Saturday, December 24, 2011

Casablanca Ballroom (12.23.11)

'Twas the night before the night before Christmas, and just a couple of days earlier, I had no idea I'd be performing for the first time at Casablanca Ballroom in Second Life. However, my good pal Taunter Goodnight had to cancel her scheduled appearance there, so our mutual manager Maali Beck asked if I'd like to do the show in her place, and I happily agreed.

My view from the stage at this sumptuous ballroom setting at Casablanca. Photo by Kat.

Looking down from on high. Photo by Triana.

I like any good reason to pull out some new tunes, and I also knew that there would be no other opportunity to do a Christmas-themed show for another year. I didn't have a lot of time, but I chose some songs that sound much better in December than in, say, July. Casablanca is quite a bit more upscale than most of the laid-back places I play in SL, and that also gave me and my Zakster fans a good excuse to dress up in our nicest virtual fashion. I wear a tux in SL about as often as I do in real life, which isn't very frequently. Still, it was fun to look out from the stage and see such swank surroundings for a change.

As a whole, the show went really well. For one thing, I had no idea until I arrived that my friend Max Kleene was playing directly before me, so it was nice to get to hear some of his set and have him and some of his fans hang out for a good portion of my show. It's always exhilarating to play tunes that are new for me, so having five fresh songs (and a few more that are rarities for me) made it exciting, hopefully for my fans as much as me.

Another close-up of me in my happy holiday mood (and not in jeans and sneakers). Photo by Triana.

My darling Kat, dressed to the nines. Photo by Kat.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the season's spirit and my rare tunes. Photo by Kat.

Casablanca Ballroom Set List...
*Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth (David Bowie & Bing Crosby)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
*River (Joni Mitchell)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Long December (Counting Crows)
*Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Blane/Martin)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
My Heart (Neil Young)
*Christmastime is Here (Vince Guaraldi)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
†The Rainbow Connection (Williams/Ascher)
*God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional; arr. Zak Claxton)

*Indicates my first performance of this song in SL.
†My only other performance of "The Rainbow Connection": June 27, 2010

Thanks to all who helped support last night's show at Casablanca, and happiest of holidays to all Zaksters around the world!
donnamarie Mistwalker, BuffaloMike Hammerer, Steven Hynes, Aisha Convair, Triana Caldera, Diana Renoir, Maximillion Kleene, Alexis Fairlady, Krissi Paule, Horizon Darkstone, Kat Claxton, TheaDee, my wonderful manager Maali Beck, and Casablanca owner DeanGrant Caproni!

Friday, December 16, 2011

My proudest moment as a musician

As you may have read earlier this week, I performed for the second time at Lavender Field in Second Life for Brique Topaz's "Feed-a-Smile" charity, which supports the Live and Learn in Kenya program. It allows kids to get food and education in an area of the world where no such things are guaranteed.

Well, little could I have imagined that through a simple act of performing music for an hour -- something I love to do regardless -- I would be paid in priceless riches. That came today in the form of an email letting me know that the kids celebrated a "Zak Claxton Meal & Party", and included several pictures. Looking at them, and feeling my eyes fill with tears, is the absolute proudest moment I've had in over 35 years as a musician. Beyond any other triumph of creative output or kudos from my peers, this was the first time I knew beyond all shadow of a doubt that through my music, we did something significant that affected someone in an important way.

I'm happy to share those pictures with you here. On top, the kids gather around a chalkboard that they drew, featuring a pretty nice sketch of me and the following message:

Dear Zak,

Thank you to you, Kat, and all your wonderful fans for putting food on our plates and smiles on our faces. Bright holiday blessings and a happy and healthy New Year.

The Live and Learn in Kenya kids in Nakuru, Kenya

Honestly, all the credit really goes to Brique for her tireless efforts, and to my fans and friends who came to the show and added their support. All I did was chip in a few bucks and perform music for an hour. But regardless of who gets credit, the effect is tangible, and can be seen below in the smile-inducing sight of these hungry kids sitting down for a big meal.

It's both pride-inducing and humbling to be a small part of an effort like Live and Learn in Kenya. I find that the payment I received in the form of seeing these pictures and the kids' message to me is more than I'd ever expect in return for the small act of playing some guitar and singing. It's one of the best Christmas presents I ever got in my life, and as I told Brique, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be at Lavender Fields again in 2012.

