Music

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Bri Arden headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. We missed her last appearance at Stage 2, her EP Release show. I heard that it was absolutely incredible, and based on all of the times I’ve seen Bri, and having listened to her EP many times, I have no reason to doubt that.

It’s been 3.5 months since we last saw Bri perform. As I noted in that post, you never really know what to expect (lineup wise, hairstyle, guests, etc.). We were actually up in Westchester to catch two full sets (and an amazing meal!) at Watercolor Café earlier, and we dashed out after the second set, dropped some folks off and made it to Rockwood a few minutes late.

We were immediately bathed in Bri’s amazing voice, nice way to walk into a joint.

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Bri had a full band, always a treat. The only change that seems somewhat permanent (or at least it’s been a while), is that Bri no longer employs a duo of female backup singers. The sets are great without them, but I’ll happily admit that they were a fantastic addition (the default ladies were Valerie Mize, now based in Nashville and Kate Ferber, though others have filled in as well).

Bri mixed it up. While most of the show was full band, Bri also played one song solo on the acoustic guitar. She performed another one solo at the grand piano.

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She had a special guest come up for another, but I’ll mention that after I let you know about the amazing band, left-to-right on stage:

Jason Wexler on grand piano and electronic keyboards. We see Jason supporting a number of our favorite artists, including Bri. He’s a superb keyboard player, and if I understood another musician friend correctly, a talented producer too.

JasonWexlerJasonWexlerKeyboards

Jake Cohen (Jacob Colin Cohen) on drums. Jake always does a great job on Bri’s sets. Glad to hear him again after 3.5 months. Sorry about the poor photo:

JakeCohen

Justin Goldner on electric bass and vocals. Like Jake, Justin always impresses. When there’s a full band, he’s the bass player. When Bri gets acoustic, he plays the guitar. In other words, he’s an integral part of Bri’s sound, including background vocals.

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Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. Oscar is simply amazing, always, not just when supporting Bri. Unlike Jake and Justin, we’ve seen Oscar a number of times since, with his own Police tribute cover band and with The Vanity Belles. He’s awesome.

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Ian Schaefer (Ian Carleton Schaefer) on trumpet. I don’t know if Ian was in the opening songs which we missed. He was called up for the final two numbers and was great. As I noted to him when we stood next to each other for the following set, he helped Bri close out the show with a bang. Leave ‘em hanging, wanting more, in no small part due to the energy that the trumpet brought to those closing numbers.

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Jeremiah Birnbaum on acoustic guitar. Jeremiah has filled in on bass a couple of times for Bri. Last night he joined Ian on the final two numbers to play acoustic guitar. I can’t really say that I could make out the acoustic guitar, but I can say that I really like Jeremiah, especially when he fronts his own group, The Ramblers.

JeremiahBirnbaum

I mentioned one special guest above. There was another, who replaced Jason at the piano, but the rest of the band played as well.

Craig Wilson played the piano on Scars Do Fade, a number he co-wrote with Bri. It’s one of a few songs they’ve co-written, all of which have impressed me, so they should continue collaborating.

CraigWilson

Anna Krantz joined for a number that they co-wrote very recently. Anna played the grand piano (gorgeously!) and sang harmony just a drop. Bri was spectacular on the song, with only the piano accompanying her (one of the three songs where the band got to rest).

AnnaKrantz

Here’s the set list, but I’m reasonably sure that not every number toward the bottom was played. Specifically, The Best Is Yet to Come wasn’t, at least I don’t remember it. Scars Do Fade and Good in Goodbye were likely the last two numbers, among my favorites!

SetList

We got to say a quick hello and take some photos with Bri afterward. Thanks to some strong-arming by Sam Teichman, The Ghost was actually caught on film! Winking smile

BriArdenHadarLoisBriArdenHadar

Rebecca Haviland at Watercolor Cafe

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Rebecca Haviland headlined a set at Watercolor Café. She also joined the openers, The Vanity Belles, playing piano to open and close their set.

RebeccaHaviland

As with the set before, this was a test of how well a group we love sounds stripped down. In this case, stripped down even further than The Vanity Belles were.

Rebecca dropped the keyboards and drums (and occasional lead electric guitar). She played rhythm electric guitar and switched to finger-picking the electric for a song or two. She was accompanied by an electric bass and nothing else.

I can’t say that I didn’t miss the drums, which really enrich the haunting beats in most of Rebecca’s songs, but otherwise, Rebecca and Chris knocked it out of the park all by themselves.

Rebecca is getting really close to releasing a new CD, one that we can’t wait to get our hands on. That she and Chris can faithfully reproduce the richness of the feel of this music, with just the two of them, is a testament to the songs themselves, not requiring the masking of a large and loud band.

Of course Rebecca’s voice had all of the rocker-chick goodness happening throughout, and the sound system at Watercooler is perfectly suited to such an intimate venue.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

Chris Anderson is Rebecca’s writing partner on most of the songs (all?) and played electric bass and sang a ton of harmony as well. Because Rebecca was mostly playing rhythm guitar, Chris was really driving the melodic part of the instruments, and he was more than up to the task.

ChrisAndersonRebeccaHavilandChrisAnderson

Both Chris and Rebecca played on the earlier set. I held this photo back for this post, of the Belles with Rebecca and Chris:

CarrieWellingRebeccaHavilandJessiRaeWaltzChrisAnderson

In case you didn’t read my previous post, I’ll repeat my observation about Watercooler Café here:

As if amazing music delivered by incredible musicians wouldn’t have been enough, this was our first trip to Watercooler Café and there’s no way it will be our last. The food was fantastic. I had the Baked Eggplant with a Three Cheese Spinach and Mushroom stuffing for an appetizer (OMG) and Wasabi-Sesame Crusted Tuna for the main dish (holy moly).

That we also got to spend it with two other couples, that we weren’t sure would be there, turned it into a festive and interesting evening, independent of the music.

One of those couples was Chris Anderson’s parents, who we really look forward to seeing at these shows. Rebecca’s parents were there too (though we didn’t sit with them). Here are the moms:

RobinSharon

And Chris with his Dad:

ChrisAndersonDad

The Vanity Belles at Watercolor Cafe

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The Vanity Belles opened for Rebecca Haviland at Watercolor Café in Larchmont last night. Rebecca Haviland plays at Watercooler regularly, but we’ve not been able to make any of her previous shows. That we were finally able to get there on a night when The Vanity Belles (TVB) were opening was doubly delicious.

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We’ve seen two full sets by TVB (plus a number of guest appearances). Both sets were at Arlene’s Grocery, with a full band. Both were more rock in terms of the overall sound, even though TVB never lose their country roots. Here’s the post covering the most recent show.

Last night was amazing, because it was a dramatically stripped down set. No electronic keyboards, no drums, no electric guitar. I never doubted whether their voices would hold up, but the songs themselves would obviously be judged differently.

CarrieWellingSingingCameronMitchellJessiRaeWaltz

I am thrilled (but not surprised) to report that when you write great songs, and deliver them through two incredible, angelic voices, you don’t really need much else. That they were supported by top musicians playing on acoustic instruments was icing on the cake. They probably could have thrilled me a cappella as well.

CarrieWellingCameronMitchellJessiRaeWaltz

The bottom line, TVB can play arenas with the full band and keep the place rocking, or they can play the most intimate club, with a small ensemble (or just themselves!), and have that audience realize that nothing was sacrificed in stripping down the sound.

On one song, Bottle, Jessi Rae Waltz (1/2 of TVB) took to the upright piano and Carrie Welling (the other 1/2) played the acoustic guitar. The other two members of the band didn’t join in until the song was well underway. That’s the reason I say that they could perform just themselves, a cappella or accompanied by the piano and guitar.

CarrieWellingCameronMitchellJessiRaeWaltzPiano

Speaking of the band, let’s name them, left-to-right:

Cameron Mitchell on acoustic guitar. Cameron was really good at both previous shows, but a bit overshadowed by the rest of the band on his acoustic (he also played some electric). Last night, his acoustic guitar was easily heard on every note and amazingly, he hit all of the right ones. Smile The guitar was a perfect accompaniment to the ladies vocals. Cameron also co-wrote at least one of the songs performed last night.

CameronMitchell

We also got to spend some time with Cameron (Cam) after the show and I can assure you he’s one of the nicest people you could have the pleasure of meeting.

Chris Anderson on upright bass. Unless you’re a newcomer here, I don’t need to tell you how great Chris is in general, on every set. Any set that has fewer instruments makes the bass pop even more, easily differentiating the greats from the goods. Chris is great and really enhanced TVB’s sound.

ChrisAnderson

Rebecca Haviland was a special guest on the first two numbers, then the last few as well, playing the upright piano. As much as I love Rebecca’s own songs (more on that in the next post), I don’t really get enough of her keyboard play, which is actually the first instrument I ever saw her play. So, this was a real treat to hear her on a real piano, in such an intimate place. Thanks TVB for having Rebecca join you!

You can see Rebecca’s back in a photo above. For good photos of Rebecca, look in my next post about her set. Smile

As if amazing music delivered by incredible musicians wouldn’t have been enough, this was our first trip to Watercooler Café and there’s no way it will be our last. The food was fantastic. I had the Baked Eggplant with a Three Cheese Spinach and Mushroom stuffing for an appetizer (OMG) and Wasabi-Sesame Crusted Tuna for the main dish (holy moly).

That we also got to spend it with two other couples, that we weren’t sure would be there, turned it into a festive and interesting evening, independent of the music.

CarrieWellingEdithKevinHadarEdith

The staff at Watercooler were all delightful and funny, making us feel completely at home.

Aoife O’Donovan at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Aoife O’Donovan headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. Just as with the set before, I have been hearing about Aoife from my friend Kevin for a very long time now. Unlike the previous set, Kevin is not the only person to tell me that I had to see Aoife. Just yesterday morning I received an email from my friend Jamie in MN telling me that if he were in NYC, he’d be going to see last night’s show.

Before telling you why, I will say that I too am now firmly on the Aoife O’Donovan bandwagon. If you consider me a friend (as I do Kevin and Jamie), then you can mark today as the day I started bugging you to get to an Aoife show!

I had to say that first, because undoubtedly, I will never do justice to how I felt watching the set, so I’m asking you to trust me and experience it for yourself, rather than judge my words to decide whether you think you’ll like it. Onward.

Aoife O’Donovan has a gorgeous voice. At least in last night’s set, it fell squarely in the camp of singers like Alison Krauss and Ruth Moody (two of my favorites). In other words, there’s an ethereal quality to their voices, and it tends to sound a bit soprano, even when it’s not.

AoifeODonovanSinging

She is a superb songwriter, lyrics and melodies. In fact, one of the songs she wrote, Lay My Burden Down, was covered by Alison Krauss and Union Station on their latest CD, Paper Airplane. Alison’s version is so faithful to Aoife’s, it’s another compliment to Aoife’s skill that her arrangement didn’t need to be embellished.

She is in a group called Crooked Still (which is how I first heard about her) that is currently on hiatus (giving her time to perform her own music and tour with others).

In addition to performing her own music, she has performed with Goat Rodeo Sessions. That project features Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan. I saw them perform on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where Aoife and Chris Thile sang harmony throughout the number. Gorgeous!

Last night she opened the show finger-picking an electric guitar. She was great, and I was marginally surprised when she announced that it was the first time she’s played the electric guitar in public. After the second song, she switched to her trusty Martin acoustic, and continued to finger-pick a storm. She returned to the electric late in the set. She’s a very good guitar player.

AoifeODonovanElectricGuitarAoifeODonovanAcousticGuitar

All that’s left is to describe the music itself. It’s a little hard to do in general, but harder without having mentioned the amazing band yet. Still, I’m going to do my best, followed by noting each band member.

The overwhelming feel I had was bluegrass and country meet jam band. When Aoife sings, it’s a dream-like bluegrass/country sound (depending on the song), often having very similar qualities to some of Alison Krauss’ best work. When she stops singing and the band takes over (they’re playing incredible stuff even while she’s singing), it turns into a quintessential jam band feel, with everyone showing off their virtuosity, but never straying from the basic structure of the song (like I feel a lot of classic jazz does, but what do I know).

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To summarize, when Aoife is singing, the lyrics are fantastic, her voice is fantastic and the band behind her is incredible. When she stops singing, the band (including her, still finger-picking) kick it into a gear where you don’t wonder when the singing will start up again, and you (specifically I) could get lost in the music forever. Then she starts singing again, and you welcome that part back with open arms.

It’s largely minor-key progressions that they are jamming to, giving it some of the dream-like qualities. It’s in the music in between the singing that makes Aoife’s music quite different from Alison Krauss’.

The band, left-to-right on stage:

Ryan Scott on electric guitar and vocals. Ryan was extraordinary on the electric guitar. He was a large component of what gave the music the jam band feel, as he’s able to progressively build guitar leads that get fuller and richer with every measure, climbing the scale and getting your heart pumping faster along the way. He sang a bit of harmony (nicely) as well.

RyanScott

Robin MacMillan on drums. Robin impressed me in the previous set, but he cranked it up a couple of notches here, with the freedom of the jam band feel. Seriously, he fit in perfectly with some very serious musicianship. He’s firmly on my list of drummers to keep seeing.

RobinMacMillan

Jacob Silver on electric bass. Jacob (Jake) floored me the previous set, and did nothing but add to that in this set. He’s a mind-bogglingly good bass player, with a sensibility (and the speed) to deliver constant melodies rather than straightforward bass lines (not that there’s anything wrong with straightforward). Not to beat a dead horse, but when you’re jamming, having a bass player who is essentially harmonizing with a top lead guitarist, is a thing to behold.

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Charlie Rose on pedal steel guitar. I love pedal steel guitar, and I rarely get to see it. Thank you Charlie for coming down from Boston and giving me more than a taste. In addition to taking some wonderful leads, Charlie was the glue that gave the band a true bluegrass feel. During a number of the jam sessions, he complemented or traded leads with Ryan on the guitar.

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Aoife invited up the headliner from the previous set, along with her guitar player, to sing harmony on one number with her.

Kristin Andreassen and Chris Eldridge joined for some 3-part harmony goodness. Lovely in every respect.

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Whew. I was taken by every single number. It’s rare that I don’t want a set to end (even if I love it). I didn’t want this one to end (even though we badly needed to leave when it was over).

On the way out, I bought Aoife’s 5-song EP, called The Peachstone EP. I absolutely love it, but it’s not identical sounding to the live show, even though all five songs were performed last night, and a few of them have exactly the same musicians on the tracks.

One difference is the vocals. On track 1, Glowing Heart, Aoife is singing stunning harmony with herself. On the other hand, there’s not very much of the jam band feel between verses. It’s gorgeous, just much more structured and moving quickly from verse to verse. The jam band feel would have made it more like a live album.

Not to be inconsistent, I’ll call out the fact that it’s quite unusual these days to charge $10 for a 5-song EP. I have no regrets that I purchased it, but since I’ve called out others for this kind of pricing, I think it’s fair to note it here as well.

Aoife announced that she’ll be at Joe’s Pub on April 29th (9:30pm show). We will be there too, so should you.

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Kristin Andreassen at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Kristin Andreassen headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. I’ve heard about Kristin from my friend Kevin for quite a while and was glad to finally make it to a show.

KristinAndreassen

Kristin has a lovely voice and played the acoustic guitar beautifully. I would characterize the set as a blend of bluegrass (without the fiddle or mandolin), traditional country (not today’s rock/pop country) and country gospel. I liked it all, thoroughly.

For the most part, Kristin sang very softly. That worked well considering the audience in Rockwood was very respectful. It was particularly suited to the gospel numbers that came across a bit more worshipful in the hushed tones.

KristinAndreassenSinging

Kristin was accompanied by an amazing band. Left-to-right on stage:

Chris Eldridge on acoustic guitar and vocals. Chris is the guitar player in The Punch Brothers. If you know them, or their fearless leader, Chris Thile, then you already know how good Chris Eldridge is. If you don’t, then take my word for it instead, Chris is exceptional on the guitar and he sings beautifully too.

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He sang harmony with Kristin on every number (or practically every one). His flat-picking leads were gorgeous and blended well with Kristin’s finger-picking and rhythm guitar. On at least two numbers (the more gospel ones I believe), it was only Kristin and Chris, with the others taking a momentary break.

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Robin MacMillan on drums. Robin was excellent. The set was mostly on the very mellow, quiet side, so his play supported that appropriately (lots of mallet instead of sticks, hitting cymbals on the rim with the side of the stick, etc.). Very well done.

RobinMacMillan

I don’t know if you’ll agree with me when looking at his photo, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much Robin resembled a young Billy Bob Thornton. All I could think about was “Man, Billy Bob could play the drums when he was young!” Winking smile

Jacob Silver on electric bass, very light vocals and whistling. He was mostly called Jake, but web-based references are mostly to Jacob. His bass play was amazing. In fact, he rarely played traditional bass lines. Most of the time he was playing sophisticated (and fast) lines that were more like harmonies to whatever Kristin was singing, or Chris was playing on the acoustic guitar. Outstanding.

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During the intro to one song, he whistled into the mic, which along with Chris’ guitar play, made the song feel like it belonged in a spaghetti western. Smile He also sang very light harmony on one or two numbers.

Kristin played one song she started long ago, but just recently finished. It wasn’t the new song she had originally intended to play, but regardless of how good that one would have been, this one was a huge hit with the crowd.

Butts Afire is a story born from cold nights in a house where the only heat was supplied by a wood burning stove that Kristin used to sit on to try and warm up more quickly. The song is about an entire extended family who end up with their butts afire. Fantastic fun, delivered with the appropriate tongue-in-cheek and upbeat quality one would expect from such a song. Smile

Kristin was worried about wrapping up early, to give time to the next headliner to set up. In a semi-related issue, she happened to be calling up the next headliner to sing harmony with her on the next number.

Aoife O’Donovan sang harmony (gorgeously), along with Chris. I’ll have much more to say about her in my next post, which covers her set.

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After finishing the song, Aoife encouraged Kristin to do another, and not worry about how much time was left before her set. Very generous!

Kristin then called up another guest, who was also slated to appear with Aoife in the next set.

Ryan Scott played electric guitar on the final number. He was great, but like Aoife, more about him in the next post.

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It turns out that I saw Ryan play acoustic guitar once, in July 2010, when he played a couple of songs supporting Christina Courtin at the Gulf Coast Benefit at City Winery. I had nice things to say about him that night as well.

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Mercy Bell at Rockwood Music Hall

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Mercy Bell headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. It’s been a very long time coming for me to finally see her perform.

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In fact, I’ve been aware of Mercy Bell for two years and this was the first time I saw her live. In March 2010, Mercy Bell invited me to see her perform at The Living Room, with Julie Peel and Alexa Wilkinson. We hadn’t met (and I hadn’t heard about her). She told me that whenever she Googled her friends, my blog kept coming up.

I agreed to attend and was really looking forward to it. The day before, I got really sick. I tweeted my apologies to Mercy and she tweeted back something like: “Dude, your health comes first, there will be other shows!”. She was right, but who knew other shows meant two years from now… (to be clear, that’s when our schedules aligned, not that she hasn’t played in NYC since.)

Since then, I’ve been following Mercy on Twitter, and I like everything about her as a person. Last night was finally the time to find out about the music. Smile

Mercy performed the beginning of the set solo, accompanying herself on an acoustic guitar. It was as classically a singer/songwriter folk set as you could imagine. That’s one of my favorite genres, so far so good.

Not always, but for much of the set, I felt that Mercy’s voice was eerily reminiscent of early Joan Baez (that’s a very good thing, in case you’re wondering). When we left Rockwood, Lois said to me “Don’t you think a bunch of times she sounded like Joan Baez?”. Cool, I wasn’t crazy! Winking smile

She accompanied herself on the guitar well enough to be a solo act, but I personally preferred the few numbers that she finger-picked on, to the slightly choppier rhythm ones.

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In the end, in addition to her lovely voice, it’s all about the songs. I was definitely drawn in repeatedly to her lyrics, which ultimately (at least for me), define a good folk set. The melodies were engaging as well.

Mercy displayed a wide range of volumes (sometimes within the same song). Considering how attentive and quiet the Rockwood crowd was, I personally preferred the quieter singing, which drew me toward her.

Halfway through the set, Mercy invited up a guest.

Liz Burke (on the web, she’s more easily found as Elizabeth Burke) sang harmony on a few numbers, very sweetly! I don’t think she performs on a regular basis on her own, so I’ve linked her name to her LinkedIn page. Update: Liz was kind enough to leave a comment below with a website that does indeed showcase her musical talent!

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After singing another song or two solo, Mercy invited up another guest, one who does perform on her own. Mercy said that they just finished co-writing a song which they were about to debut.

Maryanna Sokol sang some very light harmony. In fact, if I wasn’t the closest audience member to Maryanna, I would have sworn that she didn’t sing at all during the first song. I’m chalking it up to the fact that this was a spanking brand new song. In fact, here was a tweet from Mercy from just before the show:

Mercy Bell ? @mercybell

Mmmmm @MaryannaSokol and I just collaborated on our first song 🙂

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Maryanna stayed up for another song, which she sang a bit more on, but still not that much. Then Mercy invited Liz back up to sing at the same microphone with Maryanna and they closed out the show with more serious three-part harmony.

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Nicely done all around.

If Mercy hadn’t been mobbed after the show I would have taken a minute to introduce myself. Instead, we scooted home, since it was nearly 11pm.

Our relationship will now continue on Twitter, until the next actual sighting. Smile

The Foggy Dudes at Red Lion

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The Foggy Dudes closed out the St. Patty’s weekend at Red Lion with three consecutive sets of traditional Irish music. Not fiddle/pipes stuff, rather, hardy sea shanty tunes.

TheFoggyDudes

Most of the numbers are very upbeat, often with hysterical lyrics (those seamen needed something to keep them awake). A few are more traditional protest songs, both slow (soulful) and upbeat.

We love Irish music (though in general, most of what we listen to is more Celtic, with lots of fiddle and flute parts), so we were happy to come out for this.

John Schmitt is the primary lead singer for the Dudes. We’re big fans of John’s own music, so when he announced this event we put it on the calendar. In addition to singing, John played the acoustic guitar (mostly) and switched to the banjitar (6-string banjo) on a few numbers.

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John and I traded a number of tweets about the show, because I had another one on the calendar for 10pm that night. When I told him I had to leave after the second set he tweeted the following:

John Schmitt ? @johnschmitt

@hadarvc great so we will play the most fun songs up front 😉

Ha! I’ll never know, though there were a ton of “fun songs” while we were there.

In addition to all of the Dudes playing instruments all four of them sing, often in 4-part harmony. Each sang lead on at least one song as well.

John posted before the show that he thought he had just enough voice left for this last show. The Dudes have been all over NYS performing during the big weekend. His voice did hold up (wonderfully), but there was one change that disappointed me mightily. On the second song, John asked the band to play one fret down because of the wear and tear on his voice. Man, I was really looking forward to hearing that song one fret up! Winking smile

JohnSchmittSinging

The rest of the Dudes, left-to-right on stage:

Carl Gallagher on banjo, electric guitar and vocals. No good individual link, so here’s his Tumblr page. In addition to playing the banjo on most numbers, Carl played lead electric guitar on two numbers (turning them into a bit more rock than traditional Irish, but I’m not complaining). Carl sang a lot and generally provided a bunch of merriment.

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At one point John noted that Carl said he would keep the drinking to only one. Carl shot back instantly: “I only bought one tonight!”. I can’t attest to how many Carl bought, but I can attest that various people in the bar did indeed buy the band multiple drinks, but Carl more than the rest. Poor guy couldn’t insult his fans, right? Winking smile

Brandon Warren on electric bass, harmonica and vocals (sorry, I couldn’t find a good individual link). Brandon has the deepest voice of the bunch. In addition to adding color/flavor to the 4-part harmonies, he had a lot of one-line zingers throughout the sets, delivered in that booming bass voice. Very nicely done!

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Brandon is likely a professional harmonica player. Not only did he have a slew of them (defined at six or more that were visible), but they had their own very fancy carrying case.

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The strange thing was that he looked like he could be Matt Simons older brother. It was strange because Matt happened to be in the audience, so I was compelled to keep looking back-and-forth to reverify my feeling. Yup, could be brothers. Smile

Scott Tofte on drums (modified kit) and vocals. Scott sat on a cajon which he used purely as a kick drum. This was the first time I’ve seen someone use an actual pedal, with a soft-mallet-head, to hit the cajon. Most other times, when using the cajon to deliver a kick drum sound, the heel of the shoe is used to strike the cajon directly. The pedal worked perfectly.

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Scott also had a baby snare drum (which he was masterful on) and two cymbals (one full size, one baby size). He also had a tambourine under his left foot. He played the tambourine only (in his hands) on one song where Carl sang lead. I really want to see Scott on a full drum kit, because he was great even with the incredible constraints of such a tiny kit.

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This was only the second time I’ve seen Scott (Carl and Brandon were new to me last night). I saw Scott eleven days earlier, supporting John Schmitt during a show at Rockwood Music Hall. That night Scott wore a knit cap. I admit to having no idea that I was watching the same Scott until we walked out. Our friend Rachel said she was pretty sure it was the same guy. Color me surprised, oops.

The Dudes had their new, self-titled CD (seven songs) available for sale. We bought it and I’ve listened to it twice this morning and I really like it a lot! As we walked out last night, I teased John that he hadn’t played The Parting Glass. He told me it was going to be the last song of the last set. It turns out it’s the last song on the CD, so I got to listen to him singing it twice this morning despite his best efforts to keep that song from me! It’s the only song on the CD that John sings/plays solo.

TheFoggyDudesCD

You can stream the entire CD at their Bandcamp page and buy it for download there as well.

Sorry we missed the last set, but glad we caught the first two! A bunch of familiar faces in the audience, and we even got to introduce ourselves to Evan Watson finally, after enjoying his music a number of times at Rockwood. Woot!

Here’s the set list, and I see something suspiciously missing from it. The last song listed is not The Parting Glass. In fact, it’s not on the list at all. Perhaps John just wanted to make me feel guilty for leaving early. Winking smile

 

SetList

Jeff Litman with Joe Brent at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jeff Litman headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s one of the few things that could get us to brave the crazy streets in NYC yesterday.

JeffLitman

Jeff recently released a new CD, Outside, and we sadly missed the Release Show due to an unmovable trip. We then missed an acoustic set, so we weren’t going to miss this one. We bought Outside the day it went up for sale at Bandcamp. Stream it for yourself and buy it if you like it. His previous CD, Postscript is fantastic as well.

We’ve seen Jeff perform three full sets before, all with a full band setup. We’ve also seen him perform a number of benefits plus a Backscratch. So, seeing him play a 100% acoustic set was going to be a change of pace.

The test came right away. Jeff opened the show with my favorite song of his, Maine. Let me digress and define what I consider to be a perfect song. If I can put a song on 24×7 repeat, for a year, and honestly not beg for mercy to hear something else, then it’s a perfect song, even if it’s not technically perfect in all respects. Maine is a perfect song. Got it?

I’ll have to defer for another minute before telling you how I liked this version of Maine (and the rest of the set), because that would require me to introduce Jeff’s special guest, a drop earlier than I’m ready to. I have a few more words to say about Jeff.

He’s a smart songwriter (lyrics and melodies) and he sings with a rockers passion. He’s an excellent guitarist (and bassist as well, which is how I discovered him). He takes care to put out really well-produced, excellent albums.

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All of that came across in the acoustic set as well, but it’s an entirely different feel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, independent of my love of many of the songs or Jeff, because I’m also a lover of acoustic guitar-playing singer/songwriters. Still, I think Jeff’s bigger strength is delivering a fuller sound, so buy the CDs and come to a full band show if it will be your first Jeff Litman Experience.

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OK, now that I’ve praised Jeff (just enough), let’s get on to what gave this set it’s real character.

Joe Brent played mandolin, violin and sang harmony. I’m embarrassed to admit (publicly) that I never heard of Joe before. Not just because he’s reasonably famous. Not just because he’s local and extraordinarily talented. Mostly because he has been reasonably active in playing with a number of people who I do pay attention to, and somehow, I’ve still never heard his name, so apparently I’ve missed some pretty cool shows. Sad smile

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I listed the mandolin first, for two reasons. Joe played significantly more mandolin than violin and he also lists only the mandolin in his bio/title on his site. But, on Maine, he opened the show on the violin.

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One of the (many) aspects that makes Maine a perfect song is the fast, crisp, tasty guitar leads that are sprinkled throughout. Yesterday, those guitar leads were replaced by the violin, beautifully. I listened again this morning, and there are definitely strings on the CD (or at least one violin), but they are not playing the part that Joe played yesterday.

So, even though the song was way more mellow than on the CD, the violin gave it the truly authentic sound that differentiated it from a purely acoustic guitar version if Jeff had performed solo. I think Joe only played the violin on one additional number (two, max). He was exceptional on it, so he either doesn’t list it because he’s modest, or because it’s his secret weapon. Winking smile

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On every other number, Joe played his signature mandolin. He’s amazing, but don’t take my word for it. If you visit his site (linked to his name), there’s a YouTube clip that starts playing immediately (something I typically disdain) and the first tidbit is from Joe’s EP, a mandolin piece that will have your head reeling.

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Joe also sang a reasonable amount of harmony, quite well. It wasn’t what we would have gotten if Maddy Wyatt was there (unfortunately for us, but fortunately for her, she was at SXSW), but it was well done nonetheless.

Speaking of Maddy Wyatt, Jeff has another perfect song on the new CD: What Hasn’t Happened Yet. Maddy sings on that, but she also plays a gorgeous flute lead. Joe replaced that flute lead with the mandolin (unless I’m misremembering now, and that was perhaps the other violin song).

Suffice it to say that Joe spiced up the set nicely.

When it was over, Lois bought two T-Shirts from Jeff’s friend Melissa, who was selling merch for him. I got the navy blue one and she got the white one. You too can be just like us and own one of these T-Shirts. They’re available for purchase at the same Bandcamp site linked to above for the Outside CD.

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We also had the pleasure of sharing the experience with a few of our friends:

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Here’s the set list:

SetList

Derek James at Rockwood Music Hall

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Derek James headlined Rockwood Music Hall at midnight last night.

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Q: When you’re his self-anointed #1 fan, and he’s listed at midnight, and you would do whatever you can to see him perform, what drastic action do you take?

A: Nap!

Yes, good plan, I did indeed nap yesterday afternoon and it paid off big-time. It was so crowded at Rockwood that I had to stand for the entire set (somewhat rare nowadays, especially for a midnight set). That turned out to be a blessing. I wasn’t falling asleep, and I couldn’t stop moving to the rhythms anyway.

The set was perfect! I’d be thrilled to have that exact set repeated (on demand) any time I could. Any further description will detract from the actual experience, though I’m going to do it, if only for my own memory (I’ll know how much better it was than your interpretation of my words). Winking smile

I’ve seen Derek quite a number of times, across a multitude of lineups, acoustic and electrified. Not all combinations of The Lovely Fools (the generic name for Derek’s band) work as well as others. I honestly thought that the original (at least original from when I discovered Derek), Roy Gurel and Assaf Spector would not be topped.

The most recent iteration (which I think is Derek’s default, go-to band), came really close. Close enough for me to honestly stop pining for Roy and Assie to return. There was one change in that band last night, due to the bass player, Mike Tuccillo, being on the road supporting Jenny Owen Youngs. I am thoroughly happy with Mike’s play (supporting Jenny as well as Derek), but I admit, I was even happier with the replacement.

Derek was great on the guitar and his vocals were crystal clear. I’ve complained a time or two that at Rockwood 1, sometimes Derek’s vocals get washed out a bit. His energy was high, which was important, because it would have been difficult to satisfy the anticipation and enthusiasm in the room if he wasn’t totally on.

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Derek was supported by an extraordinary band, left-to-right on stage:

Jerry Fuentes on electric guitar and vocals. I’ve just recently written about an excellent performance by Jerry of his own music (which you can support at his PledgeMusic page). Jerry is a fabulous guitar player, and Derek’s music highlights it just the right amount. Jerry also sings a bunch of harmony with Derek, wonderfully!

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and light vocals. Chris substituted for Mike. As many bassists as I see and like, there’s little doubt that we see Chris more often than any other. In fact, we just saw him earlier that evening supporting Burlap to Cashmere, a group we discovered only because we’ll go see anyone Chris is playing with!

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So, if Derek had called me to suggest someone to fill in for Mike, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say Chris. Derek didn’t call Sad smile but he made the right decision anyway! Smile Chris was fantastic! Like with Jerry, Derek’s music highlights the bass player dramatically. Assaf was so good at this particular role that I was afraid anyone else would be a letdown. Chris did not let me down.

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Jamie Alegre on drums (again, no good individual link). If you believe me that Derek’s music brings out the best in a guitarist and a bassist, then you better believe me that the drummer is critical to the sound. Jamie’s beats were rocking the crowd throughout.

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When the set was over, the lights were off and the band was already unplugging. The last thing they were expecting, or looking for, was an encore. The crowd had a different notion entirely. They were chanting one more song, repeatedly. The sound engineer (Drew) gave Derek the go-ahead, and they plugged back in. Derek said that this would be a crazy number and everyone better dance.

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Well, I can’t say that everyone danced, because I know all I did was sway. But, I can attest that a few people started dancing seriously (and vigorously) right near me, and that turned into a full blown conga line. Rockwood 1 is tiny to begin with, and it was so crowded you had to be careful not to hit your neighbor if you took a deep breath. And yet, somehow, a reasonably long conga line made a couple of back-and-forths in there. It was a thing to behold.

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Most of the staff at Rockwood (both rooms) are wonderful people. Good at what they do, but nice and interesting as well. At the very top of that heap is the person who served us the very first time we set foot in Rockwood, back in 2009!

Christina Shipp is an actress as well as an efficient contortionist, working her way through the Rockwood crowd to serve drinks, pick up the empties, pass around the tip jar and generally make the entire experience more pleasant for everyone in the room. It may sound silly, but Lois and I look forward to seeing her as much as we do seeing whatever artist we are showing up for. After all, we’ve had a three-year relationship with Christina. Smile

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Bed at 2am last night, but no worries, the nap saved the day (or night as the case may be!).

Here’s the set list (encore not included):

SetList

Here are a few of our friends hanging out with us outside of Rockwood, waiting for Derek’s set to begin:

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Man, next to Rebecca Haviland, my head is a giant melon:

RebeccaHavilandHadar

Paula Valstein at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Paula Valstein headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. I’ve been wanting to see a full set of Paula’s for a while now. The fact that she was on right after the amazing Burlap to Cashmere meant that I would already be there and didn’t have to leave my seat.

I’ve seen Paula do a couple of numbers, at two different benefit concerts. The first was back in January 2010 at the Haiti Benefit show. The second was three months ago at the Holiday Benefit #5 show. Both times, Paula impressed, albeit briefly.

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Paula has a fantastic voice and plays the piano extremely well. Last night she also played the electric guitar on one number, very nicely. I liked every one of the songs, which ranged from Pop to Rock, with Jazz tinges here and there. So, she’s a good songwriter too. In other words, Paula’s one talented lady.

PaulaValsteinPiano

Given my seat for the previous set, I had the misfortune of staring at her back for all but the song when she played the guitar (nice tattoo by the way) Winking smile. It didn’t affect what I heard (thankfully). Lois had a better angle, which is why you can even see Paula’s face. Smile

PaulaValsteinGuitar

I didn’t know what to expect (other than I knew about her voice and piano skills). What I found out is that Paul has a regular band, of very talented musicians, helping create a big sound that has a high energy level throughout the set.

Her guitarist was out sick. In addition to the rest of her band, she had one special guest, who I’ll mention after listing the band members.

I’ve complained in the past when an artist makes it hard to find their band members’ names. That complaint is valid to me when they have a regular band. In this case, let me do the opposite and praise Paula. She has a separate page that names each band member and has a photo of them as well. It’s named THE BAND. Thank you Paula. I admit that I would have had to spend considerable time tracking down the spelling of some of the names I thought I heard on stage last night!

Left-to-right on stage:

Ben Antelis on vocals and tambourine. Ben’s site lists him as a drummer, among other skills. Last night he sang a ton of harmony, perfectly. I sometimes hesitate to say sweetly when I’m writing about a guy, but I always mean it as a high compliment, so I’ll say it here. Ben sang harmony sweetly! His tambourine play was really good too, not surprising for a drummer/percussionist.

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Aaron Comess on drums. Aaron was excellent on the drums (more on that when I get to the guest). I admit to not recognizing the name, but when I visited his site now to get the link, I was quite impressed with his accomplishments, including being a founding member of Spin Doctors!

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Daniel Ori on electric bass. Daniel was also excellent throughout the set. Clearly, talented musicians like to play with talented musicians, and Paul is one, and has gathered like-minded and like-talented people around her.

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Michael Feigenbaum was a special guest. He provided great beat-boxing on one number. Toward the end of the song, he started a long-running duel with Aaron on drums. Michael would beat-box some rhythm, then turn and point to Aaron, who would wail on a drum solo, then back to Michael, etc. At first, the solos were on the longer side, showing each person’s individual talent. Each one got shorter, turning it more into a call-and-answer duel, with Michael belting out some short beat, expecting Aaron to mimic him. Extremely cool and very well done!

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I very much enjoyed the entire set and look forward to catching Paula again, perhaps from a better angle next time. Winking smile

Here’s the set list:

SetList