Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Serenity Gardens (01.27.20)

A small but happy crowd at Serenity Gardens enjoys the Zak Show. Photo by Kat.

I definitely want to tell you about last night's show at Serenity Gardens, but first I want to write a few words about Kobe Bean Bryant.

The start of Sunday was a pretty typical weekend morning for me. It was my first actual weekend in a long time, with my recent trade show behind me, and I was looking forward to relaxing (which, I'm happy to say, I successfully did for the most part). Saturday had been very chill, with a lot of time kicking back and taking care of a few things that I'd been unable to do with all the work that makes up the start of each January for me. I restrung one of my guitars, played some video games, took care of some house stuff, and everything was fine. Sunday started similarly, though I did make a run to the grocery store out of necessity. But then, like many people around the world, I got slammed with some news that was extremely shocking. I was in another room, and Christina opened the door with a look on her face that told me that some bad news was forthcoming. She paused for a moment.

"Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash," she said solemnly.

Those words didn't make any sense to me. Kobe? Kobe couldn't die. That simply wasn't possible. It had to be some kind of Internet hoax. Kobe was superhuman. He was on a different level than everyone else. He was the person who fought through every challenge, who not only endeavored to be great but to be great in comparison to greatness. People like that don't die, do they?

After a moment or two of those kinds of irrational thoughts, I did what most people probably did when they heard the news... I started scouring Twitter and other Internet sources for information. The news didn't get any better as the day went on, especially after getting confirmation that Kobe's daughter GiGi was also killed in the accident, along with a number of other people who'd been in the helicopter traveling from Orange County to Thousand Oaks. It was entirely depressing. I'm not sure how the impact of his passing is around the world and across the USA, but here in the Los Angeles area, it's particularly devastating. I actually found myself glad that my father, who passed away in 2017, was not around to experience this. He, like I, was a huge admirer of Kobe, and we spent many conversations over the years talking about Kobe's drive to greatness.

I was aware of Kobe even before he entered the NBA in 1996, at the time the youngest player in history to do so. I followed his career moment by moment, watching him play with a style that had never been seen before in the NBA. It's said that when he and the rest of the NBA players who made up the 2008 USA Olympic basketball team went to Beijing, every other player was simply astounded at Kobe's work ethic. It had always been the case, but to see it there in person was mind blowing to the other all-star players. As an athlete, Kobe was always a level above those around him.

I know very well that Kobe wasn't perfect. There are no perfect humans. I know that some people will dwell only on what they perceive are the negative actions he may have taken, and that's okay. I'm in no way negating that viewpoint. I suppose the only thing I would say in that regard is to take a close look at your entire life... everything you've done that's been good for other people, and bad for other people. Ask yourself if you will be remembered for only one aspect of your life, be it good or bad. And be honest; I'm talking about your entire life, from childhood to this moment. Again, there are no perfect people. If you are going to be remembered, I hope for your sake that a) the good you did far outweighed the bad and b) that the positive impacts you had are those that were the most meaningful to the largest number of people.

To wrap this up, just for the sake of documenting the feeling that Kobe's death has left on myself and my fellow people in the greater Los Angeles area, here's the usually jovial Jimmy Fallon in the opening of the Tonight Show last night. Like Jimmy and a lot of people, I don't shed tears for Kobe the great athlete, but rather for Kobe the great person. Flawed, but great nonetheless.

The Show
I didn't say shit about Kobe as any part of my show last night, because frankly, a lot of people have said a lot of things, and I just needed a little time where there was no focus on tragedy and negativity. All I did was play music and chat with the crowd, and have what I consider to be a pretty typical Zak Show. I found that I hadn't been being very adventurous in my set lists lately, and while I didn't pull out any brand new (to me) tunes, I did reach a little deeper into my repertoire and played a good percentage of tunes that went beyond the safe zone of songs with which everyone was already familiar.

I want to say that when I do that, it's on purpose, and it comes with a risk. People are creatures of comfort, and almost nothing is more comfortable than hearing a song that you've heard hundreds of times before. The risk is that a lot of people don't want live music shows to be challenging to them as a listener. There's nothing wrong with that, but it definitely explains why the more well-attended shows are generally by those artists who do familiar pop songs, and that's fine. It's the same thing in the real world, where beloved pop artists will sell out stadiums while lesser-known indie artists perform at small clubs and theaters. What I will say is that I'm very, very happy to offer some music that appeals to people who, like myself, enjoy the process of discovery as much as they do hearing well-performed music in general. On many occasions, through my SL shows I've turned people on to artists they might have never otherwise known about, and they became big fans of that music. That genuinely makes me proud, and I have no plans of doing my shows any other way.

Me, rocking the songs that no one knows. Photo by Kat.

Whether the crowds are big or small, Serenity Gardens remains one of the best places to experience live music in Second Life. Photo by Kat.

