Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Serenity Gardens (06.04.18)

Another great Monday night at Serenity Gardens.

It's Tuesday June 5 as I write this little blog entry, which makes it Primary Day here in my beloved state of California. You might not know that CA has a primary system that's different from other states. It doesn't go by political party, like other states who choose a Democrat and a Republican and perhaps an Independent or other candidate to face off in the general election. Instead, whoever gets the most votes are the ones who go to the election in November. That could be two Democrats, two members of the GOP, and so on. I think it's a good system in some ways, bad in others, but it works. At least it's a democratic (small "d") method that allows the candidates who the majority of people choose to have the best chance of getting a leadership role.

I have already voted via mail, so I'm done with that civic duty. I had a kind of neat experience yesterday on Twitter; on a whim, I decided to share the candidates whom I'd chosen, in order to publicly offer my endorsement. I was pretty surprised when my pick for Lt. Governor personally thanked me, and when my state senator re-Tweeted me.

I never really expect direct interaction with the various musicians and politicians I follow on Twitter; frankly, it's kind of weird to think that anyone does. So that was sort of neat. My personal involvement in the political process really only comes down to two things: voting, and helping to make others aware of issues that might affect them. Whatever tiny level of influence I have -- as a musician, as a businessperson, as a person whom some others seem to like and perhaps respect -- can hopefully make its own small impact. To use the old analogy, I may just be a few drops in a bucket, but that bucket gets filled with a bunch of droplets. I do what I can, and hopefully it makes a difference, even if it's a small one. In any case, even if you completely disagree with my political outlook or candidate choices, I encourage you to vote at every opportunity. I was once much more apathetic than I am now, but grew to understand that the privilege of living in a democracy is only maintained when people are actively involved and take advantage of their right to choose the direction of the country.

The Show
I was a wee bit concerned when I started my first tune at Serenity Gardens last night. I think I had two fans plus my manager and the venue staff when I strummed my first chord. But as usual, at least as of late, my crowd did indeed turn out, and a few songs in I found myself looking at the usual large group of happy people I expect there. I'd decided to try out a few previously-unplayed (by me) tunes, which is always a good thing for myself and hopefully my audience as well.

Another view of Serenity Gardens while I rock the people. Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

Serenity Gardens set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Bring On the Night (The Police)
It's Easy Like Walking (The Sadies w/Kurt Vile)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
*Trouble Child (Joni Mitchell)
*Over My Head (Fleetwood Mac)
*Here’s Where the Story Ends (The Sundays)
Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog)
Pigs on the Wing - Parts 1 & 2 (Pink Floyd)
Carry Me Ohio (Sun Kil Moon)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Big, big thanks to all who came out to the show last night, and special super thanks to the following who helped support it!
AaronCabottJones Resident, Tyche Szondi, Monkey Martian, Zaphod Theas, Richy Nervous, go2smoky Resident, not4gods Resident, Alex Zelin, RobbieDowning Resident, Aurelie Chenaux, CanadianLady123 Resident, TheaDee Resident, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Serenity Gardens (05.21.18)

Rocking Serenity Gardens. My view from the stage while I perform.

It's been almost exactly 32 years since I graduated high school, so my memories of that era are a bit fuzzy... probably compounded by the fact that I was using drugs and alcohol on a regular basis at that time period. But one event that happened during my sophomore year had been coming to mind lately, for reasons that will be obvious in a moment.

One day in April 1984, we were in class... well, I should say that most people were in class. I had ducked into the library for some reason. I had a problem as a kid that still occasionally plagues me today. I would get so overwhelmingly bored in class that I thought I'd lose my mind, and would find just about any excuse to not be seated in a chair for a full hour. There were classes and teachers that I genuinely liked, and would stay engaged and focused. In other classes, not so much. I'd spend the hour in a geometry class writing music and lyrics, doodling, and basically existing in some other world deep in my own head, and that was when I actually went to the class. Often, I'd find some reason to leave... to the bathroom, to the nurse's office, to the admin offices ("Aren't you supposed to be in class?"), and so on.

Me in my high school journalism class, 1985.

