September, 2011:

Informal Vacations

Send to Kindle

The last formal vacation that Lois and I took was in 1995, our only trip to Hawaii. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of fun times in amazing places, but nearly every one of them was on an international business trip for me. I consider our current vacations informal. They typically consist of very long drives south to visit my parents and our godson and his wife. Lois works non-stop, in the car, in the hotels and in the homes of the people we visit. I loaf and enjoy myself thoroughly, so it’s more of a vacation for me.

We just completed one and this is a brief documentation of it.

First stop was visiting my folks in Florida. 95 degrees and broiling every day, right after the heat broke up north, was a bit of a shock. It was nice to put on shorts and sandals again, but it would’ve been even nicer if the air conditioner in our car actually worked when it was hot outside. For the record, our car is 11 years old and has 225,000 miles on it (did I mention we drive long distances on all of our informal vacations?).

DadMomHadarDadHadar

I hope I have my Dad’s appetite when I’m 85!

DadEatingCake

From Florida, we drove to Atlanta. We visited three sets of friends, all centered around wonderful meals. We got in late-ish and wandered out of our hotel in search of frozen yogurt. The person at the front desk didn’t think there were any within walking distance so we just headed out. One block away was a Ted’s Montana Grill (not exactly frozen yogurt), but we had a great meal at one in NYC when our goddaughter and her husband took us there. We decided to take serendipitous advantage and have a much bigger meal than planned, just the two of us.

The next day, first of our three social meals, lunch with a friend who worked with Lois before I met her, so while I know her for nearly 30 years, Lois knows her even longer. Three of her four children were able to join us too (children, as in adults!). The fact that the fourth couldn’t make it was OK, as she is a twin, so we just looked at the other twin twice as long to pretend that the missing kid was there too. Winking smile

HadarBeckyLizTeresaPaul

We ate at 5 Seasons Brewing Company. We had a delicious, leisurely lunch, served by one of the nicest waiters (we prodded one of the girls to consider dating him afterward, but he doesn’t know that). Such a great time catching up and swapping stories. We’ve seen the girls a couple of times in the past few years (in NYC), but we haven’t seen the boy (man!) in much longer, so that was a very special treat. After lunch they all had to run back to work. We miss them all already!

That night we had dinner with a couple who insisted on cooking. We had our first taste of Portobello mushroom burgers. OMG, one of the best things I’ve eaten, including toasted buns and I believe a home-made aioli sauce (it was definitely home-made, possibly not aioli). I can’t believe Lois missed taking a photo of the burgers.

It was our first time at their house. In addition to being completely inviting in every way, it’s absolutely gorgeous (often a hard combination to achieve). We ate outdoors, in a screen-enclosed, covered porch. The steady rain was welcome rather than a nuisance (until we had to walk back to our car).

The next morning we met another couple for brunch at Sun in My Belly. We had eaten there once before, so we knew how much we’d like the food (we were correct). The more important part was meeting our friends. We hadn’t seen them since April and that meeting was all too brief. Great conversation, great food, more time (but always too little). Perfect way to cap off our brief stop in Atlanta.

We headed to Birmingham directly from Sun in My Belly. Our godson was married in March (this year) and we were going to pick up a portrait of his wife from the wedding photographer to hang in our apartment. We had a little adventure meeting him at a McDonald’s, don’t ask. Thankfully, the portrait is so gorgeous that it was worth the Keystone Cops coordination.

After checking into the hotel and catching up on some business, we headed over to their house to hang out with Rebecca a bit. David was working in the hospital. When he was done he called and we agreed to meet at Davenport’s Pizza Palace for dinner (halfway for each of us).

DavidRebecca

I have never had pizza served like that, cut into small rectangles all the way through the very large pie, so that it was easy to handle every bite (most pieces were two or three bites worth). That it was delicious as well was a big bonus. Winking smile

I tried to order seltzer/club soda (honestly, I have witnesses), but they didn’t have any, so I was forced to drink beer. Rebecca drove us there, and David drove me back, so it was a good time to be in a seltzer-less place.

After dinner we headed over to Yogurt Mountain for a refreshing dessert.

HadarRebeccaDavidYogurtMountain

On the drive back to their place, David and I had very manly discussions. I’m sure the girls had very girlie ones, so no gender stereotypes were harmed during the return trip. Winking smile

We just recently finished watching all five seasons of Friday Night Lights and totally loved the show. In a wild small-world story, one of the producers and directors of the show was my best friend in high school. We lost contact shortly after and his participation in the show had nothing to do with our watching it or our enjoyment of it. Still, I was proud of the job he did.

We gave the DVDs for all five seasons to David and Rebecca and after pizza watched the first two episodes with them (yes, we picked up nuances that we missed the first time around now that we knew where the stories were heading!). We then headed back to the hotel to crash.

The next morning we returned to their house. Rebecca’s parents, along with her brother and his girlfriend came over as well. The eight of us caravanned to Irondale, AL. The Irondale Café is the place known as The Whistle Stop in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. That’s where we ate lunch. Yes, we had the Fried Green Tomatoes! My meal was excellent. Thanks to the parents for treating all of us!

FriedOkraFriedGreenTomatoesAshleyTim

HadarRebeccaHadarCharlie

Since Lois is constantly taking photos, Charlie decided to duel with her when he noticed her lining up a shot:

DuelingPhotographers

It also happened to be The Whistle Stop Festival that weekend, so we spent the next two hours wandering around the various tents/booths on a gorgeous day. Lois and I spent a good amount of time listening to a trio called The Tame Dogs, an acoustic subset of The Rescue Dogs Band (their domain just expired, so I linked to their Reverb Nation page instead). They were very good.

TheTameDogs

HadarRebeccaDavid

There was also a classic car exhibit:

ClassicCarsTimDavidHadarRollsRoyce

ClassicBentley

We said our (temporary) goodbyes and headed back to David and Rebecca’s for some more Friday Night Lights and the Alabama/Arkansas game (Roll Tide Roll). I rooted David’s Incredible 2 and put on a custom ROM. David has been on Android for nearly two years, but this is the first time he’s had root and a custom ROM. We’ll see how he likes it.

The day before, we were told firmly (but nicely) by Rebecca that dinner on Saturday was on them (no ifs ands or buts). In order to guarantee that, she wouldn’t even tell us where we were going, so that Lois (being the sneaky person she is) wouldn’t be able to call in advance and arrange to pay (secretly).

We met Rebecca’s parents at The Veranda on Highland. It felt like it was mostly a seafood restaurant, but for whatever reason, I was in the mood for the Filet Mignon. It was one of the most incredible steaks I’ve had (and I’ve had many). Melted in my mouth and the mashed potatoes were equally delicious. Everyone else raved about theirs (scallops, shrimp and grits and fish of the day).

David paid and we didn’t interfere. Thanks David and Rebecca! This was the first time I experienced table-side credit card swiping (not Square, a real portable swiper). David was able to press a button to select a pre-defined tip percentage, and he signed on the reader as well. A built-in printer spat out the receipt. A very efficient system, where your credit card is never out of your sight. Slick.

CharlieRebeccaCarolynDavid

After picking up my computer we headed back to the hotel for another crash. The next morning Lois went to Church with David and Rebecca while I stayed in their house. They called when they were done and I met them for an exceptional lunch at Genghis Grill. Pick out your own stuff, season it yourself, have a professional stir-fry it for you. Fresh and delicious.

Next door is a brand new Red Mango (frozen yogurt), so we had to repeat the refreshing dessert ritual from Friday night. Smile

DavidRebeccaRedMango

We spent roughly 1/2 an hour back at their house sharing some new music with them and then hit the road mid-afternoon. Of course, we miss them already!

I’m sitting at my desk working (OK, I’m blogging, but I’ll be working again shortly). Another informal vacation in the books. Another winning one (they all are!).

Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss at Jammin Java

Send to Kindle

Another night, another stop on the Intergalactic Tour of the Universe and Beyond Tour. It wasn’t originally meant to be, but when the Universe (and Beyond!) wants something, it makes it happen.

Two years ago, Richmond CenterStage opened with a big gala celebration. I covered one of the nights. Last night was a big anniversary celebration, with Patti LaBelle as the headliner. We had tickets and were committed to attending a very long time ago.

On June 30th, I saw the following tweet:

JamnJavaDoorGal
I know what can make a few smile, especially @linds047 – 9/10 -Ian Axel + Bess Rogers + Allie Moss http://bit.ly/kE5gyC

So, even though we knew about this show 10 weeks out, we also knew there was no way we could attend. A few weeks ago, my friend told me that I’d have to wear a suit to attend the Patti LaBelle show. If you know me, you can probably guess what my body language involuntarily portrayed. I was going to do it, but I didn’t need to be happy about it.

Earlier this week, he called me (we were still in NY) and said that he knew some people who would really appreciate getting their hands on our tickets. Obviously, he would be delighted if we really wanted to attend, but essentially, he was letting me off the hook (he knows me for 29.5 years, so the suit reaction wasn’t a surprise to him). It took us all of two minutes to conclude that the tickets were better used by the local Richmonders.

Suddenly, going to Jammin’ Java to see another round of the Intergalactic Tour was a reality. If you’re wondering whether we had even one second’s hesitation about seeing them for a fourth time in five days, you’ve never met us or read my tiny corner of the Internet.

As with all shows, there’s enough of a twist to make them worth showing up to. That was true last night too, even though two of the twists weren’t so positive. The overall show/experience was great, so I am not (really) complaining.

There was a late show scheduled for 10pm (different group) so the start time for this show was moved up to 7pm (that part, us old folks like, especially since we had a 2.5 hour round-trip drive to get to/from the venue). I assumed our folks would play until at least 9pm, and then the hustle would begin to clear the place.

I was wrong. They were told that they had to be off the stage by 8:30pm sharp! There wasn’t even a chance to cajole an encore. The second the set was over, the lights came on and the house music started playing.

On the flip side (a very positive flip side at that!), the crowd got to line-up and connect with the artists for quite a long time (so people were not hustled out at 8:30). I haven’t seen that long a line at a merch table in quite a while (separate from the long line of people waiting to hi, or get some of that merch signed!). Lindsie (of yesterday’s post’s fame) was working the merch table. A very valiant effort!

The other positive flip side is that there were no breaks between the the sets of the three performers. Each took exactly 30 minutes. While that probably cut roughly 10-15 minutes off what each has been doing on this tour, saving the 10-15 minutes between sets was actually quite pleasant (to me at least). The fact that we were back in the hotel room shortly after 10pm was a very pleasant side-effect of the early ending.

Allie Moss kicked it off, with the full band, playing Passerby, which included everyone singing at the end (everyone = Bess Rogers, Ian Axel, Adam Christgau and Chris Anderson). Ian then left the stage, returning once more to play with Allie with the others taking a beak. They played Prisoner of Hope. I think that was the first time they played it where we were in attendance (though I haven’t grabbed set lists this week, so I could be remembering it incorrectly).

IanAxelAllieMoss

With the exception of another solo song (or two?), Bess sang harmony with Allie (perfectly) and Adam and Chris did their always amazing jobs on the drums and electric bass respectively.

AdamChristgauChrisAnderson

Allie seemed dramatically healthier than the night before, thank goodness. Otherwise, she took great pains to avoid talking about feeling poorly.

When her 30 minutes was up, she and Bess simply traded spots. Bess introduced herself by saying: “You may remember me from earlier in the night when I was standing over there.” Smile

BessRogersAllieMoss

Bess had Allie sing harmony on most of her songs too (again, perfectly). Adam and Chris were on each of those numbers as well. She also played some solo numbers, including In My Life on the ukulele.

She finished up her set by inviting Ian to join the rest of them in performing Anchor (the single from her upcoming CD, where In My Life is the B Side).

After about 10 seconds of confusion as to whether they would take a break before Ian started, they decided against a break. Good decision!

Ian sat down (he was already on stage) and started playing Leave Me Alone! He played the same set from the night before, but had to toss a few songs due to the time constraint. So, no Amory. He played Say Something on the keyboards (reverting from the previous night’s ukulele version). It was awesome, so even though I (slightly) prefer the ukulele version, I’ll take it any way Ian wants to deliver it.

IanAxel

Chad Vaccarino came out for the second half of Ian’s set to very loud cheers and applause. He was joined on the first number by Allie Moss. They sang Shorty Don’t Wait, with Ian on the ukulele (the only song Ian played on the uke, as opposed to three consecutive numbers the night before). Adam played acoustic guitar on Shorty.

AdamChristgauAllieMossChadVaccarinoIanAxelChrisAnderson

Of course they nailed it. When Chad sang, the whoops were exactly as you hear them in NYC. In other places, I am 100% sure that people feel the urge, but they probably think it’s impolite (and in general/theory, it is), but when it’s Chad, it’s such a natural reaction, and so expected in NYC (and now in DC as well), that you just have to let out the joy (otherwise, it would be like a holding in a sneeze, i.e., not good for you). Smile

ChadVaccarino

Allie does a fantastic job singing the second verse on the lead, bringing a similar style/emotion to the song that Chad does. The chorus and ending are three-part harmony (with Ian joining Chad and Allie) that simply forces a smile on your face.

Ian and Chad also played Rockstar (such a great song) and closed it out with This is the New Year.

We got to say hi/goodbye to everyone except for Chris Anderson (who I think was loading the equipment onto the van) and Allie (I simply didn’t see her in the dark). We will not be seeing them again on this tour (a single tear streaked down my cheek as I typed that).

ChrisAyerAdamChristgauChadVaccarino

Thanks to all of them: Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino, Bess Rogers, Allie Moss, Adam Christgau and Chris Anderson for making this week unbelievably special for us. We’ll never forget it! Smile

Now for the second negative. The sound guy just couldn’t get the vocal levels right. For much of the night, they were too bright/loud. Eventually, I either got used to it, or he woke up a bit and toned it down. The sound booth was roughly 10 rows directly behind me, so I can’t imagine he was hearing it much differently than I was. It’s one of the mysteries of live show engineering that feels destined to elude my understanding forever…

We normally eat at Jammin’ Java when we see a show there. The food is excellent and we look forward to it. Last night we were having dinner with a friend and we were interested in something more leisurely, quiet, with a bit more choice. I did a search nearby in Google and found a dozen restaurants listed within 1000 feet of Jammin’ Java (apparently, that little strip mall is restaurant heaven).

I chose Café Renaissance, which is around the corner of the same block of stores that Jammin’ Java is in. The first few reviews I read were some of the most praise-worthy I had ever seen, describing the service as unparalleled and food excellent. Then I read some real slams as well. Then I read some people slamming the slammers. So, it didn’t seem to be a slam dunk, but we decided to try it anyway.

OurTableCafeRenaissance

I’m officially slamming the slammers as well. We had a great meal and were treated like kings (and a queen). I could complain that they were a bit over-solicitous, but that would only be true because we were time-constrained to make it to Jammin’ Java by showtime. Otherwise, their attention and conversation were delightful and welcome.

PorkChopSpecialWithFigs

It’s not cheap (if you go for the full treatment, which we did, of appetizer and wine), but I thought it was more than worth the price. I am absolutely sure that we will dine there again. We did buy two large lattes and one large coffee at Jammin’ Java. Partially out of guilt about not spending the money for dinner there, but mostly because they live up to having Java in their name! Smile

Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss at a House Concert

Send to Kindle

Last night was our third time in four days seeing Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss perform (no big deal, don’t be too jealous). The last two shows were part of the Intergalactic Tour of the Universe and Beyond Tour. All three shows were unique because the venues were so different, as were the audiences. Of course, there were changes in the banter and the set lists as well.

The first was at Bowery Ballroom, covered here. The second was at The Falcon, covered here. Allie and Bess were a key part of Rosi Golan’s set at Bowery Ballroom on the same night that Ian performed. That post is here. Whew.

