ambeR Rubarth

ambeR Rubarth at NAU NYC

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In yesterday’s post I mentioned that ambeR Rubarth had just returned to NYC from a long tour. She didn’t take any time to rest up, following her guest appearance at Alex Berger’s show with a show of her own last night.

ambeRRubarth

Amber was accompanied by Tony Maceli and Adam Christgau, and the three of them performed an excellent 50 minute set at the NAU NYC store.

TonyMacelli AdamChristgau

The band was set up in the corner of the first floor of the store:

BandSetup

I’ve written about all three a number of times, and all of my previous praises applied to last night’s performance. In addition to loving the entire set, ambeR played Wish We’d Gotten Drunk which we had never heard her play live before (it’s on her new CD), which tickled both of us.

Toward the end of the set, I was thinking that I was really in the mood to hear Novacaine (from her New Green Lines CD). A minute later ambeR announced that she was going to play one last song. It was Novacaine. Bingo! 🙂

Rather than repeat how awesome ambeR is (there, I did it anyway), I’m going to use the rest of this post to discuss the venue and the life of a musician, rather than this particular show.

The link above is to a particular store. The chain is NAU, an eco-friendly clothing company. Prior to yesterday, I had never heard of this brand.

In case you hadn’t heard, times are tough all over for a lot of people. Retailing and musicians are near the top of that list. Discretionary spending is hard to come by. How do you get by, or even flourish, in such times?

Creativity and hustle!

I’ve written about a number of creative things that ambeR and The Paper Raincoat have done to promote themselves and get their CDs pre-sold and then actually sold. Being willing to sing in a clothing store is creative as well, but more importantly, it’s true hustle.

It shows that ambeR won’t miss an opportunity to connect with existing fans, broaden her fan base (after all, eco-friendly shoppers are probably a high overlap with the type of people who would be attracted to ambeR’s music) and keep her name associated with cool initiatives.

It gets even more interesting (to me) from NAU’s perspective. First, the particular store itself. Officially, it’s called: NAU Pop-Up Shop in NYC. Basically, they took an empty space in SoHo, did some super-fast renovation, and opened a store on a temporary basis. Yes, temporary!

I usually associate these temporary stores with seasonal goods, usually Halloween items. Here, it appears to be an opportunistic and very creative way to create buzz, entrench the brand, and of course, make some sales along the way.

NAU-NYC

This store opened in early November, and will be closing on New Year’s Eve! So, how does a retailer maximize their investment over such a short period of time?

Creativity!

They turn the space into a happening, causing people to show up that would otherwise not even be aware of the store’s existence, let alone go out on a frigid winter night to shop there.

They do this by announcing regular store hours that end at 7pm each night. Then, on many nights (but not all), they have local musicians, artists, and other complementary functions, scheduled from 7-10pm. This causes buzz associated with their brand, but it also causes others (the artists, musicians, organizations) to market and bring people into the store.

Amber tweeted that she’d be at NAU. We (and other fans) showed up (happily). At the same time, an organization called Green Drinks International was holding one of their get-togethers in the downstairs lounge.

Drinks (presumably for the Green Drinks gathering) were supplied by Sixpoint Craft Ales. People who came for the Green Drinks meetup ended up hearing ambeR. People who came to hear ambeR tasted their first Sixpoint Ale.

While NAU achieved some brand building at the least, hopefully, they sold more merchandise during hours that they otherwise would have been closed (certainly, the cash registers were ringing up sales throughout the evening, and the flow of people browsing the racks of clothing was steady).

The point is that in these tough times, if you stick to tried and true formulas, you’re best case scenario is a decline in business. If you are creative, and hustle, you might fail, but you’ve improved your odds of success at the same time.

Kudos to all involved in last night’s endeavor. May they all prosper as a result!

P.S. Speaking of hustle, Adam Christgau ran out to play with another group in the Village. This time, instead of drums, he was going to play bass. No rest for the weary (and talented!). 🙂

Vienna Teng and Alex Wong at Joe’s Pub

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We got the briefest taste of Vienna Teng a few months ago when she was a guest performer at ambeR Rubarth’s CD Release Party, also at Joe’s Pub. The minute Vienna announced last night’s show we grabbed tickets (more on that later).

Alex Wong is well-known to us and I’ve written about him a number of times already (most often for his work in The Paper Raincoat).

Since this will likely get long (Hadar, do you ever write anything short and sweet?), I’ll spare those of you with little patience and give you the bottom line:

Vienna Teng is now officially on our stalkerazi list!

English translation: we will be following her around and trying to attend as many shows as possible. We’ll also be buying the rest of her CDs (we only own the most recent one, Inland Territory, which is awesome!).

Vienna is an all-around talent that can mesmerize on any individual level. Her piano playing is among the best we’ve seen live. If that’s all she did, we would still go see her often.

ViennaTengPiano

Her voice? Extraordinary! Clarity, range, power, emotional conveyance, variety, the works! If she sang a capella all night, we would still go see her often.

ViennaTengSinging

Songwriting? Exceptional! Deep, thoughtful lyrics. Wide range of topics. If she wasn’t a great musician, and didn’t sing so beautifully, we would still go to see her often for the quality of her songwriting.

Stage Presence? Wonderful! Vienna is warm and engaging, and comes across as natural as you could want from a performer. Her banter with Alex is excellent as well. She’s a natural story-teller. If all she did was tell stories, we would still go to see her often.

She’s working hard to master the guitar. I have little doubt that when she feels ready to perform in public, we’ll feel as graced as we do by her piano playing.

She’s beautiful too (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). 😉

Alex Wong is master of all music. He does a bit of everything as part of The Paper Raincoat (guitar, percussion, glockenspiel, keyboards, vocals, songwriting), so it would have been hard for him to surprise us last night.

AlexWongWaterphone

When he plays with Vienna, he’s mostly a percussionist/drummer (superb), though he did play the guitar on at least two numbers. Of course, he sings beautiful harmonies with Vienna, but he takes more of a back seat than he does with ambeR and The Paper Raincoat.

AlexWongGuitar

Ward Williams joined them for three songs, playing both cello and electric guitar (singing on one of those numbers).

Kevin Rice joined during the encore to play a snare drum, making for two drummers on the one song. It was a great sound. After the show, Alex told me that Kevin was the original drummer with The Paper Raincoat.

While there were never more than three people on the stage at the same time, they create a much larger sound. Both Vienna and Alex, independently, use loop machines to do that.

In the very first song, after Vienna sang one verse, she looped her voice back and sang stunning harmony with herself! Alex did similar things with the drums, laying down an intricate beat, then looping it and playing/dancing in and around that beat. Vienna also did that with the piano on occasion, altering it to a more electronica type sound, then accompanying that with a normal piano sound which she played live. Excellent, all around.

Last night was one of four shows that will be used to create a new Live CD. We can’t wait to buy it. 🙂

ViennaTengAlexWong

That’s the end of what I have to say about the show, but nowhere near the end of what I have to say about the evening. So, take another sip of coffee, take a deep breath, and settle in for the more personal aspects that made for a special evening last night. 🙂

I’ve written a couple of times about our serendipitous discovery of The Paper Raincoat (originally covered here). That started a chain of events which has caused us to discover a number of amazing NY-based musicians, a few of whom have become friends in addition to people we enjoy seeing perform.

We can now safely add Vienna as one such musician/performer, and hopefully, after stalking her a bit more, a friend too. 😉

The glue in this new chain is a superb singer/songwriter/keyboard player in his own right, Alex Berger. I connected with him when he put up a video of ambeR, Alex Wong and Vienna performing In the Creases at Joe’s Pub (that first time we saw Vienna). I started following Alex on Twitter (@bergeralex) and the rest is history.

AlexBerger

Through Alex, we discovered a dozen artists that we really like. One of them is the incredibly talented Amy Rivard. We invited Amy, along with two other friends (both of whom are Broadway musicians) to join us for the show last night, and the five of us had a wonderful time (and a wonderful meal) together.

WaitingForViennaTeng

Amy was kind enough to agree to sing on my Tonight Show Tribute song/video collaboration with another amazing keyboardist, Ben Schwartz. Here’s a link to the YouTube Video.

AmyRivardAlexBerger

Alex Berger was at the show last night as well, and we were really happy to catch up with him afterward. Run and pre-order his upcoming CD (we are honored to have been the first people to pre-order). The brilliant Alex Wong produced Alex Berger’s CD!

Looping back to my comment about buying tickets for this show, I’d like to spend a few paragraphs talking about the difficulty and opportunities in the music business, using last night’s show as the spark and one specific example.

The best part of the current situation in the music world is that anyone (literally) can get heard. You can make reasonable quality recordings pretty cheaply and even get your music distributed for free. For more money (and time), but still much less than in the past, you can produce stunning quality recordings.

The worst part of the current situation is that while you can get your stuff out there, how do you build an audience to listen to it, let alone even find it. The signal-to-noise ratio is very low.

Obviously, not all (or even most) of the people who would like to make a living as musicians deserve to. But, the number who deserve to is still staggeringly large compared to the number who actually achieve that.

If you have major talent, the only reliable way to grind out a living (and it’s a huge grind, no matter how much you enjoy performing) is to tour a ton. It’s important to be creative, both to build a loyal following and to maximize their financial support toward your livelihood.

This is another area where The Paper Raincoat (and ambeR individually) and Vienna Teng have impressed us (and therefore have gotten our additional financial support).

In the case of ambeR’s new CD and The Paper Raincoat’s new CD (both superb efforts!), they offered multiple levels of pre-ordering, with each level delivering something additional and special to thank you for your patronage. It wasn’t just stuff (which would have been good enough), but generally had a creative flair, a personal touch, or something otherwise special as well.

I’ve posted photos in a previous entry, but in ambeR’s case, she hand-made boxes to house the pre-ordered CDs. The Paper Raincoat (at the highest level), included T-Shirts, Posters and a 4GB USB bracelet. The USB device had 330MB of goodies on it. Videos from a live show, a video thank you and a video of a practical joke.

CreativeMarketing

More amazingly (to me) was their inclusion of all of the songs on the CD as instrumentals. For those of us who love to sing along to their songs, we can do so without being distracted by them! Can you say Karaoke Party? 😉

Both Paper Raincoat and ambeR sent download links to the full CD the minute it was available, to anyone who pre-ordered. That put their music in the fans hands long before the physical CD packaging was done and available. Again, a very classy touch!

All three (ambeR, The Paper Raincoat and Vienna Teng) have used the amazing artist Diana Ho to produce artwork (for the posters and/or CD covers).

So, what did Vienna do last night to give more value, and get rewarded for it (both in loyalty and in dollars)? She offered a VIP package for the late show (she played two sets at Joe’s Pub last night).

The VIP package included a bunch of goodies, but I think the real hook was a private dessert and coffee get-together with Vienna and Alex after the show. Only 30 VIP tickets were offered. We grabbed two the second we saw Vienna’s Tweet (another reason to follow the artists you like!). The next morning, all 30 VIP packages were sold out!

Here are their Twitter addresses:

@viennateng (obvious)

@highceilings (not as obvious, Alex Wong)

@ambeRRubarth (obvious)

@paper_raincoat (you get it by now…)

After the show, we hung around and talked to a bunch of people.

AmyCoxViennasManager JordanBurgerViennasBookingAgent

ViennaTeng AlexWong

We even got to play Roadies a bit, carrying out some equipment to their van after the schmoozing was done. But in a surprise to all involved (Lois and I included), we realized that it would be imprudent to push the night as late as we had the night before, so we ended up not joining the after-show festivities.

Did we feel cheated? Did we feel like we over-spent on the VIP package? Not even for a second! We were thrilled to have supported Vienna and Alex, and to have had the choice to go if we hadn’t been so tired.

We spent today listening to Vienna’s music. The CD we own, her website (which has a button to play Radio VT on the home page), and listening to some live shows in the Internet Archive site. We loved every second of it. 🙂

P.S. As if I needed any additional reason to want to hang out with Vienna, but she appeals to the geek in me as well. She worked as a programmer at Cisco for two years before turning to a career in music. So, I could find things to talk about with her beyond our current obsession with live music…

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy at Jammin Java

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If you’ve been here before, you know we’re big fans of ambeR Rubarth both as a solo artist, and as part of The Paper Raincoat. It’s no big surprise that we would try to arrange our schedule to catch one of her shows.

