April, 2008:

Updated Linux Distros in VMware Player

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I’ve written before about running Linux under Windows XP using the free VMware Player. It works really well. Even though I’ve done it before, I don’t really have much of a need, so other than making sure most big-picture features work, I don’t really exercise the distribution.

Recently, I’ve had two reasons to crank it up just a drop (literally, just a drop, I’m not yet using VMware Player for anything serious). First, the possibility (however distant or unlikely) that my next laptop may be running Linux as the primary OS. Second, there have been a flurry of new (updated) Linux distros released this month, some that I have had a long curiosity about.

In the past, I’ve had little more than glimpses of Ubuntu releases (6.06 and 7.04). I didn’t really give either a whirl, but my initial impression was less than enthusiastic. The color scheme alone (I know, easy to change) was muddy and boring looking. On a more important note, I have always struggled (with little information!) as to whether there is a material difference between choosing a Gnome-based distro, or a KDE one.

To my eye, KDE looks better, but as much as I enjoy eye candy, it’s not the over-riding reason for me to select an OS (or I’d be happy with Vista, or I would have run to a Mac). If Gnome is more functional, or has a more likely future, I’d happily put up with a less-pretty UI, and even put up with less user friendliness.

Recently, I read a review of a late beta of Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron). The guy raved about it. In the past, I noticed that it took a day or two for KUbuntu (and other derivatives) to be released after the main Ubuntu distro, and that made me feel that they were step-children, possibly not as robust or integrated.

This time around, all of them were released on the same day, including a KDE4 version of KUbuntu as well.

So, in April alone, I downloaded and tested the following Linux distros:

  1. Sidux 2008.01
  2. Ubuntu 8.04
  3. KUbuntu 8.04
  4. KUbuntu-kde4 8.04
  5. DSL 4.3 (Damn Small Linux)
  6. SystemRescueCD 1.02
  7. CDLinux 0.6.1

Sidux (last year’s flavor) was one of my favorite distros. It’s based on Debian (as is Ubuntu) but it is tied to the unstable repository so you get more frequent updates (of things like Firefox for example). The 2008.01 release is a DVD iso, all of the other ones mentioned above are CD isos.

While it booted up fine (in Live mode, under VMware Player), it was not able to run in any resolution other than 800×600 (the default). That’s not entirely true, it could be made smaller, not larger). I hand tweaked the xorg.conf file and tried a few other things, none of which worked, and I quickly gave up. Remember, I don’t really have a short-term need, so struggling wasn’t appetizing and I had other distros to check out anyway.

I have installed every version of DSL for quite a while, so adding 4.3 to the mix wasn’t a surprise. It’s a good distro for getting small jobs done. One thing to keep in mind (not necessarily a downside) is that it’s still based on the 2.4 kernel branch. Anyway, this one works just fine. If it wasn’t for the next distro I am about to cover, this one would get some use from me whenever I needed an X Server on my desktop.

CDLinux 0.6.1 is the latest version of CDLinux (Compact Distro Linux). I hadn’t heard of it before this release. It’s a little larger than DSL (about 10MB bigger), but it still clocks in at under 60MB. What intrigued me was that it is significantly more modern. It uses the latest 2.6 kernel, Xorg, XFce (window manager), the latest Firefox (2.0.0.14), etc. I have to say that I really like this one for quickie jobs. It’s clean looking.

I am writing this post on CDL (under VMware Player) running Firefox. I scp’ed over a certificate for Firefox and I am using OpenID to log in as me to WordPress. I’m running the Live CD image, so my disk drive is ram. It’s working delightfully well. My only semi-complaint is that at the resolution that I’m running it (1400×1050) the fonts aren’t all that attractive. I don’t know if that’s a CDL issue, an XFce one, a resolution only one, etc. I don’t really care at the moment, but I thought I’d mention it.

A quick mention of SystemRescueCD. That’s another one (like DSL) where I download each version, and have been doing so for quite a while. It’s a very nice emergency CD, and while I rarely need one, this is the first one I turn to on those rare occasions. The only thing I do when I download a new version is check that it functions correctly under VMware Player, then I burn a real CD, as this one is for real emergencies, not for playing around in a virtual machine.

Now the Ubuntu family. My first impression (also not detailed in any way) is also extremely positive. Even the less-attractive main Ubuntu (Gnome-based) is reasonably nice. The KDE one and KDE4 one are both more attractive. While the KDE4 one looks very nice, I’m not sure that I don’t prefer the look of KDE3. I have no problem with KDE4 and could easily get used to it, and perhaps the only reason I prefer KDE3 is that I’m already used to it.

As opposed to Sidux, the rest of the distros mentioned above all resize easily and flawlessly to any resolution I like. Cranking them up to 1400×1050 was trivial, and worked immediately. My native resolution is 1600×1200, so I have plenty of room to run a 1400×1050 sub-window for Linux.

One curiosity. All of the Ubuntu distros automatically release the mouse at the borders of the VMware window. This is a default behavior that I prefer, making the Linux window feel like just another app on my XP desktop. The only theoretical downside is that alt-tab doesn’t cycle between the windows within Linux. The other distros (including CDL which I’m currently using to write this) trap the mouse at the borders, and force me to press Ctrl-Alt to release the mouse. It’s not that big of a deal, but I am curious as to what each distro is doing, as none of them knows about VMware.

Anyway, all are fine distros and may see more time on my desktop over the coming months. Like I said above, while it’s still not likely, there’s a possibility that my next laptop will be Linux, and my primary distro will either be one of the Ubuntu flavors or Sidux.

New Twitter Followers

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I’ve been using Twitter for a very long time (thanks Jamie, even though you deserted us for a while). πŸ˜‰

I have had it set to IM me (via Jabber) whenever anyone tweets, and forever, that was working. A while ago (quite a while ago), those messages stopped coming. I was able to send tweets via IM, but I never got an update for someone else any longer.

On time, also a long time ago, I turned off the IM channel, then turned it back on, and for a short while (days?) I received tweets via IM again, then they stopped.

Recently, I installed Twhirl (an Adobe AIR fat client for Twitter) so I didn’t care. Then I installed (same day) AlertThingy (also an AIR client). AlertThingy (at first) only attached to FriendFeed stuff, so I still had to launch Twhirl in order to see tweets from people that I am not also a FriendFeed subscriber of. Ugh.

A recent update of AlertThingy (or I missed it originally!) now also includes full Twitter integration, so I no longer have to launch Twhirl.

Anyway, none of that has to do with the title of this post. πŸ˜‰

This morning, I noticed that two of the people that I follow both tweeted that they have seen a big jump in followers. Having nothing to do with that (but having it lodged somewhere in my brain), I logged on to twitter.com for the first time in a very long while.

I accidentally noticed a tiny link on the bottom right hand corner showing 14 new requests to be followed. That was quite surprising. Who knew how long they’ve been sitting there?

So, out of the 14 requests, I knew eight of those people (and approved all of them right away). A ninth person is someone I don’t personally know (or at least I don’t think I do), but he’s a good buddy of two people I do know, so I happily accepted him as well.

That left five strangers. Of them, one seemed to have a very interesting business take in her tweets, so I accepted her. Two seemed to be following over 50K (yes, thousand!) people, so I can safely assume that I’m not all that special to them, and I declined them. The other two I just haven’t decided yet, and I’m letting them sit.

So, I’ve gone from four followers to 14 followers, in a five minute span. Nothing like the one buddy who tweeted this morning that he’s up to 1000 followers!

That said, I keep my tweets private, as I do for my FriendFeed as well. I’m honestly not sure why I do. Everything that I tweet about is personal (no big business secrets to worry about spilling to the world). After the fact, I often blog about what I tweeted about in advance. In other word, my tweets are often “Going to a concert”, followed the next morning by a blog about the concert.

Clearly, the blog is available for all to see, forever, so why not just open up the tweets as well? I don’t know, but since I have zero need/desire for a complete stranger to know (or care) about what I’m about to do, it just makes sense to me.

The blog side is different. I am shocked (and pleased) as to how many people find my posts via normal searches, and I know (hopefully they would agree!) that often my post has answered their exact question (if they have the patience to read my long-windedness). πŸ˜‰

If any of you have strong opinions as to the benefits of opening up my tweets and/or FriendFeed, please feel free to weigh in here.

Bob Herbert Nails Reverend Wright

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In this Op Ed piece in The New York Times, Bob Herbert precisely nails Reverend Wright’s motivation for his current tour. It’s not all that typical that I agree with a majority of what Mr. Herbert has to say, but I admit freely that not only do I agree with every single word of this piece, I also agree with the tone and apparent plea/message embedded in it as well.

