Michael Jackson and Phoenix Rising – L.A.’s Spontaneous Dance Parties

This past weekend was, understandably, a marathon of Michael Jackson nostalgia, from televised tributes (most notably last night’s tear-inducing BET Awards) and cable-TV loops of classic MJ videos (it’s sad, though not surprising, that it took the death of an icon to make MTV actually play MUSIC VIDEOS again) to Michael cover songs being played by bands big and small all across Los Angeles.

But sometimes, the finest tributes are the personal ones. Those are the real thriller moments.

For instance, Saturday afternoon at my neighbors’ quintessentially Californian backyard bash, a pair of super-awesome tweens started shamoning in earnest when “Billie Jean” came on the stereo. Their extensive knowledge of Michael’s signature moves (it was almost like they’d been rehearsing, their footwork was so precise) was touching evidence of Michael’s cross-genre, cross-generational influence (thanks to Alan Heitz for these candid snaps):


And then, last night when Phoenix played a real thriller of a sold-out set at L.A.’s Wiltern, their post-encore exit music was Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.” And suddenly, the entire venue erupted into a spontaneous dance party. It was totally off the wall:

Say what you will about Michael Jackson–he was far from perfect, and his tragic and twisted life came to an especially tragic and twisted end–but the fact that his music makes fans of all ages immediately drop what they’re doing and start frantically dancing like “Beat It” video extras (even in a supposedly “jaded” city like Los Angeles) is perhaps the best testament to the man’s legacy.


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