Friday, December 28, 2012

Zak & Kat's Neighborhood: Let's Get Coffee

Come with us to visit the Bean Counter on a Friday afternoon.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Loft (12.20.12)

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will verify that I really, really like performing at venues in Second Life where I'd never played before. I'd heard of The Loft many times over the years, but for whatever reason, I never had an opportunity to play there.

Here's an important lesson for your real life as well as whatever you do in the pixel world: things tend not to just happen by some cosmic force. You need to help them along. And in this case, I never bothered taking the simple step of saying, "Hey, this seems like a cool venue. Perhaps I'll find out if I could do a show there some time." No, I had to wait for the weird magic of an interconnected world to get a show at The Loft. That's not the best way to go about it, but sometimes things work out in ways that you wouldn't have expected.

It turns out that the person who runs The Loft, a lovely lady named Allegra Genira, discovered that she and I had a mutual friend on Facebook. No big surprise there. But this connection was made well outside of SL; I was friends with a person who plays in a band with her husband. As it turns out, we realized that I got into SL, then pulled this friend in, and that's how Allegra herself ended up discovering SL. Ah, how the spider of circumstance weaves its unpredictable web, or something.

Having fun with a cool crowd during my last show of 2012. Photo by Kat.

A good show to end another good year of rocking the virtual world. Photo by Kat.

Anyway, I enjoyed my Thursday night show at The Loft. It was my last SL performance of 2012, as I'm too busy for the next week or so to take any gigs in world, and I tried to make it a good one. DimiVan Ludwig (the SL persona of musician Chris Harlow), a long-term fixture in the SL musical community, was on before me, and I enjoyed his set as I got warmed up. We had a nice crowd, a good portion of which weren't my usual fans, and I liked the opportunity to introduce them to my stuff. Also, being less than a week before Christmas, I threw in some interpretations of a couple of holiday tunes.

The Loft Set List...
Radio Free Europe (R.E.M.)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Save It For Later (English Beat)
Thank You (Led Zeppelin)
Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy (Bing Crosby/David Bowie)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional)
River (Joni Mitchell)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
*Take Me to the River (Al Green)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
Tribute (Tenacious D)

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

Huge thanks to everyone who made my debut at The Loft fun, including the following who helped support the show!
Triana Caldera, Beth Odets, TheaDee, Kat Claxton, Crap Mariner, my manager Maali Beck, and The Loft's queen of fun, Allegra Genira!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Key West (12.19.12)

Stress is a weird thing. It serves a purpose, or at least it used to. See, back in the time when it was much more likely that on a daily basis you could be eaten by tigers and such, it was a good thing to have what's called a "fight or flight response". That means your brain and body would get all primed up to either kick some ass, or run like hell, in order to survive. Survival is good for a species, so stress and anxiety is what allowed your distant ancestors to stay alive, and hence produce progeny such as yourself.

But in the modern era, even though there are plenty of dangers out there, it's actually pretty rare that something is going to eat you. So, the physical effects of stress itself, on a general basis, are worse than the perceived threat. These days, it's much more likely that less lethal things -- a work deadline, an argument with a friend, and so on -- will trigger that same deeply rooted response, and dump adrenaline into your bloodstream as if that tiger was still chasing you across the savannah. While stressed, your nervous system gets primed to survive in many ways, but most of the time, you're not really in need of that kind of physical response. You're left with those unfortunately familiar symptoms of stress itself. It's not fun.

Rockin' in a winter wonderland. Photo and top photo by Cicadetta Stillwater.

Why am I talking about this? I had a stress-packed day yesterday. Around the holidays, that's certainly not unusual for anyone. For me, I get a double-whammy every fall and early winter. The industry in which I work in real life -- the music/audio products business -- has its biggest event of the year every January, and preparation for it has taken up much of my mindshare every December in the past 20 years I've dealt with it. So, despite my usual easygoing and fun demeanor, I am every bit as susceptible to the effects of stress as the next person, and yesterday it sucker-punched me. I spent most of the day working like a fiend, and hardly felt like doing a fun-filled live music show that evening.

However, there's one advantage to having some age and experience under your belt, and it's that you know yourself pretty well after awhile. For me, performing is like going into the ocean. As you first feel the water hitting your toes and legs, you're thinking that it's way too cold to be getting in the water. When it first splashes your midsection, you start thinking you're insane for doing this at all. However, as soon as you fully submerge yourself, it feels terrific. And that's what getting onstage is like for me. No matter how bad my day has been, no matter how little I think I feel like being entertaining, as soon as I dive in with my first strum of the guitar, I am very happy to be there.

My view from the stage. Just life real life, it's not always easy to see when you're in the spotlight. I actually requested my audience to all come closer to the stage so I didn't feel like I was performing alone in a giant snowy meadow. They obliged. I have a thoughtful audience. Photo by Cicadetta.

Last night at Key West was a good example of this phenomenon. I arrived at the venue, and my buddy Taunter Goodnight was performing. Taunter, as they would say in her home state of Minnesota, is a hoot. She's a funny and fun-filled lady with a big voice and a great attitude, and just hearing her do her show while I got ready for mine had me feeling much more cheery than I had a few minutes earlier.

My show ended up being fine. I get to pull out some music during this season that I don't play often throughout the year, so that's always a cool thing for me. We had a nice crowd that was made up of a few hardcore Zaksters as well as the leftovers from Taunter's show, and the folks who were coming to see Savannah Coronet perform after me. All in all, it went really well, and I've been in a better mood ever since.

Key West Set List...
Long December (Counting Crows)
†Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional)
Wonderwall (Oasis)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)

†Only did this great Lou Reed tune once before. I should do it more often.

Big thanks to everyone who came out to Key West, especially those who helped support my show!
Kat Claxton, Savannah Coronet, Alexis Fairlady, Marissa Goodliffe, Wolf Overland, Cicadetta Stillwater, Gracie Hyland, mhickale Keneinan, Taunter Goodnight, Key West hostess Coreopsis Bluebird, and owner Liz Harley!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Triana's Music Trivia (12.16.12)

Playing a live show at Triana's Music Trivia is different than anywhere else in Second Life. First off, it's not a live music venue; it's the home turf of my best pal in SL, Triana Caldera, where she hosts a weekly music trivia game... the longest-running game of that nature in Second Life, having started in 2004. Second, it's full of the absolutely insane people who I call my closest friends in the virtual world. Having attended Triana's trivia event almost without fail on every Sunday night since late 2006, the folks who go there are fun and profane and irreverent, and therefore have much in common with Kat and me.

Every so often, Triana hosts a live music event there, often in June (when she commemorates the anniversary of TMT's founding and her own rezday), and around the holidays, which was the excuse for my show there last night. There are two things about last night's performance that I won't be showing you here, or anywhere else for that matter (at least for now). One is the graphic that I made for the event, which Triana put in a prominent place, and shows me completely naked with a strategically placed sign blocking the parts that probably shouldn't be waved around in public.

Second was a little less silly and more cool. Kat and I had spent a good portion of the weekend working on music for our new project along with Bunny Knutson, called They Stole My Crayon. Kat was particularly thrilled; it was a song for which she'd written lyrics, and then surprised me by coming up with a great backing vocal part on her own (not easy to do for someone who doesn't consider herself a musician). We recorded and mixed pretty much all day on Saturday and a good chunk of Sunday as well. When it was getting near time to perform, I had the idea that perhaps the TMT crowd would enjoy being the first public audience to hear the tune.

The TMT crowd boogies down while listening to the first-ever public playback of the most recent "Take the Ride" rough mix. Photo and top photo by Kat.

So, that's what we did. I started the show not by strumming my guitar, but by pressing 'play' on my iPad which was routed into my audio stream. The song -- which I promise you'll hear soon enough, but not just yet -- is an interesting dichotomy of sweet and sad, soft and hard, dream and nightmare, and goes on for eight minutes (including a punishing four-minute outro section that we came up with on Saturday morning). It's called "Take the Ride", and both Kat and I are proud of it so far. After we add some contributions by Bunny and some other refinements, it will be ready for prime time.

Our hostess, friend, and master of music trivia, Triana Caldera. She put that mistletoe to good use after the show ended. Photo by Kat.

I believe that the TMT crowd liked the song. I mean, they got to hear Kat singing, which is a rare treat for all of them, in and of itself. One thing about They Stole My Crayon is that we purposefully want the music to be challenging. Not for the musician, per se, but for the listener. Every time I feel I'm creating something sweet and poppy (like I often do for songs I write for my solo stuff), I make sure to take the tune in a more relentless direction for TSMC. Anyway, I think they all understood what we were going for, and I don't ask for more than that. After I played back the most recent mix of "Take the Ride", I did something I never do: had an "All Request" set of songs. I won't do that for the general public, but for my pals at TMT, it was great, as were their zany song selections.

Triana's Music Trivia Set List...
Take the Ride -- mix playback (They Stole My Crayon)
Afternoon Delight (Starland Vocal Band)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Take Me With U (Prince)
Borderline (Madonna)
Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Triana (Zak Claxton)
Sex & Candy (Marcy Playground)
The Rainbow Connection (Kermit the Frog)
Shine (Zak Claxton)

Thanks so much to everyone who makes our Sunday evenings special at Triana's Music Trivia, with special thanks to those who supported the show last night!
Alchemy Epstein, Jordan Hazlitt, Nakira Tennen, Diana Renoir, MrNoCal Honey, Xerxes Ninetails, Kat Claxton, Samantha Poindexter, TheaDee, and the amazing lady who makes it all happen week after week, Triana Caldera! There's nothing trivial about you!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Serene Acoustic Lounge (12.13.12)

I'm having trouble typing right now. It's not because it's not quite seven AM, or that my hands themselves are malfunctioning in some way. No, it's because I played two songs using my fingers instead of a flatpick last night at Serene Acoustic Lounge in Second Life. Just two songs. And later in the evening, I noticed something I hadn't experienced since I was a very young guitarist: blisters on my fingers. I'm not talking about the tough callouses on my fretting hand, formed from playing guitar nearly every day since I was seven years old. No, I mean my right hand, my picking hand. It had been so long since I played fingerstyle (without a pick) that my fingers have turned into wussy little sausages that are incapable of repeated contact with metal strings at this point, apparently.

How humiliating! I used to play guitar using my fingers a lot... like, a whole lot. I took classical lessons for a number of years where I exclusively used my fingers. It's the equivalent of realizing you forgot how to ride a bike, or how to drive a stick shift, or something. The only way to toughen them back up, of course, is to play a lot more, so after these somewhat painful blisters heal, I will make a point to do just that.

Playing tunes and talking about songwriting. Good times. Photo and top photo by Triana.

Apart from this sad reminder of my complete reliance on a flatpick, it was a fantastic show at Serene. Barbie Horsely (known as Sassy Nitely in SL) has become a really good friend of mine. We share a manager (the amazing Maali Beck), we both do a mix of original music and cover tunes when we perform in SL, we both chose Music as our area of study in college, and we both have plenty of musical experience outside of virtual worlds. Barbie owns Serene, and from the get-go, she intended it to be a place where musicians could showcase their own stuff... kind of the virtual equivalent of the famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville (where Barbie happens to live). There are plenty of places in SL to whoop it up and party and rock; Serene is more of a real listening environment for people who are truly fans of music.

She and I had decided to do a show there together some time back, but it wasn't until maybe a week ago that she asked me if we should have some kind of theme. It being mid-December, the obvious and easy thing to do would make it a holiday-themed event. But honestly, there are already so many of those happening in and out of SL that it hardly seemed like anything special. Instead, I suggested (and she agreed) that doing a show where we could focus on the songwriting we do and the musicians who have influenced our work would be both fun for us and interesting to our audience.

It worked well. Barbie (or Sassy, if you prefer) started the show and did a number of her own originals, and also tunes by artists like Jewel and Sarah McLachlan who had a big impact on her as a musician. I thought she did a great set; I listened as I got my own stuff set up (and my self warmed up) to play. She and I both did a lot more talking than usual, and I will tell you, despite knowing Sassy and her music well, I learned quite a bit while listening to her tell stories of her own musical background and her process in writing. It was cool.

Sassy performs and tells stories of her start as a musician and songwriter.

The crowd seemed to like this interesting show that went beyond just the music. They did so despite my knee jutting out of the middle of my guitar. Photo by Triana.