Ever since the teasers showing snippets of Reverend Wright’s interview with Bill Moyers were coming out last week, I’ve been saying non-stop that Wright’s feelings were hurt (by Obama, not by any other attacks) and that he’s decided to teach Obama a lesson.

Shame on him. He could just as easily have waited until November 5th, 2008, but then his vindictiveness wouldn’t have as much of a personal devastation on Obama himself. The fact that he’s dragging the hopes and dreams of the majority of African Americans down in the process seems to matter little to the oh so spiritual Reverend.

What once seemed impossible, the handing of the nomination to Hillary Clinton, even if she was well behind in pledged delegates and somewhat behind in the popular vote, now seems very realistic, thanks to the continued ravings of one angry Pastor…

I’m guessing that he could use a refresher course in the teachings of Jesus. He knows the words, he needs to recall how to live by them!

April 2008 Poker

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Well, it’s a few days early, but I honestly don’t think I’ll be playing any (or much) poker before the end of the month. If there is a material update, I’ll post again.

In keeping with my new schedule, even though I had a ton of time to play this month, I still played a pretty light schedule. Because of that, I paid the full freight to enter one of the Sunday big tourneys. In that one, I came in 66th out of 907. That was my one nice hit for the month ($500 returned for $215 invested).

In addition to that, I won qualifiers for the big tourney twice, but bombed out in both of those tries in the actual tourney. One of those was frustrating, as I came 140th and they only paid to 100th. I also won another nice qualifier for a big Omaha Hi-Lo tourney, but bombed out in that as well.

I played in a number of my normal 7pm Omaha Hi-Lo tourneys, and cashed once or twice (minor prizes), but also bubbled (finished one out of the money!) at least once, and 3rd or 4th out of the money a few other times.

In general, my play this month was as good as it’s ever been. I had some great luck in at least one of the qualifiers where I won an entry to the big tourney (still turned into no cash), but in the actual tournaments (more so in the Omaha ones, but a little in the Hold’Em ones too), I had one of the worst runs of bad luck one can imagine.

It’s one of the main reasons I bubbled so many times. For a change, rather than easily drifting into a minor prize, I risked all of my chips (repeatedly!) with much the best hand. In general, I was an 80-90% favorite when I got all my chips in. In nearly every case (this month), the river (or occasionally the turn) brought a miracle card to my numskull opponent, and I was out with no money. The frustration was enormous, but I also felt vindicated at my bet when the other person flipped over their cards.

Oh well, that didn’t help the account value, just the ego… Total for the month was a very disappointing -$316. Nothing material (given my account size), but not a happy situation either.

As for why I won’t be playing, as of today, my site has radically changed their tournament structure. There are almost no Omaha Hi-Lo tourneys left, including their removal of the nightly 7pm that I love so much. They’ve even revamped their normal Hold’Em schedule, blowing away the more interesting (given my risk appetite) ones in the times that work best for me.

I am now seriously considering just emptying my account and giving up online poker for a while. Of course, I could search for another site (many of them still likely have tons of tourneys that would fit my profile perfectly), but it’s a lot of work to pick one, and to get the money in there now is a hassle, so I’ll mull it over and decide.

Of course, I could just keep my money here and play in the big one any Sunday that works for me, and just ignore them the rest of the week. At least that would give them a chance to realize what a boneheaded move this new tournament schedule is (the 7pm filled up every single night, so it was popular and profitable for them!). I suspect that’s my most likely (short-term) course of action!

The Proclaimers at BB King

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Last night marked the end of our mini-streak of concerts (six in seven nights, including the last three in a row at BB King). We saw The Proclaimers.

In 1998 The Proclaimers released their second studio CD, Sunshine On Leith. The first two songs on the album really grabbed Lois: I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and Cap In Hand. We nearly burned out those two tracks on the CD playing them practically every time we got in the car, for years.

For whatever reason, we rarely listened to the rest of the CD. I truly can’t recall whether it bored me or not, but for sure, it didn’t grab Lois, and she always controls the music in the car, so it never got played.

When I finally got an MP3 player, I was stingy both on the disk space I was willing to give up on the laptop (the disks are much bigger now) as well as worrying about filling up the smaller disks on the original MP3 players (my first was a Creative Zen, not an iPod). So, when choosing which of my music to rip back then, I was overly judicious (I regret that to an extent nowadays). When ripping Sunshine of Leith, I only ripped those two tracks, and have never revisited the CD since then.

That background will become important momentarily, to set the appropriate expectations in terms of our knowledge (or complete lack thereof) with regard to the range of The Proclaimers music. With that in mind, my most humble apologies to their legion of fans!

A lot of what I have to say about last night’s show is more tied to the venue and the experience, but in keeping with the new style here, I’ll describe the show from my perspective first, then the venue, which may or may not clarify some of my feelings about the show itself. I’ll also cover the opening act, Jeremy Fisher afterwards as well in between this and the venue section.

The Proclaimers came on exactly 9pm. The crowd went nuts (literally). They have a big band sound with six people on the stage. From left-to-right, Zac Ware on lead guitar, Charlie Reid on vocals, tambourine and penny whistle, Craig Reid on vocals and acoustic guitar, Clive Jenner on drums (mostly hidden from our view behind Craig Reid), Garry John Kane on bass and Stevie Christie on keyboards.

The Proclaimers

Another shot of them:

The Proclaimers 2

Charlie and Craig Reid are The Proclaimers, Scottish twins. Charlie primarily sings lead, occasionally playing the tambourine. He played the penny whistle on a single song. No need for him to play it on any others, as he plays it simplistically, but not badly. Craig sings harmonies with Charlie, and lead on a number of songs. He plays purely rhythm guitar on all of the numbers.

They sing beautiful harmonies and both have very good voices, but it wasn’t as special as I had hoped. On a few numbers (thankfully not many), they (but in particular Craig) were really just screaming into the microphone rather than singing.

Charlie Reid:

Charlie Reid

Craig Reid:

Craig Reid

Zac Ware was fine on the guitar, but only took perhaps four leads the entire show, the longest of which was under 30 seconds. He basically played background leads, softly, in support of the group.

Zac Ware

Garry John Kane played a solid if unspectacular bass throughout the show.

Garry John Kane

I can’t tell you anything about Stevie Christie, as it was very hard to make out the keyboards on most of the numbers.

Stevie Christie

Clive Jenner kept a good beat all night, but we really couldn’t see him at all from our seats. We stood at the door for the encore and I had a better vantage point. I was also able to concentrate a bit more on his playing (specifically listening to the drums) and I was reasonably impressed. Here is a five minute drum solo by Clive (accompanied just by a bass) on YouTube if you want to judge for yourself.

This photo of Clive Jenner comes off of the Big Screen at BB King, since he was hidden from our view the entire night by Craig Reid:

Clive Jenner

Together, they produce a very pleasant sound, but absolutely zero musical virtuosity. It’s basically all just a driving beat to support their singing.

That obviously brings us to the songs. As stated earlier, we were really only familiar with two songs. Thankfully, they played both of those (closing the show, pre-encore, with 500 Miles). While the crowd loved nearly every song beyond description, we found most of them too similar to each other. Perhaps that’s why we didn’t listen much to the rest of our CD, but I honestly can’t recall.

Given that I really like the words (message) in both Cap In Hand and 500 Miles, it’s possible that if I really knew the words well to the rest of the songs, I too would have enjoyed it more. While I was able to understand a fair bit of them last night (the sound level was good and clean), I doubt it. They played their big smash hit Letter From America (which sent the crowd into a tizzy, literally), but I found the song quite repetitious, even though it was pleasant.

They played for 73 minutes before saying goodnight. After a minute or two they came back out for a three-song encore. The encore was pleasant but not even as good as the main show. They did play an obvious crowd favorite, King Of The Road (a 1960 hit by Roger Miller). I know and like the song, but I don’t see what makes their version special in any way. Oh well, I guess I just didn’t get it last night.

They were off the stage at exactly 10:30pm (90 minutes including encore). That’s a reasonably typical length for these types of shows, so I wasn’t disappointed by that (in fact, we were glad it didn’t drag on). That said, when I describe the crowd and setup in the venue section, you’ll see what I mean when I say this was a show that should have played a reasonable amount longer.

We both used the exact same word to describe the show afterwards: boring. Boring can have multiple meanings. At one extreme being bored out of one’s mind (wanting to bore a hole in your head, just for amusement or relief) and at the other extreme, just passing time, mindlessly. This was definitely the latter.

