Joey and Rory at Joe’s Pub

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We’re both fans of Country Music in general and of Joey and Rory specifically. We’ve never seen them perform live before last night. We love Joe’s Pub, including the wonderful remodel. It is a great place for Country acts, consistently drawing audiences that are starved for that sound in NYC. This was Rory and Joey’s first-ever NYC show, a perfect match.

JoeyAndRory

Rather than read this post, I strongly urge you to read their bio, in its entirety. The first paragraph is:

Often times, Nashville goes to great lengths to sell you on how ‘real’ an artist is. Sometimes they’re not quite as genuine as they are advertised to be…but then again, sometimes they really are.

This one feels so real. Their on-stage chemistry is fantastic. Their videos are a blast (that’s how I discovered them, Lois knows everything about Country Music, so she probably has other magic ways of knowing about them).

This tour is called A Farmhouse Christmas (if you did your homework, and read the bio, then you know they really do live on a farm, in a farmhouse). Roughly half the songs were Christmas ones (all lovely) and the rest were their own hits plus a few that Rory wrote that others cut.

One of those is one of our favorite songs, The Chain of Love, cut by Clay Walker. Somehow, we didn’t know Rory wrote that song, which is crazy, because Lois always knows who wrote every song she loves. I admit to choking up every single time I hear that song, even though I (obviously) know exactly what’s coming. Winking smile

Joey has a gorgeous voice and an extremely gentle stage presence. There’s a spiritual aura about her. She also played acoustic guitar on a few numbers.

JoeyFeek

Rory is a great songwriter, with a wonderful voice and good guitar skills (very nice finger picking). They sing beautifully together.

RoryFeek

Rory is very funny. It may start off feeling a bit corny to those who don’t know anything about him, but the genuineness of it catches on pretty quickly and engulfs you in his homespun, aw-shucks style.

I have no doubt that Joey and Rory could enthrall by themselves. They choose to take it up a few levels from there, bringing a top-notch band to support them on stage. Joe’s Pub is not a large place. A full Country band could overwhelm the audience. That shouldn’t happen with truly professional musicians, which certainly describes their band. The sound was perfect.

I found it extremely difficult to track down the names of their band (they should make it more prominent on their website, IMHO). They did introduce them last night, but I didn’t take notes, because I assumed it would be easy to find them. If I got any of them wrong, my humble apologies, they deserve to be called out.

I’m actually going to give up (though I found the most important name, I think, in a single link on Google). Here’s a CMT article that talks about the tour, and even there, they simply say that Joey and Rory are traveling with a four-piece band. That’s just bad.

Left-to-right on stage:

Tommy McCaleb on dobro and acoustic guitar (no good link). Absolutely masterful on both. He single-handedly elevated the musical quality of the set. In addition to taking a lead (or a number of them) on each song, his play was fantastic even while they were singing, subtle but always enhancing.

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Fiddle player. Subtle, but excellent throughout. He was highlighted a few times.

FiddlePlayer

Drummer played on a reduced kit. Snare, kick drum and three cymbals. He was excellent as well, sang a drop of harmony.

Drummer

Electric bass player. Extremely subtle, enhancing the sound without ever overwhelming Joey and Rory.

BassPlayer

Heidi Feek on vocals. Heidi is one of Rory’s two daughters. She sang background vocals on nearly every number. Then on one Christmas song (later in the show), she took an entire verse on the lead. She followed that up with a solo number that she wrote (accompanying herself on Rory’s acoustic guitar). She has a very powerful and beautiful voice. She has a musical career independent of Joey and Rory, but is supporting them on this tour, wonderfully.

HeidiFeek

Here’s a set list for the tour. They played most of the songs on it, but it wasn’t an exact list. For example, The Chain of Love isn’t listed. They negotiated a few of the numbers on stage before doing them.

SetList

We’re often the first in line at Joe’s Pub (even though we have tickets with assigned seats). That was true last night as well. That gave us plenty of time to chat with the woman working the merch table for Joey and Rory. It turns out that it was Rory’s other daughter, Hopie.

HopieFeek

She did a good job selling us on visiting the restaurant that Joey co-owns, with Rory’s sister. One of these days, when we’re driving from Birmingham to Nashville, or vice versa, we’ll just have to do that! It’s great to see these two young women happy to be traveling with their parents.

We had a table for four and shared it with two friends who happen to be singer/songwriters themselves. We had an excellent meal before the show started (even though Joe’s has not yet completed their full kitchen renovation).

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An absolutely wonderful evening (or rather beginning of it, since we went directly from this show to another one at Rockwood Music Hall). Smile

JohnSchmittJoeyAndRoryBus

A Holiday Benefit #5 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last week I scanned the Rockwood Music Hall website for this week’s shows. There was a show listed for last night simply labeled: “A Holiday Benefit”. The performers were a mixture of our favorite who’s who, plus a couple of groups we have wanted to see for a while, but scheduling has gotten in the way.

I snagged two tickets and excitedly waited for the week to pass. It turns out that this was the fifth (and unfortunately last) installment of this particular annual Holiday Benefit. It is organized by Benjamin Wagner (with some others who helped co-found it). The money raised is for 826NYC. Great cause, great people involved in raising the money and great musicians all around.

Bottom line: my expectations were very high. I was blown away beyond those expectations on two levels: most of the people we know brought their A+ games and we discovered some people that became instant favorites!

There were 16 acts (individuals and groups), some accompanied by a house band. Each act performed two numbers. The entire atmosphere at Rockwood was that of a party filled with loved ones. In fact, some of the musicians noted (on Twitter, and probably elsewhere) that it was more like an Office Party for them, given how many musicians were performing and in the audience. We were thrilled to participate in said party.

In addition to the ticket price going to the charity, this was also an official CD Release Party. Physical CDs were on sale for $10. $20 got you the physical CD of A Holiday Benefit #5 plus downloads of the previous four albums. Of course we did that. We kicked in more money later to purchase CDs by some of the performers, signed, with the proceeds going to 826NYC as well.

At the end, the encore involved inviting all of the performers back on stage together to sing one last song. It was hard to count accurately, as people kept jumping on stage (even some who didn’t perform earlier), but I’m 99% sure that at one point there were at least 26 people on stage at the same time. If that’s correct, that’s a new record for a show I’ve attended (sorry Sam Teichman, you have your work cut out for you now!). Winking smile

There’s no way to review a show like this without spending an entire day writing (something I don’t have the time to do today, nor the inclination). In fact, it’s sort of beside the point. What I’ll do instead is similar to what I did for the Haiti Benefit nearly two years ago. I’ll list the acts in the order they appeared, and mention who supported them. When first mentioning a support person, I might say a few extra words.

Mary Bragg (#1). Mary was new to us. Great voice. On her second number she also played acoustic guitar. She was accompanied by two very talented people, who I think played only with her. I’ll list them next.

MaryBragg

Mike Cassedy on electronic keyboards. Excellent. Mary gave him a couple of leads and he was great.

MikeCassedy

Jimmy Sullivan on electric bass (no good individual link). He too was excellent. He made the electric bass sound exactly like a very jazzy upright on one of the numbers. He was smooth.

JimmySullivan

Casey Shea (#2) on electric guitar and vocals. Casey was wonderful. In addition to singing and playing well, he was very funny. He had two female backup singers, each of which was a lead performer later in the show, so I’ll save their names for their proper spots.

CaseyShea

Casey brought up Sean White to read a poem to end one of his songs. It continued the comic nature of an otherwise horrifyingly sad song (my house burned down on Christmas).

CaseySheaPaulaValsteinMistyBoyceSeanWhite

Paula Valstein (#3). We’ve seen Paula once before, at the Haiti Benefit. She played solo at the electronic keyboards. Great voice, excellent piano play. Definitely someone we need to check out more (one of our friends has been telling that to me for a while). Paula was also one of Casey Shea’s backup singers.

PaulaValstein

Astoria Boulevard (#4). Wow! I can’t believe I never heard them (or of them) before. Three guys who sing heavenly three-part harmony. They’re funny and natural on stage as well. They opened the first number a cappella and knocked me back a few steps with how awesome they were.

AstoriaBoulevard

Guitar, ukulele, harmonica and kazoos were played too. They were supported by the default house band (the next two people listed).

Ryan Vaughn on drums. Ryan was fantastic playing with roughly half of the acts last night. Ryan also joined for Mary Bragg’s second number, so I should have listed him earlier.

RyanVaughn

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony was his usual excellent self whenever he was on stage, which was a bit less than Ryan, but still the primary bass player for the evening.

TonyMaceli

Dave Pittenger (#5). We’ve never seen him, but I’ve heard of him many times. Mostly because he’s producing Live Society’s new CD (or at least I think it’s him). Dave invited two special guests up, Bess Rogers and Chris Kuffner to kick off his first number. Dave and Bess flubbed Baby It’s Cold Outside a bit, but turned it into a very good natured thing.

ChrisKuffnerDavePittengerBessRogers

Chris played the electric guitar in an understated but fascinating manner. When they had to restart, he signaled to Ryan and Tony to join in, filling out the sound.

Dave then performed a second number accompanying himself on the electric guitar (with Ryan and Tony playing).

DavePittenger

Misty Boyce (#6). Misty kicked off her numbers on the guitar (I didn’t know she played the guitar), with the second number on the keyboards. Her voice is fantastic. In addition to playing the keyboards really well accompanying herself, she also played them with a couple of other acts, super tasty every time. I’ve been wanting to see her perform her own set for a while and this only increased that desire. She was the second backup singer supporting Casey Shea.

MistyBoyceGuitarMistyBoyceKeyboards

Nick Africano (#7). We hadn’t seen Nick before. (That’s a total lie, Nick played with Misty during her first number, so we saw him before he took center stage!). He played the guitar beautifully (subtle slide leads). When he took over, Misty played the keyboards and she called up Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein and Charlene Kaye to sing backup. Very nicely done. We will be on the lookout for Nick in the future.

NickAfricano

Greg Mayo Band (#8). OK, it was technically the Greg Mayo Band, without the brass section. They also weren’t wearing suits, so I’m not sure how official this appearance was. That said, they were incredible, so I have no complaints! They had a guest vocalist and percussionist join them, but since each was a headliner as well, I’ll mention them later.

GregMayoKeyboards

Here are the people that were in the Greg Mayo Band setup last night (left-to-right on stage, not including the guests):

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Wonderful.

PaulMaddison

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Spectacular.

RebeccaHaviland

Kenny Shaw on drums. Excellent.

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Superb.

ChrisAndersonSinging

The Vanity Belles (#9). We’ve seen them sing backup with other groups. We’ve seen them perform on TV twice. Unbelievably, this was the first time we saw them perform as The Vanity Belles, live. We’re proud supporters of the ladies through their recent (successful) Kickstarter, so this was one of the extra special reasons why I wanted to attend. Of course, they were fantastic. Whew! Winking smile

TheVanityBelles

Patrick Firth played electronic keyboards for them. Joining him to round out the band were: Greg Mayo on guitar and Chris Anderson on electric bass. The drummer was already on stage before with the Greg Mayo band (as the guest percussionist) but I still haven’t mentioned his name (soon, don’t panic!).

PatrickFirth

Oscar Bautista played electric guitar as part of The Vanity Belles band. He is always great, so I wanted him to have a paragraph for himself. Smile Another reason to give Oscar his own section? He broke out the mandolin last night, one of my favorite instruments. Sweet!

OscarBautistaOscarBautistaMandolin

Next up was another group I’ve wanted to see for a long time.

The Stone Lonesome (#10). This is duo of Zach Jones (finally got to mention him) and Emily Long. We’ve seen Zach drum many times (including earlier last night, and he was the guest percussionist with the Greg Mayo Band as well). He’s an awesome drummer. I also knew that he sings well, and that was proven when he was front-and-center with Emily last night. What I didn’t know was that he also plays the guitar. Emily sings really well too and the two of them sound great together.

TheStoneLonesome

GregMayoZachJonesEmilyLong

Brian Killeen supported them on electric bass, a perennial favorite of ours. He was joined by Ryan Vaughn on drums and Greg Mayo on electric guitar. Zach let Greg take a number of fantastic leads. The entire night was amazing, but I would have left happy just for the guitar solos that Greg took during The Stone Lonesome songs!

BrianKilleen

Martin Rivas (#11). Martin had previously sung as a guest with the Greg Mayo Band, wonderfully. He now took center stage and wowed everyone with two of his own songs (one a Christmas number, the other off of his new CD, due out in May, 2012). He was supported (incredibly) by Patrick Firth, Greg Mayo, Chris Kuffner, Zach Jones and Brian Killeen.

MartinRivas

A few items were raffled off during the evening. One of them was a jar of Martin Rivas’ world-famous spaghetti sauce (or is it more properly referred to as tomato sauce?!?). Anyway, we won it (see the proof here and again in a couple of the photos at the very bottom!). Can’t wait to savor it!

BenjaminWagnerRivasSauceJarMartinRivasLoisSauce

Chrissi Poland (#12). We’ve only seen Chrissi singing backup with others. We knew she had an extraordinary voice but I have to say that I still didn’t understand the full effect of it until last night. Another wow. We won’t be attending, but if you want to catch her headlining a show, with Martin Rivas opening, head to Highline Ballroom this Sunday night (Dec 18th, 2011). You won’t be disappointed!

ChrissiPolandGuitar

On her first number, she played guitar and was accompanied by Patrick Firth, Greg Mayo, Rebecca Haviland, Martin Rivas, Ryan Vaughn and Brian Killeen.

She then put the guitar down and blew everyone away accompanied by the same band, minus the backup singers (Rebecca and Martin). Her voice and stage presence had us eating out of her hand.

ChrissiPolandSinging

Caleb Hawley (#13). Caleb is one of my favorites and I’m always disappointed when I can’t make it to one of his shows (which happens more frequently than I care to admit, including the night before!). At least I got a taste last night to hold me over until his next full show.

CalebHawley

Caleb was supported by Patrick Firth, Ryan Vaughn, Zach Jones and Brian Killeen. There was dancing in the audience (not atypical of any Caleb performance), but I won’t post the pictures, since those people didn’t sign any waivers. Winking smile

Benjamin Wagner (#14). Benjamin was our host throughout the show, introducing each act as they were coming on stage. Now it was his turn to shine and shine he did. He has a wonderful voice and he wielded it for our delight. He was joined by a stellar band. I’ll mention all but two of them, since they were the next two headliners and hadn’t yet made an appearance.

BenjaminWagnerSinging

Misty Boyce on keyboards, Chrissi Poland singing backup, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. All, great!

For his second number, additional backup singers joined: Mary Bragg, Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein and Martin Rivas.

In true showman style, Benjamin left the stage and prostrated himself right in front of us! Smile

BenjaminWagnerOnTheFloor

Bryan Dunn (#15). Bryan also played guitar on Benjamin’s set. Bryan is wonderful all around. When Benjamin introduced him, he said “Bryan is normally a rocker, but he’s going to bring you down a bit with his first number.” Ha! I hope no one fell for that. It might have started out sounding like a ballad, but Bryan had everyone hopping in no time.

BryanDunn

Both his numbers were fantastic (and no, I wasn’t the least bit surprised!).

He was supported (wonderfully) by Misty Boyce, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. He also had another guitar player and vocalist, but since he was the next headliner, I’ll save his name for the very next line.

Chris Abad (#16). Another wow for me. He played guitar for Benjamin and Bryan Dunn and sang harmony with Bryan. His guitar play was awesome. It looked like he was playing one of Greg Mayo’s two electric guitars, so for a minute, I thought that perhaps Greg just has magical guitars and anyone could make them sound this good. I checked after the show, and the guitars are just look-a-likes, so apparently Chris is just really that good. Winking smile

ChrisAbad

He also sang at center stage when Bryan was done, and did a great job. He was supported by Misty Boyce, Bryan Dunn, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. If I heard correctly, Chris also produced at least one of Bryan’s CDs, perhaps the upcoming one as well. Talented guy, no doubt!

For his second number, he was joined by a slew of backup singers: Mary Bragg, Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein, Charlene Kaye, Chris Kuffner and Benjamin Wagner.

ChrisAbadMaryBraggBessRogersPaulaValsteinCharleneKayChrisKuffnerBenjaminWagner

Like I said above, the finale had a ton of people on stage. Here are some photos:

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One of the only performers who didn’t hop on stage was Kenny Shaw. When Martin tried to get him to come up, Kenny seemed to motion to Martin to come down instead. Martin took it as an invitation to have Kenny hold him in his arms. Kenny obliged! Smile

MartinRivasKennyShawPreludeMartinRivasKennyShaw

We shared the evening a number of friends. In one of the photos you can even see our hard-won jar of sauce (I went with the cautious “sauce” with no modifier there).

RebeccaHavilandRobinChrisAndersonMom

KellySamTeichmanKellyKristenSauce

Here’s a shot of our bounty from the night:

HolidayBenefitBounty

Ximena Sarinana and Graffiti6 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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We’ve seen Ximena Sarinana perform a number of times. We’re big fans. Considering that she lives in LA, we decided to cut a business trip short to return to NYC to catch her show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night (who knows when the opportunities will present themselves!).

XimenaKeyboards

Ximena has two CDs under her belt. The first is all Spanish, produced when Ximena was living in Mexico (where she is a superstar). The new one (self-titled) is in English, except for track 10, Tu Y Yo (You and I). Both are excellent.

So if we own both CDs, and they’re excellent, why run back to NYC to catch Ximena live? Because the CDs don’t actually do justice to the two things that make Ximena such a special live act:

  • She has a stunning voice which comes across more powerfully/vibrantly live
  • She is delightful/effervescent/charming/funny/natural/cute and any number of other adjectives (all positive)

Did we make the right decision? Of course! Ximena’s voice was in full bloom last night, charming and mesmerizing. She played a mix of songs from both CDs (can’t let your original fans down by ignoring the old stuff!).

On Normal (a Spanish song from the first CD), Ximena looped her voice at least six times (I’d guess it was closer to eight), each time adding a new harmonizing track. It’s mindboggling how beautiful it was and how creative she is for being able to come up with that many different melodies that blend together so well.

XimenaSinging

Ximena was supported by two fantastic musicians, left-to-right on stage:

Aaron Steele on drums. I’ve seen Aaron once before (this past January). He was very impressive, but I was sitting inches away from the drums in the much-smaller Rockwood 1, and Aaron’s hard-hitting style overwhelmed me a bit. Last night was an even more impressive performance, with zero negatives.

AaronSteeleDrumKit

Aaron is fast, steady as a machine, doesn’t over-drum, and delivers a perfectly matched beat to Ximena’s power-pop style. On the jazzier numbers, he can be subtle as well.

Pete Lalish  on guitar. I’ve seen Pete a number of times (with Lucius as well as Ximena) and he’s impressed every time. Last night I noticed some things I hadn’t before. Ximena’s new music has quite a bit of electronica in it. I tend to think that most of that is generated on a keyboard (and much of it is, by Ximena herself).

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Last night I saw that Pete actually produces more of it than Ximena. He spent a fair amount of time on his knees furiously working his pedal board with both hands (with the guitar just hanging on the strap, unattended), making the electronica sounds.

PeteLalishPedalBoardXimenaElectronica

I’m not the biggest fan of electronica in general (having nothing to do with Ximena), but that doesn’t mean that I’m not impressed at seeing it performed/produced live, giving fans of the CD a real taste of the same sound in a live setting.

Here’s the set list, which was a big hit. We attended the early show, but Ximena was on again for a second show, after a short break!

SetList

Gaffiti6 opened the show (both shows). We knew nothing about them, other than the many tweets that I saw, including one from another musician that we both really like, Valerie Mize:

ValerieMIZE Valerie MIZE

Hey, NEW YORKERS! Catch UK Harmonic Awesomeness@Graffiti6 at #ROCKWOODmusicHall w @ximenamusicTONIGHT! 2 Shows! @TommyDD @JamieScottG6

OK, so instead of me making up a new description, pay attention to Valerie’s: “UK Harmonic Awesomeness”.