Anyway, I was in the library when the school went on lockdown. There was a guy in the parking lot with a gun. He was a former student, 19 years old, and had enrolled in the Marines, stationed about 90 miles south at Camp Pendleton. His girlfriend, who was still a student at the school, had broken up with him and was dating someone new, so his solution to this was to come to his alma mater armed with a shotgun and a 9mm pistol. He approached the new boyfriend, who was in his new Ford Bronco, and after ordering him out of the car, proceeded to fire 12 rounds into the vehicle. No one was hurt or killed, and eventually a SWAT team sniper put a round right through the shoulder of the kid's shirt, somehow while barely scratching his skin. Nice shot, man. The kid surrendered, we were let out of class after a couple of hours, and that was that. You can read all the details here, if you'd like.

The reason I have that news article handy is that yesterday, the event popped into my head, but the details were so hazy that I wasn't 100% sure it was something that had actually happened. The memory felt more like something I'd seen in a made-for-TV movie, or a story I'd heard someone else tell. I actually got on the Facebook page for my high school class and asked the other folks about their recollections of that day. One of them pointed that news story out to me, but almost all the rest had the same vibe as me... they either barely remembered it, or in some cases had no idea it had even happened. You would think that something as traumatic as a lockdown due to an armed gunman at the school would have been one of the main events that we all took with us after our school years, but no... not the case. One of my classmates, a smart kid named Brian, pointed out that before Columbine, the very idea of a person walking through the halls of a school and methodically killing people was so unthinkable that we didn't, at the time, have a frame of reference as to how bad it could have been.

I mention all this because obviously, gun violence and school attacks by students and former students have been a big part of our lives as Americans in recent times. We're starting to become more cognizant of the root causes of these horrifying events, and it would seem that difficulties with establishing or maintaining relationships is a huge factor. I will tell you, while I had a relatively decent time in high school, I wouldn't relive that part of my life for any amount of money. Frankly, that period of life when people are mostly physically mature but have yet to mentally and emotionally grow up... I wouldn't ever want to go through that again, or be surrounded by other people in the same stage of life.

In any case, certain things that seem pretty simple and understandable for many adults are incomprehensible for teenagers. Situations that are difficult for adults seem impossible to them. Things like the idea of moving on after a romantic relationship ends, or that just because you can't find a sexual partner by age 18 doesn't mean it's never going to happen. Those mistakes in the perception of reality are at least part of what drives these kids to take these abhorrent actions. I believe that many of them would get past those feelings with time, while others are genuinely mentally ill. In both cases, the combination of immature thinking and easy access to guns makes them a walking time bomb. I'm an optimistic person, but there's really no end in sight to this issue plaguing our country. There will be more school shootings, for preventable reasons that just won't be addressed.

The Show
Oh yeah, this post is about the live music show I did last night. Silly me.

I wasn't really planning on doing a tribute to R.E.M. at the show, but I'd been meaning to try out "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" for some time. It's one of Kat's favorite R.E.M. songs and one I've always enjoyed as well. I'd also included "Bang and Blame" on the list somewhat randomly, and then decided to try "Everybody Hurts", which seemed appropriate given the overall malaise that the country seems to be experiencing. Anyway, the R.E.M. mini-set happened kind of spontaneously, which is exactly how I like things to happen. I never like anything that I do creatively to feel contrived. I also did a seriously new song... one from Courtney Barnett's new album Tell Me How You Really Feel that literally came out on Friday of last week.

We had a nice crowd at Serenity Gardens as usual. Pardon the lack of more photos for the show; it was only by happenstance that I remembered to snap one from the stage between songs. Kat just started a new work assignment with more office time required, meaning she likely won't be at my shows, and I don't get the benefit of her excellent pics!

Serenity Gardens set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
*Need a Little Time (Courtney Barnett)
Help Me (Joni Mitchell)
Bang and Blame (R.E.M.)
Man on the Moon (R.E.M.)
Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
*What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? (R.E.M.)
*Everybody Hurts (R.E.M.)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
Abrasion (They Stole My Crayon)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Shame Chamber (Kurt Vile)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Giant thanks to all who attended my show, with extra special live to the following people who helped support it!
Grace McDunnough, Camden Lionheart, AaronCabottJones Resident, Triana Caldera, go2smoky Resident, ImaInnocent Jewell, Oneida Firelight, TheaDee Resident, Barbara Mixemup, Celeste Ewing, and the amazing team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Video: Live at Serenity Gardens (05.07.18)

As mentioned in my recent post, Second Life videographer Sher Salmson created a video from my live show at Serenity Gardens on May 7m featuring a medley of songs in my set list that evening. It was released today, and you can see it below.

Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
The Crystal Ship (The Doors)
Bull Black Nova (Wilco)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
Half Moon Bay (Sun Kil Moon)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Serenity Gardens (05.07.18)

Ah, lovely Serenity Gardens. Hope the video of my show comes out good! Photo by Kat.

I got some good advice once from Neil Young.

No, he didn't tell it to me directly, though that would have been really cool. It was something he mentioned in a biography. Someone who was creating music with him -- it might have been Nils Lofgren, but I can't remember for certain -- mentioned that he'd be feeling good and playing well, but as soon as they little red light went on that indicted he was recording, he would freeze up. Neil's answer was simple. He said to record all the time. Literally, record everything. After awhile, the red light would be meaningless. It was said that when Neil was working with Crazy Horse, they recorded so much that they never even knew for certain when they were making an album. They'd play and play and play, and at some point Neil would tell them they'd finished a record, and they'd be like, "Really? What's on it?"

In one small aspect, that same process is true of each of my Second Life live music shows. Some of you don't know this, but my broadcasting software has an option to archive the show, and every single show does get automatically recorded. Side note: I really never listen to those recordings, and usually end up trashing them from time to time after seeing that I have gigabyte after gigabyte of audio files piling up on my computer. But they are there, and if I did something I thought was noteworthy, I could go back and check it out and/or share it with people. In any case, I never think about or worry about being recorded; I'm always being recorded, so it doesn't matter to me at all.

So when you smile for the camera, I know they're going to love you. Photo by Kat.

Why am I talking about this, you ask? Well, a few days before my show last night at Serenity Gardens, owner Ilsa Flannigan sent me a message to ask my permission to be filmed for my next performance at her lovely venue. She said that she'd hired Sher Salmson, another SL person with whom I'm acquainted, to film some of the artists who played at Serenity Gardens, and wanted to be sure I was okay with that. It was nice of her to ask; most of them time I've been filmed or otherwise recorded in SL, I'm not aware of it until after the fact. It's never been a problem for me, but I can definitely see how in some cases, it might be for other artists for any of several valid reasons.

Anyway, I told Ilsa that it would be fine. There was a moment, while I was just arriving at the venue and getting set up, that I remembered I'd be being filmed, and wondered if I needed to do anything different to better accommodate the virtual "camera" that would be on me. I immediately quashed that thought; my reason for being there was to make good music for the audience who had come to the show. Anything beyond that was someone else's challenge, and I decided to trust that they'd be able to do what they were doing and capture my show without my having to modify anything. I hope it comes out good, and I'm looking forward to seeing Sher's video work whenever it gets done.

This Is America
Sorry to randomly shift gears on you, but on Saturday night, a new video was released by Childish Gambino, which is the musical name of the incredibly talented actor/writer/director Donald Glover. Normally, I wouldn't be super interested in a new hip hop video, or any music video for that matter. But I was astounded by the deeply profound imagery and messaging in this video, which was directed by Hiro Murai, who is almost certainly the best music video creator in the world today. He did "Never Catch Me" by Flying Lotus and "Smooth Sailing" by Queens of the Stone Age, two of my favorite music vids from this century. "This is America" might be his crowning achievement, though.

Over the past couple of days, many people have detailed their interpretations of the video and the song. I won't rehash their analysis, but I will urge you to watch it closely, and especially to keep your eye on what's happening in the background. Amazing.

Don't Eat Yourself
One other inconsequential note about the show. As I mentioned while performing, on Sunday night I was eating an ice cream bar, and I managed to do something I hadn't done in awhile, thankfully; I sank my tooth right into my own lip as I ravenously consumed the tasty treat, deep enough that I had to staunch the bleeding with a napkin. As a result, the entire time I was singing, I was scraping that same tooth over that same injured area of my mouth. Good times! Let it be said that like all good artists, I suffer for my art. That shit still hurts today. I will live.

