Archive for August, 2014

Sin City, minus the sin

By
August 27th, 2014



COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIERI insisted on taking this photo before we got on our plane to return home. I love my co-workers.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER

I insisted on taking this photo before we got on our plane to return home. I love my co-workers.

“Are you going to write about your trip to Las Vegas?”

That's what a tall flight attendant asked me as I waited for an airplane restroom to open up. I was lurking around the back of the plane because I heard after the crew distributes the first round of beverages to passengers, it’s open bar in the back.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIERThe author, who would normally never be able to afford a five-course dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas, enjoys her meal during a work trip to Sin City last weekend.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER

The author, who would normally never be able to afford a five-course dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas, enjoys her meal during a work trip to Sin City last weekend.

I was wrong about the open bar, but it was a nice excuse to stretch my legs and engage in an unexpected conversation. I'm not going to lie, it was also nice to find out that yes, people I have never met before actually recognize me and (even better) read the things I write in this blog.

“I’m actually not too sure,” I answered. It was a short trip – only two nights – and it was for work. I had to attend a big meeting with Remy Cointreau, and while that’s still pretty damn exciting (COGNAC!), I was a bit overwhelmed from visiting the city for the first time.

I wasn’t sure where to start.

Being there for work was pretty amazing. The liquor business and Las Vegas are like peanut butter and jelly or vodka and soda; they go together beautifully. Working in the liquor business gives me the opportunity to do things I normally can't in the popular adult playground.

I don’t make enough money to drop a couple thousand on any one night in a club and I don’t ever pretend to be that kind of baller. Sure, dropping a couple hundred at SKYLiNE when I was in the Navy wasn’t a big thing, but as I grow older it just gets more and more trivial to spend so much money on a $30 bottle of alcohol that is gone in an hour, consumed by people who may or may not even be your friends.

Of course I get it. It's the whole experience factor, and in a town like Vegas it's pretty much the only way to experience a nightclub. You need a place to chill, otherwise you're stuck on a packed dance floor. I wondered to myself more than once if the crowd of people standing on the huge floor in front of the DJ were paid to be there, filler promotions staff hired by the club. For some reason it just made no sense to me that people could enjoy being packed in a place with no option but to dance.

It's only now as I write this that I realize how old and cynical I've become. I see people doing that every weekend at M and Addiction and Vice and they seem to be perfectly happy. That's the whole point of clubbing. People are there to rage, to blow off steam. It's not my thing, but I can see it's definitely something.

Still, I liked my bird perch. For once in my life I felt like fellow Pulse blogger Derin Derego.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIEREnjoying the fanfare at our small potatoes, $5,000 table, one of the cheapest available at the grand opening of LIFE Nightclub in the new SLS Hotel in Las Vegas.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER

Enjoying the fanfare at our small potatoes, $5,000 table, one of the cheapest available at the grand opening of LIFE Nightclub in the new SLS Hotel in Las Vegas.

On the plane ride home I was thrilled to see Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” among the movie selections, which I watched twice. There was a part where Jeff Goldblum’s indelible character, the executor of an estate, pats a huge pile of papers and says everything is there except one thing. There was one thing that he knew was missing but he didn’t know what it was. He just knew it wasn’t there.

I chuckled out loud at this because that’s exactly how I felt in Las Vegas. As I looked around the room in multi-million dollar nightclubs with state-of-the-art lighting, projected visuals and pounding progressive house, I couldn’t help but think about all the dark nooks and crannies there must be in this town. I wanted to explore beyond the expensive hotels and clubs and find the weird stuff.

I knew it was there; I just didn’t know what it was. More importantly, I didn’t have time to search it all out.

Still, it was a fantastic couple of days learning and bonding with my co-workers and the best way possible to visit the city for the first time. Liquor professionals definitely know how to wine and dine and only get more charming as the cognac and champagne kicks in. As cliché as it might sound, I feel very grateful to work in an industry with such great people.

It’s difficult to put it all into words, so I’ll just look forward to the Labor Day weekend and hopefully see a lot of you out enjoying it. Events that look good to me include Soul Time in Hawaii at Bevy and, of course, Art + Flea on Thursday; the Party After Art at eleven44 on Friday; Manifest celebrating five years with a '90s party that’s absolutely going to invoke belly laughs and great photos; and of course my Bacardi Pool Party is Monday.

