Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Key West (02.18.13)

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was getting warmed up to perform at Key West in Second Life, that I've been on stages for almost my entire life. There's a photo somewhere of me at age 4 or 5, acting as the youngest boy of the Von Trapp family in a production of "The Sound of Music". I sang, of course. That's what I do. "Do mi mi, mi so so, re fa fa, la ti ti..."

Anyway, back to the present. As a rather seasoned performer, I've learned a few things. One is that many cliches are there for a reason. For example, it's said that courage isn't the absence of fear; it's the ability to keep going in spite of fear. When you go and see a concert, or a movie, or a play, or anything where someone is doing something publicly where they are under tight scrutiny, you may be impressed by the performer's seeming complete lack of self-consciousness. And many times, that's true. The musician (or actor, or dancer, etc.) appears to be one hundred percent into what he/she is doing, and all their focus is on the performance, and it shows.

But if you could get into that person's mind, you might be surprised at what's really going on. Sometimes there's a distraction to the show... legitimate stuff, like financial problems, business difficulties, kid issues, and the like. Sometimes the performer simply doesn't feel great, and that applies to physical and well as mental wellness. And, perhaps worst of all in its effect on the performance, is that even those people who have hundreds and hundreds of hours in the spotlight still get some element of stage fright from time to time.

Not to sound like the macho asshole I can be occasionally, but that's the kind of thing that defines a professional performer... the ability to push those things aside and still do the show as well as possible. The fact is that the outside circumstances are almost never perfect, and it's almost certain that you're always susceptible to allowing those things to distract you from your show. The key word there is "allow". When you think of the many aspects that go into a good performance, you probably think of skill level at a craft, the amount of experience and natural ability, and so on. But that ability to consciously shut out everything but the performance itself is possibly the biggest obstacle that many would-be performers never quite overcome.

Thanks for the speech, pal. Are you going to talk about the damn show or not?
Alright, alright. So, last night, I was pretty stoked about having a show at Key West. As I've spoken about way too many times before, it's one of the places in SL that really gets it. They know how to treat performers, to treat audiences, and to bring in a big crowd. I gotta say, if anyone does it better, I'd be surprised, so I was really looking forward to it. And then, about 20 minutes before the show, I had a rather irritating physical thing happen that I'm not going to bother explaining here (other than to say that it's really minor and wouldn't have bothered me very much had I not been about to get onstage and sing and play music). And then, while I was playing, I started experiencing an equally minor (but equally irritating) problem with my audio system, which is probably some issue with the mic preamp in my crappy little mixer. The audience didn't notice or care much (or at all), but I was aware of it.

Photo and top photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

Photo by Triana.

Photo by Triana.

Photo by Triana.

I could have chosen to let these things ruin my show, and it would have been a real shame. We had a really huge crowd there (at least in terms of my usual draw), and it was an opportunity to be really good and perhaps gain some new fans. While I whined a bit as I fuddled with my mixer trying to remove the audio artifacts from my headphones, I still kept my concentration on the show itself. Ultimately, I doubt that a single person who attended last night would have thought that they were listening to someone whose mind was on anything but putting on a good show. That's what it's all about: regardless of anything else, when you get on stage, you're fulfilling a commitment to the people who took time out of their day, and perhaps paid money to get some relief from their own set of problems via your entertainment. Do not allow your difficulties to add to theirs. If you don't think you can get past that, then the answer is simple: don't get on stage.

Key West set list...
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
†All Apologies (Nirvana)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
I Am A Child (Neil Young)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)

†I'd only played "All Apologies" once before (oddly enough, at Key West on February 20, 2012, almost exactly a year earlier), and I did it so poorly last time that it fell to the depths of my repertoire list and I never played it again. However, I saw Dave Grohl's new film "Sound City" over the weekend, and it inspired me to pull out a bigger variety of Nirvana tunes. I'm glad I did; it went really well this time.

Thanks so much to everyone who came to the show. It was great seeing many new faces in the crowd, and I hope to see you again! Special thanks to those who helped support the show!
AMFORTE Clarity, Triana Caldera, Bonnie Bowenford, Dee Timeless, Alexis Fairlady, Syd Baddingham, autumnleather, TheaDee, Lan Ganloso, GMetal Svartur, Regog Rivera, Rusty Seisenbacher, Crap Mariner, jsmn Yao, Kat Claxton, Spiral Silverstar, Robert69 Little, my wonderful manager Maali Beck, and most of all, Key West owner and super patron of the arts Liz Harley!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Boom Pony Beach (02.15.13)

If you've followed this blog at all, you're already aware that I really enjoy performing at places in SL where I haven't played before. There's a number of reasons for this, but the main (and most obvious) one is that it represents an opportunity for me to introduce myself and my music to new people who may find that they like what they're hearing.

