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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 4, 2004

Go Jimmy Gone

• Humble beginning slated for road tour
• Other Hawai'i musicians on the road
• Meet members of Go Jimmy Go

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

From top left: Go Jimmy Go members Fernando Pacheco, Andrew McClellan, Jason "Bison" Friedmann, Shon Gregory, Eric White, Ian Ashley and Cameron Wright are about to leave Hawai'i for a Mainland tour in search of fame.

Photo courtesy of Go Jimmy Go

For trombonist Fernando Pacheco, a member of Go Jimmy Go since 1999, the only fear of leaving for a Mainland tour is of returning to Hawai'i unsuccessful. "I'd be disappointed just because I want to keep traveling and be big on the Mainland," he said.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

It's a weekend evening in late January, and Go Jimmy Go is still safely on its home turf.

Anna Bannanas. A Saturday night. 11:45 p.m. A wall-to-beer-stained-wall crowd of their faithful before them.

The occasion? The first of a handful of shows the band is doing before leaving — in two months and change — for its fifth Mainland tour.

The seven members of the band have meandered slowly to the bar's smallish corner stage from individual conversations held in various hidden pockets of the twenty- and thirtysomething crowd.

Before one even gets a sense the band is truly ready to play, bassist Cameron Wright plucks out a tasty funk-infused line, while drummer Shon Gregory kicks in a menacing backbeat.

Next in the brew, some mellow, reggae-tinged electric strumming from guitarist Ian Ashley and then Andrew McClellan. Though cognizant of the unmistakable burst of ska to come, the gathered still let loose the kind of loud cheers once reserved solely for frat guys finally showing up with the keg when the double brass attack of saxophonist Eric White and trombonist Fernando Pacheco jumps in.

When throaty powerhouse lead vocalist Jason "Bison" Friedmann closes his eyes and offers the uplifting chorus of "Soul Arrival," it's clear that the crowd, for the next 90 minutes, will belong to Go Jimmy Go.

Girls in tanks, baby-doll tees and jeans sway with their arms raised, mouthing lyrics. Guys in skull caps, backward ball caps, or completely sans headgear, skank in place to the beat.

And somewhere in the middle of all of this, 22-year-old Sonja Chen is told for the first time that, unlike past trips the band has taken from Hawai'i to tour, Go Jimmy Go won't be coming back home from this one anytime soon.

"Oh, man, really?" she asks, clearly saddened, with more questions for the suddenly guilt-ridden bearer of the bad news than answers. "I'm guessing life's gonna be different. Go Jimmy Go's shows here are some of the best memories I have of being in college. Some of my friends have gone back to the Mainland, but the rest of us have always had these nights."

Chen casts a solemn glance toward the stage, then smiles.

"You know, these guys really deserve bigger and better things," she says. "But I'm really going to miss all of this."

At 1:30 a.m., following a set of old favorites — "Takin' It Off," "Bang The Skillet" — and new songs from its upcoming third CD — "Open The Door," "Never Want To Say Goodbye" — Go Jimmy Go closes with "In Between Times." The crowd sings along, loudly. Several fans jump on stage to sing, too.

"It's sad they're leaving, you know?" says Nikki Mitchell, 24, downing the last ounces of a warm Rolling Rock. "Go Jimmy Go is, like, our band. But I guess it's time we share."

It's a go

After seven years that have seen the band grow from off-night fill-in act at Anna's to one of the most popular and uniquely original live bands in Honolulu, Go Jimmy Go will join the ranks of dozens of other bands before them seeking fame beyond our shores.

A noon flight hours after a Friday-night opening slot for Irish-flavored ska-punk band Flogging Molly at the Pipeline Café will take the band to a Saturday-evening show in Berkeley, Calif.

Weeks on the road will follow — California, Arizona, Colorado — with the band eventually playing its first-ever East Coast gigs. In the late summer, the band hopes, will be dates in Europe and Japan. The catch compared to previous tours? All seven members of Go Jimmy Go have left day jobs and bought one-way tickets.

They are leaving teaching jobs, construction jobs, radio jobs, girlfriends, homes and families. Cars are being sold; property put in storage. Only clothes, instruments and precious few luxuries are being packed.

It is time, they feel, to see just how far Go Jimmy Go can go.

Though armed with a better shot at the brass ring than others that have left Honolulu before them, they are departing with few illusions of an easy road ahead. But all agree they are more than ready for the challenges, and the promise of doing what they love doing ... full time.

Making the band


How far will Jimmy Go?

Local band Go Jimmy Go is leaving O'ahu on Saturday for an open-ended Mainland tour, trying to translate its success here to a national audience. How far do you think Go Jimmy Go will go? Vote online.

a) They're the next Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

b) The more people see them perform, the more fans they'll get.

c) They'll be a great opening act for Blues Traveler but not a top draw.

d) They'll be back playing O'ahu by year's end.

