Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bloopers/Outtakes from "Falling Down"


Almost a year ago to the day, on September 25, 2010, we filmed the video for "Falling Down". It was quite the adventure; my plan was to have the exterior scenes of the video set on a rocky shoreline during a gloomy Fall day, but mother nature did not cooperate at all. In fact, we got blasted by a crazy heat wave, and it was over 100 degrees when we went down to Abalone Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes to do our filming. We handled it fine for the most part, until it was time to go back to the car. In an attempt to take a short cut, we ended up hiking up dead-end trails and making ourselves generally miserable for awhile. Nevertheless, we survived, and then shot some green screen footage later that evening here at Claxton Studios. I also did some pick-up shots the following day.

So, for a full year, I've had all the raw footage from the shoot sitting here on my computer. Eventually I'm going to want to reclaim those dozens of gigabytes of space, but before I did, I put together a little sample of our silliness while creating the video. See the results above. Working with Kat and Bunny can make even the most miserable of tasks fun, and I spend the majority of my time laughing when both of them are around.

In case you somehow missed the finished product, feel free to give the full "Falling Down" video a look...

"Falling Down" (YouTube link)

Zak Claxton: Falling Down from Zak Claxton on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crystal Gardens (09.27.11)

Yup, it's been a bit of a Zak Show marathon lately. While some folks are fine doing several Second Life shows every day, it's a rare week for me where I'm doing more than a couple shows over seven days. But recently, I played on Thursday 9/22, Saturday 9/24, Sunday 9/25, and then last night (9/27) I did my bi-weekly show at Crystal Gardens.

There was, in fact, something special happening at my show: the people from The Stream Scene, an online TV show that focuses on the SL music scene, had asked if they could come out and record me at a venue, and I was all too happy to oblige. I did an episode of The Stream Scene in 2010, and it's always nice to get the benefit of promoting your music to folks who might not have otherwise heard it (or heard of you at all, for that matter). So, for the first half of the show at Crystal Gardens, I played only my original songs so they'd have plenty to choose from when it came time to edit the footage.

Knowing I'd be on TV, I even put on a nicer shirt than usual. You don't want to watch the show a month later and grimace at your wardrobe choice. Photo by Kat.

Anyway, the show went fine, and it's a good thing it did; I realized soon after it ended that I was coming down with the cold my son's had for the last few days, and as of this morning, I couldn't sing anything other than a frog opera. Fortunately, I have no shows booked for about ten days, so I have plenty of time to get healthy. Back at Crystal Gardens, for the latter part of my show when I switched back to doing covers, I pulled out a few rarities, just for fun.

Crystal Gardens Set List...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Change (Tears for Fears)
†Jack Straw (Grateful Dead)
††Love Ain't for Keeping (The Who)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
Love Hurts (Everly Brothers)
Comes a Time (Neil Young)
Into the Mystic (Van Morrison)

†My last performance of "Jack Straw" was on Nov 30, 2009. Before that was Sep 29, 2008.
††I've only done "Love Ain't for Keeping" once before, on January 2 of this year.

Thanks to the people who helped support my show, especially Sandi and Mikal of Crystal Gardens and Twstd Ruggles of The Stream Scene!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Triana's Music Trivia (09.25.11)


In the going-on five years that I've been performing live music in Second Life, I thought I'd pretty much done it all. I've performed just about every genre of music at least once. I've done live jams with fellow musicians, both locally and remotely. I've played at every conceivable kind of SL venue, from beach bars to formal balls to strip clubs. But at last night's Triana's Music Trivia, I finally did something that I was pretty sure would never, ever happen: I performed a song along with my long-term ladyfriend, Kat Claxton!

Here's how it happened. As most of you know, Kat tries to be at every one of my shows, conflicts with work notwithstanding. When possible, she's actually right here in the room with me, and at other times is there "in the pixel", usually from her home-based office a few doors down from me. Having been together with Kat for over six years, I'd had plenty of opportunity to hear her pretty singing voice, most often while we listen to music at home or in the car, or occasionally while I casually play guitar when no one else is listening. But really, I'm the only one who's heard her; she, like most people, has a fear of performing in public. I certainly wasn't about to pressure her to cast off that fear, but I can say that if someone has stage fright, Second Life is a good place to shake it. The fact that your flesh-and-blood self isn't standing on a stage with people staring at and judging you makes it a lot easier to focus on the performance itself.

