Richard Julian at Rockwood Music Hall

We started the day planning to attend three sets (7 and 8pm at Rockwood Music Hall, and 10pm at The Living Room). We ended up attending the 6pm set at Rockwood as well. We had an hour to fill at 9pm. We could have stayed at Rockwood or caught the 9pm at The Living Room.

I listened to both artists and thought I would have enjoyed either set. I liked the Rockwood person more. My only hesitation was that it was listed as a 2-hour set (rare at Rockwood 1), and I didn’t want to have to bolt mid-set. Still, I was intrigued as to how good he might be knowing they were giving him the full two hours.

Richard Julian sings really well, plays the guitar beautifully and is accompanied by an amazing band. He played mostly originals along with some covers. He has a mellow but engaging stage presence. He also has a loyal fan base, the place was packed and as respectfully quiet as you cold hope for.


It’s a mostly jazz style, but the songs varied quite a bit to hold our interest on every single number.


His band, left-to-right on stage:

J. Walter Hawkes on trombone. He was great on every number. I don’t typically think of Lois as someone who would rave about a trombone player (I have no idea why that’s true, but it is), and yet, when we left, she couldn’t stop raving about J. Walter (or do I know him well enough to call him J. yet?). Smile


Tim Luntzel on electric bass. Tim was beyond amazing (bamazing?)! He sat on his amp and just crushed the bass, appearing to not even break a sweat. One of the great things about most jazz sets is that the volume is down, but balanced so well that you can actually easily pick out every note on every instrument. Watching Tim’s fingers fly on the bass was also a treat.


One of the things I like about blogging about every single show, coupled with the fact that we see so many shows is that every once in a while, I find a nugget in my own posts that either brings back a wonderful memory, or gives me a new perspective on an old one (that I often didn’t recall until I searched my own site!).

I didn’t remember Tim Luntzel’s name when I typed it above. But, my blog-writing software (Microsoft Live Writer) did, and immediately created a link. That meant I’ve blogged about Tim before. I couldn’t believe that someone who blew me away faded from my memory. I looked it up and saw that Tim supported Greg Tannen at Hiro Ballroom. Here’s what I said about him that night:

Tim Luntzel on electric bass. Tim did a nice job, not highlighted much.

Ah, “not highlighted much”. Too bad! I could have known then that this is a guy I needed to follow (yes, I just started following him on Twitter a minute ago!). You can rest assured I won’t be forgetting his name going forward (I knew you were worried!). Winking smile

Dan Rieser on drums. That link isn’t to Dan’s site (I couldn’t find one), but rather to someone who wrote a blog post about Dan, raving about him. Please allow me to bow to that person, who clearly knows way more about drums than I do, for doing a better job of explaining to you how excellent Dan’s drumming is.


On one song he did something I’ve never seen. He had two drum sticks in each hand, split into reasonably tight V’s. I can’t say that I heard anything particularly different than just a normal pair of sticks hitting the drums and cymbals, but it certainly was visually interesting.

The real key here is that Richard Julian surrounds himself with great musicians, which enhances the experience of seeing him perform dramatically.

I can’t tell you how ambivalent I was about leaving early (recall, Richard had a 2-hour set, but we were committed to another show half way through). I didn’t really know the other group, but I knew that staying at Rockwood for another hour would be blissful.

My next post will reveal whether leaving was a huge mistake or not. Either way, Richard Julian, J. Walter Hawkes, Tim Luntzel and Dan Rieser are all on my make sure you see them list! That made staying at Rockwood absolutely the correct decision!

Morgan Holland at Rockwood Music Hall

I just posted about John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall. At the end of his set, he implored us all to stick around for the next set, headlined by Morgan Holland. He didn’t need to implore us, or even inform us. Morgan’s set was on our schedule from the day I found out about it.


But, John accidentally announced it in an unintentional manner. He said: “Morgan Holland will be leaving us soon, so stick around for her last set” (or something to that affect). Morgan was standing in the far corner of the club and I caught her reaction. She was bemused.

Morgan is indeed leaving us, but the us in that sentence are New Yorkers (not the world)! Winking smile

She is starting graduate school in the fall, in LA. She’s becoming a left-coastie (she originally was before transplanting here). We’ll all miss her a lot, but if she ever returns, she’ll be brainier, so we have that to look forward to. Smile

While Morgan is not a full-time musician, I am a fan of her work, including the EP that she put out last year. As is typical for most of the shows that we’ve seen her perform, Morgan sang, played guitar some and ukulele on one number.


What was radically different last night was that Morgan was dramatically more chatty on stage, to fantastic effect. She was funny and warm. The place was packed, and the crowd consisted of many of Morgan’s friends. Perhaps that gave her the courage. Whatever the reason, I like it and if I get to see her again, I’d like more of it.

She had an excellent set selection and sang well. She was joined by three of our favorite musicians, left-to-right on the stage:

Chris Ayer on acoustic guitar, vocals and ukulele on one song. Chris was wonderful all around. Chris produced Morgan’s EP!


