Sunday, September 20, 2020

Templemore 10-Year Anniversary (09.19.20)

There's never been a more visually fascinating place for live music in Second Life compared to Templemore. Photo by Kat.

Fact: For the first time in many, many years, I've finished a live show in Second Life and I do not, repeat, do not have another show on my schedule. Like, at all. Nothing. Nada. For all I know, that may have been the last show I will ever play.

I am relatively sure this is not true, and that more likely than not, I will be adding some shows to my SL performance schedule in the near future. But at this very moment, my calendar is tabula rasa... a vast expanse of nothingness as it unfurls through the infinite reaches of time. In any case, were my show on Saturday as part of the two-day 10th anniversary celebration of Templemore the last one I ever did, I'd have to admit that I went out on a high note.

The posters promoting the two-day 10th anniversary events at Templemore. As you can see, some of the best performers in SL are included here... no surprise considering that Templemore regularly features many of SL's most talented and popular live musicians.

Before I Forget
There are a lot of things going on in the world right now. The passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the earthquake that awoke me on Friday night, the lifestyle changes I'm dealing with as a result of a recent medical situation, my next door neighbor with COVID, the total insanity as we move closer and closer to the 2020 election... and I'm not going to talk about any of that right now. I will eventually. Just not here or now. I'm just gonna focus on something positive for the moment, which is the show I just did.

A Few Words on Templemore
Literally dozens of times, I've written about the wonder that is Templemore, a Second Life environment that is comprised of perhaps the most beautiful and awe-inspiring designs in the entire virtual world platform. At a bunch of different venue builds, I believe I've played at Templemore more often than any other location where I didn't have a regularly-scheduled show. If you feel like it, you can read about some of the Templemore shows over the years, from my first one on February 2014 where I recall being astonished at the detail level of the design, to subsequent shows like this one in 2015 where I began to really appreciate the level of genius in how Luis Lockjaw was innovating the look of virtual worlds beyond anyone else I knew. Luis has become a true friend over the years... someone who I can appreciate on a basic human level as well as the respect I have for his tremendous, awe-inspiring creativity.

My view from the Templemore stage. Photo by Kat.

I never know when I'm going to be playing at Templemore next, which makes it a sweet surprise each time my manager Maali Beck, or occasionally Luis himself, lets me know that there's an upcoming event there with my name on the marquee. It's funny because I really never feel like one of the cool kids in SL, and trust me, most of the people who perform at or attend shows at Templemore in its various iterations are indeed among the glitterati of Second Life; fashion designers and bloggers and models and whoever else passes for celebrities in the virtual world. 

Why Me?
I think the factor that keeps Luis bringing me back there over and over is that the songs I choose to do there are those that would represent a proper soundtrack to the vibe of Templemore in general. There's no single specific musical theme or genre or style I choose for Templemore. I try and do songs there that impart some emotional vibe, and what I'm feeling at the moment influences my set list choices as much as anything. But I try and do songs that impart some feelings, as if Templemore was a movie set and I was there to do a live soundtrack. I think Luis and Whata and Bee and the other folks who allow me to play there have an awareness that I do make that effort. They get it.

It's probably going to be a long time before SL audiences see me without a mask on... about the same time frame before, say, people in the grocery store see me unmasked. Photo by Kat.

I always feel like the crowd at Templemore shows appreciate what I'm playing there. Photo by Kat.

Luis and some of his friends watch the show from the VIP balcony. Photo by Kat.

Templemore Award
As I was about to start my show on Saturday, Luis dropped something in my inventory that I was unable to check out until after my show. When I did, I couldn't believe it; he'd created an award trophy for the 10th anniversary event performers that matched the larger one which was situated on the stage for the event. It has a personalized plaque on it, and I couldn't be happier to be a recipient. I will keep it on display with pride.

The inscription reads: "In recognition of an ongoing commitment to provide phenomenal live music, thank you for making our stages rumble at Templemore." I absolutely love this. My deepest gratitude to Luis and all the Templemore team!

Wait... Last Show? What's That All About?
Yeah, so... as I mentioned in my previous post, due to economic issues related to the pandemic, Serenity Gardens is taking a hiatus from hosting shows on their big main stage venue where I've performed bi-weekly since Spring 2017. I'm hopeful that perhaps in early 2021, they can get it back in operation and I'll happily return to their stage at the earliest opportunity.

