Heels & Picks: Anna’s unveils new sound system
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Ask any music fan in Honolulu about Anna Bannana’s, and I bet my backup guitar they will tell you “I’ve been there.”
The legendary Honolulu music venue opened its doors in Moiliili in the 1960s and since then has become known as one of the premier locations to find original local music, of every genre.
As most music fans know, Anna’s has changed hands. It is now under the ownership of the E&J Lounge Co., the folks who have brought you the Honolulu trifecta of Irish pubs/music venues: O’Toole’s, The Irish Rose and Kelly O’Neil’s. Under the umbrella of her new family, Anna has snagged herself a new last name. Ladies and gentleman, may I please introduce you to Anna O’Brien’s.
“We wanted to honor the traditions of Anna’s while putting a new face on it,” said owner Bill Commeford, taking time out from his busy schedule to talk about the newly renovated venue.
“Everyone wanted us to keep the name, so we kept Anna’s as a nod to the history of the venue.”
With the series of major upgrades E&J has made to the venue, its adopted Irish surname is a well-deserved tribute to the new ownership. A brand-new sound system has been installed, with the help of Honolulu’s Easy Music. The system has the capability to record bands’ live sets at Anna O’Brien’s. The stage is easier to see, the bar is more serviceable and a new air-conditioning system has been installed to cool off music fans on hot Honolulu nights.
The downstairs is how people will remember Anna’s, all the comforts of familiarity under the guise of a new name. The upstairs, however, is a must-see for music fans and concertgoers.
I had an opportunity to take in the new Anna O’Brien’s firsthand on Friday, March 28, when my solo band performed there for the Women Who Rock concert. There are three girls in my band, so with all of that rocking out, we all appreciated the new air-conditioning system to cool us down to a girlie “glisten” from a full-out rock sweat after our set. The sound system is strong and clear, and the setup was easy, with the backline largely already in place. Resident sound tech Rob Graves has a solid ear and is easy to talk to regarding your needs. He will not let you stand on the sub like it’s an ego riser though, so don’t bother to ask.
So what else is happening at Anna O’Brien’s these days? Star 101.9’s superstar DJ Kevin Jones, always a strong supporter of local rock, is hosting Unsigned Hawai’i, a live showcase of local rock, the first Saturday of every month. Jones also is hosting Monday nights for up-and-coming songwriters who are looking to cut their teeth onstage, with Unsigned Hawai’i’s Original Songwriting Night.
Wednesday nights, Anna’s becomes a comedy club with local comics strutting their stuff, and Sunday evenings are Dr. J’s Blues Night with a rotating cast of local blues-influenced artists.
“With the resurgence of Hotel Street in Chinatown, the opening of The Republik and the remodel of Anna O’Brien’s, there’s a new wave of local music emerging with a support system to back it up.” Commeford said.
A new wave of venues and a new wave of killer artists? Sounds like we’ve got some shows to go to, Honolulu. Make sure you put Anna O’Brien’s on your list of venues to frequent, and I’ll see you out there, music lovers.
Anna O’Brien’s is located at 2440 S. Beretania St. Call 946-5190 or visit http://annaobriens.com/.
Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.