Tues Dec 16
Alberta Street Pub
Given this town's affinity for wacky renditions of karaoke classics (i.e., "Paradise City" sung entirely in falsetto, "Jolene" performed in a death metal voice, anyone doing "Baby Got Back")--you could bet money that Petty Booka was born here. Consisting of Petty (Satomi Asano) and Booka (Miyuki Matsubara), they are, in actuality, a Japanese duo singing covers in English. Insisting they're "from Hawaii" (or Texas, or Kentucky, or Tokyo), they play tiny ukuleles, don leis, and cast a unique Polynesian spell on such Paragon perennials as "These Boots are Made for Walking," or extract the breeziest reggae parts of "The Tide is High." While the concept's kitschy (they're packing more tiki-torch power than a Saturday night at the Alibi), Petty Booka transcend novelty for their talent.
Yes, it can get a little sugary to hear covers in an island style, played on a coconut-tinny bitty instrument such as the uke. For instance, "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," from their best-of album, Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian, is a precious song as it is; add a hula vibe and a lap-steel and it's so cute your teeth hurt. Their island disco version of "Dancing in the Street" sounds either like American Juniors Go to the Bat Mitzvah, or Le Tigre. But, as with the most magical evenings at karaoke, certain tracks are reinvented ingeniously. The Ramones classic "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," turned Petty Booka's "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend" sounds as if it's coming from the muse behind the waterfall, echo-gated and dreamier than "Crimson and Clover," with samples of tropical birds. It's times like these when Petty Booka are at their best, creating a holiday atmosphere without dipping into '90s loungecore revivalist territory, playing American pop numbers--Madonna, Culture Club, Burt Bacharach--as if they were originally written for the ukelele, and confidently navigating Polynesian standards around a samba or trad country style.
At this show, they'll be celebrating the holidays and the U.S. release of their 1997 Christmas album, Christmas is Everywhere (including Prison, as on the John Prine number they cover), in which they sing Christmas hits in English and Japanese. Who needs egg nog, when there's mai-tais?