Author Archive

Destination: Day of Silence in the Spring

By
April 25th, 2017



IMG_0037 As we approach spring, all of this busy-ness of work, social life, getting fit for summer, purging and cleaning, and just trying to stay balanced might take its toll on us.

Road-rage incidents in the news or planetary alignment freak-outs could be a result of the compounding stress. I know winter to spring for me used to be a harsh adjustment which was weird because it should be wonderful. It's SPRING!

I would be right there with you guys this year but I just got back from Bali.

Doing research to find more spiritual, internal sort of journeys for my bucket list I came upon the very spiritual Balinese new year celebration called the Nyepi.

While most of southeast Asia is Buddhist or Muslim, the Bali religion remains close to 90% Hindu. It makes for beautiful drives through their video-game-like crazy driving practices where there are no rules and everyone is in an almost-head-on collision. Temples are elaborate and adored with beautiful statues and gargoyles. Offerings are brought three times a day so the streets and businesses are littered with fresh flowers at any part of the day. Town centers erect majestic Hindu gods like Siva, Ganesha and Vishnu that call for a double or triple-take to really take it all in.

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"Can you please slow down? Can you take that round-about again?" -me to my driver through just about every town.

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The best part? Their saka calendar is always changing but when it's over it's time for the Nyepi, or the new year. This celebration begins with each town spending weeks if not months on a huge demon statue to parade to the main town. Made from styrofoam that is painted, they can appear very large and very real. Driving from the airport to my hotel a few days earlier we could see large tarps covering the entrance to an open air garage where their statue was being made. They are called "Ogoh Ogoh" and represent all that is evil. They pay tribute to them with the parade then allow them to take over on the day of silence. Then they burn them and have another year at peace.

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The day of silence is practiced by everyone in Bali. Even visitors are not allowed to leave their hotel or hostel or homestay. The Bali airport is the only airport in the world that closes for a holiday. There is no electricity, entertainment, indulgences, eating, working or traveling allowed at all for the 24 hours of Nyepi. This is the time for self-reflection and forgiveness.

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For my Yogis there is absolutely no doubt that you need to visit here if you haven't already. Bali is the Yogi mecca, and not just for Hindu or Buddhists. Most of the visitors I met at the Yoga Barn had decided to move there and were the happiest and most centered white people I've ever met. The Yoga Barn? This place is the mothership of that culture in Bali. There is a cafe, classrooms, hotel and of course yoga. This is where I experienced my first "Ecstatic Dance." Rules are no talking, no unwanted advances to another human, and just let yourself go to the music. I could have easily enjoyed this except it was really hot up there and I am on 700 neutrophils at the moment. That means no immune system to fight infection, so I had to be very careful. (Spoiler alert! I'm healthy and alive!).

For travelers that want to take this spring journey, the same time as Nyepi is the Bali Spirit Festival, to which I didn't make. I was doing a DreamLab retreat in the jungles of Ubud. I only heard great things about the Spirit Festival and if I had planned my trip better I could have caught at least one of the three days. Looking at the videos and photos it looks like a Wanderlust on steroids.

Everything happens for a reason. My own ventures proved to be much more rewarding. I'll write a separate piece on the retreat when I can get some time carved out. I have to purge my closets first!

Thawing Out After SnowGlobe Music Festival

By
January 10th, 2017



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All images courtsey SnowGlobe Music Festival

“Whataboutahit?”

“Whataboutahit? Of your love…”

We could hear the piano intro to Hayden James’s “Something About You” with the familiar twist that ODESZA put on their version.

I was still numb after they played a boisterous trappy remix of Alex Adair’s “Make Me Feel Better.” The melodic dancey hit had turned into a huge sound thanks to the duo’s drum line and live trombone.

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How is he playing that trombone in this freezing weather? I wondered as my entire body was covered in goosebumps, and for the first time all weekend it wasn’t from the cold.

ODESZA was on and it was almost midnight.

“Will it ever click? Are you a freak? You turn and face me. Maybe this time I’ll choose.”

The snares (now being played on the drum machine) were loud and tight tapping out the buildup along with the piano and live guitar. I noticed that my hands were in fists and every muscle in my body was clenched.

“I can’t think of a better way to bring in the New Year!” Clayton Knight said on the mic as the bundled up crowd went apeshit. Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap the snares went in double-time while the crescendo became too much to bear. I don’t think I was even breathing.

“Ten! Nine! Eight!” the crowd started counting along with the huge numbers on the LED screen on the stage.

Then 2016 was finally over.

Huge fireworks exploded over our heads and the freaky-weird drop that made ODESZA’s remix of this track one of the greatest ever made blew through the crowd like a nuclear bomb with smoke and lights. The tall evergreen trees surrounding the back of the main stage were lit up making the festival look like a movie set.

Ok. I thought. This moment right now made braving the cold weather worth it.

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I tried not to look around as tears were streaming down my face. Everyone was making out anyway. Trying to keep my balance in the icey packed snow I carefully waddled back over to the VIP area to stand under one of the heat lamps and thaw out. Dancing isn’t as easy with huge snow boots on slippery snow and that was my only plan to stay warm.

I watched the rest of ODESZA's set from the warm pocket under one of the four working heat lamps feeling physically blown back by their big sound. It really was the best set I’ve ever heard. A huge difference from the last time I saw them at the Spotify house at SXSW in 2015, and that show was already pretty mind-blowing.