Matt Simons on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Matt was wonderful as well. It was a treat to see Matt switch instruments from the set before, so that we got to enjoy the sax (with John Schmitt) and then the piano in this set. Matt didn’t sing with John, so having him sing harmony with Morgan was a nice bonus.


Chris Anderson on upright bass. Always one of our favorite bass players, no exception last night. The upright was a very good choice for complementing the more smoky quality of Morgan’s voice. Chris plucked and used the bow.


We didn’t get to snag a paper set list, but Chris had one written out on his arm (as he does for his sets), so Lois snapped a photo, and you can see it from his perspective and ours as well:


An excellent sendoff to a lovely lady. We all wish you the best on the other coast. Come back soon! Smile

P.S. This is post #3 of five about last night.

John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall

Even though it’s only been a few weeks since we last saw John Schmitt perform (May 13th at The Living Room), we were really looking forward to this show last night. The set at The Living Room was excellent, which is reason enough to want more. But Rockwood Music Hall is also more intimate which in itself was a draw.

John delivered a completely satisfying experience (to high expectations!). He had a few surprises for us as well (another great reason to go see your favorite artists often).


You can read a number of my posts about John. Here are the key facts that you’ll learn:

  • he has a wonderful voice
  • he plays guitar wonderfully
  • he writes exceptional songs (OK, I should have said wonderful songs, to stick with the theme) Winking smile
  • he has many talented musical buddies (both genders), who are only too happy to make music with him

All of those were in play last night, including John selecting an excellent set list.


He played two songs solo, at least two with one female guest (two different women, we’ll get to them shortly) and the rest with a full band (which also had a surprise guest).

First, the band:

Pasquale Chieffalo on electric bass. John joked on stage that I would have to work extra-hard to figure out the correct spelling of Pasquale’s name. He was right, but he was also wrong, because I gave up pretty quickly and just shot John a message and he gave it to me, so I cheated. Winking smile Last night, I quipped back that I would just describe Pasquale as “The tall bass player”. Man, he is tall. Smile


None of that is important, of course. The fact that Pasquale played really well and was at exactly the right volume is all that mattered. He played the bass on John’s CD, Ophelia, which we love.

One of the songs that John played solo was called “Me and the Chief”. He claims that it’s about his grandfather, but now that I see how to spell Pasquale’s last name, I’m less convinced. Winking smile

Ryan Vaughn on drums. I just praised Ryan’s drumming last week when he played with Robbie Gil. That was a louder, more upbeat set, and required a different kind of drumming. Obviously, Ryan handled the switch in styles last night extremely well (he’s one of the top NY-based drummers). Also the right volume (I mention it as a contrast to the drummer the set before, who was good, but too loud).


Matt Simons was a special guest on two songs, playing the saxophone! I pretty much like everything Matt Simons does, but from the first time I ever saw him play sax with the Greg Mayo Band, I knew that my softest spot for him would likely come whenever he broke out the sax. It was a complete surprise to see him play it with John.


John was very generous in giving Matt multiple long leads, and Matt nailed every one of them. Kudos and Bravo! Needless to say, the sax was well-matched to both songs that John invited him up for, the second of which was You Got Me Brother.

On to the ladies:

Karly Jurgensen was invited up to sing two songs with John. The first was Evangeline, a cover of a version of the song performed by The Band with special guest star Emmylou Harris (in 1976!). If you haven’t guessed yet, Karly played the part of Emmylou Harris. John performed the role of “The Band”, since he gave his band the song off (he’s generous like that). Lovely!


The second song was Ophelia, the title track of John’s CD (this time his band played as well). On this song Karly’s part doesn’t come in until nearly the end, when she sings “Adieu Love” quite a number of times, in harmony with John, but also while John sings some other lines.

John just released a live CD (pay what you will, so I advise you to pay a lot). Winking smile Ophelia on that CD (which you can stream for free) has both Chris Ayer and Julia Poorman singing along. In that version, Chris speaks to the audience (at the 1:18 mark) saying: “I promise I’m going to sing at some point”. I note that because Karly was much more patient and simply waited for the end of the song to do her part. Winking smile

Update: two people independently reached out privately to me to say that Chris would never be so rude as to talk during John’s song. One of them noted it was John who said “I promise they’re going to sing at some point”. It never occured to me that Chris was bring rude. Depending on how the show was going, previous banter with the audience and between them, I assumed (incorrectly) that he was being particularly funny. There was a wink at the end of the above paragraph, but I know not everyone trusts a winking man. 🙂

A little later on, John called up another female guest star.

Lissa Farquhar joined him to sing Going Back. In addition to singing beautiful harmony, Lissa sang lead as well. She then sang fantastic harmony on Ave Regina (what a wonderful song).


John is one of the more consistent performers of the (way too many) ones that we follow.

P.S. This was the second of five sets that we saw last night, and one of the three that we originally planned to. Smile

Matt Koziol at Rockwood Music Hall

We had firm plans to see three sets last night, the first of which was at 7pm at Rockwood Music Hall. As is our custom, we like to check out the set before we want to be there both to see if there’s someone worth discovering and to snag a seat more easily for the set we’re really interested in.

Matt Koziol was listed at 6pm. If you click on his name you’ll get to his site where there are (currently) four videos prominently displayed. I clicked on the first (at the moment labeled “another idea…”) and it didn’t grab me at all. I was ready to simply pass on seeing Matt.

Lois was particularly interested in getting a seat for the 7pm set (John Schmitt) so I bothered to click through to Matt’s MySpace page. He has four songs available for streaming there, and I liked all four. Whew, problem solved.

We walked in a few minutes late, likely in the middle of Matt’s first number. I would describe the majority of Matt’s set as jazz-tinged Rock. He dismissed the drummer for a couple of numbers, with the bass player switching to a shaker, creating a much mellower blues-infused Rock feel. I liked both.


Matt has a very good voice and played the electric guitar quite nicely. It confused me a bit that he had another lead electric guitar player in the band. I had trouble tracking down the names of his band members. I know the drummer’s name since there’s a story behind it, so it stuck in my head and was easy to find. The other two, not so much.


Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Mike Baron on lead electric guitar (couldn’t find a good link). Matt said his name clearly, twice, but I didn’t write it down, and this was the first of five sets for us last night, so my brain didn’t retain the info. He was reasonably good on the guitar, but like I noted above, since Matt handled himself well in that department, and they didn’t play any leads together, I’m not really sure what role he played.


He was also louder than the rest, especially when he added effects (notably some organ-like sounds on one number), which caused the drummer to be way too loud.

Sal Rametta on electric Bass player (I could swear his first name is Sal, but the same caveat regarding names applies). I was surprised not to be able to find his name easily, since he sang fantastic harmony with Matt throughout the set. To me that meant that he has to have been playing with Matt for a while now (that was a lot of lyrics to memorize otherwise). He’s not listed on the band page.


He was quite good on the bass and to repeat, he sings harmony very well. I noted above he put down the bass for the mellower numbers and sang while using a shaker. All around excellent job!


Ted Agelis on the drums. I got this name right because Matt had to say it a few more times than the others. Why? Because he only met Ted yesterday, the day of the show! That made me pay attention to Ted’s play a lot (not that I don’t always pay a lot of attention to drummers).


Ted was quite impressive. It’s not hard to play with a Rock band if you play it safe, even if you don’t know the specific songs. The trickiest part is watching for visual cues (typically from the bass player) for when to stop playing, or when to create the hype of a strong finish.

Ted didn’t play it safe. To me it means that in addition to rehearsing with the band (I assume), he was confident enough to take some interesting fills during the song (not solos), which could have been disastrous if he got it wrong or wasn’t that good. He was good, and got it right. Smile

To repeat my point about the other guitarist being a bit too loud, that was my only complaint about Ted. He was too loud (by a lot). Ironically, that added to my feeling that he was confident though. Meaning, he wasn’t trying to hide behind soft play.

After the set was over, we bought Matt’s 7-song CD (EP?) Heart on the Line. I like that too.

P.S. I’ll update the post above with the correct names when I find out who they were. I’ve tweeted Matt the question already. Thanks to @tjopresents for telling me Mike and Sal’s names!

Delta Rae at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Having seen Delta Rae twice before, we were looking forward to this show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 with great anticipation. Whatever expectations I had, they were exceeded.

You can safely stop reading now, as everything else will be detail to back up that statement. Here is a retweet of theirs with my additional comment coming before the RT:

Yes it was! NY loves you too! RT @DeltaRaeBand That was AWESOME! WE LUV YOU NEW YORK!

Now you know their Twitter handle so go follow them. Aside from learning about upcoming shows and projects, there are often other delicious things you will get. For 12 straight weeks they released a free song (available for download as well as streaming), often accompanied by a fun video. Some were covers, some were originals. I’ll get to one of the originals a bit later in the post.

That series was called gRAEt Mondays. Get it? If not, you might only appreciate the music this group produces, rather than enjoy the complete package of their personalities and style. Winking smile

You can read my past reviews of them, but I’m going make you jump through the tiny hurdle of searching for them rather than linking them. That’s because both times, while I thoroughly enjoyed their performances (the first time acoustic, just the four of them, the second time with a full band), neither approached last night’s quality. That means you can ignore all of the quibbles I might have had in the past, this band has grown up fast (really fast).

Each of the four members of Delta Rae sings lead. They combine for harmonies including two, three and all four of them. Every combination of their voices is exquisite (even when it’s just two of them, any two of them!). Their arrangements of building the harmonies from two, then three, to the explosion of all four are done to perfection. At other times, they’ll launch directly into four part harmonies that will knock you back a few rows (especially if you’re standing).


I’ll be brief about each of them, since this is really a group (team) effort, then I’ll cover the other two band members. Left-to-right on the stage:

Eric Holljes grand piano, acoustic guitar and vocals. Eric has an incredible voice, plays the piano wonderfully (on a few numbers he was really flying up and down the keys) and plays the guitar nicely. He’s an excellent songwriter as well (I’ll circle back to that when I mention some highlights in the set list). Check out his site, and you’ll see that his talents extend well beyond Delta Rae.


Brittany Holljes vocals, tambourine and shakers (no good individual link). Very powerful voice. Brittany typically takes the highest parts of the harmony and hits those notes very cleanly. She takes the lead on some of the more passionately sung songs, and at times I fear she might collapse afterward given how much she’s putting into it (I’m kidding, I just want you to realize she leaves no gas in the tank).


Elizabeth Hopkins (she goes by Liz) vocals, tambourine and shakers. Liz sings a bit lower than Brittany, but also has an exceptional voice and gives her all. Both women dance a lot on stage (which matches the feel of the music), with Liz perhaps doing a bit more of it (or more dramatically) than Brittany.


Ian Holljes vocals and acoustic guitar (no good individual link). Ian sings well and plays rhythm guitar on nearly every song. He kicks off the majority of the songs on the guitar. On quite a number of them, he’s the first singer, even if he doesn’t end up being the main lead. He’s quite a good songwriter as well.


Mike McKee on drums. After the first acoustic Delta Rae show, I requested (in my blog, not of them) that they bring a band up to NYC. They delivered. Mike played drums (extremely well) the last time I saw them. Last night he cranked it up a lot. Aside from excellent and energetic drumming throughout, Mike got to really let loose a few times, notably on a number he was absent from the other time I saw him.


One of Delta Rae’s signature covers is The Chain by Fleetwood Mac (the group Delta Rae most credits with inspiring them). At Arlene’s Grocery Mike (and Mark, up next) were dismissed from the stage. Last night, everyone participated in The Chain. That included fantastic drumming by Mike. After all, it’s one of the more iconic Rock songs, so you’d hope and expect the drums to be prominent. Mike delivered.

Grant Emerson Mark McKee on electric bass. Mark is Mike’s brother, but there’s no way he got invited to play with Delta Rae through nepotism. He’s a wonderful bass player. I felt that the last time we saw him, but he too took it up a level (to be honest, a few levels). He had a few shining moments (across a number of songs), but like Mike, The Chain saw him wail on a nice bass solo (something he too missed out on at Arelene’s).

Update: Wow! Mark played bass the last time we saw them, but in between, they replaced him with Grant Emerson and I missed that completely. That totally explains my feeling that he took it up a few levels from the performance before. No disrespect to Mark, but Grant is a better all-around bass player.


On one song, Grant Mike banged a heavy set of chains on a large metal garbage can (percussion, hillbilly style). Winking smile


I attach the set list, which doesn’t include the encore.


Song #8 on the set list is Memphis. It’s a song that Eric recently co-wrote with Marcus Hummon. Check out Marcus’ Wikipedia Page for a list of his extraordinary songwriting accomplishments. Some of those songs rank among our favorites. As I understand it (and I might be completely wrong), Memphis was driven by Eric, in collaboration with Marcus, not the other way around.


Here’s a video (one of the gRAEt Mondays releases!) of that song. We love the entire song, but definitely stick around for the last full minute (the crescendo), to get a sense of what I described above about the four part harmonies:

Memphis, by Delta Rae, featuring Eric Holljes


While every song was a highlight, I’ll call out one last song. I think it’s the one listed as New Days, but I’m not sure, since I can’t find a mention of that song online in order to verify it.

Eric came out from behind the piano and picked up an acoustic guitar. Ian stepped back behind Liz. The four of them were close to each other. The ladies stepped away from their microphones. Ian didn’t sing, he only played rhythm guitar. Brittany, Liz and Eric sang directly to the crowd and both Ian and Eric unplugged their guitars. This was 100% acoustic.


We were sitting under their noses (as you can see from the angle on some of the photos), so we had no trouble hearing it with full force. I hope that those in the far corners of the room could hear it as well (and I suspect that they could, given how powerful and clear it was to us). It was awesome and would be a crying shame if we were the only people who got to enjoy it. Winking smile

Right before they played their last song, a number of people in the crowd yelled out some requests (uninvited). When someone yelled Darlin’ If, loudly (he wasn’t the only one to yell it, but he was the most vociferous), I noticed that Liz (who sings the lead on that one), had a reaction. They didn’t play any of the songs that were called out.


When the set was over, clearly, they had to come back out. They played Darlin’ If, to the delight of everyone in the room. I’m thinking that Liz’s reaction came from knowing that if they were called back out for an encore (hahaha on the if part), she would indeed be fulfilling the guy’s wish.

We would have loved to stick around and say hi, but we had an issue that needed tending to since 8:45am, that we couldn’t take care of until this show was over. We scooted immediately after it was over, and resolved our problem successfully at 11:05pm (thanks for asking). Winking smile

In closing, I’m going to relate a story mostly so that I can remember it. Even though the set was scheduled for 9pm, we got there very early (because of our issue, we drove instead of taking a cab, and left too much time in case we had trouble finding parking). The set before Delta Rae was a paid show, so I waited (very patiently) outside (it was stunning weather). Obviously, I was first in line. Lois went next door (Rockwood 1) and watched most of the the 8pm set.

I was right near the bouncer (or whatever more polite term you might wish to call him) and saw everyone come and go. At one point, someone associated with the band (Delta Rae), but not one of the performers (I have no idea who, Manager, Booking Agent, very good friend, etc.), bumped into Tommy Merrill, the person who books shows for Rockwood. They had a very warm exchange.

Tommy mentioned that the room wasn’t crowded (this was at around 8:40). The Manager (I’m just saying that to call him something) said, well, I’m gonna bet that between 9 and 9:15, it will be a lot more crowded. I admit publicly that I laughed a bit inside (but had my poker face on) at his bravado. Crowded shows usually start filling up early.

Well, you know how the story ends. It was incredibly crowded with wildly enthusiastic people. It would seem that the Manager knows Delta Rae fans better than I do. Apparently, they like to cut it close (or is that just called being Fashionably Late nowadays). Winking smile

Delta Rae, y’all come back soon now, ya hear? Smile

Jesse Terry and Carley Tanchon at Sessions 73

At 8pm we were at Rockwood Music Hall catching a set by Derek James and the Lovely Fools. The minute the set was over we hopped in a cab and headed straight up First Avenue (no turns from Rockwood all the way to Sessions 73).

We had never been to Sessions 73 before, but any opportunity to see Jesse Terry and Carley Tanchon (separate sets) is a perfect excuse to check out a new place.

We got there just as Jesse was setting up so I didn’t have a chance to check out the rest of the place (from the site, it seems like the room opposite the bar is a restaurant, and they might even have a separate room for larger shows, but I’ll have to return to verify that).

While Jesse was soundchecking, Lois snapped a photo of Carley with Jesse’s wife:


The bar is a long narrow room with a very nice stage set up in the corner (right up against the First Avenue windows).

This will be a super-short post (by my standards) for a number of reasons, the most important being that I’ve written about Jesse and Carley quite a number of times, and neither broke new ground last night (no one expected them to). I’ll point you to my most recent post about both them, when they appeared at a house concert.

Jesse was up first and selected a wonderful set of his music and some covers. He invited Carley up to sing with him on The Weight by The Band (excellent!). To close the show, he asked people to pick one of two choices. I yelled up Natural (which wasn’t one of the choices, rebel that I am!). Jesse looked for confirmation from others to make sure I wasn’t overruling the collective desire. He got the nod, and proceeded to melt everyone in the bar. Smile


Carley also performed a mixed set (mostly originals). Her cover was an homage to Stevie Nicks, her favorite singer. She even bothered to learn the tricky guitar parts that she and Jesse used to hum when they played it together in the past. Winking smile


This was a bar, so I won’t complain that occasionally people talked. At times, so loudly that you had to wonder why, since this was solo acoustic music, they could have heard each other without the screaming, but hey, it’s not unexpected here. That can make Sessions 73 a hit-or-miss place to see someone you really like, but possibly a good place to discover some talent if you can put up with the chattering (which I can, in this situation).

The other complaint is that the sound guy is about the nicest person you could imagine (hey, I know, that doesn’t sound like a complaint!). Unfortunately, he didn’t get the vocals right last night (and there was only a single person singing for all but The Weight).

The vocals were off in that they were a drop too loud, but really had too much punch in them. It wasn’t quite reverb, it was more like being attacked by the vocals. It was worse in the mid-range, so Jesse suffered the effect more than Carley.

In a horrible ironic twist, while Carley introduced her last song, he must have noticed it too, and he turned off the effect (he didn’t lower the volume). Her voice became clearer instantly. She then sang the song (amazingly, Blues in C, check it out!), with no ill vocal effects. So, it can be done right at Sessons 73 as well.

We had a fun (but another late!) night out. Come join us at Rockwood 2 tonight at 9pm for the amazing Delta Rae!

Derek James and the Lovely Fool with New Band Members at Rockwood Music Hall

Last night was my fourth time seeing Derek James and the Lovely Fools. Each setup was different (last night was no exception) and only one of them was disappointing (hint: not last night). The show was at Rockwood Music Hall.

There are many bands that create a party atmosphere. In many cases, it depends on the circumstances (the audience, venue, mood of the band, etc.).  Then there are bands where the music itself is a party! Derek James and the Lovely Fools are at the head of the class in that regard.


In less than 10 notes (seriously), it’s nearly impossible to avoid: smiling, tapping your foot, bobbing your head and swaying your body. I dare you to show up when they play and prove me wrong!

Derek will be releasing a new CD this fall. I am praying that at least 20% of this magic can be bottled, so that I can party at will just by turning on my iPod. I’m hopeful! I can wager a ton that even if it’s perfect, it can’t match a live show. There is so much visual fun going on that simply can’t be reproduced on a CD. So, get the CD when it’s available, but get yourself to a show as often as you can, it will never get tiresome (that’s another promise I can safely make).

I’ll run through the band and mention what was different this time, then wrap up with a few complaints (which only means it could have been better, not that it wasn’t great!).

Derek James on vocals, acoustic guitar and kazoo. What can I say, Derek is obviously Mayor of Funtown. A winning/impish smile, fast rhythm guitar, very tasty leads (usually in 100% unison with the bass, lead guitar or both!) and a southern twang on his vocals (I don’t think he talks like that) that can charm your pants off (well, if I wasn’t taken they could). Winking smile Derek didn’t play the ukulele last night. It wasn’t missing, but it was still somewhat missed.


Roy Gurel on electric guitar and vocals.  Roy was in Israel for over six months. He was not at the last show, which largely accounted for the only disappointing effort. While Derek was Derek that night, the Lovely Fools were talented, but not so Lovely. Roy is an exceptional guitarist. The last time I saw him, I described him as my second favorite local guitarist behind Greg Mayo.


Last night Roy was wonderful, but not quite as good as he’s been in the past. I’m not complaining, but since I’m ranking people anyway (for my own memory) I’ll say that he’s now third, behind Greg and John Kaiteris of Live Society. Roy could work his way back up a notch, but I am doubtful (on his behalf) that he will be able to top Greg. Here’s hoping he takes up the challenge! Winking smile


Assaf Spector (Assie) on electric bass, vocals and kazoo. Assie also missed the last show, make a clean sweep of me missing the truly Lovely Fools. Last night Assie was spot on, in every respect, back to a typical Derek James show. In addition to his incredible bass playing, wonderful background vocals and all around fun attitude on stage, he added a kazoo to the mix. Derek always plays a kazoo, but having two of them played on stage at the same time added to the carnival atmosphere.


Now to the additions (re-read the title!):

Greg Mayo on keyboards (I only heard electronic/organ ones, but he was sitting at the grand piano, so some of the piano-ish sounds might have come from that). I don’t know if Greg sang, since he was blocked by Derek the entire set from where I was sitting. I admit to feeling a little guilty noting that Roy’s play slipped a drop while realizing that Greg was sitting two feet behind him. I hope I get over it. Winking smile


Greg took a few very tasty leads, but they were extremely short (more like quick riffs than real leads). I’m guessing/hoping that he’s new to the band, and if he plays with them more, they’ll work on arrangements (and visual cues to each other) to have him play a bigger role. This was the first time we’ve seen keyboards added to a Derek James set.

Kenny Shaw on drums. It seems that we see Kenny more often in the past few months than any other drummer. That’s fine, he’s great. But, as with Abby Payne’s set last week, if the band plays really loud (and they did), Kenny can match them, making the drums a bit too loud as well.


The show was fantastic, so you can stop reading now if you don’t want some negativity in your lives.

I’m coming to the (very unfortunate) conclusion that Rockwood 1 is simply not a good place for a highly amplified set (though I admit that I’ve seen a number of shows where it wasn’t a problem, including last week’s Greg Mayo set). In addition to the electronic keyboards being amplified (obviously), there were three separate amps on stage (Roy’s electric guitar, Derek’s acoustic guitar and Assie’s bass). That’s what caused Kenny to strike the drums really hard.

It’s not entirely the sound guy’s fault, since the amps are controlled directly by the players. Someone in the audience called out that Derek needed to turn up his vocals. They may have tried, but it didn’t make a difference. Derek responded that it’s hard to tone down the volume when the band is 1/2 deaf. He added that even if Roy crawled inside his own amp, it wouldn’t be loud enough for Roy’s taste. Winking smile

That said, all of the vocals could be heard reasonably well (as instruments), but on the faster/louder numbers (the majority), the lyrics were really hard to make out (unless you know the song well). From a party point of view, no biggie, the party was just as much fun. From a “Derek might be singing something interesting” point of view, not so much…

So, no one instrument overwhelmed the others (the sound was nicely balanced), but together they were all too loud (not painfully so!).

Let’s finish by repeating the more important points: great show, great new additions to the band, awesome to have the original Lovely Fools back! Smile

Ximena Sarinana at Rockwood Music Hall

We are huge fans of everything Alex Wong does. His talents seem boundless. One of those talents is spotting other talented people, then collaborating with them to increase the talent level in the room geometrically.

Recently, Alex toured with Elizabeth and the Catapult (see, I told you he knows talent) when they opened for Sara Bareilles. Elizabeth ended up being the middle group each night.

Ximena Sarinana opened those shows, which was Alex’s first introduction to her and her music. Like I said, Alex can spot talent. He is now touring with Ximena and last night they hit Rockwood Music Hall. We knew about the show for a few weeks and had it marked as an unmovable event (which is why we missed last night’s epic Campfire at Slane).


Before I describe the show, let me state some facts. The typical (successful) indie musician in NYC has between 1,000 and 6,000 followers on Twitter. These are people who release CDs, have a lot of fans (obviously not all of them are on Twitter, or bother to follow musicians), and sell out shows regularly.

Take it up a notch. One of the bigger NY-based artists is Ingrid Michaelson. She has nearly 80,000 followers (more than 10x the top of the other local artists).

@XimenaMusic has how many? Over 600,000! That’s 7.5x more than Ingrid, and 100x the following of the typical Rockwood headliner. Why would she be opening for Sara Bareilles then? Because Sara has over 2,000,000 followers! There’s always a bigger fish. Winking smile

Let’s back it up a bit. Ximena is huge in Mexico, where she broke out years ago (she’s all of 25 now!). After conquering Mexico (my words, not hers or anything I’ve read), she decided to see if she could crack the US market. She moved here and is now touring. Her first CD was released in Spanish (to huge sales). Her next CD (I believe she said that the release is expected in August 2011) will be in English.

That’s the buildup, now we find out whether there is any meat to go with those potatoes.


OK, I’m done. Winking smile

Seriously, I was blown away. For all but one number Ximena played the grand piano. There was nothing particularly amazing about her play (compared to some other singer/songwriters who specialize in keyboards) but her play is extremely solid and interesting.


Then she opens her mouth. The sound that comes out is heavenly. Range, power, sweetness, raw emotion, basically, whatever she wants to project, you’re going to take it, and say “Thank you ma’am, may I have another?”. It’s not just the voice (which is stunning), but also the melody, the chords, the arrangement, etc.

Note that I haven’t mentioned anything yet about lyrics. Last night, Ximena chose to play 1/2 the show in Spanish (opening with it) and 1/2 in English. She alternated songs the entire set.

I speak zero Spanish. The only words I could understand were the biggies, like bueno, aqui, corazon, etc. It didn’t matter, I didn’t care. I was hearing a vocal instrument that took me somewhere (even if was different from where the lyrics were taking the Spanish speakers in the room), that was more than sufficient. I would have been happy if the entire set was in Spanish, though I enjoyed the English songs just as much (and I admit that I didn’t pay as close attention to the words as I otherwise might have, given the lesson I learned in enjoying the Spanish ones!).

Ximena opened the set solo. For the second song she called up a surprise guest (to her as much as to us!). I apologize if I get the facts wrong, but I thought I heard her say that she bumped into him at a show next door (Stage 2) where they were both audience members. They used to play together in Mexico, years ago!

Ilan Bar-Lavi played electric guitar. It was a gorgeous Jazz style. I have no idea whether they had the time to rehearse, or whether they fell back to an old favorite and executed like it was yesterday. Either way, it worked. I’ll have to keep my eye out for Ilan independent of Ximena. That’s the only song he joined her for.


Alex Wong joined Ximena for three songs, playing a full drum set (something that we’ve rarely, if ever seen Alex do, though we’ve seen him as a percussionist, including pieces of drum sets, many times). Of course he was excellent, don’t ask.


Ximena used a loop on two numbers. The first was awesome and unaccompanied by any commentary on her part. She merely looped her voice and sang harmony with herself, adding piano (I don’t recall whether Alex joined on that one as well, but I think he did). Here’s a shot of her holding the loop before the show started:


Toward the end of the set, Ximena was about to use the loop again, but this time she apologized for it (I don’t know why, it’s one of the most amazing live experiences I can imagine, as I’ve noted from Vienna Teng concerts many times). She said that she normally doesn’t like the loop, but that she was going to use it one last time tonight.

Now that I’ve experienced that song, I have to say that if I see her again and she refuses to play it because she’s bored with the loop, she’ll have to answer to me after the show.

While there was a touch of piano in the song (barely a hint), there was no drum. It was basically a dozen (or more) loops of Ximena’s voice doing various vocal acrobatics, while she also snapped her fingers into various loops at various tempos, creating her own percussion section.

If you’ve never experienced looping done by a pro, it will be hard for you to understand/imagine what it’s like. It’s not just gorgeous harmony (though it’s certainly that). Because of the way the loop works, it’s a process that keeps building on itself. Every time she sings a phrase, that phrase continues to loop. But, so do all of the phrases she sang before that.

So, one, then two voices at the same time, but the key is that the second is live, and the first is now recorded (it was live a minute ago, if you’re following). Now the third voice (obviously still hers) is live, while the first two continue looping. You can always distinguish the current live voice, because it’s typically doing the most interesting thing in the loop, soaring over the other loops and of course blending into the background looping a minute later when the newer, fresher vocal is added live.

Man, I feel inadequate to describe the experience. Sad smile

All I can say is that if she had played that one song and left, I would have been perfectly satisfied.

She closed with another song then said goodnight. Obviously, the completely jammed room would have none of that. Since many in the room were fans who knew every word to her Spanish songs (remember, the English CD has not come out yet), they started yelling out various song requests.

While Ximena looked up to the sound engineer to ask whether she could play another, the crowd magically agreed on a song and started chanting it. It sounded to me like a single Spanish word as the title, but obviously, I have no idea.

I may have this wrong, but I think Ximena said that this was the first song she ever wrote and it was for (or placed in) a movie or TV show (again, apologies if I misheard or just don’t remember correctly today). She said that she doesn’t play guitar (implying that the song is normally accompanied by a guitar) and that she doesn’t know how to play it on the piano.

So, rather than disappoint the crowd, she calmly took the microphone stand that was stretched out over the piano all night, carefully brought it out on the stage, straightened it up, and announced that she’d perform it a cappella.

When you read the next sentence, remember what I said about the looping song, and how close that was to a cappella too (just a hint of piano in that number).

I can’t imagine not having heard her sing this song!


Got it? Just like I now know how special that looping song is, even though this one is as stripped down as it gets (Ximena and microphone, no loops, no accompaniment), I didn’t want the song to ever end (of course, I didn’t understand a word). You can only imagine how the crowd felt, since they chanted (literally) for it to begin with.

I have no real word to describe it other than Wow!

So, is that all Hadar? You got nothing else for us? Ha! Just like Ximena was forced to give an encore, I will too! Smile

She is one of the most charming, natural, witty, disarming people on stage. Did I mention that she’s only 25? Yup, she’s got it, whatever it is.

Alex Wong (a.k.a. @highceilings), we bow to you again. That doesn’t mean we are surprised, but we’ll bow nonetheless. Smile

P.S. I know I missed an absolutely extraordinary Campfire at Slane last night, but at least I have a reasonable sense (or illusion) of what I missed there. Had I missed Ximena’s show, I would still be a clueless dolt in thinking “How could I enjoy songs that I can’t understand?”.

Michael Daves at Rockwood Music Hall

We’ve seen Michael Daves twice before. Once, in a solo performance at Rockwood Music Hall and once with Chris Thile for their CD Release show next door at Stage 2. Our first experience with him was good, but the duet with Chris Thile was extraordinary, even though Michael couldn’t sing due to the crazy allergy season.


Last night Michael was back from a 4-week hiatus while he was touring with Chris Thile (he plays every Tuesday night at 10pm at Rockwood 1). His voice was fully back to normal. He performed an excellent set of hill-country bluegrass numbers. His voice is high-pitched, but so clean and powerful.

The real magic happens while he’s playing the guitar (accompanying himself while he’s singing, as well as a number of amazing instrumentals and solos). I mentioned in my first post about him that he plays a style I’ve never seen before. Basically, he strums full chords (a fast rhythm style), while somehow using a few fingers to blast out lightning fast and interesting leads.


Close your eyes and you’d have to believe there are two guitar players on stage.

While we (and others) specifically came to see Michael play, our main reason for coming out last night was to see the next performer (whom we had never seen before). She’s a huge star in Mexico (if you’re interested in knowing more, read my next post). Quite a number of her fans did what we typically do at Rockwood, they came one set early to get settled in.

I was impressed by how much it seemed that they appreciated Michael’s unique performance, considering that it couldn’t be more different from the one they came to see.

I’m sure this won’t be the last Michael Daves’ set we’ll be catching.

This was post three of four today, on to the last one. Whew.

Sidecar at Rockwood Music Hall

We saw Live Society at Arlene’s Grocery from 8-9pm. We were planning on seeing Michael Daves and Ximena Sarinana back-to-back at Rockwood Music Hall starting at 10pm. We had an hour to kill and we were around the corner from Rockwood.

We went in to see who was playing the 9pm set.

Sidecar was setting up, our timing was perfect. The group consists of four people, each of whom plays with other bands. They wanted a side project vehicle to give them an opportunity to write and perform together (that’s extremely popular, and often very successful, in the indie music scene in NYC).

It feels like the two women are the leaders of the group (but I have no idea). On that assumption, I’ll describe them in that order, rather than their position on stage (which is my typical style).

Amy Merrill on vocals and electronic keyboards (at the time I’m writing this, that link says the site isn’t published, but I suspect it will work at some point). Amy has a lovely voice, plays the key well. I would have liked her mic volume to be a little higher.


Daru Oda on vocals, electric bass and ukulele. She too has a lovely voice, but was mic’ed at a much better volume. Lower register than Amy. Combined with the better volume, there was more of a fullness/lushness to her sound. She played the bass very nicely, and did a nice job on the uke as well. She toured for a while as a backup singer for Norah Jones!


The two women traded lead vocals throughout the set and sang beautiful harmonies when the other took the lead.

Rich Hinman played electric guitar and electric bass. He also sang some harmony on the last number (no lyrics, just lovely oohs and the like). We’ve seen Rich a couple of times, both supporting Katie Costello. He was good on the guitar at those shows as well, but he was better (IMHO) on the pedal steel when he played with Katie, something he didn’t play last night. He took the electric bass from Daru when she switched to the ukulele for the last few songs.


Rob Heath on drums. Rob did a very good job as well. Rob and Rich are both regular members of the Madison Square Gardeners, a band I constantly hear good things about but have not yet gotten to see.


Before one song, Amy mentioned that she finds it funny that she writes songs about her old boyfriend and makes her current one play them on guitar (in other words, if you’re not paying attention, Rich and Amy are a couple). Winking smile

I enjoyed the set, particularly the harmonies, but if they’re going to continue to play together, they likely need to spend more time rehearsing. Flubs are normal, even for the most seasoned groups (they rarely bug me, and often enhance the live experience if the band handles them with grace and humor). But, when playing without the flubs, tightness in a band is one of the things that separate one group from another. Sidecar isn’t quite tight yet…

This is post two of four today.