Artis duo jams sans set list

To-do lists are a savior. I couldn’t get things done without them. At the very least, a list of key items scrawled on a notepad will help guide my day (“write Metro column!” is one familiar recurring item). When I don’t plan things out, my day is pretty much up in the air.

Browsing this month’s concerts at Hawaii Public Radio’s Atherton Studio at the end of a long day of crossing things off my list, I was taken aback by the May 23 performance by North Shore musicians Ron Artis II and Thunderstorm Artis. “In their Atherton debut,” reads the HPR’s concert listing, “this genre-defying duo promises a living room concert with no set list —what they feel from you, the audience, is what you will hear.”

Basically, these guys plan to have no plan.

The idea is that every performance should be special, and the Atherton Studio performance is no exception. After all, the venue — located in the basement of HPR — can only accommodate 75 people tops, lending easily to a very intimate, one-of-a-kind performance from any artist.

It’s a bold move, going in without a setlist. But as I think about it, maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds? After all, these guys have been making music practically since they were born. If you were lucky enough to catch the Ron Artis Family Band performing live at their home studio in Haleiwa, you were witness to something magical. The gigs were open to the public, and almost always impromptu: you walk through the front door and a couple of Artis siblings would start jamming. Slowly, the rest of the family would trickle in — 11 kids and their dad, Ron Artis — and within moments, a living room concert blossomed before you. The band is currently on hiatus, but their homegrown shows were truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

As you can tell, these guys have been preparing their entire lives for a gig like Saturday’s. The beauty, then, is in the fact that they’re letting the performance happen.

Like how today happened: My fiancee Leimomi and I had “coffee at Brue Bar” on our list of things to do because we wanted to check out its latest location at The Wedding Cafe at Ward Village. We ended up seeing barista Matt Aczon behind the counter. I asked about his record label, Christmas Tree Park Records. Matt launched CTP Records in 2012 to put his favorite local bands on wax, with the premise, “Records will be pressed. Stories will be shared. New friends will be met.”In other words: having a plan (make records), and letting the rest happen.

The co-owner of The Wedding Cafe, Luke Williams, happened to walk by. I caught his attention (I’m a full-time videographer at Propeller USA, one of TWC’s vendors) and congratulated him on the Cafe’s new location. We ended up engrossed in an inspiring hour-long conversation on design, architecture, business, music and how the world is so small these days.

There’s a curious balance between “winging it” and being prepared: expecting the unexpected, in other words. Whatever you do this week, be sure to allow room to let life happen. That’s where you’ll find the most rewarding moments.

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