Unplugged: Something new for Bottle of Blue

  • Steve Fundy performs on guitar during last Friday's show at Gertrude's Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona. (Steve Roby/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Scott Reagan performs during last Friday's show at Gertrude's Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona. (Steve Roby/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Scott Reagan performs during last Friday's show at Gertrude's Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona. (Steve Roby/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Bassist Dave Ojeda jams during last Friday's show at Gertrude's Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona. (Steve Roby/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Bottle of Blue's unplugged line-up at Gertrude’s featured Steve Fundy on acoustic guitar/vocals, David Mark Miller on keyboards, Dave Ojeda on upright bass, Noa Eads on a cajón drum set (no cymbals), and Scott Reagan sang lead and occasionally played acoustic guitar. “Miller was the only one playing electric because,” as Reagan lamented, “getting a piano up Gertrude’s back stairs wasn’t going to happen.” (Steve Roby/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Since 2013, Bottle of Blue has been faithfully paying their musical dues on Kona’s club circuit. And one highly important element has remained constant in the band: they offer some of the best classic rock and blues played on the island.

At last Friday’s two-show gig at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar, the guys switched things up.

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“For a while, I’ve thought it’d be nice to offer something a bit more intimate and deliver our originals and crowd favorites in a slightly different manner. Many venues are still adapting to how they want to bring music back, and there are a few that typically feature acoustic style shows. And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be interesting? We could maybe play venues with a completely new style for us,’” lead singer and band frontman Scott Reagan explained.

Bottle of Blue did have one show in their career where unplanned circumstances had them performing unplugged outdoors.

“It was a rare night where it had rained at Huggo’s,” recalled Reagan, “The stage was soaked. We had a choice, play unplugged and not get electrocuted or go home. So, we did a quick little acoustic set.”

The band’s unplugged line-up at Gertrude’s featured Steve Fundy on acoustic guitar/vocals, David Mark Miller on keyboards, Dave Ojeda on upright bass, Noa Eads on a cajón drum set (no cymbals), and Scott Reagan sang lead and occasionally played acoustic guitar.

“Miller was the only one playing electric because,” as Reagan lamented, “getting a piano up Gertrude’s back stairs wasn’t going to happen.”

Blue’s early show was packed. These days the county is allowing Gertrude’s a capacity of 80% capacity — roughly 112 people. It was quite a contrast to last June when the venue was allowed to reopen with only 50 people, well separated. This year, patrons were allowed to remove their masks when seated but were required to wear them on the dance floor or walking around. It was a 50/50 mix of compliant tourists and locals. After a year of limitations, folks were ready to dance and make some noise.

The star player for the evening was guitarist Steve Fundy. His range is enormous – bluesy and gutsy, fast and strong, but also impeccably tasteful especially on the band’s original “Shine.” There were many jaw-dropping moments: when he played slide on Stephen Stills’ “Treetop Flyer” and The Dead’s “New Minglewood Blues.” On the latter, he traded solos with Miller on keys.

I’m convinced there’s an old Southern blues singer living inside Scott Reagan’s body. His vocal chops and stage presence are outstanding. He towers over a 1930s art-deco style microphone, bare-footed, beard swaying, shoulders jiving, all the while paying attention to band cues and audience reactions. His presence conveys genuine aloha.

Bottle of Blue released their first album, Big Horizon, in 2015, and have a new single called “Roll with It” in the works. Reagan has also been generating some new music with a group called Bystander.

In 2019, Reagan and his partner Shelly Rise offered a multi-guitarist revue called Six-String Fling which successfully played several Big Island venues like the Palace and the Aloha Theatre.

“Everybody loved that show,” Reagan noted. “We’re blessed to have so many talented musicians here.”

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If you missed the unplugged show, Bottle of Blue will be appearing at Laverne’s Sports Bar in Kona on Saturday.

Steve Roby is a music journalist, bestselling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.

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