Tag Archives: gnarwhal

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.

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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!

Year End List! (Part 2)

Congratulations, it’s January 2nd, 2012! Here’s another list:

Top Five Bands Kendle Listened to For the First Time

5. Black Lips: I first heard this Atlanta, GA based garage rock band on the Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World soundtrack. Little did I know that “O Katrina!“, despite it’s snappy buzz, was fairly tame as compared to the drug-fueled decadence that was the rest of 500 Million Thousand. And I loved every minute of it. Good, Bad, Not Evil, their previous, more critically acclaimed album, was fueled by more of surf rock sound, though still tinged with the dirty, DIY, sound that made them authorities on the garage rock scene in “New Garage Explosion!“.

4. Black SquareJosh86 is a pillar in Chi-To culture, and his band Black Square is one of the scene’s best bands. Their solid ska-punk sound is always exciting and their wonderful stage presence makes sitting on the sidelines near impossible. Every show, they rock out like they’re playing their biggest, whether to ten people or a hundred, and that energy is damned infectious. We’ve blogged about Black Square on a few occasions, but no amount of praise can overstate their quality as musicians and performers. And, after ten mainland tours, two compilations, and four albums, that quality can only continue to bring them more well-deserved success.

3. The Black Keys: Even before their 2010 release of  Brothers, this Akron, OH band was everywhere. Movies, commercials, and radio stations of every stripe have all bought into the blues rock duo. Normally, the hipster in me would want to eschew them for this rampant commercialization but, honestly, their music is just too f’in good. I picked up the aforementioned Brothers a few months ago and am constantly impressed by how pop-catchy they can make songs that are best suited for a dingy, smoke-filled bar where real men shoot whiskey and the mob has a stake. To get a taste, check out “Tighten Up” and “Next Girl“.

2. Mumford & Sons: The first band on this list not of a ‘black’ variety is also the best Americana band that isn’t American. Following their 2010 success of Sigh No More, this four person British group led by the titular Marcus Mumford were 2011’s counterpoint to the electronic domination of dubstep, making sometimes rambunctious, and always lovely, music involving accordions, mandolins, and dobros. Their songs are deep, meaningful, and, really, honest, capturing the everyman’s sense of love and pain. My personal favorite is certainly “Winter Winds

1. (G)NARWHAL: 2011, above all else, was the year I went from a hapless young soldier wandering around Waikiki to blogging about Honolulu happenings. The catalyst? A band named Narwhal. The three-piece’s crazy shows put me on a scavenger hunt around China Town and the greater Honolulu area, introduced me to many wonderful people I now count as friends, and, most obviously, gave me something to do on almost every night of the week (Sunday’s a total wash, though).

With an original sound that has elements of surf, punk, and old school rock and roll, (G)Narwhal (I think they’re in the process of picking up the ‘G’) has had great year. They celebrated their banniversary in May, recorded and released their second EP, Phases, in November, and had a successful mini-tour in San Francisco that same month. Their performances have consistently one-upped themselves, from the original “Lies” to “Tell Me” list with a handful of us bobbing in the front to the raging moshes that now erupt on the first song of their sets. Erica has improved as a vocalist, now utilizing much more of her range, as well as her stage presence. Nick has refined his guitar work into the now recognizable ‘Nick Ayakawa‘ style, proving that he is one of the scene’s best guitarists. And Adam, a drummer who’s speed and endurance were already a thing to admire, has provided a vivid backdrop in all of their new songs for his comrades to enliven with melody.

Besides their improvements as individuals, (G)Narwhal has really come together as a band. Instead of sitting on their hands and being content to play the same Cow Belly songs every other week or so, they spent much of 2011 writing new material, practicing, and playing shows often. Their chemistry has never been better and they are truly on the up.

So, here’s to you, (G)Narwhal. You were my favorite new band of the year 2011. Let’s all hope that 2012 can see you continue your rise to the top.

TONITE

As we scarfed down our chicken alfredo and readied ourselves for this evening’s adventures, Kendle and I realized that we somehow both forgot to post about the happenings tonight.  Though most of you already know from the facebook, we’ll repeat it here.  There will be an epic performance of Gnarwhal this evening at Mercury Bar to raise money for beer/bail in San Fran.  The festivities will include appearances by Substitoots and HEP fave: Coral Stabz.

If we haven’t said it enough or already, we are so psyched for you, Gnarwhal!  Go show those San Franciscans what you’re made of!  We’ll miss you all the way.  But I guess if we get our butts moving soon, we’ll get to tell you in person tonight.

See you there!