Tag Archives: bar

No Suck Fest 5

Awesome NSF 5 Banner by the Gurus Themselves

No Suck Fest, Hawaii’s biggest DIY music festival, is going on this weekend for its fifth year. I managed to attend NSF 3, but not the outing last year, so it was high on my priority list to make it out this time around. Tonight was Day 2 of 3 and included performances by Animal Mother, The Instigators, Pink Mist, TV Microwave, Beaman, Harshist, Siblings, Botoroke (Karaoke), and mainlanders Gentlemen Prefer Blood and Big Eyes.

The mix of bands was actually quite amazing. There was a strong pop-punk showing in TV Microwave and Beaman. The former is very reminiscent of an early Blink-182 with the same strong beats and a sort of rough, fun-loving edge to it. Beaman is a bit harder to describe, though definitely inspired by early 90’s  alt/pop-punk with snappy, quick beats and songs about buttholes. The band also includes Adam Funari, China Town’s fastest drummer and an all around good dude. Oh, and he also managed to smash his way through his snare drum half-way through the set. Good job, Adam.

                          

We’ve talked about Harshist quite a bit, but it’s worth noting that they have honed that noise rock/experimental sound even more since I last saw them and they are playing damned tight. Honestly, I still haven’t found a way to fully describe this band beyond calling them a tempest mixture of harsh and smooth. If that didn’t make any sense to you, then maybe you should check out the live set they did for KTUH on their Bandcamp.

The out-of-towners that played were as different as their roots suggest. Big Eyes, originally out of New York but now residing in Seattle, is an eclectic mix of genres that falls more or less into indie rock, albeit with a definite ear for rock of decades past. I picked up their latest LP (Almost Famous) after the set and I will say they certainly played a grittier set for the mostly punk crowd tonight. Glad they repped well for us Northwesterners.

LA natives Gentlemen Prefer Blood, however, is all punk. The three-piece’s fast, growly set really got the crowd moving. The band was very experienced and crafty, dealing easily with a broken guitar string and three or four microphones knocked over by sprawling moshers. I think the lead singer may have been kicked in the face, too, though it certainly didn’t slow him down. I’m rubbish with punk, but I will say I sensed some Rancid and Irish Punk themes in the music. You punks can call me stupid after checking out some of the free music on their Bandcamp.

I managed to miss the first three bands (Animal Mother, The Instigators, and Pink Mist), but I’ve heard tell they rocked as expected. I have actually seen Animal Mother recently and would highly recommend their Strokes/Weezerish sound.

I want to make a separate note to the crowd tonight: You guys are fucking crazy. Now, I may not be as active in the scene as I used to be, but I definitely feel as though I know most Chi-To crowds. The one that came out tonight was like nothing I’ve seen before. They moshed every song. They screamed every song. They crowd surfed every last song. That’s right, crowd surfed. At Mercury bar. Sometimes there were two surfers riding the thirty person dance floor. And every time one would finally drop down, another would just jump right up. It was madness, with limbs flailing and beers spilling. Not that I hated it. I loved it. It was just so different than a usual night at Merc. And wow, do my arms feel tired.

So, you think I forgot about Siblings, eh? Well, that is far from the truth. Due to their placement between the travelling bands, Siblings actually only got about 11 minutes worth of stage time. But it was 11 minutes of raw punk power. They had the mosh spinning and slamming harder than at any other time during the night.

Not fully content with that small of an outing, however, they invited some of us to a super secret location for a post-show set. Now, I wouldn’t use the word ‘intimate’ to describe any punk set, but this was a good as it gets; Just the band and fifteen people in a tiny room. No moshing. No talking. Just the sound of every song in their repertoire washing over us, all of the fury and frustration ricocheting off of the walls and our psyches. It was an amazing experience I am glad to have been able to take a part in.

So, if any of this No Suck Fest business has piqued your interest, tomorrow night (or tonight, I guess) is the Third and Final Day. If you are available, you would be silly to miss. It’s at Anna Banana’s starting at 4 and going all night. The two travelling bands from Day 2 will be there as well as the rest of the visitors and some new local talent. Also, check out the No Suck Fest website for the schedule and updated information about the after-fest beach party. And, as always, you can see more pictures at Flickr as well as check us out at Facebook and Twitter. Keep rockin’, Honolulu.