I have very purposefully not been overextending myself in regard to booking SL shows, something my manager Maali has been understanding about over the years we've worked together. My real life is very busy on many levels, and I simply don't have time to do multiple SL shows per week as I once did for years and years. That being said, I do want to get some shows on my schedule at some point, and Maali and I will figure out some appropriate place that would like to have me perform there. No big thing. It'll happen.

After all these years, Templemore still blows my mind. Photo by Kat.

After I wrapped up my set on Saturday, I did something that I've enjoyed previously following a few of my own performances at Templemore: I hung out to see Oblee play. While I respect the abilities of many SL performers, Oblee is truly enjoyable to me, and his loop-based performance style is great. I've come to enjoy a number of his originals (which, frankly, is all he usually plays), and listening to his show is a great way to settle down and unwind after mine.

Templemore set list...
Crosses (Jose Gonzales)
Barely Breathing (Duncan Sheik)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
The Waiting Boy (Zak Claxton)
Autumn Sunglasses (Robyn Hitchcock)
Pecan Pie (Golden Smog)
River Man (Nick Drake)
A Case of You (Joni Mitchell)
Dead Flowers (Rolling Stones)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Right Down the Line (Gerry Rafferty)
Try (Neil Young)

Thanks to every single person who hung out for my show at the 10-year Templore anniversary event, with special thanks to the following people who helped support it!

Lo Bloch, ZackLightman Resident, go2smoky Resident, Kat Claxton, Nina Brandenburg, Dreams Riler, Trouble Streeter, FallenAurora Jewell, Asimia Heron, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and Templemore's incredible management and staff, Whata Conundrum, Luis Lockjaw, and Bee Blackrain!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Serenity Gardens (09.07.20)

Beautiful Serenity Gardens. What a lovely spot for live music in the virtual world! Hopefully, this wasn't my last show there for awhile. Photo by Kat.

For some reason, throughout my time performing live music in Second Life (which is going on 14 years, incredibly), I've had a disproportionate number of my shows on Monday evenings. Going back to the late 2000s when I was doing a Monday night show at Crystal Sands all the way through my recent years doing my regular bi-weekly at Serenity Gardens, for some reason Monday has been my night. Unlike real life, where many live music venues are quiet or closed on Mondays, it's a really good night to play in SL. Think about it. In pre-pandemic times, lots of people go out and do things on Friday and Saturday nights, Sundays are often times to chill with family, or watch video entertainment and so on. So Monday is a time where they've started up the work week, and enjoy getting into some virtual world fun to take their minds off reality for a bit.

Labor Day... What Is It?
Anyway, as a result, I often find myself performing at the tail end of a holiday weekend, as I did last night on Labor Day. What is Labor Day, other than a reason for a three-day weekend and the symbolic end of summer (although, I should add, it's been hot as hell lately and feels nothing like fall, and summer doesn't actually end for two more weeks)? 

In the late 1800s, leaders of trade unions in the USA decided that there should be some official recognition of the year-round work of the laboring classes. It became a federal holiday in 1894 and has been celebrated ever since. Contrary to popular belief, I am not any kind of communist nor a socialist in the traditional sense, but I can tell you this: if it wasn't for the efforts of those union workers, you'd have no such thing as a weekend, much less a holiday dedicated to the working class. You'd also have no child labor laws nor any legal rights as a worker, so I applaud the efforts of those early union leaders to greatly improve the lifestyles of all Americans since then.

Let's Talk About Thomas Dolby
I'm a sort of minor-level expert about pop music history and its effect on culture. One thing that I see over and over is the mistaken application of the label "one-hit wonder" to certain artists. Here's the thing: first, it's often wrong. Artists may have had one really massive hit that everyone remembers, but also had some others that were just lower on the level of mass public recognition. Here's another thing: that artist may have created other music that while not being commercially successful for them, was highly influential and was the inspiration for other music the you know and love. And here's the final thing: that "one-hit wonder" artist or band may indeed have done other things in music that you have no idea about until you dig in a little deeper to their contributions.

So... Thomas Dolby. English musician, big in the early '80s. Obviously (to me, anyway) super interesting, with a unique and identifiable sound that combined synth pop with art rock with dance pop. Especially here in the USA, the majority of people who know him at all do so through his very catchy, bouncy, quirky new wave hit "She Blinded Me with Science", which had a popular music video that MTV played in high rotation.

