Sunday, August 29, 2010

Coyote (08.28.10)

An interesting observation from yesterday's show at COYOTE: when you hold a show at a venue where you only have events once every six months or so, it's hard to scare up a crowd. People tend to go where they've been before, and that's as true in the physical world as it is in the virtual. You go to a place once that's fun or interesting in some way, and it becomes a hangout, whether it's a coffee shop in real life, or a forum or sim while you're online.

Anyway, that's all a good preamble/excuse as to why we had about 5-6 people who came by the show yesterday. COYOTE is a club that Kat and I own in SL, and is criminally underused. In fact, it was through the realization that the last event we held there was in December 2009 that we decided to schedule a Zak Show for Saturday. However, being that it was on a Saturday (with roughly 75 other live music events happening at the same time), and it was at a place almost no one has heard of, we didn't exactly have a packed house.

Is there anybody out there? At least Aurelie and Diana, apparently.

Despite that, I actually had a great time, since it gave me an excuse to pull out a batch of songs that I haven't been able to perform in ages. Since Kat, Diana, and Aurelie come to so many of my shows, and most of them have lately had me exclusively performing my original music, I decided to give them a shot of variety by throwing down a ton of covers, and weird ones at that. In fact, I only did a few of my tunes on request. Who know what I might have played otherwise? Not me.

Coyote Set List...

Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
We Are The Champions (Queen)
What I Got (Sublime)
*On The Way Home (Buffalo Springfield)
Nowhere Man (Beatles)
Six Underground (Sneaker Pimps)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
†50 Ways To Leave Your Lover (Paul Simon)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (The Police)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
†I've only played this once before in SL, on June 9, 2008.

Thanks to Diana Renoir, Aurelie Chenaux, Shellie Sands, my darling Kat, and the few other people who popped by the show! It was fun. Sparse, but fun.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Report: Zak Live on StreamJam ep. V (08.25.10)


For my fifth straight week on StreamJam, the show was once again fun on multiple fronts. For one thing, it was my friend Diana's birthday, so we had a special birthday introduction to my song "Shine" (her favorite). I had some great pals show up in the audience, and the guitar and voice seemed to be working okay, so I'm really pretty much alright with the whole night.

ZC LIve on SJ #5 Set List...
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Go Easy On Me (Zak Claxton)
Happy Birthday/Shine (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Triana (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)

Huge thanks to all my great friends who came by and checked out the show! Next episode is in two weeks on Wed. 9/8!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Molaskey's Pub (08.23.10)

Photos courtesy of Triana Caldera.

Well, it was another typically fun show at Molaskey's. I generally expect things to go well there; like I said during the show, it's a venue run by true music lovers, and you can't ask for anything more than that in SL.

After a slew of all-original shows, it was also lovely to play a few songs other than my own! Don't get me wrong; I like my stuff. Really I do. But after a full month of shows doing nothing but Zak Tunes, it was a nice refreshing breath of air to do someone else's songs for a change! I decided to make it a special day of it by adding a cover I'd never done before, which was fun too.

Molaskey's set list du jour...
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
*Black Crow (Joni Mitchell)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Go Easy On Me (Zak Claxton)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)

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

Here's a cool random screencap posted on Facebook by Nasus Dumart after the show. I liked it.

Huge thanks to all who helped support my show at Molaskey's today!
Diana Renoir, Triana Caldera, Thinkerer Melville, Horizon Darkstone, Blake Eros, Ani Davidov, Kat Claxton, and the great Molaskey's staff Mia Kitchensink, Katydid Something, and Apple MacKay!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pixel Hill Celebration (08.21.10)

A few days ago, my buddy Blindboy Gumbo sent me a message.

"oi Zakster..Lexie Luan is organising a Pixel Hill benefit thing this comin weekend..without Harrie if ya can play an fancy it ya know who to talk to"

Blindboy is from the UK. I know, it's hard to tell. :)

Anyway, I immediately jumped at the chance to lend my friend Harrie Skjellerup a hand for this surprise benefit show. She is one of a very, very short list of people who have been phenomenally helpful to the live music scene in SL, via both her ownership of the Pixel Hill venues and her support of THE ORIGINALS network of SL musicians who play original music. As it turns out, I'm really glad to have taken this show for numerous reasons.

• First and foremost, helping Harrie out after all the help she's given me and the other musicians in SL.
• I hadn't done an SL show in over a month and it was high time I got back to rocking the grid.
• The crowd was fantastic, and the sim was packed to the max the entire time I was there.

