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Fresh Out of Water: Great White Shark Attacks Hawai‘i

November 10, 2009 - Trisha Smith
Old friends of mine have introduced me to a great deal of excellent ska and punk rock throughout the years, and recently I’ve been getting into a few “new” ones. Well, new to me. (Unfortunately, I was born after or around the time a majority of the music I listen to was even made.)

My pal Scott just turned me onto a band called The Slackers, a ska rock outfit formed nearly two decades ago who are still touring internationally and making quality records.

During the early ‘90s, Rancid was instigating a punk rock revival on the West Coast while at the same time, The Slackers of NYC were trying figure out exactly where they fit in. I’ve been grooving to a sound they refer to as “Jamaican rock’n’roll” for over a week now—thank you Pandora—and I’m hooked. (For those unaware, ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, a predecessor of reggae and rocksteady.)

The Slackers have opened for Rancid shows, and the two resilient bands compliment each other quite awesomely. Perhaps one day they will grace us with their presence and perform on Maui together. Highly unlikely, but a girl can dream.

Within days of discovering The Slackers’ greatness, I received a press release from James Whitehead—the motivated frontman from a Canadian group known as Great White Shark (GWS).

This “dance band with a bite” hails from Victoria, British Colombia (BC) on Vancouver Island. (Quick geography lesson: Victoria is the capital city of BC, and sits on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, off the west coast of BC in Canada. Got it?)

I’ve heard the “Van Isle” is “totally tubular,” and boasts a pretty groovy music scene. Also, there’s stellar waves for year-round surf and perfect powder for skiing or snowboarding during the winter. 

According to Whitehead, Victoria is similar to Maui in ways—whale watching, cool people, great surf, etc. Lucky for our surfers, Hawai‘i’s water temperatures don’t ever reach the 40-degree range as it does off Vancouver Island in the winter.

Victoria has seen quite an influx of ska and has become home to arguably the best ska scene in the world, according to Whitehead. They even have the Victoria Ska Society, a volunteer group that brings in great bands from around the world, and each year they host Victoria Ska Fest, the longest-running and largest ska festival in North America.

Last summer’s 10th annual Victoria Ska Fest was lead by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and The Slackers.

GWS plays a vibrant reggae, ska, funk, hip-hop and “driving surf rhythms” created by the vocals talents and antics of Whitehead, guitarist Josh Kellett, the basslines of Steven Taddei and percussionist Sean Thompson.

Imagine Sublime—but not as versatile or innovative—and Reel Big Fish—but without the horn section—came together to unite for a show. Yet, the energy levels of GWS are right on point and the talent is there.

In their rookie year, the four-piece, ska-reggae-pop band is trying to find its place and considers themselves one of Canada’s emerging, fresh acts. This driven independent band believes they have “conquered the hearts and minds” of the Canada’s surf scene on the West Coast. They’re hoping to build on their popularity with their 2009 tour of the Hawaiian Islands in support of their upcoming new album How You Conduct Yourself.

This charming young band has a lot of potential, and if their bite is as big as their bark, they'll reach stellar success in 2010.

Not sure how they did it, but GWS is playing two shows on Kaua‘i and a handful on O‘ahu. We have two chances to catch them on Maui and they promise not to bite—hard, that is.

Head west this Thursday night, Nov. 12, to The Cellar 744 and check out our new friends from up north. Show starts at 9 p.m. and only costs $6. Black Powder of Maui opens. Call 661-3744 for more info.

The Cellar is shaping up to be the “go-to” venue for many visiting bands, with convenient Front Street locale and spacious dance floor to bust a move. NOFX stopped by last January for a few nights of mayhem. Thank you!

If you can’t make it Thursday, Great White Shark will be turning things up on the North Shore on Friday, Nov. 13, at Charley’s. Maui’s Super Dub opens. Show starts at 9 p.m., costs $7 to $10, depending on when you get there. Call 579-8085 for more details.

Hopefully, the famous Pä‘ia saloon will continue to provide a comfortable venue for local artists and invite more dexterous acts from beyond—as they did with Band of Horses last summer—and stick to their decision to drop such efforts as “Club 142” nights.

Maybe I’ll see you out at one of the shows! I’ll be skanking like my old roomie Teddy taught me, which could be an interesting show within itself.

Visit to listen to a few of their songs. I can’t get There’ve Been Times out of my head. 

Aloha and a hui hou! 


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