Oh, and a final note. As I mention frequently, I try as often as possible to bring in new songs to my set ("new" as in songs I've never done before; they can be from any time period). Last night, I did a rather deep underground alternative rock song by a band that few would be aware of... "Big Deal Party" by Jackal Onasis. It's not a song that most people would try on solo acoustic guitar and vocals, and -- not wanting to change the key, which works well for the tune -- I had to sing it in the register of the original female performer. I'd originally planned on trying out the song last fall, but it happened to be right around when my father passed away and I wasn't up for it then, so I put it aside at the time. I'm glad I brought it back out and gave it a shot. I should mention that one completely awesome thing about doing the music of indie artists is the relative ease in which one can make personal contact with them. I had some difficulty determining the lyrics of "Big Deal Party", so I reached out to Jackal Onasis singer/drummer Jordyn Blakely, and she filled me in on the proper words, which was totally cool of her. You can hear the original version here on their Bandcamp page.

Another great show at Serenity. It's become one of my favorite places to perform in all of SL. Photo by Kat.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
The Crystal Ship (The Doors)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Desire Lines (Deerhunter)
*Big Deal Party (Jackal Onasis)
Bull Black Nova (Wilco)
Carolina In My Mind (James Taylor)
Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
#9 Dream (John Lennon)
Half Moon Bay (Sun Kil Moon)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

I send my huge thanks to everyone who came to the show at Serenity Gardens last night, with super special thanks to the following people who helped support it!
Idesine Habilis, AaronCabottJones Resident, Helios Seetan, Sher Salmson, Aurelie Chenaux, Sesh Kamachi, sedonajane Silverpath, Asimia Heron, Kat Claxton, TheaDee Resident, my great manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Joshua Tree (04.26.18 - 04.29.18)

Relaxing on a boulder in Joshua Tree. Photo by Kat.

We -- Bunny, Christina and I -- just arrived back from a wonderful (but too short, as always) vacation in Joshua Tree, CA. Joshua Tree is our default vacation spot when our brains need a break from the daily routine of work and responsible life in general. You'd think that after years and years of going to the same spot, we'd have already grown bored with the area or at least already experienced everything there is to see there, but no... each visit to the desert always seems to be a unique experience in some way. On this particular trip, we had a number of firsts that all made the trip completely enjoyable and memorable.

We Accidentally Took the 10
My standard route to the desert has always been to head out on the 91 from there at the beach, cut north on the 605, and then take the 60 almost all the way out to the desert where it rejoins the 10 shortly before the 62. Got that? Good. Anyway, the day we departed on our trip -- Thursday April 26 -- we were talking and laughing and jamming tunes on the 605 north and suddenly I was like, "Hey, why is the exit for the 10 coming up? Did I pass the 60? What the hell is going on?" So basically, as opposed to turning around, I just took the 10 east all the way out to the desert by accident, and it was fine.

Miss your exit? No worries, there are always other ways to get where you're going. Red is our route there, blue the route back.

Welcome to House of the Hammock
We've stayed at the rental cabins of The Desert Lily Inn on many occasions, splitting our visits between Casa Rosita and Rancho Rincon. This time -- particularly because both of those cabins were booked -- we stayed at one of Carrie Yeager's properties that we hadn't been to before. Hacienda de la Hamaca was fantastic. It was much less rustic than her other places, which admittedly took away from a bit of the charm of the experience, with no dirt roads and such to deal with in getting in and out of the place. At the same time, it was absolutely luxurious... a nicely appointed place with large bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, and a great kitchen and living room areas for us to relax in style. The back patio area in particular was lovely, with a large shady veranda that ran the length of the building... the perfect spot to hang out with the rabbits, hares, quail, and lizards that romped through the yard.

Bunny having a meeting with his bunny friends in the backyard at Hacienda de la Hamaca.

Myself, Bunny and Christina on the back patio.

