October: Hometown Roots

Back on the Airwaves: Radio Alchemy “50 Years Too Fast 4ward”
Despite a 6 hour time difference on the east coast, on Monday, September 24th I was able to resume my regular weekly schedule picking up my show from the year 2000. Still I was acclimating and my head was a bit congested because of the change and travel. It’s always exciting for me to be back on the airwaves once again. Also, it provides me with a decompression to bridge between this time out and heading back to Hawaii.

Missed Communications: Phone Repairs
The upside of smartphones is that they make it possible to plan out trips quite effectively. Apps such as Uber, GPS, Air BnB, Transit Trip Planners, Email, Vivid ‘Flash’ Seats among others really helped make this whole trip a fantastic experience. Unfortunately, the downside is when your phone won’t recharge and all your information is locked inside your phone that cannot be accessed. Such was the case on the night of the Nine Inch Nails concert when I was unable to even show them my ‘flash’ ticket and instead had to have the credit card swiped to identify that I had purchased my seat. Which worked perfectly as I was told by someone who had a similar experience at the hostel where I stayed. But if you’re a friend of mine and haven’t received a call in awhile… it may be because I’ve lost your phone number and it did not transfer onto my new one. This journal serves as a good primer for what I’ve been up to for over the last 3 months. My pictures and videos also got lost in the process except for those on Facebook.

The X-Files of Allentown
Which of the following unusual events did NOT happen while on this trip to the Lehigh Valley:

a). A 4 alarm warehouse fire broke out in the middle of Allentown
b). 65 Beagles were rescued from a private home and taken to the humane society
c). The Catholic Priest Sex Abuse Hotline was set up to handle victim’s lawsuits
d). The Mayor of Allentown was tried, found guilty and imprisoned for 15 years.
e). Sands Casino in Bethlehem gave away $1.5 million in prize money to a customer
f). A car bomb exploded killing 3 people in it including a 2 year old child.
g). Nearly 100 exotic animals were found at a couples home in Macungie.
h). The Movie “Billboard” was made here based on a true story of 3 guys camped on a billboard (in Allentown) as part of an AM radio promotion in the early 80’s.

The answer unfortunately is e). No one here became an instant millionaire that I know of. The other stories are however true and some quite inhumane and dismal at that. Particularly f) which I won’t go into. The X-files would really have to step up its game to compete with these last several weeks. There were more including some strange weather patterns (floods, tornados) but those are becoming more and more commonplace all over the world.

CloZee at The Foundry – Fillmore in Philadelphia
Having heard of CloZee and her performances recently at Envision 2017 in Costa Rica as well as several near missed concerts in both Reno and Denver, I’d finally get to see her show in Philadelphia.
It was everything that I hoped it would be. A very skilled electronic goddess/dj who can also play mutiple instruments as well as producing her own work, she really delivered a great set. So glad that I did not miss this one as I’m unlikely to see her perform back on the islands. Though that would be amazing to see and I’m sure she would love playing here.

Overview and Trip Summary
In between all of the above moments, there were a lot of very special times with people from my past times here in Allentown especially. It doesn’t seem like there is ever enough time to be truly grateful for all of those. But it is always satisfying to make those connections. Even to just relive or stroll past some of the cornerstone places that were very real to me growing up.

One radio station that I connected with belongs to Muhlenberg College and was a flashback to my final year in 1983. Many people from that great period of broadcasting are now spread out over the country working their own magick. Some are still here in Allentown and serve as an inspiration for knowing what is possible thru community radio and the purpose that it serves.

WMUH still stands today and broadcasts 24/7 but shortly after I left it spawned another Public NPR based community station – WDIY. Both of these serve as beacons because that final year in 1983 was so special to me personally. It marked the end of my time hereand yet, like Burningman, that part of my soul that was left behind can be reclaimed again each time I get to revisit.

