Lexi Luan: "Meet Lexie"

Lexie Luan, veteran SL rocker,
releases new song collection
entitled "Meet Lexie"
Shine, new Second Life music/arts sim
to feature Buckley Moonwall, Strum Diesel
and others in Grand Opening Concert - December 10th

(story below)

by Traci Nubalo

It’s always exciting when a Second Life musician releases a new song collection and all the more so when several SL musicians collaborate on a project. It displays the huge depth of talent that we have among the working musicians here in SL.

That’s the case with veteran SL player Lexie Luan and her newly-released project appropriately titled “Meet Lexie.” She comes from the Philadelphia live scene where she gigged and recorded with The Lexie Smith Band. She’s been playing the virtual club circuit since March, steadily building a large and loyal following.

Lexie and I sat together recently to listen to the four tracks on the set. I found it to be a nicely-performed and produced piece. In fact, it turns out that our friend Zorch Boomhauer, one of Second Life’s premier singer/songwriters took the helm as producer and session player.

Traci Nubalo: Lexie, I really enjoyed the collection. Who are the backing musicians on it?

Lexie Luan: Well, I played two rhythm guitar tracks and sang lead and harmony vocals. Zorch produced the project and contributed another layer of guitars, and also played bass and drums.

TN: Excellent. Very nice work. I especially enjoyed the open and spacious feeling in the production. Everything sounds crystal clear.

Let’s listen to the first track “I Could Get Used To You”. What’s the origin of the song?

LL: When I wrote the song I was looking to describe the feelings of a new , fresh kind of love. It was like meeting someone I could really like; it's about the possibilities. I had written so many sad break up songs and I wanted to say something positive.

TN: Yes, I got that. But I can also sense a little conflict in it. You want this new relationship to move forward, but there’s something holding a part of you back. You sing “Still there‘s a part of me/I don‘t want anyone to see.”.

LL: And it’s not just me. I think that just about anyone can identify with it.

TN: Yes, of course. We've all been there.

LL: *laughing* Well, you don’t want to give away the whole store without using a safety net!

TNL: *laughing*

LL: I also like that the song has this James Bond feel to it. Sort of Lexie 007!

TN: Yes. Great observation now that you mention it. It really would make a great Bond theme.

Zorch also added a very tasty Spanish guitar-style lead guitar break.

LL: He had been playing with me for a while and he said that he heard it turning out like this all along.

TN: That’s classic Zorch, isn’t it?

LL: Yep! *laughter* Overall, I’m really happy about the way this track came out. It’s really honest.

The rest of the collection impressed me as being as good as the opener. Lexie’s voice throughout carries great emotional weight. She’s able to express herself in a number of significant ways via dynamic change, alternate voice inflection, and even a sexy little growl which she uses sparingly but to great effect.

Her guitar work is steady all the way through with rhythms that accurately support the story, and occasional little lead bits that add some sonic color.

A couple of the tracks, “Throwaway Girl” and the set-closing rocker “Warning Label” are already crowd favorites at Luan’s numerous SL club gigs. I’m certain that this collection will be eagerly gobbled up by her many fans inworld.

TN: Lexie, you have a very loyal audience here in SL. What would you like to say to them?

LL: They come to my shows because they identify with the music. That means they are paying attention and listening. And I thank each and every one of them for that.

They are the reason that I play here.


Shine stage to welcome Buckley Moonwall,

Strum Diesel and others

in Dec.10 Grand Opening Concert

by Traci Nubalo

On December 10th, Shine - the new Second Life music and arts sim - invites you to a Grand Opening Concert featuring the great Buckley Moonwall and SL favorite Strum Diesel. Opening the show will be Carmel Daines, one of SL’s new and popular female singer/songwriters, and the 19-year-old “one-boi band” Geoffrey “Goof” Unsworth who will continue his series of Beatle album covers with a performance of RUBBER SOUL -- the entire album, complete and uninterrupted!

* * * *

One of my early spiritual teachers taught me that the only things one should have in her home should be items that are either beautiful or functional. I was reminded of that lesson when I first saw Shine, Second Life’s new music and arts sim.

