We Went To the Last Tiki Disco of 2012
The first person I saw in the lot behind Roberta’s, the Bushwick restaurant that hosts Tiki Disco, was a girl in a ripped up Buckethead T-shirt eating dried fruit from a plastic bag. I scanned the crowd and felt comfortable, because I only saw two fedoras, one pair of creepers, and no sign of anything remotely rockabilly... or any form of “abilly.” That always puts me at ease. Everyone was smiling, not making awkward dance faces, as they moved around holding plastic cups filled with alcohol. Specks of ash from the pizza ovens appeared to float into the sky, jettisoned by the pulsing bass.
Tiki Disco isn’t a disco party or an event sponsored by some shitty brand of booze that you wouldn’t drink unless it was free. It’s a bunch of ragers dancing, eating pizza, and doing it without the forced-fun vibe that’s attached to many organized parties.
What’s even more impressive is that Tiki Disco can pack a space with an eclectic crowd of people hell-bent on getting fucked up without any fights, attitudes, or deaths. It’s like EDC with better music and less Mollied out goofballs mixed with a good night at Max Fish without dudes in Supreme gear farting on you combined with the sleaze and thump of Miami bass.
Think about the guy or girl “going for it” at every party you’ve ever attended—the fun one, not the aggro type trying too hard to get laid—and multiply them by several hundred. Whatever that person does in a random lot in Bushwick when it’s a trillion degrees out and dance music is played at an epic volume is Tiki Disco.
VICE: Can you tell me why you started a Polynesian-themed dance party behind a Bushwick pizzeria?
Andy Pry: I started the party out of necessity, as I was getting nowhere trying to DJ at other people’s parties. I realized the only solution was to start my own party and make it bigger and better. Luckily, I had an outdoor space to use at Roberta’s, so it seemed like a good idea. I knew Lloydski from around, approached him, and then set about convincing our Eli Escobar to join in on a party in an empty lot in Bushwick.
I wanted to build an event on its own merit and not depend on flying guests in from around the world. Anybody can plop money down to have some pseudo-celeb show up, it takes a lot more work to build it naturally.
I could hear stuff rattling from the subs the second I got out of the subway, was this the loudest Tiki yet?
The most recent party was the last of the outdoor season and was the loudest for sure. We got our hands on some cash and spent it bringing in a pro sound operation--it was probably three times a big as normal.
You described someone's outfit here as something you’d wear to a "futuristic funeral." There are multiple people wearing Viking helmets. People seem to go for it here.
“Futuristic funeral” was my way of making fun of a friend who insists on wearing all black, all the time--even at a summer time outdoor party. We have a few really sharp dressers who definitely own their looks, but thankfully this not a fashion driven party. Individual style is great, but for the most part "fashion" is a total sham. It’s so easy to ape a look these days. Dressing "fashionable" is not a good indication of musical knowledge or even being the type of person you want in a party.
Wildest thing you've seen happen here?
It’s the sheer "ain't no stopping us” party attitude of the crowd. We’ve never canceled an event EVER.
There were scenes of people dancing in four inches of mud back when we started, and more recently dancing straight through Hurricane Ernesto, as crazy winds and rain came down by the truck load. While there has been an occasional crowd surfing incident, I have always been amazed how well 700-1000 drunk people in a giant yard have behaved. Maybe it’s the good nature of the music or maybe we have a utopian society, but people really look out for one another, and nobody has ever felt the need to be a total lunatic.
What made you choose disco for the party?
Sure, we do play some disco, but it’s not hours of Donna Summer B-sides. Disco is essentially the godfather of all modern dance music; it’s the bedrock. There has been School Disco, Horse Meat Disco, Death Disco, Disco to Disco, even Disco Not Disco. The word gets thrown around a lot. Years ago, the bar at Tiki Disco was basically a Kokomo-style thatched roof stand. So Tiki bar + Disco = Tiki Disco.
As to why I personally chose disco... I had started out as a hip-hop DJ in the early 90s and then got into hardcore and punk. When I eventually found myself back in touch with turntables, it was disco and house music that really captured me. At its best, the music is lush and emotional, the vocals are generally big and soulful…you can't help but dance. A lot of what is passed off as house music these days is just synths and laser noises. We tend to steer towards the more classic sounds.
What’s next for Tiki Disco?
As for the future of Tiki Disco, we are looking for ways to stay in contact with our little community over the fall and winter months. Look for us to be taking the party indoors in the very near future. In the past we have sort of gone silent when it got cold out, but this year we really want to keep the flame going into summer 2013.
Photographs by Matt McGrath