October, 2009:

Ceili Rain at Tin Angel

Send to Kindle

If you’ve visited this space before, then you know we love Ceili Rain. After listening to them for years, we finally got to see them live this summer and I wrote about it in this post.

That show was awesome in every respect. That said, it was an outdoor concert, and that has it’s own feel (and in this case, particular problems). I was talking to the drummer of Ceili Rain (the amazing Bill Bleistine), and he told me that one of the best places for us to catch one of their shows indoors was at Tin Angel in Philadelphia. Shortly after seeing them at Joyful Noise II, they announced a show at the Tin Angel, and we immediately purchased tickets!

Tin Angel is a pretty small club, with a very nice atmosphere and vibe. It has the feel of a long railroad car. The stage is teeny tiny, and with Ceili Rain showing up with a full band (six people on the stage), there were some acrobatic moves necessary to stay out of each other’s way (especially given how active Bob Halligan Jr. always is!).

They performed the same entrance last night as they did at Joyful Noise III, which was surprising and impressive given the vast difference in the venues. Bill Bleistine, playing a drum strapped around his neck (as in drum and fife), along with John Dreibelbis playing the bagpipes, came up the stair case in the back, so that at first you just heard the drums and pipes, then you saw them. The crowd clapped to Bill’s beat, and was already in a frenzy by the time the procession reached the stage, and the full band joined them!

Drum and Pipes Processional Ceili Rain Arriving on Stage

The majority (all?) of the crowd were hard-core Ceili Rain fans. Nearly everyone knew the words to every song, and reveled in the opportunity to sing out loud with Bob (or on occasion without him!), when prompted. Since I sing That’s All the Lumber out loud in my car all the time, it was a hoot to sing it at the top of my lungs last night, with 100 other people. 🙂

Each of them could sustain my interest for an entire set, even if they were on stage alone, that’s how good they are as musicians, individually. Obviously, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but I’ll give a sentence or two on each of the parts. Standing left-to-right on the stage:

John Dreibelbis (I couldn’t find a good link for him) played the pipes, tin whistles and flute. He was good throughout, but I was significantly more impressed with Burt Mitchell who we saw at Joyful Noise III.

John Dreibelbis

John Dreibelbis

Joe Davoli on the fiddle. Awesome, as he was the last time. He has an incredible touch on the fiddle, and when he took solos (specifically, on Yankee’s Revenge, which he played mostly with John), his fingers ran up and down the fiddle like greased lightning!

Joe Davoli

Joe Davoli

Bob Halligan Jr. on vocals and acoustic guitar. I could listen to him sing a capella all night, what a voice, it’s really an instrument, not just a delivery vehicle for lyrics. He’s also superb on the guitar. He’s excellent on keyboards too, but Tin Angel is way too small to have crammed that in as well.

Bob Halligan Jr Bob Kicking

Raymond Arias on electric guitar and vocals. As I mentioned in the last post, Raymond’s voice and harmonies complement Bob perfectly. His guitar play last night was on fire in general, but really smoking in a rock and roll medley that highlighted him singing lead and playing lead guitar.

Raymond Arias

Raymond Arias

Kevin de Souza played bass. He was incredible throughout the set. Given the size of the stage, and the pressure they had to not go over (there was another show after Ceili Rain), Kevin didn’t get to take a solo like he did at Joyful Noise III. We missed that, given how great he is, but he still kept the bottom full all night, and toward the end of the show (I believe on Love Travels, but I wouldn’t swear to it), he threw in some really fast bass lines at the end of the song.

Kevin de Souza

Kevin de Souza

Bill Bleistine was squeezed into the back of the stage trapped behind his drum set. That didn’t stop him from reinforcing my belief that he’s one the best drummers I’ve ever seen/heard live (and I’m a big fan of quite a number of drummers!). The man is just amazing, and tireless. Keeping up with Bob’s energy on any instrument is difficult enough, but the drummer better do cardio and weight training as well, or he’ll easily pass out during one of these shows!

Bill Bleistine

Bill Bleistine

They were on stage for 95 minutes, and were definitely being rushed by the club to wrap it up and clear the stage and club for the next show. I understand the commercial nature of the business, so I’m not annoyed, but it was disappointing nonetheless. These were adoring fans who wanted either more music, or more time to schmooze with their idols, and the band was certainly happy to give them either (both I suspect), but it wasn’t to be.

Most of the audience respectfully caught up with the various band members as they were packing up their instruments and then we all said goodnight and piled out into a lovely Philadelphia evening.

On our way out, Lois bought six more CDs, even though we own them all. Buying CDs at shows is one of the most direct ways that you can support the bands that you love. When we buy extras like this, it’s always for the purpose of giving them out as gifts, to introduce new potential fans. Try it, you’ll like it! 🙂

That’s it for the music. On to our back story, if you have the patience for a bit more magic. 🙂

In the post about Joyful Noise III, I called out Rich Baringer, the main coordinator of the event. Right after we bought the tickets to the show, Lois said that she thought it would be special (for us, for Rich and his wife, and for Ceili Rain as well) if we were to invite Rich and Mary Beth to join us for the show. I thought it was a great idea. We reached out, and they agreed.

A few weeks later, Lois was exchanging emails with another member of their church, who had been involved in the fund-raising aspects of the show, and with whom we interacted quite a bit during the day, and we invited him along with his wife (we had not met her yet) to join as well. They too accepted, and we bought two more tickets.

To get a reserved spot at Tin Angel you have to eat dinner downstairs (street level) at their restaurant, Serrano, otherwise, the show is first-come first-served. We made a reservation for six people at 5:30pm (the show began at 7:30pm).

The food was exquisite (all six of us had different dishes, and all raved about their meal). We got to know the other two couples better, and are very happy for it, because our instinct that they were exactly the type of people we would like to be friends with couldn’t have been more on target! We both really enjoyed meeting Bruce’s wife (Bunny), as well as enjoying all of the conversation, food, and the show, with four lovely people.

Dinner Friends Dinner Friends

While I highly recommend the food at Serrano, and the staff were all very nice as well, it wasn’t all smooth as silk. The place is as long and narrow as Tin Angel (one building, separate floors), and couldn’t have been noisier if they were pumping in heavy metal (I think the noise was all from dinner conversations!). We had to scream at each other to be heard.

Our entrees came out very late, which made us nervous about missing the start of the show, and caused us to wolf them down. To repeat, they were fantastic, so in the end, it all worked out well, but a slightly more pleasant dinner experience could have been had with less noise, and the food served 15 minutes earlier…

We headed home after the show and walked into the apartment at 11:20pm. Not too bad in terms of the logistics, and well worth the 4-hour round-trip drive to enjoy such a wonderful evening with so many wonderful people!

Indigo Girls at Tarrytown Music Hall

Send to Kindle

We saw the Indigo Girls for the first time this summer, in VA, covered in this post. When I saw that they were coming to Tarrytown Music Hall (which we found out last night was their first time there ever), I was so excited that I used it as the excuse to finally become a member of The Hall so that I could purchase tickets early. That worked out, as we got second row seats, center orchestra!

Much of what I said in that post could be repeated verbatim here, since I was just as impressed last night, and we’re still not experts in their music. That made us anomalies (again), as the overwhelming majority of the audience were serious Indigo Girls fans (nearly all were wonderfully respectful, even though they were loudly adoring as well).

Both Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are brilliant songwriters. Both have very strong voices. While Emily’s vocal range is probably a little wider, I was impressed the few times that Amy took the high notes in songs where Emily was singing lead.