There wasn’t a single unpleasant moment or note in the entire performance. It was pleasant (the best word I can find to describe my feelings), but I wouldn’t have been disappointed if it ended after the first number (other than that I was curious to hear Cap In Hand and 500 Miles, live). Both of those songs were fine as well, and I was certainly tapping my foot, but neither moved me in any way either (which they still do when I listen on the iPod!).

Again, apologies to their fans, who will find the above impossible to believe or understand. πŸ™

The opening act was Jeremy Fisher, someone I’d never heard of. He came on at exactly 8pm with two people accompanying him. Isaac Carpenter on drums and Peter Fusco on bass (I’m pretty sure I got the bass player right).

The three of them produce a fresh, driving sound. I couldn’t catch all of the words, but the ones I did seemed pretty good. Here’s a YouTube video of him doing one song, Cigarette, that I did catch the words to. The video is cleverly animated (in my opinion) so if you’re interested in learning about Jeremy, this might be a good intro.

Both Isaac and Peter sang harmony with Jeremy, with Isaac doing more than Peter. Isaac really hooked me, instantly, as a drummer. A very clean, driving beat throughout. He also played glockenspiel and shakers. He sings well too. Peter played a solid bass and sang well too.

They were on stage for exactly 35 minutes.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed their set and I’d likely go see Jeremy again if the opportunity arose. He has a MySpace page as well as a number of YouTube videos around, so checking him out is pretty easy.

As for Isaac Carpenter, if you have an interest, you can get a peek into his personality (dry humor), in this amusing YouTube video (not hysterical, just amusing). The bit at the very end may also give you a glimpse into his drumming capabilities, but not the tiny bits in the beginning of the video. πŸ˜‰

It’s a tad sad when the warm up group tickles me significantly more than the main attraction. Oh well, at least they did. It would have been worse if Jeremy was a flop…

On to the venue. We’ve been to BB King many times. In the past year, perhaps a dozen times. As stated in the intro, last night was our third night in a row at BB’s. Each night brought a wildly different experience, not just because of the music, but because the club was reconfigured for each show. That’s something we had no clue ever happened before Tuesday’s Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo show.

As reported here, at the Pat Benatar show, they removed the last row of tables, creating a much larger area for people to stand near the bar. It seemed to make sense, and clearly the sold more tickets than they otherwise would. From the website, it was also clear that this was not going to be a normal night at BB King. As an aside, something I didn’t report on for that night, the Pat Benatar tickets were the most expensive that we’ve ever experienced at BB King. There might be many shows that are even more expensive, but not for the artists that we track or have seen there.

Things were back to normal the night before for Jerry Douglas, reinforcing my illusion that the Pat Benatar configuration was a one-time aberration. At least for Pat Benatar, we had some kind of warning, seeing the website claim that seating was extremely limited (which wasn’t actually all that true, as they only removed roughly 100 seats).

It’s possible that last night’s show had a similar, or even more severe warning, but I have no idea, because we bought our tickets for all three shows this week at one time, at the box office, never visiting the web site for the specific performances. The only reason I saw the Pat Benatar warning was because I went back to pick up an extra ticket for our friend for that show.

When we walked in last night, we were truly shocked. The entire lower level, in front of the stage, had zero tables or chairs. It looked like a dance floor. Lois asked the ticket-taker at the door whether it was meant for dancing, and he said “Would you like to dance? Please do!”. Oh oh…

Here’s a shot of the stage showing the empty floor (at least part of it):

Empty Floor

Since the above photo is a little dark, I edited it to wash it out a bit, lightening it in the process of losing some of the colors, so you can get a better sense of the emptiness:

Empty Floor Washed Out

The row of tables that was removed for Pat Benatar was back and we ended up sitting in the right-most one (closest to the entrance) at the head two seats. Those were the exact seats we had for Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby, and across the aisle from the seats we had for the Jefferson Starship. It took us a while to absorb the fact that this show was going to be radically different than our previous experiences here, and there was no excitement associated with that thought.

We ordered dinner, but third time was not the charm for the special crab cake, as it was no longer available. I tried the blackened catfish for the first time. Most delicious, highly recommended.

The crowd was coming in pretty steadily, but it wasn’t a crush. Pat Benatar seemed to fill up earlier (there were more seats available though). At about 7:50pm people started to gather in the lower level (standing, obviously) in front of the stage. By 8pm when Jeremy came on, space on the floor was still quite open (see photo below). I then looked around and noticed that the small area between our row of tables and the bar was full to the brim.

Jeremy Fisher Appears on Stage

The noise level was pretty high, and like with Pat Benatar, the music during the dinner hours was louder and more rock oriented than the previous night. This time (as opposed to for the The Wrights the night before) the house lights did indeed go out when Jeremy came out. Most people paid attention to him, and he certainly got rousing applause after each number, but the number of people who conversed at the top of their lungs was shocking.

It wasn’t as annoying as it could have been because Jeremy’s music is very up-beat, and loud enough (without being too loud) to allow me to enjoy his show (as noted above) without being too distracted. I still can’t believe how rude people are. I get that most people came to see The Proclaimers, but give the new guy a break, even if he isn’t that good, which in this case wasn’t true, as he was quite good!

Here’s a shot of how crowded the floor got by the time Jeremy was tearing down his equipment!

Full Floor After Jeremy Fisher

That brings me to the crowd in general. Surprisingly, tons of Scottish people. I only say surprisingly because I don’t notice tons of Scottish people coming to the numerous shows we attend. I had to wonder whether Scottish people follow The Proclaimers around, making vacation time to visit places like NYC whenever they show up here. It was interesting.

There’s always a reasonable (and by reasonable, I really mean an unreasonable) amount of drinking going on at these shows. Last night was no exception (except for the fact that they likely drank substantially more than a reasonable amount!). πŸ˜‰ Don’t know if was the Scotts (or is it Scotch?) influencing the rest of the crowd, but wow, BB’s must have raked in the liquor take last night. Lots of non-stop trips back-and-forth to the rest rooms all night long, no surprise. Hard to imagine how some of these people made it home.

When The Proclaimers came on, the place was packed to the gills. There had to be more people in there than for Pat Benatar (which was roughly 700). Don’t know how many more though. While the crowd was paying significantly more attention to the music, it was still remarkable to me how many people insisted on screaming to their friends in conversation (so that not only their friends could hear them, but so could anyone within a reasonable distance). The fact that they could be heard over the loud music is truly amazing, and of course, as rude as could be to their idols (The Proclaimers).

There are numerous examples of rude and selfish behavior, but let me limit my tales just a few, all involving one particular person, who I had the wonderful fortune to be sitting back-to-back with. An attractive blond Scottish woman, likely in her upper 20’s, but could have been lower 30’s. She was at a table for eight, all Scotts, all friends.

She/they talked non-stop during Jeremy Fisher’s set, of course. When The Proclaimers hit the stage she lost her mind (in the positive sense). πŸ˜‰

Her arms were flailing wildly in all directions, mostly pointing out toward the stage, in violent motions. What you don’t know is that both of us were seated (sideways) right on a very busy (and tiny) aisle, so that every time she flung her arm out she risked poking out an eye, knocking a drink off a waiter’s tray, etc.

Then she got up and started dancing in the aisle. As people tried to make their way by her (recall, aside from the wait staff constantly going back-and-forth, everyone else was making bathroom runs every 30 seconds to make room for the next drink!), she was annoyed that they were interfering with her enjoyment of the show.

Never mind that there was an entire open area right in front of the stage, meant exactly for this kind of enjoyment. She wanted to stay near her friends, none of whom stood up (except to go to the bathroom) even once. In fact, her really good friend (they hugged a hundred times) tried to pull her back into her seat multiple times (I can only imagine how mortified she was to be associated with her friend last night). Of course, each time she was pulled back, she jumped up again.

On certain songs, she video taped the band on her camera. Of course, to make sure she had things centered and focused, she extended her arms straight out from her body, blocking the entire aisle. In one of the more unbelievable moments of my life, she refused to move her arms when a group of four people tried to pass her. With her head, she motioned to them to duck (bend) under her arms (in a near limbo-like manner). Incredibly, each one of them obliged her! The last guy hesitated a long time, but decided he needed to get to the bathroom badly enough (I guess) that he finally relented and bent (to her will) as well.

At some point, even she realized that she had made a complete a** of herself. Rather than tone it down, she cranked it up. She walked over to a complete stranger (while his girlfriend was in the bathroom!) and put her arms around his neck, and whispered (probably shouted) in his ear, for a good three minutes. Later, she put her arms around two older men (in their 60’s likely), and when they showed discomfort, she insisted (trust me, I’m sure about this!) that they put their arms around her too. After a minute of her insisting, they too relented and put their arms around her.

OK, so she’s a super fan (and probably pretty lubed up as well, right?). What’s wrong with that, and having a little fun? Aside from the fact that it’s not her personal show, she’s not quite the super fan that she’d like to believe herself to be. On two of the slower songs, she obviously got bored with her own act (and with the band as well!), and instead turned her attention back to her friends, and talked non-stop at the top of her lungs throughout both songs, never once looking at the band. Wow, a real fan indeed. Of course, talking over the slower songs makes her voice carry even louder and further…

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re firmly in the center of the me generation. Let’s hope we’re near the peak, though I fear we’re not even close…

I’m sorry, I know I went on a long time about that, but this is my own best personal therapy, getting it out in this manner. πŸ™‚

One more thought about last night. I truly have no idea how this business works, from any angle. I would love a lesson, considering how many times we go to see live shows. If someone wants to write a long comment, feel free, or email me directly, or blog about it and post a link here, etc. Here are some of my observations, which have zero foundation in fact.

I assume (but again, have no idea) that a majority of the ticket price goes to the artist (in the dinner theater setups), and that 100% of the meal and drink revenues go to the club (plus the lovely fees that get tacked on to each ticket). I realize that even if that’s largely correct, that there have to be exceptions (certain groups not getting all the ticket revenue, and possibly big groups even getting a percentage of the house revenue).

True or not, the setting of ticket prices often confuses me. I realize that bigger acts can easily command more money, but does the band set/demand a certain price, or does the venue try to help them maximize the price by trying to come close to selling out even if it means lowering the price.

Last night was a particularly curious example of my confusion. As mentioned above, Pat Benatar was the most expensive seat we’ve ever paid for at BB’s (we’ve spent more on every show we’ve seen at Madison Square Garden and a few at Radio City Music Hall and The Beacon Theater as well). In retrospect, that didn’t seem unreasonable, as Pat sold more tickets than anyone else we’ve ever seen at BB’s, so why not crank the ticket price if there is no resistance and you still sell out.

I already reported that The Proclaimers likely sold more tickets last night. But, last night was the cheapest ticket we’ve ever bought for a show at BB’s. By a long shot! If the band sets the price, then I can understand it. They’ve made it, and perhaps they truly want to share with their fans, making it easy for everyone to afford the show, and ensure the maximum amount of tickets by insisting that BB’s oversell, and remove tables to make room, etc. If BB’s sets the price, or has a heavy say, I simply don’t get it. Not only could they have sold out at a much higher price, they could have sold many more dinners with tables and chairs.

OK, ending on an up-beat note, five days left in the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. If you’re procrastinating, stop now! Enter to win a signed CD by this amazing band, Girlyman!

Jerry Douglas at BB King

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Last night we saw Jerry Douglas (and band) at BB King. Opening for them were The Wrights. I’ll cover The Wrights after I review Jerry Douglas, and then finish up with my usual venue summary.

We’ve seen Jerry Douglas before at the Beacon Theater, August 2nd, 2007, when he played with Alison Krauss and Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas. I covered that night in this post. That show was incredible, as was Jerry specifically. I also love listening to every note he plays on the many Alison Krauss and Union Station CDs that we own.

In 2008, Alison took a break from touring with Union Station to tour with Robert Plant. That left Union Station on their own. I would have thought (and enjoyed it if) they would have toured as a group. Instead, they decided to form separate efforts. I’ve already covered (twice, here and here) our wonderful experiences with the Dan Tyminski Band (one of the members is Barry Bales, the incredible bass player from Union Station).

Jerry Douglas set out on the road (and recorded a new CD called Glide, due out in July) with his own band. For those of you who don’t know, Jerry Douglas primarily plays the Dobro. He also plays a lap steel guitar, and probably other instruments, but mostly, it’s the Dobro.

Jerry Douglas

That said, it’s not accurate to simply say he plays the Dobro. Many people (perhaps even everyone) consider Jerry to be the world’s greatest dobro player. Read his bio if you want to be awed by his accomplishments, independent of being awed by the actual music! For the lazy among you, here’s a one paragraph highlight:

His transcendent technique and his passionate musicality have helped him net twelve Grammy Awards and numerous International Bluegrass Music Association awards. Douglas holds the distinction of being named Musician of the Year by The Country Music Association (2002, 2005, 2007), The Academy of Country Music (ten times), and The Americana Music Association (2002, 2003). In June 2004, the National Endowment for The Arts honored Douglas with a National Heritage Fellowship, recognizing his artistic excellence and contribution to the nation’s traditional arts.

I bolded the mind-boggling stats above. πŸ™‚

It’s not really possible to describe to you how he plays, but here’s my feeble attempt nonetheless. On his right hand, he has picks on every finger. All of his fingers are moving faster than is humanly possible, simultaneously. In his left hand he holds a slide bar, and he presses it on the strings and slides it back and forth. He produces sounds that would seem to require having all five fingers at different fret locations on the neck, but he does it all (magically, mysteriously), by just moving his left hand faster than the eye can see. Whew.

All of the technical wizardry would be interesting, but meaningless, if it wasn’t for the fact the the sound he produces is heavenly!

So, he could come on stage by himself, and captivate any audience, no other musicians need apply. I have no doubt of that. Is that what he does? Of course not. Given his enormous talent, any musician would jump at the opportunity to play with Jerry. He has a band that proves that point, and each of them is worth their own mention. I’ll cover them in the order that they appeared on stage (left-to-right), but you can also read the band bios at your convenience (also linked at the top of this post, yes, they’re good enough to earn two links). Here’s a photo of all of them together on stage:

Jerry Douglas Band

Guthrie Trapp played the guitar (two different electric guitars and an acoustic one as well). He’s a noted Mandolin player, but didn’t play it last night. It would be hard to describe how absolutely awesome Guthrie is. He’s so fast, so smooth, plays in a variety of styles, and nails every single one of them.

One of the most impressive things is when he and Jerry are playing some fast licks together, and he keeps up with his end of the bargain, something not too many guitarists could do with Jerry being the other half of the duet!

I could go on an on, and you still wouldn’t get the sense. Here’s a YouTube video of him playing with a small band doing a bluegrass number, on an electric guitar. If you’re intrigued, just Google Guthrie Trapp and you can find a bunch more videos, both on YouTube and on MySpace. Guthrie melted the crowd into a puddle every time he took a solo!

Guthrie TrappGuthrie Trapp Acoustic

Doug Belote played the drums. A total pro who entertained the entire evening, in an understated (but superb) jazz-style the entire show. He’s not as flashy as some of the drummers we’ve seen recently, but he’s every bit as solid.

Doug Belote

Todd Parks played the upright bass. In addition to playing a solid bass line all night, he took a few exceptional solos, demonstrating a real feel for the music, rather than just banging on the strings to show technical prowess. Well done!

Todd Parks

Luke Bulla played the fiddle most of the night, and the acoustic guitar on one number. He also sang the only two songs that had vocals. He has an excellent voice. As a fiddle player, he’s one of the fastest and cleanest I’ve ever seen/heard. That should come as no surprise for two separate (but obviously related) reasons. First, he has played with (and therefore was chosen by) some of the greatest musicians around, including Ricky Skaggs, Chris Thile and of course, now, Jerry Douglas.

The second reason is his mind-boggling accomplishments. In case you didn’t bother to click over to his extensive bio, here’s a relevant paragraph:

Touring with and singing in his family band from age four, Luke took up the fiddle at seven. Over the course of the next few years, he won the National Fiddle Contest (in Weiser, Idaho) six times in his respective age categories. His seventh win came in the Grand Champion division at age sixteen, making him the youngest to have earned the title at the time.

Wow! He’s nothing short of amazing, and given what I’m about to say next, I need to make you realize that I really mean that! That said, while he’s technically brilliant, for me personally, he doesn’t move me on the fiddle. I mention it only because I’ve covered a number of fiddle players in this space, including a number that totally get to me, and I wanted to draw the distinction. If you care, just search for fiddle in the box on the top right of the page.

To put a fine point on it (and show a small world angle as well), while Luke was playing, I kept thinking that he sounded very much like Jean Luc Ponty. That’s a compliment, not an insult. New Country (on Ponty’s Imaginary Voyage CD) is still one of my all-time favorite fiddle tunes. When I was reading Guthrie’s bio today, he mentions a very wide variety of musical influences. Included among them is Jean Luc Ponty, which gave me a hearty chuckle, given that I couldn’t get Ponty’s name out of my mind last night whenever Luke played!

To be clear, there were many people in the crowd last night that went nuts every single time Luke took a solo, deservedly so.

Luke Bulla Singing

Wrapping it all up, they played a number of songs from the upcoming CD, Glide, expected to be released this July. They played some old favorites as well, including perhaps my personal favorite Jerry Douglas number: Choctaw Hayride. Here’s a YouTube video of Jerry doing it with Alison Krauss and Union Station. In this video, Alison Krauss plays the part of Luke Bulla, Dan Tyminski plays the part of Guthrie Trapp, Barry Bales plays the part of Todd Parks, and Ron Block plays the banjo (beautifully!), an instrument not seen in last night’s amazing performance of this incredible song.

Quite a number of the pieces (including the opening number) were significantly more Jazz than Country or Bluegrass. They were awesome too (as I love Jazz). The majority were more straight-up Country, with some Bluegrass thrown in for good measure.

Toward the end of the show, Jerry introduced a song called Patrick Meets the Brickbats which he wrote for his son, Patrick. He said “this is a slow number”. You can judge for yourself how slow it is on this awesome version on YouTube.

All in all, Jerry is funny, nice, and simply one of the most amazing musicians alive. He was also kind enough to sign our brand new CD of his (American Master Series – Best of the Sugar Hill Years). He had to go backstage to find a Sharpie, but he did, and we appreciate it! πŸ™‚

Including a two-song encore, they were on stage for 100 minutes. Generous enough, but made even better by the fact that they didn’t use the excuse of having The Wrights open for them to cut their show short. That made for a much longer night than usual at BB King, but every person in the audience appreciated it to the very last drop!

OK, enough, there were more people deserving of praise, and it’s finally time to get to them as well! πŸ™‚

The Wrights (this time, I linked to their MySpace page, above was their own website) opened the show at 8:01pm. They are a married couple. Adam plays the electric guitar and Shannon plays the acoustic guitar. Both are excellent musicians. If you want a taste of Adam’s guitar skills, you can listen to the instrumental Tire B Flat on the above-linked MySpace page. He won’t be confused for the likes of Guthrie, but he’s really good, and totally a pleasure to listen to.

Here they are tuning their guitars:

The Wrights Tuning

However, that’s not what makes The Wrights special, and indeed, special they are! Lois has been following them for a while now, and we already owned their debut album Down This Road. It’s great! They wrote all of the songs on it, and as you know from these pages, nothing impresses Lois more than a great songwriter, made even more special when they also happen to be fantastic performers of their own music!

Both of them write, and both of them sing lead (extremely well!) generally alternating songs between them. All along, they sing with rich and beautiful harmonies (and you all know, we’re suckers for great harmonies!).

Their songs are varied, but many of them have a fantastic sense of humor in them, while conveying real life in a deep and effective manner. We loved hearing On The Rocks (from the Down This Road CD) live. It’s fun (and true for most newlyweds) and they did it to perfection last night.

Both of them have a very warm style on stage and were instantly a hit with the crowd. Adam is so self-deprecating, but in a way that is warming and continually funny. One of their more beautiful songs (the last one on the Down This Road CD) is called You Get The Thorns. They did it wonderfully last night.

They were on stage for 40 minutes, every single one of those minutes thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance! This was the first time they performed in NYC. They acquitted themselves perfectly! πŸ™‚

Here are each of them individually:

Adam WrightShannon Wright

There is an overwhelming gentleness about both of them, on stage and off. Watching them was almost zen-like it the calmness that it produced in me. They are also really nice! Lois bought their new CD (The Wrights) and wanted it signed by them. She got to tell that to Adam while he was unplugging his guitar after his set.

She couldn’t find him between sets, and asked the person working the door to let The Wrights know she was looking for them. He did, and they bothered to come look for her, and after Jerry’s set we were able to say hi, get the CD signed, and get a picture of Lois with them! Thanks Adam and Shannon, we can’t wait to see you again!

Lois and The Wrights

Some words about the venue. The night before, we were also at BB King to see Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo (reviewed here). That night was crazy crowded with roughly 700 people crammed into BB King, the most I’ve ever seen there.

Last night was not sold out, though there was an extremely healthy-sized crowd, all of whom loved the show. If I had to guess, there were between 300-350 people there (normally, BB King can seat 450). We got to sit one table to the left (dead center this time) of our exact two seats from the night before. This time, no one sat in the middle seats of our six-seat table, and a very nice couple sat at the remaining two seats.

Because the place wasn’t as crowded, and because the music wasn’t going to be loud rock, BB King’s matched the mood (as they usually do) with more folk music (much softer as well) before the show started. Between The Wrights and Jerry Douglas, they played Dylan exclusively. Because the volume of the music was so much lower, conversing was much more enjoyable last night.

Unfortunately, it was the night before when we had company that we really wanted to talk to (we talk enough to each other) πŸ˜‰ and the fact that they were warming up the capacity crowd on Tuesday with blaring rock made me (and probably others) hoarse trying to scream over the music. I’ll take last night’s version of a more mellow warm up any day!

The amazing crab cake that I had the night before was offered again as a special (by the same waiter we had the night before) and I couldn’t resist it again. It did not disappoint. I am convinced the chef is using some magic fairy dust to bind the crab to the other goodies he’s putting in there.

Everything went great last night at BB King, including the staff being wonderful (as usual), with one notable exception. When The Wrights came on the stage, the house lights never went off. Often, this kind of gaffe can be an unwitting signal to the crowd to be rude and ignore the warm up group. Thankfully, while the house lights never went down the entire time The Wrights were on the stage, the crowd was totally in to their performance, and there were no distractions to everyone enjoying the show. Whew!

We didn’t get out of there until 10:55pm, and walked home leisurely, stopping in Grand Central on the way. A lovely evening indeed. We’re hoping to duplicate it again tonight, when we’re back at BB King (third night in a row) to see The Proclaimers!

OK, to finish off, you know the drill. Just one week left in the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Win a signed CD, free, of this amazing band, Girlyman.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo at BB King

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A few months ago, I saw that Pat Benatar was playing at BB King with Neil Giraldo. I only own one Pat Benatar CD (Crimes of Passion) and it’s absolutely awesome. I am embarrassed to admit that I had never heard the name Neil Giraldo, since he’s been her husband for 26 years, and her lead guitarist for longer than that.

The site linked to above is the official Pat Benatar site, but it’s at best an embarrassment. If you want to find out anything useful, including tour dates (for example), I urge you to visit the fan site instead.

We weren’t sure about our schedule and didn’t end up buying two tickets until a few weeks back. There’s a back story to last night, but it will come after the review of the show itself.

As is typical of BB KIng (a fact that makes us like going to BB King a lot!), the group came on at exactly 8pm as advertised! At first, only the drummer (Chris Ralles) and bass player (Mick Mahan) were on the stage. You could hear a guitar playing as well, but there was no guitarist on stage at the time.

Here’s a photo of Chris standing alongside his drums. Since there was a plexiglass cage around the drums, all photos of Chris while he was playing were fuzzy at best:

Chris Ralles

Here’s Mick Mahan:

Mick Mahan

A minute later, Pat comes on to the stage to wild applause (and a few standing ovationers as well). A few seconds later, Neil Giraldo comes out as well, with striped pants and a green guitar.

This is Neil with an acoustic guitar (later on there are two photos with one of the green guitars). I’m putting it here to prove to you that he wore psychedelic pants. πŸ˜‰

Neil Giraldo Acoustic

BB King normally seats 450, and when sold out, sells as many as 150 additional tickets for standing at the bar in the rear. Last night, they removed an entire row of tables at the back, reducing the seating to roughly 350, but they increased the number of standing room only tickets substantially, selling as many as 700 tickets in total. I have never seen that many people stuffed into BB King’s in the many times we’ve been there.

This was all the more impressive given that they played BB King’s just two nights before, on Sunday April 20th. So, clearly, they can fill and then refill a 700 person place two out of three nights.

In addition to taking out an entire row of tables, they also took out some center tables from the row in front of that (in the bar area) to accommodate a very large sound board. This is more typical of the size you’d see at Radio City Music Hall or even Madison Square Garden, so clearly, Pat and Neil don’t do these shows on a shoestring!

Sound Board

The overwhelming majority of the crowd were die-hard Benatar fans, singing (or mouthing) along every word of every song she sang. We’ve recently had a similar experience when we saw Dave Mason at Blend Bar (smaller venue, big rock star). There was a difference between them though. While the music/show was perfect for Dave, and the energy level high, it’s hard to describe the elevation of energy for last night’s show.

Pat’s voice is still terrific, and they played many of their big hits, so there was nothing to disappoint in that. What I didn’t know, but 95% of the crowd obviously did, was how spectacular a guitar player Neil Giraldo is. He also played some keyboards (quite well), but for the most part, he just played crazy (as in good, meaning insanely great) guitar, all night long.

Here’s Neil in front of the keyboards, when he played the intro to the song, holding the guitar on his lap, which he continued the rest of the song on (twice). He also played one entire song just on the keyboards:

Neil Giraldo Keyboards Guitar

I’m nuts about Pat’s voice, and I love her songs (in particular, she did Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Heartbreaker, etc.), but I would have been happy to just listen to Neil play the electric guitar (correction, guitars, as he had at least three different electric guitars, plus an acoustic one for two songs as well) all night long. My head is still spinning thinking about how good he is, and that I didn’t know his name.

Here’s Neil (two photos of one of the green guitars) finishing up a solo that destroyed the crowd on every level!

Neil Giraldo Solo 1Neil Giraldo Solo 2

Since he’s played on all of her CDs, I obviously have heard him before (specifically, on the CD that I own and have listened to many times), but I should have known who to credit as well…

What makes it more impressive was that he had a big bandage on his left pinky, and it appeared to be bothering him. In addition, between most songs he was violently shaking his left hand, leading a member of our group to comment that he likely had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as well!

He certainly didn’t let any of that get in the way of delivering his A-game to the wildly appreciative crowd.

Including the encore (a nice two-song set), they were on the stage exactly 90 minutes. Not long enough (by some measures), but as Lois commented to me after the show, such an intensely high energy performance, that we’re sure that they were drained, and the crowd was probably a bit drained as well (though we could have taken more). πŸ˜‰

Can’t wrap this up with some photos of Pat. Here are two:

Pat BenatarPat Benatar 1

The show was fantastic and I’m thrilled that we went. I still much prefer the more mellow (or differently energetic) Folk and Bluegrass shows we go to more frequently, but this kind of experience should be in everyone’s repertoire as well!

On to the back story.

We were driving in from the house to the city on Monday morning when I got a call from our good (and until recently long-lost) friend. I covered our reconnection with her and her husband in this post. After chatting with her for a while I handed the phone to Lois to say hi.

During their conversation, Lois asked her if they could make it in to the city the following night (Tuesday) to join us for the Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo show. She said she’d check with her husband and call back. When she called later, she told us that her husband was swamped (he’s sprinting to the finish line of his year-long fellowship at Princeton) but that she could make it. Yippee!

We told her that we’d check to make sure that the show wasn’t sold out, and pick up an extra ticket if it wasn’t. I went on to the site and saw that it wasn’t sold out, but I also saw (for the first time ever) the warning about extremely limited seating and the word oversold. Huh? We’re too old to stand for this type of show, especially if we have to get there really early and stand for hours before the show starts as well!

Lois called. They said that there would be normal seating, but that they were selling many more standing room only tickets, so that getting there super early would be prudent. I walked over (on Monday) and picked up another ticket for our friend.

Normally we show up at around 5:45 for an 8pm show. They open the doors at 6pm (more typically 6:15pm, but now I know why!) and we go in and have a leisurely dinner. Yesterday, we intended to show up at around 5pm, to be safe, and we told our friend (who was taking the train in from Princeton) to meet us on line no later than 5:45pm.

A quick diversion: We had a special lunch out yesterday with a brand new friend. She suggested we meet at Mesa Grill. We had never been there before, but we like Bobby Flay (from the Food Channel) so we were intrigued and excited to check it out. Everything about Mesa Grill is wonderful. Decor, ambiance, service (both wait staff and management) and most importantly, the food was exquisite! Sadly, our brand new friend is moving away from New York City in less than a week, so future lunches won’t be quite as easy to arrange. That said, we promise not to lose touch and to have many such wonderful experiences together in the future!

Back to our main story. πŸ™‚

We were sitting in the apartment when our other friend (the one who came in from Princeton) called to say she was at the head of the line outside of BB King! It was 4:25pm and Lois was a tad annoyed at me that we hadn’t beaten her there. We logged off and jumped in a cab and were at BB King’s 15-20 minutes later. Our friend had chatted with the person working the door, and when we arrived, he let the three of us go down to Lucille’s (the bar next door to the club downstairs at BB King) to wait inside for the show.

We were given a numbered ticket and told that we’d be called in to the main show room in the order of our ticket numbers. There’s a price to pay for this convenience, namely ordering something at Lucille’s while you wait. A small price indeed, since we wanted to catch up with our friend anyway! So, we each ordered a drink (non-alcoholic), and chatted away merrily for 75 minutes.

Normally, I wouldn’t post a photo of me looking so drugged out, but Lois captured me talking to our friend while Bob Dylan was showing on the big screen behind me. Being associated with one of my first musical idols bears accepting myself looking like this. πŸ˜‰

Hadar and Dylan

They then started calling out the numbers. That’s why the doors don’t always open at exactly 6pm upstairs. They are first filling in from Lucille’s, all of the people that showed up even earlier and gave them some extra business. A very smart thing for them to do.

We got excellent seats, nearly dead center, three tables from the stage (which given their configuration is the rough equivalent of the 9th row in a typical theater style setting). We enjoyed a wonderful (and relaxed) meal and continued chatting for another two hours. BB King rarely announces any specials (at least not to us). Lat night the waiter mentioned a number of specials and I ordered one, the crab cakes (well, it should have been called crab cake, as in singular!).

Sorry Bob, but I believe that it was the best crab cake I’ve ever had. Too bad it’s not always on the menu.

In the small world story camp, when our friend told her kids (she has three of them) that she was going to see Pat Benatar, one of her daughters told her that she had just recently downloaded a few Pat Benatar songs to her iPod. Cool! πŸ™‚

We walked our friend half way back to Penn Station, and then made a sharp left back to the apartment. It’s safe to say that a great time was had by all!

OK, you know the drill, time to espouse the wonders of Girlyman again, and entreat you to enter the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter now before you forget to do it and the contest comes to a screeching halt! πŸ˜‰

Dan Tyminski Band at The Egg

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On March 1st, we saw the Dan Tyminski Band (DTB) at the Birchmere Theater. I wrote a long post about that which you can read here if you wish.

After we saw them (and bought lots of their music), we continued to be energized by their amazing performance. I noticed that they were going to be in Albany, NY, at The Egg, on April 20th.

That’s roughly 2.5 hours north of our house, not exactly a place we frequent regularly. On the other hand, it seems that no matter where we are, Dan and the boys seem to be roughly two hours north of us. πŸ˜‰ When they played at the Birchmere, we spent the previous night in Richmond, VA, roughly two hours south of there. So, it seemed fitting to grab tickets and plan our road trip.

We left the house at 4pm and arrived in the underground parking lot at The Egg at around 6:25pm. I ate my dinner in the car, underground. Exactly the way I like it. πŸ˜‰

We got to the elevator in the lobby and both immediately noticed that Dan Tyminski himself was waiting to go up in the same elevator as we were! Lois excitedly pulled out her CD (the one we bought at the Birchmere and had signed by Dan) and asked him to sign it. He immediately spotted his own signature, and told her it was signed. She told him where it was signed originally, and that she wanted a memento from The Egg as well. He was kind enough to oblige and ended up signing it again in the elevator on the way up.

Dan Tyminski

He’s extremely tall (I had no idea). Skipping ahead for a minute, Barry Bales is significantly taller, and from our vantage, even Adam Steffey appeared to be a drop taller than Dan, making them a bunch of giants. πŸ˜‰

When we got off the elevator we were in another lobby waiting for the theater doors to open. They opened at roughly 6:50pm for a 7pm show. The Egg has two theaters in it. We were in the Lewis A. Sawyer theater, which seats 450 people and is arranged in an amphitheater style. There is a nice height differential between the rows so that essentially, even the worst seat in the house, isn’t all that bad. We were in the 10th row (second from last), but not too far left of center. We were a tad nervous in advance, but they were excellent seats.

The band came on the stage a 7:07pm. It appeared that they were only using microphones for their instruments (unless they all had wireless jacks to their amps). Definitely no electronic tuners. I mention this mostly because within 15 seconds of walking on stage, they were already playing a fast upbeat number. Tight and wonderful, as expected.

