Disclosure: Oni and I were invited out to the media day event at Field of Screams and were provided VIP passes to tour their houses and events this year–Oni was in LA at the time, so I brought with me some newbies to the event to see their reaction to what has historically been one of my favorite haunted attraction locations. They had some great set ups showing the history of the event:
When you enter Field of Screams, you immediately realize it isn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill haunted attraction location.
I moved to L.A. because of my love of music, so of course I already went to my first concert. There was no way in hell that I would miss the chance to see Plini and Nick Johnston live at The Roxy on the Sunset Strip.
Before I permanently left New Jersey I made a point to buy every album that Nick and Plini have ever put out. You know – just in case my finances got hit during this move. I have my priorities straight.
Another band that I bought everything from before moving here was Animals as Leaders – more on that later.
I won’t be detailing the set list because I’m not google. I’m here to talk about what it was like to actually go to this show.
I got there later than I wanted to and so my biggest regret is that I missed Mike Dawes who happened to perform at this particular show. This guy is amazing. Just look at this shit:
He reminds me a bit of Jon Gomm but has a completely unique point of view that makes you feel like your face just got stampeded sideways by a metric ton of bears or something. I can’t explain it. Watch the video because wow, guys. I am going to be following his work and getting his album. I’m definitely going to be in the audience at the next show of his that I can get to.
I arrived right when Nick Johnston went on. Holy shit, guys.
The thing about Nick’s work is that his phrasing and melodic composition is always strong, but his most recent album, Remarkably Human is his best work to date. He has Gavin Harrison on drums and Bryan Beller on bass for the album but they aren’t touring with him.
Remarkably Human really transcends way past the combo bonus of it’s parts. I think that a key to this is because of (I think it was) co-producer Scott Giffin’s addition of the piano into the mix which REALLY compliments Nick’s melodies. The reason why is that it’s unexpected. I’d have NEVER thought a piano would add much to an instrumental guitar album, but it does. It creates such an appropriate atmosphere without sacrificing Nick’s impact or authenticity.
The live show is just as good if not better than the album.
You can imagine how happy I was when Bryan Beller actually came out as a surprise guest for 2 of my favorite songs. He’s one of my favorite bassists because his style is extremely expressive and just petulantly joyful. He’s able to hold together any song no matter how chaotic and combative the rest of the composition is, yet somehow still makes space to play around. He handles the job but maybe will tie your ear dick to a flaming T-Rex when you aren’t looking is basically what I mean.
Plini’s work is, in my opinion, the type of music that can grab your central nervous system and rewrite its programming faster than a kick to the ladysack. He’s able to tell stories with sound that transport you elsewhere in unconventional ways that adhere to your spine. The sounds he chooses to work with and how they are put together are a bit different than the usual. I’d argue he sorta created his own genre. His work tends to feel like it transfixes you into the world it lives in. It’s uniquely calming and powerful, which is a hard balance to achieve. I really enjoyed Handmade Cities.
I was not sure how that would translate live.
Spoiler: It worked. Very well.
Not only did the live execution of the songs work, but I thought it was a nice touch to have the audience do the vocal part at the end of Every Piece Matters:
But that wasn’t all. Jake Howsam Lowe from The Helix Nebula was the second guitarist.
I recall listening to it being like “Ok this is simple ok…whoa wait…FUCK SHIT FUCK WHAT GOD HOLY. SHIT.” Jake can just drive you anywhere with his work and you may or may not want to go but you’ll go either way. Because Hell Yes.
I needed to take a second to calm down after he punted me out of the 36th floor of a skyscraper with that one.
This show was amazing! Holy shit, you guys. Apparently everyone in Los Angeles came out on this night – even Javier Reyes from Animals as Leaders and Brendon Small were there.
You can imagine how I nearly shat out the window and vomited out of my eyeballs when Tosin Abasi and from Animals as Leaders came out at the end to jam.
I had been totally gutted awhile back when I couldn’t make it to see Animals as Leaders live because I was preparing to exit New Jersey. I’ve been following AAL ever since I discovered Tempting Time on YouTube awhile back. What is that? 5/4? 19/16? 23/16? ALL OF THEM?
I’m going with, “All of them.” Tosin is one of those guitarists that just makes you want to practice. A lot. And then some more.
After a major life change, Los Angeles just reached out and made it clear to me that it was going to welcome me. This is where I belong. This is where the music that I like lives. I’m free to study and become the musician I always wanted to become without reproach. It’s all up to me now.
I stayed up until almost 3AM drinking in the Rainbow room in some bizarre alternate universe with, like, 80% of the musicians I listen to and who inspire me to study to be the best guitarist and vocalist that I can be. I met so many cool people and they even saw fit to let me backstage where I basically just talked about dicks and butts a lot. (The usual. You know. I keep it real so no one gets confused.)