These two make me proud to hail from Washington state. I just hope they can find their way to Hawai’i someday. Until then, I’m happy to travel to see them.

SnowGlobe Music Festival had its ups and downs for me. It turns out watching your favorite music in the cold isn’t as exciting as I had hoped. I felt awkward in so many layers and always waddling so carefully around the festival so I wouldn’t be one of the dozens I saw falling down. For them it's a cute oopsie-daisy but for me with my still-weak immune system it could mean the rest of my trip in the ER. I had to enjoy this and stay healthy. The walk to the parking was endless and Lyft and Uber were taking advantage of the cold weather. The first night it cost me $30 to go 1.2 miles.

The good was worth the bad. The close proximity of the three stages kept the "festival feet" (after Coachella my feet felt like pools of blood) to a minimum. The stage in between the two big outdoor stages was an indoor tent so you could thaw out while watching epic house sets from people like CLASSIXX (who opened with the danciest, most fun remix of George Michael’s “Faith” I’ve ever heard), Gavin Turek (a Los Angeles R&B darling that stole the show), Pat Lok, and Poolside.

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Outdoor stage standouts included a nostalgic trippy set by Manila Killa on the Sierra stage and a surprise visit by rising star Jai Wolf, Lido’s beautiful and deliberate live set and Mr Carmack with his Native American dancer and dream-trap on the main stage. Also (of course) Rufus Du Sol who is still one of the greatest performing acts on tour I’ve seen in a while. Flume played all of his best with his signature big sound and even though I missed RL Grime I could feel him shaking the earth from the Igloo indoor tent while the artists were switching over. The set times had long intermissions that made it seem easier to catch everyone I wanted to see, and there was never a time where I felt like I was missing one act to see another. A festival first for me.

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The after-parties were worth the investment, as the crowd went from thousands outside to a hundred or less inside an artsy upscale restaurant where the owners kept a close watch on everyone. You could tell they were not too jazzed about these “raver kids” invading their space but I guess everyone likes money. I stayed until the lights came on both nights, dancing in the middle of the restaurant with the tables and chairs moved aside to my old friend JPatt from The Knocks (a master at the afters) and Gavin from Walker & Royce.

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“See? It’s an older crowd” I heard someone telling the guy that had to be in charge because he was glaring at all of us the entire time both nights. The second night even better with a b2b2b set including Justin Jay and his trumpet player, saxophone player, Benny Bridges, Josh Taylor were laying out tons of deep house and techno unreleased bangers. Nights like these are my favorite.

Thinking about checking this one out? Here’s some things I made note of:

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Age Appropriate

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The festival is all ages and family friendly. It was heart warming to see so many parents able to enjoy the event with their little ones, especially when they were thoughtful enough to give them hearing protection. There were hundreds of concert goers in their thirties, forties even fifties among the co-eds. “You’re here by yourself? That’s so cool!” one young girl in silver bun huggers and white tutu said to me while we waited for the bathroom. The raver bro ratio was delightfully low for an event on a college campus.

Schedule and Lineups
The stages are close and have intermissions between acts which makes it easier to catch everyone you want to see.

Plenty of Food and Shelter
There was a long line of food vendors with outstanding menu items and a couple of indoor lounges to eat and thaw out of needed. Only the VIP had heat lamps that I saw. Either way it was good to have these places to duck into between acts.

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Invest in VIP
The accelerated entrance, viewing platforms, warm lamps, always available restrooms, dedicated bars and main stage lounge with more heaters and couches make the extra investment very much worth it. I saw a lot of the talent hanging out in there too.

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Transpo
For the money, the shuttle is your best bet getting to and from the event. They drop you off the closest to the entrance and as long as you get a hotel close to the shuttle pickup points the walking (and freezing) is much more limited. Parking is expensive and far. Ten minute walk is actually twenty minutes and in the late night unforgiving sub zero temperatures it feels like forty-five minutes.

Brrr, South Lake Tahoe
For as cold as it was, the weather was very cooperative and it didn’t start snowing until the day I was heading out of South Lake Tahoe. This was a good and a bad thing as the cold wasn’t as cold as it COULD have been. Still, layering merino wool and long johns with a goose-down jacket and another winter coat felt like I was wearing toilet paper by the end of the night. Keeping your feet dry and warm is critical. I almost got frost bite because I didn’t realize my toes were wet. Bring extra socks every day and keep those little hand warmers in your backpack in case you get wet.
Check the weather before you go. Driving out of Tahoe in the snowstorm I had to stop and get tire chains and install them on my rental car and then travel in a long line of traffic going 7 miles per hour slipping and sliding on the roads for 50 miles. I was estimating getting to the airport by 2pm. I didn’t arrive until 10pm.

Next bucket list festival for me? The Spirit Festival in Bali, Indonesia. Stay tuned.

Destination Snow Globe

By
December 25th, 2016



The weather in Honolulu has been so cold lately but I’m loving it. This is the weather I grew up with in Washington state. Layering clothing, having to wear socks, it’s bringing me back to my roots as Honolulu city dips to the low 60’s here and there.

I remember fondly one Christmas I was laying in bed looking at everyone’s Snapchat stories, a habit I’ve since kicked but back then it was what I called “Snapping myself to sleep.” I saw my buddy Scott Harding was also alone on Christmas with his family back in Brisbane so I went over to his place so we could both be alone together. We got drunk on Bunderberg rum and our friend Noil Bee came over before his flight to Tahoe. Noil was going to some music festival in the snow and every time he took a shot he popped on the floor and did a few push ups. He was going to Snow Globe Music Festival in Lake Tahoe. Flume was playing and I was very jealous. For some reason right then that image of seeing Flume performing his wildly euphoric music in the snow with fireworks overhead became a bucket list experience for me.

