We’ve had the pleasure of seeing The Paper Raincoat perform twice before, and I’ve covered both extensively, the first time at Canal Room and the second at Rockwood Music Hall. You can read those posts here and here, since I will take a different tack in this post, and everything that I said in those posts remains true and applies to last night’s show as well. 🙂
Quick background (refresher for those of you who’ve read the other posts, or know The Paper Raincoat). The group is a collaboration between ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong, accompanied on drums by the incredible Adam Christgau.
The only difference in last night’s show (and it was a very big one) was that they had a string quartet on stage throughout. The show was a release party for their brand new CD, self-titled (The Paper Raincoat). The CD has strings on a number of songs, so this was the first time they got to play live with the same sound as on the CD.
It was awesome, and the quartet was great. Since you can mix a CD to balance everything perfectly, the strings only add to the beauty of the CD. If I understand correctly, a number of people consider their mixer, Eddie Jackson, to be a genius, and listening to the CD, I have no reason to object to that.
Live, the strings add a lot, but they also detract/distract a bit, since the subtlety and blend of ambeR and Alex (both vocals and instruments) got run over just a drop.
Why are we so enamored by ambeR, Alex and The Paper Raincoat, separately and together? You’ll be sorry you asked, because there are many reasons, not all of which will be covered here (you’ll be thankful for my restraint). 🙂
They feel like the hardest working people in the industry (of course I’m sure that’s not true, meaning that so many talented musicians give it their all), but when I recount some of their accomplishments, you might agree that it at least feels like they are delivering on more levels than many, if not most.
We only discovered them in mid-April this year. In six months, here are the accomplishments I’m aware of, off the top of my head, with zero research, presented in no particular order:
- They recorded an incredible CD, including writing all of the songs (music and lyrics). Go out and buy it, you won’t regret it. If you’re nervous, listen to five of their songs on their MySpace page first.
- They arranged and produced the CD themselves.
- They designed all of the artwork and packaging for the CD, which is completely non-standard (i.e., very creative). (Update: as per the comment below from Alex, the artwork was hand drawn by Diana Ho!)
- They promoted the pre-release of the CD very creatively, and designed three levels of pre-orders to connect with existing fans, and have the fans help pay for this effort, while providing great value in exchange for paying a premium, early.
- They toured (and are touring) in support of the CD, as headliners and opening for the incredible Vienna Teng as well.
- ambeR put out her own CD (a solo effort: Good Mystery), and what an effort it is. I’ll admit here for the first time publicly that I was nervous that the quality of each CD would suffer because ambeR was working on both at the same time, and I was wrong, as both are spectacular!
- ambeR also designed the CD packaging, and the pre-order extravaganza, which included hand-made boxes to lovingly hold the CD. We cherish ours.
- ambeR headlined Joe’s Pub for her own CD release party on August 21st, 2009. I covered that show in this post, and I repeat here that it was flat-out one of the best shows we’ve ever seen, and we see so many shows, so that statement still amazes even me. 😉
- ambeR arranged the entire show at Joe’s Pub, as well as her solo CD.
- ambeR toured extensively with Joshua Radin and Gary Jules, and received rave reviews all over.
- Alex produced CDs for Alex Berger and Ari Hest.
- Alex runs (probably with others, but like I said, I’m not doing research here!) AngelHouse Studios in Williamsburg, NY (that’s Brooklyn for those of you not in the know). 😉
- Alex tours with Vienna Teng as part of her trio. This is separate and apart from when The Paper Raincoat opens for Vienna, where I imagine he plays both sets!
- Both of them support many other musicians, some of whom they’ve co-written with, by unselfishly appearing as guests in their shows.
- Each is a multi-instrumentalist (OK, this isn’t an accomplishment in the past six months, but it deserves mention in a list of their talents, including the fact that they have to practice that much longer to stay on top of multiple instruments!). For The Paper Raincoat, ambeR is mostly a keyboard player (including electric, piano, glockenspiel, etc.). Last night, she played guitar just once, in the encore. For ambeR Rubarth solo artist, she plays way more guitar (wonderfully!). Alex plays guitar, keyboards and a few other things for The Paper Raincoat. He drums (among other things?) for Vienna Teng, and on various CDs.
- They both (separately and collectively) are very active with Social Media. While I’m connected to them through a number of channels, I consume most of their updates via Twitter: @Paper_Raincoat – @ambeRRubarth – @highceilings (the last one is Alex Wong’s Twitter handle). Aside from being active without being obnoxious, they offer specials (like details of secret shows) so it’s useful to follow them if you’re a fan. Also, they are very responsive and interactive with their fans. Finally, because they are part of a very large community of talented artists, just checking out who they communicate with allows you to discover other great musicians!
- They are both extremely nice people, who are very accessible. Even if you never see them live, you can tell from their lyrics how deep they are in addition to just being nice. And yes, for the record, being nice is definitely an accomplishment! 😉
- Last one: they are fan friendly. When we pre-ordered ambeR’s CD, and then again for The Paper Raincoat one, the minute the final masters were ready, everyone who pre-ordered was given a link to download a digital version of the CD, so we could begin to enjoy them before the physical CD was available. I’m sure other bands do it, but we have pre-ordered a number of CDs from other artists, and only ambeR and Alex have done this in our personal experience. Trust your fans (not necessarily the world), they really want to help you not hurt you.
OK, I could probably go on (Really? Yes!), but if I haven’t made my point yet, then I should give up trying to convince you anyway… 🙂
We hope that they continue to produce more Paper Raincoat goodness over the years, but either way, we are 100% sure that we’ll be following ambeR and Alex in many other projects that they are involved in. It’s inevitable!
I mentioned in my post on Sunday morning about Ceili Rain that we believe it’s important to find as many ways to support the groups you love as you can. The most straightforward way is to purchase merchandise (CDs, T-Shirts, Posters, etc.) at the shows that you attend. We do that, nearly every time.
Since we pre-ordered two packages of their top-level, which comes with four CDs between the two, we didn’t really need to buy anything last night. That’s not the point though, right? It’s about supporting them (you are paying attention, right?) so we bought 13 additional CDs last night to give away as gifts to friends who otherwise would be unlikely to check them out.
So, at least some of you who are reading this post will be the very lucky recipients of a free copy of a fantastic CD. Congratulations, you’ve indirectly supported The Paper Raincoat, and you can help spread the word. 🙂
Whew, this has been way long already, but I needed to get all this goodness out of my system. Unfortunately for those of you who have OCD, and can’t quit reading a post until it’s over, you still have a while to get to the end… 😉
In addition to last night being the CD release party for The Paper Raincoat, it was actually a co-billed show with another group, Elizabeth and the Catapult. We hadn’t heard them before, but I had heard the name and had no idea what to expect. Sorry, all the pics of E&TC came out too poorly to post. 🙁
Elizabeth Ziman is the heart and soul of the group. She has an absolutely extraordinary voice, completely captivating. She plays the piano exceptionally well. She played accordion (well) on one number, and guitar on one other number. Still, even though her piano skills are top notch, it’s the voice, the voice, seriously, it’s the voice!
The Catapult consists of two really good musicians that support her well. Pete Lalish plays guitar (and accordion on one song) and Danny Molad on drums (I also believe he’s Elizabeth’s boyfriend, but don’t quote me on that). They had a bass player with them last night whose name I didn’t catch. I just had to work way too hard to (possibly) find the right one: Emeen Zarookian.
It’s a shame that Elizabeth doesn’t name him in any of the interviews (though she raves about him), because he really seemed to be the glue that brought their sound to life! I’m hoping that I indentified him correctly!
There are no obviously good links to the music of Peter Lalish or Danny Molad (as individuals). Peter was good all night, possibly even better than that. Danny was superb on the drums, throughout the set.
They are very tight and produced a quality sound. So, perfect, a new band to follow around like lost puppy dogs, right? Unfortunately, not for us (but yes, for many other people, including most of the crowd that remained after The Paper Raincoat set).
First, pigeonholing their sound/style is hard, and possibly a bit unfair to them. Still, I’ll do it. They are a very interesting mix/blend of Jazz/Pop/Classical/Blues, put together in a very creative way. All of that is heavily tinged with Rock, even hard rock at times, so it’s really hard to say they’re this or that. They also write original songs, though they do perform a few covers.
None of the lyrics grabbed us. And yet, they’re a clear focus. Elizabeth has a lot to say, and she’s clearly doing it through her lyrics. I suspect that if I listened to them in the quiet of my headphones, perhaps even just once, I too would become a huge fan. On the other hand, most of the groups that I heard in concert first (Girlyman, The Paper Raincoat, Indigo Girls, etc.), I was mesmerized by the lyrics instantly. They hooked me right away.
Last night, I found myself drifting away from the lyrics, and allowing Elizabeth’s voice to wash over me, purely as an instrument. No complaints, but it did feel like something (ever-so-slight) was missing…
The other downside (no blame to anyone, just a harsh reality) is that it took 30 minutes to tear down The Paper Raincoat and set up Elizabeth and the Catapult. Given that The Paper Raincoat didn’t come on until 9:40pm, and played for nearly 50 minutes, Elizabeth and the Catapult didn’t come on stage until 11pm! That’s way past our bedtime (and now true fans of E&TC have a good excuse to ignore everything I’ve said about them!).
They played a long set (thanks for that, it made the value of the ticket price exceptional!), on stage for about 70 minutes. After saying goodbye to The Paper Raincoat, we got out of there at 12:15am. Way too late for these old folks, but an incredible night nonetheless.
P.S. While waiting on line to get in, we bumped into Jason Black who we met on September 21st at the Livestrong Fundraiser we attended. Then, while seated, we spotted Michelle Citrin walking by (she performed at the Fundraiser) and I had to stop her to tell her how absolutely awesome she was at that show!