Alex Wong

Paper Raincoat and Gregory Alan Isakov at Highline Ballroom

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Looking for a night of good music in NYC? Every night of the week will present difficult choices. Occasionally, those decisions achieve Solomonic proportions. Last night was one of those nights. I had Carley Tanchon and Joey Ryan in our calendar for quite a while. Carley was appearing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 at 7pm and Joey was at Rockwood 2 at 9pm.

Everything changed when a month ago, The Paper Raincoat (TPR) announced that they were appearing at Highline Ballroom on the same night. It’s not (necessarily) the case that we would always choose to see TPR over Joey. It’s that opportunities to see TPR live are rarer nowadays than they used to be.

We last saw TPR on September 7th, 2010. We have seen Joey live three times since then.

TPR was sandwiched between two other acts. I’ll cover them first since we showed up expressly to see them.

TPR is comprised of two people, Alex Wong and ambeR Rubarth. They (nearly) always have a drummer, but which one will show up to any particular show has been a surprise lately (last night included). They often have special guests join them, last night was no exception.

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The 9-song set was well chosen, kicking off with perhaps my favorite TPR song, Brooklyn Blurs.

The second song was Sympathetic Vibrations with its signature audience-participatory clapping. Our table (well, four of the six of us) clapped on cue (perfectly if I may say so myself). But, it seemed to us that very few people in the extremely crowded audience were clapping with us.

We must have been correct, because a little bit later in the song, ambeR looked at Alex and said that it might be a good idea to teach the audience the clap (it’s sophisticated) Winking smile. After the lesson, more people joined us.

The next song, Motion Sickness has become a sing-along in the last year (mostly at solo Alex Wong shows). Half the audience sings the na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na part and the other half sings the ah, ah, ah ah ah part. Alex always seems to get the entire audience doing their part. Last night, the singing was anemic (except for our table, again).

I can’t tell whether the majority of the audience was unfamiliar with TPR or they were shy.

After playing The Same Old Things, Rough Cut, Don’t Be Afraid and Right Angles, they played another favorite (OK, I admit that the entire set was comprised of favorites), It All Depends. First, a photo of Alex and ambeR playing the keyboards together on Right Angles:

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As they started It All Depends, Alex tossed (yes, actually threw) a tambourine at Lois. I was shocked and impressed when she caught it without flinching.

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The rest of us did our clapping part until the finale, where Alex (and shortly after) ambeR both joined the drummer with all three of them drumming on the same drum set at the same time. I never tire of it and I never will! Of course, without Lois’ tambourine play, the entire song would just be boring. Winking smile

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They closed the set with their signature a cappella Rewind, wonderfully!

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The drummer for last night was Sarab Singh who is the regular drummer for a hot local group, Harper Blynn (they have a new site coming too). We’ve seen Sarab once before, supporting ambeR’s solo show at Highline as well. He’s very good, but it took a few songs for him to settle into a good rhythm with TPR. The kick drum was mic’ed too loud and made my hair flutter every time he kicked it.

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Alex is an amazing producer. TPR’s self-titled CD (absolutely incredible) is but one of his masterpieces. One of Alex’s specialties is crafting string arrangements that blend perfectly with Pop music. Last night we were treated to two top musicians playing some of those arrangements live.

Melissa Tong on violin. Melissa was wonderful (as always) throughout the set, but in particular, the opening for Right Angles is all violin.

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David Fallo on viola. David too was wonderful (as always) throughout. He too was highlighted a number of times, most notably on Don’t Be Afraid where David took the lead.

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Another surprise occurred during Rough Cut. There is a local dance troupe called Insight Dance Company. Last year they set a ballet to the music of Ian Axel. They are currently working on a number of pieces by TPR and will be putting on a show in the Spring (I believe). ambeR called them up (six of them, I believe) to dance while TPR performed Rough Cut. It was interesting, but the stage was definitely an obstacle course for the dancers. It will be more interesting to see them in their own element.

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After a 20-minute break, the headliner (co-billed) took the stage.

Gregory Alan Isakov sings, plays the guitar and the harmonica. I’ve heard of him but knew nothing about his music. He headlined a show at Highline where Rosi Golan opened for him. We had hoped to make that show but couldn’t. I’m told he played solo that night. Last night he was joined by three musicians.

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I was impressed by Gregory’s voice, very rich and clear. That said, he had a setup I’ve never seen before, two microphones inches apart. One was normal and the other had a couple of effects attached to it (including heavy reverb, but more importantly, a vocal distortion). While it was technically interesting to see him switch (even in the middle of a song) from one mic (and sound) to another, I strongly preferred the normal mic to the more synthesized voice. It’s a gimmick (to me) and I can do without it.

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It’s often tough for me to hang on to lyrics when seeing someone new the first time. Aside from the fact that there is so much else going on (when there are other musicians), big spaces aren’t conducive for really close listening. Still, on occasion I heard some very interesting phrases making me feel that Gregory is a poet first and foremost, but it will require more listening for me to be sure.

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

Philip Parker on cello and vocals. Phil did a really nice job on the cello. He actually played it as much as an upright bass (plucking it) as he did as a cello (with a bow). While I could see him move his lips on many songs, I would be lying if I said I could hear a single sound coming from his mic. Before I got to say that to Lois, she told me that she thought he did a nice job singing with Gregory, so it might have just been me who couldn’t pick out his voice.

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Jeb Bows on violin. I was very impressed with Jeb’s play and felt that he was the most critical part of enhancing Gregory’s sound. Gregory came out for a two-song encore, the first of which was just Gregory and Jeb, validating my feeling that Jeb was more central to Gregory’s sound. On a number of songs Jeb plucked the violin. We’ve seen that before (in fact Melissa did it during the TPR set). But, for the first time in my experience, much of Jeb’s plucking sounded a lot like a mandolin. Cool!

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James Han on electronic keyboards. James had two keyboards placed at a right angle. He swiveled to play one or the other. His play was quite understated, but also excellent. It fit the mood of Gregory’s music very well.

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Paul Dempsey opened the show at 7pm on the dot (always a pleasure when shows start when they’re supposed to). He has an easy charm, a good voice and plays the guitar well enough to accompany himself. His song intros (very short) amused us. Other than a few choice phrases though, I can’t say that the lyrics made an impression on me.

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He played for exactly half an hour.

Six of us had dinner before the show. The food and drinks at Highline are always a treat and our service last night was excellent as well. Another fun night out with friends, sharing some laughs, some food and a lot of music.

Alex Wong and Guests at Rockwood Music Hall

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It’s been a month since we’ve seen Alex Wong perform at Rockwood Music Hall. It’s not good to go much more than a month between doses of Alex, so it’s good that he had a show last night. Winking smile

In fact, after seeing his solo show at Rockwood 1 on December 9th, we saw him sit in for one song with Alex Berger at Rockwood 2 on the 13th. That night, they performed a song they had written that weekend (and just finished up the morning of the show!), called The Fighter. I wrote about how beautiful a song it is.

Alex opened last night’s show with that song, solo this time, at the piano. As much as I like the song, it also immediately reminded me of the fact that our beloved Alex Berger is now too many thousands of miles away, back in merry old England, leaving us less merry in these old United States…

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Next Alex invited Rachel Platten to join him. Rachel played the piano and Alex the guitar. They played a song they co-wrote about Alex’s first Christmas in NYC (one he spent here not by choice!). It’s a wonderful song called Make It Home. We’ve seen Alex perform it solo a number of times, but this is the first time we got to see Alex perform it with Rachel, harmonies included.

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The song is special for another reason. Alex and Rachel have made the song available for purchase at Bandcamp. It costs (a minimum of) $2.25 (please feel free to donate more, we did!). 100% of the proceeds go to City Harvest. The production quality is superb (no surprise, Alex is one of the best producers around!). You’ll get a great song and be donating to a very worth charity. Just do it, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself and have the music to enjoy for years to come!

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Next Alex invited Melissa Tong and David Fallo to join him. I’ve written about both many times. Suffice it to say that any string section in any style of music would be instantly enhanced if either Melissa or David joined them. Both at the same time? Dream time!

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But wait, there’s more! I purposely left out one thing about Make It Home above because it fits better here. One of our favorite drummers is Adam Christgau. Adam was supposed to leave for a tour in Australia, yesterday morning. On Tuesday, his flight was canceled preemptively due to the anticipated snow storm (that wasn’t much of a storm after all). So, Adam was stranded in NYC (much as Alex had been in 2004, for different reasons). Alex dedicated Make It Home to Adam, who happened to be in the audience for Alex’s show.

With Melissa and David on stage, Alex coaxed Adam to join them to play the drums. Since Adam was there as a guest, he didn’t have his equipment with him. No worries. Seth Faulk, another top local drummer handed Adam his cymbals (Rockwood has the core drum set) and his brushes. Thanks Seth!

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With that, Alex proceeded to right a wrong that he perpetrated on his audience a month ago. As I mentioned in the post about that show, Alex teased us by playing the intro to Brooklyn Blurs (one of our favorite songs) and then changed his mind. Last night he played it, with the strings and drum, more than making up for his indiscretion the month before.

During the song, I could swear that I heard someone singing the ambeR Rubarth part (harmony) absolutely perfectly with Alex. I couldn’t see anyone doing it, and it wasn’t anyone on stage (it was a female voice). After the show, my friend turned to me and said: “Did you hear that woman over there singing the ambeR part perfectly?”. Yes, yes, I did! I honestly thought it was just me knowing the song so well that my mind filled in ambeR’s part on it’s own! Whew, I’m not totally addled just yet… Winking smile

Adam tried to get up after Brooklyn Blurs, but Alex cajoled him into playing one more song, Motion Sickness, with Melissa and David as well. Not just them, but the entire crowd was split into two to sing along with the chorus. I was on the side of the audience that in the previous two shows was assigned the “na na na na, na na na na, na na na na, na” part. Alex changed it up this time, and our side was given the “oh, oh, oh oh oh” part. I’m adept at both, so he didn’t throw me for the loop that he hoped to! Winking smile

After dismissing the band, Alex started his looping machine and tapped out some percussion on the guitar body. Then he added a whooshing sound by rubbing the strings. While that looped endlessly, he returned to the piano and played another new(-ish) song (I think it’s one he co-wrote with Paul Freeman). Absolutely wonderful!

For more Alex Wong / Paul Freeman goodness, check out their new project, Bellows Band where you can hear three songs stream for free!

He followed that with a song he co-wrote with Nate Campany. I call it the Yeah Yeah Yeah song (that’s the entire chorus). Last time, Alex Berger sang the Yeah Yeah Yeah part in harmony with Wong. This time, the audience did. It was awesome. In particular, Seth Faulk (the aforementioned drummer) stood right over my left shoulder and sang incredible harmony with Alex. Nicely done all, but especially Seth who gave me a personal concert! Smile

I might be missing another song or two, but suffice it to say that the entire set was a blast.

Making it even better was running into three friends who we sat with (I didn’t know any of them would be at the show, though I could have guessed). We even got to introduce one to the other two, so the circle widens. Good music, good company and a good glass of wine. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Alex Berger at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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We waited nearly a year for the pleasure of seeing Alex Berger perform live again. We had to console ourselves by listening to his wonderful CD, Snow Globe. It’s great, but it’s not quite the same as seeing Alex live. Last night was his first time performing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. We weren’t scheduled to be in NYC this week, but we couldn’t resist changing our plans in order to catch the show.

Wow, we are both so grateful that we did that. This will be a long post, which I know means most of you will bail now. So, the bottom line first, it was an absolutely spectacular show (as in awesome, but also a spectacle, in the best sense!).

On to the details! Smile Most of the photos were taken during setup, since the stage was so crowded there were very few clear shots from as close as we were to the stage.

Alex is just here visiting (briefly) from his native UK. That he was able to get booked into Rockwood 2 is good enough. That it was mobbed is a testament to how many fans and friends Alex has. If you know someone who is nicer than Alex Berger, please tell me now, because I very much want to meet that person and become their friend!

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Let’s start with Alex’s talents (as a singer/songwriter, I don’t have enough time to cover his talents as a person!). Alex has a fantastic voice. I am a very happy person (nearly 100% of the time), but if I’m ever tense, I’m sure that listening to Alex sing would relax me instantly.

Alex is fantastic on the keyboards (last night he played the grand piano). He can tickle my ivories any time he wishes. Winking smile

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Alex plays the guitar beautifully (last night he played Adam Levy’s electric guitar). I believe we were at the show where Alex first played a guitar publicly (The Living Room, on 1/11/2010). Perhaps he was practicing for years, but if he has truly only been playing the guitar for roughly a year, he’s picked it up extremely quickly. He closed the show solo with a finger-picking masterpiece (more on that later).

Alex writes gorgeous (lush) songs. Most are more of a throwback to jazz, ragtime, Dixieland, blues styles, but he also has some pop tunes (just to confuse you). Winking smile One of the most pleasant concert surprises I had was seeing Harry Connick Jr. play at Radio City Music Hall (I simply didn’t know his music well). If you like him (and how smooth he is), you’ll like (love!) Alex Berger, I’m sure.

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So, if you trust me (and why shouldn’t you, I haven’t steered you wrong yet!), then we can move on to the numerous musicians who joined Alex on stage last night. I’ve never seen that many people on stage at the same time at Rockwood. Most songs had eight people playing at the same time (a veritable orchestra!). There was a ninth person as well (we’ll get to him), but not all the others were on stage when he was. So, the record (for me) is eight on stage at once.

Left-to-right and front-to-back, here’s who sat (or stood) in with Alex:

Melissa Tong on violin. I can never say enough, or get enough of Melissa. We just saw Melissa play with Artemis Chamber Ensemble the day before, and I covered that in this post. It was a treat to see her change styles so radically a day apart.

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Christiana Liberis on violin. Christiana was wonderful! She and Melissa did not play in unison, they each had their own leads. I admit to thinking that Lindsay Lohan was getting on stage to play the violin, but it was only the looks that deceived me. Christiana was well behaved. Winking smile

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Marika Hughes on cello. We’ve seen Marika a number of times and she never disappoints.

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Ward Williams on cello. We’ve seen Ward many times as well and he too is a wonderful cellist. As with Melissa and Christiana, Marika and Ward often played different parts.

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Tony Maceli on upright and electric bass. Tony was wonderful (as he always is). On the opening number, it was pretty much just Alex and Tony playing, with Tony taking a long tasty solo on the upright bass.

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Katie Scheele on oboe. Katie is part of Threeds a wonderful oboe trio in NYC. We’ve seen Threeds and Katie separately a number of times and always enjoy her performance. She had a few standout solos last night and was always interesting even when in the background.

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Elliot Jacobson on drums. Tucked away in the corner, behind all these wonderful musicians was one of my (newly discovered) favorite drummers. I wrote about Elliot in a post about Bess Rogers. Let me add to my praise of Elliot. Before seeing him, at least two people told me Elliot was a “real hitter”. That means he strikes the drums really hard. Both people think Elliot is a great drummer, so it was a compliment, but it could also be taken to mean that Elliot is one-dimensional. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Last night, Elliot drummed nothing like he did for Bess and Lelia. He used brushes, had soft touches on the rims only and in general kept a quiet (appropriately) but steady beat to the more jazzy numbers that Alex played. To repeat, my respect for Elliot Jacobson grew last night. Sorry, no good photo of Elliot, this will have to do:

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Including Alex, that makes eight people.

Alex Wong joined Alex Berger on stage for one number. They played a song they co-wrote this weekend. According to Berger, they finished it the morning of the show, when they were rehearsing it to play for us. That kind of stuff just amazes me. Yes, they both had the words written down. Still, they nailed it. Lois cried during the song, titled The Fighter.

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Alex Wong played the piano and Berger sang with him (they alternated verses and sang harmony throughout). Wong also scored all of the strings for the entire show. If you’ve never read this space before, then you don’t know how in awe I am of Alex Wong. Now you know! Smile

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Alex (back to Berger now) had a number of songs left on his set list, but the mean management at Rockwood told him he could only do one more. Winking smile

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He chose to play a cover. The song is called Washing Day, co-written by ambeR Rubarth and Adam Levy. I love the song. It has a wonderful feel to it (really slow). But, the thing that makes it a great song are the lyrics. Fantastic imagery to capture universal emotions. ambeR and Adam won 1st place in the 2006 International Songwriting Competition for this song! It was the first song they ever wrote together.

Alex said that he was playing it because it’s one of the songs that inspired him to pursue singer/songwriter as a career! ambeR was supposed to sing a song that she co-wrote with Alex earlier in the set, but she didn’t make it to Rockwood in time. At least she was there to hear Alex heap some mighty praise on her for being his inspiration!

Alex just killed Washing Day. Of course, his voice is perfect for the song. But, he also shone on the guitar, which is a non-stop finger-picking extravaganza. I was incredibly impressed all around, independent of the fact that I love the song.

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Right before playing it, Alex gave us a shout out, mentioning that we changed our plans to attend the show. Thanks Alex, it was more than just worth it, it was an evening we’ll never forget. We miss you already. Move to our (frigid) city soon!!! Smile

Alex Wong at Rockwood Music Hall

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Alex Wong played a solo set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. Usually, that means a lot of guests (and this show was similarly teased). But last night was nearly purely solo, with the exception of Alex Berger (visiting here from the UK) joining on two songs.

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If you were there, but didn’t know Alex, it’s remotely possible that you didn’t know who you were listening to. When he first introduced himself, he just said: “Hi, I’m Alex” (no mention of his last name). He quickly started playing on that. He said, “I’m Alex, with an extra two X’s at the end.” Followed by “Actually, it’s Alex with an ick and three X’s, as in AlickXXX”, which ended up being his nickname for the night.

We’ll take him with however many X’s he wants to tack on to his name. Winking smile

I saw Alex at Rockwood a month ago without Lois. Here’s what I had to say about that night. You’ll note the many guests that night. As importantly, you’ll note the mention of three new songs, each co-written with a different person. I was very sorry that Lois missed them that night and just as equally happy that she got to hear them last night!

She loved all three (instantly) as did the other five people at our table (their reaction to the songs was palpable!). It’s no surprise to those of us that love Alex. He’s an amazing songwriter (solo or co-writer). He’s one of our favorite producers as well. Aside from his musical talents, he’s flat out one of our favorite people.

In my previous post, I mentioned that Alex performed Motion Sickness and split the audience in half, with me in the “na na na” section. Last night, the split was right where I was sitting, so I could have legally chosen either part. To shake things up, I chose the “Oh, oh, oh oh oh” part this time. In retrospect, I made a wise choice, it challenged me more than the “Na na na” part. Winking smile

Alex teased us on his second number, playing the intro to Brooklyn Blurs. He then backed off, saying it was too much of a summer song, so he switched to a more wintry one.

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For his third song, he invited Alex Berger on stage. Alex played the grand piano and sang gorgeous harmony with AlickXXX (note how cleverly I avoided the confusing use of last names in that sentence!). Winking smile They played Don’t Be Afraid.

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When Alex played the song he co-wrote with Nate Campany (I don’t know the name, it’s the one with the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s) he noted that Nate was in the audience, but that he was unlikely to come up and sing. A few people in the audience were really vocal about encouraging Nate to come up, unsuccessfully.

Berger agreed to come back up, singing the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah part in harmony with Wong. Beautiful, the song and the harmony. I need a professionally produced version of this song, pronto. Get on it AlickXXX!

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Another highlight of the evening was Alex (back to Wong now) playing In the Creases, one of our favorite songs. I couldn’t stop thinking that an entire set of the various versions of In the Creases that we’ve see live would make for an awesome show.

First up, Alex playing In the Creases (ITC) solo. Then ambeR Rubarth doing it solo. Then the two of them (they could even do it three times in a row, once with each playing the guitar alone and once with both playing the guitar at the same time).

Next would be Alex playing it with Melissa Tong and David Fallo on the strings. Then bring ambeR back up to play it with the strings as well.

Finally, the crescendo, bring Vienna Teng up (keeping the strings) and add Katie Scheele on oboe and recreate the most perfect version of ITC we’ve ever heard live with Vienna on the grand piano and adding three-part harmony to the mix. Ahhhhhhhh, just remembering it brings me peace and joy!

Yes, we have indeed seen every combination of the above versions of ITC and loved them all!

Another wonderful set, thanks AlickXXX.

We got there 10 minutes before Alex’s set. I stood outside (brrr) and caught up on some comms on my Droid. Lois went in and heard the last song of the set before Alex, Dorie Colangelo. Lois was extremely impressed by Dorie.

When I walked in, she was telling Dorie how wonderful her voice was. She asked if Dorie had any CDs/EPs and Dorie handed her one (she didn’t want money for it). Lois insisted. She asked me for money. Since I wasn’t privy to the conversation, I handed her a $5, thinking it was the standard fee for most EPs. When I loaded it up this morning, I saw that it was an 11-song CD. I’ll slip Dorie some more money the next time we see her. Given Lois’ reaction, I’m sure there will be a next time. Smile

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After the show, I made my way to the room on the other side of the bar. In all the times that we’ve been at Rockwood, I’ve never been in that room (used as the green room, but it’s open to the public, so not quite a real green room, just a staging area). I bumped into Tony Maceli there and got to tell him in person how amazing he was the night before, playing as part of Greg Holden’s band.

Only two shows (that I know we’re going to) before we hit a month-long dry spell. The first will be on Sunday, 1:30pm, seeing Artemis Chamber Ensemble (at Holy Family Church in Larchmont, NY). They are amazing. Then on Monday night, we’ll be at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, 10pm, to see Alex Berger perform. Can’t wait! Smile

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Alex Wong and Jesse Ruben at Rockwood Music Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ambeR Rubarth and Ed Romanoff at a House Concert

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

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

ambeRRubarth

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

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

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

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

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

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

HostAmberRubarth

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

EdRomanoff

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

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

EdRomanoffAmberRubarth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ambeRRubarthTuning ambeRRubarth

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

KatieScheeleEnglishHorn

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

ambeRRubarthJoeyRyanGregHoldenKennethPattengale

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

ambeRRubarthKennethPattengale ambeRRubarthKennethPattengalePiano

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

AlexWongSnare ambeRRubarthAlexWongKatieScheele

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

JoshuaRadin ambeRRubarthJoshuaRadinJoeyRyanKennethPattengale

ambeRRubarthJoshuaRadin ambeRRubarthJoshuaRadinSinging

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

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

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

Joey finger-picked nearly every song and sang beautifully.

JoeyRyan1

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

KennethPattingale1

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

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

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

IanAxel

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

KennethPattingaleAmberRubarth

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

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

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

🙂

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

JoeyRyanHalo

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

WillKnoxTuning

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

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

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

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

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

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

ChrisAndersonIanAxel

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

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

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

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

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

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

HadarLois

The Open Sea and Katie Costello at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The Open Sea is a duo comprised of Ari Hest and Rosi Golan. They were secretly announced on March 24th, 2010 in a show that we attended. We are fans of both Ari and Rosi separately, but on that night I had an instant love affair with their side project, The Open Sea.

TheOpenSea

The first show was at Rockwood Music Hall, while last night’s was at the new(er) Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (right next door to the still-going-strong original).

Waiting six months to hear them again felt like an eternity. That could lead to expectations that are difficult to meet. They met, they exceeded, they conquered (at least me, but I’ll bet that the majority of the stuffed-to-the-gills crowd felt the same way!).

Last Tuesday (9/14/2010) The Open Sea released their first EP. I decided not to buy it right away, hoping to purchase a physical copy last night (to put more money in their hands, get it signed, etc.). Unfortunately, for now, it’s only a digital release, so this morning I grabbed my copy. Awesome!

For those that didn’t get to see them, buy the download and experience the magic for yourself!

Ari Hest sang and played acoustic guitar. He was the primary musical support, playing on all but one song. Most of them were beautifully finger-picked with a bit of rhythm and flat-picking thrown in for good measure. Ari has a smoky/raspy voice (or at least did last night). It blends beautifully with Rosi’s.

AriHestGuitar

Rosi Golan sang and played acoustic guitar. Rosi has one of the most extraordinary voices I’ve ever heard (I’ll say it every time I get a chance to write about her!). Laser-like crispness, very wide range, soothing and exhilarating at various times. Rosi played the guitar on a few numbers.

RosiGolanSinging RosiGolanGuitar

Both are accomplished songwriters and the five song EP shows that their collaborations are at least as good as their individual efforts. I love Rosi’s current CD The Drifter and the Gypsy. Ari has a CD coming out early next year (can’t wait to hear it, as it’s produced by the wonderful Alex Wong).

In addition to playing the songs from the new EP they played two cover songs (Rosi picked a Ray LaMontagne song and Ari picked an Everly Brothers one, which was a huge treat for Lois and me).

They performed the title cut from Ari’s upcoming CD and Rosi debuted a song from her soon-to-be-recorded CD, called Lead Balloon. It could be a top 10 Country Hit (IMHO) instantly. Even if you hate Country, you’ll love this song!

I know I’m fawning, but I can’t stop, so one more platitude. I never want their sets to end. There, I said it.

Daniel Mintseris played the piano on a few numbers including one where Ari and Rosi sang without playing guitar. Daniel also plays piano on the EP. He’s excellent and complemented their sound extremely well.

DanielMintserasPiano

Here is the set list:

TheOpenSeaSetList

Katie Costello performed the set before The Open Sea. On June 29th we saw Katie perform at Rockwood 2 and I wrote about it in this post. I agree with everything I said then (whew), but I have a more nuanced opinion now that I’m getting a little more familiar with Katie’s music.

KatieCostelloPiano

First, a few differences from that performance. Katie didn’t perform any solo numbers last night (she book-ended the show with then in June). The drummer was different (more on that in the band section in a minute).

Katie has an excellent voice. Not only is it powerful and clear with good range, but as I noted in the last post, it can change in character as well. On more Jazzy numbers she can command a smoky quality (that feels completely natural). On more upbeat pop numbers it’s crystal clear. She also plays the piano very well.

KatieCostelloSinging

Last night I was able to pay attention a bit more to the shifts in style. I found the pop stuff to be more engaging and suited to the setup (her voice and the band). On the slower numbers, it was hard for me to keep focused. I like a ton of mellow stuff, so it’s not a generic problem (for me).

Katie also tried to banter more last night than the previous show. I’m all for the effort, as it’s one of the things that makes live shows qualitatively different than listening to a CD. Unfortunately, while it’s clear that Katie has a quick mind and a deep wit, most of the banter struck me as awkward at best. It will come with time, I’m sure. I’m equally sure that some portion of the audience found it awesome and/or endearing.

Katie’s band from left-to-right on stage:

Daniel Mintseris on keyboards and glockenspiel. Last time I had trouble differentiating Daniel. This time no such difficulty. Daniel did an excellent job. Given that Katie was on the grand piano, Daniel’s keyboards were more organ-ish in nature (like Patrick Firth was for Rachel Platten). He also played a type of accordion that sits on the table and is played with one hand while the other operates a bellows-type mechanism.

DanielMintseras DanielMintserasGlockenspiel DanielMintserasUprightAccordion

Tony Maceli on electric and upright bass. We always enjoy Tony’s bass playing. Understated and solid no matter who he is supporting. On the one song where he played the upright, he used a bow.

TonyMaceliUprightBass

Given how tight the stage setup was, he stepped off the stage and played right in front of the entrance to the green room. On Katie’s last number Tony played the acoustic guitar (first time in our experience) and then halfway through the song he switched back to electric bass.

TonyMaceliGuitar

Doug Yowell on drums. Doug did a good job throughout the set. In a not-so-small irony, the only other time we saw Doug play was for Vienna Teng. When? The same night we saw The Open Sea for the first time. Vienna’s set (oops, I mean Linz Ho’s set) was right before The Open Sea.

DougYowell DougYowell2

Rich Hinman on electric and pedal steel guitar. As I mentioned last time, Rich is really good on both. Last night he was incredible on the pedal steel. Some of his leads on the electric were great, but a few times it felt to me like he was stepping on Katie’s vocals. He’s still incredible, but they might need some work on their arrangements.

RichHinmanPedalSteelGuitar

Here is Katie’s set list:

KatieCostelloSetList

Another great night at Rockwood. Tonight will definitely be another great night there. 🙂

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).

AlexWongGuitar ambeRRubarth AlexWongGlockenspiel

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.

KevinRice

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!

AlexWongDannyMolad FourPeopleDrumming

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!

AlexWongAmberRubarthKeyboards1

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. 🙂

KevinRiceAmberRubarthAlexWong

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…

Vienna Teng, Alex Wong and Joey Ryan at Highline Ballroom

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Last night was very special on many levels. At the top of the list was seeing Vienna Teng perform in NYC (at the Highline Ballroom) for the last time in a while (she’s off to grad school later this month!).

Even though Vienna tours the US and Europe regularly, we have come to rely on the fact that NYC was her (temporary) adopted home and we had so many opportunities to see her here over the last year. (We also saw her perform in Atlanta, Birmingham and Norfolk.)

We’re thankful that we made the time to do it, without taking for granted that we could see her whenever we wanted. Her shows will be few and far between over the next three years, but they will happen, and anyone who gets the chance to catch one better do it!

Vienna’s voice and piano playing are magical and last night was no exception. She can soothe the savage beast or impassion the near lifeless.

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In addition to a few typical songs that Vienna invites the crowd to join in on (more on that later), she added Antebellum to the list, inviting us to join her or Alex in their respective parts. I could swear that the majority of the crowd selected Alex’s part (perhaps because it’s easier, or perhaps because Alex admonished us to “Choose Wisely”). 🙂

While Vienna often introduces songs, last night felt different. She knew she wouldn’t have many more opportunities to connect with the very large crowd so she introduced nearly every song and shared stories with great warmth. (Highline seats roughly 450 people, and there were very few empty seats. It was the first show we’ve been at where people were sitting in the Highline balcony as well!)

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One story that she shared was going to a Karaoke night with a group of non-musician friends. She and her friend sang A Whole New World from Aladdin. She described the inevitable Karaoke Key Nightmare, where the music is simultaneously too high and too low for your vocal range.

Many songs later (I think it was during 1BR / 1BA, but don’t quote me), 2/3’s of the way through the song, she and Alex broke into a full-on rendition of A Whole New World! Their harmony was fantastic and the entire bit was both wonderful and funny at the same time. Of course, after the song, Alex complained that Vienna chose his Karaoke key. Actually, to quote him more accurately, he said she chose his coming into puberty range. 🙂

Alex Wong (the Alex in the above paragraph) joined her as he has for nearly all of the performances we’ve been to. In addition to being Vienna’s touring partner, co-writer on a few of her songs and producer of her amazing CD Inland Territory, Alex is also 1/2 of The Paper Raincoat.

AlexWongSnareDrum

On the set list, which I reproduce below for Vienna’s many fans, there is an entry labeled (Alex). Vienna lamented that she would really miss seeing The Paper Raincoat and asked Alex to pick one of their songs to play. People shouted out many songs. Probably the one most loudly requested was In the Creases. Technically, not a Paper Raincoat song, but co-written by Alex Wong and ambeR Rubarth (who are The Paper Raincoat), so it qualifies.

Alex chose to do Don’t Be Afraid. He too introduced the song with a short, but meaningful anecdote. Vienna sang perfect harmony with Alex.

Toward the end of the show Vienna said that she wanted to deviate from the set list and get Alex to play another song. Once again, lots of requests from the audience. Alex chose a song of his that he performed with his original group, The Animators, Help is on the Way. We’ll all need it for the withdrawal we’ll be feeling from Vienna’s absence. 🙁

AlexWongHelpIsOnTheWay

Ward Williams joined them for the entire show (as he does on most of their tours). Ward sang beautifully with Vienna on a few numbers and played cello or electric guitar on all the numbers. As I’ve said before, Ward is a top-notch musician who always enhances any show he’s a part of!

WardWilliamsGuitar WardWilliamsCello

Update: Lois asked me to say how funny (and quick) Ward is, so here goes. For one song, Vienna asked us to take our keys out. She directed us when to jingle our keys and when to stop (like wind chimes). Alex used his Harry Potter Wand (aka: Waterphone bow) to direct people to make whooshing sounds like the wind itself.

Vienna joked that Ward was left out of the directing. Without missing a beat, he offered that when he put his right arm over his head (in a ballet-like pose), the audience should let out a blood-curdling scream! After testing us once before the song, he sprung the actual arm movement late in the song, and the audience did indeed scream on cue (good paying attention folks!). Vienna definitely got a kick out of it, as did the rest of us. 🙂

I’ve never seen a weak Vienna performance, so raving about last night shouldn’t be taken to imply that other shows weren’t incredible (they all have been!). That said, perhaps it was the poignancy of knowing that it would be a while, making me listen even more acutely, Vienna was in perfect voice last night. The clarity and power were mesmerizing.

As promised, here is the set list:

SetList

As you can see, she ended the set (a long and satisfying one) with Grandmother song. She asked the entire audience to stand for it and we turned the song into a 400+ person party! When they left the stage, we all remained standing until she came back out, this time solo.

Vienna dedicated the song, 1000 Oceans by Tori Amos, to us. We were both choked up. I am still speechless this many hours later, but thankfully, I can still type! 😉

All I can say in return/response is that the amount of joy and personal/spiritual growth that Vienna and the too-many-to-mention other Indie artists that we have come to know and love have given us, fuels us daily! Thank you Vienna, and all of you (you know who you are!).

After 1000 Oceans, both Alex and Ward returned to the stage and they performed two more numbers. The last one was Soon Love Soon, sung by the entire audience in three-part harmony! Here is Vienna directing the right side of the audience:

ViennaTengDirectingAudienceWardWilliams

Including the encore, they were on stage for 100 minutes. As vivid as the memory is at the moment, I miss it already.

When we bought the tickets (many moons ago, when the show was first announced) there was no opening act listed. What a phenomenal surprise to found out it was another of our favorites.

Joey Ryan performed solo, singing and playing acoustic guitar. In addition to always nailing his sets (with and without accompaniment) he was even funnier (and more self-deprecating) than he usually is (and he’s always funny!). He had everyone in the crowd laughing and chuckling, within seconds of stepping on the stage.

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Personally, I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to come out to an un-warmed-up crowd who is eating, drinking and conversing loudly. To do that solo, acoustically and not be the headliner, even more so.

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Yet, like I noted above, within seconds, Joey had the place whisper quiet, with everyone hanging on his every word. He owned not only the stage, but the entire place. I’m humbled by that ability, and enjoy being a part of it each time I experience it.

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Lois asked me if I’d call out for Broken Headlights. I didn’t need to. Joey invited Vienna and Alex on stage to sing it with him. Gorgeous, both the song (always) and their arrangement and harmonies.

ViennaTengJoeyRyan JoeyRyanAlexWong

The Highline Ballroom is a wonderful venue. Doors open two hours before show time and they have excellent food (and drinks). Because of that, we wanted to celebrate with friends and share the great music. We bought seven tickets and squeezed all of us in to a table for six.

We had an excellent meal, including way too many desserts (that Lois forced on us, and of course didn’t partake in). Here is a photo of a very small portion of the desserts we all shared:

PartialDessertDisplay

In what had to be the universe speaking to us (though I didn’t find this out until this morning!), I ordered a glass of Shiraz. Then someone else in our party ordered the same thing. The waitress asked if we wanted a bottle instead and I said yes. Then she said that they had a special on a different bottle of Shiraz, one that wasn’t available by the glass. I ordered that. It was really good!

This morning, when I looked at the bill, I saw the name of the wine:

Flying Piano

A totally fitting thing to be drinking during a Vienna Teng show, no doubt! 😉

We all hung around after the show to tell Vienna, Alex, Ward and Joey how amazing they were and what a special night it was. The same group (including Joey) will be performing tonight in Fairfield, CT, tomorrow at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and Saturday in Silver Spring, MD. Do yourself a favor and go to one of these shows, time is running out…

ViennaTengChadVaccarinoIanAxelWardWilliamsAlexWong JoeyRyanHadar