Music

The Open Sea and Katie Costello at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

The Open Sea is a duo comprised of Ari Hest and Rosi Golan. They were secretly announced on March 24th, 2010 in a show that we attended. We are fans of both Ari and Rosi separately, but on that night I had an instant love affair with their side project, The Open Sea.

TheOpenSea

The first show was at Rockwood Music Hall, while last night’s was at the new(er) Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (right next door to the still-going-strong original).

Waiting six months to hear them again felt like an eternity. That could lead to expectations that are difficult to meet. They met, they exceeded, they conquered (at least me, but I’ll bet that the majority of the stuffed-to-the-gills crowd felt the same way!).

Last Tuesday (9/14/2010) The Open Sea released their first EP. I decided not to buy it right away, hoping to purchase a physical copy last night (to put more money in their hands, get it signed, etc.). Unfortunately, for now, it’s only a digital release, so this morning I grabbed my copy. Awesome!

For those that didn’t get to see them, buy the download and experience the magic for yourself!

Ari Hest sang and played acoustic guitar. He was the primary musical support, playing on all but one song. Most of them were beautifully finger-picked with a bit of rhythm and flat-picking thrown in for good measure. Ari has a smoky/raspy voice (or at least did last night). It blends beautifully with Rosi’s.

AriHestGuitar

Rosi Golan sang and played acoustic guitar. Rosi has one of the most extraordinary voices I’ve ever heard (I’ll say it every time I get a chance to write about her!). Laser-like crispness, very wide range, soothing and exhilarating at various times. Rosi played the guitar on a few numbers.

RosiGolanSinging RosiGolanGuitar

Both are accomplished songwriters and the five song EP shows that their collaborations are at least as good as their individual efforts. I love Rosi’s current CD The Drifter and the Gypsy. Ari has a CD coming out early next year (can’t wait to hear it, as it’s produced by the wonderful Alex Wong).

In addition to playing the songs from the new EP they played two cover songs (Rosi picked a Ray LaMontagne song and Ari picked an Everly Brothers one, which was a huge treat for Lois and me).

They performed the title cut from Ari’s upcoming CD and Rosi debuted a song from her soon-to-be-recorded CD, called Lead Balloon. It could be a top 10 Country Hit (IMHO) instantly. Even if you hate Country, you’ll love this song!

I know I’m fawning, but I can’t stop, so one more platitude. I never want their sets to end. There, I said it.

Daniel Mintseris played the piano on a few numbers including one where Ari and Rosi sang without playing guitar. Daniel also plays piano on the EP. He’s excellent and complemented their sound extremely well.

DanielMintserasPiano

Here is the set list:

TheOpenSeaSetList

Katie Costello performed the set before The Open Sea. On June 29th we saw Katie perform at Rockwood 2 and I wrote about it in this post. I agree with everything I said then (whew), but I have a more nuanced opinion now that I’m getting a little more familiar with Katie’s music.

KatieCostelloPiano

First, a few differences from that performance. Katie didn’t perform any solo numbers last night (she book-ended the show with then in June). The drummer was different (more on that in the band section in a minute).

Katie has an excellent voice. Not only is it powerful and clear with good range, but as I noted in the last post, it can change in character as well. On more Jazzy numbers she can command a smoky quality (that feels completely natural). On more upbeat pop numbers it’s crystal clear. She also plays the piano very well.

KatieCostelloSinging

Last night I was able to pay attention a bit more to the shifts in style. I found the pop stuff to be more engaging and suited to the setup (her voice and the band). On the slower numbers, it was hard for me to keep focused. I like a ton of mellow stuff, so it’s not a generic problem (for me).

Katie also tried to banter more last night than the previous show. I’m all for the effort, as it’s one of the things that makes live shows qualitatively different than listening to a CD. Unfortunately, while it’s clear that Katie has a quick mind and a deep wit, most of the banter struck me as awkward at best. It will come with time, I’m sure. I’m equally sure that some portion of the audience found it awesome and/or endearing.

Katie’s band from left-to-right on stage:

Daniel Mintseris on keyboards and glockenspiel. Last time I had trouble differentiating Daniel. This time no such difficulty. Daniel did an excellent job. Given that Katie was on the grand piano, Daniel’s keyboards were more organ-ish in nature (like Patrick Firth was for Rachel Platten). He also played a type of accordion that sits on the table and is played with one hand while the other operates a bellows-type mechanism.

DanielMintseras DanielMintserasGlockenspiel DanielMintserasUprightAccordion

Tony Maceli on electric and upright bass. We always enjoy Tony’s bass playing. Understated and solid no matter who he is supporting. On the one song where he played the upright, he used a bow.

TonyMaceliUprightBass

Given how tight the stage setup was, he stepped off the stage and played right in front of the entrance to the green room. On Katie’s last number Tony played the acoustic guitar (first time in our experience) and then halfway through the song he switched back to electric bass.

TonyMaceliGuitar

Doug Yowell on drums. Doug did a good job throughout the set. In a not-so-small irony, the only other time we saw Doug play was for Vienna Teng. When? The same night we saw The Open Sea for the first time. Vienna’s set (oops, I mean Linz Ho’s set) was right before The Open Sea.

DougYowell DougYowell2

Rich Hinman on electric and pedal steel guitar. As I mentioned last time, Rich is really good on both. Last night he was incredible on the pedal steel. Some of his leads on the electric were great, but a few times it felt to me like he was stepping on Katie’s vocals. He’s still incredible, but they might need some work on their arrangements.

RichHinmanPedalSteelGuitar

Here is Katie’s set list:

KatieCostelloSetList

Another great night at Rockwood. Tonight will definitely be another great night there. 🙂

Vicci Martinez at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

There are two tangible benefits of befriending other music lovers who attend many of the shows we do:

  1. They sometimes become real friends, beyond the music, enriching our lives in the process
  2. They recommend other groups for us to check out. Due to our first-hand knowledge of their excellent taste in music, we’re rarely disappointed, and often thrilled at the new discoveries

Last night was an excellent example of #2 (the person also completely qualifies for #1). We’re rarely in the city on a Sunday night, and even rarer for us to venture out for a late show (let alone for someone we have never heard before). Due to the recommendation of our friend @HappyBee3, we altered our normal plans and headed in to catch a show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

Vicci Martinez sang and played electric guitar (she had an acoustic guitar tuned and ready to go, but she didn’t touch it during last night’s show). While diminutive in height (I believe Vicci is 5’1”), there’s nothing else diminutive about Vicci Martinez. Her voice is huge (powerful and crisp) and her guitar-playing complements the big voice. She writes the songs too, so she is the complete package.

VicciMartinezGuitar

Another short singer/songwriter that I like is Michelle Citrin. Michelle has coined the phrase: “lil grrl, with a big sound”. While it’s true in her case, a more accurate description might be “lil grrl, with a big voice”. Given Vicci’s musical style (and voice!), “lil grrl, with a big sound” is a more accurate description for Vicci.

VicciMartinezSinging

While we don’t often attend Rock shows, Vicci’s show made two in one week for me (Lois missed Martin Rivas’ show last Monday). Aside from a rocking good time in both shows, there was little similarity in the two performances. That’s a good thing, variety is the spice of life.

VicciMartinezSmiling

The one big similarity with Martin’s show was the infectious beat that had nearly everyone in the place physically into the music. Vicci had a full band all of whom complemented her perfectly. From left-to-right on stage:

Eric Robert on grand piano. Eric traveled from Seattle (where Vicci is based) for this show. Lois and I are thankful that he did (and that we came out). Eric was electrifying on the piano. We had the best two seats in the house to enjoy his show, just behind him and to his right. We got to watch his hands and fingers fly up an down the keyboard. Rock piano can be a thing of beauty in the correct hands. Eric owns those hands!

EricRobertPiano

On two numbers he did something I may have seen once before. With his left hand he plucked the actual piano strings while pounding away on the keys with his right hand.

EricRobertPianoStrings

Tony Mason on drums. We’ve seen Tony twice before, both times playing with Adam Levy. Tony is very good and got to shine a bit more opening up his play for Vicci. (Sorry for the poor photo quality, Tony was hidden in the back corner of the stage):

TonyMason

Chris Morrissey on electric bass. Given the tempo and power of Vicci’s set, the bass player is key in keeping it all together. I was extremely impressed with Chris’ play, even though there were no flashy leads. As Vicci herself said of her band, they are all P-R-O-F-E-S-S-I-O-N-A-L-S.

ChrisMorrissey

While Eric made the trip from Seattle, Tony and Chris are locally based. They only played with Vicci twice before. They were all so tight that I would have believed they’d played together 100 times prior to last night.

Here’s Vicci’s set list (courtesy of @HappyBee3). She didn’t get to the last song, but no one left unsatisfied:

SetList

I could repeat the mini-rant from last Monday about Rockwood 2 starting to slip starting times by a wide margin. The group before Vicci ended their set at 10:15pm (Vicci was listed as starting at 10pm).

It took 30 minutes to clear that group and get Vicci set up, so she didn’t start playing until 10:45pm. Clearly, if one band slips (legitimately or otherwise) it is nearly impossible to make up the time and be fair to upcoming bands and their fans. A sad fact of life, making the late shows even more dicey for us.

VicciMartinezChrisMorrisseySettingUp

Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

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

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

MartinRivas

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

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

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

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBrianKilleen

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

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

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

PatrickFirth

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

ChrisKuffner

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

CraigMeyerSmiling

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

BrianKilleen

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

GregMayo GregMayoLapSteelGuitar

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

MartinRivasRachelPlatten2

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

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

RachelPlattenMartinRivasCraigMeyerBrianKilleen

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

RachelPlatten

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

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

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

MartinRivasRachelPlatten

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

NathanEklund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allie Moss, Matthew Perryman Jones and Lauren Zettler at Rockwood Stage 2

Send to Kindle

I have no fear of emptying my music bucket list in my lifetime, because I add things to the list at a faster rate than I check them off. Last night, I got to finally remove two items that have been on the list for a while. I can summarize in advance that both items were as satisfying as I had hoped they’d be when they first made it on to the list. 🙂

Allie Moss was very high on the list. The other was seeing Chris Kuffner play bass. I’ve seen him play lead electric guitar a dozen times. Check and check!

Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2, a fantastic venue) mostly has one-hour sets (45 minutes plus setup between artists), so there isn’t typically a headliner, except for the paid shows at Rockwood 2 (this was a free show, one drink minimum with a voluntary tip jar for each set). They often cluster a  group of friends so that they can join each other on the various sets, which is exactly what happened last night, to great effect.

Since I came specifically to see Allie, I’ll start with her set.

One other important note. Lois takes all of the photos for this blog. She had a fever last night and didn’t attend. My Droid failed me completely in the low light. I chatted for a bit with Allie’s mom, who was taking photos of all three sets. I asked her if she would be kind enough to email some of them so I could include them in the blog.

Yvonne Moss took every one of these shots (click on any for a larger version), including the B&W and negative artistic transformations. I hope you agree with me that she’s an excellent photographer. The link from her name will take you to her blog on various topics. A most interesting woman!

Allie Moss is a superb singer/songwriter/musician in her own right, but she spends a good deal of time as a member of Ingrid Michaelson’s band. Given Ingrid’s commercial success, Allie tours quite a bit with her.

AllieMossSaulSimonMacWilliams

Allie has a beautiful voice, plays the guitar very well and writes very good songs (light Pop, Jazz/Folk). You can listen to nine songs on her site (linked to her name above) and get a very good sense of whether your taste aligns with mine.

Allie has a very relaxed stage presence, getting the crowd to chuckle many times. She’s a natural performer.

While she performed a couple of solo numbers (beautifully), she was backed on most by an excellent group of musicians. Here’s one of Yvonne’s transformations (can you feel a Poster being formed?):

AllieMossNegative

Lauren Zettler on piano and harmony. Lauren played the piano beautifully and sang gorgeous harmonies with Allie. Lauren had her own set prior to Allie’s, which I’ll cover later, but she never played the piano during her set, so this was a very pleasant addition/surprise.

There were no photos of Lauren playing the piano with Allie, but you’ll see a couple below when I cover Lauren’s set.

Saul Simon MacWilliams on a lot of stuff (Allie was between us, totally obscuring my view, but I am sure he was on percussion, electric guitar, electric keyboards, at a minimum, probably more, including some background vocals). He was excellent throughout. Even though I couldn’t see him, thanks to Yvonne, you can! 🙂

AllieMossSaulSimonMacWilliamsBW2

Chris Kuffner on electric bass and background vocals. I’ve written a number of times that people I trust have told me that Chris is an extraordinary bassist. Finally, I can judge for myself. During the set, most of what Chris played was solid straight-up bass playing. Allie’s set didn’t call for anything fancier. (Chris is blended into the background on the right hand side in this photo):

AllieMossChrisKuffner1

Luckily for me, while he was warming up, Chris ripped off a few riffs that were mind-boggling, so even though I didn’t get to see it during the set, I now know that my peeps correctly clued me in to yet another of Chris’ many talents!

I’m most definitely an Allie fan now, so expect to see me at future shows (please make room for me). 🙂

Matthew Perryman Jones was up after Allie. He’s a singer/songwriter/guitar player. He opened with one number on electric guitar and switched to acoustic for the rest of the set. Matthew has an exceptional voice making the entire set a pleasure to listen to.

MatthewPerrymanJones1

Allie joined him for two numbers singing beautiful harmony, including one number that she learned right before the show. She had an iPhone cheat sheet, just in case. 🙂

MatthewPerrymanJonesAllieMossToddBraggBW

Todd Bragg played the drums for all but one number. Todd did an excellent job. What was impressive to me (this is more about Matthew, but speaks to Todd getting it right as well) is that it’s not all that common to have a singer with an acoustic guitar being backed by a full drum set (no bass, no other instruments or vocals).

MatthewPerrymanJonesAllieMossToddBragg

Matthew’s voice is so strong (not overwhelming in the least) and there’s enough of a reason to have a beat in many of his songs, that it just works, well!

MatthewPerrymanJonesBW

Peter Bradley Adams played the piano on three numbers. He did a fine job, but it wasn’t integral to the sound of these songs. In a not-so-small irony, Peter Bradley Adams is on my music bucket list too. I’ve listened to the free EP’s that he regularly gives away and I’m extremely impressed with him. I still need to catch him doing his own set before I can cross his name off the list.

PeterBradleyAdamsMatthewPerrymanJones

Lauren Zettler was the first artist up for the evening. She sang, amazingly (what a voice) and played acoustic guitar on all but the last song (I’ll get to that shortly). Lauren has the kind of voice that can easily be the lead in a Rock band, though her own songs are more Folk/Pop.

LarenZettler

On her last number, Lauren switched to an electric ukulele (it looked like a baby Stratocaster). I have never seen anything like it and I have to admit that I missed much of the song just staring at that cute little thing. 😉

Cameron Mizell accompanied Lauren throughout her set on electric guitar and harmonica. He did an excellent job.

LarenZettlerCameronMizell3 LarenZettlerCameronMizell2

If I don’t catch what Lois had/has, I’ll be crossing another 1.5 items off my bucket list tonight (unfortunately, late for me). I’ll be back at Rockwood 2 (10pm), seeing Rachel Platten for the first time and seeing Martin Rivas play a full set following that (counts as .5, since I’ve seen Martin play short sets many times now).

Antje Duvekot and Anne Heaton at House Concert

Send to Kindle

Last night we attended our second ever house concert. I can easily see this becoming a habit. I started this blog 3.5 years ago with one goal in mind, document our lives so that as our memory fades (inevitable) we will have a permanent record to reflect back on.

A completely unexpected side-benefit has been the incredible people that we’ve met (both virtually and IRL: in real life) as a result of this endeavor and the heavy emphasis on blogging about musical events.

One person who I met through this blog (IRL, before he ever commented on the blog!) alerted me to someone who runs regular house concerts on the upper west side in NYC, telling me specifically about last night’s show. The host was kind enough to reserve two spots for Lois and me.

Antje Duvekot opened the show. We weren’t familiar with most of her work, but the very first time we saw the Bank of America commercial featuring Merry Go Round (written by Antje), we fell in love with the song. I was excited to hear more of her music live for my first impression. I’m now officially a big fan of Antje (personally) and her music.

AntjeDuvekot

Six weeks ago, Antje took a serious tumble off her bike. She broke her hand and shouldn’t have been playing guitar yet. She joked that none of us should be telling her hand surgeon that she was disobeying orders. Here’s hoping that my blog isn’t popular enough to be read by him/her. 😉

AntjeDuvekotCast

Even with a cast on, her guitar playing was beautiful. Her left pinkie was effectively immobilized (she didn’t use it all in the first set and barely did in the second). She finger-picks most of the songs and I look forward to seeing her again when she can use all of her fingers (though I wasn’t disappointed in the least in her delivery last night!).

Antje has a broad vocal range. For me, in all of my two experiences of a house concert, I don’t think you can properly judge a singer’s voice at the extremes in this kind of setting. For some, to hit the high notes, they need to belt it out. It’s obvious that they don’t want to overwhelm the small, close-in crowd, so they clearly pull back. I don’t know whether Antje was pulling back, or whether that’s how she normally sings the high notes.

In general, there is a smokey quality to her vocals.

She’s mostly hard-core folk (one of my favorite genre’s for over 40 years!) and she’s extremely good at it in every respect. She also did a Jason Mraz cover and her own Merry Go Round isn’t really folk either. She closed her part of the show with Merry Go Round. So great to see that live after being a fan of the song from the minute it was released.

Antje’s personality comes across wonderfully. Sweet, self-effacing, interesting, funny, warm (and probably a few other nice adjectives). She opened with an a capella number (which gave her an opportunity to showcase her cast). In my opinion it was a difficult and dangerous thing to do in such an intimate environment. She won me (and I’m guessing nearly everyone) over within the first verse!

Anne Heaton was the other headliner. We had not heard of her, but after mentioning her name to a few musician friends, all we heard were raves! Anne sings wonderfully and plays the keyboards really well. Her style is mostly Jazz so the contrast between Antje and Anne was big.

AnneHeaton

Not to be outdone by Antje’s obvious handicap, Anne topped her, by showing up 8.5 months pregnant! 😉

AnneHeatonPregnant

Her (understandable) obvious discomfort was made even clearer when she shared a huge scare that she underwent just two days earlier. In addition, she told us that the baby was pressing on her lungs. Yikes!

With all that, her vocal control and range were superb. I like Jazz in general (though I lean toward the instrumental smooth jazz variety), so I enjoyed her numbers, but it’s not typically the kind of stuff that makes my heart flutter.

She played a whimsical number that she wrote as a bridal toast (she was maid of honor) for her childhood friend. I loved every second of it (delivery, lyrics, style). The crowd loved it too, as many laughed throughout the song.

During the first of two sets, Antje played the first six songs (roughly) and Anne played the next six. But, they joined each other on at least four songs to harmonize (they do a lovely job, since they also perform together as part of Winterbloom). For the second set, they both remained on stage (in front of us) throughout, alternating songs, again harmonizing frequently.

Anne also has a wonderful stage presence. Obviously, the topics last night trended more around her current condition, but it’s clear that she can handle any audience in any situation.

I would guess that there were roughly 50 people in attendance. The hosts ran the evening as well as I could have hoped. There was beer/wine/cheese/cold cuts/soft drinks/fruit/etc., spread out in multiple spots so there were no long lines anywhere. They are delightful people who have found an incredible way to share their love of music while getting to experience it themselves in the best possible way!

I was sorry to run out the minute the show was over, but we were heading straight to the house and wanted to get on the road.

The Paper Raincoat at Mercury Lounge

Send to Kindle

Last night was our second time at Mercury Lounge. We went to see the same group that brought us there the first time, The Paper Raincoat.

No matter how many times we see the same groups, each show has it’s own character, making it worth coming out for reasons other than simply supporting great talent (though that alone is a worthy enough reason!).

The last few times that we saw The Paper Raincoat (TPR), they had a violin, viola and bass accompanying them. Last night, they were back to the original configuration that we originally saw them in (way back in April 2009), Alex Wong, ambeR Rubarth and a drummer (last night it was Kevin Rice, but that first time was Adam Christgau).

AlexWongGuitar ambeRRubarth AlexWongGlockenspiel

We love the strings (Melissa Tong and David Fallo) and Tony Maceli on the bass. I look forward to a TPR show with them all as soon as possible, but still, there was a tingle to get back to the core sound that we originally fell in love with.

TPR was one of four bands on the bill (third in the lineup), so their set was slightly shorter than usual (around 40 minutes). They had an excellent set selection so we didn’t feel let down by the length.

SetList

At least 1/2 of the very large audience was there to see the headliner, The Do, so they were experiencing TPR for the first time. From our center vantage point, they liked TPR plenty.

Kevin Rice was extraordinary (not that he’s ever less than amazing). On Sympathetic Vibrations, Alex had a particularly long introduction (which was cool in itself) and Kevin was wailing a rock-steady beat throughout. My arms hurt just watching him, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him either.

KevinRice

That was hardly the extent of his incredible drumming. In addition, they played It All Depends, where they often end it with Alex, Kevin and ambeR all drumming at the same time (heavenly). Last night, Alex spotted Danny Molad in the audience. He’s the drummer for Elizabeth and the Catapult. Alex coaxed Danny onto the stage, so It All Depends ended with four people sharing one drum set. Hazzah!

AlexWongDannyMolad FourPeopleDrumming

Alex and ambeR also played Right Angles. We’ve seen them play it before, with both on a grand piano at the same time, but it was tucked away in the corner of Rockwood, so you only see them sitting together. Last night they played it on the electric keyboard, with their hands flying up and down the keys simultaneously, right in front of us. Awesome!

AlexWongAmberRubarthKeyboards1

So, how did I know that 1/2 the audience was new to TPR? They closed with their signature a cappella Rewind. When they start the awesome cross-hand-clapping, 1/2 the audience laughed (gleefully). That happens to everyone the first time they see TPR do it. After that, you anxiously look forward it, but don’t laugh out loud. 🙂

KevinRiceAmberRubarthAlexWong

We only stayed for 1.5 songs of The Do. Not my taste (plus it was late for us). But, to give them their proper due, as crowded as it was for TPR, I can’t believe how many more people jammed into Mercury Lounge for The Do. They have a huge, loyal and adoring set of fans. I’m sure those people thought we were crazy for leaving, but they had to be happy to have the extra space. 😉

Now that I’ve been to Mercury Lounge twice, I can definitively say I’m not a fan (I’ll go again without hesitation, but I won’t look forward to the venue part of the evening). Standing is only one negative for us. The bigger one is the sound system and engineering there (only two data points, I know) is way below the quality we’re used to at over a dozen other venues. C’est la vie…

Jesse Terry and Marjory Lee at a House Concert

Send to Kindle

We became aware of how many house concerts there are only a few years ago. There have been a few that we really wanted to attend, but scheduling or illness confounded every one, until last night.

Our friends (stay tuned for how we met them at the end) hosted a house concert featuring one of their favorite artists. We were thrilled that we were able to attend.

Jesse Terry is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter/guitar player. He was (until recently) based in Nashville. That might make you think he’s pure country. You’d be wrong. He crosses a number of genres, effortlessly. During one song, I could swear I was listening to James Taylor (the feel, not a clone). On another, Lois leaned over to me and whispered “Jackson Browne”. Oh yeah, he’s also a little bit country. 😉

JesseTerry

Lois described Jesse to me as “a painter and a poet”. Poet is obvious, but by painter, she meant that his lyrical imagery is vivid. She cried during two of his songs. Here are YouTube videos of each:

Not to overwhelm you with YouTube videos, but this one is worth watching as well (then I’ll leave you alone). Jesse met his fiancée on a cruise ship in the South Pacific (I’m sure the setting had nothing to do with their falling in love 😉 ). Back in the states, in the famous Bluebird Cafe, she was in the audience when he sang this song (which he wrote for her) and then proposed to her in front of the audience. She was at the house concert last night and is as lovely a person as you can imagine, so we completely understand their mutual attraction/admiration/love:

JessJesseTerry

Jesse was wonderful on every song (including the three covers he did), but he’s particularly masterful at love songs and deeply sad ones. He tended to finger-pick the slower ones, beautifully. His guitar play in general was very good. His voice is excellent with good range. Excellent personality (both on and off the stage).

While we attend shows in all types of venues (including the dreaded Madison Square Garden), we really prefer intimate shows. Well, last night redefined intimate (in the best possible way). I often mention that a performance was acoustic. That’s technically correct, but in most cases, while the instrument is acoustic, it’s still amplified.

Last night was 100% acoustic, and the vocals weren’t mic’ed either. We had front row seats, but I’ll bet that the one guy who insisted on standing in the back of the room (yes, he was offered a seat), could hear every note and every word as perfectly as I could. Perfect. No sound engineer to muck it up (don’t jump on me, most do a great job, but some screw it up so bad you wonder how they got the job).

I was nervous for a second, because Jesse plugged a cord into his guitar, so I thought he had a small amp tucked away somewhere. It turned out he was just plugging in to an auto-tuner pedal. Whew. 🙂

I’ll come back to the actual ending of the show after I cover the opening act.

Our hostess for the evening is an incredible woman (her husband is awesome too, but what I’m about to tell is all her, so I want to give credit where credit is due!). Years ago, she discovered Jesse Terry accidentally, on MySpace, clicking on his link from another artist’s page. She instantly fell in love with his music and reached out to contact Jesse. She has followed his career and become his friend ever since that fateful night.

While in Key West for the annual singer/songwriter festival, she discovered the woman who opened for Jesse last night. She befriended her as well and told both of them that they needed to meet and get to know each other. That eventually happened, and our hostess was indeed correct, they became friends. That they ended up playing a show together, in our heroine’s home, was beyond fitting!

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

MarjoryLee

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

She accompanies herself very nicely on the guitar. Completing the package is her stage presence. For such a young woman, she has an easy rapport with the audience. As with Jesse, that’s true both on and off the stage.

MarjoryLeeTuning

Circling back to the end of the show. During both of their sets, a number of people called out for them to sing a duet. They each joked that they had planned to work up something together for quite a while, but never got around to it. That (apparently) didn’t let them off the hook.

When Jesse was wrapping up, people again called out for them to do something together. Marjory joined Jesse and they sang The Dock of the Bay (mentioned above) alternating verses, with Marjory occasionally venturing some harmony on top of Jesse (very well done!).

JesseTerryMarjoryLee

Then Marjory sang Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean with Jesse singing a few key parts. As with another cover that Marjory did during her own set, she successfully got most of the audience to sing the chorus with her. She/they did a great job bringing the evening to a wonderful close.

We purchased both Jesse and Marjory’s CDs.

Here’s Jesse’s Set List, not followed to a T:

SetList

Back to how we met our friends. We’ve been to 13 CMA Writers Series shows at Joe’s Pub. CMA = Country Music Association. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that our friends have seen more of them than we have. In all of our times at Joe’s Pub, we have always been seated at a table for two, or at a table for four, but with the other two people attending with us.

The one exception was one CMA show where we were seated at a table for four next to this couple that we instantly had a rapport with. The next time we attended a CMA show, Lois spotted them on line and called out for them to join us. We sat together while we ate, but ended up watching the show from different spots. Ever since then we’ve maintained an active email and Facebook friendship.

Last night was excellent, but I can’t say that I didn’t feel badly or guilty. We paid way too little for the value of the show, even after buying the CDs. But that’s not the bad part. Our hostess cooked for two (or three?) days. It was one of the most incredible meals I’ve ever had. The meal alone was worth more than we paid for the show and the CDs, but of course, it was free. Guilty pleasure. All I can say is that I was not even slightly exaggerating when I told our friend that she should be a professional caterer. Awesome!

TheFood

There were a ton of desserts as well. I grabbed some (store bought, but also incredible) but we didn’t hang around. During the intermission our host asked me if we were driving back to the city after the show. He asked whether we could take Marjory (and her friend) back with us, which we were delighted to do. Another friend of theirs took the train out from Manhattan so we took her along with us.

Having another hour to get to know Marjory and her friend only cemented our feeling that she was a very special person (all three of our passengers are!) and it enhanced an already special evening all the more.

MeaganMarjoryLee

In a not-so-small irony, we are already scheduled for our next house concert this Thursday (from zero to two in five days). This time, in a complete stranger’s home, so we’re branching out. I’ll report on that on Friday, as usual.

Derek James at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

We first saw Derek James and The Lovely Fools at Flux Studios in July. We went to see Ian Axel and left as big fans of Derek James as well, an unexpected side-effect of chasing Ian wherever he plays. I wrote about that night in this post.

Derek has played a number of shows since then that we were unable to attend. Last night he was scheduled to play Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (one of our favorite venues) at 10:30pm. While a little late for us old folk, it was better than his recent 11:30pm and midnight shows there. 🙂

Since we had come back early to see Delta Rae anyway, we were determined to see Derek last night. Unfortunately, after running around all morning in the heat, Lois wasn’t feeling well last night. Feeling a bit guilty (through no fault of Lois, who encouraged me to go), I decided to abandon her at 10pm and head down to Rockwood to see the show myself.

Here’s how I described Derek’s music in my last post:

It’s probably easy (for some) to describe Derek’s style, but I am having trouble finding the right words. It’s some kind of blend of up-tempo bluesy/rock, tinged with some cajun-infused country, all delivered with gusto. There’s a super-charged energy that had me swaying throughout the set, even though it was sleepy time for us.

I’d like to update and simplify that. Derek James’ music is fun, through and through! You would have thought I had restless leg syndrome if you saw might right leg bouncing up and down non-stop throughout their set!

Derek played the guitar, ukulele, kazoo and sang, all wonderfully. He even threw in a slide-whistle for 5 seconds at the end.

DerekJamesGuitar DerekJamesUkulele2

I couldn’t help recalling the following when Derek picked up the ukulele (an instrument we really love). I follow a lot of musicians on Twitter. One of them is the awesome Matt Nathanson. Just a week ago, on August 27th, Matt tweeted the following:

i’m calling for a ukulele moratorium. please. god. #wegetityouarebookishandcute #killme

I’m sure it was all in good fun. The next day, he had a very cute exchange with the band Guster:

the moratorium started yesterday, so ur good. plus, u guys r sexy. #soitsdifferent RT @guster uh oh. #ukeeverywhereonthenewrecord #goddammit

Derek and Ian, keep the uke in the shows, please! 🙂

DerekJamesUkulele1

There were two big differences last night from the show at Flux Studios. The Flux show was acoustic (except for the electric bass). Last night the lead guitar was electric and a full drum set was added to the mix. That didn’t change the quality of the experience, but it was quite different nonetheless.

Roy Gurel (again, no good individual link) is the lead guitarist and backup vocals as well. Last night was electric, Flux was acoustic. He’s an amazing guitarist, and I’d go out to see him without Derek as well. He seemed to have to work harder on the acoustic than he did last night, but both efforts were fantastic.

RoyGurel

Derek mentioned that they really wanted to get on the Rockwood calendar for last night because Roy is heading back to Israel for a while (hopefully not too long for us music fans’ sake!). This was really a sendoff for Roy, and it was a might fine one!

I’m going to miss Roy at future shows, but I bet that any number of top-notch guitar players would jump at the chance to play with Derek and Assie.

Assaf Spector (Assie) on the electric bass and backup vocals (and Kazoo on one number). He’s absolutely wonderful on the bass, his vocals are solid, and he’s simply fun to watch (like Chris Anderson at an Ian show, but totally different at the same time).

AssafSpector

Jamie Alegre on drums (no good individual link). He was a real treat as an addition to the Flux sound. In addition to being spot on throughout the set, he was highlighted during the last two numbers quite a bit, holding down a 1940’s style big band beat. It was a ton of fun to watch him (there’s that fun word again).

JamieAlegre

I was so glad that I decided to go and just as sad that Lois missed it, since she’s just as big a Derek James fan as I am. It was very good that she didn’t push herself to go though. The person that was on before Derek continued to play well past Derek’s announced starting time. I don’t know if he started late, or if he just wanted to deliver more to his fans (they were screaming for him to keep playing). Either way, Rockwood didn’t stop him (which was unusual).

So, with 20 minutes to set up after the stage was cleared, Derek didn’t start playing until 11:10pm (40 minutes late). That was the only hitch in an otherwise wonderful night out. I was home by 12:15am and my leg was still restless. 🙂

P.S. Lois normally takes all of the photos in this blog. She handed me her camera as I left yesterday, so any complaints about the quality of the photos is entirely my fault in this one!

Delta Rae at Arlene’s Grocery

Send to Kindle

We weren’t supposed to be back in NYC until tomorrow (Thursday). Friends of ours from Thailand were in the states and are leaving tonight. We decided to come home early and have lunch with them today to see them off (that didn’t work out in the end!).

Once we committed to that, we left even earlier (yesterday morning), so that we could be back in NYC in time to catch Delta Rae at Arlene’s Grocery.

We’ve seen Delta Rae once before, at Rockwood Music Hall and I covered that evening in this post. I mentioned that I would love to hear them play with a band. Ask and ye shall receive. Delta Rae played at Rockwood again this past Saturday, another acoustic set, but at Arlene’s Grocery, the set was billed as full band.

DeltaRae

We picked a good day to come back early. As we pulled in front of our building, the thermometer in the car read 105 degrees:

105Degrees

Delta Rae performed an excellent set last night. It was extremely well-received by the audience (including us). Having a full band meant adding a drum set and electric bass. That was enough to make the difference I was interested in hearing, but they could also stand a good lead electric guitar, and possibly even a fiddle or mandolin on a few numbers.

The four members of Delta Rae have wonderful voices individually, that blend in magical ways collectively. Given the power and emotion that they produce while singing, it’s a very good thing that each can hold their own singing lead, as it gives a slight rest to the others when they pass the proverbial baton around from song to song.

BrittanyHolljesElizabethHopkins EricHolljesKeyboards IanHolljes

Mike McKee on drums (no good individual link for him, sorry). He was really good on every song, I thoroughly enjoyed his play! Photo isn’t good either.

MikeMcKee

Mark McKee on electric bass. Very solid throughout. As much as I really liked the drums, the bass is what really created the bigger sound (big bottom) for Delta Rae, to differentiate from their acoustic set.

MarkMcKee

While I liked the bigger sound, there’s always a tradeoff. They play a song (Morning Comes) where the ladies clap between lines in a way that adds a very nice touch to the song. They did it last night, but you couldn’t hear the clapping at all over the bass and drums. Of course, I could see them, and fill in the sound in my mind, but it wasn’t the same thing.

We still got a taste of the acoustic side with their Gospel number, Bottom of the River, delivered largely a cappella (the drummer did enhance their normal foot-stomping). They also did the Fleetwood Mac cover The Chain with Ian on acoustic guitar. That’s the only song where the McKee boys left the stage. Here’s a YouTube version of the song performed in Eric’s bathroom! 🙂

They closed the show with a song that they pitched to Kelly Clarkson. She liked it but it didn’t fit her current album so they’re free to use it themselves again. That said, when we left, Lois told me that Lady Antebellum would be nuts not to want to cut that song immediately. So, if you’re listening Hillary Scott, Lois thinks you would fall in love with this song. Grab it while you can, before Delta Rae scores with it directly!

We support the artists we like. We already have two copies of their EP (get it!) so Lois bought a Delta Rae T-Shirt after the show.

Thanks for coming back to NYC a second time in one week (they played in MD in between!), and bringing along the McKee brothers to let me experience the full band sound so quickly.

Already looking forward to our next Delta Rae encounter!

We chatted briefly with Eric and Ian before the show and I noticed Ian was carrying around a tired-looking set list. Here’s a photo of it, though it was from a previous show and they tweaked the set last night from this one:

SetList

ElizabethHopkinsIanHolljesBrittanyHolljes EricHolljes

Vienna Teng, Alex Wong and Joey Ryan at Highline Ballroom

Send to Kindle

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.

ViennaTeng2

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!)

ViennaTeng1

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.

AlexWongSnareDrum

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.

JoeyRyan3

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.

JoeyRyan1

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.

JoeyRyan2

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.

ViennaTengJoeyRyan JoeyRyanAlexWong

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:

PartialDessertDisplay

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