Girlyman at Highline Ballroom

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For those keeping score, and I know that there are scores of you doing so, 😉 last night was the 11th time we’ve seen Girlyman perform live (the second time at the Highline Ballroom).

In addition to owning their four CDs, we also purchase the recordings of each show we see live (and yes, I listen to them all!). If you don’t know Girlyman, you might think that after all of the listening on my iPod, and seeing them live, that we’re merely groupies (stalkers?), because what could be new and fresh for us in a Girlyman show?

Well, you’d be wrong, but if you’ve ready any of my previous (lengthy) posts about Girlyman, you would have chosen your response more wisely. 😉

First, there were the usual surprises. By that I mean that Girlyman introduced three new songs last night (at least, perhaps it was four, but I’m pretty sure it was three). One, a new song by Ty, was sung solo by her, with Doris and Nate leaving the stage completely. That’s a first for any of the shows we’ve seen.

Ty

Ty

Most of the shows we’ve seen in the past year have had at least one song we’ve never heard before. That alone makes it worth it for us to show up, and order our live CD, so that we can capture that song before the new CD hits the stands (more on that in a minute). Of course, some of those new songs may not even make the new CD, so we still want the live version.

In addition, Girlyman has a pretty big catalog by now, so each show has some mystery to it in terms of what they’re in the mood to play, or what people will call for in the request section. Lately (as I’ve written from the past few shows), they’ve surprised with some oldies but goodies. Last night they picked another one that we’ve never heard them play live: Even If.

The Highline Ballroom is a gorgeous, large club. It can seat 400. The sound system is excellent, and a majority of the seats (dinner table style seating) have good views of the stage. The shows at Joe’s Pub are more intimate, but the vibe of a larger audience at Highline, coupled with the excellent sound system, makes this a wonderful venue for Girlyman.

Girlyman really had their vocals humming last night. All three were in good voice, and as the songs built momentum (a trademark of many Girlyman numbers), their power really came through, and their voices remained crystal clear even at full volume.

Doris

Doris

Nate

Nate

On stage, they announced that they just finished recording their new CD. They also just finished mixing it. Their relief was palpable. My guess is that we’ll all have our sweaty little hands on the CD in late July, or early August, but what do I know…

In what I ascribe as at least partially caused by that milestone, there were some more muffs last night than usual in a Girlyman show. In what is completely typical of all Girlyman shows, those muffs (e.g., starting a song while a guitar was still out of tune) were handled with humor and class. In all cases, they restarted the song, and (of course) nailed it the second time. That too is one of the joys of live music, being part of the experience.

Newcomers most likely thought they were funny throughout, and they were, but the humor was a little choppier than usual, not as crisp and incisive. Still, I laughed a bunch, and since the music is the top billing, any laughs are a wonderful bonus.

Another result of the exhaling process is that they were willing to entertain more requests than they typically do (though they were very generous at the Barns at Wolf Trap as well). In addition to satisfying many people in the audience, it also caused the show to be a little longer than usual, which was very welcome (yes, I could listen to them all night!). The encore ended up being two more requests, making it something like five songs requested by the audience during this show.

Girlyman

Girlyman

In total, they were on stage for roughly 105 minutes of wonderful music and good (but not their best) banter.

Opening for them was Katie Sawicki, accompanied by Adam Sweeney. This was the fourth time that Adam has accompanied Katie, and both Lois and Wes commented to me afterward that Katie should continue touring with him.

Katie Sawicki

Katie Sawicki

Adam Sweeney

Adam Sweeney

For the most part, we’ve been very impressed with the groups that open for Girlyman (that is, when it’s their choice as to who opens). The one serious exception (and it may not have been their choice) was the only other time we’ve been to the Highline Ballroom, when the opening act was too much of a mismatch (style-wise) to Girlyman.

Katie Sawicki was an exceptionally good match to Girlyman. She finger-picks the guitar beautifully, both electric and acoustic. Adam plays banjo, guitar and accordion, and sings harmony very nicely with Katie. She did one song solo.

Katie has a lovely voice, thoughtful lyrics, and a very gentle style on stage. If I had a single complaint, it might be that she could have sung a tad louder, or they could have cranked the sound board just a tad. If she had to err, she erred on the correct side, as too loud would not have been welcome.

The only freaky thing to me was that Katie is the doppelganger of a very good friend of ours (who happens to live in Atlanta, where Girlyman reside) even down to the facial expressions. So, I kept thinking that our very dear friend was on stage singing to us. I got over it, and enjoyed her music, but it still was a very strange sensation.

Katie played for about 45 minutes, and a number of people told me after the show that they were extremely surprised and pleased with how much they enjoyed her performance. I guess most people have very low expectations from an opening act…

There’s always a back story to any of our nights out, and usually a Girlyman back story is longer. Last night was no exception. We’ve seen them in NY a few more times than in VA (seven in NY, four in VA), but we tend to bring a larger crowd with us in VA, partially because of the venues, and partially because scheduling a bunch of NY friends on the same night is often an insurmountable challenge.

If you’ve been reading this space for two years, then you know that ever since I accidentally discovered Girlyman in August 2007, I’ve been on a mission to introduce them to as many people as I can. One of the most effective ways of doing that is by bringing people to see them live. Most enjoy the music and become fans. A few have become fanatics for the band (very gratifying). It’s the rarest person that doesn’t really care for their music after the show, but that’s happened too, and I survived. Whew.

Given that last night was in a large venue with excellent table seating, and that we knew about it well in advance, we decided to try and break the record of the number of people we had brought to a Girlyman show in the past. Our record was 15 people at the Birchmere, this past October.

Two months before the show, I sent out a large blind distribution inviting people to be our guests for the show. Sparing you the many twists and turns along the way, we ended up purchasing 20 tickets, and due to some last-minute personal issues, ended up bringing 19 (including us) to the show. Most of the tables at the Highline Ballroom seat six people, so we took three of them and squeezed a seventh at the head of one of the tables, right up against the stage.

We had lots of food, drink and merriment for the two hours leading up to Katie, and it was a blast catching up with some people that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like. I think I can honestly say that everyone in our party had a delightful evening, in terms of company, food, drink, and of course, the show itself!

We broke our record (and have set a new bar, which we hope to leap over on October 11th, back at the Birchmere again) and created at least a handful of new fans (hopefully more).

A fabulous evening all around. Thanks to everyone who attended, and to Girlyman for putting on such a great show! 🙂

I have to conclude with an incredible small world story. One of the couples that attended last night was married last year on 08/08/08 (I blogged about that wedding too). Another couple that attended last night is getting married this year, on 10/10. They had never met before last night.

In introducing themselves, and getting to know each other a bit, they discovered that the pastor that married the 08/08/08 couple will be marrying the 10/10/09 couple as well. That this tidbit is true is strange and cool enough. That they would separately be invited by us, chat to each other, and figure that out so quickly is a little other-worldly to me. 🙂