The Year in Tiki 2015: Legends lost, but revival becomes renaissance with new bars, music, art and more

The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis
The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis.
It was a year of both sadness and elation, when some legends were lost but the world of Tiki made great strides. As we mourned the deaths in 2015 of musicians Robert Drasnin and Ernie Menehune, plus artist The Pizz, we were bolstered by the fact that a new generation of artists and musicians are taking inspiration from the past and creating an incredible new body of work. And Tiki culture was embraced and celebrated across the country at sold-out events and a whole new wave of bars. After our first year of The Week in Tiki updates, The Atomic Grog takes a look back at the memorable news of 2015.
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See below: Month-by-month recap | The Year in Tiki 2015 Awards

The year 2015 marked a turning point in the 21st century Tiki scene. If there was ever a time to declare that the “revival” had become a full-blown renaissance, it’s now. It’s been building for some years now, but last year seemed to be the tipping point. Just look at the evidence in our favorite topics: Events, music, art, cocktails, and culture. Then, take a chronological look back at the biggest news of the year, month by month. Finally, find out our selections for the top artist, band, bar, website, rum, and cocktail of 2015 in our first Year in Tiki Awards.

****************** EVENTS ******************

The Alika Lyman Group's performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)
The Alika Lyman Group’s performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Long gone are the days when you spent the entire year planning for Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau. Smaller events, such as Tiki Kon and Tiki Caliente, have risen up to challenge the trend-setters. And the Fraternal Order Of Moai has filled a gap by providing a plethora of regional events from Ohana: Luau At The Lake to the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, and more. All of the above were wildly successful in 2015, with many events selling out in advance.

The top dogs continue to raise their game: The Hukilau moved to the iconic Pier 66 Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach and attracted some of Tiki’s biggest names, most notably the gathering of four of the world’s top bartenders for the Tiki Tower Takeover. Tiki Oasis keeps getting bigger, breaking its own attendance records, while newer events such as Mod-Palm Springs and Ohana: Luau by the Sea have carved out their own niche. Rum and cocktail events – such as Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Tales of the Cocktail – have refined their successful formulas, spreading their message to an even wider audience.

Continue reading “The Year in Tiki 2015: Legends lost, but revival becomes renaissance with new bars, music, art and more”

The Week in Tiki (Sept. 21-Oct. 4, 2015): The Hukilau passes going on sale, Hulaween is back at The Mai-Kai, Ohana flock to the sea

The Week in Tiki Get ready to book your trip to The Hukilau 2016: Tickets and rooms could be available as early as this week. The latest news also includes details on Hulaween, The Mai-Kai’s annual Halloween party. Also in South Florida, Ohana: Luau by the Sea just wrapped up its first annual gathering. Event previews include Mod-Palm Springs, Mahaloween at Trader Sam’s, and the UK RumFest. We also look back at a memorial for The Pizz, the Tonga Room’s 70th anniversary, Thee Hot Rod Luau in Huntington Beach, Dapper Day and Tiki Day at Disneyland, and Rome Rumfest. Regular features honor the artist of the week, Eekum Bookum; Northeast surf band 9th Wave; Kreepy Tiki Lounge in Fort Lauderdale; and the Cocktail Kingdom website. Cockspur Fine Rum is featured in The Mai-Kai’s Moonkist Coconut.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Passes, special event tickets and rooms available soon for The Hukilau 2016

It’s time to gear up and make your plans for The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary event, coming June 8-12 to the historic Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Weekend passes and several special event tickets may go on sale as early as this week, along with special room rates, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White told The Atomic Grog.

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag
The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag.

Keep an eye on The Hukilau’s official website and Facebook page for updates.

In August, White announced the dates and some details on the East Coast’s oldest and largest Tiki weekender, including special guest Shag. The acclaimed artist will be creating a special 15th anniversary print and designing the event mug, White said, along with hosting several signings of his books and art.

But the most anticipated Shag-related activity may be “Shag’s SkyLounge,” an exclusive cocktail party in the 17th floor rotating Pier Top Ballroom at Pier 66. Built in 1965, the space-age tower has already been depicted by Shag in promotional artwork for the 2016 event. “The Pier Top Ballroom will be transformed into a mid-century modern sky lounge,” White said. “Guests will have the opportunity to actually be a part of a live Shag painting.” Shag will also be presenting a separate symposium, his first ever at a Tiki event, White said. He plans to talk about his life and times and art, she said.

