Caleb Hawley

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).

ChristinaMorelli

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.

TheCEOArtist

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!

CalebHawley

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.

MeaghanFarrell

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!

GusFafalios

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.

ChrissiPolandGuitar

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.

ChrissiPolandPiano

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.

NicoleRomaine-Settembrino

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

BriArdenGuitar

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

JustinGoldnerBriArdenJustinGoldner

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.

BriArdenPiano

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.

BriArdenAnnaKrantzBriArdenSinging

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.

AnnaKrantzGuitar

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.

AnnaKrantzPiano

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.

CalebHawleyGuitar

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!

ChrissiPolandBriArdenAnnaKrantzMeaghanFarrellChrissiPolandBriArdenAnnaKrantzMeaghanFarrellCalebHawley

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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.

SamTeichman

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!

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.

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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

EvanWatsonSlideGuitar

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.

BrianKilleenBrianKilleenBassSoloCalebHawleyBrianKilleenSinging

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

TerryIrisKellyRachelSamTeichman

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

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).

CaseySheaPaulaValsteinMistyBoyceSeanWhite

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:

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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

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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

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!

BenMorganPatrykLarney

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.

BriArdenACappella

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.

CalebHawleyBriArdenPatrykLarney

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!

Leave a Lasting Mark Benefit at The Bitter End

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Sam Teichman produces a monthly benefit concert. Each show benefits a specific charity. Each show has a specific theme and is epic in terms of the number of artists and their individual and combined talents. You can follow Sam on Twitter to get alerts about each show.

SamTeichman

Last night’s show benefitted Sean Casey Animal Rescue. The theme was the songs of James Taylor and Carole King. We’ll get to the myriad performers in a minute.

Poster

You should come to these shows for any one of the following reasons:

  • You are doing a good deed by supporting a variety of good causes (one per show)
  • You will hear great music because the themes are built around well-known artists
  • You will see/hear amazing performances by incredibly talented local musicians
  • Come more than once and see how quickly you feel like you’re part of a community
  • Discover talented musicians who you will want to follow in their own career
  • Marvel at the spectacle of shuffling as many as 15 performers on/off stage on each song, quickly and efficiently

In addition to coordinating (producing) the entire show, Sam is also the MC for the evening. He introduces every act and every performer (multiple times). He tirelessly promotes them and the recipient of the donations. It’s important to know that the musicians donate 100% of their time (including rehearsals). Every penny raised goes directly to the charity.

Sam has a crew of volunteers that film each show and the clips eventually make their way on to YouTube. You can see clips from past shows (among other shows that Sam has filmed) at his YouTube Channel. Sam also produces CDs of the shows. He solicits additional donations for a performance by offering free copies of CDs from past shows. You aren’t buying the CDs, you are being rewarded for your generosity by being able to take the CDs home for your enjoyment. Smile

There were some minor changes in the order of a few songs (to accommodate artists who were late or had to leave a bit early), but for the most part, these Set Lists are accurate (every image in every post can be clicked on for a larger version):

SetList1SetList2SetList3

For my sanity (and hopefully yours), I will cover only the main singers, in the order they appeared, then add all the amazing side-people (so as not to have to mention each multiple times). You can refer back to the set lists above to see which side-person supported which lead singer. It should be noted that nearly every side-person sang lead on one song as well, which will cut down on the extra side-people needed to be covered at the end.

I’ll add a (1st time) to any artists who we’ve never seen before.

Valerie Mize sang I Feel the Earth Move. We just saw Valerie perform at Backscratch XIV this past Monday. It was our first time hearing her sing lead and I knew it wouldn’t be our last. I didn’t know our next one would be this close, but I’m glad it was. Valerie opened the show with a bang! I Feel the Earth Move is a rich, earthy song. Valerie’s rich, earthy voice is perfectly suited for it.

ValerieMizeSethFaulk

Bri Arden sang Smackwater Jack. The first time I heard Bri was at our first Leave a Lasting Mark show, a Soul Revue Benefit. She blew me (and the rest of the audience) away with her rendition of Proud Mary, Tina Turner style. She was equally good on Smackwater Jack, but the song itself doesn’t call for the same heart palpitations that Proud Mary does.

