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Championing Team Trop

April 15th, 2015

Last year I brought out ColeCo, a musical duo from Toronto, to Honolulu to play the Labor Day edition of the Bacardi Pool Party.

I wanted to do something big but also different, since people were going to be coming no matter what. I thought it would be a good time to introduce the new sound I loved, a sub-genre of deep house music called Tropical House.

KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISERThe author on the turntables at the Grey Goose Dayclub at the Modern Honolulu on Sunday. After sticking to her guns and playing the music she likes, the sub-genre of Tropical House is now crossing over into the mainstream.


The author on the turntables at the Grey Goose Dayclub at the Modern Honolulu on Sunday. After sticking to her guns and playing the music she likes, the sub-genre of Tropical House is now crossing over into the mainstream.

The guys were awesome and had their sound on lock, even abbreviating it to “Trop,” which still makes me giggle. They were making it sound so hard!

“Oh, there’s a lot of us Trop producers,” they would say in between multiple social media posts of them hanging out on the beach in aloha shirts to make their friends in freezing Canada jealous.

While I was still new to the name, I wasn’t new to the sound and the fact that I loved it. It brought me from indie-dance and nu-disco to areas of deep house I had yet to really explore. All I knew is the instruments were what pulled me in, but the beautiful environment in which I am able to play music is the most inspiring.

We are living this music.

On some of my favorite tracks you can hear a marimba, trumpet, flute or strings. Piano and saxophone are also fairly common. It’s most often a higher synthesized, even tempo in the range of 100-115 beats per minute and very easy to listen to, often with vocals. Usually the track is a remix of a popular hit.

The genre is gaining speed on the music festival circuit, as Goldroom wowed crowds at Ultra in Miami and Kygo closed out Coachella last weekend. People don’t need to have their brains gushed out to bangers anymore.

“I love it because it's different from all the mainstream EDM that are bangers or music people want to rage to,” Hawaii-based producer/DJ Jeff "Phantom" Pham, pictured below, said. “The vibes it gives off is summer, beach feels.

“Tropical house to me brings me a soothing emotion; it acts almost as a theme to paradise. Artists incorporate saxophones, trumpets, flutes, different styles of percussions not normally used in a regular EDM track.”

1544335_10203637704573978_3966796896810267376_nThis weekend, promoter/producer/DJ Matt Barberi turns his monthly Lush party on the third Friday of each month into the summer kickoff for Tropical House. As a long-time proponent of this genre, I was invited to be the special guest DJ. I am, as they say, ecstatic.

“Tropical House to me is the natural maturing of electronic music for the masses,” Barberi said. “Using synthesized melodic patterns, often well-known pop vocals and uplifting party vibes perfect for making anyone smile and feel good.”

It feels good to be championing a concept before it hits the mainstream, but it feels even better to be in the epicenter of the place these producers are inspired by when making this music.

The most explosive producer in this genre is Kygo, who is from one of the coldest corners of the world in Norway. Others, like Bakermat, ColeCo, Henry Land, Bergs and Soco are also from very very cold places.

But we are in the tropics, so it’s time to enjoy that with some inspired music.

Check out some of my favorite Tropical House mixes right now, plus my mix from the last time I was at Lush, below.


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.


Hickman launches Darsana Music Fest

April 8th, 2015

Those of us active in Honolulu's nightlife scene can pinpoint many what I like to call pillars — the faces we see everywhere and might not necessarily know too well (or at all) but are very familiar with and have become comfortable seeing.



Presented by eleven44, DJ Collective and EyeContact

» Where: 1144 Bethel St Honolulu, HI 96817

» When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (doors open at 7 p.m.)

» Cost: $5

» Info:,

Edward DeLeon Hickman, aka Fu Man Chu, is one of these pillars. I can remember seeing him out and about for as long as I've been in Hawaii. We’ve had various friendly exchanges; my favorite was his cameo in my birthday party video from 2010. He is either standing very still in the room with a casually stern face, obviously taking everything in very inquisitively... or he is destroying the dance floor. I have yet to really ever see an in-between of those two.

Hickman mostly grew up in New York and most recently attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Digital Media program. His company, Culture Kinetic, calls its work "inspired media." I am impressed with their design and wish more people who produced events and parties realized how important the impact of a well-designed event flyer actually is. It matters.

Of course, there are tons of key elements to making a party and making it successful, but if someone is failing at one of the first steps how is anyone going to be interested beyond that? After learning more about Hickman and his company, I can see that he gets it.

I don’t have to know him that well to know he loves to dance. Lately I’ve learned he loves much, much more. His company lists many creative services; not just videography and photography, but pretty much everything that make a party a party. Graphic design, outreach, promotions, music, dancers and all the content are now included in what he offers and can be tailored to any subject or venue.

“I first envisioned Culture Kinetic as a media company focusing on dance related projects,” Hickman said via email. “Of course, in the initial year or two that meant doing whatever kind of media work landed in our lap.

