October, 2011:

Owen Danoff at Rockwood Music Hall

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We had plans to be at Rockwood Music Hall last night for two sets, 5pm and 7pm. Under normal circumstances, we’d have stayed for the set in between no matter who it was, or at the very least checked them out in advance. That wasn’t our original plan. Considering the early set time, my thought was to have dinner from 6-7pm and return.

A few hours before heading down for the early set, I decided to click through from the Rockwood site to at least know who/what I was missing. Needless to say, our plans changed once I did.

Owen Danoff is a singer/songwriter (last night he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar). The site linked to his name is not what Rockwood linked to. They linked to an event page promoting the show on Facebook, where I then clicked through to Owen’s band page and listened to everything on there.

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It had a country feel to it, with a nice full-band sound.

Instead of appearing with a full band, Owen had one other person on stage, playing guitar and singing some harmony with him. It worked very well, but the sound/feel last night was noticeably different from what I was expecting.

It was completely captivating, on every song, so Owen can hold his own with or without a full band.

Owen is all of 21-years-old (at least for another month). His songwriting is fantastic (which never ceases to amaze me in someone so young). His lyrics flow so naturally. To me, that means that he either works incredibly hard to make it sound/feel so effortless, or he’s one of those rare people who is a vessel to some very deep well of ideas and their better expressions.

He has an excellent voice. He played the acoustic guitar very well, mixing rhythm with finger picking, with a few licks thrown in for good measure.

I’m following him on Twitter now and I’ve “Liked” his band page on Facebook, so we’ll be sure to catch him when he’s next in town. He’s currently based in Washington, DC, and this was his second show in NYC.

Own was accompanied on acoustic guitar by someone who is no longer a musician and requested to be removed from this post. He sang some harmony and did a fine job, occasionally pulling off very nice leads on the acoustic guitar. He sounded very good singing with Owen at times.

That said, I felt that his real abilities were held back by either nerves, or the desire to not step on Owen’s performance (which if I’m correct, was an error in judgment). He often sang too softly, or seemed to give up on a line. When he sang, he sang well and the two sounded really good together.

Only after the show did we find out that Owen’s talents have deep roots. We chatted very briefly with his cousin and she told us that Owen’s dad is Bill Danoff. Whether it’s genetics, or growing up around a musical great (or more likely a combination of the two), it’s likely that Owen is well on his way to a successful career following in his father’s footsteps.

We will certainly be tracking him over the years. Smile

Devyn Rush at Rockwood Music Hall

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I really don’t want to write this post. I am not a professional music critic. I prefer being positive about the many things that there are to celebrate and promote. Still, I find myself compelled, mostly because of my previous comments about Devyn.

Devyn Rush appeared at Rockwood Music Hall yesterday. We had previously seen her perform three songs as part of the American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood 2. I wrote a long-ish section about her in that post. In the middle I wrote this:

While I was impressed with her performance in general, I’ll need to see her in a different setting to know what I really think of her. I wasn’t drawn to the particular song selection.

Having seen a full set of hers last night, accompanied by her own band, I’m unfortunately left with the same impression.

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Devyn has an excellent voice. She plays the piano reasonably well and the guitar well enough. She moves gracefully (if a bit provocatively) and projects beams of sunshine on stage.

DevynRushPiano

Her song selection didn’t move me. Her songwriting has room for improvement. Her set preparation (rehearsal with the band, etc.) could have been better.

She was accompanied by three people, left-to-right on stage:

Adam Price on clarinet (Devyn mentioned he also plays sax). Adam’s solos were exceptional, he’s clearly very talented. When he played fills while Devyn was singing, or in the brief moments between verses that weren’t solos, the clarinet didn’t seem to fit as well. On his site he mentions that he’s new to Devyn’s band so the arrangements are probably still being worked out.

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Jason Bookman on acoustic guitar (no good individual link). Jason did a fine job (rhythm) and seemed to be the band leader.

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Zac Greenberg on upright bass (no good individual link). Zac was very good throughout the set.

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Half of the set was covers. A couple felt like curious choices given the specific band setup, which at times sounded jazzy.

I have no doubt that Devyn’s performances would appeal to many people, so don’t be dissuaded in going out to see her on account of my opinion.

Red Delicious Apples at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Greg Mayo is a member of a number of bands. Some are long-standing (e.g., his own Greg Mayo Band), some are formed spontaneously (e.g., the Red Delicious Apples). The Red Delicious Apples were slated to play their first-ever gig last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, at 11:30pm. That’s late for us, but whenever we make the effort to see Greg, it ends up being worth it.

GregMayo

We decided mid-week that we’d make it work. We even told our friends that we’d definitely be there. One of them emailed me late on Thursday night that Rockwood was listing the show at 12:30am. Ugh, that was going to be way harder to stay awake for. It seemed to me that there were three possible strategies:

  1. Remind myself that old people get up really early, and that 12:30am was like getting up really early on Sunday, rather than staying up really late on Saturday for an 11:30pm show! Winking smile
  2. Nap (for an extended time)
  3. Do something fun that energizes us, earlier, so that we’re not sitting around staring at the clock until midnight

A really smart person would do all three. We were really smart yesterday. Smile

We napped in the afternoon. We had company from 8pm until nearly midnight that was a blast (I think everyone was surprised when they realized the time). I even had time to check my email and Twitter before we got in a cab. The cabbie warned us that Second Avenue would be jammed. I found it a bit hard to believe at 12:20am, but he was right. We walked into Rockwood at 12:45, but the Red Delicious Apples (RDA) were just setting up. One of our friends was there to greet us as well. Perfect!

Evan Watson formed The Big Apple Singers (TBAS), which includes Greg Mayo. Evan has been touring all summer with Def Leppard and Heart. No one felt right performing under the TBAS name without Evan being a part of it, so TBAS was put on hiatus and other Apple-based groups were formed.

Greg is in all of them. The first was The Crab Apple Singers and they were awesome. The name changes if any of the band members change (so fans can rely on who they will see when they hear which Apple band is playing). With a new drummer and new bass player, the band was again renamed to the RDA.

What’s the draw? Four outstanding musicians, each of whom could hold your attention by themselves. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, they’re having a better time on stage than the rest of us. The good news is that the party is not exclusionary. We’re all invited to lose ourselves with them.

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They play classic covers, taking turns (not in strict rotation) singing lead (all four of them). Last night’s selection was eclectic enough to have a few songs that I didn’t recognize, though I enjoyed every one of them.

Greg Mayo on lead electric guitar and vocals. Greg kicked off the show at exactly 12:50am. His vocals were clear and strong and his guitar play is always mind-boggling, last night included. What’s most amazing is that he nearly always finishes off more strongly than he starts, and he starts at such a high level that it’s hard to imagine him elevating from there.

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Adam Minkoff on electric bass and vocals. When Adam is the headliner, his sets nearly always start at (or past) midnight, so we never get to see them. Here’s what I wrote about him the last time we saw him (earlier, because he was part of a large benefit concert):

What an absolute treat getting to see/hear him sing lead last night. He’s wonderful, and I will now need to nap on nights when he’s performing late, so I can stay up (at least once). I’ve already written a couple of times about how good he is on the bass. Last night was my first taste of him playing lead electric guitar.

Am I a prophet or what? Nap? Check! Stay up late? Check! Adam great on the bass? Check! Adam singing incredibly well? Double Check! He has a voice that’s built for Rock (and other genre’s as well).

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Zach Jones on the drums and vocals. Zach is a near-the-top-of-the-list favorite drummer, in such a short time. Both of us can’t get enough of him. While I primarily push my limits to make any Greg Mayo show, I’d push it to see Zach as well. In addition to mesmerizing on the drums, he too did a great job singing lead on a number of songs.

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He used a shaker on one song, eventually ending up with it in his mouth while he drummed with both sticks!

ZachJonesShakerInMouth

Patrick Firth on keyboards (electronic and grand piano) and vocals. Pat always delights on the keys with last night being right up there. His vocals were extremely strong as well, rounding out the fact that it simply didn’t matter which of the four was taking the lead.

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Lois captured some of the heat coming off the grand piano and keyboards when Pat was dazzling us.

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Greg called out two birthdays from the stage. The first was Terry, someone who attends way more shows at Rockwood than we do (how is that even possible?). The waitress brought her a cupcake to celebrate.

Then he noted that it was John Lennon’s birthday and proceeded to play Ticket to Ride in his honor. It was awesome and the people in the audience were in obvious ecstasy.

RDA was prepared to stop when a normal set should have been over (roughly 45 minutes). Given that they were the last band up and that the crowd was totally into every note (including a bunch of people dancing with abandon), Rockwood allowed them to push on.

After each extra number, they looked at each other (and for permission from the sound guy) and played just one more. Before playing the real final number, Greg announced that after he sings this one, he wouldn’t have anything left in the tank, so this was really going to be it.

ZachJonesAdamMinkoffGregMayo

He topped off the night with Born on the Bayou, singing his heart (and throat) out, and knocking us all on our a**es with his guitar. In total, they were on stage for 70 minutes.

Before running out, I went up to Greg and said: “Sorry we couldn’t make it out tonight.” He was very quick in his response: “At least you considered making the effort!”. Winking smile

Given that we’re rarely out at 2am (Saturday or otherwise), we were shocked to not be able to find a cab. There were hundreds of them, all occupied, and every block had dozens of people hailing cabs. After about 10 minutes Lois hailed a livery car and we were home at 2:20am.

Worth it!

Bess Rogers CD Release at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last night was Bess Rogers CD Release Party for Out of the Ocean. It was a three-hour, three-act show. I already covered the two opening acts, Allie Moss followed by Ian Axel.

Bess has created a beautiful CD. As good as the songs are, the production by Chris Kuffner (Bess’ husband) is incredible. It’s available on iTunes, Amazon and physical CD from Bess’ site as well. I recommend you check it out on Bandcamp (linked above) so you can verify for yourself whether you like it, then buy it.

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In keeping with the fact that Out of the Ocean is a concept album, Bess decided to play the CD start-to-finish at the show. Given the production, that meant having a bunch of people on stage to recreate the sound.

Bess played the ukulele, acoustic guitar and glockenspiel. Of course, more than that, she sang amazingly well. The energy on stage was feverish for much of the set and that translated to the audience as well. That lent more of a rock feel to the set, whereas the album feels like a more polished collection of pop numbers.

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A lot of people helped Bess make this a very special night (playing to a sold-out crowd at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2), so let’s get to them, left-to-right on the stage:

Misty Boyce on electronic keyboards, melodica, glockenspiel and background vocals. This was our first time seeing Misty, who is a headliner in her own right. Misty did a good job all around, though her vocals were very hard to hear except on the one song where none of the others sang (other than Bess).

MistyBoyce

When she played the melodica, the hose coming out of her mouth looked like she had a breathing/feeding tube. Winking smile

Allie Moss sang harmony on most of the numbers (as wonderfully as you can imagine). I noted above that Bess played glockenspiel. That was on one number, and Allie held it for her, causing Bess to declare that Allie was an excellent glockenspiel stand. Smile

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Ian Axel on electronic keyboards. Ian played on at least half of the numbers. You know he was excellent, right?

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Elliot Jacobson on drums. So clean, so precise, so fast. At one point, Chris Kuffner couldn’t contain himself and pointed at Elliot and called out his name. The crowd took the opportunity to show their appreciation.

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A little while ago I learned something that makes me wonder how Elliot kept his concentration throughout the set. He tweeted the following:

elliotjacobson Elliot Jacobson

I have a fiancé !!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3

Congratulations Elliot!

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony was wonderful throughout the set (as he always is).

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Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. In addition to producing the CD, Chris played a bunch of the instruments on it. Marvelous job live and on the CD as well. On the finale, Chris switched to an acoustic guitar.

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For those of you that don’t know, in addition to being headliners in their own right, both Bess and Allie are part of Ingrid Michaelson’s band, singing three-part harmony with Ingrid, with each playing guitar as well.

Ingrid sang on Bess’ CD and joined for a few numbers to sing background vocals alongside Allie.

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When Bess finished playing all of the songs (winding up with Brick by Brick) she talked to the crowd a bit. The topic was her very successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of this CD. One of the prizes/rewards was having a show dedicated in your honor, with your name worked into one of the songs in the set.

Bess called out to see if the person was there (and indeed he was). She dedicated the show to him. He flew in from Minneapolis for the show, so he beat our own Lindsie by quite a few miles. While Bess honored him, she forgot to work his name into a song. Oops. I suspect he’s not going to ask for a refund. Winking smile

To thank the rest of the many Kickstarter backers in the audience, Bess ended with a very special number.

Martin Rivas came on stage and along with Ingrid Michaelson, Allie Moss and Chris Kuffner, Bess sang In My Life (by The Beatles), accompanying herself on the ukulele, performing the fantastic solos on it, flawlessly! The five part harmony on such a gorgeous song was a stunning way to end a great evening of music.

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Every ticket entitled the attendee to a copy of the CD and a cookie. Since we have a copy through Kickstarter, we intend to gift our two new copies to our godchildren (I guess I blew the surprise, since they’re likely to read this before we get it to them). Smile

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You don’t really need a set list, since the CD was played in order, but here you go anyway (you’re welcome):

SetList

Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last night was Bess Rogers CD Release Party for Out of the Ocean. It was a three-hour, three-act show. I’m going to post about each act separately.

Ian Axel was the middle act. He started playing seconds after Allie Moss walked off the stage. For people that know Ian’s music, it was obvious that his set began (he was playing the intro to Waltz). For people who didn’t know his music, I bet some thought he was just tickling the ivories between sets.

IanAxel

By the time he started singing, he had everyone’s attention. After playing such an energetic song, Ian announced that he was about to depress us. He played the always wonderful Say Something.

Ian then brought up his writing partner, Chad Vaccarino. They debuted a song (I believe this was the first time it’s ever been played in public). They didn’t name it and there wasn’t a set list. I call it The More You Love, but I’m willing to bet $1 that they won’t call it that (the challenge is on).

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This song is awesome. Ian and Chad sing together so amazingly (always, but this number really highlights their skill). At one point in the song Ian takes a piano solo that had a palpable effect on crowd. Lois captured the speed in this shot:

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Ian and Chad then played You’ll Be OK, and amazingly, we all were. Smile

Ian invited Mike Campbell up. It’s been over four months since we’ve seen Mike perform with Ian and Chad. Those of us who were used to seeing Mike join them regularly were excited before Mike even hit the stage. While Mike holds his own, the real magic comes from Ian and Chad elevating their game (how is that even possible?). They love playing with Mike and it shows. We love listening to them with Mike, so it’s a symbiotic relationship all around.

MikeCampbell

Ian switched from the piano to the ukulele and they played Shorty Don’t Wait. As many times as we’ve seen (and loved) Shorty, this was one of the most special versions. For the past few months, Ian and Chad have worked special guests into this song, giving the second verse to the guest. Each has done a fantastic job, and I’ve noted it, but last night the song was sung as it was destined to be performed.

IanAxelUkulele

This is basically Chad’s song. He sang all the verses, with Ian and Mike singing three-part harmony on the chorus and providing the instrumentation. Simply perfect.

Ian returned to the piano with Mike remaining on stage. They played another new song (it was debuted a month ago at Bowery Ballroom). It’s called Amory and was co-written by all three of them. We loved it the first time we heard it, but this was the first time we got to hear it with Mike. Fantastic.

Mike left the stage and Ian and Chad finished up with their signature song, This is the New Year. An absolutely incredible set.

I mentioned in the previous post (about Allie Moss) that we saw the Intergalactic Tour three times last month. One of those times was at a fantastic house concert hosted by Lindsie. She made the herculean effort of taking Amtrak up after work to attend this show. We sat with her and captured this shot of Chad coming over to say hi before the show started:

LindsieChadVaccarino

Allie Moss at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last night was Bess Rogers CD Release Party for Out of the Ocean. It was a three-hour, three-act show. I’m going to post about each act separately.

Allie Moss opened the show. Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 was jammed. When Allie took the stage, people were still socializing, loudly (it’s a bar, after all). It took a very few super mellow notes of Late Bloomer (the title track of Allie’s fantastic CD) to create a whisper-quiet stillness. It was a thing of beauty, given the general noise level in most Rockwood 2 shows, even paid ones.

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After Allie’s solo beginning of Late Bloomer, she was joined mid-song by Ian Axel who accompanied her throughout her set on the grand piano. Ian also sang a bit of harmony with Allie on a number of songs.

IanAxel

Allie has a gorgeous voice. We’ve seen her perform three full sets in the past month when she toured with Bess and Ian on their Intergalactic Tour of the Universe and Beyond Tour. During that tour when Allie had someone singing harmony with her it was Bess (absolutely beautifully). Since this was Bess’ show, Allie chose to sing her harmonies with a special guest, saving Bess for her own set.

Becky Bliss (of Barnaby Bright) joined Allie on Melancholy Astronautic Man and sang harmony on most of the remaining numbers. Becky has an amazing voice as well and the two sounded great together.

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Allie told us that in the spirit of the CD Release she was going to play some new songs. Both Tiny Shards and Broken Lines were excellent, but I think Broken Lines particularly got to our little group of four.

Chris Kuffner joined on Corner, playing electric bass and singing. It’s so rare that I get to see Chris play bass, so even though it was a purposefully mellow line, it was a treat for me. That I happen to love the song didn’t hurt either.

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Sitting to my left was our friend Kevin (one of the many friends we’ve made through this vibrant indie music scene in NYC). He’s a major Allie Moss fan and he sang along to Corner (quite loudly) in my left ear. I turned to him afterward and told him that he did an awesome job and therefore would be called out for it in the blog, whether he liked it or not. Smile

Allie closed her set with a fantastic rendition of Dig With Me, getting the majority of the audience to sing along at the end.

That the crowd was so respectful throughout is a tribute to Allie’s hold over us, with her voice, songwriting and performance.

I’ve seen Ian Axel perform so many times I can no longer count. I’ve also seen him support others on keyboards on occasion (including on the Intergalactic tour). Still, last night was a real eye-opener for me to see him in a pure sideman role.

Playing the grand piano for Allie’s entire set, with a lighter touch and superb timing (usually coming in part of the way into each song) was a delight. He was a perfect complement to Allie’s voice and guitar.

Here’s the set list:

SetList

When Allie walked off the stage, Ian started his set with no break whatsoever. If you’re interested in my opinion of it, you’ll have to read the next post.

Martin Rivas at Rockwood Music Hall

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We would have come to see Martin Rivas at Rockwood Music Hall anyway, but we were already there because of the set before. Martin happened to be a guest performer on that set as well (Sierra Noble) so we got a 1.5 dose of Martin last night.

MartinRivas

We’ve been coming to Martin Rivas shows for two years now. They range from large Rock/Soul extravaganzas to solo shows, with a number of configurations in between. Even the solo ones can vary dramatically (from Campfire shows which are largely request-driven covers to Martin’s original music only).

Last night was solo only and was special in a number of ways. While Martin played a few crowd favorites, the majority of the set was new material that is destined to be recorded on his upcoming CD (release sometime in the first half of 2012). A few of those were so new that Martin had to refer to the lyrics. One was so new I believe Martin said the lyrics had been written this week!

Sitting in the audience at the bar, about five feet directly behind me was Alex Wong. Alex is producing Martin’s CD and the two of them just returned from a retreat upstate NY (in the devastated Schoharie County) where they were planning the CD, a process I’ve heard termed pre-production.

During a number of the songs, I tried (or rather found myself) thinking “what’s going on in Alex’s mind now in terms of how will he produce this song?”. Meaning, Martin was delivering it to us raw, accompanied by an acoustic guitar, but we’ll hear something quite different wen it’s all put together in the studio (or so I was thinking).

Last Friday, Martin complained that he strained his voice singing with Greg Mayo. It couldn’t have healed up much better or quicker, because Martin’s voice was spot on last night. His guitar play was fine (as it always is).

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But, in the two years that we’ve been seeing Martin regularly, he did something last night which I don’t believe we’ve ever seen before (of course, at my age, I space out a lot, so I would not be shocked to find out I’m wrong!). Well into the set, Martin put down the guitar and went over to the grand piano and played two consecutive songs on it.

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The first was the song I mentioned above, with the lyrics being hot off the presses (I think it’s Believe in Love). He said that he played the song for Alex (presumably just the melody/chords) and told him that he didn’t think it would make it onto the CD. Alex insisted that Martin was wrong, and that it needed to be on the CD! Alex was right, in particular with Martin’s freshly minted words!

The next song on the piano was Pray for the Impossible, one of the long-time crowd favorites (with everyone singing along on the chorus). Still, I don’t recall him ever playing it on the piano before.

Martin finished up with a very upbeat song that most of us clapped to throughout. Unless something forces a change in our plans, we’ll be seeing Martin again on Saturday, 10/15/11 at Rockwood 2, 9pm. That will most likely be a full-band show.

This set list was written in tiny letters on the corner of one of Martin’s Lyric sheets. Rotated and blown up for your pleasure. Winking smile

SetList

Sierra Noble at Rockwood Music Hall

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It’s been three months since we last saw Sierra Noble perform. That’s a bit too long so I’m glad the dry spell is over. I had last night marked on the calendar for a long time (Rockwood Music Hall). Finding out a few days ago that a number of my favorite people/performers would be supporting Sierra was icing on the cake.

Sierra opened the set by saying that she intended to tell a story with the music. That story was a condensed biography of this young phenom’s life (sort of a live Wikipedia show). She hails from Winnipeg and started her musical career at the age of 12 (so says her actual Wikipedia page, see what I did there?). At 15-years-old, she released a CD of fiddle tunes (I have it, it’s wonderful!).

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She started the set last night with a traditional fiddle tune.

Next she talked about how she was cajoled (nearly forced) into singing and songwriting. She explained that a number of her fiddle heroes went in that direction as well (unsuccessfully), making her extremely reluctant to follow that path. Thankfully, her friend(s) persisted and eventually got her to relent.

Her very first effort yielded the co-written tune Possibility. It inspired her EP Possibilities (released in 2008) showing off her amazing singing and songwriting talents. She played that song next. For that she switched to an acoustic guitar. She switched between the guitar and the fiddle a number of times throughout the set.

SierraNobleGuitar

That was part of a Nashville period for her and yielded the next few songs of the set. The musical journey continued until she brought it full circle, ending with another hard-driving fiddle tune (Sierra just played a number of shows and festivals in Winnipeg before coming to NYC for a nice stretch).

That she is only 21 is mind-boggling. Thinking about how much musical greatness we’ll see from her over the years makes me a bit giddy.

We’ll get to the band in a minute, but half way through the set she brought up Martin Rivas as a special guest. Martin sang harmony and wielded shakers a bit as well. On Human After All (a song co-written with Michael Logen) Martin sang lead as well as harmony, kicking off the first verse. Their voices blend beautifully.

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On to the band, left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and harmony. Greg’s play was appropriately subtler last night than when he’s the main attraction. It was also just as good. On one number he made his guitar sound exactly like a peddle steel, without using a slide. Later, he used a slide as well, getting a different sound.

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He sang a bit of harmony, beautifully, on a number of songs.

Come to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on Saturday (10/8/2011) at 11:30pm (yes, past my bedtime, but well worth staying up) to see Greg in all his guitar glory with a new incarnation called The Red Delicious Apples.

Ariel Posen on acoustic guitar. Ariel is a well-known guitarist in Winnipeg. He played mostly rhythm last night, but occasionally took short tasty leads showing off his skills. For one brief moment he and Greg did a little guitar duet. I look forward to seeing more of Ariel should he choose to hang around NYC.

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Chris Anderson on upright bass and background vocals. Chris was wonderful (as usual).

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Craig Meyer on drums. It’s been too long (four months) since we’ve seen Craig play a full set. His wonderful play last night drove that point home. While he was excellent on every number, he was the driving force behind the finale, keeping a very lively beat for Sierra to show off her fiddle skills.

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Joining Sierra on stage for one number:

Ian Schaefer  on trumpet. A gorgeous, subtle performance, with the cup muting the sound.

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Sir Chuck Hancock on saxophone. Sierra noted that Sir Chuck was a last minute surprise. That implied to me that he didn’t rehearse with them. You couldn’t have guessed that from his perfect play dancing around between the verses.

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Later on, Sir Chuck played a bit from the audience (he was standing directly behind me, with the sax right at my left ear). It too was perfect, and amazingly, not even slightly too loud for me. I can only hope that Sierra heard his little magic on stage and enjoyed it as much as I did.

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No need to start the clock ticking on another Sierra Noble drought just yet. We’ll be seeing her again a week from today (10/13/11) at The Living Room, 7pm. Be there, trust me.

Here is the set list from last night, a winner!

SetList

Greg Mayo FUNTIME at Rockwood Music Hall

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We just got back to town on Wednesday (a day earlier than expected) and I spotted Greg Mayo listed at Rockwood Music Hall at 11pm on Friday night (last night). Needless to say, all other plans now revolved around that show.

On September 3rd, we saw Rebecca Haviland play at Rockwood. Greg was in her band that night. Here’s a paragraph I wrote in my post about that show:

My lovely bride, knowing how huge a Greg Mayo fan I am, surreptitiously arranged with Greg to purchase all of his CDs for me. Right before the show, he delivered four of them (handing them to me, and saying they were from Lois). Smile Still one more to go. One of the CD’s was actually Bergers with Mayo, with the Mayo in that one being Greg’s Dad, Bob. What an amazing gift, I can’t wait to get lost in all of them. Thanks Lois and Greg!

I’ve since gotten to listen to all those CDs, and I love each and every one of them, so thanks again to Lois and Greg. One of the songs on the Bergers with Mayo CD (with Mayo being Bob Mayo, Greg’s dad) is Bob’s song I Never Forget a Face. I got chills listening to it. In August, we missed a rare solo show by Greg (why does work interfere with my personal interests sometimes?). Someone posted a video of Greg singing I Never Forget a Face. If I recall correctly, the claim was that this was the first time Greg played that song in public:

Greg Mayo playing I Never Forget a Face, by his dad, Bob Mayo

I hadn’t scanned the track listings when I started listening to the Bergers with Mayo CD, so I had no idea I’d be hearing this song, and I instantly recognized it, just from having watched (listened to) Greg’s video, once!

I’ve mentioned a number of times that Greg plays in a number of configurations. The above solo show was one. The Greg Mayo Band is another. Greg Mayo FUNTIME is a third. Last night was a FUNTIME show (you did read the title of this post, right?). Last night Greg explained the scientific underpinnings of the FUNTIME moniker. He said that it was expected that we would all have a FUN TIME at the show.

It’s crazy how certain difficult concepts can be broken down into their constituent parts by the right teacher. Armed with that knowledge, I did indeed have a superbly fun time, as did every single person in Rockwood, as far as I could tell.

The FUNTIME shows are mostly rock covers, performed by outstanding musicians, who are all having a dangerously good time on stage. Thankfully, they allow us to enjoy that good time with them. Most of the covers last night were new to the FUNTIME lineup. One exception was Take Me to the Pilot (always welcome, even if it’s been done before).

Greg has never disappointed me, ever. Last night was another exceptional performance, but many of the leads were longer (thanks!) and mind-numbingly fast/tasty (thanks for that too!). In a few songs, he took more than one solo and the crowd ate it up. They closed the show with Heard it Through the Grapevine. He took three separate really long solos in that one, leaving me (and I suspect others) dazed at his talent.

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I kept thinking he has to be unconscious, because if he had to think about what he was playing, his fingers wouldn’t be able to keep up. But, today, it hit me! Greg’s fingers used to be constrained by the speed of light (as all matter was). With the discovery that certain neutrinos have been clocked faster than the speed of light, Greg has been freed to prove that his fingers too, can accomplish that! Smile

As is the case with all of the FUNTIME shows, Greg was surrounded by an extraordinary group of musicians. There was one change to the normal lineup and one very special guest. I’ll mention the two regulars first, then the guests.

Patrick Firth on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. Patrick sang Take Me to the Pilot on the lead and harmonized on many others. Of course he tore up the keyboards as well.

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Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. Brian participated in fantastic 4-part harmony on the first number, but then relinquished his mic for most of the set to the special guest. His bass playing is always top notch.

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Zach Jones on drums and vocals. Zach was sitting in for Greg’s usual drummer, Kenny Shaw. I’ve mentioned that it appears that we stalk Kenny, as we see him more frequently (at least in 2011) than any other drummer. Perhaps he finally got nervous and avoided us. More likely, he’s touring with The Thang Band at the moment (at least I hope it’s the latter!).

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We’ve only seen Zach a few times, but he was an instant favorite and cemented that with his performance with Ian Axel when they opened for Five for Fighting. He’s an absolutely incredible drummer (exhibited over and over last night) and he has a really good voice too. He sang lead on the opening number, Walls by Tom Petty.

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I never spoke to Zach before, but after the show I told him how awesome I think he is. He’s part of a duo with Emily Long called The Stone Lonesome. I asked him when they were playing and he said sometime in November. He also told me that in addition to their more country sound (you can listen to that here), they are also performing rock sets (don’t know if they go by a different name for those).

A few songs into the set, Greg invited up none other than Martin Rivas to sing a song. Once up there, neither Greg nor the crowd would let Martin escape. Greg forced Martin to sing lead and harmony on every song (at times alternating lead with Greg). Martin claimed (after the show) to have lost his voice singing so hard, but at least he made it all the way to the end sounding great!

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In an early comic moment, Martin knocked over a music stand holding the lyrics to all the songs for the evening, including the one he was singing (his first number). It ended up being fine, as he knocked it over exactly at the moment that Greg started taking a long solo. Even though dozens of sheets of paper were spread out on the stage, Martin was able to take his time and collect them calmly while Greg thrilled us. He had a few more close calls with the stand and the look on his face each time he avoided the same fate was priceless. Smile

Another fantastic set by Greg Mayo. We’ll see him again this Wednesday (October 5th), supporting Sierra Noble at Rockwood 1, at 9pm. Immediately after that is Martin Rivas at 10pm (same place). When Martin heard Greg telling me that he was playing with Sierra, Martin invited Greg to play a few with him at 10pm as well, so I’ll be getting a double dose of Greg this week. I’ll be smiling from now until then.

I mentioned in my earlier post that we bumped into friends at The Cupping Room Café when we stopped in to see Matt Simons, Chris Ayer and Ryan Vaughn. They shared a cab with us to catch Greg’s set. They are the two on the left and we met a third friend right outside Rockwood, while getting drenched.

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Matt Simons, Chris Ayer and Ryan Vaughn at The Cupping Room Cafe

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Many of the musicians that we see regularly tour all over the US and Europe. In addition to playing the kinds of shows we attend, a number of them also play semi-regularly at local bars and restaurants. We new that Matt Simons serenades the diners at The Cupping Room Café, often with guest performers, but we hadn’t been able to make it there on a night when he was performing.

We had early dinner plans last night and also intended to see a late show at Rockwood Music Hall (the subject of the next post). Then I saw the following tweet:

ryandrummerboy Ryan M. Vaughn

playing The Cupping Room in SoHo w/ the likes of @matt_simons and @chrisayer TONIGHT from 8PM til 11PM! A healthy mix of originals & covers!

Our dinner ended at 8:15. We grabbed a cab and headed down. It was gorgeous outside when we left the restaurant. By the time we reached SoHo it was pouring. It never let up the rest of the evening (no rain was predicted for yesterday). We walked into the Cupping Room shortly before 9pm to the very sweet sounds of Chris Ayer and Matt Simons singing harmony, accompanied by Ryan Vaughn on all manner of percussion, primarily his signature cajon.

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With one exception, Matt and Chris alternated singing songs (with most having the other harmonize). They played roughly 2/3’s originals and 1/3 covers. That’s a great strategy to pick up new fans (which restaurants and bars are better suited to than shows, where people won’t typically show up unless they know your music to begin with). The covers are familiar and allow people to see your talent as a singer and musician. The originals show who you are in your heart, soul and intellect.

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Even though we missed the first 45 minutes, we got to hear a number of our favorite songs. All of the covers were big hits, but we hadn’t heard them do these specific ones before, so that was a real treat as well.

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They took a break at around 10pm. After saying a quick hi to both Matt and Chris, I had a long-ish conversation with Ryan Vaughn, my first time speaking to him (I don’t think I ever introduced myself to him before either). I got a hard-core and very much appreciated lesson in drumming equipment (and cajon’s). It started when I joked about how bent his cymbal was and he explained how it happened (and why). Thanks Ryan, I’m a thirsty sponge for this kind of stuff!

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Since we had dinner earlier (including a wonderful bottle of wine), we took advantage of the full coffee bar section of The Cupping Room and both had lattes. During their break, the restaurant fed them (I think all three ordered burgers). The food looked fantastic, so next time we come see Matt there (yes, there will be a next time), we’ll try to schedule it to have dinner there as well.

In a delightful surprise, a couple of our friends showed up to see them play as well. They hadn’t been to this place either and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.

When they started playing again, we stuck around for another two songs and then had to duck out to make our 11pm Rockwood set. I got to mention that to Chris during the break, so they didn’t have to wonder why we didn’t hang around to the very end.

An absolutely wonderful way to spend two hours on a dreary night in NYC.

Here’s an abbreviated version of the songs Chris considered playing last night:

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