Hawi to Waimea
In Part One of our Guide to the live music scene here on the Big Island, we explored the west coast towns of Kailua-Kona, and then headed north to resort areas on the Kohala Coast.
As we leave the Waikola Beach area, and get on HI-19 to HI-270, in about 40 minutes you’ll arrive in the unique town of Hawi. Many have described the charming atmosphere here as bohemian-chic. Originally known as the birthplace of King Kamehameha I (unifier of the Hawaiian Islands), Hawi’s downtown offers live music at the Saturday Farmer’s Market, Bamboo restaurant (evenings), Kohala Village HUB PUB (check schedule), and the Kava Kafe.
Be sure to tune in Hawi’s community radio station KNKR-FM (96.1) before leaving town. The 100 watt solar-powered station occasionally has local musicians stop by for an interview or live performance.
In November, you can catch the Āina Fest at the Inhabit Sanctuary & Retreat Center, just two miles past the town of Kapaʻau.
Born from husband and wife team Dash & Erika Kuhr’s desire to share the abundance of food and the vast potential for healthy living in Niuli’i, ‘Aina Fest grows richer in offerings and attendance each year. 2016’s festival attracted 2,500 people. Past festivals have featured celebrated musicians, activists & cultural practitioners including Nahko and Medicine for the People, Mike Love, OKA, Paula Fuga, Ooklah the Moc, Chris Berry, Tubby Love, Hawane Rios, Pualani Case, Lanakila Mangauil, Hualalai, and more.
The next stop on our live music tour of the Big Island is the town of Waimea (Kamuela). To get there from Hawi, it’s a 40-minute drive via the Kohala Mountain Road. The two-lane curvy road is often subject to high winds or low dense fog. Drive safe!
You’ll find lots of music in Waimea (Kamuela). Most notable is the magnificent Kahilu Theatre. It’s located at 67-1186 Lindsey Road, which is behind the Foodland shopping center. They offer a wide variety of world-class artists from Hawai’i and beyond, and, by far, Kahilu is the best resource for live entertainment on the island.
Some of the finer restaurants that offer live music in Waimea are the Red Water Cafe (65-1299 Kawaihae Road) and Merriman’s (65-1227 Opelo Road). The live music at these venues often serves as background atmosphere, which is a shame as the talent is top-shelf.
If you like good food and local brewed beer, check out the Big Island Brewhaus (64-1066 Mamalahoa Hwy). They also have live music and a weekly open-mic night with a great mix of local musicians.
On Saturday, be sure to experience the Kamuela Farmers Market, where local musicians have their own tent, and the music is very enjoyable.
Superior coffee and local live music can both be found at Waimea Coffee Company (65-1279 Kawaihae Rd. This is a fabulous place to grab a warm bagel and a cup of java while enjoying an acoustic set. Tables are limited, and it can get crowded, but it’s well worth the wait. Musicians often sell their CDs here, so if you miss a set, you can always grab some of the local music for the house or car.
While it’s not a setting for public performances, Waimea is the home of Lava Tracks Recording Studio. Grammy Award-winning producer and composer, and guitarist, Charles Michael Brotman opened the studio in 1998, and music from this studio has appeared on TV, in ads and movies, and on Grammy nominated and award-winning CDs. For a list of their projects and clients, visit: https://www.lavatracks.com/projects-clients. Lava Tracks helps local talent reach a wider audience.
Stay tuned for Part Three.
Featured image by Robert Collins.