February, 2012:

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery Final Residency Show

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The Vanity Belles (Carrie Welling and Jessi Rae Waltz) finished up their month-long residency at Arlene’s Grocery with a bang! It was crowded (mobbed actually), it was rockin’, it was awesome. If you missed it, I feel sorry for you (seriously).

TheVanityBelles

This was the last of four consecutive Monday performances throughout February. We missed the first two (darned work/travel nonsense), so I can’t tell you anything about them. We did catch last week’s show. For the geeks among you, let’s display the link this way:

#include last_weeks_show

Not that this wasn’t completely fresh (it was), even though there was an 88.89% overlap in the set lists. The differences were large enough to make this a very different show than last week (including something as simple as completely varying the order of the set list!).

There was a different guest, the regular keyboard player was back, and the Belles themselves seemed to be feeding off of the frenzied crowd. Or, perhaps it was the $5 Country Cosmos (created especially by Arlene’s for this one night) that fueled them (and many others).

If you don’t understand the drink name above, the Belle’s self-titled genre is Cosmo-Country. So, take a Cosmopolitan (the drink), twist it a bit to be sassy like the Belles, and you have a Country Cosmo. Smile

There was one song swap from last week’s set list (independent of the complete change in song order). Last night they played Till I’m Me. This is a very recent song which they wrote and recorded live in order to get it on their upcoming CD (after the real studio recording had already been wrapped up). Wow, awesome song. I’m very glad that I’ll have it when the CD comes out. Oops! When I Was With You was the new song, Till I’m Me was new for this set, but is already on last year’s EP.

CarrieWellingJessiRaeWaltz

The ladies each played an instrument on Bottle, as they did last week. Once again, they crushed the song.

CarrieWellingGuitarJessiRaeWaltzKeyboards

There was only one change to the core band, though both of last week’s guests played instruments as well. I’ll save the very special guest for after I say a few words about each core band member, left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth, the normal keyboard player for the Belles, was back in the saddle. He’s always great, whatever group he plays with. I was a few feet from the keyboards last night, so in addition to hearing Patrick’s fine play, I got to watch him work, close up.

PatrickFirth

When he relinquished the keyboards on Bottle, so that Jessi could take over, Patrick stood near the drums and played the tambourine.

PatrickFirthZachJones

Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitars, and mandolin. Oscar is always superb on the guitar. Last week I described his long solo as having a jam band feel. Last night it may have started out that way, but it took on more of a rock god type lead, and Oscar obviously realized the crowd felt that way. He stepped out from the back and finished up the lead front and center stage. It was a huge crowd-pleaser.

OscarBautistaGuitarLeadOscarBautistaAcousticGuitar

On one number, Oscar played the mandolin. Considering I love the mandolin, and love Oscar’s play, this was a real treat for me.

OscarBautistaMandolin

Zach Jones on drums. If you’ve read this space recently, then you know I’ve been raving about Zach a lot lately (in fact, my most recent post was all about his band The Stone Lonesome). Of course his drumming was amazing last night (it always is). He even played the snare with his bare hands during one song, bringing out a bongo-like sound.

ZachJonesPatrickFirthOscarBautistaZachJones

Chris Anderson on electric bass. As with Zach, I’ve been raving about Chris a lot recently. Unlike Zach, I’ve been raving about Chris for years (I only first heard Zach last July). Chris impresses every time, that is all.

ChrisAnderson

Cameron Mitchell on acoustic and electric guitars. Just like last week, Cameron took on the rhythm guitar duties to complement Oscar’s lead and mandolin play. Once again, a wonderful job!

CameronMitchellCameronMitchellElectricGuitarCameronMitchellAcousticGuitar

Brian Collazo (lead singer from Live Society) was the special guest last night. We could listen to Brian sing all night, every night. Amazingly (and achingly), it’s been five months since we’ve seen him sing, when he guested with the Belle’s Manager (I’ll get to him in a minute). It’s been eight months since we’ve seen a full Live Society show (also at Arlene’s), and we’ve been trying hard (with near misses along the way) to get to one.

