Friday, December 14, 2012

Serene Acoustic Lounge (12.13.12)

I'm having trouble typing right now. It's not because it's not quite seven AM, or that my hands themselves are malfunctioning in some way. No, it's because I played two songs using my fingers instead of a flatpick last night at Serene Acoustic Lounge in Second Life. Just two songs. And later in the evening, I noticed something I hadn't experienced since I was a very young guitarist: blisters on my fingers. I'm not talking about the tough callouses on my fretting hand, formed from playing guitar nearly every day since I was seven years old. No, I mean my right hand, my picking hand. It had been so long since I played fingerstyle (without a pick) that my fingers have turned into wussy little sausages that are incapable of repeated contact with metal strings at this point, apparently.

How humiliating! I used to play guitar using my fingers a lot... like, a whole lot. I took classical lessons for a number of years where I exclusively used my fingers. It's the equivalent of realizing you forgot how to ride a bike, or how to drive a stick shift, or something. The only way to toughen them back up, of course, is to play a lot more, so after these somewhat painful blisters heal, I will make a point to do just that.

Playing tunes and talking about songwriting. Good times. Photo and top photo by Triana.

Apart from this sad reminder of my complete reliance on a flatpick, it was a fantastic show at Serene. Barbie Horsely (known as Sassy Nitely in SL) has become a really good friend of mine. We share a manager (the amazing Maali Beck), we both do a mix of original music and cover tunes when we perform in SL, we both chose Music as our area of study in college, and we both have plenty of musical experience outside of virtual worlds. Barbie owns Serene, and from the get-go, she intended it to be a place where musicians could showcase their own stuff... kind of the virtual equivalent of the famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville (where Barbie happens to live). There are plenty of places in SL to whoop it up and party and rock; Serene is more of a real listening environment for people who are truly fans of music.

She and I had decided to do a show there together some time back, but it wasn't until maybe a week ago that she asked me if we should have some kind of theme. It being mid-December, the obvious and easy thing to do would make it a holiday-themed event. But honestly, there are already so many of those happening in and out of SL that it hardly seemed like anything special. Instead, I suggested (and she agreed) that doing a show where we could focus on the songwriting we do and the musicians who have influenced our work would be both fun for us and interesting to our audience.

It worked well. Barbie (or Sassy, if you prefer) started the show and did a number of her own originals, and also tunes by artists like Jewel and Sarah McLachlan who had a big impact on her as a musician. I thought she did a great set; I listened as I got my own stuff set up (and my self warmed up) to play. She and I both did a lot more talking than usual, and I will tell you, despite knowing Sassy and her music well, I learned quite a bit while listening to her tell stories of her own musical background and her process in writing. It was cool.

Sassy performs and tells stories of her start as a musician and songwriter.

The crowd seemed to like this interesting show that went beyond just the music. They did so despite my knee jutting out of the middle of my guitar. Photo by Triana.

My set was good, but not because I played or sang particularly well. I didn't; I was marginally okay at best. But I really liked being able to go into depth on a wide range of subjects that relate to songs and songwriting. Also, in choosing my selections, I ended up pushing myself a bit into some areas outside of my top-level comfort zone. This is crucial to do from time to time as a performing musician. It helps ensure that you don't start doing your set by rote, playing only your most familiar stuff and running into inevitable burnout.

You've been a great audience. I love you! Peace!

Serene Set List...
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
The Worst (Rolling Stones)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Across the Universe (Beatles)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (nick Drake)
*Blackbird (Beatles)
A Case of You (Joni Mitchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)

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

Yes, that's only nine songs, which goes to show how much I was talking about the music as opposed to playing it. You can't do that at every show (I'd go nuts, as would the audience), but it was a really neat change of pace for everyone.

Massive thanks to everyone who came out to hear my "Songwriters & Influences" set, including those who helped support it!
Triana Caldera, Hells Lobo, Sabina Melnik, Zanne Boucher, Sesh Kamachi, Christine Haiku, and most of all, my friend and fellow performing songwriter Sassy Nitely!

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