In the case of the Boom Pony, I'd been aware of the venue for quite some time. It seemed that a lot of SL's more well-known musicians had played there over the last couple of years, but for whatever reason, I'd never made a connection there. Fortunately, I got called up as a last-minute replacement at the Boom's special Beatlefest event (A Day on Abbey Road) a couple weeks ago, and perhaps as a return favor, the ladies who run the place (Andi Karsin and Kiran Sporg) booked me for a show on Friday night.

Rocking on the beach... always a good time. Photo and top photo by Kat.

And a nearly identical photo from Triana. I think my fans are running out of ways to make me look interesting. I know I gave up on this effort years ago.

I was happy to be there. While most people seem to think I'm always 100% comfortable when I perform, I do tend to get some nerves going when I play a new venue for the first time. Despite having the support of my great longterm fans no matter where I play, there's always an element of the unknown. Will the people who run the place like my stuff? Will there be people there who are unfamiliar with my music but willing to listen and give me a chance? Fortunately, we had a decent-sized crowd there comprised of Zaksters and other folks brought in by the venue, and I felt good from the start. Since it was Valentine's Day the day before, the club had made romance their theme of the week, and that was good, too; it allowed me to have a focus for the list of songs I'd be playing.

Boom Pony Beach set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Afternoon Delight (Starland Vocal Band)
Court and Spark (Joni Mitchell)
*In Your Eyes (Peter Gabriel)
Beyond the Blue (Martina McBride)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Better Man (Pearl Jam)
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (Paul Simon)
Breaking Us In Two (Joe Jackson)
Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
Help Me (Joni Mitchell)
About a Girl (Nirvana)

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

Big thanks to everyone who attended my debut at the Boom, especially those who helped support the show!
jaci Wylder, Yanne Proudfoot, Diana Renoir, Diane Fairplay, Triana Caldera, Richy Nervous, Xerxes Ninetails, Aria Toussaint, TheaDee, Kat Claxton, my manager Maali Beck, and the Boom's awesome owners, Andi Karsin and Kiran Sporg!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Random Notes (02.13.13)

1. Hello.

2. Live Show. I am performing for the first time at the Boom Pony in Second Life on Friday night (Feb 15) at 7PM. If you're a Zakster, this would be a great show to come see. If you're not a Zakster, this would be a great show to become one. As always, the show is free, but here's your ride to get there.

3. Dorner. I'm not going to devote much space to this, not here anyway. As you may have heard, I live in the neighborhood that the LAPD and Torrance Police Department mistakenly turned into the O.K. Corral on Thursday of last week. I can't condone the actions of Chris Dorner, or anyone who murders other human beings regardless of the circumstances. It horrifies and disgusts me. That having been said, I hold our law enforcement agencies to the same standards, and a lot of disturbing stuff became once again apparent to me as I watched it all unfold. We tend to imagine our species as being very advanced and highly intelligent, but we prove ourselves time and time again to be nothing more than another bunch of animals, and perhaps worse than those who seem to value life more than we do.

4. Inspiration. As part of my job, I interview rock stars very often. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of interviewing a guy no one knows. He has stage 4 kidney cancer, and the reality is that it's very unlikely he'll be around in a year or two. At age 52 (less than a decade older than me), he's facing certain death in a short time frame. But guess what? He was upbeat and positive, and thankful for what he's received in life. He's still setting goals. He's still enjoying the act of making music. While I still reserve the right to whine about stuff that would make many people roll their eyes, I feel a renewed commitment to making the most of the limited time I have here on this measly little planet. He ended our talk with the following quote:

“Cancer may kill me, but in no fucking way will it ever beat me."

Thank you, Gerard, for your perspective.

5. Woe Is Me. I will now immediately contradict myself by complaining about the fact that I am in pain. Yesterday afternoon, while watching the coverage of the end of the Dorner saga with nervous apprehension, I decided to turn my energy in a positive direction by working out with free weights. I do that every day, but in a reasonable way. On a typical day, I'll do perhaps 30 repetitions, in several sets of 10 reps. Well, I probably did 100 or more reps. Everything was fine, and I felt good about pushing myself harder during the workout. Today, I feel like I've been beaten with tire irons and baseball bats about the chest and arms. I'm having trouble lifting a coffee cup to my lips. Sweet lord, if you're listening, bring me some ibuprofen.

