March, 2009:

We Should All Be Ashamed

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I didn’t have quite the same reaction as most people did (and still do) regarding the AIG bonuses. Having worked on Wall Street for 16 years, I thought I had a different perspective than most, but still, I understood where the populist anger was coming from.

Unfortunately, it’s fueled by politicians, purely for political gain, in ways that remind me of the Salem Witch Trials.

I woke up this morning to find an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, written by someone I worked with for a few years when I was at UBS. I have come across very few people in my life who were more honorable, hard-working, smart, self-effacing, fiscally conservative (that’s a wild understatement) as well as being an all-around nice guy.

I read the piece with great interest. Here is a link to the full letter. I implore you to read it carefully, all the way through, because I think it captures much of what is wrong in this current postmortem blame game:

Dear A.I.G., I Quit!

Immediately after reading it aloud to Lois, I sent off the following note to Jake:

I just read your letter in the OpEd in the NY Times. Both Lois and I were so moved. It’s one of the most powerful and well written letters we have ever read. It is also obviously devastatingly accurate.

I believe we would feel that way even if we didn’t know you personally, and know what an honorable (and smart) person you are, but it’s all the more powerful knowing the writer, and therefore having zero doubt as to the veracity of the claims.

We wish you and your family the best in everything that lies ahead for you!

Only after Eliot Spitzer resigned as Governor did people have the courage to speak out about his unsavory abuse of power when he was Attorney General. Andrew Cuomo and Richard Blumenthal are currently too powerful for most to question their ethics as well.

I believe that in time, they too will be seen for the political opportunists that they are, rather than crusaders for the people that they wish to be seen as.

Weekend Birthday Bash

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Our friends from Richmond came up to spend a very special birthday weekend with us in NYC. They were supposed arrive at our apartment by 10am on Friday. That didn’t happen. There were significant snow flurries in NYC (nothing stuck), and the navigation system on the airplane was unable to make an instrument landing at LaGuardia, so while they were descending in NY, they we rerouted to Philadelphia.

I was tracking the flight in real-time and saw that it landed safely. I just didn’t realize it wasn’t anywhere near us… They ended up catching a 12:05pm flight from Philadelphia to LaGuardia, which got in at around 1pm, but that was enough for us to have rejigger Friday’s plans.

We had a blowout lunch scheduled for Rock-N-Sake. I have only eaten there once before, and loved it. I was really looking forward to introducing them to it. We ended up having to cancel that reservation (because they close at 2:30pm and reopen at 5:30pm). Instead, we went up to see Laura at her office and grabbed a light (and very fresh) lunch at Chop’t (a place I was interested in trying after hearing Laura speak highly of it).

(It’s been a long while since I’ve mentioned that clicking on any photo in any of my posts will display a larger image in a separate window/tab, so I’ll mention it again, now.) 🙂

Chop't

Chop't

We walked back to the apartment after lunch and relaxed for a bit. Not too long thereafter, we headed up toward Lincoln Center for dinner. We had tickets to South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont Theater for an 8pm show and we wanted to eat in the neighborhood. I searched the web and read a ton of reviews, and settled on an Indian restaurant called Sapphire.

We met Laura there. Unfortunately, Chris got hung up at work, and ended up joining us just as we ordered dessert. The food at Sapphire was simply extraordinary. The four of us who ate the Tandoori lamb all claimed that it was the best lamb we ever had. All of the other dishes were superb as well. As much as we were all looking forward to Rock-N-Sake for lunch, if we had eaten there, we would have opted for a very light dinner, and would not have discovered this jewel!

Saffron Shrimp

Saffron Shrimp

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

From there we walked over to see South Pacific. Laura thought of this as a special birthday gift for her dad, given his love for this show. She made a perfect choice, because love it he did! The two leads are exceptional. Interestingly, neither of the leads that we saw are the Tony winning actors. Kelli O’Hara left the show on March 7th and Paulo Szot took two month-long leaves, the second of which occurred during our show. Laura Osnes played Nellie Forbush, and David Pittsinger played Emile de Becque.

South Pacific

South Pacific

I suspect that Bob loved this show more than Wicked. As much as I enjoyed South Pacific, for me personally, there’s little comparison to Wicked. Since this was Bob’s birthday bash and not mine, South Pacific was the perfect choice! 🙂

When we got back, Lois and I conked out while the rest of them stayed up way too late watching the NCAA tournament.