“But a month ago, while doing the memorial event for the now deceased, legendary dancer Large Marj, we began transforming Culture Kinetic into an artists collective of DJs, dancers, promoters, writers, filmmakers, photographers, live artists, performers (and) musicians.”

This weekend, Honolulu gets to see what this looks like in real life as he hosts the Darsana Music Festival on Friday and Saturday at eleven44. Together with main players and organizers Boaz Rosen (aka BoBoFet), Mark Lavender (aka Dr. Lavender) and DJ Warren Anthony they will have their first full production with eleven44 and Eye Contact. The night also unofficially kicks off their new monthly party at the nightspot.

So what can people expect from a dancer/artist/musician troupe?

“We're of the mind that partying and the act of creation are participatory in nature,” Hickman said. “While it's currently en vogue to go to an event and stare blankly at the stage, we'd like to re-shift the focus back to where the actual party takes place.

“In order to do that people have to want to BE the party, not simply witness it. Culture Kinetic, however, has an open door policy so anyone that wants to get involved, all they have to do is show up at one of our events and make themselves known (this is how most of our current roster has got involved, in fact).”

The two-day dance festival — and with these guys, there will be dancing — will feature two rooms and a huge roster of musicians, guest singers and dancers and Cocina serving up their famous al pastor street tacos.

Bravo to people working hard to make cool things happen. Now all we have to do is show up, and in this case, participate!


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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Go ‘Crazy’ for the ‘90s in Chinatown

March 25th, 2015

It’s cute to me when I hear the new generation comment about how they are children of the ‘90s. While I grew up in the 1990s, these people were born in the ‘90s.

That makes a huge difference in terms of influence from music, television and the Internet. They don’t know how good they have it.

This week, local party princess Marlene Phan reunites with Royce “DJ Shift” Calmaan and Dustin “Du5-10” Tanaka to bring back all those nostalgic feelings from the music of the ‘90s and ‘00s with new Wednesday weekly party Crazy Sexy Cool at Bar 35.

ROYCE CALAMAANThe trio bringing you "CRAZYSEXYCOOL" every Wednesday at Bar35 starting March 25th L-R Dustin Tanaka, Royce Calamaan, Marlene Phan


The trio bringing you Crazy Sexy Cool every Wednesday at Bar 35: Dustin Tanaka, Royce Calamaan and Marlene Phan.

In hopes of an earlier crowd to vibe with the already existing late night hip-hop crowd at Manifest across the street, this could be the Spring Break spark Chinatown needs to lead into summer and get things even more heated in Chinatown during the week.

The UD Family is a crew of 40-plus friends and family who have been active in the scene since 2011. No strangers to rocking the oldies, the group planned out and executed a collective called Audiobahn.

“Audiobahn was a musical escape that brought back late ‘90s/early 2000s trance techno scene.” said Phan. They had a First Friday residency at theVenue (now known as eleven44). Once they took over the Wednesdays at Rakuen Lounge in December 2013, there was a nice bump in traffic to the area for the year leading up to the bar's abrupt closing in 2014.

The group plans to have a lot of fun with this new weekly, offering free cover and utilizing the space at Bar 35 to its fullest potential. With DJs Shift and Du5-10 handling the music in the front, they will also have a playlist of rock and grunge music playing on the back patio, dubbed the Grunge Lounge.

For those who want to go even further back, Bar 35 will also host a “Mad Men” viewing party on April 5 with lots of fun period contests to honor the 1960s, including (of course) best Mad Men-inspired outfits, hairdos and even haikus. Since most people say watching “Mad Men” makes them want to drink, a viewing party in a bar with all of the ‘60s classic cocktails within reach sounds like the perfect plan.

Also of note this weekend, Chinatown hosts a fundraiser for Rotary International. The first-ever Bunny Hop will include Bar 35, eleven44, Manifest, Hank’s, The Dragon Upstairs, Downbeat Diner, O’Tooles Irish Pub, The Fix and Fresh Cafe Downtown. Check in at The Dragon Upstairs at 4 p.m. Saturday; bunny costumes are encouraged. Click here for tickets.

As fun as it is to see all the zombies and Santas running around that area, I’m pretty excited to see a bunch of bunnies with their gift baskets fresh from the bunny beauty bar.

I’m actually just pretty excited to see people, period.


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.

Hawaii represents at SXSW

March 11th, 2015

On Monday night I'll head to Austin, Tex. for the first time in my life. After one of the largest and most successful POW! WOW! Hawaii Festivals in Hawaii to date, a group of us will head out to our first project at South by Southwest in partnership with Austin graffiti hub SprATX.

POW! WOW! artists Tatiana Suarez (USA), Yoskay Yamamoto (Japan), Rone and Meggs (Australia) will be the featured artists working with Austin locals Mouf, Truth and Ana Maria for an Impossible Walls project during the music/film/interactive conference. A group from the POW! WOW! School of Music that includes myself, Andy Song, Nicholas Kaleikini and JP Kennedy will also be there. Style icon and rapper Theophilus Martin’s new clothing brand, Good Posture (G/P), along with Basecamp will also sponsor School of Music alumni Paris Gray.

