A Kooky Christmas in Kauai with the


: : Imagine my surprise when, late last October, I received an email flyer for an event called Nightmare on Luau taking place at the Coconut Motel in Trois-Rivières—and featuring something called the Mai Tai Orchestra! Needless to say, it sounded like something that was going to be right up my alley. Unfortunately, with such short notice, there was no way I could ever make it to what was probably going to be an exceptional Halloween party. Big disappointment… And what’s more, how could I not have heard of the Mai Tai Orchestra before? We share a name… we obviously share similar sensibilities… who were these guys? : :

: : I eventually caught up with the orchestra’s drummer, Justin “Tiki Brun” Allard, and learned I would soon have another opportunity to experience his “grand Polynesian music ensemble”. A Christmas show—A Christmas in Kauai—was planned for mid-December, and there was no way I was going to miss it! : :

: : The Mai Tai Orchestra was formed in December 2000 (yes, they had somehow managed to escape us for two years!) at the invitation of the Landry family, owners of the Coconut Motel, to perform at a tribute to the founder of the great old Trois-Rivières establishment. Since then, this group of up to 18 musicians has performed a few other shows around the province of Quebec. According to their press material, the orchestra pays homage to Polynesian music and promotes a kind of hedonism exemplified by the “island lifestyle of the 60s.” : :

: : “The sound of the islands, the spirit of Hawaii, the volcanic blood of Quebecers… a powerful cocktail!” Sounded like it would make for a hell of a Christmas show… : :

: : A Christmas in Kauai took place at L’Escogriffe, a cozy bar on St-Denis Street on December 18th. The place was packed wall to wall with fans decked out in leis and Aloha shirts, despite the frigid temperature outside… and the Mai Tais were flowing. For this particular show, the Mai Tai Orchestra performed as a nine piece band—including pedal steel guitar, acoustic guitar, ukulele, drums and percussion, cello, bass, keyboards, and vocals—with the addition of some special guests, a dj, and their musical director, Sir Christophe Mclaren leading from near the bar. The show was divided into four sets, the first and last of which were devoted to fun renditions of Hawaiian classics including Sweet Leilani, Hawaiian War Chant, Blue Hawaii, Pink Cocktail, Hawaiian Tattoo, and others. The second set was a combination of Christmas songs and the orchestra’s “Tribute to Elvis” repertoire, which started off with a Tiki-fied version of Blue Christmas, and also included Surrender, It’s Now or Never, and the usual Elvis silliness… a lot of fun! But the highlight for me was the third set—“Revisited Jazz Classics – Tiki versions”—, which featured cellist/vocalist Miss Leilani Auclair performing a duet, with local blues guitarist Steve Hill, of a Tiki version of Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s Something Stupid… amazing stuff. : :

: : So that was Christmas… now how do we make up for having missed out on these guys for so long? Well, more shows are in the works, and we’ll make sure to be there. Your next chance to see the Mai Tai Orchestra in Montreal will again be at L’Escogriffe on March 5. Things are also in the works for a show at the Coconut Motel in April or May and possibly an outdoor performance at the Jazz Festival this summer! We’ll keep you posted. : :

To keep abreast of the Mai Tai Orchestra’s activities:


John Trivisonno © 2003

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