by Stu Dawrs
photos by Richard Earl Leong Yu Ralya
Short little Hotel Street hasn’t always had it easy. Book-ended by Honolulu’s banking district to the east and the vibrant markets of Chinatown to the west, the street’s central block between Nuuanu and Smith Streets has often been ... well, stuck in the middle. Neither here nor there, for years it’s had a semi-deserved reputation for living on the seedy side.
But the downtown/Chinatown confluence has been morphing of late, and the subsequent influx of galleries and nightspots is making inroads onto Hotel as well. Opened last September, thirtyninehotel (yes, it’s the name and the address) is both gallery and club—a bright and airy second-story exhibition space by day and a swinging music venue by night.
The space owes its dual personality to its principal partners, Honolulu artist Gelareh Khoie and Los Angeles-based DJ Harvey, the latter an internationally renowned, globetrotting DJ/producer, formerly with London’s famed Ministry of Sound. "The point of the gallery is that it’s constantly evolving," says Gelareh, noting that thirtyninehotel gives artists the rare opportunity to take over the entire space for month-long solo exhibitions, transforming it to suit their own eclectic tastes.
The place is further transformed once the sun goes down, when chairs and sofas are dragged into the center of the loft, the lights are cut and candles lit. On Tuesdays, the New Jass Quartet takes the stage (or, at least, one slice of the floor) for an evening of live-and-driving fusion jazz. On Saturdays, it’s Quiet Storm, a cerebral soundscape that Gelareh describes as "contemporary dance music for adults"—that is, everything from Pink Floyd to Planet Funk—spun by either herself, resident DJ Mark Chittom or Harvey, who bops into town on a regular basis.
Thirtyninehotel is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from noon to 2 a.m. For a complete schedule of music and artists, visit www.thirtyninehotel.com.