There’s no shortage of great music and musicians on Maui. Maybe it’s the laid-back lifestyle, peaceful jungles, majestic mountains or rolling waves, but the tunes flow freely around here. I know this because I have a stack of promotional CDs that could crush a school-aged child sitting by my desk. But a brief look through the titles points out one of the only problems with Maui’s music scene: it’s all reggae.
OK, maybe it isn’t all reggae. Some of it is contemporary Hawaiian, some is Jawaiian and a small amount is traditional Hawaiian language music. There’s a lot of ukuleles and slack key guitars in my desk-side collection, that much I know for sure.
It’s good musicians creating good music, and that’s OK, but a girl’s got to wonder—doesn’t anyone like to listen to rock out here? “Big deal” reggae shows happen pretty much every weekend, but most mainstream rock bands look right over Maui on their international tours.
That’s where DJ Jojo comes in. The X92.5 FM radio personality and arguably Maui’s biggest rocker spearheaded the effort to spotlight the island’s rock scene with a good, old-fashioned Battle of the Bands.
“It’s not that I don’t like reggae,” the shaggy-haired DJ told me through glassy eyes after one of last week’s preliminary battles. “I do, but I’m from the Mainland and I’m out here wondering, ‘Where the rock?’ I started the Battle of the Bands to get Maui’s rock scene together.”
Out of all the bands that put their name in the hat, twelve were chosen to take their turn competing in four battles. The winner of each of those rounds will compete this weekend for $1,000 and an opportunity to open for 311 at the hit-making band’s upcoming concert.
Round one winner Erin Smith Band won over the audience at the Hard Rock Café in Lahaina with original bluesy, folk rock tunes and Smith’s commanding stage presence. The Toronto native relocated to Kihei and got busy singing and strumming at bars and restaurants all over Maui, so she’s got quite a following of loyal listeners. She’s also the only chick in this competition, so she probably gets the female vote by default.
The following week the crowd packed into Casanova in Makawao to see the Haiku-grown band Highly Unlikely. The four members showed their youth with fast-and-hard punk inspired sounds that impressed the judges and packed the dance floor with partiers.
Lahaina band Silky Ringo plugged their typically acoustic rock sound in and put their unique touch on a high-energy set of cover songs, punctuated with a few originals, at the next competition. These hard working guys have regular gigs around Lahaina and Kihei, and in the end they took the win to the delight of a screaming group of West side fans.
The final band to reach round two in this Battle was Byron Brown and the Derelicts, who lace thoughtfully catchy lyrics through mellow, soul- and funk-infused rock tunes.
So there you have it. This weekend the folksy blues chick, the young punkers, the cover rockers and the soulful strummers will come with their A-game and put it all on the line– for bragging rights, for the dough and for the ultimate prize, the opportunity to play in front of an audience of hundreds and share the stage with the Mainland rockers from 311.
Now if only these guys would start sending me CDs. MTW
Check out the finalists for yourself: