Twenty-four Big Island Musicians Celebrate Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary with Tribute Concert
Although 50 years have passed since the iconic Woodstock music festival, its popularity survives for several reasons: The bands who played were the best of the late ‘60s rock music scene (Hendrix, Joplin, The Who, etc.); The Oscar-winning Woodstock concert documentary still resonates with music fans today; Although many promoters have tried to duplicate the original outdoor event, it arguably remains the most memorable in music history.
The Big Island’s Woodstock tribute concert, ShakaStock, happened thanks to the hard work of local musicians Alicia Maher and Dan Brauer. You might recall their successful three-venue-run of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – a collaboration with island musicians to perform the classic album in its entirety. Since then, they’ve been working on a Woodstock concert tribute featuring the festival’s most memorable performances in a two-hour show. The result was phenomenal. The show sold-out and the Kahilu crowd danced and cheered throughout the evening.
Singer Cayenne Clarke opened the concert with a chilling rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” Clark’s plush, dreamy voice was ideal for the tune. Technically, Mitchell didn’t perform at Woodstock because her manager didn’t want her to miss a scheduled appearance on Dick Cavett’s post-Woodstock TV special. In retaliation, she ended up writing the song “Woodstock” – a much slower tempo and moodier version than Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s hit. Clark was accompanied by keyboardist Scott Van-Spronsen who also played congas in several other songs.
Hawi’s Joey Bradley took lead vocals on Richie Havens’ “Freedom” and later with a Sly and the Family Stone medley. In both roles, wearing almost identical outfits as the original performers, Bradley’s brilliant soulful voice and stage moves had the crowd on their feet for the highest energy show the Kahilu Theatre has seen so far this year.
In between songs, during set changes, Woodstock stage announcements and short interview clips with performers were played. Behind the musicians, images from the festival and historic moments from the 1960s were projected to set a mood of the era. For some of the more psychedelic-themed tunes, a trippy light show swirled with segments from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland cartoon, matching the lyrics of “White Rabbit.”
The second half of the show featured guitarist Dan Brauer channeling both Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix – big shoes to fill indeed! Brauer pulled it off confidently, although stacks of Marshall amps behind him would’ve added a nice visual.
One of the many highlights of the show was singer “Bubba” Lee Myers doing Alvin Lee’s (Ten Year’s After) “I’m Going Home.” Accompanying him was guitarist Lauren Broido, whose lightning finger-work on the solo and the back-and-forth with Myers and Brauer was superb. Myers didn’t do an outright impression of Alvin Lee, rather his interpretation captured his essence – even that high-pitched squeal in the song. Myers has a rough gritty voice, like Eddie Vedder, for the selections he performed.
Alicia Maher was not only was a key force in making this tribute happen but kept things running smoothly backstage. She also took the spotlight to sing lead as Grace Slick for Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”
The producers saved some of the best for the second half, and Malia Spencer-Chaul (Ms. Demeanor and The Felons) had Janis Joplin down pat. Feather boa, rose-colored glasses, and the vocals were spot on. Bravo!
For the finale, “Bubba” returned to the stage as Joe Cocker and sang “With a Little Help From My Friends.” His first-rate performance, including some Cocker-like postures, had the audience on their feet singing along to the classic. Kudos to costume designer Alicia Maher even made sure Myers had star-painted boots like Cocker wore during his Woodstock set. Jocelyn Michelle’s impressive Hammond organ runs were perfect, and she flipped her hair lost in the groove.
Maher and Brauer’s yearlong efforts to pull together a tribute concert like this are award worthy. It’s a shame we don’t have a Big Island ceremony to honor musical contributions like this.
How do you top this? I overheard one musician suggest a tribute to The Last Waltz – the farewell concert appearance for The Band that featured Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, and others. Whatever Maher and Brauer come up with next, I’m sure it will be amazing.
Cayenne Clarke: Woodstock |Joey Bradley: Freedom | Ronnie V & the Family Band: Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag/Goin’ Up the Country/ The Weight | Alicia Maher, Stephanie Lou Tatum, and Samantha Wilson: Helplessly Hoping | Alicia Maher: Birthday of the Sun | Stephanie Lou Tatum: Swing Low Sweet Chariot |
Listen to Set I
Dan Brauer: Evil Ways/ Soul Sacrifice | “Bubba” Lee Meyers: I’m Going Home | Malia Spencer-Chaul: Piece of My Heart | Alicia Maher: White Rabbit | Dan Brauer: Voodoo Child (Slight Return)/Star Spangled Banner| Joey Bradley: Dance to the Music / Music Lover / I Want to Take You Higher | “Bubba” Lee Meyers: With A Little Help From My Friends |
Listen to Set II
Steve Roby is a music journalist, an L.A. Times bestselling author, and a Big Island filmmaker. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos/video: Steve Roby