Monday, May 29, 2017

Elysium City of Templemore (05.28.17)

Templemore, one of the most impressive designs in all of Second Life. Photo by Kat.

I don't recall how and when I first heard about Luis Lockjaw, the creative genius behind a number of Second Life environments called Templemore, but I do know when I met him in person. It was at the Nashville SL Jam in May 2014, a little over three years ago. There weren't many of us from California who made the trek to Tennessee, and I was surprised that this young-looking dude from Compton had gone all the way there just to hang out. But the more I got to know Luis, the more I became aware that he was the type of person who'd go to the end of the Earth itself to be supportive of his close friends.

It's impossible to describe the level of detail that goes into his Second Life creations. Mere pictures don't do them justice either; the only way to experience them is to immerse yourself by being there in person. His designs have always seemed to go beyond the technological limitations of SL. I'm pretty well versed in the creation of virtual worlds, and to this day I still don't really understand how he does what he does. But it's more than just making things work like he wants them to. Ultimately, he approaches the designs of the Templemore environment the way a fine artist takes his or her brush to a canvas. It's a talent that may not be teachable, in the same way that some musicians seem to be born with a gift that no level of training can imbue. I will tell you one thing that gives Luis an advantage over most SL designers: his real life job has him building and tearing down and rebuilding event settings at the Staples Center here in Los Angeles. One day, he might be assisting in the creation of a stage for an awards show, and the next for a basketball game, and so on. Because of that, I believe that he sees things from a viewpoint that takes him beyond the audience perspective, and beyond that of most people who try and create virtual environments of any kind.

Elysium Theatre, looking amazing. Photo by Kat.

A great-looking build is inspirational for great performances. Photo by Kat.

I've performed at a number of stages and locations under the Templemore umbrella over the past few years. Each of them has been incredible in its own distinctive way. The current incarnation -- Elysium City of Templemore -- is perhaps the coolest one of them all. As an artist, Luis seems to be inspired by the beauty of decay. Textures show signs of rust and wear. You'll see a lightbulb or two that are out. There are cracks and chips meticulously placed on various surfaces. It's not a perfect world that Luis creates; the thing that sets him apart is, rather, the purposeful inclusion of imperfection that so many virtual designers seem to ignore. It's spooky and fascinating, and I love playing there.

It's a rare pleasure for an SL event to be promoted in the way that Templemore can do.

For yesterday's show, being on the Sunday in the middle of a three-day holiday weekend, I didn't have high hopes for a big crowd. I figured most people would be on vacations or recovering from days at the beach or barbecues. Plus, I was the opening act of an evening that included a couple of other really high-quality SL musicians -- Twin Ghost and Loreen Aldrin. And yet, for whatever combination of reasons, I ended up with an excellent audience who seemed to be really engaged in the music and enjoying themselves. It had been over two months since my previous show, and when you don't play on a regular basis in Second Life, you tend to not draw as good crowds. I'm happy to say that we had a great showing of both my Zakster fans and new folks, including a bunch of people who would probably come to Templemore events regardless of who was playing. It was great.

A great crowd in the midst of a holiday weekend. Photo by Kat.

The man behind the amazing environment of Templemore, Luis Lockjaw. Photo by Kat.

One moment that made me laugh happened before the show started. 99% of the time, when I arrive at a venue and get ready to do my show, I simply walk up and jump onto the stage, and then start setting up for my show. But the fact is, there's so much to see at Templemore, I wanted to check out what things looked like backstage, so I went through the side door and walked into a little hallway, and then around back, inspiring the following exchange:

[16:43] Luis Lockjaw: Zak that was so cool
[16:44] Luis Lockjaw: you walked your ass back stage to get on stage
[16:44] Zak Claxton: I did
[16:44] Luis Lockjaw: the only person to ever do that
[16:44] Luis Lockjaw: \o/
[16:44] Zak Claxton: might as well use these amazing designs as they should be

A couple of other notes. Despite coming off of a two-month hiatus, I felt my show was pretty good. I spent a good amount of time over the two days before the show getting my guitar playing and singing voice back into shape, and I think that helped. I also chose a set list that I thought would be complementary toward the vibe of Templemore, and that seemed to work as well. Second, even though I'm a physically fit person who exercises daily, that show kicked my ass, as the good ones tend to do. Not only was I a sweaty mess afterwards, but while hurrying to get my show wrapped up and clear the stage for the next performer, I managed to bash my Takamine guitar directly into my forehead while taking it off. Yay me! It really wasn't that bad of an injury, though I do have a nice little lump there as evidence.

Happy and sweaty right after my show at Templemore. Photo by Kat.

Templemore set list...
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
Saved by Zero (The Fixx)
Things Under Trees (They Stole My Crayon)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
*Linger (The Cranberries)
Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog)
Swing Low Magellan (Dirty Projectors)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
It's Easy Like Walking (The Sadies w/Kurt Vile)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Carry Me Ohio (Sun Kil Moon)
How Soon is Now? (The Smiths)

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

Big thanks to everyone who came out to see my show at Templemore, with special thanks to the following who helped support it!
go2smoky Resident, TwinGhost Ronas, RoxxyyRoller Resident, Robert69 Little, Diana Renoir, Tracy Redangel, Aria Lazuli, Asimia Heron, Aurelie Chenaux, Grace Sixpence, Tyche Szondi, Kat Claxton, Kayliegh Lykin, TheaDee Resident, and the entire staff of Templemore who do such great work, including Bee Blackrain and, of course, Luis Lockjaw.

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