March, 2011:

Jesse Terry and Gavin Slate at Rockwood Music Hall

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Yesterday promised to be a perfect late afternoon / early evening. It didn’t disappoint!

Jesse Terry is an amazing singer/songwriter (many easy ways for you to verify that claim for yourself, on YouTube, his own site, MySpace, etc.). We’ve seen him perform at a house concert, then at The Bitter End. We’ve been waiting patiently to catch him again, given his touring all over the US.


Jesse was listed at 7pm. Whenever we go to Rockwood, we check out the act before to see if we’d enjoy them, mostly to raise our chances of getting a seat. Listed before Jesse at 6pm (first set of the night) was Gavin Slate. A single song on his MySpace page was all I needed to hear to be sure we’d enjoy his set.


It turns out that Gavin came down from Toronto just for this show. He’s good friends with Jesse and rather than have two separate sets, they combined the two and played together. I knew that in advance because I follow Jesse on Twitter (and our mutual friend also told me), but some of Jesse’s supporters didn’t walk into Rockwood until 6:40, thinking he wouldn’t be on until 7pm.

Jesse and Gavin alternated songs throughout a 105-minute set. That was great because there was obviously no break between the 6 and 7pm slots, so we got at least 7.5 minutes extra (two songs worth) from each of them!

We love the in-the-round format in general. Even when it’s only two people, there’s a freshness from having each rest their voice and fingers between songs. The banter is typically a little faster paced because the performers feed off each other. The only thing missing is that while Jesse and Gavin are good friends and have tremendous love/respect for each other’s music, they don’t tour together (this was their first-ever formal show) so they don’t sing harmony on the other’s numbers.


I can rave about Jesse all day long, but let me summarize by saying three things:

  • He writes beautiful songs
  • He has an extraordinary voice
  • He plays the guitar beautifully (I love his finger-picking in particular!)

All three were in play last night. Jesse debuted (at least from our perspective) a number of new songs, including one he just finished this week! They were all fantastic. I mentioned to his wife (they were married in December) that she is an obvious inspiration to him, because his songwriting continues to be on fire.

Jesse will be back at Rockwood on May 6th, for a 2-hour shared set with another of our favorites, Alex Wong and Michael Logen. They’ll be on from 7-9pm. Not to make the same mistake (listing-wise), I heard Jesse mention that Keegan DeWitt is part of their set too. He’s listed separately at 9pm. So, this is more likely a 4-person shared set from 7-10pm. Should be epic!


Gavin was a complete mystery to us, other than liking what we heard on MySpace. Like  I said above, we were not disappointed. Gavin has an excellent voice, plays the guitar well and writes very interesting songs. He has a relaxed style on stage and told a few good stories (one in particular had us in stitches and I had to go up to him after the show to chat about it!).


We bought his EP after the show and listened to it this morning. Wonderful! When I loaded it up, the Gracenote database had it classified as Pop. That surprised me, since Gavin was playing solo with an acoustic guitar last night and I would have described it as closer to folk. But, the production on the EP is terrific with a full band and I have no trouble accepting these songs as Pop. Very well done.

We heard all four of the songs last night. Each was completely recognizable on the EP, yet very different. More than the instrumentation (which was dramatic enough), the harmony on the EP struck both of us immediately. Gavin can certainly tour solo and hold our attention completely. It’s nice to know he could show up with a full band and make good use of them as well.

We weren’t scheduled to be in the city this Friday, but Jesse announced that Carley Tanchon has her Record Release show at Rockwood at 7:30pm at Rockwood 2 that night (April 1st). We were able to change our plans and we’ll definitely be there. Hope to see you all there as well! Smile

Having just discovered The Meatball Shop two days earlier (well, not actually discovered, but rather finally experienced), it was hard not to work that into our plans again. Since the show was early, we decided to have an even earlier dinner there. Five of us took two cabs down there. Ours arrived a bit later than theirs. We walked in at 4:30pm. The place was crowded and our three friends were seated at the bar. We could have sat at the bar as well, but not near them.

In a bold (and highly unusual) move, Lois decided to try and force Spring to appear on the spot. She made the executive decision that we would eat outdoors! It was definitely brisk, but surprisingly not the least bit uncomfortable. We had another amazing meal (I branched out and had the same exact dish, but this time with pork meatballs instead of beef).

Chris Kasper at Rockwood Music Hall

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I just posted that we saw Marjory Lee at Arlene’s Grocery last night. Her set ended at 8:45pm and the six of us walked the block and half to Rockwood Music Hall to catch Chris Kasper.

We caught most of a Chris Kasper set (also at Rockwood) back in October 2009! He was on before ambeR Rubarth. That night he was accompanied by another acoustic guitarist, Ross Bellenoit. You can read my thoughts on that show at the bottom of this post.

I can’t believe that I missed Chris a few times since, so I was particularly happy that the timing worked out so well last night.


One of the interesting things in seeing indie musicians live is that a lot of things can change from one performance to the next. Last night, instead of just one other guitar player, Chris had a full band. I’ll cover them all in a minute.

Aside from the obvious fuller sound (and different instruments), Chris proved my earlier assumption about his guitar play. Last time, Chris deferred to Ross (who is excellent), but flashed some quality play of his own. Last night he showed more of his guitar chops.

Chris has a nearly-perfect voice for folk music (to my taste). Enough gravely/raspiness to make every word sound authentic. I really like his songs too (lyrics and melodies). Basically, he’s a top singer/songwriter in my book.

Accompanying him last night, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Kylie Ryan on fiddle, banjo, glockenspiel and (way too soft) harmony (sorry, can’t find a good link for her). Kylie played the fiddle beautifully, enhancing Chris’ sound on a number of songs. She also played the glockenspiel on one song. That led to a funny situation. The microphone kept slipping down when she was setting up. A helpful audience member propped himself on a chair against the wall and held the mic stand in place throughout the song. Yay for good samaritans!


Kylie sang harmony on many songs. Unfortunately, it took a lot of concentration to pick out her voice, even though I was sitting a few feet from her. When I locked in, I was impressed. After the show I told her that she needed to pump it up a bit. She told me that she had a cold and that when she’s feeling better, she cranks it up. Feel better soon, we look forward to hearing your healed voice! Smile


Phil D’Agostino on electric bass and very light harmony. Very nice job throughout. It was a mellow set, so no fancy bass needed or delivered, but solid bottom was a nice addition.


Kevin Killen on drums and very light harmony. Just like with the bass, the drums could have overwhelmed Chris’ sound. Not so in the hands of Kevin. I’ll tell you what I told Kevin when we bumped into him on the street after the show: “You are the brush master!”. Yes, most of the set was played with the brushes, to excellent effect. Kevin’s cymbal play was outstanding.


On one number, Chris called up a guest to sing harmony with him.

Adrien Reju sang gorgeous harmony with Chris. She has her own set at Rockwood on April 14th at 7pm.


I am so glad that we finally got to see Chris Kasper again. I am looking forward to the next time. Even though we already bought both his solo CD’s and one of him with his previous band Lowlands, we like to support the musicians we enjoy. So, aside from putting money in the tip jar, we bought another copy of Chasing Another Sundown, which we intend to gift someone with, shortly. Smile

Marjory Lee at Arlene’s Grocery

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We’ve seen Marjory Lee perform once before, in a house concert. Feel free to read the entire post, but I’ll pull out the two most relevant paragraphs here, because they will provide the foundation for my comments on last night’s show:

Marjory Lee sang and played acoustic guitar (as above, 100% acoustic, with Marjory even tuning by hand, shudder ;-) ). Our friend warned us about Marjory’s voice and she was correct. It’s gorgeous! Power when she wants/needs it, subtlety when that’s called for, range and perhaps most interesting, an ability to change styles and gears effortlessly.

Marjory was equally at home singing softly in the upper registers as she was belting out a soulful rendition of The Dock of the Bay, adding a gritty gravelly voice, sung in the lower registers.

Marjory Lee played with a full band at Arlene’s Grocery, so I knew it would be different than the house concert. I had also seen a couple of YouTube videos of a previous appearance at Arlene’s that we couldn’t attend. So, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was.


Last night’s show was pretty much straight up Rock (even the two Country songs were of the more modern Country Rock style). I don’t get enough of that live, so it was quite welcome.

I already mentioned above how gorgeous Marjory’s voice is. In the second paragraph, I got a hint of the belting out part. But, nothing brings out a good belter’s skills more than Rock (perhaps Soul) and Marjory was simply incredible. It didn’t hurt that the sound engineer last night had everything leveled perfectly (that wasn’t the case the only other time we’ve been to Arlene’s).

Marjory accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. During some intros and bridges, that was the only instrument being played, so we got a nice taste of her skills.


Backing Marjory up was a very tight band. Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Matt Mirando on lead electric guitar (no good individual link). Matt did a terrific job on the guitar. Solid on every number.


Mike Knobloch on drums. Mike did a wonderful job on the drums throughout the set. On the last number, he took a semi-solo, with the guitar and bass punctuating each measure. I liked it a lot because it kept the solo more tied to the song rather than some of the meandering drum solos that show off skills, but are disconnected from their origin.


On one number, he was really fast with both sticks on the Hi-hat cymbal. Whenever he’d strike a drum, he was back to the fast hi-hat without missing a beat. It was impressive and my arms hurt just watching him (it was a long song). Smile

Matt DePaolo on electric bass (also no good individual link). Matt was very solid throughout the set.


We planned the evening with our friends who hosted that original house concert (and introduced us to Marjory that night). Two more of their friends joined us at Arlene’s. All six of us enjoyed the set thoroughly and look forward to catching Marjory (with or without band) in the near future.

Before the show the four of us had dinner together. We met at Arlene’s Grocery in order to find a spot to eat nearby. As we walked by The Meatball Shop (their site seems to come and go the few times I visited it this morning) I mentioned that we’d never eaten there, but that all the cool kids eat there all the time and rave about it.

I kept walking toward Allen St. My friend doubled back, ducked in and asked if they could accommodate four. They got a very nice couple to slide down one seat which opened up four spots in the long table in the center (I think it holds 18 people).

I was blown away by the meal (and I am sure the others were too). I had four beef meatballs served over spaghetti with a spicy meat sauce. I had a side of the day’s vegetables (cooked carrots with some finely chopped goodies which included beets). Simply amazing. Lois had the vegetable meatballs with a classic tomato sauce (and everything else I had). She just finished her left-overs a minute ago and was raving about them as much as she did last night’s meal.


So, I checked, and unfortunately, eating at The Meatball Shop did not turn me into one of the cool kids, but it did at least prove to me that the cool kids indeed know a thing or two about good food. Smile

The Southern Wedding

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One of the major events in being a godparent is seeing your godchild get married. Nearly three years ago we got our first taste when Laura married Chris (captured in this post). This past Saturday, her brother (David) completed this stage by marrying the most wonderful woman (Rebecca) we could have imagined for him.

We arrived in Birmingham, AL late Monday. The festivities began in earnest on Tuesday morning, when we helped David’s parents move the remaining belongings from his apartment to his bride-to-be’s home. The ladies packed and scrubbed, the men hauled and drove. The next morning we sat in the new home waiting for the cable guy (he was only five minutes late, but that was five minutes after the full allotted time). In other words, a zesty start. Winking smile

On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings we had wonderful meals with the groom, his parents and his future in-laws. That’s more like it! Smile


(All photos in the post can be clicked on for larger versions that will open in a separate tab/window. A few of them are courtesy of another wedding guest, Maggie, who took great shots with a better camera. I didn’t ask permission before snagging them, so I hope Maggie is OK with it, or doesn’t see this blog…) Winking smile

Thursday became more wedding-y. I picked up my tux (yes, it was a big deal, those of you who know me, are either smiling or shaking your head in disbelief while reading that). Not just a tux, one with tails!

After that, it was off to the bachelor party. If you’re easily offended, you might want to skip ahead now. Just kidding! David is a devout Christian, as was everyone in the entire wedding party, so no one needed to worry about any possible debauchery with this crowd. One of those times that the bride could concentrate on her night out with the gals, without wondering what was happening across town.

We started off the evening with bowling. If you know me, you know that’s right up my alley (I know, but I couldn’t resist, sorry!). Eight of us bowled two games each.


Not to brag, but to remember this years later, I started off my second game with four consecutive strikes. It devolved from there, but I still ended up with a 185. The photo below shows the name Bob next to that score. Bob left after the first game to pick up another reveler and asked me to bowl for him. When he returned, I had just finished up the fourth frame. He took over my game on the second lane and kindly let me play out his.


We then headed over to Buffalo Wild Wings, picking up a few more people who couldn’t make it over in time for bowling. We watched ACC Basketball while drinking some beer (that’s as wild as it got) and enjoying an excellent meal (my first time at a BWW, I’d happily return).

After that we headed back to the hotel and played poker for a couple of hours in the breakfast area. We got to greet more wedding guests as they arrived late into the night. Speaking of late arrivals, the groom’s sister and her husband were delayed getting out of NYC and arrived after 3am!

Anyone that wasn’t part of the bachelor or bachelorette night out was invited for a meal at the bride’s parents’ home. On Friday, the bride’s father called the groom’s father and told him to bring people over for leftovers (the gals were having a bride and bridesmaids tea). I knew that the bride’s mom was an excellent cook and baker already (we’ve had quite a number of meals there), but her leftover chicken salad (with red grapes in it) still took me completely by surprise (straight out of the fridge). Wow!


Here are some photos from the tea:




We were supposed to be at the church at 5pm for the rehearsal. I have come to trust my GPS. It rarely lets me down. It didn’t this time either. It took me exactly where I told it to. Unfortunately, I punched in the wrong address (a different church). Oops, operator error. Still, even after fighting traffic from the wrong church to the correct one, we walked in the door at precisely 5pm. Whew.

One example of the lighthearted spirit during the rehearsal. When they were practicing placing the rings, there was more fumbling than exchanging. The Pastor, Dr. Dennis W. Foust (who is the doppleganger for Bill Engvall, in my opinion) said to David: “It feels like this is your first time”. Perfect! Smile

The bride’s family is very large (she has four siblings, three of whom are married, each with at least two children). Most of the kids (ages 2+) were part of the ceremony (ring bearers, flower girls, junior bridesmaid). During the rehearsal, one of the two-year-old boys was told to go up the stairs and stand in a certain position. He declared, loudly, that he didn’t want to go up there, because he didn’t want to get married! Winking smile

On to the rehearsal dinner. At some weddings this is a very small gathering, restricted to the wedding party only. Even if this one were restricted to that subset, it would have been a large party. Since everyone on the groom’s side was an out-of-towner, with his family hailing from Richmond, VA and Lincoln, NE, The Preserve (the very special place where the rehearsal dinner was hosted) was at capacity, 100 people!


Everything about the dinner was fantastic (the food, prepared by “Chef Bob”), the wine (brought by the groom’s dad from Richmond) and the company. After the meal, they projected a slide show with music. The photos were of David and Rebecca from babies all the way through to couple-hood. The families submitted the photos. The presentation was put together by Laura (David’s sister) and her husband Chris.


Laura selected perfect songs to accompany every stage of each of David and Rebecca’s lives. This culminated in a huge surprise for us when we heard the song she picked for David and Rebecca coming together (photos of the two of them over the past 18 months). Our own Ian Axel’s We Are. Here are a few of the lyrics, to give you a sense of why I think her choice was perfect:

I’ll believe in you if you believe in me

We are the lucky ones

I won’t let you down (repeated 16 times!)

Sounds just about right to me. If every married couple took those three lines to heart there would be no divorce!

After that, speeches from some of the bridesmaids and groomsmen (including the dad, who was also the Best Man!). With each speech came humor, love, celebration and some added understanding of how/why both David and Rebecca are so special (individually and as a couple).

That was followed by Rebecca and David giving speeches of their own, both extremely moving. The Dad led us in a toast and we called the night before the big day over.

The week started out with horrible weather: heavy rain (and cold) punctuating Tuesday and Wednesday. In fact, on Wednesday evening, the rain was so hard, it felt like a portent of end-of-days to me (or at least the return of the need for an Ark). Thursday was dry but cold. Friday was very nice, but still a tad on the chilly side.

Saturday, the big day, was extraordinary. Low 70’s, sunny, crisp, perfect. Someone was smiling on our happy couple!

After gathering for breakfast in the hotel, various groups of people went off to explore the city (Botanical Gardens, Vulcan Park, Civil Rights Museum). The boys (lots of ‘em) went to the park and burned off their nervous energy.


Lois and I met up with them and most of their wives for lunch, at one of my favorite BBQ places, Jim ‘N Nicks (this was my fourth location, many more to try). Not including babies (at least three), there were 18 of us at lunch. Another winning meal in a week full of them.


Barely time to clean up and get dressed for the wedding party to get to the church for photos. For the groomsmen and ushers (and me), it was mostly a game of hurry up and wait. The Duke game was on. David and a number of his groomsmen are Duke graduates. Tim (a groomsman and brother of the bride) performed yeoman’s duty and got a PC in the music room hooked up to a giant screen and streamed the game on Yay! Duke won (of course!).


Lois snuck some photos of her own, before we gathered for the professional photo shoot:


Since there were very few posed photos of the groomsmen, I won’t have trouble selecting one:


After the photo session people started streaming in. As I mentioned, the bride has a very big family. Also, since she was getting married in the church that the family has been attending for decades, the guest list was very large. When everyone was seated it was time for the seating of the Grandparents and Parents. As godparents, we were the first to walk down the aisle (hence my wearing of the tails!). After us came the parents, followed by Rebecca’s one remaining grandmother.


I mentioned above that Rebecca is one of five siblings. Actually, she is one of six, but the eldest daughter, Elizabeth, passed away nearly 21 years ago. In an extremely moving tribute to her loving memory, one of Rebecca’s sisters walked down the aisle, up the stairs in the center and lit a candle next to a bouquet of flowers. Amazing Grace was played on the horn to commemorate her short time on earth.

Everyone in Rebecca’s family plays a brass instrument (amazingly well). Including the parents, there are two trumpet players and five horn players (that’s the politically correct name for what used to be called the French Horn). To honor the love of brass instruments, there were two brass quintets, one on each side of the church (10 brass instruments in all, for those of you who didn’t feel like doing the math yourselves). Rebecca’s brother Tim (of the Duke fame above) performed double duty. He played the horn with the quintet on the left and also stood for the ceremony as one of the groomsmen (very busy day for Tim!).

The brass quintets were awesome in playing Canzona Per Sonare No. 2 by Giovanni Gabrieli as the Processional began.

The Bridal Processional was equally incredible. First, because she’s a stunning woman (not just a stunning bride), judge for yourself from the accompanying photos. Second, because the quintets continued to impress with Canzon Duodecimi Toni also by Gabrieli.

When the entire wedding party was in place the Reverend (Dr. Foust) greeted them and the congregation. After that, there were two Scripture Readings, one by Rebecca’s sister-in-law and the other by Laura.

The Marriage Vows were led by Dr. Foust. The Exchange of Rings was led by David’s uncle, a Reverend from Richmond, Dr. James Colvin. David and Rebecca then lit the Unity Candle.


Reverend Colvin led us all in prayer followed by both Reverends simultaneously pronouncing David and Rebecca husband and wife, instructing them: “You may now Kiss your Spouse!” (that was a new one for me, I like it!). Since we were first in, we were last out in the Recessional.

The wedding party and families stayed at the church for additional photos while everyone else proceeded to the reception. We joined them all for a terrific celebration.


For those of you who know us, you know that Lois and I attend a wee bit more than our fair share of live music. Over the years, we’ve dragged many guests along with us (some kicking and screaming), including our godchildren and their spouses. When we heard that Laura chose one of Ian Axel’s songs (someone we introduced her to) it was obviously gratifying.

Apparently, we had a musical effect on David as well. For the mother/son dance, he selected a song by another of our favorite artists, Vienna Teng. They danced to Harbor, another perfect choice (in my opinion). A few select lyrics (in case you require proof!): Winking smile

The light in me will guide you home

All I want is to be your harbor

You’ve got a journey to make

There’s your horizon to chase

So go far beyond where we stand

No matter the distance I’m holding your hand

Seriously, can a mother say anything more beautiful and meaningful to her son on the day she’s letting him go? I didn’t think so!

The father/daughter dance was to Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman. Another perfect choice. Unfortunately, we can’t take credit for that one. Winking smile

Both of those dances were serious affairs. When David and Rebecca danced their first dance (Feels Like Home by Chantal Kreviazuk), a much more lighthearted moment was created. Prancing on to the dance floor was a 2.5-year-old from Richmond, who just wanted to dance with the happy couple. The first photo shows them noticing something low, approaching them. Then David appears to be high fiving her in the second photo, before she was coaxed back to her parents. Precious!


The rest of the evening was filled with music by a jazz quartet. The female sax player was incredible as was the electric guitarist.


There were two absolutely incredible cakes, one for the bride and one for the groom. That made for two cake-cutting photo ops. Since the cakes were on opposite sides of the room, it enhanced the chance that guests would catch at least one. I caught both.


I also caught the photo op (Lois didn’t, so I don’t have a photo to attach) with the person who introduced David and Rebecca. If she ever stops wanting to be a doctor (at least I believe she is), she can probably make a living as a matchmaker!

In a shocking turn of events, while the cakes were being cut, a group of hoodlums were vandalizing the couple’s car outside. It turns out that some good samaritans caught it all on camera, so the police shouldn’t have too much trouble bringing them to justice! Smile



We all lined up outside to send the happy couple off on their well-deserved honeymoon. May they enjoy it at least a drop as much as the rest of us enjoyed sharing the last few days with them!


A few straggler photos:



Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino at Jammin Java

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Having just seen Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino perform at a house concert the night before, you might assume that we wouldn’t make the trek to NoVA again to see them headline Jammin’ Java. Silly Human (spoken in the proper Ferengi accent!), we couldn’t wait!

The two experiences were dramatically different, even though the setups and set lists were reasonably similar. You can read my post about the house concert if you want all the details (I’ll highlight some of the main differences here).

First, some set list changes. The opening sequence was tweaked. Ian started with The Music that Haunts this Town. It was a good choice and highlighted one of the critical differences in the venues. At a house concert, it takes little more than flicking the lights on/off or simply saying shhhh to get the crowd to be quiet instantly. At a club, people are (typically) drinking more heavily and socializing. They may even be there for the other acts. The point is, there is generally a lot of settling down that has to be done when a new set begins.

Very few clubs announce the performers nowadays (somewhat surprising). So, Ian was sitting on stage, alone, fiddling with his keyboard, while people were still talking loudly (most probably had no idea Ian had emerged yet). If Ian had started a song with lyrics, it would have ruined the first verse (or two) for his fans until the socializing eventually quieted down. By opening with a powerful instrumental, it still took some time to get quiet, but by the time he morphed into Waltz, the atmosphere was just right!


Ian then played Leave Me Alone! This time, I was determined to clap, no matter what. Of course, self-conscious dork that I am, I couldn’t get the correct beat going. Then some people on the other side of the club started staring at me, probably thinking that I didn’t realize the song hadn’t ended yet (right, 20 seconds in and it wasn’t over yet?). That only distracted me even more so that I never got on rhythm. Total Fail on my part. Sad smile

It turned out that Lisa, my savior from the night before during this song, was sitting to my immediate right (but at a slight angle, so I wasn’t sure until later in the evening). If I had waited five more seconds, I could have piggy-backed on her excellent timing. Anyway, no one other than us even tried, so this crowd didn’t get to experience what it’s like at a typical NYC show.

At the end of the song there is the call/answer part “It’s Not Easy”. Very few people sang the audience part (though it wasn’t just Lisa and me).


Two other prominent set changes. Instead of singing the song about his sister, Ian substituted Hangman. In addition to being his always awesome self (Ian, in case you’re not paying attention), 1/2 way through the song, Chad Vaccarino casually stepped onto the stage, trumpet in hand. At the precise moment when you expect the horns to come in during Hangman (you do own the amazing This Is The New Year album, right?), Chad chimed in perfectly. He didn’t play the trumpet at the house concert.


The second addition was Girl I Got a Thing. It was great. It also highlighted a few more differences in NYC audiences. Lisa and I automatically sang the (correct this time) Girl I Got a Thing answer (perhaps a few other people joined, but it wasn’t obvious). More notably, I doubt that anyone realized they were missing out on Chocky drinking on stage and shaking the tambourine at just the right time. It also took a bit longer than expected for the crowd to get into the na-na-na-na, woa wo part, but I was impressed that people got a bit more emboldened. It was particular cool that people quickly picked up on singing it softer and softer at the end, following Ian’s lead. Excellent!

The other obvious difference was not having Mike Campbell there. We missed him, especially since it meant that they didn’t perform Shorty Don’t Wait. They did do Pacific Sun (with Ian on the ukulele, first time for us seeing him jacked-in with his new pickup) and Down By the River (yesterday I knew I was wrong when I called it Down To the River).


I did start out by saying the difference was dramatic. The #1 reason was that Jammin’ Java was amplified and the house concert was not. Both were awesome, with the sound engineer last night doing a terrific job of getting the levels right. Still, hearing their voices amplified and hearing the keyboards much louder (in particular the bass lines) puts it squarely in between an acoustic show and a full band one.

The way I raved about the house concert, you’d think that I would much prefer it over last night’s version. You would be wrong (again). Variety is the spice of life and I really fully enjoy all of Ian’s setups!

Of course, Chad thrilled on You’ll Be OK, Down By the River, Pacific Sun and This is the New Year. There were even a handful of “Yeah, Chad”’s called out, making it ever-so-slightly more like a NYC show. Winking smile


But, for me personally, the biggest difference last night from any other show is that Lois finally decided I was a big enough fan of Ian Axel to warrant buying me my own Ian T-Shirt. For over a year, I have had to walk around with Lois wearing one of her many colored ones, the original version saying “I’m with Ian” (so people may have thought my name was Ian!). We’ll see who wears theirs out first (probably me, since I still only have one…).

So, awesome indeed, but now I’m ready again for a full band show. Let’s get it done boys!

Ian has a way of creating super fans (we definitely qualify). The same ladies that organized the house concert the day before volunteered to run the merch table at Jammin’ Java. Lindsie and Sara did a great job, including bringing a jar of the Ian Axel Fortune cookies. If you signed the mailing list you got one. Our two guests did and got their reward. Smile


I may have my facts wrong, but I heard a rumor that the opening act was supposed to be someone we’ve just recently seen in NYC. Pleasant but nothing that excites me. Then we heard that he canceled. Whether that’s true or not, a local group was chosen to open for Ian.

Sub-Radio Standard is five guys, a number of whom look like they’re still in High School (perhaps they are). Not one to be blinded by age-ism, let’s start out by saying they were a great selection to open for Ian. They are all talented, but the lead singer is really the heart of the group.

Adam Bradley sang lead on every song and played acoustic guitar (quite nicely) on roughly half of them. He has a terrific voice that Ian called out as well.


Matthew Prodanovich on acoustic guitar and light vocals. Matthew did a very nice job on the guitar, in particular on the few songs where he played some very interesting leads (integrated into the songs, rather than solos). He sang nicely, but nowhere near often enough.


Before I continue, I have an excuse to point out one thing that Sub-Radio Standard (and Adam in particular) needs to start doing. Introduce the band! Adam didn’t name the members of band. Even though they are listed on their Facebook Fan Page (which is how I know the spelling), there is an extra person listed, that overlaps with the instruments I am about to name, so I may be choosing the wrong person!).

John Fengya on electronic keyboards, acoustic guitar and small djembe. John (or is it Mike Chinen?) is likely the most talented musician in the group. He played the keyboards very well. His play on the guitar was really good too. He joined the full-time percussionist on the closing number and did a very nice job there as well. One one song John also used a shaker.


Michael Pereira on percussion (small djembe and bass drum, both played with his hands only). He also played the tambourine with his foot. Michael kept a lively beat throughout. He also sang a bit of harmony with Adam on the first number (and on the last, but I don’t think he was near his mic since he moved over to share the bass drum with John, which was quite cool).


Mark Siford on acoustic bass. Nice job.


Sub-Radio Standard played at least three covers (including the opening number) and at least five originals. The covers were all by big groups (Kings of Leon, Maroon 5 and Coldplay). I know I’m one of the only people in the world who doesn’t get why many of these super groups are so popular. I don’t know many of their songs, but the reason I don’t is that none of the ones I’ve ever heard have made me want to listen to more. In general, they’re very pleasant, but not interesting.

I felt exactly that way last night. Sub-Radio Standard did a high quality job on all three covers. The performances were worth listening to, but the songs, I have no need to ever hear again (by Sub-Radio or the original groups). On the other hand, I liked every single original song that Sub-Radio played. So, keep writing guys, you’re doing a good job!

My only complaint about Sub-Radio Standard is that they don’t do nearly enough harmony. Matthew and Michael are clearly capable of enhancing Adam’s sound. Even though Adam called out Matthew for his harmony, I assure you it was way too little. They need to work on this since they have the raw material sitting there (literally).

Some final thoughts about Jammin’ Java. We really like it there and look forward to every show we attend. The food is excellent as is the coffee. For the most part, the staff there are extremely nice. Last night, that was 95% accurate (the food, coffee and majority of the staff).

For whatever reason, they decided that last night would be a standing only show (with a few tables in the small elevated area). Fine, that’s their right, even though without the full band, Ian is better served by a seated show. At 7:20 (or later!), 10 minutes before Sub-Radio Standard was supposed to start, they changed their minds (that’s fine too and we were thrilled). They started rolling tables and chairs out.

They did it fairly quickly and efficiently. But, one staff member decided to be officious and tried to keep people away from tables that were clearly done until “they were all done”. Her attitude was difficult to take, but it never ended. Once she got in a mood, it lasted until after the show was over. One of our guests ordered some chili to go. While one person was happily making it, our moody gal remarked (loudly) “You’re not making food now?”. Hey, we tried to give the club more business in this economy. We apologize for the inconvenience…

Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell at VA House Concert

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We’re missing some mind-bogglingly good music in NYC this week (and next). Is there a cure for that? Yes, catching Ian Axel on consecutive nights, in different settings.

Our two most recent Ian Axel concerts were both big stage, full band, crowded standing audience venues. We’ve seen Ian solo and acoustic before, but nothing like last night. Ian, Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell appeared last night in Northern Virginia (NoVA) at a house concert organized by two of their many super fans (our heartfelt thanks go out to Lindsie and Sara for putting this together!).


House concerts vary in so many ways (so far, we’ve loved every one we’ve been at). Last night had a big crowd (75 confirmed in advance). Consistent with the other ones, there was no amplification of anything other than Ian’s electronic keyboards (he debuted a new amp that was set at just the right volume). Vocals, guitar and ukulele were all au natural.

That was a huge difference. Even for a solo show at Rockwood, Ian/Chad/Mike are mic’ed for vocals and guitar. That introduces a number of things, including the skill and mood of the sound engineer that night, plus your physical placement from the speaker(s) (rather than from the performer). Last night we were six feet away from the actual mouths producing the sounds.

Ian kicked off his set with Leave Me Alone! Of course it was great, but it also set the tone for the rest of the set nicely. Sitting to my left were a mother/daughter. The daughter finished her Masters in NYC last summer and moved back to NoVA. She is (and was) a fan of Ian’s and saw many shows in NYC when she lived there. Right after Ian sings the first verse, there is a fun clapping part (both on the record and at all of his live shows).


I badly wanted to clap, but admit to not doing it. Lisa (the daughter, two seats to my left) started clapping. I joined in instantly (and looked over to thank her for doing it!). I can’t imagine the tension that would have built up inside me if I didn’t get to clap along. Of course, everyone sang the ask/answer It’s Not Easy part (could even have been 100% participation, it certainly sounded like it).

The same song set the tone in another way as well. One of the lines is “Take all your sh*t, I’m over it”. Given that there were a few kids there, Ian switched it to “Take all your stuff” and of course, couldn’t rhyme it. We all laughed, as did Ian. Smile Next time, I suggest: “Take all your stuff, I’ve had enough!”. Winking smile

I am sure I could reconstruct the entire set list from memory, but I would probably get the order wrong, so I’ll just mention a few songs in context. I think the second/third songs were The Music that Haunts this Town morphing into Waltz. I mention it because of the long instrumental lead. You could have heard a pin drop people were so respectful of Ian’s incredible piano play (and likely mesmerized, since we could easily see his fingers fly up and down the keyboard).


Ian introduced a number of the songs with his classic self-effacing style (privately we describe it as impish, but now I’ve outed us). He got big laughs a number of times, including his introduction to Gone. Of course, no laughter whatsoever during the playing of the very emotional Gone.

Ian played the equally heart-tugging Say Something (after another moving intro) to end the first solo-section of his set. He then called Chad Vaccarino up to join him. The two of them performed You’ll Be OK. We had already gotten more than just a taste of Chad’s magic earlier (I’ll get to that shortly), so it wasn’t a surprise to see them nail this.


Ian invited Mike Campbell up. Ian came out from behind the keyboards and took out his ukulele. The three of them played Pacific Sun. They followed that up with a song we’d never heard before (something like “Down to the River”, but not exactly that). More gorgeous three-part harmony!

After that, back to some more solo Ian. He sang a song about his sister that he was worried he would mess up, since he rarely plays it. He needn’t have worried, beautiful! Since I’m mentioning most of the songs anyway, I’ll add that one of the solo numbers was Afterglow.

Then Ian called Chad back up and announced that they were about to play his single. Before he started, he said he wanted to dedicate it to the kids of our hostess. She replied that they just went up to bed, but that the little girl would be very upset if she missed this one. She asked Ian to wait a minute as she went up to get the kids. You could hear them running down the stairs with excitement, it was too cute for words.

I’m sure people would have been happy to show up just to hear this song. Smile

Ian called Mike back up again and the three of them closed the show with Shorty Don’t Wait. I could listen to them sing this song 100 times in a row and not get tired of it. Each of them does their part so well and when the three sing together (especially the last line a cappella) it’s magic.


The feeling in the room was extraordinary. For a few minutes, no one wanted to get up from their seats because it would mean that the evening had ended. We had a one-hour drive back to the hotel so we finally did get up, say our thank yous and goodbyes and hit the road.

Mike Campbell opened the show solo. He performed five numbers accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. We’ve seen Mike perform solo before, but this too was special. Without a microphone or an amplified guitar, we got to appreciate him opening up his voice a bit more. He nailed each song and the crowd let him hear it (very sustained applause after each number, which of course, Ian got as well).

Apologies for how dark many of theses photos are:


Mike invited Chad up and they sang Days Gone By (a song they wrote together). Wow. We’ve seen them perform it before with Mike singing the lead, last night they switched and Chad took the lead. Chad is a very emotive singer to begin with and I was curious what he would sound like un-mic’ed. Holy cow, he was perfect.


They played a song we hadn’t heard before (another co-write) called something like Don’t Worry (but that’s not it exactly). Another winner. Then they called Ian up.

This created a Three Stooges like comedy moment. Mike and Chad were sitting on tall bar stools (as you can see from the above photos). Chad pulled out the small piano stool from behind the keyboard and placed it between the stools for Ian to sit on. Ian pointed out that he would be really short sitting there and offered to switch with Chad. Of course, Chad being the shortest of the three couldn’t readily accept the logic of that offer.


After a bit more milling around, they agreed to all stand (as you can see). Smile


They performed another song that Chad and Mike co-wrote, All the Love. Another wow. Ian and Chad write amazingly well together, but so do Chad and Mike.

In addition to organizing an amazing show, our lovely ladies (Lindsie and Sara) had a great spread to eat. Most notable were the special Ian Axel Fortune Cookies! Each fortune was a song lyric. Brilliant and totally appropriate as real fortunes!


Tonight we get to repeat most of the joy (Mike won’t be joining them) at Jammin’ Java (again in NoVA). Can’t wait!