Monday, December 30, 2013

ROMA & Triana's Music Trivia (12.29.13)

Ah, the very end of the year. It's interesting how every year without exception, a seemingly large number of people get to this point and say things like, "Thank God this year is over!".

Really? The whole fucking year was so terrible? All 365 days sucked so badly that you feel the need to offer gratitude to a deity to mark the passage of time? And what is a "year" anyway? Obviously it's the length of time it takes for the Earth to make an orbit of its local star, but this arbitrary "start" and "end" to it is a completely manufactured event. The one thing that our calendar does offer are points to commemorate and reflect on what one has done, where one has gone, and possibly some measuring of planning as to what one will do, where one will go, and so on.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I've never had a bad year. Not one of my 44-1/2 years were bad. Oh, I've had terrible things happen to me on particular days, but I've also had great things happen, and for whatever reason you want to give it, I'm a person who feels he has way more great days than bad ones (or at least pretty good ones). Therefore, especially over the course of riding my planet on a full trip around the sun, I've never once looked back over that time and been anything but thankful that I'm still alive, and enjoying myself for the most part.

Yesterday is a good example. It was a lovely Sunday here in Southern California, with temperatures in the low 70s, and sunny as could be. I had not one but two live performances to do in Second Life: a noon show at ROMA, the ancient Rome role-playing sim, and a special evening show for my great friends at Triana's Music Trivia. Speaking of trivia, here's some for you: of the extremely rare occasions that I've had multiple shows in the same day, this year I've twice spent a Sunday performing at both ROMA and TMT (the other time being June 23). Both shows ended up being very cool in different ways, and so I look back on yesterday, as I do with most of 2013 (and most of my life, really) as having been fun and productive.

I've enjoyed every show I've done at ROMA. The reason that I seem to have become their go-to musical performer is pretty clear: my manager, Maali Beck, is a member of their community. Still, I'd like to think that my willingness to a) take the time to learn about the festive events for which I'm hired and b) put on a toga both help in their decision to bring me back there time and time again. Yesterday's show was for their Saturnalia celebration, and we had a decent crowd of ROMA citizens there to have fun and boogie to my tunes. I pulled out a couple of Beatles tunes I hadn't done before, and also did two Joni Mitchell songs that I hadn't performed in over a year.

I'm all in favor of bringing back togas for daily use. Photo by Kat.

Rocking for Saturnalia was cool. I think we need to bring that holiday back too. Photo by Kat.

ROMA set list...
*Eleanor Rigby (Beatles)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Swing Lo Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
River (Joni Mitchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Perfect Day (Lou Reed)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
*Norwegian Wood (Beatles)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Furry Sings the Blues (Joni Mitchell)
My Heart (Neil Young)
One (U2)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

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

Thanks to all who supported my Saturnalia rockfest at ROMA!
Melanippe Karas, Zantabraxus Aristocarnas, kkadora, SeverusAlexander, Aurelie Chenaux, Kat Claxton, colbymartin Constantine, reeveskd, Airedale Magic, Roman Chronometrist, Angelia Rees (who helped coordinate and run the show), and my manager Maali Beck!

Triana's Music Trivia
I've told the story so many times, I think anyone reading this blog must know it by heart, but I'll do it again anyway. Back in 2006, Kat and I had found SL, but our interest was somewhat waning. Like many people, we found SL to be interesting to explore and a good creative outlet, but we hadn't really connected with people or events that we liked (and I didn't even know that live music performance in SL was possible at the time). That's when we found Triana's Music Trivia, run by a lady who would quickly become a great friend of ours. For the subsequent seven-plus years, we've rarely missed a single Sunday evening at TMT.

A couple of times a year, Triana will hold a special event where she holds her trivia game, and then I play live music. Usually it's for special occasions, like TMT's anniversary and Triana's rezday in June, or around the holidays. I always put on a show there that's completely different from my typical performances in SL (as in this show's rendition of "Been Caught Stealing" sung in the style of Johnny Cash). This year, after I changed from my toga into a tux, the really special part of the show was having Kat join me on several songs, which the folks there absolutely loved.

Our crazy and fun TMT friends bring out the best in any performance. Photo by Triana.

My woman with her triangle of power. Photo by Triana.

TMT set list...
Norwegian Wood (Beatles)
How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
†California Dreaming (The Mamas & The Papas)
†*The Funeral (Band of Horses)
†Better Reasons (They Stole My Crayon)
*I Dreamed a Dream (Les Miserables)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
*Been Caught Stealing (Jane's Addiction)
Ramble On (Led Zeppelin)
Triana (Zak Claxton)
Loser (Beck)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
†Indicates songs I did for the first time with Kat in SL.

