Goodbye New York

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I’m rusty at the blogging thing. My two most recent posts were 10 months apart and this one clocks in at nearly 9 months after those (see a pattern emerging?).

That might explain why my first attempt at writing this one left me uninspired and had Lois groaning. To describe it as dry and lifeless would be an understatement.

Undaunted, I’m back with another take. Rather than blog, I decided to simply include the full text of an email I sent to a friend describing what we’re doing. I only changed a single word (removing the name of another friend).

In that regard, I’m communicating with the rest of the world in exactly the same manner I communicated with a very good friend (exactly as my blogs used to and should be).

First, a classic tl;dr (Too Long Didn’t Read) summary.

TL;DR

We’re officially Virginians/Southerners now. We’ll come to NYC often, so if you’re one of our Northern friends, you will likely see us as often as you always have. But, we won’t be calling New York home any longer.

The Infamous Email

Things are great. I’ve been meaning to write to you for weeks (literally), so having you jog me out of my routine to finally do it is great.

First, we were toying with doing a real cross-country car trip this September. I was actually actively planning it, Lois was more toying with the possibility of allowing me to plan it.

While we were going to stop in a bunch of places to visit friends, the two highlights for both of us were going to be Austin and SF.

So, why didn’t we do it?

Our bigger news caused that.

Last summer, one of our friends in Richmond made a strong case for us to move down there. In a nutshell, he said that as we age, we’re going to need to rely more on a “community” of people, and we already have that built in Richmond (over a 33 year period). He said if we wait too long, we’ll likely never make the move.

At the same time, the house between them and our closest friends was up for sale. He suggested that we look at it, since if the three of us lived side-by-side, it would be a blast in any event.

So, last August (2013) we looked at the house, and everyone hated it, so that was that. A few weeks later, the real estate agent told us that another house was about to come on the market a few doors down the other way and we looked at that.

Everyone thought that was a perfect house for us to buy. Unfortunately, it would have required a 100% gut job. It was priced to do that (so it wasn’t a financial reason to pass), but Lois couldn’t get comfortable with ripping a house to the studs and building it back up, over a period of 6+ months, etc.

So, we passed.

But, we kept talking about the concept, and it made sense on a lot of levels. So, every time we visited Richmond in the past year (lots of times), I would look online for houses on the market. While there were a number that I likely would have been very happy with, I knew Lois would reject every one, so we didn’t look at a single house after those original two.

Then this last trip, right before Labor Day, I found a house that looked perfect on paper. We made an appointment to see it on Labor Day, and every person that walked through the house with us (11 people) loved it.

A few days later, while we were in Birmingham, we decided to make an offer. Everything from making the offer, to negotiating, to signing the contract, to signing amendments, was all done online. What a brave new world.

We just closed on the house last week. We have some light renovation to do over the next few months (no construction, no walls coming down). In the meantime, we need to get our house ready for sale (given the clutter, neither of us is looking forward to that task!).

For the foreseeable future, we’ll hang on to the apartment in NYC. We’ll do the reverse of what we’ve been doing with Richmond for the past 33 years. We’ll come often to NYC to visit our friends here, but our base will now be down there.

We’re both quite excited about the prospective change. Here’s hoping reality exceeds (not only lives up to) that expectation!

Miracle on I-81

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We take multiple multi-week trips a year. The first two weeks of February happened to be one such trip. Before we left, the south got hit with the big ice storm. Northerners were making fun of people in Atlanta and Birmingham (even I recalled some locals panicking from 1/4″ of snow on a past Birmingham trip). That turned out to be an absurd reaction when actual photos and videos started flooding in.

On Wednesday (2/12/2014) we were in Birmingham (one of our regular stops on these trips). They were predicting a big snowstorm overnight. We were more than a bit worried, because we had plans to meet friends in Atlanta the next day for lunch, then head home (a two day journey). Atlanta was predicted to be hit even worse than Birmingham.

After saying goodnight to our godchildren we hunkered down in the hotel. Sure enough, the snow came in fast and furious, going from zero to a few inches really quickly. We let our Atlanta friends know that we’d make a final decision in the morning, but were leaning toward canceling.

Our car was buried in snow and the roads were pretty slick. Having heard that Atlanta was worse, we decided to head north rather than east. We left early, while people were being warned to stay off the roads (silly northerners!). We did fine getting out of Birmingham, but we had to travel super slowly, largely because of the over-caution that other drivers were exhibiting (we were completely fine with that, in non-New Yorker fashion…).

Once we were on I-59 north conditions remained bad, but there were so few cars/trucks on the road, that it was a pretty good ride. In fact, that ended up being true for all of I-59, then I-24, then I-40 and I-81 as well. We were making reasonably good time.

When we leave Birmingham early, we usually make it all the way to Winchester, VA for the night. It was clear we’d never be able to do that in these conditions, but it seemed we’d make it to Roanoke for sure.

