the band. “There’s a lot of cold calling, a lot of networking.”
“Foreverland” was actually a mere five-piece group at the beginning.
“We realized we couldn’t do it with just five,” Okin said.
So the band expanded. And the fans came out.
“I think because of all the rehearsing we do — we still rehearse every Tuesday — that we are a unique Michael Jackson band,” Okin said.
It’s obvious, he said, that with 14 members, “we’re not doing this for the money. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. We’re keeping his music alive.”
It helps that every band member likes the music, Okin said.
“If you don’t, it really becomes a job,” he said. “Some of the guys are such huge fans they know every aspect of Jackson’s life. It is the funnest band any of us has ever been in. Oddly, for 14 people and 14 personalities, we all get along pretty well.”
The weirdest thing, said Okin, is “Foreverland” has yet to have a negative reaction.
“I don’t think we’ve had any bad shows,” he said. “Even the ones with smaller crowds, people went crazy. With other bands, you’re certainly going to have your horrible shows. We haven’t, which is a testimony to Michael Jackson’s music.”
Many fans wear clothes with Jackson’s face, said Okin, and some are so emotional they cry.
“A lot have said it’s the next best thing to seeing Michael Jackson,” Okin said. “Some dress in full Michael regalia. It’s amazing.”
The band’s repertoire includes about 50 Jackson tunes “and we have a lot more material still to go,” Okin said, adding that Jackson’s music is forever, much like Elvis Presley’s.
“Without a doubt,” Okin said. “Maybe more. When you hear a Jackson song, even before the vocals, you know it’s a Jackson song.
Good Times Santa Cruz
Music, Art & Events Calendar
July 14, 2011
Plain and simple: no one person could ever reproduce the magnetic stage presence of Michael Jackson. But this 14-member tribute band gets an A+ for effort. Headed to Don Quixote’s this weekend, armed with a solid six-piece rhythm section and a four-piece horn section, Foreverland is high-octane entertainment to put that booty in motion. To capture MJ’s polished range, four vocalists trade off on lead, singing all your favorite hits, dating back to the old-school days of the Jackson 5. The King of Pop may no longer walk this earth, but thanks to troupes like this one, his zombie strolls, moonwalk, and white glove will live on.
By Paul Freeman
For The Daily News
Posted: 06/23/2011 12:06:46 AM PDT
Updated: 06/23/2011 12:06:46 AM PDT
The Bay Area’s own Foreverland is not your standard tribute band. Instead, it is a talented ensemble that seeks to capture the musicality, theatricality and excitement of Michael Jackson.
Oakland resident Morty Okin, the group’s trumpeter and manager, said, “There so many Michael impersonators out there who have had plastic surgery and have like, four- or five-piece bands. We just did not want to end up being that. The more we rehearsed, the more we realized it was getting a little more serious than we thought it was going to. We realized how complex his music really is. We just kept adding and adding musicians.”
Foreverland is comprised of 14 pieces, including another trumpet player, Sunnyvale’s Manny Angel. For bigger events — including on Friday at San Francisco’s Mezzanine and on Saturday at Redwood City’s Fox Theatre — they add San Jose’s Pamela Fields to provide Janet Jackson vocals.
“The whole band grew up Michael Jackson fans,” Okin said. “We all had ‘Thriller’ and ‘Off The Wall.’ But I don’t think any of us really delved into it until this. And we have so much more of an appreciation now. I can’t even tell you how much of a genius the guy was. For one person to know every aspect of a show on that large of a scale, it’s ridiculous. How did he do that?”
Originally, they toyed with the notion of calling themselves Macho Jackson. But they chose Neverland instead. Their first show took place at Bimbo’s 365 Club, five days before Jackson’s death.
“I got a letter from the Jackson estate. It was six months after we started playing out,” Okin recalled. “They said they had a trademark on ‘Neverland,’ which they don’t. But we don’t have the resources to litigate, so we just ended up changing the name.”
So Neverland became Foreverland. Their timing made them an instant smash. But the novelty factor wore off quickly. It was the band’s musical chops that established them as a must-see act.
“The first couple of shows after he died were jam-packed at Slim’s. We were like, ‘This is bittersweet. But this is crazy!’ But after the first couple of shows, it totally died down. Michael-mania was over. And so we’ve had to pay our dues the last year-and-a-half. We went from playing sold-out shows to playing for, like, 10 people up in Santa Rosa. It took a long time to build up to where we are, that’s for sure.”
They didn’t consider packing it in.
“Man, it’s the funnest band that any of us have ever been in. And, musically it’s probably the most challenging. It’s a great group of people. Awesome music. That’s really what kept us going.”
It was difficult to find the right band members, especially the four vocalists. “You need four people to cover Michael’s vocal range. It’s really impossible to have one person cover it. And it’s great, because that way we can emulate so many of the harmonies, as well, that are on the recordings, that one person wouldn’t be able to do. They each take turns singing lead on different songs. Plus we have back-up singers. So vocally, it’s full-on. Those guys have a lot of vocal rehearsals.”
Foreverland brings to life the sounds of The Jackson 5, The Jacksons, and, of course, Michael’s solo work, particularly the earlier material.
Once they had the sound down, Foreverland still had to master the showmanship aspect. “We’re really lucky. Our vocalists are all seasoned pros. And the horns, about a year ago, we all stepped up and said, ‘You know what? It would look amazing, if we did choreography along with the vocal section.’ So now we have the whole front line, all four horns and the four vocalists all doing choreography together. It’s a spectacle.”
Detroit native Okin, 41, moved to the Bay Area with a band from college in 1991. He has played in many groups, including ska and rock contingents. Until Foreverland, the most successful was a big swing band in the ’90s called The New Morty Show that featured Connie Champagne. It was a national touring act.
“I never thought that I would be in another band that would be that successful. To have this happen a second time in my life, it’s pretty ridiculous,” he said.
Recently returned from New York and New Jersey, Foreverland has Southern California shows lined up in August and possibly a U.K. tour in the near future.
Okin said he has been overwhelmed by the positive reactions from the Michael Jackson fans. “That was something we had no idea what to expect. The responses have ranged from, ‘Holy… a bunch of white people on stage, doing Michael justice,’ to hardcore fans crying, telling us ‘Thanks for not impersonating him. This band’s incredible!’ We never expected this.
“Even back when we had small crowds, they went nuts. So we’ve never actually had a gig with no response. None of us have ever been in a band like that. Every band has a lack of response here and there. We’ve never had that. It’s a testament to Michael’s music, for sure. But it’s also a testament to us.”
Okin and company strive to make every performance a thriller. They’re looking forward to their return to the Fox. “Great venue. Great people to work with. Redwood City crowds are absolutely unbelievable. I’m sure they realize how lucky they are to have a venue like the Fox. The place is amazing. When it was closed for a year, there was such a void. To have it reopen is phenomenal.”
Foreverland might release recordings as they ease on down the road. Veteran performer Okin is exhilarated by the group’s progress. “This is the hardest band experience for me, because I also do the all the booking, management and everything like that. But it’s been the most gratifying, as well.”
Our very own Morty and Lou joined KPFA 94.1‘s Jane Heaven on Sunday Night Live last week to listen to some Foreverland tracks and talk about the upcoming show at Bimbo’s. Jane visited a rehearsal that week and interviewed all the band members about their experiences with the group, favorite songs to play, and our great fans.
If you missed it live, you can listen to the archived show on KPFA’s site, or with the player below. Morty and Lou are on at about the one-hour mark.