Last night’s show was a house concert in Arlington, VA, hosted by the extraordinary Lindsie. We met Lindsie when she hosted an Ian Axel house concert six months ago. It was one of the best shows we’ve attended, so when we go the invitation to this one, we made sure to be in VA for it.

Lindsie

The Bowery Ballroom was show was great! The Falcon show was better, in that it was much more intimate, zero talking by the audience and more talking by the performers.

Last night was even better. So much more intimate, total silence during the songs, thunderous applause after each song and lots of mixing/chatting with the musicians before, between and after the sets. Oh, and there were homemade moonpies (among other yummy desserts)! Smile

MoonPies

When we’re down in VA, we’re here to work at Zope Corporation. That gives us an opportunity to invite some of the music lovers in the company to attend shows with us. Last night, eight of us attended (one was a 7-year-old, not a slave-labor employee, the daughter of a slave-labor employee). Winking smile

ChadVaccarinoOurFriends

Bess Rogers opened the show. Before she came out, there was a microphone in the middle of the stage area (this is a home, there was no actual stage). Bess decided to have it removed and the rest of the singers sang without the aid of the microphone either. For the most part, that was fantastic. No effects, direct from their mouth to our ears. A few times, Bess sang softly, and her words were a bit swallowed up by the band. On balance, still excellent.

BessRogersUkulele

Bess played acoustic guitar and ukulele.

BessRogersGuitar

She played a few numbers solo (including her exceptional cover of In My Life by The Beatles). On the rest, she was accompanied by:

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris sat on his amp, and played a very quiet, mellow bass, even though it was amplified. I commented to him after the show that he was able to get even quieter than he could have with an acoustic upright bass (he agreed). It was perfect (volume, as well as his always amazing play).

ChrisAnderson

Adam Christgau on drums (and anything else you can hit!). A truly extraordinary performance by Adam. This was not the setting to plop a full drum set in and bang away. Aside from washing out the vocals, it would have overwhelmed the audience independently.

AdamChristgauSetup

Adam had a single snare drum (no cymbals). For most of the evening, he had his shirt draped over it to mute it even further. On occasion he used a shaker. At other times a tambourine, all while using the other hand to continue hitting the snare. He used Bess’ guitar case as a kick drum (which sounded really good). That wasn’t enough. He often hit the top of the guitar case with a stick or mallet.

He also used brushes to great effect. And, when he wanted the sound of a cymbal, he hit the tambourine with a stick, or with his foot. Basically, he was inventive.

AdamChristgauBrushes

All of that was amazing, but the best part of Adam’s performance was his singing. He sang a lot with Bess. I knew he could sing, but his range was much greater than I had previously experienced. He sang some really high parts, wonderfully.

In my post about The Falcon, I mentioned that we bought Bess’ single of her upcoming CD, Anchor, with In My Life on the “B side”. I didn’t have a chance to listen to it until after I posted. Yesterday, before we headed up to the show I listened to it. Both songs are great, but I was blown away to hear In My Life, professionally produced, with harmony (Bess overdubs and harmonizes with herself). I was already excited for the new CD, but even more so now.

I also mentioned how funny/clever/quick Bess was at The Falcon. Ditto last night. It’s largely a self-deprecating humor, but nothing about is canned. One of the running gags last night involved the above-highlighted moonpies. Bess had one on a plate that she placed on Ian’s keyboard (so that she could keep an eye on it while she performed).

Way on the left edge of this photo, you can Bess still connecting with her moonpie. Winking smile

BessRogersMoonPieAdamChristgauChrisAnderson

She mentioned that she didn’t want to risk them all being gone by the end of her set. She kept eyeing it between songs and making a number of jokes about it. The second her set was done, she took a big bite, sharing her obvious satisfaction with us. Smile

Allie Moss sang on two songs with Bess, playing glockenspiel. In the two days since we saw Allie at The Falcon, she got sick and nearly lost her voice. I think that’s why Adam filled in singing on songs that Allie otherwise would have sung with Bess. Still, her harmonies with Bess were beautiful.

AllieMossGlockenspiel

Ian Axel joined for one song as well on the piano, the above-mentioned Anchor, one of the songs Allie was on as well. It was awesome, having everyone (yes, all five of them, including Adam and Chris) singing together.

In the car on the way back to Fredericksburg, one of the guys asked me whether Bess puts her music up on Bandcamp. I just checked, and yes indeed, it’s available for streaming (both Anchor and In My Life). Once you listen, spend the $1.98 to buy it so that Bess can afford her next moonpie!

Allie Moss was up next. It was clear that she wasn’t feeling well. She could have easily gotten away without performing, but she was a trooper and delivered a pretty incredible set. A very few times you could see an expression on her face that she thought she wouldn’t be able to hit the next note. She did, but it obviously took more concentration than it normally does.

AllieMoss

Her guitar play wasn’t affected, it was very good. She sang a few solo and the rest with Adam and Chris supporting her.

AllieMossAdamChristgauChrisAnderson

Bess joined for at least two songs (one on the glockenspiel) and sang gorgeous harmony with her.

Allie was hysterical as well, but it was largely due to jokes about her illness and the effects of any medication she took (it seemed to kick in gradually during the course of her set). Trust me, she’s very funny when she’s healthy as well.

When she sang Passerby and reached the line “What if we’d shared a pint”, she leaned forward toward the 7-year-old and whispered “of ice cream”, without missing a beat. Did I tell you how quick and clever these ladies are? Smile

Like with Bess’ Digital 45, I didn’t have a chance to listen to Allie’s CD, Late Bloomer when I last posted. That too was rectified before the show. Another winner. A beautiful CD from start to finish. These ladies are on a roll, with their individual careers as well as their roles in Ingrid Michaelson’s band.

Ian was up next, starting out with Leave Me Alone, accompanied by Adam and Chris. Since Ian’s keyboard had to be amplified, both Adam and Chris were able (needed) to crank it up a bit. Amazingly, Ian’s voice was strong and clear enough to be heard perfectly on every note throughout the set, even though he had a more difficult task than Bess and Allie.

Ian is always impish (at least at times) during every show, and the audience always responds to it. At a house concert, it’s so much easier to connect with that side of his personality, and it was in full force last night.

IanAxelSmiling

Lois told Ian before the show that the 7-year-old and her 2-year-old brother (who wasn’t at the show) are entranced whenever their mom puts on Waltz. They both play air piano trying to keep up with Ian (it’s not possible, but A for effort to the kids!). Smile

IanAxelKeyboards

After playing Gone, Ian played Waltz, looking at the 7-year-old and saying: “This one’s for you”. Smile

There were some changes to the set list from the other shows. One biggie started with Ian coming out from behind the keyboard and picking up the ukulele. He said that he was getting sick of playing the song he was about to play and he hoped that playing it on the ukulele (rather than the keyboards) would make it fresher for him.

IanAxelUkulele

I knew immediately which song he was going to play, Say Something. It’s absolutely gorgeous on the piano, which is how he mostly plays it the past year, but it was originally written on the ukulele, which is how I heard it the first few times. I’m partial to the ukulele version, because it’s rawer, allowing the overwhelming emotion of the song (and Ian’s delivery!) to smack you in the face. That’s doubly true in such an intimate venue.

After the show, a few people told Ian that he had to continue to play the song, even if he’s sick of it, because it’s cathartic for them, or people they know. Lindsie was one of those people and she told us (and Ian) about a friend of hers who attended a show in LA a few weeks ago and was totally moved by the song due to current circumstances in his life.

Ian continued with two more numbers on the ukulele (I might not have the order correct). He asked Allie if she was up to singing with him and she was. She and Chad Vaccarino (Ian’s writing and performing partner) came up to sing Shorty (with Adam Christgau switching to acoustic guitar to accompany them).

AllieMossChadVaccarinoIanAxel

We saw Chad, Allie and Ian (with Adam) do Shorty (one of my favorites) at Bowery and The Falcon, both amazingly well. Still, last night was even better. At the other shows, the leads were sung right into the microphone (perfectly), but all three (Chad, Allie and Ian) shared that same mic to sing the chorus. These mic’s are mostly directional, with short pickup ranges, so the harmonies could be heard (because it’s relatively quiet), but there’s really a lack of power.

