Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Serenity Gardens (08.12.19)

Another lovely evening at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Kat.

Before I talk about my show at Serenity Gardens in Second Life, let me tell you a little bit about something called the Endangered Species Act of 1973. It was signed into law by president Richard Nixon, and its intent was to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation". By all standards, it has been a resounding success. A number of animal and plant species that would have certainly been driven into extinction through hunting and through land development that destroyed their natural habitats are still here today purely through the regulations of the ESA. 54 of the species originally listed have been de-listed from endangered status due to the recovery of their population. The law has worked tremendously well.

This week, in a move that disgusted many but surprised few, the Trump administration announced major changes to the Endangered Species Act that will weaken its enforcement, and allow industry to act in their own economics interests to destroy these threatened species' habitats. Trump has gone on record as having personal dislike toward animals of all sorts; there's a reason why he's one of the only US presidents in history to not have a dog at the White House. His sons, quite infamously, posed with majestic animals that they'd shot and killed on hunting trips. This is a family that, by all evidence, openly loathes wildlife and the environment.

A few of the many animals that remain critically endangered. Top row: Red Wolf, California Bighorn Sheep, Desert Tortoise, West Indian Manatee. Bottom row: Whooping Crane, Florida Panther, Great White Shark, Island Fox.

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump posing with the leopard they'd murdered during a hunting expedition. The leopard's status on the IUCN Red List is as a threatened species.

We live in a world that exists through ecological balance. Our own existence as humans is predicated on that balance. It is nearly unthinkable that we would purposefully allow the destruction of habitats (and the legalized hunting) of any species that might go extinct through our greed or negligence. One can only hope that the damage that the world suffers under this presidential administration can be limited and fixed after his departure. Up to a certain point, species can be revived, in the same way that laws can be changed and walls can be torn down. The only optimistic view is that we won't get past the point of no return for these creatures, or for ourselves.

Back to the Show
As I've mentioned time after time in regard to live music performances... I enjoy myself equally whether I have three people or 300 or 3,000 in the audience, and especially for a show in Second Life, where in reality I'm in a room in front of a microphone and a computer, there's very little impact on my vibe as a performer regardless of crowd size. Especially considering that I certainly don't judge the quality of my shows based on silly factors like amounts of tips or ego stroking, it literally doesn't matter to me how many folks are there. All I do hope for is that whoever shows up is enjoying themselves and that they let me know they're into the show.

Me, looking more serious than usual. Sometimes avatars just get grumpy. Photo by Kat.

Serenity Gardens in the shadows. Photo by Kat.

I had a couple of previously unperformed songs in my set. One was "Killing Me Softly with His Song", the #1 hit from Roberta Flack in the early '70s, which I'd just decided to do on a whim a few days earlier. The other, oddly, was "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkel. I'd put the song into my repertoire probably ten years ago... and then never played it once. Why? I don't know.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Don’t Let It Pass (Junip)
*Mrs. Robinson (Simon and Garfunkel)
Low Key (Tweedy)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Say Goodbye (Beck)
*Killing Me Softly (Roberta Flack)
Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young)
Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot)
Love Ain’t for Keeping (The Who)
Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac)
Texarkana (R.E.M.)

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

Many thanks to all who came out the my show, with special thanks to the following who helped support it!
littlebit31okla Resident, Asimia Heron, Triana Caldera, AaronCabottJones Resident, Trouble Streeter, go2smoky Resident, Kat Claxton, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Ladybird's Cellar (08.03.19)

Enjoying a great Saturday afternoon with friends at Ladybird's Cellar. Photo by Kat.

Note: I'm sure a lot of folks are expecting me to address in detail the recent episodes of mass shootings that occurred over the past two weekends. I find it likely that I will, but two things. One, I'd rather put together those comments from a standpoint of factual information as opposed to the snippets of things that are easily digestible on social media. Second, it would be a disservice to the fact that I want to express the positive nature of my show yesterday, even though the shootings do factor into that as well. So no, this post is primarily going to be about my live music show. There's a time and place for everything... and believe me, I'll get to that soon enough.

For now... it was literally months ago, in April, when Anastasia Yanwu reached out to me on Facebook, asking if I'd be available to play at the one-year anniversary of her Second Life venue Ladybird's Cellar. I assumed it would be a quickly upcoming date, and laughed when I realized that she was booking me, Sassy Nitely, and Camme Carver to play an event in August (which seemed very far away at that point). Most of my Second Life bookings happen within maybe a week or two of the actual event, so this lead time of over three months made me giggle.

But time goes by and sure enough, it was suddenly August, and I awoke on Saturday morning with a happy feeling, knowing I'd be spending a section of the day making people happy and enjoying myself in the process. I'd planned on adding a couple of never-before-played songs to my set list -- "Adia" by Sarah McLachlan and a new original by me, a song called "Doubt It" of which I'd just recorded a demo. It adds a personal element of excitement for me when I play new material at a show. Am I really able to do a reasonably good rendition of the song as a guitarist and vocalist? Do I know the song so well that I feel confidently able to perform it? These are questions that pop into almost every musician's mind as they get ready to do a gig with new material. The answer to any worry in that regard comes, for me, in the old fashioned way... rehearse, rehearse, release. Poor Kat probably heard me do "Adia" like 15 times between Friday night and Saturday morning while I familiarized myself with the song.

Bad News Before a Show
It always is worth it in the end. I've never "over-rehearsed" a song. I like going in feeling comfortable with all the nuances and deliver a good rendition, even that first time. But I had another bit of a challenge going into the show. As I was getting warmed up for the performance, the news started coming in about the mass shooting in El Paso, TX. It's often asked how performing musicians deal with things that -- understandably -- pull their attention away from an imminent show. I don't have all the answers. About the only thing I did was add one song to my set -- Jeff Tweedy's "All Lives, You Say?" -- as a small way to note the moment. I barely even mentioned it during the show.

And this is an important note. It wasn't just a show; Ana had chosen me and Camme and Sassy to help celebrate the occasion of the one-year anniversary of her venue. I knew that I'd have plenty of opportunities to express my thoughts on mass killings -- on social media, in this blog, perhaps at subsequent shows of a less special nature. But I did not feel I had a right to bring the world's sadness to her celebration. We all knew by then what had happened, and that it would be a focus of sadness for some time to come. But I kept my show there very light and fun, and I'm glad I did. Later that same evening, there was another mass shooting by a young man with a semi-automatic rifle with high-capacity magazines, this time in Dayton, OH. We will always have our chances to be sad, which makes it all the more important to appreciate chances to be happy.

And The Show...
I checked the Second Life map as I got into world and was heading over to Ladybird's Cellar, and noted that as expected, Sassy Nitely had a nice big crowd there. It's not a giant place (which I like very much, giving a more intimate feel), and it felt packed as I arrived to listen to Sassy while putting the final preparation touches on my own show. Everything went about as good as possible after that; my audio levels on my guitar and voice both sounded good in my headphones, and I had what I felt was a strong set. Everything went well; we kept a pretty great crowd going throughout my show as well, and I made it a point to pull out some deeper cuts from my list of songs, as I've been trying to do lately.

I love being at places where I can do my Zak show for some people who might be checking me out for the first time. they're always welcome to try me out again. Photo by Kat.

Me, looking a bit serious while I do my tunes. Photo by Kat.

My fans have great butts and I cannot lie. Photo by Kat.

Ladybird's Cellar set list...
Peaceful Easy Feeling (Eagles)
*Adia (Sarah McLachlan)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Shame Chamber (Kurt Vile)
*Doubt It (Zak Claxton)
Your Song (Elton John)
Save It for Later (English Beat)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Saved by Zero (The Fixx)
Half Moon Bay (Sun Kil Moon)
All Lives, You Say? (Wilco)
Old Man (Neil Young)

Big, big thanks to everyone who came to my show, with special thanks to the following who helped support it!
Diana Renoir, Arcangelo Hellmann, Nina Brandenburg, TroyJaimes Resident, Kat Claxton, Arcangelo Hellmann, Alex Zelin, Sassy Nitely, Triana Caldera, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the lovely owner of Ladybird's Cellar Anastasia Yanwu!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Serenity Gardens (07.29.19)

Good crowd, good tunes, good times at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Kat.

My musical life seems to be on a bit of an upswing in recent times. The past couple of weekends, I've managed to find time to work on some new music. It's not terribly unusual for me to dabble around in songwriting, but often I simply run out of creative juice, or run out of time, and I can't tell you the number of partially-written songs I have that are sitting in various files or scattered around on hard drives, in the cloud, and so on. It's in the dozens, if not hundreds.

But recently, I've been doing my best to actually complete songs, or at least get a solid demo done that can be refined later on. The difficult aspect of it is that as a musician/composer, you really want to get the thing done so you (and others) can really hear it outside of your own brain. What that can lead to is forcing the process, rather than letting it happen naturally, and that's when you start making compromises. On many occasions, I've been guilty of starting a great idea, but then sending it careening off the track by forcing out a weak set of lyrics, or putting in a cliche chorus or bridge just to get the song done.

