April, 2009:

Gaining Leverage

Send to Kindle

This post will cover a few related topics. They’re all about TV shows.

We probably watch too much TV, and I make no apologies for it. We lead reasonably intense lives and watching TV shows works wonderfully to help us escape and unwind. I have more forgiving tastes than Lois (meaning, I would watch a lot more bad shows, especially comedies), but our overlap is quite good, and gives us plenty of choices.

When the new seasons come up, we’re somewhat selective of what to try out. Partially, because we already watch a lot. Partially, because a lot of stuff doesn’t even look remotely interesting from the commercials. That said, there are shows that look interesting to me, that Lois poo-poos from the commercials, and given how much we watch already, I am OK passing on them.

This year, one such show was Leverage on TNT. I like hi-tech spy/theft stuff. Two of the shows that we’re both in love with are Chuck and Burn Notice. Chuck is way more on the comedic end of the scale, though it’s still set in the spy motif. Burn Notice is simply a fantastic show, in every respect. For me in particular, I love how they explain all of the spy stuff, and break it down (like a magician, revealing his tricks).

When I saw the first commercial for Leverage, I knew I would like the show. Lois saw the same commercial, and yawned (who knows why, since she loves Burn Notice and Chuck). So, I never added it to the list of things to DVR this season.

I had a twinge whenever I saw a commercial for it, but I took a deep breath, and let it go…

Yesterday I posted about KCRW’s podcast, The Business. On an episode that I listened to on Saturday, while out walking in Rockwood Park, they interviewed Dean Devlin, Executive Producer of Leverage (this episode is from a few months back). Dean explained that the post production for Leverage happens in an all digital facility, and why they can produce more effects, in less time, for less money, due to that setup.

That got me intrigued (again) in checking out Leverage. Lois was out of the house with a friend for a couple of hours right after I got back from my walk. I found episode one online (more on that in the next related topic part of this post), and watched it alone, on my laptop. I really liked it, a lot.

When Lois got back, I told her that I really wanted her to watch it, in case she enjoyed it as much as I did, and we’d add this to our regularly watched list. Since Lois is legally blind, watching on a laptop is not an option. So, I trotted out a 25′ HDMI cable (it was still in the bag), and connected my laptop to our 42″ HDTV. Describing some of those ins-and-outs will be part three of the related topics in this post. For now, back to the show.

Lois ended up liking it a lot. Over the next two days, we watched the first six episodes (the first season is over, with 13 episodes in total, and the show returns this summer, and we’ll watch it on the real TV). How we watched it is back to topic #2, which I’ll defer for just a few more paragraphs…

A few months back (January to be specific), our good friend Wes strongly recommended that we check out the show The Mentalist on CBS. I asked him whether it needed to be watched in order (from episode one), and he thought not, that each episode could stand on its own. So I started recording it on our DirecTivo, including repeats, to start building up the season. We now have 14 of the 19 episodes on the DVR, but not the first five.

Given our success watching Leverage on our TV (through the laptop), I decided that we would give The Mentalist a shot in order, through the laptop as well. We watched the first two episodes and really like the show. Thanks Wes! I think Wes is correct that they could probably stand alone, but I’m also glad we watched them in order (so far), because the first episode (called “Pilot”) really sets up the scenario for why he does what he does. The second episode flashes to that motivation, but it’s more powerful to already understand what they’re flashing to.

Certain shows have to be watched serially. One of the quintessential examples of that is another of my favorite shows (Lois fluctuates wildly in her appreciation of the show), Lost. If you miss even 10 minutes of a single episode, you might really end up Lost (pun intended).

Burn Notice is somewhat like that. In every episode, there are always two themes:

  1. Working a case for a client (this stands alone, each and every week)
  2. Tracking down why our hero was Burned (this is serialized, but nowhere near to the extent Lost is)

So, you can enjoy Burn Notice out of order, but it makes much more sense in order. Both Leverage and The Mentalist would best be enjoyed if you at least watch episode #1 first, to thoroughly appreciate the premise and setup, but after that, it’s probably OK to watch them out of order, even if you will end up missing a reference to a past show.

On to related topic #2: Watching TV online

If you’ve read this space before, then you know that I am a respecter of IP (Intellectual Property Rights). I buy a ton of music, including multiple copies of the same CD in order to give them as presents. I don’t look for torrents of movies or TV shows, just because they’re easy to find.

That said, while I’ve paid to watch a show I’ve missed (I wrote about purchasing an episode of NCIS from Amazon Unbox), it’s a last resort for me, given that the original show was completely free (including advertising, when you’re watching it on the DVR). So, I work hard to find a streaming version of the show online, before paying for it (on principal, not the money!).

My thought, perhaps a little self-serving, is that if it’s available for streaming, especially for a long while, then it isn’t being shut down by the copyright holder. After all, I’m finding it on a Google search, which the studios could do (and likely are doing) better than I could. To repeat, I realize why they may have more trouble tracking down illegal torrents of the shows, and I avoid those.

So, on tnt.tv, they stream six full episodes. They don’t even stream a single commercial, before, during or after the show! However, those six episodes are not conecutively numbered. They currently offer (as of this writing) episodes 3-4-5, 7-8-9. In other words, episode #6 in not available.

I know that some studios have a rolling number of episodes available. They might have four at a time, and when a new one becomes available, the oldest of the existing four will roll off. Some just make the current (or one before that) available. They each have their reasons, I’m sure, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what they are!

I would guess that on some level, they are trying to force you to watch it on their schedule, meaning, within some reasonable period of time of its original airing. Why? if there is a way to monetize these shows online (and I’m not saying there is!), then more episodes available should equal more monetization. If there isn’t a model (e.g., TNT showing Leverage with zero commercials), then why restrict which episodes are available?

By me being able to watch Leverage online, I have become a fan. When the new season starts this summer, I’ll definitely watch, on TNT itself, rather than online. If none of their episodes was available online, there’s little chance that I would have gotten into this show. The Mentalist is slightly different, as I started taping it before I watched it online, but I will enjoy the show more, now that I’ve gotten the taste from the beginning, and that only happened online.

But, CBS, which used to air full episodes of The Mentalist online, has pulled that show (and others, including Eleventh Hour, which we also really like). Reading some of the fan sites, it might not be a CBS decision, but rather the production company which owns those shows. Either way, a great way to reduce your potential fan base.

Here’s what works for me (I think I wrote about this in one of my Video on Demand posts). Put in no more than five minutes (preferably two) of commercials, that can’t be fast forwarded through, in your online content. Allow the entire stream to be paused and rewound, but even in fast forward, force the stop in a commercial, so if I want to fast forward to a late segment, I have to watch the commercials again. It’s a small price for having ubiquitous content available, on demand, over the Inernet.

Most people will not enjoy that experience as much (not because of the commercials), so it will become another avenue to discover content that can be delivered more effectively (today, not in the future) to their TV.

You’ll notice that I said that CBS no longer streams The Mentalist online, and that episodes #1, #2 and #6 of Leverage aren’t on TNT either. And yet, we watched all of them online, on two different streaming sites. Finding The Mentalist was a bit of a Google challenge, but I ended up being up to the task. Finding Leverage was trivial. πŸ˜‰

The episodes of Leverage that are available on TNT required extra downloads from TNT in order for their player to work in IE and Firefox. The player doesn’t work in Google Chrome (no prompts for a download), and I haven’t checked, but I suspect that it would fail in Safari too, which is based on Webkit, just like Google Chrome is.

Related topic #3: Technically connecting the laptop to the TV

I have written in the past about connecting my old laptop to the TV, using S-Video and normal RCA audio cables, with decent success. This laptop has an HDMI port, and a VGA port, no S-Video. VGA is a little messy, because it requires a powered converter between the laptop and the TV. I have one, so I can use it when necessary (to connect to an older TV in a hotel room, for example), but at home, I can use HDMI.

This weekend was my first attempt to do so, even though I bought the 25′ HDMI cable long ago, just for this purpose.

Even though on some levels I’m an expert user of computers in general, I (like many people) still fumble when doing something out of the ordinary. Doing this the right way is certainly out of the ordinary. Here, in my opinion, is the right way (in Windows, specifically Vista in my case):

  1. Connect the HDMI cable to the TV and to the laptop
  2. Power on the TV and set the input to that HDMI connection (Input #2 in my case, since #1 is connected to my DVR)
  3. Right-click on the desktop, and bring up the “Settings” panel (in my case, it’s a specific Nvidia Control Panel, and in XP, it’s a generic Desktop Settings panel)
  4. My Nvidia Control Panel makes this next step very easy. It’s a little trickier on a generic XP settings page. I just selected Use Two Displays (with separate content, meaning, not mirrored). This won’t show up unless you have the HDMI in, with the TV on. For a generic XP setup, I believe that you have to click on the smaller screen, labeled 2, and configure it…
  5. Set the resolution of the second display to full HD (1920×1080). I don’t recall whether it was the default or not, but I believe it was, and I believe it was the recommended setting, sensed by the laptop from the TV’s capability
  6. Set the default sound output to be the HDMI device (if you want the sound to come out on your TV!)
  7. Fire up a fresh browser (quit your old one if it was open, then relaunch it). This will ensure that the new default sound device (HDMI) will be where your browser sends its sound!
  8. Optional: Reset your default sound device back to the laptop. I did this, because I got annoyed hearing my IM bings and email sounds coming out on the TV (loudly). Once you do this, only the fresh browser intance launched in step #7 above will have its sound going to the TV!
  9. Navigate to the site that will stream your video while the browser window is still on your laptop display (it’s way easier than navigating once the browser is displayed on your TV)
  10. Get the video all set up, and pause it immediately. Notice which button is set to Full Screen within the video window (very few players don’t have a full screen mode)
  11. Drag the browser window off the laptop screen to the right edge. It should appear on your TV as you are doing this
  12. Hit play on the video, and only after it starts, hit the Full Screen button/control that you noted in step #10

That should do it. You should be watching your video in reasonable quality, in full screen, with sound coming through the TV. Our experience was quite pleasant. Our Internet connection is a very high speed Verizon FiOS one, so that doesn’t hurt. Depending on the player and encoding, I adjusted the aspect control on my TV to get the best fit (The Mentalist looked better with a different setting than Leverage).

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Do The Right Thing

Send to Kindle

In my last post, titled Make The Time, I mentioned that we spent a fair amount of time riffing on obvious blog titles. I decided to steal one of them for this post, even though the subject will have nothing to do with the example given in the last post.

That’s one of the points of the obvious blog titles, that they stand alone in people’s minds, until you associate a specific piece of content to a title.

I listen to one podcast religiously, The Business from KCRW. I’ve blogged about that podcast before. I discovered it when a friend of mine dropped me a link to their episode on Wicked (our favorite Broadway show). I loved that particular episode, and subscribed to the podcast through iTunes, and have been a fan ever since. (In gathering the links above, I see that they’ve changed the host of the show. Since I’m behind in listening to the most current episodes, I have yet to hear a show with the new host…)

I normally listen to two episodes at a time, when I exercise on my long walks. That takes care of the first hour (each episode is 29 minutes long). If I’m walking longer, I switch to music after the first hour.

The other day I was doing exactly that, and before and after the actual episode, they appealed for listeners to become members of KCRW, in order to financially support the podcast. Since this is the only podcast that I really listen to consistently, and I derive a lot of pleasure from it (in addition to gaining some useful information), I decided to become a member.

Even though I live in NY, never listen to the station, don’t listen to any of their other podcasts, and never stream their shows on the web, I decided to donate $50 (which seemed on the generous side to me for listening to this one podcast, though you may disagree). When I signed up on the site, I had a lot of technical difficulties completing my donation. I almost gave up (cursing in the process). In the end, I decided that I was committed to Do The Right Thing, and I persevered until I was successful.

At the $50 level, I was offered a list of goodies to choose from. I actually felt guilty picking anything, because that would mean that part of my donation would go to my gift. But, one of the choices was a cool KCRW T-Shirt, and I’m a T-Shirt freak. I also rationalized that I would be advertising for them whenever I wore it.

I was glad that they added another $5 for shipping, so I was slicing less into the actual profit (the T-Shirts never cost much to manufacture, even when they sell for a lot, or so I tell myself…). πŸ™‚

I now feel better that I am supporting their effort to continue this wonderful series of interviews and analysis.

On to one more example of Do The Right Thing.

I have a fair bit of Delta SkyMiles, that I’ve had for over 10 years. We don’t fly much any more, but perhaps one day we will, likely for some big-time vacation (that we will have waited 15 years to take!).

Delta recently changed their expiration policy (I can’t blame them whatsoever), and all of my miles were set to expire on 4/30/2009. They were very good about informing me of the upcoming expiration, multiple times, starting in December 2008.

There are quite a number of things you can do to extend your expiration date by two years. The most obvious one is to fly on Delta. That wasn’t likely to happen. So, I searched the list of other things I could do.

By far the cheapest thing to do would have been to order one magazine, paying for it with SkyMiles. If you pick a monthly, you can get away with only using 500 miles. We don’t have any interest in adding to the amount of snail mail we get, so this would have been purely to roll the miles.

But, I continued to look down the list, and saw that you can also donate miles to a number of charities. We looked through the list, and decided to make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network. It was substantially more miles than it would have cost to just order a magazine, but we felt much better about doing it.

After completing the transaction, the website informed me that the transaction might take 4-6 weeks to complete. I was worried that there was a chance that it wouldn’t get credited before 4/30/2009, and somehow, I’d lose the rest of my SkyMiles, and possibly even not get this donation completed.

So, purely as an extra safety precaution, I decided to order a magazine as well. While going through the ordering forms, I realized that I could send a magazine subscription as a gift to someone else (something that wasn’t obvious until you were deep in the process). We decided to send a subscription to Golf Digest to our godson (this is the first he’ll be hearing about this, and it won’t start for another month or so). πŸ™‚

So, in trying to protect our miles, and also our donation to the Children’s Miracle Network, we were rewarded with the ability to give our godson a gift that we hope he will enjoy. Doing the Right Thing ended up enlarging the circle of rewards. A day later, the Delta site showed both deductions from my SkyMiles account, and also showed my new expiration date as 4/30/2011.

Success all around!

Make the Time

Send to Kindle

Lois and I have been, and continue to be blessed, in many ways. At or near the top of that list is the amazing group of friends that we have. Individually and collectively, they bring us immeasurable joy, and expand our horizons with each interaction.

I know that many people lead busy, complicated lives. We do too. Ours are a tad more complicated than most, because of our hectic travel schedule. Even that is subject to last-minute changes. That makes pinning social dates down somewhat tricky. When you factor in the jam-packed schedules of most of our friends, finding dates we can all agree to, and then sticking to them, is often a major hassle.

There’s one couple in particular where the scheduling conflict rears its ugly head more often than not.Β  Because of that, we don’t end up even trying as freqently as we should, so we end up seeing them every 18 months or so on average. That’s a major shame, as we always have a fantastic time, whenever we pull off a drive-by get-together.

Last night was one of those lucky evenings. As busy as they are (and folks, they qualify on a number of levels for leading pretty hectic, but productive lives), more often than not, they do the classy thing and come to our side of the river (to the apartment or the house), which we appreciate to no end (though we promised last night that next time, we’ll come to their house!).

They also came early (6pm), which us old folk appreciate beyond measure as well. It permits a long and relaxed evening, without having to be falling asleep at the height of the festivities. We had a simply amazing sushi meal.

Among the many topics we discussed all night was blogging, and Twitter. Both of them (claim they) are too busy to blog (though both have been encouraged to, for a numer of reasons), and neither sees the point of Twitter (something you hear a lot from non-Twitterers nowadays). I doubt I made a dent in either direction, but we’ll see.

One of the things we had some fun with was coming up with blog titles that were provocative (often already iconic cultural phrases) that might stand alone (content would be interesting, but unnecessary). πŸ˜‰ In fact, I explained that this could be one reason to be Tweeting instead of blogging!

There were some obvious ones:

  • Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
  • Do the Right Thing
  • I’m Not Judging, but…
  • To Get Through Work, Only Two Decisions are Required: What to Wear and What to Eat
  • If I’m the Typical User, then it Should Be Designed for Me!

There were many more. Some were inspired by specific stories that had long philosophical discussions. For example, “Do the Right Thing” was about a situation where an older male colleague, fumbled over whether and how to handle the situation of walking a younger female colleague back to her hotel after a business function. There are lots of nuances in that situation, and in our opinion, our friend ended up on the wrong end of an overthought dilemma.

That spurred me to title this post in a similar vein, though it didn’t come up in our long list last night: Make the Time.

Every time that we make the time to get together with this particular couple, but in general with any of our friends, we feel enriched by the experience. So, we (and they) need to continue to pursue each other, even when scheduling appears to be impossible, and just Do the Right Thing. πŸ˜‰

I’m including a photo of our friends without naming them. As you can plainly see, I don’t dress up for company. πŸ˜‰ Also, as you might be able to tell by my glassy eyes, we enjoyed some nice wine as well.



I met the husband when I hired him in 1986 (give or take a year). I knew in the interview that he was a very special person. I was wrong, he was and is an exceptionally special person. He was as good an employee as I could have hoped for, and went on to a very long and successful Wall Street career in a number of top firms.

A number of years ago he started his own software company, and has made a wonderful success of that as well, and will continue to, I’m sure.

His wife is equally extraordinary in too many ways to list in this small space. To call either of them smart would be to insult them. They are also interesting, conversational, good listeners, etc. In other words, everything you could hope for in a friend.

Here’s to not letting as much time go by before the next visit (which will be at their place!). πŸ™‚

Trust the Sidux.com Home Page

Send to Kindle

If I detailed all of the hurt I caused myself (entirely my fault) in this one post, I’d be typing for hours. I’ll spare myself (and you) all of the gory details, and summarize.

If you follow my techie posts (way fewer than my music posts), then you know that I’m a big fan of Sidux. Most recently, I had settled on the Xfce flavor (for speed and simplicity), and I run it all under VirtualBox on my Windows Vista Ultimate x64 laptop.

I built the original installation on a dynamically-sized virtual disk, maximum size 4GB. That seemed like plenty of space, since Linux is not my primary OS, just a place to play around in, and to be safer when appropriate.

For yucks, and mostly because there’s nothing production about my installation, I got into the habit of keeping up-to-date on the bleeding edge. That meant regularly typing:

apt-get update

apt-get upgrade

apt-get dist-upgrade

I think the middle step is unnecessary, but I do it more often than not anyway. Up until recently, I never had a problem with that.

Back to the disk space situation. I had over 1GB free, for a long time, which seemed like plenty of headroom, given that I don’t really create new content on Linux. Then I decided to experiment with a few apps on Linux (some of which are only available on Linux), for HTML editing and other web creation tools.

Once I installed a bunch of them, and continued my dance of dist-upgrading regularly, my disk space got closer to the 4GB max, without me paying any attention to it. Then, during one dist-upgrade, I temporarily ran out of space (during the actual upgrade, while extra space is necessary to unpack things, run scripts, etc.). One or two steps in the upgrade failed to install (due to disk full errors), but most of the upgrade went fine. In fact, I had 86MB free after the ugprade, and things appeared to be OK.

That’s all background to my comedy of compounding errors that ensued. It began with a bit of hubris (too much cleverness on my part). Knowing that I just dist-upgraded myself into a full disk, and knowing that to correct it, at a minimum, I’d need to run a normal upgrade, I decided to shutdown Sidux, rather than reboot it, thinking I would avoid any booting problems with the just-failed dist-upgrade.

I then searched for how-tos on growing a VirtualBox disk (having some instincts as to what I could do even if I didn’t find an answer). I found some multi-page forum posts that confirmed my instinct.

I created a new fixed-size 8GB virtual drive. I then attached the old one and the new one to an instance of CloneZilla (under VirtualBox, obviously). I let it do a disk-to-disk copy. Unfortunately, I also told it to grow the partition on the target drive to fill all of the space. I say unfortunately, because the target disk ended up being full at 8GB, so something went wrong on that end.

This is one of the points where I’ll spare you tons of gory details. Suffice it to say that I eventually got the target disk to be a perfect clone of the original disk, with the additional 4GB of free space now correctly recognized.

I finally was ready to attach the new drive to the Sidux VM, and boot it up, expecting to do an upgrade afterwards, and be back to normal. Wrong…

When I booted, I saw a different Xfce splash screen. The dist-upgrade had given me the new Xfce 4.6, and (unbeknownst to me) also the Xorg 1.6 upgrade. I ended up with a working X installation, but a non-working Xfce one. In other words, the graphical environment was up, but I had no menu system (at all), with no ability to right-click on the background to bring one up. The only working icons in the dock were the web browser, and the log off one.

Here’s where I ended up wasting a stupid amount of time. Basically, I assumed that my clone of the hard drive failed, so I went down a few wrong paths trying to correct that. I even went so far as to install from the Sidux CD over again, onto the new (reformatted) 8GB drive. But, like a complete ass, I immediately dist-upgraded after the install.

Guess what? My system was hosed exactly the way it was before! That made me boot off my old, full 4GB drive, and sure enough, same menu problem. So, the clone of the disk went fine, it was the dist-upgrade that had screwed me.

But, I was still too thick to realize that. I thought (at this point completely foolishly!) that it was the fact that the disk filled up during the dist-upgrade that caused my problem (a now ridiculous assumption, since the same problem occured on a fresh install into a large disk). So, I wasted a little more time trying to remove and reinstall certain packages, all to no avail.

