Mahitopalooza honors a late local legend with great music and comedy.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
You can’t really blame friends and family for thinking Mahito Shirako could do anything. They’d seen him do it.
The late CSU Monterey Bay alum built his own A-frame cabin when he was 11. The skilled sound engineer – “he knew how to do everyone’s job better than they did,” one colleague recalls – recently rose to cusp of a black belt in taekwondo.
“He felt there was progress to be made and he could make it,” says friend and former colleague Keith Brueker. “He went after everything full bore.”
He taught himself to cook tamales, distill spirits and make pies for which he became known. He’d fish by creek or ocean kayak and dive for abalone, hosting barbecues with the catch. He’d hunt, clean and cook his own deer. “Talk about a provider,” his sister Aiwa says.
He’d race motorcycles and sand boards. For a while, he climbed all the trees he could find.
“One day we ran out of forest,” Brueker says.
Ultimately, though, there was something Shirako couldn’t do: Defy death. On Nov. 7, at the age of 31, he was killed in a Hollister Hills dirt bike accident.
“He had me believing he could walk on water,” Breuker says. “I didn’t think that was the guy who could die.”
Nine hundred people showed for a celebration of his life.
“He would’ve loved it,” his mom Anne says. “He always wanted to fill the [massive] lawn behind his house with people.”
He’d also like the idea that came up immediately – a scholarship in his name – and the event that effort has inspired, Saturday’s Mahitopalooza.
“He wouldn’t have wanted us to mope around,” says friend, organizer and scholarship board member Quinn Gardner. “He would’ve wanted us to party, and do something positive.”
If the new Mahito Shirako Foundation can raise $25,000, it can endow a CSUMB scholarship in perpetuity.
The event lineup is inspired by Shirako’s eclectic taste. The Midtones, a feisty-but-feel-good seven-piece Santa Cruz supergroup, will deliver skate-rock-influenced reggae. Eliquate brings a complete live band to the stage, a la The Roots, to fuel intelligent hip hop/funk fusion. Santa Cruz-Hollister rock outfit Cylinder, who Gardner calls one of his five favorite bands on the planet, period, has claimed Your Music Magazine’s battle of the bands in Santa Cruz and San Jose – with high-energy riffs.
Laughter is also a priority of the celebration. Spliced between music acts come three comics. Myles Weber already has a comedy album out and is touring in his early 20s (“Haven’t shaved for two days,” he tweeted recently. “I now look old enough to vote. For homecoming king & queen.”). Candy Churilla goes off on relationships – “I’m single by choice,” she says. “My ex-boyfriend’s choice.” – with clever quickness. Headliner Joe Klocek, a veteran of the Laugh Factory and Comedy Central specials, represents a particularly impressive get.
Between his martial arts training, sound engineering, dirt biking and pie making, Mahito never had the time to care for the dog he always wanted. Nevertheless, those who knew him best attest he always found time for them.
“He was such a reliable person,” Aiwa says. “He did what he said he was going to do. He was there for everybody.”
“If you needed a truck, he had it,” Anne says. “If you needed a wheelchair ramp to your house, he’d build it. If you were hungry, he’d feed you.”
Now more than ever, she adds, he inspires her to live by his example.
As that happens – and as he inspires a scholarship designed to live forever – in a way Mahito has defied death. But that makes sense for a man who could seemingly do anything.
MAHITOPALOOZa is 5-11pm Saturday at CSUMB University Center, Sixth Avenue in Seaside. $20 in advance; $25 at the door. 582-3653, www.mahitopalooza.com.