I would describe them as power folk. Two acoustic guitars (the duo that formed Graffiti6) and an electric bass.

Graffiti6

Jamie Scott sings the majority of the leads, with Tommy Danvers (TommyD) joining for a lot of very powerful harmonies. The bass player (Pete Cherry) was excellent and added three-part harmony to many of the numbers.

JamieScottTommyDanvers

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The crowd was extremely enthusiastic in their support for Graffiti6. I thoroughly enjoyed their sound, but I’d have to listen again to have a better sense of whether the lyrics will grab me if I give them another shot.

As we were leaving, we ran into one of our favorite musicians/people, Alex Berger. Come to Rockwood 2 on Tuesday (12/20) to see him play at 9pm. Stay for Alex Wong immediately thereafter. That’s where we’ll be. Smile

AlexBergerHadar

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall

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I need no extra incentives to attend a Bri Arden show, especially at Rockwood Music Hall. But, if you’re going to entice me, I’m paying attention. Here are a few tweets that Bri unleashed in the past few days (in order):

BriArden Bri Arden

Guys— show this Sat, 9pm at Rockwood. Super excited. Playing BRAND new songs… & I’m playing guitar (& piano) This will be a FUN one ;)

Tomorrow night: 9pm— bringing some very awesome, talented boys to play with me. Come on out! XO B http://fb.me/QPl7iraG

I can count the amount of hours I’ve slept this week on my fingers.

So very excited for a VERY special show tonight :) SURPRISES!!! 9pm Rockwood 1! Come early for @JeffJacobsMusic! XO B

Let’s summarize: New songs, Bri on guitar and piano, talented boys, Bri sleepwalking, and SURPRISES! Come on, who doesn’t want to experience all of those things?

One of those surprises? Bri’s hair was straight. The last show, it was extremely curly. You just never know what to expect. Winking smile

BriArden

So, even though we had some last-minute monkey wrench thrown into our schedule, we still made it down to Rockwood for this show. We ended up missing two other shows, one of which I badly wanted to see (The Stone Lonesome at midnight), but monkey wrenches will have their way with you at times.

So, let’s back up and review what’s special about Bri, independent of this show. Phenomenal voice. Great songwriter. Amazing band (when she has one!). Excellent stage presence. Nice (never discount nice!). I could go on, but if that’s not enough to get you to check her music out, or come to a show, then anything I add won’t help.

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I’ve seen Bri perform in a number of configurations, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them and fully appreciated the differences. Full band with backup singers, check. Practically solo, accompanied by a single acoustic guitarist, check. Full band without backup singers (except, psych, the band sang backup to make up for the loss of the backup singers!).

Tonight was different again, on a number of levels. The first was a psych of the psych. Full band (very different though!), with none of them singing backup. The only vocals were Bri’s and she was absolutely incredible. In fact, a couple of times in the past I complained that picking out some of her lyrics was difficult given how much sound (power) was coming from the stage. Tonight, every word was crystal clear. Perfect!

In the times that I’ve seen Bri, she’s never played guitar on stage. Tonight, the band took a break on one song and Bri played the guitar. Afterward, she said she’d never do it again. While the guitar playing wasn’t perfect, Bri was way too hard on herself about it.

But, the song, wait, not enough emphasis: the song! I’m Fine, is a real winner, whether she accompanies herself in the future or not. Her introduction was emotional and authentic and the song lived up to the intro.

A little later, Bri gave the band another break and played a solo on the piano, The Other Man. The only intro to that song was her telling us that she gets requests for it often enough that she decided to play it. Thank you all you requesters!

BriArdenPiano

Every number was special. Not every band member played on every song. There are few notes on the set list to guide you, but it’s not exact. Also, Bri had to cut out one number due to time constraints.

SetList

The band, left-to-right on stage:

Oscar Bautista on acoustic guitar. I’ve seen Oscar play electric many times (most often with Bri, but not exclusively). He’s masterful. This was my first time seeing him on the acoustic, and his play was equally terrific. On Fly Away (a cover), Oscar played the guitar and Bri sang, without the rest of the band.

OscarBautista

Craig Wilson on piano. Craig has co-written a number of songs with Bri. He played on three numbers, the opener and closer (both full band) and Scars Do Fade, where most of the band took a break. Folks, Scars Do Fade is incredible. Bri and Craig are a very good team, and Craig did a wonderful job accompanying her on the piano.

CraigWilson

Ian Schaefer on trumpet. Ian played on three or four numbers, all with a muting cup. He was as good as he always is lending a character to the songs that works really well.

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Jeremiah Birnbaum on electric bass. This was one of the aforementioned surprises, and was also covered by the talented boys tweet. It wasn’t a surprise to me, since Jeremiah himself tweeted:

jeremiahmusic jeremiahbirnbaum

Very excited to play bass for the fabulously talented @BriArden tonight at Rockwood Music Hall, 9pm!

I’ve seen Jeremiah on electric guitar and singing lead vocals, a number of times (most specially with his group The Ramblers). This was the first time I saw him on bass. He was replacing Bri’s regular bass player, Justin Goldner (who is excellent), and Jeremiah acquitted himself well.

JeremiahBirnbaum

Bruno Esrubilsky on cajon, shaker and percussion. Bruno was a sub for Bri’s regular drummer/percussionist, Jake Cohen. That said, Jake has played drums every time I’ve seen him, so Bruno playing the cajon (extremely well) created an entirely different sound.

BrunoEsrubilsky

Rather than butchering Bruno’s last name, Bri gave him the opportunity to pronounce it himself. He quickly retorted: “So, you’ll let me butcher it myself?”. Winking smile

I have enjoyed every one of Bri’s shows. That said, I think I can say with little hesitation that I enjoyed this one the most.

After the show, Bri wanted to introduce us to her mom. Unfortunately, I got separated from Lois and Bri as the crowd divided us and pushed me further away. Lois got to say hi, but my introduction will have to wait for another time.

For the astute among you, you may have noticed that this post is about 12-15 hours earlier than normal. Tomorrow (by now actually today), is a crazy and somewhat unpredictable day for us. I didn’t want to take the chance on not posting until Monday, so I stayed up late to get it out now. Time for bed! Smile

Clara Lofaro at Caffe Vivaldi

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We spent the entire night at Caffe Vivaldi last night. The middle set was someone we hadn’t heard of before.

Clara Lofaro impressed us enough when we checked her out before heading down, so we weren’t planning on just passing time during her set.

Clara performed solo accompanying herself on the grand piano with the exception of 1.5 a cappella numbers.

ClaraLofaro

She has a beautiful voice and plays the piano very nicely. She has a relaxed style with a very nice stage presence.

