July, 2010:

Martin Rivas, Vienna Teng and ambeR Rubarth at City Winery

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In January, City Winery hosted three shows to benefit the Haiti earthquake disaster. We attended one of those shows and I covered it in this post. They have repeated that generosity this week, hosting three shows to benefit those affected by the Gulf Coast Oil Spill. All proceeds went to the Gulf Restoration Network.

This provided another opportunity to do some good, while enjoying a night of incredible music, and for us, dinner and NYC-made wine as well!

Update: Thanks to the commenter below who correctly chided me for not mentioning the two videos that were shown before the music started. Here is the link to the organization that presented them.

Covering the acts in the order they appeared:

Martin Rivas opened the show. I have been waiting too long to see Martin perform a full set. Last night was small progress, three songs in a row. It only made me want to see more, so my quest continues. Martin has such a clear, strong voice, I can listen to him sing all night!


Martin was accompanied by a full band (left-to-right):

Patrick Firth on piano (not sure that’s the right link). Very nice job, playing both the grand piano and an electric keyboard propped on top of the grand.


Greg Mayo on electric guitar. I have seen Greg’s name many times, tweeted by many musicians, but I hadn’t heard/seen him before. Wow! Fantastic guitar playing. After the set, my friend told me that he caught Greg for the first time the night before, and Greg was playing the piano in that show, just as well! I now have to catch Greg doing his own thing, asap!


Chris Anderson on electric bass. We love Chris on the bass and I’ve written about that many times. Last night was the first time we’ve seen him accompanying someone other than the amazing Ian Axel. Of course, we weren’t surprised to find out that Chris was just as good backing up Martin. Chris is Greg Mayo’s bassist, which is probably how he came to play with Martin last night.


Craig Meyer on drums (couldn’t find a good individual link). We saw Craig drum for Martin at the Haiti benefit as well. He’s very good, and I enjoyed his play last night tremendously. Chris Anderson is always full of energy in his play, and whenever he turned to Craig, the two of them cranked it up a notch, with Craig getting into it as much as Chris did.


Vienna Teng was up next. This was a wonderful surprise for us. Vienna (and ambeR as well) was not originally listed on the bill when we purchased our tickets. Jay Nash was, and he didn’t make it. Vienna performed three songs (as did every artist): Harbor, 1000 Oceans (a Tori Amos cover) and a song that she co-wrote with ambeR at a songwriters retreat. ambeR came out to sing harmony with Vienna on their co-written song. Another awesome performance by Vienna.

ViennaTengPiano ViennaTengAmberRubarth

ambeR Rubarth opened with Novocaine, a song I can listen to 10 times every day and not tire of. She played it on an electric guitar, something we haven’t seen her do before. She then switched to the piano and Vienna returned the favor of singing harmony with her on Rough Cut. ambeR returned to the guitar to close her three-song set with Letter to My Lonelier Self.

ambeRRubarthGuitar ambeRRubarthPiano ViennaTengSinging

Christina Courtin played the ukulele and sang. We hadn’t heard of her before. Not exactly our taste.


Ryan Scott on acoustic guitar, accompanying Christina Courtin. Ryan was very good on the guitar, and gave me something positive to focus on during Christina’s set.


Among the Oak and Ash was up next. They were great! Josh Joplin is the front man and constant in this band. Josh plays the guitar and sings (and writes very good songs). Tons of energy creating a knee-slapping, toe-tapping experience for us. His band last night, left-to-right:



Claudia Chopek on the fiddle (she has a MySpace page, but Chrome warned be about some content on there, so I’m not sharing the link). Claudia was excellent! In a not-so-small-world story (because the Indie music scene has many interconnections), Claudia has also played with Vienna Teng. Here is a YouTube video of Claudia (front and center) playing with Vienna and Alex Wong. Of course, since it’s closer to a classical sound, she was playing the violin (not the fiddle) in that one. 🙂


Ward White played the electric bass and sang harmony with Josh. Very nice job on both!


The drummer for Among the Oak and Ash was really good too, but unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. If someone lets me know who it was, I’ll update this section.


John Wesley Harding closed the show, on acoustic guitar and vocals. John was excellent, singing and playing, and cracked me up quite a bit with his very relaxed delivery of a number of quips. He had two excellent musicians accompanying him:


I didn’t catch the name of either the piano and guitar player (I think his first name was David), nor the bass player. Both were excellent, with particular kudos to the piano playing which was highlighted a few times.