My set was good, but not because I played or sang particularly well. I didn't; I was marginally okay at best. But I really liked being able to go into depth on a wide range of subjects that relate to songs and songwriting. Also, in choosing my selections, I ended up pushing myself a bit into some areas outside of my top-level comfort zone. This is crucial to do from time to time as a performing musician. It helps ensure that you don't start doing your set by rote, playing only your most familiar stuff and running into inevitable burnout.

You've been a great audience. I love you! Peace!

Serene Set List...
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
The Worst (Rolling Stones)
Perfect Girl (Zak Claxton)
Across the Universe (Beatles)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (nick Drake)
*Blackbird (Beatles)
A Case of You (Joni Mitchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)

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

Yes, that's only nine songs, which goes to show how much I was talking about the music as opposed to playing it. You can't do that at every show (I'd go nuts, as would the audience), but it was a really neat change of pace for everyone.

Massive thanks to everyone who came out to hear my "Songwriters & Influences" set, including those who helped support it!
Triana Caldera, Hells Lobo, Sabina Melnik, Zanne Boucher, Sesh Kamachi, Christine Haiku, and most of all, my friend and fellow performing songwriter Sassy Nitely!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Islands of New England (12.10.12)

It's so hard to say what changes the dynamic of each live music show in Second Life. I've never been a huge touring musician in the fleshy world, so I can only imagine that there are similar idiosyncrasies when a band plays Vancouver, then Seattle, then Portland, and so on. You might do the same material in each town with the same degree of proficiency, but the differences in the venue and the crowd make the vibe very unique at each respective show.

So, I suppose the same goes for SL. I don't know that my performance last night at the Islands of New England was particularly great, but when I finished my last note, it felt like one of the coolest shows I'd done in awhile. What made it that way? Not a huge crowd, but a good crowd. I've written about this phenomenon a number of times, but to reiterate: a group of people who are active amongst each other and engaging toward me inspires me to play better. No offense to any of those artists who prefer their crowd to be silent in rapt wonder and awe, but the more I see my crowd enjoying themselves and having a great time, the better I feel, and the more confidently and uninhibitedly I perform.

I always enjoy when I arrive at a venue during a particular season, and they've decked the place out to capture the vibe. New England's "winter wonderland" look was great. Photo and top photo by Kat.

Playing music: good. Playing music in front of people: better. Playing music in front of friends: the best. Photo by Kat.

One thing that helped make the show cool before I'd even picked up my guitar is the fact that entertainment events at the Islands of New England are managed by a woman who I really like and whose company I enjoy, Christine Haiku. When I feel like a personal friend of the folks who run a venue, there's one extra layer of pressure removed. I have nothing to prove to Christine; she's come to dozens of my shows all over the grid, and seems to enjoy herself. I like her cheery attitude and humor, and she's been beyond supportive over the several years that we've known each other.

Secondly, a good chunk of the crowd was made up of other people who I consider friends, and even those who I didn't know really seemed to dig both the serious and silly songs that I'd pulled out for the occasion.

IONE Set List...
Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
Afternoon Delight (Starland Vocal Band)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond)
Man on the Moon (R.E.M.)
Polly (Nirvana)
The Other Way (Zak Claxton)
Old Man (Neil Young)
People Are Strange (The Doors)
Blue Skies (Irving Berlin)
River (Joni Mitchell)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)

Many thanks to my good pals and new friends who came to my show at the Islands of New England (especially the following who helped support the show). You all rock.
Spirit Cleanslate, Triana Caldera, Leanna Chaffe, Straton Tigerpaw, TheaDee, Chili Lykin, Sesh Kamachi, Kat Claxton, Kunshi, Sassy Nitely, my manager Maali Beck, and IONE hostess with the mostess, Christine Haiku!

Monday, December 10, 2012

How New Songs Develop

Any time I write a post about songwriting, you have to keep in mind that what I'm describing to you is one of an infinite number of ways to accomplish the task of creating/capturing a new song. The same artist can end up using ten different ways to create ten songs on an album. Granted, that usually doesn't happen; many artists tend to fall into a formulaic approach, and once they hit on something that works for them, they just keep reusing it over and over. For me, the song itself is what dictates its path, and whatever direction it takes me, that's where I go. What the hell does that mean? Allow me to elucidate.

I'm currently immersed in creating music for They Stole My Crayon, a collaborative project between myself, Kat, and Bunny Knutson. For this band, if you want to call it that, I am purposefully taking some new directions in the style, and that means I can't just take the easy road. Doing this music has required me to do a lot of listening to new music (which is great, by the way), and allowing the influence of the songwriting and the production of the recordings to wash over me.

It may seem obvious, but the most important skill you can have as a songwriter or recordist is the ability to listen. When musicians listen, they tend to do it on a different plane than most people. We analyze many aspects of a recording that normal folks might not even notice but are subconsciously aware of. It's our job to put those nebulus components of sound into tangible aspects and use them well.

A Little History
Back in the era of the 1970s and beforehand, you plenty of options for songwriting, but not so many for recording. Very few people outside of commercial recording studios had the equipment required for professional music production, so you'd write your little song using your guitar or piano and a sheet of paper, then go into the studio and record it. By the way, not just anyone could go into the studio; it cost a lot of money (and still does), so most of the people recording were those who were signed to record labels who would foot the bill for the studio sessions (and the session musicians and engineers and producer and tape and so on).

Today, you can download some software that turns your home computer in your bedroom into a multitrack recording studio cheaply and easily. At least that's the theory; the problem is that most people don't realize what an intricate art and science it is to creatively capture music, and they lack the listening and technical skills to do it well, but that's another story. For the sake of this post, let's assume that you have some recording gear at home, and have a pretty good idea how to use it.

There's nothing "fair" about the recording process. Some people have to bring in a bunch of musicians to record specific parts. I'm fortunate that over the course of my life, I've become proficient on a wide range of instruments, allowing me to do most of my own recorded music by overdubbing parts on top of each other. That having been said, I always welcome the opportunity to have other people make musical contributions when they can add something to the song that otherwise wouldn't be there with just me doing all the performances.