BrianCollazo

Brian sang on No Regrets (amazingly) and on Recently (which Rebecca Haviland sang with the Belles last week). It only made us want to see Brian and Live Society all-the-more.

JessiRaeWaltzChrisAndersonBrianCollazo

Patryk Larney has his own musical career (check him out, fall in love, and donate to his current Pledge Music campaign!). In addition to that, he manages the Belles. One of the 1,873 jobs that managing them entails, is being The Bucket Man at their shows. The Belles prepare treats for their audiences, and wrap them in The Vanity Belles goodie bags (genius, and delicious). He carried around a bucket filled the goodie bags last week and last night, handing them out to greedily awaiting fans.

PatrykLarney

In an homage to the tireless Patryk, I’ve written the chorus to an as yet unwritten song called Bucket Man (sung to the tune of Elton’s Rocket Man):

And I think it’s not gonna be so long

Before these goodie bags are taken home

And ripped apart and eaten up with joy

Oh no no no, he’s a Bucket Man

Bucket Man, handing out the treats for everyone

Ben Morgan, last week’s keyboard player (filling in whenever Patrick Firth can’t make it), was in the audience enjoying himself as much as the rest of us were.

BenMorgan

Manish Gosalia once again documented everything in a way that only he does. I was right up against the stage, so I noticed (for the first time) that Manish also had a camera set up at the back of the stage which he controlled with a remote. A meticulous master, now captured from the other side of a lens as well:

HadarManishGosalia

Last week I mentioned someone named Jack. This time I’ll add a photo. Next time, who knows what I’ll reveal… Winking smile

Jack

Finally, the set list:

SetList

The Stone Lonesome at Rockwood Music Hall

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The Stone Lonesome headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. I had it on the calendar for a while, but I was sure we couldn’t make it. In fact, last Monday, I saw Zach Jones (1/2 of The Stone Lonesome) when he drummed for The Vanity Belles and I told him we wouldn’t be able to make this show. Read to the bottom to see what changed.

I’ve been aware of The Stone Lonesome for a while, entirely due to our love of Zach Jones.  The first time we saw Zach was July 2011, and here’s one of the things I wrote about him that night:

The link from his name above is to a group he is in with Emily Long called The Stone Lonesome. They have an album out that Zach sings a bunch on as well and I am really impressed with his voice (listen to the second song, Bridge to Nowhere). I’m sure we’ll be hearing about him a lot and hopefully seeing him a lot as well.

Notice the link on “They have an album”. You can stream it for free to judge for yourself, or buy it for a whopping $5 (or more!).

I would describe them as sometimes traditional country, sometimes new country (more of a rock-tinged country), sometimes closer to just rock. To cover that in a bigger umbrella, let’s just call it Alt-Country. Yup, that feels right to me. Lois and I both really love Country music (go ahead, judge, you’re wrong). There’s not much of it in NYC, so The Stone Lonesome is a wonderful breath of fresh air (as are The Vanity Belles).

Emily Long is the other half of The Stone Lonesome. She has a number of projects, including the one linked to her name, which is her Rock persona. She has a wonderful voice that takes on a number of qualities/character, depending on what emotion she’s sharing with the audience. On roughly half of the numbers she reminded us of classic Cyndi Lauper. She’s also quite theatrical in her delivery, projecting her emotions, taking you on a visual journey.

EmilyLong

Zach sings with a purity that I would describe as sweet (and I don’t mean that in a unmanly way). On a number of songs (in particular the above-noted Bridge to Nowhere), he reminds me of John Denver at his best. In The Stone Lonesome Zach plays rhythm acoustic guitar, quite nicely. In other bands, he’s typically the drummer, one of the best we’ve ever seen.

ZachJones

I don’t know what proportion they each write of the songs (or whether every one is a co-write), so I’ll give them equal credit here. The songs are great (verify the claim, please). Each of them sings lead (typically on different songs, rather than handing it off from verse to verse). In all songs, they blend fantastically for enough harmony to satisfy us.

