Food

My Fortune Cookie

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On Wednesday, we took two friends for their first experience of the wonder that is the Peking Duck House in NYC. At the end of the meal, they delivered the fortune cookies, as always. The four of us each got unique fortunes, so I had only a one in four chance of getting mine. Here is what mine said:

The more you give, the more you have.

Read it carefully, it’s not the cliche that most people use, which is: The more you give, the more you get.

If you know me, then you know that I already believe and live the version that was in my fortune cookie. Why then did I get it? Obviously, to share the philosophy with the rest of you! :-)

I know that it’s hard in these times (perhaps in all times!) to think about giving first, but giving doesn’t have to be monetary. There are other ways to be generous:

  • Be kind to everyone (even rich people) ;-)
  • Listen as carefully as you can, to strangers as well as friends (learn how to listen if you aren’t in the habit of doing it regularly!)
  • Make people laugh (it heals more ills than you would think, and has only one known side-effect, it’s infectious!)
  • Share a favorite song with someone (music can come close to laughter in lifting our spirits)
  • Tell an uplifting story

If you do all of the above, and more (including being generous with your money if you can afford to be), then what will you have?

  • As many friends as you could ever dream of having (and good and true friends at that!)
  • Peace of mind
  • Love
  • Laughter
  • A lifetime of wonderful memories
  • More goodies that are a secret, so you better start giving if you want to discover them! ;-)
  • For those of you who are only driven by greed, there is a good chance that money will come to you through all of the wonderful connections and listening that you will do (see, I’m not above bribing you to do the right thing) ;-)

So, get started right away. Start giving, so that you can have infinitely more than you have today!

P.S. With this post, I am starting the giving. Tag, you’re it!

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our eighth Girlyman concert. It was the third time we’ve seen them at Joe’s Pub (where it all began). The other five shows were spread out over five venues, in two states, in five cities, with vast differences between the venues and at times, the audience makeup as well. These statistics may become relevant later in the post. ;-)

There were many things that were typical of every Girlyman show:

  1. Amazing music
  2. Lots of laughs
  3. Adoring audience
  4. Great venue
  5. Long line after the show to say Hi to Girlyman and buy Merchandise

Some things were notably different. There are probably many reasons for that, including some that I probably couln’t guess, but here are the three categories of things I believe contributed (perhaps all incorrect):

  1. Obama becoming the President-Elect the night before
  2. Girlyman playing in NYC
  3. 9:30pm show, rather than the typically earlier shows we attend

Before I tackle each of those, in the order I listed them, I’ll say something that is also delightful (but both different and not different at the same time) about most Girlyman shows. Even though we’ve just seen Girlyman shows four times in a three week period (meaning, the same tour), their repertoire is large enough to mix it up, even on consecutive nights, to keep it fresh for the fans who attend more than one show.

Last night was no different (in that it was different!). ;-) They played Saints Come Marching In. This is only the second time we’ve heard it live, the first being on November 4th, 2007 at the Highline Ballroom, so it was like an Anniversary Gift. :-)

It was one of the five great songs they introduced last year, but also one of the two (Trees Still Bend being the other) that didn’t make it to the Somewhere Different Now Live CD. On the other hand, they’ve been regularly playing Trees Still Bend on this tour, but not last night.

Another one that I listen to all the time on the CD, but haven’t heard live in a long while was Good Enough. There were a few other differences from recent shows in the playlist, but my observations to those changes might be more appropriate in one of the three above-mentioned categories.

Here are photos of the three of them. We were flush up against the stage, so the angles aren’t great, and the lighting was aimed toward the cameras, etc., so apologies all around:

Doris

Doris

Ty

Ty

Nate

Nate

1. Obama

Aside from the obvious fact that Obama won a clear majority across the country, including winning some previously hard-core Red States, there are few places where his support is more obvious than NYC. Any mention of his name last night (or allusion to the victory) brought incredible cheers from the crowd, and joy from Girlyman. They told amusing stories of a party the night before, and bantered with the audience, very happily.

Aside from the natural focus on this historic event, and the relief that most of the people in the audience (and most definitely on the stage!) felt at the end of the current Administration, it also affected the playlist of the show!

In the previous seven times that we’ve seen them perform, the last six in a row all had the same opening number for every show: On The Air. It’s a fantastic song in every respect, but it also sets such an up-tempo that we think they are smart for opening with it, and getting everyone’s juices flowing.

Last night, they opened (after a nod to Obama) with Through To Sunrise. While also an upbeat song (and for a very long time Lois’ favorite Girlyman song, though on occasion she’s not as sure, because others are rising fast to catch up), I believe they chose it because it is their protest song against the current Administration. They didn’t introduce it as such last night, but I’d be surprised if I was wrong. They play that song in most shows anyway (thankfully!), but opening with it was a statement (IMHO).

I already mentioned above that Saints Come Marching In was added to the playlist. Ty introduced it as fitting last night, so I assume that this one too moved them in relation to Obama’s victory to get back on the list.

Finally, while they play Amaze Me at many shows, right before they played it last night, Ty said that she’s been waiting a long time for America to Amaze Her (since she wrote the song over seven years ago), and it was clear that she was no longer singing it as a hopeless plea, but rather as a done deal!

2. Girlyman playing in NYC

Girlyman is consistently excellent wherever they play. Their audiences love them wherever they play. Those are just the facts (ma’am). But, this crazy thing started right here, in little ‘ol NYC, so their tenured fan base is here. That too is just a fact. Moreover, since they lived here for six+ years (as Girlyman), many of the people who come to their NYC shows are close friends, independent of the music.

Like it or not, that changes the character of the shows in NYC a bit (or sometimes more than a bit!) from some other venues. Girlyman definitely feeds off of the energy in the NYC crowd, as do the vast majority of the audience (perhaps all), but I do think about what it must be like for a first-time attendee, who may even know and love the music, to find themselves in the midst of this kind of a love-fest.

That would be on even a normal night in NYC. Add to that the euphoria of the Obama victory, and it was more than a little raucous there. For one (bad) example, Girlyman rarely curses on stage (I said rarely just to cover myself, because I was tempted to say never). Last night, more than a few times, the expletives flew. For those who might prefer not to hear that, I can only hope that they could appreciate the unique circumstances of last night’s show, and not think about it too much…

3. 9:30pm start time

Joe’s Pub has an early show (start time anywhere from 6:30pm to 7:30pm) and a 9:30pm show, nearly every night. The two prior times that we’ve seen Girlyman there, they had the earlier show (one of those times, they also did the 9:30 show). For most folks, there are pros and cons associated with that. For us, it’s mostly cons, other than the overwhelming pro of getting to see Girlyman in the first place!

Pros (for some people, not us!):

  • Don’t worry about having to leave work early
  • Potential for a show to go longer. Early show has a hard-stop deadline
  • Some artists don’t wake up before 9pm ;-)

Cons (for us, and some other people, clearly not all):

  • Doors rarely open by 9pm when they are supposed to
  • Not enough time to finish dinner before the band comes on stage
  • A very late night (way past our bedtime)
  • The show might be shorter (e.g., if the band needs to hit the road)

All of that was in play last night. The doors didn’t open until nearly 9:20pm, for a 9:30 show, where you are expected to order dinner! I am not blaming Joe’s Pub, that’s just the nature of the beast, and I understand it. But, we hate to eat in the band’s face (we sat flush up against the stage!). Nothing we could do, so we did it, as discretely as possible.

Girlyman is performing in Philadelphia tonight, and I think it caused them to play a few less songs than they have at every other show we’ve been to on this tour (three others). They were also likely exhausted from partying the night before, and I am not blaming them for that either. ;-)

The other change (not likely caused by any of the above) is how the show ended. On this tour, they’ve been closing each show with Joyful Sign. They did that last night as well. Then, after the inevitable thunderous applause, they came out for their typical encore. Also typical of this tour, the first song they played for the encore was a brand new one, My Eyes Get Misty (I really like it a ton!).

In the three previous shows on this tour (and in most of the ones in the Fall/Winter tour), they conclude with Son Of A Preacher Man (and on occasion, though not often enough, they throw in the Girlyman Benediction). Last night, after singing My Eyes Get Misty, they left the stage. What? Really?

The applause didn’t die down, so they came back out (reasonably quickly). That was unusal as well (score another one for NYC). At that point, I was sure they would do Son Of A Preacher Man. Wrong! They asked for another request (The Shape I Found You In was the requested number during the regular show). This time they performed Speechless, another great song. Then they left the stage for good. Definitely different, though no complaints!

Since I’ve gone on for a long while already, I’ll keep the backstory short this time. We invited two very dear friends who we get to see all-too-rarely. We asked them to meet us at Joe’s at 8:45pm. Lois always insists on leaving too early, and I usually resist just enough to irritate her a lot, but not get to the venue ridiculously early.

Last night, I irritated her, but not enough to avoid getting there ridiculously early. ;-) We were first on line (shocking) when we arrived at 8:19pm. The guy working the door came out and said “You realize that the show that’s currently going on won’t end until past 8:40, right?”. Sadly, I told him we realized that all too well… :-)

But, in an amazing stroke of serendipity, roughly six minutes later, our friends (who drove in from Long Island) found a legal spot across the street from Joe’s, and we got to catch up and chit-chat for nearly an hour before the doors finally opened. That was an unexpected treat.

Three of us had the burger and all raved about it. The fries are heavenly too. Last night was the first time that I have seen Joe’s have a Price Fixed offering, and we took advantage of that as well, so we had starters and chocolate cake, all for a very reasonable price. OK, to be honest, it was more than reasonable for Lois and me, since our guests insisted on paying for dinner. Thank you very much! :-)

It was raining throughout the evening, and since we live very close to the midtown tunnel (which our friends had to go through anyway), they gave us a lift back to the apartment. That was a very nice ending to an exceptionally enjoyable evening.

We already have our tickets for the next time we’ll be seeing Girlyman, which is April 4th, 2009, at The Barns at Wolftrap (where we saw them this past March). We can’t wait, but somehow, we’ll make do…

Rock-N-Sake

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There are a group of businessmen that I’m very friendly with that happen to also be investors in my fund. For the past two years we’ve spent a considerable amount of time together, because we served on the board of a small company. Unfortunately, with everything turning sour earlier this year, we all recently resigned from the board and I don’t get to see them as often as I would like.

For the past two years, one of them has been raving to me about a restaurant in Port Washington, NY (Long Island) called Rock-N-Sake. It was opened by a chef who had a successful restaurant in New Orleans, that was wiped out by hurricane Katrina.

My friend was so impressed with the food and the atmosphere at the Port Washington restaurant, that he worked with the chef to open one in Manhattan, backed by the group of investors mentioned above.

The restaurant opened recently, and is already getting rave reviews.

After one aborted attempt, I finally had the opportunity to eat there for lunch yesterday, with four of the five members of this investment group.

First, the bottom line: Wow!

Here’s a little more detail, but the Wow should suffice to get you into this place if you are remotely in the vicinity. Basically, it’s a very hip-looking place (beautifully appointed and laid out), with a very up-tempo sound and feel (including flat-panel TVs at the bar).

The food is Cajun-inspired (recall, the original was started in New Orleans) Japanese, not just sushi, but they do sushi to perfection.

I like practically everything in a good sushi place, so I decided to place my order in the hands of the guy who originally discovered this restaurant in Port Washington. He basically doubled his order to accommodate me.

First, the chef sent out a complimentary appetizer (I was, after all, with the partial owners of the place). It was noodles in a peanut and mango sauce. I won’t be able to do it justice, but I was secretly glad that two of the guys didn’t bother to taste it, so there was more for me. It was incredible.

Then another guy forced me to eat a tempura shrimp that was drizzled all over with a tangy wasabe sauce. Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do, and I obliged. Superb.

The next delicacy was two skewers of cooked Tuna steak. Not little shish-kebab pieces, but reasonable-sized tuna steaks on a skewer. It was completely delectable, essentially melting in my mouth. The was followed by two square pieces of Chilean Sea Bass on skewers as well. They looked like large, square scallops. They too melted in my mouth. Fantastic.

Then came a large bowl of fish soup, another fantastic dish. That was followed by a very large crab-cake-like mixture of cooked salmon and crab. We split that. It had a hint of crispiness at the edges, but was also super delicate. The salmon and crab mixed together was another phenomenal combination.

We topped it off with a Hawaiian Roll. This is shrimp tempura, with avocado, cream cheese, mango, and one or two other goodies. Yummy.

Two of the other guys had more traiditional sushi platters. Traditional isn’t necessarily the right word, as they were varied and looked really good, but they had raw fish on them, which wasn’t the case for my meal yesterday.

Every single bite that went into my mouth was heavenly. Even though the location isn’t the most convenient for me, and even though I’m crazy about the sushi restaurant right across the street from our apartment, I will definitely do whatever I can to make it over to Rock-N-Sake whenever I possibly can.

Well done!

P.S. On the way out the door, they told me that I had to go to the restroom, if I didn’t have to go. I opened the door, and saw that there is a projection TV in the ceiling, projecting the image on the floor, oriented for the benefit of people that have to sit. A little wacky, but apparently, when a big game is on the tube at night, it’s a pretty popular feature. ;-)

Girlyman at Birchmere

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This time around, we only had to wait a day to see Girlyman again. I’m glad to say we made it. ;-)

While Gravity Lounge is a small, intimate place, Birchmere is cavernous. The other difference is that Gravity Lounge is concert style seating (everyone facing the stage) and Birchmere is dining table style (most people have a shoulder facing the stage and need to twist to have a full stage view).

Birchmere can seat 650 people. Given the economic hard times, and the generic fact that Girlyman’s style of music (Alt-Folk/Pop) doesn’t typically draw gigantic crowds (though it most definitely should!), I was marginally worried that the place might feel a bit empty.

I should have had more faith (after all, they sold out the Barns at Wolftrap in March, a nearby venue that seats 400!). We sat right up against the stage, so it was a little hard to gauge an accurate count (though I tried). My best guess is that there were at least 350 people there, possibly 400+. That generated the same feel as a sold out house, because there are many tables that are way off to the sides, and the entire center section (the bulk) had very few empty seats.

The show had a similar feel to the night before. However, as I expected (and was delighted to be correct), Girlyman mixed it up enough to keep it fresh even for the few of us (possibly just Lois and me?) that saw them on consecutive nights. The set list had at least three additions to it, and the one song that was on the set list the night before, but wasn’t played (James Dean) was done last night.

In addition, the requests that they played last night were different, so there were at least a half dozen different numbers. The tuning songs were different too, but there were actually fewer of them both nights than usual. I ascribe that to there being more new material, which might not require as many drastic re-tunings of the guitars/banjo/mandolin as the older stuff. Here’s a photo of a tuning song:

Girlyman Tuning Song

Girlyman Tuning Song

The music was fantastic (the acoustics at the Birchmere are wonderful). Their banter (and general stage presence) was perfect as well. In fact, playing to a significantly larger crowd can make the banter more difficult, since comedic tastes can be that much more varied, and there’s a slight reduction in intimacy. That wasn’t a problem, as the crowd universally and uniformly ate up every bit of the act, which fed the energy on the stage.

It’s hard (if not impossible) to describe a song. Lois really wants me try, so here goes. :-)

One of their newer songs is Everything’s Easy (it’s on their new/current Live CD). It’s a great song in general, but also very special. Each of them sings one verse alone. Nate starts, then Ty sings a different melody. Doris sings a dramatically different melody (alone as well, the first time). Then, after blending together a bit, and starting to build in volume (and passion), they sing simultaneously (in harmony), but each singing their own verse.

Not only are they singing wildly different words, they are singing entirely different tunes (as opposed to singing in a normal harmony, where you are mostly just offset from the main melody). It’s stunning. The focus that they each need to maintain is incredible, but we shouldn’t care if it’s hard for them, we should care whether the result is sonically gorgeous. It is, in every way. Bravo!

If you’re interested in checking it out, go to their MySpace page, and the second song (at least as of this writing) is Everything’s Easy. Enjoy!

When they got to the request section (they do that at every show), I yelled (twice, at the top of my lungs) Hold It All At Bay. I was only five feet away from Doris, perhaps 10 from Ty, so I know they heard me. Unfortunately, lots of other people yelled out lots of other song requests, and I don’t think I heard any other requests for Hold It All At Bay.

I love so many of their songs so much, that it somehow feels silly to say “My favorite song of theirs is Hold It All At Bay”. And yet, I can say it with no caveat or hesitation. While there may be two dozen close seconds, from the first second I heard that song, it remains the most played song on my iPod, and it moves me (lyrically and musically) each and every time I listen to it.

I hadn’t heard them sing it live in a while, and I fully expected to miss out again last night. While I might never be sure, I want to believe that they chose to give me a personal gift when they decided to play Hold It All At Bay for the first request. They couldn’t have played it better! Thank you Girlyman! :-)

Since they knew that they didn’t pick the most called for song, they were kind enough (and connected enough with their audience) to select another song for a request after that as well.

They closed the show with Joyful Sign. When they returned for the encore (as the result of a standing ovation) they played Nate’s new song (the one I didn’t know the title of in yesterday’s post). I think he didn’t mention the title last night either, but he did give the same cute intro. Lois and I are calling the song “My Eyes Get Misty” until we hear differently. They skipped the typical Girlyman Benediction song (which I love) and went straight to their stock closing number Son Of A Preacher Man (which they nail, every time!).

In total, they were on stage for 110 minutes. This was fantastic. It wasn’t just the extra five minutes over the night before, but they also came on later due to the opening act (different from the night before) being on stage significantly longer.

Girlyman

Girlyman

The opening act last night was Chelsea Lee (we didn’t know there would be one until we showed up). She came out at 7:30pm accompanied by Todd Wright on guitar (and harmony). Chelsea has a stunning voice, truly extraordinary. Todd is a good rhythm guitarist, whose voice complements Chelsea’s on their harmonies, perfectly. Unfortunately, since she’s the star, and they’re not officially a duo, he doesn’t sing nearly enough with her. Not that her voice isn’t amazing all by itself (it most definitely is), but their blended voices are even better.

Chelsea Lee

Chelsea Lee

As spectacular as Chelsea’s voice is, her material (mostly, if not all written by her) doesn’t live up to the same standard. It’s actually reasonably repetitive, both in general feel/sound, as well as brooding theme. She would do better playing in a real Blues Club (in my opinion) than in a place like the Birchmere. She’s a cross between Blues and Jazz. While Todd’s guitar playing complemented her really well, I couldn’t help but think that if there was a soulful grand piano accompanying her, in a blues club setting, she might have come across more authentically.

Todd did something that perhaps other musicians do regularly on stage, but I am generally unaware of the technique. Because we sat so close to him, I was able to see it clearly (this time). On one number, he clicked a switch with his sneaker on a board full of switches. Apparently, that started recording what he was playing. After a few bars, he clicked another switch and the previous recording started playing back in a loop. He literally took his hands off the guitar, but the sound kept coming out of the Birchmere speakers accompanying Chelsea.

Then, after a few seconds, he played a little lead guitar, supported by his own strumming, which he had just recorded live. After a few more bars of that, he eased back into strumming along with the recording, and when that was sync’ed up correctly, he turned off the recording and was back to strumming live only. It was an interesting and cool experience, which might be going on more often on stage than I previously realized.

Todd Wright

Todd Wright

Regarding Chelsea again, one more nit to pick. She’s not really comfortable on the stage. She’s not awkward either, just not comfy. She’s not leading/controlling the crowd in any way, she’s just settling herself down between numbers, building up the courage and focus to perform the next one. Last night’s crowd was extremely respectful of her, and clapped generously, so it ended up being fine. I could easily see her losing control of a crowd if she opened for someone other than Girlyman, who draws wonderful people wherever they perform.

She joked (awkwardly) a few times about how old the crowd was. When she was hawking her CD, she babbled about how we (the audience) were likely too old to be users of MySpace (uh huh). She and Todd spent a good deal of time teasing each other (including about the difference in their ages). Still, we didn’t know how old she was (if you already checked the link I gave above, the next paragraph will be anti-climactic for you).

I tried to guess her age, and figured something between 21-25. It turns out she’s 17! Wow. That certainly explains the lack of stage presence (not that 17-year-olds can’t have it, as Taylor Swift clearly demonstrates). She’ll likely get there. Hopefully it won’t take too long.

As talented as she is (vocally), she was still just an opening act, with the vast majority of the people in the crowd breathlessly awaiting Girlyman’s appearance on stage. In my opinion, Birchmere gave her too much stage time. She was on for 55 minutes. That’s long, even for a well-known opening act. Given that most of her songs have a very similar sound/feel, it dragged a bit, and a true Girlyfan would have to wonder whether it was eating into Girlyman’s time.

You already know the answer to that. Thankfully, Girlyman gave us every drop of value for our money. Whew!

If you read yesterday’s post, you know that Lois and I brought ten friends to see Girlyman at Gravity Lounge. Last night, we brought 13 people from Zope Corporation (including some family members). We drove three of them up with us and got there at 4:25pm (doors open at 5pm) to pick up our tickets and get a number to be seated early. I had asked the rest of the gang to be there no later than 5:45pm (the doors to the concert hall open at 6pm when they call people in for dinner in the order that they picked up their tickets).

Here are our car guests:

Zope Guys

Zope Guys

I was amazed (and really appreciative) when every single person in our party was there by 5:40pm. We were number five to be called in. However, since we had 15 people, we couldn’t sit together center stage. We chose two tables at the left edge of the stage and split our group. Each table could seat 12, but we put seven at one table and eight at the next.

Here’s the gang that sat at the first table:

Zope Table 1

Zope Table 1

And, table number two:

Zope Table 2

Zope Table 2

The food at Birchmere is Southern-style Comfort food, and they do it really well. I had the Pulled Pork sandwich. When I went over to the other table to survey what they had ordered, I said that my pulled pork was fanastic but greasy. Our CTO pointed out that I used the word but incorrectly in that sentence. He was right, and I corrected it to “my pulled pork sandwich was fanastic and greasy”. ;-)

Everyone seemed to like their food, and it all looked great. A number of us had decadent desserts as well (I succumbed), but we had to do what needed to be done…

Of the 13 people we brought along, only two had seen Girlyman before. While it’s hard to know whether people are being polite, our group all said that they thoroughly enjoyed the show. One of the guys said that while he liked the music, he loved all of the non-music parts (which are significant in any Girlyman show).

Interestingly enough, most of them were not as kind (polite) about Chelsea’s performance. While the majority did praise her voice, they found little else to compliment. When asked what she thought, one person actually answered “I wasn’t paying that much attention…”. I didn’t love it, but I think I enjoyed it more than most (if not all) of them did.

After the show, seven of us waited in line to say hi to Girlyman. I got to thank them directly for playing Hold It All At Bay, and tell them how perfectly they did it. We took a customary photo with them, which included the youngest member of our group as well. She was a last-minute substitute when her dad got caught in a business trip and she joined her mom (who works at Zope). Ironically, it is the mom and the little one who had seen Girlyman before in NYC (nearly a year ago).

Girlyman and Us

Girlyman and Us

As with the previous night at Gravity Lounge, we ordered a copy of last night’s live show and I’m sure we’ll do the same at Joe’s Pub. Yes, we’re seeing them again on November 5th! :-)

We talked about the show with our three car guests for the next hour on the ride back to Fredericksburg. For us, it was a perfect evening. We hope our guests enjoyed it at least 10% as much as we did. :-)

Update: The little one’s mom just emailed us a great picture of Girlyman with her daughter. Here it is:

Little One Girlyman

Little One Girlyman

Girlyman at Gravity Lounge

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Last night we (finally) saw Girlyman again (fifth time for us). It was a long dry spell, lasting exactly 200 days in between shows. During that time, we saw 27 other live shows (all blogged about). If you are a complete masochist, you can see all of those, including a few other music-related but not live-show related posts, at this link.

While the vast majority of the past 27 live shows were awesome, in every respect, there’s something more magical about an evening spent with Girlyman. You have to experience it to understand that, even if you love their CDs.

Not only was last night no exception, it was particularly special, because the venue (Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville, VA) is a very special place to see this kind of group. We’ve been there once before to see The Wailin’ Jennys, and that evening was magical as well.

Gravity Lounge is ultra-intimate. The stage is raised roughly a foot off the seating area, so you’re not craning your neck to look up at the performers. The worst seat in the house isn’t bad, and 80% of the seats are fantastic.

Girlyman has a large repertoire of songs, and we love nearly every one of them, so going to a show will always yield surprises and some (extremely minor) disappointments, given that they simply can’t play everything we’d want to hear. In addition, they are continually writing new songs (all fantastic) and arranging new covers, so the pool of available numbers keeps growing.

They recently started a video blog (low-res version available on YouTube, hi-res version available on Vimeo). You can also video podcast them at iTunes. In those video blogs, you can hear snippets of two new songs and one complete new cover. Last night, they performed the full version of all three.

Easy Bake Ovens hooked me even in the video (as short as it was, from the first video blog). The song is perfect for their soaring harmonies, and the lyrics are fun and insightful as well. They performed it flawlessly last night. They performed Tell Me The Reason (which Doris lip-sync’s on the most recent clip, labeled Video Blog, Part 2). Gorgeous!

Sandwiched in between Part 1 and Part 2, is a video labeled Islands In The Stream, their new cover. The song was made famous by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, but was actually written by the Bee Gees (Lois and I were quite surprised at that, but Wikipedia confirms it). We’ve always liked the song, and there’s nothing wrong with Girlyman’s arrangement, but in my opinion, it was the weakest song of the night (not weak, just weaker than any of the others), and I would personally have preferred them to substitute any of their other songs.

At the very end of the show, they played another new one by Nate. Unfortunately, it isn’t in a video yet, and wasn’t on the printed set list (which we snagged), and I don’t recall the title. Another big winner though, so we (and the rest of you) will need to be on the lookout for the name. :-)

Speaking of the set list, there was only one song that they planned to play that they didn’t (James Dean). In addition to playing two requests, they also played at least two additional songs that weren’t on the set list. A very generous show indeed!

Of course, they also played many crowd favorites (Joyful Sign, Through To Sunrise, Kittery Tide, Postcards From Mexico, Somwhere Different Now, Storms Were Mine, and quite a number of others!). Speaking of the audience, the overwhelming majority of them were clearly super Girlyfans. The energy in the room was electric and the rapport between Girlyman and the audience was seamless and relaxed.

Ty added a snare drum to her customary djembe. Two of us (I was one of them) simultaneously teased her about not bringing along her collander highhat. You’ll have to watch the first video blog to understand the reference…

After a standing ovation, they returned for their signature encore: Girlyman Benediction and Son Of A Preacher Man. Wonderful! They were on stage for roughly 105 minutes. Given that they had an opening act, the show was long, and satisfying.

Here’s the only picture Lois snapped of them together on the stage. Given that we were in the front row, center, and they were spread out, all other shots have only one or two of them together:

Girlyman

Girlyman

Speaking of opening acts, Nervous But Excited opened for Girlyman last night. The group consists of Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver. Both talented singer/songwriters who harmonize well together (though not as often as they could). They performed five or six numbers. All were good, but they don’t produce the kind of sound Girlyman does, so there was anticipation of the real show, even though they were good.

