Friday, June 10, 2011

Aura Revisited-John Berger

Nobody knows the entertainment scene in Hawaii like John Berger. Going back to his early days in journalism, John had the "IT" factor getting the stories out. Today's story about the Mendoza family is the exact reason why Robin Kimura who originally got together with Candy Au to come up with the 70's Nightclub Reunion. As the 70's Nightclub Reunion series comes to a close, the bands on hand for its finale gives the exclamation point this event.

70s Aura revisited
The Mendoza siblings’ band will reunite to make their mother’s dream come true

By John Berger

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 10, 2011

A MOTHER’S dream will come true Saturday for Aiko Mendoza when the nightclub band Aura plays a long-anticipated reunion set at Robin Kimura’s ’70s Nightclub Reunion IX at the Ala Moana Hotel.

Mendoza’s eight children — Dennis, Del, Brian, Michael, Cliff, Vincent, Beverly and Christine — were the core of the group throughout its long run as one of Hawaii’s most popular groups of the 1970s and ’80s, and this will be the first time in more than 16 years that all will be on stage together.

“She’s in a care center right now but we’ve made special provisions — the nurses, the transport, everything has been arranged (so) she will definitely be there,” Aura leader Dennis Mendoza said earlier this week, while the group was setting up for a rehearsal at Big Mike’s Pro Sounds, a warehouse and rehearsal space in Waipahu.


Where: Ala Moana Hotel Hibiscus Ballroom
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $40-$50
Info: 944-4333 or

Dennis, Del and Brian Mendoza are coming out of retirement for the show. The younger brothers are full-time musicians in Las Vegas, taking time off from their regular gigs to return home to join their siblings on stage.
Dennis Mendoza says his mother, who is battling dementia and recovering from a stroke, seems to have perked up since learning of the reunion show.

“… Every time we see her that’s the first thing that comes out of her: ‘Where are you guys playing? When is the band getting back together again?’ She always remembers that. We’re definitely doing it for Mom,” he said.

Music was always a shared experience for the Mendoza family. Dennis and Beverly were professionals by the time they finished high school. Their brothers and sisters joined them in the years that followed. Dennis (keyboards), Del (guitar) and Brian (bass) were the instrumental core of the group. Vincent, the youngest, became the group’s drummer shortly before Aura opened in 1976 at the Point After nightclub in what was then the Hawaiian Regent Hotel (now the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa).

Many of Hawaii’s top pop bands of the era got their start playing school dances or social club events. From there, if they were good enough, they were booked for Richard Sumiye’s “Wanna Take You Higher” hotel ballroom parties or his Magic Mushroom club. Some made the jump to nightclubs in Waikiki or its environs.

Aura — known in its earliest days as the Nomads or Beverly & the Nomads — came up through the military club circuit and engagements in some of the rougher civilian clubs. The crowds in those places liked funk and soul over Top 40 pop, and Aura came to “The Point” with a repertoire that appealed to the club’s cosmopolitan clientele.

One thing everyone remembered about the band was the horn section — loud, rich and tight. Another, of course, was the two “girl singers” up front. Female vocalists were always a draw in Waikiki in those days because there weren’t many of them. Aura had two, and they definitely were there to sing and not merely serve as eye candy.

Nowadays, Aura would be called a “cover band,” but although the group played other artists’ hits, the members’ skill as arrangers and their charisma on the club’s small stage won them a large and loyal following.

Completing the 10-piece lineup at Saturday’s show will be “honorary Mendozas” Bill Popaka and Adney Atabay.

Kimura, the promoter and producer of the Nightclub Reunion series, has said this will be the last. His concept from the beginning was to reunite groups that played in local nightclubs in the decade between the early ’70s and mid-’80s. From the beginning, he required groups to perform with their original members, refusing to work with remnants of old groups or contemporary oldies bands.

The other big act playing the event is Phase VII, with six of the seven original members playing their first-ever reunion performance. Kimura’s band, Greenwood, will go on first, and Power Point and Nueva Vida featuring Pauline Wilson complete the bill.


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