Thanks to our fantastic friends at TMT who supported my show. Sunday nights wouldn't be the same without you!
Alchemy Epstein, Nakira Tennen, Xerxes Ninetails, Samantha Poindexter, Diana Renoir, my lovely lady Kat, and our BFF, Triana Caldera!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Crystal Gardens City (12.19.13)

For this report on one of my last shows of 2013, I'd like to talk a bit about freedom of speech.

When I perform live shows in Second Life, the first thing I do is take a look at the maturity rating of the sim. If it's "M" (moderate) or "A" (adult), I can assume that the people there are adults, and that the owners of the place don't mind that this rocker spouts some occasional profanity. There are exceptions; if I'm performing for a benefit/charitable show, or if I think there's even a possibility of children listening in, I dial things back to the "G" rating. In other words, I filter myself based on what I consider the obvious appropriateness of the situation.

So, let's say that I drop an F-bomb or two even at an Adult sim, and it ends up offending the owner of the venue, or causes complaints from the visitors. Does that venue have a right to fire me? Of course they do. They can fire me on the spot. It's their place, they are paying me, and they feel that what I've said does not reflect well on their establishment. End of story.

Why, then, would I not scream about this infringement on my freedom of speech? Because nothing has affected my freedom of speech. Folks, it's very simple: "freedom of speech" is one of the main tenants of American government, as defined in the First Amendment. Unlike far too many other places in the world, I can openly criticize my government and my country without fear of being thrown in jail or dragged in front of a firing squad. That is the meaning of Freedom of Speech, and it's a great thing, and I'm very happy to live somewhere in which I am protected from governmental persecution based on my opinions.

But I also have to acknowledge that as an adult man, I'm responsible for my words and actions, and that means that I accept the ramifications of what I do and say. Private institutions are not bound by any law to let me say whatever the fuck I want, whenever I want to say it. So, as I said before, I treat each place and each event as appropriately as I can. I may in fact miss opportunities to perform at places that wouldn't appreciate my occasional raunchiness, but that's a conscious decision I've made; to be myself and have an audience that likes me for who I am.

Even the gritty city looks nice with a few holiday touches and a blanket of snow. Photo and top photo by Kat.

None of the above, by the way, means a hill of beans when I play at Crystal Gardens City. Owners Sandi and Mikal know exactly who I am and what I'm about, and God knows that my Zaksters have heard every profane word that exists under the sun come out of my dirty mouth over the course of many shows. They seem okay with it. In fact, I think most of them have me beat in the crudeness department anyway, and I love them for it.

Last night's show was fun. The crowd started on the light side (5PM on any weeknight is a brutal time slot, as there are often dozens of shows going on at once in SL), but it steadily grew throughout the hour. As I've said before (and meant strongly), I do the same show for six people as I do for 60, or 600. I am there to play as well as I can and engage my crowd and have a good time, and all those goals were met at Crystal Gardens City last night. I feel good about it.

Crystal Gardens City set list...
I've Been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Swing Lo Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
If It Makes You Happy (Sheryl Crow)
Into the Mystic (Van Morrison)
Learning to Fly (Pink Floyd)
Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth (Traditional/David Bowie)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Lines on Your Eyes (Zak Claxton)
Go Easy on Me (Zak Claxton)
Alabama Song (The Doors)
Heart of Gold (Neil Young)

Thanks to all who helped support my show!
LenoreRossetti, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, Fawn Giano, Rina Miles, my great manager Maali Beck, and CGC owners Sandi and Mikal Beaumont!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Odyessey (12.13.13)

It's been a little while since I played at a new venue in Second Life. There are a few understandable reasons for that. First, there are certainly fewer people opening any kind of destination in SL, live music or otherwise. Second, of those places that do pop up, only a certain number of them like to feature live acts as myself, and not all of those prefer artists like me who lean toward original songs and occasionally obscure art rock covers, as I tend to do. Finally, as I've made clear before, for reasons of fairness I just don't perform at "tips only" venues, as many of them seem to be. I can't do that while charging other venues a fee to play, in my opinion.

So, back to the initial idea... it was a pleasure when my friend and fellow SL veteran Gretchen Capalini asked me to perform at her new place, Odyessey. It was a good time for it, too; the show was later on a Friday evening, with a spot right between Bill Tigerpaw and PT Beardmore. There was a pretty decent crowd going before I started my show, and with my Zaksters adding to the fun, it turned out to be a surprisingly good debut for me.

I should mention that this was my first time, for whatever reason, hearing PT Beardmore, and he is super talented. If you haven't heard him yet and are looking for good artists to check out in SL, he should be on your list.

Nice place, good crowd, happy me. Photo and top photo by Kat.

My view from the stage at Odyessey. Photo by Kat.

