Archive for the ‘Bars & Clubs’ Category

Alvin the Yeh!

August 16th, 2016

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


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.



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?





“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

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 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

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


SuperCity: Discover Chinatown, DiscoverArt

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.

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.

The perils of performance enhancers

September 17th, 2014

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for Pow! Wow! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular Bacardi Pool Party on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

Heartbreak in Honolulu

April 23rd, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Done,” he said, without even flinching.

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

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

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


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

'Soulgasm' welcomes NYC legends

October 2nd, 2013

“You found the perfect bird perch, haven’t you?”

The stranger in a fedora noticed me sitting on one of the barstools in the Safehouse that faces the dance floor in The Republik on Saturday, Sept. 21.

I always thought those barstools were rather awkwardly placed when the large curtain separating the two venues was closed. Who sits and just stares at the dance floor?

Me, I guess.

I was by myself taking in the music and aimlessly glancing around the room at everyone there. I was once again impressed by the crowd Foundation brings to their events.

Big things come in small packages: Lyanne Brooks hosts "Soulgasm" this weekend. (Star-Advertiser File)

Big things come in small packages: Lyanne Brooks hosts "Soulgasm" at thirtyninehotel this weekend. (Star-Advertiser File)

It’s not just a room full of people; the vibe is definitely more positive. Everyone loves to dance, and not just that weird, drunken mating ritual you see in mainstream music clubs. These people are totally feeling the music. It’s a heightened sense of reacting I am still not able to fully figure out, but still love to witness. Dancing is definitely something I want to be better at. My movements always feel so forced and awkward.

Lyanne Brooks, a regular in the house scene and longtime dance instructor, stood against a wall, also taking it all in. She had a brighter than usual look about her, which is saying a lot – for someone so small, this girl is a massive ball of positive energy.

I went over to say hello and learned she's bringing back some of the Elite Force crew for her next “Soulgasm” party on Saturday, Oct. 5. No wonder she was smiling so big; both Bobby Mileage and Brooklyn Terry are legends in the world of hip-hop dance. When you talk about choreography and include people like Michael Jackson on your resume, that’s all people really need to hear. Years of touring and a natural progression into the lifestyle realm with a successful clothing and shoe brand have shaped these guys into the icons they are today.

Elite Force Crew dancer Brooklyn Terry will help host/judge the dance cypher then jump on the decks to DJ. (Courtesy photo)

Elite Force Crew dancer Brooklyn Terry will help host/judge the dance cypher then jump on the decks to DJ. (Courtesy photo)

They will be back for “Soulgasm” to host an open format dance cypher, hand-picking the finalists for a dance-off. Everyone has an opportunity to jump in, with the winner scoring a pair of Bobby Mileage’s Elite Force high-top sneakers. Plus, everyone who participates will be evaluated for an opportunity to be sponsored by Bobby Mileage clothing. Email to sign up (18+ only).

“Soulgasm” has been in Hawaii since 2007, started by Brooks and house dance pioneer Ejoe Wilson from New York after Brooks threw a party called "Soul Much Love." Wilson, a founder of the original “Soulgasm” party in NYC, was there and encouraged Brooks to start her own version of “Soulgasm” in Hawaii.

Since then, the party has thrived at venues all over Chinatown, including the now-closed Indigo and SoHo Mixed Media Bar, The Loft, NextDoor and thirtyninehotel for the past three years.

Together with resident DJs Min One, Yuji, HughB, and Matt Kee, Brooks is a key player in the scene, working hard to seek out other like-minded house music and dance enthusiasts and warmly welcome them to “Soulgasm.”

A room full of fun is what it sounds like to me. I’m definitely planning on finding a perch for this. “Soulgasm” has been around for six years and there is a reason the underground dance culture thrives here. These people love to dance, love the music and love each other.

We could all learn something from that.


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.

Managing risk and taking chances

September 4th, 2013

Everyone has their own style of dealing with crisis management. I think our initial reaction is to freak out, but with enough self-discipline, experience and maturity, we can all learn how to handle stress and even turn it into a good thing. I constantly battle this initial reaction myself — both at work and in my social life.

