BB King’s

Ricky Skaggs, Punch Brothers, Nancy Griffith and Abigail Washburn at BB King

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We’ve seen Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder a couple of times, most recently in June 2008. When we saw that they were performing at BB King, we knew we’d be there. The only other act listed on the bill was Abigail Washburn, opening for Ricky. We’ve seen Abigail a number of times, so that was a plus.

What we didn’t know was that two other bands were also performing, sandwiched in between Abigail and Ricky. Since one of them was the highlight of the evening (definitely for us, likely for many/most in the audience), I’ll break my normal format and start with them.

The third act up was the Punch Brothers. I can’t tell you how excited I was when Abigail mentioned that they were on the bill. I’ll gush about each of them in a minute, but the main reason is their leader, Chris Thile. In my opinion, he’s the best mandolin player in the world (there, I said it!). We own four of his solo CDs and all of his Nickel Creek CDs as well (which I simply can’t get enough of).

Chris has unbelievable stage presence. He’s only 29 (soon 30), but he recorded his first CD when he was 13, so he has a ton of experience. His talent would be enough to carry him even if he were wooden on stage, but thankfully, he’s loose and natural and made us laugh throughout his set.


He sings really well, writes superb songs, and oh yeah, there’s that mandolin magic that simply boggles the mind.


I can’t imagine a musician that wouldn’t want to play with him. Conversely, I can’t imagine him having someone in his band that wasn’t superb. That is certainly the case for the members of Punch Brothers.

Chris was center stage. Here are the other members of the group, standing left-to-right:

Gabe Witcher on violin and vocals. Fantastic on the fiddle/violin. Wonderful voice, singing lead and harmony.


Chris Eldridge on acoustic guitar and vocals. Amazing flat picking on the guitar. Excellent vocals, mostly three-part harmony with Gabe and Chris Thile.


Paul Kowert on upright bass (no good individual link). Paul is the only person in Punch Brothers who didn’t sing (or even speak). His bass play says it all though, both with a bow and plucking. He’s incredible.


Noam Pikelny on banjo and vocals. Folks, everyone in Punch Brothers is a world-class musician. Noam is a cut above your average world-class musician. He’s unreal. He’s also subtle. Many top banjo players hack at the strings (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love that style). Noam can do a lot more with a banjo.


A few months ago, he was the winner of the inaugural Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Check out the judges (including Bela Fleck, perhaps the best banjo player in the world!). I certainly have no quibble with their choice.

Noam didn’t sing much, but he did create four-part harmony on occasion. Most notable was a dryly delivered quip that had the audience burst out laughing. Between songs, he casually stepped up to the mic and in a deceptively deep voice said the following:

For those of us who live in NYC, playing in this neighborhood is incredibly special, given that it’s the last refuge remaining in this great city!

For the one reader who may not know where BB King is, it’s in the heart of Times Square. Everyone in the audience got it and the line was delivered perfectly.

All I can tell you is that the Punch Brothers awed on every single number. We took our goddaughter with us (her husband had to cancel at the last second for a work emergency). When she got home, she immediately bought their latest CD, Antifogmatic!

They are currently nominated for a Grammy. The song, New Chance Blues is available for free download on the front page of their site (linked above), in exchange for your email address!

Back to my normal format of covering acts from the headliner backwards (don’t worry, I won’t repeat the Punch Brothers section). Winking smile

Ricky Skaggs has been a superstar for years. He was a major Country star. More than 10 years ago, he dedicated himself to Bluegrass. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bluegrass, whether you like the style or not (we love it), Bluegrass attracts some of the best musicians in the world. Ricky and his band (Kentucky Thunder) are no exceptions.

Last night he broke his Bluegrass-only streak. He opened the show with a few Country numbers. They were great. He played an electric guitar and lit it up.


Then he switched gears and played a few songs from his new CD, Mosaic. He started with the title song. To say that the mood changed dramatically in the place would be an understatement. He received applause after each song, but many were polite and in general it was shorter than the first few songs.

After two more from Mosaic, a number of people in the crowd were saying “Play some Bluegrass” loud enough, but no one yelled in a heckling or disrespectful manner.

Eventually, Ricky got to the Bluegrass portion of the show. The crowd went nuts. He broke out the mandolin (of which he is one of the best!) and tore it up.


When Ricky performed Country and the Mosaic numbers, there were 10 people on stage. For the Bluegrass set, the drummer, lead electric guitar and electronic keyboards people left, leaving the core seven people that typically perform in Kentucky Thunder.

Ed Faris and Paul Brewster both play rhythm guitar. The magic that they bring to the group is their absolutely incredible harmony with Ricky Skaggs. The three of them make vocal magic on practically every song.


Andy Leftwich played the fiddle. He’s always incredible (we’ve seen him at least two times) but last night he was on fire (or I bet his fingers were!). He played mandolin on a couple of songs as well.


Cody Kilby flat picking the guitar. Cody is one of my all-time favorite flat pickers. That you couldn’t hear a single note during the Country and Mosaic part of the set is a crime that should be punishable by a 10-year prison term! Thankfully, he got to work his magic during the 30-minute Bluegrass set. Unfortunately, even then, he was the only one under-mic’ed, but I could still hear and see his brilliance.


Mark Fain on bass. Marked played electric bass during the Country and Mosaic portions and upright during the Bluegrass. Great on both instruments.

Finally, a very sad note, coupled with a very happy one. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to seeing Ricky’s banjo player, Jim Mills. I have been mesmerized by him each time we’ve seen him perform. He’s in my top five favorite banjo players. I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under, but Jim left Ricky roughly six months ago, after playing in Kentucky Thunder for 14 years!

On the plus side, another of my favorite all-around musicians replaced him.

Justin Moses played the banjo, dobro and mandolin. I own his solo CD which is awesome. He was the fiddle player in the Dan Tyminski Band (where he also played banjo and dobro). He’s an extraordinary fiddle player, but that job belongs to Andy. While I’ve heard him play banjo with Dan, I didn’t fully appreciate how excellent he is on the banjo until I heard him last night.


He played the dobro throughout the Country and Mosaic sets. I know he’s excellent on the dobro from the Dan Tyminski shows we attended. Unfortunately, as with Cody, he was totally drowned out when he played the dobro, I couldn’t pick out a single note.


I thoroughly enjoyed the Country part of the set (even though I couldn’t hear Colby or Justin), but my dinner companions did not. None of us enjoyed the Mosaic portion of the evening. Oh well, at least he ended with 30 minutes that had the crowd enthralled!

Continuing backwards, skipping over the Punch Brothers.

Another surprise for us was the second act.

Nanci Griffith is a well-known singer/songwriter. We’ve never seen her before, so it was a real treat. She did a wonderful job.


We have friends whose favorite group is The Kennedys. We’ve never seen them. They were part of Nancy’s band last night and I totally understand why our friends love them. Maura has a wonderful voice, and Pat played the guitar amazingly and sang harmony.


Pat McInerney played the drums really well. He’s been accompanying Nancy for 22 years!


I don’t recall the name of the guitar player who accompanied them (apologies). He too sang well, and played well when he wasn’t having technical difficulties.


A very nice set all around.

Opening the show was Abigail Washburn. We’ve seen Abigail a number of times. We really like Abigail as a person. She has a lovely voice and plays the banjo well. Unfortunately, her set selection rarely thrills us. She has the talent to do so, so it’s more a matter of mismatched taste between what she wants to play and what we want to hear.


She has a new configuration for her band. We hadn’t seen any of them before. They’re all excellent (no surprise).

Kai Welch on keyboards, guitar and harmony. Kai is the main collaborator with Abigail on her new CD. He is the inspiration of her new style and exploration. He is a very good musician and sings wonderfully.


Rayna Gellert on the fiddle. Excellent! Abigail teased her that she’s not dramatic enough. Perhaps, but she thrills nonetheless.


Alana Rockland (no good link) on electric and upright bass. It’s not often that I see female bass players. Given how talented Alana is, I hope to see more of them, soon!


Jamie Dick (also no good link) on drums. Solid throughout the set.


All in all, an epic night of music. The show started at 7:30pm and ended at 11:15.

We had an excellent meal before the show started. I always recommend that you come early for a BB King show and enjoy their wonderful southern comfort cuisine.

The Persuasions at BB King

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Lois and I love a cappella. We love harmony in all forms and it doesn’t get purer than a cappella. When we each saw that The Persuasions were performing at BB King (we both get the weekly email newsletter) we were interested in going (we’ve never seen them).

A friend of ours was vacationing up the East Coast, and told us that he would likely have some time to hang with us when he spent a couple of days in NYC. He called Wednesday night and we asked him whether he would be interested in seeing The Persuasions. Indeed he was.

The group was formed in 1962 and released their first studio album in 1970. Two of the original members are still performing with the group! One of them is Jimmy Hayes, who sings the deep bass parts. He’s absolutely amazing. Both Lois and I couldn’t wait to praise him to each other when we hit the street.

When all five of them sing together, the sound is incredibly rich, whether they are singing the words together (normal harmony), or whether some or all of them are mimicking instruments or doo wop sounds.


Going for the music alone would be worth it. Fortunately, that’s not the only reason to go, though we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

I would guess that the majority of the audience were giant The Persuasions fans, having seen them perform before (likely many times for a good proportion of the crowd). Aside from being adoring fans (in the best sense), they knew the individual performers, and the group knew many audience members as well.

The Persuasions don’t just perform, they entertain! On at least a third of the numbers one of the members of the group ventures into the audience (usually the other original member, “Sweet” Joe Russell, but both Raymond Sanders and Jayotis Washington did as well). The song becomes highly interactive at that point, with great unpredictability.


Dave Revels sang slightly more leads than the rest and did a wonderful job throughout the set.