They ended with Smaller Taller. You can hear that (and a bunch of other tracks from their live CD) here. It was the coolest/best of their stuff, but to repeat, all of their stuff was pretty good. On this last song, Girlyman joined them on the stage. Musically, it was an unecessary addition since they had the audience sing the chorus with them, canceling out the wonderful Girlyman harmonies. But, Nate performed special duties during the song, so it was a blast from that perspective, but you had to be there to appreciate it, so I won’t even describe it. ;-)

They were on for exactly 30 enjoyable minutes.

As you may know, I’m on a personal mission to increase awareness of this simply amazing group (this == Girlyman). One way to do that is to make sure that people actually see them live (the fastest way to fall in love with them). Toward that end, Lois and I invited 10 Richmond based friends to join us (we were coming from Zope in Fredericksburg). The place only seats about 150 (max), so we would be roughly 10% of the crowd, all by ourselves. ;-)

Of the 10 friends that we invited, two had seen them before (with us) at the Barns at Wolftrap. That made eight newbies, though half of them have received a Girlyman CD from us in advance well.

We arrived at 5:50pm, thinking that the doors would open at 6pm (which is what they did for the Jennys). When we got there, the door was open, with no one on line, so we walked right in. Girlyman was in the middle of their sound check, and no patrons were there yet. That was a very cool experience for us because the sound checks are off limits to customers, nearly 100% of the time. 10 minutes later, six more people from our group arrived, and with all of the hugging and catching up, the owner of Gravity Lounge realized he should never have left the door open, and he kicked us out. Oh well, at least we were still first in line.

Here’s a shot of them during the sound check. You can also get a good sense of the setup of the room, given that it was empty:

Girlyman Sound Check

Girlyman Sound Check

At 6:30 he opened the door and we went back in and snagged seats in the front and second rows. Lois and I sat front and center, and couldn’t have loved our seats or the show any more! We ordered dinner at the club as well. The food took forever to come out of the kitchen, but was superb and very value priced. The chef came out to apologize to Lois (her food came out dead last, by a long measure). It turns out it was her first night working there. So, she’s not fast, but she’s really good.

Because we were so early, we got to schmooze a bit with each of the Girlypeople, separately. That was a real treat. One of the innovations at this show (and apparently all of them on this tour) is that they record the entire show, and offer the CD for sale afterwards. I have written about this before, when we purchased the CD for a live show of California Guitar Trio at BB King. This is slightly different. Girlyman doesn’t burn the CDs on the spot (like CGT did), but mails them to you later. We trust them, and are looking forward to our CD in a few weeks.

Here’s a shot of Doris and me, proving the above schmoozing claim: ;-)

Doris and Hadar

Doris and Hadar

After saying our goodbyes (to our friends, and later to Girlyman), we didn’t need to feel badly about how long it would take us to see them again. We’re heading in exactly the opposite direction from Fredericksburg tonight, to Alexandria, VA, to see them at the Birchmere. Tonight, we’re bringing 13 people with us (total of 15), and again only two of those have seen them before (with us). So, we continue to do our part in spreading the word.

Now, the rest of you, get on the stick and spread the word!!! :-)

The Duhks at Joe’s Pub

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We first discovered Joe’s Pub because of The Duhks. The Duhks were an automated recommendation for me from Amazon.com, based on the fact that I had purchased Nickel Creek CDs from them. I listened, I liked, a lot.

After that, I bought both Duhks CDs, and checked where they were touring. I noticed they were coming to NYC to Joe’s Pub. We had never heard of Joe’s, but went to see them there. We loved the show, thoroughly, and bought their third CD at the show. That was roughly two years ago. We’ve been to Joe’s dozens of times since, and it’s our favorite place to see live music.

Shortly after we saw them (measured in months) Jessee Havey (their lead singer) left the band. She was replaced by Sarah Dugas, announced as an interim selection, until the band made a longer-term choice. Sarah ended up staying for the long term, and the percussionist, Scott Senior was replaced by Sarah’s brother, Christian Dugas, a drummer with a complete drum set.

We knew that they released a new CD a month ago, but we decided to buy it at the show to more directly support the band.

We knew we loved their music (Lois had a handful of songs she played over-and-over in the car, and I like a broader selection of their stuff from all three CDs), and we wanted to share that experience with others, so we bought four tickets to the show. That’s often a risk, because while music is universal, each person’s taste is hardly universal.

Since Joe’s serves really good food, we figured that it would at least be a nice social outing. Sparing you the crazy details of how we ended up with our specific guests, two of our married male friends came, with each of their wives having previous commitments.

The tickets had the show starting at 7:30pm, but the outside sign said 7pm. It turned out that they had a special guest star opening the show for them at 7pm, but I’ll cover him later. He ran over (knowingly), and after resetting the stage, The Duhks came on at 7:45pm.

Normally, Joe’s Pub gets the acoustics down pat. On occasion (unfortunately, not infrequently enough, as I’ve now written about this a few times), they screw it up, pretty badly at times. Last night was one of those times, but The Duhks have changed in a number of ways, and that change didn’t help out with the poor sound management.

The first obvious change was from a percussionist (Scott Senior), to a full drum kit (Christian Dugas). Christian is a fantastic drummer, from every perspective. Unfortunately, a full drum kit overwhelms the roots sounds and instruments that characterize The Duhks. That means that everyone else in the band needs to amp up more, causing more problems for the sound engineer, etc. When the sound system isn’t perfect, the problems accelerate quickly, to the point of no return.

We had an inkling of what was to come before the show even started. One of the founders of the band, Leonard Podolak was out on the stage helping the opening act pack up, and he was squatting on the stage about 12 inches from Lois. Lois told him how much we love them, and asked whether they were going to play her favorite songs (she mentioned them by name, she didn’t assume he knew which ones were our favorites). ;-)

Leonard told her that they don’t play those songs any longer, now that Sarah is in the band. Given that Sarah’s voice is quite similar (earthy, husky, full-bodied, etc.) to Jessee, neither of us understood the comment. After the fact, I worried that perhaps this was another Wailin’ Jennys moment, where they no longer perform live any songs written by Annabelle Chvostek. Who knows?

In any event, Leonard didn’t lie. They mostly played songs from the new CD (we bought a copy before the show started, and I’ve listened to it today) plus a few from their old albums (none of our favorites), plus a few new covers.

The show was awful, on a number of levels. First, the sound was horrible. The guitarist, Jordan McConnell is normally amazing. He’s probably got the fastest right hand I’ve ever seen, and he plays a mixture of the best rhythm guitar, with fantastic leads. Last night, the only thing you could hear out of his guitar was pure bass. It almost sounded like pure feedback. No strumming or leads. It was a crushing disappointment.

Partially, it was due to our placement right up against the stage, where the drum was blaring in our ears. That doesn’t explain it entirely though. The fiddle player, Tania Elizabeth is brilliant. She’s in my top five favorite fiddle players, and we’ve seen a ton of great fiddle players in the past two years. She also sings harmony on a number of songs (really well).

Last night, it was hit or miss whether you could make out the fiddle. On some numbers, clear as a bell (and Tania hasn’t lost a step), on others, muddled sound or no sound. Quite a few times Tania had to gesture desperately up at the sound board, pointing at her fiddle and raising her thumb up, indicating that she needed more volume.

Leonard Podolak played the banjo extremely well, and ironically, you could make out most of the notes he played all night long. Still, they were in the distant background, but at least audible. One of our guests noted after the show that it was a very weird feeling to be sitting two feet from the banjo, but only hearing the banjo sound coming from the far corner of the stage. It was disorienting. I agree.

Sarah had her voice on, but also had to complain to the sound person that her mic was not reliable. She conjectured that the cable was loose, and was making the mic cut in and out. On one song that Leonard sang lead on, he had to switch positions on stage with Sarah, because he too felt that his mic was garbling his sound. Ugh…

So, you’d think that all of the problems last night could be summed up as sound related, either with physical equipment problems, a poor sound engineer, or a mixture of the two. Alas, that wouldn’t be correct, at least not for our taste.

Basically, this band bears little resemblance to The Duhks that we knew and loved. Sure, they are absolutely exceptional musicians (not that you could hear Jordan to be sure, but trust me, he’s spectacular!). Somehow, adding Sarah and Christian Dugas has changed the soul of this band.

I’m sure that they will find many new fans, but they will also leave some old ones behind, including us. Basically, they want to be more of a Rock band, in Roots clothing. That’s fine, but it’s not our style. They’re too loud (regardless of the sound problems) for that particular mix of instruments, as well as for our taste. To give a concrete example, they closed with a rock cover, including mixing in some Whole Lotta Love there. Sorry folks, this is the wrong configuration of instruments and musicians to pull that off.

Sarah has the pipes to sing that stuff, and clearly she’s pulling the band to play that, but the fit is so bad as to be laughable. It’s a true shame.

All that said, I listened to the entire CD today, and it’s not bad. Clearly, it’s mixed way more professionally than last night’s show was, and I was in control of the volume, so I could listen at pleasant levels. I’m not sorry that we bought the CD, but I doubt Lois will ever listen to it, she was so turned off by the performance.

On to the opening act. Leonard Podolak went to high school with Luke Doucet. Luke is an incredible Rock guitarist. He was accompanied by his wife, Melissa McLelland (singing and playing rhythm electric guitar), Catherine Popper (playing electric bass) and Rob Heath on the drums (Luke had never played with Rob before).

We didn’t come prepared to hear loud Rock music, thinking that The Duhks would have a more similar sound for their opening group. Of course, we didn’t know that The Duhks were morphing more toward this sound, nor that they were promoting a friend more than trying to match the crowd’s taste in music.

That said, Luke is incredibly talented. His amlifier was three feet away from us, so we had no trouble hearing his fantastic leads. In fact, two people in our party put in ear plugs when he started playing, that’s how little trouble we had hearing him. That said, the microphones for his voice and Melissa’s, were too soft in comparison. I could make out most of the words, but partially because I could see his lips move.

He’s a good songwriter as well, and I enjoyed the lyrics that I was able to make out. I liked their harmonies as well, though they were definitely overshadowed if not drowned out.

Luke said that he was given 25 minutes to complete his set. He took 35. That was 10 minutes less for the headliner, his friends, so who knows how they worked that out…

Last night was the first time that I left Joe’s Pub with a ringing in my ears, and a generally unpleasant feeling due to the loudness and poor sound quality. :-(

Anyway, even though we didn’t get to talk about it until after the show, I knew that Lois was cringing during most of The Duhks performance (as was I) over the fact that we picked this show to bring our friends to (we see most concerts alone). We had a lovely time with them, and enjoyed an excellent meal and drinks before the show, and we always love every opportunity to see them, but still, it would have been nicer if the music was special too.

Still, we have a lot to thank The Duhks for. If not for The Duhks, we might never have discovered Joe’s Pub in the first place. If we had never discovered Joe’s Pub, we would definitely never have discovered our favorite band, Girlyman. Girlyman is a band that we’ve never seen alone. In the four times that we’ve seen them so far, we took two people three times, and three people once.

We’re about to see them three times in close proximity. We’re bringing 12 people to one show, 14 to another the next night, and two weeks later four people (all of the above includes us in the count, with no other duplicates among the three shows!). We aren’t worried in the least that anyone we bring to a Girlyman show will be disappointed. We know we won’t be either.

Finally, some positive news from last night. When we go to Joe’s, 70% of the time we take a bus, 30% a cab. Last night, the second we got to the corner, we saw the bus waiting at a red light. We didn’t have to run, but we had to hustle a bit. When we boarded the bus, I noticed that there was a piece of paper sticking out of the slot where I would have inserted my MetroCard. Clearly, the box was broken, and the ride was about to be free, even though the driver never waved anyone on, they all just figured it out.

It’s not the savings of the $4 (though I’m not complaining about that), it’s actually more the fact that I deferred having to buy a new MetroCard by two rides. It also sped the ride up a bit, because no one had to fumble to get the MetroCard into the reader in the correct orientation.

The biggest joy about it was watching everyone’s expression as they realized they didn’t have to pay (I include myself as well!). There was an uncontrollable smile that overtook each and every person’s face. I kid you not. They felt that they were getting away with something. Something that they knew they secretly deserved to get away with.

It’s not possible to describe how different an experience it is to ride on a NYC bus, with 100 other people, and see most of them smiling at least at one point during the ride. I’m not sure it’s ever happened before, and it may never happen again. :-)

Sadao Watanabe at Blue Note

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Last night we saw Sadao Watanabe (one of the world’s great Saxophone players) and his band at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC. I’ve been a huge fan of his forever (owned many of his LPs before I bought my first CD). I’ve never seen him in concert.

The band came on the stage at exactly 8pm. I was surprised to see that all but one member of the band was Japanese (not that I had any idea what the band makeup would be). Then Sadao explained that the Japanese airline ANA sponsored this tour, and for the first time, he was able to bring his own band members from Japan with him for a US tour. Previously, he picked up local professional session musicians to accompany him.

Already it promised to be a cool show. While he didn’t tell the following story until the middle of the show, it’s more appropriate at this point in my narrative. The lone non-Japanese person was the percussionist (separate from the drummer). Sadao met him eight years ago in Senegal. He then met and married a Japanese woman and moved to Yokohama. Aside from also having two children now, he was able to join Sadao’s permanent band.

Here’s a photo of Sadao Watanabe speaking to the audience:

Sadao Watanabe Talking

Sadao Watanabe Talking

To summarize, the show was fantastic. The selection was incredible (Sadao has something like 69 albums, so choosing what to play is not a simple matter!). His playing was crisp, fast and fabulous. The few stories he told were touching, amusing and heartwarming. He’s as lovely in person as he is a great musician.

Here are two more shots of him. The first is of him playing the sax. The second shows him playing the flute, which he did on one song only last night:

Sadao Watanabe Sax

Sadao Watanabe Sax

Sadao Watanabe Flute

Sadao Watanabe Flute

From left-to-right appearing on the stage with Sadao (he was in the center) were:

Akira Onozuka on electric keyboards and grand piano. Sadao mentioned that he’s also a great percussionist, but the budget didn’t allow for them to bring his set along. ;-) While there aren’t a ton of real pianos in the shows we frequent, there are many electric keyboards. Akira played roughly five songs on the electric stuff, but the majority of the show was on the grand piano.

Akira Onozuka

Akira Onozuka

I’d be hard pressed to say that I ever heard a better pianist live, including David Benoit (who blew Lois away when we saw him), Bruce Hornsby, Bob James, etc. He was both flawless and fascinating, on every single note. He could play the slowest, softest ballads (on one number, he was the only one accompanying Sadao) as well as rock out to hard-driving funk jazz numbers. He took long, detailed, mesmerizing solos. Let me not slight his electric keyboards work, it was unbelievably good as well!

Jun Kajiwara on electric guitar. In a word, wow. The first thing Lois said when we left the club was “Don’t you think he’s better than XXX?” (I don’t want to offend fans of XXX, so I won’t repeat the name. ;-) Seriously, this guy is awesome. He was highlighted early on, and late in the show again, and blew the crowd away every time. Harder for me to peg him above my favorites, because I listen to so much more guitar work (live and on the iPod) than to piano, and those all get the spotlight in every song. In any case, Jun is fantastic.

Jun Kajiwara

Jun Kajiwara

Kichiro Komobuchi on electric bass. He’s likely the youngest (and perhaps newest) member of the band. He played an excellent bass line the entire night. On one number, Sadao let him loose for an extremely long and detailed lead (the others accompanied him, so it wasn’t a solo). He was amazing.

Kichiro Komobuchi

Kichiro Komobuchi

Masaharu Ishikawa on drums. Very solid. One long solo, and another highlight with the percussionist.

Masaharu Ishikawa

Masaharu Ishikawa

N’diasse Niang on percussion. I’ve seen a number of percussionists over the past few years, but never one who plays quite like this. Most play entirely with their bare hands. N’diasse has some kind of ball taped to his index and middle fingers on each hand, so that he can achieve more impact (and therefore also various tones) if he strikes the bongos (I’m sure they are fancier than that) with those fingers, other fingers, palms, etc. He electrified the crowd the entire night.

Apologies for the horrible quality on this photo. N’diasse was sitting perpendicular to the rest of the group (facing Sadao), at the corner of the stage, so the lights weren’t on him at all, and the stage is relatively dark to begin with.

N'diasse Niang

N'diasse Niang

Just to repeat, in addition to being superb musicians in their own right, the six of them were tight and fantastic as a group all night long. They played for 85 minutes. The crowd roared after every lead, and literally worshipped Sadao himself.

We got to the club at 6:06pm. While we were happy with out seats, it was somewhat surprising that in the six minutes that the doors were open, many better seats were already taken. Yet, there was no line outside when we got there, so a bunch of people were seated within the first five minutes, or they opened the doors a bit early (not so likely).

Jazz draws quite diverse crowds in our experiene. That includes Japanese people, no matter who the artist is. That said, last night was one of the more unique experiences we’ve had in the US. The club was jammed, but there were perhaps 10% (20% max) non-Japanese. The overwhelming majority of patrons were Japanese. I mentioned above that they worshiped Sadao. It had to be an even bigger treat for them that the rest of the band all came over from Japan.

I said “non-Japanese” rather than US residents. That’s because it turned out there were a number of Europeans, and two women who came from Brazil just to see this show! They introduced themselves to Sadao before the show, and he dedicated a song to them right near the end of the show. Pretty cool.

I had my usual (at least my recent usual) marinated skirt steak. It was excellent, but seemed to be twice as large as usual. I didn’t have any trouble finishing it, but it was one of the longer dining experiences I’ve had in a while (I eat way too fast, always).

Sadao, thanks for making this very special one-night-stand in NYC (it felt like he could sell out the Blue Note for an entire week!), and more importantly, for arranging to share your truly amazing band with us! :-)

Lucky 8 Wedding

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We have great friends who have two wonderful sons. Last year, the younger son married a terrific woman. We were invited and acknowledged that we would attend. A few weeks later, we were invited to another wedding on the same date. We knew that bride from her birth (25 years!), and ended up going to that wedding instead. We can’t begin to describe how badly we felt missing one wedding for another, but life often presents dilemmas.