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These Damned Out-of-Towners

Last night was pretty surprising. I badgered some friends into taking me out to celebrate my five year Army anniversary (wish I could say those flew by…). Being the smooth, culture savvy dudes we are, we made our way down to the always fantastic Downbeat Lounge for beers and bullshit. At the door, we discovered there was actually a show going on. Well, thank my lucky stars. The cover was $10, a rarity for the Lounge. I knew something big was up.

Show Poster

So, what was up? Jesse Wagner of The Aggrolites and Vic Ruggiero of The Slackers were playing! Don’t recognize anything from the previous sentence? Neither did I before last night, but my more ska-oriented friends quickly pushed me into slapping down $10 to find out. It was definitely worth the sum.

Josh86 and the Pressure were opening when we arrived. This is the more reggae/first-wave ska side of the various bands Josh plays in. I had actually never caught this one before last night, but it certainly keeps up with the high standard of awesomeness his other bands have set. Josh also owns the bar and half of the shows these days, so you’re unlikely to hear any negatives out of me.

Jesse Wagner is a guy. A very cool guy who, like Vic, wears a straw hat and knows his way around a guitar. He played a smooth mix of Aggrolites tunes and covers, including a ska version of a Clash song that had the whole crowd ooohing along with him. Speaking of audience participation: Jesse began his set solo on guitar, but each new song seemed to bring another excited fan to the stage to share the backup mic. By the end of his set, there were six drunken belters on the stage and a crowd screaming the words back at them. This is not usually how these out-of-towners do it. Luckily for us, Jesse did.

Vic Ruggiero brought a different show with him. Whereas Jesse is a ska/reggae playing Californian on guitar, Vic is a folksy/bluesy New Yorker with a lovely Long Island accent simultaneously playing guitar, harmonica, drums, and tambourine. Oh, and singing. The kind of coordination this requires for the simplest of songs is beyond me, but these songs were not simple at all. From “Takin’ Care of Business” (No, not the Bachman-Turner Overdrive song; That one has a g) to the Hawaiian-adapted, fifteen minute wildlife screeching story-song “Animals Run the House,” Vic laid down his own beats then danced across his guitar  and waa-waaed his harmonica to them.

Eventually Jesse jumped back on stage for some duo-action. While this seemed fairly impromptu at first, the performance eventually revealed its true nature in the form of a twenty minute medley of nearly every 50’s rock song I can name, all wrapped by a story of one friend warning another of (what else?) a woman. Then, with a twinkle in their eyes, they informed us they would be playing until Josh kicked them out. And, you know what? Like stand-up dudes, they kept their promise.

Want to get your very own Jesse-Vic experience? Well, they’re burning down Breakers as I write this and they will be making a return to Downbeat Lounge tomorrow, Saturday, June 8th, with Black Square. You’d be a sucker to miss it.

As usual, there are plenty of blurry, camera-phone pics at the Flickr (people still use this one, right? There are some still holding out against the Instagram onslaught?). Also, check out the Facebook and Twitter, ’cause, like, whatever. Animals Run the House.

End of an Era: Gnarwhal’s Final Show

So, it’s been a month and I think I have sufficiently grieved over the passing of my favorite Honolulu band, Gnarwhal. As we reported last time, Erica Westly, rhythm guitarist and belting vocalist, has left the building… or island, or whatever. Their final show was at Mercury Bar on Thursday, the 24th of May, 2012. It also happened to be their best ever.

As per HEP style, we were actually late to the proceedings and missed another set by the newcomers Dead Dead Millies. I’ve heard tell their near weekly shows are paying off in stage experience. And, as every good nerd knows, experience is how you level up your sound.

Harshist was just setting up when we rolled in. I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this new band featuring Steve Smith on drums, Travis Wiggins on guitar, Alex Nagata on bass, and Annie Hollis up front with the mic. I was quite excited for them to start as they sound checked.

Suddenly, a cacophony of noise erupted from the speakers louder than any other time I’ve ever been to Merc. Everyone in the band threw out all their instruments could muster in a screeching, ear splitting shriek, with Annie’s unfathomable screaming over the top. As the inexplicable sonic power continued past the minute mark, many of us began to wonder if this was the song or merely the most outrageous final sound check in the history of music.

And then, as quickly as it had come, the discord slid into a rhythmic headbanger. It was as if someone had turned off a spot light and we were left there, blinking the world back into focus. That world was one of 90’s inspired noise rock. From song to song, I felt so many tugs from the bygone decade that I could barely nail them down. This one would evoke Hole, that one felt very Rage Against the Machine. Even Smashing Pumpkins seemed to bleed into the rhythm-centric music. Over the top of the instrumentals, Annie Hollis’ voice lashed about like a whip. At times, she would sync up, flowing with enough rhymes and unrhymes to color the sound in a hip-hop vein. And at other times she would tear across the fabric of sound, eschewing harmony or beat to course with vocal adrenaline. These complete paradigm shifts came and went seemingly at random.

