In just six months, hundreds upon hundreds of Tiki and retro culture enthusiasts from around the world will descend upon Fort Lauderdale in search of the most authentic Polynesian Pop experience imaginable. If Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White has any say in the matter, they won’t be disappointed.
White has assembled another surprisingly eclectic cast of characters for the 12th edition of The Hukilau, a weekend celebration set for June 6-9 at the Sheraton Beach Hotel (aka the “Yankee Clipper”) and The Mai-Kai restaurant. As always, the event manages to embrace every nuance of mid-century kitsch: Exotica and surf music, rum and tropical cocktails, mermaids, Polynesian floor shows, Hawaiian shirts, Tiki mugs, vintage culture and artwork, Tiki carving, tattoos, and much more.
Co-founded by White in 2002 in Atlanta, the event found its permanent home at Fort Lauderdale’s legendary Mai-Kai in 2003 and has featured some of the biggest names in the modern Tiki revival, from author and mixologist Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (who returns for his eighth appearance this year) to author/photographer Sven Kirsten (The Book of Tiki) and artist Josh Agle (aka Shag).
The official website, TheHukilau.com, re-launched Tuesday and a new Travel Bulletin (the festival’s e-mail newsletter) was distributed with lots of event updates, including some new additions to the musical lineup and a detailed daily schedule.
Among the highlights are three bands making their Hukilau debut:
* Continuing its tradition of presenting rare and exotic live performances, The Hukilau will feature the first U.S. appearance by Ìxtahuele, an exotica ensemble from Sweden. The group plays in the authentic style of exotica pioneers Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman and includes an eclectic lineup of players with experience in jazz, pop, surf, classical, Latin and world music.
* Two of the hottest bands in the fertile Tiki scene in Southern California will also be bringing their modern take on retro party music to Fort Lauderdale for the first time. The Ding Dong Devils perform original songs that celebrate Tiki culture and draw from diverse musical influences that include exotica, surf, rockabilly, hapa haole and old-time jazz. The Hula Girls specialize in “hulabilly,” an up-tempo mix of hapa haole, Tiki, and surf-themed music filtered through the rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll sounds of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
* Along with all those new sounds from across the globe, two of the Sunshine State’s most talented surf bands will return to rock the Yankee Clipper and Mai-Kai stages. The Intoxicators from Tallahassee have been a fixture at The Hukilau since 2005, playing a powerful blend of classic surf, rockabilly, and instrumental guitar rock. Miami’s Gold Dust Lounge shakes up its surfy sound with jazz and spy/lounge influences that yield an eclectic and tasty musical cocktail.
But there’s a lot more to The Hukilau than vintage tunes and party music. As usual, White has put together a lineup of symposiums that promises to be both entertaining and informative. Remember, The Hukilau was the first Tiki event to present seminars on culture and history back in 2006 (Tiki Oasis followed in 2007).
This year’s experts and their special events:
* At the top of the list is one of the experts who graced The Hukilau with one of the first symposiums back in ’06. Beachbum Berry Presents: The Wild West Indies is an all-new seminar that will feature material from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s upcoming sixth Tiki cocktail book, Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them. Berry will take participants on a booze cruise through time to the rum-laden islands that inspired Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic to create the tropical drinks we know and love today.
* TikiTomD Presents: Tales of the Yankee Clipper is the brainchild of Tom Duncan, aka TikiTomD on Tiki Central. A child of the mid-20th century, Duncan grew up with Florida’s mid-century restaurants on the Space Coast and spent more than 30 years at the Kennedy Space Center. In his spare time, he’s done extensive research on the history of the Yankee Clipper, The Hukilau’s host hotel now known as the Sheraton Beach Hotel. Learn about the hotel’s long-gone Polynesian Room, the surviving (and legendary) Wreck Bar, and the unique nautical design (the original building that fronts highway A1A resembles a giant ship).
* Paul Roe Presents: Hunting the Urban Primitive marks the third appearance by the proprietor of Britishink Tattoos in Washington D.C. at The Hukilau. The artist and tattoo historian will take a look at how ancient forms – such as the tribal arm band and facial tattooing – have evolved over the centuries and how they’re used today.
* Gary Moss Presents: The Culture of Vintage Hawaiian Shirts will feature insights from the proud owner of more than 300 vintage rayon Hawaiian shirts from the 1930s and 1940s (featured in the book Hawaiian Shirts: Dress Right for Paradise). Moss, an instructor at Santa Fe College in Gainesville and former associate professor at the New England College of Optometry in Boston, is also an active antiques and collectibles dealer/collector and author of Hippie Artifacts: Mind-blowing Stuff to Collect (2003).
Click here for more in-depth bios on all of the above entertainment and links to the official websites.
But that’s not all. The Hukilau always features some special and unexpected surprises. Among those on tap for this June:
* The full premiere of Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession, the documentary filmed at The Hukilau and elsewhere and previewed at last year’s event. The indie film tells the story of Tiki culture’s original rise and fall in the mid-20th century, and its recent rediscovery by a new generation of Polynesian popsters.
* Also: Two chances to see Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid swim in her native habitat (the Yankee Clipper pool above the Wreck Bar), live Tiki carving on Fort Lauderdale beach, a new event mug by Tiki Diablo, the traditional Tiki photo booth by Go11Media, rum tastings all weekend, plus even more to be announced.
To find out exactly when all these festivities will take place, click here to see the latest schedule.
Also not to be missed is the Tiki Treasures Bazaar, a fixture at every Hukilau and returning to a spacious ballroom at the Yankee Clipper in 2013. Browse booths featuring wares from craftsmen and women from around the world, shop for vintage clothes and artwork, and marvel at the stacks of collectibles that you can see and touch before buying (unlike eBay). Vendor space is still available. Potential participants can click here for details.
If this weren’t enough, the backdrop for all this activity is the historic Mai-Kai, the modern-day Mecca for Polynesian Pop enthusiasts that was established in 1956 and is still going strong. The restaurant hosts the traditional Saturday night main event that features a special edition of its long-running South Seas stage show along with live music from The Hukilau’s entertainers all night long.
Special rates for The Hukilau are available at the Yankee Clipper for $119 per night (double occupancy), and all guests will be booked into the ship-like “classic building,” a popular destination for celebrities in Fort Lauderdale’s mid-century heyday. To book your room for The Hukilau, you must click on the website link available here.
The Hukilau is a time-consuming and difficult endeavor to produce. Not one to cut corners or offer an inferior experience, White should be commended for her dedication and attention to detail year after year. There’s no better way to help than to volunteer your time to help with some of the many tasks that keep The Hukilau running smoothly. Click here to learn how to become part of the team.
Equally important are the sponsors who provide the funding, products, and services that are the lifeblood of the event. Click here for details on becoming an essential supporter of The Hukilau.
Atomic Grog coverage: Past blog updates on The Hukilau