Amy Ray

Amy Ray

Emily Saliers

Emily Saliers

Both are solid on all of the stringed instruments that they play. Emily really shines on the guitar and banjo, playing extremely sophisticated leads and picks. I would happily attend a show where Emily did nothing but play solo guitar! Of course, I would miss out on her voice, songwriting and harmonizing with Amy, but she would still be fantastic!

Once again, Julie Wolf joined them for the majority of their numbers. She played electric keyboards, accordion and grand piano, all wonderfully. She also harmonized with them on a number of songs (and with their guests as well), and she has a lovely voice, that blends perfectly with the Girls.

JulieWolf JulieWolf 2

They played an eclectic mix of songs last night. Huge crowd favorites (where they have to let the audience sing along, including typically having the audience sing an entire verse by themselves!), a nice selection from their new CD (Poseidon and the Bitter Bug), and some more obscure older numbers (Amy’s word!), that weren’t obscure at all from the crowd’s perspective, as they were shouting out for them!

What is impressive (to me) about them is the incredible energy and power they deliver, even in large venues, even though they are just using two stringed acoustic instruments. Julie adds a beautiful depth with the keyboards, but Amy and Emily achieve the same energy even when it’s just the two of them on stage.

About 2/3’s of the way through their set they introduced a special guest star. They turned over the stage to her for one song all by herself. That guest was Jill Hennessy, one of our favorite actresses who is now launching a musical career with her debut album, Ghost In My Head. We loved her in Law and Order, and even more so in Crossing Jordan, which we were addicted to.

She sang 10,000 Miles from her new CD. She has a fantastic voice, and accompanied herself very well on an acoustic guitar. Later in the show, she joined them for a few more numbers (sans guitar) to sing harmony, to close out the show. She was terrific and it was a real treat for both of us to get to see her perform!

Jill Hennessy 1 Jill Hennessy 2 Jill Hennessy 3

The Girls had another guest on stage for at least four numbers, Michelle Malone, who was also the opening act before the Girls came on. She complemented the harmonies very well, and played solid guitar with them (more on her guitar playing when I cover her as the opening act).

In both shows that we’ve attended, we found the Indigo Girls to be incredibly generous of spirit, to the opening act, to their guests, to each other, to Julie Wolf, and to the crowd. They are simply delightful human beings who radiate warmth and love. That they can write, sing and play instruments so well is just icing on the cake. 🙂

They closed the show with Closer to Fine (one of my all-time favorite songs, not just their songs!). Both Jill and Michelle came out to sing it with them. The second they started playing, people rushed the stage, and nearly everyone stood up (including us old fogies). It was magic (as it always is, I’m sure). Then they left the stage.

No one sat, and no one stopped clapping and cheering. Amy came out alone, with a mandolin, and played a gorgeous song that had all of the energy of all of them on stage at once, even though she was doing it all herself. She popped a mandolin string 2/3’s of the way through the song, and never missed a beat (at least there were seven strings still on there).

Amy Ray Solo Encore

Amy Ray Solo Encore

Sully, possibly the hardest-working roadie in the business (I mentioned her in my previous post as well), noticed instantly and had a replacement mandolin waiting in the wings, in case Amy gave her the slightest nod. Amy just played on with the broken one.

Sully

Sully

Then Emily, Julie and Michelle joined Amy and performed an amazing rendition of Wild Horses (an old Rolling Stones hit for you who are too young). Then Jill joined them as well for the final number, which tore down the house (as it always does), Galileo.

Including the three song encore, and Jill’s solo number, their set lasted just under two hours. Incredible, considering that they had an opening act as well. Bravo all around, on every level!

The Michelle Malone band opened the show. Michelle is an extremely good guitarist. In addition to incredible technique (she plays lead, slide, finger picking and rhythm!), she has a really interesting style. She has a very powerful voice, with a pretty wide range. That’s all the good stuff.

Michelle Malone

Michelle Malone

For me, they played too loud, in particular in support of a group like Indigo Girls. Michelle Malone is hard rock, through and through, and the sound system was cranked up (to a nearly uncomfortable level for my personal taste). She also emotes quite a bit in her vocals (also not atypical for loud rock), and I had trouble discerning sentences (though a word or two, here and there, would make its way to my ears).

That meant that her voice was purely another instrument, as I couldn’t really make out what the lyrics were. As I said before, she has a good voice, so that could have been OK, except for the elevated volume, and the fact that she spends a lot of time in the upper registers (which she can hit well), which was just less-than-pleasant for me.

Still, she’s multi-talented, and most the of crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy her set, and I’m sure that if she’s headlining, so people are showing up for a rock show, not an Indigo Girls show, then she could really appeal in a very big way!

To repeat, when she was on with the Indigo Girls (without her band), she was exceptional at fitting in perfectly with their sound, volume and vibe. At no point did Michelle detract from the Indigo Girls performance, and when she sang five part harmony with the Girls, Julie and Jill, it was fantastic!

Jason Rogers played bass and sang a bit of harmony. He was fine on the bass throughout the set, until he took a solo, where he lost my interest for the most part, with one small part that struck me as well done. He sang very little, but it could have been not at all, since you could barely hear his voice over the rest of the instruments and Michelle’s very powerful voice.

Jason Rogers

Jason Rogers

Katie Herron played the drums, and nearly pretended to sing on a few lines, before pushing the microphone away from her. Sorry, no good individual links for her, even though she’s played in a number of bands who have gotten reasonable press. For the most part, she was a solid, straight-up drummer, doing nothing particularly interesting.

Katie Herron

Katie Herron

During the last two numbers, Michelle cranked it up a lot, and Katie finally let loose a bit, giving me a glimpse of what she’s got. She followed that up with a nice solo effort in the last song. After drumming a bit, she handed the sticks to Jason, and used her hands on the drums like they were bongos. It was cool, and she was very good doing it.

Michelle Malone was on for nearly 50 minutes, so when you add the length of the Indigo Girls set to that, this was a long, healthy show, with a 20 minute intermission between the sets.

We had a great time, and look forward to catching the Girls again, soon!

Girlyman at Infinity Hall

Send to Kindle

Last night was our 12th time seeing Girlyman perform live. You’d think there wouldn’t be an opportunity for too many firsts but you’d be wrong. Amazingly, this was the first time we’ve seen Girlyman where we went alone. In the previous 11 shows, the smallest group we brought was two additional people, and the largest was 19 (including us).

Girlyman recently released their brand new studio CD, Everything’s Easy. I reviewed that CD in this post. A few weeks ago, they toured in Canada. Last night, they began an East Coast tour in support of this new CD.

Last night’s show was at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, CT. This is a beautifully restored building (from 1883) that opened for live music just a year ago. In May, they also opened a top-notch Bistro.

Infinity Hall Outside

Infinity Hall Outside

Infinity Hall Inside

Infinity Hall Inside

I’ve written about Girlyman so many times, that regular readers would be bored if I just repeated how wonderful they are/were last night. I’ll just mention a few things that were different (keeping in harmony with the opening paragraph, where I say there were a few firsts last night!).

Nate played a little electric keyboards (mostly with his left hand, with his baritone electric guitar still strapped on). This was a keyboard supplied by their opening act (who I will cover after I say a few more things about Girlyman).

Nate

Nate

Ty played a red electric guitar on a few numbers.

Ty Electric Guitar

Ty Electric Guitar

Doris was just her usual awesome self:

Doris

Doris

For roughly 2/3’s of the set, Girlyman had a drummer on stage with a full drum set. Her name is JJ Jones, who is the drummer for the opening act. She was excellent, throughout both sets. What was particularly interesting for me was hearing Joyful Sign (the second song of last night’s set), with a full drum set, live. It has a full drum set on the studio CD, so this was a more faithful reproduction of that.

I still love Girlyman without the drums, with or without Ty playing the djembe, but having a good drummer supporting them (and freeing Ty to play more guitar, something I’ve mentioned in some other posts), was a very nice touch. I’ll be fine with that becoming the norm, or reverting to no drums, if/when they stop touring with this opening act.

Finally, Nate was in rare form last night. His tuning songs were great and plentiful. All of their banter was hysterical. The audience ate up every drop of the music and laughter. They were on for just about 100 minutes.

Opening for Girlyman was Po’ Girl, the same group that they toured with in Canada, except that there, the roles were reversed, and Girlyman was the opening act.

Po’ Girl is made up of two exceptionally talented women, Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira, both singer/songwriters with fantastic voices and gorgeous harmonies between them. Accompanying them (and I guess now technically part of Po’ Girl) are Ben Sidelinger and the aforementioned JJ Jones. Between the four of them, they play a wide range of instruments, all expertly!

Allison Russell appears to be the front-person for the group. She has a wonderful voice and personality, and plays the clarinet, guitar, glockenspiel (and perhaps I missed one or two others!). Her clarinet play is outstanding, and unexpected in this type of group.

Allison Russell

Allison Russell

Awna Teixeira sings beautifully and plays guitar, electric bass, a small accordion, electric keyboards, glockenspiel and a bicycle bell (probably more). She has an energy on stage that draws you in.

Awna Teixeira

Awna Teixeira

Ben Sidelinger played the banjo, dobro, guitar (acoustic with Po’ Girl, and electric during the joint encore with Girlyman), electric bass and bicycle bell. He’s superb on all of them. As you will see from his site (linked above), he built the guitars that Po’ Girl was using! He also comes across as one of the nicest people around!

Ben Sidelinger

Ben Sidelinger

JJ Jones played the drums and a bicycle bell. She also played the tambourine on one number during the Girlyman set. She was as wonderful playing with/for Po’ Girl as she was for Girlyman. Given that she played both sets, and was highly active throughout, she’s a kinetic wonder! She also delivered on a number of rim shots and other appropriately effective sounds during many of Nate’s comedic forays.

JJ Jones

JJ Jones

Po’ Girl played a 30 minute set, and as mentioned above, joined Girlyman on stage for an energetic rendition of their always wonderful Son of a Preacher Man encore.

Girlyman Po Girl All

Girlyman Po Girl All

Girlyman Po Girl Most

Girlyman Po Girl Most

Infinity Hall is nearly a two hour drive from our house. Given that this was opening night for the tour, and that we will be missing them a week from tonight when they play at Joe’s Pub (our favorite place in general, and the place where we first discovered them), we were happy to make the drive.

We drove up early, intending to eat dinner in Norfolk. We knew they had a Bistro, but we actually didn’t realize it was a full-time restaurant that operated separately from the theater (they are in the same physical building). In addition to us not fully researching the Bistro in advance, we also were hoping to surprise Girlyman so we decided not to eat at the Bistro, just in case they might spot us. 😉

Just a few doors down from Infinity Hall is an Italian Restaurant / Pizza place called Mizza’s Pizza. We ate there and both thoroughly enjoyed our meals (good value too!). They were reasonably empty while we were there, so we ended up spending much of the time chatting with a young man who was one of our servers (he’s engaged to our other server). A delightful conversation getting to know a very interesting person. We’ll look him up again in the future.

Afterward, we found out that the Bistro is awesome (from a number of folks, including the Girlypeople themselves, and they are definitely foodies!). Next time, we’ll eat there, even though we really enjoyed our meals and the people at the Italian place.

Our surprise was only partial. Doris came out before their set and Lois got to tap her on the shoulder. So, we surprised one of them. We caught up briefly after the show, but all of us were dog tired, and had long drives ahead, so we skedaddled and got home at 12:40am.

We had a great time. Thanks Po’ Girl and Girlyman, as well as all of the folks at Infinity Hall (and the Italian Restaurant for that matter) for making last night a great night out!