On Hawaii Island, Kona’s Ronnie V & the Family Band offer visitors and residents a live music experience that transcends the Hawaii trope of strumming ukulele and falsetto warbling. A mix of bluegrass and blues, gypsy jazz and folk, and an eye for the love of the land, the outfit is unique among the many working musicians in Hawaii’s resort destinations.
For many Hawaii visitors, taking in some live music is a part of their Hawaii vacation. For those who choose to keep to resort properties and “tourist” areas, this means their options are likely limited to cliched interpretations of Hawaiian music, played by men in matching aloha shirts and women in matching muu’muus.
Ronnie V is a bear of a man, with a deep baritone that has made him one of the Big Island’s most popular morning show deejays (LAVA 105.3). He’s an accomplished opera singer, hailing from Upstate New York. He moved to the Aloha State many years ago and has become a fixture in Hawaii’s American roots music community.
He is a founder of the Infamous Bourbon Boys, a Honolulu American roots band that was a vital part of the independent music scene in Honolulu for years. Ronnie V formed the Family Band after moving with his Big Island-born wife to her hometown of Kona several years ago.
After years of playing the bar circuit in Honolulu, Ronnie V clearly revels in the family-friendly settings of Ola Brew (Wednesdays) and Sunset Terrace (Sundays). It’s no wonder: Ronnie and his wife are the proud parents of a brand new baby boy. Surely, his “bear cub” will be dancing in front of the stage before long.
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Ronnie V & the Family Band features a rotating lineup of Big Island pickers. Any given performance by the band is likely to feature a stand-up bass, violin, mandolin, ukulele, harmonica, or any combination of mainly acoustic instruments.
The band plays a variety of Ronnie’s original songs, all with positive messages of fulfillment and overcoming adversity. Soulful and thoughtful, Ronnie sings from the heart (and the diaphragm, he’s classically trained). Legendary ballads by the likes of Pete Seeger and Woodie Guthrie are also often featured in a Family Band performance.
Original titles like “Working Man,” “Fingers to the Bone,” and “Blackwater Rising” speak to the struggles of the working class, and to
the joy of family and friends. Ronnie V & the Family Band plays American roots music in a true Hawaiian “kanikapila” style. That is to say, all are welcome to enjoy, and all of the players are given a chance to shine.
While not traditional Hawaiian music, the band most certainly plays “Hawaii music”. The themes may be universal, and the sound distinctly American, but Hawaii and the Aloha Spirit are at the music’s core. The ohana (family) that makes up Ronnie V & the Family Band continues to grow, just as Ronnie’s own family is growing.
For Big Island visitors keen to experience family-friendly live music that goes beyond the resort cliché that sells mai tais, Ronnie V & the Family Band is a great way to find it.