The crowd was clearly in love with Dan and the band. Dan joked that people in the south aren’t aware of all of the Bluegrass lovers in the north. Clearly, there are many! πŸ™‚

The band’s bios can be read here.

Appearing left-to-right (same order as at the Birchmere) were Ron Stewart, Adam Steffey, Barry Bales, Dan Tyminski and Justin Moses.

Ron StewartAdam SteffeyBarry BalesJustin Moses

They were all brilliant last night. Ron Stewart played mostly banjo, but also was awesome on the two numbers where he played fiddle. Adam played the mandolin exclusively, and was mind-boggling. The crowd begged Dan to turn Adam loose, and he did, and Adam blew us all away! Barry was amazing on the bass (as he always is), and sang harmonies with Dan and Justin.

Dan was great all night. My one semi-complaint at the Birchmere was that Dan didn’t take enough guitar leads (he’s superb!). I don’t know if he read my blog for that show, but last night he took considerably more leads (thanks Dan!), but they were still all short. He’s very generous with the rest of the guys, and I think he feels guilty that his name is on the door and that he’s singing non-stop.

Finally, Justin Moses. This guy is simply killer! He played fiddle most of the night. Dobro on one song, and banjo on another (those are the two songs that Ron played the fiddle on). He also is the primary harmonizer with Dan (even on songs that Barry doesn’t sing), and he’s terrific on every instrument and singing as well.

I really like his solo CD which we bought at Birchmere.

When they wrapped it up they received one of the fastest (and complete) standing ovations I have ever seen. It was almost like there was a spring in each of our chairs, propelling us out to show our appreciation for their talent. They left the stage briefly and came back for a one-song encore. In total, 93 minutes on stage. A little on the short side, but thoroughly satisfying in every way.

One of the fascinating things was the entirely different feel of a theater like environment vs a dinner-theater venue. We like the dinner theater ones (Joe’s Pub, BB King, Blue Note, Birchmere, Highline Ballroom, etc.), but, having fixed seats, that all face the stage has it’s plusses as well. Last night, with the steep height differential between the rows, we also had another change in perception. We were looking down on the band (by quite a bit), whereas at Birchmere, we were looking up at them from a remote table.

The perspective was interesting.

We were extremely glad we made the drive. We were home at 11pm, so not all that bad!

We’ve already pre-ordered the new CD (Wheels) expected to be shipped in late June. First 500 people get a signed copy, so we’re hoping we ordered early enough.

At the Birchmere, Dan broke a string during one number. I am reasonably sure he replaced the string off stage. Last night, Dan broke a string in the middle of a number. He waited until Ron started a banjo solo, and while Ron played, followed by Adam taking a solo, Dan actually replaced the string on stage, while singing, and ended up playing the guitar during the end of the song. Bravo! πŸ™‚

One final thing. These guys clearly love playing together, and being together. They banter hysterically on the stage, with Adam handling more of the duties than Dan, but they all partake (except for Justin, who is the target of some of the banter). Here is a shot that captures some of that mood. πŸ™‚

Dan Tyminski and Adam Steffey Fooling Around

Almost forgot, but at least I didn’t, to remind the rest of you to get your entries in to the Girlyman Live CD Contest. Only 9 days left to win a signed copy of Girlyman’s new Live CD. Enter now!!!

Cherish The Ladies at Towne Crier Cafe

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Lois and I are very big fans of traditional Irish music. This should come as no surprise to those who know us (or regularly read this space), not because I write about Irish music a lot, but because we really love tons of roots music and there is a lot of Irish roots in that. πŸ˜‰

Six weeks ago I stumbled upon a notice that an all-female group called Cherish The Ladies was going to be playing at the Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling, NY. I had never heard of Cherish The Ladies (a major shame on me). I had also never been to Pawling, but at least I knew where it was. πŸ˜‰

I hopped on to YouTube and checked out a dozen videos of Cherish The Ladies. Each was better than the one before, I was instantly hooked, and after checking with Lois, I grabbed two tickets including dinner reservations. Last night finally came and we drove the 45 minutes from the house to Towne Crier Cafe. As is the current custom, I’ll review the show first, then circle back and describe the venue.

The Ladies came on stage at 9:11pm (11 minutes late). The crowd went completely nuts. Joanie Madden (one of the two founding members of the group) asked the crowd how many had seen the Ladies before and roughly 75% indicated yes.

Joanie plays all types of flutes and whistles. She came on stage with a cloth (canvas?) tube rolled up. She unrolled it on the table, and there were individual tube-like pockets, each housing a whistle or a flute of different types and lengths. I’d guess on the order of 20! It was like watching a master surgeon unroll their package of specialized scalpels.

I can assure you that she plays every single one of them with the same precision, cutting through to your soul with every breath and movement of her fingers. Awesome would be too mild a word to describe her musical talent.

Joanie Madden

Mary Coogan is the other co-founder. Last night she exclusively played the guitar (beautifully!), but I can see from her CDs (I’ll mention what we bought later on) that she also plays the banjo and mandolin.

Mary Coogan

Joanie and Mary formed Cherish The Ladies 23 years ago! That’s why I said shame on me for not having heard about them until now!

Roisin Dillon sat in the middle, playing a fiddle that was breathtaking the entire evening. I kid you not when I say that every time Roisin took a solo, the crowd burst into rhythmic clapping, keeping time with her amazing solos.

Roisin Dillon

Mirella Murray was next in line on the stage, playing the accordion. She too is awesome! In addition to winning the All-Ireland competition a number of years back, she teaches accordion and has had a number of her students win the competition. Either she’s a great talent scout or a great teacher. Most likely, both! πŸ™‚

Mirella Murray

Michelle Burke was spanking brand new to the group (hence no link). Amazingly enough, they only met Michelle two days earlier when they played in Cleveland. I don’t know whether Michelle sang with them that night, but she definitely sang with them the night before we saw them, in Buffalo, NY. She sent them a CD of her work, and clearly they liked what they heard.

Michelle Burke

Michelle sang lead (no instruments) on five or six songs. She was fantastic on every single one of them. Joanie sang harmony (all too briefly) on most of the songs, as she harmonizes beautifully with Michelle. Here’s hoping that now that they’ve met, they’ll get a chance to actually work up more harmonies together. πŸ™‚

Kathleen Boyle, sitting behind that row of five women, with her back to the crowd most of the night, played the piano, phenomenally. She’s not listed on the Cherish The Ladies web site, so I don’t know if she’s a regular with the group. Her MySpace page (linked to her name) has two gorgeous songs on it, but neither of them is her playing the piano. Last night she played a song from her new CD, about her parents returning home to Scotland, which was stunningly beautiful.

Kathleen Boyle

Last night was Kathleen’s (K.T.) birthday, and Joanie had a cake delivered on stage and we all sang Happy Birthday to her. πŸ™‚

Kathleen Boyle Birthday Cake

OK, on to the music. Cherish The Ladies are simply fantastic. Not a moment of boredom to be found all night. Their selection (very wide ranging!) was wonderful and while each of them is an incredible solo artist, together, they gel on every song.

Cherish The Ladies

In addition to playing very traditional songs (does a 400-year-old song count?) πŸ˜‰ they also play quite a number of newer (yet traditional sounding) numbers, many written by Joanie (she’s an extraordinary song-writer!). You can hear some of their stuff on their MySpace page. While I recommend that, seeing them live is a much bigger treat.

Perhaps you can get a touch of that flavor with the following YouTube Video of them. The video is long (12.5 minutes), but it also shows a nice range and solos from Joanie, Roisin and Mirella. It also ends with some step dancing, which we missed last night due to the very small stage at Towne Crier Cafe.

You can also hear more of Joanie’s stuff on her MySpace page.

If you were there last night, and didn’t clap along, or stomp your foot, or at least tap your toes or fingers, check your pulse! πŸ™‚

In addition to the awesome music, Joanie is masterful at working the crowd. She’s a bundle of energy and it emanates from her every action and word. She’s hysterical and a wonderful story teller as well. Every year, she and Mary host a week-long musical tour of Ireland. I truly hope that Lois and I can make the time in the very near future. This year it’s May 20-27th, and we definitely can’t make it. Perhaps next year!