So many thank yous go to all who were part of this fantastic journey. Sometimes it’s essential to just get back to your roots so that you can further gain perspective and move forward. It also reshapes some very valuable connections with friends and family who we all love.

Finally, in closing… a very special remembrance and tribute to Zackary Gibson who passed away on this day, November 4th. He will forever be remembered for providing the foundation for some of the finest Big Island outdoor gatherings both at the Kava Farm on the Hamakua coast as well as Kanaka Kava Bar in downtown Kona. A true renegade and pioneer in every sense, he will truly be missed. Much Aloha and Mahalo for the great times Zack! Rest In Peace.

August: Arise & Shine

Tales from Loveland @ Arise Festival

Arriving in Denver morning of August 2nd in preparation for a shuttle bus ride unlike any other to the Arise Festival next day in Loveland, CO. It was a 3 day festival headlined by “Thievery Corporation”, Layout consisted of 2 Primary Stages and 2 secondary side stages flanked by a host of informational booths and holistic vendors, CBD distributors and some really good food. Also a dome which hosted various lectures and presentations by activists and festival organizers. Supporting acts included a most awesome visual / acrobatic performance by Quixotic. Other bands included Trevor Hall, Dustin Thomas, Kitchen Dwellers, Andrew “Tubby” Love & Amber Lily, Start Making Sense (Talking Heads tribute), Dead Floyd, Ayla Nereo, Sligthtly Stoopid and Pepper. There was a somewhat familiar crossover among several of those performers with ties to the Hawaiian Islands. Despite the occasional hail, wind or lightning storm that forced a few delays in the schedule… it was an awesome festival with a great group of people. On the final day, also got to meet up and spend some time with “Godlazer” a prominent CO resident DJ who has visited and played the Big Island who I got to meet up with later in Boulder, Colorado. Thievery Corporation of course was the highlight and were incredible as I cross them off my list of “most wanted to see” performances.

Reno, NV: Burningman Prep

August 8th was my flight to Reno, NV in preparation for the next venture which was Burningman over the next 3 weeks. Teaming with “Collision Cuisine” which later became “Camp Dashi”- A supporting network which provided the culinary infrastructure for several other prominent camps most notably “Playa Alchemy” and Camp Ibiza. It was an adventure into food preparation arts at its finest along with some old and new friends from prior year Burns. Moreover, it was an extreme logistical challenge combining all types of vehicles, generators, heavy kitchen appliances, tents, bicycles, a golf cart, trailers and thousands of dollars worth of food. It was an exceptional experience with many challenges along the way and lots of careful planning.

Black Rock City, Set-up

The early entry pass to Burningman has two sides to it. The main advantage being early arrival to put everything into place in time for the event. It provides a nice transitional atmosphere that prepares you for what’s to come. But set-up can also seem like a very raw experience. It is a blank canvas to start which quickly morphs into home for the next 2 weeks. Usually it involves the initial setting into place various tent and shade structures followed by power generators. But as a kitchen facility, attention turns quickly into the efficient set-up of various sinks, refrigerators, ovens, large storage facilities for food and supplies. Finally the creature comforts like showers and porta potties. All in the middle of a dry lake dessert. Don’t forget to prepare for the wind and dust storms that can happen at any time of day or night without notice. The other advantage is that you may only have a 2.5 hour wait in line instead of the sometimes customary 6 hours at the start of the event.


There’s no rational explanation for why all this extreme preparation would be worth the experience so I won’t try. Suffice it to say that the time spent on or around the Playa (the inner city at Burningman) is something that might closely resemble a week on the Moon or Mars where the new currency becomes creative and artistic expressions adorned with art cars, fiery scenes, sexy lights and plenty of freedom to experience one’s own sense of adventure and exploration which is then balanced by survival skills and basic necessities. Much of those can be broken down and found on the Playa itself thru its gifting culture and at times ‘humorous’ bartering network. Cash does not exist in this atmosphere as there is nothing to buy except for Coffee and Ice.