Saturday morning we had breakfast outside on our deck. It was chilly, but the sun helped make it not-too-unpleasant. This was our first meal outside in 2009, so it was very special in that respect as well. As much as I love restaurant dining, there are few more special places to have a meal than our deck at the apartment, so I’m glad that the season is finally underway. 😉

Deck Breakfast

Deck Breakfast

After letting the food settle, Sally, Bob, Chris and I went for a long walk. Lois took care of things around the apartment, and Laura baked her magical Apple Pie for a birthday dessert. After walking roughly 2.5 miles, the three of them broke off and headed back to the apartment, making for a five mile walk in total. I continued on my normal walk, roughly 8.25 miles in total.

Mid-afternoon, we decided to foist our presents on Bob. He opened a bunch, one-by-one, but he had no idea what was in store for him as his special gift. After he thought it was all over, we broke out a package of gifts, specially created by his family and friends. In fact, it’s so cool that I will be devoting an entire post to it later on (could be as much as a week from now), but I’ll describe it briefly here as well.

We took a song by Colin Hay called What Would Bob Do, and seven of us wrote our own verses about our Bob. We then had it recorded by Jack Kapanka over a simple background acoustic guitar. We sent 100’s of photos to Jack, who put together a wonderful video synchronized to the words and music. He then produced a DVD of the movie/music. The song is 10 minutes long (we wrote lots of verses), and the result was phenomenal.

The six of us watched the DVD at least five times between Saturday and Sunday, and got a huge kick of out of it each and every time. In addition to the video, Lois created a book with the lyrics and photos, and some song-sheets with the lyrics as well. The full package was a wonderfully creative custom gift for a very special person, celebrating his life (to date) and his amazing accomplishments.

Watching the DVD

Watching the DVD

Like I said, more on this specific topic in about a week. 🙂

Right after viewing the DVD a number of times, we walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House. We had a fabulous meal (as always), and waddled back to the apartment.

Duck House

Duck House

We all gathered in Laura and Chris’ apartment to watch the Duke game, and couldn’t wait for half time to dig in to the Apple Pie. Again, Lois and I called it an early night, and the rest of them continued on with more NCAA action.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

On Sunday morning, the four of them had breakfast out, and then walked up to attend church services. We then all met up outside of Joe’s Pub at 12:45pm. We had tickets for a 2pm show for Eden Espinosa. This was her solo debut in NYC. Of the many Elphaba’s we’ve seen in Wicked, Eden was by far our favorite, so we were really looking forward to see her at our favorite club.

We had a nice lunch before the show, and she came on, with a five-piece band at about 2:05pm. She has a fantastic voice, with a surprising range (she hits incredibly high notes, with amazing power, and sustains them, even though you think, or at least I think, she’ll miss them). It was a real treat to see her, though I have some small nits to pick with the show.

Eden Espinosa

Eden Espinosa

The volume on the band was too high. They are superb musicians, and there was no distortion, but the place is too small to play that many pieces at that volume. While you could make out Eden’s voice even at the maximum volume of the group, that’s sheerly a testimony to how hard she was belting it out (and sweating as a result, even though it was on the cool side in the club).

Thankfully, she also did quite a number of songs with only the electric piano or acoustic guitar for accompaniment, so it wasn’t all top-of-the-lungs all the time. That brings me to my second nit. Song selection. While she’s great at the full range of songs she sang, I so much more enjoyed the ones with solo accompaniment (not just because of the volume). I don’t think she needs to prove her rock capabilities, at least not in a place as small as Joe’s.

She had a surprise guest, Katie Thompson. She came out and did a solo number, accompanying herself on the electric piano, called What Turns You On (available on the MySpace page linked above). She has one of the better voices we’ve heard, and she plays the piano marvelously as well. It was a real treat. After that, she played another of her songs, and Eden sang along with her, a bit of harmony (beautiful), but mostly alternating verses.

Katie Thompson

Katie Thompson

They played a third song together (with the rest of the band accompanying them as well), and then Katie left the stage.

Eden closed the show with an encore, singing Defying Gravity. We would have been disappointed to miss this one, so we were grateful that she came back out and gave us a taste of Wicked. 🙂

Even with the nits, I was very glad to see her (and discover Katie), and I suspect that I was more critical of the show than the rest of our guests, which is also a good thing!

Lois Eden Laura

Lois Eden Laura

Bob Eden Espinosa

Bob Eden Espinosa

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Three of us headed back to the apartment to relax, and three more headed to B&H for some browsing (in anticipation of future camera shopping). We all met up at the apartment for a little more snacking on Apple Pie and Cupcakes (and two people even had some shrimp), watched the DVD again, and then we headed out.

We dropped Bob and Sally back at LaGuardia, then headed up to the house. Other than being colder than predicted, and the nuisance of being routed to Philadelphia at the beginning of the trip, it was a picture-perfect weekend, and we hope Bob enjoyed his birthday blowout a fraction as much as we did!

Happy Birthday Bob!

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our eighth CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub, and the first of 2009 (yes, there will be more shows in 2009, one is already scheduled for May 21).

The show started at 6:35pm (five minutes late), and was in the same format as most of the shows. There were five performers sitting across the stage. From left to right (with a picture of all of them together first):

CMA Lineup

CMA Lineup

Dave Berg played the guitar and sang. We’ve seen Dave once before, and loved him then, and last night again. In that post, I mentioned that he sang the first verse of one of his big hits (If You’re Going Through Hell) mimicing Bob Dylan. Last night, he did the entire song like Dylan would, except for the chorus. If you closed your eyes, you would swear Dylan was on the stage.

Dave Berg

Dave Berg

Dave was on comedicly as well, keeping the audience chuckling whenever he opened his mouth (other than to sing). He has a great stage presence, and gets along well with all of the other performers (many of whom he’s co-written with).

Sarah Buxton sang and played harmonica. She’s a rising star in the Country world. She has a raspy, powerful voice, and she hits notes in a wide range. I enjoyed her singing and her songs (at least two of which were co-written with Dave Berg, and one with Bob DiPiero). She has a bit of an over-the-top stage presence (not just when it’s her turn to perform), that was a little off-putting in the beginning. In fact, Lois never really got over it.

Sarah Buxton

Sarah Buxton

At some point in the evening, I got over it, because it started to feel real to me, rather than just put on, but who knows. One of her big hits (co-written with Dave Berg) is Keith Urban’s hit Stupid Boy. It’s autobiographical about her first husband (she’s divorced, and not remarried). It makes a lot of sense when you hear her back-story, and then hear it sung by a woman, and less so when Keith does it, even though it’s a nice song then as well…

To cut her some more slack, there was a reporter from People Magazine in the crowd, who was apparently there specifically to cover her (she’s the only one of the five that appears to be actively pursuing a performing career, in addition to being a songwriter). I think she was playing a bit to the reporter, and the rest of the guys on stage seemed perfectly happy to support her in doing so.

She’s definitely talented, and I won’t be surprised to see her continue to gain in popularity and success.

Bob DiPiero sat in the middle, as usual, running the show. He started this series, and is the one constant in every show. He’s a big-time hit with the crowd (there are many people in the crowd who consider him their favorite, in each show, even though large portions of his selection are repeats each time). He rarely disappoints, and last night he was really on (which he often is).

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Rivers Rutherford sang and played guitar. He’s awesome, in every respect. I’ve mentioned a number of times that the quality of the performances can vary dramatically, as these are primarily songwriters, not performers. Some have less-than-stellar voices, some play the guitar passably, etc.

Rivers Rutherford could be a performing star (IMHO). He has a fantastic voice, is a superb guitarist (one of the top two or three that we’ve seen in the eight CMA shows, but not like some of the superstar guitarists that are full-time professional guitarists that I’ve covered many times). In addition, his stage presence is fantastic. He’s funny, his timing is perfect, and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, the entire evening.

Rivers Rutherford

Rivers Rutherford

His guitar playing is so good that he’s the only person who has ever taken a guitar-only solo during our many CMA shows, and the crowd loved every second of it (including his hamming it up and standing and toying with the crowd while his fingers flew on the frets!). Bravo! Coming back to Dave Berg’s humor, at just the right second, Dave joked that he “remembered when he gave Rivers his very first guitar lesson…”. 🙂

Rivers Rutherford Standing

Rivers Rutherford Standing

Casey Beathard sang and played the guitar. He’s an awesome songwriter (many top hits), an excellent singer, and very solid guitar player as well. Personable, funny, and a very gentle (but excellent) stage presence.

Casey Beathard

Casey Beathard

After Rivers’ little romp on the stage during his guitar solo, Casey cracked up the crowd by standing for about five seconds (with one foot on his chair), emulating Rivers, then saying “That’s all I got…” 🙂 Of course, later on, Dave Berg did something similar, as did Sarah. It was funny, and a touching tribute to their respect for Rivers’ playing ability.

In total, they were on the stage for a very delightful 110 minutes. We’re already looking forward to May 21st. 🙂

Allman Brothers Band at Beacon Theatre

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Two years ago I saw the Allman Brothers Band (ABB) at the Beacon Theatre (without Lois). While I normally write very long music posts, that one was extremely short (mercifully so, say my readers). 😉

Everything I said in that post applied to last night’s show as well. So, you would think that I could make this an even shorter post. Unfortunately, that’s no longer my style, and in addition to telling a little more about our experience, we also have photos, since Lois was with me this time.

We also had tickets to see ABB last year at the Beacon. Unfortunately, that entire slate of shows was canceled due to Greg Allman having a case of Hepatitis C.

The show last night was called for 8pm, but I knew from the show in 2007 that it was highly unlikely to begin on time. I was right. The lights finally went off at 8:27pm, and after three minutes of milling around in the dark, the music began at exactly 8:30.

As in 2007, the sound system was impeccable. You could easily pick out any instrument and follow it clearly. Very cool with so much going on at the same time. As is my newer custom, I will briefly cover each member of the band, in the order they were standing (or sitting) on the stage, then share some of the surprises of the evening.

First a shot of the entire band, so you can get a sense of their placement on the stage:

Allman Brothers Band

Allman Brothers Band

Greg Allman played the organ and electric piano at the far left edge of the stage. I don’t know how he feels inside, but from my perspective, he’s 100% back to normal. His voice is strong, his playing very good, and he seemed in good spirits all night long.

Greg Allman

Greg Allman

Warren Haynes plays lead guitar (essentially the Duane Allman role). He’s awesome, but he’s not Duane Allman. I’ll have more to say on that later, but I actually enjoyed his playing more last night than in 2007, and I also noticed his leadership more last night. He’s the primary traffic caller (at least that’s how it appeared to me).

Warren Haynes

Warren Haynes

Derek Trucks plays lead guitar (essentially the Dickey Betts role). Since Dickey Betts is one of my favorite all-time guitarists, and since he was my favorite ABB member, Derek has some tall shoes to fill for me personally. There’s little doubt that he’s a monstrously talented guitarist, and has played with some of the greatest (including 20 years with ABB, and he’s only 30 now, yes, that’s not a typo!).

Derek Trucks

Derek Trucks

Oteil Burbridge plays the bass. In 2007, I noted that he was amazing. He’s really one of the best rock bassists I’ve ever seen, and he was awesome last night (as I bet he is every night).

Oteil Burbridge

Oteil Burbridge

The four of them form a row across the front of the stage. Behind them is a row of three drummers/percussionists.

Jaimoe plays a normal drum set (at least from my vantage point, but he was furthest away from me). He’s extremely good, but his arm movements are way more controlled than the other two drummers, so it’s a little harder to associate some of the drum sounds directly with him.

Jaimoe

Jaimoe

Marc Quinones plays both a normal drum set, and also a large bongo set with his hands. He probably plays the bongos a bit more (65/35 if I had to guess), and he’s awesome at both.

Marc Quinones

Marc Quinones

Butch Trucks plays the drums, and on one number, also plays two giant stand-up bass drums (like an orchestra would have). In 2007, I didn’t cover each individual member, I only mentioned how amazing the three drummers are. So, I had no idea that Butch is Derek Trucks’ uncle, and actually gave him his start in the business.

Butch Trucks

Butch Trucks

I highly encourage you to read Butch’s bio, linked above, as I too believe that he is the glue that keeps the band’s sound so tight. He’s an absolutely extraordinary drummer (and probably a guy I’d really like hanging out with as well!).

ABB is so tight, it’s hard to describe. That’s with seven people wailing at the same time, and three of them drumming their hearts out. The slightest mistake would be painfully obvious, and they simply don’t make any.

This year is their 40th anniversary, and they’re doing it up in style. Even in a normal year, they typically have surprise guests join them on stage at the Beacon. It can be different people each night, so if you’re only going on one night (as we did/do), you have no idea who it might be, even if you read about who joined the night before.

