Archive for January, 2014

Day Zero is out of this world

By
January 29th, 2014



The Day Zero Festival site is only a few miles outside of Playa Del Carmen (Courtesy Photo)

The Day Zero Festival site is only a few miles outside of Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. (Courtesy photo)

While I was in Mexico at Playa Del Carmen for the annual BPM Music Festival, I felt so fortunate to be around people in the know. I can’t tell you how valuable that is.

A lot of them had been to BPM before, but what was even better was some had heard about the Day Zero Festival. Now in its second year, it became a must-do the second I heard what it was.

Celebrating the end of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar on 12/21/2012, the first Day Zero was timed so music lovers would all be together in the Mayan civilization when their calendar ended. They were either going down together or celebrating a new birth together. What a great idea! I only wished I knew about this last year, as the festival fell on my birthday, but being there for its second year was just as monumental.

The sun rising on Day One, a powerful experience only amplified by the music  (Courtesy photo)

The sun rising on Day One, a powerful experience only amplified by the music. (Courtesy photo)

I had no idea what I was about to experience, but the concept of being in the middle of it through the night into the next day with pyramids, music and a few thousand like-minded contentious people sounded perfect. I went online, paid $77 for my ticket and was ready to go!

Learning more about Crosstown Rebels label founder and Day Zero Festival organizer Damian Lazarus was like unraveling an intricate puzzle. The more I read the more I wanted to learn.

Born in London he worked as an A&R for the label City Rockers before they were bought by Ministry of Sound. He was very skilled at seeking out talent and staying ahead of the game, and even now he's incredibly knowledgeable in all forms of music, but also magical at bringing people together.

Lazarus has big ideas, but more importantly knows how to make them a reality. He lives and breathes avant-garde and is constantly on a mission to reinvent and challenge the norm.

I found myself completely in awe as we sat down in the candlelit VIP area inside a pyramid where Francesa Lombardi was performing a mind-blowing live set with vocalists and strings. He was energetic but relaxed, which surprised me for someone who was the mastermind of the huge production we walked in to.

Crosstown Rebels founder and Day Zero Festival organizer Damian Lazarus plays the sunrise set. (Courtesy photo)

Crosstown Rebels founder and Day Zero Festival organizer Damian Lazarus plays the sunrise set. (Courtesy photo)

“I want to create an environment for people to really appreciate the roots of our music,” he said with a smile. “To offer them a unique experience where they can join together and connect with each other.”

This had me smiling too — at how much of an understatement this was.

The site was amazing and the production even more so. Walking in, there were two huge statues flanking the gates. Once we got inside, it was just dimly-lit paths through trees leading to the music.

You can see the lights in the sky from miles away, but nothing could prepare me for what I saw when I finally got to the main area. The lights were insane. There were bright multi-colors shining across the water, creating a vivid work of art that was also reflected on the water. I fumbled to get my phone and snap pictures, none of them doing it any justice.

A larger courtyard area already held quite a few people, even though I was there at the very start of the event. Many were already dancing as the natural and earthy smell of burning wood wafted from a bonfire. As I explored the food and vendors set up just outside, I found natural food, handmade jewelry and artifacts, and even fresh coconut water at the bar. This event blew me away in every sense of the word, and I had yet to even see any of the musical performances.

A brief glimpse into the incredible lighting and production of the event... which really does it no justice. (Courtesy photo)

A brief glimpse into the incredible lighting and production of the event... which really does it no justice. (Courtesy photo)

The music, which was supposed to be the biggest reason why everyone was there, stood on its own. For me, at least. I did hear a lot of grumbling from hardcore techno-heads about Thievery Corporation, but for me and a few hundred others it was a treat. I’m grateful Lazarus took some time to pull together a more heterogeneous lineup for this party. We were literally there for 16 hours and the diversity in music was what kept me sane.

Thievery Corporation's performance on top of one of the pyramids was one of the more memorable moments. (Courtesy photo)

Thievery Corporation's performance on top of one of the pyramids was one of the more memorable moments.(Courtesy photo)

As the exclusive event to take place at this site, Lazerus has no plans to move anywhere else. For me, the event was about entering that next chapter of my life feeling more invigorated. I wanted to cleanse my soul.

At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I always thought being born at the end of the Mayan calendar was quite special. It really felt like the universe wanted me to do something incredibly special on this day. I saw the sun set at Stonehedge a decade ago and thought that would do it.

This event, however, was the endgame. It really was one of those had-to-be-there things. I really hope you all get a chance to experience what it is and what it means someday!
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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.

