In the Mix

Review: Glen Phillips at Hawaii Public Radio

May 5th, 2011


You didn't need to be a Toad the Wet Sprocket fan to enjoy Glen Phillips' intimate solo performance at Hawaii Public Radio's Atherton Studio on Wednesday. But unless you were a HPR benefactor who took someone else's word for it when buying tickets, only true fans would have been wise enough to purchase the few dozen seats available for the show.

And while there were a few of the former in the room, the vast majority of the audience fell in the latter category.

Phillips is in Hawaii this week to play four times on four islands, starting with Wednesday's Oahu gig and continuing Thursday with another solo performance at Small Town Coffee on Kauai. On Friday he'll join his TWS bandmates for a show at the Big Island's Royal Kona Resort, followed by another concert on Saturday at Maui's Royal Lahaina Resort.

As he finished "Train Wreck" to solid applause, Phillips glanced around the HPR studio with a gleam in his eye.

"That was a happy song, huh?" he quipped. "Most of my songs are uplifting in that kind of way. Sorry."

Part indie folk and part acoustic emo rock, Phillips focused on his solo work early with "Courage" and "Easier" before moving into what he described as "the familiar... or at least the vaguely familiar."

"Crowing," off the 1994 Toad the Wet Sprocket album "Dulcinea" sounded just as good, if not better, nearly 20 years after it was first released. Then it was back to newer, slightly more unfamiliar territory, with tracks off Phillips' side projects with Works Progress Administration and "Solar Flare," a track off his 2008 solo EP, "Secrets of the New Explorers" — and just a little bit weird, as Phillips described it as the first upbeat song for children about the experience of dying from the radiation given off by solar flares.

Yeah. Solar flares.

Phillips was all over the map, taking his fans on an eclectic journey through his complete discography — and then some. Death Cab for Cutie and Huey Lewis and the News covers were sandwiched between anecdotes about eating a "real Japanese breakfast" and chowing down on natto, and a story about how it was always necessary to include some sort of "LL Cool J smooth jam... for the ladies." (His version of "I Want a New Drug" could have been just that for the HPR crowd on Wednesday.)

After "Something's Always Wrong," Phillips informed the audience that he'd be taking a 20-minute break to do what any smart independent artist would do: Sell a few CDs.

"It's a living," he deadpanned before going into a mini-rant about the world being overpopulated and his desire to return to a simpler form of living. Using terms like "agrarian" and "hunter-gatherer," his dry sense of humor found a way to get the audience laughing about how life after a "massive die-off" would be "awesome."

Okay. Maybe it's not so good of an idea to make those kinds of jokes on an island with a 10-day food supply in case of emergency.

After spending the previously announced 20-minute intermission signing autographs and talking story with fans, Phillips was back in the studio to play more than a half-hour more of the same mix of his solo work, Toad the Wet Sprocket favorites and a few more tracks from his WPA project. While Oahu TWS fans will probably want to bite the bullet and try to get to the Big Island or Maui this weekend (who knows when these guys will be back, if ever?), Wednesday's concert was good for fans who wanted to get up close and personal with Phillips.

Watching a performance at Hawaii Public Radio was also a great reminder that their Atherton Studio is a fun way to spend a night out enjoying live music. Their season runs from May through August, with most performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Here's the rest of this year's schedule:

» May 7: Stephen Inglis and Jim "Kimo" West

» May 14: Keale

» May 21: Chris Vandercook Band

» May 28: Boogie

» June 4: Sara Buechner

» June 11: Danny Carvalho

» June 17-18: Sasha Boutros

» June 25: Derek Cannon

» July 1: Hailey Niswanger

» July 9: Kupaoa

» July 16: Barry Brandes and Anthony Maroudas

» July 23: Stephan George

» July 30: Gemini Trio

» Aug. 6: The Green

» Aug. 13: Kawika Kahiapo

» Aug. 20: Honolulu Jazz Quartet

» Aug. 27: Sandy & The Braz Jazz

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