Blayne Asing: Unplugged and Seated at Mike Luce Studio

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It’s been a busy week for the Kahilu Theatre: a rock show, comedian/juggler, Dance Night, a classic Hitchcock movie, and the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra. Sandwiched in-between it all was the launch of the new Luce Unplugged series. Using the Mike Luce Studio (MLS) as the venue – the sidecar extension to the Kahilu – the Theatre is offering five intimate shows over the next few months with some of Hawaii’s best artists. Last Friday’s premiere concert featured Nā Hōkū Hanohano winner Blayne Asing and his trio.

The Mike Luce Studio has come a long way since it opened in 2016 and featured Kohala, Grammy Award winner Charles Brotman’s acoustic guitar trio. Since then, and under Artistic Director Chuck Gessert, MLS has featured a Pink Floyd tribute concert, a local talent show Bring It!, and several other fun musical events. The room comfortably seats about 70 people with bar beverages and snacks to give it a nightclub feel – without annoying waiters delivering mai tai drink orders and blocking views of the stage. The Unplugged concept shows great respect to both the audience and performer.

Friday’s launch concert was a huge success. It was reminiscent of MTV’s popular series Unplugged as well as VH1’s Storytellers, where artists told stories about their music, writing experiences and memories. MLS’s sold-out crowd was not only thrilled with Asing’s two-hour performance, but I also heard positive comments during intermission about the crystal-clear audio quality. Sound tech Gary Morphis really dialed it in.

left to right: Richard Heirakuji, Mark Lindberg, and Blayne Asing

Asing’s concert marked his third Big Island performance, and second at the Kahilu Theatre. (He opened as a solo act for John Cruz in 2018). The O’ahu born singer/songwriter brought along his two bandmates Richard Heirakuji (bass) and Mark Lindberg (percussion). The trio has been together for just over a year now, and have played shows on O’ahu, Maui, as well as the Big Island.

For the past few years, Asing has worked with Henry Kapono, and was featured as a member of The Songs of C&K band and appeared on the Hoku-winning compilation album, The Songs of C&K. He won his first Na Hoku Award for Most Promising Artist in 2016, and his second Hoku came the following year for “Molokai on My Mind,” which was honored as Single of the Year.

Asing, 29, has been a resident of Molokai for the last three years. In the intimate setting of the Mike Luce Studio, he shared stories about being a stay-at-home dad, raising his 2-year-old daughter Dallas, and expecting a boy in three months. Asing also revealed he forgot his shoes back in his car at the O’ahu airport parking lot, but luckily a Waimea cowboy friend loaned him his boots and socks for the show. The young singer dedicated the song “Waimea Cowboy” to the anonymous donor.

After a 15-minute intermission, Asing returned to the stage for his second 50-minute set, which was filled with mostly beautiful Hawaiian songs. “I’m not letting you out of here without hearing some Hawaiian music,” joked the singer. Asing played a sunburst Pono guitar (made by Reverb) with only a few effects foot pedals. His guitar phrasing reminded me of James Taylor with vocals similar to José Feliciano with shades of Raul Midón. Asing mentioned he was in the process of recording his second album.

Asing returns to the Big Island on November 23 for a free concert at Don’s Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Kona Resort. It’s part of the “Henry Kapono Presents” series, and you can find more info here.

Guitarist Ian O’Sullivan will be the next featured artist in the Luce Unplugged Series, and will appear at the venue on November 8.

Set I
A Song For My Pretty Brown Eyes | Just Another Face (working title) | That’s The Way It Goes | Living For Tomorrow | Sitting Here In Limbo | Waimea Cowboy/Yodel | Poor Man Blues |

Set II
Ka Ipo Lei Manu | Na Ai Molokai | Ka Na’i Aupuni | Koke’e | Molokai On My Mind | A Beautiful World | Railway |

Encore
Sun Will Shine

To learn more about Blyane Asing, his music and concerts, visit: https://www.blayneasing.com/


Steve Roby is a music journalist, an L.A. Times bestselling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.

Photos: Steve Roby

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