Brian Killeen

Greg Mayo FUNTIME at Rockwood Music Hall

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Greg Mayo had one of his FUNTIME sets last night at Rockwood Music Hall. This was the third consecutive set that he appeared in (second consecutive one that he headlined), all of which we attended (surprise!). Smile

GregMayo

A Greg Mayo FUNTIME set is a rocking good time (literally). Who knows what you’ll get, other than mostly (all) covers (last night had one original), themed in some way that is only explained at a given show. What you can be sure of is that the musicians will be amazing, and that you’ll find it very difficult to have nearly as good a time as they do.

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Last night’s theme? A musical game of tag! Each of the band members picked specific songs for other band members to sing lead on. Of course, they pick challenging songs for the sheer sport of it.

Greg Mayo played lead guitar and sang. His guitar play was as on fire as it always is, even though he had been playing practically non-stop for three hours before this set began (at 12:10am). That it came after an amazing set where he played piano and keyboards exclusively, and sang his heart out, was a delightful change of gears.

GregMayoGuitar

Patrick Firth on grand piano, keyboards and vocals (and a surprise instrument that I’ll cover in another section!). No need to ask whether he was great on the keys (but if you did, and I just didn’t hear you, the answer is Yes). One of the songs he was assigned, came from the drummer, who made him sing Rosanna (by Toto). There are some pretty darn high parts tucked away in that song, which was the whole point of making Patrick sing it. Everyone had a blast, especially Patrick. Smile

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Brian Killeen on electric bass, lead electric guitar and vocals. Brian played his usual instrument, the electric bass, exceptionally (as he always does). He sang at least one song on the lead while still playing the bass.

BrianKilleenBass

But, on one song, Greg, Patrick and Brian each rotated one position. Brian took Greg’s electric guitar. Greg sat down at the keyboards. Patrick Firth took up the electric bass (see, I said there was a surprise instrument for Patrick!). Brian couldn’t properly start the song without fully preparing for it. This involved a wardrobe change (not to be confused with a wardrobe malfunction!). Winking smile

BrianKilleenWardrobeChangePatrickFirthBass

Brian stripped off his button-down shirt and played the song in his undershirt. He blasted out quite a number of tasty leads, a few of them were really fast! Even the slow ones were great. He sang wonderfully too.

BrianKilleenGuitar

Brian is typically one of the more self-effacing members on stage, not doing anything to call attention to himself other than playing the bass well enough to call attention to himself. Once he took the shirt off, all bets were off as well. He became the prototypical rock star, and delivered completely! Smile

BrianKilleenRockStar

Without missing a beat, Brian substituted a name from the song with Jay Stolar, who he spotted in the crowd.

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Zach Jones on drums and vocals. Zach was incredible on the drums. There were no slow numbers, so he was working it constantly. Of course he sang great too. I was about 12” from the kick and hanging tom. I was shocked, but every single time Zach struck the hanging tom I felt a rush of air sweep across my arm. Crazy, because the first couple of times I looked to see if someone was brushing against me.

ZachJonesSingingZachJonesDrums

There was also an unannounced special guest!

Ryan Vaughn sat under the sound engineer’s booth, to the far right of the stage (right next to Zach). He was a percussionist extraordinaire on every number. He used shakers, maracas, tambourine and probably other things I wasn’t paying attention to. On at least one song, he used maracas in his right hand (two) and hit the hi-hat cymbal with a drum stick in his left. Zach was also hitting the same cymbal (opposite side) with his left hand, while working the remainder of the drum kit with his right. Awesome!

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We got home at 1:30am, completely wiped, but completely happy. When do we get to do it all over again? (No, seriously, when???)

Stone Lonesome at Rockwood Music Hall

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The Stone Lonesome headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. We saw them one month ago, also on a Saturday night at 9pm at Rockwood 1. I wrote a detailed post about that show, which described not just that set, but their music in general. I’m not being lazy, but rather than repeat that, I encourage you to read it if you’re not familiar with The Stone Lonesome and are interested in learning about them.

The show last night was reasonably faithful to the previous one, so I could (almost) just stop now (other than updating the photos), but there was one change in the band and I always have something to say (even if no one wants to hear it), just to remind myself in the future of what differentiated this show from others.

I ended that last post with:

Thanks Zach, Emily (and Greg, Tony and Ryan) for making it a very special set!

This is obviously a subjective remark, but I think that they are continuing to gel. It’s clear from the above that they didn’t need to improve to make me very happy, but the more often a group performs, the more comfort they have with each other, the audience, and the general flow (both during and between songs).

Zach mentioned that he and Emily were dressed nearly identically (as if The Stone Lonesome had some kind of official outfit). That seemed to be correct, until Emily pirouetted to show off the see-through lacy back of her black shirt. Zach gave in immediately. Since he didn’t spin around, I can’t be sure whether he did or did not have a lacy back. Winking smile Emily immediately covered it up, so we might never know…

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Emily wielded a tambourine. I can’t remember whether she did that last month (which is why I’m writing it down now, so I’ll remember!).

ZachJonesEmilyLongTambourine

For those that chose not to click through, The Stone Lonesome is made up of two people, Zach Jones and Emily Long. They could show up just the two of them and it would be a fine, albeit pretty mellow set. Instead, they surround themselves with top musicians who create a mix of modern and traditional alt-country sounds.

Last nights band, left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. This was the first of three consecutive sets where we saw both Greg and Zach perform. The next two posts will detail the sets where Greg’s name was on the marquee, with Zach supporting him. Greg is always great on the guitar.

GregMayo

In addition to taking on the country genre in his play (wonderfully), on one song that Emily was singing lead, I thought I heard some lovely harmony, but I noticed Zach’s lips weren’t moving, so I looked around and noticed Greg was creating a sound similar to a pedal steel guitar, which sounded just like a beautiful vocal harmony.

Zach mentioned that Greg had a new toy. Specifically, he pointed to the Whammy Bar on Greg’s guitar, which Greg employed a number of times (more often in the sound check, once Zach highlighted it). But, perhaps the entire guitar was new, and it just happened to have a Whammy Bar on it.

Does it look like Greg and Zach and having a good time yet?

GregMayoZachJones

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Brian was the one change from last month’s set. Tony Maceli did a great job in February, but March was Brian’s month to shine on bass for The Stone Lonesome. Unlike Greg and Zach, Brian didn’t play on the middle set, but he was back for the final set with an even more front-and-center role, so look for that post later if you want to read a lot more about Brian!

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Ryan Vaughn on drums, cajon, percussion, washboard, whatever you can bang on or shake. Seriously, if you can make noise on it, Ryan can make that noise sound good! More on him two posts from now too.

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I didn’t have the clearest view of Ryan, so I have to thank Sam Teichman for pointing out that Ryan was using two sticks in his right hand to get extra oomph out of the floor tom (including the rim) while beating the cajon with his left.

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It turns out, that Ryan is not Samson. This is the first time we saw Ryan clean shaven in forever. He was still just as good on everything, so he hasn’t been drawing his special percussion powers from the beard. Good to know! Winking smile

As with the prior month, Zach and Emily closed out the show by giving the band a break and hushing the crowd with a duet. Like I said above, they could easily do an entire set without the band, so getting a taste of the more mellow stuff was welcome. Another great set. Another great beginning to an amazing night of music.

TheStoneLonesomeDuet

Caleb Hawley at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Caleb Hawley headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Ever since we saw Caleb play a house concert in VA, I’ve wanted to see him as often as I can. That hasn’t worked out as well as I had hoped, so when he returned to NYC for last night’s show, I wasn’t going to miss him again.