Right before the intermission, three guys came on stage to join them. Left to right, they were:

Brian Mitchell (the site is not responding as I am publishing this, so I’m not sure this is the correct site!) played eletric piano and organ. He was exceptional, and better than Greg Allman (significantly) IMHO.

Brian Mitchell

Brian Mitchell

Tommy Talton payed guitar (standing to the right of Derek Trucks) and sang some as well. He’s very good, but not as good as either Warren or Derek.

Tommy Talton

Tommy Talton

Scott Boyer was next, playing acoustic guitar (rhythm) and later switching to electric. He was on stage more as a vocalist (singing lead on a few numbers), rather for his guitar skills, which may be considerable, but he didn’t display them last night.

Scott Boyer

Scott Boyer

They played for 75 minutes in total, and then took a 30 minute intermission. When they returned, there was another special guest on stage, Sheryl Crow! She sang three numbers, and played guitar on the last one. She has a fantastic voice, and it worked well with ABB.

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow

In case you aren’t convinced yet, it turns out that the Internet is pretty cool (who knew?). With one Google search, I found a site that has the full setlist from last night, including a YouTube video of Sheryl Crow singing Can’t Find My Way Home (and the concert was just last night!). The quality of the YouTube video isn’t half bad, and you can also see Derek Trucks playing the guitar (Warren to a lesser extent) and Marc Quinones playing the bongos.

Both Brian Mitchell and Tommy Talton joined ABB for a number of additional songs, including the amazing encore (One Way Out). James Van DeBogert came out for the encore only, played the drums, making four simultaneous drummers during the encore. I don’t recall him being introduced.

They played 65 minutes before leaving the stage for a couple of minutes, returning for the one-song encore. In total, they were on the stage for 150 minutes. Given the 30 minute delayed start, and the 30 minute intermission, from original show time until we left was 3.5 hours, a long night for us old fogies.

By now, you are probably praying that this is the end, but unfortunately, it’s not. I still have some more things to share. 🙂

When I wrote the post in 2007, I mentioned that I preferred Duane and Dickey to Warren and Derek. Other than saying that they didn’t duplicate Duane and Dickey’s sound exactly, I am not sure that I could have explained what I really thought the difference was (meaning, was I just lamenting not hearing exactly what I was used to?).

I think I can put it into words a bit better now. One of the reasons is that while exercising today, I listened to the full two CDs of my favorite ABB album, Live at the Filmore East. Since they played both You Don’t Love Me and Statesboro Blues (both on that album), and both were still fresh in my mind, I was able to make the connection.

Duane and Dickey essentially play symphonies, with all of the thematic variations, both solo and in duets with each other, while remaining so true and consistent with the awesome drummers and bass. Every note makes sense in the context of the song. There is also rarely any pause whatsoever. The guitar is wailing non-stop, dancing up and down the frets creating the symphony.

Warren and Derek have the technique, and the physical talent, but for whatever reason (they don’t want to duplicate the old sound on purpose, they don’t like it, they want to innovate and just jam, etc.), they miss the soul of the song (the ABB songs, not their own!). Their leads often seem to be disconnected from the actual song, other than fitting the beat. There are often long pauses as they appear to decide what they feel like playing next.

Technically, it’s all virtuoso, and they are really great guitarists, but when you listen to Duane and Dickey do it (live too, since Filmore East was recorded live!), the difference is so obvious, and magical. Do yourself a favor and listen to Statesboro Blues from that album, and hear what perfection the guitars are!

Having come last night with different expectations, I wasn’t really disappointed at all in the play of Warren and Derek. It was great, just different, and not what I would pick if I could resurrect Duane and Dickey. Since I can’t, I still thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

On to our final chapter, Lois. While I bought two tickets to see ABB at the Beacon three years running, this was the first time Lois actually came. The first year, she offered the ticket to a friend who is a huge ABB fan, and she went with his wife to see Abigal Washburn and Bethany and Rufus at Joe’s Pub.

The second year was canceled (as noted above). This year, I offered to find someone else to go with, but she insisted that she would give it a try, and bring along her ear plugs! We had pretty good seats (13 rows back, aisle and one in, but very right orchestra).

While the ear plugs worked really well according to Lois, nothing else did. It’s really as far from her kind of music as you can imagine, plus she’s not familiar with it, so there’s no anticipation either, and, as expected, everyone in front of us stood for the entire show! I stood for all but two songs (and didn’t really mind it this time), and Lois stood for three or four songs.

