For friends and family, the true scope of 23-year-old Dominic Agius’ prodigious musical talent didn’t come to light until after his death last year on Valentine’s Day.
“I had no idea the volumes of his music,” says Jim Agius, who’s spent the last year discovering just how productive his little brother was. “He devoted himself so fully to his music.”
The results of Jim’s discoveries are collected, in part, in his loving documentary Dominic Agius: Life Inside the Kaleidoscope, which premieres on Friday, Feb. 11. The following night at the Phoenix Theater, where Jim is a booker, “Concert for Dominic” presents Dominic’s songs performed by friends and former band mates from all eras of his musical career, including his time in bands like Mute Vernacular, Girls in Suede, Pet Sounds and Mystery Invention.
Robert McLean, a close friend of Dominic’s who recorded Mystery Invention in 2010, has mixed that album for release. In addition, he’s recorded and mixed an album of cover songs culled from the young musician’s vast catalogue. Copies of both will be handed out to attendees of this weekend’s show.
“We wanted to have a concert where we’d play for him and record new versions of his songs,” says McLean. “I pitched the idea to Jim, and with him backing the whole project, the ambition increased.”
It wasn’t difficult to find material; McLean recalls his astonishment at the trove of songs—142 tracks, to be exact—on Dominic’s SoundCloud account. He was prolific in a way that surpassed many of his peers, McLean says, a creative output tempered by modesty—and one that didn’t seem to be interrupted by the rollercoaster of recovery and addiction.
“That’s why it kind of slapped people in the face when he died,” says McLean. “He didn’t shove his music in people’s faces. He let people discover them when they did. He played and recorded to get better at it, and it shows in the album. In the performances, you can hear, literally, the passion and love coming through.”
Jim, who’s been making short films since 2003, says Life Inside the Kaleidoscope has been a cathartic way of dealing with his brother’s death: “I never looked at this as providing myself with therapy, but I’ve definitely experienced emotions and thought about things in ways that I would never have experienced.”
The idea for the film came after Jim heard from people in Southern California, where Dominic spent the last few months of his life in a sober-living environment. Struck by a desire to connect those in Sonoma County that had long loved his brother with this newer set of friends, Jim set out for Newport Beach, along with McClean and two other friends. As they interviewed more people, the film gained power and scope.
“His devotion to music and his really valiant attempt at fighting the addiction—those two things define him,” says Jim. “But you walk away not looking at him as a drug addict.
“I view the weekend as a one-two punch,” explains Jim. “The documentary is going to be very sad, and there’s no way around it. There are some laughs and praises, but the bottom line is that it’s a sad story. That leads you right into the next night. And that night’s going to be very much a celebration. The point of it is for people to know what Dominic did while he was here.”
Watch the trailer for ‘Life Inside the Kaleidoscope’ below: