Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Serenity Gardens (08.13.18)

Rocking Serenity is the best thing that can happen on a Monday night. Photo by Thea Dee.

It was Friday night of last week, just after I'd wrapped up the work week, when Bunny pinged me on our secret They Stole My Crayon hotline. Here's what he wrote.

"Would you homies be interested in doing some ICS-like musical expulsion activities on an upcoming weekend or two, from the comforts of our respective home studios? I feel like I could use an ICS kick-in-the-pants lately."

This requires some explanation. "ICS" stands for Immersion Composition Society. It's something that Bunny was involved with for years and years, and it's a brilliant idea that started up in Northern California. Take a group of songwriters and have them force themselves to write a big batch of songs in a short time frame. Frankly, I'm not very good at it; as soon as I stumble onto some kind of musical idea, it's very hard for me not to want to fully flesh it out. The entire point of an ICS exercise is the opposite of that... to knock out a ton of brand new tunes without a bunch of editing. The actual goal is 20 songs in a 12-hour period per the original ICS idea, but there are really no specific rules.

Back to the present. I had a few boring plans for the weekend involving household chores, but those could be pushed back. I agreed to jump in and do some ICS-style writing the following day. Bunny and I agreed to shoot for 10 songs in a roughly 6-hour period. One of the aspects of an ICS exercise is to not have any preconceived ideas, so while I have other musical themes I'd been working on, I didn't turn to any of them, and just dove in fresh on Saturday morning. Spending a day creating music is a rare luxury for me, and I found I was really enjoying the process. Did I get to 10 songs? Nope. Due to the aforementioned habit of getting sucked too deeply into each song to move on to the next, I did exactly half that... but I did manage to do five songs over the course of a half day, which is pretty great. Bunny, in his usual insanely creative way, did do 10, and several of his have the potential to be really great tunes that will likely end up as TSMC songs. I should note that a few songs off our last album did originate from Bunny's ICS sessions. These writing activities are totally worthwhile.

What I Wrote
Out of my five songs, one of them might end up being good stuff for The Crayon. But there were two of them that I felt were worthy of performance at my show on Monday night at Serenity Gardens in Second Life. They were simple and acoustic based, but apart from those similarities are as different as could be. The first is called "Washed Away", and is about the somewhat depressing but realistic idea that long after the current GOP administration is gone, the actions they took will leave their mark on the world and will be hard to erase in some cases. Listen to the rough demo below.



The second song, "Pickles", is probably the fastest song I ever created in my life, and is about the cat who lives next door. It's pretty self-explanatory and very silly. The entire song, from conception to creating the music and lyrics to the recording you hear below, happened in about 20 minutes.



In case you want to hear Bunny's impressive output of ten songs -- and probably the better way to take advantage of the ICS concept -- here they are.



Please keep in mind that at least in the case of my tunes, these are just demos; very little work went into making them sound particularly good. As music creators, just capturing the idea is the most important aspect at this stage. All the refinements will happen later, if and when a song is recorded "for real".

More from the Show
Up until last night, for my bi-weekly Monday night shows at Serenity, I had been the opening act of the evening for over a year. It was rather nice last night to see that Ilsa had changed up the schedule and I had a singer named Bill473 playing before me at the 5PM slot. Seems like a good guy, and it was cool having a built-in crowd at the venue from the start.

In addition to debuting "Washed Away" and "Pickles" at the show, I also finally covered a Nick Drake song that I'd been meaning to do for a long time. I dedicated "One of These Things First" to my friend and Zakster fan Aurelie Chenaux, since she became a huge ND fan after I introduced her to his music. Since Kat was still at work, several of my Zaksters filled in by sending me some great photos that you see here on this blog, so extra thanks to them.

Playing live music while the sun sets in the virtual world and the real one. Photo by Aurelie Chenaux.

Probably playing "Pickles". Photo by Diana Renoir.

"Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow." Photo by Thea Dee.

I can honestly say I've never had a bad show at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Thea Dee.

Sun's going down, happiness level is going up. Win-win. Photo by Tyche Szondi.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Free Man in Paris (Joni Mitchell)
Six Underground (Sneaker Pimps)
*Pickles (Zak Claxton)
Mother (Pink Floyd)
*One of These Things First (Nick Drake)
On A Plain (Nirvana)
Low (Cracker)
The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie)
*Washed Away (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen)
A Day in the Life (Beatles)
Serenity End of Show Improv (Zak Claxton)

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

Giant thanks to all who came out to the show, and extra special thanks to the following who helped support it!
dls Falconer, Tyche Szondi, Asimia Heron, go2smoky Resident, Aurelie Chenaux, TwizidxxKitty Resident, Diana Renoir, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Ladybird's Cellar Grand Opening (08.03.18)

I got to be the very first musician to play live at Ladybird's Cellar, and it was awesome. Photo by Kat.

Every time I think I've done everything in live music performance in Second Life, something new comes along. For example, while I've performed a few times at the grand opening of a new SL venue, I'd never been the very first performer to grace a brand new stage until last night, when I had that unique honor at Anastasia Yanwu's place, Ladybird's Cellar. Ana is a very sweet woman who I've known for many years, at first through her close friendship to my buddy and fellow musician Sassy Nitely. I then got the chance to meet her in the physical realm back in 2014, when Kat and I went to Tennessee for the Nashville SL Jam. Ana even sat in on a song with me there and sang harmonies.

It was a couple of weeks ago when Ana hit me up on Facebook to see if I was available at 5PM on a Friday, and told me about her new place. I was delighted; doing a 5:00 show on a Friday sounded perfect. I've been extraordinarily busy with work lately, which is great as a small business owner. But it also means that I can really appreciate any opportunity to relax and unwind, and what better way to do that than strapping on the guitar and doing an hour of live music at the end of another grueling week? I told her yes immediately.

I love this photo gallery of featured performers at Ladybird's Cellar. It will be great to see this get filled in with all the best musicians in SL, as I'm sure will eventually be the case. Photo by Kat.

The lineup for the grand opening: a Sassy Nitely sandwich, with Liam Wakeman and I as the bread. Photo by Kat.

Does the Venue Matter?
Here's something I find fascinating that I'm sure I've pointed out before on the occasions where I play for the first time at a venue in Second Life, especially a brand new place like Ladybird's Cellar. You might think that in a virtual world, the venue itself has no effect on the performance of the artist. After all, we're still in our same physical space where we always play music... most likely a bedroom or office or den or the like in a home where we have our music stuff set up. A side note: it doesn't take a lot of music gear to perform in SL. You have your instrument (or whatever source of sound you use), a microphone for singing assuming your show involves vocals, and an interface that gets your audio into your computer. That's really it, other than any stuff you want to add for your specific kind of performance. The sound gets streamed out via some software, the stream address is set at the SL venue, and the people hear you. It's pretty awesome that it's even possible.

Sorry, got side tracked. The point is that as a musician, you're there in your room, and you're using the same gear, so why would it make any difference at all how you perceive the environment where your avatar is? I won't speak for all SL performers, but I imagine many of them feel the same: it makes a HUGE difference! As musicians, even though we're focused on performing, we are also in this immersive virtual world, so it simply feels different playing in an open outdoor space versus a small club. The decor and vibe of the build do affect your mindset as a performer in the same way that playing different types of venues in real life do. How close is the audience? What's my view from the elevated stage area? These things matter, even if it's to a degree that's so small as to almost be imperceptible. But it's there.

Being in this kind of SL venue -- as opposed to a bar, an arena, a beach, an open field -- makes a difference in your vibe as a performer. Photo by Kat.

Ladybird's Cellar is totally gorgeous. Classy while still feeling intimate and fun. Photo by Kat.

Of course, the biggest factor of what influences your performance is the audience itself, and different venues attract different crowds. I had no idea what to expect crowd-wise for the opening of Ladybird's Cellar. Even with my own little base of Zakster fans, I had no idea how many of them would be available to come to a show on a Friday evening... a day/time that I usually don't perform. I was really pleased that so many folks made it out for the show at a new place. By the time we were a few songs in, the space was feeling pretty full, and I was definitely inspired to put a lot of fun energy into the show as a result.

Sassy Nitely, Anastasia Yanwu, and Kat dance while I do my musical thing. Photo by Kat.

A stalker's view from outside of Ladybird's Cellar. Photo by Kat.

Ladybird's Cellar set list...
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
Pretty Pimpin’ (Kurt Vile)
If I Had a Tail (Queens of the Stone Age)
Play With Fire (Rolling Stones)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
Say Goodbye (Beck)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Alison (Elvis Costello)
Abrasion (They Stole My Crayon)
I Believe When I Fall In Love (Stevie Wonder)
Wildflowers (Tom Petty)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Tribute (Tenacious D)

Massive thanks to all who came to the grand opening of Ladybird's Cellar, with special shout-outs to the following folks who helped support my show!
Anashara Resident, Smidge Frimon, Langarhans Resident, MzAllison Resident, Diana Renoir, Helena Kiama, Asimia Heron, go2smoky Resident, Thunder Insippo, Kat Claxton, Alex Zelin, Sassy Nitely, driver Fallen, TheaDee Resident, and most of all Anastasia Yanwu... congrats on a terrific grand opening!