Bri Arden

Leave a Lasting Mark Soul Benefit The Bitter End

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Leave a Lasting Mark is a benefit concert series conceived and produced by Sam Teichman. We’ve been to a number of them, but have sadly missed some of the more spectacular ones (or so a number of people have told us). Our very first one was a Soul Revue (just like last night) 14 months ago. You can read about it, though it’s super long, as this one is likely to be as well. This one was also held at The Bitter End.

SamTeichmanMC

Instead of expecting you to read that long post, let me just pull out a single paragraph that I wrote about Sam right up front:

First and foremost, I need to bow to Sam Teichman (@samteichman on Twitter) as deeply and humbly as I can. Sam is a perfect example of one person, single-mindedly focused on getting something done and achieving that goal (actually, exceeding it). On November 4th, 2010, Sam sat next to me at Rockwood Music Hall as we enjoyed sets by Jesse Ruben and Alex Wong. Even on that night, Sam was doing for others, as I noted across three paragraphs toward the end of my post about that show.

I highly encourage you to read the next two paragraph from that post, but I’ll leave it to you to click through if you’re interested.

SamTeichman

These benefit shows are really important to attend (in particular if you’re a music lover) for a number of reasons. First, you’re contributing to charity (100% of the entrance price goes to whatever charity is being supported at that show). Last night’s charity was Foundation Fighting Blindness, specifically targeted for their Vision Walk 2012 initiative later this month. Seems like a good enough reason to attend the show.

Second, you have an opportunity to discover local musicians that you otherwise might never hear about. Every one of them donates their time to perform in these shows. Sam does a great job of paying them by constantly reminding the audience that they create their own music (often inspired by the people they’re covering at these shows!) and that we should all make it our business to follow up and check out their own sites and music.

That’s been true for me, starting back at my first Leave a Lasting Mark (LALM) show and solidly continuing last night. I’m going to follow the format I used for that first Soul Revue. I’ll group all of the sidemen (yes, there was a sidewoman as well) by instrument, first. I’ll skip mentioning the backup singers, because each of them took a turn singing a song on lead. Then I’ll cover each of the lead singers, in the order they appeared.

The real point will be for me to call out a few people I’ve never seen before, some of whom completely blew me away (repeating a trend that’s happened at each of the LALM shows).

Apologies for the varying qualities of the photos. Tons of people on stage, often obscured or very far away. So many of the lead performers were constantly moving, so it was tough to catch them in focus, or with un-passionate expressions. This is the best our little compact camera could do.

The brass section was up for nearly every song (not every person was up on every number that included brass). They performed yeoman duty and I imagine most are resting their lips and lungs today.

Ian Schaefer on trumpet, Mitch Marcus on sax and clarinet, Chris Hiatt on sax (@chrishiatt1, no good individual link), John Liotta on sax (also no good link), Steven Salcedo on sax.

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Ian took a number of trumpet leads (in particular on I Just Want to Make Love to You and This Little Light) that were awesome. We typically see John Liotta light up a baritone sax with the Greg Mayo band. Last night he lit up a tenor sax equally well. Mitch, Chris and Steven were amazing too, in any combination that happened to be on stage for a given song.

IanSchaeferTrumpetIanSchaeferChrisHiattJohnLiottaMitchMarcusClarinet

Sarah Stern joined for one number, late in the show, on the flute (I couldn’t find a good link). Delightful! She’s (possibly) the only person who didn’t make it on to the program. She stood with the brass section. This was our first time seeing Sarah.

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Bass players: Chris Kelly, Justin Goldner, James Preston (how can you not fall in love with someone whose middle name is Peanutbutter?), Jeff Litman and Sean Murphy. We’ve seen Chris, Justin and Jeff many times (they’re always great). In fact, we discovered Jeff at that first Soul Revue, and Chris and Justin at a LALM benefit featuring the songs of James Taylor and Carole King. This was our first time seeing James and Sean, probably not our last.

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One more of James Peanutbutter Preston:

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The first time I saw Jeff I really liked his bass play. But, it was after reading one of his blogs that I really started paying attention to him as a person, then discovered that he’s an excellent singer/songwriter and musician (guitar is his primary instrument for his own brand of rock). He just released a new CD, Outside, get it, and get his previous one, Postscript.

I note how I discovered Jeff because he just put up a new blog post this morning (or at least tweeted about it today) and it’s another amazing piece. So well considered and written. I learn from Jeff, both in his writing and in his music. Both Lois and I agree 100% with Jeff’s thesis in this post (at least with regards to the part about the MET, the music can be a little more nuanced IMHO).

Drummers: Justin Hofmann, Stephen Chopek, Alex Cohen, Mason Ingram and Matt Arbeiter (still no good link). Justin and Alex were new to us (both excellent). Stephen always delivers, as do Mason and Matt. Matt is another that we first discovered at a LALM show (the James Taylor / Carole King one).

JustinHofmannStephenChopekDrumsAlexCohen

MasonIngramMattArbeiter

Guitarists: Mark Marshall, Mike Bell (no good individual link, but here’s a link to a band he’s in, BELT Band), Jeremiah Birnbaum (also sang lead), Joe Brent, Hudson Mueller (also sang co-lead). Mike and Hudson were new to us. We’ve seen Joe once before, but not on guitar. Late in the show, Joe also joined on two numbers playing the fiddle. He’s a major talent, whatever instrument he touches.

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Keyboards (grand piano and electronic): Megan Cox, Scott Chasolen, Nick Semrad (also sang lead), Kenneth Harris (also sang lead), Scott Stein (also sang lead). A first for us seeing Nick and Kenneth. In addition to playing the keyboards wonderfully on every number, each sang lead from the piano, so more on them later.

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KennethHarrisSingingScottSteinKeyboards

Scott Chasolen is a great pianist and proved it again last night. He has an excellent voice, but wasn’t one of last night’s leads.