Not a bad way to spend a Friday evening at all. Photo by Kat.

Odyessey set list...
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
Zak Claxton & The Triangle of Power (Zak Claxton)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
All I Want (Joni Mitchell)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
I Am the Walrus (Beatles)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Things Under Trees (They Stole My Crayon)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

Big thanks to all who made it fun, especially the following who helped support my show!
Triana Caldera, Marina Sharpshire, Charm March, Kat Claxton, Alexis Fairlady, Diana Renoir, MajorlyCool, Xerxes Ninetails, my manager Maali Beck, and Odyessey owner and music lover Gretchen Capalini!

Molaskey's Pub (12.12.13)

Sing along everyone: It's the most craziest time of the year!

What's that? I'm the only one who's insane in December? Nah, that can't be true. But I will say (as I probably do each December, but am too busy and too lazy to go back and check previous blogs) that between my busiest business season, shopping and prepping for the holiday, and doing all the little extra things (kid's band concerts, writing music, and so on), one of the few things I can count on for genuine fun is when I play my infrequent shows in SL. And for fun, there's really no better place than Molaskey's Pub. The people who run it are among my best pals in SL, so it always feels like a cool time hanging with friends there.

I always have a good time playing Molaskey's. Great venue, great people. Photo and top photo by Kat.

Thursday night at Mo's was a typically good show. We had a nice-sized crowd, my voice and guitar were surprisingly well-behaved, and despite the fact that I had to pull together my set list in extreme haste (having just returned from a business meeting previous to my show), the songs seemed to work as well.

Molaskey's Pub set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
In My Time of Dying (Traditional)
Swing Low Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
You're LIke a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Nobody Home (Pink Floyd)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
Thank You (Led Zeppelin)

Huge thanks to all who came out to Molaskey's, especially the following who supported the show!
coolmaria Carroll, Diana Renoir, Alexis Fairlady, Harry Wheeler, Cicadetta Stillwater, Precious Rallier, Kat Claxton, my manager Maali Beck, and Molaskey's great GM Mia Kitchensink!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How I'd Like To Be Remembered

I'm not sure who invented crying, but as far as I can tell, it's a terrible way to respond to intense emotional input. I mean, your eyes get all blurry, your voice ragged, and your nose filled with snot. Hardly the best way to deal with whatever's troubling you. And I don't know about you, but I tend to get a nasty headache along with it. Perhaps that's why I do it so rarely, or maybe it's because I'm a cold-hearted bastard. Whatever the reason, I almost never tear up over anything, but I did yesterday, quite a lot.

I guess I have a legitimate reason: that's when I found out about the death of my friend and colleague Diane Gershuny, and it affected me like the proverbial punch to the gut. I did not know that this tragic event was imminent; as far I was aware, her cancer had been in remission for a long time. The moment my Facebook feed showed a string of RIP notices as I scrolled down, I really felt like someone had hit me in the stomach, hard. However, it wasn't until later in the day when I looked at her Facebook timeline and saw her final profile picture -- a little girl being carefree on a swing in a playground -- that my tears began to flow. Dammit, there they are again. And soon comes the headache.

Anyway, I'm not here to eulogize Diane. Someone else will do a great job of that, especially since almost all of her good professional pals were her fellow writers and editors, among the best in the music and audio industries. But the universal outpouring of genuine grief resulting from her passing did tell me something: Diane did something right in life. No one who was so loved (and perhaps as importantly respected) could have become that way without being a little special.

Remembering and Being Remembered
When you think of a person, chances are there are a few immediate bullet-point items that pop into your mind. "Oh Ken? He teaches at a high school and is terrific a photographer and loves to travel." "Chris? Works for CNN, loves his family, really good lead guitarist," and so on. Obviously, like the proverbial onion, people have layers under layers, and it's rare that we see very far down below the surface. That's when the person's actions and their passions help define them. Diane was one of those people whose "lower layers" were more apparent than in others.

As a result, when I think about Diane, many more things come to mind than simply "public/media relations expert and journalist". Perhaps there are specific reasons for this. Diane's genuine passion for things (including those beyond what she was hired to promote) was so apparent to all who knew her. Example: while many of us in our little industry do love music, Diane's love eclipsed just about everyone else's. She constantly attended shows of the bands she enjoyed (which generally seemed to gravitate around indie music, alt-country, cowpunk, Americana, New Orleans funk, and rockabilly). She would jump in and help promote bands/artists that she found worthy.

Diane also took a big interest in local affairs. She helped organize all manner of cool events in and around her Long Beach, CA home. She worked with non-profits. She jumped in and volunteered with causes that were important to her. And she also helped nurture people who were coming into our industry with valuable advice, though never unsolicited. But she was always there when people had questions, and she always had the right answers.

