Friday, August 26, 2011

The Majestic (08.25.11)

What a day! I got up early to make sure my son was ready to head out to registration for his middle school -- he's transitioning from elementary school, and it's a big step, as I'm sure you all recall. School starts next week, and I'm happy to say that he seems pretty confident about the whole thing (unlike me; I'm a bundle of nerves). His new school does something smart; in the afternoon, they had a day camp that was an orientation for all the incoming 6th graders, allowing the kids to get more comfortable and familiar with the layout of the school before classes actually start.

So, directly after my kid got home from that excursion, it was time for me to start getting ready for my show at The Majestic in Second Life. One of my top-tier Zaksters, Diana Renoir, was having her real-life birthday, and while I was fairly sure she wouldn't be coming to the show, I planned some special b-day tunes for her (after all her support over the last few years, it's the least I could do).

That 6PM hour in SL can be a real bitch. I am not exaggerating when I say there are often 50 live music events happening simultaneously at that time. It is tremendously difficult to scare up a good-sized crowd at 6PM on a weeknight, but despite having a relatively small audience at the Majestic last night, we had a lot of fun.

Small crowd, large fun. I guess it was a fun-sized crowd. Photo by Kat.

The show itself was also good, though my Martin guitar definitely needs a string change and an overall cleaning (which I'll be doing soon). As I've been prone to do recently, I reached a little deeper into my list of tunes and pulled out a few that I don't play often. I also decided within an hour of the show to perform a Doors tune that, for whatever reason, I'd neglected to try before. By the way, Diana ended up popping into the show during its later stages, and it was fun to be able to sing her a special "Happy Birthday". She also inspired me to imitate the birthday dinner from which she'd just returned, and Kat and I enjoyed a massive amount of sushi later that night. Oh, and if you're in the mood for some silliness, fast-forward the audio from the show to about 14:58, which is the moment I decided to go pantsless for the remainder of the gig.


Majestic Set List...
*Impromptu Ode to Crap Mariner (Zak Claxton)
Off the Wall (Michael Jackson)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
*Alabama Song (The Doors)
Alabama (Neil Young)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
†Breaking Us in Two (Joe Jackson)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
††Mother's Little Helper (Rolling Stones)
Mother (Pink Floyd)
I've Been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
*Happy Birthday Diana (Zak Claxton)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
†My last performance of "Breaking Us in Two" was, ironically, at The Majestic on January 30, 2009.
††Last performance of "Mother's Little Helper" was November 16, 2008.

Thanks very much to the people who helped support my show!
Diana Renoir, TheaDee, Lance Lomu, Kat Claxton, Triana Caldera, my manager Maali Beck, and Majestic hostess Tialicia Muircastle!

Monday, August 22, 2011

ROMA (08.21.11)

It's always a bit of a crap shoot when I perform at places that aren't dedicated live music venues. There have been times, as I sit there strumming away and no one is really focused on the music and instead are walking around looking for good deals on pixellated shoes, that I've wished I hadn't accepted the gig in the first place. But then, there are other times, like yesterday at ROMA, when it can be one of the most fun shows I can do on the entire grid.

I was introduced to ROMA by my manager Maali Beck, who is part of that community. What is ROMA? I'll let them explain it...

ROMA is an ancient Roman themed land within the online world of Second Life®. ROMA is the original Roman land in SL. It has been open since the Ides of October 2006 and has a very active citizenry, with over a thousand members, over twenty associated groups, and over a hundred different attractions which are open to all visitors.

So basically, it's an ancient Rome role-playing sim, and it's really incredibly impressive. I did my first show there for their Spring Festival back in April, and enjoyed myself (I think the audience did too), so when Maali asked me to play at their Summer Feast, I didn't hesitate to say yes. When I arrived, though, I was a little confused; I didn't see a stage set up anywhere. However, Maali then led me a few paces away, and... wow! I was performing inside of a small volcano, on a stage that doubled as a large lounge area with harem-pillow seating in a semicircle behind me. Sweet!

Here I am inside my volcano stage, with the Zakster ladies reclining behind me. A tough life, I have, I'll tell ya. Photo by Kat.

One great thing about this place is that everyone really gets into their ancient Roman roles. Nice outfits, all! Photo by Kat.