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Machinedrum makes Hawaii stop

By
January 22nd, 2014



Sports? I’m not a fan. When everything is sports-related and the NFL is all over Waikiki this time of year, I tend to shrink back a bit. Both figuratively and literally — they’re so TALL!

As Honolulu is overrun once again with NFL players, fans and supporting acts, one of the parties that really stands out for me this year is from local promoter SPELLS, who are bringing Machinedrum to Chinatown on Saturday, Jan. 25, for a special live set.

0122 supercity

MACHINEDRUM

Presented by SPELLS

» Where: NextDoor, 43 N. Hotel St.

» When: 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 (doors open at 9 p.m.)

» Cost: $10 ($15 for 18-20 years old); 18+

» Info: brownpapertickets.com/event/558557 or spellshawaii.com

A native of North Carolina who spent time in New York and now lives in Berlin, glitch-hop producer Machinedrum (Travis Stewart) has been influenced by many different genres of music. From the rhythmic repetitiveness of playing a snare drum in marching band, to the bright melodies of playing guitar in a country band and even the deeper sounds of a goblet drum in an African ensemble, different instruments have all contributed to his rich musical background.

Working with the likes of Azealia Banks and Theophilus London in New York for the label Normrex put Machinedrum on the map, and his collaboration with Praveen Sharma as Sepalcure garnered him spots on Pitchfork magazine's top 50 albums and top 100 tracks lists in 2011. Their track “Outside the Lines” was also featured on the soundtrack for Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.”

While this artist still tends to fly under the radar, his sound is quite unforgettable — which is the norm for any act SPELLS brings to Hawaii. It's cerebral electronic music, a boiling cauldron of alt hip-hop, ambient and Chicago dance that leaves a pretty profound impact on everyone in the room.

Backed up by talented local MC Omega Cix, SPELLS resident DJ Seeko and special guest Maui artist Incyde (Hotflush Recordings), Saturday's show will be brought together with mind-bending live projection visuals from UVAV. It will definitely be a highlight of my weekend.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Foxes perform on Friday, Jan. 24, as the headliner for the "Pepsi Pro Bowl Concert" at The Republik. She's the voice we hear on Zedd’s “Clarity” and a pop star in her own right from the United Kingdom.

If there’s anything I learned while living in England, it’s that they know good pop music. The remix EP for her single, “Youth,” contained some super memorable tracks for me, including one by Adventure Club that is still in heavy rotation.

The Green. (Courtesy photo)

The Green. (Courtesy photo)

AFTER THE Pro Bowl dust settles, it will be time for the Super Bowl at the new Crown Bar, hosted by The Green.

Located in the former Hard Rock Cafe location at the corner of Kapiolani Blvd. and Kalakaua Ave., next weekend's viewing party will be a family affair, with tons of seating, face painting, balloons and an extensive food menu. Once the game is over and the families go home, live entertainment will continue into the night for those 21-and-over.

They had me at the part where things will be hosted by The Green. Even for a non-sports fan, that sounds like a lot of fun.

———

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.

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BPM perfects the vibe

By
January 15th, 2014



How about that Coachella lineup for 2014? I was on day nine in Mexico, navigating my way through more than 300 artists and 70 parties at the 2014 BPM Festival when I came across the news while enjoying the utopia of a wifi hotspot and immediately went to check my vacation balance and how many days I had available in April.

What is wrong with me?!? I seriously hope this isn’t going to become a thing. It’s just these sort of events are the exact right level of engagement for me. Constant movement with the option to relax. Tons of people to meet who are like-minded, my age and understand the true meaning of work hard, play hard.

I feel for people who don't have access to beaches and warm weather on the regular. (Courtesy Danilo Lewis)

I feel for people who don't have access to beaches and warm weather on the regular. (Courtesy Danilo Lewis)

If you ever get the urge to break away — but not completely detach — I highly recommend the BPM Festival. It’s sort of the world’s best kept secret in terms of music festivals, and while the genre is very specific to techno and house music, there is so much that goes along with the people who love this style. Live sets with instruments and creative explorations help just about anyone down here to get into the music being played.

Everyone I talked to agreed that even though it was a packed 10-day festival with almost 10,000 people, the flow and vibe were both magic.

“Last year I came to BPM and thought everything was so great, there would be no way to top it,” said artist Den Ishu. I met him at the Bob Moses live performance at "Scissors and Thread," which was a nice break from the more crowded previous shows. This one had a more intimate venue and crowd.

It was so easy to meet and talk to people, and then it became surreal for me when he shyly revealed he also had a music project, called Satin Jackets.