Anyway, if it had been any normal kind of SL show, I'd never have considered asking Kat if she wanted to do a song along with me, but this wasn't a normal show. Triana's Music Trivia, SL's longest-running trivia game, is an event where we spend each of our Sunday evenings among good friends. Every so often, maybe 2-3 times a year, Triana has me do a live music show in conjunction with the trivia game; we usually bump trivia up by an hour and then I do an hour of music in the 7PM slot that we usually use for the game. Last night, just for shits and giggles, we also moved the usual trivia location to Kat and my own parcel of land in SL, at our Club COYOTE.

The trivia portion of the event started off with some added excitement, courtesy of some griefers! Yes, they do still exist, though it had been a long, long time since I ran into any of them. Most people in SL, especially those who've been there as long as us and our trivia friends, know how to handle them, and sim owners like Kat and I have our places set up in ways that don't allow them to do anything that will be very destructive (i.e., running scripts, shoving, and so on). It didn't last long; we simply froze, ejected, and banned them as they acted out, and there was no more trouble after that.

Griefers don't bother oldbies like us. Besides, we had much more important things on our mind... like Kat's rocking debut! Photo by Kat.

After trivia wrapped up, I started the show. For my shows at TMT, I always play some special songs that I ordinarily wouldn't perform at usual gigs. Most of these are songs that have some special meaning to the Trivia regulars, or are tunes that I've written (or existing tunes I've modified) with personal references to our pals at Trivia, and over the last 4+ years, there have been a lot of them. Last night had a couple of good ones; I opened with a Dylanesque tune about Triana's infamous iPod, and (as I'll explain in a moment) the highlight of the night was an R.E.M. song I did along with Kat.

It's not like we planned this for a long time. In fact, it was just Saturday evening when I mentioned to Kat that she should consider doing a song with me at the TMT show the following night. I have no idea how we arrived at "Shiny Happy People". I do know that in May 2010, while we were doing a recording session at Sound Sanctuary, Kat and I (along with Phil) were messing around between takes, and sang the song's chorus a few times just for fun. But Saturday night after doing a show, I sat down with Kat and we listened to the tune to see exactly how Michael Stipe, Kate Pierson, and Mike Mills' voices meshed on that song. Sunday morning, we practiced it a couple of times. And then, when the time came, she stood next to me at my vocal mic, and she did just fine. If anything, her only fault was starting out a little tentative (as most new singers do) instead of belting it out from the beginning. Soon enough though, she was right there with me, sounding great. I'm sure this isn't the last you've heard of Ms. Kat.

Ladies and avatards... here's Kat! She was terrific in her live singing debut (though I don't think it's yet on her list of "Favorite Things To Do"). Photo by Triana.

Triana's Music Trivia Set List...
*Triana's iPod (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Learn to Fly (Foo Fighters)
*Welcome to the Machine (Pink Floyd)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
In My Life (Beatles)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
*Shiny Happy People (R.E.M.)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Triana (Zak Claxton)

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

Huge thanks to all of our wonderful friends at Triana's Music Trivia! We appreciate every one of you... Alchemy Epstein, Samantha Poindexter, Jordan Hazlitt, Nakira Tennen, Diana Renoir, Rey Tardis, MrNoCal Honey, Xerxes Ninetails, wendela Beckenbauer, Charriol Ansar, Juliette Venom, and all the other Trivia Fanatics (you're awesome), and most of all, our friend Triana Caldera!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lavender Fields: Feed-a-Smile (09.24.11)

About six months ago, someone sent me friend request on Facebook, and I noted that while she was living in Germany, she came from my own town of Redondo Beach, CA. She was also a fellow resident of Second Life, and I was happy to accept the request as such. Her name was Brique Zeiner, and went by Brique Topaz in SL. But, more importantly, she let me know about something I immediately thought was very cool: she ran a live music venue in SL that had a purpose for raising funds for African children in need.

Here's Brique, who is the real hero in helping kids get food and education in Africa. She personally goes to Kenya to teach and make sure the program is running well. Photo by Kat.

Well, we hear about charities all the time, but there was something different about Brique's cause: she was personally and directly involved. Brique helps run an organization based in Germany called Live and Learn in Kenya, and its goal is twofold: to 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. Well, I can't say how strongly I support both of those ideas.

Rocking for a great cause. Photo by Kat.

My view. Photo by Kat.

