By Brendan O’Colmain
You hear it all the time: “Maui shuts down at 9pm.” But some bars and local artists are working to change that. If you know where to look, it’s a different world out there when the moon is high in the sky. The energy is strong, the crowd’s a little rowdy and people from every walk of life are out dancing.
Work-week warriors have opportunities each weekday to see late night bands that jam all the way to last call. Two groups are in the midst of reincarnating themselves. Levi Poasa is a solo act who teamed up to form a folk rock trio, while Natalie Nicole is a powerful, soulful front lady and has a new four-piece ensemble.
Levi Poasa and Soul Easy
Imagine Dave Matthews’ guitar merged with Ray Lamontagne’s vocal style and you have Levi Poasa. The cool, smooth acoustic crooner is a fixture at many local spots. You’ll find him painting lyrical landscapes with folk, reggae and R&B, always armed with a guitar and his unique and amazing voice.
Levi has performed as a solo act for years at restaurants and lounges. Then last year, Levi linked up with drummer Patrick Tavis to create Soul Easy, his first official group, which will go on a West Coast tour with Louis & Lewis later this year. You can catch Soul Easy from 10pm to 1am at Dog & Duck Irish Pub on Tuesday and Diamond’s Ice Bar and Grill on Thursdays.
“It’s been awesome playing with Patrick,” he said. “We get to play so many different styles of music.” Patrick even plays the cajón (a box-shaped percussion instrument played by slapping the front or rear faces) at certain gigs to create a new vibe. “Another main focus of mine right now is to incorporate a lot more original music,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of old and new material I have been fine tuning to debut. We are also planning on some recording sessions in the near future.”
Levi is a self-taught guitar player and began writing his own music shortly after picking up the guitar at age 14. Born in American Samoa, his childhood years were split between Samoa and Pennsylvania.
“I grew up singing,” he said. “I was always in choir. Jazz choirs, church choirs, school choirs and acapella Doo Wop groups.” In 2012, he moved to Maui. “I made the jump into playing music full time almost a year into living here,” he said. “Kanoa Kukaua was a big inspiration and source of knowledge and advice for me.”
Natalie Nicole Robles
Natalie is a soul queen with passionate stage presence. Her unique and fresh renditions of rock, pop, soul and R&B are high energy and get your feet moving. “Currently, I am collaborating with Josh Hearl on lead guitar, Jordan Kamikawa on drums and Jon Cua on bass,” she told me. “Honestly, I am so excited for what this power trio can do.” The band has an eclectic sound, producing everything from funk and pop to blues to ballads.
“I was exposed to a diverse range of music at a very young age and carried that love for music during my travels,” said Natalie. She was born into a large family in California’s Bay Area. In 1998, she moved to Seattle with her family. Fourteen years later, she found her home on Maui. “I packed my beloved guitar and a suitcase not knowing what this small island had in-store for me, but was excited to go on another adventure,” she said.
Natalie and her band will surprise you with some Janis Joplin, hop over to Amy Winehouse then bring the house down with that Motown sound. When we last spoke, Natalie couldn’t contain her excitement about the band and their sound.
“I really hit the jackpot with this new band,” she said. “It’s a whole new chapter for us and everyone is so stoked to be playing together.” They’re quickly becoming an essential part of Maui’s thriving music scene. In fact, on April 6 the Natalie Nicole Band will headline the main stage at Wailuku’s First Friday town party from 6-9pm.
Lantana Hoke contributed to this article
Photo of Levi Poasa and Soul Easy: Kristan Schlatter