The first time I met Johnny Kenny, he threw a pair of headphones across the room at me after Kill the Noise and Steve Aoki played a bunch of unreleased music at Addiction Nightclub.
"What was that about!?" I asked him, more impressed than irritated.
"I saw you over there. Dancing like a boss," he said. "I saw you Wednesday night, too, at SoHo (Mixed Media Bar)."
It was after the first show he helped produce here (Steve Aoki at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park) and a way to introduce himself so out of left field that I couldn't help but appreciate it.
We quickly became friends, and Kenny has already made quite an impact in Honolulu. I can’t help but notice he's also fallen deeply in love with this magical place. He's pretty much the BAMP of California as part of the Collective Effort crew, which consists of three partners who build out shows. From large scale events to full-blown music festivals, he’s personally taken risks to invest (and not always win), but continues to chip away at building events with our local promoters to take concerts to the next level.
Kenny was drawn to Hawaii to expand their show base, and in a way I am personally very familiar with, everything seemed to fall together perfectly with a combination of hard work and a few phone calls. It’s weird how that happens.
What BAMP and Collective Effort hoped would be another large scale Kaka'ako show needed to be moved to The Republik, but they turned it out there with large scale L.E.D. walls and the artists still delivered all the show we needed. It’s been too long (or ever?) since many have seen Infected Mushroom play their live set with a full band, but it was needed as many of the O.G. music enthusiasts in the house could attest to the value of that kind of musicianship and the performance it delivers. They rocked it.
What is it about Hawaii that draws people like Kenny in?
"I know it sounds cliche, but it truly is the Aloha Spirit I feel every time I come to the islands," he told me.
You don't have to tell me! It was obvious on Friday their effort was widely supported by local music enthusiasts; I saw DJs Sejika, G-Spot, Daniel J, Bone, Packo, Technique and Nightmarcher, plus the guys from Livewire and Odin Works among the crowd. As a consumer of as much music as I can handle, I see it as a very good thing that not only Kenny and his partners are willing to risk money to bring larger, more expensive talent to Honolulu, but moreso everyone's support for the love of the genre.
What they all strive for is the same — the growth of a music category that’s becoming increasingly more dominant with live shows. The numbers don’t lie; there are literally thousands who buy tickets for events like these. EDM shows have become just as popular as reggae shows, the result of years of hard work by many. Their support for each other at shows is awesome.
I saw many at Friday’s Electric Palms event who already knew Kenny or got to know him better that night as he worked the room, taking time to get to know the people at his show. It says a lot, if you ask me. His personality-forward way about him is truly infectious. He obviously lost money on the show, but was still buying everyone drinks at the bar and making plans for the next one.
As far as Hawaii goes, he gets it. He lives by very sound professional advice all of us can learn from.
“Surround yourself with smarter people than you, delegate, and empower the people on your team to work freely with their skill set and create at their highest level." Kenny wrote in an e-mail. "If you try to do everything on your own, or hold on tightly you will fail. Empower those around you to do their best, and in turn the overall product will be better.”
It definitely shines through with their attempts out here, and we will definitely be seeing more of Kenny and his team in Hawaii. Introduce yourself and I can bet you will also have a lifelong friend.
THIS WEEK, there’s an alternative to costly services or products for those who can provide something in return.
In the grand tradition of making leaps and bounds via fresh thinking, Tiffany Tanaka is working with a team to bring "Barter Bar" to Fresh Café. They welcome anyone with goods or services who are willing to trade in a casual networking environment.
Events like this are so creative, many will probably not be sure where to start. It’s more about meeting others with a similar mindset and then understanding how you can help.
Are you a jewelry maker who needs a logo designed? You should definitely be there. New to the city and looking for like-minded individuals in areas of design? Don’t miss this.
Interested in an original artwork from Aaron “Angry Woebot” Martin? He only just happens to be willing to trade his first ever piece for audio/visual equipment.
Each event will have a featured business leader to ring the bell for trading. This month it's designer Justin Takaha White, a gifted designer and artist who no doubt will be surrounded by many at the event.
The "Barter Bar" website is amazing, too; you guys had me at the first video. It will be interesting to see this event catch on. I can definitely see the potential.
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.