Archive for October, 2011

Aloha Stadium approves Usher concert

October 27th, 2011

Usher performs in London earlier this year. (Associated Press)

Popular R&B artist Usher may help Oahu residents ring in 2012, if a mainland promoter and the Hawaii Stadium Authority get their way.

The Stadium Authority approved use of Aloha Stadium for a concert by the artist on Dec. 30. However, approval by the venue doesn't mean Usher has a signed contract to actually perform in Honolulu on that date.

The world of concert promotion is a very fluid environment, with artists' schedules and external circumstances often affecting the actual results of preliminary talks between promoters and venues. Until a signed contract between the artist and concert promoter is obtained, there is no guarantee the show will take place.

While the economic downturn of recent years has meant fewer concerts of the size necessary to fill Aloha Stadium — promoters generally need to draw at least 30,000 people to realize a positive return on their investments there — the venue has seen its share of big names in the past. More than 40,000 fans were on hand in 2008 for a U2 concert, and the late 1990's through the mid-2000's saw award-winning recording artists like Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Gloria Estefan, Pearl Jam and the Rolling Stones all perform inside the stadium.

Another big factor with producing events at Aloha Stadium is the cost of shipping equipment not easily found in Hawaii. Concert production costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that doesn't include the six figures (or more) some artists command per performance.

Calls to Memphis, Tenn. promoter NuDawn Entertainment and the Hawaii Stadium Authority were not immediately returned.

Usher, who hails from Tennessee himself, celebrated his 33rd birthday earlier this month. His latest album, "Raymond Vs. Raymond," was released along with an EP, "Versus," in 2010 and included the tracks "OMG," "DJ Got Us Falling in Love" and "Somebody to Love," which have enjoyed mainstream pop success since their release.

Usher has also continued to be involved in the career of his protege, Justin Bieber; the two recently recorded the holiday classic, "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)," which will be released on Bieber's upcoming Christmas album, "Under the Mistletoe."


Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at

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Talking story with Wiz Khalifa

October 17th, 2011

Don't pay any attention to all the tattoos, his arrest last year on charges relating to marijuana (they were eventually dropped) or the fact that's he's dating Kanye West's ex-girlfriend.

Wiz Khalifa. (Courtesy Darren Ankenman)

Once you've had the chance to speak with Cameron Thomas — better known to legions of fans as Wiz Khalifa — it quickly becomes evident that he's an articulate young man with his entire career ahead of him, and he has no plans to slow down or change the way he's living his life.

Hailing from Pittsburgh, Khalifa is a recording artist who realizes that hard work is the only way to make his hip-hop hustle pay off. But unlike others who rose above the gritty reality of drugs and street violence to legitimate success — or worse, pretended to be someone they're not (i.e. a "studio gangsta") — he willingly talks about his military family upbringing and is quick to mention his crew, Taylor Gang, and how he wants to make sure his friends get a taste of the same success he currently enjoys.

Khalifa spoke with the Pulse earlier this month by phone from Los Angeles in advance of his first-ever visit to Hawaii.

QUESTION: Did you smoke before brushing this morning?

ANSWER: Actually, I did. (laughs)

Q: You've spoken a lot in interviews about your use of marijuana. Has that subject gotten old for you yet?

A: It doesn't get old. At the end of the day, I put it out there. It's a fun fact about me. It's easy to go ahead (and talk about).

Q: How would you characterize your childhood?

A: I was always a good kid. I never got into any trouble and I always did well in school. I have a real normal life. I wasn't the kid who was spoiled and had all the clothes, but I didn't grow up broke either.

I've experienced both sides, living in a military family. I still had that on-base, structured lifestyle. But I didn't have a rough upbringing at all. My parents showed me a lot of love.

Q: Talk about growing up in a military family. What was it like growing up in different cities around the world?

A: My parents were in the Air Force, so I traveled a lot when I was younger. It was cool getting to travel and see different things. It really just opened me up to a lot of different thinking. It had me more worldly than other kids my age.

I moved to Pittsburgh when I was 3 years old. It was always a back and forth type thing. But then I was in Pittsburgh for good since I was about 15 years old.

Q: Does anyone call you Cameron anymore?

A: People still call me Cameron. Or Cam. All my family still calls me that.

Q: Rolling Stone called you an "Artist to Watch" back in 2006. Did that motivate you at all, or was it something you expected at that point in your career?

A: I was still in high school when that happened, so it kind of came out of nowhere. I think a lot of people seen it for what it was, but they didn't understand how big it was.

