Archive for February, 2014

Bringing Kakaako to Chinatown

February 26th, 2014

As my post-event depression after POW! WOW! Hawaii continues, I’m happy to see there is no shortage of artistic events happening in Honolulu.

Creative renaissance space Lana Lane Studios, a Kakaako warehouse that houses some of our city’s brightest in film, photography, art, design and music, will present a showcase of their many talents this week at the ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave., that will run through March 29. An opening reception is planned from 7 to 9:30 p.m. March 13; the exhibition will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lana Lane Studios will showcase its residents through March at The Arts at Mark's (Image by Greg Aguinas)

Lana Lane Studios will showcase its resident artists at the ARTS at Marks Garage. (Courtesy Greg Aguinas)

Watching this warehouse come to life over the last year and a half has been awe-inspiring, to say the least. It is a 5,000-square-foot living and breathing example of what can be accomplished when you combine dreams with a solid work ethic — and hard labor.

Lana Lane co-founder and manager Jeffrey Gress exemplifies this to a T. A former Navy man who spends his summers on Alaskan fishing boats and has a knack for construction, he has literally built much of space with his bare hands to include a music studio, outdoor stage and other improvements. He has screen printing equipment and will soon have a photo lab. Oh, and he’s also an amazing graphics designer, illustrator, painter, calligraphist and muralist.

The shared warehouse is home to many notables in the art community, including artists Ekundayo and Matt and Roxy Ortiz. It’s also home to filmmaking trio The Rising Sons, Banzai Media, musicians Nick Kaleikini and Anton Glamb, and Miso & Ale food mastermind Gavin Murai.

The space has hosted many creative community events, including “Sip & Sketch,” a 48-hour film competition, a few album launch parties, and the Pow Wow Hawaii School of Music, of course!

The exhibition at the ARTS at Marks Garage will showcase work by 19 of Lana Lane’s 24 resident artists; an opening reception will feature music by residents Nick Kaleikini and Anton Glamb with the “Ambassador of Aloha,” Danny Kaleikini, and futuristic hip-hop producer Rooks Royal.

Mardi Gras revelers in Chinatown during last year's block party. (Star-Advertiser File)

Mardi Gras revelers in Chinatown during last year's block party. (Star-Advertiser File)

TUESDAY IS the big Mardi Gras block party in Chinatown, which will breathe life into the neighborhood on a Tuesday night for the 14th year in a row. The free event will feature food vendors, Samba parades, six floats, face and body painting, and of course, BEADS!

Three outdoor stages will all feature live Samba music – some of the most fun music to wiggle to – and an afterparty will offer eight different clubs for people to scramble into when the streets open back up to traffic.


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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Familiar faces in new places

February 19th, 2014

Hi! I made it out of POW! WOW! Hawaii alive! What a journey it’s been. As I type this the artists are all being driven to the airport to catch their flights and I’m shaking my head out of a dream-like trance to get focused on events I need to coordinate at work.

If you aren’t already working on anything extra-curricular, I would highly suggest doing so. I was standing in the street at our block party on Saturday night, filled with so much pride listening to the kids in our Pow Wow School of Music perform original music they had written after a 10-day intensive workshop. They enjoyed special appearances and received critical feedback from successful recording artists — including Paula Fuga, James Patterson and Ta-Ku — who all walked out of there with their own overwhelming feelings of inspiration.

POW! WOW! Hawaii wrapped up a successful 2014 run last weekend. (Star-Advertiser File)

POW! WOW! Hawaii wrapped up a successful 2014 run last weekend. (Star-Advertiser File)

For any talent lucky enough to do what they love as their job, this was an opportunity to give back. You can’t put a price on that feeling. You do it for the love and passion of being able to inspire the kids. What you get in return is way more valuable, and the students’ performance on stage last weekend brought it all together.

The success of our POW! WOW! finale had much to do with partnering with "Honolulu Night Market," as there was a nice amount of overlap with their crowd and ours. What "Night Market" has built in Kakaako is such a blessing to our scene. They have been able to get up and going with very nominal profit margins; nobody is getting rich off these events.

What they have created is incredibly valuable though; the family-friendly environment with great food, music, art and fashion attracts thousands of people every month. sees the bigger picture and has staff who are passionate about building their community. As the future of Kakaako looms, all of us working to create these events will hold on to our passion and the celebration of creativity. Hopefully those feelings will endure through all the changes coming to the neighborhood.

