Turning the P∆G∑
Emily Sewell has such a beautiful presence. Seriously. Every room I walk in to that may seem dark and stony at first becomes bright and glorious the second she looks up and give me the biggest, most genuine smile.
In an otherwise seemingly intimidating tight circle of performing artists, incestuous current band and former bandmates and intellectuals, she is a standout as both a visual artist and musician. While she may be the most extraordinary woman of our time, she remains humble and kind. There is no ego. It is truly refreshing.
I met her how most of us meet — from being around everywhere all the time. I became more acquainted her in 2013 when she was selected as a POW! WOW! Hawaii artist. While there has been a noticeable effort to reduce the bro-down of male colleagues that the group of street artists could (and had) become, I found myself always being taken with any of the females invited to enter the family.
Emily was one of one solo artists working indoors (a la New York sculptor Derek Weisberg circa 2012), so I was able to watch her develop her art over the course of the festival. It was the same work that made the recent Esta and DJ Sosupersam show presented by local music collective Green Leaf Check and Los Angeles-based collective Soulection at Fresh Cafe Kaka'ako so iconic. I am a fan.
Lately she has been performing with a close group of friends she’s known for years. Their new supergroup, while having less than a year of experience performing together, sound utterly amazing.
P∆G∑ is Paul Bajcar, Amrik Shidu, Grant Naauao and Sewell. What developed after a few months of jamming from Shidu, Naauao and Sewell became instantly solidified when they asked veteran guitarist Bajcar to join.
“Right away it felt like something,” Sewell said. “There was an identity to what sound naturally came out between the four of us.
“The chemistry, the creative flow, the friendship ... it was all there and pure."
I had to hear about how good they were before finally being able to hear for myself. When I was able to see them live, it was their third time performing together. I was immediately transported to a dreamlike state. They describe their music as “Atmospheric Dream Rock” and Sewell’s vocals are indeed very dreamy. Bajacar’s trademark dream-guitar is also pleasantly haunting and the group has a brilliant chemistry when performing live.
Last week they wowed a crowd at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Doris Duke Theatre with a very special Bjork tribute before “Bjork: Biophilia” screened.
Their bond is also evident by the significance of their name.
“We consider ourselves story tellers,” said Sewell. “Our songs, our way of writing, it's all conceptual. P∆G∑ represents not only the four individuals who collectively work together to write the story from start to end, from the first note to last, but it represents the idea of being in a state of fantasy or dreamscape and being taken away, like reading a book from page to page.”
The misconception people have is that Sewell and her crew are unapproachable, which is mostly misunderstood. They just all know each other very, very well. They practice together and perform together. They play for each other, drink together, BBQ together.
It’s like when any of us crash a “Hawaii Five-0” party; they know who the day players are.
“The most beautiful, special, and addicting thing (about this live music scene) is the bond,” Sewell said. “The bond to the people who play and go to the shows, the bond to the music, the performers, the spaces, the nights, the love and passion, the constant and the change.
“It's what hooks so many of us here. It's what waters our appreciation, interest, and support. We all absolutely love the friendships and community. In a very symbolic and actual way, Hawaii is a place of waves coming in and going out.”
While the community remains tight, it is by no means small. There are regular shows and with every goodbye there are a few more hellos or regroups. Poncho, ALT/AIR, The No No Spots, Fransic Knife, Linus, Beaman, TV Mircowave, The Bougies, Drugless Macarthur, Alive and Swell, Distant, TTFN, Animal Mother, Early Grey, The Horror Show, Prie and the Prolific Unknowns are all favorites of mine, to name a few.
With no upcoming shows currently planned, I still expect to see P∆G∑ popping up more around town, and hopefully on stage opening for major acts. Headliners and their management approve opening acts through their online music these days, which has affected the amount of local music featured at big shows, but hopefully as more and more awareness is drawn to this tight-knit community we can see that change. I'm ready for it.
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for Pow! Wow! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular Bacardi Pool Party on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.