Archive for September, 2014

The low-key nightlife queen

By
September 24th, 2014



I'm so tired of those list posts everyone shares in their Facebook feeds. There’s hardly any I actually click through to read — save for the too-enticing, eye-dragging images of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. (Hello, Great Blue Hole in Belize!)

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER The effortlessly stylish, extremely intelligent, yet tremendously humble Sarah Honda. She's an incredible dancer, too.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER

The effortlessly stylish, extremely intelligent, yet tremendously humble Sarah Honda returns to New York next month after a decade at home in Hawaii. She's an incredible dancer, too.

So I didn’t need to read through a recent list of the 18 Worst Things About Hawaii tons of my friends shared to know it was probably all true. The truth is, to me, the worst thing about Hawaii is saying goodbye.

This weekend will be the toughest goodbye for me to date, as someone in my very close circle of friends is taking on the opportunity of a lifetime with one of the largest media groups in the world.

The sum and scope of people Sarah Honda made an impact on while back home is huge. While most of the current nightlife generation knows her as a stylish, stern and devoted VIP host at both Addiction Nightclub and the Bacardi Pool Party I help produce, the Punahou graduate has been involved with or created nearly everything cool that’s happened in Honolulu over the past decade.

Next month she returns to New York City, where she spent almost all of her 20s, after holding a number of jobs in the local publishing industry — including her final gig before moving, a stint as an editorial director at Oahu Publications, the parent company of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

I met Honda in 2005 when she ran the hippest and most colorful fashion publication, Smart Magazine, with business partners Amy Alston and Molly Watanabe. They were known for hosting fabulous parties that drew a who's who of guests to the old W Honolulu, and that's where we crossed paths.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIERSarah Honda, right, with promoter Flash Hansen, second from right, and friends at a Glitter & Glamour party at Nextdoor in 2006.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER

Sarah Honda, right, with promoter Flash Hansen, second from right, and friends at a Glitter & Glamour party at Nextdoor in 2006.

It was there she also met and began working with Flash Hansen and Matty Hazelgrove, two of the most successful promoters at the time. For the next four years Sarah was a VIP host at the hottest parties all over town; she helped take care of guests at nightclubs, hotels, hotel sky lounges, restaurants, Chinatown, pretty much anywhere there was a place to party in Honolulu.

Not a single one of these venues are open anymore, but I'll bet there are still quite a few people who remember Sarah from SKYLiNE at the Hanohano Room or its spinoff party, Two at Palomino. She could also be found at Wonderlounge at the W Honolulu, Pussycat Lounge at Fashion45, The Candy Bar at Pearl Ultralounge, Hapa at PF Chang's and even Cancun Thursdays at Señor Frog's Waikiki.

Not as noticeable in Hawaii was the mark she left in New York. From time to time — usually when a big hip-hop star was in town — someone would see her and run over to give her a huge hug, reminding the rest of us how our friend was a pretty big deal prior to coming home. Her hyper-humble nature hides the fact she had a very successful music management career during a golden era of hip-hop in the city where it all started.

Once she was back in Honolulu, Honda became a key player in many philanthropic organizations, exposing her passion for the arts and education. After serving in various capacities with the Hawaii International Film Festival, she departed in 2009 to launch Interisland Terminal with Wei Fang, Anderson Le, Sean Shodahl and Ben Trevino.

COURTESY JASON GENEGABUSSarah Honda, left, poses for a photo with Maleko McDonnell, Lacy Matsumoto, Molly Watanabe, Honolulu Star-Advertiser Entertainment Editor Jason Genegabus and Rick Smoot in Chinatown, circa 2007.

COURTESY JASON GENEGABUS

Sarah Honda, left, poses for a photo with Maleko McDonnell, Lacy Matsumoto, Molly Watanabe, Honolulu Star-Advertiser Entertainment Editor Jason Genegabus and Rick Smoot in Chinatown, circa 2007.

A very intelligent, creatively conscious group, Interisland Terminal focused on programming in areas including film, design, food and art. Some of my favorite programs were the Jeff Staple pop-up shop and discussion, anything they did at Kakaako coworking space and coffee shop R&D, along with tons of innovative food and art events.

Interisland Terminal's current project, Kaka‘ako Agora, is unlike anything else in Honolulu. They have taken a warehouse at 441 Cooke Street and turned it into a beautiful indoor pavilion for the community that has already hosted tons of creative events.

Being inside Kaka‘ako Agora is as invigorating as it is ingenious. It's also where Honda's friends and colleagues can wish her good luck this weekend before her departure for New York; a free farewell party will get started at 9 p.m. Saturday.

