Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Never Have I Ever Forgotten a Guitar... True or False?

Didn't get around to the Brian Monthly last month, so here I am making up for it. It's 1:38am in the morning and I've been unable to get to sleep -- tossing and turning since 10pm (yesterday) -- and none of my usual tricks have been working. So I figured I could get to blogging? Might as well be somewhat productive I guess? Let's see, now where did we leave off...

I had my second post-operation orthopedic follow up appointment in late June. News is: I have now been given the blessings to run, but I also learned that swimming -- to my physical therapists incorrectness -- was something that I should in fact NOT be doing. Like many things in life, discord runs rampant between inefficient compartmentalization; the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Anyway, since then, I've been trying to run. For any of you that know me personally you'll probably figure out why I put that in italics... I've always hated running for the sake of running, and since June 20th, I have ran at least 5 times. This is not trying. I know I've ran a little more than that though, but I have only starting to take log of my runs (and run times) recently.

When I set out to do something, I do it, so... in reality I'm becoming a living breathing full blown excuse factory "but I'm fairly busy with all my different artistic/craft pursuits," "it's hot as shit right now," and "I had a cramp in my left calf that didn't go away for about a week" so that didn't help things along. I gotta stop fooling myself. I did go for a run tonight though, right after my last guitar lesson finished, I hit the road at 7:15pm-ish, maybe that's why I'm still awake? I ran for a whole whopping 22 minutes, and then Biki biked home, which has kind of been my new thing, run one direction until I gas out/whimp out/cramp out, and then biki home with my ego deflated.

The Aloha Karaoke Band, a live band karaoke concept I co-founded and (co-)direct went live for the first time during June. I called it the "mini tour" because we went from a band that had been rehearsing in cover of secret in the rehearsal hangar since March of 2018 (hey a year before my surgery!) to a band that not only had one gig, but two! We did the Dragon Upstairs in Chinatown and Boardriders in Kailua. Honestly, the most fun I've had doing a 4 hour gig ever. Since then, just a couple days ago on August 3rd we did another performance and it too was a blast. I'm now in the process of collecting and editing down a bitchin' promo video (which I'll link to the blog whenever it's ready), but for those who don't know what video editing is like, it's hellaciously tedious! For now, you may enjoy this rough and raw unedited single shot provided by an iPhone.

After owning this beater of a car for at least year, I finally broke down and bought an after market music player for the vehicle I co-drive with my partner. It had been a few years since I installed a deck (I think 2013 was my last installation), I was feeling confident, but, this thing kicked my ass. It was a pretty big fail, after hammering away at it for hours and being without music for weeks, I reluctantly conscripted my friends to help bail me out of the mess I had made of the dash and wiring systems of my car. After a blown fuse, multiple attempts of wiring, sweaty afternoon hours, and multiple hardware store runs, finally, I now have my own music available in my car! Yay.

Didn't end up working for my car, had to strip the wires...


I had a truly embarrassing first during these last two months. On my way to an across town gig which I was already cutting pretty close time-wise, just minutes prior to arriving to the venue, I realized that I had not put my guitar in the car! I did manage to bring an EMPTY guitar case halfway around the island before realizing that I fucked up, bad. No, I wasn't drunk, I wasn't hung over, I was tired due to one of the aforementioned Karaoke Band gigs keeping me up till 4am, but I have NEVER done anything like this before in my entire life. Or at least that I can remember... Knee surgery life has gotten me feeling older and slipping into senility it seems. I did manage to get a friend to help loan me his guitar last-minute for the gig, nice save, but even with that I was still at least a half hour late. I don't really remember how late I was because by then I wasn't really checking my watch for time stamps. Turns out, the PA wasn't set up nor was there a sound guy, I guess the sound guy was late? Oh yeah, the sound guy was me. The singer whom I was working with seemed understanding and forgiving of the situation but was rightfully anxious and annoyed with me (I would be too), the singer had already arrived -- on time -- and without having any knowledge of live sound, continued to stand by helplessly while I tried to figure out the PA system, which really needed to have been figured out many moments before-hand, but wasn't, because I didn't load my instrument and was running around Ewa trying to hunt down a replacement guitar.