It’s nice to be home.

———

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.

Portland stole my heart

By
August 20th, 2014



“This has been the most incredible trip so far and nothing I'm here for has even started yet!” I posted to my Facebook last week Sunday, Aug. 10.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER

Mr JPatt of The Knocks with "Project Runway" winner and Portland native Michelle Lesniak and her husband Manny at Electric Summer PDX: Low Key No Big Deal.

I usually refrain from posting too much to my Facebook stream — that’s what Twitter is for — but I just couldn’t help myself. This trip to Portland is even better than the last one. I realized that this city has everything that Hawaii doesn’t.

Don’t worry though! All that really is, is nice crispy, jacket weather at night, evergreen trees and boys who like me. After living in a city amongst so many perfect 10 supermodel-looking women, that last thing is feeling very refreshing. I really needed this trip.

Sunday was the Electric Summer PDX event my friends Tia Vanich and Chef Gregory Gourdet put together that had everyone, even the out-of-towners, saying it was the best event they have ever attended. Since it was invite-only with very strict access, everyone inside was extra stoked to be there and every conversation I had with someone new was awesome.

Listening to the DJs before me play on the Funktion One sound system (one of the best in the world) was pretty nerve-wracking, but sitting with Mr JPatt of The Knocks and seeing he was nervous too helped a lot. He had just come from a huge festival in Montreal with thousands of people and an after-party where he played with Jesse Andrews, Dillon Francis and The Bixel Boys. If he was nervous, too, then how I was feeling was completely okay.

JAMES PATTERSONThe first song is always the scariest in a new city.

COURTESY JAMES PATTERSON

The first song is always the scariest in a new city.

There were a few times I wanted to go back in my crate and switch some things out, seeing how much everyone loved deep house and tech-house. I realized these people really loved and understood intelligent bass music.

My set was an hour of beautiful daytime Tropical House since I was the only DJ from Hawaii and one of three from out of town. I wanted to bring exactly what I love to them, but it freaked me out!

I decided to go with my instincts and opened with ColeCo and I’m so glad I did. Out of the woodwork came some of the most beautiful, goddess-like women to dance. The sun was still out so I could see everyone’s face and with the exception of one beard-stroking, intently-staring, plaid-shirt-wearing guy, all of the faces were smiling. More and more people came out to dance, and when I glanced behind me even Mr JPatt had stood up to dance for the first time that day.

COURTESY PHOTO600 of Tia and Gregory's closest industry friends at White Owl Social Club.

COURTESY ELECTRIC SUMMER PDX

600 of Tia Vanich and Chef Gregory Gourdet's closest industry friends at White Owl Social Club.

This was when I was able to get into the zone and really give them exactly what I loved. It was the best set I’ve ever played, made up entirely of all the music I loved for people who loved it too.

Later that night after I finished, I got hugs from strangers, with many asking for my Soundcloud URL. It’s not the first time that’s happened, but there is nothing in the world better than connecting with new people through your music, especially in another city.

I was a bit terrified to be in a lineup with so many superstars and even local heavyweights, but afterward one of the local DJs invited me to play with him at another gig later in the week. It was exactly the validation I needed to keep me motivated.

I'll be heading to Las Vegas for the first time ever in my life on Friday, so I'll be missing another weekend in Honoulu. It's two weekends too many.

Portland has definitely nestled itself deeply into my heart, but (as usual) I can't wait to get home to Hawaii.

———

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.

Soulful house and a full belly

By
August 13th, 2014



Welp. There goes summer.

While I still happen to be recovering from First Friday, this weekend it’s already third Friday — which means it’s Soulgasm time in Chinatown.

The First Friday nightlife can lean more towards rage on the party scale, but the monthly Soulgasm party at Bar35 keeps it clean with a more, well, soulful vibe. The music featured is house and the regulars there love to dance.

PETER CHIAPPERINOSome of the Soulgasm regulars ready for Third Friday

SOULGASM

Featuring House Dance Hawaii and AC Lewis

» Where: Bar35 35 N Hotel St.

