Paradise Café Campus, Montreal QC — October 7, 2002

Fusing hard, trashy '80s rawk with the quaint trappings of tiki culture, Montreal's Paradise are conceptual pioneers, lending heaviosity to Hawaii and tropical kitsch to cock rock. As the story goes, local guitarist Jet Phil left glam-punk act One976 — under amicable yet somewhat mysterious circumstances, having practically co-fronted that flamboyant band with close friend Plastik Patrik — and bonded with singer Frank Kelly over two special obsessions. The pair then feverishly conceived, wrote and recorded Paradise's eponymous debut album. Hawaiian guitars don't figure in this roadhouse riffage at all, and only the merch girls wear grass skirts and leis. The music and the aesthetic are only joined onstage, where the concept really pays off. Unfortunately for the band's life span, the show is elaborate, expensive, and risky. Outside the venue, a hyper hula girl passed out flyers while nervous-looking fire inspectors conferred nearby. Inside, thatched bamboo, palm leaves and stringed flowers lined the wall behind the merch and ticket tables, while the stage was a virtual jungle of flora and giant tikis. Not to be outdone, Kelly sported a rhinestone rockabilly look, Phil oozed glam with leopard print spandex and a platinum mullet, drummer Xavier Caféïne wore his familiar leather suit (Elvis '68 meets Cruising) and the co-guitarist's wealth of hair screamed metal. Even their guitar tech had a look: plastic neon vampire. The cherry on top was the double dose of intense, well-timed pyro, towering jets of flame and showers of sparks punctuating the band's pro posturing and thick, throaty rawk, which included a cover of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell." Apart from the absence of Mai Tais, this was a rare and pristine experience.