I barely got the PA system working after at least 15 minutes of troubleshooting, and being that we were probably already one hour late into our two hour set without any option to push the end time back, a "decent" soundcheck was pretty much out of the question (not my decision). This only further solidified that it was to become one of the worse performances I've lived through to date. It was already pretty bad, but somehow it got worse. During the wait, the singer had eaten or drank something that gave them an allergic reaction. Minutes into our performance the allergic reaction started to hit hard and the singing was noticeably affected by it. At this point we should have just bowed out gracefully, took our defeat to the chin, but, we pressed forward. It was rough. As we performed, I tried to work the PA system, I didn't think we were audible due to the lack of sound check, and especially because there was pretty much ZERO applause between songs. I even had to step in to sing a couple songs to cover for the singer as they tried to make a last-ditch attempt to collect themselves and clear the allergen in vain. In short, as a performer it was a nightmare come to life. Unsurprisingly, we were informed that we were no longer going to be considered for future bookings at this venue. The irony is that we had a gig two weeks prior that went unusually well  ($$$), but, I guess life has a way of reaching balance. With the highs, come the lows. Weeks after the super-late/allergic blunder of a show, we did perform at a small gig -- which had already been booked prior to the fiasco -- but, needless to say, I doubt I'll be getting that first string phone call from the singer anymore, and I don't blame them. I was ensured that this wasn't the case when we last spoke, and that mistakes happen, but, as it stands, I have yet to receive another booking... So sad. But, like I mentioned before, I fucked up, bad. Such is life.

I checked out Mike Lewis' show night at Jazz Minds upon invite after running into him at a field-research mission at Workplay. It was great little show and I'm glad I went. I recommend.

Shar Band got re-invited to the 4th of July fireworks show this year, and so I spent the 4th on my home island performing for my fellow Kauaians. I decided to make a little stay of the booking and had some much needed down time with my ole friends and family. I tried some fishing -- per usual -- but had 0 luck this time. Only caught a sunburn, which I'm a whole lot more sensitive to now that I'm cooped up indoors all day.

After one terribly unsuccessful attempt at recording drums for Console (the drummer didn't show up -$100 and -4+ hours of life), Console managed to reschedule another recording session and successfully recorded 8 tracks out of our 13 song catalog. We're also slated to finish the last 5 songs at the end of the month on August 31st, so stay tuned for the final product. I'm excited to actually be producing an album of my own in over a decade!!! Holy cow. I wonder if a video game instrumental group could get nominated for a Hoku? Probably not...

Amidst all my medical situations it was highly encouraged by my dentist to visit an Endodontist to address the blackening of my front tooth. Depending on the angle, you can see how black/dead it had become...

Having had braces for four years has made me very aware of dental anomalies, so needless to say I'm the first person to notice any peculiarities of one's teeth, be it my own, or someone else's. So for me, the above picture actually looks more like this.

Anyway, already being destitute from the new medical bills and insurance payments I've been racking up, -$900 later I had a root canal -- which wasn't as bad as people around me had made the procedure out to be (the smell was pretty bad though) -- and now my tooth is a normal color! I feel less like I look like a homeless crack head now, and more like I look like I'm just homeless. Moving on up in life, hell yeah. I find myself smiling with confidence a whole lot more now, it's nice. Is this my version of a breast implant? #SexistJoke

Hours after procedure the left side of my face still numb

I still have some follow up appointments, but I think for once, my teeth are finally at baseline healthy state, after all these years of maintaining my diminishing teeth without dental insurance. I swear, deciding to take the path of guitar-ing should also come with a disclaimer *you are actively taking a vow of poverty, like a priest or a monk or some shit. I'm actually fine with that, it's the world around me that isn't.