If you want to lend your own support to Brique's efforts inside Second Life or otherwise, contact her now. I'm sure she'd appreciate anything you can offer.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lavender Field/Feed-a-Smile (12.12.11)

There's no better feeling than getting to the end of a long day and knowing you did something that actually mattered. Sure, most of us do lots of things that allow ourselves and our families to survive as comfortably as possible damn near every day, but I'm talking about the rare occasions where you have an opportunity to go above and beyond the norm and do something that really makes a difference.

That's why I've had a smile on my face all day after performing for the second time at Brique Topaz's Lavender Field, the Second Life venue that supports the Feed-a-Smile organization. Feed-a-Smile is a benefit that funds Live and Learn in Kenya, and they sponsor education for kids in Africa who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to go to school, and to make sure those kids are fed well enough to be in a position to learn. Brique has worked it out so that every L$100 spent (about $0.40 USD) in donations at the shows allow one kid to get one hot meal.

It makes me happy to say that we raised enough money for 109 meals during my section of the show, and the single day's events at Lavender Fields raised a total of 254 meals (i.e., L$25,400), with artists Steveeolio and Taunter Goodnight performing before me. We had a terrific crowd the entire time, and everyone seemed to be in a generous mood so that the day was a huge success.

During Taunter's last song, I hopped up and "accompanied" her. Photo by Triana.

The new performance area at Lavender Field is low-lag and high-fun. Photo by Kat.

We had a good-sized crowd of very generous people. I couldn't ask for more. Photo by Kat.

As I usually do at these kinds of events, I tried to choose a list of songs that were all appropriate, or somehow meaningful to the cause. For the most part, I feel pretty good about the musical side of things on this fine day for a worthy cause.

Lavender Field/Feed-a-Smile Set List...
Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
Do They Know It's Christmas? (Band Aid)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
Teach Your Children (CSNY)
Go Easy on Me (Zak Claxton)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
Just LIke Starting Over (John Lennon)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
I Am a Child (Neil Young)

Massive thanks to every single person who helped support the Feed-a-Smile events today! And thanks to Brique for being a hero all year long!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Molaskey's Pub w/Lyndon Heart (12.08.11)

Yesterday marked the fourth time that Lyndon Heart and I performed together via dual-stream at Molaskey's Pub in Second Life. The overall result was a massive amount of fun, but it took going through a few hoops of fire to get to that point.

I'll start by telling you that I was under the impression that Lyndon was to start the show at 6PM, followed by our performing together from 6:45-7:15, and ending with my solo show from 7:15 until 8:00. I'm not exactly sure why I believed this to be the case, but it was obviously wrong; due to his work schedule, it's impossible for Lyndon to even arrive at the venue by 6:00. So anyway, here was the result: instead of arriving at the venue as I usually do, with a good 20+ minutes to casually get ready for my show, I sauntered in at 5:58, expecting to hear Lyndon starting his set. Instead, I was greeted by a nervous Maali Beck (my manager), who had been wondering where I was.

But wait; it gets better. A few seconds later, I was in a near panic, trying to get everything setup and ready in the next two minutes. At the same time, I was wondering where the hell everyone was; only Maali, me, and one fan were present. Turns out the others were all in the place where the show was supposed to be, which was on the Molaskey's Ice Skating Rink rather than their beach stage, meaning I had to pick up the stuff I'd laid out and once again get my stage ready in another location. At this point, it would probably help to explain what "getting set up" means for an SL musician, especially for a dual-stream show like Lyndon and I do together.

Here's the short version: first, you need to get your avatar self to the location of the venue. Fine. Next, I usually get my SL situation squared away, which involves putting on a guitar and throwing down my tip jar. Assuming SL is functioning correctly (cough), this is pretty easy, but of course, you need to make sure you have the proper group tag that will allow you to rez items on the property. Hopefully you've squared that away well in advance of your show. Also, you need to work out which stream is going to be used. At various places, I either use my own (meaning I need to confirm that the venue owner has this info) or use the venue's (in which case I need to make sure it's properly set up in my broadcasting software).

Next comes my real life setup. I place a music stand near my computer with sheets and sheets of lyrics for the songs I'll be performing. Again, if you're well prepared, you've already pulled out your lyrics and have put them in order of a set list. Next, I put out two microphones (one for my guitar, and another for my vocals). After getting my avatar positioned onstage in SL, I then put on my real-life guitar, and start up my broadcast software. At that point, I'm ready to play.