The seeds of Go Jimmy Go were planted in late 1996 when Cameron Wright met Larry Wayne Gordon at former Puck's Alley nightclub The Vibe's weekly El Ska Night.

Chats about forming a band soon led to the occasional jam session, with Wright on bass and Gordon on vocals and sax. Ashley, White and a handful of other musicians slowly joined the informal group. Before long, the makeshift band was scanning a Gordon-penned list of "ska names" for a moniker. Go Jimmy Go seemed the best of these.

"We had so many members come and go that first year. We were picky from the start," remembered White over sunset tequila shots at La Mariana Sailing Club a couple of weeks after the Anna's shows. "By the second year, we must have had about 20 total members pass through." These included a trio of female back-up singers, an organist and a trumpeter.

What was firmly in place early on, however, was the band's sound — a fusion that started with a base of ska mixed with rock-steady early on, and eventually blended with soul, reggae and funk as the band began incorporating individual members' sonic preferences into the mix. Another staple from the beginning was a focus on original music over covers.

"Everybody wanted to make original music. That's what bonded us together," said White. "We played covers in the beginning ... But we eventually weeded them out," finished Wright. "We wanted to take that vintage mentality and craft a sound that we all dug."

Guitarist Tino Olsen and vocalist Friedmann joined Go Jimmy Go in 1998, bringing a fresh perspective upon Gordon's departure from the band.

"Once Tino and Eric came in, there was a solid lineup," said White. "Bison was trained in gospel and blues music. So automatically, with him singing on top of our music, we changed our ideas to go with that because it was flowing and powerful."

The band began securing more prime gigs at clubs, music festivals, and began self-promoting its shows.

Trombonist Pacheco hooked up with Go Jimmy Go for its self-financed 2000 debut CD "Slow Time," a moderate success that attracted drummer Gregory to the band. Gregory, in turn, introduced the band to Michael Spengler, owner of Kaua'i-based Moonroom Records, who would produce the band's next disc, 2002's "Soul Arrival."

Guitarist Olsen departed the band amicably during the recording of "Soul Arrival," and was replaced by Andrew McClellan. The album's 18-month production was immediately followed by five weeks of traveling city to city by van for the 2002 Vans Warped Tour. But the combination of studio and road weariness took its toll on the band.

"No. 1, we'd never been so close to each other for so long. And musically, there was some tension." said White. "All those tensions built up. And we had a big falling out between each other."

The band came close to breaking up on the Warped Tour ... twice. Back in Hawai'i again, however, tensions eased.

"Basically, we had to learn how to talk with each other again ... remember how we started out," said Wright.

Go Jimmy Go's stock rose immediately when No Doubt selected the band to open its sold-out July 2002 show at the Blaisdell Arena. The remainder of the year saw the GJG's more frequent shows at local clubs such as Anna Bannana's and Wave Waikiki turn into regularly sold-out events. Go Jimmy Go's 7th Anniversary Bash at the Hard Rock Cafe last December had a line snaking around the venue.

After gaining a solid foothold on college radio stations nationwide (including four months as KTUH-FM's No. 1 album), "Soul Arrival" last summer finally got tracks into heavy rotation on mainstream KPOI-FM and Star101.9 FM. The band is finishing up a third CD, with hopes of coming home to celebrate its summer release.

Thinking big

 •  "From the beginning their music made my ears bend, and I was hooked on that sound ... They're fun guys. They're the kind of guys you grow up with. They're your friends ... your buddies. It's not family. But it's the next best thing. ... And they're not big-headed in any way. They're very personable, and they really like to connect with people around them."

Rick Smoot
Go Jimmy Go booking manager, Tom Moffatt Productions events coordinator

"I think the No. 1 thing that we're attempting to do right now is ... make the band financially successful enough that it can sustain their lifestyles without them having to have other jobs," said Warren Wyatt of WorldSound, a Seattle-based music management and consulting company.

The band's manager since last fall, Wyatt will be guiding what he called "the big thinker" elements of Go Jimmy Go's Mainland course. His plan is two fold. First, to have new studio recordings reflecting the vibe of the band's live show ready for radio and major label interest. Second, to keep the band visible through constant touring.

"Our theory is to get them out on the road, make them gel even further as a band and have them play not just two or three shows in a row, but two or three months of shows in a row," said Wyatt, "If the band's (new) recordings are being accepted at certain levels within the music industry — with radio, with promoters, at record labels — you can draw a nice conclusion that the touring aspect of what they're doing will be the second thing to put the band in the right light with these individuals.

"That's because if they hear their recorded music and they like it, then seeing the band will, we hope, seal the deal because Go Jimmy Go is phenomenal live."

