Sunday, November 28, 2010

ZC30: 30 Years of Live Zak

December 8, 2010 will mark my 30 year anniversary of performing live music. To commemorate this milestone, I'll be doing a special performance simulcast in both Second Life and on Facebook via StreamJam. The amazing multi-instrumentalist Bunny Knutson will be playing along with me for this show... more details on that coming soon.

For the time being, I thought you might like to know a little about my history of live shows, since it's been a pretty interesting journey. Well, for me, anyway.

Show Number One: December 8, 1980
Before you start thinking that I must be 73 years old, let me tell you that I started on piano at age three, and guitar at age seven. In December 1980, I was an intermediate-level musician, but I was still only 11 years old (making me 41 now, for those of you who don't like math). That show left a mark; I found I really liked playing and singing in front of a crowd. I performed two songs that night: "Honesty" by Billy Joel, and "Spooky" by the Atlanta Rhythm Section, both current hits of the day. As you may also be aware, that date is infamous in rock history; while we drove home from my successful performance, we heard on the radio that John Lennon had been killed in New York City. It was an emotional rollercoaster, as I'm sure you'd imagine, but it added an element of unforgettability to the date. I've been aware of it every year since.

That's me on the night of my first show (December 8, 1980). I'm the kid in the middle with the big hair and the fake Les Paul guitar.

1981-1983: Learning to Rock
I had a couple of friends who played guitar and bass respectively. We would get together in our bedrooms and living rooms after school and on weekends, set up our amps, and make cacophony that occasionally resembled music. I can't say we did any gigs; it wasn't until 1983 that a drummer moved into the neighborhood to add a little rhythm to our unique brand of proto-rock.

1984-1986: High School Rock Stars
By the time I was in 10th grade or so, I was pretty immersed in music, and my local chums had progressed to the point where we were good enough to set up our gear at some backyard parties. I became known as a musician around my school, and everyone who was in my circle of close friends were also involved in music. As we grew older, the parties grew bigger. While at first we were playing to a group of 10 stoned guys in a garage, we eventually found ourselves at keg parties with hundreds of kids shouting our names. The peak of this experience was probably when, in Spring 1986, we performed during lunchtime at our high school, and damn near every one of the 1,500 students stayed on campus to rock with us. Needless to say, it fed our collective egos, and we were sure we were headed for bigger and better things.

The stick figure playing the Stratocaster is me, circa 1984.

Rocking my high school, Spring 1986.

1987-1992: A Lesson in Reality
I spent much of this time frame in college, and since I was working my way through school, it wasn't easy to be a wanna-be rock star. I did, however, spend every single weekend during the summer of 1987 playing local shows with my band at the time. My main musical activity through this time frame was learning to compose and record music, so even when I wasn't playing shows, I had a guitar (or bass or keyboard) in my hands for most of the day, every day. But the real lesson from this time period was that once you look beyond your local bubble, the competition for getting serious gigs was very high, especially in my hometown in the Los Angeles area.

By 1989, I was playing at parties, clubs, and various events pretty much every weekend.

I did lots of gigging as a bass player over the years. Here I am in 1991.

1993-1998: Hello Job, Goodbye Bands
While I was never completely absent from the world of live performance, this time frame had me doing the least amount of playing out. I was in my mid-20s, and my career was taking off at the time. I continued to write and record, but the time commitment to play in a band was difficult for me to juggle along with the demands of a real job.

One of the few shots you'll see of me playing live in this time period. Winter 1994.

Just because I wasn't gigging for big audiences didn't mean I wasn't still jamming. Live in the studio, 1995.

1999-2005: Getting Back Into It
During this time frame, I played in a couple of bands that were very busy on the club and bar circuit. It was one of the only times that I was involved in serious working bands, where we played more for money than for fun. However, like any other live performance situation, the fun was there, and the musicians I played with at that time were outstanding. I played dozens and dozens of venues around LA, from Hollywood through the South Bay, Orange County, and more.

Playing bass and singing, Fall 2004.

2006-2010: Going Solo into a Brave New World
In 2006, my ladyfriend Kat and I discovered Second Life, and quickly found out about live performance there. It couldn't have come at a better time for me; my schedule was way too intense to consider being in a band, but the ability to do live performances without having to get a bunch of people together and traveling all over hell and back was much more possible. Over the last four years, I've probably played more live shows for more people around the Earth than I did in all the previous years combined.

Still playing at a few real life shows. Summer 2006.

Jumping onstage with an old friend, Summer 2009.

Performing at my album release party, December 2009.

Still enjoying playing live in 2010... a rare shot of me on piano at a private party.

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