June, 2009:

Thank You ABC

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I find it ironic that on the same night that ABC is about to air a White House exclusive promo, something which I think borders on a wrong-headed move (understandable, predictable, but still wrong-headed), I am about to praise them for something completely different.

The fact that I am about to praise ABC is surprising for another reason, namely that I think we’re down to watching only one show on a regular basis on that network: Lost. I’ll come back to Lost later on, even though I’ve written about it separately in the past.

Last season (shortened by the brilliant Writers Strike) we watched two additional shows religiously on ABC: Eli Stone and Pushing Daisies. We watched both religiously this season as well, until they were both unceremoniously dumped, mid-season (along with Dirty Sexy Money, which we’ve never seen).

We both loved Eli Stone (though it took Lois three episodes to come to that, while I loved it from the first scene). We looked forward to every new episode, and were never disappointed.

I liked Pushing Daisies way more than Lois did, and I’m thankful that she humored me and didn’t make me feel guilty about wasting her time when I eagerly watched it each week. The cartoonish colors were brilliant and lush (solidifying the fantasy feel of the show), and the dialogue had cracker-jack fast quips that always had me in stitches. The writing was in the style of the West Wing and Studio 60 (no wonder Kristin Chenoweth signed up).

I wasn’t surprised that Pushing Daisies was canceled. I was surprised that Eli Stone was. I was shocked that both were canceled without warning, mid-season. Both were serials where important plot-lines unfolded each week (as opposed to episodic shows, like Law and Order).

At best, you’re leaving extremely loyal viewers with a dangling, highly unsatisfying ending. At worst, you’re cutting off a promising show because it didn’t perform quickly enough, which could be short-sighted, given the rough start each show had during the previous Writers Strike shortened season.

I totally get that it’s a business, and they have the right and the experience to do exactly what they did. I also get that none of the three shows that they canceled were topping the charts. I also know that ABC wasn’t promoting the shows all that hard either, and certainly didn’t give them a chance to grow a base. But, again, it’s their decision.

So, after that long-winded (typical) introduction, why I am thanking and praising ABC today?

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Pushing Daisies was set to record an episode on my DVR (from my season pass) on a Saturday! I hadn’t seen a single commercial announcing its comeback, nor seen anything online either, so I assumed that they were running repeats (after all, none of the networks are noted for airing first-run shows on Saturday any longer). Stupidly, I deleted the recording from the queue!

Yesterday, Lois was reading a magazine, and she said to me “Did you know that last week they aired the Series Finale of Pushing Daisies on TV?” Oops! I logged on to ABC and saw that not only was the finale available, it was the third (and last) new episode since the series was canceled.

So, I was sort-of glad I had deleted the recording on the DVR, because I would watched it without knowing that there were two additional episodes leading up to it.

In the unbelievably typical whacky world of TV networks foray into online streaming, only the last two episodes were available on ABC. The first of the trilogy was already gone from their site. I was able to find it instantly on another site, in poorer quality, but with zero commercials.

After watching that episode, we watched the last two on ABC, in 720p HD. The quality was awesome. I’ve mentioned in the past that Lois is rabid about avoiding commercials. Even she didn’t complain about the maximum of one 30-second commercial in each break. ABC is notorious for inserting more commercial breaks into their online programming than the other networks (Hulu, which features both NBC and Fox, shows dramatically fewer commercials per show).

Even so, I was glad to watch the commercials, because ABC was delivering value to me, and this was my desired form of payment. That made it all the more bizarre that they removed the first of the episodes. Given the choice, I would have gladly watched commercials for that one as well, but instead, they drove me to another site where they derived zero revenue from me, instead of the few pennies they otherwise would have earned.

However, here’s the kicker to the story. By getting me to visit ABC at all (in this case through the magazine article), I noticed that they were offering a streaming episode of Eli Stone that was new as well! It turns out that this is the first of the final four episodes of that show. We watched that too, and loved the episode, and can see that they too will wrap up the series to our satisfaction, now that they have the chance to do so.

Hadar, is there a point to all of this ranting? Yes, there is. First, this took nearly zero effort on the part of ABC, as the shows were already shot and in the can (as they say). Putting them online is a matter of decision making, not really a matter of scheduling them for broadcast where ratings and revenue come into play.

But, ABC didn’t really make money off of you Hadar (you say). Perhaps, but not necessarily true! First, for Eli Stone, since there are three episodes left, I have now set my DVR to tape them on TV. 70% of Americans still don’t have a DVR, so there will be plenty of people watching Eli Stone (Saturday night at 10pm!) with ABC hopefully making more money than they do with normal filler programming on that night.

As for Pushing Daisies, both Lois and I found the wrap-up of the series satisfying. Lois turned to me after the finale and said “You should buy the DVD of this season”. I said “You don’t even like the show!”. She said “I really liked the way they ended it, and I wouldn’t mind owning it!”. So, if we decide to, we’ll be buying both seasons (to have all of the episodes). I can guarantee that we would never have purchased either season the way it was previously ended.

I said I would come back to Lost, so here goes. Lois and I never watched Lost when it first came out. We weren’t even tempted. After the second season, David and Wes bought us a gift of the first two seasons DVDs. We got hooked. We bought Season Three on DVD the second it was available. We watched Season Four on TV, but also bought two copies of the DVDs when the season was over, one for us, and one for David. We’ll buy Season Five as well, and Season Six next year.

The point is, fans can be created after the fact with all of the time-shifting, social networking, word-of-mouth, gifting, etc. When shows are cut off prematurely, they’ll never get a chance to participate in that ecosystem.

For the past two years, one of our favorite shows has been Chuck on NBC. It too was practically canceled, until enough fans online saved it at least for part of next season. I’m hoping that decision will pay off for NBC, because we’re definitely looking forward to seeing more episodes. At least Chuck ended with a proper season finale, which was engaging enough to have been satisfying as a series finale as well, if it needed to be.

By the way, even though we watched every episode of Chuck every week, we also bought two copies of each season’s DVDs. So, we fast-forwarded through the commercials, but we still sent in our cash…

Anyway, thanks again to ABC for making the remaining episodes of Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money (which had more fans than the first two, not including us) available, both on TV, and online!

Ceili Rain at Joyful Noise III

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Over a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Everybody Clap for Everybody. The second paragraph explains how we came to discover Ceili Rain, in September 2001, in the aftermath of 9/11. We’ve been huge fans ever since, but have never had the opportunity, and therefore the pleasure (and privilege) of seeing them live.

That oversight was finally corrected yesterday. All of my posts are overly long, and for the few of you with the fortitude to stick with them all the way to the end, I apologize and thank you (and secretly applaud you as well!). 😉 This one won’t be an exception. I’m busting with things to share, including a generally extraordinary day, in addition to experiencing the magic that is a live Ceili Rain show!

I’ll cover Ceili Rain first (as I typically do), and then describe the rest of the day.

Ceili Rain was scheduled to come on stage at 5:30pm, and play until about 7pm (a very nice length indeed). Due to the constant downpour all day, logistics were thrown off course a bit, and Ceili Rain didn’t start playing until 6:20pm.

Their CDs are marvelous (I recommend every one, but I’ll be more specific later on for those looking to dip their toes, rather than buy the whole shebang at once). I know all of the songs well. Still, nothing can prepare you for seeing them live. Not five seconds into the opening number (Jigorous from Erasers on Pencils) and we knew we were in for a completely magical experience.

Most groups can’t deliver a live experience that matches the polish of a well-crafted CD. Many can and do. A rarer few blow away any sense you have of them as recording artists when you see them perform live. Ceili Rain is in that rarified group. There is literally no way I can do them justice by trying to describe the feeling, so I won’t try too hard.

I’ll state the normal facts as I always do, and simply say that in this case, the whole, greatly exceeds the sum of the (extraordinary) parts (facts).

Here’s a group shot of them on stage:

Ceili Rain

Ceili Rain

Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Burt Mitchell on whistles and pipes (he also sang on at least one number). Bagpipes aren’t typically an instrument one associates with Rock music. In fact, I bet that many people don’t associate Bagpipes with music at all. 😉 Give Burt a few seconds, and you’ll change your mind. He plays a variety of whistles, just as well, and adds a marvelous flavor to Ceili Rain.

Burt Mitchell

Burt Mitchell

Joe Davoli on fiddle. I’ve written about many great fiddlers over the past few years. I’m now officially adding Joe to my list. We both loved every note he played last night. At intermission, Lois bought Joe’s CD (along with guitarist Harvey Nusbaum) called Fiddle & Guitar. Wow. It’s a gorgeous instrumental collection of amazing fiddle and guitar tunes! Of course, Joe was kind enough to sign it for Lois. 🙂

Joe Davoli

Joe Davoli

Bob Halligan Jr. on the acoustic guitar, vocals and electric keyboards. There are many people with great voices. While Bob is one of them, he has a quality that very few have in addition to the voice, and that’s the ability to use the voice and every body part to take you on a trip with him, wherever he feels like taking you.

Bob Halligan Jr

Bob Halligan Jr.

Like my caveat for Ceili Rain in general, I’ll never do justice to describing seeing Bob perform live. Unlike Ceili Rain, I’ll at least make a half-hearted attempt to describe it a drop. 😉

Let’s start with the voice, since I mentioned it first above. Bob can hit notes that are surprising and breathtaking. One some levels, it can give me the same chills that Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts does (both can create high sounds that are still distinctively male, and both can maintain complex melodies while switching gears seamlessly). Unlike Gary, Bob can also sing in more normal tones (no disrespect to Gary, who is one of my favorite vocalists!).

In addition to also being an excellent musician, Bob’s performance is completely infectious. If joy was a disease, then he’s a carrier, and he can spread the disease in an airborne manner, to all in his vicinity. If you don’t want to be uplifted, stay far away from a Ceili Rain show! 😉

I could on and on, but I’m not sure that I could adequately convey the magic, so I’ll just add that Bob has an instant, and deep rapport with the audience. When he called for a conga line to dance around the tent, it formed spontaneously, with sheer joy on the participants’ faces, and on the fuddy duddies in the crowd (like us), who didn’t join in. 🙂

Finally, Bob is one of the most prolific, and amazing songwriters of our time. He has over 1,000 songs to his credit. He is the heart and soul of Ceili Rain, and the world is the better for him!

Hadar Bob

Hadar Bob

Bob Lois

Bob Lois

Kevin de Souza on electric bass and harmony vocals. He’s the newest member of Ceili Rain. Rating a bassist is generally difficult, because even great ones often fade into the background, by design and choice. I have no trouble claiming that Kevin is awesome on the bass.

Kevin de Souza

Kevin de Souza

In addition to simply laying down fantastic bass lines all night, and taking an amazing long solo (beating out most of the bass solos I have heard in the past), he also has all the requisite on-stage energy necessary to make him a full-blown member of Ceilli Rain. He’s simply delightful to watch and listen to, all night.

Raymond Arias on lead guitar (electric) and vocals. Ray has been with Ceili Rain for nearly 12 years now, making him the longest-standing member playing with Bob. Raymond sings harmony with Bob beautifully. He plays the electric guitar exceptionally well. When his turn came to play solo, he also sang lead in true Rock ‘N Roll style, belting out renditions of two classic Rock songs back-to-back. He too is a great fit for Ceili Rain.

Raymond Arias

Raymond Arias

Bill Bleistine on drums. Bill sits in the back, center stage, behind Bob. Loyal readers know that I love nearly every instrument, and pay a lot of close attention to every band member at every show. This is always true for the drums, for which I have a special love.

Bill Bleistine

Bill Bleistine

I’ve written about a number of drummers in the past few years who have mesmerized me. I need to firmly, and unequivocally place Bill near the top of the list (on any given night, he could easily top the list). Aside from his impeccable and fantastic playing all night long, the energy level of every Ceili Rain song, and the length of the two sets, make his feat all the more inconceivable.

In addition to supporting the band on every number brilliantly, he took a long solo that has to be among the top five I’ve ever heard, quite possibly #1. Bravo Bill!

Whew. Magic, magic, magic, magic (and then some more magic).

Hadar Lois Bill Ray

Hadar Lois Bill Ray

During intermission, Lois also bought two copies of the new CD, I Made Lemonade. The official CD release is on July 1st (according to at  least one website), so you may not be able to buy it anywhere except at a live show until then. Of course, Bob and Bill signed it for her. It’s a wonderful CD. Lois and I feel privileged to have played the tiniest of roles in helping to bring it to fruition.

When you lift the CD out of the jewel case, two large paragraphs of text are revealed on the inside of the back cover. The top one is from Bob. It starts off with him saying that when people ask him which of the CDs is his favorite, he feels like a parent does when someone asks which of your children is your favorite!

While I understand that completely, I also know that many people who read this will not want to jump in and buy all six CDs before knowing if they will love Ceili Rain as much as we do. For those people, I suggest two things:

  1. Listen to the selection of free streaming songs available on their MySpace page. Selections can always change, but at the moment, in addition to the title cut from the new CD (I Made Lemonade), you can also hear my personal favorite (That’s All the Lumber), and Love Travels, the song that started this whole wonderful journey for us in the first place.
  2. If you’re going to buy only one CD, I’d recommend starting with their namesake: Ceilin Rain. It’s just one phenomenal song after another, including both That’s All the Lumber and Love Travels.