Therefore, you have this conflict of feelings when working on a new song. "Get it done!" versus "Make it right!" is a constant battle in your head. Often, you need to just be aware that a) the song isn't "done" until you put it out on a widespread public basis and b) sad but true... not that many people will care one way or another. I know that sounds like a negative, but it's actually a little comforting to know that no one will live or die based on whether I shifted keys going into the bridge or not.

Anyway, it's been a good couple of weekends of song creation. I can always tell when I'm personally invested in a song I'm doing when I wake up the following morning and immediately want to fire up Logic Pro on my Mac and continue where I left off the night before. As to whether the songs I'm writing now are for my own solo stuff, my band They Stole My Crayon, or a completely different project that I have yet to discuss publicly... that's not for me to determine. I just write the songs and then the songs themselves make it apparent how to best have a framework for their release.

Here's a demo for one of the recent songs I've created. "Doubt It" is definitely one for the next Zak Claxton album.

Monday Night Live
As has been the case for more than two years, I spend every other Monday night performing at Serenity Gardens. If anything, my shows there seem to keep getting better in several ways. I have to give a lot of the credit to Ilsa Flannigan, who has risen to being one of the premier venue owners in SL. She's gotten really good at promoting the venue itself along with the artists who play there, and Serenity Gardens has developed into a large and vibrant community. The crowds are great, and I can feel comfortable playing virtually any style of music there... people seem to appreciate it regardless of their personal tastes.

All photos by Kat.

The one notable thing about last night's show is that I purposefully put together a list of songs that I hadn't played at all in recent times. As a performer, it's far too easy to get into a habit of turning to the tunes that you can do well with little effort; that's also a recipe for disaster, as both you and your audience grow apathetic from the same music being done over and over. All I had to do was to reach a bit deeper into my list of 400-500 songs that I've done as a solo performer, and I'm glad I did.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Loading Zones (Kurt Vile)
It’s Good to be King (Tom Petty)
Alison (Elvis Costello)
Blue Skies (Irving Berlin)
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (Beatles)
Birds (Neil Young)
Pecan Pie (Golden Smog)
Carry Me Ohio (Sun Kil Moon)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
Expecting to Fly (Buffalo Springfield)
My God Is the Sun (Queens of the Stone Age)
Serenity Improv #2,143 (Zak Claxton)

Big, big thanks to every single person who came out to the show last night... and special thanks to the following people who helped support it!
Kat Chauveau, Alessia Rodeyn, Lessa Llewellyn, Aurelie Chenaux, Kat Claxton, Jaron Metaluna, Tricks Sockington, Diana Renoir, Trouble Streeter, Nina Brandenburg, Phil Setner, Triana Caldera, Tyche Szondi, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Lavender Field/Feed-a-Smile 9th Anniversary (07.20.19)

It felt great to be back at Lavender Field raising some money to feed some smiles. Photo by Kat.

The first time I ever performed for Brique Zeiner's charitable organization in Second Life, Feed-a-Smile, was in September 2011, and on many other occasions since then, I've been happy to refill my karma bank balance by playing there again. It was just a few days ago that Brique messaged me on Facebook to find out if I could perform at the celebration of their ninth anniversary, and being that it was on a Saturday at an excellent time for me, I accepted immediately.

The brief description of Feed-a-Smile is as follows: Brique and her husband run a non-profit organization called Live and Learn in Kenya with the focus of feeding and educating poor children living in the slums of Nakuru, Kenya. It's an extraordinarily effective charity with the money going directly to the children with no corporations or middlemen involved. Brique also happens to also originally hail from my town of Redondo Beach, CA, so we had a connection right from the start. In Second Life, Brique set up an area called Lavender Field, and hosts fundraising music performances there with the simple message that L$100 (about $0.40 USD) gives one child one hot meal.

After one of my shows for Feed-a-Smile in 2011, I unexpectedly received a set of pictures from the kids that included the one of above, plus shots of them having a feast via the funds raised at one of my shows. I referred to it at the time as my proudest moment as a musician, and those pics were framed and hang on my wall still today.

The timing of doing a charitable show couldn't have been better for me. The world -- especially here in the USA -- has seemed filled with darkness and hate in recent times. Instances of blatant racism and fascism have been at the top of the news cycles. It's been my experience through much of my life that taking part in actions that help humanity as a whole are also what are most healing to me personally, be it in the form of protests, rallies, and marches, or more direct efforts like doing a music show for a charity in which I truly believe.

