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Surf rock on a roll.

October 1, 2009
Barry Sultanoff

Put ’em together, and you’ve got SoundWave, Maui’s premiere instrumental surf-rock band with nearly 80 songs on its current playlist, spanning the genres of surf, classic and blues rock; jazz; R&B; Latin; and even some surprising, quirky adaptations of classical music (though I don’t think National Public Radio is quite ready for them!).

Until now, the group had chosen to be “off-grid,” warming up invisibly, for the most part, to its recent explosion on Maui. Like an underwater volcano, subtly building toward the surface and finding now its “perfect storm” of a moment to emerge into full-blown expression, SoundWave has become in recent months a musical tsunami, hitting downtown Pa‘ia (the group has become quite a phenomenon at Green Banana Café on weekend evenings) and other island locales with a wave of sound that’s been dazzling audiences and sending a ripple of ecstatic nostalgia through the hearts of swaying onlookers. Fans include former Mayor Alan Arakawa and former NBA basketball coach Don Nelson.

The group first broke ground in 1998 when guitarist Harry Davisson, drummer Patrick McDowell and bassist Robert Campbell got together to bang out a few surf-rock tunes. Jack Fisher soon joined on second guitar; and when Campbell left the group to handle family responsibilities, Fisher recruited the band’s current bassist, Bill Baldwin, with whom he had played in a band called “Rocket” back in the mid-’80s. At the time, Davisson already knew most of the repertoire played by The Ventures, an inspirational and iconic surf-rock group of the ’60s and ’70s.

Article Photos

Harry Davisson is the guitarist for Maui’s premiere instrumental surf-rock band.

Now add to the SoundWave brew the mature, catalytic talents of relative newcomer Mike Elam on keyboards. The result has been an intoxicating alchemy! (Computer-savvy Elam can also be heard on Mana‘o Radio as “Web Wizard Mike”).

In 2005, the band had brought its signature sound to the electronic stage at Mana‘o Radio, performing several live broadcasts for the station’s “Club Mana‘o” series. The last of these, as it turned out, proved to be significant and poignant: it would be the final project engineered and recorded by the station’s beloved co-founder (along with Kathy Collins), Barry Shannon. A re-mix of 17 of the songs from these sessions resulted in SoundWave—The Barry Shannon Sessions.

Since then, SoundWave has played at private parties, canoe club and surfer events, and fundraisers. It performed at the Wailuku “First Friday” event, at Mana’o Radio’s BarryFest, and several times at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center when surf movies were being screened at the Maui Film Festival.

The group performed in July at Pā‘ia Fest and drew a colorful Maui audience that was literally dancing in the streets. The comment I heard repeatedly that evening: “SoundWave rocks!”

“We started with our love for retro instrumental surf rock, groups like The Ventures, Dick Dale, etc.,” said guitarist Jack Fisher, “but we’re really very eclectic in our tastes. We do it all in our unique ensemble style, interestingly arranged and well rehearsed. We truly love the music.

“Our twice-weekly musical get-togethers have been happening for 11 years now,” said Fisher. “They are open to visitors, who know they can always come have a good time with us. But it’s even more awesome when we have a receptive audience at our public performances. That’s when the real fun begins and the magic happens.”

The group plays regularly at Green Banana Cafe, across the street from Charley’s Restaurant in Pā‘ia, where it will return soon for its next installment of tightly rehearsed, high-energy instrumental rock. Check local listings for details.

SoundWave is online on at and on Facebook.



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