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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 2, 2006

For boomers, it's pau hana at Hanks

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

The bar inside Hanks Cafe Honolulu tends to draw a slightly older crowd folks in their mid-30s to mid-60s who gather Tuesday nights for beer and live music by a trio, BBC.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Besides BBC on Tuesdays, Hanks offers other music. Don Humphrey does classical country on Saturdays and Sundays.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Where: 1038 Nu'uanu Ave., 526-1410

Hours: 1 p.m.-2 a.m. daily

21 and older only? Yes.

Age of Crowd: Mid-30s to 60s

What to wear: Clothes ... any kind.

BBC performs: 8:30 p.m.-midnight Tuesdays

Must-hear BBC requests: The Beatles' "A Day in the Life," Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage"

Afternoon must-hear: Killer jazz and ragtime pianist Rick McCall, who sneaks in most afternoons to play for a couple bottles of Budweiser and little else.

Live entertainment: Tuesdays through Sundays

Be nice to: April Walker ... the coolest and sauciest bartender/server on Nu'uanu Avenue.

The Dragon Upstairs: Opens upstairs July 1 in the space formerly occupied by Sharky's Tattoo.

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It's 9:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and the smallish, tchotchke-filled confines of Hanks Cafe Honolulu is packed with raucous, semi-sweaty baby boomers.

Beers are passed over the bar, conversations are loud and often bawdy, and a handful of patrons sing and dance to a three-guitar cover of the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women."

"We're BBC ... two British blokes and one Chicano," says guitarist/vocalist Bob Burdon, introducing mates David Hayter and Manny Aguirre. "Welcome to Dave's Sausage Factory!"

In the next hour, I will see my first acoustic bar band reading of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" (complete with improvised mid-song cacophony). A woman my mom's age will flirt seriously with me. And a trio of girls in the crowd taking over BBC's guitars and microphones while the band is on break will tear through a run of Janis Joplin, Meatloaf and Neils Diamond and Young.

"Never let anybody better than you up on your break, I always say," says Burdon, grinning.

Singing the "Bam! Bam! Bum!" chorus of "Sweet Caroline" with Hanks regulars, I feel at home.

Artist/owner Hank Taufaasau initially opened his namesake Nu'uanu Avenue bar in 1998 as a place to showcase and sell his art. The bar a sort of throwback to an old-school South Pacifica watering hole was meant to pay the rent.

Eight years later, Taufaasau's detailed Polynesian-themed oil paintings and sketches still sell. But Taufaasau's bar/gallery became a downtown Honolulu institution long before the recent Chinatown renaissance.

Tuesdays and Fridays are Hanks' busiest nights. Fridays because the bar has been a favorite of 30- to 60-something-aged pau hana downtown office folk since before First Friday made the area a playground for the arts-and-dinner crowd. Tuesdays because of BBC.

"The best compliment I ever had about what we've done was from (resident downtown artist) Pegge Hopper," said Taufaasau, offering an impromptu tour of an upstairs and still unfinished "Hawaiian jazz fusion" club he'll open July 1 called The Dragon Upstairs. "She said we'd done something that others in the art community here wanted to do, which is make art part of the bar scene. That was nice."

A side note: Trust me, The Dragon Upstairs is going to be sweet when it's done.

Downstairs, Burdon asks the assembled what they want to hear.

"Pink Moon!" someone yells out. I know I'm safe as a kitten with a crowd that digs Nick Drake.

BBC elects to inhabit some Pink Floyd instead, turning in "Brain Damage," complete with vocally improvised sound effects and Roger Waters asides. I step outside for some air.

"I'm all for medical marijuana 'cause I just love the (expletive)," says an older gentleman nicknamed Cappy having a smoke, leaning on a parking meter. "It'd probably help me quit these."

Inside, BBC is playing the opening chords of the Floyd's "Wish You Were Here."

I think I'll stick around Hanks a bit longer than planned.

Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com.