MAUI BEAT: The Barefoot Natives
By JON WOODHOUSE, Contributing Writer
Anyone who experienced the Barefoot Natives’ inspired Castle Theater show earlier in the year knows to expect the unexpected whenever this exceedingly talented duo performs live.
Abandoning the typical concept of musicians just standing on stage, the Natives delight in producing what they have termed Hawaiian musical theater, creatively combining theatrical elements, humor, video and exceptional music.
Who can forget the astonishing sight of Eric Gilliom strolling down a Castle aisle dressed in a flowing white wedding gown, blowing kisses and serenading his “just Maui’d” partner, a tuxedo- adorned Willie K, singing “Watching the River Run.”
So if you’re curious about what they’re going to come up with for their second annual Barefoot Bash fest on June 8 at the A&B Amphitheater, just know it’s going to be fun, imaginative and definitely unique.
First clue – it includes a birthday celebration for a Maui FM radio station.
“We’re celebrating KAOI’s 33rd birthday,” reports Gilliom.
Second clue – they’re thanking some friends.
“There’s a theme and it’s based on the Barefoot Natives having gotten help from some of their friends who own a business in Kahului,” Gilliom continues. “If you have any clothing that has mothballs in it, you might want to bring them to the concert because we’ll be able to address those kind of things. And if you have wooden shoes that need fumigating we’ll accommodate them as well.”
Third clue – “We want to do something special with the big white tent (that covers the amphitheater stage),” he reveals.
And of course, we’re going to hear some great music from the Natives, Kalapana, Hapa’s Hoku Award-winning bassist/falsetto singer Nathan Aweau, and the official Maui debut of Mick Fleetwood’s Island Rumours Band.
And “some very special guests are going to make an appearance,” adds Gilliom. “We can’t say who, but they’re a famous duo in Hawaii.”
For a sneak peek of the kind of fun the Natives have been cooking up, check their Web site and click on the Bash link to hear an absolutely hilarious “rehearsal” of Mick Fleetwood attempting rather unsuccessfully to record a promotional radio spot, patiently encouraged by Gilliom. “You just got to relax, you’re all tense” he implores the drummer. (It’s actually a manufactured interview skillfully created by Eric from out-of-context studio outtakes).
Relishing the opportunity to merge his theatrical training with Willie K’s consummate musicianship, Gilliom notes: “I get to do what I do best, which is the theatrical side of things, and Willie is in love with all of it because he’s tired of standing strumming a guitar on stage, and Mick’s loving it too. He likes what we’re doing, and he’s saying, ’Let’s bring some of that over into the Island Rumours Band.’ ”
Following an unofficial launching at the Four Seasons DUO restaurant opening and a premiere at the recent Diamond Head Crater Festival, the upcoming MACC show marks the third public appearance of the new island-based group founded by legendary drummer Mick Fleetwood.
“I’m thrilled, this is more me than the Oahu date, this is where it started,” enthuses Fleetwood about the Maui concert.
Blending blues, rock and Hawaiiana, Mick Fleetwood’s Island Rumours Band draws on the combined talents of the Barefoot Natives, Lopaka Colon from Henry Kapono’s Wild Hawaiian band, bassist Lenny Castellanos, Molokai’s Hoku-Award-winning singer Raiatea Helm, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito and the towering, powerhouse drumming of one of Fleetwood Mac’s founding members.
Experiencing Island Rumours, it’s especially thrilling to hear Fleetwood digging into his band’s early catalogue, breathing new life into classic gems such as “Black Magic Woman,” “Oh Well,” “Albatross” and “Rattlesnake Shake.”
Composed by Fleetwood Mac’s phenomenally talented founding guitarist Peter Green, “Black Magic Woman” became a huge hit for Santana.
“He searched Peter out and came down to one of our recording sessions and no one knew who he was,” Fleetwood remembers. “He heard our recording and six months later he had this huge hit. It became an epic song and people had no idea it was a Fleetwood Mac song. So you’ll hear Rick (Vito) saying, ’This is actually a Fleetwood Mac song.’ I know Carlos spends quite a lot of time here; I might have to phone him up and see if he wants to come and play the song with us. That would be fun. To this day, it’s a song that gets played a lot on the oldies stations. For Peter, it’s wonderful because it brings him revenue.”