And yes, that was the short version, and I didn't even include the time spent before all that in warming up one's voice and instrument.

In a dual-stream show, there's a whole other batch of activities... you have to get the stream address of your fellow performer, get it plugged into iTunes, route the signal through your mixer, set the levels, and so on. Now, when you're familiar with this process as I am, it can all be done in a few minutes. However, most musicians I know really prefer not being rushed through their setup process, no matter what the performance environment is.

So, in a long-winded way, that's why I spent my first few songs at Molaskey's being about as discombobulated as I've ever been at the beginning of a show in SL. Still, as soon as we got underway, things went just fine, as they tend to do. Look, I love playing live music, warts and all. As a live performer, if you expect things to be smooth sailing 100% of the time, I have some swampland in Florida you may be interested in purchasing. It's just not realistic to think that with all the technical setup and logistic issues, everything will go exactly as you want it each time you get onstage. I'm fortunate in that 90% of the time, I don't run into any of these problems.

TOP: Lyndon and I get to rocking. PIC 2: During my set at Molaskey's after overcoming the insanity. PIC 3: People seem to be having fun on Molaskey's ice rink. PIC 4: My Kat enjoying a sweet treat. Photos by Kat.

Back to the show. Once I got rolling, things switched from "stress mode" to "fun mode" relatively easily. I pulled out a few songs that were seasonally appropriate, and I really enjoyed the stuff that Lyndon chose for us to do together.

Molaskey's Set List...

Solo Set:
†Do They Know It's Christmas? (Band Aid)
††Long December (Counting Crows)
Every Day I Write the Book (Elvis Costello)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Look Out for Me (Zak Claxton)
Big Bad Bill (Van Halen)

With Lyndon:
*Teach Your Children (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Into the Mystic (Van Morrison)
*Stuck in the Middle with You (Stealer's Wheel)
For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
*Oh, Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison)
*The Joker (Steve Miller)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
†Last performance of "DTKIC?": 12/09/09.
††Last performance of "Long December": 12/20/10, at Molaskey's.

Massive thanks to everyone who came out to Molaskey's and rocked with Lyndon and me!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Weirdness of December 8

Looking back through years and years of this blog, I was surprised to see that I'd never before written about my one true superstition. I do have one, and it has nothing to do with black cats, walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, or spilling salt (I have no problem with any of those). Rather, my idiosyncratic superstition is an odd one, since it's based on a date, and that date is today... December 8.

Before I even tell you anything about the significance of this date (or lack thereof), let me explain something. You know that phenomenon that makes it seem like "ever time I look at a clock, it says 9:11"? The point is that you glance at a clock many times during a day, but significant patterns of numbers make you take notice more. Well, that's how it is for me on December 8. Odd things happen to me throughout the year, but since I seem to have had an inordinately large number of meaningful events happen on this date, I've become aware of it over the years, and therefore tend to take note of things.

So that's really the deal; December 8 isn't necessarily a bad day, per se. Just a weird one, with a seemingly high proportion of significance. It all goes back 31 years ago, to December 8, 1980. I was 11 years old, and it was the day of my very first guitar recital. I was excited and nervous as you'd expect a kid to be, but it went very well. If you're interested in the details, I performed "Spooky" by the Atlanta Rhythm Section, and "Honesty" by Billy Joel that night. But then, on our way home, my dad turned on the radio, and we got the news that John Lennon had been shot and killed in New York while I was playing my first gig.

The events of that evening encapsulates many of the subsequent December 8 days I've had since, though none were quite as drastic as that. Some years have been quite benign, and I shrugged at the end of the day upon realizing that nothing much had happened, and it was for the most part like any other day. But other years, I've had girlfriends break up with me, lost jobs, gotten promotions, had minor car accidents, been arrested, and -- in a less personal way -- have seen news events happen that affected me. Have these kind of things also happened on days other than December 8? Sure, of course. But much like my clock example from above, when things do happen on this day, I tend to take notice. "A-ha!" I proclaim to myself. "The curse of 12/8 strikes again!"

Last year's December 8 (2010) was mostly good; we celebrated the 30th anniversary of my first live performance by having Bunny come over, and we put on a live video/SL show that went well. However, in doing so, I missed my son's performance with his band at school, so once again, the dichotomy of goodness and badness tempering each other was consistent with other years.

