Molokai Film Festival to feature performance by John Cruz

Singer/songwriter John Cruz remembers good times playing music and “rolling around in the mud” in Halawa Valley, but he has not visited Molokai in a while. This Saturday, however, Cruz will return to play a concert and preview his new documentary.

“I love the island and people of Molokai,” the Oahu native said in an interview with the Dispatch. I’m looking forward to coming back. It sounds like its going to be a great celebration”

Cruz will play songs from his upcoming new album after a premiere of his biographical documentary at the Molokai Film Festival. His first album, “Acoustic Soul,” won two Na Hoku Hanohano awards and gave him notoriety all over the Islands. Individual tracks still receive radio airplay.

He also won a Grammy last year for his contribution “Jo Bo’s Night” to the compilation CD Slack Key Guitar Volume 2. It hasn’t changed his local boy down-to-earth demeanor at all, but the benefits are nice. “I get a few more phone calls returned than I used to,” he said.

His new (and as yet untitled) album will be “a little more bluesy,” Cruz said. He just finished recording the songs at Jackson Browne’s recording studio in Los Angeles and is hoping for a February release date.

The opening act for Saturday’s performance is “Made of Music – The Story of John Cruz.” The documentary talks of Cruz’s struggles and successes and includes stories by friends such as Jack Johnson, Jackson Browne, Kelly Slater and Jake Shimabukuro. It features live performances of his music and some fun stories Cruz has to share.

In the interview with the Dispatch, Cruz shared stories about jamming with Bill Clinton on the East Coast and with friends in Halawa Valley. In 1993 Cruz played in a band in Martha’s Vineyard, a popular vacation spot for Washington elite. His band played for a surprise party of a Clinton staffer, and when the President arrived Cruz shouted, “Bill’s in the house!”

After a hush came across the room, several staff members reminded Cruz to refer to Clinton as Mr. President. “I was quickly reminded that ‘Bill’s in the house’ doesn’t work,” Cruz said. Later on, though, Clinton and Carly Simon got on stage to jam with the band.

He also shared a story about a Molokai show. During a performance in Halawa Valley the generator powering the sound system went down. Someone offered his Volkswagen Beetle to use as the sound system. “So we ran the system through the Bug and it sounded great,” Cruz said. “He saved the gig.”

The Molokai Film Festival takes place Saturday, Dec. 9 at Kaunakakai Ball Park. Gates open at 3:00 p.m. and music begins at 4:00. Films start at sunset under the Molokai stars. Admission is free.


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