Sixth time a charm for annualBy John Berger
music fest at Kualoa
Special to the Star-Bulletin
THERE were no problems, no fights, and no significant injuries at Big Mele '98 yesterday. The show once again lived up to its billing as Hawaii's biggest annual modern rock festival, with Kualoa Ranch clearly the best site on Oahu for outdoor festival-type concerts. Plenty of room, plenty of parking, a great view of the stage for thousands on the hillside, and no idiotic sound limits imposed on the performers at the behest of one or two unreasonable neighbors.
The show started on time and remained almost on schedule throughout the afternoon. In a break from what had become a Big Mele "tradition," there were no last-minute no-shows bands.
Traffic to the concert flowed smoothly. Traffic direction within the multiple parking lots after the concert -- a problem in some years past -- was better than it has ever been, and probably as smoothly as could be expected. Whoever it was who agitating against the Mele several years ago because it slowed his weekend country cruising should have been there to see how things went this time.
And speaking of Sunburn. Hawaii's most visible heavy rock band distinguished itself as the opening act and made history in the process as the first local band to play at the Mele. The quintet performed one of its best shows to date and was noticeably more animated than when opening for Van Halen last month at Blaisdell Arena.
In terms of professionalism and stage presence there was nothing this time to mark Sunburn as a "local band" opening for the big boys. Sunburn earned its place in the show.
With Sunburn representing "heavy rock," Big Mele '98 was one of the more musically diverse Mele shows. A solid high-energy horn band would have added another dimension -- Save Ferris was a glorious standout last year. Whether a ska-type band deserved a slot this year, and/or whether swing fans want to dance on dirt and Lindy Hop in a mosh pit is another question.
Guitarist John E. Trash exchanged instruments with bassist Adam Lohrbach before closing the set with the group's signature hit "Surfer Girl." Poyser joined Trash and Lohrbach in adding synchronized hip-swinging choreography to the number.
The Long Beach Dub All Stars lowered the energy level considerably in the first half of their 30-minute set, but the group's lone sax player added a welcome organic ambiance. Perhaps it's because they're the Long Beach Dub All Stars that the selections gradually became harder and more SoCal rock than reggae as the set progressed.
Blink 182 got three rousing cheers when guitarist Tom Delonge announced that they were hereby decriminalizing marijuana in Hawaii. The hospitable trio also invited the crowd to come party at their hotel after the show -- "It's the Outrigger next to the ABC store," he said.
Candlebox opened their 58-minute set with a two-word expletive that evidently expressed the sentiments of many in the audience. It set the tone for an energetic performance.
Matchbox 20 thanked the crowd for sticking around and supporting their album, explaining that they'd been touring for two-and-a-half years, that this was the last show, and they were going to play "what we feel like doing." The band opened with a Beatles song as a "sound check." After that, they amused themselves with a set that include d songs by the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Willie Nelson. The fans didn't seem to mind.
"We're unprepared, but we don't care," vocalist Rob Thomas announced. By the time Thomas ended the set -- and the show -- by throwing a full water bottle into the crowd it was almost 6 p.m. As at previous Mele concerts the crowd had thinned while the headliners played, but the hardcore fans stayed on and yelled enthusiastically on the off-chance that Matchbox 20 might want to prolong the day with an encore.
That didn't happen, but Matchbox 20's prompt departure was a tighter and tidier close than last year's Wu-Tang finale when an unidentified woman who said she was with the band started to strip on stage as the Wu-Tangers took off.