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Thursday, January 20, 2011


By Loegan Magic
Photos by Cavelle Somerset

A couple of things come to mind when you think of Porter Paquot; one, she has one of the best singing voices anywhere and two, she really knows how to put on a show. Both of these facts are acknowledged by anyone that has had the pleasure of catching one of her live shows in Second Life. However, what you may not have known is that Porter Paquot likes to scuba dive. I discovered this at once, when she invited me to join her at the Benares Underwater Garden and Scuba area to do some deep-sea diving.

Porter and I have known each other for a awhile now and is no stranger to me. So it was a real treat for me to be able to talk to her and pick her brain about music, her Second Life, and what she deems important. Our interview began when she teleported me onto a small dock in the middle of the sea; where I was greeted by the pleasurable sounds of the surf. The Benares scuba area is a pretty isolated spot full of the gentle chirp of seagulls with just a few lavish island homes in the distance. This is where you can grab your free scuba gear for your under water adventure. Porter, who wore a bathing suit and scuba gear of her own, greeted me and then quickly dived right off the dock into the deep blue ocean. Eager, to enter the Benares underwater world myself, I put on my swim trunks and free scuba gear, and dived in after her.

I was at once struck by the wide assortment of fish around me. The Benares Underwater Garden is a small area but packed with all sorts of wonderful sights. A sunken pirate ship immediately stood out as I took in my surroundings. I floated for a bit and took a further look around. I could hear the sounds of a dolphin as it leaped up and out of the water, playing in the ocean waves. The deep-sea sounds were soothing and the whole area had a nice relaxing effect. I immediately liked it.

“This is my favorite place in SL,” explained Porter as we swam with the colorful fish. “When I first came to Second Life, I met someone who took me scuba diving in the Costa Rica sim and it totally blew my mind. In real life I kind of have a fear of the ocean... not major but enough. But I feel so free when I swim in the SL ocean - it's so beautiful down here”

It really was. As we chatted, I allowed my avatar to float aimlessly in the water as I continued to explore my underwater surroundings. I noticed a cave, complete with cuddle and dance balls.

Benares, a lovely island estate full of fine-looking homes including Porter’s, is owned by Brinda Allen . “My sim owner, Brinda, has been a real mentor and friend to me in SL since the very beginning. When I told her I wanted to sing in SL she encouraged me, but I think she didn't really think I would do it. She's a wonderful person. This sim really is like a family, and she is the den mother of us all. I was very lucky to fall in with them my very first day in SL.”

Brinda gave Porter the space and the prims to make a public Scuba area for the sim. It is a project that is clearly close to her heart, a never ending work in progress, and she is quick to point out that many of her fellow residents have contributed to it.

“I don't come down here nearly as often as I would like to.”

“You are clearly proud of it,” I remarked.

“I am proud of it. I really wanted it to be a place everyone could enjoy together. I wanted to share that first experience I had - where it blew my mind. I want everyone to feel that way in Second Life. I want to give that gift to other people.”

Porter with ease grabbed hold of a stingray and allowed it to guide her around the underwater garden. She suggested I ride the turtle, commenting that its “more my speed.” Unable to find the turtle and feeling a bit cocky I chose the nearby octopus. Immediately, I was on the verge of becoming nauseas due to the bucking creature that was clearly unhappy to have me as passenger. I realized Porter was probably right, the turtle did seem more my speed. First chance I had I quickly abandoned the octopus for the much more docile turtle.

It was apparent that Porter created the scuba area not just for herself but for others. I wondered if that was true when it came to her performing. Those who are in Porter’s group, “Porter’s Party Peeps” know that it is like no other group in Second Life. Porter knows everyone of her fans and they truly interact as friends. They are a community and you can tell that she truly cares about them. I asked Porter to talk about this connection she seems to have to communities.