Skip ahead to now.

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courtesy SnowGlobeMusicFestival.com

I’m leaving this week for the Snowglobe Music Festival. I caught the earlybird VIP 3-day pass months ago so I’m going to be all over that piece. Best part? The homeys Carmack and JPatt are performing. The Knocks! This is the first time I’ll be able to watch them do what they do live and what I wanted them to do at my 2012 birthday party but couldn’t because Ben didn’t come out, only JPatt. It worked out totally fine though, the only people who really heard of them back then was other DJs and JPatt killed it and we became super-connected from that gig. Hence, Pow Wow music artist circa 2013 and 2014.

Anyway, I’m going. I’m going alone. To experience this cold to experience this music and just be alive and happy.

The lineup is glorious and if I learned anything from Coachella it’s don’t get married to a specific schedule. Be flexible and go with the flow. For me I have a few must-sees but everything else can be chill. Flume, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Carmack, Poolside, Classixx, Manila Killa and of course The Knocks are hopefully happening. The rest I'll discover while I'm there, being cold.

If you don't already, follow my story on Snapchat that's where I'll be posting. The actual festival dates are Dec 29, 30 and 31st. I'm bringing my camera (thanks Flash!) and will post a recap when I get back too. I haven't been this excited for a destination festival since BPM. I hope this is influence for you reading this to make a list of the things you most want to do, then do them.

See you guys in 2017.

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Q&A with Overmind

By
September 15th, 2016



All photos courtesy Caleb Taosaka

All photos courtesy Caleb Taosaka

It’s rare that something really catches my eye on Instagram. Restructuring the feed and doing away with showing posts in real time was what killed the enjoyment of scrolling for me. It’s just so confusing to see something going on 16 hours ago. Now it’s all just too little too late.

So when I was able to catch some posts of Caleb Taosaka’s clothing line Overmind it was like finding a needle in a haystack. It appeared to me once, then twice, then I couldn’t stop lurking for more of his designs. First it appeared on a few different friends in the skating community, which is already a pretty stylie group. Then I saw the brand at Mori by Art and Flea. The designs stood out like a punch in my face from the cosmos.

I had to find out who is behind this brand.

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Turns out I didn’t have to look too far. Caleb Taosaka works in Chinatown at Blank Canvas. He’s been turning out designs for the past three years and between working, skating and spending time with his girlfriend and business partner he’s infiltrating Honolulu city with fascinatingly creepy and interesting art.

Full Name: Caleb Masaru Taosaka
Age: 25
Where Did You Grow Up: Born and raised in Waipahu on the island of Oahu. That rolls off the tongue
Where Did You Go to School: Grew up in Waipahu but went to Moanalua High School. I then attended UH at Manoa and graduated with a bachelor's degree in studio art in 2014.

Name all that are involved with Overmind and their role(s):
Pretty much just Lissa Hardbarger and myself. She ships out my orders and runs errands for me when I'm at work. She's also my girlfriend. I make the designs for the shirts and instagram/website stuff. I also print and label all of the tees and hoodies at my job. I have a few buddies that help me shoot photos as well. Maxfield Smith, Jordan Lum, and John Oliveira to name a few.

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Tell me your vision:
We aim to fascinate and disgust through visions of otherworldly fantasies from Elsewhere.

What was your first run of clothing or event?
My first run of tees was a small batch of hand screened tees done in my friends backyard. Did three different color tees of the same design. I had a layer of glow in the dark ink that I remember being really stoked on.

How did you get into design/art/fashion?
I grew up with overactive imagination. Had my head in the clouds much of the time. This led to pursuing an art degree in college, where I further nurtured my creative glands. Sometime during my third year at UH a friend of mine named Soohee taught me Photoshop while we ate at Curry House, which helped to push me into more computer based graphics and artwork.

I never considered myself a "fashionable" person, however some of my favorite possessions growing up were graphic tees. Something about wearable imagery was really interesting to me, which eventually turned into me printing the things I made on t-shirts and other things.

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Do you collaborate with anyone if so who?
So far the only collaborations I have done were photo projects with a few friends. Maxfield Smith, Jordan Lum, and John Oliveira are the primary people who shoot photos for me from time to time. I have a few collaborative projects in the works at the moment, but as I said before it's hard to find the time and drive to do these things. It sometimes takes me months to finish a design. I'm very neurotic about what I make.

How do you overcome the stressors of pulling things together and executing them?
I think that college was a good training ground for dealing with the pressure to execute plans and perform. I think of each season release almost like a final exam that comes around twice a year. I like to brainstorm/relax for months in between seasons and then have a few months binge-creating graphics until the new season releases. This keep my stress levels relatively low for most of the year and condenses the pressure into a few months. Probably not recommended or how it should be done, but it works for me.

I am especially moved by your wolf design. Can you tell me more about this masterpiece?

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I call the wolf design Warg. I had been given the idea to make something like that by my friend Lance when I was interning under him for Contrast Magazine. At the time my Adobe Illustrator skills were very limited and I wasn't able to create something that I was satisfied with. A few years later I gained the skills necessary to bring that creature to life and released it under Overmind. Sorry Lance. I love you.

