Sunday, April 24, 2011

ROMA (04.23.11)

As any of my long time friends/fans know, I enjoy playing live music at venues in SL that are new for me (as in, I've never played there before). Yesterday, I did exactly that, performing at the massive ancient Roman role-playing sim of ROMA. It was their annual Spring Festival, and they chose me as their entertainment due to the recommendation of my manager, Maali Beck.

It turned out to be a really nicely-designed build, and I did my set on a small stage in the midst of a lovely meadow, which seemed appropriate for springtime in ancient Rome (or anywhere else for that matter). We had a relatively small but fun and enthusiastic crowd, and once again, I was happy with my performance. It always seems like a dice roll as to whether my voice and guitar will decide to do what I want them to; this time, they nicely complied. Also, as I've been doing lately since I started working with Maali, I reached a little deeper into my giant pile o' songs to pull out some stuff I haven't done recently, which was fun.

Diana and Xerxes dance while I sing happy love songs.

ROMA Set List...

Mary Jane's Last Dance (Tom Petty)
Save It for Later (English Beat)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
The Right Thing To Do (Carly Simon)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Just Like This Train (Joni Mitchell)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (The Police)
Tangerine (Led Zeppelin)
Big Bad Bill (Van Halen)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Change (Tears for Fears)

Real Romans don't wear underwear under their togas. Well, at least I didn't.

Big thanks to all the people from ROMA and all the Zaksters who came to the show and supported me!
Angelia Rees, Alexis Fairlady, Kat Claxton, Xerxes Ninetails, Diana Renoir, TheaDee, Melanippe Karas, ROMA head honcho Torin Golding, and my lovely manager Maali Beck!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Going back to the desert!

Some of you may recall that last October, I took my lady Kat out to Joshua Tree. I had been there (and other areas around the Mojave Desert) in my youth, but it had been years since my last visit, and Kat had never experienced the unique beauty of the desert. We ended up having a terrific time, and vowed that we'd head back soon.

Well, "soon" has become "now". Not only have we planned a trip and reserved lodging, but this time, our pal Triana is coming along for the ride!

Beating the Real Heat
As you may have gathered, it gets a little warm in the desert. In July and August, for example, a typical day might hit 110ยบ of brutal, punishing heat that can actually kill you if you don't protect yourself. But our upcoming trip, slated for the beginning of June, will still be manageable, with highs in the mid-90s. In any case, looking at the calendar, this is about the last time we could go before next Fall, and we didn't want to wait that long. Also, since Kat and I like to skygaze through our cool little telescope, we had to plan the trip to coincide near a new moon... hence the plan for early June.

Things to Do in the Desert
It's been my experience that there are three types of desert trips.

• Pampered Spa Trip: This is usually a trip to Palm Springs, for people who like to stay at a resort and spend their days in saunas and jacuzzis, getting pedicures, and shopping at overpriced boutiques. They might as well be in Miami, or Vegas. Not my kinda thing. Just saying.

• Crazy-Ass Desert Rat Trip: These people wouldn't dream of making a lodging reservation. They pack up the truck with tents and sleeping bags and Coleman stoves, pick up a few slabs of meat and cases of beer, and go out into the far reaches of the Mojave to do God knows what. Usually involves peyote and shotguns. Not my kinda thing (anymore). Just saying.

• Desert Immersion, Non Crazy-Style Trip: This is a trip for people who want to experience the unique beauty of the desert without necessarily placing themselves or others in life-threatening situations. The perfect place for this trip is the Joshua Tree National Park. When you go exploring along the trails, you can really immerse yourself in the vibe of the desert, and still be within a short drive of civilization.

That's why we're going back to the same place we went last fall... the Desert Lily Inn, which is right on the border of the park itself. This time, however, instead of staying at the bed & breakfast, we're renting one of Carrie's terrific little cabins. Not only is it more cost effective with three of us coming along (we'd have had to get two rooms at the B&B, obviously), but it'll be a neat situation where we can cook our own food, hang out by ourselves with the quail and coyotes, and just do whatever the hell we want, any time we want to do it.

The front of the Desert Lily. So happy to be going back again, for the scenery, fun, and wiping the city from my brain for a short while!

Obviously, we'll be exploring around the park again... places like the Hidden Valley Nature Trail deserve at least a second pass (if not a third, fourth and so on). There are also areas of the park that Kat and I didn't get to last time, so perhaps we'll check them out as well. In any case, the main western entrance to the park is only a couple of miles up the road from the Desert Lily, so we can do all the exploring we want.

