Freestyle: Music to love in 2013

Dec. 27, 2013 | 1 Comment

The Cure performs at Blaisdell Arena in July. (Star-Advertiser File)

The Cure performs at Blaisdell Arena in July. (Star-Advertiser File)


Howdy, and Happy New Year!

I’m writing this year-end blog in the wake of a great experience sitting in at KTUH, the University of Hawaii at Manoa college radio station with DJ Joe Farber, who invited me to share some of the music I loved in 2013.

I had fun with my very first DJ experience. Best of all, it was an opportunity to share some music that moved and impressed me during 2013.

Chali 2na getting on the good foot at a Thursday house party in Austin. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski.)

Chali 2na getting on the good foot at a house party in Austin. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

The songs I chose weren’t all released during 2013 — some go back to the 1970s. The common thread for most, though, was I heard the music performed during the year.

It was a learning experience to put together a playlist and try to find a flow that would allow me to highlight Willie Nelson and Nick Cave, Chali 2na and Chelsea Light Moving, all of whom I heard live this year.

The connection for all of the above was Texas, where the annual South by Southwest music festival and conference draws both veteran and brand-new acts to the streets and stages. I took a separate visit to Houston to witness Willie Nelson last month, but his spirit presides over much of the music in Austin as a founding member of the “cosmic” and “outlaw” country movements that broke the rules, changed the game and centered in Austin in the early ’70s.

Also on my playlist: teen act Kitten, aka Chloe Chaidez, who keeps the post-punk flame alive and wowed crowds with high-flying energy at SXSW, and Algerian DJ/producer Cheb I Sabbah, who fused electronic beats and music from Arab, African and Indian cultures, serving as a spiritual and musical touchstone at Burning Man when I attended the desert gathering this year. (Cheb I Sabbah passed in November; R.I.P.)

Thurston Moore, right, and band Chelsea Light Moving at Sonos Studio. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski.)

Thurston Moore, right, and band Chelsea Light Moving at Sonos Studio. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

I heard some great music right here in Honolulu. Speaking of world beat, Honolulu band Quadraphonix stirred the pot with a fusion of African/Caribbean beats and Malaysian influences. Jayson Tobosa’s JT Experiment brought open-minded musicians from across Honolulu together for a night of rock and funk.

On tour, The Cure brought fans of ’80s music out in droves for a packed and lengthy Blaisdell Arena show that reminded us all of the band’s strange, sexy, independent vision. At The Republik, Adam Ant was inspiring and transcendent, reborn and revived as a feisty art-rocker; The Melvins Lite rocked my world.

On the streets of Chinatown, Hallowballoo brought my musical hero Allen Toussaint to Hawaii — that man knows how to party at the piano! — and introduced me to Xavier Rudd, who brings me new hope for the planet.

Divine Fits. (Courtesy photo)

Divine Fits. (Courtesy photo)

In the early part of the year, Divine Fits came to The Republik and brought post-punk fire to the stage. Soon after, the band members were the darlings of Austin at SXSW, and I was able to catch them again.

In a more timeless vein, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Grateful Dead offshoot New Riders of the Purple Sage was not only still kicking, but reinvigorated, with chiming pedal steel and rapid-fire guitar picking that would blow away many younger bands.

The New Riders played a lengthy set at Crossroads at Hawaiian Brian’s that had the audience on its feet and cheering by its midpoint. Don’t sleep on future shows at this venue, because there’s a lot of promise in store.

Want to hear more? I’ve created a Spotify playlist below with some of my favorite music heard in 2013. Check it out!
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

  • cw

    your trip to sxsw oh man!! wish i could live in your brain for five minutes :)