As we were approaching exit 92 on I-81, we saw traffic was slowing to a crawl ahead of us. It seemed to still be moving, albeit very slowly. I considered getting out at exit 92, but the sign said “Service Road”, no town name, no route name. It seemed it could be a bad detour, if this was only a minor hiccup on I-81. So, foolishly, I decided to fight on.

A minute later, we were in a 100% standstill, about 1/2 a mile from exit 94, Pulaski. After about 20 minutes I shut the engine off. About 10 minutes later, we started to move, but that turned out to be only about 1/4 of a mile (still not close enough to see the exit ramp) and then I turned the engine off again.

We happened to be stopped in the right lane, staring at the on-ramp for exit 94. In the 30 minutes that we sat there, only one car came up the ramp. I kept thinking we were so darn close to being able to back down that ramp, but it could be hours before we could inch up enough to find out. Then Lois said the same thing and I told her I’d been thinking the same thing for the past 15 minutes, but I didn’t think we’d get the chance to find out.

All of a sudden, we see a guy get out of a car behind us, in shorts (it was 30 degrees out) and walk by our car to scout the situation. When he returned, he was looking directly at us, so I rolled down the window. He said if a few cars moved over a bit, including a truck reversing diagonally from the right lane to the left lane, he thought we might just be able to squeeze through on the shoulder to get to the on-ramp and back down. He stopped to talk to us because we were directly in front of him and he was curious whether we’d be game to try.

I told him if he could convince everyone else to shift around, I was certainly willing give it a go!

So, I fired up the engine, and went into the shoulder with him following me. We passed a couple of cars, who (I’m sure) thought we were jerks for going into the shoulder, but then I saw what he meant about the necessary ballet movements. There was a tractor-trailer that had switched lanes from the left to the right, but hadn’t completed the maneuver before he hit a wall of traffic.

The guy behind me went to speak with him about backing up to return to the left lane. The truck driver came to talk to us (super nice guy). He said he was willing to try, if the guy behind him would back up a bit. The guy behind us had already gone to speak to him (and the car behind him), and as we were talking to the truck driver, they were starting to inch backwards.

The truck then successfully reversed back into the left lane. Then the mini-van in front of him maneuvered to left-most edge of the right lane, to give us some more room to maneuver.

You can click on any of the images to see a larger size. I stripped out identifying marks on the truck and blurred license plates in the hopes of not getting any good Samaritans in trouble.

Truck

We were still a hundred feet from the entrance ramp with a big mound of snow blocking the shoulder right in front of us. There was a car carrier in front of the mini-van without the slightest hope of being able to budge even an inch. So close, yet so far.

But, I have 4-wheel drive (in a 14-year-old Ford Explorer, with 266K miles on it!) and I decided to try and make it over the snow mound. I gave it a few shots, but the wheels were spinning aimlessly each time. Luckily, I was able to reverse back into the shoulder each time. I have a feeling that a few dozen more tries might have gotten us over the hump. Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out the hard way.

Out of my side mirror, I noticed someone talking to the guy with the original plan. He was holding a shovel. Not a snow shovel, the kind of shovel that you would dig up a giant yard with (a man’s shovel). He walked in front of our car and starting shoveling a path without saying a word to us. It was surreal (and amazing and beautiful).

Shoveler

When he was done, I put the car into drive, and while my tires spun quite a bit, I made it over the remaining hump on the first attempt. Victory!

Here’s a shot of what we saw as we started backing down the entrance ramp.

Goodbye I-81

The rest of the story is not uninteresting (to me) but it has nothing to do with the miracle on I-81. We ended up spending the night in Christiansburg, VA, about 40 minutes south of Roanoke. We made it home the next day (Valentine’s Day, awwww) with a couple of minor incidents along the way.

I can’t begin to thank the many people who were willing to do some pretty odd things on a major highway to see if some adventurous souls could try some unsafe things in order to escape a multi-hour traffic jam. If any of you end up stumbling on this post, please do reach out.

For those who are interested in knowing more about the jam we were in, here’s an article that implies that it lasted through the night!

http://www.navbug.com/article91018187/pulaski_back_up_cleared_but_interstate_81_treacherous_in_many_areas.htm

Happy to be home, though we returned to over two feet of snow in NY. Of course, to us Northerners, that’s nothing. ;-)

Ray Ferrer and Lagond Music School Partner for Fundraiser

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I haven’t blogged in 10 months. Lois asked me to write about our experience last night, so my self-imposed silence is now broken.

Last night we attended a fundraiser at the Lagond Music School. I’ve written about the school a number of times. Every time we have an interaction with anyone associated with the school, we leave more impressed than the time before. That’s saying a lot.

Rosanne Lana (Executive Director) and Charlie Lagond (Musical Director) run the school. Last night, Rosanne related the following story to the crowd (I’m paraphrasing):

I saw this painting by Ray Ferrer (she points to a specific work) and fell in love with it. I took his card, which had a photo of that work on it and every time I stared at the card, I fell more in love with the painting.

