TIKI OASIS 15 (and the story of The Hula Girls at Oasis)!

It's that time of year again, the 'Viva Las Vegas' of tiki is upon us! Tiki Oasis!!

If you aren't familiar with the history of Tiki Oasis, it began back in 2001 in Palm Springs (at the Caliente Tropics Hotel). 

I (Spike) exhibited there, selling some mediocrely executed tee shirts in 2003. 

Ape, featuring Crazy Al, with live percussive tiki carving, was a particular entertainment highlight of this year. I also really remember enjoying Project: Pimiento. 

During the vending at Oasis, I snapped this photo of my buddy, a 
pre-Tiki Diablo, Danny Gallardo,
talking to a pre-yellow sunglasses Shag. 

I first played Tiki Oasis in 2004 (which coincidentally had almost the same theme as this year!), with the original version of The Smoking' Menehunes. That band featured Kevin Bullat, Lucas Vigor, Shirley Orlando, and myself. Not sure who the hula dancer is, in front of the stage. It was a MUCH smaller event back in those days. We played the hotel bar at the Tropics, but the main stage wasn't that much bigger than this stage. 

I went to one more Oasis in Palm Springs and after the Smokin' Menehunes (in that incarnation) broke up, I took a break from participating in the tiki community. 

Around that time, I formed the punk rock n' roll band, The Junkbucket.

That was awesome, yet fairly short lived...

The Smokin Menehunes were re-born in 2008 as The Hula Girls. Kevin Bullat and Lucas Vigor approached me to start playing together again. After that short time playing fun loud music with the Junkbucket, I knew that I didn't want to go back to playing sleepy Hawaiian music where the crowd barely reacts or notices that you're there...

This time, they suggested starting up a band that focused purely on the things that I kept trying to interject into the Menehunes. Rockabilly and surf music interlaced with Hawaiian and tiki themes.

Our first show was at Bamboo Ben's shop. This is back when Bamboo Ben had a shop, I had a big curly white guitar cord and wore weird tinted glasses, Kevin had a sleeveless Hawaiian shirt, and Lucas wore velour. Weird. Weird and fun times. 

In 2009, I arrived at the new Tiki Oasis location of San Diego for my first time, only to witness how gigantic the event had become. It blew my mind. It wasn't the small, intimate event of weird tiki-philes, out in the desert anymore. It had grown. A lot.

The Hula Girls (pre-gogo dancers) were hired as the first band to ever play the car show. We had to supply our own PA and set up right on the curb. Now days, the Car Show is a full stage thing with vendors and food trucks. It's cool to see how it has grown over the years! That lineup featured Lucas Vigor on bass, Dominic Tucci on standup drums, myself on guitar and vocals, and Chris Harvey on guitar and pedal steel.

Believe it or not, there were people watching us at that show. They were just all in the shade!

If I'm not mistaken, that was the year that I was introduced to my buddies, Thee Swank Bastards and Szandora. Great sleezy Las Vegas surf band with a hula hooping burlesque dancer who eventually hula-hoops her top off! 

There was also had a hotel suite with burlesque going on. Here is Tiki Oasis mainstay, Violetta Beretta. This may have been her first Tiki Oasis. She rushed off to catch a plane back to Hawaii, right after this performance. 

These photos are only 6 years ald, but man, it seems like sooo long ago. 

2010 marked the ten year anniversary to Tiki Oasis and the year that The Hula Girls played the main stage for the first time. 

We had current Hula Girl, Judy Luck, dancing with us, as well as burlesque dancer, Betsy Bosen. 

Former Blue Hawaiian steel guitar genius, Gary Brandin, played steel on that show. 

That show featured the first ever performance with 'Curse of the Tiki' album cover model, Dinah DeRosa. She performed with The Hula Girls for about 3 years.

I believe that we also played a 'Swing Out' dance party in one of the ballrooms that year too.

Here's a video of The Hula Girls performing 'Leilani' on the main stage at Tiki Oasis 10!

2011, Tiki Oasis went 'South of the Border!' An odd theme, seeing as San Diego is on the border and California is already mostly hispanic, in general. It didn't feel like a very 'escapist tiki theme', just a lot of pinatas and fake burros.

But I understood what they were getting at; Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass is a mainstay of any vintage bachelor pad soundtrack. So is all kinds of other latin music (mambo, conga rhythms, exotica has latin influences at times). The idea was there, and I love traveling 'south of the border' to Mexico for surf, it just didn't feel like a good tiki theme. But that's only my opinion.

The Hula Girls earned the title as the 'hardest working band in tiki' that year. We played three sets of music at the Car Show, three sets that night in the Forbidden Island room party, and one set on Sunday in support of Don Tiki.

We received a standing ovation on Sunday, not because we played so well, but because my voice was GONE. Like, not working any more 'gone'. 6 hours of singing in one day had just destroyed it. I knew how to make my voice sing in key..... it just wouldn't work! At all! 

That was some kind of life experience right there. It was like going on stage without your pants on or something... Horrible. That's when I realized that we needed to learn and write more instrumental songs!

By 2013, I believe The Hula Girls had found their most solid collective lineup. Otto and Baby Doe chose 'Hulabilly' as the theme for Tiki Oasis and there wasn't a better band more suited for that theme (though Southern Culture on the Skids were amazing!). As far as I've researched, I created the term, 'Hulabilly'. I certainly didn't hear it used ever before... It was just the description for what I thought the The Hula Girls sound was.

Hulabilly served as a great theme for Oasis, but for the mass of the event, it was so misinterpreted as 'hillbilly'. A guy even brought his pet rooster to the event. Here's Szandora, with it on her shoulder like some kind of topless hillbilly pirate. 

As someone who writes and think about what constitutes 'hullabaloo' I think the theme really should have been looked at as '1950's rockabilly goes to Hawaii'... It would have made more sense to me, anyway. But people had fun wearing overalls and stuff, so it doesn't really matter.

We debuted a new song, "Hula! Hula! Bang! Bang!", at that show. We had, what felt like, the whole hotel singing along with us! It was one of the hi-lights of being in The Hula Girls. There aren't many crowds who 'get us' as much as the Tiki Oasis crowd does!

Here's a video of us doing "The Curse of the Tiki" on the main stage at Tiki Oasis 13!

SO.... It's 2015 and the theme is "Yesterday's Future, Today". I fear that there will be lots of Star Wars costumes this year, as the theme is once again interpreted incorrectly... 

But it doesn't matter to me; because to me, the theme for Tiki Oasis is always just tiki. 

And it's always a LOT of fun! And Otto and Baby Doe do an amazing job putting this big party on for all of us!

The Hula Girls will be playing a wedding reception for our Australian friends, Danielle and Evan. It takes place in the hotel's Lagoon Room at 2:00 and is open to event attendees! Hope to see ya help us celebrate the union of two of our favorite Aussies!

Then, that night, we play Don the Beachcomber's first ever room party at Tiki Oasis! We'll be playing from 10pm-midnight in room 1703. The party is free to event attendees!

The next night, in the same room, catch our buddies, The Jimmy Psycho Experiment! They play really cool space exotica versions of contemporary rock and punk hits. I wouldn't steer you wrong, would I? They're great! 

We hope you have a great time at Tiki Oasis this year!

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