Food

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo at BB King

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A few months ago, I saw that Pat Benatar was playing at BB King with Neil Giraldo. I only own one Pat Benatar CD (Crimes of Passion) and it’s absolutely awesome. I am embarrassed to admit that I had never heard the name Neil Giraldo, since he’s been her husband for 26 years, and her lead guitarist for longer than that.

The site linked to above is the official Pat Benatar site, but it’s at best an embarrassment. If you want to find out anything useful, including tour dates (for example), I urge you to visit the fan site instead.

We weren’t sure about our schedule and didn’t end up buying two tickets until a few weeks back. There’s a back story to last night, but it will come after the review of the show itself.

As is typical of BB KIng (a fact that makes us like going to BB King a lot!), the group came on at exactly 8pm as advertised! At first, only the drummer (Chris Ralles) and bass player (Mick Mahan) were on the stage. You could hear a guitar playing as well, but there was no guitarist on stage at the time.

Here’s a photo of Chris standing alongside his drums. Since there was a plexiglass cage around the drums, all photos of Chris while he was playing were fuzzy at best:

Chris Ralles

Here’s Mick Mahan:

Mick Mahan

A minute later, Pat comes on to the stage to wild applause (and a few standing ovationers as well). A few seconds later, Neil Giraldo comes out as well, with striped pants and a green guitar.

This is Neil with an acoustic guitar (later on there are two photos with one of the green guitars). I’m putting it here to prove to you that he wore psychedelic pants. ;-)

Neil Giraldo Acoustic

BB King normally seats 450, and when sold out, sells as many as 150 additional tickets for standing at the bar in the rear. Last night, they removed an entire row of tables at the back, reducing the seating to roughly 350, but they increased the number of standing room only tickets substantially, selling as many as 700 tickets in total. I have never seen that many people stuffed into BB King’s in the many times we’ve been there.

This was all the more impressive given that they played BB King’s just two nights before, on Sunday April 20th. So, clearly, they can fill and then refill a 700 person place two out of three nights.

In addition to taking out an entire row of tables, they also took out some center tables from the row in front of that (in the bar area) to accommodate a very large sound board. This is more typical of the size you’d see at Radio City Music Hall or even Madison Square Garden, so clearly, Pat and Neil don’t do these shows on a shoestring!

Sound Board

The overwhelming majority of the crowd were die-hard Benatar fans, singing (or mouthing) along every word of every song she sang. We’ve recently had a similar experience when we saw Dave Mason at Blend Bar (smaller venue, big rock star). There was a difference between them though. While the music/show was perfect for Dave, and the energy level high, it’s hard to describe the elevation of energy for last night’s show.

Pat’s voice is still terrific, and they played many of their big hits, so there was nothing to disappoint in that. What I didn’t know, but 95% of the crowd obviously did, was how spectacular a guitar player Neil Giraldo is. He also played some keyboards (quite well), but for the most part, he just played crazy (as in good, meaning insanely great) guitar, all night long.

Here’s Neil in front of the keyboards, when he played the intro to the song, holding the guitar on his lap, which he continued the rest of the song on (twice). He also played one entire song just on the keyboards:

Neil Giraldo Keyboards Guitar

I’m nuts about Pat’s voice, and I love her songs (in particular, she did Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Heartbreaker, etc.), but I would have been happy to just listen to Neil play the electric guitar (correction, guitars, as he had at least three different electric guitars, plus an acoustic one for two songs as well) all night long. My head is still spinning thinking about how good he is, and that I didn’t know his name.

Here’s Neil (two photos of one of the green guitars) finishing up a solo that destroyed the crowd on every level!

Neil Giraldo Solo 1Neil Giraldo Solo 2

Since he’s played on all of her CDs, I obviously have heard him before (specifically, on the CD that I own and have listened to many times), but I should have known who to credit as well…

What makes it more impressive was that he had a big bandage on his left pinky, and it appeared to be bothering him. In addition, between most songs he was violently shaking his left hand, leading a member of our group to comment that he likely had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as well!

He certainly didn’t let any of that get in the way of delivering his A-game to the wildly appreciative crowd.

Including the encore (a nice two-song set), they were on the stage exactly 90 minutes. Not long enough (by some measures), but as Lois commented to me after the show, such an intensely high energy performance, that we’re sure that they were drained, and the crowd was probably a bit drained as well (though we could have taken more). ;-)

Can’t wrap this up with some photos of Pat. Here are two:

Pat BenatarPat Benatar 1

The show was fantastic and I’m thrilled that we went. I still much prefer the more mellow (or differently energetic) Folk and Bluegrass shows we go to more frequently, but this kind of experience should be in everyone’s repertoire as well!

On to the back story.

We were driving in from the house to the city on Monday morning when I got a call from our good (and until recently long-lost) friend. I covered our reconnection with her and her husband in this post. After chatting with her for a while I handed the phone to Lois to say hi.

During their conversation, Lois asked her if they could make it in to the city the following night (Tuesday) to join us for the Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo show. She said she’d check with her husband and call back. When she called later, she told us that her husband was swamped (he’s sprinting to the finish line of his year-long fellowship at Princeton) but that she could make it. Yippee!

We told her that we’d check to make sure that the show wasn’t sold out, and pick up an extra ticket if it wasn’t. I went on to the site and saw that it wasn’t sold out, but I also saw (for the first time ever) the warning about extremely limited seating and the word oversold. Huh? We’re too old to stand for this type of show, especially if we have to get there really early and stand for hours before the show starts as well!

Lois called. They said that there would be normal seating, but that they were selling many more standing room only tickets, so that getting there super early would be prudent. I walked over (on Monday) and picked up another ticket for our friend.

Normally we show up at around 5:45 for an 8pm show. They open the doors at 6pm (more typically 6:15pm, but now I know why!) and we go in and have a leisurely dinner. Yesterday, we intended to show up at around 5pm, to be safe, and we told our friend (who was taking the train in from Princeton) to meet us on line no later than 5:45pm.

A quick diversion: We had a special lunch out yesterday with a brand new friend. She suggested we meet at Mesa Grill. We had never been there before, but we like Bobby Flay (from the Food Channel) so we were intrigued and excited to check it out. Everything about Mesa Grill is wonderful. Decor, ambiance, service (both wait staff and management) and most importantly, the food was exquisite! Sadly, our brand new friend is moving away from New York City in less than a week, so future lunches won’t be quite as easy to arrange. That said, we promise not to lose touch and to have many such wonderful experiences together in the future!

Back to our main story. :-)

We were sitting in the apartment when our other friend (the one who came in from Princeton) called to say she was at the head of the line outside of BB King! It was 4:25pm and Lois was a tad annoyed at me that we hadn’t beaten her there. We logged off and jumped in a cab and were at BB King’s 15-20 minutes later. Our friend had chatted with the person working the door, and when we arrived, he let the three of us go down to Lucille’s (the bar next door to the club downstairs at BB King) to wait inside for the show.

We were given a numbered ticket and told that we’d be called in to the main show room in the order of our ticket numbers. There’s a price to pay for this convenience, namely ordering something at Lucille’s while you wait. A small price indeed, since we wanted to catch up with our friend anyway! So, we each ordered a drink (non-alcoholic), and chatted away merrily for 75 minutes.

Normally, I wouldn’t post a photo of me looking so drugged out, but Lois captured me talking to our friend while Bob Dylan was showing on the big screen behind me. Being associated with one of my first musical idols bears accepting myself looking like this. ;-)

Hadar and Dylan

They then started calling out the numbers. That’s why the doors don’t always open at exactly 6pm upstairs. They are first filling in from Lucille’s, all of the people that showed up even earlier and gave them some extra business. A very smart thing for them to do.

We got excellent seats, nearly dead center, three tables from the stage (which given their configuration is the rough equivalent of the 9th row in a typical theater style setting). We enjoyed a wonderful (and relaxed) meal and continued chatting for another two hours. BB King rarely announces any specials (at least not to us). Lat night the waiter mentioned a number of specials and I ordered one, the crab cakes (well, it should have been called crab cake, as in singular!).

Sorry Bob, but I believe that it was the best crab cake I’ve ever had. Too bad it’s not always on the menu.

In the small world story camp, when our friend told her kids (she has three of them) that she was going to see Pat Benatar, one of her daughters told her that she had just recently downloaded a few Pat Benatar songs to her iPod. Cool! :-)

We walked our friend half way back to Penn Station, and then made a sharp left back to the apartment. It’s safe to say that a great time was had by all!

OK, you know the drill, time to espouse the wonders of Girlyman again, and entreat you to enter the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter now before you forget to do it and the contest comes to a screeching halt! ;-)

Cherish The Ladies at Towne Crier Cafe

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Lois and I are very big fans of traditional Irish music. This should come as no surprise to those who know us (or regularly read this space), not because I write about Irish music a lot, but because we really love tons of roots music and there is a lot of Irish roots in that. ;-)

Six weeks ago I stumbled upon a notice that an all-female group called Cherish The Ladies was going to be playing at the Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling, NY. I had never heard of Cherish The Ladies (a major shame on me). I had also never been to Pawling, but at least I knew where it was. ;-)

I hopped on to YouTube and checked out a dozen videos of Cherish The Ladies. Each was better than the one before, I was instantly hooked, and after checking with Lois, I grabbed two tickets including dinner reservations. Last night finally came and we drove the 45 minutes from the house to Towne Crier Cafe. As is the current custom, I’ll review the show first, then circle back and describe the venue.

The Ladies came on stage at 9:11pm (11 minutes late). The crowd went completely nuts. Joanie Madden (one of the two founding members of the group) asked the crowd how many had seen the Ladies before and roughly 75% indicated yes.

Joanie plays all types of flutes and whistles. She came on stage with a cloth (canvas?) tube rolled up. She unrolled it on the table, and there were individual tube-like pockets, each housing a whistle or a flute of different types and lengths. I’d guess on the order of 20! It was like watching a master surgeon unroll their package of specialized scalpels.

I can assure you that she plays every single one of them with the same precision, cutting through to your soul with every breath and movement of her fingers. Awesome would be too mild a word to describe her musical talent.

Joanie Madden

Mary Coogan is the other co-founder. Last night she exclusively played the guitar (beautifully!), but I can see from her CDs (I’ll mention what we bought later on) that she also plays the banjo and mandolin.

Mary Coogan

Joanie and Mary formed Cherish The Ladies 23 years ago! That’s why I said shame on me for not having heard about them until now!

Roisin Dillon sat in the middle, playing a fiddle that was breathtaking the entire evening. I kid you not when I say that every time Roisin took a solo, the crowd burst into rhythmic clapping, keeping time with her amazing solos.

Roisin Dillon

Mirella Murray was next in line on the stage, playing the accordion. She too is awesome! In addition to winning the All-Ireland competition a number of years back, she teaches accordion and has had a number of her students win the competition. Either she’s a great talent scout or a great teacher. Most likely, both! :-)

Mirella Murray

Michelle Burke was spanking brand new to the group (hence no link). Amazingly enough, they only met Michelle two days earlier when they played in Cleveland. I don’t know whether Michelle sang with them that night, but she definitely sang with them the night before we saw them, in Buffalo, NY. She sent them a CD of her work, and clearly they liked what they heard.

Michelle Burke

Michelle sang lead (no instruments) on five or six songs. She was fantastic on every single one of them. Joanie sang harmony (all too briefly) on most of the songs, as she harmonizes beautifully with Michelle. Here’s hoping that now that they’ve met, they’ll get a chance to actually work up more harmonies together. :-)

Kathleen Boyle, sitting behind that row of five women, with her back to the crowd most of the night, played the piano, phenomenally. She’s not listed on the Cherish The Ladies web site, so I don’t know if she’s a regular with the group. Her MySpace page (linked to her name) has two gorgeous songs on it, but neither of them is her playing the piano. Last night she played a song from her new CD, about her parents returning home to Scotland, which was stunningly beautiful.

Kathleen Boyle

Last night was Kathleen’s (K.T.) birthday, and Joanie had a cake delivered on stage and we all sang Happy Birthday to her. :-)

Kathleen Boyle Birthday Cake

OK, on to the music. Cherish The Ladies are simply fantastic. Not a moment of boredom to be found all night. Their selection (very wide ranging!) was wonderful and while each of them is an incredible solo artist, together, they gel on every song.

Cherish The Ladies

In addition to playing very traditional songs (does a 400-year-old song count?) ;-) they also play quite a number of newer (yet traditional sounding) numbers, many written by Joanie (she’s an extraordinary song-writer!). You can hear some of their stuff on their MySpace page. While I recommend that, seeing them live is a much bigger treat.

Perhaps you can get a touch of that flavor with the following YouTube Video of them. The video is long (12.5 minutes), but it also shows a nice range and solos from Joanie, Roisin and Mirella. It also ends with some step dancing, which we missed last night due to the very small stage at Towne Crier Cafe.

You can also hear more of Joanie’s stuff on her MySpace page.

If you were there last night, and didn’t clap along, or stomp your foot, or at least tap your toes or fingers, check your pulse! :-)

In addition to the awesome music, Joanie is masterful at working the crowd. She’s a bundle of energy and it emanates from her every action and word. She’s hysterical and a wonderful story teller as well. Every year, she and Mary host a week-long musical tour of Ireland. I truly hope that Lois and I can make the time in the very near future. This year it’s May 20-27th, and we definitely can’t make it. Perhaps next year!

During the second set Joanie brought her father up on the stage. He’s a life-long musician as well, and had a big band years ago. He plays the accordion. He wailed with them on at least three numbers. He was great, and everyone enjoyed having him up there, including the Ladies themselves. :-)

Joe Madden

They took a 25 minute break (announced as a 15 minute break, but they actually mingled in the crowd, and weren’t released to get back on stage). With a one-song encore (after a rousing standing ovation) that involved not leaving the stage (thankfully, since it’s so small it would have been a waste of time!), their total on-stage time was 2 hours (not including the intermission!). Very generous (if a little late for us old fogies).

Cherish The Ladies Standing Ovation

A very magical evening indeed!

On to the background and venue. I already mentioned that finding Cherish The Ladies and Towne Crier Cafe was accidental. Even though I made the reservations happily, as time passes, the normal discomfort sets in. What will the venue be like? Will the group disappoint? Will the show simply be too late for us?

You already know the answer to the second two questions. ;-)

You get to pick a wide range of dinner reservation times at Towne Crier. We’re quick eaters (too quick) so picking an early time is attractive to us only to secure better seats. The show was scheduled for 9pm, so I picked 7pm (way too early eating wise, but I hoped very good for seating). I could have picked 6pm, but that seemed crazy (at least I hoped so).

Leaving some extra time (having never been to Pawling) we ended up arriving at 6:40pm. The place was easy to find and the parking lot had plenty of spaces that early. It’s basically an upscale Mexican / Southwestern style restaurant (exactly the kind of food we like). The attitude of the staff was very warm and we felt very welcome immediately. We were seated nearly dead center in the room, very nice seats.

Towne Crier Cafe Logo

The dining room is a very open rectangle on two levels (the upper level is just a single step up). Most of the room is filled with dining tables. At the very back (on the upper level) there aren’t any table cloths, so it’s more of a bar seating area, but it’s still waiter service, no actual bar back there.

As opposed to other places where you eat dinner at a table and then watch the show, Towne Crier orients the majority of their tables on a diagonal (the stage is in the far left corner of the room) so that most seats have a decent view of the stage no matter which side of the table of you are on. In many other venues, one side of the table has to twist and contort to get a good view.

The room holds roughly 150 people seated. The food was fantastic. Service was good to begin with, but as the people kept pouring in, it got a little hectic. Never an attitude, but even though it seemed that they had enough staff, we were left unattended for a reasonably long period. It didn’t bug me, but I know people who it would bother, so I mention it as a potential warning.

Even though we sat down at 6:45pm, we didn’t finish dinner until nearly 8:20pm. The pacing is (or at least last night was) extremely slow. That’s fantastic for people who prefer very leisurely meals. We get a little fidgety in situations like that, but it worked out well given how early we showed up.

They bring out chips and spicy salsa for each table. They also include a few pieces of spicy cornbread. The salsa is extremely spicy, but also extremely tasty. I definitely ate too many chips, just to have something to scoop up some more of the salsa. The cornbread was heavenly.

When the show was over we rushed to the entrance where they were going to use a long counter (where the desserts were originally laid out) as the merch table. We were first on line, a line that grew reasonably long. The Ladies didn’t leave us hanging more than a minute or two (very welcome at 11:35pm!). We bought five CDs. Two of Cherish The Ladies, two of Mary Coogan, one with her Dad (now unfortunately deceased) and one with Kathy Ludlow performing Children’s music, and one solo CD of Joanie Madden.

We only made them sign one of them, The Best of Cherish The Ladies. Thanks to all of you, we promise to cherish it. :-)

Lois meant to buy their new CD as well, but didn’t grab it, and we were feeling guilty about holding up the line with a hand-written credit card order. We’ll be buying more of their stuff online, including the latest CD.

To repeat, a very magical evening (venue included!). We already have tickets to go back to Towne Crier on June 15th to see my favorite Jazz group, Acoustic Alchemy. If you can’t make it to Pawling that night, they are also playing the next night, June 16th at BB King in NYC.

Don’t forget (how could you?) that there are still 11 days left to win a free copy of a signed Girlyman Live CD! Enter the contest now and do your best to win the CD and spread the Girlyman love! :-)

Joan Baez at Paramount Theater

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Last night Lois and I drove 30 minutes to Peekskill, NY to see Joan Baez at the Paramount Theater. How we came to see this show is itself a long story, delivered later in this post.

One of the biggest influences in my teen years was Bob Dylan. Not just the music, but more specifically, the lyrics. They were burned in my mind, even at the age of 13. I learned to play the guitar because of him. Of course, if you were a Dylan fan back then, the odds were pretty high that you were a fan of Joan Baez as well. Not only was I a fan, I was a very big fan!

Lois was preoccupied with extremely challenging life events during those years and didn’t pay attention to either Dylan or Baez beyond general awareness.

The last time I saw Joan Baez live before last night was on November 22nd, 1975 at Brandeis University when she appeared with Dylan as part of The Rolling Thunder Review tour. One of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen, including Joan’s amazing performance.

I remembered the year, but had to look up the actual date. ;-)

The audience last night was full of people who adore, even revere Joan. You could feel the excitement and anticipation long before she came on stage. When she came out the place erupted with applause. She announced that she would be playing new songs as well as the songs you came to hear. :-) She didn’t disappoint in that, playing beautiful new songs that will be on her upcoming album, as well as some of her fantastic hits.

For roughly half the show she was accompanied by her band.

Erik Della Penna played a variety of string instruments, all very well. He also sang harmony with Joan on some of the numbers. It took me a while to warm up to his playing, but in the end, I decided that he was just making sure to defer to Joan and not steal the spotlight. He’s quite accomplished and soulful.

Erik Della Penna

In addition to playing guitar, lap steel guitar and dobro, he also played a square guitar, roughly the size of a mandolin, that I’ve never seen before. Joan called it a Cigar Box Guitar, which I thought was a joke, but there’s a site for them, so it must be true. ;-)

Here is a picture of the Cigar Box Guitar, and one of Erik on the Lap Steel Guitar:

Cigar Box GuitarErik Della Penna Lap Steel Guitar

Dean Sharenow played the drums. While he kept perfect rhythm, he was obviously understated (purposely) for this kind of music. I have little doubt that he’s an accomplished drummer, but last night was not the type of show to bring out his talent. He sang vocals on a few numbers as well. Dean and Erik have their own band, separate from their work with Joan, called Kill Henry Sugar.

Dean Sharenow

Michael Duclos played bass. I have recently complained that as much as I have enjoyed numerous bass players over the past year, almost every time, they are simply too loud and overwhelm the rest of the band. Not so last night. Just as with Erik and Dean, both Michael and the sound engineer correctly chose to emphasize Joan, so Michael’s bass was solid the entire night, but significantly in the background, where it belonged.

Michael Duclos

During the first third of the show, when they were all on the stage together, they played most of the new stuff, sprinkled with recent stuff and perhaps two old favorites. She sang Christmas in Washington (from her Bowery Songs CD, released in 2005) written by Steve Earle. Steve is producing her new CD, and has written many of the songs on it. I’ll have more to say about Steve (and Joan) in my other section (now a regular feature in these posts), but for now, here’s a link to a YouTube video of Christmas in Washington with Joan and Steve performing together.

The second (or third) song of the evening was one of the old ones, With God On Our Side (by Bob Dylan). Quite a number of the songs Joan sang last night had God in them (perhaps 50%). Many are cynical about God (the Dylan song for example), but some are deeply spiritual (Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Amazing Grace). It’s an interesting mix, and I’m not clear if she’s attempting to communicate a specific message or not.

After this part of the show was over, the band left the stage leaving Joan on her own. She went into a lot more of her traditional songs here, mostly accompanying herself on the guitar, but with an occasional a cappella song thrown in as well. As good as the parts with the band were, it was more special, magical, to see her perform on her own. She certainly held the crowd in the palm of her hand throughout her solo set.

Among the favorites, she performed her ultra-famous Diamonds In Rust. I already mentioned one of the a cappella numbers above in a different context, Swing Low Sweet Chariot. She encouraged the audience to sing along during various verses of that, and they willingly obliged (I can’t explain it, but I didn’t sing along at all last night, even to The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, one of my favorites…).

She played solo for roughly half of the show. The band then returned for a few more numbers, including Dylan’s Love Is Just A Four Letter Word. After saying goodnight, and taking their bows (in a group hug), they returned for a three song encore. After the first two songs, the band left the stage again, and Joan finished the evening with her signature a cappella Amazing Grace, which the crowd belted out with her.

She received a standing ovation before they left the stage the first time, and again at the end of the encore, including the entire audience standing throughout Amazing Grace. Like I said in the intro, she was adored and revered, and the crowd wanted to make sure she knew it. Here’s a photo of everyone singing Amazing Grace with Joan, all the while standing:

Joan Baez Amazing Grace

She was on the stage for a total of 100 minutes including the encore. While we all could have listened to her for hours longer, the show was an appropriate and appreciated length.

Here are a few photos of Joan, with and without guitar. One of the reasons that I’m including a number of similar shots is that the background lighting at the Paramount Theater is very nicely done to set various moods. If you look at some of the other photos included here, you’ll see a variety of scenes and colors, with many more that I am not posting:

Joan BaezJoan Baez 2Joan Baez GuitarJoan Baez Guitar 2

That’s the end of the general review of the evening. As always, I have lots more to say (I know, I have too much to say, always). Some of this is on the negative side, some on the more nostalgic side, and some mere speculation. So, if you don’t know me, or don’t care about my opinions, this is an excellent time to click away…

I recently wrote about a spate of concert cancellations due to illness. In that post, I forgot to mention another cancellation that I had previously written about. We had tickets to see The Mammals at Tarrytown Music Hall (last October I think) and they too canceled a week before the show, but not due to illness I believe.

In the above post, I mentioned that the only cancellation that we did not have tickets to was Joan Baez. There were a number of reasons why we didn’t end up buying tickets in advance to that show, but the primary one was that we were scheduled to be at Zope that week (March 31st). If you read this space regularly, you know that we ran back that weekend to see Girlyman at Joe’s Pub on the 30th, but we did indeed return to VA the very next morning.

We were supposed to be at Zope from last Wed through this week as well, but for the first time in a very long time ended up canceling our own trip (also not due to illness). Once the trip was canceled, I decided to check out the status of Joan’s rescheduled show (exactly two weeks after the postponed one), and lo and behold, there were a reasonable number of tickets left. The original show was sold out, so clearly, some people simply couldn’t make the new date and returned their tickets for a refund.

Lucky for us, unlucky for the original ticket buyers. We got two seats in the 10th row, left orchestra, aisle and one in. Superb seats. The show was scheduled to begin at 7:30pm. We’ve been to the Paramount Theater once before, to see David Bromberg and the Angel Band so we knew the lay of the land, and how long it would take to get there from the house (roughly 30 minutes).

We left at 6:35pm and got to the theater at 7:05pm. The police had the entire block of the theater cordoned off (from every approach). This was quite surprising. I realize Joan Baez is a big star, but David Bromberg also sold out the place (as I’m sure many others do), and he didn’t get similar treatment. Who knows the reasoning, but it wasn’t a good sign.

It turns out that the town (Peekskill) isn’t all that friendly to visitors (tourists). It’s a quaint river town, which should be in the business of attracting tourists and making them feel welcome, but just try to park in any of the dozens of empty spots on the street. Oops, don’t, unless you want a ticket. Signs all over the place saying that you need a permit to park on the street. You’d think that on a night when someone like Joan Baez is in town, they’d put up signs waiving that, but alas, no.

Even the municipal garage has two tiers of parking, one requiring permits, the other meters. Who knew I needed to show up with tons of change in my pocket to attend a local concert. We weren’t thrilled with the entire ordeal, but still made it in plenty of time to pick up our tickets at Will Call and get seated.

At 7:20pm (when we were in our seats), it was obvious that the show would not start on time. The main reason is that the hall was still half empty, with tons of people still hanging around outside. At 7:31 they made the usual announcements, so they were trying to get the show back on schedule, but the house lights were still on, and perhaps 20% of the hall was still unfilled.

At 7:40pm the house lights went off, the crowd went nuts, and Joan came on the stage. There were still quite a number of seats empty, and people were still trickling in, but at least we weren’t waiting for the last person to show up before beginning. Across the aisle from us, in the 10th row center orchestra, there were five empty seats in a row. This fact will become important (to us) shortly.

After each song, the ushers would quickly guide a few more people to their seats. After the third or fourth song (past 7:50pm) the two people who had the seats immediately to Lois’ left squeezed by us. The man proceeded to whip out his Treo, and sat there for at least 10 full minutes with the light shining brightly, working the phone (email, sms, who knows?).

It was annoying the hell out of us. Lois asked if we could move across the aisle. I hate doing that, because I would hate having to move back (in shame, as if we were trying to get away with anything), but it seemed safe at nearly 8pm. It worked out fine, as we darted across the aisle between songs, and weren’t bothered the rest of the night. Why come to a show 20 minutes late, not pay any attention and annoy everyone seated near you? Stay home and use your full computer. We’ll all be happier for it…

I mentioned earlier that I was a huge Joan Baez fan while Lois was less familiar with her stuff. As such, Lois enjoyed the show last night tremendously, having no previous reference point. I thoroughly enjoyed the show as well, but less for musical reasons. There was a tremendous sense of history for me, not just in experiencing Joan live again, but in hearing her tell some very moving stories (she told a few about Martin Luther King, someone she actively marched with and supported in a number of ways!).

Musically, her voice is still excellent, perhaps even better than most touring artists, but it’s really a shadow of what it once was. It’s likely that this is a temporary anomaly, caused by her recent illness (forcing the previous cancellation), as she specifically said that she had lost her voice, regained part of it, then regained some more. She didn’t put a timeline on that though, so it might have had nothing to do with the illness, and she might not be regaining any more, even if she gets healthier.

The good news is that she’s well aware of the changes in her voice, and even joked about it (in the middle of a song!). She no longer tries to hit certain notes, simplifying the vocal arrangement of some of the more challenging songs. I have no problem with that, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a little sad and disappointing. She also lost her place a number of times on the lyrics, laughed it off and continued on very professionally in each case. She joked about that too, quite cleverly, so last night clearly wasn’t the first time that’s happened to her.

I’m truly hoping (for her sake, and for her fans’ sake) that her voice will get stronger as she gets better (assuming she hasn’t fully recovered). The most striking thing to me is not that her voice isn’t clear, or gorgeous (it is!), but rather that she seems apprehensive about pushing her voice, even though at times during the night, when she did, she was able to hit the note, or deliver the power that she was looking for.

Joan is 67 years old. To me, she looks much older, and seems a bit on the frail side. If you look at the YouTube video that I linked above, of Christmas in Washington, which was filmed less than four years ago, she looked 20 years younger (to me). While she is as graceful and lovely as you could wish, I couldn’t help feeling badly that age (or health) is catching up with her more quickly than her young years deserve.

Of course, you can listen to her CDs to hear the difference in the strength and range of her voice. Still, it’s possible that even that is due to the wonders of a recording studio rather than the rawness of a live performance. So, through the magic of the Internet, if you’re interested, you can hear Joan do a number of songs (most of which she performed last night!) from the last concert from The Rolling Thunder Review, taped at Madison Square Garden on December 8th, 1975!

You have to register to hear it, but it’s free, and the sound quality is excellent! Her voice back then, in a live performance, is not even comparable to her voice last night, even though it was delightful to listen to her last night as well! Here’s the link to the 1975 concert. Click on PLAY THIS CONCERT under the image of the ticket stub to start the stream.

Here’s a cute story, and one which is relevant to our Girlyman experiences as well. If you listened to the above concert, you may have noticed that Joan complains (in a British accent!) that she needed help tuning her guitar! Last night, she joked that she used to have trouble tuning her guitar, but now they have these devices that help you tune them. So now she has trouble tuning her guitars, with the help of the new devices. ;-)

Until recently, I didn’t have a clue as to why all of the guitarists looked down at the stage while they tuned. More interesting was that I didn’t understand how they could hear what they were tuning, as there was often other stuff going on at the time (If you’ve ever seen Nate in action while the Girlyman ladies tune, you’d understand). ;-) Well, the device must show red and green lights for each string in tune or not (my guess, but I’d be surprised if I were way off).

Anyway, here’s a picture of her tuning last night. :-)

Joan Baez Tuning

I can’t resist sharing this photo. To me, Joan seems to be channeling Hillary Clinton:

Joan Baez Channels Hillary Clinton

Finally, politics. If you read this space, you know how I feel about politics mixing with entertainment. Perhaps that was an unconscious reason why I didn’t rush to buy tickets the first time around. There was no doubt in my mind that Joan (being a life-long activist) would definitely be political during the show. In the end, I decided that I was willing to sit through it for any number of reasons, including that she’s such a spiritually deep and caring woman, that it would unlikely be a hate-filled lecture. I was right, sort-of.

As for speech making, she only made two politically-oriented ones during the evening. The first was to say that George Bush was her personal PR machine. With him in the White House, her kind of music was in demand (not necessarily her exact words, but pretty close). If true, I wonder whether her career will come to a grinding halt if/when Obama takes the White House.

The second was a rousing endorsement of Obama himself. Her exact words were “Wait until we have a statesman back in the White House!” Okey dokey then, I guess we’ll see… Like I said above, it didn’t annoy me (though it could have, had I not anticipated it completely). As opposed to the anger with which most entertainers deliver their anti-Bush rhetoric, Joan is soft-spoken, gentle, and just trying to make a point…

That brings me to the music itself. Certainly, Dylan’s music had it’s fair share of anti-war songs (including the one she played early on). However, since she teamed up with Steve Earle years ago, she has plenty more fodder for that now. Steve is a wonderful songwriter, both lyrics and music, but he’s a very angry liberal at heart. Listen carefully to the words of Christmas in Washington in the video, or read the words here.

It’s a Bush hater’s anthem. That said, it’s delivered in a soft song, with beautiful music, and powerful lyrics (whether misguided or not!). I much prefer to get my political drubbing that way. At least it comes without the crowd whooping it up during the message and is thought provoking. So thought provoking that I am choosing to propagate his message so that you can decide for yourself whether you agree or not.

Here’s another song that’s beautiful, message laden, but a tad too vague or complicated for me (message-wise). It’s called Jerusalem, and is also by Steve Earle. Here’s a YouTube video of Joan singing it (with Erik Dell Penna) in Austria in 2007. You can read the lyrics here. It’s possible (I really hope even likely!) that this is a generic plea for peace on all sides of the Middle East conflict, or even all war in general (after all, lots of us are descendants of Abraham, not just Jews).

Unfortunately, I fear that this isn’t the true intent of the song, and he certainly doesn’t make any attempt to communicate more clearly. To me, it comes across like Jews/Israelis are the only aggressors in this ongoing conflict, and if only they could learn to lay down their swords, we’d all be better off. I realize that this is a defensive reaction, and I realize that many people have no sympathy for any Jew, and tons of sympathy for every Palestinian, but to blame this all on the Israelis/Jews is at best naive, and at worst disingenuous.

I know I’m not alone in my reaction/interpretation, as the current first comment on the video linked above (might not be the first one when you click on it!) is:

Ah Joan, I love this song. Let’s hope that Israel will be able to lay down its swords forever when that country feels safe from attacks on all surrounding Arab countries.

All-in-all, a very enjoyable as well as thought provoking evening. I reiterate my hope that Joan is still recovering and will get stronger soon. We’d see her again, I’m sure, at least to have a better sense of her well being.

Girlyman was already mentioned in a roundabout context above. Here is a very direct one! In 2003, Girlyman won the folk/singer-songwriter category in the 3rd Annual Independent Music Awards. One of the judges in that competition was none other than Joan Baez! :-)

So, having mentioned Girlyman in a real context now, let’s jump to a different context. You know what’s coming, but this is even more important for those of you who don’t know! We’re half-way through the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter now to win a free signed copy of the new Girlyman Live CD!

The Wailin’ Jennys at Joe’s Pub

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Last night finally came, our third time seeing The Wailin’ Jennys live, but our first time seeing them at our favorite place, Joe’s Pub. The last time we saw them was their last show of 2007, at Gravity Lounge in Charlotesville, VA, covered in this post.

The Wailin\' Jennys

Unfortunately, there were quite a number of frustrations last night (though nothing really horrible). I’ll save those for the end.

Last night, the Jennys voices were as awesome as always. Their harmonies are so tight and gorgeous. All of them are excellent musicians and were on last night as well. Jeremy Penner (the one boy Jenny) is an amazing fiddler (I’ve written about him a number of times already) as well as a wonderful mandolin player (though last night I believe he only played the mandolin on one number, possibly two).

Jeremy Penner

They were funny and personable (as always) and even had a few new tales (which was refreshing). There’s something very pure about all four of their faces, and there’s a spirit in them (which shines through) and mirrors their songs / philosophy on life. Simply put, they are a joy to be around!

Their sound engineer has a terrific ear. The balance is perfect, and you can easily concentrate on any one of their voices or instruments, and pick it out clearly. No one sound overwhelms any others, and no one sound gets lost in the whole of the others. It doesn’t hurt that Joe’s has wonderful acoustics in general, but we’ve also been there were the sound was messed up (due to the sound board person, not the venue).

The crowd couldn’t have been more loving and appreciative of the show and the clapping was thunderous and long after every single number. On the songs we were encouraged to sing along, many did, and did it well. :-)

They sang a few of our favorites (not nearly all!) including Glory Bound. They saved One Voice for the one-song encore, and the crowd sang the last verse with them. Gorgeous!

Here are some more individual shots:

Ruth MoodyNicky MehtaHeather Masse

I could praise them more, but it would be repetitious from the above and previous posts. Instead, I’ll switch gears to some of the frustrations with the evening (including some with the Jennys themselves, heaven forbid!).

If you are the type of fan who believes that other fans should never criticize the artist, you will definitely want to click away this very second, seriously!

I went into last night ranking the Jennys as my second favorite group behind Girlyman. This has been my consistent feeling since the first time I saw the Jennys live at Tarrytown Music Hall on September 29th, 2007, covered in this post. I came out of last night with them firmly entrenched in #2, so nothing that I’m about to say on the negative side affected that.

First, a very high percentage of the early shows at Joe’s start at 7pm. Some start at 6:30 and some start at 7:30. I didn’t pay attention before we got on line (we were third and fourth person on line last night, just like for Tim O’Brien the week before), but it turned out that the Jennys had a 7:30pm start time last night.

That’s already a black mark (but I don’t know who to apply that mark to, the Jennys or Joe’s!). Why? Because 99% of the time, there is a 9:30pm show, no matter what time the earlier show starts, so there is a hard stop for the early show at roughly 8:45pm, including the encore. So, while waiting on line at 5:45pm, we already knew that at most, including encore and banter, the ladies and Jeremy would only be on stage for a max of 75 minutes. :-(

It’s possible that Joe’s asked them to start later, but I can’t think of a reason why, since they still opened the doors at 6pm (well, actually 6:10 last night), so they had to staff the place, etc. as if the show started earlier.

They came out at 7:33pm. OK, only three minutes late, who could possibly complain? Me. ;-) I know it’s only three minutes, but it was a scheduled late start anyway, with a hard deadline on the back end, so at least give us every possible second of bliss when it’s under your control.

The encore ended at 8:47pm, so 74 minutes in total. Unfortunately, as is often the case, stuff happens during a live performance. During the second song, Heather’s bass amplification went dead. She realized it right away, as did most of the people sitting near us (and therefore I assume most of the people in the audience did as well). She was a pro, and kept strumming her heart out, though no one could hear a note.

When the song was over, lots of fiddling around with the electronics ensued, including Jeremy coming over to help, and the sound engineer coming down as well. One of the marks of a good live show is the performer’s ability to handle these kinds of situations with class and humor (listen to Postcards from Mexico on the new Girlyman Live CD for a perfect example!). The Jennys qualified last night, as the mood remained lighthearted with Ruth and Nicky bantering with the crowd while the work was ongoing.

Here are two shots of the fiddling around. The first is a little blurry, but you can see Ruth entertaining the crowd while the rest of them try to fix the problem. The second doesn’t include Ruth, but is a little clearer view of the fixit crew. ;-)

Fixing Heather Masse\'s Sound ProblemsMore Fixing Heather Masse\'s Sound Problems

My only point in mentioning it (though it was no one’s fault!) was that it stole another few precious moments from listening to them perform. That one goes in the frustration category, not the don’t do that again one.

This next set of complaints is ultimately my biggest one (as a single grouping). The context needs to be set, or I will most definitely annoy every other fan (I’ll likely annoy them anyway, but perhaps I can blunt the counter-attacks slightly). What I am about to complain about is a relative complaint. On an absolute basis, even these complaints are about an otherwise nearly blissful exprerience compared to most other music!

Please re-read that before you chop my head off (but feel free to comment here and take a whack at me anyway). I believe that at their worst, the Jennys are near blissful! Got it? Good!

So, what does it mean to say at their worst? Essentially, it means playing songs that are relatively uninteresting (as songs in and of themselves), when they have a repertoire that has so many more richly deserving songs. To be fair, even the most boring song that they play is absolutely, stunningly beautifully delivered. In those instances, their voices just become phenomenal instruments, because the words are completely boring and can easily be tuned out (unfortunately).

Another unfortunate thing in this exact vein is that it isn’t one single song. It’s also not one single show. We’ve seen them three times now, on two different tours, and every time, they’ve played Bring Me Little Water Sylvie. To repeat, their harmonies are stunning on the song. Even their facial expressions while they sing it are wonderful (they get lost in the song). But, in the end, the song itself is just one long repetition of boring words. This is one example, there are more.

I know that many bands (including our beloved Girlyman!) love to do covers that are meaningful to them. Some try to be ultra-true to the original, some like to show how they arranged a favorite to make it their own. So, I’m not generically complaining that the Jennys choose to play any covers rather than just their material, but rather that they aren’t picking the right covers. In my opinion.

Also, only in particular to last night, when you know you’re going to be on for significantly less time than usual, ditch the covers (or at least most of them), and play your bigger hits for your fans.

I have a theory as to why they do the Bring Me Water Sylvie like numbers. I could be wrong, obviously, but I think it’s because they want to highlight the amazing talent that Heather Masse has (and she most definitely has it, in spades). A very noble ideal, indeed. Unfortunately, while the talent shows through, in all of them, even in those songs, there’s no reason not to shine the talent on more interesting songs.

So, why not allow Heather to fill in for Annabelle, and sing the lead on songs like Firecracker and Apocalypse Lullaby, which suit her voice perfectly?

OK, I’ve gone on enough on that topic. Let me wrap that up by saying that the crowd (and we too!) absolutely loved the show, and we heartily gave them a standing ovation before and after the encore, so read the above with that in mind. I want the Jennys to connect even better than they already do (which sounds harder than it is).

On the high crimes and misdemeanors front, this is the first time that we’ve seen them that Ruth didn’t sing Heaven When We’re Home. It’s one of the greatest songs in history, so yes, I rank it as a crime not to get to see her do it again (and again, and again…).

On to a frustration with Joe’s. I complained last week that they made Tim O’Brien and Caroline Herring sell their own CDs in the tiny entranceway in the front after their show, rather than at the typical full-blown merch table in the back. I assumed that it was something special going on that night only.

Last night, it happened again. Worse, at least Tim and Caroline were out there selling and signing their own CDs. The Jennys had other people selling the CDs, and I doubt all four of them could have fit in the space to sign anyway. Very disappointing.

This is made worse by the fact that the Jennys over-price their CDs at the shows. They charge $20 for each of their full CDs (Firecracker and 40 Days). They are cheaper online. There are two reasons to pay the $20 and not complain: you get their signature, you support the group.

If they aren’t going to sign (perhaps not their fault, if Joe’s has a new policy), then paying the premium is purely a support the group thing. We chose to do that, but I can’t say it left a good taste. We own both CDs already (obviously), and have bought five more copies (three Firecracker and two 40 Days) as gifts for others in the past.

Last night we brought both of our copies to get signed, with the intention of buying two more to give as gifts. Even though we couldn’t get ours signed, we still paid the premium for two more (obviously, also unsigned) to give as gifts, to support the band, and we also bought the solo CD by Ruth for ourselves. I’m happy to support them, but Girlyman used to sell Joyful Sign for $20 at live shows, and now sells it for $15, and the Jennys should follow suit. This week we’ll be buying yet another two copies online, as gifts as well.

To put it into perspective, the show itself cost $18 last night. That means that for a show, which lasted longer than the CD (which is already nearly two years old for the newer one), was cheaper than the CD. That just doesn’t feel right (though I’m not complaining about the price of the show). ;-)

OK, aside from the fact that I need to again plug the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest (enter early and often, and definitely check out the new entry from this morning, it’s hysterical!), I want to take this opportunity to do a small comparison of Girlyman to the Jennys.

The Jennys are awesome. Girlyman are awesome. No need to go further, except that I always end up ranking Girlyman higher than the Jennys. Why? For one, Girlyman has twice as much original material, so they are more prolific in their writing. The Jennys original stuff is fantastic, I just wish they wrote more new material.

Some of the Jennys original stuff is thin in content. The songs are beautifully arranged and sung, but at times it feels like the lyrics are built around a single clever line, which just repeats. It’s not egregious, and there’s probably a Girlyman song or two that this could be said of, but in general, there’s more of a consistent depth to the Girlyman lyrics.

Also, while Girlyman does covers in their live shows, it’s rarely more than three in a show. The Jennys have less original content, but they play a smaller percentage of it anyway, choosing to do a significant number of covers. I don’t get that part (that’s independent of my critique of the particular covers noted above!). One of the points is that a Jennys show is more predictable than a Girlyman one.

There’s no doubt that the predictability of a Jennys show is predictably wonderful, but still, very little variation in the three times we’ve seen them (except for this one leaving out stuff due to time constraints).

Finally, what you’ve all been waiting for, the food part. Once again, I had the extraordinary Tuna steak, and it lived up to my previous ravings. Unfortunately, as I noted in my Candy Dulfer review, I skipped the fries and the chocolate martini again (Lois was proud of me, so I guess it was somewhat worth it) ;-) so I continue to be (temporarily) virtuous.

Candy Dulfer at BB King

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I’ve known for a few weeks that Candy Dulfer would be playing last night at BB King. As much as I like her music, I didn’t purchase tickets in advance for two reasons: I thought we might be up at the house over the weekend and Lois isn’t that big of a Jazz fan (yet).

When we went to see Dave Mason this past Friday at BB King and the show was canceled, we already knew we’d be in town over the weekend (all of this previously reported here and here). I asked Lois how she felt about coming back to see Candy and she was fine with that, so we bought two tickets on Friday.

I own each of Candy’s first two studio CDs, Saxuality (released in 1990) and Sax-a-Go-Go (released in 1993). I got each of them when they first came out, so I’ve been a fan for a very long time. One of the reasons I don’t own more of her stuff, and don’t listen to either of those two CDs all that often, is that in addition to being a brilliant smooth jazz artist (which is my favorite form of jazz), she’s also a world-class funky jazz artist (words and music), which is more of a mix of hip hop and rock.

Even on those early CDs, there’s a mix, and I’m nuts about the smooth jazz pieces, but I found (in the past) the funky stuff a little too repetitive (not bad, just not as creative).

True to form, last night, Candy and band played both smooth jazz and funk. They were literally amazing at both. Seeing the funk done live is dramatically different than listening to it on a CD. It’s fun (ahhhh, perhaps that’s where the term funky comes from) ;-) and more visual when you see them play with the song. For the record, I still much prefer the smooth jazz stuff.

She played a bunch of stuff from her new CD (released in 2007) Candy Store. Late in the show, she started what appeared to be an impromptu discussion with the audience about requests, without actually ever using the word request. Lots of stuff was shouted out, but Candy said that she was surprised not to have heard the “L” song, and the crowd went nuts, knowing she was talking about her early hit Lily Was Here.

She played it right then (how could she not after that reaction?). Here’s a YouTube Video of her playing it with Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics) a long time ago. The version on the video is classic smooth jazz. While last night’s version was awesome, it was much more funk/rock, including the lead guitar being hard electric, not the acoustic version played by Dave Stewart in the video.

Her band is amazing.

Regular keyboardist and vocalist, Chance Howard. Actually, Candy’s band had two keyboardists last night, and Chance plays more of a synthesizer (to my ears). The first time he played a solo, it sounded more like a flute than a piano. He sings well, and the two of them harmonize during the show.

Chance Howard

Kirk Johnson is the drummer. He also sings backup vocals (Chance also sings lead). He is incredible! In addition to just keeping a tremendous beat the entire night, with all of the appropriate smooth jazz rolls and symbol play, he took one solo very early on that was stupendous. One thing you can never experience on a CD are the visual tricks which always delight the crowd. I described some pretty incredible ones performed by Kentric Morris, Najee’s drummer in this post.

Kirk did two things (one of which I hadn’t seen before). During his solo, he kept flipping one of the drumsticks in the air, of course never missing a single beat in a fast-paced romp. I’ve seen it before, but it’s cool nonetheless. Then he lifted his right leg up in the air, and put it straight out over the drums, and continued playing at a frantic pace, without missing a beat. The crowd ate it up.

Kevin Walker on bass, was new to the band, only with them for a week! I didn’t know that until the end of the show when Candy mentioned it. It would have been hard to guess, as he was flawless the entire night. She also gave him two solos that rocked the house. He’s fast and interesting. My only complaint about nearly all bass players in these lives shows is that their instrument overwhelms the others. It literally shakes the house on every note in every song (as does the bass drum). Still, he’s amazing.

Kevin Walker

The other keyboard player is Thomas Bank. He’s also excellent, but to be fair, unless he was taking a solo (only two or three last night), he can barely be heard over the rest of the instruments. He had a Macbook Pro sitting next to him, so perhaps I didn’t hear him because he was checking email rather than playing out loud. ;-)

Thomas Bank

Finally, the lead guitarist Ulco Bed. He’s excellent as well, playing mellow smooth jazz really well, and then taking some super full-blown rock leads that were awesome.

Ulco Bed and Candy Dulfer

Candy Dulfer was mind-bogglingly good on the sax, but there was no surprise in that. She also sang a bunch more than I expected. The other day I noted that Tim O’Brien played fiddle while singing (solo) and that it looked funny (but sounded great). Candy couldn’t sing and play the sax at the same time, proving that she’s human after all. ;-)

Candy Dulfer SingingCandy Dulfer on the Sax

Lois totally disagrees with me, but Candy’s face is a dead ringer for Courtney Thorne-Smith to me. ;-)

Toward the end, she played the sax accompanied just by Kirk on the drums. It was long and stunning. She was perfect on the sax, but Kirk lit up the joint. She had her back to the audience facing Kirk the entire time, and the spotlight was on him. It was way more interesting than just a drum solo (even though I’m a sucker for a good drum solo), but there was little doubt that the focus of that long segment was the drums. Perfect!

Kirk Johnson and Candy Dulfer

Kevin’s face reminded me of Michael Jordan. ;-)

We had a fantastic time. The only downside of the evening was that the music was deafeningly loud. It was also balanced perfectly, and clean, so it was purely a volume problem, not a distortion one, etc. My ears weren’t really ringing, exactly, but there’s little doubt that there was a real effect.

Last November, we saw Girlyman at the Highline Ballroom. Opening for them was Garrison Starr, a solo performer who also plays too loud (in my opinion). That night, we brought a family as our guests, which included a 4-year-old girl (she loves Girlyman!). The person working the door saw her and offered us a pair of ear plugs, warning us that she might very well need them!

Lois loved the idea, and has since bought a bunch of pairs to take to shows just in case. Last night was the first time she felt the need to use them. Thankfully, she had them. I know (not just because she told me so) ;-) that she would have insisted that we leave if she didn’t have them! She loved the show, but was only able to tolerate it because she had the plugs in the entire night!

She might have needed them no matter where we sat, but last night we sat at the stage. Also, since we were on the far right side we were right in front of a bunch of the speakers and amplifiers, which didn’t help with the volume problem. Here’s a shot of me hugging the stage, looking at Candy play the sax.

Hadar watching Candy Dulfer

As I wrote on Saturday, I started my regular exercise routine this weekend. Yesterday included walking up and down 30 flights of stairs in our building. I prefer the long walks outside, but I didn’t have the time yesterday, and the stairs really cram a lot of sweat and elevated heart rate into a shorter workout.

We walked over the to show, and on the way, Lois made it clear that she would prefer (I’m being polite here) that I not have my usual Lucille (BB King’s version of a chocolate martini), and that I not have fries either. Bummer! I had club soda, and a Caesar Salad with Grilled Shrimp on it. Tasty, but not the same.

There are benefits to eating healthy. The meal cost much less. I had zero gastric distress. The liquor didn’t add to my usual exhaustion (because there was no liquor).

The downside is that I didn’t help prop up the economy, though I over-tipped our excellent waitress, partially out of guilt for what she would have gotten had I been eating my usual there. ;-)

We walked home and chatted about the show the entire way. We were both still feeling the energy.

Tonight we’re seeing The Wailin’ Jennys at Joe’s Pub. I have written about them many times in the past, and will most definitely write again tomorrow. You can’t imagine how excited I am to see them at Joe’s!

Finally, as always, here’s a link to the current month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter early and often, and win a signed copy of the new Live CD. It’s an awesome CD, and the contest is for a good cause, creating more awareness for this brilliant group! :-)

Exercise Season Begins

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I am ashamed to admit that today was my first official exercise of the year. In fact, probably in six months! :-(

In July 2001, I had my first physical in forever (thanks for forcing me Lois!). I was way overweight and my cholesterol was high. The doctor wanted to put me on Lipitor immediately, and I decided to try diet and exercise first.

I went on a traditional low-fat diet, and started exercising regularly (I hadn’t purposely exercised in nearly 20 years!). Within a few months, I lost 30 pounds and my cholesterol dropped a bunch. Sounds good, and it was, except that I was starving all the time between meals.

One of the guys at Zope started Atkins when I was well into my diet. I was jealous at the things he was eating (while losing weight!), but Lois wouldn’t let me switch, because she was afraid it was unsafe. I ended up hitting a plateau and was maintaining the weight loss, while remaining hungry, unable to lose more. Ugh.

Then Lois read an article by a Duke professor. Our godson was Duke at the time, so she was paying attention to lots of Duke news. They performed a very large study and found Atkins to be relatively safe, with larger weight loss with the weight staying off longer as well. I was in. ;-)

When I switched to Atkins, I was instantly in love. I was stuffed beyond description, all the time. I had to force myself to eat according to the Atkins schedule, and I was still losing weight! At the peak of my weight loss, I was down a total of 68 pounds! I bounced off the bottom, but held pretty steady at down 56 pounds (which was fine!).

On rare occasions, I would get a little jealous about some of the things I couldn’t eat (notably bread), but overall, I was really happy. Then I went to the doctor again, and my cholesterol was sky high (much higher than the original reading that caused him to worry). This is counter to the general theory of Atkins, but there’s always an exception to the rule, and I was one of them. :-(

He told me to get off of Atkins instantly. I did. In the beginning, I drifted up a few pounds, but was able to maintain the new weight reasonably easily, while enjoying a whole new range of food. Ironically, I hadn’t missed rice at all, and didn’t miss potatoes as much as I thought I would, but now rice was like chocolate cake to me!

After weeks of not gaining too much weight, I foolishly started adding things, like, oh, say, chocolate cake. :-(

Even then, I only drifted up a few more pounds, and maintained there (for a long stretch), so of course, I continued to indulge (on occasion, but according to Lois, too many occasions).

Now for the real problem. When our schedule was hyper-busy last fall, and the weather turned ugly for a long period of time, I simply stopped exercising. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop eating. I kept drifting up. At the worst, I was down only 42 pounds from the 2001 weigh in. Enough is enough!

So, back to exercise season. My favorite form of exercise is a very long (brisk) walk around Manhattan. I walk from the apartment to the FDR drive, then walk up the drive to 96th street, then across to Central Park, then through the park down to 60th, then down Park Ave, back to the apartment. It’s roughly 8.25 miles and takes me between 2 hours and 2.25 hours.

The reason I added official in italics above, is that last Sunday, when we had our young guest (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re not a regular reader) ;-) he wanted to play basketball. It was cold, and I wasn’t happy about it, but I’m a soft touch for kids. So, we went to play. He insisted on playing one-on-one, full court, and kicked my butt 50-12 (two points a basket). After we went to the park for other stuff, we came back and ended up in a half court game (he was dismayed, but other people took half the court after we started), and he only beat be me 20-18.

Either way, I ended up running around quite a bit, which was real exercise, but not my normal format. It left my legs sore the next day, which is how I knew it was real. ;-)

Today was just perfect weather. Cool, crisp, but sunny. I went in shorts and a T-Shirt, which was perfect in the sun, and ever-so-slightly cold in the shade, which overall was just right.

It worked out for another reason. Many of our friends participated today in the Richmond, VA 10K run/walk (probably more than a dozen friends, perhaps more than 20!). It made me feel that I was in some kind of sympathetic rhythm with them. They got rained on slightly, so I had the better of it weather-wise, but they had a good time and so did I.

I listened to my iPod Nano the entire way, to (guess what) Girlyman! I haven’t had a chance to copy over the new Live CD to the Nano (of course it lives on the iPod Classic) so I listened to 40 of the 44 Girlyman songs on the Nano.

That means all of Joyful Sign, Little Star, the five live bootlegs of the new songs from Club Passim, and all but the last four songs from Remember Who I Am. I listened to the last four after my shower. :-)

That lead in is perfect for my month-long advertisement of the Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter soon (and often) and win a CD. More importantly, do it so that other people discover them! Thanks!

Dave Mason Get Well

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We were headed to see Dave Mason at BB King last night. (No links in this post.) I even Twittered about it, so it had to be official. ;-)

We got to BB’s a few minutes after the door was supposed to open, and were quite surprised (pleased?) to see that there was no line outside. We walked straight downstairs, and the place was significantly emptier than we expected (figuring that Dave likely sold out the place).

The poor guy at the door has to tell us that Dave called in sick at 1pm. :-(

To make it up, they are putting on a free show with a cover band that does lots of Yes stuff (and some other covers I don’t recall). I love Yes, so we figure we’ll stay (I’m also starving and I like the food at BB’s).

Before we go in, I go to the box office and buy tickets to four additional shows that we want to see there (including three nights in a row later in April!). We try to get a refund for the Dave Mason tickets, but can’t, because we bought them through Ticketmaster. Oh well, a small hassle, but not a big deal…

We sit down at a good table, and get ready to order drinks and dinner. Given the chaos of the day, the band was on the stage working on the sound check (obviously, they didn’t have much notice to get there). It was painfully loud. I looked over at Lois and asked if she wanted to leave. There was no hesitation in her response.