The layout of pixel-based feast dishes was making me hungry while I rocked. Photo by Kat.

You know, wearing a toga isn't bad at all. It's a pretty good look for me. Photo by Kat.

It got even better once the show started rolling. Due to the rather tight nature of the space, it felt like we had 100 people in there (as opposed to 25 or so), and the crowd was as talkative and rowdy as I'd hoped they would be. My main Zakster gals -- Kat, Triana, and Diana -- all lounged behind me as I rocked a bunch of songs in a set that was loosely geared toward the ROMA crowd. There were a couple of tunes in there that I hadn't played in about three years, so it was fun to dredge the archives and pull those out again.

ROMA Set List...
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Athena (The Who)
Landslide (Fleetwood mac)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
†Stonehenge (Spinal Tap)
Starman (David Bowie)
Rikki Don't Lose That Number (Steely Dan)
††Wild Horses (Rolling Stones)
In My Time of Dying (Traditional)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)

† Last performance of "Stonehenge": September 20, 2008.
†† Last performance of "Wild Horses": December 21, 2008.

Many thanks to all the folks at ROMA for having me back there... really looking forward to the next festival! Thanks to all who helped support my show there...
Triana Caldera, Airedale Magic, Melanippe Karas, Nekorina Kiama, Morgana Fillion, Diana Renoir, Kat Claxton, Enamabala Towradgi, my manager Maali Beck, and ROMA Estate Manager Angelia Rees!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Molaskey's Pub (08.18.11)

It had been a few months since the last time I played at Molaskey's Pub, and the most recent show I played there was that weird situation where someone had purchased the venue, only to be forced to back out at the last minute. It all turned out good, since Molaskey's original owners Apple MacKay and Katydid Something were able to keep the place running with the help of Thinkerer Melville as an investor, and by cutting the operating hours down to four shows per week from their previous ten.

The end result was that one of SL's finest live music spots stayed open, and I was very glad to get back there again last night. What makes Molaskey's great? It's simple: they have the most dedicated team of people running the place, and all of them are true fans of good music. When you go see a show at Molaskey's Pub, it's almost guaranteed that you'll be hearing the most talented and/or entertaining people in Second Life.

Ah, Molaskey's. Many years of good times for artists and audiences alike. Photo by Kat.

So, enough history, and on to my show. I got a boost of enthusiasm when I found out I'd be performing at 6PM and being followed by Lyndon Heart, one of my personal favorite SL musicians, at 7PM. We're a good fit in terms of the type of material we play, and I had a feeling it was going to be a good night as a result. I wasn't wrong. As I've been doing lately, I reached a little deeper into my song list and played a few that have become rarities in my repertoire.

Molaskey's Set List...
Losing My Religion (REM)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
†Across the Universe (Beatles)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
*Expecting to Fly (Buffalo Springfield)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Love Hurts (Everly Brothers)
Into the Mystic (Van Morrison)

†My last performance of "Across the Universe" was on December 10, 2007! Holy crap!
*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in Second Life.

One of SL's best venues? You bet. Photo by Kat.

One more particularly cool thing came out of last night's show: Lyndon and I will be back at Molaskey's on Thursday September 15, but in a slightly different format: we're going to dual-stream, meaning that from the audience's perspective, we'll be performing together! I have always wanted to get into this type of thing in SL, and I can't wait to see how it goes!

Many thanks to the great friends/fans who helped support my show at Molaskey's!
Tyra Jakob, Diana Renoir, Thinkerer Melville, Cicadetta Stillwater, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, Mia Kitchensink, Xerxes Ninetails, my manager Maali beck, and Molaskey's wonderful owner Katydid Something!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Crystal Gardens (08.16.11)

Ah, back at Crystal Gardens again. As I'd mentioned before, I spent my first year and a half in Second Life playing weekly at the former venue owned by Sandi Benelli, and rather recently I re-established that connection. The result is that I'm now playing at Sandi's new venue every other Tuesday. My first show there was fun, but we didn't gather much of a crowd. Last night's show, however, was fun and also pretty well attended for the 5PM slot.