After the intermission, they played for roughly another hour, making their time on stage over two hours. The fact that they didn’t melt into a puddle of their own sweat after putting on such an intense show for that long is incredible.

Since the entire show was pushed back a bit, that put the second set in near darkness (given the clouds and rain). Since that wasn’t anticipated, there were no lights to shine on the band. It was still fantastic, but could have played out differently.

Here’s how this all came to be…

Because we purchased the first five CDs directly from the Ceili Rain website, we’re on the regular mailing list informing fans of upcoming shows. A month ago, I noticed that they were playing two hours away from us in Quakertown, PA (technically, Applebachsville, PA, but don’t expect your GPS to know where that is!). This was going to be their third headlining appearance at the Joyful Noise fund-raiser run by St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Given our schedule, it was a tad inconvenient, but it was also our best bet to see them live and we decided to make the commitment to be there. We were surprised to see that the event was free to attend. All of the funds raised would be voluntary. In addition, they were requesting non-perishable foods be donated, since the entire event was for the benefit of the Quakertown Food Pantry.

Wanting to participate in the spirit of the event, not just getting to see Ceili Rain for free, we went to Costco and bought quite a bit of non-perishable stuff. For the most part, food we typically buy for ourselves, so we know it’s really good. We loaded up the back of our car and drove from NY to Quakertown, early yesterday morning.

First, a brief mention of the other five performers who played all day leading up to the Ceili Rain finale. Since all-but-one of these performers isn’t really a professional, it’s not really fair to subject them to the same review that I would normally give any group or individual.

In the order that they appeared, starting at 11:15am:

Living Water. This is a local group from Quakertown United Methodist Church. Eight of them were on stage for roughly 45 minutes.

Living Water

Living Water

Kickin’ Brass. Five performers (trumpet, trombone, tuba, French horn and another trumpet). They were on stage for roughly 45 minutes.

Kickin Brass

Kickin' Brass

Once Called Saul. Five guys in the band. They were on stage for roughly 45 minutes.

Once Called Saul

Once Called Saul

Keith Spencer. I’ll say a bit more about Keith, because of the five groups that performed before Ceili Rain, he’s the only one that is likely able to (and I would guess does) support himself solely through his music. He lists himself as:

Vocalist, Actor, Cabaret Performer

Keith Spencer

Keith Spencer

He’s backed singers like Robert Flack. He has an exceptional voice, and a warmth that makes audiences sit up and take notice instantly. He sang mostly Spirituals, with a few Broadway tunes (also spiritual in nature) mixed in. Lois and I were enthralled at his performance.

He was accompanied on the electric keyboards by Charles de Mets. His playing was excellent, and he complemented Keith perfectly. I updated Charles’ name from my original post, when Keith was kind enough to email me the correct spelling!

Charles Demetz

Charles de Mets

Keith and Charles were on stage for roughly 45 minutes.

This has nothing to do with yesterday, but I stumbled on it trying to find a link for Keith, so I’ll share it. Here’s an article written two years ago about the frenzy of couples trying to win a free wedding courtesy of the Today Show. The last picture of the bunch is of Keith and his then fiancee. A little further down, they tell the story about how Keith proposed to Amy. 🙂

SWiM was the last band to perform before Ceili Rain. Four guys on stage for nearly an hour.

SWiM

SWiM

Except for Kickin’ Brass, which was purely instrumental, the other four sets were purely Christian Music. Of those, Keith clearly performs other types of music in other venues, with the remaining three groups strictly performing Christian Music.

Lois and I enjoyed what each group had to offer the audience, and they fit the spirit and mood of the day quite well. Thanks to all of them for participating in Joyful Noise III!

On to recap the rest of the day. Weather.com was calling for 80-95% chance of showers for every single hour of the day in Quakertown, PA yesterday. Nice. It was quite cloudy for the first hour of our drive over, but we still held out the slightest hope that the rain might be minimal. Those hopes were dashed in the second hour, when it started raining steadily. The rain continued without many breaks until 3pm!

The rain stopped from 3-5pm, then started again. When Ceili Rain was on for a little while, Bob complained that the humidity was wreaking havoc with the tuning on his guitar. He gently asked if could put a suggestion in the box asking the big Boss for better weather.

10 minutes later, it stopped raining. 15 minutes after that, the sun came out, very brightly. 10 minutes after that, a beautiful rainbow appeared. The gentleman who was collecting donations in the buckets all day came over to us and asked Lois to come with him to see the rainbow. Here’s a shot that Lois took:

Rainbow

Rainbow

Even though it later started to rain heavily again, I still am respectful of Bob’s ability to get his suggestion acted upon so quickly. He clearly has a more direct line than I do to the big Boss. 😉

When we arrived at St. Paul’s (thank you GPS for being able to find this rural Church with zero problems) it was raining hard. We parked, but a gentleman immediately came up to our car and asked us to drive a mile down the road to the local elementary school where a shuttle bus would bring us back.

Before we left, three gentlemen unloaded the back of our SUV on behalf of the Quakertown Food Pantry. We also left our two plastic chairs there (to get soaked) while we drove to the elementary school. We were the first car to park there (having arrived at 10:45am) and the shuttle bus took us back immediately, since there was no one else to wait for.

We planted our plastic chairs about 25 feet from the stage, in what felt like it would turn out to be an arbitrary first row. Sitting any closer would have been good for the view of the stage, but would have likely lead to instant deafness, as there were giant speakers on the grass in front of each side of the stage.

Even though it was pouring, we were under a very large tent, and very thankful for it. What was apparent from the moment we returned on the bus was that every single person we encountered was as nice and helpful as they could possibly be. There were an enormous number of official volunteers, all wearing purple T-Shirts with Joyful Noise III on them.

The organization for the event was as good (if not better) than most professional venues we attend. This, despite the fact that the weather wasn’t cooperating in the least.

The main coordinator of the event is a delightful man named Rich Baringer. He was the MC as well. He kept everyone informed throughout the day, and kept the flow as smooth as you could want. He told a number of corny jokes. I’m a sucker for a good groaner, so I laughed with him, not at him. 🙂

Rich Baringer

Rich Baringer

In addition to coordinating the event, he had the vision and passion for it as well, so we all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude, as does the Quakertown Food Pantry. In Googling around to find a link for him, I discovered that he’s a Personal Chef with his own website. If he cooks 1/2 as well as he runs Joyful Noise, then his client’s are extremely happy, I’m sure!

For two complete outsiders, attending an event like this can potentially be uncomfortable, if it’s really meant to be an insiders celebration. I’m happy to report that the good folks at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church are wonderfully welcoming. We felt like we were a part of their community, and it felt good.

I could probably tell 100 stories as examples, but I’ll spare you and tell a few. At one point during the day Rich announced that one of the couples in the audience was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We all cheered as the wife waved to us. The husband was serving food a hundred feet away.

Later in the day, Rich had to point out that we shouldn’t have been all that impressed with the earlier announcement. He had just found out that a couple of days before, another couple had just celebrated their 71st anniversary! We turned again (and again only saw the wife). My goodness, she could have passed for a spry 60-year-old. There’s some good water in the wells in Quakertown if you ask me! 🙂

There were a ton of kids of all ages at the event, with lots of activities planned for them as well. All of the kids, including the really young ones, were extraordinarily well behaved, so my hat is tipped to all of the Quakertown parents that we met as well! Cute doesn’t even begin to describe them. Lois and I giggled a bunch as we watched kids chase their parents (and each other) with glee.

Boys Eating Hot Dogs

Boys Eating Hot Dogs

Lecture 101

Lecture 101

Helping Dad Carry the Amp

Helping Dad Carry the Amp

Rich’s wife, Mary Beth, was the French horn player in Kickin’ Brass. During Ceili Rain’s second set, Rich (playing the saxophone), Mary Beth and two other members of Kickin’ Brass came on stage to form a horn section for Ceili Rain. It was fantastic! Bob Halligan Jr. joked that he’d be pleased to have them tour with him as long as they were willing to play for free. 🙂

Brass Section

Brass Section

We spent 10 solid hours with a group of strangers. Within minutes, we felt at home. By the end of the day, we felt like we were extended family. Thanks to everyone who attended the event for making us feel so welcome. Aside from the obvious connection of the music to the term Joyful Noise, all of you made a truly Joyful Noise throughout the day!

Indigo Girls at Lewis Ginter

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When I first heard the Indigo Girls sing Closer to Fine, in 1989, I ran out and bought the CD right away. I didn’t regret it, as there are many other great songs on the CD as well.

If you read my earlier post today about Eddie From Ohio, then you know that back then (OK, not quite back in 1989) I was extremely selective about what made it on to my MP3 player. Three songs from the CD Indigo Girls (by the Indigo Girls) made it on to the MP3: Closer to Fine, Secure Yourself and Prince of Darkness. I still listen to all three regularly.

Unfortunately, we’ve never gotten to see them live. In a major irony, our favorite group for the past two years is Girlyman. It turns out, unbeknownst to us at the time we discovered Girlyman, they used to regularly open for the Indigo Girls. Cool! We rectified that oversight last night at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in an outdoor concert.

Even though we both love the few songs of theirs that we know well, we really didn’t know what to expect from this type of show, both musically and audience-wise. Given our disappointment in seeing both the Proclaimers and Blues Traveler, both on the basis of just a few loved songs as well, there was at least a touch of nervousness.

Not to worry fans, the Indigo Girls were/are awesome, and their show is also different than expected given the type of shows we typically attend.

On the very off chance that you don’t know anything about the Indigo Girls, they are two amazing singer songwriters. Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Amy Ray sings and plays guitar, mandolin and harmonica. Amy writes amazing songs, sings beautifully, plays all of her instruments with energy (mostly a very driving rhythm style, not much lead) and harmonizes angelically with Emily.

Amy Guitar Harmonica

Amy Guitar Harmonica

Amy Mandolin

Amy Mandolin

Emily Saliers sings and plays guitar and banjo. Emily writes amazing songs, sings beautifully (with a broader range than Amy, as Emily hits some incredibly high notes, with wonderful clarity). Emily plays the guitar in many styles, from driving rhythm to fantastic finger picking, to high-quality leads, to a slide on one number as well.

Emily Guitar

Emily Guitar

Emily Banjo

Emily Banjo

Each of them could easily be a solo superstar, both in terms of their songwriting and their vocal and instrumental ability. But, like with Girlyman, the magic happens when they come together. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts (in both groups), and they are starting with pretty darn high quality parts/ingredients to begin with!

Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls

In addition to their typical brilliant blending of voices in harmony, last night they added a third person on the stage for the majority of the numbers.

Julie Wolf played electric keyboards, accordion and sang. Julie is excellent on the keyboards. She sang on roughly 1/2 of the numbers for at least a few phrases in support of Amy and Emily, and she was wonderful. The three voices worked perfectly together.

Julie Wolf Keyboards

Julie Wolf Keyboards

Julie Wolf Accordion

Julie Wolf Accordion

The Indigo Girls put out a new CD a few months ago called Poseidon and the Bitter Bug. They played roughly 1/2 of the CD last night. I really liked it a lot.

Their fans knew even their newest stuff cold. Quite a number of people sitting near us (we were in the third row) were singing out loud during every song. But, when the Girls started playing their more classic hits (not that we knew those either), significantly more people starting singing along out loud (without a request from the stage to do so).

In the bigger hits, during at least one verse (and of course during the chorus), Emily would invite the crowd to sing the verse instead of them, and the crowd obliged by belting it out at the top of their lungs.

When requested from the stage, it’s a very cool experience to hear the audience get to experience a sing-a-long with their heroes. When they are singing along with Amy and Emily at other times, it could have been distracting at best, and wildly annoying at worst. Amazingly, it was neither, as I was quite impressed with the quality of the voices of those who sat around us, and it all just worked!

They closed the set with Closer to Fine, which was beyond awesome, with the entire crowd screaming along for most of the song. They brought on the opening act (not the full band, just the star) to sing that song with them. It was wonderful (I’ll cover him shortly).

For the encore, which most of the crowd stood for, they did two numbers, closing the show with Galileo, which the crowd had been screaming for all night long. The opening act came out to join them for part of the encore as well!

So, I said above that the show was different, unexpected. Here are the two main things:

  • Very little banter. In fact, very little talking at all, though what little there was, was very warm. In fact, while Emily named Amy, and formally introduced Julie Wolf, no one returned the favor. Emily’s name wasn’t mentioned even once the entire evening!
  • They never used the same instrument on consecutive numbers! Their roadie, Sully, brought two replacement instruments up on the stage to hand to Amy and Emily after each number. That’s beyond incredible (and performed smoothly every time) because it meant that the Indigo Girls didn’t spend one second tuning between songs, as Sully clearly tuned off stage before handing the instruments to the Girls.

I’ve never been to a show where the performers don’t end up killing some serious time tuning. In the case of Girlyman, it’s an opportunity for some of the best banter you can imagine, so they turn it into a positive. For the Indigo Girls, you simply get that much more amazing music crammed into the evening, because they sang and played their hearts out for 100 minutes. Bravo!