One other note. While I certainly have every intention of continuing my shows in Second Life, it's also been brought to my attention that with the number of people who no longer participate in SL but had formerly enjoyed my shows there, I need to start expanding my methods of live performance, as I used to do more regularly. This is a hint that sometime very soon, I'll be letting you know about information regarding some non-SL shows I have planned. Perhaps as early as this coming weekend, it might be fun to schedule a live video show. It's been awhile since my last Zak Claxton Happy Fun Show, so don't be surprised when I appear on your Facebook feed.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Doubt It (Zak Claxton)
Never Run Away (Kurt Vile)
Hummingbird (Seals & Crofts)
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (The Police)
Antiphon (Midlake)
It’s Choade My Dear (Connan Mockasin)
Bag of Nothing (They Stole My Crayon)
Peaceful Easy Feeling (Eagles)
Lost Cause (Beck)
We’re Your Friends Man (The Bevis Frond)
What I Got (Sublime)
Rocky Mountain High (John Denver)

Thanks to all who came out to the show, and big-ass thanks to the following who helped support it!
Kat Chauveau, AaronCabottJones Resident, Kat Claxton, Shannyn Fall, elijahem Resident, Trouble Streeter, Grace McDunnough, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Serenity Gardens (01.13.20)

It was great to be back at Serenity Gardens, doing my Zak thing. Photo by Kat.

Well hello there, readers. It's my first post of a new decade. Or is it?

Time is weird, and no matter what you think about it, you're almost certainly wrong. What time is it now? Depends on where you are. And what is "now"? Is it when I'm writing these words? Is it when you're reading them? If you read this again later, is it still "now"? If you want to go deep into the abstract aspects of time, it goes all the way up to the theories of Albert Einstein that prove that time and space are relativistic, rather than the same for everyone at every point in the universe. Time is literally different depending on the frame of reference of the observer. If I was flying in an orbit around a black hole, for example, time would seem normal to me. But if you were watching me from a distance, I would appear to slow down and eventually seem to nearly stop. That's gravitational time dilation, and we've reached a point in technology here on Earth that absolutely proves it, with our manmade satellites having to be recalibrated to account for these differences in order to function for things like GPS navigation functions.

But we're not talking about anything as cool as that. Instead, this argument is the rather pedestrian aspect of calendars, and when we actual mark the start of decades and centuries and the like. There's a valid argument that, for example, the 21st century didn't begin on January 1, 2000, but rather on January 1, 2001. This is true because the first year of the Gregorian calendar was 1 AD, and... yeah, I get it, but it's all really silly to me. The thing I can say with certainty is that decade references like "the '90s" are aligned with their numbers, running in that example from 1990-1999. So, I am pretty confident that we are now in the '20s, making this the first post of the decade. So, we're back where we started when I began this post.

The NAMM Show
Every January for me since 1993 -- 27 years ago, astoundingly -- my life gets somewhat taken over by the preparation and execution of something called The NAMM Show. It's a huge trade show for the music and audio products industry, the area of business that's kept a roof over my head ever since I got out of college. NAMM is such a large and important event that companies in my industry often start preparing for it in the summertime to be sure to be ready for it in January. On my end of things -- marketing and advertising and public relations and the like -- my first NAMM deadlines for this year's show were all the way back in early November, and almost every day between then and now have had some NAMM-related task to accomplish. It's a massive undertaking and getting ready for it can make for a super stressful time of year.

However, most of the stress involved is in the preparation for the show, rather than the show itself. Once I roll into the convention center, I'm usually feeling pretty good about things, and all of the planning and organization and creation of the content that I do for my job is well received. While experiencing a little bit of anticipatory anxiety is pretty normal for most people exhibiting at a large trade show, I have gotten better over the years at not allowing it to overwhelm me, and while I am definitely looking forward to its successful conclusion as I do every year, I don't have any of the pointless dread that I've felt going into the show as I used to experience when I was younger. I think things will be fine.

Back to Serenity
So, what would have been my previous show at Serenity Gardens was scheduled during the time that Ilsa Flannigan shuts down for the holidays, and the show two weeks before that was when I was in the midst of a round of bronchitis, which forced me to do an hour-long story reading rather than a musical performance. It had therefore been six weeks since the last time I was able to do a full-on Zak Show at Serenity, and I was definitely ready to get back up on that stage and do what I do.

Ilsa tends to redecorate Serenity Gardens based on the seasons, while still leaving the recognizable aspects of the structure in place. It looked great for my show. Photo by Kat.

I was a little concerned about my voice after a couple of rounds of illnesses, but it held up fine and everyone seemed to have a good time. Photo by Kat.

Just me. Photo by Kat.

The show went really well. Since I am still partially recovering from the cold I got right after the bronchitis (yeah, it's been a fun season of sickness), I was a little concerned about how my voice would hold up, but it turned out that everything felt great as I was launching into my first song, and stayed that way throughout. Given the circumstances of my time and attention being pulled in fifty direction due to my upcoming trade show, I knew this particular set at Serenity wasn't the best time to try and add new songs, but that's something I look forward to doing at subsequent shows. By the time of my next show there, on Monday January 27, my voice should be sufficiently recovered from NAMM to try some new stuff then. We'll see if my sanity is equally recovered to follow through on this.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Wonderwall (Oasis)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Help Me (Joni Mitchell)
Dead Flowers (Rolling Stones)
Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
Adia (Sarah McLachlan)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Pickles (Zak Claxton)
Don’t Let It Pass (Junip)
She Keeps Me Warm (Mary Lambert)
Shame Chamber (Kurt Vile)

Big thanks to everyone who came to Serenity Gardens for the show, and special judos to the following who helped support it!
Kat Chauveau, Bee Blackrain, Trouble Streeter, Sesh Kamachi, Kat Claxton, Kitzie Lane, Skeat Abonwood, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!