Wyatt fully expected "some level of success" for the band, though "how great that success is, no one can predict."

Moonroom Records' Spengler, who is also producing Go Jimmy Go's upcoming CD, is working in conjunction with Wyatt and WorldSound. His plan for the still-untitled disc includes taking it to the more than 200 college radio stations that helped place "Soul Arrival" on CMJ's ranking of top albums in 2003, and shopping it to larger labels that have been watching the band's progress.

National exposure

 •  "They're original. They have good material. And I think they have a real good chance of making it big time. ... Touring, getting exposure, getting experience, will help them a lot. They just need that one break. There's so many good bands out there, and a lot of them don't get that one big break."

Tom Moffatt
Concert/events promoter

"A lot of the industry kind of looks at Hawai'i as an anomaly," said Spengler. "A band like Go Jimmy Go could be filling clubs every time they play, doing well, and getting No. 1 hits on major modern rock stations, but it doesn't translate to the industry because they feel that the market here is insulated.

"We'll look for those pieces of exposure that will bring (Go Jimmy Go) national attention, and look for labels that can support this band on a national level where (Moonroom) could act as a production label on a larger label."

Spengler has also presented demos of the CD to international labels in Japan (JVC) and Europe (CNR), which he said were "very interested" in the band. Asked if Go Jimmy Go had a better shot at success nationally or internationally, Spengler said, "I think what the band really needs is to just stay on the road."

To that end, another task Spengler will have is exploring slots for Go Jimmy Go as a supporting act on the tour of a larger complementary act. He mentioned jam bands and established touring acts such as Blues Traveler and String Cheese Incident as ideal bands for Go Jimmy Go to tour with.

Wyatt expected difficulties the band would have to face on its own while WorldSound and Moonroom worked the band and its new CD.

"The toughest thing is here are a bunch of guys with different personalities, who have different chemistries between them who are going to be on the road for an extended length of time. And that brings its own pressure," said Wyatt, sagely. "It's definitely going to be fun and exciting for the first few weeks. And then there will be different hurdles to get over; different types of pressure that come to bear on the group. And just missing Hawai'i ... just being away from Hawai'i for so long.

"It's exciting to go on a trip. But then at some point, everyone gets homesick."

Looking ahead

Three weeks shy of departure day, and minutes after running through new songs in their lived-in, bedroom-sized rehearsal space above an Ala Moana-area coconut-milk packing plant, Go Jimmy Go was offering lessons in the finer points of what it liked to call "butt rock."

A rehearsal digression into an amusingly Spinal Tap-ish piece of garish goth rock called "Father of the Minotaur" ended in a full-on assault of equally garish death metal.

Members dropped their near-constant ribbing and playful cameraderie upstairs for a moment, contemplating the future on a dark loading dock below.

"There's been a lot of anxiety," said drummer Gregory. "I've got a girlfriend here, and it's hard to leave Hawai'i. ... But it's exciting.

"I'm more afraid of other people not coming through than Go Jimmy Go not coming through. I'm more afraid of people who promise things, and I just want everybody to deliver because I know we will."

Guitarist McClellan was, likewise, excited about the tour but worried about events closer to home.

"My dad is sick, so I'm trying to spend as much time with him as possible," said McClellan. "I may have to come back in the middle of the tour if he gets worse. It's stressful, to say the least. Especially because the tour is open-ended. We have dates. We know what we're doing. But there's no insight. No return date."

Said guitarist Ian Ashley: "I only know what I'm going to do after (this). It's either do another one of these, or get a 9-to-5 job, you know? ... Everybody wants to find a job that they love to do. And what we love to do is music. If we can live off the music, then that's what we'll do. ... But I'm gonna miss this place, man."

Having seen the band stick together through both large and miniscule hurdles, trombonist Pacheco feared very little short of returning to Hawai'i unsuccessful.

"For me to be happy ... I'd need to make enough money just to do what we do here. But I know in a small local market, it's hard," said Pacheco. "So, frankly, if we came back and just stayed here, I'd be disappointed just because I want to keep traveling and be big on the Mainland. ... I think maybe some of the other guys could handle it. I don't think I would though."

With much of his family on the Mainland, particularly in Santa Barbara, vocalist Bison Friedmann was excited about the move and its potential for Go Jimmy Go.

"I think everyone still wants to keep a home base here. I mean, I moved here because I loved the place so much," said Friedmann. "I'm kind of like the black sheep in the band because everyone's got family over here for one, and I'm just looking forward to (touring) and always am.

What is he most proud of the band accomplishing in Hawai'i over seven years? "It's hard to answer that because we're only hoping to keep it going," Friedmann said.

"I'm still looking into the future."

Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8005.