I finally called Ray and asked if he would consider doing a single piece for the Lagond Music School. He and his wife came by and spent an afternoon learning about what we do here. Afterward, Ray offered to cover an entire wall with paintings, an installation just for the Lagond Music School.

You are all looking at the wall now. After it was up for a while, Ray made an extraordinary offer. He said that if we held a fundraiser to sell the art, we could keep 100% of the proceeds for the school programs.

That would be extraordinary enough, but not enough for Ray! Ray said that for every painting that was sold, he would replace it with another one, so the wall at the school would remain permanently populated.

 

HadarRosanneLanaCharlieLagond

(You can click on any photo to see a larger version of it in a new tab/window.)

That’s extremely generous. Having met Ray last night, I am not surprised. We rarely buy art, but we were moved to buy some pieces last night both to help Lagond and to be able to appreciate and share Ray’s work.

Ray Ferrer (links to his Blog) works with an exacto knife and spray paint. Here’s a YouTube video of his process.

One of the works that we discussed took him over 20 hours of cutting and spraying!

You can find him on your favorite social network:

Ray Ferrer on Facebook

Ray Ferrer on Twitter

Ray Ferrer on See Me

Ray Ferrer on Google Plus

RayFerrerHadar

Here are three photos that cover the majority of the installation at Lagond:

RayFerrerDisplay1

RayFerrerDisplay2

RayFerrerDisplay3

The evening began with a reception, giving people a chance to look over the art and decide which piece(s) they were interested in. During that time, one of the many Lagond student bands played an incredible Jazz set in the background.

I believe that this particular band is called The All Stars (a name, well deserved):

TheAllStarsPianist TheAllStarsBassist TheAllStarsDrummerGuitarist

Later we all moved into the performance space and were treated to a set by The Speakers. This is a band made up of Special Needs kids. To see them put on a professional set and wow the crowd is an experience no one should miss.

TheSpeakersSingerGuitarist TheSpeakersDrummer TheSpeakersBassist TheSpeakers

To be 100% accurate, there is typically one extra person in The Speakers who is not special needs, to help coordinate. The first time we saw them, it was Greg Mayo. Greg is their primary teacher at Lagond (and one of the two people responsible for us discovering Lagond to begin with, the other being Chris Anderson).

Last night, it was someone from The All Stars (the piano player), who played both keyboards and saxophone with The Speakers (he’s in the middle in the last photo above). One of their teachers, Rusty Cloud, also sat in with them on one song, playing the keyboards. Unfortunately, the one photo we have of him came out too dark.

The lead singer and guitarist was also the Ambassador of last night’s festivities. He gave an amazing speech before The Speakers set, explaining how the Lagond Music School essentially gave him the opportunity to live a happy, fulfilled life. He introduced himself as “an Autistic”.

The evening also featured a new partnership with YAI Network. YAI sends some of their students to Lagond and the director noted that they all come back beaming about their experience there. YAI is moving into new facilities toward the end of May, and the students will be featured in another Lagond show at that time.

A personal icing on the cake. One of the teachers at Lagond, Steven Salcedo was there last night, running sound for the main show. We met Steven a while ago when he was playing saxophone with the Greg Mayo Band. In addition to being an exceptional saxophone player, Steven is one of the nicest people we know. Both Lois and I look forward to seeing him whenever we can.

StevenSalcedoHadar

If I had to break my self-imposed silence, I’m glad it was for something as joyous and heartwarming as the music and spirit of the Lagond Music School, coupled with the incredible art of Ray Ferrer.

http://urbanwallart.wordpress.com/

Music Blogging Hiatus

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This post is about a week later than it should be. My apologies to those who had to ask why I hadn’t blogged this week.

If this were any other Sunday over the past five years, I’d be blogging too. The difference is that this would be the first of three posts (we saw three sets at Rockwood Music Hall last night) and between them, I would probably spend six hours writing, editing, selecting photos, cropping, color-correcting, etc. (including researching the names of sidemen that are impossible to find on some band’s websites).

I started this blog in January 2007 to memorialize events in our lives. That included documenting which shows we saw (hint: a ton) and how I felt about them. I didn’t care if anyone else read any of the posts (people say that, some mean it, including me).

Over time (2009 to be specific), we accidentally discovered and fell madly in love with the local NYC indie music scene (all over, but primarily centered in Rockwood Music Hall). My musical posts took on more significance for me, as I wanted to share our love for the many talented people with a wider audience. That meant more photos and a generally more positive spin about each show (I never lie, even when I don’t like a show, I just find something positive to focus on).

Because of that subtle change, it starting feeling more like a job than documenting our lives. That was still OK, since we were leading quite an unusual existence. We were working 10-12 days a month in VA. That meant work was a break from blogging (except when we saw shows in VA, which was semi-regularly). When we were in NY, Lois worked full time (remotely), but I had the time to blog during the day.

If you’ve kept up, then you know we are no longer involved with the VA-based company. Our future lives are still undefined (and I am very happy about that at the moment). While that sounds like I have infinite time to blog, it also means that I could end up spending every day, all day, blogging. That’s more of a job (more correctly an obligation, since I derive zero income from blogging), which is the exact thing we just transitioned away from.

I didn’t want to avoid going out to see shows because I knew what lay ahead of me the next day. So, after very careful consideration, I decided that I would take an indefinite hiatus from music blogging. I may never do it again, or I may start up tomorrow, or have a random post here or there. For now, assume that no shows will be blogged about.

I feel badly that I didn’t announce it in advance, which probably caused people whose shows I attended this week to assume I didn’t like them. I particularly feel badly that there were two perfect CD Release shows this week (Martin Rivas on Thursday and Matt Simons last night) that richly deserved fully-detailed posts. Still, I had to stop sometime, and their shows simply came after my decision was made.

I’ll still blog occasionally, but mostly about technology. As we get closer to the election, and almost definitely afterward, there will be a political blog or two (I’ve been very good about keeping my promise not to be publicly negative during this entire 4-year Presidential term).

As for filling up my days, that’s been no problem. We’ve caught up with friends that we’ve had trouble scheduling in the past and I’ve finally attacked (and beaten!) a number of outstanding technical issues/projects. If you’re a friend that we haven’t spent enough time with, please reach out soon. We have the time, and more importantly the desire to catch up and build new memories.

Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. It was their final residency show. They’ve played every Friday in May 2012 at 10pm on Stage 2. I’ve heard about them for quite a while now but this was my first time seeing them play.

I’d describe them as non-stop, hard-charging, loud (but balanced) rock. A number of people broke out dancing during many numbers and those that didn’t were certainly bobbing, swaying, tapping, stomping and generally unable to simply stand still.

Wil Farr is the front-man, singing on every number and playing electric guitar. He has a very good voice, but in classic hard rock fashion, it often feels like he’s screaming at the audience. He played mostly rhythm guitar last night (Hurrah also has a lead guitarist) but he did take one sweet lead.

WilFarrSinging

I’ve seen Wil perform with Abby Payne as well. He’s also producing her upcoming CD. This is the first time I’ve seen him front and center.

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. If anyone is responsible for us going out to see Hurrah (yes, I’ve shortened it), it’s Rebecca. Basically, we’ll go see anything she’s in. Her voice is always great. She and Wil really get into each song and display a passion that is also classically rock.

RebeccaHavilandSingingRebeccaHavilandClappingWilFarrRebeccaHaviland

Jacob Pleakis on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Jacob is one of two people in Hurrah that I’ve never seen before. He was quite good on the keys and quite passionate on the vocals as well.

JacobPleakisKeyboardsJacobPleakisPiano

JacobPleakisWilFarrRebeccaHaviland

Kenny Shaw on drums. If you’ve read this space before, you don’t have any questions as to my opinion of Kenny. Hurrah’s music is particularly hard-charging and Kenny was working equally hard (but making it look and sound easy!). Absolutely fantastic drumming. The fact that he was in constant motion the entire set before made it all the more impressive.

KennyShaw

Doug Drewes on electric bass. Doug is the other member who I’ve never seen before. He too was quite good on the bass (no surprise given the rest of the talent in the band).

DougDrewes

Dave Freedman on electric guitar. I just heaped a lot of praise on Dave a few weeks back when we saw him perform with The Thang Band at Lagond Music School. He was even better last night in this set, where he takes more frequent leads. He even spoke a bit into the mic and I think he sang a bit as well. I wasn’t sure before that he ever opened his mouth. It seemed he was satisfied to let his guitar do the talking. Smile

DaveFreedman

Hurrah themed each of the weekly residency shows, mixing their originals with those of a specific band. Last night was The Pixies.

HurrahInTheZone

Jay Stolar headlined the set before them and toward the end of their set they called him up to sing with them. After the song was over, they invited anyone who appeared in Jay’s to join. Kenny was already on stage, but four more members stepped up to the plate.

WilFarrRebeccaHavilandJayStolar

Jay Stolar stayed on stage to sing. Jason Wexler joined Jacob at the keyboards. Rob Pawlings played the cowbell. I still can’t believe that I could actually hear every strike of the cowbell with 11 people on stage all making some kind of noise, but I could, and I liked it!

JasonWexlerJacobPleakisRobPawlingsCowbell

Seth Faulk and Jim Perry each grabbed tambourines and help keep the lively beat. It was controlled mayhem. Smile

BothBandsOnStage

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Summary: the crowd loved it, and I appreciated the driving rhythm and individual talents. It just isn’t the type of music that I want to listen to for long stretches, so I’m not sure I’ll be catching future shows. They won’t miss me, they have quite a following!