CalebHawley

When I first see someone, I tend to write a longer, more detailed (in the excruciating, please stop sense) post. That’s what I did for the house concert, but it was back in the days when I wrote a single post about the opener and the headliner together, something I rarely do now. Caleb was detailed lower down in the post, since we originally showed up primarily for the opener, Rachel Platten. If you want to know why I fell in love with Caleb Hawley, read that post.

We’ve seen Caleb a couple of times since then, never doing a full set of his own material. That’s a shame, because in addition to being an excellent performer, he’s an excellent songwriter.

One of the most impressive things about Caleb is how comfortable/natural he appears in front of any crowd. He might be quivering underneath, but there’s no hint of that. I’ve seen him take his shirt off (at another show) and unashamedly shake his less-than-six-pack-abs belly for our amusement. The more typical thing is his disarming smile and style, which just makes you want to keep your eyes on him.

That’s good, because while you’re keeping your eyes on him, you’re hearing an incredible voice and watching an absolutely exceptional guitar player.

CalebHawleyGuitar

Last night was a joyously fun set, complete with very talented people supporting Caleb. It also featured Caleb playing electronic keyboards on the first few numbers, something he claimed he was nervous about (see above for why I don’t believe Caleb ever gets nervous). Winking smile

Let me praise the band, then circle back to some additional comments about Caleb. Left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and heavy background vocals. Patrick is a perennial favorite of ours on the keyboards. We were seated a couple of feet from him, so we got to watch him work his magic directly. He also sang harmony on practically every number (perhaps every one), wonderfully.

PatrickFirthPatrickFirthKeyboards

PatrickFirthEvanWatsonSinging

Evan Watson performed double duty. For half the set, he manned the drums (that was a first for me, seeing him play the drums). He was good enough to support Caleb, but he’d have to work hard to match most of the other local drummers. For the other half of the set, he was well into his comfort zone, lead electric guitar. Totally sweet! Occasionally, he leaned over to share (or take over) the mic in front of the bass player, to sing some background vocals. He also sang a bit when he was at the drums.

EvanWatsonDrumsEvanWatsonGuitar

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Brian Killeen on electric bass and background vocals. Brian is always wonderful, but Caleb gave him a couple of long-ish leads, which Brian nailed, to the delight of the crowd. He also sang quite of bit of background vocals with Caleb and Patrick. Another winning performance.

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Here’s the set list:

SetList

Considering the name of the opening song, it was entirely appropriate that the entire band donned sunglasses to try and remain incognito while entertaining us:

CalebHawleyBrianKilleenEvanWatson

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.

I can imagine that with a different set list and a different arrangement, I could feel the same way about a full band show (certainly, there’s no issue with who he picks to support him!). Basically, I guess it boils down to Caleb being too generous with wanting everyone to be (nearly) equal in a full band show. In my opinion, his sets need to be about Caleb, first and foremost, with everyone else being the super professional musicians that they always are, and just support him.

I’ll be seeing Caleb again this coming Monday, 7-9pm, next door (Rockwood 1), when he is the MC for The CEO Artist showcase (put on by Christina Morelli). I imagine he’s quite the MC, given what I told you above about his stage presence.

Caleb is a celebrity in NYC (independent of his run on American Idol last year), so we always get to see many friends at any show that he is part of. We could have spent the entire evening chatting and catching up. Instead, after a few quick hugs and hellos, Lois just took photos of our friends. Winking smile

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Bri Arden will be one of the performers at Monday’s showcase with Christina Morelli (and Chrissi Poland, hidden from view, who will also be performing on Monday):

BriArdenChrstinaMorelliChrissiPolandSamTeichmanBriArdenHadar

Tony Maceli Full Vinyl Tribute to Talking Heads and Alanis Morissette at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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That title is a mouthful. Just typing it out has taken the wind out of me. But, it’s descriptive and accurate, so I’m going with it.

Note: There are no photos in this post yet. We’re running to Rockwood now for a 6pm show and I barely finished the words. Tomorrow morning I’ll add in a ton of photos and tweet the link out again, for those that might want to revisit the post to see it in its correct glory! I’ll delete this paragraph when I update the post with the photos.

Tony Maceli is one of the top bass players in the NYC indie music scene. Some months ago, he started organizing a regular mega-show called Full Vinyl. Last night was the first one we were able to attend, so I don’t know whether we’ve missed one or two. I also don’t know whether the format is always the same (or going to be). This show was at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

TonyMaceli

It was such a massive (fast moving) show, that I would be doing an injustice to multiple people if I tried to cover it the way I do normal sets. Most importantly, I’d be doing myself the massive injustice of sitting here and typing for the next few days. In other words, it isn’t going to happen.

I’ll give a high-level description, call out a few people (which is no slight on anyone that doesn’t get a separate shout-out), then do my best to at least give a link to every person who was on stage. There’s little doubt that I’ll miss someone, or not be able to identify someone (or their site). No omission is intentional, and whenever someone (cough, cough, Tony?) corrects me (public corrections are fine), I’ll update the post to reflect it.

The format last night was Talking Heads first (lead singers were all boys, with one very notable exception). To close out the Talking Heads portion, all lead singers return to the stage at the same time and each sings a piece of the finale, the uber-famous Psycho Killer. Each individual number had numerous band members swapping in and out on each song.

PsychoKillerFinale

Michelle Cassilas was the sole female lead singer during this part of the evening. She’s the head of the band Ursa Minor, writing their songs, singing lead vocals and playing guitar. She can certainly rock it out, so having her in the boys portion of the evening was just fine.

Here’s the set list for the Talking Heads portion. The order wasn’t strictly maintained because a few people (Jerry Fuentes and Derek James in particular) were still playing their set next door when it would have been their turn:

SetList1

Under each song you’ll see the band members that were slated to play (at least their last names). The first name listed was the primary lead singer for that song.

One male singer couldn’t make it due to illness (if Tony said who it was, I missed it). A last minute substitute was recruited, the amazing Robbie Gil. He’s not listed on the set list, because I think Tony already knew about the illness before he printed the sheets. I might be remembering this incorrectly, but I think that Robbie sang Burning Down the House, which has Greg Mayo listed as lead singer (which would have been a second lead for Mayo).

Tony Maceli opened the show. I missed most of his song because I was next door watching Jerry Fuentes and Derek James (I already posted about that show). A friend texted me when this show began and I waited until Jerry and Derek finished their current song to scoot over. I caught the last full verse of Tony singing.

TonyMaceliSinging

I then heard Tony sing a full verse during Psycho Killer. Folks, I’ve heard Tony sing before (rarely) and I praised him. Those previous times were nothing compared to last night. He really opened up his vocals and did a fantastic job. Perhaps he decided to put on these shows just to give himself a vehicle to sing for the rest of us. If that’s the case, I approve. Smile

On to the second half of the show. This time, the ladies were in control and the subject matter was Alanis Morissette. The format was the same, including all of the lads joining for the finale, Ironic, but you’ll notice that three of the woman sang two different songs on the lead. Here’s the set list for the ladies:

SetList2

I was never a Talking Heads fan, though songs like Psycho Killer are burned in my memory (was anything else played on the radio when that first came out?). Watching these people playing those 11 songs did not change that. For the most part, those songs don’t do it for me at all. But, watching these people play those songs (or practically anything), was truly thrilling. I don’t say that just because I love most of them (as people as well as musicians), but because the performance was simply that good. I still wouldn’t want to listen to any of it at home, without the energy in the room.