Scott Stein is also great on the keyboards. More on his lead performance below.

We’ve seen Megan play fiddle, when we first discovered her at the first Soul Revue. This was our first time seeing her on the keyboards (very nice!). I lied above when I said all of the background singers sang lead. Megan sang background but didn’t sing lead. Sam told me this morning that Megan was scheduled to sing lead, but came down with a bad cold and couldn’t do it. What a trooper for playing the keyboards and singing background even though she wasn’t feeling well!

CrystalDurantMeganCoxSingingBackground

One last piece of reporting before moving on to the lead singers. The show was broken up into smaller sets to keep the transitions among musicians to a minimum. Each set had a Musical Director (M.D., as you’ll see below). Here’s is the order that they appeared on stage:

Mark Marshall, Justin Goldner, James Preston, Joe Brent and Scott Stein. Considering that there was only a single, five-hour rehearsal for everyone to come together, each of the M.D.’s deserves a huge round of applause (as do each of the musicians!).

Finally, the divas, both male and female. Winking smile

Chrissi Poland opened the show. Such a powerful voice. She’s currently raising money to record a new EP. Check out Chrissi’s music and help if you like it (and can afford to, obviously).

ChrissiPoland

Terry Brennan (no good individual link, but he’s in BELT Band with a couple of the other performers from last night!). I’ve seen Terry in the audience at a number of shows, but never knew his name, or that he was a performer himself. His voice was great last night, so now I know and can again count on LALM for introducing me to new talented people.

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Abby Ahmad put on yet another passionate performance.

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Martin Rivas was the only singer to sing two songs. In addition to killing it with a full band, he returned later to do the only solo, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.

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Stephanie White’s vocals soared above the music. Incredible power with a laser-like precision. Stephanie was supposed to sing another song late in the set. The entire program ran over by 20 minutes, and Stephanie’s second number was an unfortunate casualty, getting cut at the last minute. You can catch Stephanie as part of Philth Harmonic (a band she’s in with Robbie LaFalce).

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Crystal Durant is another person we discovered at a LALM show (The Blues Bothers tribute). What a wonderful voice, both lead and background vocals.

CrystalDurant

Jared Saltiel was another first for us. He was impressive, but I’m actually liking the music on his site even more, so click the link and check him out. Smile

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Eva Alexander was also new for us. We were both extremely impressed with her voice.

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Abby Payne is someone we’re very familiar with. In fact, I’ve written (glowingly) about her a number of times in the past few weeks. So, you’d think she couldn’t really surprise me, especially in an extremely positive way. Wrong. Backtracking for a bit. Abby is yet another performer that we discovered at the first Soul Revue. Here’s what I wrote about her lead singing that night:

Abby Payne did a very nice job (yes, the same Abby who nailed the piano parts!). The only issue is that it took Abby a bit to crank up the volume on her voice, which was necessary because she (and all of them) were competing with tons of instruments and other vocalists. Abby had an all-male backup singing contingent.

Note that my only complaint was that her voice didn’t soar above the music. Holy moly, last night Abby delivered all of the power, passion and clarity you could want in a voice that was clearly soaring above a stage full of awesome musicians. I was already a big Abby fan, but it seems that my fandom can grow.

AbbyPayne

Speaking of being a fan of Abby, please help her make a new CD (pretty please?). Nine days left as I write this. I have faith in all of you. Smile

Jeremiah Birnbaum did a wonderful job on his lead song, in addition to all of his guitar play and background singing throughout the set.

JeremiahBirnbaumJeremiahBirnbaumSinging

Nick Semrad was new to us. During the set that he played keyboards, he also sang lead on one song, very impressively.

NickSemradSinging

Ashley Lehmann sang (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, perhaps the best known song of the night (though there were a ton of real soul fans, who likely knew every song just as well as this one).

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Dani Tersini was awesome, hard to describe it any other way. Also new to us, but won’t be a stranger going forward. Her red dress seemed perfectly appropriate for her song, I Just Want to Make Love to You. Winking smile

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Scott Wolfson yet another first for us. I liked his voice a lot, and he did a fine job on his number, but I’m guessing that I’ll like his own shows even more.

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Maddy Wyatt was an extremely nice surprise for me. I was very impressed by her the only other time I’ve seen her, supporting Jeff Litman. That night she sang a ton of harmony (beautifully, but quite mellow) and played the flute (also beautifully). To see her come out and belt out a soul number with the full band was not what I expected. Oh yeah, she also accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar. Very nicely done, both vocals and guitar!

MaddyWyatt

Akie Bermiss continued the hit parade of firsters who did a marvelous job, with Crystal Durant doing heavy duty harmony with him. Akie is part of a band called Aabaraki (who we haven’t seen). You can stream and buy their album.

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Alec Gross has to be put in the same camp as I put Abby Payne earlier. I’m a fan, and I’ve enjoyed his sets before. But, I think of him as a fairly mellow folk singer. Not last night. He lit it up, completely. Very impressed.

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Andy Mac is someone we’ve seen do one full set before, plus one song at the James Taylor / Carole King benefit. He cranked it up a couple of notches last night and really delivered. He also played acoustic guitar, both while singing lead, and supporting Ashley Lehmann.

AndyMac

Bri Arden sang This Little Light. Ha, I fooled you, because I said sang, like that’s what Bri did. If you read this space regularly, you know Bri is the subject of a lot of posts. That’s because she’s always awesome. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she took this song and created a soaring vocal masterpiece. Seriously, it is not possible to describe it in words. You’ll have to wait until Sam uploads the individual videos (which he will do) to see a poor reproduction of what we were all treated to live!