Camps: Dashi / Mystic / Freestyle Palace

I had the good fortune of not having to work during the event itself this year. Most of that took place at Dashi prior during set-up and after during ‘the strike’ (aka tear down). So it was my honor to also be part of another camp “Freestyle Palace” where I camped the previous year. The people here are wonderful, generous and creative souls who really know how to enjoy life. They come from many places throughout California primarily but some farther away like me. Throughout the week they feature a huge ball pit of several thousand balls in a circular swimming pool with stuffed animals in between. But it has an open bar, DJ booth with dance poles secured to a platform and hosts such things as “Air Guitar Contests”, Comedy Shows, a Pub Crawl and the newest entry for this year – our own art car “Tessie”. It was also host to several play shops throughout the week and some samples of Pan fry Ice Cream. It is a great place to just lounge out, rest and recover from the previous all-nighter. Across the way is also the Freestyle Dome which has several electric instruments often used for an instant ‘Flash Jam’ for any willing passersby and participants.

Camp Mystic should have it’s own recording each year as it has become my premier ritual every mid-Week on Wednesday Evenings on the 2:00 side of town. This year was again an exceptional lineup of Random Rab, Human Experience (aka David Block), Gaudi and Dessert Dwellers. I love it there because once you come, you don’t want to leave. It has some of the best fire dancers and performance artists amidst a beautiful, sensuous atmosphere. It’s become a home away from home away from home. The perfect Shamanistic Shangrila for Yogi’s and/or those who like to dabble in mind expansion exercises.

September: Super Rocky Mountain High

Reno Reprisal
All good things came to an end right around Labor Day. And labor we did as it was all hands on deck for the breakdown (aka strike) at two different camps. Whether that meant decapitating an art car or tearing down kitchens and tents and disposing of sludge water, it’s always a trying time after so much fun being had. Back in Reno it meant gathering whatever remains were still useful and washing all the playa dust off them for the remainder of the trip. Or in this case, just fixing a broke phone. Did I leave out the “mooping” of our space as to “leave no trace” on the Playa?

Denver Re-deux
The first go round was a bit rushed to really get a handle on what Denver was about. This time though, I got to explore around the city a bit more with one particular goal in mind – to see Nine Inch Nails at Red Rocks. But it was also a first chance I had to check in with clients and such as I’d been having way too much fun of late. But once those two days were complete, we got a chance to buy some tickets to the show and then make an attempt at getting my phone fixed while uploading at least a few select photos and videos onto Facebook from these past 2 weeks.

After one less than desirable hostel experience, I checked out and into another. Very centrally located was the “Fish Hostel” about 2 blocks from Coors Field in downtown Denver. It was here that I first met David Carson Bello, a guitarist from a heavy metal band and instantly became friends. Notably that evening included an open mic night in which he performmed as I recorded and broadcast live over Radio Alchemy from the hostel bar. Near my final couple of days as we stalked several pawn shops for guitars, I opened a magazine to an advertisement for the Terrapin Cannibis dispensary in Boulder. This was my Alchemy moment as it confirmed that I was to meet DJ Godlazer which was already on my agenda. And so I caught a bus to Boulder, punched in Terrapin on my GPS and walked thru University of Colorado campus to where he worked. Very similar to what I experienced last year in Seattle, but this time I got a scent of the many varieties and a course on what was available within the dispensary. The real treat though would come after his day was done as I was taken to the very top of Mount Boulder at 10 PM on a full moon night by motorbike. A truly exceptional experience and a perfect way to capture the view from atop of this beautiful mountain.