Back to the Question
So, how will you be remembered when you're gone? I can't tell you how I will; I honestly don't know. I do know how I'd like people to think of me, but what I think I am versus how others perceive me are two entirely different things. I guess what it boils down to is that I hope that my outlook of wanting to help others, of enjoying creativity in all forms, and being pretty damn good at the things I do will be recalled by people. In other words, I can only hope to be remembered like Diane Gershuny is being remembered today. It's a high bar to try and reach, but it helps to have inspiration, and Diane was nothing if not inspirational in life, and now even in death.

After reading all this, you might be interested to note that she and I weren't best friends. Not even close to it. We didn't hang out. Instead, we spoke every couple of months, usually about business-oriented topics, and saw each other a couple times a year at various industry events. But that, somehow, was plenty. Every interaction with Diane was fulfilling, and I ended each conversation with a smile on my face. I'm grateful for having known her, and it's still hard for me to write about her in the past tense. But perhaps, if her passing means that I focus a little more on the things that are truly important in life, there's some good that's come out of it. Just by having known her, I become a better person by proxy. I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking similar thoughts today.

Rest in peace, Diane.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tutorial: How to download tracks from a Second Life CD

Having just received the new SL Relay for Life Christmas CD "A Christmas Journey" (which of course includes my epic rock tune "Zak Claxton & The Triangle of Power" along with 52 other songs by SL artists), I noted that opening it and listening to the songs was less than immediately self-explanatory. I prefer to download songs to my local computer -- doesn't matter if it's a Mac or Windows machine -- since I'm not in SL often. Several of my friends were having trouble doing just that, so here's a very simple step-by-step guide in downloading tracks from a CD in Second Life!

1. Buy the CD. It's available at the RFL Christmas Expo. Click here for the SLURL.

2. Go to a place where you can rez items. Rez the CD.

3. Click on the CD. You'll get a menu that has options. Select "Open".

4. After the CD opens per the photo below, click on it again. You'll get another menu with an option that says "Download". Click that.

5. Two things will happen. One: you'll get a menu that will give you a link to go to the web page where the tracks can be downloaded. Also, in chat, you'll get a unique download code. You can copy/paste it in your local chat window.

6. Click on the "Go To Page" button, and you will visit the SLevolution page in your browser. Once there, you'll need to enter your avatar's first and last name, and the download code.

7. Like this. I've blurred my code because it's mine. Get your own. :)

8. Finally, a new page will pop up where you can scroll down and download each track individually.

That's it! The tracks will download, and you can open them in whatever media player you use (iTunes, etc.).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Crystal Gardens City (12.05.13)

So, it had been a couple of weeks since my last show in Second Life, which also happened to be at Crystal Gardens City. It's not that I wouldn't like to perform more often, but (here we go with the excuse making again), I'm in my busiest time of year work-wise, and I'm spending time working on other musical ventures as well. And being a dad. And all that stuff.

Anyway, I do try and book at least one show per week, but last week was Thanksgiving and life is busy and... enough already. After a work week that's kicked my ass, it was pure relief last night to pull out the microphones, strap on the Martin guitar, and go to town on some tunes at a very fun venue. At first, it looked like things weren't going to work out well; it was 5PM and I had exactly four people at my show. As opposed to taking it personally and whining about it (as I did), I probably should have realized that people were having trouble logging into SL (as is wont to happen from time to time). By the time I'd finished my first song, we had about 20 people there, and I was happy again.

Having fun onstage at this outstanding SL build. Photo and top photo by Kat.

I generally don't play "Christmas music" often, but when I do, it rocks. Photo by Kat.

Speaking of Kat, here she is, making a selfie (or in world, is that a SLelfie?). Photo by Kat.

Song-wise, a couple of notes. First, I wanted to do a song to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, who passed away yesterday, so I decided that "Across the Universe" seemed to work. Second, I did the first performance of "Zak Claxton & The Triangle of Power", an epic Christmas rock tune that I recently wrote and recorded for the SL Relay for Life Christmas CD. I'll be posting more on that soon, since it's now out and available for purchase.

Crystal Gardens City set list...
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (The Police)
Across the Universe (Beatles)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Long December (Counting Crows)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional)
Allentown (Billy Joel)
Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young)
*Zak Claxton & The Triangle of Power (Zak Claxton)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)

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

Big thanks to the people who came out to rock with me, and turned my frown upside down!
JewelyMorrison, Rock Doghouse, RJ Redfield, Richy Nervous, Diana Renoir, Kat Claxton, Gretchen Capalini, snake Marais, TheaDee, Rina Miles, Aurelie Chenaux, my great manager Maali Beck, and Crystal Gardens owners Mikal and Sandi Beaumont!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Crystal Gardens City (11.21.13)

As many seem to point out around this time of year in every single year that ever was, it's amazing to me that we're nearing the end of 2013. While it's been a good enough year for me, with its usual share of ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, successes and failures, there's a quote from the Ghost of Christmas Present in "Scrooge" (the musical adaptation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol") that I tend to dwell on near the end of November:

"There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not here any more."

