Tag Archives: Upstanding Youth

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.

Black Square CD Release Party @ Anna’s

I just returned from the Black Square CD release party and all I can say is wow. This was quite possibly one of the best shows I’ve yet seen on island.

We arrived just as Upstanding Youth  was getting heavy into their set. Perhaps it was my focus on hellos and getting beers in me, but they faded to the background until the final two songs. By then, I had zeroed in on the music and found it to be a light, woodsy blend. They could very easily play in any setting, which I feel is a huge advantage in this town. I could use a few more listens before settling into any deep opinions, though.

Next was Raised by Wolves (or, as we often put it, Something About Wolves). I’ve seen these two indie-turned-folk/country gentlemen a few times before, but these meetings are too few and too far between. Tonight they were in rare form, often ad-libbing names from the crowd in with great effect. Their heavy, sort-of-honkey-tonk, sort-of-indie rock came out in every heart straining, glass raising lyric and the inclusion of a few guest singers (here’s to you, John Ridgeway) only amplified the singer’s amazing vocal talent. Their drinking song, Hair of the Dog, had every person in the bar singing along, and their heart-felt How Low Can You Go brought the pained howls of a hundred depressed moments. Finally deciding on the bass-kick pedal arrangement in lieu of the singer/guitarist stomping on bare stage will undoubtedly extend this slow-fiddle/rhythmic guitar duo’s longevity. And thankfully, for I could listen to these folk’s music every night.

After that, HEP favorite Narwhal was up. Now, the double-guitar-and-drum three piece had set up a brutal schedule for this weekend. This show was actually their second of the night, as they had rocked out at an art show at Mercury Bar just half an hour before arriving at Anna Banana’s. If they were tired, however, it didn’t show in the playing at all. They were fast and tight, as is their signature, and any tiny misstep was easily covered up by the other members. The biggest problem came in the form of the always-too-quiet microphone Erica was attempting to shriek through. This issue, however, enhanced the overall performance for me, though, as I witnessed a band not only hold but enthuse a crowd without the thing that first attracted me to them: the witty lyrics and harsh vocals. A small, friendly pit opened up and the almost instrumental songs kept everything moving for their full setlist (which included a song written a mere day before) and the demanded encore. Narwhal, you once again have proven why I love you.

Now was the time, however. Black Square, the big man on campus for this event, took the stage and I was happy to see their reportedly departed trombone player (who had recorded with them for the CD this party was all about) was there sporting a brand new wedding ring (congrats guys, if you should read this). They got right into it and it was a fight to maintain a front spot as they spread their ska loveliness across the room. It was loud, tight, and (even at the end of a night of dancing) invigorating. While I was fairly winded at the end of Narwhal, there was literally not one inch of my clothing not drenched  halfway through Square’s epically long setlist. All of the fan favorites were played, shoutouts and thanks given, solos granted, and, best of all, a crowd that was more than willing to show their appreciation by going nuts. Not that there was any danger beyond the random errant elbow or accidental headbutt; all people who slipped on concrete floor covered in beer were caught before they hit the ground and brought up to rejoin the fray immediately (this includes yours truly who is eternally grateful).

To share my honest opinion, Black Square can mix it up with any national level punk-ska band today. The lyrics are inventive, the guitar is simultaneously rhythmic and interesting, the brass lifts up the sound instead of bogging it down, and the drummer throws down fills on a whim I would have to practice for weeks. At the time of this writing I still have not listened to the CD release (ears are still ringing), but, if their live shows are any indication of the end result, I am sure this will be a breakout moment for a truly stand-up band. And, to be honest once more, Josh (lead singer and guitarist) deserves to reap the rewards for the hard work he has put into this scene.

If it’s worth anything, I raise my glass to you, buddy, and all those who make this small culture what it is. You deserve all the praise in the world, though you also easily deserve the $10 I traded for the album. I know I’m gonna love it.

Thanks: Anna Banana crew (especially Michael, you always give me great joy and beer), all the bands, Emily of Downbeat fame, and my two friends who decided to come along on a work day. All of you made this a night I will remember for years to come.