Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Back Room (11.16.15)

Yup, this was definitely a good way to spend a half hour of a Monday night in November. Photo by Kat.

Let me tell you a little bit about live music venues in Second Life: most of them are just fine. They have a stage, they have places for people to sit, or to stand around, or to dance. And that, along with the ability to re-broadcast an audio stream, is really all you need. People can show up, see and hear and live music show, and the responsibility of the party running the venue is complete.

But much like real life, there are places that make a huge effort to provide an ambience that gives audience members and performers alike the feeling that shows there are meant to be a special occasion. How they go about doing that is as individual and unique as the people who create these online environments, and much of what one person prefers can be a purely subjective choice that may not apply to everyone else. For me, there are a couple of key factors that separate the really great venues from the merely acceptable ones.

1. Size, or lack thereof. While I appreciate some people's desire to create a massive hall with 200-foot-high ceilings, giant open spaces, and massive stages that would proportionately be able to host a Broadway-style performance, the fact is that the better SL venues are designed to corral the audience in a defined space that is more like reality. A smart builder can make a venue that still holds plenty of avatars comfortably, but gives everyone a feeling of intimacy between the audience and performer.

2. Design details. We've all seen it. The way that lighting is arranged. The way that elements such as seating, artwork, and other aspects are placed here and there. The fact is that some people have skills and experience that exceed others' in terms of the ability to attractively create a space for live music experiences. It should be no surprise that many of the same design details that make a real-life venue look impressive are those that are often overlooked in the virtual world.

All this is just a preamble to tell you how last night, I got to perform at the grand opening of a new venue that's the brainchild of a great friend of mine (as well as a fellow live musician): Barbie Horsley, aka Sassy Nitely. The place is called The Back Room, and it's located on the same set of sims as Key West and Key Largo. It's really no surprise, then, that The Back Room is every bit as visually impressive -- perhaps even more so -- as the other great venues in that location. But it also has that quality of intimacy that I personally really prefer in any venue. All in all, I was hugely impressed the moment I arrived. Barbie had booked a really good series of performers to open her new place: Quartz, Dominoe Effect, Camme Carver, myself, Bat Masters, and Lyndon Heart (in order of performance). She did a very smart thing: each artist had a 30-minute slot. While most of us prefer to do a full hour set on most occasions, this arrangement allowed a good number of musicians to get their shows in while retaining a big portion of the audience (who would have otherwise been expected to stay around through some six hours of music). The result was that the place stayed pretty packed through all the shows I saw.

Here's something else that doesn't happen very often, at least to me. About an hour after I wrapped up my show, Barbie sent over a link to Showtime Magazine, a blog that covers the entertainment scene in Second Life. The article writer Edith Halderman had posted a very complimentary piece about the new venue that included pics of each performer that night. She said...

The room was packed with other performers as well as those featured this evening. I sought refuge in the loft and happily sat on a comfortable chair with no one around. As I looked around, I noted that the list of people present read like a who’s who on the SL live music scene.

A correct assessment, and an unexpected happy surprise to get a little press from an SL show. My half-hour slot went very well, I should add. I was grousing a little while we were on vacation in Joshua Tree over the weekend... "I have to play a show the day after we get home!" Well, I am beyond thrilled that I was included in this event, and my 6-1/2 song set was surprisingly good, considering that I'm performing rather rarely in SL these days and had just spent the four previous days running around like a crazy person in the middle of the desert.

Great place, great vibe, great tunes. Photo by Kat.

Even my grumpy avatar seems to be enjoying himself, kinda. Photo by Kat.

Again, hell yeah to great venue design by someone who understands the details that make a good place great. Photo by Kat.

The Back Door set list...
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Blew The Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Pancho & Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Sleeper in the Valley (Laura Veirs)
Shame Chamber (Kurt Vile)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

Gigantic thanks to everyone who came and saw me at the grand opening of The Back Room, especially the lady who made it all happen: Sassy Nitely! Thanks to all for the constant support over the last 9+ years of my doing live music in Second Life!

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