The Alanis Morissette portion, totally different story. Even though my eyes were droopy and I was yawning,  the second half was amazing, each song. It wasn’t that the women performed it any better than the men (they didn’t, both groups nailed their parts). It’s just that Alanis Morissette is a dramatically better songwriter for my taste.

Here’s the photo of the ladies’ finale:

IronicFinale

We left Rockwood at 2am (sheesh). Not for one second did I consider leaving early.

Before listing out as many people as I can find, I want to write out some incredibly subjective, almost silly thoughts. Not because I want to (or believe I can) sway anyone’s opinion. I just want to remember exactly how I felt and this is the best way. One more caveat. There wasn’t a single weak performance last night (seriously, I’m not sparing anyone’s feelings, you just have to trust me on that). So, by calling out anyone, it would be a major mistake on your part to assume that there was a vast difference between the people I’m mentioning and the people I’m not.

Last time, the following observations are entirely my personal opinions. I’m not casting them as facts. If these people delivered a level-10 performance, then the worst of the rest delivered a 9, with the average being 9.5+.

Josh Dion was the most thrilling male performer. When his song was done, I turned to anyone in my vicinity and said “Josh can only be described by one word: Excitement”.

JoshDion

Misty Boyce was mind-boggling in her lead, but she was also the primary harmony vocalist with both the males and females. She also played keyboards and melodica. I’ve seen Misty sing background with Bess Rogers before, and I’ve wanted to see her own sets (and came really close twice, including earlier this week), but this was my first time seeing her take center stage. She grabbed it and didn’t let go until we were all reduced to a puddle.

MistyBoyce

When her song was over, my friend leaned over and said: “Hard to imagine that she isn’t going to blow up one of these days!” (my friends and I are obviously gangsta, holla, in case you mistook that for being a bad thing!). Winking smile

Finally, let’s try to get everyone’s full name (with links if I can find them). I’ll do the male leads first, then the female leads, then the band members. And…… GO:

Tony Maceli, already covered. He also played bass on many of the songs, always his forte.

TonyMaceliBass

Greg Mayo, in addition to singing lead, Greg played electric and acoustic guitars on a majority of the numbers. He sang the most harmony by a male (even on the Alanis set). Even when he wasn’t singing in the mic, Greg was silently singing every word of every Alanis Morissette song. He’s clearly a big fan!

GregMayoSingingGregMayoElectricGuitarGregMayoAcousticGuitar

Scott Chasolen, in addition to singing lead, played the electronic keyboards on that song. He was great!

ScottChasolen

Jerry Fuentes, already discussed above, sang and played smoking lead guitar.

Derek James sang with Jerry Fuentes as part of Jerry’s number.

JerryFuentesDerekJamesMasonIngram

Michelle Casillas, also mentioned above. Great! (I’m going to stick with great, so no one reads into me trying to simply mix up my superlatives.)

MichelleCasillas

Chris Cubeta, I’ve heard about Chris for a while now, mostly as a producer (he produced the upcoming The Vanity Belles CD). This was my first time laying eyes on him and I was very impressed with his voice and guitar play. Misty Boyce sang harmony with him in near-lockstep. They sounded great together.

ChrisCubeta

Update:

Daniel Lanzetta was not listed on either set list, so I missed him the first time I posted this. When I added the photos, I realized my error. He joined Chris Cubeta and did the spoken parts of Once in a Lifetime (of which there are many).

DanielLanzetta

End Update.

Zach Jones, in addition to singing lead, also drummed for a good bit of each set. This is the first time we’ve ever seen Zach hatless. It turns out, that contrary to popular belief, he doesn’t get his superpowers from his hat, because he was great without it yesterday, both singing and drumming. Smile

ZachJonesSingingZachJonesDrumsZachJonesGuitar

Josh Dion. Already asked and answered! I’ll just mention that he was drumming while he was singing, but if you’ve heard of Josh Dion, then you probably guessed that already (you couldn’t have been sure, because he’s great on the keyboards too!).

JoshDionPaulAmorese

Robbie Gil, also mentioned above. Great!

RobbieGilSpencerCohen

Casey Shea not only was great (see, I’m not varying my adjectives in this section), but he also came off the stage, laid down on a table in front of it, and serenaded a woman within inches of her face. Let me think who that was… Oh yeah, it was Lois! Smile

CaseySheaCaseySheaJamieAlegreMattBasilePatrickFirthMistyBoyceCaseyShea

On to the female leads (remember, three of them sang twice, so their list will be shorter):

Jamie Rae, sang lead on two songs. She’s listed as Raeya on Tony’s set list. I think she recently started a new solo project under that moniker. Great!

JamieRae

Misty Boyce, I want to repeat what I said above, but I’ll restrain myself.

MistyBoyceMelodica

Lelia Broussard, sang lead on two songs. She also danced around a bunch and raised the already high energy level higher as a result. Great!

LeliaBroussard

Charlene Kaye, in addition to singing lead, also sang harmony with a few others. Great!

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Emily Long, sang lead, and was one of the people that Charlene Kay sang with. The two of them are in a Guns N’ Roses cover band called Guns N’ Hoses. Emily was great!

EmilyLong

Mighty Kate (Katy Pfaffl), sang lead on one song. What a change-up from her own music which we saw just this past Monday (here’s my post raving about her). Great!

MightyKateMightyKateMistyBoyce

Julia Haltigan, sang lead on one song. She too was great! She was recently at Rockwood for her own set, and will be again next week, but beside that, she’s performing soon at The Kennedy Center in Washington. No biggie, I’m sure. Winking smile

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Dallin Applebaum, sang lead on two songs. Great!

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Onward, to the unsung (get it?) folks who supported the above, in the most amazing fashion (I’m not going to repeat the ones who sang, but separately played an instrument on many other songs):

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and light vocals. He really wailed on the synth/organ sounds. Great!

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Jeremy Goldsmith on electric guitar. We’re about to see him in a couple of hours, supporting Jesse Terry at Rockwood. I’m looking forward to seeing him again, because, wait for it, he was great last night! Smile

JeremyGoldsmith

Brian Killeen on electric bass. I had just seen Brian Killeen kill it on an earlier set supporting John Schmitt (post is here) and got to watch him do it again with this group. Great!

BrianKilleen

Ben Zwerin on electric bass. Great!

BenZwerin

Paul Amorese on drums. Great!

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Matt Simons on electronic keyboards and light vocals. I just saw Matt Simons on the same set with Brian Killeen, supporting John Schmitt. Great!

MattSimons

Mason Ingram on drums. I’ve seen Mason once before, supporting Alec Gross. He was impressive that night. The music was radically different last night, with Mason being equally impressive. Great!

MasonIngram

Steven Elliot on electric guitar. Great!

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Rob Jost on electric bass. Great!

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Robert DiPietro on drums. I’m pretty sure they called him Rob last night, but the link says Robert, so I’ll stick with that. Great!

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Both Robs (Jost and DiPietro) are in Ursa Minor with Michelle Casillas and they supported her when she sang lead.

Matt Aranoff on electric bass. Great!

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Ryan Vaughn on drums. Great! I ran into Ryan at John Schmitt’s set and told him that I personally blamed him for keeping us up way past our bedtime. Meaning, we really like catching sets when Ryan is drumming.

RyanVaughn

Spencer Cohen on drums and cowbell. Yes, Spencer is a master percussionist, including playing a naked cowbell, center stage! Great!

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John Kengla on electric bass. Great!

Update: I just looked through the photos and not only can’t I find one with John Kengla, the song he was supposed to play on, Heaven, sung by Zach Jones, has Tony Maceli playing on it. So, no photo, and he might not even have been there. Oops.

Rob Heath on drums. Great!