ClaraLofaroSinging

The songs available online (on her site and on MySpace) are produced with a full band sound. They’re excellent and have a vibrant feel to them. Last night was a bit more raw and stripped down (obviously), but that didn’t change the character/mood of the songs.

She’s talented, period.

The .5 a cappella mentioned above came toward the end of one song, when she stood up and shifted gears, singing and clapping to finish out the number (actually, I think she morphed it into anther one, but I don’t know her music well enough to be sure).

ClaraLofaroSingingClapping1ClaraLofaroSingingClapping2

She was ready to pack it in when everyone asked her to play some more. The bartender told her should could do at least two more. So, after doing two more on the piano, she stepped out from behind it and closed the set with an a cappella number that was wonderful. She put everything she had into it (voice/body/spirit) and it came across really well.

ClaraLofaroACappella

A lot of her friends were in the audience. They knew every word to every song. They often sang along (even in the uninvited times). That can be a ton of fun, when done well, but I’ll admit that they weren’t always on key, or consistent with their volume. Very nice that they were so into it, but they might have interfered a bit with a new fan’s attempt to get lost in the song.

More frustrating though were the times when they weren’t singing. At least 50% of their quiet time was hardly that. They were chatting up a storm with each other. I get that they know the songs cold and were partially out to simply support their friend, but with support like that, who needs detractors.

While Clara never called her friends out specifically (and it’s pretty clear they weren’t the only rude people in the audience). She noted that when she stopped talking, the audience instinctively quieted down. She turned that into a few very warm moments, as she toyed with talking/singing/silence to prove her point. In other words, people know they can be heard, but if they have the slightest cover from the artist’s singing, they are emboldened to take up their conversations again, loudly.

Of course, the minute the song is over, they clap loudly and generally whoop their appreciation. Sad smile

In any event, while we could have enjoyed the set more if it were quieter, we liked Clara enough to warrant going to see her again, hopefully with a more respectful audience next time.

Joe Whyte and Alec Gross at Caffe Vivaldi

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We wanted to see the last set at Caffe Vivaldi last night. Having been there once before, we knew how small it is. We also assumed it would be mobbed for that set (it was). We checked out who was on before. When we noticed that the first set of the night included someone we’ve just recently discovered, we decided to spend the entire night at Vivaldi.

Joe Whyte was listed first. Alec Gross (the person we’ve seen) was listed as “w/”, which often means opening, but I assumed that he was supporting Joe. It turned out to be the kind of show we like, with Joe and Alec alternating performing their own songs. At times, each sang harmony with the other and there was a bit of guitar support for each other’s songs as well.

Joe’s part of the set was very good, but his voice wasn’t very strong. His harmonies with Alec were very good though, as his higher notes blended better when there was another voice. Joe played the harmonica very well. I just listened to a number of songs on his site (they start streaming instantly) and his voice comes across a bit better there.

JoeWhyteSinging

Alec played a dramatically more mellow set than the last time we saw him, when he was supported by a top guitar player (Will Hensley) and a drummer. I’ve mentioned before that Alec is an excellent harmonica player and that was true last night again.

AlecGross

I enjoyed Alec’s set a lot, but I liked the fuller, slightly more upbeat version from the last show a bit more.

The last time we saw Alec, we ran downstairs to catch Derek James whose set started a few minutes before Alec’s finished. Lois felt badly that we didn’t get a chance to buy Alec’s new CD (Strip the Lanterns) that night. She rectified that by purchasing it before their set began. I’m listening to it now as I type and enjoying it very much!

I enjoyed the experience thoroughly. Both Joe and Alec are hilarious and incredibly quick witted. They even joked that they talked more than they sang (they didn’t, but I suspect no one would have complained if that were the case, I know I wouldn’t have!).

In addition to being funny, they’re both extremely nice (or do an amazing job coming across like they are). I believe that I would seriously enjoy spending time with Joe.

The one distraction was that Joe is a doppelganger for Josh Gomez, a.k.a. Morgan Grimes on Chuck. You be the judge:

JoeWhyte

In a not-so-small irony, he has similar mannerisms and comes across as equally relaxed in his humor, completing the illusion (for me) that Joe Whyte is actually an alias for Josh Gomez.

Dennis Lichtman and The Brain Cloud at Rodeo Bar

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Dennis Lichtman blew me away the only time I saw him, 10 months ago, at Mona’s. That night, he was doing his weekly Mona’s Hot Four gig, where he plays the clarinet. Our friend Melissa Tong took us there, specifically to hear Dennis. Here’s what I wrote about his clarinet play and her response to me:

Dennis Lichtman was that clarinet player. When I mentioned that to Melissa, she told me that he doesn’t consider the clarinet to be his strongest instrument. Say what? Now I have to find him and watch him play every other instrument, first ensuring that my seat belt is on and my tray table is locked in its upright position!

Dennis has another regular setup called The Brain Cloud. In that group, Dennis plays mandolin and fiddle. I’ve had a number of close encounters trying to get to see The Brain Cloud. They used to play every Monday night at Banjo Jim’s. I assumed I’d catch them there sometime, but then Banjo Jim’s closed. Sad smile That Monday gig moved to Barbes in Brooklyn. I might make it there, but the stars need to align (and I have to update my passport) to get us to Brooklyn (where we both grew up and spent all of our formative years). Smile

DennisLicthman

When I got Dennis’ email newsletter announcing a show at Rodeo Bar, not too far from our apartment, I knew that nothing else happening in NYC last night would push this off my calendar (and there was a ton happening at Rockwood Music Hall!). We had never been to Rodeo Bar (27th Street and 3rd Avenue), but we’ve driven by it 100 times. I had no idea they had live music, now I do.

We walked over thinking that this would be a noisy neighborhood bar (not unlike Mona’s) with Brain Cloud playing in some corner. Happily, I was wrong (I usually am). Rodeo Bar is a Tex-Mex restaurant bar, with two rooms. One is a more typical local sports bar, and the other is more of a casual restaurant with a real stage area. They have a real sound board and a full-time sound engineer working it. We were both extremely impressed with the sound quality.

The people in our room were an awesome audience. Super quiet during the songs, fully appreciative after each song was over. While we only had drinks, the food looked so good that I’m sure we’ll be back for a meal, with or without music being involved.

On to the music. The Brain Cloud is a mix of Bluegrass, Old Time Jazz, Western Swing, Big Band Lite, etc., sometimes all together in a single song. It’s all covers (or at least everything on their CD and in last night’s show were), so the musicians better be good.

Not to worry my pretties. Dennis is indeed masterful on both the mandolin and fiddle. I might still prefer his clarinet play, but that might also be biased by that being my first introduction to him. Dennis also sang a bit of background harmony. There are five more people in Brain Cloud. The bass player and drummer from the CD were not part of last night’s lineup.

