Music

Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood Music Hall

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We attended a Leave a Lasting Mark benefit show on Thursday. Rebecca Haviland was one of the many performers that night. She performed a version of Carolina On My Mind that captivated the audience. You can read about it here.

Even though we had a jam-packed 48 hours in between, I admit that I was still distracted a number of times, anticipating Rebecca performing a full set at Rockwood Music Hall.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

This was only the second full set that we’ve seen by Rebecca. The first one was five weeks ago. In that post I mis-identified one of her new songs as “Sing”. Looking more closely at the set list (and having Rebecca correct me), it’s called Sins. She didn’t play it last night, so I don’t know why I felt the need to correct that here. Winking smile

Rebecca is in the midst of a writing spree. We all are the beneficiaries of that. Well, all of us who see her perform live. Later today she should be launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new CD (I’ll update this post with the link once I get it). Once that gets funded (and it will!), the rest of you who don’t live in NYC or don’t come out for live music, can hear what I’m talking about.

While Rebecca sings a variety of styles (all equally well), at heart, she’s a blues rocker, and a darn good one. Last night’s set was mostly originals (I love every one of them) plus a few extraordinary covers. One of my favorites (it grabbed me the first time I heard it) is If You. The chorus has a recurring “Oh, oh oh oh oh”. At times Rebecca is singing that too, at other times she’s singing over that.

The last time we saw her, she invited the crowd to sing the “Oh, oh oh oh oh” part with her and we all did. Last night, without thinking about it, I started singing it (out loud) with her. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the audience singing (as we weren’t explicitly invited this time). Even though I was self-conscious for a second, I admit to continuing to sing it each time the chorus repeated. Ha, that’s how I roll (occasionally, OK, rarely). Winking smile

We didn’t snag the set list (I’ll have to talk to my minions about that oversight!), so I can’t share all the song titles with you. In addition to If You, I’m sure Rebecca played Collide With Me and Direction (also new, unreleased) along with at least two other brand new ones.

The two other covers were her signature version of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog and another Zeppelin number that she morphed into (and back out of) mid-song.

After singing two songs with the band, Rebecca dismissed them and fulfilled my secret wish. She played Carolina On My Mind. For those of us who had seen her perform it Thursday, there was a deep satisfaction in not having had to wait too long to hear it again. For the newbies, I can only assume that their minds were sufficiently blown. In my next post (there will be four today!) you’ll see that I need to use my extraordinary powers of mind control more often (I promise to use my powers for good only).

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Before bringing the band back, Rebecca brought back Chris Anderson. In addition to being Rebecca’s bass player (electric bass last night), Chris is also Rebecca’s primary writing partner on her current project. He’s also been singing background vocals a lot more, thanks to Rebecca prodding him. In addition to singing a lot of harmony last night, Chris also sang lead on one number, kicking off the first verse on his own.

ChrisAndersonSinging

We got to meet Chris’ parents, who came to hear him serenade his fans:

ChrisAndersonParents

After one (or possibly two) numbers performed by Rebecca and Chris alone, the rest of the band rejoined.

Greg Mayo on keyboards and background vocals. Fantastic, as always. I’ll have more to say about Greg in the next three posts.

GregMayo

Kenny Shaw on drums. After seeing Kenny perform five times in one week, he decided to hide from us. Exactly one month later, we picked up his trail again. He was his usual solid self, complementing Rebecca really well. In particular, when Rebecca morphed into her second Zeppelin cover, Kenny was instrumental in supporting her.

KennyShaw

Sierra Noble was called up as a special guest to play the violin/fiddle on one number, taking a long solo. The sound complemented Rebecca perfectly (though a good violin solo complements a variety of music beautifully). My third post of the night will be about Sierra Noble’s own set, but the other two will mention her as well. Last night was a big ol’ party. Smile

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Before Thursday’s benefit, we reached out to Rebecca and asked her to bring all of her previous CDs for us to purchase. We got two of them at the show (a full CD: Three Thousand Miles and an EP: What I’m Sayin’). As I noted at the top, we had a very busy 48 hours, so I haven’t gotten to listen to either yet (hopefully later today).

Last night, Rebecca brought us the earliest one, Taking Advice From Strangers (from 2003-2004). I’m listening to that one now while typing this. Gorgeous. A bitt Jazzier than much of her current stuff, with as perfect a voice as you could hope for. Lovely lyrics, I’m drifting… a.w..a…y….

Here’s a suggestion for Rebecca: make one of your levels on Kickstarter include all of your past CDs (I suggest $50) so that your more recent fans can find out that your talent is deep, broad, wide, and consistent, for at least eight years, probably more! (Disclaimer: this advice is free, I am not a paid endorser.) Winking smile

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall

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Prior to seeing this show we attended a benefit concert at The Bitter End. I wrote about it here, which included a section on Bri Arden (the subject of this post). After it was over, Lois couldn’t keep her eyes open, so she grabbed a cab and headed home. Unfortunately, she took her camera with her. I took five shots with my (original) Droid. All were so bad that I won’t insult anyone who was on stage by posting them, so there will be no photos.

I walked from The Bitter End to see Bri and her band perform at Rockwood Music Hall. For those that care, including waiting at a few lights, it took 18 minutes.

I’ve seen Bri sing lead on two songs, at two different Leave a Lasting Mark benefits (both at The Bitter End). She was spectacular both times. I was very interested in seeing her headline her own set.

In addition to being a singer/songwriter, Bri is also a student at Columbia University. This year she entered the Battle of the College Bands. She won in the NY region! Yet another reason to go see her. The place was mobbed, so I wasn’t the only genius with the idea to do this.

Bri has a fantastic voice. She brings a passion to her singing that’s infectious. For the first time, I was hearing songs that she wrote (or co-wrote). They were all good in terms of being catchy. Given how much was happening on stage, I can’t say that I heard all of the lyrics (or could pay close attention to them), so I’ll save heavier comments about that aspect for a future post. What I heard, I liked, so I don’t mean to imply anything negative.

This was a show, not just a singer/songwriter performance. For starters, this was the most people that I’ve ever seen on the Rockwood 1 stage at the same time, nine for two songs, eight for most of the rest. In addition to a full band, there were two full-time backup singers (without instruments).

I kept thinking that this group of 8+ people could easily fill the sound of a much larger place (by much larger, I mean 1000+ seat places!).

Not counting Bri, five of the eight people on stage were part of the earlier benefit show, so you can click on the link in the first sentence on top to see what I had to say about each of them. I’ll be extremely brief here.

Backup singers: Kate Ferber and Valerie Mize. Each is a legitimate lead singer in their own right (not a theoretical comment, they each are lead singers). That gives them a sensibility and a voice to complement Bri perfectly.

Justin Goldner on electric bass. Simply an awesome bass player (or, as they add in the show Wicked, “Well, not so simply!”).

Jake Cohen on drums. Excellent. I was particularly impressed that he was not too loud, even though he was supporting eight other people. In Rockwood 1, it’s unbelievable easy (and therefore common) for a drummer to be crazy loud when there are electric instruments.

Ian Schaefer on trumpet. Ian was excellent, as he was earlier at the benefit.

Two additional musicians joined Bri for most of the songs:

Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. I’ve seen Oscan once before, at the Soul Revue Benefit. He was excellent that night, but less highlighted, by necessity. Last night, as part of a much smaller ensemble, Oscar was a main component of Bri’s sound. He was more obviously excellent. Smile

Jason Wexler on grand piano and electronic keyboards. I just saw Jason support Jeff Litman on a few numbers this past Monday at the same piano. He was excellent then, as he was last night.

Craig Wilson joined Bri on three numbers, two on acoustic guitar (which made it nine on stage) and once at the piano (when he replaced Jason during that song). Bri introduced him as one of her main writing partners, so presumably Craig co-wrote all three of the songs. He didn’t sing when he was playing guitar and I couldn’t see him on the piano (but I could hear him play very well).

All in all, a very exciting show delivered with extremely high energy. The crowd would not let Bri off the stage without an encore and Rockwood obliged, even though Bri’s set started a bit late and therefore had run a bit over as well.

I’m glad I made the effort and I will happily do it again.

Leave a Lasting Mark Benefit at The Bitter End

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Sam Teichman produces a monthly benefit concert. Each show benefits a specific charity. Each show has a specific theme and is epic in terms of the number of artists and their individual and combined talents. You can follow Sam on Twitter to get alerts about each show.

SamTeichman

Last night’s show benefitted Sean Casey Animal Rescue. The theme was the songs of James Taylor and Carole King. We’ll get to the myriad performers in a minute.

Poster

You should come to these shows for any one of the following reasons:

  • You are doing a good deed by supporting a variety of good causes (one per show)
  • You will hear great music because the themes are built around well-known artists
  • You will see/hear amazing performances by incredibly talented local musicians
  • Come more than once and see how quickly you feel like you’re part of a community
  • Discover talented musicians who you will want to follow in their own career
  • Marvel at the spectacle of shuffling as many as 15 performers on/off stage on each song, quickly and efficiently

In addition to coordinating (producing) the entire show, Sam is also the MC for the evening. He introduces every act and every performer (multiple times). He tirelessly promotes them and the recipient of the donations. It’s important to know that the musicians donate 100% of their time (including rehearsals). Every penny raised goes directly to the charity.

Sam has a crew of volunteers that film each show and the clips eventually make their way on to YouTube. You can see clips from past shows (among other shows that Sam has filmed) at his YouTube Channel. Sam also produces CDs of the shows. He solicits additional donations for a performance by offering free copies of CDs from past shows. You aren’t buying the CDs, you are being rewarded for your generosity by being able to take the CDs home for your enjoyment. Smile

There were some minor changes in the order of a few songs (to accommodate artists who were late or had to leave a bit early), but for the most part, these Set Lists are accurate (every image in every post can be clicked on for a larger version):

SetList1SetList2SetList3

For my sanity (and hopefully yours), I will cover only the main singers, in the order they appeared, then add all the amazing side-people (so as not to have to mention each multiple times). You can refer back to the set lists above to see which side-person supported which lead singer. It should be noted that nearly every side-person sang lead on one song as well, which will cut down on the extra side-people needed to be covered at the end.

I’ll add a (1st time) to any artists who we’ve never seen before.

Valerie Mize sang I Feel the Earth Move. We just saw Valerie perform at Backscratch XIV this past Monday. It was our first time hearing her sing lead and I knew it wouldn’t be our last. I didn’t know our next one would be this close, but I’m glad it was. Valerie opened the show with a bang! I Feel the Earth Move is a rich, earthy song. Valerie’s rich, earthy voice is perfectly suited for it.

ValerieMizeSethFaulk

Bri Arden sang Smackwater Jack. The first time I heard Bri was at our first Leave a Lasting Mark show, a Soul Revue Benefit. She blew me (and the rest of the audience) away with her rendition of Proud Mary, Tina Turner style. She was equally good on Smackwater Jack, but the song itself doesn’t call for the same heart palpitations that Proud Mary does.

BriArden

My next post will be all about Bri. She headlined a show at Rockwood Music Hall shortly after this benefit was over. She, and her amazing band, were all troopers for doing this benefit and then running over to do their own show. Bravo!

Keith Paine sang Mexico (1st time). He did a very nice job, so it likely won’t be our last time seeing him. This was the first time that the horn section showed up, which added to the vibe quite nicely. I’ll cover them at the bottom of the post.

KeithPaine

Jenna Marotta sang It’s Too Late (1st time). Sam introduced Jenna with a nice story. Jenna attended a previous benefit show to see a friend of hers perform. After the show, Jenna contacted Sam and asked for an opportunity to sing at one herself. Ask and ye shall receive. Jenna did a nice job. It took her a bit longer to warm up to the mic than the others. She has a lovely voice when she lets it out.

JennaMarotta

Rebecca Haviland sang Carolina On My Mind. Rebecca was the first to perform a song solo. She accompanied herself on electric guitar. I’ve written about Rebecca a number of times (all glowingly). One of her (many) talents is her absolutely extraordinary voice. While we’ve heard her voice soar (clearly) above a crowded stage of loud instruments, seeing her sing solo, accompanied by a quiet guitar, was a magical thing to behold.

RebeccaHaviland

Before singing, Rebecca mentioned that she was nervous to sing her take on such a classic song. I was expecting something wildly different than the original given Rebecca’s incredible take on Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog (nowhere similar to the original, other than sharing the same lyrics). While Rebecca’s Carolina On My Mind was definitely more soulful, it wasn’t a radical departure from the original. It was stunning, nonetheless.

Shira Goldberg was up next. Before I get to her performance, two digressions. Lois captured this photo of Rebecca and Shira before the show started. They were letting the crowd know that they had (fraternal) twin guitars:

RebeccaHavilandShiraGoldbergSisterGuitars

Before she sang, Shira wryly thanked Sam for placing her immediately after Rebecca. Winking smile It was a self-deprecating (and classy) way for Shira to pay a lovely compliment to Rebecca’s performance.

Shira sang Some Kind of Wonderful. She was, indeed, some kind of wonderful herself. We’d seen Shira only once before, at a Livestrong benefit (in 2009!). That night, she joked that she only knew depressing songs. Even though she didn’t feel it was appropriate to sing a depressing song at a cancer survivor’s benefit, she had no choice. Last night she joked that she should sing happier songs. At least she could pick one by someone else this time. Smile

ShiraGoldberg

Scott Stein sang Way Over Yonder. Sam had mentioned earlier that they weren’t pigeon-holing any of the performers into sticking to the appropriate gender (males singing James Taylor, etc.). As much as I enjoyed Scott’s singing with his group, The Ramblers (my most recent post about them can be read here), I’m not sure he was well-suited to this song, vocally.

ScottStein

No matter. Not only did Scott destroy on the piano, he was the primary piano sideman on most of the numbers. He was crazy amazing on every one. I wasn’t surprised, as he was unreal at The Ramblers show as well, but many of the songs last night have natural piano runs that are gorgeous (think: Carole King), so Scott got to constantly show his wares.

David Kantor sang Something in the Way She Moves (no good individual link, but read to the bottom to get a band link!, and 1st time). He did a fine job singing, but to me, it wasn’t really about his singing. In addition to singing lead on this song and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, David was the primary acoustic guitar sideman for the evening. Much of his play was phenomenal finger-picking that I could have listened to with no voices or other instruments, all night long!

DavidKantor

Later in the show, in what appeared to be a complete ad-lib, David put down his acoustic guitar mid-song, walked over to the electric bass (which was un-manned), signaled to the bassists on the sideline (asking permission to pick up one of their basses) and finished the song on the bass.

DavidKantorBass

When David was done, I did something I have never done before. I called Sam over and told him that the far left microphone (used by the backup singers) was way too low (it had been since the first song). Sam told Chris who was working the sound booth. Chris corrected the problem perfectly. Thanks Sam and Chris, it became critical just two songs later!

Jake Cohen sang How Sweet It Is (1st time). Jake was one of three primary drummers throughout the night. He was excellent on the drums and he did an excellent job on the vocals as well. He also had four background vocalists and a full band, making this a very rich sounding song.

JakeCohen

Justin Goldner sang Home Again (1st time). Justin did a very nice job singing and playing the piano on this number. That said, for the majority of the evening, he was one of three primary bass players. He was truly awesome on the bass. I noticed how good he was on the very first song. But when Bri sang Smackwater Jack, Justin was so good that I recall thinking I never realized how sophisticated some of the bass lines were (or could be) in Folk/Pop tunes of yesteryear.

JustinGoldnerKateFerberJustinGoldnerBass

Kate Ferber sang Natural Woman (1st time). I need to back up before I cover Kate’s performance on this song. Kate was singing backup with David Kantor. I could barely hear her, which is what prompted me to call Sam over after that song (I couldn’t hear Bri singing with Valerie, or Valerie singing with Bri either, on that mic). Kate is pictured above, singing backup with Justin. She is holding the same mic that I couldn’t hear earlier, but after Chris upped the volume.

That was very important, because even though Kate was singing background, for a good part of the song, it was more like a duet than just some light harmony. Her voice was excellent and it would have been a real shame to have lost it (again).

Kate came to center stage to sing Natural Woman. She was fantastic. Great voice, warmth and stage presence. All around excellent delivery of a great song.

KateFerber

Abby Bernstein sang Steamroller (1st time). When Sam introduced Abby, he said she was fresh off of opening for Bare Naked Ladies in front of 14,000 people. Abby corrected him that he was off by a zero, that it was actually 1,400. A few seconds later, she added “I meant 14,000,000!”. Good start. Quick wit is one of the most welcome traits in a stage performer. Smile

AbbyBernstein

Thankfully, humor is not Abby’s only weapon. She has an excellent voice along with excellent stage presence. She too delivered a fine performance.

Paul Tabachneck sang Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1st time). Wow. Great voice, great delivery, nice job on the acoustic guitar. He (or rather Sam) introduced this as Paul’s interpretation of Will You Love Me Tomorrow. I place it in the same category as Rebecca’s interpretation of Carolina On My Mind, meaning, not as far afield from the original as the introduction would have you believe.

PaulTabachneck

Andy Mac sang Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. We’ve seen Andy once before and he was very good, so I wasn’t surprised that he delivered again last night.

AndyMac

Kaylin Lee Clinton sang So Far Away (1st time). This was the first departure from the set lists shown above, due to a late arrival. Kaylin sang backup earlier (beautifully) so I was excited to see her step up to center stage. No disappointment! Kaylin delivered So Far Away (another great song), wonderfully. Excellent voice, great stage presence.

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Kaylin sang backup a few times. Here’s a shot of her with Shira (there’s another one below with Seth).

KaylinLeeClintonShiraGoldberg

Patryk Larney sang Sweet Baby James (1st time). I’ve seen so many tweets over the last year about Patryk that I felt like I almost knew him. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what he would sound like. Now I do and I’m a big fan. Excellent voice, good guitar play.

PatrykLarney

Jeremiah Birnbaum sang You’ve Got a Friend. I’m already a huge fan of Jeremiah’s (he’s Scott Stein’s partner-in-crime in The Ramblers). Jeremiah was the primary electric guitarist on most songs last night, but for You’ve Got a Friend, he dropped the guitar and took center stage with just a mic in hand. What an incredible delivery of an all-time great song. Excellent voice, but he also created an emotional atmosphere that sucked me in.

JeremiahBirnbaum

Chris Kelly sang Jelly Man Kelly (no good link, and 1st time). Chris was one of three primary bass players for the night. He did a fine job on the bass whenever he was up. For this song he took center stage and accompanied himself on the electric bass. Highly unusual to see a solo bass player singing. He pulled off this fun song that James Taylor played on Sesame Street!

ChristopherKelly

I can’t take it any longer. I have to admit that I lied when I said Chris(topher) performed solo. Off in the corner of the stage, at the grand piano, Sam Teichman accompanied Chris on the tambourine. Yes, our own Sam showed his musical/percussion chops. I guess the old saying “It’s good to be the boss” is certainly true! Winking smile

Caleb Hawley sang Fire and Rain. Caleb was late, necessitating the earlier shifts, but he made it in plenty of time. He was in a suit, so perhaps he came from an interview on Celebrity Apprentice. Winking smile

CalebHawley

Caleb is one of our favorites. He has a wonderful voice, plays guitar so well, in a style I’m not accustomed to hearing and in general, he’s just a ton of fun on stage. He performed one of my favorite songs as well. That said, he wasn’t himself last night. Perhaps rushing in threw him off, perhaps whatever kept him stopped him from rehearsing properly.

To be clear, Caleb at his worst is better than many solid performers’ best, but it’s a far cry from his own best.

In an understandable irony, Caleb was considered one of the bigger draws of the show. He was the only lead singer to be given two songs. The second was no better than the first. Oh well, there’s no way this affects my opinion of Caleb, nor stops me from jumping through hoops to see him again! Smile

Jeff Litman sang Country Road. Jeff did a great job on a great song. Still, Jeff and I need to stop meeting like this. This was the third set that Jeff sang in that we attended, just this week. The first was his own birthday bash. He then kicked off Backscratch XIV. In addition to singing lead and playing acoustic guitar on this number, Jeff was the third of the primary bass players last night. The first time we ever saw Jeff was when he played bass at the Soul Revue, so this seemed fitting to see him tear up the bass again.

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Give a person a finger and they demand a hand. As you can see in the picture above, Sam Teichman moved from the far corner (near the piano) to the middle of the stage, to continue showing off his tambourine mastery. Next time, center stage, singing lead. Got it Sam? Smile

Jeff’s song fittingly closed the show, with highlights by Chris Kelly on bass and Jeremiah Birnbaum on electric guitar.

JeffLitmanChristopherKellyJeremiahBirnbaum

That said, all of the side-people were excellent on every number, so let’s name the few that didn’t sing lead and add some photos for those that sang lead, but played larger roles supporting the others throughout the set.

Seth Faulk on drums, percussion and background vocals. Seth was great on all three. I’ve noted in another post that Seth sang harmony one night from the audience, standing right behind me and that his voice was really good. That was true last night again, but this time it was on stage at a microphone. I’d like to hear him sing lead as well.

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KaylinLeeClintonSethFaulkValerieMizeBriArdenKateFerberSethFaulk

Robert LaFalce on grand piano. Robert was a real trooper. One of the pianists that was scheduled to play is Matt Simons. Unfortunately, his car was broken into the night before (we keep hearing about traveling musicians getting their equipment stolen, it’s heart-breaking). Robbie filled in at the last minute and performed his parts perfectly. He was also charming the few times he opened his mouth. Smile

RobbieLaFalce

We saw Robbie only once before, at the Soul Revue, but he only played percussion that night. Another local multi-instrumentalist (they seem to be everywhere you look nowadays!). Winking smile

Matt Arbeiter on drums and percussion (no good link, and 1st time). Matt handled his drumming and percussion duties excellently.

MattArbeiterDrumsMattArbeiterPercussion

Ian Schaefer on trumpet. Ian was superb. Not quite as highlighted as the other member of the horn section, but integral nonetheless.

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Jonathan Kantor on saxophone. Jonathan was excellent on every number that he appeared in (which was many). He was highlighted a bit more than Ian (as noted above).

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Sam tried to calm the crowd down when he saw people rubbing their eyes. It turns out that David and Jonathan are twins and Sam assured people that they were not seeing double! Winking smile

I could tell the difference between them in two ways: 1) Their shirt colors were different and 2) They played different instruments! Smile

DavidKantorJonathanKantor

Jonathan’s fiancée was in the audience. Big deal, right? Wrong! They are getting married this Sunday. He needed permission to play last night (naturally!). She said yes (by my count, that makes at least twice!). Winking smile

When we left, we bumped into the Kantor twins on the corner. First Lois shook each of their hands individually as she told them how awesome they were. Then I reached my hand out as both of them did, and we ended up in a perfectly natural three-handed shake, with my hand around both of theirs. Twins indeed! Smile

Congratulations Jonathan, best of luck on Sunday and the rest of your lives together.

In searching for David Kantor (and not finding a good individual link), I came across a band that both brothers are in, as are Kate Ferber and Justin Goldner (among others). The band is called Grand Central Sound. The very first YouTube video that I stumbled across made me realize what a connection we have to the twins (even though they don’t know it yet!).

Ten days ago I wrote about a Campfire event at Slane. During that set, Lois requested Into the Mystic by Van Morrison. Martin played it for her. Here’s a video of Grand Central Sound performing the same song (much richer sound due to the full band), with David Kantor singing lead (and giving me way more of a sense of his singing chops than he did last night!):

Grand Central Sound, featuring David Kantor singing Into the Mystic

Backscratch XIV at Rockwood Music Hall

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We’ve only been to one Backscratch before, but we’ll do our best to never miss one going forward. Last night was #14, but I decided to show off my mad Roman Numeral skills in the title. Winking smile This one was back at Rockwood Music Hall (not the original venue). I covered the last one and explained the concept thusly:

Here’s the concept: gather a bunch of musicians. Each plays three songs. Traditionally (or so the legend goes) each played one original song, one well-known cover and one cover of another of the evening’s musicians, which they were each assigned at random! Now, it’s often two originals followed by the backscratch.

Backscratch was conceived by Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer, the same geniuses that brought Campfires to the world. Since Martin is touring in the UK and Europe at the moment, and Craig is probably on the road with Rachel Platten, neither was there. No matter, the MC duties were performed by Christina Morelli of NYC Art Scene fame.

We would have gone even if none of the musicians was known to us. That wasn’t the case last night, as only two of the nine performers were strangers to us. A number of them are counted among our favorites!

Jeff Litman opened the show because his band’s equipment was already on stage from his birthday set. He performed the more traditional 3-song set. He opened with a solo acoustic cover, Never Going Back Again, by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. What a way to kick off Backscratch XIV!

JeffLitman

Jeff’s band (Bryan Dunn, Matt Basile and Elliot Jacobson) joined him for the next two numbers. The first was his original, Everything You’re Not (from his current CD, Postscript). Jeff closed his trio with a cover of Valerie Mize (his backscratch), Promises, from her Auspices EP.

I’m not going to be able to name every song from every artist, since I do this from memory (and I don’t know all of their songs well enough anyway). Where I think I know/remember, I’ll say so.

Jesse Terry was up next, solo with an acoustic guitar. Jesse is one of our favorites, so we knew we’d enjoy his numbers. I was more curious to hear what his backscratch would be (they are assigned randomly). Jesse opened with Pearl Diver, a very new song (which we’ve heard before, since we do our best to show up whenever and wherever Jesse performs). Next up was Scared of Nothing, another Jesse original. His voice was incredible on both numbers.

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For his backscratch, Jesse drew Live Society. If you read anything I write, you likely know how much I love Live Society. Given how amazing Jesse’s voice is, and how well he handles the guitar, I admit to being extremely excited about this. He performed No One, which isn’t on their current EP. It was fantastic (both the song, and Jesse’s interpretation), so I’m seriously hoping it will be on Live Society’s forthcoming CD!

I played a critical role during the performance (which you might someday get to see on YouTube, since the entire evening was filmed by Sam Teichman). There was quite a breeze inside Rockwood and the sheet music (most of the backscratchers require some cheat sheet) was flapping off the music stand. I bravely reached up and held the corner of Jesse’s sheet for the entire song, saving the day! Winking smile

Please allow me a digression here (or skip ahead, I might not even be able to tell). I used the word interpretation above for a few reasons. First, there’s the obvious one (in this case), where Jesse is a solo artist trying to reproduce a song performed by a band that crushes three-part harmony, and is accompanied by guitar, keyboards, bass and drums (usually).

Second, the backscratch is often a song that was learned quickly, at times even on the day of the show, so it’s not likely to be a studied copy. But the most important thing is that it’s often a true artistic interpretation, in the sense of paying homage to the original artist by delivering it to them in your style (for most cases, the original artist is hearing it live then and there).

Jesse delivered No One in his own style. I absolutely would have believed it was one of his songs if he had introduced it as such. After singing it, he met Live Society for the first time. How cool is that, practically and conceptually?

LiveSocietyJesseTerry

Unfortunately, Jesse had to leave shortly after performing. He had an early trip this morning, heading to Greenland, just shy of the North Pole (of all places). He’ll be serenading our troops there for the next week or so. He didn’t get to hear the backscratch that covered him (we’ll get to that later).

Valerie Mize was up next. She performed two originals with her band (Antar Goodwin on electric bass and Tomo Kanno on drums). She opened with Downtown Train. She followed that with a new number. She played electric guitar on both, finger picking (beautifully) for the most part, and strumming without a pick the rest of the time. She has a beautiful voice.

ValerieMizeSinging

We’ve seen Valerie only once before, at the Soul Benefit where she sang backup. Here’s what I wrote about her performance that night:

For most numbers, there were three or four backup singers on stage. All but one sang lead as well, so I’ll mention them in a second. The only backup singer who didn’t sing lead on at least one song was Valerie Mize. She did a wonderful job. I’m sure if there was more time, she too would have taken a turn at the center mic and wow’ed us.

I’d never seen Antar or Tomo before. Both did a very good job and are well-matched with Valerie.

AntarGoodwinTomoKonno

For her backscratch, Valerie dismissed the band and moved to the grand piano. She sang Ophelia by John Schmitt. He too is one of our favorites, as is that specific song (title cut from his current CD). Valerie played the piano beautifully and sang a very soulful version of Ophelia.

ValerieMizePiano

Patrick Firth was up next. We’ve seen Patrick many times, but last night was a first on two scores. We’d never seen him perform an original and we’d never seen him play anything other than keyboards. Instead of heading for the grand piano in the corner, Patrick (his friends seem to call him Pat, but that feels presumptuous on my part) sat on a stool, center stage, and sang an original accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. Very nicely done!

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I already knew he had a nice voice (you can read about it in this post). Now I know that he can write and sing his own stuff (that night was covers) and play the guitar as well.

Patrick then moved to the piano and performed a brand new song that he wrote over the post three days (finishing it yesterday!). He plays with the Big Apple Circus and wrote it while in CT, on breaks, between shows.

PatrickFirthPiano

For his backscratch, Patrick played Grow by Nick Howard. What a fantastic job. We had just seen Nick perform a full set earlier that night (with a full band), next door at Rockwood 2 (covered here). He played that song with the full band. Patrick’s rendition was very different and equally beautiful.

Unfortunately, Nick hadn’t made it over to Rockwood 1 yet, so he missed hearing Patrick nail his song.

John Schmitt was up next. That alone would be reason enough for celebration. But, in a complete surprise for me, John brought up Greg Mayo to play guitar with him. John opened with Two Souls.

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Greg played some amazing guitar solos (surprise!) and sang a few words (way too few) of harmony (very nicely). He played Patrick Firth’s guitar.

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Next John played Going Back (a fantastic new song of his, that isn’t on the Ophelia CD). Typically, he has a female voice singing harmony with him. Greg basically filled that role with guitar leads. Holy moly, it was awesome.

John is currently raising money to record that song professionally. We contributed early. Even though we did (quite happily), we noted to each other that the raw version John has up on his donation page is quite beautiful. We worried (privately) whether people would wonder why he needs/wants another version. Having heard how different it can sound by just adding another guitar (admittedly, one played by Greg Mayo!), made us just contribute a second time. We no longer doubt John Schmitt’s wisdom. Smile

Greg then left the stage and tried to take Patrick’s guitar with him. John kept it, asking Patrick if he could use it for his backscratch (John had broken a string earlier, and had to use a different one in its place. I’ll spare you the groaners about a broken G-string.) Winking smile

Patrick agreed to let John use the guitar, until John admitted that his backscratch was none other than Patrick. At that point Patrick said: “Then NO!”. Of course, he was kidding, but it was funny nonetheless.

I don’t know the name of the song, but it was great. So, Patrick can indeed write, and we already knew that John can deliver. A great combo!

Lara Ewen was up next, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. I had never heard of Lara, so I didn’t recognize the two originals that she played. They were both nice and I like her voice.

LaraEwen

For her backscratch, she drew Jesse Terry. She was quite funny in pointing out that most people give excuses like “I had to miss your performance because I was at the North Pole, but that in Jesse’s case, it was the truth!”. Winking smile She added that she was happy about that, because she was reasonably sure she was going to butcher his number.

She chose The Runner (the title cut from Jesse’s CD). She was correct in knowing that she hadn’t quite nailed the song, but I certainly wouldn’t say she butchered it, just that certain parts caused her some grief. Winking smile

Benjamin Wagner was up next, also accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Benjamin was the only other performer I hadn’t heard of before. In this case, it turned out to be a little less mysterious. He has a full-time job and a one-year-old, which has slowed down his live performances dramatically.

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Of all the performers, he was the chattiest. While I found his style entertaining and the content interesting and well-delivered, he was also the only one who cursed (and quite a bit at that). I’m no prude, but it was still jarring in contrast to the rest of the show.

He has a very good voice and plays the guitar well enough. That said, neither of his two originals (Giving Up the Ghost and Dear Elizabeth) grabbed me.

He inserted his backscratch in between them. He drew Lara Ewen and chose One Day. Wow, I really liked it a lot, both the song and his performance of it. So, I know Lara is capable of writing songs that will grab me, and I know that Benjamin is capable of delivering a song in a manner that will engage me as well. Neither pulled that off with their own originals, but the sample size was two in each case, so let’s toss that out and start again, the next time I see either of them.

Benjamin blogs regularly and he posted his thoughts about last night’s show.

Nick Howard was up next (and had arrived by then). He played solo acoustic, quite a contrast to his earlier full-band set at Rockwood 2. One of the two originals that he played was Grow, which he had performed in the earlier set. It’s the same song that Patrick Firth had covered for his backscratch, but Nick was unaware, since he hadn’t made it in yet.

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That made three performances of Grow in one night for us. All were quite different from each other (even though Nick himself performed two of them!). All three were very well done.

Nick’s other original was Falling for You, which he had also performed with the full band in the earlier set. Once again, his solo performance was different and beautiful. As I noted in the earlier post, he had to work harder to get his voice heard over the full band. In the solo set, his voice was just right.

For his backscratch, Nick drew Benjamin Wagner. I don’t recall the song, but I remember thinking it was nice and that Nick did a good job with it.

Last, but certainly not least, was Live Society. They were without their guitarist (John Kaiteris), keyboard player (varies) and drummer (Erik Perez). The three singers, Brian Collazo, Jason Vargas and Kevin Collazo were joined by their regular bass player, Anthony Candullo. Anthony also played acoustic guitar on one number.

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Two special guests joined them: Patrick Firth on grand piano and Greg Mayo on acoustic guitar.

Live Society reverted to the classic format, one famous cover, one original and one backscratch, mirroring the opener (Jeff Litman) as the only acts who did that last night. That was more than fitting, as they asked the crowd if any of us had done the calculus to guess who their backscratch was? Even you who weren’t there should be able to figure it out. I’ll give you a minute while I get to their other two songs.

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They opened with their original Better Man. Gorgeous! They followed that with I Second that Emotion by Smokey Robinson. Jason Vargas took the lead for a good portion of the song. It was fantastic.

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For their backscratch, they drew Jeff Litman (please don’t tell me you haven’t figured it out yet). They performed Open Arms. Frist, the bottom line: Wow! Now, some details.

Jeff’s version is wonderful, but it’s straight up power Pop. Live Society owned their version, which was about as Mowtown/R&B as you could hope and it couldn’t have worked better.

All three of them traded singing lead. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’ve followed my other ravings about Live Society, then you know that I have started a campaign to get them to have Kevin sing some lead. He did, and he was terrific! I had to tease him/them after the show, pointing out that it took a backscratch to get Kevin to take a lead. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a trend. All three of them can sing, including Kevin!

KevinCollazo

What a way to end a spectacular evening.

Backscratch was listed as 9-11pm on the Rockwood schedule. Before the show started, the sound guy told Christina that the previous show had run over and he would appreciate her trying to keep it moving at a rapid pace. Ha!

Last night’s show ran over by only an hour. No one dawdled. Let’s do the math: nine artists each performing three songs, averaging four minutes = 108 minutes. That’s nearly the full two hours, without accounting for time between songs, banter, and oh yeah, changeover between acts (sometimes including moving equipment around). The fact that it’s not scheduled for three hours is the joke, not that it ran over.

Update: A number of people commented to me via email and Twitter that the site correctly listed it as three hours, albeit confusingly. That’s correct, in the sense that there was no artist listed at 11pm. But, the show was listed as 9-11pm, which was explained to me as meaning that 11pm was considered a continuing start time. Wow, not the clearest communication. Anyway, I’ll still knock Rockwood for not making that part clear, but Christina Morelli did indeed deliver an on-time performance! 🙂

It was late, obviously, but I can’t imagine having missed it. Smile

Jeff Litman at Rockwood Music Hall

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On their birthday, most people wait (patiently or otherwise) to see what their friends and family will do for them. Musicians? Not so much. A number of them book shows on their birthday, effectively throwing a party for their friends, family and fans. Yesterday was Jeff Litman’s birthday and that’s exactly what he did, booking a show at 8pm at Rockwood Music Hall.

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We planned to attend this and the show immediately afterward (covered in my next post). We also ended up attending an earlier show next door (covered in this post). When Nick’s set was over, we made the grueling 3-foot walk from Rockwood 2’s front door to Rockwood 1. Whew.

We saw Jeff perform at Arlene’s Grocery on May 20th (covered in this post). Last night he was supported by the same band, with one guest star joining them late in the set.

Jeff played the electric guitar for most of the set (very well). He played acoustic on a few and added harmonica on Maine. He played the grand piano on one number.

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If you read the above-linked post, you know that I particularly raved about Jeff’s song Maine. I ended my rave with:

I’ll never get tired of this song, I promise! Smile

Here we are, more than a month later, and not only am I not tired of it, I warmed up for last night’s show by listening to Maine while exercising the day before. So, I was grateful to Jeff that he didn’t torture me by saving it for the end of the set (he likely knew he couldn’t get out of Rockwood without playing it). As you can see, it was third on the set list. That allowed me to relax and enjoy the entire set without the anxiety of wondering when I’d get to hear Maine. Smile

SetList

The entire set was excellent, with the exception of the fact that as I’ve noted a number of times recently, Rockwood 1 probably isn’t best suited to full-on Rock. It wasn’t too loud last night, but it was loud enough to slightly wash out Jeff’s voice at times. It’s a dilemma, because in general, Rockwood is such a great experience.

JeffLitmanSinging

Having the intimacy of Rock right in your face is awesome, but not controlling the sound (because amps are a few feet away, uncontrolled by the sound engineer) is deflating. It’s not purely an overall volume issue (to repeat, last night wasn’t that bad), it’s a blend problem that doesn’t seem easily controllable from the main sound board. It’s also possible that it’s not as bad in the corners of the room, but we’re always up front, so we always feel the problem.

A quick tour of the band followed by the guest:

Bryan Dunn on electric and acoustic guitars along with harmony. Repeating myself, Bryan is excellent, pure and simple. Excellent guitarist, excellent voice. I like his original music as well as his side-man performances. Looking forward to his new CD later this year.

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Matt Basile on electric bass. I enjoyed his play at Arlene’s, but he was often hidden from sight. Last night he was a few feet away from me and I could see all of his fingerwork up close and personal. The sound might have been just as good, but the experience was greatly enhanced (for me) by the visual.

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Elliot Jacobson on drums. Elliot is a machine (I suspect, literally). He’s so fast, so steady, so hard hitting, that after the show, both Lois and I asked him how it is that his arms don’t fall off while he’s playing. He said “Glue”. Winking smile More than likely, it’s constant practice and general exercise. I noted that it was more likely his Guns (the boy has biceps). No matter, whatever his secret regime, it translates well on stage.

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Jason Wexler joined for the last few numbers on the grand piano. Impressive. I’ll need to keep an eye out for him at future shows.

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The best singing of the night occurred when Bryan Dunn led the rest of us in singing Happy Birthday to Jeff (who stubbornly refused to join in!). Winking smile

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The next post will cover the next set at Rockwood. Jeff Litman happened to open that show as well. Happy Birthday to us! Smile

Nick Howard at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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We’ve seen Nick Howard perform once before, as part of his side project with Rachel Platten called Chasing Violet. I really enjoyed that set and was looking forward to hearing Nick do his own stuff at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

Nick had a full band backing him. He’s British, lives in NYC and is a star in Europe (Germany in particular). His new CD is already out in Germany (where he just completed a radio promotion tour). We’re still waiting for the release in the States.

Nick is a really good songwriter. Clever lyrics and excellent song structure (melody, rhythm, harmonies, arrangements). He sings well. As I mentioned in the post about Chasing Violet, Nick speaks normally (whatever that means), but typically sings in a higher register than he speaks. It’s a sweet sound, but still catches me a bit by surprise.

NickHowardSinging

Nick played acoustic guitar on all but one number, when he broke out a ukulele. Nicely done all around.

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Unfortunately, having a full band, and a higher voice, isn’t the greatest blend. Nicks vocals were a bit strained. I could hear every word, but he sounded better with Rachel (and later last night, which I will cover two posts from now).

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

Dave Sherman on electronic keyboards (couldn’t find a good link). Dave was mostly blocked from my view by the guitarist, but I could see his hands on either end of the keyboards. I could also hear him reasonably well. He had an L-shaped setup, with a big keyboard in front of him and a smaller one to his left.

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He played funkier sounds on the smaller one and split the larger one between organ and piano sounds. Both were very good, but the piano parts were much easier to distinguish from the electric guitar.

Michael Reid on electric guitar and harmony. Nick introduced him as Mike, but his page is full of “Michael”s, so I will stick with that. His guitar play was very nice. His vocals were excellent (all harmony, no lead). I would have been happy with even more vocals, but no complaints.

MichaelReidGuitarMichaelReidSinging

Spencer Cohen on drums and light harmony. I’ve seen Spencer twice, both times on cajon and percussion supporting Chelsea Lee. I enjoyed both of those sets (including Spencer’s play), so I was pleased to have a chance to discover his full drum set play. Score! I enjoyed every bit of his drumming. He also added a bit of harmony a few times, joining Nick and Michael.

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Malcolm Gold on electric bass and shakers. Malcolm did a good job. Early on, he had a problem with a cable and stopped playing (for roughly 1/2 a song). The band continued to sound good without him. However, when he started playing again, the sound got much fuller. While he wasn’t flashy, he was definitely a welcome addition.

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In addition to having a good repertoire of songs (and performing them well), Nick has a delightful stage presence. He has a winning smile, self-deprecating humor and quick wit in responding to the crowd or commenting on something he spots in the audience.

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Here’s the set list:

NickHowardSetList

Even though this was to be a very long night of music (known in advance), I’m extremely glad we decided to start it off earlier than originally planned when I found out that Nick was going to be at Stage 2 (7pm).

Busy Weekend Without Music

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When I tell you we had a busy weekend, you assume you will be reading about a ton of musical events. Not this time.

We have good friends who live in VA, parents with three kids, ages 13, 10 and 5. We’ve known them since the 13-year-old was 18 months old (they lived in NYC then). In what has become an annual outing, the family comes up to celebrate the 13-year-old’s birthday with a baseball game (the first year was a Mets game, the last three years Yankees, his favorite team).

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They arrived on Friday just in time for a fantastic meal at Jackson Hole. There are a lot of great burger places in NYC, but I probably think of Jackson Hole first when someone mentions burgers. Everyone agreed our adventure started off perfectly. When we stepped out of the restaurant, we split up.

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The parents got a rare break from being absolutely incredible parents, who have raised kids we love to spend time with. They went on an extended walk around Manhattan (or so they said!). Winking smile

We took the three kids to see Cars 2 in IMAX 3D (I didn’t even know our local AMC Theatre had an IMAX in it, let alone with 3D). We had seen the original Cars with them as well (in fact, every animated movie we’ve seen in the theater has been with these boys). This is the first time we’ve taken the 5-year-old (the only girl in the bunch) with us. She didn’t make a peep during the movie, so it likely won’t be the last time she joins us. Smile

I’m thankful that I didn’t see how poorly the movie was reviewed. I would have gone anyway, but I might have tried to find the bad spots. I don’t know what people expect from these movies, but I found it completely delightful. The boys both rated it higher than the original Cars, which they enjoyed (as did I). Cars was perhaps a little sappy (in a good way). While Cars 2 is definitely a message movie, they went for a bit more excitement and a bit less sap. I thought they found the right balance.

It was also very funny, in a completely corny way. I’m a sucker for corny, but to be honest, if the humor is too sophisticated, it will lose the kids quickly. This kept my interest and had the kids howling a number of times.

We had about an hour to wind down and hook up with the parents before it was time to head out to the Yankee game. This was going to be the first night game with the boys. The mom and the daughter stayed home, so Lois was the only female in our group of five. We took the train at the height of rush hour and were packed like sardines all the way to the stadium. Thankfully, since it’s a super express, the entire trip is barely over 20 minutes from Grand Central.

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Since this was a night game, I wasn’t worried about picking seats in the shade. I changed up the section we sat in the past two years and picked the first row near the foul pole in left field, up one level (section 231 for you die-hard fans). All five of us were thrilled with the seats, though I would probably avoid them on a very sunny day, where we would have broiled.

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The bigger risk was that rain was called for throughout the day and night. It misted and even rained a bit during the 90 minutes leading up to game time, but there were no delays and the tarp never came out. It misted a bit very briefly during the game as well.

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Exactly a week earlier, our godson and his wife were supposed to come visit. Their flight was canceled. In the post about that weekend, I shared a photo of a rainbow that coincided with the birth of our friends’ daughter. While we were sitting at the game, Rebecca (our godson’s wife) texted me this photo of a rainbow in Birmingham, AL. We took it as another sign that we were going to have a great weekend.

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Unfortunately, the Yankees lost 4-2, in a very sloppy game. There were a few extremely close calls (two on steals at second base). All of the close calls went against the Yankees, and none were shown on replay. They replayed plenty of other ones, none of which were even marginally close. The people behind us said that this was normal for Yankee Stadium, no replays of close calls. Ridiculous! Sad smile

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We had another quick ride back into Manhattan and after a few minutes of wind-down watching TV, everyone collapsed for a long, excellent sleep.

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Saturday morning started with a hearty breakfast made by Lois. Everyone but me then headed out to a local park for some baseball (both boys made the All-Star league this year!), basketball and general running around. I stayed back to clean off a laptop that our goddaughter was giving to the family for the kids to use. Just as I finished, Lois called to say they were all ready for lunch. Perfect timing!

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We tried a place we had never been to before, Gemini Diner. Again, everyone really enjoyed their meal. I would happily go there again, but we have a diner we love that is a whopping two blocks closer to us (one of which is an Avenue block), so we’re not likely to get over there too often.

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Once again we split up after eating. This time the parents took the girl with them. They went on a really long walk along the East River, south, all the way past the Brooklyn Bridge.

We took the boys back to the movies, this time, for another one that was poorly reviewed. This time we were all aware of the reviews in advance, but the boys really wanted to see it anyway. The Green Lantern was showing in both regular and 3D, but showtimes had us at the 2D viewing (which is probably way better for Lois than having to wear the 3D glasses anyway).

We got there just as the showing before us was letting out. The 10-year-old and Lois each asked a number of people what they thought, and everyone, roughly 1/2 a dozen people, all said they enjoyed it. One woman was nice enough to tell us to make sure to stay through the credits, as there was a short but important extra scene near the end of the credits. She was correct. Thanks! Smile

While waiting for the theater to be cleaned in between showings, the 10-year-old decided to spontaneously do a trust exercise. He fell backwards toward me, and I caught him, every time. One of his attempts came just as a few final people walked out of the theater. I caught him a little later than those folks thought I would (or rather should have), and a very big guy let out a noticeable sigh of relief when I finally did catch him. Whew! Winking smile

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All four of us concurred with the people who gave us the thumbs up. We really liked the movie a lot. I guess I don’t know what people are complaining about. I admit to not being a comic book aficionado, so I don’t know if it wasn’t true enough to the original comic, or too true (and therefore predictable), etc. All I know is that it was thoroughly entertaining, moved along quickly, had amazing graphics (even in 2D, can you believe it?), was funny (both for the kids and the adults), well acted, with a self-consistent story.

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We returned to the apartment and had a bit more downtime. Then Lois and the boys headed over to the hotel where the parents and the girl were staying (two blocks away). They headed up to the rooftop bar, which we’d heard was amazing. Lois confirms that it is and that I have to join her there in the near future.

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I met them at El Rio Grande (our favorite Mexican restaurant) for another fantastic meal. When it was over, we headed our separate ways. We ended our evening watching Ocean’s 12 with the boys (well, Lois slept through most of it). The movie was a bit slow for the boys. Each of them nearly gave up before the big surprise finish, but in the end, they stuck it out. We all slept late again, exhausted from another chock-full day.

This morning we had another great breakfast courtesy of Lois, then they hit the road at around 10am for the long trip back to VA.

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The title of this post reveals that this weekend hasn’t had any live music. Of course, the weekend isn’t done. Barring some unforeseen issue, we will be at the Brooklyn Bridge Plaza tonight at 8pm, to see Ian Axel perform a few songs on a outdoor piano. It should be the perfect way to cap an already perfect weekend. Smile

Martin Rivas Solo Campfire at Slane

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We’ve only been to one NYC Campfire before. That one was missing Martin Rivas, one of the co-founders of Campfire. Last night Martin was back hosting Campfire, this time at the original site of the Campfires, Slane (link is currently broken). Martin’s partner-in-music (crime?), Craig Meyer, was on the road and didn’t attend last night. It was the last Campfire until late August and we didn’t intend to miss it.

Campfire is held in a bar, so it’s not a traditional show. It’s mostly covers, though the artists will occasionally sneak in one of their originals (or as was the case last night, they might be forced to play some originals when someone requests it).

Martin kicked it off solo. It was our first time at Slane and I was impressed with the sound quality coming out of the portable PA/amp that Martin dragged out of the back room himself. Slane is a very nice bar.

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After Martin played a song of his choosing, he just started going in order in the audience asking people to pick songs. Ryan Vaughn sat closest to Martin and he chose first (a Police song). Ryan later joined Martin on percussion. I’ve seen Ryan a number of times, usually on percussion with Martin. Very recently, we saw Ryan on a full drum set twice, the first time supporting Robbie Gil and the second with John Schmitt.

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Last night, Ryan played the cajon (along with other percussive instruments like shakers and a tambourine). I am in love with cajons, and Ryan was masterful on his. I believe that someone (I know who, I’m just not naming them!) told me recently that Ryan was one of the first to play (and master) a cajon in the local scene and that he’s famous for it. Now I know why!

RyanVaughnCajon

Lois was second on the request parade. She chose Me and Julio, which Martin nailed (of course). It would have been my turn next, but Martin asked if it would be alright for him to play another Paul Simon song. You don’t think anyone objected, do you? Winking smile

While Martin was playing Me and Julio, Greg Mayo walked into Slane with a guitar case. Martin had tweeted that he might have a guest or two, but he didn’t name them. I was thrilled to be there just to see Martin, but how can the President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club (that’s me, in case you’re wondering) not be extra-thrilled that the object of the fan club was about to join the merriment?

By the middle of Me and Julio, Greg was set up and playing his patented awesome guitar leads. He was also singing harmony (fantastically) with Martin, but he wasn’t mic’ed. Thankfully, we were so close it was really easy to hear him.

GregMayoGuitar

It was finally my turn, and I noted that since we were in the Village, he should play at least one Dylan song. He said he’d have to break out the laptop for the lyrics. After the laptop was turned on, he proceeded to play an oldie that wasn’t even close to a Dylan song. I guess Martin was in the mood to tease me. After that, he did play a Dylan song, Positively 4th Street (great choice).

MartinRivasSingingDylanAidedByLaptop

But, in classic Martin style, he turned it into a full-blown Soul number. It was 100% recognizable, but only from the lyrics. Otherwise, you would have thought it could have been from the catalog of any of the top Soul/R&B groups of the 60’s! Nicely done.

The person sitting next to me chose Cecelia (it turns out it’s her middle name!), and of course, Martin (and Greg) obliged.

In the meantime, Slane kept filling up, both with people who specifically came for Campfire and with a typical bar crowd. I was impressed that the people at the bar seemed to be enjoying the performance as much as we who came specifically for it were.

Brian Killeen was one of the people who came in that wave. He sat down to enjoy the music, but a few songs in, he was coaxed to come up and play the electric bass. It was at the same time that Ryan Vaughn jumped in on percussion. Greg took a break and joined the audience.

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Brian was fantastic, with a number of long leads on the bass. He also sang “I’m gonna add some bottom, so that the dancers just won’t hide” during Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music”.

If you need proof that our deceased loved ones can directly affect our world, in order to reach out and let us know they’re watching over us, here you go…

Brian had a margarita. I missed it, but somehow, it got spilled. After successfully soaking his shirt, the rest landed on the floor in front of the band. Lauren (I only know her first name) sprang into action, got a towel from the bar and cleaned it up lickity split. In the meantime, Brian got up and asked Greg Mayo to take over the bass duties for the next song.

GregMayoBass

Just as Greg took over the electric bass, someone (I actually think it was the same Lauren who took care of the cleanup on aisle 3) requested Sara Smile by Hall and Oates. Now for the proof part: Bob Mayo, Greg’s dad (sadly taken from us way too early!), toured for roughly 10 years with Hall and Oates!

A drink gets spilled, causing a change of bass players, followed by a request for a song by a band that the replacement bass player’s dad toured with? Coincidence? I think not. Smile

Martin passed the mic to Greg who sang a few verses. He hit the high notes perfectly (more thrills and more evidence!). Smile This was my first time seeing Greg on the electric bass. Can you believe that even though it has two fewer strings, and they’re way thicker, that he’s still as buttery smooth and his sensibilities are just as awesome as his guitar play? I knew you wouldn’t argue with me on that.

I think Brian took the bass back on the very next number. Final piece of evidence. Smile

It was Lois’ turn again. She picked Into the Mystic by Van Morrison. Martin complied, wonderfully! Rachel, who sat across the table from me, was intending to request Sara Smile when it was her turn, but she was scooped by Lauren. Then she was going to request Moondance by Van Morrison. She told Iris both of those before they were called out, so she had a witness. All that proves is that we in the audience have similar (wonderful) taste in music. I guess that explains why we all like to hang out at these shows together.

A few songs later (nearly two hours in), Martin announced that they would take a short break, then play one more short set. At first we intended to stay, but a few minutes into the break and our eyes were getting droopy (it was 11:05pm). We called it a night.

On our way out, I spotted two of my favorite people coming in, Brian Collazo and Jason Vargas of Live Society. I bet they sang a bit with Martin after we left. That’s a little soul-crushing for me (get the double-entendre?), but the sleep was so welcome (we slept later than we have in a very long time), so missing them (assuming they sang) was a price that had to be paid.

Martin is opening one of the biggest concerts of the year in NYC tonight (7pm, River to River show). Unfortunately, we’ll be missing that. Then he’s off for a concert tour in the UK and Europe the very next day! Knock ‘em dead Martin, we know you (Chrissi Poland and Alex Berger) will indeed do so!

Chris Ayer at a House Concert

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This was a weekend extravaganza hosting our godson (David) and his wife (Rebecca). In addition to seeing Wicked earlier in the day (covered in this post), we wanted to take them to see some live music in NYC. Our core group consisted of 10 people, which could present logistical problems with finding the right show to accommodate us and still allow for the socializing before/after the show that we desired.

It occurred to me that even though we are loath to put on a house concert in general (logistics, weather, etc.), since we could constrain the group to be reasonably small, we might try to pull off a little miracle this time around. I was hoping for a solo, guitar-wielding singer/songwriter, so that we could easily move it indoors if the weather turned nasty (we planned this a month ago).

We love a lot of singer/songwriters that are based in NYC. With no offense to any others, Chris Ayer was at the top of our list. He’s the first one we asked, and the last, since he said he was available. Smile

Let me (now) apologize to all of our friends, especially those who are also huge Chris Ayer fans, for not inviting you. Since this weekend was about our godson, and his sister (our goddaughter, Laura) lives in the same building as we do, we restricted the guest list to their friends only (and us, of course). There were 16 audience members.

Since the evening was about socializing as well (David and Rebecca live in Birmingham, so none of us gets to see them as often as we’d like), we invited people to come at 6pm, with music slated to begin a little after 8pm. The original invitation said “Sushi” for dinner, but we knew that a few people don’t eat Sushi. A couple of diligent husbands pointed out that their pregnant wives couldn’t eat Sushi either. One of those pregnant wives delivered the night before (and stood us up for the show, can you believe it?)!

Congratulations to Laura and Jason! Smile

The day before, Wes, Jacklyn and I walked to see Super 8 (I might be one of only three people in America to think the movie is entertaining, but really stupid). On our way over, it poured so hard that we (and roughly 50 other people) had to stop (even though we had umbrellas) under some construction scaffolding for nearly 10 minutes, to avoid the feeling of taking a full bath in our clothes.

When we arrived back at the apartment, I noticed a giant rainbow and Lois snagged these photos (the rainbow disappeared within a few minutes!). It turns out that the rainbow appeared nearly coincident with the birth of Laura and Jason’s daughter. How awesome is that?

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Don’t worry about us, we still had two remaining pregnant women in attendance, so I think our quota was still met. Winking smile

There was plenty of other food to eat, and general merriment took place from 6pm onward.

SchmoozingOnTheDeck

We were thankful that Chris arrived early enough to taste some of the Sushi as well. I also cornered him and fired off a bunch of my imponderable questions about music, including asking him whether he buys lefty guitars, or plays upside-down, etc. Thanks for being a good sport Chris and answering all of my questions patiently. Smile

SushiSpread

Shortly after 8pm, we pushed one of the tables out of the way (yes, our deck is a veritable furniture store) to make a nice spot for Chris to play in.

ChrisAyerPerformingAtHouseConcert

Chris had his traditional set list written out on his arm (and my traditional photos showing you his and our views):

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

After Chris played a few numbers, he asked whether anyone had requests. Lois fired off a few (including some older ones). He agreed to play one of her current favorites (she has dozens), Snake Skin Heart. After playing a second request from her, my competitive juices were flowing and I weighed in with Hiding Places (a new one that we love) and Stranded (which was on his set list already).

When I introduced Chris (before the music started), I mentioned that I think of him as a modern-day James Taylor whereas Lois thinks of him as a modern-day Paul Simon. At one point, Chris asked if anyone wanted to hear any covers. Naturally, some Paul Simon songs were called out. He played The Boxer (beautifully!), then Kathy’s Song (wow!). Again, my competitive juices could not be controlled. I called out for any James Taylor song. He performed Fire and Rain (perfect choice!).

After the show, one of Laura’s friends (who I met for the first time last night) came up to me and said: “Chris’ James Taylor cover was spectacular, but I have to side with Lois in comparing him more to Paul Simon. I wonder whether we won’t soon all be calling him our modern-day Paul Simon!”. OK, uncle! Smile

When Chris returned to playing his own numbers, both Lois and I were about to ask for Say What You Mean (independently, we only found that out after the show when comparing notes). Before we could get it out, Chris started introducing it. It’s about his Grandfather, which we knew, but the story that inspired it was new to us and incredibly touching.

While introducing it, he mentioned that his grandfather was in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. The person sitting closest to Chris during the show was Laura’s husband, also named Chris. Our Chris was in the Navy for six years and it didn’t seem accidental to me that he ended up being serenaded to that closely on this song (and obviously the rest of the songs).

Lois had asked (at least three times) whether Chris was going to do Roy G. Biv. He answered yes every time. I guess she wanted to make sure he wouldn’t forget. Winking smile He didn’t. He closed with an absolutely fantastic rendition of it. He introduced it, and nearly every song last night with some background or context about the song (I love that part of live shows!). Even though we’ve seen Chris many times, most of the backgrounds we heard last night were new to us, and I enjoyed every single one.

After the show we opened it up to questions of Chris and there were some really good ones. A few examples: co-writing vs writing alone, how long it takes to write a typical song, which comes first, melody or lyrics, etc.

Most of the people (including Chris) hung around to chat afterward, eating some dessert and the most incredible fresh fruit you can imagine (I’m still in a bit of a fruit coma over how good it was). We did allow the pregnant ladies to head out and get off their feet. We’re nice like that (sometimes). Winking smile

I’d be lying to you if I said I could adequately describe how incredible the entire evening was, music, conversation, food, fellowship.

I’ll finish by throwing in bonus coverage from today. Winking smile

If you know David, you know that his entire life revolves around Meatballs (ha, those of you who don’t know him think I’m exaggerating for effect). Winking smile How could we have him up to NYC and not take him to The Meatball Shop? We couldn’t and we didn’t! The core 10 of us headed down there shortly after it opened at noon today. We took over the tiny corner at the end of the bar (with most of us standing) and had an absolutely amazing lunch, including the obligatory ice-cream cookie sandwiches for dessert.

The kids went on for a very long walk, heading from the Lower East Side to the new Highline Park. Us old folk returned to the apartment, which is how I found the time to finish today’s posts. Smile

Our Tenth Wicked is still the Charm

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Our godson (David) and his wife (Rebecca) were coming up to spend their first weekend with us as a married couple. They were to arrive on Friday night when the festivities were to begin. Unfortunately, the Wicked witch was in control on Friday, and after hearing every excuse in the book, their flight was canceled.

The Good witch took over (you can’t reverse a spell) and got them out the next morning (yesterday), but since the evil spell had been cast, they were forced to wake up at 3am to catch a 5:30 flight. It all went well and after an amazing lunch at the Palm West, we headed over to see Wicked across the street (their choice).

LunchAtThePalmWest

The last time we saw Wicked, I ended my post with the following:

At some point in the not-too-distant future, we’ll hit double digits. It was roughly 11 months since the last time we saw Wicked, so it might not be right around the corner, but it’s coming, I can feel it. :-)

We wanted to make sure that David and Rebecca didn’t pick Wicked thinking we weren’t willing to see anything else, but they insisted that they were really interested, so no further arm twisting was necessary. We saw it with our mutual friends Wes and Jacklyn who came up from Philly for the weekend. We bought the tickets about a month ago, so we couldn’t get six together. Each couple sat together but we were clustered close enough to each other.

The last time we saw Wicked, Katie Rose Clarke played Glinda. She was in yesterday’s show again and was as spectacular this time as last. There was no letdown in the last number either, so this was actually a better performance (her comedy is still a touch over-the-top, but it really works, so perhaps I’ll stop saying that if we see her again). Smile

Teal Wicks as Elphaba. We made the mistake of watching a YouTube video of her singing Defying Gravity, on Broadway, from a February 2011 show. It was awful. Thankfully, that’s not the way she came across yesterday. I can easily quibble with a few things, particularly in her first number, The Wizard and I, but they were so minor and the rest of her performance was fantastic.

She hits the highest notes in Defying Gravity so crisply, cleanly and powerfully, it’s a thing to behold (and hear). My last quibble is that she’s not as forceful in a number of her duets, where it feels like she’s holding back in order to be generous to her co-star (both Glinda and Fiyero), but her voice gets a bit lost at those moments.

Nevertheless, I’d happily go see Teal again. She delivered the spoken parts of the show perfectly (including her acting).

Tom McGowan was The Wizard. I’m a big fan of his TV work. He was in 42 episodes of Frasier and 17 of Everybody Loves Raymond (and I’ve seen every one of them, probably at least twice). He did a marvelous job yesterday, including his singing.

Kathy Fitzgerald played Madame Morrible. Excellent!

The Governor of Munchkinland was the same actor we’ve seen all 10 times. That’s over a 4-year period and impresses the heck out of me. He’s great every single time.

Almost everyone in the ensemble has been the same (I can’t even believe how familiar they are to me, but I guess 10 times shouldn’t have me so surprised).

The rousing standing ovation from the sold-out crowd for the leads seemed to overwhelm them (in the positive sense), but then again, they’re both fine actresses, so who knows. Winking smile

WickedCastStandingOvationWickedCastBowing

Lois scooted home in a cab to prepare for the continuing weekend festivities, while the five of us walked back leisurely (the weather was spectacular) and arrived just as all the food was being delivered. Perfect timing. The rest of the evening will be covered in the next post.