Unfortunately, life being what it is, I got busy and wasn't able to schedule something right away, but I always kept Brique and her program in mind. I made a couple of visits to the venue in Second Life where the music events were held -- Lavender Fields -- and liked what I saw there. Perhaps the real thing that pulled me over the edge to participate was the photos of the kids in Kenya who had used chalk to draw pictures and thank-you notes by hand to some of the artists who had played there, like Tukso Okey and TwinGhost Ronas. It gave the whole program a very personal touch. Plus, the basic message of what Brique calls the "Feed-a-Smile" program is very, very simple: L$100 would buy a hot meal for a kid who needed it. That's about $0.40 USD, and it was an easy way to understand how simple and effective it was to lend a hand.

How cool is this? Unlike most other charitable causes, it's very satisfying that SL artists see very real reactions from the beneficiaries of Feed-a-Smile. Photo courtesy of Brique Zeiner/LLK.

One day, I let my manager Maali Beck know that I really wanted to schedule a show at Lavender Fields for Brique and Feed-a-Smie, and Maali set it up immediately. That's how I ended up there yesterday, and it was absolutely fantastic. TerriLynn Melody had the spot before me, so I had a nice crowd already in place when I started jamming (and we also had a few Zaksters arrive to help supplement the audience). I did what I consider to be a typical Zak Show, with the songs geared toward the theme of helping people in need (Kat actually put together the set list, and did a nice job of it).

Lavender Fields/Feed-a-Smile Set List...
I Am a Child (Neil Young)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
Just Like Starting Over (John Lennon)
The Sands of Redondo (Zak Claxton)
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
You've Got a Friend (Carole King)

The end result of the day was that during my hour at Lavender Fields, we raised enough donations to serve 65 hot meals to hungry kids. Hey, all I did was strum some guitar and sing, and play a little harmonica. That's what I do for fun, and at the same time, managed to make a group of kids a little less hungry. I call that win-win, in a big way.

We fed some kids and had some fun. That's a great Saturday. Photo by Kat.

Big thanks to everyone who helped out some deserving kids in Kenya by donating to Feed-a-Smile! You are all heroes!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Majestic (09.22.11)

Due to some recent remodeling work they were doing, it had been a little while since I'd last played The Majestic on August 25, so I was looking forward to getting back there. In case you're unfamiliar with the backstory, The Majestic is a venue that's been around in SL about as long as I have; going on five years. Under its previous owner, I performed there on a pretty regular basis (as well as other places around the San Diego City sim). When it was sold to Solace Beach Estates, a good year or so went by before one day, my manager Maali Beck asked if I'd be interested in doing a regular bi-weekly show there. I was, and started playing there every other Thursday evening in June.

Weeknights at 6PM is a tough time for a musician to play in SL; I have seen upwards of 50-60 live music events happening simultaneously at that time slot. Still, I can almost always count on my crowd of Zaksters to come out for shows, and despite the fact that my show was inadvertently left off the SL event schedule, we had a decent sized audience there (90% of which being my zany fans).

It's not often that I leave the stage to get in the face of one of my fans, but trust me, Triana deserved it! Photos by Kat.

I'd say it was a fairly typical show in terms of material, though I did bust out one surprise cover. I joke occasionally about performing songs that were "written" by Kermit the Frog, but Joe Raposo, the guy who did the music for Sesame Street, was a terrific songwriter, and it was cool doing one of his tunes last night. Also, to acknowledge the recent breakup of R.E.M., I did one of their classic tunes as well.

The Majestic Set List...
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Radio Free Europe (R.E.M.)
1979 (Smashing Pumpkins)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts)
Wonderwall (Oasis)
*Bein' Green (Kermit the Frog)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Tea in the Sahara (Police)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Pulling Mussels from a Shell (Squeeze)

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

Big thanks to my fans, the Zaksters, and everyone else who helped support my show!
GMetal Svartur, Triana Caldera, Diana Renoir, TheaDee, sonzia Shim, Xerxes Ninetails, Alexis Fairlady, Kat Claxton, my manager Maali Beck, and Majestic hostess Tialicia Muircastle!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My 1,000th Tweet

This is ridiculous. I'm writing a blog post on Blogger about my 1,000th Tweet which will then appear on Facebook. I'm actually writing this specifically to link from that 1,000th Tweet. My metareality just imploded. And in any case, I'm starving and I have scrumptious Pad Thai being made and delivered to me, so I might as well write this instead of looking out the door every two minutes to see if my lunch has arrived.

Anyway, you'll hear people -- mostly Caucasian people with way too much time on their hands and not enough desire to think about important stuff -- talk about why Twitter is better than this, or Facebook is better than that, or why it's all terrible but they continue to use it anyway, and so on. I really don't care about any of those things. As a social person and especially as a performing musician and recording singer-songwriter, all social network services are important to me.

A lot of people won't be very impressed with 1,000 entries on Twitter, especially considering that they span the last three years. It's not that I'm incapable of prolific Tweeting. There are simple reason why I don't Tweet every few seconds.

1. My job has me running the social networks of several large companies, and making entries in their Twitter and Facebook accounts is one of the things I do for work. Hence, I'm not always in the mood to do my own social networking after taking care of all of their needs.

2. I prefer to write things that actually matter to me in some way. It's not that "my Tweets are important, dammit!". It's that unless I'm feeling it, I ain't Tweeting it. That may mean I Tweet about what I had for lunch, but it may also mean that I don't Tweet my reaction to every news story.

3. While I'm a low-key public figure in my small-time rock star way, I'm more of a private person than you may realize. That's why you don't see many Tweets about my child, or about my love life, or about my finances, and so on.

So while I may only post an average of one Tweet per day, I do enjoy the aspect of connecting to the people who choose to follow me, and not filling their timeline with notices of every time I use the bathroom, stub my toe, or put on my sneakers (though I reserve the right to do so whenever I feel like it). However, I tend to enjoy other people who Tweet a lot. There is a short list of people on my timeline who are incredibly funny with an ability to deliver undeniably hilarious messages in under 140 characters. Brevity was never my strong suit.

I've also learned a lot about people on Twitter. There's something about the format that encourages folks to get to the point in a way that they can't do in longer form writing. A lot of what I've learned is about the misconceptions of what each gender thinks about the other... I can't tell you how many "this is what men like" Tweets that can't be further from the truth. I've also seen the phenomenon where all people want is good news, and the moment that you bring up something contrary to their message... well, it's sure easy to just block out that dark and rainy cloud and keep pretending that everything in the world is going your way and everyone you know agrees with everything you say, right?

Despite those things, I find that I now turn to Twitter whenever I get the inkling of an important event happening in the world. By the time the first news media services start covering it, I already know many details, and often those details are from people actually experiencing the event (and not some reporter's interpretation of it). So, hats off to Twitter, and those who make it an enjoyable experience for me.

Now to finish my Pad Thai (which is freaking delicious, in case you didn't know). And thanks for the follows, my Tweeple.

Monday, September 19, 2011

10 Random Notes

Note: When I'm not writing reports about my performances in SL, or my music escapades in other realities, I often still enjoy writing about various things. But even when I don't have any specific topic in mind to write about, I still tend to write. Here are some random topics and fun facts.

1. Kat and I really do share the same birthday and Second Life rezday. Respectively, they are June 6 and October 12. We found out about the birthday thing before we were dating (we started as friends, as many good relationships do). The SL date is easier to understand, since we enrolled in SL at the same time, together on the phone (back then, in 2006, she was living in Seattle).

2. I wake up every weekday at 6AM, which I don't like at all, and drive my son to his middle school. It's not very far away and he can walk if necessary, but I enjoy being able to see him off. I also pick him up on most afternoons.

Good morning? If I didn't have coffee when I got up on weekdays, I'd probably just... not.

3. I usually eat a banana every morning. Bananas are really good for you nutritionally, and on mornings when I get up early, I don't like diving into some huge breakfast right away.

4. I'm a fan of the Oakland Raiders NFL team, and have been since the '80s. I'm not, like, some completely insane football fan. It doesn't take over my life, as I've seen in some people. But I do look forward to football season each year, and stand by my Raiders even when they suck (which they have for most of the last nine years). I participate in football pools just for fun, and I also write a weekly football column for an online forum of musicians who also like the NFL.

5. I work for myself and my business is based in my home, so my daily apparel here in the casual beach city where I live consists of shorts and a t-shirt and sandals, or, when it starts to get cooler, jeans and a t-shirt and sneakers. I work hard and am relatively successful, but I allow myself the luxury of never dressing up unless absolutely necessary.

6. I'm a good cook. When I was growing up, both of my parents worked, and I usually had to fend for myself for dinner and such. So, I learned from an early age how to be comfortable in the kitchen, and can actually handle some relatively gourmet-level dishes. I usually reserve my good cooking for the weekends, when I can take more time preparing food than I have during the week.

I cook a lot of things, but some of my more delectable delights are (left to right) steak au poivre, dill shrimp salad, and eggs benedict.

7. Only a few of my fans know that I'm a semi-capable piano player in addition to being a guitarist and singer and harmonica guy. I actually started my musical life on piano, but shifted to guitar before my 7th birthday. Still, I enjoy tickling the ivories from time to time.

8. Like many musicians, I used to have long hair, halfway down my back. I just got tired of the look eventually, and also tired of having to do anything to maintain my hair. I keep it pretty short these days.

9. I exercise every morning. I didn't until the start of 2011, but as I get older, I find it's really a problem if I don't keep physically active on a daily basis. While some of my more macho friends laugh at my use of the Wii Fit Plus, I can tell you that like most exercise programs, as long as you stick with it and take it seriously, it produces results.

Despite my evangelism of the Wii Fit Plus, I still supplement my exercise with some free weights. While I have no goals of being some big buff guy, having nice muscle tone in your arms is generally a good thing.

10. I think shaving is overrated. Sliding a sharpened piece of metal over my face every morning has never been my idea of fun. That's why I'm one of those guys that tends to walk around looking as if he just awoke under a bus stop bench.

I do shave, of course, usually every few days. Today is not going to be one of those days.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Molaskey's Pub w/Lyndon Heart (09.15.11)

There's something I've never mentioned before on this blog, namely because I'd never done it before until last night. But now that I have, I want to do it a lot more!

I'm talking about multi-streaming. What is that? The very simple explanation is that it allows two or more people to perform live music together at the same time in Second Life. The way it works is pretty crazy. If you don't like techno-babble, you may want to skip the next part. Basically, when someone performs in SL, they broadcast over an Internet stream... the same way you access Internet radio online. I provide a stream address to the venue (basically a specialized URL), they plug it in, and you hear me in world. In a multi-stream, my stream is picked up by another musician in an application like iTunes, and then they play along, and send the combination of both streams into SL.

I'm in Los Angeles, and Lyndon is in Seattle. This fact doesn't stop us from rocking together in SL. Photo by Triana.

The upside is that our audience gets to hear both artists performing together, as if they were in the same room even though they might be thousands of miles apart in real life. The downside? Only one: the person who is "first in line" (i.e., the one originating the stream) cannot hear the people who come after him/her. It takes some good musicianship to do harmonies and such when you're not actually hearing the other person! But still, if you choose your material well, it can be a ton of fun.

All that brings me to my report from my very first multi-streamed show, which was last night at Molaskey's Pub along with my pal Lyndon Heart. Lyndon and I got to know each other last February at the San Diego SL Jam, and we have a ton of musical tastes and influences in common. We also have a common manager in Maali Beck, and it was she that suggested we do a show together. I've seen many multi-streamed shows in SL with artists including Lyndon, Max Kleene, Beth Odets, and others, but as I said up top, I'd never done it myself. Lyndon suggested that for this first time, it would be easier if I was first in line in the stream (I agreed heartily), and we got together in SL the evening before just to make sure that we were ready to rock with our technical setup. Yesterday morning, we picked out some songs that would work in that format, and then we did the show.

Molaskey's always brings in a great audience made up of people who really care about music. that's one of the many things that makes it one of SL's finest live music venues. Photo by Kat.

The way it was scheduled was that I had the 6-7PM hour, while Lyndon was booked for the 7-8PM slot. I came onstage and did my usual thing (a few originals, a few covers) until 6:45, when I was joined by Mr. Heart. We played together for a half hour until 7:15, and then Lyndon did his solo stuff for the remaining 45 minutes (actually, knowing Lyndon, he probably went quite a bit longer, but by then I was starving to death and had to leave SL to get some calories in me). But during the show, we had a fantastic crowd that combined my Zakster fans with Lyndon's audience and the regulars at Molaskey's. I haven't heard the section of the show with Lyndon and I together (and am really hoping that I can check out a recording later), but on my end, things were sounding really good. I couldn't be happier with the performance, and (probably more importantly) everyone seemed to have a great time.

Lyndon and I made a damn good musical team. I can guarantee that wasn't the last time we'll rock the grid together. Photo by Kat.

Molaskey's Set List (Zak Alone)...
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Breaking Us in Two (Joe Jackson)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Starman (David Bowie)

Molaskey's Set List (Zak and Lyndon)...
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Beatles)
Sister Golden Hair (America)
Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young)
Mary Jane's Last Dance (Tom Petty)
The Weight (The Band)
You've Got a Friend (Carole King)

Thanks very much to everyone who came out to see Lyndon and I perform together at Molaskey's! Special thanks to those who helped support my show!
Sloane Cerise, Triana Caldera, Tayzia Abattoir, Kat Claxton, Phobe Cazalet, Marissa Fredriksson, GMetal Svartur, Bree Birke, Diana Renoir, Xerxes Ninetails, TheaDee, Aurelie Chenaux, my wonderful manager Maali Beck, and Molaskey's staff including Katydid Something, Apple MacKay, Cicadetta Stillwater, Mia Kitchensink, and the rest!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My "Gigging in Second Life" article in L2P