Last night, no microphone, all three voices (even Allie’s sick one) came through flawlessly and at the right volume.

When Allie left, Ian, Chad and Adam played a song they debuted at Bowery but didn’t play at The Falcon, Amory. It was stunning at Bowery, but like Shorty, even better last night (for the same reasons). Three-part harmony for the win!

AdamChristgauIanAxelChadVaccarino

There were a couple of funny moments as Ian and Adam weren’t on the same page about a repeating section. That’s another major advantage of a house concert, the comfort level between the performers and the audience, where you can actually enjoy a flub, especially when you know you’re watching a great song being birthed.

Ian then announced that the ukulele portion of the evening was over. Winking smile

IanAxelChadVaccarino

Back at the keyboards, Ian and Chad (along with Adam and Chris) played Rockstar and killed it. They finished up with This is the New Year. Of course it was great, but I was blown away by how interesting Adam kept the drumming, with such a minimalist setup.

Speaking of Adam, one one song (of course I can’t remember which right now), Adam switched from the snare to his signature use of a Frisbee as a percussive instrument. Well done! Smile

ChadVaccarinoAdamChristgauFrisbee

Of course, the eight of us bought a ton of merch! Here is a photo of Ian, with his T-Shirt Brigade. The Tour Poster (also in the photo) was designed by Kristine Thune:

IanAxelAndHisT-ShirtBrigadeAndPosterWeHadMoonPiesToo

Here’s Ian signing a CD for one our folks:

IanAxelSigningCD

The only negative the entire evening was that the show started 50-minutes late. We were tempted to run out instantly when it was over (we had a 1-hour drive ahead of us), but the glow in the room was impossible to leave, so we ended up schmoozing and taking a ton of photos with everyone. It was worth it, but we didn’t get back to the hotel until midnight.

We drove up in two cars, boys in one, girls in the other. Before heading over to the show we had a lovely dinner at Sawatdee, a Thai restaurant in Arlington. Thanks for the recommendation Lindsie! Smile

Take You Out Dancing by Derek James

Send to Kindle

I’ve written about Derek James a number of times (here’s the most recent one). For the lazy among you (I know, you’re too lazy to even raise your hands, right?), here’s the opening paragraph:

Derek James has magical powers (at least over me). I am a very happy person, nearly 100% of the time. So, lifting my spirits seems like a silly thing to say, since they’re always pretty high (metaphorically speaking). Yet, every time I see Derek James perform (last night, at Rockwood Music Hall, was the fifth time), he does indeed lift my spirits even higher (and I was coming in with a wonderful frozen margarita high, so he had some work to do!). Winking smile

Ever since Derek mentioned that he was recording a new CD, I have been waiting (not so patiently!) to capture the magic so I can trot it out whenever I want to (not just when Derek has time to play a show). That day is now here (sort-of, not quite officially). You can stream the upcoming CD in it’s entirety at http://derekjames.bandcamp.com/. You can also read the lyrics for every song there as well.

On September 15th, 2011, Derek will be performing a CD Release Show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, 7:30pm (ticketed show). We won’t be in NYC that day, so sadly, we’ll miss the party. Go in my stead and report back here in the comments if it was as awesome as I know it will be!

There are two ways to consider this album:

  1. From the perspective of someone who loves the live shows
  2. From the perspective of a newcomer to Derek James

#1 should be judged by whether the album captures the magic. Does it transport you instantly to that happy place? Unequivocally yes! (It’s not the same as the live show and I’ll have more to say about that in a minute.)

#2 should be judged by two criteria (independently): 1) Do you badly want to see a live show after listening? and 2) Do you want to put the CD on repeat, even if you never see Derek live?

Obviously, not being able to un-see a live show, I can’t really answer #2 honestly, though I’m impressed enough to believe that the answer to both 1) and 2) will be yes as well. Since you can stream it for free, let me know in the comments how it grabs you, whether you’ve seen Derek live or not.

There’s a strong visual component to a Derek James and The Lovely Fools show that (obviously) can’t be duplicated on a CD. The other difference is that in a live show, there’s a little more freedom to take leads (in particular on the guitar) and experiment. When you’re recording, you throw out all of the experimentation (save one specific take) and you shorten everything to package it up for a more mass audience taste/expectation.

I’ve listened to the album five times now. I like it more with each listen. The very first listen sounded a bit “rounded at the edges” for me, but I realize after the fact that I had the volume down just a bit too much. Now, at the right level, with good headphones, I can’t stop listening.

As much as I enjoy the lyrics, they’re mostly fun, not earth-shaking. You won’t find yourself writing them down, bringing them to your philosophy professor to debate the meaning of life. That said, listen carefully, because there are gems sprinkled here and there. He’s an example (from She Goes Far Away):

I don’t know but I’ve been told before
The less you get you love ‘em even more

Who hasn’t been there before? Winking smile (that should probably have been a sad face, to more appropriately reflect the feeling we’ve had when we were in that state!)

Do you know someone who needs their mood lifted? Send them to the link to listen to this album. Do they still need a pick-me-up? Take them to a show!

You can see the major credits on the Bandcamp page, but I bumped into Derek at the Bowery Ballroom show on Tuesday and asked him to email me any additional credits for me to reproduce here. This is a more complete list (it duplicates all of what is on the web as well):

all lyrics and music by Derek James
all songs (c) Derek James (ASCAP)
Publishing: Derek James Music (ASCAP)

additional music by Assaf Spector & Roy Gurel (tracks 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9)
additional lyrics by Assaf Spector (track 1)

Bright Days* co-written by Andrea Tonon – (Andrea is an Italian I met living in France and we had a band of French musicians we used to busk together in the streets .. this song was inspired by the gypsy musicians of Europe and European life in the quaint cobblestone streets of their charming cities)

DEREK JAMES vox, acoustic guitars, percussion, kazoo, harmonica, & keys

ASSAF SPECTOR bass, drums, percussion, b.vox, programming

ROY GUREL electric guitars, percussion, & b.vox

RYAN VAUGHN percussion

MATTHEW ISELIN Main Keys

BAILEY (my dog, also on cover) b.vox

ADAM CHRISTGAU drums (tracks 4, 6, 12)

JANEL ELIZABETH b.vox (track 10)

JAMIE ALEGRE drums (track 5)

GLENN CHOCKY b.vox (track 4)

FARA D’AGUILAR b.vox (track 9)

produced by Assaf Spector, Roy Gurel & Derek James

recorded and engineered by Assaf Spector & Roy Gurel from May to August 2010 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on North 12th and Kent – big oil/gas factory building converted to studio spaces

mixed by Assaf Spector

mastered by Adrian Morgan at Timeless Mastering, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Photography – (c) Glenn Chocky (cover, back cover, inside left)& Maxine Nienow (inside right)

Art Direction & Design – (c) Glenn Chocky & Derek James

It’s so fantastic when something you’ve looked forward to for so long hits the mark. I will be purchasing this CD the minute it’s available. In the meantime, I’ll be listening to it over-and-over. You should too!

Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss at The Falcon

Send to Kindle

We love surprising musicians by showing up in places they’d never expect us. It’s way more fun when the venue is new to us and everything we read makes us think it will be a favorite, instantly. Such was the case last night.

Having just seen Ian Axel the night before (Tuesday) at Bowery Ballroom, he didn’t expect to see us two hours north of there the next night. Allie Moss was at Bowery Ballroom as well, singing on more than 1/2 of Rosi Golan’s CD Release Show. Bess Rogers joined Rosi and Allie to close the show, so we were actually seeing every performer for a second night in a row.

The venues couldn’t be more different. The night out at Bowery Ballroom was fantastic (you can read about the three sets here, here and here). Even so, The Falcon (last night’s venue) is so much more to our liking on every level. I’ll tell you why after I cover the music.

I’m reverting back to my normal style of covering the performers in reverse order.

