Monday, September 30, 2013

ROMA (09.29.13)

I'm pretty much in Total Musical Immersion heaven. Apart from the moments I've been preoccupied with such mundane things as working, parenting, eating, and occasionally sleeping, I've been awash in a plethora of sonic perspicuity. After two shows in Second Life last week, my lady Kat Claxton and great friend Bunny Knutson (aka my bandmates in They Stole My Crayon) trekked up to Hollywood to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the Troubadour. It was an amazing and memorable night. After taking all of Saturday to recuperate (as you need to do when you spend a rare night out on the town in your forties), I had an early afternoon show on Sunday at ROMA.

Photo and top photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

ROMA is great. I only play there when they have a special event, usually based on seasonal feasts. As I've explained several times before, the entire group of sims is a role-playing experience based on ancient Rome, and in both language and apparel, they take it pretty seriously, But they also know how to have fun, and they're always a very appreciative crowd there.

Photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

Since Kat and I had just been to the Troubadour, I was on a bit of a history kick about that famous venue, and watched a PBS special about the club's connection to the careers of James Taylor and Carole King. As a result, my set was mostly based on a theme of singer-songwriters who'd performed there over the years (along with my own originals, as usual). It also gave me the opportunity to whip out a few songs I'd never played before. I'm also apparently closing all of my shows (the last three of them, anyway) with a Cat Stevens song I find good for that purpose.

ROMA set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
You've Got A Friend (Carole King)
*Mexico (James Taylor)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Old Man (Neil Young)
*Opposite of Afternoon (Unknown Mortal Orchestra)
*Rubbing It Out (They Stole My Crayon)
Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

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

Big thanks to everyone in the ROMA community for bringing me back to entertain you, especially those who helped support the show!
Angelia Rees, Barbara Mixemup, Rusty Seisenbacher, Ulysse Alexandre, Melanippe Karas, Diana Renoir, colbymartin Constantine, Tonina Rodenberger, Stella Orchid, Alekso Minotaur, kkadora, Celeste Ewing, Kat Claxton, and my manager (and ROMA member) Maali Beck!

Molaskey's Pub (09.26.13)

I'm going to tell you about my show at Molaskey's Pub, but first, a few long-overdue words about someone very important to me in Second Life. There are probably many people in SL who do an outstanding job as managers for musicians. That having been said, I am convinced that my manager, Maali (pronounced "Molly") Beck, is the best of the best. Since my recent show at Molaskey's featured three of Maali's stable of musicians (Sassy Nitely, myself, and Lyndon Heart in order of appearance), I thought I'd dedicate this post to her, but first I'm going to explain why a musician in SL needs a manager at all.

Really? A manager for a virtual musician?
Yeah, really. And I can speak from both sides of the fence, having managed my own shows from 2006-2011 before meeting Maali at the San Diego SL Jam and hearing her proposal to manage me. Most managers in SL, just like real life, operate by taking a reasonable percentage of the artist's booking fees and tips. In return, at least in my case, I get a lot more than what I pay her. Maali books all of my shows, so I don't have to deal with spending tons of time and effort chasing after venues that will pay my fee. She also negotiates those fees, and then also acts as a promoter, maintaining my in-world fan club and helping to spread the word about my shows via various in-world groups. I can't tell you how worthwhile it is having Maali handle those things, allowing me to focus on performing.

What makes Maali so great?
This part is easy.

• She doesn't overbook me. Obviously, it's in a manager's best interest to book as many shows as possible for her clients. However, I told Maali early on that performing in SL is but one aspect of my life, musical or otherwise. I also am a single dad, I run my own small business, and I'm a recording artist who needs time to write new songs and record them. She has always respected that, and my guidelines to her (about 1-2 shows a week on average) has always been followed.

• She knows when to break my rules. Maali knows me well enough to jump at opportunities in which she knows I would want to get involved. We both are believers in using music for charitable purposes, and Maali works just as hard for those shows where neither of us make any money.

• She still checks with me first. Some managers probably assume their artists want to play every big show that comes up. I don't, and Maali always drops me a line before adding shows to my schedule.

• She comes to the shows. All of them. Even on the rare occasions where two of her artists are booked in the same time slot at different venues, she'll spend half of the hour with each artist. While there, she has a great balance of helping to spread the word about my music without being annoying by overspamming the crowd. Love that!

• She's a genuinely good person who really loves music. If I thought that she was only in it for the money, or if she wasn't such a nice and pleasant person to be around, there's no way I'd want her to manage me.