Normally, the thought of standing all night is anathema to both of us. If you’ve read this space before, you’ll recall that we left the Sister Hazel concert before it started (and we really love them!), when we found out that the new Filmore at Irving Plaza is Standing Room Only (SRO). So, why didn’t it bother me last night?

Even though I stood, I had a seat! What? That means:

  1. I had my own space, which was only slightly invaded by the drunk to my right
  2. I could put my hands on the seats in front of me to shift my weight
  3. I could sit when I wanted (giving up a bit of the view), like I did for two songs
  4. I could sit for the entire 30 minute intermission, and for the 45 minutes that we were there before the show started!

Compared to standing in a wide-open room, with tons of drunk people dancing all around you, it’s simply no comparison. Lois couldn’t understand why people choose to stand. The music is more of a sway along rather than a dance along. She was surprised at how slow some of the numbers were, but of course, she didn’t know that many of the ABB hits are really blues-style rock.

I don’t intend to subject her again to this type of show, but I really did love it, all of it, and would happily go again in the future, likely with someone else. 😉

Farewell Poker

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I’ve been noting the possibility of this day for quite a while, and it’s finally here. I am saying farewell to online poker, likely for quite a while, but also likely, not forever.

I expected the day to come sometime in January, having gone through a very long drought of cashing in a tournament. Then, as I was about to run out of money in my account, I cashed on back-to-back days, coming fourth then eighth, adding enough money to last another two months. Since I didn’t cash again (though came very close a number of times), and the two months have now passed, it’s over.

I have a small amount in a secondary account, and could play some very low-stakes tourneys if the itch really hit me, but I don’t intend to do even that.

It was a fantastic run. I played my first ever online poker game on September 1, 2004. The last time I deposited money in my account was April 2005, so that money has lasted a very long time, and given me untold pleasure (yes, I still love online poker).

So, if I love it, and can afford it, why am I giving it up?

I have had to hop from site to site to site over the short number of years, as the US frightens online operators into dropping US citizens. Along the way, I have enjoyed the sites less and less, and the schedule of tournaments hasn’t matched my interest as much either.

Still, I was reasonably happy with my main site for the past two years. Until they changed their software and schedule so dramatically that I cut back to one tourney a day for the past six months (on the days that I played at all).

To add insult to injury, while I was draining my account, I got a note from them telling me that I wasn’t playing enough, and my status was being downgraded. Nice. In a down economy, rather than trying a carrot approach to entice me to play more, they chose the stick. Well, it worked, they won’t have to worry about downgrading me any further. 😉

Given my obsessive personality, I am sure it won’t take long for some other activity to fill the void. I already have a good idea of what that will be, but this isn’t the right post to announce it…

Poker, thanks for the ride, see you down the road! 🙂

Jerry Jeff Walker at BB King

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A year ago we took seven people (plus the two of us) to see Jerry Jeff Walker at BB King’s in NYC. I wrote about that wonderful evening in this post. The stars aligned for us again this year, as we had company staying with us for the weekend, they love live music, and Jerry Jeff was back in town (celebrating his birthday with the rest of us).

This year there were six of us in total. The show started at 8:03pm.

Last year, Jerry Jeff had three exceptional musicians playing with him, Tommy Nash on the guitar, Brad Fordham on the bass, and Steve Samuel on the drums. Steve Samuel was back again, and I am reasonably sure that so was Brad Fordham (I am embarrassed that I can’t say definitively).

Unfortunately, Tommy Nash wasn’t there last night. He’s a fantastic guitarist, and I was really looking forward to hearing him again. Jerry Jeff introduced his son as the guitarist, saying that he was pressed into action, but he didn’t mention if Tommy was supposed to be there, and what happened to the regular guitarist either way.

Three of us heard Jerry Jeff introduce his son as Daniel (I would swear to that!). But, all web searches show his name to be Django Walker. I’ll come back to him in a minute, and do my normal left-to-right rundown of the musicians.

Apologies in advance for the very poor quality of the photos of the band members. The lighting plus some errors in the settings on our camera conspired against us last night…

Brad Forham played a smoking bass all night, and was the primary harmonizer with Jerry Jeff. He was excellent all night, and had great energy.