We knew a year ago that the older son was marrying an equally terrific woman on 08/08/08. We promised that only the wedding of one of our godchildren would keep us from attending. Ironically, in a surprise, our goddaughter got married on July 5th. Thankfully, she didn’t pick 08/08/08. :-)

The Chinese consider the number eight to be very lucky. Many couples picked that date with a number of interesting news articles written about the various events surrounding those weddings.

We checked Google Maps and saw that the drive from NYC to the Church (St. Mary’s By The Sea in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ) normally takes under 90 minutes. Given weekend beach traffic, we added an hour, believing we left plenty of time. We couldn’t have been more wrong. :-(

It took us over an hour just to get to the Lincoln Tunnel, a trip that normally takes 10 minutes! So, we blew our cushion before the trip really started. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better after that. We sat for a while on the NJ Turnpike, and then again on the Garden State, and finally, the streets were very slow in Point Pleasant Beach itself. We were sure that we would miss the entire ceremony.

Somehow, miraculously, we arrived only 30 minutes late. I’m sure we missed some moving words, but we got there in time to hear the vows that the couple wrote for each other, and to witness the actual marriage. Whew! Here’s the proof. :-)

The Marriage

The Marriage

The Church is beautiful and the ceremony was warm and inviting. The Priest (Father Jerry) from the groom’s Church in Northern, NJ and Father C. John Thompson-Quartey, the Saint Mary’s By The Sea cleric, jointly officiated. That was an extremely nice touch as well. Here’s a photo of both of them, along with a very touching moment as the Groom and Best Man held hands across the aisle in prayer:

Hand Holding Prayer

Hand Holding Prayer

In addition to seeing the actual marriage, the ceremony lasted an additional 45 minutes after we arrived, so even though we missed the beginning, we felt lucky and blessed to experience as much as we did.

Instead of throwing rice, everyone blew bubbles toward the couple as they came back up the center aisle. They couldn’t stop laughing, partially because one person had a high-speed bubble gun, and was able to shower them with bubbles. It was great fun! This picture is way too blurry. I shouldn’t even post it, but at least you can see the bubble gun on the right side:

Bubble Gun

Bubble Gun

Another lucky thing that day was the weather. August can be particularly brutal in this part of the country. Amazingly, the high for the day was roughly 83 degrees. There was a pleasant breeze as well. The only (bad) break in that weather occurred seconds after the ceremony was over (unfortunately). As the bridal party was heading to the limo, the heavens opened up in a downpour. In a coincidence (or was it?), there was a tremendous downpour after our goddaughter’s ceremony as well, though it held off for 20 minutes that day.

Thankfully, it turned out to be a passing storm, and within 15 minutes, the skies were blue and the weather was perfect again. We waited in the Church until the storm passed before heading to the reception.

The reception was held at the Waterview Pavillion in Belmar, NJ. This is a gorgeous facility across the highway from the marina in Belmar. The setup was clever in addition to being beautiful. The main reception hall was set up with tables surrounding the dance floor. The ceiling is two stories tall, and the second floor is a wrap-around balcony (all four sides) looking down on the dance floor. We were all guided upstairs for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The spread was wonderful, with lots of choices.

I hate to single anything out (because it was all really good), but the Jumbo Shrimp and Lobster Pastries deserve a mention. ;-)

Lois and I were among the first handful of people to arrive, so we ended up sitting alone at a round table. After a while, we were joined by people we hadn’t met previously, the cousin of the bride’s grandmother and her husband. We couldn’t have asked for two lovelier people to spend time with and get to know. A bit later, we were joined by friends of the groom’s parents who we met once before. They too are wonderful people who we would enjoy spending more time with than we have gotten to in the past.

Here is the couple we first met. We made sure to get her email address so I could share this link with her. Thanks for a lovely visit Joyce and John:

John Joyce

John Joyce

While we were enjoying ourselves upstairs, setup continued in the main hall. The tables were all set previously, but the appetizers (fresh strawberries) and rolls were being put out, and the DJ and Band were doing some sound checks. The band deserves a special mention, but I’ll defer that for a minute.

I mentioned earlier that the setup was clever. Here’s why. While the main hall had the tables surrounding the dance floor on three sides, not every seat has a great view of the entire dance floor. In other halls, the dance floor is at the head of the seating area, obscured from view of the majority of the tables. Because we were all upstairs, they were able to give us a very special perspective on a part of the reception that every wedding includes.

We were all asked to get up and stand at the railings on the second floor looking down on the dance floor as the wedding party was announced. First the Parents of the Bride. Then the Parents of the Groom. Then the groomsmen and bridesmaids (in pairs). Finally, the Bride and the Groom (now officially Mr. and Mrs.). Every one of us had a great view of the entire procession. Excellent!

Here are two photos of that (hopefully, you’ll get a good picture of what we all experienced). The first shows the procession all lined up making a bridge for the Bride and Groom to pass through. The second is after the Bride and Groom passed through, waving to everyone:

Awaiting the Bride and Groom

Awaiting the Bride and Groom

Welcoming the Bride and Groom

Welcoming the Bride and Groom

More special, the traditional first dances (Bride and Groom, then Father and Daughter and finally Mother and Son) were all the more special since 100% of the focus and attention was on them, with no conversation and eating going on in the hall itself. Like I said, beautiful and clever at the same time!

Immediately thereafter, we were all invited to take our seats downstairs in the main hall. At each seat, there was a half-glass of champagne already poured. There were three toasts. The first was from the Father of the Bride. Next came the best man, a Major in the Army and best friend (for roughly 20 years!) of the groom. Both were moving (and funny) speeches. Then the DJ asked us to stop for a second for a special toast from the Bride and Groom. At that moment, it was exactly 8:08pm, on 08/08/08. Another clever touch! :-)

There were different sized tables around the hall. We were at a table for eight. All four couples were long-time friends of the parents of the groom. Lois had met one of the women last year at the shower for the younger son’s wife, but otherwise, we didn’t know the other couples. Given how much we love our friends, it was no surprise that their friends were great as well, making for a joyous and interesting evening. Without a doubt, it can be said that the friend of my friend is my friend. :-)

One of the men at the table was 73 years old. He could definitely have passed for 58 (I certainly wouldn’t have questioned it if he was introduced as such). When we left, I shook his hand and told him that I could only hope to be just like him when I turn 73! Here’s a photo of him, along with the Major and the Father of the Groom:

The Boys

The Boys

Since we were both extremely impressed with the Major, in every respect, Lois snapped lots of photos of him. In fairness to the one above, with the Groom’s Father, here’s one with the Groom’s extremely lovely Mother:

Marybeth and the Major

Marybeth and the Major

As with our goddaughter’s wedding, the food was served buffet style, with individual tables being called up one at a time. Even though we were seated very close to the buffet, we were one of the last tables to be called up (perhaps the last). No worries, the food was still hot and plentiful, so we didn’t miss out on that either. ;-)

Back to the basics, the reason we were all together to begin with! We’ve known the groom for many years. I wish I had captured the best man’s toast verbatim, because it truly captured the spirit of this fine young man. Aside from being an all-around good guy, he’s never had trouble with the ladies.

When we first met the bride-to-be, a couple of years ago, we knew instantly that he would be a fool if he ever let her slip away. Clearly, he’s no fool! ;-)

She is as lovely a person as you could ever want to meet. Smart, funny, fun-loving, sensitive, and, did I mention, gorgeous? If I didn’t mention it, let me say it now, she’s a knock-out. One of the many wonderful things about her is her 24×7 smile, that lights up any room she’s in. Of course, looks don’t matter whatsoever (really!), and she’s got everything else that does matter, in spades. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the looks too. ;-)

Here are the two very happy couples (the newlyweds and us!):

Two Happy Couples

Two Happy Couples

She’s also statuesque (code word for really tall). In fact, she played basketball for Northeastern University. So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise (and yet, it did!), that there were more statuesque women at the reception than I’ve ever been around in my life. I was mildly surprised that a pick-up game didn’t break out on the dance floor. ;-)

To make the point, here is the Bride, dancing with the shortest person in the wedding party:

Tall Short Dancing

Tall Short Dancing

Both bride and groom had a ton of friends at the wedding. It was heartwarming to see them all have so much fun together, and share their common love for the newlyweds. The dance floor was buzzing all night. Here is a nice photo of a group of lovely ladies:

Lovely Ladies

Lovely Ladies

That brings me to something I deferred earlier on. The band. Perhaps that’s a slight misnomer. The live music was provided by Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band. From the website, I can see that they can provide a full range of musicians and band configurations. At this wedding, two of them were there, I believe John Hilton and Monica Moore. All I can say is that we loved every second that they played. The DJ played some background beats for them, but they supplied the calypso-style sound, perfectly. It was a light and uplifting sound throughout the evening.

Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band

Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band

When the dancing took center stage, they left, and the DJ (who performed double-duty as a superb emcee the entire night!) took over. He was great, both in personality and in his choice of music to play throughout the evening. While we could always stand (personally) to have the music be a little softer than it ever is, he was not over-the-top in volume, which was also a blessing.