So, that's my only real superstition, and even I don't believe in it, being the cynical and scientifically-minded bastard that I am. We'll see how this December 8 turns out (it's not even 9AM while I'm writing this post, so the day is young enough for just about anything to go down). Meanwhile, I'll try not to be the purposeful instigator of any oddness, consciously or otherwise. I am looking forward to a show tonight in Second Life that I'm playing along with my pal Lyndon Heart, and hopefully that goes well enough that I start forgetting my unfounded apprehension about this silly day.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Always Tomorrow" (Lyrics Video)

Filmed and edited a lyric video for "Always Tomorrow" on this lazy Sunday afternoon. Enjoy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Moonacy/IndieSpectrum Radio (12.01.11)

There are so many reasons why I perform live music in Second Life. Some of them are purely about the fun of making music, and the camaraderie I feel toward my fans and fellow musicians. Some, I must admit, are based on earning a couple of extra bucks in an economy where it's appreciated. But perhaps the #1 reason why I started playing live in SL was to expose people to my original music, which isn't an easy task for any independent singer-songwriter.

Feeling good, rocking some original music at Moonacy. Photos by Kat.

That's why I'm always happy when I get an invitation to play at one of Moondoggirl Moonintoog and Fox Reinsch's "Moonacy" events. What they do is put on an evening where six artists take 30 minutes each to do original music at one of Moon's amazing sims in SL, and then Fox simulcasts the show live on IndieSpectrum Radio. In terms of exposure, there aren't many better opportunities in SL; last night, we had about 20 people hanging around at the show, but close to 100 more people listening in on the radio. Of course, the great thing about Internet-based radio is that you're not confined to the area capable of receiving the broadcast; we're talking about people from all over the world.

"It looks cold outside... through the window pane..." Photos by Kat.

Last night's show had a good lineup that showcased a variety of different artists, each with their own styles. It started at 5PM with PonDman Haalan, and then the always amazing Phemie Alcott played at 5:30. I had the stage from 6:00 to 6:30, and then Starflower Orbit, RB Hamelin, and Moondoggirl herself wrapped up the evening.

One other thing about the Moonacy shows: Moon's sims (she has a bunch of them) are all designed and decorated superbly! I loved the vibe of this snow-covered lodge, both inside and out. Photos by Kat.

First off, let me say that it's always a great pleasure hearing other SL artists perform their own music. As I got ready to do my show, it was difficult to focus on my own warm-up routine, since I was enthralled by the "Joni Mitchell meets Tori Amos" sound of Phemie. It's been awhile since I last heard her play and I'd forgotten just how good she is, and I've made a note to see more of her shows. Anyway, by the time I did my set, I was feeling inspired, and I think it went quite well (despite some scratchy throat issues). Oh, and by limiting the amount of blabbering I usually do between songs, I actually wedged seven tunes into my half hour slot. Funny how that works.

Moonacy Set List...
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
The Other Way (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)

Big thanks to everyone who came to the show, who listened in on IndieSpectrum, and mostly to Moon and Fox for their efforts in putting together these terrific shows!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Golan Eilde's Non-Birthday Party (11.28.11)

As most of you undoubtedly know, the majority of my shows in Second Life are held at venues that are open to the public, and are at places designated specifically for live music. However, once in a blue moon, someone (obviously a person of excellent taste) will hire me to perform at a private party. And let me tell you, you will find no better musician/clown (or is it the other way around?) for your personal event. In any case, my manager Maali Beck alerted me last week that I'd been hired for just such an event, and the first thing I did was to get in touch with the person hosting the event, Deb Tigerfish, to find out what it was all about.

It turns out that it was a surprise party for the Deb's significant other, and I'd been recommended by a good friend and long-time Zakster, Diana Renoir. Well, once I found out Di had been the one to suggest me as the entertainment, I knew things would be great. Things got even greater once I found out that the person for whom the party was being thrown was Golan Eilde, a guy who'd seen me play a good number of times before. The only fear for a performer in a situation like this one is that the hosts may be expecting an entirely different kind of musician than you, but once I was aware that the party was for Golan, all concerns in that regard vanished.

Don't call it a birthday party. Photos by Kat.

