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Robin Kimura's musical reunion
"If you advertise that you're going to have this band or that, and the guys who were there when the group was hot are still alive and able to play, you shouldn't just throw together whoever will work for cheap or owes you a favor," Kimura said in explaining why this weekend's "70s Nightclub Reunion" is going to different from some of the bait-and-switch local oldies shows that have disappointed longtime fans in recent years. Instead of coming up with a list of popular club bands of the era and hiring musicians to impersonate them, Kimura sought out groups whose original members were available and willing to play.
He started with his own band from the mid-'70s, Greenwood, and got nine of out of 10 of his former bandmates to commit. Several are still part-time musicians, but their rehearsals mark the first time in about 20 years that Greenwood members have played together.
"The rehearsals have been going really well," Kimura says. "It was really great to have the full four-man horn section. A lot of the local oldies acts these days fake it with keyboards or sequencing, but we're going to have the real thing on Saturday."
Power Point did almost as well. Five of seven guys who were in the band when it played the Point After will be there. So will three of four members of Rock Candy -- winners of the "Super Battle of the Bands" talent contest in 1972. Asian Blend went through too many personnel changes to count after leaving the Foxy Lady Too in the mid-1970s, but Mitch Hazama and Jay Molina, the core of the group back then, will fly over from Maui with David Choy on sax to represent the band.
Kimura, honest when it comes to truth in advertising, acknowledges that one group will be there mostly in name only. Edwin Ramones, leader of New Experience in the mid-'70s but known since 1977 as the leader of the (Fabulous) Krush, will be performing as the leader of a group being billed as New Experience but actually comprising the current members of Krush.
The original New Experience was one of the funkiest bands in local Top 40 music -- some on the local club circuit found their covers of Stevie Wonder and early Commodores hits "too funky to dance to" -- but if Ramones can get his young guys into that groove, fans might well forgive the absence of Wade Kuroiwa, Rachel Gonzales and others who made New Experience musical pioneers, albeit commercially unsuccessful ones, in the mid-'70s.
ONE OF THE big draws certainly will be Rock Candy, whose talent contest triumph positioned them as the top "all-girl" local Top 40 band of the early '70s and may also have sparked a pivotal moment in local music history.
Rock Candy, representing Kaimuki, was last of 22 bands to perform at the time (almost always an advantage in talent contests) and took top honors over Johnny's Rock Society and Warning. At the end a disgruntled male musician told Rock Candy's keyboard player that her group won only because the women were wearing hot pants, but within a few short years the two competitors were working together as members of Golden Throat, and in 1977 keyboardist/arranger Dennis Graue reinvented his one-time nemesis as local disco diva Nohelani Cypriano.
Cypriano outgrew disco as it faded, became a two-time Hoku award-winner as Female Vocalist of the Year and continues to be an active performer. She will not be joining Mary Ann Changg, Kuulei Fukumoto Park and Janet Cooke Fischer onstage this weekend. (Fukumoto is flying in from Japan for the reunion; she enlisted a small army of friends and helpful strangers to locate Cooke, who now lives in California. Efforts by Kimura and Changg to contact Cypriano have been unsuccessful.)
"I think it's just wonderful that such a reunion is happening," Fukumoto e-mailed from Japan. "I have been able to rekindle my friendships with Mary Ann and Janet, and I can see how true, sincere friends can come together again, no matter how time or distance can separate them."
As for the theme of the show, Kimura explains it this way:
"With the exception of Rock Candy, all of the bands are representing nightclubs where they played as the house band during that time. Greenwood picked C'est Si Bon because that's where we got our big break as the only full-time off-night band in Waikiki. We had to set up and tear down our equipment every night (and move to another club). It was so much work but we had a great time."
"One of the guys (in another band) asked if we were going to be doing 'Play That Funky Music' because they wanted to play it, and at some of the other so-called reunion shows, the promoter tells each band what songs they can play. I told him it's OK with me if we all play it. We all played the same songs back then, but each in our own style. Why not now?"