Ohana Means Community

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Last weekend, I ran into an old friend at a concert. I know George Mowrer from the church we used to attend together and from some men’s retreats we enjoyed. Lately I’ve lost my desire for organized religion, so I hadn’t seen George for a while. He asked me if I had found another church, and I told him no, that I was giving that a break for now.

George and I are Facebook friends, so he knows of my Tiki obsession. When George asked me what I was doing to be in community, I told him my Tiki ohana was my community. He asked me to explain that to him, and I tried the best I could before the concert started and we shifted our focus to the music. I’m afraid my explanation must have been pretty disjointed. I will try to explain it better now, so if you’re reading this, George, this is for you.

My Tiki ohana is both real and virtual. I’ve written at length about the many aspects of it (Who’s Who In The Tiki Ohana): artists, builders, chroniclers, musicians, mixologists. I’ll now talk about some of the specific people I’ve gotten to know well, some in person, some virtually. I feel blessed to know these folks, as they truly make up a wonderful community for me.

Beth Lennon. A/K/A Mod Betty, Beth is the creator of Retro Roadmap, a really cool website devoted to spotlighting vintage and retro places across the country with the hope of preserving them. Years ago, Beth came across my A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge page and reached out to me to talk about Tiki. She noticed that there was an interconnect between my world of Tiki and her world of Mid-Century Modern, one that we’ve explored ever since. I invited Beth to come up to Bethlehem so I could show her Steel Stacks; she and her husband Cliff Hillis both came up and we immediately hit it off! Cliff is a musician, a singer-songwriter who is very busy in the Philly music scene. He brought me a copy of one of his CDs as a gift, and I gave Beth a SHAG art postcard that reminded me of her.

Over the years, we’ve crossed paths on many occasions. Beth came back to Bethlehem for a Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica concert I helped organize at Steel Stacks; I spent time with Beth and Cliff at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale; and I helped Beth organize a Tiki weekender in Wildwood NJ, the MCM/Doo-Wop capital of the East Coast. It was at this Wildwood event that I met many people I’ve gotten to know in the local Tiki ohana, folks like Robin Cammarota-Nicholson and Michael Hirsch.

Michael Hirsch. Michael lives in New York City, but his parents live in Allentown, so he comes to my neck of the woods often. Michael has been to my Tiki Lounge a few times. He is an architect by trade, and he is passionate about historical preservation, having written a book on Doo-Wop architecture. Michael organized a tour of historically significant landmarks in Wildwood during Mod Betty’s Tiki Weekend. He also is involved with the Society for Commercial Archeology and brought a few of his SCA friends to the Tiki Lounge the last time he visited.

I’ve seen Michael in other places besides Wildwood and Bethlehem. He and I broke bread together at another Retro Roadmap event at the Village Diner in upstate New York, where I also met his parents, Anita and Syman. It turns out the synagogue they attend is literally across the street from my house! Michael also met my friend Bruce and me at The Polynesian, an upscale new Tiki bar in Manhattan.

Robin Cammarota-Nicholson. Robin is another New York City resident I first met at the Wildwood Tiki Weekend. She and her husband Ken live in Yonkers, but Robin travels the world in her job with the American Council on Germany. Everywhere she goes, Robin searchesm out Tiki hotspots to try out. Although I haven’t seen her as often as I’ve seen Michael, I did run into Robin at a Surf Music weekend in Asbury Park NJ and at a pop-up Tiki bar at Boilermaker NYC, where the bar was taken over by Tiki mixologist extraordinaire and historian, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry.

Jeffrey Berry. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry is one of the most influential people in the Tiki revival movement which began in the 1990s. He has published multiple books on Tiki cocktail recipes and history, travels the world as a Tiki drink ambassador, and opened his own restaurant and Tiki bar, Latitude 29, in New Orleans. I first met Jeff at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, where I attended his symposium on the dark days of Tiki drinks in the 1970s. I found him to be personable and kind, with no ego, as he spent time talking with me as if I was the only person there.

The next time I met The Bum, he took his generosity of spirit a step further. My sister Anita and I visited Latitude 29 while in New Orleans on some family business. Jeff agreed to do an interview with me for my podcast before we sat down for dinner. He was articulate, genuine, and a wonderful historian during our talk (you can check out this interview in my podcast episode here: Panda’s Tasty Jambalaya). During dinner, Beachbum Berry came to our table and shared a new drink he was working on with us, asking our opinion on it. What a nice gesture from a great guy! I consider it an honor to know Jeff Berry personally, as he is the most accessible and humble of the Tiki titans. Mahalo, Bum.

Steve Seifert. My wife Jess first introduced me to “Tikiman” Steve Seifert, who created a wonderful website dedicated to WDW’s Polynesian Village Resort: Tikiman Pages. Our family are Disney junkies, and The Polynesian is my happy place. Jess began following Tikiman’s website and Facebook page to keep up to date on all things Poly, which helped us better plan our vacations there.

Over the years, Tikiman has asked his followers to contribute to his website, whenever he knew somebody was at The Polynesian and he was looking for on-the-ground reporting. I helped Steve out when our family was on vacation there in 2014. In return, he helped publicize my blog posts through his audience, as I was blogging daily durning our stay (WDW Polynesian Day 1) and Tikiman’s followers took my readership into 5 digits!

A few years later, Tikiman decided to host a get-together for Tiki friends at the Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto in The Polynesian Village. It was really cool to meet him in person, along with seeing other members of the Tiki ohana like Jim Hayward, Scott Deeter, George Borcherding, and Kevin-John Jobczynski.

Kevin-john Jobczynski. I’ve gotten to know and appreciate a lot of Tiki artists over the years (Tiki Ohana: Artists, Tiki Ohana: Artists, Part Deux), but I’ve only actually met a very few of them. Josh Agle was the first, and I’ve documented my interactions with him before (Stalking SHAG). One of my current favorite artists is Kevin-john Jobczynski, who has become somewhat famous as a Disney Master Artist.

I was fortunate to meet KJ at Tikiman’s gathering at Trader Sam’s, where he debuted a new art print created especially for the event. I had previously purchased a piece from him entitled Mai-Tai Sunset, which was one of KJ’s earliest Tiki-specific pieces of art. How cool that he printed it on a piece of driftwood with a bamboo frame and rattan matting! This print, along with several other Kevin-john works, hangs proudly in the Tiki Lounge.

George Borcherding. Like me, George Borcherding is a huge fan of Tiki. I first got to know him via our online interactions, but I have now spent enough time with George in-person to consider him a true friend. All of our meetings have taken place at The Polynesian, which certainly isn’t a bad place to meet. A Dole Whip and a Captain’s Mai-Tai are great reasons to get together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

George, like me, has his own home Tiki bar, which he puts a lot of work into making special. I’ve never been to Nui Keoki’s Enchanted Grotto, but I enjoy following along on his Facebook page to see the latest and the greatest in Tiki decor. I believe he feels the same way about A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge.

One of these days, I will visit George in Jacksonville FL, and I’m sure he will come to Bethlehem PA too. For now, we have many memories we’ve made together at The Polynesian, from the time we met with many of our Tiki ohana at Tikiman Steve’s event, and the time we were a couple of non-Polynesian gringos crashing Auntie Kaui’s birthday celebration in Luau Cove, to just chilling out at the Tambu Lounge sipping on Mai-Tais made by Walter. And we’ll never forget being served by Skipper Natalie at Trader Sam’s, which was sadly the last time we saw her before she tragically passed away at too young an age. Okole mauna, Natalie, and mahalo, Bruddah George, for being a good friend and a big part of my Tiki community.

A. Panda’s Christmas Lounge

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Back in 2011, I decided to make my 3rd Christmas playlist. This one was inspired by the music I enjoy listening to in A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge. This is a mix of classic and contemporary lounge crooners, jazzy numbers, surf and Tiki tunes, and some straight-up Christmas classics. Throw in some cool SHAG art and a cup of egg nog and you’re ready to enjoy the holidays in Mid-Century Modern style!

