Star-Bulletin Features

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Monique Powell and the horn section of Save Ferris
sets the Big Mele off with a ska fest.


A big time at the Big Mele ’97

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin

TWO simple words sum up yesterday's 5th Annual Big Mele at Kualoa Ranch: No problems! No noticeable fights. Scattered clouds reduced the heat. The pit produced few injuries. The bill -- Wu-Tang Clan, 311, NoFX, Save Ferris and Incubus -- was the most diverse since the original '93 Mele.

Big Mele '97 ranks with the Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan and Whitney Houston shows as one of the biggest, most significant concerts of the year.

It was also the best Mele since 1993 -- even without the Cardigans. Sorry, fans.

Who was best? "Call me Spiffy" voted for NoFX ("NoFX is the band," he exclaimed). Local musician Chris Owens named 311 as most musically interesting. For Jamila and Kahanda it wasn't even close: They rode TheBus from Mililani to see Wu-Tang Clan for the second time in two days. Two other Wu-Fans, Andrea and Jennifer, timed their mid-afternoon arrival to miss the other acts.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Wu-Tang Clan serve up mysticism, poetry and brotherhood.

Despite all the noise last month about possible traffic congestion and parking problems, there weren't any. Recent threats from anti-Mele types notwithstanding, there appeared to be less disruption of normal traffic on Kamehameha highway yesterday than that caused elsewhere on Oahu by the Great Aloha Run and Honolulu Marathon.

Here's the chronology:

8:58 a.m. -- Hit the road for Kualoa. Anticipate massive gridlock. Bumper-to-bumper traffic followed by hot and dusty trek from remote parking site at ranch.

9:30 a.m. -- Arrive Kualoa with no problems. Kamehameha Highway traffic flows in excess of posted limit. Many cars already on-site. Fans tailgating; waiting patiently for gates to open. Some complain facetiously about the non-existent gridlock.

10:08 a.m. -- Gates open. Setting is perfect. Concert sound is directed toward the mountain. The sloping meadow makes a natural amphitheater. Booths dispense commercial products and/or political information. Skateboarders use a portable ramp.

Tower Records spray bottles are toy of choice. Friends spray each other. Ears and crotches preferred targets.

What's missing? Radio Free Hawaii. No Radio Free hospitality tent. No Radio Free announcers. "Sheriff Norm" Winter, creator of the all-request Radio Free format, distributes copies of the new "Radio Free Hawaii Press."

Noon -- Mele starts on time as Incubus introduces itself. A tight 34-minute set ignites mosh pit and crowd surfing.

1 p.m. -- Save Ferris is a bright burst of ska. There aren't enough fresh female voices in ska. Brassy, sassy Monique "Call Me 'Mo'" Powell is certainly one of them. Horn section (Jose Castellanos, Eric Zamora and Brian Williams) and diminutive bassist Bill Uechi highly visual; Powell a polished mistress of ceremonies. If ska is cooling locally, Save Ferris will jump start it.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
311 encourages the crowd to get off its feet.

2 p.m. -- Long-time local favorites NoFX comes on and quickly blows out the sound system. Guitarist Eric Melvin plays "unplugged" then leads the crowd in enthusiastic mass chant: "What the --?" Fans crowd surf despite absence of music. Power is restored and NoFX grids through an impressive in-your-face cross-section from its two albums -- "White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean" and "Heavy Petting Zoo."

3:28 p.m. -- 311 (also local favorites) caps the afternoon for many present. Intense, hard-hitting. "Transistor," "My Stony Baby" and "Down For the Unity" are among highlights of 70-minute set.

5:02 p.m. -- Wu-Tang -- Raekwon, GhostFace Killah, Method Man, GZA, Masta Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, RZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, DJ Mathematics -- and guests take the stage. A potpourri of mysticism, one-love brotherhood, poetry reminiscent of The Last Poets, sharp political consciousness-raising, hardcore street philosophy and sexual bravado. It is the third show in three days for Wu-Tang. They seem fully into it. Method Man crowd surfs while other Wu-Tangers provide ribald commentary.

6:20 p.m. -- Things peter out. There were no traffic jams getting out of the parking area and going home either.

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