August, 2010:

Breaking Social Networking Interconnections

Send to Kindle

Many (most?) people post updates to multiple Social Networks. Rather than hand-picking which networks get which updates, most of the multi-network types (nearly all?) post the identical update to all networks, simultaneously, automatically.

There are many ways to do that, including services specifically meant to accomplish that (Ping.fm, FriendFeed, etc.), or multi-protocol clients (Seesmic, TweetDeck, Digsby, HootSuite, PeopleBrowsr, etc.). In addition, networks like Facebook and Google Buzz can also pull data from various feeds (including blogs, not just other social networks).

It’s totally understandable why people do it. Who wants their incredible update to be missed by a single person. Why not create it once and have it beamed all over the planet with one click?

If your livelihood depends on getting the word out (I follow many musicians for example), then by all means, when you announce something (e.g., a new show), you want to hit every conceivable network so that you don’t miss a soul on the planet.

If you’re telling your friends what you had for lunch, making sure that Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Identi.ca, Buzz, FriendFeed, Friendster, Orkut, LinkedIn, Beebo, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc., all get that update feels a drop like overkill. 😉

Until a few minutes ago, I was guilty of this behavior as well. I have a FriendFeed account which was connected to many of my other accounts. I then connected that FriendFeed account to Facebook. Independently, I had a Blog application connected to my Facebook account which injected an update whenever I published a new post.

That meant that I when I wrote a new post, if I tweeted the link (I know, it’s no longer politically correct to use that word, I don’t care, twittered sounds worse to me), my blog link would show up as three separate Facebook updates: 1) Blog app, 2) FriendFeed injection from my RSS feed, 3) FriendFeed injection from my tweet. Yikes! I certainly didn’t mean to hit my friends over the head with my announcement of a new post.

Ultimately that’s not why I cut the cord. I found that I was responding less and less on Twitter than I wanted to, because I was all too aware that it would end up in my Facebook feed, completely out of context to my friends while simultaneously cluttering my stream there.

I haven’t yet actively participated in Google Buzz, but I did connect it to my Twitter account, so every tweet was also buzzed. That’s no longer the case either. If I use Buzz, I want it to be a choice, not a side-effect.

So, I deleted FriendFeed from my Facebook account. I disconnected Buzz from Twitter. I left the Blog app in Facebook, so when I tweet a post I won’t also send that update to Facebook. That’s the only automatic connection I left.

From now on, I will be more active in Twitter (at least I think/hope I will) and I might give Buzz a real go as well. From my multi-protocol client I will choose which networks to update. Some messages might indeed go to many networks (I actively use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare at the moment). But, my silly Twitter interactions will most definitely stay exclusively on Twitter.

Feel free to unfollow me on Twitter if the noise level rises too much. Conversely, feel free to pay a bit more attention on Facebook if you previously felt that I was just spewing nonsense. 🙂

Vienna Teng, Alex Wong and Joey Ryan at Highline Ballroom

Send to Kindle

Last night was very special on many levels. At the top of the list was seeing Vienna Teng perform in NYC (at the Highline Ballroom) for the last time in a while (she’s off to grad school later this month!).

Even though Vienna tours the US and Europe regularly, we have come to rely on the fact that NYC was her (temporary) adopted home and we had so many opportunities to see her here over the last year. (We also saw her perform in Atlanta, Birmingham and Norfolk.)

We’re thankful that we made the time to do it, without taking for granted that we could see her whenever we wanted. Her shows will be few and far between over the next three years, but they will happen, and anyone who gets the chance to catch one better do it!

Vienna’s voice and piano playing are magical and last night was no exception. She can soothe the savage beast or impassion the near lifeless.

ViennaTeng2

In addition to a few typical songs that Vienna invites the crowd to join in on (more on that later), she added Antebellum to the list, inviting us to join her or Alex in their respective parts. I could swear that the majority of the crowd selected Alex’s part (perhaps because it’s easier, or perhaps because Alex admonished us to “Choose Wisely”). 🙂

While Vienna often introduces songs, last night felt different. She knew she wouldn’t have many more opportunities to connect with the very large crowd so she introduced nearly every song and shared stories with great warmth. (Highline seats roughly 450 people, and there were very few empty seats. It was the first show we’ve been at where people were sitting in the Highline balcony as well!)

ViennaTeng1

One story that she shared was going to a Karaoke night with a group of non-musician friends. She and her friend sang A Whole New World from Aladdin. She described the inevitable Karaoke Key Nightmare, where the music is simultaneously too high and too low for your vocal range.

Many songs later (I think it was during 1BR / 1BA, but don’t quote me), 2/3’s of the way through the song, she and Alex broke into a full-on rendition of A Whole New World! Their harmony was fantastic and the entire bit was both wonderful and funny at the same time. Of course, after the song, Alex complained that Vienna chose his Karaoke key. Actually, to quote him more accurately, he said she chose his coming into puberty range. 🙂

Alex Wong (the Alex in the above paragraph) joined her as he has for nearly all of the performances we’ve been to. In addition to being Vienna’s touring partner, co-writer on a few of her songs and producer of her amazing CD Inland Territory, Alex is also 1/2 of The Paper Raincoat.

AlexWongSnareDrum

On the set list, which I reproduce below for Vienna’s many fans, there is an entry labeled (Alex). Vienna lamented that she would really miss seeing The Paper Raincoat and asked Alex to pick one of their songs to play. People shouted out many songs. Probably the one most loudly requested was In the Creases. Technically, not a Paper Raincoat song, but co-written by Alex Wong and ambeR Rubarth (who are The Paper Raincoat), so it qualifies.

Alex chose to do Don’t Be Afraid. He too introduced the song with a short, but meaningful anecdote. Vienna sang perfect harmony with Alex.

Toward the end of the show Vienna said that she wanted to deviate from the set list and get Alex to play another song. Once again, lots of requests from the audience. Alex chose a song of his that he performed with his original group, The Animators, Help is on the Way. We’ll all need it for the withdrawal we’ll be feeling from Vienna’s absence. 🙁

AlexWongHelpIsOnTheWay

Ward Williams joined them for the entire show (as he does on most of their tours). Ward sang beautifully with Vienna on a few numbers and played cello or electric guitar on all the numbers. As I’ve said before, Ward is a top-notch musician who always enhances any show he’s a part of!

WardWilliamsGuitar WardWilliamsCello

Update: Lois asked me to say how funny (and quick) Ward is, so here goes. For one song, Vienna asked us to take our keys out. She directed us when to jingle our keys and when to stop (like wind chimes). Alex used his Harry Potter Wand (aka: Waterphone bow) to direct people to make whooshing sounds like the wind itself.

Vienna joked that Ward was left out of the directing. Without missing a beat, he offered that when he put his right arm over his head (in a ballet-like pose), the audience should let out a blood-curdling scream! After testing us once before the song, he sprung the actual arm movement late in the song, and the audience did indeed scream on cue (good paying attention folks!). Vienna definitely got a kick out of it, as did the rest of us. 🙂

I’ve never seen a weak Vienna performance, so raving about last night shouldn’t be taken to imply that other shows weren’t incredible (they all have been!). That said, perhaps it was the poignancy of knowing that it would be a while, making me listen even more acutely, Vienna was in perfect voice last night. The clarity and power were mesmerizing.

As promised, here is the set list:

SetList

As you can see, she ended the set (a long and satisfying one) with Grandmother song. She asked the entire audience to stand for it and we turned the song into a 400+ person party! When they left the stage, we all remained standing until she came back out, this time solo.

Vienna dedicated the song, 1000 Oceans by Tori Amos, to us. We were both choked up. I am still speechless this many hours later, but thankfully, I can still type! 😉

All I can say in return/response is that the amount of joy and personal/spiritual growth that Vienna and the too-many-to-mention other Indie artists that we have come to know and love have given us, fuels us daily! Thank you Vienna, and all of you (you know who you are!).

After 1000 Oceans, both Alex and Ward returned to the stage and they performed two more numbers. The last one was Soon Love Soon, sung by the entire audience in three-part harmony! Here is Vienna directing the right side of the audience:

ViennaTengDirectingAudienceWardWilliams

Including the encore, they were on stage for 100 minutes. As vivid as the memory is at the moment, I miss it already.

When we bought the tickets (many moons ago, when the show was first announced) there was no opening act listed. What a phenomenal surprise to found out it was another of our favorites.

Joey Ryan performed solo, singing and playing acoustic guitar. In addition to always nailing his sets (with and without accompaniment) he was even funnier (and more self-deprecating) than he usually is (and he’s always funny!). He had everyone in the crowd laughing and chuckling, within seconds of stepping on the stage.