The next day I practiced for hours after I woke up wondering if this was actually real life or was this like some bizarre dream that ends in a David Hasselhoff parody comprised of chipmunks like the last dream I had.
Answer: I did not see the Hoff so I guess it was real.
The only thing that I have left to say is: Yes, they are all phenomenal live and they are super sweet guys. The Plini / Nick Johnston tour may be the best tour of the year. You should not miss this one. The Los Angeles show was something super special way beyond what anyone could have imagined. When I left for L.A. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with this blog. But I know now that it’s time to refocus myself here onto what has always been the most important thing in my life ever since 5 year old me heard Van Halen, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden for the first time.
I have so much to share with you about my new life and adventures in SoCal. Just you wait until I get back from running PotterVerse. :)
So, yeah. I’m moving to Los Angeles right now to start the next chapter of my life. It should be interesting adjusting to a new culture. I’m terrified, but I feel like a change is exactly what I need in order to find myself again. I have to pack in a short space of time and still haven’t found a permanent place to live. But I have found a few batshit crazy trainwreck people trying to sublet.
I haven’t updated this blog in a bit because on a 1 to 10 scale of “How are you doing today?” I am at a -50.
My friends getting sick and dying, I’m working ridiculous hours to pay my bills plus unpaid work on my cons. (No, I don’t get any $ from the cons.) My health is falling apart for over 7 months now which will explain to you why I haven’t posted all that much.
The reason that I start blogging things here and they fizzle out is because I have to keep stopping to focus on the life and con work because both of those things directly and indirectly affect my ability to pay my bills.
I love writing to you. I love sharing my life. I also love helping people feel better and to be better in their lives. But all of my online work I’ve done for free. I actually have paid to do it for free since 2003. That isn’t sustainable. I also realize that I’ve never asked for it before, either.
You have to either enjoy something (and have the free time to devote to it) or get paid fairly in order to do something. I no longer have any free time.
I’m sorry for those of you emailing me asking me for advice or help with your lives or your creative businesses. I can’t help for free like I used to anymore.
I’ll be back soon with a new format here – one that likely will be supported by a Patreon or something. I need to solve the problem, “How can I do the awesome stuff people enjoy from me and earn a living wage for it?”
Hey, if you have any suggestions, email me from the top nav bar. This blog has always been for you so your feedback and support is going to dictate what happens next. :)
“Should I let my kid go to art / music school or should I force them to study something else?”
I get asked this question probably once a week – minimum.
Some background for those of you just joining us: I do a lot of shit. During the day I am a VP level Project / Product Manager responsible for a long list of art and technology things that you probably use. For example, if you’ve ever used an iPhone, you’ve used something I’ve designed and deployed.
Then I do my third shift, which is seriously studying to be a musician.
I’ve worked professionally in the arts, marketing, finance, mobile telecom, and pharma – all at blisteringly high levels because I don’t know any other way to work. I also professionally wrote and drew a comic for 10 years and worked in animation. One of the big things that I do is I ensure that my events have programs within them that elevate the arts and encourage kids and adults to pursue their Thing.
It’s my Why.
If I didn’t feel strongly about this I’d be using my second shift time to sleep or eat or something. I would probably have bought a house by now.
At my core, I am a performance artist and musician. Always have been.
For example, this is the most “me” that’s ever been captured in a photo. The only thing missing is my guitar:
This is an important element so that you understand what I am going to write next.
Parents come to me for advice when their kids want to study art or music. Some are terrified. Others want me to tell their kid it’s a bad idea. I don’t have a BFA. I have a BA. I didn’t go to art or music school.
I will not tell your kid that it’s a bad idea to study the arts. Sorry. I’ll give your kid real advice that’s based in the actual world. They should be studying both. Why?
Today’s CREATIVE climate is one such that all of us creatives have to be everything. For my comic, I wrote, drew, evangelized sponsors, created social media campaigns, handled my finances, did outreach, and pretty much everything else myself. Same for my events. If you are doing a creative project, you will have to be every department in your own company. Period.
We are all octopi.
We have to be in order to succeed. If you want to be an artist or musician and you suck at Marketing there’s a pretty high chance you are going to fail and not even know why. I am not the best at anything. I’m just really good at some things and Beast Mode Level in Marketing.
You can be the best and still no one will care if you don’t know how to market and manage yourself. Success is still not guaranteed and MONEY is required to make money. So make sure you can do something else to generate funding. Kickstarter and Patreon are a tiny fraction of the guaranteed money I can pull down from a consulting gig. Because I was good at other things, I’m able to support myself and wisely invest in my education and projects such that I can do what I want.
