December, 2009:

Rachael Sage and Michelle Citrin at Joe’s Pub

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The world puts out breadcrumbs and we follow them. Some people don’t notice, others notice but don’t care.

One of the more intense paths that we’ve followed began with Alex Berger posting a YouTube video from a concert we attended. After establishing a Twitter and Facebook relationship with Alex, we finally met in person at a Rockwood Music Hall concert. We then attended a Livestrong fundraiser. Alex arranged for all of the musicians who played that night.

The last musician of the night (not including Alex’s encore) was Michelle Citrin. Her motto: “lil grrl, with a big sound.” It’s very true. She has an incredible voice, produced from a 5’1” frame. Michelle was opening for, and listed as a special guest for someone we hadn’t heard of before, Rachael Sage, at the 9:30pm show last night at Joe’s Pub.

Since I wanted to see Michelle perform a longer set, I was more than happy to gamble on the headliner, Rachael Sage.

Michelle is an Internet/YouTube sensation. Last year she released a video called 20 Things To Do With Matzah. It has already been viewed over 1.2 million times! Trust me, I know how hard it is to get those kind of numbers. I recently put up a YouTube video of a Tonight Show Tribute Song. I think it’s pretty cool, but it has only been viewed 348 times as of this writing…

Michelle had excellent stage presence and her voice was as incredible as I had remembered. She does a very good job accompanying herself on the guitar. I was somewhat surprised that her lyrics/songs didn’t grab me. I was impressed with a line here and there, but overall, I was much more attuned to her voice and guitar.

MichelleCitrin

Michelle played for 24 minutes. After a 6-minute break, Rachael Sage took the stage with a 4-piece band behind her.

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Rachael had the stage decked out in holiday style (both Hanukkah and Christmas). The band wore reindeer hats and Rachael was festively attired all around. She played electric keyboards very well, and sang and entertained the crowd with stories and commentary.

Rachael is a very talented performer and very funny as well. She was in complete control of the crowd from the second she stepped on stage. While most of her songs have a comic edge to them, she also threw in a few more serious numbers.

RachaelSage

Her band (The Sequins) struck just the right notes to accompany her perfectly, both musically and visually (meaning, they were in keeping with the lighthearted holiday spirit).

Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

Dave Eggar played the cello and sang a bit. His play all night was outstanding, as was his impish spirit. Rachael mentioned that Dave has played with Coldplay. As impressive as that sounds, you really need to peruse Dave’s Wikipedia Page. He was a child prodigy (appearing on Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera at age seven!). He has played with an amazing assortment of top stars/bands, including The Who!

DaveEggar

I didn’t catch the name of the person sitting behind Rachael. I thought it was Wes, but that’s probably not right. He played percussion. Sorry!

UnkownPercussionist

Quinn played the drums. He was good throughout the set. Apparently, he had trouble getting into NYC for the show. Thankfully for us, he made it. 🙂 He was obscured from our view the entire set. This is the only shot Lois got of him. Obviously, he can still safely commit a crime in our jurisdiction, as no one will recognize him from this mug shot… 😉

Quinn

Russ Johnson played the trumpet. He was excellent. He played most of the set with a trumpet cup to muffle his sound. It was perfect, as it created a smoky sound to back up Rachael, without ever overpowering her (something a trumpet can do all too easily).

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Seth Glier was a special guest. Seth played the accordion and glockenspiel and sang with Rachael as well. He did all of those very well!

SethGlier

Michelle Citrin came out for two guest appearances as well. On the second number, Michelle played Finger Cymbals to great effect!

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A very pleasant evening indeed!

P.S. While entering Joe’s Pub last night Lois snapped this photo of a Techno Snowman. Right up my alley (and theirs…): 😉

TechnoSnowman

ambeR Rubarth at NAU NYC

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In yesterday’s post I mentioned that ambeR Rubarth had just returned to NYC from a long tour. She didn’t take any time to rest up, following her guest appearance at Alex Berger’s show with a show of her own last night.

ambeRRubarth

Amber was accompanied by Tony Maceli and Adam Christgau, and the three of them performed an excellent 50 minute set at the NAU NYC store.

TonyMacelli AdamChristgau

The band was set up in the corner of the first floor of the store:

BandSetup

I’ve written about all three a number of times, and all of my previous praises applied to last night’s performance. In addition to loving the entire set, ambeR played Wish We’d Gotten Drunk which we had never heard her play live before (it’s on her new CD), which tickled both of us.

Toward the end of the set, I was thinking that I was really in the mood to hear Novacaine (from her New Green Lines CD). A minute later ambeR announced that she was going to play one last song. It was Novacaine. Bingo! 🙂

Rather than repeat how awesome ambeR is (there, I did it anyway), I’m going to use the rest of this post to discuss the venue and the life of a musician, rather than this particular show.

The link above is to a particular store. The chain is NAU, an eco-friendly clothing company. Prior to yesterday, I had never heard of this brand.

In case you hadn’t heard, times are tough all over for a lot of people. Retailing and musicians are near the top of that list. Discretionary spending is hard to come by. How do you get by, or even flourish, in such times?

Creativity and hustle!

I’ve written about a number of creative things that ambeR and The Paper Raincoat have done to promote themselves and get their CDs pre-sold and then actually sold. Being willing to sing in a clothing store is creative as well, but more importantly, it’s true hustle.

It shows that ambeR won’t miss an opportunity to connect with existing fans, broaden her fan base (after all, eco-friendly shoppers are probably a high overlap with the type of people who would be attracted to ambeR’s music) and keep her name associated with cool initiatives.

It gets even more interesting (to me) from NAU’s perspective. First, the particular store itself. Officially, it’s called: NAU Pop-Up Shop in NYC. Basically, they took an empty space in SoHo, did some super-fast renovation, and opened a store on a temporary basis. Yes, temporary!

I usually associate these temporary stores with seasonal goods, usually Halloween items. Here, it appears to be an opportunistic and very creative way to create buzz, entrench the brand, and of course, make some sales along the way.

NAU-NYC

This store opened in early November, and will be closing on New Year’s Eve! So, how does a retailer maximize their investment over such a short period of time?

Creativity!

They turn the space into a happening, causing people to show up that would otherwise not even be aware of the store’s existence, let alone go out on a frigid winter night to shop there.

They do this by announcing regular store hours that end at 7pm each night. Then, on many nights (but not all), they have local musicians, artists, and other complementary functions, scheduled from 7-10pm. This causes buzz associated with their brand, but it also causes others (the artists, musicians, organizations) to market and bring people into the store.

Amber tweeted that she’d be at NAU. We (and other fans) showed up (happily). At the same time, an organization called Green Drinks International was holding one of their get-togethers in the downstairs lounge.

Drinks (presumably for the Green Drinks gathering) were supplied by Sixpoint Craft Ales. People who came for the Green Drinks meetup ended up hearing ambeR. People who came to hear ambeR tasted their first Sixpoint Ale.

While NAU achieved some brand building at the least, hopefully, they sold more merchandise during hours that they otherwise would have been closed (certainly, the cash registers were ringing up sales throughout the evening, and the flow of people browsing the racks of clothing was steady).

The point is that in these tough times, if you stick to tried and true formulas, you’re best case scenario is a decline in business. If you are creative, and hustle, you might fail, but you’ve improved your odds of success at the same time.

Kudos to all involved in last night’s endeavor. May they all prosper as a result!

P.S. Speaking of hustle, Adam Christgau ran out to play with another group in the Village. This time, instead of drums, he was going to play bass. No rest for the weary (and talented!). 🙂

Alex Berger at Rockwood Music Hall

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We’ve seen Alex Berger perform twice before, but last night at Rockwood Music Hall was our first time seeing him headline a full set with a full band. The show started at 11pm, which is way past our bedtime, but Alex is well worth today’s exhaustion.

AlexBergerEntering

After the show we finally got to meet another friend and fan of Alex, and she said exactly what I was thinking: “Alex is an old soul!” So true.

Alex has a great voice, plays the piano wonderfully, and writes beautiful songs. Most are from a throw-back era of great jazz singers who wend their way through heart-tugging lyrics and sophisticated melodies, highlighting their vocal and musical chops along the journey. Hence the term “old soul”.

AlexBergerPiano

Alex has completed work on his soon-to-be released CD Snow Globe, but still needs some help in getting the final package put together and delivered to his eagerly awaiting fans.

We’ve already helped by being the first to pre-order the CD and then being first to contribute when he announced the final push on his Kickstarter Page. As of this minute, he’s less than $600 from his goal of $3,173 to get the CD released. Please help out, however much you can. 11 days left to make this a reality!

Last night Alex was accompanied by a very talented group of musicians. Sitting left-to-right on stage:

Marika Hughes on cello. I am pretty sure that Marika also plays on the Snow Globe CD, so seeing her perform live added a bit more excitement to finally getting our hands on the CD in a few months. She was wonderful throughout the set.

MarikaHughes

Tony Maceli on electric and upright bass. Tony is wonderful. This was our third time seeing him perform, the other two times were both in support of amber Rubarth. He has the right touch on the bass and complements whoever he is playing with.

TonyMacelli

Adam Christgau on drums. I’ve written about Adam many times, the most recent time being his performance this past Friday night at Canal Room in support of Ian Axel and Greg Holden.

AdamChristgau

As always, Adam proved my thesis last night, that he can play any style to match the performer he’s accompanying. Alex’s Jazzy/Bluesy set called for an entirely different drumming style than Ian Axel’s energy-laden pop-fest. Adam is always up to the task!

Alex brought two very special guests on stage with him. Amber Rubarth came up to sing a duet with him. Gorgeous! She just got back into town that day after a long tour down the East Coast and into the mid-West. I am impressed that she had the energy to come out that late and sound so good!

ambeRRubarth

In a small-world coincidence, we just got our copies of amber and Adam Levy’s new EP in the mail yesterday. We listened to it right before heading to Rockwood. Nice timing! 🙂

Martin Rivas joined Alex for the last two numbers of his set. Martin played guitar (really well!). That freed Alex to leave the piano tucked in the corner of the stage and come out and just sing the last number. It was great!

MartinRivasGuitar

AlexBergerSinging

Alex joined in a tradition of baking cookies and brownies for his holiday audience. Martin Rivas has been doing this for a while (I think) and the two of them baked up a storm for all of us. Lois was kind enough to let me sample (devour) some, and they were awesome! I bet the place would have been even more crowded if people knew what they were missing in the dessert department! 😉

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It’s not clear whether Alex had to pay Adam in cash. It appears he would have happily performed for cookies and brownies. 😉

AdamCookie AdamBrownie

Alex has a lot of fans. The place was packed, on a cold Monday night during a holiday week, for an 11pm show. Well done!

When Alex’s set was over, Martin Rivas took the stage. We really wanted to stay and hear him, but alas, we were turning into midnight pumpkins, and had to run out to hit the sack. We’ll look for a Martin Rivas show as soon as possible.

MartinRivas

Cherish the Ladies Christmas Show at Towne Crier Cafe

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Last night we finally got to scratch a 20-month itch, seeing Cherish the Ladies again in concert. They performed a Christmas show at Towne Crier Cafe, the place where we first saw them in April 2008, covered in detail in this post.

We love Cherish the Ladies (CTL), we love Towne Crier Cafe and we love Christmas music. A win/win/win, not just in theory, but executed perfectly last night, even though the Nor’easter tried to thwart CTL from making it (they were in Providence, RI the night before, and were nearly snowed in!).

Every member of CTL is a world-class musician. You should really look them up individually, their accomplishments are impressive. Together, they make magic. In addition to playing traditional Irish music (and last night, Christmas songs), they also write new songs that have the feel of traditional Irish music, but have just the right amount of originality to keep everything fresh.

The two women who started CTL, Joanie Madden and Mary Coogan will be celebrating 25 years of playing together on January 5th, 2010. Wow. Joanie is as entertaining a personality as you could ever want on stage (and off!).

They played mostly Christmas music last night, but that included an original or two, plus some non-traditional arrangements of some classics. All beautiful, played to a very appreciative crowd (which included a few of Joanie’s brothers, and her mother). In fact, her brother John sat in on four numbers and played the drums. One of the rarest of times that CTL has had a drum set on stage with them!

CherishTheLadies

Their current CD is called A Star in the East and they played many songs from it last night.

Sitting left to right on the stage:

Joanie Madden (OK, standing the entire time) plays all manner of flute, whistles, recorders, etc. She’s a genius on all of them. She sings a bit of harmony, very well. She’s the MC, keeping the action moving all night, making everyone laugh, and bringing an energy to the performance that doesn’t seem sustainable, yet she delivers that energy each and every time.

JoanieMadden

Mary Coogan plays guitar, beautifully. She took a few solos, most notably What Child is This / Greensleeves. Absolutely gorgeous!

MaryCoogan

Roisin Dillon on fiddle. She is absolutely incredible. One of the few fiddle players who sits the entire performance, and actually barely moves (you can see the bow move, of course, but otherwise, her play appears entirely effortless!). When Joanie and Roisin play harmony together (Joanie on the whistle or flute, and Roisin on fiddle, it’s truly heavenly).

RoisinDillon

Mirella Murphy on accordion. Mirella is also an extraordinary musician. In addition to winning many accolades and competitions herself, 22 of her students have won gold medals on the accordion, and she’s but a kid herself! Like Roisin, her accordion playing appears entirely effortless.

MirellaMurphy

Kathleen Boyle (KT) sits behind the others playing piano, wonderfully. She played a song that she wrote that was fantastic. No good shot of her at the piano, because it’s buried in the back of the stage, and her back was to us the entire evening.

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Michelle Burke is the lead vocalist. Michelle has a gorgeous voice. She joined CTL just before we saw them 20 months ago. In fact that night was only her second performance with them. She was great that night, but last night she was obviously more comfortable and more integrated into the group and the set. Of course, singing traditional Christmas songs can bring out the best, and Michelle did a terrific job, including getting all of us to sing along a number of times.

MichelleBurke

After the show we bought a copy of A Star in the East and got Joanie to sign it. A wonderful evening in every respect, including the always tasty (and spicy!) food at Towne Crier Cafe. Looking forward to our next visit there already. 🙂

CherishTheLadiesBow

Ian Axel and Greg Holden at Canal Room

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This one is gonna be long (surprise!), so let’s bottom line it for the impatient:

  1. Ian AxelCrazy good!
  2. Greg Holden – Very good, would have been nice if some in the crowd were more attentive.
  3. Katie Costello – Very good, need to hear more and I want to.
  4. Honey Larochelle – Delightful surprise.
  5. Kenny Muhammad – was a guest on one Honey Larochelle number. He’s incredible.
  6. Band Members – See below, if you have patience. 🙂

OK, I formally give you permission to bail on the rest of this, here’s your hall pass. 🙂

We saw Ian Axel once before at Rockwood Music Hall, and I covered that show in this post. We were so blown away that night that we’ve been eagerly awaiting another opportunity to see Ian perform. It turned out to be a 56 day wait, an eternity from our perspective.

IanAxelKeyboards

Ian has a new CD coming out on January 5th, and we are impatiently waiting for that as well. Ian Axel is an extraordinary singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and he isn’t half-bad on the ukulele either.

IanAxelUkulele

There were a few differences last night. At Rockwood, Ian played a grand piano, last night, electric keyboards. Who cares, he’s brilliant on both. He added an electric guitar to the mix, nice. Rockwood is tiny. While they can pack it in for a popular show (I guess between 80-100 people can become good friends quickly), it’s still a super-intimate place, generally filled with super-fans only. Canal Room is a bit more spacious (still pretty intimate) but audiences can be a bit more distracting, not there purely for the music.

From a selfish perspective, I’m glad Ian is still playing intimate clubs (our favorite experience). He has the talent to fill and captivate venues like the Beacon Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, etc. I know he’s not well known enough to fill them yet, and that’s a shame (for him and his eventual fans), but a short-term win for his existing fans. That big-venue day is coming, mark my words.

Backing up Ian, from left-to-right:

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and some vocal backup. Chris is better known for his bass playing than his guitar. I didn’t know that, but some people pointed out to me after the show that he’s a bass god, and listening to the pieces on his MySpace page convince me that’s dead on. I really couldn’t make out his guitar or vocals too well last night. It’s clear that his fellow musicians have enormous respect for him, and that’s more than good enough for me!

ChrisKuffner

Adam Christgau on the drums and some vocal backup. I’ve written about Adam numerous times. I loved his drumming from the first time we saw him, at the Canal Room (like last night), playing with The Paper Raincoat. My respect for him has only grown since then.

AdamChristgauLaughing

I mentioned in the last Ian post that Adam changes styles to match the artist/music, and that Ian brings out a much more dramatic flair in Adam. As much as I love the sophistication of the drumming for The Paper Raincoat, on many Ian numbers Adam can really let loose (power, speed, etc.), and it’s delightful (visually and aurally).

AdamChristgau

Also, as mentioned in the last post, the only reason we discovered Ian is because Adam was playing with him, and we made the assumption that if Adam was bothering, Ian had to be worth listening to. For that alone we’ll forever be grateful to Adam!

Chris Anderson played electric bass and some vocal backup. Chris also played bass for Ian at Rockwood. Chris impressed me at Rockwood, but the stage was super tight there and Ian played half the numbers without the band. Last night Chris got to stretch out a bit more (he has a ton of infectious energy on stage) and we both enjoyed every note he played.

ChrisAnderson

Ian brought Greg Holden out toward the end of the set to sing with him (Ian sat in a bit on Greg’s set as well). The two of them work well together and I’m sure they’ll be appearing on the same bill in the future, as they were the two times we’ve seen them so far.

Ian also played one number on his ukulele accompanied by Michael Campbell (sorry, couldn’t find a link for him) on the guitar and harmony vocals. Excellent!

MichaelCampbell1 MichaelCampbell2

Greg Holden did a roughly 40 minute set before he turned the stage over to Ian. When he came out, backing him were Chris Kuffner, Ian Axel, Adam Christgau, and a different bassist, Kyle McCammon (no decent photo). Kyle was very good on the bass, and was replaced by Chris Anderson for Ian’s set. He had another gig at 11pm at The National Underground, so he had a busy night. 🙂

Greg was quite good playing the guitar and singing. His voice is somewhere between a light raspiness and a bit of smokiness (now you know exactly what he sounds like). He writes good songs.

GregHolden1

If I had to pick a slight nit, a number of his songs tend to repeat the hook a few times too many. They’re good hooks, but he could work a bit to flesh the song out. I said that last time too, and he obviously has rewritten his songs just yet. 😉

Greg opened the set solo, even though all of the band members were on stage and in position. He played an untitled song that he debuted on YouTube, a song co-written with Joey Ryan. Lois has suggested that they name the song Nothing But a Memory (we’ll see if they listen to her!). Greg did a great job solo, but I was marginally surprised that he didn’t enlist Ian to sing the Joey part. We love the song, and listen to it many times.

As much as we love the song, and as excellent a job as Greg did with it last night, I’ll digress here to make two separate points, both regarding this song.

I’ll cover the opening act shortly, but as I’ve said in the past, the art of booking an opening act can be hit or miss in general. I’m of the opinion that the genre should be a match so that fans of the headliner will at least be hearing music that is likely to please, or at worst, not displease. Others might argue that it’s an opportunity to broaden your horizon, because you’ll still get to hear what you specifically came for.

Last night, Honey Larochelle opened, and the genre was quite different. It was very high energy and very loud, and ended on a very high note, with the crowd rising to their feet.

Even though there were 15 minutes between sets, the buzz was still swirling throughout the room when Greg took the stage. The first point is that Greg probably should have started with a full-band song, not a solo acoustic guitar effort, because a good portion of the audience wasn’t prepared for such a mellow opening, especially with the full band just sitting there. To repeat, we love the song he played, and we loved his version of it, it just should have been further down the setlist in my opinion.

A separate but related point is that there were way too many people in the crowd who used the discordant mellowness as an excuse to talk quite loudly. I’ve faulted many people in the past when it’s an isolated couple or few people who talk during a performance, but this was perhaps a quarter to a third of the people, so I think they all thought that it was OK to do so, and that Greg was just background music. It was rude, and Greg didn’t deserve it.

Of course, when the full band played, people’s attention was drawn to the stage. That’s another reason why I think Greg could have controlled that situation a bit better by ordering his set differently.

Back to the main action. After playing a few songs with the full band, Greg invited Katie Costello on stage (and the band left, except for Chris who played one song with them). They played two songs together, with Katie playing a bit of keyboards but mostly singing with Greg.

KatieCostello

On the first number, Katie seemed to be straining during the first verse. Greg did a very classy thing. He stopped the song mid-stream and apologized for starting it in the wrong key! He slid the capo down two frets and started again. This time Katie hit every note beautifully, and they pulled the song off without another hitch.

I’ve been listening to her streaming from her site (linked above) for quite a while now. I like her a lot. She’s playing tomorrow (Sunday, December 20th) at Rockwood Music Hall at 11pm. We already have tickets to see the amazing Cherish the Ladies in Pawling, NY tomorrow night, so we won’t get to see Katie just yet, but if you’re in NYC tomorrow, and you’re a night owl, do yourself a favor and get over to Rockwood.

Greg played a bit more with the band, and a few more solos as well. Over all, a very nice set.

Opening the show was Honey Larochelle, backed by a four piece band and two backup singers. On her MySpace page she describes her music as Soul / Folk Rock / R&B. Yes, she’s all that, and more.

HoneyLarochelle2 HoneyLarochelle

Excellent voice, wide range, bubbly spirit, showmanship. All four band members are very good, as are the backup singers, so the whole ensemble works well together.

Honey announced that she would be doing a bunch of Christmas songs (and I’ll explain in a minute why I believed her). She opened the show with one, but I don’t think she played a second one for the remainder of the 35-minute set (though perhaps I’m addled after the rest of the great show).

The rest of the set was a romp that covered the above-mentioned genres and added a closing Hip Hop number with Kenny Muhammad called I Love a Human Beat Box (or it should be if it isn’t). Kenny truly is a human beat box. In fact, he sounds like a full drum set in addition to other DJ like sounds. Pretty amazing.

KennyMuhammad

Honey also did a wonderful number as a tribute to her mother’s common sense advice when she was growing up, which she now appreciates even though she ignored it at the time, called Hold You Down. She had the audience sing during the chorus. We did a better job than the audience in this YouTube version of the song. 🙂

Backing her up, left-to-right:

Devory Pugh on keyboards (sorry, no good standalone link). He was solid, highlighted on one number. We chatted with him for a minute after the show. He also manages artists. Very nice guy! One of his guys, Charles Perry, will be appearing at Gospel Uptown on 1/19/2010.

DevoryPugh

Playing the electric guitar was a new member to the band (this was the second time he appeared with them). He has a Polish name that I didn’t catch. I’ll update the post if someone fills in his name for me. He was quite tasty, playing a jazz/blues style. Clearly a superior talent.

GuitarPlayer

Greg Norwood (AKA G the Backbone) on drums (also no good links). He was absolutely incredible throughout the set.

GtheBackbone

Jesse Singer on bass (again, no good links). He was solid throughout the set.

JesseSinger

Regine Roy and Cole Williams sang backup and did a great job. They both had good stage presence.

RegineRoyColeWilliams

While I can appreciate R&B, it’s not the typical music we go to see, so it was a treat to see someone that we enjoyed as much as we did. Even though I still think that the genre was not well matched to the headliners, it worked for two reasons: 1) all of the performers were top notch; 2) Honey is good friends with Ian (and possibly Greg), so there were quite a number of overlapping fans.

The Canal Room website listed the show as starting at 7:30pm, with doors opening at 7pm. We like to get to General Admission shows early so that we can sit as close to the stage as possible (preferably the front row). While the sound isn’t the best that close up, the view is. Lois is very near-sighted, so if we’re not right near the stage, the entire show is a blur to her.

We showed up early, as usual, and found out that everything was shifted back 1/2 an hour. It was cold out, but we were fine braving it to be first in. After a bit, management took pity on us (we were the only ones in line!), and told us that we could wait in the lobby inside. We were grateful, it’s quite an unusual move (we know from long experience).

After waiting 15 minutes inside, still long before the doors were supposed to open, another member of management also took pity on us, and told us that we could go in, but that it was still sound check time, so we should be respectful of that. Of course, we were.

It turned out to be quite special. We sat in the front row and watched Honey and the band warm up and play a number of songs they didn’t do in the set (mostly Christmas numbers that I guess they intended to do). Really good! But, in addition to just enjoying the music, I got a much better look at the guitar player, who played a lot of interesting riffs throughout the sound check.

We also chatted with Honey very briefly after sound check, and she’s as lovely as could be.

After the show we talked to Ian for a minute and got him to sign one of his EPs that we purchased at the Rockwood show. I always implore my readers to support the artists that they like, and we do whatever we can ourselves.

We bought an Ian Axel T-Shirt from Chad Vaccarino who was working Ian’s merch table. Chad did a great job singing with Ian at Rockwood and is credited with convincing Ian to start singing. Thank you Chad!

We also purchased three Greg Holden CDs and an unmixed, unmastered, unreleased CD of Honey’s, pressed just for fans that come to these types of shows.

Greg signed one of his CDs as well, and we got to tell him directly how much we love Nothing But a Memory (perhaps if I write it often, he and Joey will decide to make Lois happy and stick with that name!). 😉

We also ran into two of our favorite Alexes, Alex Berger and Alex Wong. We got to spend a bit more time with Alex Berger because we talked to him before Honey took the stage, and then after the show as well. Seeing Alex Wong was a treat too. I knew that he had a show in SF tonight and tomorrow, so we didn’t think he was still in town. His flight just made it out of NYC minutes ago, so hopefully he’ll hit the stage in time for the show…

AlexWongChrisAndersonAlexBerger

We know that the next time, we’ll be as likely to be told to wait outside until the doors officially open, but for last night, we’ll be forever grateful on all accounts. 🙂

Droid Rocks

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For those who don’t like to read, I’ll start with my bottom line, then give lots of details:

I love the Droid, it’s one of the best devices I’ve ever owned, and I’m a gadget freak!

A little background before I begin what will inevitably be a very long post. I’m a geek, but I’m often late in jumping on new trends. In fact, many times I get on board because a friend decides to buy me a gift and I become an instant fan.

Back in 2000, I received a Blackberry (BB) email device as a gift. That was before there were any BB cell phones. It was purely for email, and I thought I died and went to heaven (not that I would have bought it for myself).

A couple of years later another friend bought me a Treo 600p (a Palm-based smart phone). While it wasn’t as good an email device as the BB, it was an all-in-one mobile powerhouse, and I quickly got used to the convenience. Since then I’ve upgraded to a Treo 650p, 700p and then a 755p, which I was still using (reasonably happily) until I got a Droid as a gift on November 17th.

I was also reasonably happy with Sprint, so I seriously considered a Palm Pre before deciding it just wasn’t the right device for me (I’m very impressed with it, just not enough to have locked myself in at this time).

Finally, this is not an iPhone bash, or an iPhone vs Droid post. I’ve never been interested in an iPhone, and I’ve never regretted avoiding one. That said, the overwhelming majority of my friends carry iPhones and they love them. The only consistent complaints are about AT&T, not the iPhone.

The person who gave me the Droid is a major iPhone lover. In fact, he’s all things Apple, all the time. He knows how I feel, and I believe was tired of me yapping his ear off about whether the Droid was right for me, or the Pre, etc. I think he decided to shut me up by getting me the Droid.

He told me that I had 30 days to return it, no questions asked, but at least I’d know. Within two days I knew I wasn’t returning the phone. It still took me 11 days to decide to port my old number, but I’ve done that too, which means my old Treo 755p is now a paper weight.

This won’t be anything like a generic review. There are a ton of them out there, and all of them have done a better job than I could ever do. So, this will be a randomly ordered collection of my personal observations and usage patterns, collectively accounting for the reasons that I love this device.

Let’s start with one of the very few complaints I had about the Treo and build from there. While the Treo was very early in having a very usable browser, the web has moved on since it came out, and the Treo browser, while functional, is hardly a pleasure to use. There are many pages it can’t render (correctly or at all), and large pages render so slowly as to be practically useless even if they render correctly.

That meant that I only used the browser for necessary information, never for pleasure or to get things done while out and about. One of the most incredible features of the Droid is the browser. I’m sure that all Android phones share that great browser under the covers, but at the moment, the covers on the Droid are tops, with it’s large screen and super-hi resolution (480×854).

The browser can pretty much render any page I throw at it accurately, and pretty quickly, especially when using Wi-Fi (though Verizon’s 3G network has impressed me so far). One of my test pages is PeopleBrowsr, which is a browser-based Twitter client (and much more). It’s the most sophisticated JavaScript based website I’ve come across.

A friend tried real hard one night to convince me to get a Pre. He brought his over to spend the evening wowing me. Another friend came over with his iPhone the same evening. The Pre choked trying to bring up the PeopleBrowsr page (WebOS has been updated since, so it might work now). The iPhone did better, rendering most of the page, but it too choked eventually.

The page comes up on the Droid. When I log in to PeopleBrowsr, things get a little less usable, but the mere fact that I can log in was dramatically better than the other two phones (that’s the last phone-to-phone comparison!).

Why is having a first-class browsing experience so critical? The web has something for everyone, and more sites are becoming sophisticated end-points (full blown applications) every day, rather than just content repositories. It’s true that smart phones are often defined by their App ecosystem (and I’ll cover the ones I use on the Droid shortly), but, when your browser can utilize pretty much any web-based app correctly, having a local app available becomes less important.

Droid comes pre-loaded with a Facebook App. It’s looks nice, and works as expected. If you want to update your status, and see recent status updates from your friends, great. On the other hand, if you’re a Facebook power user, and like to see the real-time activity stream, you’re out of luck.

In fact, even if you visit the Facebook website with your mobile browser, you will be redirected (by default) to their mobile site. It seems that the Facebook App simply implements the limited functionality of the mobile site.

On the Droid, that’s not a problem. I fire up the browser and visit the Facebook Home Page URL directly. Currently, that bypasses their sniffing of the User Agent for the browser, and delivers the full Facebook experience to the Droid browser. I can tap on News Feed, or Live Feed, and see everything. It’s quite snappy. I never visit the app.

I am not saying that local apps aren’t useful or necessary, just that the web will grow and innovate more rapidly than apps will, and no approval process is necessary, and if the browser can deliver a first-rate experience, it becomes the most important app on your phone (IMHO).

Multi-tasking is much talked about on smart phones as well. It’s definitely cool to be able to listen to music or a podcast while doing something else. Some might shrug that off as just entertainment. There are other, more important benefits to multi-tasking.

One example is IM. If you want to be reachable to others initiating an IM with you (over various IM networks), you don’t want to stare at the IM screen for hours waiting for that message to come in. You want to fire up your IM client and move on to other things. People can and will send you messages whenever they want, just like they do when you are using your desktop IM client.

Add to that location-based (or location-aware) applications, that notice that you’re on the move in the background, and alert you to things you might be interested in right now. They need to be running in the background as well, while you continue to talk on the phone, check your email, keep the IM conversations alive, listen to music, etc.

It all just works, and it’s pretty slick.

Just in case you don’t believe the Verizon commercials, let me assure you that call quality and coverage is exceptional. In addition to the network, I’m really impressed with the Droid hardware as well. The speakerphone can be as loud as you’d like.

Then there’s Google Voice. Many people have written about the amazing things that Google Voice (GV) can do, so I won’t bother. I have been signed up for service since it was a startup company called Grand Central Communications. Google bought them, and enhanced the service dramatically.

Even though I’ve had a GV number for years, I never gave it out to anyone. I rarely used it for anything. The biggest reason is that even if you only gave out that number, if you returned a call on your cell phone (without jumping through hoops), whoever you call back now also has your cell phone number.

With the GV App, that all changes. I now make 100% of my calls through GV, so anyone I call will only ever see my GV number (even if they called my cell directly and I was returning that call). If you already know my cell number (remember, I ported my old one), then fine, call me. Otherwise, I’ll be giving out my GV number in the future.

The point is that I get more control. If I don’t want my cell to ring after 10pm? No problem (except for those pesky people I trusted with my real cell number…). Battery run out on the cell phone? Tell GV to ring your wife’s cell phone instead. 🙂

Also, GV rings my house and my cell at the same time. So, if I call you from my cell (you only see the GV number, remember?), and you return the call later, when I am home, I can pick up the call on my home phone. You don’t need to know or think about which device I prefer to be called on. That’s my problem, now solved by GV.

Speaking of porting. This has nothing to do with the Droid, but rather with Verizon, but I’ll get it out of the way now and move on to the apps. Since the phone was gifted to me, my friend was smart enough not to have them port it when he was in the store (what if I didn’t like the Droid, or Verizon?).

After waiting 11 days, I called customer service to port my Sprint number. I talked to a porting specialist who took down all my information. He told me that it rarely takes 24 hours, but that since it was Saturday, it’s remotely possible that it wouldn’t be done until Monday. Still, he thought it would happen that day.

On Tuesday morning, when the number still hadn’t ported, I called again and asked what the status was. I was told that everything was set up, but that I hadn’t confirmed to the automated system that I wanted this done. Huh? Speaking to a porting specialist isn’t confirmation? Oh well.

The representative transferred me to the automated system and stayed on the line as well while I pressed a number to confirm. Within an hour, my number was ported.

At the end of that week, Verizon was offering a BOGO (Buy One Get One free) offer for any Droid or Droid Eris, even on one that was purchased less than 30 days earlier. Another friend of mine who loves her iPhone, but hates AT&T (can’t get coverage at her house) went into the same store that my Droid was purchased from, and got her Droid free (using mine as the first of the BOGO). She ported her number at the store, and it was working three minutes later!

On to the apps. First, I haven’t bought any yet, so any app I mention here is free, or has a lite version that’s free. My friend who bought me this phone says that this is bad sign for the app ecosystem that I haven’t parted with any money yet. He’s sort-of right.

In the beginning, I wasn’t willing to buy any apps because I wasn’t sure I’d keep the phone. Then, it became more of a commitment thing than a money thing. I can afford the $2 average price for an app (trust me on that), but I’m more likely going to lock myself in psychologically (stupid, I know), and I’m still in the discovery phase. Luckily, there are some pretty awesome free apps, so I have much to explore before I decide to lock myself in.

I’ll cover apps in the order of most used to least used, not most important or best. Let’s start with email. As much as I’m crazy about the browser on the Droid, I wouldn’t keep any phone that didn’t at least have a reasonable email app. First and foremost, I require the device to handle emails well. Even more so than being a good phone!

Because Android is a Google product, there are two separate email programs in Android 2.0. One is for GMail only and the other is for any other mail server (IMAP and POP). I’ll finish this post later on with thoughts on Google and their apps, specifically.

The GMail app is excellent (as many others have noted), and if you’re primary email is GMail, this phone will make you feel right at home. I rarely use GMail (though I have an account, and I do get 10 emails a week there), so it hasn’t been critical to me, though I appreciate how well integrated it is and how well it works. In fact, seconds after an email hits my GMail account, my phone is alerting me to that fact.

The generic email client is OK, but barely. I find it reasonably attractive (font and layout) and reasonably reliable. That said, it’s so bare bones that if there were no alternatives, I might get tired of it quickly. Interestingly, I could consider using the browser for webmail access, since the browser is that good!

Two of the deficiencies are:

  • no identities (I send email from a work persona, home, etc.)
  • no auto-signature (at least not that I could easily find)

The good news is that there is an open source alternative called K-9 (available in the Android Market) that is much more configurable, including the two deficiencies noted above. The bad news is that it’s significantly less attractive (font/layout). I can live with less attractive (for now) but more functional.

Google Voice Search (has nothing to do with the GV service). This isn’t unique to Android, as you can do this on an iPhone as well. The slight difference is that there is a dedicated button available on the Droid (the magnifying glass on the bottom right hand corner), that when held for 2 seconds, launches Voice Search.

I use this all the time. It’s fun, but it’s incredibly accurate as well. In a quiet room, I’d say it approaches 99% accuracy for non-funky words. Even with the TV on, or other people having conversations in the room, the accuracy is over 80%.

Hold the button, say something, see a browser loaded with search results for your query. Click a link, off you go. It saves a lot of typing, and like I said, it’s plain old fun! You can use it to dial the phone number of someone in your contact list as well, get driving directions, or find some other stuff on your local phone, but for the most part, it’s about searching the web without having to type.

I’ve chosen IM+ Lite for IM. It’s multi-protocol. Actually, I don’t care. I do all my IM via Jabber to my own server, and I run transports on that server for AIM and ICQ. So, if I can connect to an arbitrary Jabber server with even a single-protocol client, I can chat with all my friends/colleagues, easily. IM+ Lite shows scrolling ads at the top of the screen, which I can live with. It works really well.

Android also comes with built-in GTalk for IM (I don’t think it supports the GTalk Voice part). I’ve tested it, and it works well (since it’s part of the Google suite, it doesn’t need to be launched automatically). Unfortunately, not one single friend of mine uses GTalk as their default chat service, so I’m not likely to get much use out of it either.

At home and the office I run an Asterisk PBX. That makes VoIP services a nice to have (definitely not necessary). I greatly prefer IAX2 for the VoIP protocol, but there are no IAX2 clients available for Android. Oh well. There isn’t a good selection of SIP clients either (a little more surprising), but I’ve found one that’s somewhat workable, SIPDroid.

It’s quirky and picky about which services it will connect to, partially due to the fact that it seems meant to promote a public PBX service called PBXes. Still, I can (somewhat reliably) connect to just one of my Asterisk servers, and from there, make/receive calls as if I was sitting at my desk. Cool, but it could be a bit less rough around the edges.

Fring is a more general VoIP and IM client, and I believe that it will be a winner. It seems to have a lot of buzz and momentum. I don’t use it for IM, and I haven’t had success with the SIP part either (I get one-way audio, so connection isn’t the problem).

What do I use Fring for then? I have had perfect success with them as a Skype gateway. I can make/receive calls to/from any of my Skype contacts, and the call quality is excellent (over Wi-Fi or 3G). Amazingly, at least for now, the Skype Lite app (provided by Skype!), can’t do Skype-to-Skype calls!

I don’t typically launch Fring, just as I don’t typically launch Skype on my desktop. If someone emails me, or IMs me that they would like to speak, I’m happy to launch Skype/Fring.

I was sitting in Birmingham, AL over the Thanksgiving weekend, and I received a notification on the Droid that there was an update available for Fring. I downloaded and installed it, and launched the app to test out the update. Within 30 seconds of launching it, I was getting a Skype call.

The caller is a life-long friend of mine who lives in Thailand! The first thing I said to him is “You probably won’t believe this, but you’re reaching me on my cell phone!”. His response? “I know that. My contact list shows you as Hadar on mobile Skype via Fring!” Wow, very cool. Like I said earlier, the quality was superb.

Google Maps. Like me, you probably use Google Maps on your desktop browser. I am surprised by how often I use it on the Droid. Not really to get directions (in the car, I’m still a fan of my Garmin Nuvi, more on that later). One of the reasons I tap on the Maps icon a lot is because of Latitude.

Google Latitude is an opt-in service which will show your position on a map, and broadcast that position to anyone who you’ve friended and permitted to see it. Of course, you see where your friends are on a map as well, if they’ve reciprocated. This is not Android only, it works on an iPhone too. But, since the iPhone doesn’t multi-task, unless your friend brings up Maps, their position doesn’t update (sorry, I guess that counts as another comparison…).

It only takes a second to see where people are, and I pull it up way more than I thought I would. It’s ideal for when you’re meeting one of those friends somewhere, and there’s no wondering how close they are, and whether they are making progress toward the meeting place or not. 🙂

ConnectBot is an excellent SSH client. I use it to connect to and control my server whenever necessary. It supports public/private keys. Because the Droid has a hardware keyboard, there is no screen space obscuring the TTY output from the server. A lifesaver on those occasions when you’re out, but the server requires some attention.

Update: Evernote just released their Android app today (or I became aware of it today, 12/16/2009). I tested it briefly, and I like what I see so far. I’m guessing that it will become a frequently used app on my Droid.

Barcode Scanner is an amazing app. It’s used as the base for other cool apps which rely on it to provide the barcode recognition. For one, if I weren’t lazy (and I am tiring myself out with all this typing, so I am being lazy in other respects), I could provide a QR code (a 2-dimensional barcode) for each app that I’m mentioning here. You point Barcode Scanner at the QR code, click the Open in Browser button, and that app would be available instantly for download from the Market.

On top of Barcode Scanner, I have ShopSavvy, Amazon, Key Ring and Handy Cards. Using ShopSavvy, you scan a barcode, and it searches online stores to find the best price for that product. Amazon works the same way, searching only their site. More on the Amazon app in a second.

Key Ring and Handy Cards are competing apps (I have both installed). You scan in your loyalty cards (CVS, Borders, super market, etc.), and instead of carrying them all around, you fire up the Droid and let the clerk scan from the high-res picture on your phone instead. Cool!

Amazon is my favorite online store. I shop from and trust a number of different online sites, but unless there is a big price difference, I choose Amazon first. their customer service is unparalleled, and the entire shopping experience is pleasant and optimized (especially for repeat customers who ship to many places).

The Amazon app on the Droid replicates that full experience, without needing to fire up the browser (not that I mind firing up the browser!). 🙂

Twitter. The most written about Android Twitter client hasn’t made it onto my phone yet, TwitDroid. There is a free version and paid one. When I read about the differences, on day one of having the Droid in my hands (when I was committed not to pay for any app yet), I wasn’t impressed by what I read about the free version.

At the moment, I have three Twitter apps installed on my phone. All three are reasonably good, and capable. The first one I installed was renamed later to Twigee. I no longer use it (not that it was bad or gave me any troubles), but I should revisit it since they’ve updated it to be multi-account.

I have two Twitter accounts, one that I lock for purely private tweets to my friends. I use that mostly as an offline status message of where I am, and the other for public tweets (the public one is @hadarvc). Neither of the Twitter clients that I use is multi-account at the moment, so I use one for my public account, and the other for my private one.

For the public app, I am using Seesmic at the moment. I occasionally use Seesmic Desktop on my laptop, and in general I’m very impressed with the company. The Android app is brand new and works reasonably well. I am sure it will improve dramatically, quickly, if their pace of innovation on the web and the desktop is any indication.

For my private account, I use Swift. It’s very attractive, works well, and if I had to lock in a single app for a single Twitter account now, I might actually select that over Seesmic. Thankfully, I don’t have to lock in that choice now, or likely ever. 🙂

I really thought that Twitter would be one of the more heavily used apps on my phone (something I never did on the Treo), but I actually rarely bother. On occasion I’ll update my status (which on the Treo I did via SMS), but reading the timeline is something I more typically wait to catch up on when I’m back on the laptop. YMMV, and the apps are more than capable of doing it exclusively on the phone.

KeePassDroid. This is an app that keeps my passwords for web sites handy. It copies username/password for easy pasting into the browser. I was using a different password database on the PC, but when I saw that this app existed for Android, I switched to KeePass on the PC as well. Keeping the two in sync is quite easy.

I thought I would use DropBox for syncing files (including the KeePass DB). They haven’t yet come out with a native Android app, though they claim that their mobile site works perfectly on Android. I didn’t check that claim out.

Instead, I signed up for a free account with SugarSync, which has a native Android app. It works perfectly and instantly. If I add a password to my KeePass DB on the PC, I tap SugarSync on the Droid, copy the file to a different folder, and voila, my updated DB is available on the Droid as well. So far, while there are a few manual steps involved, I’m happy with having full control and no surprises in the syncing process.

I have also used SugarSync in the other direction, to get photos taken on my phone over to the PC without hooking up the USB cable.

Google Finance is extremely cool if you follow any stocks. I’m shocked that it displays most stocks in real-time. Having worked on Wall Street long ago, for many years, I know what hurdles data vendors have to go through to provide such a service. You can maintain a portfolio on Google’s finance site and it will automatically sync with the phone.

Foursquare. I have read about Foursquare for a long time now, because I subscribe to Fred Wilson’s blog, and he is one of the VC’s that funded Foursquare. Even though I saw the Twitter buzz about it, I wasn’t ever tempted to check it out. When I saw that they released an Android app, I decided to check it out just for yucks.

What do you know, I like it. It’s fun. If I had more friends on it, I can even see it having tons of utility, just like Google Latitude, but different enough. Currently, all of my Foursquare friends live very far away from me, so I am aware of what they’re up to, but can’t readily join in the fun.

I use AndroZip as my file manager and I’m quite pleased with it. I use Advanced Task Killer as my Task Manager, and I’m quite pleased with it as well.

I’ve installed a number of Note taking apps but I haven’t had the occasion to use them frequently because I haven’t found a good way to sync my Outlook Notes with any.

I never intended to use my cell phone (any, not just the Droid) as a primary music/podcast device. I am quite happy with my iPod Nano when I’m running around, and the iPod Classic is the main device that Lois DJs from when we’re in the car.

Even after owning the Droid for a few weeks, I hadn’t budged on that decision (though music sounds exceptionally good on it, can be run in the background, and the MicoSD card has plenty of storage space). There’s the slightest chance that I might be rethinking that in the coming months.

For one, streaming music on the device is a fantastic experience. While I haven’t chosen to do so much yet, I have Pandora, Imeem (don’t know if it still works now that MySpace took them over!) and Last.fm all installed (there are more available!). Since you can stream in the background, you can get fresh music all day long. Of course, you can play your own MP3’s as well. I use DoubleTwist (on the PC side) to sync over music (at least I did for the music I was testing).

I installed Google Listen for finding and subscribing to podcasts. This morning, while waiting for my car to be inspected, I used it for the first time. I streamed a podcast live over 3G. It worked flawlessly. Another reason why I am at least thawing to the idea of listening a bit more on this phone.

The built-in YouTube app works flawlessly. It can also deliver HD quality videos when those are available on YouTube. Given the screen res, the quality of the speakerphone (if you’re sharing the experience with friends), the Droid is a great device in this regard. When Flash comes to this phone (likely in the next few months), that will open up even more great video services that I’m likely to take advantage of.

I have a few location-based apps installed. The one I use most frequently is Google Places Directory. Occasionally I launch Where and Yelp. I have tested Aloqua as well, but rarely launch it.

I like Movies by Flixter, Inc. I have used it a number of times. The other day, even though I was on the laptop, when Lois asked me what time a movie was starting, I reached for the Droid instead of doing a web search on the laptop.

Apps I launch occasionally, and like: SportsTap (for sports scores, duh), USA Today (to kill a few minutes and be up-to-date), Radar Now (shows local radar weather map), Open Table, Shazam (to wow people that might not have seen it on an iPhone before), NYC Subway and Bus Maps (because it’s cool to have the entire system in the palm of your hand), Aldiko Book eReader (just installed and tested, no books read just yet).

Another wonderful feature of Android (largely enabled because of multi-tasking) are Widgets. These are apps that display something useful directly on a home screen. I use the built-in Power Widget to turn on/off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sync and Screen Brightness.

One of the more useful third-party widgets that I just discovered a week ago is Silent Mode Jammer. One ill-thought-out feature on Android was silent mode. If you hold the power button down for a second, you get a menu where you can select Silent Mode, Airplane Mode and Power Off. Airplane mode shuts off all radios making the device a local one only. I use it when I go to sleep to avoid alerts coming in.

Silent Mode simply silences alerts. Unfortunately, it also turns off all vibrations. Not so smart. If I’m in a restaurant, I don’t want the phone to ring, but I want to feel it vibrate. If I’m not expecting anything urgent, I can pretend it never vibrated. Otherwise, I can check at my convenience.

Silent Mode Jammer overrides this behavior with a toggle that keeps vibrate on when in silent mode, or turns it off (back to the default Android behavior). Wonderful!

ScreenModeWidget performs an analogous function with the screen timeout. By default, the screen dims after 30 seconds of inactivity, and shuts off after 60 seconds. That’s adjustable in preferences. ScreenModeWidget let’s you perform adjustments from the home screen. You can tell the screen to turn off but not lock, or never turn off, or go back to the default. Wonderful!

I have a few other apps installed that I haven’t really played with yet, including Voice Recorder and the brand new Google Goggles.

The phone is quite thin, especially for one that has a full qwerty keyboard that slides in/out. I bought a hard plastic case from Verizon that has a separate belt clip that the case slides into. It’s a terrific package ($29.99). There is only one thing I don’t understand about the case. The speaker grill on the back of the phone spans nearly the entire width, which is likely one of the reasons it’s so good.

The case has an opening that exposes only half of the speaker. Perhaps the rest of the speaker grill is only for show, and the entire working part is exposed, but I don’t think so. So, with the case on, I think you don’t get the full effect of how loud this phone can be. It hasn’t been a problem for me yet, but I’m surprised they didn’t make a bigger cutout on the case.

I also purchased the in-car mount for the eventual convenience of the hot Google Navigation app. Unfortunately, the phone only fits into the car mount when it is removed from the nice case I keep it in at all other times. Bummer, because I don’t want to remove it from the case, and I suspect that if the case were popped on and off many times, it eventually wouldn’t fit so well.

Thankfully, I’m still thrilled with my Garmin Nuvi 265WT, so in the short run, I don’t intend to take my phone out of the case to use in the car. That might change in the future, in which case I’ll have to consider another type of case for non-car use.

If you’ve made it this far, I’m surprised and impressed! 😉

Switching gears to a more philosophical discussion of Google and Android.

I totally understand the concerns that privacy advocates have about Google, and respect their position. For a number of reasons, I don’t personally guard myself as well as they would recommend. While I have had a Google account for a long time, and use a number of their services (notably, Analytics, Feedburner and Webmaster Tools), I don’t tie myself entirely to Google (not because of privacy concerns).

I had a GMail account, but rarely used it. I had a GTalk account, but rarely used it. I had a Calendar account but rarely used it. I didn’t populate my GMail Contacts. I had a GV account that I never used, etc.

Google might prefer to be associated with Android from the perspective of making mobile search a more pleasant experience, but their vision is much deeper than that (at least that’s what I suspect, strongly). If you buy into an Android phone, and you don’t give over your life to Google, you will be one of the rarest Android users on the planet.

Why? Because when you marry an Android phone with an online Google service, everything just works, seamlessly, typically nearly instantaneously as well. That’s a very sexy siren song, difficult not to succumb to. I have succumbed to all but GMail at the moment, and I admit to at least giving that some thought as well.

I have installed Google Calendar Sync into Outlook. I still use Outlook as my primary calendar, but that’s not necessarily going to remain true for long. When I put something in Outlook, it shows up in Google Calendar on the schedule I set, and then instantly appears on the phone. If I update the phone calendar, the next time I check Outlook, there it is!

I duplicated all of my contacts in both Outlook and Thunderbird (keeping them in sync by hand after the initial dump/load). That’s because my Treo sync’ed with Outlook, not Thunderbird, which is my main email client. There is no good free solution for syncing Outlook Contacts with GMail contacts. But, there is a very good (and free) Thunderbird extension called gContactSync that does a nice job of syncing GMail contacts with Thunderbird, bi-directionally. I now use that, and again, there it is on my phone.

Contacts are still a little rougher around the edges. Some edits don’t show up on the phone. When I notice that, I can always manage to edit some other field in GMail on the web directly, causing it to update on the phone. I don’t know if that’s a Thunderbird problem, a gContactSync problem, or a GMail one. So far, it’s not a big deal, but I’ll have to keep an eye on it.

Google Tasks isn’t even anemic, it’s essentially non-existent. I use Outlook Tasks quite a bit, and haven’t found a good solution to sync them all the way through. I like ToodleDo online enough, and there is a good syncing extension for Outlook. Unfortunately, the one ToodleDo Android client I have is horrible (no need to name it). So I never launch it, and still haven’t settled on a good todo manager locally.

Astrid looks to be a good free one, and it can sync with Remember The Milk (RTM) online, but RTM can’t sync with Outlook (absolutely incredible!), so for the moment, I’m avoiding it as well.

I don’t yet sync Outlook Notes (as mentioned above), and I’m seriously considering just putting them in my KeePass DB and maintaining them there only, stopping to use Outlook for that at all. If that happens, I’ll be down to only using Outlook for tasks (as my primary client, since I could easily give up the Calendar if I wanted to). We’ll see…

The point is that Google isn’t forcing me to use more of their services (yeah, right), they are enticing me to do it (hence my reference to sirens!). They’re smart. They are making my life easier, and in the process capturing everything there is to know about me, so they can sell their knowledge of me at higher prices to the world’s advertisers… I understand the bargain, and for the moment, and happily and willingly making it.

Jerry Douglas and John Oates at Highline Ballroom

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Jerry Douglas has a new Christmas CD out, Jerry Christmas. He’s touring actively in support of that CD. Special guest stars on this tour are John Oates (of Hall and Oates fame) and Maura O’Connell. Both John and Maura are up for a Grammy this year. Jerry has 12 Grammys already!

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We expected the majority of the show to be Christmas songs. They started off the show with the first two cuts from the Christmas CD, The First Noel and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. I was completely entranced.

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The mood was quickly broken. Jerry introduced Maura O’Connell (an obvious crowd favorite). She sang two numbers that were lovely, but didn’t feel Christmasy to me. Maura has a saucy stage presence. While we both typically like artists who can connect directly with the audience, it broke the reverent mood created by the first two instrumental numbers.

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After the fourth song, Jerry introduced John Oates. His first number was Christmas Song (written by Mel Torme). John still has an excellent voice, and he surprised me throughout the show with his quality guitar playing. He is an incredibly self-effacing man, who fit right in with the amazing spirit always put out by the Jerry Douglas Band.

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Sprinkled throughout the set, John played a number of other songs, including She’s Gone (one of the many Hall and Oates hits). He also sang with Maura (and she harmonized on a few of his numbers). Still, most of his songs were not Christmas ones. While they were really good, they too didn’t strike us as fitting the overall flow and mood of the evening.

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When neither John nor Maura was singing, the Jerry Douglas Band played eight of the 12 songs from the new CD. Every one was special, as is the CD (which we own).

The first of a two-song encore was a Gaelic a capella number sung by Maura and Jerry. Gorgeous (he really has a very good voice). Jerry also sang harmony with Maura and John on a few numbers, all well done.

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Jerry also threw in Who’s Your Uncle, a high-energy Jerry Douglas tune that would typically highlight a normal Jerry Douglas Band show. They played Sir Aly B to close the encore. Both Who’s Your Uncle and Sir Aly B are on The Best Kept Secret CD.

Guthrie Trapp blew me away again on the guitar. The man is just incredible. His mandolin playing isn’t half bad either. Lois got him to sign a set list for us (really me) after the show. I was speechless, so she had to do the asking. 😉

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Chad Melton played the drums (like he did when we saw them at the Blue Note). Again, he was excellent. Very understated, but right there with the right beat and sound the entire set.

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Todd Parks was again wonderful on the bass all night, both upright and electric.

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Normally, Luke Bulla fulfills the fiddle playing for the Jerry Douglas Band. He wasn’t there last night (even though he’s on the Jerry Christmas CD), and there was no mention of why he wasn’t there. As good as he is, he wasn’t missed.

Taking his place were two fiddle players. It didn’t take two to fill his shoes, as both are great in their own right. But, especially with the Christmas music, having two fiddle players (perhaps I should say violin this one time), made it sound more like an orchestra playing with Jerry!

I am most embarrassed to say that I can’t remember the name of one of the fiddle players, even though Jerry said his name (once) last night. To make matters worse, I’ve seen him play before (with another band), and can’t for the life of me remember which one. Of course, no end of searching yielded the answer either… 🙁

He was excellent all night, in particular when he played duets with the other fiddle player, and he played mandolin on a few numbers as well. Here’s his photo, perhaps a kind reader can fill in the details for me:

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Alex Hargreaves played the fiddle and sang on one number. He looks like he’s 12. 😉 He’s an absolutely extraordinary musician and has played with some of the greatest musicians in the country, now including Jerry Douglas.

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We had a great time, and loved the show. That said, we each would have enjoyed a more typical Jerry Douglas show, or a Christmas-only show. Mixing and matching worked only in the sense that each song is played by consummate musicians who will make anything sound good, but the flow/magic was missing at times.

New Thanksgiving Tradition

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Last year I reported on our first-ever trip to Birmingham, AL, for Thanksgiving with our godson David. It’s now officially a tradition, which is likely to extend at least through next year. Once again, the real parents went north and spent Thanksgiving with Laura and Chris.

