Jamming with The Radiators

The unforgettable experience of going to hear this funky New Orleans jam-band play is the blurred line between being on stage and in the audience. The thought that comes dreamily the next morning over your cup of coffee: “Was I at the show — or was I performing?”

The sore muscles can be blamed on The Radiators’ intoxicating rhythm, addictive beat and contagious energy. After creating music together for nearly three decades, The Radiators know how to read the crowd. Selecting songs from a prolific original career and an eclectic library of covers that are as diverse as their following (Pink Floyd to soul gospel), no two Radiators shows are alike. In fact, each performance is a completely improvised play list that leave even their most dedicated fans following them from one venue to the next, each time with a completely new ride.

Echoing the mantra of The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band, The Radiators make a point of not easily being pinpointed in one musical genre. Like New Orleans itself — a fantastic blend of Creole, Cajun, French and the American south — The Radiators are products of a melange of sound. Blues, rock, funk, jazz, swing and soul only hint at the gumbo of groove you hear in their music. In the tradition of jazz improvisation, The Radiators are confident and consummate performers who seek to make contact with an audience — not just play to them. In the era of synchronized spectacles of touring pop icons, where every inch of a performance is choreographed, this band has the homegrown depth that turns fans into believers.

Mardi Gras Entertainment, directed by the personal musical passion of Kevin Rodgers, is responsible for bringing the blues-based-jam band to the Garden Island. Rodgers, a self-proclaimed fan hosts a New Orleans-style blues show every Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Kaua‘i Community Radio, and has been promoting this feel-good, groovy rock to the community, hoping to gain a following.

“It’s been eight years since their last appearance here and we knew that they’d bring something completely fresh,” Rodgers said. “Personally, I just wanted to go to another show!”

On an island that seeks to support local culture and live performances, Rodgers feels the key to nurturing such events lies in the hands of the community: “If people don’t come out and show their support for live music, it won’t happen.”

Reggie Scanlon, The Rads’ drummer, said of the band’s success at staying together for 29 years, “The creative process can stay alive as long as everyone is interested — music is a conversation.” With a truly collaborative style of writing, the five members are free to express their own voice, a rarity among bands. The process of creating music is mirrored in the “symbiotic relationship” the band has with their audiences, Scanlon explains. “The band is a live experience; our CDs serve only as our calling cards. We tap into the vibe of the crowd, and go from there. It’s spontaneous and alive, it’s like playing without a net.”

Super Bowl Sunday reportedly boasts the record for junk-food consumption among the entire nation — more calories than Thanksgiving! — so what better way to work off the chips and dip than with some fresh air and dancing?

The Radiators make rockers out of wall-flowers. Throw those shoes off and get down to some funky notes from the Big Easy. If the music isn’t enough to shake you from football mania, a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales go to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

“If people here have felt they wanted to do something for Katrina victims but weren’t able to, now is the perfect opportunity,” Rodgers said.

Mardi Gras Entertainment will provide Cajun food, wine and beer for a post-Super Bowl party hosted by “New Orleans’ No.1 party band.” Grammy-award winning guitarist Ken Emerson will join Swamp Daddy, Kaua‘i’s local blues-jam band, to welcome The Radiators to the big tent at Kilohana Plantation at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Come out and jam with The Radiators — or as they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bon ton roulette” (Let the good times roll!).

• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 or kkeita@kauaipubco.com.

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