Girlyman and Red Molly at City Winery

Send to Kindle

This show was announced over six months ago and the minute it was, I grabbed tickets. It was a long wait and it was well worth it. We even got to see Girlyman three weeks ago in Birmingham, which only enhanced our anticipation of last night’s show.

It is the rarest Girlyman show that we attend alone. We want to share our joy and grow their fan base whenever we get a chance. Last night was no exception. We had a party of seven, four of whom were experiencing Girlyman and Red Molly for the first time.

Girlyman opened with an energetic Paul Simon cover. This already set the tone for an unusual evening. I don’t think that in the nearly 20 times that we’ve seen them perform they’ve ever opened with a cover. Lois and I are sensitive to the opening song (of all bands that we love, not just Girlyman) because it often determines whether newcomers are leaning forward or backward for the rest of the show. So, opening song jitters overcome with flying colors (ours, not theirs), check! Smile

My next fear was locale-based. City Winery is beyond gorgeous. The food and wine are excellent. The sound is generally excellent too. But, the place is large and many people sit at the bar or off to the opposite side of the stage. Every other show I’ve been to at City Winery has had too many loud talkers during the sets (amazing sets at that!). It distracts from the show.

Thankfully, even though the place last night was packed, it was full of Girlyman and Red Molly fans. That meant whisper quiet during nearly every song, and raucous noise between them. Exactly as it should be! Venue enhances show rather than distracts, check! Smile

Any additional fears to overcome? Nope, good, only enjoyment left. One last note, earlier this week someone adjusted Lois’ camera in order to take pictures of some close up items. Lois didn’t readjust the settings, so nearly every photo she took last night was blurry. I’ll post a very few just to give you a sense of the layout. The camera is now back to normal.

Girlyman has such a large catalog to select from. They mix it up frequently, which is one of the reasons that seeing them often is invigorating. Of course, it means that something you’re desperately in the mood for on a given night might not be delivered. No worries, the entire catalog is fantastic.

Girlyman2JJJones

The tuning songs last night weren’t quite up to par (less rhymes, shorter, fewer), but the general banter and interaction among the band was superb. I had the warm fuzzies throughout the set.

Girlyman1

When they got to the request section, it was complete bedlam. It sounded like 200 of the 300+ people there were screaming at the same time, at the top of their lungs. I can always make out at least a dozen distinct titles being yelled at any show. I couldn’t make out a single title last night, because I think that over 50 songs were being yelled out.

The band didn’t seem to hear them either. When there was a break for a second, quite a number of people coordinated their screams for Everything’s Easy (the title track of their latest CD). The band seemed willing to play it, given that it was the only one they could be sure of.

But, in another clever, coordinated, premeditated move, a handful of people sitting right in front of the stage held up sheets of paper with the word Angel printed on them. This created a memorable set of events.

Angel is one of Doris’ new songs on the latest CD. It’s a beautiful song and I understand why this group came prepared to lobby for it. But, it’s one of the few songs in Girlyman’s catalog that they haven’t practiced together in a while. They were checking with each other on the stage whether any of them remembered it well enough to perform it. No one (including Doris) exuded confidence!

It was impressive that they love and connect with their fans well enough to at least try performing the song. There were flubbed chords and a few missed words as well, but it still sounded great and showed their courage to deliver what people wanted to hear rather than just what they could guarantee would be a flawless performance.

What makes it more impressive is the fact that Girlyman returned to offering live recordings of last night’s show after stopping the practice over a year ago (we cherish the many live shows that we purchased from them). As they noted on stage, anyone who wanted to listen to them butcher Angel over and over could now do so, by purchasing last night’s show. We do, so we did! Smile

Rather than leave it at that, they also performed Everything’s Easy, ensuring that one of the requests was performed as people expected it.

They introduced two new songs, one of which we heard in Birmingham (and fell in love with instantly). That one was The Person You Want (Me to Be) by Ty. The other, which they said was only the second time they’ve performed it, was Supernova by Nate. Supernova was a big hit at our table!

They closed the show with Postcards From Mexico in the same fashion that they did in Birmingham, but the size of the crowd at City Winery made it more of a spectacle (in the best sense of the word). They split the crowd in thirds, according to vocal range. We sang the chorus with them. It’s complicated, because the three parts have different words and different melodies (they don’t all start on the same beat either!). It sounded pretty darned good from where I was sitting. When I get my live CD in the mail, I’ll get a better sense of the full effect.

They performed a one-song encore, bringing Red Molly out to join them for Through to Sunrise. Cool! Five part harmony on one of our favorite songs (Abbie Gardner of Red Molly didn’t really join in the singing, but she played a mean Dobro solo that was double the normal length of the traditional Banjo solo that Doris plays). Bravo!

In total, they were on the stage for just under two hours, a super healthy (and welcome) set, considering there was a top-notch opening act as well. They correctly thanked City Winery for allowing them to do that!

We also count Red Molly among our favorite performers. Earlier this year, they decided to start touring more and that caused Carolann Solebello to leave the group (in July). Some groups can’t survive the transition to a new core member.

RedMolly2

In a not-so-small irony, the group selected Molly Venter to join them. (Get it? Red Molly now has an actual Molly in the band?)

MollyVenter

I’ll admit to being a bit nervous as to whether the character of Red Molly would remain intact, even if Molly Venter was a talented solo performer. That remained true even though someone I trust told me that she knew Molly well and that she was very much up to the task.

She was and is! Molly has an excellent voice, plays the guitar well and her voice blends beautifully with Laurie MacAllister and Abbie Gardner. She also brings her songwriter cred to the group, something that I think will be a big win for Red Molly (who performs more covers than most groups that we like this much).

RedMolly1

The first of the new songs is a lullaby written by Molly Venter which was amazing. I definitely need a recording of it, STAT! The second is a song she recorded on her own in 2008 that Red Molly has arranged for their trademarked three-part harmony. Gorgeous!

