Music—especially live music—is catharsis for performer and patron alike. It transforms our mood, inspires our aesthetic and cultivates our disposition. A good show can be commerce for the soul, an exchange of energy, a collective experience.
Here’s a select sampling of shows that had high-volume buzz on my scene scanner. Compiled of insights—partly empirical, partly anecdotal, partly chemical—I think they represent an interesting cross-section of how and why Maui likes to party.
I’d be remiss to not kick off with Zeptember at Mulligans on the Blue (September 24). Not because yours truly was the blessed benefactor of the evening (helping me take a big bite out of leukemia bills), but because—objectively speaking—it’s truly been the one 2010 show that’s generated lingering ovations. Zeptember raged for myriad reasons, foremost because it was well-organized. Promotion hit all the right notes from the printed page to the KAOI airwaves, and the night itself was augmented by just the right dose of quality memorabilia. Also, Mulligans is inherently a good venue, with ample parking, big bathrooms and ergonomic access to outside areas, allowing people to catch a breather from the heat of the happy, hopping crowd.
But that’s all logistics—now let’s talk ideology. Zeptember’s lineup was unprecedented, with too many of Maui’s musical elite to mention them all in this small space. The equivalent of a UN summit for Valley Isle ear candy confectioners, there was at least one topnotch representative from every gig-able genre—all of whom tackled (and nailed!) Led Zeppelin tunes. Because of that, it was also the best-documented event of the year, with every famous local photographer on-hand, each snapping literally thousands of shots. Though my ugly mug ruined a lot of the frames, the images capture something reminiscent of “We Are The World,” but, you know, in a cool way.
The show also spotlighted the camaraderie that exists among these performers and the musical alliances that stand to be—and were, that night—forged. Because as much as we have to be proud of, we still have untapped opportunities. In that sense, Zeptember was more than a show—it was a step toward an era of enlightened entertainment.
If Zeptember showcased the talent we’ve already got, the 2010 Battle of the Bands (May 15), also at Mulligans, was a crystal ball peek into the future. Moth stole the show—inspiring me to write of their “opportunistic, mathematically mastered notes… rolling around like a mouthful of magic jujubes”—but of BOTB 2010, MauiTime’s own Ynez Tongson said best: “It wasn’t long until Sharpie-scrawled autographs ran off the fans’ chests like eyeliner and the walls perspired… People had to be sedated and were already dancing with themselves—lucky no one fought the law.” Now that’s a party.
When you’re in the mood to be moved, but not necessarily move enough to swap sweat with strangers, Stella Blues Cafe’s “Supper Club” nights have quickly become the preeminent locale for incomparably intimate dinner concerts. The acoustic design is divine, the spirit behind the operation is pono and you can’t go wrong with any of their offerings. My hands-down favorite headliners are Paula Fuga and Mike Love, whose soulful sensibility plucks at your heartstrings, rendering moments of musical reckoning that make you genuinely happy to be human.
Akin to Fuga and Love’s conscious lyricism—though a wormhole’s whoosh away stylistically—Maui is now home to the one and only Cory Scoffern aka The Grouch, who recently took Casanova by storm (November 13). Described by MauiTime contributor Sara Tekula as a “straightforward,” “bona fide independent music hustler,” The Grouch says he wants to bring a legit hip-hop scene to Maui—along with some of his famous friends. Scenesters are chomping at the bit to get the caravan going, and proved it by turning out en masse to the Upcountry hub. Expect more.
Speaking of transplants, Texan-turned-mostly-Mauian Willie Nelson has long been the celebrity visage of Paia’s Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon. Taking the torch with aplomb, his son Lukas Nelson, with Promise of the Real, has been putting on some all-the-rage psychedelic soirees worth the trip to the North shore.
We’ve kept our focus local, but also worth mentioning are the many big-name outside acts who’ve hauled their gear across sky and over sea. Maui has historically been a mere Oahu afterthought—if that—but this year we drew the likes of Mos Def at the Maui Theatre (August 7), 311 (April 10) and Sublime with Rome (November 21) at the MACC, The Dead Kennedys (October 22) plus Mickey Avalon and Andre Nickatina (December 4) at the Hard Rock Cafe, and DJ Logic at Charley’s (November 5)—just to name a few.
Ultimately, the crowd as much as the artist is responsible for making a show memorable. And you know what, Maui? We’ve done a damn fine job in 2010. Sure we’ve got room to grow and improve, but if ever there was a year to say nana nana boo boo to the naysayers of the Valley isle music scene, this was it. Bring it on, 2011.