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Entertainment // Art & Stage
Rasa Fournier

Streetlight’s Contagious Cadence

While walking along Kalakaua Avenue on a random night, a mesmerizing groove grabs you by the ear. Sure, tourists pause here and there for the ubiquitous sidewalk entertainment, but there’s something special about the energy exuded by Streetlight Cadence (streetlightcadence.com). It’s that pure love for the instruments, the readiness to chat with admirers and goof off for photos. It’s the accessibility, the freshness, the naturalness, the way they make the cello and violin hip. The charismatic quartet – Jonathon Franklin (violin), Jesse Shiroma (accordion, percussion), Brian Webb (cello) and Chaz Umamoto (guitar) – has its audience in a rapture like meerkats at sunset.

Franklin and Shiroma were among the original band members four years ago who started playing the streets to make some grocery money while in college. Various others came and went, but now they’re down to a group solid enough that they’re moving beyond their ongoing club and venue gigs on island to tour the Mainland West Coast this month.

“Not only do we like to bring classical music to the modern age,” pronounces lead singer Franklin, “we like to bring pop music to the classical age.”

With that, they dive into a Lady Gaga number only to move on to Devil Went Down to Georgia, or a Mumford & Sons hit. Their own catchy original music is some of the most riveting. Look up Thinking of You from their debut album of the same name on iTunes, Spotify or Amazon. They also have a new album in the works, pending crowdfunding (search for it on kickstarter.com to learn more).

The band takes a break, and still buzzing from the music high, an exuberant Shiroma talks with A&S.

How long will you be on tour? We’ll be on the road for three weeks from San Diego to Seattle, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland. We’re getting gigs through friends, and Hard Rock Cafe here (one of the band’s main haunts) has been forwarding us to Hard Rocks in other cities, saying “Hey, check these guys out.” We’ve been cold-calling venues and saying, “We’re Streetlight Cadence, a sidewalk band from Hawaii, and we would love to play at your venue.” We’ve been receiving fantastic support from abroad and from home.

Who makes up your fan base?

The funny thing about being a sidewalk band is even though we started here and we play here in Hawaii, the majority of our fan base are tourists from the Mainland and from Europe. We have offers, “Come to Sydney, come to Tokyo.” And we’ll try. We want to do an East Coast tour, hopefully in the summer and then who knows, maybe Japan, Australia …

We bill ourselves as pretty low key. To save on costs, we try not to stay in hotels, and we ask if fans would be so gracious to host us. We’re fantastic cleaners, you know, like maids – the house, dishes. We’ll cook our hosts dinner for a floor to sleep on.

Where are the band members from? I was born here (Honolulu), raised in Hilo. Chaz is from here. Brian is from San Diego and Jon is from Houston.

Are all of you music majors? None of us studied music in college. I’m a history and German double major. Brian is a social work major. Chaz studied English. And Jon was in entrepreneurial studies. Jon, Brian and Chaz just graduated. Brian is in the middle of his master’s. I’m in my last undergraduate semester at UH-Manoa.

How often do you practice? We sit down usually once or twice a week and hammer things out seriously. But we actually consider busking practice, so we play a lot of new material here (on the sidewalk). It’s our most regular gig – we shoot for three times a week, but at least one or two.

What made you decide to go on tour? Streetlight Cadence first started as, yeah, we’re playing on the sidewalk, we’ll learn a few covers. We started writing some songs, people started liking them and slowly over the years it was feeling good, like, do we want to commit to this? We would look at each other, is he thinking the same thing I’m thinking? A few months ago we decided alright, we’re all pouring all of our chips into this tour. We’re all paying out of pocket. We’re all into this 110 percent.

Do you see yourselves becoming too good for the streets? No way, never! Honestly, the sidewalks without a question are the funnest gigs – the stories and the people you meet. And the best thing is we’re not expecting anything, we’re just sharing our music. To see people sit down and listen to a complete stranger on the sidewalk, it’s something else.

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