Ben Morgan

Patryk Larney at Rockwood Music Hall

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Patryk Larney was on at 11pm last night at Rockwood Music Hall. A bit later than we like to be out, but there are a number of people who we’d make the effort for and Patryk is most definitely on that list. Add every single one of his band members and the decision becomes a no-brainer.

PatrykLarney

Before telling you how great the set was (it was, so I just blew the big surprise), let me tell you a bit about Patryk and what he’s currently up to.

He’s been making music for a while and doing a fine job of it. He’s also been managing (he manages the amazing The Vanity Belles, perhaps others). He also produces (he was co-producer on the upcoming Belles CD). He’s also held a very cool job at Apple for the past six years.

Very recently he decided to take the plunge and become a full time musician (I’m going to count managing other musicians as part of doing this “full time”).

The first thing he’s doing is putting out a CD called Circus of Idols. You can help him make it by pledging money (and getting rewards!) at his PledgeMusic Page. We did. If you trust my taste in music (and seriously, have I ever given you a reason not to?), then you should too. Smile

OK, now that we got the e-Commerce out of the way, let’s get down to the show. Oh yeah, I already told you, it was great!

Patryk put together a great set list. Delivered his vocals crisply and passionately. Played the guitar beautifully and added the ukulele on one song. He topped it off by putting together a band comprised of people we love to listen to, no matter who they’re backing.

Carrie Welling (1/2 of The Vanity Belles) joined as a special guest on all but the first number. If you haven’t read my posts exclaiming how awesome her voice is, then you better already know it from first hand knowledge or another source. Otherwise, you’re simply missing out on the experience!

CarrieWelling

Carrie was absolutely wonderful in singing harmony (and a bit of lead) with Patryk. I’ve said it before, but I’m always impressed when someone who is used to belting it out as a bona-fide headliner, understands how to shift gears when they’re supporting someone else. Carrie was flawless in supporting Patryk.

Ben Morgan on grand piano and vocals. We saw Ben earlier this week supporting The Vanity Belles. As impressive as he was then (and always is), I am partial to the sound of a grand piano over electronic keyboards, so last night was a real treat. Patryk gave him a couple of long-ish leads, which Ben nailed!

BenMorgan

Patryk announced that Ben will have his own show sometime soon. I’ll need to look out for it, or hope that Ben/Patryk/Anyone makes sure I know about it as far in advance as possible.

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Is there anything I can say about Chris that I haven’t said before? Probably so. I don’t think I’ve used the term Buttery Smooth about Chris before (not that he hasn’t been). But, when I ran into Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood 2 after this set was over, that’s exactly how I described Chris’ play. Absolutely delightful!

ChrisAnderson

Kenny Shaw on drums. Another person who I have probably heaped as much praise upon as is possible. Add last night to the list of reasons I do that. He plays with a number of bands who are so different from each other you can’t imagine, and Kenny fits in perfectly with every one of them. We’ve had a longer than usual drought of seeing Kenny play, so it was good to correct that.

KennyShawStudying

On a number of songs, Patryk took advantage of the fact that Seth Faulk was in the house (in fact, sitting right behind me). Patryk asked Seth to lead the rest of us in different clapping patterns (none vanilla). Of course, Seth keeps perfect time. I was close enough to be able to follow his lead easily. Winking smile

SethFaulkClapping

Here’s the set list:

SetList

This was our fourth set in a row. Even though I was tired, everything was so good that I didn’t notice that and just lost myself in the music. The three previous sets were all incredible and this one fit right in with that feeling.

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery

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

TheVanityBelles

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

A quick recap:

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

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

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

CarrieWellingJessiRaeWaltz

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

TheVanityBellesWithInstruments

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

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

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

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

BenMorgan

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

OscarBautista

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

ZachJonesDrumsZachJones

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

ChrisAndersonBassChrisAnderson

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

CameronMitchell

On to the guests.

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

RebeccaHaviland

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

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

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

SierraNobleHappyBirthdaySierraNoble

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

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

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

SetListEPandGoodies

Patryk Larney at Rockwood Music Hall

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I so thoroughly enjoyed my first Patryk Larney show (also at Rockwood Music Hall) that I was looking forward to seeing him again. Having an 11pm start time isn’t conducive, so I didn’t think we’d make it out last night. When our plans changed for the evening due to the set before Patryk (covered here), I was happy to push it an extra hour.