We also plan on going into town for at least one meal, and probably to pick up supplies. We very well may dine again at Pappy & Harriet's, a legendary barbeque and live music spot in Pioneertown. Like most things in Joshua Tree, there a lovable degree of kookiness about it, but that's all part of the charm of the high desert.

The three musketeers of Triana, Kat, and Zak, heading off toward new horizons!

Can't Wait!
Triana will be flying here from Minnesota on a Thursday night, and then we'll hit the road on Friday to make the most of the trip. In any case, I am completely looking forward to this adventure!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Strap-on... harp holder!

Here's a semi-interesting factoid: before I started playing in Second Life around the end of 2006, I'd never spent significant time playing the harmonica. I knew the basics of how it worked, but I never owned a blues harp of my own, and God knows you don't want to be putting someone else's harp in your mouth unless you're already intimately acquainted with the person... trust me on this.

However, two things led me toward playing the harp. First and foremost, I'd been a long-time fan of both Bob Dylan and Neil Young, two guys known for accentuating their performances with harmonica. Second, I found that performing as a solo artist after years of playing in bands left me wanting for more accompaniment than I could do with my guitar and voice alone. You can't play a guitar solo while also doing the rhythm guitar part, or at least not very well. But with a harmonica (note that I use the words "harmonica" and "harp" interchangeably... they mean the same thing), I could do a verse or two, and then play a solo with an entirely different instrument, for variety and fun.

All that is why in Spring 2007, I ordered a set of Hohner Special 20 Marine Band harps. I found them easy to learn. They came in each diatonic key (A, B, C, D, E, F and G), and it didn't take long to figure out the appropriate times to blow and suck (no comments, you perverts). What allowed me to play harp and guitar at the same time was an ingenious little device called a harmonica neck holder. It allows you to keep a harmonica near your mouth while both hands are free to continue playing guitar. It's made out of metal, and has a plastic coating on the portion that touches your neck. They're pretty cheap; Guitar Center sells them for 17.99. Having the neck holder allow me to perform my own songs that have harp on them (like "Falling Down"), as well as covers including "Heart of Gold" and "Tangled Up in Blue".

My song "Falling Down", the first Zak Claxton tune with a harp solo (starts at about 1:15).

Since the act of putting this device on requires you to strap it around your neck, I started referring to it as my "strap on", enjoying the sexual connotations it implied in my typical immature way. So, for the past four years or so, my fans know what to expect when I mention that I'm "grabbing the strap-on". However, what they might not know is what this object actually looks like, and how it works. Allow me to tell you now... or better yet, show you!

Step 1: Get out the harp you need, and the holder.

Step 2: The holder uses a spring to keep the harp in place between two metal bars. Pry them apart and insert the harp. Be careful that it's fully seated in place; you don't want to be shooting your harp at your audience like a projectile.

Step 3: Position the harp so that it's centered in the holder. Try and avoid the mistake that rookies make, which is inserting the harp upside down. If you do that, you will find that higher notes go lower and vice versa. Chances are you won't make this mistake twice. Correctly done, the key of the harp (imprinted in a corner) will end up on the top right side.

Step 4: The holder has a little wingnut that you use to loosen or tighten the hinge. Loosen it to put it over your head easily; tighten it when you get it there to keep it in place. Word to the wise: it takes awhile before you start to automatically find that perfect spot where the harp is close enough to your mouth to use it when you need it, yet far enough away to sing without it impeding your vocals. Play around with it and see what's right for you.

Step 5: That's it. Now both of your hands can be used for guitar playing, nose picking, self pleasuring, cake baking, or whatever else you plan on doing while playing harmonica.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A tour of the all-new

Don't get me wrong... I know that you, being a friend or fan (or combination thereof) of mine, are more than capable of checking out a web site all on your own. This is, after all 2011, where navigating around a web site is a more mundane skill than being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. However, we're all busy, and there are some aspects of the new Zak Claxton web site that you might miss your first time through. That's why I'm here as your super-exclusive tour guide to the site that I built about... me. You'll thank me later for this, I swear.

What's up, Homeys?
The home page of the site, shown above, is where you get to everything else. A couple of semi respect-worthy aspects of this page: beneath the main site navigation on the top left, there are very handy buttons to get straight over to my various social networks. Beneath that, you'll find that you can "like" my site via Facebook, which would be a lovely thing for you to do. Next, we have a song you can listen to right away, if you don't have the patience to get into the areas of the site where you can hear the rest of my tunes. More on that later. Every so often, I put up a different tune in this slot. Finally, there's a feed from my Twitter page, showing you the latest thing I tweeted about. Pretty sweet, huh? I am a web guru. Bow before me.