Hitbox Music Ensemble called upon me again for this years Comic Con which was held over the weekend of August 2nd-4th. Thankfully we didn't tackle any new material so I wasn't overloaded with work between my various bands and this pop-up gig. We did a slightly modified version of the "Meme show" again, to an empty house sadly. I did film the performance and should have access to 6 angles so the promo video that I will eventually make should be a good one! Stay tuned for that. I also one-upped myself from our last performance with referals. At the Kawaii Kon I had one person join the group, this Comic Con I had two people join the group! My unbeknownst role as a music community networking agent is still going strong? I guess it's all the CraigsList-ing I've been doing through the years, that this is what I'm becoming, in addition to many other things.

Note the empty seats in the top left

I was also invited to do a panel discussing video game music the next day with the director and a handful of other musicians from the community orchestra. Shockingly there was probably 4 times as many people at the panel than the performance. I guess that Friday [the day before when we did our performance] was just a dead time? Who knows. Anyway, it was fun, then I zipped away to perform with Aloha Karaoke Band that same night. Boy was that party! I even managed to get some new windward friends I made through Hitbox to come through, which was warming to see them in the crowd.

"Hey wait a minute, how come Console didn't play at the Con?" I know that's probably what you've been thinking. I was asked a few times from various people; acquaintances and strangers. What the heck happened? Well, hot off the heels of the Kawaii Kon in April, upon proving ourselves at the 2pm Friday slot [no one was there], I registered Console as a panel for the Comic Con in August. I received only one automated email. And that was that. As the Comic Con drew nearer, I asked around to colleague's band's if they had received word, in which they said that they did. I guess Console got lost in the mix, and I didn't have a way to really get in contact with anyone. Anyway, at the con I got in touch with the events director and ensured that Console would not get lost in the email matrix again... hopefully.

In other news, at some point my final foot wart fell off. HOLY FUCK! After 5+ years of battle those suckers, it's finally over. Probably has a lot to do with not working at the surf school recently, to be honest.

August 6th is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima by the way. Well I guess for us in Hawaii it's August 5th because of the international dateline magic time warp thing. Anyway, as you may or may not know I've been studying Japanese for most of my life and went to Hiroshima for the first time last year. I was greatly moved by the experience, and so, today is a #WorldPeace kind of awareness day for me.

As far as things to come, I get to play Uncle Brian this weekend as my sister's family from Kaua'i comes to visit to see the Phantom of the Opera. It'll be the third time I've seen Phantom. More importantly and symbolically though, Phantom was the last big and special thing my family did as a family before my parents split, so I have fond memories of the experience, and hopefully that gets transferred to my nieces as well, whether they know the backstory or not.

After all Aloha Karaoke Band's hard work, we have just achieved our goal of establishing a residency at a venue in town on a weekday early in the evening! From hence forth A.K.B. will be performing at the Dragon Upstairs every first Thursday of the month within the hours of 6pm-10pm. Set it and forget it!

August 30th is a date of interest as well, I'm double heading with Console and Breaking Anchors. I'm pretty excited that Console got the booking and that we can present our act to a different group of people, not just nerd convention patrons.

Thrice is September 7th, fucking PUMPED. I never would have imagined Thrice getting back together, nor touring into Hawaii, but, allegedly this is all going down September 7th.

And finally, comically, as fate would always have it, I set the date for the Brian Roberts Guitar Academy Recital for December 8th months ago, and guess what? My seasonal band Rock Opera Theatre went ahead and booked the same date, same time, and same venue for their annual Christmas show. Furthermore, they booked Hitbox to open, so I've gotten triple booked for Sunday December 8th. This is an example of what I believe in called "mental gravity" that as soon as something is thought, said, or placed, for some reason that creates a gravitational vortex. Guess that's the universe testing you to stay strong or bend in accordance to what matters most to you.

I decided to move the recital date a week later to December 15th, rather than trying to do too many things at once on December 8th, or having to cancel one or the other. Subsequently I said fuck it and asked if Console could get booked for December 8th as well, why not make it a mini-Brian fest?

