ambeR Rubarth

Alex Wong at Caffe Vivaldi

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After seeing Alex Wong perform a cameo appearance at ambeR Rubarth’s Rockwood Music Hall show, we ran over to Caffe Vivaldi to catch Alex performing his own show!

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The last time we saw Alex he played mostly solo (Adam Levy joined him for a song or two). This time, Alex was supported by some of the best musicians in NYC, though he did perform at least one song solo.

That song was In the Creases [Update: I’ve been told by two people that I am wrong, that Ward Williams joined Alex on this song, so I’m sure I am incorrect. Apologies!], the same song he performed earlier with ambeR at Rockwood. Very cool contrast. There (as mentioned in this post) he sang while ambeR played the guitar. Here, he played and sang by himself, creating a completely different feel to the song.

Alex has a wide selection of songs to choose from, his own repertoire, songs he wrote as part of The Animators, songs he co-wrote with ambeR and The Paper Raincoat songs.

Joining Alex in various combinations were:

Melissa Tong on violin. Always a delight, as a person and as a musician.

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Ward Williams on cello. Ward’s performances are always top-notch, and last night was no exception. In fact, he accompanied Alex alone on one song and played lead on the cello replacing ambeR’s missing vocals from a Paper Raincoat song. Extremely well done.

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Kevin Rice on a snare drum (Caffe Vivaldi is too small for a full drum set, at least with last night’s setup). Kevin always does a great job, even though he was constrained last night.

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Martin Rivas sat in on one number, playing acoustic guitar and singing harmony. His guitar play was outstanding, as was his voice. It reminded me that I hadn’t gotten around to snagging his new EP, so I asked Lois to buy it from him after the show. Can’t wait to catch a full Martin set asap.

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Candace Chien played the grand piano accompanying Alex on his last number (Help is on the Way). Sorry, I can’t find a good individual link for Candace. Candace is a classical pianist and this was her first non-classical public performance. She nailed it and we hope to see and hear more of her in the future. Everyone at the Caffe sang along with Alex on the repeating chorus (just like we did when he closed the Haiti benefit with this number).

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Even though we stayed up way past our bedtime, it was a ton of fun to see all of these wonderful people/performers do such an intimate show.

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We’ve never been to Caffe Vivaldi before (it’s in the West Village) and it won’t be our last time. To make sure I’d want to come back, I forced myself to have a piece of Carrot Cake and a Latte. The things I do for the love of music… 😉

ambeR Rubarth and Adam Levy at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Back to the band.

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

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

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

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

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

Wow!

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Axel Triumphantly Returns to Fair Lawn

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

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

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

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

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From left to right on the stage with Ian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SetList

Alex Wong and Adam Levy at Rockwood

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Last night was a real treat for us. We got to see one of our favorite musicians perform his first solo show. We also caught the set before his, which was wonderful, and I’ll cover that as well.

Alex Wong is an incredible talent, something I repeat very often (well deserved repetition). We never had the pleasure of seeing him with his original group, The Animators, but we’ve seen him often as part of The Paper Raincoat (a group he formed with ambeR Rubarth) and when he tours with Vienna Teng (something he’s doing again starting tonight in Atlantic City).

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He has delighted us since the first time we saw him. It is my understanding that Alex isn’t looking to launch a solo career, but rather, as with many artists, he continually wants to stretch and grow. Playing solo affords him the opportunity to do that.

He played a mix of his own, The Paper Raincoat and The Animators songs. His selection was outstanding. For The Paper Raincoat (TPR) songs (Brooklyn Blurs, The Same Old Things, Don’t Be Afraid and Motion Sickness), hearing them in the pure mellowness of just Alex with the guitar was a nice change-of-pace. That said, I’m nowhere near getting enough of TPR’s sound.

Adam Levy (covered in more detail below) accompanied Alex on an electric guitar on two songs (possibly three). One was the first song Alex Wong wrote with Devon Copley (his partner in The Animators) A Girl Like You. The other was In the Creases, a song Alex wrote with ambeR Rubarth before they formed TPR (one of our favorite songs!).

Adam was a great addition on both songs, in particular on In the Creases, where his leads were fantastic. On Creases, he also sang harmony. He didn’t have a microphone in front of him, but since I was three feet away, I could hear how good a job he did. 🙂

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Alex didn’t come on until 11pm. Even though it was that late, in the middle of the week, there was a really nice-sized crowd at Rockwood Music Hall. When Alex finished his set, the applause wouldn’t die down. He had already unplugged his acoustic guitar from the amp, but it was obvious that people weren’t going to stop clapping until he played another song.

Alex looked up at the sound engineer, who nodded to him that he could play another one. He closed the show with Motion Sickness. Like I already said, a real treat for us, even though it was way past our bedtime.

A number of the people that we are thrilled to see on stage were in the audience. In particular, Tony Maceli, Ward Williams and Melissa Tong. Always nice to see them, even if they aren’t part of the show. We also bumped into three more friends there, proving yet again that Alex has a strong following.

Adam Levy played the 10pm set with a band. He wasn’t opening for Alex. Rockwood typically has 45-minute sets with 15-minute breaks for the next artist to set up.

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We’ve seen Adam perform solo (at Jammin’ Java). We’ve seen him back Alex Berger, and we’ve seen him perform duets with ambeR Rubarth. This is the first time we saw him with a band. Hopefully, it won’t be the last!

For those who don’t know, Adam Levy was the guitar player in Norah Jones band, both touring and on at least three of her CDs. ‘Nuff said!

He plays a number of styles and exhibited Country, Jazz, Blues and Folk last night (perhaps more?). He has a gravelly voice, but it’s compelling and draws you in to the song.

Tony Mason on drums. In addition to playing solidly throughout the set, Tony distinguished himself on one extremely tasty drum solo. He also played sidekick to Adam on a number of bits/banter. Clearly, they are friends and mesh together well.

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Jonathan Maron played the bass (I can’t be sure the link is correct since there’s no picture on that profile). He was good throughout the set, but not highlighted.

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We already own Adam’s EP that he recently put out with ambeR Rubarth, but after his set, we also picked up his CD Washing Day (also the name of a song that he co-wrote with ambeR, which we really like!).

We met a friend for dinner before the show. We wandered into Noodle Bar on a whim. We ordered three dishes (one rice, one noodle and one soup) plus ice cream for dessert. I was impressed with every one. The only disappointment came when the bill arrived, and it turned out that they are a cash-only establishment. I had enough (it’s not a very expensive place), but it could have been awkward if it was a few dollars more…

Another wonderful evening out, adding to our already indescribable exhaustion.

Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel at Mercury Lounge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Fallo on viola was superb!

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Melissa Tong on violin was her typical excellent self!

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

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

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

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On to Ian’s band:

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

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

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

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

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Vienna Teng and The Paper Raincoat at Attucks

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Vienna Teng and The Paper Raincoat are up there among our favorite performers, both live and their CDs. Recently, Vienna announced that she’s taking a break from touring and returning to school this fall.

While I’m sure that The Paper Raincoat (TPR) will continue to perform (in fact, we have tickets to see them on May 6th a Mercury Lounge in NYC), both Alex Wong and ambeR Rubarth have so much going on individually and with other projects that they don’t play together all that regularly.

So, having a chance to see both acts perform on the same stage on the same night was going to be hard to pass up. They played last night at The Attucks Theatre in Norfolk, VA.

We wouldn’t likely have gone from NYC, but luckily, we were a little closer, in Fredericksburg, VA. Still 2.5 hours away, but that’s a walk in the park for us.

I’ve written about Vienna and TPR many times. You can search for either on the top right of this page if you want to see how consistently amazing both are.

Last night Vienna was the headliner, so I’ll cover her performance first. Vienna performed one song solo, standing at ambeR Rubarth’s electronic keyboards. That was the first time we’ve seen her stand and play the keyboards. She also performed one song with ambeR Rubarth alone, a new song they co-wrote on a writers retreat in January. Gorgeous!

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For all of her other numbers, Vienna was accompanied by Alex Wong and Ward Williams. I can never say enough about Alex, and he was as wonderful again last night as he always is.

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We’ve seen Ward Williams briefly, twice before. Last night he was on stage for the entire TPR set, and for all but the two songs mentioned above with Vienna. He’s a delight as a musician (cello and electric guitar) and as a personality with a humorous on-stage presence.

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Reconstructing the set list from memory (a few of Vienna’s fans have asked me to do this whenever I see her):

Whatever You Want, Blue Caravan, Gravity, Kansas (solo), In Another Life, Stray Italian Greyhound, Everything’s Fine (with ambeR), Homecoming, Antebellum, Augustine, The Last Snowfall, St. Stephen’s Cross, Harbor, Grandmother Song, Keep The Customer Satisfied (Simon and Garfunkel cover)

It was a 90-minute set, capped off with Grandmother Song. For the first time in our experience, Vienna suggested that the audience might want to stand (in order to better participate) during the song. I was impressed at how fast everyone stood up. The energy was incredible.

They came out for an encore (no one sat down after Grandmother song, so it was a standing ovation) and played a wonderful version of Keep The Customer Satisfied, a Simon and Garfunkel cover.

The Paper Raincoat opened the show (which surprisingly, started 15 minutes earlier than announced). Everything about the performance last night was different (still awesome) because for the first time in our experience, TPR had no full-time drummer.

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Instead, Ward Williams joined them mostly on the cello. Alex multi-tasked more than usual (which is saying a lot!) because he did play some percussion, which he rarely does for a TPR show.

I would describe the difference as mellowing out their sound quite a bit. It was gorgeous, and the crowd loved every note, but it didn’t have the feel of a typical TPR show.

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They closed the show with the always crowd-pleasing Rewind, this time joined by Vienna Teng (where Adam Christgau or Kevin Rice typically are). The crowd went nuts and shot to their feet at the end of the song, sending TPR off the stage to a roaring standing ovation.

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This was the last show in this year’s Discovery Series at The Attucks Theatre. Most of the people in the audience were unfamiliar with either Vienna or TPR, and I would say that it was one of the better audiences we’ve been part of, and both picked up hundreds of new fans. There was brisk business at the Merch table selling CDs, and all four artists came out to meet, greet and sign the CDs.

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I already mentioned that we drove 2.5 hours to see the show. What I didn’t mention is that I caught a horrible cold a day or two earlier, and we were very close to not making the effort. Our original intention was to drive the 2.5 hours back after the show, but given my condition, our compromise was to stay in Norfolk for the night.

We got to our hotel at 3pm and I napped for a couple of hours. After saying hello/goodbye to the artists, we headed back to the hotel for the night, returning to Fredericksburg this morning. More than worth it, even though my condition hasn’t improved one iota…

Vienna Teng, Rosi Golan and Ari Hest at Rockwood Music Hall

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On Tuesday night we saw Vienna Teng perform at Parkside Lounge. I detailed the show in this post. Two points to carry over from that night: 1) Vienna tailored the set list for the audience/venue and 2) She played 100% solo. Last night showed her flexibility in mixing it up.

If you’re a fan of an artist or a venue, I highly encourage you to find as many ways to follow them on the Internet (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Buzz, etc.). You never know when a last minute show will be announced, or the artist might appear under a pseudonym, etc.

On March 19th, Vienna tweeted the following:

Gig alert: NYC, Linz Ho plays Rockwood again Wed 3/24, w/band no less. Then to SF to join Paper Raincoat @ Noe Valley Ministry, Fri 3/26!

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that it’s possible that Linz Ho was going to be Vienna herself. A little digging could easily confirm that. We knew we’d be there.

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Yesterday afternoon, when checking the Rockwood Music Hall site to see who was on before Vienna I noticed that right after her (I mean, right after Linz Ho) were Ari Hest and Rosi Golan appearing together, as a new group called The Open Sea. A couple of hours later, Rosi tweeted the same thing, so I had two chances to discover their last-minute engagement.

Vienna was back on a grand piano last night. Her set list was excellent. Constructed from memory, so excuse any lapses:

The Drugs Don’t Work (a cover of The Verve), Blue Caravan, I Don’t Feel So Well, The Last Snowfall (with Ari Hest), accompanying Ari Hest on one of his songs, [Update: I knew I missed at least one, she played a new song co-written with ambeR Rubarth called Everything’s Fine], 1 Br / 1 Ba, Augustine, City Hall

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Vienna closed the show with City Hall, which was the first time in the nine times we’ve seen her perform that she didn’t close with Grandmother Song. City Hall was an excellent choice, and she continues to keep us on our toes. 🙂

The song that Ari sang during her set was a song he debuted during a Vienna set in January that I covered in this post. He didn’t write the lyrics on his hand this time, and therefore didn’t need to use a candle to see them (a shame, because that was a very cool visual effect!).

Here they are singing The Last Snowfall together:

ViennaTengAriHest

Vienna apologized for not having prepared enough in January to accompany him that night (to her standards, as none of us noticed anything other than excellent piano playing on her part). She was determined to rectify that, and she did. Her piano was incredible on this song, and I encourage Ari to get her to record with him whenever he gets this track into the studio.

Even though she performed under a pseudonym, Rockwood was packed. In contrast with the act on before her (which I’ll cover briefly at the end of this post), people were hanging on her every word/sound, meaning, it was a quiet and respectful crowd.

The band referred to above turned out to be:

Melissa Tong on violin (and even harmony on one number, which was a huge and pleasant surprise!). Melissa is always top-notch and last night was no exception.

MelissaTong MelissaTongSinging

Doug Yowell on drums. I think this was the first time that Doug has played with Vienna. [Update: Vienna’s manager informed me that Doug has played with her before, and is in fact on the live DVD which we own, but haven’t watched yet. Thanks Amy!] He was excellent throughout the set, and did a very nice job on the potentially difficult Augustine, which has a lot of drama (should that be drumma?) 😉 in it.

DougYowell

In the middle of one her songs, Vienna forced Doug to take a dual solo. While continuing to play the drums alone, she made him do his rendition of John Wayne’s drunken commencement speech. When he hit the punch lines, the crowd was hysterical. It took a while to compose ourselves, even when Vienna was singing again. Well done! 🙂

We’ve only gotten to see Rosi Golan and Ari Hest perform briefly. In addition to Ari’s song with Vienna in January, both he and Rosi performed at the Haiti Benefit which I covered in this post. Both had a full band, and it was a pretty crazy night with so many performers rotating throughout the show.

At the Haiti Benefit, Rosi won the raffle for a high-end Martin guitar, signed by all of the performers (including Rosi, Ari and Vienna!). She debuted it in public last night, and here’s Ari making a surgical adjustment to it before it was formally introduced to live play:

AriHestRosiGolanGuitarSurgery

Last night was a perfect setting to see each (and both) perform to their true abilities. We were sitting two feet from them (literally). They are each headlining performers (solo and with full bands) in their own right. They also have a side project together, called The Open Sea. This show highlighted The Open Sea, but each did a few of their own numbers as well, with Ari doing one solo.

AriHestRosiGolan

Both Rosi and Ari have exceptional voices. I can’t describe how well they go together, you’ll simply have to make it to a show to be placed under their spell. I already told you how quiet the crowd was for Vienna, the same was true for Ari and Rosi, because the thought of missing a single note was inconceivable.

They performed four numbers that they co-wrote for The Open Sea. They played at least another four of their individual songs (photo of the napkin set list appears below). Ari finger-picked the guitar on all but one song, and this is the first time I got a chance to notice and appreciate what a wonderful guitar player he is.

TheOpenSeaSetList20100324

Rosi complained that she had SXSW Voice, a condition caused by having to give so many interviews and performances in a short time, often yelling over tons of incredibly loud music. While it may have felt awful inside of her, it sounded as sweet as could be externally. Rosi will be headlining The Highline Ballroom on April 22nd, and I encourage you to run (not walk) to get tickets and make it to that show!

RosiGolan

In the fall, Alex Berger told me that I needed to buy Rosi’s CD The Drifter and the Gypsy. I dawdled longer than I should have, but bought it a few months ago. Wow! The entire CD is fantastic. The opening song, Think of Me, grabs me every time I listen to it. It was just featured in the new movie Dear John. Excellent choice on the part of the producers of the film!

Think of Me is available for you to listen to on Rosi’s MySpace page (linked above). Do yourself a favor and check out my claim. 🙂

Ari Hest just finished recording and mixing a new CD. It was produced by the extraordinary Alex Wong. Given how much I love The Paper Raincoat, Alex Berger’s Snow Globe and Vienna Teng and Alex Wong’s Inland Territory CDs (all produced by Alex Wong!), I can’t wait to get my hands on Ari’s CD when it finally lands.

AriHest

The Open Sea is working on a new EP. I can’t wait for that either. Why are you folks eating and sleeping, when I have a need to listen to your new music over and over?!? 😉

To repeat my point from the introduction to this post, if I didn’t follow Vienna on Twitter, I would be reading someone else’s account of last night’s show, rather than sharing these extraordinary memories with the rest of you, having experienced them first hand!

Rockwood is a fantastic place to see live music. Unfortunately, it’s small and has very few seats. We would stand for Vienna, Rosi and Ari, but we much prefer to sit (much). So, I looked up the act that was on before Vienna, and we decided to catch that set as well, in the hopes of snagging a seat we could hang on to throughout the night.

Bryan Dunn played with a full band, singing lead vocals and playing both acoustic and electric guitar. Most songs were a driving rock style with Bryan singing his heart out. He played rhythm on his acoustic (mostly) but took some nice leads on his electric. He has a great personality on stage and comes across like a very nice guy.

BryanDunn

Jim McNamara played an upright bass. He blew me away. I can’t say that I recall an upright bass being used by a mostly rock ‘n roll band, but Jim made it work perfectly. A few times he played leads in harmony with Bryan’s guitar. Some of those licks were pretty darn fast, and he nailed every one of them!

JimMcNamara

Craig Greenberg played the piano and sang some harmony vocals. Craig did a solid job on both, and Bryan gave him a few leads to stretch himself on the piano.

CraigGreenberg

Chris Benelli played the drums. This was the first time that Chris played with Bryan Dunn, and he did a very nice job.

ChrisBenelli

Here’s a shot of their set list:

BryanDunnSetList

We enjoyed their music, though it was a bit loud given how close we were to the stage. The only surprise (mentioned to contrast the quiet we experienced for Vienna, Rosi and Ari) is that people took the opportunity to talk to each other too much for our taste during Bryan’s set.

To make matter worse, because the music was so loud (which is what I think makes people feel that it’s OK to talk, heck, no one will hear them, right?), they had to scream at each other, which of course, then makes it easy to hear them.

Amazingly, a number of the worst offenders were personal friends of Bryan, who obviously came out to support him. He closed the show with a cool song where the audience sings and he responds. Two tables filled with his friends (one included his wife) did a fantastic job of singing and making the song a ton of fun. One of those tables was filled with people who talked throughout the rest of his set.

Oh well…

Another fantastic night out! 🙂

ambeR Rubarth at Highline Ballroom

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

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

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

ambeRRubarthGuitar ambeRRubarthKeyboards

The core band consisted of:

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

TonyMacelli HadarTonyMacelli

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

DaveEggarCelloAsGuitar

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

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

SarabSingh

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

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

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

ThreedsDaveEggar ThreedsSmiling

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

PaulBrill

David Fallo joined for one number on viola.

DavidFallo

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

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

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

IanAxel

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

IanAxelLois LoisAmberRubarth

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

CaraSalimando CaraSalimandoUkulele

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

JuliaSinclairCello JuliaSinclairGuitar

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

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

Kraft

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

CourtneyKaiserGuitarCourtneyKaiserOneHandedAccordionCourtneyKaiserGlockenspiel

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

BenjaminCartelDrums BenjaminCartelGuitarDrums

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

NinaLee

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

KaiserCartelInTheCrowd

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

KaiserCartelNewCD

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

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

New York Sings for Haiti

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On most days even compassionate people go about their lives in a near bubble-like existence. The problems of the rest of the world aren’t one’s first thought. Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to break us out of that routine and remind us that we are dramatically more alike than we are different, us fragile humans.

The explosion of text messages sent to raise money after the earthquake in Haiti proved that if you make it easy to give, many people will happily do so, even if it isn’t the most prudent thing for them to do.

There are many ways to give. As important as direct monetary donations are, raising awareness is also crucial as the ever-widening circle of giving, volunteering and compassion have a chance to work their way deeper into our lives.

Many artists live more obvious compassionate lives, creating art as an outlet for deep-seated emotions. They also have fans, which makes raising awareness a little easier for them than for ordinary folk.

Many musicians participated in many benefit concerts (some televised globally) over the past week. I applaud all of those efforts. For the bigger acts, pulling off these last-minute mega-shows is difficult, I’m sure, but the machinery that surrounds them is geared toward doing that kind of work, and money is never an obstacle.

In the incredible vibrant indie music scene in NYC, the story of last night’s benefit concert is inspiring in showing what can be accomplished with compassion, and a crazy amount of effort (and let’s not forget talent as well!).

Alex Berger is a very talented singer/songwriter who is visiting from the UK. He was staying at a friend’s apartment for a week, the extraordinary photographer Ric Agudelo (an incredible person, who we were lucky to meet as a result of this benefit).

AlexBerger1

After spending the evening at Rockwood Music Hall enjoying some music, they were both heartbroken to hear about the earthquake in Haiti. Sitting on Ric’s couch at 1am they decided that they had to try and do something. Ric said that they should get cracking first thing in the morning. Alex said let’s send out some emails right now, and so it began.

Alex was able to get commitments from over a dozen of NYC’s most amazing musicians. Ric was able to secure one of the finest places to see a show in NYC, City Winery. Ric and others then went into overdrive to pull all of the logistics together (a daunting task!) and Alex worked with the musicians to create a show that the audience will never forget.

Giving/sacrifice comes in many flavors. Quite a number of the musicians who agreed instantly to participate did so knowing that they would have to change prior commitments on a moment’s notice. A large group of them postponed a writers retreat. Alex Wong flew cross-country just for the show. Many other similar stories.

As active as we are in attending shows in NY so are many other music lovers. We’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting a few other passionate fans as a result of another example of these artists giving whenever they can.

Shannon Black is a cancer survivor. She is a wonderful person in all respects and is inspirational in many ways, including that she runs in the NYC Marathon each year, raising money for Livestrong in the process. We met Shannon (and her husband and fellow music-lover Jason) at their Livestrong fundraiser, where again, Alex Berger arranged for 11 musicians to perform and donate their time and talent.

Half way through the show last night, Shannon came up to me and gave me a hand-written note, asking me if I would mind including it in my blog. Not only don’t I mind, I’m honored to share it with the rest of you:

Hadar,

When you blog about this magical night, could you say something for me?

Not only have we been brought together for a great cause, but in witnessing these musicians making themselves so vulnerable, I have been called/pressed/pulled to that which my life was meant for!

I got a second chance, so I needed this, tonight!

In a nutshell, in witnessing their “magic”, I have been called to that which “God meant for me to do!”

Last thing before getting on with the show. While most musicians rehearse before their shows, the challenge in preparing for last night’s show was monumental. There was a house band (a group of amazing musicians) that played with most of the acts. They had practically no time to learn tons of material, and, of course, they nailed it all!

The house band consisted of: Tony Maceli (who also coordinated the entire show including running the rehearsals!), Chris Kuffner, Marika Hughes, Kevin Rice, Adam Christgau, Melissa Tong, Ward Williams and a number of other people whose names I didn’t catch, sorry!

AdamChristgauChrisKuffnerKevinRice

While the show was sold out (no surprise), in addition to the money raised from ticket sales, there was a raffle (including two high-end guitars, donated by Martin and Gibson, which were signed by all of the performers!). The show was streamed live for those that couldn’t make it and there were opportunities throughout the stream to donate.

If I understand correctly, as soon as possible, they will release a CD and DVD of the show as well, having additional opportunities to raise more funds for this very worthy cause.

Typically, I go into great detail about each act in the shows we attend (often, each individual performer in each band). If I did that now, I’d be publishing this blog late next week, and the purpose of this post, and of last night, wasn’t to critique the performance, but to revel in the kindness and generosity of all involved, performers and audience alike.

The music ranged from soft a capella (the always blissful Rewind by The Paper Raincoat) to hard rock by both The Bongos and Harper Blynn. Everything in between as well, including Jazz, Pop, Folk, Country.

Most performed two or three numbers, with a few last-minute guests coming on for only a single song. One example of the latter was a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, Sara Jean Kelly who drove up, sang one song, and made us take note of her talent! One other person not listed was an Israeli singer/songwriter. I thought they announced her as Tal, but perhaps it was Tula. I apologize if I linked to the wrong person there. Thanks to a comment from Rebecca, I now know I was wrong in that last sentence. The singer was Paula Valstein.

Here are the artists in the order that they appeared. Many appeared on stage with other artists, and of course, the incredible house band supported most of them (a few had their own bands, and I apologize for not doing my normally thorough job of naming every one of them!).

Martin Rivas (still recuperating from foot surgery, came up with his crutches!)

MartinRivas1 MartinRivas2

MartinRivas3

The Bongos (I believe that they were originally slated to headline City Winery that night. Incredibly generous of them to give up that kind of spotlight and share the stage with everyone else!)

TheBongos

The Wellspring (a newly formed duet, last night was their public debut I think. Supported by Alex Berger, ambeR Rubarth and Wes Hutchinson.)

TheWellspring

Nate Campany (supported by many of the other performers)

NateCampany2 NateCampany1

Rosi Golan (our first time seeing her, amazing!)

RosiGolan1

Will Knox

WillKnox

Ed Romanoff

EdRomanoff

Sara Jean Kelly

SaraJeanKelly

Tula Paula Valstein (now corrected, thanks again Rebecca!)

Tula

Wes Hutchinson (supported by his band, Reel by Reel)

WesHutchinsonReelByReel

amber Rubarth (supported by Threeds, Ed Romanoff, Ari Hest and Tony Maceli playing trumpet)

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Threeds

Ian Axel (ahhhhhhhhhhhh, supported by Chad Vaccarino)

IanAxel1 IanAxel2

ChadVaccarino

Alex Berger (fabulous, topped off by Love, supported by ambeR and Vienna Teng. Tony Maceli played a wonderful trumpet)

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Joey Ryan (supported by Vienna Teng and Dave Eggar)

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Greg Holden (supported by Ian Axel, Joey Ryan and ambeR)

GregHoldenDaveEggar JoeyRyanGregHoldenDaveEggar

Harper Blynn

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HarperBlynn3 HarperBlynn2

Vienna Teng (supported by Alex Wong and Kevin Rice. Actually, Vienna opened with an a capella number with roughly 10 people on stage, including many of the evening’s performers!)

ViennaTengEtAl1 ViennaTengEtAl4 ViennaTengEtAl2 ViennaTengEtAl3

ViennaTengPiano

The Spring Standards (new discovery for me. They’re great. I was particularly impressed with Heather’s voice!)

TheSpringStandards

Ari Hest (with his own band. First time we got to see him perform in a lead role. Marvelous voice!)

AriHestAndBand

The Paper Raincoat closed the show. Unbelievably fitting for us, because every single connection that we have with the local music scene in NYC emanated from our discovery of them when they opened for Colin Hay in April 2009. It’s amazing that our journey is so short, and yet so rich, all thanks to ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong.

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Of course, they were magical (they always are).

ThePaperRaincoatRewind

To top everything off, most of the artists came back on stage for a fittingly named finale: Help is on the Way, a song by Alex Wong’s former group, The Animators. There were roughly 30 people on stage singing their hearts out. Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and the Catapult joined Vienna at the piano for the finale.

Finale2Finale1Finale3ElizabethZimanViennaTeng

The show ended at exactly 1am, five solid hours of incredible spirit and music.

That said, last night really wasn’t about the music, as much as we all may have loved it. It’s about seeing what can be accomplished, in a very short time, by people who are motivated to do something selfless for others. It was wonderful to be the tiniest part of that effort.

Thank you to everyone involved in putting on the show and raising the money, and special thanks for Alex Berger and Ric Agudelo!

ambeR Rubarth, Ian Axel, Greg Holden and Joey Ryan at Tin Angel

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ambeR Rubarth is very good about disseminating information about upcoming shows once they’re set. When she tweeted a couple of months ago that she would be appearing in Philadelphia at Tin Angel with Ian Axel, Greg Holden and Joey Ryan on January 22nd, 2010, we grabbed tickets.

A month later ambeR announced that she, Greg and Joey would be performing on three consecutive weeks at Rockwood Music Hall in a January Residency. Rockwood is way more convenient, and we though we’d get to see them at least once. Amazingly, we couldn’t contort ourselves enough to make any of those shows, including the last one this past Thursday when Ian Axel guest starred as well.

No worries, we were set for last night, and had been to Tin Angel once before and knew we liked the place.

The gang of four had a bit of trouble with their GPS so we were actually seated right next to the stage as they scrambled in (about 25 minutes before show time). They did their sound checks and disappeared into the green room to catch their breaths for a few minutes.

Only six minutes late (7:36pm), they came back on stage and announced that they would be playing the show in the round, taking turns doing songs. We have grown particularly fond of that format from all of the CMA Songwriters shows that we attend at Joe’s Pub.

Greg Holden kicked it off with Joey Ryan doing a song we really love. They debuted the song on YouTube and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve listened to it, but it’s dozens (we sing it out loud in the car a lot).

GregHolden

After that the order was Ian Axel, ambeR Rubarth, Joey Ryan and back to Greg again, etc. Each of them knows all of the music of the others so well, that there was quite a bit of support during most songs (harmonies, Ian playing piano for the others and the others playing guitar for Ian). They all sing harmony beautifully.

We’ve seen a number of our favorite keyboard players on real pianos and on electronic keyboards. While a good electronic keyboard and a good sound system can sound nearly identical to a top piano, the obvious difference is that the electronic keyboard can mimic other instruments, or create a more synthesized sound in general.

Last night highlighted a much more significant difference between the two. Greg was about to play one of his songs and Ian was set to accompany him on the piano (electronic variety). Greg turned to Ian and apologized, telling him that he was going to play it one fret down from where they normally do.

I’m sure that there are piano players out there who can transpose a piece in their heads, and nail it. It’s not something I would want to even consider. Ian just smiled and said “No problem!”. He made one tiny adjustment on the keyboards, and transposed electronically, while being able to play in the key he was familiar with. Do that on a real piano! 🙂

They performed four songs each and one all together at the end, making a total of 17 numbers (a superb set, lasting just under 110 minutes!). Song selection was wonderful all around. Now that I’m thinking about it, they might have played five each, for a total of 21, but I wouldn’t swear to it (at least not in court).

Each of them has wonderful stage presence. Greg got the audience to sing along on two of his numbers (including Bar on A, the last one that all four of them did together). Ian felt that he was rambling in introducing a song and said “Perhaps I shouldn’t talk.” The crowd resoundingly implored him to keep talking! 🙂

Here they all are singing Bar on A:

IanAmbeRGregJoeyFinale

ambeR asked for one request, got three separate responses (In the Creases from Lois, Rough Cut and Novacaine). All three choices are awesome, and Lois withdrew her request and ambeR played Rough Cut (one of two songs she played using Ian’s keyboards, which makes me more confident that they played five songs each).

ambeRRubarthKeyboards ambeRRubarthGuitar

Ian knocked us out as he has from the first time we saw him. For his third number he played his current sensation, the title cut from his new CD called This is the New Year. You can lift your spirit by watching this YouTube video of This is the New Year. It has over 39,000 views already (Lois swears she doesn’t account for more than 1,000 of them) 😉 though she has sent the link to everyone she knows, and all of these views are just in one month!

IanAxel

Greg Holden sang the part that Chad Vaccarino normally sings. Greg did a fantastic job, but I admit that my ears are attuned to hearing Chad’s voice in that spot, and it took me a few seconds to adjust.

Our friend @HappyBee3 saw the show the night before in Rockwood and told us that she was moved to tears when Ian sang Say Something. Last night he performed it too, on the ukulele (like he did the night before), but ambeR, Greg and Joey all sang harmony with him. The song is moving enough, but with 4-part harmony, all the more!

ambeRGregIanJoey

After Ian sang Gone (another moving song), Lois was nearly in tears (notice the trend from the night before?). Then Amber took to Ian’s keyboards and performed a song we hadn’t heard her play live before, and Lois achieved real tears. They all joked that Joey better pick a more up-beat song. He asked whether a song about cancer would qualify? In other words, lots of deeply emotional lyrics last night.

Joey Ryan is the only one that we hadn’t seen perform (he’s based in L.A.). He has a really beautiful voice, with an extraordinary range for a guy. He sings in the lower registers when it’s his song (for the most part), but he hits incredibly high notes, very cleanly, when he harmonizes with Greg and ambeR.

JoeyRyan

Joey plays the guitar beautifully, finger picking a storm. He writes complex lyrics that I’ll have to listen to a number of times until they’re ingrained. Toward that end, we bought both Joey’s brand new EP, Kenter Canyon and his previous full-length CD, With its Roots Above and its Branches Below. I’m listening now while typing this. Lovely! 🙂

We already own Greg Holden’s CD and EP, and Ian’s EP and CD, and ambeR’s CD/EP and The Paper Raincoat EP/CD as well. 🙂

Lois picked up a second Ian Axel T-Shirt last night. She was wearing her green one and bought a purple one.

While all four have great stage presence and are all pretty funny, I have to give a shout out to Joey for being the driest of them. He delivers his wit so soft-spokenly, so understated, expressionless (most times), that you might be tempted to think he was being serious. Don’t fall for it! He’s just flat out clever, funny and quick!

We didn’t worry whether it would be worth the long round-trip drive. What we couldn’t be sure of was how great this particular show would be. It was excellent in every respect.

All four of them were on for each of their songs, all four meshed together perfectly. The venue is intimate. The sound was perfect, with one notable exception. For a good part of the evening, they couldn’t get the feedback from ambeR’s guitar pickups to stop. It wasn’t that distracting for us, but ambeR was a trooper for plowing through it!

The audience was exceptional as well. They knew these artists well even though none are from Philly, were quiet during the songs but really loud and long in their applause after each number. They also lined up at the merch table afterward to buy stuff and say hi. It felt good to be part of it. Thanks Philly fans, you too made the drive worthwhile!

But wait, there’s more!

The drive down was spectacular. We were bathed in a stunning and seemingly never-ending sunset.

Sunset1 Sunset2

Sunset3 Sunset4

We ate dinner at Serrano, the excellent restaurant below Tin Angel. If you have a dinner reservation, they hold a table for you at Tin Angel above. The food and service at Serrano is so good (both times we were there) that we wouldn’t consider going to Tin Angel without dining at Serrano first.

Lucky for us, we’ll see all four of theses wonderful musicians this Monday night (Jan 25th) at City Winery, where they are part of a spectacular lineup of indie artists who are putting on a benefit to raise money for Haiti.