Doris Duke Theatre an ideal spot for music

Jul. 11, 2014 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Todd Hannigan is best known for the title track to Jack Johnson's surf documentary, "Thicker Than Water." (Courtesy Todd Hannigan)

Todd Hannigan is best known for the title track to Jack Johnson’s surf documentary, “Thicker Than Water.” (Courtesy Todd Hannigan)

BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser

When it comes to a city and its nightlife, the best-kept secrets never stay under the radar for very long.

Local music manager and Honolulu Museum of Art staffer Brandon Apeles has spent the past few months building the museum’s concert programming, and the museum’s Out of the Box and Music of Hawaii programs are ready for mainstream discovery.

The museum’s Doris Duke Theatre is now a destination for those who want to catch national talent in an intimate space, and the community is starting to take notice.

REGGIE WATTS, with his blend of comedy, improvised music and a hairdo that is an entity unto itself, played a sold-out show in October. Rhys Darby, of “Flight of the Concords” fame, had patrons rolling in the aisles in February. Nuanced musical performances from the likes of California singer-songwriter Meiko (you may have heard her songs on television shows “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Vampire Diaries”) and critically acclaimed Josh Radin (Rolling Stone gave his 2006 album “We Were Here” four stars) have garnered solid word-of-mouth reviews.

When it comes to the musical side of the series, few of the performers recruited are household names. They’re musicians’ musicians — people musicians look up to.

Take Benny Rietveld, for example, who played at the museum last month (and appears at The Crossroads Thursday with Gabe Baltazar): He is the musical director and bass player for Santana, a 14-time Grammy Award winner as well as a McKinley High School graduate. An opportunity to perform with Sheila E on Prince’s Purple Rain tour lured him to the mainland earlier in his career. He has since gone on to play bass with Miles Davis and to grace the cover of Bass Musician magazine.

At the museum, Rietveld played bass alongside local musicians Eldred Ahlo, Travis Oh, Reggie Padilla, Keith Griffin, Tim Tsukiyama and Michael Boe. “Out of the Box” provides them with an opportunity to collaborate with national acts in a space Meiko described as “a listening room.”

PERFORMING in a room with good acoustics and sound, where people can focus on your songs, voice and artistry, is attractive to musicians. Several spaces in Hawaii are stellar for live performances, and the Doris Duke Theatre is one of them.

With 280 seats, it’s a space for lesser-known national acts and local artists on the rise. Fans also get a more personal experience than at some of Hawaii’s bigger concert venues.

Aside from the great sound, strong acoustics and intimate vibe, artists who perform at the Doris Duke have felt the aloha from the crowds and museum staff.

“I had such a great time visiting Honolulu and playing at the Doris Duke Theatre,” Radin said of his performance. “Everyone, especially Brandon Apeles, made me feel so welcome and I can’t wait to return for another show.”

Meiko added: “My first show at the Doris Duke Theatre was magical. A perfect setting for me to tell the stories behind my songs.”

Apeles’ goal is to find the right balance between artist, venue and community. He started working in the local music industry as a teenager, starting as a manager for Guy Cruz before helping with promotions for Fiji and playing bass for Anuhea. (He also appears on the music video for my new single, “Chances,” playing bass.)

“I always wanted to put on a show at the Doris Duke, ever since I saw my first show here, a jazz show in 1994 or 1995,” he said. “The venue always seemed so cool, and now here I am booking all the shows for the space.”

In connection with the 2014 Surf Film Festival, singer-songwriter (and Grammy-winning film mixer and sound designer) Todd Hannigan appears on Wednesday, along with Hawaii’s Johnny Helm.

Hannigan’s best-known song, “Thicker Than Water,” is the title track to Jack Johnson’s surf documentary from 2000 by the same name.
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.

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