Jay Stolar EP Release at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Jay Stolar released a new EP (The Acoustic EP). Numbered CDs were available for sale at his headlining show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

JayStolarSingingGuitar

If you read my last post about Jay then you know that we weren’t going to miss this show (and there was strong competition for our attention down in Philly!). We made the correct decision, as I can summarize the show/performance in one word: Wow!

Seriously, among the many things Jay has going for him, the top three are:

  1. Extraordinary voice
  2. Unreal stage presence
  3. A band that can keep up with him (at every position!)

I couldn’t help thinking how lucky we are (were) to experience them (Jay and the band) in such an intimate (yet mobbed!) spot like Rockwood 2. I have no doubt that Jay has the energy to fill Madison Square Garden to every fan’s satisfaction. I hope to get the chance to verify that claim some day.

In addition to playing all four of the EP songs, Jay mixed up his classic Soul/Rock/Pop genres to keep every song fresh throughout the set.

I’ve mentioned before that Jay could thrill on his own. He likely couldn’t do that at MSG though. He certainly could with his 4-part harmony and kick-a** band. Left-to-right on stage:

Jason Wexler on grand piano and vocals. We’re big fans of Jason’s and our fandom grows each time we see him (we had seen him guest with Jeff Litman the night before). He was atypical last night in playing only the grand (no electronic keyboards) with such a big sounding band. That’s perfectly fine with me, his piano skills are exceptional.

JasonWexlerPiano

In addition to singing a ton of background vocals throughout, Jay gave Jason a really long lead during When I’m Acting Crazy. Holy moly Batman, Jason slayed it (and everyone in the room).

Jay took over the piano duties on one number and Jason stepped to center stage and played the accordion.

JayStolarJasonWexler

Grace McLean on vocals. Fantastic, but no surprise (other than I didn’t know Grace would be singing with him). I recently saw her for the first time at one of Sam Teichman’s Leave a Lasting Mark benefits and was instantly taken with her voice (and performance). I may as well repeat what I said about her that night:

Grace McLean was the final newcomer to us. Grace performed perhaps the second most famous song (to me at least), Chain of Fools. Let’s see if I can be succinct in describing her: Wow! (OK, that was succinct, but not sufficient, how about: Holy Wow, Unreal!, yes, that’s better).

GraceMcLeanSingingJayStolarGraceMcLean

In a small-world story, Grace’s upcoming EP was mastered by my good friend (and expert Masterer) Larry Lachmann. I discovered that just days after seeing Grace for the first time.

JayStolarGraceMcLeanWailingJayStolarGraceMcLeanReachingForTheSky

Seth Faulk on drums, percussion and vocals. Seth completed the vocal superfecta. In addition to adding his wonderful voice to the mix, Seth was one of two drummers/percussionists, another touch that makes Jay’s shows so special (I think 10 drummers might be too many, but less than that is all a plus for me, as long as they’re good, and these guys are more than good!).

SethFaulk

Here’s Seth as part of the 4-part power harmonies:

PowerVocals

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny is always great. Having him coordinate with Seth cranks it up a notch and is a sonic joy. Kenny and Seth are a large component of why I feel that Jay could fill MSG with sound. Let’s get on that one folks, please!

KennyShawKennyShawDrums

Rob Pawlings on electric bass. I’ve written about Rob a number of times lately and they’ve all been raves. No difference last night, another amazing performance.

RobPawlings

Paul Maddison on electric guitar. When I last saw Paul, on May 12th, I wrote that I would finally introduce myself to him at the next show. I can’t say I totally followed through, but we did shake hands, so I’m making progress. He’s getting married on Sunday (tomorrow), so I didn’t want to break his concentration. Winking smile

RobPawlingsPaulMaddison

On a more serious note, Paul is an excellent guitarist and Jay gave him one long lead with a bunch of other tasty licks. Wonderful!

PaulMaddisonGuitar

That takes care of the core band. There were three additional guests.

Wil Farr came up to sing with Jay on a song they co-wrote. Very well done. Wil was the front-man for the band that was up next, so I’ll be writing more about him shortly.

WilFarrJayStolarWilFarr

Matt Simons joined for one song on the sax (I believe it was When I’m Acting Crazy). We had seen Matt perform a solo set on the grand piano right before this one. Now he switched to the sax and when he was let loose, he destroyed the room. That he ended up taking such a great solo in the same song that Jason did on the piano, made a great song all the more amazing.

MattSimons

Jim Perry on drums/percussion. Jim joined for two of the final numbers. I think I heard Jay say that Jim co-wrote one of those songs with him, but don’t hold me to that. For the first number, Seth gave up his kit (Seth stood and played a tambourine and shakers while singing). On the second number, Jim took over Kenny’s kit and Kenny played the tambourine between Seth and Jim. Jim did an excellent job in both spots.