The Demo
As I've discussed here before, it's a really good idea to capture your new song as soon as you can. I do this as quickly and simply as possible. I grab whatever is handy that I can use to record -- a video camera, a computer app that's designed for voice memos, whatever -- and record the song, usually just playing guitar and singing. Don't have lyrics yet? No problem. Mumble some unintelligible sounds while you play. The words can come later.

Refine the Tune
Perhaps your song is absolutely perfect from that moment. It does happen. Chances are, though, you'll notice some aspects of your song that need tweaking. You'll make some adjustments in your lyrics when you try and sing and realize that a phrase is really awkward. You'll decide that the last chorus should be repeated twice. You'll realize the bridge is too long. Whatever the case may be, now is the perfect time to refine your song, because once you really get locked into the structure of the song, it's hard to imagine it any other way.

What Is Arranging?
The American Federation of Musicians defines arranging as "the art of preparing and adapting an already written composition for presentation in other than its original form. An arrangement may include reharmonization, paraphrasing, and/or development of a composition, so that it fully represents the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic structure"[1].

That's not really easy to understand for everyone, so let me give you an example. For our new song "Take the Ride", we'd created a demo per above the same day the song was written. I did it very fast, not trying very hard to think about the fine details. This weekend, I revisited that demo and found a few things I didn't fully like. I also started imagining some of the other sounds and musical motifs that I felt could better flesh out the idea as I imagined it. Remember, you have to have a good enough imagination to hear things that don't yet exist on a recording. That's part of being a music producer. More on that job title another time.

I can't deny that when trying to record stuff you're proud of, it's helpful to have choices in gear. However, don't fall into the trap of thinking that more/better gear will automatically make you a better recordist. It certainly won't make you a better songwriter, and having too many choices can actually end up paralyzing you while trying to get a new song done.

So, I could hear things that weren't yet part of the song. Strings, for instance. I imagined certain vocal lines that had yet to be recorded. I thought of additional guitar parts. You get the idea. Meanwhile, we also went through that refinement process. I changed the key of the original demo from E major up to G major; it just felt better to sing and more enjoyable to listen to. I also picked up the tempo considerably. I'd heard a tune that I liked and felt the tempo would be a better fit than what we'd chosen for the original demo version. Kat did some work on her original lyrics in places that didn't work well for phrasing. Also, the original demo had no drums at all, and I had what I thought might be a good plan for a drum beat. All stuff that would have a big impact on the next version of the song!

Better Demo or Master?
We then set about recording these new ideas. I started with the drums, and then added bass, and then guitar, and then some lead and backing vocals, getting mixing ideas as I went along. The question you have to ask at this phase: am I recording a better demo, or am I recording the version that will be released to the public? The answer is easy: if it's good enough, it's the final version. If not, you're going to go through part or the whole process all over again. My advice is to not assume either way. Try to get great sounds, if you can. Try and do your best on every track, because it really might be a "keeper".

It's still unknown at this stage whether what we worked on this weekend might be what ends up on the album. I will tell you this: when you don't record in a "real" studio, you almost always end up making compromises. Your home probably wasn't designed with music recording in mind, so there are noises that leak inside (so you just might have to be okay with car engine noises and the sound of playing kids invading your precious lead vocal track). Your recording gear, unless you've invested a whole lot of money, isn't as good as the equipment in a pro studio. But the good news is that even the less expensive gear we use at home has gotten a whole lot better over the years, and more importantly, if you're a good recordist and a creative person, you can figure out ways to make stuff work. Sometimes, those limitations end up challenging you into making even better stuff than you would with a wide open canvas.

What's Next?
It depends on what you're going for. In this case, we have a band member (Bunny) who lives about 30 miles away. Not very far, but far enough through LA traffic that dropping by to throw down some tracks isn't possible all the time. We want Bunny to make contributions, so what I'll do is take all the tracks we've done so far and send them to Bunny via the amazing Internet. Bunny will be able to load those tracks into his computer, and then add various sounds (probably more guitars and vocals in this case).

We sometimes are lucky enough to be in the same room while trying to write music. However, even in collaborations, I've found the act of writing music and lyrics to be a personal one best accomplished by an individual, and then the collaborative process happens while the song is being refined. Here's Bunny and I making silly noises, which is fun whether or not you're trying to write great music.

And then? More and more refinement. I'm still not fully happy with the vocals we did yesterday, so I already know I'll be doing those again. Once everything has been recorded satisfactorily, the process of mixing begins. You need everything to fit together nicely. That means the volumes of the individual tracks blend well. It means that the frequency content of the song (aka the amounts of treble, bass, and midrange sounds) has the right tone in each track so that the overall result isn't too muddy or too tinny (unless that's what you're after). It means that each effect is applied tastefully. It means that the song starts and ends in the way you'd planned, and much, much more. There's an amazing amount of creative work that goes into mixing, but we're not even close to that point yet.

What we do have at the moment is a song that's neither here nor there, but is headed in a very promising direction. I'm excited about its potential, but I've also seen songs get to this stage and get completely derailed by a number of factors. The only secret to seeing it through to its successful completion, if there is one, is to try and maintain the focus of the original vision and vibe, while also being open minded about where the song might go that you'd never planned in the first place. Sound like a mutually exclusive goal? It would seem that way, but it's all part of the magic of making music. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Warehouse at Grove Estates (12.06.12)

Every Second Life musician without fail will recognize the following scenario.

Musician: Hey, come to my show tonight!
Fan #1: I'd love to, but I have a bowling league semifinal.
Fan #2: I wish I could, but it's my son's school band's winter concert tonight.
Fan #3: Aw, I already promised Gooby McGoober that I'd go to his show.
Fan #4: Yay! Oh damn, I just remember it's my company's holiday party tonight.

And so on. This is just a fact of life: you compete with life itself when you do any kind of artistic performance, and quite often life wins. And it should; the fact is that every performer out there should be grateful that anyone at all ever comes to see them. It's way too easy to fall into the trap of taking your supporters for granted. The minute you start expecting people to be there time and time again (and getting disappointed when that's not the case), you've crossed over into the Douche Zone.

If I had a band, there might have been more people onstage than in the audience when we started the set. Photo by Kat.

