King Kamehameha Day: Lei Draping Ceremony

It seems to me that barely a week goes back without a festival or celebration of some kind going on on Oʻahu. I do try my best, but still only make it to about half of them.

I thought twice about heading downtown to the King Kamehameha statue opposite Iʻolani Palace, wondering how interesting a lei draping ceremony could be.  But those leis donʻt get up there without fanfare; no way, Hawaiians are no slouches when it comes to ceremony. This was a gathering, by turns reflective, solemn and celebratory, filled with colour, dance and music from the Royal Hawaiian Band. A quiet respect was tangible as descendents of the king spoke of his legend, triumphs and even hinted at what today we might call faults. Dignified men and women stood to attention in ceremonial robes, suits and feather cloaks while I sweated and burned in shorts and a tank top. A slight woman with a gorgeous smile performed first hula and then a war dance while the fragile leis were being hoisted with the aid of a fire truck; a scene of both strength and beauty.

Food Talk: Ala Moana Center

I’ve never been much of a mall enthusiast, and would hesitate to recommend that Honolulu tourists spend precious vacation time in a shopping center, but there’s something about Ala Moana Center. It’s at the end of the bus line, so that’s how I usually get there, but it is also directly behind beautiful and peaceful Ala Moana Beach Park–well usually it’s peaceful, not so yesterday; school’s out remember.

Mostly, I come here to eat. Shokudo, outside the mall, is a Japanese restaurant that makes a killer cheese mochi dish and honey toast dessert. I stock up on imported Japanese groceries at Shirokiya, then stop in the food court for tako-yaki, a bento box or a Harajuku-style crepe, before heading back downstairs for raspberry mille-feiulle mochi cream.

Look:

Mochi Creams at Shirokiya

And then there’s Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room; plantation tea jelly from La Palme d’Or and  pau hana lychee mojitos at Panya:

Lychee Mojito at Panya

On yesterday’s visit I tried the acai bowl from Blue Hawaii Lifestyle for the first time. I think I’ve had a broad acai bowl experience over the last eight months: I’ve tried them from the chains, Jamba Juice and Smoothie King (delish and bland respectively); from Kava Roots on the North Shore (huge, chunky granola and thick slices of banana–filling but not memorable) and from Lanikai Juice (didn’t get a fair chance–there was no place to sit so I walked with it in midday heat until I got to the beach and it turned into slush). The one I always went back to was Vita Juice in Chinatown, partly because it was underneath the office I used to work at, but mostly because the sweet owner piled on the fruit and honey (Lanikai Juice makes you pay extra).

I have a few places still to try, but I’ll be back to Blue Hawaii. I tried the Jasmine Bowl, which had just enough of a tangy flavour, and I liked that the fruit and granola was mixed through the bowl, rather than just lying on top. Also, sweet space. I loved the blue stained glass, ceramic bowls, locally-made omiyagis on sale and the little notice on the napkin dispenser that says Napkins=Trees. I didn’t take any.

Blue Hawaii Lifestyle, Ala Moana Center

Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau

School’s out. The bus to the North Shore started to choke just before the Dole Plantation as groups of kids in board shorts crowded on. I made a smart-ass comment to myself that you never know here if school’s in or not seeing as they hardly go anyway; not knowing that the next day it was to be announced that the furlough’s were ending. Anyway, school is out for summer.

I got off at Pupukea and filled up with an açaí bowl the size of my head from Kava Roots. Nourished, I started the steep walk up to the state monument, dismissing two drivers sympathetically offering rides. The walk up the road was tough, but the dirt road after the turn-off felt a little creepy. No cars passed through there and I tried to wave away thoughts of lurking psychopaths as I hurried along the path through acres of woodland and nothing else.

Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau is Oʻahu’s biggest heiau (temple), a site of religious ceremonies until 1819 when the kapu system was abolished by Kamehameha II. It was thought to have also been the site of human sacrifice. The site consists of three walled enclosures; discreet placards on each warning you, kapu; do not touch the rock walls.

I walked around the outside of the walls, veering off the path to take in the view. Slipping slightly down the cliff edge, I raised my camera for shots of Waimea and beyond. The sand at Waimea was dotted with more bodies than I’ve seen there on a weekday–since the Eddie in December. Kids were hurling themselves of the rock, clambering back up and doing it again; the water below in regular turmoil with giant splash followed by giant splash. Right; school’s out, I reminded myself.

I climbed back up and onto the path around the temple. Paused for a few moments by some stones wrapped and laid on the walls, then at the fruit and lei offerings at a tree at the end of the path.

I walked back down to Pupukea and waited for my bus. Carrying just me and a waitress on her way to a shift at Cholos in Haleiwa, it quietly wound its way past the church. At the stop outside Waimea, the doors opened and it swelled with soggy, vociferous kids. The same ones from the journey here. It must have been them jumping off the rocks.

Hawaii Music Monday: Bari Bari 13

On my last visit to Tokyo it seemed like the rockabilly-guys-in Yoyogi-Park phenomenon was fading. Well, there was just this guy one time:

…So I was delighted to find out that Japanese Rock ‘n’ Roll is not dead, it lives in Honolulu and it’s name is Bari Bari 13!