Bob Moses live set at a more intimate party at Scissors & Thread (Image by Christopher Pearce for TheBPMfestival.com)

Bob Moses at "Scissors & Thread." (Courtesy Christopher Pearce)

I held back telling him that one of his tracks was on my "Best of 2012" mix and instead punched my contact info into his phone. Meeting people down here was already making way more of an impact than I could have imagined.

Meanwhile, as we walked out the door, Bob Moses' vocalist ran out of the stage area after us, making sure he had a chance to give a member of our group a hug.

This is the environment where relationships and friendships flourish at the soul level.

“The event is just improving each year.” Ishu continued. “Everybody feels at peace and harmony and that ends up in a special mood at almost every event.”

I bumped in to him again and again throughout the week. Even though there was a steady flow of three or four day parties, four or five night parties and other pop-up surprise parties, you would keep seeing the same people everywhere. I loved it.

Maryrose Moses is a respected Chicago promoter who has been in the house music scene for more than a decade. She was part of the core group of industry heads who have attended BPM since its start.

We talked about some of the week’s stand-out moments, which for her included the "Planet E Showcase" with Stacey Pullen, Carl Craig and Davide Squllace.

“They put it on as a movement event,” she said. “It was straight up no fuss, just pure classic tehno tracks. Carl ended with the White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army' as the sun was coming up with everyone’s hands in the air.

“It definitely turned out to be the party of the night, and when I looked around all the heads that know what’s up were there to see it.”

When I asked about any specific mass marketing campaigns that got so many amazing people all the way down here and back every year, BPM co-creator Craig Pettigrew said there were none.

“We would much rather build a core audience that really is true to the brand and true to the music than do something just to get a bunch of people in the doors,” he said.

"Culprit" at Fusion on the beach featured Adriatique, Droog, Jozif and more. (Courtesy Christopher Pearce)

"Culprit" at Fusion on the beach featured Adriatique, Droog, Jozif and more. (Courtesy Christopher Pearce)

Pettigrew had come over to say hello when I was sitting with BPM director of operations Alessandra Axelsson. Both of their eyes literally sparkled when they talked about the festival's early years.

“Nothing will replace that first year, it was very special. We started out with four venues and it was very intimate.” Pettigrew said. “But you know what, if you know 10 cool people, they probably have 10 cool friends, and that’s who we see coming back each year."

It was day six when I talked to them as we shivered together in the outdoor "Baltic Lounge," three floors up from "Kool Beach." The rain had not stopped since day one and everything I brought to wear was still packed away in my suitcase. A pair of MC Hammer-style leggings, a soft scarf and jacket I bought at a nearby mall had become my festival uniform.

“You see rain in the forecast all the time down here,” said Axelsson, who is from Canada but now lives full-time in Mexico. “But that just means maybe a 20-minute rain shower on an otherwise beautifully sunny day.”

Nobody expected it to be a nonstop torrential downpour, however, so few were prepared.

Growing from 10 employees to 590, BPM has great local relationships and after working around the clock on the phones, they had all of the outdoor venues covered and back in action by day two.

When the sun finally did appear later in the week, it brought with it a huge surge of energy to take us through the second weekend. By then, we had partied in a cave, took over the street at a taco stand and partied again until the sun came up in a jungle. We could have easily burned out by then, but instead had a new-found energy which easily blasted us through the closing events.

On a constant journey to engage with other cultures, learn from my colleges around the world, and always be turned on to new music, I pretty much had everything I could ever want at this festival. There were quite a few lessons learned, but thinking back now, I'm happy there were obstacles to get past. It made me appreciate everything so much more.

Coming back home to begin tackling another very busy year, I’m totally in the right mindset.

Guess I'll probably just watch Coachella online this year.

The official mascots of the festival were at every event. I bet they have some great stories. (Courtesy Douglas Van Sant)

The official mascots of the festival were at every event. I bet they have some great stories. (Courtesy Douglas Van Sant)

BPM Festival Travel Guide:

» Grab a Schedule: Parties are listed by name not artist, so it can get confusing unless you grab the official schedule for the festival. It's also super cool to see all the flyer art.

» Pack Light: Comfortable clothing more than sexy dresses if you don’t normally wear sexy dresses. Bring at least one outfit suited for cold/rain, JUST IN CASE!

» Don't Plan: If there are artists you absolutely can’t miss, add them to your lineup in the BPM app, but otherwise leave your schedule open for the music label showcases and pop-up events.