Last night, they were supported by three of our favorite musicians, left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and background vocals. Two nights after fake-complaining that I didn’t get to see Greg play guitar, I got my wish fulfilled. Greg is awesome no matter what genre he’s playing and he was totally true to the Alt-Country sound yesterday. He was highlighted a number of times. Thanks Zach and Emily for that! Smile

GregMayo

Tony Maceli on electric bass. We love Tony and it was a complete surprise to see him there. He stopped tweeting last September (apparently, 114 lifetime tweets was the perfect number). Of course Tony did a terrific job.

TonyMaceli

Ryan Vaughn on drums, cajon, percussion and washboard. Yes, washboard. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone break out the washboard. By the crowd’s reaction, I’d say it had been a while for most of them as well and they seemed as pleased as I was to get another taste.

RyanVaughnWashboard

More importantly, Ryan is always a creative drummer/percussionist. He removed one of the toms and replaced the seat with his signature (amazingly beat up) cajon. He’s one of the best cajon players you’ll see, but rather than restrict himself to the cajon, he paired it with the floor tom and cymbal and occasionally the snare as well. When he wasn’t playing the cajon, he used the kick drum instead. A superb job all around.

RyanVaughnCajon

Here’s a shot of everyone (except for Ryan):

TheStoneLonesome

They closed the show by giving the band a break. Zach unplugged his guitar and they each stepped away from their mic. In a 100% unplugged manner, they blew us away and brought a hush to the full house at Rockwood. Awesome job and quite a shift from the rest of the set.

We bought this giant CD at the show. It was black (unusual) and didn’t fit in our CD player, so perhaps they ripped us off. They called it a vinyl edition, perhaps that’s code for doesn’t work. Winking smile (OK, that was a really bad attempt at a joke, sorry.)

The records are numbered, so perhaps one day we’ll be rich off this collector’s piece! Zach’s father hand-drew each cover (I don’t know how well it will come across in the photo, but it looks great in real life). We think that each numbered record comes with a unique story in the included liner notes. Basically, a loving, thoughtful way to package an album that is good enough not to require these (much appreciated!) adornments.

WordsAndWhiskeyFrontCoverWordsAndWhiskeyBackCover

WordsAndWhiskeyLinerNotes

I have a turntable, but I never use it. I have a USB-turntable that I bought specifically to rip my ancient, large record collection. Unfortunately, I was wholly unsatisfied with the fidelity (and process) and stopped after one album. So, I knew I wouldn’t rip this either. We bought it to support them (and force them to sign it). I also bought the digital version so that I wouldn’t have think about ripping this. Smile

Now, how did we attend a show we were sure we couldn’t? On Monday, our schedule for the week seemed set in stone. Starting on Thursday, everything went into a tailspin (but in the best possible way) and we got to reevaluate. We still feel badly about not attending the shows we were originally planning to on Saturday, but both of us were buzzing the whole way home thinking about how happy we were that we ended up seeing The Stone Lonesome.

Thanks Zach, Emily (and Greg, Tony and Ryan) for making it a very special set!

The Big Apple Singers at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The Big Apple Singers typically book really late shows at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Actually, they’re really early, as in midnight. That was the case last night. We planned to attend nonetheless, because it’s simply been way too long since we’ve seen Greg Mayo (one of the four members of the band) perform.

It ended up being the culmination of a truly epic night of music for us. This was the fifth consecutive set (split between Rockwood’s two stages), beginning at 8pm with Barnaby Bright.

This was the only set that we stood for, and even though I prefer sitting, I was actually glad to stand. The Big Apple Singers bring such energy that it’s nearly impossible not to move in some way, which is easier when you’re standing. It also made it easier to stay awake. Winking smile

The Big Apple Singers mix originals (there were three or four last night) with big-time covers (mostly from The Band). They are all incredible musicians and it’s impossible not to get sucked in to the spirit (I dare you, come on down, resistance is futile!).

The core band consists of:

Evan Watson on electric guitar and vocals. Evan is an excellent guitar player. If I understand correctly, he formed The Big Apple Singers. Thanks Evan! He’s quite the showman when he’s singing lead, or playing lead guitar. On the other hand, he’s one of the most generous people when it’s someone else’s turn to shine (as I’ve noted a number of times before). He kneels to ensure the crowd can see the drummer during a solo, etc. Evan also played the mandolin on one number.

EvanWatsonGuitarEvanWatsonMandolin

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. It was no small irony to me that I sat through five sets of music, each of which had an excellent guitar player, and yet I didn’t get to hear my favorite of all of them, Greg Mayo. On the other hand, he was so awesome on the keyboards, that it didn’t matter in the least!

GregMayoPiano

Greg also used a small black tube to control the sound of the electronic keyboards by making sounds with his mouth. Totally cool and executed to perfection.

GregMayoKeyboards

Josh Dion on drums and vocals. Aside from being a mind-bogglingly great drummer and being an outstanding vocalist, Josh Dion is flat out exciting. If you’re not mesmerized by his performance, check your pulse, literally!

JoshDionDrums

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Two sets in a row with Chris playing bass? Yes please! Very different performances. The set before called for more subtlety, this one for all-out rock. Both delivered on the money.

ChrisAndersonSinging

The Big Apple Singers called up two separate guests.

Zach Jones, also an extraordinary drummer, was invited up to play some electric guitar. Cool! I didn’t know they were going to call him up. Right before the set began, I bumped into Zach and noted that many of my favorite drummers were in the room (Josh Dion, Zach Jones, Kenny Shaw and Seth Faulk). Zach pointed out another drummer as well. I told him that I ant to see them all on stage together, doing something like The Allman Brothers Band does. A boy can dream, right?

ZachJonesChrisAnderson

Rebecca Haviland came up to sing one song with Evan. They fed off of each other, building the energy and having a (contagious) blast on stage. If you don’t know Rebecca’s voice and music (she co-writes with Chris Anderson), do yourself a huge favor and correct that oversight right now!

EvanWatsonRebeccaHaviland

Manish Gosalia was in the audience for four of the five sets that we attended. Whenever I see Manish at a show, I know two things for certain:

  1. It will be a great show, he has exquisite taste in which bands he likes
  2. There will be exceptional photographs (and sometimes videos) of the show, on his Flickr page. He’s a phenomenal photographer!

Here’s a shot of Manish and Rebecca Haviland:

ManishGosaliaRebeccaHaviland

During the set, Patryk Larney walked over (he headlined the set we attended right before this one) and said: “We’re watching history being made!”. My answer? “Every single time they play!” Smile

We got home shortly before 1:30am. What a night out. After missing five weeks of this NYC music scene, we dove into the deep end without a tank. An exhilarating night out. Amazingly, we skipped another set that I have no doubt would have continued the epic evening. Jay Stolar was up at 1am. It was simply past my ability to fight exhaustion.

Patryk Larney at Rockwood Music Hall

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Patryk Larney was on at 11pm last night at Rockwood Music Hall. A bit later than we like to be out, but there are a number of people who we’d make the effort for and Patryk is most definitely on that list. Add every single one of his band members and the decision becomes a no-brainer.

PatrykLarney

Before telling you how great the set was (it was, so I just blew the big surprise), let me tell you a bit about Patryk and what he’s currently up to.

He’s been making music for a while and doing a fine job of it. He’s also been managing (he manages the amazing The Vanity Belles, perhaps others). He also produces (he was co-producer on the upcoming Belles CD). He’s also held a very cool job at Apple for the past six years.

Very recently he decided to take the plunge and become a full time musician (I’m going to count managing other musicians as part of doing this “full time”).

The first thing he’s doing is putting out a CD called Circus of Idols. You can help him make it by pledging money (and getting rewards!) at his PledgeMusic Page. We did. If you trust my taste in music (and seriously, have I ever given you a reason not to?), then you should too. Smile

OK, now that we got the e-Commerce out of the way, let’s get down to the show. Oh yeah, I already told you, it was great!

Patryk put together a great set list. Delivered his vocals crisply and passionately. Played the guitar beautifully and added the ukulele on one song. He topped it off by putting together a band comprised of people we love to listen to, no matter who they’re backing.

Carrie Welling (1/2 of The Vanity Belles) joined as a special guest on all but the first number. If you haven’t read my posts exclaiming how awesome her voice is, then you better already know it from first hand knowledge or another source. Otherwise, you’re simply missing out on the experience!