I also decided to turn this into a podcast, which you can check out here: apandatikipod.podbean.com

Here’s the back of the CD case with the track listing.

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You can also listen to the playlist on my web radio:

Mid-Century Modern

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If you’re into Tiki like me, you hear a lot about the Mid-Century Modern era in America. But what exactly does that mean? And what does it have to do with Tiki?

According to Wikipedia, Mid-Century Modern is a term that “generally describes mid-20th century developments in modern design, architecture and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965.” So, our first clue of the connection is the timeline. Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt opened his first Don the Beachcomber’s bar in Hollywood in 1933, and the first great wave of Tiki lasted until about 1967, when the Summer of Love aesthetic supplanted Tiki as the primary means of escapism in America.

So, was Tiki a part of Mid-Century Modern design? Not really. Tiki art and architecture were more primitive and natural than MCM, which was more clean, crisp and futuristic. However, they occupied the same space in America’s history, and co-existed quite nicely. Think The Jetsons meet The Flintstones!

But why should I care about Mid-Century Modern? Because it was the backdrop against which Tiki occurred, and there were many connections between the two besides timing. I like to think of SHAG’s art when I envision this era in American history. SHAG incorporates a lot of the MCM design aesthetic in his artwork, much of which recalls the 1950s-60s of Palm Springs: architecture, artwork, cocktail culture. And SHAG paints a lot of Tikis as well. These are the things he knows.

In the next few blog posts, I’ll explore the different elements of the Mid-Century Modern era. I’ll be learning along with you as we go in more depth into this important topic. Aloha.

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Tiki Ohana – Chroniclers

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The Tiki resurrection that began in the 1990s was effected by people getting together to share their love of Polynesian pop. It was a rediscovery of Mid-Century Modern American culture that was all but forgotten by the 1970s and 1980s. Thanks to Otto Von Stroheim’s Tiki News (1995) and Sven Kirsten’s The Book of Tiki (2000), this lost era was now back in print for the Tiki tribe to enjoy. These chroniclers of the movement took Tiki to the next level.

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 9.33.17 AMHanford Lemoore (Tiki Central). Tiki Central is the internet’s first and biggest bulletin board for Tiki enthusiasts. Since 2000, Hanford Lemoore has presided over a virtual universe of like-minded people sharing their love of Mid-Century Modern, Polynesian-inspired things. News, events, art, food and drink, music, collectibles, Tiki bars, and much more. If you need to find anything in the world of Tiki, you can find it here: www.tikiroom.com.

 

Nick Camara (Tiki Magazine). It wasn’t the first printed magazine devoted to Tiki, but Tiki Magazine debuted in 2005 and has been going strong ever since. Nick Camara’s labor of love has always featured full-color spreads on topics of interest to the Tiki ohana, and covers by artists like Derek Yaniger and SHAG. Tiki Magazine has just been revitalized to now include a broader range of topics from the Mid-Century Modern era. You can subscribe here: www.tikimagazine.com.

 

image Koop Kooper (Cocktail Nation). For the best in retro and modern lounge and exotica music, you must check out Koop Kooper’s syndicated radio show and podcast, Cocktail Nation. The lounge lothario and high priest of all things hep, swinging and swank, Koop Kooper has been collecting and playing lounge music from his penthouse in Sydney, Australia since 2007. His show also includes interviews with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the Lounge, Exotica and Tiki scenes, and he’s published two books of those interviews. You can listen to the man from Down Under here: www.cocktailnation.net.

 

image Jim Hayward (The Atomic Grog). There are many blogs dedicated to the Tiki scene, but The Atomic Grog is my favorite. Jim Hayward has been publishing this blog from his South Florida home since 2011, and he often is the first to scoop everybody with new happenings in the world of Tiki art, music, and cocktails. He has also hosted many in-depth interviews with the titans of the Tiki ohana. Don’t just take it from me; check it out for yourself: www.slammie.com/atomic grog/blog.