Thomas Dolby's debut album The Golden Age of Wireless was definitely impactful for me when I was in 10th grade. He seemed to be making music that was much more interesting than other pop stuff that was big at the time.

You should note right away that on his first couple of albums, he also had some other somewhat popular songs like "Europa and the Pirate Twins" and "Hyperactive!", so that kind of ends the validity of the "one-hit wonder" label for Dolby. But because he didn't have a very long-lasting career as a pop star, he's rarely recognized as such form this vantage point of some 35 years later. But Thomas Dolby had some other stuff going on. First, he was a hugely in-demand session musician. He played synths and keyboards on a wide range of music from artists and bands like Thompson Twins, Whodini, Foreigner, and Def Leppard. But in his post-pop career, he also formed a music technology company that allowed for polyphonic tones to be delivered over cell phones, and was a very early innovator in the world of virtual reality... something that obviously impacts me directly as a musician who primarily performs in the 3D virtual world of Second Life.

Why am I telling you all this? Simply because last night, for the first time, I performed one of my favorite lesser-known cuts from Thomas Dolby... "Airwaves", off his debut solo album The Golden Age of Wireless. It's a lushly beautiful song that's been a favorite of mine for many years, and I was glad to finally try a rendition on it (though I must say, doing Thomas Dolby's synth-focused music as a solo acoustic guitar artist is challenging to say the least).

Serenity Gardens... Is This the End?
I have no idea if what I'm about to write will be true or not. Since Spring 2017, I've really enjoyed my bi-weekly Monday night shows at Serenity Gardens. In fact, with my schedule of life being as busy as it is, that show at SG is literally the only regularly scheduled show I've done in Second Life over the past couple of years, which is exactly as I prefer.

But as we all know, a) the world has been in the grip of a pandemic for most of 2020, which has had a huge economic impact, and b) it can be expensive and time-consuming to run a live music venue in Second Life (or, really, any life). Via discussions I've had with Serenity Gardens owner Ilsa Flannigan, it may be the case that the venue will be forced to undergo a longterm hiatus, perhaps through the end fo 2020 or longer. If that's the case, I completely respect Ilsa's decision.

The two ladies above have, for me, been the center of my 100+ shows at Serenity Gardens: my hostess Tilly Rose (left), and SG owner Ilsa Flannigan (right). They both do excellent work to keep that place appealing and welcoming for all who visit. Photo by Kat.

However, as of yet, she's made no formal announcement of this, and it's impossible to predict how things will go. My only reason for writing about this now is that it's been a terrific run there for well over three years -- a long time by SL standards -- and if it were to end now, I'd have nothing but good feelings about Ilsa and her lovely venue, and the people who host shows there and come there to be entertained. It's been great all-around. I've often said, and meant it, that I've never had a bad show there.

Me, onstage and masked as a reminder to anyone who thinks they can resume normal pre-pandemic life. It's still gonna be quite awhile before that's true. Photo by Kat.

Another super fun night at Serenity Gardens. Beautiful place in every way. Photo by Kat.

My view from the stage. Photo by Kat.

The Show, Though
No surprise... the show itself on the Monday evening of Labor Day went great. We had a nice and enthusiastic crowd, and in addition to the Thomas Dolby song mentioned above, I pulled out a classic Jethro Tull tune that I hadn't done before. I always enjoy surprising people with new material that I choose to do in advance of my shows.

Serenity Gardens set list...
It's Easy Like Walking (The Sadies w/Kurt Vile)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
*Cross-Eyed Mary (Jethro Tull)
Pancho & Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
Doubt It (Zak Claxton)
*Airwaves (Thomas Dolby)
Love Hurts (Everly Brothers)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Pickles (Zak Claxton)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
Who Do You Love? (Bo Diddley)

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

Big thanks to everyone who came to the show, with special giant thanks to the following who helped support it!
Trouble Streeter, AaronCabottJones Resident, Kat Chauveau, Lauralynn Foxtrot, ColdAsh Resident, Grace McDunnough, RenoJones Resident, Natasea Resident, Gloriana Maertens, Alex Zelin, Kat Claxton, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!