Food

Ian Axel at North Star Bar in Philadelphia

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Some days are perfect. Yesterday was one such day. It began with a long call with my mom. While relaxing in the apartment (catching up on the last two episodes of Blue Bloods [great show]), the doorman rang up to say that someone left us a package. A few minutes later, I was tasting some incredible fudge, with exactly the right amount of peanut butter flavor. Heavenly!

After that, we got in the car and headed to Philadelphia. Our good friend Wes moved there last year. For a while now (9+ months!) we’ve been hearing him rave about his lady-friend, Jacklyn. We’ve almost managed to meet her a couple of times, but our collective crazy schedules conspired against it.

When we noticed that Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino were playing in Philly on May 8th, we immediately asked Wes and Jacklyn if they could join us for a leisurely dinner followed by the show. Thankfully, that worked for them, so we were finally going to get to meet Jacklyn. Getting to see Ian and Chad perform, well, no need to tell you how exciting that was for us as well.

The show was at North Star Bar. A quick scan of the menu coupled with the 5pm opening made that the perfect place to get together. I’ll heap additional praise on North Star Bar (NSB) later on as well, but the most important compliment I can give them is their complete and straightforward FAQ. Perhaps it’s because I’m old, but I like knowing what to expect (in advance) when going to a new venue. NSB delivered exactly the experience they said they would. Thanks!

I’ll circle back to the dinner later, as most people clicking on this are coming to find out whether Ian and Chad were their usual awesome selves (spoiler alert: they were!), but for us, meeting Jacklyn was reason enough to make the ride to Philly worthwhile, so I’ll wrap up with that and more on NSB in general.

Ian opened his set solo. This is from memory, so I could be reversing the song order: Leave Me Alone, Afterglow, Gone and Waltz. At each show, Ian seems to get a little more comfortable telling a story before playing a song. More, please! One of those stories preceded the final solo number, Say Something (this time on keyboards).

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After Ian wrote Say Something (an emotionally draining song, which probably gives only the slightest hint as to how emotionally draining the inspiration had to be!), Ian didn’t write another song for a year!

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It seemed fitting that when he called Chad Vaccarino up to the stage the first song they sang together was also the first song they wrote (they co-write most of Ian’s songs) after the year of Say Something was up, You’ll Be OK. Of course, their performance was amazing.

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More important than the performance was the story/transition from despair to hopefulness. Obviously, Ian went through that same transition during that year, but he also conveys it in the songs so that we can have a glimpse of the journey. For those experiencing the emotions in their own lives (most of us have, are or will), it’s much more personal than a glimpse.

Thankfully, Ian experienced it in the correct order and the songs were played in the correct order for us to be left more hopeful. Smile

Ian then invited Julia Nunes up to the stage. Ian switched to the ukulele and the three of them (Ian, Chad and Julia) shared one microphone. They sang Pacific Sun, with Julia taking the second verse lead (Chad normally sings that verse) and all three singing harmony on the chorus.

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Julia joined them for a new twist on Shorty Don’t Wait (one of my favorite songs). Chad sang the lead (as he typically does). Julia took a verse and belted it out wonderfully in a gospel-like voice (can I get an Amen!). Ian also sang lead and all three harmonized together. I loved it, no hesitation or reservation. But, with no disrespect to Julia, I missed Mike Campbell’s guitar playing and his harmony as well.

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After Julia left the stage, Ian and Chad introduced two new songs: Rockstar and Golddigger. Wow! Both are fantastic songs. Add to that the as-yet unrecorded Shorty, You’ll be OK (and an ancient, but still favorite of mine, Home), we’re well on our way to another amazing CD. Let’s get on it guys! Winking smile

They closed their set with This is the New Year, always awesome.

We bought a ton of merch (they have brand new T-Shirts in great colors). Thankfully, they now travel with a Square reader so they can take credit cards on their iPhones. Whew! Smile You can see a few of the T-Shirts hanging on the wall over Chad’s shoulder:

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Talain Rayne opened the show on keyboards and vocals. Talain has a very nice voice and plays the keyboards well. His entire set (the music portion) was pleasant enough. Unfortunately, while I could understand every word when he spoke between the songs, it seemed like he added an accent of sorts when he sang, making many of the words hard to follow.

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I found him to be quite funny between the songs, including plugging his phone into the PA system and calling his mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. Of course, he got her voicemail. All of us in the audience left a message for her. She called back during his last number and we got to say Happy Mother’s Day to her live.

I might have preferred that his whole set be comedy though, since the transitions from the comedy to the music (and back) were a little jarring. I spoke to another audience member who had the opposite reaction. That person felt the transitions were jarring, but wished it was all music and no talk/comedy. In any event, Talain is talented and will likely hit his stride sooner rather than later.

After Ian was done, Julia Nunes took the stage. While we were saying goodbye to Ian and Chad, we caught all of her first number, Maybe I Will. It’s an echo song (call/answer) and the crowd was totally into it, singing their hearts out with her. Nicely done!

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Unfortunately, we left as she started her second song because our garage closes at midnight. We made it back at 11:45pm, so we didn’t have much wiggle room and were thankful that there was significantly less traffic coming home than heading to Philly earlier in the day.

OK, rolling the clock back to 5pm. All four of us arrived minutes before NSB opened the front door. Lois, Wes and Jacklyn went in when the door opened and I went to our car to put away something that Wes gave me.

We like to surprise musicians that we’re friendly with when they play out of town (and therefore have no expectation of seeing us there). That didn’t work out last night. As I was closing the car door, I heard my name shouted out. I looked around and saw Ian in the passenger seat of their car, driving down the side street next to NSB. Oh well, cover blown early. Winking smile

We got to spend over two hours getting to know Jacklyn (a bit). We love her and completely understand why Wes has been raving about her for so long. We swapped life stories over beer (well, Lois had club soda, which looked like clear beer).

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The food at NSB is excellent. I believe it was the owner who told us that he convinced the chef to join him when he (the chef) got tired of working at 4-star restaurants (with all that entails).

This is the opposite. The kitchen is tiny (I was led to believe that it’s a solo effort by the chef). The food comes out slowly (as their FAQ states!), because it’s all freshly prepared, by one person, in a tiny space. But, the man is truly a master, so get there early, enjoy the company of your friends (like we did!) and then enjoy some great cooking.

Don’t be frightened by the next photo. This is not available on the menu, so no one will force you to eat a portion this size. This plate was sitting in front of the owner. Lois took the photo from a few tables away (which is why it’s fuzzy). He explained to us that one of the perks of convincing the chef to come over was getting this kind of treatment for whatever special dish the chef chooses to make for him each day. Smile

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The draft beer selection was large. I had Tiger Beer (highly aromatic with a citrus smell and taste). Aside from draft Smithwick’s (pronounced Smiddicks) in Ireland, this is probably my favorite beer (they’re so different, let’s just call it a tie!). Between 5-7pm each day, beer is 1/2 price. What a deal, you can’t go wrong there.

The bartender, waiter and presumed owner (presumed by me) were all funny, helpful and good at their jobs. Even though it’s a standing only venue for the show (we sat for dinner), we would return to NSB in a heartbeat to see another show. If we lived in Philly, we’d hang out there for drinks and dinner regardless of the show.

Like I said, a perfect day! Now to create another one today (my goal for every day!)…

Girlyman at The Southern

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The weekend began as great as it could, with a Girlyman show at the Birchmere. You can read about it here. It ended as well as it began, with Girlyman at The Southern Cafe.

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The Southern is the reincarnation of Gravity Lounge (in Charlottesville, VA). If I understand correctly, the sound engineer from Gravity Lounge bought the place, ripped out the décor and created a better listening room (not that it was bad to begin with). He did a very nice job.

Girlyman always delivers. Put them in a place with an excellent sound system, operate that system perfectly, fill it with an adoring (and respectful) crowd, and the magic is indescribable. Therefore, the rest is for my memory, since I can’t describe it to youWinking smile

There was no opening act so Girlyman performed two sets. They mingled with the audience during the 30-minute intermission (signing merch and chatting).

The set list had a fair amount of overlap from Friday night, but there were a number of significant changes (including kicking it off with Born at the Right Time by Paul Simon).

The request section is always a hoot. This time, they played Maori (with Nate cracking us up with the story behind the song). But, in typical fashion, dozens of songs were called for. A few people yelled out “Do the rest!” (meaning, play all of the songs that you didn’t play already). I can get behind that!

They closed the show with the same number from Friday, Postcards from Mexico, with them leading the audience in three-part harmony again. At Birchmere, while I was belting out my part (well, Nate’s part), I couldn’t hear a lot of other people joining in (even though the crowd loved Girlyman). Perhaps it was the acoustics, or perhaps there were 100’s of people there who don’t have confidence in their voices.

Last night, with a smaller crowd (just due to venue size), all three parts were being belted out (beautifully!). The audience sounded so good that Girlyman made us sing it (without them) a number of extra times, so they (and we) could soak it in. Fun!

I mentioned in Saturday’s post that their banter has migrated more toward the song intros rather than tuning songs. That continued last night. Even though some of the intro humor was similar, it wasn’t canned/rehearsed. We heard new twists, including things we had never heard before (like how/why Doris thought she was anemic, which turned into the discovery that she had Leukemia, not anemia).

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After Postcards from Mexico, everyone shot out of their seats to give Girlyman a standing ovation. They returned shortly for an encore. Nate gave what appeared to be an emotional speech about how grateful they were that Doris was still alive (which at the time, seemed like a somewhat strange way to phrase her/their ordeal). He said that they wanted to arrange an old Spiritual to convey how they felt about it.

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They then proceeded to play Staying Alive by the Bee Gee’s. They were flawless. Doris and Ty sang most of it, with Nate filling in some of the low parts on the chorus. So much fun, and yes, spiritual in the sense that it got everyone in the crowd moving to the beat and smiling throughout the song.

When they finished, there was another immediate standing ovation. It continued, so eventually, Girlyman was forced to come out yet again. Since they hadn’t prepared for a second encore, they solicited more requests from the audience. Again, dozens of titles were yelled out. They settled on The Shape I Found You In. Ty said it was the first love song she wrote, and she dedicated it to Genevieve who was in the audience.

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This picture of JJ is blurry, but captures her ever-present smile and gives you a glimpse into her wonderful soul:

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Because we got to say hello during intermission, we ran out when the second encore was over, since it’s a long ride back to Fredericksburg. We got to the hotel at 11:45pm.

The Southern is a great place to see a show. They also have excellent food. Unfortunately, even though they’ve been open for over a year (we saw Girlyman there in March 2010), they are still completely disorganized. They couldn’t tell us what time the show started when we called earlier in the day (in fact, they delivered some contradictory answers). Good luck finding out any useful information on their web site either.

Last year we missed most of the opening act because we were leisurely eating their excellent food with no clue that the show had started. We decided not to make the same mistake twice. Instead, we decided to make a new one! Winking smile

We met the same friends that we attended last year’s show with. They are both UVA grads so they are familiar with Charlottesville. We asked them to pick a place to meet for dinner. They gave us three choices and we picked Christian’s Pizza. They mentioned that it was a short walk to The Southern from there.

We showed up early and grabbed a table. After about 20 minutes, I realized that we were in the wrong location. There was no way that the one we were in was a short walk from anywhere other than the other stores in this strip mall. Oops. I called and verified that I was correct.

We headed to the correct one. The best part of the error was that someone was pulling out from the best possible spot near The Southern, just as we pulled up. We still had plenty of time to enjoy the pizza and catch up with our friends for 70 minutes before the show started. Whew.

Girlyman and Susan Werner at Birchmere

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Last night was almost exactly five months from the last time we saw Girlyman in concert. That’s just about our limit before we burst, so we were thankful for the opportunity to see them at Birchmere again. (Apologies for the quality of the photos. Birchmere has poor lighting for compact cameras in general, and our angle and distance from the stage made it worse for those on the left side, very far from us.)

Our normal excitement for a Girlyman show was complicated by the following fact: Days after seeing them play at City Winery (covered in this post) we discovered that Doris was diagnosed with Leukemia! This would be our first time seeing her/them perform since then.

While we still pray for Doris to continue getting better, there is no need to worry for Girlyman’s ability to live up to their previous showings. They were absolutely spectacular last night. I honestly didn’t doubt they would be, but hey, it’s live, so you never really know.

Doris was also spectacular. Her voice was so strong and clear. Her guitar, banjo and mandolin play, wonderful. When she introduced Supernova (a relatively new song written by Nate), she took the opportunity to explain to the crowd what happened to her and how affected she was by the outpouring of love she received from fans and friends, far and near. That love, plus crazy strong and expensive drugs have dramatically improved her condition (from 100% reading of cancerous blood cells at original diagnosis, down to 4% a month or so ago!).

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The reason she introduced Supernova is that when she was alone in the hospital waiting for the original test results, Supernova kept playing over and over in her head. We had just heard it for the first time at City Winery. That night, Nate sang the lead (not surprising). Now that it has become so meaningful to Doris, she takes the lead.

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There was another qualitative difference in the performance last night. Girlyman always slays me with their humor/banter. Much of it comes in the form of tuning songs (these are short songs made up on the spot by Nate, to kill time while the ladies tune their instruments). In fact, they have a CD of 24 of their tuning songs, and their Live CD (Somewhere Different Now) also has a bunch of awesome tuning songs on it.

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Last night, there was only one real tuning song (OK, maybe two or three tops). But, their humor/banter was as good as it ever is/was (perhaps better), with a significantly more natural flow to it. It often started as part of the introduction to a song, sometimes morphing into a story with each of them feeding off the others. Not one second of it felt forced. On rare occasions, the beginning of a tuning song feels forced, though they usually find a way to make it just right before it’s over.

I could give you a good example, but it would lose too much in the translation from how amazing it was last night, so just get out to a show and you’ll understand. Instead, I’ll give an example of how the Birchmere lighting guy enhanced a semi-serious (but in the end funny!) introduction of Ty’s (relatively new) song The Person You Want.

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The longer title of that song is The Person You Want Me to Be. It’s about people in long-term relationships and holds out the hope that if you give me enough time, one day you’ll wake up and find me to be the person you want me to be (a lot of me’s and be’s, but hopefully you understood).

Ty asked the audience to raise their hands if they were in a relationship. That led to some humorous comments (some people hesitating, putting their arms up half way, etc.). Ty made some cracks about people who might just be there on dates and how it might be awkward to answer that.

Then she asked those people who were in relationships whether they thought they were good people to be in a relationship with. Just as people were sheepishly moving their arms upward, the Birchmere lighting guy turned on the house lights. That made for a lot of giggling and looking around as we could all see across the large room, including Girlyman getting to see the audience fully for the first time that night.

In addition to a great set list (they can’t really put together a poor set list, trust me), they also introduced a brand new Ty song (Soul of You). Aside from the obvious fact that Ty is a brilliant songwriter, Lois and I continue to be amazed at how it typically takes one verse for us to consider a new Ty song among our all-time favorites. She has a Svengali hold on us…

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Nate performed his usual MC duties as well as he ever does and was in fine voice. He played the mandolin wonderfully in addition to his ever-present baritone electric guitar. Nate introduced an accordion to the mix as well. What will he think of next?

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JJ was wonderful on the drums throughout, as she always is. During the one real tuning song, Nate also yielded to a full-blown JJ solo (excellent). During the encore, JJ stood up and pushed her stool to the floor. She proceeded to drum like mad, including a few full 360 turns (without losing the beat, of course), turning it into more of a rock spectacular than a typical Girlyman Folk show. Smile

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All of the above was performed to roughly 550 people (my guess, based on capacity of 650 at Birchmere). Zero rudeness from the audience that I was aware of. Here is a tweet from today by Zach Braff (a giant music lover and extremely talented and funny actor):

You folks who go to see a really cool band and talk the entire time… yeah, what’s your deal? Anyone in nyc know a good blow-dart school?

I feel exactly the way Zach does (and have loudly complained on these pages numerous times). I hadn’t thought of a good solution to this problem until I read Zach’s tweet. I’m seriously considering opening a blow-dart school now, so that I can study there. Winking smile

Girlyman received a standing ovation after both the main set and the encore (that’s a bit unusual). Well deserved. We are going to see them again on Sunday in Charlottesville and I simply can’t wait. It will be a different experience because Girlyman always keeps it fresh and the venues are nothing alike.

The show was co-billed between Girlyman and Susan Werner. Even with a co-bill, someone has to walk out on stage first and last night that was Susan.

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We’ve seen Susan once before in a solo performance (covered in this post). She blew us away that night. Last night, she was accompanied on all but two songs (or was it three?) by two incredible musicians and singers. I’ll get to them shortly.

Susan has an incredible voice (power that can make your hair sway, but with clarity and enunciation skills that I rarely hear). She is an amazing songwriter (a number of her songs can readily bring tears to Lois’ eyes). She plays the piano and guitar so well that she doesn’t need any other accompaniment (though she picked well and was definitely enhanced by her band).

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In addition to the above, Susan has a stage presence that is simply astonishing. There’s no doubt that she could be a full-time comedian. I also have no doubt that she could be a professional motivational speaker. Suffice it to say that while we love listening to Susan’s CDs, her live show is something that exceeds all musical expectations.

Joining Susan were two talented ladies.

Trina Hamlin on percussion, harmonica and vocals. First the summary, then some details. Trina is masterful on all three. Her voice is beautiful and she harmonized with Susan really well. Her percussion was excellent. Her harmonica play was beyond belief. (no really good photos of Trina, who was furthest from us)

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I didn’t want to interrupt the flow on Girlyman above, so I left out that they invited Trina to join them on Kittery Tide. They claimed that they didn’t really prepare her for it, implying that they never practiced the number with her. Of course, she was great. But, Ty asked the audience: “Have you ever heard a better harmonica player?”

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Well, having seen/heard Trina during Susan’s set earlier, I had already asked (and answered) that question of myself. The answer is yes. I have heard exactly one better harmonica player, the freakishly amazing John Popper (of Blues Traveler). He’s in a class by himself (in my opinion), but Trina mesmerized me (and the rest of the 550 people as well!).

But wait, there’s more! When I visited Trina’s website to get you the link, I saw that she’s apparently an excellent guitar player as well (why am I not surprised?). Smile

Gail Ann Dorsey on the electric bass and light vocals. Gail was excellent on the bass. She created lovely three-part-harmony on the few numbers where she joined Susan and Trina. Check out her Wikipedia Page to see some of the incredible people/bands that Gail has performed with (e.g., David Bowie, Indigo Girls, Gwen Stefani).

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Both Susan Werner and Trina Hamlin joined Girlyman for their encore, Son of a Preacher Man, with Trina on harmonica and Susan on grand piano and vocals. What an awesome way to end an awesome evening.

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The five of us enjoyed a wonderful meal at Birchmere (I’m a pulled pork fanatic and Birchmere always gets it right).

After getting our hugs in, the five of us hit the road for what should have been an hour’s drive. This is I95 folks, so sitting in wall-to-wall traffic at midnight shouldn’t have surprised us as much as it did. Only cost us 30 extra minutes though, so enough complaining for today. (Last complaint, couldn’t easily get the red eye out of this photo…)

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Jesse Terry and Gavin Slate at Rockwood Music Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marjory Lee at Arlene’s Grocery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Southern Wedding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AboutToBowl

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

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

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

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

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Here are some photos from the tea:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll believe in you if you believe in me

We are the lucky ones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast

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

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Barely time to clean up and get dressed for the wedding party to get to the church for photos. For the groomsmen and ushers (and me), it was mostly a game of hurry up and wait. The Duke game was on. David and a number of his groomsmen are Duke graduates. Tim (a groomsman and brother of the bride) performed yeoman’s duty and got a PC in the music room hooked up to a giant screen and streamed the game on ESPN3.com. Yay! Duke won (of course!).

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

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

Groomsmen

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

LoisHadarGrandmotherRebecca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The light in me will guide you home

All I want is to be your harbor

You’ve got a journey to make

There’s your horizon to chase

So go far beyond where we stand

No matter the distance I’m holding your hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hoodlums

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

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A few straggler photos:

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RebeccaGrandmotherLoisMargie

Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino at Jammin Java

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

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

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

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

IanAxelKeyboards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MatthewProdanovich

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

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

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

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Mark Siford on acoustic bass. Nice job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paper Raincoat and Gregory Alan Isakov at Highline Ballroom

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Looking for a night of good music in NYC? Every night of the week will present difficult choices. Occasionally, those decisions achieve Solomonic proportions. Last night was one of those nights. I had Carley Tanchon and Joey Ryan in our calendar for quite a while. Carley was appearing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 at 7pm and Joey was at Rockwood 2 at 9pm.

Everything changed when a month ago, The Paper Raincoat (TPR) announced that they were appearing at Highline Ballroom on the same night. It’s not (necessarily) the case that we would always choose to see TPR over Joey. It’s that opportunities to see TPR live are rarer nowadays than they used to be.

We last saw TPR on September 7th, 2010. We have seen Joey live three times since then.

TPR was sandwiched between two other acts. I’ll cover them first since we showed up expressly to see them.

TPR is comprised of two people, Alex Wong and ambeR Rubarth. They (nearly) always have a drummer, but which one will show up to any particular show has been a surprise lately (last night included). They often have special guests join them, last night was no exception.

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The 9-song set was well chosen, kicking off with perhaps my favorite TPR song, Brooklyn Blurs.

The second song was Sympathetic Vibrations with its signature audience-participatory clapping. Our table (well, four of the six of us) clapped on cue (perfectly if I may say so myself). But, it seemed to us that very few people in the extremely crowded audience were clapping with us.

We must have been correct, because a little bit later in the song, ambeR looked at Alex and said that it might be a good idea to teach the audience the clap (it’s sophisticated) Winking smile. After the lesson, more people joined us.

The next song, Motion Sickness has become a sing-along in the last year (mostly at solo Alex Wong shows). Half the audience sings the na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na part and the other half sings the ah, ah, ah ah ah part. Alex always seems to get the entire audience doing their part. Last night, the singing was anemic (except for our table, again).

I can’t tell whether the majority of the audience was unfamiliar with TPR or they were shy.

After playing The Same Old Things, Rough Cut, Don’t Be Afraid and Right Angles, they played another favorite (OK, I admit that the entire set was comprised of favorites), It All Depends. First, a photo of Alex and ambeR playing the keyboards together on Right Angles:

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As they started It All Depends, Alex tossed (yes, actually threw) a tambourine at Lois. I was shocked and impressed when she caught it without flinching.

Tambourine

The rest of us did our clapping part until the finale, where Alex (and shortly after) ambeR both joined the drummer with all three of them drumming on the same drum set at the same time. I never tire of it and I never will! Of course, without Lois’ tambourine play, the entire song would just be boring. Winking smile

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They closed the set with their signature a cappella Rewind, wonderfully!

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The drummer for last night was Sarab Singh who is the regular drummer for a hot local group, Harper Blynn (they have a new site coming too). We’ve seen Sarab once before, supporting ambeR’s solo show at Highline as well. He’s very good, but it took a few songs for him to settle into a good rhythm with TPR. The kick drum was mic’ed too loud and made my hair flutter every time he kicked it.

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Alex is an amazing producer. TPR’s self-titled CD (absolutely incredible) is but one of his masterpieces. One of Alex’s specialties is crafting string arrangements that blend perfectly with Pop music. Last night we were treated to two top musicians playing some of those arrangements live.

Melissa Tong on violin. Melissa was wonderful (as always) throughout the set, but in particular, the opening for Right Angles is all violin.

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David Fallo on viola. David too was wonderful (as always) throughout. He too was highlighted a number of times, most notably on Don’t Be Afraid where David took the lead.

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Another surprise occurred during Rough Cut. There is a local dance troupe called Insight Dance Company. Last year they set a ballet to the music of Ian Axel. They are currently working on a number of pieces by TPR and will be putting on a show in the Spring (I believe). ambeR called them up (six of them, I believe) to dance while TPR performed Rough Cut. It was interesting, but the stage was definitely an obstacle course for the dancers. It will be more interesting to see them in their own element.

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After a 20-minute break, the headliner (co-billed) took the stage.

Gregory Alan Isakov sings, plays the guitar and the harmonica. I’ve heard of him but knew nothing about his music. He headlined a show at Highline where Rosi Golan opened for him. We had hoped to make that show but couldn’t. I’m told he played solo that night. Last night he was joined by three musicians.

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I was impressed by Gregory’s voice, very rich and clear. That said, he had a setup I’ve never seen before, two microphones inches apart. One was normal and the other had a couple of effects attached to it (including heavy reverb, but more importantly, a vocal distortion). While it was technically interesting to see him switch (even in the middle of a song) from one mic (and sound) to another, I strongly preferred the normal mic to the more synthesized voice. It’s a gimmick (to me) and I can do without it.

GregoryAlanIsakovTwoMicrophones

It’s often tough for me to hang on to lyrics when seeing someone new the first time. Aside from the fact that there is so much else going on (when there are other musicians), big spaces aren’t conducive for really close listening. Still, on occasion I heard some very interesting phrases making me feel that Gregory is a poet first and foremost, but it will require more listening for me to be sure.

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

Philip Parker on cello and vocals. Phil did a really nice job on the cello. He actually played it as much as an upright bass (plucking it) as he did as a cello (with a bow). While I could see him move his lips on many songs, I would be lying if I said I could hear a single sound coming from his mic. Before I got to say that to Lois, she told me that she thought he did a nice job singing with Gregory, so it might have just been me who couldn’t pick out his voice.

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Jeb Bows on violin. I was very impressed with Jeb’s play and felt that he was the most critical part of enhancing Gregory’s sound. Gregory came out for a two-song encore, the first of which was just Gregory and Jeb, validating my feeling that Jeb was more central to Gregory’s sound. On a number of songs Jeb plucked the violin. We’ve seen that before (in fact Melissa did it during the TPR set). But, for the first time in my experience, much of Jeb’s plucking sounded a lot like a mandolin. Cool!

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James Han on electronic keyboards. James had two keyboards placed at a right angle. He swiveled to play one or the other. His play was quite understated, but also excellent. It fit the mood of Gregory’s music very well.

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Paul Dempsey opened the show at 7pm on the dot (always a pleasure when shows start when they’re supposed to). He has an easy charm, a good voice and plays the guitar well enough to accompany himself. His song intros (very short) amused us. Other than a few choice phrases though, I can’t say that the lyrics made an impression on me.

PaulDempsey1PaulDempsey2

He played for exactly half an hour.

Six of us had dinner before the show. The food and drinks at Highline are always a treat and our service last night was excellent as well. Another fun night out with friends, sharing some laughs, some food and a lot of music.

Martin Rivas and Greg Mayo Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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There was an all-star triple-header lineup at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. Robbie Gil at 9pm, Martin Rivas at 10pm and the Greg Mayo Band at 11pm. I was committed to seeing Martin and Greg, but I was really looking forward to catching Robbie’s set as well. The best laid plans… I’ll end the post with why/how I missed Robbie’s set (again).

Lois didn’t make the show (see why at the bottom). All complaints about photo quality go to me, but I was also further away, so there was little I could do. As you’ll see below, tons of people on stage, some were basically out of view for much of the show.

As is typical for a big lineup Saturday at Rockwood, three things could be counted on:

  • Capacity crowd (great on most levels, crappy on a few)
  • Sets starting late (due to setup time and fans insisting on longer sets than scheduled)
  • Awesome music

Martin Rivas had a full(er) band. He opened the show with seven people on stage, but after three (or four?) numbers, he brought out a horn section as well, bringing the number of people on stage to 10. That was a new record for the number of people on stage at the same time at Rockwood for a show that I was at. Later on, Martin had two separate guests join, setting the new record at 11.

MartinRivasChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBrassSection

This was a typical Martin Rivas show:

  • Incredible energy from every band member
  • Incredible energy from every audience member
  • Lots of Soul, Funk and Rock, sprinkled with other stuff
  • Generosity from Martin, giving solos to (nearly) every band member (no bass solo)
  • Freshly baked cookies passed around the audience (Lois, no worries, amazingly, the cookies never passed me, so I didn’t have to show any restraint!) Winking smile
  • Pins passed around the audience (Sam Teichman made sure I got one, but he did not make sure I got a cookie, or Lois secretly got to him and he made sure I didn’t!)
  • Spirits lifted

Given how many people played across these two sets, I’ll get right to it, left-to-right, front-to-back on the stage, supporting Martin:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. They lifted the grand piano off the stage (one of the cool sights at Rockwood 2). Patrick was his usual excellent self, including a few great solos.

PatrickFirth

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Another fantastic performance from an all-around star. I’ll have a couple more things to say about Chris when I get to the other guitarist, Greg Mayo.

ChrisKuffner

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. If you can bang it or shake it, Ryan was doing it.

RyanVaughn

Craig Meyer on drums. Craig is always wonderful. We saw him a week ago supporting Rachel Platten. The difference in styles (including the drum kit itself) between that type of performance and last night is dramatic. Craig handles it all. He was such an integral part of the upbeat sound keeping everything hopping. (No photo, sorry!)

John Liotta on the baritone sax. Excellent. He was more prominent in the next set, but held his own in this one.

JohnLiotta

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Wayne was terrific. He took a couple of solos, including one where he played a few notes staccato at very high speed for a few bars, very tasty, adding to the funk sounds beautifully.

WayneTucker

From my vantage point, it appeared to me that Wayne’s right cheek was bruised with a shiner the likes of which I hadn’t seen for a very long time. Every time he puffed his cheek to play, I winced on his behalf. You’ll have to stick around (or skip ahead) to the next set to find out how wrong I was. Smile

WayneTuckerShiner

Dan Voss on tenor sax. This was our first time seeing Dan play. He was excellent. One of the people I was standing with told me that he’s a real pro. I have no reason to doubt that from last night’s performance!

DanVoss

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Another extremely solid performance from Brian. Martin’s full band sound requires a very solid bottom to keep things going and Brian and Craig are well matched to deliver.

BrianKilleenBassBrianKilleen

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. I can’t get enough of Greg’s guitar play and last night was no exception. Every time he stops his leads, I wait impatiently for the next one. He and Chris Kuffner trade off the leads, each with their own excellent style. On a few numbers (most notably the closer), they took independent simultaneous leads (very different from each other). It was mind-blowingly satisfying.

GregMayoGuitar1GregMayoGuitar2

Chrissi Poland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Chrissi has such a wonderful and powerful voice and is so well-suited to soul music. Their duets are a real crowd favorite. When she was on stage, there were 11 performers. Since the record is for shows I attend, I am the sole arbiter (and counter) of who holds the record. Martin actually looked at me and asked if this was the record. Indeed it was. Smile

ChrissiPolandBrassSection

Rebecca Haviland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Like Chrissi, Rebecca has a very big voice, also suited to soul (among many other genres). She was great (as she always is). The record stood at 11, since Chrissi and Rebecca were not on stage at the same time.

MartinRivasRebeccaHavilandMartinRivasChrisKuffnerRebeccaHaviland

Martin had a number of family members in the audience, including his sister and aunt. His aunt might be his biggest fan. She kept flying out of her seat, singing, clapping over her head, screaming and dancing. You’d think she was a teen with the energy she displayed.

When the set was over it was difficult to stand in place. People were coming and going, pushing and shoving (not in a mean way, it was necessary simply to get through the crowd). The person I was standing with spotted two people leaving their seats 1/2 way across the club. She headed there to see if it was just temporary. Amazingly, when she got there, the seats were still available. It took me a while to work my way through (rather around) the crowd, but she held the seat for me. To quote her: “It’s nice to sit!”. Amen! Smile

The Greg Mayo Band is a relatively recent discovery for us, but they made our favorites list instantly, so we were really looking forward to this set. To remove any mystery, they remain high on our favorites list.

The core band consists of eight members. Last night, Greg had a few special guests, one of whom played on every song making the minimum number of people on stage nine.

The similarities with the prior set are the basic style of music (Greg’s band concentrates on Funk and Soul, with some good old fashioned Rock as well). The differences aren’t huge, but they’re noticeable and material. Martin’s sets are very guitar heavy (three of them on the stage at all times) and Greg’s set is very piano centric (they brought the grand piano back down for Greg to play and he played electronic keyboards as well).

The other difference is that Martin rarely has a horn section and Greg always does. The horns were a wonderful addition to Martin’s set, but they are extremely integral to Greg’s sound, much more highlighted with more and longer solos. Finally, Greg has a full-time female voice to sing harmony with, while Martin’s regular vocalists are male.

This show was billed as a Valentine’s Day extravaganza, which will become important in a minute.

Let’s cover the band, again left-to-right, front-to-back.

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. I have a single complaint about Rebecca’s role in the Greg May Band: give us more Rebecca! She does sing some lead, but not enough. She and Greg sing so beautifully together, but there too she takes a back seat and doesn’t sing as much harmony with Greg as I’d like.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

The above is meant to compliment Rebecca. Greg has a wonderful voice and I can listen to him sing alone all night. Together is better, it’s that simple. Smile

Erik White on tambourine (and mic-less vocals!). Erik was a special guest. He was the original guitarist in the Greg May Band. He projected energy on stage throughout the show, singing with Greg even though he didn’t have a mic (except for one song when the brass section walked off the stage and Rebecca shared her mic with Erik). He played some seriously good tambourine. He wasn’t just a prop.

ErikWhite

John Liotta on baritone sax. Highlighted a bit more in Greg’s set, John did a wonderful job.

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Another excellent job. Since we moved to seats that were behind the piano, I had a very different vantage point on what I had thought was a terrible shiner on Wayne’s right cheek. It turns out it was a large red heart (looked like it was drawn in red lipstick). Made sense with the Valentine’s Day theme, but I missed it during Martin’s set. I was glad Wayne wasn’t injured after all. Winking smile

WayneTuckerHeart

Matt Simons on tenor sax. Matt is another incredible musician. We just saw him perform a few days earlier in VA, playing electronic keyboards and singing. Last night, he was master of the sax (I love his play!). Come to Rockwood 2 this Saturday night (2/19/2011) at 11pm for a 90-minute set which Matt is headlining (with guest, Chris Ayer). It’s a longer set than usual, so that we can all celebrate Matt’s birthday at midnight. Smile

MattSimons

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny keeps up perfectly with the upbeat tempos of the Greg Mayo Band. Well suited to this style of music.

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass (and probably some vocals, but I only caught a few glimpses of Chris). Chris is one of our favorite bassists. He too played in the same VA show that Matt did a few days ago, but that night he played upright bass. We’ll see him again this Wednesday when he plays with Ian Axel for his CD Release Show. Another performance that is perfectly suited to this band and coupled tightly with Kenny Shaw’s drumming. (Horrible photo, sorry!)

ChrisAnderson

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Paul did a very nice job, taking a well-known lead on one of the covers. He also sang well. The Greg Mayo band doesn’t highlight the guitar that much so I look forward to catching Paul in one of his other projects (most notably Julius C).

PaulMaddison

The above was the core band last night. Greg brought up another special guest very early in the show.

Matt Abatelli on tenor sax. Matt was a founding member of the band but doesn’t appear to play with them regularly any longer. Matt Simons stepped off the stage to make way for Matt Abatelli (apparently, you have to be named Matt in order to qualify to play the tenor sax in this band!). Winking smile (No photo, sorry!)

Given his stature with the band, Greg chose a song to highlight Matt right from the get-go. Matt (Abitelli) didn’t disappoint. He wailed on the sax and I look forward to catching him again in a longer set.

Greg’s birthday was 6 weeks ago. You can only imagine his surprise when Rebecca announced that the band bought him a special gift, albeit a little late. She asked us all to sing Happy Birthday to Greg (which we did) and asked Greg to open the gift and show it to us. It was a bag of custom guitar picks. On one side, it said “Greg Mayo”. On the other, “How you doin’ y’all?”. Perfect! Smile

GregMayoBeerGregMayoBirthdayGift

After a very satisfying set, Greg announced that if we made enough noise after his next (and last) number, they would do an encore to give a proper sendoff to two of the musicians who played the earlier set. You shouldn’t have to ask whether there was enough cheering to keep them on stage.

Both Patrick Firth and Ryan Vaughn are leaving shortly for an extended tour to Russia, supporting John Forte. Greg wanted to give them a proper sendoff.

He called both of them on the stage. Ryan took control of the full drum set. Kenny Shaw moved over to play percussion (exactly what Ryan did the set before). Patrick just took to a microphone to sing (lead and harmony). If that was it, that would have just tied the record for 11 people on stage at the same time.

PatrickFirthVocals

Records are meant to be broken, even if they were set just an hour earlier. Greg also called up Martin Rivas to sing and Matt Abatelli on the sax (this time, Matt Simons stayed on stage!). Uh oh, that smashed Martin’s record with 13 people on stage! Well, technically, there were only 12 people on stage, because Paul Maddison played the entire song standing on his amp! Yes, it was that jam packed on the stage and he’s that much of a rock star. Winking smile

Martin looked over to me and said “Oh well, at least I held the record for a bit…”. Indeed, he ousted Alex Berger before being ousted himself.

Earlier, Sam Teichman told me that during the second Soul Revue Benefit (which we missed because we were out of town), they had either 13 or 14 people on stage at the same time (he’s going to send me a video to prove it). I don’t doubt him, but this record doesn’t count if I’m not there, so, nice try Sam! Smile

Here is Greg’s set list:

GregMayoSetList

Circling back to why I missed Robbie Gil, again…

Four of us had an absolutely incredible meal at The Green Table in the Chelsea Market. Organic food that was delectable, served by people who we enjoyed interacting with.

OrganicBeefOrganicRoastChickenCrabCakes

Lois wasn’t feeling too well even before dinner, but it was early enough for her to push herself. After the meal, she grabbed a cab home. Two of us got into a car and headed east to Rockwood. Cross-town traffic was slow so it took a bit longer to get there than expected. Then we circled a few times looking for a non-existent spot. Eventually, the driver forced me out of the car so I could get in line for Martin’s show (Robbie’s was a distant memory).

I waited outside for over 30 minutes (yes, it was very cold). Robbie’s set was packed to the gills (no pun intended) and it appeared from the outside that they were tearing the house down. I am determined to catch his set one of these days, sooner rather than later.

When the show was over, a little after 1am, there were a dozen people looking for a cab, with none available. I eventually walked over a mile and while waiting for the bus (for quite a while) finally caught a cab the rest of the way home. I walked in the apartment at 2:10am. Yippee. I loved the entire evening/night (with the exception of the 30 minutes waiting in the cold), but I’m too old to be acting like a kid.

Chris Ayer, Barnaby Bright, John Schmitt and Morgan Holland at Jammin Java

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It’s great to see a show you know you’re going to like because you like a number of the artists. It’s even better for that to come true and have very pleasant discoveries/surprises thrown in for good measure.

Jammin’ Java had the show listed as Chris Ayer headlining, supported by Barnaby Bright and John Schmitt. This would be our third time seeing Chris, so there was little risk there. We just recently saw John perform one song at the Soul Revue Benefit in NYC and were very interested in hearing more of him. We didn’t know who Barnaby Bright was and I admit to thinking it was a person born in 18th century England, who somehow was still touring around. Winking smile

Since I follow a lot of musicians on Twitter, I found out earlier that day that Morgan Holland and Matt Simons would be there as well. When we got there, we saw two more surprise guests, Chris Anderson, who we will see at least three times in the next week in NYC (with three different bands!) and Stephen Chopek. So, even before the show began, our anticipation was elevated.

I normally describe the evening backwards, headliner to opener. I will do that in this post as well, but since I mostly write for my own memory, I will need to disturb that flow a drop, to note my reaction to certain things, which obviously occurred in forward order. Hopefully, I won’t confuse you too much (or myself when I revisit this years from now).

Chris opened his set solo. Considering how good his voice is and how well he plays the guitar, he could easily perform entire sets solo and deliver satisfaction to the audience. But, given the three-car caravan that came down from NYC yesterday, it was no surprise to any of us when he invited the full band on the stage. I’ll cover the band at the end, because they played with three of the four acts.

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Chris performed a fantastic set (as with the last show we saw, here’s his set list, our perspective, then his):

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

On many songs, if I close my eyes, I could swear that James Taylor is performing a Chris Ayer song on stage, that’s how uncannily close Chris sounds to James (at times). But, Chris has quite a large repertoire of songs in various styles, including a number of ballad-style Rock numbers.

ChrisAyerSinging

Lois and I often agree/overlap in our opinion of the artists, but we don’t always get there at the same speed. Lois loved Chris from the first song he performed at Parkside Lounge. I was very impressed, but it took a second look (linked above) for me to catch up to Lois. Before the show started, Lois bought two CD’s and a T-Shirt from Chris. We own both the CD’s but neither of us could remember whether our copies are signed (one of our things) so now we have two CD’s to give as gifts and two that are definitely signed! Smile

Chris played two songs that he just released this week on iTunes, Relativity and Stranded. Both were wonderful, so I bought those this morning as well. Excellent. Except, last night, Morgan Holland joined Chris to sing harmony on Stranded. It was gorgeous. The download is also gorgeous, but no female harmony to make it even better (score another one for a live experience!).

Chris played a number of favorites, including Evaporate, which he sang in three-part harmony with Morgan and Matt Simons. Beautiful! He accompanied himself on the guitar, and Chris Anderson and Stephen Chopek chilled out behind them.

Chris closed the show with The Noise. He called up Morgan Holland, John Schmitt and Barnaby Bright (all of the acts before him) to sing harmony with him (and us) on this. He invited the crowd to sing the refrain (ah, ah, ah ah ah) with them. Normally, I can tell when the crowd joins in. I admit that last night I could only make out my own voice, but I’ll also admit I was awesome! Winking smile

ChrisAyerFinale

You can listen to a live version of that song (linked above) where you can make out that the audience is joining in, and then buy it right there as well!

On to the biggest surprise for me of the night. Barnaby Bright is not in fact a 300+ year old troubadour. It’s a husband and wife duo.

Nathan and Becky Bliss. This is where I have to disturb the backward flow for a minute. Each of them joined John Schmitt, the act before them, separately. Nathan played the sax with John on one number (just the two of them on the stage), and then again with the full band. Becky sang harmony with John on one number where only they were on stage.

So, I thought I had a sense of them. Nathan would come out and play the sax and Becky would sing soft (but stunning) harmonies with Nathan. Hahahaha, not even close. Back to the correct reverse order of things.

Becky took center stage with a small folding table in front of her. On the first number, she played the harmonium and sang. Wait, let me try that again, trying to impart to you what I experienced.

Becky Bliss sang. Hmmm, that doesn’t do it justice either. Let me embarrass myself by sharing with you how I fumbled for words when I spoke to Becky after the show. Instead of saying something coherent, I said: “Your voice is frighteningly beautiful!”. Huh? Come on Hadar, you weren’t frightened even for a second, you were completely enveloped and mesmerized. Yeah, that’s what I should have said…

BeckyBlissHarmonium

OK, that was no fluke. On each and every song, Becky amazed me. In addition to her voice and the harmonium, she played some rhythm acoustic guitar, ukulele and a tiny electronic keyboard that she laid on top of the harmonium for one number. She also wrote some of the songs they performed last night, though I recall her giving Nathan credit for the majority of them.

BeckyBlissHadar

Nathan didn’t play the sax even once during their set. Instead, he was fantastic on the acoustic guitar (a few of them in fact). Many styles, including the finger-tapping style of people like Kaki King (just one example).

NathanBlissGuitar

In addition he too played the ukulele on one number and the mridangam (or something very close to that).

NathanBlissMridangam

That’s not all. When they were playing, I could swear I heard a kick drum, but no one was on stage with them and all four of their hands were busy. Then I noticed that Nathan was tapping with his foot on something that looked like a closed up scissor jack for a car. I asked Becky about it after the show. It’s called a porch board. Cool! Nathan did a very nice job of keeping the beat and adding a fullness to their sound while continuing to impress on the guitar.

Nathan sang too, a bit of lead (a song he wrote about his father’s passing) and a lot of harmony. Their harmonies are beautiful, many times with a very ethereal quality (most notably on the CD, which I’ll get to in a sec). If I had one complaint, it’s that Nathan isn’t very forceful with his voice when singing with Becky. I don’t know if he’s intimidated by singing with that voice (I know I would be), but I doubt it. So, next time, Nathan, kick it up a notch, just for me. Smile

They nervously performed a song they had just finished in the car on the way down (or so they said). They nailed it, no reason to have been nervous.

Speaking of the CD. After their set, Lois ran up to buy a copy. I listened to it today and I like it a lot. But, it’s nothing like the show I saw last night (even though they performed much of it). Becky’s voice is gorgeous on the CD, but very mellow. Last night was phenomenal power (there was a bite to it). The ethereal quality I mentioned above comes across throughout the CD.

Score one for the old man (oops, I mean married couple!). We both can’t wait to see Barnaby Bright perform again.

John Schmitt is someone I’ve heard about from a number of our friends. He performed most of his set solo with a guitar. I mentioned that Nathan joined him on the sax for one number (John gave Nathan two nice sax solos in that one). The song Becky joined him on was Ave Regina. Wow, great song, beautiful harmony.

NathanBlissSaxophone

John is an excellent guitarist, so like Chris Ayer, no problem holding my attention when it’s just him and the guitar. But, it’s not really about the guitar. John writes wonderful songs (lyrics) and has a major voice. He had a horrible cold, which he said was causing him to sing more deeply than his normal range. I felt bad for him, but even a slightly gruffer, slightly deeper voice came across marvelously last night.

JohnSchmittGuitar

He has a very natural rapport with the audience and I look forward to seeing if there is a difference when he’s feeling better, though I don’t have anything but praise to heap on John for last night’s performance.

JohnSchmittSinging

He closed his set with the full band on stage with Nathan joining on the sax. They played Ophelia, the title track from his recently released CD. Lois was blown away and as with Barnaby Bright, ran up right after the set was over to buy a copy from John.

On Friday night we saw another show in VA. The headliner that night was Caleb Hawley and you can read about how great we thought Caleb was. When we found out that Caleb produced John’s CD, we knew it would be a winner even before we listened to it. Yup, it’s a winner (I say with confidence, now that we’ve enjoyed it).

Speaking of colds, I failed to mention that Chris Ayer was battling a cold as well. It didn’t seem to affect his performance either (well, it affected John’s, but not negatively).

Morgan Holland opened the show with the full band plus Chris Ayer. I really like her EP (Old New) and encourage you to check it out and buy it too (you can stream the whole thing first to make sure you agree with me).

MorganHollandSinging

Morgan played songs from the EP plus one Billy Joel cover, She’s Always a Woman. She played acoustic guitar and ukulele and also sang with no instruments, with the full band backing her. Chris Ayer or Matt Simons sang harmony on most numbers, occasionally all three together. Beautiful.

MorganHollandGuitarMorganHollandUkulele

MorganHollandHadar

Finally (but certainly not least!), the band. Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

Matt Simons on electronic keyboards and harmony. Matt is a singer/songwriter in his own right. We own his current EP and like it a lot. If you’re in NYC on Sat Feb 19th, you can join us for Matt’s own show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 11pm. It will be his birthday at midnight. Last night he was purely a side man, supporting the others, extremely well.

MattSimonsKeyboardsMattSimonsSinging

MattSimons

Stephen Chopek on the drums. We’ve only seen Stephen once before, during the Morgan Holland EP Release show at Rockwood. I enjoyed his play a lot, but this is all I wrote about him after that show:

This was our first time seeing Stephen play. He was very good.

Not effusive, but still accurate, he was very good. I have a much better sense after last night, given that he played throughout Morgan’s set, then for one number with John Schmitt, followed by most of Chris Ayer’s set. The songs were much more varied so Stephen displayed more styles.

StephenChopek

Morgan’s set called for sophisticated but understated drumming. Stephen excelled at that. Many of Chris’ numbers called for dramatically more drum fills. The very first number that the full band joined Chris on was Graduate (a song I really like but can’t find anywhere to purchase!). The drums are integral. I wish I knew the technical term for that style of drumming, because it’s among my favorite. If you know the movie 1941, you’ll know the drumming style I’m describing as it runs throughout the movie.

Update: A friend who read this post emailed me a link to a live version of Graduate. You can stream it free, or download and name your price. It’s gorgeous (I knew that already), but it’s solo, so you won’t hear the drum pattern I’m talking about above.

StephenChopekHadar

Chris Anderson played the upright bass, both plucking (mostly) and with a bow (on a few numbers). Chris is one of our favorite bass players and we are fortunate that he plays with quite a number of the bands that we like. We first discovered Chris when we first heard Ian Axel and we’ll see Chris next Wednesday playing with Ian Axel for his CD release show at the Studio at Webster Hall in NYC.

ChrisAndersonBassChrisAndersonBow

We can’t wait for that show, but we’ll see Chris (or at least I assume so) this coming Saturday, playing with the Greg Mayo band. Can’t wait for that either. Smile

A great night of music (nearly three hours). If you factor out the mega shows (which we too enjoy!), this kind of night out is still one of the most enjoyable and value-packed things you can do. If you see a show like this at a place like Jammin’ Java, where the food is excellent and reasonably priced, the value is increased. That’s exactly what we did, along with three of our friends, who hadn’t seen any of these artists before last night.