» Network: Bring your business cards, even if you are just on vacation. There are some very heavy hitters in the music and hospitality industries who don’t miss this event. I saw Willis Haltom introducing himself and handing his card to everyone he met, a mega-super-pro move for a Hawaii-based artist and producer who runs his own label.

» Extend Your Stay: Most of the good parties happen in Tulum after the festival when the people who make it all happen are finally able to get down.

———

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.

SuperCW's Best of 2013

By
January 1st, 2014



I don’t know about you, but 2013 was definitely not a good year for me. I could even go as far to say it was the worst year of my life.

A lot of the pain and drama we bring on ourselves. I learned this long ago, but it wasn’t even that in 2013 — it was more like bad luck. If something could go wrong, it usually did.

I don’t want to dwell on any of it because the year is finally over, but there were definitely some significant setbacks. Whatever it was about this year, it’s over now. Finally.

Christa Wittmier. (Star-Advertiser File)

Christa Wittmier. (Star-Advertiser File)

Looking back was hard, but not impossible, and after I started thinking about some of the highlights of 2013, I noticed something different from years past. There are a lot of up-and-comers working hard to make a name for themselves. There were a lot that came and went too, which is still honorable – at least they tried. It’s a quick wakeup call that nightlife isn’t easy and things aren’t the way they used to be.

Venues have picked up on the idea that you can’t just hire a DJ, turn the lights down and expect a crowd to come. A dedicated marketing person working to create and implement strategies is key.

Promoters learned you can’t just post a flyer on Instagram and expect hundreds of people at a party. There are some fundamentals that people who only see the surface of what veterans are doing might be missing.

“Promoters need to be out every night,” said Lance Tsuchiya, owner of The Fix, earlier this year. “They need to be shaking hands, buying drinks for people, making that face-to-face contact. That is what is missing and that is what needs to be brought back.”

The good news is, there’s plenty of opportunity to do just that. I don’t know of any venue outside a hotel that would turn away someone who wants to bring them a regular event. As party people grow up and age out of the scene, we need to encourage the new generation to get down and dirty in the streets, for everyone’s sake.

In any case, here is "SuperCW's Best of 2013," according to me:

Best Party: 'Chitty Bang Bang' at The Republik

"Crush" at The Republik would have easily taken this award, but rookie promoter Yooey Kim - together with Candace Ho and Erin “Roxy On the Mic” Bunda — came and snatched it with the exact same party — just one that caters to girls who love girls.

A room full of people singing hip-hop anthems is just better when females are doing it. Nothing sexist about it, the vibe is amazing and it’s good to see someone willing to put in the work to come up as a promoter; Lord knows the veterans could use some competition to keep them on their toes.

It's all about the ladies who love ladies — and those who love them — at "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" at The Republik. (Star-Advertiser File)

It's all about the ladies who love ladies — and those who love them — at "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" at The Republik. (Star-Advertiser File)

“Sometimes LGBT can become so catering to their identity they actually segregate themselves, adding to the label that they are different from others” Kim said. “We have never seen being LGBT as something in our lives that was special or anything different from anyone else.”

Striving to keep it fresh, the trio constantly works with The Republik's management to make improvements to the party each month.

The results are real — they see fresh, new, unfamiliar faces each month, and they all come early and stay late. It’s essentially a dream event.

Great job, ladies. I am a fan.

Best Concert: Empire of the Sun

Yeah, right. Like anyone could pull out one show and say it was the best all year.

Luke Steele and Empire of the Sun performed at The Republik in November 2013. (Star-Advertiser File)

Luke Steele and Empire of the Sun performed at The Republik in November 2013. (Star-Advertiser File)

So many genres, so many amazing performances; I was even blown away by local band Streetlight Cadence’s final song in the "Bacardi Iron Band" competition that immediately snagged them the win from punk lords Sandpaper H-----b.

And don’t even get me started on The Cure’s three-hour-plus set on a weeknight that pulled out all the gems after a dim mid-section which had a lot of day-players already asleep for work the next morning.

However, one show still stands out for me. Mention Empire of the Sun to anyone who happened to be at their concerts in Honolulu this year and you'll see their face light up immediately.

This was the first show at The Republik to benefit from a new LED wall display, and Empire of the Sun's synthy-pop upbeat music, together with the new technology, made the shows unforgettable. I had to make a Spotify playlist of their set and played it on repeat for at least a month afterward. I was actually worried for a bit because I couldn’t listen to anything else.

I swear, they hypnotized us. Whatever happened, this definitely was an all-around great experience for me. Definitely the best of this year, maybe even my life.