 

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Steve Seifert (Tikiman Pages). For a very specific slice of Tiki culture, try a taste of Steve Seifert’s Tikiman Pages, an unofficial website devoted to Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort. The Polynesian is my happy place and one of the Tiki temples I’ve previously written about (Tiki Temples, Oct 2014). For this reason, Tikiman Steve’s website and Facebook page hold a place close to my heart. He really has a comprehensive pulse on the past, present and future of this wonderful place, and has been sharing his knowledge with the world since 1999. You can see what Steve has to say here: www.tikimanpages.com.

Tiki Ohana – Builders

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The Tiki craze was created by Don The Beachcomber in the 1930s, exploded with the return of American GIs from the Pacific Theatre of World War II in the 1940s, swept the nation in the 1950s and early 1960s, and vanished almost completely by the 1970s. Fortunately, Tiki was resurrected in the 1990s and is regaining its popularity today. Here are the current keepers of the Tiki torch who helped build and rebuild this wonderful lifestyle.

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LeRoy Schmaltz and Bob Van Oosting. 1956 was an important year for Tiki. This was the year The Mai-Kai opened its doors in Fort Lauderdale FL, and the same year that 2 guys in Southern California opened Oceanic Arts. I’ve written at length about LeRoy and Bob’s story (Keeping The Tiki Torch Lit, Nov 2013). It’s not an exaggeration to say that Oceanic Arts was the most important contributor to the Tiki lifestyle, both yesterday and today. They weathered the downturn of the 1970s and 1980s and are still going strong. Mahalo LeRoy Schmaltz and Bob Van Oosting. Please check out their website: www.oceanicarts.net.

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Sven Kirsten. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the most important figure in the current Tiki revival. Sven Kirsten is a self-proclaimed urban archeologist, a foreigner to our shores, who took it upon himself to research, document, and chronicle the Tiki culture of Mid-Century Modern America in his comprehensive tome, The Book of Tiki (2000). By doing so, Sven Kirsten inspired an entire generation of Tiki-philes to come up above ground, publicize their findings, and connect with each other. Sven Kirsten’s popularity is at an all-time high, as evidenced by last year’s successful exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris: Tiki Pop, L’Amérique rêve son paradis polynésien. Please check out the companion book here: www.taschen.com.

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Otto Von Stroheim. The Tiki craze was born on the West Coast, and the revival started there as well. From his home base in Los Angeles, Otto Von Stroheim was an early pioneer bringing Tiki back. He began publishing his Tiki News magazine in 1995 and continues to publish it as an e-newsletter today. Otto and his wife Baby Doe also created Tiki Oasis, the original Tiki weekender event held every August in Southern California, typically in Palm Springs or San Diego. He is one of the experts on all things Tiki, from cocktails and mugs to entertainment. Okole maluna, Otto Von Stroheim. Please check out this wonderful interview at The Atomic Grog: www.slammie.com/atomicgrog.

image Christie Tiki Kiliki White. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, a young lady in Atlanta GA was dreaming of putting on a Tiki Weekender event of her own for the folks who couldn’t make it to California. Along with her friend Swanky, Christie Tiki Kiliki White created The Hukilau in 2002, hosted by Trader Vic’s in Atlanta. That first 3-day Tiki weekend was a resounding success, and The Hukilau was moved to The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale the following year, where it’s been held ever since. I attended last year’s event and blogged live all 4 days I was there (Aloha from The Hukilau, Jun 2014). Now considered the world’s most authentic Tiki event, The Hukilau celebrates it’s 14th anniversary in 2015, thanks to the tireless efforts of cofounder and organizer Christie White. Mahalo, Tiki Kiliki! Please check out The Hukilau’s website for information on this year’s event: www.thehukilau.com.

image Tim Swanky Glazner. As a cofounder of The Hukilau, Tim Swanky Glazner is the East Coast’s answer to Otto Von Stroheim. An expert on all things Tiki, Swanky has many interests including wood carving, Tiki mugs, and mixology. He is the head bartender at Hapa Haole Hideaway in Knoxville TN, and created The Swank Pad website years ago to keep track of his diverse collections. Swanky is currently researching a book on the history of The Mai-Kai, which given his expertise and collection of memorabilia, should be an amazing read. Please check out Swanky’s Facebook page devoted to his forthcoming book here: Mai-Kai: Mystery, History and Adventure.

