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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2007/11/18
by John Zinkand

Steal This Tropical Festival

I recently returned from a vacation trip to Oahu, Hawaii. We spent a week staying in Waikiki a block from the famous beach. All the activities that one usually associates with Hawaii were enjoyed: laying on the beach, body surfing, snorkeling, boating, hiking in the jungle, swimming under a waterfall, eating fresh fish, pineapple, and macadamia nuts, etc. Of course, before we left I checked online looking for jamband shows that might be happening in Honolulu on the extremely populated little island of Oahu (1 million people!). Unfortunately, I did not find any tunes. We missed Hot Buttered Rum who had played there about a month prior, and we would also miss Derek Trucks who was slated to play Honolulu at the beginning of December. We checked local papers and looked online, but its tough to tell which bar or bands will be jam-friendly merely from reading a newspaper advertisement.
Near the end of the trip, we went for a catamaran cruise. The first part of the trip entailed sailing out to a great spot for snorkeling. We jumped off the boat donning our masks and snorkels and saw many beautiful fishes and even a hug sea turtle! After snorkeling for about an hour, we went for a nice long sail on the big catamaran. Being a very windy day, the ride was exhilarating. The first mate, Jay, began offering up cocktails at the beginning of the sailing portion of the trip, so I enjoyed a Margarita or twook, three. But its vacation! Whos counting? As the wind was whistling through our hair and the Margaritas were gurgling down our throats, we struck up a conversation with Jay. It was quickly evident that he had an affinity for jambands. We talked about how he was in Oregon for String Cheeses final Hornings Hideout appearance. He also mentioned having seen Hot Buttered Rum on the island a few weeks back. I asked him about local acts that jammed and he gave me a few names. Unfortunately, the band that he suggested as a pretty rocking jamband with a skilled guitarist was playing Honolulu the night after we left. Being in tropical paradise while searching for tasty tunes reminded me that it was almost Jam Cruise time again. I was also reminded that Billy Kreutzmann, Steve Kimock, and Mike Gordon had recently played a show on the Garden Isle of Kauai. And the newest tropical paradise jam fest on the scene, Umphreys McGee and Disco Biscuits Caribbean Holidaze, also came to mind. Obviously, I am not the only jamband fan (or band member) who ever thought of enjoying great live music in an atmosphere involving sand, surf, palm trees, and tropical cocktails. Jam Cruise firmly established this concept. And with Jam Cruise, its really much more than just the tropical climate and great live actsthe intimacy of the boat makes that experience even more special. Lying by the pool, visiting exciting tropical locations, hanging with the bands, and generally enjoying a 24/7 floating music festival was such an incredible idea and has become so popular that even larger bands like DMB have since followed suit. Jam Cruise reigns supreme as the granddaddy of the floating, tropical festivals. That said, the rapidly approaching Caribbean Holidaze Festival being put on by Umphreys Mc Gee and the Disco Biscuits in Jamaica looks to step up the concept of tropical vacation mixed with music festival. I am completely envious of anyone who has the time and money to make it to the inaugural edition of this fest. You lucky #@$#@s!!!!! The festival also includes Keller Williams, The Benevento Russo Duo, Mad Professor with Ariwa Posse, and the return of the Brain-Damaged Eggmen (a band made up of Umphreys and Biscuits members that plays Beatles and Pink Floyd covers). This event could potentially be very special for a few reasons such as the intimacy, the atmosphere, and the amenitiesnot to mention three full shows by the two headlining bands. Being in the tropical paradise of Jamaica in December would be great no matter what! But when you add the music and the resorts, it looks like it could be an insanely good time. The super-inclusive ticket includes all concerts, food (24/7), drinks (top shelf booze included), and entertainment (including activities like golf, snorkeling, and tennis). They also say no tipping is allowed as the price is completely all-inclusive. If the festival is even half as good as it sounds on paper, it should be a hit and establish itself as a premier jamband destination – much like Jam Cruise. But lets travel back across North America, west across the Pacific Ocean, and find ourselves in the spectacular jungles and sandy beaches of Hawaii again. Ahhhh. Ive been to Hawaii a few times and was once lucky enough to catch Jimmy Cliff play on the Big Island. And Ive visited the lush and beautiful island of Kauai where Billy, Steve, and Mike recently played. What a great place for a show! And as I mentioned earlier, jamband acts do occasionally make it out to Hawaii, however they mostly stick to the densely populated island of Oahu. Bands should step it up a notch and utilize this tropical state just a little bit more.
A music festival in Hawaii in February sounds perfect to me. Hawaii would be a great location for a tropical jamband festival for many reasons. First of all, its still in the United States. Theres no language barrier, passports, or any other hassles of international travel involved. Its a beautiful and tropical location that offers perfect weather and tons of local flair. Also, at least for west coast bands, its a pretty straight shot (ahemTeal Leaf Green, New Monsoon, Les Claypool, Skerik, ALO, etc). Many non-stop flights from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles leave for Hawaii on a daily basis. On Oahu, there is a spacious grassy park just west of Diamond Head Crater that has a beautiful little music shell. Or someone could probably rent a chunk of land for a small festival on one of the mellower islands like Hawaii or Kauai. A day time fest with club shows at night would work well on any Hawaiian island, too. A Hawaiian fest could even include small, nightly sunset cruises where a different band plays each night while the audience sips Mai Tais and enjoys the scenery and music. The possibilities are limitless. Basically, a jamfest in Hawaii would rage if it could offer a wide variety of musical acts, a great resort or condo, tasty local food and beverages, and fun activities like hiking, swimming, and snorkeling. Maybe its just my head still trying to filter out the sands and saltwater of Oahu, but I think a Hawaiian Music Festival is a great idea.

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