DJ Baz, aka Barry Martin, is not a typical DJ—his musical tastes are vintage and unique.
Those traits make him a perfect fit as one of the two performers at the Modernism Week Tiki-a-Go-Go party at the Royal Hawaiian Estates on Saturday, Feb. 18.
During a recent interview, Martin explained this year’s theme for the party.
“This year’s spin is ‘go-go.’ You take the Sunset Strip with places like the Whisky a Go Go and the Troubadour and you bring it to Palm Springs,” Martin said. “It’s a combination of tiki music and go-go, so that’s why it’s called ‘Tiki a Go-Go.’ A band called the Hula Girls, from Orange County, will be performing a special set of music with a lot more go-go thematic twists. They also have two beautiful dancers on podiums. It’s going to be a lot of fun. This event always sells out, and it’s (the Royal Hawaiian Estates’) big fundraiser for the year. The residents at Royal Hawaiian love it. They’re typically very quiet.”
Martin considers himself a big fan of tiki culture.
“A lot of people associate tiki with Hawaii, which isn’t really true,” he said. “Tiki represents anywhere where they carve idols that would represent different things. Hawaii just stands out because it’s part of the United States, and we always think of tropical imagery of being only Hawaiian when it’s Samoa, Fiji and a lot of the other islands out there.”
According to Martin, The Hula Girls will not disappoint.
“I’ve seen the Hula Girls many times,” Martin said. “A lot of people hear them play and call it ‘rockabilly.’ A lot of what they do does, in fact, have a rockabilly edge to it, but they call it ‘hulabilly,’ so they’re taking Hawaiian themes … and were really big in surf guitar.”
Martin does a variety of events; he said he saw an opportunity.
“I saw a big, gaping hole,” Martin said. “Every time I would go to an event such as a fundraiser, a gala, or anything else like that, (DJs were just playing) house or nu-disco. That’s fine, but you hear it everywhere all the time. It’s just so pervasive. Where’s the music that represents Palm Springs? … I thought there was room for me.”
Martin’s knowledge and taste as a crate-digger lead to music that is fun and different.
“I love a lot of the Hawaiian music, and I always mix it in, but there’s so much of that music from that culture,” he said. “I play what I call ‘world-beat exotica.’ I mix in a lot of vintage Latin music with cumbia and reggae. I just blend it all together. It’s not just Hawaiian music. Twist-and-shake music was really big in the ‘60s. The twist-and-shake music was adopted by go-go dancers on the Sunset Strip.”
Celebrating the vintage side of Palm Springs is a lot of fun for Martin.
“That’s what Modernism Week is all about,” he said. “Modernism Week is putting all of this on a pedestal, because it almost all but disappeared. Palm Springs is still the mecca in the world of that kind of architecture. There are structures and buildings all over town that are still in mint, if not pristine, condition. Places like the Royal Hawaiian embrace that and live it almost as a lifestyle.”
Martin said he loves themes.
“I do weddings, so you have to play everything like ‘Brown Eyed Girl,’ but I prefer doing a very specialized playlist,” he said. “Whether it’s ‘Barcelona Nights’ or ‘Cuban Nights,’ give me any theme—such as ‘Monsters,’ for example—and I can take off with it and really dig. I can come up with not-obvious selections. If your average club DJ took a gig like that or was pressed to do something like that, they might just come up with some pretty obvious choices. That may not be as entertaining. I can turn that around and really make an impression with the music. They might hear something they haven’t heard in years, or something they haven’t heard at all. That’s what I love to do—take genres of music that people have never heard or haven’t heard loud enough, and turn them on to it.”
Finding vintage material can be a challenge—although modern technology has been a big help.
“There are tons of resources,” Martin said. “For digging, Spotify is great to me, and you can pick your poison. YouTube is also a good resource for vintage stuff that might not be available for certain stuff, because royalties can’t be figured out. I figure if there’s no way to find where you can purchase it, it’s kind of free game, and a DJ doesn’t usually need a license to burn music. As long as the venue has the license to play music, I’m covered. … I play music that was only on 35s in India. I have some of my favorite places, such as The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. You really do find some gems in a shop like that. Vinyl is outselling CDs now, too, and I play a lot of vinyl.”
As for the Tiki-a-Go-Go party, Martin said the crowd will provide a lot of the fun.
“They come with the purpose of partying and having a good time—and they do,” Martin said. “No one just stands around posing. That’s why I wanted that ‘hulabilly’ feel for the music, and I’ll play music leading up to the band going on, when they’re on their break, and music to close out the night. My palette can be much broader, and it can be a lot of shake and twist, go-go and Hawaiian stuff. We’ll keep the night going.”
Tiki-A-Go-Go takes place at 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, at 283 E. Twin Palms Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $125. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.royalhawaiianscoop.com. For more information on Modernism Week, which takes place Feb. 16-26, visit www.modernismweek.com.