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Vienna Teng, Alex Wong and Joey Ryan at Highline Ballroom

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Last night was very special on many levels. At the top of the list was seeing Vienna Teng perform in NYC (at the Highline Ballroom) for the last time in a while (she’s off to grad school later this month!).

Even though Vienna tours the US and Europe regularly, we have come to rely on the fact that NYC was her (temporary) adopted home and we had so many opportunities to see her here over the last year. (We also saw her perform in Atlanta, Birmingham and Norfolk.)

We’re thankful that we made the time to do it, without taking for granted that we could see her whenever we wanted. Her shows will be few and far between over the next three years, but they will happen, and anyone who gets the chance to catch one better do it!

Vienna’s voice and piano playing are magical and last night was no exception. She can soothe the savage beast or impassion the near lifeless.

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In addition to a few typical songs that Vienna invites the crowd to join in on (more on that later), she added Antebellum to the list, inviting us to join her or Alex in their respective parts. I could swear that the majority of the crowd selected Alex’s part (perhaps because it’s easier, or perhaps because Alex admonished us to “Choose Wisely”). 🙂

While Vienna often introduces songs, last night felt different. She knew she wouldn’t have many more opportunities to connect with the very large crowd so she introduced nearly every song and shared stories with great warmth. (Highline seats roughly 450 people, and there were very few empty seats. It was the first show we’ve been at where people were sitting in the Highline balcony as well!)

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One story that she shared was going to a Karaoke night with a group of non-musician friends. She and her friend sang A Whole New World from Aladdin. She described the inevitable Karaoke Key Nightmare, where the music is simultaneously too high and too low for your vocal range.

Many songs later (I think it was during 1BR / 1BA, but don’t quote me), 2/3’s of the way through the song, she and Alex broke into a full-on rendition of A Whole New World! Their harmony was fantastic and the entire bit was both wonderful and funny at the same time. Of course, after the song, Alex complained that Vienna chose his Karaoke key. Actually, to quote him more accurately, he said she chose his coming into puberty range. 🙂

Alex Wong (the Alex in the above paragraph) joined her as he has for nearly all of the performances we’ve been to. In addition to being Vienna’s touring partner, co-writer on a few of her songs and producer of her amazing CD Inland Territory, Alex is also 1/2 of The Paper Raincoat.

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On the set list, which I reproduce below for Vienna’s many fans, there is an entry labeled (Alex). Vienna lamented that she would really miss seeing The Paper Raincoat and asked Alex to pick one of their songs to play. People shouted out many songs. Probably the one most loudly requested was In the Creases. Technically, not a Paper Raincoat song, but co-written by Alex Wong and ambeR Rubarth (who are The Paper Raincoat), so it qualifies.

Alex chose to do Don’t Be Afraid. He too introduced the song with a short, but meaningful anecdote. Vienna sang perfect harmony with Alex.

Toward the end of the show Vienna said that she wanted to deviate from the set list and get Alex to play another song. Once again, lots of requests from the audience. Alex chose a song of his that he performed with his original group, The Animators, Help is on the Way. We’ll all need it for the withdrawal we’ll be feeling from Vienna’s absence. 🙁

AlexWongHelpIsOnTheWay

Ward Williams joined them for the entire show (as he does on most of their tours). Ward sang beautifully with Vienna on a few numbers and played cello or electric guitar on all the numbers. As I’ve said before, Ward is a top-notch musician who always enhances any show he’s a part of!

WardWilliamsGuitar WardWilliamsCello

Update: Lois asked me to say how funny (and quick) Ward is, so here goes. For one song, Vienna asked us to take our keys out. She directed us when to jingle our keys and when to stop (like wind chimes). Alex used his Harry Potter Wand (aka: Waterphone bow) to direct people to make whooshing sounds like the wind itself.

Vienna joked that Ward was left out of the directing. Without missing a beat, he offered that when he put his right arm over his head (in a ballet-like pose), the audience should let out a blood-curdling scream! After testing us once before the song, he sprung the actual arm movement late in the song, and the audience did indeed scream on cue (good paying attention folks!). Vienna definitely got a kick out of it, as did the rest of us. 🙂

I’ve never seen a weak Vienna performance, so raving about last night shouldn’t be taken to imply that other shows weren’t incredible (they all have been!). That said, perhaps it was the poignancy of knowing that it would be a while, making me listen even more acutely, Vienna was in perfect voice last night. The clarity and power were mesmerizing.

As promised, here is the set list:

SetList

As you can see, she ended the set (a long and satisfying one) with Grandmother song. She asked the entire audience to stand for it and we turned the song into a 400+ person party! When they left the stage, we all remained standing until she came back out, this time solo.

Vienna dedicated the song, 1000 Oceans by Tori Amos, to us. We were both choked up. I am still speechless this many hours later, but thankfully, I can still type! 😉

All I can say in return/response is that the amount of joy and personal/spiritual growth that Vienna and the too-many-to-mention other Indie artists that we have come to know and love have given us, fuels us daily! Thank you Vienna, and all of you (you know who you are!).

After 1000 Oceans, both Alex and Ward returned to the stage and they performed two more numbers. The last one was Soon Love Soon, sung by the entire audience in three-part harmony! Here is Vienna directing the right side of the audience:

ViennaTengDirectingAudienceWardWilliams

Including the encore, they were on stage for 100 minutes. As vivid as the memory is at the moment, I miss it already.

When we bought the tickets (many moons ago, when the show was first announced) there was no opening act listed. What a phenomenal surprise to found out it was another of our favorites.

Joey Ryan performed solo, singing and playing acoustic guitar. In addition to always nailing his sets (with and without accompaniment) he was even funnier (and more self-deprecating) than he usually is (and he’s always funny!). He had everyone in the crowd laughing and chuckling, within seconds of stepping on the stage.

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Personally, I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to come out to an un-warmed-up crowd who is eating, drinking and conversing loudly. To do that solo, acoustically and not be the headliner, even more so.

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Yet, like I noted above, within seconds, Joey had the place whisper quiet, with everyone hanging on his every word. He owned not only the stage, but the entire place. I’m humbled by that ability, and enjoy being a part of it each time I experience it.

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Lois asked me if I’d call out for Broken Headlights. I didn’t need to. Joey invited Vienna and Alex on stage to sing it with him. Gorgeous, both the song (always) and their arrangement and harmonies.

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The Highline Ballroom is a wonderful venue. Doors open two hours before show time and they have excellent food (and drinks). Because of that, we wanted to celebrate with friends and share the great music. We bought seven tickets and squeezed all of us in to a table for six.

We had an excellent meal, including way too many desserts (that Lois forced on us, and of course didn’t partake in). Here is a photo of a very small portion of the desserts we all shared:

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In what had to be the universe speaking to us (though I didn’t find this out until this morning!), I ordered a glass of Shiraz. Then someone else in our party ordered the same thing. The waitress asked if we wanted a bottle instead and I said yes. Then she said that they had a special on a different bottle of Shiraz, one that wasn’t available by the glass. I ordered that. It was really good!

This morning, when I looked at the bill, I saw the name of the wine:

Flying Piano

A totally fitting thing to be drinking during a Vienna Teng show, no doubt! 😉

We all hung around after the show to tell Vienna, Alex, Ward and Joey how amazing they were and what a special night it was. The same group (including Joey) will be performing tonight in Fairfield, CT, tomorrow at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and Saturday in Silver Spring, MD. Do yourself a favor and go to one of these shows, time is running out…

ViennaTengChadVaccarinoIanAxelWardWilliamsAlexWong JoeyRyanHadar

The Persuasions at BB King

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Lois and I love a cappella. We love harmony in all forms and it doesn’t get purer than a cappella. When we each saw that The Persuasions were performing at BB King (we both get the weekly email newsletter) we were interested in going (we’ve never seen them).

A friend of ours was vacationing up the East Coast, and told us that he would likely have some time to hang with us when he spent a couple of days in NYC. He called Wednesday night and we asked him whether he would be interested in seeing The Persuasions. Indeed he was.

The group was formed in 1962 and released their first studio album in 1970. Two of the original members are still performing with the group! One of them is Jimmy Hayes, who sings the deep bass parts. He’s absolutely amazing. Both Lois and I couldn’t wait to praise him to each other when we hit the street.

When all five of them sing together, the sound is incredibly rich, whether they are singing the words together (normal harmony), or whether some or all of them are mimicking instruments or doo wop sounds.

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Going for the music alone would be worth it. Fortunately, that’s not the only reason to go, though we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

I would guess that the majority of the audience were giant The Persuasions fans, having seen them perform before (likely many times for a good proportion of the crowd). Aside from being adoring fans (in the best sense), they knew the individual performers, and the group knew many audience members as well.

The Persuasions don’t just perform, they entertain! On at least a third of the numbers one of the members of the group ventures into the audience (usually the other original member, “Sweet” Joe Russell, but both Raymond Sanders and Jayotis Washington did as well). The song becomes highly interactive at that point, with great unpredictability.

SweetJoeRussell

Dave Revels sang slightly more leads than the rest and did a wonderful job throughout the set.

At times, Joe (or the others) will simply sing to a member of the audience (often acting out the lyrics). Just as often, they will hand the microphone to someone and get them to sing (often the lead!). No one was bad, but a few were pretty darn good, with two people singing like real professionals!

LadySingingWithThePersuasions

In one awkward moment (awkward for me, because I’m a complete geek!), Joe was singing to a woman. They each had an arm around the other. The woman was in heaven, and she handed her iPhone to her husband and asked him to take a photo. Even though Joe held the pose while he sang to the woman for nearly two minutes (that’s an eternity folks!), the husband couldn’t figure out how to snap a photo on the iPhone. He was aiming the LCD screen at them, and was nearly as frustrated as his wife. He did not get the photo. 🙁

The Persuasions perform a wide variety of music. Hearing oldies from my childhood brought rushes of wonderful memories back in an instant. Seeing the beaming faces of the other audience members (all ages!) turned those memories into a shared experience, making it more special than simply tuning into an oldies radio station.

RaymondSandersJayotisWashingtonJimmyHayesDaveRevels

Here’s the set list, so you can get a sense of the breadth and see how many of your old favorites are there:

SetList

The one song you won’t see on there is what they performed during the encore (yes, they were forced to come back out for an encore), In the Still of the Night. Saying that they performed it is a bit of a misnomer. They actually participated in the performance, which was dominated by the audience.

They invited anyone in the audience who wanted to sing it with them on stage to come on up. Amazingly, roughly 20 people went up.

AudienceOnStage AudienceOnStage2

Jayotis Washington came into the crowd and asked people whether they knew the song (the intro was already being doo wop’ed on stage), and I was one of the people he stopped in front of!

I said no (even though I knew it well), because I had no intention of singing into the microphone. The guy at the table next to me (a huge fan and friend of the band) accepted, and sang the lead for a good part of the song. He was incredible (one of the two I mentioned above). The entire song was quite a spectacle (in the best sense of the word).

After it was over, Lois went on stage to get the set list. When I looked up, she was hugging each member of The Persuasions. I looked away for a second, then looked back. The stage was empty. Lois disappeared behind the stage with them. I told our friend that I would likely be forced to wait 24 hours before calling her in as a missing person. 😉

She came back out without the set list itself, but with the photo (shown above), and some more memories. 🙂

On to the food. BB King is comfort food and it’s always really good. Last March (2009) we were there for a Jerry Jeff Walker show, and our god-son-in-law ordered the Mac & Cheese. It’s so rich he couldn’t finish it and the rest of us all dug in and were blown away. Last night I ordered it for myself for the first time. Just as good. Thanks Chris, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know what I was missing! 🙂

When we were watching the coming attractions our friend told us that we shouldn’t miss The Toasters, who will be at BB King on October 29th. Here’s hoping he can make it back to NYC to join us for that show as well!

HadarChris

Martin Rivas, Vienna Teng and ambeR Rubarth at City Winery

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In January, City Winery hosted three shows to benefit the Haiti earthquake disaster. We attended one of those shows and I covered it in this post. They have repeated that generosity this week, hosting three shows to benefit those affected by the Gulf Coast Oil Spill. All proceeds went to the Gulf Restoration Network.

This provided another opportunity to do some good, while enjoying a night of incredible music, and for us, dinner and NYC-made wine as well!

Update: Thanks to the commenter below who correctly chided me for not mentioning the two videos that were shown before the music started. Here is the link to the organization that presented them.

Covering the acts in the order they appeared:

Martin Rivas opened the show. I have been waiting too long to see Martin perform a full set. Last night was small progress, three songs in a row. It only made me want to see more, so my quest continues. Martin has such a clear, strong voice, I can listen to him sing all night!

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Martin was accompanied by a full band (left-to-right):

Patrick Firth on piano (not sure that’s the right link). Very nice job, playing both the grand piano and an electric keyboard propped on top of the grand.

PatrickFirth

Greg Mayo on electric guitar. I have seen Greg’s name many times, tweeted by many musicians, but I hadn’t heard/seen him before. Wow! Fantastic guitar playing. After the set, my friend told me that he caught Greg for the first time the night before, and Greg was playing the piano in that show, just as well! I now have to catch Greg doing his own thing, asap!

GregMayo

Chris Anderson on electric bass. We love Chris on the bass and I’ve written about that many times. Last night was the first time we’ve seen him accompanying someone other than the amazing Ian Axel. Of course, we weren’t surprised to find out that Chris was just as good backing up Martin. Chris is Greg Mayo’s bassist, which is probably how he came to play with Martin last night.

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Craig Meyer on drums (couldn’t find a good individual link). We saw Craig drum for Martin at the Haiti benefit as well. He’s very good, and I enjoyed his play last night tremendously. Chris Anderson is always full of energy in his play, and whenever he turned to Craig, the two of them cranked it up a notch, with Craig getting into it as much as Chris did.

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Vienna Teng was up next. This was a wonderful surprise for us. Vienna (and ambeR as well) was not originally listed on the bill when we purchased our tickets. Jay Nash was, and he didn’t make it. Vienna performed three songs (as did every artist): Harbor, 1000 Oceans (a Tori Amos cover) and a song that she co-wrote with ambeR at a songwriters retreat. ambeR came out to sing harmony with Vienna on their co-written song. Another awesome performance by Vienna.

ViennaTengPiano ViennaTengAmberRubarth

ambeR Rubarth opened with Novocaine, a song I can listen to 10 times every day and not tire of. She played it on an electric guitar, something we haven’t seen her do before. She then switched to the piano and Vienna returned the favor of singing harmony with her on Rough Cut. ambeR returned to the guitar to close her three-song set with Letter to My Lonelier Self.

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Christina Courtin played the ukulele and sang. We hadn’t heard of her before. Not exactly our taste.

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Ryan Scott on acoustic guitar, accompanying Christina Courtin. Ryan was very good on the guitar, and gave me something positive to focus on during Christina’s set.

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Among the Oak and Ash was up next. They were great! Josh Joplin is the front man and constant in this band. Josh plays the guitar and sings (and writes very good songs). Tons of energy creating a knee-slapping, toe-tapping experience for us. His band last night, left-to-right:

AmongTheOakAndAsh

JoshJoplin

Claudia Chopek on the fiddle (she has a MySpace page, but Chrome warned be about some content on there, so I’m not sharing the link). Claudia was excellent! In a not-so-small-world story (because the Indie music scene has many interconnections), Claudia has also played with Vienna Teng. Here is a YouTube video of Claudia (front and center) playing with Vienna and Alex Wong. Of course, since it’s closer to a classical sound, she was playing the violin (not the fiddle) in that one. 🙂

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Ward White played the electric bass and sang harmony with Josh. Very nice job on both!

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The drummer for Among the Oak and Ash was really good too, but unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. If someone lets me know who it was, I’ll update this section.

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John Wesley Harding closed the show, on acoustic guitar and vocals. John was excellent, singing and playing, and cracked me up quite a bit with his very relaxed delivery of a number of quips. He had two excellent musicians accompanying him:

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I didn’t catch the name of either the piano and guitar player (I think his first name was David), nor the bass player. Both were excellent, with particular kudos to the piano playing which was highlighted a few times.

Update: From a comment below, the name of the Piano/Guitar player is David Nagler. No good individual link for him.

JohnWesleyHarding-Pianist JohnWesleyHarding-Guitarist JohnWesleyHarding-Bassist

It frustrates me when I work really hard to figure out who is in the band and it isn’t prominently mentioned on the artist’s site. As above, I’ll update if/when someone clues me in.

One very unusual thing during this show was that as artists finished their three-song sets, they came out and sat in the audience to enjoy the other sets. It was cool, and we were sitting among a number of our favorite musicians. 🙂

MarthaViennaTeng WardWhiteClaudiaChopek

We arrived early and had a lovely dinner, including a carafe of City Winery’s home-pressed Syrah, recommended!

Rosi Golan and William Fitzsimmons at Jammin Java

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I’ve waited way too long to catch a Rosi Golan set. I’ve seen her perform a song or two here and there. I’ve even caught a complete set of her performing her new side project The Open Sea with Ari Hest (I can’t wait for the upcoming EP, the two of them are magic together!).

I love Rosi’s current CD The Drifter and the Gypsy and am looking forward to her upcoming CD as well.

One of the few benefits of living in NY and working in VA (say what?) is that we get more opportunities to catch our favorite musicians. When I noticed that Rosi was playing at Jammin’ Java (a venue we really like a lot) I made sure that our July trip south would include that date. We brought three friends with us to enjoy the show.

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

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For those of you who haven’t heard her, I would liken her somewhat to The Weepies in overall feel and sound. That said, while I love The Weepies, Rosi’s voice is incalculably more beautiful.

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Rosi accompanies herself nicely on the guitar. Last night, she was supported on every number by Jake Phillips on guitar and harmony. Jake was amazing on both and really enhanced the sound (not that Rosi needs help).

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Rosi performed at least four songs from The Drifter and the Gypsy CD, including Think of Me, which I play very often and was hoping to hear live. Thanks Rosi! 🙂

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Rosi was on for roughly 40 minutes, every one of them wonderful.

William Fitzsimmons was the headliner. Rosi has been opening for William on much of his current tour, but not every night. I normally cover the headliner first, but since we specifically went to see Rosi, I reversed my usual order.

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This was our first time seeing William. In fact, we only heard about him because I was tracking Rosi.

William plays the guitar beautifully (more on that in a bit) and sings nicely. He’s extremely mellow in his delivery. Surprisingly so, because when he speaks, he has a deep rich voice, but when he sings, it’s an octave higher and pretty soft.

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William is very funny (not just to my taste, because most of the sold-out crowd was chucking or guffawing along with me). He’s extremely self-deprecating. I am sure that I would go see him if he was a stand-up comic.

As he himself will tell you, most of his songs are angst-ridden, not exactly pick-me-ups. They’re delivered really well, but given his soft vocals, it can be hard for newcomers to pick up all the words (clearly, a very integral part of the William Fitzsimmons experience!).

In contrast, I am flabbergasted by how well Rosi enunciates even when nearly whispering (check out the crispness of the last “s” in “ghosts”, which I couldn’t believe I could hear each times she sang/whispered it!).

Because of the above, a number of William’s songs feel similar (when the lyrics should be the big differentiators). Still, I enjoyed the full set, without wishing for any song to just be over.

Back to the guitar. Jake Phillips also accompanied William on all but two songs. The two of them were mesmerizing on the guitars on each and every song. They complement each other beautifully, with William starting most songs off with a finger-picking style that hooks you instantly, and then Jake dancing in and around that with a combination flat-picking and finger-picking lead/harmony.

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Jake also sang harmony with William (very nicely), but he was a bit softer than he was with Rosi. Even if neither of them had sung the entire evening, watching and listening to the two of them play guitar together would have been worth the price of admission. Jake also played banjo on one number, which made for a very interesting sound with William’s guitar play.

Rosi joined the two of them for a four songs. The first was a Rosi number that William had recorded with her a while ago, Hazy (he’s featured on it on the above-mentioned CD). Rosi also came back out for the last song in a two-song encore to close the show.

Before that last song, William asked Rosi to be the applause-o-meter for a contest to see who played the guitar better, he or Jake. When he asked the audience about Jake first, the applause was deafening, so it was obvious that asking about himself was going to be somewhere between amusing and embarrassing.

But, here’s the thing. If Jake was an 8 on a scale of 1-10, then William was a 7.8. Meaning, the deafening win for Jake was not even the slightest knock on William’s play, just an acknowledgement that Jake was highlighted a bit more, and didn’t disappoint throughout both Rosi and William’s sets.

William Fitzsimmons can definitely hold his own on the guitar, and did so extremely well on his two completely solo numbers, and on every other number when he picked the main theme (which Jake adorned).

A wonderful night out. I can finally scratch off my list the need to see Rosi Golan performing a full set of her own creations. That said, it doesn’t mean that I won’t want to see a lot more, just that it won’t be on my bucket list. 🙂

Here’s a shot of Rosi with her manager, David Margolis:

RosiGolanDavidMargolis

Alex Wong and Adam Levy at Rockwood

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Last night was a real treat for us. We got to see one of our favorite musicians perform his first solo show. We also caught the set before his, which was wonderful, and I’ll cover that as well.

Alex Wong is an incredible talent, something I repeat very often (well deserved repetition). We never had the pleasure of seeing him with his original group, The Animators, but we’ve seen him often as part of The Paper Raincoat (a group he formed with ambeR Rubarth) and when he tours with Vienna Teng (something he’s doing again starting tonight in Atlantic City).

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He has delighted us since the first time we saw him. It is my understanding that Alex isn’t looking to launch a solo career, but rather, as with many artists, he continually wants to stretch and grow. Playing solo affords him the opportunity to do that.

He played a mix of his own, The Paper Raincoat and The Animators songs. His selection was outstanding. For The Paper Raincoat (TPR) songs (Brooklyn Blurs, The Same Old Things, Don’t Be Afraid and Motion Sickness), hearing them in the pure mellowness of just Alex with the guitar was a nice change-of-pace. That said, I’m nowhere near getting enough of TPR’s sound.

Adam Levy (covered in more detail below) accompanied Alex on an electric guitar on two songs (possibly three). One was the first song Alex Wong wrote with Devon Copley (his partner in The Animators) A Girl Like You. The other was In the Creases, a song Alex wrote with ambeR Rubarth before they formed TPR (one of our favorite songs!).

Adam was a great addition on both songs, in particular on In the Creases, where his leads were fantastic. On Creases, he also sang harmony. He didn’t have a microphone in front of him, but since I was three feet away, I could hear how good a job he did. 🙂

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Alex didn’t come on until 11pm. Even though it was that late, in the middle of the week, there was a really nice-sized crowd at Rockwood Music Hall. When Alex finished his set, the applause wouldn’t die down. He had already unplugged his acoustic guitar from the amp, but it was obvious that people weren’t going to stop clapping until he played another song.

Alex looked up at the sound engineer, who nodded to him that he could play another one. He closed the show with Motion Sickness. Like I already said, a real treat for us, even though it was way past our bedtime.

A number of the people that we are thrilled to see on stage were in the audience. In particular, Tony Maceli, Ward Williams and Melissa Tong. Always nice to see them, even if they aren’t part of the show. We also bumped into three more friends there, proving yet again that Alex has a strong following.

Adam Levy played the 10pm set with a band. He wasn’t opening for Alex. Rockwood typically has 45-minute sets with 15-minute breaks for the next artist to set up.

AdamLevy

We’ve seen Adam perform solo (at Jammin’ Java). We’ve seen him back Alex Berger, and we’ve seen him perform duets with ambeR Rubarth. This is the first time we saw him with a band. Hopefully, it won’t be the last!

For those who don’t know, Adam Levy was the guitar player in Norah Jones band, both touring and on at least three of her CDs. ‘Nuff said!

He plays a number of styles and exhibited Country, Jazz, Blues and Folk last night (perhaps more?). He has a gravelly voice, but it’s compelling and draws you in to the song.

Tony Mason on drums. In addition to playing solidly throughout the set, Tony distinguished himself on one extremely tasty drum solo. He also played sidekick to Adam on a number of bits/banter. Clearly, they are friends and mesh together well.

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Jonathan Maron played the bass (I can’t be sure the link is correct since there’s no picture on that profile). He was good throughout the set, but not highlighted.

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We already own Adam’s EP that he recently put out with ambeR Rubarth, but after his set, we also picked up his CD Washing Day (also the name of a song that he co-wrote with ambeR, which we really like!).

We met a friend for dinner before the show. We wandered into Noodle Bar on a whim. We ordered three dishes (one rice, one noodle and one soup) plus ice cream for dessert. I was impressed with every one. The only disappointment came when the bill arrived, and it turned out that they are a cash-only establishment. I had enough (it’s not a very expensive place), but it could have been awkward if it was a few dollars more…

Another wonderful evening out, adding to our already indescribable exhaustion.

Happy Birthday Lois

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I’ve mentioned that Lois just had a birthday in May in three separate posts:

The Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel at Mercury Lounge

The Addams Family

Ian Axel and Joey Ryan at Rockwood Music Hall

In fact, many of our friends (and family) had May birthdays, at least one even more significant than Lois’ (see below). Because of the many celebrations, and that thing we don’t like to mention (or think about), work, I haven’t had the time to post about the actual celebration we held for Lois.

Now that May is officially behind us, I’ll do that here, and throw in two other May birthday celebrations for good measure. 🙂

In the last of the three posts linked above, I mentioned that we had a weekend-long celebration which included The Addams Family and a wonderful dinner at the Peking Duck House. More than just another incredible meal and fellowship at the Duck House, the gathering there was also meant to spring a wonderful surprise on Lois.

Time to rewind… Our friends in Richmond, VA and Birmingham, AL coordinated to come up to NYC and spend the weekend. That much Lois knew. What she didn’t know is that one of them, Sally Ann, in consultation with the others, came up with a great idea.

She designed a custom T-Shirt, using a photo of Lois from her teaching days, and invited all of us to submit sayings that we’ve learned from Lois throughout the years. From that list she chose 10 sayings to print on the back of the T-Shirt.

The idea wasn’t to present Lois with a T-Shirt, but rather to have her friends take photos of themselves in the shirt and have the results printed and put into an album for Lois. In addition, those that wanted could write a personal note to Lois for inclusion in the book as well.

I was blown away by the idea, knowing that it was the perfect gift for Lois. The southern crew ordered their own shirts and took their photos. I ordered a bunch of shirts and handed a few out locally, but mostly FedEx’ed T-Shirts all over the globe (yes, more money was spent shipping the shirts than ordering them!). 😉

The furthest photo came from a family in Tokyo that Lois befriended 16 years ago.

Sachi

The stealth involved for me to sneak out and create nearly 30 separate FedEx packages and ship them, over the course of three days went off nearly without a hitch. When I tried to make a physical handoff at a restaurant to our friends who live in Thailand, but were in town for one last night, she nearly caught me. I couldn’t explain my erratic behavior to her satisfaction and it was a point of irritation (and comedy) between us for a few weeks until I could finally explain what happened.

A similar thing happened when someone else emailed her with a subject line that I thought meant that the T-Shirt photo was attached (it wasn’t). I panicked and started yelling that she shouldn’t open the email. She looked at me like I had three heads. I couldn’t explain that either.

So, she knew something was up, but she had no clue, until the actual reveal, of exactly what was up, since it was such a creative surprise!

The reveal came in two stages. Everyone else went to the Duck House before we did. They claimed they wanted to walk, and Lois wanted to take a cab, so no misdirection was needed! When they got to the Duck House, they all had their T-Shirts on for Lois to see when we walked in. It was awesome.

TheBigReveal

Here are two close-ups of the front and back:

Front Back

Stage one was complete, and of course, Lois thought that was the entire surprise. After the cake was served stage two was sprung on her, the book itself, with photos of people she never dreamed I would remember to contact! As predicted, Lois was crying non-stop as she flipped the pages. 🙂

LoisAlex LoisCake

My thanks to everyone who participated, with extra special thanks going to Sally Ann and Laura, not only for conceiving and shepherding the process, for their tireless work in producing the actual book, with gorgeous arrangements and reformatting of the notes and letters. It was truly an amazing work of art!

ClearlyDrunk VillageOnDeck

Two more May birthdays to recount (though there were more, that I apologize for not mentioning specifically). The very next weekend we were down in Richmond, VA for a 90th birthday party. It was awesome, and there is little that I can hope for in life more than to be just like Vivian when I’m 90! We love you Vivian, and it was an honor and a pleasure to celebrate with you!

Vivian

Finally, we ended May with a bang. Our wonderful Trevor turned 12 and the entire family came up for the Memorial Day weekend to celebrate. They went to the Statue of Liberty on Saturday (before they got to our apartment).

Arrival1 Arrival2

After dinner at Jackson Hole (amazing burgers) we all went to the Top of the Rock. It was a gorgeous night and we all had a great time there. We let the boys stay up too late and watched National Treasure 2, and enjoyed every second of it (other than the boys squealing whenever someone kissed on screen). 😉

TrevorCentralPark GarretTrevorHadar

LightShow1 LightShow2 LightShow3

Sunday was the big day. The boys, their dad, Lois and I went to see the Yankees play the Indians. We got there very early. While the boys were unable to get any autographs (apparently that doesn’t happen much any longer due to security concerns), they got something nearly as good. Derek Jeter hit a ball deep into the outfield during batting practice. The dad asked one of the Cleveland Indians players if he could retrieve it, and he was kind enough to do it. Cool!

TheBall TrevorDadGarret

The Yankees were down 3-0. In the bottom of the seventh, with two outs and two strikes, Derek Jeter hit a single which scored two runs. Following a double by Granderson, again with two strikes (obviously still two outs), Mark Teixeira hit a 3-run homer putting the Yankees up 5-3. They scored two more in the eighth, and then Mariano Rivera shut the Indians down in the ninth. It was awesome, and the crowd was in ecstasy (as were the boys!).

GarretHadarTrevor HomeRun

The girls (other than Lois, who I still consider to be my girl) went to see Mary Poppins. They loved that too, so all seven of us had a delightful day.

We capped the night off with a wonderful Mexican meal at El Rio Grande followed by watching the original Karate Kid movie. The next day the family spent the day at Ground Zero and Battery Park, nearly walking all the way back to the apartment (until one of the kids cried uncle). After lunch on the deck, they hit the road back to VA, and even though it was Memorial Day, had no traffic and an excellent ride.

UsKids

An excellent end to a month-long celebration of wonderful people’s birthdays, Lois included. 🙂

Girlyman at Southern Cafe

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Another night, another Girlyman concert. This one was in Charlottesville, at the relatively new The Southern Cafe. This used to be Gravity Lounge. It changed hands and was gutted on the inside.

Last night was the final show in the current East Coast tour for Girlyman. I can only imagine how exhausted they were. Thankfully, none of that was projected on the audience, as they performed with incredible energy over two sets.

All of the praise I heaped on them for the show the previous night applied last night. They varied the set list a lot, with at least half of the songs swapped from the night before. Their banter was almost 100% fresh. One of the reasons that this is almost always true for Girlyman is that they feed off the crowd’s reactions. They might start with a seed that they have in mind, or have used in a previous show, but each audience will take them in a completely different direction.

DorisMuramatsu

There were more, and longer tuning songs last night. Not because Ty and Doris had more trouble tuning, but because they got stuck (in the best sense) on a particular theme/interplay and drove a truck through it at every opportunity.

NateBorofsky

Girlyman audiences are among the best, at every venue, on a consistent basis. They are true fans who make unreal noise between songs, and are reverently quiet during songs. That’s all you can hope for.

TyGreensteinMandolin

They played a 45-minute set and took a break to sign merch and mingle with the audience (exactly like they did the night before at Jammin’ Java). They returned for a 70-minute set including a three song encore.

JJJones

The first song in the encore was the Girlyman Benediction. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen them do it live, and it was fantastic (as it always is). In addition to their normal antics during the song (e.g., Doris does the belly-rubbing and head-patting motions at one point), adding JJ Jones to the mix (the newest Girlyman) was hysterical. She was balancing drumsticks and water bottles, making it very hard to look anywhere else to see what the rest of them were doing. 🙂

JJJonesBalancingDrumSticks JJJonesWaterBottle

Next they played the other encore favorite, Son of a Preacher Man, which has also been a while since we’ve seen it. They closed the show with the amazing a cappella number, Up to the Sea (from the new CD) like they did the night before.

GirlymanACappella

After the show Nate signed their latest CD for our friends. Lois bought one of their Everything’s Easy T-Shirts (for me, since they were out of her size).

NateBorofskySigningCD NateBorofskyWithFans

ModelingMyT-Shirt

Opening the show was Andy Moore. We missed the beginning of Andy’s set (my rant about that will come in a minute) but caught her last two numbers. She has a beautiful voice and accompanies herself well on an acoustic guitar. Very moving lyrics.

AndyMoore

Lois made up for our guilt of missing her entire set by buying two of her CDs, so we now have a chance to get to know her music better. We also spend a lot of time in Richmond, where she’s based, so we might get to catch one of her shows there.

The Southern Cafe is still relatively new, so it’s important to cut them some slack while they get their sea legs. On the other hand, I’ll still rant a bit in the hopes of sparing someone else what happened to us, and encouraging The Southern to get it together a bit more quickly than they seem to be.

The show was listed for 8pm, with doors opening at 7pm. We wrote in advance because the website is one of the things that hasn’t quite gotten fleshed out yet. They wrote back saying that the opening act would come on at 8pm, with Girlyman hitting the stage at around 8:30pm.

We arrived at 6:20pm, and our guests arrived at 6:30, exactly when we asked them to. The doors to the cafe were already open (very welcome, since it was drizzling outside). We tried multiple times to order dinner, and each time were politely told that they wouldn’t be taking orders until roughly 7pm (fine, that’s when the doors were officially supposed to open).

They did indeed take our order at 7pm. Even though it’s traditional southern style comfort food (I had an amazing pulled pork sandwich with equally amazing sides of mac ‘n cheese and slaw), it took forever to come out. The good news is that the food is good enough so that you should go there for lunch or dinner even if you’re not interested in the music.

Unfortunately, while eating our food (which got to the table at around 7:35), we heard some applause. We ignored it while we ate, but then Lois got curious. She went to check it out, and it turns out that Andy Moore came on at 7:30. No announcement was made in the cafe part that we were sitting in. We wolfed down the rest of the food and caught the end of her set.

Summary: The Southern Cafe is going to be a great venue for both food and music once they get their act together. You should still attend now, because the overall evening was fantastic, but, be aware that things might not be perfectly smooth, or as advertised, for the time being.

Girlyman at Jammin Java

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Last night was our 14th time seeing Girlyman perform. Tonight will be our 15th and I’ll write about that tomorrow. 🙂

From March to October each year, we tend to see Girlyman in bursts, keeping our need/desire in check. Most years, we have a Girly-drought from October to March. It’s a rough patch, aptly named Winter, and we were happy to officially declare our version of Spring last night!

We were pleased and surprised to see Girlyman book Jammin’ Java. For the past two years, they have played The Barns at Wolf Trap this time of the year (on their VA visit). The Barns seats 400 people and Girlyman has sold out both times they’ve appeared there. We love The Barns, but the more intimate, the more we like it.

We’ve been to Jammin’ Java once before, covered in this post. We liked everything about that evening, including the food quality and selection. While that show was reasonably well attended, it didn’t prepare us for trying to accommodate Girlyman’s fans in this smaller venue.

Gone were the tables that were set up near the stage (making it easy to sit up close and still eat comfortably). Instead, they had rows of seats (theater style) from the stage all the way back to the bar area. People sat on the floor (lots of people) wherever there wasn’t a chair. Many more people stood behind the chairs all the way back to the entrance.

Jammin’ Java earned it’s name a few times over last night. First, while waiting for the seating to begin, the smell of their fresh brewed coffees was intoxicating. One of our guests commented to me that he would need to have some as dessert. We did. We got Lattes to go after the show was over and drank them on our way back to Fredericksburg.

Next there’s the intended meaning of Jammin’, the music. Wow, Girlyman was/were their usual extraordinary selves. Finally, people were literally Jammed into every opening, and no one seemed to mind in the least. We were all just happy to be part of the music and the energy (and the comedy) that is Girlyman.

So, why we do go to see groups that we love this many times, and often go out of our way to do it? The easy, obvious answer, which is 100% true is that we want to support (financially and emotionally) the groups that we love. But that’s not the whole answer.

The live experience brings with it a joy that is qualitatively different than listening to the CDs (which is something we also do a lot). With a group that has a large a catalogue like Girlyman, each show has a number of unique elements to it, even on back-to-back nights on the same tour. Then there’s also the inevitable moment of discovery, when they perform something on stage we’ve never heard, or they tell a story and reveal something we were unaware of, and our love of them deepens further.

There were a number of examples last night. We had an opportunity four months ago to tell Ty how much we love the song Could Have Guessed (on the new CD, Everything’s Easy). Last night, before playing it, we got our first shout out from them, as Ty dedicated the song to us. Cool!

TyGreenstein TyGreensteinGuitar TyGreensteinDjembe

Ty told a story that we hadn’t heard before they played Young James Dean (a song we’ve seen them perform many times). She said she was inspired to write that song when she read The Last Time I Wore a Dress. Lois told me when we left that she wants to read the book.

They played a few songs we hadn’t heard them play live, including one we’ve simply never heard before, because they haven’t recorded it yet. They were:

  • St. Stephen, a song Ty co-wrote with Nate in 2006. I could feel Lois tingling throughout the song, her reaction was that palpable.
  • For the first song in the encore, Doris sang a cover of Loretta Lynn’s Fist City. We love country music, and it was fun to hear Girlyman’s take on this song.
  • They closed the encore with Up to the Sea, a stunning a capella number on the new CD. The music is by Beethoven, Nate wrote the lyrics. The three of them bunched up together and shared one microphone. We’ve listened to the song many times on the CD, but have never seen them perform it. It was magical. You couldn’t hear a rustle (let alone a whisper) in the crowd.

GirlymanACapella

Girlyman now officially has a fourth member, JJ Jones on the drums. We’ve seen JJ play with Girlyman twice before, but she was actually the full-time drummer for the opening band, Po’ Girl each of those nights, also sitting in with Girlyman.

JJ is an incredible drummer who adds a nice depth/dimension to Girlyman. Many of Girlyman’s songs have a full drum set on the CD version, so it’s quite natural to hear that full sound on stage as well.

JJJones

During Young James Dean, JJ was beyond awesome. I am grateful that I know the song so well, because I might have missed it given that I was fixated for much of it on JJ. I wasn’t alone in my awe. The second the song was over, before Ty even thanked the audience for their wild applause, she turned to JJ and introduced her, and said something to effect of “Wow, thanks JJ!”. Thank you indeed!

JJJonesDrums

JJ also was perfect on the always upbeat Joyful Sign, a song that really benefits from strong drumming. JJ never speaks on stage. Well, she never used to speak on stage. Nate asked her a question last night, which JJ typically answers with a particular drum roll. Last night she said “Yes”. Nate was as flabbergasted as the rest of us. 😉

NateBorofsky NateBorofskySinging

The other thing that Girlyman did wisely last night was not have an opening act. While we have discovered some of our favorite bands by accidentally hearing them when they were opening acts, sometimes it’s better to skip it.

DorisMuramatsu DorisMuramatsuTuning

Girlyman was in effect their own opening act. They performed a 45-minute set and then broke for an intermission. They did something we are not accustomed to seeing (even in our few previous 2-set evenings seeing them). They came out during intermission to say hi to the fans and to sign merch and take photos. It’s a wonderful touch, especially for people who need to hit the road the minute the show is over and can’t wait in long lines no matter how badly they want to.

GirlymanAndDjango

When they returned to the stage, they played a 70-minute set, including the above-mentioned two-song encore. An absolutely wonderful evening, as I’m sure tonight will be as well. If you’re anywhere within driving distance of Charlottesville, VA, come see the magic at The Southern Cafe.

Here’s our gang (minus us) from last night:

OurGang

Ian Axel at Joe’s Pub

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We’ve seen Ian Axel perform three full sets before, plus a few songs at the New York Sings for Haiti benefit and some guest appearances. Still, we were looking forward to last night with great anticipation.

Joe’s Pub is our favorite NYC spot to see a show, and Ian is one of our few current obsessions, so having the chance to see him headline at our favorite place was a real treat.

The show was sold out (no surprise). Ian put out a new CD, This is the New Year, on January 5th. The title track video has become a music-lover’s destination on YouTube, with over 61,000 hits at the time I’m writing this.

I’m sure there were a few guests in the audience who hadn’t heard Ian’s music before, but from the roar and claps three notes into most songs, clearly the overwhelming majority were quite familiar with his material.

Ian is an exceptional pianist with an electrifying voice, who happens to write great songs. As great as his music is in our iPod, his performances are better for the energy that emanates from Ian, through his every pore.

IanAxel1

He opened the show with Waltz [Intro] (a solo classical piece for piano) with the band in the shadows standing quietly watching like the rest of us. Just like on the album, [Intro] flows directly into Waltz, where the band comes alive and everybody starts to tingle.

He played all but two or three of the songs on This is the New Year. He also played Say Something on the ukulele. That song isn’t on his CD or EP, but we’ve seen him perform it before, and I know a few people who tear up each time they hear it! (You know who you are!)

IanAxelUkulele

Toward the end of the set, Chad Vaccarino stepped onto the stage. It’s hard to describe how much noise (and joy) can be generated by the roughly 200 people that were stuffed into Joe’s Pub. Obviously, there was no secret as to what the next song was going to be. Chad was rightfully overwhelmed.

ChadVaccarino

Chad is Ian’s manager. He sings lead in one verse and harmony on the others with Ian on This is the New Year. He’s our hero because he’s the one who convinced Ian to start singing. Before that, Ian was just a piano player.

Chad is self-deprecating about his singing style (he sings wonderfully and expressively!), but the most interesting part is that he’s perfectly matched in his energy with Ian, and it all comes across in This is the New Year!

ChadVaccarinoSinging

Two of Ian’s core band members were on hand with two additions.

Chris Anderson played bass and a bit of harmony. We like a lot of bass players, Chris included. But, as with Chad, Chris is perfectly matched with Ian. He has an emotive, energetic style on stage, and he’s fast enough to keep up with some of Ian’s more challenging riffs. Chris is always a joy to watch and listen to.

ChrisAnderson

Adam Christgau on drums and a bit of harmony. We missed Adam the night before at Highline Ballroom (covered in this post, where I specifically mention that). I’ve noted many times that Adam always matches his drumming to the artist and song, but that much of Ian’s music allows Adam to let out his wild child a bit. He was as tight and good as always last night!

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(No, I wasn’t drunk or high, just a little cold. We bumped into Adam before the show while we were on line.) 😉

Adam Tressler was a new addition (for us) playing electric guitar and a bit of harmony. I didn’t hear quite enough to have a strong opinion, but the little I heard was quite nice. Ian’s music doesn’t tend to highlight solo guitars (which is fine) but Adam supported the rest well enough.

AdamTressler

Dave Eggar played the cello on most of the songs. I covered him extensively in yesterday’s post (linked three paragraphs above), so I won’t get too repetitious here. This is the first time we’ve seen Dave sit in with Ian, so the comments I made about how well he blended with ambeR on such short notice probably apply here.

After the show, I accidentally crossed paths with Dave Eggar as he was leaving. I got to say the following to him (100% heartfelt!): “You are perhaps the greatest musician I’ve seen live, on any instrument!”. The fact that his instrument is a cello astounds even me, and I said it! Obviously, that’s a wildly subjective statement, but I’ll let it stand.

Given how active Dave is on stage, and how dark Joe’s Pub is, there wasn’t a single photo of Dave that was worth sharing from last night. 🙁

Ian closed the show with a song that the audience sang along on the chorus. As the song went on, the band left the stage and Ian started playing the piano softer and softer, until the audience was singing with no accompaniment. At that point, Ian slipped off the stage too. The audience was supposed to keep singing (I suppose), but instead erupted in whoops and claps until Ian came out again.

For his encore, he performed Home which also isn’t on the CD or EP (YouTube video of Home) accompanied only by Dave Eggar. A very emotional way to end a spectacular night.

One of the more amazing things is watching the band when they play with Ian. It’s obvious (to me at least) that they are huge fans and aren’t just there to pick up a paycheck (though what indie musician doesn’t desperately need one of those?). They are as happy as we are to be a part of the evening, though their part is just a tad more integral and difficult than ours is.

In case you doubt me when I say how much energy they put into the show, I’ll try and prove that assertion. Ian broke a piano string during the performance. A few minutes later, Adam cracked a drumstick.

I can’t name names, but someone was kind enough to make sure that we got both the piano string and the drumstick as mementos. We’re grateful for that, and we’re willing to share our booty/bounty with the rest of you (at least through these pictures):

PosterBrokenPianoStringDrumstick BrokenPianoStringDrumstick

Greg Holden opened for Ian. We’ve seen Greg a number of times before, and his music continues to grow on me. He started the set a bit more mellow than usual but it had a nice feel. He got more energetic throughout the set.

GregHolden

Ian joined him for one number (just piano, no harmony). Nate Campany joined Greg for one number as well, also just piano. Greg said that he co-wrote that song with Nate.

Dave Eggar joined Greg for two numbers. No such thing as “too much Dave”!

Greg also joined Ian on Say Something. Greg sat at the piano, but didn’t play it (during the song), singing very soft harmony. Before the song started, Greg tickled the keys a bit, threatening to start a couple of Ian songs (including This is the New Year), and Ian retaliated by starting a Greg song on the ukulele. The crowd was in stitches.

Apparently, Ian is giving Greg piano lessons. Even though he only played a few notes, I bet he’ll master it in the not-too-distant future.

After the show, Lois bought a few more T-Shirts (we already had two) and posters. If you’ve watched the video (if you haven’t, shame on you) then you might recognize that Lois had one of the women in the video model the poster for us (and now you):

PosterModel

You have two chances to catch Ian on the East Coast before he heads out west. In Philadelphia at Tin Angel this Sunday, then on March 12th at Nightcat in Easton, MD. If you can, do it, you won’t regret it!

ambeR Rubarth at Highline Ballroom

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amber Rubarth is an extraordinary singer/songwriter. I’ve written about her many times. Here is the post about her CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub. Last night she headlined the Highline Ballroom and created another exceptional performance (a DVD of the show will be available later this year!).

Highline Ballroom is the biggest stage and room we’ve seen ambeR in to date. She nailed it both with a full band (eight people on stage at one point) and solo, owning the room at both ends of the spectrum.

She opened with the core of the full band, performing Full Moon in Paris from her current CD, Good Mystery. Throughout the set, musicians came and went in a fluid transition to create the right sound for each number.

ambeRRubarthGuitar ambeRRubarthKeyboards

The core band consisted of:

Tony Maceli on bass (upright and electric). I’ve written about Tony many times, including the above-referenced show at Joe’s Pub. He’s consistently wonderful on the bass, and was the musical coordinator for the New York Sings for Haiti benefit at City Winery. He’s tireless and a positive addition to anyone he’s performing with.

TonyMacelli HadarTonyMacelli

Dave Eggar on cello. I’ve written about Dave twice before. He’s beyond awesome. He does things with/on the cello that you don’t typically see others attempt, let alone nail, including playing it across his knee like it was a guitar. He plays effortless leads on the cello that are as mesmerizing as great lead guitar solos.

DaveEggarCelloAsGuitar

All of that would be impressive enough (like I said, we felt that way from the first time we saw him) but last night was even more amazing. He’s never played with ambeR before, and rehearsed with her for the first time just 24 hours before show time. That would be fine if he were playing some light background role. He was not. His parts in each song were the highlights of the instrumental sections, and ambeR had a tough time containing her joy every time he thrilled the crowd!

Sarab Singh (ambeR introduced him as Sar Singh) played the drums. While we were somewhat disappointed that Adam Christgau wasn’t there last night (one of our favorite drummers, and normally drumming for ambeR and The Paper Raincoat), ambeR has excellent tastes in drummers all around. At her CD Release show Billy Hawn played (excellent).

SarabSingh

Sar was fantastic at the Haiti benefit, so I didn’t worry in advance whether he’d be good. Thankfully, he was great, not just good. He has the same sensibilities that Adam has, knowing exactly how to deliver not just the right beat, but the right touch, including all the right sound effects (cow bell, rims of the drums, etc.) at the exact right moment.

I’m pretty sure Adam will be playing with Ian Axel tonight at Joe’s Pub, so we’ll get our fix then, and we can now safely add Sar Singh to our list of drummers who will enhance any performers show!

In addition to the above core, Threeds played on at least three numbers (coincidence? I think not!) 😉 and they were awesome, as always. They are an integral part of the ever-wonderful In the Creases and Edge of My Seat.

ThreedsDaveEggar ThreedsSmiling

Paul Brill came out to sing with ambeR on three numbers as well (including playing the part of Alex Wong on In The Creases).

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David Fallo joined for one number on viola.

DavidFallo

I mentioned above the fluidity of getting people on and off the stage. With eight people on stage for Edge of My Seat, ambeR transitioned to just two, she and Dave Eggar for Rough Cut. Dave was spectacular on every number, but this one truly highlighted him, as he carried every second that ambeR wasn’t singing (and of course, supported her voice and guitar even when she was singing!).

Dave then quietly stepped off the stage and ambeR debuted a solo number called Lonelier Self (that might just be the short version, or working title). A gorgeous song that had all eyes and ears focused on ambeR. I doubt there was a single person there wondering where the rest of the band was.

After a one hour set, capped off with a Tom Waits cover (sung with Paul Brill), ambeR came out for an encore. She performed Washing Day (a song she co-wrote with Adam Levy). Joining her were Dave Eggar and special guest star Ian Axel (who has his own show tonight at Joe’s Pub).

IanAxel

We hung around a bit afterward to catch up with some folks, and to buy a couple more of ambeR’s CDs to give as gifts. An absolutely fantastic night out!

IanAxelLois LoisAmberRubarth

Opening the show was Cara Salimando accompanied by Julia Sinclair. Cara is a 17-year-old singer/songwriter. She played electric piano on all but one number, where she finger-picked the ukulele quite beautifully. She has an excellent voice, but still has some work to do to smoothly hit some of the higher notes. She’s young, it will come in time, I’m sure.

CaraSalimando CaraSalimandoUkulele

Julia Sinclair accompanied her on every song, playing half on the cello and half on the guitar. She also sang harmony a bit, not enough if you ask me. She plays the cello very well (though there was a slight buzz on the bass notes). I was more impressed with her guitar play. She’s an excellent complement to Cara. The set was exactly 30 minutes.

JuliaSinclairCello JuliaSinclairGuitar

After resetting the stage, Kaiser Cartel came out. Kaiser Cartel is a duo comprising Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel (however did they come up with the name of the band?). They’re a reasonably straightforward rock ‘n roll band, putting out a pretty big sound for just two people (though they were joined for two or three numbers by someone who’s name I thought was Jeff Kraft, but now I’m sure that’s wrong).

Here’s a picture of the guy whose name I’m not remembering, sorry!:

Kraft

Courtney has an exceptional voice. She mostly played the acoustic guitar, but it was also connected to a muff pedal so she created some classical electric guitar sounds. She also played what seemed like a one-handed accordion. She played with her right hand and used the left to pull the bellows part in and out. She also played a glockenspiel, but with an electric device (looked like a cross between a grouting tool and an electric toothbrush!) so she got a fast ringing sound (like a telephone!) every time she struck a key!

CourtneyKaiserGuitarCourtneyKaiserOneHandedAccordionCourtneyKaiserGlockenspiel

Benjamin has a nice voice and harmonized well with Courtney. He played drums and acoustic guitar. One some songs he only played the drums. On the others he played the guitar, but continued to play the drum line with his foot. It contributed to their big sound for just two people.

BenjaminCartelDrums BenjaminCartelGuitarDrums

Nina Lee on cello joined them for two numbers. She’s excellent!

NinaLee

For their last number they did something very cool. Courtney asked the crowd to be as quiet as they could. They then came off the stage and walked throughout the entire audience (covering a very large room) and sang a song (Benjamin played the guitar, unplugged of course) stopping at practically every table and singing a line within a few inches of the people sitting there. It was pretty powerful to be so up close and personal.

KaiserCartelInTheCrowd

They were on for roughly 45 minutes before ambeR came out. If you want to help them fund their new CD, the info is below (click any picture in this post to enlarge it):

KaiserCartelNewCD

When we were heading down in the cab I tweeted a friend asking if she’d be there. She showed up a little later with her friend and they were able to join us at our table right up at the stage so we had some good times and good food before the show started. They bought CDs from ambeR too and the four of us shared a cab home after the show.

Closing with a pet peeve. I’ve written too many times (here we go again) about how rude some people can be when they speak loudly during a performance. That happened a bit last night too (not too bad for such a large room). But, what shocked me was that the worst offender last night was a performer. We’ve seen this person on stage once before (no names) so it was doubly shocking that they would ever treat someone in a manner that I can only imagine would annoy them if it happened during their show. Oh well…