Dave Eggar

Matthew Morrison and Ian Axel at The Beacon Theatre

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Matthew Morrison headlined The Beacon Theatre last night. That’s a very big deal for a lot of people (I mean his fans). We wouldn’t have noticed, except for the opener, Ian Axel (listed as a Special Guest on the marquee). We don’t watch Glee, but I’m aware of how big a hit it is and how big a following it has and how beloved Matthew Morrison is to those fans.

BeaconTheatreMarqueeMatthewMorrisonIanAxel

I normally cover the headliner first. The exception is when the headliner doesn’t mention the opener. Since Matthew didn’t even acknowledge that there was an act before his, let alone repeat his name, I get to cover Ian first (which I am happy to do).

(Apologies for the dearth of photos and the awful quality of the few I’m posting. Lois uses a compact, and we were much further back than usual. It was effectively useless…)

This is the second time in less than a week that we’ve seen Ian Axel open for a very big headliner. The two shows couldn’t have been more different. Last Thursday was an outdoor, full-band show, with a possibly larger crowd (hard to tell, it was in a park), opening for Five For Fighting. Last night was mostly Ian (no band), acoustic.

One thing that was the same, fantastic sound systems and sound engineers at both shows, but the indoor acoustics at the Beacon wins hands down. We’ve seen Ian solo and with full band enough times that there were only a few surprises.

Ian opened the show with Waltz, which starts with a long-ish piano intro. Considering what an incredible pianist he is, it’s a great way to introduce newcomers to his skill. On the other hand, I imagine that some people might have been thinking that they would be listening to classical music until Matthew hit the stage.

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That feeling might have been exacerbated considering that Ian had a single musician accompanying him, the world-class cellist, Dave Eggar. I’ll come back to Dave in a minute.

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I still think Ian picked an excellent song to open with. The lights went down at exactly 7:30pm (the announced show time), which is awesome, but catches way too many people scrambling for their seats. The piano intro gives people something to latch on to aurally and just when they sit, bam, the singing starts.

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The vocals (for everyone, not just Ian) were so perfectly mic’ed with the volume set just right that on some level, it was like hearing Ian for the very first time (as in chills down the spine effect). Ian’s voice is highly nuanced and really portrays (captures?) the emotional content of his songs.

Ian can captivate with just a piano, no problem, but I still prefer the full band sound, partially because he has a great band. Dave Eggar is such a great cellist (no matter the musical format) that having him alone replace a full band was quite interesting. He’s not just playing mellow strings in the background. He creates percussive sounds (not quite mimicking a drum, but filling in that feeling), fills in bass lines, etc.

In other words, if you can’t bring a band, bring Dave Eggar! Smile

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Ian then introduced the next song, Gone, and calmed the crowd down (in advance), lest they misunderstand the purpose of the song. If you listen to it, you’ll understand why he feels the need. His intro worked, with the majority of the audience chuckling (appropriately). Dave accompanied Ian on Gone as well, then left the stage.

Ian switched gears and played Leave Me Alone! solo. Such a fun song, delivered perfectly. I was impressed that everyone seemed to be listening to the words (another advantage of great sound engineers and acoustics), because they laughed (hard) at the right places. It’s funny on the CD, but Ian’s live delivery adds a dimension that can’t be captured without the visuals.

Ian asked the audience if they would sing along to the call/answer section, It Ain’t Easy. Many did (I sang really loud, sorry to those around me who wished I didn’t). People also clapped to the rhythm. Ironically, there is a special clapping part in that song, but to a cool beat, not just straight clapping. I don’t blame those that came for Matthew for not knowing that, and I don’t blame Ian’s fans (me included) for not trying to confuse everyone by doing it right. Winking smile

Ian then introduced his writing and singing partner, Chad Vaccarino. The two of them performed a very special version of one their newest (unrecorded) songs, Rockstar. This is another song that works perfectly with and without the band. Chad’s voice is something that every music lover should experience, live, at least once. Now that I’ve heard him at the Beacon, I highly recommend that you hear him there. Smile

IanAxelChadVaccarino

Like they did in Stamford (for the first time), they morphed the song into Elton John’s Tiny Dancer. I might be mistaken (and probably am), but it seemed that they sang considerably more of the song last night, their voices blending beautifully together. Before finishing it, they morphed back into the end of Rockstar.

At this point I’ll mention the only niggle about Ian’s performance. He was playing on a baby grand. If I am correct, it was an electronic device, not an acoustic grand. Typically, Ian changes the pressure he applies on the keys (and pedals?) to create dramatic emotional shifts in the sound of the music, even when he plays alone.

Rockstar and Leave Me Alone! both have such shifts (typically). With a full band, the shifts are easier to create between the bass and drums, but Ian is very effective. Last night, either the nature of the “electronic” piano, or Ian’s change in style, or something regarding sound leveling, no such shifts occurred. The volume and feel of the piano was constant throughout each song.

Ian and Chad closed their set with their signature hit, This is the New Year. Perfect.

It was an absolute treat, short though it was, to see them in such a gorgeous venue, supported by excellent sound engineering, playing to an attentive and appreciative crowd, made up mostly of strangers to their music!

On to the headliner, Matthew Morrison.

I understand that we had as little sense of what to expect of Matthew’s set as most of the crowd had before Ian’s. I also understand the there are big themes in the show Glee, that his (and the show’s) fans would be disappointed if he didn’t reproduce, or find a way to pay homage to, on stage. The point of this defensive intro is to say that I understand that there was context to his performance, this wasn’t just a singer/songwriter coming on stage to share his music.

Ultimately though, Matthew Morrison is touring in support of a new, self-titled CD, that was released in May 2011. While it may instantly appeal to Glee fans, if he is to have real success in the music business, it better have much wider appeal than that.

The show started with a large screen dropping from the ceiling in the back of the stage. There was a short clip of Matthew driving a car, with Jane Lynch sitting in the passenger seat. The clip was extremely funny, well produced and delivered. I also happen to be a huge Jane Lynch fan (obviously having nothing to do with her role in Glee). That set a good tone for me.

When the lights came on, Matthew’s band was already on stage. He came out in a tux (complete with bow-tie).

MatthewMorrisonCenterStage

Before I describe the show (from my perspective, for his fans who will want to jump all over me), I’d like to list a few positive things (none of which I knew before):

  • Matthew Morrison has a fantastic voice. I was really impressed, across a wide range and many genres, it held up on every song.
  • He moves extremely well on stage (some would call it dancing, which he certainly did a bit of). He even did a split to end one number, so he’s certainly more limber than I ever was. Winking smile
  • He exudes warmth. I left with the impression that hanging out with him (as a person, not as a celebrity) would be a fun thing to do.
  • He’s a reasonably good songwriter (more on that later).
  • His new CD is pretty good (more on that later as well).
  • The show was entertaining (which is not the same as saying it was a good or great concert).
  • His band is exceptional, each and every one, including the three backup singers.

To summarize, he’s extremely talented. I didn’t know that he was a Broadway star before yesterday, but I totally get it. He has the voice, he has the extremely fluid moves and he is clearly an actor.

All of the above feels like it’s leading up to a but… It is, unfortunately.

But, the show felt like it belonged in Las Vegas. If he had sung Danke Shoen, the image would have been complete in everyone else’s mind as well. This was more of a production than a concert. That’s fine, many people (millions?) go to see these types of shows in Vegas (and elsewhere) all the time. But, he’s promoting a CD, including original music, and I admit feeling completely lost at trying to reconcile the two.

What made it Vegas to me?

  • More covers than originals
  • Many covers were actually medleys (often alternating rather than sequential)
  • Anachronistic dancing (Gene Kelly-like moves to a Rap/Hip-Hop number?!?)
  • Costume changes (OK, a weak one) Winking smile
  • He had a special guest (covered later), who also did a cover

There are probably more examples, but if the above don’t give you the sense, we’re just going to see it differently, which is fine with me (hopefully it’s fine with you too!).

