If there were a pidgin word to describe what’s been percolating on the local independent music scene throughout 2010, it would be "whatevas."
Freely adapting various genres and artistic attitudes to their liking, the musicians who hang out with and support each other throughout the islands are starting to develop their own interesting sound. With most of them in their 30s, their collective efforts will probably not hit the audience numbers other homegrown artists like Jake Shimabukuro or Bruno Mars have achieved thus far, but it won’t be for lack of trying.
One factor that is helping the Hawaii musicians’ outreach is through the art project funding site Kickstarter. Sabrina Velazquez and Clones of the Queen have had their recordings ("The Hawk & the Hunter" and "Gate," respectively) funded through large numbers of individual donors via the site, and Alex Kaiser and his 2.0 version of GRLFRNDS is in the midst of laying down tracks in Los Angeles.
Kaiser’s electro punk project is being produced and engineered by L.A. underground staple Manny Nieto, whose work with other national acts includes Chokebore (an underrated band that began here in the early 1990s), the Breeders and Omar Rodriguez Lopez of the Mars Volta. Nieto has been flying to and from Honolulu to also work on the next album by punky upstarts the Jump Offs and to record one of the island’s more promising bands, Painted Highways.
Drummer Jack Tawil has been one of the consistent bright spots on the indie scene: an adaptive and talented percussionist who powerfully pushes the songs of Mike Pooley and Mark Howard of Painted Highways, and gets downright groovy with the Soul Revival Sound System, fronted by singers Kitty Chow and Joe Kostas.
Overall, what has buoyed the local indie scene are the number of venues in and around the Chinatown area (including Apartment 3 in Century Center) and the reliable use of social media like Facebook and Twitter to keep everyone informed.
Two bands attempting to break out to mainland audiences — and who were the local opening acts at November’s Band Camp at the Blaisdell Arena — are The Throwdowns from Maui and longtime ska jesters Pimpbot, fronted by radio personality and aspiring comic Fernando "The Love Machine" Pacheco. The band plans to release new albums in ’11.
And with the local hip-hop scene threatening to come to the forefront as well, anything and everything music-wise should continue to delight and challenge Hawaii audiences.