On to the opening act, Matt Nathanson. We’ve only recently discovered Matt. One of our favorite groups is Sugarland. Sugarland is in heavy rotation on our iPod in the car. Lois can’t get enough of quite a number of their songs. On their Love on the Inside CD, the last song is called Come On Get Higher. As I’ve said many times, Lois cares who wrote the song, and in this case, it’s Matt Nathanson.

Sugarland’s cover of Come On Get Higher is fantastic, and we love listening to it over and over. But, it also made us go out and buy one of Matt’s CDs (before we had a clue we would get to see him live), called Some Mad Hope.

The fact that he was opening for the Indigo Girls last night was a super bonus for us, because we would have happily gone to see him headline somewhere. We would not have been disappointed.

Matt Nathanson

Matt Nathanson

He was awesome. He sings incredibly well, and plays the guitar well with a terrific energy. He writes great songs, often irreverent and tongue-in-cheek.

He’s incredibly funny, bantering aggressively (but cleverly as well) with the crowd throughout the show. Many people in the crowd knew all of his songs, and the two women in front of us actually came to see him, not the Indigo Girls, though they ended up hanging around and thoroughly enjoying the Girls as well.

Matt was supported by three other people on stage. Left-to-right:

Aaron Tap played guitar, electric keyboards and sang harmony with Matt. He’s an excellent guitarist, and sings wonderfully well with Matt (his voice is quite high, surprisingly so). He’s the only one who sang with Matt.

Aaron Tap

Aaron Tap

John Thomasson played the upright bass. Given the up-tempo sound, and power of the band, it was a little surprising to see an upright bass rather than an electric one, but John played it magnificently either way. Great bass lines all night long.

John Thomasson

John Thomasson

Konrad Meissner played the drums extremely well throughout the set.

Konrad Meissner

Konrad Meissner

They were on stage for roughly 45 minutes, and we would have been delighted to listen to them for hours longer. As I noted above, Matt (not the rest of the band) joined the Indigo Girls for Closer to Fine, and for part of the encore as well. That was a ton of fun too.

Matt Nathanson and Amy Ray

Matt Nathanson and Amy Ray

It was a magical evening, that we hope to relive as soon as we can. Unfortunately, it will be repeated in our home town in Central Park this coming Tuesday, but we’ll still be in Virginia, so we’ll miss it!

First a blessing, and then a few complaints, to round out our story.

Rain was called for throughout the evening, and it looked extremely threatening as we got on line. Amazingly, after perhaps three drops, it stopped, and the rain held off until we were driving back to Fredericksburg. Thank you!

As gorgeous as Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is, and as wonderful as the show was, they could stand to improve some things, especially as compared to Innsbrook After Hours from the night before.

Update: I was contacted by both Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and Haymaker Productions (who put on the show). Both were examples of superb customer service, and both made me feel that they are professionals who care about making each event as good as possible! Good answers to my specific points, not just “sorry, but please come again…”. Thanks to both organizations for taking the time!

Original complaints below, unedited, but I felt that the caveat above was important to insert before you get to the complaints!

First, they said that the gates would open at 5:30pm. They didn’t open until 5:50pm. Standing in the hot sun, for an indeterminate amount of time (yes, the sun came out after the few drops of rain stopped), is simply unpleasant.

Waiting on Line

Waiting on Line

To compound that anxiety, the web site said that Matt Nathanson would be on stage at 6pm. We all wanted to eat first, so by 5:50, it was looking and feeling dicey. In the end, the show didn’t start until 6:30pm, so we had plenty of time to eat, but even that was unexpected, since the show was called for 6pm.

Now the food. It was quite tasty, so after the fact, no complaints. But, dramatically less choice than the night before, and nothing that could easily be eaten in one hand (like a sandwich, burger, etc.). So, they should have a broader offering next time. Also, a salad for $6 felt like a rip-off, but otherwise, while a tad on the expensive side, it ended up doing the job nicely.

Only two more complaints! We had Gold Circle Seating (near the stage), which we paid a premium for. Lois called in advance, and we were told that even with this premium seating area, we needed to bring our own chairs. Fine, no problem. So, we dragged three heavy folding chairs and one bulky plastic one.

Of course, the information was wrong. The Gold Circle Seating supplied the seats. We looked like idiots holding our chairs. We ended up placing them on the side, and they got used by four strangers (at least someone benefitted from our schlepping!). Thankfully, they were all intact at the end of the show, and we got to schlep them back to the car, nice!

Last complaint. The ground was sopping wet (fine, no one can control that). But, after the show, over a thousand people were tramping through the soggy grass with practically no light whatsoever. It was a disaster in the making. At least no one near us fell over, potentially causing a major problem, and I’m hopeful that it didn’t happen to others that we were unaware of either.

After the show, we headed back to our friends’ house to pick up our car, and then hit the road back to the hotel in Fredericksburg. A fantastic two days in Richmond, with the better show capping it off last night!

Eddie From Ohio at Innsbrook After Hours

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On Wednesday (June 10th) four of us spent the evening at an outdoor concert at Innsbrook After Hours.

The title of this post is totally out of character with my other music posts. I almost always put only the headliner in the title, and cover the opening act(s) after covering the headliner. Eddie from Ohio was the opening act, and I will cover them first. If you make it to the end, you’ll know why…

Last year, a friend of mine told me that I would really like Eddie From Ohio. I went to their site, listened to the many songs they were playing there on their radio site. I immediately bought one of their CDs (downloaded from Amazon.com) called Looking Out The Fishbowl. I like the CD, but I actually liked the music I heard streaming on their site more, so I should have done some more research before picking one album. Some of the songs on this CD are still awesome, so I knew I liked them.

I was pretty darn sure that it was one of two people at Zope Corporation that originally turned me on to Eddie From Ohio. One night (still last year), we were driving back from a concert in Alexandria, VA with a couple of those Zope guys, and I thanked them for recommending Eddie From Ohio. They stared at me blankly, as neither of them were the ones. So, whoever you are, even though I don’t remember which one of my friends it was, thanks for telling me about them!

Eddie From Ohio has been playing together for 18 years, with many CDs and tons of touring along the way. They’re great! Seeing them live was fantastic. There are four of them in the band. Left to right on the stage:

Robbie Schaefer on lead vocals and guitar. Excellent in every respect. He sings beautifully, harmonizes exceptionally well, plays guitar really well, etc. He also has an incredible range, as he does all of the bass singing. He’d be capable of playing that role in a traditional barber shop quartet.

