Jeff Litman

Jeff Litman at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jeff Litman headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. It was an early set, which we always appreciate and prefer. On the other hand, it coincided with a near-monsoon, so we got soaked coming and going.

It’s hard to believe that this was only our second night of music in May. Breaking the ice with a Jeff Litman show is a good way to go.

JeffLitmanSinging

Jeff played the majority of the show on the acoustic guitar (obviously, he sang on every number as well). He kicked it off with the harmonica as well, on my favorite song of his, Maine. In fact, I think he’s caught on that if he puts Maine first on the set list, it will guarantee that I will have to be there on time (we were!). Winking smile

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In the middle of the set, Jeff took over the piano duties for two numbers, the second of which he performed solo.

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Prior to the show, Jeff announced that he would be joined by two guests. We would have gone to see Jeff solo, but he wasn’t taking any chances. Winking smile

Maddy Wyatt sang harmony, played the flute (beautifully, on What Hasn’t Happened Yet) and the tambourine. Great job on all!

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Joe Brent on fiddle and mandolin. Joe has been great every time we’ve seen him. That he can replace the awesome guitar solo on Maine with his fiddle play, and keep me just as mesmerized, is a testament to his skills. Joe has a show in Brooklyn next Thursday (which we can’t make), then he hits the road with GangstaGrass for a while.

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When we walked in, we both spotted Jason Wexler at the bar. We asked if he was just an audience member, or whether he was an unannounced guest performer. Jeff felt that it would be a waste to have Jason sitting in the audience, so he called him up on three numbers to play the grand piano.

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Of course, he didn’t have those three songs consecutively on the set list, so Jason had to expend a bunch of energy going up and coming down from the stage before/after each song. Thankfully, his fingers weren’t affected and his piano play was as good as it always is. Smile

Speaking of set lists, here’s the one from last night, though I’m not sure Jeff got through every one.

SetList

Jeff closed the show solo on the guitar. He started with a long instrumental solo of Some Day My Prince Will Come which he morphed into his closing number. His guitar play was gorgeous. Nice way to end the set.

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Be careful making any jokes at these shows. Right before the set started I noted (out loud) that there was an iPhone case attached to a small tripod. There was no phone inside the case. I joked that it must be a special case that could film the show without the camera inside.

Jeff thanked me for reminding him and popped his iPhone into the case. I then felt compelled to operate the camera, making sure that everyone on stage got at least some screen time. So, if Jeff posts any video from the set, I am 100% to blame (I wasn’t very smooth in my transitions) for any issues in the quality.

We’ll be out again tonight for a number of sets, but then it will more than a week before we get to see another show. Perhaps our lives are changing more than expected, I guess we’ll see how it evolves…

Leave a Lasting Mark Soul Benefit The Bitter End

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Leave a Lasting Mark is a benefit concert series conceived and produced by Sam Teichman. We’ve been to a number of them, but have sadly missed some of the more spectacular ones (or so a number of people have told us). Our very first one was a Soul Revue (just like last night) 14 months ago. You can read about it, though it’s super long, as this one is likely to be as well. This one was also held at The Bitter End.

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Instead of expecting you to read that long post, let me just pull out a single paragraph that I wrote about Sam right up front:

First and foremost, I need to bow to Sam Teichman (@samteichman on Twitter) as deeply and humbly as I can. Sam is a perfect example of one person, single-mindedly focused on getting something done and achieving that goal (actually, exceeding it). On November 4th, 2010, Sam sat next to me at Rockwood Music Hall as we enjoyed sets by Jesse Ruben and Alex Wong. Even on that night, Sam was doing for others, as I noted across three paragraphs toward the end of my post about that show.

I highly encourage you to read the next two paragraph from that post, but I’ll leave it to you to click through if you’re interested.

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These benefit shows are really important to attend (in particular if you’re a music lover) for a number of reasons. First, you’re contributing to charity (100% of the entrance price goes to whatever charity is being supported at that show). Last night’s charity was Foundation Fighting Blindness, specifically targeted for their Vision Walk 2012 initiative later this month. Seems like a good enough reason to attend the show.

Second, you have an opportunity to discover local musicians that you otherwise might never hear about. Every one of them donates their time to perform in these shows. Sam does a great job of paying them by constantly reminding the audience that they create their own music (often inspired by the people they’re covering at these shows!) and that we should all make it our business to follow up and check out their own sites and music.

That’s been true for me, starting back at my first Leave a Lasting Mark (LALM) show and solidly continuing last night. I’m going to follow the format I used for that first Soul Revue. I’ll group all of the sidemen (yes, there was a sidewoman as well) by instrument, first. I’ll skip mentioning the backup singers, because each of them took a turn singing a song on lead. Then I’ll cover each of the lead singers, in the order they appeared.

The real point will be for me to call out a few people I’ve never seen before, some of whom completely blew me away (repeating a trend that’s happened at each of the LALM shows).

Apologies for the varying qualities of the photos. Tons of people on stage, often obscured or very far away. So many of the lead performers were constantly moving, so it was tough to catch them in focus, or with un-passionate expressions. This is the best our little compact camera could do.

The brass section was up for nearly every song (not every person was up on every number that included brass). They performed yeoman duty and I imagine most are resting their lips and lungs today.

Ian Schaefer on trumpet, Mitch Marcus on sax and clarinet, Chris Hiatt on sax (@chrishiatt1, no good individual link), John Liotta on sax (also no good link), Steven Salcedo on sax.

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Ian took a number of trumpet leads (in particular on I Just Want to Make Love to You and This Little Light) that were awesome. We typically see John Liotta light up a baritone sax with the Greg Mayo band. Last night he lit up a tenor sax equally well. Mitch, Chris and Steven were amazing too, in any combination that happened to be on stage for a given song.

IanSchaeferTrumpetIanSchaeferChrisHiattJohnLiottaMitchMarcusClarinet

Sarah Stern joined for one number, late in the show, on the flute (I couldn’t find a good link). Delightful! She’s (possibly) the only person who didn’t make it on to the program. She stood with the brass section. This was our first time seeing Sarah.

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Bass players: Chris Kelly, Justin Goldner, James Preston (how can you not fall in love with someone whose middle name is Peanutbutter?), Jeff Litman and Sean Murphy. We’ve seen Chris, Justin and Jeff many times (they’re always great). In fact, we discovered Jeff at that first Soul Revue, and Chris and Justin at a LALM benefit featuring the songs of James Taylor and Carole King. This was our first time seeing James and Sean, probably not our last.

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One more of James Peanutbutter Preston:

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The first time I saw Jeff I really liked his bass play. But, it was after reading one of his blogs that I really started paying attention to him as a person, then discovered that he’s an excellent singer/songwriter and musician (guitar is his primary instrument for his own brand of rock). He just released a new CD, Outside, get it, and get his previous one, Postscript.

I note how I discovered Jeff because he just put up a new blog post this morning (or at least tweeted about it today) and it’s another amazing piece. So well considered and written. I learn from Jeff, both in his writing and in his music. Both Lois and I agree 100% with Jeff’s thesis in this post (at least with regards to the part about the MET, the music can be a little more nuanced IMHO).

Drummers: Justin Hofmann, Stephen Chopek, Alex Cohen, Mason Ingram and Matt Arbeiter (still no good link). Justin and Alex were new to us (both excellent). Stephen always delivers, as do Mason and Matt. Matt is another that we first discovered at a LALM show (the James Taylor / Carole King one).

JustinHofmannStephenChopekDrumsAlexCohen

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Guitarists: Mark Marshall, Mike Bell (no good individual link, but here’s a link to a band he’s in, BELT Band), Jeremiah Birnbaum (also sang lead), Joe Brent, Hudson Mueller (also sang co-lead). Mike and Hudson were new to us. We’ve seen Joe once before, but not on guitar. Late in the show, Joe also joined on two numbers playing the fiddle. He’s a major talent, whatever instrument he touches.

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Keyboards (grand piano and electronic): Megan Cox, Scott Chasolen, Nick Semrad (also sang lead), Kenneth Harris (also sang lead), Scott Stein (also sang lead). A first for us seeing Nick and Kenneth. In addition to playing the keyboards wonderfully on every number, each sang lead from the piano, so more on them later.

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Scott Chasolen is a great pianist and proved it again last night. He has an excellent voice, but wasn’t one of last night’s leads.

Scott Stein is also great on the keyboards. More on his lead performance below.

We’ve seen Megan play fiddle, when we first discovered her at the first Soul Revue. This was our first time seeing her on the keyboards (very nice!). I lied above when I said all of the background singers sang lead. Megan sang background but didn’t sing lead. Sam told me this morning that Megan was scheduled to sing lead, but came down with a bad cold and couldn’t do it. What a trooper for playing the keyboards and singing background even though she wasn’t feeling well!

CrystalDurantMeganCoxSingingBackground

One last piece of reporting before moving on to the lead singers. The show was broken up into smaller sets to keep the transitions among musicians to a minimum. Each set had a Musical Director (M.D., as you’ll see below). Here’s is the order that they appeared on stage:

Mark Marshall, Justin Goldner, James Preston, Joe Brent and Scott Stein. Considering that there was only a single, five-hour rehearsal for everyone to come together, each of the M.D.’s deserves a huge round of applause (as do each of the musicians!).

Finally, the divas, both male and female. Winking smile

Chrissi Poland opened the show. Such a powerful voice. She’s currently raising money to record a new EP. Check out Chrissi’s music and help if you like it (and can afford to, obviously).

ChrissiPoland

Terry Brennan (no good individual link, but he’s in BELT Band with a couple of the other performers from last night!). I’ve seen Terry in the audience at a number of shows, but never knew his name, or that he was a performer himself. His voice was great last night, so now I know and can again count on LALM for introducing me to new talented people.

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Abby Ahmad put on yet another passionate performance.

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Martin Rivas was the only singer to sing two songs. In addition to killing it with a full band, he returned later to do the only solo, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.

MartinRivasJustinHofmannMartinRivasAcoustic

Stephanie White’s vocals soared above the music. Incredible power with a laser-like precision. Stephanie was supposed to sing another song late in the set. The entire program ran over by 20 minutes, and Stephanie’s second number was an unfortunate casualty, getting cut at the last minute. You can catch Stephanie as part of Philth Harmonic (a band she’s in with Robbie LaFalce).

StephanieWhite

Crystal Durant is another person we discovered at a LALM show (The Blues Bothers tribute). What a wonderful voice, both lead and background vocals.

CrystalDurant

Jared Saltiel was another first for us. He was impressive, but I’m actually liking the music on his site even more, so click the link and check him out. Smile

JaredSaltiel

Eva Alexander was also new for us. We were both extremely impressed with her voice.

EvaAlexander

Abby Payne is someone we’re very familiar with. In fact, I’ve written (glowingly) about her a number of times in the past few weeks. So, you’d think she couldn’t really surprise me, especially in an extremely positive way. Wrong. Backtracking for a bit. Abby is yet another performer that we discovered at the first Soul Revue. Here’s what I wrote about her lead singing that night:

Abby Payne did a very nice job (yes, the same Abby who nailed the piano parts!). The only issue is that it took Abby a bit to crank up the volume on her voice, which was necessary because she (and all of them) were competing with tons of instruments and other vocalists. Abby had an all-male backup singing contingent.

Note that my only complaint was that her voice didn’t soar above the music. Holy moly, last night Abby delivered all of the power, passion and clarity you could want in a voice that was clearly soaring above a stage full of awesome musicians. I was already a big Abby fan, but it seems that my fandom can grow.

AbbyPayne

Speaking of being a fan of Abby, please help her make a new CD (pretty please?). Nine days left as I write this. I have faith in all of you. Smile

Jeremiah Birnbaum did a wonderful job on his lead song, in addition to all of his guitar play and background singing throughout the set.

JeremiahBirnbaumJeremiahBirnbaumSinging

Nick Semrad was new to us. During the set that he played keyboards, he also sang lead on one song, very impressively.

NickSemradSinging

Ashley Lehmann sang (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, perhaps the best known song of the night (though there were a ton of real soul fans, who likely knew every song just as well as this one).

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Dani Tersini was awesome, hard to describe it any other way. Also new to us, but won’t be a stranger going forward. Her red dress seemed perfectly appropriate for her song, I Just Want to Make Love to You. Winking smile

DaniTersini

Scott Wolfson yet another first for us. I liked his voice a lot, and he did a fine job on his number, but I’m guessing that I’ll like his own shows even more.

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Maddy Wyatt was an extremely nice surprise for me. I was very impressed by her the only other time I’ve seen her, supporting Jeff Litman. That night she sang a ton of harmony (beautifully, but quite mellow) and played the flute (also beautifully). To see her come out and belt out a soul number with the full band was not what I expected. Oh yeah, she also accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar. Very nicely done, both vocals and guitar!

MaddyWyatt

Akie Bermiss continued the hit parade of firsters who did a marvelous job, with Crystal Durant doing heavy duty harmony with him. Akie is part of a band called Aabaraki (who we haven’t seen). You can stream and buy their album.

AkieBermiss

Alec Gross has to be put in the same camp as I put Abby Payne earlier. I’m a fan, and I’ve enjoyed his sets before. But, I think of him as a fairly mellow folk singer. Not last night. He lit it up, completely. Very impressed.

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Andy Mac is someone we’ve seen do one full set before, plus one song at the James Taylor / Carole King benefit. He cranked it up a couple of notches last night and really delivered. He also played acoustic guitar, both while singing lead, and supporting Ashley Lehmann.

AndyMac

Bri Arden sang This Little Light. Ha, I fooled you, because I said sang, like that’s what Bri did. If you read this space regularly, you know Bri is the subject of a lot of posts. That’s because she’s always awesome. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she took this song and created a soaring vocal masterpiece. Seriously, it is not possible to describe it in words. You’ll have to wait until Sam uploads the individual videos (which he will do) to see a poor reproduction of what we were all treated to live!

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Above, I showed a picture of Crystal Durant and Megan Cox singing background. That was on Bri’s song. Dani Tersini and Ahsley Lehmann also sang background during this song:

DaniTersiniAshleyLehmannSingingBackground

Brian Collazo is another one of our favorites, any time, any place. While there’s no good individual link to him, he’s best known for fronting the incredible band, Live Society. Brian was extraordinary when he sang lead, as he was on the numbers he sang background. That we couldn’t keep our eyes open to see him sing with Martin Rivas at Slane right after this show is something we’ll regret until we get to see him again (soon, I hope!).

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Brian also sang background on a number of songs. On this one, he was part of an all male contingent:

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Here’s he was standing in front of the brass section:

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Kenneth Harris sang lead on one song, in addition to playing keyboards on one of the mini-sets. He was awesome. This was a first time for us seeing him, definitely not the last. By the time he sang lead, he didn’t surprise me. When Brian Collazo sang lead (the song before), Kenneth sang primary harmony with him and he was absolutely amazing on that number. Keeping up with Brian is no small feat, and Kenneth was definitely up to the task.

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Scott Stein came to center stage to sing his lead, after playing keyboards for the remainder of the mini-set. Excellent, on both the keys and on lead vocals!

ScottSteinSinging

Evan Felts and Hudson Mueller (of The Gold Magnolias) shared lead vocals, with Evan doing most of the singing. Both new to us, both impressive. Evan did a classic soul dance throughout (a la James Brown himself). He had the crowd completely worked up in a lather. Tons of energy, great vocals.

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Grace McLean was the final newcomer to us. Grace performed perhaps the second most famous song (to me at least), Chain of Fools. Let’s see if I can be succinct in describing her: Wow! (OK, that was succinct, but not sufficient, how about: Holy Wow, Unreal!, yes, that’s better).

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Closing out the show was someone who we also discovered during that first LALM Soul Revue. He blew us away that night, and topped it last night. He had a gig of his own earlier that evening and rushed over to close out this one.

Jay Stolar stolar’ed the show (ba dum chi!). What a voice, what stage presence and delivery. In addition to singing his you-know-what off, he put on a show. He climbed on a table, got everyone to get up and shake it, dropped to the floor (as did a few of the performers) and generally got the blood rushing everywhere.

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For that last song, Sam was up on stage, first playing the tambourine in the back (his signature) but then coming forward to sing background, sharing the mic with Dani Tersini.

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After Martin’s second number, roughly halfway through the show, Sam introduced a representative from Foundation Fighting Blindness. I won’t get her name right, so I won’t attempt it. She described the work they do and the Vision Walk, and invited all of us to learn more about it, and join on the walk on April 21st.

FoundationFightingBlindnessRepresentative

Whew, made it to the end (that comment was for me, not you!). Winking smile

Some closing notes and a treat!

When we were waiting for the doors to open, four German tourists came up to ask if we on line for the club next door. We told them what we were there to see. The guy in front of us in line went into a hard sales pitch to get them to join us. They seemed interested, but left to grab a bite, saying they might return.

Indeed, they got there in time for the start of the show. Both of us noticed them having a blast throughout, whooping louder than most people at the more feverish parts. Glad they believed us and joined. Even gladder they enjoyed it! Smile

As I noted up front, in addition to the artists donating their time, it’s also a showcase for them to be discovered. Sam does an amazing job of not only promoting them during the show, but of ensuring that they’re easy to find online. Sam had a two-page handout which listed every performer (except for Sarah Stern). You can find out what bands they play in, what site they’re at, what their Twitter handle is, etc. Here are both pages of the program:

ProgramPage1ProgramPage2

Here’s the set list (remember, they had to cut Stephanie White’s second song):

PersonalizedSetList

Finally, the treat. Sam cut a short highlight reel. It’s great and will give you a good sense of some of the performers, but you simply have to trust me on two points: 1) Many of the ones that didn’t make this reel were awesome and 2) no video will ever sound and feel like the live version does! Sam will also be uploading a longer highlight reel, which will have at least a bit of every single song in it, so keep checking his YouTube channel:

Leave a Lasting Mark Highlights from April 3rd, 2012

As always, we were surrounded by friends, some of whom Lois captured:

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StephenChopekHadar

Jeff Litman with Joe Brent at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jeff Litman headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s one of the few things that could get us to brave the crazy streets in NYC yesterday.

JeffLitman

Jeff recently released a new CD, Outside, and we sadly missed the Release Show due to an unmovable trip. We then missed an acoustic set, so we weren’t going to miss this one. We bought Outside the day it went up for sale at Bandcamp. Stream it for yourself and buy it if you like it. His previous CD, Postscript is fantastic as well.

We’ve seen Jeff perform three full sets before, all with a full band setup. We’ve also seen him perform a number of benefits plus a Backscratch. So, seeing him play a 100% acoustic set was going to be a change of pace.

The test came right away. Jeff opened the show with my favorite song of his, Maine. Let me digress and define what I consider to be a perfect song. If I can put a song on 24×7 repeat, for a year, and honestly not beg for mercy to hear something else, then it’s a perfect song, even if it’s not technically perfect in all respects. Maine is a perfect song. Got it?

I’ll have to defer for another minute before telling you how I liked this version of Maine (and the rest of the set), because that would require me to introduce Jeff’s special guest, a drop earlier than I’m ready to. I have a few more words to say about Jeff.

He’s a smart songwriter (lyrics and melodies) and he sings with a rockers passion. He’s an excellent guitarist (and bassist as well, which is how I discovered him). He takes care to put out really well-produced, excellent albums.

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All of that came across in the acoustic set as well, but it’s an entirely different feel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, independent of my love of many of the songs or Jeff, because I’m also a lover of acoustic guitar-playing singer/songwriters. Still, I think Jeff’s bigger strength is delivering a fuller sound, so buy the CDs and come to a full band show if it will be your first Jeff Litman Experience.

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OK, now that I’ve praised Jeff (just enough), let’s get on to what gave this set it’s real character.

Joe Brent played mandolin, violin and sang harmony. I’m embarrassed to admit (publicly) that I never heard of Joe before. Not just because he’s reasonably famous. Not just because he’s local and extraordinarily talented. Mostly because he has been reasonably active in playing with a number of people who I do pay attention to, and somehow, I’ve still never heard his name, so apparently I’ve missed some pretty cool shows. Sad smile

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I listed the mandolin first, for two reasons. Joe played significantly more mandolin than violin and he also lists only the mandolin in his bio/title on his site. But, on Maine, he opened the show on the violin.

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One of the (many) aspects that makes Maine a perfect song is the fast, crisp, tasty guitar leads that are sprinkled throughout. Yesterday, those guitar leads were replaced by the violin, beautifully. I listened again this morning, and there are definitely strings on the CD (or at least one violin), but they are not playing the part that Joe played yesterday.

So, even though the song was way more mellow than on the CD, the violin gave it the truly authentic sound that differentiated it from a purely acoustic guitar version if Jeff had performed solo. I think Joe only played the violin on one additional number (two, max). He was exceptional on it, so he either doesn’t list it because he’s modest, or because it’s his secret weapon. Winking smile

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On every other number, Joe played his signature mandolin. He’s amazing, but don’t take my word for it. If you visit his site (linked to his name), there’s a YouTube clip that starts playing immediately (something I typically disdain) and the first tidbit is from Joe’s EP, a mandolin piece that will have your head reeling.

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Joe also sang a reasonable amount of harmony, quite well. It wasn’t what we would have gotten if Maddy Wyatt was there (unfortunately for us, but fortunately for her, she was at SXSW), but it was well done nonetheless.

Speaking of Maddy Wyatt, Jeff has another perfect song on the new CD: What Hasn’t Happened Yet. Maddy sings on that, but she also plays a gorgeous flute lead. Joe replaced that flute lead with the mandolin (unless I’m misremembering now, and that was perhaps the other violin song).

Suffice it to say that Joe spiced up the set nicely.

When it was over, Lois bought two T-Shirts from Jeff’s friend Melissa, who was selling merch for him. I got the navy blue one and she got the white one. You too can be just like us and own one of these T-Shirts. They’re available for purchase at the same Bandcamp site linked to above for the Outside CD.

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We also had the pleasure of sharing the experience with a few of our friends:

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Here’s the set list:

SetList

Tony Maceli Full Vinyl Tribute to Talking Heads and Alanis Morissette at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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That title is a mouthful. Just typing it out has taken the wind out of me. But, it’s descriptive and accurate, so I’m going with it.

Note: There are no photos in this post yet. We’re running to Rockwood now for a 6pm show and I barely finished the words. Tomorrow morning I’ll add in a ton of photos and tweet the link out again, for those that might want to revisit the post to see it in its correct glory! I’ll delete this paragraph when I update the post with the photos.

Tony Maceli is one of the top bass players in the NYC indie music scene. Some months ago, he started organizing a regular mega-show called Full Vinyl. Last night was the first one we were able to attend, so I don’t know whether we’ve missed one or two. I also don’t know whether the format is always the same (or going to be). This show was at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

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It was such a massive (fast moving) show, that I would be doing an injustice to multiple people if I tried to cover it the way I do normal sets. Most importantly, I’d be doing myself the massive injustice of sitting here and typing for the next few days. In other words, it isn’t going to happen.

I’ll give a high-level description, call out a few people (which is no slight on anyone that doesn’t get a separate shout-out), then do my best to at least give a link to every person who was on stage. There’s little doubt that I’ll miss someone, or not be able to identify someone (or their site). No omission is intentional, and whenever someone (cough, cough, Tony?) corrects me (public corrections are fine), I’ll update the post to reflect it.

The format last night was Talking Heads first (lead singers were all boys, with one very notable exception). To close out the Talking Heads portion, all lead singers return to the stage at the same time and each sings a piece of the finale, the uber-famous Psycho Killer. Each individual number had numerous band members swapping in and out on each song.

PsychoKillerFinale

Michelle Cassilas was the sole female lead singer during this part of the evening. She’s the head of the band Ursa Minor, writing their songs, singing lead vocals and playing guitar. She can certainly rock it out, so having her in the boys portion of the evening was just fine.

Here’s the set list for the Talking Heads portion. The order wasn’t strictly maintained because a few people (Jerry Fuentes and Derek James in particular) were still playing their set next door when it would have been their turn:

SetList1

Under each song you’ll see the band members that were slated to play (at least their last names). The first name listed was the primary lead singer for that song.

One male singer couldn’t make it due to illness (if Tony said who it was, I missed it). A last minute substitute was recruited, the amazing Robbie Gil. He’s not listed on the set list, because I think Tony already knew about the illness before he printed the sheets. I might be remembering this incorrectly, but I think that Robbie sang Burning Down the House, which has Greg Mayo listed as lead singer (which would have been a second lead for Mayo).

Tony Maceli opened the show. I missed most of his song because I was next door watching Jerry Fuentes and Derek James (I already posted about that show). A friend texted me when this show began and I waited until Jerry and Derek finished their current song to scoot over. I caught the last full verse of Tony singing.

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I then heard Tony sing a full verse during Psycho Killer. Folks, I’ve heard Tony sing before (rarely) and I praised him. Those previous times were nothing compared to last night. He really opened up his vocals and did a fantastic job. Perhaps he decided to put on these shows just to give himself a vehicle to sing for the rest of us. If that’s the case, I approve. Smile

On to the second half of the show. This time, the ladies were in control and the subject matter was Alanis Morissette. The format was the same, including all of the lads joining for the finale, Ironic, but you’ll notice that three of the woman sang two different songs on the lead. Here’s the set list for the ladies:

SetList2

I was never a Talking Heads fan, though songs like Psycho Killer are burned in my memory (was anything else played on the radio when that first came out?). Watching these people playing those 11 songs did not change that. For the most part, those songs don’t do it for me at all. But, watching these people play those songs (or practically anything), was truly thrilling. I don’t say that just because I love most of them (as people as well as musicians), but because the performance was simply that good. I still wouldn’t want to listen to any of it at home, without the energy in the room.

The Alanis Morissette portion, totally different story. Even though my eyes were droopy and I was yawning,  the second half was amazing, each song. It wasn’t that the women performed it any better than the men (they didn’t, both groups nailed their parts). It’s just that Alanis Morissette is a dramatically better songwriter for my taste.

Here’s the photo of the ladies’ finale:

IronicFinale

We left Rockwood at 2am (sheesh). Not for one second did I consider leaving early.

Before listing out as many people as I can find, I want to write out some incredibly subjective, almost silly thoughts. Not because I want to (or believe I can) sway anyone’s opinion. I just want to remember exactly how I felt and this is the best way. One more caveat. There wasn’t a single weak performance last night (seriously, I’m not sparing anyone’s feelings, you just have to trust me on that). So, by calling out anyone, it would be a major mistake on your part to assume that there was a vast difference between the people I’m mentioning and the people I’m not.

Last time, the following observations are entirely my personal opinions. I’m not casting them as facts. If these people delivered a level-10 performance, then the worst of the rest delivered a 9, with the average being 9.5+.

Josh Dion was the most thrilling male performer. When his song was done, I turned to anyone in my vicinity and said “Josh can only be described by one word: Excitement”.

JoshDion

Misty Boyce was mind-boggling in her lead, but she was also the primary harmony vocalist with both the males and females. She also played keyboards and melodica. I’ve seen Misty sing background with Bess Rogers before, and I’ve wanted to see her own sets (and came really close twice, including earlier this week), but this was my first time seeing her take center stage. She grabbed it and didn’t let go until we were all reduced to a puddle.

MistyBoyce

When her song was over, my friend leaned over and said: “Hard to imagine that she isn’t going to blow up one of these days!” (my friends and I are obviously gangsta, holla, in case you mistook that for being a bad thing!). Winking smile

Finally, let’s try to get everyone’s full name (with links if I can find them). I’ll do the male leads first, then the female leads, then the band members. And…… GO:

Tony Maceli, already covered. He also played bass on many of the songs, always his forte.

TonyMaceliBass

Greg Mayo, in addition to singing lead, Greg played electric and acoustic guitars on a majority of the numbers. He sang the most harmony by a male (even on the Alanis set). Even when he wasn’t singing in the mic, Greg was silently singing every word of every Alanis Morissette song. He’s clearly a big fan!

GregMayoSingingGregMayoElectricGuitarGregMayoAcousticGuitar

Scott Chasolen, in addition to singing lead, played the electronic keyboards on that song. He was great!

ScottChasolen

Jerry Fuentes, already discussed above, sang and played smoking lead guitar.

Derek James sang with Jerry Fuentes as part of Jerry’s number.

JerryFuentesDerekJamesMasonIngram

Michelle Casillas, also mentioned above. Great! (I’m going to stick with great, so no one reads into me trying to simply mix up my superlatives.)

MichelleCasillas

Chris Cubeta, I’ve heard about Chris for a while now, mostly as a producer (he produced the upcoming The Vanity Belles CD). This was my first time laying eyes on him and I was very impressed with his voice and guitar play. Misty Boyce sang harmony with him in near-lockstep. They sounded great together.

ChrisCubeta

Update:

Daniel Lanzetta was not listed on either set list, so I missed him the first time I posted this. When I added the photos, I realized my error. He joined Chris Cubeta and did the spoken parts of Once in a Lifetime (of which there are many).

DanielLanzetta

End Update.

Zach Jones, in addition to singing lead, also drummed for a good bit of each set. This is the first time we’ve ever seen Zach hatless. It turns out, that contrary to popular belief, he doesn’t get his superpowers from his hat, because he was great without it yesterday, both singing and drumming. Smile

ZachJonesSingingZachJonesDrumsZachJonesGuitar

Josh Dion. Already asked and answered! I’ll just mention that he was drumming while he was singing, but if you’ve heard of Josh Dion, then you probably guessed that already (you couldn’t have been sure, because he’s great on the keyboards too!).

JoshDionPaulAmorese

Robbie Gil, also mentioned above. Great!

RobbieGilSpencerCohen

Casey Shea not only was great (see, I’m not varying my adjectives in this section), but he also came off the stage, laid down on a table in front of it, and serenaded a woman within inches of her face. Let me think who that was… Oh yeah, it was Lois! Smile

CaseySheaCaseySheaJamieAlegreMattBasilePatrickFirthMistyBoyceCaseyShea

On to the female leads (remember, three of them sang twice, so their list will be shorter):

Jamie Rae, sang lead on two songs. She’s listed as Raeya on Tony’s set list. I think she recently started a new solo project under that moniker. Great!

JamieRae

Misty Boyce, I want to repeat what I said above, but I’ll restrain myself.

MistyBoyceMelodica

Lelia Broussard, sang lead on two songs. She also danced around a bunch and raised the already high energy level higher as a result. Great!

LeliaBroussard

Charlene Kaye, in addition to singing lead, also sang harmony with a few others. Great!

CharleneKaye

Emily Long, sang lead, and was one of the people that Charlene Kay sang with. The two of them are in a Guns N’ Roses cover band called Guns N’ Hoses. Emily was great!

EmilyLong

Mighty Kate (Katy Pfaffl), sang lead on one song. What a change-up from her own music which we saw just this past Monday (here’s my post raving about her). Great!

MightyKateMightyKateMistyBoyce

Julia Haltigan, sang lead on one song. She too was great! She was recently at Rockwood for her own set, and will be again next week, but beside that, she’s performing soon at The Kennedy Center in Washington. No biggie, I’m sure. Winking smile

JuliaHaltiganJuliaHaltiganSteveWilliams

Dallin Applebaum, sang lead on two songs. Great!

DallinApplebaumDallinApplebaumZachJones

Onward, to the unsung (get it?) folks who supported the above, in the most amazing fashion (I’m not going to repeat the ones who sang, but separately played an instrument on many other songs):

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and light vocals. He really wailed on the synth/organ sounds. Great!

PatrickFirth

Jeremy Goldsmith on electric guitar. We’re about to see him in a couple of hours, supporting Jesse Terry at Rockwood. I’m looking forward to seeing him again, because, wait for it, he was great last night! Smile

JeremyGoldsmith

Brian Killeen on electric bass. I had just seen Brian Killeen kill it on an earlier set supporting John Schmitt (post is here) and got to watch him do it again with this group. Great!

BrianKilleen

Ben Zwerin on electric bass. Great!

BenZwerin

Paul Amorese on drums. Great!

PaulAmorese

Matt Simons on electronic keyboards and light vocals. I just saw Matt Simons on the same set with Brian Killeen, supporting John Schmitt. Great!

MattSimons

Mason Ingram on drums. I’ve seen Mason once before, supporting Alec Gross. He was impressive that night. The music was radically different last night, with Mason being equally impressive. Great!

MasonIngram

Steven Elliot on electric guitar. Great!

StevenElliot

Rob Jost on electric bass. Great!

RobJost

Robert DiPietro on drums. I’m pretty sure they called him Rob last night, but the link says Robert, so I’ll stick with that. Great!

RobDiPietro

Both Robs (Jost and DiPietro) are in Ursa Minor with Michelle Casillas and they supported her when she sang lead.

Matt Aranoff on electric bass. Great!

MattAranoff

Ryan Vaughn on drums. Great! I ran into Ryan at John Schmitt’s set and told him that I personally blamed him for keeping us up way past our bedtime. Meaning, we really like catching sets when Ryan is drumming.

RyanVaughn

Spencer Cohen on drums and cowbell. Yes, Spencer is a master percussionist, including playing a naked cowbell, center stage! Great!

SpencerCohenCowbell

John Kengla on electric bass. Great!

Update: I just looked through the photos and not only can’t I find one with John Kengla, the song he was supposed to play on, Heaven, sung by Zach Jones, has Tony Maceli playing on it. So, no photo, and he might not even have been there. Oops.

Rob Heath on drums. Great!

RobHeath

Dan Tirer on electric guitar. Also great, but I’ll add that this was my first time seeing him, and I was particularly impressed. In fact, Lois, who doesn’t pay as much attention to certain instruments as I do, turned to me and commented on how good she thought he was.

DanTirer

Matt Basile on electric bass. Matt always delivers, great!

MattBasile

Jamie Alegre on drums. Great!

JamieAlegre

Steve Williams on drums. I saw Steve once before, supporting Julia Haltigan. He was great that night and again last night!

SteveWilliams

Jeff Litman on acoustic guitar. Great!

JeffLitman

Wow, can’t believe I got through the list, with or without mistakes. Yay me! Smile

Jeff Litman at Rockwood Music Hall

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It’s been 3.5 months since we last saw Jeff Litman headline a set at Rockwood Music Hall, so we were due. The band was the same (a very good thing considering their skills), including the same guest keyboard player. There were two additional guests, taking Jeff’s always excellent performances up a notch.

JeffLitman

A quick recap about Jeff (I’ve written about him a number of times now, so if you want more details, find any one of those posts on this site).

Jeff is an excellent songwriter. He plays the guitar really well (both electric and acoustic). He happens to be a very good bass player too, but that’s not the instrument he plays in his own band. He sings well.

Most importantly, he surrounds himself with top musicians and delivers an upbeat show that is hard to resist (so we don’t bother trying).

The first of the two special guests spent much of the set on stage, starting on the very first song.

Maddy Wyatt sang harmony on roughly 2/3’s of the songs. On one number she also played the flute, beautifully, an instrument that is sorely lacking at Rockwood.

JeffLitmanMaddyWyatSingingMaddyWyattFlute

The other guest was Shanna Zell (who headlines her own sets, as well as being a member of The Ramblers, another of my favorite groups). Shanna was slated to sing on Back to You, the third song on the set.

SetList

Jeff announced that Shanna’s bus was running late and he was going to push that song down the list. What he didn’t know was that I personally arranged for Shanna’s bus to be late, not because I didn’t want to hear her, but because I wanted to move the fourth song up one notch, happily listening to Shanna a few songs later.

ShannaZell

My evil plan worked! Winking smile

When I tell you above that Jeff is an excellent songwriter, I mean it across the board. That doesn’t mean that one song doesn’t stand out (for me personally). In my case, that song is Maine. Jeff knows it, I know it, anyone who reads this blog knows it (and for sure, the Lord knows it).

It’s been great every time, but last night was a real treat. On the CD (Postscript), Jeff sings the entire song harmonizing with a female voice (Kelly Jones). Since this was the first of Jeff’s shows where he had a female guest, it was the first time that he was able to perform the song as it is on the CD. Maddy was invited back up (while we waited for Shanna’s bus, bwahaha) to sing with him.

Thanks Jeff and Maddy. I should mention (for those that didn’t read the other posts) that Jeff switches to acoustic guitar on Maine and plays the harmonica as well.

Later in the set Jeff played a new song (he’s getting very close to releasing a brand new CD!) that he also played acoustic guitar on. The band took a break and Maddy sang with him (I think it might have been the song that Maddy played flute on as well). Wow. Maine may get some competition from this new CD (this song, or likely others that I haven’t heard yet). Very exciting.

JeffLitmanMaddyWyatNewSong

The superb band, left-to-right on the stage:

Bryan Dunn on electric and acoustic guitars and vocals. Bryan is good at everything he does (at least the things he does on stage). Winking smile For most of the set he played acoustic guitar while Jeff played electric. When they switch, Bryan shows off his considerable skills playing lead. He sings extremely well, though he deferred to Maddy more than he does during a more typical Jeff Litman set.

BryanDynnElectricGuitar

Matt Basile on electric bass. Matt is excellent, making bass play seem effortless (while keeping the sound just right).

MattBasile

Elliot Jacobson on drums. It was a treat to see Elliot for a second time in four days (he supported Bess Rogers on Thursday night for her CD Release Show). He’s excellent no matter who he’s supporting, but Jeff’s music is generally so upbeat, that Elliot’s precision, speed, stamina and notorious hard-hitting style are so perfectly suited to it. The rest of the band needs to nail every song because Elliot sets a demanding example.

ElliotJacobson

Jason Wexler once again was a guest keyboard player (grand piano and electronic). He joined for the last two numbers and was an integral part of both, in particular the only cover of the night, the closing number, Pump it Up.

JasonWexler

We couldn’t have been happier with the set. Thanks Jeff, Bryan, Matt, Elliot, Maddy, Shanna and Jason.

Leave a Lasting Mark Blues Brothers Tribute at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Every month, Sam Teichman produces a benefit concert. Proceeds go to different charities (one per show).

SamTeichman

Last night was for Ronald McDonald House of NY. If you want to get involved directly, with the NY chapter, here’s their contact info:

Ronald McDonald House in New York City
405 East 73rd Street
New York, NY 10021 USA
Phone: 212 639-0100
Fax: 212 472-0376

Each show has a theme. Last night it was a Tribute to the Blues Brothers. Sweet (both in theory, in advance, and in retrospect, now that we got to thoroughly enjoy it)!

The series is called Leave a Lasting Mark. The next one is on August 23rd at City Winery. It will be a different style, very special show. After that, they will return to the normal format, at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (where last night’s show was), on September 25th. That show will be a 3-hour extravaganza, paying tribute to The Last Waltz by The Band!

24 musicians participated in last night’s show (not unusual!). I’ll mention every single one of them, but I will not attempt to enumerate the combinations or tell you which people were on which songs. I’ll simply describe the evening in a few generalities. Here is the set list, just to put you in the mood. Smile

SetList

Every performer donates their time to these shows. That doesn’t just include time on stage, but time rehearsing (except when they show up last minute, not having made the rehearsal, and still blow the audience away!). We gave them many ovations last night, but you can do so (in your head) as you read along…

Who doesn’t love the Blues Brothers? Who doesn’t love Soul music? Who doesn’t love brass sections? Who doesn’t love high-energy live performances by dozens of people? If you raised your hand to any of those, leave now! (In starker terms, no soup for you!) Winking smile

Every song last night was packed with energy, delivered by top-notch musicians, with a passion for entertaining (clearly, they loved the songs they were performing). In the audience, a lot of head bobbing, foot tapping (and stomping), clapping (during the songs, to the beat). Of course, wide smiles all around.

One guy took it up a level, participating in much of the show from his seat. When we were called on to get up and Shake Our Tail Feather, he did, very enthusiastically. It was fun to see him so in the spirit. Fun, with the exception that he sat opposite me at our table, and in getting up with so much gusto, spilled his wine all over my jeans and soaked the floor around my feet. Oh well, the price of joy isn’t cheap. Smile (My jeans are in the laundry as I type this, thanks for asking!) Winking smile

There were a number of band changes (shuffles, all done reasonably quickly/efficiently). There were also a number of troopers who played on all songs (perhaps taking a break on one or two, but never leaving the stage. Sam had trouble getting a full horn section, so those that showed up did yeoman’s duty and were on stage start-to-finish. Let’s cover them first, giving them the credit they’re due.

Here’s the horn section, left-to-right:

Matt Thomas on alto-saxophone. You have to go down the page to see Matt’s bio. Matt was far-left on (and off) the stage all night. He did a great job, including a few short solos. At the end (I think in the finale, if not, close to it), he was highlighted even more and tore it up.

MattThomas

Marcus Graf on trumpet. Marcus did a superb job, with a number of short-burst leads. I would have enjoyed hearing him highlighted a bit more. At the end, Sam said that Marcus was a last-minute addition (they met yesterday), when someone recommended someone who recommended Marcus. Good job with the chain of recommendations! Smile

MarcusGraf

Mitch Marcus on tenor saxophone. He took a couple of smoking leads and played wonderfully throughout. I had the sense that he was one of the leaders on stage, but that might have just been because of his central location.

MitchMarcus

Sitting behind the brass section and playing on all but one song was another late addition.

Dave Pollack (a.k.a Shaky Dave) texted Sam at midnight (so technically, the day of the show) that he could make it. He absolutely killed it on the harmonica on every number. He took long, tasty leads. I was surprised that he didn’t rub his lips off.

ShakyDave

Sam was upset that he couldn’t get a 5-piece brass section, including a trombone, but I’m impressed with the last-minute additions of Shaky Dave and Marcus Graf, who along with Matt Thomas and Mitch Marcus created a big sound!

HornSection

Everyone else, in no particular order. That said, I’ll contradict myself immediately and list the female vocalists who didn’t play any instruments first.

Stephanie White on lead vocals. Stephanie was extraordinary (so I lied a bit about the order, I wanted to mention her first). Winking smile Her voice was strong and clear. More impressively, as the song got more feverish, it was climbing the scales. Stephanie kept hitting higher and higher notes, with the same power and clarity. When she hit the last few, I was worried for the dogs in the neighborhood and was equally surprised that humans could hear such a high (and clear!) sound. Wow!

StephanieWhite

Above, I linked Stephanie’s name to her own MySpace page. She is also part of a duo called The Philth Harmonic (actually, called Stephanie White and The Filth Harmonic). I already had them on my list to see, solely due to previously being impressed by her duo partner. Since he was a big part of last night’s show, I’ll save talking about him for later.

Crystal Durant on lead and background vocals. She goes by the moniker DJ Crystal Clear6 (as you’ll see if you clicked through). Another exceptional voice. She’s the one that sang Shake Your Tail Feather, so I blame her for being good enough to get the guy across from me excited enough to actually shake it, spilling his wine on me in the process. Not cool Crystal, not cool! Winking smile

CrystalDurant

Charlene Kaye on lead vocals. Another serious winner! All three ladies (Charlene, Stephanie and Crystal) were new to me. All three impressed me to no end.

CharleneKaye

As Sam reminded us multiple times, everyone on stage is a creator of music, not just a musician. He encouraged us to check out each of them when they are performing their own stuff. I will Sam, I will! Smile

Ashley Lehmann on lead and background vocals. I’ve seen Ashley do background vocals before, but this was my first time seeing her take center stage. She also did more background vocals last night than the others. Like the first time I saw Ashley on background, she did a very good job. Unfortunately, she wasn’t well matched for the song she sang lead on. That said, the song itself was still great, with the band nailing it like they did on every other number.

AshleyLehmann

OK, I’ll continue with the male singers who didn’t play an instrument (hard to resist a theme).

Bryan Lazerus on lead vocals (no good individual music link). Another first for me. Great voice. I enjoyed his number immensely! I see from his personal profile that he’s a guitarist, so perhaps some day I’ll see a fuller picture of his talents.

BryanLazerusBryanLazerusSinging

Sean Lauder on lead vocals. A number of people came dressed (partially) in Blues Brothers style. Sean came the closest, wearing a black suit, skinny tie and sunglasses. I don’t know why he didn’t complete the look with the hat. Perhaps he’s a hair guy. Winking smile Anyway, he put on a helluva show, dancing and singing his heart out. The voice didn’t impress like some of the others.

SeanLauderSeanLauderDancing1SeanLauderDancing2

On to the lead singers who also played instruments. Thanks to a cheat-sheet from Sam, these will mostly be listed in the order in which they appeared, but keep in mind that the ones above were interspersed among these!

Jeremiah Birnbaum and Scott Stein opened the show, alternating verses singing lead. Each of them is amazing in their own right, and I think they have more than one collaborative project together, but I know them best (together) as two of the five people in The Ramblers.

Jeremiah sang first and played lead guitar (on that and a number of other songs). He also sang lead on Rawhide, filling in at the last minute. He didn’t play guitar on that number. In fact, he asked Sam to find a guitarist and Sam let that slip through the cracks. In real-time, another performer jumped up and did a great job without having known he’d be asked to do so (I’ll get to him shortly, and refer back to this).

a

I know I already said Jeremiah is amazing, but I wasn’t specific about last night. Great voice, great guitar playing, yes, last night too! Smile

JeremiahBirnbaumGuitar

Scott Stein is an incredible keyboards player. When he sings with the Ramblers, I really like his voice as well. I wasn’t as kind about a song he sang at the last benefit, but last night he was totally back on track. So, he has a really good voice, but it has to fit the material to really work. Last night, it did!

ScottStein

His keyboard play was exciting. When he took leads (a number of them), the horn section crouched down so people could see the magic more clearly (he was buried in the back of the stage).

Craig Greenberg sang lead and played keyboards and electric guitar. He was great on all three, with the latter (guitar) being the one on Rawhide Hey Bartender, filling in seconds before the song started. He had to sit while playing the guitar, because Jeremiah is so tall that the strap made the guitar hang down at Craig’s knees.

CraigGreenbergKeyboardsCraigGreenbergGuitar

Adam Minkoff on lead vocals (twice), electric bass and guitar. I just wrote about Adam on Saturday, after seeing him perform as part of Scott Chasolen’s trio on Friday night. I lamented in that post that I never get to see Adam sing lead, because his headlining sets typically start a midnight or later!

AdamMinkoffBass

What an absolute treat getting to see/hear him sing lead last night. He’s wonderful, and I will now need to nap on nights when he’s performing late, so I can stay up (at least once). I’ve already written a couple of times about how good he is on the bass. Last night was my first taste of him playing lead electric guitar.

Since he was singing, he started out mostly playing rhythm. But, when it came time for a solo, he was fast, clean and excellent. A multi-talented individual! I had never met Adam before, so I hung around an extra minute to find him and tell him how much I enjoyed his singing.

As if the above weren’t enough, he cracked us up a number of times with his extremely dry (and quick) humor, in response to some of Sam’s introductions. I won’t do justice to anything he said, so I won’t try.

Robbie LaFalce on lead vocals, drums and keyboards. I really enjoyed Robbie’s piano play at the last benefit. I really enjoyed his drumming at the one before that. So, when he played the drums last night, and kicked arse, I had nothing to complain about.

RobbieLaFalceDrums

Then he took it up from there. He sang lead while playing the drums (something I should stop being surprised at, but it’s still hard to wrap my head around it, even though I see it more often lately). Excellent voice. Later, he joined Scott Stein and they shared the keyboards. Beautiful!

RobbieLaFalceSinging

ScottSteinRobbieLaFalceKeyboardsScottSteinRobbieLaFalceKeyboardsCloseup

Robbie is the other half of The Philth Harmonic, and the reason they were on my list even before I knew who Stephanie White was. They will be playing an early show in Newark, NJ this Thursday (8/4/2011). If you’re in that neck of the woods, do yourself a favor and check them out.

Chris Kelly sang lead and played electric bass. This was our second time seeing Chris, both at these benefits. Again, Chris did a good job singing and an even better job on the bass.

ChrisKelly

There was one final singer, but I will save him for later (so be sure to stick around), because the finale requires a little section of its own.

Here are the rest of the musicians. Some sang background, some didn’t. In any event, the fact that they are listed after the singers means nothing. They were an integral part of the show, just like the horns were!

Jeff Litman on electric guitar. I’ve written about Jeff a number of times, always glowingly. Last night can be added to that list. Very tasty leads when he was on stage.

JeffLitmanJeffLitmanGuitar

Will Hensley on electric guitar. My first time seeing Will. He sounded good, but I couldn’t tell how much lead he was playing because he stepped back further than some of the other guitarists, so it was harder to follow him (visually).

WillHensley

Carlos Valdez on electric bass (couldn’t find a good link). Carlos was incredible on the bass. His strap was really short (obviously by choice), so the bass was up against his chest rather than his belly. Didn’t make a difference, his fingers were flying and creating beautiful bass lines! If you can’t tell, it was my first time seeing Carlos.

CarlosValdez

Megan Cox on keyboards. I didn’t recognize her even though we’ve seen her before. That was because she played violin (really well) at the Soul Revue Benefit. Let’s add talented keyboard player to her list of talents. I bet there are more gems awaiting my discovery!

MeganCoxKeyboardsMeganCoxSinging

Last, but absolutely certainly not least, the drummers! (I already told you how good Robbie LaFalce was!)

Dave Scalia on drums. Another first time, most definitely not a last time! I love drumming and good drummers (there, I said it). Lois can appreciate a good drummer too, but she’s not as obsessed as me. Occasionally she’ll turn to me and say “Wow, he’s good!”, and that will be that.

DaveScalia

Lois couldn’t stop raving about Dave. If Lois is raving about a drummer, you can bet I don’t need to pile on. Smile And, just in case you’re wondering, yes, she was correct in her assessment! Winking smile

Matt Arbeiter on drums (again, no good individual music link). Second time for us seeing Matt. Another excellent job, highlighted a bit more last night, so I was even more impressed.

MattArbeiter

Seth Faulk on drums. Seth wasn’t scheduled to play last night, though he’s participated in a number of these benefit shows. Since he was in the house, he was invited up. He played at least two songs (the last two I believe) and he was awesome.

SethFaulk

Time for the encore, but first, a word from our sponsors. Before the show started, we said Hi to a few of the performers. One of them is the only one that hasn’t been mentioned yet. I asked him what song he was singing and he said it would have to remain a mystery. Now I know why, he was the big finish, which included a surprise shout-out to me. Smile

For the finale, Sam invited everyone who performed during the evening to come up on stage. He remained there as well and picked up a tambourine, so we’ll count him as well (you’ll understand the point in a minute).

Bryan Dunn sang lead and played electric guitar. I really wanted to see Bryan’s set on Thursday and was reasonably sure I’d be back from Ian Axel’s show in CT in time. Unfortunately, we got back too late. Having Bryan close the show was therefore a very nice treat. He sings wonderfully, plays the guitar wonderfully and is an all-around nice-guy (and no, he won’t finish last! Hmmm, wait, he did finish last at this show…). Winking smile

BryanDunnSingingBryanDunnGuitar

For a while, there was a running joke on my blog. I would announce whenever a new record was set for number of performers on stage (at either Rockwood venue) at the same time. The record only counts when I’m there and only by my personal count, even if I count incorrectly. It may sound arbitrary to you, but I assure you, it’s completely scientific!

Sam has tried (in vain) to submit photographic evidence of more people on stage for shows that I’ve missed. But, I won’t be fooled. I know that agencies like the CIA and NSA routinely doctor photos, so it’s my eyes, or your effort simply didn’t happen/count.

Since Sam called everyone back up, and remained on stage himself, the number of people on stage should have been 25 (count up the names above and you’ll get 24, plus Sam). I am going to give full credit and call the record at 25! But, to be technically accurate, there were 22 people on stage. Matt Thomas was just off the stage to the left (though he wailed on the sax on this number, so he was an integral part of the song) with Matt Arbeiter and Bryan Lazerus just off the stage on the right. Safety first people, so I’m giving them the credit, for not doing something stupid just to achieve a bigger record!

The played an outrageously good and fun rendition of Sweet Home Chicago. Thanks Bryan (and your supporting cast of 24 others!) for closing out an already great show with a bang!

We attend a ton of shows (the proof is in this blog). One of the people that we see nearly every time is someone taking photographs with a much better camera than Lois uses.

Manish Gosalia is a professional photographer who takes extraordinary photographs of many of the musicians we love, both at live performances and at specific photo shoots. I’ll rectify having not introduced myself the next time we run into each other, but in the meantime, with his permission, I’m linking to a photo he took of the finale, from the balcony. Enjoy!

I have a feeling that the linked photo above may disappear (I had to use some tricks to grab the direct URL), so here’s the link to the original Flickr photo. You can click on LARGE to see the full version.

Leave a Lasting Mark Benefit at The Bitter End

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Sam Teichman produces a monthly benefit concert. Each show benefits a specific charity. Each show has a specific theme and is epic in terms of the number of artists and their individual and combined talents. You can follow Sam on Twitter to get alerts about each show.

SamTeichman

Last night’s show benefitted Sean Casey Animal Rescue. The theme was the songs of James Taylor and Carole King. We’ll get to the myriad performers in a minute.

Poster

You should come to these shows for any one of the following reasons:

  • You are doing a good deed by supporting a variety of good causes (one per show)
  • You will hear great music because the themes are built around well-known artists
  • You will see/hear amazing performances by incredibly talented local musicians
  • Come more than once and see how quickly you feel like you’re part of a community
  • Discover talented musicians who you will want to follow in their own career
  • Marvel at the spectacle of shuffling as many as 15 performers on/off stage on each song, quickly and efficiently

In addition to coordinating (producing) the entire show, Sam is also the MC for the evening. He introduces every act and every performer (multiple times). He tirelessly promotes them and the recipient of the donations. It’s important to know that the musicians donate 100% of their time (including rehearsals). Every penny raised goes directly to the charity.

Sam has a crew of volunteers that film each show and the clips eventually make their way on to YouTube. You can see clips from past shows (among other shows that Sam has filmed) at his YouTube Channel. Sam also produces CDs of the shows. He solicits additional donations for a performance by offering free copies of CDs from past shows. You aren’t buying the CDs, you are being rewarded for your generosity by being able to take the CDs home for your enjoyment. Smile

There were some minor changes in the order of a few songs (to accommodate artists who were late or had to leave a bit early), but for the most part, these Set Lists are accurate (every image in every post can be clicked on for a larger version):

SetList1SetList2SetList3

For my sanity (and hopefully yours), I will cover only the main singers, in the order they appeared, then add all the amazing side-people (so as not to have to mention each multiple times). You can refer back to the set lists above to see which side-person supported which lead singer. It should be noted that nearly every side-person sang lead on one song as well, which will cut down on the extra side-people needed to be covered at the end.

I’ll add a (1st time) to any artists who we’ve never seen before.

Valerie Mize sang I Feel the Earth Move. We just saw Valerie perform at Backscratch XIV this past Monday. It was our first time hearing her sing lead and I knew it wouldn’t be our last. I didn’t know our next one would be this close, but I’m glad it was. Valerie opened the show with a bang! I Feel the Earth Move is a rich, earthy song. Valerie’s rich, earthy voice is perfectly suited for it.

ValerieMizeSethFaulk

Bri Arden sang Smackwater Jack. The first time I heard Bri was at our first Leave a Lasting Mark show, a Soul Revue Benefit. She blew me (and the rest of the audience) away with her rendition of Proud Mary, Tina Turner style. She was equally good on Smackwater Jack, but the song itself doesn’t call for the same heart palpitations that Proud Mary does.

BriArden

My next post will be all about Bri. She headlined a show at Rockwood Music Hall shortly after this benefit was over. She, and her amazing band, were all troopers for doing this benefit and then running over to do their own show. Bravo!

Keith Paine sang Mexico (1st time). He did a very nice job, so it likely won’t be our last time seeing him. This was the first time that the horn section showed up, which added to the vibe quite nicely. I’ll cover them at the bottom of the post.

KeithPaine

Jenna Marotta sang It’s Too Late (1st time). Sam introduced Jenna with a nice story. Jenna attended a previous benefit show to see a friend of hers perform. After the show, Jenna contacted Sam and asked for an opportunity to sing at one herself. Ask and ye shall receive. Jenna did a nice job. It took her a bit longer to warm up to the mic than the others. She has a lovely voice when she lets it out.

JennaMarotta

Rebecca Haviland sang Carolina On My Mind. Rebecca was the first to perform a song solo. She accompanied herself on electric guitar. I’ve written about Rebecca a number of times (all glowingly). One of her (many) talents is her absolutely extraordinary voice. While we’ve heard her voice soar (clearly) above a crowded stage of loud instruments, seeing her sing solo, accompanied by a quiet guitar, was a magical thing to behold.

RebeccaHaviland

Before singing, Rebecca mentioned that she was nervous to sing her take on such a classic song. I was expecting something wildly different than the original given Rebecca’s incredible take on Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog (nowhere similar to the original, other than sharing the same lyrics). While Rebecca’s Carolina On My Mind was definitely more soulful, it wasn’t a radical departure from the original. It was stunning, nonetheless.

Shira Goldberg was up next. Before I get to her performance, two digressions. Lois captured this photo of Rebecca and Shira before the show started. They were letting the crowd know that they had (fraternal) twin guitars:

RebeccaHavilandShiraGoldbergSisterGuitars

Before she sang, Shira wryly thanked Sam for placing her immediately after Rebecca. Winking smile It was a self-deprecating (and classy) way for Shira to pay a lovely compliment to Rebecca’s performance.

Shira sang Some Kind of Wonderful. She was, indeed, some kind of wonderful herself. We’d seen Shira only once before, at a Livestrong benefit (in 2009!). That night, she joked that she only knew depressing songs. Even though she didn’t feel it was appropriate to sing a depressing song at a cancer survivor’s benefit, she had no choice. Last night she joked that she should sing happier songs. At least she could pick one by someone else this time. Smile

ShiraGoldberg

Scott Stein sang Way Over Yonder. Sam had mentioned earlier that they weren’t pigeon-holing any of the performers into sticking to the appropriate gender (males singing James Taylor, etc.). As much as I enjoyed Scott’s singing with his group, The Ramblers (my most recent post about them can be read here), I’m not sure he was well-suited to this song, vocally.

ScottStein

No matter. Not only did Scott destroy on the piano, he was the primary piano sideman on most of the numbers. He was crazy amazing on every one. I wasn’t surprised, as he was unreal at The Ramblers show as well, but many of the songs last night have natural piano runs that are gorgeous (think: Carole King), so Scott got to constantly show his wares.

David Kantor sang Something in the Way She Moves (no good individual link, but read to the bottom to get a band link!, and 1st time). He did a fine job singing, but to me, it wasn’t really about his singing. In addition to singing lead on this song and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, David was the primary acoustic guitar sideman for the evening. Much of his play was phenomenal finger-picking that I could have listened to with no voices or other instruments, all night long!

DavidKantor

Later in the show, in what appeared to be a complete ad-lib, David put down his acoustic guitar mid-song, walked over to the electric bass (which was un-manned), signaled to the bassists on the sideline (asking permission to pick up one of their basses) and finished the song on the bass.

DavidKantorBass

When David was done, I did something I have never done before. I called Sam over and told him that the far left microphone (used by the backup singers) was way too low (it had been since the first song). Sam told Chris who was working the sound booth. Chris corrected the problem perfectly. Thanks Sam and Chris, it became critical just two songs later!

Jake Cohen sang How Sweet It Is (1st time). Jake was one of three primary drummers throughout the night. He was excellent on the drums and he did an excellent job on the vocals as well. He also had four background vocalists and a full band, making this a very rich sounding song.

JakeCohen

Justin Goldner sang Home Again (1st time). Justin did a very nice job singing and playing the piano on this number. That said, for the majority of the evening, he was one of three primary bass players. He was truly awesome on the bass. I noticed how good he was on the very first song. But when Bri sang Smackwater Jack, Justin was so good that I recall thinking I never realized how sophisticated some of the bass lines were (or could be) in Folk/Pop tunes of yesteryear.

JustinGoldnerKateFerberJustinGoldnerBass

Kate Ferber sang Natural Woman (1st time). I need to back up before I cover Kate’s performance on this song. Kate was singing backup with David Kantor. I could barely hear her, which is what prompted me to call Sam over after that song (I couldn’t hear Bri singing with Valerie, or Valerie singing with Bri either, on that mic). Kate is pictured above, singing backup with Justin. She is holding the same mic that I couldn’t hear earlier, but after Chris upped the volume.

That was very important, because even though Kate was singing background, for a good part of the song, it was more like a duet than just some light harmony. Her voice was excellent and it would have been a real shame to have lost it (again).

Kate came to center stage to sing Natural Woman. She was fantastic. Great voice, warmth and stage presence. All around excellent delivery of a great song.

KateFerber

Abby Bernstein sang Steamroller (1st time). When Sam introduced Abby, he said she was fresh off of opening for Bare Naked Ladies in front of 14,000 people. Abby corrected him that he was off by a zero, that it was actually 1,400. A few seconds later, she added “I meant 14,000,000!”. Good start. Quick wit is one of the most welcome traits in a stage performer. Smile

AbbyBernstein

Thankfully, humor is not Abby’s only weapon. She has an excellent voice along with excellent stage presence. She too delivered a fine performance.

Paul Tabachneck sang Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1st time). Wow. Great voice, great delivery, nice job on the acoustic guitar. He (or rather Sam) introduced this as Paul’s interpretation of Will You Love Me Tomorrow. I place it in the same category as Rebecca’s interpretation of Carolina On My Mind, meaning, not as far afield from the original as the introduction would have you believe.

PaulTabachneck

Andy Mac sang Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. We’ve seen Andy once before and he was very good, so I wasn’t surprised that he delivered again last night.

AndyMac

Kaylin Lee Clinton sang So Far Away (1st time). This was the first departure from the set lists shown above, due to a late arrival. Kaylin sang backup earlier (beautifully) so I was excited to see her step up to center stage. No disappointment! Kaylin delivered So Far Away (another great song), wonderfully. Excellent voice, great stage presence.

KaylinLeeClinton

Kaylin sang backup a few times. Here’s a shot of her with Shira (there’s another one below with Seth).

KaylinLeeClintonShiraGoldberg

Patryk Larney sang Sweet Baby James (1st time). I’ve seen so many tweets over the last year about Patryk that I felt like I almost knew him. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what he would sound like. Now I do and I’m a big fan. Excellent voice, good guitar play.

PatrykLarney

Jeremiah Birnbaum sang You’ve Got a Friend. I’m already a huge fan of Jeremiah’s (he’s Scott Stein’s partner-in-crime in The Ramblers). Jeremiah was the primary electric guitarist on most songs last night, but for You’ve Got a Friend, he dropped the guitar and took center stage with just a mic in hand. What an incredible delivery of an all-time great song. Excellent voice, but he also created an emotional atmosphere that sucked me in.

JeremiahBirnbaum

Chris Kelly sang Jelly Man Kelly (no good link, and 1st time). Chris was one of three primary bass players for the night. He did a fine job on the bass whenever he was up. For this song he took center stage and accompanied himself on the electric bass. Highly unusual to see a solo bass player singing. He pulled off this fun song that James Taylor played on Sesame Street!

ChristopherKelly

I can’t take it any longer. I have to admit that I lied when I said Chris(topher) performed solo. Off in the corner of the stage, at the grand piano, Sam Teichman accompanied Chris on the tambourine. Yes, our own Sam showed his musical/percussion chops. I guess the old saying “It’s good to be the boss” is certainly true! Winking smile

Caleb Hawley sang Fire and Rain. Caleb was late, necessitating the earlier shifts, but he made it in plenty of time. He was in a suit, so perhaps he came from an interview on Celebrity Apprentice. Winking smile

CalebHawley

Caleb is one of our favorites. He has a wonderful voice, plays guitar so well, in a style I’m not accustomed to hearing and in general, he’s just a ton of fun on stage. He performed one of my favorite songs as well. That said, he wasn’t himself last night. Perhaps rushing in threw him off, perhaps whatever kept him stopped him from rehearsing properly.

To be clear, Caleb at his worst is better than many solid performers’ best, but it’s a far cry from his own best.

In an understandable irony, Caleb was considered one of the bigger draws of the show. He was the only lead singer to be given two songs. The second was no better than the first. Oh well, there’s no way this affects my opinion of Caleb, nor stops me from jumping through hoops to see him again! Smile

Jeff Litman sang Country Road. Jeff did a great job on a great song. Still, Jeff and I need to stop meeting like this. This was the third set that Jeff sang in that we attended, just this week. The first was his own birthday bash. He then kicked off Backscratch XIV. In addition to singing lead and playing acoustic guitar on this number, Jeff was the third of the primary bass players last night. The first time we ever saw Jeff was when he played bass at the Soul Revue, so this seemed fitting to see him tear up the bass again.

JeffLitmanSamTeichmanJeffLitmanBass

Give a person a finger and they demand a hand. As you can see in the picture above, Sam Teichman moved from the far corner (near the piano) to the middle of the stage, to continue showing off his tambourine mastery. Next time, center stage, singing lead. Got it Sam? Smile

Jeff’s song fittingly closed the show, with highlights by Chris Kelly on bass and Jeremiah Birnbaum on electric guitar.

JeffLitmanChristopherKellyJeremiahBirnbaum

That said, all of the side-people were excellent on every number, so let’s name the few that didn’t sing lead and add some photos for those that sang lead, but played larger roles supporting the others throughout the set.

Seth Faulk on drums, percussion and background vocals. Seth was great on all three. I’ve noted in another post that Seth sang harmony one night from the audience, standing right behind me and that his voice was really good. That was true last night again, but this time it was on stage at a microphone. I’d like to hear him sing lead as well.

SethFaulkDrumsSethFaulkJakeCohen

KaylinLeeClintonSethFaulkValerieMizeBriArdenKateFerberSethFaulk

Robert LaFalce on grand piano. Robert was a real trooper. One of the pianists that was scheduled to play is Matt Simons. Unfortunately, his car was broken into the night before (we keep hearing about traveling musicians getting their equipment stolen, it’s heart-breaking). Robbie filled in at the last minute and performed his parts perfectly. He was also charming the few times he opened his mouth. Smile

RobbieLaFalce

We saw Robbie only once before, at the Soul Revue, but he only played percussion that night. Another local multi-instrumentalist (they seem to be everywhere you look nowadays!). Winking smile

Matt Arbeiter on drums and percussion (no good link, and 1st time). Matt handled his drumming and percussion duties excellently.

MattArbeiterDrumsMattArbeiterPercussion

Ian Schaefer on trumpet. Ian was superb. Not quite as highlighted as the other member of the horn section, but integral nonetheless.

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Jonathan Kantor on saxophone. Jonathan was excellent on every number that he appeared in (which was many). He was highlighted a bit more than Ian (as noted above).

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Sam tried to calm the crowd down when he saw people rubbing their eyes. It turns out that David and Jonathan are twins and Sam assured people that they were not seeing double! Winking smile

I could tell the difference between them in two ways: 1) Their shirt colors were different and 2) They played different instruments! Smile

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Jonathan’s fiancée was in the audience. Big deal, right? Wrong! They are getting married this Sunday. He needed permission to play last night (naturally!). She said yes (by my count, that makes at least twice!). Winking smile

When we left, we bumped into the Kantor twins on the corner. First Lois shook each of their hands individually as she told them how awesome they were. Then I reached my hand out as both of them did, and we ended up in a perfectly natural three-handed shake, with my hand around both of theirs. Twins indeed! Smile

Congratulations Jonathan, best of luck on Sunday and the rest of your lives together.

In searching for David Kantor (and not finding a good individual link), I came across a band that both brothers are in, as are Kate Ferber and Justin Goldner (among others). The band is called Grand Central Sound. The very first YouTube video that I stumbled across made me realize what a connection we have to the twins (even though they don’t know it yet!).

Ten days ago I wrote about a Campfire event at Slane. During that set, Lois requested Into the Mystic by Van Morrison. Martin played it for her. Here’s a video of Grand Central Sound performing the same song (much richer sound due to the full band), with David Kantor singing lead (and giving me way more of a sense of his singing chops than he did last night!):

Grand Central Sound, featuring David Kantor singing Into the Mystic

Backscratch XIV at Rockwood Music Hall

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We’ve only been to one Backscratch before, but we’ll do our best to never miss one going forward. Last night was #14, but I decided to show off my mad Roman Numeral skills in the title. Winking smile This one was back at Rockwood Music Hall (not the original venue). I covered the last one and explained the concept thusly:

Here’s the concept: gather a bunch of musicians. Each plays three songs. Traditionally (or so the legend goes) each played one original song, one well-known cover and one cover of another of the evening’s musicians, which they were each assigned at random! Now, it’s often two originals followed by the backscratch.

Backscratch was conceived by Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer, the same geniuses that brought Campfires to the world. Since Martin is touring in the UK and Europe at the moment, and Craig is probably on the road with Rachel Platten, neither was there. No matter, the MC duties were performed by Christina Morelli of NYC Art Scene fame.

We would have gone even if none of the musicians was known to us. That wasn’t the case last night, as only two of the nine performers were strangers to us. A number of them are counted among our favorites!

Jeff Litman opened the show because his band’s equipment was already on stage from his birthday set. He performed the more traditional 3-song set. He opened with a solo acoustic cover, Never Going Back Again, by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. What a way to kick off Backscratch XIV!

JeffLitman

Jeff’s band (Bryan Dunn, Matt Basile and Elliot Jacobson) joined him for the next two numbers. The first was his original, Everything You’re Not (from his current CD, Postscript). Jeff closed his trio with a cover of Valerie Mize (his backscratch), Promises, from her Auspices EP.

I’m not going to be able to name every song from every artist, since I do this from memory (and I don’t know all of their songs well enough anyway). Where I think I know/remember, I’ll say so.

Jesse Terry was up next, solo with an acoustic guitar. Jesse is one of our favorites, so we knew we’d enjoy his numbers. I was more curious to hear what his backscratch would be (they are assigned randomly). Jesse opened with Pearl Diver, a very new song (which we’ve heard before, since we do our best to show up whenever and wherever Jesse performs). Next up was Scared of Nothing, another Jesse original. His voice was incredible on both numbers.

JesseTerry

For his backscratch, Jesse drew Live Society. If you read anything I write, you likely know how much I love Live Society. Given how amazing Jesse’s voice is, and how well he handles the guitar, I admit to being extremely excited about this. He performed No One, which isn’t on their current EP. It was fantastic (both the song, and Jesse’s interpretation), so I’m seriously hoping it will be on Live Society’s forthcoming CD!

I played a critical role during the performance (which you might someday get to see on YouTube, since the entire evening was filmed by Sam Teichman). There was quite a breeze inside Rockwood and the sheet music (most of the backscratchers require some cheat sheet) was flapping off the music stand. I bravely reached up and held the corner of Jesse’s sheet for the entire song, saving the day! Winking smile

Please allow me a digression here (or skip ahead, I might not even be able to tell). I used the word interpretation above for a few reasons. First, there’s the obvious one (in this case), where Jesse is a solo artist trying to reproduce a song performed by a band that crushes three-part harmony, and is accompanied by guitar, keyboards, bass and drums (usually).

Second, the backscratch is often a song that was learned quickly, at times even on the day of the show, so it’s not likely to be a studied copy. But the most important thing is that it’s often a true artistic interpretation, in the sense of paying homage to the original artist by delivering it to them in your style (for most cases, the original artist is hearing it live then and there).

Jesse delivered No One in his own style. I absolutely would have believed it was one of his songs if he had introduced it as such. After singing it, he met Live Society for the first time. How cool is that, practically and conceptually?

LiveSocietyJesseTerry

Unfortunately, Jesse had to leave shortly after performing. He had an early trip this morning, heading to Greenland, just shy of the North Pole (of all places). He’ll be serenading our troops there for the next week or so. He didn’t get to hear the backscratch that covered him (we’ll get to that later).

Valerie Mize was up next. She performed two originals with her band (Antar Goodwin on electric bass and Tomo Kanno on drums). She opened with Downtown Train. She followed that with a new number. She played electric guitar on both, finger picking (beautifully) for the most part, and strumming without a pick the rest of the time. She has a beautiful voice.

ValerieMizeSinging

We’ve seen Valerie only once before, at the Soul Benefit where she sang backup. Here’s what I wrote about her performance that night:

For most numbers, there were three or four backup singers on stage. All but one sang lead as well, so I’ll mention them in a second. The only backup singer who didn’t sing lead on at least one song was Valerie Mize. She did a wonderful job. I’m sure if there was more time, she too would have taken a turn at the center mic and wow’ed us.

I’d never seen Antar or Tomo before. Both did a very good job and are well-matched with Valerie.

AntarGoodwinTomoKonno

For her backscratch, Valerie dismissed the band and moved to the grand piano. She sang Ophelia by John Schmitt. He too is one of our favorites, as is that specific song (title cut from his current CD). Valerie played the piano beautifully and sang a very soulful version of Ophelia.

ValerieMizePiano

Patrick Firth was up next. We’ve seen Patrick many times, but last night was a first on two scores. We’d never seen him perform an original and we’d never seen him play anything other than keyboards. Instead of heading for the grand piano in the corner, Patrick (his friends seem to call him Pat, but that feels presumptuous on my part) sat on a stool, center stage, and sang an original accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. Very nicely done!

PatrickFirthGuitar

I already knew he had a nice voice (you can read about it in this post). Now I know that he can write and sing his own stuff (that night was covers) and play the guitar as well.

Patrick then moved to the piano and performed a brand new song that he wrote over the post three days (finishing it yesterday!). He plays with the Big Apple Circus and wrote it while in CT, on breaks, between shows.

PatrickFirthPiano

For his backscratch, Patrick played Grow by Nick Howard. What a fantastic job. We had just seen Nick perform a full set earlier that night (with a full band), next door at Rockwood 2 (covered here). He played that song with the full band. Patrick’s rendition was very different and equally beautiful.

Unfortunately, Nick hadn’t made it over to Rockwood 1 yet, so he missed hearing Patrick nail his song.

John Schmitt was up next. That alone would be reason enough for celebration. But, in a complete surprise for me, John brought up Greg Mayo to play guitar with him. John opened with Two Souls.

JohnSchmitt

Greg played some amazing guitar solos (surprise!) and sang a few words (way too few) of harmony (very nicely). He played Patrick Firth’s guitar.

GregMayo

Next John played Going Back (a fantastic new song of his, that isn’t on the Ophelia CD). Typically, he has a female voice singing harmony with him. Greg basically filled that role with guitar leads. Holy moly, it was awesome.

John is currently raising money to record that song professionally. We contributed early. Even though we did (quite happily), we noted to each other that the raw version John has up on his donation page is quite beautiful. We worried (privately) whether people would wonder why he needs/wants another version. Having heard how different it can sound by just adding another guitar (admittedly, one played by Greg Mayo!), made us just contribute a second time. We no longer doubt John Schmitt’s wisdom. Smile

Greg then left the stage and tried to take Patrick’s guitar with him. John kept it, asking Patrick if he could use it for his backscratch (John had broken a string earlier, and had to use a different one in its place. I’ll spare you the groaners about a broken G-string.) Winking smile

Patrick agreed to let John use the guitar, until John admitted that his backscratch was none other than Patrick. At that point Patrick said: “Then NO!”. Of course, he was kidding, but it was funny nonetheless.

I don’t know the name of the song, but it was great. So, Patrick can indeed write, and we already knew that John can deliver. A great combo!

Lara Ewen was up next, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. I had never heard of Lara, so I didn’t recognize the two originals that she played. They were both nice and I like her voice.

LaraEwen

For her backscratch, she drew Jesse Terry. She was quite funny in pointing out that most people give excuses like “I had to miss your performance because I was at the North Pole, but that in Jesse’s case, it was the truth!”. Winking smile She added that she was happy about that, because she was reasonably sure she was going to butcher his number.

She chose The Runner (the title cut from Jesse’s CD). She was correct in knowing that she hadn’t quite nailed the song, but I certainly wouldn’t say she butchered it, just that certain parts caused her some grief. Winking smile

Benjamin Wagner was up next, also accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Benjamin was the only other performer I hadn’t heard of before. In this case, it turned out to be a little less mysterious. He has a full-time job and a one-year-old, which has slowed down his live performances dramatically.

BenjaminWagner

Of all the performers, he was the chattiest. While I found his style entertaining and the content interesting and well-delivered, he was also the only one who cursed (and quite a bit at that). I’m no prude, but it was still jarring in contrast to the rest of the show.

He has a very good voice and plays the guitar well enough. That said, neither of his two originals (Giving Up the Ghost and Dear Elizabeth) grabbed me.

He inserted his backscratch in between them. He drew Lara Ewen and chose One Day. Wow, I really liked it a lot, both the song and his performance of it. So, I know Lara is capable of writing songs that will grab me, and I know that Benjamin is capable of delivering a song in a manner that will engage me as well. Neither pulled that off with their own originals, but the sample size was two in each case, so let’s toss that out and start again, the next time I see either of them.

Benjamin blogs regularly and he posted his thoughts about last night’s show.

Nick Howard was up next (and had arrived by then). He played solo acoustic, quite a contrast to his earlier full-band set at Rockwood 2. One of the two originals that he played was Grow, which he had performed in the earlier set. It’s the same song that Patrick Firth had covered for his backscratch, but Nick was unaware, since he hadn’t made it in yet.

NickHoward

That made three performances of Grow in one night for us. All were quite different from each other (even though Nick himself performed two of them!). All three were very well done.

Nick’s other original was Falling for You, which he had also performed with the full band in the earlier set. Once again, his solo performance was different and beautiful. As I noted in the earlier post, he had to work harder to get his voice heard over the full band. In the solo set, his voice was just right.

For his backscratch, Nick drew Benjamin Wagner. I don’t recall the song, but I remember thinking it was nice and that Nick did a good job with it.

Last, but certainly not least, was Live Society. They were without their guitarist (John Kaiteris), keyboard player (varies) and drummer (Erik Perez). The three singers, Brian Collazo, Jason Vargas and Kevin Collazo were joined by their regular bass player, Anthony Candullo. Anthony also played acoustic guitar on one number.

BrianCollazoGuitarAnthonyCandulloGuitar

Two special guests joined them: Patrick Firth on grand piano and Greg Mayo on acoustic guitar.

Live Society reverted to the classic format, one famous cover, one original and one backscratch, mirroring the opener (Jeff Litman) as the only acts who did that last night. That was more than fitting, as they asked the crowd if any of us had done the calculus to guess who their backscratch was? Even you who weren’t there should be able to figure it out. I’ll give you a minute while I get to their other two songs.

GregMayoLiveSociety

They opened with their original Better Man. Gorgeous! They followed that with I Second that Emotion by Smokey Robinson. Jason Vargas took the lead for a good portion of the song. It was fantastic.

JasonVargas

For their backscratch, they drew Jeff Litman (please don’t tell me you haven’t figured it out yet). They performed Open Arms. Frist, the bottom line: Wow! Now, some details.

Jeff’s version is wonderful, but it’s straight up power Pop. Live Society owned their version, which was about as Mowtown/R&B as you could hope and it couldn’t have worked better.

All three of them traded singing lead. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’ve followed my other ravings about Live Society, then you know that I have started a campaign to get them to have Kevin sing some lead. He did, and he was terrific! I had to tease him/them after the show, pointing out that it took a backscratch to get Kevin to take a lead. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a trend. All three of them can sing, including Kevin!

KevinCollazo

What a way to end a spectacular evening.

Backscratch was listed as 9-11pm on the Rockwood schedule. Before the show started, the sound guy told Christina that the previous show had run over and he would appreciate her trying to keep it moving at a rapid pace. Ha!

Last night’s show ran over by only an hour. No one dawdled. Let’s do the math: nine artists each performing three songs, averaging four minutes = 108 minutes. That’s nearly the full two hours, without accounting for time between songs, banter, and oh yeah, changeover between acts (sometimes including moving equipment around). The fact that it’s not scheduled for three hours is the joke, not that it ran over.

Update: A number of people commented to me via email and Twitter that the site correctly listed it as three hours, albeit confusingly. That’s correct, in the sense that there was no artist listed at 11pm. But, the show was listed as 9-11pm, which was explained to me as meaning that 11pm was considered a continuing start time. Wow, not the clearest communication. Anyway, I’ll still knock Rockwood for not making that part clear, but Christina Morelli did indeed deliver an on-time performance! 🙂

It was late, obviously, but I can’t imagine having missed it. Smile

Jeff Litman at Rockwood Music Hall

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On their birthday, most people wait (patiently or otherwise) to see what their friends and family will do for them. Musicians? Not so much. A number of them book shows on their birthday, effectively throwing a party for their friends, family and fans. Yesterday was Jeff Litman’s birthday and that’s exactly what he did, booking a show at 8pm at Rockwood Music Hall.

JeffLitmanBirthdayFace

We planned to attend this and the show immediately afterward (covered in my next post). We also ended up attending an earlier show next door (covered in this post). When Nick’s set was over, we made the grueling 3-foot walk from Rockwood 2’s front door to Rockwood 1. Whew.

We saw Jeff perform at Arlene’s Grocery on May 20th (covered in this post). Last night he was supported by the same band, with one guest star joining them late in the set.

Jeff played the electric guitar for most of the set (very well). He played acoustic on a few and added harmonica on Maine. He played the grand piano on one number.

JeffLitmanGuitarJeffLitmanPiano

If you read the above-linked post, you know that I particularly raved about Jeff’s song Maine. I ended my rave with:

I’ll never get tired of this song, I promise! Smile

Here we are, more than a month later, and not only am I not tired of it, I warmed up for last night’s show by listening to Maine while exercising the day before. So, I was grateful to Jeff that he didn’t torture me by saving it for the end of the set (he likely knew he couldn’t get out of Rockwood without playing it). As you can see, it was third on the set list. That allowed me to relax and enjoy the entire set without the anxiety of wondering when I’d get to hear Maine. Smile

SetList

The entire set was excellent, with the exception of the fact that as I’ve noted a number of times recently, Rockwood 1 probably isn’t best suited to full-on Rock. It wasn’t too loud last night, but it was loud enough to slightly wash out Jeff’s voice at times. It’s a dilemma, because in general, Rockwood is such a great experience.

JeffLitmanSinging

Having the intimacy of Rock right in your face is awesome, but not controlling the sound (because amps are a few feet away, uncontrolled by the sound engineer) is deflating. It’s not purely an overall volume issue (to repeat, last night wasn’t that bad), it’s a blend problem that doesn’t seem easily controllable from the main sound board. It’s also possible that it’s not as bad in the corners of the room, but we’re always up front, so we always feel the problem.

A quick tour of the band followed by the guest:

Bryan Dunn on electric and acoustic guitars along with harmony. Repeating myself, Bryan is excellent, pure and simple. Excellent guitarist, excellent voice. I like his original music as well as his side-man performances. Looking forward to his new CD later this year.

BryanDunn

Matt Basile on electric bass. I enjoyed his play at Arlene’s, but he was often hidden from sight. Last night he was a few feet away from me and I could see all of his fingerwork up close and personal. The sound might have been just as good, but the experience was greatly enhanced (for me) by the visual.

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Elliot Jacobson on drums. Elliot is a machine (I suspect, literally). He’s so fast, so steady, so hard hitting, that after the show, both Lois and I asked him how it is that his arms don’t fall off while he’s playing. He said “Glue”. Winking smile More than likely, it’s constant practice and general exercise. I noted that it was more likely his Guns (the boy has biceps). No matter, whatever his secret regime, it translates well on stage.

ElliotJacobson

Jason Wexler joined for the last few numbers on the grand piano. Impressive. I’ll need to keep an eye out for him at future shows.

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The best singing of the night occurred when Bryan Dunn led the rest of us in singing Happy Birthday to Jeff (who stubbornly refused to join in!). Winking smile

JeffLitmanRefusingToSingHappyBirthdayToHimself

The next post will cover the next set at Rockwood. Jeff Litman happened to open that show as well. Happy Birthday to us! Smile

Jeff Litman at Arlene’s Grocery

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Yesterday I posted a long rant. I ended it with the following:

I’m going to stop now, or I’ll miss the show we are attending tonight. Hopefully, I’ll be back to my normal blog style tomorrow, having loved tonight’s show. Smile

I can happily return to my normal posts after enjoying last night’s set very much! Whew.

Jeff Litman headlined the set at Arlene’s Grocery. We saw Jeff once, playing electric bass in a fantastic benefit concert organized by Sam Teichman at the Bitter End. He was one of 15 people on stage. I had no trouble recognizing his talent, but at the time, I had no idea that he was also a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter.

I think Jeff started following me on Twitter and I followed him back. I then discovered his site (linked to his name above). I listened to some of the music he has available for streaming there and liked it. Much more important, I started reading his blog entries (right on the home page, just scroll down), in particular his post on giving away music.

I was extremely impressed by how smart Jeff is and how well he articulates his views. That made me all the more interested in seeing him perform. That opportunity finally arrived last night.

Jeff sang lead and played the electric guitar on nine of the 10 songs. He sings really well and plays the guitar extremely well (great leads and an excellent sense of rhythm).

JeffLitmanGuitar

I liked every single song (nine originals and he closed with a great cover of Pump It Up by Elvis Costello). Jeff wore a suit and tie for all of his originals. When he started Pump It Up, he took his jacket off. This was quite a feat, because he didn’t take his guitar (and strap!) off, so he had to wriggle out of the jacket.

JeffLitmanSetList

He tossed the jacket down on the stage and proceeded to stomp all over it during the song. Ah, the life of a Rocker! Winking smile

MattBasileJeffLitmanJacketOnFloor

On one song, Maine, Jeff switched to acoustic guitar and added a harmonica. There are many songs that I love that took a number of listens to reach that status. That said, most of my all-time favorite songs grabbed me within seconds and by the end of the song were already on the list. Maine is on the list and it was obvious within seconds. Lois felt exactly the same way. She just told me that she wanted to yell out “Play Maine again!” for an encore.

JeffLitmanSingingMaine

It is a blend of Dylan’s first electric efforts coupled with some of the best Country stuff we love. I’m listening to it on repeat now while writing this. I’ll never get tired of this song, I promise! Smile

Jeff was supported by a fantastic band, left-to-right on the stage:

JeffLitmanBand

Bryan Dunn on electric and acoustic guitar and vocals. We’ve seen Bryan once before (scroll to the bottom to read about Bryan) and really enjoyed him and his set (and his band!). More recently, he’s become the hub of a number of comments I’ve made on the blog. I didn’t know he’d be playing with Jeff until yesterday afternoon.

BryanDunn

Bryan was wonderful. His leads on the electric guitar were terrific and he complemented Jeff’s play when they were both on electric. He also played rhythm on the acoustic on a few numbers. His vocals were spot on, harmonizing beautifully with Jeff. It’s been too long since we’ve seen Bryan’s own set, but it sounds like we might have to wait until his new CD is out (September perhaps?) to see him again.

In the above-linked post, I mentioned that Bryan seems like a nice guy. I can now confirm my suspicions were correct. We chatted with Bryan and his wife (actually the entire band) after the show. We purchased Bryan’s current CD (he didn’t have it with him, but he’s mailing it to us, once I get him our address). Smile

Elliot Jacobson on drums. I’ve written about Elliot twice before. He’s a great drummer, not much more to add to that. Last night, that was critical. Elliot’s kick drum was mic’ed to the hilt. I was sitting on a bar stool. Every single time Elliot kicked, the floor shook my chair, and my heart and hair jumped around. Considering his perfect beat, it worked, as my body was part of the song (literally). Still, it could have been dialed back a notch.

ElliotJacobson

Matt Basile on electric bass. Excellent throughout, though I had to work at times to pick out his bass line given that it was often synchronous with the kick drum.

MattBasile

After the show we met up with the band in the bar area. In addition to purchasing Bryan’s CD, we also bought Jeff Litman’s current CD, Postscript (he’s recording another right now). Four of the songs from last night are on Postcript, including Maine, which Lois asked before we bought it. The entire CD is really good (I listened to it once through before putting Maine on repeat). At the moment, I’m on the 11th listen of Maine. I can squeeze a few more in while I type and select photos. Smile

ElliotJacobsonBryanDunnHadarBryanDunnMattBasile

I mentioned how great Bryan Dunn’s harmonies were, but I also have to give a big shout out to Kelly Jones (I hope I guessed the correct Kelly Jones!), who sings co-lead/harmony with Jeff on Maine on the CD. Superb.

I have one complaint and one giant compliment for the sound engineer at Arlene’s last night. The sound was well balanced (hearing leads, vocals, etc., were easy to pick out). But, it was insanely loud. Arlene’s Grocery is a relatively small room. I know this is Rock ‘N Roll, but it’s one of the few times I would have shoved earplugs in if I had them (Lois did, and did!). Aside from volume as a consistent complaint, this was our third time at Arelene’s, and I am very impressed with the way they run the place!

On to the major complement. While setting up, there was a lot of shuffling on stage. Jeff has a very large, sophisticated looking pedal board. He had to move it away from his microphone stand to adjust some settings on his amp at the back of the stage. While he was at the amp, Matt went over to Jeff’s pedal board and moved it a few inches. Unfortunately, the mic cable was caught under the pedal board. Before Matt realized what was happening, the mic stand (with the mic attached) came crashing to the floor.

A few seconds later, order was restored. The show began a few minutes later. When Bryan started singing, the mic was cutting in and out. Obviously, the cable came loose when the mic hit the ground. Within seconds, the sound engineer came flying out of his booth in the back of the room and he jumped on stage. When tightening the mic cable on both ends didn’t solve the problem, he grabbed an extra cable from the side of the stage, waited patiently, and then swapped the cables mid-song when Jeff finished a verse and was taking a short lead on the guitar.

By the time Jeff started the next verse, the mic worked perfectly. It’s great to see someone who is good at their job, but even better when they’re passionate about doing it well!

One last word about the loudness. The only other complaint about Jeff’s vocals was that they were a bit too bright. In a not-so-small irony, when doing the sound check, Jeff asked the sound engineer to tone down the treble on his vocals in the monitor. He gave him a thumbs up after the adjustment. The same adjustment should have been made on the house speakers.

We were glad to be back on track for thoroughly enjoying a night out listening to great musicians doing their thing!

P.S. I ended up listening to Maine 18 times while writing this post. Not quite enough, but it will have to do, since I have a few other things to do today. Winking smile