Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Serenity Gardens (09.24.18)

In the midst of absolute political and social insanity heading into the 2018 Midterm elections, taking a solid hour to do live music with friends and fans at Serenity Gardens was a very welcome break! Photo by Triana Caldera.

I'm excited to talk about my show last night at Serenity Gardens in Second Life -- it really was a good one in all aspects -- but first, a few words about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Not many words, I promise.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States, of course. It has jurisdiction over all federal and state court cases regarding constitutional law. Almost no position in the country is more important than being a SCOTUS justice, since they determine the interpretation of the US Constitution in regard to how it applies to individual cases. Looking back through US history, many of the most momentous turning points of our country have been based on SCOTUS decisions, for good, bad, or otherwise. In 1857, they said that black people could not be US citizens, leading the country into civil war. In 1896, they said that the segregation of black and white people was legal (then changed their mind in 1954). In 1963, they ensured that criminal defendants have the right to an attorney, even if they were poor. In 1967, they shot down laws that prevented people of different races from marrying, and in 1973 they legalized abortion. In 1974, they unanimously determined that a US president can't use executive privilege illegally. Just a few years ago, in 2015, they determined that same-sex marriage was legal throughout the USA.

These are landmark moments for our country, and their decisions affect millions of people every single day. To be one of the nine justices on that court, it should be assumed that you are more than one of the country's leading authorities on Constitutional law (that's obviously a given). People should also expect their SCOTUS justices to be people of the very highest moral and ethical fiber. Think about it; to have a person on the Supreme Court who could be bribed, blackmailed, or swayed by party politics would have a devastating effect on the country. The standards to which we hold a person who might have this role for life are much, much higher than any other position in the country, including the President.

The thing I want you to ask yourself about Brett Kavanaugh, as these allegations of potential sexual assault and other negative behavior come to light, is simply this: of the dozens and dozens of people who have the background and qualification to be considered for a SCOTUS position, is this the very best candidate we have? I want Kavanaugh to be fairly considered, and for any and all of his accusers to be able to present evidence that will allow for the Senate to make an informed decision. If he indeed is the best of the best, and no other candidate will be able to do a more fair and impartial job once placed on the Court for life, then I'm happy to welcome him. If not, an alternate candidate must be named and the process will start over again until we do find the absolute best person for the job.

The Show
So, that's all I have to say about that. We're smack dab in the midst of Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings as I write this post, and it's doubtless that over a very short time frame, more info will come to light that will allow the Senate to make the right decision. Since that info isn't publicly available yet, I'll withhold further comment until there's a valid reason to provide an opinion. For now, let's talk about my show and some music.

If you ever saw the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, you'd be aware that the powers of certain benders would drastically increase at certain times. For the Water Tribe, this was during the full moon. For the Fire Nation, it was when a comet grew near. Well, for Zak the Music Bender, my abilities magically get better in the fall. I know it sounds ridiculous and is almost certainly a superstitious psychological effect at best, but I swear that at least in my mind, it's tangibly true. I sing better, I play guitar better, and I more easily write new songs between late September and Christmastime than at any other time of year. I actually said this unabashedly during my show last night, and went on to prove my own point.

Serenity owner Ilsa Flannigan had mentioned she was putting out her Fall/Halloween decor in advance of my show, but I'd forgotten how cool the place looked all decked out for the season. Here's my and my skeleton band onstage. Photo by Triana Caldera.

I also mentioned that with Joni Mitchell's 75th birthday coming on November 7, I would be playing one of her songs at each of my shows between now and then (not that it's very unusual for me to play her music regardless). For last night, I did my first-ever rendition of "The Last Time I Saw Richard". Doing Joni's piano-based songs on guitar is always a challenge, but I think it went well. Side note: I just did a search of my list of songs I've performed as a solo artist, and I currently have 33 Joni Mitchell songs I do. That's a lot; only Neil Young and David Bowie come close in my repertoire.

We had a nice crowd and people seemed to like what they were hearing. That's cool, but also cool is that I knew I was playing well and singing well, and I'm the most harsh critic of my own performance, so when I can play live music for an hour and at no point felt like I could have done much better than I did, I don't ask for more than that.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Saved by Zero (The Fixx)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Love Hurts (Everly Brothers)
Them Bones (Alice in Chains)
My God Is the Sun (Queens of the Stone Age)
*Texarkana (R.E.M.)
*The Last Time I Saw Richard (Joni Mitchell)
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (Steely Dan)
I’ve been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
Swing Low Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
*Serenity Improv in F#m (Zak Claxton)

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

Big thanks to all who attended the show, with special kudos to the following who helped support it!
RoxxyyRoller Resident, TheaDee Resident, Asimia Heron, Kat Chauveau, Sesh Kamachi, go2smoky Resident, Triana Caldera, Alex Zelin, loo Lytton, my very good manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.

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