6. That's It. I could keep going with various random shit all day, but I am also in the midst of some busy times at work, and will now devote my attention in that direction... after the Advil kicks in. Ow. Ow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Islands of New England (02.05.13)

I'm a fun guy (no, not a fungi, as some people tend to believe). I like having fun, and I like people around me to have fun as well. There's a time and place for seriousness, even in entertainment, but you won't often find me being grim or full of gravitas. Especially when there's a guitar in my hands and an audience in front of me, my natural state is one of silly, and it gets all the more easy to put on a fun show when I'm performing at the Islands of New England in SL.

Christine Haiku, who manages the entertainment at the venue, has also become a friend of mine over the past couple of years. As an artist, there's no better ticket to a good show than being comfortable and confident, and performing for one's friends is the absolute best in that regard. Last night's show was, as a result, terrific. Also, I love the opportunity to add new friends/fans to my audience. When I first arrived, long before my show started, there were a couple of folks hanging out there, dancing together in furry avatars. Christine and I invited them to hang out and enjoy the show, and they really did. I hope to see both of them again at subsequent shows.

So, all that was great. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), my voice and guitar were both behaving nicely, and the hour completely flew by. As my first full Zak Show after my business-related hiatus that took me out of performing for most of January, it couldn't have gone better. I do need to give a special shout-out to Celeste Ewing, a fan who made it to the show despite being in a (thankfully minor) car accident near her house. Please, people, no need to hurry home just to hear me yodel at you!

Islands of New England set list...
Wonderwall (Oasis)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
On the Way Home (Buffalo Springfield)
Are You Experienced? (Jimi Hendrix)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (Beatles)
Cheer Up Christine (Flight of the Conchords/Zak Claxton)
Radio Free Europe (R.E.M.)
Blue (Joni Mitchell)
The Sands of Redondo (Zak Claxton)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)

Big thanks to everyone who helped support my show!
Hells Lobo, Celeste Ewing, Barbara Mixemup, Sassy Nitely, GMetal Svartur, Sesh Kamachi, TheaDee, my manager Maali Beck, and the lovely manager of IONE, Christine Haiku!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Day on Abbey Road (02.02.13)

I was chilling here on Friday, having just completed a pretty grueling business trip and the necessary follow-up, when my lovely manager Maali Beck pinged me on Facebook. Having been completely removed from what was happening in Second Life since the start of the year, I hadn't heard about the big Beatle event that had been planned by the folks who run the Boom Pony venue. So, when Maali asked if I could perform at the event the following day, I was completely thrilled. Based on the short notice, I correctly figured I'd be filling in for someone who couldn't make it, but I didn't mind one bit... the idea of jamming Beatles covers for a half hour was way too cool!

The caliber of artists at the event was spectacular. I performed after Max Kleene, and Noma Falta was up after me, so I quite correctly assumed there would be a rather large audience there. It was really fun, since I don't often do those huge SL shows, and the whole aspect of having a sea of avatars in front of me is a welcome sight every so often. Other artists playing at the event included Amforte Clarity, Twinghost Ronas, Pete Mroz, Tamra Hayden, and others. I was certainly in good company.

I loved the detailed decor of the Abbey Road-themed venue, right down to the Fab Four walking across the street in front of the stage. Photos by Kat.

All you need is love... and a big crowd of people who like what you're playing. Photo by Kat.

Even on the short notice, I knew I had to do some cool stuff for the occasion, so I did a couple of Beatles tunes I'd never done before. Funny side note: my show was supposed to be for 30 minutes (2:30-3:00). However, due to a missing artist, Max's set had to cut off short and I started 15 minutes early, so I did some last-second shuffling and adding to my own set. It came out fine, regardless.

Day on Abbey Road/Boom Pony Set List
*Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (Beatles)
Strawberry Fields Forever (Beatles)
Nowhere Man (Beatles)
*Dear Prudence (Beatles)
She's Leaving Home (Beatles)
I Am the Walrus (Beatles)
Across the Universe (Beatles)
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (Beatles)
Lovely Rita (Beatles)
A Day in the Life (Beatles)

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

Big thanks to everyone who helped support my show at "SL Beatlefest"!
Richy Nervous, Ayesha Lytton, AlaskaJoe, Alecto Pyrithea, Tamra Sands, Kat Claxton, Mike Hamlin, my manager Maali Beck, and Boom Pony owners Kiran Sporg and Andi Karsin!