PatrykLarney

Before heading out, I saw these back-to-back tweets:

patryklarney Patryk Larney

Also tonight I will have a listening Holiday gift for everyone that comes. I open the show with an epic sound gift. for real. do not miss.

my opening guest will floor you. like nothing you have ever heard. A world touring musician. i can not mention here for safety reasons..ha!

What could it be, who could it be?

When his guest stepped on the stage, I recognized him. I’ve seen him exactly once before, almost two years ago to the day (12/18/2009). He was a special surprise guest that night too.

Kenny Muhammad is known as the human orchestra. One of his specialties is being a human beat box. You would swear that someone was playing a full drum kit when he’s working his magic. I can assure you that while Patryk had a drummer (we’ll get to him shortly), he didn’t touch the drums during both songs that Kenny performed.

KennyMuhammadKennyMuhammadPatrykLarney

Jessi Rae Waltz (of The Vanity Belles) was called up for the second song of the set and Patryk asked Kenny to stick around for that too, even though they hadn’t rehearsed it. The number is called Filler. It’s a fun/playful song about nothing. While some of the lyrics are amusing, the real reason to listen to it is Patryk and Jessi’s voices, which are fantastic. All of the musicians are wonderful, and Kenny just kills the beats (in particular at the 2:25 minute mark and again at the end).

JessiRaeWaltz

If you’re going to watch the video I strongly recommend using headphones that handle bass well. If you listen with them on, you can hear Kenny clearly throughout, but really pick up all the nuances when he’s center stage:

Patryk Larney, Kenny Muhammad and Jessi Rae Waltz perform Filler

Carrie Welling, the other half of The Vanity Belles joined for the next number (and Kenny Muhammad was done for the night), with Jessi staying on stage. Independent of Patryk, you simply have to check out The Vanity Belles, they’re extraordinary. Throw in Patryk’s wonderful voice and the sound is amazing.

PatrykLarneyTheVanityBelles

Carrie stayed and Jessi left. Patryk and Carrie sang City in the Fall. It was absolutely gorgeous. At the last show, Brian Collazo from Live Society sang it with Patryk. Their version was much more playful, showing off their soul chops. This was a more serious rendition of a beautiful song.

CarrieWelling

Patryk sings with passion (without ever screaming) and has a very wide vocal range:

PatrykLarneySinging

Update: I can’t believe I left this out. Patryk performed an incredible version of Auld Lang Syne, in an Irish accent. He finger picked it soulfully and you could have heard a pin drop. Very moving.

He had an incredible band supporting him, left-to-right on stage:

Ben Morgan on grand piano, vocals and melodica. We’ve seen Ben a number of times, including on TV supporting The Vanity Belles. He’s a superb piano player with an excellent voice. He also played MC twice, introducing Patryk and Kenny to kick off the show. He has a mild-mannered touch to his humor, which works very well.

BenMorgan

When he picked up the melodica, and blew into it directly (no hose), the place went nuts. So much so that he had to stand up and play it like he was a rockstar. Smile

BenMorganMelodica

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris was wonderful. It’s hard to say whether his bass play, or his beard, was more impressive. You can judge for yourself how impressive his beard is, but you’ll have to listen really carefully to the video above to pick out his play.

ChrisAnderson

Kenny Shaw on drums. Another great performance from Kenny, though he did get to totally slack off for the first two numbers while the other Kenny was beat-boxing up a storm. I guess that made this Kenny that much fresher than the rest of the band when he finally joined in. Winking smile

KennyShaw

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Most of the people that were there for the set before were here for this one as well. In fact, most of them were sticking around for the next set too! We badly wanted to as well. Nightmare River Band was new to us, but we’re fans of Seth Faulk so we really wanted to check them out. Unfortunately, it was past midnight, and we were fading really fast. Lois caught a great shot of Carrie Welling and Seth Faulk as we ran out:

CarrieWellingSethFaulk

We also ran into Jeff Litman. Mark your calendars (February 9th, 2012) to go see Jeff Litman’s CD Release show at The Bitter End. In fact, go earlier that evening to see Sam Teichman’s Leave a Lasting Mark benefit. This CD will be great and I’m sure the show will be too! We have a huge sad face, because we’re nearly sure we can’t be in the city that night. Sad smile

LindseyJeffLitman

Patryk Larney and Guests at Rockwood Music Hall

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Patryk Larney is the most recent singer/songwriter who has completed this pattern:

  1. See a glimpse of a performance
  2. See a bit more
  3. See a full set
  4. Fall in love

PatrykLarney

We saw him do one cover song at the Leave a Lasting Mark Benefit show and loved it. A few nights ago we saw him perform two originals and a cover at Backscratch XV. Another winning performance.

