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Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

The Blue Hawaiians—a surf-rock band that came together in the ‘90s—will be playing at Purple Room on Tuesday, Feb. 18, as part of Modernism Week’s “Modernism After Dark.”

The surf-rock genre of the 1960s—with bands such as The Ventures, The Challengers, Link Wray and, of course, the legendary Dick Dale—was the inspiration for the Los Angeles-based band.

“It all starts with my friend Michelle, who owned the Lava Lounge in Los Angeles,” said bassist/front man Mark Fontana. “I was playing in a band in Laguna Beach at the time with the guitar-player and drummer of what would become the Blue Hawaiians. We had a band called the El Caminos, and Michelle was a huge fan of the El Caminos. She wanted us to play the Lava Lounge on New Year’s Eve. Joey—the singer we had (in the El Caminos)—would always say stuff to piss people off, and Michelle called me and asked, ‘Could you put a band together to play the club without Joey?’”

Fontana seized the opportunity and put together a surf-rock sound for the show.

“My favorite guitar-playing is a lot of the old, obscure surf tracks from the early ‘60s. It has such a great tone with that reverb and stuff, so I thought it was the perfect blend to do at the Lava Lounge,” he explained.

The Blue Hawaiians went on to make their mark and play many of the legendary venues in L.A., such as the Viper Room and the Hollywood Palladium; their music was also part of a successful ad campaign for GUESS? Jeans. Because of their affiliation with the late, lamented Lava Lounge, they made a fan out of Quentin Tarantino, who was working on From Dusk Till Dawn at the time.

“He used to hang out at the Lava Lounge,” Fontana said. “This is before Pulp Fiction. He dug what we were doing, and I think it somehow influenced the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, but I don’t know. It had the surf thing. He hired us to play for a set party on From Dusk Till Dawn with all the zombies or whatever the heck they were. Then he got so big that the last time I saw him at the Lava Lounge, I said, ‘That bastard! I’m going to get him for not putting us on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack!’

“But he left before I could beat him up.”

Being in a surf-rock band, Fontana is appropriately a surfer himself.

“The steel guitar-player and I surf on a more-regular basis than any of the other members,” he said. “I started surfing when I was 11, and I still surf today. I surf as much as I can. I love to get away from the cement, the people, the cars and technology. Sitting on the ocean and riding waves is a great form of meditation.”

As far as the dangers of surfing go, Fontana tries not to think too much about them. 

“If you throw sharks or big waves into the mix, it’s dangerous,” he said. “Anytime you deal with nature, there’s going to be some element of danger involved. Certainly with surfing, your surfboard can hit you in the head and knock you out, and you can drown. So, yeah, there’s definitely an element of danger. … Occasionally, I hear the theme song to Jaws playing in my head, and I start looking around for fins in the water, but you don’t see them too often.”

The Blue Hawaiians are one of the many bands that have contributed music to SpongeBob SquarePants. Fontana said he found the experience enjoyable—and it helped him become a hit with his own children.

“I think it was back in 1999. We were brought on in the early first season of the show,” he said. “It was really cool, and the thing that was cool about it: At the time, my son was about 4 years old. They sent me a VHS copy with some episodes for inspiration, and my son was literally falling off the sofa laughing so hard—and I was doing the same. I thought, ‘Man, they’ve really got something here when you have a 4-year-old falling off the sofa and an adult doing the same thing.’ It was really cool to be a part of that in the early day, and we still make money every quarter from BMI because of SpongeBob all these years later.”

Not long ago, the Blue Hawaiians took a two-year hiatus after their drummer Maxwell (Maxwellvision) moved to Colorado. While the Blue Hawaiians used to play three times a week, they now usually play a couple of times per month, on average.

The Blue Hawaiians’ show should fit in nicely at the Purple Room, due to the throwback nature of the band’s music.

“We have this unique ability to play for an audience and have a 15-year-old kid tell us, ‘Dude, you guys rock!’ and have someone in their late 50s say, ‘Wow, that was really cool!’” Fontana said. “We have this really unique thing that we do that can satisfy all these different age groups, which is actually hard to do.”

The Blue Hawaiians will perform at the Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Dinner begins at 7 p.m., with the show taking place at 8:30 p.m.; tickets for dinner and the show are $75. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-4422, or visit purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

From Thursday, Feb. 13, through Sunday, Feb. 23, Modernism Week will take over the Coachella Valley with an overwhelming number of events celebrating midcentury architecture and design.

We’ve scoured the calendars, and here are five happenings that caught our eye. For a complete list of events, visit www.modernismweek.com—and do so soon, as many of the events will sell out, if they have not already. (As of our press deadline, tickets were still available for these events.)

Modern Mambo! At Caliente Tropics

Caliente Tropics will celebrate the opening of Modernism Week with—what else?—a mambo party! From 8 to 11 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13, enjoy a Havana-themed party featuring DJ Alf Alpha; cocktails by Ultimat Vodka; chocolate treats by Godiva; and great food from the fine folks Crave. Tickets are $150; visit www.modernismweek.com. Caliente Tropics is located at 411 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs; 760-327-1391.

Modernism Week After Dark at the Purple Room

Gary and Joan Gand—you probably know them as the Gand Band—have put together an impressive schedule of music at the Purple Room during Modernism Week. On Friday, Feb. 14, the Gand Band will perform a “Motown to Memphis” show featuring Tony Grandberry. The following night, they will be joined by special guests to re-live the music from the iconic 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the Blue Hawaiians will perform on Surf Rock night. Costs vary. For a full itinerary, visit www.purpleroompalmsprings.com, or call 760-322-4422. The Purple Room is located at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs.

Never Built Palm Springs

From 1 to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, the Saguaro Palm Springs will host a panel discussion led by Erin Feher, editor of California Home+Design. Panelists include Sidney Williams of the Palm Springs Art Museum; Lance O’Donnell of o2 Architecture; Jennifer Siegal of the Office and Mobile Design firm; and others. The topic of the discussion: the Palm Springs that “could have been.” Panelists will address a series of proposed projects that were—as the title of the event says—never built. Tickets are $15—or for $30, enjoy the talk after brunch at Tinto. Head to www.modernismweek.com for tickets. The Saguaro Palm Springs is at 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-323-1711.

Showing of ‘Mid Century Moderns: The Homes That Define Palm Springs’

At 1 p.m., Monday, Feb. 17, the Horizon Ballroom at the Hilton will host a screening of the film Mid Century Moderns: The Homes That Define Palm Springs. The movie examines the homes of the Alexander Construction Company, which designed homes in Twin Palms, Vista Las Palmas and the Racquet Club Estates. It also takes a look at the Alexander Homes, which have never been shown on public tours. Tickets are $12; get them at www.modernismweek.com. The Hilton is at 400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs; 760-320-6868.

Hugh M. Kaptur: Gentle Giant of Desert Design

The Palm Springs Public Library will feature a free lecture by Matt Burkholz on Hugh M. Kaptur, the architect who will be in the spotlight this year during Modernism Week. Kaptur was one of the youngest of the now-renowned midcentury modernist architects, and was a major force in the Coachella Valley’s architecture world, designing 200 residences, commercial and recreation centers, hotels and other structures. Seating is first-come, first served for the lecture, which begins at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 22; library doors open at 10 a.m. The Palm Springs Public Library is located at 300 S. Sunrise Way; 760-322-7323.

Published in Features