Adam Christgau

Ian Axel and Rachel Platten at Mercury Lounge

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When this show was announced in October, we instantly grabbed four tickets (the maximum that Mercury Lounge sells, online or in person!). Since then, we’ve been waiting impatiently for the show to start.

The last time we saw Ian Axel perform was a single song guest appearance on 9/22/2010. Before that, it was 7/22/2010 when he performed an intimate two-person show (Chad Vaccarino was the only person to appear with him that night) at Flux Studios. It was definitely full-on withdrawal time for us, since we missed Ian’s big CMJ show in October.

For those who don’t like all my details, the bottom line first: The show was absolutely awesome!

Ian is releasing a CD on 2/15/2011. Before that, next Tuesday (12/14/2010 to be exact) he will be releasing three of the songs from that CD on iTunes. If I understand correctly, you’ll be able to complete your purchase of the full CD on 2/15/2011 without being penalized (or buying double) if you buy the first three songs next week. Do it!

If you’re not familiar with Ian (shame on you), here’s a YouTube video of This is the New Year. If you are, consider this a warm-up to get you in the mood for the rest of this post:

Ian Axel This is the New Year video

You can preview (stream) next week’s release at Ian’s Facebook fan page. If you listen to This is the New Year carefully, you’ll note that it’s a new version. I (normally) hate when artists tinker with perfection (and I hope you’ll agree that the video above is perfection). Yet, I grudgingly admit that they made an even better version (not that it needed improving), so even fans who have the previous version stuck in their head will love this one!

Last night, Ian played all three of the songs on next week’s EP release. If you missed the show and want to experience a bit of the magic, listen to Girl I Got a Thing on the above Facebook page. When Ian sings “Girl I Got a Thing for You”, you respond with “Girl I Got a Thing for You” out loud (like we all did). Then, when he sings “Na na na na”, you shout out “Whoa Wo”. If you can get a couple of hundred people to do it with you, really loud, you’ll come close to reproducing what it sounded like at Mercury Lounge! Smile

Ian poured out his heart to us and from all of the FB statuses and tweets I’ve seen, everyone responded similarly. He rocked out on some numbers, played solo on Say Something (on the keyboards this time, rather the slightly more typical ukulele version) and added ukulele magic on two others.

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Ian typically plays with a four piece band (including Ian on the keyboards). Last night, they were down a man. It didn’t matter, the sound was huge. I’ll start with the core members who were on stage for all but Say Something, but stay tuned, because there are two other people who will be covered right after!

Adam Christgau on drums and background vocals. It’s simply been way too long since we’ve seen Adam play (7/8/2010 to be exact!). It felt good to feel Adam’s rhythm hitting me straight on (we were right in front of the stage, dead center). The clock for missing seeing Adam play is now officially ticking again…

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Chris Kuffner on electric bass and background vocals. If you read this space regularly, you know that we love Chris Kuffner. All but one of his performances have been on electric guitar (excellent). Still, I lament that I need to see him open it up on the bass. The one time I’ve seen him on the bass, the music called for a more sedate style.

Last night, Chris got to open it up and I’m glad I was there. He also did something I’ve never seen/heard before. Using his pedals to add effects, Chris got the bass to sound exactly like an organ! It was cool and a little eerie. Scratch another one off my music bucket list, seeing Chris play electric bass! Smile

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That everyone at every Ian show loves Ian is no surprise. In fact, if it weren’t true, there’d be some slapping going on in the audience. What warms my heart each and every time (even though it’s completely expected now!) is that the audience totally gets how awesome Chad Vaccarino is and what an integral part of the magic he is.

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First and foremost (before any of us get to see/hear the result), Chad is Ian’s regular writing partner, co-writing many of Ian’s songs. For that alone, he deserves a spot in some hall of fame. But it’s hardly that alone. When Chad steps on stage to sing with Ian (and now to play trumpet a bit as well), there is an electricity in the crowd. The roar when Chad sings is even greater than that.

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Last night was no exception. Chad ripped the room up. There’s little more to say than that. Each is an enormous talent on their own. Together, they boggle the mind.

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Mike Campbell was a special guest on two numbers, playing acoustic guitar and singing harmony. I just recently covered Mike’s first solo show in this post. The first song that Mike joined on was also the first song that Ian played the ukulele on, Pacific Sun (a song Ian rarely plays live, so it was a very special treat). Chad stood between them and the three of them harmonized beautifully. I’ll get to the other song in a minute. Well done Mike (who also got a rousing cheer when he came up each time!).

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When Ian played his last song the crowd went nuts screaming for him to play more. After the band milled around on the stage hugging each other for a minute, Ian looked at the sound engineer to see if he could play another one. He got the OK. He announced that he would play a new song that wasn’t on the new CD. He and Chad performed You’ll Be OK. They nailed it (you didn’t expect otherwise, did you?).

Once they finished, they tried to get off the stage again. A 100+ people starting chanting Shorty (short for Shorty Don’t Wait, another new number that isn’t on the new CD). If Ian and Chad had stepped off the stage, trouble might have brewed. Ian looked up at the sound engineer again and got the OK for one last number.

Mike Campbell came back up and Ian picked up the ukulele again. They blew the crowd away. I can’t think of a better way to finish off an extraordinary evening than by playing a song the crowd demands and delivering it better than the crowd could hope for.

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They were on stage for 53 minutes. It felt like one minute in terms of time flying by. It felt like three hours in terms of the level of satisfaction.

As if the above weren’t enough, that’s only part of the story of why last night was so spectacular. There was an opening act before Ian that was incredible.

Rachel Platten opened the show. I’ve seen Rachel perform a full set just once before (covered in this post). If you read that, you know I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of Rachel’s show that night. Unfortunately, Lois was sick and missed that show.

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Last night Rachel had a smaller band and that worked really well for me to appreciate her on an entirely new level. While I like the sound of a bigger band (in general), sometimes it’s harder to pick up on the lyrics to songs. Last night I had no trouble hearing every word that Rachel sang. I have a huge new respect for her as a songwriter. Every song was interesting, but some were deep and moving.

Rachel’s voice is unbelievable. Power, but crystal clear as well. It’s almost laser like. As I mentioned in the last post, she beams throughout her set. If you’re not infected with her energy and sweetness, get yourself to a doctor stat!

I knew she was good on the keyboards from the last show, but last night she also had a song where she danced up and down the keyboard at high speed. I was standing right in front of her and could see every finger movement. She’s better than I realized the first time and I had no complaints that night!

Here’s last night’s set list, all gems!

RachelPlattenSetList

Playing with Rachel were:

Craig Meyer on drums. This is the third or fourth time that I’ve apologized for not having a good link to an individual page for Craig. One of his friends better force him to have a presence somewhere, soon. Craig is excellent. His drumming is as much a visual art form as it is aural. He played a snare and a djembe last night rather than a full drum set. He also played the smallest glockenspiel that I’ve ever seen, with the tip of a drum stick. It was funny.