Last night he performed a full set at Rockwood Music Hall and there was no way we were going to miss it. At Backscratch, he had Ben Morgan accompany him on piano. I didn’t now what to expect last night when I locked it in our calendar. Then the tweets started:

thevanitybelles The Vanity Belles

Singin tonight Aug 31st w/ @patryklarney for his show & ROCKWOOD 9pm! Come down & hang…this show will be full of surprises I’m sure 😉

BriArden Bri Arden

Singing tonight w/ Mr. @patrykLarney at Rockwood 1 & as many awesome people as he can pack on that stage! Come on out 🙂

collazo Brian Collazo

NYC!! Good tunes & good people tonight at Rockwood Music Hall. Patryk Larney hits @ 9pm. I’ll be helping out on one tune. Come hang!

Seriously? We would have come out to see any one of those (The Vanity Belles, Bri Arden or Brian Collazzo of Live Society) on their own. It turns out, not all surprises were revealed via Twitter. Well, some weren’t really surprises, except to us, since we hadn’t seen Patryk in his own show before.

When we walked into Rockwood, the first person I saw was Kenny Shaw. I never know whether I just missed someone or am about to catch them, so I asked. Indeed, Kenny was sitting in with Patryk. Cool! The very next person I saw, Chris Anderson, was sitting in as well. Then I spotted Ben Morgan sitting behind the piano. Completing the band superfecta was Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. What a lineup!

Patryk and the band opened the show with a fun song called Filler. It’s about a song he never quite wrote, and promptly forgot. It’s nonsense, delivered whimsically, with good music. An upbeat way to kick off the show.

From then on, each song had at least one very special guest singing with Patryk. I’ll cover them all, but first a few more words on Patryk and his band.

So, we now know something we only suspected after Monday night’s Backscratch. Patryk is an excellent songwriter. We already knew he has a wonderful voice and that he plays the guitar well. In addition to songwriting, let’s add amazing stage presence to his list of talents/skills.

Tomorrow, there will be an absolutely extraordinary collection of music released digitally, to benefit the mind-numbing devastation of Schoharie Country in upstate NY. There are over 40 artists contributing a song each to this benefit release. Patryk Larney is one of those artists.

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

Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. After seeing Oscar perform a full set supporting Bri Arden, he quickly climbed into my top five list of local guitar players. Last night he easily held that position, in particular on the first number, Filler, where Patryk highlighted him quite a bit. Even in his background riffs, supporting the remaining songs, he was incredibly interesting.

OscarBautista

Ben Morgan on grand piano and harmony. Another terrific job by Ben on both piano and vocals. He also did the introduction, so he has a bit of MC in him as well. Smile

BenMorgan

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Always a treat to see Chris play. We’ll be seeing him quite a bit of him in the next 10 days, including this Saturday at Rockwood at 10pm, Tuesday at Bowery Ballroom, and later in the week in VA. Very happy about that!

ChrisAndersonPatrykLarneyChrisAndersonPlotting

Kenny Shaw on drums. Another superb performance. Patryk plays a wide variety of styles and Kenny kept each shift fresh and interesting. We’ll be seeing Kenny again at 10pm on Saturday, but that’s probably the last time until October. Sad about that…

KennyShaw

The new brand-new songs that Patryk played at Backscratch (Fine, Fine, Fine and Gotta Get Out) were played with full band and guest singers this time. They worked even better (which is to say they worked really well just with Ben on Monday). Fine, Fine, Fine is not on the set list (we all wanted more than he originally intended to give us). Here is the set list, but the only two songs that were played in the order they appear here are the first and last, Filler and Clingy (longer title: Clingy in my Brain):

SetList

I suspect that I will mess up a song or two in terms of pairing them with the correct guest. Forgive me (I do this from memory only) and I’ll update (happily) if anyone points out my error (and can prove it with video evidence and a sworn affidavit!). Winking smile

The first guest called up was Carrie Welling (1/2 of The Vanity Belles). She sang TV Feeds with Patryk. If I understood Patryk after the show, this is the song that will be on the Benefit collection released tomorrow. I really like it, so I’m happy I’ll have a recorded version shortly! Carrie was wonderful individually, and singing harmony with Patrick.

CarrieWellingOscarBautistaCarrieWellingPatrykLarneyChrisAnderson

Bri Arden was up next. They sang Genesis. It would be hard for me to heap more praise on Bri than I already have, but let’s try. She did a great job singing harmony, but finished up the song by taking over and hitting notes so high (and with power) that I hadn’t heard her attempt yet. The streak continues.

BriArdenOscarBautistaBriArden

Mike Larney (no relation, just kidding, Patryk’s brother) joined him to sing Maria. Mike did an excellent job (my guess is that he knows Patryk’s songs as well as anyone else). In fact, he did such a good job that Patryk invited him back up for the finale, Clingy in my Brain. That song has a lot of very tricky Rap-style lyrics, and like I said, Mike knew them cold.

MikeLarney

Brian Collazo joined Patryk to sing City in the Fall. Patryk chose very wisely here. He introduced the song saying every singer/songwriter that moves to the city feels compelled to write a song about it. He was determined not to do that. He ended writing a song named: City in the Fall… during the Fall… while he was living in the City. Winking smile

BrianCollazo

The two of them sang Motown-style, full of falsettos. At around the 3:30 mark, they decided to simply riff off of each other’s voice, with Brian following Patryk’s lead. Nicely done boys! Patryk was kind enough to give me permission to share the mp3 from last night’s performance with all of you. Since it was a live recording, you might have to crank the volume a bit (the song starts very softly).

The voices are obvious, as are the drums. If you listen closely, you can hear Oscar Bautista do some really cool things on the guitar (it was much more obvious live) and the bass and piano can be picked out as well. Enjoy!

Download City in the Fall, by Patryk Larney, featuring Brian Collazo

The Vanity Belles came up to sing Oak Tree Tavern. I already mentioned that Carrie Welling was 1/2 of The Vanity Belles. The other half is the equally capable Jessi Rae Waltz. Oak Tree Tavern isn’t really about a tavern (shhh). The song will appear (along with the other new ones) on an upcoming CD by Patryk (we’ll be contributing to the Kickstarter campaign when Patryk launches it).

JessiRaeWaltzTheVanityBelles

A slightly different version of the same song will appear on the upcoming Vanity Belles CD (Update: Patryk is their manager producer and he co-produced their upcoming CD with Chris Cubeta, and if I heard correctly, I believe Carrie and Jessi co-wrote the song with him).

Needless to say, the song and their collective performance was outstanding. Each of the ladies took a lead. Each sang harmony with Patryk, and all three sang harmony together. All permutations were great!

TheVanityBellesPatrykLarney

Next was the biggest surprise of the evening, because it was unplanned. Patryk looked around the room and asked if there was any singer that he hadn’t called up yet? Both Lois and I pointed to Rebecca Haviland who was sitting immediately to Lois’ right. Patryk didn’t need any further encouragement to insist that she come up.

RebeccaHaviland

He proceeded to tell her that she was about to sing along to a song she’d never heard. He played the song Monday night, so we knew it. He taught her the chorus in front of us. When he asked her to give it try (before the actual song started), she busted out a perfect harmony instead of just singing along like he expected. This was gonna be good.

OscarBautistaRebeccaHavilandBenMorganPatrykLarney

Yup, I was right. Rebecca nailed the harmony each and every time, getting a bit fancier as the song continued. It’s a deep song that tells the age-old tale of the grass is always greener from a different perspective.

As I mentioned above, Mike came back to close the show on Clingy.

MikeLarneyPatrykLarney

Let’s recap: Patryk Larney, with an amazing band, performing a collection of excellent originals. Great, right? Right. Now add some of the best singers on the scene: Carrie Welling, Bri Arden, Brian Collazo, Jessi Rae Waltz, Rebecca Haviland and Patryk’s brother Mike, and you have some truly awesome sauce.

OK, I’m ready for the next round, just let me know when and where to show up. Smile

Backscratch XV at Rockwood Music Hall

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Last night was the 15th Backscratch show, hence the fancy XV in the title. We missed the first 12 (I blame all of you!) and caught the last two (three including XV). Backscratch is the brainchild of Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer. Six or Nine performers, depending on whether they can book two or three hours (last night was at Rockwood Music Hall). Each performer sings three songs. Traditionally, one original, one cover, and one backscratch, a cover of one of the other performers from that evening, randomly assigned to them in secret (in other words, no one knows who will be covering whom).

MartinRivasMC

Recent performances have included two originals plus the backscratch. Both ways work well. The evening moves very quickly, even the three-hour shows. The banter is usually worth coming out for, independent of the music. Most of all, the camaraderie. While there are a lot of musicians in the audience (by definition), the fans are not made to feel like outsiders. It’s a beautiful thing and if you come, you’ll feel like family, right away.

The idea is spreading. There will be a Backscratch I (1) in the UK next month! I think there was one already in Boston (if not, it’s coming soon). If you don’t live in NYC, look for one in your town, or better yet, clamor for one! Smile

Last night was six performers, from 9-11pm. First up was the only rookie Backscratcher.

Sarah Nisch sang two originals accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. For her backscratch she did a Patryk Larney number (pretty well in my opinion). She has a lovely voice.

SarahNisch

Her name sounded familiar to me, but I didn’t think we’d ever seen her before and I admit she didn’t look all that familiar. Everything is contextual. It’s true that we never saw her as part of the LES (Lower East Side) scene. Two years ago (7/27/2009 to be exact!) we saw her perform at the equivalent of an organized open mic show called The Set NYC.

I had mostly flattering things to say. I concluded with:

Still, she’s a talented singer/songwriter, and I’m sure Lois and I would be happy to catch her again at one of these shows.

I’m glad to see that she’s persevered and gotten into this circle and places like Rockwood.

Kate Branagh sang an original, a cover, and her backscratch, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. I could go on and on praising Kate, but let me list the highlights:

  • Fantastic voice. I felt like I was listening to a real Nashville pro, like Kathy Mattea
  • Good accompaniment on acoustic guitar
  • Excellent songwriting (lyrics, structure, melodies)
  • Quirky but superb stage presence
  • Unbelievably funny (NSFW or kids, not just the words, but the subject matter was often crude)

KateBrannagh

She covered Caleb Hawley for her backscratch, rightfully noting how difficult it would be. She did a very nice job.

One example of her humor. She just released a CD she’s been working on for six years. It’s called Minutia. She has a CD Release Show at The Living Room on September 9th, 2011 at 9pm. She asked the crowd who knew what Minutia means? (She didn’t spell it, and I admit to thinking it was a made up word, spelled: Manusha). In any event, no one volunteered.

Kate said: Obviously, I’m a lot smarter than the rest of you (as she went on to define Minutia). But, she reminded us that we were lucky to be seeing her perform, so that she could share her knowledge with the rest of us. Smile

I’m a fan of dry, sarcastic humor, and Kate’s delivery is excellent!

After her set, Lois bought the CD. It’s really good, so get it. Better yet, get to the show next Friday (we can’t make it, unfortunately) and get yourself one directly from Kate!

On the negative side, Kate’s site (linked to her name) is way out of date. Hopefully, in conjunction with this CD Release, she’ll find the time and energy to update it. In the meantime, here’s a link to her MySpace page, to listen to a few of her songs.

Caleb Hawley sang two originals and his backscratch accompanied on his brand new guitar. I’ve written about Caleb a number of times. He’s an unreal talent (in the sense that he’s so good at so many aspects of writing and performing that it’s hard to wrap your head around it all!).

CalebHawley

He writes great songs. He is an exceptional guitar player, in particular for accompanying his singing (though I could listen to him play for hours even if he didn’t open his mouth). He has an excellent voice. He’s funny and engaging on stage. His warmth is contagious (avert your eyes if he smiles in your direction, or you’ll be forced to follow him anywhere).

So, why did I bother to mention that he was playing a new guitar? Because he just recently won it, by capturing the Song Competition at this year’s Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. This netted him the guitar and an appearance on the Main Stage next year!

Caleb’s backscratch was a Kate Branagh song, so they ended up playing each other’s numbers. He chose Dandelion Lovers (the first cut on her new CD) and did a beautiful job. I listened to the CD version this morning (with full band) and it’s stellar.

Next up was our fearless leader, Martin Rivas. This evening was very difficult for Martin. I want to explain why, but I will fist mention his incredible performance, especially in the face of what I will describe afterward.

MartinRivasGuitar

Martin Rivas sang an original, his backscratch and a cover, accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar. All three were excellent performances. His original is a new song which will be on his upcoming CD (released in 2012). His backscratch turned into a little behind the scenes look at how backscratch works.

Typically, each performer submits a list of their songs that they might play at the show, so that whoever gets them for the backscratch portion won’t duplicate a song they intend to play. Since Sarah Nisch was new to backscratch, or for any other reason that I am unaware of, some signals got crossed.

She opened her set with the song Paper Bag Heart. That’s the same song that Martin had picked for his backscratch. Martin joked that at least we’d have an A/B comparison. Both were well done, so no harm, no foul. In fact, since the song was new to me, hearing it twice in one night wasn’t a bad thing at all.

Martin closed his set with a cover from one of his songwriting heroes, Nick Ashford, who passed away last week. Martin played Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. The entire audience sang along to each chorus, it was gorgeous and moving. Of course, for Martin, it had an even deeper meaning (as you’ll see next).

On to more somber matters. Martin spends a lot of time in Middleburgh, NY, Schoharie Country. While many NYC folks escaped serious damage by Hurricane Irene (we have to remember that’s not true for all NYC residents!), the devastation in upstate NY (and many other places north and south of NYC) is not getting enough attention.

Martin was having a hard time being in the moment at Rockwood last night, as his heart was breaking from all the pictures and video that was coming in from Schoharie County. Amazingly, it didn’t affect the quality of his performance. I was going to post a before and after photo of the valley (it’s mind-boggling how a valley can turn into a giant river/lake overnight). Instead, I see that Christina Morelli of NYC Arts Scene has written an article which includes that photo in it.

I urge you all to read that article and help in any way that you can!

Patryk Larney sang two originals and his backscratch, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. He also invited up Ben Morgan to play piano on all three numbers. Ben sang light harmony as well (very nicely). Patryk (and Ben) did an excellent job. I was particularly impressed by his backscratch of Bri Arden’s song, Sink Down Under. Bri is a tough act to reproduce. Kudos to Patryk.

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I’ve only seen Patryk do one cover before last night (at a Benefit Concert). He continues to impress. I’m going to catch a full set of his music tomorrow night (Wednesday, 8/31/2011) at Rockwood 1, 9pm. Come join me and see if you agree with my assessment of his talent.

After the show I walked over to Ben to ask him his last name. When he said “Morgan”, I said, oh, I just saw you on video. It turns out that he was accompanying The Vanity Belles when they were interviewed and performed on MNN (Channel 56 on Time Warner Cable in NYC) on Sunday night. We watched the show (and enjoyed every second of it, including Ben’s keyboard play). Patryk played on one song as well. He produced the Vanity Belles current album. They will be singing a bit with Patryk tomorrow night. Just a little extra incentive to come see Patryk’s show!

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Last, but certainly not least, Bri Arden.

I’ve seen Bri a number of times. She has impressed each and every time (last night included). The performances have ranged from acoustic (Bri singing, accompanied by a single acoustic guitarist) to nine people on stage (full band plus two backup singers). In all those shows, Bri sang without playing any instruments.

She teased me last time, playing the piano during sound check (at the acoustic show). Last night, she finally played the piano for real, during her two originals. She was very self-deprecating about her ability, joking that she was prepared to declare herself the best piano player of the show, until Ben Morgan was invited up by Patryk. Smile

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Bri played very nicely indeed and I’m sure she will continue to improve the more she chooses to play in public.

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That said, it was her backscratch that was the highlight of the show (to me, and I presume to many others). Keep in mind that she chose it before any of us knew what was (or would be) happening in Schoharie Country!

Bri came out from behind the piano to sing a cappella. Everyone knew she was going to cover Martin (the math was no longer hard at that point). She chose one of his iconic numbers, North.

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North was actually written with Schoharie County in mind, with happy thoughts of a destination that Martin loved to go to. When your heart swells so much with joy, the heartbreak is equally unimaginable when that place is laid to waste. You can listen to the song and read the lyrics at Martin’s Bandcamp Page. You can buy the download there as well.

Bri was awesome. The audience sang large swaths of the song with her, since we all know it so well. For the finale, Caleb Hawley and Patryk Larney came up and kept the chorus going while Bri sang in and around them. Stunning. Of course, Martin was triply moved. There was a long hug and private words exchanged between Martin and Bri on stage when she was done.

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Another successful Backscratch show. There’s a special magic to them. Come find out for yourself at the next one, Monday, October 24th, 2011 at Rockwood Music Hall.

Different than most shows at Rockwood, there was no tip jar passed around for the performers. Instead, Rockwood Music Hall makes a donation and all of the musicians donate their time. Last night’s donation will be made to help the people of Schoharie County.

Thanks to everyone at Rockwood Music Hall for this very generous act!