Star Trek: Picard Trailer
I'll resume telling you about the Feed-a-Smile show in a moment. It was awhile after the show that while poking around Twitter, I saw that "Star Trek: Picard", the upcoming new series in the Star Trek universe, was trending at #1. I soon found out why; San Diego Comic Con was in full swing, and they had debuted a new full-length trailer. I was already pretty interested in the series which is set to debut next year, but when I clicked the link, I didn't quite expect this...

Obviously, the series looks great and it's terrific to see Sir Patrick Stewart back in action; he's a treasure and it's good to know that we'll have some new stories coming from the iconic character of Jean-Luc Picard. But then, what blew the collective minds of every Trekker in the world was the unexpected appearances of Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine and then Brent Spiner -- possibly as the android B-4 (as opposed to Data). Is it a nostalgia trip for Gen X'ers? You betcha. Am I still enthralled at seeing members of the Next Generation and Voyager crews together again? Oh hell yes. I'm looking forward to this more than I would have possibly anticipated.

The Show
Okay, back to Feed-a-Smile. One sort of funny note. The artist performing before me was having trouble with his stream, and with a good 15 minutes left in his set, I wasn't at all prepared to go on (though fortunately, I did already have my music gear set up and ready to go). Next thing I knew, I had to jump in and start playing, but it all went just fine. It usually does.

Brique had put together a really good lineup of musicians, most of whom had played at the venue multiple times over its nine year run. All the people who played the show, like Quinton Whitman, Whirli Placebo, Bat Masters, Grace McDunnough, Max Kleene, Twinghost Ronas and others, are veteran SL performers, and all of them donated some of their time to be there for the event. It went great; the fundraising seemed to have gone very well, and we had a terrific crowd there the whole time.

One thing I've mentioned before: on the rare occasions that I do shows on weekends, I absolutely love playing at noon. It's the perfect time to have slept in somewhat, have coffee, shower and dress, have breakfast, have time to warm up and then perform, and then still have most of the whole weekend day ahead of me. Count me in for noon shows on weekends basically any time.

A lovely day to feed some smiles. Photo by Kat.

Our crowd was engaged and generously donating, as they tend to do. Photo by Kat.

Chilling after the show and listening to the other performers. Photo by Kat.

Feed-a-Smile set list...
Save It For Later (English Beat)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
I Am a Child (Neil Young)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Strawberry Fields Forever (Beatles)
Blew The Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Radio Free Europe (R.E.M.)
Peace Love & Understanding (Elvis Costello)

Thanks to everyone who spent some time, money, or both on supporting Feed-a-Smile during yesterday's event! You are awesome!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Serenity Gardens (07.15.19)

Serenity Gardens is pretty much my "home venue" at this point; other SL musicians will understand that concept. I always feel good playing there, every single time. Photo by Kat.

There's something I often mention to my audience at Serenity Gardens in Second Life where I play every other Monday night. It's the idea that they should be extraordinarily happy, considering that my show starts at 6PM Pacific... a time that's further away from the worst aspects of Monday than any other time during the week. Assuming that we all survived the day, arriving at Monday evening means that you've got a long time to go until the next Monday that one must face. It's fucking goofy, yes, but it's still true.

I was in a pretty good mood for the show last night. My work day had been productive, I've been feeling physically and mentally well (not something we should take for granted), and I felt sufficiently warmed up and ready. It's slightly surprising, because in addition to my typical work and home responsibilities over the preceding 24 hours, I didn't leave a lot of time for music practice. Instead, I'd spent a chunk of my energy condemning the remarks by the president on Twitter regarding four women in Congress. Here's the Tweet in reference...

The full text of the Twitter thread:

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

It's a very old and oft-repeated racist trope... people of color should "go back home". As has been pointed out, of the four congresswomen in reference, three of them were born in the USA -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes in New York, Rashida Tlaib in Detroit, and Ayanna Pressley in Cincinnati. The fourth, Ilhan Omar was brought here at age 10 as a refugee from Somalia, and was a naturalized citizen at age 17. Ironic note: despite being much younger, Ilhan Omar has been an American citizen for longer than the first lady. In any case and by every legal and ethical definition, with all four people, their homes are here in the United States.

Left to right: Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, and Rashida Tlaib. Photo via MSNBC.com.