I get a bit of a beyond Earth vibe from your artwork. Are you a spiritual person?
I don't really consider myself to be an overly spiritual person. I believe in entities and things outside of our plane of existence or understanding, which I guess can be a form of religion. Anything not understood by human science can be deified into a spiritual belief or movement I suppose. Psychedelics have taught me that all things are possible and probable within the mind. All the science fiction and fantasy I ingest also definitely plays a role in my subject matter.

How did you come up with the name Overmind?
People always ask me if I got the name from that video game Starcraft, which I've been told is the name of one of the alien characters in the game. I have never played it, but if I were a video game kinda guy I probably would. I got the idea for the name from a sci-fi novel I read by Arthur C. Clark called Childhood's End. In it the Overmind is a interstellar hive mind type entity that is made up of the consciousness of various ascended alien races. Basically these demon-looking aliens come to Earth representing this being and usher in an era of peace in order to guide humanity to enlightenment and absorption into the Overmind. Pretty neat.

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I also read that it is the name for a level of spiritual consciousness in a yoga-based philosophy that is one of the highest a normal human can achieve. It is referred to as the plane of Gods and a Cosmic Consciousness, a form of consciousness that cannot be achieved by an ordinary person.

It is also the name of one of the levels within the eight-circuit model of consciousness, an ideology of transhumanism. The level is also referred to as quantum consciousness, or an awareness beyond our limitations of space-time, and can sometimes be accessed through near-death experiences or strong doses of psychedelics.

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Where can people buy your stuff?
The best places to find my goods other than online are A'ala Park Boardshop, a skate shop located in Chinatown, and Mori by Art + Flea, a store currently at Ward Warehouse. APB was the first location to stock my stuff, which I am very grateful for. Bought my first skateboard from there in 2005 and became friends with the owner Chad and workers through the years. Truly a good place with good dudes. I met Aly, the owner of Mori, years ago at an Art and Flea event she was running and once I had started making stuff she offered to stock my products in her store. I've been lucky to have these opportunities while my brand is still relatively young in the scheme of things.

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Any last shoutouts?
Shoutout to all my friends who support me in everything I do. Also Maxfield Smith, Jordan Lum, John Oliveira, and anyone else who helps me take photos. Also Daniel Ng of Blank Canvas. He helped shape me into a more responsible person and who pretty much single handedly taught me how to use Illustrator. Also my girlfriend Lissa for being a wonderful being.

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Alvin the Yeh!

By
August 16th, 2016



SHOT55PHOTOGRAPHYThe utmost professional, Yeh brings over 17 years experience in the nightlife industry back to Oahu.

SHOT55PHOTOGRAPHY

The utmost professional, Yeh brings over 17 years experience in the nightlife industry back to Oahu.


Before I ever got mixed up in the beverage industry I still had a good inkling of who’s who in Honolulu city. That didn’t come from any major talents on my part, I was just out every night.

When I first moved to Hawai’i after a 2-year a gig in San Diego, my job at a computer systems helpdesk was a 24 hour operation. The main shift I worked was 2pm-10pm. It was perfect off-hours to go out every night and never think about getting enough rest.

Going out every night late, especially the weeknights, you start to see a lot of the same players. Most are outgoing since they’re in a service industry, and all love to have a good time. They just radiated some kind of passion and were usually the center of attention, buying everyone shots or just perching themselves somewhere easy for others to come up and talk story with them. This was when everyone went to The Wave (or I should say “wound up” at The Wave); an era I only caught in its twilight years but they were the greatest years in this city.

Even in those days and especially now: Alvin Yeh was one of the key players. Directing the operations of one of the largest nightlife endeavors on Oahu this time eight years ago, LEVEL4 at the Waikiki Shopping Center, Yeh was already an experienced and established nightlife professional in Las Vegas who came back to help run the nightclub. It was hard not to ever say his name without saying “Vegas-style.” It’s what he brought to the table. It’s what everyone wanted.

Today Yeh has laser-focus on his career and life balance. He will once again be relocating from Las Vegas to Honolulu starting last Monday. Recently accepting the position as General Manager for RumFire at the Sheraton Waikiki he has big shoes to fill, but everything he has done up until now has laid the framework for a successful experience.

“By far the greatest reward is seeing my vision manifest which is providing a great experience for my guests.” Yeh told me.

“Seeing people leave happy and wanting to come back is priceless. I've experience people come right out of their shell and lives change before my eyes, it's absolutely amazing! Constantly meeting new, interesting people from all over the world isn't a bad reward either.”

Yeh will definitely be meeting people from all over the world, as thousands filter through RumFire weekly and even more so when the oceanfront bar and restaurant turns itself into a nightlife destination on weekends. His first priority? One that I hear from a lot of service industry professionals:

“I want to make sure everyone who comes to Sheraton Waikiki and RumFire have their very best experience.” he told me. “We need to ensure the Aloha Spirit tourists hear about isn't just a story. People should be living it, breathing it, and then telling everyone they know to experience it for themselves.”

The utmost professional, I asked Yeh how he handles the challenges in such an active career.

“Like anything else in life, possessing ample experience is so valuable.” he told me.

CHRISTA WITTMIERYeh with girlfriend and experienced VIP host Kelsey Campbell regularly traveled back to Oahu to host the VIPs at the author's big pool parties.

CHRISTA WITTMIER

 

Yeh with girlfriend and experienced VIP host Kelsey Campbell regularly traveled back to Oahu to host the VIPs at the author's big pool parties.