The performance area at Shine is truly a thing of visual wonder. From the air I was guided in by the three intertwining rings (symbolizing eternity) laid into the dance floor at the mainstage, just next to the wood swirls of a gorgeous fire sculpture. There is truly beauty in every direction with whimsically-stunning mountains rising up on two sides and a fascinating eyelet of rock emerging from the mysterious sea behind the stage. Total beauty and function - a perfect place to dance and sing and celebrate our Second Lives!

And on December 10th that is exactly what we are invited to do!

The owners of Shine - my good friends Kaitlyn Merlin and DJ Babenco - are presenting a fabulous Grand Opening Concert, with the help of me, Traci Nubalo and SECOND TIMES.

With one of the hottest and most interesting lineups in memory, the extravaganza will kick off at 4:00 pm SL time with Goof Unsworth, a 19-year-old musical phenom. His forte is called “album immersion” in which he creates complete backing tracks for a song or album, and then uses them to perform the piece with his own voice streaming live. At the Shine event he will perform The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” in its entirety, uninterrupted. This is a unique act - not to be missed!

At 5:00 Carmel Daines will grace the Shine stage with her country-tinged originals and pleasantly-surprising selection of covers. She’s a first-rate acoustic guitarist, and has a voice from heaven. Only in SL since August, Carmel is fast becoming one of the darlings of the SL singer/songwriter set. If you haven’t seen her yet, this is the place to catch her act!

6:00 will bring the great Strum Diesel to the stage. He’s one of Second Life’s most-loved performers both for his awesome instrumental/vocal/writing abilities and for his commitment to raising consciousness on the planet through his work and his life. His shows are fast-paced and upbeat with lots of audience interaction. With eight song collections under his belt, and a nonstop inworld playing schedule, Strum appears to be everywhere in Second Life. And we’re very glad that he’ll be joining us at Shine.

Buckley Moonwall rocks the house at 7:00. BILLBOARD MAGAZINE has called him “One of the top independent artists in America” and both SECOND TIMES and TREET-TV have compared him to Bruce Springsteen. Moonwall is one of those “can’t take your eyes and ears off him”-type performers. Backing his amazing storytelling songs with powerful guitar and melodic harmonica, Buckley weaves a musical web that is capturing music lovers from all corners of the grid.

And after the smoke clears, the Shine stage will continue into the night with dancing to streamed music featuring live Bob Marley and much more!

This concert is dedicated to raising awareness and consciousness in both worlds, and to sharing personal and global peace and happiness everywhere. So put that darkness aside for an evening, and join us to Shine!

4:00 - Goof Unsworthy

5:00 - Carmel Daines

6:00 - Strum Diesel

7:00 - Buckley Moonwall

8:00 - Dancing under the stars to streaming music

Clairede Dirval & WashedUp Sideways: “It’s All or Nothing”

by Traci Nubalo

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for what I call “working musicians.” This would be a player or group who is totally dedicated to learning their craft. They write, rehearse, tour, record and perform on an almost-daily basis, never stopping until they finally achieve their career goals (or burn out in the process!).

Some of these men and women - the true road warriors of the rock lifestyle - are among the most interesting people I’ve ever met in my life. They’ve dedicated their lives to the preservation and growth of art and music. Essentially, they are the contemporary version of the traveling storyteller of days gone by. Before rapid transit and electronic communication, the minstrel, the storyteller, was an essential figure in the spreading of “news”, and also was functional in keeping the oral portion of mankind’s tradition from disappearing. Today’s traveling musician bears some of that same responsibility, only he or she is preserving our musical traditions.

One characteristic of an act that’s been road-tested over time is their sound. No matter the style of play, a musical group who performs night after night, year in and year out develops an-almost recognizable essence, or feel to their sound. There’s a cohesiveness - a depth of delivery - that comes with those long periods of laying in the groove together.

I could name many, many acts like this that I’ve observed; it’s especially impressive to find this sound in an emerging band. Just a few acts that have particularly impressed me with this early-career sound are: DC’s The Nighthawks, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers from Philly, The Ralf Illenberger Band from Germany, and Jason and the Scorchers out of Nashville.

One night, in particular, I can recall promoting a 5,000-seat sold-out concert with Jason and the Scorchers opening for George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Jason came out loaded for bear, and within three or four songs began ripping the audience up bigtime, to the degree that Thorogood’s road manager tried to sabotage Jason’s sound until I stepped in and stopped him!