It wasn’t a complete loss. While we took the bus over, we walked home (a little exercise never hurt anyone, or at least doesn’t often hurt people) ;-) and we got to pick up tickets (without all of the wonderful convenience charges of Ticketmaster).

We ended up having dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, right across the street from the apartment. Obviously, we had no reservations and the place is almost always packed. We walked in at exactly 6:45pm. The guy told us he could put us in a booth (that easily handles six people), if we promised to be out by 8:30pm. I laughed pretty hard (he knows us, so I wasn’t insulting him). I told him we’d be out by 7:30pm! ;-)

They put another couple in the same booth a minute later, but we each had enough privacy. We were out of there at 7:23pm, so we could have taken a little more time. ;-)

Awesome food (Seafood Enchiladas for me) and a perfect Frozen Margarita (as always).

All-in-all, a very pleasant evening, though not even close to what we originally expected.

Go with the flow, or as Dave Mason himself says:

Let it go, let it go, let it flow live a river
Let it go, let it go, let it flow through you

:-)

P.S. There seem to be a rash of these cancellations due to illness lately. We had tickets to Dolly Parton at Radio City Music Hall on March 7th, and that tour got canceled. Already rescheduled for May 1, and we’re going (same tickets, same seats). Joan Baez canceled this past Monday from the Paramount Theater (we weren’t going) and has already rescheduled. Allman Brothers Band also canceled their Beacon Theater Dates (we have tickets, and are awaiting announcement of the new dates), and now Dave Mason.

All of you, please, Get Well Soon! :-)

Tim O’Brien at Joe’s Pub

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Last night we went to see Tim O’Brien perform at Joe’s Pub.

Before I get to the show, I need to correct one (possible) mis-statement in yesterday’s long post about Kathy Mattea. Near the end of that post, I said the following:

Kathy is playing at the Barns again tonight. Ironically, we’re headed (in a few minutes) back to Joe’s Pub, to see Tim O’Brien. Tim writes amazing songs, a number of them have become big hits for Kathy. So, we’ll continue to think about Kathy, Bill, Eamonn and David as we enjoy Tim tonight! :-)

Most of that is true, but I can’t verify this specific part:

a number of them have become big hits for Kathy.

Kathy spoke about Tim warmly, that she loves to sing harmonies with Tim and his sister Mollie, and she links to his site from hers. That said, I had assumed that because they sang Battle Hymn of Love together (and hit the charts with it) that he wrote it. Google searches seem to contradict that (though I found one site that listed him as the writer of the song).

Lois has been a (theoretical) fan of Tim’s ever since that song came out, but neither of us really knew his music (as a solo artist) at all. We had no idea what to expect last night. There was an opening act before him, but I’ll get to that after I cover Tim.

Tim came on the stage at 7:08pm. Before he stepped out, there were four instruments lined up on the stage (not unlike the photo I posted of Girlyman’s instruments sitting on the same stage three days earlier). There was a guitar, a banjo, a fiddle and a bouzouki (which looked exactly like a 12-string guitar to me). Both Lois and I assumed that he had a band with him.

Nope. Tim played all of the instruments during the course of the show (one at a time, of course). ;-)

Here are four photos of him, one with each instrument. Sorry, but the quality of at least three of them is pretty bad. Lighting at Joe’s conspires against high quality photos in general, but last night’s came out worse:

Tim O\'Brien on GuitarTim O\'Brien on Bouzouki

Tim O\'Brien on FiddleTim O\'Brien on Banjo

He’s an extremely self-effacing character/performer, but yet is in complete control of the rhythm of the performance. He is extremely funny, without telling many jokes. Here’s one example (of many):

He was about to play a sad song, and mentioned that D-Minor was the saddest key of all, as proven by This Is Spinal Tap. Therefore, he was going to play this song in C-Minor, to make it a little less sad… ;-)

Lois has never seen the movie This Is Spinal Tap, so she didn’t get the reference, but I laughed my head off (silently, of course). ;-)

With the exception of a few whimsical songs (which we thoroughly enjoyed!), his lyrics show an incredible depth and intelligence, in helping the rest of us understand the human condition. They vary over a wide array of topics, with recurring themes about love. The love part is one of the reasons that I assumed he wrote Battle Hymn of Love.

He has an excellent voice with a wide range. He is an excellent musician as well, on all four of the aforementioned instruments (I’ve read that he plays the mandolin as well, but he didn’t last night). Of the four instruments, the one that he didn’t come across as strong on was the banjo (one of my favorite instruments), but he’s no slouch on that one either.

Early in the evening, he played something on the guitar that prompted Lois to lean over and ask me what I thought of his talent relative to Bill Cooley. I couldn’t control myself, and I started laughing (thankfully, not loud enough to disturb anyone, at least I hope not!). Seriously, at that point in the concert, Tim’s playing seemed fine to me, but to compare him to Bill was funny.

That said, over the course of the evening, he played a number of songs that stretched his guitar playing considerably, including switching to a variety of styles, and he really nailed them all. I don’t amend my laughter at the comparison at all (Bill’s in a league with very few others), but Tim isn’t just a journeyman guitarist, he’s really excellent!

His fiddle playing is quite strong as well. I find it funny (not in a bad way) to watch a solo artist sing a song and accompany themselves on the fiddle. There’s something simply odd about it. I think it’s my own misconception that to play the fiddle well you have to concentrate so hard that you probably couldn’t also sing at the same time. I’m obviously wrong, at least in Tim’s case. He only played one instrumental during the show, and that was on the fiddle.

There’s no doubt that my other statement in yesterdays blog is definitely true, that he’s an amazing songwriter. He’s also prolific. On his site, there are 14 CDs by him, three more with his sister, quite a number more with bands he likely played in (sorry, no time to research too deeply now). Clearly, he has lots to say, because these aren’t instrumentals. At the show, we bought the latest CD, Chameleon, of which many songs in the show were from.

He left the stage on what seemed a tad on the early side. The crowd was applauding wildly when he came back out for an encore. Instead of doing just one song, he did a four-song encore, which ended up making his total time on the stage reasonable at one hour and 24 minutes.

We really enjoyed the show, and would happily go see Tim again!

Opening for Tim was Caroline Herring. I knew from Joe’s site that she would be opening, and I listened to one clip of her in advance, and knew that we would enjoy her music. It was probably listed correctly and I didn’t pay attention, but she came on the stage at 6:30pm. I was putting a forkful of their fantastic Tuna steak in my mouth, when people started clapping (I was facing slightly away from the stage at the time).

I thought “Hey, they can’t be clapping for me taking yet another mouth-watering taste of this Tuna, can they?” ;-)

I swung around and saw that Caroline just stepped onto the stage. I’m not happy about still having to eat while the performer is on stage, it’s at best a tad distracting only to the eater, and at worst distracting to others, including the performer! But, I love early shows (normally, we’re just old folk, but last night, we were also working on less than four hours of sleep), so I was quite happy about this surprise.

Caroline is good, and we enjoyed her solo act (she accompanies herself on the guitar). That said, we also didn’t find it to be anything particularly special, and I’m sure we wouldn’t rush out to see her again. If she was opening for someone else that we liked, we would be happy to see her again.

She definitely had some fans there who came to see her. One couple who was sitting one table up from us left after Caroline was done, so they were happy to pay the full freight for Tim O’Brien, just to see Caroline Herring. Good for her!

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Joe’s Pub is our favorite concert venue. When we go just the two of us, we reserve the same table for two every time (and as reported before, only got bumped from that table once, after being told we had it). When we go with four people, we also reserve the same table for four each time, and have never been bumped from that table.

Last night, we had our usual table reserved. We were the third and fourth people through the door and they sent us to a different table. When we asked, we were told that even though they reserve a specific table, it’s not a guarantee. Well, we realize that, but exactly what makes them change it? Anyway, when he saw the disappointment on our face, and perhaps realized that we come pretty darn often, he told the hostess to take us to our table. Whew. It was marginally frustrating to begin with, but kudos to Joe’s for doing the right thing for incredibly loyal customers! :-)

The food was great (as always). I know from past experience that there are two bartenders at Joe’s. They disagree on the proper ingredients in a Chocolate Martini. There are numerous variations on the theme, and all are correct (to my taste buds!) ;-) so they are both right. Still, they’re different. 95% of the time I (without requesting it) get the one who is more right (to my taste), because s/he puts in some Bailey’s Irish Creme to top off the martini. That makes it perfect, instead of just awesome. ;-)

On Sunday, when we were there for Girlyman, I had the other bartender, because I got a dark chocolate martini. It was great, so I’m not complaining, even though I drew the short straw. Last night, all was right with the world again, since my drink showed up with the Bailey’s, right where it belonged. :-)

In my post about Canal Room (where we saw the awesome Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour and Craig D’Andrea) I railed about the lack of common courtesy that some people exhibit when they insist on having a loud conversation during a performance. Last night was nowhere near as bad, but two people (I’m pretty sure one was a guy and the other a gal, but they were directly behind me so it was hard to see) insisted on speaking to each other at the top of their lungs (of course, the music was interfering with their conversation), at least five times.

Folks, I just don’t understand this. At Canal Room, I had the impression that they were more on a date than there for the music. Last night stumped me, as the same couple did something else that was slightly less annoying, but annoying nonetheless. On the songs where they didn’t scream at each other (lovingly) ;-) they clapped as loud as thunder, at inappropriate times, in the middle of the song. Perhaps they were just catching up with the clapping that they missed during their earlier conversations…

Even otherwise nice people, who are clearly fans, can get caught up in this lunacy! The table to our immediate right was a table for four. There were two couples seated there (boys on one side, girls on the other), and I’m 99% sure they had never met before. The couple immediately to my right (I was practically rubbing shoulders with the woman) were clearly big music fans (possibly Caroline and/or Tim fans specifically). They both clapped enthusiastically after each number, but the woman was a screamer (hey, settle down!).

At some point in the evening, the two couples started chatting a bit. I heard them discussing politics, but none of the individual comments. Now that they bonded, in the middle of one of Tim’s songs, the woman further away from me turned to the woman next to me and started chatting, loudly. Even though the woman next to me was a fan, I guess she didn’t want to be rude to her new friend, so she engaged in a song-long conversation, at quite a loud level. Thankfully, this only happened during one song. I still don’t get it…

We decided half way through the show that we were going to buy the new Chameleon CD. I handed Lois $20 (it cost $15) because she’s more nimble than me, and she was going to sprint to the merch table so we could get out quicker. I’d meet her there, but saunter over.

When the show was over, Lois was gone. The merch table is normally (heretofore always?!?) behind the stage, next to the coat check room. It’s in a fairly large and wide hallway, so even when a lot of fans line up, it’s usually not that hard to maneuver around there. Last night, as I was going through the narrow passageway that connects the show room to that back hallway, I saw Lois walking with and chatting with Tim O’Brien himself, carrying a small suitcase.

This seemed very odd to me. My first thought was that he was running outside to have a smoke before going back to sign CDs. I was wrong. For whatever reason, Joe’s didn’t want, or couldn’t accommodate the merch table in the back (perhaps the needs of the next act precluded having fans in the back). So, they made Tim and Caroline sell their own merch right at the front door. That’s one of the tiniest entrance ways I’ve ever seen, and many people just wanted to leave, so at best, it was confusing.