Back to Molaskey's
Enough on my fantastic manager. On Thursday night, three of Maali's Kids played at Molaskey's, where I've performed dozens and dozens of times over my years in SL. It's a great venue mostly because of the people who help run it. I got there much earlier than my usual arrival time so I could hear some of Sassy's show. Obviously, living here on the West Coast, my time is the same as SL time, so I'm not always able to jump in early (since I'm still wrapping up my work day). But it was fun listening to Sassy, who was sounding great.

Photo and top photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

Photo by Triana.

Probably the first in-world hangout of They Stole My Crayon since 2006. Bunny, Kat, and I enjoying Lyndon Heart's set. Photo by Kat.

My set went well. Neither my voice nor my guitars were cooperating at a 100% level of greatness, but that's okay; I'm not a perfectionist, and the vibe of my set was good. I was happy to have the rare occasion of both of my bandmates (and best friends) Kat and Bunny attend the show. Bunny in particular is almost never in Second Life, so his surprise appearance in my crowd put a big smile on my face. Since Bunny, Kat, and I were headed out in real life the following night to the Troubadour in Hollywood to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra, I threw in a first-time performance of one of their songs.

Molaskey's set list...
Golden Years (David Bowie)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
On the Way Home (Neil Young)
So Glad (They Stole My Crayon)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
*Swim and Sleep Like a Shark (Unknown Mortal Orchestra)
Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel)
Creepin' (Stevie Wonder)
Mad World (Tears for Fears)
What Are You Like? (Indigo Girls)
You Can't Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

*Indicates my first ever performance of this song in SL.

Thanks to all who came out to Molaskey's, especially those who helped support the show!
Maurice Mistwallow, Jukebox Diesel, Triana Caldera, Kat Claxton, Cicadetta Stillwater, NeCole Chiantelle, Sesh Kamachi, Christine Haiku, Sassy Nitely, my manager Maali Beck, and Molaskey's GM Mia Kitchensink!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Islands of New England (09.24.13)

As you may or may not have noticed, it had been a couple of weeks since my last live music show in Second Life. I've written before about my choices regarding the frequency of performances in SL. Ideally, you want to find that magical amount of shows in which you're getting enough exposure without burning out your audience. But life gets in the way of life, and while I haven't been performing as often as I'd like, I have been working quite often on writing and recording music for my band They Stole My Crayon. So, there's a balance in there somewhere.

In any case, last night's show at the Islands of New England went very well. Since the vernal equinox a few days back, I've been itching to get back into some autumnal music to go with the season, and last night's set achieved that pretty well. We also had a small but great audience, and everyone seemed to like what they heard and had fun, which is all I ever ask for in an SL show.

New England already has a nice Fall look... a great setting for autumnal songs. Photo by Kat; top photo by Triana.

Islands of New England set list...
Is She Really Going Out With HIm (Joe Jackson)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Shock the Monkey (Peter Gabriel)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Expecting to Fly (Neil Young)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Long Time Gone (Crosby, Stills & Nash)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
*Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

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

Big thanks to everyone who came out and helped support the show at IONE!
Triana Caldera, milady Guillaume, Kat Claxton, Alexis Fairlady, Sesh Kamachi, Aurelie Chenaux, TheaDee, Stratus Mactavish, ElleBelladolce, my fantastic manager Maali Beck, and IONE host (and my friend) Christine Haiku!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering September 11

Looking back through this blog, I was surprised to see that I'd never specifically written about my personal experiences regarding the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, aka 9/11. I don't see much of a reason to dwell on that sad day, but I do believe that ignoring history tends to cause it to repeat itself. I also think that the people whose lives were affected forever that day deserve the respect of being remembered. So, here's what my day was like.

I was 32 years old in fall 2001, and life was pretty topsy-turvy for me. Things weren't working out well between myself and my then-wife (who would become my ex-wife two years later). My son was only two years old. I'd spent the previous ten years working as a marketing person for the music/audio products industry, and in 2001 I was employed by the famed recording product company TASCAM as their head of marketing.

Much as they remain today (though in a different way), my days back then had a tight routine. I awoke at 5:30am, left my home here in Redondo Beach at 6:30am, and (beating most of the LA traffic with my early departure) generally rolled into the TASCAM offices around 7:15am. That particular Tuesday seemed like any other day. I left the house and drove up the street to the closest Starbucks, as I did every day. On my way there, I turned on my local NPR station, 89.9 KCRW. I was still only half awake, but they were saying something on the radio about a plane crash. Sounded bad. But it just seemed like a typical bad news story. I turned the radio off and walked into the Starbucks. Inside, people seemed to be talking about this plane crash, and I heard something about the plane having hit a building. This wasn't looking good, so when I got back in my little Nissan, I turned on the radio again while I headed toward the 91 freeway. At that point, I still had no concept that a terror attack had occurred. In fact, I was under the impression that a small plane, perhaps a Cessna, had hit a building in New York by accident. That seemed like bad news. I had no idea how bad it actually was.

