Tuesday, March 1, 2011

San Diego Jam 2011: a Weekend to Remember


Fun Fun Fun
Fun is important to us, which is why we were interested in going to an SL music jam. Kat and I had watched some of the live video stream from previous SL Jams in places like Texas, and we were captivated by the sights and sounds of Second Life musicians with many different styles coming together from across the country (and around the world) to jam together in a real-life location.

So last fall, when we saw an announcement about a planned SL Meetup and Music Jam in San Diego, we pretty much decided on the spot that we wanted to participate. After all, San Diego is just an easy two-hour drive south of our home in the LA area, so there was really nothing that could stop us from attending. Well, the months drifted by, and before we knew it, the weekend was upon us.

On The Road Again
Our friend Triana Caldera, who had visited us twice before from her home in the Minneapolis area, decided that getting out of the frozen tundra in February seemed like a good idea, so on Thursday night, Kat picked her up at LAX. The following morning, we went down the street and picked up a rental vehicle that was large enough to stow the music gear we needed to bring. After loading the SUV chock full of guitars, percussion instruments, mics, stands, and PA gear (as well as our luggage and ourselves), we swung by the grocery store for some snackage, and then got on the 405 South.

I've made the drive to San Diego dozens of times; I went to college there (at SDSU) briefly in the mid-'80s, so I'm very familiar with that southbound trip. But having my lady Kat and my pal Triana with me made the drive lively, and we pushed straight through without a stop, singing along to classic rock and talking about our expectations for the weekend. In well under two hours, by 1:00PM, we were pulling up to the driveway of the Hampton Inn near SeaWorld, where the festivities were to take place. While official check-in time wasn't until 4:00PM, the hotel was nice enough to give us our rooms right away, so we grabbed some of our stuff from the car and got settled in.

Getting To Know You
After freshening up, we dropped by that bastion of culinary delight, Denny's, which was literally next door to the hotel. Having accomplished lunch, we walked back to the Hampton where we started to run into some of the SL crowd in the lobby. We saw Ayesha Lytton, who let us know that the main room where the event was being held would open at 5:00PM, so we kicked back for awhile. It's always fun "meeting" people who, in some cases, you've known for years, which was what happened when we ran into folks like Eva Moon and Maximillion Kleene.

As soon as we had access to the room, the first thing we needed to do was to set up gear. Unlike SL, real life requires real set up of mic stands, cables, mixers, PA systems and the like. Fortunately, it was pretty painless compared to many live shows I've done, and everyone was jumping in to help out, which made setup happen pretty fast. That weekend, we were also celebrating Triana's birthday, so Kat and I had made reservations at a local sushi place. Unfortunately, my stomach wasn't it's usual ravenous self, and this slight tummy ache was the only aspect of the entire weekend that was less than ideal. It continued to plague me slightly throughout the trip, but I wasn't letting that stop the good times. After going out and coming back, the room was pretty well set, and we jumped right in and started with some tunes. I have no idea who played what first; the second there were guitars and mics set up, the music just kind of happened.

Getting set up!

Tamra Sands joins me for a little Friday night jam.

Kat and I were tired from the traveling and setting up, and ended up hitting the hay relatively early that night; I think we were in our room by 11:00. But already, the trip was getting fun, and showing promises of greatness in what would lie ahead.

I Can See For Miles
One awesome thing about performing with folks from SL is that we're all familiar with playing for an audience that isn't physically there. The entire SD Jam was being pumped into SL as well as being broadcast on live video via Ustream. While we kept most of the attention focused on what was happening in the real life room, I want to say thanks to the hundreds of people who checked out the show remotely.

Here's the view of the show via Ustream...

... and here it is in SL, at the San Diego sim, appropriately. Screencaps courtesy of Sitearm Madonna.

Brand New Day
Saturday morning, we slept in, but awoke in time for the free breakfast the hotel provided. No self-respecting musician turns down a free breakfast, or any meal for that matter! Downstairs, many of the SL crowd had already gathered. Still unshowered, I'd planned on heading straight back to the room to get myself ready for the day. Those plans, however, were delayed by running into people like Max Kleene, CelticMaidenWarrior Lancaster, and Taunter Goodnight while "stopping by" the main room and proceeding to pick up the guitars again. I didn't end up getting back upstairs until 1:30PM, some four hours later.

The Saturday morning circle. Max Kleene, CelticMaidenWarrior Lancaster, me, and Taunter Goodnight doing some Everly Brothers.

Celtic and I share a laugh.

During this time period, I also got to meet many of the fans who'd come to San Diego for the event. What a great group of people! Many of them were hard-core SL music fans that I'd run into over the years, and it was so terrific to put a non-pixelated face with their names!

After getting myself more presentable, we headed back down where the music continued, and pizza was being served. I welcomed both treats. While the intensity level went up and down, the music never, ever stopped. I hung out until 5:00 or so, and then needed a break before the individual music sets were scheduled for that evening. Once again, I was having some stomach issues, and was concerned for a short while that it was going to affect my show, but after going back downstairs during Eva Moon's set, I started cheering up pretty quickly (Eva has that effect on people).

