Andy Stack

Ian Axel at Bowery Ballroom

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Continuing with the pattern started in my last post about The Spring Standards, I am separating this one out from the other two sets at last night’s Bowery Ballroom show.

Ian Axel co-headlined Bowery Ballroom on May 24th, 2011 with The Spring Standards. Last night he co-headlined with Rosi Golan.

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Since that night, we’ve only seen Ian perform with a full band once, when he opened for Five for Fighting. In fact, that show wasn’t quite a full band either. They played without a guitar and they had a substitute drummer, Zach Jones (who was absolutely incredible). We’ve seen Ian perform with Chad Vaccarino quite a number of times in between (so don’t worry about how we held up in the interim), including an extraordinary show at The Beacon Theatre.

There was still one change in the band, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Ian performed an exceptional set, which included three unrecorded songs, one of which we had never heard before (I’m not sure they’ve ever performed it at a show). The wide range of styles showed off Ian’s (and Chad’s) song-writing and performing capabilities (they’re most certainly not stuck in a single genre). The different styles were interspersed, so there wasn’t a “rock portion”, followed by an “acoustic portion”, followed by a “pop portion”, etc. That kept things very fresh.

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Two of the unrecorded songs are now well-known by Ian’s fans (everyone around me was singing out loud to both): Rockstar and Gold Digger. The new one is called Amory (though I admit to hearing it as Anne Marie). We had to look it up, Amory implies Heaven, or the epitome of the perfect American City. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense. But, it also worked in real-time when I thought it was a woman’s name. Winking smile

Amory was performed acoustically, with three-part harmony, and was simply gorgeous.

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Before we get to the band, there was a very special guest on one number.

Allie Moss came out to sing on Shorty Don’t Wait. In addition to singing three-part harmony with Chad and Ian, Allie sang a verse on lead, switching places with Chad to stand between the boys. Absolutely incredible.

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For the one person out there that doesn’t know, Chad Vaccarino is Ian’s primary writing partner. They produce nothing short of magic together. They also sing a number of their songs together, alternating leads and harmonizing together (beautifully). In addition to singing, Chad plays electronic keyboards (adding an organ flavor to Ian’s piano sound) and trumpet.

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

Andy Stack on electric guitar. This was the one change to the band last night. Previously, Chris Kuffner was the lead guitarist for Ian’s band. Recently, Chris has gotten very busy producing and his performing has had to take a back seat. I have no idea whether his withdrawal from Ian’s band is permanent, but I’m guessing that for the time being, that’s the case.

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We’ve seen Andy Stack once before, when he played electric guitar with Greg Mayo. It was only two songs, but Andy impressed instantly. He’s brand new to Ian’s band (likely getting only one rehearsal in) and I have no idea whether the intention is for him to join the band on an ongoing basis.

That said, they worked hard to integrate the electric guitar into the music more that at any show I’ve been at (I’ve mentioned a number of times how unimportant the guitar has been). On most songs, that effort paid off. Andy is more than capable, but the real key was finding the right spots to highlight the guitar.

On one or two songs (Gone, the opener, in particular), the arrangement needs work (IMO). Since it was the first song, I was nervous that Andy wouldn’t blend well the entire set. Thankfully, I was way wrong. I’m looking forward to more of Andy in Ian’s band.

Adam Christgau on drums, acoustic guitar and vocals. We haven’t seen Adam play with Ian since May. He missed the CT show because he was touring with Sia, playing a string of sold-out shows in large venues (poor baby). He also got to listen to Ximena open for Sia every night (making him a lot luckier than most of us!).

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Hearing Adam crush the drums on an Ian set is no surprise (but always a pleasure). Adam had an additional surprise for us. I’ve seen him tweet that he plays electric bass on occasion at Slane, where Martin Rivas holds Campfire shows. I never heard him mention anything about guitar. (That’s a white lie, I think he mentioned once on Twitter that he was playing some Dylan on acoustic guitar in his room.)

Last night, Adam played acoustic guitar on two numbers. First on Shorty, taking 1/2 of Mike Campbell’s role (Allie took the other 1/2, the singing part). Poor Mike Campbell was suffering on a beach in Aruba. I’m sure he would have preferred to be at Bowery Ballroom, if only he had a choice. Winking smile

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On Amory, not only did Adam play the guitar (very nicely), but he also sang a bunch, completing the three-part harmony with Ian and Chad. This will add a new dimension to Ian and Chad’s sound if they start making more use of Adam this way. Bravo!

Chris Anderson on electric bass and background vocals. Chris was fantastic, as always. He also led the clapping on Leave Me Alone. Hearing that song in NYC is so different than anywhere else. In NYC, such a large proportion of the crowd knows the cool clapping part (and has Chris to make sure they know when to do it, not that we don’t). In other places, there are a few lonely clappers who typically give up quickly.

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Chris was also instrumental in the sing-a-long portion of Girl I Got a Thing.

Speaking of Girl I Got a Thing, when they play it in NYC, you never know what to expect. When Ian introduced the song, he said that he himself wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

Leiv Parton came out dressed like one of the Men in Black, sporting a tambourine and a drink. As the song built up, Chocky came out (as he usually does) and conked Leiv on the head with a bottle that shattered all over the stage. Leiv spent the remainder of the song sprawled out (lifelessly) on the stage. He was dragged off (with difficulty) after the song was over.

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At the last Bowery Ballroom show, Chocky was dressed in sweats. This time, he was a full-on cowboy gear. When he finished his whiskey, another Man in Black came out (sorry, I don’t know who it was) and he handed Chocky a replacement whiskey, then stood robotically for the remainder of the song.

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It added a visual flair to a fantastic song. I shudder to imagine how they intend to top it next time!

After the show, we had to force Leiv to take a photo with me, to prove that he survived the on-stage attack. Winking smile

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After playing their signature This is the New Year (killing it), everyone but Ian left the stage. Ian played Say Something, on the keyboards (he sometimes performs it on the ukulele). It was incredible, bringing a real hush to the large crowd. Great way to end the set.

Here’s the set list:

Gone
Leave Me Alone!!!!!!!!
Waltz
Rockstar
You’ll Be Okay
Shorty (acoustic w/ Adam)
Amory (acoustic w/ Adam)
Gold Digger
Girl I Got a Thing
This Is The New Year
Say Something (acoustic)

We shared this evening with a lot of friends. Here are but a few of them:

AxelsAndersonsElyseTerryHadar

RebeccaHavilandHadarAdiraRachel

ChadVaccarinoIanAxelHadar

Brian Killeen Birthday Bash at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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What do you do after driving 5.5 hours to return home from a 10-day business trip? If you’re most people, you catch up with what happened while you were on the road, then collapse for an evening of relaxation. If you’re crazy kids like us, you do that, add a catnap and after relaxing, head out to an 11pm show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

What could get us out at that hour on such a day? A number of the musicians in NYC celebrate their birthdays with shows. Last night was Brian Killeen’s turn. Considering that he’s a sought-after bass player who plays with a number of bands, there were quite a number of musicians that wanted to play with him. When I saw the tweet-stream of names that would be appearing, it was a combination of my local all-star list, coupled with a few new people I’ve been wanting to check out for a while. Perfect!

Apologies for the quality of a number of photos (and the lack of some others completely). The lighting was all over the map and many shots just came out poorly. Sad smile

Brian played on every song and sang harmony on a bunch. In a new twist (for me), Brian played the lead guitar on one song (later in the set) and did a very nice job! He also sang lead on that number (co-lead actually), which has become less of a novelty more recently.

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Greg Mayo was on stage for all but two songs, earning him a close second in the Iron Man competition with Brian. Greg opened the show on the keyboards (grand piano and electronic). He switched to the electric guitar on the next song. On both he sang lead (very strongly), getting the large crowd completely riled up on Born on the Bayou (complete set list posted at the bottom). On the one song that Brian played lead guitar (Greg’s), Greg played Brian’s electric bass (it only seemed fitting).

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John Schmitt took center stage with his acoustic guitar. His voice was incredible (it always is) in belting out his two numbers. I’m always impressed when someone can handle solo singer/songwriter mellow (John is masterful) and can just as easily stand up to a full rock band and sound as good.

Late in the set John ended up sitting at our table. A few of the people behind me gushed uncontrollably “You are awesome!”. They are/were correct, he is/was. I told them that he has his own Birthday set next Friday (7/29) at 10pm at The Living Room. Come test the veracity of my statement and celebrate with John.

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Dorie Colangelo sang and played John Schmitt’s acoustic guitar. I’ve never seen Dorie before, but Lois caught the last song of her set seven months ago. Here’s what I wrote in the post about that night:

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

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

Oops! I wish I had re-read that post before last night. Of course, I forgot that I wanted to give Dorie some extra money. Next time (and this time I mean it).

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As for last night, Dorie’s voice was wonderful. Her guitar-playing was fine. Unfortunately, the songs were way slower than the rest of the set and the shift didn’t feel natural to me. Ironically, I did like her really slow (earthy/sexy) version of I’m So Excited. Still, it seemed to break a mood (just a bit). I’m still as interested in catching Dorie doing her own stuff as I was before last night (perhaps more).

Since she was playing John’s guitar, the strap was way too loose for her comfort. Between her two songs, John came to the stage to adjust the strap, which worked out much better for Dorie during I’m So Excited.

Patrick Firth left his normal spot at the grand piano (he played a ton of electronic keyboards as well) and took center stage with his acoustic guitar. He sang the first original of the night, a song off his upcoming album called Boomerang (that’s the song title, I don’t know what the CD will be called).

Update: Read the comment below from Brian Killeen himself. I got it totally wrong! Every performer did an original. You can see my response about Greg’s opening number below Brian’s comment. Thanks again Brian, I like to be accurate when possible. 🙂

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Martin Rivas came on stage to support Patrick Firth the song before and stayed to perform a couple as well. He kicked it off with his own North. Not only was it superbly delivered, but I felt like it was my birthday as well. After Greg Mayo took a short but very sweet guitar solo, Martin turned to him and motioned that he should continue. He took a much longer, killer solo. Thanks Martin for making Greg give me an early birthday present too. Smile

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Wes Hutchinson was up next, singing and playing acoustic guitar. While he was standing off stage, I mentioned to Lois that he looked so familiar that I was sure we’ve seen him before, but the name was escaping me. Ha! When he got on stage he mentioned that he had just chopped off his hair. That’s it! I’ve seen him twice recently, both times in support of Chelsea Lee, and both times I was extremely impressed with Wes.

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Last night Wes was excellent again, this time singing lead (our first time experiencing that). There will be more Wes in our lives, I’m sure (as there was a bit later in the show as well).

Emily Zuzik sang and played electric guitar. Emily was high on my list of people to see. I nearly got to see her a couple of Friday’s ago. I already know I can’t make her next two NYC shows, so this was such a big bonus that she was part of this celebration. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since Brian Killeen is part of her band. The other members of her band were all part of this show (independent of Emily), so it was preordained that she be there too.

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She opened with Want to Go Out Tonight, the first cut on her new CD, The Wild Joys of Living. Wonderful delivery of a fun, upbeat song. Emily has a great voice. Wes Hutchinson moved over to electric guitar (he too borrowed Mayo’s, making Emily’s two songs the only ones that Greg wasn’t on stage).

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For her second number, Emily performed a gutty version of Psycho Killer. Her voice was completely different, showing that she controls it, rather than the other way around. A total blast.

After the show, I introduced myself to Emily. She told me that she couldn’t hear herself sing. I assured her that it sounded awesome in the audience and I assure those of you who weren’t there as well. Smile

When you see the set list below, you’ll see that the next performer is listed as Me! If you’re not paying attention, the Me! is Brian Killeen. He actually wasn’t formally introduced as being the next lead performer. Instead, Josh Dion was brought up and began the song as if he were leading it.

This is the song that I previously noted Brian took over lead guitar duties on as well as singing lead. Josh did a bunch of lead singing on the song as well, so it was really co-leads. Brian did a terrific job.

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Josh killed it on both of his numbers. The second was an original called Feel. I might be one of the few people in the audience who hadn’t heard it before. Even though Josh plays a lot, it’s interesting to me that he’s also a legend in this community for his previous band, The Josh Dion Band. I know a number of musicians who I respect who speak about Josh Dion Band shows in awe, claiming that to this day, they are still the best live shows they’ve seen.

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Here’s a YouTube video of Josh performing Feel in 2007. He looks nothing like that now, but he sounds just as good, singing and playing the drums (and he’s excellent on the keyboards as well). Brian Killeen is in the video, as is Patrick Firth on the keyboards, so you’re getting some of the experience I had last night.

Josh Dion performing Feel

Robbie Gil was up to close the show. He sang two numbers, playing acoustic guitar on the first and just singing on the second. Saying just singing with regard to Robbie is probably a crime in 37 states. The man has a passion that will pull you onto to the stage with him and he certainly left us energized, even though it was after 1am.

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Don’t believe everything you read. The set list shows Robbie’s second song as Baba O’Riley. It was The Who’s Teenage Wasteland. Awesome! Smile Patrick Firth on the keys was spectacular as was Zach Jones on the drums (I introduce Zach below!). Robbie also wailed on the harmonica during this song.

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The Set List:

SetList

As I got up to leave, Martin Rivas returned to the stage and said that we couldn’t let it end this way. While we had sung a wishy washy Happy Birthday to Brian mid-set (I think when Wes was up), Martin wanted a more proper version. He, Robbie, Greg Mayo, Patrick Firth and Zach Jones sang an awesome rendition of Happy Birthday by The Beatles. Martin was right, a much more fitting way to end the night!

Don’t run away just yet. There were a few more core band members that deserve mentions, including two people we’d never seen before.

Ryan Vaughn performed much of the drumming for the night. He was superb throughout.

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Andy Stack played electric guitar during the first two songs (Greg Mayo’s numbers). He was really good. He was the primary lead guitarist on the first number when Greg was on keyboards. But in Born on the Bayou, he traded leads with Greg in classic Rock fashion (wonderfully) and they teamed up for simultaneous leads after the duel. I did mention up above that Greg got the crowd completely riled up during this song. Andy was part of the reason. Andy also sang harmony on both numbers.

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Zach Jones played drums for Greg Mayo, Robbie Gil, and I think one other, making it seven songs in total. He also played some percussion on another song. He sang into the mic on both of Greg’s songs, and mouthed a lot of the other lyrics. I was very impressed with his drumming. I’ll be seeing him again next week and I’m already looking forward to that show (for many other reasons as well).

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The link from his name above is to a group he is in with Emily Long called The Stone Lonesome. They have an album out that Zach sings a bunch on as well and I am really impressed with his voice (listen to the second song, Bridge to Nowhere). I’m sure we’ll be hearing about him a lot and hopefully seeing him a lot as well.

We went to bed at 2am, certainly not something we want to get used to, but it was worth it (at least last night it was!). Smile