Minimalist Tiki

Bands provide an eclectic, exotic soundtrack to Hukilau 2011

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2011 Hukilau photos and video: Facebook | Flickr | Go11Media

A compilation of video highlights

There’s a lot to like about the The Hukilau, the gathering of the worldwide Tiki community that takes place every June in Fort Lauderdale: The cool art and collectibles, the cocktails and camaraderie, the history and majesty of The Mai-Kai restaurant.

The Hukilau

One overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of the four-day event, however, is the live music provided by bands who travel from around the country to perform for the brightly-attired masses at a variety of venues. This year’s event was no exception. The Intoxicators from Tallahassee, Tikiyaki Orchestra from Southern California, The Exotics from Milwaukee, Grinder Nova from Atlanta, The Fisherman from New York City and The Disasternauts from Cocoa Beach all brought their own distinctive retro sound and style to the event.

Following are some video highlights and our recollections of the potent musical Mai Tai that we call The Hukilau …

Kickoff Party at the Bahia Cabana Beach Resort

The Intoxicators (MrTikiTim)

The traditional opening-night bash wouldn’t be the same without the surf stylings of The Intoxicators, the hardest working band at The Hukilau. Playing surf classics plus original tunes off their two albums (I Dreamed the Best Part and Journey to the Center of the Earth), these guys put on their usual energetic show in the sweltering heat of the Bahia Cabana’s poolside stage and got the crowd primed for a long night of revelry. Whether they’re wearing their black or baby blue suits, you can be assured that The Intoxicators will work up a sweat worthy of James Brown, making you exhausted just watching them. Special award to drummer Brian Crum, who played through an illness most of the weekend and also served as entertainment coordinatior of the entire event.

Tikiyaki Orchestra with Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid (MrTikiTim)

There was a lot of excitement about the return of the Tikiyaki Orchestra to The Hukilau, where they performed one of their early shows in 2008. Since then, the band has become one of the leading lights in the revival of the exotica genre and a mainstay in the California Tiki scene. The Tikiyaki Orchestra is a complete exotic experience: Vintage costumes and instruments, original tunes that could easily pass for works by mid-century masters such as Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman, and a special appearance by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid. The group’s relaxing Tiki tunes set the perfect mood for the cocktail contest and room crawl that followed.

Main Event at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort

The Intoxicators returned for an afternoon set, kicking off the day’s entertainment on the big ballroom stage and elevating the energy level in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar. Later, the Main Event kicked off with some naughty exotica courtesy of The Fisherman. By the time The Exotics hit the stage, the ballroom was packed and these dapper surf stalwarts wowed the crowd with perhaps the tightest set of the weekend. They commanded the stage like the veteran group they are, causing the area in front of the stage to fill with spontaneous dancers.

Grinder Nova, aka Grinder Nova and his Pitstop Mariachi Band, offered up the most eclectic music of the weekend. Consisting of trumpets, trombones, saxophones, a barista (yes, a real live coffee-maker that makes and sells Grinder Nova Coffee on stage), accordion, guitars, percussion and drums, this ensemble has been described by Creative Loafing as “a sleazy, skeezy, South-of-the-Border rock and roll inferno, complete with horns, maracas and sinful dispositions.” You can’t argue with that.

The Disasternauts (TheOpSHoppe)

Just when we thought we’d seen it all, The Disasternauts splashed down for a special late-night performance. They’re astronauts, they’re chimpanzees … and they play surf music. What more could you want? Composed of retired members of NASA’s early non-human space program (in reality it’s members of The Intoxicators, The NovaRays, The Cavefish, and Stingray International) The Disasternauts use their lack of human speech to their advantage, ripping out some great instrumental surf tunes. Wrapping up the musical mayhem, DJs Sensitive Side, James Brown’s Sweat and Mikey R. hosted the Exotica A Go-Go Dance Party with an assortment of funk, trash, mod, rockabilly, groovy R&B, exotica and more.

The Mai-Kai Restaurant

Five bands rocked through two happy hours, two dinner shows and countless Barrels O’ Rum as The Hukilau celebrated its 10th anniversary and The Mai-Kai’s 55th birthday with a 10-hour bash.

The Exotics (MrTikiTim)

Following the “Rumposium” featuring Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and his Rum Rat Pack, the first happy hour kicked off in The Molokai bar with Milwaukee’s The Exotics, performing for the first time in The Mai-Kai. The Fisherman were up next, providing the soundtrack for the second happy hour (actually two hours) as the party shifted into high gear.

Later, in the Samoa and Tahiti dining rooms, the Tikiyaki Orchestra brought its neo-exotica sound to its proper environment as the gathering Tikphiles flocked to enjoy the rare performance. The only thing that could top the tribal beats of the bands was The Mai-Kai’s famous Polynesian Islander Revue, which mesmerized the main dining room with two amazing shows. The dinner show always seems to be more elaborate during The Hukilau.

Grinder Nova (MrTikiTim)

Meanwhile, the bands performing late-night sets elevated the party to a new level. The Intoxicators took over from Tikiyaki Orchestra and packed the back dining areas until the wee hours. In the Molokai bar, Grinder Nova raised the roof with an action-packed performance that kept the crowd moving (and rum drinks flowing).

We also should mention the DJs who kept the tunes flowing throughout the weekend when bands weren’t on stage: Jack Fetterman and Gina of the Jungle from New York City; and Laura Taylor and Drew Farmer from Tampa.

The end result: An intoxicating smorgasbord of music that perfectly set the mood for a weekend of nonstop Tiki hijinks.

Official 2011 Hukilau sites: | Flickr | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

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