However, as I drove along, robotically heading into the office, things became more clear. NPR was reporting non-stop about the situation as it developed, and well before I'd arrived in Montebello, I understood that some kind of terror attack against the United States was in progress. I parked my car close to the door (as an early arriver, a decent parking spot was a small benefit), and walked in. Before I got to my desk, I walked by the cafeteria room, and noticed a few people gathered around a television. I will never forget that moment, when I walked into that room, because the very first thing I saw was a shot of the second plane hitting the south tower of the World Trade Center. That was my first visual image of the attacks. I literally dropped my briefcase in shock, and took a seat. The room was silent except for an occasional "Oh my God!" exclamation.

After a few minutes, the thought occurred to me (as it did to many people, I'm sure) that these attacks might be very widespread, and that the city where I was -- Los Angeles, CA -- might be a target as well. I headed down the hall to my office, and began calling people, telling them not to come into work. Some came anyway; for many folks, their work is part of their family, and they wanted to be among friends. I had all manner of things going through my head, some less appropriate than others. Like a typical businessman, I was aware that we had a planned trade show coming in New York, and we'd been busy getting ready for that. Were we still going? It was hard to wrap my head around the magnitude of what had happened, and I think that considering such relatively unimportant stuff was actually a defense mechanism of trying to bring some normalcy back to a moment in time that was unprecedented in my life.

I stayed at the office for most of the day. Few people were there, and those who were there weren't working. Much of the day was spent in the cafeteria, huddled around the TV and trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I also knew that I had friends who worked in the World Trade Center, and more who worked and lived in the general lower Manhattan area. I did my best to try and ascertain their safety, but it was difficult to establish any communications with that area. I spent a good amount of time on the Internet; this was previous to the start of Facebook or Second Life, but even then I was a very active Internet user, and connected with my friends on Craig Anderton's Sound, Studio & Stage forum. Finally, still feeling like I was in a bad dream, I drove home that afternoon.

I don't have to mention that life, in many aspects, was never the same after that day. About two months later, I was in New York for the trade show that had been postponed. Portions of the Javits Convention Center were still sealed off; they'd been being used as a temporary morgue. On the cab ride to JFK, looking backward and seeing the gaping hole where the twin towers had been was a haunting moment. I will say that if there was any positive aspect of 9/11, there was a noticeable pulling together of an America that had been long divided over many issues. If nothing else, at least we could agree that the USA was no longer a carefree place where one's safety from terrorism could be assumed. And that, of course, in turn led to negative aspects of privacy invasion and loss of freedom that still plague us today, and may never go back to how it was before.

So, that's my 9/11 story. It's probably similar to that of most Americans. In closing, I will say that there are very few events in my life that, even if I wanted to, I could never forget... my first public performance as a musician in 1980, and the birth of my son in 1999 come to mind. But that day in 2001 lingers in my head, second by second, and I can view it in my head today as if it happened yesterday, as opposed to 12 years ago.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Panorama Gallery (09.08.13)

After I wrapped up my show at Key West last Thursday, one of my audience members surprised me by asking if I was interested in performing at an art gallery event on Sunday. That's how I ended up playing at Panorama Gallery, for Ub Yifu's sculpture exhibit opening. There was something else, though, about this request to perform that made me smile. Samantha Chester said that she chose me for this gig based on three factors: the quality of my performance, the fact that I engage the audience well, and most of all that I'd done many Relay for Life events, and she always prioritizes RFL artists for other events. So, while I always say that karma will pay you back for the good things that you do, sometimes it pays you on a more direct basis, and lets you keep the change.

As I noted to Kat, I'm an old hat at doing gallery openings in SL; it's just been awhile since I did them. Back around 2007/2008, I probably did a half dozen art gallery events, and each of them were cool shows. I had a chance to look around Panorama Gallery before my show, and it's a cool place... nice build, good art on display. One thing I like about occasional shows that happen outside the usual list of music-focused venues is that I tend to get an entirely new audience there. That, in turn, gives me an opportunity to expose my music to potential new fans, if they like what they hear. I think that my choice of tunes (mostly focused on the artier side of my repertoire, given the nature of the venue) worked well.

Performing amongst the sculptures at Panorama was a nice environment for a show. Photo and top photo by Kat.

While I usually encourage my crowd to gather around the stage, at this event I was happy to tell people to spread out and take a look around the various beautiful gallery displays. Photo by Kat.

Panorama offers a nice view from the inside as well as the outside. Photo by Kat.

One other thing to note: we've been continuing to work on songs for our band They Stole My Crayon, and on Saturday night, we came up with a new tune called "So Glad". I almost never perform songs that are brand new, preferring to allow them to sink in a little bit. But "So Glad" was fresh in my head and seemed a great tune for an artistic venue, so I whipped that out as well.