 

“When you've been through tough situations and come of them stronger you know how to carry yourself when obstacles appear. It becomes routine, like training for life, my outlet is training Jiu Jitsu. It helps me fuel my competitive fire yet keeps me calm when things get tough, it's a balance like life. For example, when you are getting smashed and put in a bad position, staying calm and constantly working and thinking about your solution is vital, most who have never felt that pressure will panic and make the situation worse.”

“Finding answers to puzzles becomes almost addicting, you always want to improve. Stay persistent and continue to improve on your weaknesses everyday. It might not work out the first time, but the more you operate smoothly under duress while constantly working to find the solution, you'll find success. I subscribe to the motto ‘become comfortable being uncomfortable.’”

“Nothing is perfect in life, so you take the good with the bad. There will always be those who are never satisfied and hold a negative outlook on things. It's human nature, so there will be that percentage of people who we encounter who reject positivity and try to get you to vibrate on that frequency. In those cases, you just have to function on another level.”

Preach, professor!

“I have definitely experienced more positive and happy people and have changed lives for the better. Again this satisfaction is priceless and overshadows the temporary negative side of the business. Never let the negative outway the positive. I always enjoy your outlook on things and hold your quote close ‘Take control of your own life and happiness’.”

Sound advice. What are your thoughts on the nightlife scene here in Honolulu?

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SHOT55PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

“The nightlife scene in Honolulu is constantly evolving. Every time I threw a one-off party here, I see venues pick up on things quickly. Now there are headliner Dj's booked and music festivals held consistently, which is smart because it builds on the brand awareness with younger generations. EDM Dj popularity is strong and continues to grow, so it's still a great marketing business model but profitability definitely has changed significantly. We didn't have this kind of mass music culture before, and the change is good.”

I do agree change is good and constant. Any shoutouts?

“Kelsey Campbell for being by my side and always striving with me to become greater every day. She is beautiful, strong and smart. Michelle Kennedy and Jason Ulep for taking such great care of my daughter Madison Ai Ling Yeh. Corey Correa for helping me with the decision to move back home. I am looking forward to the next Chapter!”

So am I. Welcome back Alvin!

The Campbells: Just Doing Their Part

By
August 8th, 2016




Waikiki was rocked in June for a colorful collaboration between Chinatown retail neighbors Barrio Vintage and Roberta Oaks, who could easily be the coolest kids in that district, alongside the Human Imagination.

These are the places you can shop when you don’t know how to shop. Pretty much anything you pick up from their carefully curated racks could be your new uniform.

The show was a good excuse for me to show some friends the new SurfJack Hotel; the new hipster sanctuary on the mauka side of Lewar’s Street in the new developing Waikiki. If you haven’t been there yet, I highly suggest creating an occasion to have dinner at Mahina & Suns. It’s worth it.

This particular night I was there was also indeed worth it.

I finally got to meet Simone! Brandon and Nicole Reid (Manifest Hawaii)’s new daughter and just see so many faces I had only been lurking online for the past few months.

It was a treat to see everyone stepping out in their styliest oxford shoes, 60’s and psychedelic inspired dresses and shirts and of course their favorite Roberta Oaks vintage aloha shirts or something off the rack at the carefully curated vintage boutique Barrio Vintage.

One of my favorite looks to see anywhere in town is whatever model, minister and musician Leelu Campbell is wearing. You would know her if you saw her. She takes personal style very seriously but is also so kind and approachable.

I first saw her and her husband Greg Campbell when I happened to be at one of those Lux parties at Trump and was feeling a bit out of place in my $20 dress. My jaw dropped to the floor at their effortless style and tall model-esque frames. I saw them and was like “Hi. You two are the styliest people here, can we be friends?” Before I could hate myself for being shallow, taken away so much by their appearance, I discovered that they are great people, having dedicated their life to cultivating their own creativity and making an impact in this world.

Little did I know at the time, I was now hob-knobbing with the one and only L.E.E.L.U. (Learning Every Experience Loves Universally) and Quality Music. A highly creative power-couple that’s low-key living their best lives in Honolulu.

Skip ahead a few years and Greg Campbell (also known as “Quality Music”) is turning up major at my pool party at the Marriott making a promo video for his sand-rimmed fly af wayfarer shades featuring his wife's vocals. I still have those glasses he gave me that day.

That was 2012.

In 2016 they are still cruise speed ahead, having created an organization called "Just Doing Our Part.” A networking specifically for industries that offer service to their community. (I know right!)

After seeing them at the Barrio Vintage x Roberta Oaks “Psychedelic Swell” show I stalked them online until I could get Leelu to tell me more about this.

"We believe that offering service to your community reinforces compassion and empathy within humanity.” Leelu wrote back to me in an E-mail. "Just Doing Our Part identifies community needs and provides resources through its network partners as assistance.”

"We believe we are creating a coalition of people who value 'Getting It Done!’"

As someone who’s always considered themselves a “connector” I can appreciate them starting this so very much.

One of their first partners is the local underground radio show you may not even know about called Sandy Scoops. You might not know about it NOT because you’re not “underground enough,” it’s only been around since November of last year.

"Quality recognized the enormous amount of underground talent locally in Hawaii and decided to create a radio station to share the scene with the world.” Leelu wrote to me.

"As an audio engineer for over 12 years he has not only had the opportunity to develop an ear for music, but work his passion into a major broadcasting opportunity.” Quality also makes himself available to engineer live or studio sessions.

