Teen rockers Kicking Daisies give back to Fairfield youth in benefit concert
Published 1:52 pm, Thursday, December 2, 2010
Rich Herzfeld, owner of Chef's Table, the popular Post Road eatery, is like a proud dad when it comes to Kicking Daisies, the band he co-manages with Brian Murphy and Grammy-winning producer Michael Mangini. Framed photos of Kicking Daisies share wall space at Chef's Table with the album covers and posters of rock legends.
Herzfeld has watched his four "kids" -- two boys, two girls -- grow in the past two years since they came together as a unit and every milestone, every accomplishment, makes him smile a little brighter, a little wider. Kicking Daisies has matured from performing regularly at Chef's Table to being one of five bands picked by Disney to compete in the company's "Next Big Thing" program. The band filmed a music video in Fairfield. If Kicking Daisies wins it all, their song will get airplay on radiodisney.com.
"It's a dream come true for me," Herzfeld said. "I knew from the first minute that I saw Ben (Kicking Daisies' guitarist) play here that there was something special."
Ben Spremulli, now 14, was the first band member picked for the group.
"When he met everyone else, they clicked instantly and they've become best friends."
The members of Kicking Daisies may not reside in Fairfield, but the town has become the adoptive home of Ben, sisters Caitlin and Carly Kalafus (bass and drums, respectively) and lead singer Duran Visek, and the band believes in giving back. Kicking Daisies will play a Fairfield Arts Council benefit on Dec. 3 to begin fundraising for the creation of a new youth/music center in town. The center would be a showcase for musicians, artists and poets.
Caitlin, 17, said when she was growing up in Milford learning to play drums, there weren't a lot of fellow musicians her age to mingle with. There was no central gathering place. She's hoping that will not be the case for Fairfield youth.
"The kids in Fairfield are knowledgeable about what's going on," she said.
Mangini said there is a lot of young musical talent in Fairfield.
"Kids in this town need a musical outlet, a music center where kids will have a strong hand in running the day to day," he said. "I see a desperate need by these kids to have an outlet to make their mark."
Mangini said youth can only fine-tune their skills at home so many times before they get the itch to perform. Without a stage, he said, they might become discouraged.
"At some point you need an opportunity," Mangini said.
Herzefeld said two of the opening acts at the Fairfield Arts Council benefit -- Take Zero and That's The Problem -- were inspired by Kicking Daisies' rise.
"This is a very strong musical community," Mangini said. "The new teen/music center will be a place, a venue for the youth to call their own. Kicking Daisies wanted to create a place where different bands and people could use as a starting point as a jump-off."
Mangini said the Dec. 3 fundraiser is just the tip of the iceberg. Further fundraising will be needed to make the center a reality.
"This is just to expose the need," he said.
Kicking Daisies is comprised of a group of teens blessed with skills far beyond others their age. Ben, who was endorsed by ESP Guitars at age 12, was one of the youngest endorsed guitarists in history, Herzfeld said. Seventeen-year-old Caitlin, as early as age 14, held the record for being the world's fastest drummer (female, feet) by playing 799 beats in one minute.
"They are real good musicians," Herzfeld said. "And the kids around here know when something is real."
The band has already had many moments, but perhaps Herzfeld's favorite was when Kicking Daisies played the Big E in October and opened for Boys Like Girls.
"There was a moment when Duran was leading the crowd of 6,000 by waving his hands back and forth. House lights went on and you could see from the stage that everyone was in sync with the band. The audience loved them and that's unusual for an unknown band to open for a national act and be instantly accepted and make fans that quickly," he said. However, Herzfeld thinks it's almost inaccurate to call them an unknown band.
"To a certain degree they're national already, in that they've been on Disney a lot and have been seen around the country," he said. Their talent has taken them to a number of states.
Caitlin said when the band was in Los Angeles filming segments for "The Next Big Thing," as she was taking in the sights from the seat of a cramped vehicle, it hit her how far the band has come in two short years.
"Looking out the window at the palm trees on the highway, it made me realize we're truly stepping up the stairs of success. I got teary-eyed a little bit," she said.
Murphy, who has worked for MTV and VH1, said of the band: "The four of them are the most phenomenally gifted artists and musicians of my lifetime."
Each of them plays three or four instruments and write and arrange their own music, "which is not what most bands have a hand in doing, even when they're older" than this group, he said.
"They're writing songs that have tremendous melodies in them," Mangini said. "That's the difference between them and a lot of hard rock bands. I've been with them for two years and they keep running ahead of me, in terms of where I think they're going to be to be, from a songwriting standpoint alone."
Mangini said the group has transformed in a short amount of time into a fully formed, mature rock band.
However, Herzfeld, Mangini and Murphy promise that even the most faithful Kicking Daisies followers will be in for a surprise at the Fairfield Arts Council benefit.
"They will definitely see something they've never seen them do before, and they'll probably enjoy it," Mangini said.
The concert takes place at Fairfield Theatre Company's StageOne at 70 Sanford St. Doors open with a "red carpet-style" arrival at 7 p.m. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.
In addition to a $10 general admission, there is a special $150 VIP package, which includes two concert tickets, a pre-concert dinner with the band, a photo op with the band, a T-shirt and CD. There will be a live feed of the concert and prix fixe dinner menus at local restaurants for parents.
For more information, contact the Fairfield Arts Council at 203-319-1419.