Today’s BUSINESS climate is equally competitive. Why do you think I went from being so broke I couldn’t afford shampoo to where I am today? It’s because I did creative projects after work which gave me the expertise and training that NO COMPANY will give you today. I am VP level and in that entire journey I have never had a company try to nurture my skills. I did that myself because I knew that if I just sat in a cubicle I’d be like that guy in Office Space whining about his red stapler for the rest of my life.
Or worse yet – pretty much every job I’ve had had laid off all of us every 6 months to 2 years. If you are a cubicle jockey, that is just as tough in today’s world. How will you stand out? I stand out because of everything you see on my bio page, and ALL of that was because of the arts. I get raises where others don’t because of my creative capabilities.
The biggest mistake you can do as a parent is to squash your kid’s desires.
Childhood is supposed to be about experimentation. That’s when you have the TIME to DO IT. I work in a field that has literally nothing to do with my BA from Rutgers University. I could have majored in Butt Science and I’d still be where I am because of who I am and the natural drive that I have.
Them: “That’s a strange Butt Science Degree you have there, young lady.”
Me: “But I can manage any project and make you $$$ unlike anyone else. Google what I did on the internet.”
Them: “Hot, damn! Here’s a cash money!”
Today people judge you by what you can do and have done – not by what is written on a piece of paper. I don’t even posses a Project Management certification (PMP) and I make more money than many of the people I know who have that. Why?
Track record of exceeding expectations.
I was at vacation in Disney World one year at the same time a PMP Conference was there. That was a moment of clarity for me when I realized that I basically bypassed that due to achievement and was going to the Magic Kingdom while they were stuck in some dry meetings for the day.
But back on the main topic –
Do you think I have the time in my 30s now to study music seriously? Not really. I give up sleep and a social life to do it because I need to do it or I’ll slowly die. There’s been a hole directly in my chest since I was 5 years old when I first heard Van Halen and Iron Maiden that told me I should be playing music but with no money or support I was stuck sitting in my room hoping that I could afford a guitar when I got older.
Today I am making up for lost time and I am at a terrible disadvantage because I wasn’t given the freedom to experiment as much as I needed as a kid. I didn’t let go of the anger about this until I was 28.
The hole is still there. It’s still trying to kill me unless I play music. This is who I am. People trying to direct me into other careers meant well, but ultimately caused a pretty severe disservice to my development.
My advice is to always nurture interests, no matter how impractical they may seem. In my experience, those things tend to propel whatever you end up doing forward because the default position in life is to be a sack of flesh eating a Lean Cuisine in a cubicle that’s dripping water from the ceiling while Judy in Accounting is explaining the color of her baby’s poop to you.
Anything different won’t be necessarily accepted. I’ve never been a woman who “fit in”. The key is – if you leverage it properly you’ll out perform and out earn everyone else and it’s all because of the arts.
We dismiss the impact of the arts and we are jackasses for doing so:
America’s dismissal of the arts in general has created a lot of boring people who can’t think their way out of a paper bag. It’s basically a slave class of workers that companies use as flesh cogs in a disposable and replaceable machine. There is no longevity at any company anymore. My longest corporate gig was 2 years before yet another merger had us all on unemployment due to no fault of our own.
Let your kids experiment. Let them be themselves. You can’t stamp it out no matter how hard you try. My devotion to music is a perfect example of that. Experimentation is the key to finding out who you really are. I worked in animation for Disney and found that it wasn’t my dream just like I worked in comics and discovered the same. The key thing is that I got to try it and got it out of my system so that I knew what WAS my dream and could focus on that. I should have been able to figure this out when I was 20, but I didn’t have the exposure to it that I needed to make that decision.
Sorry, but it’s highly unlikely that anyone knows what they are doing at age 18. Technology changes so fast now that it’s kinda impossible. My job didn’t even exist when I was in college.
Tell your kids to study the arts, but also make sure the school they go to prepares them to market themselves such that they can manage things and support themselves no matter what happens in the future. Failing that, make sure that they can study the arts on their own time because nobody needs a diploma to play music or draw things. They just need enough of whatever it is that they need (usually exposure to concepts, support, and industry knowledge) to prepare them for the future.
The biggest stupidity I’ve ever seen is how America separates the arts from academics. Rutgers University actually prevented me from taking creative classes since I was enrolled in their main school. Some creative schools really fail at preparing their students for the real world octopi approach and produce proficient creatives that have no idea how to get and hold down a job.
You can and should do both because both of these things are critical to survival in today’s real world. Discouraging someone from pursuing an interest is about as stupid as trying to hold your coffee cup with your buttcrack.
It never works and just causes inflammation that results in lost sleep and a lower quality of life in their 30s when they finally have the money to buy a guitar and a few lessons.