"With continued community support we expect sandyscoops.com to be a major source for anyone looking to find out more about the underground music scene in Honolulu.” Leelu wrote.

Another partner working with “Just Doing Our Part” is Leelu’s personal website which is a great window into her life experiences. She is truly an artist, but also a writer, musician and mother. I dare you not to fall down the rabbit hole of her music and sultry vocals. If you're a regular at the Motown on Monday at Dragon Upstairs you may have seen her crooning on the mic with her husband close by providing his own music. Together, they are a living example of the phrase "Power Couple" which I use to describe two people who are fully committed to their own success and happiness and have found a way to inspire and encourage each other. This is how you do that.

Watch out for these two.

Audiophile: Low-key Killing It

By
July 20th, 2016



Image courtesy Timothy Lum

Image courtesy Timothy Lum

I’m falling head over heels for the new generation. My health isn’t where it should be recently but even after taking a huge step back from everything I still kept hearing about this great culture being developed over at Hawaiian Brian’s. After hearing so much from people I respect in the industry, I made a point to go and check them out.

Hawaiian Brian’s has casually cornered the outskirts of Waikiki with zero judgements, tons of great music and plenty to do no matter what time you drop in. Looking a little deeper in the eclectic venue and you see years of hard work expanding and constantly improving the large space to make it the most effective. The small studio with great stage, lighting and sound and the Electron lounge and dancehall is the perfect size if you want a more intimate, personal vibe. The larger spaces are still welcoming without that feeling of being swallowed up. It’s a come-as-you-are multi-sectional giant space that comes alive with their tribes of regulars each night.

It’s one of those places you can go with no plans or no friends and most likely still be all good. You will most likely make friends. If you feel like you don’t fit in anywhere, this could be the place for you.

Image courtesy Audiophile/Kaylee Gan

Image courtesy Audiophile/Kaylee Gan

They have a solid rotating calendar of nightly comedy, open mics and live music of all genres that also includes careful attention to the developing dance music enthusiasts. This Friday you can peep the new gen and see the people that are investing and working hard to cultivate that scene and grow it even further.

This is Audiophile. They have spent the past 6 months working together solidly with monthly and weekly events at Hawaiian Brian's.

I had a really great time getting to know and see their crew in action and meet a lot of their loyal, even die-hard following.

Image courtesy Timothy Lum

Image courtesy Timothy Lum

Their mission?

"To help bring value to Hawaii’s music and nightlife industry by creating a positive and sustainable culture through depth and collaboration." Owner/operator and Timothy Lum wrote me in an E-mail.

Depth is right. These might be the most focused and grounded twenty-somethings I know. They have such a great passion for music and sharing the love and it shows in their events.

Timothy Lum and Brandon Wong met when Lum had his company Rave Rock. Producing regular EDM events happening at then Vice Nightclub, Ginza, The Republik, Nocturna Lounge and Aloha Tower, Lum is strikingly focused. Wong brings a powerful work ethic and fresh energy, determined to create change in the community through actions, experiences and music.

"While dance music was getting extremely commercialized, we saw an opportunity to promote a more intimate scene." Wong wrote me in an E-mail. "A scene where it was about the music and camaraderie and not just about the 'headliner' and getting messed up."

This is such a refreshing thing to hear, especially of an underground scene that has taken so many twists and turns since the 90's, and is highly misunderstood.

"I love music, but not nearly as much as I love people." Lum wrote. "The greatest reward I receive from event production is the ability to connect people in hopes of adding positivity to their soul. Whether the connection is made with the music, the party, or other people, to me, it’s one of the most beautiful things to see people come together."

If you've met Tim then you know these words put it very mildly. He is someone you just want to be around all the time.

Audiophile's promotional team manager Santino Wong (Producer/DJ "Jecht") also goes back to Rave Rock days with Lum. I only just met him last weekend when he stepped up to help cover a set I wasn't well enough to deliver.

The first thing I noticed about each of these three guys is how nice they are. Like, really nice. Kind even. I can see how they have such a loyal following; they're earth angels.

I first met Brandon Wong (Producer/DJ) "bird") when we played on the same boat at the Boatzilla during spring break. I remember being impressed with the 23 year olds music tastes, playing a proper house set that had me intimidated to go on after them.

Getting to know him that day I could see someone who was heartfelt doing what he loves. Seeing him running around before and during the Audiophile events gave me a familiar excitement that I have when my events are underway. You really do love the work.

"There’s a balance between working your businesses and working your passions." he wrote me. "If you don’t balance your business, you won’t make any money. If you don’t make any money, you won’t be able to continue. If you don’t balance your passion, you won’t be happy with either yourself or the product or service you are providing. Then what's the point!"

Image courtesy Timothy Lum

Image courtesy Timothy Lum

Friday is "LINK" which is a collaborative party linking up with all the O.G. rave and house heads. Double-O Spot, Livewire, Pure Coalition, and Asylum Records all share music across the two rooms at Hawaiian Brian's, bridging any generation gaps.

"Some of the best parties I’ve been too were Livewire/Pure Coalition parties." Wong wrote. "It really didn’t matter who the headliner was, I always wanted to go because I knew I was going to have a good time, regardless."

This is the culture that is so misrepresented. That come as you are, it's O.K. to be whoever you are, you will make friends here culture.