COURTESY RYAN MIYAMOTORyan Miyamoto is originally from Kuliouou; he moved to Los Angeles to help with the final edit of “Twinsters.”


Ryan Miyamoto is originally from Kuliouou; he moved to Los Angeles to help with the final edit of “Twinsters.”

I was pretty excited to learn our group won’t be the only one flying in from Honolulu to participate this year. On the film side, there are two projects with Hawaii ties. “Hawaii Five-0” star Daniel Dae Kim has a principal role in “Ktown Cowboys” alongside Bobby Choy, Danny Cho and Steve Byrne. The movie is based on the coming-of-age comedy web series of the same name. Kim will be in Austin from Thursday until Sunday.

Also from Hawaii (via Los Angeles) is Ryan Miyamoto, who co-directed the documentary “Twinsters.” The film has built a huge buzz, with major celebrities posting about it online. From start to finish, it's an amazing story.

In February 2013, South Korean actress Samantha Futerman received a message from a French girl named Anaïs Bordier on Facebook, admitting she had been stalking her. The two looked a lot alike, like a LOT. After realizing they were both adopted, with the same birthday and birthplace, and could be twins, Futerman, an accomplished actress and director, decided to create a documentary surrounding their first meeting in person after numerous social media messages and Skype calls.

A few years earlier, Futerman worked with Hawaii’s Yamato Cibulka, who produced “Man Up,” a film directed by and starring Justin Chon that is scheduled to be released sometime this year. Futerman was an actress in the film and became good friends with Cibulka.

COURTESY SMALL PACKAGE FILMS“Twinsters” follows the story of twin sisters reunited after growing up in separate families.


“Twinsters” follows the story of twin sisters reunited after growing up in separate families.

In 2013, Futerman funded her documentary project using Kickstarter and raised $43,838 — more than $13,000 more than her goal. She successfully funded another $85,244 for post-production in 2014. Her film will be one of 24 Kickstarter-funded projects screening at SXSW this year.

“It’s one of the greatest stories I have ever come across,” said Miyamoto via email. “At first I thought it would just be filming the first meeting of Sam and Anais in London, and the weeks preceding. However, after coming back from London, Samantha and I knew that there was much more to be discovered in the story. We needed to go to Korea.

“So what I thought would be a few weeks of filming turned into and on-and-off, two-year project.”

This will be Miyamoto's first time in Austin, but he is no stranger to film festivals, having attended the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Maui Film Festival and the Center for Asian American Media. Miyamoto has since moved to Los Angeles to help edit the rough cut for “Twinsters” but definitely misses home.

“I miss my friends, family, and the surf in Hawaii, but I knew coming to LA would be the only way I could co-direct and supervise the edit of ‘Twinsters,’” he said.

“Twinsters” screens on Sunday, Monday and March 19 in Austin.


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.

Protect your ears

March 4th, 2015

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2010The Devil Wears Prada performs at the old 4Play Nightclub in Aiea in 2010. The band returns to Honolulu this week.


The Devil Wears Prada performs at the old 4Play Nightclub in Aiea in 2010. The band returns to Honolulu this week.

I want to publicly apologize to those of you who viewed my Snapchat story last week while I got a sneak peek of Electron, the new audio listening room at Hawaiian Brian’s.

I was shrieking and running around, yelling how much I loved it over the incredibly loud, deep bass that owner Lee Anderson was pumping to test the sound system. I know if you had your phone's sound on, or worse yet, were wearing headphones, it might have caused a bit of discomfort to your ears.


Presented by Underworld Events

» Where: Crossroads at Hawaiian Brian's, 1680 Kapiolani Blvd.

» When: 6 p.m. Thursday

» Cost: $29.07; all ages

» Info:

Sorry, but I couldn’t help it! I was so excited. The new space is so sick! More on that later, but as a venue overall I really love Hawaiian Brian’s. The smaller Studio venue is the perfect size for a less intimidating experience and the Crossroads concert space is remaining steady as a great place to catch live music

“It’s got a small club feel to it with a nice big stage and PA system,” said local concert promoter Jack Doom from Underworld Events. “It’s not too big and not too small.”

One of the regular promoters at Brian’s, Doom has some great momentum going into 2015 with metal and punk shows on the books each month, including this week's concert by The Devil Wears Prada. Underworld Events has been a very consistent and longtime provider for the alternative genres of hardcore noise.

Going to high school with many of the pioneers of the Nardcore scene in Oxnard, Calif., Doom learned how to play guitar during his freshman year. He was deeply inspired by bands that played in their quad at lunch and seeing how their music annoyed most people had him hooked.



Jack Doom.

Ten years ago when his band, Corrupt Absolute, wasn’t getting enough shows in between tours, he and his bass player started booking shows for bands similar to their thrash metal sound.

“It’s true when you do something you enjoy, it’s like you’re not even working,” he said, adding the most difficult part of bringing out national acts to Hawaii is dealing with the finances.

