Surf rock bands flock to Fort Lauderdale for 17th annual Tiki fest in June
The Hukilau: June 6-10, 2018, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
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The Hukilau is widely known as the East Coast's largest and logest-running festival celebrating Polynesian Pop culture. Now in its 17th year, the event spotlights all things retro and Tiki, giving thounsands of attendees a chance to immerse themselves in the subculture that includes a heavy emphasis on rum and tropical cocktails.
But the Fort Lauderdale event is also an overlooked surf music extravaganza, bringing together some of the top instrumental rock bands from across the country. For 2018, organizers have assembled a high-caliber lineup of surf and exotica that includes Los Straitjackets and The Martian Denny Orchestra from Tennessee; The Madeira from Indiana; Mr Ho's Orchestrotica Quintet and Czarna Wolgastar from Massachusetts; The Exotics from WIsconsin; The Black Flamingos and The Royal Pacifics from New Jersey; and The Intoxicators and Skinny Jimmy Stingray from Florida.
Festival attendees can catch live music, DJs and other entertainers all five days of The Hukilau, from a 7,500-square-foot ballroom the Pier 66 hotel to the 150-capacity Molokai bar at The Mai-Kai, the legendary Polynesian restaurant that has served as the event's nerve center since 2003. Other entertainment will include modern burlesque queen Angie Pontani; exclusive aquatic performances by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in the Wreck Bar on Fort Lauderdale Beach; a dozen pop-up bars featuring acclaimed mixologists from around the world; plus Tiki and rum symposiums, classes and tastings. The Tiki Treasures Bazaar will be open daily featuring artists and vendors selling everything from fine art to aloha shirts.
Among the special guests in 2018 is Boston's Brother Cleve, a mainstay of the cocktail and music scenes for more than two decades. He toured with The Del Fuegos, was a member of Combustible Edison, and became a pioneer in the craft cocktail movement. He's also known for his work as a DJ and musicologist. Brother Cleve will DJ, host his own pop-up bar, and present a special symposium.
While the U.S. West Coast is widely considered to be the hotbed for instrumental surf and exotica music, The Hukilau's 2018 lineup proves that bands from the Southeast, East Coast and Midwest should not be overlooked. Here's the latest lineup:
* Los Straitjackets: Returning to The Hukilau for the first time since 2009, the mysterious masked marvels of instrumental rock will headline Friday's High Tide Party. Formed 20 years ago in Nashville, the Grammy-nominated band released "What's So Funny About Peace Love And …" in 2017, its 14th studio album since 1994.
Los Straitjackets at The Hukilau 2009:
* The Martian Denny Orchestra: This revved-up exotica supergroup features guitarist Eddie Angel (Los Straitjackets, the Planet Rockers), guitarist Bob Irwin (Pluto Walkers, reissue label Sundazed Music), bassist Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp, et al.), and drummer Jimmy Lester (Webb Wilder, ex-Los Straitjackets). Based in Nashville, the group has been unleashing their dazzling atomic instrumentals on the unsuspecting public for the past five years, including The Hukilau 2012.
The Martian Denny Orchestra at The Hukilau 2012:
* Mr Ho's Orchestrotica Quintet: Led by visionary percussionist Brian O'Neill, this Boston-based ensemble will perform exclusively at Thursday's LuXotica party in the Pier Top Lounge at Pier 66. Melding jazz and chamber music into adaptations of mid-century exotica, the quintet will present O'Neill's original compositions along with unique adaptions of Bach, Gershwin, Shostakovich and John Adams "into cinematic, layered music for armchair travelers ready to journey off road." Czarna Wolgastar, O'Neill's surf music band, will also perform at The Hukilau.
* The Madeira: Founded in 2004 by guitarist Ivan Pongracic of 1990s surf music icons the Space Cossacks, this Indianapolis-based band continues to push the boundaries of instrumental rock. Their 2015 album, "Ancient Winds," was hailed as a seamless blend of traditional surf and modern progressive rock. The band will be making its first appearance at The Hukilau.
* The Intoxicators: After a one-year respite, the boys from Tallahassee return to rock The Hukilau for the 13th time since 2005. The ultra-tight trio of Gary Evans (guitar), Brian Crum (drums), and Adam Watson (bass) meld classic surf, rockabilly, and pure guitar-driven instrumental rock into a rousing sound all their own. Also, don't be surprised if the primitive alter ego of The Intoxicators (aka The Disasternauts) also make an appearance.
The Intoxicators at The Hukilau 2009:
* The Exotics: The Hukilau welcomes back Milwaukee's long-running and acclaimed surf band for the first time since 2011. Formed in 1994, the band has been releasing albums and playing special events across the country for more than 20 years. They're also the house band at Foundation Bar in Milwaukee, where drummer Don Nelson is manager and co-owner.
The Exotics at The Hukilau 2011:
* The Black Flamingos: This New Jersey instrumental trio has been busy bringing their combination of surf, spy and spaghetti western to the masses since forming in 2014. Their debut full-length album, "Neon Boneyard" (2017, Hi-Tide Recordings) was followed by tours of the United States and Europe. High profile gigs have included the Surfer Joe Summer Festival in Italy, a support slot on the Messer Chups tour, and the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival with Dick Dale and Los Straitjackets in August. A spin-off band, The Royal Pacifics, will also perform.
* Skinny Jimmy Stingray: South Florida's own king of the surf guitar will return for a sixth straight year to rock The Mai-Kai. In addition to his instrumental trio playing surf classics and originals, Stingray now plays around the area with a totally different lineup specializing in spaghetti western and rockabilly.
* King Kukule: The Hukilau's emcee since day one, the Southern California comedian, actor and ukuleleist otherwise known as Denny Moynahan can always be counted on to keep the show running smoothly with many laughs thrown in for good measure. "The King" is not only a fixture at Tiki events across the country, he's been a regular performer at Hollywood premieres, Disneyland, Universal Studios and more.
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The Atomic Grog blog: The Hukilau 2018 tickets on sale now: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!