Tiki Ohana – Musicians

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The Tiki lifestyle has a soundtrack, which is evocative of both the time and place of its birth. Tiki music, to me, is a blend of equal parts Exotica, Lounge, Surf, Hawaiian/Polynesian, and Space-Age Bachelor Pad. I wrote about this at length in my blog post, Galaxy of Sound, which prompted an entire series covering each of these genres. These current musicians embody the Tiki sound, as it was yesterday and continues today.

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Brian Mr. Ho O’Neill. Brian O’Neill of Boston MA single-handedly resuscitated the Space-Age Bachelor Pad music of Juan Garcia Esquivel. Well, actually, he did it with a 23-piece band, but Brian was the driving force behind Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica. I was fortunate enough to convince the folks at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem PA to bring Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica here for a concert a few years ago, as part of the Luau at The Levitt event. What a great show! Mr. Ho has now also released a few albums by his Exotica quartet, which you can check out here: Orchestrotica.com. Aloha, Brian!

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Jay Brooks. Clouseaux is the creation of Jay Brooks in Houston TX. This band plays a diverse mix of Exotica/Lounge/Spy music that’s evocative of Henry Mancini’s great soundtracks from the 1950s/60s/70s. Check out their music here: Clouseaux.com. In his spare time, Jay also carves Tikis and is El Presidente at Aloha Texas Tiki Co., supplier of home decor for the Tiki enthusiast. Gracias, Jay!

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Tony Marsico. The Martini Kings are the #1 live event band in Los Angeles. They’ve played shows for A-list celebrities in major venues, art gallery openings, Tiki events, and backyard cocktail parties. Tony Marsico and his brother Frank have been playing cool lounge music for years, often with guest singers like Kate Campbell and King Paris. Grab yourself a Martini Kings album and start the party here: MartiniKings.com. Sophisticated swing, Tony!
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Randy WongThe Waitiki 7 is an Exotica combo from Hawaii led by the rhythm section of basis Randy Wong, percussionist Lopaka Colon, and drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr. Firmly rooted in Hawaii, Randy and the group evoke the Exotica masters of Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. Colon’s father, Augie, was the percussionist for Martin Denny and originated many of the bird and animal calls made famous in Denny’s Exotica music; Lopaka carries on that tradition in Waitiki 7. Check it out for yourself: New Sounds of Exotica. Mahalo, Randy!

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Stephen Greaves. First The SG Sound, then Jet Set Unlimited. Stephen Greaves of Los Angeles CA makes a lot of sound for one person, and that sound captures the 1960s perfectly. A little Surf, a little Exotica, and a whole lot of Space-Age Bachelor Pad. Think Mad Men and you’ll get the idea. Take a listen: Jet Set Unlimited. Groovy, Stephen!

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Gary Evans. One of the best Surf bands I’ve heard in a long time is The Intoxicators!, led by Gary Evans from Tallahassee FL. I saw them play live last year at The Hukilau, along with another cool Surf band, The Disasternauts, which were mostly the same guys dressed as apes in orange NASA jumpsuits. The common denominator was Gary’s guitar playing, which was, fast, tight, and loud! I hope to see them play again someday, but in the mean time, we can check them out here: Intoxicators. Cowabunga, Gary!

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Russell Mofsky. Another band I saw live at The Hukilau was Gold Dust Lounge, led by Russell Mofsky from Miami FL. I thought they were another Surf band when they first started playing, but I was wrong. The best way to describe Gold Dust Lounge is Exotica/World, with elements of Surf, Spy and Soundtrack music mixed in. Russell’s guitar playing is hypnotic, as evidenced in the song Ensenada, which blows me away every time I hear it. Well done, Russell.

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John Tiki Bartley. Five-Eaux is the cleverly-named creation of Jon Tiki, a/k/a John Bartley of St. Louis MO. Surf music is alive and well in the Heartland, and Jon Tiki’s music goes beyond pure Surf, delving into Lounge, Spy, and Soundtracks as well. Here’s a recent song he recreated: Pintor. He was also kind enough to write the theme music for my Podcast, A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge; it sounds like The Pink Panther meets Dick Dale, and it’s wonderful! Thank you, Jon Tiki.

