Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Serenity Gardens (1.01.18)

Starting a new year the right way, with a great show at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Kat.

2017 wasn't a great year for most people, and while I did my best to maintain my optimistic outlook as usual, losing my father unexpectedly on September 8 (and then Christina losing hers the following month) made it particularly difficult for both of us. Combined with the dismal leadership the country has been forced to deal with under Trump, I was more than happy to bid that year goodbye... more than any other year of my life, frankly.

So, as the end of the year approached and I was immersed in trying to make the holidays fun for myself and my friends and family, I noticed on the calendar that my scheduled bi-weekly live music show at Serenity Gardens in Second Life fell on January 1, aka New Year's Day. I wasn't positive that the venue would definitely be open to host the show on that day, so I sent a message to its lovely owner Ilsa Flanagan. I got a fast response to assure me that the show was on as scheduled, which made me happy. What could be a better way to start 2018 than to play a live show in front of an audience literally on the first day of the new year?

Looking back through this blog, in addition to a number of the expected New Year's Eve shows, I find that I'm fortunate to have spent a number of years playing live right as the year began. In a way, it sets a tone for the year. Think about it this way. First, in performing live, I'm doing something I love and that I'm good at. Second, I'm pushing past any fear that people typically have of singing and playing an instrument in front of a crowd. Third, I'm doing an activity that brings happiness to others. If I can take those three aspects of doing live music and apply them to all areas of my life in 2018, it will be a fantastic year. And, as long as we're making a parallel between live music shows and the rest of life, I made a point of doing several songs I'd never done previously, which perhaps equates to my willingness to continue to be open to new actions and ideas. Some people seem to avoid trying new things well before they get to my ancient age of 48. I'm glad I still find excitement in the challenge of the unfamiliar.

A brief side note to all of this: my avatar has remained virtually unchanged over the 11+ years I've been in SL. Perhaps 2018 will have me seeking some changes in that regard... but don't hold your breath. Photo by Kat.

Playing new tunes and being optimistic on January 1 at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Kat.

Take Your Punches and Keep Fighting
Another analogy between doing my my show and experiencing the coming year: it's never easy. It takes time and effort to properly prepare to do a live music show of which one can be proud. It may seem effortless to outside observers, and that's good... but it's really not. I spend time thinking through my set list, preparing lyrics, rehearsing ahead of time, and warming up before I play.

2018 may be very similar for a lot of people who are hoping to make changes this year. There's an old cliche about being a fighter you've probably seen in many films; it's not about how well you can hit; it's how well you can take a punch and keep going. The last year may have felt like a barrage of punches of the face and kicks in the nether regions to many people. What lies ahead is a lot of opportunity to make the world a better place to live, not just for yourself but for literally everyone on the planet. It's not going to happen by itself; it's going to take planning and work, and a lot of folks already feel pretty beat up. The choice to either give up or keep fighting is one we all make every day. I'm here to tell you that I predict your efforts will pay off in 2018, perhaps in ways you can't even imagine right now.

The Show
Ah, yes, the show. It went really well. I looked back on some of the shows I've done previously at the start of a new year, and saw that I'd made it a point to perform multiple new songs as a theme of sorts. I did so again last night, and all went well. We had a good crowd there. I wasn't sure that people would be up for coming out to see a show after a night of partying that many have on New Year's Eve, but my concerns were for nought. With few exceptions, my shows at Serenity Gardens every other Monday evening have gone very well. It's a nice place that's well staffed and makes people feel welcome to be there. I feel very comfortable there at this point, and really look forward to each performance there.

Beautiful venue, cool crowd, happy Zak. Photo by Kat.

Chilling after my show with Triana and Kat. Photo by Kat.

I should make note of something I mentioned at the show last night. When I did Lionel Richie's 1984 ballad "Hello", it was inspired by one of our four cats. Pan, the cute little cat, was frightened of everything when she first got here in June of 2016, and over the last 18 months has gradually warmed up to interacting with people (if it tells you anything, her original name was Panic). One thing I started doing was to sing the word "hello" at her when I was reaching out to try and pet her, and it seemed to make a big difference in her willingness to be touched. So, I wanted to give some credit to little Pan Pan for inspiring me to do that tune.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Wonderwall (Oasis)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
*Hello (Lionel Richie)
The Worst (Rolling Stones)
Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
Dusty Rhodes (Lotus Plaza)
*Fall In (Pixx)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Half Moon Bay (Sun Kil Moon)
*Right Hand Man (Joan Osborne)
Radio Free Europe (R.E.M.)

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

Big thanks to all who came out to the show last night, with special mention of the people who helped support it!
ErikKottzen Resident, Triana Caldera, Kat Claxton, DianaConway Resident, TheaDee Resident, and Serenity Gardens's great management team of Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!

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