Ian Axel got to return to a real grand piano. He’s been playing electronic keyboards and even a mock baby grand (looked like a grand, but was actually electronic at the Beacon Theatre). You can see its effect on Ian. He brightens up and is infused with even more energy (if that’s possible) when his fingers connect with ivory, rather than plastic.

IanAxelPiano

He set a different tone immediately. At Bowery Ballroom, Ian opened with Gone (a slow, emotional song). He played it last night too (fairly early), but opened with Leave Me Alone! It was fantastic, for two reasons: 1) It’s a great song and Ian and the band nailed it, and 2) The audience surprised the heck out of me!

IanAxelSinging

Here’s what I wrote about that song the night before (Chris refers to the bass player):

Hearing that song in NYC is so different than anywhere else. In NYC, such a large proportion of the crowd knows the cool clapping part (and has Chris to make sure they know when to do it, not that we don’t). In other places, there are a few lonely clappers who typically give up quickly.

My hubris was smacked down the very next night. Most of the people in the audience last night clapped correctly, immediately (in other words, they knew the song!). More importantly, three guys in the second row clapped it even when no one else ever does (it was appropriate from a percussion point of view, but it’s not in spots where the band expects it). They kept it up until the song was over. That’s commitment folks. Strike my comments from the night before!

Ian played most of the set accompanied by two band members (they didn’t travel with a guitar player):

Adam Christgau on drums, acoustic guitar and background vocals. Having seen Adam play the night before, it was impressive to see him shift gears and play some of the same songs with substantially more subtlety, matching the venue’s acoustics and size very appropriately. He did a very nice job on the acoustic guitar as well (something we only discovered he could play the night before).

AdamChristgau

We met Adam’s mother at the show. She showed us a photo of Adam playing the drums at 3-years-old. It was one of the cutest photos we’ve ever seen. She was willing to send us a copy, but Adam insisted against it. So, I’m hereby considering starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to bribe his mom to ignore him, so we can release that photo into the wild (where it belongs!). Winking smile

AdamChristgauMom

Chris Anderson on electric bass and background vocals. Like Adam, Chris was also more subdued at The Falcon. Also like Adam, there was a sophistication to his play that made it no less interesting than the night before. I’m always impressed by how professional Chris is. We see him so often, it amazes me how consistent he is.

ChrisAnderson

Ian played Say Something solo. He introduced the song and seemed a bit more emotional to me than he is at most shows. In fact, The Falcon seemed to bring out a bit more talkativeness in general (from the other performers as well) and that’s always a plus for me.

Chad Vaccarino, Ian’s primary writing partner, joined for a number of songs. The first, Shorty Don’t Wait, also had Allie Moss joining in, with Adam switching to the acoustic guitar. Chad sang lead on all but one verse, where Allie took over the mic. Allie, Chad and Ian shared the mic to sing the chorus and Ian played the ukulele. Shorty is one of my favorite songs and they delivered another winning performance.

AllieMossChadVaccarinoIanAxel

One of the songs that Chad and Ian performed was Rockstar, sure to be one of the bigger hits off their next CD (no, they haven’t started recording it yet, sigh…). When they opened for Five for Fighting in CT, they introduced a twist to the song. They morphed it into Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, then back to finish Rockstar.

ChadVaccarinoAdamChristgau

In CT, it was awesome. They did a longer version of Tiny Dancer. But, it wasn’t the smoothest transition in or out of Rockstar. At Bowery Ballroom and again last night, the transitions in/out were so seamless (really, perfect), that you would swear Elton John collaborated with them on Rockstar and Tiny Dancer.

I mentioned that to Ian after the Bowery Ballroom show, but I forgot to mention it in the post. I’m grateful to him for repeating the seamlessness last night, so I had a chance to correct my omission. Winking smile

They killed This is the New Year (do they ever not?). This was also the best example of Adam changing up the drums (quite dramatically) from the night before.

Ian had to come back for an encore (yes, had to) and he and Chad did You’ll Be OK. When they finished, everyone in the room gave them a standing ovation. No hesitations in people standing up. Great way to end the evening.

Bess Rogers was up before Ian. Adam and Chris backed her up for most of the set (though she did play solo acoustic guitar as well as ukulele). Allie Moss sang harmony on many of the numbers and played glockenspiel on at least one. The two of them sound so good (I guess it doesn’t hurt that they are forced to spend so much time together).

BessRogersAdamChristgauAllieMossChrisAndersonAllieMossGlockenspielChrisAnderson

Ian played piano on at least one number.

Bess played some songs from her upcoming CD (already recorded thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign). It should be out in October (fingers crossed). She also played a few off of her EP Bess Rogers Presents Bess Rogers.

BessRogersAdamChristgau

It was all excellent, but I have to say that she totally blew me away (and I suspect everyone else) when she switched to the ukulele, gave an introduction and then played, In My Life, by The Beatles. Wow. Not only did she sing it wonderfully, she went for it and played the fast instrumental part (played on the piano on Rubber Soul) on the ukulele and nailed it.

BessRogersUkulele

Aside from the music, Bess is just hysterical. Possibly NC-17 (not quite R), but it works for me. She’s smart and quick-witted. What else can you ask for? Nothing, that’s right!

Allie Moss opened the adult portion of the evening (you’ll understand that comment in a minute). I already mentioned above how great she sounded singing with Ian and Bess. I also linked to the post praising her performance singing with Rosi Golan.

AllieMoss

Let me add now that in addition to clearly having an excellent voice (and playing the guitar really well), she’s also a very good songwriter. She opened the show with Passerby. It’s a song inspired by the feeling we all have about other drivers (inducing the desire for road rage). One of the phrases that struck me:

Would I have grace for you
And you for me

Amen, let’s just all do it, have grace for each other, in all situations! She also sang the title cut from her CD, Late Bloomer, among others (we didn’t grab any set lists, so I can’t rattle off all the songs). Bess sang harmony on a few numbers and played ukulele on the opener. She also played glockenspiel on one number. Adam and Chris supported Allie on a good portion of the set as well.

AllieMossSinging

Ian played piano during Allie’s first number. I can’t recall whether he returned during her set.

Opening the show were two girls (yes, girls, not women or ladies), The Knox Sisters. They will soon be 13 and 11 (Hailey and Samantha). Don’t worry, their parents were there as well.

SamanthaKnoxHaileyKnox

Hailey played the guitar and sang all of the leads. Samantha played the cajon and dejembe and sang harmony on a song she wrote!

TheKnoxSisters

One of the songs they performed is the (current) default song on their YouTube Channel (Doorbell). It’s a year old, but is a reasonable representation of their performance last night. Hailey’s voice has matured further (IMO).

They received rousing applause after each song (from me as well) and were called back for an encore. I enjoyed their set, so I wasn’t just being polite, but I have to wonder whether everyone else felt that much more impressed than I was.

They are extremely impressive for their age, no doubt, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they make it, eventually, if they continue to work hard. That said, they aren’t really phenoms (in the child-prodigy sense). I wasn’t experiencing an 11-year-old Chris Thile, or a 10-year-old Sierra Hull, etc.

Allie, Bess and Ian all gushed over them, repeatedly. Whether they were being nice (supportive), or whether they saw something in these girls that I didn’t (being performers themselves), it was a very nice thing to do.

Lois bought a bunch of merch after the show. I look forward to listening to Allie’s Late Bloomer CD. We also bought a single from Bess’ upcoming CD. I think Bess said that the B-side is In My Life. We were driving all day today, so I haven’t had a chance to load it and find out if my wish will come true (that I heard correctly!).

AdamChristgauIanAxelBessRogersChadVaccarinoChrisAndersonAllieMoss

We bought a couple of T-Shirts (you can never have enough). Smile

OK, let’s wrap this up with some words about the venue itself.

The Falcon is simply an extraordinary place. It seats roughly 100 people. The first two rows are traditional seats. The rest of the room is tables that normally would seat four, but they orient the entire room toward the music. No one sits with their back to the stage or on the sides of the tables. That meant that the two of us shared that table for four, both sitting on one end together, facing the stage. Perfect!