Left-to-right on stage:

Skip Krevens on electric guitar and lead vocals. Skip played the electric beautifully. He sang lead vocals on one song. His vocals last night were OK. On the CD, he sings lead on one song and comes across much better.

SkipKrevens

Raphael McGregor on lap steel guitar. Fantastic! Tasty play, including duels with Dennis.

RaphaelMcGregor

Tamar Korn on lead vocals (lots of links about Tamar, but I couldn’t find her own website). Tamar has a voice that is very suited to Bluegrass and old-time Jazz (like the Andrews Sisters). It’s high, and has a bit of a Betty Boop flavor. She’s a showman (showwoman?), in her expressions and movements, including dancing around when she’s not singing. During one instrumental, she sat right near us and couldn’t have been lovelier.

TamarKorn

Scott Kettner on drums. Scott is not the drummer on the CD, but I didn’t feel cheated. He was excellent, including a number of solos. This style of drumming is generally understated, but that doesn’t make it easy.

ScottKettner

Ian Riggs on upright bass. Ian was also replacing the bassist from the CD, and as with Scott above, I thought Ian was excellent. He took a number of solos. In one number, Ian and Scott traded solos back-and-forth, with Scott supporting Ian on the high-hat. Wonderful!

IanRiggs

I mentioned above that Tamar sat next to us during one of the instrumentals (she sat for two songs, the second was when Skip sang lead). The instrumental was Mission to Moscow. It was awesome.

When the first set was over (they played two sets, split over three hours) I went up to Dennis and bought a copy of The Brain Cloud CD (it’s self-titled). When I popped it in this morning, I was thrilled to find that Mission to Moscow was the first song. The entire CD is excellent.

Glad to have finally caught Dennis again, playing two additional instruments. Glad to have discovered Rodeo Bar. Glad to have been able to walk to/from a music venue.

Rebecca Haviland at Arelene’s Grocery

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We missed a bunch of great shows last week due to the extended holiday weekend and the wonderful company that was up from Richmond to spend it with us.

Rebecca Haviland was appearing at Rockwood Music Hall on Friday night, and that’s the only show we had planned to abandon our company to go see. Unfortunately, our goddaughter baked one of her world-famous apple pies and got permission from Lois for me to have a slice (the answer is often hit-or-miss). Couple that with their latte machine (cherry, or cherry chocolate that night, amazing!) plus an awesome bottle of port, and well, somehow, we didn’t make it to Rockwood…

The saving grace is that we knew Rebecca was playing again, last night, at Arlene’s Grocery. While I prefer Rockwood over Arlene’s for most shows, I admit that I was more excited to see Rebecca at Arlene’s this time around. She’s a rocker, and Arlene’s is well-suited for rock shows (much more so than Rockwood 1).

RebeccaHavilandSinging

Even if we had seen her at Rockwood, it would have been worth coming out again, for the contrast in venues and the swap of two band members.

We never worry about whether Rebecca’s sets will be good, they always are, last night too. If there’s ever a concern, it’s about the sound. Arlene’s has a very good sound guy (Howard), but on occasion, it can get too loud. Last night the volumes were all balanced perfectly. In fact, Chris’ vocals were at a better level than any other show. More on Howard the sound guy a bit later.

In addition to Rebecca’s voice being extremely tasty throughout, on one number Howard cranked the reverb but had a long delay on it (unless Rebecca was controlling that through her pedal). It sounded like Rebecca had a background vocalist singing with her (rather than a trail or echo). It was an extremely cool sound, hearing Rebecca twice.

When Rebecca got to If You (possibly my favorite song of hers, but there’s no shortage of songs to love), she called out that if the audience didn’t know when to sing, they should follow me. Ha! Indeed, good advice, since I belt it out whenever I can (even at home, without the CD on, seriously!). Sorry Krista, I hope I wasn’t too loud, sitting right next to you. Winking smile

Let’s cover the band, right-to-left this time (not my normal direction), then return to Howard the sound guy:

Chris Anderson on electric bass (two of them, one an 8-string) and vocals. Another excellent performance on the bass, in particular, on Money, when Chris was wailing fantastic bass lines while Todd was ripping up the keyboards. More importantly, as mentioned above, Chris’ vocals were leveled perfectly and he sounded great singing with Rebecca on every number.

ChrisAndersonTuning

Chris asked for less of Rebecca’s vocals in his monitor, and Rebecca asked for more of Chris in hers. Chris was particularly impish last night (in general), and after that exchange, hilarity ensued.

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny wasn’t able to make Friday’s show, even though he’s Rebecca’s normal drummer. Always a treat to see him. Many of the numbers last night called for slower, but deeply rhythmical (jungle/swing) drumming. Absolutely wonderful.

KennyShawToddCaldwellKennyShaw

Todd Caldwell on electronic keyboards. (The site linked to his name isn’t fully active yet, but hopefully it will be in the near future.) I’d never seen Todd before, and I’m very glad to have corrected that oversight. An incredible keyboard player who took a number of wonderful leads throughout the set. I already mentioned above that he ripped it up on Money.

ToddCaldwell

In 2007, Stephen Stills selected Todd to tour with him. In addition to holding on to that role, he was also invited to play with Crosby, Stills and Nash, another continuing role. Need I say more? I didn’t think so!

ToddCaldwellRebeccaHaviland

I’ve noted in other posts that Howard (the sound guy) is one of the hardest working people I’ve seen. His dedication is impressive. After working the stage to set everyone up, he comes out of the booth during the show to stand in the audience to hear it like we do. During one number, he thought that the electric guitar was a bit too bright. He left the room and came on stage from a side door. He moved a mic that was in front of the amp about four inches further away. That solved the problem perfectly.

He’s also a fan of Rebecca (which means he has good taste too). When her set was over, he asked them to play one more. Folks, it’s highly unusual for a sound guy to do that. They often allow the extra number, but rarely insist on it, like Howard did. Rebecca noted that it was almost time for the next band to go on, but Howard told her to play on!

Then he said something into his mic that cracked me up: “Don’t worry, once you start playing, I’ll turn off the sound.” Winking smile

So, the impromptu encore is not listed on the set list:

SetList

We were both pooped and a bit under the weather, so we bagged another show we were planning on seeing at Rockwood and most unfortunately a special birthday party that we had hoped to attend as well.

The Book of Mormon on Broadway

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I’m a Scorpio, in practically every way. The most important way is that my birthday just recently passed. I love comedy in nearly every form. When we watch sitcoms on TV, and I laugh at everything truly groan-worthy, Lois always says: “You’re so easy!” It’s true, I am.