It turned out to be a really fun show. Deb, Golan, and all of their guests seemed to be having a really good time. At first, I was under the impression that it was Golan's birthday, but there was literally signage that stated in no uncertain terms that it was indeed not so. We therefore dubbed it Golan's Non-Birthday Party, or -- as I occasionally called it during the show -- Golan Day 2011, whatever that means. In that regard, I also added Golan's name to a number of songs I did (i.e., instead of "Broken Day", I'd sing "Golan Day" and so on), which was fun for all of us.

The man of the hour, Golan Eilde, rocks at his party. Photos by Kat.

Good times at the Love Factory. Photos by Kat.

Golan's Non-Birthday Party Set List...
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
1979 (Smashing Pumpkins)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
†Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (The Police)
Accidents Will Happen (Elvis Costello)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
What I Got (Sublime)
Nowhere Man (Beatles)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Save It For Later (English Beat)

†Last performance of "ELTSDIM": June 27, 2008 at SL5B

Thanks to Deb Tigerfish, Diana Renoir, my manager Maali Beck, and the non-birthday boy Golan Eilde for letting me entertain you!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Key West (11.23.11)

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

As I've done about once per month since March, I had a show at Key West in Second Life last night, and once again it proved to be one of the very best places for live music in all of SL. The credit for Key West being so admired by the musicians and fans of live music in SL lies squarely on owner Liz Harley. It's hard to say exactly what separates the best venues in SL from the mediocre ones, but several factors are readily apparent:

• Liz always seems to pull in a terrific crowd. The gathering of people for a show in SL is always a cooperative task, and under the best of circumstances, the artist and his/her management do their best to bring in fans, while the venue itself makes every effort to help supplement that crowd via their own promotions, both inside and outside of SL. Liz is terrific at this.

• Why is it important for musicians to have a flow of new people coming to their shows? It's always an opportunity to develop new fans and new friends, and at a place like Key West, SL music lovers are just about guaranteed to find artists that they enjoy who they hadn't heard before.

• Which brings us to the final point: Liz has stated many times, in many ways, that her #1 consideration for artists who play at Key West is that she truly loves their music. In her words, "I book artists whose artistry and music move me and who I respect... period."

I often find that the bigger the crowd, the more inspired I am to play well. Photos by Kat.

There isn't a long list of live music venues in SL whose priorities are that focused on the music itself, and let me tell you: there isn't a single SL musician I've ever met who doesn't respect and admire Liz and Key West as a result. It's become one of the places I most look forward to playing... not for the money, but for the fact that I know my music is being truly appreciated there. The result is that I tend to give some of my best performances there, and last night's show was certainly an example of that.

Key West is also laid out very well, allowing for many people in the audience and yet still imparting an intimate, casual, and laid-back vibe. Photos by Kat.

The first thing I said to Kat last night after signing off the stream and turning over the stage to Skye Galaxy, aka Sean Ryan (the artist who followed me) was, "Holy shit, my voice could do no wrong tonight." It was true; my voice doesn't always cooperate with me the way I'd like it to, but every note I sang last night was right on the money. I don't know why; I wish I could package whatever combination of factors that allows me to sing at my best and have it around whenever I wanted it. But I'm happy to take it when it magically arrives, and it had good timing; Skye is quite the popular young artist in SL, and I enjoyed being able to make some good music for both my fans and his flock of admirers as they arrived.

On the day before Thanksgiving, you're bound to have some folks getting into the spirit of things. Here's Stace Silvercloud, Cicadetta Stillwater, and Triana Caldera in their best turkey apparel. Photos by Kat.

I put together a set list that felt appropriate for the autumn season, and it seemed to work out very well.

Key West Set List...
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
California (Joni Mitchell)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Don't Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young)
Day After Day (Badfinger)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Daniel (Elton John)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)

Huge thanks to everyone who made this show at Key West amazing, especially those who helped support my show!
Willow Yorcliffe, MoonDog Roecastle, Triana Caldera, Sassy Nitely, mikial Bazno, TheaDee, Cicadetta Stillwater, Christine Haiku, Aurelie Chenaux, Tommy Cult, Kat Claxton, my terrific manager Maali Beck, and (most of all) Key West owner Liz Harley!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cuddler's Cove (11.19.11)

First of all, let's start today's show report by mentioning that the last time I performed live at Cuddlers Cove in Second Life was April 25, 2008... three and a half years ago, crazily enough. There's no particular reason that I stopped playing there. Did you ever have one of those circumstances where you have a friend, but for whatever reason you lose touch with them and one day realize that years had gone by since your last connection? Well, it's more like one of those situations. Suka Nishi and Quinton Whitman who run the place are terrific people, and I'm very glad that today I was able to get back to Cuddler's and do a show.

