Hip, hot & happening: The Night Stuff catches up with its favorite haunts
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
Six months. Twenty-three night spots. One minor death threat.
TGIF launched its Night Stuff column in June, wanting to create a weekly "quick-hit" look at a single night spot. The formula was simple: Spend two hours at a continuing afterhours event, and write honestly about what you see, hear and experience. Don't skip the queue, don't accept free drinks or food, and be as anonymous as any other night crawler forking over a $10 cover charge and being locked out of the VIP room.
In its six months of existence, the column has spawned e-mailed praise and hatred and dozens of suggestions from readers of places to check out.
Enough time, we thought, to revisit our five favorite nights out of the last half-year; this time, actually giving promoters and musicians a chance to comment on their events and quizzing them on future plans. We also asked each to share their favorite afterhours haunts (besides their own, of course) with you.
The events listed below are not a ranking of the five best afterhours events in town. After all, there are still a lot of places Night Stuff hasn't checked out yet (yes, I have received those e-mails about Glitter and Glamour Experience, Flesh, Piranha Room and a re-visit to Wonderlounge, thank you very much). The list below, in fact, isn't even ranked.
No matter how critical our review, there really was something to like at just about every place we visited. These are just the places that gave us the most to like about them.
|The Virus Entertainment Center's Afterhours Foam party features suds up to four feet deep. "The Afterhours foam parties are just about fun," says DJ G-Spot.
Advertiser library photos
- Virus Entertainment Center, 1687 Kapi'olani Blvd., 591-3500 (info. line)
- Midnight Saturday-7 a.m. Sunday, last Saturday night of the month (except December)
- $10. All ages
What we said: "Seems less concerned with being the trendiest late-night place to be seen than with trying to instill a welcome breath of fresh air and fun on the Honolulu club scene. It offered the most genuine, uncomplicated fun I'd had at a nightclub for quite some time."
Promoter Greg Dehnert knows what keeps people coming back to his monthly shower of suds and trance.
"The Afterhours foam parties are just about fun," said Dehnert, who also spins under the alias DJ G-Spot. "It's not like you're going there to find a mate ... (or) to show that you have enough to buy a Gucci bag or the latest Prada outfit. It's more about people just going to let loose ... and lose their inhibitions." And look anything but stylish losing them in a cascade of suds.
Positive word-of-mouth has boosted Foam Party's attendance from 300 at its March launch to a peak of 550 last month. More than 250 were happily swimming in the main room on the September morning we showed up.
"One of the things we finally perfected last month was the right foam-concentrate-to-water ratio," Dehnert said. Attendees can now expect a main room boasting sud depths of four feet with little water residue to slosh in.
Dehnert is also adding occasional out-of-town guest DJs to Afterhours' already skilled in-house team of Foam Party turntablists. New York-based Tricky Trevor and Los Angeles-based John Kelley will be the first of these Dec. 21. Little else will change.
"It works best the way it is," he said. "We're looking at just making this good for the long term. To do a cool event that's fun, and not bang it out until it's played out and cashed out, too. Doing it monthly keeps it rare and special."
G-Spot's night stuff recommendation: The Glitter and Glamour Experience at Wave Waikiki (9 p.m.-4 a.m., monthly, usually a Tuesday). "There's always sexy people there for either side of the court. The people (there) are not your weekend warriors ... but people who are out afterhours every night."
Deep Paradise Saturdays
- The Maze, Waikiki Trade Center, 2255 Kuhio Ave., second floor, 921-5800
- Saturdays, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.
- $5 (21 and over), $1O (ages 18-20)
- 18 and over
What we said: "The Maze's ... multiple personalities (are still) the great thing about spending a couple of early morning hours there. If you're looking for new school Euro-dance, urban R&B and hip-hop or progressive house, the Maze is akin to aural nirvana."
The people we saw on our July visit to Deep Paradise were logging serious dance-floor time. And that, blended with the continued kick of grooving to a variety of music styles in Maze's signature multi-room layout, made the club's Saturdays a can't-miss for Night Stuff's best-nights-out list.
"We believe music is the most important thing about The Maze," said promotions manager Paul Shih, also a Maze resident DJ. "We know we're not a gorgeous club or anything. People have way more choice for example, Zanzabar or The W's (Wonderlounge) to have that upscale feeling. So I believe people come to us for the music."
In September, The Maze added the downtempo-infused Milk Bar (featuring all-night Mediterranean eats) to its Paradox Lounge, Red Room and Arena dance floors.
"The room is really designed for people to go in there to talk, though," Shih said of Milk Bar. "That way, they don't have to yell in order to talk to their friends."
Otherwise, Shih said The Maze has been reluctant to tamper with a formula that has kept the club busy since opening two years ago. Expect that to continue, along with more monthly events featuring name Mainland and international DJs.
Guest DJs so far have usually been scheduled for Saturdays, which, with 700 to 1,000 in attendance, is The Maze's busiest night crowd-wise. OM Records DJ Mark Grant will spin at Dec. 21's edition of Deep Paradise.
DJ Paul Shih's night stuff recommendation: Wonderlounge Fridays at W Honolulu's Diamond Head Grill (10 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays). "It looks good, they've got good DJs, and they have two rooms of music. (The W) also has good service."
- Kapono's, Aloha Tower Marketplace, 536-2161, 537-9611 (entertainment hotline)
- Fridays, 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
- No cover. All ages
What we said: "Just the tonic we needed at the end of a particularly hellish work week. The vibe was definitely laid back and fun. (A) lively multi-hour set."
