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January 29, 2005

The Fall from Fat Elvis' Paradise

The Fall from Fat Elvis’ Paradise

Blues notes from Honolulu and my return.

Part I. Paradise is the reward for the righteous.

"You’re from the Mainland? Have you been to Vegas?" – a question I was asked several times in Honolulu

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s conception of tropical paradise, but the City and County of Honolulu (which is the entire island of Oahu) isn’t paradise. It is hard to tell in Waikiki if you’re in Miami Beach or some other semi-tropical beachfront hotel strip. Even the landmark hotels of yesteryear like the Surf Rider and the Royal Hawaiian, have been surrounded by forty story concrete hotel towers. All the ‘joints’ that people used to have fun in have been torn down. Honolulu is now like a poorly maintained provincial Los Angeles in 1982. All the Oahu forest areas are strictly controlled as watershed and hard to enter. The islands are very far from any place else.

In six months there I only found one real blues band: James Ronstadt and the Dynamic Shuffle Kings. The small blues scene there has dwindled to almost nothing. Ronstadt found gigs only once a month in bars that wouldn’t think to turn off the six TVs.

Hawaiian music in Honolulu, pressed to be a standard product by the big hotels, has lost its rhythmic dynamism and is now ‘easy listening’ music. Passing down the strip below the elevated hotel terraces (shops beneath) day after day I heard a tenor with a ukulele and a drum machine on terrace after terrace. Off the strip in the city itself there are karaoke bars everywhere. The prevalent dream of the populace is to go to Las Vegas. I was asked several times if I’d seen Wayne Newton.

Searching for musicians I found that even the ones considered "great" who appeared in Honolulu from time to time lived on other islands. Most musicians seem to live on Maui or the Big Island. Honolulu is so expensive and congested that they can’t live there.

I gave myself to practicing guitar a lot. Residents there would tell me that I should be in a band, a reaction I never get in California. I did find a tarnished ES-335 in a music store for a below-market price. It hadn’t sold because it wasn’t shiny; it had old time special edition nickel plated hardware that has to be polished.

After a month I noticed that Hawaiian ‘Aloha’ shirts were mostly worn by transplanted mainland haoles (literally ‘stranger’, colloquially ‘Caucasian’) and I immediately stopped wearing them. Combined with using my childhood Mississippi dialect as pidgin and being Norwegian (they were serfs on the plantations in the late 1800s like the Portuguese and the Asians) I was soon being mistaken as a "local" (has a very exact meaning). I was OK with not being a drunken white tourist in a Hawaiian shirt.

In the end, being able to fit in wasn’t enough. The things I love and my children weren’t there. A trip to the Big Island and Kiluea volcano, which is beautiful and like a faraway tropical Arkansas chrystalised my feelings. I hated to return to the endless unpainted concrete blocks of Honolulu and its Big Elvis Impersonator hotel shows. It was time to go back to the mainland.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,
With a pink hotel, a boutique,
And a swinging hot spot.
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone?
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum.
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em.
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone?
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

(joni mitchell)

Part II – The Fall from Paradise – and back into music

I staggered off the ATA red-eye December 9th at 6:30 a.m. and eventually rode the Airporter to Santa Rosa and a friend’s couch.

Within 36 hours I was at the Tradewinds and friends and One More Mile.

Craig Kloor is the bomb. OMM is guitar, guitar, and guitar. Jersey Jim plays a lot of bass in this three-piece band and sensibly sings a verse or two and then it’s solo time. Norm DeCarlo playing with them appeared to be having fun playing razor sharp westside blues in the three-piece setting. As has been the pattern with One More Mile gigs at the Tradewinds it was a medium size house that started small and built as people wandered in and stayed delighted with the band.

I don’t know how I can promo this band more in Sonoma County except to keep on writing about them when they appear here. When people find out about them they really get into them. Ronnie Jean was there with her "One More Mile" T-shirt. She got into them after seeing Mo’s and my reviews of their shows. One show and she was a fan. There are things they aren’t, like the soul show with horns, they ARE the hard blues guitar trio with great soloing. I stayed for every note. It was more blues than I’d had in six months.