So, that's what I do. I'd wanted to have two new albums out in 2013 (a new solo album and the debut of my band They Stole My Crayon); instead, I'm hoping that both might happen in 2014. I'd wanted to grow my RL business this year, but instead found myself so busy with my current clients that it became pretty much impossible. And still, I feel like I made the best of 2013 in many ways. Or at least, as the Ghost said, I did what I could in the time that I had. I took a couple of trips to the desert with Kat. I wrote a number of pretty good songs. I saw some cool concerts. I spent plenty of time being a dad, and doing good work for my little company. And, of course, I performed dozens and dozens of live shows in Second Life, as I've done every year since 2006, which brings us around to the actual point of this post: my show last night at Crystal Gardens City.

How awesome is this SL build? Photo and top photo by Kat.

I've actually performed in RL places that somewhat resembled Crystal Gardens City. Photo by Kat.

Seriously, this place is outstanding. I love this vibe. Photo by Kat.

This SL venue is run by my old friend Sandi Beaumont (aka Sandi Benelli), who has hired me at a number of places she's operated going back to 2007 (a really long time in SL terms). Along with her husband Mikal and others, they really do a great job in creating cool environments that go beyond what many places in Second Life do for live music facilities. Crystal Gardens City is a relatively new build, and this was the second time I played there. I really want to go back and do some exploring when I'm not busy singing and playing music for people. It's got this great urban vibe that for some reason I enjoy a lot. Perhaps it's specifically because so many SL places are idealized utopias, it's cool to see a dirty, grungy place that has some feel to it, and therefore stands out from the rest. My compliments to the designers!

The show itself was great. As happens so often at SL shows, there were only a few people there moments before the show, and by the end of my first song we had a couple of dozen folks in the crowd. Moreover, we had a great crew of Zaksters, and it was fun and lively. Having heard Johnny Marr perform The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now" on KCRW this week, I was inspired to give it a shot. I should also add that this regular show I do there every other Thursday has FrankLee Anatra playing after me each time, and I honestly think he's got one of the best singing voices in all of SL. You can easily tell the musicians who have lots of real life performance hours under their belts, and I'm sure that must be the case with FrankLee. While our material differs a bit (he's generally more traditional pop/rock covers while I lean more toward alternative/art rock and original stuff), it's been a really good combination of talent with many of my fans sticking around for his shows. I like that.

Robert69 Little came by with his video camera and captured my first tune of the night. Thanks Robert!

Crystal Gardens City set list...
1979 (Smashing Pumpkins)
Suite Judy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills & Nash)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
On A Plain (Nirvana)
*How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths)
Perfect Day (Lou Reed)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Save It for Later (English Beat)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

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

Big thanks to everyone who hit the city and supported my show at Crystal Gardens!
Linnmey, JBird Melodie, Winter Thorn, Aurelie Chenaux, Mankind Tracer, Diana Renoir, Allegra Genira, TheaDee, Kat Claxton, Demolicious Wonder, Alexis Fairlady, Christine Haiku, Rina Miles, Diana Renoir, Sesh Kamachi, and most of all owners Sandi and Mikal Beaumont!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Molaskey's Pub (11.14.13)

As an SL performer, I consider myself very fortunate to not have to deal with many of the things that plague gigging musicians in the fleshy world -- things I dealt with for years as a gigging musician. However, that doesn't mean it's always a walk in the park. Thursday of last week is a great example. I had to leave here early in the morning and drive two hours across Los Angeles to meet with a client of my RL marketing business. I wasn't feeling that great physically, and apparently neither was my son; he came home from school early with the blahs (a minor cold). I also had work deadlines up the ying-yang. And then, before I knew it, it was time for me to get onstage at Molaskey's Pub.

The point is that every musician I've ever known has a ton of things that suck their attention away from their performance, and the good ones have to be able to ignore those issues while they're onstage. It's an acquired skill, and for me it comes along with about 30 years of live music performances under my belt, going back to when I was just a little kid. By now, there's like a switch in my brain that clicks away from "work deadlines parenting traffic spreadsheets meetings" to "guitar tuned stream on mics working" in a millisecond. And that's why Thursday's show at Molaskey's ended up being a great way to decompress after a long day.

Enjoying a fun and relaxed show at Molaskey's. Photo and top photo by Kat.