Customers fill the Pinch of Salt warehouse during "Honolulu Night Market" in September. Pinch of Salt will move to a new location on Cooke St. in April. (Star-Advertiser File)

Customers fill the Pinch of Salt warehouse during "Honolulu Night Market" in September. Pinch of Salt will move to a new location on Cooke St. in April. (Star-Advertiser File)

On Saturday, "Night Market" will host a moving sale as they vacate the Pinch of Salt warehouse for a new location on Cooke Street between Pohukaina and Auahi. This area will continue to grow once Interisland Terminal opens their new project, a public gathering space called Kakaako Agora. Both a Pinch of Salt and Kakaako Agora will not be as permanent, but they do promise to foster community and creativity in the area. “Honolulu Night Market” will resume every third Saturday of the month at the new location starting April 19.

Doors for Saturday's moving sale open at 10 a.m. at 683 Auahi St. Admission is free.

ALSO THIS weekend, the hardest-working promoter in Hawaii hip-hop, Justin “DJ Bone” Kaneshiro, relaunches “Hip-Hop @ The Trops” at Tropics Tap House in Puck's Alley. The new Tropics Tap House is a reincarnation of sorts of the old Tropics Cafe at Ward Farmers Market, where Kaneshiro originally hosted the local hip-hop showcase.

DJ Bone, left, and Omega Cix will be at Tropics Tap House on Friday for the return of "Hip-Hop @ The Trops." (Star-Advertiser File)

DJ Bone, left, and Omega Cix will be at Tropics Tap House on Friday for the return of "Hip-Hop @ The Trops." (Star-Advertiser File)

Featured performers include local heavyweights Omega Cix, Ill Hill Society, Prie and Broke Mokes. Another highlight of the night will be a reunion set by rappers Pro (now known as Jim Hurdle) and Product. The party starts at 9 p.m. Friday; cover is $7 general admission, $3 for those with an event flyer or valid UH-Manoa student ID.


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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Catching Air on Piikoi

February 12th, 2014

I recently overheard someone in the break room at work mention we're coming up on a four-day weekend. It literally stopped me in my tracks.

Four day weekend? Wait. What?!?

Was I that buried in work, non-work-but-still-work and fun stuff that I had no idea it was already Thanksgiving?

The bar at Air Park Lounge (Image by Jon Lagon)

The bar at Air Park Lounge (Courtesy Jon Lagon)

Turns out my coworkers were talking about Valentine’s Day on Friday, followed by President’s Day on Monday. Valentine’s Day on a Friday pumps up Honolulu's restaurant and bar businesses quite a bit and makes for a very nice evening with no alarm clocks the next day. Some would consider that “holiday-like,” apparently.

A four-day weekend. For once I might be a little bit jealous of you couples. Just a tiny bit.

For those who are not coupled up, however, I found just the activity for you. No, it's not the smartphone hookup app Tinder — I'm talking about Air Park Lounge, the cutest little karaoke spot next to Ichikiri Loft on Piikoi. They just opened and I’m telling you, this place is hot.

Located on the second floor at 510 Piikoi, I stopped by Sunday when they opened at 5 p.m. for a quick look around. I found owner Chen Pan in a hallway, pushing a mop bucket out of a very posh-looking bathroom. “Upscale, but not pretentious” is what I'm told the lounge goes for — and this scene immediately depicted the phrase.

I went inside to meet general manager Shawn Gallus and his wife, Melissa, who showed me around the different rooms, including a larger area that could be sectioned off for large parties.

Everywhere Man Toby Tamaye in the Hello Kitty room at Air Park Lounge (Image by Jon Lagon)

Local marketing executive and Everywhere Man, Toby Tamaye, in the Hello Kitty room at Air Park Lounge. (Courtesy Jon Lagon)

Melissa was super warm and friendly and reminded me a lot of myself, as we've both traveled quite a bit but fell deeply in love with Hawaii the second we got here. I could see her excitement as she talked and it was contagious.

The lounge is gorgeous, with fine touches that add to the ambiance. From rainbow-colored LED uplight sconces along the walls to a fully tricked-out Hello Kitty-themed room, it’s obvious quite a bit of money was invested in this place. The lounge is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily and is already gaining popularity with people who live and work in the area, including KHON's media darlings who work just down the street.