What’s a bit of a surprise was trying to arrange our schedule to see her in another state (not NY), and using the opportunity to surprise her as well! We’ve been on the road for a bit longer than usual, having spent Thanksgiving in Birmingham, AL. We could have gotten home a day or two earlier, but chose to work in VA those days to catch ambeR and Adam Levy at Jammin’ Java.

We had heard good things about the venue, so we were interested in checking that out as well. ambeR and Adam were opening for Brooke Waggoner, whom I will say a few words about at the end.

We were expecting ambeR and Adam to be playing together for their entire set, because they are touring in promotion of their new EP. That’s not what happened. ambeR came out first, with her guitar. She did a solo set for 30 minutes. Fantastic!

We’ve seen ambeR a number of times now, and have loved every show. For the most part, she has been accompanied by at least two other musicians. I have mentioned in those posts that while she arranges most of the music, she is so strong on her own that the others are gravy to her meatloaf. Last night, the meatloaf was cooked to perfection. 🙂

ambeRRubarth

There was a 13-minute intermission after ambeR’s set, then Adam came out and did a wonderful set. We have only seen Adam once before, performing a duet with ambeR at Joe’s Pub during ambeR’s CD Release party. That was great, but seeing Adam command the stage himself was a real treat.

He has a terrific voice, writes excellent songs, and plays the guitar particularly well. He takes nice/tasty leads at least once every song, and they are always welcome.

AdamLevy

Toward the end of his set he invited ambeR to join him for his last two numbers. Both were excellent, and included the song they performed at Joe’s Pub, Washing Day, which they performed as well (if not better) than they did at Joe’s. Including his time with ambeR, Adam was on stage for a little over 30 minutes.

AdamLevyAmberRubarth

After a nine minute break, Brooke Waggoner came out. She sings and plays electric keyboards. She is really incredible on the keyboards, playing many styles and sounds (from classical piano, to funky electronica beats, with jazzy sounds in between).

She has a really good voice too. We weren’t drawn in by the lyrics themselves, so I can’t comment on how good a songwriter she is. In any event, her voice complements the keyboards, or vice versa, so no problem either way.

BrookeWaggoner

Including a one-song encore, which she seemed a tad reluctant to return for, she was on stage for a little over an hour.

Jammin’ Java is a really nice place, and my Chili was superb. It is now squarely on our list of venues to keep an eye on, and take advantage of whenever we are in VA (which is all too often…).

AdamLevyHadar

We were planning on spending the night in a hotel and returning to NYC this morning. Amazingly, I had a burst of energy when we started driving, and we made it all the way to NY, getting to the apartment at 2:25am. Long day, but worth it! 🙂

ambeR Rubarth at Rockwood Music Hall

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If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past six months, then you know that Lois and I can’t get enough of ambeR Rubarth, whether she’s playing solo (and releasing amazing solo albums) or doing her part in the incredible duo, The Paper Raincoat. So, when an opportunity arises to see her live, it would take a team of wild horses to keep us away.

Last night she played two separate shows, 8pm at Rockwood Music Hall and 10:30pm at Gallery Bar a few blocks away. Given how exhausted we are from all of our running around, we intended to see only the Rockwood show, and we succeeded. 🙂

Joining ambeR on stage were The Paper Raincoat regular drummer, Adam Christgau and the wonderful bass player who accompanied ambeR at Joe’s Pub for her CD Release Party, Tony Maceli. In the post about her CD Release Party, I noted:

Last night’s show was one of the best concerts we’ve ever attended!

AdamChristgauAmbeRRubarthTonyMacelli

ambeR was wonderful last night at Rockwood in every song in the set, and the crowd was loudly appreciative in their applause (and whoops) after each one. For all but two numbers, she played beautiful finger-picked guitar. On the others she played the grand piano. She’s wonderful on both instruments.

In a slight departure from past shows, she asked the crowd if she could play one of her favorite cover songs. Do you think anyone objected? 😉

ambeRRubarthSinging

She performed a solo version of Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman. While remaining totally true to the original, ambeR still made it her own. It was fantastic. You could have heard a pin drop in this extremely crowded (and tiny) bar, people were so rapt in attention. When she was done, yet another intense burst of applause.

ambeRRubarthTonyMacelliambeRRubarthTuningAdamChristgau

They were on stage for 45 blissful minutes. After the set, there was a very long line of people wanting to buy her CDs. Exactly as it should be!

Rockwood Music Hall is very small, but a completely wonderful place to see live music. Most sets are one hour, including setup, so perhaps 45 minutes of music. As such, there isn’t usually the concept of an opening act (there are exceptions), so other performers are playing before and after the act you might be interested in seeing. The shows are free. There is a one-drink minimum, and a suggestion of $5 per act to place in the tip jar.

The only other time we were at Rockwood, it was to see the alter ego of The Paper Raincoat, a.k.a, Cardboard Bikini. That was a 10pm show, and it was more packed than a sardine can. Thinking that this could happen for ambeR as well, I decided to check out who was on before her, to see if we would like to get there earlier both to enjoy more music and to hopefully snag two of the few seats.

Chris Kasper was listed from 7-8pm. I checked out his MySpace page and really liked what I heard. That made me want to get there in time to hear his entire set. Unfortunately, other tasks during the day conspired against the best laid plans. We arrived at 7:20 and Chris was in mid-song.

ChrisKasperSinging

The other part of the plan worked to perfection. There were a decent number of people there, but it wasn’t nearly full and we were able to get two seats up at the stage right in the middle (our favorite spot). I don’t know if it’s because Chris is from Philly and perhaps not well known in NYC, or it was just the earlier hour (noting that our only other time there was for a 10pm show).

Accompanying Chris was Ross Bellenoit on guitar and some harmony.

RossBellnoit

We were drawn to Chris (and Ross) even before he finished the song we just walked in on. He has a soulful, almost wispy voice (not wimpy, a little gravely, in the interesting sense!). He writes sophisticated lyrics which are beautifully constructed, triggering a rush of interesting images the minute you hear them.

He plays guitar very well (though for the most part, he deferred to Ross on the leads). They also played a cover of Help On the Way by the Grateful Dead, where their guitar leads were in perfect harmony between each verse. Awesome!