CarrieWelling

Carrie was absolutely wonderful in singing harmony (and a bit of lead) with Patryk. I’ve said it before, but I’m always impressed when someone who is used to belting it out as a bona-fide headliner, understands how to shift gears when they’re supporting someone else. Carrie was flawless in supporting Patryk.

Ben Morgan on grand piano and vocals. We saw Ben earlier this week supporting The Vanity Belles. As impressive as he was then (and always is), I am partial to the sound of a grand piano over electronic keyboards, so last night was a real treat. Patryk gave him a couple of long-ish leads, which Ben nailed!

BenMorgan

Patryk announced that Ben will have his own show sometime soon. I’ll need to look out for it, or hope that Ben/Patryk/Anyone makes sure I know about it as far in advance as possible.

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Is there anything I can say about Chris that I haven’t said before? Probably so. I don’t think I’ve used the term Buttery Smooth about Chris before (not that he hasn’t been). But, when I ran into Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood 2 after this set was over, that’s exactly how I described Chris’ play. Absolutely delightful!

ChrisAnderson

Kenny Shaw on drums. Another person who I have probably heaped as much praise upon as is possible. Add last night to the list of reasons I do that. He plays with a number of bands who are so different from each other you can’t imagine, and Kenny fits in perfectly with every one of them. We’ve had a longer than usual drought of seeing Kenny play, so it was good to correct that.

KennyShawStudying

On a number of songs, Patryk took advantage of the fact that Seth Faulk was in the house (in fact, sitting right behind me). Patryk asked Seth to lead the rest of us in different clapping patterns (none vanilla). Of course, Seth keeps perfect time. I was close enough to be able to follow his lead easily. Winking smile

SethFaulkClapping

Here’s the set list:

SetList

This was our fourth set in a row. Even though I was tired, everything was so good that I didn’t notice that and just lost myself in the music. The three previous sets were all incredible and this one fit right in with that feeling.

Carley Tanchon at Rockwood Music Hall

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Carley Tanchon headlined Rockwood Music Hall last night. We’ve seen Carley perform three full sets, plus two shows as a background vocalist. Two of the full sets were solo acoustic and one was a full band CD Release show. Last night was a full band show, giving me an even chance to rate Carley both ways.

The voting is in (the wait wasn’t that long, right?). Carley handles herself extremely well solo. She can easily hold my attention for the entire set. Still, I have to say that she really comes alive when she’s channeling her Rocker Chick, supported by a full band. She’s such a natural rocker.

CarleyTanchon

Carley has a stunning voice (true in her acoustic sets as well), but you can feel her need to belt it out, which just feels so much more right when supported by a band. She plays the guitar well (both acoustic and electric, opting for the electric with the full band). She writes catchy songs.

CarleyTanchonSingingCarleyTanchonSinging2

If we’re having fun being in the audience, I can only imagine how much fun it is to play with her on stage. That’s why she doesn’t seem to have any problem attracting top talent to join her. That included a new face for us as well.

Left-to-right on stage:

Andrea Longato on electric guitar. Andrea took quite a number of incredible leads. He’s a major talent. Carley’s music (including her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Rihanna) lends itself to spicy rock guitar leads and Andrea delivered. We hadn’t heard of him before, but we’ll be on the lookout going forward.

AndreaLongato

Ethan Mentzer on electric bass and light vocals (can’t find a good individual link, but Ethan is all over every mention of The Click Five). We’ve seen Ethan play bass twice before, once at the previous Carley Tanchon CD Release. So, I knew I’d enjoy his bass play, and I was correct. He also sang some harmony, the only band member who did.

EthanMentzer

Nicky D’Agostino on drums. We’ve seen Nicky play drums twice before, with Carley and with Jesse Ruben. He was excellent at both of those shows, but I was more impressed last night, perhaps because we were up so close and personal. The only issue (I won’t say complaint) is a general Rockwood 1 thing, Nicky was quite loud (I did say we were really close to the drums, right?). In any event, he was really interesting and kept the energy at maximum level for everyone else to live up to!

NickyDAgostinoSettingUp

We found out after the set that Carley was sick. Amazing performance for someone who wasn’t at the top of her game. What a trooper for powering through!

