Heartbreak in Honolulu

April 23rd, 2014

The nightlife scene suffered significant losses this month with the announcements that two weekly Wednesday night parties were ending. Riana "DJ Tittahbyte" Stellburg's Gravity party bid goodbye to Manifest last week, while Crush at Safehouse inside The Republik with Jonathan "DJ Compose" Ablan and Tina "DJ Anit" Viernes wraps up tonight.

Crush may have been the party that lasted longer, but I'm more bummed out about Gravity shutting down. Stellburg was definitely ahead of the curve with her music programming, which makes me sad the party didn’t totally blow up. Her style of Heavy Bass and Future R&B is still a bit too new for the masses to understand, but there is a growing appreciation for the developing sound.

Riana "DJ Tittahbyte" Stellburg. (Star-Advertiser File)

Riana "DJ Tittahbyte" Stellburg. (Star-Advertiser File)

Gravity's failure isn't embarrassing by any means; Stellburg can hold her head high that she pioneered the genre in Honolulu, paving the road for up-and-coming promoters like Diamond & Dagger Collective and many others.

I mean, hello, she had Mr. Carmack playing her night! That guy is a legend and respected by all the top producers around. Signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent label, he was recognized by Gaslamp Killer as one of his personal favorites during Gaslamp's recent Red Bull Music Academy lecture. He could have easily sold out a show at The Republik, but there he was, casting a glorious shadow in the back of Manifest.

Even though you can't catch her at Manifest on Wednesdays anymore, Stellburg continues to maintain a monthly residency at DASH Gastropub, 1018 McCully St. DASH Social celebrates its one-year anniversary Thursday with food and drink specials starting at 9 p.m. She will also be a featured guest DJ at The Republik's Chitty Bang on May 1.

SO WHAT is it that’s keeping people from raging every week the way they used to?

“People are more fickle and savvy than ever now,” said BAMP Project's Flash Hansen. “You need to work that much harder to set it off. Plus, there are more concerts and shows than ever, which is a good thing.

“Chitty Bang is (still) a huge monthly for us. It’s a very consistent 400-plus through the door every first Thursday and easily the best dance party and vibe of anything I’ve seen the last few years. We also partnered with DJ Delve to start a new weekly, called Stiletto, starting April 30. That will cater directly to ladies.”

A new party with DJ Delve? Yes, please! More on that later. I still want to share what others think about weekly parties.

“I think they work only if the promoters are very dedicated and have a loyal following,” said Bevy co-owner Timo Lee (and one of my favorite DJs).

Bevy plans a weekly live music showcase on Wednesdays next month with live musicians from different genres. And if it's Bevy, you know the music is going to be good.

“People get bored,” offered Daniel Gray, one of the partners behind Nextdoor in Chinatown. “You have to keep it fresh.”

Nextdoor will kick off a new Wednesday party in May called #Selfie Wednesdays, with — you guessed it — prizes for the best selfies taken each week.

Chris Kam, aka DJ Delve. (Star-Advertiser File)

Chris Kam, aka DJ Delve. (Star-Advertiser File)

NOW BACK to DJ Delve, aka Chris Kam, who is well-known as one of the driving forces behind popular Chinatown monthly dance party Shake 'N' Pop.

“It’s very easy for people to fall in with a crowd where they feel safe. Or where they get the most free drinks. Or where they have the most photos taken of them. All of the parties I’ve DJed at, I have always focused on two things: having genuine fun and the music.

“I am a firm believer in giving a crowd the most relaxed atmosphere with a good-natured staff and music selection where the people feel like they can all let loose and dance till the house lights come up.”

That statement helped me immediately recall tons of memories, most of them huge crowds applauding Delve after the lights come back on and security has started to clear the club. It happens so much that I think we can even call that his “thing.”

“What I want to do with Stiletto is to create a fun weekly setting for ladies,” Delve said. “Musically covering a little of everything: early 2000s R&B and rap, twerk and trap, but also throwback soul/funk/doo-wop sing-along classics and nu-disco selections. (I'm) inspired by 1990s Janet Jackson videos and high school house parties.”

Delve's new party is the first in Honolulu to secure sponsorship from Beats By Dre; along with RVCA and BAMP swag, there will be highly-coveted giveaways for everyone and never a cover charge. With a track record that includes a successful Monday night industry party at Lulu’s and a residency at The Manor at M Nightclub, he recognizes the opportunity to tap in to a huge market of females who want to dance and have fun.

Jason Pollak, far right, gives his trademark bunny ears. This photo was taken during a trip to Indonesia with Pollak's friend, Tripoli Patterson. Pollak was killed in New York last weekend after being in a car accident. (Courtesy Matt Clark)

Jason Pollak, kneeling at right, gives his trademark bunny ears. This photo was taken during a trip to Indonesia with Pollak's friend, Tripoli Patterson. Pollak was killed in New York last weekend after being in a car accident. (Courtesy Matt Clark)

THERE WAS also heartbreak of a decidedly more serious nature last weekend with the news that Hawaii Pacific University graduate Jason Pollak was killed in a car accident in his hometown of Southampton, NY. The former Honolulu resident and nightlife entrepreneur died Saturday, leaving longtime girlfriend (and Honolulu It Girl) Casey Evans and many others in mourning.

Pollak launched social networking site The Jump Off in 2011, utilizing his natural marketing skills and very genuine and kind nature to find success. I met Jason when he sought me out to ask how much it would cost to sponsor the Bacardi Pool Party in 2011.

When I asked what he was looking for, he simply asked, “How much does it cost for instead of Bacardi Pool Party, it was the Jump Off Pool Party?”

I quoted him an ungodly large amount, not really taking him seriously.

“Done,” he said, without even flinching.

The party that followed was probably the best we ever did, with Major Lazer performing and hundreds of his target demographic turned on to his new social network. The campaign was a soaring success for everyone involved, and I was introduced to a very humble, yet very successful, surfer who had a knack for getting things done.

It’s funny when I think back to all the shade he would catch from guys I worked with. I understand how they would be threatened by this surfer from New York who was a supermodel-looking kid and also very business-savy for his age. It’s confusing for many to understand and accept that he was someone who simply worked hard and played hard.

When it came to his business, he took things very seriously and never missed meetings or blew anyone off. There are tons of us shocked and saddened by his untimely death. I will always remember the time we had together and my heart goes out to all of the lives he touched while living in Honolulu.


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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