Tommy (Lead Guitar and Lead Vocals), Shingo (Bass Guitar and Vocals) and Kenji (Drums and Vocals) dress in black leather and dark sunglasses, even in dark, sweaty Anna Bannanas where I saw them last, exhort the crowd to Rock ‘n’ Roll while their cute-enough-to-eat girlfriends and wives throw pre-arranged dance moves in the front row. Shingo also tends to take his top off after a couple of numbers.

Bari Bari 13 at Anna Bannanas February 13th

Bari Bari 13! Rock ‘n’ Roll Forever!!!!

Hawaii Music Monday: GRLFRNDS

GRLFRNDS at Anna Bannanas 2/26

“It’s a long and complicated story about how the punks took over the dance floor and the dance floor took over the punks.” So says the blurb on GRLFRNDS’ Myspace page, which also lists some very tasty influences: The Clash, Joy Division, New Order, M83 and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Anyway, GRLFRNDS are Nick Ross (guitar), Alex Kaiser (vocals), Jake Achitoff (synth), Nate McCurdy (drums), Ryan (bass) and, I think, one of the most exciting bands playing in Honolulu right now. Their synth-heavy, high-energy, dancey, punky sound brings to mind the neon-saturated days of British post-punk, New Wave–the lead singer even adopts a convincing British accent when he sings. GRLFRNDS’ live shows will make you want to dance. They will dance. Alex throws some moves on stage while wrapping the mic cord around his neck and Ryan looks like he might hurt himself he’s bouncing around so furiously. Nick plays so hard his fingers bleed (see above photo) but Jake, well, he just chills with his synth by the side.

This Week in Honolulu

News: The Star-Bulletin’s owner bought the Advertiser David Black will try to find a buyer for the Star-Bulletin, or otherwise shut the paper down. This doesn’t look good; Honolulu is looking like becoming a one-paper city and there’s certain to be lay-offs.

We dodged a tsunami Luckily those sirens and evacuations turned out to just be a precaution.

By Night: ARTafterDARK returned after a three-month break. Last night’s event reflected the current exhibition on view at the Academy of Arts until July 3rd, Mad For Modern: From Whistler to Warhol. Clones of the Queen played in the Courtyard, while DJ Nicky Savage was at the Pavilion. There were docent-led zip tours, live figure sketching by artist Lauren Roth and, of course, yummy food and drinks–thanks to Town/Downtown.

GRLFRNDS played Anna Bannanas on Friday; they were actually opening for Choda but I left before them. A few tuning difficulties couldn’t stop them. This band has some of the most energetic performers–bassist Ryan at one point jumped onto the dancefloor, while still playing, then did this crazy back-bend over the rail; the guitarist’s fingers were bleeding over the strings. Not the synth-player though; he just kinda stands there.

Hawaii Music Monday: The Hell Caminos

The Hell Caminos at Anna Bannanas February 19th

The Hell Caminos are a Psychobilly band whose music mixes rockabilly, punk and swing. Band members are Michael Camino (upright bass), Nick Danger (guitar), and Handsome Jack (drums).

From January 2009 they took a long hiatus, returning in January 2010 with a typically manic show at The Loft in Chinatown, where they opened for L.A band Spooky. Their world, they say, is full of voodoo roads, slinky dames, and cheap honkytonks.

A Hell Caminos live show is high-energy and always feels like it is on the edge of something. It’s a twitchy, unsettling feeling that fits their description of themselves as “living on caffeine, sleep deprivation and women.” I love the upright bass, which Michael lifts up and spins around. Oh yeah and all the band members are not too hard on eyes at all. The crowd at their shows is also a beautiful sight; lots of gorgeous tattooed girls in cool dresses.

I caught them this past Friday at Anna Bannanas. They were up before the ska band Black Square and the show was part of the ‘Last Days of Annas’ series: a bunch of live shows that will run until Annas tragically closes this April.

Matsumoto’s on the North Shore

Only the very early or the very lucky arrive acquire a Matsumoto’s shave ice without standing in a line that stretches out the door, bumping into tourists snapping pictures of the store’s yellow sign. Debate rages as to who has the best shave ice on O’ahu, or even here on the North Shore, but Matsumoto’s has the history (shave ice has been sold at this store for 60 years) and the fame–hence the line.

The ice—while allegedly courser than that of Aoki’s next door—is finely ground and covered with brightly colored homemade syrups. Multiple flavors on offer range from the exotic Li Hing Mui, to the ordinary Strawberry. You may opt for one of Matsumoto’s combinations: the “Rainbow,” “Hawaiian Special” or “Matsumoto’s,” and, if you prefer a little more than ice and syrup in your cone, you can ask for a scoop of ice cream or azuki beans.

The final product makes such a pretty picture that it seems a shame to have to slurp it down so quickly, but you have to hurry because as soon as you get out into the North Shore sun that ice is going to melt and turn into a sticky mess.