“I'm someone who gets people to come together. I make little families, at school, at work, in Second Life. I don't like people to feel left out or unimportant maybe? Or maybe I just think we work better together than apart. I think people are interesting; I like to get to know them

“It is clear that you love your fans, they aren't just people who come to your shows.” I commented.

“ No they IM me, and we go out on boats in the middle of the night, and they come scuba diving, and they end up living on my sim and coming to play with me other times. The word fan implies I don't know them but they know me. I hate that. If they care enough about my shows to come and join my group, I want to get to know them. Then they aren't fans, they are friends.”

“So the peeps are another community for you, like your neighbors here at Benares.”

“They are a special community.”

“Why special?” I asked.

“I feel very close to them. I know I can ask a question or invite them to an event and someone will come or if I'm lonely they are there to cheer me up and I would do that for them. They are wild and crazy and fun but they are also really caring people."

“But the Peeps wouldn't exist without your music.”

“The music brought them together, yes. That is what we all have in common and a love of obnoxious gestures.”

Porter is not joking about obnoxious gestures. Just attend one of her shows and you will realize that the louder and more unruly the people are the happier she is on stage. She clearly feeds off of it and her fans love it. You never know what you’ll get at a Porter show; it truly is an interactive experience. I asked her what a typical show is like.

“It's like hanging out with your best friends, making fun of each other and shouting over one another, while listening to great music... and the hijinxs escalate until someone is on a stripper pole, someone else has taken off their clothes, and everyone is laughing,” She continues. “I think what happens is that I have fun with them, and so if they start something I'll take it to another level, and then they escalate, and then I do, and then we reach some kind of critical mass where everyone is just nuts and wearing costumes and yelling Hoooooooooooooo!”

While Porter’s show may seem all fun, one thing she is very serious about is her singing. It is unmistakable that she has a natural gift with her voice; however that has not prevented her from working on it most of her life. She has studied music and theatre arts in college, has a performance degree and training in classical piano.

“I almost became an opera singer but when I was 18 I was diagnosed with vocal nodules and had to go on voice rest. I haven't been the same since. My voice rest period was 1 year.”

“Did your voice change as a result of that?” I asked.

“No, I changed.”

“What do you mean?”

“I sing loud, but I don't talk as loud anymore and I'm pretty careful with my voice now - like I try not to sing TOO much. My voice gets tired easily and I protect it. I'll still do arias and art music on occasion.”

Being a serious musician and singing with tracks in Second Life made me curious if that gave her a disadvantage. Some venues in Second Life won’t have track singers and some musicians won’t even play in the same lineup as them, many referring to them as Karaoke singers. I know this is an issue Porter takes seriously; she can sometimes be spotted wearing the tag, “Singers ARE Musicians.”

“It's my own self esteem that takes the hit, I shouldn't let it get to me, but it does. I feel it more than see it."

“In what way?”

“I personally don't get rejected very often at venues - I'm not someone who goes looking for shows. If someone wants to book me, they ask and I try to work it out. But there are venues that won't take people who sing with tracks. While that's their prerogative, I think it's silly to take someone who is a sucky guitar player and sucky singer and sucky performer over someone who puts on a great show that HAPPENS to use tracks. I'm a trained performer in RL I can play piano, but I'm just better with tracks. I prefer it. I have an enormous voice and I should sing with a horn band. So, I use tracks in SL for a variety of reasons. That doesn't make me less of an artist. In real life I sing with a band that does all original music, I understand the artistic process. I think there is room for everyone. Why do people need to get put into such a tight box? SL is supposed to be wide and creative and people are supposed to be able to be whoever they want here right?

“Yes,” I had to agree.

“Honestly, it reminds me of racism. It’s a very elitist perspective.” Porter paused for a moment. “OK here is the bottom line on it, there are people we consider "good" and people we consider "not so good" in every genre, every group, on every stage, and in every venue in SL. So why pick out the singers who use tracks? There are good and bad just like there are good and bad guitar players. So don't go see the ones you don't like- the end.”

