Thursday, May 30, 2013

Key West (05.29.13)

As usual, I arrived for my show at Key West in Second Life about 20 minutes early. I do this for two reasons: first, to make sure everything is working in advance of the audience arriving, and second, to have a few moments to make sure people are aware of the show (although my great manager Maali Beck handles most of that part, in any case). However, when I teleported to the venue, for a few moments I thought I was at the wrong place! I'd completely forgotten that Liz was using a brand new build for the venue, and it looked very cool, and was nice for a change (though I do like the original Key West marina build as well).

It all worked out, as it always seems to do. We started with a small crowd that built into a nice-sized audience before very long. I was the opener for a great evening of music that included all of my Maali Beck stablemates (Taunter Goodnight, Sassy Nitely, and Lyndon Heart), and it was a fun show throughout.

Funny; we started out with almost no one there and grew to this within minutes. Never get discouraged by a small house when you start an SL show. Photo and top photo by Triana Caldera.

Apparently I have a halo at the new Key West build, which is probably the only place you'll see me connected to one. Photo by Maali Beck.

People seem to be having fun. I know I was. Photo by Triana Caldera.

Key West Set List...
Bertha (Grateful Dead)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Heart of Gold (Neil Young)
On the Way Home (Buffalo Springfield)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
†Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
*Lithium (Nirvana)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)

†My last performance of the generally-overplayed "Hallelujah" was on August 26, 2009, so I felt okay about pulling it out again, finally.
*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Big thanks to everyone who came to the show, especially the following who helped support it!

Triana Caldera, Taunter Goodnight, Hauc Sandalwood, Jessie Niosaki, seabird7, Aurelie Chenaux, chillee Hernandoz, Owl Dragonash, TheaDee, Evangelinastar, Gideon McMillan, and most of all, Key West owner Liz Harley and her great staff!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Molaskey's Pub (05.23.13)

I'm a little tardy on this report. Usually I do these the day following a show, but this show was on Thursday night. Friday, being the day before a holiday weekend, I was deluged with work-related deadlines. And then, I spent literally every waking moment between Saturday morning and Monday night working on a great new song for my band They Stole My Crayon. I'm very happy about that, and have high hopes as the song coalesces.

Regardless of all the activity, I still don't want to neglect writing about my show on May 23 at Molaskey's Pub in Second Life. It was, for me, a typical mid-week show situation where I have to make a big personal adjustment -- business dweeb to virtual rock star -- in a very short time frame. But after all these years of doing that, I find it comes pretty easily at this point. One minute I'm hanging up on a long conference call, and the next I've got my Martin strapped on and am setting up my mics, warming up to perform live for a hopefully happy crowd.

Fun at Molaskey's. Photo and top photo by Kat.

Molaskey's is almost always a great place to do a gig in SL, and Thursday night went as smoothly as I could have expected. I enjoy these occasional shows where I'm in between my great friends Sassy Nitely and Lyndon Heart. Given that a huge musical influence of mine, Ray Manzarek of the Doors, passed away that week, I paid some well-deserved homage by performing a couple of Doors tunes.

Molaskey's Set List...
In My Time of Dying (Traditional)
Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
Valentine's Day (David Bowie)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Woodstock (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
People Are Strange (The Doors)
Soul Kitchen (The Doors)
Like a Hurricane (Neil Young)
Accidents Will Happen (Elvis Costello)
Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Help Me (Joni Mitchell)

Thanks to all who came out and rocked at Molaskey's, especially those who helped support the show!
Christine Haiku, Emanuelle Brooks, Diana Renoir, Sesh Kamachi, Shmoo Snook, TheaDee, Aurelie Chenaux, Richy Nervous, Kat Claxton, Cicadetta Stillwater, Thinkerer Melville, Sassy Nitely, and Molaskey's great GM Mia Kitchensink, and their terrific staff too!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rhi's Poem Relay for Life Show & The Art of Virtual Reality Conference (05.11.13)

Nothing like jumping back in with both feet! As you know from my recent woeful communiques, I had dental surgery on Monday, and singing was pretty much out of the question for the subsequent few days. Fortunately, my jaw was much more mobile by Saturday morning, for I had a busy schedule planned. I started by doing a full hour of original music at Rhi's Poem for a Relay for Life event, and an hour later, spoke and performed for a conference at UMass Lowell on "The Art of Virtual Reality".

Rhi's Poem/RFL
I love events in SL that are focused on original music. There's nothing wrong with covers; I obviously do most of my own shows with covers comprising over half of my repertoire. But as a whole, seeing artists do their own material offers a far more unique experience for the fans, at least the adventurous ones. February Jinx and Liz Harley had teamed up for a special fundraising event this weekend with an interesting format: half the performance's would be at February's Rhi's Poem, and the other half would be at Liz's Key West. But all of the performances for two full days would be limited to original music. It was great to be included in a cool lineup that included many of my own favorite SL artists!

I was part of a cool lineup of SL musicians, and this was only the first part of the event. Flyer by February Jinx.

Rocking some songs and begging for funds. Photo by Kat.

People seemed to be enjoying the tunes. I had fun performing them. Win. Photo by Kat.

I always have plenty of my own stuff for an hour-long set of originals. This time, I also decided to do a couple of songs from the upcoming album of They Stole My Crayon. I had to admit, before I played "Things Under Trees" for the first time, that it hardly qualified as an original, since the lyrics were by Kat and the music by Bunny. But if I can't cover my own band, there's something amiss in the world.

Rhi's Poem Set List...
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Go Easy on Me (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Take The Ride (They Stole My Crayon)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
The Sands of Redondo (Zak Claxton)
*Things Under Trees (They Stole My Crayon)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)

Big thanks to February and Liz for putting on this RFL event, and to al the people who helped support the cause!

The Art of Virtual Reality
An hour after I wrapped up at Rhi's Poem, I headed over to the sim of Sophia Yates, who'd asked if I could speak at a conference she'd put together at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She'd invited a number of people in various creative arts -- filmmakers, artists, and one rather silly musician -- who all created art that combined real life with the virtual world. The conference was held physically at the university, while the presenters were shown on a live streamed display from SL.

I didn't get to attend much of the event beyond my own section; obviously, I'd been too busy making my art to spend much time talking about it on that day. But in general, the parts I heard were indeed interesting, and according to the organizers, my presentation was well received. I spoke about connecting with an audience, and I covered both the tangible/technical and intangible/emotional aspects of doing that. I know the event was "filmed", so I should be able to repost my section of it sometime soon.

All in all, it was a busy day, and all before 2PM! Still, between the fundraising for RFL and the sharing of knowledge at the conference, I felt pretty good about having done my part to make the world a little cooler.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dental Records

I spend most of my time on this blog talking about my life as a performing singer-songwriter. Occasionally I talk about general topics that relate to virtual worlds and the like. However, this morning, I'm writing only to distract myself from the pain that is emanating from the entire left side of my head. Why, you ask, am I in pain? Well, yesterday, I had two teeth extracted.

A Brief History of My Mouth
I'm just one of those people who was genetically predisposed to having shitty teeth. I've always taken good care of my teeth. I brush twice daily. I floss often. I use mouthwash. And still, like both of my parents before me, my teeth have never been great, and as time goes by, they certainly haven't improved on their own. I think I had my first root canal when I was about 23, and that was after a good number of cavities that always required fillings when I was a child. It could be said that my current teeth woes are in part the result of all those fillings in my youth, but that speculation is pretty pointless at the moment.

Anyway, over the years, I've had at least another 4-5 root canals, crowns, and in addition to the typical wisdom teeth removal, one extraction of an unsavable tooth. That extraction was done very well by Dr. Richard Schell here in Redondo Beach, and he did a great job. More on him later. It was all the way back in 2003 when my dentist told me that I had several teeth that still had to go, but another ten years went by before the teeth themselves insisted on my dentist's plans.

Swollen Sunday
It's truly amazing how fast these things can arise. On Saturday, I was feeling terrific, and had a very fun brunch with my family (including my lovely niece, who I hadn't seen in far too long). By Saturday evening, though, I was noticing that in the back left corner of my mouth, there was a foreboding throb going on. Not precisely pain, but definitely a discomfort. My general plan for all things medically related is to sleep on it, and hope my body can work some mystical magic that makes it go away on its own.

That didn't happen this time. Instead, I awoke on Sunday, and the back of my mouth was badly swollen. As in, abscessed. The back molar, which was basically a stub of a tooth that had been previously root canalled and then broken, along with the impacted wisdom tooth behind it that I'd never had taken out, was looking and feeling really badly. It was time to stop fucking around, and do something. We've all heard stories of people who let an infection go too long untreated, and ended up dead (or wishing they were).

