Jeff Litman at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jeff Litman headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. It was an early set, which we always appreciate and prefer. On the other hand, it coincided with a near-monsoon, so we got soaked coming and going.

It’s hard to believe that this was only our second night of music in May. Breaking the ice with a Jeff Litman show is a good way to go.

JeffLitmanSinging

Jeff played the majority of the show on the acoustic guitar (obviously, he sang on every number as well). He kicked it off with the harmonica as well, on my favorite song of his, Maine. In fact, I think he’s caught on that if he puts Maine first on the set list, it will guarantee that I will have to be there on time (we were!). Winking smile

JeffLitmanHarmonica

In the middle of the set, Jeff took over the piano duties for two numbers, the second of which he performed solo.

JeffLitmanPiano

Prior to the show, Jeff announced that he would be joined by two guests. We would have gone to see Jeff solo, but he wasn’t taking any chances. Winking smile

Maddy Wyatt sang harmony, played the flute (beautifully, on What Hasn’t Happened Yet) and the tambourine. Great job on all!

MaddyWyattJeffLitmanMaddyWyattFlute

Joe Brent on fiddle and mandolin. Joe has been great every time we’ve seen him. That he can replace the awesome guitar solo on Maine with his fiddle play, and keep me just as mesmerized, is a testament to his skills. Joe has a show in Brooklyn next Thursday (which we can’t make), then he hits the road with GangstaGrass for a while.

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When we walked in, we both spotted Jason Wexler at the bar. We asked if he was just an audience member, or whether he was an unannounced guest performer. Jeff felt that it would be a waste to have Jason sitting in the audience, so he called him up on three numbers to play the grand piano.

JasonWexler

Of course, he didn’t have those three songs consecutively on the set list, so Jason had to expend a bunch of energy going up and coming down from the stage before/after each song. Thankfully, his fingers weren’t affected and his piano play was as good as it always is. Smile

Speaking of set lists, here’s the one from last night, though I’m not sure Jeff got through every one.

SetList

Jeff closed the show solo on the guitar. He started with a long instrumental solo of Some Day My Prince Will Come which he morphed into his closing number. His guitar play was gorgeous. Nice way to end the set.

JeffLitmanGuitar

Be careful making any jokes at these shows. Right before the set started I noted (out loud) that there was an iPhone case attached to a small tripod. There was no phone inside the case. I joked that it must be a special case that could film the show without the camera inside.

Jeff thanked me for reminding him and popped his iPhone into the case. I then felt compelled to operate the camera, making sure that everyone on stage got at least some screen time. So, if Jeff posts any video from the set, I am 100% to blame (I wasn’t very smooth in my transitions) for any issues in the quality.

We’ll be out again tonight for a number of sets, but then it will more than a week before we get to see another show. Perhaps our lives are changing more than expected, I guess we’ll see how it evolves…

Lagond Music School and their Student Performers

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Last night we attended a show at Lagond Music School. I have implored my readers once in the past to contribute to the school, and I’ll do so again, now that I’ve seen first hand what their students are capable of. If you click on the link above, you’ll spot a yellow Donate button right in the middle. Click it and donate, you’ll feel better.

There were two headlining acts, each of which is fronted by one of the teachers at Lagond. I love both bands, independent of their connection to Lagond, so attending this show was a no-brainer for me. I’ve already posted about each of those sets. Here’s the one about the Greg Mayo Band. Here’s the one about The Thang Band.

Before either of those sets began, we got to see two different groups of students perform, each with one of their teachers in the band. The first was un-named (or at least unannounced). While people were entering and milling about, they were being entertained by a Jazz Quintet in the background.

JazzQuintet

Their teacher was at the keyboards and was subtly (and effectively) coordinating each number (who was to take a lead, how long, etc.). There were two guitar players, a drummer, a bass player, along with the keyboards. All of them were quite good. In addition to playing the notes correctly, they had a feel for the music (jazz can be tricky, not just technically).

GuitarsAndDrumBassPlayer

Charlie Lagond (who the school is named after) is an accomplished musician and teacher. Along with his wife Rosanne, they run the school. I was chatting with him while the group was playing. He told me that in addition to regular music lessons, Lagond Music School (LMS) prepares their students to perform. This was an opportunity for this group to learn how to play background music in a cocktail party atmosphere.

While they pulled off that task wonderfully, perhaps they were a bit too good. Quite a number of people (us included) were drawn away from their conversations to directly listen (very quietly) to the music itself.

Shortly before the real show began, Charlie sat in with the quintet (instantly turning it into a sextet). This was the first time I heard Charlie take a saxophone solo and he was awesome. Thankfully, it was long too, so I got to savor it.

CharlieLagondSaxophone

We all moved into the next room, dubbed The Haven (LMS is on Haven Street). Another band of students called The Speakers was set to kick off the first of three sets. Their teacher participant was none other than Greg Mayo, so this was sure to be a delight on a number of levels.

GregMayo

There were four students playing with Greg, but there was nothing even remotely similar to the earlier jazz quintet. The four of them played electric guitar, drums, trumpet and saxophone (the sax player switched to electric guitar later in the set). The guitarist sang lead and harmony with Greg.

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They put the audience in the right mood for the next two sets. Nice job fellas and kudos to LMS and the teachers for getting both bands well prepared for their big night!

Here’s the set list for The Speakers:

SetList

The Thang Band at Lagond Music School

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The Thang Band headlined a set at Lagond Music School last night, closing out a fantastic show. I already posted about the set before them, Greg Mayo Band. I have seen The Thang Band once before and was really looking forward to seeing them again. I was nervous and excited for Lois to see them.

I wrote an incredibly long description of The Thang when I first saw them. I was tempted to reproduce it in its entirety here, but 1/3 of it doesn’t apply (because it wasn’t the same audience and they toned down their act a drop because this performance was at a school after all…). You can read the full description for yourself about 1/2 way down this one-year-old post.

Basically, The Thang are top musicians, irreverently performing for their pleasure. The rest of us are given permission to enjoy it with them (in fact, we’re encouraged). The irreverence touches everything they do, including the innuendo-laden tongue-in-cheek lyrics and the dramatic acting (presentation) of some of those lyrics. It’s a thing of beauty (or is it a thang of beauty?), if you can let go of societal norms for a little while. Winking smile

Even in a slightly toned down show, there is something that simply can’t be contained: Energy. Their shows are upbeat, joyous spectacles.

They went through three wardrobe changes. Each was layered, so it was only a matter of removing a layer of clothing. The photos will tell the story, but you have to come to a show to experience the deep dialog that is coupled with each change. Winking smile

TheThangBand

I normally mention band members from a left-to-right perspective, but that feels wrong with this band, so I will simply cover them in the order that I feel like at the moment.

Paul Maddison is one of three front men, but I declare him to be slightly more forward than the others. He plays the guitar (obviously), but that actually takes a back seat to both his vocals and his overall showmanship. Paul is like the conductor (of an orchestra, not a train). In addition to interacting heavily with every band member, he’s constantly drawing the audience in.

PaulMaddisonGuitar

That last phrase is literal as well as figurative. He beckoned (more like insisted, strongly) that people come right up to the stage and bunch up and become part of the show. They did. If they were reluctant to begin with, that feeling faded right away as everyone was swept up in the show.

PaulMaddisonSinging

I have never taken the time to introduce myself to Paul. Last night, during the opener, he was standing right next to me. For whatever reason, I still didn’t introduce myself. That’s just stupid (on my part), since he brings me a lot of joy and he deserves to know it directly from me. I will correct that next time, pinky swear!

PaulMaddisonMuscleShirt

Dan Golden on keyboards, harmonica and vocals. He’s nearly equal to Paul in front man duties and as I noted the last time, definitely up to that enormous challenge. He’s excellent on both keys and vocals. On occasion he even steps away from the keyboard and sings (or talks/raps) directly to the audience (something Paul does a ton).

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Rob Pawlings (a.k.a Bobby Bananas) on electric bass and vocals. I wrote about Rob in my earlier post about Greg Mayo Band, where he filled in for Chris Anderson. In this set, he cranked the bass up a notch (hard to do, as in some of the Mayo songs he was really wailing) but here he added quite a bit of vocals, including a fair amount of lead.

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In one number, parodying any typical big-name rock band, he would have slammed his bass on the stage and jumped on it (for the full effect), except that it’s unlikely that any of them can afford to smash (and replace!) their beloved instruments. So, he went through the motion, but instead very gently laid the bass down on the stage and gestured at it as if he were hurting it. Winking smile

As opposed to my inexplicable lack of introducing myself to Paul, I went out of my way to find Rob before the show and introduce myself. I’ve become a big fan of his, in particular when I saw him play with Abby Payne (also filling in for Chris Anderson that night). This was the fifth set that I’ve seen Rob play (including the one right before with Greg Mayo).

RobPawlingsSinging

Dave Freedman on electric guitar. Dave is the quietest one in The Thang. He doesn’t sing or talk, but his guitar play speaks volumes. Paul is good enough to play lead in this band (or any other!), but by having Dave there to fulfill that role (brilliantly), Paul is really freed to run the show. Wait, because of Dave, Paul is a freed man. Hmmm, perhaps it’s all an illusion, and there is no Dave Freed Man. Winking smile

DaveFreedman

Last but certainly not least!

Kenny Shaw on drums, cowbell, shakers, conducting and even light vocals. I mentioned in the previous post that I would heap a bunch more praise on Kenny. Of course he was great in the Greg Mayo Band set. The Thang is non-stop upbeat rock. The drummer (Kenny, in case you’re not paying attention) is in constant motion. He’s so fluid, fast and tasty that it’s a thing of beauty to behold.

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On one number, Kenny came out from behind the drums, Dan left his keyboard, and everyone but Dave sang a cappella with their arms around each other. Yes, that includes Kenny, pushing out some sounds through his larynx. Late in the song he whipped out a shaker (in the shape of an egg), which got a lot of hoots because it was the only instrument used on that tune. (Well, I think Dave gave them some very light-touch guitar accompaniment as well.)

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KennyShawEggShaker

Toward the end of the number, he broke away from the others (Paul, Dan and Rob) and conducted the end of the song by moving his arm up and down, so that they knew whether to raise or lower their voices. Nicely done by all of them.

KennyShawConducting

Martin Rivas was a guest on the previous set. He missed this one because he was performing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 while this show was going on. He tweeted two short videos of Kenny Shaw with a halo of lights over his head (from the previous set!). Here’s a still that makes Kenny look more like an alien:

KennyShawAlien

Late in the set Paul called up two very special guests. Both are/were students at Lagond. I’m not going to link to them because I have no idea how they intend to promote themselves, but each was easy for me to find if you care to check them out yourself.

Alex Silverstein on electric guitar. Paul admonished the rest of the students in the room to get back to their practice, given what they were about to hear out of Alex. One might assume that Paul was simply complimenting a student (encouraging him), but no, no no no, he was giving the rest of the guitarists in the room fair warning that Alex is the real deal and they better get on the stick.

AlexSilverstein

I don’t even want to tell you how young he is (it would make both of us cry!), but trust me, he’s still a kid (who knows if his voice has broken yet). Let me assure you, he doesn’t play guitar like a kid. He’s got the skills and the feel for the music. Bobby Bananas (Rob Pawlings) gave him a lesson in theatrics during one song, which Alex followed perfectly. He’s the complete package.

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Kevin Myers on drums. Kenny stepped to the side and played the cowbell and shakers while Kevin took over the drum kit. Those are some big shoes to fill, especially during the same set that Kenny just tore it up. And yet, another holy cow, Kevin was up to the task (and more). He really was fantastic on both numbers (very long ones).

KevinMyers

There was another benefit to having Kevin behind the drums (aside from his incredible play). It freed Kenny up to play a cowbell solo, seriously! In addition to the solo itself being awesome (Kenny didn’t just hit the outside of the cowbell in various spots at various tempos, he also rapidly beat up the inside of the cowbell with a drumstick.

It would have been amazing at that, but I would also swear that at one point, the sound guy quickly alternated between the left and right speakers, to that every other strike of the cowbell came from a different speaker, creating a phenomenal stereo effect (like there were dueling cowbells). If I’m wrong about that, then it’s time to get my hearing checked (which very well may be the case)…

Steven Salcedo was called up to play a long sax solo in one of the last songs. Paul personally walked the microphone down from the rear of the stage so that Steven could serenade us up close. Thanks Paul. Getting another taste of Steven’s play (he was a highlight during the previous Mayo Band set) was a nice way to top off an extraordinary evening.

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And, what show is complete without someone doing push ups on stage?

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Now all I have to do is start training to stay up real late, as most Thang Band shows start at midnight or later. That made last night an extra special treat. Smile

Greg Mayo Band at Lagond Music School

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Greg Mayo Band headlined a set at Lagond Music School last night. This is one of three posts from last night. I’ll spend more time talking about Lagond Music School (LMS) in the final one.

Greg is a teacher at LMS (lucky kids!). LMS puts on shows on a regular basis. I don’t know if this was a special one, but this is the tenth anniversary year of LMS. Any show that Greg is part of is special to us. Smile

This was a classic Greg Mayo Band (GMB) show, with one exception and one substitution. The exception was that Rebecca Haviland (who normally sings harmony and some lead vocals) had a previous commitment and couldn’t attend. We’ll get to the substitution below.

Otherwise, the sound was perfectly faithful as was the extraordinary energy that is present at every GMB show. Greg played with the opener as well (covered in the third post, not yet written) so he was fully warmed up vocally and digits (fingers).

GregMayoKeyboards

If this was your first GMB show, you might have thought that Greg was particularly loose and connected with the audience, because a number of his students were there. You’d be wrong. He’s equally comfy on any stage (large or small) and always has a connection with the audience. He feels the music (or rather he exudes the music) and as a result, so do you.

GregMayoSinging

Martin Rivas had a gig earlier in the day up in Westchester and he headed over after that to enjoy the show in the audience with the rest of us. Greg probably would have called Martin up to sing anyway, but with Rebecca unavailable, that became mandatory. Martin sang on one song during the set and was called up again for the encore (the only cover song). What a nice treat (and surprise) for us.

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

John Liotta on baritone saxophone (once again, no good individual link). John regularly brings up the bottom of the brass section, doing a great job last night.

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Josh Reed on trumpet. Josh also teaches at Lagond and is a regular member of GMB. He took a mind-blowing solo during one song and was excellent on the rest.

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Steven Salcedo on tenor saxophone. Steven also teaches at Lagond (and if I have my facts straight, was previously a student there!). He’s one of a number of sax players who rotates with GMB and I promise to be thrilled any time that he’s in the lineup. He’s a very special person and musician.

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Here’s a shot of the brass section, behind Greg at the keyboards:

GregMayoBandBrassSection

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny is such an integral part of the GMB sound and is so intimate/familiar with it. Great job. I’ll heap even more praise on him in the next post though.

KennyShaw

Rob Pawlings on electric bass. Rob was the one substitution. Chris Anderson normally plays bass for GMB. While I will never be happy about Chris Anderson being replaced, ever, if it has to happen, feel free to make it Rob Pawlings any time! The biggest difference in their performances with GMB is that Chris sings a lot and Rob (who sings well!) doesn’t know the numbers well enough to sing along. Otherwise, his bass play was spectacular. Stay tuned for more on Rob in the next post.

RobPawlings

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals as well as being a teacher at LMS. Paul was excellent on guitar (much more on him in the next post). He always sings with GMB, but had to carry a bit more of the weight last night, actually taking one of Rebecca’s parts in one song. He’s always a blast to watch on stage as well.

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Greg called up a very special guest late in the set.

Charlie Lagond joined the great brass section on two numbers, playing his saxophone. What a treat (more on him in the final post about the school and the students).

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Here’s the set list:

SetList

Greg and Martin had to scoot once the set was over. A little over an hour after they were done here, they were on stage at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, supporting Robbie Gil in a set devoted to some of the greatest The Who songs. My heart ached to miss that, but there was no way we were walking out on the next set at LMS, covered in the next post.

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I’ve been sick for two weeks, finally nearly back to normal. This was our first musical event in over two weeks. We missed quite a number of shows that were tough to pass on, but this was a very nice way to break the ice.

Mike and Ruthy with Aoife O’Donovan at Joe’s Pub

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Mike and Ruthy headlined a show at Joe’s Pub last night. I hadn’t heard of them (by that name) but I was interested in the show because I had just recently discovered the opener, Aoife O’Donovan. When I checked out Mike and Ruthy, I liked what I heard, so that made the decision to get tickets easy.

I’ll mention at the bottom why I should have known who they are.

Mike and Ruthy are married. They have a son and are very close to adding a daughter to their clan. Ruthy was quite pregnant, though it didn’t seem to stymie her performance at all.

Ruthy sings beautifully and played a tiny silver ukulele, acoustic guitar and fiddle, all very well.

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Mike has an excellent voice and played acoustic guitar (two different ones with very different sounds/styles), harmonica and banjo. While he only played the banjo on one number, it was a highlight (both the song and his play). He was quite good on the guitar too, finger-picking on many numbers.

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Each sings well enough alone, with their harmonies adding a nice spice to the mix.

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They are billed as a Roots/Americana/Folk duo. That’s certainly accurate enough, but they had band support and an additional genre last night as well.

They just released a new EP (it was available for sale at the show and you can buy it on their website). It has six songs on it and they kicked off the show by playing the entire CD (not in track order). At least half of those songs were more bluesy to me (though Roots Bluesy, so they still qualify for the general description).

Each of them sings and plays instruments well enough that I have no doubt they would do a great job purely as a duo. That said, I’m glad not to have found out last night, because they surrounded themselves with top-notch musicians that added significantly to their sound. Left-to-right on stage:

Daniel Littleton (easy to find online, but I couldn’t find a good individual link). Dan played acoustic guitar on every number and was fantastic. When Mike played the banjo, they jammed together for a long time.

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Jacob Silver on electric bass. Jake was great on the bass. He displaced Ruthy at the mic a few times to answer questions (or to clarify statements) that Ruthy posed. It was an amusing touch.

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Robin MacMillan on drums. Robin was great on the drums.

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Jake and Robin are both in Aoife’s band, so I had seen them before (and they were an important part of why I wanted to see Aoife again). Mike mentioned that both of them played on the new EP and I believe some (all?) of it was recorded in their (or was it Robin’s?) studio.

Aoife O’Donovan joined Mike and Ruthy to sing harmony on a few songs (after the EP numbers were over). She was fantastic and the three of them sounded so good together.

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When their set was complete, the audience didn’t stop applauding until they returned. They played an Etta James song for an encore.

Here’s is their set list:

MikeAndRuthySetList

Aoife O’Donovan opened the show with her regular band (so Jake and Robin were on stage for the entire show). I’ve only seen Aoife once before, five weeks ago, so rather than repeating everything I said about her that night, here’s the link to that post.

AoifeODonovanSinging

Ryan Scott was on stage for every one of Aoife’s numbers last night. He was great, in particular on Glowing Heart.

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Ruthy joined Aoife for her final three numbers. She sang harmony beautifully.

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The first of those numbers was a cover of Emmylou Harris’ Boulder to Birmingham. Gorgeous job ladies, but in particular, Aoife, who brought a lot of soul to it.

Here was Aoife’s set list:

AoifeODonovanSetList

I mentioned above that I would close with why I should have known Mike and Ruthy. They were founding members of a now disbanded group, The Mammals. In 2007 I wrote a very long post about how I first heard of The Mammals, but never got to see them (they disbanded after I bought tickets to one of their shows, but before they played it!).

It’s small-world-ish that I finally saw them at Joe’s Pub, since that’s how I first heard about The Mammals way back then…

The Third Wheel Band CD Release at Rodeo Bar

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The Third Wheel Band headlined Rodeo Bar last night. Beyond a normal headlining show, it was their CD Release (2nd one) for Family Album.

TheThirdWheelBand

Eleven months ago we accidentally caught half of their set at Rockwood Music Hall. Well, hearing even one note was accidental, catching half the set was because we couldn’t tear ourselves away, even though we had to leave! I wrote about that experience.

The intro from that post was as true last night as it was last year:

The Third Wheel Band was a complete joy to listen to from their first note. In addition to playing and singing well, all three are charming on stage. There is a drummer listed on their website, but he wasn’t there last night.

Near the bottom, I wrote:

I’m now following the band on Twitter, so we’ll be sure to hear about upcoming shows and plan to catch one as soon as we can.

Amazingly, while we had a few close calls, we haven’t been able to make a show until now. When I saw that their CD Release was in our neighborhood, I put it on the calendar as a can’t move. Even though we had company staying with us, we told them that we were committed to this show. Smile

A few words about the show, then about the CD, then about Rodeo Bar (first time I ordered food there).

We stayed for the first of at least two sets (I have no idea whether they repeated the set). The majority of the set was straight off the new CD (which is exactly what you’d expect at a CD Release show!). Every song was executed wonderfully. The set lasted roughly 70 minutes, long and satisfying!

The Third Wheel Band (TTWB) is a minimalistic Bluegrass band, quite classical in their delivery (read their interesting bio to see how they chose the band name!). What distinguishes them are crisp, tight vocals (individually and 3-part harmony) and excellent musicianship (all three). Also, they’re having fun on stage, so it’s hard not to have fun along with them in the audience.

Given that most Bluegrass bands play a ton of covers (even the biggies, like The Grascals, who we just saw this past Friday!), there are two things that make a band worth following around: 1) their delivery/execution, 2) their arrangements/sensibility. The point is that many of the songs you’ll hear have been done by the greats (the original songwriters/performers and the best touring Bluegrass bands), so you can quickly tire of people who don’t do justice to those songs.

Not to worry folks, TTWB can hold their own. The fact that they are locals is the bigger surprise, because there aren’t all that many local Bluegrass or Country bands around these parts (I should have thrown in a them  or here somewhere in that phrase). Winking smile

But, rather than play a ton of really classic Bluegrass tunes, TTWB took more traditional (in some cases downright ancient) Folk tunes and turned them into full-blown Bluegrass numbers. Specifically, on the CD (with most performed during the set we attended): Skip to My Lou, Down By the Riverside, You are My Sunshine, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, Buffalo Gals and This Little Light of Mine.

The point is that none of those are sophisticated songs, with lyrics that you better think about long and hard, but they’re classics which are ingrained in our culture (at least for those of us over 30) and TTWB’s take on them is fun and fresh.

After the set we asked how many originals are on the new CD, and the person selling them said two. I’ve already listened to the CD and I really like it, but I didn’t read the liner notes so I don’t know which are theirs.

One more recap of the band, then some thoughts about Rodeo Bar.

Greg Barresi on acoustic guitar and vocals. Excellent on both. His guitar play is really tasty, flat-picking a variety of styles, often mixing chords with mini-leads within the chord. A lot of chord play that he slides up a fret quickly and smoothly. He sings really well, on the lead and harmony.

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Step Allen on upright bass and vocals. Also excellent on both. I’m really impressed with her bass play. She’s in constant motion, even when it’s obvious she could fake it and play every fourth note and still deliver a solid bottom. She’s fast, smooth and interesting. Her vocals are classic Bluegrass. She take the highs in the band, often really bright highs.

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Ryan Langlois (again I can’t find a good individual link) on mandolin, harmonica and vocals. Let’s complete the trifecta and label Ryan as excellent on both (he’s good on the harmonica too, but he won’t rock your world). His mandolin play is quite interesting. He doesn’t play traditional leads (at least not many), but he sneaks some very sweet leads in as part of his chord progressions. Whatever he’s doing, it works. His vocals are wonderful whether he’s singing lead or harmony.

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There you have it. Our first chance encounter, followed by 11 months of being sure we wanted to see them again proved to be correct. We were both very happy to have caught last night’s show and to have a chance to purchase the CD. We’ll see them again, I’m sure!

Here’s the set list. Now that I see it, I realize that the second set was likely going to have no repeats. That’s very cool and I’m sure we would have enjoyed it just as much. Unfortunately, we’ve been burning the candle at both ends, and 10:30pm seemed like a reasonable time to head home (not that I got to sleep before midnight, though it would have been 2am if we had stayed…).

SetList

This was our second time at Rodeo Bar. It’s way more convenient to our apartment than any other place we frequent, so we’re likely to return somewhat regularly.

As we were walking in, the first person we spotted was none other than Chris Anderson. It turns out that he was playing the set before, with Josh Max and The Smash and Grab Band. I don’t know if Chris was Smash, or Grab, but I’m sure he pleased the audience either way.

Chris mentioned that his folks were there as well. We went over to say hello and his mom told me she had the Catfish Tacos and enjoyed them. That helped me decide. I had them too, and I have to say, they were great. Thanks Robin!

I like the atmosphere at Rodeo Bar, I like the staff and I like the sound system. But, the first time we were there (for The Brain Cloud) the audience was quiet and respectful, so I assumed most shows would be like that. They have two rooms, so it’s easy to avoid being on the music side.

Last night, the crowd (and it was quite a crowd) was super enthusiastic about TTWB’s songs, after the fact, with very loud applause, but there was a ton of loud talking during the songs (including from a table of four women right up at the stage). I admit that upbeat Bluegrass music with familiar songs (where you don’t have to concentrate on the lyrics) almost begs to treat it as background music, but these kids on stage are playing their hearts out (really well!) and I would wish they got more respect for their musicianship.

Anyway, since I’ve only been there twice, I can’t judge whether this is more of a bar scene with background music, or whether this is more typically a listening crowd. I guess I’ll find out, because I intend to go back (for the food, as well as the music).

Girlyman with Edie Carey at City Winery

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Girlyman headlined City Winery last night. The minute the show was announced we snagged 15 tickets radiating out from center stage to the first aisle. Girlyman in NYC or VA == Party in our household. Smile

Since we accidentally discovered them in August 2007, they have had no trouble holding on to the top spot on my favorite band list. Coming up on our five year anniversary. I guess we’ll be exchanging something made of Wood in a few months. Winking smile

DorisMuramatsuTyGreenstein

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One of the amazing things about Girlyman is that they are both the same and extremely different than they were then. They continue to grow and experiment (quite successfully) while retaining the same core qualities that ensnared me in my first 30-second listen of Joyful Sign (the song) on their MySpace page, all those years ago (yes, MySpace, for realz).

One measure that they stand the test of time is that I’m equally happy if they play their newest song or their oldest. At most shows you get a healthy mix. Because they are getting really close to releasing their latest CD (we already have it, since we were geniuses and pre-ordered it when they first announced it) last night was weighted toward the newest stuff (Supernova), but they would never leave their fans completely devoid of their classic numbers.

Supernova has 13 songs on it. They played 10 of them last night. You might think that wouldn’t leave time for anything else. If you thought that, you’ve never been to a Girlyman show. They play long sets and find a way to please almost everyone, even those of us who don’t get our request played. Including two encores, they played eight numbers that are not on Supernova (95 minutes on stage). For your convenience, each of the songs that were not on Supernova happened to be starred (have a leading asterisk) on the set list. The Request song ended up being Amaze Me. I’ll get to the two encores later.

SetList

I mentioned above that Girlyman has grown/changed through the years. The biggest change occurred 2.5 years ago, when JJ Jones started playing drums with them (first when she was part of their opening band, then when she joined Girlyman full time). This tour marks another significant shift.

JJJonesDrums

It’s the first show I’ve been at where they retired two beloved instruments: Ty no longer has the djembe on stage and Nate didn’t have his baritone guitar. As wonderful as the djembe sound is (and Ty has a great feel/touch on it), JJ satisfies every desire for percussive sounds. The baritone guitar has been replaced by two instruments: 1) an electric bass which is passed around between Doris, Ty and Nate (plus a special guest) and 2) an electronic keyboard that is now Nate’s primary instrument.

NateBorofskyKeyboardsTyGreensteinGuitarDorisMuramatsuSinging

You can judge how wonderful the set list was for yourself, but if you weren’t there, you need me to tell you that they sounded equally good. For certain shows, City Winery can be less-than-ideal, because audience cross-talk can really interfere with the listening experience. Girlyman fans are awesome (everywhere we’ve seen them, in multiple states), so there was no talking and the sound washed over us.

Of course there were tuning songs. It’s really good to know that the loss of the baritone guitar did not mean the loss of tuning songs. Nate did at least one on the bass, but most were on the keyboards. I won’t spoil any, since I suspect that one of the better ones may become a theme on the remainder of this tour.

Beside the tuning songs, all of their banter was funny, with Nate in particular tickling my funny bone (often with near-whispered comments that were spot on).

While the addition of JJ was a biggie, the new songs on Supernova were arranged with drums as a first-class citizen. At previous shows, as much praise as I heaped on JJ, the song I found myself always calling out was Young James Dean (which they closed the show with last night). She’s awesome on that number. But, I now have to call out practically every one of the 10 songs from Supernova that they played last night, as the drums is now very integral to the sound of each (on the CD as well as live).

Girlyman rotated three special guests throughout the set, at times even having all three on stage at the same time.

Julia Biber on cello. Julia played the cello on Supernova as well, so it was a real treat to see her perform a number of songs live. She bowed and plucked (during the finale, she was forced to pluck because her bow went missing). She was also the subject of a running joke throughout the set as both Nate and Ty kept pronouncing her last name in a British accent (they didn’t go quite so far as to say: “Biber, Julia Biber”, as in “Bond, James Bond”).

JuliaBiber

Ingrid Elizabeth (of Coyote Grace) played electric bass and danced (yes, danced!). First, let’s get the bass playing taken care of. We’ve seen Coyote Grace once, when they opened for Girlyman at The Barns at Wolf Trap. Ingrid plays both electric and upright bass magnificently, so having her play the electric with Girlyman was delicious.

When Girlyman played Kittery Tide they cleared the cello area (far left of the stage, which is how the bow got misplaced). Ingrid came out in tap shoes and danced (impressively IMHO) to the very upbeat number. I was particularly amazed at her perfectly timed high jumps, which coincided with JJ’s biggest drum strikes.

IngridElizabethDancing

Not to keep it too serious, in the middle of the song Ingrid danced across the stage, behind every member of Girlyman, with grand hand and arm gestures as her body was obscured by each of them. It was funny, entertaining and yet could still be considered very good dancing!

The final special guest was the opener, who sang on at least four numbers (you can see her name on three of them in the set list, but she also sang during the first encore). She complemented them well, but I’ll save her name for when I get to her set, just after describing the encores.

The first encore consisted of their now regular rendition of Staying Alive, to thank all that is holy for Doris’ recovery from Leukemia. It’s always a fun number, but having all three guests on stage (this is where Julia was forced to pluck) enriched the sound even further. It was a big finish, except that the crowd wouldn’t stop clapping and they were forced to return for a second encore.

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They asked for requests. It was obvious which song was called out the most. Nate just said “Yes, I heard you, Easy!”. It might have been clear, but it started a humorous debate that they now needed to pick a song of theirs that had Easy in the title. In seconds, they rattled off three different songs: 1) Everything’s Easy, 2) Easy Bake Ovens and 3) Easy Pearls. Of course, they knew/heard that the request was for Everything’s Easy, which they performed beautifully. Smile

Edie Carey opened the show. She started out talking for longer than I expected, and within seconds, had everyone (or at least me) eating out of her hand. She was charming, disarming, candid and interesting. That continued throughout the set, with long introductions that were at least as entertaining as the songs.

EdieCarey

I think she either had a slight cold or was suffering from allergies, because her voice sounded a touch nasally to me. It worked really well anyway (didn’t affect her ability to hit any notes), but I think it’s typically a little clearer.

She accompanied herself very well on an acoustic guitar. Like Girlyman, she rotated a number of guests.

EdieCareyGuitar

Elana Arian played the violin (fiddle) on every number. I think she also sang a bit of harmony, but don’t quote me (or hate me) in case I am making that up. Her violin play was excellent and I thought it complemented Edie’s vocals and guitar extremely well. I found out after the fact that she’s a singer/songwriter as well, so you can check out her original music by clicking on her name.

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Edie brought up Doris and JJ to join her a couple of songs into the set. Doris played the electric bass and JJ the drums (duh). Lovely, as the sound kept getting fuller.

Then Nate joined on the electronic keyboards and vocals.

Finally, Ty came out for two numbers (I believe). Ingrid Elizabeth joined for one of those as well. So, it started out with an acoustic guitar and violin, with solo vocals, and eventually built up to a full band with rich harmony. Very well done!

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Edie was an incredibly well-matched opener for Girlyman. That’s no surprise, as she’s opened for them on at least one previous tour, so it was no accident that they selected her again.

IngridElizabethEdieCarey

Ary does the sound, setup and teardown at all of Girlyman’s shows. She does an incredible job and deserves a huge shoutout:

Ary

Circling back to our Party. We invited a mix of people to join us. That included four NYC-based singer/songwriters (none of whom were familiar with Girlyman): Bri Arden, Jeff Litman, Matt Simons and John Schmitt. Unfortunately, John was performing at a house concert in NJ earlier in the day, and due to the monsoon, ended up not being able to make it to the show. We missed him, and he missed a great show (which he’ll know, when he reads this).

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Our party also included a family who traveled from MN specifically to see this show!

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The rest were our music loving friends with whom we enjoy so many shows together. Of those, two had never seen Girlyman before, so that was a treat to introduce them to their music.

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One of those was sporting a stunning diamond ring, having just accepted the proposal of another of our amazing singer/songwriter friends.

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We enjoyed a lovely meal and some wine made right on the premises (yummy if you ask me). It was a perfect evening. The only thing that tried to dampen our joy was the rain (get it, dampen?). Winking smile

OK, when does Girlyman return to NYC? I have to get it on the calendar and grab a bunch of seats together, so we can plan the reprise.

Greg Mayo Band Levon Helm Tribute at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Greg Mayo Band headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. The show was on opposite two others that I would gladly have attended, but a week ago I decided that one can’t have enough Greg Mayo in their lives, so with apologies to the others, I was going to see Greg.

GregMayo

Then on Thursday (April 19th, 20120), Levon Helm passed away. Greg announced that Saturday’s show would now feature a tribute to Levon Helm and The Band. Had I chosen one of the other shows, I would have changed my plans to attend this for that reason alone.

LevonHelm

Greg split the show into two parts. The first was five songs written by him and performed by the full Greg Mayo Band (eight people, including a brass section). The second was the Levon Helm / The Band tribute, consisting of six songs with special guests joining on a few.

I was really glad that Greg chose to play some of his own material as well because one of our friends had never seen a Greg Mayo Band (GMB) show and he totally got how awesome they are (and Greg’s songs are!) before the first verse was over. I bet I’ll be seeing him at many future GMB shows. Smile

After playing It’s a Pity (typically the last song of a GMB set), the horn section left the stage and Greg gave a moving speech about Levon and what he meant to Greg, all of his musician friends and many others (including me!).

One of the first things he mentioned was that a few people had told him that everyone was doing tributes to Levon and perhaps he should consider not doing one. Greg had the perfect answer: “You can never have too many tributes to The Band, everyone should do one!”. Amen!

I’ll cover all of the band members below, but the spirit of the tribute deserves mention before the individuals who performed it perfectly.

In the GMB Greg plays the keyboards (last night he played the grand piano exclusively, amazingly, though he typically plays a bunch of electronic keyboards during these shows as well). Greg also plays a ton of guitar in many other bands. A few of those bands (including The Big Apple Singers and it’s various spin-offs and The Narwhals) specialize in songs by The Band. So I have personally witnessed Greg and his cohorts choosing to honor those songs over and over, ensuring that our youngins get exposed to these timeless classics.

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There’s another reason that the timing of Levon’s passing was so emotional for Greg. Over the New Year’s weekend, as a surprise gift for his recent birthday, a very special person in Greg’s life took him to one of Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles. I’m sure it’s a night that Greg will remember for the rest of his life. The fact that it ended up being one of Levon’s last Rambles makes it all the more poignant.

Greg began the tribute portion by inviting up one guest.

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. Patrick joined for most of the The Band portion, including stepping away from the keyboards to sing lead on a verse at center stage. He was great on the keys, always an integral part of The Band songs.

PatrickFirthKeyboardsPatrickFirthSingingZachJonesMattSimonsPatrickFirthSingingZachJones

PatrickFirthRebeccaHavilandChrisAndersonPaulMaddison

Then Greg invited up a couple of guests to sing on a few of the songs.

Evan Watson kicked it off with the lead vocals on the first verse of Up on Cripple Creek. Evan fronts a number of bands, including The Big Apple Singers. He’s as well suited for singing any song by The Band as anyone I know. Evan returned later and took over the electric guitar for one song in addition to singing on others.

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Zach Jones sang a verse on Up on Cripple Creek as well and joining everyone else for a few other songs.

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Circling back to the band, but first, a few more words about Greg. He’s never disappointed me at any show, whether he’s the star or a sideman. Last night his voice was as good as I’ve ever heard it (I’m tempted to say he was inspired, but that would detract from the fact that his worst is better than most others’ best). His piano play was as good as it always is.

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His mic stand failed on one song (I didn’t see how). Armando cut through the crowd with a replacement. While he was swapping one for the other, Greg took the mic and stood up to sing without playing the piano. Of course he was incredible. When the swap was done Greg didn’t replace the mic in the stand until the song was over. Instead, he sat down at the bench and alternated playing the piano with one hand, then the other, switching the mic into the non-playing hand. Great job of making awesome Lemonade from the lemons. Smile

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

Rebecca Haviland on vocals and tambourine. Rebecca was on stage for every number in the set. She sang a lot with Greg during his numbers, including taking the lead on part of It’s a Pity. Then she joined on every The Band song, including singing a verse on the lead of at least one song. Superb!

RebeccaHavilandSingingGregMayoRebeccaHavilandSinging

John Liotta on baritone saxophone. John played on every GMB number, then returned for half of The Band ones. He took one long lead on a GMB song and wailed a bit with the rest of the brass section on The Band tunes as well. Excellent!

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Josh Reed on trumpet. He was on stage for the same songs as John Liotta (as was the next person, completing the brass section). Like John, Josh took a long lead on one GMB number. Excellent!

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Matt Simons completed the brass section on tenor saxophone. Matt is awesome on the sax, but we don’t get to see him play it often enough, because his own original music (which I love!) is delivered on the keyboards. So, having him play at last night’s show was a very special treat for me.

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The brass section alone, then bracketed by Rebecca and Paul:

BrassSectionRebeccaHavilandBrassSectionPaulMaddison

Kenny Shaw on drums. I had to go three days between seeing Kenny playing the drums. Thankfully, the long drought ended with such a great set.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris is always great on the bass. He sang a bunch of background vocals on the GMB portion. In addition to singing a verse on the lead in a couple of The Band songs, Chris came to center stage to sing lead on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Fantastic!

ChrisAndersonRebeccaHavilandChrisAndersonChrisAndersonSingingJoshReed

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Paul sang a bunch on the GMB numbers. He wailed on the electric guitar more during The Band portion, but was extremely solid during the GMB set. He relinquished his guitar and spot on stage for the number that Evan played guitar.

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Most of the audience sang along to The Band numbers, with quite a number of people singing along to the GMB ones as well. It was a set most worthy of losing one’s voice. Thanks Greg and everyone on stage (and in the audience) for such an incredible, memorable performance!

Here’s the set list:

GregMayoBandLevonHelmTributeSetList

A few extra shots, including one of Greg’s little mascot:

GregMayoMascotGregMayoRebeccaHaviland

Goodnight Levon and thanks for everything!

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The Grascals at Emelin Theatre

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The Grascals headlined a show at Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck, NY last night. When they introduced the band, it turned out they weren’t simply headlining a random show. Emelin had been hosting a Bluegrass series and The Grascals were the final act of this year’s series. I’m sorry we were unaware of the rest of the series, but we only found out about this show because we’re big fans of The Grascals.

This was our fourth time seeing The Grascals live. Each show has been great, so without a doubt, there will be a fifth show in our future. It’s been 15 months since the last one, so they’re spaced out long enough to have some withdrawal going on. It also gives them time to write (or cover) some new material as well (how nice of us). Smile

Before I tell you a bit about the show (and it will be less than I typically do), I’ll point you to the post about the last show. Aside from the fact that I think I accurately describe the nature of most (all?) Grascals shows (their setup, etc.), Emelin allowed zero photography last night. So, I don’t have a single shot of any of them. If you want to see what they look like in concert, click on the link to the Highline show.

We did get one shot of the Set List as we walked to our seats. You’ll see it says Kokomo, IN. This wasn’t the exact script they followed, but of the four sheets on stage, it was really close, so there you go. I’m throwing in the cover of the Program as a bonus. Winking smile

SetListTheGrascalsProgram

They followed their usual format (thankfully!), of basically being two separate groups that share a stage (and songs) perfectly. Three wonderful vocalists who also hold up the rhythm section. Three extraordinary instrumentalists who thrill individually and complement each other.

The crowd at Emelin was filled with Bluegrass lovers (obviously, as most were probably subscribers to the entire series, not just there for The Grascals). Totally appreciative of every nuance on the banjo (Kristin Scott Benson), fiddle (Jeremy Abshire) and mandolin (Danny Roberts). In fact, while I too have the instinct to applaud after every individual burst, I would ding this crowd for doing it too much (meaning, every time), because The Grascals rotate the leads in rapid succession, so while you’re applauding a mandolin lead, you’re missing the first part of the equally amazing banjo one, etc.

There was one unannounced guest that seemed somewhat ill-fitting to me (though he got a ton of applause, so either I missed the point, or people are way too polite). I couldn’t easily find him online, so I’ll use that as an excuse to say no more about it/him.

Including a one-song encore, they were on stage for exactly 90 minutes. A wonderful set, filled with humor, great singing and mind-boggling virtuosity on the banjo, fiddle and mandolin.

You can tune out now if you’re only interested in The Grascals. If you’re friends of ours, keep reading about our evening leading up to the show. Smile

I had never heard of the Emelin Theatre before (they claim to be the oldest continuously operating Performing Arts Center in Westchester). When I saw The Grascals announcement to play there, I was even more excited, because we have friends that moved to Mamaroneck last summer. We hadn’t gotten to see their place yet, so we were hoping that we’d get them to join us for the show.

The plan couldn’t have worked out better. They have a 6-month-old (who we have seen, just not at their place), and the grandparents were visiting for the weekend. We got to spend time with the extended family in their home, then all of us had dinner together. So great to catch up with everyone and get a dose of wonderful kids (no better way to lift your heart).

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The grandparents then babysat for the kids while the four of us got to enjoy the show.

Apollo Run Acoustic Show at Rockwood Music Hall

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Apollo Run headlined a special acoustic show at Rockwood Music Hall last night. I characterized it as special (that’s not how they billed it), because it gave me a chance to evaluate their core musical proposition relatively quickly after my first encounter with them three weeks ago.

ApolloRunAcoustic

In that first show, I had tons of good things to say. I also had some negatives, most of which revolved around everything being way too loud that night. An acoustic show would let me know what’s what (or at least should).

I now know everything I need to know about Apollo Run and you can take it to the bank. They are awesome, no ifs, ands or buts.

Big picture: amazing vocals (individually and harmony), excellent musicians, great songs (sounds like all of the ingredients to me).

Pesky details:

John McGrew on acoustic guitar, piano and lead vocals. John mostly played the acoustic guitar throughout the set. He switched over to the grand piano for one full number, then returned to the grand with his guitar still around his neck to finish another one. However, like I noted in my first write-up, what really separates John from the pack is his voice. It’s fantastic.

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Graham Fisk on percussion and vocals. When I saw Graham line up on stage with the others, a different kind of shaker in each hand, I worried that I’d miss out on his drumming. He’s an exceptional drummer, which I fully appreciated the first time around, even though the volume was too high. Not to worry.

GrahamFisk

While I am sure I would have loved hearing the drums (with a light touch), Graham’s sensibility with the shakers was fine. More importantly (much more importantly), his voice is really great (as I noted last time) and he sings so well with John. Not having the drums allowed that aspect to shine even more.

GrahamFiskSinging

Jeff Kerestes on acoustic bass, ukulele, grand piano and vocals. Even for the acoustic show, the formula for splitting the duties between the three seemed fairly constant. That meant that Jeff handled much of the melodic work, even on the bass. He’s an incredible bass player, so having him be front-and-center works well.

JeffKerestesBass

When he switched to the ukulele, he didn’t just strum (which is what the majority of uke players do), but also finger-picked a bit and played some lead. Very nicely done!

JeffKerestesUkulele

In a move that didn’t happen at the amplified show, Jeff took to the grand piano for one song. Another instrument that he can handle ably.

JeffKerestesPiano

He sang roughly half as much as Graham did, always very well, creating gorgeous three-part harmonies. When John played the piano, Jeff put down all of his instruments and moved next to Graham to sing.

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Even though it was an acoustic show, they project a power and energy which is palpable (you can even catch it on film):

ApolloRunEnergy

They closed the show with the same bang that they did at Rockwood 2, with all three descending into the audience to sing All in Good Time, a cappella, clapping and stomping, with most of the audience joining in. Awesome.

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Their set list was on John’s phone (I know that, because John had to call out to have a friend hand it up from the audience). Lois didn’t get to take a photo of the iPhone screen, so I reached out after the show to have Jeff send me a copy. He ended his note with “I think….”, so I don’t want anyone to sue me (or him), if this was the exact set list:

Desire
Nightingale
Love song
Annie Mae
That’s how it felt
Myography
Tiger blood
These kind of girls
Stars
All in good time

They mentioned that they had copies of their first two EPs for sale: Here Be Dragons (Vol’s I and II). We bought a copy of each. I listened to both this morning and love them! They are nearing completion of Vol III (produced by Dan Molad of Lucius and others). Looking forward to getting my hands on that as well.

ApolloRunEPs

OK, glad to know that all of the people who raved to me about Apollo Run knew exactly what they were talking about. If I find myself in a similar situation to the first show, all I need to do is climb up into the sound booth and force the sound guy to dial back the master volume. Winking smile