That’s not the real problem I had with the show. I like entertainment for the sake of entertainment as well, even though, to repeat, Matthew is really pushing a CD, not a traveling show (I applaud touring in support of CD sales, so that’s a positive, not a negative for me!).

For me, given the production, and the nature of the arrangements (even though played by outstanding musicians and sung by someone with a great voice), made the covers feel stale for the most part (a very few notable exceptions). In my head, the words rounded corners (yes, an oxymoron) kept repeating.

He/they were reproducing the originals without the same excitement, nor were they interpreting them in any interesting way. Hence, stale.

On the other hand, he performed at least four originals (perhaps more, I didn’t know at least four songs). I really liked all of them, in particular the two singles, Summer Rain and Still Got Tonight! So, he can write songs that I like, but he chooses to play songs that don’t differentiate him from anyone else. Oh well…

The real point is that he delivers his own material freshly. It doesn’t feel manufactured. It’s coming from within him. I know, it’s fresh to me because I haven’t heard it before, but that’s not really it, it’s the actual delivery that I’m talking about. Actors (on Broadway) deliver the same lines every day, sometimes for years on end. The great ones make them fresh to each audience, even when members in the audience have seen the exact show many times.

Matthew has been touring with New Kids on the Block and The Backstreet Boys. After mentioning that, he said that of the boy bands, he preferred ‘N Sync. He started to sing one of their songs.

Halfway through, JC Chasez (of ‘N Sync) walks onto the stage, microphone in hand, singing along with Matthew (and taking some verses himself). The crowd went nuts (well, most did).

JCChasez

When the song was over, there was some loving exchanged between the two, then Matthew left the stage so that JC could sing a song without him. Above, I used the word manufactured. Here’s one example. The last thing Matthew Morrison said as he walked off the stage was: “When I return, I better see you all standing on your feet!” (or something like: “I’ll be surprised if you’re not all standing on your feet when I return!”). The point being, if you’re a fan of Matthew Morrison, you’re going to stand, whether you were moved to or not, or you’re letting your idol down.

JC gave a long (rambling) introduction before singing. He was self-deprecating (and got a really good laugh for it) when he interrupted himself and said: “This is why they don’t usually let me talk into the microphone.” Smile

Then he started singing Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. OK, great song (by any measure), and he and the band delivered it really well. But seriously, you get one song to sing, and you pick someone else’s? Also, this was hardly a Rock Show. But, instantly (and dutifully), nearly everyone in the place stood up (for the entire song). We didn’t, and for all I know, we might have been the only two people sitting during that (and one other) song.

Why did it feel odd to me, even though I love the song and thought they did a great job? Because there are a hundred Journey cover bands in the US (probably a dozen in NYC), most of whom can nail the sound (perhaps better than they did last night), and I can guarantee you that 80% of the people who stood and rocked out with JC last night, wouldn’t put $5 in a tip jar for those bands, and certainly wouldn’t stand throughout the song. They got to pay a heckuva lot more for the privilege of hearing covers last night.

OK, I could go on (an on), but I’ll shift gears and wrap up.

First, another shout-out to the band and backup singers, they were really top-notch pros.

Kiley Dean singing and dancing. She was excellent all night, but when Matthew was finishing up a Soul number, he took the opportunity to introduce each of the backup singers and give them a few seconds of lead to show off their stuff. All were really good, but Kiley killed it, hitting some super high notes amazingly for a finishing flourish.

Kamilah Marshall singing and dancing. Everything I said about Kiley applies here as well, with the exception that she didn’t quite push the mini-solo. She was otherwise completely outstanding throughout the set.

There was a male backup singer/dancer who also was excellent, though somewhat less highlighted than the ladies. I can’t easily find his name, though Matthew Morrison definitely introduced him (I don’t take notes, everything is from memory, augmented by searching the Net the next day).

BackupSingersPartialBand

Likewise, he introduced his band, but I assumed I’d have no trouble finding them online. I am giving up, so I’ll just briefly describe them without giving them the proper attribution. Left-to-right on the stage:

The bass player (electric) was fantastic. He also played a keyboard/synth on at least one number.

The drummer was incredible (playing a very large kit). For one of the medleys, he came to center stage and played the bongos. Everyone else left the stage and Matthew Sang with only the bongos accompanying him. I applaud the drummer’s play on those as well (Matthew asked the lighting person to shine a spotlight on his fingers, which were flying).

BassPlayerDrummer

Unfortunately, that was also the lowlight of the evening for me. Matthew sang a medley from West Side Story. His voice? Perfect. The bongos? Perfect. Singing a medley from West Side Story, solo, with just a bit of percussion? Borderline ridiculous. (Not even up to Vegas standards!)

MatthewMorrisonBongoPlayer

The keyboards player (L-shaped setup with an organ and electronic keyboards that sounded like a piano), was absolutely terrific and was highlighted on one number that he nailed.

Two guitar players. One alternated between an acoustic guitar on which he played rhythm and an electric on which he took a number of excellent leads. The other one played electric all night. He took a number of leads, but his volume was lower than the other guitar and it was a bit harder to pick out his skill level. Given how incredible everyone else was, I have little doubt that he’s that good too!

On to the final positive thing, followed by the biggest negative one.

The point of the tour is to promote the CD. If the tour can make a profit, all the better, I’m sure. At those ticket prices, I would guess they accomplished the latter, but did they accomplish the former?

Well, thanks to Spotify, I actually listened to entire CD this morning (that never would have happened if I didn’t see the show last night). Since Spotify pays royalties, I’ve already contributed an additional $.00000034 to Matthew Morrison beyond his take of the uber-expensive $180 (with fees) we paid for our two tickets to the show.

Here’s my take on the CD:

I like it! I don’t love it, and I’m unlikely to buy it, but I wouldn’t swear to that. If any Matthew Morrison fan were to promote it to me, I would not look at them funny, or think they were weird.

I said above that I liked his original music, and that holds true for the CD version as well, so it’s not a matter of only coming across well live. Two of the covers that he performed last night are also on the CD, but there they are actual collaborations with the original artists (Elton John and Sting). The songs came across stale/flat on stage, but are better (still not my choice of listening material) with Elton and Sting singing verses as well.

Last night he also sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow (one of our favorite songs). He did a nice job, nothing special. It’s not the original arrangement, but rather one that I associate with Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, though perhaps he didn’t originate it either. On the CD, it’s a collaboration with Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s fantastic. After listening to it, I took off the headphones and played it again out loud for Lois to enjoy with me. Smile

So, here’s what Matthew Morrison accomplished yesterday by having Ian Axel open for him:

  • He extracted $180 from my wallet, though he didn’t get every penny of it personally Winking smile
  • He impressed me with his incredible talents
  • He entertained (and annoyed) me
  • He got me to listen to his CD
  • He got me to promote his CD here
  • I will speak favorably about his CD to anyone who shows an interest
  • I will check out his future recordings, especially if they contain original music!

That’s not a bad night’s work if you ask me.

All of which brings me to a complaint that nearly everyone had (especially in the orchestra section), which had nothing to do with Matthew Morrison (though I’d like to believe that the headliner can and should affect these things!).

As with a number of other venues/shows, but worse last night than I’ve ever experienced, they continually shone bright lights directly into the audience. These were land airplanes in fog level brightness. Blind you level brightness. There is no reasonable explanation for doing this that I can dream up.

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Even if you aren’t sensitive, the light overwhelms (and therefore obscures) whatever section of the stage it’s coming from at the time (yes, they rotate from all angles!). At the extreme, I can imagine it triggered some migraines! The only thing that could have made it worse would have been to strobe them. That would have surely set off epileptic attacks.

I’m not alone in my feeling. Lots of people around us were shielding their eyes and grimacing. Even on Matthew Morrison’s site, there were comments this morning about how horrible the lighting was, questioning the purpose. Like I said, not his fault, unless they did it in rehearsals, in which case I can’t imagine they would have done it had he asked them not to.

The best part of everyone standing up for two entire songs? We had human shields to protect our eyes, however brief that was…

Alex Wong and Ximena at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Alex Wong had a show listed at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 as: “Alex Wong and Special Guest”. A number of days ago the title changed to “Alex Wong and Ximena”. We didn’t need any extra incentive to attend the show, but if Alex was worried that we were getting tired of seeing him as often as we do, revealing that Ximena would be there would certainly have pushed us (and many others) over the edge.

The last time we saw Alex, Ximena was there as well, but she was only supporting Alex with harmony and piano. Well, they also played a song they co-wrote in a day as part of Dubway Days. This time, the show was a real collaboration. They alternated singing their own songs.

Alex opened the show with what seems to be his new signature opener: Always Something Better. Ximena sang harmony.

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Chris Benelli joined on the drums. We’ve seen Chris twice before and I really like his drumming. This was particularly interesting. Every other time I’ve seen Alex play Always Something Better, he starts by looping his own percussion, tapping the body of his acoustic guitar and rubbing the strings, before moving to the piano to perform the song.

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It’s very cool (very!), but hearing a professional drummer give a fuller, more dynamic bottom, brought more life to the song. It only made me want to hear Alex’s new CD sooner (he said it should be out in Feb 2012).

Jeff Kerestes played the electric bass. He was quite good.

Jeff Kerestes

Chris Benelli didn’t return after the first song, but Jeff joined for one additional number later in the set and played in a style I don’t often see. He spent much of the song sliding one hand or the other, up and down the frets, very slowly. It produced a gorgeous sound in accompaniment of a slower, more soulful song.

Ximena took the piano next, with Alex taking over the drums to support her. She sang Love Again. It’s off her upcoming CD (I believe it will be released next week), her first English one.

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Pete Lalish joined Ximena playing electric guitar (with lots of effects) on all but her last two numbers.

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Sebastian Sarinana (Ximena’s brother) joined on a few as well, crouching throughout each song. He wielded an electronic gizmo that produced organ-like sounds, but also seemed to be able to add effects (reverb, distortion, etc.) to what he and Ximena were playing. He sang harmony with Ximena on most of the numbers.

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A last reminder that Alex and Ximena alternated singing lead. I don’t have a set list from last night (I stood behind the tables for the entire set, so I wasn’t close enough to the stage to grab one). Rather than cover each song and tell you which order they were played in, I’ll just mention some of the highlights.

When Alex came back to the piano he brought up another very special guest, Dave Eggar. If you’ve never read my posts before, then you won’t know how exciting that was for me. That doesn’t mean that you won’t know Dave. He’s a world-class cello player (and that’s a bit of an understatement).

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For the first number that he was on stage, he didn’t play the cello in a traditional style (which in itself is not unusual for Dave). Alex mentioned that when rehearsals take place at a drummers house (Alex is a top percussionist), people tend to hit lots of things. Throughout the first song, Dave literally just hit the cello strings with a short baton-like stick. Cool!

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Later in the set, Dave played more traditional cello bits, enhancing one of my favorite Alex Wong songs quite a bit.

That was Alex’s closing number, his now necessary to play: Are You Listening (or as my friends know, the one I call the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah song). I say necessary, because if he left the stage without playing it, he wouldn’t be able to make it out of the place without being hassled.

I think that’s the song Jeff did the hand-sliding on the electric bass as well. Ximena slipped off stage before the song started (she sang harmony on all/most of Alex’s other songs). But, Alex invited her up to lead us in the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah chorus, a task for which she is perfectly suited.

DaveEggar and JeffKerestesXimenaSarinana

Repeating: I told you what I call Are You Listening. Ximena introduced a song saying that she and her brother used to do covers occasionally, but rarely do now. They were in the mood to work up a new one and decided to play it last night. They did a song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Ha. Seemed fitting.

When she finished she said goodnight, but the chanting began immediately. I don’t know if they chanted for a specific song, or whether they were chanting “encore” in Spanish. Either way, she came back for one last solo song.

Ximena chose Mediocre, the title cut of her Spanish CD. She was extraordinary (no surprise), but I was extremely impressed by how different a feel a song can have based on venue and fan perception. Here’s what I wrote about this song the last time we saw her perform it. That was at Bowery Ballroom, in front of 400+ people, at 1am:

Ximena dismissed the band for her last number. She played the title track off her original CD, Mediocre, solo. When she introduced the song, the crowd was feverish, knowing what was coming. With a microphone and electronic keyboards and no other support, she blew away a crowd of hundreds of people, most of whom had been standing for over four hours already.

Her voice and skills at live performances are that good. Again, the crowd sang every word with her. They were good (hitting the notes as far as I could tell), but this song builds, and Ximena pours some amazing power into it, so she was always easily recognizable above the audience’s singing.

Last night, even though a good portion of the audience were Ximena’s fans (you can’t miss them, they love her to pieces and video every second of the show), people mouthed the song with her, but didn’t sing out loud. Who would want to break the incredible mood that Ximena was creating alone?

It’s quite possible that I screwed up the order above. Mediocre might have been the closing solo number, followed by a solo encore, also from the original CD. Sorry if I messed that up.

In what felt a bit herculean to me, Ximena had played a set earlier that night at Webster Hall. She opened for Sia, performing before a sold-out crowd of 1,400 people! That is an emotionally (if not physically) draining thing. Running over to Rockwood and giving us her all, was much appreciated. I tried to buy tickets to the Webster Hall show two weeks ago, but it was already sold out.

Tonight, Ximena plays another sold-out show at Webster Hall, again opening for Sia.

Dave Eggar, Deoro and Many Special Guests at Barge Music

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Dave Eggar is an extraordinary musician. We’ve only seen him play the cello, but I hear rumors that he plays other instruments as well (no surprise) and I bet he’s pretty darn good on those too. Every time we’ve seen Dave, it was in support of another artist (Ian Axel, Rachael Sage, ambeR Rubarth, Joey Ryan).

After the Ian Axel show (March 2010!), I bumped into him. Here’s what I wrote in that post:

After the show, I accidentally crossed paths with Dave Eggar as he was leaving. I got to say the following to him (100% heartfelt!): “You are perhaps the greatest musician I’ve seen live, on any instrument!”. The fact that his instrument is a cello astounds even me, and I said it! Obviously, that’s a wildly subjective statement, but I’ll let it stand.

In the past 17 months, we’ve continued to see live music at a frantic pace. This has included some phenoms (e.g., likely the best finger picking guitarist I’ve seen, just this week).  None of that changes my feelings about my statement above.

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While I follow Dave on Twitter (@daveeggar), his tweet about this series (we only saw one of three nights, all different themes and musicians) flew by me, because I had never heard of Barge Music and didn’t understand that this was a public concert.

All that changed when Alex Wong announced that he was one of the guests who would be appearing last night. When I realized I could get one more taste of Alex this week (last night was our third in a row seeing Alex perform), but more importantly, finally catch a full show headlined by Dave Eggar, our other plans fell by the wayside (I was really looking forward to seeing Emily Zuzik for the first time).

I dropped Emily a note apologizing. She told me that Dave organized and played much of the strings on her 2006 CD, You Had Me at Goodbye! She asked me to say hi for her. Since I didn’t chat with Dave last night, I’m passing that along publicly, here. Smile

Barge Music is music, played on a barge (literally). Doh. It’s parked right under the Brooklyn Bridge (on the Brooklyn side). I’ll say some things about the logistics of that at the bottom of the post. Suffice it to say that it’s typically classical music, delivered in a gorgeous room, with excellent acoustics. I have no doubt I’ll be back there for another show.

The program last night was eclectic. Each guest brought something unique and the pieces were very different. Dave explained that in the beginning, noting (correctly) that it was highly unlikely that at least one of the performances wouldn’t appeal to every individual in the audience.

Before describing each piece and sharing how I felt it about it, I’m issuing the following blanket statement:

Every single musician was spectacular in their ability and technique!

In other words, even if I didn’t appreciate a particular composition, it’s not because it was delivered poorly. On the contrary, even pieces I would never listen to on my own, had enough elements of mastery to make them worth paying close attention to (at least once).

Given Dave’s talents, it’s clear that anyone he would invite to join him would be at the top of their game.

