"Never Say Die": It’s a slogan for a new-music night in Moiliili, but it’s also a way of life for indie and underground rockers in Hawaii.
Playing music in the islands isn’t easy — the gigs rarely pay much, attendance is unpredictable and enthusiasm for live music comes and goes. But musicians in the punk rock, art-rock, underground and indie scenes keep the scene alive.
Michael Camino, a bartender and promoter at Anna’s under its previous owners, wants to make sure that the driving, disenchanted (and original) music he favors (well, he calls it "lowbrow") retains a place in Moiliili. So he has launched a monthly Never Say Die music showcase, to be held on the last Friday of each month at Anna’s — a "local, underground music night showcasing many of the punk, indie, ska and hard core bands Honolulu has to offer."
NEVER SAY DIE
All-indie monthly live-music party, with Narwhal (above), Hollow Spheres, Crispin Lover and Gary Liu Jr.
Where: Anna’s, 2440 S. Beretania St.
When: 8 p.m.-2 a.m. tonight
Cost: $5 after 9 p.m.
MICHAEL CAMINO’S IPOD PLAYLIST
Michael Camino, Anna’s bartender and band leader for the Hell Caminos, is promoting "Never Say Die." These are the 10 most-played songs on his iTunes.
While only one of the bands (The 86 List) is local, Camino says many new bands he is following haven’t yet recorded music. Never Say Die is a valuable showcase for these bands for that reason: It may be the only way to hear them, loud and live.
1. Anti-Flag – "The Economy Is Suffering (Let It Die)"
Never Say Die is "a nod to the fact that we’ve come close to closing many times, but are still hanging in there," Camino says. He’s talking about Anna’s, but it applies elsewhere, too.
"In Hawaii, we’re still thirsty, because good shows are few and far between," Camino notes.
The event is both independent and communal, in that bands are expected to make their own music and to help get the word out about the shows. And it brings together two scenes that have been somewhat parallel: punk and indie.
Camino says his motives aren’t fully altruistic — he tends bar at the gigs, and if the house is full, he’ll make money. But he also knows that Anna’s has been a go-to place to play for young rock bands that wouldn’t have an outlet otherwise : metalheads, hard core punks and roots players. Along with fellow Anna’s promoter Josh 86, he wants to keep the shows coming.
Tonight’s event features Gary Liu Jr., an acoustic performer; Narwhal, lo-fi, peppy punks; and Hollow Spheres, which is a group of earnest art-rockers who play regularly at Fresh Cafe and NextDoor indie nights. Crispin Lover, a new group including the shards of ’80s-inspired Honolulu sensations GRLFRDS, will also perform tonight.
NARWHAL, a new band in Honolulu, has been around for only a few months, but has been piling up the gigs. Their set is short, as befits their life span: "I think we’re up to seven songs that we like," says drummer Adam Funari.
The band is made up of singer Erica Westly, who, incidentally, is a marine scientist; Nick Ayakawa, a modest guy who takes his aggression out on guitar; and Funari, who’s played in several mainland bands.
Funari describes the band as a loose, good-times collective. "We don’t really have a philosophy," he says, good-naturedly. "It’s about having fun, really. … It’s not like we’re attention freaks or anything. … I don’t know how far this is going to go, but we’re happy to do this so far."
Westly has a throaty-squeaky, indie-banshee way of singing that mixes up blues and new wave into an attractive mash. The music is garage rock — punk, pop and blues pounded into submission.
"We actually wrote a new song last night," Funari said during a phone interview last week. It’s called "Blueberry Sex Cakes."
They try to hang on to their drive and camaraderie, whether playing to a small crowd or more, Funari says, while acknowledging, "The more people who come out, it’s a better time."
Funari, who admits to feeling positive about pretty much all the gigs Narwhal plays, says the band supports Anna’s as an outlet for local indie rock.
"We all love Anna’s," he said. "We like helping out."