I don’t live under a rock (at least not any longer). I am aware that The Book of Mormon is the hottest ticket on Broadway (even hotter than my beloved Wicked). I was aware that it was by the creators of South Park. I was sure that it would be hysterical, irreverent and over-the-top (in particular in its use of foul language). I wanted to see it.

I knew that Lois couldn’t make it through the performance, so I never bothered to get tickets. Then Lois told me that I should get tickets for my birthday and take friends rather than her. Well, if I must (apparently, I must’ed, so I did). Winking smile

Three of us went last night. I went with an open mind, with no doubt that I would love it even more, without the guilt of thinking about Lois squirming in her seat next to me.

I was wrong. Not about everything. It is very funny (though not even close to hysterical or even consistent in the level of humor). It’s extremely irreverent, though not in the let’s poke fun at everything (but rather, let’s ridicule a group that isn’t likely to do/say anything in response). It’s over-the-top, but in making light of things that simply can’t be made light of (the very real, ongoing female genital mutilation in Africa is a non-stop riot in their opinion).

People laugh their heads off, even at those images. It feels to me like it’s more the shock value than an actual joke. When you see people around you laughing, and you’re at the hottest comedy for which you paid a small ransom to attend, you laugh too (or at least most people in the audience did).

To me, there were two separate shows (seamlessly integrated into one spectacle):

  1. A (very raw) comedy ridiculing every aspect of Mormonism. As a side dish, the plight of the poorest, most oppressed, AIDS stricken Ugandans is served up for our delight.
  2. A sendup (parody/skewering) of Broadway Musicals.

Let’s start with #2. I think The Book of Mormon nails it perfectly, in a funny way. Every single actor/singer is fantastic. The music is fine (nothing that I can remember even the next day, but it was all pleasant and professional throughout). The lyrics are often sophomoric, but they’re meant to be (or at least completely feel like that’s intentional). The dancers are very good and all of the exaggerated movements are precisely meant to parody the genre.

The sets are minimalistic on some level, but extremely creative. The transitions from one scene to another are simplistic, but work very well. In other words, the team that put this show together are incredible pros.

The female lead (character of Nabulungi) was a substitute last night (played by Asmeret Ghebremichael). She was amazing! That’s all the more impressive when I found out that the person she was subbing for, Nikki M. James, won the Tony for this role. If Nikki is better than Asmeret (and perhaps that’s true), I can only imagine how good she is!

The two male leads were perfect. Andrew Rannells reminded me of Jim Carrey at his best (physically as well as performance skills). Josh Gad was phenomenal.

To summarize, if #2 was the total target, then The Book of Mormon was as good as it gets.

The problem is that it was paired with #1. When I described it to Lois last night, she asked why they didn’t make up a religion, sprinkle in parts of every major belief system (including Mormonism)? Bingo (once again, Lois is typically more insightful than I am, even about things I’ve seen and she hasn’t!).

I’ve already said (twice) that the entire lighthearted treatment of the Ugandan people borders on the absurd (wow, Hadar, you finally get it, it’s supposed to be exaggerated to absurdity). Unfortunately, there’s no exaggeration, it’s happening, today, and it’s simply not funny.

How about Mormonism? Surely that’s fair game, right? Well, anything is fair game to the authors and that’s fine. They are equal opportunity skewerers. For that, I do applaud them (seriously), they’ve taken on some groups (at South Park) that got them heavily censored as well, so they don’t shy away from one group and only target another.

My problem is with the audiences (not just mine, but the ones who make this a runaway hit). First, let’s stipulate something that I had to check (I was not and obviously still am not an authority on Mormon doctrine). I looked on the official site of the Mormon Church where they describe the Book of Mormon on a single page. There is nothing in the show that contradicts what is on the official page.

In other words, the creators choose to present the material in a satirical manner, but from my perspective, they do not distort the teachings as far as I can tell. They deliver the words with a classic tongue-in-cheek and wink-wink nudge-nudge know-what-I-mean know-what-I-mean manner.

Does some of it sound unbelievable? Of course (to me!). But then are there any major religions that don’t have ample amount of hard-to-swallow stories that can’t be proven beyond the faith of their believers? If you’re not a disciple of the Judeo/Christian bible, do you really think the Garden of Eden existed and played out literally as the bible tells us? If you’re not a Muslim, do you believe that Muhammad memorized the Quran as told to him by an angel and then dictated to his followers from memory?

If you believe all of those things (or more importantly, any of those things), is the tale of Joseph Smith really so absurd? Yet, people have no trouble equating the beliefs of honest Mormons with raucous comedy. In fact, I would posit that in general Christians (of any ilk) are considered to be a fair target for any treatment in this country (unfairly and incorrectly, IMHO).

I further posit that if everything about this show were held constant, with the exception of swapping Mormonism for Islam, few (if any) would laugh at a single line, even devout atheists who think all religions are absurd. In fact, the show wouldn’t be made. On the off chance that I’m wrong about that, I’m sure it would close pretty quickly. In the end, some things aren’t funny (or aren’t allowed to be in our Politically Correct environment).

Thankfully, Mormons are a peaceful bunch who aren’t even likely to sue (unlike, say, Scientologists, when they are made fun of). So hey, let’s all take our best shot at Mormons, they’re obviously good sports!

It’s a funny thing about strongly held beliefs. Over time, they can change, either because they’re proven to be wrong, or because something else makes us rethink aspects of them.

The earth was flat, then it wasn’t (perhaps someday it will be again). Nothing can go faster than the speed of light, even in theory (except for warp speed in Star Trek). Oops, some neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light (man was Einstein a moron). Let’s not get started on our Food Pyramid (which minute of the day is it now, so I know which Pyramid to refer to?).

I started this out by mentioning that I’m a Scorpio. Well, am I? According to this article in Time Magazine (the most respected publication on our planet, can I get an amen?), I am no longer a Scorpio. In fact, Scorpio is now exactly a week-long phenomenon, and not a single person who was a Scorpio before is one now.

What? Is nothing sacred anymore? When you can’t trust your Zodiac Sign, it’s clearly an indication of end days, no?

I’ll finish this off by stating that it’s extremely rare that I agree with a review in The New York Times. Typically, when they love a show, I hate it. When they hate it, I at least enjoyed it, often loved it.

Ben Brantley wrote a very long and detailed review of The Book of Mormon in March 2011. I encourage you to read it fully. I think it’s actually very fair (at least 80% of it is), even though he’s clearly over-the-moon about the show. We don’t really differ in our description of most of it. We differ in the why of some parts (he loves it, and I believe that not everything that can be done should be done).

I still can’t wrap my head around some of his conclusions though:

Now you should probably know that this collaboration between the creators of television’s “South Park” (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) and the composer of “Avenue Q” (Robert Lopez) is also blasphemous, scurrilous and more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak. But trust me when I tell you that its heart is as pure as that of a Rodgers and Hammerstein show.