Playing for the big crowd of serious live music lovers on the Waterstage at PIxel Hill.

Kat and I enjoying the performances of other artists like Pol Arida, Lexie Luan, and Bara Jonson.

Harrie has been having connection problems and couldn't be there for her own benefit show but for more than a few minutes at a time. Luckily, Kat snapped the show when she was able to get in for a moment.

As Pixel Hill is a place for original artists, I stuck to a short set of Zak tunes during my half hour show. I also did the SL premiere of my latest tune "Go Easy On Me". The set list...

You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
*Go Easy On Me (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)

*Indicates the first time I have played this song in SL.

Thanks to everyone who came, and to everyone who helped support Harrie and Pixel Hill! Terrific show!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Report: Zak Live on StreamJam ep. IV (08.18.10)


For my fourth show on StreamJam (the live music app for Facebook), I... played music!

Seriously, I didn't have any particular theme for the show. Just a night of playing and singing, and having fun with my small but mighty crowd. Everything went well, and while I know this doesn't sound like a stellar review, it was an unremarkable ZK show. I played and sang generally well, people had a good time. No complaints. I did perform "Waxing Gibbous" for the first time on StreamJam, since a) it was the last original Zak Song that I had yet to do there, and b) the actual moon above me was in waxing gibbous phase, so it seemed appropriate.

ZC LIve on SJ IV Set List...

Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Go Easy On Me (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
*Waxing Gibbous (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)

*Indicates my first performance of this song on StreamJam

Next week (Wed. Aug 25) is my last scheduled show on StreamJam. That doesn't mean I won't do more in the future; I'm nearly sure I will. But it is the end of the Beta test period that the StreamJam makers scheduled for us artists, and I'm not 100% clear on what their plans are after the Beta ends at the beginning of September. At some point, I'm sure I'll hear from Sibley Verbeck and Jason Mirvis of the Electric Sheep Company in this regard, who have been good at maintaining communication with the performers thus far.

Regardless of that, massive thanks to the folks who came out last night. I hope you had as much fun as me. If not, I'm doing something wrong. But I don't think I am. Good times.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Five random things and stuff

Hello, faithful readers. Good to see you here again. As you know, most of my blog posts are about something, but this one isn't! Here's a series of random thoughts that might mean something to someone.

Yes, I have new songs. They're coming together well, though I wish a couple of them would hurry up and get out of my brain. It's sort of like having a baby (minus the pain and amniotic fluid) in that you can't push the song out before it's ready, but by the time it does come, your patience is at the end of its rope, and you are exhausted from the attempts to deliver it.

Working on new songs: effort is big, payoff is bigger.

I've recently performed my newest complete tune, "Go Easy On Me" a couple of times on my StreamJam show, and it seems to be well received. However, I have another 6-7 songs that are basically done, but need some work on lyrics here, on a bridge there, and so on. Damn near every day, I start to work on those songs, and realize that I'm forcing the process (which tends to result in a sub-par finished product), and I stop. If it goes anything like previous attempts, I'll end up wrapping up a bunch of them at once. It'll happen when it happens.

Because of my shows on StreamJam, I have been really negligent about scheduling shows in Second Life. There could be more to it than that, I suppose; I've been harboring some passive-aggressive feelings about SL in general ever since Viewer 2 came out, which really disappointed me in its obvious lack of support for live events. But regardless, I've never stopped enjoying the actual shows themselves, so I decided to get off my ass and book myself at a few places, with more to come.

Here's a list of upcoming Zak Shows (all times are Pacific):

• Wed 8/18, 7PM: StreamJam on Facebook
• Sat 8/21, 1PM: Special Secret Show in SL
• Mon 8/23, 5PM: Molaskey's Pub (SL)
• Wed 8/25, 7PM: StreamJam on Facebook
• Tue 8/31, 4PM: Bryant & Stratton College (SL)
• Friday 9/3, 3PM: Buy Me A Rose (SL)

I will, as always, post more details about these shows as I can.

(Schwarzenegger voice) Hey SL... I'll be back.