Panorama Gallery set list...
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Man on the Moon (R.E.M.)
*So Glad (They Stole My Crayon)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Six Underground (Sneaker Pimps)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Everyday I Write the Book (Elvis Costello)
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)

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

Big thanks to everyone who helped support my show at Panorama Gallery!
Morgan Velvetleaf, Jeanie Jupiter, Electra Emolite, Beragon Betts, Shmoo Snook, TheaDee, Isabela Drechsler, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, Timo Dumpling, Amalia Broome, my lovely manager Maali Beck, and Panorama Gallery's Sam55 Chester!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Key West (09.04.13)

Ahhhh. Performing at Key West in Second Life is like climbing a mountain, then taking a big breath of air so crisp and clean that it almost hurts. Or perhaps I'm just being overly poetic. But there is, at least for me, a sense that I can do no wrong there, and of all the venues where I perform regularly, I probably take the most chances at places where I know my risks will be welcomed. Key West, with its fantastic owner Liz Harley and good management staff, is a great place to push yourself as an artist.

At last night's show, that manifested itself with my choice of some very deep cuts from my big bag o' songs. Some of the tunes I pulled out were so dusty, even my most ardent Zakster fans had trouble remembering the last time I played them.

Key West set list...
Pigs on the Wing -- Parts I and II (Pink Floyd)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
You Don't Know How It Feels (Tom Petty)
I Like You (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Rikki Don't Lose That Number (Steely Dan)
Allentown (Billy Joel)
Triana (Zak Claxton)
The Wind Cries Mary (Jimi Hendrix)
Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
Alabama (Neil Young)

Photo and top photo by Triana.

Photo by Triana.

Thanks to all who came out to my show at Key West, especially the following who helped support it!
Cyberspy, WashedUp Sideways, Triana Caldera, Sam55 Chester, Syd Baddingham, TheaDee, Alexis Fairlady, Aurelie Chenaux, my manager Maali Beck, and Key West owner Liz Harley!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Amaretto Ranch Breedables' 3rd Anniversary Party (09.01.13)

As I sit here on this lazy Labor Day morning, I have four things on my mind.

1. I'm grateful to live in a universe where coffee exists.
2. My show at Amaretto Breedables' anniversary event yesterday went really well.
3. I'm still dealing with this recent bout of tendinosis (aka chronic tendinitis) in my right arm.
4. It's really nice to be lounging about in my robe at 10AM on a Monday.

Since item #1 is true every day, item #3 is just a bunch of sad whininess, and item #4 is blatantly obvious, I'll say a few things about item #2.

I got online yesterday morning just after my friend Sassy Nitely had wrapped up the morning show at Amaretto. I pinged her and asked how the show went. She reported that it went great, and that the sim was completely full. That was highly promising. However, as mentioned above, I've had this flare-up of a tendon issue that hits me from time to time, and I had a pretty valid concern about being able to play guitar at my usual high standard. But I really needn't have worried; while I was in a small amount of discomfort while I did my hour-long set, I found that my somewhat more subdued strumming actually improved the show, if anything.

Photo and top photo by Kat.

Photo by Kat.

Since Amaretto is well known in Second Life for its breedable virtual horses (if you don't understand that last statement, don't ask, please), I decided to have a horse-based theme to some of my set. Like Sassy had experienced earlier that day, my show at the Amaretto event was jam packed. The sim was supposedly capped at an attendance of 55, but somehow we managed to squeeze even more than that into the area. Also, it stayed packed the whole time; as soon as anyone would leave, another would be waiting to get in. Now, why can't all my shows be that way? Never mind, I know the answer. I also know that I enjoy the intimacy of smaller shows as well. But this was a great opportunity to showcase my music to many people who hadn't heard me before, so I made sure to include a good chunk of originals in the set.

Photo by Kat.

Playing to about 60 people un a Sunday afternoon does not suck in any way. Photo by Kat.

Amaretto 3rd Anniversary set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
*A Horse With No Name (America)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Wild Horses (Rolling Stones)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (Beatles)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Golden Years (David Bowie)

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

Thanks to everyone who supported my show at the Amaretto Ranch anniversary event!
JJ Cerna, Draco Carpaccio, Amythyst Teardrop, ashie Beck, starrlina Lionheart, Karrie Woyseck, Avalon Crystal, Synefea, Josaphine Cooperstone, Mami Deerhunter, Jaymee Caproni, Kat Claxton, tonisgirl, TheaDee, Aurelie Chenaux, Cicadetta Stillwater, my great manager Maali Beck, and everyone else who enjoyed the show!