BriArden

My next post will be all about Bri. She headlined a show at Rockwood Music Hall shortly after this benefit was over. She, and her amazing band, were all troopers for doing this benefit and then running over to do their own show. Bravo!

Keith Paine sang Mexico (1st time). He did a very nice job, so it likely won’t be our last time seeing him. This was the first time that the horn section showed up, which added to the vibe quite nicely. I’ll cover them at the bottom of the post.

KeithPaine

Jenna Marotta sang It’s Too Late (1st time). Sam introduced Jenna with a nice story. Jenna attended a previous benefit show to see a friend of hers perform. After the show, Jenna contacted Sam and asked for an opportunity to sing at one herself. Ask and ye shall receive. Jenna did a nice job. It took her a bit longer to warm up to the mic than the others. She has a lovely voice when she lets it out.

JennaMarotta

Rebecca Haviland sang Carolina On My Mind. Rebecca was the first to perform a song solo. She accompanied herself on electric guitar. I’ve written about Rebecca a number of times (all glowingly). One of her (many) talents is her absolutely extraordinary voice. While we’ve heard her voice soar (clearly) above a crowded stage of loud instruments, seeing her sing solo, accompanied by a quiet guitar, was a magical thing to behold.

RebeccaHaviland

Before singing, Rebecca mentioned that she was nervous to sing her take on such a classic song. I was expecting something wildly different than the original given Rebecca’s incredible take on Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog (nowhere similar to the original, other than sharing the same lyrics). While Rebecca’s Carolina On My Mind was definitely more soulful, it wasn’t a radical departure from the original. It was stunning, nonetheless.

Shira Goldberg was up next. Before I get to her performance, two digressions. Lois captured this photo of Rebecca and Shira before the show started. They were letting the crowd know that they had (fraternal) twin guitars:

RebeccaHavilandShiraGoldbergSisterGuitars

Before she sang, Shira wryly thanked Sam for placing her immediately after Rebecca. Winking smile It was a self-deprecating (and classy) way for Shira to pay a lovely compliment to Rebecca’s performance.

Shira sang Some Kind of Wonderful. She was, indeed, some kind of wonderful herself. We’d seen Shira only once before, at a Livestrong benefit (in 2009!). That night, she joked that she only knew depressing songs. Even though she didn’t feel it was appropriate to sing a depressing song at a cancer survivor’s benefit, she had no choice. Last night she joked that she should sing happier songs. At least she could pick one by someone else this time. Smile

ShiraGoldberg

Scott Stein sang Way Over Yonder. Sam had mentioned earlier that they weren’t pigeon-holing any of the performers into sticking to the appropriate gender (males singing James Taylor, etc.). As much as I enjoyed Scott’s singing with his group, The Ramblers (my most recent post about them can be read here), I’m not sure he was well-suited to this song, vocally.

ScottStein

No matter. Not only did Scott destroy on the piano, he was the primary piano sideman on most of the numbers. He was crazy amazing on every one. I wasn’t surprised, as he was unreal at The Ramblers show as well, but many of the songs last night have natural piano runs that are gorgeous (think: Carole King), so Scott got to constantly show his wares.

David Kantor sang Something in the Way She Moves (no good individual link, but read to the bottom to get a band link!, and 1st time). He did a fine job singing, but to me, it wasn’t really about his singing. In addition to singing lead on this song and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, David was the primary acoustic guitar sideman for the evening. Much of his play was phenomenal finger-picking that I could have listened to with no voices or other instruments, all night long!

DavidKantor

Later in the show, in what appeared to be a complete ad-lib, David put down his acoustic guitar mid-song, walked over to the electric bass (which was un-manned), signaled to the bassists on the sideline (asking permission to pick up one of their basses) and finished the song on the bass.

DavidKantorBass

When David was done, I did something I have never done before. I called Sam over and told him that the far left microphone (used by the backup singers) was way too low (it had been since the first song). Sam told Chris who was working the sound booth. Chris corrected the problem perfectly. Thanks Sam and Chris, it became critical just two songs later!

Jake Cohen sang How Sweet It Is (1st time). Jake was one of three primary drummers throughout the night. He was excellent on the drums and he did an excellent job on the vocals as well. He also had four background vocalists and a full band, making this a very rich sounding song.

