By Natalya Jones
By County Grind
By Liz Tracy
By Chris Joseph
By Liz Tracy
By Matt Preira
By Jesse Scheckner
By Michael E. Miller
A bona fide "hukilau," Tiki Kiliki says, is a Hawaiian fishing festival. Villagers come together, cast broad nets, and haul forth whatever feast the ocean sees fit to provide. It's not straining a metaphor to describe Fort Lauderdale's own Hukilau,now in its fifth year, as something akin to that oceanic sieve. As Kiliki (government name: Christie White), the organizer and co-founder of the blowout, tries to name the fishes in her sea, she gets as far as lounge lizards, surfers, punks, swing kids, rockabilly hipsters, and hapa haole Hawaii-heads. "Tiki," she explains, "is a medley of all these groups. The common factor between everybody is this nostalgia niche."
Segregation, Sputnik, homeroom duck-and-cover, polio postwar America was the complete package. But it was also when TV hit upon rock 'n' roll, big-band jazz matured, and Bob Moog started making synthesizers synonymous with outer space. GIs returning from the South Pacific brought a taste for steel guitar sunsets, helping the nuclear-family '50s develop an aesthetic beyond the fear of getting nuked. The tiki style today is at least as much cultural heritage as it is kitsch.
The musical mishmash includes a performance by APE, a Polynesia-and-surf inspired California rock quintet that employs an ax-wielding tiki carver, Crazy Al, who carves on-stage during the shows. Florida groups Wholly Cats!!! and the Intoxicators bring swing and surf rock. A bright-eyed Italian band called I Belli Di Waikiki busts out some of your favorite Hawaiian ukulele classics before going all mariachi as Los Terribles de Tijuana. Look for Seattle DJ Selector Lopaka to revive old styles Brazilian, lounge, exotica that seem to come back every five years or so.
The headliner, APE, plays Friday night at the Bahia Mar with legendary, 91-year-old steel guitarist Billy Mure. When their former surf band, the Swamis, was breaking up, bassist Lane Murchison tried to cheer guitar/ukulele player Eric Rindal by buying him some old LPs from a thrift store, choosing by album cover alone. Among them was one of Mure's "Supersonic Guitars" records, which inspired Rindal to expand his surf repertoire into exotica, rockabilly, and jazz, and to form APE in 1998. "For us," Rindal says of playing with Mure, "this is a very full-circle experience." Today APE is possibly the world's only band to feature an artist, in this case Crazy Al, who with a hatchet, mallet and chisel carves a tiki head from a raw log, working in time with the beat as the musicians play. (Al's greeting, incidentally, when he replies to an e-mail: "ALoooooooooHA!!")
"I don't think people 50 years ago realized they were starting something," Kiliki says. "They were just having fun. Now it's sort of like you're stepping back into that time, when things were taboo and stylized." She's driving and talking on her cell phone (so futuristic!) as she tries to explain who digs on this retro scene. Then she pauses. "I'm passing a '57 Bel Air right now," she says, "and it's beautiful." Sam Eifling