If there’s one thing we can always count on in event production, it’s that things will always go wrong. You learn to expect it and try to diffuse situations as quickly and calmly as possible. No matter how much you plan and work on details, there is usually always something you miss. It’s life.

Ateeya Manzoor provides a fresh set of eyes to companies in trouble.(Courtesy Vincent Ricafort)

Ateeya Manzoor provides a fresh set of eyes to companies in trouble.(Courtesy Vincent Ricafort)

Outside of work, it’s usually other people who cause stress, whether it’s someone else trying to bring you down or driving too slow — or even worse, trying to pick a fight. Since it’s their problem and not yours, the best and most efficient way to side-step these types of situations is to ignore them.

It’s not easy, but once you can concentrate on what you are doing and doing it the best you can, that’s when everything else works itself out.

In the business world, companies have the option of hiring a specialist to help before it’s too late. I happened to meet a regular at Addiction Nightclub, Ateeya Manzoor, after the most recent “Hawaii Five-0” wrap party. Some of the cast and crew wanted to keep things going after the official party ended, but our last-minute decision meant the nightclub only had a small nook available for VIP seating.

That was fine with us, so we stuffed our crew into the space and danced the night away. After a while, however, Manzoor noticed what happened and sent club staff over to invite us to her table, where she and a few friends had a much larger area. She was happy to share not only her table, but a second bottle of Dom was on its way — and it was a magnum. We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate and it turned into one of those for-the-books, most special nights ever.

Bottle service with Ateeya Manzoor at Addiction Nightclub earlier this year. (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

Bottle service with Ateeya Manzoor at Addiction Nightclub earlier this year. (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

I kept bumping into Manzoor while out and about, as a lot of her favorite haunts are also my own. I learned she is a very experienced risk management professional who has made it her job to provide a fresh perspective to business owners hoping to achieve greater success.

It’s a concept many are familiar with, and I wonder if smaller businesses – our local bars and nightclubs included – could benefit from her services.

“I do an assessment of where the company is at, identify liabilities, reorganize assets, review competitive conditions and find ways to restructure and reorganize,” she explained recently over wine and pupu at Safehouse inside The Republik. “I’ve done and seen it all … worked with large resorts, night clubs, restaurants, technology companies, chemical plants, law firms, magazines. In most cases I am hired to fix things that are broken.”

Interested in learning more? Manzoor's company, Mayfair, will host a job fair from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, and Wednesday, Sept. 11, at R/D, 691 Auahi St.

WHILE WE were put in the unfortunate position of recently saying goodbye to two long-time establishments, Zanzabar Nightclub in Waikiki and Indigo Restaurant and Bar in Chinatown, the yang to that ying was the grand opening of Bevy in Kaka'ako and the reopening of NextDoor in Chinatown.

The "good old days" at NextDoor with photographer Dan Weaver in 2005. (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

The "good old days" at NextDoor with photographer Dan Weaver in 2005. (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

The most exciting thing about NextDoor's revival is that new owner Daniel Gray and his partners Kanoa Bristol, Mark Robinson, Marty Simjian and Kenneth Gray have left the club pretty much as-is. None of the art was painted over; the large projection screen, stage and bar area are all intact. They only improved what was needed: the bathrooms, air conditioning and sound system.

An official re-opening party on Saturday, Aug. 31, brought back so many memories of amazing nights that happened in that space. The indie films, legendary underground hip-hop shows, kooky 80’s nights and the packed indie shows that featured amazing local bands all made a huge impact on Chinatown. The new owners still have a lot of work to do, however, as it will definitely take some time to regain their former following, but they are determined to make it happen.

Friday, Sept. 13, will bring the first of many underground hip-hop shows I loved so much back to Nextdoor, as local artist Melissa Wong has been able to leverage her personal relationship with the Living Legends to bring out both Bicasso and Alien Art Gang, plus Opio of Souls of Mischief and the Hieroglyphics. This is one of those shows that might have otherwise flown under the radar, a la Peanut Butter Wolf or Flying Lotus, a few years ago.