My darling Kat had spent the previous five days away from me, visiting with family in her old hometown in the Seattle area, and she'd just returned a couple of hours before my show. Therefore, I made the show into a welcome home party for Kat, and did a number of songs specifically for her (including my first-ever performance of a Who song she enjoys).

My crowd and I enjoying a Tuesday evening sunset at Crystal Gardens. Photo by Kat.

Crstal Gardnes Set List...
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
*Athena (The Who)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
†Powderfinger (Neil Young)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (Beatles)
Accidents Will Happen (Elvis Costello)

*Indicates my first ever performance of this song in SL.
†My last performance of "Powderfinger": October 6, 2008... coincidentally at the old Crystal Sands

Many thanks to everyone who came out for (and supported) the show!
Diana Renoir, Dino1234, Elke Shepherd, Blues Heron, Triana Caldera, Alexis Fairlady, Kat Claxton, Xerxes Ninetails, my manager Maali Beck, and Crystal Gardens owners Sandi Benelli and Mikal Beaumont!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Majestic (08.11.11)

I had a very interesting day involving the Second Life music scene yesterday. I'm not going to get into details, but something that happened inspired me to do something I'd never even considered doing in the nearly five years I've been in SL: write a letter to the CEO. At this stage, it's a guy named Rod Humble, and the upshot of the story is that I'd noted a situation that seemed to be unfair toward the long-term members of the SL music family. I wrote the letter more to vent my frustration at that situation, and wasn't really expecting a response.

But respond he did, and quickly. Rod, as it turns out, is a guy who really seems to understand the needs of SL's residents, and (here's a rare quality in a CEO) knows the difference between right and wrong... and is willing to act on it. Long story short: Rod sent me back a nice note agreeing with my sentiment, and perhaps as a show of willingness to make right on a wrong, the announcement of my show at The Majestic was re-Tweeted by the official Second Life Twitter feed last night. Uncalled for, but very nice, and much appreciated.

The official Second Life Twitter feed, helping to spread the word about my show last night. Very, very nice of them. Thanks, SL!

Anyway, enough of that, and onto the show. I played after Zerbie Magic, another experienced SL performer. It's funny; Zerbie and I have styles that couldn't be more different (she's a pop/R&B singer who performs live to recorded tracks, while I'm a guitar-strumming silly singer-songwriter guy), but it was nice having someone there before me so I didn't feel that the burden of bringing every single avatar to the venue was on my shoulders. She's a talented singer too, so it's always cool having some comparable musical skill in the same evening, even if our styles are 180 degrees apart.

As you can see, we had a nice-sized crowd of Zaksters and general SL folks. Everyone seemed to be having fun. Mission accomplished. Photos by Triana.

Whether it was due to SL's tweet or some other factor, we had a much better crowd at the Majestic than we've had in recent weeks. As I've mentioned, the 6PM weekday slot is just packed with shows, so any time we get 20+ people in a venue at that time, I'm a happy camper. The Zaksters were out in nearly full force... except (notably) my darling Kat, who was at that moment on a plane to Seattle to visit her family. Still, we had lots of fun, and musically I think it went very well, continuing a string of recent performances that left me satisfied.

Majestic Set List...
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
If You Could Only See (Tonic)
Into the Mystic (Van Morrison)
Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog)
Edith and the Kingpin (Joni MItchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Polly (Nirvana)
Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
Better Man (Pearl Jam)

Big thanks to everyone who came out to the Majestic last night, especially those who supported my show!
Diana Renoir, Triana Caldera, Alexis Fairlady, Charm March, Dottie Idlemind, Wayne Kira, Aurelie Chenaux, Cobalt Niles, Christine Haiku, my lovely manager Maali Beck, and Majestic manager Kalli Birman! And, once again, thanks to Rod Humble and the SL marketing team for giving me a little hand. It's the small stuff that matters, and it's appreciated.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Going Fishing

Here's something sort of weird: this Saturday, I'm doing something I don't like to do that I've postponed for over five years, but nevertheless will probably enjoy. Intrigued? Read on, dear reader. Read on.