And that (aside from the banshee’s call at the beginning of the set) was my only hangup with this band: they never seemed to stay in one place long enough for me to sink in and get comfortable. Being kept on your toes can be fun and interesting, but at times I felt like those poor White House guards fighting Nightcrawler in X-2. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy Harshist, because I honestly did. They’re bringing a new, original sound to China Town and they’re talented. I’m confident that, with time, they will hook me. And, perhaps, change the scene in the process.

Up next was the band we all had been waiting for: Gnarwhal! Well, not exactly. With the addition of a bass, they had transformed into The Muskrats, a more pop-friendly band that might have been the Ed Sullivan Show version of Gnarwhal. The crowd danced swing instead of moshing and we all generally had a great time with the sticky-sweet faux-band.

But, of course, we had come to see Gnarwhal, so the bassist found his way off the stage and the main attraction kicked it into high gear with several of their Gold songs. The crowd surged and cut loose, getting rowdier with every song. During slow, deep songs, there was a ripple and twitch of growing excitement, only to explode when the music shot into the atmosphere.

They rolled into the familiar songs, the ones from Cow Belly I had fallen in love with originally. “Cadillac,” “Lies,” and “Fist for a Face” were all there. Adam even stepped out from behind the drums to exchange places with Erica for a song, though which one it was has escaped me in the world of booze and cigarette smoke.

Showing their solidarity as a band up until the end, Gnarwhal even played a brand new song in the middle of their set. I’ve never heard of a band putting out new music at their farewell show, but, then again, this was no normal band. Of course, they stumbled through it, but these candid moments only endeared them more to my heart. These were truly three people who enjoyed every second of playing together. And we enjoyed every moment with them. I will miss them more than any other band I’ve ever listened to.

They put up about ten songs, then tried to say they were done. The crowd wouldn’t have any of it, badgering them into a first, second, third encore. Still, something was missing and we all knew what it was. A call was taken up for a song, the Gnarwhal song, and the band obliged with the deal that this was their last, last, last, last song. The song to end them was the one to shake the walls with  the voices of the crowd, of the band, of the bartenders. Possibly the loudest noise I have ever heard was two hundred people screaming, “Tell me what you want to do tonight.”

Gnarwhal was a hard act to follow, but Hell Caminos managed to round out the night perfectly. The bass, drums, and guitar filled psychobilly rocked and rocked hard. So hard, in fact, that the band members crowd surfing during the set wasn’t enough. The upright bass, microphone, even the drums, all found their way off of the stage and into the crowd. If this were New Orleans, it would have been called looting, but here it was good old rock and roll.

For more photos, check out the Flickr and watch the Facebook and Twitter for updates on shows.

Music Scene Updates!

So, there has been some news since we put together our last post on Gnarwhal’s Record Release party. Let’s get to it:

1. Coral Stabz is more or less through. I spoke with Travis about why the band was breaking up and he said that it was simply because they feel they had explored all they could with the style. When asked if this was the last we’d seen of Coral Stabz, he responded that it was likely they would play their songs again since the two of them are starting two other bands together. I think this is something we can all pin our hopes on.

2. As if the news above wasn’t bad enough, Gnarwhal has declared they only have four more shows remaining. It appears that Erica is planning on moving back to San Francisco, ending the run of this band at its peak. I’ve yet to catch up with Adam and Nick and see what their plans are.

3. New bands! During our four month Chi-To hiatus, it appears that the scene has grown with the addition of many new bands. With titans like Red Rocket, Coral Stabz, and Gnarwhal on the out, it will be interesting to see which of these bands will step up to replace them. And, of course, we’ll be there to report when they do.

With the news out of the way, let’s talk about upcoming shows.

Friday, May 11th at Coffee Talk with Gnarwhal, Shopping List, Mano Cane, Broke Aesthetic, and The Italian Brains. This is an all ages show. Doors open at 7:30 PM and the cover is $7.

Friday, May 11th at ThirtyNineHotel: Kaleidoscope with Gnarwhal and DJs Ross Jackson And Davey Shinding. Yes, this is Gnarwhal’s second show tonight. Starts at 9 PM.