Who’s Who in The Tiki Ohana

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The Tiki community truly is an ohana, or family. We are a tight-knit group of enthusiasts of the Mid-Century Modern phenomenon of Tiki, which started in the 1940s, peaked in the 1950s-60s, went underground in the 1970s-80s, and has been coming back strong ever since. Some of the people in this group have been at it since 1956, while others led the Tiki resurrection in the 1980s. I myself have only been involved for about the past 10 years.

So why a “Who’s Who” list? Let me start by saying what this effort is not meant to portray. This is not an attempt to glorify people or curry favor in any way. Tiki people aren’t like that. We all have our part to play, some larger than others, but Tiki is a very inclusive activity.

My experience with the people on this list is personal. I got to know most of these fine folks via Facebook, which has really helped connect the Tiki ohana. Some of these social media introductions have led to deeper relationships, for which I am truly blessed. I’ve also gone on to meet many of my Tiki friends in-person, either through art gallery visits, pilgrimages to Tiki shrines, or attending special events. I won’t go into a lot of detail of my personal encounters with the people on this list, as I’ve done so in previous blog posts (I will provide references back to those posts where appropriate).

To make this list more manageable, I’ve broken it down into categories of Tiki:

Artists

Builders

Chroniclers

Craftsmen

Mixologists

Musicians

Performers

One of my underlying reasons for making this list is to keep all of these people’s roles straight in my mind. I’ve gotten to know many of them in just the past year, and it’s important for me to personally recognize their contributions to the Tiki cause. I’m sure there will be plenty of people I miss, either because I don’t have a personal relationship with them or because I’m getting forgetful in my old age. I welcome any feedback for glaring omissions or people I need to get to know.

I hope you enjoy this series on Tiki people in the coming weeks. Mahalo!

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Tiki Music: Space-Age Bachelor Pad

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No music is more central to the Tiki scene, in my opinion, than Space-Age Bachelor Pad music. That’s why I put it at the center of A. Panda’s Galaxy of Sound. This is the theme music for the Mid-Century Modern era in America.

But what is it? Some people may consider this Easy Listening music – the kind of stuff that was blown off of the charts by the British Invasion of the 1960s. I prefer to think of it as the music that supported a lifestyle. The hip, romantic men of the Postwar period, creating sexy moods with furniture, drinks, and music, for the sole purpose of luring the fairer sex to their place for a good time. These were their anthems.

So here are the albums I’ve been listening to that bring the Space-Age Bachelor Pad to life for me. These are all sonically lush recordings, exploring the capabilities of stereo sound, jazzy instrumentals, and quirky vocals.

 

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Esquivel: Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music (1994). This music all begins with Juan García Esquivel, the Mexican composer/musician who created the style. This 1994 compilation bears its name for that reason. Esquivel pushed the boundaries of Jazz, Lounge and Instrumental music in the 1950s and 1960s, and popularized the use of stereo sound techniques and wordless vocals. Many of the musicians that followed owe a tremendous debt to this relatively obscure genius. Zu-zu-zu!

 

stan-getz-joc3a3o-gilberto-feat-antc3b4nio-carlos-jobim-getz-gilberto-1964 Getz/Gilberto (1964). Continuing the international nature of this music, Jazz sax great Stan Getz teamed up with Brazillian musicians João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim to introduce a sexy, jazzy music to the American consciousness. The zenith of this music’s popularity came with the tune Girl from Ipanema (sung by João’s wife, Astrud Gilberto), the ubiquitous song still instantly recognizable to this day.

