Alex Wong

Alex Liang Wong at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Alex Wong is someone I’ve written about so many times. Starting with this post, I’m going to do my best to never write about him again. The reason? Too many darned Alex Wong’s running around getting famous on the Internet. In order to stake out a defined spot, our Alex has chosen to revive his long-dormant middle name.

Alex Liang Wong will now be the target of my admiration (and to save myself a bunch of typing, he’ll also be known as ALW). Feel free to beat me up in the comments if in the future I slip and call him by his old name.

There have been other (in)famous Alex Wong’s for a while. So, why change the name now, specifically? Because ALW is getting close to releasing his first-ever solo album, on February 14th, 2012. Having your name collide with others is a friction point and ALW wants people to be able to find his music more easily.

Amen to that. This new album will be amazing in every sense of the word. That brings me to last night’s show.

ALW has been playing a number of the songs from the upcoming CD for a while now. Some of them are deep earworms for me and have been since the first listen. They have morphed from purely solo efforts (when only ALW knew them), to duets, to slightly fuller band versions, over the past six months.

Last night was the culmination of that progression. ALW has already recorded the CD (mixed and mastered as well), so he knows exactly what it will sound like to the world. He’s finally ready to get closer to reproducing that sound live (which is a big trick, because aside from being a great songwriter, ALW is one of the best producers around, so his CD is not going to be a humble singer/songwriter sitting alone at a mic with his guitar).

Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 was packed (from the set before as well). ALW played mostly new songs, but he threw in a big surprise as well. He played the grand piano on most numbers, and some acoustic guitar, of course singing the lead on every song.

AlexLiangWongPiano

He had a number of special guests and a core band of three fantastic musicians. He also performed one song solo on the acoustic guitar, Patiently, which is a great song. There’s a video of him doing a solo version on the site linked to his (new) name above. The CD version will have a much bigger sound with a full band.

AlexLiangWongGuitar

Since the core band played on almost every song, let me mention them first, and then cover the guests in the order that they appeared.

Ward Williams on cello and electric guitar. Ward was outstanding on both, but I was particularly impressed with his play on the guitar. ALW has created a lot of unusual sounds on the new album, and much of effort to reproduce those live fell to Ward. Very impressive!

WardWilliamsCello

Ward also sang a lot more harmony with ALW than he has previously. He really nailed it every single time. I’ve always been a fan of Ward’s, including his performance in the set before, but this might have been the best all-around performance of his that I’ve attended.

WardWilliamsGuitar

Elliot Jacobson on drums. Elliot is always great, with last night being no exception. That said, as I think I’ve mentioned before, drumming for ALW on a song that ALW wrote has to be a challenge. ALW is first and foremost a percussionist himself, so he doesn’t tend to make vanilla drum tracks.

ElliotJacobson

Of course Elliot is up to the task (there’s no way that ALW would consistently pick him to play his shows otherwise), but I’m still impressed to see it, each and every time. For a specific example, the major beat in Never Look Back is in opposition to the basic melody and in my head, feels like it would be really easy to lose focus as a drummer. Not only did Elliot nail it, he took the subtlest of cues from ALW when the song started as to tempo and volume, adjusted instantly, and then drummed to perfection for the remainder of the song.

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony is one of my favorites, but clearly he is one of ALW’s too, since he plays so many of his shows. Good choice. Tony was excellent last night. When I ran into him on the sidewalk as we left, I mentioned that the bass was the critical part in reproducing the really big sound in the bridge of Never Look back. So, Tony and Elliot were really key in that number.

TonyMaceli

Alex Berger (who headlined the set before, covered here) joined to sing The Fighter, a song they co-wrote (and it will appear on each of their upcoming albums, I’m betting it will sound quite different on each).

AlexBerger

ALW also called up Alisa James to sing harmony with them (I couldn’t find a good link to her).

AlisaJames

Before the show started, ALW tried to convince Rachel Platten to join him on a number they co-wrote, Make It Home (that link takes you to a page where you can listen for free, but please buy it, as 100% of the proceeds go to CityHarvest.org!). I saw Rachel shake her head no, but I couldn’t hear her reason.

RachelPlatten

When Alex got up to that number, he joked (or perhaps he was serious!) that Rachel couldn’t play it because she was contractually prohibited by her record label from appearing at the show. I think he was kidding. I’m guessing that they didn’t rehearse it and Rachel wasn’t prepared to wing it. But, even if it was true, ALW performed it beautifully by himself, so we got to enjoy it anyway.

ambeR Rubarth was a very special guest. She and ALW had a group called The Paper Raincoat which is actually solely responsible for our immersion in the indie music scene in NYC (we saw them at the Canal Room on April 16th, 2009!). ambeR took to the piano and ALW to the acoustic guitar and they performed one of their Paper Raincoat songs, The Same Old Things. Yay! Smile

ambeRRubarth

David Fallo joined on that number and sat in on another, playing the viola as well as he always does.

DavidFallo

To close the show, ALW picked one of my favorite songs (I’m obsessed actually, I could listen to it 24×7): Are You Listening. Typically, ALW has at most one other person singing the chorus (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) with him on stage. That never matters, as the entire audience sings it with him (no one sings it louder than I do).

Last night he shook it up a bit and had a ton of the best singers around belting out the chorus with him on stage. The wall of sound coming from the stage was heavenly and made it a bit more difficult to hear the audience singing along, but I’m not complaining!

Left-to-right, singing with Alex:

Ari Hest, Martin Rivas, Ian Holljes, Elizabeth Hopkins and Eric Holljes. The last three names listed are 3/4’s of the singers in the amazing band Delta Rae. ALW is producing their new CD as I type (literally) and it will be awesome, I have no doubt!

AriHestMartinRivas

IanHolljesElizabethHopkinsEricHolljes

TonyMaceliIanHolljesElizabethHopkinsEricHolljes

Here’s the (planned) set list. As you already know (e.g., Rachel Platten did not play), this was not followed like a blueprint, but rather like a guide. Don’t Be Afraid also didn’t make the actual cut:

SetList

Like I noted in the previous post, we ran into a lot of people between the two sets. Here are some photos that Lois snapped as we were heading out the door:

EricHolljesIanHolljesHadarGrantEmerson

MikeMcKeeHadarCarleyTanchonHadar

Alex Berger at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Alex Berger headlined a special show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. Special, because we Americans rarely get an opportunity to see him since he abandoned us 20 months ago to return to his native England. His last show in NYC was also at Rockwood 2, 11 months ago (covered here).

AlexBergerPiano

Alex is like a giant English magnet. In addition to hearing great music, performed wonderfully, it was like being in a friend’s living room (a very large, crowded one), given how many of the people we love we bumped into, hugged, waved to, chatted with, etc. (Photos at the bottom of a small sample of said people.)

Right before Alex returned to England, he put out his debut album, Snow Globe. It has since won two International awards. He has amassed enough new material to record his second CD, which he’ll be doing in a few months, produced by Alex Wong (who also produced Snow Globe).

Alex opened the show solo at the grand piano. He captivated the audience with his silky voice and exceptional piano play. From that point on, most of the songs had at least one special guest (often more). This morning I read a tweet, which I couldn’t agree with more:

martinrivas Martin Rivas

So impressed with how @BergerAlex so effortlessly carries a room by himself. What a show!

Alex switched back-and-forth between the piano and an electric guitar. In a not-so-small irony, that guitar (which sounded amazing) was borrowed from his good friend Adam Levy. Adam just happened to be headlining a set on the other side of the wall at Rockwood 1. Each would likely have happily guested on the other’s set, if it were not for the bad luck scheduling.

AlexBergerSinging

In addition to sporting Adam’s guitar, Alex used it to play a song they co-wrote, which will be on the upcoming CD, A Kiss is as Sweet as it Gets.

Alex played a number of songs that he co-wrote with other top NYC-based songwriters. I believe that every one of them will be on the new CD. Two of them were guest stars who got to sing the song with Alex.

The first was Jay Stolar who came up with an acoustic guitar. That song was not the song Jay co-wrote with Alex. He sang Ari Hest’s part in a song Ari co-wrote with Alex.

JayStolarAlexBergerJayStolar

Alex Wong joined Alex Berger, along with Martin Rivas (who played Adam Levy’s guitar, beautifully!), to sing their co-written The Fighter. That song will be on each of their upcoming CD’s. Let the battle begin to see which one does it better. Keep in mind that Wong is producing both CDs, so Berger better be careful of sabotage if winning the title is important to Wong. Winking smile

AlexWongMartinRivas

Jay Stolar returned late in the set (second-to-last song?) with Martin Rivas and Chrissi Poland to sing the song he co-wrote with Alex. The introduction was but one example of how relaxed and entertaining Alex is in talking to the audience (I’d almost say caressing the audience). He noted that this was a very upbeat song about the End of the World. Winking smile

MartinRivasChrissiPolandJayStolar

The four of them proceeded to make us laugh while singing their hearts out.

Speaking of laughing, perhaps my favorite song of the evening was one Alex co-wrote with Bess Rogers (who is on tour and couldn’t be there). This song is about reading too much into every situation. It’s hysterical, but so melodic and lyrical. Alex was awesome on the guitar as well, making his lush picking and strumming seem effortless. It was a joy, with everyone laughing at practically every line.

This photo doesn’t quite capture the ease with which Alex delivers his banter, but it will at least remind us of it. Smile

AlexBergerBantering

For completeness sake, another song Alex performed was co-written with Allie Moss (who also couldn’t attend last night). In other words, Alex has very good taste in who to write with, as do each of the people who were wise enough to write with him. Smile

I can’t give you the titles to any of these songs, as I didn’t notice a set list on stage to grab.

Ezra Gale on upright bass accompanied Alex on roughly half the songs. He was terrific on every number.

EzraGale

Andrew Nemr joined Alex to dance on two numbers. He tapped beautifully (and mostly subtly), adding the only percussion of the performance. He was originally scheduled to do one number, but everyone encouraged him to stay on stage for the next one as well.

AlexBergerAndrewNemrEzraGale

I mentioned above that Snow Globe won two awards. One was by a panel that included Tom Waits, one of Alex’s inspirations. Even though Alex had a ton of new (original) material he would never have the time to get through in this set, he wanted to honor Tom’s influence on him (and the selection of Snow Globe as Best Story Song!), so he played one Tom Waits song on the piano.

The guest performers obviously enjoyed the set even when they weren’t on stage!

MartinRivasJayStolarAlexWong

Great music, performed wonderfully, surrounded by friends in a warm environment. Alex Berger better not make us wait another 11 months before he plays in NYC again!

AyeletHadarRebeccaChadVaccarinoIanAxelHadar

JimJohnstonMelissaTongShannonBlack

Alex Wong at Rockwood Music Hall CMJ

Send to Kindle

Alex Wong has a full-band show this coming Monday night (10/24/2011) at 9pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. There are three other shows that we want to see that night and we haven’t figured out how to be at two places at once, just yet.

Yesterday, Alex had an afternoon showcase at Rockwood, at MPress Records MPressFest (part of the week-long CMJ Festival). Alex isn’t signed to MPress, but they are fans of his (as we are) and wanted to highlight him among their own lineup of artists.

AlexWongPiano

Alex had a full band at this show so we got a preview of what the rest of you can see on Monday. It’s a rare treat (the last time we saw him with a full band was in July), but I suspect we’ll see more of this setup as we head toward next year’s release of Alex’s first solo CD.

Alex is an incredible producer (who is about to enter a grueling stretch of producing albums for: Martin Rivas, Anne Heaton, Delta Rae, Alex Berger, and likely others I am unaware of or can’t recall at the moment). There’s little doubt that he’s transitioning his live shows to bring out more of the flavor that we’ll hear on his own solo CD, rather than the more stripped-down versions we’ve been hearing before he hit the studio.

I say amen to that.

Alex was supported by three people, left-to-right on stage:

Ximena Sarinana on vocals. Ximena sang on a few numbers, including the opener, Always Something Better. A superstar in her own right, hearing her voice blend with Alex’s (or anyone’s, to be honest), is always satisfying.

XimenaSarinana

Ward Williams on cello and electric guitar. Ward always delivers. He switched back-and-forth between the cello and guitar. On one song, he started off looping an ethereal sound on the cello, then picked up the guitar for the majority of the song, turning the cello loop off/on as appropriate. Very cool.

WardWilliamsGuitarWardWilliamsCello

Elliot Jacobson on drums. You couldn’t have seen two more different drum performances than yesterday’s Alex Wong set and Wednesday’s Jenny Owen Youngs set. Yet, both were fantastic, and both were provided by Elliot, showing off why he’s a very sought after drummer. Given that Alex is a top drummer/percussionist in his own right, selecting Elliot is a very high compliment (well deserved).