The Hukilau: Epilogue

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Sunday 15Jun14 and Beyond

So Sunday was my fourth and final day at my first-ever Hukilau. Bruce flew out early Sunday morning, so I was on my own for the day until my own flight at 7:50pm. I had a nice big breakfast at the hotel restaurant, then hooked up with my friends Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis for one last trip over to the Mai-Kai. The last event would be a screening of the final cut of a new Tiki documentary, Plastic Paradise. Before that, we settled in with some drinks in the Molokai Lounge and jammed one more time to the surf stylings of Skinny Jimmy and The Stingrays. A Tiki brunch, if you will.

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After watching the movie, we went back to the hotel, where I parted ways with Beth and Cliff for the last time. I had already checked out of my room, so there was nothing left to do but walk around Fort Lauderdale and grab an early dinner before heading back to the airport for my flight home. I didn’t spend much time at the beach on this trip, so it was nice to just chill out, chow on some pizza, and enjoy the ocean before heading home.

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I made it home late Sunday night after an uneventful flight. I was happy to be back with my family, but I’ve really been going through Hukilau withdrawal this week. Work has kept me busy, but I can’t help reminiscing about the good times I had in Fort Lauderdale. I can’t believe it’s been over a week since I first arrived at the Bahia Mar hotel!

imageFortunately, I’ve got a bunch of new Tiki friends on Facebook to help me fill in the gaps. Folks like Gary Evans, the lead guitarist for The Intoxicators! (and The Disasternauts) who I kept running into in the elevator. Jeff Chouinard, a Tiki carver I exchanged stickers with at The Mai-Kai on Saturday night (Surf, Soul, Tiki). Robert Brauchler, the dude in the banana costume onstage with the Disasternauts at the Jetsetter Glo-Glo afterparty Friday night, who took some great pictures from the stage I happened to be in (with his handy-dandy banana cam). Michaël Bridoux, the bandleader of the wonderful Left Arm of Buddha from Belgium, whose album I downloaded from their website and have already worn out listening to it all week. These are new friends I’m hoping will help me keep the Tiki spirit alive and well in Bethlehem PA. They’ve already left their mark. Mahalo!

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The Hukilau: Day 2

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Friday 13Jun14

Day 2 got off to a slow start, as I caught up on some lost sleep and didn’t get out of bed until 9:30am. Since we didn’t have any scheduled events until 4:30pm, Bruce and I decided to take a walk along the beach and find some breakfast.

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After an omelette and some French toast (needed ballast!), we walked back to the hotel to get my Potions of The Caribbean book signed by Beachbum Berry in the Tiki Bazaar. Bruce ended up buying the book too, so he also got his book signed while he had the chance. His indoctrination into the Tiki ohana has officially begun!

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After that we hit the pool for some relaxation, sunshine, and swimming. It felt good to get the blood pumping a little today. The beer I had at the pool bar afterwards probably negated any exercise benefit from my swim, but today would not be a heavy drinking day (unlike yesterday).

We grabbed an early dinner at the hotel before heading over to the Yankee Clipper hotel to catch MeduSirena Marina’s mermaid show at the Wreck Bar. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the whole show, because I had to head back to the Bahia Mar for my volunteer shift from 7-11pm. I did, however, enjoy some of the staging of the swim show poolside before I had to run. Mermaids – you gotta love ’em!

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My volunteering experience at The Hukilau consisted of manning the door to the ballroom to make sure only people with paid admission got into the main event. This may sound boring, but I got a real flavor for the wonderful mix of people who attend this event. Young and old, male and female, everybody really gets their Tiki geek on here! My friends Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis fit in perfectly, resplendent in their Tiki attire.

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The highlight of my day turned out to be the after party, which began after the main event (and my 4-hour shift) ended. It began with the transformation of Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid into Marina the Orion Slave Girl. She was stunning in green!

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The after party was an intergalactic glow-glow extravaganza. Lots of black lights. Glow bands. 60s sci-fi vibe. Planet of The Apes motif with people in ape masks dancing around. The band, The Disasternauts, all wore NASA orange jumpsuits with ape masks, while they played some of the loudest, hardest surf music I’ve ever heard. Good times! Especially for Tiki geeks rejoicing into the early-morning hours. Tonight, I was one of them.
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