When my son was a wee lad, maybe 6-7 years old, he played a video game that included a fishing mini-game. He really liked it, and mentioned to his grandfather (aka my dad) that he wanted to go fishing for real sometime. Well, my pop is an old-school guy from the Midwest who grew up hunting and fishing, and he couldn't wait to go out fishing with me and my boy. However, "wait" is exactly what he did. Getting our schedules to mesh is a pain in the ass. Between the three of us, with my son's school, my music, my dad's golfing, and both of our jobs, it just hasn't happened.

There's another reason it hasn't happened: I'm not a big fan of killing wild animals. While I did my fair share of fishing as a kid, as I got older, my philosophy about the importance of life changed to the point that now, I am hesitant to kill even things like spiders, or ants if I can help it. So, I kind of sat on the idea for awhile, taking no real effort to make it happen. However, I will say that fishing is a valuable skill. It may seem like an anachronistic attitude, but you never know when you'll be in some situation where you might have to get your dinner from a source other than a grocery store, or McDonald's for that matter. As the ancient adage goes, if you give a man a fish, he eats for an evening. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. You get the idea.

The Redondo Pier, just a few blocks due west of me. Seems like a good place for my kid to try fishing.

It tends to get pretty busy at the fishing area of the pier, especially on weekends.

All this is leading up to my telling you that after five years of nagging from both generations, my son and my pop, we're finally going fishing this weekend. One of the big hold-ups to doing this was the idea that we'd have to travel somewhere far away, but wait... what's that giant blue thing outside my window? Oh, it's the Pacific Ocean, which has been rumored to contain fish. I live in Redondo Beach, a suburb of LA that has a large pier which is well known for angling. So as opposed to making a big production out of it, we're heading down the street and spending a few hours casting our hooks, lines, and sinkers over the edge, hopefully to catch a few calico bass, mackerel, and other such sea creatures.

The Pacific Mackerel. Not exactly the most impressive fish, but it'll be fun to catch one for my boy in any case. Once it's caught and I can hopefully pull the hook out, back in the ocean it goes.

To do that, I took my kid to Big 5 last night, and we bought some rather cheap Zebco all-in-one packages that include the rod, reel, and all the tackle. It's even pre-spooled with line, so we'll have an easy time and avoid the frustration of dealing with all that. One thing you should know: while I'm happy to acquiesce my ethics for a day of family fun, I'm also not taking any fish home with me. It's all catch-and-release, with hopefully as little damage to the fish as possible. I'll bring the camera, and if we do catch anything, it'll be just long enough to preserve the image for good memories, and then back in the ocean for the fishy.

So, wish us luck this weekend. My kid can find out what it's like to fish for real, and I can spend a little time with him and his crazy grandpa. We'll fish until we get bored, then grab a late lunch and head home. Should be cool.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Islands of New England (08.08.11)

As I've mentioned here about 10 million times before, I love playing at new venues. Not necessarily new in the sense of "just opened"; I mean new in that I've never played there before. Last night was my first-ever show at The Islands of New England, and making it all the more fun is the fact that the venue is managed by a lady who I've gotten to know through Second Life and Facebook, Christine Haiku. Christine is one of those people that lights up a room with her presence, and I've always been a sucker for a gal who has charisma (as is certainly evidenced by my darling Kat).

When Christine asked me to perform at New England, I didn't think twice. I barely thought once, truth be told. I'd been to the venue to see Taunter Goodnight sing, and liked the vibe there. But moreover, I was sure that Christine could help put on a great show even if it were held in a shoebox, and my instinct turned out to be correct.

I like the way the Islands of New England venue is set up. By having a relatively narrow space for the crowd, it keeps everyone closer together and makes the place feel lively. One of the biggest design errors of many SL venues is making them too big. This one is just right. Photo by Kat.

A side note: I really prefer being scheduled so that I'm not the first artist in a series of performances. Why? It's simple: when you have people playing before you, there's already a crowd at the venue, and as an artist, I have an opportunity to get some of those folks to hang out and see what I'm all about. Also, there's that responsibility I feel for bringing people into a show, and it can be hit-or-miss depending on the day/time and place as to whether that happens successfully. I'm happy to say, though, that despite the fact that I opened the show yesterday, we ended up having a great crowd... good-sized and enthusiastic. Happy me! Oh, and an interesting coincidence that I noted during the show: the sim where the venue is located is called "Marblehead". Well, as a little kid, I actually lived in Marblehead, MA. It was my last home before moving to Southern California at age 6 (where I've remained ever since).