JimPerryKennyShawJimPerryDrums

SethFaulkSinging

Here’s the set list:

SetList

An absolutely incredible show. When do we all get together to do it again? Smile

AlexBergerAyelet

Matt Simons at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Matt Simons headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. It was a last-minute surprise and such a lovely one at that. We were planning on attending the 8:30 set (the subject of the next post) which was originally scheduled to be the first one of the night. Once we heard that they added a set at 7:30 for Matt, our entire evening was set.

MattSimonsPiano

It’s a rare treat to see Matt solo at Rockwood 2. The grand piano there is fantastic and Matt tickled those ivories to perfection. His voice was spot on as well, as was his set selection (including 2.5 covers, which complemented his originals wonderfully).

MattSimonsSinging

I was surprised to catch myself toe-tapping (and even quietly foot-stomping) a number of times. The point is that even though it was understated, Matt’s piano play had a rich rhythm to it that filled the room and made me move (apparently involuntarily). Beautifully done.

Here’s the set list:

Miss You More
Fire and Rain
Emotionally Involved
Jolene
Let Me Go On
Already Over You/Rolling In The Deep
With You
Gone

I’m not going to try and stretch this out to my typically long post because I’ve already said all you need to know, which is that if you weren’t there, you missed a chance to hear a solo singer/songwriter captivate his audience completely.

MattSimonsTerryMattSimonsHadar

Matt was also a special guest on one song in the following set so we got an extra dose of goodness from him a bit later on.

On June 9th at 10pm, Matt Simons is having a CD Release show at Rockwood 1. It’s doubtful that this will be a solo show (though I bet there’s at least one solo number). If you miss that one, I might have to refer you for some professional help. Smile

Jeff Litman at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jeff Litman headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. It was an early set, which we always appreciate and prefer. On the other hand, it coincided with a near-monsoon, so we got soaked coming and going.

It’s hard to believe that this was only our second night of music in May. Breaking the ice with a Jeff Litman show is a good way to go.

JeffLitmanSinging

Jeff played the majority of the show on the acoustic guitar (obviously, he sang on every number as well). He kicked it off with the harmonica as well, on my favorite song of his, Maine. In fact, I think he’s caught on that if he puts Maine first on the set list, it will guarantee that I will have to be there on time (we were!). Winking smile

JeffLitmanHarmonica

In the middle of the set, Jeff took over the piano duties for two numbers, the second of which he performed solo.

JeffLitmanPiano

Prior to the show, Jeff announced that he would be joined by two guests. We would have gone to see Jeff solo, but he wasn’t taking any chances. Winking smile

Maddy Wyatt sang harmony, played the flute (beautifully, on What Hasn’t Happened Yet) and the tambourine. Great job on all!

MaddyWyattJeffLitmanMaddyWyattFlute

Joe Brent on fiddle and mandolin. Joe has been great every time we’ve seen him. That he can replace the awesome guitar solo on Maine with his fiddle play, and keep me just as mesmerized, is a testament to his skills. Joe has a show in Brooklyn next Thursday (which we can’t make), then he hits the road with GangstaGrass for a while.

JoeBrentFiddleJoeBrentMandolin

MaddyWyattJeffLitmanJoeBrent

When we walked in, we both spotted Jason Wexler at the bar. We asked if he was just an audience member, or whether he was an unannounced guest performer. Jeff felt that it would be a waste to have Jason sitting in the audience, so he called him up on three numbers to play the grand piano.

JasonWexler

Of course, he didn’t have those three songs consecutively on the set list, so Jason had to expend a bunch of energy going up and coming down from the stage before/after each song. Thankfully, his fingers weren’t affected and his piano play was as good as it always is. Smile

Speaking of set lists, here’s the one from last night, though I’m not sure Jeff got through every one.

SetList

Jeff closed the show solo on the guitar. He started with a long instrumental solo of Some Day My Prince Will Come which he morphed into his closing number. His guitar play was gorgeous. Nice way to end the set.

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Be careful making any jokes at these shows. Right before the set started I noted (out loud) that there was an iPhone case attached to a small tripod. There was no phone inside the case. I joked that it must be a special case that could film the show without the camera inside.

Jeff thanked me for reminding him and popped his iPhone into the case. I then felt compelled to operate the camera, making sure that everyone on stage got at least some screen time. So, if Jeff posts any video from the set, I am 100% to blame (I wasn’t very smooth in my transitions) for any issues in the quality.

We’ll be out again tonight for a number of sets, but then it will more than a week before we get to see another show. Perhaps our lives are changing more than expected, I guess we’ll see how it evolves…

Lagond Music School and their Student Performers

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Last night we attended a show at Lagond Music School. I have implored my readers once in the past to contribute to the school, and I’ll do so again, now that I’ve seen first hand what their students are capable of. If you click on the link above, you’ll spot a yellow Donate button right in the middle. Click it and donate, you’ll feel better.

