There's always an element of mystery involved when I hear from my friend Luis Lockjaw, designer and co-owner of the Lutz City of Templemore sim, asking if I'm available to perform there. Most Second Life venues are what they are, and remain mostly static with occasional design updates. But when I get asked to play at Templemore, there's always a strong chance that when I arrive at the venue, it's a place I've literally never seen before. The reason is that Luis is one of the very best designers in all of SL, and despite the fact that his real life is extraordinarily busy with multiple jobs, he will often build an entirely new, amazingly detailed venue on the sim.
During the past week, I found myself wondering what kind of stage I'd be on for the Friday night show that had been scheduled, so I went and took a look. My mind was blown when I teleported to the location; it was an abandoned library, overgrown with vines and weeds, and thoroughly beautiful. Luis's design aesthetic is based on decay; rather than shiny perfection that seems to have been the norm in Second Life environments, his places are strewn with rust and rot, and the level of detail of each texture to impart corrosion and disrepair takes a far greater level of effort than simply making things look "right". I never have enough good things to say about Templemore's designs, and coming from me -- a person who doesn't generally pay much attention to the visual aspects of SL while focusing on being a live musician -- I can honestly say I've never seen anything like Luis's environment designs in the 12+ years I've spent enjoying Second Life.
Playing Songs No One Has Heard By Artists No One Has Heard Of
I really do try and make each show I do in SL somewhat unique. Unlike a tour in real life, where you're playing to nearly entirely different audiences as you travel from city to city, SL doesn't have any geographical restrictions; it's just as easy to teleport to anywhere on the grid as anywhere else. That means you are often performing for the same folks, be they your fans who attend your shows at various locations or people who frequent the venues you play over and over. There are two ways to solve the possible dilemma of being too repetitive in your show, and I do both. First is to have a really big repertoire, and my total list of songs I've done in SL has passed 600 at this point. The other way to do it is to curate your set so that there's a specific theme or vibe at each show. I don't take requests on a general basis, and I don't pass out a song list like many SL artists do (nothing wrong with that, by the way). I find that when I have a certain mood planned for my show, I don't enjoy suddenly shifting gears... it's just a personal choice.
Last night's set list was purposefully filled with songs by indie artists. It's not unusual at all for these artists to be part of my sets, but they're often mixed in with a lot of music by well-known singer-songwriters and occasional songs by pop and rock artists that everyone can sing along to and enjoy. Again, that's fine. I love many forms of music, and enjoy making people happy. But as I told the crowd at Templemore last night, it's a sign of respect to my audience that I believe that they hold the level of sophistication and openness to new sounds which allows me to play an hour of music where few people know more than a couple of songs. If I was an SL artist whose primary goal was to play a lot of shows and get a lot of tips, my approach to my repertoire would be way, way different. But really, my goals for my SL shows is to a) give my audience a fun and interesting bit of entertainment, b) enjoy myself, c) raise awareness of my own original music to a large scale audience, and d) allow my crowds a chance to hear stuff they just don't hear elsewhere in SL (or, perhaps, anywhere). I think I do pretty well on all counts.
I'll tell you something else about that; nothing is more gratifying than being aware that the artists themselves appreciate your helping to spread awareness of them and their music. After my show last night, I stumbled across a new song released by one of the artists I'd covered, a young guy out of Nashville who records as German Error Message. The song was incredibly good, so I shared it on Facebook and noted that I'd covered one of his songs that very night. Again, nothing against bands and artists who have achieved global fame and success, but at no point would Beyonce go out of her way to "like" or respond to one of my social media posts or whatever, whereas it's a pretty common occurrence for these indie artists whose music I enjoy so much to be appreciative of my support. It's not like German Error Message is some dude I know (though I do love covering music of my friends as well). He's just some fellow human being out there creating excellent art via sound, and frankly I'd rather give the extra effort to let people know about a guy like that than just play another Pink Floyd or David Bowie song for the 900th time (regardless of how much I love those artists as well).
The other song I covered for the first time last night was one by Girlpool, whom I wrote about recently after the release of their new album a couple of weeks ago. I actually found "Lucy's" to be a very challenging little tune to cover on solo acoustic guitar! It's packed with lovely textured sounds that come from the overlap of guitars and bass, and doing it to any degree of proficiency while also singing took a good amount of practice to be passably performable. It was totally worth the effort, and I'll definitely be doing that one again at future shows.
Lutz City of Templemore set list...
All I Want (Joni Mitchell)
Never Run Away (Kurt Vile)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Catamaran (Yawning Man)
Crosses (José González)
Things Under Trees (They Stole My Crayon)
Friday I’m In Love (The Cure)
*Everything Is Scary (German Error Message)
Half Moon Bay (Sun Kil Moon)
Save It For Later (English Beat)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
Giant thanks to everyone who came to my show last night at Templemore, with special thanks to the following people who generously helped support it!
DupliCat Resident, Taj Nishi, Diana Renoir, hynesyte Harbour, Asimia Heron, Gospel Voom, go2smoky Resident, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, Templemore's excellent hostess Bee Blackrain, and the owners of this amazing place, Grace Sixpence and Luis Lockjaw!