Joe’s Pub

Mike and Ruthy with Aoife O’Donovan at Joe’s Pub

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Mike and Ruthy headlined a show at Joe’s Pub last night. I hadn’t heard of them (by that name) but I was interested in the show because I had just recently discovered the opener, Aoife O’Donovan. When I checked out Mike and Ruthy, I liked what I heard, so that made the decision to get tickets easy.

I’ll mention at the bottom why I should have known who they are.

Mike and Ruthy are married. They have a son and are very close to adding a daughter to their clan. Ruthy was quite pregnant, though it didn’t seem to stymie her performance at all.

Ruthy sings beautifully and played a tiny silver ukulele, acoustic guitar and fiddle, all very well.

RuthyUngerUkuleleRuthyUngerFiddle

Mike has an excellent voice and played acoustic guitar (two different ones with very different sounds/styles), harmonica and banjo. While he only played the banjo on one number, it was a highlight (both the song and his play). He was quite good on the guitar too, finger-picking on many numbers.

MikeMerendaGuitarMikeMerendaHarmonica

Each sings well enough alone, with their harmonies adding a nice spice to the mix.

RuthyUngerMikeMerendaBanjo

They are billed as a Roots/Americana/Folk duo. That’s certainly accurate enough, but they had band support and an additional genre last night as well.

They just released a new EP (it was available for sale at the show and you can buy it on their website). It has six songs on it and they kicked off the show by playing the entire CD (not in track order). At least half of those songs were more bluesy to me (though Roots Bluesy, so they still qualify for the general description).

Each of them sings and plays instruments well enough that I have no doubt they would do a great job purely as a duo. That said, I’m glad not to have found out last night, because they surrounded themselves with top-notch musicians that added significantly to their sound. Left-to-right on stage:

Daniel Littleton (easy to find online, but I couldn’t find a good individual link). Dan played acoustic guitar on every number and was fantastic. When Mike played the banjo, they jammed together for a long time.

DanielLittletonDanielLittletonJacobSilverMikeMerenda

Jacob Silver on electric bass. Jake was great on the bass. He displaced Ruthy at the mic a few times to answer questions (or to clarify statements) that Ruthy posed. It was an amusing touch.

JacobSilver

Robin MacMillan on drums. Robin was great on the drums.

RobinMacMillan

Jake and Robin are both in Aoife’s band, so I had seen them before (and they were an important part of why I wanted to see Aoife again). Mike mentioned that both of them played on the new EP and I believe some (all?) of it was recorded in their (or was it Robin’s?) studio.

Aoife O’Donovan joined Mike and Ruthy to sing harmony on a few songs (after the EP numbers were over). She was fantastic and the three of them sounded so good together.

RuthyUngerMikeMerendaAoifeODonovan

When their set was complete, the audience didn’t stop applauding until they returned. They played an Etta James song for an encore.

Here’s is their set list:

MikeAndRuthySetList

Aoife O’Donovan opened the show with her regular band (so Jake and Robin were on stage for the entire show). I’ve only seen Aoife once before, five weeks ago, so rather than repeating everything I said about her that night, here’s the link to that post.

AoifeODonovanSinging

Ryan Scott was on stage for every one of Aoife’s numbers last night. He was great, in particular on Glowing Heart.

RyanScott

Ruthy joined Aoife for her final three numbers. She sang harmony beautifully.

RuthyUngerAoifeODonovan

The first of those numbers was a cover of Emmylou Harris’ Boulder to Birmingham. Gorgeous job ladies, but in particular, Aoife, who brought a lot of soul to it.

Here was Aoife’s set list:

AoifeODonovanSetList

I mentioned above that I would close with why I should have known Mike and Ruthy. They were founding members of a now disbanded group, The Mammals. In 2007 I wrote a very long post about how I first heard of The Mammals, but never got to see them (they disbanded after I bought tickets to one of their shows, but before they played it!).

It’s small-world-ish that I finally saw them at Joe’s Pub, since that’s how I first heard about The Mammals way back then…

The Milk Carton Kids at Joe’s Pub

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The Milk Carton Kids (MCK) headlined Joe’s Pub last night. We bought tickets ages ago. We caught their first ever NYC show (after they officially formed MCK) almost five month ago. Sadly, we missed two NYC shows between then and last night.

TheMilkCartonKids

My post about that NYC debut show went into great detail describing the group, each of their individual styles, how we came to know them, what their business model is, etc. Rather than repeat all that, if you have interest in knowing more about them (and how great I think they are), please read that post.

I’ll add a few thoughts about last night’s show.

We love Joe’s Pub, in particular since the internal renovation (the exterior still has a ton of work left and the kitchen reno hasn’t even begun). The sound system was perfect (it usually is), so there was no distraction or straining to enjoy MCK.

Joey and Kenneth are always funny, with Joey typically doing much more of the talking. Last night, Kenneth piped up more often. It was an edgier, biting humor (I’m being polite) that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Joey’s responses/reactions to it were priceless, so in the end I was fine with it too. It will be interesting to see whether this was planned/calculated and will be repeated, or whether it was extemporaneous and fleeting (I’m hoping for the latter, even though I laughed).

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They were truly amazing last night (not a single complaint). That said, I believe the Rockwood show in October 2011 was technically better.

KennethPattengale

Joey and Kenneth are very good friends with another top guitar player, NYC-based Adam Levy. In addition to giving guitar lessons, Adam tweets guitar tips on a regular basis. I doubt they changed their styles as a result of anything Adam tweeted publicly, but I was struck by the fact that they are the perfect poster boys for Adam’s advice. Specifically:

Don’t watch your hands.Nothing to see there.Look around-at audience, fellow musicians, the scenery.

As incredible as both are on the guitar (completely different styles), neither ever looks at their hands/guitar while they’re singing. They rarely look down when they’re just playing either.

I can’t find the set of tweets that covered this next tip, so I’ll paraphrase and butcher it, sorry:

If you play acoustic guitar, unless there’s a really good reason to (which there rarely is), don’t use pickups and an amplifier, use a microphone to amplify your guitar. It makes everything simpler, less things to travel with and less things that can go wrong.

MCK do exactly that. Four microphones on stage, two for their voices, two for their guitars. They can travel lightly (which in this business, means simplicity and money-savings). When Kenneth wants to tune his guitar, he steps a few feet back from the mic. He doesn’t need to dork with pedal boards, electronic tuners, signaling the sound guy that he’s about to unplug, etc.

If you’re interested in more of Adam’s tips/lessons, look here.

Here is the set list from last night:

SetList

MCK had an opener. It’s extremely rare for most of the clubs that we frequent to make any announcements (headliners or openers). At some point, one or more people are on stage, milling about. You hear a bunch of “check, check”, some tuning, but mostly, you hear the crowd carrying on, ignoring what’s happening on stage. Then the lights get a bit dimmer, and the person or group on stage either starts playing, or perhaps they say hello and introduce themselves.

In an even rarer event than the venue making an announcement, Joey Ryan (1/2 of the MCK) came out and gave a moving introduction of the opener. We know from past experience that Joey is a class act in every respect, so this wasn’t a surprise in terms of his behavior, but it was a surprise to have anyone mention the name of the opener before they hit the stage.

Trevor Menear is a solo singer/songwriter, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. I’m typically a big fan of this kind of music (having come of age to Bob Dylan) and I can see Trevor’s appeal in that regard. As good a job as he did, for whatever reason, I wasn’t particularly drawn to his songs.

TrevorMenear

His guitar play was quite good when he wasn’t singing (during the bridges, or intro/closing), but was less polished (for the most part) while he was singing. That said, later in the set he switched to finger-picking on a couple of songs, and I shifted in my seat to pay more attention. He has skills.

I enjoyed his set, but I wouldn’t normally run out to see him again. Given how much Joey promoted him (at the end of the MCK set as well), he’s worth another listen (or two, or three), to see what I might be missing. Trevor is currently touring with MCK, so if  you’re about to see them, you’ll see him, and can form your own opinion.

After the set we got to say a quick hi to Joey. Lois snapped this photo of Joey with two of our other favorite musicians:

IanAxelJoeyRyanChadVaccarino

Then we bumped into Philip Ettinger. I’ve written about Phil once before and mentioned him in another post. Phil is an actor that you all better keep an eye on, he’s going places, mark my words. Of course, we forced him to pose for this shot:

PhilEttingerChadVaccarinoLinaIanAxel

Lois forced me to pose for one as well:

ChadVaccarinoHadar

Another fun evening out seeing great music. Back for more music starting Sunday at 5pm (Zach Jones at Rockwood 1), then Rebecca Haviland on Monday night at Rockwood 2 (7:30pm).

Happy Ending Music and Reading Series at Joe’s Pub

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Since the remodel, we seem to be racking up the frequent flyer miles at Joe’s Pub. We were back there again last night for something different than our usual fare.

The Happy Ending Music and Reading Series is founded, curated, hosted and produced by Amanda Stern. It’s been going on for a while (to large audiences and rave reviews), mostly held at Joe’s Pub, but I gather not always.

We don’t typically take the time to seek out new forms of entertainment (as thought provoking as they might be), given our crazy schedule. It takes an alignment of interests to push our boundaries. Last night it was the musical guests in the Music part of the title that got us to discover this series.

Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino don’t play all that often in NYC (even though they live here), so we grab every opportunity we can to see them, even when the set is known to be short. They were advertised as playing six songs (three to open the show and three to close it). It turned out to be five songs (two then three), but that was fine.

ChadVaccarinoIanAxel

I admit that hearing the other part of the series, authors reading their works, intrigued me.

Amanda opened the show. In order to promote the current sponsor of the series, Three by Three Seattle, Amanda did a pop-quiz, asking the audience about personal habits/foibles, rather than actual facts. People who answered interestingly, won a large magnet (dog, cat or arrow). The questions (and often amusing answers) continued until all magnets were given out.

AmandaStern

While it was clear from the outset that Amanda is quite clever and quick, I couldn’t be sure whether she was nervous or awkward. It was fun, but it wasn’t the smoothest beginning I’ve seen.

Amanda also described the series. Musicians frame the readings. Each author reads for 10 minutes or less (I’m told they get yanked from the stage if they go over, but I don’t believe it). Winking smile Then each author is required to perform a risk (personal challenge). They are asked to do something that would otherwise make them uncomfortable.

Amanda introduced Ian who came out alone. He sat at the baby grand piano. Joe’s has a great sound system and hearing Ian on a real piano (it’s often an electronic keyboard) was an absolute joy. Nearly every audience for every type of show at Joe’s is there to enjoy the performance (last night was no exception), so it was wonderfully quiet as well.

IanAxelSinging

Ian played Waltz and Gone.

IanAxelSingingPiano

Amanda returned to introduce the first author.

Diane Williams read six short stories. There was very clever writing, pacing, imagery going on, but I can’t say it’s the type of material I would personally choose to read. A few times (not too many) there were just enough vulgarities that would cause some people to instantly turn off. In most of those cases it wasn’t obvious to me whether they added to the story or were there for shock value (or to be cool).

DianeWilliams

Diane declined to do the risk portion on stage. She noted that simply agreeing to read her stories in public was risk enough for her. Smile

Amanda returned to introduce the next author.

Hari Kunzru read from a chapter in an upcoming book (to be published this spring). It appeared to be about 2/3’s to 3/4’s of the way into the book. I enjoyed both the concept and his delivery, though of course I have no idea how it fits in with the overall book.

HariKunzru

For his risk, Harry told a long (and completely captivating) story, leading up to the actual risk, juggling. Smile

HariKunzruJuggling

Amanda returned again to introduce the final author.

Adam Rapp read the first chapter from his upcoming book (also to be published this spring). It’s the kind of material I used to eat up when I was younger. First-person narrative (though Adam explained that there were four main characters, each of whom has their own voice in the book, but the first chapter is just one of them), that bounces all over the place, keeping your mind juggling (I was inspired by Hari to use that word!) a variety of images, not knowing where they’re heading.

AdamRapp

For his risk, Adam sang the chorus to Don’t Know Much (a Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville tune, one of my favorites). He sang it in his best Aaron Neville impression. The reason this was his risk? According to him, he sings it in Aaron’s voice, at home, every day. Winking smile

Amanda returned to introduce Ian, this time introducing Chad Vaccarino as well.

ChadVaccarino

Ian and Chad performed You’ll Be OK followed by This is the New Year. To repeat, with the sound system at Joe’s, and Ian on a real piano, wow is the only word to describe their delivery.

IanAxelChadVaccarino

Chad left the stage and Ian closed with the obligatory cover. I might not have mentioned above, but just like each author has to take a risk, each musician has to play one cover, and they have to try to get the audience to sing along.

Ian chose Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me. I am not sure how many people sang along, but I am 100% sure that Ian was awesome in his rendition. His piano play was crisp and his vocals were perfect. Randy would have been proud if he was there (perhaps he was, but he didn’t bother to introduce himself to me).

Amanda said her goodbyes immediately thereafter. I mentioned that she might have been nervous kicking off the show. While she never came across as a professional speaker, she definitely got more comfortable each time she stepped on the stage (a total of six times). She’s smart, funny, clever and quick. I haven’t read any of her books, but I’m betting those characteristics are apparent there as well.

Here is the program for the evening. Click on any picture for a larger image:

Program

We ran into friends there as well. Smile

TerKevinChadVaccarinoIanAxelHadar

An Australian fan (other than me) went up to speak to Ian and Chad after the show!

IanAxelAustralianFan

Sierra Noble and Michael Sackler-Berner at Joe’s Pub

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Sierra Noble was opening for Michael Sackler-Berner at Joe’s Pub last night. We weren’t supposed to be in NYC. After missing Sierra last week, when she played a co-bill with Rebecca Haviland, we decided that we had to get our priorities straight. We cut our trip short and returned in time to attend with two friends. Smile

Joe’s Pub was our favorite venue in NYC for nearly four years. For a number of reasons, we ended up not attending a single show there for 20 months! Now that they’ve remodeled the inside and switched to assigned seats (tables), we’ve been back three times in seven weeks. I’m sure we’ll continue to attend regularly.

Sierra played a full set (which was so welcome, because sometimes openers get short-shrift) and was fantastic on every number. As always, she switched between acoustic guitar and fiddle, impressing on both. Of course, her vocals (even though she was fighting a cold) were amazing.

SierraNobleSierraNobleGuitar

All that said, she’s simply a great songwriter (and she picks great people to co-write with as well), so even if her cold had been worse, listening to her (and her band) play those songs would have been worth the trip. Here’s the set list:

SierraNobleSetList

Speaking of her band, let’s give them the credit they are due, left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on electric and acoustic guitar and vocals. If this isn’t your first time here, then you know that Greg Mayo is my favorite local guitar player. If it is your first time, now you know that too! Smile

GregMayo

When Sierra was on acoustic guitar, Greg was on electric. When she was on fiddle he was on acoustic. He sang a lot of harmony and was as good as he ever is.

Seth Faulk on drums and vocals. Seth was masterful on the drums, which for most of the set were on the very subtle side (lots of brushes, with some mallets thrown in for good measure). He got to let loose on the last number, DABE, which is a collection of fiddle tunes that are highly energetic.

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Seth has a wonderful voice (I’ve written about that a number of times) and he sang even more than Greg did. Most of the time it was three part harmony with Sierra and Greg and it was luscious.

GregMayoSierraNobleSethFaulk3PartHarmony

Brian Killeen on upright bass. Brian was filling in for Chris Anderson who is on vacation. Since Brian is independently one of our favorite bass players (as is Chris), I wasn’t nervous as to whether Brian would sound good, even though he’s not familiar with Sierra’s catalog. I was right, no need to worry.

BrianKilleen

The biggest difference was that Chris sings a bunch with Sierra and Brian doesn’t know the material well enough to fill in there.

That led to another highlight of the set.

Martin Rivas was invited up to sing the duet Human After All (that Chris has been singing with Sierra at the last few shows). Martin has such a great voice and knows the song well. Sierra and Martin nailed it.

MartinRivasSierraNobleMartinRivas

Sierra co-wrote Human After All with Michael Logen. When I first saw Michael Logen perform, he did that song solo. After the show I went up to him to ask whether it had been on TV. I told him I was sure I heard it before and fell in love with it instantly. He said it had come close to being placed, but sadly, was never on TV.

Then I remembered that I had heard it just the week before, when Sierra played it at a Backscratch. She sang it with Martin that night as well. It turns out that I was prescient. Human After All was just recently featured on Parenthood, on NBC, in season 3 episode 11.

Sierra asked Martin to stay and sing background on the next two numbers as well, creating lovely four-part harmony with Greg and Seth. #winning

SierraNoble4PartHarmony

In fact, on I Can See, Sierra asked the audience to sing along. It sounded really good from where I was sitting. I hope it did to her on stage as well. Smile

We had never heard of Michael Sackler-Berner (MSB) before, but were looking forward to serendipitously discovering him.

I really like his voice a lot and he plays the guitar quite nicely (mostly electric, but he switched to acoustic a couple of times). With the exception of a couple of very mellow folky songs (which I liked as well), most of the numbers were very high energy accompanied by a full band.

MichaelSackler-BernerAcousticGuitarMichaelSackler-BernerElectricGuitar

I had trouble concentrating on the lyrics (not really sure why), but the few times I was able to zone in, I was impressed with his imagery and phrasing. It will require more serious listening to determine whether this is true across a majority of his songs.

MichaelSackler-BernerSinging

MSB closed the show by inviting Sierra up (with her fiddle). He dismissed the band and played the acoustic guitar. They sang together (beautifully) and each sang verses on the lead. What a terrific way to end the evening!

MichaelSackler-BernerSierraNoble

His band was very good and tight. Left-to-right on stage:

Ben Stivers on keyboards (electronic and grand piano). He was quite good on both, including standing for the entire first number while playing the grand piano.

BenStivers

Henry Geller on electric guitar. I can’t find a good individual link, but I’m betting he’s the guitarist profiled in Rough Waters. He was very good.

HenryGeller

Liberty DeVitto on drums. He was great. Very hard hitter, very energetic, tight as a drum (OK, I couldn’t resist). Winking smile

LibertyDeVittoDrums

MSB mentioned on stage that he saw Liberty play when he (MSB) was 11-years old and fell in love with him. Later, DeVitto joked that he was just 14 at the time. If you clicked through to the link above, then you know that Liberty was Billy Joel’s drummer for 30 years! I’m betting that MSB saw a Billy Joel concert at the Nassau Coliseum when he was 11.

Paul Frazier on electric bass and vocals. He was fantastic on the bass (even though he was handicapped by being a lefty, like Paul McCartney). Winking smile He was also the only member of the band to sing harmony with MSB, very nicely! Very impressive performance.

PaulFrazier

Here’s MSB’s set list:

MichaelSackler-BernerSetList

We spotted Liberty as he was heading out and got to tell him how wonderful his play was and snap this picture as well:

LibertyDeVitto

Right after taking that picture, we headed out and got to say hello to Sierra, Seth and Greg. Brian had already left to get the car.

SethFaulkSierraNobleGregMayo

Totally worth having come back early, including enjoying our friends’ company before and after the show. The last two times we were at Joe’s Pub, they couldn’t make me my favorite Chocolate Martini. After they completed the remodel, they hadn’t stocked up on Chocolate Liqueur yet.

They finally remedied that situation and I got to enjoy it for the first time in nearly two years. Trust me, if you’re ever at Joe’s Pub, order the Chocolate Martini. Both of our friends tried it as well (first timers) and I am pretty sure they enjoyed it. Smile

RachelIris

Joey and Rory at Joe’s Pub

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

JoeyAndRory

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

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

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

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

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

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

JoeyFeek

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

RoryFeek

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

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

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

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

Left-to-right on stage:

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

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

FiddlePlayer

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

Drummer

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

BassPlayer

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

HeidiFeek

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

SetList

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

HopieFeek

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

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

HadarJohnSchmittAlexBerger

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

JohnSchmittJoeyAndRoryBus

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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Girlyman played Joe’s Pub last night. Let’s the get the statistics portion of the post out of the way. This was our 21st time seeing Girlyman perform (give or take some arbitrary number, likely zero). We hadn’t seen Girlyman at Joe’s Pub since April 2009 (31 months!). We hadn’t seen any show at Joe’s Pub since March 2010! Joe’s Pub was completely renovated over the summer, re-opening roughly six weeks ago.

It seemed fitting that our return to Joe’s Pub (post renovation and long absence) would be to see Girlyman. Our original, accidental discovery of Girlyman occurred August 21st, 2007, at Joe’s Pub, purely because Joe’s Pub was our favorite venue. Before describing the evening, let me just say Bravo to the new Joe’s Pub. The exterior is still a full-on construction zone, but inside, they have built a gorgeous listening room.

Girlyman

We saw Girlyman just 10 days earlier in VA, at The Barns at Wolf Trap. How things change in 10 days. The most striking difference? Nate was clean shaven after having a beard (for the first time) at The Barns. Man, you just never know what you’ll experience at a live show. Winking smile

Seriously, there were qualitative differences and even some musical surprises. First, no two venues are (exactly) alike and The Barns and Joe’s couldn’t be more different. Second, while Girlyman calls Atlanta home, they were formed in NYC (first scheduled rehearsal was on 9/11/2001, obviously canceled). Their NYC shows (not just at Joe’s, but for us, particularly at Joe’s) have an extra sprinkling of magic dust.

It comes somewhat from within them (NYC is still home, even though they no longer have to pay local income taxes), but mostly from the indescribable bond that the NYC audiences have with Girlyman (if you were there last night, you’re nodding your head in recognition/agreement right now).

What makes Girlyman special? Phenomenal songwriting, delivered in luscious three-part harmony. Completely independent, non-stop laughter between numbers, seamlessly gluing the songs into a fun-filled event. In other words, never a dull moment. You’re either listening to a great song, or a funny bit, often created on the spot based on something that just happened or was mentioned on stage. A few examples below.

Girlyman is producing a new CD. It will be out sometime next year (hopefully in Q1, unless they want their fans to get the shakes). That means that shows on this tour (last night was the last show) have been filled with spanking brand new songs. Of course, no Girlyman show leaves their long-time fans without multiple tastes of their favorites, going all the way back to album #1 (Remember Who I Am).

The new CD is called Supernova, and you can pre-order it now (do it). Buy multiple pre-orders, get a couple of bonuses.

The show last night was magical, as most Girlyman shows are. Everything flowed, musically and comically. While Girlyman often has wonderful openers in other venues, they never have an opener at Joe’s because the set time is constrained (Joe’s had another show after this one). I prefer the purity of a Girlyman-only show, even though one could argue that the value in having a high-quality opener is better.

They played roughly six songs from the new CD (including the opener). One of them (later in the set) was a song they had never played in public, a very personal song by Doris about her year-long battle with Leukemia (thankfully, now in full remission!). A gorgeous song. They said that the live arrangement is different than the one on the upcoming CD. I really look forward to hearing the fully produced version!

DorisMuramatsu

For those who can’t wait any longer, here’s the set list:

SetList

I mentioned above that there were musical surprises in saying that there were differences from just a week earlier. In my previous post I noted that Everything’s Easy, performed with Coyote Grace, was spectacular, as each (normally) solo part was sung in harmony with a paired member of Coyote Grace.

Girlyman decided to reproduce that feeling without any outside help. For the first time in my experience, rather than each of them singing their verse solo, Nate’s verse had Ty singing harmony with him. Ty’s verse had Doris singing harmony with her and Doris’ verse had Nate singing harmony. Then they of course all sang their separate verses simultaneously, which was the only time they couldn’t fully reproduce the magic that Coyote Grace added. Awesome!

There were two requests and two encores not listed that I’ll add momentarily. Joe’s has always had black acoustical padding lining the walls of the stage. The renovated Joe’s has that too, but the design is slightly different (even more prominent). JJ Jones is a very active drummer. Nate pointed out that Joe’s is perfect for JJ as the padding protects her from injuring herself as she bounces off the walls. A number of times during the show, JJ did indeed show off that technique. Winking smile

This is just JJ sitting at the drums, not showing off the technique (which would have looked like a blur, even if Lois had captured it):

JJJones

Speaking of JJ, since she was wearing black and sitting way back on stage, she blended with the padded walls. Some of the shots Lois took last night make JJ appear to be a projection. Here’s one example:

JJJonesProjected

While Doris and Ty were tuning, a young girl walked up to the stage (accompanied by her mother, don’t worry folks) and handed Nate a note. He read it and noted that it was a specific request. He told them that there was an upcoming request section so he would have to ignore it for now.

But, the ladies continued to tune and Nate decided that he probably had enough time to sneak in this request. Before I tell you what it is, let me say that often, Girlyman asks the audience to vote for one of three (or four) songs, by simply describing each with a single word. Long-time fans know which song is tied to which word, but newcomers have no idea. That has never happened at a Joe’s Pub performance in all the times we’ve seen them there (meaning, they never offer this particular choice).

One of those four words is German. I always scream my head off for that choice. While I’ve seen them perform it three or four times, usually, I lose (at least in the past two years). It turns out that the note that was passed to Nate specifically asked for that song, Rock Me Amadeus by Falco. I would embarrass myself if I told you how excited I was (and that I paid that kid a lot of money to pass that note). Winking smile

We all get to sing along (not to the German lyrics, which Nate nails).

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For the formal request section, they settled on Reva (a song about Nate’s grandmother). Settling is always difficult, since nearly every song Girlyman ever wrote is called for at every show during the request section. People brought hand-written signs to hold up because they knew they were too far from the stage to be heard.

For the first encore, they played Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees, to honor Doris’ journey. After leaving the stage for the second time, they were forced back out for a second encore. They knew what they were going to play, but someone called out for Doris to play the banjo (Ty had played it, but Doris hadn’t touched it as yet). Doris pointed to it (standing quietly next to her) and said “There it is”. Smile

Ty and Nate encouraged her to pick it up, changing whatever they intended to play. They performed Kittery Tide (at a much faster clip than usual), but still nailed the tricky guitar and banjo leads. Well done ladies!

Coming back to one last humorous example. At one point Nate said “Who needs therapy?”. There was dead silence. Nate followed with “We’re in NYC, everyone in the audience is probably a therapist!”. Then he added that they lived in Atlanta. He said that if the show were in Atlanta, the equivalent question would have been “Who has a chicken?”, to which the answer would have been “Most of the audience.”.

After a few more cracks about NY Times articles on many 30-somethings now buying/raising chickens, Nate started up a classic Girlyman Tuning Song about therapists and chickens. As they often do, the girls chimed in with harmony along the way, only this time, they clucked the harmony (literally, it was hysterical).

At the end of the song, Nate finished with a line “Six of one, half a dozen of the other”. Other hadn’t been rhymed yet, but he was clearly done. Without missing a beat, surprising Nate (and the rest of us completely), Ty finished it off with something like (this is a complete paraphrase, I can’t remember her truly clever words!):

What issues did you have with your mother?

Bringing it all back to the therapist line that started everything out. It was (yet another) hysterical moment, showing how clever and quick all of them are.

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We shared the evening (and a table) with two friends who were new to Girlyman. We continued our 4+ year streak of constantly introducing as many new fans as we can. Last night’s mission: accomplished. Mirroring our seats on the other side of the stage were Kevin and Edith. They were very sneaky. We can’t thank them enough, but they better start worrying about our escalating retaliation. Winking smile

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We were the first two people on line (in line for the Brits amongst my readership). Shock, surprise, mock horror. Smile We got to say hi to Genevieve, Girlyman’s manager, both before and after the show. Here she is pictured with Ty, and Ty’s dad, Ron Greenstein (a wonderful musician in his own right, currently performing with The Chad Mitchell Trio!).

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One of Girlyman’s songs, Easy Bake Ovens (co-written by Ty and Nate), is a conglomeration of Ty’s earliest childhood memories. It ends with:

Dad took a picture on August the nine
Of us with the newspaper and the headline
‘Ford Steps Up; Nixon Resigns’

It turns out, this is literal. Here’s a blog post by Ty that shows her as a baby, with that newspaper headline! Last night, Ron Greenstein showed me the same photo on his little flip phone. So cool. It’s historic(al) on a number of levels. Smile

I’ll finish with a photo that Lois accidentally hijacked (don’t worry, they got plenty of other good ones). She noticed that Girlyman was lined up nicely for a shot with some fans. She was willing to get an off angle shot of them. JJ noticed Lois and pointed to her, which made Doris turn as well. Smile

GirlymanPhotoHijacked

Already counting the days until we see them again!

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our (lucky?) 13th time at a CMA Songwriters Series show at Joe’s Pub. There was a very special guest star, announced well in advance, which made them sell out even sooner than they usually do (and they always sell out!).

In order to give the special guest, Dierks Bentley a little more time with the crowd, they only had four performers rather than the more typical five (though I’m just guessing at the reason).

For the first time in our experience, Bob DiPiero (the host of the series) sat at the left end rather than the middle.

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Going from left to right:

Bob DiPiero is always a crowd favorite. I’m convinced that he could show up himself, and most of the people that attend these shows would come anyway. There’s no doubt that he’s written huge hits, and that many are great songs, but for as large a catalog as he has, he doesn’t vary it all that much from show to show (for my taste). I don’t blame him, as every morsel gets eaten up by the audience, so he’s playing to the heart of his fans.

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David Lee Murphy played guitar and sang. We saw David Lee once before on September 9th, 2008 at one of these shows. He was excellent that night, as he was last night again. He’s a polished performer with a lot of hits. As I mentioned in my post the last time we saw him, he’s funny, but lower key than many of the others who come to this series.

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Dierks Bentley played guitar and sang. We saw Dierks at Madison Square Garden on October 21st, 2009 when he opened for Brad Paisley. I covered that show in this post. If you read that, you know that Dierks was great that night. We were extremely excited to see him at our favorite club, in an intimate environment.

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He didn’t disappoint that expectation, in that he was amazingly personable, funny, and he played a nice selection of his hits. Unfortunately, it wasn’t magical, since he was fighting some sort of throat condition (cold?) and as he himself pointed out, his voice wasn’t coming out as he and we all know it to be (he really has an excellent voice).

Jim Beavers played guitar and sang. Jim is incredibly funny in a totally self-deprecating manner. He was the target of both Bob and Dierks the entire evening, and he held his own both pushing back and piling on himself. He has written a number of hits and performed them well last night.

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It was a fun show, with a slightly higher banter-to-music ratio than normal (something we both appreciate) with a very appreciative crowd. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowd alone would have made it an event you wouldn’t want to miss, but for my money, the quality of the music itself last night was below the norm for these shows.

Ian Axel at Joe’s Pub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IanAxelUkulele

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

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

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

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

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

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

AdamChristgau HadarAdamChristgau

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

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

AdamTressler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GregHolden

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachael Sage and Michelle Citrin at Joe’s Pub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

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

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

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

Quinn

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

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

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

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A very pleasant evening indeed!

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

TechnoSnowman

Vienna Teng and Alex Wong at Joe’s Pub

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We got the briefest taste of Vienna Teng a few months ago when she was a guest performer at ambeR Rubarth’s CD Release Party, also at Joe’s Pub. The minute Vienna announced last night’s show we grabbed tickets (more on that later).

Alex Wong is well-known to us and I’ve written about him a number of times already (most often for his work in The Paper Raincoat).

Since this will likely get long (Hadar, do you ever write anything short and sweet?), I’ll spare those of you with little patience and give you the bottom line:

Vienna Teng is now officially on our stalkerazi list!

English translation: we will be following her around and trying to attend as many shows as possible. We’ll also be buying the rest of her CDs (we only own the most recent one, Inland Territory, which is awesome!).

Vienna is an all-around talent that can mesmerize on any individual level. Her piano playing is among the best we’ve seen live. If that’s all she did, we would still go see her often.

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Her voice? Extraordinary! Clarity, range, power, emotional conveyance, variety, the works! If she sang a capella all night, we would still go see her often.

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Songwriting? Exceptional! Deep, thoughtful lyrics. Wide range of topics. If she wasn’t a great musician, and didn’t sing so beautifully, we would still go to see her often for the quality of her songwriting.

Stage Presence? Wonderful! Vienna is warm and engaging, and comes across as natural as you could want from a performer. Her banter with Alex is excellent as well. She’s a natural story-teller. If all she did was tell stories, we would still go to see her often.

She’s working hard to master the guitar. I have little doubt that when she feels ready to perform in public, we’ll feel as graced as we do by her piano playing.

She’s beautiful too (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). ;-)

Alex Wong is master of all music. He does a bit of everything as part of The Paper Raincoat (guitar, percussion, glockenspiel, keyboards, vocals, songwriting), so it would have been hard for him to surprise us last night.

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When he plays with Vienna, he’s mostly a percussionist/drummer (superb), though he did play the guitar on at least two numbers. Of course, he sings beautiful harmonies with Vienna, but he takes more of a back seat than he does with ambeR and The Paper Raincoat.

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Ward Williams joined them for three songs, playing both cello and electric guitar (singing on one of those numbers).

Kevin Rice joined during the encore to play a snare drum, making for two drummers on the one song. It was a great sound. After the show, Alex told me that Kevin was the original drummer with The Paper Raincoat.

While there were never more than three people on the stage at the same time, they create a much larger sound. Both Vienna and Alex, independently, use loop machines to do that.

In the very first song, after Vienna sang one verse, she looped her voice back and sang stunning harmony with herself! Alex did similar things with the drums, laying down an intricate beat, then looping it and playing/dancing in and around that beat. Vienna also did that with the piano on occasion, altering it to a more electronica type sound, then accompanying that with a normal piano sound which she played live. Excellent, all around.

Last night was one of four shows that will be used to create a new Live CD. We can’t wait to buy it. :-)

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That’s the end of what I have to say about the show, but nowhere near the end of what I have to say about the evening. So, take another sip of coffee, take a deep breath, and settle in for the more personal aspects that made for a special evening last night. :-)

I’ve written a couple of times about our serendipitous discovery of The Paper Raincoat (originally covered here). That started a chain of events which has caused us to discover a number of amazing NY-based musicians, a few of whom have become friends in addition to people we enjoy seeing perform.

We can now safely add Vienna as one such musician/performer, and hopefully, after stalking her a bit more, a friend too. ;-)

The glue in this new chain is a superb singer/songwriter/keyboard player in his own right, Alex Berger. I connected with him when he put up a video of ambeR, Alex Wong and Vienna performing In the Creases at Joe’s Pub (that first time we saw Vienna). I started following Alex on Twitter (@bergeralex) and the rest is history.

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Through Alex, we discovered a dozen artists that we really like. One of them is the incredibly talented Amy Rivard. We invited Amy, along with two other friends (both of whom are Broadway musicians) to join us for the show last night, and the five of us had a wonderful time (and a wonderful meal) together.

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Amy was kind enough to agree to sing on my Tonight Show Tribute song/video collaboration with another amazing keyboardist, Ben Schwartz. Here’s a link to the YouTube Video.

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Alex Berger was at the show last night as well, and we were really happy to catch up with him afterward. Run and pre-order his upcoming CD (we are honored to have been the first people to pre-order). The brilliant Alex Wong produced Alex Berger’s CD!

Looping back to my comment about buying tickets for this show, I’d like to spend a few paragraphs talking about the difficulty and opportunities in the music business, using last night’s show as the spark and one specific example.

The best part of the current situation in the music world is that anyone (literally) can get heard. You can make reasonable quality recordings pretty cheaply and even get your music distributed for free. For more money (and time), but still much less than in the past, you can produce stunning quality recordings.

The worst part of the current situation is that while you can get your stuff out there, how do you build an audience to listen to it, let alone even find it. The signal-to-noise ratio is very low.

Obviously, not all (or even most) of the people who would like to make a living as musicians deserve to. But, the number who deserve to is still staggeringly large compared to the number who actually achieve that.

If you have major talent, the only reliable way to grind out a living (and it’s a huge grind, no matter how much you enjoy performing) is to tour a ton. It’s important to be creative, both to build a loyal following and to maximize their financial support toward your livelihood.

This is another area where The Paper Raincoat (and ambeR individually) and Vienna Teng have impressed us (and therefore have gotten our additional financial support).

In the case of ambeR’s new CD and The Paper Raincoat’s new CD (both superb efforts!), they offered multiple levels of pre-ordering, with each level delivering something additional and special to thank you for your patronage. It wasn’t just stuff (which would have been good enough), but generally had a creative flair, a personal touch, or something otherwise special as well.

I’ve posted photos in a previous entry, but in ambeR’s case, she hand-made boxes to house the pre-ordered CDs. The Paper Raincoat (at the highest level), included T-Shirts, Posters and a 4GB USB bracelet. The USB device had 330MB of goodies on it. Videos from a live show, a video thank you and a video of a practical joke.

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More amazingly (to me) was their inclusion of all of the songs on the CD as instrumentals. For those of us who love to sing along to their songs, we can do so without being distracted by them! Can you say Karaoke Party? ;-)

Both Paper Raincoat and ambeR sent download links to the full CD the minute it was available, to anyone who pre-ordered. That put their music in the fans hands long before the physical CD packaging was done and available. Again, a very classy touch!

All three (ambeR, The Paper Raincoat and Vienna Teng) have used the amazing artist Diana Ho to produce artwork (for the posters and/or CD covers).

So, what did Vienna do last night to give more value, and get rewarded for it (both in loyalty and in dollars)? She offered a VIP package for the late show (she played two sets at Joe’s Pub last night).

The VIP package included a bunch of goodies, but I think the real hook was a private dessert and coffee get-together with Vienna and Alex after the show. Only 30 VIP tickets were offered. We grabbed two the second we saw Vienna’s Tweet (another reason to follow the artists you like!). The next morning, all 30 VIP packages were sold out!

Here are their Twitter addresses:

@viennateng (obvious)

@highceilings (not as obvious, Alex Wong)

@ambeRRubarth (obvious)

@paper_raincoat (you get it by now…)

After the show, we hung around and talked to a bunch of people.

AmyCoxViennasManager JordanBurgerViennasBookingAgent

ViennaTeng AlexWong

We even got to play Roadies a bit, carrying out some equipment to their van after the schmoozing was done. But in a surprise to all involved (Lois and I included), we realized that it would be imprudent to push the night as late as we had the night before, so we ended up not joining the after-show festivities.

Did we feel cheated? Did we feel like we over-spent on the VIP package? Not even for a second! We were thrilled to have supported Vienna and Alex, and to have had the choice to go if we hadn’t been so tired.

We spent today listening to Vienna’s music. The CD we own, her website (which has a button to play Radio VT on the home page), and listening to some live shows in the Internet Archive site. We loved every second of it. :-)

P.S. As if I needed any additional reason to want to hang out with Vienna, but she appeals to the geek in me as well. She worked as a programmer at Cisco for two years before turning to a career in music. So, I could find things to talk about with her beyond our current obsession with live music…