We repeated the general pattern from last year, but there were enough differences that are worth mentioning. Last year we spent Tuesday night in Durham, picked Wes up early Wednesday, and drove to Birmingham. In doing so, we got caught in horrendous Atlanta traffic, where we moved less than 1/4 of a mile in one two hour period.

In order to avoid that, we picked Wes up on Tuesday afternoon, and drove a few hours to Gastonia, NC, hoping to pass through Atlanta before the crush. That worked, as we had perhaps a 20 minute delay in Atlanta this time. But, it afforded us another surprise.

We got to meet Wes’ dad for dinner at a Sonny’s BBQ right outside of Charlotte. He’s a great guy and a wonderful host (he wouldn’t even let us leave the tip, and believe me, we tried hard!). The food was outstanding but the company was better. I spent most of the time chatting with Wes and his dad, and Lois split her time talking to us and to two lovely young ladies who were visiting from Texas.

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We arrived in Birmingham at 1:30pm and checked into a Hampton Inn. David was still working at the hospital, so Lois and I logged on and caught up with email. Wes wasn’t feeling too well, and he sacked out on the big chair in the room. We tried to be quiet, not necessarily all that effectively.

David called at 4:30 to say he was on his way home, and we met him there at 5pm. After a hug (or two), we headed for dinner at P.F. Chang’s. We had a truly spectacular meal there (not that we’ve ever had a bad meal at any Chang’s). Shortly after returning to David’s, the old folks called it a night and let the kids catch up (Wes stayed at David’s, as he did last year).

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Last year, David worked the morning of Thanksgiving, but was home by noon. This year he was on a 30-hour call (in the ICU), so weren’t going to see him until Friday afternoon. That alone accounted for the biggest difference in the schedule from last year, when David was on a 30-hour call from Friday morning through Saturday afternoon.

After watching a bit of pro football with Wes on TG day, we headed for TG dinner at McCormick and Schmicks, one of the few places open in Birmingham on TG day. We moved our reservations up from 6pm to 2pm. The restaurant is gorgeous, everyone there (including our waitress) was gracious, efficient, and in excellent spirits (even though they had to work on TG day).

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Last year, we had TG dinner at Ruth’s Chris and we all opted for steak rather than a traditional meal (which was available). Without discussing it in advance, both Wes and I decided to order a traditional TG meal, taking advantage of the fact that we were going to Ruth’s Chris on Friday evening this year. It was superb. As good as the turkey was, all of the surrounding trimmings were incredible.

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Lois and I had the best cappuccinos of our lives as well, but not without a moment of hesitation. When we ordered the cappuccinos, we were asked a question we had never heard before: “Do you want them wet or dry?”

Huh? We asked what the difference was, and were told that wet was more milk, less foam, and dry was less milk, more foam. We took them wet, and you already know what we thought of the result. 🙂

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For the rest of the weekend, Lois proceeded to mis-pronounce the name of the restaurant, in a dozen different ways, always substituting a different second name after McCormick (which she got right every time). After seven different attempts, the one that seemed to stick with her (and which Wes and I started repeating consistently) was “McCormick and Schlitz”! 😉

It was this year’s version of Obie Snoods. If you don’t know what that inside joke means, then your life doesn’t revolve around my blog. Shame on you! 😉

Hint: type “Obie Snoods” into Google or Bing and click on the first link!

We stopped at CVS on the way back to the apartment and picked up a few items, including two DiGiorno pizzas. We watched football the rest of the afternoon, worked a bit on the laptops and indeed ate some pizza later that night. A very relaxing day highlighted by a truly wonderful meal.

On Friday morning, Lois and I did what any good godparents would do. We drove to Hoover, AL to the nearest Costco and shopped for David to stock up every nook and cranny in his apartment and fridge. Success. David actually beat us back to the apartment, and was able to help us carry the bounty upstairs.

We ate the rest of the DiGiorno for lunch and then settled in to watch Alabama beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl (Roll Tide!). When the game was over we were joined by David’s friend Rebecca and the five of us headed over to Ruth’s Chris. We had a very private table in the atrium, probably because most people were somehow involved with Iron Bowl travels or festivities.

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Another great Ruth’s Chris meal, with lots of laughs, very unhurried by our excellent waiter. We were there over two hours, including forcing dessert on everyone (OK, everyone except for Lois, who can resist the mightiest of dessert forces!). After dropping the kids back off, we said a quick goodnight and headed back to collapse in the hotel.

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David was off on Saturday. We picked David and Wes up and had brunch at V. Richards. Another excellent meal! Better yet, outdoors! Last year, a cold rain prevailed throughout the TG weekend, and it was miserable to be outdoors. This year, nearly 70 degrees. If I get a vote for next year’s weather, I choose to duplicate this year’s, not last…

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From there we headed to Vulcan Park and walked around a bit. Of course, we made it back to the apartment in time to watch the Florida game, ensuring a battle of the wills between David and Wes the following week in the SEC Championship game, now history. I’ll leave that topic alone, to not inflame the bad feelings any more than necessary…

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When that game was over, we headed back to Hoover, AL, straight to the Sprint store. We bought David an HTC Hero (Android phone) for Christmas/Birthday. We’re now officially Android buddies since I got a Droid as a gift a week earlier (I’ll be blogging about that separately, likely tomorrow).

From the Sprint store we headed to Jim ‘N Nicks for dinner where we met up with Rebecca. The meal lived up to my expectations of my previous Jim ‘N Nicks meal in downtown Birmingham, even though the atmosphere in the downtown one is dramatically more upscale.

I was wearing one of my 100 Python T-Shirts, and one of the waiters (not ours) walked by and said “Python Rocks!”. It does, and you never know where you’ll find a fan! 🙂

After dinner we scurried over to the movie theater and caught a late showing (by our standards) of Blind Side. All five of us enjoyed the movie thoroughly.

On Sunday morning David was back to work bright and early. We picked Wes up and headed to Briarwood Presbyterian Church for the 10:55am service. Rebecca was playing in a brass quintet that was being featured throughout the service (she plays French Horn). They played their first-ever public performance in the earlier service. If there were any glitches to be worked out, they pulled it off by the time we heard them. They were wonderful!

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The church is one of the most magnificent that I’ve seen, and the congregation couldn’t have been friendlier or more welcoming. In a surprise, David got off work earlier than he expected, and joined us just minutes into the service.

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Here’s a very small world side story. When we were driving back to David’s from our Friday morning Costco run, I noticed a stunning building on the opposite side of the highway. It was labeled “Comprehensive Cancer Center”. I asked David about it, and he said that he didn’t know about that particular building.

When we returned from the movies the next night, we drove the same route, and when I pointed the building out to David, he said that he was pretty sure it was part of the UAB Hospital system (an outpost).

Well, it turns out that it’s at the base of the Briarwood Presbyterian Church grounds, so we drove right by the front door of CCC on the way in and out. When I mentioned it to David originally, I had never heard of Briarwood, hadn’t met Rebecca yet, and therefore had no idea that I’d be visiting that Church on Sunday…

After the service we drove to Firebirds restaurant (in three separate cars) and had yet another wonderful meal. One of the most flavorful burgers I’ve had in a while! After the meal we said goodbye to Rebecca who was off to play another service in Jasper, AL that evening. Not bad to have three gigs on your first day in a new brass quintet! 🙂

The boys headed back to the apartment, and we headed back to Costco (right around the corner from the restaurant) to replenish the incredible amount of Propel that the boys had gone through in just two days!

We hung around the apartment until dinner time, when Lois and David went out to pick up Dave’s Pizza. Wes talked us all into trying Pepperoni and Jalapeño pizza. It was a little hotter than he recalled his previous encounter, but it was quite good nonetheless. 🙂

Again we left on the early side, especially knowing that we were aiming for a very early start the next morning.

We arrived at David’s at 6:40am to pick up Wes, just in time to say goodbye to David on his way to the hospital. We drove to Atlanta in non-stop rain (nearly blinding at times). We stopped for brunch in Atlanta and met some friends at a really cool out-of-the-way place called Sun In My Belly. A great meal, with great company and an hour and twenty minutes later we were back on the road.

With a very few breaks in the rain (notably, including the two times we had to walk in the Sun In My Belly parking lot!), we drove the rest of the way to Durham to drop Wes off, then drove the remaining 3.5 hours back to Fredericksburg.

Another fantastic Thanksgiving weekend. We’re already looking forward to next year! 🙂

Vienna Teng and Alex Wong at Joe’s Pub

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We got the briefest taste of Vienna Teng a few months ago when she was a guest performer at ambeR Rubarth’s CD Release Party, also at Joe’s Pub. The minute Vienna announced last night’s show we grabbed tickets (more on that later).

Alex Wong is well-known to us and I’ve written about him a number of times already (most often for his work in The Paper Raincoat).

Since this will likely get long (Hadar, do you ever write anything short and sweet?), I’ll spare those of you with little patience and give you the bottom line:

Vienna Teng is now officially on our stalkerazi list!

English translation: we will be following her around and trying to attend as many shows as possible. We’ll also be buying the rest of her CDs (we only own the most recent one, Inland Territory, which is awesome!).

Vienna is an all-around talent that can mesmerize on any individual level. Her piano playing is among the best we’ve seen live. If that’s all she did, we would still go see her often.

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Her voice? Extraordinary! Clarity, range, power, emotional conveyance, variety, the works! If she sang a capella all night, we would still go see her often.

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Songwriting? Exceptional! Deep, thoughtful lyrics. Wide range of topics. If she wasn’t a great musician, and didn’t sing so beautifully, we would still go to see her often for the quality of her songwriting.

