Music
7:30 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Hukilau: Where Exotica, Gold Dust And Tiki Culture Meet

Russell Mofsky fronts Gold Dust Lounge, pretty much South Florida's only act devoted to "exotica" music.
Russell Mofsky fronts Gold Dust Lounge, pretty much South Florida's only act devoted to "exotica" music.

Like those of many ‘70s children, even Russell Mofsky’s earliest memories are colored by a touch of psychedelia.

“I grew up with a healthy overdose of classic TV shows, westerns, spy movies, and monster movies,” he recalls, along with the surreal cartoons and children’s shows that ruled the era. (See, for example, the entire oeuvre of Sid and Marty Krofft.) And even after doing time in the skate-punk scene as a teenager, Mofsky, now a voracious record collector, always turned back to the slightly weird.

Loosely Related Genres

In the ‘00s, eventually, he discovered the music of mid-century composers Les Baxter and Martin Denny, known for popularizing a genre — or rather, a string of loosely related genres — known as “exotica.”

Relying on space-age-sounding instruments like the vibraphone along with tropical percussion, exotica mixed up lounge, jazz and vaguely South Pacific-inspired rhythms.

It was the sound of a mixed-up American pop culture both obsessed with futurism as well as nostalgia for an imagined, “primitive” past. (Those engaged in social justice will likely recoil in horror at the title of one of Baxter’s most famous albums, Ritual of the Savage.)

Relying on space-age-sounding instruments like the vibraphone along with tropical percussion, exotica mixed up lounge, jazz and vaguely South Pacific-inspired rhythms.

Despite exotica’s often ethnically tone-deaf fumblings, though, the sum total of the borrowed sounds often translated into some groovy music.

Gold Dust Lounge

As such, Mofsky felt compelled to help revive it himself, forming the South Florida-based act Gold Dust Lounge in 2008. Based on exploration of all things funky and a bit retro, the group touches on everything from space rock’s riff jams, to surf rock’s heavily reverbed twang, to ‘60s jazz’s loose swing.

It’s the kind of sound that could easily soundtrack a party centered around spiked punch served out of a crystal bowl — a little vintage, a little purposely cheesy and a lot of fun.

“There is no set recipe for Gold Dust Lounge. I am the one constant, so in that sense, it is my project. But, like any recipe, the flavor and the end result depend on the ingredients,” says Mofsky, of his rotating cast of supporting players to date.

Currently, the line-up includes Arturo Garcia of local act the Tunnel on drums; Brian Tate on bass; and occasional special guest, Juan Turros of Suenalo on sax/flute/percussion.

The Hukilau

And it’s that formation that will appear at this weekend’s edition of the Hukilau, an annual fan convention and sweep of parties in Fort Lauderdale, all dedicated to mid-century tiki culture.

Tiki culture started as a late-‘50s lifestyle scene based around strong cocktails and the same kind of obsession that fueled exotica music, and the Hukilau is one of the biggest events in the country to celebrate it.

“It’s also about getting to see and hear lots of new bands from all over the world. It’s sublime for people watching and the marketplace for vintage clothing and curios is amazing,” says Mofsky. “The Hukilau presents this scene and all that it entails — the sights, the  sounds, the drinks, the furniture, and the fashion to anyone interested in checking it out. It’s a fantastic, somewhat surreal event.”

It’s also a fantastic, surreal event that embraces curious onlookers — and if any of this piques your interest, tickets are still available, from individual party tickets ($27) to weekend-long passes ($95).

Gold Dust Lounge performs at the poolside kickoff party this Thursday, June 6, at the Yankee Clipper hotel, but you’ll want to stay late, perhaps, for a performance by Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid. Things only get kitschier from there.

Coming Up On WLRN

Beyond the Hukilau, there will be more Gold Dust Lounge on WLRN. On Friday, June 21, Mofsky and his band will perform live on South Florida Arts Beat with Ed Bell.

In the meantime, Mofsky’s finishing up the second Gold Dust Lounge album, Lost Sunset, with producer Aaron Fishbein, and you can catch up with the recording fun via Gold Dust Lounge’s web site, Facebook page and Twitter account.