Arlene’s Grocery

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery Final Residency Show

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The Vanity Belles (Carrie Welling and Jessi Rae Waltz) finished up their month-long residency at Arlene’s Grocery with a bang! It was crowded (mobbed actually), it was rockin’, it was awesome. If you missed it, I feel sorry for you (seriously).

TheVanityBelles

This was the last of four consecutive Monday performances throughout February. We missed the first two (darned work/travel nonsense), so I can’t tell you anything about them. We did catch last week’s show. For the geeks among you, let’s display the link this way:

#include last_weeks_show

Not that this wasn’t completely fresh (it was), even though there was an 88.89% overlap in the set lists. The differences were large enough to make this a very different show than last week (including something as simple as completely varying the order of the set list!).

There was a different guest, the regular keyboard player was back, and the Belles themselves seemed to be feeding off of the frenzied crowd. Or, perhaps it was the $5 Country Cosmos (created especially by Arlene’s for this one night) that fueled them (and many others).

If you don’t understand the drink name above, the Belle’s self-titled genre is Cosmo-Country. So, take a Cosmopolitan (the drink), twist it a bit to be sassy like the Belles, and you have a Country Cosmo. Smile

There was one song swap from last week’s set list (independent of the complete change in song order). Last night they played Till I’m Me. This is a very recent song which they wrote and recorded live in order to get it on their upcoming CD (after the real studio recording had already been wrapped up). Wow, awesome song. I’m very glad that I’ll have it when the CD comes out. Oops! When I Was With You was the new song, Till I’m Me was new for this set, but is already on last year’s EP.

CarrieWellingJessiRaeWaltz

The ladies each played an instrument on Bottle, as they did last week. Once again, they crushed the song.

CarrieWellingGuitarJessiRaeWaltzKeyboards

There was only one change to the core band, though both of last week’s guests played instruments as well. I’ll save the very special guest for after I say a few words about each core band member, left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth, the normal keyboard player for the Belles, was back in the saddle. He’s always great, whatever group he plays with. I was a few feet from the keyboards last night, so in addition to hearing Patrick’s fine play, I got to watch him work, close up.

PatrickFirth

When he relinquished the keyboards on Bottle, so that Jessi could take over, Patrick stood near the drums and played the tambourine.

PatrickFirthZachJones

Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitars, and mandolin. Oscar is always superb on the guitar. Last week I described his long solo as having a jam band feel. Last night it may have started out that way, but it took on more of a rock god type lead, and Oscar obviously realized the crowd felt that way. He stepped out from the back and finished up the lead front and center stage. It was a huge crowd-pleaser.

OscarBautistaGuitarLeadOscarBautistaAcousticGuitar

On one number, Oscar played the mandolin. Considering I love the mandolin, and love Oscar’s play, this was a real treat for me.

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Zach Jones on drums. If you’ve read this space recently, then you know I’ve been raving about Zach a lot lately (in fact, my most recent post was all about his band The Stone Lonesome). Of course his drumming was amazing last night (it always is). He even played the snare with his bare hands during one song, bringing out a bongo-like sound.

ZachJonesPatrickFirthOscarBautistaZachJones

Chris Anderson on electric bass. As with Zach, I’ve been raving about Chris a lot recently. Unlike Zach, I’ve been raving about Chris for years (I only first heard Zach last July). Chris impresses every time, that is all.

ChrisAnderson

Cameron Mitchell on acoustic and electric guitars. Just like last week, Cameron took on the rhythm guitar duties to complement Oscar’s lead and mandolin play. Once again, a wonderful job!

CameronMitchellCameronMitchellElectricGuitarCameronMitchellAcousticGuitar

Brian Collazo (lead singer from Live Society) was the special guest last night. We could listen to Brian sing all night, every night. Amazingly (and achingly), it’s been five months since we’ve seen him sing, when he guested with the Belle’s Manager (I’ll get to him in a minute). It’s been eight months since we’ve seen a full Live Society show (also at Arlene’s), and we’ve been trying hard (with near misses along the way) to get to one.

BrianCollazo

Brian sang on No Regrets (amazingly) and on Recently (which Rebecca Haviland sang with the Belles last week). It only made us want to see Brian and Live Society all-the-more.

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Patryk Larney has his own musical career (check him out, fall in love, and donate to his current Pledge Music campaign!). In addition to that, he manages the Belles. One of the 1,873 jobs that managing them entails, is being The Bucket Man at their shows. The Belles prepare treats for their audiences, and wrap them in The Vanity Belles goodie bags (genius, and delicious). He carried around a bucket filled the goodie bags last week and last night, handing them out to greedily awaiting fans.

PatrykLarney

In an homage to the tireless Patryk, I’ve written the chorus to an as yet unwritten song called Bucket Man (sung to the tune of Elton’s Rocket Man):

And I think it’s not gonna be so long

Before these goodie bags are taken home

And ripped apart and eaten up with joy

Oh no no no, he’s a Bucket Man

Bucket Man, handing out the treats for everyone

Ben Morgan, last week’s keyboard player (filling in whenever Patrick Firth can’t make it), was in the audience enjoying himself as much as the rest of us were.

BenMorgan

Manish Gosalia once again documented everything in a way that only he does. I was right up against the stage, so I noticed (for the first time) that Manish also had a camera set up at the back of the stage which he controlled with a remote. A meticulous master, now captured from the other side of a lens as well:

HadarManishGosalia

Last week I mentioned someone named Jack. This time I’ll add a photo. Next time, who knows what I’ll reveal… Winking smile

Jack

Finally, the set list:

SetList

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery

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The Vanity Belles have a month-long residency at Arlene’s Grocery, every Monday at 8pm in February. We missed the first two and expected to miss last night as well. I was sick the last two weeks of January and we’ve been gone all of February. We cut our trip short by a few days, largely to make it to last night’s show. Glad we did!