Born on the Bio
The bio page is where you can read a very short biography about Zak. Since it's meant to be a quick read, you might find yourself wanting more detail, so on that same page, you can access my electronic press kit, which has a longer bio and high-res photos. See how I've thought this through?

The bio page. Learn about me. Probably nothing that you don't already know.

Music: the whole reason for the ZC site
One really new part of the ZC site is the music page. What's new? Well, the main thing: you can listen to the entire album, for free. Yeah. All eleven songs, complete. I've actually thought this through, and realized that I never once have bought music that I haven't heard before. Imagine that. So, despite the fact that I'm giving music pirates the chance to steal my stuff, and giving people a way to duck out of buying my songs by just listening on the site, it's worthwhile to me, and I actually believe more people will want to buy my stuff after giving them a chance to get into it.

Here's where you can listen to the whole album for free. Good times. You can also see links for the song credits as well as info on the gear we used for the first record.

You might miss the link on the Music page that says "Complete album credits and song lyrics". It's worthwhile to go there, since you can learn a lot more about the music than you'd otherwise get. See? I knew this tour would have a payoff.

Be sure to check out the credits and lyrics for each song.

Pictures of you
We have a Pics & Videos page on the site where you can check out some pics and videos. It's not rocket surgery, people.

My latest thing I put on YouTube is the first video, though you can check out many more here. Pics include me, my friends, and various things that I have no idea why I put here, but are here nonetheless.

Reach out and touch a Zakster
Ah, the useful Contact page of the site. You can use this page to send me email, to book live shows in Second Life (via my manager Maali Beck), and see a bunch of links that have some conection to me in various ways.

The Contact page lets you find me in various ways.

Random notes
Now here's a part of the site you can't miss: the Random page. Keep clicking the "Random" button (or just reload the page), and you will be served a continually variable delight of pictures that you might not see anywhere else. There are also other random things on this page, like food recipes and more. You never know what you'll get. Why? It's random! See? Aren't you glad you checked this out?

Keep hitting that random button, and keep getting surprised with new photos.

The best things in life are free... but you can leave them to the birds and bees
Finally, we have the Store page, which is divided into three parts: Compact Disc, Downloads, and Clothing/Accessories. It seems pretty self-explanatory, but I'll explain anyway. You can order the Zak Claxton CD (now just $8.99) with secure checkout via Amazon. You can purchase individual tracks for $0.99 each through iTunes or Amazon MP3 (you can also listen to the tracks before you buy them... just click a title and enjoy). You can also look through some of my latest ZakWear creations, and visit my little merch store for the complete line of clothing and swag with my logo stamped on it. Yay!

You can choose to buy my entire album on CD, or buy individual tracks from iTunes or Amazon MP3. There are other places to buy my music, but I thought I'd keep this a simple process.

Scroll down the pgae a bit, and you'll find a few of the clothing/accessory items we have for sale.

There you have it...
The all-new! I'm happy to have a fresh new site... it's like buying clothes when you go back to school in 7th grade. As always, feel free to drop me a comment and let me know what you think, good, bad, or otherwise. Oh, and buy some damn music while you're there! Musicians need to eat too, ya know.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Molaskey's Pub (04.10.11)

So much fun, playing at Molaskey's. Top photo by Kat, bottom photo by Triana.

Word rolled around the Interwebs in the last week or two that Molaskey's Pub was going to be sold. The time, effort, and money that it can take to run a busy venue in Second Life can become overwhelming at times, which is probably why one of SL's best live music venues will be sold to new management after this month. No matter who ends up owning Molaskey's, I can only hope that they do a half as great a job as Apple McKay, Katydid Something, and the terrific Molaskey's staff over the years I've played there.

In any case, I coincidentally had a show there today, and perhaps knowing it might be my last one there under the current crew made it all the more energetic and fun. I think the show went well, and I pulled some rusty gems from the old song book.

Molaskey's Set List...
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts)
†Accidents Will Happen (Elvis Costello)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
The Worst (Rolling Stones)
Court & Spark (Joni Mitchell)
She's Always a Woman (Billy Joel)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Rikki Don't Lose That Number (Steely Dan)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
I've Been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
Angry World (Neil Young)

† Last performance of "Accidents Will Happen": June 30, 2008.

The Bootylicious Zak Babes. Photo by Kat.