3. Cali
Please. I don't ask for much of you. But this one thing is important: STOP SAYING THE WORD "CALI" when you're describing my home state of California. Absolutely no one in California says Cali (except those who just moved here and don't know better), so automatically, you paint yourself as someone who doesn't know anything about this place when you say that word. We don't call Texas "Texi", or Florida "Flori", or Massachusetts "Massi". You probably already know that you shouldn't use the term "Frisco" to describe San Francisco, nor do people in Manhattan call New York "The Big Apple". Those who do are tourists, and are disdained by the locals much more than if they just called the place by its actual name. Please, for the love of God, eliminate this heinous term from your vocabulary. If you have to abbreviate, use the official state code of CA. Also acceptable: NoCal (for anywhere around Santa Cruz and northwards) and SoCal (for anywhere south of Santa Barbara). But never, ever say or write "Cali" under any circumstances. I thank you.

Seriously. No.

4. Food
I know I'm already late to this party, but as I continue into my 40s, I become more and more aware that depending on who you talk to, all food will kill you. Seriously. There is absolutely nothing to eat that someone won't tell you is going to cause a horrible and painful slow death. Even the most innocuous things -- lettuce comes to mind -- gets an occasional news report of 18 people getting salmonella poisoning from eating it, and dying. My dentist told me to never drink soda or fruit juice, leaving my choice of beverages as either water or water. Red meat will stop your heart, sushi will give you parasites, fish is full of ocean contaminants, chicken and pork will fill you with bacteria and botulism. Seriously, there is nothing left that is safe to eat, ever. The unfortunate side effect of buying into this philosophy is that the things that really are bad, i.e., those full of saturated fats and empty calories, get lumped in with the stuff that's generally pretty good most of the time. The other side effect is that going through life eating horrible-tasting crap is no way to live.

You wouldn't want to eat my steak au poivre every day if you want to live very long. But a life without it (or other delicious meals) would be miserable. Moderation is the key.

The real fact of the matter is that I do eat healthily for the most part, and get plenty of fiber and vitamins from natural sources. Hopefully those won't kill me. That would be an ironic meal indeed.

5. Blogging
Wow, we're getting meta here. I'm blogging about blogging on my blog. But I do occasionally wonder why I do this. I've always been a diarist, going back to my grade school years, so I guess it's pretty normal that I'd use a modern paradigm to do essentially the same thing. I don't try and promote this blog, or make any revenue from it. Why do it? Do I have expectations that there are people out there hanging on my every word? No, in general, I know that only a few people check this blog out from time to time, and I'd do it even if no one ever looked. BUt I have found it to be a good way to keep track of stuff I've done in the past, and every so often it gives me a reasonably valid excuse to stop doing other things I'd rather not be doing and do this instead. I know that's not much a reason to write, but there are worse ways to spend a little time. Trust me, I know.

Here's a pic of my blog on my blog, courtesy of the Department of Redundancy Department.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Report: Zak Live on StreamJam ep. III (08.11.10)


We had a small but extremely fun crowd tonight at my live show on Facebook via StreamJam. Mostly we were joined by the hard-core Zaksters, but as has been happening at these StreamJam shows, we get a few people who otherwise probably wouldn't have taken the time to check out the show, but do because of the ease of being one click away on Facebook. Anyway, it was cool to see a few people who don't get to see me perform very often.

Speaking of performing, I think tonight went really well, and I certainly enjoyed myself (which, of course, is the main reason for playing live music in the first place). We once again did an all-original Zak music show, and I think the song mix worked.

Set list: ZCL III...
Shine (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Go Easy On Me (Zak Claxton)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Lines On Your Eyes (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)

Thanks to everyone who came! See you next week (same Zak time, same Zak channel)!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Michael Gale's Summer Bash 2010 Jam (08.07.10)


The first time I saw Mike Gale, he was on crutches and wearing a cast on his leg... while in the midst of a schoolyard fight.

It was 10th grade, and I was walking toward my class when I saw a brawl break out between two kids. My interest piqued, I stopped and watched, noting that it didn't seem fair given one of them was seemingly crippled. But that kid hopped on his good foot, then took his crutch and swung it with impressive velocity at the other guy's head, who promptly went down hard. As the school security grabbed them and headed toward the office, I asked someone else what the guy's name was, and found out it was Mike Gale. I also found out that Mike liked a lot of the same bands as me back then in 1984 -- namely the Who, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin. I ended up getting a band together with Mike, who turned out to be a singer with his own PA (a rare commodity in high school), and became friends.

Ever since, Mike and I have remained close and have been involved in many musical projects over the years. Yesterday, August 7, he hosted a party at his house in Garden Grove, CA, and invited a collection of his close friends from our teenage years, mostly those with whom we'd been in various bands. So, the result was a collection of experienced and good musicians, and it was a blast playing along.

