Some took shelter under an umbrella, while others embraced the warm summer evening rain, singing and dancing to headliner Robert Jon & The Wreck, a blues-rock quintet from Southern California. Their abundant energy never waned over the course of their blistering non-stop two-hour set.
We have promoter Gary Hicks and his company B.D. McGees to thank for this inaugural Kona concert. He hopes to offer five or six shows per year. Hicks hails from Southern California and is a fairly new resident to the Big Island. On the mainland, he was a successful band manager, and concert booker, and ran Laguna Sound Studio. For this concert, he flew in his favorite sound engineer and organized a flawless show that included Na Hoku Hanohano award winner Hilo guitarist, “Lightning Larry” Dupio.
Right out the gate, Dupio and his trio showed the crowd no mercy with scorching solos and blues favorites like Chicago bluesman J.B. Lenoir’s “Talk to Your Daughter.” Dupio’s gritty guitar tone worked well especially on “I Put A Spell on You.” About halfway through his sixty-minute set, Dupio played “That’s What I Do,” a track off his current album Lightning Strikes Hilo, and a tune he learned from New Orleans’ most successful rock band, The Radiators. Although it seemed liked it was staged, the skies opened up on cue and the crowd got soaked during the final number, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
This was Robert Jon & The Wreck’s first Hawaiian performance, and while many here may have never heard their music before the Courtyard Marriott concert, the Southern Blues-inspired rock songs they played (think Allman Brothers meets Royal Southern Brotherhood) quickly got the crowd out of their seats and dancing in front of the stage.
RJTW features Robert Jon Burrison (vocals/guitar), Henry James (lead guitar), Andrew Espantman (drums), Steve Maggiora (vocals/keys), and Warren Murrel (bass). The quintet began their musical journey in 2011, and within two years the band had not only embarked on a national tour, but also released their debut EP, Rhythm of the Road. This May they released their third full-length studio recording. Its lead track, “Old Friend,” is full of infectious hooks and clever lines like “You’re just my ex-girl/I’m onto the next girl.”
Before the show, I had a chance to speak with the band about how they got started. “We all have eclectic backgrounds,” explained frontman Burrison. “I came from a four-part gospel background.” As a youth he played guitar and drums at home and listened to his dad’s old gospel records. “What makes the band unique is that no one listened to the same music growing up. We all add different flavors to the ‘meal,’ and the meal is the song.”
About an hour into their set, the rain ended, and stagehands removed the tents that protected them from getting shocked. Less restricted, Burrison and lead guitarist Henry James moved freely around the stage while trading solos. James is a phenomenal player, and his slide guitar is right up there with the great Derek Trucks. Before the night ended we heard solos from Maggiora, Murrel, and Espantman, who was celebrating his birthday.
RJTW takes a short break before they tour The Netherlands and Germany this fall with contemporary blues master Walter Trout. From there they head to France and Spain.
Robert Jon & The Wreck’s Setlist
Breaking Down the Road | Blame It on the Whiskey | Witchcraft | Good Lovin’| High Time | I Got My Eyes On You | When I Die | Cold Night | I Know It’s Wrong | Glory Bound | Tightrope | Drum solo, Keyboard solo, Guitar solo | Old Friend
Rollin’ | Happy Birthday
Larry Dupio’s Setlist
Talk To Your Daughter | Higher Ground | I Put A Spell On You | Three Days | That’s What I Do | Mr. Feel Good | The Thrill Is Gone | While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Listen to an interview with Larry Dupio
Listen to an interview Robert John & The Wreck
Be sure to check out Robert Jon & The Wreck’ website for the latest tour and music info:
All photos by Steve Roby