The Throwdowns have a lot going for them - a charismatic lead vocalist, exuberant musicianship, a mega sound and a great new album packed with memorable tunes.
Only problem, they live on Maui, which means a limited audience and only a handful of suitable venues.
So it's no wonder they've been mining Oahu for gigs and are eagerly exploring Mainland opportunities.
The Throwdowns have blossomed into one of Maui’s best rock bands
Tony Novak-Clifford photo
Jim Brickman takes the stage Sunday at the MACC
Photo provided by Nancy Bernal
If there ever was a chance for a rock band from Maui to make it, it's probably the Throwdowns.
"Legs of Our Own" marks a major evolution in their sound, heralding a band ripe for the big time. Never before has a Maui rock band produced a CD so brimming with irresistible, original tunes ready for national radio exposure.
They grab you from the get-go in the instantly catchy "Go Go Go," with its crunching power chords laced to a rousing chorus, kind of No Doubt laced with Pearl Jam that shouts out - we're ready to make the leap.
"Our next step is really bridging over to the Mainland," says The Throwdowns guitarist/producer Ola Shaw. "We want to continue to live here and travel out.
"We've met people who are stoked on the music that are going to help us cross over. We're looking at licensing music for movies and commercials and video games. Hopefully we can build national exposure. All it really takes is one song on a hit movie, and you could be from anywhere."
The Throwdowns feature dynamic lead singer Erin Smith, of Toronto, Maui-born musicians Ola Shaw and bassist Kimo Clark, and drummer Ian Hollingsworth from Pennsylvania.
With a loyal fan base on Maui, the band is often invited to open shows for headliners here and on Oahu. This list includes Matisyahu, Panic! at the Disco, The Fray, Bad Brains, 311, NOFX, Train, the English Beat and Sammy Hagar.
"The BAMP promoters are friends of ours," Ola notes. "They bring in the big bands and have us open, which is a total blessing for us."
The band has drawn comparisons with artists like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (they're not as furious), Santigold (less quirky), Sublime (not so reggae) and Gwen Stefani/No Doubt (similar polished, commercial, hybrid sound).
"We play sexy rock," says Ola, chuckling. "It's alternative rock and pop with island influences."
Their Hoku-nominated debut release, "Don't Slow Down," ranged from the catchy, reggae-flavored rock of "Redemption on The Dancefloor," to the breathless punk pace of "Getting Bored."
They've now channeled their bristling energy into a richer, edgier sound where every track on "Legs of Our Own" feels finely honed. And remarkably it's self-produced.
"We spent a lot of time on this record," he says. "We were approached by a pretty awesome producer, but we turned it down because he wanted to produce the whole project in two weeks. We didn't feel we could get our heart and soul into the record in two weeks. I went to music school and school for audio production, so I was able to produce and engineer the album. This one is more refined and polished."
Released this week, the band's already getting prominent, local radio airplay with the rocking/reggae single "Stay HI," featuring Marty Dread on guest vocals. Another single, "Shake Your Bones," is being promoted with a YouTube video by hip Big Island videographer Alex Farnham.
To celebrate the release of the album, the band will host an all-ages show Saturday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, in the courtyard of the new Yokouchi Pavillion.
"We never want to lose our identity of being from Hawaii," Ola concludes. "But we want to keep the rock edge and stay current with the times with something that's marketable right now. It's been about two years since we put out a CD. We're excited. Whatever the outcome, we're all stoked we went for it."
* The Throwdowns play the MACC on Saturday at 6 p.m. Gates open at 5. Lily Meola and Big Island singer Kimie will open. A separate area will be available for those under 21 years of age. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of show (plus applicable fees).
A master of the romantic pop ballad, Jim Brickman has carved out a unique career with soothing, lilting piano works that have catapulted him to the top of the charts.
A genuine phenomenon, Brickman's single "Rocket to the Moon," from his 1994 debut album, "No Words," became the first solo instrumental recording ever to hit Billboard's Top 40 pop chart, while three tunes from the follow-up "By Heart" made an unprecedented crossover into the adult contemporary Top 10 alongside vocal artists like Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men.
Four of his albums have been certified gold (sales of 500,000) and various songs of his have landed in the adult contemporary, smooth jazz, new age, gospel, pop and even country charts, leading some to hail him as "America's romantic piano sensation," or "the Kenny G of piano."
"The piano is an instrument that everybody likes, and it really comes down to connecting the music to the audience," says Brickman. "I don't rely on radio or a hit song to drive my career. I want people to connect with me and my music so I started touring all the time. It's a human connection not based on hype."
Emotionally touching audiences, Brickman joined the ranks of new age stars Yanni and John Tesh when he began hosting his own PBS specials.
"My Romance: An Evening with Jim Brickman," released as a CD and DVD, featured guests Olivia Newton-John, Donny Osmond, David Benoit and Dave Koz.
"Unlike his new age compatriots whose shows often resemble slickly produced circuses, Brickman's genius lies in simplicity and intimacy," praised a Jazziz magazine review of the recording. "The disc is a beautiful primer on the wonders of romance as well as a marvelous showcase for one of instrumental music's most irresistible performers."
Since his 1994 debut album, Brickman has hit on a winning formula, integrating vocal songs with instrumental compositions. Besides Olivia Newton-John and Donny Osmond, some of the high- profile singers he's worked with include Kenny Loggins, Carly Simon, Pam Tillis, Martina McBride and Collin Raye.
* Jim Brickman performs at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. Featuring guest vocalists Jordan Segundo and Angeli Callo. Tickets are $25, $35, $50 and $65 for VIP, which includes post-show meet-and-greet (plus applicable fees). For more information, call 242-7469.