No Van For Hawaii

Van Morrison.

By Pat Bigold, Contributor
October / November 2003

But all is not lost for island lovers of the craic.


HONOLULU, Hi. — It’s been nearly two decades since a major Irish recording artist performed in Hawaii.

U2 was here in 1985 but none of the acts that followed has registered on the Richter Scale of Celtic entertainment.

Gaelic Storm, which gained a degree of fame performing in steerage in the blockbuster film, “Titanic,” did several gigs here in 1998. But they flew in from their California home base.

Six-time Irish fiddle champion Martin Hayes entertained before an arts academy crowd here in July. But the Clare native only had to come from his home in Seattle.

It’s no surprise that Hawaii is not a Mecca for Irish musicians.

This is the most isolated population center on the face of the earth, 2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan, 4,900 miles from China and 5,280 miles from the Philippines.

The state is 7,200 miles from Ireland and less than 6 percent of its residents claim any Irish blood.

But local Celtic aficionados were briefly buoyed this year by the announcement that Van Morrison would perform at the Honolulu Marathon Association’s luau/concert at the Waikiki Shell on Dec. 12.

It would be the Belfast legend’s first appearance in Hawaii since 1974.

The luau/concert is an annual affair that association president Dr. Jim Barahal stages exclusively for registered participants in the world’s fourth largest marathon.

Word got around town that Van the Man was really coming.

Barahal, who presented Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson in concert before the 2002 race, had given upstate New York booking agent Ken Vangel a deposit on Morrison. As expected, early ticket sales were brisk.

But the concert plan fell apart when Morrison’s North American representative in New York City, Ron Delsener, picked up the phone in mid-April to tell marathon organizers that Vangel had no authority to book the Belfast legend.

It was a puzzling development because Vangel seemed to be a reputable agent. Barahal called in the FBI to investigate.

He offered refunds to ticket-buyers and, with no quick solution to the puzzle in sight, went to work on finding a replacement act. It’s more likely to be Hawaiian than Celtic this time.

But all is not lost for lovers of the craic in these islands. There are two Irish pubs in Waikiki Beach.

Kelley O’Neil’s allots a generous time slot every Sunday for “sessions.” Several amateur local musicians with bodhrans, fiddles and flutes regularly show up.

Another Waikiki venue, The Irish Rose Saloon, holds a “St. Patrick’s Day” on the 17th of every month.

And over on Maui, Mulligan’s, a pub with a sweeping view of the blue Pacific Ocean, presents a local Irish band every Sunday. ♦

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