Monday, May 17th at SOHO with Men and Gnarwhal. Gnarwhal’s second to last show! Don’t have any more info, so why don’t you bug Gnarwhal on their Facebook?

Monday, May 17th at Manifest with I Tramonti, Harshist, Illectrix, Siblings, and Pharaohs. I’ve heard great things about Harshist and Siblings are always a good ride. Starts at 7 PM, cover unlikely.

Saturday, May 19th at Mercury: Morrissy After Party with Dead Dead Millies, Travis D Wiggins & The Second Hand Emotions, Stephen Augustin & The Fourth Wall, and DJs Papi Chulo and Haircuts for Men. Travis has this to say about the show: “TIP YR FUCKING BARTENDER AND DON’T CALL HER “BABY” UNLESS YOU WANT TO GET STABBED IN THE FUCKING NECK.” Starts at 9 PM.

Thursday, May 24th at Mercury: Gnarwhal’s last show with Dead Dead Millies, Harshist, Gnarwhal, and DJ Jet Boy/Jet Girl. I wouldn’t miss this one for the world. Doors at 10 PM, but get there early to shower them with goodbye gifts.

Gnarwhal Record Release Party!

So, we’ve been gone from the scene for a while. Luckily enough for us, we made our comeback at Gnarwhal’s excellent record release party at Mercury on Saturday.

Siblings opened us up. I was sad to see that Jacoby Young is not longer on bass for the four man punk band, but Erik Oseto seems to have picked up the part well.

Next up was new band Brainplane with Alex Nagata on drums and mohawked Miller Royer on guitar. They played an interesting smooth, chilled out sound that was easy to groove to. I’m not sure about having them behind Siblings, however, as I was so pumped that it was hard to click into the groove.

Oldies style surf punk band Coral Stabz went on third and quickly made the announcement that this was their second to last show. This gave me a sad face, but the frown was turned upside down by their always excellent dirty rock.

Finally, Gnarwhal was up. As we said in our Year End Lists, this band is rocketing  to the top of the China Town scene. That this was their record release show only supports that idea. The band rocked and rolled through what seemed to be every song they had on tap, their levels being micromanaged by one of the Mercury staff. They’ve never sounded better. They played new songs, old ones, and a pit opened up, engulfing the greater portion of the bar. Crowd surfing was all around. After well over an hour of glorious rock, everyone was tired, sweaty, and jovial, having experienced what might have been Gnarwhal’s best show yet.

A quick trip to the merch area (something I’m exceedingly pleased to see becoming a norm at these shows) and we netted the record, every color possible of their new buttons, and an awesome cassette sticker. While we were there, we also picked up some Siblings stickers and buttons. Now, if only I can ever remember to wear these things…

To see more pictures of the event, check out the Flickr. And, as always, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Years End List! (Part 5: The End of the End)

Okay, here it is: the last vestiges of 2011. I hope you’ve enjoyed our run down of the year Spin Magazine called the Great Big No. Here’s to a better 2012!

Top Five Honolulu Shows I Attended

5. Ramblin’ for Raegan: This show was amazing. While we didn’t cover it here at HEP, L did at her own blog. The event was for the charity of Raegan, a five year old girl who tragically lost her father a month prior. Narwhal rocked the house and it was the first time we saw Discord & Rye doing their sexy thing. Ong King is a great space for a show and the art that was up was an excellent time filler between bands.

4. At Sea Returns: At Sea, a post-rock band that had been on hiatus for four years, returned in a big way in July. Supported by the equally awesome “space rock” band Clones of the Queen, they packed thirtyninehotel fuller than any show I’d seen before or have seen since. This was certainly a special performance that I’d have been loathe to miss.

3. Young Fangs Anna’s Show: This show was actually a surprise. We hadn’t seen Narwhal for almost a month and went to hit up their first show back. That show happened to also be the final one in a mini-tour for the Alaskan Indie band Young Fangs. Add Siblings and campfire to the bill and you have yourself an excellent evening.

2. Black Square CD Release Party: If you’ve been keeping up with these lists, then you’d know that I listed Black Square as the fourth best band I heard this year. This show was where that all began. The epic four hour show included sets by Upstanding Youth, Raised By Wolves, Narwhal, and, of course, the China Town powerhouses. It had everything you want in a release party: crazy performances, merch of every variety, dancing, and alcohol. Much alcohol. I think my body was running on beer alone since I sweated all the water out in the mosh pit that opened up.