The most obvious difference between this place and other karaoke lounges I've been to is the staff. Every employee I was introduced to had a very upbeat demeanor that was very genuine. They felt like my friends by the time I left and I found myself pretty excited to come back.

General manager Gallus has worked in the service industry since he was 13 years old. Having spent time in a white-glove tableside restaurant in Fort Collins, Colo. and working under a mentor who waited on dignitaries, Gallus understood from an early age what high service standards are all about.

“It let me see where service can go,” he said. “It’s not just waiting on people, there’s an art to it.”

Bartenders Christina and Kaylan at Air Park Lounge, my new best friends! (Image by Jon Lagon)

My new best friends! (Courtesy Jon Lagon)

After working in a few more high-end restaurants, Gallus found himself at Nobu Matsuhisa's namesake restaurant in Aspen, Colo., where he received his first level sommelier rank after learning the finer points of wine and champagne from Jay Fletcher, head of the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Gallus said he knew what to look for when recruiting his new staff at Air Park. While the ins and outs of beverage service can be taught, employees here also exhibit attributes that come from within.

“I have scholarship winners, an opera singer, a violinist,” he said. “They are all super smart girls.”

I don't plan to do anything romantic on Friday, so this is exactly the type of place I need. I could even go by myself.

I may not be as interested in their mega-modern touch-screen song selector plasma TVs or their 120,000 song list (in four languages) as others might, but I'm always down to order a glass of wine and enjoy my single life with a warm and friendly staff.


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.

GTA returns to Oahu

February 5th, 2014

I was thinking about the first rave I ever went to as I drove out to Kapolei last weekend.

It was in one of those abandoned subway (“tube”) tunnels in London with huge, heavy curtains separating the rooms. They had the main house area, a jungle room, a happy hardcore room, and one of my favorites – the garage room. I had no idea who was playing, and for the longest time we never really kept up with the DJs — just the style of music. That’s why you would see a genre listed next to every DJ on flyers back then (this was, like, 13 years ago).

This era, however, is all about the names. The DJs are at superstar level.

As far as superstar DJs go, you could say GTA are doing pretty well for themselves. Coming off a highly-coveted, superstar DJ bro-down summer camp on steroids cruise called “Holy Ship,” Matthew Van Toth (Van Toth) and Julio Mejia (JWLS) have played back-to-back sets alongside Diplo, toured with Rihanna, have an upcoming tour planned with Flume’s music project What So Not and recently signed their first record deal.

With thousands of screaming fans at every show and the electronic music holy grail that is another Ultra Music Festival slot this year in their hometown of Miami, these two are definitely ones to watch.

GTA. (Courtesy photo)

GTA. (Courtesy photo)

The performing producers are known for stretching the boundaries of genres and have produced all forms of music, including moombathon (before it was cool), electro (at the height of its popularity), trap (which should be over soon if it’s not already) and lately, a more future-sounding hip-hop that makes everyone’s booty bounce. Anyone who has seen GTA perform knows they were the perfect duo to warm up the crowd for DADA Life at Podium Raceway Park during "Winter Wonderland" on Saturday, Feb. 1.

When I got to the show it was messy, to say the least. Not just because of the rain and the overcrowded, insufferably hot venue, but because the boys were about to go on and they were having technical difficulties — Van Toth's USB sticks were corrupted and he was trying to move files from a MacBook he had no charger for that had four percent battery life left. I winced along with him, while JWLS sat there scrolling through his music in good spirits. You could tell he was pretty excited to get on stage.

CHRISTA WITTMIER: Hi Julio! So I wasn't planning to ask this until later but I have to know now. What was it like touring with Rihanna?

JWLS: Oh man, Rihanna is pretty awesome.

CW: Did you have to play a lot of mainstream music to open that show?

JWLS: Yeah, well you know, we were trying to play more commercial because it's a big pop crowd. Everybody is there for Rihanna.

CW: So you had to be more sensitive about what to play?

JWLS: Yeah, we're opening for her so in order for that to work we wanted to prepare the crowd for her, you know, get them amped up. That means playing stuff to get them in dancey mood and the only way to do that is to play songs they know.

CW: How did you like playing in Hawaii the last time you two were here?