Dr. Schell to the Rescue
Not only was it Sunday morning; it was Cinco de Mayo, which is pretty much a bullshit holiday and an excuse for people to drink, but is widely observed here in Southern California. At 8:30AM, I called Dr. Schell's office, and as expected, I got their voicemail. I also left a message on their emergency line (hey, it was feeling and looking like an emergency to me). What I didn't expect was that Dr. Schell called me back within about 15 minutes. He told me to get some fresh hydrogen peroxide and let it soak in my mouth around the affected area, and told me to come into the office the next day. Well, the H2O2 helped a lot. The swelling came down considerably, as did the discomfort. That, along with some ibuprofen, let me spend the rest of my Sunday feeling more human. Dr. Schell also advised that if surgery was going to be possible, I couldn't eat or drink anything the next morning. Noted.

On Monday morning, I called the office and got an appointment for 11AM. Conveniently, Dr. Schell is located in the medical center just around the corner from my home; I walked there in five minutes. Upon arriving (and assuring them that I indeed had not consumed any food or beverage that day), they pretty quickly took x-rays and evaluated the situation. Dr. Schell agreed that both teeth had to go (confirming what my dentist had told me a decade before). I called Kat and told her I'd need a ride back (they don't send people off on their own after surgery, which makes sense to me).

Two minutes later, I was on my back in the OR, and I do recall them putting the oxygen mask over my nose. Then, nothing. The next thing I knew, I was getting up from the table, and Kat was there to help me in my semi-conscious state to get to her car and back home. I have little recollection of that part; the effect of anesthesia on short-term memory is pretty weird. Apparently, I asked her the same questions 12 times, which she patiently answered. The rest of the day was pretty rough, but the Vicodin helped.

Getting My Smile Back
I won't be smiling much for a couple of days. If the pain didn't preclude my desire to smile, the swelling in my jaw would prevent it regardless. But I am feeling pretty optimistic about recovering quickly, and about the fact that this procedure, which has been overdue for a decade, is finally done.

By the way, as you may have noticed, I included no pictures in this particular blog post. You can thank Kat for that... she pretty much insisted that you don't need to see my swollen bloody gum sockets. Sorry for those of you who are disappointed. Oh, and my ibuprofen (which I've turned to today instead of being all whacked out on Vicodin) has now kicked in and I'm feeling a lot happier than when I started writing. So, yay for me.

A final note: this was my second experience with oral surgery by Dr. Schell, and both times I've been very impressed. Good staff, nice office, helpful bedside manner, and good follow-up. He's a nice guy who really does seem to care about his patients. If you need extractions, implants and so on here in the South Bay, he's a great choice.

Richard Schell, DDS
Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
510 N. Prospect Ave
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 937-2992

Friday, May 3, 2013

Islands of New England (05.02.13)

Like most things in life, there can be a lot more to performing live music than is apparent on the surface. When you're in the audience watching someone play their instrument and sing, you think, "Wow, that person is so lucky, up there doing what they love and having fun."

Well, it is fun, or at least it should be fun. But while you see that person jumping around the stage and rocking out, here are some things that might be on his or her mind.

"Damn, my hand is cramping. Am I going to make it through the song?"

"Shit. Did I just sing the second verse first? Oh hell, I did. Should I now do the first verse second?"

"Wait... was that my amp making that crackling noise?"

"I knew should have changed strings before this set."

"Did I leave my headlights on?"

And so on. But the challenge, no matter what else is going on, is to stay in the moment and perform to the best of your abilities, regardless of what else is happening around you. I went into my show at the Islands of New England in Second Life yesterday evening after a hell of a day. But ultimately, once you decide to strap on the guitar and step in front of a microphone, you shouldn't treat your audience as your therapist. In fact, the very best therapy to change your rotten mood is to focus on your show, and leave the other stuff behind. Hey, you'll have plenty of time to be a miserable bastard later.

A top-down look at the stage at the Islands of New England. Photo and top photo by Kat.

My view of you. Photo by Kat.

All that having been said, the show at New England was really great, mostly due to the fun group of people who had assembled as my audience du jour. Unlike recent shows, I didn't pullout any brand new tunes. I'd intended to, but the aforementioned Week from Hell kind of precluded any possibility of my having time to choose and practice tunes to the point I'd feel okay about throwing them at an unsuspecting crowd. Despite that, it was a fun one, and I did pull out a few tunes that I hadn't played in ages.

Islands of New England Set List...
If It Makes You Happy (Sheryl Crow)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
Thank You (Led Zeppelin)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Don't Let It bring You Down (Neil Young)
Walk On the Wild Side (Lou Reed)
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)

Thanks so much to everyone at IONE who helped me get in a much better mood, especially those who supported my show!
Richy Nervous, cellenia1, Benjalina, Triana Caldera, Sesh Kamachi, Diana Renoir, Jukebox Diesel, Bonnie Revnik, Kat Claxton, and IONE's lovely music manager and host, Christine Haiku!