4TH ANNUAL KOKUA FESTIVAL
COURTESY KERENSA WIGHT
"On the road, my family back home understand that music is my life, no matter where it takes me," explains Gaspar. "I always enjoy where I'm at throughout the world." --Boom Gaspar,
Keyboardist for Pearl Jam
Way to go Boom!
Local guy plays with Eddie Vedder at Kokua Festival
With a nickname like "Boom," it's a given that Kenneth Gaspar would be in the sonic business. Learning to play keyboards in a family jam shack in his Waimanalo back yard, Boom Gaspar graduated from Kailua High and then spent the next three decades working in the coal mine of local gigging, save for a mid-'70s stint backing up guitar bluesman Albert Collins, but still, it's a hand-to-mouth existence. Luckily, surfing is free.
4th Annual Kokua Festival
Featuring Jack Johnson, Eddie Vedder & Boom Gaspar, Matt Costa, Ernie Cruz Jr. and the Girlas
» In concert: 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Waikiki Shell
» Tickets: Sold out
» Also: Costa will perform at the festival's official after-party at NextDoor downtown on N. Hotel St. Door opens at 9 p.m., with a $20 admission, 21 and over. Like the festival, a portion of the proceeds will go to Johnson's Kokua Hawai'i Foundation. Call 548-6398 or visit groovetickets.com.
And then came a Chinese lion dance.
Gaspar was hangin' with part-time Hawaii resident CJ Ramone -- former bass player for punk legends Ramones, now with Bad Chopper -- watching the giant lion writhe for dollars, and CJ introduced him to a fellow named Eddie. They discussed surfing, and began running into each other at favorite rides.
Eventually each discovered the other was a musician and they began to jam. Eddie, it turned out, was Eddie Vedder, who has this band called Pearl Jam. They wrote a song together, and Gaspar flew up to Seattle to record it. "The first time I met the rest of the PJ guys was in Seattle during the Riot Act recording sessions," says Gaspar from his Molokai home.
Fast forward. The band liked the Hawaiian enough to invite him to sit in with them. All the time. For the last half-decade, Boom Gaspar has been a fixture with Pearl Jam, including the band's two December performances at the Blaisdell Arena and at Aloha Stadium opening for U2.
So Vedder is returning the favor and is sitting in with Gaspar at this weekend's Kokua Festival.
" 'Kokua' means to give back to where we came from. We respect the word, being Hawaiian, first of all," says Gaspar.
Pretty cool for a guy who provided the keyboard muscle for Bruddah Waltah, Henry Kapono and Simplisity.
COURTESY KERENSA WIGHT
Pearl Jam singer Eddie Veder, right, and Boom Gaspar share a moment during one of the band's concerts last year.
IT ALSO meant hanging up his board for touring. Gaspar supposedly had Vedder ask his wife, Pinky, if he could go out and play with the boys.
"On the road, my family back home understand that music is my life, no matter where it takes me," explains Gaspar. "I always enjoy where I'm at throughout the world."
How does one get from Here-waii to There-attle in only 30 years?
"Well, I've played music since I was 11 years old," laughs Gaspar. "R&B in the mid-'60s, blues in the early to mid-'70s in Seattle with the Albert Collins Band. I came back to Hawaii in the late '70s and played with the Mackey Feary Band. I then went on and played with some local bands on Oahu and did some recording along the way. I even played some gospel music, too. I helped some local artists with their recordings. Now it's all PJ."
Gaspar credits his father as his "superman," and he grew up listening to R&B and rock when he wasn't "surfing, surfing and bodysurfing -- plus kiteboarding and fishing."
Does Gaspar have a favorite set of keyboards or does he play whatever's available at the gig? Keyboard buffs need to know:
"It's a Hammond B-3 (organ) -- so old-school! -- pre-'70s with two 45 (-inch) Leslie (speakers)," said Gaspar. "I prefer this setup. I also use a Kurweil-88 controller keyboard hook-up to a Yamaha motor rack."
And so, when the band is in the zone, and the music is flowing naturally and seemingly from the subconscious and from the fingertips, is there anything better?
"That's what I -- and I believe every musician -- must feel," exclaims Gaspar. "That's what we live for!"
And so what's on his iPod?
"Hawaiian, funk, R&B, rock, reggae, disco. And Pearl Jam!"
And should we even ask if Boom has a favorite "American Idol" contestant?
"Yeah! Jordan!," Gaspar laughs with delight.