 

Cover-Whipped-Cream-and-Other-Delights Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass: Whipped Cream & Other Delights (1965). Wow. That album cover. What can I say, but: wow! Herb Albert’s music was equally as sexy, which is why it was in constant rotation in bachelor pads across America during the Mid-Century Modern era. Anybody who remembers watching The Dating Game will instantly recognize the theme song and much of the in-game music from this album.

 

MI0001036280 Henry Mancini: Greatest Hits (2000). From The Baby Elephant Walk to The Pink Panther and Peter Gunn, Henry Mancini was the author of some of the most iconic music in movies and television of the Mid-Century. If you were watching TV or listening to a movie soundtrack in your bachelor pad, chances were good you were listening to one of Henry Mancini’s compositions.

 

6a00c2251d92a98fdb00d4144b99dd6a47-320pi Combustible Edison: I, Swinger (1994). This was the most important band of the Lounge/Swing/Tiki revival of the mid-1990s. Combustible Edison brought back the sound of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad with this album and their stunning soundtrack to the film Four Rooms, which also featured the music of Esquivel. Have I mentioned how profoundly this movie has influenced me?

 

31AX3HH0FSL Pink Panther’s Penthouse Party (2004). This album is an homage to the music created by Henry Mancini, with classics and new tunes performed by current artists like Fat Boy Slim, Dmitri from Paris, and Kinky. My wife Jess bought me this CD because of the SHAG cover art, but the music was a revelation. A bachelor-pad soundtrack for the modern age.

 

sgsound The SG Sound: The Pleasure Center (2007). Speaking of the modern age, I got to know Stephen Greaves through one of the Tiki groups on Facebook, where I was introduced to The SG Sound. What an amazing musician! This album would fit right into the mid-20th Century as well as it does in the 21st. Mahalo, Stephen!

 

album_esquivel_591 Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica: The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel (2010). Space-Age Bachelor Pad music comes full circle, as Brian O’Neill faithfully and meticulously recreates the music of Esquivel with his 23-piece big band, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica. This was no small task, as none of this music was ever scored on paper, so Brian had to do it by ear. Mini Skirt is my favorite Esquivel tune and the current ringtone on my iPhone, so I think of Mr. Ho whenever he plays it for my incoming calls. Groovy!

So there you have it: the 5th and final star in A. Panda’s Galaxy of Sound. I’ve enjoyed sharing my Tiki music with you this summer. I suggest you also check out my new podcast, apandatikipod.podcast.com, where I’m featuring the actual music from my mix CDs. You’ll also hear some interviews with legends of the Lounge/Exotica/Tiki scene, along with some cool stories from my Tiki journey. I hope you’ll check it out and tell me what you think. Mahalo!

 

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Tiki Music: Surf

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Surf music, like jazz, is an eminently American creation. I believe it’s an essential part of Tiki culture, starting in Mid-Century Modern America and flourishing worldwide today. Like Tiki, surf music took a break in popularity starting in the late 1960s, but was revived in the mid 1990s.

Let’s start with the classics. The Beach Boys. Dick Dale and The Del-Tones. The Ventures. Jan & Dean. The Surfaris. The list goes on, but this is pretty representative of the Surf music legends who stormed the beaches of Southern California in the early 1960s. My favorite Surf songs are still Hawaii Five-O and Wipe Out, going back to my preteen days. I’ve always favored the instrumental music of The Ventures to the vocal surf tunes of The Beach Boys, and the instrumental style has better withstood the test of time. Dick Dale has a foot in both camps and is still going strong, but he can do whatever he wants, because, after all, he IS the King of the Surf Guitar!

So, here’s a list of the Surf music artists I’ve been listening to for the past 30 years, with a brief description of their style and where I first heard them.

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The Ventures: The Best of The Ventures (1987). These guys started it all for me in junior high. They actually covered a lot of songs, but they made Hawaii Five-O their own. I just saw The Ventures play last year in Bethlehem PA and they sounded great!

 

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Dick Dale and The Del-Tones: Greatest Hits 1961-76 (1992). The King of the Surf Guitar, and arguably the greatest guitar player on Earth. Dick Dale’s been playing non-stop since 1961, and his popularity was rejuvenated when his classic version of Misirlou was used as the theme song for Pulp Fiction in 1994.