Brad Fordham

Brad Fordham

Jerry Jeff was center stage, and for a 67-year-old, has it going in every way (except for maybe hair). 😉 His guitar playing (mostly rhythm) is good, his voice is very strong (and deep), he has more energy than many teenagers, has an infectious personality, is beloved by his audience, and still puts on a great show. Basically, you want to be in whatever room Jerry Jeff is in. 🙂

Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff Walker

Behind Jerry Jeff was Steve Samuel, the drummer (I couldn’t find a good link last year, and couldn’t find one again this year, sorry!). Steve plays the drums really well, and given the up-tempo of most of Jerry Jeff’s songs, he keeps everyone in the crowd cooking to the right beat.

Steve Samuel

Steve Samuel

Django Walker played lead guitar and sang. His guitar playing is decent, but not on par with the numerous brilliant guitarists we’ve been hearing for the past few years. That still makes him 14,237 times better than me (meaning, he’s not bad), but it also makes Tommy Nash 972 times better than Django (though Django has many years to improve before reaching Tommy’s age).

Django Walker

Django Walker

Django sang a bit of harmony (well), but he solo’ed on a verse of The Cape (a song we really love), and he was fantastic. Later, he played (and sang lead) a song of his own, Texas On My Mind. He’s really a superb singer, with great stage presence as well. If he played just rhythm guitar (like his dad), or keeps getting better at lead guitar, he will be a force in music for years to come!

They played a bunch of favorites, including one that I covered last year (Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother). This year, I was part of the crowd that yelled out So Well, So Well, So Well during each chorus as well. What a blast.

They played for 77 minutes, then left the stage. A minute later, they were back out for a 2-song encore (like last year). Unlike last year, the first song in the encore was Mr. Bojangles (one of my favorite songs). When all was said and done, they were on the stage for just about 90 minutes, so the show was a little shorter than last year, but still wonderful.

Musically, last year’s performance was better, solely due to Tommy Nash’s amazing guitar playing. But, while this crowd was just as enthusiastic, and just as big fans, they were much more respectful of everyone around them, even when they were partying hearty, and dancing in the aisles. This allowed people like us (less rowdy) to actually enjoy their sideshow, be swept up in it, but still enjoy everything that was going on on the stage as well!

I’m sure we’ll try to be there to wish Jerry Jeff a Happy Birthday next year as well! 🙂

Now for our usual background leading up to the show.

Late morning, we did something we’ve never done before. We crammed six people into our Ford Explorer (all adults). That meant that there were four very uncomfortable people in the back seat, and the two of us in the front had our seats moved way up. We headed up to the house because our guests wanted to see it, and Laura and Chris wanted to see some grass, for at least a few minutes.

We ate lunch at the local diner near the house, and then headed over. Lois and I relaxed in the house, but the four youngsters actually stayed out in the backyard for at least an hour, soaking the chilly, but gorgeous views of the Hudson River.

Youngsters Standing

Youngsters Standing

Youngsters Sitting

Youngsters Sitting

When they came inside, they all conked out for a nap (they stay up later than us old folk each night, so it’s understandable).

Youngsters Sleeping

Youngsters Sleeping

When they woke up, we headed back to the city, and then over to BB King. We had a very nice table for six about 20 feet from the stage, and had a wonderful meal. Lois and I have watched people order the giant Meat Lovers Nachos (supposedly an appetizer) every time we’ve been there, and always thought it looked great, but was too big. Last night, we decided to make it a meal for the two of us. We were not disappointed. It’s really good (Pulled Pork, Chicken, Steak, etc.).

Meat Lovers Nachos

Meat Lovers Nachos

Chris ordered the Mac ‘n Cheese. Rich is an understatement, and the rest of us had to finish it for him. Most delicious.

Mac N Cheese

Mac N Cheese

Good food + good conversation + great show = great evening! 🙂

Commercials Annoy But Often Work

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Most people complain about watching commercials. Of course, they serve a number of purposes, the two obvious ones are:

  1. Keeping the content free (most people seem to like that part)
  2. Making you aware of a product’s existence (many people think they don’t care about this aspect)

I am unaware of anyone who hates commercials more than Lois does. There are probably too many reasons to list here (after all, I am constrained by the number of GB’s available on my hard drive!) 😉 but I will list a few of her top complaints:

  1. Commercials are typically played at an insanely increased volume from the show you have chosen to watch
  2. They are often inane
  3. They often have no correlation to the product or brand name of the advertiser, going purely for an emotional (or humorous) pull, leaving you with no recollection of what was being advertised
  4. The content is often offensive, even if some segment of the population truly needs a particular product genre
  5. Every year, the length of commercial breaks increases (feeling exponential at times)

I could go on, seriously, but that’s not really the point of this post, so I won’t. (You can thank me now, or thank me later…)

#1 above is probably Lois’ biggest complaint. We’re settled in, quietly enjoying a show, and then all of a sudden, bam, you’re being screamed at.

