Tiki Palooza Seattle

Still catching up on the backlog of posts from mid-March but didn’t want to go without mentioning Tiki Palooza that was held a few weeks back in Seattle.

Tiki Palooza Mai Tais with Jason Craig

This event was hosted at Tim’s Tavern and started with a small tiki marketplace under the tavern’s covered patio area and some tiki drinks were served out of the adjacent trailer bar. The Tikipalooza Mai Tai was what it was, though I really enjoyed the Singapore Fling. We got to hang out in the marketplace with Andy Nazzal of Tiki Joe’s Ocean fame and bought the new CD single “Two Voyages.” Great exotica music if you haven’t heard. There was also a vendor selling Tiki Palooza swizzles.

Stephen Curran

The event transitioned indoors where Stephen Curran did a presentation about his travels to Papua New Guinea. This allowed attendees to order food or more drinks from inside the tavern, and Stephen’s presentation was top-notch with some great cultural details. With so much PNG artwork in so many tiki bars, it really was a treat to learn more about the people of the region.

The event then transitioned back to the patio for a paid/wristband entry for some live music from Tropical Itch and the Tikigraphs. The patio was in full swing, despite the cold and rainy weather, thanks to some heaters and the crowd that was filled with aloha. The bands sounded great and were very entertaining.

I lucked into being in town for this event, and it was modest in scale but was a really nice event for the Seattle crowd and a few interlopers like me.

Andy from Tiki Joe’s Ocean

The Exotic Sounds: The Very Best of Martin Denny

This Japanese compilation was issued on CD in 1991, and I found it at an antique store in Sacramento for $8 and picked it up immediately. Though the case is clipped, the CD is in great shape and the booklet is too – apart from nearly all of the writing being in Japanese!

I’ve been looking for this one for a long time, and it includes four tracks I don’t have on any of the other CD or digital reissues of Denny’s material. In fact, I’d say this 74 minute album is actually a pretty comprehensive collection that spans most of Denny’s 1950s-1960s output. The strongest material comes from Denny’s murderer’s row of 1950’s albums that ended with The Enchanted Sea, of course. But some of the 1960s tracks are quite good and representative of Denny’s later material, including “Blue Paradise” from 1962’s Romantica and “Indrani” from 1968’s A Taste of India. The version of “Black Orchid” is a live version that sounds great.

The photo of Denny and his band on the back cover features “The Modernist” tiki and is possibly taken outside the San Francisco Trader Vic’s.

Lahaina Sunset by Mark Riddle

A visit to Maui inspired Mark Riddle to record an exotica album with tracks inspired by his trip. Vibraphonist Riddle is also known by DigiTiki, host of the long-running Quiet Village podcast, and also by Marty Lush (ex-Tikiyaki Orchestra). Drawing inspiration from Arthur Lyman’s style and his Hawaiian Sunset Vol. 2 album, Riddle’s collection of songs will appeal to those looking for mellow melodies with lavish arrangements.

The title track blends vibraphones and ukulele and delivers a strong opening song complete with the sounds of lapping waves and birds. The mid-tempo “Road to Hana” opens with dreamy sounds that provides the listener with the feeling of entering a portal, and continues on a journey with a hypnotic driving rhythm. Several songs pay homage to Lahaina’s Japanese cultural roots by using familiar music themes and bamboo instrumentation. Of these tracks, “Evening at Hong Kong Gardens” is the most interesting, featuring intricate piano and Japanese stringed instrumentation.

“Lahaina Hula” was written as a Hula song, but the tempo is slowed down so dramatically you may not understand why it seems so familiar. The cheekily named “Tune for Crab Rangoon” is the the most traditional exotica track, with interplay between piano and vibraphone that any Martin Denny fan will love. The lone cover song is “Path of the Wind” and closes side two of the album with aplomb, though two stand-out bonus tracks are available on the digital release.

I’ve never felt that most of Arthur Lyman’s recordings were mixed properly, but there are no such flaws on Riddle’s. None of the delicate instruments are lost in the mix, nor is there too much to get in the way of the vibraphone or piano that leads the melody. Ambient sounds support the music and themes well.

Lahaina Sunset is available in several formats. Many will be drawn to the audiophile virgin vinyl LP, but a deeper drive is available via the Flash Drive version that comes with bonus tracks, music videos, behind the scenes making of videos, and a version of the album without ambient audio sounds. A faux postcard features the photo from the album on the front and a note from “Marty” on the back. There’s also an option to purchase the LP and the Flash Drive at the same time.

Lahaina Sunset is available at digitiki.com.

Tropika by Tikiyaki Orchestra

I’m really enjoying the new album from Tikiyaki Orchestra, released earlier this month. This album is a return to form after two Tikiyaki 5-0 surf albums (which were awesome) and 2020’s Jim Bacchi solo “minus Orchestra” e.p. Sketches with Guitar and Bongos.

Tropika is sort of like a greatest hits of the Tikiyaki sound, with varied instrumentation and styles. The rock-style drums set a foundation across the record, with guitar and vibraphone taking the lead for most of the songs, perhaps most effectively with the Hawaiian swing of “A South Pacific Soujorn.” Other standout tracks include “Bombs Away!”, “The Boobam Song”, and the bouncy “Walkabout.”

For more than a decade the Tikiyaki Orchestra have the most prominent band playing exotica and tropical music, paying homage to the style’s 1950s foundations and showing that the genre is still an exciting musical form. Their energetic shows are always a hit, so be sure to seek them out if they’re appearing at club or event near you.


Traditional Tiki Night at Dr. Funk

Fun times in downtown San Jose on a Tuesday night with the Traditional Tiki Night at Dr. Funk with DJ SamoaBoy play vintage 1960s 45s. Quite a nice mix of retro tunes, mostly upbeat and peppy to go along with seeing some of the tiki ohana at the venue. It is nice to see Dr. Funk doing some things to draw folks mid-week, and a special DJ is a great option. Drink specials would also be nice, if the good Doctor would like to write some special prescriptions.

Check the Dr. Funk social accounts for future special events such as this.

I enjoyed the Three Dots & a Dash, prepared expertly by resident master bartender Paul McCoun. The Mai Tai, of course, was also quite on point. Mrs. Mai Tai really dug the Vacation in Valhalla with Venus Gin Aquavit, Apis Kurpiowski Honey Mead, RumHaven Coconut, lemon, Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters. I thought it was pretty great, too.

Goodbye Forbidden Island Jukebox

The merch display looks great and I understand maybe the jukebox wasn’t working great anymore, but I’m super bummed it’s gone. Used to love to be able to go to Forbidden Island and play some music I wanted to hear. And the best part was that it didn’t cost anything to make your music selections.

Also, the green B-Rex glass is a perfect size for rum sips with big ice cubes, or for smaller tropicals with modest amount of ice. And the design is cool. Grab it before it’s gone.