The summer Tiki event season reaches its climax this week with the big kahuna, Tiki Oasis in San Diego. We have a full preview, plus a recap of many other recent happenings: Texas Tiki Week, Hot Rod Hula Hop, the Surf Guitar 101 Convention, plus Shag at Disneyland and Tiki Night in Hollywood. There’s also news on the upcoming Mai Tai Festival in Hawaii, a Trader Vic’s rum tasting, and lots more. Our regular features spotlight Tiki mug creators PopTiki; the otherworldly music of Man or Astro-man?; the Bali Hai Restaurant in San Diego; and the website of Americana ambassador Charles Phoenix. The rum of the week, Angostura 5, is featured in The Morning After cocktail.
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EVENT PREVIEW: Tiki Oasis takes guests back to the retro future
San Diego becomes the center of the Tiki universe when the 15th annual Tiki Oasis presents “Yesterday’s Future Today” on Aug. 13-16 with four whirlwind days of 20 live bands and 20 DJs, 35 educational symposiums, art, mixology, book signings, a 100-vendor marketplace, 20 burlesque performers, comedy, vintage cars, fashion, food, kids events, and more. If you can’t find something to enjoy at Tiki Oasis, you’re following the wrong pop culture subgenre.
As a testament to the popularity of Tiki Oasis, it’s pretty much sold out. Organizers announced Monday that limited tickets will be available for Thursday night’s Bali Hai party starting at 6 p.m. And those with hotel room reservations will still be able to buy two tickets if they haven’t already. Otherwise, you’re out of luck. However, the festival marketplace, car show, and an assortment of other activities are free and open to the public.
Thursday’s’s Meet and Greet takes place at the legendary Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island, while ground zero for the rest of Tiki Oasis is the Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly The Hanalei Hotel). Though it has suffered through renovations, the hotel still features waterfalls, lava rock pools and eight-story glass elevators, plus classic tikis featured in Sven Kirsten’s The Book of Tiki.
In keeping with the theme, many events are centered around mid-century modern primitivism (think the jet age meets Tiki). Musical acts include spacy surf band Man or Astroman?, out-of-this-world rockabilly band The Phenomenauts, and ’60s garage legends The Chocolate Watchband. Other notable bands include The Phantom Surfers, Tikiyaki Orchestra, Clouseaux, and Project: Pimento.
Symposium educators include original Mothers of Invention keyboardist Don Preston, Rodenberry Entertainment CEO Rod Roddenberry, author and Tiki historian Sven Kirsten, and mid-century historian and entertainer Charles Phoenix. The art show features more than 30 top Tiki artists from around the world. The first San Diego Tiki Bartenders Challenge will be held during a beefed-up Sunday schedule that also features a special garage band showcase.
Guests always get in on the fun, so look for lots of retro and mod fashion, and appropriate Tiki space age decor for the famous room parties. Of course, everything is bigger at Tiki Oasis, including the Friday-Saturday room crawl. For example, Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach is hosting a two-night bash featuring live music from The Hula Girls and the Jimmy Psycho Experiment. New Las Vegas bar The Golden Tiki will also host a massive room party with live music and the owner himself DJing in his suite at the Crowne Plaza. Branden Powers is actually no stranger to the hotel, having DJ’d a weekly lounge event called Taboo 20 years ago when it was still the Hanalei Hotel.
Tiki Oasis is also a collector’s and shopper’s paradise, with some 100 vendors selling hand-crafted Tiki art, vintage clothing, records, collectibles and more. The marketplace is free and open to the public for most event hours Friday through Sunday at the Crowne Plaza. The vintage car show, also free, is held Saturday and Sunday in the hotel parking lot.
Here’s a day-by-day preview of all the headlining entertainment:
Updated May 19, 2015
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival was hit by a Tiki tornado on Friday night, when more than 700 people packed the Shore Club’s poolside patios for a whirlwind event hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Seven of the country’s top mixologists competed in “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown,” bringing a true taste of the tropics to South Beach.
When the smoke cleared, the winner of the Judge’s Choice award (and a $5,000 check) was veteran New York City bartender Brian Miller, host of the popular Tiki Mondays With Miller events. The People’s Choice award went to a local favorite, Miami Beach craft cocktail bar The Broken Shaker. Bartenders Randy Perez and Gui Jaroschy accepted the $2,000 prize after spending several hours feverishly mixing drinks for the South Beach masses. Other bars and mixologists competing were The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Royal Kona Resort (Hawaii), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Sunny’s (Miami).
Lagasse was joined by an esteemed crew of VIP judges: Author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), bar owner and rum expert Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), plus rum ambassador and consultant Lynnette Marrero (Diageo; DrinksAt6, New York City). There were also food stations scattered around the Shore Club’s two pools featuring notable chefs from South Florida and beyond.
After winning his top prize and posing for photos, Miller said he hoped to use the money to help fund an upcoming move to Los Angeles. Miller said he wanted to “take a seat at the big boys’ table” and “hopefully pick up where Don (the Beachcomber) left off.” However, less than a month later, Miller said via e-mail that he scuttled those plans and will be staying in New York.