“It’s difficult to learn how much a show will make and how much it costs to do,” he said. “It is very easy to lose a lot of money very quickly if you are wrong.”

So why take that risk, over and over again?

“It's very satisfying, taking something as cool as a concert from cradle to grave and knowing it wouldn't have happened if you didn't do it.” he said. “When people come up to me after a show and thank me for bringing bands out, it's a great feeling.

“Promoters are often vilified for being greedy bottom feeders that take advantage of everyone. It didn't take me long to figure out that the promoters are the ones that risk all the money, yet are the last ones in the food chain to get paid if money is made. So when someone acknowledges that, I appreciate it.”

“Most people are still surprised to see how many shows we’ve done and the quality of our shows and our venue,” said Anderson, who works tirelessly with his dad, Glen Anderson, to constantly improve the space. The new Electron room will be open for business this weekend.

Protect your ears, it’s going to be a loud spring and summer.


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.

Level H levels up

February 25th, 2015

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2013When local nightclub promoter Hanson Nguyen, center, isn't creating and hosting events for Honolulu's beautiful people, he's often out partying with them.


When local nightclub promoter Hanson Nguyen, center, isn't creating and hosting events for Honolulu's beautiful people, he's often out partying with them.

Sometimes I think it’s weird how few nightclub promoters there are currently working in Honolulu. Then I think some more and realize that given the circumstances of our unique and amazing city it’s about right that there are just a handful of solid veterans and a revolving door of up-and-comers in Honolulu.


Presented by Level H Promotions and Artist Groove Network

» Where: CabaRAE Showroom, Hilton Hawaiian Village

» When: 10 p.m. Saturday

» Cost: $10

» Info:

The legwork and investment needed to be successful here is staggering. The reward isn’t always equal. Stressors come from every angle — from a customer base who feels more entitled than ever before and venues that let greed take over when making business decisions to knowing that just about everyone in your life will turn their back on you at the drop of a hat once you stop providing for them.

And then to lose money on top of all this? The beach just sounds more and more like the best weekend plan.

If you’re a promoter and aren’t going out nightly, most likely you’re in an empty room on your phone for the first three hours if not the entire evening of your event. It's a humbling experience, but it should also be a lesson to get back to the drawing board.

It's because of this that Honolulu's nightlife veterans truly deserve our recognition and respect for making the scene vibrant. Anyone who steps up to host a weekly is illustrious. Level H Promotions currently has three. This weekend they add another monthly party as well, descending upon Waikiki to reshape the beautiful interior of the CabaRAE Showroom at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Level H Promotions was founded by Punahou graduate Hanson Nguyen. Together with his team — Donovan Almarza, Daxs Moorse and Nate “DJ Flip” Corpuz — and a roster of top DJs and go-go talent, the crew has over 20 years of combined experience in the local nightclub and events industry.

On his nights off, Nguyen is usually engaging in “out and about shenanigans” at venues he hosts parties at, including The Fix in Chinatown, RB Sports Bar near Puck's Alley and Club 939 on Keeaumoku. When he’s not out or working, he's also a full-time dad.

“I’m all about industry love, especially since I promote an industry night so I try to be everywhere.” said Nguyen. I know this too because I see him everywhere, usually in a suit, always smiling. “I just remember being a rookie amongst nightclub royalty when I first started promoting. It was a steep learning curve and I made a lot of mistakes and I constantly was trying to be innovative.”

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2014 Level H Promotions founder Nguyen with Daxs Moorse, left, and Nathan Corpuz.


Level H Promotions founder Nguyen with Dax Moore, left, and Donovan Almarza.

Hanson started as an independent promoter in 2005 when he co-produced “Flow,” a monthly hip-hop showcase at the O Lounge (now known as The Republik) that featured Hawaii-based talent. He first broke into the scene as a choreographer, manager and performer for a dance team called Affinity, when promoters would book them as a draw to their events.

His first weekly party was Be Social Fridays at the O Lounge, which turned in to Deuce and featured top go-go dancers like Sheleen Dee, Nikki Sotelo, Cerle Shima and DJs Jimmy Taco and Flip.

“It felt like being an artist, having a vision or concept in your head and getting to materialize it,” said Nguyen. “And the end result made people happy and created memories. It was a joy for me to do that for an occupation.”

This weekend, Level H and Artist Groove Network will make use of the Hilton Hawaiian Village's beautiful, multi-million dollar circus space with a sexy party. It was set up to be a possible monthly event, but so far the venue will determine when future parties will be held. It's only fair to see what they can do; I’m pretty sure these guys can deliver.


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.

Facing social fears with fitness

February 4th, 2015

I’ve stayed cooped up in my apartment the past two weekends. I can admit it gets quite addicting. Why would I want to step outside and face possible judgment and ridicule when I can stay indoors, saving money, listening to the music I love, eating the food I love, with my cat who — sort of, in her own way — loves me?

