It was deja vu all over again . . . a dozen times, to be exact. “Deja Vu 12: Once in a Lifetime” brought together baby boomers, Gen Xers and millenials at the King Kamehameha Clubhouse last Saturday. The dance floor was jampacked all night long as the crowd partied to music of the 1960s and ’70s, played by many of the local boys who created Maui’s thriving teen band scene back in the day. In fact, while we boomers reveled in sweet nostalgia, most of the younger crowd came to watch their parents relive their glory days.
As the name implies, this was the 12th edition of the popular nostalgia night presented by Mitch Hazama and his Asian Blend cohorts. Asian Blend was founded by Mitch in 1972, when he and fellow bandmates were students at the University of Hawaii. For over two decades, the contemporary dance band was a fixture on the Waikiki nightclub circuit and has, for the past several years, reunited for special occasions such as Deja Vu nights.
I remember dancing to Asian Blend and other groups including Oahu’s The Glass Candle at Maui Beach Hotel’s Red Dragon Room in the mid-1970s. Before that, Maui youths partied at venues including Teen-o-Rama at the Kahului Fairgrounds, the Kahului and Wailuku Armories, War Memorial and Paia gyms, Kahului Shopping Center and, of course, our high school cafeterias and clubhouses.
Along with Asian Blend, the Deja Vu events include personnel from various ’60s and ’70s Maui bands; last weekend’s show featured the original lead singers from several of the most popular groups of the time: Jerry Kawahara (Soul Experience), Alan Fernandez (Exotic Creation), Martin Hill (Purple Haze) and Alan Pascua (The Shamroks). And all four original members of Sunflower — Jamie Lawrence, Jay Molina, Ronald Osakoda and Larry Pascual — reunited for a set, nearly 50 years after forming the group in grade school.
The first Battle of the Bands, in June 1969, was sponsored by Haleakala Dairy. Ronald remembered the entry fee was 500 milk cartons. “And we had to wash them all before turning them in,” Jay added. The Shamroks won that contest; a couple of months later, Purple Haze took the top prize at another band competition.
Both Sunflower and the Shamroks hold special places in my heart. All four Sunflower members are my Baldwin High School classmates, and Jay and I go back even further, to Makawao Elementary School. The Shamroks were a couple of years ahead of us, but I got to enjoy their music even before I was old enough to attend teen dances, because the Pascua brothers, Alan and Randy, lived on the same 6th increment street as me. My friends and I would sit on the roadside and watch them practice in their garage, thrilled to be so close to the Kahului heartthrobs.
When the late Tom Moffatt brought the Young Rascals to Maui, he introduced them to the Shamroks. The local boys showed the Rascals around the island, taking them to Iao Valley and Kepaniwai Park. That visit inspired Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere to write “My Hawaii” and “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” released in 1968. Naturally, “My Hawaii” was a huge hit in the islands, though it never reached the top of the national charts. It also became a standard part of the Shamroks’ repertoire.
Near the end of Saturday night’s show, as Alan sang the familiar refrain, most of us on the dance floor joined in:
I’ll return to fantasy and moon . . .
For a few magical hours, we returned to a more innocent, carefree Maui, swept away in a mutual fantasy of eternal youth.
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.