Thankfully, their 40 minute set included the ever-heavenly a capella cover of Susan Werner’s May I Suggest. If any song would be the test of Molly Venter fitting in, that would be it. Check (again). Smile

We arrived at 6pm to enjoy a terrific meal, including City Winery’s own wine. It’s exciting to sit at a table of vegetable lovers. We had two orders of the brussels spouts (yes, we all loved them!) and the cauliflower was heavenly too. Main dishes were all devoured as well.

We hung around after the show catching up with the band, getting their updated poster signed by all and mingling with friends who also attended the show. Another amazing evening in the books, more on the way (including tonight).

The Weepies at Hiro Ballroom

Send to Kindle

On May 8th, 2008, a musician friend of ours sent both of us an email recommending that we listen to the new album by The Weepies, Hideaway.  I trust her and bought the download without even listening to the previews. After one listen, I bought Happiness (their EP) and Say I Am You (another full-length album). I love all three and have listened to them countless times.

The Weepies is a husband and wife team, Steve Tannen and Deb Talan. Each was an individual singer/songwriter. They never toured in support of Hideaway, because they had their first child shortly before it was released. That didn’t stop Hideaway from being a runaway hit (deservedly so). They have had a large number of placements on TV (shows and ads) which has made them a commercial success without having to tour.

They just released a new album, Be My Thrill, and with a second son in tow, they are currently touring in support of that album. That included one night in NYC, last night, at Hiro Ballroom. There was no way I was going to miss it, even though it was a standing room only show (very low on our list of things to do).

Deb and Steve are exceptional songwriters. Most of their songs have a light/mellow pop sound/feel. There’s almost an ethereal quality due both to their voices and the top-notch production of their albums.

SteveTannen

Deb has a distinct voice that affects my ears like a personal earworm, even though it’s not the most classically beautiful voice. Steve sings well, but his voice comes across better to me on the albums than it did last night (for the most part).

DebTalanJonFlower

Both play acoustic and electric guitar, mostly rhythm with the occasional finger picking. They were supported last night by four band members, left-to-right on stage:

Brad Gordon on electric keyboards. Brad did a very good job throughout, but it didn’t always feel integrated to me.

BradGordon

Frank Lenz on drums. Frank did a nice job as well, but I didn’t really take note of his skill until the last song of the night.

FrankLenz

Jon Flower on upright and electric bass. Another good job, which occasionally commanded my attention, but mostly blended well in the background.

JonFlower

Meghan Toohey (Meg) on electric guitar and harmony. Meg is actually the most integral part of band. She nails the guitar riffs that complement Deb’s voice, bringing the ethereal quality to the live performance that is likely more easily captured in a studio. She did a very nice job harmonizing with Deb and Steve as well.

MeghanToohey

Both Deb and Steve are warm and engaging on stage. Steve is the more natural/comfortable story teller, easily drawing the crowd in with stories/intros and responding to the many things that people yelled from the audience. Deb was a little more hesitant but did end up telling one story very well toward the end, the introduction to Antarctica.

The good: excellent set selection, excellent sound system, overwhelmingly respectful crowd, seeing The Weepies live for the first time.

The indifferent: I’m a huge live music lover, often enjoying shows more than the perfect recordings of the same groups. It’s possible that my expectations for this show were too high, but there was no magic for me whatsoever, just a well done show. I spent this morning listening to The Weepies non-stop and I love it every bit as much now as before, so the lack of magic last night hasn’t affected my opinion of The Weepies.

The bad: the mixes on the albums are perfect. Last night, occasionally the keyboards or the bass slightly washed out the vocals. Steve sang his harmonies way more softly than his leads. In my opinion, their music is more suited to a seated show. The crowd loved them and for the most part was exceptionally quiet during the songs, but it’s not exactly dance music. To make it worse (for me), I was at the back, so it meant that every time someone shifted, it was a distraction from my view and I had to adjust to see again.

They were on stage for 98 minutes, including a two-song encore. They put on an excellent show and thrilled the overwhelming majority of the people in the room (capacity is listed as 400, but it felt like more than that to me).

Greg Tannen opened the show. Greg is Steve’s brother and a singer/songwriter in his own right. He just released his own new album, Maybe the Sun.

GregTannen

Greg has a very good voice and plays the guitar well and writes good songs. He has a relaxed style on stage and engaged the audience quite a bit (including poking fun at how he was invited to open for The Weepies).

He was accompanied by:

Andrew Sherman on electric keyboards and harmony. I couldn’t find a good individual link for Andrew, but there’s a bio of him at the bottom of the page that I linked to. He was very good on the keyboards and did a very nice job harmonizing with Greg.

AndrewSherman

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

TimLuntzel

Greg was on for 35 minutes and we both enjoyed his set. For his fourth number, he invited Steve and Deb up to join him on a song he co-wrote with Steve, that The Weepies recorded, Vegas Baby, a song I like a lot (on the Happiness EP).

AndrewShermanGregTannenTimLuntzelTheWeepies

Lois and I did not experience the show together. I stood on the floor, near the back, dead center with a friend of ours who spotted us toward the end of Greg’s set (amazing, given how crowded and dark it was). Lois stood on the staircase about 15 feet away, so she could actually see the stage.

I would go see The Weepies again, but only for a seated show.

Mozart Requiem at Holy Family Church

Send to Kindle

Ask and ye shall receive (no, seriously!). On Thursday I saw Alex Wong perform at Rockwood Music Hall. One of his guests was the wonderful Melissa Tong on violin. Here’s what I wrote about her in my post about that show:

Melissa Tong on the violin joined Alex for the next number, one of my favorites, Brooklyn Blurs, which they knocked out of the park. I’ve said it so many times, Melissa is an incredible musician, we can’t get enough of her. I look forward to seeing her play with a symphony, her specialty.

While that last line wasn’t rhetorical, I didn’t expect it to bear fruit so quickly. This morning I woke up to a wonderful surprise. Melissa updated her Facebook status to say that she was playing at Holy Family Church in New Rochelle at 2pm. We were already at the house, so there was no way we were going to miss this one.

MelissaTong

The Artemis Chamber Ensemble and the Choirs of Holy Family and St. Frances de Chantal Churches performed Mozart’s Requiem. (Note: you can click on any image to see a larger version.)