Anyway, my last recital in 2017 went well, but I failed in that by booking myself a gig later that same night; everything was quite rushed. So, to avoid making that same mistake again, I just decided to move this year's recital to a week later, rather than biting off more than I can pull off comfortably. Hopefully people are still in town before the holidays, but, whatever, I'll live. Thankfully the venue has been kind enough to move things around, I guess that's the benefit of being uncommonly organized so in-advance in order to make these spazzy kind of changes.

Anyway, that's all for now, see you next month!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I Got Fired? And the Long Windy Road to Recovery

Probably the biggest thing that happened this past month was that amidst all my doctors visits post-surgery, I come to find out that my insurance had stopped. So here I am, days after a dentist appointment, receiving a phone call from my dermatologist's office requesting that I update my insurance being that my current insurance was no longer valid. It kind of caught me by surprise, and now I have some huge bills looming in my future.

Upon further research I discovered that I received a termination letter in late April from my "day job" at the surf school, stating I was terminated March 17th, two days after my surgery... this is pretty obscene, but, I have a sneaking suspicion that this "termination" was completely inadvertent. Be that as it may, I subsequently received an insurance revocation letter during the first week of May as well.

Getting terminated from the surf school is kind of a weird situation in of itself, and I'm not sure if it's legal really; being that I can't work due to my surgery? But, if I remember anything from the Twist Tie Rebellion -- an event in August of 2012 when I was last living on Kaua'i. I confronted my employer [RESTAURANT B] for disabling my acquisition of medical insurance which resulted in my subsequent on-site termination -- it's probably best not to cause a ruckus with my current situation. At this point in my life yeah, a cash out from a lawsuit would be nice, but, I really don't want to spend my time and energy fighting the uphill crusade for workers rights. In fact, when I reported the Twist Tie Rebellion to the labor board in 2012, it was explained to me that there wasn't anything that was going to happen: "you'll just get fired once your employer receives our cease and desist letter -- after putting two and two together, this kind of thing always happens..." Well so much for enforcing the law? So instead of doing anything real about my current situation, I'll just write about it on my blog that no one reads. Maybe I'll get threats of arrest like I did last time when I used my FaceBook as a platform for the "Twist Tie Rebellion" whose purpose was to publicly log/chronologize the events in which I whistle blew the restaurant I was working at at the time.

This is all in the past, and we've all moved on with our lives (statute of limits is two years right?) but... why not revisit a little blast from the past and take a trip down memory lane! After all, my current situation has got me thinking of that point in my life, so why not share it all with you! All aboard!

In the summer of 2012, I confronted my fraudulent employer [Restaurant B] about shifting them to my "official primary employer" for insurance purposes (I was working two jobs and the one other job [Restaurant C] did not hire me for part time work nor were they working me enough to qualify for 20 hours a week, but this one [Restaurant B] was definitely working me 20+ hours a week and had been for months)...

Shortly after confronting my employer [Restaurant B] I found that I was suddenly getting scheduled only once or twice a week. I thought to myself, "okay great... these guys are fucking with me. That's fine, I'll just pick up shifts." Which I was doing for about four weeks successfully (which is strangely the window of time for insurance eligibility), this suddenly happened...

A co-worked wanted me to work their shift, and I soon thereafter received a screen shot of their correspondence between themselves and management. Come to find out, my employer then made it a policy that I -- Brian -- was no longer allowed to work more than "2 shifts a week." This deliberately disabled me from working 20 or more hours a week. Two shifts a week would be 16 hours, maybe 18 at best... slimey! I was shocked. I then decided to report the fraudulent business to the labor board of Hawaii and later publicly document (and bring awareness to) the sequence of events with the help of FaceBook.