COURTSEY PHOTOThe peaceful and welcoming lobby of the new PoleArity Studio on N King St in Chinatown


Presented by PoleArity Studio

» Where: 111 N. King St., Suite 2B

» When: 8 p.m. Friday

» Cost: $10 general admission, free for members; includes Italian gelato

» Info: (808) 518-1118,

It makes me wonder how many others out there find more peace in being alone than venturing out in to the night to bars, clubs and restaurants every weekend. I wouldn’t know it from being out, but I imagine there are people who make staying in as much of a routine as me and my peers do going out.

At first it sounds so weird, but in a way I am also quite intrigued by this behavior, especially now that I have had an opportunity to revel in it these past few weeks.

While my hiatus was to prepare for POW! WOW! Hawaii opening this week, others often cite social anxiety as a reason for staying indoors whenever possible. A few close friends are victim to anxiety disorders including social anxiety, which can be incredibly impairing. A few stages deeper than typical shyness, people who suffer from social anxiety disorder are so fearful of embarrassing themselves in public situations that even just interacting with people is a situation they avoid at all costs.

This makes me sad, but I am happy to see there are self-help methods that can help ease this pain. I am a huge supporter of eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly already, and this is a very solid foundation to help treat social anxiety. It is also beneficial to try joining a supportive social environment.

Perhaps getting involved with the brand new PoleArity Studio is just what the doctor ordered. I happened to meet owner Telepharaoh Brandon while DJing with him at Eurocinema Hawaii, but have seen him around some of the larger scale corporate events performing in many capacities from a DJ to a 12-foot tall LED robot shooting lasers and CO2 at the crowd. He’s got a great smile and a very positive, infectious spirit that makes it impossible not to have a good time when he’s around. As a lifelong entertainer, promoter, DJ and dancer, controlling the vibe of the crowd and making people feel comfortable is his specialty.

Brandon grew up in Chicago but has spent many years working and traveling the world, which you can see in his studio office. It's adorned with many beautiful relics of his travels and relationships he’s made.

COURTSEY PHOTOTelepharoh Brandon (center) does many large scale corporate events and weddings throughout the state of Hawaii


Telepharoh Brandon, center, does many large scale corporate events and weddings throughout the state of Hawaii.

January marked the grand opening of PoleArity, which has already been kicking with events and classes. The studio is a beautiful second floor location in Chinatown on North King Street. It’s a gorgeous and sleek design that includes a large hardwood floor and lounge area. Fitness classes include ethnic dance, aerial arts, flexibility, yoga and (eek!) pole dancing. Of course. those who are a bit more anxious in any class might run away screaming at the thought, but it is advised that people with social anxiety disorder also face their fears.

“We have people of all ages, races, backgrounds and size.” Brandon said when I visited with him last week, nervously contemplating the eight poles situated throughout the large studio area. “You will not feel uncomfortable, I promise! If anything, you will be part of an amazing group of talented and artistic people,” he added as he effortlessly hoisted himself up onto a suspended hoop used in the aerial class.

The idea of unlocking a portal to an entirely new group of creatives who are interested in fitness for fun sounded really good.

“Our goal is to host 10 different genres seven a week and three special workshops every month,” he said.

PoleArity also hosts events for their members to socialize. This is a great step in overcoming your fears and also satisfies the exercise aspect as well. I have yet to partake in any sort of class for fitness but admit it gets boring doing the same thing each week, so I see the dance classes as having some kind of practical application for life as well.


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.

Party the day away

January 14th, 2015

I'm still reeling from the fact we were able to get anyone to show up at my Grey Goose Dayclub on Jan. 4. The odds were so against us!

It was below 60 degrees that morning and it was the Sunday after New Year’s Eve, which is technically when nobody wants to spend any more money or leave their couch at all. Yet by 1 p.m. I was already handing my check-in staff another 100 wristbands. How could this be?

COURTNEY MAUThis is me with Foundation promoter Jimmy Lee and the Kaimana Beachwear models at the Grey Goose Dayclub at the Modern, easily the best one to date, and very unexpected.


The author with Foundation promoter Jimmy Lee and Kaimana Beachwear models at the Grey Goose Dayclub earlier this month.

I have a few theories. For one, it’s Foundation's crowd. They are the house music lovers I talk so much about. They are very loyal and can go longer than any of us. If their music is happening, no matter when or where, they are there.

Added bonus? As a group they are sexy, all in their late 20s to early 30s, established and mature — but still know how to have fun.

The other thing? I think day parties could be gaining traction once again in Honolulu.

Daytime parties are few and far between, not necessarily because of demand. The only thing that really hinders the concept are the hotels, and rightly so. They are 100 percent dedicated to the care of their guests. A guest complaint means some kind of compensation from the hotel, which eventually takes its toll on the revenue stream.

These parties aren't something most hotels choose to play with, and a bunch of sexy people grooving to good music during the day on a weekend in Hawaii just doesn’t cut it for some travelers, and so they complain.

Times have changed at The Modern Honolulu, which is risking its liquor license and top travel review standing to allow a monthly pool party take place for the past year. I use the term “pool party” very loosely, as it’s not a party so much as a chilled-out day club. And it’s working.

