COURTESY LAZAR BEAR PRODUCTIONS
The Radiators are, from left, guitarists Dave Malone and Camile Baudoin, bassist Reggie Scanlan, drummer Frank Bua and keyboardist Ed Volker.
Calling all the shots
"Old school" rockers The Radiators tour throughout the year and continue to draw new, young fans
Just like any music born and nurtured in New Orleans, the Radiators' so-called "funky fish head" sounds are best served live in concert.
In concert: 9 p.m. Friday
Place: Hawaiian Hut, 410 Atkinson Dr.
Tickets: $45 advance; $50 at door. Available at Liquor Collection in Ward Warehouse, Hungry Ear in Kailua, Jelly's in Aiea, Good Guys Music in Kapahulu and Rainbow Books on University Avenue.
Call: Charge-by-phone for any show, 545-2980 or (888) 878-2378, or visit www.hawaiisbesttickets.com
Hilo: 8 p.m. Saturday, Palace Theater. Tickets $50 advance; $55 at door. Available at theater box office, CD Wizard in Hilo, Sound Wave Music in Kona and Byrd's CDs in Waimea
Kauai: 6 p.m. Sunday, Kilohana Plantation, Lihue. Tickets $40 advance; $45 at gate; $55 Gold Circle. Available at Hanalei Music and Video, Bounty Music in Kapaa, Street Eagle Motorcycles in Puhi, Progressive Expressions in Koloa, Scotty's Music in Kalaheo and Kilauea Pharmacy in Kilauea.
Quickly approaching three decades together as "the Rads," this five-piece band thrives on the road, and they've made the jump over the Pacific pond for an interisland tour that started Thursday on Maui and continues at Honolulu's Hawaiian Hut Friday night. (A portion of proceeds will benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina through the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund.)
"We're old school," said the effusive bass player Reggie Scanlan by phone from New Orleans last week. "We always tour all year long." Before heading to the islands, the band -- including keyboardist Ed Volker, guitarists Dave Malone and Camile Baudoin, and drummer Frank Bua -- did their annual shows at Tipitina's, the main music club in the Big Easy.
"Our bread and butter is made on the road. The records we make are mostly calling cards." The Radiators' latest is "Dreaming Out Loud," recorded with producer Mark Bingham in late 2005, soon after the storm hit. "The album happened so fast-- within a week of going into the studio," said Scanlan. "Mark's place was the only one in the city that was still up and running at the time after the storm. (Elvis) Costello was just finishing up his album with Allen Toussaint there. And Mark was always someone we wanted to work with, so it all fell into place.
"Of the songs on the album, even though some of them were written before Katrina, they could still be interpreted as reflecting our situation here. Our main goal was to record the album in New Orleans, and have it be one of the first recording projects from the city, post-Katrina."
ACCORDING TO Scanlan, "the city is still 65 percent uninhabitable. Some neighborhoods have been totally abandoned. There's no shopping centers, and with only a few people living in certain areas, there's not a whole lot of reason for them to get city services like water, electricity and trash removal. But the areas that weren't tremendously hit by the storm, like uptown, downtown and the French Quarter, they came back up and running pretty quickly."
Despite the morale boost that the New Orleans Saints gave the area with its inspirational football season, the real heart-and-soul of the Gulf Coast city is its musicians.
"So many musicians' homes were totally destroyed," Scanlan said. "There was a huge musical community in (the predominantly black and now devastated) Lower Ninth Ward. There's still a lot of displaced musicians living outside the city -- in places like Boston, Nashville and Kansas City -- with no plans of coming back. That's a real detriment to the community."
But he said the homes that will eventually be provided through the Musicians' Village, a project of Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr., will give many a chance to return. And there've been other positives.
"One good thing that has come after the storm is that, with so few clubs reopening, you end up playing with new people. I got this trio thing at the Maple Leaf now when I'm not out with the Radiators, and other places are hiring out of necessity. I know people who just wandered into places and started playing right then and there.
"Every artist in New Orleans I've talked to said the storm was very useful as a creative force. This was a way to get over it, photographers, painters, and the same with musicians. And with Mardi Gras and the Jazz and Heritage Festival being able to go on last year, it shows we're still here."
THE RADIATORS have a spontaneous way of approaching performances.
"I don't even know what we're going to do whenever we go on stage," Scanlan said. "We have no rules when it comes to our set list. The audience is part of the whole deal. It's a very symbiotic relationship. It all depends on how Ed feels and we just follow his lead. He sometimes starts something we never heard before. But that's part of the fun playing live, just to create something on the spot."
The band is old enough to be part of the initial generation of "jam bands," groups that could improvise for long stretches to the delight of groove-loving audiences. From the Radiators, the Grateful Dead, Little Feat and the Allman Brothers Band have sprung the more recent bands Widespread Panic, Phish and Blues Traveler.
"But, for us, it was just funky rock 'n' roll," said Scanlan. "We still have a pretty solid and expansive fan base who sometimes travel with us. And now younger people are showing up, so as long as they're there, it'll keep us going.
"Even though we've never had commercial success, we got our niche and we work it. All in all, it's great that we're pretty much able to call the shots in our own world."