It’s truly a moment of rock and roll joy to watch such a group in action, and when I ran into Clairede Dirval performing solo on Second Life some time ago, the bells started to ring for me. I could tell she had been a long time touring artist just from her sound. Then, quite independently I attended a WashedUp Sideways SL event, and had that same feeling about him. It was only much later when interviewing Clairede that I learned that he was indeed her live-band guitarist for a dozen or so years on the road.

So when Clairede began offering double-streamed events with WashedUp on guitar I decided that this would make an interesting interview article. Seems that these two have been there and back again, logging thousands of miles playing the circuit through the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico. An astute reader (perhaps with a US map handy) will quickly realize that is a lot of turf between those stops. This must have been quite some traveling band!

I interviewed Clairede and WashedUp separately, but the conversations were so stunningly alike that I’ve decided to merge them into one article.

Traci Nubalo: At the height of your touring period, what sort of act did you have?

Clairede Dirval: Hmmm. Well, we cut our teeth on country. We also did some blues and rock stuff. I pretty much told agents to kiss my ass and did it my way. Did my own booking and touring for the last fifteen years we were out there.

TN: What type shows and venues?

CD: We did what ever I wanted. Venues were a mix. We were a three-piece to five-piece band; it just depended on the year. We were a party band; we used to goof around a lot. Washedup was with me for the last twelve years of it.

Toward the end, though, I was not happy; sort of half alive.

TN: WashedUp, what was life like on the road with Clairede?

WashedUp Sideways: She's an awesomely talented performer. In fact, she is that and more. She also is the most upfront, honest, biggest-heart-but-take-no-crap-from-anyone person that I know. I know it shouldn't all go together, but in Clairede’s case it does.
As far as the road goes, I’ve always loved going to new places and seeing things I've not seen. A lot of the road work I've done was week long or two week engagements, and that is nice, as long as you have something to do with yourself which, if you are a player, well you always have that.

TN: You know, there’s a tightness of sound that seems to take place in a band who has traveled and played together a lot. I’ve always loved that.

WS: Yes. It seems like magic, and it is, but it's also listening and responding. We become in tune because we know how each other plays; it's really subconscious. All of that shared experience lead to camaraderie. Then with playing together, it becomes what seems intuitive. It's like when someone makes a mistake and goes to a chorus instead of the verse the whole band will sometimes make the mistake together.

TN: Yes. I've always loved that tightness of sound. It gets really precise; very punchy.

WS: And that is where the energy of rock and roll, and blues lives. It's not in tempo - it's in tightness.

TN: So after all those years together things started to get tougher. I know personally that the industry went through some very dramatic changes. (My music career was caught in that shift, too).

CD: It did. Cutbacks, live venues turned into sports bars. It’s just cheaper to buy a big screen TV than pay musicians.

TN: Exactly.

CD: First the glam pretty boy bands died. Then it was a matter of time before it hit us all. MADD had a lot to do with it. They pressured the local cops and with that they ended up killing an industry that was older than the hills - the traveling bards.

The musical world as I knew it died. It went from 48 weeks on the road every year - six or seven days a week - to weekends once a month. That’s just not for me. It’s all or nothing.

WS: Yes. The world has changed. To begin with we were not a big name on a major label touring act, we were a dance band a party band playing the freestanding clubs all over, mostly the west. So these changes hit us hard.

CD: For a long time we stayed busy. We were not hurting at all. It just took more work to line it up. When you are not mainstream, you have to find where the water flows. It was more difficult to keep the schedule full, but we did it.

But there is only so long you can fight when things are dying around you. It was no longer affordable. You spend your money on gas to get to the next gig and live hand to mouth. The road had been good to me financially. Not everyone can say that. But when it stopped being a good thing, it was time to get out.

* * * *
So there I was innocently minding my own business when I walked into Clairede’s blues club named Club Voyant (get it? Clairede Voyant!). Even her club has that “rock and roll lived-in” feeling. I had to smile when I saw the cones on the speaker cabinets pulsing as if in time to the music. Now that’s a true road memory, for you!