We didn't have a huge crowd, but we had a good smattering of my Zakster fans in attendance, and I enjoyed being sandwiched between a couple of good SL performers -- Bright Oh and Lyndon Heart. Most importantly, the music went well and was enjoyed by those who were there. I ask for nothing more! I did enjoy doing the debut of a tune by my band They Stole My Crayon, though in the future I hope to have the actual lyricist and singer, Kat Claxton, ready to do the song live along with me.

I've Been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
This Afternoon (Zak Claton)
Man on the Moon (R.E.M.)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Swing Lo Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
*Better Reasons (They Stole My Crayon)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Leggy Blonde (Flight of the Conchords)
I Am The Walrus (Beatles)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Starman (David Bowie)
Go Easy On Me (Zak Claxton)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

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

Many thanks to those who helped support my show!
Bright Oh, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, TheaDee, Cicadetta Stillwater, Precious Rallier, My manager Maali Beck, and Molaskey's GM Mia Kitchensink!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Crystal Gardens City (11.07.13)

I have a list of things that I always do previous to my live music shows in Second Life. Some of those things are obvious, like tuning my guitar, warming up my voice, and making sure that my broadcasting software is functioning. But there are other details that help ensure a smooth evening of music. One of those is taking a look at the official event notice in SL, and confirming that the time/place of the show is when and where you think it's going to be. Something as simple as that can obviously make a big impact on the success of your show.

I knew I was scheduled to perform at Crystal Gardens for some time; I am now doing a regular bi-weekly show there every other Thursday night. However, what I didn't know until a couple of days before the show was that Mikal and Sandi (the owners of this fine establishment) had installed an entirely different area on the sim with an urban theme. In doing my usual round of checking the event listing, I noted that the show was scheduled at Crystal Gardens City, and decided to check it out. I'm glad I did! The place looked awesome... dirty, gritty, and at least slightly unsafe, which is precisely how I like to think of my performances.

The new urban-themed venue looks gritty and fun. Photo and top photo by Kat.

Kat watches me rock. Photo by Kat.

I was constantly reminding my audiences to not get stabbed or shot (kind of like a few of my real life gigs). Photo by Kat.

How cool is this build? Loved playing there. Photo by Kat.

It turned out to be a pretty fantastic night. Everyone seemed to dig the urban vibe of the venue. Since it was Joni Mitchell's 70th birthday, I dedicated a portion of the set to her songs, including one that I hadn't done before (and decided to learn about an hour before the show started). All four of the Joni tunes I did were from her album Blue, and it was good to do some homage to one of my biggest musical influences. We had a really good crowd... a big bunch of lively people who were able to shoot back my smart-assed craziness as fast as I could dole it out.

Crystal Gardens City set list...
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Carolina In my Mind (James Taylor)
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
California (Joni Mitchell)
*All I Want (Joni Mitchell)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
It's Good to be King (Tom Petty)
Let My Love Open the Door (Pete Townshend)
Lost Cause (Beck)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

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

Thanks to all who came out to the City and supported my show!
Diana Renoir, Sesh Kamachi, Christine Haiku, Maurice Mistwallow, Sassy Nitely, Kat Claxton, Rina Miles, Cicadetta Stillwater, Alexis Fairlady, Aurelie Chenaux, Xerxes Ninetails, my manager Maali Beck, and Crystal Gardens owners Sandi and Mikal Beaumont!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Diamond Skies (11.01.13)

Happy November, everyone. I'm getting up on Sunday with daylight savings time having thankfully ended, and lazily enjoying the hour that was taken away last spring having been magically returned to me. It seems like a good time to talk about my show Friday night at the grand opening of Diamond Skies in Second Life.

With openings of new venues, you never know what's in store as a performer. It's basically impossible to tell how it will go. Will they be able to pull in a good crowd? Is the venue designed well for live music performance? In the case of Diamond Skies, everything went very well. I arrived while Samm Qendra was serenading the audience, and wasn't sure if my particular style of live rock was going to be received well, but I needn't have worried. First, we got an excellent turnout of my Zakster friends who know what to expect from my insane brain. Second, the folks who were there and the owners of the new establishment (Marina Sharpshire and Hollywood Roar) both seemed to be having as good a time as anyone. All was well.

Fun place, fun people. I ask for nothing else. Photo and top photo by Kat.

You can never tell how Friday nights in SL will go. This one was most excellent. Photo by Kat.

Had a giggle-inspiring moment due to a typo when the venue was kindly helping to promote my tip jar...