JakeCohen

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.

JustinGoldnerKateFerberJustinGoldnerBass

Kate Ferber sang Natural Woman (1st time). I need to back up before I cover Kate’s performance on this song. Kate was singing backup with David Kantor. I could barely hear her, which is what prompted me to call Sam over after that song (I couldn’t hear Bri singing with Valerie, or Valerie singing with Bri either, on that mic). Kate is pictured above, singing backup with Justin. She is holding the same mic that I couldn’t hear earlier, but after Chris upped the volume.

That was very important, because even though Kate was singing background, for a good part of the song, it was more like a duet than just some light harmony. Her voice was excellent and it would have been a real shame to have lost it (again).

Kate came to center stage to sing Natural Woman. She was fantastic. Great voice, warmth and stage presence. All around excellent delivery of a great song.

KateFerber

Abby Bernstein sang Steamroller (1st time). When Sam introduced Abby, he said she was fresh off of opening for Bare Naked Ladies in front of 14,000 people. Abby corrected him that he was off by a zero, that it was actually 1,400. A few seconds later, she added “I meant 14,000,000!”. Good start. Quick wit is one of the most welcome traits in a stage performer. Smile

AbbyBernstein

Thankfully, humor is not Abby’s only weapon. She has an excellent voice along with excellent stage presence. She too delivered a fine performance.

Paul Tabachneck sang Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1st time). Wow. Great voice, great delivery, nice job on the acoustic guitar. He (or rather Sam) introduced this as Paul’s interpretation of Will You Love Me Tomorrow. I place it in the same category as Rebecca’s interpretation of Carolina On My Mind, meaning, not as far afield from the original as the introduction would have you believe.

PaulTabachneck

Andy Mac sang Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. We’ve seen Andy once before and he was very good, so I wasn’t surprised that he delivered again last night.

AndyMac

Kaylin Lee Clinton sang So Far Away (1st time). This was the first departure from the set lists shown above, due to a late arrival. Kaylin sang backup earlier (beautifully) so I was excited to see her step up to center stage. No disappointment! Kaylin delivered So Far Away (another great song), wonderfully. Excellent voice, great stage presence.

KaylinLeeClinton

Kaylin sang backup a few times. Here’s a shot of her with Shira (there’s another one below with Seth).

KaylinLeeClintonShiraGoldberg

Patryk Larney sang Sweet Baby James (1st time). I’ve seen so many tweets over the last year about Patryk that I felt like I almost knew him. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what he would sound like. Now I do and I’m a big fan. Excellent voice, good guitar play.

PatrykLarney

Jeremiah Birnbaum sang You’ve Got a Friend. I’m already a huge fan of Jeremiah’s (he’s Scott Stein’s partner-in-crime in The Ramblers). Jeremiah was the primary electric guitarist on most songs last night, but for You’ve Got a Friend, he dropped the guitar and took center stage with just a mic in hand. What an incredible delivery of an all-time great song. Excellent voice, but he also created an emotional atmosphere that sucked me in.

JeremiahBirnbaum

Chris Kelly sang Jelly Man Kelly (no good link, and 1st time). Chris was one of three primary bass players for the night. He did a fine job on the bass whenever he was up. For this song he took center stage and accompanied himself on the electric bass. Highly unusual to see a solo bass player singing. He pulled off this fun song that James Taylor played on Sesame Street!

ChristopherKelly

I can’t take it any longer. I have to admit that I lied when I said Chris(topher) performed solo. Off in the corner of the stage, at the grand piano, Sam Teichman accompanied Chris on the tambourine. Yes, our own Sam showed his musical/percussion chops. I guess the old saying “It’s good to be the boss” is certainly true! Winking smile

Caleb Hawley sang Fire and Rain. Caleb was late, necessitating the earlier shifts, but he made it in plenty of time. He was in a suit, so perhaps he came from an interview on Celebrity Apprentice. Winking smile

CalebHawley

Caleb is one of our favorites. He has a wonderful voice, plays guitar so well, in a style I’m not accustomed to hearing and in general, he’s just a ton of fun on stage. He performed one of my favorite songs as well. That said, he wasn’t himself last night. Perhaps rushing in threw him off, perhaps whatever kept him stopped him from rehearsing properly.

