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!