[19:28] Kat Claxton: Yep, totally working. All buttons. ;-)
[19:28] Kat Claxton giggles at 'bnuttons'
[19:29] Kat Claxton: it sounds naughty
[19:29] Marina Sharpshire: bnuttons?! its a new thing...Zak said he likes new things
[19:29] Kat Claxton: That's true
[19:29] Kat Claxton: If you love someone, push their bnuttons
[19:29] Christine Haiku: lol
[19:29] Hollywood Roar: lol
[19:30] Kat Claxton: lmao

So that was fun. The whole show was, actually. I'd say that as long as Diamond Skies is successful as a Second Life destination (and I wish them the best in that regard), it's highly likely I'll be back there again with all of my bnuttons.

Diamond Skies set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
What I Got (Sublime)
Free Man In Paris (Joni Mitchell)
*Mexican Radio (Wall of Voodoo)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Perfect Day (Lou Reed)
Pulling Mussels from a Shell (Squeeze)
*Lost Cause (Beck)
Save Me (Aimee Mann)
Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
Sex & Candy (Marcy Playground)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)

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

Massive thanks to everyone who came to Diamond Skies' grand opening, especially the following who supported my show!
NeCole Chiantelle, autumnleather, Maurice Mistwallow, Robin Kierstrider, Vannilla Latte, IanChaos, Rusty Seisenbacher, Christine Haiku, Richy Nervous, Alexis Fairlady, Benjalina, Kat Claxton, Pfritz Balogh, Carina Stardust, Diana Renoir, kat Vargas (who also suggested me to perform there, which is very cool), and Diamond Skies owners Marina Sharpshire and Hollywood Roar!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Islands of New England Halloween Party (10.30.13)

Here was my day yesterday in a single sentence: I woke up at 6AM, I worked like a madman until 3PM, warmed up for and then performed my show at the Islands of New England Halloween party in Second Life, changed out of my sweaty gig shirt, went straight to my son's school to watch him play trumpet with his jazz band, then had dinner from the Grilled Cheese Truck, and finally went home. Then I basically collapsed and slept until starting life over at 6AM today.

But we're not here to listen to me whine. Let's talk about the Halloween event at the IONE, because it was a fun one.

My friend Christine Haiku is the events manager at the IONE, and she does a fantastic job. All of her regular events there are well run, and bring in a fun group of people for whom it is a pleasure to perform. I should have realized that she was going to set up something spectacular for her Halloween event. The place looked simply amazing; I've been to (and performed at) many Halloween-based events over my years in SL, and this one took the cake.

Am I bugging you? Here's my customized costume (since I couldn't play guitar as a full bug). Photo and top photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat, who wore her "Cream of Kat" soup can.

Nice crowd of scary monsters and super creeps. Photo by Triana.

Being that it was a Halloween celebration, I pulled out some of my spookier material. I had to laugh when I chose to debut "Every Breath You Take" by the Police. Most people tend to think of it as a pretty love song, rather than a horrifying tale of obsession, voyeurism, stalking, and unrequited love.

IONE Halloween set list...
Six Underground (Sneaker Pimps)
Spooky (Atlanta Rhythm Section)
The Other Way (Zak Claxton)
Opposite of Afternoon (Unknown Mortal Orchestra)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
*Every Breath You Take (The Police)
Chrysanthemum (Zak Claxton)
Swing Lo Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

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

Huge servings of awesomesauce to everyone who came out to the party especially the following who supported my show!
Triana Caldera, Theedge Corleone, TheaDee, Llena Lilliehook, jpb2ire, Sesh Kamachi, Kat Claxton, Debbie Rau, Sassy Nitely, my lovely manager Maali Beck, and IONE's fantastic manager Christine Haiku!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Serene Acoustic Lounge Spooktacular for Feed-a-Smile (10.29.13)

Last night's show combined two things that are both near and dear to me. First off, it was a fundraiser for the Feed-a-Smile charity in Second Life, which I've written about often before. Second, it was held at my great friend Barbie Horsley's (aka Sassy Nitely) venue, Serene Acoustic Lounge, which has become one of my favorite places to perform in SL on the semi-rare occasions when she hosts shows there.

As you probably know, Feed-a-Smile is run by Brique Zeiner, and is the Second Life-based fundraising arm of Live and Learn in Kenya, a charity that helps educate and feed African kids. I can't say enough about how well her organization is run, and how much effort she puts in on a direct basis. Unlike the other charities for whom I perform, you actually see the immediate results of the cause, with photos sent of the kids enjoying a hot meal courtesy of the artists and audiences who donate time and money. It's all wonderful and fulfilling as a musician to make a difference in children's lives. The Feed-a-Smile system runs so well in SL because it's so easy to understand; L$100 (about $0.40 USD) buys one kid a hot meal. The math is easy to do. Donate L$1000 (about four bucks), and you've bought ten meals, and so on.

Having fun and raising funds. Everybody wins.

Count Zakula, rocking Serene. Photo by Maali.

