Starting my show at Veterans Isle for Homes For Our Troops. We pulled in over L$100,000 during my one-hour set, thanks to my amazingly generous crowd and the folks who run the events and match donations. Photo by Triana Caldera.
Here's how I find out that I have a show to perform in Second Life: I get on the Internet (duh), and the home page of my web browser has a preview of my Google calendar. I glance at it as I open a new window, and see that my manager Maali Beck has added a date to the schedule. It's all very efficient and businesslike, which works for me. That, by the way, is exactly how I learned that I had a benefit show for Homes For Our Troops scheduled for the last Sunday in August. I got online one morning and there it was, magically appearing on my calendar.
The news brought a smile to my face. I've performed shows for Frets Nirvana's efforts at helping military veterans for years and years now. At least once a year (and always on the last Sunday of the month; Frets is smart keeping that a regularly scheduled event), I find myself at Veterans Isle in Second Life, performing music to help bring people in to make donations to this cause.
I've written about this many times before, so I'll be brief about it: I am as anti-war as anyone you'll meet. I think war is an archaic way of solving problems. It's barbaric and has no place in modern society. And, worst of all, the actual agenda for many wars throughout history is usually driven by greed... sometimes to get resources like food and oil, and other times for a lust for power and control. But those aspects of war are not driven by the people who are actually tasked with fighting. The human beings who put their lives on the line have the least to gain and the most to lose. Many of them come back after armed conflicts with their bodies and minds torn apart -- assuming they come back at all, as many do not. My father was a Vietnam-era vet; my ancestors and relatives fought in the revolutionary war, WWII and more; even my lovely ladyfriend Christina is an Army veteran, as are many of my friends.
So, I have personal connections to these people who fight wars and protect the USA. Moreover, it sickens me that the US government doesn't take better care of its military after their service is complete, and that we need to rely on private organizations to allow these brave people to lead a dignified life back home.
A good-sized crowd at Veterans Isle. More people means more donations, which is why the whole thing is happening in the first place. This was a great show. Photo by Triana Caldera.
Why Homes For Our Troops?
There are plenty of musicians who are leery about doing charity shows of any kind for the obvious reason that it's quite possible to take advantage of people's kindness and goodwill. One of the most important factors in getting people to want to be involved is a) proving the legitimacy of the charitable organization, and b) having transparency in showing that the huge majority of the funds donated do go to the proper recipients (and not get spent on administrative costs or executive salaries).
When I first did shows on Veterans Isle, the charity being supported was the Wounded Warrior Project. I'm not going to say anything bad about that worthy cause, but based on some of the factors mentioned above, Frets changed the recipient of our fundraising to Homes For Our Troops, and with a little investigation, I strongly support that decision. HFOT is very highly rated by charity watchdog groups, with an A rating from Charity Watch, an 89% grade from Charity Navigator, and a Platinum level rating from GuideStar. They give almost 90 cents of every dollar collected to their program services. All of this info can be independently verified. It should go without saying that HFOT is a genuine 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, meaning that they meet the criteria to be tax-exempt (and have to make their cash for very transparent to retain that status).
If you're still questioning what makes Homes For Our Troops a good choice of charities, check out the story of Marine Sergeant Toran Gaal below.
What I Do, and What Really Matters
Before you start saying, "Oh, that Zak is a wonderful person for using his music to help those in need," please be aware of something important: what I do is very easy for me. I log into SL, I get on a virtual stage, and I sing and strum guitar for an hour. I throw a little money into the charity too, but the huge amounts come from my friends and fans who attend the shows, and the generous people who match the funds. During the hour I performed yesterday at Veterans Isle, we raised about L$100,000, which is around $400 USD. That's pretty damn great. That's a significant amount of money for this cause. Again, my show is just a reason to bring people together, and hopefully I am entertaining while getting the importance of the charity's message across. The heroes are those who donate their own hard-earned money to support the cause, and I am extraordinarily grateful that the people who come to my benefit shows are able and willing to do so.
HFOT set list...
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
Comes a Time (Neil Young)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Sleeper in the Valley (Laura Veirs
Pancho & Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
America (Simon & Garfunkel)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
*Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith)
Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morisette)
Pigs on the Wing (Pink Floyd)
Washed Away (Zak Claxton)
If It Makes You Happy (Sheryl Crow)
Pickles (Zak Claxton)
*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
This is the spot in my blog where I usually thank the folks who attended and helped support my show. Since I don't accept any payment or tips at charity shows, here's a list of people who happened to be at the show as indicated by my chat log. Thanks to each of you for being so wonderful and generous!
Dahlea Milena, Waya Snowpaw, Roxeerolla, Grizzly Nightfire, GJackie Winkler, Bri Mcmahon, William Hawksby, Aurelie Chenaux, Thea Dee, Kacey Rad, Sunshine Palmyra, Triana Caldera, Lukis Core, Anastasia Yanwu, RoxHardcore Cyberstar, Denisse Bee, CookieMarco, Kipp McKeenan, my terrific manager Maali Beck, and the man who tirelessly makes these events happen month after month, year after year (and a damn good guitarist to boot), Frets Nirvana!