Alien Art Gang is based out of Oakland, Calif., and is a side project for Bicasso. While acts like Odd Future and Kendrick Lamar hog the spotlight, this lesser-known (but just as talented) lyricist and producer trio have a legendary reputation for a high energy live show.

Local acts Angry Locals and DJ Technique will open; tickets are available for purchase online.


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.

Foundation returns to The Republik

August 28th, 2013

The Forest For The Trees mural bike tour starting at Madsteez's mural of Clyde Drexler (Christa Wittmier)

The “Forest For The Trees” mural bike tour starting at Madsteez's mural of Clyde Drexler. (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

Portland? It was amazing. The whole Pacific Northwest is so outdoorsy, but in a totally different way than Hawaii. So much plaid and beards, along with tons of carabiner keychains clipped on fitted jeans so nothing gets caught in bike spokes.

The most AMAZING fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich with bananas and cream cheese (Christa Wittmier)

The most AMAZING fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich with bananas and cream cheese (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

So much art — everyone is an artist or musician there — so much fantastic food, huge bike lanes and solar panels everywhere. The weather is soggy, too, so there is so much lush greenery. Evergreen trees (or “Christmas,” as Flash Hansen called them while he was there last weekend) are everywhere.

I must have happened on at least three food cart pods while exploring murals situated throughout southeast Portland.

I ate a macaroni and cheese pie with buttery, flaky crust that melted in my mouth.

I tried a fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich with bananas.

I ate poutin.

I got to see the studio of a self-proclaimed nerd who makes vintage suitcase boomboxes and sells them under the Case of Bass brand.

I got to have dinner with Chef Gregory Gourdet of sky-high trendy restaurant Departure and tons of other people who are on top of their game and appreciate a laid back, yet artsy bar you go to for amazing life experience conversations in between shots of whiskey.

That was my trip.

Jimmy Lee and Ramyt of Foundation (Courtesy of Rich Kim)

Foundation's Jimmy Lee and Ramyt Islam. (Courtesy Rich Kim)

IT'S HARD not to compare Honolulu’s scene to other cities after traveling, and it’s a conversation I have with a lot of people. While there truly is no comparison, Honolulu is extremely unique in what works and what doesn't. And there are still a lot of us who feel like there is so much opportunity on Oahu.

While talking to Foundation's Jimmy Lee and Ramyt Islam recently about their show on Friday, Aug. 30, with Gabriel Sordo at The Republik, I discovered they shared my sentiments.

“I think we both miss the type of audience that the original NextDoor used to attract – an amalgam of people spanning all walks of life, but retaining somewhat of a refined quality,” Islam said. “It would be nice if we had a few outdoor and/or oceanfront clubs. I mean, we do live in Hawaii! Nothing touristy, just something proper.

“But beyond that, I really do feel that something is missing in our scene here. I just can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, or how one would fix that problem. I just know we're missing ‘something’ every time I come back home from visiting other cities.”

Gabriel Sordo plays Safehouse Friday (Courtesy of Jorge Lopez)

Gabriel Sordo plays Safehouse inside The Republik on Friday, Aug. 30. (Courtesy Jorge Lopez)

“I think the way (the old) W Honolulu used to be is what’s missing now,” added Lee. “I would say (the Modern Honolulu's) lobby bar on a Friday or Saturday is about as close as you can get to that. There’s a definite demand for more spots that combine a refined crowd and a good atmosphere.”

"Hawaii doesn’t have a large nightlife crowd like other cities do, so I think it discourages club owners and promoters from taking too many risks,” Lee continued. “Money always seems to have the last say.”

The focus on the bottom line is why mainstream music will usually prevail in Honolulu. The good news for Foundation and other promoters is there are still many who appreciate the music and show up at events. The last Foundation party proved this, and this weekend at Safehouse should be no different.

“What we love about Gabriel is that he plays just the right balance of house music that will satisfy an audience of people that prefer the more traditional sound as well as those who want to hear the more cutting edge stuff.” Islam said.

After Honolulu, Sordo will head to Playa Del Carmen, where he'll spin at a nightclub owned by Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation.


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.

Recent Posts

Recent Comments