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Above, I showed a picture of Crystal Durant and Megan Cox singing background. That was on Bri’s song. Dani Tersini and Ahsley Lehmann also sang background during this song:

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Brian Collazo is another one of our favorites, any time, any place. While there’s no good individual link to him, he’s best known for fronting the incredible band, Live Society. Brian was extraordinary when he sang lead, as he was on the numbers he sang background. That we couldn’t keep our eyes open to see him sing with Martin Rivas at Slane right after this show is something we’ll regret until we get to see him again (soon, I hope!).

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Brian also sang background on a number of songs. On this one, he was part of an all male contingent:

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Here’s he was standing in front of the brass section:

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Kenneth Harris sang lead on one song, in addition to playing keyboards on one of the mini-sets. He was awesome. This was a first time for us seeing him, definitely not the last. By the time he sang lead, he didn’t surprise me. When Brian Collazo sang lead (the song before), Kenneth sang primary harmony with him and he was absolutely amazing on that number. Keeping up with Brian is no small feat, and Kenneth was definitely up to the task.

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Scott Stein came to center stage to sing his lead, after playing keyboards for the remainder of the mini-set. Excellent, on both the keys and on lead vocals!

ScottSteinSinging

Evan Felts and Hudson Mueller (of The Gold Magnolias) shared lead vocals, with Evan doing most of the singing. Both new to us, both impressive. Evan did a classic soul dance throughout (a la James Brown himself). He had the crowd completely worked up in a lather. Tons of energy, great vocals.

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Grace McLean was the final newcomer to us. Grace performed perhaps the second most famous song (to me at least), Chain of Fools. Let’s see if I can be succinct in describing her: Wow! (OK, that was succinct, but not sufficient, how about: Holy Wow, Unreal!, yes, that’s better).

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Closing out the show was someone who we also discovered during that first LALM Soul Revue. He blew us away that night, and topped it last night. He had a gig of his own earlier that evening and rushed over to close out this one.

Jay Stolar stolar’ed the show (ba dum chi!). What a voice, what stage presence and delivery. In addition to singing his you-know-what off, he put on a show. He climbed on a table, got everyone to get up and shake it, dropped to the floor (as did a few of the performers) and generally got the blood rushing everywhere.

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For that last song, Sam was up on stage, first playing the tambourine in the back (his signature) but then coming forward to sing background, sharing the mic with Dani Tersini.

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After Martin’s second number, roughly halfway through the show, Sam introduced a representative from Foundation Fighting Blindness. I won’t get her name right, so I won’t attempt it. She described the work they do and the Vision Walk, and invited all of us to learn more about it, and join on the walk on April 21st.

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Whew, made it to the end (that comment was for me, not you!). Winking smile

Some closing notes and a treat!

When we were waiting for the doors to open, four German tourists came up to ask if we on line for the club next door. We told them what we were there to see. The guy in front of us in line went into a hard sales pitch to get them to join us. They seemed interested, but left to grab a bite, saying they might return.

Indeed, they got there in time for the start of the show. Both of us noticed them having a blast throughout, whooping louder than most people at the more feverish parts. Glad they believed us and joined. Even gladder they enjoyed it! Smile

As I noted up front, in addition to the artists donating their time, it’s also a showcase for them to be discovered. Sam does an amazing job of not only promoting them during the show, but of ensuring that they’re easy to find online. Sam had a two-page handout which listed every performer (except for Sarah Stern). You can find out what bands they play in, what site they’re at, what their Twitter handle is, etc. Here are both pages of the program:

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Here’s the set list (remember, they had to cut Stephanie White’s second song):

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Finally, the treat. Sam cut a short highlight reel. It’s great and will give you a good sense of some of the performers, but you simply have to trust me on two points: 1) Many of the ones that didn’t make this reel were awesome and 2) no video will ever sound and feel like the live version does! Sam will also be uploading a longer highlight reel, which will have at least a bit of every single song in it, so keep checking his YouTube channel:

Leave a Lasting Mark Highlights from April 3rd, 2012

As always, we were surrounded by friends, some of whom Lois captured:

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StephenChopekHadar

The CEO Artist Concert Series at Rockwood Music Hall

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Christina Morelli is the Energizer Bunny of the NYC Arts Scene. I originally discovered Christina through her work covering the local scene on that site. Since then, she’s broadened her horizons and kicked off an additional venture, The CEO Artist. In addition to having a NYC home base, The CEO Artist (TCA) will have a UK component as well (at the very least).

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TCA is cooking up a variety of very innovative ideas to help artists broaden their fan base and make a living. I’ll save some of those for a future post, since this one is specifically meant to cover last night’s event.

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TCA had its inaugural Concert Series last night at Rockwood Music Hall. It was a showcase of four of TCA’s current artists, plus an MC who performed as well. The proceeds from the evening were donated (100%) to 2NDFLOOR, a hotline for NJ Youth in need of someone to talk to.

Christina was up first, mapping out the schedule and inviting up the MC.

Caleb Hawley was officially designated the MC, but he was really more of a performer interspersed between the the others, closing out the show as well. Christina came on stage to introduce each artist, so I think she was more of the MC.

I am a huge advocate of ask and ye shall receive. We just saw Caleb headline a show at Rockwood 2, on Friday night. Toward the end of that post, I said the following:

Back to Caleb. I already said how much I enjoyed the set, but he still hasn’t recaptured the feeling (for me) that I had the first time I saw him. For most artists that I see, if they do both full band and solo shows, I typically prefer the full band ones. That’s even true when they are amazing solo performers.

Caleb is an exception to that rule, so far (but not the only exception). His full band show was fun and engaging throughout, but his personal artistry and wizardry is lost (or rather, watered down) in the fullness. He’s so good on the guitar, which is so much more obvious when no other instrument is playing (or when he has only a light-touch drummer supporting him, e.g., Craig Meyer). He has a great voice, which is also more obvious when there aren’t other instruments wailing. He is a great songwriter and it’s easier to concentrate on the lyrics when it’s just him.