Apologies for the quality of the photos, and in some cases, the lack of one for a particular artist. We weren’t in a good position.

Dave sat center stage throughout, with the others coming and going depending on the piece. All of the guest composers were listed on the site. The supporting musicians were all introduced (a couple of times), but it was hard to hear their names (we were much further back than usual) and since I don’t take notes would have been impossible to remember. My heartfelt thanks to Tony Maceli (one of those musicians!), who responded to my email this morning to fill in the huge gaps in my memory/hearing.

John Patitucci was up first, playing upright bass. I didn’t recognize the name. It’s only in recent years that I pay attention (and homage!) to the names of sidemen (I always appreciated their work). It turns out that he’s played with so many greats, many of whose albums I own, so I do indeed know his play and now his name! The first composition of the night was written by John (I think specifically for Dave Eggar!).

JohnPatitucci

Before all of the musicians joined in, John and Dave kicked off a jazz improv on bass and cello. That morphed into John’s composition. Joining John and Dave were four cellists (making five playing simultaneously!): Jeff Law, Diane Barere, Peter Sachon and Sachi Patitucci (yes, John’s wife). After the cello’s were in full swing, David Budway joined all of them on the grand piano. Later on it morphed again into a jazz trio with John/Dave/David.

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PeterSachonSachiPatitucciJeffLawDianeBarere

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I love Jazz, but I’m a luddite, preferring Smooth Jazz over the more traditional full-on improv. I enjoyed this piece (and the improvs around it), but it’s not the kind of music I would typically seek out.

Next was Dave’s own group, Deoro. Deoro is Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer (drums/percussion). If I understand correctly, they often perform with at least a bass player. Last night (and on their recent tour), it was Tony Maceli, one of our favorite bass players. Tony was on electric bass and Chuck played the cajon.

TonyMaceli

They were amazing. Tony’s bass play was so subtle, but perfect. I was impressed by the restraint he had to show, both in tempo and volume, but it worked to enhance the piece(s) just right. Chuck played the cajon in a more free-wheeling jazz style than I’ve heard it played before (though it was tuned to sound very much like a snare). He did an excellent job for the most part.

ChuckPalmerCajon

That said, Dave Eggar was so spectacular on the cello (I should be institutionalized if I try to describe it, so I won’t) that a number of times I felt Chuck was interfering with my pure enjoyment of Dave’s play. I am sure that’s not how Dave felt. He seemed to be feeding off of Chuck’s play. They clearly have a close musical rapport.

Elliot Sharp was up next. As with most aspects of life, technology has greatly affected (if not revolutionized) music. Dave, and to a much greater extent Elliot, introduced the piece by describing how music can be broken down and represented/visualized. They showed the audience a variety of printouts of what they were about to play. Here are some feeble photos of it, but last night, there were many oohs and aahs when they were held up.

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Basically, the hard part would be reproducing these micro bursts of music on the various instruments, synchronizing them all together. Elliot played the bass clarinet. Joining him were: John Patitucci on bass, Dave Eggar on cello, Chuck Palmer on cajon, Victoria Paterson on violin and Alex Wong on marimba.

This piece didn’t do it for me. It felt technically difficult. Playing a hundred micro-bursts of music, at high speed, and matching them with the others has to be a feat, but that doesn’t make it pleasant to my ears. In an irony, the most pleasant sounding instrument was the marimba, which had nothing to do with the fact that Alex Wong was playing it.

I was impressed with Victoria Paterson’s violin play. Click on her name above and read the scrolling list of her credits. Have patience, it goes on (and on…). We’ve likely heard her more than a few times on Broadway (possibly elsewhere).

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Alex Wong was a big change of pace. He performed two songs, both at the grand piano. These are both songs that we’ve heard before, though one of them perhaps only once. The big difference for us was more instrumentation. The big difference for the audience last night was the addition of vocals and lyrics.

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Dave introduced Alex and explained that things were still in flux even a few hours before the show (in terms of the arrangements). He said that Alex was still working them out while he was in the cab on his way to the barge. Alex added that he brought a printer with him in the cab, so that when he finally finished scoring the various strings, he could print out the sheet music for each instrument on the barge.

Sounds nerve-wracking to me, but hey, I’m not a professional musician and producer. Perhaps this is the way it’s always done (and been done, except for the printer-in-the-cab part!). Before beginning, Alex apologized for feeling queasy due to the conditions on the barge (I’ll explain in greater detail at the end). In addition to apologizing to the audience and his fellow musicians, he directly apologized to the gorgeous Steinway he was about to play, considering what he was afraid might happen. Winking smile

The first song Alex played was so new it didn’t have a title yet. He was taking requests from the audience. In keeping with the classical theme, he offered up “Untitled”. Then added “Untitled #7”. Then quickly added “Untitled #7, Beige”. I will refuse to recognize the actual title he purports to call it by on his CD later this year. I will always call it “Untitled #7, Beige”.

He then played the song I’ve been obsessing about in my past few blogs about Alex, Are You Listening (otherwise known, by me only, as the “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” song). It’s always gorgeous, but with the strings added, even more so.

Accompanying Alex were Dave Eggar on cello, John Patitucci on upright bass and two of the four cellists mentioned above (Jeff Law and Peter Sachon).

John Patitucci played another number that he composed, this time on electric bass, accompanied by Dave, Victoria Paterson on violin and others (not sure exactly who).

After the song, John made a reference to the word apogee, explaining that it was furthest point in the orbit of a satellite. Dave repeated the word apogee and asked someone who appeared to be an audience member whether that definition was correct.

The reply was yes, but it applies not just to satellites, but anything that orbits another thing. That person ended up being Dr. Dan Gareau. It turns out that he should know. Shortly after confirming Dave’s question, Dan (or should that be Dr. Dan) was invited up to rap a science song, all about DNA. I think it was called Double J Helix. It was a blast!

Dan explained that he’s a Laser guy, working on non-invasive ways to diagnose melanomas. He did a great job, so I think I can understand what he’s doing, but I’m not quite at the point of competing with him. He’s also very into music. You can see his own personal music page, or his MySpace Page (which is called LaserManDan!).

Dina Fanai sang two songs. Absolutely beautiful voice. Every note she sang made me feel like it was (or should have been) featured in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In other words, reminiscent of Into the West by Annie Lennox (more the voice than the songs). Very dreamy.

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She was accompanied by the biggest group of the evening, flawlessly. Dave Eggar on cello, with all four cellists joining as well. Tony Maceli on electric bass. Chuck Palmer on drums and cajon. Bob Kinkel played the piano and sang some light harmony with Dina.

Dave told a story about his admission into the Julliard School of Music. On the entry form, there was a blank for your primary instrument. Dave knew that the proper name for the cello is violoncello (I didn’t, but he did). He didn’t know how to properly spell it though, so on the form, he filled in violincello. One of the professors (or the headmaster) embarrassed him by publicly stating that one of the students didn’t know how to spell the name of his instrument. He then made Dave sight-read a difficult piece in front of the class.

Dave didn’t tell us how that part went, but I’ll bet no one made fun of him ever again. Winking smile

Dave introduced the next person, Mari Kimura as a violinist, but also as a scientist. She has pioneered a technique on the violin called subharmonics. The NY Times wrote an article about her (and it) two months ago. If you clicked through, you see a glove on her right hand that is connected wirelessly to a computer. That glove registers every movement (including the speed) of her bowing hand. That project is profiled in the current issue of Scientific American.

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Dave further explained (while Mari set up the complex equipment on stage) that the gloves (he wore one too!) interact with each other, sending information from one musician to the other, allowing them (or prompting them?) to change their play to match the other. I have no idea whether that’s true, or how it would/could work, but it sounds pretty cool.

Since the setup was long and complex, and the song they were going to play was not an original, Dave took the opportunity to play it for us the way it was originally written. Mari kept setting up, while Dave, Chuck and John performed the song. Now they were ready to unveil Mari’s interpretation, gloves and computer included.