"Hawaii is always in my heart and I take it wherever I go,” she said. “It truly makes me who I am. (But) I am excited to move back to New York. I lived there for nine years.

“I will be working at Complex Media and its network of websites, including Four Pins, Pigeons & Planes, First We Feast, Sole Collector and more.”

There have already been jokes of starting a Sarah Honda support group for those of us who will undoubtedly suffer from withdrawals — the kind of joking where we chuckle then realize it's actually true. I really am trying to keep my cool and be happy for my friend. Sadness would be selfish.

This is such a huge opportunity, but I can’t help but keep thinking its the people of New York who are the lucky ones. They get Sarah Honda.

———

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.

The perils of performance enhancers

By
September 17th, 2014



The entertainment industry was rocked this week by the news that Robin Thicke was under the influence during all the recording and promotion for his summer 2013 smash hit, “Blurred Lines.”

ASSOCIATED PRESSRobin Thicke, left, performs with Pharrell Williams at the annual Wal-Mart Shareholders in June.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Robin Thicke, left, performs with Pharrell Williams at the annual Wal-Mart Shareholders in June.

A copyright infringement lawsuit initiated last fall by Marvin Gaye’s estate has produced depositions by both Thicke and producer Pharrell Williams. They aren’t pretty.

Not only do we learn that Thicke, credited as a co-writer on the hit single, had much less involvement in the creation of the song — he was also nursing a very heavy alcohol and painkiller habit.

“I was high on vicodin and alcohol when I showed up at the studio,” Thicke said, admitting Williams had about 75 percent of the song written when he arrived to record his vocals. He also admitted to lying in media interviews and “not being sober” for any of them.

In an industry where performers make more money than they can spend and everything is at their fingertips, it can become easy to fall victim to the lure of drugs and alcohol. In Thicke’s case, it’s his vindication for taking any responsibility for his actions. In most performers' cases, that's what can keep them from staying focused and successful.

“The sole purpose of our job as nightclub DJs is to encourage drinking,” said Frederick Bogel Grimmel III, aka DJ Fred Matters one recent weekend at the Modern Honolulu. He was in town to perform at Addiction Nightclub, but came by my lunch meeting to say hello before heading to a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting — one of his favorite things to do when he travels to another city.

COURTESY FRED MATTERS"It's easier to understand a crowd when sober," said Fred Matters, who performs regularly at the Project Club in Los Angeles.

COURTESY FRED MATTERS

"It's easier to understand a crowd when sober," said Fred Matters, who performs regularly at the Project Club in Los Angeles.

With residencies in Hollywood and Las Vegas, the SKAM Artist has been sober for a little more than two years, but credits alcohol for helping him to be more social. Now Grimmel wouldn’t trade anything for his sobriety.

“It’s the most important thing in my life,” he said. “I'm very lucky to do what I do. Being sober allows me to really appreciate how lucky I am to play music.”

Hawaii-based DJ, producer and recording artist Jerel Ronquilio — better known as Osna, aka Osnizzle — was on his way to Australia when I caught up with him to talk about his sobriety.

Unlike Grimmel, Ronquilio has never touched drugs or alcohol. He's always been known for his outlandish humor and has entered and mastered many avenues of performing, from MC battles to viral videos. Now he's making his way around the world as a touring DJ with the Common Kings, and this week he'll kick off a stint opening for Justin Timberlake on the pop superstar's The 20/20 Experience world tour.

I've only gotten a small taste of what being on a world tour could be like after watching Swedish House Mafia’s documentary on their final Leave the World Behind tour. It didn’t look so much glamorous as it did emotionally and physically draining. Only knowing what it’s like to go from a day job to a gig (sometimes two), then back to the day job, I can feel for these artists who must remain on point. There really isn’t time to be wasted.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2013Despite his crazy antics on stage and in social media posts, DJ Osna has never touched alcohol or drugs.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2013

Despite his crazy antics on stage and in social media posts, DJ Osna has never touched alcohol or drugs.

“I remember everything that happens in a crazy party night,” said Osna. “Plus I'm sober enough to hold the camera still while I capture my friend’s most regretful decisions.

“I know many DJs who've lost their jobs because of drugs and alcohol,” Grimmel said. “They burn out and the lifestyle catches up with them.”

Talking to more and more local DJs, I learned many who I respect the most stay sober while in the booth.

“Reading a crowd seems to be a sometimes lost art, especially when every time you play it's raging and people will cling on to whatever you play,” said Isaac Ikeda, aka DJ Frizel. “Being sober in situations other than that though helps develop a clear picture on your crowd, making captivation and even churning a lot easier.”