Saturday December 11 Daniel Castro at the Saloon

"Rolfy," said Mo, "now that you’re back, want to go see Daniel Castro at the Saloon?" Does the man in the desert want water? I enjoyed the nighttime drive down into the city. The sense of forgotten things remembered was on me. Ah, North Beach, scene of many nights of my young manhood too many years ago. Doing the parking crawl. And the Saloon: God Bless the Dump!
It was packed and the crowd was energized. Daniel was going great guns when we arrived. In short order I was dancing in the herd in front of the band. On keyboards was Steve Salinas doing a workman-like job ‘comping’ chords and doing decent solos. Mike Emerson had another gig. Burton Wynn on bass and T. Moran on drums were sounding so solid I spent a lot of time watching them. Burton is just so solid and carries the groove so well I learned a lot.

Daniel was burning. Taking most of the solos, and enjoying the slightly crazed character of the night he was loose and amused. Git-tar Man strikes! King of the barroom dancers. He did some bent solos here and there—and I don’t mean just bending strings. He was having fun. In the midst of packed sweating bodies on the little ancient wood floor polished by generations of dancers, jumping up and down to the beat it came to me: "I’m home, I got home, I made it."

Friday, December 17 Alyson Page at the Tradewinds.

Alyson Page has a fine voice. She was sounding very good. I enjoyed the first half, which were mostly blues tunes. As the evening moved along the audience became mostly twenty-somethings from Spanky’s across the street and the song selection went toward pop and country tunes. With Allison were two guitar players, one whose name I never found out, and the other was Sean Allen who I’d seen a couple of places before. Sean was very bluesy and jazzy, playing from within himself and generally holding down a lot of the rhythm. When he soloed it came from some place in his gut and heart. He played solos that were part of the song. He was plugged into his amp, straight no chaser.

The other guitarist has twelve pedals, a music stand, books of notes, and could play a million notes a second. He definitely was a rock, pop, and country guitarist. From time to time he would initiate guitar duels with Sean, and Sean would always hold his own or top him with soul.

On bass was Kevin White who I used to see with Daniel Castro. Kevin showed a lot of fine groove chops and I was happy to see him going strong. Kevin’s is working with Chuck Prophet. He’s just moved to the Santa Rosa area and is interested in making friends and contacts, and picking up gigs.

As the night went on the crowd just wanted to dance to things they’d heard before and the band played a lot of rock, but mixed it up pretty well. Alyson was really strong and sexy-sweet on "Let’s Get It On." It was an enjoyable night that needed a touch of focus.

Interlude: Christmas was upon me and living in a crummy motel (WEEKLY RATES!) I had to find a place to live. I went to rental agencies that wanted to know if my grandmother’s Great Dane was a commie and what were my bank balances back to the time of Caesar Augustus. I also asked around among the blues regulars and musicians. Guess which worked? Thanks to "Mr. Brain" and to Queen Ronnie for carrying the message and the flag. Thanks to the "Cowboy Hat" for putting up with me.
"Man, listen to that funk."
"I gotta go practice my Latin rhythms."
"You got up this morning and had to practice that lick first thing, huh?"
"Check this, this snare has a wood rim."
"What’s for dinner?"

