Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Serenity Gardens (01.14.19)

Always a good time with good people at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Triana Caldera.

It was six weeks since my last Monday night show at Serenity Gardens, and I'm happy to say that my return to that excellent live music venue in Second Life was outstanding. But before I talk about that, I want to talk about something extraordinarily silly: men who are upset over a razor commercial.

On Sunday, Gillette unveiled a new ad campaign entitled "We Believe: The Best Men Can Be". You can watch it below.

I don't think any analysis of the message of this campaign is necessary. Gillette is quite clear in stating that society's acceptance of terrible behavior by men is no longer being tolerated. This sounds like a positive message to me. However, as can almost be counted upon in this era of the easily-offended, it's incredibly ironic that the injured parties in this case are the very men who claim to have some overwhelming level of masculinity. In essence, their tremendous level of outrage is precisely what they claim to be too manly to feel. Look, if their feelings are hurt by this ad, that's okay. But please, someone fill them in on the irony of feeling bullied by an anti-bullying campaign. Let them know that if they react as being harassed by an anti-harassment ad, they might need to take a look in the mirror, and that's really the message of the ad... which means it's a successful campaign.

All that having been said, is Gillette now a "good" company? Um... no. They are a division of Proctor & Gamble, a massive multi-national corporation whose goal, understandably, is to sell products at a high profit margin. Like all companies of this size, there is a huge discrepancy at P&G between the compensation of their top executives versus the income/benefits of the majority of the rest of their employees. I'm not singling out P&G in this regard; we all understand that as businesses have been merged and consolidated, wealth and income disparity has continued to grow, and the effects are devastating America.

Regardless of that, I do want to applaud Gillette for taking a risk and putting this message out to the public. Keep in mind that the men who are up in arms about this are the same ones who claimed they'd burn their Nikes, smash their Harley-Davidsons, and so on. These walking anachronisms will have something else that offends their sensitive souls soon enough.

And Now, Back to the Show
I was stoked to be getting back onstage at Serenity Gardens. As I mentioned during my set, it's kind of become my "home venue" over the course of the past year and a half since I started my bi-weekly shows there in June 2017. While I certainly enjoy playing at a variety of different venues, each with their own strengths and unique vibe, I am extremely comfortable doing shows at Serenity, and that level of familiarity is reflected in the shows I do there. I enjoy the crowds who attend, and the management team who helps make the venue have a nice, welcoming feel. I also like how Ilsa Flannigan changes up the decor of the place relatively often. The latest iteration of Serenity Gardens looks outstanding, while maintaining the peaceful outdoor pavilion vibe it's always had.

My great friend Diana Renoir, who was celebrating a rezday at the show. Photo by Triana Caldera.

Me being me. Photo by Triana Caldera.

is it really any wonder why my song "Pickles" is so popular at Serenity Gardens with these crazy cat ladies running the place? Photo by Triana Caldera.

We had a happy and engaged crowd last night, which is usually the case. I have made a mental note to always have my silly original song "Pickles" handy at future Serenity shows, because I can count on it being requested there. I didn't have it in my lyric list last night, which is why I blanked on the entire second verse while trying to do it from memory. Apart from that, I continued my goal of trying to do something new at each show, and last night I was thrilled to pull out songs by José González and Yawning Man, two artists/bands whose music I really enjoy but had yet to perform.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Loading Zones (Kurt Vile)
Accidents Will Happen (Elvis Costello)
*Crosses (José González)
Words (Missing Persons)
*Catamaran (Yawning Man)
Cheer Up Murray (Flight of the Conchords)
Pickles (Zak Claxton)
Carolina in my Mind (James Taylor)
California Dreamin' (The Mamas & The Papas)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Sleeper in the Valley (Laura Veirs)
America (Simon & Garfunkel)
*Serenity Improv V (Zak Claxton)

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

Big happy thanks to everyone who attended the show, with super duper thanks to the following who helped support it!
Pato Milo, Joseph111 Trafalgar and Lyin, go2smoky Resident, Diana Renoir, Asimia Heron, Aurelie Chenaux, Triana Caldera, TheaDee Resident, my superb manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Lutz City of Templemore (01.11.19)

Another great crowd and amazing virtual venue environment at Lutz City of Templemore. All photos by Kat.

