Wednesday, January 8, 2020

[What Was Supposed to Be] September's Blog

5 months since my last entry! So much for my projected standard of "monthly blogging." Better late than never. What has happened since the last posting?

Remember the car stereo I got to start working? It has somehow managed to break itself. Well, that's not entirely true. It sometimes works, only rarely, whenever it feels like it. Really quite annoying... so now - after all that hassle - the car is without music, again. My partner has suggested getting it looked at by a professional, but I'm stubbornly convinced that it's an electrical problem which can be incredibly enigmatic to fix - even for professionals. I suppose we'll be without music until the next ride comes into our life.

I didn't know it at the time, but I had my last rehearsal with Da Swell in early August. As far as I know though, I could very well still be in the band this very moment, but, I haven't heard from, or met with, the band since then. I'm fairly sure this is one of those classic scenarios where no one official tells me the band is disassembling and/or I'm getting kicked out. Just an unspoken disbanding of a group. I don't blame Da Swell though, individual members (including myself) agreed to volunteer our gig pay in order to finance an impending recording session only to have the person in charge of holding the money move away with said-cash in hand. At least, that's the story I was told. Talk about a foul taste in the mouth...

As you may or may not know, I've been a tenacious Craigslist Musicians Community user and I frequently peruse and post through its listings. One morning I received a peculiar inquiry email by way of Craigslist from someone looking to audition for Console - The VGM Band. The inquiry was from a mother (acting as artist manager) on the behalf of her 14 year-old daughter. I'm like, come on, 14 year old girl? I'm thinking yeah right... just like trumpets, violins, (both of which I was hesitant at first about) that's just so not rock-n-roll. However, (this is a pro tip) they included links to various platforms showcasing performances and experiences and so I thought, why not? Give the young'in the chance! I would have been elated at that age to join a band like this if given the opportunity. It reminded me of when I played with Crazy Eddy Lopez in my Kaua'i days after he moved in down the street from my mom's house. Even though nothing came of it, it was nice that some adult musician even gave me the time of day. So, out of principle alone, I was sold in at least giving the kid a chance to audition, now I had to try and convince the rest of the band. I packaged it like how I packaged incorporating our violin player: as a featured instrumentalist. Knowing that not all of our gigs will be all ages events, this would be the only feasible way of incorporating an underage musician. After including a "an adult must be present at all times for everyone's safety" clause, I was able to get the band to entertain the idea. Thankfully the girl did really well and the band decided to have her tag-along (like our violin player) at appropriate rehearsals and shows. Some time later she decided to enroll at B.R.G.A. (Brian Roberts Guitar Academy) too. Coincidentally, the guitar player whom she had been replacing was also a bandmate turned BRGA student alumnus. I suppose that's the historical nature of that position in the band.

Still been paying out-of-pocket for self-financed COBRA medical insurance (-$524/Month). It's been a real delight... NOT! I suppose I'm trying to get my money's worth, I had a root canal procedure completed in August which costed about $1000 WITH insurance. I don't even want to know what it would of been without it... wanna be rich? Stay healthy folks! Haha. Went to the eye doctor, and although I feel like my vision is getting worse, they still haven't set me up with eye glasses. I really have rotten luck finding legit health care professionals...

On Aug 8th I went and watched Phantom of the Opera for the third time with my Kaua'i family. My eldest niece from Kauai then stayed the weekend with me at BRGA. It had only been a couple months since my surgery so I was super lame. All we did was shop and eat. I guess that's all people ever do anywhere anyway?

I went and saw a local production of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Manoa Theater at the encouragement of a friend. I liked it. I also noticed that the "pit band" (the musicians who provide the live music) had an electric guitarist so I immediately contacted the music director to see if there was any demand for guitarists in the live theater world. Unfortunately there didn't seemed to be any productions in the foreseeable future that would require a guitarist. Dang.

It seemed like for a little while we were getting some traction with the Shige Sax band. We had a replacement drummer for a little while, but then things got cold for a couple months... recently though, the original drummer contacted us and is able to meet with us again. Hopefully this means the Shige Sax band can actually pin down a decent gig or something, guess we'll find out in 2020!

I bought a bunch of used guitar pedals off of Craigslist and in particular I got my hands on a "Sans Amp" to use in my duo gigs with Craig (pun). Unfortunately, due to alleged budget reasons, August would be the last of our residency gigs at Whole Foods Kahala, so I on;y got to use it once. Dang! That's how it always goes though... it's like clockwork: I buy equipment upgrades for a specific group/project/opportunity and then shortly thereafter the situation ends for whatever reason. Hopefully we can get something going again here soon though because just yesterday I finally used up all my Whole Foods gift cards, and that's how they'd pay us, with Whole Foods gift cards. I could use a replenishment.

On Aug 28th The Ukus (formerly known by its working name "Hawaiian Punk Rock Band") had its first live gig at Downbeat Diner with the Once a Month Punk showcase show. We were slated to go second, but the promoter/organizer asked us if we would perform later. Being that I wanted to set a good band-promoter relationship I said yes. Turns out I didn't know what I was saying yes to because we went from being slated to perform at 9pm to then performing as the last band just after midnight! This was not ideal. Fast forward to now, and we have another gig lined up for THIS January 30th (2020) and I'm hoping to unveil one or two new songs at this show.

August 30th I had my Breaking Anchors / Console - The VGM Band double header gig. It went well. It was exciting to get our violin player Sean up on stage with Console, and I also managed to get some valuable multi-angel footage of the band as well. The very next day Console had a mid-day recording session and we were successful in recording drums for all of our songs. Now all that's left to do, is everything else!

Around this time, after realizing that I had been on an inadvertent booze bender, so I started monitoring my alcohol intake in September as well as logging some other things whilst I was at it (such as guitar practice, running, stretching, etc). The logging only lasted about two months though because I got super busy in November. Now that it's January and I'm not cramming for auditions, gigs, recitals, repertoires, I'm hoping to return to logging myself again. One week through January and so far so good.

With all that footage from the aforementioned Console gig, as well as a slew of A.K.B. (Aloha Karaoke Band) gigs, there was a good moment where I went on a video trimming tear. I had filmed 6 different showings of A.K.B. in the hopes of capturing various singers at various venues selecting and performing the same one song, whatever that song would be. There was a lot of footage to trim, and after chopping up all the footage from the 6 AKB gigs, I wound up having 404 trimmed videos. Did I mention there was a lot of footage? Then I was all fired up hot on the heels of the Console gig so I tabled the AKB stuff and went on a Console video editing rampage. Subsequently, I managed to release a Console video every week since mid September up until the holidays. I'm still sitting on the AKB material, and I'll EVENTUALLY get to that too... hopefully soon. Hopefully to be completed by 2020, and not 2021 haha.

There was a brief moment where I auditioned for a "country" band as a keyboard player, but then the band leader moved away because I guess some moke threatened him. That's the end of that story.

I saw Thrice on September 7th at the Republik. Dream come true. hell yeah.

Also around September I had a noticeable mass BRGA dropout which just made the my holiday plans a little more painful financially speaking. The joys of being self-employed.

I didn't know it at the time, but similarly to the Da Swell situation from earlier, I believe I had my last gig with Breaking Anchors on Sept 21st at the Irish Rose. Technically the band is still active, however, I haven't seen them since then.

I recently started backing up my former co-worker turned friend turned BRGA student at his resident gig on Tuesdays at the Dragon. The Rad Chad Jam. Mostly just using it as an opportunity to play out, and practice drums. That place would be so much better if it had a working house PA system...

October was pretty eventful. I had two different Japanese friends visiting Oahu, so I went to none other than 12th Ave Bar & Grill with them. I hooked them both up with surf lessons, but... it seems the surf school has seen better days. Anyway, double pic, shark smiles for all.

