Frustration

Rosi Golan at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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We’ve seen Rosi Golan a number of times, but only one was a full set of her own music (at Jammin’ Java, covered in this post). The other times were either a few songs at a benefit (or as a guest), or with Ari Hest, performing as The Open Sea (their side-project together). Even at Jammin’ Java, Rosi was opening for William Fitzsimmons. Last night she headlined her own set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

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Rather than force myself to be creative and describe Rosi in different words, here’s what I had to say about her at Jammin’ Java:

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

I would add that many of her songs (most?) have a dreamy quality to them (in the sense that it’s really easy to completely get lost in them).

Last night she played a 10-song set. Four of the songs were from her current CD, The Drifter and the Gypsy (an incredible album). Most (all?) of the rest were from her upcoming CD, Lead Balloon, likely out sometime in May (just my guess). I already look forward to it, Rosi is very consistent.

Jake Phillips accompanied Rosi on all but the first and last numbers (though he stood on stage with guitar in hand during the opener). He accompanied her at Jammin’ Java as well, so I knew in advance that I would love his guitar play (I did, both times now) and his harmonies with her are very nice (if a bit too soft).

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Jason Reeves happened to be in town (and at Rockwood) and was called up as a special (surprise) guest to sing Flicker with Rosi, a song they co-wrote while Rosi was out in LA working on the new record. Jake joined in creating a lovely three-part harmony.

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Also in the audience was Billy Hawn. Billy is an excellent drummer. He tours with Jason Reeves, but we saw him supporting ambeR Rubarth at Joe’s Pub, back in 2009. Rosi is friends with Billy and dedicated one of my favorite Rosi songs to him, Think of Me.

It was an excellent set, delivered wonderfully.

The only hiccup in the evening is the increasingly common loud talking that goes on in Rockwood 2. Even when 100 people tried to shush the dozen talkers, the silence rarely lasted more than a minute. A musician friend of mine recently told me that he greatly prefers to play next door at Rockwood 1 (even though Stage 2 is much bigger and more beautiful), because he says that the rudeness/noise at Stage 2 is just overwhelming.

I partially blame the club (even though I love nearly everything about Rockwood, both venues, and everyone who works there). First, after being warned a few times, they should ask people to take their conversations outside and enforce it if they have to. Second, they booked a very different kind of act before Rosi (these aren’t opening acts, they’re simply separate sets, back-to-back). A fair number of people stayed for Rosi’s set, but it appears that they stayed to socialize, not to listen to the music.

There are no trivial solutions to this problem, but something needs to be tried, since real fans are showing their frustration more often and more passionately. After an audience member loudly said to Rosi “I’m trying to enjoy your music, but it’s really loud at the bar”, Rosi made a few jokes and tried to get people to settle down. It was only partially effective and there’s a big danger of a backlash when a performer tries to control an unwilling crowd. Oh well…

Today, on my way to the dentist (and in the chair under heavy novacaine), I listened to all of The Drifter and the Gypsy and Little Apple EP (by The Open Sea). I’m only now regaining some feeling in my lower lip and jaw, but Rosi got me through it just fine! Smile

Big Apple Singers at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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I started the first of four posts tonight (this being the 4th and final one) with a question as to whether this night would turn out to be as epic as I expected. If you read posts #2 and #3, you’ll know that there were enough frustrations to make that highly unlikely.

That said, there was the promise that this final set would put the night over the top. After all, it was a similar setup to The Narwhals who completely blew me away just a few nights earlier. If you only want to hear glowing things about these musicians, read that post and stop now!

The two main people in The Narwhals are Josh Dion and Greg Mayo, both extraordinary musicians (multi-instrumentalists and vocalists). Both are equally highlighted in The Big Apple Singers (TBAS). In this configuration, Josh moves from the keyboards to the drums and Greg moves from guitar to the keyboards.

Another main person (likely the leader of TBAS) is Evan Watson on the electric guitar and vocals. Rounding out the group is one of our favorite bassists (and people), Chris Anderson.

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A disclaimer is necessary, for people who don’t regularly read my blog. I write this blog for 1.5 reasons. The main reason is simply to document the things we do that we want to remember for as long as we live. We know memories are fleeting (in the sense of accuracy). The minor one is to promote the musicians that we have fallen in love with, but that’s really secondary.

The few negative things I have to say about last night’s set are for me to remember how I felt, not to knock people who have more talent in their pinkie than I have in my whole body. Also, I might be the only person in the overwhelmingly crowded Rockwood Music Hall stage 2 that felt this way. The joint was jumping and everyone there appeared to be enjoying one of the best sets they’d ever seen (including the friends we were there with!).

So, how could the same basic set of people that thrilled me on Wednesday, just have me enjoying myself a few nights later.

First, everything was so loud (probably to compensate for the huge crowd) that it was all a bit fuzzy. Of course I could make out all the leads, but they were drowned out by the other instruments that were wailing along rather than subtly accompanying the leads. On Wed, due to the blizzard keeping the audience smaller, everything was a more reasonable volume and the clarity of every note was outstanding.

Second, while The Narwhals played a set of only covers, TBAS played both covers and originals. Some of the originals had excellent musicianship, but were hardly stellar songs (IMO). There was also one direct comparison. Both groups played The Shape I’m In by The Band (TBAS opened with it). TBAS did it well, The Narwhals were awesome. I guess that set the tone for me early on and TBAS never overcame it for me (with one notable exception).

Left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Mayo on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Wonderful on everything.

GregMayoKeyboards

Evan Watson on electric guitar and vocals. Evan is a very good guitarist, but a little too heavy handed for my taste. It’s possible that it was this particular show or set list. I’m already planning on catching him with his other band, The Headless Horesemen, on February 17th, so I’ll get a second look. He has a very good voice and classic hard-rock theatrics.

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Josh Dion on drums and vocals. Awesome on the drums, great vocals. He took one very long drum solo. When he was done, Evan challenged him to crank it up. He did. The second solo was dramatically faster than the first. I still don’t know how his arms didn’t fly off. That said, just like my comment about Vinnie Sperrazza from Wednesday, Josh is even better in his drumming on every single song than his solos.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. In the past, we’ve only heard Chris sing harmony, mostly when he’s playing with Ian Axel. Last night, during one song, Chris took an entire verse himself. He was great and the audience let him know it.

ChrisAndersonSinging

Robbie Gil was brought up as a special guest singer for one song. Robbie performed the set before TBAS and Josh Dion and Greg Mayo played in his band. I was sorry to miss that set (and will correct that as soon as possible), but we were next door at stage 1 seeing Derek James.

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Robbie kicked off another The Band song but insisted that each of the other band members sing at least one verse (that’s the song that Chris took a lead on). Robbie’s voice was wonderful as was his spirit on the stage. It’s the one exception I noted above to nearing the feeling I had on Wednesday.

Another thing that we rarely see, which we applaud, was Evan Watson squatting (Chris as well) whenever Josh Dion was singing lead. How rare to get a peek at the drummer, tucked way in the far corner at Rockwood 2. A wonderful touch.

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When they were done, even though they had passed their allotted time, people wanted more (remember, nearly every person there appeared to me to have loved every single second of the set!). After getting permission (which seemed to take longer than usual), the band reconfigured themselves.

Josh Dion took the keyboards, Greg Mayo the guitar and Evan Watson the drums. They did a Josh Dion original. Very nice and a little twist to end the evening.

JoshDionPianoGregMayoGuitarEvanWatsonDrums

Derek James at Rockwood Music Hall

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I have been waiting (not so patiently) for a chance to see Derek James perform again. Lois has been waiting even longer. We saw him for the first time on July 22nd at Flux Studios. Then I saw him without Lois on September 1st at Rockwood Music Hall stage 2. Both shows were extraordinary.

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Last night night Derek played Rockwood Music Hall stage 1, so I expected a bit of a more mellow setup, like he had at Flux. I admit to being a bit nervous as to what I might hear, since Derek announced at the September show that his guitar player, Roy Gurel, was heading to Israel for a long stay and wouldn’t return for a while.

Unfortunately, Assaf Spector wasn’t with Derek either, giving Derek a completely new band. Last night was their first performance together.

I love everything about Derek’s music. He writes fun songs and delivers them with a zest that has to be experienced live. That was all true last night too. While I definitely enjoyed the set and again am looking forward to seeing Derek as soon as possible, my expectations were too high for the reconfigured band to meet (my fault, not theirs).

Derek modulates his voice by running his mic through the equivalent of a guitar pedal. Even though I had noticed interesting qualities in his voice in the previous performances, I never noticed that he was controlling it electronically (silly me). Last night, mostly in the first song, but still noticeable throughout the set, Derek seemed to set the effects a little too high. During the first song, he sounded a bit like he was on helium. To make matters worse, his vocals were mic’ed a bit too low (even without the effects) and his guitar was a bit too low as well.

On to the band. I normally go left-to-right, but I’ll go right-to-left this time, because that happens to be the order that impressed me.

Michael Riddleberger on the drums (and a bit of vocals). Mike (that’s how Derek introduced him) impressed me mightily. Derek’s beats are fun and big and are greatly enhanced by a drummer who can bring out the 1940’s big band jazz sound (full, echoing drums). I was extremely nervous when the set began, because I was literally 10 inches from the drum set. Mike was perfect in his beat, and in not blowing my head off.

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David on the bass and light vocals. I bothered to make a note of his full name on my Droid. When I looked at the note tonight, the auto-corrected text had his last name as “disease”. Sorry! Anyway, he was quite good on the bass. Not quite as loose or fun as Assie (Assaf) is. But, the biggest difference is that Assie shares a ton of vocal harmony with Derek which was missing. Also, there is a general showmanship (dancing around) that was missing last night.

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Michael Day on electric guitar and vocals. I might have heard the name incorrectly, because I can’t find a link to him. Michael is clearly a talented guitarist with some fast leads. But, he’s filling shoes that are very hard to fill. Roy Gurel might be my second favorite local guitar player (behind Greg Mayo). Roy also does as much singing and dancing as Assie does (well, did!).

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I am not blaming Michael and David for not being able to replace Roy and Assie on their first-ever show. I am just hoping that a few more rehearsals and shows will continue their development quickly and dramatically.

Derek James can mesmerize me solo, I have no doubt. But, the current setup is called Derek James and the Lovely Fools. If that’s accurate, then the configuration with Roy and Assie should have been called Derek James and the Loveliest Fools! Smile

One final negative note (not under Derek’s control). While the 7pm set for Sarah Jarosz was whisper quiet during her songs, quite a number of people talked loudly during Derek’s numbers. Of course, those same people cheered, clapped and whooped it up like they were his biggest fans when the song was over. I know Derek’s music creates a total party atmosphere (did I mention how much fun his songs are?), but that’s no excuse to party without him while he’s performing…

The Ramblers at the Living Room

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This is post #2 of the evening. #1 was about Sarah Jarosz and Alex Hargreaves and can be read here.

Under normal circumstances, we would have stayed at Rockwood and caught Leslie Mendelson at the 9pm set. We’d never heard her before, but we were planning to be at Rockwood 1 for the 10pm set anyway and I liked what I heard on Leslie’s MySpace page.

Then we heard that Melissa Tong was sitting in with The Ramblers at The Living Room. That was enough to make us change our plans.

We walked in to The Living Room at 8:50pm. The place was a zoo (not in the child-like wonder way). The bar was mobbed, the inner room where the music is played even worse. We could barely make it in three feet from the curtain dividing the two rooms.

We watched the last three songs of Shanna Zell’s set on a TV that shows the live action from the stage for those who are too far back to see it. Shanna has a nice voice but otherwise couldn’t hold my attention. Given the crowd (and who knows how late her set got started), the show went past 9pm. When it was over, it took us another few minutes to get an additional 20 feet closer to the stage, still behind everyone who was seated.

The Ramblers had a number of special guests (they called it an orchestrated acoustic set), so it took them extra long to transition from Shanna to their setup. There were nine people on stage so it wasn’t surprising, just frustrating to wait, uncomfortably at that.

Then they started playing. Excellent. Definitely my kind of music. Actually, since they had so many guests, I don’t know how I would react to a normal The Ramblers set, but I’m willing to find out.

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Thankfully, during the first two songs, the violins (yes, there was a second violin joining Melissa Tong) were front and center (literally, at center stage and figuratively, as in highlighted throughout the piece). We were far back, so apologies for the fuzziness of the few photos worth posting.

Jeff Young played the violin amazingly (as Melissa always does). Together, bliss.

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Melissa didn’t play during the third song. Jeff was featured, as well as another guest Bill Bell on mandolin. I wanted to stay because I love mandolin so much (did you read the Sarah Jarosz post?). While Jeff was incredible, Bill’s part was nothing special. This is not a comment on Bill’s skill. When he was sound-checking before the set, I was quite impressed with the licks he was throwing around.

Anyway, because the set started so late, we had to run out after the third song. I was sorry to miss more of The Ramblers (and Melissa and Jeff in particular), but very happy to get out of that crowd.

Between Sarah and The Ramblers, we had a quick and exceptional meal at Sugar Café. It looks like a hole-in-the-wall on the corner of Houston and Allen. We’ve walked by there a hundred times and never considered going in before. What a mistake. We loved our food (fast and fresh) and the staff were as outstanding as the meal. Don’t go for the atmosphere, but if you’re on the Lower East Side and need something good, quick and reasonably priced to eat, I recommend it.

The Grascals at Highline Ballroom

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When a band plans a tour there is very little wiggle room in any given city. They’re generally on the move all night (if they have a professional bus driver), or all day (if they’re driving themselves). There are many things you can’t control when planning months in advance.

Two such things are the unbelievably frigid temps currently inhabiting NYC (thanks global warming!) and the local team making the championship game in the NFL (thanks J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!). Smile

The weather and the Jets might have kept some fans from making it out last night (entirely their loss!), but it didn’t stop The Grascals from blowing away those of us who were smart enough to choose them!

This was our third time seeing The Grascals and it most certainly won’t be our last. The other three people at our table had never seen them before. They are indescribably amazing (or, as one of the people we saw it with noted: “The Grascals are truly absurdly talented”). Of course, I’ll still do my humble best to give you a sense of their magic.

Highline Ballroom is a wonderful place to see a show, in particular one with a big group and a big sound. The Grascals are that.

While all six members of The Grascals blend perfectly together, I actually view them as two separate groups (more accurately, a group within a group). Each group is great in their way but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. To whet your appetite, check out the amazing number of awards they’ve won as a group and as individuals.

Group #1 is a core vocal and rhythm driven ensemble comprised of Jamie Johnson (guitar and vocals), Terry Eldredge (guitar and vocals) and Terry Smith (upright bass and vocals). The three of them sing so well individually (each sings lead) and together (three-part harmony on every non-instrumental song). Jamie and Terry share MC honors, keeping everything light and funny in between songs.

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Terry Smith is also a top-notch bassist. On two numbers he demonstrated a perfect slap technique that was a blast to listen to and watch.

Group #2 is comprised of three of the best instrumentalists you’ll ever hear (they don’t even have vocal mic’s so you never hear them speak or sing). Danny Roberts is an incredible mandolin player. Jeremy Abshire is an extraordinary fiddle player. Kristin Scott Benson is a mind-boggling banjo player (multiple time Banjo Player of the Year winner!).

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Each of Danny, Jeremy and Kristin can give solo performances that knock your socks off. When they play together, most of the time one of them is being highlighted in the lead, but the other two are supporting the effort with complementary riffs. On some songs (only one brief moment last night), they have duels, which have them each repeating the same riff in a competition where the only winner is the audience!

When Groups #1 and #2 combine (on most songs), you get the best of both worlds. Amazing vocals sprinkled with virtuoso leads on the mandolin, fiddle and banjo.

They were all on fire last night, and the audience gave extended ovations after every number (and for nearly every lead during each song). Each of the three soloists was brilliant.

Jamie then thanked us and introduced the last song, Sally Goodin, off of their self-titled album (The Grascals, for those of you not paying any attention). On that CD, the song is just under four minutes, and features incredible solos on the fiddle, banjo, mandolin and then around again.

Last night, as incredible as each of Jeremy, Danny and Kristin was, this last song took it to another level. I didn’t have a second of disappointment during the earlier numbers, but after this, I realized that they were holding something in reserve.

Jeremy opened the number (just like on the CD). After his solo, Kristin took hers. Then Danny. Just like on the CD, Danny’s solo was longer than the others, only last night, Danny’s kept going (and going). Then Jeremy walked to the middle of the stage and took over Terry Smith’s vocal mic as everyone else took a few steps back.

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He wailed on the fiddle in one of the longest, most inconceivable solos. Every time it looked like he was about to relinquish the lead, he took it up a notch. You had to be there to believe it. Finally, after leaving us all shivering a bit, Kristin stepped back to her mic and continued the round until they finally called it a night.

Their live version of Sally Goodin lasted over nine minutes. It was more than twice as long as the CD version. Jeremy’s solo itself lasted longer than the entire CD version. All I can say is that if that were the only song they played (meaning, if the entire show was just those 9+ minutes), I would have felt that I had gotten my money’s worth. The rest of the show was a bonus!

Every person at Highline rose to give them a long standing ovation. Of course, they came back for an encore.

New York, those of you who passed on this show have no idea what you missed. OK, perhaps you know now. If you miss the next chance to see The Grascals when they return, it will be on you then. You’ve been warned! Winking smile

After the show, we purchased an EP and one CD that we didn’t already own. Both Jamie and Danny signed them for us.

Here is a representative set list (not the identical one played last night) with the two CDs that we bought:

SetListAndCDs

To top it all off, the five of us shared a fantastic meal and enjoyed each other’s company for two relaxing hours before the show started. The food at Highline Ballroom is wonderful, but our companions were even more wonderful. Smile

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The Weepies at Hiro Ballroom

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On May 8th, 2008, a musician friend of ours sent both of us an email recommending that we listen to the new album by The Weepies, Hideaway.  I trust her and bought the download without even listening to the previews. After one listen, I bought Happiness (their EP) and Say I Am You (another full-length album). I love all three and have listened to them countless times.

The Weepies is a husband and wife team, Steve Tannen and Deb Talan. Each was an individual singer/songwriter. They never toured in support of Hideaway, because they had their first child shortly before it was released. That didn’t stop Hideaway from being a runaway hit (deservedly so). They have had a large number of placements on TV (shows and ads) which has made them a commercial success without having to tour.

They just released a new album, Be My Thrill, and with a second son in tow, they are currently touring in support of that album. That included one night in NYC, last night, at Hiro Ballroom. There was no way I was going to miss it, even though it was a standing room only show (very low on our list of things to do).

Deb and Steve are exceptional songwriters. Most of their songs have a light/mellow pop sound/feel. There’s almost an ethereal quality due both to their voices and the top-notch production of their albums.

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Deb has a distinct voice that affects my ears like a personal earworm, even though it’s not the most classically beautiful voice. Steve sings well, but his voice comes across better to me on the albums than it did last night (for the most part).

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Both play acoustic and electric guitar, mostly rhythm with the occasional finger picking. They were supported last night by four band members, left-to-right on stage:

Brad Gordon on electric keyboards. Brad did a very good job throughout, but it didn’t always feel integrated to me.

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Frank Lenz on drums. Frank did a nice job as well, but I didn’t really take note of his skill until the last song of the night.

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Jon Flower on upright and electric bass. Another good job, which occasionally commanded my attention, but mostly blended well in the background.

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Meghan Toohey (Meg) on electric guitar and harmony. Meg is actually the most integral part of band. She nails the guitar riffs that complement Deb’s voice, bringing the ethereal quality to the live performance that is likely more easily captured in a studio. She did a very nice job harmonizing with Deb and Steve as well.

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Both Deb and Steve are warm and engaging on stage. Steve is the more natural/comfortable story teller, easily drawing the crowd in with stories/intros and responding to the many things that people yelled from the audience. Deb was a little more hesitant but did end up telling one story very well toward the end, the introduction to Antarctica.

The good: excellent set selection, excellent sound system, overwhelmingly respectful crowd, seeing The Weepies live for the first time.

The indifferent: I’m a huge live music lover, often enjoying shows more than the perfect recordings of the same groups. It’s possible that my expectations for this show were too high, but there was no magic for me whatsoever, just a well done show. I spent this morning listening to The Weepies non-stop and I love it every bit as much now as before, so the lack of magic last night hasn’t affected my opinion of The Weepies.

The bad: the mixes on the albums are perfect. Last night, occasionally the keyboards or the bass slightly washed out the vocals. Steve sang his harmonies way more softly than his leads. In my opinion, their music is more suited to a seated show. The crowd loved them and for the most part was exceptionally quiet during the songs, but it’s not exactly dance music. To make it worse (for me), I was at the back, so it meant that every time someone shifted, it was a distraction from my view and I had to adjust to see again.

They were on stage for 98 minutes, including a two-song encore. They put on an excellent show and thrilled the overwhelming majority of the people in the room (capacity is listed as 400, but it felt like more than that to me).

Greg Tannen opened the show. Greg is Steve’s brother and a singer/songwriter in his own right. He just released his own new album, Maybe the Sun.

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Greg has a very good voice and plays the guitar well and writes good songs. He has a relaxed style on stage and engaged the audience quite a bit (including poking fun at how he was invited to open for The Weepies).

He was accompanied by:

Andrew Sherman on electric keyboards and harmony. I couldn’t find a good individual link for Andrew, but there’s a bio of him at the bottom of the page that I linked to. He was very good on the keyboards and did a very nice job harmonizing with Greg.

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Tim Luntzel on electric bass. Tim did a nice job, not highlighted much.

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Greg was on for 35 minutes and we both enjoyed his set. For his fourth number, he invited Steve and Deb up to join him on a song he co-wrote with Steve, that The Weepies recorded, Vegas Baby, a song I like a lot (on the Happiness EP).

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Lois and I did not experience the show together. I stood on the floor, near the back, dead center with a friend of ours who spotted us toward the end of Greg’s set (amazing, given how crowded and dark it was). Lois stood on the staircase about 15 feet away, so she could actually see the stage.

I would go see The Weepies again, but only for a seated show.

Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I expected to knock another 1.5 items off my music bucket list. I’m upgrading the .5 to a full point! 😉

Not only did I get to finally see Martin Rivas perform a full set, but it was different than I expected (his adoring fans clearly knew what they were in for) in two wonderful ways.

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First, Martin had two lead electric guitar players and both happen to be among my individual favorites (we’ll get to the band shortly).

Much more important, while I’ve seen people rave about Martin being a Rock ‘N Roller, I have only ever gotten a hint of that, as most of his previous sets were acoustic or mixed in nature.

Last night was full-on Rock, with a dab of Soul (hard rocking soul!) thrown in for good measure. The place (Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2) was electric. Everyone around me was physically participating in the music. If you were just sitting there, it would have been prudent to check for a pulse!

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Martin was his usual shining light. I love his voice. His guitar playing is excellent, but he purposely takes a back seat when he has the full band on stage and just plays mostly rhythm (he somewhat picked on one number).

Here’s the band, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth electric keyboards and background vocals. Patrick is excellent (we’ve seen him before on a grand piano). Last night he had stacked keyboards. I think he had one set to a more organ sound and the other a more piano one.

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Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and background vocals. One night after finally seeing Chris play the bass, he was back to electric guitar. Given the rocking going on, that was awesome and freeing for Chris, as he wailed on a number of leads, fingers flying.

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Craig Meyer on drums (still no good individual link). Craig kept the beat going strong with really tasty riffs. His smile alone is worth the price of admission (in this case, free, but a one drink minimum). 😉

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Brian Killeen on electric bass and background vocals (the link is to an unmaintained MySpace page). Brian is solid all around.

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Greg Mayo on electric guitar, lap steel guitar and background vocals. We’ve only seen Greg once before (also playing with Martin) and he was an instant favorite. Buttery smooth guitar playing. He and Chris shared the leads equally and beautifully. Greg is still on my bucket list to see playing his own stuff as a headliner.

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Rachel Platten joined Martin for one song. Rachel headlined the set before Martin’s and she is the other full point that I wanted/needed to cross off my list. Check.

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Until my friend pointed it out to me before the set began, I didn’t realize that I had seen Rachel perform (ever-so-briefly). She and Kailin Garrity sang harmony/backup with Martin Rivas at the Haiti Benefit in January. I didn’t catch Rachel’s name that night.

Last night it was Rachel front-and-center. Rachel has a gorgeous voice and plays keyboards really well (last night electric). The set was mostly Pop/Rock. The energy was fantastic, with a similarity in the crowd’s visceral reaction to what I described above for Martin.

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There’s a sweetness to Rachel that is evident in her performance. Her smile is wide and never disappears during the set. She connects with many people in the audience.

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If you’re looking to catch a fun show, with upbeat lyrics and melodies, delivered with passion, played by excellent musicians, I highly recommend Rachel Platten.

Backing Rachel were three of the same band members that played with Martin: Patrick Firth on keyboards, Craig Meyer on drums and Brian Killeen on bass.

Martin Rivas played guitar and sang harmony with Rachel throughout her set.

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Nathan Eklund on trumpet and background vocals. Excellent on the trumpet, added a nice touch to the all around great sound of Rachel’s set.

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Lois had not recovered 100% so she couldn’t join me again. Since I couldn’t count on Allie Moss’ mom for photos (not that I knew I could in advance the night before), Lois handed me her camera as I was walking out the door. Any photo mishaps can only be blamed on me this time.

Martin is playing again at Rockwood 1 this Friday night (Sep 17th, 2010) at 9pm. It will essentially be the same band, except that (lucky stiff) Brian Killeen will be in Las Vegas (my favorite city) so Chris Kuffner will be on bass.

We aren’t supposed to be in the city that night, but the enticement of Chris on the bass for an entire rock set might be enough for us to rearrange, plus Lois will get to see Martin do a full set as well. We’re working on it. 🙂

Update: just heard that Chris might be out of town on Friday, so if we go, it will be to see Martin and the gang again. I’ll still be (not-so-patiently) waiting for another opportunity to see Chris on the bass. 🙂

P.S. On the way out, I passed Derek James (a lot of awesome musicians came out to hear Martin and Rachel!). I introduced myself and told him how incredible he is. There’s one less musician in the world who needs to wonder what I think of them now. 😉

P.P.S. there’s always time for a mini-rant. We’ve been to Rockwood 1 & 2 so many times I can’t count. All but two nights have run as close to clockwork as you can hope for. Last night was the second time that something went off the rails (before I got there) causing a major delay.

The group that was supposed to be on from 9-10pm was still going strong at 10pm (the tip jar didn’t even come out until 10:10, so they had to have started late). That caused Rachel’s set to start at 10:50 rather than 10. Martin’s set wasn’t over until roughly 12:30am, making for a longer night than expected. Thank goodness it was incredible. 🙂

Proposal to Allow Rooting Android

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Rooting is the process of gaining low-level control of your cell phone’s operating system (I’m only going to discuss Android in this post). It voids your warranty (presumably both from your carrier and the phone manufacturer). That’s fine, perhaps it even should.

Still, carriers and phone companies try to actively stop you from rooting. There are a few obviously legitimate reasons/concerns on their part:

  1. Supporting a rooted phone can cost the companies in a number of ways
  2. Rooted phones can be used to access services that the carriers want to charge a premium for (e.g., Tethering)
  3. Problems with a rooted phone are often misunderstood by the consumer, reflecting incorrectly (and poorly) on the carrier or phone manufacturer

There are also a few shakier arguments against rooting. Rather than give them credence, or get distracted in arguing their merits, let’s skip them.

There are many legitimate reasons to root, covered in many articles. Let’s leave that topic for a more technical post, this isn’t that.

A small percentage of consumers actually root, but given the explosive growth of Android phones worldwide, the absolute number of rooters is large. They are also the most vocal users, trying to convince others to do it too.

When a rooted phone goes bad, the consumer tries to unroot and return to stock (removing all traces of their previous rooting and customization), in the hopes that the carrier will then fix the phone or replace it under warranty. Of course, the carrier might not be able to detect that the phone was previously rooted and perhaps even ruined by virtue of the rooting (overclocking the CPU for example). In that case, the carrier may indeed incur a cost that they shouldn’t bear.

My proposal:

Make it brain dead easy to root. When rooting (using an app provided by the carrier/manufacturer), ensure that the consumer is warned of the dangers and that the warranty is being voided. Also ensure that they know their account is flagged that they have opted out of the warranty.

This removes any extra support costs. In fact, returning the phone to stock will make no difference, as the user has forever agreed that this specific phone has knowingly and willingly revoked it’s right to be serviced, for any reason whatsoever.

I would go further and suggest that the carriers/manufacturers will make more money in this scenario, because if the user just drops their phone and breaks it, it is not covered, period. That will cause some percentage of rooters to have to purchase a new phone should anything go wrong with their phone, even if it isn’t related to the rooting.

Of course, that might cause many people not to root. That shouldn’t bother the carriers, since that’s the position they would like to see today.

Next, concern #2 above. While there might be a number of concerns, mostly, it boils down to Tethering, the ability to use your phone as a WiFi or USB modem for your laptop. The concern is that you can utilize significantly more data/bandwidth in this manner (e.g., streaming movies to your laptop) than you would ever practically use on your phone itself (assuming you had an unlimited data plan on your phone to begin with).

The carriers are concerned about monetary loss (they charge a hefty price for devices that Tether, or for tethering plans on the phones) as well as network quality if too many people clog the airwaves (with or without paying them) and slow down the network for all users.

My proposed solution for #2 is to charge no premium for tethering (with or without rooting!), but simply meter the data (no more unlimited plans, or price unlimited plans knowing that people will tether). AT&T is doing this already, but they charge $20/month for the right to tether, which is outrageous, since they charge for every byte of data transferred. Who cares how/why I used the data, you charge me for it.

That’s it. Let’s summarize:

  1. Make the voided warranty an overt opt-in so that support costs go to zero for any rooted phone.
  2. Charge for all data coming through the phone (tiers are fine, including unlimited), so that the carriers benefit if people tether.

Breaking Social Networking Interconnections

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Many (most?) people post updates to multiple Social Networks. Rather than hand-picking which networks get which updates, most of the multi-network types (nearly all?) post the identical update to all networks, simultaneously, automatically.

There are many ways to do that, including services specifically meant to accomplish that (Ping.fm, FriendFeed, etc.), or multi-protocol clients (Seesmic, TweetDeck, Digsby, HootSuite, PeopleBrowsr, etc.). In addition, networks like Facebook and Google Buzz can also pull data from various feeds (including blogs, not just other social networks).

It’s totally understandable why people do it. Who wants their incredible update to be missed by a single person. Why not create it once and have it beamed all over the planet with one click?

If your livelihood depends on getting the word out (I follow many musicians for example), then by all means, when you announce something (e.g., a new show), you want to hit every conceivable network so that you don’t miss a soul on the planet.

If you’re telling your friends what you had for lunch, making sure that Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Identi.ca, Buzz, FriendFeed, Friendster, Orkut, LinkedIn, Beebo, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc., all get that update feels a drop like overkill. 😉

Until a few minutes ago, I was guilty of this behavior as well. I have a FriendFeed account which was connected to many of my other accounts. I then connected that FriendFeed account to Facebook. Independently, I had a Blog application connected to my Facebook account which injected an update whenever I published a new post.

That meant that I when I wrote a new post, if I tweeted the link (I know, it’s no longer politically correct to use that word, I don’t care, twittered sounds worse to me), my blog link would show up as three separate Facebook updates: 1) Blog app, 2) FriendFeed injection from my RSS feed, 3) FriendFeed injection from my tweet. Yikes! I certainly didn’t mean to hit my friends over the head with my announcement of a new post.

Ultimately that’s not why I cut the cord. I found that I was responding less and less on Twitter than I wanted to, because I was all too aware that it would end up in my Facebook feed, completely out of context to my friends while simultaneously cluttering my stream there.

I haven’t yet actively participated in Google Buzz, but I did connect it to my Twitter account, so every tweet was also buzzed. That’s no longer the case either. If I use Buzz, I want it to be a choice, not a side-effect.

So, I deleted FriendFeed from my Facebook account. I disconnected Buzz from Twitter. I left the Blog app in Facebook, so when I tweet a post I won’t also send that update to Facebook. That’s the only automatic connection I left.

From now on, I will be more active in Twitter (at least I think/hope I will) and I might give Buzz a real go as well. From my multi-protocol client I will choose which networks to update. Some messages might indeed go to many networks (I actively use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare at the moment). But, my silly Twitter interactions will most definitely stay exclusively on Twitter.

Feel free to unfollow me on Twitter if the noise level rises too much. Conversely, feel free to pay a bit more attention on Facebook if you previously felt that I was just spewing nonsense. 🙂

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at The Public Theater

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I am about to be pretty harsh in my review of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson which we saw last night at The Public Theater.

If you’re a fan of the show, you might want to turn away now. If you don’t like reading anything critical of anything or anybody, turn away now. I will only have one spoiler, and that has been covered in other public reviews as well.

In fact, if you want a balanced review by a trained professional that I largely agree with (in a purely artistic sense), please read The New York Times Review of the show instead of this one.

Final disclaimer before I dive in. I know that to many who read this I will come across as prudish and close-minded. For sure, I will come across as humorless. In fact, I have a completely puerile sense of humor. I laugh at the crudest jokes. Andrew Dice Clay used to kill me (as disgusting and misogynistic as he was/is).

Cursing doesn’t bother me. Bathroom humor cracks me up. In fact, I am the easiest target of most comedians, because I give full credit to whatever I perceive as the concept of the joke, even when the delivery/implementation flops.

So, what makes Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson the worst thing I’ve ever seen performed? Laziness and a general lack of creativity (though there are sparks of it hiding here and there).

The play/musical starts off with a bang. The first words out of the mouth of Andrew Jackson are a sexual vulgarity aimed at the specific audience watching that performance. Since it has no connection to the story, it serves two purposes (I will stop adding In My Opinion after this one, as I hope it is obvious that everything I say is my own, uneducated opinion):

  1. Shock the audience (possibly getting some titillating laughs in the process)
  2. Set the mood to allow an anything goes mindset for the rest of the show

It was downhill from there! Basically, the author has no idea what he wants to convey. That was poorly phrased. The author has no idea how to convey what was in his mind. The entire show is a disjointed collection of every known trick/technique for getting a rise out of an audience.

Every few seconds there is a vulgarity (not just garden variety ones, but some choice phrases that would perhaps even have Andrew Dice Clay blushing a bit).

Every few seconds there is some anachronistic device. Most are repeated until they have been beaten to death, even the ones that might otherwise have been clever. In almost every case, they add nothing to your understanding of the scene, they are merely gags.

Here is my one spoiler alert. It is fully covered in The New York Times review above, so if you read that, I’m not giving away anything. Even so, it has nothing to do with the story (though it is a setup for another joke at the end of the play).

There is a narrator for a part of the story. The narrator is in an electric wheelchair (one of the anachronistic devices). At some point Andrew Jackson tires of the narrator telling his tale, so he shoots her in the neck and she dies. Ha ha, we shot a cripple, aren’t we cool? No wait, I’m sure it was meant to show us just how Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson really was…

The anti-Indian humor is excessive and vulgar. Every person in the play is an overdrawn caricature. The majority of the men are portrayed as gay, or more effeminate than 95% of the gay male population is today, with our substantially more open attitudes.

Not to leave the women out of it, there is a very long kiss between two women on stage, just in case you weren’t titillated enough by the language and all of the pelvic thrusting throughout the rest of the show.

So, the playwright takes on disabled people, Indians, homosexuals, politicians, Spaniards, British, etc., all irreverently. If only it came across as irreverence, it might actually have been funny. Instead, it seems to be more of a stream of consciousness rant about Political Correctness.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what the rant is meant to convey. Is it supposed to show us that PC is so deeply entrenched that we can’t help laugh (nervously?) when we abandon it completely? Or, are we meant to see how hurtful it is when we don’t practice PC?

Personally, I think that Political Correctness does more harm than good. It’s not used to educate narrow minded people about some of the hurtful things that they say (that would be great), it’s used to control and punish those who behave differently than what the people in charge determine to be acceptable.

If you spit on a Christian, burn the flag and ban Christmas, you’re exercising your right to free speech (you might even get a parade in your honor). Say one word about someone from Bora Bora and you’ll be sued, vilified, have your children suspended from school, etc.

Presumably, the ultimate point of this work is to make some strong political points about some very trying times during the early years of our Nation. That one may draw some strong parallels to some of the more difficult issues of our day (including the last decade or two) could also be interesting.

If you strung together those historical lessons and stripped them of the vulgarity, anachronisms and PC gags, the play might have lasted 10-15 minutes (no, I’m not kidding!). It would seem that a more effective writer could have taught some more lasting lessons by swapping the gags and history, still keeping a light-hearted sense of humor along the way.

To me, the story of Andrew Jackson’s rise was a plot device meant to loosely string together the most sophomoric, disconnected one-liners and sight gags ever collected in one place. Animal House is high art in comparison (yes, I think Animal House is a classically hysterical movie, so that wasn’t a put-down of Animal House!).

I have no idea how a play like this gets produced and put on for public consumption. I imagine that it didn’t start off this bad. In fact, in my speculative universe, I suspect that the first time it was seen in public, it received a rather dry reception (you know, history bores most people, since it happened so long ago…).

I bet that a few of the zingers got laughs. The next time the play was shown, they added a vulgarity or two. Enough people howled (shock value can’t be underestimated), and people around them were embarrassed not to be laughing, or laughed contagiously, so that the next time the play was put on, more of that had to be added.

At some point, the original intent of the play was completely lost, and it regressed to a crass commercial attempt to sucker an audience into laughing at things they would be crucified for participating in if they were on the street.

To repeat, if anyone said the things that were acted on the stage anywhere in the real world, the thought police would ostracize them and shut them down. Those same people have no trouble laughing out loud when hearing/seeing the same thing portrayed as art. It’s wildly hypocritical to me.

We have court battles over the names of football teams (Redskins, The Tribe, Seminoles, etc.). If the people who bring those suits see this play, I have to wonder whether they too wouldn’t be hypocritical and laugh their heads off, putting it all down to clever writing

After all, it’s the PC crowd that brings those kinds of suits, and those are also the people who feel that in art, anything goes.

So, is there nothing redeemable in this production? No!

There are a few very talented actors. I don’t blame them for taking the job, it’s not like even great actors (especially up-and-coming ones) can pick or choose jobs at will (even non-paying ones!).

I was most impressed by Lucas Near-Verbrugghe who played Martin Van Buren. While he played Van Buren in the most overtly gay manner of all of the performances, he had some brilliant flashes that showed tremendous range.

Kate Cullen Roberts had the best of the voices (a good portion of the show is delivered through emo rock songs).

Michael Dunn played a variety of roles (most of the actors played multiple roles, with the exception of Benjamin Walker who played Andrew Jackson). I was impressed with Michael and his range as well.

Jeff Hiller was another standout. His comedic flair in undeniable.

No one was bad as an actor, though a small number of those that sang would be better served never trying that again in the future.

Finally, and for some this will be the only important point, clearly, the play is provocative. Here I am spending a good deal of time writing about it. We went with a group of six people, and we certainly discussed it a bunch afterward.

That would be perfect, if we were discussing the concepts conveyed, even if we wildly disagreed. Unfortunately, we were mostly discussing how far off the mark it was. Still, better than being instantly forgettable…