While almost all of you know me as a fun-loving and silly guitar player and singer, there's a whole other group of people who know me as a fun-loving and silly writer and designer. I'm lucky enough to have my passion be entwined with my vocation; my real-life job is doing marketing communications for the music/audio products industry. Doing that gig over the last 20 years or so has allowed me to develop long-term friendships with many of the people who run the magazines that serve this industry, such as Guitar Player, Keyboard, Electronic Musician, Pro Sound News, EQ, and many others.

When I ran into my friend Bill Evans at the NAMM Show (a trade show for the music product biz) last January, I had an epiphany. Bill has been editing an online magazine called "Live 2 Play" ("L2P" for short), and suddenly I realized that an article about performing live music in SL would be perfect for his publication. We chatted about it, and he (being a smart guy) was immediately into the idea. I'd written about playing in Second Life before, in the March 2008 issue of Electronic Musician, but since several years had passed, I knew it was high time for a magazine that was geared toward live performing artists to give the SL music scene some well-deserved attention.

Of course, magazines of all kinds (both printed and online) put together their schedule of editorial content way ahead of time, so months had passed since I wrote and delivered the article. Then, just yesterday, I saw that the official Second Life Twitter feed had re-tweeted a link...

Intrigued, I clicked the link, and lo and behold, it was my article! It's always fun to be surprised by those kind of things. Anyway, the article should be pretty self-explanatory (read it now, if you haven't done so already). While I'm usually hesitant to talk about the compensation that performing artists get in SL, it was necessary to mention it here. After all, 95% of the readership of L2P has probably never even heard of Second Life, and to demonstrate that it's worthwhile to do shows there, I had to tell them that yes, they could actually make some money doing it.

Of course, for me, as a songwriter, it was more important to emphasize the real power of SL, which is to build a global audience for your music. I mentioned this as well. Hopefully, the end result is that we see a new influx of musicians into SL. As I've said many times, while there are others who might want to limit the number of people playing in SL (and hence reduce what they consider their competition for audiences), I feel that continually promoting SL as a live music destination has positive results for everyone. After all, the more musicians there are, the more new people will get into SL to come check out the shows, and that can't be a bad thing by any definition.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Crystal Gardens (09.13.11)

As I wrote last week, I did a show at Crystal Gardens apart from my regularly-scheduled Tuesday evening gig on Thursday, and it went surprisingly well. Keeping that in mind, I was utterly convinced that this week's show would have me hearing crickets at the end of each song, with no one bothering to come by and see me. But once again, my pessimism was unfounded; we had a good crew of Zaksters in the crowd, and it turned out to be a fun show.

Side note: in my experience, there's a big difference, mentally speaking, for artists who play in Second Life versus those who do gigs in the flesh. When you have a show in the land of reality, you often spend the whole day preparing for it, and then it can be hours to actually pack up your gear and transport yourself to the venue where the show is happening before you actually play the first note. Obviously, in SL, not nearly as much prep time is needed, and this is mostly a great thing. However, there's also the element of mental preparation. See, I can be in the midst of working, and my brain is in work mode. Get this thing written, get that thing posted, get this artwork sent to the printer, and so on. then, with almost no time to make the mental adjustment to being a live performer, I find myself at the show.

That's not to say I don't warm up for my shows (I do, starting about an hour before my scheduled stage time). However, it can often take a little while to get out of "worker bee mode" and into "virtual rock star mode". On good days, this happens quickly, and by the time I strum a chord, my energy level is high and I'm ready to rock the casbah. Occasionally, though, it takes awhile longer, and I find myself being whiny about life in general. But the mere act of putting on my guitar and singing usually helps that mental transition happen quickly, and I snap out of it and get to the rocking.

Team Zakster unites at Crystal Sands on a Tuesday night. Photo by Kat.

Back to the show: it was cool. My Tuesday evening shows at Crystal Gardens doesn't have anyone opening up for me, so there's always that pressure of trying to get people to come out for the show. This was formerly a giant pain in the ass for me, but since I started working with Maali Beck as my manager/promoter about six months ago, it got a hell of a lot easier. I can't tell you how nice it is not having to spend the 10-15 minutes before each show imploring audiences to attend the show, and instead taking the time, per above, to get my brain ready to rock. I'd say that it's made a noticeable improvement to my shows in general. Last night, I put together a rather typical Zak Claxton set, but after noticing that most of the songs I'd quickly pulled out for the show were pretty slow and sad, I made some course corrections and it all worked out just fine.