JoeyRyan3

Personally, I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to come out to an un-warmed-up crowd who is eating, drinking and conversing loudly. To do that solo, acoustically and not be the headliner, even more so.

JoeyRyan1

Yet, like I noted above, within seconds, Joey had the place whisper quiet, with everyone hanging on his every word. He owned not only the stage, but the entire place. I’m humbled by that ability, and enjoy being a part of it each time I experience it.

JoeyRyan2

Lois asked me if I’d call out for Broken Headlights. I didn’t need to. Joey invited Vienna and Alex on stage to sing it with him. Gorgeous, both the song (always) and their arrangement and harmonies.

ViennaTengJoeyRyan JoeyRyanAlexWong

The Highline Ballroom is a wonderful venue. Doors open two hours before show time and they have excellent food (and drinks). Because of that, we wanted to celebrate with friends and share the great music. We bought seven tickets and squeezed all of us in to a table for six.

We had an excellent meal, including way too many desserts (that Lois forced on us, and of course didn’t partake in). Here is a photo of a very small portion of the desserts we all shared:

PartialDessertDisplay

In what had to be the universe speaking to us (though I didn’t find this out until this morning!), I ordered a glass of Shiraz. Then someone else in our party ordered the same thing. The waitress asked if we wanted a bottle instead and I said yes. Then she said that they had a special on a different bottle of Shiraz, one that wasn’t available by the glass. I ordered that. It was really good!

This morning, when I looked at the bill, I saw the name of the wine:

Flying Piano

A totally fitting thing to be drinking during a Vienna Teng show, no doubt! 😉

We all hung around after the show to tell Vienna, Alex, Ward and Joey how amazing they were and what a special night it was. The same group (including Joey) will be performing tonight in Fairfield, CT, tomorrow at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and Saturday in Silver Spring, MD. Do yourself a favor and go to one of these shows, time is running out…

ViennaTengChadVaccarinoIanAxelWardWilliamsAlexWong JoeyRyanHadar

Next Stop, Nightmare at ABC No Rio

Send to Kindle

Every night there are a seemingly infinite number of things to do in NYC. Of course, most of those events are hard to discover, or evaluate in advance.

Lois and I go to Broadway shows on occasion (always with friends), but we don’t typically seek out plays. We spend most of our free time (whatever that means) attending musical events. One of the completely unexpected benefits of attending so many shows was meeting a group of like-minded music-lovers that we now count as friends!

Two of those people are Jason Black and Shannon Black (yes, they’re married). We met them at a Livestrong fundraiser, and I wrote a post about that night. In addition to having a day job, Jason is also a playwright. At a musical show in July, Jason told me that one of his plays would be presented on August 12th and 13th. I told him that we’d be there!

The evening was billed as An Hour of Theatre and was presented at ABC No Rio. Two plays were presented with a 10-minute intermission between them, all fitting into one hour, start-to-finish. It’s a nice concept!

JoshMedskerJasonBlack

Jason’s was the second of the evening, called Next Stop, Nightmare. I’ll start with that one because it’s the reason we went. Jason wrote and directed.

The title gives away the entire plot, but I won’t. 😉

In roughly 20 minutes, Jason and his five actors (Shannon was the lead actor!) take us on a trip. It’s mostly a comedy, but dotted with reasonably dramatic moments. Many clever lines (delivered well and with good timing) that had nearly every person in the audience laughing pretty hard.

When it ended, I was sure it was the end, but no one in the audience (including me) clapped. That’s because even though the ending was satisfying, everyone was absorbed in the story, and it could have continued seamlessly and I believe everyone was waiting (and perhaps hoping a bit) to see if it would!

Jason had to announce from the back corner: “It’s over folks, that’s it!”. At that point a very long round of applause began, and didn’t end until all five actors had left the room.

I already knew that Jason was smart and funny, but now I know that he can translate that innate ability to the written page, as well as direct others to ensure that his vision is delivered to the audience. Bravo!

Shannon Lyne Black as Mandi (Shannon was excellent, but now I won’t be able to trust anything she says, since I know she can act) 😉

Jimmy Juste as Driver

Annie Briggs as Candi

Christopher Wharton as Passenger

Rory A. McEvoy as Rusty

All of the above were very good!

ShannonBlackRoryAMcEvoyJimmyJusteChristopherWhartonAnnieBriggs

The first play was written and directed by Josh Medsker, called Spenard. It’s a one-person show (in this case a female actor) playing six separate roles.

I am not a fan of multi-role one-person plays. One of Lois’ favorite shows on Broadway was Patrick Stewart doing all 35 roles in A Christmas Carol. It was torture for me, and I love Patrick Stewart and love A Christmas Carol as well. Unfortunately, Spenard didn’t change my opinion of the genre.

It’s a gritty look at six different characters who share Alaska as their common thread. Each has their own problems and each has their own ambitions. Each is talking to an imaginary character to tell us their story in dialogue form.

I think that the actor, Betsy Bell did as good a job as one could expect, but like I said, it’s not really my cup of tea. Still, I was exposed to something new, and it lasted 25 minutes, so it wasn’t hard to get through.

ABC No Rio may have a number of different rooms, but we were in a relatively small one with no physical stage. There were roughly 35 folding chairs out and all of them filled up in a few minutes. Jason had to bring out more and stick them in front of the first row and along the wall, so that the last few people in were practically sharing the stage with the cast.

They couldn’t have asked for a better turnout or a more enthusiastic audience.

I know it’s late to be saying this, but they’re doing it again tonight (August 13th, 2010), so if you are reading this seconds after I post it, you still have time to get there (assuming you live near NYC that is…). 😉

ambeR Rubarth and Adam Levy at 55 Bar

Send to Kindle

ambeR Rubarth and Adam Levy are doing a residency at 55 Bar, performing there at 7pm every Wednesday in August. Of their four appearances, the only one that we could attend was last night, and we are both very glad we got to see them (the rest of you still have two more shots to soak in the fun!).

ambeRRubarthAdamLevy

We’d never been to 55 Bar before. It’s quite small. As long as we get seats up front, we’re of the opinion that the smaller the better, so this place was great!

55Bar

We showed up 15 minutes early, and the place was practically empty, so we got the two seats right near the stage (it’s not raised, just the area where ambeR and Adam would be playing). In fact, ambeR was running late and wasn’t there yet. We got to chat a bit with Adam as he was setting up.

Adam told us that he’s recording a new CD in September, and he’s attempting to fund it like many other artists are nowadays, through Kickstarter. If you’re a fan of Adam, or want to support this kind of music in general, please donate to his effort. Here’s the direct link to Adam’s Kickstarter Page.

A minute later ambeR showed up, and a few minutes after that a crowd showed up (perhaps ambeR shared a clown-cab with a few dozen people). 😉

We’ve seen ambeR in many different types of venues, from the small (Tin Angel and Rockwood Music Hall) to the large (Highline Ballroom), with each show having a very different character. This was probably the smallest room, and we were a few feet from her with no raised stage, so it felt like she was serenading us alone, in our living room. We loved every second of it.

In addition to a few of our favorites, ambeR played two new songs that we’d never heard. Both were wonderful (as Lois enthusiastically proclaimed after each).

ambeRRubarth

ambeR and Adam mostly traded off two-songs at a time, with Adam playing guitar on most of ambeR’s numbers. I requested Washing Day (which they co-wrote) and it was one of a few songs that they sang together (trading verses and singing harmony).

Adam Levy is a master guitar player, who also writes wonderful songs and sings them with a soulful gravelly voice. We’ve seen him a number of times and enjoyed each show, but last night was the best of them, largely due to the intimacy.

AdamLevy

Without a band (which we experienced once before at Jammin’ Java), he is free to play softly and not feel like he’s hogging the spotlight with his guitar leads. It’s easy to get carried away by him (and with him).

In addition to a couple of Cole Porter covers, and one by NRBQ, Adam also played one of my favorites of his, No Dancing (which he’s hoping/expecting to include on the new CD). ambeR sang harmony with him on that.

Including a short intermission, they were on for just under two hours. The audience was wonderful. There wasn’t a peep during the songs, even though this is a bar. These were music lovers first and foremost.

Wicked Still Rules

Send to Kindle

Having previously seen Wicked eight times, it generally takes an external event to get us to go again. Of course, we are constantly on the lookout for such events, so it’s not hard to get us to go. 🙂

A few weeks ago, friends of ours mentioned that seeing Wicked was high on their list. Our lookout sensors kicked into gear and we picked a mutually agreed date, which turned out to be yesterday’s matinee.