JWLS: Actually that was one of my favorite shows last year. I love Hawaii; it's awesome. That was our first time here.

CW: Did you do any sightseeing last time?

JWLS: We didn't have a lot of time to do much, but Matt went and hiked up Diamond Head.

CW: Do you remember anything you ate?

JWLS: Amazing sushi at this place called Unagi.

CW: Have you done anything fun this time around?

JWLS: We went hiking. Today we went to... what's that crater?

(At this point, Van Toth turns around from his computer for the first time with a big smile.)

VAN TOTH: Kooleooo?

CW: Kuliouou! Did you eat anything good?

VT: Ahi tuna melt at this place called Kale's.

CW: You were here last year opening for Krewella. Did anything about that show stand out?

VT: I guess it was just like, I had never been here before and I hadn't heard much about the scene here and it was just very very surprising. Everybody was so into it. It was so awesome.

CW: Can you remember any specific tracks that took you by surprise when Hawaii fans responded to them?

VT: I do remember we have an edit that goes from Grizzly’s 'Bugatti' edit into one of Julio’s tracks that's like a trap song. We were just like, "Oh man, I don't know if it will work," then you see everyone going crazy.

GTA. (Courtesy photo)

GTA. (Courtesy photo)

CW: You guys put out a lot of trap, moombathon, dub step and electro house. Is there any genre you wouldn't go near?

JWLS: I mean we try to make everything. Lately we've been doing a lot of rap, not trap kind of rap, but like, you know, slower rap and stuff for radio. We’re also trying to work on different kinds of EDM, like the ghetto kind. More clubby stuff. Let’s see what else, like goofy house. I like garage.

CW: What was "Holy Ship" like?

JWLS: It was crazy. Like, I got off the boat and I think a day after I was just like, 'Man, I want to go back on!' But during that whole time it was literally just straight party party party party party.

CW: Any specific plans for this year's Hawaii set?

JWLS: I think right now we're probably going to play really intense music just to hype everyone up. We know Dada Life is like one of the craziest artists, especially their DJ sets. They’re super crazy; just amped up. We want everyone to go crazy and party.

CW: Tell me your dream lineup. Eight people. Go!

JWLS: Definitely Major Lazer. Tiesto is really sick. Laidback Luke.

VT: Major Lazer! Flosstradamus. Claude Von Stroke is really fun to watch. Joris Voorn.

CW: You guys are known for being more spontaneous in your sets. Is there something specific you see when you're looking in the crowd to know what they would want to hear? Like, “I see a lot of girls, I better play booty music.” Is there a method?

JWLS: It's really just trying to see what works. I get on the mic now and ask. I’ll say like "put your hands up" and if they do then they're feeling it. There will be times when we're playing a song and nobody's really dancing and you're trying to get up on the mic and they're not doing anything. That’s when you know you have to change your style. It's really just based off of people's reactions. If they're going crazy then you're doing a good job.

CW: Of all the cities you've been to, which has the best food?

JWLS: Hawaii.

CW: Best nightlife?

JWLS: New York has really good nightlife because they go late.

VT: Los Angeles does, but everything closes at 2 a.m.

CW: Best women?

JWLS: Australia

CW: Who's the gnarliest, most fun artist you've toured with so far?

JWLS: Definitely Rihanna. Rihanna is crazy. She’s really cool; we partied with her in Europe, in Australia. She knows how to have fun. She told us that she wanted to make some music we were like, SURE!

AFTER WE TALKED, they took the stage, opening with that "Bugatti" track — and the entire room went crazy. They kept the energy up for their entire set, setting the stage beautifully for Dada Life.

It was fun to go back and read all the feedback online after this show. Kids took to Facebook to express their disgust with the heat and the venue, only to be countered immediately by the “older” generation telling them they were spoiled.

“For real though, RAVE IS GRIMY, DIRTY, WET, AND FULL OF LOVE. If you can't comprehend that or handle it, then this scene is not for you!” one user posted.

The whole event page turned in to an older generation scolding the younger, telling them to be more appreciative of what they have, which made me very happy.

The people scolding were barely 21, but they are already seasoned party people. There are now more positive comments than negative; the love these people have for the music and for the party is awesome. It’s nice to see how appreciative they are of all the hard work it takes to put these kinds of productions together.


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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