The balmy instrumental “Albatross,” another memorable song composed by Green, was inspired by an American instrumental duo that was known for playing a few Hawaiian standards.
“It was influenced by Santo and Johnny,” Fleetwood explains. “They had a song called ’Sleep Walk’ and Peter loved that ethereal slide-playing stuff.”
And as for the rocking “Rattlesnake Shake,” a saucy tribute to the drummer, “It was a rather rude remembrance,” he notes, beginning detailing the lyrics, “I know this guy, his name is Mick, he don’t care when he ain’t got no chick, he does the shake.”
Formed in England in 1967, Fleetwood Mac began with its roots firmly planted in the blues. The band’s drummer, bassist John McVie and guitarist Green had all previously played in John Mayall’s Bluebreakers, and had no inkling back then that they would form a new band.
“A lot of people thought it was an internal, preordained conspiracy, but it was never even thought about,” recalls Fleetwood. “I left and then Peter left and he had no intention of forming a band. He was going to go off and wander around Morocco and do what Eric Clapton and Brian Jones did, just be a wondering minstrel. But then he phoned me up and said, ’Let’s put a band together.’
“We didn’t leave John Mayall to do it.”
Producing music in London in the late 1960s, the Mac musicians were part of an amazing creative period that has never been matched. “It was a great time and in many ways the residue from those days is literally alive and its influence is still being drawn upon,” Fleetwood notes.
“There was the Yardbirds and the Stones and early Fleetwood Mac and then you had the side headed up by the Beatles. For it to be still alive is really a testimony to how real and important that period was.
There’s no way of flopping it off. You don’t even have to be old and boring, it’s the truth. It’s still a big influence.”
When Fleetwood is not recording and touring with Fleetwood Mac (we can look forward to a new tour probably starting in February 2008, he has often gravitated to other musical outlets. His first multicultural adventure took place in 1981 when he traveled to Ghana to record with African musicians, releasing the critically acclaimed album “Visitor.”
This early cultural experimentation planted the seeds for future blended projects, culminating with the formation of the Island Rumours Band.
“My reference to this would be the ’Visitor,’ where I went to Ghana,” Fleetwood explains. “I am the visitor here. Coming here and convening is a reaching out, which is what I did when I went to Ghana.”
Both Barefoot Natives feel inspired to be working with the legendary musician in the Rumours Band. “It’s taken what we’re doing to another level and given us exposure that we’ve never had,” says Gilliom. “And Mick is very gracious in maintaining the fact that it is the Barefoot Natives playing with the Island Rumours Band. It’s great for us because we’re playing with a rock legend. How much better can it get?”
Before their performance at the Bash, those with cable TV access can tune in starting Friday at 8 p.m. on cable channel OC-16 to a half-hour Natives special directed by Brian Kohne, that captures the ingenuity of their Castle Theatre show.
Then on June 14, KITV-4 (ABC) will air a one-hour special on the Natives’ first Barefoot Bash held last year at the Lahaina Civic, directed by Ken Martinez Burgmaier. It begins in prime time at 8 p.m. following Game 4 of the NBA finals.
In between working on the MACC show and rehearsing with Island Rumours, the Natives are forging ahead recording a new album. “We were trying to finish it before the Bash, but it’s been so insanely, wonderfully busy,” Gilliom reports. “We’re at least halfway through it, but we’re not rushing it.”
Unlike their debut, which was just nominated for five Na Hoku Awards (including Group, Contemporary Hawaiian album and Song of the Year), the new work will focus almost exclusively on original material.
“Willie’s pretty adamant that it’s all originals, but we may do one cover song,” he continues. “Our first offering, to get airplay in Hawaii there had to be something on the album for people to relate to. We’re also making a hard effort to get away from he does a song, I do a song, and we do one together. We’re looking to create more songs that are written for two vocalists like Loggins and Messina, that are written for two parts, and that’s a challenge.”
As to the possibility of the Natives recording an album as part of the Island Rumours band, Fleetwood feels positive.
“I would say it’s highly likely that this band will record and I would love to do that,” he concludes. “We have songwriters in this band that are quite capable. We just need to play more and then things like writing songs for this band become possible. I would love to think I’m able to create music here in Hawaii and bring attention to talent that comes from these islands.”
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