VANESSA ELLISThe author contemplating the travel industry in the new cabanas at RumFire Waikiki


The author contemplating the travel industry inside one of the new cabanas at RumFire Waikiki.

Over at the Sheraton Waikiki, many of us promoters have drooled over the Edge pool since they opened it. Now RumFire has renovated their upper bar, adding a beautiful wrap-around bar and four cabanas available for guests to laze the day away with drinks and the infinity pool. It used to be a luxury only hotel guests could enjoy, but now anyone who spends the required amount on food and beverage can partake in the glorious mental recharge activity I like to call Do Nothing Sunday.

I spent the day there last weekend as a final mental recharge before the Sony Open and POW! WOW! Hawaii, and I’ll tell you it’s the best way to do that. My server wasn’t just from Las Vegas, she grew up in Las Vegas. That is huge. If there is anyone who understands service and the guest experience, it’s someone who started working in the business before she was even 21.

I'm not going to lie, I felt like a celebrity lounging away in that area playing my boom box with my friends being waited on hand and foot. Going from the cabana to the pool over the white rope made hotel guests turn heads and sparked more interest in the area, which is a lot less for them to reserve than the public. I was just stoked on the never-ending supply of towels. It was the greatest day ever.

I keep hearing everyone say or post how great they think 2015 will be. Whether it's true or not, that positive energy alone is going to help make it so. Bravo, you guys!

We are going to have a great year. If you know me, you know how long I've been championing this daytime party concept. To see it finally happening right is amazing, and it's only the second week of 2015!

Best of 2014

December 31st, 2014

Looking back through the year I definitely saw a lot of great hits. The Giants won the World Series, UH won a few football games, gas prices went way down and Honolulu's nightlife didn’t collapse.

We did good.

Looking back through the year, it was a series of many greats that make me feel so very lucky to be able to live in such a snug, yet thriving city.

Emotionally, I would say this was a fantastic year for me. I took ownership of decisions I made and it changed everything. You could say I stopped trying to please everyone. I realized you can do everything for other people and that doesn’t mean anyone will ever be there for you if you need them. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s actually human nature. Humans fundamentally try to get the best they can for themselves using whatever means necessary.

Still, that’s no reason to spin my wheels. I’m just more aware of my actions and who I am looking out for. There are so many people who work hard and deserve to be recognized, and there a lot of others that will take take take until you are sucked dry leaving you feeling empty. Once we can see clearly who those people are and step around them to the virtuous ones what a beautiful city this can be.

So anyway, here are the greatest standouts this year, according to me.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2013Chitty Chitty Bang Bang celebrated its first anniversary at The Republik in July.


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang celebrated its first anniversary at The Republik in July.


Sure, it’s cute and eye-catching to have a ladies night with scantily clad women on the flier, but how about a ladies night where the women are also the DJs providing the entire night’s soundtrack?

Bravo to ChittyBang, last year’s Best Party for paving the way for many others to follow suit and see how amazing it can be.

Congratulations also to Addiction Nightclub who started a new monthly this year featuring an all-female guest DJ lineup for their So Fancy! every second Thursday. It not only brought in a whole new crowd to the club, it switched up the music programming from pop hits and hip-hop to more house and dance music. It also provided a memorable night for some KTUH DJs who were given an opportunity to play one of Honolulu’s hottest clubs (anyone who caught Jem’s set is probably still reeling).

It’s a baby step to widen that mainstream gap, but also a brave one for any club to take a couple of steps outside the box.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Christa is featured regularly as a guest DJ at both parties.)

HONORABLE MENTION: Blowout Thursdays at eleven44

Promoted by Amp Industries and Angel Deihl, eleven44 built a tremendously fun ladies night complete with a beauty bar and live photo shoots, while also providing a showcase for up-and-coming house DJs to play out on one of the best sound systems in Honolulu.

The best part? Their crowd of regulars is two-thirds women that are fun and love to dance. I call it the city’s best un-kept semi-secret, but expect this party to blow up even more in 2015. Their strict music programming will keep the mainstreamers away and the women happy and dancing. I love it.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2013Riana Stellburg, aka DJ Tittahbyte.


Riana Stellburg, aka DJ Tittahbyte.


Bringing out the Soulection crew, consistently putting on amazing shows all year, befriending the most elusive, yet most respected electronic musician that resides in Hawaii (Mr. Aaron Carmack), and helping to start the Green Leaf Check podcast, Stellburg hasn’t just pushed the boundaries of talent — she is on a whole new level.

All while helping to run McCully streetwear shop About the Goods and making a huge name for herself as a multi-faceted DJ. I would ask her where she finds the time to do it all, but I totally get her. There are just some people who are wired that way and it’s their calling to do as much as possible.

Thank you, Riana for all that you do for this city.


