Note: I'm sure a lot of folks are expecting me to address in detail the recent episodes of mass shootings that occurred over the past two weekends. I find it likely that I will, but two things. One, I'd rather put together those comments from a standpoint of factual information as opposed to the snippets of things that are easily digestible on social media. Second, it would be a disservice to the fact that I want to express the positive nature of my show yesterday, even though the shootings do factor into that as well. So no, this post is primarily going to be about my live music show. There's a time and place for everything... and believe me, I'll get to that soon enough.
For now... it was literally months ago, in April, when Anastasia Yanwu reached out to me on Facebook, asking if I'd be available to play at the one-year anniversary of her Second Life venue Ladybird's Cellar. I assumed it would be a quickly upcoming date, and laughed when I realized that she was booking me, Sassy Nitely, and Camme Carver to play an event in August (which seemed very far away at that point). Most of my Second Life bookings happen within maybe a week or two of the actual event, so this lead time of over three months made me giggle.
But time goes by and sure enough, it was suddenly August, and I awoke on Saturday morning with a happy feeling, knowing I'd be spending a section of the day making people happy and enjoying myself in the process. I'd planned on adding a couple of never-before-played songs to my set list -- "Adia" by Sarah McLachlan and a new original by me, a song called "Doubt It" of which I'd just recorded a demo. It adds a personal element of excitement for me when I play new material at a show. Am I really able to do a reasonably good rendition of the song as a guitarist and vocalist? Do I know the song so well that I feel confidently able to perform it? These are questions that pop into almost every musician's mind as they get ready to do a gig with new material. The answer to any worry in that regard comes, for me, in the old fashioned way... rehearse, rehearse, release. Poor Kat probably heard me do "Adia" like 15 times between Friday night and Saturday morning while I familiarized myself with the song.
Bad News Before a Show
It always is worth it in the end. I've never "over-rehearsed" a song. I like going in feeling comfortable with all the nuances and deliver a good rendition, even that first time. But I had another bit of a challenge going into the show. As I was getting warmed up for the performance, the news started coming in about the mass shooting in El Paso, TX. It's often asked how performing musicians deal with things that -- understandably -- pull their attention away from an imminent show. I don't have all the answers. About the only thing I did was add one song to my set -- Jeff Tweedy's "All Lives, You Say?" -- as a small way to note the moment. I barely even mentioned it during the show.
And this is an important note. It wasn't just a show; Ana had chosen me and Camme and Sassy to help celebrate the occasion of the one-year anniversary of her venue. I knew that I'd have plenty of opportunities to express my thoughts on mass killings -- on social media, in this blog, perhaps at subsequent shows of a less special nature. But I did not feel I had a right to bring the world's sadness to her celebration. We all knew by then what had happened, and that it would be a focus of sadness for some time to come. But I kept my show there very light and fun, and I'm glad I did. Later that same evening, there was another mass shooting by a young man with a semi-automatic rifle with high-capacity magazines, this time in Dayton, OH. We will always have our chances to be sad, which makes it all the more important to appreciate chances to be happy.
And The Show...
I checked the Second Life map as I got into world and was heading over to Ladybird's Cellar, and noted that as expected, Sassy Nitely had a nice big crowd there. It's not a giant place (which I like very much, giving a more intimate feel), and it felt packed as I arrived to listen to Sassy while putting the final preparation touches on my own show. Everything went about as good as possible after that; my audio levels on my guitar and voice both sounded good in my headphones, and I had what I felt was a strong set. Everything went well; we kept a pretty great crowd going throughout my show as well, and I made it a point to pull out some deeper cuts from my list of songs, as I've been trying to do lately.
I love being at places where I can do my Zak show for some people who might be checking me out for the first time. they're always welcome to try me out again. Photo by Kat.
Ladybird's Cellar set list...
Peaceful Easy Feeling (Eagles)
*Adia (Sarah McLachlan)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Shame Chamber (Kurt Vile)
*Doubt It (Zak Claxton)
Your Song (Elton John)
Save It for Later (English Beat)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Saved by Zero (The Fixx)
Half Moon Bay (Sun Kil Moon)
All Lives, You Say? (Wilco)
Old Man (Neil Young)
Big, big thanks to everyone who came to my show, with special thanks to the following who helped support it!
Diana Renoir, Arcangelo Hellmann, Nina Brandenburg, TroyJaimes Resident, Kat Claxton, Arcangelo Hellmann, Alex Zelin, Sassy Nitely, Triana Caldera, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the lovely owner of Ladybird's Cellar Anastasia Yanwu!