To continue my theme from the previous two posts, I’ll mention that we nearly missed this show. I only found out that Carley was playing last night earlier in the week. By then, we already had dinner plans that weren’t going to end until nearly 11pm. Because of that, I didn’t put Carley in the calendar.

When we successfully moved our dinner plans, I had forgotten that Carley was playing. When I checked the Rockwood site to see who was on at 9pm (to determine whether we’d stay after Barnaby Bright, before returning for Patryk Larney at 11pm), no one was listed at 10pm at Rockwood, so I had no reminder about Carley. This was a potential disaster in the making.

Then, while I was checking out the two acts at 9pm at both stages, I liked Rebecca Pidgeon enough to decide to stick around Rockwood 1. By the time I double-checked the Rockwood site, Carley was once again listed at 10pm, which cemented my decision to catch Rebecca at 9pm.

All’s well that ends well! Smile

Rebecca Pidgeon at Rockwood Music Hall

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Rebecca Pidgeon headlined Rockwood Music Hall last night. I admit (sheepishly, after the fact) that I never heard of Rebecca Pidgeon. How we ended up at her set will be revealed after I tell you how fantastic she (and it) was.

Rebecca has a phenomenal voice. She can sing softly (thankfully, the really crowded audience was pin-drop quiet), or deliver more power. Nuance or straight-forward. She writes lovely songs and also delivers interesting takes on the few covers she performed.

RebeccaPidgeonSinging

She plays the acoustic guitar very nicely.

Rebecca is disarmingly charming. She introduced nearly every song with a short, almost always humorous bit, often in the form of a question to the audience, followed by her take. Extremely natural delivery.

She could have handled the set solo, I have no doubt. She brought along an incredible guitarist to spice up the set.

Tim Young (couldn’t find a good individual link to him) played electric guitar and sang some harmony with Rebecca. He was exceptional on the guitar, throwing in a lot of jazzy/bluesy riffs, dancing in and around Rebecca’s singing and playing. When he sang, he did a wonderful job of harmonizing.

TimYoung

Here is their (wonderful) set list:

SetList

On to how we attended this set, and how I’m embarrassed not to have known who Rebecca Pidgeon is.

If you read my previous post, then you know that we almost didn’t make it out last night. After rearranging our schedule, specifically to see Barnaby Bright at 8pm at Rockwood 2, our next committed set was 11pm (Patryk Larney) at Rockwood 1, so we had three choices:

  1. Stay and see the group who was on 9pm at Rockwood 2
  2. Catch Rebecca Pidgeon at Rockwood 1
  3. Go back to the apartment, relax for 90 minutes, and return to Rockwood 1 at 11pm

I listened to both Rebecca Pidgeon (directly on her site, under “Sample Tracks”) and to the group that was on opposite her at Rockwood 2. No contest!

Now to prove to you how little I knew about Rebecca (as in zero). Lois turned to me early in the set and asked me how old I thought Rebecca was. I said “anywhere between 26 and 34”.

It turns out, she’s 46, a mother of two, an accomplished actress (stage, movies and TV), a successful singer/songwriter (multiple CDs out, with a new one coming out in April 2012 on Decca Records) and oh yeah, she’s also married to David Mamet.

OK, take a look at this photo and tell me she looks even close to her age (click on the photo to see it full size):

RebeccaPidgeon

We’re now officially fans of her voice, music, style and grace on stage. Correct decision made! Smile

Barnaby Bright at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Barnaby Bright played Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. We’ve only seen Barnaby Bright (BB) once (just over a year ago), though we’ve seen Nathan and Becky Bliss (the husband and wife team that comprise BB) individually support John Schmitt and Allie Moss.

Nathan and Becky are each so talented on their own. Together, their talent is multiplied, not added.

