Friday, February 3, 2017

The Islands of New England (02.02.17)

The Islands of New England is more than a pretty place to play live music. The people who visit there make it what it is... one of the best venues in all of Second Life. Photo by Kat.

Performing live shows in Second Life is similar to sex: it feels good, it's physically and emotionally fulfilling, and people applaud when I'm done.

Wait... let's try this again. So, last night, I played for the umpteenth time at The Islands of New England, a terrific live music venue in the virtual world of Second Life. I play there as often as I do for two reasons: first, because for whatever reason, Christine Haiku (who manages the venue's bookings) seems to like what I do, and second, because I really, really like playing there. Those are good enough reasons for just about anything. Since I'm unable to play much (or at all) in January each year, February is a time where I start ramping back up in doing SL shows, and New England was the perfect place for me to kick off my "Zak's Still Here Tour '17". It's not much of a tour; I don't have any other shows booked at the moment. But I trust that I will soon enough.

Here's something that any musician will tell you: when you're sounding good, you perform better. Pretty obvious, eh? What I mean is that music performance is like a wheel. If your guitar is sounding good and your voice is doing what you want, you then have more confidence and the performance itself gets even better. The opposite, negative aspect is also true. I'm happy to say that for last night's show, right from the get-go, I knew it was going to be a good show. A few minutes before I started, I strummed my guitar -- an acoustic-electric Takamine Pro Series P5DC that has become my go-to instrument for SL shows -- and it sounded so good in my headphones that I felt inspired to try and sing at a level that would match the great sound my guitar seemed to be making. It didn't hurt that I also took a good hour before the show warming up my voice.

"Why bother doing that?" you ask. "It's just an SL show." I have to tell you -- and this is just my opinion, for what it's worth -- that if you don't give a shit about every single performance, you shouldn't bother performing at all. I try and make the effort to do the best I can each time I'm playing music in front of people. The audience is taking time out of their day to come hear me do what I do, and the last thing I want to do is be a disappointment to them. Will every person who comes to my show like what they hear? No, of course not; music itself is extraordinarily subjective. But for those who appreciate the style of music I play, I want to give them a special and memorable experience each and every time. I want the people who are checking me out for the first time to want to come back again. I want my terrific longterm fans, the Zaksters, to be able to enjoy each show despite having attended dozens (or hundreds, in some cases) of previous shows. I know it sounds silly, but I genuinely feel a sense of responsibility to be entertaining to those folks who click the link and find themselves listening to what I do.

I don't have many ways to make the world a better place to live for other people, but within the scope of what I am capable of doing, my only goal of each music performance I do is that people get to the end of the hour feeling a little happier than they were when I started my first tune of the night. Whether it's through the choices of songs I do, the way I sing and play guitar, or the fun and camaraderie that seems to happen at my shows, I think I hit that goal more often than not. Happy people tend to make positive decisions and actions, and maybe my silly little shows are one drop in a bucket that can prevent the bad things in life. You never know.

Nine out of ten dentists agree: my shows are fun, whether you're all that into my music performance or not. Photo by Kat.

Joel joins me onstage for a delightful little dance while I played his improvised theme song. Photo by Kat.

One final note: Christine Haiku has a unique ability (at least in the SL music scene) to pair performers for shows that works really well. Each time I play at TIONE, it seems that the person who's performing before or after me is a great fit in some way. This time, as Christine has set up in the past, it was Joel W. Corey Tamas who played after me. Joel is a Canadian man who has a band called Red Heaven. He and I are almost exactly the same age... he was born about two weeks before me, some 47-1/2 years ago. We have a lot in common in terms of life experiences, political and cultural outlooks, and more. While our performance styles are very different, we enjoy a lot of the same influences, and our respective audiences seem to appreciate what each of us do. While he and I met purely by chance through the virtual music scene, we've become better acquainted via Facebook, and I consider him a genuine friend at this point. He's a talented guy, a funny and compassionate human being, and I wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge how much I enjoy and appreciate our friendship.

The Islands of New England set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Man on the Moon (R.E.M.)
Mary Jane’s Last Dance (Tom Petty)
How Soon is Now? (The Smiths)
Lost Cause (Beck)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Carry Me Ohio (Sun Kil Moon)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden)
For What Its Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
Nearly Lost You (Screaming Trees)
*Joel (Zak Claxton, improvised)

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

Huge thanks to all who came to the show, with special thanks to the following people who helped support it.
Bonita Denimore, AinemacLir Resident, Joel Eilde, Tyche Szondi, Lylah Landar, RansomTalmidge Resident, Richy Nervous, Sesh Kamachi, TheaDee Resident, Kat Claxton, Diana Renoir, Aurelie Chenaux, my terrific manager Maali Beck, and most of all, TIONE's superb manager Christine Haiku!

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