Full Moon Fever
As we noted that first night there, it was, for all intents and purposes, a full moon during this trip. Conversely, Christina and I have often planned these excursions around the time of new moons for the purpose of skywatching in the non-light polluted desert area. This trip was the first time we could admire the beauty of the desert in both day and night. It was great.

Go West Young Band
We started things pretty simply for our first excursion into Joshua Tree National Park for this trip. In fact, we've gotten to know the area so well that we put together playlists of music that we knew would go well with the surreal landscape of the desert, so we first enjoyed some slow driving through the park while listening to excellent songs in a multitude of genres. We casually stopped by Cap Rock and then went up to Keys View for the incredible sight of the entire Coachella Valley from about one mile in elevation.

After that, we decided to hit Barker Dam. It's one of the most well-known and popular areas of JTNP. Last time we went, it was so crowded that we blew it off, but we knew that if we didn't make it in on Friday, it wasn't going to get any better on Saturday. So, off we went, but soon found that the park had closed the eastern section of the trail, which forced us to head toward the dam in the direction we'd usually use to return. It was really neat and interesting, and gave us a new perspective on this awesome short hike.

Breakfast on Friday morning. We usually eat very well, both tastily and healthily, while we're in the desert.

Bunny and I, one mile high, at Keys View. Photo by Kat.

They Stole My Crayon at Barker Dam.

Bighorn Sheep Encounter
It was on our way back from Barker Dam that something amazing happened which was absolutely a highlight of this trip. Bunny was walking in front as we trudged through the sandy path, but then he suddenly froze and held up a hand. I noted that a small group of people a ways down the path coming in the opposite direction were similarly stopped, and then I glanced to the right. About 20 yards away, standing on level ground with us, was a magnificent bighorn sheep, a mature ram with his species' namesake horns pointed in our direction. In all my travels of the desert, I had never once seen one of these majestic creatures, and suddenly there was one directly in front of us. All the humans in the area stayed still and quiet, taking photos as the ram seemingly posed. After a few minutes that felt like an hour, he slowly turned and made his way back up into the rocks. Look, I've seen things up close in the desert that have blown my mind, including large snakes and coyotes and so on, but that sheep was something I'll never forget.

I've seen tons of wild animals while exploring Joshua Tree. This was my first Bighorn Sheep. Photo by Kat.

Being there next to him was a magical experience. Photo by Kat.

Fancy Desert Grilling
After getting back to the cabin -- er, luxury house -- after our exploration of JTNP on Friday, we were starved. As usual, we'd secured a ton of provisions at the grocery store in Yucca Valley on our arrival, but we knew ahead of time that instead of just cooking in the kitchen, we had a new choice in food preparation at the new cabin. There was a fancy gas grill on the back patio. Not quite "roughing it over a fire in the wilderness", the gas grill was excellent, and Bunny became the grillmaster as we ate delicious barbecued chicken and corn that night.

Full Crayon Jams
After dinner, we picked up our instruments. The desert, for whatever reason, is super inspirational for creating new music. We didn't plan anything out. Instead, we just allowed our fingers to find chord progressions and riffs that we could play together. Usually, on the musical side, it's just me and Bunny who do this kind of on-the-spot songwriting, but this time, Christina joined us in a big way, playing both bass and glockenspiel on our little jams. We recorded everything we did, and I can 100% guarantee that some of the themes we came up with will end up on a They Stole My Crayon album in the future. We stayed up pretty late, making music the whole time, and finally called it a night.

After the sun went down and we'd had our dinners, the instruments came out each night, and we captured some terrific stuff for future Crayon music.

No Fear at the Hall of Horrors
Over the many times we've visited Joshua Tree National Park, we've been through a good chunk of the various trails that don't involve a major (6+ mile) hike. One spot we'd never gone before as a group is a hiking/climbing zone called Hall of Horrors. I'm not 100% clear why it has such a frightening name; there might be some kind of passageway through the large rock formations that could be kind of scary. On Saturday for our first stop, Bunny and Christina and I had a lovely walk around the place that was off the beaten track a bit and was therefore less crowded than many more well-known areas on a perfect spring weekend. It was pretty cool being in a spot with very few people where the paths weren't completely clear, finding our own way around the lovely Mojave Desert.

Traipsing through the desert with my fantastic friends.