Every person in the place (wait staff, owner Tony Falco, bartenders, bus-people, sound person) was happy, helpful, energetic and took their job seriously, doing it well.

The food was outstanding. I would go back for the food, even if there wasn’t music (it’s an hour’s drive from our house).

All of the above is great, but we showed up for the music. That’s where The Falcon shines even more. The acoustics were fantastic, in particular, the vocals (and kids, Allie, Bess, Ian and Chad are first and foremost about the vocals!). I was sitting in the stereo sweet spot (as if this was my living room and I got to design my own perfect sitting area).

The sound guy (he looked like a kid himself) was very active. I noticed a few times that if someone’s mic wasn’t just right (from the audience’s perspective), it was adjusted quickly. I often marvel at other places where the sound is awful and I think: is the sound guy in the restroom? He can’t be listening to what I’m listening to.

We’ll be back at the Falcon, no doubt. Here’s a great overview photo of the room.

Rosi Golan Lead Balloon CD Release Show at Bowery Ballroom

Send to Kindle

I’m a very big fan of Rosi Golan. I love The Drifter and the Gypsy (until last week, Rosi’s most current CD). I love her side-project, The Open Sea (with Ari Hest). Their EP is extraordinary. The chance to see Rosi perform is good enough reason to come out.

RosiGolan

Add to that a full band, an amazing lineup before her and an actual new CD to celebrate (Lead Balloon) and there was no doubt this would be a great night out.

It was!

Rosi is a great songwriter. Independent of that, she has one of the most amazing voices. There’s a clarity that’s hard to describe, but I’m going to try. Many great singers have some sort of halo to their voices. In other words, the center of the sound is the note they want to hit, but if you looked at it with a spectrum analyzer, the wave-form would be fatter, touching other notes around the one they’re singing.

Other’s have a laser-like quality, which will have the clarity I noted, but can also sound shrill, even painful at times. Rosi’s voice is just right. On most songs, there’s a sweetness to the voice, even if the lyrics are ripping your heart out at the same time. In fact, she joked that she was surprised to see some people dancing in the back of Bowery Ballroom, since most of her songs cause people to cry or hold hands. Smile

The set was great. Most of the songs were from the new CD. Rosi was kind enough to throw in a couple from The Drifter and the Gypsy, most notably Think of Me, which I could listen to all day, every day. Here’s the set list:

SetList

Rosi has a regular accompanist, Jake Phillips, who performs with her (at every show?) for the past 4.5 years. He’s an excellent guitarist, and has a really good voice. Most of the time he sings harmony with Rosi, but occasionally, he’ll sing lead on a verse. I think he sang one of the verses on Hazy (the other song from The Drifter and the Gypsy). On the CD, Rosi sang with William Fitzsimmons (that reference was for you, Kevin). Winking smile

JakePhillips

Jake has a show of his own at 7pm tonight at Rockwood Music Hall. I’m not in NYC, so I can’t attend, and if you’re reading this, you probably can’t either, since I’m posting this a day too late (my next post will reveal why this one is late).

I bought Lead Balloon at the show, between Ian Axel and Rosi’s sets. I’ve listened to it twice so far and I really like it a lot. I’m sure I’ll grow to love it in a few more listens. There are a number of songs that grabbed me instantly, but none more than Fly Away. It’s my Think of Me from this CD.

Rosi was accompanied by a full band, but she also had a special guest star on many of her numbers (I’d guess more than 1/2).

Allie Moss is a headliner in her own right, in addition to being a member of Ingrid Michaelson’s band (singing harmony and playing guitar). On Rosi’s set, she sang harmony so beautifully.

AllieMossTonyMaceliAllieMoss

Rosi closed the show by bringing up another special guest. If you read the paragraph above and substitute the name Bess Rogers for Allie Moss, it would all be 100% accurate!

Rosi asked the crowd to scrunch up closer to the stage and to be as quiet as they (we) could be. She unplugged her acoustic guitar and Rosi, Bess and Allie sang with no microphones. They performed Can’t Go Back. We were lucky enough to be right up against the stage (where you’ll always find us if we can secure that spot) so it felt like the three of them were singing just for us.

RosiGolanBessRogersAlllieMossSinging

Wow is an inadequate word to describe what an amazing job these ladies did. Oh yeah, the song is really beautiful as well, and it’s on Lead Balloon.

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

Daniel Mintseris on electronic keyboards. Excellent job throughout the set. In a silly small-world story, I haven’t been that active on Google+ yet, but I’ve been slowly accumulating people into various circles. The morning of the show (Tuesday), I put Daniel in my Musicians circle and he added me back (so at least he has a Google+ account). I didn’t know I’d be seeing Daniel perform that night! Smile

DanielMintseris

Elliot Jacobson on drums. Elliot is simply awesome, always. I’ve described him before as having a reputation as a hitter (he strikes the drums hard!). I’ve also said that it’s not true, when it’s not called for. On most of Rosi’s numbers, it wasn’t called for. Sure enough, Elliot was amazing, subtle when he needed to be, upbeat when appropriate, etc.

ElliotJacobson

Tony Maceli on electric and upright bass. Consistently one of my favorite bass players, including this show. Tony split the bass duties nearly evenly between the electric and the upright, nailing the bass lines on both. On the upright, he mostly plucked, but at least in one song I noticed him switching to the bow, then back to plucking. He’s a bit more understated (by choice) than other bass players on the scene, but the sounds he produces are the correct ones.

TonyMaceliTonyMaceliUpright

A great finish to an already great night. The Spring Standards opened the show, with Ian Axel performing after them. Let’s pick a date and do it all again real soon.

For the entire night we stood next to Casey Hicks, a writer for Short and Sweet NYC. She had just posted an interview with Rosi Golan that day, conducted over the weekend.

CaseyHicks

Here’s the Kevin, mentioned above:

KevinHadarChris

Ian Axel at Bowery Ballroom

Send to Kindle

Continuing with the pattern started in my last post about The Spring Standards, I am separating this one out from the other two sets at last night’s Bowery Ballroom show.

Ian Axel co-headlined Bowery Ballroom on May 24th, 2011 with The Spring Standards. Last night he co-headlined with Rosi Golan.

IanAxelPluggingIn

Since that night, we’ve only seen Ian perform with a full band once, when he opened for Five for Fighting. In fact, that show wasn’t quite a full band either. They played without a guitar and they had a substitute drummer, Zach Jones (who was absolutely incredible). We’ve seen Ian perform with Chad Vaccarino quite a number of times in between (so don’t worry about how we held up in the interim), including an extraordinary show at The Beacon Theatre.

There was still one change in the band, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Ian performed an exceptional set, which included three unrecorded songs, one of which we had never heard before (I’m not sure they’ve ever performed it at a show). The wide range of styles showed off Ian’s (and Chad’s) song-writing and performing capabilities (they’re most certainly not stuck in a single genre). The different styles were interspersed, so there wasn’t a “rock portion”, followed by an “acoustic portion”, followed by a “pop portion”, etc. That kept things very fresh.

IanAxelSinging

Two of the unrecorded songs are now well-known by Ian’s fans (everyone around me was singing out loud to both): Rockstar and Gold Digger. The new one is called Amory (though I admit to hearing it as Anne Marie). We had to look it up, Amory implies Heaven, or the epitome of the perfect American City. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense. But, it also worked in real-time when I thought it was a woman’s name. Winking smile

Amory was performed acoustically, with three-part harmony, and was simply gorgeous.

IanAxelChadVaccarino

Before we get to the band, there was a very special guest on one number.

Allie Moss came out to sing on Shorty Don’t Wait. In addition to singing three-part harmony with Chad and Ian, Allie sang a verse on lead, switching places with Chad to stand between the boys. Absolutely incredible.

ChadVaccarinoAllieMossIanAxelAllieMossChadVaccarinoIanAxelAdamChristgauIanAxelUkulele

For the one person out there that doesn’t know, Chad Vaccarino is Ian’s primary writing partner. They produce nothing short of magic together. They also sing a number of their songs together, alternating leads and harmonizing together (beautifully). In addition to singing, Chad plays electronic keyboards (adding an organ flavor to Ian’s piano sound) and trumpet.