1. Halloween Party at White Tiger Lounge/Orphanage/Dollhouse: Before October 30, 2011, I thought I knew what a house show was. On that night, however, everything I had ever attended before began to look like Uncle Fred with a guitar at the family reunion. Siblings and Narwhal turned a quaint living room into a battleground full of screaming, jumping, moshing characters in various stages of costume. The brightest moment for me was actually captured on tape by Travis. “Tell Me” is, bar none, my favorite song to hear live. We did it harder and crazier than we ever will again. Having this much fun should be illegal.

 

Well, that’s it folks. Thank you for a wonderful 2011. Let’s all hope the world doesn’t end before we can do more of these lists next year!

Upstanding Youth and the Frozen Tundra of HEP

So, here are are again, almost a month with no updates at HEP. I would love to say that we’ve been far too busy with shows and raucous evenings to get around to posting, but that would be a lie. Instead, you get excuses about the self-imposed exile of NaNoWriMo (we didn’t win, by the way, but making it to 30,000 words was a small victory) and being poor.

In fact, the last show we attending was the Upstanding Youth 10 year anniversary on November 19th. We were only there for a few hours, however, as words were to be written on our novels. Even still, we caught all of Black Square‘s and Hell Camino‘s sets and half of the headliner’s.

Hell Camino played  slower and more honky tonk than I would have thought possible, obviously trying to play to the ska sound of the night. It was still great, however, and was really cool to see them work outside of the norm. They did still throw down a couple of psychobilly songs, however, which got our blood flowing.

Black Square were awesome as always. I’m not sure how many times I’ve listened to their latest CD, but I literally cannot stay seated when they play their golden songs (which are all of them, of course). My friends and I made our way through the fifty or so people who has amassed during the band’s first song (“In The Day,” if memory serves) and found that there was a lot of skanking going on in the front. Like, more than I had ever seen for this band, even at their own monthly headliner “Black Saturday.” We, of course, quickly joined in. The best moment of this set (and probably the whole show) was when they had steamrolled into a high energy song (“Slow Down” or “Black Square” stand out in my hazy memory) and all of us up front managed to look up at T. R. at the same moment. From the stage, he looked down at us very seriously and held up one hand, his index finger making a small circle. Instantly, the dancing devolved into a roaring mosh of twelve or so people jumping, tumbling, and smashing our way around the stage. I caught a glimpse of T. R.’s face wearing a smirk as he went back to playing.

The last bit of the show we caught was Upstanding Youth, the now 10 year old band. Before they went on, someone introduced them as the “best ska band of all time,” an extremely tall order that I don’t really agree with. To me, they were a pretty decent ska band, but, honestly, fairly vanilla. I am by no means an authority of the genre, however.

Really, after more than a year kicking around China Town and seeing many talented bands barely scraping twenty people out for a show, I was somewhat upset to see a hundred people flood into Anna’s for this set only. I recognized no one in this new crowd and it seems most of them had eschewed the previous two performances, despite their quality. As far as I can tell, Upstanding Youth had pulled a huge crowd from another scene (I guessed Waikiki, but that was a hunch) into the bar that I have only gone to see “Chi-To bands” perform at. Perhaps I am being too scene-insular.

NOTE: In this next breakdown paragraph, I’m going to only talk about what I heard at the UY show. I’ve since listened to their recorded stuff and found it to be quite different.

To give a fair shake to the band, they were good. Whereas I generally like punk with my ska, Upstanding Youth were straight ska with a side of pop. I can see how the band has become quite popular on Oahu as they have incorporated many of what I would consider to be ‘traditional Hawaiian’ sounds into their slow to mid-tempo songs. It was more music to groove than dance to. Except for a few brave souls, the farthest anyone in the crowd got to moving was a small sway or head bob. There isn’t anything wrong with that, of course, but it was hard for me to chill out after Black Square had shocked me into action.

That was really my issue with Upstanding Youth, the proclaimed “best ska band of all time”: Black Square was just generally more enjoyable. My quick and unscientific poll of the people I knew at the show confirmed my thoughts; You have to be a great band to follow Black Square. And Upstanding Youth, to me, was not great, but good at best.

Feel free to comment/argue with me in the comments, on our Facebook, or Twitter. Also, czech out some blurry cell phone photos on Flickr. I swear we’ll get a decent camera some day.

P.S.: Tomorrow night (9pm) there is a sweet show going on at Mercury. $5 for 5 bands, including the HEP favs Gnarwal, Coral Stabz, and The Substitoots. Not sure if we’ll make it, but totes buy us a beer if we do. We could use the booze.