At times, Joe (or the others) will simply sing to a member of the audience (often acting out the lyrics). Just as often, they will hand the microphone to someone and get them to sing (often the lead!). No one was bad, but a few were pretty darn good, with two people singing like real professionals!


In one awkward moment (awkward for me, because I’m a complete geek!), Joe was singing to a woman. They each had an arm around the other. The woman was in heaven, and she handed her iPhone to her husband and asked him to take a photo. Even though Joe held the pose while he sang to the woman for nearly two minutes (that’s an eternity folks!), the husband couldn’t figure out how to snap a photo on the iPhone. He was aiming the LCD screen at them, and was nearly as frustrated as his wife. He did not get the photo. 🙁

The Persuasions perform a wide variety of music. Hearing oldies from my childhood brought rushes of wonderful memories back in an instant. Seeing the beaming faces of the other audience members (all ages!) turned those memories into a shared experience, making it more special than simply tuning into an oldies radio station.


Here’s the set list, so you can get a sense of the breadth and see how many of your old favorites are there:


The one song you won’t see on there is what they performed during the encore (yes, they were forced to come back out for an encore), In the Still of the Night. Saying that they performed it is a bit of a misnomer. They actually participated in the performance, which was dominated by the audience.

They invited anyone in the audience who wanted to sing it with them on stage to come on up. Amazingly, roughly 20 people went up.

AudienceOnStage AudienceOnStage2

Jayotis Washington came into the crowd and asked people whether they knew the song (the intro was already being doo wop’ed on stage), and I was one of the people he stopped in front of!

I said no (even though I knew it well), because I had no intention of singing into the microphone. The guy at the table next to me (a huge fan and friend of the band) accepted, and sang the lead for a good part of the song. He was incredible (one of the two I mentioned above). The entire song was quite a spectacle (in the best sense of the word).

After it was over, Lois went on stage to get the set list. When I looked up, she was hugging each member of The Persuasions. I looked away for a second, then looked back. The stage was empty. Lois disappeared behind the stage with them. I told our friend that I would likely be forced to wait 24 hours before calling her in as a missing person. 😉

She came back out without the set list itself, but with the photo (shown above), and some more memories. 🙂

On to the food. BB King is comfort food and it’s always really good. Last March (2009) we were there for a Jerry Jeff Walker show, and our god-son-in-law ordered the Mac & Cheese. It’s so rich he couldn’t finish it and the rest of us all dug in and were blown away. Last night I ordered it for myself for the first time. Just as good. Thanks Chris, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know what I was missing! 🙂

When we were watching the coming attractions our friend told us that we shouldn’t miss The Toasters, who will be at BB King on October 29th. Here’s hoping he can make it back to NYC to join us for that show as well!


Wonderful Weekend

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We’re in NYC for an unusually long stretch. We’re at the halfway point, and it will be hard to top last week, but we won’t stop trying. 🙂

We returned from VA on Tuesday to one night of solitude. Our extravaganza started on Wednesday. Since we had been away, I got back on the exercise track by taking a seven mile walk by myself.

At 4pm, friends of ours who were passing through arrived to spend the night. After catching up a bit on the deck (in perfect weather), we walked up to the Peking Duck House for a wonderful meal. We waddled back, taking a tour of Grand Central (including the amazing Food Market), and after schmoozing a bit more, collapsed.

The next morning, I took another long walk with our friends, this time roughly six miles. They (correctly) shamed me into getting a new pair of sneakers when they heard me tell Lois that I had not forgotten to stuff some tissues into my socks to stop my sneakers from cutting my heels. I am now the proud owner of a new pair of New Balance, purchased at Modell’s (Gotta Go to Mo’s!). 🙂

In the afternoon, we dropped our friends off uptown and headed straight to LaGuardia to pick up David. Since it had started raining reasonably hard, and his flight was delayed, we parked the car in the garage (highly unusual for us), and we relaxed at the food court, where we had excellent coffees from Coffee Beanery. I watched a bunch of The Onion video podcasts on my iPod (laughing my head off non-stop), while Lois browsed at Borders.

Rain At La Guardia

Rain At La Guardia

David was only an hour delayed, and even though it was still raining, we made great time back to the city. We ran across the street and had a terrific Mexican meal at El Rio Grande. Afterward, Laura and Chris came up to catch up with David.

On Friday, David had lunch out with his college roommate, and Laura (who took a half day off) planned to take another long walk with me. Just as we were about to leave, David texted me that he could be back in 10 minutes if we could wait. We did, happily, and the three of us did the full 8+ mile walk, on yet another glorious day.

Friends of David and Laura (and us as well, though we’re their parents’ ages) were flying up from Richmond, scheduled to arrive at 3:30pm. When a flight attendant was unable to make it on time, they were delayed awaiting a replacement who was flying in from Cincinnati! We had tickets to the Blue Note Jazz Club that evening, and they ended up having to meet us there straight from the airport (putting their luggage in the coat room).

It all worked out fine, and they got there in plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely meal with us. Chris joined us a bit later, due to work, work, work…

Group At BB King

Group At BB King

We saw Charlie Haden (a great bassist). He was playing six consecutive nights at the Blue Note in an Invitation Series with a different guest performer each night. On Friday night, Kenny Barron was the guest, an amazing piano player. The two of them played together, and each took a number of long solos for 70 minutes. It was a slightly short show for the Blue Note.

The air-conditioning seemed to be off only during the show (it came on seconds after the show ended) and they were working so hard on the stage, that I wouldn’t be surprised if the heat caused them to cut it short just a bit. A lovely evening of good food, great company and excellent music.

When we returned to the apartment, the old folks hit the sack, and the youth stayed up (who knows how long?). Before I said goodnight, Chris asked if I wanted to walk in the morning. That would have made four days in a row for me (something I hadn’t attempted as yet), and being the macho machine that I am, I said yes.

I was a bit late (sorry Chris), and met him downstairs at 8:19am. We did the full 8+ miles, at a faster pace than most of my group walks (in fact, we shaved 24 minutes off of the average group walk time, and only six minutes longer than my best time ever). Chris kept me on a crisp and steady pace. Thanks!

While I was off walking with Chris, our guests enjoyed breakfast on the deck.



After a shower, the boys (David, Chris, Clint and I) headed to the new Yankee Stadium to catch the game against the Oakland A’s. This was collectively our first time at the new stadium. In my opinion, it’s awesome. Nice job Yanks!

The Boys

The Boys

Too many food choices to articulate, so I’ll just say what we selected. Chris had the Pizza from Famiglia, which was not exceptional, but not bad either. The rest of us had Philly Cheesesteaks from Carl’s. Pretty good, but I’m not sure I would call it Best in Manhattan (as the web site claims). Not that I know of a better cheesesteak in Manhattan, just that it was good, not amazing. 🙂

Three of us had a $10 beer (which included a plastic commemorative cup, valued at $1).

We fried in the sun for an hour (and I have the sunburn to prove it, especially on my knees). Once the sun passed, the breeze made the rest of the day delightful. Unfortunately, I continue to be a curse on local sports teams. The Yankees had an eight-game winning streak snapped on Saturday. They made it exciting, almost pulling it out in the ninth inning.

Last year (at the old stadium), they lost when I showed up. The year before, the Mets lost when I attended a game. My new retirement plan will be to charge both the Yankees and the Mets to keep me away from the stadiums. I should be able to make a good living, since they play 162 home games between them. 😉

Laura and Sally Ann had a mini-spa afternoon followed by Vietnamese food, while Lois slaved away at her computer.

The Girls

The Girls

When we got back to the apartment, another round of showers was in order due to the aforementioned frying in the sun. Then we walked up to the Duck House, where David’s college roommate and his fiancée joined us for dinner (nine of us in total). We had an absolutely spectacular meal. With that many people, we get to order that many more dishes, and therefore more tastes, than with the four of us who attended on Wednesday night.

Duck House Dishes

Duck House Dishes

Group At Duck House

Group At Duck House

Again, the old folks headed home, and early to bed. The youth headed to see Harry Potter 6, and told us the next morning that they thoroughly enjoyed it!

On Sunday morning, the youth all attended Church Services at Redeemer. Lois and I headed to BB King and waited on line for them to join us. The same nine people who ate the night before at the Duck House now gathered to see the world famous Harlem Gospel Choir over a wonderful brunch at BB King. It was our second time, but the other seven were experiencing it for the first time.

It’s hard to describe the show, unless you’ve been to a revival service, in which case it wouldn’t be hard to describe it all! 😉 Awesome music (both the singing and the band), with wonderful spirituality, including forcing participation by the entire crowd.

Crowd Participation

Crowd Participation

Only the infirm didn’t stand (at least at some point during the show) and clap and dance along. As much as we enjoyed our first time, this one was substantially better, so we’re doubly glad we suggested this activity for the group.

At each show, a group of people is invited on the stage (I won’t tell you why, so you can be surprised if you ever see it), and one of the people in our group ended up on the stage. See if you can spot her (hint, hint). 🙂

One Of Us On Stage

One Of Us On Stage

After the show, Lois bought one of their CDs, and got it signed by all seven of the singers, plus the founder of the Harlem Gospel Choir. We also made a separate donation to their ministry.

We walked back to the apartment and relaxed while watching the Yankees win on TV. I’m awaiting my royalty check for not attending the game yesterday. At the same time, I finally caught up on the weekend’s email and Twitter stream, having not logged on at all on Saturday (a very rare occurrence for me!).

The youth headed across the street for a superb Sushi meal at Hane Sushi. Just as they finished up, the heavens opened up, and we all waited out the thunderstorm. The second it let up, all of us (except for Lois) walked nine blocks to Berry Wild (only Laura and Chris had been there before). Everyone loved theirs, including me. I had Banana and Coffee yogurt, with shredded coconut on top. Yummy!