There were two headlining acts, each of which is fronted by one of the teachers at Lagond. I love both bands, independent of their connection to Lagond, so attending this show was a no-brainer for me. I’ve already posted about each of those sets. Here’s the one about the Greg Mayo Band. Here’s the one about The Thang Band.

Before either of those sets began, we got to see two different groups of students perform, each with one of their teachers in the band. The first was un-named (or at least unannounced). While people were entering and milling about, they were being entertained by a Jazz Quintet in the background.

JazzQuintet

Their teacher was at the keyboards and was subtly (and effectively) coordinating each number (who was to take a lead, how long, etc.). There were two guitar players, a drummer, a bass player, along with the keyboards. All of them were quite good. In addition to playing the notes correctly, they had a feel for the music (jazz can be tricky, not just technically).

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Charlie Lagond (who the school is named after) is an accomplished musician and teacher. Along with his wife Rosanne, they run the school. I was chatting with him while the group was playing. He told me that in addition to regular music lessons, Lagond Music School (LMS) prepares their students to perform. This was an opportunity for this group to learn how to play background music in a cocktail party atmosphere.

While they pulled off that task wonderfully, perhaps they were a bit too good. Quite a number of people (us included) were drawn away from their conversations to directly listen (very quietly) to the music itself.

Shortly before the real show began, Charlie sat in with the quintet (instantly turning it into a sextet). This was the first time I heard Charlie take a saxophone solo and he was awesome. Thankfully, it was long too, so I got to savor it.

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We all moved into the next room, dubbed The Haven (LMS is on Haven Street). Another band of students called The Speakers was set to kick off the first of three sets. Their teacher participant was none other than Greg Mayo, so this was sure to be a delight on a number of levels.

GregMayo

There were four students playing with Greg, but there was nothing even remotely similar to the earlier jazz quintet. The four of them played electric guitar, drums, trumpet and saxophone (the sax player switched to electric guitar later in the set). The guitarist sang lead and harmony with Greg.

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They put the audience in the right mood for the next two sets. Nice job fellas and kudos to LMS and the teachers for getting both bands well prepared for their big night!

Here’s the set list for The Speakers:

SetList

The Thang Band at Lagond Music School

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The Thang Band headlined a set at Lagond Music School last night, closing out a fantastic show. I already posted about the set before them, Greg Mayo Band. I have seen The Thang Band once before and was really looking forward to seeing them again. I was nervous and excited for Lois to see them.

I wrote an incredibly long description of The Thang when I first saw them. I was tempted to reproduce it in its entirety here, but 1/3 of it doesn’t apply (because it wasn’t the same audience and they toned down their act a drop because this performance was at a school after all…). You can read the full description for yourself about 1/2 way down this one-year-old post.

Basically, The Thang are top musicians, irreverently performing for their pleasure. The rest of us are given permission to enjoy it with them (in fact, we’re encouraged). The irreverence touches everything they do, including the innuendo-laden tongue-in-cheek lyrics and the dramatic acting (presentation) of some of those lyrics. It’s a thing of beauty (or is it a thang of beauty?), if you can let go of societal norms for a little while. Winking smile

Even in a slightly toned down show, there is something that simply can’t be contained: Energy. Their shows are upbeat, joyous spectacles.

They went through three wardrobe changes. Each was layered, so it was only a matter of removing a layer of clothing. The photos will tell the story, but you have to come to a show to experience the deep dialog that is coupled with each change. Winking smile

TheThangBand

I normally mention band members from a left-to-right perspective, but that feels wrong with this band, so I will simply cover them in the order that I feel like at the moment.

Paul Maddison is one of three front men, but I declare him to be slightly more forward than the others. He plays the guitar (obviously), but that actually takes a back seat to both his vocals and his overall showmanship. Paul is like the conductor (of an orchestra, not a train). In addition to interacting heavily with every band member, he’s constantly drawing the audience in.

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That last phrase is literal as well as figurative. He beckoned (more like insisted, strongly) that people come right up to the stage and bunch up and become part of the show. They did. If they were reluctant to begin with, that feeling faded right away as everyone was swept up in the show.

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I have never taken the time to introduce myself to Paul. Last night, during the opener, he was standing right next to me. For whatever reason, I still didn’t introduce myself. That’s just stupid (on my part), since he brings me a lot of joy and he deserves to know it directly from me. I will correct that next time, pinky swear!

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Dan Golden on keyboards, harmonica and vocals. He’s nearly equal to Paul in front man duties and as I noted the last time, definitely up to that enormous challenge. He’s excellent on both keys and vocals. On occasion he even steps away from the keyboard and sings (or talks/raps) directly to the audience (something Paul does a ton).

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Rob Pawlings (a.k.a Bobby Bananas) on electric bass and vocals. I wrote about Rob in my earlier post about Greg Mayo Band, where he filled in for Chris Anderson. In this set, he cranked the bass up a notch (hard to do, as in some of the Mayo songs he was really wailing) but here he added quite a bit of vocals, including a fair amount of lead.

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In one number, parodying any typical big-name rock band, he would have slammed his bass on the stage and jumped on it (for the full effect), except that it’s unlikely that any of them can afford to smash (and replace!) their beloved instruments. So, he went through the motion, but instead very gently laid the bass down on the stage and gestured at it as if he were hurting it. Winking smile

As opposed to my inexplicable lack of introducing myself to Paul, I went out of my way to find Rob before the show and introduce myself. I’ve become a big fan of his, in particular when I saw him play with Abby Payne (also filling in for Chris Anderson that night). This was the fifth set that I’ve seen Rob play (including the one right before with Greg Mayo).

RobPawlingsSinging

Dave Freedman on electric guitar. Dave is the quietest one in The Thang. He doesn’t sing or talk, but his guitar play speaks volumes. Paul is good enough to play lead in this band (or any other!), but by having Dave there to fulfill that role (brilliantly), Paul is really freed to run the show. Wait, because of Dave, Paul is a freed man. Hmmm, perhaps it’s all an illusion, and there is no Dave Freed Man. Winking smile

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Last but certainly not least!

Kenny Shaw on drums, cowbell, shakers, conducting and even light vocals. I mentioned in the previous post that I would heap a bunch more praise on Kenny. Of course he was great in the Greg Mayo Band set. The Thang is non-stop upbeat rock. The drummer (Kenny, in case you’re not paying attention) is in constant motion. He’s so fluid, fast and tasty that it’s a thing of beauty to behold.

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On one number, Kenny came out from behind the drums, Dan left his keyboard, and everyone but Dave sang a cappella with their arms around each other. Yes, that includes Kenny, pushing out some sounds through his larynx. Late in the song he whipped out a shaker (in the shape of an egg), which got a lot of hoots because it was the only instrument used on that tune. (Well, I think Dave gave them some very light-touch guitar accompaniment as well.)

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Toward the end of the number, he broke away from the others (Paul, Dan and Rob) and conducted the end of the song by moving his arm up and down, so that they knew whether to raise or lower their voices. Nicely done by all of them.

KennyShawConducting

Martin Rivas was a guest on the previous set. He missed this one because he was performing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 while this show was going on. He tweeted two short videos of Kenny Shaw with a halo of lights over his head (from the previous set!). Here’s a still that makes Kenny look more like an alien:

KennyShawAlien

Late in the set Paul called up two very special guests. Both are/were students at Lagond. I’m not going to link to them because I have no idea how they intend to promote themselves, but each was easy for me to find if you care to check them out yourself.

Alex Silverstein on electric guitar. Paul admonished the rest of the students in the room to get back to their practice, given what they were about to hear out of Alex. One might assume that Paul was simply complimenting a student (encouraging him), but no, no no no, he was giving the rest of the guitarists in the room fair warning that Alex is the real deal and they better get on the stick.

AlexSilverstein

I don’t even want to tell you how young he is (it would make both of us cry!), but trust me, he’s still a kid (who knows if his voice has broken yet). Let me assure you, he doesn’t play guitar like a kid. He’s got the skills and the feel for the music. Bobby Bananas (Rob Pawlings) gave him a lesson in theatrics during one song, which Alex followed perfectly. He’s the complete package.

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Kevin Myers on drums. Kenny stepped to the side and played the cowbell and shakers while Kevin took over the drum kit. Those are some big shoes to fill, especially during the same set that Kenny just tore it up. And yet, another holy cow, Kevin was up to the task (and more). He really was fantastic on both numbers (very long ones).

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There was another benefit to having Kevin behind the drums (aside from his incredible play). It freed Kenny up to play a cowbell solo, seriously! In addition to the solo itself being awesome (Kenny didn’t just hit the outside of the cowbell in various spots at various tempos, he also rapidly beat up the inside of the cowbell with a drumstick.

It would have been amazing at that, but I would also swear that at one point, the sound guy quickly alternated between the left and right speakers, to that every other strike of the cowbell came from a different speaker, creating a phenomenal stereo effect (like there were dueling cowbells). If I’m wrong about that, then it’s time to get my hearing checked (which very well may be the case)…

Steven Salcedo was called up to play a long sax solo in one of the last songs. Paul personally walked the microphone down from the rear of the stage so that Steven could serenade us up close. Thanks Paul. Getting another taste of Steven’s play (he was a highlight during the previous Mayo Band set) was a nice way to top off an extraordinary evening.

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And, what show is complete without someone doing push ups on stage?

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Now all I have to do is start training to stay up real late, as most Thang Band shows start at midnight or later. That made last night an extra special treat. Smile