Bunny and Christina explore a crack in the rocks.

There were plants and birds and rocks and things.

Time for Pappy's
There's nothing new about our visiting Pappy & Harriet's on our trips to Joshua Tree. If we don't plan ahead and don't get reservations, we don't get to go. After cruising around to a few more spots in JTNP (including our regular stop at Hemingway Buttress where we always find cool places to explore and boulders to scramble on), we headed back to the Hacienda, got cleaned up, and then went straight up to Pioneertown where we had rather early reservations made weeks earlier. Pappy's has become super popular and cool, with the downside being that getting a table on a weekend needs to be a pre-planned activity. But plan we had, so at 5:30, we rolled in and got seated quickly. I can't describe the taste of food that comes off that magical grill there, but the three of us had a wonderful time eating way too much meat and drinking beers from mason jars.

Bunny and I being rock stars -- or at least eating dinner -- at Pappy & Harriet's.

Checking out the desert people outside of Pappy's with Kat.

More Jams
Back at the cabin that evening, we picked up our instruments once again and kept the Crayon jams going. In total, we created about 7-8 very useable song ideas with a ton of potential for continued development, way more than any previous trip where we might be lucky to get 1-2 usable new tunes. I'm already looking forward to the coming weekend so I can start fleshing out some of these musical ideas, since we recorded all of them.

A Blustery Drive Home
We had a relaxing Sunday morning, and then cleaned up Hacienda de la Hamaca and loaded our stuff for the usually uneventful journey home. There's nothing unexpected about hitting high winds while driving the 62 on the open plain toward the foot of the mountains just north of the 10 freeway. That's why there are those thousands of iconic wind energy machines in the San Gorgonio Pass. It's windy all the time there due to the terrain and the temperature variations between the desert and surrounding areas. But as we started our drive home on Sunday, it was already a very gusty day, and as I guided the Jeep down the mountain pass, it became apparent that this would be a memorable return trip. The wind was insane! I had to hold the wheel with both hands, making constant adjustments to try and keep us headed in a straight line while other cars were also being tossed around into both lanes and occasionally the shoulder. It was, in layman's terms, scary as fuck.

But once we made it all the way down and drove the 10 West for awhile, things settled down and I could drive in a more relaxed fashion than the "we're all going to die" stretch of road. Arriving safely home that afternoon, we were tired and gritty but happy, and already looking forward to the next trip to J-Tree, whenever that may be.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Islands of New England (04.25.18)

The Islands of New England is one of the best places for live music in all of SL. Photo by Kat.

As anyone who even remotely knows me is aware, I love the Mojave Desert here in Southern California, and visit multiple times each year if possible. Today, along with my bandmates in They Stole My Crayon (Bunny and Christina), I'm pointing the Jeep in the eastward direction and once again heading out to Joshua Tree. I have no words to tell you how happy I am to be spending a little time out there among the yuccas and lizards. Especially in times where life seems somewhat overwhelming and a little bit of a reset of the brain is required, there's no place on Earth like Joshua Tree to accomplish that goal. I'll certainly be doing a post upon my return to report on whatever shenanigans we get into on this short trip.

But early on this Thursday morning, while I wrap up some work responsibilities and wait for Bunny to arrive, I have some time to tell you about my show last night at The Islands of New England in Second Life. I've spent a long, long time doing shows at that venue, but each show always seems to feel like a special occasion there. I'd say one reason is that their event manager, Christine Haiku, really does a great job of choosing artists who mesh well together, and last night was a great example of that. My show was wedged between Scottish performer and excellent fingerstyle guitarist Jukebox Diesel and my amazing Nashville-based performer friend Sassy Nitely.

My view from the stage. Photo by Kat.

Making people happy is what makes me happy. Photo by Kat.

I love this place. Photo by Kat.

When I arrived about halfway through Juke's set and turned up the stream audio, the first words out of my mouth were, "Oh shit, now I have to be good." Christina made a remark to the tune of, "Wow, I'd pay to see this guy play in real life," and I was like, "Oh, thanks a lot for the extra pressure." But it was all in fun; I really love being inspired to focus on my own performance by seeing seriously talented musicians playing at the same show.

