Bad Kitty

It’s a rainy Friday night and Wailuku is awash with streetlights and the shiny sleekness of wet pavement. The rain has granted the town an unusually serene coolness. That is, until you step into Eha’s.

The air inside Eha’s is hot, sticky and almost electric with the buzz of excited bar-goers. It’s standing-room only at the bar, where patrons clamor for the attention of Tami, the bartender and big dog of Eha’s. Suddenly, down the street there’s a roar like a vengeful Viking god. “Bikers!” Tami shouts over the din, and the whole bar explodes into applause. Moments later, the bar is filled with tall men, wiping rain off their leather jackets. And somewhere, in the center of all this happy chaos, is a band called Bad Kitty.

The five-member group is illuminated by the camera flashes of a girls’-night-out group. Occasionally, they cheese it up for the camera. Bad Kitty strikes up another song and murmurs of, “I love this song” and “Wow, I haven’t heard this one in forever,” are soon drowned out by a raucous, drunken sing-along. On “The First Cut is the Deepest” (originally by Cat Stevens, recently reincarnated by Sheryl Crow) singer Marci’s pristine voice is accompanied by the not-so-pristine (but enthusiastic) voices of the girls nearest to the band. (Trust me on this one, when a drunken girl yowls out “The fiiiiirst cut is the deeeepest, baaaaby,” you can really feel the anguish. Really.)

Next, Joette, with her raven curls and smile like a Saturday night, belts out Alanis Morrisette’s “Hand in My Pocket.” When the band begins to purr Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” beer bottles and the pool table are all but forgotten.

Bad Kitty is composed of Marciline “Marci” Olson, Joette Burke, Mike Burke (drums), Barney Cortinez (bass) and Herb Andrews (guitar). If these names sound familiar, they should. Bad Kitty members hail from a variety of established local bands like Jimmy Mac and the Kool Kats, Country Night and Gomega. The bandmates see Bad Kitty as a chance to unwind and play songs that they love. While Marci and Herb lean towards the country spectrum, Joette and Barney are all for classic rock.

You can definitely tell the band is playing for the sheer enjoyment of it. It’s like turning on the radio and hearing a litany of your favorite songs—it just makes you feel good. If you’re wondering about the name, it’s not derived from Barney and Joette’s other band, the Kool Kats. Instead, it’s just what the band decided on, after much discussion. It wasn’t until after the moniker was chosen that they noticed the feline parallel.

I recently chatted with Joette, who’s fun, positive and easy to talk to. She and her husband spent 15 years on the road and in Las Vegas before settling down in Maui. When I asked what she thought about Maui’s music scene, she had nothing but good things to say. “Maui’s scene is happening and I love how the local bands are all supportive of each other and are such a tight knit community.”

A veteran musician who’s had a full-time career for more than two decades, Joette has this advice for young musicians: “Don’t let anyone discourage you. Don’t believe them when they say you can’t make money from making music. Don’t believe them when they say music isn’t a real job.”

On October 24, Bad Kitty will play Eha’s breast cancer benefit event, which is being organized by Tami (see for info). With Erin Smith and Mojomana also on the bill, the bar is guaranteed to once again be hot, sticky—and rockin.’ Maui Time Weekly, Ynez Tongson