My only criteria for pre-show excitement level is the quality of the two leads, Elphaba and Glinda. We’ve seen awesome ones (in both roles), and horrible ones (more so some of the Elphabas than the Glindas).

I hadn’t seen either of the current leads. I read a short review in the NY Times. I also watched a YouTube video of each doing one signature number. The voices sounded good, the acting wasn’t as good.

I am happy to say that they’ve either gotten way better as actresses, or the videos were somehow wildly unrepresentative of their abilities.

Katie Rose Clarke played Glinda. Her voice is magnificent. I could quibble that she’s a little over-the-top in her comedic acting, but it all worked, so I’m contradicting myself. The only (extremely minor) letdown in her performance was a relatively flat (not off key, but rather affect) in the song For Good. Not in my top three Glindas (this was, after all, our ninth time), but she’s spectacular.

Mandy Gonzalez played Elphaba. Her voice is also magnificent. Her acting was weaker than Katie and other Elphabas, but not bad in the least. A few too many smiles in scenes where smiles didn’t feel called for.

Both women hit the high notes crisply, cleanly and with power. Lovely!

The rest of the cast was very good, including the Wizard, who was either a stand-in, or so new to the cast that he wasn’t printed in the Playbill yet.

Wicked20100811

I loved every minute of the performance, even the quibbles mentioned above (they’re more notes for my own recollection than critiques).

At some point in the not-too-distant future, we’ll hit double digits. It was roughly 11 months since the last time we saw Wicked, so it might not be right around the corner, but it’s coming, I can feel it. 🙂

Angel Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Prior to last night, we’ve seen Angel Band perform three times. The last one was over two years ago and was a CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub, covered in this post. Last night was also a CD Release party for their new album, Bless My Sole, this time at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

A lot has changed in the past two years, but the core experience is the same, excellent!

Angel Band is three fantastic female vocalists singing three part harmony. One of the things that’s somewhat different about Angel Band vs other three part harmony groups that we love is the sheer power that all three project (individually and simultaneously), without ever sounding too loud or overbearing. They can do subtle too, quite well, but they really shine when they crank it up.

We are also major fans of most things Bluegrass. While you certainly can’t characterize Angel Band as a mostly Bluegrass band, their instrumentation and many of their songs do fit the description and that suits us just fine. They have a fiddle, mandolin, flat-picking guitar player, etc.

So, what’s changed? First, one of the three Angels has changed. Jen Schonwald is no longer with the band, replaced by Aly Paige. Second, in previous shows the band backing up the Angels was always The David Bromberg Band. Last night was their own band, now formally highlighted on their site as well.

The heart of Angel Band is Nancy Josephson. She writes or co-writes most of their original songs (they do some incredible covers as well) and has a wonderful voice. My friend asked me to take a picture of what appeared to be a very cool hand-made tambourine:

NancyJosephsonTambourine NancyJosephson

Kathleen Weber also has an incredible voice and sings lead and harmony with equal effect.

KathleenWeber KathleenWeberWashboard

Aly Paige sings beautifully, both harmony and lead. It took her one lead effort to warm up and put a little more power into her solo singing.

AlyPaige

The band, left-to-right on the stage:

Christie Lenee on acoustic and electric guitar. Wow! She was filling the shoes of David Bromberg in the role of guitar-player for Angel Band. Not easy shoes to fill. While their styles are quite different, I was very impressed with Christie on both acoustic and electric, she’s a great match for Angel Band’s style, but I’m sure she’s great independent of them as well.

ChristieLenee1

Marc Moss on mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar and drums! A man of many talents, he excelled on all four instruments. He also co-wrote a number of the songs that they performed last night. Well done!

MarcMossDrums MarcMossMandolin

Bob Taylor on electric bass. Bob has played bass with David Bromberg for years and has toured with Angel Band for years as well. He’s extremely solid but not highlighted in their repertoire.

BobTaylor

Nate Grower on fiddle. Nate is listed on the front page of Angel Band’s site, but he doesn’t have a video intro of himself like the others do, at least not linked on the same The Band page. Nancy joked that she’s had a headache for longer than Nate’s been alive. She also correctly points out that that doesn’t stop him from being an amazing fiddler, which he is.