The introduction was fascinating. I couldn’t wait to hear the piece, and possibly see one of their arms move involuntarily as a result of a signal sent by a different glove. Unfortunately, the piece itself wasn’t to my taste, even though the virtuosity was as obvious as it was on every other number.

Joining Mari and Dave were Chuck on percussion and Elliot Sharp, this time on acoustic guitar. Elliot heavily employed a slide, in addition to also hammering on the frets on occasion. It was interesting that Elliot joined on this number, as this was similarly staccato-like (micro bursts of music) as was his piece. A number of times I could see his left hand flying up and down the frets. I have a strong feeling that he will blow me away if I ever hear him play a more normal guitar piece.

Medicine Woman (or more accurately, a current subset of the group) was up next. Liz Hanley sang and played the violin, both extremely well. Domenica Fossati sang and played flute, both extremely well. They were accompanied by Peter Matson on guitar. Of course, Dave played along with a few others.

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Liz Hanley sang lead on Devil’s Paintbrush Road, a song I love by The Wailin’ Jennys. I really liked her voice, and violin play, but their version of the song doesn’t quite hold up to The Jennys version in my opinion. Domenica then introduced a song by telling us about her grandmother. Domenica translated a song into Italian and set it to a tune that sounded like a classical Italian folk song (you could almost hear the hand-held accordion). She sang it in what she described as her grandmother’s Italian accent. It was wonderful.

Deoro was back in business for the finale, written and sung by Chuck, Follow Me to the Sun. You can listen to it on his MySpace page, linked above to Chuck’s name. It’s not a lyrical masterpiece, but it’s a wonderful musical one. Dina returned to the stage to sing harmony with Chuck and to use a shaker for additional percussion. Dave joined in the singing a couple of times to create three-part harmony.

Before the song, Dave joked that he can’t play the drums and sing at the same time. I feel that way every time I see a drummer do it too.

A little over two hours of awesomeness, even the pieces I wouldn’t choose to listen to again. I am grateful to have experienced it. I’m also sorry to have missed Deoro the night before, and Dave doing pure classical trios tonight. There will be more Dave Eggar in our future, you can count on it! Smile

A little bit about the barge experience to close out this post. Since it’s real, it moves with the waves. They realize that some people don’t handle that well (it was obvious yesterday), so they supply a bucket of Dramamine pills for anyone who wants/needs some.

I feel very badly for those that are affected by it in general. Last night couldn’t have been a good night. Given the rain all day (and generally stormy conditions), it wasn’t a quiet river. For those of us who are (at least relatively) unaffected by it, the experience can be pretty cool in and of itself.

First, there’s the motion. When things are calm, the barge moves left-to-right (pulling itself away from the dock) until the restraints snap it back toward the dock. Then it moves right-to-left. All of this is very gentle and slow. It seemed that when the water was calm, this motion didn’t get to people unless they are super-sensitive.

The stage is at the front of the boat, with a very large glass window behind the performers, overlooking the Manhattan skyline (as you can see in many of the photos above). The view is stunning, but even when the barge is moving incredible slowly, the scenery behind the musicians is still moving in the opposite direction to the boat.

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When the water gets a bit choppier (as it was for a reasonable portion of the evening yesterday), the movement of the NY skyline has to be as distressing to the motion-sickness prone people as the movement of the boat. To me, it was an enhancement to the show.

The most troubling motion, which occurred a number of times last night (thankfully not too often) is when the boat moves up and down, front-to-back. In other words, when a wave comes straight at the boat, and it first lifts up, then descends the wave, finally rising again in the front to even out. I can only assume that this is the most unsettling feeling for the sensitive. For me, it produced the most unusual visuals, as the skyline starts to shrink, before coming into view, then disappearing in the other direction (you’re now looking at the lower floors of the buildings), before realigning.

Anyway, be forewarned, if you’re not good on boats, don’t assume that because this one is docked, it will be any different. On non-stormy days, I imagine it’s better than last night, but there are no guarantees, only Dramamine…

Vienna Teng at Parkside Lounge

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Ignorance is bliss, at least it was last night. :-)

On March 14th, our friend @HappyBee3 tweeted the following:

Wow nice line up! RT @chrisayer: Added NYC show March 23 w/ @viennateng & Rachael Sage at Parkside Lounge!

I had never heard of Parkside Lounge before, but I made a mental note to see the show for three reasons:

  1. Vienna Teng (OK, I didn’t really need any more reasons) ;-)
  2. Rachael Sage (we saw her at Joe’s Pub and I enjoyed her show)
  3. Chris Ayer (@HappyBee3 saw him at Canal Room and tweeted her love for the show, so I was really looking forward to catching Chris, as @HappyBee3 has very good taste in music!)

The show was listed on Parkside’s calendar as: “Stanford University Alumni Showcase”. Tickets were not available for purchase, so it seemed like a free show, with a likely drink minimum. I knew Vienna graduated from Stanford, and I assumed so did Rachael and Chris, and this was a bit of fun to bill their show as such.

That was the ignorance part. We showed up and it turns out it was run by Stanford in Entertainment, with the audience all being Stanford Alums, as were all of the performers. Oops!

The ladies who put on the event were so nice to us and let us in. We made a donation to their “Raise Money for Haiti” drive (we would have anyway) and bought a few drinks (which had to help out Parkside, etc.). It’s possible that we were the only two non-Stanford alums in the very crowded audience.

Vienna closed the show, but since I nearly always cover performers in reverse order, and since we mostly showed up for her, I’ll stay with my tradition.

We’ve seen Vienna perform seven times before (hence, reason #1 above). This was the first time she performed every number solo. It’s also the first time we’ve seen her on an electronic keyboard (I’ve seen her play one on YouTube videos, but live, it’s always been a grand piano until last night). It’s not that the sound of the electronic keyboards is different, it’s the visual aspect of the performance.

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When Vienna plays on a grand, you have a profile view of her at best. For many, she’s nearly completely obscured. When she plays the electronic keyboards, she’s center stage, facing the audience. Vienna is an emotive singer, so the full-on view is very welcome.

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She’s always very warm and engaging with the audience, but this was a special audience, with many shared experiences and memories. There were inside jokes (that everyone but us got). Vienna gave longer introductions to a few songs, something we love to hear, so that too was a treat.

She chose a very fitting set list for both the audience and the venue (in our opinion). She was a bit worried that she wouldn’t pull off the magic in The Last Snowfall, since her looping machine was on a stool, much lower than normal. She needn’t have worried, it was perfect!

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I know a number of her fans really want a set list from each show. I’m probably missing one or two, but here’s what I recall (not necessarily in order!):

Whatever You Want, Blue Caravan, 1 Br / 1 Ba, Soon Love Soon, The Last Snowfall, Grandmother Song

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Amazingly, as much we love every one of those, there are many of our favorites that she didn’t play, hence my remark about her tailoring the set list to the specific crowd/venue.

Next up was Rachael Sage. When we saw her at Joe’s Pub, she had a full band, which included the mind-bogglingly brilliant Dave Eggar. It was a holiday show, and she played significantly more upbeat numbers that night.

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Last night she was solo, on Vienna’s keyboards. She has an excellent voice, and plays the piano wonderfully. She cracks me up to no end (very quick, witty, inventive). Unfortunately, she too crafted her set list specifically for last night’s show, and the choice didn’t sit as well with us. Her songs were darker, a bit less melodic. I still got a kick out of seeing her, and laughing a bunch, but for my taste, the show at Joe’s was substantially more to my liking.

Chris opened the show. He’s a superb guitarist. He’s a lefty, but I won’t hold that against him. ;-) He has a wonderful voice, and writes very interesting songs. Excellent stage presence.

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For 2/3’s of his numbers he had Matt Simons join him. Matt played electronic keyboards and sang a lot of harmony. Their voices blended beautifully!

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Chris played a few solo numbers in the middle of the set. For the last two songs he was also joined by Morgan Holland (sorry, couldn’t find a good link for her). Here’s a YouTube video of her singing with Chris at Capital Ale House (a lot of background noise…).