The back story goes like this: I first was working at restaurant A, then I got hired at restaurant B [fraudulent restaurant], I quit restaurant A, which was when I first asked to make B my primary employer, being that all I had was restaurant B at that time. Nothing was done at the time. I later got hired at restaurant C (which only worked me about 14 hours a week), I then asked to go primary again at B... but to no avail. I was working two jobs, but was receiving no medical insurance. After speaking to the labor board (as I mentioned above) they basically told me that if I moved forward with reporting fraudulent Restaurant B, that I would get fired, so I said fuck it and asked the labor board to give me two weeks time [to get fired/quit] before they issued their warnings. Amidst all this I had an outbreak of shingles (I think -- I'm not a doctor), and kind of for once actually wanted/needed to get medical treatment. So, to ultimately bring awareness to this ludicrous situation, I took to the internet! I guess a part of me (even now) want's to "get caught" by leaving a trail of bread crumbs online...

I spoke to lawyers on Oahu and Kauai, and none of them really inspired me to move forward with anything. It seemed that I would just be pouring time money into a whistle-blowing action -- none of the attorneys whom I had spoken to said anything about a lawsuit/payout.

So, I got sent home for a doctor's note (in which I would have to acquire without medical insurance from the very place sending me home). I was outraged and decided to rant on the internet. A few days later I receive:

I guess someone clued him in on my Facebook? I still laugh about this now. It's all very silly. And of COURSE petty. But, ultimately, who's in the wrong? Leave a comment below LOL.

As I say in the music world, I suppose we're not compatible / not like-minded. I don't know, when I think of these kinds of things my intuition is like, yo, isn't it your responsibility/duty as a Hawaii State business owner to insure their 20+ hour a week employees? It'd be one thing if that wasn't a thing, but it IS a thing! Anyway, as it stood, I still had my one shift a week to work, and I wasn't told not to come in or anything, so I still showed up for my shift which of course there was another employee there (well they were 30 mins late) to work my shift (again, I'm always the last to know). So... I waited for the management battle.

"[The road to] success isn't pretty, but you got some dirty fuckin' hands." -- Brian Roberts, Wednesday August 29th, 2012 at 7:55am.

Recent circumstance has taken me back to that time in mind, so thanks for traveling with me on that trip down memory lane. So here I am, without insurance and with some huge bills headed my way.

Currently, I decided that it would be best to enter the world of self-financed medical insurance; a true self-employed individual -- even if it's temporarily. How much? $560 a month! Which obviously is a lot cheaper than $12,000+ for an out-of-pocket uninsured bill, but... $560 isn't something nominal/negligible. I know people who play less than that for rent! So it got me thinking sociologically; talk about disincentive. Disincentive for 1) employers hiring/insuring employees 2) entrepreneurial pursuits 3) people having the freedom to not work. And various other things. Anyway, kind of fucked up.

The road to recovery is slow however, although I did "graduate" from physical therapy on June 5th. Now I'm awaiting my orthopedic follow up appointment to find out the course of healing over the next couple months. During this meeting I'm going to have to level with the surgeon about my medical insurance situation.

I was doing guitaraoke every weekday for a couple weeks, but I've dropped off after about three weeks of doing it. Wasn't getting enough traction/attention. I'll probably revisit it soon, I think I'm going to wait until I can get the tri-fuckta of Instagram, Facebook AND YouTube. Right now I only have Instagram and Facebook going at a time.

In May I did my first ever Skype guitar lesson. I guess I'm way late to the game as far as that is concerned. Who knows, this may be a great way to off-set some of those non-desirable time slots in Hawaii if I market to those on the west coast, which is where my first Skype guitar student is living. Time zone's working in my favor.

Speaking of guitar lessons, I also officially booked Hawaiian Brian's for the second ever BRGA recital. Still won't beat Osoyami as far as perfect venue, but... I gotta do it! It's been two years since I've held the first one.

I've managed to meet some interesting musicians since my past entry. One in particular is a vocalist saxophonists looking to put a band together. Here's a clip of an open mic thing we did the other night:

With the initial success of the backing track thing I decided to fully commit to live backing tracks with whatever concept projects I have in mind. I've been hitting the open mics now that I can bicycle around, and I've been featuring live backing track performances of the Movie's that Rocked concept (Movie Themes as done by a rock band), Hawaiian Punk Rock Band Concept, VGM Band Concept, etc. I've also found that my ability as a frontman has significantly diminished since the Leviathan days; I am way out of practice.