Happy New Year! It actually feels very long into the new year to be writing those words, but since I have slacked on this blog through the entire holidays, this is my first post of 2019, so there you go. I would have at least posted had I done a live music show in the recent time frame... but I didn't. On Saturday December 15 -- four weeks ago today -- I awoke with the hideous realization that simply by "sleeping wrong", I'd injured my lower back badly. At the time, I'd had a show scheduled for the following Monday, but there was no possible way I could stand and hold/play a guitar. I could barely move for awhile. The back injury, as innocuously as it started, was so severe that I am still getting over it even now (though I should add that via exercise and various treatment, it's a lot better).

All that having been said, it was earlier this week that out of the blue, my buddy Luis reached out to me on Facebook to see if I was interested in performing at Lutz City of Templemore. There are very few circumstances in which I would say no to that offer. I love everything about the place... the incredibly beautiful design, the people who visit, and the way everyone associated with the place has a true love for interesting music. I accepted immediately.

Coming Back After a Hiatus
So, as a result of the back injury and breaks for the holidays, my previous show before this one was on December 3. That's about a month and a half of no shows, which is plenty long enough to be considered a hiatus. Performing live music is a multifaceted activity with both physical and mental aspects, and like many things in life, jumping back in after a break isn't always easy. For my fellow performing musicians, I'd say there are two factors that you should consider to prepare before your comeback show.

First, the physical side. Starting with singing, which involves a lot of muscle memory to hit your pitches accurately, you should plan on a lot more warm-up than you might usually do. Start slow, though! The last thing you want to do is strain your vocal chords in advance of your show. At some point in the days preceding your return, you should try going through an entire set. Just because you can hit some notes for a few minutes doesn't mean you're ready to sing for a solid hour. Same goes with your instrument... during your time off, you may have lost some of the dexterity you'd had while playing regularly, so give yourself some time to really warm up those hands. Go through the songs that you're sure you know by heart (but do it anyway). Oh, and my fellow guitar players might need to do a little extra practice to toughen up those callouses.

Second, the mental side. Performers who take time off almost invariably start losing the confidence that develops naturally from the reinforcement of performing on a regular basis. A confident performer isn't worried about hitting the notes or playing the parts, so their focus can get into the little details and nuances of the songs and the performance itself... and also have a good time while doing it. Your audience can hear confidence, I can promise. I'm fortunate in that I started playing live music in front of people when I was a little kid, and have done hundreds and hundreds of shows both real and virtual environments. It would take a lot longer than six weeks to make me lose faith in my ability to perform and entertain. In this regard, though, if you get a little nervous before a comeback show, it's pretty easy to use some Spock-like logic to remind yourself of the simple idea that you've done this before, you enjoyed it, your audience enjoyed it, and it's what you want to keep doing.

Always so many details to notice at Templemore. Photo by Kat.

Doing my thing on that beautiful stage. Photo by Kat.

What a great place for both performers and audience alike. Photo by Kat.

New Year, New Tunes
As long as I was doing my first show of 2019, I figured I'd kick off the year with some previously-unperformed songs. For Christmas, my mom gave me a completely unexpected and beyond-rad gift: the Pendleton sweater made famous by Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski. It's one of my favorite films of all time, and I was watching the end scene, with Sam Elliott doing his "the Dude abides" monologue, and suddenly realized that I'd never once played "Dead Flowers". It's not one of my favorite Stones songs, but Townes Van Zandt's cover used in the film is fucking phenomenal. So, I covered his cover. For my two other new-to-me songs, they were actually really new. Kurt Vile's album Bottle It In came out in October, and The Bevis Frond's latest came out on December.

Wearing my Dude sweater with Kat on New Year's Eve.

Lutz City of Templemore set list...
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Pecan Pie (Golden Smog)
Don’t Let It Pass (Junip)
*We’re Your Friends, Man (The Bevis Frond)
Say Goodbye (Beck)
*Dead Flowers (Rolling Stones)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
*Loading Zones (Kurt Vile)
Luis and the Man (Jose Feliciano)
Underwater Underground (They Stole My Crayon)
Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell)
Trouble Child (Joni Mitchell)
Texarkana (R.E.M.)

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

Huge thanks to everyone who came out to beautiful Templemore to let me rock you, with extra-special love sauce to the following who supported the show!
Toxic Darkmatter, Nishiyo Resident, go2smoky Resident, Kat Claxton, Asimia Heron, Grace Sixpence, Aurelie Chenaux, TheaDee Resident, my fine manager Maali Beck, Templemore's excellent hostess Bee Blackrain, and the genius designer who makes that place what it is, Luis Lockjaw!