Red Rocks Amphitheater
I’d already had some idea that Red Rocks was THE Premier Concert Venue beforehand from watching U2’s video “Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky”. But to be there in person was for me no different that seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. I had planned to go there if I were in Colorado regardless. Nine Inch Nails made the decision a bit easier as they were playing two shows on September 18 & 19. I chose the earlier date since I would be leaving too soon after the show on the 19th to really stay focussed. I had already booked a nice Air BnB for that night and got to rest a bit before taking an Uber to the show. The magnificence of this place was immediately apparent. Similar to a miniature Grand Canyon with a large stage and about 10,000 seats and an indoor theater and museum which I wished I could’ve spent more time. As it was, I felt fortunate to be able to enter this monumental space of beauty. My phone had finally given out before I could snap my last photo and before I could show my ‘Flash Seats” ticket to the woman at the gate. Fortunately, I was told earlier that they could scan the Credit Card I used to purchase the ticket with. Out printed a ticket with my name above “Nine Inch Nails”… my favorite souvenir to take home from this majestic evening.

Nine Inch Nails
I’d seen NIN once before during their prime around when “The Downward Spiral” came out in 1994. It is known as my favorite weekend in Hawaii as the night before “Depeche Mode” had played at the Bleisdell Arena and were already well established as a Synth band with a darker edge. Depeche had also played a second show that Saturday across town in Honolulu and it was not until 3 AM at a nightclub called the After Dark that Trent Reznor and NIN took to the stage. One of the edgiest performances ever seen to date. Reznor had to allow Depeche to finish their show to make an appearance at his own. When they finally did go on, the entire warehouse erupted into a frenzy. A whirlpool of people that were already tensed up from waiting so long became a human cyclone. I would later also see Depeche Mode at the beach on the sands of the Kohala Hilton the next day two towels down.

Fast forward to 24 years later and a similar anticipation of finally getting to this venue at this moment. I was already riding a high from two weeks at Burningman and knew I was approaching the end of this expedition in Colorado. Could there be a higher note to go out on? NIN is not intended as a pop band. They (he) only became popular because he was so damn good that they were immediately invited as a main act at Lollapolooza in its early days. It’s music would be recognized for its biting lyrics and shredding of familiar pretensions commonly found in the pop culture. Though Reznor along with Atticus Ross would produce the soundtrack to the movie “Social Network” which was ranked by many as the best Film of 2010 certainly for its relevance to the Facebook phenomenon but also because of how the film effectively used the soundtrack.

Also of note, Johnny Cash would also cover his song “Hurt” on his 87th album of his enormous career. (Also of note he did coincidentally cover Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” on the same record). Not surprising that “Hurt” would be the final song of the last encore for both NIN shows at Red Rocks. The light show was incredible. The sound was perfect. His supporting band amazing. Even the opening act “The Jesus and the Mary Chain” were quite appropriate to set up the night.

It couldn’t be summed up in a few sentences to how important it was for me to see this particular show. Even my seat was placed next to a Chemist from upstate NY who had seen them 10 times before, several at Red Rocks as he was now transplanted in Colorado. I gave him my card for the radio station afterwards and hoped that one day he’ll tune in.

Nine Inch Nails – “The Perfect Drug” September 18th at Red Rocks

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor admitted that he was initially “flattered” but worried that “the idea of Cash covering ‘Hurt’ sounded a bit gimmicky,” but when he heard the song and saw the video for the first time, Reznor said he was deeply moved and found Cash’s cover beautiful and meaningful, going as far as to say “that song isn’t mine anymore.”

Return to Allentown
Allentown, PA was my home for 23 years. It was where I graduated both High School and College and worked full time. It was also where I volunteered time as a DJ at both WDFM in State College (Penn State) and WMUH, Allentown. It really set the stage for what was to come for the next 35 years. It’s always a pleasure to return to as I have family and a friend who I share the common interest with and is now host to Liber Limbia every Saturday from 2 to 6 PM Hawaii Time. It’s a space I like to return to as it gives some reference point to all that has happened since leaving in 1983. Because of all that has happened in Hawaii this past year, it takes on a role that I had not expected: A place of refuge and solace. But it also is a place where I can now resume my connection with Hawaii since I can now broadcast from this remote location 6000 miles away.