But wait... there's more. Sometimes, as a live performer in any environment, you're not only in competition for folks' time versus their other life activities, but also up against other forms of entertainment as well. For example, you probably don't want to schedule a show during the Super Bowl. You're likely to lose that battle. But even under less severe cases, the fact is that there are a lot of choices in entertainment, and you can't expect to be the #1 draw every night. Actually, you can, but you're guaranteed to end up bitter and resentful when it inevitably doesn't work out that way all the time.

All this is a long lead up to saying that my debut at the Warehouse of Grove Country Club Estates in Second Life wasn't exactly a headline-inspiring event. My Zaksters superfans were nearly all preoccupied with other things, and the club (which is think is relatively new) apparently doesn't have a big draw on its own, at least for live performers. The upshot of that is that I began my show to a nearly empty house, which doesn't happen very often for me. Despite that, I did what I always do... play music and have fun. The manager/host there, Samantha Ohrberg, seems like a very nice person who understands that not every show at every venue will be a packed house. Many of the constantly successful venues in SL have taken months or even years to become a "go-to" destination that gets a good crowd at every event.

We actually ended up with a happy little crowd as the show went on. Life's too short to spend time whining instead of appreciating what you've got. Photo by Kat.

I think those who did come to the Warehouse ended up having a good time, as did I. I can't ask for more than that, and I don't. Photo by Kat.

We did end up getting enough people there to feel like the show was worthwhile for everyone involved, and I especially want to thank my friends Christine Haiku and Sesh Kamachi for showing up and immediately improving my woeful attitude. Musically, the show went fine, and my voice seemed to be behaving itself.

Warehouse/Grove Estates Set List...
Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Caxton)
Rikki Don't Lose That Number (Steely Dan)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)
1979 (Smashing Pumpkins)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
On The Way Home (Neil Young)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)
Improvised Outro Tune (Zak Claxton)

Many thanks to those who made it out to support the show! You rule!
Sher Salmson, Sesh Kamachi, Christine Haiku, Christine Haiku, Christine Haiku, Christine Haiku, Christine Haiku, Christine Haiku, Christine Haiku, Christine Haiku, Christine Haiku, Christine Haiku (seriously Haiku, this is my revenge for your tip jar shenanigans), Kat Claxton, my manager Maali Beck, and the Warehouse's Samantha Ohrberg!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lavender Field (12.01.12)

It's actually been a number of months since I had the pleasure of performing at a charitable benefit in Second Life, so I was quite pleased to get on a bill with my friends Sassy Nitely (aka Barbie Horsley) and Lyndon Heart at Lavender Field's Feed-A-Smile event on Saturday.

Sassy, Lyndon and I are all clients of Maali Beck Entertainment, and we're all good pals as well, so it was not only a terrific day of raising funds for a very worthy cause, but also fun as hell too. If you haven't read one of my previous reports from Brique Topaz's Lavender Field, let me fill you in. This Second Life location 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 (less than $0.40 USD) in donations at the shows allow one kid to get one hot meal.

When artists perform at Lavender Field, they waive their performance fees and instead of tips, all funds raised go straight to the charity. Between Sassy, Lyndon, and myself, our generous fans kicked down 201 meals, in the form of L$20,100 donated while we played. That's about $75 USD, which isn't bad at all and will help make those kids' lives better for a short while. I also used the occasion to pull our a few covers that I hadn't done before.

A very rare smile on my avatar's face. Perhaps my digital self recognizes when I'm doing something good. Photo and top photo by Kat.

Superfan Thea Dee hangs out with Sassy Nitely, and Lyndon Heart boogies while I perform. Photo by Kat.

After my show, Kat and I hung out to listen to Lyndon's set. Poor Triana made it to the show while suffering with a bad stomach. She gets extra karma points for that. Photo by Kat.

Lavender Field Set List...
Pigs on the Wing -- Part 1 (Pink Floyd)
*Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Teach Your Children (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog)
The Sands of Redondo (Zak Claxton)
I Am A Child (Neil Young)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
*Strawberry Fields Forever (Beatles)
*Are You Experienced (Jimi Hendrix)
Long December (Counting Crows)
Pigs on the Wing -- Part 2 (Pink Floyd)

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

Thank you to everyone who made this day of fun and fundraising a big success! Special thanks to my friends Sassy, Lyndon, and Maali for doing what you do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Whisky A Go Go in Second Life (11.27.12)

Successfully running a live music venue is hard. I don't care if it's real life, Second Life, or any life for that matter. It's hard if you want it to work well, and when you see venues that have lasted a long time, there's a lot more than luck involved. What is involved is a ton of work and commitment and organization, and it never eases up.

I've been fortunate to have had a regular weekly show at the Whisky in SL for about five straight months. Most musicians -- self included -- like having a place to perform that feels like home, and after playing at a venue over 20 times, I certainly am comfortable at the Whisky. Like many well-run places, the Whisky has benefitted from a good owner and good staff, but the fact is that real life can definitely be a detriment to your not-so-real life. When a person needs to choose priorities, Second Life almost always takes a back seat to things that are important in the fleshy world. And it should, in my opinion.

Rocking the Whisky has been great, week after week, but it's time for a break and some new adventures for me and my Zaksters. Photo and top photo by Cicadetta Stillwater. Thanks Cica!

In any case, last night's show at the Whisky turned out to be really good, but it might be my last one there for awhile. It's been difficult for the folks who run it to do just that. Their real life jobs and schedules have made operating the place difficult, and it's probably time to take a break there until they figure out what path they want to take. That's fine; as I said, it's been great playing there, and I'd be very surprised if there weren't more Zak Shows there in the future, once they get things straightened out.

For what was probably my last Whisky show for awhile, I pulled out an array of tunes that left me a panting, sweaty mess at the end (and turned my vocal chords into shards of broken glass in the process), but was a ton of fun. It was certainly fun for me, and I think the crowd would also say it was an enjoyable experience.