Steve Yamada (left) and Jeff
Steve Yamada (left) and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry from Latitutde 29 serve up their signature T.O.T.C. Swizzle at the Tiki Tower Takeover in June 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The other signature event in the Pier Top Ballroom will be a reprise of last year’s Tiki Tower Takeover, which brought together four of the country’s top Tiki barmen for an exclusive happy hour event featuring their signature cocktails. While enjoying spectacular views of Fort Lauderdale, guests were treated to full-sized and fully garnished drinks personally mixed by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove), Paul McGee (Lost Lake), and Brian Miller (“Tiki Mondays With Miller”.

For 2016, Berry is confirmed to return, White said, and he’ll be joined by five more top Tiki cocktail bars from around the world. That expands the lineup of bars (and selection of drinks) from four to six. White said the Tiki Tower Takeover and Shag’s SkyLounge will both take place on Thursday, June 9.
* Atomic Grog recap: Photos, recipes, full report on the 2015 Tiki Tower Takeover

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Sept. 21-Oct. 4, 2015): The Hukilau passes going on sale, Hulaween is back at The Mai-Kai, Ohana flock to the sea”

The Week in Tiki (Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 2015): Lowbrow art icon The Pizz dies, September event previews and news, Tiki returns to South Beach fest

The Week in TikiSad news this week with the passing of artist Stephen Pizzurro, who will forever be known as The Pizz. The September calendar is chock full of Tiki events, from Chicago to Indianapolis to California. There’s also news on Tiki Kon, Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise and next year’s Tiki cocktail showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Our regular features spotlight artist of the week The Pizz; Milwaukee surf band The Revomatics; vintage Chicago-area restaurant Chef Shangri-La; and online magazine Punch. The rum of the week, Plantation 3 Stars, is featured in two cocktails: Blue Ricardo and the Allspicy Daiquiri.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

The Pizz, legend of lowbrow, dies at 57

Stephen Pizzurro, better known in the lowbrow art world as El Pizzo and The Pizz, has died at age 57. The Pizz is considered to be one of the pioneering creators of “cartoon expressionism,” and his influence is felt by an entire generation of artists.

The Pizz

The Pizz was part of a new breed of artists who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s, when cheeky hot-rod culture seeped out of the underground and into mainstream consciousness. Like many others, he was influenced by a wide array of counterculture styles (including Tiki, surf, beatnik, skateboarding, tattoo, underground comics, and Kustom Kulture). But only the most talented bridged the gap into fine art, and The Pizz was one of those rare talents.

His hardcore yet colorful and exotic work was embraced by galleries such as La Luz De Jesus in Los Angeles, where he was a fixture for more than 20 years. Yet The Pizz always kept himself grounded in the lowbrow underbelly, focusing his artwork on cartoonish depictions of hot rods, pinups, and all manner of ne’er-do-wells. He once described his work as “a tumultuous adrenaline-soaked hellride of a lifetime leaving a mountain of debris and unspeakable carnage in its wake. Yeah, it’ll scar your fragile psyche for miles into the hereafter.” The Pizz died Aug. 30 in the same hard and impetuous manner that he portrayed characters on canvas. Instead of pen and brush, his chosen tool was a .357 revolver.

The Pizz

The Pizz grew up in Orange County, Calif., learning to draw at an early age. A disciple of legendary cartoonist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, he realized his dream by working for Roth’s Rat Fink comics. He graduated to punk-rock album covers, then became a key player in the lowbrow art movement. The Pizz was a popular and admired artist, showing his work at galleries around the country. He also appeared on television shows and in film documentaries, including Flake and Flames (2013) and The Treasures of Long Gone John (2006). Friends have created a GoFundMe page to aid his wife, Yuki. See more on The Pizz below in our Artist of the Week feature.
* A farewell to The Pizz, Long Beach’s ‘zeitgeistically poignant’ artist (Press-Telegram)
* ‘Lord of Lowbrow,’ artist The Pizz, 1958-2015 (Hi-Fructose)
* Video: Interview with The Pizz at Don the Beachcomber (YouTube)

EVENTS AT A GLANCE: Denver Modernism Show, California Rum Fest, Fong Fest, WMNF Birthday Luau, International Tiki Market Place, Makahiki: A Night of Tiki, Dapper Day Expo

Here’s a rundown of some of the events on a busy September calendar:

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 2015): Lowbrow art icon The Pizz dies, September event previews and news, Tiki returns to South Beach fest”