Looking forward with new band and love of farming
Pat Simmons Jr. shares mutual passions with latest trio
After performing with his father on Dec. 22 at one of the concert highlights of 2018, Pat Simmons Jr. is looking forward to entertaining folks with his new band featuring California-based cousins Sam Frey on bass and Adam Frey on drums.
The trio will play a few dates on Maui beginning with a show at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon in Paia.
Besides enjoying playing together, the three musicians also share a love for organic farming.
“They’re from Mendocino County and are organic farmers on a family ranch,” Pat explains while on the phone tending to a coconut tree crop that he’s cultivating. “They grow grapes and all kinds of food. They’re like-minded guys. We share the same values of taking care of the land and eating organic, healthy food and surfing.”
With similar musical tastes, the trio has a diverse repertoire.
“We have arrangements of local-style roots reggae music to folk and country and traditional Hawaiian, and my originals,” he continues. “Then we jam a bit with blues and some Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix.”
On Dec. 21 and 22, he played two “Generations” shows with his dad, Doobie Brothers’ co-founder Pat Simmons, in a terrific band that included bassist Hutch Hutchinson, Doobie Brothers’ multi-instrumentalist John McFee and veteran drummer Marty Fera.
“It was amazing to play with those guys, and also to be able to perform the material live from my (‘This Mountain’) album,” he enthuses.
Pat backed his dad on some early Doobies’ gems, including “Chicago” and “Slat Key Soquel Rag,” and his dad backed him on tunes from “This Mountain,” brilliantly embellished by McFee’s steel guitar playing, along with a cover of America’s “Ventura Highway,” and some new songs.
“It was fun to learn a lot of [dad’s] old tunes,” he notes. “We played songs that he hadn’t performed in 40 years.”
British rock legend Dave Mason was a surprise guest both nights. After playing a few tunes on Dec. 21, he was inspired to head home and compose a new song for Pat.
“He came backstage and said, ‘I came up with this tune last night, I want you to help me finish it.’ He wrote it for me. It’s amazing.”
Over the holiday season, Pat got to perform at the star-studded New Year’s Eve party at the Wailea Beach Resort — Marriott, Maui, and jam with G. Love at Charley’s.
“I grew up listening to his [G. Love’s] music,” he says. “It was a huge honor — definitely a highlight moment of my life. Lately, I’ve been on a roll of sharing the stage with some amazing inspirational artists that I’ve looked up to.”
He recently played Willie K’s BluesFest at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
“It was an extreme honor to participate,” he says. “It was a powerful experience to be with Willie at a really sensitive time in his life.”
Pat and his dad were about to join Willie on stage when he collapsed.
“We had our guitars on our shoulder, and were going to walk out on stage,” he adds.
Spending time when he was younger on the road touring with his dad and the Doobie Brothers, Pat later opened some shows for the legendary rockers.
Diagnosed with cancer about five years ago, he had successfully healed when he began composing songs for his first album, “This Mountain,” which was nominated for two Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.
The impressive recording featured a galaxy of stellar musicians including his father, the Doobie’s McFee, Elvin Bishop, and Maui’s Keali’i Reichel and Willie K.
Reflecting his heartfelt love for our island, song topics ranged from a powerful homage to Haleakala and his passion for surfing, to environmental protection, grounding in nature and cancer recovery.
“After chemotherapy in 2013, I had inspiration to have more fun in life and reconnect with my heart,” he says. “I love to spend as much time as I can surfing in the ocean, raising my son close to nature and growing, harvesting and cooking good, healthy, organic food.”
On Jan. 13 last year, when we heard that Hawaii was about to be hit by a nuclear missile, Makana recalled how “waking to an alert of a nuclear attack in Hawaii got me thinking, ‘Why is this even a possibility?’ The false alert led me to realize how real the threat of nuclear war is now.”
On the anniversary of that missile scare, Makana released an extraordinary video of a powerful new song shot in a once secret Russian nuclear bunker. It can be viewed at https://vimeo.com /310276887. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has shared the video on its website.
While touring Russia, he heard about the recently declassified Bunker 703, a once top-secret nuclear bomb shelter deep underground in Moscow. It was formerly a repository for the Soviet Foreign Ministry’s archives, disguised as a chocolate factory during the Cold War.
Led by a Russian soldier, Makana was the first American ever to descend into the bunker. Moved by the moment, he improvised a song on the spot, “Mourning Armageddon,” which was captured on film with a hand-held camera.
“I can’t believe the most beautiful acoustics I’ve ever heard were in a nuclear bunker,” he reports.
Makana performed benefit concerts for audiences in Moscow and St. Petersburg organized by Bruce Allyn and Cynthia Lazaroff, who founded NuclearWakeUpCall .Earth, after experiencing the Hawaii missile scare.
This weekend Makana plays the St. Barts Music Festival in the French West Indies.
Known for his acoustic fingerstyle guitar playing and lap steel music, Grammy Award-winning Ed Gerhard is acclaimed as one of the top acoustic guitarists in the world.
Along with players like Ben Harper and David Lindley, Gerhard’s unique approach to the Weissenborn (an acoustic “Hawaiian” lap side guitar) has played a significant role in reinvigorating interest in this esoteric instrument.
Guitars by Weissenborn were designed to be played with a slide on the lap, like a dobro. They were the most popular “Hawaiian” instruments of the mid 1920s.
“I always played bottleneck-style slide,” Gerhard reported in an interview. “I’d see a Weissenborn here and there and I’d played them, but the bug never bit me until sometime in the ’90s when I was recording a record called ‘Counting the Ways.’ I wanted some Hawaiian guitar on the record — I loved the sound.”
Beginning to play guitar at the age of 14 after being amazed seeing classical guitarist Andres Segovia on TV, Gerhard was also influenced by the open tunings of renowned folk guitarist John Fahey.
This brilliant virtuoso issued his solo debut, “Night Birds,” in 1987. It was picked at the time as one of the Top 10 Albums of the Year by the Boston Globe.
“Guitarists don’t get any better than Ed Gerhard,” praised the Globe. “Gerhard can do it all, not only with technical perfection but with the ability to illuminate the emotional core of whatever he is playing.”
Notable for his inventive use of many different open tunings and a strong melodic sense, his repertoire ranges from traditional blues and spiritual standards, to Celtic songs and Hawaiian-influenced compositions.
Premier Guitar praised: “Absorbing Ed Gerhard’s music requires patience. For starters, the acoustic finger-style wizard took some six years to complete his ninth album, ‘There and Gone.’ But more importantly, the solo guitarist’s tunes and beautifully articulated counterpoint unfold slowly, like flower petals opening to the sunrise.”
An extraordinarily soulful, poetic player, “There and Gone” includes lovely versions of “Heart Like a Wheel” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” fused with “Across the Universe.”
Among his most memorable works, “Homage,” a tribute to guitarist Michael Hedges, is simply sublime.
• Ed Gerhard performs tonight at 7:30 in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $42 and $56 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or more information, visit the box office, go online to www.mauiarts.org or call 242-7469.