Whisky Set List...
A Day In The Life (Beatles)
Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Day After Day (Badfinger)
About a Girl (Nirvana)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Fuck You (Cee Lo Green)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
A Million Miles Away (The Plimsouls)
Goodbye Blue Sky (Pink Floyd)
For the Turnstiles (Neil Young)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
In My Time of Dying (Traditional)

Big thanks to the Zaksters and other folks who supported this show. I couldn't do it without you!
AlexEscapade, Rusty Seisenbacher, Amrynn, TheaDee, Cicadetta Stillwater, Shannyn Fall, and my great manager Maali Beck!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Key West (11.21.12)

First off, pardon the lateness of this report. I spent the last four days in some kind of food-induced psychedelic trip, and I may have slightly overdosed on tryptophan. At several points of this gluttony-induced haze, I considered posting about my pre-Thanksgiving show at Key West, in Second Life, but then would once again find myself elbows deep in pie and turkey scraps.

Also noteworthy is that on Saturday and Sunday, I spent most of both days working on new music for the band that includes my darling Kat Claxton and great friend Bunny Knutson. We recorded some great stuff over the weekend, so with this rather busy "time off", I didn't find the time to write this show report.

If you have some sense of deja vu in regard to my having performed at Key West right before Thanksgiving, you're not crazy. Well, perhaps you are, but not in this specific regard. I did indeed perform there on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving in 2011, and I've told owner/manager Liz Harley that we need to make it an annual thing.

At a barely-recognizable Key West that's decked out in fall colors and scenery. Awesome. Photo and top photo by Kat.

Sassy Nitely, aka Barbie Horsely, awaits her turn to take the stage during my Pre-Thanksgiving show at Key West. Photo by Kat.

Liz and her team made the place look great for the occasion. It was seasonally decorated in a fall theme, and was perfect for an autumn concert. My good friends and fellow proteges of Maali Beck Entertainment, Sassy Nitely and Taunter Goodnight, were both performing on the same bill, so it's always great when all of us are booked together. My show went fine, and to mark the occasion, I pulled out a few tunes I'd never done before.

Key West Set List...
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Just Like This Train (Joni Mitchell)
Accidents Will Happen (Elvis Costello)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
*Parallax (Atlas Sound)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
*Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
*Give a Little Bit (Supertramp)

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

Big, big thanks to everyone who came out to the Pre-Turkey show at Key West, especially those who helped support it!
Lileyana, Cicadetta Stillwater, TheaDee, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, Spiral Silverstar, Sassy Nitely, my manager Maali Beck, and Key West owner/manager Liz Harley!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Whisky A Go Go in Second Life (11.20.12)

Sometimes, everything goes perfectly with a live music performance. Oddly, as a musician, those shows aren't very memorable. You arrive, everything works, you get a big audience, you sing and play, and go home. Perhaps we musicians are masochists, because it's usually the gigs where things are completely screwed up that stand out in our memories. However, the caveat is that when things are screwed up and you still pull off a good show, it's a nice affirmation that what matters is the music, and as long as you have the opportunity to do your best stuff (and then you do), those are the shows that seem to create memories.

Case in point: there was every indication that my show last night at the Whisky in SL wasn't going to go well, or possibly happen at all. The host there, a really great guy named Dmitri Polonsky, had apparently just been hired for a new job. This was good news for him, but it meant that no one would be available to host my show. I wasn't even positive that I'd be able to set the audio stream until I arrived at the venue. As we Second Life folks know, no stream equals no show. Second, my wonderful manager Maali Beck came down with food poisoning, and she pinged me not long before the show to tell me she wasn't going to make it. Side note: getting food poisoning right before Thanksgiving isn't something I'd wish on my worst enemy.

For a show that I didn't think was going to happen, this one turned out pretty damn good. Photo by Kat.

Careful with that axe, Eugene. Kat attempts to kill and eat Cicadetta. Photo by Kat.

My three guardian angels: Thea, Kat, and Cica. Photo by Kat.

So, there I was, with no one to run the venue, and no manager to help bring in a crowd. But wait! It gets even better: when I first tried to set the stream at the venue, I couldn't get the audio to work. I was starting to think that it would be a good time to cancel this whole clusterfuck, but then my Zaksters came to my rescue. While I was busy getting the audio stream to behave, Cicadetta Stillwater, Thea Dee, and my lovely lady Kat Claxton appeared. These guardian angels each took a job. Cica helped me troubleshoot the stream, Thea used her superpowers to send event notices out to a number of groups in SL, and Kat did a little of both. By the top of the hour, we were ready to rock. Thanks to the lovely Lady Zaksters for everything... the show would not have happened without you!

Speaking of the show, it really went well. As you probably know, I tend to play whatever material that I feel like doing at that moment, which more or less seems to correspond with the venue and the crowd for whom I'm playing. Last night was a bit more random than my standard selection of tunes, but it's good to mix it up like that sometimes, keeping things fresh for myself and my crowd.

Whisky Set List...
What Are You Like (Indigo Girls)
What I Got (Sublime)
If You Could Only See (Tonic)
Take the Ride (They Stole My Crayon)
Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
Theme from "Greatest American Hero" (Joey Scarbury)
Theme from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (Sonny Curtis)
Learning to Fly (Pink Floyd)
Uncle John's Band (Grateful Dead)
The Crystal Ship (The Doors)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Alabama (Neil Young)
*Casey Jones (Grateful Dead)

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

Huge thanks to my amazing fans, who literally made the show happen, as well as everyone who came and supported the show!
Triana Caldera, ThisisCin, Acred, Triana Caldera, TheaDee, Cicadetta Stillwater, and Kat Claxton!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Musician's Sports Guide: NFL 2012-13 Week Ten

I apologize that this edition of the Musician’s Guide to the NFL is a day late. Actually, let me take that back; I don't apologize. While I love writing about the NFL, I also own a small business, am a single parent, am in a relationship, and write/perform/record music often, and all of these things take higher priority than spewing words about guys who beat the crap out of each other for a living. Still, better late than never, or so they say.

The Giants (6-4) are still leading this division, but it’s a good thing for them that Dallas (4-5) and Philadelphia (3-6) are still underperforming. The defending champs just dropped two in a row, somehow being crushed by the mediocre Bengals in week 10. They have a bye this week, and for their sake, they should look at regrouping before taking on the Packers in week 12. The Cowboys did manage a win over the more-and-more befuddled Eagles this week (who’ve lost five in a row), and should be able to beat the Browns at home this weekend. And is it my imagination, or has RGIII looked pretty bad ever since he got his bell rung a few weeks back? Washington (3-6) hosts the Eagles this Sunday.