During the second set Joanie brought her father up on the stage. He’s a life-long musician as well, and had a big band years ago. He plays the accordion. He wailed with them on at least three numbers. He was great, and everyone enjoyed having him up there, including the Ladies themselves. πŸ™‚

Joe Madden

They took a 25 minute break (announced as a 15 minute break, but they actually mingled in the crowd, and weren’t released to get back on stage). With a one-song encore (after a rousing standing ovation) that involved not leaving the stage (thankfully, since it’s so small it would have been a waste of time!), their total on-stage time was 2 hours (not including the intermission!). Very generous (if a little late for us old fogies).

Cherish The Ladies Standing Ovation

A very magical evening indeed!

On to the background and venue. I already mentioned that finding Cherish The Ladies and Towne Crier Cafe was accidental. Even though I made the reservations happily, as time passes, the normal discomfort sets in. What will the venue be like? Will the group disappoint? Will the show simply be too late for us?

You already know the answer to the second two questions. πŸ˜‰

You get to pick a wide range of dinner reservation times at Towne Crier. We’re quick eaters (too quick) so picking an early time is attractive to us only to secure better seats. The show was scheduled for 9pm, so I picked 7pm (way too early eating wise, but I hoped very good for seating). I could have picked 6pm, but that seemed crazy (at least I hoped so).

Leaving some extra time (having never been to Pawling) we ended up arriving at 6:40pm. The place was easy to find and the parking lot had plenty of spaces that early. It’s basically an upscale Mexican / Southwestern style restaurant (exactly the kind of food we like). The attitude of the staff was very warm and we felt very welcome immediately. We were seated nearly dead center in the room, very nice seats.

Towne Crier Cafe Logo

The dining room is a very open rectangle on two levels (the upper level is just a single step up). Most of the room is filled with dining tables. At the very back (on the upper level) there aren’t any table cloths, so it’s more of a bar seating area, but it’s still waiter service, no actual bar back there.

As opposed to other places where you eat dinner at a table and then watch the show, Towne Crier orients the majority of their tables on a diagonal (the stage is in the far left corner of the room) so that most seats have a decent view of the stage no matter which side of the table of you are on. In many other venues, one side of the table has to twist and contort to get a good view.

The room holds roughly 150 people seated. The food was fantastic. Service was good to begin with, but as the people kept pouring in, it got a little hectic. Never an attitude, but even though it seemed that they had enough staff, we were left unattended for a reasonably long period. It didn’t bug me, but I know people who it would bother, so I mention it as a potential warning.

Even though we sat down at 6:45pm, we didn’t finish dinner until nearly 8:20pm. The pacing is (or at least last night was) extremely slow. That’s fantastic for people who prefer very leisurely meals. We get a little fidgety in situations like that, but it worked out well given how early we showed up.

They bring out chips and spicy salsa for each table. They also include a few pieces of spicy cornbread. The salsa is extremely spicy, but also extremely tasty. I definitely ate too many chips, just to have something to scoop up some more of the salsa. The cornbread was heavenly.

When the show was over we rushed to the entrance where they were going to use a long counter (where the desserts were originally laid out) as the merch table. We were first on line, a line that grew reasonably long. The Ladies didn’t leave us hanging more than a minute or two (very welcome at 11:35pm!). We bought five CDs. Two of Cherish The Ladies, two of Mary Coogan, one with her Dad (now unfortunately deceased) and one with Kathy Ludlow performing Children’s music, and one solo CD of Joanie Madden.

We only made them sign one of them, The Best of Cherish The Ladies. Thanks to all of you, we promise to cherish it. πŸ™‚

Lois meant to buy their new CD as well, but didn’t grab it, and we were feeling guilty about holding up the line with a hand-written credit card order. We’ll be buying more of their stuff online, including the latest CD.

To repeat, a very magical evening (venue included!). We already have tickets to go back to Towne Crier on June 15th to see my favorite Jazz group, Acoustic Alchemy. If you can’t make it to Pawling that night, they are also playing the next night, June 16th at BB King in NYC.

Don’t forget (how could you?) that there are still 11 days left to win a free copy of a signed Girlyman Live CD! Enter the contest now and do your best to win the CD and spread the Girlyman love! πŸ™‚

Leo Kottke at Tarrytown Music Hall

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I’ve written quite a bit about acoustic guitarists in this space over the past year. In addition to listening to tons of acoustic guitar on my iPod, we have also seen quite a number of the current great ones live.

In my Acoustic Guitar Update post, I mentioned one of the current (and for a long time) greats, Leo Kottke. The preceding link goes directly to Leo’s Tour Date page. Here is a link to his bio on Wikipedia.

Last night he was playing at Tarrytown Music Hall. Very exciting for us since we live less than four miles away. We bought tickets in the 11th row, left orchestra, aisle and one in (similar to the seats we had for Joan Baez on Monday, with the exception that the Paramount Theater is larger than Tarrytown Music Hall).

Show time was 8pm. We got to the theater at 7:50pm and couldn’t believe how many people were strolling on Main Street. The weather was perfect (70 degrees) and people rightfully couldn’t resist being out and about. Even though Tarrytown is infinitely friendlier about street parking than Peekskill is (see my Joan Baez review for that complaint), given the number of people on the street, we were nervous that we might end up cutting it close to park and be seated.

Luck was wildly on our side, as we found a spot half a block from the theater and we were in our seats three minutes later. It was clear that the show wouldn’t start on time, but that’s been true the past two times we were at this beautiful theater as well…

Leo came out at 8:11pm to thunderous applause. While there were a reasonable number of empty seats, the place was nearly full, and it seemed that the majority of the people in the audience were there because they love Leo, not because it was an interesting local event.

Leo is famous both for his six and 12 string guitar playing. In fact, in my Acoustic Guitar Update post, I mentioned that his album called 6-and-12-String Guitar (released in 1969!) was on the 100 best acoustic guitar albums list at DigitalDreamDoor. I bought a copy (downloaded from Amazong.com MP3), it’s awesome.

He began with the 12 string guitar. He played a few songs before saying much. Then he started to tell some stories or introductions to some of the songs. He has a self-deprecating, soft-spoken style when speaking to the audience. At times, he seems to trail off not actually finishing a story, or even if he finishes it, the original point of telling it seems lost on the crowd.

Leo Kottke

While I own two of his CD’s, and love them both, I was not aware that he also sings (at times). He has a very deep voice. It’s pleasant, but I doubt anyone would go to see him just for his singing prowess. I think he sang four songs (max five) last night.

After nearly 40 minutes of 12 string guitar, he switched to a six string. He was magical on the six string guitar. The difference (last night) was breathtaking. I love the sound of a 12 string, so it’s not that I have a bias against it (I even used to own a 12 string in my teens). It could easily be his particular selection in the first set as I will note later on that he also dazzled when he returned to the 12 string.

Essentially, the selection in the first set bordered on repetitive. There was nothing wrong with any one song, but there wasn’t enough variety between them either, that it almost felt like a loop. When coupled with his trailing-off stories, there wasn’t as much energy in the room as one could have hoped for.

That all changed when he picked up the six string. To me, the tunes were livelier, and his fingers created a much cleaner sound as they flew around the frets. The 12 string has a gorgeous sound, and is really rich, but it’s a little harder to hear the crispness of his amazing leads with so many strings vibrating at the same time.

For the last song (before the encore) he returned to the 12 string guitar and played one of his famous numbers, Jack Fig. Here’s a YouTube video of him playing it (also on a 12-string guitar) from a very long time ago. As you can see, his fingers fly even on a 12 string, and he’s extremely crisp as well.

Leo Kottke Standing

When he came back out for the one-song encore, he also stuck with the 12 string, and was brilliant again on it. That’s why I am chalking up the first 40 minutes to selection rather than skill.

In total he was on stage for 100 minutes. As mentioned before, he spoke quite a bit, so it wasn’t all playing. I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed his tales. I found him to be charming and quite amusing. I chuckled an awful lot of times. Many people did as well. That said, it was definitely not unanimous. A number of people were clearly uncomfortable with the amount of talking. A few occasionally yelled out Play when he paused for a breath during a long story.

Lois was in the second camp. She was unfamiliar with any of Leo’s music before last night, so the repetitiveness of the first set caught her off guard. Coupled with the banter, she was on the bored side. She too changed her mind when he picked up the six string. She didn’t enjoy the stories any more in the second half, but she at least was anxiously awaiting his next number, knowing that she would enjoy it when he got to it. πŸ˜‰

There’s little doubt that in general, the crowd loved the performance on balance, and there were a reasonable number of people who gave Leo a standing ovation (us included). Clearly, this type of show wasn’t for everyone, and it’s understandable. It’s somewhat difficult for a solo guitarist to hold the audience in the palm of his hand for nearly two hours. For many of us, Leo came close.