Like the lucha libre wrestlers who inspired it, Nashville’s Los Straitjackets has launched a high-flying comeback after being dealt a paralyzing blow that would have pinned lesser bands.
With co-founding guitarist Danny Amis (aka Daddy-O Grande) on the road to recovery from cancer, those masked marvels of instrumental rock have delivered one of the most diverse and polished albums in their 18-year career. Jet Set, released Tuesday on Yep Roc Records, is the band’s lucky 13th studio album and perhaps its best ever. Guitarist and co-founder Eddie Angel has been quoted as saying: “I think it’s remarkable that this far into our career, we could do something I’d consider our best work.”
Amis was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, in mid-2010. “It took me out of commission for two years, even put me in a wheelchair for a while, but once I started recovering I began writing new songs like crazy and was able to record with the band again,” Amis says in a press release for Jet Set. “The godfather of Mexican surf” underwent a successful stem cell transplant in 2011, and he’s been pronounced well enough to play select dates on the band’s upcoming tour. It’s great to see Amis – one of surf rock’s longtime practitioners (he started with the Raybeats in 1980-82) – back in action.
The Hukilau is an all-encompassing celebration of Polynesian Pop culture: Art and architecture, food and drinks, music and fashion. It’s a trip back in time with hundreds of like-minded Tiki disciples to an era when kitsch was king. The entire event is an orgiastic fest of the senses – from the outrageous lowbrow art and Tiki carvings to the exotic music to the decadent drinks and food. Fort Lauderdale’s beachside locale and historic Mai-Kai restaurant are the perfect backdrop for the revelry.
To warm up for this month’s 11th annual Hukilau, let’s take a trip back to 2009, when lucha-masked surf and rockabilly band Los Straitjackets headlined the event. Click here or on the image below to see a special audio slideshow of all the festivities. Be sure to turn up your speakers! Below that is a recap of the schedule for reference. This year’s event promises the same experience, plus much more. Eddie Angel of Los Straitjackets is back with his new band, The Martian Denny Orchestra. We hope to see you there!
The Hukilau is the largest Polynesian Pop festival on the U.S. East Coast. It will be held April 19-22 in Fort Lauderdale at several beachside hotels plus the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant.
Guitar slinger Eddie Angel will be making his third appearance at The Hukilau in the past four years, but for the third time he’ll have a different band in tow. Having earlier performed with Los Straitjackets and The Neanderthals, the Nashville-based Angel returns with a new, out-of-this-world crew.
The Martian Denny Orchestra blends surf, spy and space sounds is quickly becoming an underground sensation in Music City. As expected from a Nashville group, the band’s members are some of the best in the business. Joining Angel are: guitarist Bob Irwin, owner of record label Sundazed Music and member of New York’s Pluto Walkers; bassist Dave Roe, who has played with everyone from Johnny Cash to John Mellencamp; multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke (steel guitar, saxophone, flute, etc.), who has showed off his versatility with NRBQ, Toby Keith and others; and drummer Jimmy Lester, formerly of Los Straitjackets and currently with roots rocker Webb Wilder.
More music and a very special guest speaker have been added to the lineup for the 11th annual Hukilau, the massive Polynesian Pop party scheduled for April 19-22 in Fort Lauderdale. Organizers just confirmed the addition of exotica band Exotik-a-GoGo and influential author Sven Kirsten.
Exotik-a-GoGo, hailing from the not-so-tropical locale of Minneapolis, is scheduled to perform on Friday and Saturday nights. Combining jazz instrumentation with jungle rhythms and tropical birdcalls mixed with vibraphone, the group promises the pseudo experience of being transported to an exotic island destination.
The band cites influences such as mid-century exotica pioneers Les Baxter, Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman and Yma Sumac. You can catch them live every Friday and Saturday at Midwest Tiki hotspot Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge in Minneapolis.
Making a rare appearance at Hukilau will be one of the pioneers credited with kick-starting the Tiki revival, California-based and German-born Sven Kirsten, author of the Book of Tiki (2003) and Tiki Modern (2007). Kirsten will host a special presentation, “The Golden Age of Tiki Archeology: Unpublished Images from the Sven Kirsten Archive.” It’s sure to include a multimedia showing of great photos and discoveries that have never been seen before.
Tired of the same old holiday music year after year? If you love Tiki tunes (surf, exotica, Hawaiian, et al.), there are plenty of options that are off the beaten path. Here are a few of The Atomic Grog’s favorites, courtesy of YouTube.
After announcing a date change to April 2012, organizers of The Hukilau have been busy confirming an outstanding lineup of entertainment for the 11th installment of the Southeast’s biggest annual celebration of mid-century and Polynesian pop culture.
While designers are still crafting the official Web site for its upcoming re-launch and promotional press releases are being prepared, announcements are trickling out to followers of The Hukilau’s Facebook page and members of its Facebook group. Become a fan of the page or join the group to stay updated and share your thoughts and ideas.
The biggest news so far is the addition of The Martian Denny Orchestra, presumably as the Friday night headlining act. After performing at The Hukilau in 2009 and 2010 with Los Straitjackets and The Neanderthals, acclaimed Nashville-based guitarist Eddie Angel returns with this new, out-of-this-world project.
The annual gathering of the Tiki tribe in Fort Lauderdale, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, will be moving to April for its 2012 edition. It had been held in early June for the past five years.
“The Hukilau has moved to April in order to accommodate more outdoor activities at a cooler time of year and to give fans more time between all the great Tiki events out there,” said co-founder and longtime producer/organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White.
White has posted the 2012 dates as April 19-22. Final plans have yet to be announced, but look for more events taking place at The Mai-Kai, the legendary Polynesian restaurant that has been the centerpiece of The Hukilau since it moved from Atlanta in 2003.
Plans also call for a return to the Bahia Cabana at the south end of Fort Lauderdale Beach, which has been the longtime hotel of choice for Hukilau revelers. Its poolside stage has been host to a great lineup of retro-inspired bands, such as Los Straitjackets, The Woggles, and Tikiyaki Orchestra.
In 2002, a modern Tiki renaissance was in full swing. Inspired by the heyday of Polynesian Pop, which began with groundbreaking efforts of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the 1930s and stretched for more than 30 years into the 1960s, a new generation of artists, musicians, mixologists and entrepreneurs had been embracing retro Tiki culture since the 1990s.
As this grassroots movement gained momentum and new devotees discovered the wider world of mid-century pop culture, full-blown events soon followed. In Southern California – the birthplace of Tiki and haven for some of the genre’s most beloved bars, architecture and artists – Tiki Oasis started small in 2001 and quickly became the largest Tiki event in the West by its second installment in 2002.
The Hukilau was envisioned by its founders not only as the East Coast’s answer to Tiki Oasis, but also a celebration of the growing family and community, or ‘ohana, that had become so enamored with the entire underground movement. The name of the event, of course, comes from the traditional Hawaiian festival held in fishing villages in which a large net is cast into the sea to capture fish for the feast that honors the spirit of family and community.