UPDATE (April 9)
Ron Artis II’s limited capacity show at VCA on Friday, April 16 has sold out. Another performance has been added on Thursday, April 15. Buy tickets 24 hours in advance at vashoncenterforthearts.org.
By Juli Goetz Morser
For Vashon Center for the Arts
Ron Artis II, an up-and-coming musician with well-honed skills in singing, songwriting and playing piano and guitar, will bring his band and burgeoning talent to a live performance at 7 p.m. Friday, April 16, at Vashon Center for the Arts. The show will also be live-streamed.
It’s not the first time Artis has played on Vashon — his previous shows here have included a pop-up performance at LS Cedar. And along the way, he caught the attention of local producer Debra Heesch, who is co-presenting his April 16 gig at VCA.
To hear Heesch describe it, there is a sound and spirit that galvanizes the audience when Artis plays with his band, suggesting the range and versatility of the artist.
“The energy from the band gets everyone moving,” she said. “The band is swapping instruments and dancing. It energizes the entire space.”
Artis himself describes music as a way to express life’s ephemeral beauty.
His tuneful roots reach back to Oahu, Hawaii, where he grew up in a creative household, with 10 siblings and two talented musical parents. He credits his mother as the biggest influence on his own approach to singing, and his father for his example as a triple-threat performer, writer and arranger.
From the time he started playing piano at age four, to his 13th birthday — when his parents gave him a guitar and amp — his passion for music has always been part of his youth.
“I was crazy about my guitar,” he said. “I got sucked into the wormhole. Most art is created when you allow yourself to be quiet. The guitar was and is a great way to express me and understand more things about life.”
Songwriting began when he started singing at age 22, followed by the formation of his band and the unspoken synergy he feels with its members: Ernie Ecraela Jr. on bass; Jarod Manis on drums; Noah Simpson on trumpet; Machado Mijiga on tenor sax; and Artis on guitar and vocals.
“Music opens a door, and you walk into another world,” he said. “When you find the right musicians, you all go into this space and create an experience for the audience. It’s a nonverbal and creative connection. You trust that our hearts are in the same, right space to offer something meaningful to the listener.”
Artis believes in the power of music and the responsibility that comes with it.
“We create the world we want to see,” he said. “You can talk about ideas, but they may not be heard. With music, people listen, so what do I want to say?”
Artis’ thoughtful messages and talent have caught the attention of seasoned musicians — Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, Jack Johnson, and Jake Shimabukuro — who have invited him to play with them in Hawaii’s most celebrated venues. Other musicians, including Booker T Jones, Eric Krasno and G Love, met Artis when they toured Hawaii, and encouraged him to both collaborate with them and share his music beyond the shores of his island home.
Indeed, Artis and his young family moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2019, thinking they’d stay for half a year. Almost two years and multiple performances and recordings later, Artis is still here, which pleases Heesch.
“I met Ron in 2018, through Mike Love — not of The Beach Boys but a reggae band — when Ron still lived in Hawaii,” she said. “Now I can bring him here whenever possible. I can’t wait to do an outdoor show with Ron and Mike.”
But for now, his upcoming live performance at VCA will include Artis, Ecraela and Manis and be limited to 75 people. Should COVID cases take an unfortunate upward turn, seating will be further limited, Heesch said.
Artis concurs with the notion of safety and said the show “is a call to action — because if it can be done safely, then we can do a lot more.” He also gave a shout-out to Heesch for bravely finding ways to produce live music under the current circumstances.
“I want to thank Debra for finding ways to bring art to Vashon,” he said.
Tickets to the upcoming performance, $20, must be purchased 48 hours in advance of the show at vashoncenterforthearts.org, where the venue’s extensive protocols for in-person shows are described. The live stream of the show will take place on vashoncenterforthearts.org and VCA’s Facebook page; for that, there is a $10 suggested donation.