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Hukilau 2002 is a weekend-long success

ECHO LOUNGE, JULY 19 -- Giant tiki statues blazed with fake flames and multi-colored lights as the Echo Lounge became a phantasmagoric tropical paradise for the opening event of the weekend-long Hukilau 2002. Masterminded by fervent fans of breezy Polynesian beach culture, tropical drinks and retro-chic music, the Hukilau attracted a sellout crowd ranging from hardcore tiki fanatics to curious consumers in quest of the latest post-swing trend in music and pop culture. The uniform of the night was a Hawaiian shirt, and the drink of choice was a rum-based specialty concoction served in a souvenir plastic pineapple.Musically, the fare was far more varied, including cocktail jazz, rollicking rockabilly and reverb-drenched instrumental surf. Light 'n' lively lounge ensemble UberEasy opened the show with a mellow vibe featuring keyboards, a hollowbody guitar and the vocal talents of Dejie Johnson, whose amusing stage persona evoked actress Jennifer Tilly in Bullets Over Broadway. Johnson lent perky charm to the innuendo-laden "He Got His Very First Lei in Hawaii" and the theme from the 007 movie You Only Live Twice, into which she smoothly inserted two verses of "Secret Agent Man."

Supercharged rockabilly band Johnny Knox and Hi-Test then kicked off with a searing rendition of "Hawaii Five-O" and the bass-heavy boogie of "Swingin' Hula Girl." After working the crowd into a dancing frenzy, Knox passed out free souvenir combs so the fans' sweat-sodden pompadours could be conveniently reconstructed. Knox played Hawaiian lap steel guitar on a beautifully rendered "Moonlight Swim," and called up two guest vocalists -- Alice Berry (ex-Redneck GReece) and Leggy Limbeaux (ex-Moto-Litas) -- to add extra fire for a raging reading of the alcohol-fueled anthem "Thunder Road."

Between Hi-Test's rockabilly sets, burlesque dancer Torchy Taboo performed sultry routines with pulsating pasties and a live snake for a G-string. Additional amusement came courtesy of King Kukulele, a nutty comedian/musician whose "deadly flying ukulele" -- rigged on a bungee -- bounced back like a bushman's boomerang whenever he tossed it.

Long after the club's rum supply was drained, the Penetrators took the stage for the late set, their powerhouse instrumental surf sounding as strong as ever. Although the group dedicated its signature anthem "Night of the Drunken Cheerleaders" to Catfight!'s Jennifer Kraft (who was prowling the crowd, handing out free leis), the song seemed more appropriate as an overture for the entire event.

STARLIGHT SIX DRIVE-IN, JULY 21 -- The Hukilau's concluding event took place outdoors at the Starlight and proved, despite initial threats of rain, to be the biggest hit of all. Giant tiki idols and rippling torches gave the outdoor theater an unusually festive air as the Penetrators performed once again, this time from an Olympian perch atop the roof of the theater's snack bar. With a set that ran heavily toward movie themes (from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to Pulp Fiction), the all-instrumental group played without the benefit of a PA system, cleverly doubling the volume of its Fender amps by bouncing the sound off Screen 5, for a magical sonic effect that transformed the drive-in into a giant reverb chamber.The theater gradually filled up with vintage cars, including an impressive parade of VW Campmobiles. Ice chests rattled enticingly, and the cool evening air wafted with the sweet, fruity aromas of homemade tropical drinks. When darkness finally descended, the pounding surf of the Penetrators eased the crowd into a night of zombie-themed B-movies. As fans settled back into their lawn chairs, many a frosty mug was raised to the success of the Hukilau, whose participants were sporting smiles even wider than the graven grins on the towering tikis. u

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