ChrisKasperGuitar

Ross played exceptional leads on an acoustic guitar on every song. The audience clapped after a couple of Ross’ leads (and wanted to every single time), but no one wanted to miss the next verse that Chris was singing either. At one point, Chris had to stop, and prompt the audience to do what they badly wanted to do (after a particularly good lead). Very classy!

Ross sang harmony a few times. He was actually good, but I only know that because we sat about five feet from him. He didn’t step up to the mic, so he was more of a whisper in the background.

After the set, Lois purchased three of Chris’ CDs. Two are his directly, and the third is from a band call Lowlands that Chris was part of for a while, called Bark & Twine. We listened to all three this morning, and like them all a lot. This is not a knock on Chris as a solo artist in any way, but we both really loved the Lowlands CD, it meets all of the criteria we have for things that get to us immediately.

RossBellenoitChrisKasper

Anyway, a very nice surprise, with the bonus that we had seats for ambeR’s entire set. Chris definitely benefited from being on before ambeR in terms of possibly picking up new fans. From the minute we walked in, a steady number of people kept coming in throughout his set, with the intention of being settled in for the ambeR show.

By the time his set ended, the place was nearly full (though not sardine like). The rest of ambeR’s crowd clapped just as enthusiastically for Chris and Ross as we did, and I hope they too will support him and look him up in the future.

When we got up to leave after ambeR’s set, we bumped into Jason (who we met at the Livestrong Fundraiser) and a friend of his, who happened to also be at the Brad Paisley show the night before. We chatted briefly, and headed out before the next act started to play.

Paper Raincoat at Joe’s Pub

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We’ve had the pleasure of seeing The Paper Raincoat perform twice before, and I’ve covered both extensively, the first time at Canal Room and the second at Rockwood Music Hall. You can read those posts here and here, since I will take a different tack in this post, and everything that I said in those posts remains true and applies to last night’s show as well. 🙂

Quick background (refresher for those of you who’ve read the other posts, or know The Paper Raincoat). The group is a collaboration between ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong, accompanied on drums by the incredible Adam Christgau.

The Paper Raincoat

The Paper Raincoat

Adam Christgau

Adam Christgau

The only difference in last night’s show (and it was a very big one) was that they had a string quartet on stage throughout. The show was a release party for their brand new CD, self-titled (The Paper Raincoat). The CD has strings on a number of songs, so this was the first time they got to play live with the same sound as on the CD.

It was awesome, and the quartet was great. Since you can mix a CD to balance everything perfectly, the strings only add to the beauty of the CD. If I understand correctly, a number of people consider their mixer, Eddie Jackson, to be a genius, and listening to the CD, I have no reason to object to that.

Live, the strings add a lot, but they also detract/distract a bit, since the subtlety and blend of ambeR and Alex (both vocals and instruments) got run over just a drop.

Why are we so enamored by ambeR, Alex and The Paper Raincoat, separately and together? You’ll be sorry you asked, because there are many reasons, not all of which will be covered here (you’ll be thankful for my restraint). 🙂

They feel like the hardest working people in the industry (of course I’m sure that’s not true, meaning that so many talented musicians give it their all), but when I recount some of their accomplishments, you might agree that it at least feels like they are delivering on more levels than many, if not most.

We only discovered them in mid-April this year. In six months, here are the accomplishments I’m aware of, off the top of my head, with zero research, presented in no particular order:

  1. They recorded an incredible CD, including writing all of the songs (music and lyrics). Go out and buy it, you won’t regret it. If you’re nervous, listen to five of their songs on their MySpace page first.
  2. They arranged and produced the CD themselves.
  3. They designed all of the artwork and packaging for the CD, which is completely non-standard (i.e., very creative). (Update: as per the comment below from Alex, the artwork was hand drawn by Diana Ho!)

    Paper Raincoat CD Package

    Paper Raincoat CD Package

  4. They promoted the pre-release of the CD very creatively, and designed three levels of pre-orders to connect with existing fans, and have the fans help pay for this effort, while providing great value in exchange for paying a premium, early.
  5. They toured (and are touring) in support of the CD, as headliners and opening for the incredible Vienna Teng as well.
  6. ambeR put out her own CD (a solo effort: Good Mystery), and what an effort it is. I’ll admit here for the first time publicly that I was nervous that the quality of each CD would suffer because ambeR was working on both at the same time, and I was wrong, as both are spectacular!
  7. ambeR also designed the CD packaging, and the pre-order extravaganza, which included hand-made boxes to lovingly hold the CD. We cherish ours.
    Amber Rubarth Good Mystery Collectors Edition CD Package
  8. ambeR headlined Joe’s Pub for her own CD release party on August 21st, 2009. I covered that show in this post, and I repeat here that it was flat-out one of the best shows we’ve ever seen, and we see so many shows, so that statement still amazes even me. 😉
  9. ambeR arranged the entire show at Joe’s Pub, as well as her solo CD.
  10. ambeR toured extensively with Joshua Radin and Gary Jules, and received rave reviews all over.
  11. Alex produced CDs for Alex Berger and Ari Hest.
  12. Alex runs (probably with others, but like I said, I’m not doing research here!) AngelHouse Studios in Williamsburg, NY (that’s Brooklyn for those of you not in the know). 😉
  13. Alex tours with Vienna Teng as part of her trio. This is separate and apart from when The Paper Raincoat opens for Vienna, where I imagine he plays both sets!
  14. Both of them support many other musicians, some of whom they’ve co-written with, by unselfishly appearing as guests in their shows.
  15. Each is a multi-instrumentalist (OK, this isn’t an accomplishment in the past six months, but it deserves mention in a list of their talents, including the fact that they have to practice that much longer to stay on top of multiple instruments!). For The Paper Raincoat, ambeR is mostly a keyboard player (including electric, piano, glockenspiel, etc.). Last night, she played guitar just once, in the encore. For ambeR Rubarth solo artist, she plays way more guitar (wonderfully!). Alex plays guitar, keyboards and a few other things for The Paper Raincoat. He drums (among other things?) for Vienna Teng, and on various CDs.

    ambeR Rubarth Guitar

    ambeR Rubarth Guitar

  16. They both (separately and collectively) are very active with Social Media. While I’m connected to them through a number of channels, I consume most of their updates via Twitter: @Paper_Raincoat – @ambeRRubarth – @highceilings (the last one is Alex Wong’s Twitter handle). Aside from being active without being obnoxious, they offer specials (like details of secret shows) so it’s useful to follow them if you’re a fan. Also, they are very responsive and interactive with their fans. Finally, because they are part of a very large community of talented artists, just checking out who they communicate with allows you to discover other great musicians!
  17. They are both extremely nice people, who are very accessible. Even if you never see them live, you can tell from their lyrics how deep they are in addition to just being nice. And yes, for the record, being nice is definitely an accomplishment! 😉
  18. Last one: they are fan friendly. When we pre-ordered ambeR’s CD, and then again for The Paper Raincoat one, the minute the final masters were ready, everyone who pre-ordered was given a link to download a digital version of the CD, so we could begin to enjoy them before the physical CD was available. I’m sure other bands do it, but we have pre-ordered a number of CDs from other artists, and only ambeR and Alex have done this in our personal experience. Trust your fans (not necessarily the world), they really want to help you not hurt you.