Robbie Schaefer

Robbie Schafer

Julie Murphy Wells on lead vocals. Wow. Julie has a set of pipes on her. She sings fantastically, and has excellent energy and stage presence as well. While she also bangs on the tambourine on occasion, I’ll clue you in that it’s really about her voice, not the little cymbals. 😉

Julie Murphy Wells

Julie Murphy Wells

Michael Clem on bass, harmonica and vocals. Very good bass player, sings excellent harmonies (which is a major part of the Eddie From Ohio sound!). Great personality, handling a lot of the bantering on the stage with the crowd, and with his band mates.

Michael Clem

Michael Clem

At the show, I mentioned to Lois that he reminds me of a brother of Brad Garrett (from Everybody Loves Raymond fame). But, after looking at his pictures more closely, we both now agree that he’s much more reminiscent of Eric Bogosian (of Law and Order: Criminal Intent fame).

Eddie Hartness on the drums and vocals. As with Michael, the vocals are just harmony with the others. When all four of them are singing together, which is often, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Eddie is a top-notch drummer as well, in all respects. In addition to a full drum set, he also has a Djembe and bongos, which he plays phenomenally.

Eddie Hartness

Eddie Hartness

In addition to making great music (especially the vocals), many of their songs range from irreverent to downright hysterical. They have a great time on the stage, and make sure to bring the audience along for the ride. For one example (there are too many to mention), check out the words to Tommy the Canexican. Enough said! 🙂

At the other end, they sang two gospel quality songs, so they do it all, and do it all well!

Eddie From Ohio came on stage at exactly 6:30pm (this was an outdoor concert) and played for exactly one hour. They were awesome. We would have been thrilled to see them continue on, even though at the time, Lois and I were really looking forward to seeing the headliners as well.

During intermission, Lois chatted with a few fans of theirs, getting advice on which additional CDs we should get. Lois headed over to the little tent and bought Quick, and Three Rooms (a 2-disc Live CD), which I’m listening to as I type this. Absolutely wonderful, great recommendations. She also bought Robbie Schaefer’s new solo CD (which they did one number from at the show).

The intermission lasted longer than normal (a minimum of 45 minutes), but finally, Blues Traveler took the stage. We own one of their CDs, Four, which came out in 1994. We probably bought it then, or soon thereafter, so we’ve known about Blues Traveler for a while, but we don’t know much of their music, and had never seen them live.

When I got my first MP3 player (a Creative Zen player, I think before iPods took over the world), I was very stingy about which songs I ripped from my vast CD collection. Ironically, the player had 20GB, which seemed plenty at the time, but my laptop hard drive, which I was syncing from, was much smaller than it is now. Also, I didn’t know that ripping at 96kbps would give me as much fidelity as my ears can differentiate.

The above paragraph is simply to inform you that in my selectivity, the only song from the Four CD that made it on to my MP3 player was Run Around. Lois and I listened to it on every car trip for many years, along with two songs by the Proclaimers. This isn’t to say the other songs on the CD aren’t good, but I honestly can’t tell you any longer, because even though I have tons of disk space now, I was never tempted to re-rip the CD.

Cutting to the chase, Blues Traveler are an extremely talented group of five guys, but it’s not really our speed (either because they’ve changed/grown, or because we never really knew them, and just liked a tiny sliver of their older stuff, unknowingly). Basically, they are a straight up hard rock group.

I like rock (mostly older stuff), and I could have somewhat enjoyed the show, but the three other people I was with weren’t enjoying themselves, and I wasn’t particularly either, so 30 minutes into their set, we called it a night and left.

Ironically, we left right after they played Run Around. I’m really glad I got to hear it live, but not because it blew me away (it didn’t). John Popper, the head of the group (lead vocals, and by far the best harmonica player I’ve ever seen live) played with the song to the point where it was not as recognizable as I would have liked.

John Popper

John Popper

To repeat something from the above paragraph, John Popper is frighteningly good on the harmonica. In fact, when he takes solos on the harmonica, at times, I could swear it was a blistering electric guitar lead, he’s that good! He sings really well too.

So, if I like Rock, and they’re all talented (which they really are), and John Popper sings well, and is a superstar on the harmonica, what didn’t I like?

Mostly that you can’t make out any of the words (you’re basically being screamed at), and each song sounds like the last one. This is the kind of music you really need to be familiar with, from a studio album, so that you are hearing it correctly in your head while they’re just bashing it out on the stage.

I’m sure this is exactly how Lois felt at the Allman Brothers Concert, whereas I was in heaven, having listened to those songs for most of my life. 😉

To repeat, I think Blues Traveler deliver 100% satisfaction to their fans, or fans of that style of music in general. There was genuine adoration throughout a giant audience at the show, and I’m sure many people thought we were nuts for leaving early.

Rain was called for all evening, so we were prepared for the worst (with four large umbrellas in tow). Amazingly, the rain never came. It was quite humid, but nothing to complain about given the alternative.

Here’s a shot of Eddie From Ohio during their sound check, so that you can get a sense of part of the grounds when they were empty. The seats near the stage were the premium tickets that we had (we sat in the second row):

Eddie From Ohio Sound Check

Eddie From Ohio Sound Check

A quick back story. We are/were working down at Zope this week and next. We left work early on Wednesday and went to the show with our local Richmond friends. Innsbrook really has their act together. They told us to line up at around 5pm, for gates that open at 6pm. We did that. Gates opened exactly at 6pm.

They had a variety of food stands open on the grounds, and we all liked our meals. The show started exactly at 6:30, even though the website said that Eddie From Ohio would likely be on stage at 6:45. Oops, I hope no one timed it to come then, therefore missing 15 minutes of great music.

Everything was clearly signed, and when Lois called to ask about the seating (the premium tickets mentioned above), she got extremely accurate information, which is much appreciated, as it’s rarely available. This will become more important in my next post about the show we saw the next night.

We had a great time, even though we left early. That allowed us to settle in at our friends’ house at a reasonable hour, and the men watched a Blue Ray version of Live and Let Die. It was so spoofish that I was laughing out loud for nearly the full two hours. I enjoyed it, but only as a comedy, not as a spy thriller.

Wes and Hadar’s Excellent Adventure

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Many more people participated in one or more of the activities I’m about to list. Only Wes and I enjoyed every single one of them, hence the accurate title. 🙂

Wes flew up on Thursday morning and I picked him up at Newark Airport. We headed straight to the city and met Lois and two friends for lunch at Westville. We met there at 11:30am because the place is tiny and fills up fast. Only one of the five of us had ever eaten there, so it was a new experience for the three four of us. The food was fantastic! I had the Caesar Salad with grilled chicken. Here are pics of three of the dishes, starting with mine:

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

Hot Dogs

Hot Dogs

After lunch, Lois, Wes and I relaxed and caught up with work/email, etc. Then we headed for our night at the Highline Ballroom to see our favorite group, Girlyman. That evening was covered extensively in this post.