See, on Friday, I was somehow begging to see Caleb solo, and just three days later, bingo!

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He opened the show by repeating something he had tweeted earlier in the day:

Caleb Hawley ? @iamcalebhawley

Lilith Fair + Me = Rockwood tonight at 7pm. @theCEOartist showcase w/ @chrissipoland @annakrantzmusic @BriArden and@megfarrellmusic

He said that he always wanted to play Lilith Fair, and this might be the closest he got, given that the four showcase artists were all female (in case you missed the reference). Winking smile

He opened with Bada Boom Bada Bling, a fun song to get everyone smiling and in the mood for more music.

Meaghan Farrell was the first showcase artist up after Caleb. This was my first time seeing Meghan. That said, I thought I had some sense of her because I had visited her site and watched the YouTube video embedded on the home page (at least as of this writing), of the studio version of Lost in My Life. I love the song and the performance. You can visit her site to see it, but I’m going to embed it here, in case she swaps it for another in the future.

Lost in My Life by Meaghan Farrell

I really didn’t know what to expect of the showcase format specifically, but I guess I was slightly surprised that it was completely stripped down.

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Meaghan was accompanied by an acoustic guitarist. Her voice is incredible (judge for yourself in the video). I believe that it comes across a bit better with the full band than it does over a single acoustic guitar. She’s also a bit theatrical in her delivery (you can get a small sense of that in the video as well), which also comes across a bit better with a fuller sound.

She played two originals followed by a cover of Natural Woman (co-written by Carole King).

Gus Fafalios accompanied Meaghan on acoustic guitar. He’s amazing. I watched some video on the site linked to his name where he played electric guitar (even better than he was last night on the acoustic). Someone I need to keep my eye on!

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Chrissi Poland was up next. We still haven’t caught a full set of Chrissi’s, but she’s amazed me every time we’ve seen her sing, even for a few minutes. The most recent time was a jaw-dropping wow, three months ago at a Holiday Benefit show.

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She accompanied herself on an acoustic guitar to open her mini-set. Her voice was flawless. She played songs from an upcoming EP. She’s launching a PledgeMusic this week. So, you can be part of the making of this new EP.

Chrissi moved over to the grand piano to do another number. I enjoyed all three of her songs, but she’s quite good on the piano and the fullness of it matched her voice better as well. So, given a choice, I’d prefer to see her do more piano-based songs. I can independently attest to the fact that she slays it with a full band behind her.

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Christina had been on stage between the ladies, but now returned to introduce Nicole Romaine-Settembrino, the representative from 2NDFLOOR. Nicole came up and explained why the group was formed and let everyone know that there was more literature available for those interested in learning about the service.

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Bri Arden was introduced and came up with an acoustic guitar. In an unplanned moment, her normal bass player happened to walk into Rockwood with his bass, and he happened to have played that song with her once before, so she invited him up to play it with her again. Bri’s voice was spectacular (that’s been the case every time we’ve seen her). She jokes about her guitar play needing work. It’s true, but partially because she’s thinking about it too much. Just keep playing, it will come. Smile

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Justin Goldner was the above-mentioned bass player. You can read my raves about him in any previous post I’ve had about Bri.

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She moved over to the piano and played The Other Man. Bri is definitely more comfortable on the piano and as with Chrissi, her big voice benefits from the additional richness of the grand. Beautifully done.

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Completing the trifecta, Bri returned to center stage, this time without an instrument. She was joined by the next showcase artist, who accompanied Bri on the piano on a brand new song they co-wrote, What Do I Do. Bri was amazing. The piano play was excellent and the way-too-brief harmony was wonderful.

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Anna Krantz was the piano player on the last Bri song, but I saved her name to tout it as the final showcase artist. This was our first time seeing Anna perform, though we did briefly meet her a few months back at the bar at Rockwood 2.

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She opened with her new single, Rubble and the Dust. The video (quite clever if you ask me) is currently on her home page (linked to her name above). The song also starts playing immediately (as I type, you might get a different one) when you visit that page. She performed it on the acoustic guitar (I guess that Chrissi, Bri and Anna all wanted to make sure we knew they were multi-instrumentalists).

Anna has a fantastic voice. Like the others, she too moved over to the piano, where I’ve already noted she excellent.

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She closed her mini-set with a song called Foundation (or The Foundation). Oh man, both Lois and I were blown away by it. This morning Lois wrote to our friend who introduced us at the bar to say that he was so right that we needed to see her perform.

After a few more words from Christina, Caleb returned to the stage for a playful number about hitting the gym to stay sexy for the girls. I had the sense that this was a cover that I didn’t recognize, but for all I know it’s just another Caleb original. Hard to stop smiling throughout the number.

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When he was done, he was unplugging and saying goodnight. It was on the early side and people were calling out for more. After a bit of looking around, they finished off the show with a bang.

Caleb picked up his guitar again, but this time, all four women (Meaghan, Chrissi, Bri and Anna) joined him on stage. They sang Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend. Fantastic!

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It turns out there was a unifying theme for the showcase. Christina Morelli is obviously a magnet for females with extraordinary voices. Keep following The CEO Artist to see what other goodies Christina unearths for us!

The show was filmed by Sam Teichman, so soon, you’ll be able to watch the performances for yourself. They’ll probably be listed (or at least linked to) on The CEO Artist site.

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We bolted really quickly. After the late nights we’ve had recently, both of us were really looking forward to being near a pillow on the early side. Apologies to anyone we didn’t say a proper goodbye to!

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Bri Arden headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. We missed her last appearance at Stage 2, her EP Release show. I heard that it was absolutely incredible, and based on all of the times I’ve seen Bri, and having listened to her EP many times, I have no reason to doubt that.

It’s been 3.5 months since we last saw Bri perform. As I noted in that post, you never really know what to expect (lineup wise, hairstyle, guests, etc.). We were actually up in Westchester to catch two full sets (and an amazing meal!) at Watercolor Café earlier, and we dashed out after the second set, dropped some folks off and made it to Rockwood a few minutes late.

We were immediately bathed in Bri’s amazing voice, nice way to walk into a joint.

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Bri had a full band, always a treat. The only change that seems somewhat permanent (or at least it’s been a while), is that Bri no longer employs a duo of female backup singers. The sets are great without them, but I’ll happily admit that they were a fantastic addition (the default ladies were Valerie Mize, now based in Nashville and Kate Ferber, though others have filled in as well).

Bri mixed it up. While most of the show was full band, Bri also played one song solo on the acoustic guitar. She performed another one solo at the grand piano.

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She had a special guest come up for another, but I’ll mention that after I let you know about the amazing band, left-to-right on stage:

Jason Wexler on grand piano and electronic keyboards. We see Jason supporting a number of our favorite artists, including Bri. He’s a superb keyboard player, and if I understood another musician friend correctly, a talented producer too.

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Jake Cohen (Jacob Colin Cohen) on drums. Jake always does a great job on Bri’s sets. Glad to hear him again after 3.5 months. Sorry about the poor photo:

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Justin Goldner on electric bass and vocals. Like Jake, Justin always impresses. When there’s a full band, he’s the bass player. When Bri gets acoustic, he plays the guitar. In other words, he’s an integral part of Bri’s sound, including background vocals.

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Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. Oscar is simply amazing, always, not just when supporting Bri. Unlike Jake and Justin, we’ve seen Oscar a number of times since, with his own Police tribute cover band and with The Vanity Belles. He’s awesome.

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Ian Schaefer (Ian Carleton Schaefer) on trumpet. I don’t know if Ian was in the opening songs which we missed. He was called up for the final two numbers and was great. As I noted to him when we stood next to each other for the following set, he helped Bri close out the show with a bang. Leave ‘em hanging, wanting more, in no small part due to the energy that the trumpet brought to those closing numbers.

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Jeremiah Birnbaum on acoustic guitar. Jeremiah has filled in on bass a couple of times for Bri. Last night he joined Ian on the final two numbers to play acoustic guitar. I can’t really say that I could make out the acoustic guitar, but I can say that I really like Jeremiah, especially when he fronts his own group, The Ramblers.

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I mentioned one special guest above. There was another, who replaced Jason at the piano, but the rest of the band played as well.

Craig Wilson played the piano on Scars Do Fade, a number he co-wrote with Bri. It’s one of a few songs they’ve co-written, all of which have impressed me, so they should continue collaborating.

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Anna Krantz joined for a number that they co-wrote very recently. Anna played the grand piano (gorgeously!) and sang harmony just a drop. Bri was spectacular on the song, with only the piano accompanying her (one of the three songs where the band got to rest).

AnnaKrantz

Here’s the set list, but I’m reasonably sure that not every number toward the bottom was played. Specifically, The Best Is Yet to Come wasn’t, at least I don’t remember it. Scars Do Fade and Good in Goodbye were likely the last two numbers, among my favorites!

SetList

We got to say a quick hello and take some photos with Bri afterward. Thanks to some strong-arming by Sam Teichman, The Ghost was actually caught on film! Winking smile

BriArdenHadarLoisBriArdenHadar

Martin Rivas at Rockwood Music Hall

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We weren’t going to go out for any shows last night. In fact, we had dinner plans with friends. Then I saw this tweet:

martinrivas Martin Rivas

My last NYC show until Summer2012 tonite 10p at Rockwood2. XmasSongs? Requests? WhoKnows?! Not me. @patryklarney at 11 @nightmareriver at 12

Wait, 5+ months of no Martin Rivas? (see below for a clarification). That’s a no-can-do situation. I contacted our friends to find out what time we were meeting, so we could finish dinner in time to make the show. They needed to do it on the later side, so we asked them to reschedule!

Martin was solo (with two exceptions). He played a mix of new songs (off his new, upcoming CD, produced by Alex Liang Wong), old favorites, Christmas songs (an original and a cover) and one of his famous oldie covers as well. In other words, classic (and wonderful!) Martin!

MartinRivas

He mostly played the acoustic guitar, switching to the grand piano for one of the songs off the new CD, Brooklyn Accent (not necessarily the exact title). His guitar play was inspired, in particular when his first guest came up.

MartinRivasGuitarMartinRivasPiano

Alex Berger joined Martin for one song. Alex played the grand piano while Martin sang and played guitar. That was one of the songs where Martin let loose on a few tasty leads on the guitar. Alex was of course masterful on the keyboards.

AlexBerger

When Martin sang one of his most famous songs, North, he called up another special guest (this was not planned, whereas I’m pretty sure Alex knew he’d be playing a song with Martin).

Bri Arden happened to be sitting in the audience, right near the stage. In fact, I knew she’d be there from this tweet:

BriArden Bri Arden

@martinrivas last NYC show until next summer!?!?!? I have a flight early the next morning but I think I have to be there for this!!!

True to her word, she made it! At Backscratch XV, Bri closed the show with North. She blew everyone away. Here’s one of the paragraphs I wrote about it:

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.

So, spotting Bri, Martin said that she simply had to come up to sing it with him. Thanks Martin, and thanks Bri, for giving us one last taste of your extraordinary voice before 2011 is a mere memory (as you see from the tweet above, she’s already gone!).

BriArdenMartinRivasBriArden

Rockwood Music Hall was full of love for the entire set. So glad we changed our plans to be the tiniest part of it. Smile

KellySamTeichman

P.S. Clarification about no Martin Rivas shows until summer. After his set, I spoke to Martin for a minute. He told me that he was asked to appear at a charity event at Rockwood sometime in early 2012. Of course, for charity, he couldn’t say no. So, we might all get at least a peek of a song or two to tide us over…

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall

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I need no extra incentives to attend a Bri Arden show, especially at Rockwood Music Hall. But, if you’re going to entice me, I’m paying attention. Here are a few tweets that Bri unleashed in the past few days (in order):

BriArden Bri Arden

Guys— show this Sat, 9pm at Rockwood. Super excited. Playing BRAND new songs… & I’m playing guitar (& piano) This will be a FUN one 😉

Tomorrow night: 9pm— bringing some very awesome, talented boys to play with me. Come on out! XO B http://fb.me/QPl7iraG

I can count the amount of hours I’ve slept this week on my fingers.

So very excited for a VERY special show tonight 🙂 SURPRISES!!! 9pm Rockwood 1! Come early for @JeffJacobsMusic! XO B

Let’s summarize: New songs, Bri on guitar and piano, talented boys, Bri sleepwalking, and SURPRISES! Come on, who doesn’t want to experience all of those things?

One of those surprises? Bri’s hair was straight. The last show, it was extremely curly. You just never know what to expect. Winking smile

BriArden

So, even though we had some last-minute monkey wrench thrown into our schedule, we still made it down to Rockwood for this show. We ended up missing two other shows, one of which I badly wanted to see (The Stone Lonesome at midnight), but monkey wrenches will have their way with you at times.

So, let’s back up and review what’s special about Bri, independent of this show. Phenomenal voice. Great songwriter. Amazing band (when she has one!). Excellent stage presence. Nice (never discount nice!). I could go on, but if that’s not enough to get you to check her music out, or come to a show, then anything I add won’t help.

OscarBautistaBriArdenCraigWilson

I’ve seen Bri perform in a number of configurations, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them and fully appreciated the differences. Full band with backup singers, check. Practically solo, accompanied by a single acoustic guitarist, check. Full band without backup singers (except, psych, the band sang backup to make up for the loss of the backup singers!).

Tonight was different again, on a number of levels. The first was a psych of the psych. Full band (very different though!), with none of them singing backup. The only vocals were Bri’s and she was absolutely incredible. In fact, a couple of times in the past I complained that picking out some of her lyrics was difficult given how much sound (power) was coming from the stage. Tonight, every word was crystal clear. Perfect!

In the times that I’ve seen Bri, she’s never played guitar on stage. Tonight, the band took a break on one song and Bri played the guitar. Afterward, she said she’d never do it again. While the guitar playing wasn’t perfect, Bri was way too hard on herself about it.

But, the song, wait, not enough emphasis: the song! I’m Fine, is a real winner, whether she accompanies herself in the future or not. Her introduction was emotional and authentic and the song lived up to the intro.

A little later, Bri gave the band another break and played a solo on the piano, The Other Man. The only intro to that song was her telling us that she gets requests for it often enough that she decided to play it. Thank you all you requesters!

BriArdenPiano

Every number was special. Not every band member played on every song. There are few notes on the set list to guide you, but it’s not exact. Also, Bri had to cut out one number due to time constraints.

SetList

The band, left-to-right on stage:

Oscar Bautista on acoustic guitar. I’ve seen Oscar play electric many times (most often with Bri, but not exclusively). He’s masterful. This was my first time seeing him on the acoustic, and his play was equally terrific. On Fly Away (a cover), Oscar played the guitar and Bri sang, without the rest of the band.

OscarBautista

Craig Wilson on piano. Craig has co-written a number of songs with Bri. He played on three numbers, the opener and closer (both full band) and Scars Do Fade, where most of the band took a break. Folks, Scars Do Fade is incredible. Bri and Craig are a very good team, and Craig did a wonderful job accompanying her on the piano.

CraigWilson

Ian Schaefer on trumpet. Ian played on three or four numbers, all with a muting cup. He was as good as he always is lending a character to the songs that works really well.

IanSchaefer

Jeremiah Birnbaum on electric bass. This was one of the aforementioned surprises, and was also covered by the talented boys tweet. It wasn’t a surprise to me, since Jeremiah himself tweeted:

jeremiahmusic jeremiahbirnbaum

Very excited to play bass for the fabulously talented @BriArden tonight at Rockwood Music Hall, 9pm!

I’ve seen Jeremiah on electric guitar and singing lead vocals, a number of times (most specially with his group The Ramblers). This was the first time I saw him on bass. He was replacing Bri’s regular bass player, Justin Goldner (who is excellent), and Jeremiah acquitted himself well.

JeremiahBirnbaum

Bruno Esrubilsky on cajon, shaker and percussion. Bruno was a sub for Bri’s regular drummer/percussionist, Jake Cohen. That said, Jake has played drums every time I’ve seen him, so Bruno playing the cajon (extremely well) created an entirely different sound.

BrunoEsrubilsky

Rather than butchering Bruno’s last name, Bri gave him the opportunity to pronounce it himself. He quickly retorted: “So, you’ll let me butcher it myself?”. Winking smile

I have enjoyed every one of Bri’s shows. That said, I think I can say with little hesitation that I enjoyed this one the most.

After the show, Bri wanted to introduce us to her mom. Unfortunately, I got separated from Lois and Bri as the crowd divided us and pushed me further away. Lois got to say hi, but my introduction will have to wait for another time.

For the astute among you, you may have noticed that this post is about 12-15 hours earlier than normal. Tomorrow (by now actually today), is a crazy and somewhat unpredictable day for us. I didn’t want to take the chance on not posting until Monday, so I stayed up late to get it out now. Time for bed! Smile

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall

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Bri Arden headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. This was a full-band show, but with some changes from Bri’s normal lineup. It’s one of the things that makes seeing the same artist many times interesting, you never know quite what to expect, even though you know you’ll likely enjoy whatever they throw at you.

The biggest change was that neither of Bri’s female backup singers (Valerie Mize and Kate Ferber) were able to make the show. That alone guaranteed to change the character of the show. What I didn’t know was that Bri would force two of her boys to sing with her, so there were still three voices in many of the expected parts, just at a different timbre.

Bri Arden is a singer/songwriter with an extraordinary voice. She sings with a passion that is infectious. She surrounds herself with top musicians. The energy emanating from the stage knocks you back a bit, but the music is good enough to make you fight to hold your position.

BriArdenSinging

In addition to singing her heart out last night, Bri introduced a number of her songs (something we love) and had an attempt at humor as well. Rather than describe that attempt, I’ll reproduce Bri’s Tumblr account of it:

Thank you everyone for being such an amazing audience tonight and putting up with my failed attempts at humor. As someone pointed out to me after the show “You set the joke up really well, the only glitch was you forgot the punch line.” Working on it!!! XO B

Most importantly, Bri’s personality (extremely joyful) came out in the attempt. She made herself laugh, which made us laugh, regardless of the joke.

BriArden

In the introduction to Aha Moment, Bri explained how her parents met. Fate will find a way. Smile

The band, left-to-right on stage:

Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. Oscar is one of the best guitarists on the local scene and I look forward to every show that he’s a part of. Last night was another example of why I do.

OscarBautista

Jason Wexler on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). Jason did a great job on both. At one point I heard some cool sounds that I thought were being made by Oscar (who was hidden from my view behind Bri). When I leaned to my left, I saw that it was Jason on the electronic keyboards. Very nicely done!

JasonWexler

Ian Schaefer on trumpets and shaker (yes, trumpets, plural). Ian is always great on the trumpet, but last night was different. Ian often plays with a cup (or whatever the technical term is for what you shove in the big hole at the end of the trumpet to mute it and morph the sound). I think he does it because the trumpet could (theoretically) overwhelm the vocals.

IanCarltonSchaefer

Last night, after testing with the cup first, he removed it quickly and let the sound loose. But that wasn’t the big qualitative difference. I don’t know if I missed it before, or if he doesn’t do it when Valerie and Kate are singing, but a number of times Ian actually used the trumpet to harmonize with Bri’s voice. It was fantastic.

BriArdenIanCarltonSchaefer

For one song, Ian put down the trumpet and picked up a much smaller trumpet. For a minute, I wondered what would happen if in each succeeding song, he would pull out an even smaller trumpet, which made me think of the trumpet version of a Matryoshka Doll. Winking smile

For another song Ian put down all trumpets and played a shaker. Basically, he wasn’t getting off the stage last night. Do you think he was into playing the shaker? Winking smile

IanCarltonSchaeferShaker

Justin Goldner on electric bass and vocals. Justin is an excellent bass player. I’m sure he sings a bit on many sets, but last night he was pressed into full backup singer mode. Well done!

JustinGoldnerSinging

Jake Cohen (I should really say Jake Colin Cohen) on drums and vocals. Excellent job on the drums, with the sole exception that they were a bit too loud (a typical Rockwood 1 problem). That had the side-effect of slightly washing out some of Bri’s amazing vocals. Jake joined Justin as the other male backup singer, doing a fine job as well.

JakeColinCohen

Craig Wilson on acoustic guitar and vocals. Craig was on stage for the opening number only. He co-wrote it. Bri called is name out again later in the set giving him credit for another co-write, even though he didn’t come up to sing it with her.

CraigWilson

Do you think they were having fun on stage?

BriArdenIanCarltonSchaeferJustinGoldner

We certainly had fun in the audience. Thanks Bri and gang.

Here’s last night’s set list:

SetList

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.

PatrykLarney

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!

Bri Arden Acoustic at Rockwood Music Hall

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I typically check the Rockwood Music Hall website whenever we’re home and map out upcoming shows for a number of weeks. I put them on the calendar so that when people ask when we’re available, I know whether I’m likely to be at Rockwood instead. Winking smile

Last night we had mapped out being at Rockwood 2 all night (7pm – 12:30am). Then Nate Campany announced a 9pm show at Rockwood 1, and Lois and I split up our watching. I just wrote about Nate’s set.

A week ago, Bri Arden tweeted the following:

The two stripped down shows are August 5th- Buffstock and August 6th- Rockwood 10pm. These are not to be missed! 🙂

I did a double take, because I was sure someone else was listed at 10pm at Rockwood 1. I tweeted back and Bri responded with:

@hadarvc JUST booked 🙂

Yup, Bri got the call to fill in for someone who obviously was canceling a week in advance. Sweet, except that I really like Robbie Gil who was at Rockwood 2 at 10pm. Still, like with Nate, I had no hesitation. This was Bri doing an acoustic show, something I hadn’t experienced. Lois held down the fort at Robbie’s show, and I stayed in my seat for Bri after Nate’s set was over.

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The last time I saw Bri at Rockwood, she had as many as nine people on stage at the same time. It was a very big sound. Last night, Bri sang with one person accompanying her (we’ll get to him shortly).

During sound check, Bri warmed up at the grand piano, so I was looking forward to hearing her sing and play. Unfortunately, she must have changed her mind during the set, because she didn’t return to the piano.

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Bri has an absolutely extraordinary voice. That’s true even when eight other people (with instruments and backup singers) are on stage. But, holy cow, when it’s basically Bri’s voice with little else, it’s a different kind of amazing. She’s got every kind of soul you could ever want (even if the song itself might not qualify as a Soul number). I kept feeling like this was an Aretha Franklin kind of voice, scrunched up into someone 1/4 of Aretha’s size.

Bri is a wonderful songwriter too, so she’s putting that voice to use to tell stories that come from her heart (and experience). We’re all taking a journey with her, not just listening to an instrument (not that there’s any wrong with that!). Winking smile

Supporting Bri on every number was the extremely talented Justin Goldner. Previously, I raved about Justin’s electric bass play. I also praised his voice and piano play. Here’s what I wrote about him the first time I saw him:

Justin Goldner sang Home Again (1st time). Justin did a very nice job singing and playing the piano on this number. That said, for the majority of the evening, he was one of three primary bass players. He was truly awesome on the bass. I noticed how good he was on the very first song. But when Bri sang Smackwater Jack, Justin was so good that I recall thinking I never realized how sophisticated some of the bass lines were (or could be) in Folk/Pop tunes of yesteryear.

Last night he played the acoustic guitar on all but one number, when he played the piano. So, let’s add acoustic guitar to his talents, though he wasn’t called upon to do too much in this type of set, so I don’t really know how strong he is on guitar.

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He also sang some harmony (nicely) with Bri on a few numbers, but that too wasn’t a particular highlight. Basically, this was Bri doing what she does best!

She got the crowd singing a couple of times, at one point putting the microphone in front of Ashley Lehmann who represented the audience better than most of us could have!

OK, you’ve seen the dress that Bri wore last night. To prove to you that the universe tells me whether the decisions I make are right or wrong, I’ll relate what happened to me today.

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This post (and three others) are going out way later than usual. Today, I had a mini reunion with three other elementary school buddies! We met in New Haven at Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria (big spenders!). I took the train up with one of the guys who lives in Thailand (we were taking advantage of today being his last day in the US before he returns home).

Walking to Grand Central Station at 11:45am, I passed a woman on the street who was wearing the exact same dress as Bri. If I had not switched from Robbie Gil to Bri’s show, I would never have known that I was being told I made a mistake, since the dress would have been eye-catching, but otherwise meaningless. But, I know for certain that I was being rewarded instead. Thanks Universe! Smile

Valerie Mize at Rockwood Music Hall

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On Sunday, I started the post about Sierra Noble as follows:

In what is obviously becoming a regular occurrence, we discover new musicians in the following cycle: 1) they perform side-person duties with someone we regularly see, 2) we see some mini-set where they headline a portion, 3) we see them perform a full set of their own, falling madly in love with them directly.

Since every word applies to Valerie Mize equally (including the falling madly in love part), I’ll plagiarize myself out of pure laziness. Winking smile We first saw Valerie singing backup at the Soul Revue Benefit. Then we saw her perform a 3-song set at Backscratch XIV. We’ve seen her singing backup twice since, which made us want to see her perform a full set last night at Rockwood Music Hall.

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In the Backscratch post I mentioned that Valerie has a beautiful voice and plays the guitar very well. Let me underscore both points and add a new one: she writes songs that both Lois and I love! Her lyrics flow smoothly with many interesting phrases. The songs are structured really well and are executed wonderfully.

We picked up a copy of her Auspices EP at Backscratch. We like it so much that we bought another copy last night for three reasons: 1) We wanted a signed copy, 2) We like to support the artists we love, 3) Some lucky friend of ours will get the unsigned copy that we currently have.

Since I underscored the old comments, let me explain a bit. Valerie’s voice has tremendous range and different tonality when appropriate. She can do a throaty soul type number, as well as soaring laser-like notes when singing above the audience on Downtown Train. She ended the show with the latter, crushing the highs.

Valerie finger picks the electric guitar beautifully, but she took it to levels that didn’t come through at Backscratch (for lack of time). Her guitar play on Tell Me Why (the first song on the EP) is fantastic. It’s gorgeous on the EP too, but live, it’s actually mesmerizing. Easy to miss how good the rest of the song is while your eyes are glued to her fingers.

Enough about Valerie already. Winking smile Actually, sorry, I do need to say one more thing. Valerie is one of the most natural on-stage performers. She is quick witted and appears completely comfortable (regardless of whatever nerves might be going on under the covers). When she flubbed the beginning guitar part to a song late in the set, she restarted twice. After the second error, she noted that this was as much a comedy set as a music one. Folks, if she wanted to, she likely could be a good comedian (or do you prefer comedienne?).

On to the band. Left-to-right on the stage:

Ward Williams on cello. We’ve seen Ward many times. He was terrific every single time. Last night as well, but it was also a bit special. I was sitting 12 inches from the cello. If Ward had worse aim with the bow, he could have poked my eye out. Winking smile On one song it was mostly Ward and Valerie alone. Absolutely gorgeous. Ward plucked a bunch in addition to the more traditional bowing. It had been a while since we’d last seen Ward, so this was a wonderful surprise!

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Bri Arden on background vocals. I recently covered Bri’s full set. Since Valerie sang backup at that set, Bri returned the favor here. The same comments apply. Having a legitimate lead singer sing background is a treat, because they understand their job well, knowing what works for them when they are in the lead. Needless to say, Bri did a great job.

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Antar Goodwin on electric bass. I am extremely impressed with Antar’s play. What was fascinating to me last night was that he was blocked from my view for nearly the entire set, except for his left hand, which I could see dancing up and down the frets (body-less). Since I could also hear the bass perfectly, it was like watching a finger ballet matching the sound.

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Here’s a shot of what Antar looked like to me:

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Tomo Kanno on drums. Tomo was excellent throughout the set as well. The core trio (Valerie, Antar and Tomo) are extremely tight and well-matched.

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Perhaps the most surprising (and welcome) thing was the absolutely perfect volume level on every instrument and both voices. Given that the guitar and bass were electric and that I was three feet from the guitar amp and six from the bass amp, I would typically have been blown out in a Rockwood 1 set. Kudos to the band for finding the right amp levels and allowing Drew on sound to level everything else to match (voices and cello).

Here’s the set list. Valerie played all five songs from the EP, plus five more (excellent) songs. We both particularly liked Cinderella:

SetList

So, when does Valerie play again? Winking smile