Update: From a comment below, the name of the Piano/Guitar player is David Nagler. No good individual link for him.

JohnWesleyHarding-Pianist JohnWesleyHarding-Guitarist JohnWesleyHarding-Bassist

It frustrates me when I work really hard to figure out who is in the band and it isn’t prominently mentioned on the artist’s site. As above, I’ll update if/when someone clues me in.

One very unusual thing during this show was that as artists finished their three-song sets, they came out and sat in the audience to enjoy the other sets. It was cool, and we were sitting among a number of our favorite musicians. 🙂

MarthaViennaTeng WardWhiteClaudiaChopek

We arrived early and had a lovely dinner, including a carafe of City Winery’s home-pressed Syrah, recommended!

Delta Rae at Rockwood Music Hall

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The first time I heard the name Delta Rae was on April 2nd 2010, in an email from a good friend. He forwarded a note from a friend of his (who I’ve never met). Ever since then, I’ve formed an email friendship with our mutual friend and he’s been promoting Delta Rae to me.

I don’t begrudge him one bit, he’s the very proud uncle of 3/4’s of the group, the Holljes siblings, Ian, Eric and Brittany. Their childhood friend, Elizabeth Hopkins rounds out this extremely talented band.

I’ll end with a back story as to how we finally got to see them last night, but first, on to the show!

Delta Rae is two guys and two girls. All four sing really well individually, but in any combination (two, three or four of them) the magic comes to life.

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BrittanyHolljes ElizabethHopkins

The women, Brittany Holljes and Elizabeth Hopkins sing and on occasion play a tambourine and shaker. Ian Holljes sings and plays the guitar (mostly rhythm). Eric Holljes sings, plays the piano and the guitar.

Instrumentally, Eric carries the day on the piano, he’s very good. The guitars are mostly background, with the exception of one song that was finger-picked by Eric.

Delta Rae writes their own songs. All of the ones they performed last night were excellent. They write in a variety of genres (they list themselves as pop/soul/folk, I’d add country as well). They also performed a wonderful cover of Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac (one of their big influences).

They performed a gospel song a cappella with Brittany singing the lead. Breathtaking.


During one number, Elizabeth was hitting the tambourine so hard with the shaker, that one of the little cymbals came flying off. A few seconds later, a second one flew off. Thankfully, the song ended before more of them had a chance to escape. 😉

When all four sing together (not often enough for my taste!), they remind me of One Flew South, Love and Theft, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, all at their best!

What separates Delta Rae from the above is the incredible bands (musicians) that back the others, giving them a much richer sound. Clearly, Delta Rae can’t afford a bunch of professional musicians to back them, but I’m betting that day is not far away and they will break out in a big way.

We bought two copies of their new EP (buy it, you won’t be disappointed!) and I listened to it this morning. It’s gorgeous and is produced well, with drums, bass and even a cello (viola, etc) on one number. It gives a hint of what they can sound like on a big stage with a full band.

If you still need your arm twisted, go listen to their MySpace page, but then, after you like it, support them and buy the EP!

Very impressively, Rockwood was packed with very enthusiastic fans. This is nice to see for a band that is based in NC. When their set was over, the crowd was demonstrably upset, wanting to hear more. Eric announced something that was cool and highly unusual (and potentially fraught with a number of problems).

He told us that they would do a one-song acoustic encore outside, while the next act was setting up. Nearly every person rushed outside, and indeed, they played a stunning number with the boys on guitar and all four singing. There was quite a crowd listening to them.


When the song was over, Eric dealt with the biggest potential problem, siphoning off the next act’s audience. He implored people to go right back in and listen to people he described as awesome. Nicely done, and I hope enough people took his advice. We were so wiped that we weren’t going to stay either way.

A more minor problem could have been the embarrassment of only a handful of people going out to hear them. Thankfully, they didn’t have that problem! 🙂

Delta Rae actively suffers for their art. They drove from NC to NY yesterday, just to play a one hour set. After playing the outdoor encore, they hit the road for an 11-hour drive back to Asheville, NC, where they are opening for Hanson tonight. That’s dedication, and that’s one of the things it takes to make it in the crazy music business. Bravo!

Jason Adamo performed the set before Delta Rae, another NC-based band. We listened to their MySpace page earlier in the day, and liked it a lot, and decided to catch Jason and his band as well.


Unfortunately, while they are all talented, the live performance didn’t work for me the way it did recorded. It’s possible that it was entirely due to bad sound levels, but I’m not sure. The entire band was loud (but distinguishable). That caused Jason to literally yell into the microphone, and most of his words still couldn’t be made out.


On a few songs, the intro was much softer and Jason didn’t have to yell. It was clear he has a very nice voice. Each of the band members was good in their own right, so I’ll give them each a quick shout out:

Doug Casteen on the electric guitar (and a drop of harmony). Doug was excellent on the guitar on every song, taking some really nice leads. He co-wrote many of the songs that the band performed last night.


Fabio Consani on the harmonica, a bit of acoustic guitar (and a drop of harmony). Fabio was very good on the harmonica.

FabioConsani1 FabioConsani2

John Briggs on electric bass and harmony. John was solid on the bass throughout. He co-wrote at least one song, and produces some of the Jason Adamo band songs.


Shedrick Williams on drums. Shedrick was solid as well. On two occasions he took short but very nice solos. The second was during their last number and helped end the set on a very high note with tons of energy. Shedrick is also a master of flipping and spinning his sticks, without missing a beat during the song. He’s an understated but excellent showman. Here’s a YouTube video of him playing along to a soundtrack.


Finally, our back story. 😉

We have friends who live in Durham (where Delta Rae are based!). They have a 13-month-old whom I haven’t met yet, though Lois did in December. They are here in NY for the weekend. A few months ago, we set Friday night to have dinner together. A few weeks later, City Winery announced a benefit for the Gulf Coast with a few of our favorite performers. We were disappointed that we would miss the show, but we happily choose good friends over an evening of music out.

Last week our friends called to ask whether we could move dinner to Thursday. We immediately said sure, and purchased tickets for Friday night. The music gods were looking out for us. 🙂

Then, a day or two later, I got an announcement that Delta Rae would be playing at Rockwood on Thursday (last night), the same night we just agreed to have dinner with our friends. Once again, we would have to miss Delta Rae. It seemed like the musical gods giveth, and then taketh away. 🙁

Oh me of little faith… Our friends got into town at 4:30pm and we hung out with them until 7pm, when they had to leave for a number of reasons. We had a lovely visit with them and still had plenty of time to catch Jason Adamo at 8pm and Delta Rae at 9pm. Thanks musical gods for setting everything straight again! 🙂

Ian Axel and Derek James at Rebel Spirit Music Flux Studios

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Rebel Spirit Music is a wonderful organization. Created to help musicians navigate the new world order, they put on a showcase of talent every month. Many (most/all?) are also benefits for very worthy causes. Last night was for the benefit of Doctors Without Borders, for Haiti relief.

While Rebel Spirit Music has done a number of showcases at Rockwood Music Hall, they are currently partnering with Flux Studios to put on the monthly shows, including last night’s performances.

Because Flux is small (at least the recording studio itself is small) these events are now RSVP only (even though they are still free). We were thankful and lucky to respond early enough to be included in last night’s guest list.

We went to see Ian Axel, so I’ll cover him first, even though he was sandwiched in the middle of the lineup.

I’ve written about Ian so many times, that you might think I’d run out of things to say, and simply point you to my past reviews. Wrong. 🙂

Flux Studios has an intimate feel that even teeny tiny Rockwood can’t create (though it comes close). We’ve seen Ian do an acoustic set (no band) at Rockwood, but this was even more special. The room is barely bigger than a suburban living room (actually, many suburban living rooms are larger). Everyone stood (with one exception), in reasonably tight quarters, but you could hear a pin drop whenever Ian had a dramatic pause in any song.

Different than being in someone’s living room, surrounded by respectful music lovers, this is a professional studio, with professional equipment. I’d hazard a guess that the microphone Ian was singing into is way higher quality than most clubs use for their vocals. The difference didn’t stop just at the electronics.

Ian commented that the grand piano he was playing was built in 1895! He has a personal affinity for pianos with storied histories. The sound was gorgeous even though the outside of the piano was beyond weathered.


He opened with Waltz, and played Gone, Girl I Got a Thing and Afterglow, solo on the piano (perhaps one or two more, just trying to give his fans a sense).

