This June, when the Rotary Club’s major annual fund-raiser Taste of Hawai‘i returns, more than taste buds will be entertained: 13 Kaua‘i-grown bands will perform for attendees, providing the soundtrack for the day’s feast.
With musical genres ranging from bluegrass to reggae, jazz to Hawaiian, the line-up for this year’s event includes “The Aloha Trio,” “E-Z Livin’,” KHS Jazz Band, KCC Jazz Band, “Naue,” “Revival,” “Happy Enchalatas,” “Artistic License,” “Natural Harmony,” “Aloha Breeze,” “Vic & The Victimz,” “Rock Candy” and “Swamp Daddy.”
Emceed by local radio talent Ron Wiley, the bands will be scattered throughout Smith’s Tropical Gardens, from the entry gates to the lagoon, and will provide music to chew, sip or dance to.
Kumu Kehau Kekua of Halau Palaihiwa O Kaipuwai of Waipouli will be performing the opening blessing for the event. The Rotary Club expressed that they wanted Kumu Kehau to communicate the Hawaiian history of the Wailua area. “We hope to bring to light people’s appreciation of where they are during this great event. It will be an opportunity to make a real connection with the history of the place,” said Kumu Kehau. “As a kumu or source of learning and spiritual teachings, even 10 minutes of unified focus can manifest heightened levels of mana (positive, spiritual energy/power) and aloha (compassion, love, respect, honor). We will offer a traditional Hawaiian ceremony of mele pule (prayer chants) — for the success of the Rotary’s work that day and throughout the community.”
Jonathan Rivera of Aloha Breeze and four other permanent band members will be returning to the event for the fifth year. “I absolutely love the event,” said Rivera, “and am really impressed with the Kapa‘a Rotary for pulling together such a huge thing.”
Aloha Breeze plays an eclectic mix of “contemporary style island music,” mostly covering well-known songs. “Not to give too much away, but we are putting together a great show that includes a little ‘Prince’ and a piece from ‘Catch A Fire.’ I know it sounds cliché, but we play a little bit of everything,” he said.
While all of the musicians invited to perform volunteer their talent and time, Rivera said the day has often led to other gigs around the island. “It’s great to showcase what we’ve been working on the past year and make everyone feel good … on top of the awesome food, drinks and friends, there’s great entertainment.”
John Gilleran of Artistic License has been involved with Taste of Hawai‘i for 15 years. “The first three years I did the sound, and for the past 12, we’ve been performers,” Gilleran said. “It’s a lot of fun and a great time to reconnect with friends we’ve lost touch with during the busy-ness of day to day life.”
Playing mostly covers and a few originals, Artistic License jams to the sounds of Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder and Lyle Lovett.
The 14-year-old Vic & The Victimz Blues Band is composed of three doctors, a chef, and ‘Vic the barber.’ “We’ve been performing at this event for nine years now, and we absolutely love it — it’s the best place to play for food on the island,” Victor De Anda joked. “We play mostly covers, perpetuating the great Chicago blues tradition of song and rock.” Dr. Ogawa the chiropractor, Dr. Brownstein the M.D, Dr. Greenberg the naturopath play with Jess Montgomery the chef, Mark Leon and Victor DeAnda. “Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Johnny Lee Hooker are some artists on our play list. We have a lot of fun doing this event every year and we love to support the Rotary Club and their activities,” he added, “it’s the best event of the year.”