» When: 9 p.m. Friday

» Cost: $10

» Info: soulgasmhawaii@gmail.com

Lyanne Brooks always brings in guest artists and dancers to the feel-good event, and this month is no exception as she hosts AC Lewis from Seattle. Lewis has a rich history in funk, soul, deep house and jazz, which is how he caught the attention of Yoruba Records visionary Osunlade. Known for his legendary DJ sets, he will be accompanied by Soulgasm residents Yuji, Min One, and Matt Kee.

If dancing is your thing, you have a shot at winning some cash this month as Brooks hosts the sixth annual House Dance Hawaii during the event. She will have judges scoring individuals based on their creativity, expression and technical ability. As of Monday night she already has 11 signups and the list is growing. With the competition and guest dancers, including Aerilox, Cordao de Ouro, Diverse Art Center, Nathaniel Whittaker and the Housing Project 360, there is going to be extremely minimal blank space on the dance floor at Bar35 that night.

IT'S GOING to be hard to miss this weekend in Honolulu, but only slightly. I’m heading back to Portland to enjoy another year of the Forest For The Trees art event.

What started as a Pow! Wow! Hawaii-incubated mural project now stands on its own legs hosting 20 artists from all over the world to paint at more than a dozen mural sites. A lot of the participants are already in my (hanai) family from our Hawaii event, but it’s been really amazing to get to travel and see them work abroad as well.

I would have possibly saved my vacation days and watched the event grow over the Internet if I hadn’t been invited to play at the Electric Summer PDX event that kicks off the same weekend. It’s going to be my first ever gig outside the state of Hawaii, and I’m beyond thrilled for how it came to be.

STEPHAN T HERRERAToo cool for school: Electric Summer Event Co-Creators Tia Vanich and Chef Gregory Gourdot in Portland.

COURTESY STEPHAN T. HERRERA

Too cool for school: Electric Summer Event co-creators Tia Vanich and Chef Gregory Gourdot in Portland.

In the spirit of how we grew Pow! Wow! Hawaii, I now have a family in Portland after traveling there last summer. I met and became very close with Tia Vanich, a gangster-as-hell event producer who I could tell had a long-time history in the food and beverage industry the second we met, mainly by how the staff at the staff at the restaurant we were at doted over her and us. She was at the artist dinner with her best friend, Chef Gregory Gourdet from Departure Restaurant & Lounge, and we all instantly became friends over the next couple of hours.

After staying at their gorgeous house on a layover last year, she stayed with me during Pow! Wow! Hawaii in February, inking the deal that we are basically family.

Electric Summer PDX is Vanich and Gourdet’s collaboration event for friends and family in the restaurant, music and production worlds to all enjoy a day off together. It started and has remained a backyard BBQ-style vibe for their friends. This weekend’s private event at the White Owl Social Club will host dishes from more than 20 Portland restaurants and five local DJs, plus three guest DJs, including myself and Pow! Wow! Hawaii 2014 artist Mr JPatt from The Knocks.

It’s all sort of what you would call a dream come true for me.

Speaking of The Knocks, you have to hear their new single. It’s been getting rave reviews from all the music blogs and backing from indie artists like Flight Facilities, RAC, Dave Edwards and more. It’s got exactly the upbeat pop sound over the disco roots I already knew Mr JPatt loves so dearly and could possibly be the single they need to break in to the mainstream.

My fingers are crossed. Either way, listening to this is definitely going to help stretch the summer feel-good vibes just a little bit longer. Trust me.

———

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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An ode to the bottle rat

By
August 6th, 2014



This weekend marks a significant event in super-fun music as The Chainsmokers descend on to Hawaii for a sold-out show Saturday at The Republik. The Facebook event page for the show has evoked a bit of discussion separating the “Selfie” lovers from fans who listened to their music well before the hit single was released.

The Chainsmokers AP

THE CHAINSMOKERS

Presented by Electric Palms Presents

» Where: The Republik, 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.

» When: 10 p.m. Saturday

» Cost: Sold Out

» Info: facebook.com

Personally, I'm in the middle ground, having first hearing them last spring when DJ Deko dropped their remix of Say Lou Lou’s “Julian” at the Fighting Eel fashion show, which caused me to run over to him after I couldn’t Shazam the track.

