Scene+Heard: A first time for everything

Aug. 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

BY SABRINA VELAZQUEZ / Special to the Star-Advertiser

This week was crazy. Filled with live shows, practice and recording sessions, I was constantly reminded how much Hawaii’s scene continues to flourish.

It was all about firsts — I saw bands who played their first show ever, a band who visited Hawaii for the first time, and a band’s first time playing with their new lineup, my first time seeing a friend play a solo show, and a first release for a local act.

Young Fangs

Young Fangs at Hawaiian Brian's. (Photo courtesy Sabrina Velazquez)

Take, for instance, the band Young Fangs.

Hailing from Fairbanks, Alaska, this indie rock trio made their debut visit to Honolulu while I was home, and I happened to be at the right place at the right time to see them perform. I was at Hawaiian Brian’s for “Sunday Jams” to see another friend’s band play and got to see Young Fangs do their thing as well. They were clearly the act the crowd had come to see; a group of girls even rushed the stage during their set! I hadn’t heard of them previously, but was pleasantly surprised by their performance.

Best part: They had demo CD’s available for free for everyone to take home.

Naked Babies

Naked Babies played their debut show at thirtyninehotel. (Photo courtesy Sabrina Velazquez)

What do you get when you have the regular band formula of drums, bass and guitar, but add a banjo player and keyboardist? Oh, and give your drummer a guitar as well? You get a band called Naked Babies. Though truly experimental in setup, they somehow managed to make the configuration work.

All of this band’s members are a part of other groups who came together to have fun and jam. I caught their debut at thirtyninehotel this week during “Kaleidoscope.” Offering one original song called “Z.I.G.” along with a few covers, this band is off to a great start.

Best part: Drummer/guitarist/vocalist Eli Oguma singing “Soft Shock” by The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. How he managed to channel Karen O. while strumming a guitar and playing drums with his feet is beyond me.

The Drowning Dreamers

The Drowning Dreamers at Jazz Minds. (Photo courtesy Sabrina Velazquez)

A few years back I met singer/songwriter Gary Liu, who after booking a gig as the opening act for Los Angeles singer/songwriter Meiko, asked if I would join him and his friend/lead guitarist Ryan Miyashiro to play the show. It was my first band experience, so I jumped at the chance. I played the glockenspiel and a Farfisa organ. No joke.

We played three shows as the Drowning Dreamers and I loved every minute of it. Eventually, we went back to doing our own music and Gary Liu went back to being a solo act. A few months ago, he called me to tell me about his new Drowning Dreamers lineup that still included Ryan on guitar, but added Toni Wong on bass and Yvonne Harada on cello.

Since I was back in town, he asked me to dust off the glockenspiel and sit in on their set. Old favorites of mine, like “Pattern” and “Winter,” have been completely transformed into audible soundscapes that fully compliment the melancholy of G. Liu Jr.’s music.

If you caught their set at Jazz Minds, you were in for a real treat.

Candy Diaz

Candy Diaz at Tropics. (Photo courtesy Sabrina Velazquez)

It’s crazy for me to think that I hadn’t ever seen local singer/songwriter Candy Diaz play a solo set. One of the former members of the Girlas, I had previously seen her perform either in a huge setting (like Jack Johnson’s “Kokua Festival,” where she was a part of a larger ensemble) or in a showcase lineup. So it was high time I made it over to Tropics Cafe Bar & Grill, where she plays every Friday from 7 to 9 p.m.

With a soulful voice and amazing confidence, Diaz played a mix of originals and covers (my favorite was Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So”). I can’t emphasize enough what a true professional she is — last week, she played a rough, 90-minute set to a packed bar without losing focus. It’s always amazing to go around town and catch artists like Candy who play solid shows like this every week. On Aug. 26, Diaz will be part of a solid lineup of performers — including Kings of Spade, Yoza, and more — at a special Amy Winehouse tribute at Nextdoor.

Matt McVickar

This week, Honolulu’s own (Matt McVickar) — also known as Lapwing — released his EP, “Live Start.”

Live StartIt’s short and sweet, but a great audible taste of what Lapwing brings to the electronic music table. He also spins as DJ Capecod and is a member of the gauzy dream pop trio Clones of the Queen. I hope this release is a prelude to a full-length album sometime in the near future!

The EP is extremely airy and fluid, with each track flowing nicely into the next. I’m not sure if it was purposeful that the first and last tracks (“Leaving” and “Tiny Island,” respectively) are the only two that include vocal samples, but they do compliment the rest of the album. Nestled between the tracks are the songs “Blakebird,” “Nerves,” and my personal favorite, “Downhill.” I highly recommend checking this one out.
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Sabrina Velazquez is a 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed “music nerd” who was born and raised in Honolulu. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Velazquez posts every Monday on The Pulse.

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