The scary hostess with the mostest, Sassy Nitely is ready for Halloween. Photo by Maali.

Last night's show was great... we had a good crowd, and more importantly, the collective performers and their fans raised enough for over 300 meals. I always smile when I think about those kids sitting at their long tables, enjoying a good meal courtesy of the crazy bunch of virtual musicians and the people who support them. I've been on a kick lately of new music discovery, and I ended up doing three songs for the first time during my short set. One was in tribute to the musical icon Lou Reed, who'd passed away two days earlier, and it was important to me to honor one of the great founders of the music I love.

Serene Feed-a-Smile set list...
*On a Plain (Nirvana)
I Am a Child (Neil Young)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
*Swing Lo Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
*Perfect Day (Lou Reed)
Go Easy On Me (Zak Claxton)

Huge thanks to all who came out to the show and supported Feed-a-Smile! You rule!

Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm Going To Help You Understand Lou Reed

Don't get why so many people are upset at the loss of a one-hit wonder? That's okay, you're not alone. So I'm going to tell you why this is a heartbreaking moment for anyone who loves the music of the past 40 years, and it's going to be quick and easy.

Previous to Lou Reed, songwriters strived to create beauty. Even the sad songs were pretty. And songwriters -- the successful ones, anyway -- knew that familiarity was the key to popularity. Songs tended to sound like other songs. Lyrical themes were used over and over again. And there was nothing wrong with that, and it continues today. Speaking of lyrics, a typical "risqué" song in the mid-1960s might talk about a boy who loved a girl and then met another girl. Then Lou came along, and suddenly this guy is tunelessly singing about scoring heroin from a transvestite.

You have to understand how shocking this was. You have to understand that in that time frame, people could be arrested on obscenity charges for singing about these disturbing topics in public, much less releasing them on recordings. While poetry and literature had enjoyed dark themes for a long time, no one really bothered them applying them to pop/rock music before Lou. He never made things pretty, never polished them up. He strove for realism from his gritty New York worldview, and millions of people suddenly had a voice that spoke to them in a way that no pop singer did before. It's almost like a psychological breakthrough, listening to Lou Reed; there's an open acknowledgement that life has its darker side, and perhaps listening to what he had to say was a cathartic moment for many.

I promised you "quick and easy", and others can write the man's obituary better than I can. Here's what I will say: without Lou Reed, there's no punk rock or alternative rock. There's no Sonic Youth. There's no Pixies. There's no Nirvana. No Smiths. No Sex Pistols. No Iggy Pop. No Depeche Mode. No R.E.M. No Beck. No Jane's Addiction. No Talking Heads. And if you don't like those bands, that's okay. There might not be a Public Enemy, an NWA, or a Beastie Boys either. Any musician who purposefully explores dark themes and creates challenging and confrontational songs owes a massive debt to Lou. Thankfully, most of them seem to know it.

An oft-repeated quote was that only 30,000 people bought Velvet Underground records, but every single one of them started a band. Count me as one of them, even though it took me a long time to understand what I was hearing. I get it now.

Rest in peace, Lou.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Molaskey's Pub (10.24.13)

You know, other than the occasional technical issue or other weirdness, all of my live shows are pretty damn good. Some, of course, are better than others, as was the case last night at Molaskey's Pub in Second Life. Once again, it was "Maali's Kids" night at the venue, meaning that the three performers scheduled (Sassy Nitely, myself, and Lyndon Heart in order of appearance) were all managed by Maali Beck Entertainment. I was in a great mood, feeling loose, and gave myself a little extra time to get warmed up, for good reason: I was doing two songs for the first time, and I wanted to do them right.

Another reason for my good mood: Molaskey's was packed. I had people sending me instant messages saying that they wanted to come to the show, but couldn't because the sim was full. You never really know when you're going to have a big crowd like that; it's a crap shoot at best in Second Life. But for whatever reason, last night we had a full house of seemingly happy people. I tend to take the reverse direction of some performers who get more nervous and self-conscious in front of lots of people. I seem to step up my game more in front of larger audiences, and I'm really quite happy with how things ended up at Molaskey's.

Photo and top photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

Molaskey's set list...
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Doin' Time (Sublime)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
*Carolina In My Mind (James Taylor)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
*Chrysanthemum (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Caxton)
Daniel (Elton John)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

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

Massive thanks to all the people who made this show fun, especially the following who supported my show!
Lyndon Heart, Richy Nervous, Kat Claxton, Christine Haiku, Sesh Kamachi, Sassy Nitely, Cicadetta Stillwater, Rusty Seisenbacher, Diana Renoir, Aurelie Chenaux, my wonderful manager Maali Beck, and Molaskey's fantastic GM Mia Kitchensink!