Hilo’s biggest musical blowout, the KWXX Ho‘olaule‘a, will have thousands dancing in the streets for the 19th time on Saturday night.
More than 20 music acts will entertain on three stages in downtown Hilo — two on Kamehameha Avenue at the corners of Haili and Kalakaua streets, and Mo‘oheau Park bandstand.
“The goal for this event has always been to provide a top-notch lineup and a fun and family-safe environment,” said Chris Leonard, KWXX president and general manager. “We’ve worked very hard with the police and fire departments and all of the various county agencies to ensure that we can provide a fun and safe environment. We’re looking forward to another great event.”
Downtown parking lots and streets will be closed in increments starting from 5 p.m. Friday and will remain so until 3 a.m. Sunday to facilitate building and breakdown of the stages. Concertgoers can park free for the alcohol- and drug-free family event at the county building parking lot on Pauahi Street and at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium with free shuttle service to and from the concert between 4 and 11 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re excited to have Ekolu, Natural Vibrations and Anuhea returning. All of them have had big years,” Leonard said.
Anuhea is making her third appearance at the Ho‘olaule‘a and her star has risen considerably, both in Hawaii and beyond, during that time. The “big year” Leonard alluded to includes a coast-to-coast tour earlier this year and being chosen to perform for and present a lei and kiss to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, in April at Honolulu’s Stan Sheriff Center.
“She’s a sharp young lady who works hard and she’s been one of the hottest artists in our format over the last couple of years and just continues to put out hit song after hit song,” Leonard said.
With her second album “For Love” — which was released on Valentine’s Day — still riding high and “Perfect Day” with New Zealand singer Awa burning up the airwaves, Anuhea will take the Haili stage at 8:40 p.m., after playing a Hawaii Fashion Week event in Honolulu earlier in the day. The Maui singer-songwriter told the Tribune-Herald on Wednesday she’s delighted and thankful to be invited back for a third time.
“It’s the biggest crowd that I’ve ever performed in front of, period,” she said. “And it has the best bands — there are no cutting corners. It’s just an amazing, amazing event. When I’m onstage, I feel everybody’s vibes. I’m really excited. My band and I have been practicing and we’re really ready to hit it out of the park.”
Anuhea and Awa co-wrote “Perfect Day” — which melds reggae with ’70s-inspired funk — but so far, the collaboration has been strictly of the cyber-studio variety.
“I still haven’t met him yet,” she said. “On Friday (today), he flies in from New Zealand and we’re gonna shoot some music video for that song, and he’s gonna be special guesting with me at the KWXX Ho‘olaule‘a. So, the first time we meet each other, we’re gonna be performing in front of 20,000 people. He’s a huge established star in New Zealand and that’s a place that I want to venture out to and play my music and hopefully, sell my albums.”
Certainly the exposure she’ll receive in New Zealand from the collaboration will provide her a receptive audience. She’s been there before, and said she enjoys the music of New Zealand’s contemporary artists, including Katchafire and Maisey Rika.
“I went there last year with Mana Maoli, which is a nonprofit, a group of people representing Hawaii in all these festivals, and I came home with more albums because I love New Zealand’s music,” she said. “It’s similar to Hawaii’s, but a little different.”
In addition to her talent, Anuhea attributes her success beyond Hawaii’s shores to daring to dream big and willingness to work hard.
“I know when you live here, Hawaii seems like the world, but it’s only a million-and-a-half people, and there’s four million people in San Diego (metro area) alone,” she said. “It’s a big, big, big world out there and you have to put in a little more work than you do in Hawaii to have a good crowd come out. I was always down for that challenge and yeah, I thought it was possible because I wanted it so badly.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.