Eight-hour event featured seven music acts and more
After a two-year pandemic pause, the Best of Kona Fest, in its second offering, returned for a day of celebration last Saturday. Boasting a wide array of the area’s food and fashion, live music was the main feature for some 400 people who attended the event on the oceanfront lawn at the Kona Inn Shopping Village.
Three years ago, after attending a food festival in North Kohala, real estate advisor Julie Ziemelis envisioned a Kona-centered experience with art, culture, family, and education while supporting small local businesses. She partnered with local event planner Aesha Shapiro for the inaugural festival in February 2020 at the Keauhou Shopping Center.
“We expected about 500 people to show up, but it drew a crowd of 4,000,” Ziemelis recalled. “This year, because of COVID, we scaled it back so we could control the crowd. For the next one, we’d like to do a restaurant week experience with a 5k run and have local entertainers perform at designated venues.”
Saturday’s festival kicked off at 11 a.m. with a blessing by Aunty Tutu (Stephanie Lindsey), joined by her minister brother Kaleo Lindsey on guitar.
Big Island-born musician Maka Gallinger was the first act to open the event, and she featured her originals and unique style of playing ukulele. “My music has the island vibe, and some of my new music has a Brazilian/Portuguese feel,” noted the songwriter. Gallinger has released a new single called “Keep Dancing,” with plans to record a live album at Sage Sounds in Kainaliu.
Multi-instrumentalist Kaire was next, and you may have seen him perform at various venues on the Kona club circuit. The musician will release his debut album “Changing Tides” in July with a few singles. “My music is a mix of R&B with a little bit of reggae. I also like to make people laugh. That’s what makes my heart tick.”
There was a fashion show featuring three local designers and a brief speech by County Council Member Rebecca Villegas in between music sets.
Blue Jade offered jazz fusion, neo soul, and several songs by Stevie Wonder in their set. In addition, trumpeter and lead singer Ann Hoku Lyn performed her latest single, “Love Rebel.” The group also features Keyboardist Loren Wilken, bassist Yumbel Marassi, drummer Alan Shapiro, and Truth Musiq on guitar and harmonica.
Singer Shina Romero followed with a set of contemporary blues and has plans to release an acoustic album this Fall. “It will represent more of who I am and what I do, and feature new material,” said the singer. Besides her festival appearance, Romero also ran stage production at the event.
Bubba and Da Boys gave us a blend of classic rock and soul with island vibes. You may recall frontman “Bubba” Lee Myers in the Woodstock tribute ShakaStock doing an excellent performance as both Joe Cocker and Alvin Lee.
Malia Spencer-Chaul is the talented voice and front person for the five-piece rock/soul group Ms. Demeanor and the Felons. Unfortunately, Saturday’s show was their final gig. “Our drummer for over ten years is moving to the mainland, so we’re looking to restructure,” the singer announced. Spencer-Chaul portrayed Janis Joplin in ShakaStock.
The high-energy reggae band Ocean Grown delivered an intense set just as steady rain hovered over the festival grounds. However, lead singer Tanner Scott wasn’t deterred and often left to engage with the crowd, which was soaked but loved it. The group spotlighted their new singles “To Live” and “Fire” from an upcoming EP.
As the rain and wind continued, most vendors and the crowd decided to pack it up early and leave. A scheduled ending with Cirque du Soleil-styled acrobatics and fire show was canceled.
About 15 die-hard concertgoers stayed and danced while Leche de Tigre played their Latin Gypsy Funk music. It was nice to see young trombonist Zac Van Sprosen (Honokaa Jazz Band) added to their line-up.
An after-party with The Emissaries and Lopaka Rootz took place at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar.
Listen to a collection of interviews with the performers and the organizer of the festival.
Photos: ©2022 Steve Roby. All rights reserved.
About the author: Steve Roby is the editor of Big Island Music Magazine