OK, I could probably go on (Really? Yes!), but if I haven’t made my point yet, then I should give up trying to convince you anyway… 🙂

We hope that they continue to produce more Paper Raincoat goodness over the years, but either way, we are 100% sure that we’ll be following ambeR and Alex in many other projects that they are involved in. It’s inevitable!

I mentioned in my post on Sunday morning about Ceili Rain that we believe it’s important to find as many ways to support the groups you love as you can. The most straightforward way is to purchase merchandise (CDs, T-Shirts, Posters, etc.) at the shows that you attend. We do that, nearly every time.

Since we pre-ordered two packages of their top-level, which comes with four CDs between the two, we didn’t really need to buy anything last night. That’s not the point though, right? It’s about supporting them (you are paying attention, right?) so we bought 13 additional CDs last night to give away as gifts to friends who otherwise would be unlikely to check them out.

So, at least some of you who are reading this post will be the very lucky recipients of a free copy of a fantastic CD. Congratulations, you’ve indirectly supported The Paper Raincoat, and you can help spread the word. 🙂

Whew, this has been way long already, but I needed to get all this goodness out of my system. Unfortunately for those of you who have OCD, and can’t quit reading a post until it’s over, you still have a while to get to the end… 😉

In addition to last night being the CD release party for The Paper Raincoat, it was actually a co-billed show with another group, Elizabeth and the Catapult. We hadn’t heard them before, but I had heard the name and had no idea what to expect. Sorry, all the pics of E&TC came out too poorly to post. 🙁

Elizabeth Ziman is the heart and soul of the group. She has an absolutely extraordinary voice, completely captivating. She plays the piano exceptionally well. She played accordion (well) on one number, and guitar on one other number. Still, even though her piano skills are top notch, it’s the voice, the voice, seriously, it’s the voice!

The Catapult consists of two really good musicians that support her well. Pete Lalish plays guitar (and accordion on one song) and Danny Molad on drums (I also believe he’s Elizabeth’s boyfriend, but don’t quote me on that). They had a bass player with them last night whose name I didn’t catch. I just had to work way too hard to (possibly) find the right one: Emeen Zarookian.

It’s a shame that Elizabeth doesn’t name him in any of the interviews (though she raves about him), because he really seemed to be the glue that brought their sound to life! I’m hoping that I indentified him correctly!

There are no obviously good links to the music of Peter Lalish or Danny Molad (as individuals). Peter was good all night, possibly even better than that. Danny was superb on the drums, throughout the set.

They are very tight and produced a quality sound. So, perfect, a new band to follow around like lost puppy dogs, right? Unfortunately, not for us (but yes, for many other people, including most of the crowd that remained after The Paper Raincoat set).

First, pigeonholing their sound/style is hard, and possibly a bit unfair to them. Still, I’ll do it. They are a very interesting mix/blend of Jazz/Pop/Classical/Blues, put together in a very creative way. All of that is heavily tinged with Rock, even hard rock at times, so it’s really hard to say they’re this or that. They also write original songs, though they do perform a few covers.

None of the lyrics grabbed us. And yet, they’re a clear focus. Elizabeth has a lot to say, and she’s clearly doing it through her lyrics. I suspect that if I listened to them in the quiet of my headphones, perhaps even just once, I too would become a huge fan. On the other hand, most of the groups that I heard in concert first (Girlyman, The Paper Raincoat, Indigo Girls, etc.), I was mesmerized by the lyrics instantly. They hooked me right away.

Last night, I found myself drifting away from the lyrics, and allowing Elizabeth’s voice to wash over me, purely as an instrument. No complaints, but it did feel like something (ever-so-slight) was missing…

The other downside (no blame to anyone, just a harsh reality) is that it took 30 minutes to tear down The Paper Raincoat and set up Elizabeth and the Catapult. Given that The Paper Raincoat didn’t come on until 9:40pm, and played for nearly 50 minutes, Elizabeth and the Catapult didn’t come on stage until 11pm! That’s way past our bedtime (and now true fans of E&TC have a good excuse to ignore everything I’ve said about them!).

They played a long set (thanks for that, it made the value of the ticket price exceptional!), on stage for about 70 minutes. After saying goodbye to The Paper Raincoat, we got out of there at 12:15am. Way too late for these old folks, but an incredible night nonetheless.

P.S. While waiting on line to get in, we bumped into Jason Black who we met on September 21st at the Livestrong Fundraiser we attended. Then, while seated, we spotted Michelle Citrin walking by (she performed at the Fundraiser) and I had to stop her to tell her how absolutely awesome she was at that show!

Livestrong Cancer Fundraiser

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Music can uplift, connect, and at times, even heal. Last night, we got to experience all three facets, working in unison, and it was a beautiful thing!

While we have attended a large number of shows over the past six years, it was only recently (April 2009 to be exact) that we noticed (and were happily pulled into) the incredibly vibrant indie music scene in NYC.

It all began with The Paper Raincoat. Through them, we’ve heard about a number of other local artists, and visited venues we hadn’t been to before. Through ambeR Rubarth (one of the members of The Paper Raincoat) we met Alex Berger (at first, virtually, then in person, at a Paper Raincoat show at Rockwood Music Hall).

We missed getting to see Alex in two consecutive shows. He told me he was playing at a Livestrong Fundraiser for a friend of his, Shannon Black, who is a cancer survivor, raising money for Livestrong, preparing to run in the NYC Marathon. It was such a great cause that we had no hesitation in committing to attend.

First, before telling you about last night, click on Shannon’s name above, and find the link to donate to her fundraiser. You’ll feel a lot better about reading the rest of this post, and enjoying the show you missed, vicariously!

OK, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

There were 11 performers last night. Nine of them are listed on the page linked to Shannon’s name above (I’ll repeat them all here, but still, click on that page to donate!). With the exception of Alex doing a one-song encore, all but one of the other performers played two songs.

I’m trying to get the order of the performers correct, but since I didn’t write anything down, apologies if I accidentally swap any of them.

Alex Berger opened the show. He sang and played the electric keyboards. Wow! I’d be happy to just listen to Alex play the keyboards, he’s excellent! But, he also writes wonderful songs, and has a really good voice, so he’s the complete package, end to end. Shannon shamed him into adding one last song to close the show. Thanks Shannon, and thanks Alex, for that!

Alex Berger

Alex Berger

Libbie Schrader sang and played electric keyboards. She plays the keyboards very well, and has a very powerful voice. As Libbie described her style to us before the show started, she’s more of a Pop person (Rock/Pop really), so soloing in a small space with just keyboards, probably isn’t the best spot for her. She has a ton of talent, but probably better suited to a larger venue with more pieces in the band (which she usually has).

Lois didn’t get a good shot of Libbie on the stage, but she got a great one of Libbie and Alex before the show started!

Libbie Schrader and Alex Berger

Libbie Schrader and Alex Berger

Deena Goodman and Dov Rosenblatt were on together. Deena sang and Dov played guitar and sang. Both have exceptional voices, blending beautifully, and Dov is an excellent guitarist. The first song was co-written by them. The second song was recently written by Dov (stunningly beautiful!), and he taught the harmony to Deena right before the show started. Folks, while Deena stumbled once or twice (understandably), she really knocked the ball out of the park in terms of enhancing an already gorgeous song. Bravo!

Deena Goodman

Deena Goodman

Dov Rosenblatt

Dov Rosenblatt

Will Knox sang and played guitar. Will’s guitar picking was superb. His voice and songs matched. Absolutely wonderful performance. He has quite a humble persona for someone with this much talent.

Will Knox

Will Knox

Martin Rivas sang and played guitar. Alex introduced him as his personal favorite. I was impressed by Martin (Lois more so than me), but I’d need to listen to him a lot more to understand why Alex feels the way he does, even compared to a number of the other performers last night. Martin has a very strong voice, and perhaps I was distracted that the only time the sound guy (who donated the equipment and his time for the event!) didn’t get it perfect was on Martin’s voice, which was a little too loud.

Martin Rivas

Martin Rivas

Amy Rivard sang, accompanied by Alex Berger on the keyboards. Before I begin, let me take a deep breath, and say Oh My God! Seriously, Amy has such an extraordinary voice. Alex was worried that Amy might be late, because she was singing the National Anthem at the NY Rangers game at Madison Square Garden last night. Holy cow, I can only imagine how awesome that must have been!

Amy Rivard

Amy Rivard

Amy has a Broadway style and quality voice. In fact, I would love to see her in Wicked! (We’re going again tomorrow night, 8th time, so if she could arrange to get into the cast by then, I’d appreciate it!) 😉 Kristin Chenoweth is one of our all-time favorite performers (song, stage, TV, comedy, everything!).

Kristin is one of many who covered a song called Taylor the Latte Boy (here’s the YouTube video, watch it!). That’s the song Amy did last night. Amy nailed the song in every way. Not just the voice, but the mannerisms, etc. (though she’s not quite as accomplished in that regard as Kristin is). Of course, Alex accompanied her to perfection (even though he needed Shannon’s husband, Jason, to hold the sheet music for him, and turn the pages). 🙂

Alex Berger, Amy Rivard and Jason Black

Alex Berger, Amy Rivard and Jason Black

The only disappointment was that Amy played only one song, though at least she played it to perfection! We have to start stalking Amy for future performances!

Kyle Patrick sang and played guitar. Kyle wasn’t listed on the Facebook page. He is the lead singer for a group called The Click Five. Aside from making the girls swoon with his looks, Kyle is an incredible singer, and plays the guitar well too. After his first number, he said he was going to play a brand new one. It turns out that he played the new song from The Click Five, called I QUIT! I QUIT! I QUIT!

Kyle Patrick

Kyle Patrick

Great song (both when he did it solo, and by the full group). In the middle of the song, Kyle popped a guitar string. He was a trooper, and just kept playing (he really didn’t miss a beat!). However, Martin Rivas was even faster. He dashed to the side of the stage, got his guitar out of his bag, and handed it to Kyle in a smooth motion (looping the strap over Kyle’s head as he handed him the guitar and took away Kyle’s!). It was great, and showed a lot of class on Martin’s part!

The shot below looks blurry. It’s not, it is truly capturing the speed with which Martin was moving. 😉

Kyle Patrick and Martin Rivas

Kyle Patrick and Martin Rivas

Shira Goldberg sang and played the electric guitar (all others were acoustic). Shira semi-joked that she was asked (as was everyone else) to play uplifting or happy songs, but that she hadn’t yet written any. 🙂 She sings beautifully, and plays the guitar quite well, but she really wasn’t kidding, her songs are deep bluesy numbers, slow, sad tales. Very talented, but perhaps not perfectly suited to last nights venue or cause.

Shira Goldberg

Shira Goldberg

Lynette Belardo sang. Yes, sang, with zero accompaniment. That’s a very hard, and brave thing to do. Of course, if you have a voice like Lynette, you can pull it off, and she certainly did. Lovely. The first song was a spiritual (very appropriate for the evening). Obviously, a very talented woman, given that most of the credits I spotted on the Net were dancing related!

Lynette Belardo

Lynette Belardo

Michelle Citrin sang and played guitar. She was the other person who wasn’t listed on the Facebook page. Another amazing voice, accompanied by excellent guitar skills. The surprising thing is that she’s tiny, and yet, such a big powerful voice. She had the entire crowd (OK, not including me) belting out some Bob Marley verses with her on one of her numbers. Superb!

Michelle Citrin

Michelle Citrin

I already mentioned that Alex closed the show. We immediately said goodnight and headed home (it was late for us old fogies). We had a wonderful night, discovered another slew of amazing local musicians, and supported a good cause, and some very inspirational people. Very grateful to have had the opportunity to be a small part of last night!

Paper Raincoat at Rockwood Music Hall

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ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong are two of the hardest working musicians in NYC’s vibrant indie music scene. Each has a number of projects going on simultaneously. They also regularly guest star at local shows with other indie rising stars.

The Paper Raincoat is their collaboration project, an ingenious concept, telling a long-running story (a novel), unfolding song after song. Of course, each song stands alone superbly on its own, making their music all the more delicious.

Paper Raincoat

Paper Raincoat

For those who missed it, I first wrote about The Paper Raincoat in April. More recently, I wrote about ambeR Rubarth’s CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub.

The Paper Raincoat is also having a CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub, on October 6th, at 9:30pm. We already have tickets, and I urge you to get yours soon, as there is little doubt that the show will sell out, and that it will be fantastic!

With that background, it should come as no surprise to find that ambeR and Alex joined in a new project last night, debuting at Rockwood Music Hall, called Cardboard Bikini. It was billed as a super secret show!

Before you rush around the web, spending too much time figuring out that this was a wonderful tongue-in-cheek play on Paper (Cardboard) Raincoat (Bikini), I’ll spare you the trouble, by sharing my perspective on why they did this at the end of the post (I have zero insight from them, just my speculation).

We’d never been to Rockwood Music Hall before, and were curious to check it out, as a number of people we like show up there regularly. It turns out that it’s a teeny tiny bar a few doors in on Allen Street, off of Houston Street. I chuckled when I got inside, at the Music Hall moniker…

All shows at Rockwood are free, and the vast majority last an hour. One drink minimum per person is required, and for some shows, a tip bucket is passed around at the end (last night included, most people donated, along with us).

Joining ambeR and Alex last night was Adam Christgau on drums, just as he did at the Canal Room show where we discovered them. Just like at that show, Adam was awesome last night. I am always impressed when a drummer can play it just right for the size of the room they’re in, and given the teeny size of Rockwood, Adam managed a very large sound, without ever stepping on ambeR or Alex.

Adam Christgau

Adam Christgau

Rockwood was packed to the gills. Roughly 20-25 people were seated at a handful of tables near the stage, and another 50-80 were packed in like sardines standing and enjoying the music. Lois was lucky (due to a number of selfless, kind people) to get the seat immediately in front of the stage, right in the center, between ambeR and Alex! I stood for the entire show, and enjoyed every second of it (except for the standing part). 😉

They opened the show with two of their hits, Brooklyn Blurs and Sympathetic Vibrations (two songs we can’t get enough of!). They played a few other songs that we’re familiar with, but in the middle of the set, they debuted (at least for us) a couple of songs that were fantastic. This included a song called Right Angles, where both Alex and ambeR play the grand piano simultaneously, meaning, four handed! Wonderful!

Alex Amber One Piano

Alex Amber One Piano

They closed the show with the same two numbers that they closed Canal Room with, and we can only hope that they do it again at Joe’s Pub, because they bring the house down every time. On the first one, all three end up drumming on Adam’s drum set at the same time. It’s incredible. At Canal Room, Lois was the designated tambourine player. Last night, a wonderful NYC musician named Adam Levy (I covered him in the ambeR post) had the honor.

Adam is pictured in the front here, with the tambourine in his hand:

Amber Adam Alex Drumming

Amber Adam Alex Drumming

The Famous Tambourine

The Famous Tambourine

They finished up with an a capella number, including Adam, which is a joy to experience. Quite a transition from pure drumming, to pure singing (well, not so pure, as they use their bodies for percussion to accompany the a capella singing, and I’ll say no more, just go see them!). 🙂

Adam Amber Alex A Capella

Adam Amber Alex A Capella

The only disappointment was that setting up on the tiny stage required more maneuvering than normal, and it took them longer to finish the setup than they anticipated. So, instead of the show starting at 10pm as scheduled, they started playing at 10:25pm. They played over their 11pm limit (by 11 minutes), to make up a bit of it, but otherwise, an amazing evening.

Now, my speculation as to why the show was billed as Cardboard Bikini, not Paper Raincoat (to repeat my caveat, this is only my opinion, I have no idea whether this is correct or not!):

  1. The official CD Release Party is October 6th, and they wanted a way to test out some of the new material live, in anticipation of the Joe’s Pub show, without the pressure of formally debuting it as Paper Raincoat.
  2. Rockwood Music Hall is so small, and Paper Raincoat has a very nice following (as do ambeR and Alex separately), that if they had announced a formal show, lots of people would have been disappointed to not even be able to fit. While they not-so-secretly announced it to their Twitter/Facebook/MySpace followers, at least people who checked out the Rockwood web site, or follow other concert update sites, might have skipped a show by the unknown band Cardboard Bikini. (A good reason for you to follow them on Twitter/Facebook/MySpace!)
  3. They have a great sense of humor, and the whole concept of a top-secret, not-so-secret show, with a clever name, appealed to them for no other reason.
  4. All of the above.
  5. None of the above.

Come see them at Joe’s Pub on October 6th, and buy the new CD there (you won’t regret it). Also, consider signing up for the mailing list and getting the announcement for pre-orders. That’s always a great way to support a band that you like! Hope to see you there!

P.S. Standing right behind me for the entire set was Greg Holden, another excellent artist who is about to start a long tour with the wonderful Ingrid Michaelson. I really want to catch him live, soon. I wouldn’t have recognized him. He said to someone else that Adam Christgau is his drummer too, so I asked Adam after the show who it was, and he told me it was Greg. Cool! 🙂

ambeR Rubarth at Joe’s Pub

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I am being respectful, and writing ambeR Rubarth the way she capitalizes it herself, so no, I didn’t make a mistake. 🙂 She is soon to release a new CD, Good Mystery, and last night had a CD Release party show at Joe’s Pub in NYC, which we attended. You can hear some of the songs from that CD and a few from her previous work at her MySpace page.

In addition to her solo career, ambeR is also part of a duo called The Paper Raincoat. I wrote about them extensively when we accidentally discovered them opening for Colin Hay at the Canal Room. We were extremely impressed with both ambeR and Alex Wong (the other half of The Paper Raincoat).

Right after that show, I friended both of them on MySpace, as well as The Paper Raincoat. I’ve since followed both ambeR and The Paper Raincoat on Twitter: @ambeRRubarth and @Paper_Raincoat respectively. As a result, I saw a Tweet that ambeR was releasing a new solo CD. I was aware that The Paper Raincoat is also releasing a much anticipated CD, and now I know that their release party will be at Joe’s Pub, on October 6th at 9:30pm, and we bought tickets to that last night!

We pre-ordered the new CD (in a Collector’s Edition!) immediately, and bought tickets to the show. We knew there would be surprise guests, but we didn’t realize just how many.

OK, the intro has already been too long. So,  I have to skip to the bottom line first, before I lose all of you, and then I’ll add a lot more detail.

Last night’s show was one of the best concerts we’ve ever attended!

Read that again, especially if you know us. We attend a ton of live shows, so it’s not like we just went gaga because we finally saw someone perform in person!

To make the above statement even more amazing (to me), ambeR (and friends) were on stage for just about an hour (not a very long show by any measure), and yet, it was completely satisfying, in every regard. Of course, I would have loved another hour or two (or three, or four), but I didn’t feel let down in any way whatsoever.

On to the specifics of the show. For the most part, ambeR had three people supporting her throughout most of the show. Tony Maceli on bass, Austin Nevins on electric guitar and Billy Hawn on drums. I’ll cover them all after I gush some more about ambeR.

First and foremost, ambeR Rubarth is a superb songwriter. On any level that you want to take that statement. Her lyrics are moving, clever, authentic, wonderful. Her melodies are varied, interesting, lovely, terrific.

Her guitar playing is excellent (she could do a solo show, accompanying herself on the guitar, and we would be completely satisfied). She is an incredible pianist (again, she could perform a solo show, accompanying herself just on the piano, and we would be completely satisfied).

ambeR Rubarth Guitar

ambeR Rubarth Guitar

ambeR Rubarth Piano

ambeR Rubarth Piano

And yet, with many people on the stage at the same time, the arrangements were fantastic, complex, harmonious, subtle, effective, etc. ambeR arranged the entire show, except for the part that Threeds participated in, which they arranged. Add producing/arranging to the long list of strengths/talents that she possesses.

Finally, her voice. It’s lovely, with good range, and excellent delivery of the appropriate emotion at the appropriate time. She can be wistful, soulful, smokey, vulnerable, flirty, bluesy, jazzy, rock ‘n rolly and certainly, fully folksy. And, given her songwriting talents, she most certainly exercised all of the above during her set.

Tony Maceli was spectacular on the upright bass, playing a number of styles, including using a bow, and even slapping with the bow to achieve a sound I wasn’t used to hearing with a bass. He also played the electric bass on at least one number. He’s a star!

Austin Nevins was solid all night. I suspect he’s better than I realize, as he played more of a supporting role. He was very good, a perfect fit of what was expected of him last night, just not flashy enough for me to really get a sense of how good he is when he lets loose.

Billy Hawn was wonderful on the drums (including Djembe). He was tucked in the far right corner, diagonally opposite us, so I couldn’t see him except for a glimpse now and again, but his beat was excellent, and he never overwhelmed the mostly mellow sound throughout the show.

It doesn’t end there. ambeR promised a bunch of surprise guests and she delivered. I already mentioned Alex Wong, who joined on the first song, and then on a few more toward the end, including the encore.

Amber Rubarth and Alex Wong

Amber Rubarth and Alex Wong

Opening the show was a trio called Threeds. I’ll come back to them later. For now, I want to mention that all three of them came back on stage to play with ambeR during her second number, and they were great (as was the song, and the arrangement that included Threeds!). For two other numbers, Katie Scheele of Threeds joined alone. They/she added a wonderful dimension to ambeR’s set.

Paul Brill joined to sing harmony on one number. Very nice.

Austin Nevins - Amber Rubarth - Paul Brill - Tony Maceli

Austin Nevins - Amber Rubarth - Paul Brill - Tony Maceli

Vienna Teng joined for a stunningly beautiful version of In the Creases. Alex Wong, who co-wrote the song with ambeR before they formed The Paper Raincoat, joined as well. The three took turns singing lead (Alex kicked it off), and all three harmonized together. Vienna played the piano (her specialty).

Vienna Teng

Vienna Teng

Ironically, the night before, Vienna Teng was the headliner at the Highline Ballroom. We’ve never seen her live. I discovered her through The Paper Raincoat, and really wanted to see her perform. I tried to rearrange our schedule to make it there on Thursday, but couldn’t pull off the minor miracle. I was so happy to get to see and hear her (however briefly) last night, as I now know I need to go out of my way to ensure I see one of her full shows!

Rosi Golan joined to sing with ambeR on two numbers (including the encore). I admit that I simply couldn’t hear her differentiated from the rest of the sounds (she only sang harmony, never lead), so I don’t have an opinion. Sorry!

Adam Levy (pronounced Levee) closed the show with ambeR, just the two of them, performing a song they co-wrote. Lovely. Adam is a good guitarist, and has a very good voice as well. He also returned to sing during the encore.

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy

Chel O’Reilly joined for the encore, to sing along with the all-star cast. I couldn’t make out her voice individually either, so nothing really to report. Sorry.

Austin Nevins - Chel O'Reilly - Adam levy - Rosi Golan - Tony Maceli - Alex Wong

Austin Nevins - Chel O'Reilly - Adam levy - Rosi Golan - Tony Maceli - Alex Wong

Simply a stunning show, all around. Kudos to everyone involved, in particular, the extremely talented ambeR Rubarth!

Threeds opened the show, and played a varied 20-minute set. Threeds is three oboists, Kathy Halvorson, Mark Snyder and Katie Scheele. In addition to the oboe, Katie also played the English Horn. I was impressed by the breadth of styles they covered in such a short set, all extremely well done. They are very tight together, and their music delighted the crowd.

Threeds

Threeds

It was an incredible treat to have them come back on stage with ambeR and have them add such richness to the otherwise rich sound that ambeR and her crew and guests produced!

Thank you all for an evening we will never forget!

In addition to the performers all putting on such a great show, last night was one of the best audiences we’ve been part of. Bravo to all of you as well! 🙂