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Nathan Eklund on trumpet and harmony. Nathan sang beautifully with Rachel, I really liked their harmonies. He’s excellent on the trumpet as well, lending jazz tinges to Rachel’s songs when he took his solos.

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When the show was over, Lois headed to the merch table and bought a CD and a T-Shirt from Rachel. We both got to tell her how wonderful she was.

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Even though we only bought four tickets (hence two guests), we ended up seeing a dozen friends there, most of us standing front and center stage. It was truly a party in the best sense of the word, with Ian and Rachel performing DJ duties. Winking smile

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The Paper Raincoat at Mercury Lounge

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Last night was our second time at Mercury Lounge. We went to see the same group that brought us there the first time, The Paper Raincoat.

No matter how many times we see the same groups, each show has it’s own character, making it worth coming out for reasons other than simply supporting great talent (though that alone is a worthy enough reason!).

The last few times that we saw The Paper Raincoat (TPR), they had a violin, viola and bass accompanying them. Last night, they were back to the original configuration that we originally saw them in (way back in April 2009), Alex Wong, ambeR Rubarth and a drummer (last night it was Kevin Rice, but that first time was Adam Christgau).

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We love the strings (Melissa Tong and David Fallo) and Tony Maceli on the bass. I look forward to a TPR show with them all as soon as possible, but still, there was a tingle to get back to the core sound that we originally fell in love with.

TPR was one of four bands on the bill (third in the lineup), so their set was slightly shorter than usual (around 40 minutes). They had an excellent set selection so we didn’t feel let down by the length.

SetList

At least 1/2 of the very large audience was there to see the headliner, The Do, so they were experiencing TPR for the first time. From our center vantage point, they liked TPR plenty.

Kevin Rice was extraordinary (not that he’s ever less than amazing). On Sympathetic Vibrations, Alex had a particularly long introduction (which was cool in itself) and Kevin was wailing a rock-steady beat throughout. My arms hurt just watching him, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him either.

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That was hardly the extent of his incredible drumming. In addition, they played It All Depends, where they often end it with Alex, Kevin and ambeR all drumming at the same time (heavenly). Last night, Alex spotted Danny Molad in the audience. He’s the drummer for Elizabeth and the Catapult. Alex coaxed Danny onto the stage, so It All Depends ended with four people sharing one drum set. Hazzah!

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Alex and ambeR also played Right Angles. We’ve seen them play it before, with both on a grand piano at the same time, but it was tucked away in the corner of Rockwood, so you only see them sitting together. Last night they played it on the electric keyboard, with their hands flying up and down the keys simultaneously, right in front of us. Awesome!

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So, how did I know that 1/2 the audience was new to TPR? They closed with their signature a cappella Rewind. When they start the awesome cross-hand-clapping, 1/2 the audience laughed (gleefully). That happens to everyone the first time they see TPR do it. After that, you anxiously look forward it, but don’t laugh out loud. 🙂

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We only stayed for 1.5 songs of The Do. Not my taste (plus it was late for us). But, to give them their proper due, as crowded as it was for TPR, I can’t believe how many more people jammed into Mercury Lounge for The Do. They have a huge, loyal and adoring set of fans. I’m sure those people thought we were crazy for leaving, but they had to be happy to have the extra space. 😉

Now that I’ve been to Mercury Lounge twice, I can definitively say I’m not a fan (I’ll go again without hesitation, but I won’t look forward to the venue part of the evening). Standing is only one negative for us. The bigger one is the sound system and engineering there (only two data points, I know) is way below the quality we’re used to at over a dozen other venues. C’est la vie…

The Paper Raincoat at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Q: What word describes the following situation? You’re old and exhausted and one of your favorite bands schedules a show at 6pm!

A: Perfect! 🙂

That’s exactly what happened last night. The Paper Raincoat played a show at 6pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. The only worry in our minds (possibly in theirs too) was whether people would show up that early. No need to worry folks, the place was packed to the teeth with people spilling out the door. Of course, we got there very early and snagged the two seats at center stage.

I know that most of the people who read this blog know about The Paper Raincoat (TPR) already, but for the Google robot out there, it’s a duo comprised of ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong, each tremendous talents in their own right, that prove (yet again) that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts!

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Alex joked a number of times that they were playing the Happy Hour show. As Ken Rockwood himself joked back: “Every hour is Happy Hour at Rockwood!”. 😉

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They played a nine-song set (not including the encore). If you’re a fan, you’ll know how good a selection it was. Either way, let me assure you that it was extremely well received by the audience.

SetList

To give you a sense of how unusual the scene was, ambeR lost her place in Sympathetic Vibrations for a second. She always nails that one (though I won’t be able to say always any longer) 😉 and she explained that seeing so many people jammed into Rockwood that early distracted her. I don’t doubt that!

When they started Sympathetic Vibrations, Alex turned to the crowd and said: “You know your part.” We did. We (everyone, not just Lois and me) clapped our part perfectly, loudly, in unison. ambeR recovered from her momentary lapse by joking that at least we knew our part. 😉

When Alex introduced January, he explained that it should be thought about from the perspective of an older drunk guy. To ensure that we really understood that, three members of the band (I’ll cover each individually shortly) switched places, ensuring that they were no longer superstars on their respective instruments. It was fresh and fun. ambeR played the drums. She’s tweeted that she’s practicing but I didn’t expect to see the result so soon.

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On Right Angles both Alex and ambeR played on the grand piano at the same time:

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On It All Depends, they ended with their signature drumming extravaganza. First, they warmed it up by getting the audience to clap in a fast and steady beat. Then Alex joined Kevin with the two of them drumming together, with the audience never missing a beat. Then ambeR joined them with all three drumming on the same drum set (well, to be honest, Alex had a snare a little off to Kevin’s left). It was as awesome as it always is, perhaps a drop more.

Both Alex and ambeR play a number of instruments. At times, Alex plays multiple ones simultaneously:

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Closing the show (not the encore) with Rewind, ambeR, Alex and Kevin were awesome. The only thing that differentiates some previous TPR shows is that when Adam Christgau does Rewind, he also sings, making it three-part harmony at some points. Kevin doesn’t sing, but the three of them still make live magic every time they perform this song.

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ambeR and Alex returned to thunderous applause for an encore without the band. They played In the Creases, a song they co-wrote before TPR existed. We love the song. Lois felt it was the best rendition she had heard. I loved it, but I doubt I’ll ever experience it like I did at Joe’s Pub for ambeR’s CD release party, when Vienna Teng sang three-part harmony with them, and Katie Scheele played the oboe, and a full band supported them (including Vienna on the grand piano).

On to the wonderful band:

Kevin Rice on drums. Kevin was the original drummer for TPR, though for the first few shows that we saw them, Adam Christgau was their drummer. Kevin is awesome (as is Adam!) and many of the TPR songs allow great drummers to stretch a bit. The beat is such an integral part of the songs and Kevin never disappoints. For January, Kevin switched to the electric bass. He did a very nice job.

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Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony was great all night (as he always is). He’s a lot more understated than a number of the bassists we’ve seen recently, but that’s one of the things that makes him a great match for a lot of groups, his bottom is there for them, without Tony (or his riffs) becoming a distraction to their music. For January, Tony took ambeR’s place. He played the electric keyboards with his left hand, and the trumpet with his right! Bravo Tony!

TonyMaceli TonyMaceliTrumpetKeyboards

Melissa Tong on violin. Melissa always delights us and last night was no exception. Many groups add strings to their CD’s without ever using them live. TPR (and ambeR and Alex individually) often have strings on stage, creating the same huge, rich sound that they deliver in studio. While Melissa (and David, up next) were excellent throughout, they were really brought to the forefront in the opening of Right Angles, which is mostly strings for the first 45 seconds. Gorgeous!

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David Fallo on viola. David is wonderful on the viola. In addition to playing on all the numbers that Melissa played on, David also played on one that Melissa sat out. Everything that I said above about Melissa, in particular about Right Angles, applies equally to David!

DavidFallo

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I already mentioned that we grabbed the two seats front and center. Joining us at our table were three very interesting people that we hadn’t met before, but had shared a number of shows together. Getting to know them before the show started made the time fly (another advantage of getting there early) and we look forward to seeing them at many shows in the future!

Here’s hoping that when we get even older, and NYC kicks us out and forces us to move to Florida, that TPR will show up and play a 3pm show for us while we grab our early-bird dinner special. 😉

Jay Nash, Joey Ryan and Chris Seefried

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Joey Ryan in NYC the same night that we are? No need to wonder what we had planned. 🙂

Joey just completed a UK/Europe tour with Jay Nash. After joining a lot of our favorite artists for a show (way) upstate in NY over the 4th of July weekend, they headed down to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 to spread some of the love to us sweltering city dwellers (OK, the heat actually broke yesterday, but perhaps that was Joey and Jay’s doing as well!). 😉

There was another musician on the bill last night, Chris Seefried. All three played at various times with each other, but technically, they played three separate sets (with nearly zero time between them, since each had their instruments already on the stage). I’ll cover them in reverse order (as I typically do).

Jay Nash was ostensibly the headliner, playing last. This was our first time seeing Jay. We’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while, since he is beloved by many of the people that we love.

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Not only weren’t we disappointed, we feel cheated that the people we love didn’t kidnap us and force us to go see Jay sooner. Wow!

I just followed him on Twitter (@Jay_nash) so that I would never miss an announcement of a future show. He’s also moving (or just moved?) back to the East Coast (after seven years in LA) so we should have more opportunities to fulfill our new wish.

Jay is an exceptional guitar player, both acoustic and electric. He has a powerful voice that is also incredibly clear. He writes great songs and delivers them with a passion and energy that is infectious.

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He plays a variety of styles. Last night included the softest (gorgeous) finger-picked number, a fantastic Country tune, and full-on Rock ‘N Roll (in the best tradition). He can carry the show alone (vocally and instrumentally), but he also sings amazing harmony during his set, and backing the other two guys.

Jay has excellent stage presence, keeping us all amused and interested during the tunings and shuffling around on the stage.

All three were joined by a variety of band members and special guests. I would normally mention the band members here, as part of Jay’s set, but since most played with all three performers, I’ll save my comments about each until after I cover Joey and Chris as well.

The crowd wouldn’t let Jay off the stage, so the show ran longer than planned. Yay! 🙂

Joey Ryan started his set off solo, and as usual, just crushed it. After that he was joined by a combination of players (to be covered later). What never ceases to amaze me about Joey is his ability to delicately hit very high notes, but deliver such incredible power in the middle range.

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Of course, he writes great songs, and delivers them well when playing solo, or with the full band pumping up the volume supporting him.

Joey also has a great stage presence, but it’s extremely different than both Jay and Chris. Joey is both completely self-deprecating (100% of the time) and soft-spoken (you have to strain to hear his cracks, but man, it’s totally worth it, as the cracks are as clever as his lyrics).

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After a couple of songs, Joey asked the crowd for requests. Lois asked for Broken Headlights. Joey ignored her and played California (beautifully). One song later, we found out why he didn’t consider Broken Headlights. He invited the one-and-only Vienna Teng on stage to join him (and the full band) in playing (and singing) Broken Headlights. It was awesome. Lois was happy. 🙂

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Joey asked Vienna to play on the next song even though she didn’t know it. While the others were tuning and setting up, Joey played one verse (no vocals) and the chorus for Vienna, so she would be prepared. Vienna needed nothing else, as her piano playing on the song was outstanding, complementing the mind-blowing leads that Jay Nash played on the electric guitar.

Kicking off the show (six minutes early) was Chris Seefried. We’ve never seen Chris before (nor heard of him). He was excellent in every respect (vocally, on acoustic and electric guitar and on the piano supporting Jay Nash). He also has a warmth (with strength) on stage.

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He started off the show with Rich Pagano singing harmony and playing a drumstick that had a built-in cymbal/tambourine for the percussion. Immediately thereafter, both Joey and Jay joined him and people kept coming and going from the stage throughout his set.

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At one point he introduced a song saying that it would start out a cappella and that we might all be asked to join in at the end of the song (we weren’t). The three part a cappella harmony was chill-inducing (Joey/Jay/Chris). But, there were a few people chatting loudly toward the back of the room.

Few things annoy me more than people who are so rude, in particular during a super soft number. There are hundreds of bars/restaurants/lounges in NYC where you can go to have a drink and conversation, and perhaps even hear background music. If you’re going to a show, in particular one where people are buying tickets in advance, don’t come if you want to talk.

Chris handled it perfectly (something 99.9% of all artists simply ignore, though it has to annoy them nearly as much as it annoys me!). He stopped the song and said: “If you want to talk, please try to do it in the key of A”. Thankfully, they took the hint and stopped. He restarted the song, and it was mesmerizing start-to-finish.

One interesting fact was that both Jay and Chris allowed the other to shine on the guitar during their respective sets. When Chris was up he played well, but Jay took the majority of the leads. During Jay’s set, Chris played the electric guitar (which he didn’t during his own set), and took some incredible leads, really showing off his skills.

Chris also played piano during one of Jay’s songs, and Jay played piano during one of Chris’. Nicely done, highlighting the other during your own set!

ChrisSeefriedPiano JayNashPiano

On to the band:

Rich Pagano (mentioned above) sang with Chris, and played the drums (and the aforementioned percussion). I liked his harmony. I would have enjoyed it more if he had been a bit more forceful with it. He was very respectful of not wanting to step on Chris’ vocals, but he needn’t have worried, Chris has a powerful voice.

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Adam Christgau played the drums on various numbers with all three performers. If you’ve never read any of my posts, then I need to tell you that we love everything about Adam, as a drummer and as a person. We discovered the great Ian Axel through him and would be grateful to Adam if that was all he ever delivered to us.

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Matt Delvecchio on electric bass. He played a bit with Chris, a lot with Joey, and throughout all of Jay’s set. Very solid on the bass. Toward the end of Jay’s set, he gave Matt a bass lead (Jay continued to play) and it was extremely tasty. Matt also sang harmony on a few songs (mostly Jay, but also a bit with Joey). He did an excellent job, both when it was just him and Jay, and when he was one of a four or five part harmony.

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Jano Rix played drums throughout Jay’s set and a bit of percussion on Joey’s. He was tight and solid throughout. The bio leads me to believe he’s much more awesome than he let on last night, though he didn’t miss a beat nor disappoint in any way.

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Here are two typical fancy set lists:

FancySetlists

In addition to a perfect night of music we had the pleasure of bumping into other friends and musicians during and after the show. In fact, we typically run out immediately after saying goodnight, so us old folks can hit the sack, but we lingered for quite a while chatting on Allen Street and having a blast.

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ambeR Rubarth and Adam Levy at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Another night, another show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, same old, same old. 🙂

This night featured a totally different type of music, but was similar in that we love this group of performers as did the rest of the crowd.

The co-billed show was ambeR Rubarth (we love her solo, with a band, and when she’s half of the duo The Paper Raincoat) and Adam Levy who is a wonderful guitarist and singer/songwriter.

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Adam had his band, the Mint Imperials backing him (I’ll cover them later), and they backed up ambeR on the majority of her numbers as well.

Adam, ambeR and the band came out together and opened with an Adam number. Then Adam introduced ambeR’s song Edge of My Seat with a crack that didn’t seem like a song intro until the last second.

After that, it was a bit more of ambeR’s set than Adam’s, with Adam supporting her (with his patented bluesy guitar riffs and harmony vocals).

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Then she invited Alex Wong up, her cohort in The Paper Raincoat. They played In the Creases (one of our favorites) just the two of them. ambeR offered Alex the guitar, but he deferred to her, so Alex just sang with ambeR supplying the music.

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Just as quickly as he was on the stage, Alex was off like a shot. He had his own show across town starting a bit later that he had to get to. I’ll write a separate post about that right after this one.

ambeR also performed solo and one number on the Grand Piano accompanied by the band. She closed her set with Novocaine, one of my personal favorites!

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The focus shifted to Adam’s songs. Adam had excellent energy and the crowd was definitely feeling it. He played quite a few numbers, including No Dancing, a ton-of-fun song.

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They wrapped it up with a song that they co-wrote (the first one they wrote together), Washing Day. It’s a wonderful song and doesn’t require any extras. But, what an extra they threw in to delight us last night.

They invited Ian Axel to join them (recall our experience from the night before in the same place!). Ian played a wonderful piano solo that was icing on a soulful cake. A great way to end an excellent show.

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Back to the band.

Tony Mason played drums. He’s a solid drummer and took a wonderful solo on No Dancing. We’ve seen him with Adam once before.

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Andy Hess played the electric bass. This was our first time seeing Andy as Adam had a fill-in bass player the last time we saw him. I was very impressed with Andy and I look forward to seeing him play again.

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Opening for ambeR and Adam was Ed Romanoff. We’ve seen Ed once before at the Haiti Benefit at City Winery, but haven’t had the pleasure of seeing him perform a solo set.

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He has an extremely mellow folk/blues style and we really liked his set a lot. He’s very warm on stage and we chuckled a bunch. He also told one very personal story as an intro to a song. He’s a good story-teller, but the story itself is even more incredible. Even though he told it publicly, and I feel I could repeat it, just go see him and hope he tells it himself.

Accompanying Ed was Oscar Albis Rodriguez on electric guitar and very light harmony. I have to start a separate paragraph to make sure you’re paying attention:

Wow!

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I was hugely impressed with Oscar. He gently danced in and around Ed’s acoustic guitar and singing, always complementing and enhancing, and never interfering or overwhelming. On the few occasions where Ed stepped back and invited Oscar to take the lead, he was incredibly tasty and interesting.

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Wow, just to make sure you didn’t miss it above. What makes this even more amazing to me (after the fact) is that I checked out some of Oscar’s own music, and it’s much harder rock, so he’s really versatile!

Adam Christgau (one of our favorite drummers) joined Ed and Oscar on stage for one number. He didn’t play the drums. He played a frisbee with a single brush stick. It’s one of Adam’s signature things. 🙂

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ambeR also joined in on the same number that Adam Christgau played on, sitting at the piano (without playing). She and Ed sang very nicely together.

We ran out immediately and grabbed a cab with another couple to head over to see Alex Wong’s show. Check out the next post to read about that one. 🙂

Ian Axel at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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We’ve seen Ian Axel perform nine times prior to last night. The very first time was at Rockwood Music Hall, on October 23rd 2009. He blew us away. As hard as it is to imagine, he’s never disappointed us, even with a wide variety of venues and setups (solo, different band members, etc.).

So, it’s as much of a surprise to me as it will be to you when I say (pretty definitively) that last night’s show was the best of all of them (though the worst was awesome as well). There are a number of reasons for that which I’ll mention, but at every show there are always intangibles (and I’m not allowed to discuss those under penalty of law).

Ian quit his job six weeks ago at Apple to become a full-time musician. As scary as that decision had to be, it is also freeing. I’m sure that his confidence builds with every show and that last night won’t stand for long as our best Ian Axel experience.

Ian was signed to a brand new record label a few weeks back. That label has a distribution deal with Sony, so there’s a very good chance that many more people will be hearing about Ian and listening to his wonderful CD: This is the New Year.

Ian debuted a new song that he performed with Chad Vaccarino (they co-wrote it) without the rest of the band. People were still buzzing after the show about that song.

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Finally (for the tangibles), last night’s venue. We love Rockwood Music Hall and have seen many shows there. Last night was our first time at their new venue (right next door), named Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. It’s a larger room (not dramatically), with a small upstairs area as well. I think the capacity is roughly 200 people (which would make it roughly twice as large as the original Rockwood, which is still very much a thriving venue).

There is a fantastic Grand Piano at the new stage (there is an old one next door), and Ian rocked it hard. The sound system is evolving (so I’m told by other regulars), but it was awesome last night. I have no doubt it will be consistently great shortly, because it’s always great next door. The people who run Rockwood are music lovers, and they’ll do whatever needs to be done to nail this.

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On to the show itself. Ian had a full band with one substitution. Chris Kuffner normally plays lead guitar for Ian. This past Saturday night, Chris married Bess Rogers so his excuse for not showing up last night is reasonably solid. 🙂

Adam Christgau on drums and harmony vocals. I can never say enough about Adam. I couldn’t see him even for a second as the piano was blocking him completely (Lois raised her arm to capture the photo below). That said, I could hear every connection of a stick to a drum, cymbal or drum rim, and it was Adam at his finest.

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Chris Anderson on bass and harmony vocals. As always, Chris is a highlight of any Ian set, matched perfectly in sound and energy to Ian. Just another in a long string of wonderful performances.

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Dan Hindman on electric guitar (filling in for Chris Kuffner). I can’t find a good individual link for Dan, but there are a number of YouTube videos of him playing with Martin Rivas and others. He did a nice job but wasn’t highlighted.

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A friend of Ian’s, Shockey (sp?) Chocky, joined on stage for the ever fun Girl I Got a Thing. This is the third time that Shockey has joined the band for this song while we’ve been there. I am convinced that Shockey Chocky has the best job in music. He comes on stage for one song, drinks whiskey while the band plays, goes nuts with a tambourine when Ian sings about a tambourine, and leads the audience in singing along with “Girl I Got a Thing for You, Na na na na, Woah wo, Na na na na, Woah wo, etc.”

Shockey

In addition to debuting their new song, Chad Vaccarino joined Ian (with the full band) for two other songs. First, the crowd favorite title song from Ian’s CD, This is the New Year. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to have 200 people get goose bumps at the same time, so get yourself to a show and find out first hand.

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Right after that song, Mike Campbell also joined them for Shorty Don’t Wait (the only song that Ian played the ukulele on). This has quickly become one of my favorite Ian/Chad songs. Chad has a wonderful voice, and he nails this song each and every time.

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Ian played Say Something solo on the piano. I love that song. When I first heard it, he used to play it on the ukulele. Even though it’s awesome when he does it on the piano, every time he he plays it on the piano, my friend and I look at each other (on the second note of the intro) and smile knowingly, because we both miss hearing it on the ukulele, where there is a stark soulfulness that we love.

The show was sold out and the place was packed. A friend of ours was turned away at the door. 🙁

Opening the show was Katie Costello. We’ve only seen Katie sit in on two songs with Greg Holden at a previous Ian Axel show (Canal Room), so we didn’t know what we were in for.

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Katie has a lovely voice, nice range, wonderful smokiness whenever appropriate for the song. She accompanies herself very well on the piano. She opened and closed the show solo. All of the songs in between were with a full band. On one number, she sang without playing the piano, accompanied by the band.

Katie’s band was:

Mark Stepro on drums. This was a surprise (a very pleasant one). We’ve seen Mark once before playing with Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale. That night, he played guitar, so I didn’t know he was also a good drummer.

MarkStepro

Tony Maceli on electric bass. We love Tony, so the pleasant surprise here wasn’t how good he always is (we know that), but rather that he was playing with Katie!

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Daniel Mintseris played electric keyboards. He wasn’t highlighted much so I didn’t get a good sense.

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Rich Hinman on electric guitar and pedal steel guitar. This was the first time we’ve seen Rich. I was very impressed with his play on both the guitar and the pedal steel guitar. Reading his bio I see that he plays with other groups I’m not familiar with, but have heard wonderful things about (specifically, the Madison Square Gardeners). I very much look forward to catching Rich in the near future.

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Greg Holden joined Katie for one song. The harmony was beautiful, and Greg did a very nice job when he sang a bit of solo as well.

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I enjoyed Katie’s set.

Sandwiched in between Katie and Ian was Matt Duke. We’ve seen Matt once before, when he opened for Ian and Joey Ryan. I enjoyed last night’s set more than the previous one. I find the numbers when he sings more softly more compelling and there were much more of those last night. He does an excellent job of accompanying himself on the guitar.

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Rosi Golan joined Matt for one number. I really love her voice, and they sang beautifully together. An extremely nice surprise!

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Ian Axel Triumphantly Returns to Fair Lawn

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Ian Axel grew up in Fair Lawn, NJ. Last night they coaxed him back to play in the beautiful Fair Lawn Community Center. It was a very special night, filled with family, friends and fans. I can’t even imagine the emotions running through Ian’s head throughout the night, even though he did a great job giving us all a tiny glimpse with his stories and song intros.

They had a beautiful baby grand on stage, which Ian owned. He had his full band with him (I’ll mention each member shortly) and two special guests. As incredible as Ian is playing solo (an example was his last Rockwood show), the full band experience amplifies that significantly.

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That said, Ian played quite a number of solos last night (one in the the middle of the set, then all of the encore pieces), and each song was phenomenal, so take what I said above with a grain of salt. 😉

Ian mentioned that he had lost his voice the day before the show. Let me assure you, he found it just in time, because he hit the high notes as crisply as you could hope for. Of course, he never lost his fingers, so the piano playing (and ukulele on one number) were top notch throughout as well.

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From left to right on the stage with Ian:

Chris Kuffner played electric guitar. I’ve mentioned a number of times that I’ve had trouble picking out Chris’ sound during Ian sets. Last night was totally different. Chris’ amp was angled slighted, and pointed dead on to my seat. His volume was perfect (for my seat) as well. It’s the first time I got to fully appreciate how much his sound complements Ian’s playing. Bravo!

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Adam Christgau on drums. I can never say enough about how amazing Adam is on drums. Some drummers need to take a solo to show your their chops. Adam shows it on every song, just by enhancing the song itself, no solo necessary. He is one of the reasons that the full band experience is such a plus (for me) at an Ian show.

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Chris Anderson on bass. As I’ve mentioned many times before, Chris is the perfect bassist for Ian’s music, not only because he nails his part on each song, but because he has the energy to keep up with (or is that match?) Ian (which is saying a lot!).

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All three of the above sing a little bit with Ian. Not so much harmony, but more like call-and-answer parts, where typically, the audience ends up singing with the three of them as well in the answer part.

Joining for two number was the ever-wonderful Chad Vaccarino. It’s so heart-warming to see every crowd (this one being no exception) go nuts (literally) when Chad comes on stage. He’s a major vocal talent (with a deep passion for what he’s singing), and to have so many people be aware of that, in advance, is the kind of recognition he deserves.

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The first number Chad did was Shorty Don’t Wait. On that number, Ian played the ukulele and the other special guest, Mike Campbell joined and played guitar and sang. I’ve apologized a few times in the past for not having a good link for Mike Campbell. I snagged him after the show to ask for one, and he told me that I was right that he doesn’t have a web page. So, until he does, I’ll stop apologizing. 🙂

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There are a few times during Shorty Don’t Wait that Chad hits some high notes in such an electrifying manner than the audience reaction is palpable. Last night was about as good as I can imagine him hitting those notes, but I look forward to being proven wrong in the future! 🙂

The three of them (Ian, Chad and Mike) sing harmony beautifully together. Given that Ian doesn’t do much other harmony, any additional arrangements that he does with these fellas will be just fine with me.

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After Shorty, Mike left the stage. There was some hilarity in watching Chad flit back-and-forth between two different microphones, deciding which to use for the next number. Once that issue was settled, they jumped into the song that everyone knows by now (if you don’t, shame on you): This is the New Year. Like I’ve said before, if we all showed up and Ian and Chad just performed that one song 10 times in a row, we’d all leave feeling that we saw a great set!

After the set was over, we all gave Ian a standing ovation. He returned to the stage alone, and played one song. When he left again, people were chanting for him to return. When he did, he ended up playing three more songs, including Home (a song he doesn’t play often, but should!).

Lois cried when he played Mozart, a song he wrote after his dog (guess his name) passed away. I think it’s the first time we heard Ian play that song (solo, during the encore).

After the show, the entire band was out in the lobby to meet and greet. It was a party atmosphere given the makeup of the audience, and the quality of the performance.

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Apologies for the red eye in the following shot. My crude editing tools only made it worse so I left the red eye in (every photo in every post can be clicked for a larger version)…

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Opening for Ian was a last minute substitution, Patti Rothberg. From the introduction, it’s clear that Patti was a big deal a number of years ago, largely in the Rock world. Last night she played exactly 30 minutes of solo acoustic guitar (singing on each number). I was impressed with her voice.

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The audience certainly wasn’t all family and friends, at least three other fans from NY came across the river to see the show, all of whom we are friends with due to our mutual connection to another wonderful singer/songwriter, Alex Berger. We monopolized the center of the first row, and enjoyed every second of the show!

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For you New Yorkers, Ian is playing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on June 29th. If you’re on the west coast, you’ll get to see him sooner, along with the wonderful ambeR Rubarth!

Here’s the set list from last night, missing a few songs (mostly from the encores):

SetList

Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel at Mercury Lounge

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Lois and I go out of our way to avoid concerts where we have to stand throughout the show. That cuts out a number of top venues in NYC where that’s the norm.

For most rules, there are some exceptions. Last night, knowing we would be standing, we still couldn’t imagine skipping The Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel. We would have gone to see either separately, but together, it was a lineup that was a crime to miss.

In fact, here’s my friend’s Facebook update about last night’s show:

HOLY CRAP!! Okay, seriously if you live in NYC and you did not come out to the Mercury Lounge to hear Ian Axel and The Paper Raincoat tonight you should be ashamed of yourself. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G show!

The only thing that would have added icing to the most delicious (birthday) cake would have been adding Vienna Teng to the lineup. While that magic didn’t happen, she was in the audience, so we were at least graced with her presence. 🙂

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Both The Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel had all-star musicians supporting them. I’ll give each of them a shout-out toward the end.

Aside from the always spectacular performances that these artists deliver, last night had an extra-special surprise in store for us. Lois has a birthday this week, and The Paper Raincoat worked up a rendition of Happy Birthday which the jam-packed crowd sang along to.

They were singing the wonderful It All Depends, and toward the end, stopped singing, but continued the beat. Alex Wong announced that their friend Lois was in the crowd, and that it was her birthday, and would everyone please sing Happy Birthday to her. That was cool enough, but he got everyone in the audience to clap a rapid beat (to match the song), and ambeR Rubarth handed Lois a tambourine to play along.

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This was super meaningful to both of us, because it’s only a tad over a year ago, April 17th, 2009, that we first discovered The Paper Raincoat, and that night, Lois also played the tambourine during It All Depends at Canal Room!

They end the song with three people drumming fantastically on the same drum set at the same time (Alex, ambeR and Greg Ritchie). It’s incredible. But this time, because Alex got the crowd clapping in high-speed rhythm, everyone was essentially drumming together at the same time. What a crescendo!

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Speaking of clapping, there was another magical moment early in their set. They opened with Brooklyn Blurs, and then played Sympathetic Vibrations. Before announcing Sympathetic Vibrations or playing a single note, Alex merely said:

For those of you who already know your part, join me now

Nearly everyone in the crowd (probably close to 200 people) didn’t need any other clue. We all started clapping a pretty intricate beat to Sympathetic Vibrations. Too cool to describe, seriously. Having 200 people stop on cue as well is something to behold.

For the tiniest taste of the show (you can’t capture the feeling in a YouTube video), here they are performing the above-mention song, clapping and all, Sympathetic Vibrations at Mercury Lounge, last night.

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Mercury Lounge has a capacity of 250 people. It had to be close to full. The crowd was insane for Ian Axel and just as loud (between songs) and interactive for The Paper Raincoat. Standing wasn’t bad, because it’s impossible not to move with the music, so you’re really not stationary (not that we’ll start searching out shows to stand for).

Early in Ian’s set, he played a particularly energetic song, sung with his usual passion. He was probably close to collapsing in a pool of sweat at the end of the number. Someone in the crowd yelled out “Play in again!”. Lois immediately added “This time, with feeling!”, which evoked a huge laugh both from the audience, and from Ian himself. 🙂

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Joining Ian on stage for two numbers was Chad Vaccarino. For the first number, they were also joined by Mike Campbell (I can’t find a good link for him). They played Shorty Don’t Wait. It was awesome. Here’s a YouTube video of them performing it from last night’s show.

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Immediately following that, Ian did his signature song (which is the title cut of his new CD), This Is The New Year. Chad is featured on that as well. Seriously, check out the “official” video of that song as well. If an Ian set was comprised of simply playing that song 10 times in a row, I bet no one would leave disappointed! 🙂

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During The Paper Raincoat set, they announced that Paste Magazine (one of the premiere music industry publications) will be featuring them for the next month or so. I think the magazine will be giving away a free song each week, and a bonus free song from artists that The Paper Raincoat will pick to match their own free song. Awesome for those of you who haven’t yet bought their amazing CD!

The Paper Raincoat et. al. taking a bow at the end of their show:

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On to the shout-outs for all the amazing musicians who were on stage. Starting with the people supporting The Paper Raincoat:

David Fallo on viola was superb!

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Melissa Tong on violin was her typical excellent self!

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Greg Ritchie on drums. As I pointed out in a recent blog covering The Paper Raincoat in Norfolk, VA, the drums are an integral part of The Paper Raincoat sound. They did an amazing job in Norfolk without a drummer, but the sound was distinctly different.

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Filling the shoes of Kevin Rice and Adam Christgau, the two drummers who between them play at nearly every show is no small task. Greg did an excellent job. I judge that by how many times I can’t help but look away from the singing (and other instruments) and I’m forced to zone in on some top-notch drumming. That happened often enough last night. 🙂

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony is always wonderful. Typically, Tony plays the upright bass and occasionally switches to the electric. Last night’s show was purely electric (both the instrument, and Tony’s play!).

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On to Ian’s band:

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar. As masterful as he always is, but I’m still dying to see him wail on the bass (where I’m told by people I trust that Chris will blow my mind!). We also finally got to meet Chris last night after seeing him play quite a number of times. He’s incredibly nice (no surprise for this group of musicians!).

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Adam Christgau on drums. Man, it’s been a little too long since we’ve had the pleasure. We got hooked on seeing Adam often over the past year, and he’s captivated me each time. Adam was a trooper because directly from last night’s set with Ian, he ran to Joe’s Pub to play the 9:30 show with Julian Velard.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris is perfectly matched with Ian, both musically and passionately. We love his play and his style every time we see him.

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We were at the head of the line to get in when the doors opened (no surprise). That had the added benefit of us being at the door when the musicians were coming and going after sound check. Here are some pictures right outside the club, before the show started, with a few shots at the bar after the show thrown in for good measure. 🙂

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Ian Axel at Joe’s Pub

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We’ve seen Ian Axel perform three full sets before, plus a few songs at the New York Sings for Haiti benefit and some guest appearances. Still, we were looking forward to last night with great anticipation.

Joe’s Pub is our favorite NYC spot to see a show, and Ian is one of our few current obsessions, so having the chance to see him headline at our favorite place was a real treat.

The show was sold out (no surprise). Ian put out a new CD, This is the New Year, on January 5th. The title track video has become a music-lover’s destination on YouTube, with over 61,000 hits at the time I’m writing this.

I’m sure there were a few guests in the audience who hadn’t heard Ian’s music before, but from the roar and claps three notes into most songs, clearly the overwhelming majority were quite familiar with his material.

Ian is an exceptional pianist with an electrifying voice, who happens to write great songs. As great as his music is in our iPod, his performances are better for the energy that emanates from Ian, through his every pore.

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He opened the show with Waltz [Intro] (a solo classical piece for piano) with the band in the shadows standing quietly watching like the rest of us. Just like on the album, [Intro] flows directly into Waltz, where the band comes alive and everybody starts to tingle.

He played all but two or three of the songs on This is the New Year. He also played Say Something on the ukulele. That song isn’t on his CD or EP, but we’ve seen him perform it before, and I know a few people who tear up each time they hear it! (You know who you are!)

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Toward the end of the set, Chad Vaccarino stepped onto the stage. It’s hard to describe how much noise (and joy) can be generated by the roughly 200 people that were stuffed into Joe’s Pub. Obviously, there was no secret as to what the next song was going to be. Chad was rightfully overwhelmed.

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Chad is Ian’s manager. He sings lead in one verse and harmony on the others with Ian on This is the New Year. He’s our hero because he’s the one who convinced Ian to start singing. Before that, Ian was just a piano player.

Chad is self-deprecating about his singing style (he sings wonderfully and expressively!), but the most interesting part is that he’s perfectly matched in his energy with Ian, and it all comes across in This is the New Year!

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Two of Ian’s core band members were on hand with two additions.

Chris Anderson played bass and a bit of harmony. We like a lot of bass players, Chris included. But, as with Chad, Chris is perfectly matched with Ian. He has an emotive, energetic style on stage, and he’s fast enough to keep up with some of Ian’s more challenging riffs. Chris is always a joy to watch and listen to.

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Adam Christgau on drums and a bit of harmony. We missed Adam the night before at Highline Ballroom (covered in this post, where I specifically mention that). I’ve noted many times that Adam always matches his drumming to the artist and song, but that much of Ian’s music allows Adam to let out his wild child a bit. He was as tight and good as always last night!

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(No, I wasn’t drunk or high, just a little cold. We bumped into Adam before the show while we were on line.) 😉

Adam Tressler was a new addition (for us) playing electric guitar and a bit of harmony. I didn’t hear quite enough to have a strong opinion, but the little I heard was quite nice. Ian’s music doesn’t tend to highlight solo guitars (which is fine) but Adam supported the rest well enough.

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Dave Eggar played the cello on most of the songs. I covered him extensively in yesterday’s post (linked three paragraphs above), so I won’t get too repetitious here. This is the first time we’ve seen Dave sit in with Ian, so the comments I made about how well he blended with ambeR on such short notice probably apply here.

After the show, I accidentally crossed paths with Dave Eggar as he was leaving. I got to say the following to him (100% heartfelt!): “You are perhaps the greatest musician I’ve seen live, on any instrument!”. The fact that his instrument is a cello astounds even me, and I said it! Obviously, that’s a wildly subjective statement, but I’ll let it stand.

Given how active Dave is on stage, and how dark Joe’s Pub is, there wasn’t a single photo of Dave that was worth sharing from last night. 🙁

Ian closed the show with a song that the audience sang along on the chorus. As the song went on, the band left the stage and Ian started playing the piano softer and softer, until the audience was singing with no accompaniment. At that point, Ian slipped off the stage too. The audience was supposed to keep singing (I suppose), but instead erupted in whoops and claps until Ian came out again.

For his encore, he performed Home which also isn’t on the CD or EP (YouTube video of Home) accompanied only by Dave Eggar. A very emotional way to end a spectacular night.

One of the more amazing things is watching the band when they play with Ian. It’s obvious (to me at least) that they are huge fans and aren’t just there to pick up a paycheck (though what indie musician doesn’t desperately need one of those?). They are as happy as we are to be a part of the evening, though their part is just a tad more integral and difficult than ours is.

In case you doubt me when I say how much energy they put into the show, I’ll try and prove that assertion. Ian broke a piano string during the performance. A few minutes later, Adam cracked a drumstick.

I can’t name names, but someone was kind enough to make sure that we got both the piano string and the drumstick as mementos. We’re grateful for that, and we’re willing to share our booty/bounty with the rest of you (at least through these pictures):

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Greg Holden opened for Ian. We’ve seen Greg a number of times before, and his music continues to grow on me. He started the set a bit more mellow than usual but it had a nice feel. He got more energetic throughout the set.

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Ian joined him for one number (just piano, no harmony). Nate Campany joined Greg for one number as well, also just piano. Greg said that he co-wrote that song with Nate.

Dave Eggar joined Greg for two numbers. No such thing as “too much Dave”!

Greg also joined Ian on Say Something. Greg sat at the piano, but didn’t play it (during the song), singing very soft harmony. Before the song started, Greg tickled the keys a bit, threatening to start a couple of Ian songs (including This is the New Year), and Ian retaliated by starting a Greg song on the ukulele. The crowd was in stitches.

Apparently, Ian is giving Greg piano lessons. Even though he only played a few notes, I bet he’ll master it in the not-too-distant future.

After the show, Lois bought a few more T-Shirts (we already had two) and posters. If you’ve watched the video (if you haven’t, shame on you) then you might recognize that Lois had one of the women in the video model the poster for us (and now you):

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You have two chances to catch Ian on the East Coast before he heads out west. In Philadelphia at Tin Angel this Sunday, then on March 12th at Nightcat in Easton, MD. If you can, do it, you won’t regret it!

ambeR Rubarth at Highline Ballroom

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amber Rubarth is an extraordinary singer/songwriter. I’ve written about her many times. Here is the post about her CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub. Last night she headlined the Highline Ballroom and created another exceptional performance (a DVD of the show will be available later this year!).

Highline Ballroom is the biggest stage and room we’ve seen ambeR in to date. She nailed it both with a full band (eight people on stage at one point) and solo, owning the room at both ends of the spectrum.

She opened with the core of the full band, performing Full Moon in Paris from her current CD, Good Mystery. Throughout the set, musicians came and went in a fluid transition to create the right sound for each number.

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The core band consisted of:

Tony Maceli on bass (upright and electric). I’ve written about Tony many times, including the above-referenced show at Joe’s Pub. He’s consistently wonderful on the bass, and was the musical coordinator for the New York Sings for Haiti benefit at City Winery. He’s tireless and a positive addition to anyone he’s performing with.

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Dave Eggar on cello. I’ve written about Dave twice before. He’s beyond awesome. He does things with/on the cello that you don’t typically see others attempt, let alone nail, including playing it across his knee like it was a guitar. He plays effortless leads on the cello that are as mesmerizing as great lead guitar solos.

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All of that would be impressive enough (like I said, we felt that way from the first time we saw him) but last night was even more amazing. He’s never played with ambeR before, and rehearsed with her for the first time just 24 hours before show time. That would be fine if he were playing some light background role. He was not. His parts in each song were the highlights of the instrumental sections, and ambeR had a tough time containing her joy every time he thrilled the crowd!

Sarab Singh (ambeR introduced him as Sar Singh) played the drums. While we were somewhat disappointed that Adam Christgau wasn’t there last night (one of our favorite drummers, and normally drumming for ambeR and The Paper Raincoat), ambeR has excellent tastes in drummers all around. At her CD Release show Billy Hawn played (excellent).

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Sar was fantastic at the Haiti benefit, so I didn’t worry in advance whether he’d be good. Thankfully, he was great, not just good. He has the same sensibilities that Adam has, knowing exactly how to deliver not just the right beat, but the right touch, including all the right sound effects (cow bell, rims of the drums, etc.) at the exact right moment.

I’m pretty sure Adam will be playing with Ian Axel tonight at Joe’s Pub, so we’ll get our fix then, and we can now safely add Sar Singh to our list of drummers who will enhance any performers show!

In addition to the above core, Threeds played on at least three numbers (coincidence? I think not!) 😉 and they were awesome, as always. They are an integral part of the ever-wonderful In the Creases and Edge of My Seat.

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Paul Brill came out to sing with ambeR on three numbers as well (including playing the part of Alex Wong on In The Creases).

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David Fallo joined for one number on viola.

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I mentioned above the fluidity of getting people on and off the stage. With eight people on stage for Edge of My Seat, ambeR transitioned to just two, she and Dave Eggar for Rough Cut. Dave was spectacular on every number, but this one truly highlighted him, as he carried every second that ambeR wasn’t singing (and of course, supported her voice and guitar even when she was singing!).

Dave then quietly stepped off the stage and ambeR debuted a solo number called Lonelier Self (that might just be the short version, or working title). A gorgeous song that had all eyes and ears focused on ambeR. I doubt there was a single person there wondering where the rest of the band was.

After a one hour set, capped off with a Tom Waits cover (sung with Paul Brill), ambeR came out for an encore. She performed Washing Day (a song she co-wrote with Adam Levy). Joining her were Dave Eggar and special guest star Ian Axel (who has his own show tonight at Joe’s Pub).

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We hung around a bit afterward to catch up with some folks, and to buy a couple more of ambeR’s CDs to give as gifts. An absolutely fantastic night out!

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Opening the show was Cara Salimando accompanied by Julia Sinclair. Cara is a 17-year-old singer/songwriter. She played electric piano on all but one number, where she finger-picked the ukulele quite beautifully. She has an excellent voice, but still has some work to do to smoothly hit some of the higher notes. She’s young, it will come in time, I’m sure.

CaraSalimando CaraSalimandoUkulele

Julia Sinclair accompanied her on every song, playing half on the cello and half on the guitar. She also sang harmony a bit, not enough if you ask me. She plays the cello very well (though there was a slight buzz on the bass notes). I was more impressed with her guitar play. She’s an excellent complement to Cara. The set was exactly 30 minutes.

JuliaSinclairCello JuliaSinclairGuitar

After resetting the stage, Kaiser Cartel came out. Kaiser Cartel is a duo comprising Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel (however did they come up with the name of the band?). They’re a reasonably straightforward rock ‘n roll band, putting out a pretty big sound for just two people (though they were joined for two or three numbers by someone who’s name I thought was Jeff Kraft, but now I’m sure that’s wrong).

Here’s a picture of the guy whose name I’m not remembering, sorry!:

Kraft

Courtney has an exceptional voice. She mostly played the acoustic guitar, but it was also connected to a muff pedal so she created some classical electric guitar sounds. She also played what seemed like a one-handed accordion. She played with her right hand and used the left to pull the bellows part in and out. She also played a glockenspiel, but with an electric device (looked like a cross between a grouting tool and an electric toothbrush!) so she got a fast ringing sound (like a telephone!) every time she struck a key!

CourtneyKaiserGuitarCourtneyKaiserOneHandedAccordionCourtneyKaiserGlockenspiel

Benjamin has a nice voice and harmonized well with Courtney. He played drums and acoustic guitar. One some songs he only played the drums. On the others he played the guitar, but continued to play the drum line with his foot. It contributed to their big sound for just two people.

BenjaminCartelDrums BenjaminCartelGuitarDrums

Nina Lee on cello joined them for two numbers. She’s excellent!

NinaLee

For their last number they did something very cool. Courtney asked the crowd to be as quiet as they could. They then came off the stage and walked throughout the entire audience (covering a very large room) and sang a song (Benjamin played the guitar, unplugged of course) stopping at practically every table and singing a line within a few inches of the people sitting there. It was pretty powerful to be so up close and personal.

KaiserCartelInTheCrowd

They were on for roughly 45 minutes before ambeR came out. If you want to help them fund their new CD, the info is below (click any picture in this post to enlarge it):

KaiserCartelNewCD

When we were heading down in the cab I tweeted a friend asking if she’d be there. She showed up a little later with her friend and they were able to join us at our table right up at the stage so we had some good times and good food before the show started. They bought CDs from ambeR too and the four of us shared a cab home after the show.

Closing with a pet peeve. I’ve written too many times (here we go again) about how rude some people can be when they speak loudly during a performance. That happened a bit last night too (not too bad for such a large room). But, what shocked me was that the worst offender last night was a performer. We’ve seen this person on stage once before (no names) so it was doubly shocking that they would ever treat someone in a manner that I can only imagine would annoy them if it happened during their show. Oh well…