Streetlight Cadence wins 2014 Rumble
Wednesday night’s final round of the annual Mai Tai Rumble showcased how much this battle of the bands has changed since it started at Ala Moana Center more than a decade ago.
Local reggae and island contemporary bands dominated for years after the Mai Tai Bar introduced the battle of the bands in 2001 — so much so that event organizers had to split the competition into categories for reggae and everything else. That changed a few years ago when entries slumped a bit, forcing all bands to compete against each other. As increasing numbers of rock and alternative bands began to advance farther in the competition, others began to sit up and take notice.
This year, more than half of the bands that competed were of the non-reggae variety, according to event co-producer Alan Arato. In the finals, only one band — Ascension — could be considered a true reggae group. Backwards Shaka has established themselves as a solid rock-reggae fusion band, while Solid Rock made no attempt to conceal their deep Christian roots during the competition.
Which brings us to Streetlight Cadence, the folk-rock quartet that couldn’t be further from the stereotype most envision when talking about live music at the Mai Tai Bar. Dressed in bright pastel colors and toting classical stringed instruments (we’re talking a violin and cello here, folks), the guys performed a high energy set that won over final round judges Tom Moffatt, Jamie Hyatt and Ed Nix and scored them $18,000 in cash and prizes.
“We thought (the Mai Tai Rumble) was tailored against us,” said Streetlight Cadence’s Johnathon Franklin. ”We figured when we compete it always improves us, whether or not we win. We were surprised we got past the second round, honestly.”
“More than the competition, everybody is bringing good vibes, good energy, good music,” added Jesse Shiroma. “We get to meet all these bands we don’t know. … I’ve never heard of Backwards Shaka. Their fusion of rock and reggae? It’s tight! I was blown away.”
After five years of busking on the streets of Waikiki, Streetlight Cadence has made strides in 2014 to change their focus and go after more traditional gigs. About six months ago, all four members of the band committed to music full-time.
“Maybe it’s because we’re the only ones doing what we do here, but we’ve had this momentum,” said Franklin. “This is probably one of the most challenging places to get into the music business.”
With the Mai Tai Rumble win, the band will receive a variety of prizes, including an opening gig at the Party of the Year at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park on New Year’s Eve.
But tonight, they’ll be back on Kalakaua Avenue playing for tourists who pass them by on the sidewalk.
“People say it’s hard to get ahead here, but I think Hawaii is one of the best places to start,” said Shiroma. “It’s a safe, cool, friendly environment to start making music and share your music.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter and Google+.