Kaka‘ako has seen a resurgence as of late. There are tons of redevelopment plans in the works, but even more noticeable is the emergence of a network of artists and artistic expression in the neighborhood. Driving along Pohukaina Street and even along parts of Ala Moana Blvd you can see the cool handy work of Pow Wow Hawai‘i as their public murals grace the walls of businesses and construction sites throughout the area.
It’s in this urban environment that Interisland Terminal opened R&D, a collaborative/creative cafe furthering their mission of presenting international contemporary art, design, and film while also advancing the role of the arts in innovation. R&D serves up coffee and free wifi, but don’t be fooled, this isn’t a Starbucks. Tables and chairs are all modular and can be setup or rearranged to accommodate a variety of different groups and collaborative work. And if you need some inspiration or something to get your creative juices flowing, art and design books line the walls for perusal (and purchase).
Music Docs Fest @ R&D
As part of their year round programming, Interisland Terminal showcases certain films or puts on film series at R&D; which is what brought me there this past Tuesday. This week they are currently presenting Music Docs Fest, a documentary series of four stories that dive into the artists and music that has defined their lives and ours.
The four films in the series are:
- Charles Bradley, Soul of America (Tue Sept 25)
The incredible rise to fame of 63-year-old aspiring soul singer Charles Bradley, whose debut album took him from a hard life in the Brooklyn Housing Projects to Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 50 albums of 2011.
- Big Easy Express (Wed Sept 26)
Folk rock and bluegrass musicians Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes travel together by train from San Francisco to New Orleans in the spring of 2011.
- Blank City (Thu Sept 27)
During the punk rock stage in the late ’70s, downtown New York experienced a wave of “Do it yourself” independent filmmaking.
- Shut Up and Play the Hits: The Final Days of LCD Soundsystem (Fri, Sept 28)
On April 2nd 2011, LCD Soundsystem played its final show at Madison Square Garden. Documenting this once in a life time performance and an intimate portrait of James Murphy as he navigates the lead-up to the show, the day after, and the personal and professional ramifications of his decision.
Charles Bradley, Soul of America
I had the opportunity to check out the opening night film of the Fest, Charles Bradley, Soul of America. What drew me to the film was the sound of Bradley’s voice and the seemingly effortless way he puts emotion into his singing as well as his amazing rise in popularity as a musical artist. The film does not paint an easy picture for Bradley as he left home at an early age and moved around a great deal. Through all his struggles he discovered that he had a talent for singing and went by the alter ego “Black Velvet” covering James Brown songs. It was under this auspiciousness that Bradley was discovered by Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records which would eventually go on become Bradley’s producer and record label.
The most intriguing thing I took away from the film was that Bradley’s career seemed to have taken off when he changed from impersonating James Brown and began singing his own, more personal songs. His songs give him a uniqueness and personalization that I think was missing from his alter ego. The talent seemed to always be there, but the feeling and soul that he puts into his own music is something I think that the audience responds to. I know I certainly picked up on it.
Screening @ R&D
As a venue for films, R&D is a nice intimate space. As I mentioned earlier, seating is modular so the space was configured for film presentation with the screen towards the front of the cafe, blocking the windows and light from the street. The screen is big enough so that everyone in the room should have a pretty good view of the screen and the sound projection is audible and clear no matter where you’re sitting. Speaking of sitting, single seats were arranged on the lower floor with tables and chairs setup on the upper floor. As for seating capacity, it looked like the space could comfortably accommodate an audience of 25, though I’m sure it could handle double that (depending on what the maximum occupancy is).
The one quibble I did have was with the chairs/seats. They are rectangularly shaped, made of wood, and when not in use are stacked up against the wall and used as shelf space. Sitting on them for an extended period of time may not be the most comfortable experience since there is no back to your seat or padding. However, if you’re engrossed in what you’re watching, you probably won’t even notice.
On the whole it was a great experience and I look forward to future film exhibitions at Interisland Terminal’s R&D.
The Music Docs Fest continues tonight at R&D with the 7pm screening of Blank City and concludes tomorrow night with Shut Up and Play the Hits. R&D is located at 691 Auahi Street, right around the corner from Hank’s Haute Dogs.