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Stanford Alums, sorry we crashed your party, but thanks for being so warm and thanks to Vienna, Rachael, Chris, Matt and Morgan for making the evening so enjoyable!

Parkside Lounge is a very nice venue. We’ll be happy to return there whenever we get the chance!

Ian Axel at Joe’s Pub

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We’ve seen Ian Axel perform three full sets before, plus a few songs at the New York Sings for Haiti benefit and some guest appearances. Still, we were looking forward to last night with great anticipation.

Joe’s Pub is our favorite NYC spot to see a show, and Ian is one of our few current obsessions, so having the chance to see him headline at our favorite place was a real treat.

The show was sold out (no surprise). Ian put out a new CD, This is the New Year, on January 5th. The title track video has become a music-lover’s destination on YouTube, with over 61,000 hits at the time I’m writing this.

I’m sure there were a few guests in the audience who hadn’t heard Ian’s music before, but from the roar and claps three notes into most songs, clearly the overwhelming majority were quite familiar with his material.

Ian is an exceptional pianist with an electrifying voice, who happens to write great songs. As great as his music is in our iPod, his performances are better for the energy that emanates from Ian, through his every pore.

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He opened the show with Waltz [Intro] (a solo classical piece for piano) with the band in the shadows standing quietly watching like the rest of us. Just like on the album, [Intro] flows directly into Waltz, where the band comes alive and everybody starts to tingle.

He played all but two or three of the songs on This is the New Year. He also played Say Something on the ukulele. That song isn’t on his CD or EP, but we’ve seen him perform it before, and I know a few people who tear up each time they hear it! (You know who you are!)

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Toward the end of the set, Chad Vaccarino stepped onto the stage. It’s hard to describe how much noise (and joy) can be generated by the roughly 200 people that were stuffed into Joe’s Pub. Obviously, there was no secret as to what the next song was going to be. Chad was rightfully overwhelmed.

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Chad is Ian’s manager. He sings lead in one verse and harmony on the others with Ian on This is the New Year. He’s our hero because he’s the one who convinced Ian to start singing. Before that, Ian was just a piano player.

Chad is self-deprecating about his singing style (he sings wonderfully and expressively!), but the most interesting part is that he’s perfectly matched in his energy with Ian, and it all comes across in This is the New Year!

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Two of Ian’s core band members were on hand with two additions.

Chris Anderson played bass and a bit of harmony. We like a lot of bass players, Chris included. But, as with Chad, Chris is perfectly matched with Ian. He has an emotive, energetic style on stage, and he’s fast enough to keep up with some of Ian’s more challenging riffs. Chris is always a joy to watch and listen to.

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Adam Christgau on drums and a bit of harmony. We missed Adam the night before at Highline Ballroom (covered in this post, where I specifically mention that). I’ve noted many times that Adam always matches his drumming to the artist and song, but that much of Ian’s music allows Adam to let out his wild child a bit. He was as tight and good as always last night!

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(No, I wasn’t drunk or high, just a little cold. We bumped into Adam before the show while we were on line.) ;-)

Adam Tressler was a new addition (for us) playing electric guitar and a bit of harmony. I didn’t hear quite enough to have a strong opinion, but the little I heard was quite nice. Ian’s music doesn’t tend to highlight solo guitars (which is fine) but Adam supported the rest well enough.

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Dave Eggar played the cello on most of the songs. I covered him extensively in yesterday’s post (linked three paragraphs above), so I won’t get too repetitious here. This is the first time we’ve seen Dave sit in with Ian, so the comments I made about how well he blended with ambeR on such short notice probably apply here.

After the show, I accidentally crossed paths with Dave Eggar as he was leaving. I got to say the following to him (100% heartfelt!): “You are perhaps the greatest musician I’ve seen live, on any instrument!”. The fact that his instrument is a cello astounds even me, and I said it! Obviously, that’s a wildly subjective statement, but I’ll let it stand.

Given how active Dave is on stage, and how dark Joe’s Pub is, there wasn’t a single photo of Dave that was worth sharing from last night. :-(

Ian closed the show with a song that the audience sang along on the chorus. As the song went on, the band left the stage and Ian started playing the piano softer and softer, until the audience was singing with no accompaniment. At that point, Ian slipped off the stage too. The audience was supposed to keep singing (I suppose), but instead erupted in whoops and claps until Ian came out again.

For his encore, he performed Home which also isn’t on the CD or EP (YouTube video of Home) accompanied only by Dave Eggar. A very emotional way to end a spectacular night.

One of the more amazing things is watching the band when they play with Ian. It’s obvious (to me at least) that they are huge fans and aren’t just there to pick up a paycheck (though what indie musician doesn’t desperately need one of those?). They are as happy as we are to be a part of the evening, though their part is just a tad more integral and difficult than ours is.

In case you doubt me when I say how much energy they put into the show, I’ll try and prove that assertion. Ian broke a piano string during the performance. A few minutes later, Adam cracked a drumstick.

I can’t name names, but someone was kind enough to make sure that we got both the piano string and the drumstick as mementos. We’re grateful for that, and we’re willing to share our booty/bounty with the rest of you (at least through these pictures):

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Greg Holden opened for Ian. We’ve seen Greg a number of times before, and his music continues to grow on me. He started the set a bit more mellow than usual but it had a nice feel. He got more energetic throughout the set.

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Ian joined him for one number (just piano, no harmony). Nate Campany joined Greg for one number as well, also just piano. Greg said that he co-wrote that song with Nate.

Dave Eggar joined Greg for two numbers. No such thing as “too much Dave”!

Greg also joined Ian on Say Something. Greg sat at the piano, but didn’t play it (during the song), singing very soft harmony. Before the song started, Greg tickled the keys a bit, threatening to start a couple of Ian songs (including This is the New Year), and Ian retaliated by starting a Greg song on the ukulele. The crowd was in stitches.

Apparently, Ian is giving Greg piano lessons. Even though he only played a few notes, I bet he’ll master it in the not-too-distant future.

After the show, Lois bought a few more T-Shirts (we already had two) and posters. If you’ve watched the video (if you haven’t, shame on you) then you might recognize that Lois had one of the women in the video model the poster for us (and now you):

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You have two chances to catch Ian on the East Coast before he heads out west. In Philadelphia at Tin Angel this Sunday, then on March 12th at Nightcat in Easton, MD. If you can, do it, you won’t regret it!

ambeR Rubarth at Highline Ballroom

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amber Rubarth is an extraordinary singer/songwriter. I’ve written about her many times. Here is the post about her CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub. Last night she headlined the Highline Ballroom and created another exceptional performance (a DVD of the show will be available later this year!).

Highline Ballroom is the biggest stage and room we’ve seen ambeR in to date. She nailed it both with a full band (eight people on stage at one point) and solo, owning the room at both ends of the spectrum.

She opened with the core of the full band, performing Full Moon in Paris from her current CD, Good Mystery. Throughout the set, musicians came and went in a fluid transition to create the right sound for each number.

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The core band consisted of:

Tony Maceli on bass (upright and electric). I’ve written about Tony many times, including the above-referenced show at Joe’s Pub. He’s consistently wonderful on the bass, and was the musical coordinator for the New York Sings for Haiti benefit at City Winery. He’s tireless and a positive addition to anyone he’s performing with.

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Dave Eggar on cello. I’ve written about Dave twice before. He’s beyond awesome. He does things with/on the cello that you don’t typically see others attempt, let alone nail, including playing it across his knee like it was a guitar. He plays effortless leads on the cello that are as mesmerizing as great lead guitar solos.

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All of that would be impressive enough (like I said, we felt that way from the first time we saw him) but last night was even more amazing. He’s never played with ambeR before, and rehearsed with her for the first time just 24 hours before show time. That would be fine if he were playing some light background role. He was not. His parts in each song were the highlights of the instrumental sections, and ambeR had a tough time containing her joy every time he thrilled the crowd!

Sarab Singh (ambeR introduced him as Sar Singh) played the drums. While we were somewhat disappointed that Adam Christgau wasn’t there last night (one of our favorite drummers, and normally drumming for ambeR and The Paper Raincoat), ambeR has excellent tastes in drummers all around. At her CD Release show Billy Hawn played (excellent).

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Sar was fantastic at the Haiti benefit, so I didn’t worry in advance whether he’d be good. Thankfully, he was great, not just good. He has the same sensibilities that Adam has, knowing exactly how to deliver not just the right beat, but the right touch, including all the right sound effects (cow bell, rims of the drums, etc.) at the exact right moment.

I’m pretty sure Adam will be playing with Ian Axel tonight at Joe’s Pub, so we’ll get our fix then, and we can now safely add Sar Singh to our list of drummers who will enhance any performers show!

In addition to the above core, Threeds played on at least three numbers (coincidence? I think not!) ;-) and they were awesome, as always. They are an integral part of the ever-wonderful In the Creases and Edge of My Seat.

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Paul Brill came out to sing with ambeR on three numbers as well (including playing the part of Alex Wong on In The Creases).

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David Fallo joined for one number on viola.

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I mentioned above the fluidity of getting people on and off the stage. With eight people on stage for Edge of My Seat, ambeR transitioned to just two, she and Dave Eggar for Rough Cut. Dave was spectacular on every number, but this one truly highlighted him, as he carried every second that ambeR wasn’t singing (and of course, supported her voice and guitar even when she was singing!).

Dave then quietly stepped off the stage and ambeR debuted a solo number called Lonelier Self (that might just be the short version, or working title). A gorgeous song that had all eyes and ears focused on ambeR. I doubt there was a single person there wondering where the rest of the band was.

After a one hour set, capped off with a Tom Waits cover (sung with Paul Brill), ambeR came out for an encore. She performed Washing Day (a song she co-wrote with Adam Levy). Joining her were Dave Eggar and special guest star Ian Axel (who has his own show tonight at Joe’s Pub).

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We hung around a bit afterward to catch up with some folks, and to buy a couple more of ambeR’s CDs to give as gifts. An absolutely fantastic night out!

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Opening the show was Cara Salimando accompanied by Julia Sinclair. Cara is a 17-year-old singer/songwriter. She played electric piano on all but one number, where she finger-picked the ukulele quite beautifully. She has an excellent voice, but still has some work to do to smoothly hit some of the higher notes. She’s young, it will come in time, I’m sure.

CaraSalimando CaraSalimandoUkulele

Julia Sinclair accompanied her on every song, playing half on the cello and half on the guitar. She also sang harmony a bit, not enough if you ask me. She plays the cello very well (though there was a slight buzz on the bass notes). I was more impressed with her guitar play. She’s an excellent complement to Cara. The set was exactly 30 minutes.

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After resetting the stage, Kaiser Cartel came out. Kaiser Cartel is a duo comprising Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel (however did they come up with the name of the band?). They’re a reasonably straightforward rock ‘n roll band, putting out a pretty big sound for just two people (though they were joined for two or three numbers by someone who’s name I thought was Jeff Kraft, but now I’m sure that’s wrong).

Here’s a picture of the guy whose name I’m not remembering, sorry!:

Kraft

Courtney has an exceptional voice. She mostly played the acoustic guitar, but it was also connected to a muff pedal so she created some classical electric guitar sounds. She also played what seemed like a one-handed accordion. She played with her right hand and used the left to pull the bellows part in and out. She also played a glockenspiel, but with an electric device (looked like a cross between a grouting tool and an electric toothbrush!) so she got a fast ringing sound (like a telephone!) every time she struck a key!

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Benjamin has a nice voice and harmonized well with Courtney. He played drums and acoustic guitar. One some songs he only played the drums. On the others he played the guitar, but continued to play the drum line with his foot. It contributed to their big sound for just two people.

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Nina Lee on cello joined them for two numbers. She’s excellent!

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For their last number they did something very cool. Courtney asked the crowd to be as quiet as they could. They then came off the stage and walked throughout the entire audience (covering a very large room) and sang a song (Benjamin played the guitar, unplugged of course) stopping at practically every table and singing a line within a few inches of the people sitting there. It was pretty powerful to be so up close and personal.

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They were on for roughly 45 minutes before ambeR came out. If you want to help them fund their new CD, the info is below (click any picture in this post to enlarge it):

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When we were heading down in the cab I tweeted a friend asking if she’d be there. She showed up a little later with her friend and they were able to join us at our table right up at the stage so we had some good times and good food before the show started. They bought CDs from ambeR too and the four of us shared a cab home after the show.

Closing with a pet peeve. I’ve written too many times (here we go again) about how rude some people can be when they speak loudly during a performance. That happened a bit last night too (not too bad for such a large room). But, what shocked me was that the worst offender last night was a performer. We’ve seen this person on stage once before (no names) so it was doubly shocking that they would ever treat someone in a manner that I can only imagine would annoy them if it happened during their show. Oh well…

New York Sings for Haiti

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On most days even compassionate people go about their lives in a near bubble-like existence. The problems of the rest of the world aren’t one’s first thought. Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to break us out of that routine and remind us that we are dramatically more alike than we are different, us fragile humans.

The explosion of text messages sent to raise money after the earthquake in Haiti proved that if you make it easy to give, many people will happily do so, even if it isn’t the most prudent thing for them to do.

There are many ways to give. As important as direct monetary donations are, raising awareness is also crucial as the ever-widening circle of giving, volunteering and compassion have a chance to work their way deeper into our lives.

Many artists live more obvious compassionate lives, creating art as an outlet for deep-seated emotions. They also have fans, which makes raising awareness a little easier for them than for ordinary folk.

Many musicians participated in many benefit concerts (some televised globally) over the past week. I applaud all of those efforts. For the bigger acts, pulling off these last-minute mega-shows is difficult, I’m sure, but the machinery that surrounds them is geared toward doing that kind of work, and money is never an obstacle.

In the incredible vibrant indie music scene in NYC, the story of last night’s benefit concert is inspiring in showing what can be accomplished with compassion, and a crazy amount of effort (and let’s not forget talent as well!).

Alex Berger is a very talented singer/songwriter who is visiting from the UK. He was staying at a friend’s apartment for a week, the extraordinary photographer Ric Agudelo (an incredible person, who we were lucky to meet as a result of this benefit).

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After spending the evening at Rockwood Music Hall enjoying some music, they were both heartbroken to hear about the earthquake in Haiti. Sitting on Ric’s couch at 1am they decided that they had to try and do something. Ric said that they should get cracking first thing in the morning. Alex said let’s send out some emails right now, and so it began.

Alex was able to get commitments from over a dozen of NYC’s most amazing musicians. Ric was able to secure one of the finest places to see a show in NYC, City Winery. Ric and others then went into overdrive to pull all of the logistics together (a daunting task!) and Alex worked with the musicians to create a show that the audience will never forget.

Giving/sacrifice comes in many flavors. Quite a number of the musicians who agreed instantly to participate did so knowing that they would have to change prior commitments on a moment’s notice. A large group of them postponed a writers retreat. Alex Wong flew cross-country just for the show. Many other similar stories.

As active as we are in attending shows in NY so are many other music lovers. We’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting a few other passionate fans as a result of another example of these artists giving whenever they can.

Shannon Black is a cancer survivor. She is a wonderful person in all respects and is inspirational in many ways, including that she runs in the NYC Marathon each year, raising money for Livestrong in the process. We met Shannon (and her husband and fellow music-lover Jason) at their Livestrong fundraiser, where again, Alex Berger arranged for 11 musicians to perform and donate their time and talent.

Half way through the show last night, Shannon came up to me and gave me a hand-written note, asking me if I would mind including it in my blog. Not only don’t I mind, I’m honored to share it with the rest of you:

Hadar,

When you blog about this magical night, could you say something for me?

Not only have we been brought together for a great cause, but in witnessing these musicians making themselves so vulnerable, I have been called/pressed/pulled to that which my life was meant for!

I got a second chance, so I needed this, tonight!

In a nutshell, in witnessing their “magic”, I have been called to that which “God meant for me to do!”

Last thing before getting on with the show. While most musicians rehearse before their shows, the challenge in preparing for last night’s show was monumental. There was a house band (a group of amazing musicians) that played with most of the acts. They had practically no time to learn tons of material, and, of course, they nailed it all!

The house band consisted of: Tony Maceli (who also coordinated the entire show including running the rehearsals!), Chris Kuffner, Marika Hughes, Kevin Rice, Adam Christgau, Melissa Tong, Ward Williams and a number of other people whose names I didn’t catch, sorry!

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While the show was sold out (no surprise), in addition to the money raised from ticket sales, there was a raffle (including two high-end guitars, donated by Martin and Gibson, which were signed by all of the performers!). The show was streamed live for those that couldn’t make it and there were opportunities throughout the stream to donate.

If I understand correctly, as soon as possible, they will release a CD and DVD of the show as well, having additional opportunities to raise more funds for this very worthy cause.

Typically, I go into great detail about each act in the shows we attend (often, each individual performer in each band). If I did that now, I’d be publishing this blog late next week, and the purpose of this post, and of last night, wasn’t to critique the performance, but to revel in the kindness and generosity of all involved, performers and audience alike.

The music ranged from soft a capella (the always blissful Rewind by The Paper Raincoat) to hard rock by both The Bongos and Harper Blynn. Everything in between as well, including Jazz, Pop, Folk, Country.

Most performed two or three numbers, with a few last-minute guests coming on for only a single song. One example of the latter was a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, Sara Jean Kelly who drove up, sang one song, and made us take note of her talent! One other person not listed was an Israeli singer/songwriter. I thought they announced her as Tal, but perhaps it was Tula. I apologize if I linked to the wrong person there. Thanks to a comment from Rebecca, I now know I was wrong in that last sentence. The singer was Paula Valstein.

Here are the artists in the order that they appeared. Many appeared on stage with other artists, and of course, the incredible house band supported most of them (a few had their own bands, and I apologize for not doing my normally thorough job of naming every one of them!).

Martin Rivas (still recuperating from foot surgery, came up with his crutches!)

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The Bongos (I believe that they were originally slated to headline City Winery that night. Incredibly generous of them to give up that kind of spotlight and share the stage with everyone else!)

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The Wellspring (a newly formed duet, last night was their public debut I think. Supported by Alex Berger, ambeR Rubarth and Wes Hutchinson.)

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Nate Campany (supported by many of the other performers)

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Rosi Golan (our first time seeing her, amazing!)

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Will Knox

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Ed Romanoff

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Sara Jean Kelly

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Tula Paula Valstein (now corrected, thanks again Rebecca!)

Tula

Wes Hutchinson (supported by his band, Reel by Reel)

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amber Rubarth (supported by Threeds, Ed Romanoff, Ari Hest and Tony Maceli playing trumpet)

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Threeds

Ian Axel (ahhhhhhhhhhhh, supported by Chad Vaccarino)

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Alex Berger (fabulous, topped off by Love, supported by ambeR and Vienna Teng. Tony Maceli played a wonderful trumpet)

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Joey Ryan (supported by Vienna Teng and Dave Eggar)

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Greg Holden (supported by Ian Axel, Joey Ryan and ambeR)

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Harper Blynn

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Vienna Teng (supported by Alex Wong and Kevin Rice. Actually, Vienna opened with an a capella number with roughly 10 people on stage, including many of the evening’s performers!)

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The Spring Standards (new discovery for me. They’re great. I was particularly impressed with Heather’s voice!)

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Ari Hest (with his own band. First time we got to see him perform in a lead role. Marvelous voice!)

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The Paper Raincoat closed the show. Unbelievably fitting for us, because every single connection that we have with the local music scene in NYC emanated from our discovery of them when they opened for Colin Hay in April 2009. It’s amazing that our journey is so short, and yet so rich, all thanks to ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong.

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Of course, they were magical (they always are).

ThePaperRaincoatRewind

To top everything off, most of the artists came back on stage for a fittingly named finale: Help is on the Way, a song by Alex Wong’s former group, The Animators. There were roughly 30 people on stage singing their hearts out. Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and the Catapult joined Vienna at the piano for the finale.

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The show ended at exactly 1am, five solid hours of incredible spirit and music.

That said, last night really wasn’t about the music, as much as we all may have loved it. It’s about seeing what can be accomplished, in a very short time, by people who are motivated to do something selfless for others. It was wonderful to be the tiniest part of that effort.

Thank you to everyone involved in putting on the show and raising the money, and special thanks for Alex Berger and Ric Agudelo!

Rachael Sage and Michelle Citrin at Joe’s Pub

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The world puts out breadcrumbs and we follow them. Some people don’t notice, others notice but don’t care.

One of the more intense paths that we’ve followed began with Alex Berger posting a YouTube video from a concert we attended. After establishing a Twitter and Facebook relationship with Alex, we finally met in person at a Rockwood Music Hall concert. We then attended a Livestrong fundraiser. Alex arranged for all of the musicians who played that night.

The last musician of the night (not including Alex’s encore) was Michelle Citrin. Her motto: “lil grrl, with a big sound.” It’s very true. She has an incredible voice, produced from a 5’1” frame. Michelle was opening for, and listed as a special guest for someone we hadn’t heard of before, Rachael Sage, at the 9:30pm show last night at Joe’s Pub.

Since I wanted to see Michelle perform a longer set, I was more than happy to gamble on the headliner, Rachael Sage.

Michelle is an Internet/YouTube sensation. Last year she released a video called 20 Things To Do With Matzah. It has already been viewed over 1.2 million times! Trust me, I know how hard it is to get those kind of numbers. I recently put up a YouTube video of a Tonight Show Tribute Song. I think it’s pretty cool, but it has only been viewed 348 times as of this writing…

Michelle had excellent stage presence and her voice was as incredible as I had remembered. She does a very good job accompanying herself on the guitar. I was somewhat surprised that her lyrics/songs didn’t grab me. I was impressed with a line here and there, but overall, I was much more attuned to her voice and guitar.

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Michelle played for 24 minutes. After a 6-minute break, Rachael Sage took the stage with a 4-piece band behind her.

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Rachael had the stage decked out in holiday style (both Hanukkah and Christmas). The band wore reindeer hats and Rachael was festively attired all around. She played electric keyboards very well, and sang and entertained the crowd with stories and commentary.

Rachael is a very talented performer and very funny as well. She was in complete control of the crowd from the second she stepped on stage. While most of her songs have a comic edge to them, she also threw in a few more serious numbers.

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Her band (The Sequins) struck just the right notes to accompany her perfectly, both musically and visually (meaning, they were in keeping with the lighthearted holiday spirit).

Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

Dave Eggar played the cello and sang a bit. His play all night was outstanding, as was his impish spirit. Rachael mentioned that Dave has played with Coldplay. As impressive as that sounds, you really need to peruse Dave’s Wikipedia Page. He was a child prodigy (appearing on Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera at age seven!). He has played with an amazing assortment of top stars/bands, including The Who!

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I didn’t catch the name of the person sitting behind Rachael. I thought it was Wes, but that’s probably not right. He played percussion. Sorry!

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Quinn played the drums. He was good throughout the set. Apparently, he had trouble getting into NYC for the show. Thankfully for us, he made it. :-) He was obscured from our view the entire set. This is the only shot Lois got of him. Obviously, he can still safely commit a crime in our jurisdiction, as no one will recognize him from this mug shot… ;-)

Quinn

Russ Johnson played the trumpet. He was excellent. He played most of the set with a trumpet cup to muffle his sound. It was perfect, as it created a smoky sound to back up Rachael, without ever overpowering her (something a trumpet can do all too easily).

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Seth Glier was a special guest. Seth played the accordion and glockenspiel and sang with Rachael as well. He did all of those very well!

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Michelle Citrin came out for two guest appearances as well. On the second number, Michelle played Finger Cymbals to great effect!

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A very pleasant evening indeed!

P.S. While entering Joe’s Pub last night Lois snapped this photo of a Techno Snowman. Right up my alley (and theirs…): ;-)

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