If the Bengals can dogpile on you, then what's going to happen against the tough teams. Photo via AP.

A lot of people seemed shocked that the Bears (7-2) lost to Houston at home this weekend. Why? Houston is tough as nails and has a better offense than Chicago. The Bears had better keep an eye open for the suddenly-hot Green Bay (6-3). They didn’t play this week, but took four straight before their bye week, and will have an easier time against Detroit than Chicago will against the Niners. Lest we forget, Minnesota (6-4) is also right there in this NFC-leading division. Detroit (4-5), unfortunately, looks to be the weakest link here.

Ah, the Falcons (8-1) finally lost a game, eliminating all stupid talk of undefeated seasons for all teams this year. Who beat them? The lowly Saints (4-5), who despite an awful start have crawled back to near the .500 mark. Speaking of getting better, No one’s going to call Tampa Bay (4-5) a great team this year, but they’ve won three in a row. Should there be an asterisk for their having beat three terrible AFC West teams? Nah, that’s how the game goes. Finally, Carolina (2-7) appears to be a football team of sorts.

The Dirty Birds hit a roadblock. They couldn't have picked a worse team to lose to than their division mates New Orleans. Photo via AP.

Serious question here: how can you be in the NFL and not know there’s such a thing as a tie in regular season games? The last time it happened in 2008, Donovan McNabb expressed disbelief that ties could happen, and apparently, at the end of the Niners (6-2-1) and Rams (3-5-1) game, a good number of players had to be told that indeed, the game was over with the scores being equal. Granted, ties don’t happen often. Since 1989, it’s happened just five times. But still... there’s a third column, and it doesn’t say “W” or “L”! Perhaps more incredulous is the idea that St. Louis played as well as San Francisco for 75 minutes. Elsewhere in the division, the Seahawks (6-4) are looking good, and as usual are dominating at home. They crushed the Jets on Sunday, and have this weekend off. Arizona (4-5) had the week off after losing five straight, and their return game for week 11 is against the Falcons. Uh oh.

"So, wait... you're saying the game is over? What is this tie thing of which you speak?" Photo via AP.

New England (6-3) has won three straight, but not in any real dominant form. They barely got past the Bills (3-6) on Sunday, and everyone expects them to beat the hell out of Indianapolis this weekend. My advice? That 9.5 spread seems a bit wide. Miami (4-5), who’d been looking unexpectedly strong for awhile, has slipped back (doesn’t Miami always get worse as the season progresses?) and got crushed by the Titans in week 10. Next week, they travel to Buffalo. Finally, the Jets (3-6) can’t catch a break. They’re the underdog, for crying out loud, against the Rams next weekend. Sigh.

So much for “killed by injuries”. The Ravens (7-2) have won their last two. of course, they were respectively against the Browns and Raiders, so let’s not get too excited, Baltimore fans. They play Pittsburgh (6-3) in week 11, and that would have probably been an epic game except Big Ben’s shoulder was hurt this week against the Chiefs. Congrats to the Bengals (4-5) for unexpectedly beating the Giants this week. They face (and likely beat) the Chiefs this coming Sunday. Finally, Cleveland (2-7) is Cleveland.

Many people I talk to continue to deny that the Texans (8-1) are as great as they seem. Well, beating the Bears in Chicago might finally shut them up. They’re going to soon be 9-1 after beating the Jags on Sunday. Big props to the Colts (6-3), who, in the talent-deficient AFC, could actually end up in the playoffs if things keep rolling their way. Their game against the Pats could be this week’s shocker. The Titans (4-6), who started the year looking really terrible, came out and kicked ass against the Fins in week 10. They get a bye this week. Finally, in a race for next year’s top draft pick, the Jags (1-8) even make the Browns look alright.

Those who thought Houston wouldn't stand up against a tough NFC team were silenced, at least for a moment, on Sunday. Photo via AP.

I’ll keep saying this until someone acknowledges me: there are no good teams in this division. None. Of the six wins that Denver (6-3) has managed to get, not one of them was against a good team. In San Diego (4-5), they should be burning Norv Turner in effigy... or perhaps in reality. Tampa Bay beat them this week, and it’s likely they’ll lose to Denver in week 11. Oakland (3-6) did manage to put up 20 points against a tough Ravens defense, but got 55 points scored on them by a mediocre Ravens offense. They’re certainly not seeing any playoff games unless they buy tickets. Finally, the worst team in football, the Chiefs (1-8), may help salvage the sad records of the other AFC West teams who each do have to play them twice eventually.

That's All, Folks!
As always, I welcome your comments and opinions. We're now over halfway done with the season, so here's hoping your team is doing better than mine. Unless, of course, your team is playing mine, in which case I hope they are really, really bad that week.

Whisky A Go Go in Second Life (11.13.12)

When you think about all the factors that need to align to turn a good musical performance into a great one, it's a wonder that anyone ever manages to ever ascend to levels beyond mediocrity. Check this out...

1. The artist has to feel good. That means several things: a good mental outlook, a good physical condition, and a high level of confidence in the material he or she will be performing (not to mention an assumed level of proficiency as a performer).

2. The right material for the random crowd. You have no idea who is going to come to your show, especially in SL where folks might be stopping in to hear you play with no conception of what you're all about. What kind of music are they into? Will they be in the mood for whatever it is you're going to play that night? Who the hell knows?

3. The right crowd to inspire the artist. Some people play better with small and intimate audiences. Others are the polar opposite; they can only put on their best show when they have as many eyeballs on them as possible.

4. Especially in SL, you can also add to that a lack of distractions from technical difficulties. Is the stream working? Are people able to login/teleport to your show? If one person can't hear you, can the others?

It's all just the tip of the iceberg if you want to delve deeply into the details. You have so many factors that combine intangibles relating to the performer, the place, the audience, the time of the show, the freaking weather... I mean, it's ridiculous. So, having everything come together at any particular show is beyond unlikely.

However, for whatever reason, those factors all seemed to be in my favor last night at the Whisky a Go Go in Second Life. I pulled out a particularly mellow set list which seemed to work well (and I don't know why). We got a really nice sized crowd there of cool and funny people (and I don't know why). And my voice and guitar just seemed to be working for me pretty effortlessly (and I don't know why). See, unlike most other areas of life, you can do nothing different in the preparation or promotion for a music performance, and get completely different results. And no... I don't know why, and perhaps it's best not to know why. I like the feeling of pleasant surprise when it all seems to come together. I'm as shocked as anyone... perhaps more so.