To be clear, Caleb at his worst is better than many solid performers’ best, but it’s a far cry from his own best.

In an understandable irony, Caleb was considered one of the bigger draws of the show. He was the only lead singer to be given two songs. The second was no better than the first. Oh well, there’s no way this affects my opinion of Caleb, nor stops me from jumping through hoops to see him again! Smile

Jeff Litman sang Country Road. Jeff did a great job on a great song. Still, Jeff and I need to stop meeting like this. This was the third set that Jeff sang in that we attended, just this week. The first was his own birthday bash. He then kicked off Backscratch XIV. In addition to singing lead and playing acoustic guitar on this number, Jeff was the third of the primary bass players last night. The first time we ever saw Jeff was when he played bass at the Soul Revue, so this seemed fitting to see him tear up the bass again.

JeffLitmanSamTeichmanJeffLitmanBass

Give a person a finger and they demand a hand. As you can see in the picture above, Sam Teichman moved from the far corner (near the piano) to the middle of the stage, to continue showing off his tambourine mastery. Next time, center stage, singing lead. Got it Sam? Smile

Jeff’s song fittingly closed the show, with highlights by Chris Kelly on bass and Jeremiah Birnbaum on electric guitar.

JeffLitmanChristopherKellyJeremiahBirnbaum

That said, all of the side-people were excellent on every number, so let’s name the few that didn’t sing lead and add some photos for those that sang lead, but played larger roles supporting the others throughout the set.

Seth Faulk on drums, percussion and background vocals. Seth was great on all three. I’ve noted in another post that Seth sang harmony one night from the audience, standing right behind me and that his voice was really good. That was true last night again, but this time it was on stage at a microphone. I’d like to hear him sing lead as well.

SethFaulkDrumsSethFaulkJakeCohen

KaylinLeeClintonSethFaulkValerieMizeBriArdenKateFerberSethFaulk

Robert LaFalce on grand piano. Robert was a real trooper. One of the pianists that was scheduled to play is Matt Simons. Unfortunately, his car was broken into the night before (we keep hearing about traveling musicians getting their equipment stolen, it’s heart-breaking). Robbie filled in at the last minute and performed his parts perfectly. He was also charming the few times he opened his mouth. Smile

RobbieLaFalce

We saw Robbie only once before, at the Soul Revue, but he only played percussion that night. Another local multi-instrumentalist (they seem to be everywhere you look nowadays!). Winking smile

Matt Arbeiter on drums and percussion (no good link, and 1st time). Matt handled his drumming and percussion duties excellently.

MattArbeiterDrumsMattArbeiterPercussion

Ian Schaefer on trumpet. Ian was superb. Not quite as highlighted as the other member of the horn section, but integral nonetheless.

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Jonathan Kantor on saxophone. Jonathan was excellent on every number that he appeared in (which was many). He was highlighted a bit more than Ian (as noted above).

JonathanKantor

Sam tried to calm the crowd down when he saw people rubbing their eyes. It turns out that David and Jonathan are twins and Sam assured people that they were not seeing double! Winking smile

I could tell the difference between them in two ways: 1) Their shirt colors were different and 2) They played different instruments! Smile

DavidKantorJonathanKantor

Jonathan’s fiancée was in the audience. Big deal, right? Wrong! They are getting married this Sunday. He needed permission to play last night (naturally!). She said yes (by my count, that makes at least twice!). Winking smile

When we left, we bumped into the Kantor twins on the corner. First Lois shook each of their hands individually as she told them how awesome they were. Then I reached my hand out as both of them did, and we ended up in a perfectly natural three-handed shake, with my hand around both of theirs. Twins indeed! Smile

Congratulations Jonathan, best of luck on Sunday and the rest of your lives together.

In searching for David Kantor (and not finding a good individual link), I came across a band that both brothers are in, as are Kate Ferber and Justin Goldner (among others). The band is called Grand Central Sound. The very first YouTube video that I stumbled across made me realize what a connection we have to the twins (even though they don’t know it yet!).