At some point between now and my last blog entry, I was making my rounds on the various musician network sites (craigslist, reverbnation, soundcoud, etc.) scouting for prospective musicians to work with and I found this kid who I thought would make a perfect addition for the punk rock band. I auditioned him, and he did great, and he seems to be completely on board. Hopefully it's for long term designs, but even if not, it's reinvigorated my drive for the Hawaiian punk rock band concept, and as a result, I've spent some time rearranged tracks and even managed to arrange a brand new one! Exciting stuff. This is probably why I stopped doing guitaraoke every morning.

What else is new? Aloha Karaoke Band has finally got some soft-gigs booked. We're going to feel out the crowd at the Dragon Upstairs on Tuesday June 25th and we're gonna try out the windward side at Boardriders in Kaneohe on June 28th. We have about 60 songs or so, so in my opinion we're in the beta testing phase, still not quite ready to mint. Coincidentally, it was brought to my attention that there's another live karaoke band that has residency on Monday nights at this place called Workplay. Naturally, I checked them out. Musically, they are far better than we are at this point, but, I saw some other things that Aloha Karaoke Band does (and needs to do) better.

There was about a week as well where I binged hard an old game I played: Shogun 2. I beat it again, so now it can lay undisturbed and unplayed for another 5 years or so.

I've also picked up a couple paying acoustic gigs so that's been real nice. Found myself playing at the Hilton sky bar; swanky!

Shar [and band] got re-invited for the fireworks show in July so that's pretty cool. I'm super excited for the Karaoke band to go live and the new lineup for the Hawaiian Punk Rock Band as well as finally setting a date for the next BRGA recital.

Anyway, that's all for now. I hope I can get this medical bill/insurance situation figured out because I'm gonna go broke otherwise haha. See ya next month!

Friday, May 3, 2019

May Day is Lei Day

Howdy ho. Okay, yes, I was late. I didn't do a posting last month. Why? Well... I usually schedule "blog time" during the first three days of the month. The chances of me finishing a blog post if I hadn't started it by the first three days pretty much drops to like, 2% chance. Anyway, I was in Las Vegas (Blackjack Brian strikes again) for the first couple days of the month. Unfortunately I lost this time. But, as a result of not blogging in the early part of April; here I am in May finally writing.

ANYWAY, so, I had knee surgery.

Physical therapy was very difficult at the very beginning, I usually don't like taking pain medications, but in order to get through the first days of exercises, I needed it. It's kind of crazy how much we take things for granted; like movement. Here's a bunch of pics and videos of my rehabilitation process. A whole lot of icing, elevation and struggles. No surfing for an entire year.

I was hobbling around with some crutches for a couple weeks post-surgery, then I moved over to a cane; which came in real handy for my flight to Las Vegas in early April. Don't let the Bellagio winnings fool you, I lost it all minutes before leaving to catch my flight. The city with one story; "I was winning, then I lost it all." Dang.

What else, some things just prior to surgery. I got B.R.G.A. stickers from stickermule.com and I've been slowly giving them out to my students. I also used them to tag my various lesson equipments, as well as marking my parking stall.

After getting back from Vegas, it was off to the Kawaii Kon to perform with Console in the afternoon and Hitbox in the evening. Both of which were rather tough with the leg situation and lack of PT due to traveling. I also met the members of MoL (Magic of Life), some Japanese band backstage randomly when I was moving my equipment around.

Mid April it was off to the big island for some dear Seattle friends wedding. It was so nice to see my friends again from that period in my life. I had to confess to them why I had been out of touch... DUI fun~~

I made my first stock market dividend yields! Wooooo.

Acoustic gigs with Kulia have become operational, so that's nice.

This past week I've also decided to do Facebook and Instagram live doing guitar karaoke every weekday morning. Trying to shoot for an 8am start time, but, although I've been consistent with filming every morning, I have yet to be successful at consistently starting at 8am.

Other than that, more of the same. Hustling. And now, hustling while recovering. That's it for now. See you in June hopefully.