If there is one complaint that I could make about Honolulu, it would be that it lacks the kind of music concerts that I used to frequent when I lived in bigger cities. I have liked going to shows since high school, because I was lucky enough to live near LA where there is no shortage of music venues. I was one of those teens that somehow got reluctant parents or siblings to drop and pick me up from shows, and eventually experienced freedom and ultimate music fandom once I got my driver’s license. When I moved to NYC, I felt like I was in concert utopia.
I know better than to compare Honolulu with LA or NYC in terms of shows, but ever since the Republik opened last year, there is something to be hopeful about. Just last weekend I saw Empire of the Sun at the Republik, which is a small venue in mainland standards. I would give you maximum room capacity to give you a better idea of the venue’s size, but apparently, the maximum room capacity was adjusted from 300 to 1,000 people since first opening. I’ll let you decide what that big jump in numbers tells you about Hawaii’s safety regulations and local politics.
A number of unexpected bands have played or will perform at the Republik aside from Empire of the Sun: Metric, Of Montreal, and the National. They also get famous DJ’s from Japan to come, like Satoshi Tomiie. While these names might be old news for all the city folks in mainland U.S., getting more indie artists like these to play in Hawaii, or artists of any music genre for that matter, is a big deal. It’s all due to the Bamp Project that bands are starting to consider Hawaii for their tours (and squeezed-in vacations, maybe?). According to their website, BAMP is the fastest growing concert production and promotion company in Hawaii. Their mission is to build a thriving musical community in the islands. It’s a fantastic initiative and it has been very well received by the local community.
Other than the Republik, there are a few other concert venues in Honolulu. There is the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena for bigger shows, for the likes of The Cure (who played here over the summer) and James Taylor. I’ve seen SF-based Blackbird Blackbird at Next Door, but this venue hasn’t been doing as well since the Republik eclipsed them as the go-to venue for all indie shows. I think there are a couple other venues near Waikiki, but since that’s a part of town I never really venture at night, I can’t say much more.
Here are some more photos of the Empire of the Sun show I went to, taken from friends’ Instagrams. It was a fabulous, theatrical show that one would only expect from Luke Steele. And because this venue is smaller than the last time I saw them at the Wiltern, it felt more raw (Luke even smashed his guitar after the encore), like as if we were seeing them when they were just starting out in Australia. But one thing did irk me while watching the show. While I appreciate photos like these, I wish I could have seen less phone screens throughout the entire show. I wonder if it’s just because concert etiquette has yet been established in Honolulu since the whole concert-going thing is still fairly new around town. Oh well, I’m just glad there are even shows to attend now. One at a time!