Ten days ago I wrote about a Campfire event at Slane. During that set, Lois requested Into the Mystic by Van Morrison. Martin played it for her. Here’s a video of Grand Central Sound performing the same song (much richer sound due to the full band), with David Kantor singing lead (and giving me way more of a sense of his singing chops than he did last night!):

Grand Central Sound, featuring David Kantor singing Into the Mystic

Rebecca Haviland and American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood Music Hall

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I’ve written about Rebecca Haviland quite a number of times, each time glowingly. That said, the most songs we ever saw her perform in a row were three, at a recent Backscratch show. We’ve wanted to catch a full set for a long time and nearly pulled it off twice. It finally happened last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1.

Rebecca played mostly originals, with two excellent covers thrown in for good measure. I was impressed with her set list, because it showed her voice off over a number of genres and volume levels.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

You shouldn’t have to ask, but for you insistent types, yes, Rebecca excelled at all of them, on every song.

She chose to play every number accompanying herself on electric guitar (very nicely). We’ve seen her play keyboards twice before and she impressed me mightily both times, so we still have that to look forward to in a future set.

RebeccaHavilandGuitar

Rebecca was accompanied by some of the best NY-based musicians (we count them among our favorites). I’ll cover them in a minute. Halfway through the set, she dismissed them all. She played a spanking brand new song, solo. It’s so new, that she decided to restart it a few seconds in, to get into the right rhythm.

It’s either called Pain and Pleasure, or Pleasure and Pain (though on the set list, it’s marked as “Sing”, which I doubt means that she needed to remember to use her voice, so I’m not really sure). Winking smile

Aside from really liking the song (and enjoying the intro Rebecca shared with us), I loved the fact that the guitar was so minimalist (almost dark/brooding), that this song was basically Rebecca, raw. The voice, lyrics and emotions, all delivered without any other distractions, other than a hauntingly simple guitar background.

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

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. Can I praise Greg more than I have in the past? It’s a difficult assignment, but I’ll be sure to work hard at it. Last night’s keyboards were wonderful, including solos on both piano and organ. Greg’s harmonies were excellent on many of the choruses as well. We’ll save more Mayo Hype for when he’s front and center. Smile

GregMayo

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris continues to impress more each time we see him (and that’s especially hard, since we seem to see him multiple times each week). I’ve mentioned recently that Chris has a good voice (something we didn’t discover until we saw the Big Apple Singers). Last night, in addition to quality bass play, Chris sang a lot of harmony with Rebecca (even more than Greg did). When the three of them sang together (on every chorus that Greg was singing), it was a complete delight.

ChrisAnderson

But, beyond playing the bass and singing, Rebecca mentioned that she writes some of her songs with Chris. I am guessing that would explain why Chris sang more harmonies with Rebecca than Greg did last night, considering that he likely knew the newer songs better.

Kenny Shaw on drums. This was the second night in a row seeing Kenny play the drums (the previous night was with The Thang Band over at Stage 2). What a contrast! (You’ll need to read this post to understand why). Aside from Kenny’s excellent play during Rebecca’s set, I got to tell him afterward how much I enjoyed The Thang experience.

KennyShawSettingUp

Kenny asked me whether I got a copy of their EP after the show. I said no. I turned away to say something To Chris Anderson and when I turned back, Kenny handed me the EP. I admit to not being quick on my feet. I took it, profusely thanking him, but my normal instinct would have been to pay for it. I don’t know whether they were charging for it the night before, but I’ll find out and make it right the next time I see Kenny. In any event, thanks!

After playing solo, Rebecca brought the band back out and sang a super-soulful, bluesy version of Black Dog by Led Zeppelin (she performed it at Backscratch as well). She then announced that she had two more songs.

After finishing the first, the house music and lights came on. Everyone was confused (band and audience alike). It took a minute to sort out, but the lights dimmed, the music went off, and Rebecca a flourish. Whew! It ended up feeling like an encore. Winking smile

An excellent set, delivered with an excellent band, by an exceptionally talented person. Thanks Rebecca!

RebeccaHavilandSetList

When the set was over, we headed next door to Stage 2 (like I did, sans-Lois, the night before).

Caleb Hawley (a mind-bogglingly talented individual) organized an American Idol Rejects Show. Aside from the kitsch factor, I can’t imagine missing an opportunity to see Caleb perform. There were other incentives to attend, covered below in the order they appeared.