It was my expectation that nothing would happen as a result. America has been infested with racism since before we were even a country, and the only new aspect of this example was that a sitting president was so open about his blatant race-based hatred. So it was a pleasant surprise when, today, the House of Representative officially voted to condemn the president for these racist comments. It's a rather unprecedented move, and that's a good thing; never before had a sitting US president made such openly racist remarks, and to have it recorded for posterity is important.

Will any of this matter? It remains to be seen. There is a sizably large segment of the US population who is supportive of this exact type of racism, believing that non-white people simply don't belong in this country. That is most likely whom the president is courting with his racist statements. But the hashtag "#RacistPresident" and "#RacistInChief" were trending for two solid days after the president's Tweets, so I'd like to think that enough of the country is willing to fight back against these disgusting humans who are bereft of compassion and morality.

So How Was that Show?
With all this going on, I was pretty revved up and excited, and having a live show to perform couldn't have happened at a better time. I really prefer focusing my energies in positive ways, and what could be better than a solid hour of sweet-ass tunes?

We had a very solid crowd at Serenity Gardens, and I arrived somewhat early to hear Grace McDunnough doing songs before me. She is such an enjoyable live performer to listen to. This week, I'd updated my ancient pair of high-end headphones (I got some Sennheiser 599's, if you're curious) and some new cables for my guitars, so it took me a moment of fiddling around with levels and such until I was happy. But the show went fine, and I enjoyed trying out a Heart song for the first time ever (I know, right?), inspired by noticing that some friends had recently seen (or were going to see) the classic rock band on tour.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
California (Joni Mitchell)
It’s Easy Like Walking (The Sadies/Kurt Vile)
*Straight On (Heart)
Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon)
Nearly Lost You (Screaming Trees)
Something Else (Zak Claxton)
She's Always A Woman (Billy Joel)
You Don't Know How It Feels (Tom Petty)
Everlong (Foo Fighters)
Pickles (Zak Claxton)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
*Serenity Gardens Improv #4,598 (Zak Claxton)

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

Huge thanks to the terrific people who hung out at Serenity Gardens to see the Zak Show, with super-duper thanks to the following who helped support it!
AaronCabottJones Resident, Grace McDunnough, Kat Chauveau, Tyche Szondi, Katydid Something, Kat Claxton, Magnus Hoch, Nina Brandenburg, Alex Zelin, Aurelie Chenaux, TheaDee Resident, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Lights for Liberty Demonstration/Vigil (Redondo Beach, CA)

It was several weeks ago that Christina mentioned a possible protest that we might want to have on our radar. It was called Lights for Liberty, and its focus was the immigrant detention and child separation policies of the current US government administration. When we first looked into it, the event locations were scattered around in various large city centers, and our initial thought was to drive a couple of hours south to San Diego, close to the border and near some of the detention centers. That was going to require a little planning and forethought... and, like most people, she and I are just too fucking busy for just about anything outside of our already insane schedules of work and life.

Despite the high degree of importance both of us feel about this cause, I think we'd pretty much put aside the possibility of being involved. We weren't sure about the details of the San Diego event, which would have required stopping work early on Friday, driving 120 miles, participating in the event, getting a hotel, and so on. It seemed a little much. But a few days ago, I took another look at the Lights for Liberty site, and noted that the list of local event locations had ballooned... and that there were two events that were mere minutes away from our home. Well, that was a whole different thing. We decided that the one just a couple of miles down the road, at Veterans Park just south of Redondo Pier, would be great as long as people were showing up.

Well, the best way to have a good turnout is to show up yourself and be a part of that crowd you're hoping for. We were aware that this event came together rather quickly, and that mellow Redondo Beach wasn't exactly the biggest hotbed of political activity in Southern California. Still, since Christina and I had been involved in several other protest events in the area, we knew that there's always a segment of the local populace who are awake and involved... and like us, don't want to deal with driving into downtown LA and finding parking. The local events in which we participated in 2018 -- March for Our Lives, Families Belong Together, and Nobody is Above the Law -- were all inspiring and fulfilling. We're proud residents of the South Bay, and I think it's very good that events like these have a presence in the suburbs as well as the inner cities.

As per the aforementioned being busy, we didn't head down to Veterans Park until about 7PM. When we arrived and miraculously got a reasonably close parking spot, we didn't see many people and at first were disappointed that the event seemed to have died on the vine. However, as we looked aways down the park area, we could see a number of people gathered, so we joined them. The day had been lovely, and there was a nice breeze coming off the ocean as the sun started to go down and more people began to arrive. The crowd -- comprised of all kinds of people of all ages including many families -- swelled to about 150, most people with signs expressing their support of the cause in various ways. Per the theme of the vent, everyone carried lights of various kinds. Christina and I used some cheap-ass LED flashlights that I purchased at Dollar Tree earlier in the day.