Eva Moon and Lyndon Heart perform some of their quirky, naughty, and very fun tunes.

Everyone is all-smiles during Eva's set.

By 7:00PM when my own set happened, I was back to my usual chipper self. While the focus of the event wasn't on individual performances (and everyone had various other musicians hopping up to handle some percussion or backing vocals in their respective sets), I thought my set went pretty well.

Zak's SD Jam Set List
In My Time of Dying (Traditional)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake) - Ft. Max Kleene
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd) - Ft. Lyndon Heart
Fire & Rain (James Taylor) - Ft. Lyndon Heart
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Redemption Song (Bob Marley)
Love Hurts (Everly Brothers) - Ft. Audience on bck vocals

Rocking my set on Saturday night.

Max Kleene plays some percussion during one of my tunes.

Me and MKT. I was told our voices complemented each other well.

Into the Mystic
The evening continued, first with Mankind Tracer doing a good set of covers in his reliably well-performed way. Mankind is a good guitarist and singer, and his big fan base in SL is indicative of that talent. After Mankind, Tamra Sands did a set. I hadn't spent much time listening to Tamra before this event; boy, was I missing out. She is an amazing singer and multi-instrumentalist with terrific stage presence (no wonder, after her time on Broadway in a lead role of "Les Miserables").

Tamra Sands blows everyone away with her talent.

Tamra's set faded into one by Max Kleene, who is probably SL's most well-known live musician. I've considered Max a friend for years, and his popularity is matched by his talent level... he's a great singer who has a terrific knack for great material to perform. After Max, Lyndon Heart took his turn at center stage, and he is an incredibly entertaining guy with a great combination of cover and original music. One of my most memorable moments of the entire weekend came when Lyndon performed a Van Morrison tune joined by Tamra and I on dueling tambourines, followed by a kazoo solo that is indescribable in mere words.

I've never heard a Max kleene show that was anything short of great.

Max and Tamra and beautiful harmonies. A great moment of the SD Jam was hearing them together.

Who says acoustic jams can't rock?

Tamra, Lyndon, and I having way too much fun.

Best kazoo solo ever, courtesy of Lyndon Heart.

Masters of Mayhem
By the time Lyndon ended his set, it was midnight, and the scheduled musical mayhem began. Random groupings began to coalesce, with all the performers going up and down from the stage to jump in on whatever song was being played at the moment. Much hilarity ensued with harmonies and guitar lines bouncing around the room like balls on a trampoline. I found myself spending as much time laughing as I was singing, which is a great way to end a day. By about 1:30AM, I was starting to get fuzzy around the edges, and stumbled back upstairs to our room. Still, as tired as I was, I didn't get to sleep immediately, with echoes of the great sounds we'd made still reverberating through my brain.

Raspbury Rearwin, Max Kleene, me, and Lyndon Heart get silly with the post-midnight madness.

Eva throws in some percussion while Raspbury, Max, me, and Lyndon continue the mayhem.

Easy Like Sunday Morning
Once again, despite the late night, the lure of free breakfast pulled me out of bed by 9:30 the next morning. By the way, this wasn't some crappy free "continental breakfast" of a stale muffin and old coffee. This was scrambled eggs, french toast, fried ham, fresh juice... yum! I actually managed to go up and shower this time before heading back down to create (and enjoy) more music. Most of the performers from the night before came back down to rock some more on Sunday, once again with people doing whatever songs they felt like at the moment and whoever joining in who could pick up a guitar or percussion instrument.

We stayed and played and ate lunch and socialized with folks, but at about 2:00 that afternoon, it was time to start getting ready to roll. Unobtrusively as possible (since the music was still flowing), I disconnected the gear I'd brought and packed it into the SUV. By 3:15, we'd said our goodbyes and given hugs all around, and were back on the 5 North toward LA. But I will never, ever forget the great vibe of camaraderie and mutual respect that I got from the SD Jam 2011.

Thank You
To everyone who helped make the 2011 SD Jam a huge success, I send my sincere thanks. Not to single anyone out, but one person in particular merits the recognition: Ayesha Lytton did a fantastic job in putting the event together and making it run smoothly throughout. I'd like to send additional thanks to everyone I know who was there to make and enjoy music... Sitearm Madonna, EvaMoon Ember, Kat Claxton, Gwampa Lomu, CelticMaidenWarrior Lancaster, Bob43 Silversmith, Lyndon Heart, Mankind Tracer, Tamra Sands, Maximillion Kleene, Rhys Greggan, GeeGee Zerbino, Taunter Goodnight, Kat Vargas, Zany Xevious, Guru Witte, Tyra Jakob, Triana Caldera, Maali Beck, Raspbury Rearwin, and any others who slipped through the cracks. It was wonderful meeting you all, and I'd say it's a safe bet that Kat and I will be popping up at another SL Jam sometime soon!

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