CalebHawley

Caleb was on this season of American Idol, progressing a few rounds before finally being ousted (I don’t watch the show, so I can’t give a more technically accurate description). Winking smile

We saw him perform at a house concert in VA, that was over-subscribed and needed to be moved to a larger venue. To say that he blew us away would be an understatement. Since we knew/know nothing about American Idol, it had nothing to do with his new-found fame. Talent, that’s all he needed to win us over, instantly.

Caleb played all but one song on the electric guitar last night (the other was acoustic). At the house concert, he played an acoustic guitar. If you read about that night, you know I thought he was masterful on the acoustic. Let’s add an equal amount of praise for his skills on the electric. In addition to a bit of normal electric guitar play (using a pick to play fast leads), he also does his signature mixture of finger-picking, strumming and leads.

Caleb performed 1/2 a dozen songs (give or take), all accompanied by a full band (all of whom I’ll mention after I get to the remaining Idol Rejects). He was an excellent MC as well (note all of my previous comments on his stage presence). We’ll return to Caleb at the end, but he was also part of the house band (the guitar player, natch) for the rest of the guests.

Brian Collazo was a contestant on Season 2, so this wasn’t a Rejects from 2011 Idol show. Brian was nearly as equal a draw for me as Caleb was. As with Kenny Shaw above, I saw Brian perform the night before at Rockwood 2 (the set before Kenny’s), with his band, Live Society. If you clicked through to my coverage of Kenny’s set with The Thang, then you either read the beginning about Live Society, or you need to go back and read it now! Winking smile

BrianCollazo

Brian sang three songs and nailed every one of them. One was a Live Society number (that they played the night before on the same stage). As good as it was, and with top-notch musicians backing him last night, they couldn’t match how intimate the Live Society band (and backup singers) are with this number. Last night == Great. The night before == Awesome! Smile

CalebHawleyCraigMeyerBrianCollazoMartinRivasBrianKilleen

Devyn Rush was up next. She was on Idol this season, making it to Hollywood before having her dreams shattered. I don’t know if her situation is currently resolved, but in Googling her, I found this article that shows that chasing your dreams can have negative consequences besides not achieving them directly.

DevynRushSinging

This was the first time we’ve heard of Devyn, but not likely the last. She performed three songs, one at the center microphone and two at the piano. She sings really well and played the piano beautifully.

Lois was particularly impressed with her energy and stage presence. Reading the front page of her site (linked above) makes me feel that she’s an incredibly nice/good/kind-hearted person, so that the sweetness that comes across on stage is not an act.

While I was impressed with her performance in general, I’ll need to see her in a different setting to know what I really think of her. I wasn’t drawn to the particular song selection.

Devyn wrote a short blog entry about the show which you should definitely read! At the bottom of that post are links to three YouTube videos from last night. The first is when she sang at the mic, the second, of one of her two songs at the piano and the third was the finale with all of the guests on stage (I haven’t gotten to the next and last guest yet). If you watch the first two, you can make up your own mind about Devyn. Keep in mind that while the video quality is quite good (kudos to the videographer for having a very steady hand!), the sound quality is what you get from a hand-held and there’s a reasonable amount of crowd noise (I’ll say more on that at the end).

Jerome Bell was the next and last guest. Even though we don’t watch Idol, in a small-world coincidence, we’ve actually seen Jerome Bell perform two songs at Rockwood 2 before. He performed a set there on April 27th, 2011. We came to see Rosi Golan perform the next set and arrived early enough to catch the end of Jerome Bell’s. It was crowded beyond belief (Jerome has a lot of loyal fans, deservedly so).

JeromeBellSinging

Jerome performed a number of songs last night, including a Stevie Wonder cover (which he crushed) and his own hit, Collide, co-written with his Idol roommate Chris Medina while they were still in competition. That was one of the two songs we heard last time too. We enjoyed it as much last night as we did the previous time. You can purchase the song on iTunes, the link is in the article above.

In addition to the full band that everyone else employed, Jerome had his two regular backup singers join him on stage. After the show he named and thanked them, claiming that he always forgets to introduce them during the shows. He said their names clearly, and I thought I’d easily remember them (or be able to find them with a quick search), but, of course, neither happened. Sorry. They definitely added both flair and excellent harmonies to Jerome’s performance.

