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Ha‘ikü Hillbillys’ music deemed ‘undanceable’????

November 4, 2010 - Trisha Smith
Beloved Upcountry act ends regular gigs at Stopwatch, since they don’t play “dance music.”

Coconut wireless has been off the hook lately with random rumbles in the rumor mill regarding cool Upcountry locales that are making very un-cool decisions.

Amidst the bizarre buzz surrounding Pä‘ia’s mainstay, Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon—which I hope to clear up in a future editorial in an upcoming issue of the Maui Weekly—my mind has been boggled a time or two lately when I heard some things regarding Makawao’s very own Stopwatch Sportsbar & Grill, who seems to be making strange decisions regarding their service staff and live music events.

(Sidenote: Hopefully, Mayor-elect Alan Arakawa will provide—as he promised—some much-needed relief to the parking lot, renovation situation that has become a thorn in the heart of Pä‘ia, severing the livelihood of many of the town’s stellar small businesses.)

When I first moved to Maui a few years back, I lived Upcountry in Ha‘ikü, yet months later, I found myself situated in Kïhei, a result of a frayed relationship and the fact that both the jobs I had were in South Maui, and the high gas prices weren’t too kind to this new island girl with a Maui cruiser.

Anywho, some of my favorite memories of all time are the nights a bunch of my new soul sistas—Pearly Girl and Leisa Baby remember well—and we would take off our shoes at the Stopwatch, and dance around, barefoot, like free-spirited fools while jamming to Ha‘ikü Hillbillys (HH). We always had an amazing time dancing and giggling, within the restricted dance box, of course. (Thanks LC!)

I’ve had the privilege to groove to the stellar “tunage” of band leader Randall Rospond and his Hillbillys across the isle since several times, but those times at Stopwatch remain the fondest.

So, you can imagine my surprise, and revulsion, when I opened an email from my pal Randall today and saw this note below.


Aloha Dear Friends,

After six years of playing the Stopwatch in Makawao, the Ha‘ikü Hillbillys have cancelled further bookings at the Stopwatch. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the folks who often enjoyed our music there and thank you for your years of support—we really appreciate you coming to our shows and opening your minds and ears to our music.

The reason for this decision is based predominately on the Stopwatch management who has deemed the Ha‘ikü Hillbillys music “un-danceable.” The management has complained and during our gigs they have “Ordered Us to Play Dance Music,” by which by their standards, we are apparently incapable of doing?!

We have always enjoyed this upcountry venue since it has been very convenient for our Upcountry fans. We are sorry for this inconvenience and hope to find a comparable venue on the North Shore/Upcountry that is respectful and appreciative of our music.

It shocks us that anyone would consider us UNDANCEABLE!!!

Please keep your eyes and ears peeled as we will be performing elsewhere. Once again, mucho mahalos for listening and dancing to our music. With aloha and most sincerely,

Randall and the Ha‘ikü Hillbillys


Is this a time to shun a well-known isle band that brings you dedicated fans—aka consumers of your services, which mean money in your pockets—in this economy?

I’ve been following an array of music and advocating for a variety of bands for many years—in fact in the heart of a city, downtown Chicago—and I’ve never heard of anything this silly. (Well, maybe, but we don't have time for that story...)

And if you knew Randall and they guys, you would know that it is even more silly than it seems.

Just to reiterate what the word “undanceable” means, literally, see below.

(Of course, for all you smarty pants, I know we all “dance” our own unique ways to different kinds of music, and I guess house and techno music is considered the “dance music” that I grooved to in my “raver” days, but not being able to actually move to the groove of the HH is just ridiculous to me.)

According to Merriam-Webster—they are so smart—the root word "dance," as an intransitive verb, is defined as “to engage in or perform a movement” and/or “to move or seem to move up and down or about in a quick or lively manner.”

As with the prefix "un-," it refers to “ to do the opposite of: reverse (a specified action)” and/or “to cause to cease to be (in verb formed from nouns).”

Furthermore, the suffix "–able" is defined as “capable of, fit for, or worthy of (being so acted upon or toward)” chiefly in adjectives derived verbs.

Put all these definitions together to form “undanceable,” and I bet if you have ever seen the HH as a band, live and turning it out, you would not define their show as so. Look Stopwatch—I’m not sure what you consider “dance” music—and I’m not saying the Hillybillys are the most danceable band on the isle—but your cute lil sportsbar and grill is located in a charming, paniolo town in Upcountry on the isle of Maui—not in Cancun on Spring Break ’99.

And your “dance” floor is the size of my kitchen, so what exactly are you looking for here? I’m confused.

I can proudly say places in South Maui, Upcountry, North Shore, among many areas, would never treat their musicians that have been playing regular gigs at their venues for over six years—and had gathered such a devoted following—like the way Stopwatch has treated the Ha‘ikü Hillbillys recently. I used to like going to Stopwatch... now, I may think twice when looking Upcountry for fun.

And lastly, Randall and his rotating line-up of stellar musicians are well-respected, hard-working guys on the isle, with a lot of friends. And with Casanovas down the street serving up a variety of music options and events, this was not the most wise decision,Stopwatch, in my opinion.

Is management looking to open up that dance club Upcountry has been looking for all these years? Yeah...


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Randall Rospond