After the sun went down, the organizers decided that we needed to be a little more attention-grabbing (an idea I strongly supported), so we marched the short distance from the park to the entrance to the Pier, shouting things like, "Close the camps!" and "Immigrant rights are human rights!" and so on. As the somewhat experienced protestor that I am by now, I'm happy to say that I helped cheerlead a few of these chants. We got to one of the Pier entrances, but I encouraged the group to go no further; the aspect of being on private property without a permit would be problematic to say the least. So we stayed there a short while, and then marched back to the park. People seemed to be energized and somewhat optimistic, as is often the case at these events.

There were a few moments of short improvised speeches by a few of the attendees, and then we went off into the night. Christina and I stopped for food on the way... it was about 9:30 by then and we had yet to eat dinner. But we both agreed that we were glad we'd gotten involved in supporting this important human rights effort in our home town.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Serenity Gardens (07.01.19)

Enjoying another Monday night at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Triana Caldera.

Happy July to you all! 2019 is already half over, I've already lived half of 100 years, and half of this post is going to be about my show at Serenity Gardens, I swear. If the next section annoys you, go ahead and skip down to the section below and you can read about the important topic of my playing live music as a cartoon in a virtual world.

Protest the Camps
The other half is this short statement about the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers at the US southern border. Look... I'm not in favor of open borders, I promise. When I talk about immigration reform, it's to better allow us to legally process people who want to live in the USA, and to facilitate their lives to becoming good and productive American citizens, as so many have done before them (almost certainly including your own ancestors).

But until we have a better process, we have a responsibility to treat immigrants in a humane fashion. I'm sure you've heard about and/or seen the conditions at the Customs and Border Patrol processing facilities. Children are being separated from parents, people placed in overcrowded and jail-like conditions, and worse. The things is, the conditions at the CBP camps -- and the reported abuses by ICE and CBP agents -- are not an accident. They are designed to terrorize and punish people who have committed no crime other than wanting to be American.

treating humans with dignity and respect should be the goal of any civilized society. Photo from news article "'Help': Photos show hundreds of migrants, children crammed in overflowing border facilities"

I therefore recommend that you keep abreast on information about what's happening at the border, and make your voice heard to your government representatives that you will not tolerate this practice, and will not vote for any politician who allows or confines it. Today, in fact, is a nationwide protest effort to help raise awareness and start the process of restoring dignity to the process of accepting immigrants... learn more here. And that's all I'm gonna say about that. For now.

Rocking Serenity
I arrived for my show and was happy to see and hear my friend Grace McDonnough doing her set before mine. It puts me in a good mood whenever she's on stage before me, which seems to be each Monday night I play at Serenity Gardens.

I've been having a bit of a problem with the joints on my fretting (left) hand. I suppose that 40+ years of playing guitar might be the culprit. But, I'm happy to say, despite having done shows on both Sunday and Monday evenings, my hand wasn't too complainy during or after the show. I'm sure it's probably the onset of some kind of arthritis or similar disorder, but it's not enough for now to inhibit my playing.

A lovely evening of live music in a virtual world. Photo by Triana Caldera.

Me. Photo by Triana Caldera.

One thing I did enjoy doing was a little Americana-based mini-set in the middle of my show. I don't necessarily plan those things, but when I'm pulling out ideas for my set, I think often there's a subconscious aspect where I'll be leaning toward some specific area based on my personal vibe of the moment. Anyway, that worked out just fine. Beyond that, we had a good little crowd of people who seemed to definitely be enjoying themselves, and as usual, I also had a good time along with them. What more can you ask for on a Monday night?

Serenity Gardens set list...
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
Abrasion (They Stole My Crayon)
Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
Big Empty (Stone Temple Pilots)
Pancho & Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
Dead Flowers (Rolling Stones)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Shock the Monkey (Peter Gabriel)
Sleeper in the Valley (Laura Veirs)
The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young)

Thanks to all who came out to my bi-weekly Monday festival of fun at Serenity Gardens, with special thanks to the following who helped support the show.
Nina Brandenburg, AaronCabottJones Resident, Trouble Streeter, Tyche Szondi, TheaDee Resident, Triana Caldera, hynesyte Harbour, my manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!