ProgramCover

Artemis and the choirs were conducted by Matthew Oberstein (Executive Director of Artemis). Monsignor Ferdinando D. Berardi of Holy Family introduced the program, describing Matthew Oberstein as Energetic. He’s that, and much more.

MatthewOberstein

Lois and I sat in the first pew near the center aisle. I have never been so close to a conductor. My vantage, five feet to his right, gave me a view of his technique that I have never experienced. From behind, we all see the arms moving up/down and in/out to the music. From a distance, you might see them point toward a particular section of the orchestra as well.

I could see so much more. Matthew uses many subtle cues to extract the sound that he wants. Tiny finger movements, things that would be difficult to detect from a distance, even if you had the correct angle. I was extremely impressed. Lois noted how riveted most of the choir was on his every movement.

There were four Solo singers (who also sang together):

Wendy Baker, soprano. Absolutely stunning voice.

Elizabeth Mondragon, mezzo-soprano. Beautiful voice, not quite as highlighted in this piece as the others were.

Steven L. Nanni, tenor. Amazing voice. He really moved me whenever he sang.

Kevin Burdette, bass. Looks can be deceiving. Kevin is tall and thin, not a body type I associate with a deep bass voice. Wrong. Kevin has an incredible voice and he easily (or at least apparently easily) reaches extremely deep notes.

Each sings wonderfully on their own. When the four sang together in any combination, it was mesmerizing. When they all sang with the choir, it was heavenly.

WendyBakerElizabethMondragonStevenNanniKevinBurdette

Artemis configures themselves depending on the material. They range from a quartet to a full chamber orchestra. Today, they were 19 pieces, 18 right in front of us, and one on the organ on the side of the Church. They were all awesome. I was inches away from Flavio Gaete on Viola. Watching him so close up was wonderful.

FlavioGaete

We came to hear Melissa (President of Artemis, something I didn’t know prior to the performance) and I am so thankful that we made the effort. She’s as good as I imagined (as are the rest of Artemis). Requiem is quite complex, in particular the starting sequences right after the long pauses. Melissa and Heidi Schaul-Yoder were like Siamese Twins nailing those flying measures.

MelissaTongHeidiSchaul-Yoder

The other person I’d like to call out is the cellist, Christine Chu McGovern (Artemis’ Artistic Director). Wow. I could name every person in Artemis, so please don’t assume I think less of the others.

ChristineChuMcGovern

We didn’t have a great view of the right side of the orchestra during the performance. Here are two shots of them afterward:

BassoonPlayersBrassAndTimpaniSection

Everyone mentioned above are professionals, in every sense of the word. On to the so-called amateurs. The choir was large, made up of the combination of both Holy Family and St. Francis de Chantal Church choirs.

LeftSideOfChoir

They were absolutely amazing. As I mentioned above, they were riveted on Matthew’s every little movement and they responded perfectly to those instructions. They sang softly when called for, and filled the entire Church with their power when that was requested of them.

Here are the names of everyone who performed from Artemis and the Choirs:

ArtemisAndChoirMembers

After the performance I asked Melissa how many times they rehearsed with the choir. Twice! Amateurs indeed (not!).

I challenge those of you who don’t believe me to go see this exact performance next Sunday (November 14th, 2010) at St. Francis de Chantal in the Bronx, 3pm. I urge those that do believe me to go and enjoy next week’s performance as well.

If you would like to support this amazing group of musicians, please send contributions to:

Artemis Chamber Ensemble

P.O. Box 813

Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520

Alex Wong and Jesse Ruben at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

I haven’t been to Rockwood Music Hall (the original, Stage 1) in quite a while. In fact, I had to look it up (I knew there was a reason that I bother to blog!). It was 7/29/2010 to see Delta Rae. I’ve been to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 a bunch of times since then, so Rockwood is still getting the majority of my NYC music business. Winking smile

Alex Wong is reason enough to show up wherever he is. He’s an extraordinarily talented individual (note, I didn’t just say musician). He’s a singer/songwriter, songwriting collaborator, multi-instrument musician, amazing producer and all around nice guy.

AlexWongGuitar

While Alex was reason enough to come out, he had a number of guests announced (not all played) and I have long wanted to see the person who was on at 9pm before Alex.

First the bottom line, then some color commentary. Last night’s set was fantastic.

Alex played 2/3’s of the set solo, mostly on the acoustic guitar. He played two songs at the grand piano. He opened solo with The Same Old Things.

AlexWongSinging

Melissa Tong on the violin joined Alex for the next number, one of my favorites, Brooklyn Blurs, which they knocked out of the park. I’ve said it so many times, Melissa is an incredible musician, we can’t get enough of her. I look forward to seeing her play with a symphony, her specialty.

MelissaTong1MelissaTong2

David Fallo on the viola joined both Alex and Melissa. David is a star (as are all of the musicians who play with Alex). In addition to sitting in on these types of shows, David is currently part of the orchestra in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. That’s no shabby gig!

AlexWongMelissaTongDavidFallo

The three of them played a fun and energetic version of Motion Sickness. Alex divided the audience in half. I was in the Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na section (yes, those were the exact number of Na’s we sang at a clip, over and over). Smile

Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and harmony joined Alex for another favorite of mine, A Girl Like You, from Alex’s previous group, The Animators. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again. Martin is an excellent guitar player who always defers to his plethora of guest star guitar players in his own sets. When playing with Alex, he’s the guest and therefore featured on the guitar. Such a wonderful thing to hear. Do more of it in your sets too Martin!

MartinRivasMartinRivasAlexWong

Alex finished the show by playing three consecutive new songs, all co-written with other wonderful singer/songwriters. If you weren’t there last night, you wouldn’t know that I just lied to you. Alex announced on Facebook that he would play three new songs in a row, but he actually threw in an existing song after the first new one, before completing the new trilogy.

The first new song was a Christmas song co-written with Rachel Platten. Alex told a long story about the derivation of the song. It was his first Christmas in NYC (2004), which wasn’t supposed to be a Christmas in NYC. The story was incredible, funny and touching. Alex doesn’t usually talk this much on stage. I vote that he talk more, it was a very nice addition to the set.

The second new song was played on the piano. It was co-written with Paul Freeman. Alex is producing Paul’s new CD. A very moving song.

AlexWongPiano

Finally, also on the piano, Alex played a song he co-wrote with Nate Campany. Nate was supposed to be there to sing harmony with Alex, but he didn’t show up (I saw him tweet today, so there’s no reason for concern). Excellent song. I told Alex after the show that when he produces it, he needs to have a full choir singing the “Yeah, yeah, yeah” part. I heard it as clear as a bell in my head even though Alex was singing alone.

Alex offered that I produce it instead. I told him I’ll happily produce those three words, he can work his usual magic on the rest. Winking smile

Jesse Ruben played the set before Alex. I have wanted to see Jesse for a long time. He tours with some other people that I like and I like his MySpace stuff (linked to his name). Not only didn’t Jesse disappoint me, he surprised me in a number of positive ways.

JesseRuben

Jesse is a very good songwriter (wide range of topics). He sings extremely well. He plays the acoustic guitar solidly, mostly rhythm, but beautiful finger picking on a song I’ll cover in a minute.

The biggest surprise was Jesse’s general stage presence, in particular his wit. There was a ton of laughter throughout the set. It came both from his stories and from his very quick responses to things that audience members shouted out.

JesseRubenTalking

Jesse introduced practically every song with a story. It was extremely well delivered and enhanced my enjoyment of each song.

Kyle Patrick joined Jesse for two songs. We’ve seen Kyle once before at the Livestrong fundraiser. I thoroughly enjoyed his 2-song set that night and I have tried hard to arrange my schedule to catch Kyle again, unsuccessfully. He sang lead on one of the songs last night harmony on another. There was a good bit of na-na-na-na on the song that Kyle sang lead, with much of the audience joining in.

KylePatrick

Karly Jurgensen toured with Kyle and Jesse all summer. Jesse invited her up to perform one of her songs, accompanied by Jesse and Kyle. Karly has a wonderful voice and plays the piano solidly. The song was beautiful, a slower bluesy number. Jesse and Kyle harmonized during the chorus. Very nicely done.

KarlyJurgensenJesseRubenKarlyJurgensen

Back to the song that Jesse finger picked. If you know me, or read this blog regularly, then you know that Lois and I are obsessed with Wicked and The Wizard of Oz in general. Not that this is too small-worldish (given how huge Wicked and The Wizard of Oz are), but we always get signs from one or the other that connect us more deeply to things we already like.

Out of the blue, without even announcing a cover song, Jesse played If I Only Had a Heart. Absolutely gorgeous rendition. The only thing missing was not having Lois there to look at knowingly and hold hands with. That Jesse also chose that song to show off a bit of his guitar skills is the kind of thing I was talking about in the paragraph above. Smile

Rockwood was packed for Jesse’s set, dominated by people who were obviously huge Jesse Ruben fans. That always makes the sets more fun even though Jesse was new to me.

One of the people in the audience was Sam Teichman. Sam, Jesse and a bunch of other people in the audience are running in the NYC Marathon this Sunday, raising money for cancer care. Last Thursday, Sam was involved in putting together a charity concert at The Bitter End, called the “Born to Run” show, featuring Bruce Springsteen covers.

I would have loved to attend that show and a number of my friends did. I was already committed to a house concert featuring ambeR Rubarth and I too had an amazing evening.

Jesse mentioned that Sam was still raising money for the cause and that he was offering a DVD filled with music from 22 different artists that participated in the Born to Run show. Donations greater than $1 would get you the DVD. I was sitting across the table from Sam (whom I have met once before at a Rockwood 2 show) and I donated in exchange for the DVD right after Jesse’s set.

After Alex Wong’s set, I made a quick tour of Rockwood to say hi/bye to a number of friends. We’ve been away for a long time and it was really good to see everyone (performers and audience members alike). I wish Lois could have been with me, but she’s been sick ever since we returned. Today is day 12. Let’s hope it’s one of the last. This isn’t the type of streak anyone is proud of.

Given that Lois wasn’t in attendance, any complaints about photo quality land squarely on my shoulders.

ambeR Rubarth and Ed Romanoff at a House Concert

Send to Kindle

This was our second house concert on the upper west side of NYC. It’s a series called Music On 4 run by a wonderful couple who create a perfect atmosphere to enjoy live music.

amber Rubarth is no stranger to us or to readers of this blog. I’ve written about her and The Paper Raincoat (her project with the amazing Alex Wong) dozens of times. We’ve seen ambeR perform in a wide-variety of venues. Highline Ballroom (which seats 400+), down to NAU (a clothing store where she set up in the back). I’ve written about each one if you have the inclination to read for a few days.

ambeRRubarth

We’ve seen ambeR play solo, with a trio and with a large band (strings, oboes, the works!). She excels and adapts in all of those situations. There was no way ambeR could surprise me last night. Musically, that was true. Emotionally, it wasn’t. There was an intimacy (roughly 60 people attended, which is a sell-out at Music On 4) that was new.

ambeR introduced a few songs with backgrounds that I hadn’t heard before, even though I know the songs well. She chose a perfect set list for the setting, complemented by three requests from the audience that were all good choices. The entire evening (including the opener) was un-mic’ed (both vocals and acoustic guitars). She finger-picked beautifully and her voice was the perfect volume for the room.

What makes ambeR so special? She’s an incredible songwriter. Don’t take my word for it. She just won the Mountain Stage NewSong Contest for 2010! (If you’re reading this a year from now, the link might no longer be highlighting ambeR.) Still not convinced? She co-wrote Washing Day with Adam Levy. It too won an award:

Amber Rubarth’s song Washing Day (co-written with Adam Levy) won 1st Place in the 2006 International Songwriting Competition in the ‘Lyrics only’ category, judged by Tom Waits, Brian Wilson and Robert Smith

ambeR writes about universal experiences in a way that captures the deepest feelings succinctly and honestly. Along the way, there is enough disarming humor (both outright funny and bittersweet introspection) to keep the mood just right. Her imagery is vivid and insightful.

She’s off for a European tour today. I miss her already! Smile

HostAmberRubarth

Ed Romanoff opened for ambeR. He’s joining her on the European tour as well. We’ve seen Ed a few times before and enjoyed his sets. Last night was no exception, but I don’t feel that he’s as suited to an un-mic’ed house concert as ambeR is. For a big guy, Ed tends to sing reasonably softly. When he’s mic’ed correctly, that’s fine. When he isn’t, at times his guitar overwhelms his voice.

EdRomanoff

Even so, he was a good choice to open for ambeR. He is a very good story-teller (this was particularly true when we last saw him at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2) so he had the audience totally warmed up by the time his set was done.

Ed and ambeR closed the show with a duet, performing Hold On by Tom Waits.

EdRomanoffAmberRubarth

As with many shows, not everything always goes according to plan. Ed and ambeR had a bit of trouble getting there, arriving roughly 20 minutes after they were supposed to appear. Unlike a commercial venue, house concerts can deal with this situation more creatively.

One member of the audience came up to the stage area (not raised) and led everyone in singing the first verse of Amazing Grace! Then another member came up and sang a song he wrote. A third member stood up and sang another song (not written by her) right from her seat. All were a cappella since there were no instruments in the apartment. Just as the third song was finished, ambeR and Ed walked in. A very warm experience shared by and between audience members only.

Another night of great music shared with a wonderful group of people!

Girlyman at Workplay

Send to Kindle

Earlier in the week I said we’d finish off our Birmingham trip with a surprise. Seeing Girlyman perform at Workplay on Sunday night topped off an already incredible week of family, friends and fun (henceforth known as the 3 F’s). Smile

Anyone who has read more than a few of my posts knows how I feel about Girlyman. For the rest of you, here’s a brief summary. I tend to rank music (in my mind) in terms of whether I could listen to it over and over, forever, if I were stuck on a deserted island with nothing but that band’s music (and, I guess, some form of electricity, solar would probably be abundant).

There are at least 100 bands that I could be happy listening to over and over, with no other music to fill the rotation. That speaks to my general love of music, and the fact that there is so much great music to be enjoyed in the world. But, if I got to choose in advance which music to be stuck with forever, I would not hesitate to pick Girlyman. That answer hasn’t changed since the day I discovered them in August 2007.

Girlyman just completed their first UK tour a couple of weeks back. Nate returned home two weeks ago, but the girls made a week of it in Paris and returned early last week. Unfortunately, Doris brought back a European cold with her. She was worried whether her voice would hold out. Thankfully, it did, extremely well!

They opened with EZ Bake Ovens (a number of my friends count that as their favorite Girlyman song!). Nate sings a verse solo, then Ty, then Doris. When it came to Doris, she whispered the first line or two. Uh oh, I thought that she had lost her voice completely!

Fortunately, the sound engineer just had her mic off (or too soft). He noticed the problem and with a very loud crack (like someone plugging in an electric guitar), Doris’ voice came alive. It wasn’t her normal voice, but it was pretty cool (and really good) nonetheless. It wasn’t quite nasal, a bit more chesty and rounded off. Perfectly in tune. She wisely controlled the volume, not quite belting out the rage in Storms Were Mine.

DorisMuramatsu

The set list was superb! Of course they didn’t play some songs I wanted to hear, but they didn’t play a single song that I didn’t want to hear either. What’s a fan to do? Winking smile In fact, in Girlyman’s large catalog, there is only a single song that I find boring. Lois is the only one who knows which it is. She also happens to disagree with me on that one. Smile

We were treated to some UK road trip banter. We now all know why they use 220v over there. You’ll have to attend an upcoming show to find out for yourself. Winking smile Speaking of banter, Nate and the gals did a fantastic tuning song to More Than Words by Extreme. When they were asking for requests, after hearing more than 20 different titles, someone yelled out Do More Than One. So, More Than One was born, to the tune of More Than Words. Excellent!

NateBorofsky

There are always a few surprises at a Girlyman show. This one had them inviting the audience to sing the chorus of Postcards From Mexico (three separate parts) with them. Depending on our vocal range, we were singing with Nate, Ty or Doris. I sing out loud in the car to every one of their songs, so getting to sing out loud with them was a hoot. The guy to my left had a great voice. He harmonized (a fourth part!) with them at the song’s crescendo. Bravo!

Ty debuted a new song (likely called The Person You Want Me to Be). Absolutely gorgeous. After the show, I went over to her to tell her how much I loved it. In the car ride home, Lois bugged me many times asking me how she could get her hands on a recording of the song.

TyGreenstein

Ask and ye shall receive! I just got a Google Alert on Girlyman with a link to a YouTube video of that song, played the night before we saw them, at Eddie’s Attic, in Decatur, GA. Thanks Donna, you made Lois’ day and my life got simpler at the same time. Smile

The Person You Want Me To Be

JJ is an excellent drummer, always. One of the things that makes her excellent is always playing the appropriate accompaniment to a given piece. Since many of Girlyman’s songs are very mellow, JJ is correctly understated in most of her drumming with the band. Then, they sneak in Young James Dean and JJ lets loose. Fabulous, each and every time. The second the song is over, rather than enjoying the accolades the crowd is giving Ty (and Girlyman in general), Ty immediately turns to JJ and points out how amazing she is during that number. I couldn’t agree more! Smile

JJJones

As exhausted as they were and as sick as Doris was, they put on a terrific show. For those of you who are keeping track, Sunday night was our 16th Girlyman show. We have tickets to see them at City Winery (with the amazing Red Molly co-billed) on November 17th.

This blog is appearing 24 hours later than normal. We hit the road at 7am Birmingham time yesterday intending to stop in Northern VA for the night (at which point I might have blogged). Instead, we pushed on (like the whimsical people that we are), through torrential rainstorms in PA, making it back to NYC at 11:30pm. Only 15.5 hours in the car. No big deal…

We had invited a number of people to join us for the show. We ended up only purchasing four tickets, for our godson (David), his fiancée (Rebecca) and us. We were given another special surprise when Rebecca’s parents, one of her brothers and his girlfriend also purchased tickets and joined us (the eight of us dominated the front row!).

The brother and his girlfriend had to run out when the show ended (the life of students with papers due). The rest of us hung around to say hello to the band (always a treat).

Before the show, the eight of us dined at Silvertron Café. I heeded the advice of the locals and got the mini-steak sandwiches. Wow! We all had a great meal, putting us in the perfect mood to enjoy a great show. Can’t wait to do it again! Smile

Joey Ryan and Matt Hires at Workplay

Send to Kindle

We visit Birmingham, AL at least twice a year. We were planning to arrive late last night. A week earlier, I noticed a tweet by Joey Ryan that he was touring the South opening for Matt Hires. After a quick consultation with Lois, we changed our plans to arrive much earlier in the day, in order to see them at Workplay (a place where we saw Vienna Teng and Alex Wong open for Glen Phillips).

We came to visit our godson and his fiancée and we were glad (and lucky) that they were able to join us for the show.

Joey Ryan put on his typical (in the best sense!) show. If anything was a bit different, it was that his self-deprecating humor was highlighted a little more. He was dead on. When Joey asked the audience questions, often only one person answered. Even when the answer was whisper soft, Joey (and the rest of us) could hear it clearly. That gave him fodder for some very funny (and spontaneous) responses/comebacks.

JoeyRyan

The sound system and engineer at Workplay were both excellent last night. Joey’s guitar and voice were crisp and the volume was just right. His set selection was wonderful and included both a new song (at least it was new to me!) and a Ray LaMontagne cover.

The audience wanted Joey to keep going, but after checking two different times with the sound engineer, Joey was forced to leave us hanging.

After the set, we headed to the lobby to say hi. We bought a copy of Joey’s CD and EP (both), got them signed by Joey, and gave them to David and Rebecca. They were both wiped. Anticipating that, we came in two cars, and after chatting with Joey for a few minutes, they headed home.

HadarRebeccaJoeyRyanDavid

We stayed to see Matt Hires and his band, having never heard of him before discovering that Joey was opening for him during the last leg of his six week tour.

We both liked Matt’s sound a lot. Very energetic numbers, catchy/hooky lyrics and melodies. Matt has an excellent voice and does a nice job on the guitar (he played both acoustic and electric). He played one number solo. In addition to playing his own material, he also played a Beatles cover: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. Hard to go wrong with a Beatles cover, as long as you can deliver, and Matt and the band delivered. Smile

MattHires

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

Chris Miranda on lead electric guitar and harmony. Chris was superb on the guitar and did a terrific job singing with Matt as well. A quick search shows his name all over, including that he played lead guitar for Kate Voegele among others.

ChrisMiranda

Bob Matthews on drums. Bob did a very nice job throughout the set, including coming up to the mic for You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, playing a tambourine and shaker, finishing it off with a Melodica!

BobMatthewsMelodica

Aaron Bishop on electric bass and background vocals. A solid job on both!

AaronBishop

In addition to Chris playing with Kate Voegele, so did Bob and Aaron, so Matt hooked up with a ready-made band. Good choice, as the chemistry and talent were already a proven commodity.

If you want to hear a teeny tiny flavor of Chris’ smoothness on the guitar, you can watch this YouTube video of Matt introducing the band. It’s from 10 days ago, but it’s exactly how he introduced them last night.

When Matt’s set was over, we went out and bought his new EP, A TO B. It’s only four songs long, with two being different versions of the same song. Still, it’s very good. Both the title cut (A TO B) and both versions of Honey, Let Me Sing You a Song are wonderful productions. It’s $2.99 to download on iTunes.

We said a very quick goodbye to Joey and headed back to the hotel. What a great way to start off the week in Birmingham. We have a fabulous way to end it as well, but you’ll have to wait to read about that until we’re headed home. Smile

Cirque De La Symphonie at Richmond CenterStage

Send to Kindle

I grew up on classical music. My dad had thousands of full reel-to-reel tapes that he played non-stop from tape #1 through the last. When I need to be rejuvenated, I still turn to classical music, though I listen to other stuff way more often.

Last night our friends invited us to a very special performance of Cirque De La Symphonie at Richmond CenterStage. It was a one-night performance (with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra), but you can catch them with other orchestras and I highly recommend that you do!

This was our second time seeing the Richmond Symphony perform. I covered the previous one in this post. I am sure it won’t be our last, they are wonderful! They are led by Steven Smith, Musical Director and Conductor. Last night his role was expanded, as he also interacted with the Cirque performers, including one fantastic illusion.

Illusion

The symphony performed four or five pieces without the Cirque performers on stage. During those pieces, the symphony was well lit and it was as visually interesting as it was aurally. My particular vantage point allowed me to focus on the cello players. Their fingers were flying up and down the frets, mesmerizing. The violin section was all bows to me, moving in unison at lightning speed.

StevenSmithRichmondSymphonyOrchestra

I love most instruments, but I always surprise myself when one is highlighted and I catch myself thinking “That’s really one of my favorites!”. Last night was the flute. Many of the pieces were flute heavy (or should I say flute heaven?). Smile

The last row was the horns. I love brass (see, I told you, I really love them all!). Our godson’s fiancée plays the French Horn, so  I couldn’t help but try to pick out every note from the four French Horn players. I wasn’t so successful at that.

One last shout out to the viola section, they were superb.

When the Cirque players were on stage, the orchestra was beautifully but dimly lit. That made it easy to spend 100% of the time being awed by every single performer (six in all, with a few of them performing multiple routines). I have never seen a Cirque performance live. It won’t be my last.

If you know what Cirque is you don’t need my description. If you don’t know, my description wouldn’t do it justice, so I’ll just leave you with a few of Lois’ photos of the performance.

Ribbons1JugglerRope

RingRibbons2

StrongMen1StrongMen2StrongMen3

Thank you to our friends for inviting us last night and to the Richmond Symphony and Cirque De La Symphonie for a truly magical evening!

CurtainCall1CurtainCall2CurtainCall3

We spent a couple of hours in the afternoon wandering around the annual Richmond Folk Festival. A perfect day of weather and music. We didn’t stay at any one stage long enough for me to write a blog about it. If you get a chance to attend one in the future (or later today?), run, don’t walk!

RichmondFolkFestivalCenterStageBonsoirCatinRichmondFolkFestivalAudienceAltriaStage

Susan Greenbaum at Weinstein JCC

Send to Kindle

Two very special things happened last night at the Weinstein JCC in Richmond, VA. The first was a tribute and fundraiser for the Henry S. Fine Memorial Fund for Special Needs. Henry S. Fine was quite an extraordinary person (unfortunately, he passed away last year). You can read about him and the benefit in this Richmond Times-Dispatch article.

HenrySFine

The second special thing happening last night was Susan Greenbaum performing at the benefit.

SusanGreenbaum

On May 22nd, Susan Greenbaum was one of several special guest conductors at the Richmond Symphony for a benefit held at Richmond CenterStage. It was one of the rare nights when I couldn’t muster any energy to go out, but Lois joined our friends for the performance. Susan Greenbaum was voted winner of the guest conductors and Lois got to meet her and chat for a bit afterward.

The next day we met Susan and her husband, Chris Parker for brunch. We enjoyed our time together and bought two of Susan’s CDs: Wake Up! and You are My Holiday. I love both CDs.

Susan performed with a full band last night and I’ll cover each member (like I always do). The set list last night was special (to me, but I’m pretty sure it was for the entire audience). Susan played Carole King’s Tapestry album start-to-finish. It’s one of my favorite albums which I rarely listen to now, so I was particularly excited.

Susan educated (and regaled) the crowd with an amazing tribute to Carole King in general (listing many top hits that Carole wrote or co-wrote that we had no idea were Carole’s). Susan has incredible stage presence and warmth, a complete pro.

In addition to performing, Susan and Chris also sponsored a table at the benefit. We had the privilege of sitting at that table. Henry used to identify with a one-eyed Smiley, so they used that as the logo for the event.

HenrySFineCallingCard

On to the performance.

Susan has a fantastic voice. I already knew that from both CDs, but not all produced voices come across live as well. Susan’s does. Power, nuance, range, always with an appropriate volume to the rest of the band and the material. She accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar (nicely) on all but one song, the title cut, Tapestry, where she sang and just held the guitar.

SusanGreenbaumSinging

In addition to playing the entire album in order, Susan closed the show with two non-Tapestry numbers. The first was a Carole King song cut by The Monkees, Pleasant Valley Sunday. Susan wanted to end on a more upbeat Carole number, rather than the last song on Tapestry.

After receiving a standing ovation (quite a long one!), Susan apologized for breaking the all-Carole-King set to close with a number of her own, Everything But You. She introduced the song saying that Henry S. Fine had it on his iPod and that it was his favorite Susan Greenbaum song. Easy to see why, it’s gorgeous!

SetList

The band, from left-to-right on stage:

Ed Drake on electric guitar (and a bit of background vocals). Ed was extremely good throughout the set. Very fast and smooth leads, matching the material perfectly. Susan highlighted Ed a number of times, thank you Susan!

EdDrake

Lucy Kilpatrick on electric keyboards and harmony. Wow! Seriously, Lucy can play the piano something fierce. Like Ed, Susan highlighted Lucy quite a bit, but the material itself is oriented toward the piano, being Carole King’s primary instrument.

LucyKilpatrick1

In addition to the exceptional keyboard play, Lucy provided the primary harmony for Susan (way too little) and she was excellent at that as well. Bravo!

LucyKilpatrickSinging

Chris Parker on drums and background vocals (sorry, no good individual link to Chris). The Tapestry set doesn’t call for any exceptional drumming. Chris opened it up a bit for Pleasant Valley Sunday and Everything But You. Very nice job.

ChrisParker

Mike Drake on electric bass and a bit of background vocals (also no good individual link). Mike is Ed’s brother. Mike did a wonderful job though the material doesn’t particularly highlight the bass.

MikeDrake

To summarize, I was not surprised to find out how wonderful Susan Greenbaum is as a performer. Still, she exceeded any expectations I had. That she was accompanied by such an excellent band, with Lucy Kilpatrick as a standout, was indeed a wonderful surprise.

SusanGreenbaumBand-EdDrakeLucyKilpatrickSusanGreenbaumChrisParkerMikeDrake

P.S. As with most live performances, we were all asked to turn off our cell phones before the show started. I never need to be reminded. Mine was off 15 minutes before the announcement.

Toward the end of Tapestry, Lois leaned to me and asked for the name of the song that she loves from Susan’s Wake Up! CD, in case she had a chance to call out for a request. I pulled my cell out to look it up. While scrolling through the songs, I accidentally pressed on one of them and the phone started playing Susan’s song, loudly. Yikes!

I was so flustered that I didn’t even look at the display to find the pause button. I just covered the speaker (clumsily) with my finger and rushed out of the auditorium. My humble apologies to Susan and everyone there, who thought I was the one jerk who didn’t turn off his cell phone.

Rather, I was probably one of the few people there who has two of Susan’s CDs loaded on his cell phone (and of course my iPod too). I’m also the only klutz who tried to share that CD with everyone else while Susan was singing. 🙁

ambeR Rubarth, Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Another night, another awesome show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (third one in four nights!). I guess there’s nothing left to say. This will officially be my shortest post ever.

Why are you still here? OK, just for you, take a peek below this line and I’ll share my experience from last night’s show. Don’t tell anyone else though. 😉

I’ll cover the acts in reverse order of their appearance, but the names will be interspersed as a number of our favorite performers joined each of the headliners.

ambeR Rubarth closed the show. She played acoustic guitar and the grand piano and of course, sang. When she came out she looked around the room and called up Katie Scheele (a member of Threeds) to join her on stage.

ambeRRubarthTuning ambeRRubarth

Katie came up with her oboe (actually, that first number was likely an English Horn, Katie’s other specialty). They kicked off a fantastic set together.

KatieScheeleEnglishHorn

In addition to playing a number of songs solo, ambeR played Full Moon in Paris with three guests: Kenneth Pattengale on acoustic guitar (lead), Joey Ryan and Greg Holden sharing a microphone to sing harmony with ambeR.

ambeRRubarthJoeyRyanGregHoldenKennethPattengale

Kenneth Pattengale joined ambeR alone for at least two other numbers. One on acoustic guitar and the other with them both seated at the piano. Their piano duet brought down the house!

ambeRRubarthKennethPattengale ambeRRubarthKennethPattengalePiano

Alex Wong joined ambeR for two numbers. The first was Rough Cut where Alex played the snare drum while ambeR played the grand piano. The second was In the Creases, where Katie Scheele joined them (this time on the oboe, I’m sure). Awesome (as In the Creases always is, but the oboe adds such a great touch!).

AlexWongSnare ambeRRubarthAlexWongKatieScheele

To close the show, ambeR brought up Joey and Kenneth again, but added a super special guest star, Joshua Radin. The four of them did an amazing job of covering Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice. It was our first time seeing Joshua Radin. It won’t be our last. Pinky swear!

JoshuaRadin ambeRRubarthJoshuaRadinJoeyRyanKennethPattengale

ambeRRubarthJoshuaRadin ambeRRubarthJoshuaRadinSinging

When ambeR left the stage the crowd just wouldn’t stop making noise. ambeR poked her head out from the green room curtain, looked up at the sound board and received the OK to come back for an encore. She asked the crowd for a request. I was the quickest with a loud “Novacaine”. Given that I was so close to the stage, before others got to say anything, she just said: “OK”. 🙂

I’ve never heard a bad version of Novacaine in any number of settings, but I can definitively say that last night was the best. ambeR nailed every single harmonic on the guitar and the pace of the song was perfect. What a way to end an incredible night.

Joey Ryan is an amazing solo performer (here’s my post from the last time we saw him solo). Joey also tours in other configurations. One of our favorite shows was at Rockwood 1 when Joey brought along Kenneth Pattengale and Mark Stepro. I covered that in this post. Last night he played with Kenneth for most songs, with two additional guests.

Joey finger-picked nearly every song and sang beautifully.

JoeyRyan1

Kenneth Pattengale is a master on the acoustic guitar. His non-stop leads (I described it as dancing in my last post) are mesmerizing. He sings gorgeous harmony with Joey. Either can take the high or low side equally well.

KennethPattingale1

In the first show, Kenneth sang lead on only one song, Charlie, a beautiful song written for his yet-to-be-conceived daughter (oh yeah, he is yet to meet her mom either, or he doesn’t know he met her already!). 😉

Aside from Kenneth being so amazing on the guitar, I put his name in the title here because in addition to singing Charlie, he also sang two other songs (with Joey providing wonderful harmony) and he was on stage with ambeR for three numbers as well. He was a very integral part of last night’s show.

The first of Joey’s guests was none other than Ian Axel who played the piano on Joey’s Broken Headlights (probably Lois’ favorite of Joey’s songs). Ian was icing on an already delicious cake. Independent of that, we could listen to Ian play the 1-800-MATTRESS song and be nearly as happy. 😉

IanAxel

For his last number, Joey called ambeR up to sing harmony with him (and of course Kenneth).

KennethPattingaleAmberRubarth

Throughout the set, the interplay of Joey finger-picking and Kenneth playing mind-boggling leads was stunning. The singing was equally amazing, but I would have been totally satisfied to hear an all-instrumental show with Joey and Kenneth.

Of course, a Joey show is not complete without his signature self-deprecating humor. He was certainly on last night, introducing new lines that I hadn’t heard before. ambeR, Joey and Kenneth are at World Cafe in Philadelphia tonight. To give you a flavor of Joey’s humor, here is a tweet from him today, announcing tonight’s show:

Philadelphia. Get ready for the quietest show you’ve ever heard. Tonight at world cafe. Whisper it to your friends.

🙂

You probably don’t believe the way I describe Joey (angelic). Thankfully, Lois captured an elusive slip-up, when he flashed his halo for a second. 😉

JoeyRyanHalo

Will Knox opened the show. We’ve seen Will twice before, each time doing just two songs as part of a much larger lineup (the first was a Livestrong fundraiser, the second was a Haiti Benefit).

WillKnoxTuning

Last night Will had a full band (he did not avail himself of the house band at the Haiti Benefit, and he played solo at the Livestrong event). It was a very pleasant surprise as the band was talented and fit well with Will’s songs.

Will is an excellent guitar player (he picked most songs, strummed a few). He has a very good voice. The rest of the band, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Kyle James Hauser on banjo. Kyle was really good throughout. My only complaint was that his instrument was the softest of the bunch. I had to work hard to pick him out. Still, it was worth the effort. 🙂

KyleJamesHauser1

Timur Yusef on drums and background vocals. Good job on both.

TimurYusef

Chris Anderson on electric bass and background vocals. I’ve written about Chris many times (he’s the bassist for Ian Axel and he plays occasionally with Martin Rivas as well). We love Chris’ play, last night being no exception!

ChrisAnderson1

Here’s proof that Ian is willing to be seen in public with Chris. 😉

ChrisAndersonIanAxel

Clayton Mathews on fiddle (violin for you snootier types). The entire band was excellent, but Clayton Mathews was the highlight for me. His fiddle play was crisp and interesting throughout. To top it off, he threw out a half-dozen half-liners (not quite one-liners) that had the crowd (and Will!) in stitches. Very well done!

ClaytonMathews1

Could anything make this night better? Yes, two things:

1) So many wonderful friends there to share the show with us (including people we never expected to see there, let alone share a table with!)

2) After the show we headed straight to the house (an unusual mid-week treat)

For a variety of reasons, last night might be our last NYC show for at least a month. We’ll miss some amazing shows in October during CMJ week. We’re sad about that, but happy that our sendoff show will keep us looking forward to more such evenings out.

If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom, here’s a little reward for you. Lois takes nearly all of the photos and typically refuses to be photographed herself. One of our tablemates convinced her to hand over her precious camera and we were captured as a result:

HadarLois