Then, I finally followed the advice I give in the title of this post: Trust the Sidux.com Home Page!

Right there on the home page, they tell you exactly when it is not safe to do a dist-upgrade, and why. Of course, just my luck that I happened to do a dist-upgrade at the wrong time, and, at the same time, happened to run out of disk space, causing me to misdiagnose my problem!

Is there a happy ending to this story? Yes, but I’ll skip a lot more pain and cut to the chase.

I never did get Xfce 4.6 running correctly, even long after the Sidux.com home page said it was OK to do a dist-upgrade again. Instead, I decided to take advantage of another announcement on the home page, claiming that KDE4.2 was now available (for a while, it too was the cause of a no dist-upgrade warning). I have always liked KDE and only avoided it to avoid bloat. Given that I couldn’t easily get Xfce working again, I decided to give the new KDE a try.

While I have some complaints about the menu layout, I basically liked the look of KDE4, and I liked the quick launcher, which made the menuΒ  layout less important to me. That worked fine for a couple of days, and then I did another dist-upgrade (no warnings against it on the home page!), and I lost X completely. I could only log in on the command line.

After a little poking around, somehow, during the upgrade, all of my display managers had disappeared from /usr/bin. In this case, specifically, there was no /usr/bin/kdm. No idea how that happened, but doing an apt-get install kdm solved the problem, and I’m now back in business. I can even do a dist-upgrade and everything continues to work, so I appear to be beyond the previous problem.

It’s quite possible that all I would have needed to do is to install xdm (like I had to install kdm) to get Xfce running again. I might try that in the next few days if I get some time.

Anyway, even though I had a ton of frustration over the past 10 days, none of it was the fault of Sidux. In fact, they tried to save me from myself, something that others have failed to do many times in the past as well.

Another learning experience is in the tank now, and another happy ending, since I don’t mind having experienced the new KDE either. πŸ™‚

Colin Hay at Canal Room

Send to Kindle

I was very late to the blogging world. Rob Page (CEO of Zope Corporation) needled me for a while, and I finally relented. My only goal was to document our lives (mostly the good memories) in excruciating detail, so that as our memories fade (or fail), we’d have a record to look back on, semi-authoritative.

In doing so, I told the stories of our lives in chronological order, because I was writing for myself. After a while, when covering music events became a major theme here, Lois strongly requested (she would be annoyed at me if I said insisted) πŸ˜‰ that I cover the headliner first, then the opening act, then our background story. That became my pattern, which I’ve been faithful to for a long time now.

That isn’t the case for this post (already, given this long intro), but really for another reason.

In every performance that we’ve attended for the past six years, if there was an opening act, the headliner at least acknowledged the opening act, typically thanking him/her/them, and usually requesting another round of applause. Often, the headliner gushes about the opening act. Occasionally, the headliner brings out the opening act to do a number with him/her/them, or surprises the audience by joining the opening act during their stint (Girlyman has done that a few times in our experience).

Last night was the only exception. Colin Hay didn’t acknowledge (or even mention) the opening act, The Paper Raincoat. For that, I will cover their part of the show first, and then cover Colin’s piece. They deserved the mention last night, and still do this morning. I would have preferred for it to come from Colin, who has a wee bit more influence than me, but here goes my take.

We saw Colin Hay live for the first time two weeks ago, at the Birchmere, covered in this post. We both loved the show, Lois in particular. I noticed that he was playing two nights at the Canal Room (4/15 and 16). We weren’t scheduled to return to NYC until the 17th, but Lois got very excited about the prospect of seeing Colin again, in particular in such an intimate venue (we’ve been to Canal Room once before).

He had different opening acts for the two nights. I listened to both on their respective MySpace pages (The Paper Raincoat page is linked above). Both were good, but I particularly liked The Paper Raincoat. While it didn’t hurt that they were the second night (altering our trip a bit less), I really did prefer to hear them live, given the choice.

So, we locked in tickets to see Colin again, influenced by the fact that The Paper Raincoat sounded like a group we would like. We were right!

While there are many differences, I would say that The Paper Raincoat has a similar sound and feel to The Weepies. You won’t confuse the two, but if you like The Weepies (and we do, a lot), then you’ll like The Paper Raincoat.

I encourage you to listen to all of the songs on their MySpace page, and to read the detailed biography there. I’ll highlight one unique (and cool) feature about the band, but they go into much more detail in the biography than they did on the stage last night.

While every one of their songs stands alone musically and lyrically, and is thoroughly enjoyable, unlike other bands, all of their songs combine to tell one long story (basically, a novel, unfolding in a series of songs). The concept is very cool, and can serve as an extra impetus to follow the band long term, if they can keep up the genre and keep the story interesting. It’s also the reason for naming the group The Paper Raincoat (but you’ll have to read the MySpace bio to understand why).

Standing on the stage from left-to-right were:

Amber Rubarth playing electric keyboards and mini xylophone. She sings lead and harmony, and writes/co-writes their material. A very talented lady, who also exudes a ton of warmth on stage.

Amber Rubarth

Amber Rubarth

Alex Wong played the guitar, a tiny electric keyboard, and the mini xylophone. He too sings lead and harmony as well as writes/co-writes their material. He has an excellent voice, with a very self-effacing stage presence.

Alex Wong Mini Xylophone

Alex Wong Mini Xylophone

Alex Wong Mini Keyboard

Alex Wong Mini Keyboard

The two of them comprise The Paper Raincoat. In addition to them, they had a guest drummer.

Adam Christgau played the drums, and sang harmony for much of the set. He’s really good, at both. He also did some unique (to me) things on the drums. On a couple of songs, he covered the snare drum with a towel, achieving a very interesting sound. On one song, he put the towel on the Hi-hat cymbal, also to good effect. Finally, he used a brush drumstick on a frisbee. Really? Yes, a frisbee (or at least, that’s exactly what it looked like to me!).

Adam Christgau

Adam Christgau

On their second-to-last number, they did something very cool. Alex had two tambourines in his hand, and he invited Colin Hay up to the stage to shake one with them. After 10 seconds of waiting (jokingly), he decided to offer the tambourine to an audience member (without the invitation to come up on the stage). The tambourine ended up in Lois’ hands.

While Lois was shaking her heart out (pretty well, if I say so myself), Alex and Amber joined Adam, and all three of them played the one drum set simultaneously. It was really cool (not just because I was sitting the closest to the tambourine player). πŸ˜‰

Amber Adam Alex Drumming

Amber Adam Alex Drumming

They finished their set with an a capella number sung by Amber, with Alex and Adam harmonizing, and playing percussion on their chest and legs. In addition to well-timed hand-clapping (for additional rhythm) by each of them, they did some cool cross-person hand clapping, making it a visually interesting song as well.

The Paper Raincoat A Capella

The Paper Raincoat A Capella

They were on stage for a total of 40 minutes, all of it fun and beautifully sounding. To repeat, they deserved more than a mention from Colin. Of course, if he had given it, I probably would have spent less time on them, so perhaps he did my readers a favor, in giving me an excuse to highlight them. πŸ™‚

Colin Hay came out 30 minutes after The Paper Raincoat exited the stage, at 9:22pm.

Colin Hay

Colin Hay

Everything that I said about him at the Birchmere applied last night. He was hysterical, had a great set list, sang amazingly and played the guitar wonderfully. It was an excellent show. I won’t repeat those things. There were a few qualitative differences in the show, so I’ll concentrate on that instead.

