Heels & Picks: Feeding Jack’s hungry ears
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Hungry for new music? Want to get your hands on some new and classic vinyl? Rather flip through bins of albums and CDs instead of searching iTunes for the soundtrack to your day?
No problem — Hungry Ear Records has just the feast you’re looking for at a brand new location in Moiliili.
Those of us on Oahu’s Windward side now have to make the journey into town to browse through their fine selection of music, but for those on the other side of the Koolau the new store is in a prime location at the corner of King Street and University Avenue.
Hungry Ear has a long history, with 35 years of business in Kailua and an integral part of many Oahu residents’ formation of their musical palettes.
Just ask Jack Johnson. Hawaii’s low-key superstar credited Hungry Ear with helping to shape his musical tastes. He spent many hours as a young adult browsing the bins at the store’s old location.
In support of both Hungry Ear Records and independent record stores everywhere, Johnson and his family made an appearance at Hungry Ear’s private grand opening event on Saturday. A small crowd of friends of the store, musicians, media and the Johnsons were on hand for a blessing of the new space.
The last time I saw Johnson was at the Waikiki Shell for his performance over the summer. At the time he had wild beach curls, which he’s rocked for a while. This fall heat must have gotten to him, however, as his hair is now cropped close in a look reminiscent of his Rolling Stone cover shot in 2008.
Johnson signed a copy of that Rolling Stone cover for Hungry Ear Records at the opening, and I would bet it will be framed and on the wall by the next time I visit.
Owner Ward Yamashita and his wife, Mary, were warm and inviting, mingling with the crowd and flipping through record bins with partygoers. They’d seen my band perform at Hallowbaloo the week before and were very supportive of our material and energy.
“That bass player of yours is incredible.” Yamashita said of my bands’ bass player, Gunso Kawai. “He’s playing some really interesting notes up there, not just the run of the mill ideas.”
The musical performance at Saturday’s Hungry Ear opening party came courtesy of Streetlight Cadence, a quartet of singers whose string-heavy set is easily transitional between the stage and the street. Their lineup is cello, violin, accordion and guitar, with a vibe that sits somewhere in the genre of The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons — but with an optimism and charm all their own.
Their pop song about falling in love in an elevator charmed the packed-in crowd. They are currently working on a full-length record that will hopefully be released in six months.
The band was dressed in white button up shirts with black ties and bowties. I can really get behind a band that has their fashion in check, so kudos for that! I accidentally matched Streetlight Cadence in my white Top Shop dress with an X on the front; I looked like the long-lost female member of the band as we chatted after the show. Although I teach violin, I rarely play out; band members Jonathan Franklin and Brian Webb were quick to encourage me to plug my fiddle into my distortion pedal during a few songs. Interesting thought.
As we munched on pupus of olives, strawberries, artichokes, flat bread and lemon water, my boyfriend and I had a chance to flip through some of the vinyl. They’ve got a solid selection of jazz albums and a mix of current pop records mixed with classics of all genres.
T’s eyes lit up when he discovered a Johnny Cash album in the mix. You know what they say, you can take a man out of Jersey but you can’t take the country music out of a Jersey boy. Okay, no one says that, but he definitely has a New Jersey-bred affinity for country. After 10 years of Hawaii living, he still wants to attend every country concert that hits Honolulu.
I came across Coldplay’s “Parachutes,” which I’ve always thought to be an impeccably mixed album. If you want to give it a listen, a vinyl copy is available!
We also came across “Neon Icon” by Houston rapper Riff Raff, winner of the award for most bizarrely fantastic album cover ever. I love the title, and the cover is a hilarious nod to 1980s color schemes mixed with his signature braids — and for some reason, a photo of him holding a wolf pup and a baby.
Hungry Ear is currently offering discounts to celebrate the grand opening and will be host additional acoustic sets over the coming months. Local artist Stephen Inglis is among those slated to perform.
In an era when you can quickly download a song on your phone, it’s refreshing to see a record store thriving. Stop by Hungry Ear’s new location by Saturday and you’ll be treated to 20 percent off nearly everything in the store. Tell them Heels & Picks sent you!
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.