Thanks to everyone who helped support my show today!
Triana Caldera, Robert69 Little, Stace Silvercloud, Cicadetta Stillwater, Diana Renoir, Kat Claxton, TheaDee, Taunter Goodnight, Xerxes Ninetails, my wonderful manager Maali Beck, and Molaskey's music champions Katydid Something and Apple McKay!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fantasy Faire -- Relay for Life (04.05.11)

You're not seeing double. I performed again, for the second time this week, at the Relay for Life Fantasy Faire in Second Life. I'm not sure what happened to the person who was scheduled to play today at noon, but as they say, shit happens. In any case, my wonderful manager (and cancer survivor) Maali contacted me yesterday to see if there was any possibility I could fill in for this vacant slot, and I was happy to do so. After all, who wants to spend their lunch hour checking sports scores when you could be playing fun music and raising money for a great cause?

Speaking of raising money, this year's RFL events are off to a brisk start. I am very proud to say that while I was performing today, the Fantasy Faire hit a big landmark: $10,000 USD raised! I was very happy about this, as you'd imagine. Please keep in mind that this amazing event, with some of the neatest builds I've ever seen in SL, continues through Sunday 4/10. Go check it out... it's very worthwhile to visit!

Strumming, singing, and badgering people to donate money. All in a day's work. Photos by Diana Renoir.

Today's RFL FF Set List...
Comes a Time (Neil Young)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog)
Suite: Jusy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills & Nash)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Polly (Nirvana)
Redemption Song (Bob Marley)
†A Case of You (Joni MItchell)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)

† I've only done "A Case of You" twice in the past two years. A little treat for RFL.

Thank you SO much to the people who spent time at my show and helped the RFL Fantasy Faire hit a hug e donation milestone! You're all amazing!
Raven Haalan, Diana Renoir, Crighton Johin, KendallQ Resident, Alexis Fairlady, Aisling, Elektra Panthar, Hakeber Resident, Emerald Bijoux, Samia Sweetwater, 111shawn Resident, Joytou Timeless, Igor Ballyhoo, the dozens of folks wandering the sims and making contributions, the lovely hostesses Pinky DeVinna and Joonie Jatho, RFL FF head honchos Zander Greene and Nevar Lobo, and finally, my terrific friend and manager Maali Beck!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fantasy Faire -- Relay for Life (04.02.11)

I couldn't be happier about the show I did yesterday at Fantasy Faire 2011, the big kick-off event for this year's Relay for Life activities in Second Life. Before you spend much time reading this recap, be aware that this event continues through April 10, so get more info here, or just teleport there now and check out the jaw-droppingly great builds and designs there!

Each year for the past four years, I've had the opportunity to play one or more events in Second Life for Relay for Life, the main volunteer-driven fundraising event of the American Cancer Society. It's really an honor and a privilege to take part in such a highly legitimate charitable effort, and I look forward to it each year. In 2007 and 2008, I played several kick-off events. In 2009, I played at an RFL-oriented clothing fair. In 2010, it was at the finale event, the actual SL relay, which was great.

However, I'd have to say that this year's show at Fantasy Faire was, for me, the best RFL event ever, if measured only by the most important criteria: the fundraising! During my one-hour show, over L$30,000 was raised. That's about $112 US, which isn't bad at all, especially considering that my part in it is just to sing, play guitar, and have fun. As I mentioned to the crowd yesterday (there were over 100 people listening in on the nine sims where I was performing), it's always great to play music live for appreciative audiences, but it's much more meaningful knowing that in some small way, we're making a difference in people's lives by doing so.

We had a terrific crowd who was generous with their giving toward the cause. Photo by Kat.

Rocking for the Relayers. Photo by Kat.

Fantasy Faire 2011 Set List
Pigs On The Wing -- Part 1 (Pink Floyd)
I Am A Child (Neil Young)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
Just Like Starting Over (John Lennon)
Day After Day (Badfinger)
The Other Way (Zak Claxton)
One (U2)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
*You've Got a Friend (Carole King)

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

Huge thanks to everyone who came out and helped give cancer a beat-down during my show!
Inish Karu, Mankind Tracer, Lauren Faulkland, Frank Hennah, APinkSwan Beauchamp, Kalli Birman, Diana Renoir, Erika Rikichi, Medora Chevalier, Purdy Forcella, Renee Hush, cybob Balazic, Kraki Lefevre, Horizon Darkstone, Starr Paramour, Trym Glendevon, Tequila Krovac, Desiree Lurra, Bratt Lunasea, Jeanette Mortlock, Dakota Christensen, Amethyst Starostin, Razzberry Snickerdoodle, Alexis Fairlady, Nevar Lobo, Eilidh McCullough, Kat Claxton, Roy Mildor, RFL’s Zander Greene, my manager Maali Beck, and the amazing hosts Joonie Jatho and Pinky DeVinna!