Apparently there's a whole world of people in SL who are up earlier than me on weekends. Who knew? Photo by Kat.

But wait... there's a catch (isn't there always a catch?). Cuddler's Cove does most of their events on Saturday mornings, and since Suka and Quinton are based on the East Coast in real life, the shows start kinda... early. This morning's lineup had Quinton himelf starting out at 7AM, followed by the always-terrific Mash Rhode at 8AM. The third and final act of the day was Yours Truly. Well, unlike those fellas, 9AM in SL really means 9AM in my real life, so I am happy to report that this morning was my official earliest gig of my entire life as a performing musician!

I had no idea how that would work out, but it really ended up being fine. I woke up at 7 (which is ordinarily an hour I try and avoid on weekends), hopped in the shower and immediately began warming up my voice in the steam. Had some coffee -- perhaps too much, by the spastic results it inspired in my personality during the show -- ate a banana for breakfast, strummed a few chords on the Martin, and boom! It was time to play.

Three lovely Zakster ladies: Kat (top), Aurelie (middle), and Diana (bottom) boogie down at my Saturday morning funfest. Photos by Kat.

The show itself was really good. We had a nice-sized crowd there, and surprisingly, despite the early hour, my voice and guitar both felt great. Song-wise, it was a pretty typical mix of my originals and covers, mostly picked out by Kat since I was too groggy to think of what to play.

Cuddler's Cove Set List...
Everyday I Write the Book (Elvis Costello)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Six Underground (Sneaker Pimps)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Walk on the Ocean (Toad the Wet Sprocket)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
I Am A Child (Neil Young)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)

Humungous thanks to everyone at Cuddler's Cove, especially the following folks who helped support my show!
Robert69 Little, Diana Renoir, Katja Runo, Catherinne Earnshaw, Klementina Bernheim, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, Steluna Silverspar, Mash Rhode, TheaDee, and Cuddler's Cove owners Quinton Whitman and Suka Nishi!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Me on "The Stream Scene" TV Show


As a medium-sized fish in a rather small pond, I tend to appreciate any extra attention I get in my career (and I use that term lightly) as a virtual rock star. That's why I was particularly pleased in September when the producers of The Stream Scene contacted me to see if I could do a live performance for their online TV show. I had a show scheduled at Crystal Gardens that week, and the Stream Scene people came out to record it.

The Stream Scene is now part of, an online "network" that produces and airs a number of excellent shows about virtual worlds.

To be honest, I pretty much forgot about it after that... there's always a lot going on in my life (virtual and otherwise), so by the time I received a note last week from Twstd Ruggles that the show would debut on Sunday November 13, it was like a whole new happy surprise. I'm not sure what I was expecting; I did the Stream Scene show once before, in 2010, but this time, the producers did something way super extra sweet: they basically read my entire bio as the lead-in to my live performance. I grimaced a little bit with anticipatory nervousness when my song came on; they chose to use the recording of my tune "Thanks Anyway", and I know there are a few high notes in there that I occasionally either overshoot or miss on the flat side, but all in all, I think it was a really decent rendition of the song. No complaints at all, from me anyway.

Anyway, if you haven't done so yet, check out the show! My spot is first, and then there are also good performances by Cylindiran Rutabaga and Hazideon Zarco, as well as a cool machinima music video from a song by my pal EvaMoon Ember.

Special thanks go out to Twstd Ruggles as well as segment producer Chuck McMasters and co-host Miles Eleventhauer for once again giving me the opportunity to perform on The Stream Scene!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Molaskey's Pub w/Lyndon Heart (11.10.11)

Hello to you all, and let's begin today's post with an unnecessary apology: I haven't blogged for over a week. No one notices or cares about this except me, but still, I feel compelled to mention that sometimes work and life overwhelm my ability to spend even the few minutes it takes to write a blog post. So there we have it. Also, I have a good reason for today's post: to tell you about the show I did last night along with my pal Lyndon Heart at Molaskey's Pub in Second Life.

