Get Ready for Hawaiian Americana at Tiki Oasis

Tiki Oasis

With all the tiki coverage we've been doing lately, a big tropical blow-out is definitely in order. Fortunately, one's on the schedule. Later this month, the annual Tiki Oasis goes down in San Diego, and we cornered organizer Otto Von Stroheim to offer up some highlights.

You may remember reading about Tiki Oasis in our big tiki rundown in the last issue. It's the West Coast's major annual tiki get-together, featuring symposiums, a car show, music, art, crafts, and of course cocktails. It's less than two weeks away, set for Aug. 15 through 18 at the Bali Hai restaurant and Crowne Plaza hotel in San Diego.

This year's theme is "Hulabilly," meaning the confluence of traditional Hawaiian music with Americana such as country and rockabilly. "It's a Hawaiian hootenany," boasts the website. With that in mind, it would be a shame to miss the Steelin' Home symposium, which Von Stroheim told me "traces the evolution of steel guitar from its origins in Hawaii and then to California, through country music and popular Hawaiian music, up through the 40s and 50s when it became hulabilly. There was a perfect blend of rock and country singers doing stuff like Hula Bop, and Hawaiian players doing pop stuff like On the Beach at Waikiki."

Charles Phoenix

We're big on entertaining around here, so I'm pretty attracted to the symposium How to Throw a Mid-Century Tiki Patio Party, with Kelly Patterson from Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en. It promises pupu platters, cocktails, and simplified entertaining tips for a tropical bash. One also oughtn't miss Sunday's Southern Californialand slide show (a sample at right) with Charles Phoenix.

For a more intense bit of relaxation-cum-instruction, Von Stroheim said he was particularly looking forward to the Cigar-and-Rum Pairing Lounge, because of the opportunity to taste barrel samples from sponsor Ron Zacapa rum, usually only available to those visiting the distillery in Guatemala.

El Vez
El Vez, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

This being a musically themed event, one shouldn't miss the performances, which range from classic hula to surf to rockabilly. I'm pretty keen for Kim Tsoy, the legendary Korean-American country singer who sounds to me like a slightly more polished Waylon Jennings. Von Stroheim was particularly excited about El Vez, "The Mexican Elvis," who he said would be joining Southern Culture on the Skids on Saturday night in an as-yet unannounced addition. Then on Sunday night, El Vez will open the show for Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys, performing a rare set of straight-ahead Elvis songs. "He usually does originals or wacky adaptations of Elvis songs, but this year he's doing a straight-up elvis set" Von Stroheim said. "A lot of people don't stay for Sunday but I think Sunday is going to steal the show." Sounds like Monday, Aug. 19 might be a sick day for a lot of people.