January, 2011:

Big Apple Singers at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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I started the first of four posts tonight (this being the 4th and final one) with a question as to whether this night would turn out to be as epic as I expected. If you read posts #2 and #3, you’ll know that there were enough frustrations to make that highly unlikely.

That said, there was the promise that this final set would put the night over the top. After all, it was a similar setup to The Narwhals who completely blew me away just a few nights earlier. If you only want to hear glowing things about these musicians, read that post and stop now!

The two main people in The Narwhals are Josh Dion and Greg Mayo, both extraordinary musicians (multi-instrumentalists and vocalists). Both are equally highlighted in The Big Apple Singers (TBAS). In this configuration, Josh moves from the keyboards to the drums and Greg moves from guitar to the keyboards.

Another main person (likely the leader of TBAS) is Evan Watson on the electric guitar and vocals. Rounding out the group is one of our favorite bassists (and people), Chris Anderson.

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A disclaimer is necessary, for people who don’t regularly read my blog. I write this blog for 1.5 reasons. The main reason is simply to document the things we do that we want to remember for as long as we live. We know memories are fleeting (in the sense of accuracy). The minor one is to promote the musicians that we have fallen in love with, but that’s really secondary.

The few negative things I have to say about last night’s set are for me to remember how I felt, not to knock people who have more talent in their pinkie than I have in my whole body. Also, I might be the only person in the overwhelmingly crowded Rockwood Music Hall stage 2 that felt this way. The joint was jumping and everyone there appeared to be enjoying one of the best sets they’d ever seen (including the friends we were there with!).

So, how could the same basic set of people that thrilled me on Wednesday, just have me enjoying myself a few nights later.

First, everything was so loud (probably to compensate for the huge crowd) that it was all a bit fuzzy. Of course I could make out all the leads, but they were drowned out by the other instruments that were wailing along rather than subtly accompanying the leads. On Wed, due to the blizzard keeping the audience smaller, everything was a more reasonable volume and the clarity of every note was outstanding.

Second, while The Narwhals played a set of only covers, TBAS played both covers and originals. Some of the originals had excellent musicianship, but were hardly stellar songs (IMO). There was also one direct comparison. Both groups played The Shape I’m In by The Band (TBAS opened with it). TBAS did it well, The Narwhals were awesome. I guess that set the tone for me early on and TBAS never overcame it for me (with one notable exception).

Left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Mayo on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Wonderful on everything.

GregMayoKeyboards

Evan Watson on electric guitar and vocals. Evan is a very good guitarist, but a little too heavy handed for my taste. It’s possible that it was this particular show or set list. I’m already planning on catching him with his other band, The Headless Horesemen, on February 17th, so I’ll get a second look. He has a very good voice and classic hard-rock theatrics.

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Josh Dion on drums and vocals. Awesome on the drums, great vocals. He took one very long drum solo. When he was done, Evan challenged him to crank it up. He did. The second solo was dramatically faster than the first. I still don’t know how his arms didn’t fly off. That said, just like my comment about Vinnie Sperrazza from Wednesday, Josh is even better in his drumming on every single song than his solos.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. In the past, we’ve only heard Chris sing harmony, mostly when he’s playing with Ian Axel. Last night, during one song, Chris took an entire verse himself. He was great and the audience let him know it.

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Robbie Gil was brought up as a special guest singer for one song. Robbie performed the set before TBAS and Josh Dion and Greg Mayo played in his band. I was sorry to miss that set (and will correct that as soon as possible), but we were next door at stage 1 seeing Derek James.

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Robbie kicked off another The Band song but insisted that each of the other band members sing at least one verse (that’s the song that Chris took a lead on). Robbie’s voice was wonderful as was his spirit on the stage. It’s the one exception I noted above to nearing the feeling I had on Wednesday.

Another thing that we rarely see, which we applaud, was Evan Watson squatting (Chris as well) whenever Josh Dion was singing lead. How rare to get a peek at the drummer, tucked way in the far corner at Rockwood 2. A wonderful touch.

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When they were done, even though they had passed their allotted time, people wanted more (remember, nearly every person there appeared to me to have loved every single second of the set!). After getting permission (which seemed to take longer than usual), the band reconfigured themselves.

Josh Dion took the keyboards, Greg Mayo the guitar and Evan Watson the drums. They did a Josh Dion original. Very nice and a little twist to end the evening.

JoshDionPianoGregMayoGuitarEvanWatsonDrums

Derek James at Rockwood Music Hall

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I have been waiting (not so patiently) for a chance to see Derek James perform again. Lois has been waiting even longer. We saw him for the first time on July 22nd at Flux Studios. Then I saw him without Lois on September 1st at Rockwood Music Hall stage 2. Both shows were extraordinary.

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Last night night Derek played Rockwood Music Hall stage 1, so I expected a bit of a more mellow setup, like he had at Flux. I admit to being a bit nervous as to what I might hear, since Derek announced at the September show that his guitar player, Roy Gurel, was heading to Israel for a long stay and wouldn’t return for a while.

Unfortunately, Assaf Spector wasn’t with Derek either, giving Derek a completely new band. Last night was their first performance together.

I love everything about Derek’s music. He writes fun songs and delivers them with a zest that has to be experienced live. That was all true last night too. While I definitely enjoyed the set and again am looking forward to seeing Derek as soon as possible, my expectations were too high for the reconfigured band to meet (my fault, not theirs).

Derek modulates his voice by running his mic through the equivalent of a guitar pedal. Even though I had noticed interesting qualities in his voice in the previous performances, I never noticed that he was controlling it electronically (silly me). Last night, mostly in the first song, but still noticeable throughout the set, Derek seemed to set the effects a little too high. During the first song, he sounded a bit like he was on helium. To make matters worse, his vocals were mic’ed a bit too low (even without the effects) and his guitar was a bit too low as well.

On to the band. I normally go left-to-right, but I’ll go right-to-left this time, because that happens to be the order that impressed me.

Michael Riddleberger on the drums (and a bit of vocals). Mike (that’s how Derek introduced him) impressed me mightily. Derek’s beats are fun and big and are greatly enhanced by a drummer who can bring out the 1940’s big band jazz sound (full, echoing drums). I was extremely nervous when the set began, because I was literally 10 inches from the drum set. Mike was perfect in his beat, and in not blowing my head off.

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David on the bass and light vocals. I bothered to make a note of his full name on my Droid. When I looked at the note tonight, the auto-corrected text had his last name as “disease”. Sorry! Anyway, he was quite good on the bass. Not quite as loose or fun as Assie (Assaf) is. But, the biggest difference is that Assie shares a ton of vocal harmony with Derek which was missing. Also, there is a general showmanship (dancing around) that was missing last night.

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Michael Day on electric guitar and vocals. I might have heard the name incorrectly, because I can’t find a link to him. Michael is clearly a talented guitarist with some fast leads. But, he’s filling shoes that are very hard to fill. Roy Gurel might be my second favorite local guitar player (behind Greg Mayo). Roy also does as much singing and dancing as Assie does (well, did!).

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I am not blaming Michael and David for not being able to replace Roy and Assie on their first-ever show. I am just hoping that a few more rehearsals and shows will continue their development quickly and dramatically.

Derek James can mesmerize me solo, I have no doubt. But, the current setup is called Derek James and the Lovely Fools. If that’s accurate, then the configuration with Roy and Assie should have been called Derek James and the Loveliest Fools! Smile

One final negative note (not under Derek’s control). While the 7pm set for Sarah Jarosz was whisper quiet during her songs, quite a number of people talked loudly during Derek’s numbers. Of course, those same people cheered, clapped and whooped it up like they were his biggest fans when the song was over. I know Derek’s music creates a total party atmosphere (did I mention how much fun his songs are?), but that’s no excuse to party without him while he’s performing…

The Ramblers at the Living Room

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This is post #2 of the evening. #1 was about Sarah Jarosz and Alex Hargreaves and can be read here.

Under normal circumstances, we would have stayed at Rockwood and caught Leslie Mendelson at the 9pm set. We’d never heard her before, but we were planning to be at Rockwood 1 for the 10pm set anyway and I liked what I heard on Leslie’s MySpace page.

Then we heard that Melissa Tong was sitting in with The Ramblers at The Living Room. That was enough to make us change our plans.

We walked in to The Living Room at 8:50pm. The place was a zoo (not in the child-like wonder way). The bar was mobbed, the inner room where the music is played even worse. We could barely make it in three feet from the curtain dividing the two rooms.

We watched the last three songs of Shanna Zell’s set on a TV that shows the live action from the stage for those who are too far back to see it. Shanna has a nice voice but otherwise couldn’t hold my attention. Given the crowd (and who knows how late her set got started), the show went past 9pm. When it was over, it took us another few minutes to get an additional 20 feet closer to the stage, still behind everyone who was seated.

The Ramblers had a number of special guests (they called it an orchestrated acoustic set), so it took them extra long to transition from Shanna to their setup. There were nine people on stage so it wasn’t surprising, just frustrating to wait, uncomfortably at that.

Then they started playing. Excellent. Definitely my kind of music. Actually, since they had so many guests, I don’t know how I would react to a normal The Ramblers set, but I’m willing to find out.

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Thankfully, during the first two songs, the violins (yes, there was a second violin joining Melissa Tong) were front and center (literally, at center stage and figuratively, as in highlighted throughout the piece). We were far back, so apologies for the fuzziness of the few photos worth posting.

Jeff Young played the violin amazingly (as Melissa always does). Together, bliss.

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Melissa didn’t play during the third song. Jeff was featured, as well as another guest Bill Bell on mandolin. I wanted to stay because I love mandolin so much (did you read the Sarah Jarosz post?). While Jeff was incredible, Bill’s part was nothing special. This is not a comment on Bill’s skill. When he was sound-checking before the set, I was quite impressed with the licks he was throwing around.

Anyway, because the set started so late, we had to run out after the third song. I was sorry to miss more of The Ramblers (and Melissa and Jeff in particular), but very happy to get out of that crowd.

Between Sarah and The Ramblers, we had a quick and exceptional meal at Sugar Café. It looks like a hole-in-the-wall on the corner of Houston and Allen. We’ve walked by there a hundred times and never considered going in before. What a mistake. We loved our food (fast and fresh) and the staff were as outstanding as the meal. Don’t go for the atmosphere, but if you’re on the Lower East Side and need something good, quick and reasonably priced to eat, I recommend it.

Sarah Jarosz and Alex Hargreaves at Rockwood Music Hall

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This week was perhaps the most live-music-filled one in our lives. It seemed fitting that we expected an epic ending to the week on our last night in NYC for a couple of weeks. You’ll have to read four separate posts to know if the reality lived up to the dream. This is the first of those posts.

I love the mandolin. I’m always a happy person (always), but a good mandolin player can lift my spirits even further. A great one can deliver an out-of-body experience for me. Some of my favorites proved themselves as kids (Chris Thile and Sierra Hull to name two). So, when I first heard about Sarah Jarosz (don’t recall how or from whom) and saw that she was touted as a mandolin phenom, I immediately bought her CD (Song Up In Her Head). It’s gorgeous!

SarahJaroszBanjo

I just searched my blog. While I still don’t know how I heard about Sarah, I know when, roughly December 2009. Here’s what I wrote in a Jan 2010 post:

A month ago I heard about mandolin phenom Sarah Jarosz. Then I found out she was opening for Del McCoury. To top it off, so was Marty Stuart. My excitement for this show was almost uncontainable. Still, I didn’t buy tickets. Why? I had no idea at the time, but I know now that I wasn’t meant to.

A week later I received an alert that Vienna Teng and Alex Wong were playing at City Winery that same night. Believe it or not, my mind failed to make the connection that it was the same night. I asked Lois and she instantly said “Grab tickets!”. I did.

When I saw that Sarah was playing a set at 7pm at Rockwood 1 there was no way I was going to miss it. She was listed as a solo performer. I was more than a bit surprised at two things: Sarah did not have a mandolin on stage (see my correction below!) and she had a fiddle player for all but two songs.

Sarah played the banjo on a few numbers (including the opener) and guitar (another mistake) on the rest. She had two guitars (nope). I could swear one of them had eight strings (and even sounded a drop like a giant mandolin). Yup, confirmed in this photo, it’s an eight-string guitar!

Update: See comments below, someone corrected me and said it’s not an 8-string guitar, but rather an Octave Mandolin! Cool, I learned something new today. 🙂

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Sarah was wonderful on all three, but I was most impressed with her guitar play (specifically the eight-string). Her leads were fluid and fast.

She sings wonderfully. Extremely powerful and clear voice. She writes her own songs. She played a collection from her current CD (mentioned above) and a couple from her upcoming CD (May 2011 release). She also played covers by Bob Dylan and The Decemberists.

It’s a testament to her talent that I was surprised to see no mandolin. Some of the songs that she performed last night are from the CD that I own and I ended up really liking them without paying attention to the fact that she was playing banjo or guitar on those as well (I went back and paid more attention today!).

Alex Hargreaves played the fiddle. He was instantly familiar to me and I was blown away by his play from the first few notes. It wasn’t until Sarah introduced him by name (a few songs in) that I realized why he was so familiar to me. I had seen him play with the one and only Jerry Douglas at the Highline Ballroom. Here’s what I wrote about Alex that night:

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

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Seeing him from five feet away, with only one other mellow instrument on stage, was a highlight for me. Absolutely incredible. The two of them played one instrumental number where they harmonized with each other (Sarah on the guitar). It was magical. It’s on the current CD: Mansinneedof (Man’s in need of).

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We walked into Rockwood at 6:50pm. All but one seat was taken (including the barstools) but practically no one was standing, so the place felt empty. Lois grabbed the one open seat and I stood near the unused drum set. By 7pm, a mere 10 minutes later, you could barely breathe in there it was so crowded.

Sarah mentioned a few times what a great audience it was (respectful, quiet during the numbers, loud with the applause). She was right. It was perfect. That would turn out not to be the case when we returned to Rockwood a few hours later (that will be post #3 for the night).

A great start to the night.

The Narwhals at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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After back-to-back sets at Rockwood Music Hall stage 1 we headed the three feet next door to Rockwood 2 to see a (newly formed?) band called The Narwhals. That link is directly to Josh Dion’s own site (a hard to read one, I’m afraid). Don’t search for a band site by that name (at least not today), because on Facebook, there is another band by that same name…

The Narwhals is a band headed by Josh Dion. We just saw Josh for the first time on Monday night at the Soul Revue Benefit concert. Even though he only sang lead on one song, it was obvious that he is extremely talented (singing and drumming). I would have gone just to see Josh, but there were two other reasons to be more excited.

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The first is that someone told me that Greg Mayo was part of The Narwhals. ‘Nuff said on that score! The second is that scheduled to play after The Narwhals was Live Society, the band that opened the Soul Revue that I was also excited to see again.

Given that Josh is a drummer, I was expecting to see Greg on the piano. Ha, just show up and don’t assume anything. Smile

Josh took to the keyboards last night, grand piano and electronic. He also alternated singing lead with Greg on every other song. The two of them sang harmony (incredibly) on most songs. I know nothing about Josh Dion, so there’s really nothing that should surprise me about him. Now I know a little more.

Specifically, I know that he’s an amazing keyboards player (not something I usually associate with someone who’s made their mark as a drummer!). He was crazy good on both the piano and the electronic keyboards, which he played in a variety of funky organ sounds/styles.

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His voice is wonderful (and perfectly suited to the music they played). His energy is infectious, not just to the audience, but to the band as well. Given that this is a relatively new effort, there had to be an awful lot of looking at Josh for a cue by the other members. Trust me, get out to see Josh Dion do whatever he’s doing, whether it’s The Narwhals, or any other project he’s involved with.

They covered some of my favorite classic rock tunes. A few from Traffic, The Band and a number of others. I know there are some great cover bands out there. Many (most?) concentrate on a specific group. The better ones often aim to mimic the original exactly (that’s great if they pull it off). Often, it’s great for the nostalgia (obviously, we all know the tunes cold), but there’s a stiffness to it.

The Narwhals are so awesome as individual musicians, that their covers don’t lose any of that energy, creativity and relaxed delivery (tight as a group, relaxed as individuals!). And yet, the original tune is never lost in them trying to outdo that version. Hard to explain, but you can’t be a fan of the original versions and not get lost in these updated ones.

Let’s run through the rest of the band. Instead of left-to-right (my usual, egalitarian way), I’ll cover them in terms of their highlighting during last night’s show:

Greg Mayo on lead electric guitar. If you read this space, you know that I am in love with Greg Mayo’s guitar playing. But, you’ll also know that I’m in love with his singing, his piano playing, his energy. OK, I’m in love with everything Greg Mayo (there, I said it, I have a man-crush on him). Smile

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I noted above that I expected him to be playing the piano. Why? I have no idea, since I thought Josh would be playing the drums. At Rockwood 1, someone asked me if I was heading over to see The Narwhals and when I said yes, they said “Josh will be playing keyboards tonight, with Greg on the guitar.” I was enjoying the set at Rockwood 1 (as you can read in my previous post), but I have to admit that I was driven to distraction (momentarily) knowing what I was in for.

Even so, I was wrong again. Not about Greg playing guitar, but by how much more I would get to enjoy it than I had in the past.

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In my previous times seeing Greg play guitar, he was supporting Martin Rivas (quite a number of times). His leads were always amazing, but they were always appropriate in length (in a supporting role), so they always left me wanting more.

When you’re covering classic rock bands during a blizzard, in the middle of the night, it’s largely about the leads (guitar, keyboards and drums). Josh is very generous with making sure that Greg took at least one long lead in every song (typically a few!). My mind is still racing, just thinking about them.

I already mentioned Greg’s voice and the fact that Josh gave Greg the lead vocals in every other song. Wonderful!

Vinnie Sperrazza on the drums. There are a lot of great drummers in the group of people we follow. I have no choice but to add Vinnie to that list, pretty darned close to the top. I actually anticipated it. Given how well thought of Josh Dion is as a drummer, how could he ever choose a drummer that didn’t impress him when he plays another instrument?

Vinnie took one long drum solo. It was extremely impressive. Still, that wasn’t even close to the reason I put him so high on the list. It’s his amazing consistency on how integral his drumming is on each and every song. Even the slower bluesy southern rock numbers have a deceptively up-beat tempo (at least as far as the drums are concerned).

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Geoff Kraly on electric bass. Not highlighted with any bass solos, but a perfectly professional performance in every respect. When the guitar and keyboards take a lot of leads, the bass and drums (but to a certain extent the bass a bit more) need to keep the feel of the song going. In other words, there needs to be a glue that allows the lead to dance while never feeling that they changed the basic structure of what they started.

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A good bassist pulls off that job. Geoff is more than a good bassist, keeping the bottom full. He was never overwhelming, which is very easy to do (unfortunately) with an electric bass. Impressive.

I mentioned above that I was excited to see the next set by Live Society. When I sat down, while The Narwhals were setting up, I did a quick email and Twitter check. I noticed a tweet by Brian Collazo (lead singer of Live Society) that they had to cancel the show due to the blizzard (or, more aptly, snowpocalypse). I was sad, but also relieved that I might make it home a bit earlier than I expected.

Another example of my silliness in thinking that I could predict anything. Of course, with no set on after them, no one was rushing The Narwhals off the stage, least of which the audience! When they tried to call it a night (a little over an hour into the set), people starting yelling out requests.

All of the requests were good and Josh even agreed to one. Then a guy sitting at my table yelled out Whipping Post. Josh got really excited, looking at the guy and saying “Perfect choice!”. The rest of the band instantly agreed.

I can’t tell you how great it was (but I’m gonna try). Here’s what I said to Vinnie as he came off the stage:

The Allman Brothers have three drummers when they perform Whipping Post. You made me feel like all three of them were here on stage. You’re awesome!

Need I tell you how amazing Greg Mayo was on the lead guitar? The Allman Brothers have two lead guitarists. I didn’t miss the second one a bit. But, while I am still madly in love with my recordings of Dickey Betts and Duane Allman, I admit that Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes don’t do it for me when they appear as the Allman Brothers. Both are extraordinary guitarists (there’s no arguing that), but in my opinion, they don’t do justice to the original (no, I don’t require an exact clone). Greg did justice, and obviously, couldn’t have cloned two guys doing it!

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Of course, Josh took some incredible keyboard leads as well and both he and Greg sang their hearts out.

I went up to Greg after the show and told him: “I could listen to you play the guitar 24/7!” (and I meant every word!).

There wasn’t a face that didn’t have a big silly smile plastered on it when the set was over.

Josh and Greg will be back at Rockwood 2 this Saturday (Jan 29) as part of The Big Apple Singers (11:15pm). Lois and I will be there too. Clearly, this will be a different configuration. Evan Watson plays the guitar (I think), so I’m gonna guess that Josh will play the drums and Greg the keyboards. I no longer care. Whatever they want to do, I’m down with it. Smile

I have no quibble with any song The Narwhals chose. That doesn’t mean that my mind wasn’t racing with a ton of covers I’d love to hear them do. That said, I held my tongue last night. Perhaps next time, I’ll venture a shout or two myself.

Back to the blizzard. We walked out of Rockwood at 12:30am. It was sleeting a heavy, freezing snow. It had already piled up a ton and cars were either slipping or completely stuck. Cabs? Ha! Four of us waiting to get one, spreading out trying to catch them from separate strategic approaches.

Amazingly, after about 15 minutes, our friend used her magic powers to hear a cab door unlock. The cab’s lights were totally covered in snow, so there was no other way to know he was available. She yelled to us and we all slished and sloshed over to the cab. After a harrowing (but ultimately very successful ride), we walked in the door after 1am. Two consecutive very late nights out. Both ended in a blissful musical experience. Hard to complain, so I won’t! Smile

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Mike Campbell and Jerry Fuentes at Rockwood Music Hall

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Another day, another very late night, again the need/desire to split the music into two posts.

First up, back-to-back sets at Rockwood Music Hall. The sets were related in that both headliners performed one song on the other’s set, and each had the same special guest appear. Otherwise, nothing remotely similar about the music.

Mike Campbell played his first-ever solo show on November 20th, 2010. I covered it in this post. Last night was his second effort. It was similar in some sense, radically different in others. The similarities were good set selection, good guitar play, nervous banter (perhaps not as much as he did the first time).

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The differences: much stronger voice (Mike had a bad cold the last time), guest performers (he wanted the first solo show to be about him only, correctly so!).

Mike played a number of songs from the first show, but also added brand new and older tunes to the set.

He called up three different guests, in three different configurations. First up, the headliner of the next set.

Jerry Fuentes joined Mike to play electric guitar and sing a bit of harmony, including leading the audience in a refrain at the end of the song (which was a lot of fun to join in on). It was my first time seeing Jerry (I met him for a second the night before at Mona’s). The song they performed was great (of course, I don’t recall the name now, sorry!). I’ll have a lot more to say about Jerry below when I cover his set.

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A few solo numbers again, then Mike called up the next guest.

Chad Vaccarino joined him to sing a song they co-wrote in June, Days Gone By. When they announced the song, I thought they were about to do a cover of Keith Urban. Nope, just the same title, nothing else similar about the songs.

Here’s a YouTube video of their debut performance of the song last June (it appears to be at a house concert). In the video, Chad is singing lead. Last night, Mike sang lead. In both, Mike played the guitar, beautifully! They should perform this song much more often:

Days Gone By–Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell

Immediately thereafter, Mike called Ian Axel to the stage, with Chad staying up there. All three joked about the fact that they were about to perform the song standing up, something they’d never done before. They sang All the Love, co-written by Mike and Chad. It was perfect. The YouTube video below again has Chad singing lead. Last night, Mike nailed the lead, with Chad and Ian harmonizing.

All the Love by Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell, guest star Ian Axel

If I understand correctly, Mike arranged the harmonies. After the show, I went up to Mike to tell him how awesome it was. Watching the videos above gave me a new round of re-enjoying last night’s show.

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Mike writes beautiful songs all by himself, no doubt, but his collaborations with Chad Vaccarino are simply amazing.

When Mike was done, Jerry got on the stage immediately. Since Mike had only an acoustic guitar, they had set the stage up for Jerry in advance and there was no transition time at all.

Having never see Jerry before, I had no idea what to expect.

He’s an excellent lead guitarist (smooth, fast and interesting). He has an excellent voice. He also played the harmonica on many of the numbers, something I’m less used to seeing in a rock set than a folk set, but Jerry made it work well.

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I would describe the majority of the set as ballad/anthem style rock. There were a couple of exceptions. If you click on Jerry’s name at the top, his site starts streaming music instantly (not something I think sites should do), so you can get your own sense of his style.

Since Jerry began immediately after Mike’s set, he opened with the one song that Mike joined him on. They sang and played well together. Mike then left the stage and Jerry turned up the heat.

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Jerry was accompanied by two band members for all but two songs:

Mike Tuccillo on the electric bass. I just saw Mike for the first time two nights earlier at the Soul Revue Benefit. He was very good that night, but I couldn’t see him, mixed in among the 14 other people on stage. Last night, I was a few feet away from him and could appreciate his technique a lot more. Very well done.

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Aaron Steele on drums. Aaron is a real hitter (very powerful). That can be a great thing, especially for rock songs. The only problem was that my right ear was perhaps two feet from the drum set, so it took me a while to get used to it. Aside from that, Aaron was impressive. In particular, on the last song of Jerry’s set (not including the encore), Aaron was incredible on the drums, very fast, totally clean, still hard hitting. Also very well done.

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Ian Axel joined Jerry for five numbers. Ian played the piano on all of them, singing on one (or two?). The band sounded pretty full without Ian, but adding Ian’s heart-pounding piano to the mix took it up a notch. This capped off a pretty big day in Ian’s (and Chad’s) life. Earlier, they were featured on the Rachael Ray Show on national TV!

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Ian performed the title song from his upcoming CD (This is the New Year, out in a couple of weeks!). Rachael Ray also posted a bonus song, Girl I Got a Thing, that Ian played for the live audience while the credits were running for the rest of us. Great job!

Two of the numbers that Ian joined on were exceptions to the rock style. One is a brand new song of Jerry’s that will be on his upcoming CD. It’s called Standing in Line. I am not linking to the online video he has of it, because last night’s version was 100x better. Just wait until the CD is out and get it. The song highlights Jerry’s lyrical abilities. He also played it on the acoustic guitar, taking the entire sound down.

He tried to get off the stage, but the crowd wasn’t having any of that. He got permission to sing one more. He and Ian performed it alone. A lovely way to close a very good set.

Jerry is a theatrical performer and the band played quite loud. Rockwood 1 is not the perfect venue for that kind of music, partially due to the sheer loudness in such a small space. I think Jerry can command a much larger stage in a larger venue and be perfectly suited to it.

Once I gave Jerry my compliments, we were off next door (literally) to Rockwood 2. The two posts are really unrelated, so I won’t even link them to each other (like I did last night). If you’re interested in what I did next, you’ll have to use some of your Internet skills to find my next post. Winking smile

Dennis Lichtman and Mona’s Hot Four

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This post is really a continuation of the previous one, but I was so blown away by my experience that I felt it needed to stand on its own. They link to each other at the appropriate head and tail ends for those that want to read through the night as a single event.

Melissa Tong won the gentle arm twist and we grabbed a cab over to Mona’s.

First, as life-long New Yorkers, it never ceases to amaze me how many facets of the city are not only undiscovered by us, but are actually invisible to us. Mona’s is one such place, but I’ll bet a lot more than $1.75 that it’s one of dozens of such places.

It’s a neighborhood bar, and a very crowded one at that. It feels like two railroad cars. The front room is the bar itself (long and narrow room) and the back room has a pool table and a bit more space to sit. Next to the end of the bar, right where the two rooms meet, is an upright piano (ancient looking). In that tiny space, where you might expect to fit one or two other musicians, an entire music scene is in full gear.

CrowdAtMonas

At one point eight people were jamming at the same time (trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano, upright bass, two banjos and an instrument I never saw before, some kind of finger steel drum, played brilliantly). There were as few as four playing (when we first walked in) comprised of piano, guitar, upright bass and clarinet. People (musicians) kept coming and going with their instruments strapped on their backs, waiting for their turn to jump in.

PianoClarinetTromboneTrumpetAtMonas

Here’s a fuzzy photo of the finger steel drum thingy. Feel free to comment if you know what it’s called. Smile

FingerSteelDrumThingy

Most of the music was ragtime/Dixieland, with a bit of more mellow jazz thrown in for good measure. To say it was awesome would be to understate it dramatically. The clarinet player was killing me he was so good.

Dennis Lichtman was that clarinet player. When I mentioned that to Melissa, she told me that he doesn’t consider the clarinet to be his strongest instrument. Say what? Now I have to find him and watch him play every other instrument, first ensuring that my seat belt is on and my tray table is locked in its upright position!

Now I have to blow my own mind (and yours, if you are open to that kind of stuff). When I went to dennislichtman.com to link it to his name, I saw that he has a few projects. In addition to his regular jam at Mona’s, he has a group called Brain Cloud. That name sounded familiar. I looked at my open tabs in Firefox and saw that a week ago I opened a tab to the Brain Cloud section of dennislichtman.com, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Someone (Melissa, Kevin, Alex?, I’m thinking Kevin!) told me that I had to check out Brain Cloud. I dutifully opened a tab with the intent of doing so, then got so busy with shows every night (you can read my thoughts on each one) that I haven’t gotten to it yet. I was clearly destined to know about Dennis and at least one of my friends (sorry that I can’t even remember who told me about him!) knew that was the case.

Here’s a second thing that amazed me about the scene at Mona’s. We normally get really annoyed if people even whisper at the shows we attend. We’re there to enjoy the music and respect the artists. At Mona’s, the context seems different. Yes, there’s a show of sorts going on, and yes, it’s specifically about the music, but no, it’s not a concert, it’s a jam, in a local bar.

The social scene is loud (very loud) and buzzing/humming non-stop. People who really prefer to hear more of the music than hang out naturally gravitate as close to the musicians as they can get, and somehow tune everyone/everything else out. Don’t get the mistaken impression that people who are talking loudly aren’t simultaneously enjoying the music. We too were part of a loud four-way conversation for the first 45 minutes that we were there, but I was also soaking in every note.

Then, when the steel-finger-drum thingy joined the jam, Melissa suggested we get a closer look. I stood in the door-jam between the rooms for the next 30 minutes, away even from the people I came with and soaked up the music for another 30 minutes. At 12:30am, Lois and I decided that we had pretended to be young long enough and we called it a night, though it was really hard to walk away from that music!

We’ll be back at Mona’s, count on it! Smile

Chasing Violet and Michael Daves at Rockwood Music Hall

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Once again, Twitter delivers. I’ve mentioned it before, I’ll mention it again, follow the artists that you like on Twitter, you never know when you’ll find out about something that you might otherwise never hear about.

For a few months now, Melissa Tong has been telling me that I need to see Michael Daves perform. Beginning a few weeks back, he has a residency at Rockwood Music Hall every Tuesday night at 10pm. We had an aborted attempt to see him last Tuesday, but were finally able to commit to going last night.

We were sitting around watching TV, resting up for what was going to be a later night than usual (it ended up being even later than we had imagined). I was catching up on Twitter, when I saw a tweet from Rachel Platten (if you read this space, you know she’s one of our current obsessions!):

Whatever. Get it together Platten. Oh and come to Rockwood Music Hall tonight! My new band is playing at 9 ~ it’s free!

Say what? The set immediately before the set we’re already going to be there for is Rachel Platten? How could I have missed this? I didn’t! I went back to check the website and the band listed at the 9pm slot was called Chasing Violet. If you’ve learned anything in these posts, it’s that many (most?) of these NYC-based musicians have at least one side project, some have a dozen!

Listen to the five songs available on the Chasing Violet link above and if you don’t love them, I’ll immediately refund the money you spent on my advice here! Winking smile

We happily accelerated our plans and showed up at Rockwood exactly at 9pm. The place was crazy mobbed as Ed Romanoff was packing up his equipment from an obviously very successful set. As people left we got to squeeze in and even (luckily) grab two seats.

Chasing Violet is Rachel Platten and Nick Howard. Nick is a Brit (we won’t hold that against him). Winking smile In a small world story, I was introduced to Nick by Alex Berger on December 7th, 2010, when we all attended an Ian Axel show at Mercury Lounge. Nick was charming and funny and we had some good laughs (all at Berger’s expense, in front of him). Winking smile So, I was now even more intrigued to hear Chasing Violet (though Rachel was draw enough).

RachelPlatten

This was their first-ever public show. The songs are great, their voices amazing. For a first show, considerably polished. The flubs (of course there were flubs) were turned into very light-hearted moments that enhanced the show. Each is charming in their own right and together even more so.

ChasingViolet

One big surprise was hearing Nick sing after hearing him talk (even at the show, not just when I met him in December). With one exception, Nick sang in an alto register, often taking the higher harmonies and Rachel does not have a deep voice. He hits the high notes so crisply, but when he speaks, it’s a more normal male baritone. Quite interesting.

NickHoward

They joked a number of times about how this would likely be their last show as well. That’s not true, as they’re already listed at Rockwood on March 8th at 9pm (once again followed by Michael Daves). Of course they’ll get better with each show, but they might lose some opportunities to make us laugh along the way.

I’m so glad that I found out about this show and that we were able to make it in time. I would not have been happy to hear about it after the fact.

NickHowardRachelPlatten

Back to why we were originally going to Rockwood to begin with, Michael Daves!

Michael played acoustic guitar and sang solo (with the exception of one surprise guest). He had his own microphone with him (the kind you see in a studio, with a shock mount). I’ve never seen anyone have that kind of mic at Rockwood before. Amazingly, I’ll bet $1.75 that for whatever reason, the mic was not playing through the PA. In other words, it didn’t matter that he brought (or even had) a mic at all. His guitar wasn’t plugged into an amp either, he was raising it to the mic to play.

Did it make a difference? Not in the least! He sings so powerfully, and with a serious bite in his voice, that it carried cleanly throughout the room. His guitar was a bit softer, but since it wasn’t competing with any other instruments or voices, it was easy to hear as well.

He’s a superb guitar player. I had no doubt of that going in, since I became aware that he regularly plays with Chris Thile. Chris wouldn’t play with a musical slouch.

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Michael’s set consisted of traditional Appalachian-style bluegrass/roots music (since I’m not familiar with him, I don’t know if all of his sets are this style or not). I’m mildly surprised that a place like Rockwood gave him a long every-Tuesday residency, since this isn’t the most popular music in NYC.

We like most kinds of music, in particular bluegrass (though typically, the more full-band bluegrass sounds). So, it was definitely a treat to see his particular picking style. He was capable of mixing a flat-picking lead with a strumming rhythm, at the same time. Sort of accompanying his own leads. Sweet.

Toward the end of his set, in a complete surprise to everyone (including her), Michael called up Melissa Tong (our reason for being there to begin with!) to sing a song with him. It was the best song in his set (IMHO). Melissa has a lovely voice (though she doesn’t sing often enough). Because the mic was off (no one has proven to me that I am wrong yet, so my $1.75 goes unclaimed) Melissa had to sing louder than she normally does. Bravo, more Melissa! Smile

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When the set was over we bumped into Rebecca Haviland and got to tell her in person how amazing she was on Monday night at the Soul Revue Benefit.

Lois and I probably could have just fallen asleep right there at Rockwood. Melissa gently twisted our arms to extend the evening a bit longer and head over to Mona’s for their amazing Tuesday night jams. We had no idea what we were in for, but we agreed.

Continue reading about our experience at Mona’s, which was amazing enough for me to want to make it a separate post.

Soul Revue Benefit at The Bitter End

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I’m rarely at a loss for words. Unluckily for those who intend to make it to the bottom of this post, this won’t be one of those rare times either. But, it’s still unusual, because simply following my normal structure of mentioning every single performer won’t do justice to what happened last night. So, I’ll take a slightly different tack today.

First and foremost, I need to bow to Sam Teichman (@samteichman on Twitter) as deeply and humbly as I can. Sam is a perfect example of one person, single-mindedly focused on getting something done and achieving that goal (actually, exceeding it). On November 4th, 2010, Sam sat next to me at Rockwood Music Hall as we enjoyed sets by Jesse Ruben and Alex Wong. Even on that night, Sam was doing for others, as I noted across three paragraphs toward the end of my post about that show.

SamTeichman

More importantly, that night, a mere 2.5 months ago, Sam told me to stay tuned for a benefit concert he was starting to put together. Sam is not a rich guy. Sam is not a powerful guy. Sam is not Oprah Winfrey, who merely has to mention the word benefit and superstars around the globe will claw to be a part of it.

Sam is just a guy with a huge heart, a love of people, a love of music, a talent for video production, perseverance and a tireless work ethic. Because of those loves and talents, Sam has amassed an incredible number of real friends™ many of whom happen to be amazing musicians. That allows Sam to pull off these miracles. It’s inspirational. We should all aspire to be like Sam.

Free Arts NYC was the beneficiary of last night’s fundraiser. Emilia Vincent, Director of Special Events for Free Arts NYC, came up on stage to thank Sam (and all of us). A number of other staffers were in attendance as well. Every donation taken at the door (minimum donation requested $10) and every CD and DVD sold (also name-your-price donations) went entirely to Free Arts NYC. All the performers (dozens) donated their time and talent.

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The event was held at The Bitter End. A very nice club (very storied) who’s stage is just large enough to accommodate the often 15 people who performed simultaneously. Most of the night was an ensemble (more of an amalgamation) of people who don’t typically play together in a regular group (though subsets of them do play together). The one exception was the opening act.

Live Society opened the show (they also have a MySpace page). A couple of friends told me that I would really enjoy their performance. That turned out to be a huge understatement. What a total blast. Brian Collazo sings most of the leads and played acoustic guitar on two numbers. Jason Vargas sang lead on at least one number and incredible harmony on the rest. Kevin Collazo (Brian’s brother) sang harmony beautifully. The three of them could easily be an a capella group if they wanted to be.

LiveSociety

But, why would/should they be? Their guitarist, John Kaiteris, was awesome. In addition to being great on the electric guitar on every song, he wrote a number of them as well. Extremely talented! Erik Perez on the drums was very impressive. Superb feel for the rhythm of soul. Anthony Candullo on bass complements them. No weak link in this group.

But wait, there’s more. Making a guest appearance for Live Society’s entire set was Patrick Firth (I’ve written about him a number of times). He played the grand piano and electronic keyboards. He’s a master and both fit in with and was highlighted by Live Society.

PatrickFirth

Brian called up another special guest to sing with them on one song, the always incredible Martin Rivas.

They’re working on a CD. I look forward to the release. Check out their music on the above links, you’ll love it.

After a 10-minute break, a cast of thousands piled on to the stage (OK, it only looked and sounded like a cast of thousands). At the most, there were 15 people performing at the same time. At the least, three. For the majority of the numbers, it was 14. What a huge sound (even when there were only three people on stage!).

The musicians didn’t stress about stage placement or sound checks as they shuffled on and off the stage in rapid succession. There was a core house band that played on most numbers, but that shifted as well. The transitions were smoother than I ever could have imagined.

The amazing brass section consisted of: John Liotta (alto/baritone sax), Ian Schaefer (trumpet) and Matt Simons (sax). They were on stage for roughly half the numbers.

JohnLiottaIanSchaeferMattSimons

Mike Tuccillo and Jeff Litman alternated on the electric bass (really well).

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Oscar Bautista and (Sergio) Serge Ortega shared the electric guitar duties (extremely well).

OscarBautistaSergeOrtega

Seth Falk, Robbie LaFalce, Josh Dion and Craig Meyer all shared percussion duties (drums, djembe, tambourine) often with two on stage at the same time. Each and every one of them was wonderful. More on Josh Dion momentarily.

SethFaulkRobbieLaFalceCraigMeyer

For most numbers, there were three or four backup singers on stage. All but one sang lead as well, so I’ll mention them in a second. The only backup singer who didn’t sing lead on at least one song was Valerie Mize. She did a wonderful job. I’m sure if there was more time, she too would have taken a turn at the center mic and wow’ed us.

ValerieMizeKarlyJurgensenBriArden

Megan Cox played the violin, wonderfully.

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Abby Payne and Rebecca Haviland shared the grand piano and electronic keyboards duties (for those songs where there were keyboards, I’ll guesstimate that Abby played 1/3 and Rebecca 2/3’s of them). Both ladies were incredible.

AbbyPaynePianoRebeccaHavilandPiano

This brings me to the one unimaginably sad note of the evening. Greg Mayo suffered the untimely passing of his brother Christopher in a car accident earlier that day. Our hearts and prayers go out to Greg and the entire Mayo family over this unspeakable loss. A number of people on stage mentioned this tragedy.

On to the people who sang at the mic at center stage, raising our blood pressure (in the good way) and making us shout “Yeah” and “Hell Yeah” (among other grunts and words), literally.

Jesse Ruben led off, great start.

JesseRuben

Rebecca Haviland has an extraordinary voice and stage presence. I wrote about her briefly when I covered the Greg Mayo Band, of which she is a part. Last night her voice roared above the other 13 people on stage. Totally captivating. I already mentioned how amazing she was on the keyboards as well.

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Luke Wesley has a very powerful and distinctive voice. It was our first time seeing him. Thoroughly enjoyed his number!

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Bri Arden (also on Reverb Nation). A quick aside before telling you about Bri’s performance. Bri was a member of the backup singers for much of the night. When she took the lead, she changed her dress into something substantially more eye catching. Before she got to sing, someone else on stage asked her where the other half of her dress was. Winking smile

BriArden

Bri sang Proud Mary, starting off slow and building to a heart-pounding final few verses (just like Tina Turner’s signature version). Someone in the crowd mentioned how difficult it is to emulate Tina. Bri pulled it off! When she next appeared as a backup singer, she was back in her other dress. Smile

John Schmitt was up next. A number of my friends have told me that I have to see John Schmitt perform. Having heard his voice and style last night, I understand why. He’s now on my list.

JohnSchmitt

Abby Payne did a very nice job (yes, the same Abby who nailed the piano parts!). The only issue is that it took Abby a bit to crank up the volume on her voice, which was necessary because she (and all of them) were competing with tons of instruments and other vocalists. Abby had an all-male backup singing contingent.

AbbyPayneSingingSethFaulkMartinRivasJoshDionJayStolar

Karly Jurgensen was also a regular member of the backup singers before taking center stage. Karly has been a recent discovery of ours and I’ve written (briefly) about her twice. She is high on our list to see a full set and we got on her mailing list after the show to ensure we don’t miss out!

KarlyJurgensen

Up until now, each of the aforementioned singers performed one number.

Martin Rivas took the stage in a minimalist way. He was accompanied by Chrissi Poland on vocals and Craig Meyer on drums. Martin played the acoustic guitar. Rather than sing one song, or 10, Martin played a long (and absolutely amazing) medley of 7-10 numbers over a nearly 10-minute appearance.

MartinRivas

He and Chrissi were both great (more on her shortly) and they really got the crowd to sing along, multiple times. It’s Martin who also got the crowd (yes, the placed was packed!) to groan, as I mentioned above.

Brian Collazo (of Live Society) joined them for two numbers. A few others came and went (Rebecca Haviland, Valerie Mize, Josh Dion, the brass section). A great mini-set.

Chrissi Poland stayed on stage for the rest of the show. She alternated singing with whomever had the center stage mic, and taking the center stage mic herself. All told, she probably sang the most leads of the night, even including Martin’s numbers. She was awesome. We’ve only seen her once before, singing a few numbers with Martin at Rockwood 2. We were impressed then, and continue to be now. We want/need more Chrissi, now!

ChrissiPoland

Josh Dion was already mentioned above as one of the drummers. It took me a second to notice that after Martin left the stage, someone was singing, but no one was standing at the mic at center stage. That’s because Josh Dion was singing his heart out, while playing the drums (which were center stage, but against the back wall). He was incredible!

JoshDion

Jay Stolar (lead singer for Julius C) was up next, and he shared the stage with Chrissi Poland. He was also incredible. What a voice and what passion and energy on stage (very theatrical, in the best sense). I shouldn’t be surprised. For the past month, every time I ask a question of a friend in an audience (like: “Who’s that guitar player”?), the answer often comes back: “Oh, he’s in Julius C, you really need to check them out!”. Indeed, I do!

JayStolar

It was inevitable that this post would get to this length, even with the abbreviated mentions of many of the amazing musicians. Even at that, I haven’t done justice to what was obviously an epic night at The Bitter End.

Thanks again to Sam Teichman and everyone mentioned above (and anyone I missed) for putting on such a great show for such a great cause.

Just to make this post even longer, I will reproduce Sam’s entire thank you stream from Twitter, for those who didn’t click on his link above, or for those reading this long after it has scrolled off of his Twitter page:

Wow! Thanks to @jesseruben, @rebeccahaviland, @lukewesleymusic, @BriArden @johnschmitt, @abbypaynemusic, @KarlyJurgensen, @martinrivas….

…. @joshdion, jay stolar of @juliusc, @chrissipoland for singing your hearts out tonight on lead vocals.

And thanks to Oscar Bautista and @Serge_Ortega for brilliant guitar work, @jefflitman and @its5knobmike on the bass…

.. Robbie LaFalce of @PhilthHarmonic, @sethfaulk and Josh Dion on the drums and percussion. Valerie Mize on the backing vocals…

@matt_simons, Ian Schaefer and John Liotta on the brilliant horn work, and Megan Cox on the violin. You all amaze me. Words are not enough.

Thanks more so to every single one of you who came to support the cause, and the artists, tonight. You all reaffirmed my faith in music.

Special thanks to @CMorelliNYC for taking pictures, and @achance42, Matt Golub, Alex Depew and Doug Cion for filming the show.

I can not imagine a more perfect opening band for a night of soul than @collazo and the Live Society crew, and you guys crushed it tonight.

And a huge thanks to @hadarvc, @tinajbowen, @ArtSceneNYC, @thejujuqueen and all the others who retweeted and publicized the show so well.

Mostly, tonight reaffirmed my belief that people can make things happen, things of consequence, big or small. Believe in the arts…..

…. believe in charity. Believe in the ability to make a difference one dollar at a time, one song at a time, one life at a time.

The only goal in life should be to create, to smile, to give, and to love. The rest is just details. Thank you all. We’ll do it again soon.

Well said Sam.

The Grascals at Highline Ballroom

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When a band plans a tour there is very little wiggle room in any given city. They’re generally on the move all night (if they have a professional bus driver), or all day (if they’re driving themselves). There are many things you can’t control when planning months in advance.

Two such things are the unbelievably frigid temps currently inhabiting NYC (thanks global warming!) and the local team making the championship game in the NFL (thanks J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!). Smile

The weather and the Jets might have kept some fans from making it out last night (entirely their loss!), but it didn’t stop The Grascals from blowing away those of us who were smart enough to choose them!

This was our third time seeing The Grascals and it most certainly won’t be our last. The other three people at our table had never seen them before. They are indescribably amazing (or, as one of the people we saw it with noted: “The Grascals are truly absurdly talented”). Of course, I’ll still do my humble best to give you a sense of their magic.

Highline Ballroom is a wonderful place to see a show, in particular one with a big group and a big sound. The Grascals are that.

While all six members of The Grascals blend perfectly together, I actually view them as two separate groups (more accurately, a group within a group). Each group is great in their way but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. To whet your appetite, check out the amazing number of awards they’ve won as a group and as individuals.

Group #1 is a core vocal and rhythm driven ensemble comprised of Jamie Johnson (guitar and vocals), Terry Eldredge (guitar and vocals) and Terry Smith (upright bass and vocals). The three of them sing so well individually (each sings lead) and together (three-part harmony on every non-instrumental song). Jamie and Terry share MC honors, keeping everything light and funny in between songs.

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Terry Smith is also a top-notch bassist. On two numbers he demonstrated a perfect slap technique that was a blast to listen to and watch.

Group #2 is comprised of three of the best instrumentalists you’ll ever hear (they don’t even have vocal mic’s so you never hear them speak or sing). Danny Roberts is an incredible mandolin player. Jeremy Abshire is an extraordinary fiddle player. Kristin Scott Benson is a mind-boggling banjo player (multiple time Banjo Player of the Year winner!).

DannyRobertsJeremyAbshireKristinScottBenson

Each of Danny, Jeremy and Kristin can give solo performances that knock your socks off. When they play together, most of the time one of them is being highlighted in the lead, but the other two are supporting the effort with complementary riffs. On some songs (only one brief moment last night), they have duels, which have them each repeating the same riff in a competition where the only winner is the audience!

When Groups #1 and #2 combine (on most songs), you get the best of both worlds. Amazing vocals sprinkled with virtuoso leads on the mandolin, fiddle and banjo.

They were all on fire last night, and the audience gave extended ovations after every number (and for nearly every lead during each song). Each of the three soloists was brilliant.

Jamie then thanked us and introduced the last song, Sally Goodin, off of their self-titled album (The Grascals, for those of you not paying any attention). On that CD, the song is just under four minutes, and features incredible solos on the fiddle, banjo, mandolin and then around again.

Last night, as incredible as each of Jeremy, Danny and Kristin was, this last song took it to another level. I didn’t have a second of disappointment during the earlier numbers, but after this, I realized that they were holding something in reserve.

Jeremy opened the number (just like on the CD). After his solo, Kristin took hers. Then Danny. Just like on the CD, Danny’s solo was longer than the others, only last night, Danny’s kept going (and going). Then Jeremy walked to the middle of the stage and took over Terry Smith’s vocal mic as everyone else took a few steps back.

TheGrascalsJeremyAbshireCenterStage

He wailed on the fiddle in one of the longest, most inconceivable solos. Every time it looked like he was about to relinquish the lead, he took it up a notch. You had to be there to believe it. Finally, after leaving us all shivering a bit, Kristin stepped back to her mic and continued the round until they finally called it a night.

Their live version of Sally Goodin lasted over nine minutes. It was more than twice as long as the CD version. Jeremy’s solo itself lasted longer than the entire CD version. All I can say is that if that were the only song they played (meaning, if the entire show was just those 9+ minutes), I would have felt that I had gotten my money’s worth. The rest of the show was a bonus!

Every person at Highline rose to give them a long standing ovation. Of course, they came back for an encore.

New York, those of you who passed on this show have no idea what you missed. OK, perhaps you know now. If you miss the next chance to see The Grascals when they return, it will be on you then. You’ve been warned! Winking smile

After the show, we purchased an EP and one CD that we didn’t already own. Both Jamie and Danny signed them for us.

Here is a representative set list (not the identical one played last night) with the two CDs that we bought:

SetListAndCDs

To top it all off, the five of us shared a fantastic meal and enjoyed each other’s company for two relaxing hours before the show started. The food at Highline Ballroom is wonderful, but our companions were even more wonderful. Smile

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