Up and coming fashionista, blogger and never compromising disco kid, Gnaraly reminds a lot of the older generation of partiers of the thirtyninehotel crew. She was there back then; snapping away and casually will make posts to remind everyone of that spirit that can never be replaced. You might have seen her spinning all vinyl at the Iron DJ, Bevy Bar, or guest slots at eleven44. Watch this one in 2015.

Bussaband Ent is the crew that ran in last week’s SuperCity. Huge things for them this coming year!


The Electronic Boat Cruise party aboard the Waikiki Ocean Club (formerly known as the Red Dolphin) can fit a few hundred people. I can’t even tell you how many promoters have sucked in their teeth after getting so excited to try to do a rager on that boat, only to find out the steep price tag. You would have to sell tickets for over $60 to even break even — and who is paying that kind of money for shows anyway?

Enter Matt Baumer. He has now made two attempts to bring the EDM crowd out to sea and while they could do with another couple hundred people onboard, the parties are getting great reviews. There is so much potential with the beautiful top deck, the grimy bottom deck and so much room to hang out. I’m hoping for more of these parties with more people in 2015.

Buho Cantina’s patio is perfection. It’s exactly the rooftop vibe we’ve all been waiting for. The fact that owner Hide Sakurai and marketing manager Justin Mizfuka went to Los Angeles and were deeply inspired by what they’re doing at the Ace Hotel only means they are planning on bringing a major wave of cool to Waikiki. The ambiance is unbeatable; now it’s just time to start getting those parties going regularly.


I’m not talking about EDM, which is to house music what the Kardashians are to television. It’s okay that we haven’t caught on to what the rest of the world outside America has known for decades; it’s only just starting to penetrate New York’s nightlife so it may never reach our shores in Hawaii.

Still, the fact that we have an underground scene that has been keen to this for many years and a venue like Asylum Afterhours has made a name for itself across the globe as the top spot for deep house and techno six years strong is something that should have everyone holding their head high. This is huge, whether we know it or not.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2014Human Lion opened for Young the Giant earlier this month.


Human Lion opened for Young the Giant earlier this month.


Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s performance on "Saturday Night Live" during its Thanksgiving episode will forever go down in history as the night my heart swelled as I realized popular music has a chance in these coming years. Bravo to both of them for bringing back such a beautiful style of music that is so authentic and soulful. Real instruments, real singing, real dancing and a real performance.

Landon Tom was one of the city’s greatest musicians as part of The Jump Offs. He has taken some years to work and go to school, but when you’ve got something inside you that needs to be expressed sometimes the only thing left to do is just that.

His brand new band, known for two seconds as Only Child and now called Human Lion, has already performed at two sold-out shows opening for Young the Giant at The Republik.

He isn’t slowing down any time soon. That is, as long as his bandmates don’t plan on moving away.


» High School-ish Sayings: "You can't sit with us." "My Friends are better than yours."


» Internet Ranters: If you can do it better, then you do it. If you have time to rant, you aren’t using your time wisely.

» Fights: Destroying parties and clubs when those animal instincts take over is not cool. Enough is enough, people. Clubs and bars need to do more 86ing. With photos. With the Internet, can't we put some of these troublemakers on blast for once and for all?

» Relocaters: It’s a given that it will happen, but 2014 was the year that too many people in my inner circle moved on to bigger cities to be the amazing people they are. It’s made some of my colleagues look at me to see if I’m next.

The answer to that is a huge no. I moved to Hawaii after already living 100 lifetimes and my only goal was to make a life here. That is good enough for me. For now.


Even though this small, stylish club was opened by nightlife veteran Aurora Group (Bar35, Du Vin) we weren’t certain about their future over there on Bethel Street as they opened with wavering legs trying to find their place in the nightlife scene.

After a few attempts at giving people what they thought they wanted they connected with some forward thinkers who are giving people what they need. It’s working. Congratulations guys.

Here’s the rest. Lots of ties this year which is a good thing. There’s room for all this greatness.

» Best Bar: Bevy

» Best New Bar: Honolulu Beerworks

» Best Nightclub: M Nightclub

» Best Monthly Party: ChittyBang> at The Republik and Party After Art at eleven44 (tie)

» Best Weeknight Weekly: #IN Mondays at Lulu's Waikiki and Karma Mondays at Club 939 (tie)

» Best Weekend Weekly The Manor at M Nightclub

» Best Fancy Party: Dinner en Blanc and the Eurocinema Hawaii Awards Gala (tie)

» Best Block Party: Honolulu Night Market and Hallowbaloo (tie)

» Best Promoter (Individual): Judah Oschner

» Best Promoter (Group): Tantriq Entertainment and Level H Promotions (tie)

» Best VIP Host: Bryan Simpson

» Best Door Girl: Dayna Kalakau

» Best DJ: Delve and XL (tie)

» Best Band: EMKE and The Tigers From Niger (tie)

» Best Sound System: eleven44

» Best VIP: M Nightclub

» Best Staff: Hawaiian Brian’s

» Best Graphic Design: M Nightclub and Fresh Cafe Downtown (tie)