But for me, for someone who just works and doesn't expect too many pats on the back, it was good. But I knew I had bigger and better stuff to keep doing.

Q: "Black & Yellow" really put you on the map with mainstream listeners. Did you think that single was going to turn out as successful as it did?

A: I designed it, you know what I'm saying, to get my foot in the door and really represent. So the natural energy that went into it made it the success that it was. I'm glad everyone was able to grasp it.

Q: "No Sleep" is the next single off "Rolling Papers." How many tracks do you plan to push from that album before dedicating your focus to the next project?

A: I don't even know. The album still has a lot of life to it, so we're just maximizing that and not trying to cut it short. When it's time to move on, we'll go to the next thing. We're just pushing with the things that are working.

Q: Any update on the new album? Got a title or release date yet?

A: No, definitely no release date. I've got a title that I'm keeping to myself at this point. But I'm not going to be as secretive as I was with the first album.

Q: You seem to be in the media spotlight a lot these days. How do you deal with that? Do you enjoy all the attention?

A: It's definitely just part of the job. It's nothing I enjoy or don't enjoy. It comes with the territory.

At the end of the day, I've gotta just keep being me. That's what keeps me on top of my game. There's always going to be distractions, but it's up to me to check my morality and push forward.

Q: For a network that doesn't actually play a lot of music videos these days, MTV has quite a bit of coverage of your career online. Can you talk about your relationship with the network?

A: I think MTV, they try to stay ahead of the curve (and) try to do what's the coolest at the time.

And you know, at this certain point in time, I've built a buzz, a momentum, that's involved viral deals and the Internet, so they always show me love. They make me feel welcome and appreciate me as much as I appreciate them.

Q: Are all your Twitter updates actually written by you?

A: My Twitter is definitely all me. I'd freak out if someone else was tweeting for me. I've always been into technology, so anything that's new, I think my generation, we just naturally feel like we need to be involved.

Q: "5 O'Clock" — T-Pain's new single with you and Lily Allen - why did you choose to participate on that track?

A: I've always been a fan of T-Pain and his music, so when he came to me and said that was going to be his next single, I was like, it's going to be an honor.

Q: You celebrated your birthday in Vegas last month. Did you think getting dressed up for the evening would spark marriage rumors for you and Amber Rose?

A: I didn't think that at all. I didn't know it was going to happen. I just wanted to do something nice for my birthday and do something nice, and people ran with it. At the end of the day, all this normal stuff turns into news these days.

Q: Did you really turn down Drake's invite to go on tour with him last year?

A: That was early in the year. It was my first major tour, and he had offered me to do that, but I really wanted to be dedicated to my fans and get where I was going.

I can definitely see myself going on a big tour with other big names (in the future), but it would just need to be a huge experience for everyone. I don't think it would be anyone opening for anyone. It would just be a lot of great music in the room.

Q: Ever been to Hawaii?

A: Never been to Hawaii before. I'm really excited to come. I'm really looking forward to it.

Q: Anything else going on that you want to mention?

A:Yeah, I got a movie with Snoop coming out towards the end of the year. We just finished up the soundtrack. So that's going to be a lot of fun.


Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at

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Fleetwood helps launch video series

October 12th, 2011

Fleetwood Mac founder and Maui resident Mick Fleetwood, left, joined chef Sam Choy at the judge's table for the 2011 Don the Beachcomber World's Best Mai Tai Contest in Kona on Aug. 13. (Star-Advertiser file)

Maui resident Mick Fleetwood has certainly been keeping himself busy in recent months.

Along with his bands — the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band and Mick Fleetwood's Island Rumours Band — Fleetwood is in the home stretch with preparations for the opening of his namesake restaurant, Fleetwood's on Front Street. And the Fleetwood Mac co-founder recently confirmed that band will reunite for a tour in 2012.

Fleetwood's on Front Street in Lahaina. (Courtesy photo)

"All we know is we're working next year," Fleetwood told last month about hitting the road again with Fleetwood Mac. "I'll get a phone call that we're going to start rehearsing — usually in a blind panic because we leave everything (until) way too late.

"But we're all up for touring in the early summer of next year, I think, and once we start we're much like U2 and the (Rolling) Stones in terms of workload. We basically play until no one wants to book us anymore."

By then, Fleetwood's and its sister business, Fleetwood's Wine Cellar, should be open in the old Lahaina Store building on Front St. The rock star told the Associated Press that he "always wanted" to run his own restaurant/music venue but doesn't see it as a "shrine to Mick Fleetwood." And once Fleetwood Mac slows down a bit more with performing "within the next five to seven years," he's really looking forward to dedicating his efforts to growing as a restauranteur.

