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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 31, 2003

Blues Night band battle brings out best

• Night notes ...

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Free Sound performs at KIPO Blues Night's first Battle of the Blues Bands, in which three bands competed for a cash prize of $250 and the chance to host their own Blues Night. The monthly blues event's audiences have been growing for two years, drawing Honolulu fans to a variety of venues the last Saturday of every month.

From left, Keith Matthews, Jennifer Picinich, Matthew Scroggins and Chrissy Roberts take in the blues at Anna's.

Photos by Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

KIPO-FM's monthly Blues Nights are the kinds of events that instantly make Honolulu's night scene seem exponentially cooler.

The concept is simple. Hire a fine local blues band or blues soloist (Third Degree, Keahi Conjugacion, Bluzilla, et al.). Secure the appropriate bar or club (Anna Bannanas, Brew Moon, Sand Island R&B, et al.). Promote the heck out of the event on your blues-supporting radio station (KIPO 89.3 FM). Give the band an entire evening to impress your listeners and starved Honolulu blues fans at large (moi).

KIPO-FM program director and confessed blues junkie Jeff Ilardi has been doing just that for more than two years, his efforts attracting a growing following of live blues fans each time out. Such was the case last Saturday when more than 250 fans crammed into Anna Bannanas for Blues Night's very first Battle of the Blues Bands.

At stake for each of the three virgin Blues Night bands? A cash prize of $250 and the opportunity to host a Blues Night of its very own at Anna's next month. Invited as one of the battle's 10 (!) judges, I temporarily abandoned my Night Stuff anonymity and cover charge rules to jump the line and serve the greater good. And yes, we were allowed to imbibe and judge.

The only real difference between the battle and a typical Blues Night out was the bonus of enjoying three bands in one evening instead of just one. Personal highlights? From the first band, Free Sound, a growly, menacing cover of The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues"; middle band Notorious Northsiders' passionately rendered take on Buddy Guy's "Damn Right I've Got The Blues"; and an excellent lead vocal turn on last-band-standing Blue Fuse's cover of Susan Tedeschi's "Just Won't Burn."

The standing-room-only crowd — a rowdy bunch given to much vocalizing between and during songs when not showing its stuff on the stagefront dance floor — was as diverse a mix of ages, ethnicity and fashion sense as Honolulu gets in one club.

"Vote for dose guys. Dey was cherry," a heavyset baby boomer with an impossibly large beard suggested during a restroom break after one band's set. I replied it might be fairer if I watched all of the bands perform first. "Mmmhmm," he grunted before squeezing behind me sans a flush or a hand scrubbing.

KIPO Blues Night house band Jeff Said No! (made up of Ilardi and other HPR staffers) closed the evening with its usual mix of spotless blues covers. Blue Fuse wound up taking first place. Catch them at Blues Night Feb. 22.

My vote for best blues band of the night, you ask? I'll never tell. But they really were, as it turns out, quite cherry.

Got a night spot or club event we should check out? Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8005.

• • •

What: KIPO Blues Night.

Where: Venues change. For the next few months, at Anna Bannanas, 2440 S. Beretania St. Call Hawai'i Public Radio, 955-8821, for more information.

When: 8 p.m.-midnight, last Saturday of the month.

Cover: $5 HPR members, $7 non-members.

Younger than 21 OK? No.

Age of crowd: 20s to 60s.

Dress code: None.

Attire we saw: Dressy and casual. On men: dress shirts, solid tees, suits, flannel jackets, jeans, berets, baseball caps. On women: peasant blouses, loose and fitted tees, tanks, blouse and pant combos, cocktail dresses, jeans.

Our arrival/departure: 8 p.m./12:30 a.m.

What we drank: Whiskey sour, bartender's iced tea ($9).

Peak crowd while there: 250-plus.

Queue?: No.

Sample music: "Pride and Joy," "King Bee," "The Sky Is Crying," "Damn Right I've Got The Blues," "Just Won't Burn," "Sweet Home Chicago."

Dancing? Yes.

Overheard line of the night: "It's always a good time for a little Buddy Guy." — A fellow judge's response to a lead singer's announcement that, well, it was a good time for a little Buddy Guy.

• • •

Night notes ...

Say goodbye to four years of techno, swing, fetish and goth memories at The Shelter with a 20-DJ party, 10 p.m.-to 6 a.m. Saturday. Look for a reinvented, renovated and re-named 1739 Kalakaua Ave. to open in the weeks ahead.

Matty Liu's Tuesday night Chemistry Lounge parties at Auntie Pasto's are still drawing crowds, so why not launch two more events ... in one weekend? Liu's hip-hop-themed live band/DJ mix "Hands Up!" opens at 9 p.m. today at the Hawaiian Hut with a performance by Quadraphonix. It continues on the last Friday of every month. "The Drop," a weekly DJ mix of hip-hop, dancehall and soul at Blue Tropix, does just that at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Also launching tomorrow: "Rock Hard Saturdays," a weekly DJ event at Hard Rock Cafe at 10 p.m.