By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Mackey Feary is a solo act,
performing around town again.

Feary finds rejuvenation
in the music

The ex-Kalapana star
is back on stage

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The voice is soft and tentative as he wrestles with Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band" early in his first set.

But gradually, it warms and gains control over itself. At the tail end of the second set, the two-decade-old "Going, Going Gone" sounds like the Kalapana I album all over again, sans the saxophone and the harmonies.

By the third set of a gig at A Pacific Cafe Oahu last night, James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" is delivered with cool confidence.

Mackey Feary's distinctively raspy voice actually got better as the night went on, the best it's sounded in years.

Quite a difference from the days when a tired, dry-throated Feary could barely talk, much less sing by the end of a Kalapana concert.

A rejuvenated, upbeat Feary, only three months out from a half-year stint in jail, is now doing gigs five nights a week, possibly six by next month. He spends daytime hours with the Victory Ohana, a nonprofit Christian organization that's helped him cope with his drug problem.

It's been a long nine months for Feary. Last Sept. 4, the 41-year-old blocked his estranged wife's car in the parking lot of a Waimalu shopping center. He smashed her car windshield with a hammer when she refused to give him money. When he was arrested, Feary was found in possession of crystal methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

Later, he tried to hang himself.

Those days are finally over, Feary says in a conversation between sets. No drugs, no alcohol. His only addictions are Marlboro Lights and the coffee he sips while chatting outside the Ward Centre restaurant.

The 1977 classic "Lost Again," a song about apathy and leaving responsibilities for another day, is the only song request Feary refused last night.

"That's gone, that's dead," he said with a laugh. The crowd of about 25 laughs along, knowing it's an obvious reference to his past.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Feary hugs wife, Dana. She attends every
show in support of her husband.

Feary's reconciled with wife Dana, who attends all of his performances. The two, along with their four children, made a decision to stay together after his release. There is evidence of that commitment last night; he and Dana exchange meaningful looks as he sings.

He is also incorporating his family into the act. One of his other gigs now features nephew John Feary, 26, a promising guitarist and vocalist. Niece Anela Lopez, a college student, dances hula at another show. He's also trying to get Dana to dance.

(The other shows are Mondays at the Waikiki Beachcomber, Saturdays at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki and Sundays at the Sheraton Waikiki.)

"I don't take so much for granted," Feary says of the lesson he learned while incarcerated.

He's also rediscovered God. While he's had religious conversions in the past, this time "I'm a lot more vocal about it and I feel it much more."

Only a week after he got out of jail, Feary landed the twice-a-week deal at A Pacific Cafe with the help of owner Jean-Marie Josselin and restaurant manager, Guy Azumo, who doubles as Feary's manager.

Feary says right now he's decided to go the solo route because it allows him freedom to play what he wants.

And that he does. In a single acoustic set, he handles the Police's "Everything Little She Does Is Magic" to the Carpenters' "I Won't Last a Day Without You" with a sprinkle of old Feary standards like "Nightbird" and "The Hurt?"

Feary says it's a throwback to his pre-Kalapana early days -- just him, an acoustic guitar, an amplifier, a tip jar.

Feary had been known as the brooding, quiet front man for Kalapana, sort of the James Dean of the contemporary Hawaiian music scene. While Malani Bilyeu would jump up and down and play to the crowd at those Shell concerts through the late 1970s and early '80s, Feary would be the one with his head in his guitar, refusing to look at the crowd.

It's a much more relaxed and cheerful Feary that now greets nearly every new guest coming in to listen to him with a smile and a nod, even in the middle of a song.

"I'm mellower, I'm more mature," he says, crediting Dana for helping him grow up.

Feary's strength has always been in songs about lost loves, regrets and other painful topics so what now?

"I can draw from that (pain), but I don't have to live it," he says. "Life gives you experielces."

It's that maturity that makes Feary confident he can lick his demons this time.

"But only time will tell," he says.

Azuma doesn't see any chance for failure. "We're God-led. We have a mission."

That mission is to tell the young people to stay away from the drugs that have left speed bumps along Feary's career route.

End of the road,
End of the road,
I want to stop you from reaching
The end of the road.

-- Mackey Feary, 1997


What: Mackey Feary performance
When: Today, 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Where: A Pacific Cafe Oahu, Ward Centre.
Information: 593-0035

Gordon Y.K. Pang has been a
Mackey Feary and Kalapana fan since 1975.

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