Stage Presence? Wonderful! Vienna is warm and engaging, and comes across as natural as you could want from a performer. Her banter with Alex is excellent as well. She’s a natural story-teller. If all she did was tell stories, we would still go to see her often.

She’s working hard to master the guitar. I have little doubt that when she feels ready to perform in public, we’ll feel as graced as we do by her piano playing.

She’s beautiful too (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). 😉

Alex Wong is master of all music. He does a bit of everything as part of The Paper Raincoat (guitar, percussion, glockenspiel, keyboards, vocals, songwriting), so it would have been hard for him to surprise us last night.

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When he plays with Vienna, he’s mostly a percussionist/drummer (superb), though he did play the guitar on at least two numbers. Of course, he sings beautiful harmonies with Vienna, but he takes more of a back seat than he does with ambeR and The Paper Raincoat.

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Ward Williams joined them for three songs, playing both cello and electric guitar (singing on one of those numbers).

Kevin Rice joined during the encore to play a snare drum, making for two drummers on the one song. It was a great sound. After the show, Alex told me that Kevin was the original drummer with The Paper Raincoat.

While there were never more than three people on the stage at the same time, they create a much larger sound. Both Vienna and Alex, independently, use loop machines to do that.

In the very first song, after Vienna sang one verse, she looped her voice back and sang stunning harmony with herself! Alex did similar things with the drums, laying down an intricate beat, then looping it and playing/dancing in and around that beat. Vienna also did that with the piano on occasion, altering it to a more electronica type sound, then accompanying that with a normal piano sound which she played live. Excellent, all around.

Last night was one of four shows that will be used to create a new Live CD. We can’t wait to buy it. 🙂

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That’s the end of what I have to say about the show, but nowhere near the end of what I have to say about the evening. So, take another sip of coffee, take a deep breath, and settle in for the more personal aspects that made for a special evening last night. 🙂

I’ve written a couple of times about our serendipitous discovery of The Paper Raincoat (originally covered here). That started a chain of events which has caused us to discover a number of amazing NY-based musicians, a few of whom have become friends in addition to people we enjoy seeing perform.

We can now safely add Vienna as one such musician/performer, and hopefully, after stalking her a bit more, a friend too. 😉

The glue in this new chain is a superb singer/songwriter/keyboard player in his own right, Alex Berger. I connected with him when he put up a video of ambeR, Alex Wong and Vienna performing In the Creases at Joe’s Pub (that first time we saw Vienna). I started following Alex on Twitter (@bergeralex) and the rest is history.

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Through Alex, we discovered a dozen artists that we really like. One of them is the incredibly talented Amy Rivard. We invited Amy, along with two other friends (both of whom are Broadway musicians) to join us for the show last night, and the five of us had a wonderful time (and a wonderful meal) together.

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Amy was kind enough to agree to sing on my Tonight Show Tribute song/video collaboration with another amazing keyboardist, Ben Schwartz. Here’s a link to the YouTube Video.

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Alex Berger was at the show last night as well, and we were really happy to catch up with him afterward. Run and pre-order his upcoming CD (we are honored to have been the first people to pre-order). The brilliant Alex Wong produced Alex Berger’s CD!

Looping back to my comment about buying tickets for this show, I’d like to spend a few paragraphs talking about the difficulty and opportunities in the music business, using last night’s show as the spark and one specific example.

The best part of the current situation in the music world is that anyone (literally) can get heard. You can make reasonable quality recordings pretty cheaply and even get your music distributed for free. For more money (and time), but still much less than in the past, you can produce stunning quality recordings.

The worst part of the current situation is that while you can get your stuff out there, how do you build an audience to listen to it, let alone even find it. The signal-to-noise ratio is very low.

Obviously, not all (or even most) of the people who would like to make a living as musicians deserve to. But, the number who deserve to is still staggeringly large compared to the number who actually achieve that.

If you have major talent, the only reliable way to grind out a living (and it’s a huge grind, no matter how much you enjoy performing) is to tour a ton. It’s important to be creative, both to build a loyal following and to maximize their financial support toward your livelihood.

This is another area where The Paper Raincoat (and ambeR individually) and Vienna Teng have impressed us (and therefore have gotten our additional financial support).

In the case of ambeR’s new CD and The Paper Raincoat’s new CD (both superb efforts!), they offered multiple levels of pre-ordering, with each level delivering something additional and special to thank you for your patronage. It wasn’t just stuff (which would have been good enough), but generally had a creative flair, a personal touch, or something otherwise special as well.

I’ve posted photos in a previous entry, but in ambeR’s case, she hand-made boxes to house the pre-ordered CDs. The Paper Raincoat (at the highest level), included T-Shirts, Posters and a 4GB USB bracelet. The USB device had 330MB of goodies on it. Videos from a live show, a video thank you and a video of a practical joke.

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More amazingly (to me) was their inclusion of all of the songs on the CD as instrumentals. For those of us who love to sing along to their songs, we can do so without being distracted by them! Can you say Karaoke Party? 😉

Both Paper Raincoat and ambeR sent download links to the full CD the minute it was available, to anyone who pre-ordered. That put their music in the fans hands long before the physical CD packaging was done and available. Again, a very classy touch!

All three (ambeR, The Paper Raincoat and Vienna Teng) have used the amazing artist Diana Ho to produce artwork (for the posters and/or CD covers).

So, what did Vienna do last night to give more value, and get rewarded for it (both in loyalty and in dollars)? She offered a VIP package for the late show (she played two sets at Joe’s Pub last night).

The VIP package included a bunch of goodies, but I think the real hook was a private dessert and coffee get-together with Vienna and Alex after the show. Only 30 VIP tickets were offered. We grabbed two the second we saw Vienna’s Tweet (another reason to follow the artists you like!). The next morning, all 30 VIP packages were sold out!

Here are their Twitter addresses:

@viennateng (obvious)

@highceilings (not as obvious, Alex Wong)

@ambeRRubarth (obvious)

@paper_raincoat (you get it by now…)

After the show, we hung around and talked to a bunch of people.

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We even got to play Roadies a bit, carrying out some equipment to their van after the schmoozing was done. But in a surprise to all involved (Lois and I included), we realized that it would be imprudent to push the night as late as we had the night before, so we ended up not joining the after-show festivities.

Did we feel cheated? Did we feel like we over-spent on the VIP package? Not even for a second! We were thrilled to have supported Vienna and Alex, and to have had the choice to go if we hadn’t been so tired.

We spent today listening to Vienna’s music. The CD we own, her website (which has a button to play Radio VT on the home page), and listening to some live shows in the Internet Archive site. We loved every second of it. 🙂

P.S. As if I needed any additional reason to want to hang out with Vienna, but she appeals to the geek in me as well. She worked as a programmer at Cisco for two years before turning to a career in music. So, I could find things to talk about with her beyond our current obsession with live music…

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy at Jammin Java

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If you’ve been here before, you know we’re big fans of ambeR Rubarth both as a solo artist, and as part of The Paper Raincoat. It’s no big surprise that we would try to arrange our schedule to catch one of her shows.

What’s a bit of a surprise was trying to arrange our schedule to see her in another state (not NY), and using the opportunity to surprise her as well! We’ve been on the road for a bit longer than usual, having spent Thanksgiving in Birmingham, AL. We could have gotten home a day or two earlier, but chose to work in VA those days to catch ambeR and Adam Levy at Jammin’ Java.

We had heard good things about the venue, so we were interested in checking that out as well. ambeR and Adam were opening for Brooke Waggoner, whom I will say a few words about at the end.

We were expecting ambeR and Adam to be playing together for their entire set, because they are touring in promotion of their new EP. That’s not what happened. ambeR came out first, with her guitar. She did a solo set for 30 minutes. Fantastic!

We’ve seen ambeR a number of times now, and have loved every show. For the most part, she has been accompanied by at least two other musicians. I have mentioned in those posts that while she arranges most of the music, she is so strong on her own that the others are gravy to her meatloaf. Last night, the meatloaf was cooked to perfection. 🙂

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There was a 13-minute intermission after ambeR’s set, then Adam came out and did a wonderful set. We have only seen Adam once before, performing a duet with ambeR at Joe’s Pub during ambeR’s CD Release party. That was great, but seeing Adam command the stage himself was a real treat.

He has a terrific voice, writes excellent songs, and plays the guitar particularly well. He takes nice/tasty leads at least once every song, and they are always welcome.

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Toward the end of his set he invited ambeR to join him for his last two numbers. Both were excellent, and included the song they performed at Joe’s Pub, Washing Day, which they performed as well (if not better) than they did at Joe’s. Including his time with ambeR, Adam was on stage for a little over 30 minutes.

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After a nine minute break, Brooke Waggoner came out. She sings and plays electric keyboards. She is really incredible on the keyboards, playing many styles and sounds (from classical piano, to funky electronica beats, with jazzy sounds in between).

She has a really good voice too. We weren’t drawn in by the lyrics themselves, so I can’t comment on how good a songwriter she is. In any event, her voice complements the keyboards, or vice versa, so no problem either way.

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Including a one-song encore, which she seemed a tad reluctant to return for, she was on stage for a little over an hour.

Jammin’ Java is a really nice place, and my Chili was superb. It is now squarely on our list of venues to keep an eye on, and take advantage of whenever we are in VA (which is all too often…).

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We were planning on spending the night in a hotel and returning to NYC this morning. Amazingly, I had a burst of energy when we started driving, and we made it all the way to NY, getting to the apartment at 2:25am. Long day, but worth it! 🙂