Last Friday night, Streetlight Cadence returned to the Kahilu Theatre for an outstanding performance. Twelve years strong now, the former Waikīkī street buskers have morphed into a tight trio that delivers an electrifying evening filled with banjo, violin, cello, percussion, and rich vocals.
The last time the pop-rock group played the Kahilu was in 2019. Jesse Shiroma (accordion/percussion) was with them, but during the pandemic, he left wanting more stability and is now pursuing an advanced degree in library sciences. Drummer Ben Chai now plays acoustic guitar, banjo, sings, and hits the bass drum with a foot pedal. Classically trained Brian Webb has replaced his electric cello with an upright acoustic one. Lead singer Jonathan Franklin still plays a mean fiddle despite recently breaking a finger in a surfing mishap.
The band kicked off their show with two early tunes, “Thinking of You” and one they hadn’t played in ten years, “Surf’s Up.” They followed with “The Great Unknown,” a song that touched on the uncertainty in these unusual times.
Streetlight spent the downtime reflecting and plotting a new course during the pandemic. “There were many arguments,” admitted guitarist Ben Chai in our interview. We asked ourselves, ‘What do people like about us, and what type of music do we like ourselves?’ Are we trying to be something we’re not because we want to succeed that badly? We realized that a lot of our success was founded on us just being who we are and staying true to our strengths.”
Probably one of the cleverest moments in the show happened midway when Ben Chai broke a guitar string. Franklin and Webb improvised a stunning classical instrumental as he exited the stage to replace it. If you’d closed your eyes, you’d swear you were at a different show. “We should play weddings,” joked Webb.
Some of Streetlight’s songs also have dreamy, cinematic moods to them. For example, “Streetlights & Sirens,” now with Chai’s excellent banjo work, is a touching ballad about a friend of the band who died in a car crash.
On “I Can’t Do This,” Webb sang lead and switched to acoustic guitar while Franklin’s violin floated gently in the background. It’s hard to believe Webb didn’t want to sing when the band started. He’s now a producer, songwriter, music teacher, and has a solo project called Lovejack with an album in the works.
Streetlight concluded their set with the power ballad “End of the World.” As the audience rose for a standing ovation and shouted for a hana hou, the Kahilu staff greeted the trio with leis. Seconds later, they dove into the heart-pounding “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Before the show, Franklin told me he’d give me a nod when he did one of his signature leaps during the song so I could get a photo, but alas, he forgot. Then, just as the stage lights started to dim, he remembered, brought the band back out, and did a countdown before they all leaped into the air.
Streetlight will be releasing a new album of twelve songs from their twelve years together. It’s titled “Midnight.” Franklin notes, “It’s a recreation of our favorite songs, some of the best songs we think we made. We’re revisiting our music in an all-acoustic format.” The crowd-sourced project was funded with a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $32,000.
If you missed this concert, you could catch it on Kahilu TV along with their Emmy nominated series “Will Play For Food.”
Thinking of You| Surf’s Up | Rooftops | Great Unknown | Roger’s Song | Untitled Improvisation | Francis Ferdinand | Vinyl Records | Streetlights & Sirens | Don’t Let Go | I Can’t Do This | Stand by Me | Learn to Love |End of the World |
The Devil Went Down to Georgia
Concert Date: 18/March/2022
Photos: Steve Roby
Steve Roby is the editor of Big Island Music Magazine.