August, 2009:

ambeR Rubarth at Joe’s Pub

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I am being respectful, and writing ambeR Rubarth the way she capitalizes it herself, so no, I didn’t make a mistake. 🙂 She is soon to release a new CD, Good Mystery, and last night had a CD Release party show at Joe’s Pub in NYC, which we attended. You can hear some of the songs from that CD and a few from her previous work at her MySpace page.

In addition to her solo career, ambeR is also part of a duo called The Paper Raincoat. I wrote about them extensively when we accidentally discovered them opening for Colin Hay at the Canal Room. We were extremely impressed with both ambeR and Alex Wong (the other half of The Paper Raincoat).

Right after that show, I friended both of them on MySpace, as well as The Paper Raincoat. I’ve since followed both ambeR and The Paper Raincoat on Twitter: @ambeRRubarth and @Paper_Raincoat respectively. As a result, I saw a Tweet that ambeR was releasing a new solo CD. I was aware that The Paper Raincoat is also releasing a much anticipated CD, and now I know that their release party will be at Joe’s Pub, on October 6th at 9:30pm, and we bought tickets to that last night!

We pre-ordered the new CD (in a Collector’s Edition!) immediately, and bought tickets to the show. We knew there would be surprise guests, but we didn’t realize just how many.

OK, the intro has already been too long. So,  I have to skip to the bottom line first, before I lose all of you, and then I’ll add a lot more detail.

Last night’s show was one of the best concerts we’ve ever attended!

Read that again, especially if you know us. We attend a ton of live shows, so it’s not like we just went gaga because we finally saw someone perform in person!

To make the above statement even more amazing (to me), ambeR (and friends) were on stage for just about an hour (not a very long show by any measure), and yet, it was completely satisfying, in every regard. Of course, I would have loved another hour or two (or three, or four), but I didn’t feel let down in any way whatsoever.

On to the specifics of the show. For the most part, ambeR had three people supporting her throughout most of the show. Tony Maceli on bass, Austin Nevins on electric guitar and Billy Hawn on drums. I’ll cover them all after I gush some more about ambeR.

First and foremost, ambeR Rubarth is a superb songwriter. On any level that you want to take that statement. Her lyrics are moving, clever, authentic, wonderful. Her melodies are varied, interesting, lovely, terrific.

Her guitar playing is excellent (she could do a solo show, accompanying herself on the guitar, and we would be completely satisfied). She is an incredible pianist (again, she could perform a solo show, accompanying herself just on the piano, and we would be completely satisfied).

ambeR Rubarth Guitar

ambeR Rubarth Guitar

ambeR Rubarth Piano

ambeR Rubarth Piano

And yet, with many people on the stage at the same time, the arrangements were fantastic, complex, harmonious, subtle, effective, etc. ambeR arranged the entire show, except for the part that Threeds participated in, which they arranged. Add producing/arranging to the long list of strengths/talents that she possesses.

Finally, her voice. It’s lovely, with good range, and excellent delivery of the appropriate emotion at the appropriate time. She can be wistful, soulful, smokey, vulnerable, flirty, bluesy, jazzy, rock ‘n rolly and certainly, fully folksy. And, given her songwriting talents, she most certainly exercised all of the above during her set.

Tony Maceli was spectacular on the upright bass, playing a number of styles, including using a bow, and even slapping with the bow to achieve a sound I wasn’t used to hearing with a bass. He also played the electric bass on at least one number. He’s a star!

Austin Nevins was solid all night. I suspect he’s better than I realize, as he played more of a supporting role. He was very good, a perfect fit of what was expected of him last night, just not flashy enough for me to really get a sense of how good he is when he lets loose.

Billy Hawn was wonderful on the drums (including Djembe). He was tucked in the far right corner, diagonally opposite us, so I couldn’t see him except for a glimpse now and again, but his beat was excellent, and he never overwhelmed the mostly mellow sound throughout the show.

It doesn’t end there. ambeR promised a bunch of surprise guests and she delivered. I already mentioned Alex Wong, who joined on the first song, and then on a few more toward the end, including the encore.

Amber Rubarth and Alex Wong

Amber Rubarth and Alex Wong

Opening the show was a trio called Threeds. I’ll come back to them later. For now, I want to mention that all three of them came back on stage to play with ambeR during her second number, and they were great (as was the song, and the arrangement that included Threeds!). For two other numbers, Katie Scheele of Threeds joined alone. They/she added a wonderful dimension to ambeR’s set.

Paul Brill joined to sing harmony on one number. Very nice.

Austin Nevins - Amber Rubarth - Paul Brill - Tony Maceli

Austin Nevins - Amber Rubarth - Paul Brill - Tony Maceli

Vienna Teng joined for a stunningly beautiful version of In the Creases. Alex Wong, who co-wrote the song with ambeR before they formed The Paper Raincoat, joined as well. The three took turns singing lead (Alex kicked it off), and all three harmonized together. Vienna played the piano (her specialty).

Vienna Teng

Vienna Teng

Ironically, the night before, Vienna Teng was the headliner at the Highline Ballroom. We’ve never seen her live. I discovered her through The Paper Raincoat, and really wanted to see her perform. I tried to rearrange our schedule to make it there on Thursday, but couldn’t pull off the minor miracle. I was so happy to get to see and hear her (however briefly) last night, as I now know I need to go out of my way to ensure I see one of her full shows!

Rosi Golan joined to sing with ambeR on two numbers (including the encore). I admit that I simply couldn’t hear her differentiated from the rest of the sounds (she only sang harmony, never lead), so I don’t have an opinion. Sorry!

Adam Levy (pronounced Levee) closed the show with ambeR, just the two of them, performing a song they co-wrote. Lovely. Adam is a good guitarist, and has a very good voice as well. He also returned to sing during the encore.

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy

Chel O’Reilly joined for the encore, to sing along with the all-star cast. I couldn’t make out her voice individually either, so nothing really to report. Sorry.

Austin Nevins - Chel O'Reilly - Adam levy - Rosi Golan - Tony Maceli - Alex Wong

Austin Nevins - Chel O'Reilly - Adam levy - Rosi Golan - Tony Maceli - Alex Wong

Simply a stunning show, all around. Kudos to everyone involved, in particular, the extremely talented ambeR Rubarth!

Threeds opened the show, and played a varied 20-minute set. Threeds is three oboists, Kathy Halvorson, Mark Snyder and Katie Scheele. In addition to the oboe, Katie also played the English Horn. I was impressed by the breadth of styles they covered in such a short set, all extremely well done. They are very tight together, and their music delighted the crowd.

Threeds

Threeds

It was an incredible treat to have them come back on stage with ambeR and have them add such richness to the otherwise rich sound that ambeR and her crew and guests produced!

Thank you all for an evening we will never forget!

In addition to the performers all putting on such a great show, last night was one of the best audiences we’ve been part of. Bravo to all of you as well! 🙂

Forty Years or One Day?

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This was a very big year for two of our dearest friends. In fact, the past 40 days alone have seen a number of milestones and celebrations.

The wife just had a big birthday (had a zero at the end), their first grandchild turned one, the husband had a birthday, and to cap it off, they just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary!

For her birthday, the husband and their kids pulled off a fantastic surprise party in Richmond. More than 100 people were there to share in the festivities, including Lois and me. You would think that this would be enough, and for most husbands, it would be.

But, this is no ordinary couple. Everyone who knows them, loves them, no exceptions. That’s true of them as individuals, and as a couple. That would be extraordinary (and it is), except that it’s topped by their love for each other. That’s why I titled this post Forty Years or One Day?

If you met them today, you might think that they met recently and fell madly in love and you are getting to witness that wonderful (typically all-too-short) period when a couple’s love is so obvious, and explodes all around, because it can’t be contained.

So, while they make sure to show their love each and every day, they also enjoy making a big deal out of milestones (not just big ones). 40 years of marriage certainly qualifies as a milestone, and as a big one at that.

The husband decided to to craft a surprise trip to NY for his bride. Our first hint (which I missed, completely, even after the fact) was a Direct Message (DM) via Twitter, from their son, asking me for the address of The Peking Duck House (our favorite restaurant in NYC).  I replied immediately, and didn’t think about it.

Minutes later, Lois got an email from the husband, asking the same thing, but also explaining why, and inviting us to join them for dinner (this past Sunday). We were scheduled to be at Zope this week, but we cut our trip short and returned to be a part of this incredible experience.

The Duck House was just one part of the surprise trip. I’ll cover the rest in a sec. But first, it occurred to us that while the husband was doing all of the surprising, we might help pull off a bit of a surprise for him as well. Lois reached out to both of his kids and invited them to come up and be at the Duck House to surprise both of them as well.

