Before He Was Famous: In Search of a Bruno Mars Performance

Originally published on October 11, 2016

In case you live under a rock, I’ve got four words for you: BRUNO. MARS. IS. BACK!

Everyone’s favorite hitmaker kicked off the celebration for his upcoming third album, 24K MAGIC, by making the first single of the same name available for download this past Friday. The official music video was also released the same day, which has since amassed over 20 million views.

In all the hype for new doo-wops from the hooligan, it has me thinking back to something that has been bugging me for quite some time; and that is that I can’t seem to find any footage from when he performed at the ISA LA concert in 2009.

For those who don’t know, ISA (a.k.a. International Secret Agents) is a production company founded by Wong Fu Productions and Far East Movement, that gives a platform for stories and entertainment from the Asian American community to be seen and heard. While ISA is now primarily known for their various web series created for their official YouTube channel, in its early years, they would do concerts featuring some of the best of the best on the Asian American entertainment scene. In 2009’s LA concert, according to this very cool promo video, Bruno Mars was part of the line-up.

Now in many ways, it makes a lot of sense that he would make an appearance in this concert. Aside from being a part of the Asian American music scene, he was also a frequent collaborator with ISA co-founder, Far East Movement. If you’ve ever listened to their album, ANIMAL, you may have noticed how Bruno makes an appearance as a guest artist on the track, 3D. On the more mainstream front, their hit single, ROCKETEER, had two recordings done of it. While everyone is familiar with the version from the FREE WIRED album that has OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder singing the chorus, there was a separate version done that had Bruno on it. His songwriting/producing team, The Smeezingtons, also produced FREE WIRED.

So getting back to my point, it’s kind of weird that there isn’t any footage out there with Bruno performing at the ISA concert, the year before he entered the mainstream conscious. That’s why I ask to those who attended that concert: Did Bruno Mars perform at it? If so, what was he like? What did he sing? Most of all, was it clear then that he would go on to become the megastar he is now?

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