ElliotJacobson

Alex spent most of the set at the grand piano. He stepped out to play acoustic guitar on two numbers. One was a nearly solo performance of Patiently (off the upcoming album). The other is one of The Paper Raincoat’s best songs, Brooklyn Blurs.

AlexWongGuitar

Standing next to Elliot was another great drummer, Seth Faulk. I’ve noted at least twice that Seth has an excellent voice. Those comments weren’t made at a Seth Faulk show. In both cases, Seth was in the audience, singing along with the performer on stage. In one of those cases, Seth was standing right behind me, so I got a personal serenade (that was at an Alex Wong show too!).

Alex is obviously aware that Seth knows his material and can sing it beautifully. He egged Seth to join him on stage for Brooklyn Blurs. It took roughly five attempts, but finally Seth came center stage and harmonized with Alex. Yay!

AlexWongSethFaulkWardWilliams

The set was so good that I feel even worse that we’ll be missing Alex on Monday. On the other hand, I feel great that we caught this one and got a preview of Monday’s set. The other advantage of this one over Monday’s is that Ximena will no longer be in town for that show, so we were rewarded for playing hooky from work on a Friday afternoon. Smile

Martin Rivas at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

We would have come to see Martin Rivas at Rockwood Music Hall anyway, but we were already there because of the set before. Martin happened to be a guest performer on that set as well (Sierra Noble) so we got a 1.5 dose of Martin last night.

MartinRivas

We’ve been coming to Martin Rivas shows for two years now. They range from large Rock/Soul extravaganzas to solo shows, with a number of configurations in between. Even the solo ones can vary dramatically (from Campfire shows which are largely request-driven covers to Martin’s original music only).

Last night was solo only and was special in a number of ways. While Martin played a few crowd favorites, the majority of the set was new material that is destined to be recorded on his upcoming CD (release sometime in the first half of 2012). A few of those were so new that Martin had to refer to the lyrics. One was so new I believe Martin said the lyrics had been written this week!

Sitting in the audience at the bar, about five feet directly behind me was Alex Wong. Alex is producing Martin’s CD and the two of them just returned from a retreat upstate NY (in the devastated Schoharie County) where they were planning the CD, a process I’ve heard termed pre-production.

During a number of the songs, I tried (or rather found myself) thinking “what’s going on in Alex’s mind now in terms of how will he produce this song?”. Meaning, Martin was delivering it to us raw, accompanied by an acoustic guitar, but we’ll hear something quite different wen it’s all put together in the studio (or so I was thinking).

Last Friday, Martin complained that he strained his voice singing with Greg Mayo. It couldn’t have healed up much better or quicker, because Martin’s voice was spot on last night. His guitar play was fine (as it always is).

MartinRivasGuitar

But, in the two years that we’ve been seeing Martin regularly, he did something last night which I don’t believe we’ve ever seen before (of course, at my age, I space out a lot, so I would not be shocked to find out I’m wrong!). Well into the set, Martin put down the guitar and went over to the grand piano and played two consecutive songs on it.

MartinRivasPiano

The first was the song I mentioned above, with the lyrics being hot off the presses (I think it’s Believe in Love). He said that he played the song for Alex (presumably just the melody/chords) and told him that he didn’t think it would make it onto the CD. Alex insisted that Martin was wrong, and that it needed to be on the CD! Alex was right, in particular with Martin’s freshly minted words!

The next song on the piano was Pray for the Impossible, one of the long-time crowd favorites (with everyone singing along on the chorus). Still, I don’t recall him ever playing it on the piano before.

Martin finished up with a very upbeat song that most of us clapped to throughout. Unless something forces a change in our plans, we’ll be seeing Martin again on Saturday, 10/15/11 at Rockwood 2, 9pm. That will most likely be a full-band show.

This set list was written in tiny letters on the corner of one of Martin’s Lyric sheets. Rotated and blown up for your pleasure. Winking smile

SetList

Alex Wong and Ximena at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Alex Wong had a show listed at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 as: “Alex Wong and Special Guest”. A number of days ago the title changed to “Alex Wong and Ximena”. We didn’t need any extra incentive to attend the show, but if Alex was worried that we were getting tired of seeing him as often as we do, revealing that Ximena would be there would certainly have pushed us (and many others) over the edge.

The last time we saw Alex, Ximena was there as well, but she was only supporting Alex with harmony and piano. Well, they also played a song they co-wrote in a day as part of Dubway Days. This time, the show was a real collaboration. They alternated singing their own songs.

Alex opened the show with what seems to be his new signature opener: Always Something Better. Ximena sang harmony.

AlexWongPiano

Chris Benelli joined on the drums. We’ve seen Chris twice before and I really like his drumming. This was particularly interesting. Every other time I’ve seen Alex play Always Something Better, he starts by looping his own percussion, tapping the body of his acoustic guitar and rubbing the strings, before moving to the piano to perform the song.

ChrisBenelli

It’s very cool (very!), but hearing a professional drummer give a fuller, more dynamic bottom, brought more life to the song. It only made me want to hear Alex’s new CD sooner (he said it should be out in Feb 2012).

Jeff Kerestes played the electric bass. He was quite good.

Jeff Kerestes

Chris Benelli didn’t return after the first song, but Jeff joined for one additional number later in the set and played in a style I don’t often see. He spent much of the song sliding one hand or the other, up and down the frets, very slowly. It produced a gorgeous sound in accompaniment of a slower, more soulful song.

Ximena took the piano next, with Alex taking over the drums to support her. She sang Love Again. It’s off her upcoming CD (I believe it will be released next week), her first English one.

XimenaSarinanaPiano

Pete Lalish joined Ximena playing electric guitar (with lots of effects) on all but her last two numbers.

PeteLalish

Sebastian Sarinana (Ximena’s brother) joined on a few as well, crouching throughout each song. He wielded an electronic gizmo that produced organ-like sounds, but also seemed to be able to add effects (reverb, distortion, etc.) to what he and Ximena were playing. He sang harmony with Ximena on most of the numbers.

SebastianSarinanaCrouchingSebastianSarinanaPeteLalishSebastianSarinana

A last reminder that Alex and Ximena alternated singing lead. I don’t have a set list from last night (I stood behind the tables for the entire set, so I wasn’t close enough to the stage to grab one). Rather than cover each song and tell you which order they were played in, I’ll just mention some of the highlights.

When Alex came back to the piano he brought up another very special guest, Dave Eggar. If you’ve never read my posts before, then you won’t know how exciting that was for me. That doesn’t mean that you won’t know Dave. He’s a world-class cello player (and that’s a bit of an understatement).

DaveEggar

For the first number that he was on stage, he didn’t play the cello in a traditional style (which in itself is not unusual for Dave). Alex mentioned that when rehearsals take place at a drummers house (Alex is a top percussionist), people tend to hit lots of things. Throughout the first song, Dave literally just hit the cello strings with a short baton-like stick. Cool!

DaveEggarBaton

Later in the set, Dave played more traditional cello bits, enhancing one of my favorite Alex Wong songs quite a bit.

That was Alex’s closing number, his now necessary to play: Are You Listening (or as my friends know, the one I call the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah song). I say necessary, because if he left the stage without playing it, he wouldn’t be able to make it out of the place without being hassled.

I think that’s the song Jeff did the hand-sliding on the electric bass as well. Ximena slipped off stage before the song started (she sang harmony on all/most of Alex’s other songs). But, Alex invited her up to lead us in the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah chorus, a task for which she is perfectly suited.

DaveEggar and JeffKerestesXimenaSarinana

Repeating: I told you what I call Are You Listening. Ximena introduced a song saying that she and her brother used to do covers occasionally, but rarely do now. They were in the mood to work up a new one and decided to play it last night. They did a song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Ha. Seemed fitting.

When she finished she said goodnight, but the chanting began immediately. I don’t know if they chanted for a specific song, or whether they were chanting “encore” in Spanish. Either way, she came back for one last solo song.

Ximena chose Mediocre, the title cut of her Spanish CD. She was extraordinary (no surprise), but I was extremely impressed by how different a feel a song can have based on venue and fan perception. Here’s what I wrote about this song the last time we saw her perform it. That was at Bowery Ballroom, in front of 400+ people, at 1am:

Ximena dismissed the band for her last number. She played the title track off her original CD, Mediocre, solo. When she introduced the song, the crowd was feverish, knowing what was coming. With a microphone and electronic keyboards and no other support, she blew away a crowd of hundreds of people, most of whom had been standing for over four hours already.

Her voice and skills at live performances are that good. Again, the crowd sang every word with her. They were good (hitting the notes as far as I could tell), but this song builds, and Ximena pours some amazing power into it, so she was always easily recognizable above the audience’s singing.

Last night, even though a good portion of the audience were Ximena’s fans (you can’t miss them, they love her to pieces and video every second of the show), people mouthed the song with her, but didn’t sing out loud. Who would want to break the incredible mood that Ximena was creating alone?

It’s quite possible that I screwed up the order above. Mediocre might have been the closing solo number, followed by a solo encore, also from the original CD. Sorry if I messed that up.

In what felt a bit herculean to me, Ximena had played a set earlier that night at Webster Hall. She opened for Sia, performing before a sold-out crowd of 1,400 people! That is an emotionally (if not physically) draining thing. Running over to Rockwood and giving us her all, was much appreciated. I tried to buy tickets to the Webster Hall show two weeks ago, but it was already sold out.

Tonight, Ximena plays another sold-out show at Webster Hall, again opening for Sia.

Dave Eggar, Deoro and Many Special Guests at Barge Music

Send to Kindle

Dave Eggar is an extraordinary musician. We’ve only seen him play the cello, but I hear rumors that he plays other instruments as well (no surprise) and I bet he’s pretty darn good on those too. Every time we’ve seen Dave, it was in support of another artist (Ian Axel, Rachael Sage, ambeR Rubarth, Joey Ryan).

After the Ian Axel show (March 2010!), I bumped into him. Here’s what I wrote in that post:

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.

In the past 17 months, we’ve continued to see live music at a frantic pace. This has included some phenoms (e.g., likely the best finger picking guitarist I’ve seen, just this week).  None of that changes my feelings about my statement above.

DaveEggar

While I follow Dave on Twitter (@daveeggar), his tweet about this series (we only saw one of three nights, all different themes and musicians) flew by me, because I had never heard of Barge Music and didn’t understand that this was a public concert.

All that changed when Alex Wong announced that he was one of the guests who would be appearing last night. When I realized I could get one more taste of Alex this week (last night was our third in a row seeing Alex perform), but more importantly, finally catch a full show headlined by Dave Eggar, our other plans fell by the wayside (I was really looking forward to seeing Emily Zuzik for the first time).

I dropped Emily a note apologizing. She told me that Dave organized and played much of the strings on her 2006 CD, You Had Me at Goodbye! She asked me to say hi for her. Since I didn’t chat with Dave last night, I’m passing that along publicly, here. Smile

Barge Music is music, played on a barge (literally). Doh. It’s parked right under the Brooklyn Bridge (on the Brooklyn side). I’ll say some things about the logistics of that at the bottom of the post. Suffice it to say that it’s typically classical music, delivered in a gorgeous room, with excellent acoustics. I have no doubt I’ll be back there for another show.

The program last night was eclectic. Each guest brought something unique and the pieces were very different. Dave explained that in the beginning, noting (correctly) that it was highly unlikely that at least one of the performances wouldn’t appeal to every individual in the audience.

Before describing each piece and sharing how I felt it about it, I’m issuing the following blanket statement:

Every single musician was spectacular in their ability and technique!

In other words, even if I didn’t appreciate a particular composition, it’s not because it was delivered poorly. On the contrary, even pieces I would never listen to on my own, had enough elements of mastery to make them worth paying close attention to (at least once).

Given Dave’s talents, it’s clear that anyone he would invite to join him would be at the top of their game.

Apologies for the quality of the photos, and in some cases, the lack of one for a particular artist. We weren’t in a good position.

Dave sat center stage throughout, with the others coming and going depending on the piece. All of the guest composers were listed on the site. The supporting musicians were all introduced (a couple of times), but it was hard to hear their names (we were much further back than usual) and since I don’t take notes would have been impossible to remember. My heartfelt thanks to Tony Maceli (one of those musicians!), who responded to my email this morning to fill in the huge gaps in my memory/hearing.

John Patitucci was up first, playing upright bass. I didn’t recognize the name. It’s only in recent years that I pay attention (and homage!) to the names of sidemen (I always appreciated their work). It turns out that he’s played with so many greats, many of whose albums I own, so I do indeed know his play and now his name! The first composition of the night was written by John (I think specifically for Dave Eggar!).

JohnPatitucci

Before all of the musicians joined in, John and Dave kicked off a jazz improv on bass and cello. That morphed into John’s composition. Joining John and Dave were four cellists (making five playing simultaneously!): Jeff Law, Diane Barere, Peter Sachon and Sachi Patitucci (yes, John’s wife). After the cello’s were in full swing, David Budway joined all of them on the grand piano. Later on it morphed again into a jazz trio with John/Dave/David.

FiveCellosBassPiano

PeterSachonSachiPatitucciJeffLawDianeBarere

DavidBudway

I love Jazz, but I’m a luddite, preferring Smooth Jazz over the more traditional full-on improv. I enjoyed this piece (and the improvs around it), but it’s not the kind of music I would typically seek out.

Next was Dave’s own group, Deoro. Deoro is Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer (drums/percussion). If I understand correctly, they often perform with at least a bass player. Last night (and on their recent tour), it was Tony Maceli, one of our favorite bass players. Tony was on electric bass and Chuck played the cajon.

TonyMaceli

They were amazing. Tony’s bass play was so subtle, but perfect. I was impressed by the restraint he had to show, both in tempo and volume, but it worked to enhance the piece(s) just right. Chuck played the cajon in a more free-wheeling jazz style than I’ve heard it played before (though it was tuned to sound very much like a snare). He did an excellent job for the most part.

ChuckPalmerCajon

That said, Dave Eggar was so spectacular on the cello (I should be institutionalized if I try to describe it, so I won’t) that a number of times I felt Chuck was interfering with my pure enjoyment of Dave’s play. I am sure that’s not how Dave felt. He seemed to be feeding off of Chuck’s play. They clearly have a close musical rapport.

Elliot Sharp was up next. As with most aspects of life, technology has greatly affected (if not revolutionized) music. Dave, and to a much greater extent Elliot, introduced the piece by describing how music can be broken down and represented/visualized. They showed the audience a variety of printouts of what they were about to play. Here are some feeble photos of it, but last night, there were many oohs and aahs when they were held up.

ElliotSharpMusicPrintout1ElliotSharpMusicPrintout2

Basically, the hard part would be reproducing these micro bursts of music on the various instruments, synchronizing them all together. Elliot played the bass clarinet. Joining him were: John Patitucci on bass, Dave Eggar on cello, Chuck Palmer on cajon, Victoria Paterson on violin and Alex Wong on marimba.

This piece didn’t do it for me. It felt technically difficult. Playing a hundred micro-bursts of music, at high speed, and matching them with the others has to be a feat, but that doesn’t make it pleasant to my ears. In an irony, the most pleasant sounding instrument was the marimba, which had nothing to do with the fact that Alex Wong was playing it.

I was impressed with Victoria Paterson’s violin play. Click on her name above and read the scrolling list of her credits. Have patience, it goes on (and on…). We’ve likely heard her more than a few times on Broadway (possibly elsewhere).

VictoriaPaterson

Alex Wong was a big change of pace. He performed two songs, both at the grand piano. These are both songs that we’ve heard before, though one of them perhaps only once. The big difference for us was more instrumentation. The big difference for the audience last night was the addition of vocals and lyrics.

AlexWongPiano

Dave introduced Alex and explained that things were still in flux even a few hours before the show (in terms of the arrangements). He said that Alex was still working them out while he was in the cab on his way to the barge. Alex added that he brought a printer with him in the cab, so that when he finally finished scoring the various strings, he could print out the sheet music for each instrument on the barge.

Sounds nerve-wracking to me, but hey, I’m not a professional musician and producer. Perhaps this is the way it’s always done (and been done, except for the printer-in-the-cab part!). Before beginning, Alex apologized for feeling queasy due to the conditions on the barge (I’ll explain in greater detail at the end). In addition to apologizing to the audience and his fellow musicians, he directly apologized to the gorgeous Steinway he was about to play, considering what he was afraid might happen. Winking smile

The first song Alex played was so new it didn’t have a title yet. He was taking requests from the audience. In keeping with the classical theme, he offered up “Untitled”. Then added “Untitled #7”. Then quickly added “Untitled #7, Beige”. I will refuse to recognize the actual title he purports to call it by on his CD later this year. I will always call it “Untitled #7, Beige”.

He then played the song I’ve been obsessing about in my past few blogs about Alex, Are You Listening (otherwise known, by me only, as the “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” song). It’s always gorgeous, but with the strings added, even more so.

Accompanying Alex were Dave Eggar on cello, John Patitucci on upright bass and two of the four cellists mentioned above (Jeff Law and Peter Sachon).

John Patitucci played another number that he composed, this time on electric bass, accompanied by Dave, Victoria Paterson on violin and others (not sure exactly who).

After the song, John made a reference to the word apogee, explaining that it was furthest point in the orbit of a satellite. Dave repeated the word apogee and asked someone who appeared to be an audience member whether that definition was correct.

The reply was yes, but it applies not just to satellites, but anything that orbits another thing. That person ended up being Dr. Dan Gareau. It turns out that he should know. Shortly after confirming Dave’s question, Dan (or should that be Dr. Dan) was invited up to rap a science song, all about DNA. I think it was called Double J Helix. It was a blast!

Dan explained that he’s a Laser guy, working on non-invasive ways to diagnose melanomas. He did a great job, so I think I can understand what he’s doing, but I’m not quite at the point of competing with him. He’s also very into music. You can see his own personal music page, or his MySpace Page (which is called LaserManDan!).

Dina Fanai sang two songs. Absolutely beautiful voice. Every note she sang made me feel like it was (or should have been) featured in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In other words, reminiscent of Into the West by Annie Lennox (more the voice than the songs). Very dreamy.

DinaFanai

She was accompanied by the biggest group of the evening, flawlessly. Dave Eggar on cello, with all four cellists joining as well. Tony Maceli on electric bass. Chuck Palmer on drums and cajon. Bob Kinkel played the piano and sang some light harmony with Dina.

Dave told a story about his admission into the Julliard School of Music. On the entry form, there was a blank for your primary instrument. Dave knew that the proper name for the cello is violoncello (I didn’t, but he did). He didn’t know how to properly spell it though, so on the form, he filled in violincello. One of the professors (or the headmaster) embarrassed him by publicly stating that one of the students didn’t know how to spell the name of his instrument. He then made Dave sight-read a difficult piece in front of the class.

Dave didn’t tell us how that part went, but I’ll bet no one made fun of him ever again. Winking smile

Dave introduced the next person, Mari Kimura as a violinist, but also as a scientist. She has pioneered a technique on the violin called subharmonics. The NY Times wrote an article about her (and it) two months ago. If you clicked through, you see a glove on her right hand that is connected wirelessly to a computer. That glove registers every movement (including the speed) of her bowing hand. That project is profiled in the current issue of Scientific American.

MariKimura

Dave further explained (while Mari set up the complex equipment on stage) that the gloves (he wore one too!) interact with each other, sending information from one musician to the other, allowing them (or prompting them?) to change their play to match the other. I have no idea whether that’s true, or how it would/could work, but it sounds pretty cool.

Since the setup was long and complex, and the song they were going to play was not an original, Dave took the opportunity to play it for us the way it was originally written. Mari kept setting up, while Dave, Chuck and John performed the song. Now they were ready to unveil Mari’s interpretation, gloves and computer included.

The introduction was fascinating. I couldn’t wait to hear the piece, and possibly see one of their arms move involuntarily as a result of a signal sent by a different glove. Unfortunately, the piece itself wasn’t to my taste, even though the virtuosity was as obvious as it was on every other number.

Joining Mari and Dave were Chuck on percussion and Elliot Sharp, this time on acoustic guitar. Elliot heavily employed a slide, in addition to also hammering on the frets on occasion. It was interesting that Elliot joined on this number, as this was similarly staccato-like (micro bursts of music) as was his piece. A number of times I could see his left hand flying up and down the frets. I have a strong feeling that he will blow me away if I ever hear him play a more normal guitar piece.

Medicine Woman (or more accurately, a current subset of the group) was up next. Liz Hanley sang and played the violin, both extremely well. Domenica Fossati sang and played flute, both extremely well. They were accompanied by Peter Matson on guitar. Of course, Dave played along with a few others.

LizHanleyDomenicaFossati

Liz Hanley sang lead on Devil’s Paintbrush Road, a song I love by The Wailin’ Jennys. I really liked her voice, and violin play, but their version of the song doesn’t quite hold up to The Jennys version in my opinion. Domenica then introduced a song by telling us about her grandmother. Domenica translated a song into Italian and set it to a tune that sounded like a classical Italian folk song (you could almost hear the hand-held accordion). She sang it in what she described as her grandmother’s Italian accent. It was wonderful.

Deoro was back in business for the finale, written and sung by Chuck, Follow Me to the Sun. You can listen to it on his MySpace page, linked above to Chuck’s name. It’s not a lyrical masterpiece, but it’s a wonderful musical one. Dina returned to the stage to sing harmony with Chuck and to use a shaker for additional percussion. Dave joined in the singing a couple of times to create three-part harmony.

Before the song, Dave joked that he can’t play the drums and sing at the same time. I feel that way every time I see a drummer do it too.

A little over two hours of awesomeness, even the pieces I wouldn’t choose to listen to again. I am grateful to have experienced it. I’m also sorry to have missed Deoro the night before, and Dave doing pure classical trios tonight. There will be more Dave Eggar in our future, you can count on it! Smile

A little bit about the barge experience to close out this post. Since it’s real, it moves with the waves. They realize that some people don’t handle that well (it was obvious yesterday), so they supply a bucket of Dramamine pills for anyone who wants/needs some.

I feel very badly for those that are affected by it in general. Last night couldn’t have been a good night. Given the rain all day (and generally stormy conditions), it wasn’t a quiet river. For those of us who are (at least relatively) unaffected by it, the experience can be pretty cool in and of itself.

First, there’s the motion. When things are calm, the barge moves left-to-right (pulling itself away from the dock) until the restraints snap it back toward the dock. Then it moves right-to-left. All of this is very gentle and slow. It seemed that when the water was calm, this motion didn’t get to people unless they are super-sensitive.

The stage is at the front of the boat, with a very large glass window behind the performers, overlooking the Manhattan skyline (as you can see in many of the photos above). The view is stunning, but even when the barge is moving incredible slowly, the scenery behind the musicians is still moving in the opposite direction to the boat.

NYSkyline

When the water gets a bit choppier (as it was for a reasonable portion of the evening yesterday), the movement of the NY skyline has to be as distressing to the motion-sickness prone people as the movement of the boat. To me, it was an enhancement to the show.

The most troubling motion, which occurred a number of times last night (thankfully not too often) is when the boat moves up and down, front-to-back. In other words, when a wave comes straight at the boat, and it first lifts up, then descends the wave, finally rising again in the front to even out. I can only assume that this is the most unsettling feeling for the sensitive. For me, it produced the most unusual visuals, as the skyline starts to shrink, before coming into view, then disappearing in the other direction (you’re now looking at the lower floors of the buildings), before realigning.

Anyway, be forewarned, if you’re not good on boats, don’t assume that because this one is docked, it will be any different. On non-stormy days, I imagine it’s better than last night, but there are no guarantees, only Dramamine…

Ximena Sarinana at LAMC at Bowery Ballroom

Send to Kindle

We only recently discovered Ximena Sarinana, having seen her perform for the first time on May 31st, 2011. You can read my post on that show. Two nights ago we got the tiniest taste when Ximena sang some harmony with Alex Wong during his show.

The Latin Alternative Music Conference is in town this week. As part of the conference, there is a giant Showcase (essentially, a festival) spread over a couple of nights at Bowery Ballroom. Ximena was scheduled to play last night (or more accurately, very early this morning) at 12:15am.

XimenaKeyboards

If you read my post about our first experience, then you know we wouldn’t have missed a chance to see her again. We had plans earlier in the evening, but in a lucky break, we had nothing scheduled after midnight! (other than sleep, that is…) Winking smile

We arrived at Bowery Ballroom at 11:45pm and parked ourselves very close to center stage. We arrived between acts, so there was just general socializing going on. A few minutes later the act before Ximena took the stage. A top Venezuelan based Hip-Hop group. Six people performing the singing and dancing and a DJ (part of the group) in the back left of the stage.

While Hip-Hop isn’t my thing, and seeing it performed in a language I don’t understand isn’t likely to change that, I was still completely fascinated by how much energy and effort goes into such a performance. I can’t imagine how much rehearsal time it takes to make it look as smooth as it does. Of course, the crowd was wild for them.

Ximena started setting up on stage at roughly 12:20am. While I don’t speak Spanish, I would guess that while she was plugging in all of her electronics, she received at least 14 marriage proposals from the guys standing all around me. Most of those guys were with their wives/girlfriends. I’m betting those women understood (if not supported) the guys in their quest to marry Ximena. Winking smile

XimenaPluggingIn

The set started closer to 12:40am. The character was dramatically different than the Rockwood show, immediately. For starters, Ximena stood and played electronic keyboards. At Rockwood, grand piano and sitting (until the a cappella encore). There was an additional band member (electric guitar) and Alex Wong was on a monster drum kit. Of course, the biggest difference was the venue.

AlexWongDrumKit

Bowery Ballroom is large. The audience stands throughout the show (except for some seats in the balcony). It’s way louder than Rockwood. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Ximena is up to any task and the change in venue was right up her alley as well. She harnessed the crowd’s energy by dancing while she was singing and playing the keyboards, amping them (us) even further.

Ximena’s first full-length CD was released in Mexico, in Spanish. It’s a huge seller. Given my reaction to every song she sang in Spanish at the first show, I have no doubt why that is the case. Having recently moved to the US, she is about to release a second CD, this time in English, on August 2nd.

She opened the show with Shine Down, in English, off the upcoming CD. It’s super-charged power Pop/Rock. She followed that with Echo Park, also in English. A few people around me started calling out to her to sing in Spanish. That was completely understandable, given that this was LAMC and a predominantly Hispanic crowd.

She obliged, immediately, but I have a strong sense that this was her predefined set list anyway! She played a song I instantly fell in love with at Rockwood, Normal, off her original CD. Everyone around us sang every word with her, out loud.

At the end of Normal (at least I’m pretty sure it was Normal), Ximena turned on her loop for her voice. If you’ve still resisted reading my last post about her, but want to really understand what I mean about looping her voice, go back and read that now. Each track in the loop last night was incredibly complex, beautiful and powerful.

I know it isn’t possible, but here are six shots of her singing, each one taken during a different vocal acrobatic act. You can see her facial expressions and mouth formations are radically different as she’s singing something to layer in the current loop.

XimenaSingingLoop1XimenaSingingLoop2

XimenaSingingLoop3XimenaSingingLoop4

XimenaSingingLoop5XimenaSingingLoop6

She returned to English for the next song, Love Again.

Ximena dismissed the band for her last number. She played the title track off her original CD, Mediocre, solo. When she introduced the song, the crowd was feverish, knowing what was coming. With a microphone and electronic keyboards and no other support, she blew away a crowd of hundreds of people, most of whom had been standing for over four hours already.

XimenaSolo

Her voice and skills at live performances are that good. Again, the crowd sang every word with her. They were good (hitting the notes as far as I could tell), but this song builds, and Ximena pours some amazing power into it, so she was always easily recognizable above the audience’s singing.

Pete Lalish on electric guitar. For much of the set it sounded like Pete was playing bass. In retrospect, I’m thinking that some of that might have been coming from Ximena’s keyboards, because Pete’s hands/fingers weren’t moving the way they should have to produce what I was hearing. Basically, it was a little tough for me to pick out his specific sound.

PeteLalishTuningPeteLalishGuitar

Alex Wong on drums and electronic keyboards. Alex had a rock star drum kit setup, high up on stage. The only thing missing was a glass enclosure to make him feel completely unapproachable. Given the power Pop/Rock nature of the English songs, Alex’s arms were flying at really high speeds, mostly on the snare, high-hat and one other cymbal. Of course, he was masterful with the kick drum. I didn’t see him make too much use of the remainder of the drum kit.

AlexWongRaisedDrumPlatform

On at least one song, he played keyboards, which he had laid out to his right on top of one of the larger drums. On another song he also had a drum machine going for the underlying beat, and he powered through more tasty drum parts above and around that beat.

AlexWongKeyboardsXimena

Here’s a more artistic shot of Alex, with the trails of the drumstick (recall how fast I said he was) creating an interesting look across his face.

AlexWongDrumstick

If you are a New Yorker and want to check out my claims, you have two chances later this month, when Ximena opens for Sia at Webster Hall on July 26th and 27th. Get your tickets now. We’ll be there on the 26th. Smile

The energy created by Ximena, the Hip-Hop group and the crowd, easily sustained us way beyond our typical bedtime. We got home around 1:30am and were asleep by 2. Nothing normal or mediocre (yes, a closing pun on two of Ximena’s more awesome songs) about the evening. Smile

Alex Wong at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

We try never to miss an Alex Wong show if we can help it. To prove my point, we saw him last night at Rockwood Music Hall, we’ll see him tonight (supporting Ximena Sarinana) and again tomorrow night as a special guest playing with Dave Eggar’s Deoro band. Three nights in a row feels just about right, especially since all three performances will be radically different.

Last night was a classic Alex Wong solo show. I put solo in italics because Alex had three guests, but there’s no doubt that this was an Alex show.

AlexWong

Alex opened with a new-ish song (still unrecorded), Always Something Better. Such a beautiful, deeply true song. We spend way too much time searching for (trying to acquire) fill-in-the-blank. I was thinking that every time I hear the song I realize the truth of it, and of course, the minute it’s over, I’m back to living in the same foolish manner I did before Alex reached me in the moment.

AlexWongPiano

Next, he invited Melissa Tong and David Fallo up to accompany him on Brooklyn Blurs (a song I will never tire of). Since they were on stage already, he followed it up with Don’t Be Afraid. He introduced the song by explaining that the first line came during an argument with a friend, who yelled the line at him. Inspiration comes from many places. Winking smile

DavidFalloMelissaTongAlexWong

DavidFalloViolaMelissaTongTuning

Alex had another special guest up his sleeve, the absolutely incredible Ximena Sarinana (linked above, who he will be supporting at midnight tonight at Bowery Ballroom). Ximena sang harmony on a few numbers and played some notes that sounded like a glockenspiel on an electronic device that looked like a WiFi router.

I told this out of order, because I wanted to say a bunch of nice things about Ximena in a block. The part about playing the WiFi Router came in the very first song, which she also sang harmony on. Smile That’s my back in the next photo, so you can see how close I was to the stage.

AlexWongXimena

Ximena took to the piano later in the set to play and sing a song that she co-wrote with Alex. The song was written in a day, at Dubway Studios, as part of a challenge to write a song while being filmed. I declare them winners in this endeavor! Alex moved off the stage to the corner where the drums are. He played the kick drum and high-hat cymbal while sitting and playing guitar during this song.

XimenaPiano

It was a slightly surreal experience for me (not necessarily for most of the people at Rockwood). I was right up at the stage. Alex’s guitar amp was four feet to my left, but Alex was eight feet to my right. I could hear the guitar coming from behind me (because I was facing Alex), even though I could see him playing it in front of me. It was a little eerie.

AlexWongAtTheDrums

One of the songs that Ximena sang gorgeous harmony on is a song that Alex Wong co-wrote with another of our favorite Alex’s, Alex Berger, called The Fighter. We’ve missed hearing that song, so thanks for that! 🙂

We’ll be at Ximena’s midnight set tonight (it’s part of the Latin Alternative Music Conference Showcase). Any show that Ximena is part of should automatically be labeled a Showcase, because that’s what it will turn into!

I didn’t snag a set list (I’m not sure there was one). So, I can’t tell you every song that was played. What I can tell you, with certainty, is that Alex closed the show with another new-ish (unrecorded) song that he co-wrote with Nate Campany. It’s called Are You Listening (but secretly, I will continue to call it the “Yeah Yeah Yeah” song, like I did until I knew the title, even though there are four Yeah’s in a row, not three, sue me!).

Alex invited us to sing the “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” part. He might have meant only at the end, when it continues to build a few times in a row. I didn’t care, I sang it from the first time he sang it, reasonably loudly. Perhaps no one noticed, since I was in front, singing toward the stage. When we likely were supposed to sing, I heard many people joining in. If it’s not completely obvious, I’m in love with this song.

Alex is producing and recording a solo album for release later this year (at least I think that’s the plan). I can’t wait, because a number of the songs that will be on it can only be heard when Alex blows through NYC on occasion. Smile

Ximena Sarinana at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

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

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

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

XimenaSarinana

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

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

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

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

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

Yes!

OK, I’m done. Winking smile

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

XimenaPiano

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

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

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

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

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

IlanBar-LaviIlanBar-LaviXimena

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

AlexWong

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

XimenaHoldingTheLoop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XimenaSingingAnEncoreACappella

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesse Terry, Michael Logen and Alex Wong at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

We were looking forward to last night for a few months. We’ve seen Jesse Terry a number of times and he never disappoints. We’ve seen Alex Wong many times and couldn’t believe it’s been nearly five months since we’ve seen him solo (we did catch him a couple of months ago as part of The Paper Raincoat). We’d never seen Michael Logen before, but Jesse told us we’d love him and that turned out to be an understatement!

We love the format, singer/songwriters in-the-round. Each sings one song and yields to the next person.

Jesse kicked it off, then Michael, then Alex. Each played five songs.

Jesse played all of his songs on the acoustic guitar. He has an exceptional voice, writes wonderful songs and has a spirit that brightens any room he’s in. I’ve written about him recently, so I won’t prattle on. I’ll just note that he closed with Noise, one of a number of his absolutely amazing songs, a perfect way to end his set.

JesseTerryJesseTerryGuitar

Michael Logen played both acoustic guitar and grand piano for his five numbers. He too has an excellent voice, plays both instruments very well and writes wonderful songs.

MichaelLogenMichaelLogenPiano

Early on he played a song called Human After All. Absolutely fantastic song. The entire time he was singing it, I kept thinking I’ve heard that song on a TV show recently. I could almost sing along with it, it was that familiar to me. After the show I asked Michael if it had ever been placed on TV. He said that it came close, but didn’t make it.

This morning I searched for where I might have heard it before. Oops, not only did I quickly find out where I heard it, I actually wrote about it already, without knowing the title. On April 25th, we saw Backscratch 13 at Rockwood. One of the best songs of the night was by Sierra Noble. She mentioned that she co-wrote it with Michael Logen. I noted what a small world story that was. Here’s that part of my post:

The other one is a small world story. I’ve written a number of times about a great singer/songwriter, Jesse Terry. We’re going to see him again twice in May, once in Rockwood (next week) and the week after at a house concert (where we first saw him). Appearing with him at both shows is a friend of his, Michael Logen. Jesse has told me how much I am going to like Michael. One of Sierra’s originals was co-written with Michael Logen. Martin sang Michael’s part in gorgeous harmony with Sierra.

Now I have to hear/see Michael and Sierra perform it together!

While Michael had his own last song, he accompanied Jesse on Noise, playing the piano and singing beautiful harmony with him. Jesse announced that he co-wrote Noise with Michael. Why am I not surprised, given each of their obvious talents. Well done boys!

Alex Wong also played acoustic guitar and grand piano. In fact, he opened with a new song, Always Something Better, playing both (sort of). He started on the guitar. Using his loop, he laid down a percussion track by banging on the guitar body. Then he rubbed the strings to make a whooshing sound, also looped. While those two tracks were repeating, he put down the guitar and sang the song at the piano.

AlexWong

It’s a very deep song and it will be on Alex’s first solo CD, coming out in the fall. Our anticipation is officially building already.

AlexWongPiano

Next Alex returned to the guitar and joked that he’s not a loop master, even though he was about to use the loop for a second consecutive song. We’ve heard Brooklyn Blurs dozens of times, in many configurations. Last night was a very fresh take, with percussion sound effects provided by the loop, with Alex playing the acoustic guitar while singing. Fantastic!

Joining him on three of his numbers, including Brooklyn Blurs, was Melissa Tong on violin. Melissa actually stood with her back against the far wall, in the audience. Melissa is always a welcome addition to anyone’s set!

MelissaTong

Alex got all of us singing twice. First on The Same Old Things. The second was on his closing number, which will also be the last song on the new CD (he announced that, I’m not predicting the future).

In past shows, I’ve called the closing number the “Yeah Yeah Yeah” song. I finally broke down and asked Alex the name of the song after the set. It’s Are You Listening. I am now! I’ve loved the song (co-written with Nate Campany) from the first time I heard it. I loved it last night as well.

The chorus is very complicated, threefour Yeah’s in a row [correction: someone on FB commented that it’s four Yeah’s in a row, not three. Oops. I was too busy enjoying singing to properly count 😉 ]. Somehow, we mastered it. It’s very spiritual sounding (those words and melody), not like the Beatles version. Winking smile

Another amazing night out, with a bunch of friends enjoying the show with us (the way it should be!). We will be getting an even bigger dose of Jesse and Michael a week from tonight at a house concert. We are so excited.