Crystal Gardens Set List...
†Down By The River (Neil Young)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
In My Time of Dying (Traditional)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Blues Skies (Irving Berlin)
The Worst (Rolling Stones)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Tempted (Squeeze)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)

†My last performance of "Down By the River": September 21, 2009.

One final note: while I say it pretty often, it can never be often enough: my fans are great people. A good portion of the fun that comes along with being at a Zak Show has nothing to do with the music, or even my presence at all. My friends/fans bring a huge portion of that fun for everyone who attends the show, and i'm always grateful for their zany antics.

Are those bacon pasties on Triana's boobs? Yes. Yes, they are. Photo by Kat.

Huge thanks to the Zaksters who supported my show! GMetal Svartur, Triana Caldera, Alexis Fairlady, Darmok, TheaDee, Kat Claxton, Xerxes Ninetails, Diana Renoir, my manager Maali Beck, and CG owners Mikal Beaumont and Sandi Benelli!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Crystal Gardens (09.08.11)

For being such a positive person, I tend to go negative about certain shows. I mentioned to Kat earlier this week that because I was scheduled for two shows on two consecutive days, it was likely that both would end up being poorly attended.

Well, my show on Wednesday turned out great, leaving me with all the more reason to believe that Thursday night's show at Crystal Gardens would be an empty wasteland. However, due in part to a good crowd that was left over from Anek Fuchs' show previous to mine, we started strong and pretty much stayed that way. I was very pleasantly surprised, and if I were a smarter guy, it should teach me a lesson to not presume how things are going to go at any given show.

Wearing my "I Already Beat This Game" t-shirt and rocking out at Crystal Gardens. Photo by Triana.

Anyway, speaking of the show, this one seemed to go very well. My only complaint is that we'd been having a mini heat wave here in SoCal, and things were a little on the toasty side in my little upstairs office/studio where I do my shows (we don't have air conditioning here by the beach where I live). But despite generating a bunch of perspiration, I had a good time while I played, and it seemed that my audience did as well.

Is this a nice place to play some rock music, or what? Photo by Kat.

The set came out pretty good as well. Just the night before, I'd done a themed show of all-90s cover tunes, so for this show I went back to my usual eclectic mix of originals and covers that spanned decades. I also did another new cover for the first time, and pulled out a number of tunes that are rare for me.

Crystal Gardens Set List...
Bertha (Grateful Dead)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
†Won't Get Fooled Again (The Who)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
††Black Crow (joni MItchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
*Thick as a Brick (Jethro Tull)
†††My Heart (Neil Young)
††††She's Leaving Home (Beatles)
Redemption Song (Bob Marley)

*Indicates the first time I have performed this song in SL.
†My last performance of "Won't Get Fooled Again": October 14, 2008.
††My last performance of "Black Crow" (only played once before): August 23, 2010.
†††My last performance of "My Heart": April 4, 2010.
††††My last performance of "She's Leaving Home": September 9, 2009.

Thanks very much to everyone who made the show fantastic, including those below who helped support my show! GMetal Svartur, Triana Caldera, TheaDee, Sher Salmson, Alexis Fairlady, Diana Renoir, Kat Claxton, my manager Maali Beck, and Crystal Gardens owners Mikal Beaumont and Sandi Benelli!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Key West (09.07.11)

I think all performing artists like the idea of doing a show that's apart from the ordinary. Even with a big repertoire of songs, doing something like a themed show gives me a perfectly good opportunity to update my set list and bring in some new fans who are appreciative of the specific purpose of the show.

That's why tonight at Key West, I held my first "That '90s Show", which was a full hour of doing cover songs from the 1990s. It turned out really good, and as I'd hoped, we brought in some folks who might ordinarily not come to my show. Also, preparing for the show gave me the added benefit of adding six new covers to my songbook, which is always cool. A few of them went really well, and they'll probably be popping up pretty often at subsequent shows.

Key West is always a great venue, and I tend to get nice-sized, enthusiastic crowds there. Photo by Kat.

Key West Set List...
What I Got (Sublime) 
*Walk on the Ocean (Toad the Wet Sprocket) 
*Down (311) 
Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots) 
*About a Girl (Nirvana) 
Sex and Candy (Marcy Playground) 
*Learn to Fly (Foo Fighters) 
Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog) 
*1979 (Smashing Pumpkins) 
*Under the Bridge (Red Hot Chili Peppers) 
Better Man (Pearl Jam) 

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL. New record of new songs tonight! Wheee!