While many artists have lost their lives to substance abuse, Thicke has really only lost his credibility. The key is moderation, which is something that takes a while to learn, if it is ever truly learned. Do you want to be successful or do you want to lose your mind, your integrity or even your life?

Sometimes one path seems more enticing than the other. Hopefully these very public controversies can be a lesson to stay on track.

———

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.

Fashion forward

By
September 10th, 2014



I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the best at being stylish. Shopping is usually a rush through Nordstrom Rack grabbing everything bright and colorful then never wearing it. I have the same four T-shirts in a regular rotation but am putting in more effort to be brave enough to wear a dress here and there.

I do try. It’s just not my thing. But these days, I’m spending a lot more time than usual trying to keep up with the trends — or at least not stand out as the most casually dressed woman in the room.

The seasonal change from summer to fall is a huge one in the fashion industry, and I’ve been enjoying all the social media posts coming from New York Fashion Week. But I’ll be looking forward to all the floral and lace disappear; not necessarily on everyone else, but for me it’s a bit too frilly.

I like color blocks, basics, anything that says, “I’m here!” but not, “Hey! Look at me!” Also, “I’m stylish!” but not “I’m trendy!” I'm going for more classy than kooky, but also with a creativity that gives me my own personal style.

Is that too much to ask?

BALLYPablo Coppola's Bloom Bag, part of the Fall 2014 Collection available at the Ala Moana store event Friday 5pm-9pm

COURTESY BALLY

Pablo Coppola's Bloom Bag, part of the Fall 2014 Collection available at the Ala Moana store event Friday 5pm-9pm

“Start with the shoes,” celebrity stylist Crystal Pancipanci told a room full of women earlier this year during a fundraiser for Aloha United Way Women’s United. That seemed easy enough, and I was pretty proud of a cute pair of strappy heels I found at Homecoming that didn’t kill me. Pancipanci was totally right; it was a lot easier to get dressed up when I had a killer pair of shoes to plan around.

Now it’s fall, and my awesome shoes have been worn so much the steel is protruding out of the heel. They click so loud when I walk, I’m pretty sure I wake up all of Makiki when heading to my car in the mornings. I should have fixed them or gotten a new pair months ago, but these are the only cute black heels on planet Earth that are stylish AND comfortable. I think?

On Friday, Bally Ala Moana will reveal their exceptional fall line of handbags and shoes. When it comes to style and durability, I trust a Swiss brand that’s been around for 163 years.

Newly appointed Creative Director Pablo Coppola designed the AW14 collection that will be on display along with some bubbly and music by DJs Willis Haltom, Paul Brandon and yours truly from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Ala Moana store.

He's called the collection a “palette cleanser” for the brand, with shoes and bags in natural, earthy colors and lavish materials like suede and pony skin. Meant to be the sumptuous pieces that can last over time, I will definitely be looking for a pair of go-to, plan-around, look-at-me-but-don’t-look-at-me pumps at this party.

COURTESY PHOTOMSCLS is a rising producer who performs in Hawaii again Thursday at The Underground.

PLURSDAYS

Featuring MSCLS

» Where: The Underground, 1146 Fort Street Mall

» When: 9 p.m. Thursday

» Cost: $10

» Info: edmhawaii.info

LAST WEEKEND was one for the books. I had such a great time DJing on the maiden voyage of the EBC, or Electronic Boat Cruise. It reminded me of a more intimate Holy Ship!!! EDM party. I got to meet and talk to visiting artist Josh Vela, aka MSCLS from San Antonio, Tex. as he did a surprise set alongside CoonDog.

Vela pulled out some great music, and I found out later he produced a lot of himself. It was fun, bassy house with some fantastic disco influences everyone was able to groove to under the stars. His music has been described as a “more stripped-down Dirtybird sounds with some Duke Dumont-esque feels” by Do Androids Dance and I definitely heard his appreciation for the UK Garage sound, too.

He played the Electric Daisy Carnival this year and is currently on tour.

“He is super, super, super rising artist at the moment,” Coon told me. “His recent single, 'Like This' has garnered over 179,000 plays on Soundcloud.”

As we gear up for the 16th annual Love Festival at Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park on Sept. 27, it’s these weekly events at The Underground that regularly showcase the talent in both the local and visiting EDM community, allowing all EDM DJs to come and play whatever they want.

I got a small taste of that playing the boat when I dared to stretch the boundaries of what I was expected to play. The reaction was very positive and I’m so glad I did it. There’s nothing like doing something you truly love and having others love it too.

Now if only they would love my outfit.

———

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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