Escape is in the air! This Saturday, fans of tiki culture can sail the mystical seas to two very colorful events in Santa Ana. During the day, Original Mike’s restaurant will host the Tiki Island Expo, an event that will feature live music, food, drinks, and an extensive assortment of vendors selling tiki-centric wares.
Then, when the sun sets, the party will continue at the Yost Theater with Escape to Tiki Island, where The Tikiyaki Orchestra will perform their exotic and enchanting lounge music; Charles Phoenix will culturally saturate audiences with a lively slideshow on Americana and kitsch; The Hula Girls band will provide a multi-media show, featuring their hula go-go dancers; and Sheila Starr Siani will perform her hula burlesque magic. Both Tiki Island events are being thrown by Christopher Burkhardt, producer of Stellar Shows and Concerts. In advance of this wave of themed events, the Weekly spoke with Burkhardt about his history producing tiki events, his commitment to tiki culture, and what folks with Polynesian fever can look forward to this weekend.
As many tiki aficionados know, one of Orange County’s premier tiki spots recently closed. For ten years, Don the Beachcomber, in Huntington Beach, provided a Shangri-la for lovers of Polynesian pop and, of course, deceptively powerful libations. Burkhardt’s company was responsible for much of the live entertainment at Don’s. He recounts how he brought additional life to the establishment. “When I realized the Beachcomber had a large tiki room that was used only rarely, we started to book roots bands there, as well as an occasional tiki party and several big new year’s eve shows, using all three bars and stages. We brought in touring bands as well as regional bands and built a large following.” Burkhardt’s influence on the entertainment at Don’s went right up until the very end, with the successful farewell shebang, the Ohana Gathering. “When they decided to close [Ed Boswell and I] dreamed up the Ohana Gathering which was a multi-night sellout.”
He went on to provide a basic overview of the movement. “It’s not only fun — it is important to honor the past. In this case, the past includes a romanticized conception that includes tiki bars, Polynesian food influences, Hawaiian attire, and kitschy decor items. That all came as a result of WWII servicemen returning from the South Seas, where the combination of rum drinks, native art, and delectable luau food made a big impression.”
As for the inspiration behind this weekend’s events, Burkhardt reveals, “Escape to Tiki Island was a result of working with Tikiyaki Orchestra and the Hula Girls for several years at Don’s. We knew there was a strong tiki lifestyle following that had no real concert venue to enjoy these bands.” His team found a suitable venue in Santa Ana, with the recently renovated Yost Theater. After the initial event announcement generated a significant buzz, Burkhardt’s team added the Tiki Island Expo.
The expo, at Original Mike’s, will feature 80 vendors and two stages. Per stage, the acts will highlight two distinct tiki vibes: acoustic island sounds (including the slack-key guitar music of Kimo Delgado, Ukulena, Ukulele Soup, and the Martini Kings) and surf rock (featuring The Blackball Bandits, The Volcanics, and tHe TiKi CReePs). Miss Tiki Oasis for 2018, Miss Ruby Champagne, will greet attendees of the expo.
As the post-WWII escapist movement continues to regain steam, tiki-themed events are on the rise. This weekend’s line-up of events, acts, vendors, and beverages presents a prime opportunity for new and old tiki fans to come together and enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of the quirky cultural movement. Just make sure not to drink too many Zombies, Mai Tais, or Hurricanes during the expo at Original Mike’s — you wouldn’t want to be zonkered before the show at the Yost begins!
For more information on Tiki Island Expo and Escape to Tiki Island, visit the Stellar Shows website.