ChadVaccarinoC

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

Andy Stack on electric guitar. This was the one change to the band last night. Previously, Chris Kuffner was the lead guitarist for Ian’s band. Recently, Chris has gotten very busy producing and his performing has had to take a back seat. I have no idea whether his withdrawal from Ian’s band is permanent, but I’m guessing that for the time being, that’s the case.

AndyStack

We’ve seen Andy Stack once before, when he played electric guitar with Greg Mayo. It was only two songs, but Andy impressed instantly. He’s brand new to Ian’s band (likely getting only one rehearsal in) and I have no idea whether the intention is for him to join the band on an ongoing basis.

That said, they worked hard to integrate the electric guitar into the music more that at any show I’ve been at (I’ve mentioned a number of times how unimportant the guitar has been). On most songs, that effort paid off. Andy is more than capable, but the real key was finding the right spots to highlight the guitar.

On one or two songs (Gone, the opener, in particular), the arrangement needs work (IMO). Since it was the first song, I was nervous that Andy wouldn’t blend well the entire set. Thankfully, I was way wrong. I’m looking forward to more of Andy in Ian’s band.

Adam Christgau on drums, acoustic guitar and vocals. We haven’t seen Adam play with Ian since May. He missed the CT show because he was touring with Sia, playing a string of sold-out shows in large venues (poor baby). He also got to listen to Ximena open for Sia every night (making him a lot luckier than most of us!).

AdamChristgau

Hearing Adam crush the drums on an Ian set is no surprise (but always a pleasure). Adam had an additional surprise for us. I’ve seen him tweet that he plays electric bass on occasion at Slane, where Martin Rivas holds Campfire shows. I never heard him mention anything about guitar. (That’s a white lie, I think he mentioned once on Twitter that he was playing some Dylan on acoustic guitar in his room.)

Last night, Adam played acoustic guitar on two numbers. First on Shorty, taking 1/2 of Mike Campbell’s role (Allie took the other 1/2, the singing part). Poor Mike Campbell was suffering on a beach in Aruba. I’m sure he would have preferred to be at Bowery Ballroom, if only he had a choice. Winking smile

AdamChristgauAcousticGuitar

On Amory, not only did Adam play the guitar (very nicely), but he also sang a bunch, completing the three-part harmony with Ian and Chad. This will add a new dimension to Ian and Chad’s sound if they start making more use of Adam this way. Bravo!

Chris Anderson on electric bass and background vocals. Chris was fantastic, as always. He also led the clapping on Leave Me Alone. Hearing that song in NYC is so different than anywhere else. In NYC, such a large proportion of the crowd knows the cool clapping part (and has Chris to make sure they know when to do it, not that we don’t). In other places, there are a few lonely clappers who typically give up quickly.

ChrisAnderson

Chris was also instrumental in the sing-a-long portion of Girl I Got a Thing.

Speaking of Girl I Got a Thing, when they play it in NYC, you never know what to expect. When Ian introduced the song, he said that he himself wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

Leiv Parton came out dressed like one of the Men in Black, sporting a tambourine and a drink. As the song built up, Chocky came out (as he usually does) and conked Leiv on the head with a bottle that shattered all over the stage. Leiv spent the remainder of the song sprawled out (lifelessly) on the stage. He was dragged off (with difficulty) after the song was over.

LeivPartonManInBlackManDown

At the last Bowery Ballroom show, Chocky was dressed in sweats. This time, he was a full-on cowboy gear. When he finished his whiskey, another Man in Black came out (sorry, I don’t know who it was) and he handed Chocky a replacement whiskey, then stood robotically for the remainder of the song.

ChockyChockyManInBlackChrisAnderson

It added a visual flair to a fantastic song. I shudder to imagine how they intend to top it next time!

After the show, we had to force Leiv to take a photo with me, to prove that he survived the on-stage attack. Winking smile

LeivPartonHadar

After playing their signature This is the New Year (killing it), everyone but Ian left the stage. Ian played Say Something, on the keyboards (he sometimes performs it on the ukulele). It was incredible, bringing a real hush to the large crowd. Great way to end the set.

Here’s the set list:

Gone
Leave Me Alone!!!!!!!!
Waltz
Rockstar
You’ll Be Okay
Shorty (acoustic w/ Adam)
Amory (acoustic w/ Adam)
Gold Digger
Girl I Got a Thing
This Is The New Year
Say Something (acoustic)

We shared this evening with a lot of friends. Here are but a few of them:

AxelsAndersonsElyseTerryHadar

RebeccaHavilandHadarAdiraRachel

ChadVaccarinoIanAxelHadar

The Spring Standards at Bowery Ballroom

Send to Kindle

Last night was the fourth time we’ve seen The Spring Standards (third time for a full set). I’ve enjoyed all of them, but for me, last night was the best. That’s one of the reasons I chose to split last night’s show into three separate posts. Each act was so good that they deserve not be to buried under another.

If you want an hour’s worth of reading, you can check out my last post about them, which also took place at Bowery Ballroom and also included a set by Ian Axel (the next post after this one). I’ll repeat my first paragraph from that post (for the lazy among you). Winking smile

The Spring Standards were co-billed with Ian and appeared right before him. There’s something very fresh about The Spring Standards that isn’t just about their excellent music. They are inventive, passionate, talented people who blend together really well. It’s near impossible not to get sucked into their energy (not that I noticed anyone in the crowd trying to avoid being pulled in!).

I feel like repeating 90% of the last post (I won’t). I will repeat the highlights (about the band, not this particular show):

  • All three sing lead, beautifully
  • All three sing harmony, with their voices blending perfectly
  • All three are very good on all of their instruments (all are multi-instrumentalists, at times too many to count)
  • Noah Goldman matches their energy and musicianship
  • They write wide-ranging song-styles keeping it fresh throughout the set
  • They are excellent songwriters (lyrics as well as music)

Standing left-to-right on stage (for the most part):

James Cleare on acoustic and electric guitars, drums, electric bass, vocals. Excellent on everything.

JamesClearePassionateSingingJamesCleareAcousticGuitarJamesCleareElectricGuitar

Heather Robb on electronic keyboards, drums, percussion, glockenspiel and vocals. She is a bundle of energy and sings more of the leads than the boys do. I am reasonably sure that she was sick when we saw them at Webster Hall, and on occasion her voice was strained the last time we saw them. Her voice last night was great, largely the reason for me saying this was their best set yet.

HeatherRobbKeyboardsHeatherRobbSetupHeatherRobbSinging

James Smith (no good link) on acoustic guitar, electric bass, drums, trumpet and vocals. Like the other James, this one was excellent on everything he played and sang. He and Cleare switch places a few times. On one of the switches, when Smith was on the left side of the stage, he sang lead on a hillbilly country style song. So much energy, so much fun. He seemed to be having a blast with it. I certainly was!

JamesSmithSinging

On the song that James played trumpet, Heather announced that he borrowed it from Chad Vaccarino (who played it in the next set). Of course, in addition to playing trumpet, James played the drums throughout and sang whenever the trumpet wasn’t at his lips. Awesome.

JamesSmithTrumpet

Noah Goldman stands, sits and runs around behind the three members of The Spring Standards. He played pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, electric bass and drums. He too was excellent on everything. I believe he played on all but one song (possibly two).

NoahGoldmanNoahGoldmanJamesSmith

If you’ve read my previous posts on The Spring Standards, then you know that I always felt they were special, but somehow, didn’t fulfill that promise in those shows (for reasons I hope I articulated specifically). Last night they delivered. What a delight!

I mentioned above that they write good lyrics. I want to share one example. When they sang Unravel Unwind, I was struck by the chorus, lyrically and their powerful delivery. The imagery is amazing:

Say it
Say the words I see behind your eyes
If it’s not hard to say
Then it’s a lie
I know you think we can not heal
But we can try

If you have Spotify, you can listen to it. Search for Unravel Unwind. Currently, that returns two items, with The Spring Standards first. The song was delivered with way more power live than on the CD version, but the recorded version is still great and will give you a sense of what I mean.

