Since the pandemic lockdown of 2020, much has happened to Streetlight Cadence. The music foursome whose artistry has Hawaiian roots will be back onstage this week for a gig at Blue Note Hawaii (6:30 and 9 p.m. Saturday Aug. 21).
For starters: After a six-year residency in Los Angeles, they’ve split – that is to say, two of the guys (Jesse Shiroma, accordionist, and Brian Webb, cellist) now live in Honolulu, while the other two (Ben Chai, guitarist and drummer, in Houston, and Jonathon Franklin, violinist, in Los Angeles) now are mainlanders.
“COVID-19 changed everything,” said Franklin. “For the first time in our history, we didn’t have any gigs. Our tours were cancelled, our income was gone, and we decided to spend our time closer to our families. We’re at a point in our career that the tours – when they happen again –fly us all in from all over the country. This tour back to Oahu is hopefully the restart of all that we have been missing.”
“We made a lot of friends and really had some awesome experiences in L.A.,” said Chai. “But the pandemic gave us some time to think about how we would grow in the future – and geographically, it helps to have multiple home bases when you’re mostly touring.”
We conducted an email interview with Franklin and Chai, and curiously but not surprisingly, the ongoing coronavirus issues have influenced and altered the way the Streetlighters operate and survive, the pair said. On a grand scale, the multi-city residency format is a combination of social distancing and virtual planning, which has some pros and some cons.
Indeed, the cadence has changed for the combo that brought delight and joy to early fans that enjoyed their street harmonies. Hence, the Streetlight Cadence name.
“There’s clearly some advantages and disadvantages to working remotely,” said Franklin. “There’s more planning and organization required, but it has given us a new level of freedom and technical proficiency in production and recording since that is the only way to communicate our new music ideas while we’re apart.”
Said Chai:“We’ve always been pretty good at delegating, and honestly it just makes it so much nicer when we do get to be together in the same room.”
The splintered residency also meant that Streetlight Cadence – and its alt-folk-pop musical strokes – had to modify and enlarge plans with expansive traveling and tours.
“We are aiming bigger than ever,” said Franklin. “Before, we could all drive to 90 per cent of our gigs in L.A. Now every gig needs to justify flying at least half of us across the ocean. Bigger shows, bigger events, bigger tours and tighter schedules are the new way to play. So we’re going big.”
The template to relaunch includes a new booking agent, Ed Keane and Associates, with visions of jumpstarting performances at festivals, performing arts centers and nightclubs when the marketplace welcomes back such activities.
Of course, the plan mandates prioritizing and focusing. “We’re now more focused than ever on creating a solid and spectacular experience for anyone who comes to our shows,” said Chai. “If you buy a ticket to see us, you deserve a great concert. We make the most of our time together, and work during our time apart to ensure the best use of that time.”
Other Streetlight thoughts:
- Health concerns govern how they do their gigs.”We are all hyper health-conscious these days,” said Franklin. “Our health and the health of our fans take priority over us performing live; when there’s a chance (to perform with health protocols), we jump at the opportunity.”
- Down time activities – “Ben’s learning the banjo,” said Franklin. “Brian is starting a solo project. And I’ve been on an extended surf trip up the West Coast.” Said Chai: “Jesse’s really dived deep into the world of vinyl, and his musical knowledge and depth really just amazes me,”
- Family ties – “Ben had his second child during the pandemic,” said Franklin. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have support at home and we’re looking forward to traveling with new members of the band.” Said Chai: “I did have a second child haha! Our families really hold down the fort when we’re on the road – but I can’t wait to have a ‘family bus’ come with us someday!”
- Less is more – With roots in busking, here and elsewhere, Streetlight Cadence has reduced but not eliminated street singing. “Street performing is now just something we do for fun to connect with our fans or for our own nostalgia,” said Franklin. “I will say I saw a street performer a few weeks ago, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. I’m gonna guess there are many who miss live music as much as I do.”
And that’s Show Biz. …