The next morning, after breakfast, we headed up to the house. Wes had never seen it. We logged on there and all did our own thing until lunch. After lunch, Wes and I headed to see the new Star Trek movie. Lois was intending to come as well, but we had a problem with the dampers again, and she called the HVAC people and waited for an emergency technician to arrive. Sorry Lois!

Wes Hadar Living Room

Wes Hadar Living Room

Wes and I both enjoyed the movie. I would be lying if I said it was great in any way (other than the special effects, which were stunning), but it’s action-packed, moves at a very quick pace, is an inventive story, etc. I agree with the comments I had heard about the movie before I saw it, that you don’t need to be a trekkie to appreciate the movie, but that it pays homage to the original in so many ways that it’s extra satisfying to a real trekkie. Kudos to JJ Abrams and the entire creative staff of the movie for pulling off that difficult balancing act!

When we got home, we both logged on again, and  I finally got the blog post about Girlyman published. We then headed for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Tarrytown (that we had never eaten at before). It wasn’t our original destination for dinner, but the two places we wanted to eat at were 30+ minute waits (you know, in this economy, where supposedly no one can afford to eat out any longer…). We were quite disappointed in our meals, so this place won’t be visited again by us. Oh well…

After dinner, we walked 200 feet to our real destination for the evening, Tarrytown Music Hall. We had 10th row seats to see Steven Wright, one of my all-time favorite standup comics. This was my first time seeing him live, but I’ve been a fan ever since he burst on the scene (probably longer ago than many of you are alive). 😉

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

As is typical of most shows at Tarrytown Music Hall, he didn’t come on the stage until 8:25pm (scheduled time, 8pm). It’s annoying, but otherwise, we really love Tarrytown Music Hall. He was fantastic. He did his routine non-stop for 85 minutes.

For those of you don’t know, he’s the king of dead-pan one liners. For the most part, they are based on word play. He never (OK, rarely) smiles, except for specific effect. In other words, his own jokes don’t appear to make him laugh (and that works really well for his type of material). He only told one vulgar joke, and I’d bet that none of the kids that were in the audience had a clue that it was vulgar!

He used the F-word perhaps 10 times, so in general, his act is pretty clean. He speaks softly, so the audience trained themselves (incredibly quickly) to come to a dead silence seconds after laughing hysterically, for fear of missing the next joke!

Here are but two (of hundreds of) examples of the style of humor that no one masters quite like Steven Wright:

I have a friend who has a stained glass eye.

24-Hour Banking. I don’t have that kind of time.

No two jokes are connected. Topics fly all over the place. It’s really funny to hear delayed laughter around you, when you realize that people are trying hard to process a joke, and finally get it, a few seconds too late. 😉

We had a great time there. Afterward, we drove back to the city and watched a bit of Conan O’Brien in his new gig as host of the Tonight Show. I also watched the first two nights on Hulu, and I think Conan is doing a marvelous job in his new time slot. Congrats Conan!

On Saturday, after breakfast and the obligatory emailing, Wes and I met Laura in the lobby and went on one of my patented long walks up the East River. It was the nicest day of 2009 in NYC (so far), and our walk was spectacular in every regard. It took us two hours and 10 minutes, and we loved every second of it (or at least I did!).

After a shower, Wes, Laura, Lois and I grabbed a cab and headed to Five Napkin Burger for lunch. None of us had ever been there before. So, what made me pick it for lunch? I subscribe to Fred Wilson’s blog (one of the top VC’s in NYC) and read every one of his posts religiously. He often writes about his wife, who blogs under the moniker The Gotham Gal. For whatever reason, I had never clicked through to her site.

The other day, Fred blogged that The Gothan Gal had updated the design of her site, and he was very pleased with the result. That’s the first time I clicked through. I liked her writing style and started reading a bunch of her posts. Then I came to this one about Five Napkin Burger! I decided to give it a shot. I’m very glad I did, as all four of us really enjoyed our burgers (all different kinds). Mine was an Italian Turkey Burger. Yum!

From there, the four of us walked back to Times Square, and went to see Angels and Demons. Thoroughly enjoyable. Substantially better movie than The DaVinci Code. We walked back to the apartment after that.

While I caught up on some email, Laura and Wes walked the few blocks to Red Mango and picked up frozen yogurt for a light dinner for the four of us. It was my first taste of it, and I liked it a lot. Chris (Laura’s husband), who was at the dentist while we were lunching and enjoying Angels and Demons, joined us for dinner, which he picked up for himself from the brand new Just Salad a block away from the apartment.

After dinner, the five of us grabbed two cabs and went to see the show Altar Boys at New World Stages. New World Stages is a fantastic space/building, a block off Broadway, that houses seven smaller theaters (Altar Boyz can seat 363 people). All of the shows are quirky (or at least have very quirky and provocative titles and posters). Wes picked this one.

Altar Boyz

Altar Boyz

Wes, Lois and I really loved the show. I caught Laura and Chris chuckling a few times, but I suspect (strongly) that they didn’t like it as much as the rest of us did. It’s very borderline whether any audience member will consider the show one of the following:

  1. Irreverent, but still uplifting and respectful of Christianity
  2. Blasphemous
  3. Some mixture of the two

Personally, I choose #1, with no hesitation, though I have no trouble accepting and understanding that many people could legitimately believe #2 is more accurate. Without a doubt, it’s blasphemous in it’s caricature of Boy Bands. But, in getting you to laugh at that, I believe it still very effectively gets across a message of the best of Christianity’s teachings. It turns out that Laura and her family made the show a birthday present for Lois, and Lois loved and appreciated every second of it!

Thanks M&M’s. 😉

We walked home from the show. When we reached the apartment building, I made the scandalous suggestion that Wes and I go across the street to my favorite Mexican restaurant, El Rio Grande, for a nightcap. Laura and Chris decided to join us as well. Technically, the outside was closed already, but we’re regulars there, and they were kind enough to sneak us in. The inside was still officially open, but it was the most beautiful night, so we were glad to sit outside.

Three of us enjoyed frozen margaritas, and the fourth wisely picked a Banana Pinata for dessert, that the rest of us got to taste (and swoon over!). We then sat on our deck for another 40 minutes, soaking in the remainder of a perfect day.

This morning, we dropped Wes off at Newark Airport and headed down for our usual road trip down I95. Memories of a perfect weekend (uh, I mean, excellent adventure) still linger!

Wes, thanks so much for making the trek up from NC to spend such quality time with us! 🙂

Girlyman at Highline Ballroom

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For those keeping score, and I know that there are scores of you doing so, 😉 last night was the 11th time we’ve seen Girlyman perform live (the second time at the Highline Ballroom).