(I just watched the entire video embedded below, and right before the 7-minute mark, Jerome introduces them! Devin Snow and Steven Cutts [sp?]. Yay!)

JeromeBellStevenCuttsDevinSnow

Jerome is appearing tonight (Friday, May 27th, 2011) at 10pm at Rockwood 1.

On to the band (finally), left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). Patrick is always excellent, last night was no exception. In fact, he took a couple of great solos (one was unexpected, when Caleb’s pedal board failed briefly and Patrick quickly stepped in).

PatrickFirth

Most electronic keyboard players keep a Mac (or another laptop, but it’s almost always a Mac) right beside the keyboards. In a post about Candy Dulfer, I joked that Thomas Bank was checking his email on his Macbook Pro during the show. He dropped me an email (seriously!) letting me know that wasn’t the case! Winking smile

We sat right behind the piano, so I could clearly see what was on the screen. Now I understand completely. The laptop program showed a keyboard on the screen. Apparently, if the keyboard player forgets what note to play, they can look over at the simulated keyboard on the laptop and cheat. Sort of like the old Player Piano days! Winking smile

PatrickFirthPiano

Craig Meyer on the drums. Always great, both listening to his excellent drumming and watching his never-ending smile, which will lift the spirits of even the most depressed person on earth (let’s find that person, so I can test my theory soon!).

CraigMeyer

Martin Rivas on tambourine, shaker and vocals. Martin was mostly a percussionist last night (singing harmony on one, or possibly two songs). I couldn’t resist joking with Martin after the show that I had no idea he was hiding his talent with the shaker until last night (I’ve seen him wield a tambourine before). At times, he even hit the tambourine with the shaker. How creative is that? Smile

MartinRivas

In significantly more important Martin Rivas news, his birthday is tomorrow (Saturday) and he’s throwing us (the world, not Lois and me) a party at Rockwood 2, 10pm. Come join us (this time I mean Lois and me) to hear him serenade us on his birthday!

Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. We’ve seen (and written about) Brian many times. He’s a consistently excellent bass player who hasn’t let us (or more importantly the people he supports) down. I learned something new about Brian last night. He can sing! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him open his mouth even to speak. He sang a bit of harmony on some of Caleb’s numbers.

BrianKilleen

For the finale, Caleb called Brian, Devyn and Jerome back up to reprise Jerome’s triumphant cover of Let’s Get it On by Marvin Gaye from his American Idol audition. The third video linked in Devyn’s blog is of this finale (all nine minutes of it!). I’m including it here, for those who didn’t bother to click through. Again, forget the audio quality, but enjoy the atmosphere and imagine it in high fidelity. It was a blast! The song actually begins at the 1:00 mark.

Finale of American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

If you watched the whole thing, you may have a partial sense of how funny Caleb is. If you didn’t watch it, then you might be wondering about the thumbnail above, where Caleb’s shirt is off. You can skip directly to the 4-minute mark to see why he took it off and what those tattoos on his belly are. Winking smile

Greg Mayo also jumped on the stage during the finale. I was on the opposite side of the room, so I didn’t see whether he had an instrument, sang, or was up there just to lend some moral support. No matter what, Greg enhances anything he’s around, so thanks for jumping in, no matter what role you played! Smile

After the show, I made a beeline to the stage to introduce myself to Brian Collazo. I also got to meet his significant other (or should I say better half) that I mentioned in yesterday’s post (she was the blond that sat two to my left). Here are the three of us (Lois insisted we pose):

BrianCollazoHisGF-Hadar

I have a lot to say about the crowd but I think I’m going to turn it into a full, separate post, because I had some insights that have previously eluded me. If our current schedule holds, I might be able to get that post out on Tuesday. With some luck, perhaps I’ll work on it after blogging tomorrow about the shows we will see tonight:

Abby Payne and Chris Ayer, 7pm and 8pm at Rockwood 1. Come join us in kicking off the Memorial Day Weekend off with some awesome music tonight! Smile

Caleb Hawley and Rachel Platten at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg

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I can think of at least five independent introductions to this post, all appropriate. That means I have an 80% chance of picking the wrong one. Oh well, here goes…

I’ve recently written that Rachel Platten is one of our current obsessions. We last saw her perform on January 23rd, 2010 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. At that show, we saw Caleb Hawley join for some harmony with Martin Rivas (our first Caleb Hawley sighting). You can read about that night in this post. Our first house concert was September 5th, 2010. Since then we’ve attended two more, we like them a lot. We spend a considerable amount of our lives in Fredericksburg, VA.

