Wil Farr

Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. It was their final residency show. They’ve played every Friday in May 2012 at 10pm on Stage 2. I’ve heard about them for quite a while now but this was my first time seeing them play.

I’d describe them as non-stop, hard-charging, loud (but balanced) rock. A number of people broke out dancing during many numbers and those that didn’t were certainly bobbing, swaying, tapping, stomping and generally unable to simply stand still.

Wil Farr is the front-man, singing on every number and playing electric guitar. He has a very good voice, but in classic hard rock fashion, it often feels like he’s screaming at the audience. He played mostly rhythm guitar last night (Hurrah also has a lead guitarist) but he did take one sweet lead.

WilFarrSinging

I’ve seen Wil perform with Abby Payne as well. He’s also producing her upcoming CD. This is the first time I’ve seen him front and center.

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. If anyone is responsible for us going out to see Hurrah (yes, I’ve shortened it), it’s Rebecca. Basically, we’ll go see anything she’s in. Her voice is always great. She and Wil really get into each song and display a passion that is also classically rock.

RebeccaHavilandSingingRebeccaHavilandClappingWilFarrRebeccaHaviland

Jacob Pleakis on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Jacob is one of two people in Hurrah that I’ve never seen before. He was quite good on the keys and quite passionate on the vocals as well.

JacobPleakisKeyboardsJacobPleakisPiano

JacobPleakisWilFarrRebeccaHaviland

Kenny Shaw on drums. If you’ve read this space before, you don’t have any questions as to my opinion of Kenny. Hurrah’s music is particularly hard-charging and Kenny was working equally hard (but making it look and sound easy!). Absolutely fantastic drumming. The fact that he was in constant motion the entire set before made it all the more impressive.

KennyShaw

Doug Drewes on electric bass. Doug is the other member who I’ve never seen before. He too was quite good on the bass (no surprise given the rest of the talent in the band).

DougDrewes

Dave Freedman on electric guitar. I just heaped a lot of praise on Dave a few weeks back when we saw him perform with The Thang Band at Lagond Music School. He was even better last night in this set, where he takes more frequent leads. He even spoke a bit into the mic and I think he sang a bit as well. I wasn’t sure before that he ever opened his mouth. It seemed he was satisfied to let his guitar do the talking. Smile

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Hurrah themed each of the weekly residency shows, mixing their originals with those of a specific band. Last night was The Pixies.

HurrahInTheZone

Jay Stolar headlined the set before them and toward the end of their set they called him up to sing with them. After the song was over, they invited anyone who appeared in Jay’s to join. Kenny was already on stage, but four more members stepped up to the plate.

WilFarrRebeccaHavilandJayStolar

Jay Stolar stayed on stage to sing. Jason Wexler joined Jacob at the keyboards. Rob Pawlings played the cowbell. I still can’t believe that I could actually hear every strike of the cowbell with 11 people on stage all making some kind of noise, but I could, and I liked it!

JasonWexlerJacobPleakisRobPawlingsCowbell

Seth Faulk and Jim Perry each grabbed tambourines and help keep the lively beat. It was controlled mayhem. Smile

BothBandsOnStage

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Summary: the crowd loved it, and I appreciated the driving rhythm and individual talents. It just isn’t the type of music that I want to listen to for long stretches, so I’m not sure I’ll be catching future shows. They won’t miss me, they have quite a following!

Jay Stolar EP Release at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Jay Stolar released a new EP (The Acoustic EP). Numbered CDs were available for sale at his headlining show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

JayStolarSingingGuitar

If you read my last post about Jay then you know that we weren’t going to miss this show (and there was strong competition for our attention down in Philly!). We made the correct decision, as I can summarize the show/performance in one word: Wow!