Since my voice had continued to heal after my round of sickness, I felt more confident in my vocal range for this show, but still kept the set list more on the mellow side of things. That also worked well for staying within the scope of the music that Juke and Sassy were doing. We had a terrific crowd there that included the majority of my Zakster fans/friends. I'm always happy when, on the rare occasions that I have more than one show within a few days, that the same people come out to see me again. What I always do is make sure that the show I give them is significantly different from the previous one in terms of vibe and the songs I choose for my set. The one exception was "Among the Leaves", the Sun Kil Moon song I debuted the other night and liked it so much, I decided to do it again.

The Islands of New England set list...
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
Say Goodbye (Beck)
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
Peaceful Easy Feeling (Eagles)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
Roxanne (The Police)
Blue Shadows on the Trail (Randy Newman)
So. Central Rain (R.E.M.)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Faded in the Morning (Unknown Mortal Orchestra)
Possession (Sarah McLachlan)
Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty)
Pretty Pimpin (Kurt Vile)

Massive thanks to all who came out to the show, with extra big thanks to the following who helped support it!
MiaMackleby Resident, Sassy Nitely, LadyEllenT Resident, Robert69 Little, RoxxyyRoller Resident, go2smoky Resident, Alex Zelin, Kat Claxton, Asimia Heron, hildegard269 Resident, TheaDee Resident, Aurelie Chenaux, Triana Caldera, my lovely manager Maali Beck, and The Islands of New England's wonderful event management team of RansomTalmidge Resident and Christine Haiku!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Serenity Gardens (04.23.18)

A great crowd and cool tunes at Serenity Gardens in Second Life. Photo by Kat.

When life hands you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make lemon bars! They're delicious, and much easier to prepare than you think (see below). But in a less metaphorical sense, when life has you getting over a cold and you have a live singing music performance scheduled, don't despair. Instead, test out your voice and determine what you are actually capable of singing. Then sing those songs, and don't sing the ones that you can't. See how easy this is?

In all seriousness, there's a judgement call you need to make when sick. Can you actually be entertaining? Can you sing or play at a level that's enjoyable for the audience, and not embarrassing to yourself? Do you run a risk of doing damage to your vocal chords, or making yourself sicker for longer? If you can answer those questions and still feel like doing the show, then do it!

The show must go on. Photo by Kat.

Getting Low
I first started coming down with this shitty cold exactly two weeks before my show last night at Serenity Gardens. It was at that show on April 9 that I suspected I was getting sick, and then spent the subsequent two weeks with all of the fun symptoms of a bad head cold, which included losing the ability to even speak for a short while. Singing was completely out of the question. Still, knowing I had two weeks to recover, I was hesitant to cancel my next show, hoping I'd get well enough to perform. By the time I was going to be putting together my set list for the next show, I knew that I still didn't have my usual vocal range... but that I was also capable of singing fairly competently in a lower register. Would it be my best show from a singing perspective? Most definitely not. But it forced me to go through my repertoire and see what songs in there would be possible while avoiding anything strenuous.

So that's what I did, and it ended up being really cool. I played a good number of songs that I hadn't done in quite awhile, and even risked debuting a never-before-played cover of Sun Kil Moon's "Among the Leaves", which went super well.

Getting my low voice on at Serenity. Photo by Kat.

How to Make Lemon Bars!

Serenity Gardens set list...
Lost Cause (Beck)
Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young)
Wakin on a Pretty Day (Kurt Vile)
*Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
Blue (Joni Mitchell)
Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed)
Things Under Trees (They Stole My Crayon)
Welcome to the Machine (Pink Floyd)
Bring On the Night (The Police)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Gardenia (Iggy Pop)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Massive thanks to all who came to hear me sing the low notes, with special super thanks to the following folks who helped support the show!
JustOneMore Loon, Trouble Streeter, AaronCabottJones Resident, Sesh Kamachi, not4gods Resident, Asimia Heron, go2smoky Resident, RansomTalmidge Resident, Christine Haiku, Sassy Nitely, TheaDee Resident, Kat Claxton, Tyche Szondi, Alex Zelin, my terrific manager Maali Beck, and the great team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.