Tavana McMoore has caught one rocker's eye; now he's after the public's ears
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 30, 2010
ROCKERS, where you at?
That's what Tavana McMoore wants to know as he works the clubs of Honolulu, playing music from his new CD, "Electric Monkey."
The wailing bent-string sound of an electric guitar, two kinds of percussion and rock-steady bass -- they're all primed to appeal to fans of Hendrix, Santana or Pearl Jam. Tavana's looking to take those sounds, blend them with an island viewpoint and make them his own.
Now, if he could just have your attention, Tavana would like for you to know he's out there.
"I want to spend my time with you," he sings in "Dog Park," riffing agilely around the gentle, love-song lyrics.
You listening, Honolulu?
TAVANACD release party for "Electric Monkey"
When: 9 p.m. tomorrow
Cost: No cover
On the Web: TavanaMusic.com
A year ago, in July 2009, Vedder invited Tavana to join him onstage at the Hawaii Theatre during his two solo gigs for Vedder's rendition of "Hawaii '78."
Search "Tavana" and "Vedder" on YouTube, and you'll also bring up video of Vedder sitting in with Tavana's band at Kelly O'Neil's in Waikiki, a couple of years previously. Tavana backs Vedder in a rousing, shambolic version of "Yellow Ledbetter," and despite the dark, hand-held amateur video, you can see the joy rising up off the performers in this touristy dive.
They play The Doors' "Roadhouse," too. Looks like Vedder is paying respect to a guy who shares his love of classic rock.
Tavana calls his sessions with Vedder "a catalyst," reinforcement that he was doing what he should be doing.
Since his Hawaii Theatre appearances with Vedder, the singer/guitarist said he's been spurred to see what more he could accomplish.
Tavana had been paying his dues on the Honolulu club circuit when Vedder heard him, playing primarily acoustic guitar -- albeit with a driving blues groove. His previous CD, "Only for the Lighthearted," features him this way.
But this time around, Tavana has kicked things up a notch. "Electric Monkey," out for a few weeks online and available in CD format Aug. 12, showcases Tavana in a funky, plugged-in format -- still lighthearted, but ambitious to meld rock and tribal rhythms, and to justify a life on the road.
"It's my transition to the electric guitar from an acoustic sound," Tavana says. "We discovered a rock 'n' roll and tribal sound that I want to hone in on."
LOPAKA Colon -- a percussionist who's played with Pure Heart, Guy Cruz, Don Tiki and Mick Fleetwood -- has been a strong influence on this new sound. Tavana says the tribal beat Lopaka adds is exciting, "something I want to keep going."
On the new CD, the mix of influences is clearest on "Wonderful Time"; it starts off like it could be exotica, with flute and maracas, segueing into a Santana-like guitar, but becomes a mellow rocker, anchored by Tavana's cigarette-roughened voice. Onstage, Colon adds an extra level of propulsion to most every number.
The CD, recorded in Honolulu at Audio Resource, features Tavana, Lopaka, Stew Sherman on drums and John Hawes on bass. (Andrew McClellan often appears with Tavana onstage.)
The songs have a bluesy warmth, and an idealism characteristic of much island music.
Tavana provides all the lead vocals; his girlfriend and frequent musical partner, Alekona Surento, sings backup on one track, "King of Love."
He calls the band and the feeling of recording "great," growing warmer as he talks about it: "The music that we play, they would rather be playing it more of the time than less. ...
"It just really gels, you know?"
TAVANA has been dividing his time between Honolulu and Austin, Texas, in recent months, finding different kinds of support for his music in both locations.
"It's a back and forth sort of thing," he says, "more Honolulu than Austin at this point."
In the spring he was part of a showcase for Hawaii musicians at Austin's extensive SXSW music conference.
Why Texas? "There a lot going on -- there's so much music," says the unabashed Stevie Ray Vaughn admirer. ... There I go out during the night, sleep in during the day. Here it's the opposite."
In both cities he's been holding a string of CD-release parties to spread the news about "Electric Monkey."
At Anna's he'll play an acoustic set first, then rock out with the band.
"At this point, I want to let people know the blues and rock 'n' roll sound is out there," he says.
"Hawaii does have a lot of rock 'n' roll fans, but they don't come out unless it's pretty much a big show."
This band aims to change that.