BarnabyBright

Becky sings the leads. Last night she played the harmonium, grand piano and baritone ukulele, all very well. She also writes (or co-writes) a number of their songs. But if I have to highlight one thing, it’s Becky’s voice. Here’s what I wrote about her the first time we saw them:

Becky Bliss sang. Hmmm, that doesn’t do it justice either. Let me embarrass myself by sharing with you how I fumbled for words when I spoke to Becky after the show. Instead of saying something coherent, I said: “Your voice is frighteningly beautiful!”. Huh? Come on Hadar, you weren’t frightened even for a second, you were completely enveloped and mesmerized. Yeah, that’s what I should have said…

Let me say it correctly now, by repeating that last bit: Becky’s voice completely enveloped and mesmerized me, on every single number.

BeckyBlissBaritonUkuleleBeckyBlissPiano

Nathan’s talent is almost other-worldly. He’s an amazing guitarist, playing many styles. I don’t mean “genres” (of music), but rather guitar styles. He opened the show with a super-fast picking style that was very flamenco like, but the song wasn’t even close to flamenco. His fingers kept up the pace throughout, while Becky enchanted with her vocals and piano play.

NathanBliss

On others, he played the two-hands-on-the-frets style (like Kaki King, Andy McKee and many others have perfected). He also plays more traditional styles, wonderfully. He’s the first person I ever noticed playing a Porchboard (last year) and he played it again last night.

He didn’t touch them last night, but he’s masterful on the sax and clarinet as well. I’m sure he plays other instruments that I haven’t seen him on just yet.

He also sings very well, in particular when he harmonizes with Becky. Oh yeah, he writes most of their songs too. Sheesh, watching Nathan makes me feel both untalented and unproductive. I’m not bitter, just awed.

They are a few months from releasing their next CD. We are proud to have been a part of their successful Kickstarter project and can’t wait to hear the new material produced (they played a number of the new songs last night!).

Either one of them could captivate us on their own. As I said above, their whole is greater than the sum of their parts. They chose to sprinkle even more fairy dust on top of their goodness, by inviting a talented band to join them (they were bandless when we first saw them).

Joining them, left-to-right on stage:

Sean Dixon on drums. It’s easy to find mentions of Sean Dixon on Google, but this is the third time we’ve seen him, and therefore the third time I’ve searched, and I’ve yet to find a good individual link to him, apologies. We first saw Sean supporting Andy Mac. Then we saw him supporting Abby Ahmad and now Barnaby Bright. He was excellent in all three performances, no two of which were similar.

SeanDixon

Craig Akin on acoustic bass. Craig did a wonderful job of filling in the bottom. I didn’t have a good view of him, so I’m guessing when I say that he played on roughly half of the numbers.

CraigAkin

Brian Sanders on cello. Brian played on roughly 2/3’s of the numbers, all exceptionally. He was highlighted a few times, in particular on a number that was mostly just Becky (vocals and piano) and Brian. He was spectacular in that number. Becky introduced another song saying that they rarely play it, because it really needs the strings. Brian to the rescue, allowing them to perform it last night!

BrianSandersNathanBlissBrianSanders

Here’s the set list. They had troubles parking the van and started a few minutes late, so there’s at least one song toward the bottom that didn’t get played:

SetList

Now the backstory on how we nearly missed this amazing set!

The minute I heard about the show (over a month ago) it went on the calendar. I thought it would be immutable. Then our friends from Thailand called to say they’d be in town and could we do dinner at 8pm on Thursday. Exactly the time that Barnaby Bright was scheduled. I’ve been friends with the husband for nearly 50 years (later this year!), so I had no hesitation saying yes (though I did have regrets to miss BB yet again).

Late in the afternoon I spoke to my friend and found out that they could also get together on Saturday (I had assumed Thursday was their only free spot). We moved dinner and freed up our evening to drench ourselves in music, starting with BB. Smile

When I say drench, I mean it. We overdosed, staying at Rockwood (both stages) for five consecutive sets, getting home just before 1:30am. Each set will have its own post. Each set was amazing in its own way. Still basking…

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery

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The Vanity Belles have a month-long residency at Arlene’s Grocery, every Monday at 8pm in February. We missed the first two and expected to miss last night as well. I was sick the last two weeks of January and we’ve been gone all of February. We cut our trip short by a few days, largely to make it to last night’s show. Glad we did!