''It's a sense of plugging who I am and what I am into something,'' he said of his new restaurant. ''And for me it's the perfect vehicle.''

Nicole Atkins, left, and Mick Fleetwood during the taping of their inaugural episode of Cabo Wabo Tequila's new online conversation series. (Courtesy Cabo Wabo)

In August, Fleetwood welcomed a film crew from Cabo Wabo Tequila to Maui. Also on the island was singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins, who was there to participate with Fleetwood in a taping of Cabo Wabo's new online conversation series, "Off the Record."

The result was an interesting discussion between two artists — plus a live jam session to perform Atkins' track, "My Baby Don't Lie." The video below is a shorter version of a longer conversation that doubles as an extended commercial for Cabo Wabo; there's also a making-of-the-video segment posted on YouTube.


Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at

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Raiatea transports fans to the ’60s

October 4th, 2011

Raiatea Helm records her new album at Mamiya Theatre in August. (Courtesy Guy Sibilla)

This post has been corrected. Please see below.

Raiatea Helm holds the keys to a time machine of sorts with her new album, "Sea of Love."

While she performs with an all-star team of modern Hawaii musicians, the "new traditionalist of Hawaiian music" also takes listeners on a journey back some 50 years, with 11 tracks made popular during the period following Hawaii's transition into the 50th state in 1959. It's the music that her parents and her uncle, George Jarrett Helm, grew up with in the cocktail lounges of Waikiki and she describes as the "Hawaiian Club" sound.

The old-school vibe continues with the recording process for the album, which took place not in a traditional recording studio, but within the confines of Mamiya Theatre in Kaimuki. Unlike the vast majority of albums recorded today, Helm decided to gather a group of studio musicians and record "Sea of Love" in a live setting.

Fresh off a return trip to Japan last month, Helm called to talk story about her new album and the inspirations behind it. "Sea of Love" is available now on iTunes; an Oahu release party and multi-island tour is also in the works.

QUESTION: Does "Sea of Love" expose a different side of Raiatea Helm to fans?

ANSWER: I feel that this is a new life, a new path. I've always wanted to go back to my roots. I've wanted to do something where my inspiration started, and that is mainly the period of 1960's club music, where you have steel guitar, marimba, percussion. It's really fun, light music.

When I was first introduced to Leinaala Heine through my dad, I really fell in love with that sound. I know I've performed a lot of traditional Hawaiian ballads, but the stuff on this project is … really happy music.

Q: Who came up with the idea of recording the new album in such an old-school manner?

A: It was my idea. I've always wanted to do something like this, but it takes a lot of planning. You're trying to organize a seven-piece band and doing a multi-track recording, it takes a lot.

A year and a half ago, I started with a song entitled "Namolokama." And that was a track that Leina'ala Haili recorded, and it had this really funky beat. And I wanted to bring that back, I wanted to do that kind of sound. It took a year and a half to plan.

First I got in touch with Harry B. Soria, and he was one of the main resources for this project on finding these old songs, and most of them were sung by men. But they had that same drive, that same feeling I was looking for. So I had a list of more than 50 songs and narrowed it down to 11 tracks.

Then I would meet with the arranger, Kit Ebersbach, and the lead guitarist, Jeff Peterson, and go through the arrangements and see if that was the song I really wanted. So it was a long, tedious process.

Raiatea Helm records in Mamiya Theatre. (Courtesy Guy Sibilla)

Q: When did you actually get down to recording the album?

A: We recorded (in August). We had a timeline on this and worked with the right people, so it was really exciting, but we were also very anxious because we never knew what to expect. It's the first multi-track recording I've ever done.

Q: Did you always know you wanted to record inside Mamiya Theatre?

A: We had a couple places in mind, but Mamiya was the best option. It has that old feel, that warmth, so it worked out right. The chemistry was perfect.

Q: Was it a one-and-done process? Or did you need a lot of time to get each track recorded?

A: We would perform each song a few times. But having all these professional musicians — and half of the people who performed on the CD, I never played with before — but having that connection with them of recording these old songs, everyone was related in some way and everything kind of naturally came out.

And that's what I wanted to capture, the performance. You have a lot of technical things in a recording, but to get that performance, that's how the artists recorded. It's also why I wanted to work with Milan Betrosa, because that's the kind of engineer he is. You have to work with the right type of engineer to get the real sound of a live performance, and that's the magic that Milan brought to the project.


Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at

Correction: Leina'ala Haili originally recorded the track "Namolokama." A different artist was incorrectly listed in an earlier version of this post.

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