The backsides of Diana and Triana, watching me rock at Molaskey's. Photo by Triana. Top photo by Diana.

This was the third dual-streaming show I've done with Lyndon in three consecutive months (see the posts about the September and October shows if you want). Last night, it was my turn to be "on top" (meaning that I was in the top position on the stream, and therefore handled lead vocals and rhythm guitar while Lyndon took vocal harmonies and guitar leads). As has been our pattern, I sent Lyndon a list of potential songs earlier that day, and he picked out 6-7 tunes he felt might be good to perform together.

Me, trying out some new material on the Molaskey's crowd. Photo by Triana.

I started out the evening, and did a selection of songs including a couple of debuts of cover tunes I hadn't done before. Then, about 45 minutes in, Lyndon hopped up on the stage and we did our jamming together for a half hour, and then Lyndon wrapped up the remaining 45 minutes with his own solo show. One of the things I like most about this whole setup is that my fans have become acquainted with Lyndon's performances, and his with mine. Lyndon and I are very similar styles of performers; we both write our own material, but we also enjoy doing covers as well. It's a nice commonality that our respective fans can appreciate in each of us.

Me (left) and Lyndon (right), having too much fun. Photo by Diana.

In any case, the whole show was a lot of fun for Lyndon and I, and hopefully our audience felt the same. I find that I'm really looking forward to the next one as well!

Molaskey's Set List...
Solo Set:
*Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
*Lovesong (The Cure)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Court & Spark (Joni Mitchell)
Tangerine (Led Zeppelin)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)

With Lyndon:
*Daniel (Elton John)
*California Dreamin' (The Mamas & the Papas)
Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
Our House (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Love Hurts (Everly Brothers)
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (Beatles)

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

Big thanks to everyone who came to the Zak & Lyndon show last night, especially those who helped support the show!
Mia Kitchensink, Woodstock Burleigh, Diana Renoir, Thinkerer Melville, CathyWyo1 Haystack, Alexis Fairlady, Trouble Streeter, Cicadetta Stillwater, Xerxes Ninetails, Triana Caldera, Syzygy Merlin, my (and Lyndon's) terrific manager Maali Beck, and the whole Molaskey's staff including owners Katydid Something and Apple MacKay!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Observations on a Strange Day

The cat is licking the chair. I can hear her sandpaper tongue scraping the mesh fabric. Suddenly, she's standing on my head.

I think she learned two new words in the English language over the past few days. One is "no", the other is "down". And yet, she's on my head again. I think it's purposeful disobedience rather than ignorance. I have too much faith in this animal's intellect to rationalize away her behavior as "not knowing better". She knows, and disregards. I suppose this is cat-like.

I walk outside, trying to find out if the feeling of direct sunlight on my head would make my brain feel any better (it doesn't). While I am there, I see a middle-aged woman standing in one place, staring intently at a tree while holding her hand on the side of her head. At first I think that she might be having a stroke... an aneurysm... some kind of brain event. I grow concerned. She is motionless for maybe a full minute. I consider walking toward her to inquire if she needs assistance. When she lowers her hand and I see that she is merely holding a phone to her ear, I find myself simultaneously relieved and disappointed.

An old man rides by on a bicycle. He seems in very good shape for a man who looks to be sixty or more. Still, I stop breathing for a moment until the breeze generated by his speedy passing has settled. I don't want to breathe any essence of sweaty old man.

I come back in and sit down. The cat jumps on my head. I have no choice other than to put the cat in the hall and close my door.

Just a few minutes later, though, I wonder what the cat is doing. Is she still in the hall, waiting for me to open the door, perchance to jump on my head again? If I open the door to find out, she'll just jump on my head. At the moment, however, she has much in common with Erwin Schrödinger's famous feline. She exists in a state of uncertainty, bringing to mind Heisenberg's principles as well. I can say, "I'm sure she's fine," but that's really a load of crap, isn't it? I have no idea. I can't see or hear the cat. What I actually mean is that I assume that odds are high that she is fine, and past experience tells me that cats are quite self-sufficient, and that my house isn't fraught with peril -- not much peril, anyway -- and that the cat is probably still in the hall, or in my bedroom, or my son's, or downstairs in the living room.