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Dan Tirer on electric guitar. Also great, but I’ll add that this was my first time seeing him, and I was particularly impressed. In fact, Lois, who doesn’t pay as much attention to certain instruments as I do, turned to me and commented on how good she thought he was.

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Matt Basile on electric bass. Matt always delivers, great!

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Jamie Alegre on drums. Great!

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Steve Williams on drums. I saw Steve once before, supporting Julia Haltigan. He was great that night and again last night!

SteveWilliams

Jeff Litman on acoustic guitar. Great!

JeffLitman

Wow, can’t believe I got through the list, with or without mistakes. Yay me! Smile

John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall

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John Schmitt headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. We used to see John frequently. I knew it’s been a while (with a couple of near misses recently), but I was actually shocked when I looked it up and saw that it was seven months ago. That’s just crazy talk. Glad to have corrected that.

Let’s the get the important stuff out of the way first. Either someone stole John Schmitt’s beard, and a sizable portion of his girth, or we actually saw an impersonator last night (a pretty darn good one if so). Now we can get on with more mundane things, like the music…

JohnSchmitt

Since it’s been so long, let’s recap the three things that the real John Schmitt has in spades:

  • Great voice
  • Fantastic songwriter
  • Excellent guitar player

(that’s how I was able to judge the potential impersonator, since he possessed two of those qualities. Clearly, if he was stealing John’s songs, I don’t know if he himself is a good songwriter.) Winking smile

There were a number of firsts (for us) in last night’s set:

John introduced his brand new banjitar (that’s a six-string banjo, tuned like a guitar, that sounds like a banjo). It’s a great idea. Lots of excellent guitar players don’t have the time or inclination to study the banjo, but have a few songs that might benefit from that sound. That’s exactly what John did, to perfection.

John birthed two songs publicly (first live performance). Both songs were great. We look forward to hearing them more often and embedding them in our brains like we have the rest of his set list.

John played a solo cover of Cat Stevens’ How Can I Tell You. Wow! He was choked up introducing the song, because he’s currently in a long-distance relationship and singing this song is all too close to home.

John had a full band plus one guest. I knew it would be a full band show, but I admit to being surprised to see two of the members, as in super-delighted-happy surprised. Left-to-right on stage, followed by the guest:

Matt Simons on grand piano, electronic keyboards, and harmony. Surprise #1. We love Matt and we’ll be back at Rockwood on March 31st to see him perform his own stuff, but I didn’t know he’d be supporting John. In addition to being wonderful on the keys (as always), Matt sang a bunch of harmony with John, in particular on Going Back, since Lissa Farquhar (John’s regular singing partner) was very ill and couldn’t make it.

MattSimons

Quick commercial break (someone has to pay the bills here!). Winking smile

Matt just finished recording a new CD in Nashville. He told me last night that it won’t be available until June. But, in the meantime, he’s sharing bits of it with the world. On his Birthday, he tweeted the following:

Matt Simons ? @matt_simons

As promised, here’s some reverse birthday love! It’s link to download a free song from my new album! Hope you enjoy it!noisetrade.com/mattsimons

If I heard him correctly, next week he’ll be doing the same thing with a second song. I’ve already seen a few musicians tweet that they’ve heard the new CD and are in love with it. I can’t confirm or deny whether I’ve had a sneak peek at it, but if I did, I’m sure it’s fantastic. If I didn’t, then I completely trust the folks that said the same thing. Smile

MattSimonsJohnSchmitt

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Brian was surprise #2, also an awesome one. Even though Brian (one of our favorite bassists) played with John the last time we saw him, that too was a fill in job for John’s regular bass player, Pasquale Chieffalo. Brian was great at that last show, but he was even better last night. Buttery smooth and constantly laying down sophisticated bass lines throughout.

BrianKilleen

Mike Sutton on drums (still can’t find a good individual link). Mike is John’s regular drummer and he’s done a great job at every show that we’ve seen him play. Clearly, he knows John’s music cold and it shows.

MikeSutton

Scott Tofte came up to sing harmony and shake some shakers on two numbers. Beautiful job. He had to consult the lyrics on his iPhone, because he joined John for one of the brand new songs.

ScottTofteScottTofteShakersJohnSmittBanjitar

Here’s the set list:

SetList

I couldn’t stop laughing throughout 7 Drunken Nights.

Lots of familiar faces in the audience, which Lois couldn’t help but document for our memories (and now yours). Smile

JohnSchmittChadVaccarinoLinaIanAxelLeivParton

Zach Jones Salutes Davey Jones and The Monkees at Rockwood Music Hall

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It’s always sad when people die young. When it brings us together to remember them, their accomplishments, and the joy they brought to many, there’s at least a silver lining. Davy Jones of The Monkees passed away last week, at the young age of 66.

Zach Jones, a staple (and shining light) in the NYC indie music scene, is a life-long Monkees fan. We found out last night that he attended his first Monkees concert while still in the womb (I guess he snuck in without paying). When he heard about Davy’s passing, he contacted Rockwood Music Hall and arranged for a slot at 5pm last night to pay tribute to Davy and The Monkees.

ZachJones

In addition to assembling the usual suspects of top-notch musicians to join him, he got another Dave Jones to join as well.

DaveJonesSinging

Dave Jones is Zach’s father. It’s too popular a name for me to easily be able to find good links to him, so I’ll just summarize what I think I learned last night. Dave had a band while Zach was growing up. As you already learned above, Dave and his wife (who was also there last night) attended a Monkees concert while Zach’s mom was pregnant, so their love of The Monkees goes back even further than Zach’s.

DaveJonesZachJonesZachJonesParents

Dave sings and plays the acoustic guitar very well. He sang lead on half the numbers and harmony on the rest. He also told a number of stories about Davy and his love of him and The Monkees. He has excellent stage presence. I’m sure I would enjoy seeing him perform separate from this tribute.

DaveJonesGuitar

Zach sang lead on the remaining songs while playing the drums to Monkees perfection. Zach kicked it off with the classic TV intro Hey Hey We’re The Monkees (Here we come, walking down the street…).

ZachJonesSinging

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

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and light vocals. Greg was great, nailing a number of very short, but amazingly familiar riffs. On one number he took a long and very fast lead, paying tribute to Michael Nesmith (who we were told didn’t actually play that lead when he was on TV). Greg had to leave right before the last number, because he was supporting Chrissi Poland who was opening for Pat Benatar and Neal Giraldo at Tarrytown Music Hall.

GregMayoGregMayoLeadGuitar

Patrick Firth on grand piano, electronic keyboards and light vocals. Pat was excellent, taking the most leads, albeit mostly short ones. They were all tasty and Dave called him out a number of times, each to the delight of the crowd.

PatrickFirthGregMayoPatrickFirthDaveJones

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Keeping the bottom going is something Brian always does well. While he didn’t sing, he was definitely into the entire set and an integral part of the sound.

BrianKilleenDaveJonesBrianKilleen

The crowd wouldn’t let them off the stage when they were done. After a bit of discussion, they decided to repeat the last song, up one fret. Zach tried to convince Tony Maceli to take the tambourine (Tony was there to enjoy the show). Tony declined, but Zach’s sister Natalie Jones took up the challenge. She stood center stage and was quite fancy with the tambourine, showing that all members of the Jones family have the musician’s gene in them. Smile

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It’s no surprise to me that The Monkees music still holds up 46 years later. The only real surprise is that it started out in a completely manufactured way, before taking on a life of its own. Thanks Zach, Dave and company for bringing us all back to relive some wonderful memories!

