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Wednesday, July 2, 2003



Native son set to
roar at the Wave

Stevie Iton brings new reggae band,
Lion Heart, home for a four-gig visit


Lion Heart's Stevie Iton has always strived for the loftiest heights. Whether working towards greater success as a reggae minstrel or swinging from floor to floor in his day job as a Los Angeles window cleaner, the Hawaii native has taken his band's name to heart and braved all challenges without fear. "I've never been afraid of heights," he says with a laugh. "It's never bothered me."

Longtime Honolulu scenesters may remember Wisdom Tree, the reggae combo Iton left to pursue a musical career on the mainland a decade-and-a-half ago. Others may recall Sons of Thunder, another Iton musical project formed with friend and pro skater Tony Alva. But perhaps his best-known band was national recording act Native, who appeared on a number of major label soundtracks throughout the '90s.

"We were actually the first ones to record 'I Just Want to Be Loved.' It was our first single," he says, referring to the reggae-flavored ditty originally penned by Culture Club. "They gave it to us when they were split up and we recorded it." With only minimal promotion by label MCA, however, nothing beyond the single made it to record shelves. Unfortunate, too, says Iton, because the album-to-be would have featured guest appearances by the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, Katrina Leskanich of Katrina and the Waves and, strangely enough, heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis, who with the help of a 10-man entourage and clinking beer bottles, duplicated a crowd scene on the album's opening track.

art

Sensing MCA was not going to invest adequate promotional money behind the project, Native requested a release from their contract and permission to shop the record elsewhere, to which the label eventually obliged. "They weren't really into it at the time, and if you're not a priority, you just get left on the shelf," Iton explains.

Career shortcomings did not deter Iton, who trudged on with other reggae outfits. In 1998, Lion Heart -- a band comprised of Iton on vocals and percussion, bassist Tommy G., drummer Stonie, guitarist Steve Hall, saxophonist Cedric Polean and keyboardist Jeff Douglas -- began forging their own special fusion of reggae, ska, rock steady and dancehall.

At Stonie's urging, Iton, through his Hawaii contacts, recently drafted a tour of Oahu. "He was like, 'Hey, why don't we ever play in Hawaii? You know some people out there,' " recalls Iton. "I just said 'Yeah, that is a good idea.' I started making a few calls and one person referred me to another and a lot of people started getting involved. One thing led to another and, as it is, we have four shows lined up."

In the span of one week, the band will share their craft with local audiences, from Windward Oahu (today at Jaron's in Kailua) to the North Shore (tomorrow at Haleiwa Joe's) and townside (Grumpy's and Wave Waikiki this weekend). "(Hawaii is) my home, too, and it'd be nice to come back and bring my band. I want the people of Hawaii to see and hear us because it's really good music and I think they'll appreciate it."

Slowly but surely, he says, the band has expanded their fan base beyond California. "It's a great feeling to spread our music out to people and get the response we get," he relates. "When people tell us how much they love our music, that makes it all worth it. That feeling, to make a connection and know you've touched people, is better than anything."


Lion Heart

>> 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. tomorrow (with Empire Sound's DJ Loriel) at Jaron's, 201A Hamakua Drive, Kailua, 261-4600. $6 cover, 21 and over.

>> 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday (with Red Degree) at Don Ho's Island Grill, Aloha Tower Marketplace, 528-0807. $10 cover, 18 and over.

>> 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday (with THC and Maacho & Cool Connection) at Grumpy's, 327 Kiawe St., 524-4911. $10 cover, 21 and over.

>> 10 p.m. Sunday (with others TBA) at Wave Waikiki, 1877 Kalakaua Ave., 941-0424. $10 cover, 18 and over.



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