Early on, the show was somewhat sparsely attended giving it a cozy, back-porch jam session feel (although a much larger crowd was to filter in later). But the loose feeling went out the window pretty quickly as they swung into Delbert McClinton’s “I Want To Love You.” Clairede stated the theme powerfully with some tough-sounding acoustic guitar, then Washed slid in with some muy tasty flourishes between her guitar phrases.

But that voice! Lawdy mamma, that girl sounds like she ate up the blues and is spitting out the bones! All gravel and sass, Miss Dirval has an instinctive feel for breath and phrasing, making the delivery as much about story as song. And I can’t stress enough how much those road years come into play when she sings. There’s a passion present - a love borne from dedication - that literally coats each word she sings; and a deep weariness that can only be heard in the voice of a woman who has lived the blues.

Without missing a beat the duo charged into a chugging, up-tempo truck-driving version of “Me And Bobby McGee.” (No, Janis did not write it; it’s a Kris Kristofferson piece which is very often misidentified). However, the lead vocals were all Pearl, from beginning to end. Backing herself with some of the fattest, chunkiest chords I’ve heard on an acoustic, Clairde just tore the song up, giving me a sense that I was hearing how Janis might have sounded had she been around to do a gig in Second Life. It was not a perfect Janis Joplin; it was more. It was a loving improvisation on that raw, earthy sound.
* * * * *

TN: So after the road had come to a close what did you do next?

CD: Well, I didn’t pick up a guitar for almost three years. It was almost like I was in recovery from something dying.

TN: Wow. Like a grief.

CD: Everyone went their separate ways. But the band never really did break up; it’s never been official. Nobody ever gave notice.

TN: But then, along came Second Life. How did it feel when you and Washed realized you could actually play in SL?

CL: It was…like a great old favorite pair of shoes. SL came along at just the right time for me. Any sooner I might be here but not playing. Everyone talks about how it has changed here. lol I’m just happy it is here.

TN: Where did you start playing at first?

CD: Well, my first gig was on a sim that isn’t there anymore. It was called The Lighthouse, and it was charming.

TN: I remember The Lighthouse. And yes, it was very charming.

CD: Then I played a lot of the all-women sims like Greek Gold and Sidhe. They are a blast! I still have some really good friends there. I get to be Melissa (Etheridge) there. I still play a few of them. For ma sistas!

And no, I’m not a lesbian. I like the dangly parts!

TN: *laughter*

* * * * *

At Club Voyant the house was filling and the party was heating up. After a wonderfully creative and non-traditional take on the traditional “Summertime” the due introduced an original entitled “Jack and Charlie.” Maybe I wasn’t in the sharpest of heads because it took me a while to catch the Daniels connection, but then the first chorus came around - “Charlie sang the blues to me, Jack helped me wash it down.”

It was quite refreshing to enjoy the Grateful Dead feel with which these two professionals informed this original. Even with just the two guitars they managed to send me (and the growing audience) back into those awesome days of tailgating, partying and dancing all night to Jerry and Company. I was instinctively tempted to turn to the person on my right and ask him to “miracle me.” In retrospect I am so glad I didn’t!

WashedUp took to the mic next with one of his originals. He had told me that he chose his vocal material to suit his lovely, deep baritone voice, and “Sometime” fit that bill perfectly. Against a backed-off, bluesy vamp he chimed in clear as a bell, the perfect complement to Clairede vocally.

But when the duo swung into “Still Got the Blues” (the Gary Moore hit) it was guitar, not vocals, that made me sit up and take notice.
WashedUp, I should mention, is a master of playing overtones on the electric. I’ve been to a few of his solo gigs here in SL, where it’s always a sure bet that the audience will ask for some Santana, which he sonically recreates to a tee. He’s one of those rare players who displays an ease of dexterity, even on the most complex finger patterns. So, on “Still Got the Blues” he chose long, overdriven, gorgeous guitar lines, punctuated on the end by scratchy, sharp-edged, side-of-the-pick accents. The contrast was absolutely an inspired choice. We might be calling him WashedUp, but that name has nothing to do with his musical abilities and taste!

His sound - especially contrasted with Clairede’s rhythm work - was fascinating enough that I felt it necessary to quiz them about it in the interviews with a few “tech talk” questions:
* * * * *

TN: What guitars and rigs are you guys using here in Second Life?

WS: I've been playing two so far, a Strat Plus, and a Les Paul Custom; the Strat more so, but I do love a Paul.

