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By Mark Brians. May 16, 2014 - 9:32 am
They began as a sidewalk group playing on Kalakaua raising their songs up above the din of other street performers, the bustle of tourists and partiers, and the general cacophony of the myriad vehicles that haunt the main drag through Waikiki.
It was almost four years ago on some breezy Saturday night that I first hear the band that has become known to many of us as Streetlight Cadence. I was captured by what seemed to me a poetic juxtaposition of the yearling musicians against the manicured gleam of the tourist industrial complex. With wealth and luxurious opulence the later throbbed with the promise of pleasure and enjoyment: big rooms, warm jacuzzis, comfy carpets, and complimentary Mai Tais with Tiki umbrella straws.
Brushing up against this, a quartet armed with a cello and an accordion galvanized the attention of passers-by with their simple indie tunes, full of that irrepressible folk-longing which betokens music of this kind.
The bio on their bandcamp site describes the roles the band members fulfill in Streetlight Cadence: “Jonathon Franklin (violin and vocals), Brian Webb (cello and backup vocals), Jesse Shiroma (accordion, percussion, and backup vocals), and Chaz Umamoto (guitar and harmony vocals).” But not only does this tell us about their positions within the band, it also gives us a key insight into the passion for music which has come to almost consensually define people’s experience of the group.
It is their dedication to and affectionate concern for the music itself which really sets them apart from other indie upstarts.
Over the past year the band has gained a lot of momentum and have quickly built and international fan-base. Currently, the group has entered Hard Rock Rising 2014, a worldwide battle-of-the-bands style competition. They have defeated several other bands on their way to becoming Hawaii’s representative for the competition. The second and current phase of the battle is a global online voting phase. The publication of this article will occur just as we find out the results of this competition.
With such developments Streetlight Cadence enters into a unique season of formation and realization. Hard Rock Rising is only a means through which Streetlight Cadence will set a course for it’s future. There will be other such events, further opportunities, more songs. What makes moments like this one of great importance is how it chooses to navigate the waters of rising popularity, increased publicity, and the numerous pressures that come as a result.
I do not know the direction Streetlight Cadence will take or what sort of story it craft for itself from the sea of possible options. That is their prerogative, and I leave it to their percipience. What I do know is the power of their story so far. The sound that they have been given is not one that is easily come-by and it is not one that mixes very well with the interests of mainstream music consumption.
As they enter the final cadences of this movement, I cannot but think to the sound that captured the crowd along Kalakaua and hope that whatever direction their story goes that they maintain the passion and the mindfulness that they have thus far poured into their music. Formed in streetlight gloaming, the sound inside this band’s music carries with it the sound of yearning. I, as well as a good many others, would love to see this yearning-sound tended, matured and given room to grow.
Hats-off to Streetlight Cadence from your fellows at HPU, and from those who remember listening to your music at sunset as we tossed our spare dead presidents into Jonathan’s violin case.
Photos by Mark Brians.