Christine Haiku! Photo by Kat.

I've been making a purposeful attempt to bring out some of the songs that I don't play very often. It's fun dusting them off, not just for my own desire to stay fresh, but to keep the interest of my crowd ignited as well. Since it was my first time playing at New England, and since Christine Haiku has been such a cool person to me, I decided to commemorate the occasion with a special tune for her; I took "Cheer Up Murray" by Flight of the Conchords and modified it for Ms. Haiku, and opened the show with it.

What a pretty place to play live music and enjoy the company of friends. Photo by Kat.

The Islands of New England set list...
*Cheer Up Christine (Flight of the Conchords/Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
I've Been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
Save It for Later (English Beat)
†Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Six Underground (Sneaker Pimps)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
Nobody Home (Pink Floyd)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
A Day in the Life (Beatles)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
†I've only played "Sour Girl" three times since December 2008. It's a rare one.

Huge thanks to everyone who came to my show at TIONE, especially those who helped support it!
Triana Caldera, Sommer Shepherd, Aurelie Chenaux, Alba Sonata, Diana Renoir, Sassy Nitely, Xerxes Ninetails, TheaDee, Kat Claxton, my wonderful manager Maali Beck, and a terrific venue manager if there ever was one, Christine Haiku!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Key West (08.03.11)

Well, it's been an interesting week so far. Monday seemed to start off fine, but around mid-day, I noticed I wasn't my usual chipper self. By 2:00 that afternoon, I was having trouble focusing on my work, and felt a bit nauseous with a slight headache coming on. By 5:30, I had to do something I almost never do: took a break from work and laid down "for a minute". That minute turned into hours of agony, because I'd been nailed with a severe migraine. I've only had a few of them in my life that I know of, and they are about as horrible as anything I've ever experienced.

So that, in a word, sucked. The next morning, after a fitful night that I only made it through with my sanity thanks to my darling Kat helping to take care of me, I was a lot better, but I still felt weak and had to cancel a show that evening... something I loathe doing. But I knew I couldn't put on a full-bore Zak Claxton show at that point. I was determined to be well enough the following day to perform at Key West.

My fun crowd at Key West. Photo by Kat.

I'm happy to say that Wednesday continued my path of improvement, and I was surprised to find that I was full of energy and raring to play by the time my 6:00PM slot rolled around. Christopher Quan was playing before me and sounding great, which is always inspiring for me to put on my best show. Strangely, some poor planning on my behalf turned into a positive; I was busy with work for longer than I'd expected, and wasn't able to put much thought into choosing my set list, so I ended up doing a last-minute shuffle through my songbook and grabbing a bunch of tunes in a more random way than I usually do. Turned out great. Crazy, huh?

What a pretty place to play live music on a Wednesday evening! Photo by Kat.

Key West Set List...
Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Sex and Candy (Marcy Playground)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Blue Skies (Irving Berlin)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
Help Me (Joni Mitchell)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
In My Time of Dying (Traditional)

I rock while Kat kicks it on a box. Photo by Kat.

A funny side note: we had a freshly-minted noob at the show, some guy named dan12203 Resident, who was running around begging/screaming that he wanted someone to kiss him. It made for the greatest of comedy for at least half of my set, and led to exchanges such as the following:

[17:13] dan12203 Resident: can i kiss you
[17:13] Taunter Goodnight: < snort >
[17:13] gwampa Lomu: NO, you can not kiss me dan
[17:13] Taunter Goodnight: if you can find the animation, go for it
[17:14] Maali Beck: hehe
[17:14] dan12203 Resident: whars anmation
[17:14] Taunter Goodnight: I rest my case

It's stuff like this that makes playing in Second Life uniquely worthwhile. You're not going to see that at your typical bar gig. Well, at least I hope you won't.

Huge thanks to everyone who made this a fun and exciting night a Key West! Special thanks to those who supported my show...
Triana Caldera, sedonajane Silverpath, TheaDee, Rusty Seisenbacher, Alexis Fairlady, Christine Haiku, Agent Zelnik, Kat Claxton, gwampa Lomu, Taunter Goodnight, my manager Maali Beck, and Key West owner Liz Harley!