We also got the sense that they were (subtly or otherwise) trying to rush Tim and Caroline to get it over with, even though it hadn’t even started yet! In any event, it wasn’t a happy situation. Luckily for us, since Lois snagged Tim on the way to the front, she got to buy the first CD from him. I already told you that he’s a smart guy. Here’s one example. He had already removed the shrink-wrap off of all of the CDs, since most people want them signed, and therefore have to take the time to rip off the shrink-wrap anyway. Kudos Tim!

We were home by 8:55pm which was a real blessing given our state of exhaustion. Lois was zonked out 30 minutes later, and I finally called it quits by 10:15pm. Going to see Dave Mason tomorrow night, but tonight we get a break. Yippee! (or not…)

For the next month, I’ll conclude every post with the reminder that there’s still time to try and win a copy of the new Girlyman Live CD. I’m running a contest to win a signed copy all month!

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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The wait between Girlyman concerts wasn’t quite as challenging this time around. As I reported in this post, it had been 143 days between concerts until we saw them last Wednesday at the Barns at Wolftrap. This time, we only had to amuse ourselves for four days. How we came to see them first in VA, then four days later in NYC is a long story, which I’ll tell after reviewing the concert itself.

The show was at Joe’s Pub. Aside from being our favorite place to see concerts, it also happens to be the first place we saw Girlyman, on August 19th, 2007. We were back at the same table, right up against the stage.

Girlyman took the stage at 7:03pm, so we were cheated out of three minutes of their wonder. ;-)

They opened the show with the same song that they had opened the previous two shows we saw, On the Air (from the Little Star CD). If you read my post about the Wolftrap show, then you know that I took them to task about experimenting with the song. I have no idea whether they read the entry, nor if they did, whether it had any influence on them at all. That said, they played On the Air straight down the middle (which is to say, awesomely), and it was obvious that this night was going to be pure magic.

Lois prefers for me to share my bottom line first, mostly because she says people who skim won’t know how I really feel. I think she’s just too polite to say that people will likely fall asleep trying to get through my post before they get to the bottom line. So, in honor of Lois, here’s the bottom line on last night’s concert, followed by the details:

Girlyman was/were PERFECT last night!

OK, you can safely stop reading now, and go back to your real lives.

The banter was great (as always), but it wasn’t 100% identical to last week. That’s very cool. I’ve discussed this before, where some groups have great stories, but they’re repeated identically at each show. I still like those stories, but fresh is always good.

The set list was close to Wolftrap as well, but also not identical, and that too was great. One of the marks of a creative group is that they have too much material to fit into a single show. That means that you have to leave wanting more, because inevitably, they simply can’t play everything you’d like to hear.

Putting to rest the other problem from Wolftrap, Through To Sunrise. That was the other song that they played with. Last night, perfect. Whew.

The night before (therefore not in time for the Wolftrap show), the band finally started selling their new Live CD, Somewhere Different Now (Live). The link to the CD is an earlybird special. Run (don’t walk) to your favorite browser and buy this CD now, you have five days left (if you’re reading it shortly after I’m writing this). I’ll have more to say about this CD in one (possibly two) more post(s). The point of buying it now, is that all of the money goes to the band, so show your support, and just order it, don’t think about it!

The reason I mentioned the CD above, is that they tailored the set (at least that’s what I read into it) to match some of the selections that are on the Live CD. To me, it was a very nice touch, because it meant that those who would take the CD home could instantly relate to their own personal live experience with the band.

Their singing and playing was simply spectacular. Above, I described it as perfect. If you’ve made it all the way here, I’ll tell you a secret. While playing Kittery Tide, Doris actually missed one riff on the banjo (shhhhh). Why did I call the performance perfect then? Because Doris handled it perfectly. She laughed, made a funny exasperated face, and plowed on wonderfully. I got a big kick out of it, and that’s part of the live experience. We’re not paying to see automatons.

Last comparison to Wolftrap. In that review, I took Ty to task for getting a cheap laugh at Bush’s expense. Last night, she didn’t, but during the introduction of the same song (Through To Sunrise), Nate took a similar shot, and received a similar reaction (positive, of course). OK, next time, we’ll let Doris get the cheap laugh, so that no one is ahead in the collection of cheap laughs, and then we can all take a deep breath. ;-)

Because we sat touching the stage, we could see the set list. That meant that we knew what songs they were going to play, in what order (it pays to learn to read upside down!). They got through every song on the list, except for one of their new songs. Usually, when they do their request section, I scream Through To Sunrise at the top of my lungs (that’s Lois’ favorite song, and near the top of my list). We saw that they were going to play it so I showed a drop of class (not typical for me), and I didn’t call out for anything.

The problem is that I wanted to yell out at least five different songs. They settled on Hey Rose, and did it wonderfully! It happens to be on the new Live CD as well, so I think that may have influenced them choosing it from the many songs that were yelled out at them.

OK, I could give more details, but I’d end up repeating myself saying things like “They sang great! They played great!”, etc., etc.

Instead, on to the back story leading up to the show, then the after show stuff. I’ve decided to follow this post with a separate post on the new Live CD.

The second I noticed the tickets to Girlyman at Wolftrap, I snagged four of them. We invited our friends in Richmond, knowing that if they couldn’t make it, finding other people wouldn’t be a chore. We like to introduce new people to Girlyman live (they already have copies of Joyful Sign as gifts from us) so we buy extra tickets.

We were scheduled to work at Zope that week (or rather, once we bought the tickets, we were committed to making that a work week at Zope), and we were intending to work through the next week (this week) as well. Because we knew we’d be down here already, I snagged two tickets to see Kathy Mattea (and Bill Cooley!), also at Wolftrap, tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 1st). So far, so good.

Then, a few weeks later, Girlyman adds a previously unscheduled show to their site, Joe’s Pub on March 30th! I went to Joe’s Pub site, and the show wasn’t even up yet. Hot off the presses. We discussed it, and even though we knew it was crazy (or least those that don’t understand the magic of Girlyman would think we were crazy), we decided to do it. Do it meant coming back to NYC over the weekend, then returning back to VA no later than Tuesday to see Kathy Mattea.

A few days later, Joe’s Pub listed the show, and I grabbed four tickets and a dinner reservation.

I had just connected in an interesting way with another VC in NYC, who also is a music fanatic. We’ve never met, just exchanged some emails and commented on each other’s blog. Lois thought it would be nice to invite him and his wife along as our guests. She sent him an email, and he never replied. From everything I know about him, it doesn’t seem to be his style, so we both assumed it went to a SPAM folder, never to be seen again.

I could have written (and Lois wanted me to), because he was getting my emails (and responding), but I didn’t want to, mostly because if he had seen Lois’ email, we would essentially be stalking him, which was most definitely not our intent.

Then we had a brainstorm. We’re very friendly with a family of five in Leesburg, VA. Dad, Mom, 10-year-old boy, 7-year-old boy, 2-year-old girl. We thought that we could take the two boys, picking them up on our way back to NYC, dropping them back home on Monday, since we had to return for Kathy anyway.

When we called, it turned out that the 7-year-old was attending his ceremony for attaining a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do on the day of the concert. No way he was missing that. The older boy already has his, and was getting a certificate at the same ceremony. He was willing to miss the ceremony. So, we locked in picking him up on Friday, on our way back to NYC.

That left us with one ticket. The universe likes to fill these kinds of voids, usually elegantly (at least if you pay attention to the cues). A day or two later, I received an email from someone in MN that I had only met once, through a mutual friend. We got along great during that one dinner. Of course, during that dinner, I raved about Girlyman (do I ever shut up about them? No!). He bought Joyful Sign on iTunes the next day.

In the email, he mentioned that he was in love with Joyful Sign, was ready for another dose of Girlyman, and could I recommend Remember Who I Am or Little Star as the next taste. They’re both fantastic albums, but I recommended Remember Who I Am. Even though he lives in MN, I mentioned that we had an extra ticket to the March 30th show, and he was welcome to join us. I couldn’t believe it when he replied that he already had a business trip scheduled to NYC and would be in that night! Wow, thanks universe! ;-)

So, on Friday, we drove from Fredericksburg to Leesburg and took the Mom and the three kids to lunch, then headed to NY with the 10-year-old. On Saturday we took him to the circus (and I wrote about that here).

Backing up, when we got home on Friday night, there was an email from my new friend in MN saying that he had to cancel his trip due to a nasty cold. He kindly offered to pay for his ticket, and I told him that was unnecessary. First, the show was sold out and I could have sold the ticket if I wanted to. Second, I expected the universe to bail me out again. ;-)

I quickly made a phone call to someone I know loves live music, and lives in Manhattan. He was busy and had to pass. We then sent out a number of emails, but in particular, wanted to take someone I’ve written about before in this space, Jonathan Pytell. He’s a wonderful pianist, who we’ve also previously raved to about Girlyman, and I thought he’d really appreciate them. The rest of the people were informed in their emails that if Jonathan said yes, we’d have to rescind our offer.

Again, the universe delivered. Jonathan was the first to answer, with a Yes, so I was able to send emails to everyone else before they responded.

Here’s one part of an unedited response from one of my friends who received an invitation. He happens to be as funny (to me) as any professional comedian out there, and this is but a tiny example:

I was sooooo looking forward to a mention in the inevitable blog entry on the Girlyman concert. “Last night, Lois and I took our two favorite boys, one who’s 10 and another who often acts like he is, to the Girlyman show at Joe’s Pub. What a night! The set selection included…” Perhaps you could still squeeze me in with “Although distraught that our favorite pre-teen compatible friend could not make it, we nonetheless loved Girlyman at Joe’s Pub last night…”

Here’s a photo that Lois took of the three boys in our party at Joe’s Pub:

The Boys at Joe\'s Pub

We had excellent meals (as always) at Joe’s. I had the Seared Tuna Steak, on top of Artichoke Hearts and Pine Nuts. It too was perfect. The other boys had burgers. Lois had a salad, because she’s always so good

While we were eating, we were staring at the shiny GIrlyman instruments on the stage, just tantalizing us. Nate’s electric guitar is not in this shot, as it was hiding behind another piece of equipment:

Girlyman Instruments

After the show, we lined up with tons of other fans to finally meet the group. We did, and we can prove it:

Girlyman, Lois and Hadar

It was a very exciting moment for us. Thanks Ty, Nate and Doris, we’ll never forget it! :-)

This morning, we woke up and drove our young guest back to Leesburg. After dropping him off, we headed to the office in Fredericksburg, and are now in the hotel. A very long day. I don’t know if I have the energy to bang out the post about the CD, but if not, it will arrive early tomorrow morning. Look for it! :-)

Girlyman at Wolftrap

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Last night finally came, thankfully! We’ve been waiting (not so patiently!) since November 4th, 2007 to see Girlyman live again. That’s 143 days, in a row (if you can believe that). Somehow, we survived, but I’m not sure how!

Continuing with the new tradition, I’ll cover the concert first, then circle back and share lots more stuff from the day. That will allow people who only care about their Girlyman Fix to bail out after this part.

This was our first time at the Barns at Wolftrap. It won’t be our last. Not just because the place is simply fantastic, but we just so happen to have tickets for this coming Tuesday night (April 1st, 2008) to see Kathy Mattea (and of course, accompanying her, the amazing Bill Cooley!).

We had four seats in the fifth row, left center stage. Excellent! Opening for Girlyman was a group called We’re About 9. I have quite a bit to say about them, but I’ll save it for the section immediately following Girlyman, before the rest of my shtick, since this post is really about Girlyman.