Henry Kapono's Friday pau hana performances at his namesake restaurant-bar are impressive showcases of his musical talent and ability to draw a large multi-faceted, multi-aged audience. And besides the joy of listening to the occasional sweetly rendered solo version of a C&K classic, the night is also the best peek you're likely to get into Kapono's home CD collection.
"Yeah, it's all stuff I like," admitted Kapono, laughing shyly, when the subject of his heavy-on-the-1970s cover set is brought up. "I grew up in a time period when there were great songs. I used to listen to Grand Funk Railroad, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones ... some great music. And I know my audience has grown up with that music, too."
Combined with a free cover, reasonable prices, an exquisite outdoor pier-side setting, and attentive service, Kapono's accomplished Friday performances are among the best early-evening weekend kick-offs in town. His twice-weekly performances will continue, leaving the rest of the week open for the club's showcase of live blues, jazz, rock and Hawaiian music.
"I'd also like to bring some of my friends from the Mainland here ... so people could get to see them with a more intimate, close-up vibe," Kapono said.
Nothing is confirmed, but Kapono hopes to bring in Third World, Big Mountain, Christopher Cross and Michael McDonald early next year.
Henry Kapono's night stuff recommendation: "I don't really go out to other places. Mostly because I don't really know about other places in town that do live music all the time."
|Miwa Tom of Makiki and Anthony Campbell of Waikiki heat it up on the dance floor at Rumours Nightclub's Salsa After Dark. DJs Ray Cruz and Rob Moreno turn out a great mix of Latin rhythms for the club.|
- Rumours Nightclub, Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Drive, 955-4811
- Thursdays, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; free salsa lessons, 6:30-8 p.m.
- $5. 21 and older
What we said: "Salsa After Dark provided a terrific scene where salsa dance pros, amateurs and folks finding the music's brassy, percussive charms irresistible could comfortably co-exist and have fun. Ray Cruz (and) Rod Moreno (are) superbly versed salsa deejays."
"I wanted it to be a place where everybody could just come and have a good time whether they knew how to dance or not," said promoter Nancy Ortiz, of the original plans for her almost two-year-old salsa party. "At Salsa After Dark, you see people that are obviously professionals, and you see people that are still learning."
On the September night we showed up, Salsa After Dark's laid-back, unpretentious vibe easily transcended Rumours' icy Euro-decor to create an event that seemed more like a get together of friends at Ortiz's house. The aisles were dotted with couples practicing moves before hitting the floor. Dance instructors were there with students for some out-of-the-classroom study. The dance floor was roomy and comfortable enough for all skill levels.
DJs Ray Cruz and Rod Moreno (and their seemingly bottomless crate of CDs) topped the list of can't-do-without ingredients of Ortiz's tasty salsa fest.
"They do their homework and they know their music," said Ortiz, praising her DJs. "They know if the crowd is full of hard-core salsa fans or if it's hard to please and needs a little bit of everything salsa, merengue, cha-cha-cha, (son) montuno."
As with last year, Salsa After Dark will go dark for the holiday season, returning to Rumours' Thursday nights Jan. 2. Ortiz said she had no major changes in mind for the event's near future save for a few surprise live guests.
"We've tried live bands, but the truth is, you can dance salsa better to DJ music," said Ortiz. "If a band is off, you're going to be off."
Nancy Ortiz's night stuff recommendation: Hot Latin Tuesdays at Zanzabar nightclub (8 p.m.-4 a.m., Tuesdays). "It's an 18-and-over event, so what's really nice is seeing younger people enjoying salsa, too."
Boys on the Side
- The Green Room, Indigo Eurasian Cuisine, 1121 Nu'uanu Ave., 521-2900
- Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m.
- No cover. 21 and older
What we said: "Boys on the Side lent much of its ample talent and personality to its exquisitely stripped-down covers of comfort music for the Gen-X soul. We wound up staying another half-hour."
"Our first night, I think about four people came through the whole time we were there," said Boys' vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Jason Waldrep, discussing the group's first Indigo Wednesday a couple of years back. "It probably took us a good six months to get a decent following, and about a year to get where it is now."
On the night we stopped by three weeks ago, "now" meant a near-full house mostly made up of regulars. Boys (in addition to Waldrep, lead guitarist/vocalist Clayton Apilando and female lead vocalist Lisa Abella) played a smartly selected mix of mostly current and '90s adult alternative rock that were favorites of the group.
The resulting vibe more often resembled an inspired jam session among friends than a straight-on performance for strangers. We couldn't help but feel instantly at home.
"We've always tried to make friends with people who are there, get to know people on a first-name basis ... and make it seem more like we're going out that night as well," said Waldrep. "That keeps the night from getting monotonous from being a real job. I think it's the reason the night has really worked."
Former female lead Nani Medeiros (the band was originally called Nani & The Boyz) will return to the group in mid-December after nearly a year of maternity leave. Her gifted and versatile replacement Abella will stay on, as will the equally skillful Apilando.
"Lisa and Nani have two very different vocal styles," said Waldrep. "Lisa is a more aggressive vocalist ... and Nani is more of a girl singer (with a) voice that is pretty and beautiful. I think they'll complement each other."
Jason Waldrep's night stuff recommendation: The Chart House or Kelley O'Neil's whenever there's live music. "The bar at Chart House ... has the same kind of feel as Indigo, a little more scaled down. The music changes ... but it has a good acoustic feel."