Rockin’ The Kahilu… Dirty Cello Does It Once Again!


Dirty Cello’s livestream concert at the Kahilu Theatre last Saturday was a-rockin’ good time. In a way, it felt like we might be finally making our way back to some type of pre-pandemic normalcy. Sure, the seats are still empty, and the roar from a raucous crowd is missing, but having a mainland act return to the Big Island for a concert was reminiscent of the good ol’ days of nine months ago.

If you recall, the San Francisco-based band Dirty Cello played the Kahilu last February just before COVID-19 response caused venue shutdowns, one of the last mainland acts to play here before the theatre closed its doors in early March. To get here for their short 55-minute Kahilu livestream performance was no easy task. “I took two COVID tests in the last seventy-two hours,” remarked bandleader Rebecca Roudman, the group’s cellist/vocalist in a post-concert interview. Her bandmates also endured the same long list of county/state requirements for their 2,300-mile, five-hour trans-Pacific journey.

Rebecca Roudman

In addition to Roudman, Dirty Cello features her husband, Jason Eckl (guitar/vocals), Alex Farrell (bass), and Jeff Wheeler (drums). Wheeler and Farrell are new faces to the line-up, and both added some exciting moments to the show as well.

During the past nine months, Dirty Cello found new ways to keep playing and discovering new demographics, including a green parrot named Broc (short for broccoli) at the Oakland Zoo. Although the zoo was closed to visitors, the Amazon parrot joined them in a blues jam in E-flat – you can see the video here.  But perhaps their most unusual DC show of 2020 happened at a nudist ranch where they sold lots of merch. Oddly, the nudists passed on buying CDs and selected T-shirts and tank tops instead.

The Kahilu Theatre (via Kahilu.TV) kicked off its new online live concert series last Friday with the Kona Harp Ensemble and followed on Saturday with Dirty Cello’s afternoon performance. The venue is reaching out to a worldwide audience now, so the 4 o’clock show here hits the West Coast at six and the East at nine. A new app is coming shortly to make it easy to watch shows on Apple TV and Roku devices.

It was a thrill to be able to write a music review and shoot photos after all of these months. Four rows back from the stage, I was surrounded by color cardboard cutouts of patrons who supplied images of themselves in an effort to support the theatre. I guess it gives the performers and the staff a sense that someone out there is watching, albeit from the comfort of their couch.

Rebecca Roudman and Jason Eckl

Roudman was in true form. Hair furiously flying, while wielding a bow mercilessly on her poor cello, like back when Wendy O. Williams (Plasmatics) assaulted a guitar with a chainsaw. The DC setlist was a mix of rock classics (Creedence, Hendrix, AC/DC) with a unique spin on Woodie Guthrie’s “House of the Rising Sun.” The group also featured several of its originals including “Don’t Call Me Honey” and “Don’t Tell My Shoes.” On occasion, Roudman steps away from her stationary grey carbon-fiber cello to play a red electric violin, while Eckl watches in amazement.

About two-thirds of the way through their set, Eckl broke a string mid-song. Graciously announcing the mishap to the viewers, he alerted the band to play an alternate number while he momentarily departed the stage – ahh, the unexpected events that occur in a live show and aren’t fixed in post-production.

To add a bit of Christmas flair, Dirty Cell closed the show with the seasonal standards “Blue Christmas” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” A fifty-minute show flies by too fast, and the long-distance shouts for a hana hou couldn’t be heard in the theatre. A stagehand whistled loudly, which brought a smile to everyone’s face.

Dirty Cello backstage at the Kahilu Theatre

Dirty Cello has a history with the Big Island, first working the local coffeeshop circuit and private gigs, to playing their first show in 2016 billed as the “Kahilu’s Dirty Orchestra” (see this season program for their listing). They mentioned more touring in 2021, and a new album (still untitled) is coming. Here’s hoping they return to the island too.

Notes & Links

Dirty Cello Setlist (60 minutes)
Purple Haze | I May Not Be Perfect | Orange Blossom Special | Fortunate Son | It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) | Don’t Call Me Honey | Do What You Want | Ain’t No Grave | Someone Else is Steppin’ In | Don’t Tell My Shoes | House of The Rising Sun | Blue Christmas | Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree |

Editor’s Note: My Christmas wish is that the day comes soon when the Kahilu can re-open its doors to the public, and we all get to experience a live show with our friends, family, and community. Many thanks to Chuck Gessert and his hard-working crew — Gary Morphis, Paul Buckley, Adam Palya, Brain Pate, and Kristin Lake– who make Kahilu.TV happen and keep the theatre alive during these unusual times.

Event Date: 19/DEC/2020

Listen to a post-show interview with Dirty Cello here.

Listen to a podcast interview with Rebecca Roudman

Follow Dirty Cello on their Facebook page and visit their website.

Photos: Steve Roby


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