That last line, really? Really? He spends way too much time trying to prove the connection (to the Sound of Music and the King and I). When you can point out to me in either of those how Rodgers and Hammerstein work in anything even remotely pure of heart as repeating a single line that starts with F U, dozens of times in a row, I’ll stand corrected.

He ends another string of paragraphs that I felt like quoting in their entirety with this line:

And it uses this vocabulary with a mixture of reverence and ridicule in which, I would say, reverence has the upper hand.

If you saw this show and thought that reverence had the upper hand, then I want to shake your hand for having the sunniest disposition of anyone I can imagine. To be fair, since most of you who have seen the show (and read the review) will want to pinpoint Brantley’s comment as referring purely to their reverence of the Broadway Musical Genre, and not to their reverence of Mormonism, a true quibble/debate is possible on that.

I’ve rambled on long enough, so I’ll conclude with what happened after the show. Like with Friday night’s performance of Wicked, we’re still in the Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS (to repeat, twice a year, possibly lasting the entire year between the two times). The character of the shows comes through in the way they appeal for donations.

Wicked was represented by Glinda, who was charming in every way in making her appeal. The Book of Mormon was represented by Josh Gad, who was very funny, but at times downright vicious in his humor in trying to get people to donate. Aside from the mandatory F-bombs that he was required to throw (in particular at audience members who left while he was talking), he had to throw in the optional D-Bags to describe anyone who might not put money in the buckets. Nice!

I put money in the bucket last night as well, but I put four times more in the Wicked bucket. I’ll give Josh this. I might have put in zero, if he hadn’t pre-shamed me with the D-Bag comment, so mission accomplished Josh!

For the record, both of my friends loved the show, unconditionally. For the record, I love both of my friends just as much today as I did before I found that out. Winking smile

Greg Mayo Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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What’s a Saturday night in NYC without a taste of Greg Mayo? Empty! Thankfully, NYC was full last night. Greg often plays with others on a Saturday, but it was his turn to shine in the spotlight with The Greg Mayo Band.

GregMayo

Given the time of year, it was no surprise that there were some substitutions. While we will welcome the regulars back with open arms (they are all exceptional), last night’s replacements were no slouches and the show was up there with the best we’ve seen!

The only missing piece was female vocals (Rebecca Haviland was performing in MD). That said, while Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 often gets the sound right (or at least really good), I can’t recall it ever being better than last night.

Greg is always an excellent vocalist, but last night was perhaps his best effort (possibly due entirely to the sound engineer getting everyone’s levels perfect).

GregMayoSinging

Greg was as masterful as ever on the grand piano and electronic keyboards. We typically sit/stand on that side of the stage for a Greg Mayo Band show, but last night we stood very close at a better angle to watch Greg play. Wow!

GregMayoKeyboard

I wondered whether there would be a good crowd, because Greg’s set was sandwiched between two paid shows. Logistically, that can be a headache. No worries, it was a large and very energetic/enthusiastic crowd.

It was impossible to stand still. Foot tapping, head bobbing, body swaying, full-on dancing. If you weren’t doing at least one of those, you weren’t at the same show.

Let’s get to the amazing band, left-to-right on stage:

Jeff Richardi on baritone sax. Jeff was filling in for John Liotta, very ably. Jeff took a couple of leads, one was very long and tasty. He also kicked off a number of the songs with a funky bottom.

JeffRichardi

Josh Reed on trumpet. Josh tore it up on one long solo and was consistently excellent on the remaining fills, as always.

JoshReed

Jon Irabagon on tenor sax. Jon was filling in for Matt Simons. I am in love with Matt Simons sax play, but I still feel a bit silly labeling Jon as filling in. Here’s part of the first line of Jon’s bio:

winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition

Yes folks, we had a superstar in our midst. That’s what can happen at any time at a place like Rockwood. Jon hasn’t forgotten his friends as he’s moved up the ladder and when given an opportunity to sit in, happily took it. Happily for us as well!

JonIrabagon

Kenny Shaw on drums. It’s been nearly a month since we’ve seen Kenny hit the skins. Something was probably askew with the universe, as we’ve seen Kenny more often this year than any other drummer. He was on fire last night, so I guess he felt he had to make it up to us. OK Kenny, we’re back to even again. Until next time! (which I hope will be this Friday, 8pm, Rockwood 1, for Rebecca Haviland’s show) Smile

KennyShawKennyShawDrums

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris always delivers on the bass. He also sings background on every Greg Mayo Band show, but without Rebecca’s voice last night, Chris was way more prominent on the harmony with Greg. Given how good the sound levels were, he was crystal clear and really did a great job. Way to belt it out Chris!

ChrisAndersonChrisAndersonSinging

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Paul was excellent throughout on both. During one number, Greg seemed to finish the song abruptly. A few people clapped, but it didn’t feel like the song was actually over. In fact, they took the few seconds of silence to morph it into a song by a band that Paul Maddison and Kenny Shaw are in, which Greg Mayo produces.

PaulMaddisonSinging

Paul sang two verses of Lipstick on My Booty, a staple of The Thang Band. I’ve seen one Thang Band show, and have been waiting (impatiently and excitedly) for another opportunity.

To prove that the original song wasn’t over, after singing the second verse of Lipstick, they morphed back into the original song and Greg finished it up big. A nice tease for The Thang Band.

Paul also sang a lot of background vocals on the other numbers, often with Chris Anderson as well.

Robbie Gil was called up as a special guest star on two numbers. One in the middle of the set and again for the encore. Robbie has a very powerful voice, which reminds me of Joe Cocker. He fit in perfectly with Greg’s sound, and sang a verse on lead in each number, along with background for the rest of the song.

RobbieGilChrisAndersonPaulMaddisonRobbieGilSinging

Here’s the set list:

SetList

At one point, Greg introduced himself. After saying that he was Greg Mayo, he added: “Or when my mom is in the room, like now, Gregory is OK as well”. Smile

The audiences at Rockwood definitely like the human interest side of their artists (we certainly do), so everyone started looking around immediately. At first Greg said “Perhaps she doesn’t want attention called to her”. That didn’t stop people from trying to figure out who it was. So, eventually, he said “Mom, raise your hand”. She did and we were all satisfied and allowed Greg to back to singing. Smile

A great show which definitely made going out on a chilly Saturday night the right decision. I think Greg mentioned that the next Greg Mayo Band show was on December 17th, also at Rockwood 2, but the website doesn’t go out that far yet, so double check.

Some shots of the brass section and the rest of the band (can’t see Kenny or Greg in these angles). Last shot is of the encore, with Robbie Gil back on stage:

BrassSectionCloseupJeffRichardiJoshReedChrisAndersonJonIrabagonPaulMaddison

GregMayoBandEncore