September, 2010:

ambeR Rubarth, Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Another night, another awesome show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (third one in four nights!). I guess there’s nothing left to say. This will officially be my shortest post ever.

Why are you still here? OK, just for you, take a peek below this line and I’ll share my experience from last night’s show. Don’t tell anyone else though. 😉

I’ll cover the acts in reverse order of their appearance, but the names will be interspersed as a number of our favorite performers joined each of the headliners.

ambeR Rubarth closed the show. She played acoustic guitar and the grand piano and of course, sang. When she came out she looked around the room and called up Katie Scheele (a member of Threeds) to join her on stage.

ambeRRubarthTuning ambeRRubarth

Katie came up with her oboe (actually, that first number was likely an English Horn, Katie’s other specialty). They kicked off a fantastic set together.

KatieScheeleEnglishHorn

In addition to playing a number of songs solo, ambeR played Full Moon in Paris with three guests: Kenneth Pattengale on acoustic guitar (lead), Joey Ryan and Greg Holden sharing a microphone to sing harmony with ambeR.

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Kenneth Pattengale joined ambeR alone for at least two other numbers. One on acoustic guitar and the other with them both seated at the piano. Their piano duet brought down the house!

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Alex Wong joined ambeR for two numbers. The first was Rough Cut where Alex played the snare drum while ambeR played the grand piano. The second was In the Creases, where Katie Scheele joined them (this time on the oboe, I’m sure). Awesome (as In the Creases always is, but the oboe adds such a great touch!).

AlexWongSnare ambeRRubarthAlexWongKatieScheele

To close the show, ambeR brought up Joey and Kenneth again, but added a super special guest star, Joshua Radin. The four of them did an amazing job of covering Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice. It was our first time seeing Joshua Radin. It won’t be our last. Pinky swear!

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When ambeR left the stage the crowd just wouldn’t stop making noise. ambeR poked her head out from the green room curtain, looked up at the sound board and received the OK to come back for an encore. She asked the crowd for a request. I was the quickest with a loud “Novacaine”. Given that I was so close to the stage, before others got to say anything, she just said: “OK”. 🙂

I’ve never heard a bad version of Novacaine in any number of settings, but I can definitively say that last night was the best. ambeR nailed every single harmonic on the guitar and the pace of the song was perfect. What a way to end an incredible night.

Joey Ryan is an amazing solo performer (here’s my post from the last time we saw him solo). Joey also tours in other configurations. One of our favorite shows was at Rockwood 1 when Joey brought along Kenneth Pattengale and Mark Stepro. I covered that in this post. Last night he played with Kenneth for most songs, with two additional guests.

Joey finger-picked nearly every song and sang beautifully.

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Kenneth Pattengale is a master on the acoustic guitar. His non-stop leads (I described it as dancing in my last post) are mesmerizing. He sings gorgeous harmony with Joey. Either can take the high or low side equally well.

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In the first show, Kenneth sang lead on only one song, Charlie, a beautiful song written for his yet-to-be-conceived daughter (oh yeah, he is yet to meet her mom either, or he doesn’t know he met her already!). 😉

Aside from Kenneth being so amazing on the guitar, I put his name in the title here because in addition to singing Charlie, he also sang two other songs (with Joey providing wonderful harmony) and he was on stage with ambeR for three numbers as well. He was a very integral part of last night’s show.

The first of Joey’s guests was none other than Ian Axel who played the piano on Joey’s Broken Headlights (probably Lois’ favorite of Joey’s songs). Ian was icing on an already delicious cake. Independent of that, we could listen to Ian play the 1-800-MATTRESS song and be nearly as happy. 😉

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For his last number, Joey called ambeR up to sing harmony with him (and of course Kenneth).

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Throughout the set, the interplay of Joey finger-picking and Kenneth playing mind-boggling leads was stunning. The singing was equally amazing, but I would have been totally satisfied to hear an all-instrumental show with Joey and Kenneth.

Of course, a Joey show is not complete without his signature self-deprecating humor. He was certainly on last night, introducing new lines that I hadn’t heard before. ambeR, Joey and Kenneth are at World Cafe in Philadelphia tonight. To give you a flavor of Joey’s humor, here is a tweet from him today, announcing tonight’s show:

Philadelphia. Get ready for the quietest show you’ve ever heard. Tonight at world cafe. Whisper it to your friends.

🙂

You probably don’t believe the way I describe Joey (angelic). Thankfully, Lois captured an elusive slip-up, when he flashed his halo for a second. 😉

JoeyRyanHalo

Will Knox opened the show. We’ve seen Will twice before, each time doing just two songs as part of a much larger lineup (the first was a Livestrong fundraiser, the second was a Haiti Benefit).

WillKnoxTuning

Last night Will had a full band (he did not avail himself of the house band at the Haiti Benefit, and he played solo at the Livestrong event). It was a very pleasant surprise as the band was talented and fit well with Will’s songs.

Will is an excellent guitar player (he picked most songs, strummed a few). He has a very good voice. The rest of the band, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Kyle James Hauser on banjo. Kyle was really good throughout. My only complaint was that his instrument was the softest of the bunch. I had to work hard to pick him out. Still, it was worth the effort. 🙂

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Timur Yusef on drums and background vocals. Good job on both.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and background vocals. I’ve written about Chris many times (he’s the bassist for Ian Axel and he plays occasionally with Martin Rivas as well). We love Chris’ play, last night being no exception!

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Here’s proof that Ian is willing to be seen in public with Chris. 😉

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Clayton Mathews on fiddle (violin for you snootier types). The entire band was excellent, but Clayton Mathews was the highlight for me. His fiddle play was crisp and interesting throughout. To top it off, he threw out a half-dozen half-liners (not quite one-liners) that had the crowd (and Will!) in stitches. Very well done!

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Could anything make this night better? Yes, two things:

1) So many wonderful friends there to share the show with us (including people we never expected to see there, let alone share a table with!)

2) After the show we headed straight to the house (an unusual mid-week treat)

For a variety of reasons, last night might be our last NYC show for at least a month. We’ll miss some amazing shows in October during CMJ week. We’re sad about that, but happy that our sendoff show will keep us looking forward to more such evenings out.

If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom, here’s a little reward for you. Lois takes nearly all of the photos and typically refuses to be photographed herself. One of our tablemates convinced her to hand over her precious camera and we were captured as a result:

HadarLois

The Open Sea and Katie Costello at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The Open Sea is a duo comprised of Ari Hest and Rosi Golan. They were secretly announced on March 24th, 2010 in a show that we attended. We are fans of both Ari and Rosi separately, but on that night I had an instant love affair with their side project, The Open Sea.

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The first show was at Rockwood Music Hall, while last night’s was at the new(er) Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (right next door to the still-going-strong original).

Waiting six months to hear them again felt like an eternity. That could lead to expectations that are difficult to meet. They met, they exceeded, they conquered (at least me, but I’ll bet that the majority of the stuffed-to-the-gills crowd felt the same way!).

Last Tuesday (9/14/2010) The Open Sea released their first EP. I decided not to buy it right away, hoping to purchase a physical copy last night (to put more money in their hands, get it signed, etc.). Unfortunately, for now, it’s only a digital release, so this morning I grabbed my copy. Awesome!

For those that didn’t get to see them, buy the download and experience the magic for yourself!

Ari Hest sang and played acoustic guitar. He was the primary musical support, playing on all but one song. Most of them were beautifully finger-picked with a bit of rhythm and flat-picking thrown in for good measure. Ari has a smoky/raspy voice (or at least did last night). It blends beautifully with Rosi’s.

AriHestGuitar

Rosi Golan sang and played acoustic guitar. Rosi has one of the most extraordinary voices I’ve ever heard (I’ll say it every time I get a chance to write about her!). Laser-like crispness, very wide range, soothing and exhilarating at various times. Rosi played the guitar on a few numbers.

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Both are accomplished songwriters and the five song EP shows that their collaborations are at least as good as their individual efforts. I love Rosi’s current CD The Drifter and the Gypsy. Ari has a CD coming out early next year (can’t wait to hear it, as it’s produced by the wonderful Alex Wong).

In addition to playing the songs from the new EP they played two cover songs (Rosi picked a Ray LaMontagne song and Ari picked an Everly Brothers one, which was a huge treat for Lois and me).

They performed the title cut from Ari’s upcoming CD and Rosi debuted a song from her soon-to-be-recorded CD, called Lead Balloon. It could be a top 10 Country Hit (IMHO) instantly. Even if you hate Country, you’ll love this song!

I know I’m fawning, but I can’t stop, so one more platitude. I never want their sets to end. There, I said it.

Daniel Mintseris played the piano on a few numbers including one where Ari and Rosi sang without playing guitar. Daniel also plays piano on the EP. He’s excellent and complemented their sound extremely well.

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Here is the set list:

TheOpenSeaSetList

Katie Costello performed the set before The Open Sea. On June 29th we saw Katie perform at Rockwood 2 and I wrote about it in this post. I agree with everything I said then (whew), but I have a more nuanced opinion now that I’m getting a little more familiar with Katie’s music.

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First, a few differences from that performance. Katie didn’t perform any solo numbers last night (she book-ended the show with then in June). The drummer was different (more on that in the band section in a minute).

Katie has an excellent voice. Not only is it powerful and clear with good range, but as I noted in the last post, it can change in character as well. On more Jazzy numbers she can command a smoky quality (that feels completely natural). On more upbeat pop numbers it’s crystal clear. She also plays the piano very well.

KatieCostelloSinging

Last night I was able to pay attention a bit more to the shifts in style. I found the pop stuff to be more engaging and suited to the setup (her voice and the band). On the slower numbers, it was hard for me to keep focused. I like a ton of mellow stuff, so it’s not a generic problem (for me).

Katie also tried to banter more last night than the previous show. I’m all for the effort, as it’s one of the things that makes live shows qualitatively different than listening to a CD. Unfortunately, while it’s clear that Katie has a quick mind and a deep wit, most of the banter struck me as awkward at best. It will come with time, I’m sure. I’m equally sure that some portion of the audience found it awesome and/or endearing.

Katie’s band from left-to-right on stage:

Daniel Mintseris on keyboards and glockenspiel. Last time I had trouble differentiating Daniel. This time no such difficulty. Daniel did an excellent job. Given that Katie was on the grand piano, Daniel’s keyboards were more organ-ish in nature (like Patrick Firth was for Rachel Platten). He also played a type of accordion that sits on the table and is played with one hand while the other operates a bellows-type mechanism.

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Tony Maceli on electric and upright bass. We always enjoy Tony’s bass playing. Understated and solid no matter who he is supporting. On the one song where he played the upright, he used a bow.

TonyMaceliUprightBass

Given how tight the stage setup was, he stepped off the stage and played right in front of the entrance to the green room. On Katie’s last number Tony played the acoustic guitar (first time in our experience) and then halfway through the song he switched back to electric bass.

TonyMaceliGuitar

Doug Yowell on drums. Doug did a good job throughout the set. In a not-so-small irony, the only other time we saw Doug play was for Vienna Teng. When? The same night we saw The Open Sea for the first time. Vienna’s set (oops, I mean Linz Ho’s set) was right before The Open Sea.

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Rich Hinman on electric and pedal steel guitar. As I mentioned last time, Rich is really good on both. Last night he was incredible on the pedal steel. Some of his leads on the electric were great, but a few times it felt to me like he was stepping on Katie’s vocals. He’s still incredible, but they might need some work on their arrangements.

RichHinmanPedalSteelGuitar

Here is Katie’s set list:

KatieCostelloSetList

Another great night at Rockwood. Tonight will definitely be another great night there. 🙂

Vicci Martinez at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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There are two tangible benefits of befriending other music lovers who attend many of the shows we do:

  1. They sometimes become real friends, beyond the music, enriching our lives in the process
  2. They recommend other groups for us to check out. Due to our first-hand knowledge of their excellent taste in music, we’re rarely disappointed, and often thrilled at the new discoveries

Last night was an excellent example of #2 (the person also completely qualifies for #1). We’re rarely in the city on a Sunday night, and even rarer for us to venture out for a late show (let alone for someone we have never heard before). Due to the recommendation of our friend @HappyBee3, we altered our normal plans and headed in to catch a show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

Vicci Martinez sang and played electric guitar (she had an acoustic guitar tuned and ready to go, but she didn’t touch it during last night’s show). While diminutive in height (I believe Vicci is 5’1”), there’s nothing else diminutive about Vicci Martinez. Her voice is huge (powerful and crisp) and her guitar-playing complements the big voice. She writes the songs too, so she is the complete package.

VicciMartinezGuitar

Another short singer/songwriter that I like is Michelle Citrin. Michelle has coined the phrase: “lil grrl, with a big sound”. While it’s true in her case, a more accurate description might be “lil grrl, with a big voice”. Given Vicci’s musical style (and voice!), “lil grrl, with a big sound” is a more accurate description for Vicci.

VicciMartinezSinging

While we don’t often attend Rock shows, Vicci’s show made two in one week for me (Lois missed Martin Rivas’ show last Monday). Aside from a rocking good time in both shows, there was little similarity in the two performances. That’s a good thing, variety is the spice of life.

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The one big similarity with Martin’s show was the infectious beat that had nearly everyone in the place physically into the music. Vicci had a full band all of whom complemented her perfectly. From left-to-right on stage:

Eric Robert on grand piano. Eric traveled from Seattle (where Vicci is based) for this show. Lois and I are thankful that he did (and that we came out). Eric was electrifying on the piano. We had the best two seats in the house to enjoy his show, just behind him and to his right. We got to watch his hands and fingers fly up an down the keyboard. Rock piano can be a thing of beauty in the correct hands. Eric owns those hands!

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On two numbers he did something I may have seen once before. With his left hand he plucked the actual piano strings while pounding away on the keys with his right hand.

EricRobertPianoStrings

Tony Mason on drums. We’ve seen Tony twice before, both times playing with Adam Levy. Tony is very good and got to shine a bit more opening up his play for Vicci. (Sorry for the poor photo quality, Tony was hidden in the back corner of the stage):

TonyMason

Chris Morrissey on electric bass. Given the tempo and power of Vicci’s set, the bass player is key in keeping it all together. I was extremely impressed with Chris’ play, even though there were no flashy leads. As Vicci herself said of her band, they are all P-R-O-F-E-S-S-I-O-N-A-L-S.

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While Eric made the trip from Seattle, Tony and Chris are locally based. They only played with Vicci twice before. They were all so tight that I would have believed they’d played together 100 times prior to last night.

Here’s Vicci’s set list (courtesy of @HappyBee3). She didn’t get to the last song, but no one left unsatisfied:

SetList

I could repeat the mini-rant from last Monday about Rockwood 2 starting to slip starting times by a wide margin. The group before Vicci ended their set at 10:15pm (Vicci was listed as starting at 10pm).

It took 30 minutes to clear that group and get Vicci set up, so she didn’t start playing until 10:45pm. Clearly, if one band slips (legitimately or otherwise) it is nearly impossible to make up the time and be fair to upcoming bands and their fans. A sad fact of life, making the late shows even more dicey for us.

VicciMartinezChrisMorrisseySettingUp

Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I expected to knock another 1.5 items off my music bucket list. I’m upgrading the .5 to a full point! 😉

Not only did I get to finally see Martin Rivas perform a full set, but it was different than I expected (his adoring fans clearly knew what they were in for) in two wonderful ways.

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First, Martin had two lead electric guitar players and both happen to be among my individual favorites (we’ll get to the band shortly).

Much more important, while I’ve seen people rave about Martin being a Rock ‘N Roller, I have only ever gotten a hint of that, as most of his previous sets were acoustic or mixed in nature.

Last night was full-on Rock, with a dab of Soul (hard rocking soul!) thrown in for good measure. The place (Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2) was electric. Everyone around me was physically participating in the music. If you were just sitting there, it would have been prudent to check for a pulse!

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Martin was his usual shining light. I love his voice. His guitar playing is excellent, but he purposely takes a back seat when he has the full band on stage and just plays mostly rhythm (he somewhat picked on one number).

Here’s the band, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth electric keyboards and background vocals. Patrick is excellent (we’ve seen him before on a grand piano). Last night he had stacked keyboards. I think he had one set to a more organ sound and the other a more piano one.

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Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and background vocals. One night after finally seeing Chris play the bass, he was back to electric guitar. Given the rocking going on, that was awesome and freeing for Chris, as he wailed on a number of leads, fingers flying.

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Craig Meyer on drums (still no good individual link). Craig kept the beat going strong with really tasty riffs. His smile alone is worth the price of admission (in this case, free, but a one drink minimum). 😉

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Brian Killeen on electric bass and background vocals (the link is to an unmaintained MySpace page). Brian is solid all around.

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Greg Mayo on electric guitar, lap steel guitar and background vocals. We’ve only seen Greg once before (also playing with Martin) and he was an instant favorite. Buttery smooth guitar playing. He and Chris shared the leads equally and beautifully. Greg is still on my bucket list to see playing his own stuff as a headliner.

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Rachel Platten joined Martin for one song. Rachel headlined the set before Martin’s and she is the other full point that I wanted/needed to cross off my list. Check.

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Until my friend pointed it out to me before the set began, I didn’t realize that I had seen Rachel perform (ever-so-briefly). She and Kailin Garrity sang harmony/backup with Martin Rivas at the Haiti Benefit in January. I didn’t catch Rachel’s name that night.

Last night it was Rachel front-and-center. Rachel has a gorgeous voice and plays keyboards really well (last night electric). The set was mostly Pop/Rock. The energy was fantastic, with a similarity in the crowd’s visceral reaction to what I described above for Martin.

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There’s a sweetness to Rachel that is evident in her performance. Her smile is wide and never disappears during the set. She connects with many people in the audience.

RachelPlatten

If you’re looking to catch a fun show, with upbeat lyrics and melodies, delivered with passion, played by excellent musicians, I highly recommend Rachel Platten.

Backing Rachel were three of the same band members that played with Martin: Patrick Firth on keyboards, Craig Meyer on drums and Brian Killeen on bass.

Martin Rivas played guitar and sang harmony with Rachel throughout her set.

MartinRivasRachelPlatten

Nathan Eklund on trumpet and background vocals. Excellent on the trumpet, added a nice touch to the all around great sound of Rachel’s set.

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Lois had not recovered 100% so she couldn’t join me again. Since I couldn’t count on Allie Moss’ mom for photos (not that I knew I could in advance the night before), Lois handed me her camera as I was walking out the door. Any photo mishaps can only be blamed on me this time.

Martin is playing again at Rockwood 1 this Friday night (Sep 17th, 2010) at 9pm. It will essentially be the same band, except that (lucky stiff) Brian Killeen will be in Las Vegas (my favorite city) so Chris Kuffner will be on bass.

We aren’t supposed to be in the city that night, but the enticement of Chris on the bass for an entire rock set might be enough for us to rearrange, plus Lois will get to see Martin do a full set as well. We’re working on it. 🙂

Update: just heard that Chris might be out of town on Friday, so if we go, it will be to see Martin and the gang again. I’ll still be (not-so-patiently) waiting for another opportunity to see Chris on the bass. 🙂

P.S. On the way out, I passed Derek James (a lot of awesome musicians came out to hear Martin and Rachel!). I introduced myself and told him how incredible he is. There’s one less musician in the world who needs to wonder what I think of them now. 😉

P.P.S. there’s always time for a mini-rant. We’ve been to Rockwood 1 & 2 so many times I can’t count. All but two nights have run as close to clockwork as you can hope for. Last night was the second time that something went off the rails (before I got there) causing a major delay.

The group that was supposed to be on from 9-10pm was still going strong at 10pm (the tip jar didn’t even come out until 10:10, so they had to have started late). That caused Rachel’s set to start at 10:50 rather than 10. Martin’s set wasn’t over until roughly 12:30am, making for a longer night than expected. Thank goodness it was incredible. 🙂

Allie Moss, Matthew Perryman Jones and Lauren Zettler at Rockwood Stage 2

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I have no fear of emptying my music bucket list in my lifetime, because I add things to the list at a faster rate than I check them off. Last night, I got to finally remove two items that have been on the list for a while. I can summarize in advance that both items were as satisfying as I had hoped they’d be when they first made it on to the list. 🙂

Allie Moss was very high on the list. The other was seeing Chris Kuffner play bass. I’ve seen him play lead electric guitar a dozen times. Check and check!

Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2, a fantastic venue) mostly has one-hour sets (45 minutes plus setup between artists), so there isn’t typically a headliner, except for the paid shows at Rockwood 2 (this was a free show, one drink minimum with a voluntary tip jar for each set). They often cluster a  group of friends so that they can join each other on the various sets, which is exactly what happened last night, to great effect.

Since I came specifically to see Allie, I’ll start with her set.

One other important note. Lois takes all of the photos for this blog. She had a fever last night and didn’t attend. My Droid failed me completely in the low light. I chatted for a bit with Allie’s mom, who was taking photos of all three sets. I asked her if she would be kind enough to email some of them so I could include them in the blog.

Yvonne Moss took every one of these shots (click on any for a larger version), including the B&W and negative artistic transformations. I hope you agree with me that she’s an excellent photographer. The link from her name will take you to her blog on various topics. A most interesting woman!

Allie Moss is a superb singer/songwriter/musician in her own right, but she spends a good deal of time as a member of Ingrid Michaelson’s band. Given Ingrid’s commercial success, Allie tours quite a bit with her.

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Allie has a beautiful voice, plays the guitar very well and writes very good songs (light Pop, Jazz/Folk). You can listen to nine songs on her site (linked to her name above) and get a very good sense of whether your taste aligns with mine.

Allie has a very relaxed stage presence, getting the crowd to chuckle many times. She’s a natural performer.

While she performed a couple of solo numbers (beautifully), she was backed on most by an excellent group of musicians. Here’s one of Yvonne’s transformations (can you feel a Poster being formed?):

AllieMossNegative

Lauren Zettler on piano and harmony. Lauren played the piano beautifully and sang gorgeous harmonies with Allie. Lauren had her own set prior to Allie’s, which I’ll cover later, but she never played the piano during her set, so this was a very pleasant addition/surprise.

There were no photos of Lauren playing the piano with Allie, but you’ll see a couple below when I cover Lauren’s set.

Saul Simon MacWilliams on a lot of stuff (Allie was between us, totally obscuring my view, but I am sure he was on percussion, electric guitar, electric keyboards, at a minimum, probably more, including some background vocals). He was excellent throughout. Even though I couldn’t see him, thanks to Yvonne, you can! 🙂

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Chris Kuffner on electric bass and background vocals. I’ve written a number of times that people I trust have told me that Chris is an extraordinary bassist. Finally, I can judge for myself. During the set, most of what Chris played was solid straight-up bass playing. Allie’s set didn’t call for anything fancier. (Chris is blended into the background on the right hand side in this photo):

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Luckily for me, while he was warming up, Chris ripped off a few riffs that were mind-boggling, so even though I didn’t get to see it during the set, I now know that my peeps correctly clued me in to yet another of Chris’ many talents!

I’m most definitely an Allie fan now, so expect to see me at future shows (please make room for me). 🙂

Matthew Perryman Jones was up after Allie. He’s a singer/songwriter/guitar player. He opened with one number on electric guitar and switched to acoustic for the rest of the set. Matthew has an exceptional voice making the entire set a pleasure to listen to.

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Allie joined him for two numbers singing beautiful harmony, including one number that she learned right before the show. She had an iPhone cheat sheet, just in case. 🙂

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Todd Bragg played the drums for all but one number. Todd did an excellent job. What was impressive to me (this is more about Matthew, but speaks to Todd getting it right as well) is that it’s not all that common to have a singer with an acoustic guitar being backed by a full drum set (no bass, no other instruments or vocals).

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Matthew’s voice is so strong (not overwhelming in the least) and there’s enough of a reason to have a beat in many of his songs, that it just works, well!

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Peter Bradley Adams played the piano on three numbers. He did a fine job, but it wasn’t integral to the sound of these songs. In a not-so-small irony, Peter Bradley Adams is on my music bucket list too. I’ve listened to the free EP’s that he regularly gives away and I’m extremely impressed with him. I still need to catch him doing his own set before I can cross his name off the list.

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Lauren Zettler was the first artist up for the evening. She sang, amazingly (what a voice) and played acoustic guitar on all but the last song (I’ll get to that shortly). Lauren has the kind of voice that can easily be the lead in a Rock band, though her own songs are more Folk/Pop.

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On her last number, Lauren switched to an electric ukulele (it looked like a baby Stratocaster). I have never seen anything like it and I have to admit that I missed much of the song just staring at that cute little thing. 😉

Cameron Mizell accompanied Lauren throughout her set on electric guitar and harmonica. He did an excellent job.

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If I don’t catch what Lois had/has, I’ll be crossing another 1.5 items off my bucket list tonight (unfortunately, late for me). I’ll be back at Rockwood 2 (10pm), seeing Rachel Platten for the first time and seeing Martin Rivas play a full set following that (counts as .5, since I’ve seen Martin play short sets many times now).

Antje Duvekot and Anne Heaton at House Concert

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Last night we attended our second ever house concert. I can easily see this becoming a habit. I started this blog 3.5 years ago with one goal in mind, document our lives so that as our memory fades (inevitable) we will have a permanent record to reflect back on.

A completely unexpected side-benefit has been the incredible people that we’ve met (both virtually and IRL: in real life) as a result of this endeavor and the heavy emphasis on blogging about musical events.

One person who I met through this blog (IRL, before he ever commented on the blog!) alerted me to someone who runs regular house concerts on the upper west side in NYC, telling me specifically about last night’s show. The host was kind enough to reserve two spots for Lois and me.

Antje Duvekot opened the show. We weren’t familiar with most of her work, but the very first time we saw the Bank of America commercial featuring Merry Go Round (written by Antje), we fell in love with the song. I was excited to hear more of her music live for my first impression. I’m now officially a big fan of Antje (personally) and her music.

AntjeDuvekot

Six weeks ago, Antje took a serious tumble off her bike. She broke her hand and shouldn’t have been playing guitar yet. She joked that none of us should be telling her hand surgeon that she was disobeying orders. Here’s hoping that my blog isn’t popular enough to be read by him/her. 😉

AntjeDuvekotCast

Even with a cast on, her guitar playing was beautiful. Her left pinkie was effectively immobilized (she didn’t use it all in the first set and barely did in the second). She finger-picks most of the songs and I look forward to seeing her again when she can use all of her fingers (though I wasn’t disappointed in the least in her delivery last night!).

Antje has a broad vocal range. For me, in all of my two experiences of a house concert, I don’t think you can properly judge a singer’s voice at the extremes in this kind of setting. For some, to hit the high notes, they need to belt it out. It’s obvious that they don’t want to overwhelm the small, close-in crowd, so they clearly pull back. I don’t know whether Antje was pulling back, or whether that’s how she normally sings the high notes.

In general, there is a smokey quality to her vocals.

She’s mostly hard-core folk (one of my favorite genre’s for over 40 years!) and she’s extremely good at it in every respect. She also did a Jason Mraz cover and her own Merry Go Round isn’t really folk either. She closed her part of the show with Merry Go Round. So great to see that live after being a fan of the song from the minute it was released.

Antje’s personality comes across wonderfully. Sweet, self-effacing, interesting, funny, warm (and probably a few other nice adjectives). She opened with an a capella number (which gave her an opportunity to showcase her cast). In my opinion it was a difficult and dangerous thing to do in such an intimate environment. She won me (and I’m guessing nearly everyone) over within the first verse!

Anne Heaton was the other headliner. We had not heard of her, but after mentioning her name to a few musician friends, all we heard were raves! Anne sings wonderfully and plays the keyboards really well. Her style is mostly Jazz so the contrast between Antje and Anne was big.

AnneHeaton

Not to be outdone by Antje’s obvious handicap, Anne topped her, by showing up 8.5 months pregnant! 😉

AnneHeatonPregnant

Her (understandable) obvious discomfort was made even clearer when she shared a huge scare that she underwent just two days earlier. In addition, she told us that the baby was pressing on her lungs. Yikes!

With all that, her vocal control and range were superb. I like Jazz in general (though I lean toward the instrumental smooth jazz variety), so I enjoyed her numbers, but it’s not typically the kind of stuff that makes my heart flutter.

She played a whimsical number that she wrote as a bridal toast (she was maid of honor) for her childhood friend. I loved every second of it (delivery, lyrics, style). The crowd loved it too, as many laughed throughout the song.

During the first of two sets, Antje played the first six songs (roughly) and Anne played the next six. But, they joined each other on at least four songs to harmonize (they do a lovely job, since they also perform together as part of Winterbloom). For the second set, they both remained on stage (in front of us) throughout, alternating songs, again harmonizing frequently.

Anne also has a wonderful stage presence. Obviously, the topics last night trended more around her current condition, but it’s clear that she can handle any audience in any situation.

I would guess that there were roughly 50 people in attendance. The hosts ran the evening as well as I could have hoped. There was beer/wine/cheese/cold cuts/soft drinks/fruit/etc., spread out in multiple spots so there were no long lines anywhere. They are delightful people who have found an incredible way to share their love of music while getting to experience it themselves in the best possible way!

I was sorry to run out the minute the show was over, but we were heading straight to the house and wanted to get on the road.

The Paper Raincoat at Mercury Lounge

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Last night was our second time at Mercury Lounge. We went to see the same group that brought us there the first time, The Paper Raincoat.

No matter how many times we see the same groups, each show has it’s own character, making it worth coming out for reasons other than simply supporting great talent (though that alone is a worthy enough reason!).

The last few times that we saw The Paper Raincoat (TPR), they had a violin, viola and bass accompanying them. Last night, they were back to the original configuration that we originally saw them in (way back in April 2009), Alex Wong, ambeR Rubarth and a drummer (last night it was Kevin Rice, but that first time was Adam Christgau).

AlexWongGuitar ambeRRubarth AlexWongGlockenspiel

We love the strings (Melissa Tong and David Fallo) and Tony Maceli on the bass. I look forward to a TPR show with them all as soon as possible, but still, there was a tingle to get back to the core sound that we originally fell in love with.

TPR was one of four bands on the bill (third in the lineup), so their set was slightly shorter than usual (around 40 minutes). They had an excellent set selection so we didn’t feel let down by the length.

SetList

At least 1/2 of the very large audience was there to see the headliner, The Do, so they were experiencing TPR for the first time. From our center vantage point, they liked TPR plenty.

Kevin Rice was extraordinary (not that he’s ever less than amazing). On Sympathetic Vibrations, Alex had a particularly long introduction (which was cool in itself) and Kevin was wailing a rock-steady beat throughout. My arms hurt just watching him, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him either.

KevinRice

That was hardly the extent of his incredible drumming. In addition, they played It All Depends, where they often end it with Alex, Kevin and ambeR all drumming at the same time (heavenly). Last night, Alex spotted Danny Molad in the audience. He’s the drummer for Elizabeth and the Catapult. Alex coaxed Danny onto the stage, so It All Depends ended with four people sharing one drum set. Hazzah!

AlexWongDannyMolad FourPeopleDrumming

Alex and ambeR also played Right Angles. We’ve seen them play it before, with both on a grand piano at the same time, but it was tucked away in the corner of Rockwood, so you only see them sitting together. Last night they played it on the electric keyboard, with their hands flying up and down the keys simultaneously, right in front of us. Awesome!

AlexWongAmberRubarthKeyboards1

So, how did I know that 1/2 the audience was new to TPR? They closed with their signature a cappella Rewind. When they start the awesome cross-hand-clapping, 1/2 the audience laughed (gleefully). That happens to everyone the first time they see TPR do it. After that, you anxiously look forward it, but don’t laugh out loud. 🙂

KevinRiceAmberRubarthAlexWong

We only stayed for 1.5 songs of The Do. Not my taste (plus it was late for us). But, to give them their proper due, as crowded as it was for TPR, I can’t believe how many more people jammed into Mercury Lounge for The Do. They have a huge, loyal and adoring set of fans. I’m sure those people thought we were crazy for leaving, but they had to be happy to have the extra space. 😉

Now that I’ve been to Mercury Lounge twice, I can definitively say I’m not a fan (I’ll go again without hesitation, but I won’t look forward to the venue part of the evening). Standing is only one negative for us. The bigger one is the sound system and engineering there (only two data points, I know) is way below the quality we’re used to at over a dozen other venues. C’est la vie…

Proposal to Allow Rooting Android

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Rooting is the process of gaining low-level control of your cell phone’s operating system (I’m only going to discuss Android in this post). It voids your warranty (presumably both from your carrier and the phone manufacturer). That’s fine, perhaps it even should.

Still, carriers and phone companies try to actively stop you from rooting. There are a few obviously legitimate reasons/concerns on their part:

  1. Supporting a rooted phone can cost the companies in a number of ways
  2. Rooted phones can be used to access services that the carriers want to charge a premium for (e.g., Tethering)
  3. Problems with a rooted phone are often misunderstood by the consumer, reflecting incorrectly (and poorly) on the carrier or phone manufacturer

There are also a few shakier arguments against rooting. Rather than give them credence, or get distracted in arguing their merits, let’s skip them.

There are many legitimate reasons to root, covered in many articles. Let’s leave that topic for a more technical post, this isn’t that.

A small percentage of consumers actually root, but given the explosive growth of Android phones worldwide, the absolute number of rooters is large. They are also the most vocal users, trying to convince others to do it too.

When a rooted phone goes bad, the consumer tries to unroot and return to stock (removing all traces of their previous rooting and customization), in the hopes that the carrier will then fix the phone or replace it under warranty. Of course, the carrier might not be able to detect that the phone was previously rooted and perhaps even ruined by virtue of the rooting (overclocking the CPU for example). In that case, the carrier may indeed incur a cost that they shouldn’t bear.

My proposal:

Make it brain dead easy to root. When rooting (using an app provided by the carrier/manufacturer), ensure that the consumer is warned of the dangers and that the warranty is being voided. Also ensure that they know their account is flagged that they have opted out of the warranty.

This removes any extra support costs. In fact, returning the phone to stock will make no difference, as the user has forever agreed that this specific phone has knowingly and willingly revoked it’s right to be serviced, for any reason whatsoever.

I would go further and suggest that the carriers/manufacturers will make more money in this scenario, because if the user just drops their phone and breaks it, it is not covered, period. That will cause some percentage of rooters to have to purchase a new phone should anything go wrong with their phone, even if it isn’t related to the rooting.

Of course, that might cause many people not to root. That shouldn’t bother the carriers, since that’s the position they would like to see today.

Next, concern #2 above. While there might be a number of concerns, mostly, it boils down to Tethering, the ability to use your phone as a WiFi or USB modem for your laptop. The concern is that you can utilize significantly more data/bandwidth in this manner (e.g., streaming movies to your laptop) than you would ever practically use on your phone itself (assuming you had an unlimited data plan on your phone to begin with).

The carriers are concerned about monetary loss (they charge a hefty price for devices that Tether, or for tethering plans on the phones) as well as network quality if too many people clog the airwaves (with or without paying them) and slow down the network for all users.

My proposed solution for #2 is to charge no premium for tethering (with or without rooting!), but simply meter the data (no more unlimited plans, or price unlimited plans knowing that people will tether). AT&T is doing this already, but they charge $20/month for the right to tether, which is outrageous, since they charge for every byte of data transferred. Who cares how/why I used the data, you charge me for it.

That’s it. Let’s summarize:

  1. Make the voided warranty an overt opt-in so that support costs go to zero for any rooted phone.
  2. Charge for all data coming through the phone (tiers are fine, including unlimited), so that the carriers benefit if people tether.

Jesse Terry and Marjory Lee at a House Concert

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We became aware of how many house concerts there are only a few years ago. There have been a few that we really wanted to attend, but scheduling or illness confounded every one, until last night.

Our friends (stay tuned for how we met them at the end) hosted a house concert featuring one of their favorite artists. We were thrilled that we were able to attend.

Jesse Terry is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter/guitar player. He was (until recently) based in Nashville. That might make you think he’s pure country. You’d be wrong. He crosses a number of genres, effortlessly. During one song, I could swear I was listening to James Taylor (the feel, not a clone). On another, Lois leaned over to me and whispered “Jackson Browne”. Oh yeah, he’s also a little bit country. 😉

JesseTerry

Lois described Jesse to me as “a painter and a poet”. Poet is obvious, but by painter, she meant that his lyrical imagery is vivid. She cried during two of his songs. Here are YouTube videos of each:

Not to overwhelm you with YouTube videos, but this one is worth watching as well (then I’ll leave you alone). Jesse met his fiancée on a cruise ship in the South Pacific (I’m sure the setting had nothing to do with their falling in love 😉 ). Back in the states, in the famous Bluebird Cafe, she was in the audience when he sang this song (which he wrote for her) and then proposed to her in front of the audience. She was at the house concert last night and is as lovely a person as you can imagine, so we completely understand their mutual attraction/admiration/love:

JessJesseTerry

Jesse was wonderful on every song (including the three covers he did), but he’s particularly masterful at love songs and deeply sad ones. He tended to finger-pick the slower ones, beautifully. His guitar play in general was very good. His voice is excellent with good range. Excellent personality (both on and off the stage).

While we attend shows in all types of venues (including the dreaded Madison Square Garden), we really prefer intimate shows. Well, last night redefined intimate (in the best possible way). I often mention that a performance was acoustic. That’s technically correct, but in most cases, while the instrument is acoustic, it’s still amplified.

Last night was 100% acoustic, and the vocals weren’t mic’ed either. We had front row seats, but I’ll bet that the one guy who insisted on standing in the back of the room (yes, he was offered a seat), could hear every note and every word as perfectly as I could. Perfect. No sound engineer to muck it up (don’t jump on me, most do a great job, but some screw it up so bad you wonder how they got the job).

I was nervous for a second, because Jesse plugged a cord into his guitar, so I thought he had a small amp tucked away somewhere. It turned out he was just plugging in to an auto-tuner pedal. Whew. 🙂

I’ll come back to the actual ending of the show after I cover the opening act.

Our hostess for the evening is an incredible woman (her husband is awesome too, but what I’m about to tell is all her, so I want to give credit where credit is due!). Years ago, she discovered Jesse Terry accidentally, on MySpace, clicking on his link from another artist’s page. She instantly fell in love with his music and reached out to contact Jesse. She has followed his career and become his friend ever since that fateful night.

While in Key West for the annual singer/songwriter festival, she discovered the woman who opened for Jesse last night. She befriended her as well and told both of them that they needed to meet and get to know each other. That eventually happened, and our hostess was indeed correct, they became friends. That they ended up playing a show together, in our heroine’s home, was beyond fitting!

Marjory Lee sang and played acoustic guitar (as above, 100% acoustic, with Marjory even tuning by hand, shudder 😉 ). Our friend warned us about Marjory’s voice and she was correct. It’s gorgeous! Power when she wants/needs it, subtlety when that’s called for, range and perhaps most interesting, an ability to change styles and gears effortlessly.

MarjoryLee

Marjory was equally at home singing softly in the upper registers as she was belting out a soulful rendition of The Dock of the Bay, adding a gritty gravelly voice, sung in the lower registers.

She accompanies herself very nicely on the guitar. Completing the package is her stage presence. For such a young woman, she has an easy rapport with the audience. As with Jesse, that’s true both on and off the stage.

MarjoryLeeTuning

Circling back to the end of the show. During both of their sets, a number of people called out for them to sing a duet. They each joked that they had planned to work up something together for quite a while, but never got around to it. That (apparently) didn’t let them off the hook.

When Jesse was wrapping up, people again called out for them to do something together. Marjory joined Jesse and they sang The Dock of the Bay (mentioned above) alternating verses, with Marjory occasionally venturing some harmony on top of Jesse (very well done!).

JesseTerryMarjoryLee

Then Marjory sang Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean with Jesse singing a few key parts. As with another cover that Marjory did during her own set, she successfully got most of the audience to sing the chorus with her. She/they did a great job bringing the evening to a wonderful close.

We purchased both Jesse and Marjory’s CDs.

Here’s Jesse’s Set List, not followed to a T:

SetList

Back to how we met our friends. We’ve been to 13 CMA Writers Series shows at Joe’s Pub. CMA = Country Music Association. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that our friends have seen more of them than we have. In all of our times at Joe’s Pub, we have always been seated at a table for two, or at a table for four, but with the other two people attending with us.

The one exception was one CMA show where we were seated at a table for four next to this couple that we instantly had a rapport with. The next time we attended a CMA show, Lois spotted them on line and called out for them to join us. We sat together while we ate, but ended up watching the show from different spots. Ever since then we’ve maintained an active email and Facebook friendship.

Last night was excellent, but I can’t say that I didn’t feel badly or guilty. We paid way too little for the value of the show, even after buying the CDs. But that’s not the bad part. Our hostess cooked for two (or three?) days. It was one of the most incredible meals I’ve ever had. The meal alone was worth more than we paid for the show and the CDs, but of course, it was free. Guilty pleasure. All I can say is that I was not even slightly exaggerating when I told our friend that she should be a professional caterer. Awesome!

TheFood

There were a ton of desserts as well. I grabbed some (store bought, but also incredible) but we didn’t hang around. During the intermission our host asked me if we were driving back to the city after the show. He asked whether we could take Marjory (and her friend) back with us, which we were delighted to do. Another friend of theirs took the train out from Manhattan so we took her along with us.

Having another hour to get to know Marjory and her friend only cemented our feeling that she was a very special person (all three of our passengers are!) and it enhanced an already special evening all the more.

MeaganMarjoryLee

In a not-so-small irony, we are already scheduled for our next house concert this Thursday (from zero to two in five days). This time, in a complete stranger’s home, so we’re branching out. I’ll report on that on Friday, as usual.

The Downside Risk at Wings Theatre

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Last night we attended the opening of The Downside Risk at the Wings Theatre. Our friend Shannon Black was one of the actors in it, and we enjoyed her performance in Next Stop, Nightmare (written and directed by her husband, Jason Black). This is a limited run show, eight performances through September 11th, so you still have time to go see it.

On the page linked above is the following quote:

Bill Svanoe’s play has been labeled the “Death of a Salesman for the Computer Age.”

I would say that’s accurate. Bill totally captures the life (lives) of people who are on the road selling non-stop. Of course, there is a toll on everyone around them, families, friends, customers, acquaintances, etc.

At intermission, the three of us (we attended with a friend) predicted the two major plot twists. We were correct. I wasn’t even slightly disappointed to have been correct. In fact, those were two of the more interesting and poignant scenes in the play. I was glad not to be shocked by a trick, but rather moved by a well-written, well-acted realistic turn of events.

It was opening night, so there was some shakiness expected. While there were a few tiny flubs (quickly and well repaired), I was surprised by how few, so a shout-out to the cast for working so hard to get it right the first time out of the gate.

In general, that cast was pretty good, though there was noticeable variability between the best and worst of them. If you read my post about Next Stop, Nightmare, you already know how highly we think of Shannon, so let me call out a few of the other actors.

Both Lois and I agreed that the best performance was delivered by Zade O’Blenes. While Zade was on stage for quite a bit of the play, she was not a central character. Yet, whenever she was in the scene (one very dramatic one in particular), she was incredible.

Geoff Schuppert played the lead. Geoff was in nearly every scene, so his ability to maintain focus and passion throughout was extremely impressive. A very few times his role felt a tad over-acted, but given how long he was on stage, and what a powerful performance he gave, I feel a bit guilty sharing that.

Matt Klane played another central character and was believable throughout in a role that could be very tricky to play correctly.

There were a number of other good performances in supporting roles.

The play lasted 1:50, including a 10 minute intermission. We enjoyed it, but with some quality editing, it could probably be shortened by 10-15 minutes and be improved at the same time. Still, a very solid show, worth catching, if you want to be pulled into a world many of us see only peripherally.

Lois took very few shots because she didn’t want to distract the actors (it feels totally different to a musical performance). Here is one good shot of Shannon (we were very close to this part of the stage) and part of the long line of actors who took a well-deserved curtain call:

ShannonBlack CurtainCallRayFieldShannonBlackEdMoroney

The friend we went with lives a block away from the theater. When we suggested we grab dinner before the show, he recommended Malatesta Trattoria which happened to be exactly across the street from the theatre.

We had an incredible meal there and got to relax and catch up with a good friend. The only thing to be forewarned about (I was, so it wasn’t a problem for me) is that this place is cash only. The restaurant staff couldn’t be nicer or more helpful. Two of us had the Swordfish (which was one of the specials of the day) and was awesome. I also highly recommend the latte.