This has been true for a very long time, even when commercials weren’t such a large block of a typical 30 or 60 minute show. I shouldn’t have been surprised when it recently became a very large issue between us.

The advent of the DVR has been a godsend for people who don’t care for commercials. It has to be the rarest individual who actually watches commercials (it doesn’t count if you just let them run, but go do the things you do during live commercials). Given our crazy schedule, when we’re home, we do the vast majority of our TV watching via DVR. On the road though, we choose to watch reruns most of the time, with full-blown commercial watching.

One of the shows we watch on DVR religiously is Lost. I like the show way more than Lois does (that’s another hot topic between us), but she is at least willing to watch it with me every time we get back from a trip. I record it on the DirecTivo DVR.

In addition to DirecTV, we also have Verizon FiOS in the house. They have a reasonable number of broadcast hits available for free via Video on Demand (VOD). Most of those shows are also available for free HD VOD. Lost is one of those shows, though I only recently realized that. My DirecTivo only records in normal, Standard Definition (SD).

So, a few episodes ago, I decided to watch Lost in HD, using the free VOD service on FiOS, instead of watching my recording of it. All of the CBS shows on FiOS VOD contain minimal commercials (typically less than 90 seconds for an entire show!). In addition, they can be fast-forwarded (even in VOD mode), but I choose not to, because I feel it’s an extremely fair price to pay for the value of receiving HD on demand.

So, I thought it would be the same with watching Lost. When I fired up the HD VOD for ABC, I was greeted with a message that ABC does not permit the fast-forwarding of commercials during Lost (I have no idea whether this is true for other shows like Desperate Housewives, etc.). I thought that would be fine, since I’ve gotten in the habit of not forwarding anyway, since there are so few commercials on VOD to begin with.

So, I mentioned to Lois (knowing how much she hates commercials) that I intended to watch Lost in HD, and that we would have to watch the commercials, because ABC doesn’t permit forwarding, even if I wanted to. She reluctantly agreed.

Unfortunately, in addition to not allowing fast-forwarding, ABC also jams significantly more commercials down your throat than CBS does. To add insult to injury, they repeat commercials over and over, and they are often of the inane variety. By the second block of commercials, Lois was so annoyed at me, that she refused to watch to the end of the episode (no, I’m not kidding).

Before we watched the next episode (a day or two later), back on the DVR (so we could avoid all commercials), I forced her to watch the end of the previous episode on the DVR, so that she would be caught up (Lost is not the kind of show you can just jump into in the middle and have any clue whatsoever).

What’s the point of all of this? Check the title again. I said that commercials annoy, but also often work! Could they even work on Lois? Could the effect be instantaneous and obvious as well?

The answer is Yes.

I already mentioned above that when we travel, we watch reruns, and therefore commercials. When we were in Fredericksburg a month ago, we saw a commercial for Pizza Hut that highlighted their new Tuscani Pastas. The very next day Lois ordered them for lunch for the staff of Zope Corporation. They were pretty darn good.

This past weekend, we called in an order to a Pizza Hut up near our house, and picked it up and served it (along with supermarket bought items) to good friends of ours. It was most delicious again.

The point is that we would never have known about the existence of Tuscani Pastas from Pizza Hut were it not for commercials. Could we survive without that knowledge and experience? Of course. Are we (Lois included!) happy to have discovered these tasty and affordable dishes? Absolutely.

The moral of this post is this:

  1. Lower the volume on your commercials, and perhaps some people will actually watch them
  2. Make them entertaining and informative (I should be able to remember what was being advertised after the ad is over!)
  3. Make them relevant to a large percentage of your viewers, not only those with ED 😉
  4. Fewer commercials would be more effective, not only because viewers wouldn’t be desensitized, but they would also not have as much time to do other things

Now if only ABC would get smart like CBS, I could watch Lost in HD VOD and suffer a commercial or two, and perhaps even go out and buy that product! Instead, I watch zero commercials during Lost (in SD), and everyone (except for us) loses in the process…