TN: For the sustain?

WS: Well, I get much of the sustain from my amp. I just think that the tone of a Paul is like cream sometimes. I just like it, I like the weight too because it feels like it can take what I'm going to give it.

CD: In RL I have a Gibson335, but I use one of my Ovations most of the time. Playing alone, accompanying myself I’m not as comfortable with a cold electric sound.

TN: I love the sound of the Ovations, but I never got used to the rounded back. It always feels like it's slipping away from me.

CD: Well - lol - I’m really a “girl girl“, and I find it less obtrusive on my breasticles. It fits right under.

TN: And what are you each playing through?

WS: For the SL shows I am using a Mesa Boogie preamp and just a little reverb to give it some stereo width. I use Mesa Boogies in RL too, but the full amps.

TN: Yes, the Mesas have both a great clean setting and a killer over-driven sound.

WS: Yes, and often a pronounced mid range tone which helps cut through a mix.

TN: Exactly. Clairede?

CD: I run the Ovation through a Behringer head. It has built in effects. I’m running voice thru it too and it’s the same effect. I add a little reverb, that’s all. I’m not big on circus tricks.

TN: Your sound is big and full and rich, though.

CD: Yes. Not many holes. It’s the acoustic with a little reverb, just like the voice. If I were to play some harder stuff as in more rock, etc. I’d switch and try to distort a few things. But its not needed with this right now.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (did I really say that?) the audience had become a larger, louder animal. They seemed to be hanging on every lyric and lick, absorbing the music and giving Clairede and WashedUp a whole lot of love in return. I was drawn into the exchange, as well, when the opening notes of one of my favorite songs of all time rang out. They had delivered an endearing comic banter during Dylan’s “Trust Yourself”, and then downshifted both tempo and key to kick start “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” I’ve long held this song dear, even in its many cover versions, but theirs brought a tear of joy to eyes throughout the room, mine included.
Against a sweet-yet-powerful rhythm guitar statement from Clairede, they told the tale of the dying outlaw Billy the Kid laying down his arms to Sheriff Pat Garrett in the softest of vocal tones at first, then growing into an fully dynamic motif. W contributed some gorgeous descending guitar runs at the end of each vocal line. All in all, this piece was the mid-set show-stopper, for my taste anyway.

Like the true stage pros that they are, they barely gave the audience a breath before cranking out the staccato, unison guitar intro to “Pretty Woman” a la Van Halen. The team had the crowd laughing out loud by first shifting into a neko theme singing “Furry Woman” then erupting into a hardcore “purring attack” by Lady C.

They hit the home stretch with a wise choice: Marshall Tucker’s classic “Can’t You See?” - a song totally suited for them both musically and vocally. Clairde’s chugging acoustic set the stage with some mega-tasty call-and-response play from Washed. He underplayed very nicely here, leaving some welcome dynamic spacing overlaid with well-thought-out punctuation licks.

By this time the assembled crowd was tearing up Local Chat with ongoing applause and shouts of approval. Clairede closed the night with a lovely rendition of the Lucinda Williams ballad “Righteously.” She delivered her deepest sultry vocals in an improvised bridge before wishing us all a good night. No one moved to the door, however.

I smiled and smiled.

* * * * *
CD: I try to perform a little something for everyone. Just because you like blues doesn’t mean you don’t like rock. And it doesn’t mean you want to have a steady dose of Muzac.

I have friends of all kinds, heights and colors and genders. Each one - like a song.

TN: Clairede, your audience is one of the most devoted I have seen in Second Life.

CD: Awwwwww.

TN: Here's a chance to speak to them directly. What would you and WashedUp like them to know?

WS: There are times when the response is significant enough that I know I have touched them. When that happens, in one sense I get validation, but more than that, I too am touched. It all becomes very real at that moment and I am so pleased we have found each other in this world.

CD: Yes. I hope that they know that they are a godsend to me. I wake up and look forward to seeing them every day. I laugh with them every day. They are the getaway; they are the light in the refrigerator. Without them it would be a little darker than it should be. Some of the humor here you just don’t find in RL. Everyone has a funny bone to some degree. And they are not afraid to say the wrong thing. It just comes out.

Isn’t it funny how it takes a cartoon for some people to be who they really are?

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