Seriously, among the many things Jay has going for him, the top three are:

  1. Extraordinary voice
  2. Unreal stage presence
  3. A band that can keep up with him (at every position!)

I couldn’t help thinking how lucky we are (were) to experience them (Jay and the band) in such an intimate (yet mobbed!) spot like Rockwood 2. I have no doubt that Jay has the energy to fill Madison Square Garden to every fan’s satisfaction. I hope to get the chance to verify that claim some day.

In addition to playing all four of the EP songs, Jay mixed up his classic Soul/Rock/Pop genres to keep every song fresh throughout the set.

I’ve mentioned before that Jay could thrill on his own. He likely couldn’t do that at MSG though. He certainly could with his 4-part harmony and kick-a** band. Left-to-right on stage:

Jason Wexler on grand piano and vocals. We’re big fans of Jason’s and our fandom grows each time we see him (we had seen him guest with Jeff Litman the night before). He was atypical last night in playing only the grand (no electronic keyboards) with such a big sounding band. That’s perfectly fine with me, his piano skills are exceptional.

JasonWexlerPiano

In addition to singing a ton of background vocals throughout, Jay gave Jason a really long lead during When I’m Acting Crazy. Holy moly Batman, Jason slayed it (and everyone in the room).

Jay took over the piano duties on one number and Jason stepped to center stage and played the accordion.

JayStolarJasonWexler

Grace McLean on vocals. Fantastic, but no surprise (other than I didn’t know Grace would be singing with him). I recently saw her for the first time at one of Sam Teichman’s Leave a Lasting Mark benefits and was instantly taken with her voice (and performance). I may as well repeat what I said about her that night:

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).

GraceMcLeanSingingJayStolarGraceMcLean

In a small-world story, Grace’s upcoming EP was mastered by my good friend (and expert Masterer) Larry Lachmann. I discovered that just days after seeing Grace for the first time.

JayStolarGraceMcLeanWailingJayStolarGraceMcLeanReachingForTheSky

Seth Faulk on drums, percussion and vocals. Seth completed the vocal superfecta. In addition to adding his wonderful voice to the mix, Seth was one of two drummers/percussionists, another touch that makes Jay’s shows so special (I think 10 drummers might be too many, but less than that is all a plus for me, as long as they’re good, and these guys are more than good!).

SethFaulk

Here’s Seth as part of the 4-part power harmonies:

PowerVocals

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny is always great. Having him coordinate with Seth cranks it up a notch and is a sonic joy. Kenny and Seth are a large component of why I feel that Jay could fill MSG with sound. Let’s get on that one folks, please!

KennyShawKennyShawDrums

Rob Pawlings on electric bass. I’ve written about Rob a number of times lately and they’ve all been raves. No difference last night, another amazing performance.

RobPawlings

Paul Maddison on electric guitar. When I last saw Paul, on May 12th, I wrote that I would finally introduce myself to him at the next show. I can’t say I totally followed through, but we did shake hands, so I’m making progress. He’s getting married on Sunday (tomorrow), so I didn’t want to break his concentration. Winking smile

RobPawlingsPaulMaddison

On a more serious note, Paul is an excellent guitarist and Jay gave him one long lead with a bunch of other tasty licks. Wonderful!

PaulMaddisonGuitar

That takes care of the core band. There were three additional guests.

Wil Farr came up to sing with Jay on a song they co-wrote. Very well done. Wil was the front-man for the band that was up next, so I’ll be writing more about him shortly.

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Matt Simons joined for one song on the sax (I believe it was When I’m Acting Crazy). We had seen Matt perform a solo set on the grand piano right before this one. Now he switched to the sax and when he was let loose, he destroyed the room. That he ended up taking such a great solo in the same song that Jason did on the piano, made a great song all the more amazing.

MattSimons

Jim Perry on drums/percussion. Jim joined for two of the final numbers. I think I heard Jay say that Jim co-wrote one of those songs with him, but don’t hold me to that. For the first number, Seth gave up his kit (Seth stood and played a tambourine and shakers while singing). On the second number, Jim took over Kenny’s kit and Kenny played the tambourine between Seth and Jim. Jim did an excellent job in both spots.

JimPerryKennyShawJimPerryDrums

SethFaulkSinging

Here’s the set list:

SetList

An absolutely incredible show. When do we all get together to do it again? Smile

AlexBergerAyelet

Abby Payne at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Abby Payne headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. It was her first headlining set at Stage 2 and I’m willing to bet it won’t be her last!

AbbyPayne

I’ve seen Abby perform two full sets (among some other appearances). The first time, with a full band at Rockwood 1, I had a hard time overcoming the volume.

Last time, Abby was incredible in every possible respect, performing a much quieter set with a trio, also at Rockwood 1. So, I was excited to see her play last night, but I admit to a little trepidation considering that this was going to be a full band set again.

Not to worry! Partially due to Stage 2 being much more expansive (allowing volumes to go higher with fewer problems), and partially due to everyone just playing at an appropriate volume, the set was fantastic.

The first full-band show, Abby played on the electronic keyboards and someone else played the grand piano. Last night they flipped, with Abby spending the entire set at the piano. She’s excellent, and I typically prefer the sound of the piano over the keyboards, so that was a nice surprise as well.

Abby performed a number of the same songs that she did with the trio, but they really took on a dramatically different character. Most of the set (with the obvious exception of the one song Abby performed solo) was power pop. Driving rhythms, soaring vocals, excellent musicianship. The trio had a broad range of genres, but it was really mellow, get lost in the music, not the energy kind of stuff.

Great to know that Abby’s material holds up both ways.

Supporting Abby, left-to-right on stage:

JP Schlegelmilch on electronic keyboards and vocals. I already noted that last time, he was on the piano when she was on the keys. JP was excellent last night, playing a more organ like sound, complementing Abby’s piano play.

JPSchlegelmilch

Stephen Chopek on drums. Stephen was filling in for Abby’s normal drummer, Kenny Shaw. Considering that we see Kenny more than any other drummer, I think he was hiding from us (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!). Not to worry, we both love Stephen’s play. In fact, this was a real treat because most of the other sets that we’ve seen him play have been more folk oriented where he’s impressed with his subtlety.

StephenChopek

Last night’s power pop gave Stephen a chance to open it up quite a bit. I didn’t doubt for a second that he’s comfortable with that style, since I know that he toured with John Meyer for a year. Smile We haven’t seen Stephen perform in 10 months. That’s just way too long, but he’s on the road non-stop, so we’ll take what we can get!

Here’s Stephen, levitating a cymbal. Quite impressive! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist…)

StephenChopekLevitatingCymbal

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. This was our third set of the night watching Chris play. All three sets were radically different from one another. No matter, Chris delights in all genres.

ChrisAnderson

Wil Farr on electric guitar and vocals. Wil is excellent on the guitar. I knew this from the first time I saw him play with Abby, though that night it was primarily his amp which caused my issues with the volume. No such problems last night, so Wil’s play came shining through. He was also a bit more primary on the backup vocals with Abby than the others.

WilFarr

OK, I’m ready for the next one, trio or full band. Let’s get it going!

JPSchlegelmilchWilFarrChrisAndersonStephenChopek

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Abby Payne at Rockwood Music Hall

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We’ve seen Abby Payne once before, briefly, at a Benefit Concert. I had only good things to say about her (in particular, her keyboard skills). Still, since she was one of a cast of thousands and sang lead on only one song, I admit that her name didn’t register with me as someone I needed to keep track of.

AbbyPayne

Aside from wanting to follow certain people (OK, I won’t quibble if you call it stalking), I don’t have too much fear that we’ll miss out on a number of talented locals, because our friends (musicians and fans alike) know our taste well enough that they bother to point out shows we might not be aware of. Thanks all, for that!

In this case, it was none other than Chris Anderson, who we’ve seen perform a number of times this week alone, who mentioned that we wouldn’t want to miss Abby Payne, when I told him we were coming to see Chris Ayer at 8pm at Rockwood. She was up the set before Chris Ayer. That was good enough for me.

I won’t (or rather can’t!) classify Abby’s style/genre, as the set was incredibly wide-ranging. I’ll describe my two favorite numbers in a minute (they were near-polar opposites), but she had a number of songs I’d describe as more dissonant/experimental as well.

As I said above, Abby plays the keyboards really well. She also has a lovely voice, but it has a thin, laser-like quality at the highs, which doesn’t work well when mic’ed too high, something I’ll get to at the end.

AbbyPayneSinging

The two songs that totally captivated me came back-to-back. The first was an up-beat Country-like number that had me tapping and swaying throughout. That was immediately followed by a super mellow song, with two members of her band sitting out. I’m saving one of the more special things in that song for when I get to the band, which I’ll do right now.

Left-to-right on the stage:

Wil Farr on electric guitar and vocals (I might not have heard the name correctly, but if I did, I can’t find a good link). Will was very good on both. Unfortunately, his guitar was way too loud on most of the songs (even worse during sound check when it was only him playing). We were on the opposite side (near the door) and it was still relatively painful, largely because the amp was facing us, at ear level. Update: I now know he spells his name with 1 L, so I updated and found the correct link!

WillFarrGuitarWillFarrSinging

JP Schlegelmilch on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). I couldn’t see whether he sang on any of the songs, as Abby was directly between us. JP did a very nice job, but I admit to being surprised that Abby had an extra keyboard player, since that’s her primary instrument on stage. To be fair, on the numbers when he played the electronic keyboard, he had more of an organ sound while her keyboard was set closer to a piano sound.

JPSchlegelmilch

Chris Anderson on electric bass, vocals and ukulele. Say what? Ukulele? Yes! On the mellow song (mentioned above), both Will and JP took a break. Chris picked up a ukulele and played it so sweetly (not even the hint of the typical Hawaiian sound people associate with the uke). I realize it’s a stringed instrument, so I’m not shocked that Chris can play it. That said, it was more of his feel for the instrument that impressed me.

ChrisAndersonUkulele

I’ve also noted a number of times that Chris is starting to sing more. That continued very nicely with Abby. He sang harmony a lot, often with Will as well.

ChrisAndersonSinging

I would love to see Chris whip out the ukulele some night when he’s on stage with Ian Axel and have a little throwdown. Winking smile

Kenny Shaw on the drums. This was the fourth set we’ve seen Kenny play this week. Wait, it was the fourth set for Chris Anderson this week too (three of them had both in the same set). I used to think that I was the only stalking these guys, but now I think perhaps they are feeding me subliminal messages in my sleep to show up wherever they are.

KennyShaw

So, Kenny was great again, in particular on the other song I loved, the Country-like one. On that number, he used brushes, but was hitting them hard, for a just right sound/feel to match the song.

I mention the brushes to contrast the rest of the set (on the louder numbers). Kenny needed to hit pretty hard to match the sound coming out of the guitar. He did. Unfortunately, we were sitting 12 inches from the drum set and our heads were getting blown off.

That leads me back to my earlier point about Abby’s vocals (in particular, the high notes). The entire set (with few exceptions) was simply too loud. This is Rockwood 1, an extremely small venue. It’s simply not suited to cranking every instrument. Obviously, I blame the sound guy, but still, the band should try and do something about it, or book a different room.

Abby had to push to be heard, and her high notes were cutting like a knife. Clear (meaning, she hits every note), but I bet it sounds unbelievably better on her CDs. In an ironic twist, here’s what I had to say about Abby from the Benefit Concert:

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.

My humble apologies to myself, if Abby read that last post and decided to crank up the volume every time to compensate. Winking smile

The part that frustrates me is that at other times, the same sound person at the same venue will get a similarly equipped band playing at a much more reasonable level. That’s why I have no idea who to really blame. You’ll see an example of this fact two posts from now (which will be my last one of the day).