Girlyman came on stage at exactly 9pm. It’s hard to describe the joy and excitement that was evident in the entire crowd. There might have been a reasonable number of newbies in the audience, but even the vast majority of those have either heard the band before (CD, streaming, etc.) or were there with friends who are die-hard groupies.

In fact, the two people we brought were seeing Girlyman for the first time live, but each have separate copies of Joyful Sign (gifts from us) even though they are a married couple. ;-)

The band feels the love immediately, and reflects it back. These are not jaded people who take the love for granted, even though they absolutely should expect it at this point! It’s heartwarming.

They open the show with the same song that they opened the Highline Ballroom show with (that was our last time, on November 4th, 2007), On The Air (the first cut on the Little Star CD). Unfortunately, for the first time ever (OK, we’ve only seen them live twice before) ;-) they actually take liberty with the song and do it somewhat differently than the CD version.

It was OK, but not as good. Sorry folks, I have to call it like I see it. Many might disagree (perhaps everyone except for me), but while very nice, it wasn’t as good. I was immediately nervous. If this was going to be a night of complete experimentation, I would probably be somewhat disappointed. Not the least of which is that one minute before they came on, I leaned over to my friend and said “Wait until they come out, it’s complete magic!”.

I’ve written about this before, in a different (but somewhat analogous) situation (about the lead performers in Wicked the Musical). I can understand how an artist can be bored doing the same thing every night for years on end. They want to grow, stretch, etc. In the case of Girlyman, for me (I realize this obviously isn’t true for them), it shouldn’t apply. Here’s why:

  • They actually don’t tour as much as other road bands (e.g., The Wailin’ Jennys)
  • They have more material than a single show, so they can mix it up
  • They have quite a lot of new material, so they are experimenting!
  • While they’ve been around a while (7+ years?), it’s hardly an eternity…

So, I say that their fans (a constantly expanding group, especially if I have anything to do about it!), are hardly sick of the current versions.

Whew. Onward. The fear passed quickly, as they only fooled around with one other song, more about that later.

While everything was beautiful, even from the beginning, to my ear, it took a while for their voices to warm up, get stronger, and gel together as wonderfully as we’ve come to expect. That’s not so much of a complaint as a surprising observation. They dazzled last year from the first note at both Joe’s Pub and the Highline, and the acoustics at the Barns were good.

Once they got rolling (not too long into the set), they were spectacular (you better not be surprised!). :-)

They always have an amazing stage presence, rapport with the crowd, and banter (between them, and separately aimed toward the audience). Last night took it to new heights. Seriously, they were so on, I’m not sure people would have stoned them if they didn’t play a single song! OK, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not as much as you might think.

When they talk to the crowd, you feel like you’re at a family reunion, sharing laughs and catching up with relatives, people who you deeply care about, and want to hear about, even though you have mostly separate lives the rest of the year!

They had a phenomenal mini-set of fun stuff. Sorry, but I don’t like to ruin these kinds of surprises for those that have tickets to see them on this tour. What’s really cool is that while the songs are fun, they still share all of the musical qualities that we’ve all come to expect from Girlyman, great musicianship, great voices, and impeccable harmonies. If you get that, and get to laugh out loud at the same time, who can complain? :-)

All three of them were on top of their game yesterday. Ty actually spent a bit more time on the guitar (she’s excellent!) than she has before. The new material is a real hit. They have a new Live CD coming out this week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ready last night. Thankfully, it will be available when we see them again this coming Sunday, in NYC. Yippee!

Time to pick one last bone with the band. Their politics are reasonably obvious. No problem, we all have our own politics (of some sort or another), whether we make it obvious or not. In the case of Girlyman, its often laudable. For example, I learned more about biodiesel (the good and the bad!) from Nate and Ty’s separate blog posts than I had previously known. I admire their effort and caring to do the right thing!

That said, I’ve written before that I don’t pay for musical entertainment with the expectation to be lectured to on politics (by either side!). Having seen Girlyman twice before, I had no reason to expect that to happen (as it hadn’t happened at Joe’s or Highline). It didn’t really happen last night either (meaning, no lecture, no speech, etc.).

But, during the intro to Through To Sunrise (Lois’ favorite song of theirs!), Ty couldn’t resist saying that she partially wrote the song looking forward to the end of the Bush Presidency. The crowd ate it up, giving her a rousing ovation. That’s all she said, hardly a lecture. Also, hardly necessary.

I’m not writing this in support of Bush, or the Presidency in general. I’m writing this because it’s odd, that a group that writes so deeply and passionately about love and other subjects, should find the need to take open slaps at anyone, including someone who they obviously disagree with politically.

I’d actually go further. I found it to be pandering (to the audience!). It’s a guaranteed laugh and clap getter, in most venues. To me, it’s a cheap laugh, especially given that one way or another, he’s out in less than a year. It’s no longer wishful thinking on the part of his detractors.

Sorry to drone on, but I need to put a fine point on it. Earlier in the show, in a more light-hearted romp on the current crop of candidates, Ty made it clear that she believes in Obama (at least it was clear to me). Until Obama got dragged into the mud relatively recently, his rhetoric lectured us on being united, not divided. No one with a public megaphone needs to take cheap shots at the opposition (though they all do…).

Sorry. It’s off my chest now. Do I love Girlyman (or Ty) any less? Not a single drop. It wasn’t egregious, didn’t show me a dark side I was previously unaware of. It was just unnecessary.

The other disappointing thing about Through To Sunrise is that it was the only other song last night that they heavily experimented with. It too was fine, but not even close to the standard that Lois and I are nuts about. Oh well.

Everything else was perfect! ;-) Including a one and a half song encore (with a fun surprise). Girlyman was on stage for 105 minutes. Very nice!

We loved it, in every way, so the amount of words dedicated to the negative stuff shouldn’t be used to judge the overall effect of the evening. Our friends loved it as well!

We really wanted to hang around and finally say hello to the group, but our friends had a very early flight out of Dulles and we wanted to drop them off at their airport hotel as quickly as possible. Hopefully, we’ll rectify this on Sunday at Joe’s Pub.

OK, that’s the end of the Girlyman section, and you can safely stop reading if that’s the only reason you landed here. Next is We’re about 9.

Whenever I buy tickets to see a headliner that I’m in love with, I get a twinge when I see an opening act announced that I’ve never heard of. There are two reasons:

  1. The group might stink (which can affect the crowd too, possibly spilling into the headliner’s vibe)
  2. The headliner might simply play a short set (perhaps much shorter!) especially when the venue has hard time deadlines

When I saw that We’re About 9 was opening for Girlyman, I went to their music page and listened to the songs available there. I liked them instantly, so #1 could be scratched off the list. Just as Girlyman was complementary when opening for the Indigo Girls, We’re About 9 was going to be complementary to Girlyman.

I’ve already reported that Girlyman was on stage for 105 minutes, so #2 turned out to be nothing to worry about this time either.

From their website, We’re About 9 has three members. When we were reading the program waiting for the show to start, we noticed that the full page ad showing the group, only had two people in the picture. The Bio on the next page talked about all three. We remarked that it seemed strange. They never mentioned the third person the entire night, even though only two of them performed last night (Brian Gundersdorf and Katie Graybeal).

It’s hard to describe them succinctly (of course, it’s hard for me to do anything succinctly). ;-)

They are old-style folk meisters, with very nice harmonies, and excellent musicianship. Brian is very good on the guitar, and Katie is excellent on the bass (and on the one song that she played the guitar). They both have good voices.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Bob Dylan, especially in my youth. Brian reminds me of him in some ways. There is a depth to most of their lyrics that can be insightful and instructive. His voice isn’t gravelly like Dylan, but it has an earthy quality, passion, and driving nature that is still reminiscent of Dylan.

On the other hand, some of their songs are incredibly playful (not that this wasn’t the case for Dylan as well!). But, even the playful songs are rich and complicated in their lyrics. At their heart, they are story tellers, sometimes with a deep message, sometimes a playful one, but almost always with a story.

Many of their lyrics are also sophisticated. By that, I meant that you have to listen very closely to get the meaning, as well as sometimes just to understand the actual words. Some of their songs cram so many words into a stanza of music, that you wonder not only how they can remember all the words, but how they can sing them in synchronized harmony without missing a note, breath or word. It’s extremely impressive!

I could go on, but I’ll end by simply saying that they were a hit with the four of us, and Lois went and bought two of their CDs during the intermission (signed, of course). :-) They have more CDs, and after I listened to both today (Engine and Paperdust::Stardust), I am sure I will be buying more of their music (I think they have six CDs out, but I’m not sure).

They are not playing with Girlyman this Sunday at Joe’s, but they are playing in a number of other future dates with them. There was a cool surprise during the We’re About 9 set, but I won’t ruin it, in case they repeat it in future shows.

They were on for 38 minutes. As much as I enjoyed it, it made me a little worried that Girlyman wouldn’t be on for as long as I would want them to be, but it all worked out (as reported above).

OK, if you came just for the music, leave now. The rest is about everything yesterday leading up to the concert. :-)

We bought last night’s tickets a long time ago. We bought four tickets, in the hopes of bringing our friends from Richmond, but knowing that if they couldn’t make it, we’d have no trouble enticing other people to discover the wonders of Girlyman.

Our Richmond friends committed right away, so we were set. The original plan was that they would drive to Fredericksburg (where we often work) and we’d drive up together to Vienna, VA. A week ago, those plans changed. They needed to fly out early this morning from Dulles to CA. They got to Fredericksburg via car service, and we drove them to the show, and as reported above, dropped them afterwards at an airport hotel.

In between, we had dinner in Vienna. We would have been happy to have sandwiches at the bar at the Barns. They don’t open their doors until an hour before show time (7pm last night), but we were in the neighborhood by 6pm. So, I asked the GPS to highlight nearby restaurants. It generated a large list, but we decided to go simple, and headed for a local TGI Friday’s.

When we arrived, we didn’t see it. We asked a group of people relaxing outside in the gorgeous 75 degree weather where it was. They laughed and said it was long gone. Oh well. Right there was another choice that the GPS had shown, Hunan Lion. We went in there instead.

Fantastic food, fantastic value (prices), fantastic atmosphere, great service, zero complaints! The only thing that made me feel bad (and always does) is that the place was relatively empty. The staff still went out of their way to enhance everyone’s experience by spreading out the guests widely in what is a very large restaurant. We appreciated the comfort and privacy, but it made the place feel even emptier than it really was.

Hunan Lion in Vienna, VA is highly recommended.

When we got to the Barns, at 7:05pm, we had coffee and cookies in the bar. Yummy, and bodes well for the sandwiches, which Lois and I will likely do for dinner this coming Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, someone I worked with for many years at UBS stopped by the office to visit. When he was at UBS, he worked in our London office (he relocated from VA just for the job). His family fell in love with the UK, and when the stint at UBS ended, they moved back to VA for a few years, but really missed the UK. Roughly five years ago, they moved back, and he runs his own software company there.

I hadn’t seen him since he moved, and we had a very leisurely lunch together, and had a great time catching up. Thanks for making the drive down Chris, it was great to see you! :-)

Tomorrow, we head back to NYC. We’ll be seeing Girlyman again on Sunday night at Joe’s Pub. We head back down on Monday, and have Kathy Mattea back at the Barns on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we’re back at Joe’s Pub to see Tim O’Brien, so we have an insane travel schedule ahead of us, but all for good and fun reasons, so we promise not to complain. :-)