Best Comeback: Hawaii Symphony Orchestra

“Congratulations, we are a sold-out crowd tonight,” Paul Kosasa said to the audience at the Blaisdell Concert Hall just minutes before the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and Oahu Choral Society delivered a powerful performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

It was late on a Monday night, yet the concert hall was packed. Looking around, I saw a promising amount of younger people in attendance, but they were still outnumbered by those in their golden years. This is concerning to me, as more and more of our generation doesn’t see the value in paying $70 to $100 for tickets to see these masterworks performed.

How can I even try to explain the feeling you get when the bass quietly announces a familiar tune before a soul-rattling final delivery happens, or the energy in the room as you can actually feel the support pouring forward from the audience toward the stage?

I guess I won’t, but I am excited beyond belief the musicians have had such a successful 2013 season and am looking forward to the Spring 2014 Masterworks Series. Bravo to their online presence and posts, creating a community of like-minded people on their Facebook page, too.

Best Downtown Establishment (Tie): RaKuen Lounge & Mercury Bar

Anthony Carll makes a point to introduce you to his staff when you’re in his bars. He knows bartenders who are warm and welcoming are what keep people coming back.

“Service in the restaurant is the most important aspect to keeping the restaurant alive,” he said. “We try to make the experience as memorable as possible. We hold all staff training on new dishes and cocktails and we as a staff are constantly looking to grow. We work together as a whole, taking feedback from all levels and trying to improve and never settling for just okay.”

Party people dressed in holiday attire during the "12 Bars of Christmas" pub crawl fundraiser on Dec. 14 at RaKuen Lounge in Chinatown. (Star-Advertiser File)

Party people dressed in holiday attire during the "12 Bars of Christmas" pub crawl fundraiser on Dec. 14 at RaKuen Lounge in Chinatown. (Star-Advertiser File)

Carll operates RaKuen Lounge and the Mercury Bar in Downtown, but has his hands in quite a few other businesses as well, including tattoos, hot dogs, sake and whiskey. While he is younger than most, he is already about 50 in Chinatown businessowner years. The community of small business owners in this area has refused to follow anything but their own visions, and this is what keeps the neighborhood special and unique.

A lot have said they seen more life in Chinatown in 2013, and its people like Carll who will do everything it takes to help keep the neighborhood thriving.

Best Just Best Best Best: thirtyninehotel

This gallery/bar/event space has always and will continue to be the best for me. The place is magical and has a vibe and consistency all its own.

The outdoor lanai at thirtyninehotel is a favorite among many Chinatown regulars. (Star-Advertiser File)

The outdoor lanai at thirtyninehotel is a favorite among many Chinatown regulars. (Star-Advertiser File)

From the moment you walk up the stairs here, you are already a bit calmer than you were outside. They have staff that greet you by name and can make a drink based on how you're feeling. The art is carefully curated here, the music even more.

Weekly events bring smaller, but more thought-provoking people who I am always eager to get to know. They have paved the way for all the contemporary Chinatown venues and most in the area know and respect this.

Congratulations, thirtyninehoel – you will always be the Best Best Best, according to me.

More of my favorites from 2013:

» Best Party Flyer: DJ Ramyt/AYA

» Best Day Drinking: Mai Tai Bar

» Best Happy Hour: Bevy

» Best Promotion: "Iron Bar" Series at The Republik

» Best Go-Go Dancer: Cherry Lei

» Best Nightclub: M Nightclub

» Best Bar: Pint & Jigger

» Best Bloody Mary: Downbeat Lounge

» Best Operations: Element Group

» Best Hamburger Slider: Manifest Hawaii

» Best DJ: DJ Delve

» Best Band: Sandpaper H-----b

» Best New Event: Hawaii Fashion Month

» Best Sunday Night Party: The Study at the Modern Honolulu

» Best Monday Night Party: "#IN" at Lulu’s Waikiki

» Best Tuesday Night Party: "Ha-Chuesdays" at Tsunami Hawaii

» Best Every Night Party: Bar Seven

» Best Up and Comer: DJ Tittahbyte

» Best Friday Party Spot You Don’t Know About: Rumfire Waikiki

» Best Dinner: Vintage Cave

» Best Brunch: YogurStory

» Best Pop-Up Space: CoExist Studio

» Best Monthly: "Honolulu Night Market" in Kakaako

» Best Weekly Party: "#IN" at Lulu's Waikiki

Of course, this is all according to me. I am not out as much as I would like to be, but these things really stood out in my world over the past year. What were your favorites?

———

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.

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