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Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at WaMu

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Longtime readers know that both Lois and I are Alison Krauss fanatics (just look at the title of my post when we saw her at the Beacon Theater). I’m also a long-time big fan of Led Zeppelin, and therefore, by extension, a big fan of Robert Plant. When we heard that they were pairing to produce the Raising Sand album (and now tour), we were excited.

I already wrote a long post about the album and how I finally came to purchase tickets to the show. In that post, I mentioned that the seats were in the seventh row. It turns out that the row was labeled G, but it was the fourth row, since the left side didn’t start at A. πŸ™‚

The seats were awesome. As usual, I’ll give more color to the venue and the crowd in general, after discussing the show itself, including covering the opening act.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss came out at 8:55pm. There was instant electricity in the crowd, and many people gave them a standing ovation as they walked out. They launched into a couple of numbers from the album, and again, I was amazingly underwhelmed. It was certainly interesting (OK, even enjoyable) to see them live, but my heart wasn’t skipping any beats (and in fact, my feet weren’t unconsciously tapping along either).

To be clear, there are no flaws in their performance. They are both fantastic singers, with fantastic stage presence, backed by a pretty amazing band (I’ll cover them individually in a bit). The problem is the material. It’s nice, nothing more. I consider it to be background music. It does nothing to grab or hold my attention, but it sounds pleasant while your mind freely wanders to other thoughts…

Here they all are on stage, just to give you a sense of setting, though they shifted around a bunch throughout the show:

Raising Sand

Then, on either the third or fourth song, one of the band members (Stuart Duncan) started playing solo banjo (yes, banjo), and within a few notes, the crowd recognized it to be the lead (and repeating theme!) from Black Dog, a very famous Led Zeppelin number. I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of an iconic rock song being played on the banjo!

Robert then sang the song, in a slow, relaxed style, and it was really cool. Toward the end, it got a little much for me (sorry folks), as the original is so great, and this was more of an interesting play on it, that dragged on a bit for my taste. Here’s Robert singing (not necessarily during Black Dog):

Robert Plant Singing

Robert also had awesome stage presence throughout the show, often acting as a cheerleader for the rest of the band. One of the hallmarks of the Raising Sand sound is both Alison and Robert clapping to the rhythm when they aren’t singing. Here’s a shot of that:

Robert Plant Clapping

Throughout a long show, they did the majority of the new album. They also did a mini-set of Alison singing without Robert, and Alison singing with Robert (and the others) singing background (including Robert standing toward the back of the stage). Here’s a shot of Alison singing:

Alison Krauss Singing

They did a couple of other Led Zeppelin numbers, including a cool (and slowed down) version of Rock and Roll, on which Robert had a great rapport with the crowd.

Both Alison and Robert left the stage for a bit, giving T-Bone Burnett (the producer of the album and the tour) an opportunity to sing lead on two songs with the rest of the band. Those songs were good too (he has a good voice, and a great on-stage persona).

One of the better numbers (again, just my opinion!) was entirely a cappella. Alison started out alone (as she always does on this number), not only singing alone, but the only one on stage. She sang Down to the River to Pray. After a verse (or two), Robert Plant, Stuart Duncan and Buddy Miller slowly walked on stage (reverently), and all shared one microphone to sing backup vocals. This version was way closer to the version on Alison Krauss and Union Station, Live, than it is to the version on O Brother Where Art Thou (where Alison sings with a choir, including many female voices, in a much more up-temp version).

They performed the song flawlessly last night, and the three men all sing great, individually and collectively, and blended with Alison to perfection. Here’s a strange shot of them (due to the lighting), but it’s also kind of cool, because it shows Alison in an ethereal (or ephemeral?) light, with the others singing in the background:

Alison Krauss Down to the River

One of the problems (to me) is that they don’t really know what sound they want. Bluegrass? Check! Rock? Check! Blues? Check! Soul? Check! Cajun? Check! All of the above, simultaneously? Check! Oops, therein lies at least part of the problem.

They finished up the show with Gone Gone Gone. I enjoyed it live, but it’s more fun on the video. Let me cover the band first, then circle back to the encore. Before doing that, here is a shot of the three headliners (Alison, Robert and T-Bone), clearly beaming righting after they finished Gone Gone Gone, rightfully so. The crowd was in a frenzy!

Robert Plant Alison Krauss T-Bone Burnett Beaming

Left-to-right on the stage (not including Alison and Robert) were:

Buddy Miller playing electric guitars, peddle steel guitar, electric mandolins and autoharp. He also has a MySpace page. His fingers literally fly on the guitar. He is a truly great lead guitarist. He has an excellent voice as well. For the first 1/2 of the show, he may have had a problem with his amp, as he wasn’t all that easy to hear, but his fingers were astounding to watch, even then. Then they replaced his amp, and his sound came alive, and he was awesome.

Here’s a shot of Buddy (with Stuart Duncan in the background), followed by a shot of Buddy’s amplifier, being worked on during the show:

Buddy Miller Stuart DuncanBuddy Miller Amp Work

Stuart Duncan played fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, all brilliantly. He sings really well too. Alison Krauss called him “my favorite musician in the whole world”. Wow, quite a compliment. If you read the awards he’s won (linked to his name above), clearly, she wasn’t being sarcastic. Still, even though he is incredible (truly!), that’s quite a statement, especially given who she plays with regularly, Jerry Douglas, Dan Tymninski, Ron Block and Barry Bales.

If Alison Krauss is going to call you her favorite musician, she may as well sing a duet with you:

Stuart Duncan Alison Krauss

Here’s Stuart on the mandolin:

Stuart Duncan Mandolin

Dennis Crouch played the upright bass. He was solid the entire night, but never highlighted. Amazingly, he could be heard (but never too overpowering!) even during the louder Rock numbers. I thoroughly enjoyed his play. Here’s a shot of Dennis:

Dennis Crouch

Jay Bellerose played the drums. I’m quite sure that most of the people in the audience considered Jay’s performance to be awesome. It was certainly impossible to ignore. Jay drums in a reasonably frenetic style. To me, there was nothing wrong with his drumming (meaning, he keeps a good beat, etc.), but he was a little over the top, in particular, in trying to carry the Rock parts. Nothing wrong, just not up to par with some of the drummers we’ve seen recently. Here’s Jay:

Jay Bellerose

T-Bone Burnett played rhythm guitar (and took a rare lead too). He’s certainly fine on the guitar, but I didn’t notice anything special. He sings well, and as mentioned before, has a very nice stage presence. Definitely seems to be enjoying himself on stage, in an infectious way. Robert goes out of his way to credit T-Bone with making this entire project happen. Kudos to him for that! Here he is during his two-song set:

T-Bone Burnett

Back to the encore…

When they left the stage, the entire audience was standing and making a giant ruckus. They were off stage for longer than most bands nowadays, but there was never a doubt that they were coming back! The house lights never came on, and the energy level in the crowd was awesome.

When they came out, it was without Alison. Robert said some beautiful words praising Bo Diddley in noting his passing, and they played a wonderful rendition of Who Do You Love. Alison then joined them and they did at least two more numbers (possibly three), making it a very long and excellent encore.

The show was nearly two hours, including the encore.

My bottom line is that I am very glad we went and I loved the experience. The show itself was choppy for my taste, but at least the worst parts were pleasant. The great parts were excellent, though even those weren’t quite like some of the shows I’ve written about in the past year.

Opening for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss was Sharon Little. She was backed by a five-piece band, including Scot Sax on guitar, who co-writes the songs with Sharon.

Sharon has a very good and powerful voice and the band members are quality musicians. That said, the material didn’t do it for me. Also not unpleasant, even for a second. The sound was repetitious and Sharon over-emoted (to my tastes) quite a number of times, trying to force a feeling down my throat. Whenever she did that (or attempted to switch singing styles into something more bluesy or soulful), her voice was not as clean or nice as it was when she just sang straight up.

They were on stage for exactly 30 minutes, followed by a 23 minute break before Robert and Alison came out.

If you read my previous post (linked above) about the difficulty I had in getting good tickets, then you might be as surprised as I was that the section we were sitting in (which were awesome seats), was relatively empty. The three rows in front of us only had six people (out of 24-28 possible seats) for the opening act, and even during the main show, there were at least 15 empty eats. Only four people were in the front row.

No one sat in front of us during Sharon’s set. But, just as the main event began, a couple sat in front of us. The man was a giant, with a bushy beard and wild curly hair (very much a Mountain Man type). The woman was short. She sat in front of me, and he sat in front of Lois. It was a like a giant eclipse of the sun for Lois…

I begged her to switch seats with me, and she refused. After two songs, I insisted, and forced her to switch. It made all of the difference in the world, as Lois got to see and enjoy the show. That said, the couple were annoying and distracting as hell, but then that’s often par for the course at these type of events.

In other crowd news, a number of people (including two of the people in the front row of our section) gave a standing ovation after every single song. It’s nice to be fans, and I’m sure they truly feel it, but come on, it’s a tad much.

Most of the crowd stood for the entire long encore. Since my view wasn’t blocked, I sat down when they returned to the stage. Lois stood, or she wouldn’t have been able to see. A number of people (including the annoying super fans who sat in front of us) left before seeing even a minute of the encore. It was definitely a long show, so I can understand wanting to beat the crowd (or get home to relieve a baby sitter), but they missed a very nice encore indeed.

WaMu is a very nice theater. The maximum capacity is 5600 people (I would have guessed 2500 seats, so I was way off!). The last (and only) time that Lois and I were there was 23 years ago, when we took our godson (then three years old) to see a Muppets On Tour show. He just graduated medical school. My how time flies… πŸ˜‰

Finally, we drove in to the city yesterday morning (and back to the house this morning). In between, I had lunch with one of my all-time best friends (we met on our first jobs after graduating college) and worked together at our third job as well, for many years. I haven’t gotten to spend much time with him over the past few years, but my feelings for him have never lessened, he’s just an awesome person in every respect.

So, we had a terrific sushi lunch (my first in a while, which was also a good thing to rectify), and we have promised each other that we won’t let this kind of time elapse between future get together’s. Our third job was at First Boston, but he is not one of the people who attends our semi-regular Boys Night Out dinners. We’re going to rectify that too, and ensure that he joins us on the next one. πŸ™‚

Getting Very Tired of AlertThingy

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I’ve been using AlertThingy for a while now. I like the concept a lot. It started out as an Adobe Air front-end to FriendFeed.

Let’s begin (briefly, at least brief by my normal standards) πŸ˜‰ with FriendFeed itself. At a minimum, FriendFeed is a social media aggregator. You can have it create a feed for you, with many (currently 35!) different services (e.g., Twitter, blogs, Google Reader, iLike, Facebook, etc.). Now, if someone wants to truly follow you, they can become your friend in one place, and not have to have accounts and joint friendship with you on all of the different services that you belong to (or will in the future!).

Great idea, and for my limited use so far, pretty darn good execution as well. I’m definitely a FriendFeed fan.

There are a number of ways to consume FriendFeed, including just by visiting their website only when you want to see what your friends are up to. You can also get updates via email. Because FriendFeed is part of the wonderful trend of services that provide full APIs, you can also use other clients to access FriendFeed.

AlertThingy started out as one such client. While it has a nice UI (at least a reasonable one), one instant quibble is that I can’t find a way to quit the program (perhaps I’m just dense). I have to go to the tray, right click on it, and select “Exit AlertThingy”. Yuck. Also, on the settings page, I have checked off the Launch at Startup box, and yet, it continues to launch every time I start up Windows. πŸ™

So, let’s start with the good. Instead of having to log on to the FriendFeed website, and refresh every once in a while, AlertThingy will instantly alert me to anything that the people I’m following have to say on any of their services. Cool. Perfect? No.

The first problem is that not everyone that I follow has a FriendFeed account (or I haven’t bothered to look for them there, etc.). So, in addition to following some people on FriendFeed, I still have to check (in any number of ways) Twitter (for example), for those people whose tweets I’m interested in. Of course, if I launch a Twitter client (Twhirl is fantastic, also written in Adobe Air), I’ll see the tweets I’m interested in. But, I’ll also get an alert in AlertThingy as well, for the same tweet, if the person is also connected to me on FriendFeed as well.

That’s not the end of the world, but it’s not pretty (or conducive to managing interruptions) either. Now multiply the problem for every service you check (beyond the one Twitter example above), and you can see that it could get out of hand quickly.

Of course, this is not an AlertThingy problem, just a social media proliferation one, where the FriendFeed aggregation is getting in the way, by duplicating things. Of course, in this particular instance, if everyone was on FriendFeed (well, at least everyone that I cared about), that one part of the problem wouldn’t exist.

Now on to my real complaint, and why I’m getting tired of AlertThingy. AlertThingy was not satisfied in solely being a front end to FriendFeed. Since other services have APIs too, they started (a while ago) offering direct Twitter integration (Flickr too, and probably more coming).

Sounds great at first. I don’t have to launch Twhirl any longer (for example), since now I can see tweets from non-FriendFeed people directly in AlertThingy. Of course, when you think about it, it’s not a great idea, because it becomes it’s own sort of FriendFeed, while still providing FriendFeed… Ah, so there will be duplicates for people who are on FriendFeed, no? No! AlertThingy cleverly (yes, italics are there for sarcasm) removes duplicates (at your request).

No, they do not do it cleverly. They do a few things wrong, including alerting you multiple times. First, you get an alert when the real tweet comes through. Then, you get another alert when the FriendFeed broadcast of the same tweet comes in, even though AlertThingy only shows it once. But, that’s not the real problem at all. When they de-dupe, they totally screw up the timestamp. One or the other message gets timestamped with Greenwich Mean Time rather than local time.

For me, that means that these alerts get sorted to the top. Then, a new alert comes in on FriendFeed only (say a Google Reader share), which never gets duped, so it has the correct timestamp. That will be sorted below the de-duped stuff. Possibly, even pages below, since I’m five hours behind GMT!

This one super-annoyance is maddeningly easy to fix, and I sent feedback to the author on his site (and never heard back). All one needs to do is never accept a timestamp in the future (dupe or otherwise). If a message is about to get timestamped (and sorted), it should be the lesser of now and whatever timestamp the message claims it is. Simple.

So, what happens to me is that AlertThingy makes a noise and flashes, and then I have to look through a very long list of alerts to see which one is new, and it might be 20 down from the top. I can’t stand it any longer…

What makes it really bad for me is that I follow one particular person who is a prolific social media person (it’s part of his job, so I’m not blaming him). Today alone, he has created 43 separate alerts that are still visible in AlertThingy (others have already scrolled off the bottom and have been archived). It’s not only 43 new things. When he blogs, I get a blog alert, a tweet pointing to his blog, a Tumblr alert, etc. That’s a FriendFeed problem, as he needs to ensure that people see his stuff no matter where he posts it, and he too can’t be sure those people know about his FriendFeed.

He’s not uninteresting, and he’s one of the nicest people I know. That said, I’m dying to unsubscribe from him, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Since he’ll likely read this (and know who he is), perhaps I can get away with unsubscribing now. Especially today, since he started using Digg beyond belief, and his FriendFeed automatically picks them up. His acceleration of alerts is killing me.

So, I’ll probably both ubsubscribe from him, and also stop using AlertThingy, and start checking FriendFeed on the web (less frequently) or via a once a day email. I’ll hear about things later than I would have (other than tweets, which I’ll likely still follow via Twhirl), but my sanity will return…

NginX Reporting for Duty

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Last week, my friend Jamie Thingelstad tweeted from the Rails Conference that he was considering switching to NginX (I’ll probably drop the caps starting now) after sitting in on a session about it.

Prior to that mention, I had only heard of it once, when an internal tech email at Zope Corporation mentioned that one of our partners was happy with it as their web server. I didn’t pay too much attention to it at the time…

I was curious, so I downloaded and built nginx-0.7.1. Since there is no equivalent to mod_php for nginx, I also had to decide on a strategy for managing PHP via FastCGI for this blog (I use Zope to serve up all other publicly available content on the site). It seemed that the most prevalent solution out there was to use spawn-fcgi, part of the lighttpd web server package (another very popular alternative to Apache, which is what I was using).

After searching further, I noticed that a number of people were recommending a package called php-fpm (PHP FastCGI Process Manager). I decided that I’d give this one a try first.

Finally, while researching all of this, in particular noting results by WordPress users (after all, that was my one use case for doing this), I also decided to install an op-code cacher for the first time ever, settling on XCache (also brought to you by the fine folks who bring you Lighttpd!).

Within minutes I had nginx installed and running, serving content on an alternate port (so Apache was still serving all production content on port 80). Shortly thereafter I had php-fpm installed and running as well. XCache installed easily too, but it did take me a few minutes longer to correctly change one particular entry in the conf file.

I had some serious frustrations along the way, all of which were due to a fundamental lack of understanding on my part of how things are ultimately supposed to work (meaning, nothing was wrong with the software, just with my configuration of it!), but to underscore the bottom line, nginx/php-fpm/xcache are all in production now. If you’re reading this in your RSS reader, or in a browser, it was delivered to you by that combination of software (unless this is far in the future, and I’ve changed again). πŸ˜‰

If you aren’t interested in the twists and turns of getting this into production, then read no further, as the above tells the story. If you care to know what pitfalls I encountered, and what I had to do to overcome them, read on…

Getting everything set up to generically serve content on the alternate port was trivial. Like I said earlier, I was serving test pages in minutes (even before downloading php-fpm and xcache). In that regard, you have to love the simplicity of nginx!

With extremely little effort, I was able to write a single line proxy_pass rule in nginx to serve up all of my Zope content on the alternate port. Done! I figured that this was going to be really easy, since the WordPress/PHP stuff has so many more real world examples documented. Oops, I was wrong.

To begin with, the main reason that I was wrong is due specifically to WordPress (hereinafter, WP), and not nginx or PHP whatsoever. Basically, I ran into the same problem the first time I fired up XAMPP on my laptop to run a local copy of my production WP installation.

WP stores the canonical name of blog in the database, and returns it on every request. This means that your browser automatically gets redirects, which at a minimum (in the nginx case) dropped the alternate port, and in the XAMPP case, replaced localhost with www.opticality.com. The fix for XAMPP was easy (yet still annoying!). I had to go into the MySQL database, and change all references to www.opticality.com to localhost.

In the case of nginx, I couldn’t do that, since I was testing on my live production server. In retrospect, this was stupid (and cost me hours of extra time), since I have a test server I could have installed it on, run it on port 80, change the blog name, etc., and been sure that I had everything right before copying over the config. Of course, I learned a ton more by keeping my feet to the fire, especially when my public site was hosed (which it was a number of times this weekend!), perhaps shortening the overall learning experience due to necessity! πŸ™

That made testing WP extremely painful. Instead, I tested some standalone php scripts, and some other php-based systems that I have installed on the server, but don’t typically activate. All worked perfectly (including my ability to watch xcache return hits and misses from the op-code cache), so I was growing in my confidence.

Sometime late Wednesday night I was mentally prepared to cut over (since switching back to Apache would only take a few seconds anyway), but I decided to wait until the weekend, when traffic to this blog is nearly non-existent (come on folks, you can do something about that!). πŸ˜‰

Saturday morning, very early, I stopped Apache, reloaded nginx with a configuration that pointed to port 80, and held my breath. I was amazed that everything seemed to be working perfectly, on the first shot! I moved on to other things.

Later in the day, I visited the admin interface for WP (Firefox is my default browser, though I obviously have IE installed as well, and for yucks, I also have Safari, which I very rarely launch). Oh oh, I had zero styling. Clearly, something was causing the CSS not to be applied! I quickly ran back to the retail interface and thankfully, that was still being served up correctly. That meant that I could take my time to fix this problem, as it only affected me!

I turned on debugging in nginx and saw that the CSS was indeed being sent to the browser. That’s not good either, as it seemed that this wasn’t going to be a simple one-line fix in nginx.

Yesterday morning, after nginx had been in production for 24 hours, I decided to check out IE for the admin pages. They showed correctly! Firefox was still showing zero styling. I compared the source downloads, and Firefox was larger, but had everything that IE had as well (including the CSS). At first I incorrectly assumed that perhaps it was the extra ie.css that IE was applying, and Firefox was ignoring, but that really couldn’t have been it, and I didn’t waste any time on that.

Now that I had a data point, I started Googling. It took me quite a while to find a relevant hit (which still surprises me!), and I had to get pretty creative in my search terms. Finally, one solitary forum hit for a php-based product called Etomite CMS (I had never heard of it before) describing exactly what was happening to me. Here’s the link to the forum post.

OK, their take was that the CSS was coming down with a MIME type of text/html, rather than the correct: text/css. I went back to Firefox, and did what I should have done at the beginning (my only excuse is that I’ve never had this type of use case to debug before!). I enabled Firebug on the admin page (I already had Firebug installed, but I’ve rarely ever needed it).

Immediately, I could see that the CSS had been downloaded (I knew it was sent from the nginx logs, but now I knew it was received and processed). I could also see instantly that the CSS was not recognized as CSS. Going to the Net tab in Firebug revealed the headers for each individual request, and indeed, all of the CSS came back with text/html as the type. So, IE ignores that, and applies the CSS anyway, because it sees the extension (I’m guessing), but Firefox doesn’t. Fair enough.

But, why is it coming back text/html? I checked the nginx MIME types file, and CSS was coded correctly (I didn’t touch that file anyway). Looking at the headers again, I spotted the problem. All of the CSS files were being returned by PHP, not statically by nginx. In other words, my nginx config was wrong (even though it was otherwise working), as it was passing requests for CSS files to the FastCGI PHP process, and getting back an incorrect MIME type for those files!

A very cursory search didn’t reveal how I would tell PHP to return a correct MIME type. I’ll save that investigation for another day, as it would have been an immediate, but suboptimal solution anyway, since these files can be served faster by nginx to begin with. That meant figuring out what was wrong with my nginx configuration.

The docs for nginx are pretty good (with a few exceptions, but I’m not quibbling). There are also a ton of cookbook examples, some good and detailed, some should be deleted until they are completed. I realized pretty quickly that even though my retail interface was working, I had less of an understanding of how the different stanzas in my configuration file were interacting (specifically, the location directives).

I really didn’t want to revert to Apache, so I decided to experiment on the live server. It was Sunday evening, and I figured traffic would be relatively light. Sparing you (only a drop, given how long this is already), I hosed the server multiple times. I could see that search bot requests were getting errors, and my tests were returning a variety of errors as well. At one point, I had nearly everything working, and then promptly screwed it up worse than before. πŸ™

Eventually, under a lot of pressure (put on myself only by me), I simplified my configuration file, and it all started working, retail and admin alike. Whew. I’m now serving all static files directly from the file system, and all php files through the FastCGI process. The world is safe for blog readers again. πŸ™‚

Like I said above, the problem was never with nginx, though I can’t say the same thing for PHP returning text/html for a CSS file. Clearly, PHP shouldn’t have to process those files, but if it does, it should do the right thing in setting the MIME type. Of course, if it had, I would likely have never noticed that my static files weren’t being served as I intended them!

One real complaint, aimed at nginx. Since I use the proxy_pass directive to serve up all Zope content (and like I said, that worked from the first shot, and has worked ever since!), I was quite frustrated by the limitations on where it can be used, and how. Specifically, it can’t be used within a regular expression based if test, even if you aren’t using variable substitution in the proxy_pass itself. That simply doesn’t make sense to me. And, now that I mentioned it, there are other rules about when/how you can use variable substitution as well.

Clearly, I got it working, so the above isn’t a giant complaint, it just eludes my current understanding. As for getting the rest to work, I have a better understanding than I did, but I’m sure that if I were to muck around a little more, which I’ll inevitably do, I’ll break it again, showing that my understanding is still at the beginner level.

In any case, for the moment, it’s doing what I intended, and is in production. πŸ™‚

Aside from Jamie’s pointer, in doing the initial research, what got me excited was reading that WordPress.com had switched to nginx for their load balancing (and might eventually switch for their web serving as well), and that Fastmail is using nginx for the IMAP/POP mail proxying as well. Clearly, nginx is ready for prime time (my puny blog notwithstanding). πŸ™‚

Chuck Mangione at Tarrytown Music Hall

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The minute this concert was announced, many months ago, I bought two tickets. Tarrytown Music Hall is a great place to see concerts (as I’ve reported a number of times before), it’s only four miles from our house, and I have loved Chuck Mangione’s music for decades.

This was the third time that I saw him live. The first time was eons ago at Radio City Music Hall. It was a spectacular show. The second time was two years ago ago at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC (briefly mentioned in this very long music catch-up post). It too was terrific, and very intimate, as we sat a few feet from the stage.

Last night we were in the 10th row, dead center. The acoustics were perfect. Chuck was great. His band was/were perfect. With over 40 years of material under his belt, Chuck could play anything he wants to. Unlike some other acts that have survived this long, he tends to give the crowd what they want, rather than cater to his own personal mood.

He played pretty much all mega-hits last night. In no particular order (meaning this isn’t the order he played them in!), he played:

  • Counsuelo’s Love Theme
  • Give It All You’ve Got
  • Bellavia
  • Main Squeeze
  • Children Of Sanchez
  • Land Of Make Believe
  • Dizzy Miles
  • Feels So Good (this was the big encore!)
  • Fun And Games
  • a number of others πŸ™‚

Here they all are together on stage:

Feels So Good Band

In addition to playing the Flugelhorn and keyboards himself, Chuck is very generous with highlighting the talents of his band members (as are many Jazz artists), which was particularly appreciated last night, as each member of the band was simply wonderful.

One of the longest members of Chuck’s band (with a long break in-between) is Gerry Niewood. Last night he played Sax, Flute, Clarinet and Piccolo. He was flawless and fantastic. The crowd gave him rousing applause every time he was featured. He played with Chuck at the Blue Note when we last saw him, and we sat two feet from him, so we’re well aware of his extraordinary talent.

Here he is on three of the four instruments he played last night:

Gerry Niewood ClarinetGerry Niewood PiccoloGerry Niewood Saxophone

Continuing left to right (stage-wise) was the keyboards player. Corey Allen (sorry, couldn’t find a good link to him directly, though he gets good credits on other people’s albums) plays beautifully.

Corey Allen

Charles Frichtel Kevin Axt (corrected due to Dave Tull’s comment below) plays the electric bass (also couldn’t find a good direct link, but he too gets credits, including backing up Michael McDonald!). Chuck highlighted Charles Kevin a number of times, including the uber-famous and wonderful song Fun And Games, which starts off with a funky bass solo (of course, he let loose even more live, later in the song, than they do on the studio version). Most excellent.

Charles Frichtel

Dave Tull is the drummer and the only one who sings. He’s been with the band since 2000, so we must have seen him at the Blue Note, but I wasn’t blogging then, so I didn’t pay as much attention to names. πŸ™

First, let’s get the trivial stuff out of the way. Dave sang lead on two songs, DizzyΒ Miles (wonderfully) and Children Of Sanchez (amazingly). He has a gorgeous voice. Now, on to the more important stuff.

The fist time I saw Chuck Mangione, at Radio City, his drummer was Steve Gadd. There are many people who believe that Steve Gadd is the greatest drummer ever. Many more who believe he is one of the greatest drummers ever. I’m definitely in the second camp, but I admit that when I saw him that night at Radio City, I was in the first camp, for sure! So, listening to another drummer play the same songs can be an unfair starting point for comparisons.

Dave Tull was so incredible last night (and probably every night), that I truly can’t do justice in describing how awesome he was/is. It’s likely the second best live drumming I’ve seen in recent memory, the other being Chris McHugh, covered here. The comparison between them isn’t really fair, as the style of drumming was radically different. Anyway, Dave Tull was mesmerizing last night. Speed, grace, style, voice, without ever overwhelming any other instrument. Astounding!

Dave Tull

Last, but certainly not least, Coleman Mellett on guitar. Sometimes, the Jazz guitarist in a band like this can get a little lost. Coleman does a great job of avoiding that fate and Chuck made sure to highlight him a number of times. In particular, during the very long and slow intro to Children of Sanchez, while Dave Tull is singing, the only instrument accompanying him is the guitar. Coleman is excellent, and complemented the sound the entire evening, on both lead and rhythm guitar.

Coleman Mellett

So, that covers the band. No small feat, as they are not listed on Chuck’s site (a big shame, which I’ve pointed out as a shortcoming on other artists websites as well). In fact, I had trouble finding any of their names, with the exception of Gerry Niewood, who’s been with him forever. After dozens of various Google searches, I was finally able to (accidentally) stumble on Dave Tull’s name, and with that info in hand, was able to locate this article, which gave me the remaining names. Credit where credit is due, thanks Herald Tribune!

At one point during the show, Chuck gave a moving tribute to Jim KcKay who passed away yesterday. Chuck met him during the 1980 Olympics, when he was commissioned to write the song Give It All You’ve Got for those games. Jim McKay described Chuck as the world’s foremost practitioner of the flugelhorn. After talking about Jim, Chuck and the band played a gorgeous version of Amazing Grace.

Chuck Mangione Speaking

And here’s Chuck on the keyboards:

Chuck Mangione Keyboards

When they ended the main show, Lois and I shot out of our seats in a standing ovation. Amazingly, not a single person in the nine rows in front of us (a couple of hundred people!) stood up. I didn’t look behind me, so I don’t know if we were the only two people standing in the entire place. I can assure you that the crowd was thundering in its applause during and after each song, so it had nothing to do with not liking the show, or sending Chuck a message. It was strange, to say the least.

Chuck briefly left the stage, but the others stayed on. After a minute, Chuck returned. They played Feels So Good (as noted above), and snuck in America The Beautiful woven into one part of it (Chuck asked the crowd to sing while they played, and many did!). It was awesome. When they finished, everyone shot up in a standing ovation (quite rousing). So, either we shamed them, or they don’t stand but once a night. πŸ˜‰

If you’re a New Yorker, you have a number of additional opportunities to catch them this year. You can check the Tour Dates link on Chuck’s site, but specifically, they’ll be at the Blue Note for six straight nights starting July 15th, and for four straight nights at the Iridium Jazz Club on December 18th. Don’t miss this wonderful show!

Not much of a back-story here. We live right near the theater, and so we had our normal daily routine at the house. We had trouble finding parking (street parking is legal, it just happened to be very crowded), but finally found a spot two blocks away. We walked into the theater at 7:58pm. I wasn’t worried, as they rarely start their shows on time (I don’t like that part one bit…).

At 8:05, the band wandered out, with the house lights still on. Then the M.C. came out and talked about upcoming shows for a bit. Finally, he introduced Chuck and the show began (roughly at 8:12pm). They played for 40 minutes and took a 23 minute intermission. When they returned, they were on for just under an hour, including the encore. So, just under 100 minutes of music. Fantastic!

Boys Night Out

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Or rather, BNO, if you’re in the know, or are cool. πŸ˜‰

If you worked at First Boston Corporation in the 80’s (now known as CSFB, or Credit Suisse First Boston), odds are you were somewhat cool. If you worked in the department that I did, while you were definitely a geek, you also had high odds of being smart and cool as well.

In the 90’s, most of the people in my department dispersed to other firms, with the overwhelming majority of them staying on Wall Street. At some point in the late 90’s, a bunch of them started getting together irregularly (at least once a year) for dinner. They called it Boys Night Out.

For the first few years, I wasn’t invited, and wasn’t even aware that these dinners were being held. I assume that they thought I wouldn’t be interested, but I’m not sure. After some number of missed dinners, I was finally invited, and I happily accepted. Since then, they’ve been kind enough to invite me every time (or at least I think so) πŸ˜‰ and even take my crazy travel schedule into account in asking me when I’ll be in town before picking a date. Thanks for that too guys!

There is a core of seven of us who try hard to make it each time. There are a few additions that used to make it occasionally, and to be honest, I’m not sure they continue to be invited, having missed too many to prove their coolness (or is it loyalty?). One time, we even had a woman join us from the old group, though we staunchly insisted that it be called BNO, even that night.

Last night all seven of us confirmed that we could make it, but at the last minute, one person had to back out due to work requirements. All but two times, we eat at a top steak house. Last night was our second time (at least only my second time with the group) dining at Sparks Steakhouse. It’s a fantastic place, and gigantic to boot.

One of the things that distinguishes each member of the group (perhaps other than me!), is that they are each extremely witty/funny/sarcastic/sardonic/etc. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t hang out with these guys if you have a weak bladder or a fragile ego. After you soil yourself, you’ll also have low self-esteem.

While we occasionally (OK, perhaps rarely would be a more apt word) discuss serious things (aside from the normal catching up on what’s going on in everyone’s lives), most of the evening is a raucous romp, ending with my cheeks hurting pretty badly. It’s most definitely not politically correct, so it’s best that it remains BNO to the extent possible. Unfortunately, we are louder than I typically care to be in public (yes, I’m totally guilty of being carried away with the merriment). It’s probably OK, because these large steak houses tend to be pretty noisy, but if we offended anyone (with our content, or just our volume), I offer up my most humble apologies!

Last night marked at least the second time in a row (but by no means only the second time!) that one particular member of our group insisted on treating us. The last time he treated, it was the most expensive meal I have ever been a part of (I can’t bring myself to mention the number in public, it was jaw-dropping), so the last thing we expected was to be treated again.

In fact, we tried (not as hard as we should have!) to split it, but he would have none of it. Sparks is not cheap (in the least), and we always order multiple bottles of fine wine, so again, he picked up a big one (but I’m guessing that it was less than 20% of the really big one, mentioned above, with the same number of people!).

The rest of the gang teases him when he treats, saying that it’s appropriate that he do so, since he’s the only one in the group without a job! I like to point out that I’m semi-retired, meaning that I work full time, but have zero income. πŸ˜‰

Of the six of us who were there last night, I directly hired three of them (including our benefactor), one of the others ended up working for me for seven straight years, even though I didn’t originally hire him, and the last guy worked with all of them, but the two of us never really worked together. That said, I’ve maintained more of an active relationship with him than with the others.

When I thanked our benefactor at the end, he told me that if I hadn’t given him a start on Wall Street (he had no college education at the time), he wouldn’t have been able to afford to treat. Obviously, I had a good eye for talent, as he greatly eclipsed my not-too-shabby career, long ago. The rest of them have all done very well for themselves as well, so in that regard, I’m proud of all of them!

Another fabulous evening in the books, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!

P.S. I almost always order a Fillet Mignon when I order steak. I love it, love it, love it. When I mentioned last night that I was going to order it, two of them insisted that I was crazy, and that I had to try the Sirloin Shell Steak. I did, and it was perfect. It won’t get me off of Fillets as a rule, but I admit that I savored every single bite last night…

Rube Goldberg and SSH

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Rube Goldberg would be very proud of what you can accomplish with SSH. If you don’t know what SSH is, you really should just stop reading, as not only will this post be meaningless to you, you wouldn’t care about the result (or technique) even if you followed it perfectly! πŸ˜‰

A while ago, I gave an ancient laptop to a good friend who was sharing her husband’s laptop while they lived in Princeton for a year (he just finished a fellowship there and they are returning home in a week). Given the age of the laptop, the amount of RAM, the size of the hard drive, etc., I was hoping my friend would be willing to live with Linux rather than Windows on the box.

She’s a Gmail user, so she was indifferent (obviously, having never tried Linux before), given that she basically lives in the browser most of the time she’s on the machine. I installed PCLinuxOS on it (the 2007 release) because it looks a bit more like Windows than some other popular Linux distros. Today, I would make a different choice, not that there’s anything wrong with PCLinuxOS.

Anyway, for the most part, it has worked out very well for her, and she’s felt connected to the world, especially when her husband was in the office, and there was no laptop at home. Unfortunately, there is a bug somewhere either in PCLinuxOS, in her hardware, in their Linksys router, or in the timing between all of them, because on occasion, when the laptop boots, it doesn’t get the correct DNS server info even when it gets a good IP address via DHCP.

In what has to be a very painful process for my non-techie friend, I have given her a series of a few commands to type into a terminal window to correct the problem, when it occurs. Of course, it’s entirely Greek to her (rightfully so), but it works, and she patiently types them away and it all magically starts working again.

On occasion, she’s had trouble getting all of the commands in correctly, and she feels guilty calling me, even though I keep telling her that I don’t mind helping whatsoever. That got me to thinking about how I could fix it permanently, without making her life even more miserable trying to talk her through the various things I’d like to try in order to be sure I found the right solution.

I don’t have time to visit Princeton this week, and soon, she’ll be back in Indiana, and I definitely won’t be visiting there in a while. So, I need to have remote access to her machine. I can’t just SSH into it, because I certainly don’t want to talk her through port forwarding on her Linksys router, nor do I want to leave that port permanently open. That cuts out a vanilla VNC connection as well (which would be overkill, but if it was available, would work as well).

So, I thought that perhaps I would try one of the web-based remote control services. I have had excellent success with the free service from Yuuguu.com when I help my Dad with his Windows machine. It works on PC’s and Mac’s, but apparently, not yet on Linux, even though it’s Java based. That was disappointing. A peek on a few others yielded similar results.

After scratching my head a bit, and searching the net a bit more, I came across a very simple solution, entirely via SSH, but with Rube Goldberg implications in that I was solving a very simple problem, with a built-in option of SSH, but jumping through tons of hoops to get to the point where the simple command could be issued.

The solution (tested by me, but not yet done with my friend, because I wanted to be sure before subjecting her!) is as follows:

I’m running Windows XP. I could run an SSH daemon there (in a number of ways), but since this is a temporary solution, which I don’t really want to think about, instead I fire up VMware Player and launch my new favorite mini-distro, CDLinux 0.6.1. It automatically fires up an SSH server.

I then poke a hole in my firewall (I didn’t need to talk myself through it either) πŸ˜‰ with an arbitrary port number (for argument’s sake, let’s say it’s 12345). I forward that to port 22 on my CDLinux instance (running under VMware, and therefore having a different NAT’ed IP from my Windows box!). I can even leave the firewall in that state permanently if I want, since 99.9% of the time, CDLinux won’t even be running, and even if it was, and someone luckily got in, it’s a Live CD image, with nothing to really harm!

OK, we’re almost done! On the remote machine (my friend’s), she would type the following, in a terminal window:

ssh -l cdl -p 12345 -R 54321:localhost:22 the.name.of.my.remote.machine

She’ll get redirected to my VMware instance, and be prompted for a password, which I’ll give her in advance (can’t use ssh keys for this, since I don’t want to over-complicate this). Once she is in, I open a terminal window in my instance, and type:

ssh -l her_user_name -p 54321 localhost

Voila! I’ll now have a shell on her laptop, through an SSH tunnel, without her poking any holes in her firewall, and without me even needing to know her IP address, unless I want to restrict my SSH port forward to her specific machine, which would make this dance even more secure.

I’ve tried this a few times from different machines, all with success, but my friend isn’t online at the moment, so the final test will likely have to wait until tomorrow morning. In any event, a cool (and relatively simple solution) to an otherwise thorny problem. Just as a footnote, if I needed more control over her machine, the exact technique could be used to reverse tunnel a VNC port, giving me graphical control, or I could SSH back with -X (for X-Windows tunneling), and launch graphical clients one at a time, etc.

Update: OK, so today we got to try, and it worked perfectly. The only kink was that sshd was not automatically started on her laptop, so I had to talk her through becoming root and starting the service (simple enough!).

After we got it going, I did the unthinkable, and offered to upgrade her system. It was reasonably old, with Firefox at 2.0.0.7 (for example), and lots of other packages that could probably stand a security update. I warned her that it’s often better to leave these things alone when they are running smoothly, but in the end, we both decided to go for it.

So, I ran an apt-get upgrade. I then asked her to reboot. The machine came up, but only in terminal mode. She was able to log on, but startx failed with tons of errors. Oh oh…

Thankfully, the network did come up, and she was able to log on and run the ssh tunnel. I was then able to get back on her machine. I decided that instead of poking around too much, I’d try one last thing, which was to perform an apt-get dist-upgrade. This ran for a bit, and then I asked her to reboot again.

Voila! The machine came up correctly, and the networking worked again. So, for the moment, it seems that we accomplished everything we set out to do today, including her running Firefox 2.0.0.14 (I know, not 3.0 as yet…). Whew! πŸ™‚

Wild Turkey

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Normally, I take my long walks in the city when I exercise. On the occasional walks at the house, I usually just walk up and down our lane two times. It’s a 1/4 of a mile straight up hill (quite steep), so on the two round trips, 1/2 a mile of climbing breathlessly, and 1/2 a mile of putting on the breaks downhill.

I like it, and it’s a decent workout, but it’s also only roughly 20 minutes. It accomplishes the cardio part pretty well, but not the unwinding part. I can’t even listen to 1/2 an album in that time.

On Friday, friends of ours came over for a longer walk. Lois was still recovering from Tuesday night so I went alone with the other couple. We explored the old Croton Aqueduct walk. We walked at a relatively leisurely pace, so it wasn’t much of a workout, but it was wonderful nonetheless.

Lois has been bugging me for years (close to two decades actually) to walk the aqueduct with her, but I never did. Today, now that I knew where it was, I decided to take a longer walk. Technically, I was only on the official aqueduct trail for about 10 minutes in total. I took a fork toward Rockwood Park which hugs the Hudson River.

Total walk time door-to-door was just over an hour at a very brisk pace. Roughly 25% of it is steeply uphill, so I still got that kind of a workout (I like that part a lot). After one particularly long climb, you straighten out to sweeping Hudson River views which are breathtaking.

When I was on the last stretch home (back on the official aqueduct trail), just five minutes from my house, I heard a rustling in the bushes. I looked down and saw what could have been a small duck or goose, but it was hidden in the bushes enough to not be sure. Then, all of a sudden, a larger rustling, and a reasonably large wild turkey came out in what felt like a relatively aggressive manner.

I didn’t change my pace, nor stare at it, because I figured that what I first saw was likely a baby turkey, that this mother was intending to defend to the death. Better to just not appear to be a threat. She never came all that close to me, but I do freely admit that my heart raced a bit more than I would have thought if someone told me that a turkey would wander out on the path that I was walking on. πŸ™‚

Anyway, I have now discovered what everyone else in Westchester has known forever, and I have tons of new paths to walk on when I want a longer workout that will also allow me to clear my mind in addition to just working my muscles. Amen to that!

May 2008 Poker

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Same old, same old, with some new stuff thrown in, to throw me/you off. πŸ˜‰

Right after I reported on April’s results, I transferred some money from my one poker site to another site. The two sites have an agreement between them (perhaps there is joint ownership, but I have no idea) whereby you can transfer money between them with no cost, an unlimited amount of times.

I decided to do that because my beloved Omaha Hi-Lo tourneys have virtually disappeared from my primary site, and even the Hold’Em tourneys have become more of a circus side-show (IMHO). I actually prefer the software from my primary site, but I do enjoy playing Omaha Hi-Lo on the new site, so the blend is working for the moment.

That’s the new part. Now for the old…

Nothing has changed. I still played an extremely light schedule in May, so I often go days without launching the poker software. I also play mostly in actual tournaments rather than qualifiers (there are some exceptions, notably on weekends), so I’m spending more on the entry fees (this has been consistent for a couple of months now), which makes the volatility higher.

I started the month off with a bang, entering the Sunday big one by ponying up the full $215. I finished 54th and got back $600. In fact, I got rivered on that last hand (no, I don’t cry about losses) or I might have gone much further. At the other extreme, last weekend, I paid full freight again, and busted out on the first hand! That was a first for me. I flopped a set when my opponent flopped a straight. He played in a raised pot on the first hand with 79c, so he earned that pot by playing loosely.

I had a small roller coaster on the new site, starting off poorly, then cashing a few times to go ahead for the month, finally giving it all back and more. In the future, I won’t break out the results between the sites, but this one time, I will.

New site = -$164.00 for the month, old site = -$68.20 for the month. Grand total = -$232.20. Disappointing, but there were some real opportunities for big wins, so I’m really not complaining.

Yesterday I won an entry into today’s big one, so the loss counts in May, but I get to start off June with a free entry to the big one, so we’ll see what I make of the opportunity later today.

Scott McClellan

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When news of Scott McClellan’s new book What Happened came out earlier this week, I was sure I would blog about my reaction the next day. By the time I got ready to start writing, so many things had been said, that I lost the zeal to share my thoughts.

The story continues to get an amazing amount of coverage, with commentary ranging from quite insightful to quite inane. By yesterday morning, I decided to ignore this topic. I am so far behind in writing about a number of things I’d like to, that this seemed to be done to death.

Then this morning, I see two editorials in The New York Times, and I get just enough inspiration to put fingers to keyboard.

The first one that I read was by Gail Collins, using Bernard Kerik as her whipping boy in the anti-loyalty rant that was breathtakingly naive.

The second is Bob Herbert, someone whom I’ve grudgingly come to respect (though not admire), at least for his intellect, and somewhat for his articulate and consistent portrayal of it. Unfortunately, while this editorial is consistent, he uses Scott’s book as an excuse to get some of that consistency off his chest, since he’s been busy lately taking Hillary to task a little more often than he’d like. Thankfully (for him, courtesy of Scott), he’s back on message.

While there are supposedly some things in the book that are downright laughable (I say supposedly because I have no interest in reading it, and never will), for the purpose of my discussion, I’d prefer to assume that 100% of the content is verifiably true!

Most of the White House responses center around the loyalty theme, not just the obvious stuff, but also the claims that Scott never shared his concerns, even once, with any of his colleagues, even ones he remained close with after he left. In that regard, they also claim that he was disloyal in not sharing those thoughts at the time, because they claim that the White House and the President in particular, were open to such candor of opinions (true or not!).

We can dismiss the majority of the golly, see we were right all along comments from people who up to just a week earlier happily painted Scott McClellan as an idiot puppet of the regime.

In between those are a fair number of insightful analyses on both sides of the political aisle. One line that amused me was by Dick Morris, feigning shock at the concept that a President would try and sell a war, pointed out that the Gettysburg Address was a propaganda speech. In other words, all Presidents sell all wars.

In a delicious irony to this whole story, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Scott’s Father, Barr McClellan, published a much ridiculed book in 2003 called Blood, Money & Power, claiming that LBJ had JFK killed. But I digress…

To me, the only interesting point is one of personal integrity. Again, keep in mind that I will suspend disbelief and assume that everything Scott says in the book is the gospel truth!

Exactly why does Scott choose to share this information with all of us? More importantly, why now? The famous saying:

timing is everything

doesn’t get repeated ad nauseum because it has no basis in reality.

If we are to assume (believe!) that he is doing this to save countless future generations the despair of this kind of politics as usual, then the timing becomes even more curious. He’s been out of office for just over two years. Couldn’t the saving have begun sooner?

Had he come out shortly after leaving office with his revelations, he would have been an even hotter topic on all of the shows that are drooling over having him on. Of course, it would have been hard to monetize that instant celebrity, and coming out with a book two years later would have been a complete yawn.

On the other hand, waiting until the new year, when the President would have been out of office, and the election over, one way or the other, might have yielded fewer book sales (perhaps dramatically fewer ones, especially if Obama were to win the Presidency, and the urgent need to paint McCain as four more years of Bush wouldn’t be as enticing as it is for some).

No, this is timed to extract the maximum amount of money for Scott. If for any reasons it also happens to sway the election toward the Democrats, so be it, though that’s giving Mr. McClellan way more credit and respect than is due him.

No, to repeat, this boils down to a personal integrity issue, one which Scott McClellan has none of, as in zero. This is but another in a very long string of kiss and tell books, coming in all shapes and sizes. I have no interest in any of them.

I am not interested in the ones that bash Democrats (e.g., the Clintons), Republicans (e.g., the Bushes), Hollywood (too many examples), corporate titans (also too many examples).

Why? Because most of them are written by nobodies (Scott included), that would continue to be nobodies, if it weren’t for someone else who had given them a chance. When they can’t parlay that chance into an honest career, they resort to kiss and tell, or in other cases, direct lawsuits.

This book, and the timing of its release, is no different than the various nanny tales that come out over the years (or bodyguards, etc.). Hangers on, who would be invisible to the world, except for the fact that they are always around famous people, by virtue of those famous people employing them.

If the book doesn’t sell well (already not realistic, but since I allowed for the possibility that it’s all true, let’s speculate that it might not sell well either) πŸ˜‰ then I strongly suggest that Scott get a job as a nanny for someone famous, like the Jolie-Pitts, so that he can have a second chance at fame and fortune, when he outs them in a tell-all bonanza…

To me, the saddest thing about the book being in print, is that it gives excuses (good ones, unfortunately) to people who can’t look forward. They get to climb back on their high horse, point their fingers, and tell you that they were right all along. Golly gee, I’m just as proud of you as I am of Scott McClellan.

And, just like Barr McClellan’s book likely influenced Jr.’s decision to cash in too, the success of this idiot book will encourage future idiots to sell their souls as well, for the almighty dollar…

Angel Band at Joe’s Pub

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If you’re one of the few people who reads the comments to these posts, then you probably know how we spent last night. Angel Band performed at Joe’s Pub. It also happened to be the official release party for their brand new CD With Roots & Wings. It’s also available as a download from Amazon.com.

We’ve seen Angel Band twice before, at BB King when they opened for David Bromberg (Nancy Josephson’s husband, and a long-time favorite performer of mine!) and when they opened for David at Paramount Theater in Peekskill, NY. In both shows they were wonderful (as reported here and here) and we bought their one CD, Beautiful Noise, and have listened to it many times since.

Last night it was all about them (though David Bromberg’s band backs them, so he was on the stage the entire time). It was their show, their party. More to say about that after the review of the set itself.

Regular readers know that Joe’s Pub is our favorite place to see live music. Angel Band came out at exactly 7:30pm (the announced show time). The three ladies, Nancy Josephson, Jen Schonwald and Kathleen Weber were joined by David Bromberg (guitars), Bobby Tangrea (mandolin and fiddle), Bob Taylor (bass) and Nate Grower (fiddle). Here they all are on stage:

Angel Band

After getting their positions set on the stage, the ladies erupted with an a cappella rendition of Hey Papa Legba, the first cut from the new CD. The acoustics at Joe’s Pub are among the best, when the person working the sound board knows what they are doing. Last night, the person working the sound board was nearly perfect! (Bromberg’s guitar had terrible feedback for five seconds, and at the end of one song, Nancy’s microphone nearly exploded, otherwise, one of the best blended sounds ever!)

One of the things that distinguishes Angel Band from a number of other vocal groups that we love (Girlyman, The Wailin’ Jennys, The Weepies, etc.) is the raw power that each of Nancy, Jen and Kathleen produce. And yet, even though they are belting it out (with all of the emotion that connotes), their blended sound is perfect and never overwhelms. I can’t explain the acoustics behind that (other than to credit their sound person again!), because it feels like you should be knocked out of your chair by their individual and collective power.

You are, sort of, by the beauty of their sound, not by being overpowered by it.

They performed at least seven of the 13 songs on the new CD (perhaps one or two more). They were all fantastic. On the first CD, few (if any, sorry, I’m not sure) of the numbers were written by Angel Band. I’ve reported in the past that Lois is drawn more to music written by artists that perform their own creations. I never cared, but am more sensitized to it after 26 years with Lois. πŸ˜‰

The new CD has a number of songs written by Nancy, Bobby Tangrea or the two collaborating together. It still has covers, including Angel of the Morning, which is the one duplicated song from Beautiful Noise, though the version on the previous CD is nearly one minute longer. They performed that last night as well, amazingly, with Nancy holding a note at the end for so long that she received an ovation that lasted through the normal end-of-song ovation. She had a good joke about it too, which I’ll keep secret, so that you have another reason (aside from their singing talent) to see them live.

So now, I have four versions of Angel of the Morning in iTunes. Two by Angel Band, one by Juice Newton, and one by Girlyman on their new Live CD. Guess which one I like best? πŸ˜‰ Seriously, I love them all, and I’ve been listening to Juice Newton’s version for the longest time (and have never tired of it!), but Girlyman’s is the mellowest, and most soulful rendition of the four.

In an irony (for me, since I was unaware of it), Nancy explained that the author of Angel of the Morning, Chip Taylor, also wrote Wild Thing. The irony is that one of Girlyman’s funniest bits on stage is their rendition of Thing Wild, singing Wild Thing backwards. So, they cover two different Chip Taylor songs, one forwards, and one backwards. πŸ˜‰

After saying goodnight, they returned to the stage for a one-song encore. It’s one of their signature numbers, One Voice, written by Ruth Moody of The Wailin’ Jennys. I’m nuts about this song, and Angel Band does it wonderfully, each and every time.

They were on stage for exactly one hour (including the encore). I’ll have more to say about that in a minute. When the show was over, we sprinted to the back, where they were selling the new CD. We were first on line, and I also got to finally meet Nancy.

Nancy Josephson

We have traded a few emails since I bought Beautiful Noise directly from her nearly two years ago! It was nice that she remembered my name (not that it’s all that common). πŸ˜‰ Of course, we got the CD signed by all three of them, thanks Angel Band!

The CD is gorgeous, and I recommend it highly! The cover shot for the CD was taken before last night, because you’d have trouble recognizing both Jen and Kathleen from that photo. Kathleen cut her hair to just below ear length, and Jen chopped it all off in a complete buzz cut. πŸ™‚

Here are close-ups of Jen and Kathleen, so you can see the difference:

Jen SchonwaldKathleen Weber

Here are individual shots of the rest of the band:

David BrombergBobby TangreaBob TaylorNate Grower

Now the back story to last night. Having seen Angel Band twice before, both times opening for David Bromberg, we were used to seeing them for exactly one hour (which for an opening group, is actually on the generous side nowadays!). We were really looking forward to seeing them at Joe’s Pub for two reasons:

  1. It’s our favorite place, regardless of the band
  2. We expected a longer show than usual

Unfortunately, when I saw that the start time was 7:30pm, not the more typical 7pm, I knew the show couldn’t be more than 75 minutes long (with encore), given that there was a 9:30 show as well.

They are also playing tonight, at BB King, a place we also like a lot, opening for David Bromberg. So, we could have had the same length show, and the enjoyment of a full David Bromberg set as well, by going to BB King. Of course, I prefer Joe’s Pub, and an early night, so I had a real dilemma.

I started this post by mentioning that you might have known we were going. That’s because the Angel Band publicist commented on this blog a few weeks back, pointing out the upcoming CD Release and the Joe’s Pub date.

I wrote to him asking about the short show. He contacted a member of the band (my guess is Nancy, but I have no way of knowing), and he replied with the following direct quote:

…we’ll give ’em everything we got and leave ’em lying in the aisles

OK, it was only an hour, but I will heartily admit, she (whichever of the Angels it was), was right. We left thoroughly satisfied with the performance, other than always wanting more from any artist we really like. They really do give every show their all, and the fans completely appreciate it!

Last night was unusual for another reason. The majority of the audience was related to at least one member of the band. The release party was more of a family get-together. It was pretty cool. We walked in right behind a group of them, which included David’s brother Charney. He sat immediately in front of us. Nancy spent an hour before the show making the rounds with various family members. A number of the cousins had never met before, and we were smack in the middle of all of the introductions.

This kind of scene was right up Lois’ alley, and even if the show wasn’t good (which you now know wasn’t the case), she might have called the evening a success just for the people watching. πŸ™‚

So, the concert was a complete success. Unfortunately, the aftermath wasn’t. We intended to head up to the house last night. We boarded a bus heading to the apartment. The air conditioning was blasting (a good thing for Lois). After a stop or two (perhaps the bus driver overheard one woman complain when she got on), he shut off the air conditioning.

Lois doesn’t do well (in general) with motion, in particular fits and starts, and when you add stale warm air to the mix, she gets sick instantly. She also doesn’t recover for long periods of time. By the time we got to the apartment, she was violently ill (nauseous and dizzy). I suggested we spend the night in the city instead of going to the house. She insisted. As silly as that was, I have learned (the hard way) not to argue (at least not too much).

We made great time going home, but it did nothing to help her get better. She’s totally out of it today as well, having recovered not even a bit, no doubt made worse by being in a car immediately after the bus ride. Hopefully, she’ll be back to normal tomorrow! πŸ™