Singer-songwriter Matthew Broyles is setting up for a gig. He’s seated in front of a microphone with his playlist at his feet, tuning his acoustic guitar and lightly running through some of the chord changes he’ll be performing. But he isn’t onstage. He’s in the cozy confines of his White Settlement house. And instead of a crowd of people in front of him, there’s a computer monitor full of avatars.
Broyles and the virtual concertgoers are part of an elaborate computer game. In Second Life, their avatars are human-looking, and they interact across detailed replicas of real-world places like New York City and Chicago. Unlike most computer games, which emphasize fantasy universes and defeating opponents, Second Life is for folks seeking to re-create everyday experiences via virtual reality, including music concerts.
On this day, Broyles is sharing the stage with violinist Beth Odets-Brown, a frequent collaborator who improvises over Broyles’ songs, performing from her home in Dallas.
What Broyles and Odets-Brown are seeing is a large grassy area that’s slowly filling up with avatars, along with command prompts for communicating with each other and audience members. What the concertgoers are seeing is an elevated wooden stage with avatars of Broyles and Odets-Brown holding their instruments.
As the two musicians slink into their first song, Doug Kwartler’s “Just About to Die,” the virtual concertgoers begin dancing. Over the next hour or so, the revelers –– or, more accurately, the people watching the concert from their computer screens –– will tip the performers in Linden dollars, a type of currency used on Second Life that can be exchanged for U.S. dollars through PayPal. A typical tip amounts to a couple of bucks, Broyles said.
Broyles began playing Second Life several years ago as a way to maintain his sanity, he said, while staying home to raise his and wife Janell’s son Nathan.
Frustrated with not being able to play as many shows as he had before Nathan’s arrival, Broyles was intrigued by an article in Popular Science about Second Life.
Broyles, who also performs in the hillbilly hip-hop outfit Shotgun Friday, said most of his friends dismiss his virtual pursuit as frivolous, but he’s quick to remind them that behind every “pixel person” is a real person.
“A lot of them are shut-ins, disabled, or otherwise unable to leave the house and see gigs,” Broyles said. “So I’m performing for people who aren’t ordinarily able to see shows. I find they are more appreciative than some bar crowds who are there to drink and make out.”
Odets-Brown said that performing in Second Life has become her largest source of musical income. Being able to play any way she wants, she said, has made her a hot commodity. Her most lucrative Second Life gigs are private parties, including weddings, for which she receives a flat fee.
Her avatar will sport a “little tuxedo and wander around a restaurant,” she said. “The pay is pretty comparable to something I’d do in real life.”
Longtime concertgoer and Minneapolis resident Ursula Cinquetti said that, as an introvert, she is uncomfortable in crowded, loud bars. Second Life lets her explore new artists and new types of music without leaving her “drained of all her energy.”
Not all fans are as appreciative, though. Some Second Life users, referred to as “griefers,” occasionally rain on musical parades. “Griefers will spawn a [shower] of green dildos,” Broyles said. “They’ll do obnoxious things just to break up the concert, but usually the venue host will kick them out.”
One of Broyles’ favorite venues is a replica of the Chelsea Hotel. Though the famed New York City hotspot doesn’t have a concert hall, its virtual version does. Virtual proprietor Enola Vaher, who lives in Oklahoma, added one just for hard-working cats like Broyles. Since opening in 2009, the virtual Chelsea has, with help from a New York Times story, become one of Second Life’s most popular venues, attracting several hundred visitors per week. Vaher, who books the performers, and the virtual hotel’s designer, Michael Brown, seek a very specific type of performer: live and acoustic only.
“There are no backing tracks,” she said. “The musicians have to play their own instruments live while they sing.”
Broyles, who has been performing at the Chelsea since its opening, is “sort of a standard here,” she said. “He does covers, but they are never your typical covers. And his originals are absolutely wonderful.
A man and his guitar may be one of the staples of in-world music, but Matthew Perreault's rich, warm vocals, wry sense of humour and offbeat lyric choices make the matthew show an act that both lulls the ear and amuses the mind.
the matthew show’s february is an amazing album. This isn’t stuff you’ll hear on the radio, and it’s not written for mass commercial consumption, but it’s some of the most intelligent and powerful rock songwriting you’ll find. The interview snippets help to illuminate the songs with personal viewpoints and experiences. I highly recommend this recording, but be prepared to give some real time listening to february. If you don’t give this one your full attention you won’t get it.
This new offering from the matthew show is my favorite from them. Combining recordings of five individuals musing on their lives with songs, the matthew show creates a theme album with an ambitious premise and pulls it off with great insight, humor and poignancy. The music lives up to the promise as well.
It was like a gazillion years ago that I stumbled upon The Matthew Show. I was Googling Fred’s Cafe and somehow was directed to Matthew’s site/blog. At the time, Matthew was living and performing in New York, and I became quite the addict to his adventures in the Big Apple. Then when I read he was associated with such Fine Line favorites like Little Jack Melody, Reggie Rueffer and even the great Goodwin, then I just knew he had to be good people...
There is an intimacy on his debut solo album 'texas' that wraps around you immediately. matthew's talent is realized in many haunting moments...Whatever influences crop up on 'texas', the overall flavor is euphoric and smart.
I very rarely feel as connected to an album as I’ve felt with this one...the lyrics show a intelligence that you don’t find everyday in music, and also display a connectedness to the human element...with very little listening time, I became a fan!
the matthew show brings solid songcraft straight out of your favorite lunch box. matthew makes lyrical leaps from one sit-com to the next, elegantly tossing out yearning and humor in the same breath. These foul-mouthed mini-vignettes speak for all geeks and the girls who love them.
If you do not listen close, it would be easy to get the impression that 'texas' is a nice album. And it would be easy to think that the matthew show, a one man band made up by matthew, is just as nice, especially to have recorded such a nice album. But, when you listen closer, past the soft melodies and catchy guitar...
Factory workers can cheer to Springsteen, truckers and inmates to Johnny Cash; but if you earn your measly wage shuffling papers beneath the glare of flourescent lighting, the matthew show has written your song at last...If you're the kind of person who would rather watch Austin City Limits than Pepsi Smash, this album is for you.
Love Labor Music
If you like varying blends of diversity in your music listening experiences, then I'd suggest you give this album a shot.
Space Junkies Magazine
This CD feels like I’m wandering through a musical laboratory, watching matthew mix and measure while the manuals and textbooks burn in a corner. He doesn’t need them. This CD, with the pops and glitches, is spontaneous and intriguing.
Trust me that you and everyone you know will love this one. Every emotion is explored honestly and refreshingly...If Phil Collins can inspire this sort of artist, perhaps there is hope for pasty 13 year olds with questionable taste.
These days dangerous music doesn't find its way to the radio airwaves. From a corporate point of view (and modern radio defines the corporate point of view), 'Office Suite, Part II' was most certainly the most dangerous track of last year.
Community Free Press
While most acts that pretty much consist of a solo artist seem to be mere exercises in egotism, I just don’t get that sort of vibe from 'texas'. 'Office Suite, Part I' is one of the heights of the CD, perfectly catching the nature of cubicle life.
Yeah. I like this one. There's lots of clever lyrics here and an honesty of expression that's rare in much modern rock -- less posing and more self-revelatory. Good stuff.
Turk's Head Review
the matthew show is the case of one guy tired of trying to please others with his music. My favorite line comes from a song ('The Loneliest Boy In Toyland') that could've been penned by Dan Bern: 'You like talking, you won't quit / You like Bob Dylan, I don't give a shit'.