Just like at our goddaughter’s wedding, we got up to dance exactly once, when they invited only the married couples onto the dance floor. Exactly as it was then, the point was to discover the couple who was married the longest. At our goddaughter’s wedding, the magic number was 46. Last night, there were two couples left on the floor after the rest of us lost. The winners were 54 and 55 years of marriage. Here is a photo of the winning couples:

Longest Married

Longest Married

The DJ asked if they had any words of wisdom for the newest couple. One of the couples offered the following:

Drink good wine, and learn to have a lot of patience

Sounds like sage advice to me! :-)

We were driving all the way back to the house (90-120 minutes) after the wedding, so other than the sip of champagne for the toast, I didn’t drink any alcohol at all. I also wasn’t willing to leave until I had some of the wedding cake. I had two fabulous cups of coffee and a slice of the delicious cake, plus a few specialty desserts that were on a platter on each table. After that, we made our rounds of hugs, kisses and goodbyes, and drove home. It took 100 minutes (not bad at all) and we walked in the door at 12:30am.

Speaking of the cake, here it is being cut:

Cutting Cake

Cutting Cake

The happy couple is on their way (today) to Hawaii. Another sign that this marriage will last. The groom badly wanted to honeymoon in Alaska. They are both outdoors types, so the bride would normally enjoy roughing it in Alaska as well. Still, she had the sensibility of wanting a more relaxing honeymoon, and her brand-new husband appropriately compromised (by doing exactly what she wanted). ;-)

Since I mentioned how badly we felt missing the other wedding last year, the least I can do is show you what a great looking couple they are as well. :-)

Patrick Casey

Patrick Casey

I’ve mentioned my goddaughter’s wedding a number of times here. Here’s one last mention. Two weeks ago, we packed up my suit and other accessories and brought them from the house to the apartment. When I was getting dressed on Friday afternoon, I asked Lois to bring out the ties (I gave her three ties to pack so I could choose one at the last minute). Somehow, none of the ties got packed. Oh oh.

Lois called our goddaughter (who lives in the same building we do), and asked whether she could loan me one of her husband’s ties (he was at work, but she doesn’t start for another two weeks, thankfully!). She brought one up a minute later, saying “See, it was good that I got married, or I wouldn’t have had a tie in my closet!”. Amen to that! :-)

The Tie

The Tie

Earl Klugh at Blue Note

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Last night we saw Earl Klugh perform at the Blue Note in NYC. There is a good back-story to this, but in deference to Lois’ tastes, I’ll leave it for the end. I encourage you to read all the way through, especially if you know us personally. ;-)

A few weeks back we went to the Blue Note to see Chuck Mangione with Laura and Chris. We sat right up against the stage, dead center, and we really liked the seats. I wanted to get the same seats last night, and we did.

I’ve been a huge fan for very long (I’ll prove it in the back-story) but haven’t seen Earl in concert for quite a while. Suffice it to say I was very excited.

For the majority of the evening, there were five other people on the stage with Earl. Left-to-right, they were:

(apologies for the quality of all of the photos, and for the complete lack of a photo of Ron Otis. The Blue Note is very dark, and they don’t permit flash photography during the show…)

Al Duncan on keyboards. Sorry, I can’t find a good link directly to him… He’s been with Earl for a long time (over 10 years) and plays solidly. He was featured on two numbers early on, and played beautifully.

Al Duncan

Al Duncan

Lenny Price on Sax, Clarinet (or something that looked like a square clarinet!) and Wind Synthesizer (a great sound, from an instrument I’ve never seen before). He was amazing all night long. At the end of the evening, he played both the Sax and Clarinet at the same time. The audience went wild!

Lenny Price

Lenny Price

Lenny Price Playing Two Instruments

Lenny Price Playing Two Instruments

Earl Klugh was in the middle. I’ll come back to him after I say a few words about the rest of the band.

Earl Klugh

Earl Klugh

Al Turner played bass (both electric and a funky upright bass on a few tunes as well). He is an incredible musician. Lois and I had the double pleasure of sitting directly in front of him (1-2 feet away!) so we really got to see him cook. One of the songs they played last night, was the title cut from his new CD Movin‘. It features Al playing a smoking bass throughout the song. Excellent!

Al Turner

Al Turner

David Lee on keyboards. David was great all night as well. Al Duncan (above) was featured in the early numbers, and David was featured on the later ones. In the fantastic Earl Klugh and Bob James number, Kari, David played the part of Bob James.

David Lee

David Lee

Ron Otis on drums (tucked away in the far right corner of the stage). I couldn’t find a good link for him either, but on this page, there is a good photo of Ron and Al Turner as well, about 3/4′s of the way down. Just search for Otis and/or Turner. Ron is a great drummer who kept us all tapping, swaying, bobbing and grooving all night. He kept the band tight and clean the entire show.

I really didn’t want to include this next photo, since it’s so out of focus, but Lois insisted that I put at least one in with both Earl and me, and I relented, only so that you could see how close we were:

Hadar and Earl Klugh

Hadar and Earl Klugh

All of the above have played on so many albums, with so many greats, you should take the time to read each of their discographies, etc.

Now the great man himself, Earl Klugh. To begin with, I’ve been a fan forever. I just checked my iTunes/iPod and I have 17 of his CDs on there (yes, including the latest, The Spice of Life). I also have Cool by Bob James and Earl Klugh on there. I know that I own both of the other Bob James and Earl Klugh CDs, One on One and Two of a Kind, so now I realize I need to rip them this weekend when I’m back at the house. I might even have some additional vinyl albums of Earl’s, or some CDs that are hidden in the house and never got ripped. Suffice it to say, I’ve been in love with his music forever.

He’s a fantastic guitarist by any measure. But, he’s also a fantastic songwriter. His music is so soulful (like much of Acoustic Alchemy). As I’ve said to Lois (and even Laura) many times, even though they’re mostly instrumental (with a few exceptions), I hear words in my head when I listen to his music. His melodies and leads are so evocative emotionally, that ideas and thoughts spring into your head when you listen closely (which I always do).

He was great last night, but I do have a tiny complaint. The volume on his guitar was just a tad too soft. In fact, thankfully, they/he raised it a drop after the first song, when it was barely audible. That said, I sat between 2-3 feet away from him, with the neck of his guitar pointing in my direction. I also know every note of his songs by heart (I had never heard Movin’ before, because it’s an Al Turner song). So, even on the first number, Slow Boat to Rio (on the Sudden Burst of Energy CD), I could follow his fingers with the melody in my head, even though I could barely hear the guitar.

He was awesome nonetheless. It made me want to see him live again, as soon as possible. :-)

I can’t describe how many Earl Klugh songs I count as favorites. It’s silly to even use the word favorite, when there are so many. So, seeing him live is also an adventure in finding out which of my favorites he will play. In addition to Movin’ (by Al Turner) and two songs from the new CD, he played a very tasty selection, including Living Inside Your Love, Dr. Macumba, Vonetta, Twinkle (where Al Turner rocked the house as well!), etc. A fanstastic set list. So fantastic, that we (and others!) swiped a Set List from the stage when they were done. Another advantage of sitting up against the stage. ;-)

OK, finally, the back-story I’ve teased you about…

Lois and I met on the job in October 1981. I took an instant shine to her. She, not-as-much to me. At the time, Earl Klugh was my favorite musician. I listened to his records (yes, vinyl only at the time), non-stop. Even though I was as poor as dirt then, I bought two tickets to see Earl perform that November at Carnegie Hall. It was a birthday present from me, to me.

Lois and I lived 10 blocks apart, and we were hanging out some after work (mostly at her apartment). Again, to reiterate this very important point, she had little interest in me other than as a friend. Got it? Good!

But, I decided to take a shot anyway. My first attempt to formally ask Lois out was to invite her to join me for the Earl Klugh concert. She indeed said “No”. She told me that she was attending a wedding of her friends in Rochester, NY. I only found out later that this was a little white lie. Her friends (now my very good friends as well) were indeed getting married in Rochester that weekend, but Lois wasn’t going. She just wasn’t interested in dating me, and the fact that this was a big thing for me (birthday, expensive for me, etc.) freaked her out a bit as well.

In other words, she didn’t want to give me the wrong message, but she didn’t want to be explicit either. ;-)

So, I took an ex-girlfriend instead, and had a great time. Speaking of ex-girlfriends, one last digression to explain how I discovered Earl Klugh to begin with.

A friend of mine set me up on a blind date (either in 1979 or 1980, I can’t recall). We double-dated once, then I took her out perhaps three or four times after that. On our first alone date, she suggested we go to a bar in midtown, where they had live jazz. It ended up costing me a bit more than I could afford, but we had a nice time. When I took her back to her apartment, she put on Heart String (that link is to the LP, obviously, the CD is available as well).

I was instantly mesmerized, and the next day went out and bought everything of his that I could find, and I’ve kept up with every new album ever since. So, even though the relationship didn’t work out, she gave me a great gift nonetheless!