When he played Girl I Got a Thing, his buddy Chocky came up to “do his thing” (including the tambourine part, which he’s so expert at!). The only thing missing was Chocky’s drink. We need to get him back to Rockwood for the full experience! 😉

Then he performed a very special number, Say Something on the ukulele. In fact, on a new ukulele.


Sorry that @HappyBee3 missed it, she was forced to spend a hapless night listening to Wide Spread Panic at Radio City Music Hall (poor HappyBee). 😉 I’ve written before that both HappyBee and I love Say Something on the piano, but since we heard it first on the ukulele, it always tugs at our heartstrings a bit more and it’s been a while since Ian has played it on the uke. Thanks Ian! 🙂

Chad Vaccarino joined Ian for two numbers. First their brand new You’ll Be OK. Awesome! Next was the never-get-enough-of This is the New Year!


If you’ve watched the video of that song then you know that there’s a big dog in it. That dog attended Ian’s show last night, and was leaning on my leg during this song. There’s no doubt that he recognized it as the one he starred in. As an aside, he’s an awesome dog. 🙂


I was secretly hoping that Ian would go one song over his limit, and invite Mike Campbell to join he and Chad for an acoustic version of Shorty Don’t Wait (Mike was in the audience, and I chatted with him briefly before the show started). Unfortunately, the evening was run extremely professionally (something I always appreciate, so I’m not complaining!), and everyone started and ended on time!

Derek James closed the show. I know that Lois would have loved to leave before he started, given that it was already 10:30pm. I had heard of Derek (but was completely unfamiliar with his music), recalling that I had an interest in checking out one of his shows at Joe’s Pub (still our favorite venue). Lois could feel how badly I wanted to hang around, so she readily agreed.

I mentioned above that there was only one exception to the “everyone was standing” comment. Thankfully, that was Lois, who spotted the one engineer’s stool early on. That made it slightly easier to convince her to stay.

We were both blown away by Derek James (and his band). I can’t believe that we could have easily walked out and missed his incredible set.


It’s probably easy (for some) to describe Derek’s style, but I am having trouble finding the right words. It’s some kind of blend of up-tempo bluesy/rock, tinged with some cajun-infused country, all delivered with gusto. There’s a super-charged energy that had me swaying throughout the set, even though it was sleepy time for us.

Derek sings wonderfully (and writes really cool songs) and plays the guitar very well. He also played the ukulele on two songs, which immediately endeared him even more to us, for obvious reasons. 😉


He has a relaxed style and banters well, making me chuckle quite a number of times. He was accompanied by two very talented people:

Roy Gurel (no good individual links, but you can easily find him as a band member on a few MySpace profiles). He played acoustic guitar, mostly lead and sang harmony. He is a fantastic guitarist and had all of us itching to hear more, even after long leads. Derek highlights Roy a lot, all well deserved. Harmonies were spot on as well.


Assaf Spector (Assie) on the electric bass and harmony. Excellent bass playing (including one very tasty lead). His high-energy bass playing reminded me of one of our favorites, Chris Anderson. He sang excellent harmony as well.


One of the things that stood out for me was that their harmonies were fun and fit in with the spirit of the song, rather than just being “beautiful” (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). 😉

We are now instant fans of Derek James (and his band) and encourage all of you to check him out. He’s playing in Brooklyn this coming Tuesday evening (7/27/2010) at the Brooklyn Bowl, but unfortunately for us, I don’t think we can swing it.

Not announced on the bill, but sandwiched in-between Ian and Derek were two guys who played one incredibly fun new song. I’m waiting to hear back on their names. I heard them introduced as “Solo and Shakespeare” and referred to as “Solo and Shake”. But, both words in any combination yield useless searches on Google, even if I heard it correctly.

Update: I just heard back. They’re known as “Shakespeare and Solo”. Solo is Jon Solo.


Jon Solo played the piano and sang. He is excellent on the piano and sings terrifically. Shakespeare sang a bit with him, but mostly rapped in-between verses/chorus that Jon sang. The entire song was wonderful, fun, upbeat, delivered really well. I look forward to catching them (individually and together) in the near future.

Findlay Brown opened the show. He played the acoustic guitar and sang. He finger-picks really well and has a very nice voice. The crowd liked him a lot.

FindlayBrown1 FindlayBrown2

For his last number, Findlay brought up Rob Gentry to accompany him on the piano.


While it’s clear he’s very talented, I found his songs a little too similar to one another, and super-mellow as well. For a crowd that was standing shoulder-to-shoulder, it didn’t feel like a good fit of music/style/space (though from their reaction, I could have been the only one thinking that).

That said, people whose musical taste I respect, really like him a ton, so I’d give him another shot in another setting without hesitation.

Another great night out, already looking forward to the next one!

Rosi Golan and William Fitzsimmons at Jammin Java

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I’ve waited way too long to catch a Rosi Golan set. I’ve seen her perform a song or two here and there. I’ve even caught a complete set of her performing her new side project The Open Sea with Ari Hest (I can’t wait for the upcoming EP, the two of them are magic together!).

I love Rosi’s current CD The Drifter and the Gypsy and am looking forward to her upcoming CD as well.

One of the few benefits of living in NY and working in VA (say what?) is that we get more opportunities to catch our favorite musicians. When I noticed that Rosi was playing at Jammin’ Java (a venue we really like a lot) I made sure that our July trip south would include that date. We brought three friends with us to enjoy the show.

Rosi Golan has an extraordinary voice. Range, power, clarity even at the softest moments, all deliciously delivered. She is an excellent songwriter too. Her lyrics are sticky as are her melodies.


For those of you who haven’t heard her, I would liken her somewhat to The Weepies in overall feel and sound. That said, while I love The Weepies, Rosi’s voice is incalculably more beautiful.


Rosi accompanies herself nicely on the guitar. Last night, she was supported on every number by Jake Phillips on guitar and harmony. Jake was amazing on both and really enhanced the sound (not that Rosi needs help).


Rosi performed at least four songs from The Drifter and the Gypsy CD, including Think of Me, which I play very often and was hoping to hear live. Thanks Rosi! 🙂


Rosi was on for roughly 40 minutes, every one of them wonderful.

William Fitzsimmons was the headliner. Rosi has been opening for William on much of his current tour, but not every night. I normally cover the headliner first, but since we specifically went to see Rosi, I reversed my usual order.


This was our first time seeing William. In fact, we only heard about him because I was tracking Rosi.

William plays the guitar beautifully (more on that in a bit) and sings nicely. He’s extremely mellow in his delivery. Surprisingly so, because when he speaks, he has a deep rich voice, but when he sings, it’s an octave higher and pretty soft.


William is very funny (not just to my taste, because most of the sold-out crowd was chucking or guffawing along with me). He’s extremely self-deprecating. I am sure that I would go see him if he was a stand-up comic.

As he himself will tell you, most of his songs are angst-ridden, not exactly pick-me-ups. They’re delivered really well, but given his soft vocals, it can be hard for newcomers to pick up all the words (clearly, a very integral part of the William Fitzsimmons experience!).

In contrast, I am flabbergasted by how well Rosi enunciates even when nearly whispering (check out the crispness of the last “s” in “ghosts”, which I couldn’t believe I could hear each times she sang/whispered it!).

Because of the above, a number of William’s songs feel similar (when the lyrics should be the big differentiators). Still, I enjoyed the full set, without wishing for any song to just be over.

Back to the guitar. Jake Phillips also accompanied William on all but two songs. The two of them were mesmerizing on the guitars on each and every song. They complement each other beautifully, with William starting most songs off with a finger-picking style that hooks you instantly, and then Jake dancing in and around that with a combination flat-picking and finger-picking lead/harmony.


Jake also sang harmony with William (very nicely), but he was a bit softer than he was with Rosi. Even if neither of them had sung the entire evening, watching and listening to the two of them play guitar together would have been worth the price of admission. Jake also played banjo on one number, which made for a very interesting sound with William’s guitar play.

Rosi joined the two of them for a four songs. The first was a Rosi number that William had recorded with her a while ago, Hazy (he’s featured on it on the above-mentioned CD). Rosi also came back out for the last song in a two-song encore to close the show.

Before that last song, William asked Rosi to be the applause-o-meter for a contest to see who played the guitar better, he or Jake. When he asked the audience about Jake first, the applause was deafening, so it was obvious that asking about himself was going to be somewhere between amusing and embarrassing.

But, here’s the thing. If Jake was an 8 on a scale of 1-10, then William was a 7.8. Meaning, the deafening win for Jake was not even the slightest knock on William’s play, just an acknowledgement that Jake was highlighted a bit more, and didn’t disappoint throughout both Rosi and William’s sets.

William Fitzsimmons can definitely hold his own on the guitar, and did so extremely well on his two completely solo numbers, and on every other number when he picked the main theme (which Jake adorned).

A wonderful night out. I can finally scratch off my list the need to see Rosi Golan performing a full set of her own creations. That said, it doesn’t mean that I won’t want to see a lot more, just that it won’t be on my bucket list. 🙂

Here’s a shot of Rosi with her manager, David Margolis:


Jay Nash, Joey Ryan and Chris Seefried

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Joey Ryan in NYC the same night that we are? No need to wonder what we had planned. 🙂

Joey just completed a UK/Europe tour with Jay Nash. After joining a lot of our favorite artists for a show (way) upstate in NY over the 4th of July weekend, they headed down to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 to spread some of the love to us sweltering city dwellers (OK, the heat actually broke yesterday, but perhaps that was Joey and Jay’s doing as well!). 😉

There was another musician on the bill last night, Chris Seefried. All three played at various times with each other, but technically, they played three separate sets (with nearly zero time between them, since each had their instruments already on the stage). I’ll cover them in reverse order (as I typically do).

Jay Nash was ostensibly the headliner, playing last. This was our first time seeing Jay. We’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while, since he is beloved by many of the people that we love.


Not only weren’t we disappointed, we feel cheated that the people we love didn’t kidnap us and force us to go see Jay sooner. Wow!

I just followed him on Twitter (@Jay_nash) so that I would never miss an announcement of a future show. He’s also moving (or just moved?) back to the East Coast (after seven years in LA) so we should have more opportunities to fulfill our new wish.

Jay is an exceptional guitar player, both acoustic and electric. He has a powerful voice that is also incredibly clear. He writes great songs and delivers them with a passion and energy that is infectious.


He plays a variety of styles. Last night included the softest (gorgeous) finger-picked number, a fantastic Country tune, and full-on Rock ‘N Roll (in the best tradition). He can carry the show alone (vocally and instrumentally), but he also sings amazing harmony during his set, and backing the other two guys.

Jay has excellent stage presence, keeping us all amused and interested during the tunings and shuffling around on the stage.

All three were joined by a variety of band members and special guests. I would normally mention the band members here, as part of Jay’s set, but since most played with all three performers, I’ll save my comments about each until after I cover Joey and Chris as well.

The crowd wouldn’t let Jay off the stage, so the show ran longer than planned. Yay! 🙂

Joey Ryan started his set off solo, and as usual, just crushed it. After that he was joined by a combination of players (to be covered later). What never ceases to amaze me about Joey is his ability to delicately hit very high notes, but deliver such incredible power in the middle range.


Of course, he writes great songs, and delivers them well when playing solo, or with the full band pumping up the volume supporting him.

Joey also has a great stage presence, but it’s extremely different than both Jay and Chris. Joey is both completely self-deprecating (100% of the time) and soft-spoken (you have to strain to hear his cracks, but man, it’s totally worth it, as the cracks are as clever as his lyrics).

JoeyRyan2 JoeyRyan3

After a couple of songs, Joey asked the crowd for requests. Lois asked for Broken Headlights. Joey ignored her and played California (beautifully). One song later, we found out why he didn’t consider Broken Headlights. He invited the one-and-only Vienna Teng on stage to join him (and the full band) in playing (and singing) Broken Headlights. It was awesome. Lois was happy. 🙂


Joey asked Vienna to play on the next song even though she didn’t know it. While the others were tuning and setting up, Joey played one verse (no vocals) and the chorus for Vienna, so she would be prepared. Vienna needed nothing else, as her piano playing on the song was outstanding, complementing the mind-blowing leads that Jay Nash played on the electric guitar.

Kicking off the show (six minutes early) was Chris Seefried. We’ve never seen Chris before (nor heard of him). He was excellent in every respect (vocally, on acoustic and electric guitar and on the piano supporting Jay Nash). He also has a warmth (with strength) on stage.


He started off the show with Rich Pagano singing harmony and playing a drumstick that had a built-in cymbal/tambourine for the percussion. Immediately thereafter, both Joey and Jay joined him and people kept coming and going from the stage throughout his set.


At one point he introduced a song saying that it would start out a cappella and that we might all be asked to join in at the end of the song (we weren’t). The three part a cappella harmony was chill-inducing (Joey/Jay/Chris). But, there were a few people chatting loudly toward the back of the room.

Few things annoy me more than people who are so rude, in particular during a super soft number. There are hundreds of bars/restaurants/lounges in NYC where you can go to have a drink and conversation, and perhaps even hear background music. If you’re going to a show, in particular one where people are buying tickets in advance, don’t come if you want to talk.

Chris handled it perfectly (something 99.9% of all artists simply ignore, though it has to annoy them nearly as much as it annoys me!). He stopped the song and said: “If you want to talk, please try to do it in the key of A”. Thankfully, they took the hint and stopped. He restarted the song, and it was mesmerizing start-to-finish.

One interesting fact was that both Jay and Chris allowed the other to shine on the guitar during their respective sets. When Chris was up he played well, but Jay took the majority of the leads. During Jay’s set, Chris played the electric guitar (which he didn’t during his own set), and took some incredible leads, really showing off his skills.

Chris also played piano during one of Jay’s songs, and Jay played piano during one of Chris’. Nicely done, highlighting the other during your own set!

ChrisSeefriedPiano JayNashPiano

On to the band:

Rich Pagano (mentioned above) sang with Chris, and played the drums (and the aforementioned percussion). I liked his harmony. I would have enjoyed it more if he had been a bit more forceful with it. He was very respectful of not wanting to step on Chris’ vocals, but he needn’t have worried, Chris has a powerful voice.


Adam Christgau played the drums on various numbers with all three performers. If you’ve never read any of my posts, then I need to tell you that we love everything about Adam, as a drummer and as a person. We discovered the great Ian Axel through him and would be grateful to Adam if that was all he ever delivered to us.


Matt Delvecchio on electric bass. He played a bit with Chris, a lot with Joey, and throughout all of Jay’s set. Very solid on the bass. Toward the end of Jay’s set, he gave Matt a bass lead (Jay continued to play) and it was extremely tasty. Matt also sang harmony on a few songs (mostly Jay, but also a bit with Joey). He did an excellent job, both when it was just him and Jay, and when he was one of a four or five part harmony.


Jano Rix played drums throughout Jay’s set and a bit of percussion on Joey’s. He was tight and solid throughout. The bio leads me to believe he’s much more awesome than he let on last night, though he didn’t miss a beat nor disappoint in any way.


Here are two typical fancy set lists:


In addition to a perfect night of music we had the pleasure of bumping into other friends and musicians during and after the show. In fact, we typically run out immediately after saying goodnight, so us old folks can hit the sack, but we lingered for quite a while chatting on Allen Street and having a blast.

AlexWong CandaceChien



Alex Wong at Caffe Vivaldi

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After seeing Alex Wong perform a cameo appearance at ambeR Rubarth’s Rockwood Music Hall show, we ran over to Caffe Vivaldi to catch Alex performing his own show!


The last time we saw Alex he played mostly solo (Adam Levy joined him for a song or two). This time, Alex was supported by some of the best musicians in NYC, though he did perform at least one song solo.

That song was In the Creases [Update: I’ve been told by two people that I am wrong, that Ward Williams joined Alex on this song, so I’m sure I am incorrect. Apologies!], the same song he performed earlier with ambeR at Rockwood. Very cool contrast. There (as mentioned in this post) he sang while ambeR played the guitar. Here, he played and sang by himself, creating a completely different feel to the song.

Alex has a wide selection of songs to choose from, his own repertoire, songs he wrote as part of The Animators, songs he co-wrote with ambeR and The Paper Raincoat songs.

Joining Alex in various combinations were:

Melissa Tong on violin. Always a delight, as a person and as a musician.


Ward Williams on cello. Ward’s performances are always top-notch, and last night was no exception. In fact, he accompanied Alex alone on one song and played lead on the cello replacing ambeR’s missing vocals from a Paper Raincoat song. Extremely well done.


Kevin Rice on a snare drum (Caffe Vivaldi is too small for a full drum set, at least with last night’s setup). Kevin always does a great job, even though he was constrained last night.

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Martin Rivas sat in on one number, playing acoustic guitar and singing harmony. His guitar play was outstanding, as was his voice. It reminded me that I hadn’t gotten around to snagging his new EP, so I asked Lois to buy it from him after the show. Can’t wait to catch a full Martin set asap.


Candace Chien played the grand piano accompanying Alex on his last number (Help is on the Way). Sorry, I can’t find a good individual link for Candace. Candace is a classical pianist and this was her first non-classical public performance. She nailed it and we hope to see and hear more of her in the future. Everyone at the Caffe sang along with Alex on the repeating chorus (just like we did when he closed the Haiti benefit with this number).


Even though we stayed up way past our bedtime, it was a ton of fun to see all of these wonderful people/performers do such an intimate show.


We’ve never been to Caffe Vivaldi before (it’s in the West Village) and it won’t be our last time. To make sure I’d want to come back, I forced myself to have a piece of Carrot Cake and a Latte. The things I do for the love of music… 😉

ambeR Rubarth and Adam Levy at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Another night, another show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, same old, same old. 🙂

This night featured a totally different type of music, but was similar in that we love this group of performers as did the rest of the crowd.

The co-billed show was ambeR Rubarth (we love her solo, with a band, and when she’s half of the duo The Paper Raincoat) and Adam Levy who is a wonderful guitarist and singer/songwriter.


Adam had his band, the Mint Imperials backing him (I’ll cover them later), and they backed up ambeR on the majority of her numbers as well.

Adam, ambeR and the band came out together and opened with an Adam number. Then Adam introduced ambeR’s song Edge of My Seat with a crack that didn’t seem like a song intro until the last second.

After that, it was a bit more of ambeR’s set than Adam’s, with Adam supporting her (with his patented bluesy guitar riffs and harmony vocals).


Then she invited Alex Wong up, her cohort in The Paper Raincoat. They played In the Creases (one of our favorites) just the two of them. ambeR offered Alex the guitar, but he deferred to her, so Alex just sang with ambeR supplying the music.


Just as quickly as he was on the stage, Alex was off like a shot. He had his own show across town starting a bit later that he had to get to. I’ll write a separate post about that right after this one.

ambeR also performed solo and one number on the Grand Piano accompanied by the band. She closed her set with Novocaine, one of my personal favorites!


The focus shifted to Adam’s songs. Adam had excellent energy and the crowd was definitely feeling it. He played quite a few numbers, including No Dancing, a ton-of-fun song.


They wrapped it up with a song that they co-wrote (the first one they wrote together), Washing Day. It’s a wonderful song and doesn’t require any extras. But, what an extra they threw in to delight us last night.

They invited Ian Axel to join them (recall our experience from the night before in the same place!). Ian played a wonderful piano solo that was icing on a soulful cake. A great way to end an excellent show.


Back to the band.

Tony Mason played drums. He’s a solid drummer and took a wonderful solo on No Dancing. We’ve seen him with Adam once before.


Andy Hess played the electric bass. This was our first time seeing Andy as Adam had a fill-in bass player the last time we saw him. I was very impressed with Andy and I look forward to seeing him play again.


Opening for ambeR and Adam was Ed Romanoff. We’ve seen Ed once before at the Haiti Benefit at City Winery, but haven’t had the pleasure of seeing him perform a solo set.


He has an extremely mellow folk/blues style and we really liked his set a lot. He’s very warm on stage and we chuckled a bunch. He also told one very personal story as an intro to a song. He’s a good story-teller, but the story itself is even more incredible. Even though he told it publicly, and I feel I could repeat it, just go see him and hope he tells it himself.

Accompanying Ed was Oscar Albis Rodriguez on electric guitar and very light harmony. I have to start a separate paragraph to make sure you’re paying attention:



I was hugely impressed with Oscar. He gently danced in and around Ed’s acoustic guitar and singing, always complementing and enhancing, and never interfering or overwhelming. On the few occasions where Ed stepped back and invited Oscar to take the lead, he was incredibly tasty and interesting.


Wow, just to make sure you didn’t miss it above. What makes this even more amazing to me (after the fact) is that I checked out some of Oscar’s own music, and it’s much harder rock, so he’s really versatile!

Adam Christgau (one of our favorite drummers) joined Ed and Oscar on stage for one number. He didn’t play the drums. He played a frisbee with a single brush stick. It’s one of Adam’s signature things. 🙂


ambeR also joined in on the same number that Adam Christgau played on, sitting at the piano (without playing). She and Ed sang very nicely together.

We ran out immediately and grabbed a cab with another couple to head over to see Alex Wong’s show. Check out the next post to read about that one. 🙂