 

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The Ultras: Surf Pop Sludge (1993). I first heard these guys on college radio in Lancaster PA. They were a nice blend of tribute and tongue-in-cheek, doing both vocal and instrumental Surf originals. The Ultras had the King of the Sludge Guitar!

 

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The Halibuts: Life on the Bottom (1996). I found this gem in a small music store in Chicago (my first listening post experience) and haven’t stopped listening to it for almost 20 years. The Halibuts played some of the most melodic instrumental Surf music you’ll ever hear.

 

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Red Elvises: Surfing in Siberia (1997). 4 cats from Russia move to LA and start playing Surf music. You can’t make this shit up! I first saw these guys play at Musikfest in Bethlehem in 1999, where they became a staple for years. Sadly, Red Elvises lost their mojo when their lead guitarist Zhenya left the band only a few years later.

 

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Los Straitjackets: ¡Damas y Caballeros! Los Straitjackets (2001). Another discovery at Musikfest, only these guys’ shtick is that they wear Luche Libre wrestling masks everywhere they go. Hailing from Nashville TN, Los Straitjackets are my favorite Surf band of all time. Classic, straight-ahead instrumental Surf originals with Spanish dialogue between songs. Olé!

 

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Coffin Daggers: Coffin Daggers (2002). Musikfest strikes again, this time with a band from NYC best described as Goth Surf. Coffin Daggers infuse Surf music with a heavy dose of fuzzy keyboards and theremin, creating a spooky, sci-fi sound very different from most other bands. Think Addams Family goes to the beach!

 

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The Intoxicators: Journey to the Center of the Earth (2006). I just saw this band for the first time at The Hukilau 2014 in Fort Lauderdale. The Intoxicators are a high-energy, instrumental Surf band from Tallahassee FL playing clever, original music. Twin guitars, thumping bass and a Shriner fez-wearing drummer make them the perfect Surf band for the Tiki Lounge.

 

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Great White Caps: Sting of Death (2009). Surf music from Bethlehem PA, of all places, and another Musikfest staple. We’re 90 miles from the ocean here, but Great White Caps crafted a unique Surf sound with their blend of original instrumental and vocal tunes. Sadly, these guys just disbanded earlier this year. Aloha GWC.

 

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Skinny Jimmy and The Stingrays (2009). Another band I just discovered at The Hukilau, these guys hail from Deerfield Beach FL, just north of Fort Lauderdale. Skinny Jimmy was the most nondescript, pleasant fellow when I talked to him during the event, but with a guitar in-hand onstage at The Mai-Kai, he was an animal! I may have to move to Florida to catch Surf bands like this on a regular basis.

 

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Five Eaux (2014). The newest band I’ve stumbled across hails from St. Louis MO. John Bartley, the creator of Five Eaux, reached out to the Tiki Lounge via Facebook, and we’ve been fast friends ever since. I can’t really classify them as simply Surf, as John also does James Bond themes, Spaghetti Western tunes, and much more. In his own words, Five Eaux is bringing Tiki back, with class. Aloha, Jon Tiki!

I’ve been creating Surf compilations for 10 years, and I’ve done more Surf mixes than any other genre of music. Over the years these mix discs have evolved as I’ve discovered more great Surf bands. I’ve also started incorporating other Tiki music styles into the mix, as I better learn the link between Surf and Tiki. They are inseparable! My friend Jeff Chouinard, a Tiki carver, says it best: Surf Soul Tiki. Mahalo!

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Galaxy of Sound

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Nothing defines A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge quite like music. Specifically, the music that became popular during the Mid-Century Modern era in America, which roughly correlates to the Baby Boomer period of 1946-64. However, the correlation begins and ends there! The wonderful music that Baby Boomers neglected, this Gen-Xer celebrates, along with the rest of my Tiki ohana. This is the soundtrack to our lifestyle.