In addition to owning their four CDs, we also purchase the recordings of each show we see live (and yes, I listen to them all!). If you don’t know Girlyman, you might think that after all of the listening on my iPod, and seeing them live, that we’re merely groupies (stalkers?), because what could be new and fresh for us in a Girlyman show?

Well, you’d be wrong, but if you’ve ready any of my previous (lengthy) posts about Girlyman, you would have chosen your response more wisely. 😉

First, there were the usual surprises. By that I mean that Girlyman introduced three new songs last night (at least, perhaps it was four, but I’m pretty sure it was three). One, a new song by Ty, was sung solo by her, with Doris and Nate leaving the stage completely. That’s a first for any of the shows we’ve seen.

Ty

Ty

Most of the shows we’ve seen in the past year have had at least one song we’ve never heard before. That alone makes it worth it for us to show up, and order our live CD, so that we can capture that song before the new CD hits the stands (more on that in a minute). Of course, some of those new songs may not even make the new CD, so we still want the live version.

In addition, Girlyman has a pretty big catalog by now, so each show has some mystery to it in terms of what they’re in the mood to play, or what people will call for in the request section. Lately (as I’ve written from the past few shows), they’ve surprised with some oldies but goodies. Last night they picked another one that we’ve never heard them play live: Even If.

The Highline Ballroom is a gorgeous, large club. It can seat 400. The sound system is excellent, and a majority of the seats (dinner table style seating) have good views of the stage. The shows at Joe’s Pub are more intimate, but the vibe of a larger audience at Highline, coupled with the excellent sound system, makes this a wonderful venue for Girlyman.

Girlyman really had their vocals humming last night. All three were in good voice, and as the songs built momentum (a trademark of many Girlyman numbers), their power really came through, and their voices remained crystal clear even at full volume.

Doris

Doris

Nate

Nate

On stage, they announced that they just finished recording their new CD. They also just finished mixing it. Their relief was palpable. My guess is that we’ll all have our sweaty little hands on the CD in late July, or early August, but what do I know…

In what I ascribe as at least partially caused by that milestone, there were some more muffs last night than usual in a Girlyman show. In what is completely typical of all Girlyman shows, those muffs (e.g., starting a song while a guitar was still out of tune) were handled with humor and class. In all cases, they restarted the song, and (of course) nailed it the second time. That too is one of the joys of live music, being part of the experience.

Newcomers most likely thought they were funny throughout, and they were, but the humor was a little choppier than usual, not as crisp and incisive. Still, I laughed a bunch, and since the music is the top billing, any laughs are a wonderful bonus.

Another result of the exhaling process is that they were willing to entertain more requests than they typically do (though they were very generous at the Barns at Wolf Trap as well). In addition to satisfying many people in the audience, it also caused the show to be a little longer than usual, which was very welcome (yes, I could listen to them all night!). The encore ended up being two more requests, making it something like five songs requested by the audience during this show.

Girlyman

Girlyman

In total, they were on stage for roughly 105 minutes of wonderful music and good (but not their best) banter.

Opening for them was Katie Sawicki, accompanied by Adam Sweeney. This was the fourth time that Adam has accompanied Katie, and both Lois and Wes commented to me afterward that Katie should continue touring with him.

Katie Sawicki

Katie Sawicki

Adam Sweeney

Adam Sweeney

For the most part, we’ve been very impressed with the groups that open for Girlyman (that is, when it’s their choice as to who opens). The one serious exception (and it may not have been their choice) was the only other time we’ve been to the Highline Ballroom, when the opening act was too much of a mismatch (style-wise) to Girlyman.

Katie Sawicki was an exceptionally good match to Girlyman. She finger-picks the guitar beautifully, both electric and acoustic. Adam plays banjo, guitar and accordion, and sings harmony very nicely with Katie. She did one song solo.

Katie has a lovely voice, thoughtful lyrics, and a very gentle style on stage. If I had a single complaint, it might be that she could have sung a tad louder, or they could have cranked the sound board just a tad. If she had to err, she erred on the correct side, as too loud would not have been welcome.

The only freaky thing to me was that Katie is the doppelganger of a very good friend of ours (who happens to live in Atlanta, where Girlyman reside) even down to the facial expressions. So, I kept thinking that our very dear friend was on stage singing to us. I got over it, and enjoyed her music, but it still was a very strange sensation.

Katie played for about 45 minutes, and a number of people told me after the show that they were extremely surprised and pleased with how much they enjoyed her performance. I guess most people have very low expectations from an opening act…

There’s always a back story to any of our nights out, and usually a Girlyman back story is longer. Last night was no exception. We’ve seen them in NY a few more times than in VA (seven in NY, four in VA), but we tend to bring a larger crowd with us in VA, partially because of the venues, and partially because scheduling a bunch of NY friends on the same night is often an insurmountable challenge.

If you’ve been reading this space for two years, then you know that ever since I accidentally discovered Girlyman in August 2007, I’ve been on a mission to introduce them to as many people as I can. One of the most effective ways of doing that is by bringing people to see them live. Most enjoy the music and become fans. A few have become fanatics for the band (very gratifying). It’s the rarest person that doesn’t really care for their music after the show, but that’s happened too, and I survived. Whew.

Given that last night was in a large venue with excellent table seating, and that we knew about it well in advance, we decided to try and break the record of the number of people we had brought to a Girlyman show in the past. Our record was 15 people at the Birchmere, this past October.

Two months before the show, I sent out a large blind distribution inviting people to be our guests for the show. Sparing you the many twists and turns along the way, we ended up purchasing 20 tickets, and due to some last-minute personal issues, ended up bringing 19 (including us) to the show. Most of the tables at the Highline Ballroom seat six people, so we took three of them and squeezed a seventh at the head of one of the tables, right up against the stage.

We had lots of food, drink and merriment for the two hours leading up to Katie, and it was a blast catching up with some people that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like. I think I can honestly say that everyone in our party had a delightful evening, in terms of company, food, drink, and of course, the show itself!

We broke our record (and have set a new bar, which we hope to leap over on October 11th, back at the Birchmere again) and created at least a handful of new fans (hopefully more).

A fabulous evening all around. Thanks to everyone who attended, and to Girlyman for putting on such a great show! 🙂

I have to conclude with an incredible small world story. One of the couples that attended last night was married last year on 08/08/08 (I blogged about that wedding too). Another couple that attended last night is getting married this year, on 10/10. They had never met before last night.

In introducing themselves, and getting to know each other a bit, they discovered that the pastor that married the 08/08/08 couple will be marrying the 10/10/09 couple as well. That this tidbit is true is strange and cool enough. That they would separately be invited by us, chat to each other, and figure that out so quickly is a little other-worldly to me. 🙂