When we got back, our Richmond friends headed out to JFK. Their flight ended up being delayed by the continuing storms, but they did arrive in Richmond safe and sound, shortly at 2am! 🙁

The rest of us watched a DVD of the 1989 movie The Dream Team. Wes sent it to us as a gift a few weeks back, so we were looking forward to watching it. It starts off a bit slowly (or perhaps awkwardly is more apt), but, it builds, cleverly, and while it’s kooky or corny, I have to admit that I laughed out loud quite a bit. Definitely an enjoyable evening.

David had a 6am flight back, so alarms were set for 4:25am, and Lois and I didn’t get much sleep. David has already landed safely, so the weekend extravaganza is now officially over, but we’re both wiped like the party is still going on. 😉

While we don’t have company staying with us any longer, we do have plans for the next six consecutive nights (alone for the first four, then with other people on Friday and Saturday), before we finally get to completely collapse!

Jerry Jeff Walker at BB King

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A year ago we took seven people (plus the two of us) to see Jerry Jeff Walker at BB King’s in NYC. I wrote about that wonderful evening in this post. The stars aligned for us again this year, as we had company staying with us for the weekend, they love live music, and Jerry Jeff was back in town (celebrating his birthday with the rest of us).

This year there were six of us in total. The show started at 8:03pm.

Last year, Jerry Jeff had three exceptional musicians playing with him, Tommy Nash on the guitar, Brad Fordham on the bass, and Steve Samuel on the drums. Steve Samuel was back again, and I am reasonably sure that so was Brad Fordham (I am embarrassed that I can’t say definitively).

Unfortunately, Tommy Nash wasn’t there last night. He’s a fantastic guitarist, and I was really looking forward to hearing him again. Jerry Jeff introduced his son as the guitarist, saying that he was pressed into action, but he didn’t mention if Tommy was supposed to be there, and what happened to the regular guitarist either way.

Three of us heard Jerry Jeff introduce his son as Daniel (I would swear to that!). But, all web searches show his name to be Django Walker. I’ll come back to him in a minute, and do my normal left-to-right rundown of the musicians.

Apologies in advance for the very poor quality of the photos of the band members. The lighting plus some errors in the settings on our camera conspired against us last night…

Brad Forham played a smoking bass all night, and was the primary harmonizer with Jerry Jeff. He was excellent all night, and had great energy.

Brad Fordham

Brad Fordham

Jerry Jeff was center stage, and for a 67-year-old, has it going in every way (except for maybe hair). 😉 His guitar playing (mostly rhythm) is good, his voice is very strong (and deep), he has more energy than many teenagers, has an infectious personality, is beloved by his audience, and still puts on a great show. Basically, you want to be in whatever room Jerry Jeff is in. 🙂

Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff Walker

Behind Jerry Jeff was Steve Samuel, the drummer (I couldn’t find a good link last year, and couldn’t find one again this year, sorry!). Steve plays the drums really well, and given the up-tempo of most of Jerry Jeff’s songs, he keeps everyone in the crowd cooking to the right beat.

Steve Samuel

Steve Samuel

Django Walker played lead guitar and sang. His guitar playing is decent, but not on par with the numerous brilliant guitarists we’ve been hearing for the past few years. That still makes him 14,237 times better than me (meaning, he’s not bad), but it also makes Tommy Nash 972 times better than Django (though Django has many years to improve before reaching Tommy’s age).

Django Walker

Django Walker

Django sang a bit of harmony (well), but he solo’ed on a verse of The Cape (a song we really love), and he was fantastic. Later, he played (and sang lead) a song of his own, Texas On My Mind. He’s really a superb singer, with great stage presence as well. If he played just rhythm guitar (like his dad), or keeps getting better at lead guitar, he will be a force in music for years to come!

They played a bunch of favorites, including one that I covered last year (Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother). This year, I was part of the crowd that yelled out So Well, So Well, So Well during each chorus as well. What a blast.

They played for 77 minutes, then left the stage. A minute later, they were back out for a 2-song encore (like last year). Unlike last year, the first song in the encore was Mr. Bojangles (one of my favorite songs). When all was said and done, they were on the stage for just about 90 minutes, so the show was a little shorter than last year, but still wonderful.

Musically, last year’s performance was better, solely due to Tommy Nash’s amazing guitar playing. But, while this crowd was just as enthusiastic, and just as big fans, they were much more respectful of everyone around them, even when they were partying hearty, and dancing in the aisles. This allowed people like us (less rowdy) to actually enjoy their sideshow, be swept up in it, but still enjoy everything that was going on on the stage as well!

I’m sure we’ll try to be there to wish Jerry Jeff a Happy Birthday next year as well! 🙂

Now for our usual background leading up to the show.

Late morning, we did something we’ve never done before. We crammed six people into our Ford Explorer (all adults). That meant that there were four very uncomfortable people in the back seat, and the two of us in the front had our seats moved way up. We headed up to the house because our guests wanted to see it, and Laura and Chris wanted to see some grass, for at least a few minutes.

We ate lunch at the local diner near the house, and then headed over. Lois and I relaxed in the house, but the four youngsters actually stayed out in the backyard for at least an hour, soaking the chilly, but gorgeous views of the Hudson River.

Youngsters Standing

Youngsters Standing

Youngsters Sitting

Youngsters Sitting

When they came inside, they all conked out for a nap (they stay up later than us old folk each night, so it’s understandable).

Youngsters Sleeping

Youngsters Sleeping

When they woke up, we headed back to the city, and then over to BB King. We had a very nice table for six about 20 feet from the stage, and had a wonderful meal. Lois and I have watched people order the giant Meat Lovers Nachos (supposedly an appetizer) every time we’ve been there, and always thought it looked great, but was too big. Last night, we decided to make it a meal for the two of us. We were not disappointed. It’s really good (Pulled Pork, Chicken, Steak, etc.).

Meat Lovers Nachos

Meat Lovers Nachos

Chris ordered the Mac ‘n Cheese. Rich is an understatement, and the rest of us had to finish it for him. Most delicious.

Mac N Cheese

Mac N Cheese

Good food + good conversation + great show = great evening! 🙂

Dave Mason at BB King

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Last night couldn’t come soon enough for us. We loved Dave Mason’s show at Blend Bar on March 6, 2008 (covered in this post). The experience at Blend Bar was less than special, but the show was awesome. We immediately grabbed two tickets to see Dave again on April 4th at BB King, a place we frequent often and love.

As covered in this post, Dave called in sick that day, but we didn’t check in advance, and ended up showing up nonetheless. That show was rescheduled for sometime in June (a date that worked for us). That date was quickly canceled and rescheduled for last night (July 22nd, 2008). We held on to our original tickets, which were honored last night. Third time was indeed the charm at BB King.

The show was close to the same set list from Blend, but not identical (one example, they didn’t play Every Woman last night). In terms of their sound, and individual talents, every word in my previous post applies, so I won’t repeat that. Let me just say what was (slightly) different about last night’s show.

John (Johnne) Sambataro was as good as he was at Blend, and killed the crowd on at least two spectacular solos, but he was actually highlighted a little less last night than he was at Blend.

Johnne Sambataro

Johnne Sambataro

Bill Mason was actually highlighted a drop more last night. He’s a fantastic keyboards guy. His fingers were flying on his Roland, all night long, in particular on the numerous solos that he took.

Bill Mason

Bill Mason

There was a new guy added to the lineup last night, but even though Dave introduced him at least twice, I didn’t catch the name (Chris something I think). He played percussion (mostly bongos, a little tambourine, etc.). I couldn’t make out a single sound that I could attribute to him, but his hands were clearly moving fast, and in perfect rhythm with the music, so I assume he’s really good. No idea really. 🙁

Even this photo is the fuzziest of the bunch. Perhaps he wasn’t even really there! 😉

Unknown Band Member

Unknown Band Member

Alvino Bennett was awesome. In my last review I understated his playing a bit. Partially, it was because he was obscured in the corner, and partially, it was because he never took a solo. Last night, we sat at the right-most edge of the stage, a few feet back from it. Alvino was in the right-hand corner of the stage, so my view was of his forearms forward. In other words, all I could see were the drum sticks, his wrists, and some forearms, flying all night long.

Ironically, that gave me a very deep appreciation for how good this guy is. He had to lose 10 pounds while playing last night. Even though he doesn’t take any solos, his beats are fast, furious, constant, and perfect. To be clear, he wasn’t worse at Blend, I just didn’t get to pay as much attention to him, as I was so mesmerized to see Dave in person for the first time then. Anyway, Alvino is truly a great drummer!

Here’s a good shot of Alvino waving goodnight to the crowd after the show:

Alvino Bennett

Alvino Bennett

Lois had a slightly better angle on Alvino than I did, so she was able to catch him at the drums when he leaned forward slightly. 🙂

Alvino Bennett Drums

Alvino Bennett Drums

Alex Drizos was incredible on the bass. I could almost mirror the words I said about Alvino with regard to the drums, and apply them to Alex on the bass. He impressed me tremendously at Blend as well, but last night, we sat closer to Alex than to anyone else on the stage, so I got to watch his fingers in action a bit more.

While he too doesn’t get highlighted for solos, his bass lines are extremely interesting, often complex, and never overwhelm the rest of the band. He was great too!

Alex Drizos

Alex Drizos

That leaves the great man himself, Dave Mason. Wow. It was worth the wait. As I noted in the Blend review, his voice is still superb and his fingers are still silky smooth and super fast on the guitar (both six and 12 string). He’s not the most talkative guy on stage, but when he does speak, he’s warm and funny (and interesting). The band clearly loves each other, and they play incredibly tightly together!

Dave Mason

Dave Mason

For those who don’t feel like reading the Blend review (why not?!?), I’ll repeat here that Dave also has new music (in fact, he’s releasing a new CD on September 30th). At Blend, he played at least three new songs. Last night, he played two. They are awesome, so he’s still got it, in every way. Of course, his old stuff is as good as it gets as well, so he is incapable of disappointing no matter what they play!

They were announced at 8:03pm and all but Dave came out on the stage. Within 10 seconds, Alex moved to the center microphone and apologized and asked the crowd to give them a minute. They all left the stage.

After a 10 minute break, at 8:14pm, they were announced again, and all of them, including Dave, came on this time. Whew. 🙂

They played for 75 minutes and ended with a rousing standing ovation. When they came back out for the encore, they had a special guest star, Jimmy Vivino. I hadn’t heard of him before, but the bio on his site is quite interesting and impressive.

Jimmy Vivino

Jimmy Vivino

Dave let Jimmy play his guitar (something that is reasonably rare in my experience). They played Stormy Monday (one of my all-time favorite blues tunes, I listen to the Allman Brothers Band version all the time). Dave sang (and didn’t play guitar at all). He was awesome, of course. Jimmy played lead throughout. He’s fantastic. I’d be happy to catch him in any other show and get to know his music and enjoy his talent more thoroughly!

After that, Jimmy left the stage, Dave took back his guitar, and they closed with the same number they closed Blend with, Feelin’ Alright. The crowd stood and danced (or swayed in my case) 😉 throughout the finale. We left on a complete high.

They were on stage for 90 minutes in total, and rocked the house down for every second of it.

For whatever reason, we decided that we were willing to risk slightly less-than-perfect seats last night, in exchange for not standing on line in the heat for too long. So, we left a bit later than we normally would. Since we both showered right before leaving, we also decided to take the bus (even though it’s a short walk to BB King) to enjoy the air-conditioning bliss that often is delivered on modern NYC buses.

Lois was quick to get her camera out of her bag when she spotted this colorful Statue of Liberty on the sidewalk (photo taken from inside the bus):

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

We got to BB King at 6:15pm (doors officially open at 6pm). There was still a short line outside, but it worked out exactly as we hoped (dare I say, planned?) and we moved inside within five minutes. We were seated by 6:25pm, in pretty good seats.

We both had the Chopped Salad (yes, I am soliciting polite golf claps for being good). It’s a really excellent salad. I had Pulled Pork on top (OK, not quite as good as Lois) 😉 and we split a side of Red Cabbage Slaw (they make that really well there too!).

In all of the shows that we’ve seen at BB King (which is many) even when there is an opening act, that opener comes on stage at 8pm. Last night, at 7:15pm, the lights dimmed a bit, and they announced David Jacobs-Strain. He came on the stage with an acoustic guitar.

David Jacobs-Strain

David Jacobs-Strain

He opened with an instrumental, and it was obvious throughout that this guy is an extremely talented guitar player. He played a number of blues songs, the rest all included him singing as well as playing slide guitar. He has a good voice as well.

While we both enjoyed his performance, especially that it was a true bonus, not cutting into any Dave Mason time, nor lengthening the evening at all, it’s not particularly my style of music. That should take nothing away from David, who is wildly talented, and those that like raw blues, will love this guy!

That said, here’s the really cool part of the story. The night before, David opened for Dave Mason at Rams Head in Annapolis, MD. After the show, Dave’s road manager called him in for a chat. David was obviously nervous that somehow, he blew it. Instead, he received a pleasant surprise, which was hearing that Dave was inviting him to open at BB King the next night!

David was supposed to head to California yesterday, but made the correct choice (IMHO) of joining Dave for another night, and playing at BB King. Kudos to Dave for wanting to highlight a real talent (when Dave came on, he retold the story that David did, and said that David was the real deal, and we could all use some more real deal in our lives). Kudos to BB King for being flexible, and starting an opening act at 7:15pm, accommodating everyone involved!

David played for exactly 30 minutes.

After the show, David was selling CDs in the lobby. Even though this isn’t exactly the style of music we normally buy, we both like to support live music in general, and talented musicians in particular, so we bought David’s CD: Liar’s Day. Lois got him to sign it for us as well. 🙂

David Grisman at BB King

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This is a little late, as we’ve had company since yesterday morning, and I’m just now getting a few minutes to bang away at the keyboard.

On Friday night Lois and I went to BB King Blues Club to see one of my long-time favorite artists, David Grisman. I’ve never seen him live, but I own a number of his CDs, starting way back with his 1990 release of Acousticity.

The show started seven minutes late (somewhat unusual for BB King). He had four other band members comprising David Grisman Bluegrass Experience (DGBX). They’re all listed on the page linked above, but they deserve individual mention. Here’s the entire band on the stage:

David Grisman Bluegass Experience (DGBX)

After the first number, David said that he was going to showcase each member of the band individually. He started with the guitarist, Jim Nunally. He sang lead (on a number of songs, and harmony on nearly every one) and played lead guitar (acoustic). He’s quite good, but not in the league of the many guitarists that I cover in these pages. Solid.

Next he featured the banjo player, Keith Little. Keith has played with some of the greats in the industry. He too plays extremely well, and sings really well (lead on some numbers, and harmony on all others). I really liked his playing, but he too wasn’t in the same league as Bela Fleck, Ron Stewart, and some others that we’ve seen recently. More than solid though.

Next he featured the fiddle player, Chad Manning. Wow. This guy totally blew me away. In addition, when he played simultaneously with David (a world-class Mandolin player), or in a duel with David, it was blissful.

Finally, he featured his son, Samson Grisman (Sam). He’s about to graduate from High School. David joked that Sam was playing hooky in order to make the show. He played an upright acoustic bass. He’s incredible. On the song that he was featured, he basically played lead bass, something that you don’t usually see or hear about, for an entire song. He was excellent, throughout the night. A major star in the making, no doubt!

They played for 30+ minutes and then David shifted gears. He took us through a history of Bluegrass music, explaining how each of the pioneering stars got their start, formed their bands, in what years, etc. He then picked one song from each of those legends and the band played it to perfection. As David himself said, in addition to entertaining, it’s also nice to be able to inform as well. I agree! Here he is, informing us:

David Grisman

David has a wonderfully warm style when he engages with the audience. He’s like a seasoned college professor, sharing knowledge in a comfortable style. He’s witty and gentle. That said, like a good comedian, he can hold his own with potential hecklers (not that anyone in the crowd was actually heckling). On one occasion, and entire group of people off to the side yelled that he needed to turn it up.

Without missing a beat, he said “We can’t. But, even if we could, we wouldn’t. These are old instruments and they’re meant to be played this way. If we turned it up, we wouldn’t be able to stop. We’d just keep turning it up, and it just wouldn’t be the same music!”

I agree with him completely. The volume level was perfect. The only time you had to strain to hear clearly was when he was speaking, and that’s only because there were a number of people who took that as their cue to catch up with their friends. Luckily, very few people opened their mouths while the band was playing.

They played for 93 fantastic minutes before saying goodnight. After a standing ovation they came on and played one song for an encore. David hesitated, then said “Hey, I think I have some friends in the audience, perhaps I can coax them to come up and play, if you don’t mind staying a bit longer.” The crowd hooted their agreement.

The first guest he brought on the stage was none other than the ultra-famous John Sebastian (of Lovin’ Spoonful fame). If you’re young, or old enough to have lost your memory, here are but a few of his mega-hits: Summer in the City, Daydream (What a Day for a Daydream), Do You Believe in Magic. If none of those ring a bell (really?, none?), then you have to know his hit Welcome Back, the theme song from the show Welcome Back Kotter. 😉

John Sebastian

They played a song together (Sebastian and DGBX), and then he brought up another friend. I thought his name was something like John Scholes, but I can’t (easily) find a mention of that, so someone will either have to help me out here, or I’ll continue to embarrass myself. He played banjo and guitar. Here he is, please help!

Unknown Guest

Together, they played at least two more songs, perhaps three. So, the encore turned out to be a very special treat, and long as well. When they really walked off for good, it was exactly two hours on stage (including encore). A fantastic show!

We decided not to stand on line, hoping that the holiday weekend would mean that the crowd would show up later than normal. We were right enough. We arrived at 6:20pm, and got seated in the stage area, but at a table on the right edge. We had the head two seats (which we prefer) so we were happy with the compromise of not standing for an extra 30-60 minutes, but still winding up with decent seats.

Our table was a table for six. After about 15 minutes, they seated two people at the other end of the table, leaving the middle seats open on both sides. Even though the show sold out (it was quite a large crowd), they never seated anyone between us. I guess people preferred to stand at the bar (or didn’t realize there was an empty seat here or there). That made it extremely comfortable as well.

But, it allowed something else to happen as well. After the other people at our table were already there for 30 minutes, the waiter delivered to them an order of the nachos. Lois and I have seen dozen of these nachos fly by on a number of occasions, but no one at our table had ever ordered them. They are monstrously large, and are piled with meat (smoked pulled pork, bbq chicken and beef, at a minimum).

We’ve fantasized about ordering them, but I definitely need to drop a bunch of pounds before I’d tackle it (Lois won’t be enough help). So, we turned to the other people and joked that we were jealous. It turns out that it was a father and son. The son had graduated from Haverford the week before (just like our godchildren’s dual graduations), and this was part of their weekend-long celebration.

The dad plays mandolin (recreationally) and has been a Grisman fan forever. The son plays mandolin and fiddle, and after resisting for years, fell in love with Bluegrass music as well. When we started discussing some of the shows we’ve each seen recently, it turns out that we were both (the dad and us) at the Dan Tyminski show at The Egg in Albany. Small world.

We chatted with them for 30 delightful minutes until the show started. Thank goodness no one else was seated between us, or we would have missed out on the chance to meet two extremely lovely people!

Willie and Howard

Doofus Music

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For those of you who know that my favorite group is called Girlyman, you won’t be surprised to hear that I don’t judge a group by their name. 😉

In this post (ironically about Girlyman!) near the bottom, I mentioned that I had lunch with a good friend who I used to work with for years at UBS. I didn’t mention his last name, but unfortunately, I need to out him in this post, whether he likes it or not.

During that lunch, I mentioned that we were going to see Girlyman that night, and we got to talking about the type of music we listen to. He told me that his parents were both musicians, playing a number of genres, but definitely fitting into the Bluegrass/Folk on a broad scale. Of course, I love that kind of music.

So, what’s the name of their group? Currently, Doofus. Doofus consists of four people, two married couples, Neal and Coleen Walters and John and Heidi Cerrigione. Prior to Doofus (and possibly parallel as well, I haven’t checked), Neal and Coleen Walters also produce music under their names, and have also been in the Mill Run Dulcimer Band.

I checked out some of the sample streams and instantly loved the music. Neal and Coleen are the parents of my friend Chris, so now you can guess his last name. 😉

Chris encouraged me to contact his folks to ask about purchasing some of their CDs. After doing that, I decided that I really want to own them all, rather than fall in love with a few and go back to the well again. So I ordered all 13 CDs, one of which is a three CD set of Autoharp music.

The CDs arrived while we were away celebrating the graduations (oh yeah, and working at Zope). I ripped them and loaded them on my iPod the minute I got my sweaty little hands on them. A total of 278 (or 279) tracks on the various CDs (four by Doofus, two by Neal and Coleen Walters, six by Mill Run Dulcimer Band and the three CD set of Autoharp music).

So far, I’ve listened to all four Doofus CDs. I love them all. It’s a mixture of mesmerizing instrumentals and gorgeous vocals always backed by fantastic musicianship. I’ve only listened to two Mill Run Dulcimer tracks so far and they are exceptional as well. I am truly looking forward to enjoying the remaining CDs over the coming week.

I am also very excited that Neal and Coleen (and Doofus too) perform live, mostly on the East Coast (lucky for us), so one of these days, I will definitely be making it our business to go and see them. It will surely be a treat!

Tonight we’re seeing the David Grisman Experience (he’s an incredible mandolin player) at BB King. First concert in three weeks, so we’re salivating. I’ll write about that tomorrow.

The Proclaimers at BB King

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Last night marked the end of our mini-streak of concerts (six in seven nights, including the last three in a row at BB King). We saw The Proclaimers.

In 1998 The Proclaimers released their second studio CD, Sunshine On Leith. The first two songs on the album really grabbed Lois: I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and Cap In Hand. We nearly burned out those two tracks on the CD playing them practically every time we got in the car, for years.

For whatever reason, we rarely listened to the rest of the CD. I truly can’t recall whether it bored me or not, but for sure, it didn’t grab Lois, and she always controls the music in the car, so it never got played.

When I finally got an MP3 player, I was stingy both on the disk space I was willing to give up on the laptop (the disks are much bigger now) as well as worrying about filling up the smaller disks on the original MP3 players (my first was a Creative Zen, not an iPod). So, when choosing which of my music to rip back then, I was overly judicious (I regret that to an extent nowadays). When ripping Sunshine of Leith, I only ripped those two tracks, and have never revisited the CD since then.

That background will become important momentarily, to set the appropriate expectations in terms of our knowledge (or complete lack thereof) with regard to the range of The Proclaimers music. With that in mind, my most humble apologies to their legion of fans!

A lot of what I have to say about last night’s show is more tied to the venue and the experience, but in keeping with the new style here, I’ll describe the show from my perspective first, then the venue, which may or may not clarify some of my feelings about the show itself. I’ll also cover the opening act, Jeremy Fisher afterwards as well in between this and the venue section.

The Proclaimers came on exactly 9pm. The crowd went nuts (literally). They have a big band sound with six people on the stage. From left-to-right, Zac Ware on lead guitar, Charlie Reid on vocals, tambourine and penny whistle, Craig Reid on vocals and acoustic guitar, Clive Jenner on drums (mostly hidden from our view behind Craig Reid), Garry John Kane on bass and Stevie Christie on keyboards.

The Proclaimers

Another shot of them:

The Proclaimers 2

Charlie and Craig Reid are The Proclaimers, Scottish twins. Charlie primarily sings lead, occasionally playing the tambourine. He played the penny whistle on a single song. No need for him to play it on any others, as he plays it simplistically, but not badly. Craig sings harmonies with Charlie, and lead on a number of songs. He plays purely rhythm guitar on all of the numbers.

They sing beautiful harmonies and both have very good voices, but it wasn’t as special as I had hoped. On a few numbers (thankfully not many), they (but in particular Craig) were really just screaming into the microphone rather than singing.

Charlie Reid:

Charlie Reid

Craig Reid:

Craig Reid

Zac Ware was fine on the guitar, but only took perhaps four leads the entire show, the longest of which was under 30 seconds. He basically played background leads, softly, in support of the group.

Zac Ware

Garry John Kane played a solid if unspectacular bass throughout the show.

Garry John Kane

I can’t tell you anything about Stevie Christie, as it was very hard to make out the keyboards on most of the numbers.

Stevie Christie

Clive Jenner kept a good beat all night, but we really couldn’t see him at all from our seats. We stood at the door for the encore and I had a better vantage point. I was also able to concentrate a bit more on his playing (specifically listening to the drums) and I was reasonably impressed. Here is a five minute drum solo by Clive (accompanied just by a bass) on YouTube if you want to judge for yourself.

This photo of Clive Jenner comes off of the Big Screen at BB King, since he was hidden from our view the entire night by Craig Reid:

Clive Jenner

Together, they produce a very pleasant sound, but absolutely zero musical virtuosity. It’s basically all just a driving beat to support their singing.

That obviously brings us to the songs. As stated earlier, we were really only familiar with two songs. Thankfully, they played both of those (closing the show, pre-encore, with 500 Miles). While the crowd loved nearly every song beyond description, we found most of them too similar to each other. Perhaps that’s why we didn’t listen much to the rest of our CD, but I honestly can’t recall.

Given that I really like the words (message) in both Cap In Hand and 500 Miles, it’s possible that if I really knew the words well to the rest of the songs, I too would have enjoyed it more. While I was able to understand a fair bit of them last night (the sound level was good and clean), I doubt it. They played their big smash hit Letter From America (which sent the crowd into a tizzy, literally), but I found the song quite repetitious, even though it was pleasant.

They played for 73 minutes before saying goodnight. After a minute or two they came back out for a three-song encore. The encore was pleasant but not even as good as the main show. They did play an obvious crowd favorite, King Of The Road (a 1960 hit by Roger Miller). I know and like the song, but I don’t see what makes their version special in any way. Oh well, I guess I just didn’t get it last night.

They were off the stage at exactly 10:30pm (90 minutes including encore). That’s a reasonably typical length for these types of shows, so I wasn’t disappointed by that (in fact, we were glad it didn’t drag on). That said, when I describe the crowd and setup in the venue section, you’ll see what I mean when I say this was a show that should have played a reasonable amount longer.

We both used the exact same word to describe the show afterwards: boring. Boring can have multiple meanings. At one extreme being bored out of one’s mind (wanting to bore a hole in your head, just for amusement or relief) and at the other extreme, just passing time, mindlessly. This was definitely the latter.

There wasn’t a single unpleasant moment or note in the entire performance. It was pleasant (the best word I can find to describe my feelings), but I wouldn’t have been disappointed if it ended after the first number (other than that I was curious to hear Cap In Hand and 500 Miles, live). Both of those songs were fine as well, and I was certainly tapping my foot, but neither moved me in any way either (which they still do when I listen on the iPod!).

Again, apologies to their fans, who will find the above impossible to believe or understand. 🙁

The opening act was Jeremy Fisher, someone I’d never heard of. He came on at exactly 8pm with two people accompanying him. Isaac Carpenter on drums and Peter Fusco on bass (I’m pretty sure I got the bass player right).

The three of them produce a fresh, driving sound. I couldn’t catch all of the words, but the ones I did seemed pretty good. Here’s a YouTube video of him doing one song, Cigarette, that I did catch the words to. The video is cleverly animated (in my opinion) so if you’re interested in learning about Jeremy, this might be a good intro.

Both Isaac and Peter sang harmony with Jeremy, with Isaac doing more than Peter. Isaac really hooked me, instantly, as a drummer. A very clean, driving beat throughout. He also played glockenspiel and shakers. He sings well too. Peter played a solid bass and sang well too.

They were on stage for exactly 35 minutes.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed their set and I’d likely go see Jeremy again if the opportunity arose. He has a MySpace page as well as a number of YouTube videos around, so checking him out is pretty easy.

As for Isaac Carpenter, if you have an interest, you can get a peek into his personality (dry humor), in this amusing YouTube video (not hysterical, just amusing). The bit at the very end may also give you a glimpse into his drumming capabilities, but not the tiny bits in the beginning of the video. 😉

It’s a tad sad when the warm up group tickles me significantly more than the main attraction. Oh well, at least they did. It would have been worse if Jeremy was a flop…

On to the venue. We’ve been to BB King many times. In the past year, perhaps a dozen times. As stated in the intro, last night was our third night in a row at BB’s. Each night brought a wildly different experience, not just because of the music, but because the club was reconfigured for each show. That’s something we had no clue ever happened before Tuesday’s Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo show.

As reported here, at the Pat Benatar show, they removed the last row of tables, creating a much larger area for people to stand near the bar. It seemed to make sense, and clearly the sold more tickets than they otherwise would. From the website, it was also clear that this was not going to be a normal night at BB King. As an aside, something I didn’t report on for that night, the Pat Benatar tickets were the most expensive that we’ve ever experienced at BB King. There might be many shows that are even more expensive, but not for the artists that we track or have seen there.

Things were back to normal the night before for Jerry Douglas, reinforcing my illusion that the Pat Benatar configuration was a one-time aberration. At least for Pat Benatar, we had some kind of warning, seeing the website claim that seating was extremely limited (which wasn’t actually all that true, as they only removed roughly 100 seats).

It’s possible that last night’s show had a similar, or even more severe warning, but I have no idea, because we bought our tickets for all three shows this week at one time, at the box office, never visiting the web site for the specific performances. The only reason I saw the Pat Benatar warning was because I went back to pick up an extra ticket for our friend for that show.

When we walked in last night, we were truly shocked. The entire lower level, in front of the stage, had zero tables or chairs. It looked like a dance floor. Lois asked the ticket-taker at the door whether it was meant for dancing, and he said “Would you like to dance? Please do!”. Oh oh…

Here’s a shot of the stage showing the empty floor (at least part of it):

Empty Floor

Since the above photo is a little dark, I edited it to wash it out a bit, lightening it in the process of losing some of the colors, so you can get a better sense of the emptiness:

Empty Floor Washed Out

The row of tables that was removed for Pat Benatar was back and we ended up sitting in the right-most one (closest to the entrance) at the head two seats. Those were the exact seats we had for Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby, and across the aisle from the seats we had for the Jefferson Starship. It took us a while to absorb the fact that this show was going to be radically different than our previous experiences here, and there was no excitement associated with that thought.

We ordered dinner, but third time was not the charm for the special crab cake, as it was no longer available. I tried the blackened catfish for the first time. Most delicious, highly recommended.

The crowd was coming in pretty steadily, but it wasn’t a crush. Pat Benatar seemed to fill up earlier (there were more seats available though). At about 7:50pm people started to gather in the lower level (standing, obviously) in front of the stage. By 8pm when Jeremy came on, space on the floor was still quite open (see photo below). I then looked around and noticed that the small area between our row of tables and the bar was full to the brim.

Jeremy Fisher Appears on Stage

The noise level was pretty high, and like with Pat Benatar, the music during the dinner hours was louder and more rock oriented than the previous night. This time (as opposed to for the The Wrights the night before) the house lights did indeed go out when Jeremy came out. Most people paid attention to him, and he certainly got rousing applause after each number, but the number of people who conversed at the top of their lungs was shocking.

It wasn’t as annoying as it could have been because Jeremy’s music is very up-beat, and loud enough (without being too loud) to allow me to enjoy his show (as noted above) without being too distracted. I still can’t believe how rude people are. I get that most people came to see The Proclaimers, but give the new guy a break, even if he isn’t that good, which in this case wasn’t true, as he was quite good!

Here’s a shot of how crowded the floor got by the time Jeremy was tearing down his equipment!

Full Floor After Jeremy Fisher

That brings me to the crowd in general. Surprisingly, tons of Scottish people. I only say surprisingly because I don’t notice tons of Scottish people coming to the numerous shows we attend. I had to wonder whether Scottish people follow The Proclaimers around, making vacation time to visit places like NYC whenever they show up here. It was interesting.

There’s always a reasonable (and by reasonable, I really mean an unreasonable) amount of drinking going on at these shows. Last night was no exception (except for the fact that they likely drank substantially more than a reasonable amount!). 😉 Don’t know if was the Scotts (or is it Scotch?) influencing the rest of the crowd, but wow, BB’s must have raked in the liquor take last night. Lots of non-stop trips back-and-forth to the rest rooms all night long, no surprise. Hard to imagine how some of these people made it home.

When The Proclaimers came on, the place was packed to the gills. There had to be more people in there than for Pat Benatar (which was roughly 700). Don’t know how many more though. While the crowd was paying significantly more attention to the music, it was still remarkable to me how many people insisted on screaming to their friends in conversation (so that not only their friends could hear them, but so could anyone within a reasonable distance). The fact that they could be heard over the loud music is truly amazing, and of course, as rude as could be to their idols (The Proclaimers).

There are numerous examples of rude and selfish behavior, but let me limit my tales just a few, all involving one particular person, who I had the wonderful fortune to be sitting back-to-back with. An attractive blond Scottish woman, likely in her upper 20’s, but could have been lower 30’s. She was at a table for eight, all Scotts, all friends.

She/they talked non-stop during Jeremy Fisher’s set, of course. When The Proclaimers hit the stage she lost her mind (in the positive sense). 😉

Her arms were flailing wildly in all directions, mostly pointing out toward the stage, in violent motions. What you don’t know is that both of us were seated (sideways) right on a very busy (and tiny) aisle, so that every time she flung her arm out she risked poking out an eye, knocking a drink off a waiter’s tray, etc.

Then she got up and started dancing in the aisle. As people tried to make their way by her (recall, aside from the wait staff constantly going back-and-forth, everyone else was making bathroom runs every 30 seconds to make room for the next drink!), she was annoyed that they were interfering with her enjoyment of the show.

Never mind that there was an entire open area right in front of the stage, meant exactly for this kind of enjoyment. She wanted to stay near her friends, none of whom stood up (except to go to the bathroom) even once. In fact, her really good friend (they hugged a hundred times) tried to pull her back into her seat multiple times (I can only imagine how mortified she was to be associated with her friend last night). Of course, each time she was pulled back, she jumped up again.

On certain songs, she video taped the band on her camera. Of course, to make sure she had things centered and focused, she extended her arms straight out from her body, blocking the entire aisle. In one of the more unbelievable moments of my life, she refused to move her arms when a group of four people tried to pass her. With her head, she motioned to them to duck (bend) under her arms (in a near limbo-like manner). Incredibly, each one of them obliged her! The last guy hesitated a long time, but decided he needed to get to the bathroom badly enough (I guess) that he finally relented and bent (to her will) as well.

At some point, even she realized that she had made a complete a** of herself. Rather than tone it down, she cranked it up. She walked over to a complete stranger (while his girlfriend was in the bathroom!) and put her arms around his neck, and whispered (probably shouted) in his ear, for a good three minutes. Later, she put her arms around two older men (in their 60’s likely), and when they showed discomfort, she insisted (trust me, I’m sure about this!) that they put their arms around her too. After a minute of her insisting, they too relented and put their arms around her.

OK, so she’s a super fan (and probably pretty lubed up as well, right?). What’s wrong with that, and having a little fun? Aside from the fact that it’s not her personal show, she’s not quite the super fan that she’d like to believe herself to be. On two of the slower songs, she obviously got bored with her own act (and with the band as well!), and instead turned her attention back to her friends, and talked non-stop at the top of her lungs throughout both songs, never once looking at the band. Wow, a real fan indeed. Of course, talking over the slower songs makes her voice carry even louder and further…

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re firmly in the center of the me generation. Let’s hope we’re near the peak, though I fear we’re not even close…

I’m sorry, I know I went on a long time about that, but this is my own best personal therapy, getting it out in this manner. 🙂

One more thought about last night. I truly have no idea how this business works, from any angle. I would love a lesson, considering how many times we go to see live shows. If someone wants to write a long comment, feel free, or email me directly, or blog about it and post a link here, etc. Here are some of my observations, which have zero foundation in fact.

I assume (but again, have no idea) that a majority of the ticket price goes to the artist (in the dinner theater setups), and that 100% of the meal and drink revenues go to the club (plus the lovely fees that get tacked on to each ticket). I realize that even if that’s largely correct, that there have to be exceptions (certain groups not getting all the ticket revenue, and possibly big groups even getting a percentage of the house revenue).

True or not, the setting of ticket prices often confuses me. I realize that bigger acts can easily command more money, but does the band set/demand a certain price, or does the venue try to help them maximize the price by trying to come close to selling out even if it means lowering the price.

Last night was a particularly curious example of my confusion. As mentioned above, Pat Benatar was the most expensive seat we’ve ever paid for at BB’s (we’ve spent more on every show we’ve seen at Madison Square Garden and a few at Radio City Music Hall and The Beacon Theater as well). In retrospect, that didn’t seem unreasonable, as Pat sold more tickets than anyone else we’ve ever seen at BB’s, so why not crank the ticket price if there is no resistance and you still sell out.

I already reported that The Proclaimers likely sold more tickets last night. But, last night was the cheapest ticket we’ve ever bought for a show at BB’s. By a long shot! If the band sets the price, then I can understand it. They’ve made it, and perhaps they truly want to share with their fans, making it easy for everyone to afford the show, and ensure the maximum amount of tickets by insisting that BB’s oversell, and remove tables to make room, etc. If BB’s sets the price, or has a heavy say, I simply don’t get it. Not only could they have sold out at a much higher price, they could have sold many more dinners with tables and chairs.

OK, ending on an up-beat note, five days left in the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. If you’re procrastinating, stop now! Enter to win a signed CD by this amazing band, Girlyman!

Jerry Douglas at BB King

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Last night we saw Jerry Douglas (and band) at BB King. Opening for them were The Wrights. I’ll cover The Wrights after I review Jerry Douglas, and then finish up with my usual venue summary.

We’ve seen Jerry Douglas before at the Beacon Theater, August 2nd, 2007, when he played with Alison Krauss and Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas. I covered that night in this post. That show was incredible, as was Jerry specifically. I also love listening to every note he plays on the many Alison Krauss and Union Station CDs that we own.

In 2008, Alison took a break from touring with Union Station to tour with Robert Plant. That left Union Station on their own. I would have thought (and enjoyed it if) they would have toured as a group. Instead, they decided to form separate efforts. I’ve already covered (twice, here and here) our wonderful experiences with the Dan Tyminski Band (one of the members is Barry Bales, the incredible bass player from Union Station).

Jerry Douglas set out on the road (and recorded a new CD called Glide, due out in July) with his own band. For those of you who don’t know, Jerry Douglas primarily plays the Dobro. He also plays a lap steel guitar, and probably other instruments, but mostly, it’s the Dobro.

Jerry Douglas

That said, it’s not accurate to simply say he plays the Dobro. Many people (perhaps even everyone) consider Jerry to be the world’s greatest dobro player. Read his bio if you want to be awed by his accomplishments, independent of being awed by the actual music! For the lazy among you, here’s a one paragraph highlight:

His transcendent technique and his passionate musicality have helped him net twelve Grammy Awards and numerous International Bluegrass Music Association awards. Douglas holds the distinction of being named Musician of the Year by The Country Music Association (2002, 2005, 2007), The Academy of Country Music (ten times), and The Americana Music Association (2002, 2003). In June 2004, the National Endowment for The Arts honored Douglas with a National Heritage Fellowship, recognizing his artistic excellence and contribution to the nation’s traditional arts.

I bolded the mind-boggling stats above. 🙂

It’s not really possible to describe to you how he plays, but here’s my feeble attempt nonetheless. On his right hand, he has picks on every finger. All of his fingers are moving faster than is humanly possible, simultaneously. In his left hand he holds a slide bar, and he presses it on the strings and slides it back and forth. He produces sounds that would seem to require having all five fingers at different fret locations on the neck, but he does it all (magically, mysteriously), by just moving his left hand faster than the eye can see. Whew.

All of the technical wizardry would be interesting, but meaningless, if it wasn’t for the fact the the sound he produces is heavenly!

So, he could come on stage by himself, and captivate any audience, no other musicians need apply. I have no doubt of that. Is that what he does? Of course not. Given his enormous talent, any musician would jump at the opportunity to play with Jerry. He has a band that proves that point, and each of them is worth their own mention. I’ll cover them in the order that they appeared on stage (left-to-right), but you can also read the band bios at your convenience (also linked at the top of this post, yes, they’re good enough to earn two links). Here’s a photo of all of them together on stage:

Jerry Douglas Band

Guthrie Trapp played the guitar (two different electric guitars and an acoustic one as well). He’s a noted Mandolin player, but didn’t play it last night. It would be hard to describe how absolutely awesome Guthrie is. He’s so fast, so smooth, plays in a variety of styles, and nails every single one of them.

One of the most impressive things is when he and Jerry are playing some fast licks together, and he keeps up with his end of the bargain, something not too many guitarists could do with Jerry being the other half of the duet!

I could go on an on, and you still wouldn’t get the sense. Here’s a YouTube video of him playing with a small band doing a bluegrass number, on an electric guitar. If you’re intrigued, just Google Guthrie Trapp and you can find a bunch more videos, both on YouTube and on MySpace. Guthrie melted the crowd into a puddle every time he took a solo!

Guthrie TrappGuthrie Trapp Acoustic

Doug Belote played the drums. A total pro who entertained the entire evening, in an understated (but superb) jazz-style the entire show. He’s not as flashy as some of the drummers we’ve seen recently, but he’s every bit as solid.

Doug Belote

Todd Parks played the upright bass. In addition to playing a solid bass line all night, he took a few exceptional solos, demonstrating a real feel for the music, rather than just banging on the strings to show technical prowess. Well done!

Todd Parks

Luke Bulla played the fiddle most of the night, and the acoustic guitar on one number. He also sang the only two songs that had vocals. He has an excellent voice. As a fiddle player, he’s one of the fastest and cleanest I’ve ever seen/heard. That should come as no surprise for two separate (but obviously related) reasons. First, he has played with (and therefore was chosen by) some of the greatest musicians around, including Ricky Skaggs, Chris Thile and of course, now, Jerry Douglas.

The second reason is his mind-boggling accomplishments. In case you didn’t bother to click over to his extensive bio, here’s a relevant paragraph:

Touring with and singing in his family band from age four, Luke took up the fiddle at seven. Over the course of the next few years, he won the National Fiddle Contest (in Weiser, Idaho) six times in his respective age categories. His seventh win came in the Grand Champion division at age sixteen, making him the youngest to have earned the title at the time.

Wow! He’s nothing short of amazing, and given what I’m about to say next, I need to make you realize that I really mean that! That said, while he’s technically brilliant, for me personally, he doesn’t move me on the fiddle. I mention it only because I’ve covered a number of fiddle players in this space, including a number that totally get to me, and I wanted to draw the distinction. If you care, just search for fiddle in the box on the top right of the page.

To put a fine point on it (and show a small world angle as well), while Luke was playing, I kept thinking that he sounded very much like Jean Luc Ponty. That’s a compliment, not an insult. New Country (on Ponty’s Imaginary Voyage CD) is still one of my all-time favorite fiddle tunes. When I was reading Guthrie’s bio today, he mentions a very wide variety of musical influences. Included among them is Jean Luc Ponty, which gave me a hearty chuckle, given that I couldn’t get Ponty’s name out of my mind last night whenever Luke played!

To be clear, there were many people in the crowd last night that went nuts every single time Luke took a solo, deservedly so.

Luke Bulla Singing

Wrapping it all up, they played a number of songs from the upcoming CD, Glide, expected to be released this July. They played some old favorites as well, including perhaps my personal favorite Jerry Douglas number: Choctaw Hayride. Here’s a YouTube video of Jerry doing it with Alison Krauss and Union Station. In this video, Alison Krauss plays the part of Luke Bulla, Dan Tyminski plays the part of Guthrie Trapp, Barry Bales plays the part of Todd Parks, and Ron Block plays the banjo (beautifully!), an instrument not seen in last night’s amazing performance of this incredible song.

Quite a number of the pieces (including the opening number) were significantly more Jazz than Country or Bluegrass. They were awesome too (as I love Jazz). The majority were more straight-up Country, with some Bluegrass thrown in for good measure.

Toward the end of the show, Jerry introduced a song called Patrick Meets the Brickbats which he wrote for his son, Patrick. He said “this is a slow number”. You can judge for yourself how slow it is on this awesome version on YouTube.

All in all, Jerry is funny, nice, and simply one of the most amazing musicians alive. He was also kind enough to sign our brand new CD of his (American Master Series – Best of the Sugar Hill Years). He had to go backstage to find a Sharpie, but he did, and we appreciate it! 🙂

Including a two-song encore, they were on stage for 100 minutes. Generous enough, but made even better by the fact that they didn’t use the excuse of having The Wrights open for them to cut their show short. That made for a much longer night than usual at BB King, but every person in the audience appreciated it to the very last drop!

OK, enough, there were more people deserving of praise, and it’s finally time to get to them as well! 🙂

The Wrights (this time, I linked to their MySpace page, above was their own website) opened the show at 8:01pm. They are a married couple. Adam plays the electric guitar and Shannon plays the acoustic guitar. Both are excellent musicians. If you want a taste of Adam’s guitar skills, you can listen to the instrumental Tire B Flat on the above-linked MySpace page. He won’t be confused for the likes of Guthrie, but he’s really good, and totally a pleasure to listen to.

Here they are tuning their guitars:

The Wrights Tuning

However, that’s not what makes The Wrights special, and indeed, special they are! Lois has been following them for a while now, and we already owned their debut album Down This Road. It’s great! They wrote all of the songs on it, and as you know from these pages, nothing impresses Lois more than a great songwriter, made even more special when they also happen to be fantastic performers of their own music!

Both of them write, and both of them sing lead (extremely well!) generally alternating songs between them. All along, they sing with rich and beautiful harmonies (and you all know, we’re suckers for great harmonies!).

Their songs are varied, but many of them have a fantastic sense of humor in them, while conveying real life in a deep and effective manner. We loved hearing On The Rocks (from the Down This Road CD) live. It’s fun (and true for most newlyweds) and they did it to perfection last night.

Both of them have a very warm style on stage and were instantly a hit with the crowd. Adam is so self-deprecating, but in a way that is warming and continually funny. One of their more beautiful songs (the last one on the Down This Road CD) is called You Get The Thorns. They did it wonderfully last night.

They were on stage for 40 minutes, every single one of those minutes thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance! This was the first time they performed in NYC. They acquitted themselves perfectly! 🙂

Here are each of them individually:

Adam WrightShannon Wright

There is an overwhelming gentleness about both of them, on stage and off. Watching them was almost zen-like it the calmness that it produced in me. They are also really nice! Lois bought their new CD (The Wrights) and wanted it signed by them. She got to tell that to Adam while he was unplugging his guitar after his set.

She couldn’t find him between sets, and asked the person working the door to let The Wrights know she was looking for them. He did, and they bothered to come look for her, and after Jerry’s set we were able to say hi, get the CD signed, and get a picture of Lois with them! Thanks Adam and Shannon, we can’t wait to see you again!

Lois and The Wrights

Some words about the venue. The night before, we were also at BB King to see Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo (reviewed here). That night was crazy crowded with roughly 700 people crammed into BB King, the most I’ve ever seen there.

Last night was not sold out, though there was an extremely healthy-sized crowd, all of whom loved the show. If I had to guess, there were between 300-350 people there (normally, BB King can seat 450). We got to sit one table to the left (dead center this time) of our exact two seats from the night before. This time, no one sat in the middle seats of our six-seat table, and a very nice couple sat at the remaining two seats.

Because the place wasn’t as crowded, and because the music wasn’t going to be loud rock, BB King’s matched the mood (as they usually do) with more folk music (much softer as well) before the show started. Between The Wrights and Jerry Douglas, they played Dylan exclusively. Because the volume of the music was so much lower, conversing was much more enjoyable last night.

Unfortunately, it was the night before when we had company that we really wanted to talk to (we talk enough to each other) 😉 and the fact that they were warming up the capacity crowd on Tuesday with blaring rock made me (and probably others) hoarse trying to scream over the music. I’ll take last night’s version of a more mellow warm up any day!

The amazing crab cake that I had the night before was offered again as a special (by the same waiter we had the night before) and I couldn’t resist it again. It did not disappoint. I am convinced the chef is using some magic fairy dust to bind the crab to the other goodies he’s putting in there.

Everything went great last night at BB King, including the staff being wonderful (as usual), with one notable exception. When The Wrights came on the stage, the house lights never went off. Often, this kind of gaffe can be an unwitting signal to the crowd to be rude and ignore the warm up group. Thankfully, while the house lights never went down the entire time The Wrights were on the stage, the crowd was totally in to their performance, and there were no distractions to everyone enjoying the show. Whew!

We didn’t get out of there until 10:55pm, and walked home leisurely, stopping in Grand Central on the way. A lovely evening indeed. We’re hoping to duplicate it again tonight, when we’re back at BB King (third night in a row) to see The Proclaimers!

OK, to finish off, you know the drill. Just one week left in the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Win a signed CD, free, of this amazing band, Girlyman.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo at BB King

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A few months ago, I saw that Pat Benatar was playing at BB King with Neil Giraldo. I only own one Pat Benatar CD (Crimes of Passion) and it’s absolutely awesome. I am embarrassed to admit that I had never heard the name Neil Giraldo, since he’s been her husband for 26 years, and her lead guitarist for longer than that.

The site linked to above is the official Pat Benatar site, but it’s at best an embarrassment. If you want to find out anything useful, including tour dates (for example), I urge you to visit the fan site instead.

We weren’t sure about our schedule and didn’t end up buying two tickets until a few weeks back. There’s a back story to last night, but it will come after the review of the show itself.

As is typical of BB KIng (a fact that makes us like going to BB King a lot!), the group came on at exactly 8pm as advertised! At first, only the drummer (Chris Ralles) and bass player (Mick Mahan) were on the stage. You could hear a guitar playing as well, but there was no guitarist on stage at the time.

Here’s a photo of Chris standing alongside his drums. Since there was a plexiglass cage around the drums, all photos of Chris while he was playing were fuzzy at best:

Chris Ralles

Here’s Mick Mahan:

Mick Mahan

A minute later, Pat comes on to the stage to wild applause (and a few standing ovationers as well). A few seconds later, Neil Giraldo comes out as well, with striped pants and a green guitar.

This is Neil with an acoustic guitar (later on there are two photos with one of the green guitars). I’m putting it here to prove to you that he wore psychedelic pants. 😉

Neil Giraldo Acoustic

BB King normally seats 450, and when sold out, sells as many as 150 additional tickets for standing at the bar in the rear. Last night, they removed an entire row of tables at the back, reducing the seating to roughly 350, but they increased the number of standing room only tickets substantially, selling as many as 700 tickets in total. I have never seen that many people stuffed into BB King’s in the many times we’ve been there.

This was all the more impressive given that they played BB King’s just two nights before, on Sunday April 20th. So, clearly, they can fill and then refill a 700 person place two out of three nights.

In addition to taking out an entire row of tables, they also took out some center tables from the row in front of that (in the bar area) to accommodate a very large sound board. This is more typical of the size you’d see at Radio City Music Hall or even Madison Square Garden, so clearly, Pat and Neil don’t do these shows on a shoestring!

Sound Board

The overwhelming majority of the crowd were die-hard Benatar fans, singing (or mouthing) along every word of every song she sang. We’ve recently had a similar experience when we saw Dave Mason at Blend Bar (smaller venue, big rock star). There was a difference between them though. While the music/show was perfect for Dave, and the energy level high, it’s hard to describe the elevation of energy for last night’s show.

Pat’s voice is still terrific, and they played many of their big hits, so there was nothing to disappoint in that. What I didn’t know, but 95% of the crowd obviously did, was how spectacular a guitar player Neil Giraldo is. He also played some keyboards (quite well), but for the most part, he just played crazy (as in good, meaning insanely great) guitar, all night long.

Here’s Neil in front of the keyboards, when he played the intro to the song, holding the guitar on his lap, which he continued the rest of the song on (twice). He also played one entire song just on the keyboards:

Neil Giraldo Keyboards Guitar

I’m nuts about Pat’s voice, and I love her songs (in particular, she did Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Heartbreaker, etc.), but I would have been happy to just listen to Neil play the electric guitar (correction, guitars, as he had at least three different electric guitars, plus an acoustic one for two songs as well) all night long. My head is still spinning thinking about how good he is, and that I didn’t know his name.

Here’s Neil (two photos of one of the green guitars) finishing up a solo that destroyed the crowd on every level!

Neil Giraldo Solo 1Neil Giraldo Solo 2

Since he’s played on all of her CDs, I obviously have heard him before (specifically, on the CD that I own and have listened to many times), but I should have known who to credit as well…

What makes it more impressive was that he had a big bandage on his left pinky, and it appeared to be bothering him. In addition, between most songs he was violently shaking his left hand, leading a member of our group to comment that he likely had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as well!

He certainly didn’t let any of that get in the way of delivering his A-game to the wildly appreciative crowd.

Including the encore (a nice two-song set), they were on the stage exactly 90 minutes. Not long enough (by some measures), but as Lois commented to me after the show, such an intensely high energy performance, that we’re sure that they were drained, and the crowd was probably a bit drained as well (though we could have taken more). 😉

Can’t wrap this up with some photos of Pat. Here are two:

Pat BenatarPat Benatar 1

The show was fantastic and I’m thrilled that we went. I still much prefer the more mellow (or differently energetic) Folk and Bluegrass shows we go to more frequently, but this kind of experience should be in everyone’s repertoire as well!

On to the back story.

We were driving in from the house to the city on Monday morning when I got a call from our good (and until recently long-lost) friend. I covered our reconnection with her and her husband in this post. After chatting with her for a while I handed the phone to Lois to say hi.

During their conversation, Lois asked her if they could make it in to the city the following night (Tuesday) to join us for the Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo show. She said she’d check with her husband and call back. When she called later, she told us that her husband was swamped (he’s sprinting to the finish line of his year-long fellowship at Princeton) but that she could make it. Yippee!

We told her that we’d check to make sure that the show wasn’t sold out, and pick up an extra ticket if it wasn’t. I went on to the site and saw that it wasn’t sold out, but I also saw (for the first time ever) the warning about extremely limited seating and the word oversold. Huh? We’re too old to stand for this type of show, especially if we have to get there really early and stand for hours before the show starts as well!

Lois called. They said that there would be normal seating, but that they were selling many more standing room only tickets, so that getting there super early would be prudent. I walked over (on Monday) and picked up another ticket for our friend.

Normally we show up at around 5:45 for an 8pm show. They open the doors at 6pm (more typically 6:15pm, but now I know why!) and we go in and have a leisurely dinner. Yesterday, we intended to show up at around 5pm, to be safe, and we told our friend (who was taking the train in from Princeton) to meet us on line no later than 5:45pm.

A quick diversion: We had a special lunch out yesterday with a brand new friend. She suggested we meet at Mesa Grill. We had never been there before, but we like Bobby Flay (from the Food Channel) so we were intrigued and excited to check it out. Everything about Mesa Grill is wonderful. Decor, ambiance, service (both wait staff and management) and most importantly, the food was exquisite! Sadly, our brand new friend is moving away from New York City in less than a week, so future lunches won’t be quite as easy to arrange. That said, we promise not to lose touch and to have many such wonderful experiences together in the future!

Back to our main story. 🙂

We were sitting in the apartment when our other friend (the one who came in from Princeton) called to say she was at the head of the line outside of BB King! It was 4:25pm and Lois was a tad annoyed at me that we hadn’t beaten her there. We logged off and jumped in a cab and were at BB King’s 15-20 minutes later. Our friend had chatted with the person working the door, and when we arrived, he let the three of us go down to Lucille’s (the bar next door to the club downstairs at BB King) to wait inside for the show.

We were given a numbered ticket and told that we’d be called in to the main show room in the order of our ticket numbers. There’s a price to pay for this convenience, namely ordering something at Lucille’s while you wait. A small price indeed, since we wanted to catch up with our friend anyway! So, we each ordered a drink (non-alcoholic), and chatted away merrily for 75 minutes.

Normally, I wouldn’t post a photo of me looking so drugged out, but Lois captured me talking to our friend while Bob Dylan was showing on the big screen behind me. Being associated with one of my first musical idols bears accepting myself looking like this. 😉

Hadar and Dylan

They then started calling out the numbers. That’s why the doors don’t always open at exactly 6pm upstairs. They are first filling in from Lucille’s, all of the people that showed up even earlier and gave them some extra business. A very smart thing for them to do.

We got excellent seats, nearly dead center, three tables from the stage (which given their configuration is the rough equivalent of the 9th row in a typical theater style setting). We enjoyed a wonderful (and relaxed) meal and continued chatting for another two hours. BB King rarely announces any specials (at least not to us). Lat night the waiter mentioned a number of specials and I ordered one, the crab cakes (well, it should have been called crab cake, as in singular!).

Sorry Bob, but I believe that it was the best crab cake I’ve ever had. Too bad it’s not always on the menu.

In the small world story camp, when our friend told her kids (she has three of them) that she was going to see Pat Benatar, one of her daughters told her that she had just recently downloaded a few Pat Benatar songs to her iPod. Cool! 🙂

We walked our friend half way back to Penn Station, and then made a sharp left back to the apartment. It’s safe to say that a great time was had by all!

OK, you know the drill, time to espouse the wonders of Girlyman again, and entreat you to enter the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter now before you forget to do it and the contest comes to a screeching halt! 😉