A picture’s worth 1,000 words, so you can see for yourself the 5 musical genres that comprise my Galaxy of Sound. I plan to go into depth for each one in future posts, so for now, let’s just play a little word association, shall we? I will list each style followed by the name of the artist who created/defined that style, followed by a modern artist who revived/thrives in it. Let’s start with the center of my galaxy.

Space-Age Bachelor Pad. Esquivel. Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica.

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Exotica. Martin Denny. The Left Arm of Buddha.

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Lounge. The Rat Pack. Martini Kings.

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Surf. Dick Dale. Los Straitjackets.

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Hawaiian. Don Ho. King Kukulele

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These are just my opinions of the pioneers and standard bearers for each of these 5 musical styles. You may have a different opinion on the king of the surf guitar, and I’d love to hear it! The wonderful thing about Tiki music is its diversity, and even more amazing is how many artists are performing it all across the country and around the world. I’ve enjoyed getting to know more musicians over the years, some as recently as two weeks ago at The Hukilau. I look forward to introducing you to many of these performers in my coming posts. First up will be surf music. Cowabunga!

Guitars, Cadillacs, Bachelor Pad Music

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With all apologies to Dwight Yoakam. Oops, now to Nirvana as well. Sorry, just some musical humor. Speaking of music, I’m really enjoying the infusion of electric guitar into genres that don’t usually feature it. Big band. Exotica. Lounge. I guess you can call it worlds colliding. At least that’s what I call it, since I’m from the Seinfeld generation. Kids today call it mash-up. Whatever you call it, I’m really into it, when two or more seemingly unrelated things come together. It happens to me a lot, as I’ve rambled about previously in my musings about karma. Anyway, here are three examples of electric guitar boldly going where few had gone before.

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Brian Setzer Orchestra.
Brian Setzer. You may remember him from such bands as The Stray Cats. They were pretty big back in the day, when MTV was king. Then, just when you thought he had fallen off of the face of the earth, Brian Setzer reinvented himself. With a big band. As the front man. Leading with his guitar in hand! It was 1990, and I was really starting to get into the swing and jump blues stylings of Harry Connick Jr. and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Then along comes BSO with something completely different: a guitar-driven big band. I was blown away! Not only did they do an amazing cover of Louis Prima’s Jump, Jive and Wail, but Brian Setzer also dared to do a big-band version of The Clash’s Brand New Cadillac. Only in their version, the bridge is a rocking version of Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn Theme with a kick-ass Brian Setzer guitar solo to bring it home. Brilliant! Keep on rocking the swing world, Stray Cat!

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Elliot Easton’s Tiki Gods.
Hey, wait a minute – wasn’t Elliot Easton the lead guitarist for that 80s band, The Cars? He was, and still is, as The Cars released a nice comeback album in 2011. But he also has a little side project, Tiki Gods, and put out an album last year called Easton Island. I first heard about this album from Sven Kirsten, the godfather of all things Tiki. Easton Island is a collection of Tiki-inspired songs with an electric guitar flair, something not typically found in Tiki music. Elliot Easton doesn’t just cover songs; he wrote original music, ranging from lounge, exotica, surf and other genres from the Mid-Century Modern era. My favorite tune is Ballad of Cowboyardee, a clever homage to the melodramatic music of Spaghetti Westerns. Well played, Elliot Easton!

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Five-Eaux.
Five-Eaux is the brainchild of my new Facebook friend John Bartley, a/k/a Jon Tiki. Based in St. Louis MO, this band has cranked out a half dozen tunes so far, and what an eclectic mix! The Pink Panther Theme. Taboo. Apache. Quiet Village. Telstar. And of course, a cool version of Hawaii Five-O. What sets John’s work apart for me is his reliance on the electric guitar to re-energize these old chestnuts. You expect that in the surf tunes, but not in the Pink Panther Theme, where John’s tremolo guitar replaces brass and sax as the driving instrument. And in Taboo, he channels Carlos Santana in a haunting, guitar-driven version of this classic Arthur Lyman exotica tune. Thank you, Jon Tiki, we look forward to hearing more of your music!

Now you can listen to this playlist here: