October, 2011:

Robbie Gil at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 CMJ

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Robbie Gil headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 as one of many artists to wind down a spectacular week-long CMJ shows.


Rockwood was jammed and they removed all of the tables near the stage (except for one row to create a barrier between the audience and the stage).

Robbie delivered his usual high-energy show which caused many people in the audience to dance (to the extent that they could without knocking over their neighbors).

Robbie sings with such passion, with a gravelly voice, accompanied by a loud, top-notch band, that it’s sometimes hard to understand the lyrics. All you had to do was look around the room and read the lips of dozens of people who were singing along to every word.

In addition to singing, Robbie played acoustic guitar and grand piano. He also sang a song with no instrument, accompanied by the band. Songs ranged from soulfully quiet (at least the beginning) to raucous rock ‘n roll.


Robbie had a great band, as he always does. Left-to-right on stage:

Update: thanks to the kind person who gave me the info on the keyboard player. 🙂

Chris Lopresto Keyboard player (on grand piano and electronic keyboards) and some background vocals. I’ve seen him before, but can’t remember his name at the moment (sorry). I’ll update and link when I get it. He played the keyboards really well. Rather than stacking the electronic one on top of the grand (like most do), he had the electronic keyboards on a stand behind Robbie, and he walked back-and-forth between them whenever he switched.

Chris LoprestoChris Lopresto Keyboards

On one of Robbie’s signature numbers has him leaving center stage to join the keyboard player Chris at the grand piano. They played together, giving the song a huge finish.


Zach Jones on drums and background vocals. Zach always does a great job on the drums, no matter who he’s supporting. Robbie’s sets are so high energy that drumming for him can be a challenge. Zach exceeds any expectations.


Nick Morrison on electric bass and background vocals. We’ve seen Nick play with Robbie once before (but at the time I couldn’t find a good link to him). He did a great job that first night, and again last night.


Greg Mayo on electric guitar and background vocals. What can I say about Greg that I haven’t said before. Nothing. He’s that good every time, so coming up with new ways to say it is hard. Robbie is obviously a huge Mayo fan because he gives Greg long leads. To close the show (during the encore), Robbie gave Greg a really long lead.


When Greg was done, Robbie signaled the band that he wanted to take another round. They wound down the song in slow fashion, while Greg took leads between each of the down beats, extending what was already a bone-crushing performance. Awesome!


As he’s done before, Robbie understands how much the crowd enjoys watching Greg’s fingers fly up and down the frets. During one long lead, Robbie knelt down to give people on the opposite side of the stage a view of Greg. That turned into a series of maneuvers that included laying on his back. At all times, he continued playing the acoustic guitar. It was a hoot!


Here’s the set list:


The set right after Robbie was headlined by none other than Greg Mayo himself. Smile

Alex Wong at Rockwood Music Hall CMJ

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Alex Wong has a full-band show this coming Monday night (10/24/2011) at 9pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. There are three other shows that we want to see that night and we haven’t figured out how to be at two places at once, just yet.

Yesterday, Alex had an afternoon showcase at Rockwood, at MPress Records MPressFest (part of the week-long CMJ Festival). Alex isn’t signed to MPress, but they are fans of his (as we are) and wanted to highlight him among their own lineup of artists.


Alex had a full band at this show so we got a preview of what the rest of you can see on Monday. It’s a rare treat (the last time we saw him with a full band was in July), but I suspect we’ll see more of this setup as we head toward next year’s release of Alex’s first solo CD.

Alex is an incredible producer (who is about to enter a grueling stretch of producing albums for: Martin Rivas, Anne Heaton, Delta Rae, Alex Berger, and likely others I am unaware of or can’t recall at the moment). There’s little doubt that he’s transitioning his live shows to bring out more of the flavor that we’ll hear on his own solo CD, rather than the more stripped-down versions we’ve been hearing before he hit the studio.

I say amen to that.

Alex was supported by three people, left-to-right on stage:

Ximena Sarinana on vocals. Ximena sang on a few numbers, including the opener, Always Something Better. A superstar in her own right, hearing her voice blend with Alex’s (or anyone’s, to be honest), is always satisfying.


Ward Williams on cello and electric guitar. Ward always delivers. He switched back-and-forth between the cello and guitar. On one song, he started off looping an ethereal sound on the cello, then picked up the guitar for the majority of the song, turning the cello loop off/on as appropriate. Very cool.


Elliot Jacobson on drums. You couldn’t have seen two more different drum performances than yesterday’s Alex Wong set and Wednesday’s Jenny Owen Youngs set. Yet, both were fantastic, and both were provided by Elliot, showing off why he’s a very sought after drummer. Given that Alex is a top drummer/percussionist in his own right, selecting Elliot is a very high compliment (well deserved).


Alex spent most of the set at the grand piano. He stepped out to play acoustic guitar on two numbers. One was a nearly solo performance of Patiently (off the upcoming album). The other is one of The Paper Raincoat’s best songs, Brooklyn Blurs.


Standing next to Elliot was another great drummer, Seth Faulk. I’ve noted at least twice that Seth has an excellent voice. Those comments weren’t made at a Seth Faulk show. In both cases, Seth was in the audience, singing along with the performer on stage. In one of those cases, Seth was standing right behind me, so I got a personal serenade (that was at an Alex Wong show too!).

Alex is obviously aware that Seth knows his material and can sing it beautifully. He egged Seth to join him on stage for Brooklyn Blurs. It took roughly five attempts, but finally Seth came center stage and harmonized with Alex. Yay!


The set was so good that I feel even worse that we’ll be missing Alex on Monday. On the other hand, I feel great that we caught this one and got a preview of Monday’s set. The other advantage of this one over Monday’s is that Ximena will no longer be in town for that show, so we were rewarded for playing hooky from work on a Friday afternoon. Smile

Seth Glier at Rockwood Music Hall CMJ

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On December 23rd, 2009 we saw Rachael Sage headline at Joe’s Pub. One of her guest stars that night was Seth Glier, who  sang and played accordion and glockenspiel. He was talented and I made a note to check out his own stuff. It’s only been nearly two years and that hadn’t happened, until yesterday.


MPress Records put on a showcase at Rockwood Music Hall yesterday. We were planning on attending Alex Wong’s set (Alex is not signed to MPress, but they are fans of Alex and wanted to highlight him). When I checked the schedule I saw that Seth Glier was up before Alex, so I would finally get my chance.

Seth opened the show with the title track from his current (second) CD, The Next Right Thing. He sings while playing a large gourd covered in sea shells. He was using a porchboard for a kick drum sound.


Ryan Hommel accompanied him on every number. On the opening one, he played acoustic guitar. With his right foot he tapped on a tambourine. On his left foot he had a strap (like an elastic bracelet) with sea shells attached, creating a shaker sound whenever he tapped it.


Ryan sang harmony on every number, perfectly. Very high, soft, sweet sounding. Later in the set Ryan alternated between acoustic and electric guitars, playing a more ethereal sounding style on the electric.


Seth played the majority of the set at the grand piano, which he played very well. He played at least one song on the acoustic guitar and handled that very well too.


Basically, a very talented kid. Oh, did I forget to mention that he’s 22? He’s having a slow start, having only put out two full-length CDs so far (first, in 2009, called The Trouble with People, both released on MPress Records). Winking smile

We bought both CDs after Seth’s set and we’re listening to The Next Right Thing as I type this and we’re enjoying it a lot. Both CDs are characterized as Pop in the Gracenote database. I wouldn’t quibble, but First (the 5th song on the CD) is most definitely a traditional Folk song (IMHO, with the exception of the slow-jazz horn solo), so don’t pigeon hole Seth, please. Smile

Well into the second CD now (his first), and it’s really good too.

Lisa Jaeggi at The Delancey CMJ

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Lisa Jeaggi came onto my radar roughly a year ago. I can’t exactly remember how, but it was most likely an email newsletter from her record label, Modern Vintage Recordings. I listened to a few songs (likely on MySpace) and liked what I heard. I started following her on Twitter and was looking forward to catching a show. Our schedules conspired against that, until last night.


I was already planning on making my first foray to The Delancey to catch Derek James. Imagine how pleased I was to see that Lisa Jaeggi was on immediately after him.

Lisa’s style is described as folk/pop and I won’t quibble with that. She has a fantastic voice, plays the guitar nicely (first half of the set was finger-picked, second half strummed, for the most part). I enjoyed every single song, but I can’t say I had a chance to concentrate on the lyrics (that will require a more private listening session). Still, the lyrics I heard interested me, so I’m betting the more I hear, the more I’ll like.


Lisa was supported by two people, left-to-right on stage:

Ben Martinez on electric guitar and vocals (no good individual link). Ben was excellent on the electric guitar. His play danced around Lisa’s, mostly when she wasn’t singing. Subtle but gorgeous stuff.


He also sang wonderful harmony with her. I was surprised that I could hear him, because he stood way back from the mic. I don’t know if I heard him despite that, or only because I was dead center, around 10 feet from the stage. Either way, it worked.


Will Whitney on djembe (no good individual link). This was a pretty small djembe, held between Will’s legs (most of the djembes I’ve seen are mounted and much larger). Will was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe how rich the percussion sounded coming from just two hands and one small-ish drum.


It’s not fair to say Will only used two hands. A number of times, each of fingers (at least on his left hand) were acting separately, making for many different (fast) digits striking the djembe in rapid succession.

Will and Ben were integral to making Lisa sound very full. That said, I am sure that Lisa could hold my attention solo, accompanied just by her guitar.

I am extremely happy that we caught Lisa’s set and I will be sure to track her down again for another round.

In my previous post I mentioned being impressed with The Delancey sound guy. During Lisa’s set, he came down from the sound booth (immediately to the left of the stage) and stood next to me (shoulder-to-shoulder) so that he could hear the music as the audience was hearing it.

He asked a couple of people if anything needed adjusting and asked the band as well (about their monitors). Everyone gave him the thumbs up, so no big adjustments were necessary. He did raise Ben Martinez’ guitar volume up a smidge, which was much appreciated. Having someone take such pride in their work is always nice to see.

Thanks to Modern Vintage Recordings and The Delancey for sponsoring a wonderful evening of CMJ music. We caught three sets there (and loved every one of them). We had to leave and missed a few more that I was looking forward to. There was an open bar from 6-8pm. We ended up being extremely cheap dates, since neither of us had anything. Smile

Derek James at The Delancey CMJ

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Derek James playing somewhere and we’re in town? That’s where we’ll be. He was headlining a CMJ Showcase at The Delancey on the main stage. We had never been to The Delancey, but now you know why we’ll never be able to say that again.


I’ve written about Derek many times now. The most recent one was a review of his new CD (something I rarely do). The CD is out now, so you can just go buy it (and rate your reviewing skills vs mine). I mentioned in that post that I’d be buying it once it was out. Since we still enjoy physical CDs (luddites that we are), we bought two last night after the show and got Derek to sign one as well. Thanks!

The main stage at The Delancey is quite small (just wide enough to fit the four of them, barely deep enough for each to take a step or two forward or back. The room itself is extremely long and very narrow. I parked myself at the bar directly across from Derek.

The sound guy (sitting immediately to the left of the stage) was excellent, actively ensuring that the sound was right for us and the performers as well (more on that in the next post). That made a world of difference. I’ve complained twice now that at Rockwood 1 (one of our favorite places), Derek’s vocals have been washed out by the volume of the instruments. Not so last night.

CMJ sets tend to be a bit shorter than normal. It stinks when you can’t get enough of a performer, but it’s awesome that they try to have nearly every set at dozens of venues actually start on time!

Derek was supported by his newer set of Lovely Fools (not the ones on the CD). He tours with these guys now and this is the second time I’ve seen them playing with Derek. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know how much I love the original Fools. That will never change, but I publicly admit to be 100% satisfied with the current Lovelies.

Jerry Fuentes on electric guitar and vocals. Jerry is superb on the electric guitar and is a large part of why I don’t mug Derek in an alley for not being able to produce Roy Gurel at every show.


Mike Tuccillo on electric bass and vocals. Mike is becoming a staple in our outings. We saw him supporting Jenny Owen Youngs just the night before. The bass play on a Derek James set is a critical part of the sound, and Mike is definitely up to the task.


I mentioned to him after the set that he’s helping me forget Assaf Spector. He noted how different their styles are. True, and like I said above, I will always love the original Fools (Roy and Assie), but Jerry and Mike deliver.

During one song, the three of them (Jerry, Derek and Mike) take identical/simultaneous leads (electric, acoustic and bass, respectively). They nail it (it would be painfully obvious if any of them missed a single note).

Jamie Alegre on drums and vocals. Jamie had to work with a reduced kit (snare, kick, high hat and one additional cymbal) due to the size of the stage. As Derek noted between songs, Jamie kicked arse even with the smaller setup. Great job!


Derek noted that when he tours with these guys, people ask whether they are brothers. Look at the mop-tops and beards, and decide for yourself. Smile


Look who we ran into at The Delancey. Matt Simons was the person who suggested we go catch Alec Gross upstairs (before the Derek James set) and Chris Ayer was already up there enjoying the show.


Alec Gross at The Delancey CMJ

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We headed down to The Delancey for two CMJ Showcases. It was our first time there. We arrived 25 minutes early and bumped into a few people we knew. One of them mentioned that Alec Gross was playing upstairs (The Delancey has three stages). We had only seen Alec once, when he played harmonica on two songs during a John Schmitt set. I was very happy to catch him doing his own stuff.

Alec Gross was terrific. We loved the set. Very folky. He has a great voice, plays the guitar nicely and is as good on the harmonica while he’s playing the guitar as he was the first time we saw him.


We liked the songs a lot as well. I just followed him on Twitter so that I can know when/where he’ll be playing in the future, as we’ll be sure to catch more of his shows.

In a huge bonus surprise, he was supported by two people, one of whom is already high on my list of wanna see people. The other other was new to me and wonderful as well.

Will Hensley on acoustic guitar and harmony. I’ve seen Will a couple of times now. Here are two lines that I wrote the last time we saw him (supporting Jesse Ruben):

Last night, playing for Jesse, Will totally blew me away. He was amazing on traditional leads, and excellent with the slide as well.

I will be thrilled to see Will play with anyone, just for his skill, until I find out he is willing to play with a dud headliner. Winking smile

So, if I understand myself correctly, I would have gone to see Alec Gross, even if we didn’t know who he was, just because Will was playing with him. Winking smile I was already following will on Twitter, but he doesn’t tweet often, so I had no idea he was going to be there. Musicians, Promote Thy Shows!


This was the first time we saw Will on acoustic guitar. He was excellent, but I will admit I was more impressed on the electric. It may be more a factor of Alec’s songs, than of Will’s skill.

Will did an excellent job harmonizing with Alec.


Mason Ingram on drums. The folky nature of the set called for very subtle drumming. Mason answered the call. Impressive.


My primary mission in showing up at The Delancey was to see Derek James. I looked at my watch and saw that it was 7:05pm and Alec was still playing. I asked a friend whether Derek was running late (CMJ is typically on time, which is much appreciated!) and he said “No, Derek is likely on the main stage” (which is the middle floor). Oops!

Lois was enjoying Alec so much (as was I) so she stayed a bit longer, but I sprinted downstairs and indeed missed Derek’s first number.

Nice job Alec, Will and Mason.

Lucius at The Living Room CMJ

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Prior to last night, we’d never seen Lucius perform (that web site is not up yet, you can check out their MySpage page in the meantime). That makes them very unique in our personal history. They are the only band that we have contributed to (on Kickstarter) without ever having seem them perform (as a group or individually). In fact, we never heard their recorded music either.

Melissa Tong, one of our favorite violin/fiddle players, told us about their upcoming CD and suggested we would love them. We contributed sight unseen. That CD is delayed, but at least we finally got to see them live.

There are four members listed on the band’s Facebook page. All four were there, with a very special guest star as well. But, while they all play a critical role in the sound, the group is centered on the two women.

Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig could be right out of an episode of Mad Men. They dress alike (last night in orange pastel colored dresses). They wore matching different colored shoes (meaning, they matched each other, but their left and right feet didn’t match). They wore funky sunglasses. They defined hipsterism (or the antithesis of it… ooh… makes me think too much). Smile


They stand on stage facing each other (so the audience gets a profile, except that we were at the extreme edge of the front row so we had a direct view of Jess and a rear view of Holly). They each play electronic keyboards, with Jess throwing in a tambourine on a stand and some additional percussion and Holly having an actual drum to her right.


All of that is theater (aside from the instruments) and good theater at that. What’s special is their voices and their songs. Their voices are great (individually) and their harmonies are spectacular. At a minimum, it’s the two of them, but often it’s at least three voices. Quite a number of times, all five people on stage were singing together. Stunning.


The songs were all great too, so the vehicle for their voices is nice to sit in while you’re along for the ride. Smile

Supporting the ladies, left-to-right on stage:

James Cleare on electric guitar, a drum, tambourine and vocals. James was the special guest. He’s a member of The Spring Standards, one of the most innovative/fun groups in NYC. He clearly knows their material well, since he was singing a lot. He spices up any performance he’s a part of.


Dan Molad on drums and vocals (no good individual link). Dan was excellent.


Pete Lalish on electric guitar and vocals (no good individual link). Pete was excellent as well.


Dan and Pete are both former members of Elizabeth and the Catapult. That should tell you all you need to know about their talent. Pete has also toured extensively with Ximena Sarinana (including an appearance on The Tonight Show).

Lucius is playing again tonight at 9pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1. We might not be able to make it, but I would be thrilled to see them again, even knowing we’d be packed like sardines there. Thanks Jason for suggesting we see them with a little more breathing room at The Living Room. It was definitely worth staying up later than we planned.

I am very thankful that I enjoyed the set so much, or I might have felt foolish blindly contributing to the making of their upcoming CD. Now I can truly appreciate the anticipation of receiving it, sometime early next year. Smile

Shenandoah and the Night at The Living Room CMJ

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After seeing Delta Rae at Rockwood, our evening was supposed to be over. Our friend Jason asked if we were heading over to see Lucius (the site is not up just yet, but you can check them out here) at The Living Room. I said that we were planning to see them tonight (tomorrow, when I was speaking last night, if you can keep up with the time travel) at Rockwood 1, 9pm (in case you’re planning on catching them).

He pointed out that they are very popular, and Rockwood might be full to capacity. We decided to stretch out our night and head over to see them.

When we walked in, another group was just finishing up sound check, so we got a bonus set in during the week-long CMJ Showcases.

Shenandoah and the Night performed a very nice set. I would attempt to describe them, but I’d fail horribly, especially if you compared my description to their own. Here’s their version, direct from their Facebook page:

Led by the bewitching singer/songwriter/producer Shenandoah Ableman (of the San Francisco-based Yard Dogs Road Show), Shenandoah and the Night offer a haunting, noir-ish sound counter-balanced by bursts of joy and infectious energy. Rootsy enough for folk enthusiasts without sacrificing its modernist edge, Shenandoah and the Night cast a wide net across the spectrums of taste and time, blending and blurring a diverse set of influences that range from the operatic anguish of Nina Simone and Kurt Weill, to the dusky psychedelic sturm und drang of the Doors and Janis Joplin.

Shenandoah Ableman sings beautifully and demands your visual attention as well. This was most evident in the number where she basically did a fan dance (literally). At the very end, from behind the fans, her LDB (little black dress) came off, revealing a body suit underneath. I think they had to cut the set short to avoid the body suit coming off during the next number. Winking smile



I’m not really sure who was supporting her on stage. At least one of the band members listed on the site was not there, and finding photos of the others isn’t so simple. Rather than make a mistake, I’ll post photos, but leave their names out.

The electric guitarist was pretty good.


The drummer was very good.


The bass player was pretty good.


The accordion player also played grand piano. Late in the set he did something I’ve never seen before. He placed the accordion on top of the piano and played it like it was an electronic keyboard. Cool.


Here’s the set list:


Delta Rae at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 CMJ

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Delta Rae made the trek to NYC to headline a CMJ set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. If they can make the trek from North Carolina, we can do it from midtown. We saw the previous two sets out of interest, but mostly out of wanting to guarantee that we’d be near the stage for Delta Rae. Mission accomplished!

I’ve written about Delta Rae a number of times. The previous two were at Rockwood 2, so rather than repeat how awesome they are (and why), I’ll link to both: here and here. Suffice it to say that they were (again) awesome last night.


So, what’s new since the last time we saw them three months ago. They just put up a new video:

Delta Rae performing Bottom of the River

That’s related to another big news item. Bottom of the River was produced by one of our favorites, Alex Wong. Delta Rae recently announced that they selected Alex to produce the entire new CD (first full-length one from Delta Rae). They had a successful Kickstarter project and will be heading into the studio (and the woods?!?) later this year.

They nailed this song on stage last night as well, so they don’t need multiple takes to rattle your bones!


Here’s a tweet from the band in the middle of the night:

DeltaRaeBand Delta Rae

Lucky enough to preview @highceilings new solo record today….its awesome!! Cant wait to make our own masterpiece with him!!

Ah, another reference to the upcoming solo effort from Alex Wong (a.k.a HighCeilings). Still have to sit on our hands another few months before we can grab a piece of that goodness.

Even though Delta Rae is all about the group blending together in a symphony of powerful voices/harmonies, it wouldn’t be fair to not call out each member, since they each were outstanding in their own right. Left-to-right on stage:

Eric Holljes on grand piano and vocals. So good on both, and an excellent songwriter to boot.


Brittany Holljes on vocals, shakers and tambourine. Great voice. Less banter/intros than usual (typical of a CMJ show). Watch the video to understand her true powers.


Elizabeth Hopkins on vocals, shakers and tambourine. Great voice (I know, I’m repetitive).


Ian Holljes on acoustic guitar and vocals. Another excellent job, including an introduction of a new song.


All four sang lead on at least two songs each. All four sang together on every number (exactly as it should be!).


Mike McKee on drums. Mike has impressed me in every show, last night included.


Grant Emerson on electric bass (normal and a skinny upright one as well). Grant is a terrific bassist. I will spend a considerable amount of time doing penance for mis-naming him two posts back. If you clicked on both links at the top (or at least the second one), then you know that I corrected the error, but I still feel badly about it.


Here’s the set list:


We ran out the minute the show was over to catch another CMJ set a few blocks away, so we didn’t even get to wave hi to the band. Next time. Smile

P.S. Do you think we were having a good time?


Aunt Martha at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 CMJ

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Aunt Martha headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 as part of CMJ week. We saw the set before them (Jenny Owen Youngs) and were primarily there to see the set after them (Delta Rae), so we had every intention of sticking around (even though we knew nothing about them).

However, if we needed any added incentive, for 30 years, we’ve had an Aunt Martha in our lives. She’s one of our godchildren’s aunts, and everyone in our extended family calls her Aunt Martha. In a crazy turn of events, she isn’t in the group (bummer), but we stayed anyway. Winking smile

Every song they played was good, in the sense of being easy to listen to (pleasant). All of them handled their instruments well enough, but none of them stood out to me in any way.

They don’t go out of their way to promote the individual members (on stage or on their website). So I will follow in their tradition and simply tell you their collective names without knowing which one played which instrument. Here’s how they list their band members on their Facebook page:

Members: In no particular order…. Tim Noyes, Brian Kim, Todd Brehm, Garrett Leahy, Eddie Byun

The lead singer has a very nice voice. The last few numbers showed off his range as he hit some crazy high notes very cleanly. He played rhythm acoustic guitar throughout.


The electronic keyboard player sang a bit of background vocals and kicked off the last song with a bit of lead singing.


The drummer kept a pretty good beat throughout and the rest of the band often turned to him during instrumental sections (with their backs to the crowd). My friend and I joked about it. I said “It looks like they’re in a football huddle”. I might have added “I think it’s something you said” as well. Winking smile


The electric bass player switched to violin for at least three songs. He sang a bit of harmony as well.


The electric guitar player picked up the bass for each of the numbers that the bass player took up the violin. He sang a bit of harmony too.


An easy set to enjoy between the two sets I intended to show up for. Here’s the set list:


P.S. I lied above, and the guilt is killing me. I ended up doing the research in order to label the photos with the correct names. Winking smile