Category: 2017

2017, General, music

Review: Plini / Nick Johnston @ The Roxy in Los Angeles 8/29/17

I’m back!

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.

Mike Dawes:

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.

Nick Johnston:

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’ve been following Jake’s work for a while now ever since I heard his solo on ibuiltthesky’s The Sky is Not the Limit album on YouTube, which I also bought. (Notice a pattern?)

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 dead:

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. :)



Goodbye, New Jersey. Hello, Los Angeles!

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.

twitter los angeles

When I get settled, I’ll announce my next projects here. In the meantime follow me on Twitter and Facebook. and I’ll also see you at PotterVerse and (Re)Generation Who!

2017, Oni's Life

I’m tapping out for a bit

Hi all,

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’m taking some time off now to focus on running the most amazing Harry Potter Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. (Come out and see us! It’s going to be our best work yet!)

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. :)

And do sign up for my mailing list to be alerted for when I relaunch.


Nicole Dieker: The Biographies of Ordinary People

I’ve known Nicole probably forever by now? If you’ve attended Intervention, you most likely have met her. She’s got a super awesome book coming out that I want to tell you all about!


The Biographies of Ordinary People is a story of family, friendship, and art—and the past thirty years.

The Biographies of Ordinary People is the story of the Gruber family: Rosemary and Jack, and their daughters Meredith, Natalie, and Jackie. The two-volume series begins in July 1989, on Rosemary’s thirty-fifth birthday; it ends in November 2016, on Meredith’s thirty-fifth birthday.

Written for fans of Betsy-Tacy, Little Women, or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the story is an episodic, ensemble narrative that takes us into intimately familiar experiences: putting on a play, falling out with a best friend, getting dial-up internet for the first time. Drinking sparkling wine out of a paper cup on December 31, 1999 and wondering what will happen next.

At the heart of the story is Meredith Gruber, the oldest Gruber sister and the one determined to figure out how “ordinary people” should live–because all the biographies she’s ever read are about famous people. She wants to write and act, and her younger sister Jackie wants to sing opera, and the two of them pursue their goals with both ambition and limitations.

Check out Nicole’s blog here.

Get more info about her book here.

And of course: Follow her on Twitter!

2017, Failing Upward

Failing Upward: I almost got beaten to death by the first guy I ever liked. Here’s what I learned.

He punched me hard directly in the nose and all I could see were red, stars, and my own blood. When you get hit like that with no warning, especially as a beginner like I was, you will freeze up. By the time I regained control over my rational thought I realized that I’d sustained several punches to my face and torso and had robotically defended against them. (Go me?) I was cut, bleeding, and at one point slammed into a mirror with broken edges and elbowed directly in the torso until I fell over in a smear of my own blood. I remember thinking to myself “Gee, they really should have fixed that mirror last month. I’ll have to make a note later and remind the owner.”

I did a poor job at defense because none of this was supposed to happen. I was supposed to be in a safe, controlled space. I was facing off against an assistant instructor whom I not only trusted, but was the first guy I ever had feelings for. This was a true violation of epic proportion.

The rules of this match stated “no head contact”, so I wasn’t even wearing all of my gear. I found this incredibly hilarious as he grabbed my head and laid another several punches directly to my face. I’ve always had a sense of humor, guys. This was like the time that I decided that it was a good idea to pretend I was the Hamburglar at my High School’s Homecoming dance. The experience wasn’t exactly as described.

Anyhow, I knew why this was happening because he was telling me while slowly ripping as much of my body apart as he could in front of an audience. I’d just gotten my orange belt faster than anyone ever had before in my nearly all-male MMA/Police Training school. I needed to slow down and, to use his words, “know my place”.

My sparring partner was frozen in shock, as were the rest of the guys there.

Not a single person helped me.

I eventually was able to get enough distance between me and him to recover enough to return fire. I moved at a 45 degree angle and slammed his chest with an elbow, which is one of my standard “get the fuck out” moves to this day. It stunned him enough that I was able to grapple and deliver a series of way-too-hard-for-a-training-environment elbows and punches directly to his face and neck. Then I bent him over and uppercut the shit out of him for an amount of time that I can’t truly recall. I just kept doing uppercuts to his chest until I couldn’t anymore. He eventually backed off. I went into the locker room and vomited. I cleaned myself up, went home, and got medical attention. I was not going to let anyone see that.

I learned some important lessons that day. The first is that women are sometimes punished for succeeding where they aren’t supposed to. The second is that I was incredibly mistaken in having feelings for this guy. The third is that I would become the first female black belt at this school. The fourth is that I make a sexy Hamburglar.

His hatred gave me such a desire to outclass him even further – which I did. He was fired for this after people reported it to the owner of my school the next day. I feel like someone had to clean the blood up so it couldn’t be kept a secret.

3 months later I had his job. 6 months later I had so few fucks to give that I began on my quest to create accessible self defense training for women and taught 3 classes. 7 months later I taught my first self-defense class specifically for strippers and sex workers.

Bad shit happens, but how you respond to that shit is the most important thing. I nearly gave up that night. I didn’t because the owner of the school backed me and I am a tenacious son of a bitch. It’s important to walk away from toxic situations, but even more important to tease out the positive aspects of every situation so that you can use them as puzzle pieces to make things better.


That’s all we can do, isn’t it? So do that. Every day. You are not what happened to you. You are your response to it. I have always preferred my responses to be ones that piss people off because I’m living well. Anything less is cheap. I cost more than that. You cost more than that and anyone who tells you differently is full of shit.

This is an excerpt from Oni’s upcoming book, Failing Upward. Subscribe to this blog and sign up to her mailing list to learn more and get notifications when new content is released.