Mo’ Bettah Blues

March 19, 2014 | By Jason Black

One-man rocker Tavana McMoore stays true to his local roots.

“I love playing music in Waikiki because there are always fresh faces,” opines 33-year-old rock multi-instrumentalist Tavana McMoore. “I get to meet visitors from all over the world.”

Over his past decade of playing nightly on the Waikiki Strip, Mc-Moore has met thousands of people: kama’aina, as well as visitors from the mainland, Japan and Europe. Originally, he began playing in the world-famous open-air bazaar known as the International Market Place. Then, he moved inside to a few local clubs. Now, you can catch him as a one-man show playing a multitude of instruments: guitar, drums, bass, banjo and even steel guitar all over Waikiki, including Mondays at Jimmy Buffet’s, Tuesdays at King’s Pub and Saturdays at Hard Rock Café. He’s even ventured beyond Waikiki and plays at Downbeat Diner & Lounge in Chinatown on every third Wednesday of the month.

Photo: Bill Hale

Photo: Bill Hale

“It’s really a guitar experience,” he says, of his stripped-down rock ‘n’ roll-meets-delta-blues show. “Come out and see some guitar rock and soulful blues. I definitely wander to other styles of music. An acoustic sound or an electric guitar and so on.”

On the Tuesday night that I caught his stark, awesome show, some of the set list included The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” and a rockin’ acoustic rendition of The Black Keys’ 2011 hit “Little Black Submarines.”

More than just a smattering of neighborhood barflies have caught on to his act. Other musicians have noted Tavana’s raw talent include Alabama Shakes, who he recently opened for at The Republik and most notably, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder, who spends his downtime here in the islands. In 2008, Eddie happened across McMoore’s trio at Kelley O’Neils, a notorious Irish bar on Lewers Ave. in Waikiki, and joined in the jam. Then, a year later, Vedder did a sold out two-night solo stand at the Hawaii Theatre, and McMoore got to sit in for the encore. Israel “Iz” Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole’s 1993 classic “Hawai’i ’78” was that song. What an epic nightcap.

“Those two nights were some of the greatest shows ever for me,” recalls McMoore. “We had a great audience of thousands. It’s cool to have one of your all-time heroes bless your life’s musical journey.”

At the moment, McMoore is putting the finishing touches on his third album “Kicking and Screaming” that’s due out this year. He explains that this will be the best expression of his live solo material. Just him—raw and raucous. He’s also prepping an as-yet-untitled songwriter’s album that features both blues and funk. Exciting stuff. All of his releases are currently available on Apple’s iTunes.

Beyond endlessly gigging around town and recording, he hopes to hit the road next year in support of the new records for a West Coast tour including Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and some smaller city dates in-between. Yet, no matter where his music may take him, Hawai’i will always be his home. It’s where his ‘ohana (family) is.

“I just want to hone my craft at home with my family where I’m most comfortable. Right now, I’m so focused on my music and my craft. I just want to be right where I am now and striving to get better every day.”

More info at

Jimmy Buffett’s 7:30–10:00 p.m.
No cover
All ages

King’s Pub
9:00 p.m.–1:00 a.m. No cover 21+

Hard Rock Café
10:00 p.m.–1:00 a.m.
No cover
All ages