Aaron Steele

Ximena Sarinana and Graffiti6 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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We’ve seen Ximena Sarinana perform a number of times. We’re big fans. Considering that she lives in LA, we decided to cut a business trip short to return to NYC to catch her show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night (who knows when the opportunities will present themselves!).

XimenaKeyboards

Ximena has two CDs under her belt. The first is all Spanish, produced when Ximena was living in Mexico (where she is a superstar). The new one (self-titled) is in English, except for track 10, Tu Y Yo (You and I). Both are excellent.

So if we own both CDs, and they’re excellent, why run back to NYC to catch Ximena live? Because the CDs don’t actually do justice to the two things that make Ximena such a special live act:

  • She has a stunning voice which comes across more powerfully/vibrantly live
  • She is delightful/effervescent/charming/funny/natural/cute and any number of other adjectives (all positive)

Did we make the right decision? Of course! Ximena’s voice was in full bloom last night, charming and mesmerizing. She played a mix of songs from both CDs (can’t let your original fans down by ignoring the old stuff!).

On Normal (a Spanish song from the first CD), Ximena looped her voice at least six times (I’d guess it was closer to eight), each time adding a new harmonizing track. It’s mindboggling how beautiful it was and how creative she is for being able to come up with that many different melodies that blend together so well.

XimenaSinging

Ximena was supported by two fantastic musicians, left-to-right on stage:

Aaron Steele on drums. I’ve seen Aaron once before (this past January). He was very impressive, but I was sitting inches away from the drums in the much-smaller Rockwood 1, and Aaron’s hard-hitting style overwhelmed me a bit. Last night was an even more impressive performance, with zero negatives.

AaronSteeleDrumKit

Aaron is fast, steady as a machine, doesn’t over-drum, and delivers a perfectly matched beat to Ximena’s power-pop style. On the jazzier numbers, he can be subtle as well.

Pete Lalish  on guitar. I’ve seen Pete a number of times (with Lucius as well as Ximena) and he’s impressed every time. Last night I noticed some things I hadn’t before. Ximena’s new music has quite a bit of electronica in it. I tend to think that most of that is generated on a keyboard (and much of it is, by Ximena herself).

PeteLalishGuitar

Last night I saw that Pete actually produces more of it than Ximena. He spent a fair amount of time on his knees furiously working his pedal board with both hands (with the guitar just hanging on the strap, unattended), making the electronica sounds.

PeteLalishPedalBoardXimenaElectronica

I’m not the biggest fan of electronica in general (having nothing to do with Ximena), but that doesn’t mean that I’m not impressed at seeing it performed/produced live, giving fans of the CD a real taste of the same sound in a live setting.

Here’s the set list, which was a big hit. We attended the early show, but Ximena was on again for a second show, after a short break!

SetList

Gaffiti6 opened the show (both shows). We knew nothing about them, other than the many tweets that I saw, including one from another musician that we both really like, Valerie Mize:

ValerieMIZE Valerie MIZE

Hey, NEW YORKERS! Catch UK Harmonic Awesomeness@Graffiti6 at #ROCKWOODmusicHall w @ximenamusicTONIGHT! 2 Shows! @TommyDD @JamieScottG6

OK, so instead of me making up a new description, pay attention to Valerie’s: “UK Harmonic Awesomeness”.

I would describe them as power folk. Two acoustic guitars (the duo that formed Graffiti6) and an electric bass.

Graffiti6

Jamie Scott sings the majority of the leads, with Tommy Danvers (TommyD) joining for a lot of very powerful harmonies. The bass player (Pete Cherry) was excellent and added three-part harmony to many of the numbers.

JamieScottTommyDanvers

PeteCherry

The crowd was extremely enthusiastic in their support for Graffiti6. I thoroughly enjoyed their sound, but I’d have to listen again to have a better sense of whether the lyrics will grab me if I give them another shot.

As we were leaving, we ran into one of our favorite musicians/people, Alex Berger. Come to Rockwood 2 on Tuesday (12/20) to see him play at 9pm. Stay for Alex Wong immediately thereafter. That’s where we’ll be. Smile

AlexBergerHadar

Mike Campbell and Jerry Fuentes at Rockwood Music Hall

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Another day, another very late night, again the need/desire to split the music into two posts.

First up, back-to-back sets at Rockwood Music Hall. The sets were related in that both headliners performed one song on the other’s set, and each had the same special guest appear. Otherwise, nothing remotely similar about the music.

Mike Campbell played his first-ever solo show on November 20th, 2010. I covered it in this post. Last night was his second effort. It was similar in some sense, radically different in others. The similarities were good set selection, good guitar play, nervous banter (perhaps not as much as he did the first time).

MikeCampbell

The differences: much stronger voice (Mike had a bad cold the last time), guest performers (he wanted the first solo show to be about him only, correctly so!).

Mike played a number of songs from the first show, but also added brand new and older tunes to the set.

He called up three different guests, in three different configurations. First up, the headliner of the next set.

Jerry Fuentes joined Mike to play electric guitar and sing a bit of harmony, including leading the audience in a refrain at the end of the song (which was a lot of fun to join in on). It was my first time seeing Jerry (I met him for a second the night before at Mona’s). The song they performed was great (of course, I don’t recall the name now, sorry!). I’ll have a lot more to say about Jerry below when I cover his set.

JerryFuentesMikeCampbell

A few solo numbers again, then Mike called up the next guest.

Chad Vaccarino joined him to sing a song they co-wrote in June, Days Gone By. When they announced the song, I thought they were about to do a cover of Keith Urban. Nope, just the same title, nothing else similar about the songs.

Here’s a YouTube video of their debut performance of the song last June (it appears to be at a house concert). In the video, Chad is singing lead. Last night, Mike sang lead. In both, Mike played the guitar, beautifully! They should perform this song much more often:

Days Gone By–Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell

Immediately thereafter, Mike called Ian Axel to the stage, with Chad staying up there. All three joked about the fact that they were about to perform the song standing up, something they’d never done before. They sang All the Love, co-written by Mike and Chad. It was perfect. The YouTube video below again has Chad singing lead. Last night, Mike nailed the lead, with Chad and Ian harmonizing.

All the Love by Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell, guest star Ian Axel

If I understand correctly, Mike arranged the harmonies. After the show, I went up to Mike to tell him how awesome it was. Watching the videos above gave me a new round of re-enjoying last night’s show.

IanAxelMikeCampbellChadVaccarino

Mike writes beautiful songs all by himself, no doubt, but his collaborations with Chad Vaccarino are simply amazing.

When Mike was done, Jerry got on the stage immediately. Since Mike had only an acoustic guitar, they had set the stage up for Jerry in advance and there was no transition time at all.

Having never see Jerry before, I had no idea what to expect.

He’s an excellent lead guitarist (smooth, fast and interesting). He has an excellent voice. He also played the harmonica on many of the numbers, something I’m less used to seeing in a rock set than a folk set, but Jerry made it work well.

JerryFuentesSinging

I would describe the majority of the set as ballad/anthem style rock. There were a couple of exceptions. If you click on Jerry’s name at the top, his site starts streaming music instantly (not something I think sites should do), so you can get your own sense of his style.

Since Jerry began immediately after Mike’s set, he opened with the one song that Mike joined him on. They sang and played well together. Mike then left the stage and Jerry turned up the heat.

MikeCampbellJerryFuentesMikeTuccillo

Jerry was accompanied by two band members for all but two songs:

Mike Tuccillo on the electric bass. I just saw Mike for the first time two nights earlier at the Soul Revue Benefit. He was very good that night, but I couldn’t see him, mixed in among the 14 other people on stage. Last night, I was a few feet away from him and could appreciate his technique a lot more. Very well done.

MikeTuccillo

Aaron Steele on drums. Aaron is a real hitter (very powerful). That can be a great thing, especially for rock songs. The only problem was that my right ear was perhaps two feet from the drum set, so it took me a while to get used to it. Aside from that, Aaron was impressive. In particular, on the last song of Jerry’s set (not including the encore), Aaron was incredible on the drums, very fast, totally clean, still hard hitting. Also very well done.

AaronSteele1AaronSteele2

Ian Axel joined Jerry for five numbers. Ian played the piano on all of them, singing on one (or two?). The band sounded pretty full without Ian, but adding Ian’s heart-pounding piano to the mix took it up a notch. This capped off a pretty big day in Ian’s (and Chad’s) life. Earlier, they were featured on the Rachael Ray Show on national TV!

IanAxelPiano

Ian performed the title song from his upcoming CD (This is the New Year, out in a couple of weeks!). Rachael Ray also posted a bonus song, Girl I Got a Thing, that Ian played for the live audience while the credits were running for the rest of us. Great job!

Two of the numbers that Ian joined on were exceptions to the rock style. One is a brand new song of Jerry’s that will be on his upcoming CD. It’s called Standing in Line. I am not linking to the online video he has of it, because last night’s version was 100x better. Just wait until the CD is out and get it. The song highlights Jerry’s lyrical abilities. He also played it on the acoustic guitar, taking the entire sound down.

He tried to get off the stage, but the crowd wasn’t having any of that. He got permission to sing one more. He and Ian performed it alone. A lovely way to close a very good set.

Jerry is a theatrical performer and the band played quite loud. Rockwood 1 is not the perfect venue for that kind of music, partially due to the sheer loudness in such a small space. I think Jerry can command a much larger stage in a larger venue and be perfectly suited to it.

Once I gave Jerry my compliments, we were off next door (literally) to Rockwood 2. The two posts are really unrelated, so I won’t even link them to each other (like I did last night). If you’re interested in what I did next, you’ll have to use some of your Internet skills to find my next post. Winking smile