The origins of the song circle event can be traced to Nashville’s Bluebird Café when a bunch of songwriters sat in a circle, passed around a guitar and sang songs. Some of the tunes were hits while new ones were played to get a reaction from a live audience.
Don May, a veteran of the Austin, Texas, music scene and now a Big Island songwriter, had often traveled to Nashville and witnessed the shows firsthand. May pitched the Nashville-style in-the-round show to the Kahilu Theatre, and the first Song Circle show happened last April with May, Blayne Asing, and Higgs.
That Song Circle performance took place in the Mike Luce Studio, the venue’s smaller auditorium, which holds about 100 seats. A variety of instruments were strewn around the stage to give it a casual rehearsal room look. There was no in-person audience, only a livestream presentation on Kahilu TV.
Last Friday, with COVID restrictions easing, the Theatre was allowed to have 30 people attend the show. Using risers to seat everyone in the round on the main stage, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. Patrons had to wear masks and were socially distanced enough to comply with the County’s guidelines. Still, it was nice to hear live applause and laughter once again at a public performance.
Don May led things off with “Halfway to Hollywood,” a tune about the time he left Texas as a teenager with hopes of becoming a “rockstar” in Hollywood. He said he wrote it in a reflective moment 20 years later.
Much of May’s music is filled with thought-provoking lyrics. Take for example his song “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That.” May writes: “There’s a life to live/ There’s dreams to chase/ There’s love to give and no time to waste on things we just can’t change… Ain’t nobody got time for that.” When Kristin Lagasse joined in on harmony vocals, the heartfelt song became a real tear-jerker.
Llosh Winne, a former Homer, Alaska, resident, has been writing songs with a blend of roots-rock, soul, and hip-hop. He cites Tupac Shakur and Eminem as early influences and started singing in his 7th-grade school choir. Most of his music can be found on his YouTube channel simply titled Llosh.
Winne said that when he gets the inspiration for a song, he likes to capture it as soon as possible. “If I’m in that moment, I drop everything I’m doing and put it down on either my phone or home studio,” Winne said. “I have to flush it out – the lyrics and the melody all come at once!”
Kristin Lagasse is a Quebec-born, Maine-raised, singer-songwriter currently based out of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Pre-pandemic, you may have seen her perform locally with Ellen Keehan as the duo Honey Jar. They play original folk music with a bluegrass flair.
Friday, Lagasse focused on her original tunes like “Blue Skies” and “Doom,” a playful song about a ubiquitous cockroach. She, like May, is part of a collective known as the Big Island Songwriters. As part of their weekly “homework” assignment, each musician is given a random word and tasked with writing an original tune that the others in the group critique. Lagasse shared her latest weekly song – “Take My Heart.” Lagasse has a full album in the works, starting with a few EPS that will be released online soon, as well as a children’s music album.
You can catch both Song Circle shows on Kahilu TV. Song Circle returns to the Kahilu on August 27 and will feature Don May, Sara Bethany, and Lopaka Roots.
Notes & Links
Don May: Halfway to Hollywood | Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That | What Dirt Roads Are For | Pretty Alisa | Wish |
Llosh Winne: No Worries| Cowboy Down the East End Road | Complicated | Wolf | Swimming|
Kristin Lagasse: Blue Skies | Take My Heart | Underneath the Milky Way | Gold | Doom |
Concert Date: 18/June/2021
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Steve Roby is a music journalist, bestselling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
All photos: Steve Roby