OK, maybe Hawaii is not paradise. But it’s not the most likely place I would have thought to look for a thriving blues scene. The thing was, I didn’t have to look for it. Our hosts on Oahu, Paul and Lorna Gomes brought it right to me. Paul has been playing drums for blues bands on Oahu for decades, and he had two gigs the week we were there, one with Bluzilla at Kona Brewing Company’s Koko Marina Pub, and one with the Flat Five at the OnStage in Honolulu. I love Paul’s playing; he has a big, full sound that propels the music along.
Bluzilla is a quartet (guitar-bass-drums-vocals/harmonica). As a guitar player, I was amazed by Mark Pearlman’s improvising. He plays with complete abandon, taking chances and pushing himself to his limit. Listen to his solo on “Freddie King’s “Look Over Yonder wall”, below. I also really enjoyed Corey Funai’s harp and vocals. Below that are portions of Taj Mahal’s Diving Duck Blues and “Dump That Chump” by Little Charlie and the Nightcats.
The Flat Five is a larger band headlined by Kevin Coleman (harp/vocals). He’s a great player and frontman. On the below video, he shows his stuff on “Nobody But You”.
Below, JP Smoketrain sits in with Kevin and the boys, singing and playing lead on Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would”, adding some touches from the Allman Brothers’ “One Way Out”. The dance floor was full on this one.