At the Birchmere, Colin noticed a kid in the front row (just a few feet over from us), who was likely around eight-years-old. It caused him to catch himself a couple of times when he was about to say something raunchy, or drug related. He still cursed a bit, but you could tell that he was trying not to do it as much as he wanted to (and told the audience that he normally does).

Well, last night, there was nothing holding him back. If you haven’t heard the F-word spoken in a while, you should try to catch a Colin Hay show, so that you can get your fill quickly. It doesn’t bother me whatsoever (Lois isn’t a fan of this type of communication), so I’m just mentioning it in case any future concert-goer cares to know that in advance.

He also told more drug-related stories (mostly pot, not hard drugs). They were very funny, and usually related to the song he was about to sing (as were his stories at the Birchmere). While there were quite a number of repeats in his comedic stories (quite natural for a given tour, and for an introduction to the same song!), there were also a reasonable number of fresh stories, all well told, and all extremely funny. The audience was (once again) eating out of his hand!

The second difference is that at the Birchmere, the entire show was solo. Last night, he had a special guest, his wife, Cecelia Noel. In addition to having her own band, she occasionally performs with Colin, even when his full band is on stage (you can easily find YouTube videos of the full band, with Cecelia on stage too).

She has an excellent voice, and obviously knows the material cold. She dances in pantomime to the lyrics, which we found a bit distracting, but I’m sure that others enjoyed it immensely. Especially the men, since she’s quite beautiful, and her movements are anything by shy and demure. πŸ˜‰

Cecelia Noel

Cecelia Noel

Colin was able to work her in to some of his gags as well. One small example is his song Beautiful World. There is a line in there “I Like Sleeping With Marie”. At the Birchmere, he sang that line straight. Last night, with Cecelia on the stage (she joined him for roughly 1/3 of the numbers), after singing “I Like Sleeping With Marie”, he smiled at the audience, and added “Not Anymore”, in the pause between lines, very naturally, very good naturedly, and Cecelia played along as well. It was very cute.

The other difference was the venue itself. Birchmere is very large, with very large tables (it’s a place where you eat dinner and watch the show at the same table). It seats 650 people, and Colin sold it out.

Canal Room is a small venue. The only other time we were there, it was set up in a lounge atmosphere, with plush chairs and sofas, quite spread out. In other words, not all that much seating, allowing a capacity of roughly 100 people (I’m just guessing). Last night, it was set up with tiny fold-up chairs (that hurt my butt quite a bit). That permitted a lot more people to sit, and then they crammed in the standing room crowd around the bar, and in every other corner of the place.

My best guess is that there were roughly 300 people there last night. As with the Birchmere, this was not a crowd that wandered in off the street to hear whoever was playing. These were hard-core Colin-loving fans, that knew every word to every song (except perhaps the gorgeous number that he did from his upcoming August release of his new CD). Whenever he invited the audience to sing along, they were only too thrilled to oblige.

Colin was on stage for exactly 105 minutes, all wonderful. He’s a joy to see live, and I’m sure we’ll do it again in the future.

We got to the Canal Room very early on purpose (we were expecting the more limited seating like the first time we were there). The doors opened at 7:30pm, but we arrived at 6:25 to stand patiently outside. It turns out that we were first on line! The bouncer felt bad for us, and actually suggested we go get a bite or a drink at his favorite place around the corner. There was no way Lois was going to miss out getting the best seat in the house, so we just stood there.

I am actually amazed at how quickly the hour passed, and that I didn’t even have a second of physical discomfort for standing in one place for an hour. Whew. I am also extremely impressed with how organized the Canal Room staff are (and how nice they all are as well).

When they opened the doors, we were the first two in, and grabbed the two center seats in the first row. Aside from neck strain in looking up at The Paper Raincoat and Colin Hay all night, the seats were fantastic.

At intermission, Lois bolted out of her seat and bought two copies (both signed) of The Paper Raincoat’s EP (four songs, all of which are on their MySpace page). Before the show started, she also bought Going Somewhere by Colin Hay (she bought two different CDs of his at Birchmere). We intended to hang around and have him sign it after the show. Unfortunately, we were really wiped, so just like Birchmere, we bailed and didn’t say hello to him at either place. Some other time…

Girlyman at Barns at Wolf Trap

Send to Kindle

Another night, another fabulous Girlyman concert. Same old, same old, blah blah blah. Right? Wrong! πŸ™‚

So, I just covered their April Fool’s NYC show at Joe’s Pub extensively in this post the other day. I’ll try not to be too repetitious, but I will highlight some of the similarities.

I mentioned in that post that Girlyman mixes it up, even on the same tour (in this case, in the same week). That was the case last night too. For the past year, Joyful Sign has been featured in every show, either as an opening number (at Joe’s) or a closing number (at Gravity Lounge, Birchmere, etc.). They didn’t play it last night. Not complaining, just reporting. πŸ™‚

They opened the show with my favorite song, Hold It All At Bay. Since I closed my last post about them mentioning that, I’ll fantasize for a second and say that they did that to specifically make me happy. πŸ˜‰



Next they played one of our favorites (a very silly thing to say, because 95% of their songs are amongst our favorites), On The Air, which they hadn’t played at Joe’s, but opened most of their 2008 shows with. During the set they also played their new cover of Mary by Patty Griffin, and their new song Wherever You Keep, both of which are so wonderful that it was great to hear them again and start to cement them in our minds.

They did not play Doris’ new song, Nothing Called Home, so we’ll have to wait for our CD of the live recording at Joe’s to hear it again.

So, why did I say that this night was not the same old, same old? (Aside from the obvious fact that all of their shows have a freshness to them!) Last year, at the Barns, they played their cover of Rock Me Amadeus (the previous link is not their version) by Falco. I have been dying to hear it again ever since. I’ve called it out a couple of times during the request section of their shows, to no avail.

Last night, they did the same bit that they did at the Barns last year (which was the only time I’ve seen them do it before). They had the audience vote on which of three whimsical songs they should do, based just on keywords. Of course, their fans know which songs are associated with which keyword, but any newbies wouldn’t know

The keywords were:

  • Backwards
  • German
  • Moose

They voted on them in the order: Backwards, Moose, German. Lois clapped her little heart out for Backwards. It moved the needle, but it was clear that the majority of the audience was holding their vote for one of the next two.

Next up was Moose, which got a ton of applause (Nate also noted some serious whistles as well). I was sure it was going to end up being Moose. Then we voted on German, which is what I wanted, badly. Thankfully, enough other fans wanted it too, as it ended up surpassing Moose. Whew!

Why was it so important to me to hear them do it again? Aside from the instantaneous enjoyment of the song (which they delivered on), I knew that I’d be buying a CD of the performance, so I would finally have a copy I could listen to forever, whenever I am in the mood. Sweet!

Of course, the audience sang the chorus out loud with them, so I’ll be able to enjoy remembering singing my little heart out as well. πŸ™‚

They played a number of songs from Little Star (five in total!) only two of which they played at Joe’s on Wednesday night. They also played Good Enough, something I haven’t heard them play often live, so that was a real treat too.

For the request, so many titles were yelled out it was overwhelming. Nate joked that people had just yelled out their entire repertoire (which wasn’t so far from the truth!). Of course, with 400 people in the audience, even though all of them were Girlyfans, clearly, there would be a wide range of favorites.

After much discussion between the three of them on stage, they settled on Maori. I mentioned in the last post that Maori is stunning, and difficult to nail live. They clearly didn’t intend to do it at the Barns, but with enough people yelling for it (perhaps because they all read my last post!) πŸ˜‰ they decided to do it again. Gorgeous!

They closed the show with This Is Me (one of the five Little Star songs). They returned to the stage quickly to a standing ovation. They played two more songs. In total, they were on the stage for 100 minutes. Let me correct myself, 100 blissful minutes!

After the show, we ordered our live CD (as we always do). Then we waited patiently to say our hellos, goodbyes and see you next times.

That’s it for the concert, but (unfortunately for those of you who can’t look away from an accident) nowhere near the end of the post itself. πŸ˜‰

We bought tickets for last night’s show the minute we became aware of it, last October. We saw them at the same venue, the Barns at Wolf Trap last year, and loved the place (there should be no doubt about our loving Girlyman, right?). Even though the show was seven months away, in purchasing six tickets (at the time) together, the best we could do was the fourth row. Later on, we bought three more tickets, and those were relegated back in the 13th row…

Every seat at the Barns gets great sound, but aside from Lois’ poor vision, even well-sighted people lose a lot of the feel of a live performance when they sit further back, given that the faces of the performers are just a blur. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about Colin Hay, when the performers are funny (in addition to their obvious musical talent), you miss out on some of the raised eyebrows, smirks (at exactly the right second), etc.

Nate was so on last night (is he ever not?), that it was particularly cool to be close enough to him to catch every nuance of his between-song antics.

The fourth row was just fine for that, but our friends who ended up in the 13th row really loved the show, but admitted to seeing more of a blur on the stage than what we saw. Oh well, Girlyman fills the Barns (400 seats!), so you have to pounce early to get seats up front. I ended up in the middle seat in our row, dead center stage, which was perfect!

If you read the last post, then you know that Elizabeth left me a comment that she’d be at the show too. She’s a major Girlyfan as well. She ended up sitting right behind us, and was finally able to bring her daughter to a show (she was too young to attend the last two times, when Elizabeth brought her son). Both her kids are big-time Girlyfans.

Elizabeth also stepped up her support for the band by volunteering at the Merch table. Kudos Elizabeth! We all need to find ways to help and support the people we love and who give us so much joy. Writing these blog posts about Girlyman is one of the ways we try to help, as is introducing them to as many people as we can convince to join us at their shows!

I know that Elizabeth reads my missives about Girlyman and pays attention. At least I know it now, after last night. I usually mention that we really do everything we can (including leaping onto the stage after the show) to snag a set list, whenever we can. That didn’t happen last night, because we were four rows back, and had a lot of people with us.

After we said our goodbyes to Girlyman, Lois told me that she had something in the car that she really wanted me to give to Girlyman. It was a one sheet printout of the last few paragraphs of my last blog about them, including the photo of the youngest Girlyfan. I went to the car and came back in to hand it to them and got back on line. Elizabeth spotted me with a piece of paper, waiting on line (looking like I wanted it signed by the band), and she said to me “Is that tonight’s Set List?”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t, but I applaud Elizabeth’s fortitude in making it through all my wordiness. πŸ˜‰

On to what we did before the show. Nine of us had dinner at Hunan Lion. We accidentally discovered this wonderful restaurant last year, when we dined there before the Girlyman show. We were seated at a round table, so we were all able to enjoy each other’s company thoroughly. The food was great, again.

Here is a shot of our seven guests with Lois. Ironically, I am not the one taking the picture, as I was off getting the car. A patron who was about to enter the restaurant saw Lois snapping photos of our guests, and offered to take one with her in it. Thanks! πŸ™‚

Guests at Hunan Lion

Guests at Hunan Lion

Recall that we purchased the tickets seven months ago. We didn’t look at them carefully, and we made a pretty big mistake. We were caught in bad traffic on I95 on our way to the restaurant, and we got there later than we had planned. Still, we thought we had plenty of time, because we thought the opening act came on the stage at 8pm.

After dinner, we headed over to the Barns (first incorrectly going to the main Wolf Trap, about 1/3 of a mile down the road). We walked in at 7:58pm, which was cutting it too close, but since we had assigned seats, we thought we were fine.

Unfortunately, the show started at 7:30pm, and the opening act, Adrianne, was about to start her last number. I felt badly that I messed up the schedule, but was grateful that we didn’t miss any Girlyman! Thankfully, they pumped Adrianne’s number in the cafe where we waited, and the sound system was excellent, so we got a taste of what a talent she is. A very beautiful voice!

Lois took a shot of our guests, with me in it this time, waiting in the cafe while Adrianne sang her last song:

Guests at Barns

Guests at Barns

A few minutes later, her set was over, and there was a 20 minute intermission, so we were able to get to our seats and settle in. You already know about the show, so I’ll leave you with one more baby Girlyfan story.

One of our guests was 6.5 months pregnant. After the opening number, Hold It All At Bay, she turned to us and said that the baby was kicking beyond belief. Before you freak out, that’s typically a very good thing, and the mother definitely took it that way! Amazingly, it was the same song that calmed down the 5-week-old that I reported about in the last post. Of course, I have similar tastes to newborns (or even nearly borns!). πŸ˜‰

After the show, the mom-to-be reported that the baby continued to happily kick along throughout the show. She was very pleased.

If you made it all the way to this point, there just might be a pleasant surprise reward for you (depending on who you are). πŸ˜‰

The next time we’ll be seeing Girlyman live (at least the next time we’re sure about) will be June 4th, 2009, at the Highline Ballroom in NYC. Since that is a much larger venue than Joe’s Pub, we’ve decided to invite a lot more people than we usually do.

On Friday, I sent a large blind distribution out to a bunch of our Tri-State area friends, inviting them to be our guests at the show. If you are a friend, and didn’t get an invitation from me (then apologies for accidentally leaving your name off the list!), and would like to attend, please let me know.

If you don’t live in the area, then you didn’t get an invitation, but if you will be around on June 4th, or are willing to commit to making the trip, then also let me know.

Hope to see everyone at the Highline Ballroom on June 4th. Let’s sell the place out! πŸ™‚

Colin Hay at Birchmere

Send to Kindle

Last night we saw Colin Hay for the first time at Birchmere. I’ve known a lot of his famous songs for nearly 30 years, but I never knew his name, nor even knew that he was the leader of Men At Work.

In fact, more often than not, when I mention to someone nowadays that we love Colin Hay, they say “Who?”. When I say that he was the leader of Men At Work, they say “Wow, I loved them!”.

He became a little more of a household name when Scrubs had him do a number of cameos, including playing a number of his songs. That’s where we discovered him. He joked last night that he had a best kept secret career for 30 years, before Zach Braff selected his song I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You for his movie Garden State. Zach Braff is the star of Scrubs, so after the success with Colin’s music in the movie, he introduced him to the show, very successfully as well.

Colin can do both solo shows (wonderfully) as well as full band shows. The show last night was a solo effort. It’s likely that this entire tour is a solo tour, but don’t take my word for it.

He came on stage at 8:30pm (I’ll cover the opening act later on). There were already three acoustic guitars sitting on the stage, but he had a fourth one already strapped on when he walked out to greet the crowd. I am using the word crowd literally. The show was sold out, and Birchmere can seat 650 people, so this is no small accomplishment, especially in these times, for a solo artist.

Colin Hay

Colin Hay

Interestingly, and more predictable, he mentioned up front that this was the sixth date on the current tour, and the first one that sold out. Of course, he complimented the audience on being so smart. πŸ˜‰

We have been listening to a lot of Colin Hay recently, so we had no doubt we’d like the show. Even though we were 45th on line to get in, we ended up with nearly the best seats in the house. Right near the stage, all the tables seat 12 people each. So, even though there were 45 parties of people who were seated before us, there were still five empty seats at the table immediately in front of the microphone at center stage. Lois sat in the second seat in (giving the person to her left the best seat in the house, and Lois the third best seat) and I was to Lois’ right.

It’s important to us to sit up close, because Lois is effectively legally blind, and if we’re even mid-pack, everything on stage is basically a blur to her. But, it turned out to be a blessing from another perspective. Colin Hay is simply hysterical. He told very long stories in between most songs (and told one even before he started the show). It was pretty close to a full-blow standup comedy act (which is one of my favorite things in the world), but most of the stories actually related to the song he was about to sing, making them all-the-more special (but no less funny!).

By sitting up so close, we could fully appreciate every nuance in his facial expressions while he was telling the stories/jokes. He’s truly a master story teller / comedian (I’m convinced he could make a living as a standup comic), and that includes his ability to use body language, facial expressions, little noises, etc., to complement his schtick.

So, enough with the comedy, how about the music? Awesome. His guitar playing is excellent, and very consistent. While he picks beautifully on a few numbers, he’s mostly a fancy rhythm guitarist (by fancy, I mean that he throws in picks here and there, a few small leads, and mostly change-of-pace strumming to complement the beat of the song).

What stands out though is his voice, and the lyrics. He’s a great songwriter, both lyrics and melodies, but his voice is really exceptional. It’s very strong, yet very clear as well. Even when he hits very high notes (surprisingly), his voice remains steady and clear.

The sound system (and sound engineers) at Birchmere is one of the most consistently good ones of all the venues we frequent. Last night was no exception. That enhanced his skills, since there was no distraction due to distortion, feedback, incorrect leveling, etc.

He played a bunch of fan favorites (I could hear a number of people behind me singing along to most of the songs). He has a new CD coming out in August, and he played at least one new number that will be on that CD (at least that’s the only one that I recall him explicitly mentioning was from the new CD).

After he said goodnight, he never left the stage (thankfully), and played one more song as an encore. He encouraged the audience to sing the entire song along with him, and many did. He tested them a few times, stopping to sing, to see if people were singing, and more importantly, singing the correct words. It turned out to be pretty funny.

While I’ve seen many solo acts in the past 37 years, many of whom were brilliant, he has to rank near the top in overall showmanship due to his ability to mesmerize with words, as well as with song. He had the crowd eating out of his hands from the minute he stepped on the stage, until the minute he left, which was a total of 100 minutes.

Colin Hay Goodnight

Colin Hay Goodnight

If I had to guess, I’d say he sang for 60 minutes, and spoke/joked for 40. A very good blend. Lois commented to me that given his energy level when he sings, if he didn’t take a break to tell stories, he might not have been able to make it through a 90 minute set!

One of his songs that we love is called What Would Bob Do?, and he didn’t sing it last night (unfortunately). It has a very special meaning to us now, because we just recently wrote a custom version of that song (using only his chorus), and turned it into a birthday tribute song to our wonderful friend Bob! The we in that sentence was his family and friends (there were seven separate writers, all of whom wrote at least two verses each!).

Here’s a link to a YouTube video of Colin Hay doing What Would Bob Do?

Here’s a link to our YouTube video tribute to our friend Bob! (it’s 10 minutes long, just warning you in advance!) πŸ˜‰

Anyway, to repeat, he was awesome. We bought two of his CDs after the show, but we didn’t hang around to get them signed because the line was long, he wasn’t out yet, and we had a long drive back to Fredericksburg. Next time!

Colin had an opening act, Janet Robin, a solo act as well. She’s been opening for him a number of times on this tour (but not all). Rather than spend too much time on Janet, my summary is that she’s talented in ways that aren’t really suited to a solo act, in particular to an acoustic solo act.

Janet Robin

Janet Robin

She’s a considered a top guitarist by many. There’s little doubt that she has a lot of talent on the guitar, but it struck me that she’d have been more comfortable with an electric guitar than an acoustic one. Again, I could probably elaborate, but we were really there to see Colin, not Robin.

Her voice isn’t that great (at least not last night, but produced, her voice sounds better on her MySpace page, which I’m listening to now, as I type this). We weren’t that impressed with her songwriting either, so that was really three strikes out of three possibilities (though her guitar playing was still reasonably impressive!).

That said, I liked her (not the performance of the songs). Much like Colin Hay, she spent nearly as much time telling stories between songs as she did singing. She’s very funny (in a self-effacing way). In fact, I would have preferred that she played less, and talked more. In addition to enjoying her stories, it made her personally more likeable to me, and I was therefore more tolerant of her performance.

This was in stark contrast to when Chelsea Lee opened for Girlyman at Birchmere. That night, Chelsea’s voice was extraordinary, but her personality was non-existent to negative, making all of us anxiously await her departure from the stage.

Anyway, to be fair, there are definitely many Janet Robin loving fans, including some at the show (that likely came more for her than for Colin). One sat two seats away from us. So, as in all music, it’s a matter of personal taste. If yours are like ours, you won’t be seeking out a Janet Robin solo effort…

Not much back-story to tell here, so I’ll just say that my typical pulled pork sandwich was excellent, as it always is! πŸ™‚

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

I know I’m boring my regular readers by repeating that Girlyman is my favorite group. At least you now that this continues to be the case. πŸ˜‰

Last night was the ninth time that we’ve seen them perform live, and the fourth time we’ve seen them at Joe’s Pub, our favorite club. We love their music and on stage antics enough to want to see them over and over (in addition to listening to their CDs a ton as well). But, while there are repeats (mostly crowd favorites) among the shows, they always manage to keep thing fresh, even within a given tour.

Last night had some serious surprises, even for those that have seen them as often (or even more) than we have. They played three songs that we’ve never heard before.

The first was Mary, a cover of a Patty Griffin song. Absolutely gorgeous. They also told a funny side-story about it, and Patty, who was also on their recent Folk Cruise, Cayamo.

Next was a new song of theirs called Wherever You Keep. As much as I love all three of them as musicians, the magic of Girlyman is their harmony and lyrics. In this new song, Nate plays a beautiful finger-picked acoustic guitar, while Ty and Doris just sing, no instruments in hand. (Saying that Ty and Doris just sing is like saying that Lance Armstrong just rides a bike!) πŸ˜‰

The fact that there’s only a quiet (but gorgeous!) guitar for the background, makes their voices so front-and-center, that you get the chills seconds into the song. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this new song, even though I’ve only heard it once! I’m praying that it will be on the new studio CD coming out later this year (they’re hard at work on it now!).

Either way, I will have a copy in a month or so. Girlyman records all of their live concerts, and you can order a CD for $20, right after the show, and have it mailed to you after the tour is over, and they have a chance to mix it. We have CDs of the last four shows we’ve seen (ever since they started offering this service), and we love them all. The CDs include the on stage banter as well.

The last of the new songs is by Doris, called Nothing Called Home. They joked that it hasn’t been arranged yet, and that each time they do it on stage it comes out differently. Doris apologized in advance that she even occasionally forgets some of the words. Last night, they nailed it, Doris didn’t miss a beat, and the random arrangement of the night (Nate joked that it was #57) sounded great to me!

For the past year, they’ve been closing the shows with Joyful Sign (the first song I ever heard of theirs, and one of my favorites). Last night they opened the show with it, setting a different tone than in most of the other shows. Like I said above, they keep it fresh.

They always have a request section, and they did two last night, Young James Dean and Speechless. Wonderful!

They did an absolutely incredible rendition of Maori. Lois and I love this song and listen to it in the car all the time. Neither of us can remember whether we’ve ever heard them do it live though. It’s possible, but given how many times we listen to it on the CD, it’s hard to be sure and separate our memory from reality.

I linked the lyrics above, because the song starts with a startling line:

When I first met you, I said
“My God, get away.
You smell like fish heads.”

Obviously, we know this by heart (and I even joked about it in a Facebook comment recently). Last night, Nate told the story behind the song, and it turns out that the above line is actually true! Anyway, the song is so rich, and their harmonies intricate, that it has to be a very difficult song to nail live (perhaps that’s one of the reasons they don’t do it often), but last night was perfect.

They played a bunch of other favorites, that I could list out (because I snagged the set list, like we always try to), but I’ll let the above stand as the differences, rather than repeat things I’ve said before. As for all four times that we’ve seen them at Joe’s, we were right up against the stage, smack in front of Nate.

Nate Borofsky

Nate Borofsky

Ty Greenstein

Ty Greenstein

Doris Muramatsu

Doris Muramatsu

They came out for an encore and played two songs, also done to perfection. After the show, we stood on line with the rest of their adoring fans and ordered our live CD from the show we just saw. We said our hellos and goodbyes to all three and headed back to the apartment, still aglow.

After we said goodnight to our two guests, we turned to each other and simultaneously said that we each thought that this was likely the best Girlyman show we’d been to. Of course, we both laughed that they’re all great, so it’s a little like splitting hairs, but still, that was our initial instinct, and it hasn’t faded, nearly 24 hours later.

If you tuned in only to hear about the show, go away now. For the hardy among you, here are the background details of how we came to see the show, and the day that led up to it.

Last October, we bought tickets to see Girlyman this coming Saturday (4/4/09) at the Barns at Wolftrap. In keeping with that, we expected to be in Virginia for the week before that show so we purchased tickets to see Cherish The Ladies at the Barns for last night (4/1/09). We also bought tickets to see Colin Hay at the Birchmere tomorrow night (4/3/09).

I’ve written about Cherish The Ladies before. They are fantastic and I was really looking forward to seeing them again, especially on a bigger stage (more on that in a moment). We’ve never seen Colin Hay before, but he’s very quickly become a new favorite of ours, and we are excited to see him tomorrow night (yes, we’re down in Virginia now, so we’ll be able to make that show!).

A month ago, we found out that Girlyman was going to be at Joe’s Pub on 4/1. While I felt badly that we would miss them in our favorite venue, I told Lois that my vote would be to keep our original schedule, see Cherish The Ladies, and then see Girlyman a few days later, both at the Barns. She was torn and wanted to think about it.

After thinking about it for a few hours, she firmly decided that she’d prefer to see Girlyman. We gave our tickets to Cherish The Ladies away to a friend (and colleague at Zope). He went last night with his wife, and reported today that the show was great. In particular, he really liked the step dancers.

I mentioned above that I was interested in seeing them on a bigger stage (which is unusual for me, since I love tiny clubs!). That was precisely because I’ve seen YouTube videos of them playing venues that could support the step dancing, and I loved it, and really wanted to see it live. We saw them at an awesome venue, but a tiny one, where no dancers could fit.

So, even though I missed out, both of us were thrilled that the tickets went to good use. Of course, we were doubly glad that Girlyman created an even more magical night for us than we expected (and you all know, we have high expectations for them to begin with!).

We love to introduce as many people to the wonder and joys of Girlyman, so we never buy just two tickets to see them. Since this show was scheduled to begin at 9:30pm on a Wednesday, we only bought four tickets, because we knew it could be difficult to find people who would want to stay out that late on a school night.

We have been trying to get together for a while with a good friend of ours, and his new girlfriend (new to us, I don’t know how long they’ve been together). When I offered him to be our guests, he wrote back saying that she was a big Girlyman fan, and that they would be happy to join us. Obviously, we liked her instantly, even though we haven’t met her yet. πŸ˜‰

Unfortunately, Tuesday morning, the day before the show, he let me know that both of them had horrible colds, and would be unable to attend. Uh oh, we realized that it might be tricky to find people at this late date. We were correct. A number of couples turned us down, one after another.

Finally, one friend told me that he would love to come, but his wife was in Japan with their baby. He said he’d understand if we passed and went for another couple. We liked the idea of filling one seat guaranteed, and being able to broaden our search to single people as well.

But, before we broadened our search, I called one of our favorite couples, and invited the husband only (and I made that invitation through the wife, so there was nothing nefarious involved), πŸ˜‰ knowing that the wife wouldn’t want to be out that late under any circumstances. Thankfully, he accepted, and we were set. Whew.

The next day (yesterday, the day of the show), we had two friends over for lunch. We had the most amazing Sushi meal from our favorite sushi place (conveniently located exactly across the street from our apartment), Hane Sushi. In addition to many of my favorites, I tried the Spicy Lobster Tartar. It’s cooked, so I don’t know why they call it Tartar. That said, it’s one of the more exceptional dishes I’ve eaten lately. Yummy.

Neither of our guest husbands (not the same people that were over for lunch) had seen or heard Girlyman before. Both thoroughly enjoyed the show, and one of them became an instant fan, purchasing one of their CD’s (download) from Amazon minutes after he got home. πŸ™‚

Update: after reading this post, their new fan wrote to me to say that he purchased three of their albums from Amazon downloads! Now he has something to do on the airplane on his upcoming trip. πŸ™‚

The Boys

The Boys

One final Girlyman anecdote that happened today.

At Zope, our VP of Finance and Administration is a big Girlyfan. So is her 5-year-old daughter. Both have seen them live (with us) twice. The mom just had another child less than a month ago. Today, via IM, she was telling Lois that he was particularly cranky, and she was having trouble settling him down.

Lois instantly suggested that she play one of Joyful Sign, Through To Sunrise or Kittery Tide (all three being very up-beat Girlyman songs). A few minutes later, the mom replied that the song that did the trick was Hold It All At Bay. She said “You should have seen the look on his face the minute that song started playing!”

For the few of you that made it this far (congratulations on being masochists), and somehow don’t know this yet, that’s my favorite Girlyman song. So, he’s a kindred spirit of mine, and Girlyman has just increased their lifelong fan club by one very young fan. πŸ™‚

Update: with permission from the mom, here’s a photo of the confirmed youngest Girlyfan, as of 4/2/2009!

Youngest Girlyfan

Youngest Girlyfan