• • •

Humble beginning slated for road tour

Days before leaving their respective teaching jobs, Eric White and Cameron Wright, founding members of Go Jimmy Go, discussed the final details of the move at La Mariana.

"I've always thought of every tour before as vacation," said White. "It was summertime. We'd get to go out. And it was time away from work and everything else. ... Now that we're going to be a long time gone, we have to plan accordingly."

Go Jimmy Go's home base for the first two months will be a 15-passenger van, which everyone will take turns driving. Budget manager Shon Gregory has decided on a daily stipend of $20 low end and $40 high end for each member, dependent on merchandise sales and payouts from shows.

The band will create fliers, update mailing lists and the Web site and budget on a recently purchased laptop. Plans are for Go Jimmy Go to finish recording their new CD with some guest musician friends in Los Angeles and briefly return to Hawai'i for several shows after its release.

For its first few weeks on tour, Go Jimmy Go will be playing five out of seven nights a week, mostly in small clubs.

"When you're on tour, you want to be playing as much as possible because that's what's putting money in your pocket," said White. "It doesn't make sense for us (to have a base) because we'll just be touring the whole time anyway. And, really, our base is home here in Hawai'i."

Both expected the band would be home frequently for shows and recharging.

"I'm all fired up, because this is what I want to do," said Wright. "This is where my heart is at. ... I'm excited to play, and share what I'm good at, and share what my six friends are good at. I think we're a really good band, and I can't wait to show everybody."

White smiled approval, and finished a final tequila shot for the evening.

"However it turns out, I'll always be proud of what I've done and what we've done as a band," said White. "I think we're ready. I think it's time. I have the utmost confidence in this band.

"The one thing that we need is the opportunity. An opportunity for the door to be opened to us to bigger things."

Good luck, guys.

— Derek Paiva

• • •

Other Hawai'i musicians on the road

(Just a partial list)

Hellbound Hounds (O'ahu)

  • Departed: 2004 (California).
  • Current status: Still there.

Bronson (O'ahu)

  • Departed: 2003 (California).
  • Current status: Now called None Too Clever, still there.

The Knumbskulls (O'ahu)

  • Departed: 2002-03 (California).
  • Current status: Disbanded.

National Product (O'ahu)

  • Departed: 2002 (California).
  • Current status: Still there.

Last In Line (Kaua'i)

  • Departed: 2002 (California).
  • Current status: Now called Breathe In; still there.

Haunted Pines (O'ahu)

  • Departed: 2000 (California).
  • Current status: Still there.

Sunburn (O'ahu)

  • Departed: 2000 (?) (California).
  • Current status: Disbanded.

Pepper (Kailua, Kona, Big Island)

  • Departed: 1999 (California).
  • Current status: Still there. Hawai'i hits with single "Give It Up" and CD "Kona Town." New CD "In With The Old" recently out.

Red Session (O'ahu)

  • Departed: 1997 (California), returned in 1999.
  • Current status: Disbanded.

Jack Johnson (O'ahu)

  • Departed: mid-1990s for college in Santa Barbara, Calif.; pursued music while living there.
  • Current status: North Shore, O'ahu-based; still recording.
  • Albums "Brushfire Fairytales" (2001) and "On And On" (2003) hit no. 34 and no. 3, respectively, on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.

Courtesy of Jason Miller, owner/operator, Hawaiian Express Records, with Derek Paiva

• • •

Meet members of Go Jimmy Go

Shon Gregory

  • Drums
  • Age: 29.
  • Member since: 2000.
  • Day job: Construction, roofing, solar installer.
  • Will miss most: "The ocean (and) not being in the water. Alongside that, the people here ... barbecues."

Jason "Bison" Friedmann

  • Lead vocals
  • Age: 31.
  • Member since: 1998.
  • Day job: Construction.
  • Will miss most: "The people ... the aloha."

Andrew McClellan

  • Guitar
  • Age: 33.
  • Member since: 2001.
  • Day job: Construction.
  • Will miss most: "The ocean, the surf ... families and friends."

Ian Ashley

  • Guitar
  • Age: 26.
  • Member since: 1996.
  • Day job: Part-time clerical.
  • Will miss most: "My girlfriend, the Islands and the aloha. After that, it's the rice."

Fernando Pacheco

  • Trombone
  • Age: 25.
  • Member since: 1999.
  • Day job: On-air personality, Star 101.9FM.
  • Will miss most: "My family and Zippy's."

Cameron Wright

  • Bass
  • Age: 28.
  • Member since: 1996.
  • Day job: Instructor for autistic children, Loveland Academy.
  • Will miss most: "Poke ... the fresh kind."

Eric White

  • Saxophone
  • Age: 29.
  • Member since: 1996.
  • Day job: Instructor, Wai'anae Elementary School.
  • Will miss most: "Home."