What the Heck?
COURTESY ANGELA ELBERN
In this undated handout photo, Jack Johnson sings with Walt Keale at the release party for Kaukahi's new CD, "Life in These Islands." CLICK FOR LARGE
Jack Johnson gives Kaukahi some kokua
Jack and the Boys:
The hottest ticket in town last week you couldn't buy. In the SOS showroom at the Outrigger, new group Kaukahi debuted its first CD, "Life in These Islands," to an audience of mainly friends and family. Lots of family. The four members of the group -- Kawika Kahiapo, Walt Keale, Dean Wilhelm and Barrett Awai -- have 15 children among them.
Jack Johnson and the group are all friends. In fact, Johnson volunteered his North Shore studio for the recording session. "The whole time, Jack kept hanging around," joked Kahiapo. "Finally, Jack says, 'You guys mind if I do one song with you?'" The group thought they could give the multi-platinum Johnson a break.
So Johnson made a cameo appearance on the CD and on stage for the debut, one of his rare performances since he's not touring this year. "I love hanging out with these guys," said Johnson. "For one thing, they've got so many kids, my two just join the pack and we don't need a sitter."
Amy Hanaialii Gilliom was there, having appeared on the CD in a duet with bass player Awai. She was still pregnant when they recorded and brought along a big bag of sour-cream-and-onion chips and beef jerky to satisfy her food cravings. She recalled, "The guys told me, 'If you feel sick, go outside. Don't throw up in here. It's Jack's studio.'"
Nalani Choy and Lehua Kalima Heine of Na Leo were also present, no surprise since Kaukahi records on their label.
"Figures," said one industry wag at the event. "They sound like Na Leo with testicles." Not really -- more like the early Makaha Sons.
Do Not Enter:
I was touring the new construction at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. Up on the third floor, behind some fluorescent-orange barriers, was a yellow plywood construction wall, with a battered wooden door. The door was plastered with CAUTION, DANGER and NO ADMITTANCE signs. But it wasn't locked.
Over the protests of my guide, I walked through, stepping out onto a graceful concrete skyway that arches over the new "Royal Grove" in the center of the property. You may remember what was there before -- three massive walkways, one for each level, in that ugly textured aggregate concrete.
From the skyway, you can see the Royal Hawaiian's new signature palm grove taking shape. It's a big space, about the size of downtown's Tamarind Park. The real rocks that line the artificial stream are in, along with a couple dozen palms.
Of course, there are still lots of brown plastic tarps and construction equipment. It's scheduled to be all pau by summer.
Two of the center's four buildings are nearly renovated, awaiting some merchant build-outs. Later to arrive will be the new Hilo Hattie mega-store above Cheesecake Factory and some new restaurants, including a Sushi Doraku, the Florida chain established by the son of Benihana's founder, and a celebrity-chef-driven steakhouse still in negotiation. (Tom Collicchio? Bobby Flay? Wolfgang Puck?)
Cloning? At Kumu Kahua last Thursday, I was sitting next to writer Lee Tonouchi and wife Tracie at the opening of Tonouchi's new play, "Living Pidgin." I did a double take. The play begins with actress Pukawa Ah-Nee doing a great job impersonating Tonouchi -- baseball cap, glasses, mustache and all. By play's end every actor and actress comes on stage as Tonouchi, sometimes several at once.
In many ways the play, a romp through Tonouchi's stories, essays and poems, celebrates "Da Pidgin Guerrilla's" attempts to make pidgin respectable. From Tonouchi's pen, pidgin becomes poetry, especially in the segment called "Significant Moments in da Life of Oriental Faddah and Son," which manages to be hilarious, politically incorrect and poignant all at once.
Cruelly Cheerful: During the nights "Living Pidgin" doesn't run at Kumu Kahua this week, the theater is home to a cheerful little production called "Haditha Walmartt Killing Machine." It's a condemnation of military atrocities and corporate insensitivity, presented by a troupe called, appropriately, Cruel Theatre. The play comes with a warning: "Not recommended for the conservative or faint-hearted."
Talked to the play's writer and director, UH grad student Taurie Kinoshita. You'd expect the founder of Cruel Theatre to be at least a little prickly. Kinoshita turned out to be cheerful, almost bubbly. "I'm an idealist," she said. "I really believe if everyone didn't litter, voted, wrote their congresspeople and supported small businesses, it would be a better world."
The Beer Dude: As New Year's resolutions go, you have to applaud Andy Baker's. "I've resolved to get the bars of Honolulu to stock more interesting beers," he says, ones with poetic names like Monk's Madness and Old Crustacean.
You can sample some of these beers at Baker's Hops and Grinds event, which is back at The Willows this Friday after taking the holidays off. Among the offerings: "Big Foot Barley Wine." What's a barley wine? "A killer beer, dude," says Baker.
Tricks Aren't For Kids: Tomorrow at the Pearl City Elementary School cafeteria, there will be a Kidshows Magic Convention. But don't take your kids, even though the little darlings have a day off from school.
This is an all-day session, complete with mainland speakers, for professional magicians. In case you're wondering, organizer Glen Bailey says there are about 100 magicians on Oahu, a couple of dozen on the neighbor islands.
Clowns, children's entertainers and members of junior magician societies are also invited. "If you're everyone's favorite uncle who does a few tricks, it's open to you too," says Bailey. "Because if you do a few tricks, everyone always wants more."