###

LINK x Club Glove

Presented by Audiophile Entertainment

In collaboration with 00Spot, Pure Coalition, Livewire, Ardency and Asylum Records

» Where: Hawaiian Brian's 1680 Kapiolani Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814
» When: 8pm-2am Friday July 22nd
» Cost: $10
» Info: 18+ to dance, 21+ to drink #AudiophileEntertainment @WeareAudiophile (808) 946-1343

###

Culinary Cocktail Collaboration

By
March 2nd, 2016



Something told me it might not be a good idea to pursue a Q&A with famed chef Chris Kajioka and multi-award winning bartender Justin Park about their upcoming event March 26th at Park's new Bar Leather Apron. I've been to that new place, and it's very small. While it's clearly one of the greatest cocktail lounges to open since Bevy, adding the James Beard "Rising Star" nominee to the already elevated experience means no way we're getting a seat.

Learning that Chef Kajioka is nearing completion on a Chinatown (!!!!!) restaurant has the entire city - foodies or not - up in arms to try it. Many of us weren't in the 1% that could afford enjoying his cuisine when he was at Vintage Cave. I was lucky enough to know someone, and when it was so good that I had to go back as a paying customer, I had saved up for two months to do it. It was so worth it.

These two gentlemen are highly regarded for good reason; they are very talented at their craft. I'll still run the Q&A they took time from their busy schedules to send back to me over e-mail because there IS a waiting list for the event! Don't delay in reaching out! Or (better yet) expect to see more collaborations with Park and Kajioka once SENIA opens this spring.

Justin Bar, lead bartender & co-owner, Bar Leather Apron; photo courtesy Bar Leather Apron Chris Kajioka, executive chef & co-owner, SENIA; photo courtesy SENIA

Justin Bar, lead bartender & co-owner, Bar Leather Apron; photo courtesy Bar Leather Apron
Chris Kajioka, executive chef & co-owner, SENIA; photo courtesy SENIA

How did you two meet?

Justin: We were introduced by my business partner Tom Park, who is an Iolani grad along with Chris.

Chris: Tom and I went to the same high school and have many mutual friends. We also share the love for great food and wine.

When/how did you come up with the idea to collaborate?

Justin: Tom and I had the idea to do periodic collaborative events with local chefs, both established and up-and-coming. We both love good food, so why not?

Chris: We have always wanted to do something together since Bar Leather Apron opened. I admire Justin and his craft. It came together very easily, knowing we wanted to showcase a charity.

Would you say the culinary/cocktail community has grown or held steady these past 5 years?

Justin: Absolutely, it’s grown. There’s a lot more awareness and knowledge by consumers about cocktails and spirits. I’ve definitely noticed more of a willingness to try new things.

Chris: It has grown tremendously over the past five years. This is a very exciting time to be in the restaurant and bar industry in Hawaii. There are a lot of like-minded passionate people who are proud of where they come from.

Who are some of the people that influence you and your work?

Justin: My guests. When they are excited to try new things, or if they have experienced other great cocktails around the world and are excited to share their experiences.

Chris: My peers inspire and influence me, as well as my mentors whom I learned from. My son, Cade, is also a huge motivating factor for me. Total game changer.

What would be your dream collaboration if money was no issue (with who and where):

Justin: I would love to do a pop-up or guest bartending stint at Bar K, Tom’s and my favorite bar in Osaka. To experience the Japanese bar culture first hand and to see how the Japanese guests react would be amazing.

Chris: It would be in Tokyo! I would want to cook with Chef Hideki Ishikawa and Chef Joel Robuchon—I admire both of these chefs. Their knowledge, expertise of craft and true sense of what hospitality is inspires me.

Justin, have you ever paired cocktails with someone/something so exquisite!

No, but I did do an event with Chris at Leather Soul Downtown for their guests. It was great to work alongside such a talent!

Chris, those lucky enough to try your cuisine know you make best use of many different types of tastes and textures. Is there anything you would like to share for this upcoming menu?
There’s nothing fussy. I just want to make some delicious bites and have fun. It’s really not about us, it’s for the charity.

What are you most looking forward to about this event - working together? The public's response? Being able to give to the children's cancer center? All of the above? Something else? What is the MOST exciting part about this (it's all so exciting to me!)

Justin: I’m very excited to be working together with Chris. I respect what he has done so far tremendously, and am so excited to see what he does next at Restaurant SENIA! When Tom told me about Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation, it was a no-brainer. HCCF is such a great cause, and I am honored to be working for them.

Chris: I love collaborating with people I admire, so it will be great working with Justin and Tom and their amazing staff. I very rarely go to bars, but I really love Bar Leather Apron. Reminds me of the great bars in Japan! The main motivation was the charity. My wife’s sister passed away at a young age from cancer, so it really hits home. Children with cancer puts a lot into perspective. I am happy to give my time.

Event details (or is it already sold out? I'm guessing it's already sold out.....) otherwise it's just reservations via email yes?

We are sold out at this time, but accepting waiting list requests via info@barleatherapron.com.

Sex Still Sells

By
March 2nd, 2016



MARTI MATULIS

MARTI MATULIS

Just when I am healthy enough to start scrolling through social media I’m immediately turned off. This has got to be the craziest presidential race yet. Like it or not it’s political season. Are you registered to vote? It’s ok if you are not, it’s not too late! Just mail in this form and do not think that there’s nothing you can do. You can do it.

Sometimes you do have to pick your battles. I gave up a long time ago being frustrated about the whole “sex sells” thing. It’s just the way it is. Photos of skin get triple the likes and attention than photos of nature and bottle service girls will always be dressed to sell. That’s (night)life. The beauty and wonder that is the female form will always turn heads. That’s life.