TheVanityBelles

Amazingly, last night was the first full set we’ve see of the Belles! I honestly believe that they peek at my travel calendar and purposely schedule their shows for when I have to be out of town. At least I finally fooled them by coming home earlier than expected. Take that Belles! Winking smile

A quick recap:

The Vanity Belles (Carrie Welling and Jessie Rae Waltz) describe themselves as Cosmo-Country. Who am I to argue? Here’s what I can assure you of:

  • Carrie and Jessi have extraordinary voices, each sings lead wonderfully
  • They harmonize amazingly
  • They are excellent songwriters
  • They’re not hard to look at (OK, that one has nothing to do with music, my apologies)
  • When they employ a band, their taste in musicians is exquisite

All of the above was in abundance last night. The ladies were in fine voice, the set selection very upbeat (many songs feeling closer to rock). They were complemented by an incredible band with special guest stars thrown in just in case you needed to amp up the excitement a bit.

CarrieWellingJessiRaeWaltz

On one of the more mellow (yet still very powerful) songs, Jessi played the keyboards and Carrie took up the acoustic guitar. Both played well and sang phenomenally.

TheVanityBellesWithInstruments

After the show, we bought two copies of the 3-song EP they released last year (yes, they scheduled the EP Release Show for when we were out of town). All three songs are wonderful!

We also backed their recent Kickstarter early (they were successful) and are looking forward to the new full-length CD, which should be coming out in the not-too-distant future.

I’ll cover the core band first, then the two special guests, even though one of the special guests was on stage for the first number, replacing one of the core band members. Left-to-right on stage:

Ben Morgan on electronic keyboards. Ben is extremely talented on the keyboards. We’ve seen him support the Belles a number of times. He was excellent last night.

BenMorgan

Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitars. Oscar is always fantastic. In fact, the last show we saw, just over a month ago, was also part of month-long Arlene’s residency, a Police tribute band. We went solely to see Oscar. While he was great throughout last night’s set, during No Regrets, the ladies stepped aside and let Oscar take over the lead. The sound and feel was reminiscent of listening to a great jam band reel you in with a long guitar solo. Very well done!

OscarBautista

Zach Jones on drums. Zach is one of our favorite drummers. It was a complete surprise to see him playing with the Belles last night. He was at the top of his game. So are the other regular drummers that the Belles use, so it’s clear they can attract the best talent when they come a callin’.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chis is an amazing bass player with tremendous versatility. Arlene’s is a very loud club, often most noticeable in the bass shaking the joint on every note. I have little issue with it when the bass player has the skill that Chris has. Last night, Chris shook me, in a good way!

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Cameron Mitchell on electric and acoustic guitars. While Oscar took most of the leads, Cameron was playing rhythm for the most part, very well. He also seemed to be one of the leaders in terms of cueing the rest of the band.

CameronMitchell

On to the guests.

Rebecca Haviland joined for three numbers, including the first one. Rebecca is one of our favorite singer/songwriters (she co-writes and performs with Chris Anderson). In her own band Rebecca plays electric guitar. The first time we ever saw her play an instrument though, it was the grand piano, just over a year ago. I think she’s great on the keyboards, and I can’t believe it’s taken this long to see her tickle the (fake) ivories again.

RebeccaHaviland

In addition to playing the keyboards, Rebecca sang background vocals on the closing number. The Belles don’t need any help in the vocal department, but if they’re going to invite a third voice into the mix, it would be hard to pick someone better suited to hold their own than Rebecca.

We didn’t know until yesterday afternoon that Rebecca would be joining them, so it was an extra special treat.

Sierra Noble played the fiddle on two numbers. Yesterday was Sierra’s 22nd birthday. I’m glad that she chose to celebrate it on stage, entertaining us, rather than in a more private way. I knew for a week that Sierra was joining and it was one of the reasons for cutting our trip short. I don’t think Sierra will be there next Monday, so last night would have a special flavor all its own.

SierraNobleHappyBirthdaySierraNoble

We bumped into a number of friends that we haven’t seen in a month (always a big draw for going out). Hopefully, we made a new one too (I’m looking at you Jack!). Smile

We’re going to do our best to make it out to Arlene’s next Monday at 8pm for the final show in the residency. Do yourself a favor and come out as well!

The Vanity Belles usually hand out goodies at each show (I only know that from Twitter, this being our first full set). Here’s a photo of the set list, with the front and back of the EP, and the goodie bag (front and back). Don’t miss next week’s treats!

SetListEPandGoodies

New York’s Finest Police Tribute at Arlene’s Grocery

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I’m the optimal age to have been a major fan of The Police. I wasn’t, not because I didn’t care for their music, it’s just one of those things. I never owned any of their CDs and never saw them perform. Through osmosis, I am obviously familiar with a number of their hits, but even some of those I don’t instantly associate with any particular band, including The Police.

So, you might wonder why we went to Arlene’s Grocery last night for a 10pm set by a Police tribute band.

Oscar Bautista is a superb NYC-based guitar player. We’d pretty much go see him in whatever project he was involved in, at least once. That’s what got us to Arlene’s last night.

OscarBautista

New York’s Finest (Police tribute) is three incredibly talented guys who do a great job of faithfully reproducing the sound of The Police, vocally and instrumentally.

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Mark Rinzel sang lead and played the electric bass. Aside from looking an awful lot like Sting, Mark sounds like him (at least when singing The Police songs). He’s excellent on the bass and is a showman with wonderful stage presence.

MarkRinzelMarkRinzelSingingMarkRinzelBass

Alan Camlet on drums and vocals (sorry, no good individual musical link). Alan was excellent on the drums, ripping it up for the entire set. He also sang harmony on nearly every number.

AlanCamletAlanCamletSinging

Oscar Bautista on electric guitar and vocals. Oscar was fantastic on the guitar (validating our reason for attending in the first place!). In addition to straight up leads, Oscar utilized a slide and some serious effects (including looping the slide with a fuzz effect creating an enormous sound). He sang less than Alan, but when he did, the three-part harmonies worked extremely well.

OscarBautistaSingingOscarBautistaSlide

Here’s the set list:

SetList

They have been playing a month-long residency at Arlene’s, with one show to go. If you want to verify any of the claims I made above, please get to Arlene’s next Tuesday, January 24th, at 10pm. If you are a fan of The Police, you’ll really thank me. If you’re not, but want to see three talented musicians execute an exceptional set, you’ll still thank me. Either way, win/win for you and me. Smile

The three of them created a huge sound (as I bet The Police did live), making the energy in the room heart-pumping on every number. We were very glad we went, both for the music and for running into some of our favorite people, completely unexpected.

AnneChrisAyerSamTeichmanHadar

Rebecca Haviland at Arlene’s Grocery

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Have I mentioned how much we love Rebecca Haviland before? If you don’t know the answer to that question, then welcome to this space, clearly you’re a first-timer. Winking smile

It’s been roughly six weeks since we’ve seen Rebecca perform. That’s bad enough, but she had a few shows in between that we couldn’t attend, including one co-bill with Sierra Noble. The last time we saw Rebecca was also at Arlene’s Grocery (the site of last night’s show). Given how good Howard (the sound engineer at Arlene’s) is and how hard he works to balance their sound, I was happy to return there.

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Rebecca and the band were awesome and Howard played his part in it as well. They performed most (all?) of the songs off of her upcoming CD (Rebecca announced that it was currently being mixed, so we’re getting closer folks). Here’s the set list:

SetList

We attend shows by the same artist many times for a number of reasons, some of which I recently articulated. One of the reasons is also the serendipitous surprises that occur on occasion (more often than you might guess, if you’re open to spotting them).

We both feel blessed that in addition to loving a lot of the music currently being played by many of the NYC indie artists, we genuinely love many of the people themselves (headliners, side-people, fans, venue staff, videographers, producers, significant others, etc.). I can’t say I expected that bonus when we first immersed ourselves in the scene here, in April 2009.

We love them, because they’re wonderful people independent of their involvement in music. That sometimes happens in a vacuum, but rarely. Usually, there are some pretty amazing parents behind them, having figured out some magic to turn out these young adults (young by our standards, for sure).

Last night we got to meet two sets of those parents, Rebecca’s (including her brother and his girlfriend) and Kenny Shaw’s. It didn’t take 30 seconds to see why Rebecca and Kenny turned out the way they did. Good job Havilands and Shaws! Smile

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KennyShawParents

Rebecca was accompanied by the same band she had last time out at Arlene’s, which (technically) had one fill-in for her more typical setup. For two reasons, I’m going to cover them from right-to-left, rather my usual left-to-right order:

Chris Anderson on electric bass (two actually, though not at the same time) and vocals. Chris is Rebecca’s primary writing partner on most of the numbers on the new CD (hence my desire to cover him first). He also sings harmony on every number. Independent of that, he’s a great bass player and that’s evident at every show (including last night).

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Kenny Shaw on drums. While Rebecca is considered a Rock person, most of her numbers are very soulful, bluesy ones, which call for less than straight-up drumming. But, she’s also an all-out rocker on occasion, calling for highly energetic and fast drumming. Kenny delivers both styles, equally well, seamlessly switching between them whenever appropriate. For a specific example, on It’s Not Wrong, Kenny really tore it up, switching into high gear.

KennyShaw

Todd Caldwell on electronic keyboards and vocals. Last time at Arlene’s was our first time hearing Todd. He impressed then, but was even better last night (he’s probably just getting more comfy with the material). He plays keyboards for Stephen Stills and Crosby, Stills and Nash, so you don’t need me to tell you how good he is (other than to tell you how well he fits with Rebecca’s music and band).

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While Todd was excellent on every number, the last two included a number of leads on his part, all absolutely terrific. He sang harmony (making it 3-part) on a few songs as well.

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Another winning performance from Rebecca and her band.

You can catch her this coming Saturday (Jan 14th) at Rockwood Music Hall, 9pm. If our dinner ends early enough, we’ll be there, but whether we make it or not, you should go! Smile

Rebecca Haviland at Arelene’s Grocery

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We missed a bunch of great shows last week due to the extended holiday weekend and the wonderful company that was up from Richmond to spend it with us.

Rebecca Haviland was appearing at Rockwood Music Hall on Friday night, and that’s the only show we had planned to abandon our company to go see. Unfortunately, our goddaughter baked one of her world-famous apple pies and got permission from Lois for me to have a slice (the answer is often hit-or-miss). Couple that with their latte machine (cherry, or cherry chocolate that night, amazing!) plus an awesome bottle of port, and well, somehow, we didn’t make it to Rockwood…

The saving grace is that we knew Rebecca was playing again, last night, at Arlene’s Grocery. While I prefer Rockwood over Arlene’s for most shows, I admit that I was more excited to see Rebecca at Arlene’s this time around. She’s a rocker, and Arlene’s is well-suited for rock shows (much more so than Rockwood 1).

RebeccaHavilandSinging

Even if we had seen her at Rockwood, it would have been worth coming out again, for the contrast in venues and the swap of two band members.

We never worry about whether Rebecca’s sets will be good, they always are, last night too. If there’s ever a concern, it’s about the sound. Arlene’s has a very good sound guy (Howard), but on occasion, it can get too loud. Last night the volumes were all balanced perfectly. In fact, Chris’ vocals were at a better level than any other show. More on Howard the sound guy a bit later.

In addition to Rebecca’s voice being extremely tasty throughout, on one number Howard cranked the reverb but had a long delay on it (unless Rebecca was controlling that through her pedal). It sounded like Rebecca had a background vocalist singing with her (rather than a trail or echo). It was an extremely cool sound, hearing Rebecca twice.

When Rebecca got to If You (possibly my favorite song of hers, but there’s no shortage of songs to love), she called out that if the audience didn’t know when to sing, they should follow me. Ha! Indeed, good advice, since I belt it out whenever I can (even at home, without the CD on, seriously!). Sorry Krista, I hope I wasn’t too loud, sitting right next to you. Winking smile

Let’s cover the band, right-to-left this time (not my normal direction), then return to Howard the sound guy:

Chris Anderson on electric bass (two of them, one an 8-string) and vocals. Another excellent performance on the bass, in particular, on Money, when Chris was wailing fantastic bass lines while Todd was ripping up the keyboards. More importantly, as mentioned above, Chris’ vocals were leveled perfectly and he sounded great singing with Rebecca on every number.

ChrisAndersonTuning

Chris asked for less of Rebecca’s vocals in his monitor, and Rebecca asked for more of Chris in hers. Chris was particularly impish last night (in general), and after that exchange, hilarity ensued.

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny wasn’t able to make Friday’s show, even though he’s Rebecca’s normal drummer. Always a treat to see him. Many of the numbers last night called for slower, but deeply rhythmical (jungle/swing) drumming. Absolutely wonderful.

