More We Love Instrumental Music with a Melody: The Sneaky Tikis

When we last left the debate, the Nagging Little Voice was winning.  It was charging towards a complete victory.  Then, the tables turned.  Now, hear this, Nagging Little Voice, our next gig is February 16th at Shine with the Sneaky Tikis.  That should shut you up for awhile! 

So sit back, Nagging Little Voice, and, along with others, read the story of the Sneaky Tikis.

Last Memorial Day weekend, the Bear River Valley -- specifically the Donner Mine Camp -- was alive with sound of reverb-drenched rock.  A bunch of folks ranging in age from 10 to seventy-something attended the inaugural Sierra Surf Music Camp.  The faculty consisted of First, Second, and Third Wave stars.

On the first day of camp, the faculty divided the campers up into bands.  Each band was mentored by a surf music heavyweight.  All of the bands, except one, were made up of strangers.  That one exception was comprised of four young musicians ranging in age from 12 to 18.  All four lived in Grass Valley.  Three took lessons from Paul the Pyronaut -- the camp director -- and were among his star pupils.  The fourth was a solid bassist.  Their faculty mentor was none other than Dusty Watson -- the best surf drummer in the world.

Clearly, the “fix” was in.  And, on the last night of camp when the bands performed, the four youngsters lived up to the hype.  The name that they picked for that performance was the “Sneaky Tikis.”  As camp ended, the question was whether they would carry on and fulfill the potential demonstrated that night around a campfire in the Bear River Valley.

Over the eight months since that debut, the Sneaky Tikis have grown by leaps and bounds.  That growth was natural as each is a focused and innately talented musician.  They soak up music like sponges.  They enjoy playing and are dedicated to their craft.  Their playing remains powerful and energetic and has become increasingly precise.

Each Sneaky Tiki has incredible skills.  At 13, Lukas Brodie is a drumming prodigy.  He is a human metronome combining a unerring beat with flurries of powerful improvised breaks.  Greg Trujillo on bass compliments Lukas’ power to provide a solid bottom for the band.  He is the oldster of the group at 19.  His playing reflects the maturity of a traditional bassist who completes the sound of a band with ease and grace.

The guitarists are cousins.  Rob Longacre is 13 and a third generation musician.  His lead guitar work is stunning and often reflects Dick Dale, one of his influences.  Yet, like Dave Wronski, another of his influences, Rob can shift from staccato double-picking to precisely timed chords.  In eight months, his style has matured from loud and fast to knowing when sensitivity and softness fit the music.  Lucas Kuhn is 18 and relishes his role on rhythm guitar.  Solid as a rock, he provides a chunk or thump that combines with the rhythm section to give a foundation for Rob’s lead.  When he takes the lead, Lucas shows his versatility and virtuosity.

In eight months, the Sneaky Tikis have gone from four youngsters -- but prodigies -- put together at Sierra Surf Music Camp to a surf band that represents the future of the instrumental music which we love.  At camp, they were introduced as the beginning of the Fourth Wave.  Given their dedication, talents and progress to date, that may not be as hyperbolic as it sounds.

If you love instrumental music with a melody, the Sneaky Tikis are a treat.  Most of their repertoire is high energy, loud, fast, double-picked, and glissando-ladened rock.  But that is an integral part of the surf music that I personally love.  Check it out for yourself on February 16th at Shine, and you too will be amazed!

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