The Big Island has a plethora of plank spankers. Friday’s four-hour Palace Theatre concert spotlighted the six-string variety.
Conceptualized by Bottle of Blue lead singer Scott Reagan, the multi-guitarist revue, known as Six-String Fling (SSF), made its East Side debut last Friday at Hilo’s Palace Theatre. Last September, Regan tested the show on the West Side at the Aloha Theatre with great success. Hilo’s concert had a similar line-up with the exception of Kona-based guitarist Colin John replacing Larry Seyer.
SSF is a marvelous opportunity for Big Island music lovers to enjoy many of the performers in a large venue setting. With the exception of a few guitar slingers on the bill, most play local clubs, cafés, and various watering holes around the island.
The music performed at Friday’s show mostly covered feelgood classic rock and blues tunes, and an oddly placed cover of Leonard Cohen’s gospel-laced, “Hallelujah.” Each of the six male guitarists had ample time to stretch out during their five-song sets, and were introduced by Ronnie V, a host on KBGX’s “Big Island Big Morning Show.” It was great to see female rhythm guitarist Marion Gerschat, part of the core band, rocking out, but maybe next time around, SSF could include a few of our top women players in the spotlight. Lauren Elle Broido comes to mind.
The Palace has a decent dance floor, compared to the Aloha, and at times it was packed – one lady endlessly spun in circles while waving a rainbow tie-dyed sheet, and a multi-tattooed shirtless man “honored us” with his best air-guitar work in front of the stage. More traditional couples swing danced to Deadhead favs like “Scarlet Begonias” and “Sugaree.” Wild and trippy geometric patterns were projected on a movie screen behind the band courtesy of special effects tech Sheli Williams.
Kona’s Bottle of Blue kicked off the evening with a set of originals – some from 2015’s CD Big Horizon, and few new ones from a live album coming out later this year. In addition to frontman Reagan, the rest of the five-piece band features Dave Ojeda (bass), Marion Gerschat (guitar/keyboard/vocals), Dan Corippo (lead guitar/vocals), and guest drummer Bruce David. Corippo got inspired to play the guitar after watching The Who’s Pete Townshend smash his axe on The Smother’s Brothers TV show back in the 1960s. Throughout the evening he either soloed or went toe-to-toe with other pro players.
Japan-born Tomi Isobi has been playing guitar for the last 40 years, and honed his chops in Tokyo, Boston and Georgia. As his main musical influence, he cites the great bluesman Johnny Winter. When he’s home on the Big Island, he works at least six nights per week at clubs like Huggo’s on the Rocks, and A Bay’s Island Grill. Isobi’s set featured originals and the crowd pleaser by Etta James, “I’d rather Go Blind.” After Friday’s concert, Isobi headed out for a 23-show tour of Japan.
New York rocker Steve Fundy is also a multi-decade professional guitarist. On the Big island, he’s played with the JPGS Band, Gone Country, and recently worked with the Glass Onion Band, a Beatles tribute ensemble. Fundy, a Puna resident, is also a big Grateful Dead fan, and included three of their hits in his set.
After a brief intermission, Hilo’s own “Lightnin’ Larry” Dupio was welcomed with great applause and cheers. The blues guitarist started playing an ukulele at 8, and by 16 he had his musician’s union card in hand and started playing with bands on Oahu. In 2014, his album Lightning Larry Dupio was submitted for a Grammy nomination and provided him further musical exposure. Last year his recording Lightning Strikes Hilo won a Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Rock Album of the Year. Dupio is in the process of recording his seventh album, and you can hear him talk about it during our backstage interview here.
When axeman Colin John hit the stage, he was quick to whip the crowd into a frenzy. The internationally recognized musician, who now calls Kona home, dazzled the crowd with a variety of guitars from his prized collection, including one whose body was made from a Super Buzz Honey brand metal canister. The other was a baritone lap steel manufactured by Dan Lawson of DL Lapsteels, which John played on top of a suitcase. John knows how to conjure up a chilling tone from his instruments and is not afraid to crank the amp to 11 on a solo. I liked his choice of deep blues-rock classics ranging from Blind Joe Reynolds, Blind Faith, and “You Don’t Love Me,” which most of us heard in 1968 on Al Kooper’s Super Session LP. However, his pick of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” seemed a bit too churchy-slow for this night of high energy music.
You’ve probably heard David Lawrence on Kona’s classic rock station LAVA 105, but have you ever seen him play guitar? He’s earned the nickname “Always Rippin’” as he does that so well on the electric guitar. Before being picked up by KGBX for the afternoon drive-time slot and Music Director, Lawrence played at a variety of Kona clubs with groups like Brand New Face and Green Machine. You might have even seen him perform with Ronnie V’s Family Band.
As he did at last year’s SSF, Lawrence unleashed his inner guitar hero when given the spotlight – running through the crowd, playing behind his head, and getting feedback while playing the guitar with his left hand. Sure, these are stage gimmicks that date back to the Chitlin’ Circuit, and were updated when Hendrix came on the scene, but the crowd still loves them. Lawrence’s four-song set featured covers by Hendrix, John Mayer, The Allman Brothers, and Pink Floyd.
The evening wrapped up when all six guitarists returned to the stage for the encore “Goin’ Down,” a song made popular by Freddie King and The Jeff Beck Group.
The Big Island certainly needs more shows like Six-String Fling. There’s a lot of talent here that doesn’t get the proper attention that a large venue can offer. Kudos to Scott Reagan for pulling this off – twice! Not an easy task.
Bottle of Blue: Lost and Found | The Gamble | Dancing with Fire | Sunday Afternoon | Lazy Mountain Blues
Tomi Isobe: Doghouse of Love | I’m Coming To You | Messed Up | Never Gonna Let You Go | I’d Rather Go Blind |Will It Go Round In Circles |
Steve Fundy: Scarlet Begonias/Fire On The Mountain | Time | Sugaree | Freeway Jam |
Larry Dupio: Further On Up The Road | Talk To Your Daughter | I Put A Spell On You | Cold Sweat/Boneshakers | Mr. Feelgood |
Colin John: Outside Woman Blues | Can’t Find My Way Home | You Don’t Love Me| Hallelujah | Preaching Blues |
David Lawrence: Manic Depression | Gravity | Whipping Post | Comfortable Numb |
All: Going Down
Read our review of 2018’s Six-String Fling: http://bigislandmusic.net/review-six-string-fling-at-aloha-theatre/
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. 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: Steve Roby