July 22nd, 2012
REVIEW BY JASON GENEGABUS / firstname.lastname@example.org
The "Phuture" returned to Kakaako Waterfront Park this weekend.
At the start of the millennium, promoter Greg Dehnert — known better internationally as DJ G-Spot — partnered with the BBC on "Phuture 2000," a once-in-a-lifetime party that featured DJ Carl Cox and a live radio and Internet broadcast that brought New Year's Eve in Hawaii to homes around the world. (Click here to watch a video documentary about Cox that includes footage from the party.)
More than a decade after "Phuture 2000" and 14 years after he and partner DJ Reza staged the first Love Festival Hawaii in a Kalihi warehouse, Dehnert and his promotional partners returned to Kakaako on Saturday, July 21, to produce what has become a global event that draws attendees from the continental U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia.
Kakaako Waterfront Park is the fifth venue to host the Love Festival in Hawaii (DJ Reza also produces an annual Love Festival in Los Angeles, which has taken place for nearly 20 years). Starting out small, the party eventually settled into what used to be known as Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park and later became Wet 'N' Wild Hawaii. A number of issues, however, forced Dehnert and his partners Reza and Hawaii-based promoter Rick Rock to consider finally making the move from Kapolei into town.
Thank goodness they did — the new and improved Love Fest is everything electronic dance music fans could want, and much more. With six stages spread across nearly all of Kakaako Waterfront Park's 30 acres of space, it took nearly an hour to make the rounds upon first arriving on Saturday.
Two stages — the "Party for the People" stage at Kakaako Waterfront Park Amphitheatre and the "Saturday Night Sessions" stage erected on the Diamond Head side of the park, closer to the Children's Discovery Center — were the jewels in this year's Love Fest crown. While the "Party for the People" stage enjoyed the better lighting and video setup, both stages were equipped with serious sound systems.
Even the smaller stages set up in the park's pavilion areas — hosted by Tribal Hawaii, Rick Rock and local radio station 102.7 Da Bomb — featured respectable sound and lighting. None of these areas were afterthoughts, except for maybe the KTUH "stage," which was more like a tent that never seemed to have more than a handful of people just milling around.
Separate bar setups for those 21-and-over were located near each of the five major party areas, and between the park's normal bathrooms and the rows upon rows of portable toilets brought in as well, there was never much of a wait to use the facilities. Multiple portable ATM machines were also set up throughout the park, and there were a surprising amount of food options at very affordable prices.
ONCE I GOT my lay of the land, so to speak, it was pretty easy to navigate my way around Love Fest. The "Party for the People" stage consistently drew the biggest crowd, although there was more than enough space on the 21-and-over side to sprawl out on the grass — or just dance on the sidewalk.
It was a little less crowded at the "Saturday Night Sessions" stage, but attractions like a bounce house, bull ride, surfing simulator and inflatable spheres in a pool (you've got to see it to believe it) gave people more options besides dancing or standing around with a drink. And once you walked all the way to the water's edge, the three stages set up in the park's pavilion areas resulted in the type of beach parties regular folks could only wish to host without getting shut down by the police. Monster sound and lighting, a full bar and half-dressed people shaking it like crazy? Hooray, Love Fest!
Now that it's in town, the Love Festival can only build upon its dominance as the best outdoor festival experience in Hawaii. Just as KCCN FM-100's annual "Birthday Bash" was the party thousands of people looked forward to every year in the 1990's and 2000's, Love Fest has become the yearly event people in their 20's and 30's plan to attend with all their friends. It's like Halloween in Waikiki — except all the girls seem to only want to dress up as go-go dancers or stuffed animals. (A panda hat, tutu and furry boots? Really?)
But it's that spectacle — plus the world-class DJ talent that Dehnert and his parters continue to bring out here year after year — that puts Love Fest on the map both nationally and internationally. With a lineup this year that included headliners MSTRKRFT and DJ Switch with DJs Mimosa and Junior Sanchez on the decks alongside DJs Reza and G-Spot, there was no question the music would be on point yet again. The only question I had was, where do they go from here?
According to Dehnert, the goal of Love Fest is to help put Hawaii on the level of international party destinations like Ibiza, which draws tens of thousands of tourists every year for its three-month summer party season.
"It's still possible" to elevate Hawaii to that level, Dehnert said in a video interview produced for this year's Love Fest. "What I think would be great for Hawaii is to lock down a week … once it starts getting colder elsewhere in the world. That can happen. I would more say have it pop off for one glorious weekend, or one four-day weekend, is more realistic than a three-month season.
"A lot of us have colleagues and friends in major cities, (so) it can be done. Will it get done? Yeah, before I die."
With that kind of attitude, it's exciting to think of the possibilities for the Love Festival in Hawaii during the years to come.
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.