Huge thanks to the folks at Key West, and everyone who helped support my show! 
Kristopher Walpole, Rusty Seisenbacher, Christina001, Aurelie Chenaux, Kat Claxton, GMetal Svartur, Michaelangelo Franciosa, Triana Caldera, my manager Maali Beck, and Key West owner Liz Harley!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

UPCOMING: Zak's "THAT '90s SHOW" at Key West

Tomorrow evening (Wednesday September 7 at 5PM SLT) at Key West in SL, I'll be doing a special show. Side note: I almost never do "special shows", preferring to make each show "special" in some way, but I rarely plan a complete theme-based show.

To keep things fresh, I decided to wind back the clock to the decade before last, and do a complete hour of songs from the 1990s. Unlike most of my shows, tomorrow night's event will not feature any of my original music. Instead, it's 60 minutes of covers, and I'm pulling out six songs I've never played before just to make it all the more exciting for myself and my audience. We'll be covering everything from grunge to alternative, rap-rock to post-rock, and more.

So, get out your flannel shirts and head over to Key West Wednesday night. This will be memorable and fun!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The all-new Zak Claxton Dot Com!

I have a web site. I know, it's shocking. But it's worthwhile mentioning, at least today, because I just did a complete rebuild of the site, and it's all new and stuff.

Therefore, I thought it might be cool to give you a little guided tour of the site. Not that you can't figure it out on your own, dear reader; if that were the case, my web designer would have done a rather piss-poor job. Who is that web guru? Why, it's me, of course. In my life that doesn't involve me playing guitar and singing, I own a little marketing company, and web design is one of the main things we do (along with graphic design, copywriting, public relations, and more stuff in that vein). Since web design is my job, it's all the less likely that I want to spend time designing my own sites after days on end of doing it for my clients.

Regardless, I found my last version of the site to be somewhat lacking. In my desire to "keep it clean", I inadvertently left it devoid of useful content, and made updating it more of a pain in the ass than it needs to be in this Web 2.0 world. So, the first thing you might notice about the new site is that it has stuff... lots of stuff, and stuff that is dynamically updated through things like this blog, which is now viewable right there on the home page.

First thing to note: every single page of the site has a music player on top. No matter where you are, feel free to listen to the songs off my last album. The Home page also has a feed from this very blog, which I update often as you probably know. When you rollover the main navigation in the orange bar near the top, you'll see there are drop-down menus that help you quickly get where you want go. Another item you'll find on every page is the signup form for my mailing list. You can enter your email there, and I'll drop you a line if I ever think of something important enough with which to bother you. Beneath that, you'll see my latest outpouring of genius on Twitter, and below that, you can "like" the page via Facebook.

If you feel like you need to know more about me, the Bio pages should give you all you need to know. There is a miniature version for those among us short of time and/or attention, and a longer one for backgrounds in hard-hitting press exposés. Speaking of press, the Press Kit page conveniently links to the bio and has some high-res photos right there. So, if you want to do a big interview with me and put my picture on your magazine cover, I would probably be okay with it.

The Music page of the site is a place where you can -- for absolutely free -- listen at your leisure to the entire Zak Claxton album. As I often say, if you like what you hear, please buy it... there are convenient links to iTunes and Amazon in the Store area, but we'll get to that later. In Music, you can hear the whole album, and get info on the songs, the lyrics, and the credits for recording form my last album.

Here's a convenient part of the site for all you Zaksters: a complete schedule of my upcoming live shows (most of which, as you know, are in Second Life). Found under the "shows" navigation tab, you can browse through my schedule and decide ahead of time in regard to which of my silly, wacky, zany gigs you may want to attend.

The "Pics/Vids" area of the site has pictures and videos. Wow, was that really necessary to write? Anyway, you may find something you haven't seen before there, and I'm also going to be adding a ton of more recent photos shortly. Enjoy them.

Finally, the Store page of the site is a convenient way to buy my music, as well as clothing and accessories if you're into wearing me. You'll find direct links to my Amazon page where you can buy my CD, as well as links to iTunes and Amazon MP3 to buy downloads. At the bottom are a few of my merchandise items, and a link to my merch store where you can see more.

There's a lot more to the site. I recommend you try out the Random page (who knows what you'll find? Not me, and I coded the damn thing), or browse through my Links just to see who I put up there. I hope you enjoy the site, and if you want to tell me anything about it, it's now easier than ever to reach me.