ZachJonesKristen

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Sierra Noble and Michael Sackler-Berner at Joe’s Pub

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Sierra Noble was opening for Michael Sackler-Berner at Joe’s Pub last night. We weren’t supposed to be in NYC. After missing Sierra last week, when she played a co-bill with Rebecca Haviland, we decided that we had to get our priorities straight. We cut our trip short and returned in time to attend with two friends. Smile

Joe’s Pub was our favorite venue in NYC for nearly four years. For a number of reasons, we ended up not attending a single show there for 20 months! Now that they’ve remodeled the inside and switched to assigned seats (tables), we’ve been back three times in seven weeks. I’m sure we’ll continue to attend regularly.

Sierra played a full set (which was so welcome, because sometimes openers get short-shrift) and was fantastic on every number. As always, she switched between acoustic guitar and fiddle, impressing on both. Of course, her vocals (even though she was fighting a cold) were amazing.

SierraNobleSierraNobleGuitar

All that said, she’s simply a great songwriter (and she picks great people to co-write with as well), so even if her cold had been worse, listening to her (and her band) play those songs would have been worth the trip. Here’s the set list:

SierraNobleSetList

Speaking of her band, let’s give them the credit they are due, left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on electric and acoustic guitar and vocals. If this isn’t your first time here, then you know that Greg Mayo is my favorite local guitar player. If it is your first time, now you know that too! Smile

GregMayo

When Sierra was on acoustic guitar, Greg was on electric. When she was on fiddle he was on acoustic. He sang a lot of harmony and was as good as he ever is.

Seth Faulk on drums and vocals. Seth was masterful on the drums, which for most of the set were on the very subtle side (lots of brushes, with some mallets thrown in for good measure). He got to let loose on the last number, DABE, which is a collection of fiddle tunes that are highly energetic.

SethFaulk

Seth has a wonderful voice (I’ve written about that a number of times) and he sang even more than Greg did. Most of the time it was three part harmony with Sierra and Greg and it was luscious.

GregMayoSierraNobleSethFaulk3PartHarmony

Brian Killeen on upright bass. Brian was filling in for Chris Anderson who is on vacation. Since Brian is independently one of our favorite bass players (as is Chris), I wasn’t nervous as to whether Brian would sound good, even though he’s not familiar with Sierra’s catalog. I was right, no need to worry.

BrianKilleen

The biggest difference was that Chris sings a bunch with Sierra and Brian doesn’t know the material well enough to fill in there.

That led to another highlight of the set.

Martin Rivas was invited up to sing the duet Human After All (that Chris has been singing with Sierra at the last few shows). Martin has such a great voice and knows the song well. Sierra and Martin nailed it.

MartinRivasSierraNobleMartinRivas

Sierra co-wrote Human After All with Michael Logen. When I first saw Michael Logen perform, he did that song solo. After the show I went up to him to ask whether it had been on TV. I told him I was sure I heard it before and fell in love with it instantly. He said it had come close to being placed, but sadly, was never on TV.

Then I remembered that I had heard it just the week before, when Sierra played it at a Backscratch. She sang it with Martin that night as well. It turns out that I was prescient. Human After All was just recently featured on Parenthood, on NBC, in season 3 episode 11.

Sierra asked Martin to stay and sing background on the next two numbers as well, creating lovely four-part harmony with Greg and Seth. #winning

SierraNoble4PartHarmony

In fact, on I Can See, Sierra asked the audience to sing along. It sounded really good from where I was sitting. I hope it did to her on stage as well. Smile

We had never heard of Michael Sackler-Berner (MSB) before, but were looking forward to serendipitously discovering him.

I really like his voice a lot and he plays the guitar quite nicely (mostly electric, but he switched to acoustic a couple of times). With the exception of a couple of very mellow folky songs (which I liked as well), most of the numbers were very high energy accompanied by a full band.

MichaelSackler-BernerAcousticGuitarMichaelSackler-BernerElectricGuitar

I had trouble concentrating on the lyrics (not really sure why), but the few times I was able to zone in, I was impressed with his imagery and phrasing. It will require more serious listening to determine whether this is true across a majority of his songs.

MichaelSackler-BernerSinging

MSB closed the show by inviting Sierra up (with her fiddle). He dismissed the band and played the acoustic guitar. They sang together (beautifully) and each sang verses on the lead. What a terrific way to end the evening!

MichaelSackler-BernerSierraNoble

His band was very good and tight. Left-to-right on stage:

Ben Stivers on keyboards (electronic and grand piano). He was quite good on both, including standing for the entire first number while playing the grand piano.

BenStivers

Henry Geller on electric guitar. I can’t find a good individual link, but I’m betting he’s the guitarist profiled in Rough Waters. He was very good.

HenryGeller

Liberty DeVitto on drums. He was great. Very hard hitter, very energetic, tight as a drum (OK, I couldn’t resist). Winking smile

LibertyDeVittoDrums

MSB mentioned on stage that he saw Liberty play when he (MSB) was 11-years old and fell in love with him. Later, DeVitto joked that he was just 14 at the time. If you clicked through to the link above, then you know that Liberty was Billy Joel’s drummer for 30 years! I’m betting that MSB saw a Billy Joel concert at the Nassau Coliseum when he was 11.

Paul Frazier on electric bass and vocals. He was fantastic on the bass (even though he was handicapped by being a lefty, like Paul McCartney). Winking smile He was also the only member of the band to sing harmony with MSB, very nicely! Very impressive performance.

PaulFrazier

Here’s MSB’s set list:

MichaelSackler-BernerSetList

We spotted Liberty as he was heading out and got to tell him how wonderful his play was and snap this picture as well:

LibertyDeVitto

Right after taking that picture, we headed out and got to say hello to Sierra, Seth and Greg. Brian had already left to get the car.

SethFaulkSierraNobleGregMayo

Totally worth having come back early, including enjoying our friends’ company before and after the show. The last two times we were at Joe’s Pub, they couldn’t make me my favorite Chocolate Martini. After they completed the remodel, they hadn’t stocked up on Chocolate Liqueur yet.

They finally remedied that situation and I got to enjoy it for the first time in nearly two years. Trust me, if you’re ever at Joe’s Pub, order the Chocolate Martini. Both of our friends tried it as well (first timers) and I am pretty sure they enjoyed it. Smile

RachelIris

A Holiday Benefit #5 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last week I scanned the Rockwood Music Hall website for this week’s shows. There was a show listed for last night simply labeled: “A Holiday Benefit”. The performers were a mixture of our favorite who’s who, plus a couple of groups we have wanted to see for a while, but scheduling has gotten in the way.

I snagged two tickets and excitedly waited for the week to pass. It turns out that this was the fifth (and unfortunately last) installment of this particular annual Holiday Benefit. It is organized by Benjamin Wagner (with some others who helped co-found it). The money raised is for 826NYC. Great cause, great people involved in raising the money and great musicians all around.

Bottom line: my expectations were very high. I was blown away beyond those expectations on two levels: most of the people we know brought their A+ games and we discovered some people that became instant favorites!

There were 16 acts (individuals and groups), some accompanied by a house band. Each act performed two numbers. The entire atmosphere at Rockwood was that of a party filled with loved ones. In fact, some of the musicians noted (on Twitter, and probably elsewhere) that it was more like an Office Party for them, given how many musicians were performing and in the audience. We were thrilled to participate in said party.

In addition to the ticket price going to the charity, this was also an official CD Release Party. Physical CDs were on sale for $10. $20 got you the physical CD of A Holiday Benefit #5 plus downloads of the previous four albums. Of course we did that. We kicked in more money later to purchase CDs by some of the performers, signed, with the proceeds going to 826NYC as well.

At the end, the encore involved inviting all of the performers back on stage together to sing one last song. It was hard to count accurately, as people kept jumping on stage (even some who didn’t perform earlier), but I’m 99% sure that at one point there were at least 26 people on stage at the same time. If that’s correct, that’s a new record for a show I’ve attended (sorry Sam Teichman, you have your work cut out for you now!). Winking smile

There’s no way to review a show like this without spending an entire day writing (something I don’t have the time to do today, nor the inclination). In fact, it’s sort of beside the point. What I’ll do instead is similar to what I did for the Haiti Benefit nearly two years ago. I’ll list the acts in the order they appeared, and mention who supported them. When first mentioning a support person, I might say a few extra words.

Mary Bragg (#1). Mary was new to us. Great voice. On her second number she also played acoustic guitar. She was accompanied by two very talented people, who I think played only with her. I’ll list them next.

MaryBragg

Mike Cassedy on electronic keyboards. Excellent. Mary gave him a couple of leads and he was great.

MikeCassedy

Jimmy Sullivan on electric bass (no good individual link). He too was excellent. He made the electric bass sound exactly like a very jazzy upright on one of the numbers. He was smooth.

JimmySullivan

Casey Shea (#2) on electric guitar and vocals. Casey was wonderful. In addition to singing and playing well, he was very funny. He had two female backup singers, each of which was a lead performer later in the show, so I’ll save their names for their proper spots.

CaseyShea

Casey brought up Sean White to read a poem to end one of his songs. It continued the comic nature of an otherwise horrifyingly sad song (my house burned down on Christmas).

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Paula Valstein (#3). We’ve seen Paula once before, at the Haiti Benefit. She played solo at the electronic keyboards. Great voice, excellent piano play. Definitely someone we need to check out more (one of our friends has been telling that to me for a while). Paula was also one of Casey Shea’s backup singers.

PaulaValstein

Astoria Boulevard (#4). Wow! I can’t believe I never heard them (or of them) before. Three guys who sing heavenly three-part harmony. They’re funny and natural on stage as well. They opened the first number a cappella and knocked me back a few steps with how awesome they were.

AstoriaBoulevard

Guitar, ukulele, harmonica and kazoos were played too. They were supported by the default house band (the next two people listed).

Ryan Vaughn on drums. Ryan was fantastic playing with roughly half of the acts last night. Ryan also joined for Mary Bragg’s second number, so I should have listed him earlier.

RyanVaughn

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony was his usual excellent self whenever he was on stage, which was a bit less than Ryan, but still the primary bass player for the evening.

TonyMaceli

Dave Pittenger (#5). We’ve never seen him, but I’ve heard of him many times. Mostly because he’s producing Live Society’s new CD (or at least I think it’s him). Dave invited two special guests up, Bess Rogers and Chris Kuffner to kick off his first number. Dave and Bess flubbed Baby It’s Cold Outside a bit, but turned it into a very good natured thing.

ChrisKuffnerDavePittengerBessRogers

Chris played the electric guitar in an understated but fascinating manner. When they had to restart, he signaled to Ryan and Tony to join in, filling out the sound.

Dave then performed a second number accompanying himself on the electric guitar (with Ryan and Tony playing).

DavePittenger

Misty Boyce (#6). Misty kicked off her numbers on the guitar (I didn’t know she played the guitar), with the second number on the keyboards. Her voice is fantastic. In addition to playing the keyboards really well accompanying herself, she also played them with a couple of other acts, super tasty every time. I’ve been wanting to see her perform her own set for a while and this only increased that desire. She was the second backup singer supporting Casey Shea.

MistyBoyceGuitarMistyBoyceKeyboards

Nick Africano (#7). We hadn’t seen Nick before. (That’s a total lie, Nick played with Misty during her first number, so we saw him before he took center stage!). He played the guitar beautifully (subtle slide leads). When he took over, Misty played the keyboards and she called up Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein and Charlene Kaye to sing backup. Very nicely done. We will be on the lookout for Nick in the future.

NickAfricano

Greg Mayo Band (#8). OK, it was technically the Greg Mayo Band, without the brass section. They also weren’t wearing suits, so I’m not sure how official this appearance was. That said, they were incredible, so I have no complaints! They had a guest vocalist and percussionist join them, but since each was a headliner as well, I’ll mention them later.

GregMayoKeyboards

Here are the people that were in the Greg Mayo Band setup last night (left-to-right on stage, not including the guests):

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Wonderful.

PaulMaddison

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Spectacular.

RebeccaHaviland

Kenny Shaw on drums. Excellent.

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Superb.

ChrisAndersonSinging

The Vanity Belles (#9). We’ve seen them sing backup with other groups. We’ve seen them perform on TV twice. Unbelievably, this was the first time we saw them perform as The Vanity Belles, live. We’re proud supporters of the ladies through their recent (successful) Kickstarter, so this was one of the extra special reasons why I wanted to attend. Of course, they were fantastic. Whew! Winking smile

TheVanityBelles

Patrick Firth played electronic keyboards for them. Joining him to round out the band were: Greg Mayo on guitar and Chris Anderson on electric bass. The drummer was already on stage before with the Greg Mayo band (as the guest percussionist) but I still haven’t mentioned his name (soon, don’t panic!).

PatrickFirth

Oscar Bautista played electric guitar as part of The Vanity Belles band. He is always great, so I wanted him to have a paragraph for himself. Smile Another reason to give Oscar his own section? He broke out the mandolin last night, one of my favorite instruments. Sweet!

OscarBautistaOscarBautistaMandolin

Next up was another group I’ve wanted to see for a long time.

The Stone Lonesome (#10). This is duo of Zach Jones (finally got to mention him) and Emily Long. We’ve seen Zach drum many times (including earlier last night, and he was the guest percussionist with the Greg Mayo Band as well). He’s an awesome drummer. I also knew that he sings well, and that was proven when he was front-and-center with Emily last night. What I didn’t know was that he also plays the guitar. Emily sings really well too and the two of them sound great together.

TheStoneLonesome

GregMayoZachJonesEmilyLong

Brian Killeen supported them on electric bass, a perennial favorite of ours. He was joined by Ryan Vaughn on drums and Greg Mayo on electric guitar. Zach let Greg take a number of fantastic leads. The entire night was amazing, but I would have left happy just for the guitar solos that Greg took during The Stone Lonesome songs!

BrianKilleen

Martin Rivas (#11). Martin had previously sung as a guest with the Greg Mayo Band, wonderfully. He now took center stage and wowed everyone with two of his own songs (one a Christmas number, the other off of his new CD, due out in May, 2012). He was supported (incredibly) by Patrick Firth, Greg Mayo, Chris Kuffner, Zach Jones and Brian Killeen.

MartinRivas

A few items were raffled off during the evening. One of them was a jar of Martin Rivas’ world-famous spaghetti sauce (or is it more properly referred to as tomato sauce?!?). Anyway, we won it (see the proof here and again in a couple of the photos at the very bottom!). Can’t wait to savor it!

BenjaminWagnerRivasSauceJarMartinRivasLoisSauce

Chrissi Poland (#12). We’ve only seen Chrissi singing backup with others. We knew she had an extraordinary voice but I have to say that I still didn’t understand the full effect of it until last night. Another wow. We won’t be attending, but if you want to catch her headlining a show, with Martin Rivas opening, head to Highline Ballroom this Sunday night (Dec 18th, 2011). You won’t be disappointed!

ChrissiPolandGuitar

On her first number, she played guitar and was accompanied by Patrick Firth, Greg Mayo, Rebecca Haviland, Martin Rivas, Ryan Vaughn and Brian Killeen.

She then put the guitar down and blew everyone away accompanied by the same band, minus the backup singers (Rebecca and Martin). Her voice and stage presence had us eating out of her hand.

ChrissiPolandSinging

Caleb Hawley (#13). Caleb is one of my favorites and I’m always disappointed when I can’t make it to one of his shows (which happens more frequently than I care to admit, including the night before!). At least I got a taste last night to hold me over until his next full show.

CalebHawley

Caleb was supported by Patrick Firth, Ryan Vaughn, Zach Jones and Brian Killeen. There was dancing in the audience (not atypical of any Caleb performance), but I won’t post the pictures, since those people didn’t sign any waivers. Winking smile

Benjamin Wagner (#14). Benjamin was our host throughout the show, introducing each act as they were coming on stage. Now it was his turn to shine and shine he did. He has a wonderful voice and he wielded it for our delight. He was joined by a stellar band. I’ll mention all but two of them, since they were the next two headliners and hadn’t yet made an appearance.

BenjaminWagnerSinging

Misty Boyce on keyboards, Chrissi Poland singing backup, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. All, great!

For his second number, additional backup singers joined: Mary Bragg, Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein and Martin Rivas.

In true showman style, Benjamin left the stage and prostrated himself right in front of us! Smile

BenjaminWagnerOnTheFloor

Bryan Dunn (#15). Bryan also played guitar on Benjamin’s set. Bryan is wonderful all around. When Benjamin introduced him, he said “Bryan is normally a rocker, but he’s going to bring you down a bit with his first number.” Ha! I hope no one fell for that. It might have started out sounding like a ballad, but Bryan had everyone hopping in no time.

BryanDunn

Both his numbers were fantastic (and no, I wasn’t the least bit surprised!).

He was supported (wonderfully) by Misty Boyce, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. He also had another guitar player and vocalist, but since he was the next headliner, I’ll save his name for the very next line.

Chris Abad (#16). Another wow for me. He played guitar for Benjamin and Bryan Dunn and sang harmony with Bryan. His guitar play was awesome. It looked like he was playing one of Greg Mayo’s two electric guitars, so for a minute, I thought that perhaps Greg just has magical guitars and anyone could make them sound this good. I checked after the show, and the guitars are just look-a-likes, so apparently Chris is just really that good. Winking smile

ChrisAbad

He also sang at center stage when Bryan was done, and did a great job. He was supported by Misty Boyce, Bryan Dunn, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. If I heard correctly, Chris also produced at least one of Bryan’s CDs, perhaps the upcoming one as well. Talented guy, no doubt!

For his second number, he was joined by a slew of backup singers: Mary Bragg, Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein, Charlene Kaye, Chris Kuffner and Benjamin Wagner.

ChrisAbadMaryBraggBessRogersPaulaValsteinCharleneKayChrisKuffnerBenjaminWagner

Like I said above, the finale had a ton of people on stage. Here are some photos:

Finale1Finale2

Finale3Finale4

One of the only performers who didn’t hop on stage was Kenny Shaw. When Martin tried to get him to come up, Kenny seemed to motion to Martin to come down instead. Martin took it as an invitation to have Kenny hold him in his arms. Kenny obliged! Smile

MartinRivasKennyShawPreludeMartinRivasKennyShaw

We shared the evening a number of friends. In one of the photos you can even see our hard-won jar of sauce (I went with the cautious “sauce” with no modifier there).

RebeccaHavilandRobinChrisAndersonMom

KellySamTeichmanKellyKristenSauce

Here’s a shot of our bounty from the night:

HolidayBenefitBounty

Patrick Firth at Rockwood Music Hall

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Patrick Firth debuted as a headliner at Rockwood Music Hall last night. Those of us who see Patrick play sideman in a number of bands have been eagerly awaiting this night. That said, I had no idea what to expect. In the other bands, Patrick plays keyboards (piano and electronic) and sings background/harmony. I’ve heard him sing covers, so I know he has a good voice.

PatrickFirthPiano

In May, we learned that Patrick was working on a CD of original songs. Since then, we’ve seen him perform one of those songs, Boomerang, two different times. Each time Patrick played acoustic guitar (backed by a full band).

PatrickFirthGregMayo

I could never have guessed what I would end up seeing at the actual show. First, let me say a few words about Patrick and the songs themselves, then describe the surprise.

I enjoyed Boomerang the two times I heard it (now three) but if the entire CD was made up of similar songs, I don’t think it would excite me. Even though I still like the song, let me say definitively that every other song I heard last night was dramatically better (apologies to fans of Boomerang).

Patrick Firth is an excellent songwriter, both the music and lyrics. Many of the lyrics are sophisticated, without feeling forced. One out-of-context example:

My tears can’t douse the Sun

Clearly, an interesting image of a broken-hearted person. (If I misheard, and it’s “My tears can douse the Sun”, it works too!)

I already knew how good he is on the keyboards, but he also impressed on the guitar, in particular when he finger-picked an entire song.

I will own this CD (whenever it comes out), and it will get many plays.

A few days ago, Ryan Vaughn tweeted about rehearsing for the show:

ryandrummerboy Ryan M. Vaughn

Rehearsal for @mirthfulfirth ‘s Sunday show @ Rockwood at Astoria Soundworks w/ @zachjonesmusic @OscarBautista1 @gregmayomusic & @pbassnbeer

I assumed (incorrectly), that each of those people would rotate on/off for different songs. Why? Because two are top guitarists and two are top drummers. Rockwood 1 is small, so my assumption seemed natural.

Bzzzt! All of them were on stage for every song. Two of the best guitarists and two of the best drummers, supported by one of the best bass players. All of them supporting one of the better keyboard players (who happens to handle the acoustic guitar well). Wow!

Here’s what made it more special than simply listing out their instruments. Typically, when an album is produced, many sounds can be achieved that are hard to reproduce in a live show. Overdubs are the most obvious reason, but having a top session musician come in to lay down a very specific sound is another.

When you can have those top session musicians, in duplicate, you can create many of those textured sounds live. They did exactly that last night (including having a few pre-recorded sound effects playing on Patrick’s Macbook Pro as well). Patrick spent half of the show at the keyboards and the other on the acoustic guitar.

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

Greg Mayo on electric guitar, keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. This music calls for subtle (dare I even say supple) guitar play. On at least two songs, when Patrick was on acoustic guitar, Greg took over the keyboard duties. Greg sang the most harmony with Patrick as well (beautifully). Of course Greg was great on the guitar and keyboards.

GregMayo

Patrick mentioned that Greg has been engineering the new CD in his studio, causing them to spend hours on end together. No wonder Greg knows the lyrics so well. Smile

GregMayoPatrickFirthOscarBautista

Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. Oscar is an amazing guitarist. Having him play with Greg is something I never expected to see. I’ll admit to having had a fantasy of seeing them play some Allman Brothers (or Lynyrd Skynyrd) together. This wasn’t that, but it was equally interesting in a different way.

OscarBautista

Oscar used the slide to create very ethereal sounds while Greg played subtle leads. At other times, Greg played more of an organ sound while Oscar played some lead. When Greg was at the keyboards, we still had a top lead guitarist, etc. The point is they were able to produce all manner of guitar sounds, just like I’m sure we’ll hear on the actual CD.

PatrickFirthOscarBautista

Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. Brian always does a great job on the bass, last night included. He sang harmony with the others.

BrianKilleen

Zach Jones on drums and vocals. I always rave about Zach’s drumming, as recently as the night before when he supported Robbie Gil. Last night was even more special. When Zach sang, it was typically the third or fourth voice, making for some big sounding vocals. First, I have to mention another person, so I can write about them as a unit.

ZachJones

Ryan Vaughn (mentioned in the tweet above) also played drums and percussion. He had a slightly reduced kit (no kick drum). That Rockwood was able to fit 1.5 drum kits in the tiny space to the right of the stage was incredible.

RyanVaughn

I love drums. A number of my all-time favorite rock bands have multiple drummers (notably: The Allman Brother Band and The Grateful Dead). If the drummers are great, you simply can’t have too many of them. They won’t step on each other or drown anyone else out. They will create sounds that a single drummer would have trouble producing. The Allman Brothers have three full-time drummers/percussionists, and nearly always have a fourth guest drummer join for a song or two.

ZachJonesSingingRyanVaughnDrumming

Zach and Ryan are great drummers and were absolutely perfect together last night. I can’t stress enough how amazing that is. They are not in this band full time, therefore rehearsing and touring non-stop playing this material. We know from the tweet that they rehearsed together at least once. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that was the only time.

ZachJonesRyanVaughn

Yet, they were so tight, on every note. It was one drummer with four arms/hands.

One last word about the music. No two songs sounded alike. When the originals were over, the sound guy signaled to Patrick that he had time for one more.

Patrick closed the show back at the grand piano doing his signature cover, Take Me to the Pilot, ending the set on a very energetic note. Here’s the set list:

SetList

Patrick will never be able to debut again, but he won’t have to. He doesn’t need a do over. Smile

Greg Mayo FUNTIME at Rockwood Music Hall

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We just got back to town on Wednesday (a day earlier than expected) and I spotted Greg Mayo listed at Rockwood Music Hall at 11pm on Friday night (last night). Needless to say, all other plans now revolved around that show.

On September 3rd, we saw Rebecca Haviland play at Rockwood. Greg was in her band that night. Here’s a paragraph I wrote in my post about that show:

My lovely bride, knowing how huge a Greg Mayo fan I am, surreptitiously arranged with Greg to purchase all of his CDs for me. Right before the show, he delivered four of them (handing them to me, and saying they were from Lois). Smile Still one more to go. One of the CD’s was actually Bergers with Mayo, with the Mayo in that one being Greg’s Dad, Bob. What an amazing gift, I can’t wait to get lost in all of them. Thanks Lois and Greg!

I’ve since gotten to listen to all those CDs, and I love each and every one of them, so thanks again to Lois and Greg. One of the songs on the Bergers with Mayo CD (with Mayo being Bob Mayo, Greg’s dad) is Bob’s song I Never Forget a Face. I got chills listening to it. In August, we missed a rare solo show by Greg (why does work interfere with my personal interests sometimes?). Someone posted a video of Greg singing I Never Forget a Face. If I recall correctly, the claim was that this was the first time Greg played that song in public:

Greg Mayo playing I Never Forget a Face, by his dad, Bob Mayo

I hadn’t scanned the track listings when I started listening to the Bergers with Mayo CD, so I had no idea I’d be hearing this song, and I instantly recognized it, just from having watched (listened to) Greg’s video, once!

I’ve mentioned a number of times that Greg plays in a number of configurations. The above solo show was one. The Greg Mayo Band is another. Greg Mayo FUNTIME is a third. Last night was a FUNTIME show (you did read the title of this post, right?). Last night Greg explained the scientific underpinnings of the FUNTIME moniker. He said that it was expected that we would all have a FUN TIME at the show.

It’s crazy how certain difficult concepts can be broken down into their constituent parts by the right teacher. Armed with that knowledge, I did indeed have a superbly fun time, as did every single person in Rockwood, as far as I could tell.

The FUNTIME shows are mostly rock covers, performed by outstanding musicians, who are all having a dangerously good time on stage. Thankfully, they allow us to enjoy that good time with them. Most of the covers last night were new to the FUNTIME lineup. One exception was Take Me to the Pilot (always welcome, even if it’s been done before).

Greg has never disappointed me, ever. Last night was another exceptional performance, but many of the leads were longer (thanks!) and mind-numbingly fast/tasty (thanks for that too!). In a few songs, he took more than one solo and the crowd ate it up. They closed the show with Heard it Through the Grapevine. He took three separate really long solos in that one, leaving me (and I suspect others) dazed at his talent.

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I kept thinking he has to be unconscious, because if he had to think about what he was playing, his fingers wouldn’t be able to keep up. But, today, it hit me! Greg’s fingers used to be constrained by the speed of light (as all matter was). With the discovery that certain neutrinos have been clocked faster than the speed of light, Greg has been freed to prove that his fingers too, can accomplish that! Smile

As is the case with all of the FUNTIME shows, Greg was surrounded by an extraordinary group of musicians. There was one change to the normal lineup and one very special guest. I’ll mention the two regulars first, then the guests.

Patrick Firth on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. Patrick sang Take Me to the Pilot on the lead and harmonized on many others. Of course he tore up the keyboards as well.

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Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. Brian participated in fantastic 4-part harmony on the first number, but then relinquished his mic for most of the set to the special guest. His bass playing is always top notch.

BrianKilleen

Zach Jones on drums and vocals. Zach was sitting in for Greg’s usual drummer, Kenny Shaw. I’ve mentioned that it appears that we stalk Kenny, as we see him more frequently (at least in 2011) than any other drummer. Perhaps he finally got nervous and avoided us. More likely, he’s touring with The Thang Band at the moment (at least I hope it’s the latter!).

ZachJones

We’ve only seen Zach a few times, but he was an instant favorite and cemented that with his performance with Ian Axel when they opened for Five for Fighting. He’s an absolutely incredible drummer (exhibited over and over last night) and he has a really good voice too. He sang lead on the opening number, Walls by Tom Petty.

ZachJonesSingingZachJonesDrums

I never spoke to Zach before, but after the show I told him how awesome I think he is. He’s part of a duo with Emily Long called The Stone Lonesome. I asked him when they were playing and he said sometime in November. He also told me that in addition to their more country sound (you can listen to that here), they are also performing rock sets (don’t know if they go by a different name for those).

A few songs into the set, Greg invited up none other than Martin Rivas to sing a song. Once up there, neither Greg nor the crowd would let Martin escape. Greg forced Martin to sing lead and harmony on every song (at times alternating lead with Greg). Martin claimed (after the show) to have lost his voice singing so hard, but at least he made it all the way to the end sounding great!

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In an early comic moment, Martin knocked over a music stand holding the lyrics to all the songs for the evening, including the one he was singing (his first number). It ended up being fine, as he knocked it over exactly at the moment that Greg started taking a long solo. Even though dozens of sheets of paper were spread out on the stage, Martin was able to take his time and collect them calmly while Greg thrilled us. He had a few more close calls with the stand and the look on his face each time he avoided the same fate was priceless. Smile

Another fantastic set by Greg Mayo. We’ll see him again this Wednesday (October 5th), supporting Sierra Noble at Rockwood 1, at 9pm. Immediately after that is Martin Rivas at 10pm (same place). When Martin heard Greg telling me that he was playing with Sierra, Martin invited Greg to play a few with him at 10pm as well, so I’ll be getting a double dose of Greg this week. I’ll be smiling from now until then.

I mentioned in my earlier post that we bumped into friends at The Cupping Room Café when we stopped in to see Matt Simons, Chris Ayer and Ryan Vaughn. They shared a cab with us to catch Greg’s set. They are the two on the left and we met a third friend right outside Rockwood, while getting drenched.

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