AKB had its first private party gig, and we also managed to book the Dragon in Chinatown during Hallowbaloo, so that was cool, except for the bartender being two hours late... disabling us from starting the show on time. That was kind of a blunder that wasn't within our control, but oh well. Out of necessity we acquired a functional PA system with two loud speakers (and stands) and the extra fancy Behringer XR18. After having used this system for numerous gigs at this point, now I want one for myself! Where is that money tree?

I got invited from a drummer-friend to help the established Hawai'i hardcore punk band Anti-Matter with rehearsals in preparation for a high-profile gig with the punk rock legends the Dead Kennedys which was over a weekend in November. I like rehearsing in particular applications, and so I decided to be a stand-in rehearsal-er. So there I was, with one weeks notice transcribing 17 songs in order to be functional at said rehearsal(s). Its funny to think how making the conscious decision over a year ago to start teaching myself how to read and write sheet music led me to landing the Hitbox gig a few months later, which then gave me the skill set to amass 97 songs in AKB (and other working bands) a few months after that. Having this experience then gave me the skills to lift 17 Anti-Matter songs within a week and would eventually lead to my permanent inclusion with the band starting in 2020, so I suppose my hustling left a good impression. But, now I have to memorize 17 songs by Sunday's gig... dang!

My honey had been gone a lot for work, so we decided to fly me out to Seattle over the end of October and beginning of November. Coincidentally this meant that I would be spending part of my day in Seattle on November 3rd, the 11th anniversary of my house invasion date. This also meant that I wouldn't be partying much on Halloween (in fact, we went and watched Miss Saigon that night), but, I'm getting older now, and getting many opportunities to dress like an idiot as a cosplayer, so it wasn't so bad. I saw some old friends, visited some old familiar places, and most importantly; ate a lot of oysters!

Then we entered November, and things started to get busy! In fact, the working-title for this blogs draft was called "September's Blog," I think I'll keep it. The holidays [Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years] were closing in. I somehow managed to get myself a triple header "hat trick" gig (achievement unlocked) on December 8th. The three different groups I would be playing with were going to be ramping up into heavy rehearsal mode. I also had to start making moves on the second annual BRGA recital which was to be held a week after, on December 15th. Did I mention I was busy? There was going to be a couple "super-days" where I'd be rehearsing and/or performing with 4 different groups in the same day.

I applied at Vans (the skate store) because I had heard that they were hiring. More importantly, I was told they offered a very great medical plan for employees. Working one shift a week (8 hrs) would qualify me for insurance, naturally, this excited me. I could finally get out from under my monthly $500 COBRA payment and get out of the house, casually. After applying and interviewing however, I was informed that Vans was looking to instate a "20hr a week minimum for health insurance" starting in 2020. The sweet deal was no longer a sweet deal... If you care to know, I am not working at Vans haha.

My life luck wasn't changing. One morning, my property manager informed me that the owner(s) was/were looking to sell the apartment. Whoah, that came out of the blue. Contractors and appraisers would be frequenting the apartment those next couple of weeks; limiting whether or not I could leave the house and/or have uninterrupted students. It was extremely inconvenient to say the least. In fact, one morning I was promised that they [the contractors/appraisers] would be finished by X:XXam, assuring me that I'd have plenty of time to get my dentist appointment at Y:YYam... and, well, I'm sure you know where this story is going... As I sat in my apartment, [im]patientnly waiting for the workers to finish what they had to do and leave, my appointment was drawing nearer and nearer. I watched multiple times as the contractors/appraisers would periodically get side-tracked, talking story to each other [doing nothing specific in my unit], showing each other internet memes, or dumb shit their friends did over the weekend. I'd side-eye the wall clock for time checks as each minute would pass thinking, "what the fuck are these guys doing?" Eventually it came to a point where I knew I was going to be late, so I did a non-violent, but asshole-ish move. I called the dentist's office within full earshot of the workers - who were still talking story, playing on their phones - and informed the dentists that "I AM GOING TO BE LATE," looking over at the workers, "I'M SORRY I AM ONLY INFORMING YOU NOW, I WAS TOLD I'D BE RELEASED BY NOW, AND I HAVEN'T BEEN. I'M TERRIBLY SORRY." .... "OKAY, I UNDERSTAND, I WILL TRY TO GET THERE WHEN I CAN, BUT IF I CAN'T BE THERE, THEN MY APPOINTMENT IS FORFEIT, AND I WILL HAVE TO GET THE PROCEDURE DONE AT THE NEXT AVAILABLE TIME WHICH WOULD BE IN THREE MONTHS." Within a minute the workers packed up and left and I was able to get to the dentist's a few minutes late. Talk about social stratification, the high and mighty care little of the trifles of the peasants. No respect for time, *hash tag* F.T.F. (Fahk Those Fahkahs).

On top of that, to this day I still don't know if anything will change or not, and especially because BRGA - my entire livelihood at this point - is the apartment unit. It's a bit concerning and unsettling not knowing what will come of "owners are looking to sell." Ultimately it's silly to worry too much; nothing in life is secure regardless of circumstance, but I can't help having an ominous feeling about it. Having it brought to the fore-front of one's mind kind of elicits some anxiousness.

At some point, among a few other things, I had asked the director of H.M.E. (Hitbox Music Ensemble) if it would be okay to allow capable BRGA students to "understudy" with me at HME rehearsals and possibly gigs. He kindly agreed, so in addition to the intensifying rehearsal schedule, I was also training select BRGA students for these rehearsals. I was able to get a student to join me on the two rehearsals I attended, and they did really well! *hash tag* proud teacher moment.

Towards the end of November, a couple things happened. One night I was invited by a friend to a local amateur stand up comedy event, and little did I know, this was going to be my stand up debut. This friend signed me up, so there I was telling stories about root beer and drug testing. If after that first go I learned some things; [long] story jokes only work if you have jokes along the way, and, man have I gotten fat! Coincidentally I'd also be watching a professional comedian - Jo Koy - later that week too. It was a month of comedy to off-set my rotten luck! I guess it's true what they say about funny people: their lives suck! *hash tag* tears of a clown.

With all systems go, confirmations, heavy training and scheduling in full swing for the December 8th triple gig, the bass player for Console drunk-quits Console. Why does this shit always happen? I wish I could pay my co-musicians... I sincerely believe that would alleviate so much unnecessary drama. Thankfully he reconsidered after he sobered up, I moved heaven and earth to get the gig and prepare for it...

Then December rolled around. I took the annual official government sponsored Japanese-Language Proficiency Test exam, level N5 [easiest]. I won't get the results until mid-February though... I hope I passed, and if so, I will then attempt N4 [second easiest] next time.

I celebrated my birthday by eating prime rib at the Halekulani. It was lovely.

Then the December 8th hat trick gig came, and it went. It was satisfyingly intense, and although there was some logistical drama and mishaps that I absorbed and salvaged it the very beginning, I felt the show went really well. Unfortunately Console had to drop 3 songs to "absorb" the logistal blundering, so that was a slight bummer. I did manage to net $38 through "donation sales" at our merchandise booth, so that's cool. And now I'm sitting on even more [Console] footage and will be going on another editing rampage when I get past some more immediate deadlines. Poor AKB footage just keeps getting post-poned. *hash tag* kick the can.

One week later, the second annual BRGA recital went down on December 15th. Everyone did really well, and although I had to spend a chunk of money to get the room at Hawaiian Brian's, I was actually quite pleased with how everything went down in spite of much work it was for personally. Also, I proposed to my lady and now I'm engaged. Or is it that I am now engaged to someone? I really don't know how any of this works... I made editing down the BRGA recital videos a high priority and released them over New Years' Eve.

Then the holidays were upon us. This was the first Christmas I had since 2004 where I did not work over the holidays. It was nice, but strange at the same time. I do enjoy the time off, but what I don't like is how EVERYTHING shuts down. I suppose that's a blessing in disguise though. I guess I'm just not used to it. Sadly, The Ukus were on a holiday hiatus, so over the break I channeled my energy into designing a logo and well, here it is! From sketch concept to final product. Do you know where I'm drawing my inspiration from?