NateGrower

David Bromberg joined them as a special guest for three songs (for those who don’t know, he’s Nancy’s husband). He played both acoustic and electric guitar. During the 70’s, I attended as many David Bromberg shows as I could. He was one of my favorite live performers and he still thrills all these years later. We only discovered Angel Band because they were opening for David Bromberg at BB King in 2006 when I went to see David for the first time in many years.

DavidBrombergChristieLeneeMarcMoss

Joining Angel Band as another special guest for the last song and the one-song encore was Matt Parker on Saxophone. (I actually didn’t catch the first name, so I apologize if I linked to the wrong sax player!)

MattParker

So, we would have gone just to see Angel Band, no matter who was opening, or even if there wasn’t an opening act. But, much to my delight, the opening act was reason enough to show up, no matter who the headliner was. That’s my kind of show!

Martin Rivas played a six-number set on two different acoustic guitars. I keep saying that I need to see more of Martin, and last night continued the trend of getting a bit more of him (it was the longest set we’ve seen so far), but still not long enough.

MartinRivas

Martin played a number of songs from his new EP (The Convalescence EP). One of those songs was Raise Me Again. It’s a gorgeous song, very deep, that describes the pain that many children feel but likely can’t (or don’t) express as movingly as Martin does. His introduction made the song all the more meaningful.

Chrissi Poland joined Martin for one song where she sang a verse on her own and sang harmony with Martin as well. We’re going to have to keep an eye out for her, she has a fabulous voice, well paired with Martin’s.

ChrissiPoland

OK Martin, next time better be at least eight songs! 😉

MartinRivasHadar

We got to introduce three people to Angel Band, and two of them discovered Martin for the first time as well. All in all a wonderful evening out.

Time for a rant, so tune out if all you want is peace and love. 🙂

I rarely have a harsh word for Rockwood Music Hall. In general, both venues are fantastic in all respects, in particular to the musicians. Last night was a first at Rockwood in my experience. We showed up early (we always do) because there is limited seating, first-come, first-served. The center table was empty, but we were told it was reserved by Angel Band.

What? This kind of nonsense plays at BB King and Joe’s Pub, and is annoying there as well (but at least there are many other tables there), but we came to believe that it wouldn’t happen at Rockwood. I hope it’s not a trend.

Why is it so bad for the band to reserve a table (in a club that has so few!)? Because in our experience, almost never do the people show up for that table. On the rare occasion that they do, fewer people show up than the number of reserved seats, and they never (as in never) show up for the opening act. These aren’t music lovers, they are perk seekers (IMHO).

That was the case last night too, as the two seats that Lois and I tried to sit in were unoccupied for the entire show! 🙁

Here’s a tweet from one of our guests (unprompted by me!) that sums it up more succinctly than I did above:

Wuz up with this BS of Reserved tables at Rockwood now? Me no likey! No likey at all!!

100% agreed. Let’s nip this practice in the bud now!

Rant #2, and one I’ve only had to call this out once before (Colin Hay in regard to The Paper Raincoat). Nancy Josephson never once thanked or mentioned Martin Rivas for opening. Another classless act that matches the reserving a table for people who don’t show up motif… Martin mentioned Angel Band (and thanked them) at least 1/2 a dozen times, totally classy!

Update: Please read the comments below for an apology directly from Nancy Josephson! Class has completely been restored! Whew.

The Persuasions at BB King

Send to Kindle

Lois and I love a cappella. We love harmony in all forms and it doesn’t get purer than a cappella. When we each saw that The Persuasions were performing at BB King (we both get the weekly email newsletter) we were interested in going (we’ve never seen them).

A friend of ours was vacationing up the East Coast, and told us that he would likely have some time to hang with us when he spent a couple of days in NYC. He called Wednesday night and we asked him whether he would be interested in seeing The Persuasions. Indeed he was.

The group was formed in 1962 and released their first studio album in 1970. Two of the original members are still performing with the group! One of them is Jimmy Hayes, who sings the deep bass parts. He’s absolutely amazing. Both Lois and I couldn’t wait to praise him to each other when we hit the street.

When all five of them sing together, the sound is incredibly rich, whether they are singing the words together (normal harmony), or whether some or all of them are mimicking instruments or doo wop sounds.

ThePersuasions

Going for the music alone would be worth it. Fortunately, that’s not the only reason to go, though we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

I would guess that the majority of the audience were giant The Persuasions fans, having seen them perform before (likely many times for a good proportion of the crowd). Aside from being adoring fans (in the best sense), they knew the individual performers, and the group knew many audience members as well.

The Persuasions don’t just perform, they entertain! On at least a third of the numbers one of the members of the group ventures into the audience (usually the other original member, “Sweet” Joe Russell, but both Raymond Sanders and Jayotis Washington did as well). The song becomes highly interactive at that point, with great unpredictability.

SweetJoeRussell

Dave Revels sang slightly more leads than the rest and did a wonderful job throughout the set.

At times, Joe (or the others) will simply sing to a member of the audience (often acting out the lyrics). Just as often, they will hand the microphone to someone and get them to sing (often the lead!). No one was bad, but a few were pretty darn good, with two people singing like real professionals!

LadySingingWithThePersuasions

In one awkward moment (awkward for me, because I’m a complete geek!), Joe was singing to a woman. They each had an arm around the other. The woman was in heaven, and she handed her iPhone to her husband and asked him to take a photo. Even though Joe held the pose while he sang to the woman for nearly two minutes (that’s an eternity folks!), the husband couldn’t figure out how to snap a photo on the iPhone. He was aiming the LCD screen at them, and was nearly as frustrated as his wife. He did not get the photo. 🙁

The Persuasions perform a wide variety of music. Hearing oldies from my childhood brought rushes of wonderful memories back in an instant. Seeing the beaming faces of the other audience members (all ages!) turned those memories into a shared experience, making it more special than simply tuning into an oldies radio station.

RaymondSandersJayotisWashingtonJimmyHayesDaveRevels

Here’s the set list, so you can get a sense of the breadth and see how many of your old favorites are there:

SetList

The one song you won’t see on there is what they performed during the encore (yes, they were forced to come back out for an encore), In the Still of the Night. Saying that they performed it is a bit of a misnomer. They actually participated in the performance, which was dominated by the audience.

They invited anyone in the audience who wanted to sing it with them on stage to come on up. Amazingly, roughly 20 people went up.

AudienceOnStage AudienceOnStage2

Jayotis Washington came into the crowd and asked people whether they knew the song (the intro was already being doo wop’ed on stage), and I was one of the people he stopped in front of!

I said no (even though I knew it well), because I had no intention of singing into the microphone. The guy at the table next to me (a huge fan and friend of the band) accepted, and sang the lead for a good part of the song. He was incredible (one of the two I mentioned above). The entire song was quite a spectacle (in the best sense of the word).

After it was over, Lois went on stage to get the set list. When I looked up, she was hugging each member of The Persuasions. I looked away for a second, then looked back. The stage was empty. Lois disappeared behind the stage with them. I told our friend that I would likely be forced to wait 24 hours before calling her in as a missing person. 😉

She came back out without the set list itself, but with the photo (shown above), and some more memories. 🙂

On to the food. BB King is comfort food and it’s always really good. Last March (2009) we were there for a Jerry Jeff Walker show, and our god-son-in-law ordered the Mac & Cheese. It’s so rich he couldn’t finish it and the rest of us all dug in and were blown away. Last night I ordered it for myself for the first time. Just as good. Thanks Chris, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know what I was missing! 🙂

When we were watching the coming attractions our friend told us that we shouldn’t miss The Toasters, who will be at BB King on October 29th. Here’s hoping he can make it back to NYC to join us for that show as well!

HadarChris

The Paper Raincoat at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Q: What word describes the following situation? You’re old and exhausted and one of your favorite bands schedules a show at 6pm!

A: Perfect! 🙂

That’s exactly what happened last night. The Paper Raincoat played a show at 6pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. The only worry in our minds (possibly in theirs too) was whether people would show up that early. No need to worry folks, the place was packed to the teeth with people spilling out the door. Of course, we got there very early and snagged the two seats at center stage.

I know that most of the people who read this blog know about The Paper Raincoat (TPR) already, but for the Google robot out there, it’s a duo comprised of ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong, each tremendous talents in their own right, that prove (yet again) that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts!

ambeRRubarthAlexWong

Alex joked a number of times that they were playing the Happy Hour show. As Ken Rockwood himself joked back: “Every hour is Happy Hour at Rockwood!”. 😉

KenRockwood

They played a nine-song set (not including the encore). If you’re a fan, you’ll know how good a selection it was. Either way, let me assure you that it was extremely well received by the audience.

