HiLIFE: BAND CAMP VI
MIKE BURLEY / MBURLEY@STARBULLETIN.COM
David Tamaoka is the only local opening act for Band Camp VI this weekend at the Waikiki Shell.
Time for Tamaoka
After five years of establishing Band Camp as the marquee summer concert for fans of rock and alternative music, its promoters are looking for new ways to differentiate the show from everything else going on in Honolulu this year.
In a move that could be seen as either an acknowledgment of the increasingly talented pool of local musicians available for gigs -- or a calculated reaction to the recent rise in airline ticket prices -- BAMP Project has decided to give one local act the chance to open for the big boys this weekend.
The first artist to get a shot will be David Tamaoka, former lead singer of Kauai-based rockers Pennylane. But he admits to being more than a little star-struck by the acts following him on stage at the Waikiki Shell.
"Yeah, it's huge for me," Tamaoka said last week during a visit to the Star-Bulletin newsroom. "But Jason Mraz has been very influential for what I do.
"(And) I've never seen him perform ... so I'm super stoked to open for that guy."
Family is also very important to Tamaoka. It was part of the reason he moved to Kauai in 1998 after graduating from Moanalua High School, and helped inspire him to write his first full-length album as a solo recording artist.
"Canefield Hero," the album's working title, is a tribute to Tamaoka's grandparents and their sugar plantation roots on the Garden Island.
"I'm Filipino, Japanese and Chinese, and all of my grandparents worked in the cane industry at one time or another," he explained. "They made all these sacrifices, and now I'm here today enjoying life and learning to play music."
Tamaoka started out playing the upright bass in his high school orchestra and jamming with friends outside of class. His younger brother, Josh Tamaoka, and good friend Blaine Furukawa often played with him, and even followed Tamaoka to Kauai to help start a band before Pennylane formed in 2000.
For nearly five years, Pennylane struggled to find a foothold in the local scene. Being based on Kauai left them at a disadvantage, and they were forced to deal with the stereotypes that come with identifying themselves as a spiritual band.
"We released one EP with a short run and no distribution," said Tamaoka. "And right when we were gonna get distribution, we all decided we wanted to do different things."
After the group split up in 2005, Tamaoka made his way back to Oahu, where he now works as a youth director at Faith Christian Fellowship in Aiea. At 28 years old, he doesn't consider himself a traditional role model for teenagers, but rather a "positive example" that provides "healthy accountability" for his actions -- both good and bad.
"I'm aware that maybe eyes will be on me," he said. "But I just put it out there, dirt and all. If I blow it, then I blow it."
Following this weekend's Band Camp gig, Tamaoka plans to return to the Big Island to put the finishing touches on his solo debut. He spent much of his free time at Charles Michael Brotman's Lava Tracks studio, and expects to fly back a few more times before the finished album is released in September or October.
"It's all over the map, which I guess is the theme," said Tamaoka of his new material. "If anything, it just gets at what's in people's hearts.
"I spill mine so other people may relate."