Moments before showtime, a video tech yelled out from the control booth, “Are you ready, Blayne?” “Yeah, I got five in the chamber; let’s grip it and rip it!” responded Blayne Asing. Twenty-four hours prior, the musician received word that one of his bandmembers tested positive for COVID, so he was faced with the decision to either cancel or postpone his Friday concert at the Kahilu Theatre or do a brief solo acoustic livestream show. He went with the latter and presented five of his newest and unrecorded songs in an intimate setting.
The original show was billed as Blayne Asing: Alive From Home. It was to be livestreamed from the theatre, and it played on the “from my house to yours” premise with a back-lit shoji screen behind him. Asing was to be joined by Ethan Capone (piano), Stephen Inglis (guitar), Richard Heirakuji (bass), and Mark Lindberg (drums).
If performing new material in an empty theatre doesn’t make a musician feel vulnerable, surrounded by three tightly positioned microphones, three robotic video cameras a few feet away, and a reporter to his left with a notepad, I’m not sure what will.
Asing, 31, was born on O’ahu and moved to the Big Island in 2020. He’s worked with Hawaiian music legend Henry Kapono and was featured on the Hoku-winning compilation album, The Songs of C&K. Asing won his first Na Hoku Award for Most Promising Artist in 2016, and his second Hoku came the following year for the song “Molokai on My Mind,” which was honored as Single of the Year.
Chuck Gessert, the Kahilu’s Artistic Director, has recognized the prolific songwriter’s talent and has offered Asing multiple opportunities to perform at various events including the Mike Luce Studio, the main stage, and the 18th annual Ukulele & Slack-key Festival.
Like his 2015 album, Young, Old Soul, you can still hear Asing’s ‘70s American folk-pop influences coming through his current music. During his soundcheck, he warmed up with “When The Morning Comes,” a song from a 1973 album by Hall & Oates, followed by Steve Miller’s “The Joker.”
Dressed in Waimea paniolo attire, a plaid flannel shirt, faded blue jeans, and cowboy boots, Asing opened his 20-minute set with “That’s The Way It Goes,” a heartwarming song about family life. “None of us are strangers to what’s happening in the world today, and this is a conciliation performance for a circumstantial evening,” Asing explained to those watching on Kahilu TV.
Switching to his Gretsch metal resonator guitar, Asing segued into “Yesterday Remains.” At times, his guitar phrasing reminded me of James Taylor and John Prine, and vocals like José Feliciano with shades of Raul Midón.
“Just Another Face” is one of Asing’s reflective songs about life with deep haunting lyrics and a melody to match. I watched the performance about 15 feet from Asing’s stage with a Kahilu staff member, and it felt awkward for us not to clap after each number, but I suppose the sound of just two people applauding would be even more uncomfortable.
Asing closed with two songs he’s performed in recent years but which remain unrecorded. “A Lovely Night For Love” is a romantic tune he played at a Valentine’s Day show, and a popular Ernie Cruz Sr. song called “Waimea Cowboy.” For this presentation, Asing left out the lively yodeling section.
All in all, Asing’s music is ample evidence of music’s power to transport us from “what’s happening in this world today” and keep us focused on the things that matter, like friends and family. A new date for Asing’s official concert Alive From Home (with a full band) will be announced by the Kahilu Theatre in the coming weeks.
Notes & Credits
Video/audio tech for livestream: Paul Buckley
Concert date: 24/ SEPT/2021
Photos: Steve Roby
About the author: Steve Roby is the editor of Big Island Music.