One of my most memorable live music shows in eight-plus years of Second Life music happened on June 27, 2015. All photos by Kat.
As you may recall from about a month ago, I had auditioned to perform for the first-ever Second Life Music Fest, an event sponsored by Linden Lab as part of the SL12B festivities. I've been hesitant to talk about it since, and I'll tell you why. Obviously, an audition is just that: a chance to show people who may be unfamiliar with you and what you do that you can deliver whatever it is they're looking for. Along with many of my fellow SL live performers who are veteran real-life musicians, I have plenty of experience in this regard. The one thing to keep in mind with any audition is that you may be seriously great at what you do, and still not be what the folks in charge are seeking. Back at the May auditions, I heard dozens of seriously high-quality performances, and was frankly rather shocked when, at the start of June, I received a message from SL Lead Community Manager Xiola Linden saying that I'd been chosen to play the event.
A big deal? Yeah, I'd have to say it was. There were only 16 slots available for the Music Fest; eight for the Friday show, and eight for Saturday's. There are literally hundreds of currently active live performers in SL, so for whatever reason that I was found worthy to be in the small group who was chosen, I have to think of it as an honor. Were some people seemingly hurt when they didn't get picked? Of course; it's human nature, especially as a creative artist, to get feelings of rejection when you are not selected. But with limited time slots and funding for the event, some got picked and some didn't, and it's my honest opinion that the Linden folks did a good job at trying to represent a variety of different music genres and performance styles that help reflect the musical diversity of Second Life artists. I can say that while the performers chosen were all pretty damn good, it certainly doesn't mean that in a subjective art like music, they were the "best". I don't even know what "best" means in terms of music. In any case, I was really happy to help represent SL music to the attendees. More on that in a moment.
A brief side note: I had a moment of panic when I initially realized that the SL Music Fest was on the same day as the Lobsterfest that I had committed to attend with my family. Fortunately, it all worked out fine. The Linden people were cool enough to oblige my request for a later show in the schedule, giving me plenty of time to shove tons of lobster into my face at the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, and then make it back in time to wash up, warm up, and be ready for my 10:30PM show. Here, then, are a few observance about the event itself.
1. It Was Amazingly Well Run
In retrospect, perhaps it should have been more expected that an event a) run by the excellent staff who puts together the SL Birthday festivities and b) with the direct assistance of Linden Lab would be terrifically well organized. The fact is, many of the SL Birthday staff have been a team that has been working together for years and years. They know all the problems and pitfalls by now. Some are unavoidable, and are simply based on the limitations of a platform like SL. But considering the size of the crowd there and all the intricacies of multiple performers getting on and off stage, I can't imagine the SL Music Fest being more smooth from my standpoint as an artist. They did all of the right stuff. I had received my stream information and landmarks for the event well ahead of time. Upon arrival, there was a specific person who did a sound check of the stream, and another person who was in touch with me to help the timing of my show start and end. Each show got excellent promotion from the Lindens via the official SL web site and social network feeds. I've played hundreds and hundreds of shows over the past eight years, and rarely has such a big event come close to the level of great organization as this one did. Hats off to all involved.
2. I Couldn't Get In
Funny, then, that when I logged into SL and attempted to teleport to the Ixtlan stage where the Fest was being held, I couldn't get in. It was for a great reason: the huge area had 90 people there according to the map, and the region was full. This is just a limitation of not only SL but the Internet itself; more avatars and more scripts equate to more load on a server (or series of servers), and there's only so much bandwidth and throughput that can effectively function at once. Did I panic? No, not in the slightest. I did, however, get in touch with the organizers immediately to let them know my dilemma. I still had tons of time before my set, and trusted that they'd have a solution. Eventually, they did, courtesy of the Linden Lab people who whisked me away and teleported me via their own mysterious ways that are unbeknownst to we mere mortals. In any case, I had plenty of time to sound check and get ready while Taunter Goodnight and Donn Devore did their sets previous to mine.
3. Biiiiiiiiiiiig Crowd
So, as I said, the region was maxed out at 90 people, which is pretty huge for any SL event. But then, my assigned set manager Nance Clowes dropped me an IM right before I went on saying that they were broadcasting the stream to other areas as well, and she was showing around 140 people listening. Let me tell you, for any performing musician at my level, having an audience of 140 actively listening is a seriously great crowd. I am perfectly happy playing to small crowds, as I've made clear here many times. But the opportunity to do my own music as well as some very purposefully-selected covers (see below) for that big of an audience doesn't come around every day, and I was pretty stoked to give it my best shot.
4. Commemorating History
The last few days have seen some massive historical events happen, and I do tend to allow world events to have an effect on the songs I choose for any show I happen to have scheduled at the time. Since I was still undecided on my set list for the show, it become clear to me that this was an opportunity to help throw a spotlight on the legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the United States that had occurred just the day before. Two of the cover songs I did in my half-hour set were specifically chosen for that reason.
Second Life Music Fest set list...
America (Simon & Garfunkel)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Blew The Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
The Rainbow Connection (Kermit the Frog)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
5. Thanks SL
I've been both a big supporter and occasionally a semi-harsh critic of Second Life over the years. One thing that I tended to harp on, when I got harpy, was that live music has long been one of the cornerstones of Second Life. It's been a huge draw of people to SL, and one of the things that helped established communities of people in SL and kept them coming back over the years. Despite that fact, it never seemed to me that Second Life or its makers, Linden Lab, did as good of a job as they could have highlighting the live music scene of SL. As a guy who makes his living via the music industry, I was well aware of the reasons why this may have been the case. There are many pitfalls involved in promoting musical performances, and like everything else in SL, it ultimately was the responsibility of the residents to create their own world. That's been done and done well in many cases. But I should note that the phrase "better late than never" definitely applies here. The Linden Lab people did a terrific job for their first-ever SL Music Fest, and I'm happy and proud to have taken part.
At one point during my show, I absent-mindedly welcomed the crowd to the "first annual SL Music Fest". I have no idea if this is something that Linden Lab will do again in the future, much less annually, but I can say that if this event is any indication of how the Lab can help bring a spotlight to the live music scene in world, it's nothing but a positive thing for everyone. The artists gain exposure to new and bigger audiences, the residents of Second Life gain awareness of the vast depth of talent and variety that make up the SL music scene, and the platform of Second Life itself gains a new way to promote itself as an exciting online entertainment destination. I'd say those are all great things, and everyone who was involved in this event, from the performers to the organizers to the producers to the sponsors to the audiences, seem pretty damn happy with it. Massive thanks to all, including everyone who attended and helped support my show, as well as a few people who went above and beyond to make it great: Doc Gascoigne, Diana Renoir, Nance Clowes, and the lovely Xiola Linden who seemed to be the champion of the whole thing.