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Amazingly, last night was the first full set we’ve see of the Belles! I honestly believe that they peek at my travel calendar and purposely schedule their shows for when I have to be out of town. At least I finally fooled them by coming home earlier than expected. Take that Belles! Winking smile

A quick recap:

The Vanity Belles (Carrie Welling and Jessie Rae Waltz) describe themselves as Cosmo-Country. Who am I to argue? Here’s what I can assure you of:

  • Carrie and Jessi have extraordinary voices, each sings lead wonderfully
  • They harmonize amazingly
  • They are excellent songwriters
  • They’re not hard to look at (OK, that one has nothing to do with music, my apologies)
  • When they employ a band, their taste in musicians is exquisite

All of the above was in abundance last night. The ladies were in fine voice, the set selection very upbeat (many songs feeling closer to rock). They were complemented by an incredible band with special guest stars thrown in just in case you needed to amp up the excitement a bit.

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On one of the more mellow (yet still very powerful) songs, Jessi played the keyboards and Carrie took up the acoustic guitar. Both played well and sang phenomenally.

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After the show, we bought two copies of the 3-song EP they released last year (yes, they scheduled the EP Release Show for when we were out of town). All three songs are wonderful!

We also backed their recent Kickstarter early (they were successful) and are looking forward to the new full-length CD, which should be coming out in the not-too-distant future.

I’ll cover the core band first, then the two special guests, even though one of the special guests was on stage for the first number, replacing one of the core band members. Left-to-right on stage:

Ben Morgan on electronic keyboards. Ben is extremely talented on the keyboards. We’ve seen him support the Belles a number of times. He was excellent last night.

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Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitars. Oscar is always fantastic. In fact, the last show we saw, just over a month ago, was also part of month-long Arlene’s residency, a Police tribute band. We went solely to see Oscar. While he was great throughout last night’s set, during No Regrets, the ladies stepped aside and let Oscar take over the lead. The sound and feel was reminiscent of listening to a great jam band reel you in with a long guitar solo. Very well done!

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Zach Jones on drums. Zach is one of our favorite drummers. It was a complete surprise to see him playing with the Belles last night. He was at the top of his game. So are the other regular drummers that the Belles use, so it’s clear they can attract the best talent when they come a callin’.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chis is an amazing bass player with tremendous versatility. Arlene’s is a very loud club, often most noticeable in the bass shaking the joint on every note. I have little issue with it when the bass player has the skill that Chris has. Last night, Chris shook me, in a good way!

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Cameron Mitchell on electric and acoustic guitars. While Oscar took most of the leads, Cameron was playing rhythm for the most part, very well. He also seemed to be one of the leaders in terms of cueing the rest of the band.

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On to the guests.

Rebecca Haviland joined for three numbers, including the first one. Rebecca is one of our favorite singer/songwriters (she co-writes and performs with Chris Anderson). In her own band Rebecca plays electric guitar. The first time we ever saw her play an instrument though, it was the grand piano, just over a year ago. I think she’s great on the keyboards, and I can’t believe it’s taken this long to see her tickle the (fake) ivories again.

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In addition to playing the keyboards, Rebecca sang background vocals on the closing number. The Belles don’t need any help in the vocal department, but if they’re going to invite a third voice into the mix, it would be hard to pick someone better suited to hold their own than Rebecca.

We didn’t know until yesterday afternoon that Rebecca would be joining them, so it was an extra special treat.

Sierra Noble played the fiddle on two numbers. Yesterday was Sierra’s 22nd birthday. I’m glad that she chose to celebrate it on stage, entertaining us, rather than in a more private way. I knew for a week that Sierra was joining and it was one of the reasons for cutting our trip short. I don’t think Sierra will be there next Monday, so last night would have a special flavor all its own.

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We bumped into a number of friends that we haven’t seen in a month (always a big draw for going out). Hopefully, we made a new one too (I’m looking at you Jack!). Smile

We’re going to do our best to make it out to Arlene’s next Monday at 8pm for the final show in the residency. Do yourself a favor and come out as well!

The Vanity Belles usually hand out goodies at each show (I only know that from Twitter, this being our first full set). Here’s a photo of the set list, with the front and back of the EP, and the goodie bag (front and back). Don’t miss next week’s treats!

SetListEPandGoodies