I went and saw my orthopedic surgeon after Christmas, and he didn't have good news. I suppose all the months of sitting and binge playing Civilization 6 after I was told "to run," didn't do much good for rehabilitating my leg. The silver lining though is that I am not approved for swimming, hiking and even (Stand Up Paddleboarding), so I'm making plans to SUP via surf school weather permitting.

The Shar Band received a resident gig for two Fridays a month at the Hilton Tapa Bar, so this was great news. We kept a gig that we may have wanted to cancel only because we needed to use a substitute drummer for our absent primary drummer. Normally this wouldn't be a concern, but being that we were explicitly instructed to be "not loud," most drummers are incapable of playing softly comfortably. Sadly, this was also true with the sub. We got through the gig without any grievous mishaps/train-wrecks, but man were my ears ringing for DAYS after that gig. Halfway through the gig, I look over at the sub drummer only to find that they had slipped in some earplugs and were asking me to "turn up!" Haha... man... Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for the help, but I was shocked to find out that we were still confirmed to continue through the next months. Phew. I could really use the gig stability after this monetary drought! *hash tag* lucky.

AKB had its debut gig at Study Hall, my neighborhood bar. We did really well considering we weren't at full force (we were missing our primary emcee, and I had to fill that position, which then put our second string guitar player in my position). Being that I was in this semi-alien position and that the venue was so large, I came to realize some procedural things that we may want to adjust to have a better product. Also, I was allowed to have a BRGA student come and sit-in on a couple of tunes! *hash tag* proud teacher moment part 2.

And now we are here in 2020! Holy cow, after days of constructing this blog (I'm sure it's becoming more difficult to read as I'm getting less concerned on the quality of my writing) I'm finally caught up!!! If I am going to continue this blogging nonsense, I really need to keep up on it, but... *hash tag* life.

I suppose I have decided that my new years resolution is...

1) No more unnecessary excessive consumption (ie video games, alcohol, coffee, etc.)

2) [re-]Start monitoring myself (to help reinforce resolution no. 1, no 3., and no 5.)

3) Stick to a healthy and balanced routine (yesterday and today are exempt as I have been trying to finish this god forsaken blog!)

4) No more Civilization 6

5) Get my knee back in order

We'll see how it all goes. *hash tag* let it be written, let it be done.

Now that we've flipped over into January, I just went ahead and booked weekly rehearsals for all my fortnightly bands. Worse case scenario I could always cancel the bookings if there were any discrepancies. I figured we all needed to dust off our holiday hiatus dust! Hopefully musicians and BRGA students alike will get serious and start straightening up. We all can get a good scheduling and practice rhythm and start making some headway! After some discussion with the keyboardist for Console, we're slated to try a new rehearsal format being that we can't seem to accomplish playing our entire 43 minute set in two hours... I'm bummed, but what we're doing now isn't producing growth, so we'll see how this goes. On paper, I can't understand how we are unable to get through the 43 minute set in 60 minutes, leaving a remaining hour to work on new stuff... but, everyone is different. *hash tag* A.D.D.?

I have a gig on January 12th with Anti-Matter at Hawaiian Brian's, and I got to get to memorizing those songs!

My next orthopedic appointment is on January 29th, and I'm hoping for the best. Seriously trying to dedicate some time every weekday to rehabbing my leg.

I'm especially excited to be having our second gig ever as The Ukus on January 30th at Anna O'Brien's. We have one, maybe two, new songs to debut on that night. That is something I also have to get to practicing/memorizing. I don't remember memorizing lyrics as being so difficult, but perhaps I'm just a couple years out of practice.

That's it as far as what's on the immediate agenda. I'm going to be looking into continuing my Tuesday releasals of content, especially Console video because of all that footage I got on that triple header gig. I'm going to take a serious approach to a daily routine and I believe logging it will help motivate me and keep me honest with my claims. I'm also going to look into getting Console booked for the Osoyami Battle of the Bands. I think we'll do really well at that showcase. Oh yeah, whatever happened to recording our 13 track album?

Stay tuned to find out, hopefully by the first week of February! *hash tag* don't hold your breath.