As I was leaving after the show was over, I bumped into Ian Axel. Unprompted, he said: Can you believe how amazing The Spring Standards were? Did you catch “Say the words I see behind your eyes, If it’s not hard to say, Then it’s a lie”. Ha, he was struck by the exact same words and delivery that I was.

In addition to playing their hits (people around me were singing along to nearly every song), they broke out some new ones that will be on their upcoming CD (they’re working on it). The new songs were excellent, so their creativity continues to flow. Here is last night’s set list:

SetList

Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

Rebecca Haviland is near the top of our list as both a person and an artist. We would twist ourselves into a pretzel to get to one of her shows. Thankfully, last night required no such acrobatics, given that we were next door at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 for an earlier show (Chris Ayer and Matt Simons, both of whom came to see Rebecca’s show like we did).

We aren’t alone in our love of Rebecca’s music, as the place was jammed. On a holiday weekend in the summer in NYC? Give me a break. Typically the place is a ghost town. Obviously, the few New Yorkers that stayed in town made it a point to show up for the two shows we targeted as well. Smart.

Rebecca played an excellent set, including a brand new song. So new in fact, that the band had to sit it out (clearly, they didn’t have time to rehearse it in advance). Chris Anderson, Rebecca’s regular writing partner now (and bass player in her band) didn’t join either, even though he co-wrote it (or so I think she said). So, they haven’t arranged the vocals or bass part yet either. Of course, Rebecca can carry any song all by herself, even a cappella. This time she accompanied herself on the electric guitar (which she played on every song).

RebeccaHavilandGuitar

In addition to Chris co-writing many of Rebecca’s new songs, he’s singing harmony on most of them. With every performance, he’s getting more comfortable in that role. He’s opening it up (wonderfully) and seems to be having a good time with it. Keep it up Chris!

Rebecca played a number of songs off her upcoming CD (currently in the final three weeks of a Kickstarter campaign). After last night’s performance, we upped our contribution (we had the distinction of being first as well). That’s how badly I want to get my hands on this CD. If you like bluesy rock, delivered by one of the most interesting, gorgeous voices around, click on the link above and make sure it gets made!

RebeccaHavilandSinging

My current favorite (it’s closer to an obsession) is If You, which she got many people in the crowd to sing along with. As always, I sang my heart out. The two young women next to me looked at me strangely (I didn’t care, but I did notice). I guess seeing an old man letting loose was shocking. I know I wasn’t off key (heaven forbid). Winking smile

She also played Collide With Me, which Lois is in love with (as am I), so she spread the love around (at least among our household). One of the rare times that we didn’t snag a set list or take a photo of it, so I can’t rattle off every song. Of course, she played her signature cover of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog.

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

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and harmony. Greg was great (as always). When singing with Rebecca and Chris, the three-part harmony was wonderful. Greg took a couple of solos on the keyboards and was fast and tasty.

GregMayoKeyboards

My lovely bride, knowing how huge a Greg Mayo fan I am, surreptitiously arranged with Greg to purchase all of his CDs for me. Right before the show, he delivered four of them (handing them to me, and saying they were from Lois). Smile Still one more to go. One of the CD’s was actually Bergers with Mayo, with the Mayo in that one being Greg’s Dad, Bob. What an amazing gift, I can’t wait to get lost in all of them. Thanks Lois and Greg!

Chris Anderson on electric bass and harmony. I already mentioned how well Chris did singing and co-writing. Might as well round it out and state (for the 100th time) that he’s a top bass player as well. He had a surprise for the audience (which Rebecca introduced). He bought a new toy and debuted it. An 8-string electric bass (isn’t that just a guitar with really fat strings?). Winking smile

ChrisAnderson

Kenny Shaw on drums. There’s no doubt that we see more of Kenny than any other drummer, at least in 2011. That’s just fine with me, he’s that good. In the picture below, it looks like Kenny is using a clown cymbal. Smile

KennyShaw

I am a drum-loving fool, so I always pay particular attention to the drummer. As much as I love it, it’s only this year that I’ve come to notice something I think of as discipline.

There are drummers that I loved (and still do), for their skills at being super fast and many times super interesting. This year, I’ve realized that a bit too often, they’re also sloppy. I’ve really come to appreciate drummers that are machine like in their precision, across styles and genres, while still being fast and interesting when called for. In other words, sometimes understated is exactly what is called for and necessary to support the song.

Another fantastic night out, surrounded by friends, immersed in music that we love.

KellySamTeichman

Chris Ayer and Matt Simons at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Chris Ayer and Matt Simons were scheduled to have back-to-back full sets at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 last Saturday night (8/27/2011). Hurricane Irene had a different plan for NYC that night. Rockwood, along with nearly every other business in NYC, shut down for the weekend, canceling a highly anticipated night out for us (and many others).

While NYC wasn’t crushed by Irene (though many individuals were, even in NYC), Upstate NY was devastated in parts, in particular, Schoharie County. 43 NYC-based musicians banded together and within days released a 43-track album, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting Schoharie Country.

Chris Ayer and Matt Simons each donated a track to this amazing collection of music. Minimum donation is just $15 (for 43 tracks!), but please give much more generously if you can afford to, especially if you’re a music lover.

Since Rockwood books a couple of months out, giving Chris and Matt their own sets, in particular consecutive ones (so they could play on each other’s) would be difficult on short notice. The compromise was to give them a set to split, at the much larger Stage 2 next door. It was scheduled for exactly one week later, same starting time (last night, 8pm).

ChrisAyerSettingUp

Matt Simons sang and played keyboards (grand piano and electronic) throughout the set. He opened solo, singing Fall in Line (the title cut of one of Matt’s two EPs). Fantastic! Matt was in excellent voice (lead and harmony with Chris) and his keyboard play was buttery smooth.

MattSimonsPiano

Matt invited Chris up to sing harmony on his next three numbers. Lois and I are suckers for great harmony. We’re spoiled by the consistently brilliant three-part harmonies of Girlyman, but I have to tell you, Matt and Chris (and Chris and Matt) are two of the best at duo harmony (and when Morgan Holland used to sing with them before deserting the East Coast, at three part as well). Their voices blend so well.

MattSimonsSinging

When Matt is singing lead, Chris typically takes the high parts (often very high). When Chris sings lead, they switch and Matt hits high notes so sweetly.

Matt played two new songs, Pieces and Emotionally Involved with You, closing with an older one, I’m Already Over You. Great selection, but there was a twist to these three songs that was executed perfectly. One one, they played together (Matt on keyboards, Chris on acoustic guitar). On another Chris played the acoustic guitar and Matt sang without playing the keyboards. That was quite unusual for him to sing lead on his own song without touching an instrument. It was perfect (they’re smart guys).

MattSimonsSingingChrisAyerAccompanying

To round it out, Matt sang lead and played keyboards with Chris singing harmony without playing guitar, so all permutations were displayed in the three songs.

MattSimonsKeyboards

Matt walked off the stage to turn the second half of the set over to Chris.

Chris opened solo playing a new-ish song, Where Do You Want to Go. Then Matt joined him for the remaining numbers. The traditional Chris Ayer set list is included in both views (ours and his). Matt’s set list (spelled out above) is written on Chris’ arm below his own list.

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

Just as with Matt’s set, Chris’ voice was spot on, as were their harmonies. The place was crowded. I could tell from a number of the people around me that Chris picked up some new fans. They were mesmerized during his numbers, but it was fairly obvious they had never seen/heard him before.

ChrisAyerGuitar

If you read this space regularly, you’re probably getting tired of me telling you what a brilliant songwriter Chris is (independent of his amazing delivery, both live and recorded). Deal with it. If there’s even one new person reading this post, they need to understand that Chris isn’t just another talented singer/songwriter (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Winking smile but rather, he’s a true gift to those of us who want to have our horizons expanded by the poets of the world.

ChrisAyer

Two perfect mini-sets, combined into one perfect full set. Exactly as it should be.