Hearing it played out I instantly knew it was the perfect opening track to my summer mix, but was having a hard time finding it. I knew this was exactly the song I needed – the perfect indie upbeat sound that can carry an entire mix with its light pop aesthetic crying out, “BE HAPPY, DAMN IT!!!”

“Selfie” is to The Chainsmokers, however, what “Harlem Shake” was to Baauer. A perfectly timed crossover anthem that was played too much, too fast — turning true fans off quite a bit and making otherwise underrated, underpaid producers rich and opening doors they may have never otherwise seen opened so quickly.

I think it’s awesome and a well-deserved achievement for the duo who have been consistently putting out great music. Next week brings the debut of The Chainsmokers new weekly radio show on SiriusXM, “Nice Hair with The Chainsmokers,” which will air on the Electric Air channel starting on Aug. 18. I’m looking forward to this as they will use it as their avenue to play up-and-coming acts (which they have a very keen ear for) and also display their quirky humor.

“SELFIE” IS both annoying and relevant as an ode to the bottle rat, which is probably why the female voice over on the track is almost impossible to listen to.

The sad thing is, people really talk like that. The sadder thing? Now bottle rats have an anthem for themselves, seemingly justifying their irritating and narcissistic behavior.

Can I just say this now? It’s not cool to talk like that.

COURTESY CRAIG GIAMBRONEThe Chainsmokers cash cow single isn't popular with everyone, but they're laughing all the way through the festival circuit and their tour straight to the bank off its success.

COURTESY CRAIG GIAMBRONE

The Chainsmokers cash cow single isn't popular with everyone, but they're laughing all the way through the festival circuit and their tour straight to the bank off its success.

As irritating as that voice can be, bottle rats are a necessary evil. As someone who actually pays for bottle service, I know it’s not as fun to party VIP-style unless you have people to share it with. There are roughly 25 drinks in a liter bottle of Grey Goose, and if any one person drinks that in a night they are legally dead anyway. So why not share?

If those people happen to be gorgeous and fun females who love to dance and smile and be seen, well, there really isn’t too much wrong with that. It’s too loud to have thoughtful, insightful conversations anyway. True friends are awesome — especially when it’s time to pay and tip the server — but sometimes you just need a little padding.

According to bottle service regular Jason Nagamine, a bottle rat is someone “in a group, (who is) attractive and wanting free drinks.”

“They will be scarce if they aren't getting free drinks without effort,” he said. “So they are a controllable evil.”

“Their favorite pastime when not in the club is posting selfies,” fellow bottle service regular Chad Yamamoto said. “They do this for two reasons. The main (one) is to validate their existence. The second is so we don't forget what they look like just in case we forgot what they looked like since the last selfie they posted probably three or four hours before.

“Bottle rats are actually very insecure. They need the likes and comments from their selfies because of their lack of self-esteem, hence the word selfie. Yes they are beautiful, but the sad reality is more than likely they grew up being reinforced that the only thing they have going for them is their looks.”

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2014Let the professionals handle it: Heading to The Manor's two-year anniversary on Friday at M Nightclub? Be sure to tell one of the club's bottle service hostesses, pictured, who your guests are to avoid a bottle rat infestation at your table.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2014

Let the professionals handle it: Heading to The Manor's two-year anniversary on Friday at M Nightclub? Be sure to tell one of the club's bottle service hostesses, pictured, who your guests are to avoid a bottle rat infestation at your table.

My verdict? It’s our own fault for continuing to host and encourage this behavior. We want the beauty and flashiness, then we complain when people take advantage.

If we want people to contribute, it needs to be communicated when they are invited. If everyone scatters when it’s time to pay the bill, just don’t invite them again. The best part about Hawaii is dime piece club girls are a dime a dozen, and new 21-year-olds who want to party keep showing up.

As long as we are the ones paying for the drinks we hold the cards. How many friends do we want when we are out? How good do we want our table to look? How much fun do we want to have? It's up to us at the end of the day.

As much as I love The Chainsmokers and hate “Selfie,” it definitely rings true so I can tolerate it. Just like bottle rats — if I don’t want to hear them I can just turn it off.

———

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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