Both couples had commitments for that night, but the son was able to shift his. Unfortunately, the daughter’s commitment involved five other couples, and was impossible to move.

The adventure began this past Sunday (their actual anniversary day). When they awoke, he told her that she needed to pack a bag, but he wouldn’t tell her where they were going. When they got to the airport in Richmond, he still didn’t tell her, so it wasn’t until they were at the gate that she new it was NYC.

When they landed, they went straight to the hotel. From there, he took her shopping for a new engagement ring. After ring shopping, he took her to see Wicked on Broadway. After the show, he suggested they eat at their favorite NY restaurant, the Duck House. Obviously, she didn’t resist.

Now we need to catch up a bit with the parallel story. Roughly the same time that the happy couple was heading to the airport in Richmond, their son, daughter-in-law and grandchild were doing the same thing. Luckily (and semi-accidentally!), they were on a different airline, flying in to a different airport in NYC.

We picked up the kids at LaGuardia and headed to our apartment. We had a wonderful lunch with Laura and Chris as well (who had also been invited on that first day to join for dinner).

When the folks were at Wicked, the kids went to their hotel and arranged to have a hand-written, wonderful gift, from both of their children, placed into their room. They also arranged for Champagne and Strawberries to be delivered later that night to the room. Awesome!

While they were out, we got to play proxy grandparents. Lois fed the baby, and I put her down for a nap. Hadar, what did you put a one-year-old on/in to sleep safely? I’m glad you asked! A week earlier, Lois and I borrowed a crib from a friend of ours, and dropped it off at the apartment on our way to Zope. I set it up the night before our friends came to town, so we were all prepared, Mickey Mouse bedding included! 🙂

Feeding Time

Feeding Time

The Crib

The Crib

Shortly before 6pm, we all headed up to the Duck House. The happy couple arrived via bicycle rickshaw about 10 minutes later. What an incredible surprise. Of course, the mom started crying (but that wasn’t a surprise to us, which is why I said of course). 😉 The dad was surprised too, which was the whole point! Don’t believe me that the mom cried? Here you go:

Mama Crying

Mama Crying

One other person there was surprised. The baby was so happy to see grandma, as you can plainly see:

Surprised Both Ways

Surprised Both Ways

Earlier, Lois and daughter-in-law bought a fantastic cake and had the appropriate Happy Anniversary decorated on top. Yummy.

Aside from (understandably) missing their daughter, one other couple was missing from the festivities. Laura’s folks, who introduced us to this wonderful family, and introduced us to the Duck House as well! They were in South Africa finishing up a long and well earned vacation.

Does that distance stop our crowd? Nope! Even though it was 1:30am in South Africa, the husband (correctly) insisted that we get them to join the celebration in real-time. So, he pulled out his blackberry, and called South Africa. He put the blackberry on speaker phone, and we all had a long and wonderful conversation with our missing friends. Hopefully, they fell back asleep. 😉

We had our typically amazing meal. Here are all of us (minus Lois, the photographer) outside:

All of Us

All of Us

We all walked back to our apartment and relaxed and laughed and caught up on our deck. We encouraged the couple to leave a little earlier than they otherwise might have, because we all knew that there were more surprises awaiting them in the room. 🙂

The rest of us stayed up way too late, but had a great time, so the only complaint is how tired we still feel, days later…

The next morning we had a great breakfast on the deck with the kids.

Deck Breakfast

Deck Breakfast

Later that morning, they went to meet their folks to help finalize the ring selection. They then had lunch together and then headed over to FAO Schwartz for story time for the baby. From there, the folks headed to the airport, and back to Richmond.

The kids had a later flight, so they returned to the apartment. After relaxing a bit, we took over the proxy grandparent duties again, and guarded over the baby while she took a long nap (NYC is very tiring, at all ages!), and the parents got to explore the city a bit. At 6pm they got in a car and headed for the airport.

A whirlwind, but an absolutely wonderful one. We are blessed to be a part of their extended family and were thrilled to be able to arrange our schedule to fully participate.

The baby captured how we all felt about the occasion:

Smiling Baby

Smiling Baby

Want to know what we think of the bride? Lois and I wrote the lyrics to this song (music and vocals by Jack Kapanka) and her daughter and son-in-law put together this amazing slide show to go with the song: