May, 2011:

Is Rudeness a Necessary Evil?

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(Wow, I just finished writing and unsurprisingly, I created a monster. If you can’t make it through the entire post, I forgive you, but you might want to peek at the last few paragraphs for one proposed solution to the problem…)

There is a recurring theme in too many of my posts, rude audience members. At times, I want to edit those comments out, but then I remind myself that I want to remember what each experience was like. Unfortunately, more often than I care to recall, it’s a part of the evening that sticks with you.

The first time I ever mentioned it, I probably had a fantasy that all the rude people in the world would read that post, have an Ah Ha! moment, and enjoy the actual performances from that point on (allowing the rest of us to take our enjoyment up a notch as well). Guess what, it didn’t happen.

Then I rationalized: well, those people don’t read anyway, and if they did, would never associate my comments with their behavior.

Because I am hyper-sensitive to it, and because I write about it often enough, I have been trying to understand it better. I have no illusion that the problem can be solved (certainly not by me), but I am wondering whether it can be avoided in a specific, micro way, perhaps by creating a club where people like me can get the listening experience they desire.

Let’s survey a few forms of the problem (by no means exhaustive):

  1. Many different people in different parts of the venue talking loudly non-stop
  2. A single cluster of two of more people talking loudly
  3. Wait/Bar staff taking drink/food orders, occasionally creating noticeable disturbances during a song
  4. A single person, purposely creating a distraction

Some of the problems above are caused by, or exacerbated by particular venues. Sometimes it’s the style of the artist. Sometimes it’s the artist themselves (meaning, they are an opener that some portion of the audience simply doesn’t care to discover).

Fine, it’s a fact of life. But, is it understandable/explainable? Is it consistently the same roots underlying the various forms of rudeness? I think the answers are Yes and No, respectively.

Let’s take the venue out of the equation for a minute (we’ll analyze their role right after). Broadly speaking, there appear to be four categories of rude audience members:

  1. People who aren’t there for the music to begin with (or at best, are treating it like a background jukebox)
  2. People who are there for a different artist on the same night (before, and they’re hanging around to socialize, or after, and they’re killing time waiting for their act)
  3. People who are there for this artist, but only to support them, not listen to the music (a paid show that they know the artist badly wants/needs to fill up, etc.)
  4. People who are friends with the artist and want to be part of the scene, but don’t really care to hear the music

#1 is often a venue problem (not always), so I’ll deal with it later.

#2 is one of the toughest things. You can be a real fan of a particular artist and not care about music in general (or other artists’ fans!).

#3 makes you a good person on some level, your friend or an artist you like really needed your support and you bothered to show up, but somewhere, there’s a resentment. You want to ensure that you have a good time, rather than complete your original good deed the way it should be.

#4 this is one of the worst, but more often than I care to admit, it’s other artists (who certainly don’t want it to happen to them!). In their heads, I’ll bet they’re thinking “Well, I’ve heard so-and-so sing that song 2,798 times, and they completely understand why I’m not paying attention…” OK, let’s be honest, they’re really not thinking about their actions at all, I was just trying to be nice.

Continuing with #4, I believe that often these people show up because they know that the rest of their circle of friends (largely other artists) will be there (which is why I said “to be part of the scene”). The problem is that their friends, who might otherwise be quiet, rarely tell them to be quiet. They easily get pulled into the conversation, even if they feely badly about it. After all, being rude to someone who is on stage and busy feels more anonymous than telling a friend to be quiet, or step outside to talk.

The following will likely strike you as completely obvious. On some level, it always was to me as well, but recently it has struck me much more clearly. The thing that unites all of the above, explaining the majority of the individual rude behavior, is a Look at Me attitude. The disruptor wants (perhaps even needs) to make themselves the focus, the center of attention.

Some of you might think that’s ridiculous. If so, try to explain the following behavior to me. We’ll assume that a rude person is completely oblivious to the fact that they can be heard, or that anyone cares, because they think no one else is bothering to listen to the music either. Then that person get shushed by 80% of the people in the crowd, successfully (for the sake of argument, since it’s often not successful). 95% of the time, less than one verse later (often less than three words later), that person is talking loudly again.

They no longer have the illusion (or excuse) that no one noticed or cared about their disruption. It’s they (them?) that could care less about their behavior or its affect on others (especially the musicians on stage). Feel free to leave a comment correcting my conclusion.

See the bottom of this long post for a (somewhat sarcastic) proposal to stop this behavior! Smile

On to the venues.

Have you ever attended a Broadway show and heard people have loud conversations in the audience during the show? Surely there are some awful shows/performances that can’t hold some people’s interest. Surely there are some people attending in a group that haven’t seen each other in a while and have much to catch up on and little time to do it. Surely, some of the same people that never stop talking at a music venue attend such shows without opening their mouth on Broadway.

Why? Because it wouldn’t be tolerated. Ushers would warn you (probably only once) and then escort you out. The people around you wouldn’t hesitate to let you know it either, not in a quiet, anonymous shush that might occur at a music venue, but in a let’s meet in the alley way, indicative of the value they place on quiet in this setting.

You might think it’s a factor of the ticket price. I don’t think so. Students often get in cheaply on Broadway (and they are just the type of young people who chatter non-stop in the bar settings with live music). More importantly, many musical events that are paid shows, including some higher-priced tickets, include a full helping of chatter. The difference is that the venue tolerates it (as do the majority of the annoyed patrons).

I believe there are a few factors, but the first is the biggest issue, by far:

  1. Venues make the vast majority of their money on the drinks. The more people drink, the less inhibited they are, the louder they get. Since the venue makes more money as people continue ordering drinks, it’s not in their best interest to stop the behavior of the biggest drinkers. This will happen whether the show is ticketed or not.
  2. In a bar atmosphere, other audience members are less likely to forcefully try to get someone to quiet down. That’s probably smart, as there are significant safety issues with confronting loud drunks in these types of situations/places. While there is a bar at a Broadway theater, it serves before the show and at intermission. The dark separated seating changes the nature of the atmosphere. People don’t assume that a first fight will break out there.
  3. We all do so many things with music serving purely as a pleasant background. There are many venues where even live music serves this purpose, so some people may be desensitized or really unaware that it’s contextual. Still, for a ticketed show, it continues to boggle my mind that people can’t see the difference (think: symphony at Lincoln Center).
  4. Different venues have different structural problems (not just physical layouts, but rather whether they have back-to-back sets of unrelated artists, one show per night, multiple ticketed shows per night, etc.). Analyzing the pros and cons of each might yield some clue as to whether an ideal listening room could be created and be economically viable.
  5. NYC is unique in its density of venues and 7-day-a-week unlimited choice of musical events to attend (obvious exceptions: Austin, LA, Chicago and a few others). That creates different problems and potential solutions as well.

#1 isn’t an easily surmountable problem. People will buy drinks (often because they have to, with drink minimums per set, etc.) and there’s a ton of profit in each drink (necessarily so, to pay the rent, staff, taxes, and leave something left for the owner to eat as well). Once people drink, in an unstructured setting, thing become unpredictable, fast (or in the case of this topic, all too predictable).

It’s hard to blame a venue for not asking people to be quiet, then tossing them if they are repeat offenders. I have way less sympathy for a venue when a show is ticketed. They owe a duty to the other paying customers, to deliver an atmosphere conducive to actually enjoying something you’ve paid for. I get that it will still likely cut into their profits (short-term for sure, possibly long term), but I still think it’s incumbent on them to do it.

#2. I urge you to not be forceful with anyone you don’t know well. The possible results of a physical confrontation aren’t worth the potential enjoyment of the music. That’s why you won’t see me getting in anyone’s face in these situations. It’s not worth it, don’t do it!

If a shush won’t get the job done, and the venue won’t do it, let it go (or just write an encyclopedia-sized blog post about it, like I do). Winking smile

#3 feels like it could be solved by educating the talkers, but let’s be realistic, it just isn’t going to happen. The same person who wouldn’t talk in Lincoln Center for a string quartet (no words to miss), will happily talk loudly when a single folk singer is quietly strumming a guitar and singing the deepest lyrics you’ve ever heard. Hey, there are still a few of us left that care deeply about lyrics. We may be a dying breed, but we’re proud and we’re loud (no, wait, I guess we’re not really loud).

I’ll use #4 to talk about some of our favorite venues, even though many problems exist there as well. I can’t do justice to this topic in this post, as it would be double the already long one this has become. Perhaps some other time, especially if people let me know they have an interest in a “venues only” post.

Venues have both a physical structure (is there a bar in the listening room, is there a separate room for people to talk in, do they serve food in the listening room, is the room oddly shaped or does it have good and bad viewing spots) and a logical, business model structure (paid or free shows, single or multiple shows, related or random sets).

Rockwood Music Hall is one of our favorite places to hang out for a few reasons: many of the people we love play there often; for the most part the small (original) room is relatively quiet, or can be made so through peer pressure; they have a separate room behind the bar so talkers have a place to go if they want and still easily hear the music and return to see it when their chatting is done. Occasionally the talking gets out of hand and can’t be controlled, but the balance is still heavily weighted toward people who want to hear good music.

The biggest problem causing the talking in Rockwood 1 is that shows are always free (or close enough to always). There is a one drink minimum per night, not per set, so it can be a very cheap night out to enjoy (and discover) amazing music. 6pm until at least midnight on weekdays, with weekends starting at 3pm! A tip jar is passed around during each set. You don’t have to put anything in and the suggested donation is $5 per person (per audience member, not person on stage!) per set.

If you stay for multiple sets (as we often do) and are generous in your tipping (as we often are and I only say that to encourage anyone who can afford it to do so as well!), it can become an expensive night, pretty quickly. Meaning, free isn’t even close to being free, if you value music and want to see it continue to be created (and that’s just fine with me!). But, if you can’t afford it (and heaven knows many can’t!), you can sit there and sip one $3 drink all night, letting the tip jar pass you by (there’s something beautiful about that as well).

The fact that there can be a hard rock band on at 7pm, followed by a solo folk singer at 8pm, followed by a 6-piece bluegrass band, etc., makes it difficult for some people to stay quiet, if they don’t like as many genres as we do. This is made worse if they like the bands at 7 and 9, and have nowhere else to go at 8pm. Just hang around and ruin the 8pm band’s fans experience, why not?

So, the amazing people behind Rockwood Music Hall decided that they can do even better. Since the small room is often crowded, and the better known musicians need a bigger room to play, when the place next door became available, they purchased it (or leased it, I have no idea). They built a room that is twice as large, has a cool balcony, a better green room, more bathrooms, great sound system.

They did a magnificent job in getting everything they wanted right (and maximized every inch of space in the process). Unfortunately, ask nearly any musician who plays there regularly and they will tell you that it’s one of the rudest rooms you can play (all too often). Part of it is structural. As opposed to the smaller room, Stage 2 (as it’s called) has no separate room to chat in. You could walk 30 feet to the back room at Stage 1, but that feels like going to an entirely different venue, and of course, you can no longer hear the music you ostensibly came to hear.

But, because it’s a larger room, there’s also a strange sense of anonymity and distance from the musician. I bet that people just assume they can’t be heard. Even I want to exchange thoughts with someone every once in a while during a show. I whisper in their ear, not yell louder because the music just got a bit louder.

Bottom line, I think the single biggest problem at Stage 2 is that people often stay for more than one set, even though they are probably only interested in a specific set (before or after the one they end up non-stop talking through).

Joe’s Pub used to be our favorite club in NYC. Technically, it still is, though we haven’t been there since March 2nd, 2010, to see Ian Axel perform (so it’s hard to defend that as our favorite place). The main reason we don’t go there as often as we used to is that Joe’s has a different structural problem.

Every show at Joe’s is a paid show. I like that part a lot. Talkers are rarer there, but it does happen, and when it does, it’s 10x more annoying, because it’s actually unexpected. The problem is that Joe’s books a minimum of two shows a night (often three). They have to clear the audience out after each show, since the next one has separate tickets. That rushes each performer off the stage, even when the audience is totally mesmerized. It feels a bit like a conveyor belt in a factory (keep it moving buddy!). Sets tend to be short  (for a paid show, not in comparison to the expected short sets at Rockwood).

It’s hard for fans to connect with the artists after the show (if you like that sort of thing), because you’re clearly annoying the staff that needs to turn around the room for the next act. If you’re waiting outside for the next act, no matter how well you know the drill, it’s maddening that the doors open 10-15 minutes late, often just minutes before the show is scheduled to start. Let’s not forget it’s going to be a short show anyway, so every second counts. Also, Joe’s has great food, which you are now guaranteed to have to eat while the performance is taking place.

Does anyone get this right? BB King in Times Square gets close. They typically book a single show per night. It’s always paid. The doors open two hours before the show to accommodate a dinner crowd which can be finished and bussed before the performer hits the stage. By coming for dinner you are rewarded with better seats, as it’s first-come first-seated. Rarely is there talking during the show (except when rowdy fans scream to the performers on stage). The only downside (only in comparison with places like Rockwood) is that tickets are generally expensive, and the indie artists we love won’t get invited there (and might not be able to fill the very large room if they were).

Highline Ballroom is owned by the same people who own BB King (they also own the Blue Note). It can be great too (like BB King) but it’s not as consistent. Some shows are seated (and offer a similar experience to BB King), but many shows are standing only (which aren’t our favorite, though we’ve reluctantly attended more than our fair share recently because we won’t miss certain artists if we can help it). The biggest difference is that often people at Highline do talk during shows, seated ones as well. That just doesn’t happen at BB King.

What makes the difference between BB King and Highline, which are otherwise reasonably similar? First, they do sometimes book different types of acts. Specifically, Highline will book many of the NYC-based indie artists if they feel they are breaking out enough to get a good crowd (they often do!). Ironically, those shows end up attracting the talkers because it’s more about participating in the scene than listening to the person you’ve seen 100 times, or are best friends with…

The other difference rolls me into point #5 above. A large part of BB King’s audience is made up of tourists. Times Square is popular, many of the acts they book are well known, it’s a natural spot for a tourist to take in live music in NYC. If a tourist wanted to go chat in a bar, they wouldn’t go to BB King.

#5 is broader than that. In NYC, you can throw a pebble (please don’t) and hit a dozen bars or clubs nearly anywhere you stand. Why wander in to a live music event to have your drinks and conversation, when you can go into a pub? Well, live music is more fun, for sure, and you can tell people you saw so-and-so, even though all you did was see them, since you weren’t listening. But people often pay for tickets, so they didn’t just wander in.

So, I think the density and frequency of shows in NYC desensitizes people to the listening experience (at least some). Go to a city outside of NY (with some noted exceptions) and the experience is radically different. I’ll use one city as an example (since we’ve attended a number of shows there, but it’s by no means unique!).

We’ve seen a number of shows in Birmingham, AL. I think all of them were at Workplay. We like the club a lot! While you can see live music every night in Birmingham (or so I believe), there aren’t a lot of choices, and many nights it will be a hyper local band in a completely bar-scene atmosphere. Specifically, Workplay does not have a show every night. If you want to see original music played by proven bands, you’ll have to plan, you can’t just wander out on a given night and expect to have choices (you might not even have a single choice).

Therefore, it’s not necessarily the case that people who go to Workplay happen to be nicer than people who go to Rockwood. It’s just that nearly everyone there has not only made a choice to be there that night, they’ve planned for it and likely have looked forward to this night for weeks. They are likely to do their best to actually experience the show, rather than chat with their friends.

That makes these types of shows a special evening out, not just a hang-out that happens to have good music in the background.

OK, this is crazy long already, so I’ll wrap it up.

If money were no object (and never in my experience has that been the case, unfortunately), here’s what I would do:

Build a club with two levels (the upper one set back from the first floor). The first floor would be a real listening room (the bar area would be in a separate room, and wait staff would serve the listeners, as quietly as possible). Rather than tables (which waste space, even though they are ultra-convenient), I would either have chairs, or chairs with flip tops to set your drink on (like when you were a kid in school, thanks to my lovely wife for that creative suggestion!).

Shows would be clearly marked as listening events. The FAQ on the site would state that consistent talkers will be warned, then removed. That will be prominently listed before people enter the main room. If tickets are sold, it would be stated obviously during the purchase process.

The second room, offset perhaps 1/2 way back and up a level would be sound-proof. It would have a full glass wall facing the stage. It would have large screen TV’s showing what’s on stage for those not near the glass, or not facing it. There would be a high-quality sound system in that room so that people could hear the music live, but also scream at each over it, because that’s so much fun!

It’s true that we would probably not book bands whose fans need to dance during their shows. So be it. I would also never book a band again if it turned out that in general, their fans were unruly (as opposed to particular individuals).

In my fantasy world, the best artists (local and otherwise) would kill to play on that stage. Fans that otherwise don’t attend many shows would kill to come see this great music. Somehow, we’d find a way to pay the musicians (even if they were happy to play for free) and make enough money to keep the club going forever (no, wait, money wasn’t an object, so we’re not concerned with that aspect).

Since none of that is going to happen, here’s my alternate solution, which struck me during a show last week (and I mentioned it to one of the artists when the show was over):

Let’s all take a high quality camera with a super-bright flash with us to all shows. When someone talks out loud and refuses to stop after being shushed, we’ll take a photo of them (perhaps a dozen). If they complain, we’ll say: “Sorry, it seemed like you were dying to call attention to yourself and I was doing my best to accommodate you!”.

In either case, we’ll post that photo on a Wall of Shame! (both on the web and in the club.) The unnamed artist added a nice twist: “We’ll scan their photos and use a facial recognition program to stop them from entering the club in the future!”. Brilliant!

Greg Mayo, Craig Meyer, Tony Maceli and Guests at Red Lion

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I’m a fanatical lover of great guitar playing. If that’s news to you, welcome, this is likely your first time visiting here.

Candyrat Records has signed an impressive number of the top instrumental guitarists around. Every so often they schedule a tour with a number of their artists. We’ve seen one that was headlined by Andy McKee (covered here). It was as good as I hoped/expected.

Two months ago I saw that Candyrat scheduled a show at Rockwood 2 with four players, two of whom were new to me, but the other two I own all of their CDs. I was 90% sure that we would attend. I can’t explain why I didn’t buy tickets in advance (that’s my modus operandi) but I kept procrastinating. As the day got closer, I became more sure that we would attend.

Then this past week happened. We were out six nights in a row, most of which were long and very late (for us). On Saturday morning, knowing we’d be out late that night, I told Lois that I changed my mind, we’d skip the Candyrat show and head to the house for a much-needed collapsing. Ah well, the best laid plans…

I come to praise Twitter, not to bury it. Winking smile

I’ve repeatedly promoted the fact that you should follow your favorite artists on Twitter because you will often learn about late-breaking shows. Fortunately (or unfortunately if sleep is desperately needed!) Winking smile that’s exactly what happened mid-day yesterday. I noticed the following tweet from Greg Mayo:

Tonight I’m taking requests with my good friend @CraigJMeyer at the Red Lion 7:30 to 10:30…beware, I only know 6 songs, so request wisely

For the newbies here, in yesterday’s post, I anointed myself President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club. It felt unseemly to shirk my Presidential duties the very next day. So, sleep be damned, our plans changed on the spot.

GregMayoSettingUp

We arrived at the Red Lion (our first time there, though we’ve heard about it many times) at 7:25pm. Our first (of many!) surprises was revealed before we even got to step inside. Standing on the street with his bass strapped to his back was Tony Maceli, one of our favorite people (oh yeah, and also a great bass player, but who cares about that part, right?). Winking smile Since everything I knew about this show (you’ll understand the italics in a minute) was contained in the tweet above, I had no idea that Tony was sitting in with Greg and Craig.

When we walked in I spotted Bri Arden. I really enjoyed her rendition of Proud Mary at the Soul Benefit we attended. I’ve been following her since, but haven’t been around when she’s performed her own set. I introduced myself and headed to the table Lois had already grabbed, where she was sitting with Tony’s girlfriend. (Surprise #2 and #3)

I looked at the beer list and was happily surprised (#4) to see they had Smithwick’s on draught! (It’s pronounced Smiddick’s, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of having that explained to you in a pub in Ireland, when you are first introduced to Guinness’ biggest competitor). I also saw they serve food there (surprise #5) so I had a yummy garlic hummus plate (we ate a late-ish lunch and ran out thinking we’d skip dinner).

I left my beer for a minute when I noticed that Sierra Noble sat down at the same table Bri Arden was at. Tony Maceli was chatting with them. I knew that Sierra just arrived in town that day (from her tweets) and I wanted to introduce myself and share the small world story that I had blogged about her amazing song, Human After All. She cut me off by telling me she had read that post! Sweet! I was honored and humbled. (#6, I’m keeping count for the lazy and math-challenged among you!)

Oh yeah, there was also music, but since it hadn’t started yet, I filled in the time by telling you the above. Now we’re back in sync.

The music part of this post will be split into two logical sections. They occurred largely at the same time (with a three-song delay), but hopefully, you’ll understand why I’m splitting them up (if not, send me a lot of money and I’ll cover these events your way!). Winking smile

First, the purely musical aspect of the night. So, I see tweets all the time from Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer that they will be playing at Red Lion (they do a series there called Campfire, and they play there regularly otherwise as well). I think Martin was out of town either celebrating the day after his Birthday, or more likely, recovering from an alcohol infused daze. So, I think Craig invited Greg to sit in for Martin.

The core of the musical group, sitting left-to-right on stage:

Craig Meyer on drums and vocals. I can’t recall Craig ever singing before, so this was a welcome surprise (#7). A much bigger surprise was that Craig handled the MC duties throughout the two sets (they took a 20+ minute intermission). He was clever, charming, quick, funny and did it all in a rich, deep, radio DJ like voice. Clearly, there are many dimensions of Craig we were unexposed to, that we now know we need to mind. (#8).

CraigMeyerDrums

Greg Mayo on acoustic guitar and vocals. What? Acoustic? Hell yeah! This was the first time we’ve seen Greg with an acoustic guitar. Hopefully it won’t be the last. (#9). If you ask me whether he handled it with the same skill and ease that he exhibits on an electric, I’ll have to deny you membership to the Greg Mayo Fan Club (when you send your application, please include your dues, checks should be made out directly to me, PayPal gladly accepted!).

GregMayoRippingItUp

Tony Maceli on electric bass and vocals. Yes, vocals, and I’m not talking some way in the background harmony. Tony took the lead on a number of songs (I’ll be more specific in the next section) and sang more forcefully on the backgrounds on the others. (#10). I’ve always loved Tony’s bass play, largely because it’s understated but always appropriate to whomever he’s playing side-man to. Last night Tony took many full-on bass leads, a number of them a very high speed. Wonderful! (I won’t count that as a surprise, since I knew Tony had the skills, he just hadn’t busted them out in front of me yet.)

TonyMaceliSinging

The music was planned to be covers all night, but I didn’t know if there was a theme. Greg kicked it off with back-to-back Jazzy/Blues numbers, then shifted to some Soul. If the rest of the night hadn’t turned into what it did (see section two, shortly), and I hadn’t had a second Smithwick’s (Yeshhh, after all, Ireland is pretty close to Scotland!), I would probably remember which artist they were covering, as every song was a super-famous classic (I’ve never mentioned this, I don’t take notes, every blog is completely from memory, hence all the errors and omissions).

CraigMeyerGregMayoTonyMaceli

After the fourth number, Greg revealed the theme: they were planning to do two songs by each artist and move on to the next. Simple enough. Of course, just like my original plans for the evening, that isn’t the way it played out. In fact, immediately after announcing that, everything changed…

Before shifting gears I’ll note that during the first few numbers, I noticed Christina Morelli was there as well. I want to pad my surprise count, but saying that I am surprised to see Christina at a show that I’m at would be disingenuous. In fact, I could save myself time and effort and just hack into her Calendar and stop maintaining my own! Winking smile

While I didn’t connect with Christina last night, Lois went over to introduce herself, so between last night and the night before, Christina has met our entire family. Smile

Before (finally) moving on, let me just summarize that the music was fantastic all night (roughly two hours split over two sets). Last caveat, I’m reasonably sure I’ll mess up the order of some of the songs and guests below. You’ll have to excuse my still-delicious haze. I give you permission to correct me if you were there, or permission to imagine it in any order you’d rather if you weren’t. Winking smile

Having never been to the Red Lion before, and having never clicked on any of the Campfire YouTube videos either, I really had no idea what to expect. The minute we walked in, it was obvious that this was a pub-style restaurant where the music was meant to be more of a live jukebox. In other words, this wasn’t a listening room. That’s fine. One of my best night’s out was at Mona’s, listening to Dennis Lichtman and Mona’s Hot Four, while 80% of the people at the bar were socializing loudly (for a while, including me, oops!). It’s all about context (to me at least).

We were at the table closest to the stage, in front of Greg (center-stage). I figured that no matter what went on around us, I could tune in to the music and squelch the inevitable bar noise.

That turned out to be true (sort-of), but in a way I never anticipated. Starting at the very first song, a group of people (mostly women) at the table to our left started singing loudly along with Greg. I still had no idea what would come next. This could devolve, or get very interesting.

Craig (in his role as MC) engaged them directly. He asked where they were from and they said NJ. For the rest of the night, Craig referred to them as The Jersey Girls, which was an effective way of differentiating them (you’ll understand in a minute).

CraigMeyer

When Greg started the third song, Lois turned to me and Amy (Tony’s girlfriend) and said “Ask Greg to play Oh Bla Di”. I have never heard Lois ask for a Beatles song. Even though Lois controls the iPod in the car, not once has she put on a Beatles song (even though I have 90 on there!). I was in shock, which caused me to not call it out. I didn’t even know whether The Beatles were in their repertoire.

If you read yesterday’s post, then you know I said this:

Lois has a way of bending the universe to her will (if you know her, you know I’m not exaggerating!).

You’ll have to read the rest to figure out how that played out Fri/Sat, but I’ll tell you how it worked out here. Note that I mentioned the theme of the night wasn’t revealed until after the fourth song, so we didn’t yet realize that they would be running through many different artists when Lois asked me for this song.

Well, the next artist up after the fourth song was, Ta Da, The Beatles! The song wasn’t Oh Bla Di, but hey, you never know! Well, you never know, unless you’re married to Lois. I bet you’re all way ahead of me, because song number six was indeed Oh Bla Di, and none of the people at our table said a peep, so there’s no way Greg could have known (from us) that Lois wanted to hear it. Thanks Universe! (Unfortunately, as with Christina Morelli being there, it would be cheating to count this as a surprise, even though it seemed like an impossibility!)

By this time, people were rolling into the bar on a consistent basis. When you couple the quality of the music, with the classic nature of the songs, it’s not even marginally surprising that most newcomers stopped by the stage to listen and sing along, loudly! The Jersey Girls (TJG) were only the beginning of a trend.

Even though Greg said they would play Beatles songs until they (or we) got tired of it, that didn’t happen. I may have the order wrong, but they quickly switched gears, and next up might have been Stevie Wonder. At some point, both Bri Arden and Sierra Noble got on the stage and sang backup vocals (on two songs). Folks, each of them is a bona-fide lead vocalist that you should never miss an opportunity to hear. Adding them as background vocalists was fun and great, even though it was short-lived. (#11)

SierraNobleBriArden

A few sailors came in (it is Memorial Day Weekend, and therefore Fleet Week as well!). It’s always great to be around our Military (at least it is for me!), but it’s obviously more special when we remember those that gave their lives so that we could get silly (not that I’ve gotten to the silly part yet!) in a bar in Greenwich Village. We salute you all! TJG did their part and danced with the sailors.

Minutes later the night took a dramatic turn. Eight girls walked in front of us (between us and the stage), semi-danced while they were in front of the stage (to acknowledge the great music/band) as they made their way to the bar. We all noticed them because each of them had neon glow necklaces on. Clearly, something was going on.

NeonNecklaces

Craig broke into a fabulous rendition of Bust a Move by Young MC. The crowd went nuts! If he stopped rapping for a second, the next words could easily be heard out of a dozen different people. Craig raps? (#12)

Immediately thereafter (remember, I’m making up the order as I go along) Winking smile Craig was on top of his MC duties. He asked the necklaced women what was going on. It was a Bachelorette  party. He asked who the bride-to-be was, and we were all introduced to Laura. Along with TJG, we had Laura and her entire bachelorette party (which grew beyond the initial eight) to focus on the rest of the night.

Craig asked if he could have a neon necklace. Instead, they gave him a neon sticker (which Craig proudly wore the rest of the night) that said: “Fling, Fling before the Ring, Ring!”. Smile

CraigMeyerFlingFlingSticker

Craig asked if Laura had a list of things she needed to complete while at the bar (I didn’t even know such a thing existed, perhaps because I never attended a bachelorette party before. At a bachelor party, the list is pretty short.) Winking smile

Not only did she have a list, they were neatly written out on flash cards. One of the attendees handed a card to Craig, who offered to try and help Laura get as many items checked off her list as he could. He was successful with at least two items (I might have missed a couple more). One of them was that Laura needed to get a random man in the bar to buy her a drink, by saying some unmentionable things to him. After Craig read that out loud (replacing the words “unmentionable things” with the real words), Laura was able to cross that one off a second later.

Here are four of those flash cards:

BachelorettePartyFlashCards

The next one was Do The Twist with a stranger, for the entire song. Sure enough, the band instantly started playing The Twist, and one of the sailors played the part of the stranger. After the song (yes, she twisted the entire time), he lifted her up like Richard Gere does with Debra Winger at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, to the delighted whoops of everyone who saw it. Laura ended up in the right bar on the right night. Smile

SailorAndLauraTwisting

While playing The Twist, the entire bachelorette party came out to dance (let’s just officially call the area between our table and the stage, The Dance Floor). Many others joined them (including TJG), and it remained crowded the rest of the evening. The people who danced, along with the people who sat close by, continued to sing along on nearly every song.

At one point, Craig invited Laura and her posse on stage to sing a couple of songs. They acquitted themselves very nicely!

LauraAndPosse

Out of the blue, Chris Ayer walks into the bar. For the newbies, he’s another one who we can’t get enough of (if I’m the President of Greg’s fan club, Lois is the Emperor of Chris’). Winking smile Greg spots Chris (who apparently wasn’t expected to be there, thanks again Twitter!), and announces that Chris would be joining them in a little bit to sing. Awesome! I’m sure it was as big a surprise to Chris as it was to us. (#13).

A few minutes later, a man in a hat walked in carrying a small saxophone case. He stood by the side of the stage for a song, and then walked across the dance floor very deliberately, looking at the band in what felt to me was like one gang eyeing another. What I didn’t realize is that he knew them well (at least Craig, if not Greg too). He’s played with Craig and Martin at the Red Lion many times (I found that out while Googling him). (#14)

The sax player was Chuck Hancock (I hope I linked to the correct person). Craig called him “Sir Chuck Hancock” throughout the night. Googling for that made it easy to see that Martin and Craig always call him by that name. Whether others do is a task I’ll leave to you!

After getting to the other side of the stage, he unpacked his sax and got on stage next to Tony. He’s an excellent sax player (he hits some extremely high notes so sweetly). He stayed on stage for much of the rest of the night and sang a bunch too (extremely well!). He took the lead vocals on Jackomo Fina Fina Nay. Trust me, that one got the crowd going too, since we all called back “Hey Now, Hey Now”, etc.

SirChuckHancockSax

In yesterday’s post I asked the rhetorical question: “Who doesn’t like a party?”. Well, while I thought I was in the middle of a party already (at least a bachelorette one), it only got more fun (and raucous) from there. I think one TJG called out for some Tom Petty. If not, once Greg decided to shift to Tom Petty, they (and others!) wouldn’t let him get off that theme for a while.

What made it crank up a notch is that it was during The Tom Petty Portion of the Evening (henceforth known as TTPPotE) that we got to hear Tony Maceli belt out the vocals to a couple of songs.

It was in TTPPotE that Chris Ayer came up and sang one. No disrespect to any of the other singers, but holy moly, with all that was going on in the room at the time, you could palpably feel everyone (in particular the women) take note of his voice and style of singing. (Seriously, Greg was awesome all night on the vocals, but do yourself a favor and check out Chris Ayer, you’ll be amazed!).

ChrisAyerSinging

(Full Disclosure: The previous paragraph was sponsored by Lois, in her capacity as Emperor of the Chris Ayer Fan Club)

Chris remained on stage for quite a while, singing mostly background vocals (I think he sang lead on one other number).

A little later on I spotted John Schmitt standing next to the stage. Sure enough, seconds later Craig announced that another special guest would be serenading us.

JohnSchmitt

They moved on to Paul Simon, with John Schmitt singing lead, including Me & Julio, featuring Chris and Sir Chuck on background vocals (and Chuck tearing it up on the sax, again).

ChrisAyerSirChuckHancock

Later in the evening, Sir Chuck took his sax into the middle of the dance floor and serenaded Laura (the bride-to-be, in case you aren’t paying attention any longer!), while she danced to his music, inches away.

SirChuckHancockInTheCrowd

I’m probably missing many more highlights, but it’s all a blur now, and I’m about to be late to what I expect will be a terrific Memorial Day BBQ at our friends’ house. So, I’ll just say that this turned out to be one of the most fun nights out, which is almost an incredulous statement given that it was our seventh night out in a row, all of which were amazing. To think that not only wasn’t this planned, I didn’t even know it was going to happen until that afternoon.

We are grateful that we changed our plans (fan club membership has its privileges) and can’t thank the band and all of the incredible guests for putting on more than a show, they hosted one of the best parties we’ve ever attended.

I can also scratch off Attend a Bachelorette Party from my bucket list. Winking smile

P.S. I couldn’t finish the photos before I had to call our hosts and apologize for only being 30 minutes late (it ended up being 32 minutes). I’m now at our friend’s house, full and happy, and being anti-social by finishing this up. At least they have Verizon FiOS, so the upload will go faster than if I wait until I’m back at the apartment.

Martin Rivas and Robbie Gil at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Martin Rivas was bringing his current Saturday Night residency at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 to a close last night (he’ll be touring Europe much of the summer). That would be reason enough to go see him (the last full-band show in NYC until late August or early September). But I’ll give you a better reason (even though you’re too late to act on it if you weren’t there), it was Martin’s Birthday!

In typical Martin style (his heart is bigger than any three of us mere mortals combined), he threw a party for the rest of us, rather than the other way around!

MartinRivas

Martin performed a set full of his original crowd favorites plus a few covers. Let’s give him none of the credit for that though. One of his birthday surprises was the set list itself. Martin didn’t get to peek at it until nearly show time. His band decided what songs Martin would have to play. Extremely cool idea on their part, well executed by everyone (Martin included). Since they are big fans of Martin as well, they were effectively making this a fan-driven set list.

MartinRivasBirthdaySetList

They had another surprise for him, which affected the entire set as well. They got him stinkin’ drunk (on top shelf hooch) before the show. I’ve never seen Martin wasted before, since he always has a long drive home after the shows. He announced (with another drink in hand!) that this was the first Rockwood show that he was going to be driven home from. Since his wife was in the audience, I presume that she was his designated driver. Perhaps the band also chipped in for a Limo (I can fantasize on Martin’s behalf, can’t I?). Smile

Martin was in excellent voice (which was a relief, since he’s been sick recently).

MartinRivasSinging

His guitar play was spot on as well (including an extremely tasty lead on an acoustic guitar, late in the set). During one song he popped a string. He played through the rest of the song without missing a beat (I saw the string fly away from the guitar when it happened).

When the song was over, he bestowed the honor of restringing it to Greg Mayo. It turned into a little bit on stage though, as it was the G string that popped. If you’re not following me, and some of the ensuing guffaws in the audience, that’s fine, as this is a PG-13 rated blog. Winking smile

A minute later, Greg emerged from the green room and informed Martin that he couldn’t repair it. I think I heard him say that the peg (the part that holds the string on the body of the guitar) came flying out as well. They took a quick look in front of Martin, didn’t spot it, and Martin decided to play the rest of the set without a guitar (no worries, there were two guitarists on stage with him throughout).

Greg being the clever guy that he is would have none of that. He returned a minute later with Robbie Gil’s guitar (Robbie headlined the set before, which I’ll cover later in this post). The tasty lead I mentioned above was performed on Robbie’s guitar, so thanks Greg for thinking of that, and Robbie for being willing to part with it (it was unbelievably worn/scratched, so it has to be one of Robbie’s favorites).

Martin got the crowd singing a few times (only once by asking us to). Even when people weren’t singing out loud, I saw so many people mouthing every word that Martin was singing. Most of his sets are like that, but there was definitely a special feeling in the air last night (I wonder why…).

Martin always has The Spirit in him. Since last night he also had the Spirits in him, he did something we often wish more performers would do on behalf of their fans/audience. He tried (with mixed success) a number of times to quiet the inevitable talkers. For the most part, he did it in the most loving way imaginable (seriously, he simply appealed to the talkers to listen quietly for one special song, then resume their talk about Stock Portfolios and Second Homes in the Hamptons!). Smile

One particularly annoying woman in the far corner yelled out “Hey, it’s SATURDAY NIGHT” (at the top of her lungs). Martin had a different kind of spirited response for her. The cheers and applause let him know that he was speaking for all us (well, I guess most of us). Here’s a Twitter exchange from a few minutes ago (as I am writing this) between Tony Maceli and Martin:

@martinrivas do you recall asking a young lady at Rockwood to ‘be quiet’ in a very un-Martin like way, followed by rousing applause?

@whosthebass did I do that?! Awesome!!!!! Hope it wasn’t too rude

Ah, reliving that moment this morning was sweet. Thanks Tony and Martin for making that happen. Smile

One last incident before we get back to the music (actually, the amazing band and guest!). Someone (I’d give them credit if I knew who) brought a lot of cupcakes (fancy ones from what I saw) to celebrate Martin’s birthday. One was passed to Martin on stage and we all sang Happy Birthday to him. Well, we started to, in a rag-tag disarrayed fashion. Martin made us all stop and said:

If you’re going to do this, then at least do it right. Ready? 1… 2… 3…

MartinRivasCoordinatingHappyBirthdaySong

That’s all it took to get us all on the right page. Thanks for that as well Martin. But that’s not the incident, I needed to relate that part so that you’d know there were a lot of cupcakes in the room. Winking smile

MartinRivasHappyBirthdayCupcake

One moron (yes, I spent hours considering the exact right word to describe this person) thought it would be funny to toss a cupcake on the stage. Of course, it landed icing side down on top of the electronic keyboard (somehow finding the most damageable thing it could on stage). It took time and effort to clean it off before the next song could start. Well done moron (sorry, it deserved repeating).

The band was amazing musically, but they were also the driving force in lifting Martin’s spirit even higher than usual (who knew that was even possible?). In combination with Martin, they turned an awesome show in a giant party as well (who doesn’t like a party?).

Left-to-right on the stage, followed by a very special guest appearance:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. I’ve written about Patrick many times, but this was our third night in a row seeing him tickle the ivories brilliantly (each night with a different band!), so there’s a lot of ink about Patrick on the home page at the moment. It was his keyboards (the top one of the double-decker setup) that had the pleasure of hosting the upside-down cupcake.

PatrickFirthKeyboards

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. Ryan did a fantastic job (as he does whenever he sits in on Martin’s full-band shows) banging on everything in sight. Not only did he play his own toys (cowbells, tambourine, shakers, etc.), but a couple of times he got up and shared the drumming duties (two drummers playing the same drum set at the same time). Awesome! Ryan was the person who diligently cleaned Patrick’s keyboard after the cupcake fiasco.

RyanVaughnPercussion

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Chris shared the leads with the other guitarist, Greg Mayo. In addition to each being excellent in their own right, they feed off of and complement each other. I’ll have a bit more to say about Chris’ vocals in a minute. This was also the second time we’ve seen Chris this week. He was part of Ian Axel’s band on Tuesday and rocked out that night as well.

ChrisKuffnerGuitarLeadChrisJuffnerSinging

Craig Meyer on drums. Craig is always superb on the drums. Last night was no exception. In fact, if it’s possible, he rose to the occasion of wanting/needing to make this night a bit more special. After all, he’s Martin’s Baby Brother (if you haven’t been to one of Martin’s show, don’t bother looking up which one of them changed their last name, it’s Martin’s homage to how much he loves and respects Craig as a person and as his primary drumming partner!). This was our second time seeing Craig at Rockwood 2 this week.

CraigMeyerDrumsCraigMeyerTambourine

Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. Another excellent performance by Brian. As with Patrick Firth, this was our third consecutive night enjoying Brian’s play (they were in the same bands each night).

BrianKilleen

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. Since we saw Greg headlining a set that ended just 22 hours before Martin hit the stage, I’ll point you to that post to read my thoughts on this extraordinary musician. For the people at my table last night (you know who you are!), the looks we exchanged every time Greg took a lead will remain etched in my memory forever! I’ll have something to add when I cover Robbie Gil, since Greg (along with Patrick Firth and Ryan Vaughn) also played in that set.

GregMayoJamming

There weren’t any really slow songs last night, so it’s not surprising that this band kept such a steady level of energy that had practically everyone in the crowd swaying, dancing, bobbing, tapping, clapping, etc., throughout every song. The possible exception was the woman that Martin needed to slap down (sorry, I couldn’t resist one last cheap shot).

Bess Rogers was called up as a special guest. This is the song where Martin pleaded with people to be quiet (before his exchange with the woman, he was speaking to a different set of women at the bar). Martin knew why quiet would be necessary for the full enjoyment of what we were about to experience (we had no clue, or at least I didn’t).

Martin started singing, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar, with Chris Kuffner  playing the electric, softly. Both Bess and Chris sang soft harmonies, not even that often. I admit (why do I always bare my soul here?) that I wondered for a second why Martin bothered to call Bess up. It seemed like he was wasting an opportunity to share her talent with the crowd.

Then the moment came. Both Martin and Chris stopped playing their guitars. Martin, Bess and Chris continued a capella in stunning three-part harmony. It was so breath-taking, even the talkers stopped (like seeing the burning bush, even non-believers have to at least wonder). Suddenly, Bess’ role in celebrating Martin’s birthday became crystal clear. Thanks!

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBessRogers

Bess and Martin are touring together (I assume with Chris as well). Folks, even if they just play this one three-minute song and leave the stage, get out to see them if/when they hit your town. With a little luck, they might stick around and dazzle you a bit more than that. Winking smile

At one point late in the show, Seth Faulk jumped on stage to join in the percussion merriment. A little later, Adam Christgau followed his lead and turned the merriment into a bit more percussion mayhem. Smile

GregMayoSethFaulkAdamChristgauClapping

Martin closed out the show with North. Such a soulful song to underscore the evening. He brought out a dancer (Whitney G-Bowley of GIG) to add a visual dimension to the song.

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasWhitneyG-Bowley

When I say “closed the show”, of course, I mean pre-encore. For the encore, Martin brought out two additional special guests, Robbie Gil and Casey Shea (who was headlining the next set). Along with the full band, they performed Stand By Me, which included having the crowd sing the chorus (with them and separately!) a number of times. The party atmosphere was at its height!

What a spectacular way to end the show (rather than close the show). Winking smile

Since we were there for the set before Martin’s, I had time during the break between them to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, find and introduce myself to Christina Morelli. While she’s talented in many ways, I came to discover her through her passion for covering and promoting the NYC Art Scene. Subscribe there and follow her on Twitter.

Aside from her own excellent writing, she gives a voice, platform and exposure to many talented NYC-based artists. She also does interesting video interviews in collaboration with the effervescent Sam Teichman (whom you can also follow on Twitter). Want to know why you should follow Sam on Twitter? Consider this tweet from last night (sent during Martin’s set!):

Music is my religion. Rockwood Music Hall is my favorite place of worship. @martinrivas can be my spiritual leader anytime. So inspiring.

On to Robbie Gil! We’ve only seen Robbie perform one song, as a guest at a Big Apple Singers show. He was excellent. In fact, the song he led that night was the highlight of the set for me. Here’s an out-of-context quote from that post (but you can read the entire thing to really understand what I was saying):

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.

We’ve missed Robbie Gil’s full sets three times now. The first one (mentioned in the above-linked post) was simply because I chose to see Derek James perform next door (and I’m choosing to see Derek James again this Wed, 8pm, Rockwood 1). The next two times I tried to see Robbie, the place was so crowded that the bouncer wouldn’t let me in. One of those nights was bitterly cold (and windy to boot), but I stood outside and suffered so that I could at least enjoy Martin’s set (they often follow each other). How could I not keep trying to see someone who was obviously so popular?

Well, I guess I have to thank New Yorkers need (or is it just desire?) to escape the city on holiday weekends. Third time’s the charm, as we got in to see Robbie. It was a large crowd, but not at capacity, like it was in my previous attempts.

Robbie is a soulful, gravelly-voiced singer (which is why he killed it when singing The Band song with The Big Apple Singers) that seems to drain every ounce of energy in his body on every song. Miraculously, he has some secret recharging source that gets him ready for the next song in the few seconds he has between them.

He played both grand piano (which he opened the show with) and acoustic guitar, very well. He also sang a bit without an instrument (but always with the band, with one exception I’ll note below).

RobbieGilPiano

Robbie performed a number of originals, mixed with covers, all well. Given the amount of passion he puts into every note, it’s sometimes hard to hear the words clearly, so I don’t have enough of a sense of him as a lyricist yet (with the same exception noted above).

What comes across most is his joy on stage, which he spreads like a warm blanket on a cold day over the audience. Pairing his sets with Martin’s is brilliant, both for the genre similarities (that will make an audience for one happily stick around for the other) and for the spiritual well-being projecting from the stage from each of them.

Robbie was accompanied by a full band on nearly every number. Three of the four band members played with Martin as well: Patrick Firth, Ryan Vaughn and Greg Mayo.

Patrick Firth played both electronic keyboards and grand piano (the grand piano was lifted off the stage for Martin’s set). As good as Patrick is on the electronic keyboards, I am even more taken by his play on the grand piano (it’s simply purer).

RobbieGilPatrickFirth

While singing one number, Robbie Gil stepped over to the far left corner of the stage and started playing four-handed piano with Patrick (he remained standing while playing!). We’ve seen this before (The Paper Raincoat’s Right Angles comes to mind), but with no disrespect to other piano players, this was the best I can recall. Awesome!

RobbieGilPatrickFirthBothPlayingPiano

Ryan Vaughn played the full drum set. I’ve heard nothing but praise for his drumming from so many people, but previous to this set I’ve only seen him play percussion to Craig Meyer’s drums. I can now confirm that those rumors of his skill were not exaggerated. He’s a wonderful drummer! Sorry about the red eye in the photo.

RyanVaughnDrums

I don’t have anything new to say about Greg Mayo’s guitar play (it was equally awesome in both sets), other than to note that he took much longer leads during Robbie’s set, partially because he wasn’t sharing the duties with Chris Kuffner.

GregMayoLeadGuitar

I’ll note two critical things:

  1. Robbie kneeled down a number of times when Greg was taking a solo, so that people on the opposite side of the stage could enjoy it visually as well as aurally. This was precisely the same type of classy move I praised Evan Watson for (in the same post linked above where we first saw Robbie sing!).RobbieGilKneeling
  2. Robbie heaped so much praise on Greg (repeatedly), that I felt certain he was actively campaigning for my position as President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club. BACK OFF ROBBIE, the job is taken! Winking smile

Lois ended up sitting right next to Robbie’s dad. Toward the end of the set Robbie gave him a shout out and the crowd enthusiastically gave him an ovation.

RobbieGilWithHisDadLookingOn

Nick Morrison on electric bass (the only additional band member, but I can’t find a good link to him). Very well done! Now I can finally get to the exception. Robbie dismissed all but Nick from the stage. He took to the piano and sang a new original number named I Believe. Nick accompanied him quietly and beautifully on the bass. Since it was a quiet song, we could hear the words clearly. Both Lois and I thought it was a really good song, so hearing more of his material is warranted.

NickMorrison

Robbie called up Martin Rivas to close his set and they sang Feeling Alright by Dave Mason. Of course, as with Martin’s Stand By Me, the crowd joined in for much of the song, included a few choruses of just the audience singing.

RobbieGilMartinRivasNickMorrison

Lois has a way of bending the universe to her will (if you know her, you know I’m not exaggerating!). The night before, when we were at Greg Mayo’s midnight set, Lois whispered to me “Ask Greg to play anything by Dave Mason!” (that’s the gospel truth!). I said: “While he’s doing covers tonight, they’re not requests, we’ll have to take whatever he gives us!”.

Obviously, Lois wasn’t satisfied with my answer, so she took matters into her own hands and found a way to force Robbie to satisfy her desire to hear a Dave Mason song performed live. Be afraid people, be very afraid… Winking smile

What an absolutely spectacular night.

We had fully intended to stay for Casey Shea next, since so many people have told me I need to get to know his music. We did hear the first three songs (all good!), but we left for two reasons: 1) His set started 75 minutes later than expected (I was ready to collapse rather than get wound even tighter) and 2) The volume doubled the minute they started, to an uncomfortable level. We’ll catch a set of Casey’s soon enough, I’m sure.

Greg Mayo at Rockwood Music Hall

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We saw Greg Mayo perform at Rockwood Music Hall two nights ago, in support of Rebecca Haviland (covered here). Here are two things I said in that post:

Can I praise Greg more than I have in the past? It’s a difficult assignment, but I’ll be sure to work hard at it.

and

We’ll save more Mayo Hype for when he’s front and center. Smile

At the bottom of the post I mentioned that we also saw Greg jump on stage next door at the finale of the Idol Rejects Show. I bumped into him after the show and told him that while I was aware he had a show at midnight the next night (last night), we likely wouldn’t be able to force our bodies to stay up that late. Obviously, he understood.

I’ve already written four posts today about 3.5 sets that we saw at Rockwood (6, 7, 8 and 1/2 of 9pm sets!). This is the fifth and last post of the day. After taking care of a small task at 9:30pm, we went home and collapsed (Lois fell asleep while I tinkered with my Droid).

Given the first quote above, I realized that I had set myself a difficult assignment and that I would be furthering the cause if I made the effort to go back out to see Greg at midnight. Since Lois is a light sleeper, when I just considered moving, she was up like a shot, insisting that she was joining me.

We arrived exactly at midnight. Greg and the band were just about done setting up. Perfect timing.

Greg introduced last night’s lineup as “Greg Mayo and his Cronies”. However, he noted that the name will likely change weekly, so don’t get used to it. Brian Killeen, the bass player, joked that previously, they were called “Greg Mayo and his Acquaintances”. Greg quipped back that eventually, they might be known as “Greg Mayo and his Family!”. Smile

The show was billed as a mix of originals and covers and they delivered just that. When I noticed that Patrick Firth was joining Greg, I assumed Patrick would be on the keyboards and Greg would on the electric guitar. This is what provided the added adrenaline I needed to get myself up and out.

However, earlier in the evening, when I mentioned exactly that to a friend of Greg’s, she told me that Patrick Firth might break out some new songs he was recording and that if he did, he’d likely play them on the guitar. Ah, I was back to not having a clue.

Luckily for me (and any other serious guitar fans), my original instinct turned out to be correct.

Greg Mayo played guitar for the entire set, and of course, sang a ton as well (lead and harmony). What made this beyond special for me is that I sat directly in front of Greg. When he was at the microphone, I was roughly 18 inches from the guitar. When he stepped back to take a lead, I was all of 24 inches away. I was in heaven.

GregMayoSinging

Unfortunately for Greg, I was able to study all of his secrets. I no longer need to come see him play. I can just whip out my own guitar (which I’ll have to buy first), and recreate his leads flawlessly, whenever I’m in the mood. Winking smile

Greg played at least two of his originals, taking incredible, long leads during each one. Of course the shorter leads during every song were just as tasty, but I could sense he just wanted to leave me hanging, wanting more. Smile

GregMayoGuitar

Patrick Firth on grand piano and electronic keyboards sang lead on two songs. The first was Take Me to the Pilot by Elton John. I’ve heard Patrick sing harmony on many of Martin Rivas’ sets, but this is the first time he took the lead. He has an excellent voice. More important, as I mentioned just the night before (in the post linked at the top), he kicked off the song with a spectacular piano solo. Between his solos and Greg’s, tiredness was no longer an issue. Getting my blood pressure down was the task at hand!

PatrickFirth

The second time Patrick took the lead he sang The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band. While his voice was just as good, it’s not as suited to the gravelly, southern rock style that I’m more accustomed to hearing on this number (as done to perfection by The Big Apple Singers and The Narwhals, both bands that Greg Mayo is in). Also, Patrick lost the words a couple of times, which raised smiles on and off the stage. These shows are about sharing the experience, not about perfect recitals.

PatrickFirthSinging

In the same post above, I mentioned that we finally heard Brian Killeen (on electric bass) sing! Well, in addition to continuing that last night (singing backup), Greg asked Brian to sing a song on the lead. Hilarity ensued, having nothing to do with Brian’s voice.

BrianKilleen

First, he had the lyrics typed out and they couldn’t get the stand to work correctly. In fact, it came apart a few times. Finally, they decided to leave it in a stable position, too low for Brian to comfortably see. Then, the fans in the room kept the lyrics swaying back and forth (looking like they would fly off the stand). At one point, I held the paper steady, but by then, Brian had given up all hope of getting this done.

BrianKilleenLyricSheet

The song was still a ton of fun, it just basically was delivered with every third word instead of all of them. Winking smile

Kenny Shaw rounded out the band, playing the drums, to perfection.

KennyShaw

Such a great set, such a great time, so glad we went!

I was quite surprised at the size of the crowd. It was nice when we got there, but over the course of the next 15 minutes kept building. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. If I was willing to get out of bed, given how tired I was, why wouldn’t everyone else (most of whom are younger and more vigorous to begin with). After all, it was an opportunity to hear four exceptional musicians jam their hearts out, in as relaxed an atmosphere as you could hope for.

Closing the circle on a comment I made in post #3 today, the one about Abby Payne. I lamented that there is often an inconsistency in the sound engineering, even in the same room, with the same people at the controls, with different bands that have similar equipment.

Since Greg’s set occurred on the same night, I am sure the same guy was working the sound (tucked in the ceiling at Rockwood). There was one less electronic keyboard in Greg’s set, but otherwise, the same instruments. The drummer was even the same (this was the fifth set that included Kenny that we saw this week!).

Even though I was three feet from Greg’s amp, it was never too loud, even for a single note! This, even though his guitar was the main event (which it wasn’t for Abby’s set). Also, same drummer, same drum set, same loud music (no soft numbers in the Greg’s set). This time, Kenny didn’t need to be overwhelming to match the guitar. Granted, I was also further away from the drum, so that might have accounted for much of the difference.

So, the sound was just right last night. As opposed to blame, I don’t know who to praise this time. Did the sound guy make the difference, or did these musicians realize that they didn’t need to set the amps and instruments on 10 and hope for the best?

Chris Ayer at Rockwood Music Hall

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On May 13th, we saw Chris Ayer perform at The Living Room. You can read about it here. Before we made it out of the room, Lois turned to me and said “When does Chris play again?”. It wouldn’t have mattered if the answer was “At 3am, across town”, she was ready to head over and wait in line. Smile

The great news is that she wouldn’t have had to waste an ounce of energy convincing me to join her. That’s true for a lot of Chris’ fans, as two of the people we shared a table with at The Living Room told us the night before last that we should hold seats for them for this one (we did!). The only people that aren’t fans of Chris Ayer are people that have never heard him.

You can read the many things I’ve said to describe and praise Chris elsewhere on this blog (start with the link above regarding the last show), so I’ll spare you the repetition here.

Earlier in the day, Chris tweeted the following:

I finished two songs today, and I’m playing them both at the show tonight.. Which is equal parts exciting and scary. Exscarting.

True to his word, Chris opened the show with those songs, back-to-back. The first one might not have been 100% completed, because he morphed the ending into one of his well-known songs, depriving us of giving him the applause he richly deserved.

ChrisAyer

Seriously, both songs are amazing. I say that without any surprise, since Chris is a fantastic songwriter. The first is called Where Do You Want to Go. The second: Turnip (a word that doesn’t appear in the song, but Chris explained to us why that’s the title).

Chris played another one solo, then invited Matt Simons to play the piano and electronic keyboards. Oh yeah, and sing absolutely wonderful harmony with him. I mentioned to Matt after the show that their harmony was so good it was borderline illegal (well, at least in some states, I’m sure). Smile

ChrisAyerMattSimonsSettingUpChrisAyerMattSimonsSingingHarmony

Matt stayed at the piano but didn’t join Chris on another solo number, Hiding Place, another relatively new one (we heard it at the last show and instantly fell in love with it).

Chris then invited Chris Anderson to join them. Chris Anderson played the electric bass. If I have to tell you whether he was good or not, you don’t read my blog (an earlier one today, or 100 other ones!).

ChrisAndersonChillin

I should mentioned the room got quite crowded right before Chris’ set started (I did note that the only people who aren’t fans are people who haven’t heard him, right?). I mention that because it was after all the beginning of the Memorial Day Weekend, and NYC is notoriously empty (for many holiday weekends). Chris’ fans had to cancel family vacations once they heard about this show. Winking smile

At The Living Room, Chris closed the show with Roy G. Biv, one of Lois’ favorite songs of his (that’s silly talk, as many of Chris’ songs are Lois’ favorites!). That night, he, Matt Simons and John Schmitt walked into the crowd (with Chris Anderson and Stephen Chopek moving to the edge of the stage) to do it unplugged.

Rockwood is a way smaller room, and Chris and Matt came to the center of the room (obviously unplugged) and absolutely mesmerized everyone in the room with the same finale, Roy G. Biv. It was great at The Living Room, but the intimacy and power of every single person being within 10+ feet of Chris and Matt made this rendition all the more special.

ChrisAyerMattSimonsPerformingRoyGBiv

This set hasn’t stopped us from already planning to attend the next one. I heard a rumor as to when and where it might be, but that venue doesn’t list it yet, so I’ll refrain from raising anyone’s hopes just yet.

According to tradition (which we’ve unfortunately missed a couple times), I present you with Chris Ayer’s set list, presented both from his perspective and ours:

ChrisAyerSetListFlippedChrisAyerSetList

Abby Payne at Rockwood Music Hall

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We’ve seen Abby Payne once before, briefly, at a Benefit Concert. I had only good things to say about her (in particular, her keyboard skills). Still, since she was one of a cast of thousands and sang lead on only one song, I admit that her name didn’t register with me as someone I needed to keep track of.

AbbyPayne

Aside from wanting to follow certain people (OK, I won’t quibble if you call it stalking), I don’t have too much fear that we’ll miss out on a number of talented locals, because our friends (musicians and fans alike) know our taste well enough that they bother to point out shows we might not be aware of. Thanks all, for that!

In this case, it was none other than Chris Anderson, who we’ve seen perform a number of times this week alone, who mentioned that we wouldn’t want to miss Abby Payne, when I told him we were coming to see Chris Ayer at 8pm at Rockwood. She was up the set before Chris Ayer. That was good enough for me.

I won’t (or rather can’t!) classify Abby’s style/genre, as the set was incredibly wide-ranging. I’ll describe my two favorite numbers in a minute (they were near-polar opposites), but she had a number of songs I’d describe as more dissonant/experimental as well.

As I said above, Abby plays the keyboards really well. She also has a lovely voice, but it has a thin, laser-like quality at the highs, which doesn’t work well when mic’ed too high, something I’ll get to at the end.

AbbyPayneSinging

The two songs that totally captivated me came back-to-back. The first was an up-beat Country-like number that had me tapping and swaying throughout. That was immediately followed by a super mellow song, with two members of her band sitting out. I’m saving one of the more special things in that song for when I get to the band, which I’ll do right now.

Left-to-right on the stage:

Wil Farr on electric guitar and vocals (I might not have heard the name correctly, but if I did, I can’t find a good link). Will was very good on both. Unfortunately, his guitar was way too loud on most of the songs (even worse during sound check when it was only him playing). We were on the opposite side (near the door) and it was still relatively painful, largely because the amp was facing us, at ear level. Update: I now know he spells his name with 1 L, so I updated and found the correct link!

WillFarrGuitarWillFarrSinging

JP Schlegelmilch on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). I couldn’t see whether he sang on any of the songs, as Abby was directly between us. JP did a very nice job, but I admit to being surprised that Abby had an extra keyboard player, since that’s her primary instrument on stage. To be fair, on the numbers when he played the electronic keyboard, he had more of an organ sound while her keyboard was set closer to a piano sound.

JPSchlegelmilch

Chris Anderson on electric bass, vocals and ukulele. Say what? Ukulele? Yes! On the mellow song (mentioned above), both Will and JP took a break. Chris picked up a ukulele and played it so sweetly (not even the hint of the typical Hawaiian sound people associate with the uke). I realize it’s a stringed instrument, so I’m not shocked that Chris can play it. That said, it was more of his feel for the instrument that impressed me.

ChrisAndersonUkulele

I’ve also noted a number of times that Chris is starting to sing more. That continued very nicely with Abby. He sang harmony a lot, often with Will as well.

ChrisAndersonSinging

I would love to see Chris whip out the ukulele some night when he’s on stage with Ian Axel and have a little throwdown. Winking smile

Kenny Shaw on the drums. This was the fourth set we’ve seen Kenny play this week. Wait, it was the fourth set for Chris Anderson this week too (three of them had both in the same set). I used to think that I was the only stalking these guys, but now I think perhaps they are feeding me subliminal messages in my sleep to show up wherever they are.

KennyShaw

So, Kenny was great again, in particular on the other song I loved, the Country-like one. On that number, he used brushes, but was hitting them hard, for a just right sound/feel to match the song.

I mention the brushes to contrast the rest of the set (on the louder numbers). Kenny needed to hit pretty hard to match the sound coming out of the guitar. He did. Unfortunately, we were sitting 12 inches from the drum set and our heads were getting blown off.

That leads me back to my earlier point about Abby’s vocals (in particular, the high notes). The entire set (with few exceptions) was simply too loud. This is Rockwood 1, an extremely small venue. It’s simply not suited to cranking every instrument. Obviously, I blame the sound guy, but still, the band should try and do something about it, or book a different room.

Abby had to push to be heard, and her high notes were cutting like a knife. Clear (meaning, she hits every note), but I bet it sounds unbelievably better on her CDs. In an ironic twist, here’s what I had to say about Abby from the Benefit Concert:

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.

My humble apologies to myself, if Abby read that last post and decided to crank up the volume every time to compensate. Winking smile

The part that frustrates me is that at other times, the same sound person at the same venue will get a similarly equipped band playing at a much more reasonable level. That’s why I have no idea who to really blame. You’ll see an example of this fact two posts from now (which will be my last one of the day).

The Third Wheel Band at Rockwood Music Hall

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This is the second of five posts today, but it’s out of order, deal with it. 😉

We had just seen three consecutive sets at Rockwood Music Hall. We were tired and had planned to head home to rest, mostly because we were intending to come back to Rockwood for the midnight set (which will be the last post today).

We stood up from our seats and started to say goodbye to everyone (we’ve become friends with many of the Rockwood regulars). While we were still mingling, the group from the next set started to sound check.

Both Lois and I did a double take, even though we were only hearing a few seconds of flat picking guitar and mandolin. We are bluegrass fanatics, so we stopped chatting and started paying attention (even though they weren’t actually playing yet).

The Third Wheel Band was a complete joy to listen to from their first note. In addition to playing and singing well, all three are charming on stage. There is a drummer listed on their website, but he wasn’t there last night.

Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Barresi on acoustic guitar (flat picking style) and vocals. Excellent on both.

GregBarresiSinging

Steph Allen on upright bass and vocals (we joked that the bass was bigger than Steph, but it wasn’t really a joke!). Winking smile She too was excellent on both.

StephAllenTuning

Ryan Langlois on mandolin and vocals (I couldn’t find a good link). Let’s complete the circle, Ryan was also excellent on both.

RyanLanglois

More important, the three of them complement each other wonderfully, vocally and instrumentally and they all have an easy, relaxed manner on stage.

We kept thinking “we’ll leave right after this song is over”, and then, the next one would start, and we decided “just one more”. Before you know it, we stayed for 1/2 their set. At that point, we wanted to stay for the rest, but had a commitment that was about to hit a wall, so we reluctantly left.

I’m now following the band on Twitter, so we’ll be sure to hear about upcoming shows and plan to catch one as soon as we can.

Excellent surprise find, proving yet again, keep your eyes and ears open and you can continue to discover amazing talent practically every night in NYC.

Buddy Toth at Rockwood Music Hall

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This is the first of five posts today. I normally combine an evening into one (crazy long) post, but last night’s 4.5 sets felt like it would be too long even for me. Smile

We were scheduled to see Abby Payne at 7pm, followed by Chris Ayer at 8 at Rockwood Music Hall. I typically check out the set before in order to grab seats. This time, I wasn’t worried about getting seats for a 7pm show, on a Sunny day, at the start of the Memorial Day Weekend, so I never really clicked through to see if I’d like the 6pm act.

Then, around 4:30pm, I thought, what the heck, let’s at least know what we’re missing.

Buddy Toth was listed. I went to his site (linked to his name) and started streaming his album Ex Malo Bonum (I’m too lazy to look up if that’s something cool and/or meaningful). I figured I’d hear one song, get a sense, stop, then still plan on skipping it.

Unfortunately, I really liked what I heard. So, I let it continue. Long before I had streamed the entire album, I told Lois that we should plan on getting our act together in time to see Buddy perform.

BuddyTothGuitar

I would have bought his album instantly after I listened to it, but knowing we were going to the show caused me to wait, in case we could buy a physical CD from him there.

We left enough time to get there by 6pm, but the Memorial Day traffic (both up 3rd Ave and down 2nd Ave) was horrible. We arrived a few minutes late, probably somewhere in the middle of Buddy’s second song.

It’s easy to describe Buddy as a singer/songwriter (which means nothing other than a person who writes and performs their own songs). It tells you nothing about their style/genre. He has some Joey Ryan like qualities, though I’m hardly saying they’re the same.

I grew up loving all music (my dad played classical music non-stop, literally, 20 hours a day [yes, he rarely slept]), but my personal connection came in middle school, when Folk music (of all ilks) grabbed me by the throat and still hasn’t let go.

BuddyTothSinging

While we can all debate why one song qualifies as Folk and another doesn’t, even though they are each sung by one person accompanied on an acoustic guitar, I’ll fall back on the age-old saying: “I’ll know it when I hear it”. Smile

The important thing isn’t that Buddy is or isn’t a Folk singer (or rather, a pure one, meaning only/mostly Folk). The point is that his songs sent me back to that time and therefore felt like I was hearing well-done Folk music, even if you would hear it and qualify it differently.

We both enjoyed his performance a lot, but as he himself joked on stage, if you wanted to hear it with fewer mistake, you should by the CD! Winking smile

Matt Rein Ryan accompanied Buddy on most of his numbers (too popular a name to find the right link, sorry). For the most part he played light percussion (shaker and tambourine). He also played the grand piano (very nicely) on a few numbers.

MattRyanShaker

After the set we asked Buddy if he had the CD for sale. He told us it’s only available online. He offered to give us his card so that we could find it. I told him I already had the bandcamp page open in my browser, in case he didn’t have it to sell. Smile

When I got home, I bought it. It’s a pay what you are willing thing, including zero. Buddy suggested $3.99 on stage. I happily paid more. Smile Most important, I love the model where you can stream the entire album (as many times as you want), for free. If you like it and can afford to, buy it. By then, you’ll know what value it has to you.

We stayed in the same seats for the next two sets at Rockwood. Each will be covered in their own posts, which I’ll start writing now!

Rebecca Haviland and American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood Music Hall

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I’ve written about Rebecca Haviland quite a number of times, each time glowingly. That said, the most songs we ever saw her perform in a row were three, at a recent Backscratch show. We’ve wanted to catch a full set for a long time and nearly pulled it off twice. It finally happened last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1.

Rebecca played mostly originals, with two excellent covers thrown in for good measure. I was impressed with her set list, because it showed her voice off over a number of genres and volume levels.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

You shouldn’t have to ask, but for you insistent types, yes, Rebecca excelled at all of them, on every song.

She chose to play every number accompanying herself on electric guitar (very nicely). We’ve seen her play keyboards twice before and she impressed me mightily both times, so we still have that to look forward to in a future set.

RebeccaHavilandGuitar

Rebecca was accompanied by some of the best NY-based musicians (we count them among our favorites). I’ll cover them in a minute. Halfway through the set, she dismissed them all. She played a spanking brand new song, solo. It’s so new, that she decided to restart it a few seconds in, to get into the right rhythm.

It’s either called Pain and Pleasure, or Pleasure and Pain (though on the set list, it’s marked as “Sing”, which I doubt means that she needed to remember to use her voice, so I’m not really sure). Winking smile

Aside from really liking the song (and enjoying the intro Rebecca shared with us), I loved the fact that the guitar was so minimalist (almost dark/brooding), that this song was basically Rebecca, raw. The voice, lyrics and emotions, all delivered without any other distractions, other than a hauntingly simple guitar background.

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

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. Can I praise Greg more than I have in the past? It’s a difficult assignment, but I’ll be sure to work hard at it. Last night’s keyboards were wonderful, including solos on both piano and organ. Greg’s harmonies were excellent on many of the choruses as well. We’ll save more Mayo Hype for when he’s front and center. Smile

GregMayo

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris continues to impress more each time we see him (and that’s especially hard, since we seem to see him multiple times each week). I’ve mentioned recently that Chris has a good voice (something we didn’t discover until we saw the Big Apple Singers). Last night, in addition to quality bass play, Chris sang a lot of harmony with Rebecca (even more than Greg did). When the three of them sang together (on every chorus that Greg was singing), it was a complete delight.

ChrisAnderson

But, beyond playing the bass and singing, Rebecca mentioned that she writes some of her songs with Chris. I am guessing that would explain why Chris sang more harmonies with Rebecca than Greg did last night, considering that he likely knew the newer songs better.

Kenny Shaw on drums. This was the second night in a row seeing Kenny play the drums (the previous night was with The Thang Band over at Stage 2). What a contrast! (You’ll need to read this post to understand why). Aside from Kenny’s excellent play during Rebecca’s set, I got to tell him afterward how much I enjoyed The Thang experience.

KennyShawSettingUp

Kenny asked me whether I got a copy of their EP after the show. I said no. I turned away to say something To Chris Anderson and when I turned back, Kenny handed me the EP. I admit to not being quick on my feet. I took it, profusely thanking him, but my normal instinct would have been to pay for it. I don’t know whether they were charging for it the night before, but I’ll find out and make it right the next time I see Kenny. In any event, thanks!

After playing solo, Rebecca brought the band back out and sang a super-soulful, bluesy version of Black Dog by Led Zeppelin (she performed it at Backscratch as well). She then announced that she had two more songs.

After finishing the first, the house music and lights came on. Everyone was confused (band and audience alike). It took a minute to sort out, but the lights dimmed, the music went off, and Rebecca a flourish. Whew! It ended up feeling like an encore. Winking smile

An excellent set, delivered with an excellent band, by an exceptionally talented person. Thanks Rebecca!

RebeccaHavilandSetList

When the set was over, we headed next door to Stage 2 (like I did, sans-Lois, the night before).

Caleb Hawley (a mind-bogglingly talented individual) organized an American Idol Rejects Show. Aside from the kitsch factor, I can’t imagine missing an opportunity to see Caleb perform. There were other incentives to attend, covered below in the order they appeared.

CalebHawley

Caleb was on this season of American Idol, progressing a few rounds before finally being ousted (I don’t watch the show, so I can’t give a more technically accurate description). Winking smile

We saw him perform at a house concert in VA, that was over-subscribed and needed to be moved to a larger venue. To say that he blew us away would be an understatement. Since we knew/know nothing about American Idol, it had nothing to do with his new-found fame. Talent, that’s all he needed to win us over, instantly.

Caleb played all but one song on the electric guitar last night (the other was acoustic). At the house concert, he played an acoustic guitar. If you read about that night, you know I thought he was masterful on the acoustic. Let’s add an equal amount of praise for his skills on the electric. In addition to a bit of normal electric guitar play (using a pick to play fast leads), he also does his signature mixture of finger-picking, strumming and leads.

Caleb performed 1/2 a dozen songs (give or take), all accompanied by a full band (all of whom I’ll mention after I get to the remaining Idol Rejects). He was an excellent MC as well (note all of my previous comments on his stage presence). We’ll return to Caleb at the end, but he was also part of the house band (the guitar player, natch) for the rest of the guests.

Brian Collazo was a contestant on Season 2, so this wasn’t a Rejects from 2011 Idol show. Brian was nearly as equal a draw for me as Caleb was. As with Kenny Shaw above, I saw Brian perform the night before at Rockwood 2 (the set before Kenny’s), with his band, Live Society. If you clicked through to my coverage of Kenny’s set with The Thang, then you either read the beginning about Live Society, or you need to go back and read it now! Winking smile

BrianCollazo

Brian sang three songs and nailed every one of them. One was a Live Society number (that they played the night before on the same stage). As good as it was, and with top-notch musicians backing him last night, they couldn’t match how intimate the Live Society band (and backup singers) are with this number. Last night == Great. The night before == Awesome! Smile

CalebHawleyCraigMeyerBrianCollazoMartinRivasBrianKilleen

Devyn Rush was up next. She was on Idol this season, making it to Hollywood before having her dreams shattered. I don’t know if her situation is currently resolved, but in Googling her, I found this article that shows that chasing your dreams can have negative consequences besides not achieving them directly.

DevynRushSinging

This was the first time we’ve heard of Devyn, but not likely the last. She performed three songs, one at the center microphone and two at the piano. She sings really well and played the piano beautifully.

Lois was particularly impressed with her energy and stage presence. Reading the front page of her site (linked above) makes me feel that she’s an incredibly nice/good/kind-hearted person, so that the sweetness that comes across on stage is not an act.

While I was impressed with her performance in general, I’ll need to see her in a different setting to know what I really think of her. I wasn’t drawn to the particular song selection.

Devyn wrote a short blog entry about the show which you should definitely read! At the bottom of that post are links to three YouTube videos from last night. The first is when she sang at the mic, the second, of one of her two songs at the piano and the third was the finale with all of the guests on stage (I haven’t gotten to the next and last guest yet). If you watch the first two, you can make up your own mind about Devyn. Keep in mind that while the video quality is quite good (kudos to the videographer for having a very steady hand!), the sound quality is what you get from a hand-held and there’s a reasonable amount of crowd noise (I’ll say more on that at the end).

Jerome Bell was the next and last guest. Even though we don’t watch Idol, in a small-world coincidence, we’ve actually seen Jerome Bell perform two songs at Rockwood 2 before. He performed a set there on April 27th, 2011. We came to see Rosi Golan perform the next set and arrived early enough to catch the end of Jerome Bell’s. It was crowded beyond belief (Jerome has a lot of loyal fans, deservedly so).

JeromeBellSinging

Jerome performed a number of songs last night, including a Stevie Wonder cover (which he crushed) and his own hit, Collide, co-written with his Idol roommate Chris Medina while they were still in competition. That was one of the two songs we heard last time too. We enjoyed it as much last night as we did the previous time. You can purchase the song on iTunes, the link is in the article above.

In addition to the full band that everyone else employed, Jerome had his two regular backup singers join him on stage. After the show he named and thanked them, claiming that he always forgets to introduce them during the shows. He said their names clearly, and I thought I’d easily remember them (or be able to find them with a quick search), but, of course, neither happened. Sorry. They definitely added both flair and excellent harmonies to Jerome’s performance.

(I just watched the entire video embedded below, and right before the 7-minute mark, Jerome introduces them! Devin Snow and Steven Cutts [sp?]. Yay!)

JeromeBellStevenCuttsDevinSnow

Jerome is appearing tonight (Friday, May 27th, 2011) at 10pm at Rockwood 1.

On to the band (finally), left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). Patrick is always excellent, last night was no exception. In fact, he took a couple of great solos (one was unexpected, when Caleb’s pedal board failed briefly and Patrick quickly stepped in).

PatrickFirth

Most electronic keyboard players keep a Mac (or another laptop, but it’s almost always a Mac) right beside the keyboards. In a post about Candy Dulfer, I joked that Thomas Bank was checking his email on his Macbook Pro during the show. He dropped me an email (seriously!) letting me know that wasn’t the case! Winking smile

We sat right behind the piano, so I could clearly see what was on the screen. Now I understand completely. The laptop program showed a keyboard on the screen. Apparently, if the keyboard player forgets what note to play, they can look over at the simulated keyboard on the laptop and cheat. Sort of like the old Player Piano days! Winking smile

PatrickFirthPiano

Craig Meyer on the drums. Always great, both listening to his excellent drumming and watching his never-ending smile, which will lift the spirits of even the most depressed person on earth (let’s find that person, so I can test my theory soon!).

CraigMeyer

Martin Rivas on tambourine, shaker and vocals. Martin was mostly a percussionist last night (singing harmony on one, or possibly two songs). I couldn’t resist joking with Martin after the show that I had no idea he was hiding his talent with the shaker until last night (I’ve seen him wield a tambourine before). At times, he even hit the tambourine with the shaker. How creative is that? Smile

MartinRivas

In significantly more important Martin Rivas news, his birthday is tomorrow (Saturday) and he’s throwing us (the world, not Lois and me) a party at Rockwood 2, 10pm. Come join us (this time I mean Lois and me) to hear him serenade us on his birthday!

Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. We’ve seen (and written about) Brian many times. He’s a consistently excellent bass player who hasn’t let us (or more importantly the people he supports) down. I learned something new about Brian last night. He can sing! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him open his mouth even to speak. He sang a bit of harmony on some of Caleb’s numbers.

BrianKilleen

For the finale, Caleb called Brian, Devyn and Jerome back up to reprise Jerome’s triumphant cover of Let’s Get it On by Marvin Gaye from his American Idol audition. The third video linked in Devyn’s blog is of this finale (all nine minutes of it!). I’m including it here, for those who didn’t bother to click through. Again, forget the audio quality, but enjoy the atmosphere and imagine it in high fidelity. It was a blast! The song actually begins at the 1:00 mark.

Finale of American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

If you watched the whole thing, you may have a partial sense of how funny Caleb is. If you didn’t watch it, then you might be wondering about the thumbnail above, where Caleb’s shirt is off. You can skip directly to the 4-minute mark to see why he took it off and what those tattoos on his belly are. Winking smile

Greg Mayo also jumped on the stage during the finale. I was on the opposite side of the room, so I didn’t see whether he had an instrument, sang, or was up there just to lend some moral support. No matter what, Greg enhances anything he’s around, so thanks for jumping in, no matter what role you played! Smile

After the show, I made a beeline to the stage to introduce myself to Brian Collazo. I also got to meet his significant other (or should I say better half) that I mentioned in yesterday’s post (she was the blond that sat two to my left). Here are the three of us (Lois insisted we pose):

BrianCollazoHisGF-Hadar

I have a lot to say about the crowd but I think I’m going to turn it into a full, separate post, because I had some insights that have previously eluded me. If our current schedule holds, I might be able to get that post out on Tuesday. With some luck, perhaps I’ll work on it after blogging tomorrow about the shows we will see tonight:

Abby Payne and Chris Ayer, 7pm and 8pm at Rockwood 1. Come join us in kicking off the Memorial Day Weekend off with some awesome music tonight! Smile

Live Society, The Thang and Chelsea Lee at Rockwood Music Hall

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I’ve seen Live Society once before when they opened a Benefit Concert at The Bitter End. They were awesome. Ever since then, I’ve followed them and have been trying hard to get to one of their shows (they play reasonably frequently). Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out.

I was reasonably sure it wouldn’t work out last night either. We had tentative plans. Late in the afternoon, they got moved to Monday night, so I was suddenly free and quite happy about it. Lois was wiped from our consecutive late night escapades (captured in posts yesterday and the day before), so she stayed home. In a serendipitous turn, our friend (and extraordinary singer!) Amy Rivard was working in our neighborhood. She agreed to keep me company and we headed down together. We caught a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 first, but I’ll cover that at the end of the post.

Live Society was playing next door at Stage 2.

If you read my thoughts on Live Society in the previously linked post, you won’t have many surprises in what I’m about to say. They were awesome, again. Since the last time was clearly in the context of a Soul Revue, let me at least state that Live Society is an R&B/Soul/Funk band, and a darn good one.

Update: There are a number of corrections/clarifications and filled-in items below. All of the updated information was provided by the all-knowing, all-seeing Sam Teichman. Thanks Sam! 🙂

Brian Collazo is the front man and lead singer. He also played the acoustic guitar on a couple of songs. He has a great voice and an exceptional stage presence. It’s hard to take your eyes off of him during the show, except that you have to (and do), because there’s a ton of additional talent to pay attention to on stage with him.

BrianCollazoSingingBrianCollazoGuitar

Jason Vargas on vocals. Jason sang lead on one song (smooth as silk) and incredible harmony on all the others (with a lead verse thrown in here and there for good measure). He’s a got a smile (and a wink) that melts the ladies hearts (I was surrounded by women, not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I could swear that every time Brian refers to him he calls him “Jay Vegas”, which might be his nickname, but hey, I’m old, and perhaps I’m just doddering and not hearing it correctly. Winking smile

JasonVargas

Kevin Collazo rounds out the vocal part of the band. While he doesn’t sing lead on any songs, his harmony is strong and an integral part of the group. He and Jason are also somewhat like original Motown backup singers, in that they physically move in unison (often enough to notice) and make gestures (like hearts, with their hands) to match the lyrics. Very nicely executed. Here is Kevin, singing with Brian:

BrianCollazoKevinCollazo

John Kaiteris on electric guitar. John is a superb guitar player. He also writes many of the songs that Live Society records and performs. Simply an incredibly talented individual, even though he doesn’t open his mouth on stage (he let’s his fingers do the walking and talking). Winking smile

JohnKeitaris

Erik Perez on drums. Excellent! This type of music is so beat-heavy that even a decent drummer could bring the overall experience down if they don’t handle the transitions perfectly. Erik does. Problem solved (or actually, never created!).

ErikPerez

Anthony Candullo on electric bass. Solid job throughout the set. A relief (for me) from the night before, where the bass players were overwhelming in their volume. Anthony’s bass blended in just right. Note that Anthony’s name is linked, but the others aren’t. That’s because I can’t find a good link to each of them as individuals. I guess it’s “Go Team!” for Live Society.

AnthonyCandullo

Scott Harper on tenor saxophone. Scott is listed as a regular member of the band, but I didn’t mention him at the Benefit Concert. So, either I messed up badly, or he wasn’t able to make it that night. In any event, Scott did a terrific job last night on a number of tasty leads. Horns might not be a requirement for this type of music, but they sure are welcome on every single note they play.

Update: Sam confirms that while Scott is the regular sax player for Live Society, he did indeed miss the Benefit Concert, so I didn’t mess up reporting on that show (though I certainly have on many others).

ScottHarper

At the benefit concert, they had a special guest keyboard player, Patrick Firth. Last night a different special guest sat in on keyboards.

Jeremy Baum on electronic keyboards. Very nicely done throughout the set.

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Amy and I both enjoyed the set so much that in addition to signing up for the mailing list (not really necessary since I follow the band and Brian Collazo on Twitter) we also both bought their current EP (they are recording a full-length CD as well). We were both very happy to support the band (tip jar as well) but I’ll admit publicly that I was surprised that a 5-song EP was $10. Hopefully, they’re putting the money to good use, they’re worth it. Smile

Sitting to Amy’s left was a beautiful blond (hey, I already mentioned that I was surrounded by women). It turns out that she’s Brian’s girlfriend (though it sounds way more serious than that, not that I should be putting words in Brian’s mouth!). He noted that last night was their three-year anniversary of making their relationship official. He also noted that she was very kind to be supportive of him for booking a show on their anniversary. Smile

When I first noticed the Live Society show, I also saw that another band was playing the set after them, that I had never seen, but heard interesting things about. Unfortunately, when I thought I couldn’t make it out last night, I promptly forgot about anything other than Live Society. When I showed up at Rockwood, at 8:35, I didn’t realize I’d be staying as late as I did.

Before Amy and I headed into Rockwood 1 we bumped into Chris Anderson on the street. If you never read this blog and don’t see live music in NYC, I’ll forgive you for not knowing that he’s one of our favorite bass players. We saw him the two previous nights, playing with The Big Apple Singers on Monday and with Ian Axel on Tuesday.

Chris mentioned that if we could, we should seriously consider sticking around to catch the set after Live Society. Of course, that jogged my memory that my original intention was to do just that. Amy couldn’t hang that late so she left right after Live Society was done.

The Thang Band is a nearly indescribable group/experience (experience is the better word). First, let me note that I can’t believe that they were able to grab the domain name at this late date in the Internet world. Amazing that everyone else let that go! Winking smile

Of course, I never let indescribable things stop me from describing them, so here goes my best effort.

What happens when you cross/mix the following?

  • Awesome musical talent
  • Incredible showmanship
  • Irreverance2 (that’s squared, not a notation that you missed Note #1 above)
  • Crazy amount of liquor consumption on stage (impressive whether it was real or fake)
  • Something between R and XXX rated themes and innuendo
  • Near-male-burlesque! (OK, not so near, but you’ll understand when you see photos below)
  • An audience of the who’s who of the NYC indie music scene
  • An audience who knows the above and insists that the boundaries be pushed further!
  • Theatrical choreography

Before I answer, while I give you time to imagine it yourself, I’ll note that if I had more time now (I don’t), I could list at least another 1/2 dozen bullet points. Suffice it to say that I was delighted that Lois stayed in, since some of it would have made her squirm, making me more self-conscious as well. This is a show that needs to be enjoyed with complete abandon.

OK, time’s up, what do you get if you mix the above?

Something that could and should be a long-running off-Broadway show, like The Fantasticks, which generated cult-like following, or the Rocky Horror Picture Show (again, for the effect it had on its fans). Not that The Thang is anything like those shows. It’s really a night of inanity and insanity, in song, performed by incredibly talented people.

If you were a blind foreigner, who didn’t understand a word they were singing, and couldn’t see their acting out the words for you (while they are playing and singing!), you would describe the show to your friends as some of the best Rock ‘n Roll you’d heard live in a while. The level of musicianship is top-notch.

If you were a prude, you wouldn’t have the guts to describe it to anyone, and you wouldn’t have a lot to describe, because you’d probably have left after a few minutes. Winking smile

So, since it’s still relatively indescribable, I’ll just say that there’s a lot of sexual innuendo, delivered with a giant dose of tongue-in-cheek (see what I did there?) Winking smile deliciously executed. In fact, rather than saying it’s like The Fantasticks, I really should have described it as one of the better SNL (Saturday Night Live) skits you’ll ever see, because rather than being performed by fake musicians making fun of real musicians, this is performed by real musicians, making fun of fake musicians who make fun of real musicians.

Now you might understand what the Thang refers to in their name…

As you will see in the photos below, the band had an outfit. I need to point it out to you, because if you don’t look carefully enough, you’ll think they weren’t even on stage (they are, after all, wearing camouflage). Smile

TheThangBand

A quick shoutout to the members of the band:

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and co-lead vocals. Paul was excellent on the guitar and vocals! I’m listing him first because he’s the reason I wanted to see them. I had no idea (not until they walked onto the stage) what I was in for. In other words, while Chris Anderson (and others) told me I should see them, I thought it was just going to be another local band that I would like.

PaulMaddisonSinging

I had seen Paul before, twice, supporting the Greg Mayo band. I was interested to see what he would be like front-and-center. Now I know. Winking smile In a not-so-small irony, one of the first words out of Paul’s mouth on stage was a (very friendly) jab at Chris Anderson. He followed it with “See what happens when you don’t stick around for the show?”.

Dan Golden on keyboards and co-lead vocals. A match for Paul in many ways. They were totally in sync and seemed to feed off each other. The two of them drank what appeared to be huge swigs of vodka from their own bottles in the middle of the set. If it was real liquor (and I suspect it was), it was an impressive amount, considering they still hit every note afterward (and they probably started off drunk, considering that one of their songs is called I’m Still Drunk!).

Update: Sam informs me that they were drinking water on stage, but that all bets were off once the show was over. OK, maybe. Or, they got to him after reading this, and told him to make sure I change it, before their parents got the wrong idea of what they were doing with their time! Sam is clever enough to have thrown me a bone about Kenny Warren (see below) and Scott Harper (see above) to make it all seem a bit more legitimate…

DanGolden

Rob Pawlings on electric bass and vocals. If you look at the photos, you’ll notice that the band are wearing gaudy necklaces. The only one that looks different is Rob’s, because, apparently, his alter-ego is named Bobby Bananas. Excellent on the bass, excellent on the vocals and Rob/Bobby led the male burlesque part of the evening.

It’s hard to see, but just over Paul’s fingers and guitar is a Banana on a gold chain, hanging from Rob’s neck (in the first photo):

RobPawlingsRobPawlingsSinging

Dave Freedman on electric guitar. Dave did an excellent job on both rhythm and lead guitar playing. At the end, he and Paul Maddison took simultaneous leads in harmony with each other. Awesome, but could have been longer.

DaveFreedman

Kenny Shaw on drums, vocals and some very dry banter. If I understand correctly (just from some quick Googling), Kenny Shaw started this Thang, originally called ShawThang! That shocked me, because I’ve seen Kenny perform with the Greg Mayo Band a couple of times, and he comes off like the most sedate, normal person you could imagine. Clearly, he has a sick, twisted mind that required an outlet. Thankfully, he found one that the rest of us could enjoy with him! Smile

For the last two numbers, a trumpet player jumped up on the stage and sang as well (so he obviously knew the songs). There was too much going on for them to stop and introduce him, so I don’t know who he is.

Update: Sam informs me that it was Kenny Warren. Kenny has a long association with The Thang Band and was also the original trumpet player with The Greg Mayo Band.

OK, I know most of you don’t believe a word I said. This won’t be proof, by any stretch of the imagination, but it should open your mind to some possibilities. It’s a two-year-old video of one of their hit songs, Lipstick on My Booty. Last night, the performance was way more visually descriptive than the video below:

Lipstick on My Booty by The Thang Band

I left chuckling, and once again glad that Lois missed it. Winking smile

Circling back to the beginning of the evening. Amy Rivard was one of a number of friends who was out with us the previous Wednesday to see three sets at Rockwood 1. The first set that night was Chelsea Lee.

As with Live Society, I knew that Chelsea was playing again last night but also thought I’d have to miss it. Once I knew I could make it, I asked Amy if she wanted to head down earlier and catch Chelsea Lee again. She was interested.

ChelseaLee

The set, again accompanied by Wes Hutchinson and Spencer Cohen was close (if not a copy) of the previous week. That’s fine, as I thoroughly enjoyed it last week, as I did again last night.

WesHutchinsonSpencerCohen

If there was one complaint, it was that it was a short set. That made for a more relaxed evening, but I would have preferred to listen to more of Chelsea. She’s still very young, so I have no doubt that the material will continue to be written and the sets will get longer in time.

In addition to Chelsea repeating an excellent performance, the same could be said of both Wes and Spencer. The three are well matched. Last week I purchased Chelsea’s 5-song EP. I have listened to it a number of times this week and I have enjoyed every single listen.

Chelsea will be back next week, this time at Rockwood 2, on Tuesday (May 31st), at 7:30pm, in a ticketed show, opening for Greg Holden who is having his CD Release Show that night.

Since the set was short, I had the time to introduce myself to Spencer and tell him how much I enjoy his percussion.

Another excellent night out. My heartfelt thanks to all of you people who spend your lives honing the skills required to entertain me! Smile