California reggae faves Common Kings continue to build their Vegas following

Common Kings are coming back to town.
Annie Zaleski

Over the past few years, reggae band Common Kings has become a familiar presence in Las Vegas. If you ask the Orange County-based group to explain that popularity, members cite the city’s unofficial “ninth island” status—owing to its robust, reggae-loving Hawaiian population—and also mention Vegas’ proximity to California, which makes it easy for Golden State reggae fans to travel here for shows.

Of course, Common Kings didn’t grow that Vegas audience overnight. In fact, bassist Ivan “Uncle Lui” Kirimaua can pinpoint a specific moment when the group knew it had made it in this town: a midweek gig at Brooklyn Bowl that exceeded the band’s expectations. “We didn’t know how we were going to do,” he says. “We didn’t have that much lead promotion into it, and it’s a huge venue. Our ticket sales were only like 200 a couple days before the show, but it ended up [drawing] 1,600 people. It was crazy.”

Common Kings’ popularity beyond Las Vegas is also climbing, particularly after the group’s 2017 full-length debut, Lost in Paradise, received a Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album. It was humbling experience for the band—“We did not take that one lightly at all,” Kirimaua says. “We know a lot of great artists in our genre that have not yet been nominated”—and had the bassist reflecting on what it means to be furthering reggae’s rich legacy. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jamaican reggae, if it wasn’t for Bob [Marley], Toots & The Maytals and all the greats,” he says. “For us to contribute in our way, our style, has definitely meant a lot.”

Kirimaua adds that Common Kings have also soaked up lessons in stage setup and sound mixing from previous tourmates, which have included Matishayu, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars. Vocalist Sasualei “Jr King” Maliga, meanwhile, says he gleaned some frontman tricks from Timberlake: “It’s not every day you get to go on tour with the best in the industry,” he says. “As a lead man, being able to watch him—just his stage presence—is a huge thing. And he’s so good at it. He makes it look really effortless.”

Common Kings’ momentum continues to snowball, with new music on the horizon coming off a summer tour with longtime idols Sublime With Rome, a sonic match that “was basically like touring with longtime homies,” Maliga says. The respect was mutual: Sublime With Rome invited Common Kings guitarist Taumata “Mata” Grey to perform the classic “What I Got,” while Maliga guested on a personal Sublime favorite, “Garden Grove.” “It was really cool to be able to jump on with them and build that relationship onstage,” Maliga says. “It’s just a different energy. The song we did was about the place I grew up in, so it was special.”

COMMON KINGS with Landon McNamara, Eli Mac, Big Body Cisco, Westafa. October 13, 7 p.m., $30-$45. Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695.

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