The lineup, per the video above, included Mike Gale on vocals, Will Mickelson on vocals and guitar, Kirk Makin on guitar, me on keyboards (more on that in a sec), Kevin Hicks on bass, and the amazing Dante Silva on drums and vocals. I actually had a great time getting off the guitar for a change. Keith Richards once made some comment about the piano being a very civilized instrument, since you can sit down and have somewhere to rest your ashtray. I enjoyed being the sideman at this little party show.

I'd be hard-pressed to remember all the stuff we played, but I do recall a few...

Johnny B. Good (Chuck Berry)
Sugaree (Jerry Garcia)
Men Smart Women Smarter (Grateful Dead)
Miss You (Rolling Stones)
Voodoo Child (Jimi Hendrix)
Thank You (Led Zeppelin)
Come On Let The Good Times Roll (Jimi Hendrix)
Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin)
Sunshine of your Love (Cream)
You Really Got Me (The Kinks)

At that point, Kat and I had to take off and make the drive back to the beach we call home. But the whole event was a blast, and it was terrific to see some friends who in some cases I hadn't run into in many years. Thanks for the great times, and see you next year at the next Michael G Summer Bash!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Video: "Waiting for This" live with Bunny Knutson

I took the video feed from my StreamJam show with Bunny last Wednesday night, and mixed in the recording from a camcorder I'd set up for this very purpose, and cobbled together a little live video for my tune "Waiting for This".


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Report: Zak Live on StreamJam ep. II (08.04.10)


Oh. My. God.

My son, perhaps noting the smile plastered across my face after my second live show on Facebook via StreamJam, asked me if that was one of the best shows I'd ever done. I started to explain that I've literally played thousands of gigs, and a lot of them were great in different ways. I thought for a second and said that of all the virtual/remote shows I'd ever done, this was one of my favorites. But then I realized that I really didn't need to qualify my answer: in terms of fun, my show last night, featuring my great friend Bunny Knutson, was indeed in the top echelon of live performances I've ever done in my life.

We had a terrific audience made up of people from nearly every portion of my life, including folks from Second Life, people from various Internet communities, and even old high school pals. It's a great thing about doing a show live on Facebook. Photo courtesy of Delinda Dyrssen.

Where to even begin? I guess at the beginning. As most of you who are reading this are already aware, Bunny is a guy who I've known for about 9-10 years, and is one of those people that have the rare combination of being hilariously funny, unquestionably smart, and supremely talented and creative... and yet remains a humble and sweet person. On the Zak Claxton album I released in December 2009, Bunny played drums on all songs, as well as guitar and vocals on a few tunes.

Introducing Bunny to the crowd.

Bunny arrived plenty early (beating rush hour traffic in LA isn't an option; it's a necessity), and we hung out and ran through the tunes for a few minutes. I wasn't worried about the lack of rehearsal time... Bunny is an excellent improvisational player, and there was really no need to try and perfect the performance before doing it.

Rocking the Internet on a Wednesday night.

As per my commitment to StreamJam of performing only songs which I am licensed to play (otherwise known as the original songs I've written), the set list was comprised of 100% Zak Claxton songs. I was happy to use the occasion for the debut of my recently-completed new song "Go Easy On Me". Here's what we played.

Zak Live on StreamJam Episode II Set List...
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
*Go Easy On Me (Zak Claxton)
The Sands of Redondo (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)

*Indicates the first live performance of this song ever!

Much like my last StreamJam show, the audience was able to send questions and comments to me via a special Twitter feed, and it was great hearing from them... I spent as much time laughing with them as they did with me.

Checking messages from the crowd. And no, for the last time, I'm not playing "Freebird" tonight, sorry

The audience chats and has fun while Bunny and I rock them. Photo courtesy of Jess Smith.

While most entertainers consider it their first responsibility to make sure the audience is having fun, my shows tend to involve me having a great time, and hopefully the crowd gets in on the hilarity via proxy. As you can probably tell, there was no lack of good times last night; adding Bunny to the mix amplified the good times by exponential factors.

Kat mentioned after the show that it's going to be hard to top this one, and I agreed. But I also said that it's not really a matter of making one show better than another; it's a matter of making each show different in some way, and bringing new things to the party that will be fun and cool for the people watching. I really can't promise anything more than that, but I will agree on one thing: as I admitted to both Kat and my son, I'd be hard pressed to say that the August 4 StreamJam show wasn't one of my personal favorites. Oh, and I should mention that Bunny seemed to enjoy himself and we are indeed planning on doing a jammy duet show again sometime in the not-distant future. Stay tuned.