» Best Interior Design: Fresh Cafe Downtown

» Best First Friday Spot: Nextdoor

» Best First Friday Art: Human Imagination

» Best After 2 a.m.: Ginza Nightclub and Asylum Afterhours (tie)

» Best Promotion: Iron Bar Series at The Republik

» Best Parking: Waterfront Plaza

» Best Concert Venue: The Republik

» Best Happy Hour: M Nightclub

» Best Dinner: Livestock Tavern

» Best Video: Hawaii Summer Boat Party by Noilbee

» Best Happy Spoof Video: Maui “24 Hours of Happy”

» Best Clothing: Claymore Minds

» Best Stylist: Barrio Vintage and Aly Ishikuni (tie)

» Best Shop: Owens & Company and Mori by Art+Flea (tie)

» Best Shopping Event: Art+Flea

» Best Instagram: @Kaimanimal

» Best Twitter: @flashee

» Best It-Girl: Nara Nellis

» Best It-Guy: Lance Arinaga

» Best Place to Meet Your Husband/Wife: Art After Dark and JJ Dolan’s (tie)

» Best Place to Meet Your Next Date (Non-Tinder): Art+Flea

» Best Place to Take Your Tinder Date: Cafe Maru

» Best Place to Take Your Date (Non-Tinder): Doraku Kakaako

» Best Place to Pre-Game (Non-Fancy): The Row Bar

» Best Place to Pre-Game (Fancy): The Study at The Modern Honolulu

» Best Sunset Cocktails: Wai'olu Ocean View Lounge at Trump Waikiki

» Best Rooftop: Buho Cantina


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.

Bussaband gets Oahu off the wall

December 24th, 2014

A cute interaction last month with someone on Twitter led me to discover Bussaband Entertainment, and I was left feeling completely inspired.

LUCIUS CHARACTERBussaband Ent usually does one or  two parties a month, but has plans to do much more in 2015


Presented by Bussaband Entertainment

» Where: Boda Cafe, 1215 Hopaka St.

» When: 9 p.m. Wednesday

» Cost: $40 ($30 advance tickets and bottle service options also available); 18+

» Info: (808) 499-9440

It’s okay to not know everything. There’s always a lot left to learn. Still, I was a bit surprised to see this relatively new promotions crew — that’s been killing it at Boda Cafe and most recently The Fix — flying under my radar for so long.

At least I found out about them when I did, on the cusp of a New Year’s Eve party with a comparatively moderately priced cover charge and a cash prize for the best dressed at the party. I love it.

I talked to the three-person crew about their intentions and the more I learned, the more I liked.

Bussaband is Nkosei "Trini" Gravesande, originally from Trinidad but who has lived in Hawaii since high school; model Makeda Morris, who is originally from Memphis but grew up in Chinatown on Oahu; and Jacoby Hindrick, who moved to Hawaii from California about eight months ago.

LUCIUS CHARACTERTrini (yellow shirt) believes in creating it for yourself and others will follow suit.


Trini Gravesande, left, believes in creating opportunities for yourself and others will follow.

Gravesande has been throwing parties for years in community centers, on military bases and even in his mom’s garage. He learned how to DJ as a kid and now works with Morris, who many would recognize from working the door at Nextdoor or modeling in Chinatown fashion shows.

She intrigued me the second I met her, carrying herself in a quiet, confident way that draws you in, wanting more. Finding out she is part of a promotions team that’s already killing it made my year.

“Hawaii is fun, Hawaii is also taken for granted,” said Gravesande. “We live on this beautiful island and every sunset and sunrise is astonishing but no one ever wants to look. I think nightlife here is taken the same way.

“There are a number of great things that go down every night, for all sorts of people and tastes but people start looking at their friends that are in other places like L.A. or N.Y.C. and get antsy. They're so focused on watching the next man that they don't realize they have a world of opportunity staring at them.

LUCIUS CHARACTERBussaband Ent's parties go, as they say, off.


Bussaband Entertainment's parties go, as they say, off.

“That's exactly what our company is grounded in; you focus on doing it for yourself then everyone around you will start shifting into the same wavelength. We saw that there was a need for a nightlife scene that you can come to without knowing anyone and still have fun in. You don't have to try to out-dress anyone, out-dance anyone, out-drink anyone; just turn up and do it for you.

“When we're all enjoying the party for ourself, we all end up enjoying each other, it's like harmony.”

New Year’s Eve brings what they are billing as “Honolulu’s wildest New Year’s Eve party.” Looking at photos on Instagram from their previous events, I don't doubt this for a second.

“The parties in Trinidad are always fun,” Gravesande said. “No one's concerned with trying to out-do the next man, trying to start drama or instigate. You go and you enjoy the music; you don't stand on the wall, you dance. You enjoy yourself and you enjoy the atmosphere.

“That's something we always want to be a part of, no matter where we are; Trinidad, East or West coast, Hawaii, there's always a capacity for a good time. We won't be dissatisfied because there isn't a place honoring that already made for us. We're gonna make it.”

Watch out 2015, Bussabent Entertainment has arrived.


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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