From left, Kiley Sullivan, Angela Manke, Daniel Pak, Sean Mikell and Jaedo Youn make up Mystic Rising.

Seattle luau
uncorks ‘regg-asian’

Mystic Rising

With Manoa Backyard and Red Degree

Where: Don Ho's Island Grill, Aloha Tower Marketplace

When: 10 p.m. tonight

Admission: $10, 21 and over

Call: 528-0807

Also: Opening for Natural Vibrations at 10 p.m. tomorrow at The Beach House, Aloha Tower Marketplace

IT'S A SCENE that plays out on college campuses around the country every year -- Hawaii kids, homesick and eager to maintain a connection to the islands, search each other out (or join their school's Hawaii Club, if they're lucky enough to have one) and get together every so often to talk story and play local music.

For the Seattle-based reggae band Mystic Rising, a group of 20-somethings with ties to the islands and the University of Washington, it was their school's annual luau that gave them a start at getting on stage and ultimately landed them gigs this weekend at Aloha Tower.

"We thought we were only preparing for this one luau show, but it ended up that people liked us," said lead vocalist Angela Manke, a 1999 graduate of Kamehameha Schools. She was responsible for lining up an opening act for Ekolu, who were scheduled to headline the luau, and decided to ask other Hawaii kids on campus if they'd be interested in forming a band.

One of the students who volunteered was Daniel Pak, a 1998 Iolani graduate. "I had never played with a whole band," he explained over the phone from Washington state earlier this week. "Usually we just kanikapila, you know what I mean?"

Rounding out the group are fellow Hawaii residents Sean Mikell, Pai Pongsupaht, Kiley Sullivan and Jaedo Youn (although Mikell and Sullivan won't be making the trip home). The band's drummer, Jonny Miller, is from Washington.

Mystic Rising returns to Hawaii to play a few at Don Ho's Island Grill. From left, Sean Mikell, Angela Manke and Daniel Pak.

While preparing for their luau gig last year, Mystic Rising got a break and were invited to play at Ohana, a trendy Hawaii-style tiki bar and restaurant in downtown Seattle. "All these promoters saw us at (Ohana) and started giving us gigs at clubs and events," said Manke.

"It's crazy ... I don't really think of it as work or anything," adds Pak. With the success of the band in the Pacific Northwest, it's not unusual for them to play a dozen shows a month. "I've always loved to play music, and the fact that we have a band and we're able to do that ... is just the greatest feeling for me," he said.

EXPECT A MIX of covers and original tunes when Mystic Rising takes the stage, but Pak insists his band isn't just another run of the mill Jawaiian group, like others already entrenched in the local music scene.

"That's not us," said Pak. "We're some other kind of reggae ... we don't have a sound that's too roots, (and) it's not what you hear on KCCN.

"It's something else ... maybe we should call it 'regg-asian,'" he says with a laugh.

Also in the works is a studio release of their original songs, made possible after winning a "Battle of the Bands" contest last fall in Seattle. They were also recently invited to open for Bob Marley's legendary backup band The Wailers, but had to pass because "we're going to be playing at Don Ho's that night," according to Manke.

With an opportunity to play at home, gigs waiting for them in Washington and a studio album all in the works, it looks like real jobs are going to have to wait. For the time being, making music takes precedence for these recent college graduates.

"We didn't know it was going to go this far ... we've had so much success, we've been blown away by it," said Manke. "We're excited to go home ... a lot of our friends never saw us (perform), and our families haven't really seen us at a bigger show.

"We wanted to give all of them a chance to see us," she said.

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