Don Tiki will unleash its tropical sound
Fluid Floyd and Perry Coma, the men behind the long-running exotica conceptual piece known as Don Tiki, owe it all to Martin Denny, the Hawaii resident who popularized exotica with the 1959 hit “Quiet Village.”
Greeted with an appreciative reception since the band’s start in 1997, they have literally traveled the world over, spreading the outfit’s tropical fantasy sounds to appreciative fans. They’ve also occasionally graced the islands that served as a source.
Now Floyd (Lloyd Kandell) and Perry (Kit Ebersbach) are ready to spring on the Honolulu public their latest configuration, at a “pagan holiday show” Saturday night at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
DON TIKI’S PAGAN HOLIDAY SHOW
Where: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 900 S. Beretania St.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $45 general and $40 museum members
Info: 532-8700 or honoluluacademy.org
Note: Pre-concert food and drink starts at 6 p.m.
In past years, a larger, “alternative Polynesian revue” version has wowed local audiences at venues including the former Hawaiian Hut showroom at the Ala Moana Hotel. At the Hawaii Theatre, Don Tiki put on a memorable tribute show to a then-frail Denny himself back in October 2003, before Denny’s death in March 2005.
And Don Tiki has had a presence on television as well: nationally on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” (in search of the perfect mai tai at La Mariana); at the “After the Catch” post-show for “Deadliest Catch” shot at the Shack in Hawaii Kai; and locally as the house band for the short-lived Andy Bumatai show in 2007.
With Kandell as congenial host and Ebersbach as composer-arranger and leader of the band, the members of the Don Tiki tribe will include regulars Fritz Hasenpusch — always resplendent with his oily, coiffed hair, mustache and loud dinner jacket as his alter ego, lounge singer Delmar deWilde — bassist Hai Jung, master percussionist Lopaka Colon (the son of Augie Colon, who played with Denny), demure multi-instrument threat Ryoko Oka and drummer Jason Segler. Singer-dancer Sherry Shaoling and percussionist Abe Lagrimas Jr. are both returning home from Los Angeles for the show. Hawaii-born Frank Orrall of Chicago’s Poi Dog Pondering is on board as a guest musician.
And the newest addition, the veritable cherry on top, is burlesque dancer Violetta Beretta.
“I’ve known Kit for a long time, and we’ve worked on some musical projects in the past,” Beretta said after a photo shoot with Kandell and Ebersbach at the museum last Friday. “We all worked together about a year ago during a corporate gig on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace.”
Things gelled between the three when Don Tiki performed at this year’s Tiki Oasis confab in August in San Diego, on the suggestion from Beretta to co-organizer Baby Doe von Stroheim.
“It was like Burning Man fueled by rum,” Kandell quipped.
San Diego was the latest stop-off in Tiki travels that has seen the band previously play in such far-off lands as Berlin, Las Vegas, and Columbus, Ohio, specifically at the Kahiki bar, where Don Tiki did its first outside gig in 2000.
At the Tiki Oasis, “the minute she showed up on stage dressed as a hula-girl lamp, we knew Violetta was going to be a regular part of Don Tiki,” Ebersbach said.
“She gets our sense of humor and irony,” Kandell added.
For Saturday’s show, the band will break out a couple of holiday tunes, besides featuring songs from previous albums, including last year’s “South of the Border.” “We’ll change out ‘Bla Bla Cha Cha’ to a Christmas song, and the second will be a mystery tune.”
The show will also be what amounts to be a dry run for a major concert in Los Angeles the same time next year.
“Our past shows have been pretty elaborate, but now we’re focusing more on the music and the musicians,” Kandell said.
The friendship between Kandell and Ebersbach dates back to 1977, when, as a piano student of Ebersbach’s in Princeville, Kauai, Kandell turned his teacher on to major punk acts of the day like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and Devo.
After Ebersbach moved to Oahu to start Hawaii’s first punk band the Tourists (later to become the Squids, which also included Orrall), it was Kandell again who musically shook up Ebersbach years later when Kandell befriended Denny at an Ellen Masaki piano recital in 1994. Inspired by the kitschy, outsider culture, Don Tiki was born a few years later.
“We’re thrilled that the Academy is letting us showcase here. We feel that we’re the decade-old ‘overnight success’ and we’re all proud of the fact that Don Tiki is still around 14 years later,” he said.
—Gary Chun / firstname.lastname@example.org