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Todd Caldwell on electronic keyboards. (The site linked to his name isn’t fully active yet, but hopefully it will be in the near future.) I’d never seen Todd before, and I’m very glad to have corrected that oversight. An incredible keyboard player who took a number of wonderful leads throughout the set. I already mentioned above that he ripped it up on Money.

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In 2007, Stephen Stills selected Todd to tour with him. In addition to holding on to that role, he was also invited to play with Crosby, Stills and Nash, another continuing role. Need I say more? I didn’t think so!

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I’ve noted in other posts that Howard (the sound guy) is one of the hardest working people I’ve seen. His dedication is impressive. After working the stage to set everyone up, he comes out of the booth during the show to stand in the audience to hear it like we do. During one number, he thought that the electric guitar was a bit too bright. He left the room and came on stage from a side door. He moved a mic that was in front of the amp about four inches further away. That solved the problem perfectly.

He’s also a fan of Rebecca (which means he has good taste too). When her set was over, he asked them to play one more. Folks, it’s highly unusual for a sound guy to do that. They often allow the extra number, but rarely insist on it, like Howard did. Rebecca noted that it was almost time for the next band to go on, but Howard told her to play on!

Then he said something into his mic that cracked me up: “Don’t worry, once you start playing, I’ll turn off the sound.” Winking smile

So, the impromptu encore is not listed on the set list:

SetList

We were both pooped and a bit under the weather, so we bagged another show we were planning on seeing at Rockwood and most unfortunately a special birthday party that we had hoped to attend as well.

Live Society at Arlene’s Grocery

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I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to make this show. We had early dinner plans, but that didn’t mean the dinner wouldn’t last a long time. Amazingly, unbeknownst to us, our friend had a ticket for the 7:30pm show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, which I guess explains her agreement to an early hour for dinner (always our preference anyway!).

We shared a cab downtown, walked her to Rockwood and continued the extra 1.5 blocks to Arlene’s Grocery.

I really wanted to see Live Society again (I saw them last week at Rockwood 2, covered here) for two reasons:

  1. They’re awesome, so anytime it is convenient, I would go see them!
  2. Lois missed last week’s show, and I knew how much she’d enjoy it, so making up for last week’s miss this quickly was a big win!

Rather than repeat what’s so special about Live Society, please read the post linked above, or my post about the Soul Benefit where I first discovered them.

I’ll just post some photos, mentioning along the way some differences in last night’s performance, while saying a few words about each band member.

Left-to-right on stage (front row first, then the back row, stacked behind them):

Kevin Collazo on harmony vocals. This accounts for one of the differences. The previous two times I’ve seen Live Society, Kevin was on Brian’s left (our right). This time he was on Brian’s right (our left). I wasn’t sure I could handle the change, but thankfully, I made it. Winking smile

KevinCollazo

Kevin sings so well, but as I’ve mentioned both times in the past, he hasn’t taken a lead on any of the songs. After the show last night, I mustered up the courage to tell him (in front of Brian, his baby brother) that he needs to take the lead on at least one song. His response was extremely funny, but you would’ve had to have seen the show to get it (and I’ll spare you the back story, but encourage you to attend their shows, since their personalities shine on stage).

Brian chimed in right away, saying that Kevin does indeed have an amazing voice, and they would make sure to work in a lead soon. Great!

Brian Collazo on lead vocals, harmony and acoustic guitar on a few numbers. Brian was wonderful, as he has always been. We’ve seen Brian one additional time without Live Society, performing at an American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood 2 last week. He was amazing then as well. As I noted in that post, he’s even better with the tightness and shared experience of Live Society.

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Jason Vargas (a.k.a. Jay Vegas, though Brian did not call him that last night, for the first time) on vocals and general merriment duties. I mentioned in the last post that Jason has a smile that can melt the room. It was on last night, as was his banter. He knows how to work a room in the best sense. Oh yeah, let’s not forget how incredible his voice is (both on lead and harmony).

JasonVargas

Scott Harper on saxophone and flute. Scott was terrific on the sax (again), but broke out a flute on one song. If he played the flute at Rockwood, I missed it, since I was at the opposite end of the club from Scott that night.

ScottHarperScottHarperFlute

One of the side benefits of blogging about every show we attend is that I can quickly look up facts by simply searching my own site! I love the flute (have I mentioned that I love most instruments, perhaps not equally, but there isn’t a big gap between the ones I love!). So, I just searched for the last time I saw a flautist (impressed that I know that word, pretentious or otherwise?):

  1. 12/12/2010, we saw the Artemis Chamber Ensemble. Two of the pieces featured an incredible flute player, Melissa Healy.
  2. 10/09/2010 (American Date System in use here) we saw the Richmond Symphony. I described myself as being in flute heaven.
  3. 12/20/2009 we saw Cherish The Ladies. Don’t get me started on how amazing Joanie Madden is on the flute.

The list continues, but I’m already off topic, except to say that I hope Scott will do more flute in future shows (if he wants to skip it on the nights I can’t make it, I’ll allow that).

John Kaiteris on electric guitar. John writes many of Live Society’s songs. After a slow number, early in the set (that I’ll call “The Heights”, but that’s probably not the name), an audience member sitting right next to me asked who wrote it. John did, but it also afforded an opportunity for Brian and Jason to poke a little fun of John (in a loving way). Like I said, they all have excellent stage presence!

JohnKaiteris

John is also an incredible guitarist (I’ve mentioned it both times I’ve seen him before, but I will hammer that point home until you get it, OK?). Like Greg Mayo, John never disappoints, on any lead. It’s that simple. I will publicly admit that I had a momentary fantasy during one of John’s leads last night that he and Greg would play some Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd songs together, so I could get the multiple lead guitars done right, live. Smile

You’ll have to read to the bottom to see how I might have missed that happen. You’ll also have to read my fourth post of the day today (this is the first of four!) to see how it’s quite likely that I made it happen (assuming it did…).

Tyger MacNeal on drums. My only second of nervousness last night (other than seeing Kevin and Jason swap positions) Winking smile was in noticing during setup that Erik Perez was not manning the drums! Erik is really great and so well matched with Live Society (that shouldn’t be a surprise, as Brian told me last week Erik founded the group!).

TygerMacNeal

I will happily accept Erik back any day of the week (he’s that good), but, if Tyger replaces him when he can’t make it, I promise to be equally happy. Tyger is that good too. Only this morning did I get to look him up and see who he has played with. The list is a who’s who of All Stars (mind boggling actually), but my jaw dropped when I read that he toured with one of my all-time heroes, Jose Feliciano!

He’s been with Jose Feliciano for over 10 years and is the first person listed in Jose’s band. My mind is still reeling…

Anthony Candullo on electric bass. I’ve enjoyed his play both times before, but I had a better angle on him this time, and for whatever reason, was able to appreciate his play even more. I’m not sure it was different or better, just that I was able to notice it clearly.

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Jeremy Baum on electronic keyboards. Jeremy was good last week and better this week. He took a longer solo (the set lists were not identical, which was great!) and he was excellent.

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After the show we went up to tell everyone how great it was and got a great shot of the band all squeezed in together.

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I mentioned above that I fantasized about John Kaiteris and Greg Mayo jamming together, entirely for my personal benefit.

We had two more shows on our schedule for last night (and ended up sitting in on a third, hence three more posts today!), so we missed another event across town.

Shortly before we left the apartment I saw a tweet from Martin Rivas that they were having another Campfire event, this time at Slane. We had just attended our first-ever Campfire (unfortunately one of the few that Martin, one of the co-founders of Campfire, ever missed) at Red Lion on Sunday night. You can read about the awesome mayhem. I was very sorry we were going to miss this one.

Imagine how sorrier I was when I saw the following tweet stream after I got back home (the first entry is actually from a friend’s Facebook status):

slane. NYC campfire. I think I died and went to music heaven.

@SamTeichman wrote: The joy, friendship, creativity and love of music that is on display at a@NYCcampfire is absolutely life changing. It’s indescribably good.

he added: 1. Saxophone duels are among the coolest things in music. 2. @NYCcampfire is RIDICULOUSLY fun. 3. My smile is illegally big right now.

OK, I missed an awesome show (I trust both Kelly and Sam’s opinions completely). But then, I read the following tweet from Martin Rivas:

That was a rather titanic @NYCcampfire. Thx guests @gregmayomusic @jefflitman @matt_simons @SierraNoble @livesocietyband @sethfaulk xo!!

Wait, what? Greg Mayo was there (only a minor surprise) but so was Live Society (a major surprise). Now I know what Sam meant by Dueling Saxophones! Obviously, Matt Simons (great) and Scott Harper (see above!) went at it, and I missed it.

I still don’t know (perhaps I don’t want to know!) whether Greg and John took simultaneous leads on any song. I might be heart-broken if the answer is yes. On the other hand, I might be heartened that it did happen, so that I know it could happen again! Smile

Jeff Litman at Arlene’s Grocery

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Yesterday I posted a long rant. I ended it with the following:

I’m going to stop now, or I’ll miss the show we are attending tonight. Hopefully, I’ll be back to my normal blog style tomorrow, having loved tonight’s show. Smile

I can happily return to my normal posts after enjoying last night’s set very much! Whew.

Jeff Litman headlined the set at Arlene’s Grocery. We saw Jeff once, playing electric bass in a fantastic benefit concert organized by Sam Teichman at the Bitter End. He was one of 15 people on stage. I had no trouble recognizing his talent, but at the time, I had no idea that he was also a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter.

I think Jeff started following me on Twitter and I followed him back. I then discovered his site (linked to his name above). I listened to some of the music he has available for streaming there and liked it. Much more important, I started reading his blog entries (right on the home page, just scroll down), in particular his post on giving away music.

I was extremely impressed by how smart Jeff is and how well he articulates his views. That made me all the more interested in seeing him perform. That opportunity finally arrived last night.

Jeff sang lead and played the electric guitar on nine of the 10 songs. He sings really well and plays the guitar extremely well (great leads and an excellent sense of rhythm).

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I liked every single song (nine originals and he closed with a great cover of Pump It Up by Elvis Costello). Jeff wore a suit and tie for all of his originals. When he started Pump It Up, he took his jacket off. This was quite a feat, because he didn’t take his guitar (and strap!) off, so he had to wriggle out of the jacket.

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He tossed the jacket down on the stage and proceeded to stomp all over it during the song. Ah, the life of a Rocker! Winking smile

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On one song, Maine, Jeff switched to acoustic guitar and added a harmonica. There are many songs that I love that took a number of listens to reach that status. That said, most of my all-time favorite songs grabbed me within seconds and by the end of the song were already on the list. Maine is on the list and it was obvious within seconds. Lois felt exactly the same way. She just told me that she wanted to yell out “Play Maine again!” for an encore.

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It is a blend of Dylan’s first electric efforts coupled with some of the best Country stuff we love. I’m listening to it on repeat now while writing this. I’ll never get tired of this song, I promise! Smile

Jeff was supported by a fantastic band, left-to-right on the stage:

JeffLitmanBand

Bryan Dunn on electric and acoustic guitar and vocals. We’ve seen Bryan once before (scroll to the bottom to read about Bryan) and really enjoyed him and his set (and his band!). More recently, he’s become the hub of a number of comments I’ve made on the blog. I didn’t know he’d be playing with Jeff until yesterday afternoon.

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Bryan was wonderful. His leads on the electric guitar were terrific and he complemented Jeff’s play when they were both on electric. He also played rhythm on the acoustic on a few numbers. His vocals were spot on, harmonizing beautifully with Jeff. It’s been too long since we’ve seen Bryan’s own set, but it sounds like we might have to wait until his new CD is out (September perhaps?) to see him again.

In the above-linked post, I mentioned that Bryan seems like a nice guy. I can now confirm my suspicions were correct. We chatted with Bryan and his wife (actually the entire band) after the show. We purchased Bryan’s current CD (he didn’t have it with him, but he’s mailing it to us, once I get him our address). Smile

Elliot Jacobson on drums. I’ve written about Elliot twice before. He’s a great drummer, not much more to add to that. Last night, that was critical. Elliot’s kick drum was mic’ed to the hilt. I was sitting on a bar stool. Every single time Elliot kicked, the floor shook my chair, and my heart and hair jumped around. Considering his perfect beat, it worked, as my body was part of the song (literally). Still, it could have been dialed back a notch.

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Matt Basile on electric bass. Excellent throughout, though I had to work at times to pick out his bass line given that it was often synchronous with the kick drum.

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After the show we met up with the band in the bar area. In addition to purchasing Bryan’s CD, we also bought Jeff Litman’s current CD, Postscript (he’s recording another right now). Four of the songs from last night are on Postcript, including Maine, which Lois asked before we bought it. The entire CD is really good (I listened to it once through before putting Maine on repeat). At the moment, I’m on the 11th listen of Maine. I can squeeze a few more in while I type and select photos. Smile

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I mentioned how great Bryan Dunn’s harmonies were, but I also have to give a big shout out to Kelly Jones (I hope I guessed the correct Kelly Jones!), who sings co-lead/harmony with Jeff on Maine on the CD. Superb.

I have one complaint and one giant compliment for the sound engineer at Arlene’s last night. The sound was well balanced (hearing leads, vocals, etc., were easy to pick out). But, it was insanely loud. Arlene’s Grocery is a relatively small room. I know this is Rock ‘N Roll, but it’s one of the few times I would have shoved earplugs in if I had them (Lois did, and did!). Aside from volume as a consistent complaint, this was our third time at Arelene’s, and I am very impressed with the way they run the place!

On to the major complement. While setting up, there was a lot of shuffling on stage. Jeff has a very large, sophisticated looking pedal board. He had to move it away from his microphone stand to adjust some settings on his amp at the back of the stage. While he was at the amp, Matt went over to Jeff’s pedal board and moved it a few inches. Unfortunately, the mic cable was caught under the pedal board. Before Matt realized what was happening, the mic stand (with the mic attached) came crashing to the floor.

A few seconds later, order was restored. The show began a few minutes later. When Bryan started singing, the mic was cutting in and out. Obviously, the cable came loose when the mic hit the ground. Within seconds, the sound engineer came flying out of his booth in the back of the room and he jumped on stage. When tightening the mic cable on both ends didn’t solve the problem, he grabbed an extra cable from the side of the stage, waited patiently, and then swapped the cables mid-song when Jeff finished a verse and was taking a short lead on the guitar.

By the time Jeff started the next verse, the mic worked perfectly. It’s great to see someone who is good at their job, but even better when they’re passionate about doing it well!

One last word about the loudness. The only other complaint about Jeff’s vocals was that they were a bit too bright. In a not-so-small irony, when doing the sound check, Jeff asked the sound engineer to tone down the treble on his vocals in the monitor. He gave him a thumbs up after the adjustment. The same adjustment should have been made on the house speakers.

We were glad to be back on track for thoroughly enjoying a night out listening to great musicians doing their thing!

P.S. I ended up listening to Maine 18 times while writing this post. Not quite enough, but it will have to do, since I have a few other things to do today. Winking smile

Marjory Lee at Arlene’s Grocery

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We’ve seen Marjory Lee perform once before, in a house concert. Feel free to read the entire post, but I’ll pull out the two most relevant paragraphs here, because they will provide the foundation for my comments on last night’s show:

Marjory Lee sang and played acoustic guitar (as above, 100% acoustic, with Marjory even tuning by hand, shudder ;-) ). Our friend warned us about Marjory’s voice and she was correct. It’s gorgeous! Power when she wants/needs it, subtlety when that’s called for, range and perhaps most interesting, an ability to change styles and gears effortlessly.

Marjory was equally at home singing softly in the upper registers as she was belting out a soulful rendition of The Dock of the Bay, adding a gritty gravelly voice, sung in the lower registers.

Marjory Lee played with a full band at Arlene’s Grocery, so I knew it would be different than the house concert. I had also seen a couple of YouTube videos of a previous appearance at Arlene’s that we couldn’t attend. So, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was.

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Last night’s show was pretty much straight up Rock (even the two Country songs were of the more modern Country Rock style). I don’t get enough of that live, so it was quite welcome.

I already mentioned above how gorgeous Marjory’s voice is. In the second paragraph, I got a hint of the belting out part. But, nothing brings out a good belter’s skills more than Rock (perhaps Soul) and Marjory was simply incredible. It didn’t hurt that the sound engineer last night had everything leveled perfectly (that wasn’t the case the only other time we’ve been to Arlene’s).

Marjory accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. During some intros and bridges, that was the only instrument being played, so we got a nice taste of her skills.

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Backing Marjory up was a very tight band. Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Matt Mirando on lead electric guitar (no good individual link). Matt did a terrific job on the guitar. Solid on every number.

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Mike Knobloch on drums. Mike did a wonderful job on the drums throughout the set. On the last number, he took a semi-solo, with the guitar and bass punctuating each measure. I liked it a lot because it kept the solo more tied to the song rather than some of the meandering drum solos that show off skills, but are disconnected from their origin.

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On one number, he was really fast with both sticks on the Hi-hat cymbal. Whenever he’d strike a drum, he was back to the fast hi-hat without missing a beat. It was impressive and my arms hurt just watching him (it was a long song). Smile

Matt DePaolo on electric bass (also no good individual link). Matt was very solid throughout the set.

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We planned the evening with our friends who hosted that original house concert (and introduced us to Marjory that night). Two more of their friends joined us at Arlene’s. All six of us enjoyed the set thoroughly and look forward to catching Marjory (with or without band) in the near future.

Before the show the four of us had dinner together. We met at Arlene’s Grocery in order to find a spot to eat nearby. As we walked by The Meatball Shop (their site seems to come and go the few times I visited it this morning) I mentioned that we’d never eaten there, but that all the cool kids eat there all the time and rave about it.

I kept walking toward Allen St. My friend doubled back, ducked in and asked if they could accommodate four. They got a very nice couple to slide down one seat which opened up four spots in the long table in the center (I think it holds 18 people).

I was blown away by the meal (and I am sure the others were too). I had four beef meatballs served over spaghetti with a spicy meat sauce. I had a side of the day’s vegetables (cooked carrots with some finely chopped goodies which included beets). Simply amazing. Lois had the vegetable meatballs with a classic tomato sauce (and everything else I had). She just finished her left-overs a minute ago and was raving about them as much as she did last night’s meal.

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So, I checked, and unfortunately, eating at The Meatball Shop did not turn me into one of the cool kids, but it did at least prove to me that the cool kids indeed know a thing or two about good food. Smile

Delta Rae at Arlene’s Grocery

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We weren’t supposed to be back in NYC until tomorrow (Thursday). Friends of ours from Thailand were in the states and are leaving tonight. We decided to come home early and have lunch with them today to see them off (that didn’t work out in the end!).

Once we committed to that, we left even earlier (yesterday morning), so that we could be back in NYC in time to catch Delta Rae at Arlene’s Grocery.

We’ve seen Delta Rae once before, at Rockwood Music Hall and I covered that evening in this post. I mentioned that I would love to hear them play with a band. Ask and ye shall receive. Delta Rae played at Rockwood again this past Saturday, another acoustic set, but at Arlene’s Grocery, the set was billed as full band.

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We picked a good day to come back early. As we pulled in front of our building, the thermometer in the car read 105 degrees:

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Delta Rae performed an excellent set last night. It was extremely well-received by the audience (including us). Having a full band meant adding a drum set and electric bass. That was enough to make the difference I was interested in hearing, but they could also stand a good lead electric guitar, and possibly even a fiddle or mandolin on a few numbers.

The four members of Delta Rae have wonderful voices individually, that blend in magical ways collectively. Given the power and emotion that they produce while singing, it’s a very good thing that each can hold their own singing lead, as it gives a slight rest to the others when they pass the proverbial baton around from song to song.

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Mike McKee on drums (no good individual link for him, sorry). He was really good on every song, I thoroughly enjoyed his play! Photo isn’t good either.

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Mark McKee on electric bass. Very solid throughout. As much as I really liked the drums, the bass is what really created the bigger sound (big bottom) for Delta Rae, to differentiate from their acoustic set.

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While I liked the bigger sound, there’s always a tradeoff. They play a song (Morning Comes) where the ladies clap between lines in a way that adds a very nice touch to the song. They did it last night, but you couldn’t hear the clapping at all over the bass and drums. Of course, I could see them, and fill in the sound in my mind, but it wasn’t the same thing.

We still got a taste of the acoustic side with their Gospel number, Bottom of the River, delivered largely a cappella (the drummer did enhance their normal foot-stomping). They also did the Fleetwood Mac cover The Chain with Ian on acoustic guitar. That’s the only song where the McKee boys left the stage. Here’s a YouTube version of the song performed in Eric’s bathroom! 🙂

They closed the show with a song that they pitched to Kelly Clarkson. She liked it but it didn’t fit her current album so they’re free to use it themselves again. That said, when we left, Lois told me that Lady Antebellum would be nuts not to want to cut that song immediately. So, if you’re listening Hillary Scott, Lois thinks you would fall in love with this song. Grab it while you can, before Delta Rae scores with it directly!

We support the artists we like. We already have two copies of their EP (get it!) so Lois bought a Delta Rae T-Shirt after the show.

Thanks for coming back to NYC a second time in one week (they played in MD in between!), and bringing along the McKee brothers to let me experience the full band sound so quickly.

Already looking forward to our next Delta Rae encounter!

We chatted briefly with Eric and Ian before the show and I noticed Ian was carrying around a tired-looking set list. Here’s a photo of it, though it was from a previous show and they tweaked the set last night from this one:

SetList

ElizabethHopkinsIanHolljesBrittanyHolljes EricHolljes

Ian Axel at Rockwood Music Hall

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The title of this post is as big a surprise to me as it is to you. 😉

When we planned our evening last night (a couple of weeks ago), I was unaware that Ian Axel was scheduled to play at Rockwood Music Hall, and was unaware of his music. Our plan was to see Greg Holden at 8pm (our first time seeing him) and then running a few blocks away to Arlene’s Grocery to see Atomic Tom for the first time as well. The best laid plans…

The night before (Thursday), we were also at Rockwood, to see ambeR Rubarth and we caught most of the set before her, Chris Kasper and Ross Bellenoit. Adam Christgau, who was drumming for ambeR, mentioned that he would be drumming for Greg Holden the next night (we knew that, which is why we were interested in seeing Greg’s show to begin with), but he also mentioned that he’d be drumming for Ian Axel immediately thereafter.

Hmmm, that made me listen to Ian Axel’s MySpace page and I liked what I heard. We were now leaning toward hanging at Rockwood, especially if we had one of the few seats in the place, rather than chance being shut out at Arlene’s Grocery.

I’ll come back and describe the rest of the evening’s musicians and logistics after covering our experience of Ian’s set.

Wow!

OK, I covered it! Seriously! We were both blown away by Ian in every respect. He’s an absolutely phenomenal piano player. He has an excellent voice (more on that in a bit). He writes interesting songs (melody, lyrics, arrangements). He delivers them with tremendous energy and showmanship. He connects with the crowd. He’s funny.

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On his up-beat pop numbers he was accompanied by Adam Christgau on  the drums and Chris Anderson on electric bass. Both were excellent, and both sang harmony a bit.

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Adam has always impressed me (as I’ve written a number of times) but even more so last night, after seeing him play with Greg and Ian, adding more styles than is required to support The Paper Raincoat and ambeR’s music. He’s a super talented drummer (and singer) that adds to any artist he’s supporting!

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In addition to those high energy numbers, Ian also played a few solos on the piano, ballads, and he played one solo on the ukulele, which was more mellow.

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He told a story that when he started out, he really didn’t consider singing. A friend of his, Chad Vaccarino kept pressing him to sing, telling him that he was destined to be a singer. Obviously, Chad got to him, and we are all grateful that he did!

Apparently, roughly the same time that Ian started singing, Chad stopped performing (Ian didn’t explain why). Until earlier this week, when Chad performed at Rockwood (on Monday), and according to Ian, killed it! After telling the story, Ian invited Chad up on the stage to sing a song with him. Excellent!

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Ian’s a definite follow around whenever we can.

Toward the end of the set, Ian mentioned that he hopes to get his new CD out by the end of the year. In the meantime, he had a 6-song EP that he offered to give away to anyone who came to find him at the end of the show. He allowed for the fact that some people might wish to donate instead of just taking it for free. 🙂

In addition to being generous in the Tip Jar that was passed around for Ian, Lois found him after the show, and donated $20 for two copies of the EP. We enjoyed it on the ride back to the house this morning.

Working backwards musically, appearing before Ian was Greg Holden, the primary reason we were at Rockwood to begin with. I mentioned Greg in a post about Cardboard Bikini (a.k.a. The Paper Raincoat), where he stood right behind me at Rockwood for one of their shows. After that show, both Adam Christgau and Alex Berger told me that I really needed to catch Greg’s show.

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The next morning, he left on a six-week tour opening for Ingrid Michaelson, all over the country. I started following him on Twitter right away, and I enjoyed his snarky updates and got a feel for the tour through his eyes.

He also has a song that will be featured on this week’s episode of Private Practice on ABC, so he’s well on his way to a career in the music biz.

I thoroughly enjoyed his set, though clearly not enough to have bumped Ian from the title of the post, hence my own surprise.

Greg played the acoustic guitar well. On his more energetic numbers, he was accompanied by Adam Christgau on the drums, a bassist whose name I didn’t catch and Ian Axel on the piano.

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You already know how I feel about Adam and Ian, so I’ll just mention that the bassist was really good too. It was even more impressive when Greg mentioned that he was pressed into duty at the last minute, and had to learn the three songs (perhaps even that day!). I tweeted Greg last night asking his name, but haven’t heard back yet.

Update: Greg just tweeted that the bassist was Jon Estes! Thanks Greg.

He has a very relaxed style on stage, with good audience rapport. He played a cover of Walking on Sunshine, where he easily got the entire crowd to sing along, loudly. He’s also very funny (both on Twitter and in person).

Greg also played a few solo numbers (including Walking on Sunshine). He has a really good voice, and writes interesting songs. If I had to tweak him a bit, I’d say that a number of songs achieve their length by being a little too repetitive. They’re still good, but I have no doubt that he can do better, and I’m sure he will.

According to him, he took a major gamble this past January and moved to the US from the UK to launch a music career from scratch. Obviously, he’s achieved so much in so little time. Still, I have a feeling that he will continue to grow dramatically, likely at a rapid pace as well, so I look forward to tracking his career.

As with the night before, when we discovered Chris Kasper, I checked out who would be on before Greg, in the hopes that if it were someone good, we’d have a better chance of having a seat for Greg, while still enjoying the set. This week is the CMJ Showcase all over NYC, so many shows are more crowded than they might otherwise be, due to the extra publicity and press.

Edie Carey was on from 7-8pm. I listened to a few of the songs on her website and liked what I heard. Also, I noticed that she was on the last Cayamo cruise (she’s going again in March 2010), and in addition to all of the major stars that perform on that, our very own Girlyman went on last year’s cruise as well. So, I was officially intrigued.

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We walked in at 6:43pm to a jam-packed crowd listening to the group that was on from 6-7pm (I’ll describe our brief encounter with them after saying a bit more about Edie).

With a ton of luck, and some very nice people, when the set before Edie ended, Lois was able to get a seat, and a few minutes later, I was able to snag one right next to her (absolutely incredible given how crowded the place was).

Edie has a wonderful voice, which she controls really well, delivering power when she wants, and whispers at other times. She accompanies herself well on the guitar, mostly rhythm, with occasional finger-picking thrown in.

She describes her song-writing style as overwhelmingly dark (she’s right). She has an incredibly devoted fan base. Most of the people in the crowd for her set were there specifically for her. When she asked for requests, I was amazed at how many people started yelling, and how many different songs they were trying to get her to play!

One guy, standing in the very far corner, whom she called Vincent, yelled “Nice!” as she finished each song, cueing the exuberant clapping.

All of that is to say that for a large number of folks, Edie Carey is magic. She moves their souls. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that reaction. While both of us thought her voice was excellent, and her stage presence was good, the songs did very little for us. The comment that I used above saying that Greg was a bit repetitive could be multiplied for Edie.

Both of us felt that every song was overly repetitive, but since she’s singing mostly extremely slow, dark, dirges, the effect is worse than in a catchy up-beat song, where at least the repeating hook is fun.

There was nothing unpleasant about the set, and the plan to find a seat during her show and be settled in for Greg and Ian worked out better than I could have hoped, but she’s not someone that we would seek out in the future.

She told one story about writing a song for her wedding (she was married in May 2009, and her husband sat a few feet away from us). The story was warm and engaging, and it was the only time during her set that I was 100% captivated and attentive. Unfortunately, the song itself, not so much…

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Since we walked in at 6:43pm, we got to hear the last two songs of the set before Edie.

The Uglysuit had a packed crowd (as I mentioned before), and from what we heard, fully deserved! Three electric guitars, one electric bass, grand piano, and drums. That’s about as many people as you can cram on to the tiny Rockwood stage. In fact, they couldn’t! The drummer never sits on stage, and in this case, the bassist was in the crowd too, taking up the space where two people would normally be sitting.

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They have a gorgeous, rich sound. They sing well too, but they jam for much longer stretches than they sing. I would have been extremely happy to catch the rest of their set, and will look out for them in the future, though they hail from OK and tour all around. They’re playing today at 3:30pm at Kenny’s Castaways, but we’re already at the house.

I’ll use them as a specific example of a point I want to make about Rockwood in general.

At a number of venues, including some of our favorites, Sound Engineering can be hit-or-miss. Even at our favorite club, Joe’s Pub, on occasion (thankfully not too often), the sound can be downright bad.

Rockwood has nailed it for every set we’ve seen so far. What’s more impressive is the range of instruments and styles and number of people on stage, etc., that they consistently nail it for.

Using The Uglysuit as an example, three electric guitars, an electric bass, grand piano, drums, and two people singing, typically, something is too loud, or something can’t be heard. Simply not the case at Rockwood. Even with all of that music going on, the volume was appropriate, and each instrument was clear. It’s a crying shame that this isn’t the case for every show at every venue.

I stand in awe of the two people who run the sound for the sets we’ve seen at Rockwood, one of whom we believe is the owner. Absolutely incredible.

If we could be assured of always getting a seat, I hazard to guess that it might even surpass Joe’s Pub as a favorite destination for us, though some of the groups that we see at Joe’s wouldn’t play a place as small (or free!) as Rockwood.