Porter let’s go of her stingray and does some impressive underwater acrobatics, tumbling in the water beautifully, reminiscent of a mermaid. I continue on my turtle, both of us moving slowly and safely through the garden in a much less graceful sort of way.

I wanted to know more about Porter’s music. She can be heard covering such performers as Aretha Franklin, Nora Jones, Stevie Wonder and Tracey Chapman. She really lets the crowd guide where the show goes, giving them access to her extensive song list of blues, jazz, funk and soul and if the mood strikes her she may break out some disco or even some rockers by such singers as Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. You can tell she knows her voice and puts a lot of thought into what she performs.

“What draws you to a song?”

“Hmmm…well I have to connect to it - there's that word again. But I have to feel it down deep I guess. I like funk, soul and blues, I like to really chew on something and I like to have fun.

“What do you mean by chew on something?”

“It has to have heart - some guts to it. I also like technically challenging music, things with hard or interesting vocal runs or rhythmically challenging.”

Porter is a singer in Fez Fatale, a Portland based band that does all original music. They can be heard doing the occasional show in Second Life, currently about one per month.

“Fez is difficult to describe. I would say we are jazz, funk and blues influenced - lounge rock seems to fit. We play across all genres really and the lyrics are written by a woman who is a writer and a lawyer and completely out of her mind. Her name is Pam Quinlan. The music is started usually by Tim Henwood, our guitarist and then the whole band fleshes the songs out together. I usually come up with the vocal parts with help from Michelle, who sings with me.”

Again you can see Porter quick to acknowledge others involved with her work and again I see her band as yet another community Porter is involved with. This made me wonder if Porter came to Second Life specifically in search of community.

“I don't think I was seeking community, I think I build community everywhere naturally. That is one of my gifts in life I guess. I came into SL because I heard a radio show with Dr. Drew and he talked about SL and it intrigued me I had never heard of it before.”

As my virtual skin began to prune up a bit, and I sensed my turtle friend growing tired, I realized that our interview had to come to an end soon. So I asked Porter what was the one thing that people would be surprised to know about her.

“I doubt anyone would be very surprised about anything that has to do with me,” she said with a laugh. “let me think…If I wouldn't have studied theatre arts performance, I would have been a geologist.

That fascinated me. “Why do you love rocks so much?” I asked.

“I'm not sure! They are beautiful, and I like to connect with the earth, Put my hands on it, and think about where it came from. I love the formations of rock.”

“Yet another connection of sorts,” I observed.

“All the processes that take place, it's all very fascinating to me. I rock climb in RL although that's fairly recent. I am an outdoorsy kind of girl, that's why I like scuba diving and going on adventures and flying things and sailing in SL.”

Anyone familiar with Porter, knows that she has a passion for fun in Second Life, a passion that I have always found infectious. It made me wonder more about this amazing underwater garden we had been exploring throughout the interview and how it connected to her music.

“If I leave Second Life the music will leave with me, but this garden will be here as long as the sim is and Brinda Allen will guard this sim with her real life.

“But the people who see your show will remember the experience.” I noted.

“Yes but this is as tangible as a virtual world gets. A memory can be powerful too though. People may never meet me, but they will know me through this garden. They will click on the box that gives scuba gear and get a gift from me with my words inside and come down and live an experience that I wanted them to have even if they have never met me.

“Just like the first time you went scuba diving at Costa Rica when you first came to Second Life.”

“Yes, I actually never thought about that before. Someone else spent a painstaking amount of time on the Costa Rica scuba area just like I did here. That one is way better of course,” she laughed, “but I like my little garden.”

I liked it too. Porter can be seen all over the grid performing and connecting with others, and just like her underwater garden, she’s worth checking out. Connect with one of her shows, join the party, meet some new friends and share the experience, you won’t regret it.
Benares Underwater Garden and Scuba Area

Porter Paquot on Facebook

Fez Fatale
This article was originally published in the January 2011 issue of SCRUPLZ'S magazine and can be read at

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