For the past 30 years, Bosco, The Amazing One-Man Band, as he’s known on the Big Island, has entertained audiences of all ages at the seaside Kona Inn Shopping Village. “For the past 26 years, I used to perform five to seven night per week, but now I just do it Thursday through Saturday from 7 to 10 pm. This is a semi-on-the-street sort of thing. To me, it’s like going into my living room and playing… the chairs are there, and you can ask for requests, and I try to accommodate the people.”
When I arrived, about a half-hour before his Friday night show, he was adding new strings to his well-worn electric guitar. A man came up to shake his hand, and said, “I remember you from twenty-five years ago!” Bosco nods his head, looks up, smiles politely, and replies, “Still here, still here.”
Bosco’s self-assembled “stage” sits under a dim light next to a tourist t-shirt shop. His instrument stand proudly displays a banjo, ukulele, trumpet, and mandolin, and in front of them is an array of large local avocados, oranges, and tropical fruit. They’re all “prizes” he gives away to audiences members who play along with his trivia contests. In his intro, Bosco tells the crowd he plays all of the instruments even the pre-recorded backing tracks that accompany him throughout the night.
His real name is a bit of a mystery, but he says he got the name Bosco years ago when he was playing a small club on the mainland, and the owner wanted to add the name of the band to the marquee. “I said, ‘How about, Bosco Come Home,'” referring to a lost cat called Bosco. “The name stuck, and here I am today.”
Bosco pointed out to me his elderly mother who is seated comfortably near the left of the stage. She attends all of his weekly performances. He later joked with the crowd, “Before mom came over here to live, she was sending me a check and thought I was going to college… now she’s my biggest fan.”
As he warms up for his two-hour performance, Bosco played a few original instrumentals, before the more familiar crowd favorites. One titled “Breath to the Death” is a real heart-pumping tune for both him and the crowd.
Don’t try this at home,” he warns everyone. “This is for all you heavy breathers out there.” – Bosco
Bosco asks everyone in the audience to take two breaths in and two breaths out, rhythmically, rapidly. “And if you do it fast enough, you do what I call. ‘leave your mind behind.’ Yes, it causes brain damage, but it’s free.”
The song starts out slowly with Bosco playing harmonica reminiscent of a train whistle before transitioning into a full locomotive pace. Bosco keeps time by knocking on the hollow part of his guitar, much like the clickety-clack of a train rolling down the tracks. The crowd follows along stomping their feet and clapping just before conductor Bosco brings his passengers safely home.
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