SetList

To give you a sense of how unusual the scene was, ambeR lost her place in Sympathetic Vibrations for a second. She always nails that one (though I won’t be able to say always any longer) 😉 and she explained that seeing so many people jammed into Rockwood that early distracted her. I don’t doubt that!

When they started Sympathetic Vibrations, Alex turned to the crowd and said: “You know your part.” We did. We (everyone, not just Lois and me) clapped our part perfectly, loudly, in unison. ambeR recovered from her momentary lapse by joking that at least we knew our part. 😉

When Alex introduced January, he explained that it should be thought about from the perspective of an older drunk guy. To ensure that we really understood that, three members of the band (I’ll cover each individually shortly) switched places, ensuring that they were no longer superstars on their respective instruments. It was fresh and fun. ambeR played the drums. She’s tweeted that she’s practicing but I didn’t expect to see the result so soon.

ambeRRubarthDrums

On Right Angles both Alex and ambeR played on the grand piano at the same time:

AlexWongAmbeRRubarthSamePiano

On It All Depends, they ended with their signature drumming extravaganza. First, they warmed it up by getting the audience to clap in a fast and steady beat. Then Alex joined Kevin with the two of them drumming together, with the audience never missing a beat. Then ambeR joined them with all three drumming on the same drum set (well, to be honest, Alex had a snare a little off to Kevin’s left). It was as awesome as it always is, perhaps a drop more.

Both Alex and ambeR play a number of instruments. At times, Alex plays multiple ones simultaneously:

AlexWongMultiInstrumentalist

Closing the show (not the encore) with Rewind, ambeR, Alex and Kevin were awesome. The only thing that differentiates some previous TPR shows is that when Adam Christgau does Rewind, he also sings, making it three-part harmony at some points. Kevin doesn’t sing, but the three of them still make live magic every time they perform this song.

KevinRiceAmbeRRubarthAlexWong

ambeR and Alex returned to thunderous applause for an encore without the band. They played In the Creases, a song they co-wrote before TPR existed. We love the song. Lois felt it was the best rendition she had heard. I loved it, but I doubt I’ll ever experience it like I did at Joe’s Pub for ambeR’s CD release party, when Vienna Teng sang three-part harmony with them, and Katie Scheele played the oboe, and a full band supported them (including Vienna on the grand piano).

On to the wonderful band:

Kevin Rice on drums. Kevin was the original drummer for TPR, though for the first few shows that we saw them, Adam Christgau was their drummer. Kevin is awesome (as is Adam!) and many of the TPR songs allow great drummers to stretch a bit. The beat is such an integral part of the songs and Kevin never disappoints. For January, Kevin switched to the electric bass. He did a very nice job.

KevinRiceDrums KevinRiceBass

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony was great all night (as he always is). He’s a lot more understated than a number of the bassists we’ve seen recently, but that’s one of the things that makes him a great match for a lot of groups, his bottom is there for them, without Tony (or his riffs) becoming a distraction to their music. For January, Tony took ambeR’s place. He played the electric keyboards with his left hand, and the trumpet with his right! Bravo Tony!

TonyMaceli TonyMaceliTrumpetKeyboards

Melissa Tong on violin. Melissa always delights us and last night was no exception. Many groups add strings to their CD’s without ever using them live. TPR (and ambeR and Alex individually) often have strings on stage, creating the same huge, rich sound that they deliver in studio. While Melissa (and David, up next) were excellent throughout, they were really brought to the forefront in the opening of Right Angles, which is mostly strings for the first 45 seconds. Gorgeous!

MelissaTong

David Fallo on viola. David is wonderful on the viola. In addition to playing on all the numbers that Melissa played on, David also played on one that Melissa sat out. Everything that I said above about Melissa, in particular about Right Angles, applies equally to David!

DavidFallo

AlexWongMelissaTongDavidFallo

I already mentioned that we grabbed the two seats front and center. Joining us at our table were three very interesting people that we hadn’t met before, but had shared a number of shows together. Getting to know them before the show started made the time fly (another advantage of getting there early) and we look forward to seeing them at many shows in the future!

Here’s hoping that when we get even older, and NYC kicks us out and forces us to move to Florida, that TPR will show up and play a 3pm show for us while we grab our early-bird dinner special. 😉