I can't take the suspense, and open the door. The cat runs in and jumps on my head. I put her down, gently. It's the cat's nature to want to look down upon the world, and my head is the highest point in the room. The fact that my body is attached to it means nothing to the cat. Once on the floor, the cat goes seemingly insane, jumping from my head to the desk to the chair to the floor to the printer/fax/scanner and then back to my head, all in under three seconds. She's talking, making a continuous series of blerrrrt sounds while running at full speed around this small room. I reach for her again; this time, she bites me. Since I am allergic to cats, it eventually leaves a bright red welt on my wrist that itches. Then she curls into a ball and begins licking her foot, purring.

I don't know why. I'm not a cat, and even if I were, I might not understand what she was doing. You're a person, presumably; do you always understand what other people are doing?

I didn't think so.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Molaskey's Pub w/Lyndon Heart (10.27.11)

Thursday night was a night full of firsts.

While it wasn't the first time I joined my friend singer-songwriter Lyndon Heart onstage at Molaskey's Pub in Second Life (that happened back in September), it was the first time I wasn't "on top". Let me explain something here (skip the next paragraph if you're not a complete Internet/audio geek).

Here's how "dual streaming" works in Second Life. The most simple explanation is that one person streams live audio from their location, and another person receives that audio (over an audio stream, via something like iTunes, just like dialing in an Internet radio station). Then, that person adds his/her own musical contribution, mixes it with the signal from the first person, and sends the combined signal into SL.

Lyndon (right) and me, rocking out and having fun via dual-stream at Molaskey's. Photo by Kat.

Anyway, the first time I did this, I was "on top", meaning that I was the first one playing, and Lyndon played along with what I was doing, with guitar leads and harmony vocals. But last night, we flippity-flopped the fling-flang, and Lyndon drove the music while I added my own parts. It was every bit as fun, and perhaps more so in a way; the person "on top" can't hear what the other person is doing (this is due to the latency of time, space, and Internet servers in various places... I don't want to get detailed here about the techno shit).

The crowd at Molaskey's, enjoying the tunes from Lyndon and I. Photo by Kat.

So, that was a first. Another first was a batch of tunes that I played with Lyndon, along with a couple of covers of my own that I'd never done before. Check it out...

Molaskey's/Lyndon Heart Set List...

With Lyndon:
*Ain't No Sunshine (Bill Withers)
*Love is the Seventh Wave (Sting)
*Stir It Up (Bob Marley & the Wailers)
*Up On Cripple Creek (The Band)
*I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)
*After Midnight (Eric Clapton)

Solo Set
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
*Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
*Every Day I Write the Book (Elvis Costello)
†The Loner (Neil Young)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
†My last performance of "The Loner" was October 28, 2008.

As you can see from the list above, we did a similar format to the last show, except Lyndon started us out with 45 minutes of his own stuff, followed by a half hour of us performing together, and then 45 minutes on my own. There was yet another first during my set, and not a particularly joyous one; in the four years I've been playing at Molaskey's, I've never had any problems with their venue stream until last night. During my set, the stream was stuttering and cutting in/out, and there was nothing that could be done (it was a server problem). On the bright side, at least the stream was steady during the section with Lyndon and I playing, and once we acquiesced that something was wrong, I simply switched over to my own stream for the remainder of the show and all was well. No big deal; shit happens in the technology-filled world that lets us do things like performing in our homes to fans around the world.

My view. Photo by Triana.

Regardless, it was a fun-filled show that I enjoyed greatly. Any show at Molaskey's usually ranks among the best; add in the fact that I'm doing a live jam along with a guy who is 1,000 miles north of me, and it's an evening full of win. Lyndon and I are scheduled to do this again at Molaskey's sometime in November, and I'd like to see what we can come up with to make it even better.

Lyndon hangs out and cheers me on while I keep the rock rolling (when the stream decided to let me do so). Photo by Kat.

Triana and Kat hanging out toward the end of the evening. Photo by Kat.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped support the show!
Heaven Glendale, Catherinne Earnshaw, Triana Caldera, Mia Kitchensink, Thynka Little, Cicadetta Stillwater, Alexis Fairlady, Thadicus Caligari, Kat Claxton, Woodstock Burleigh, Tangle Giano, Thinkerer Melville, Diana Renoir, my (and Lyndon's) terrific manager Maali Beck, and Molaskey's owners and staff (especially Katydid Something). Love all you people!