So, it was not without a little nervousness, that I asked Lois whether she would go with me to see Earl Klugh this time around. Thankfully, this time, she said “Yes”. ;-)

I got tied up with something in the middle of the afternoon, and we left a little later than we had hoped. It worked out fine as we still got the exact two seats we were shooting for. But, instead of taking the bus, I knew we would need to take a cab.

I flagged down a cab that had the off-duty sign (but still available). He pulled over to the curb 30 feet away from us, so I wasn’t sure he was responding to my hail. After a minute of staring at him, he waved for me to come over. I had to tell him through the passenger window where we were going. He didn’t know where it was (including not really being sure where Washington Square Park was). Uh oh.

He then said “If you can tell me how to get there, I’ll take you”. Deal! ;-)

So, we hopped in. It turns out that this was his very first day driving a cab in NYC. Wow. Amazing that he passed the test, given that he doesn’t know where anything is. At least he followed my directions well, and got us there in reasonable time (of course, he wasn’t aggressive like most cab drivers, which was likely a good thing…).

In a full-circle, small-world happening, we drove right in front of the apartment of the ex-girlfriend who introduced me to Earl Klugh way back when. I found it at least a tad ironic…

I had the same dinner that I had when we were there a few weeks ago for Chuck Mangione. A perfectly cooked Marinated Skirt Steak. Yummy.

Anyway, a great night all around. If you aren’t familiar with Earl Klugh, and you like Smooth Jazz, you must buy some of his stuff. If you visit EarlKlugh.com, it will instantly start streaming some of his hits, so you can get a sense right away, or click on his MySpace page to hear some others.

Dave Mason at BB King

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Last night couldn’t come soon enough for us. We loved Dave Mason’s show at Blend Bar on March 6, 2008 (covered in this post). The experience at Blend Bar was less than special, but the show was awesome. We immediately grabbed two tickets to see Dave again on April 4th at BB King, a place we frequent often and love.

As covered in this post, Dave called in sick that day, but we didn’t check in advance, and ended up showing up nonetheless. That show was rescheduled for sometime in June (a date that worked for us). That date was quickly canceled and rescheduled for last night (July 22nd, 2008). We held on to our original tickets, which were honored last night. Third time was indeed the charm at BB King.

The show was close to the same set list from Blend, but not identical (one example, they didn’t play Every Woman last night). In terms of their sound, and individual talents, every word in my previous post applies, so I won’t repeat that. Let me just say what was (slightly) different about last night’s show.

John (Johnne) Sambataro was as good as he was at Blend, and killed the crowd on at least two spectacular solos, but he was actually highlighted a little less last night than he was at Blend.

Johnne Sambataro

Johnne Sambataro

Bill Mason was actually highlighted a drop more last night. He’s a fantastic keyboards guy. His fingers were flying on his Roland, all night long, in particular on the numerous solos that he took.

Bill Mason

Bill Mason

There was a new guy added to the lineup last night, but even though Dave introduced him at least twice, I didn’t catch the name (Chris something I think). He played percussion (mostly bongos, a little tambourine, etc.). I couldn’t make out a single sound that I could attribute to him, but his hands were clearly moving fast, and in perfect rhythm with the music, so I assume he’s really good. No idea really. :-(

Even this photo is the fuzziest of the bunch. Perhaps he wasn’t even really there! ;-)

Unknown Band Member

Unknown Band Member

Alvino Bennett was awesome. In my last review I understated his playing a bit. Partially, it was because he was obscured in the corner, and partially, it was because he never took a solo. Last night, we sat at the right-most edge of the stage, a few feet back from it. Alvino was in the right-hand corner of the stage, so my view was of his forearms forward. In other words, all I could see were the drum sticks, his wrists, and some forearms, flying all night long.

Ironically, that gave me a very deep appreciation for how good this guy is. He had to lose 10 pounds while playing last night. Even though he doesn’t take any solos, his beats are fast, furious, constant, and perfect. To be clear, he wasn’t worse at Blend, I just didn’t get to pay as much attention to him, as I was so mesmerized to see Dave in person for the first time then. Anyway, Alvino is truly a great drummer!

Here’s a good shot of Alvino waving goodnight to the crowd after the show:

Alvino Bennett

Alvino Bennett

Lois had a slightly better angle on Alvino than I did, so she was able to catch him at the drums when he leaned forward slightly. :-)

Alvino Bennett Drums

Alvino Bennett Drums

Alex Drizos was incredible on the bass. I could almost mirror the words I said about Alvino with regard to the drums, and apply them to Alex on the bass. He impressed me tremendously at Blend as well, but last night, we sat closer to Alex than to anyone else on the stage, so I got to watch his fingers in action a bit more.

While he too doesn’t get highlighted for solos, his bass lines are extremely interesting, often complex, and never overwhelm the rest of the band. He was great too!

Alex Drizos

Alex Drizos

That leaves the great man himself, Dave Mason. Wow. It was worth the wait. As I noted in the Blend review, his voice is still superb and his fingers are still silky smooth and super fast on the guitar (both six and 12 string). He’s not the most talkative guy on stage, but when he does speak, he’s warm and funny (and interesting). The band clearly loves each other, and they play incredibly tightly together!

Dave Mason

Dave Mason

For those who don’t feel like reading the Blend review (why not?!?), I’ll repeat here that Dave also has new music (in fact, he’s releasing a new CD on September 30th). At Blend, he played at least three new songs. Last night, he played two. They are awesome, so he’s still got it, in every way. Of course, his old stuff is as good as it gets as well, so he is incapable of disappointing no matter what they play!

They were announced at 8:03pm and all but Dave came out on the stage. Within 10 seconds, Alex moved to the center microphone and apologized and asked the crowd to give them a minute. They all left the stage.

After a 10 minute break, at 8:14pm, they were announced again, and all of them, including Dave, came on this time. Whew. :-)

They played for 75 minutes and ended with a rousing standing ovation. When they came back out for the encore, they had a special guest star, Jimmy Vivino. I hadn’t heard of him before, but the bio on his site is quite interesting and impressive.

Jimmy Vivino

Jimmy Vivino

Dave let Jimmy play his guitar (something that is reasonably rare in my experience). They played Stormy Monday (one of my all-time favorite blues tunes, I listen to the Allman Brothers Band version all the time). Dave sang (and didn’t play guitar at all). He was awesome, of course. Jimmy played lead throughout. He’s fantastic. I’d be happy to catch him in any other show and get to know his music and enjoy his talent more thoroughly!

After that, Jimmy left the stage, Dave took back his guitar, and they closed with the same number they closed Blend with, Feelin’ Alright. The crowd stood and danced (or swayed in my case) ;-) throughout the finale. We left on a complete high.

They were on stage for 90 minutes in total, and rocked the house down for every second of it.

For whatever reason, we decided that we were willing to risk slightly less-than-perfect seats last night, in exchange for not standing on line in the heat for too long. So, we left a bit later than we normally would. Since we both showered right before leaving, we also decided to take the bus (even though it’s a short walk to BB King) to enjoy the air-conditioning bliss that often is delivered on modern NYC buses.

Lois was quick to get her camera out of her bag when she spotted this colorful Statue of Liberty on the sidewalk (photo taken from inside the bus):

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

We got to BB King at 6:15pm (doors officially open at 6pm). There was still a short line outside, but it worked out exactly as we hoped (dare I say, planned?) and we moved inside within five minutes. We were seated by 6:25pm, in pretty good seats.

We both had the Chopped Salad (yes, I am soliciting polite golf claps for being good). It’s a really excellent salad. I had Pulled Pork on top (OK, not quite as good as Lois) ;-) and we split a side of Red Cabbage Slaw (they make that really well there too!).

In all of the shows that we’ve seen at BB King (which is many) even when there is an opening act, that opener comes on stage at 8pm. Last night, at 7:15pm, the lights dimmed a bit, and they announced David Jacobs-Strain. He came on the stage with an acoustic guitar.

David Jacobs-Strain

David Jacobs-Strain

He opened with an instrumental, and it was obvious throughout that this guy is an extremely talented guitar player. He played a number of blues songs, the rest all included him singing as well as playing slide guitar. He has a good voice as well.

While we both enjoyed his performance, especially that it was a true bonus, not cutting into any Dave Mason time, nor lengthening the evening at all, it’s not particularly my style of music. That should take nothing away from David, who is wildly talented, and those that like raw blues, will love this guy!

That said, here’s the really cool part of the story. The night before, David opened for Dave Mason at Rams Head in Annapolis, MD. After the show, Dave’s road manager called him in for a chat. David was obviously nervous that somehow, he blew it. Instead, he received a pleasant surprise, which was hearing that Dave was inviting him to open at BB King the next night!

David was supposed to head to California yesterday, but made the correct choice (IMHO) of joining Dave for another night, and playing at BB King. Kudos to Dave for wanting to highlight a real talent (when Dave came on, he retold the story that David did, and said that David was the real deal, and we could all use some more real deal in our lives). Kudos to BB King for being flexible, and starting an opening act at 7:15pm, accommodating everyone involved!

David played for exactly 30 minutes.

After the show, David was selling CDs in the lobby. Even though this isn’t exactly the style of music we normally buy, we both like to support live music in general, and talented musicians in particular, so we bought David’s CD: Liar’s Day. Lois got him to sign it for us as well. :-)