Whisky Set List...
**On the Way Home (Neil Young)
**After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
**Expecting to Fly (Neil Young)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Daniel (Elton John)
†Where Everybody Knows Your Name - Theme from "Cheers" (Gary Portnoy)
Beyond the Blue (Martina McBride)
Black Peter (Grateful Dead)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
†River (Joni Mitchell)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
Shine (Zak Claxton)

**I opened my show with three Neil tunes to help commemorate NY's 67th birthday the day before.

†I've only done these songs once before, so those are extreme rarities in the Zak Catalog.

Big thanks to all who helped support my show! And thanks for helping to make it a great one!
Gratephul, Triana Caldera, Zanne Boucher, Shugar Rebane, Rusty Seisenbacher, Kat Claxton, Spica Schwamm, Diana Renoir, Cicadetta Stillwater, TheaDee, my manager Maali Beck, Whisky host/DJ Dmitri Polonsky, and Whisky owner Cameron Trenchcoat!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Islands of New England (11.08.12)

There are may factors that can make a show in Second Life great. Some are the expected ones... you get a huge crowd, or you put on some spectacular performance. Those are no different than the real life criteria for a great live music gig. But there's another factor in SL that you don't often see in RL: when you get to perform for and audience of good friends whose company you truly enjoy.

That was the case for me last night at the Islands of New England, which is managed by my pal Christine Haiku. She has been a wonderful supporter of my shows for several years, and I've always enjoyed her cheerful and sweet personality. The few times I've performed at the Islands of New England have all been good, mostly because it generally ends up being attended by our mutual friends, and we have a good time with each other. Last night's show was similar in that regard, though I will say that between Hurricane Sandy and the election, the overall online population in SL has been very low for the past couple of weeks, so we had a pretty small audience.

But I wasn't going to let anything like that deter me from having a good time. In fact, I was probably all the more in "Silly Zak" mode as a result of the little group of friends who were hanging out and having some laughs at the show.

Good friends, good times. Silly music included. Photo by Kat.

I really try and be professional as an entertainer, but sometimes I get the giggles (usually from screwing up songs or the antics of my audience),, and that happened a number of times at the Islands of New England. Photo by Kat.

Islands of New England Set List...
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Afternoon Delight (Starland Vocal Band)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
†Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Comes a Time (Neil Young)
The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie)
1979 (Smashing Pumpkins)
Court & Spark (Joni Mitchell)
†It Hurts Me Too (Tampa Red)
Tribute (Tenacious D)

†I'd only performed both "Born to Run" and "It Hurts me Too" once before in SL.

Massive thanks to the folks who came out to my show at the Islands of New England, including the following people who lent their support!
Cassandra1999, Blane Yordstorm, Hells Lobo, Cindy Johnsky, Sesh Kamachi, TheaDee, Kat Claxton, Sassy Nitely, my manager Maali Beck, and most of all, my friend and IONE manager Christine Haiku!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Whisky A Go Go in Second Life (11.06.12)

Here's a sort-of funny story for you: it barely occurred to me that I was performing right in the midst of a presidential election until a day or two before it was happening. Not that I wasn't aware of the election; I promise I'm not a completely ignorant person. No, it's that I have a standing weekly show at the Whisky A Go Go in Second Life every Tuesday night, and per this country's federal law since 1792, we elect officials on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. So, my Tuesday night show was bound to conflict with this legitimately attention-grabbing event.

Some performers get concerned about these kinds of conflicts, and why wouldn't they? It's hard enough to get a good-sized crowd together when you're not up against something that captivates much of the entire planet. But I wasn't fazed in the slightest, and I'll tell you why. First of all, I was fairly sure that the time slot of the show (6PM SLT, aka 6PM PST/9PM EST) was early enough that it wouldn't be at a crucial moment when it was likely that solid election results were coming in. Second, I knew for a fact that almost all folks were beyond burned out on the entire political process. For them, jumping into SL and kicking back for some music was a perfect momentary diversion from the madness.

Third, and perhaps most important: I always make every effort to live up to my end of an agreement. Well, I'd agreed to perform at the Whisky that night, and I wasn't about to cancel just because I thought it might not be a big show for me personally.

As I suspected, there were plenty of people who wanted to take a short break from politics. We had a crowd of cool people, and it was fun (which is all we really want in any case). Photos by Kat.

When preparing to play, I had to decide how much I'd be referencing the election during my show. I certainly didn't want to spend much time on it, and here's why: first, Second Life is a global platform, and I never want people to feel that I'm only addressing American audiences. Second, my audience is a diverse group, and does include different people from many walks of life. As a musician, it's never my goal to alienate people, no matter who they are. Finally, per my thoughts above, many folks who would be in SL at that moment were there specifically to escape being clobbered over the head with election news. I didn't need to torture them further.

That doesn't mean I ignored what was going on. Without any partisanship involved, or mention of specific candidates or issues, I did chat with my crowd about the craziness of the election process in general, and reminded them to remain friends with people despite their differences. But the real way I referenced politics in my show last night was much more insidious. Everything in my set list had something that related to the election in some way, some very subtly, some more obvious.

Whisky Set List...
Save It for Later (English Beat)
Mad World (Tears for Fears)
U.S. Blues (Grateful Dead)
Leggy Blonde (Flight of the Conchords)
Let's Pretend That Everything's Okay (Zak Claxton)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Nobody Home (Pink Floyd)
Keep on Rocking in the Free World (Neil Young)
Rainbow Connection (Kermit the Frog)
Ohio (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Loser (Beck)
Only Happy When It Rains (Garbage)

Thanks to everyone who took some time away from the madness and hopefully enjoyed the show! Special love to those who helped support the show!
Triana Caldera, Abigail Republic, jaci Wylder, Alexis Fairlady, Cicadetta Stillwater, Kat Claxton, Christine Haiku, Doc Edman, Sesh Kamachi, my great manager Maali Beck, Whisky host Dmitri Polonsky, and owner Cameron Trenchcoat!