DANIEL SCHERL

DANIEL SCHERL

I had a great chance to discuss this with someone who gets paid to travel and strip tease. Erin Lamont runs The Lalas, an international burlesque troupe that is coming to Hawaii to perform at The Republik on March 26th.

Could it just be that I’m a bit of a square? This troupe has performed on Tosh.0, CSI:NY and the People’s Choice Awards. They’ve been to Ibiza, London, South Africa and all across the mainland USA. As a performing act they’re pros.

While I stand my ground that women using their sexuality to be successful are not doing it right, Lamont has opened my eyes to a new take on this stance.

She is basically following her bliss.

“The Lalas is all about respecting women and supporting one another. Whether it be your mother, sister, girlfriend, wife, daughter – you name it. We are here to represent women & kick some a**!” she wrote to me in an e-mail.

Lamont, a self-proclaimed workaholic, is my type of girl. This is a woman who graduated with both marketing and dance degrees. She works hard and choreographs each show, which includes comedy as an important piece.

“Yes, the girls are beautiful inside and out, but it isn’t a ‘blue steel’ all sexy show ‘I’m going to furrow my eyebrow and pout my lips for 75 minutes.’ If you aren’t laughing the whole time I have not done my job.”

MARTI MATULIS

MARTI MATULIS

The traveling show attendees are usually about 75% couples, and perfect for a date night Lamont assured me. While bachelorette parties might be more interested in the Aussie husbands coming back in to town, she confirmed this is a great night out for the girls.

It’s hard for me to appreciate female sexuality as any sort of compensation but I am no stranger to respecting hard work and entertainment. These ladies are professionals. Professional what? Professional entertainers. If sell-out crowds are laughing for an hour who am I to judge.

COURTESY ERIN LAMONTThe Lalas performing in Ibiza, Spain.

COURTESY ERIN LAMONT

The Lalas performing in Ibiza, Spain.

SuperCity: Discover Chinatown, DiscoverArt

By
February 19th, 2016



There’s no question about it, we are seeing a revival in Chinatown. While some may say the area has been abandoned since the opening of a few Waikiki establishments these past 5 years those who know see that it’s sustaining and growing and remains the creative epicenter of the Honolulu scene.

Dusty Grabel and his team at Lucky Belly, Livestock and now the new Tchin Tchin! in the old thirtyninehotel space have proven that people going out these days want more than shots and a DJ. They want good food, good drinks, good wine, and a welcoming atmosphere to enjoy each other’s company. No hassles to get inside, no worries about someone in the group is wearing shorts or a hat, a high probability that you will get a table or spot at the bar, and a somewhat hassle free parking in the street or municipal lot. If your plan A isn’t working there’s a plan B, C, D and E.

Miki LeeWhat I love about the Chinatown area is how versatile it can be. You can make dinner plans here, stop by a shop there, go grab a drink before here, go get nuts after there, and carry on the night over there. It’s all walking or stumbling distance and perfect for hosting guests in town that might change their mind a few times about the atmosphere they want. It’s a great district with many venues to choose from and depending on when you are there you can even pop in to an amazing shop and get gifts or apparel or window shop some galleries for great art. If it’s someone’s birthday and you’re eating early enough, the lei stands are all right there. If there was ever a matriarch of the Chinatown scene it would be Miki Lee from the Honolulu Culture and Arts District. Working for Dave Stewart (Indigo, Brasserie du Vin, eleven44, Bar35 Hawaii) since 2007 when Indigo was alive and thriving with its huge happy hour martinis, what she thought would be a year gig turned in to eight years. Anyone who’s ever spent some time in Chinatown has no doubt seen this unassuming tall woman, usually wearing a stylish fedora, always there in the room smiling when greatness is happening. I know personally, if I’m ever at an event and see Miki Lee, I know I’m at the right event.

She has quite a few venues under her belt managing many marketing programs and media for Stewart that bring back great memories including Brasserie du Vin, Indigo, eleven44, and the currently operating Bar35.

In 2016 as the HCAD she has launched “a new initiative to promote all the good things happening in the Chinatown community and attract more foot traffic to the Downtown-Chinatown area. Art activities are free and should generally be for all ages.”

The event, DiscoverArt will be a daytime event every 2nd Saturday of the month, with February 19th as the deadline for the community to sign up for the March 12th event. Use the sign up form here. Performers, artists, shops, mini-concerts, fine art, demos and comedy or theater are all encouraged to participate.

“Art brings communities together and it’s a win-win” Lee told me in an e-mail. “DiscoverArt is a collaborative effort to present different forms of art for the community at no charge. Art is being used as an attraction to bring people to the area and introduce them to different spaces.” It’s true, if you haven’t been to Chinatown in a month or even a few weeks you will be blown away by the hard work that’s been happening down there. This is very much a thriving community for small business, and one that should be supported. “Downtown-Chinatown is authentic, a little gritty, but that is the character we accept. And what you see are the passions of local, small business owners.”

“Look at every major city; they have a nightlife and entertainment area. They have a place filled with cool shops and galleries, coffee shops and the most cutting edge cafes and restaurants. They feed off each other; it’s a symbolic relationship; and we all benefit from each other’s presence. Had it not been for a few brave club owners back in the day, we would not be where we are today.”

Personally I love the character of Chinatown. The locally owned businesses and small-business vibe makes me feel good about where I’m spending my hard earned money. We can say support local but actually supporting local is how we keep a neighborhood alive.

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