Steve Fruend at Ivy Room December 21, 2004

With a promise of a place to live but still staying in a motel I was bit disoriented, I went to see Steve Fruend at the Ivy room on Tuesday December 21. As I recall it was a cold night with few in the crowd and few musical guests. Steve was not quite at his best, but Burton Winn on bass and Robi Bean on drums were excellent. Scott Brenton was solid in his guitar playing and I liked his sound when he switched to harp. The interesting new thing was seeing Mari Mac (who I’d only heard of) singing after her return to the Bay Area. A decent night, but I was spaced and going through changes. I had more fun flirting than listening. The migrated snake shedding a whole skin.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

Michael Barclay Band at Tradewinds 1/15/05

I arrived slightly early for the monthly Michael Barclay show at the Tradewinds. One of the things I’d missed in the concrete block warren of Honolulu was melodicism and some harmony beyond three chords; I was looking forward to the Barclay Band’s larger concept of the blues. Michael was fussing with the equipment, adjusting the house sound, and giving his guitar a long tune-up. The other musicians (Banana on organ, Kent Fossgreen on bass, Roger Volz on Saxes, Joel Rudinow on piano, and Gary Silva sitting in on drums) set up, eyed Michael, and talked among themselves.

Read the rest HERE.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 03:26 PM | Comments (1)

January 15, 2005

MoFo Fun and a 3-bridge strut! 1/14/05

Well....I guess I need to stop skimming over messages (Yahoo! Bay Area Blues Message board) and seeing just what I want to see because this is what happens.

Runnin' 'round crazy with work and family stuff doesn't help either.

All's I saw was Jackie Payne, Steve Edmondson, Friday night, Ivy Room. That's all I wanted to see because I was already there when I heard about it a couple of weeks ago from my blues buddy, Lucretia.
I am so excited about this show of their's. One of my
favorites, FOR SURE!

I guess I just couldn't wait no longer.

Read the rest of the review HERE.

Posted by Mo at 07:22 PM | Comments (0)


This is such great news!
it also takes pressure off of me of deciding what to do.

I just called management to find out about the "seating" arrangements
and he said it's sold out.
I think that's a first for up here. They seem to sell out everywhere
else but here so this is real good news.

So, if you haven't got tix for this show....get ready to beg out in
front or come with me to Half Moon Bay for some Kenny Blue Ray!!

Congratulations Hummel!!

Posted by Mo at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2005

Saturday Night (1/8) Blues in Sonoma County!

I do realize that our calendar is pretty much non-existent for the time being but here’s a little bit of blues to check out in Sonoma county if you get this in time;

The Hellhounds are at Aroma Roasters in Railroad Square starting at 8:30 until 11:30 pm.

There’s a band called “Mudslide” and they dub themselves Blues so we’ll see.....
They are at the Tradewinds.

So, I think I’ll be doing the two of those shows and keepin’ it close to home.
I miss Sonoma County blues fans. I did see a few out at Daniel Castro lastnight (Friday) at The Flamingo in Santa Rosa.
More blues regulars than usual and it was a great time.

Hope to see some more tonite!


Posted by Mo at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

Who The Heck is Hacker?

“Hey, Mo. What are you doing for New Years Eve?”
I was asked at work that last Friday night.

“I’m not doing anything, amateur night, I stay home. Although I am going out on New Years Day Night to see Ron Hacker and the Hacksaws” I told her.

Oh yeah, who’s he?”

I went to tellin’ her all about Hacker and his Hacksaws and how I just have to have that “Hack Attack” every so often,so I drive down that corridor for it and this had her curious.
She then asked me if I had a CD of his she could listen to. I went out to the van and got “Burnin” and “Backdoor Man”.

She came out later and was so excited! She told me how much they were enjoying it there in the back.
She asked me if she could burn them and I said I had an even better idea; buy a copy!!

“Aaah Mo. Why ya gotta be like that?”

I had work to do and I didn’t have time to explain my ethics on the whole thing and besides....I was just happy that they liked it so much. “Go ahead” I told her and got back work.

She was very thankful.

I went back later to use the bathroom and I heard it- Hack’s slippin’ and slidin’. I had to smile. That crew back there is more “blues” hip than the crew I work with on the mainline but I’m workin’ on them.

Everyone loved it and I was happy to turn them on to some of that Ron Hacker and the Hacksaws I myself love so much.
Hope you understand, Hack ;-)

Later, Mo

Posted by Mo at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)