I would like to start off by saying how incredibly fortunate I am. Not only have I traveled and performed in England, in the same summer I have had the chance to travel and perform in Australia. For a girl who was terrified to fly, I can’t believe I did it all. To look at more photos from my trip- feel free to look through my Photo Gallery.
Before I get started on the adventure, I want to list all the artists that will be involved I my story. Craig Chee is from Eugene, Oregon, and he and I have done several gigs together now. He’s a blast. Ryan Imamura – he’s 18, he’s an amazing player and he’s from Guam. Bryan Tolentino and Hale Seabury – I have known Bryan for several years and he is beautiful singer as well as player; he brings Hale with him and it pure magic. Both guys are also phenomenal people. Next up are the Sweet Hollywaiians- they have such a fun and great sound. They are also very funny. The guys from KoAloha were also there, and it was a real treat to get to hang out with them as much as I did- Alan Okami, Paul Okami, and Griz. Thom Jackson is from Melbourne Australia and is a great player; he could pick up any song in any key. Two guys that are just amazing to watch- Ryo Montgomery and Damion Jones; keep your eyes peeled for these guys, they are going to be big.
The Cairns Ukulele festival was amazing. I was busy the ENTIRE time, even when it wasn’t “Festival” time. I arrived July 1st and was taken immediately to the artist housing. Everyone was already there, enjoying a drink and jamming. Even though I had been traveling for 20 hours, I was ready to drink and jam myself. It was a lot of fun- and I crashed that evening.
The next morning as I was in the shower, a knock came at the door- “Sarah, we’ve got a TV thing, get ready in 12 minutes.” And that is how that day continued- running from one thing to the next, no one knowing that we were going to go to those places. In some ways that was fun. I just wish I could have finished my shower. So that day we did a TV appearance and then went to a radio station to be interviewed. The rest of the day is a blur, but eventually we ended up going to the movies. That was relaxing, though the movie left a lot to be desired. It was fun hanging out with everyone, however. That evening we also had pie- Australians are famous for their meat pie. They had a very good vegetarian pie for me to eat as well; it was so delicious.
Wednesday morning started with a photo shoot on the beach. It was fun- then right after we went to the Cairns Hospital and sang to the kids there. It was fun to brighten their day and make them smile. After that, Luke Walker (our ride who took us EVERYWHERE) took us to go hold koalas and pet/feed kangaroos. It was very cool. Koalas are very soft- much softer than I anticipated. It was awesome. Kangaroos and wallabies are also super soft as well. It was fun to do something touristy. He also drove us to around to see wild wallabies as well- but we couldn’t get anywhere near them or they’d run away.
Thursday started off with a morning boat ride. We rode to Green Island- and it was rainy and yucky when we first took off on our voyage. Luckily the water wasn’t too choppy so the ride wasn’t that bad. Craig, from years past, tends to get sea sick, but he made it! We arrived at Green Island WAY too early, but we all hung out and had a good time. To pass the time, a camera crew asked us to go for a walk on the beach with our ukes. That was fine, except during the filming it started to rain. I wasn’t too thrilled to have rain getting on my DaSilva, but we made it though the filming. After that we had to go sing to the crocodiles for the camera as well- “Crocodile Rock”…. I’m not so sure that they really enjoyed it, but the people did. I think one of the funniest moments was when Craig (who was ukeless) had to hold the baby crocodile while we played for it. Once we were done, Craig gave the croc back, but his hands were still shaking. Yikes! After those shenanigans we went to watch Ryan Imamura perform. He blew everyone away…. Wow. After him, Bryan and Hale performed, BUT they also performed a tune with Ryan and then with Craig. It was great fun to see. I took lots of pictures with Craig’s fancy camera. Luckily the rain and bad weather had stopped and we had a beautiful boat ride home.
Thursday evening was even more fun; Thom led a play along, and then did a concert. He had Craig come up and perform with him as well. It was great fun! Afterward, Ryan performed with Ryo and Damion and it was absolutely AMAZING. Unfortunately there wasn’t time for an encore, even though the crowd was going wild.
Friday started off quite early- 8AM on a Party Bus! We were all there and it was a beautiful day. The first stop of the bus was at the Botanical Gardens. It was truly amazing; there were so many exotic plants. At the Botanical Gardens, Thom Jackson performed and everyone got to eat breakfast. It was a real treat. After the concert, we all gathered for a group photo and then piled back onto the party bus. We then drove to a restaurant/bar where the 2nd performance and lunch were going to be. It was a lot of fun. I was the main performer for that set, but I was able to have everyone come up and perform. It was fun to feature everyone. It also made my performance easier as well. A highlight for me was playing with Bryan and Hale. They are such tasteful players.
Saturday was my big teaching day- I taught two classes and they were great. I love teaching; all of my students caught on quickly and were a joy to teach. Thank you all! After that was lunch and then a radio interview. Once that was over, Craig and I went down to the festival and joined everyone in the World Record Attempt- unfortunately we needed 2,200 ukers to break the record, but only 1,060 actually registered. It was a bummer, BUT everyone was still all smiles. After the world record attempt it was time to head to “The Jack”, a local pub and restaurant. Craig Chee opened for FLAP! Craig had everyone up on stage with him at different points during his performance. It was a lot of fun. The energy in the room was awesome and there was nothing that could take the grin off of his face. It was a beautiful evening. I wish I could have stayed more for FLAP!’s performance. I only got to hear a few tunes, but they were great; they have a LOT of energy.
Sunday was my big day; I taught one class, 9AM. I was proud of everyone because I knew that the night before was a long one. After that attended Bryan’s workshop, and then went out to lunch with Craig. Afterward it was Sound Check and time to meet my band. I had Giles Smith on bass and “B” Brooks on drums. I was SO incredibly lucky to have them backing me up. They were an absolute joy to perform with. After sound check, Craig and I went back to our place so we could change and get ready. Amazingly, I was not nervous. I think a lot of that was because I knew that I was in good hands, having Giles and B with me.
The concert itself was awesome. I got to watch Bryan and Hale perform again. Hawaiian music is so beautiful- and they play it so very well. I also enjoy how they change some of the songs and make them sound more like Jazz tunes. There was even some hula, done by Bryan’s beautiful wife, Kalehua, and male hula by Paul Okami. Alan Okami sang with them for a song as well and it was beautiful.
After their performance, Giles, B, and I got up and performed. It was a BLAST!! I couldn’t stop smiling. My grin was so huge. It was awesome to interact with the audience. There were several tunes where, when I’d start, I’d hear someone say “Oh! I love this one…” or even just a gasp of happiness. It was very special. It all seemed to fly by so fast. When the MC told me that I only had one song left, and we weren’t done with our set, I was shocked. It all worked out fine, though. We were asked to do an encore, and of course we did. It was a wonderful experience, so I have to say thank you again to Australia for being so welcoming.
The final act of the evening was the Sweet Hollywaiians- and of course they were great! I have never gotten to see them live, and it was a truly a treat. They have such a fun style that is fun to watch. They have a great sense of humor and flawless playing. I was amazed at how fast they could play as well. My only regret is that I didn’t have a chance to buy their album. That is alright, though, because there is still the internet!
That evening we ALL went out for dinner- it was so awesome! I want to say a special thank you to Ko’Aloha for taking us all out. They are incredibly generous, so thank you thank you! I’ve never seen so much food!
So wow- a huge adventure. Thank you to everyone for their support- I wouldn’t be here today with out it. Gaby a huge thank you for having me at your festival- maybe I’ll see you next year!