Friday, August 14, 2015

The Islands of New England (08.13.15)

Enjoying a good show with good people at The Islands of New England. Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

Some people have asked me why I'm performing much less frequently in Second Life than I did previously. There are two main answers, both true and hopefully understandable.

1. Music takes time, and I don't have a lot of it. From 2009 (when I released my last album) all the way to the start of 2015, almost all of my musical activities were centered around SL performances. However, I've been hard at work on the upcoming debut album of my band They Stole My Crayon throughout this year so far. With a finite amount of time I can devote to music (as opposed to my career, my family, my lovely lady, and so on), the fact is that I simply don't have time to also do three shows a week in SL anymore.

2. I charge a fee to perform, and less and less SL venues are capable or willing to pay it. While my fee is very reasonable, it's easy to understand that we artists can't expect that all people who try and host live music in SL can afford to pay artists. That's fine! There are plenty of performers who are happy to play for "tips only"... I'm just not one of them. And I also won't charge one place a fee while playing for free at another, which would be ridiculously unfair. I would much rather perform less often than devalue my music by playing for free, or screwing over the venues who pay me just to play for free at others. That will never happen.

So, again: this is a conscious decision, and I'm fortunate that my great manager Maali Beck has been completely understanding in this regard. Even if it means only doing a couple of SL shows per month, that's fine with me. Despite being a silly and goofy guy, I'm also one who won't compromise his ethics. Staying true to your morals does come with a cost, though: it's harder to maintain a strong presence in any environment where you're only semi-involved. Again, I'm lucky that my hardcore group of fans -- the Zaksters -- are also good friends at this point. I have complete faith that even if I disappeared from SL for years, they'd be back to see me when I chose to return. So, all is well, and I'd also say that the shows I now do more rarely each seem a little more special than when I was doing them every other day.

Rocking New England
So, on to the show. I can tell you right now, I know when I perform well, versus performing with mediocrity. Side note: I never perform badly, because if I sucked at this, I wouldn't do it. So some shows are okay. Some are pretty good. And a small number of others, like the one I did last night at The Islands of New England, are seriously great. Everything worked out incredibly well. I reached deep into my repertoire, doing some tunes I haven't pulled out in ages. My singing voice and guitar playing were working exactly as I liked, which is rare when both happen at the same time. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of SL shows I've done since 2006, very few could be considered better than this one, and the folks who were around to hear it confirmed what I was feeling at the time: this was a fucking fantastic show. I have no problem saying that about myself, by the way, just as I can objectively say that a particular show wasn't up to my standards. After hearing myself play live music as many times as I have since I started playing live as a little kid in middle school, I probably am the most accurate judge of my own performances. This one was outstanding.

Fun jams with fun Zaksters. Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

I end each performance in this silly pose. If I ever get a new virtual guitar, it's going to be a stipulation that this pose is included. Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

A couple of notes: first, it's somewhat of a neat coincidence that I played two Pink Floyd songs last night, only to awaken to today's totally unsurprising news that Pink Floyd is officially finished as a band. I almost never play two songs by the same artist at one show (unless the artist is me, or my band). So, I guess that was my sendoff to one of my biggest musical influences. Second, I want to reiterate that The Islands of New England remains one of my absolute favorite places to play music in SL, as it has been since the first time I played there (which was on August 8, 2011, for you Zak trivia buffs). It's easy to understand: the place is run by an absolutely wonderful friend, Christine Haiku, and is frequented by good friends. When I play there, I can feel free to be as silly and fun, or musically adventurous as I possibly can be. I always feel good while playing there, each and every time.

TIONE set list...
Walk On The Wild Side (Lou Reed)
Save It For Later (English Beat)
If You're Into It (Flight of the Conchords)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
Norwegian Wood (Beatles)
Polly (Nirvana)
Our Lips Are Sealed (The Go-Go's)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
Don't Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young)
Swing Low Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
Nobody Home (Pink Floyd)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)

Massive thanks to all who made it to the show, especially the rolling people who helped support it!
Devin09 Dover, RansomTalmidge Resident, Lynne Lowey, RoxxyyRoller Resident, Kiki Utherwurldly, Richy Nervous, Sesh Kamachi, Aurelie Chenaux, my manager Maali Beck, and most of all the lady who makes it all happen at TIONE, Christine Haiku!

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