When I noticed that on our next trip down to Fredericksburg, Caleb Hawley would be headlining a house concert there and Rachel Platten would be opening, I was equal parts dumbfounded and excited. This house concert was being produced by an amazing woman named Ruth (I can say that definitively, now that we’ve met her), who runs a regular series called House About Tonight (clever, right?). Smile

I was a bit surprised when she couldn’t confirm the venue right away, even though she immediately responded that she’d hold four spots for us. The reason was obvious once she explained. For those of you who don’t own a TV (or didn’t read my last post about Rachel), Caleb Hawley is a current contestant on American Idol. He blew away the judges (YouTube video now removed) (in particular, Steven Tyler) during the audition phase and got his ticket to Hollywood.

This was obviously not going to be an ordinary house concert. It wasn’t. After getting many more RSVP’s than usual, Ruth arranged for the show to be moved from a house to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg. Roughly 100 people attended a professionally run show. Ruth’s tireless energy, coupled with the incredible number of volunteers who handled the logistics of collecting the money (100% of the ticket price goes to the artists, yay!), laying out the amazing food (brought by the attendees!) and keeping everything on a reasonable schedule, made the evening better than most commercial venues deliver.

On to the show. Rachel opened, accompanied throughout by an amazing drummer (who we’ve seen many times), Craig Meyer. Rachel can handle herself perfectly, even playing alone on her keyboards (and singing, of course). With Craig, there is a noticeable uptick in keeping the beats fresh and interesting. Rachel also performs with a full band. Catch her any way you can when she’s in your town, you won’t regret it!

RachelPlattenSinging

I’m repeating what I’ve written about her before, but here’s the summary:

  • Superb songwriter, both lyrics and music
  • Lyrics can get lost in the fun, upbeat music, so listen carefully, there are too many gems to call out
  • Absolutely stunning voice
  • Excellent on the keyboards
  • 1000 megawatt smile that bathes the room
  • Bubbly, quick-witted personality that entertains the audience and keeps things lively

RachelPlattenKeyboards

Rachel called Caleb up to sing harmony and play guitar on two numbers. I’ll save my commentary on Caleb for just another minute.

Rachel shared some fantastic news with us. Just a couple of days earlier she announced a new record deal. Read all about it.

Craig played an even more amazing set than we’ve seen before, largely because both Rachel and Caleb (Craig played with both of them) turned it over to him more often than usual. Not only did he rise to the challenge, I was impressed at how nearly everyone in the crowd was totally into the drum solos.

CraigMeyerBrushes

After singing with Rachel, Caleb stayed on the stage and Rachel stepped off (just to the side) and they transitioned from Rachel’s opening set to Caleb’s headlining set more naturally than I’ve seen before.

Let me repeat that even though we saw Caleb sing one verse (with a very large band) and saw his YouTube video on American Idol, we really knew nothing about him. That’s not entirely accurate. We have a lot of friends who we sit with at the various NYC clubs that we frequent. Many of them told me multiple times that I will be blown away by Caleb. Scheduling never worked for me to verify their outrageous claims, until last night.

Before I tell you why, let me assure you that my friends continue to impress me with their musical taste. I was indeed completely blown away by Caleb Hawley and can’t imagine missing another opportunity to see him whenever one presents itself!

No matter what order I list Caleb’s multitude of skills, you will (incorrectly) assume that some are better than others. One of the things that makes this kid (yes, he’s still a kid to us) so special is that everything he does is at a level that is rarified. Even fewer can put it all together. Caleb is the real deal!

Caleb has an incredible voice. If you don’t know him (like we didn’t), please don’t judge him by one a cappella performance with YouTube quality. Go see him, and/or buy one of his CD’s (we bought two last night!). I could definitely listen to him a cappella, live, for an entire set (especially his own songs).

CalebHawleySinging

Most solo singer/songwriters that accompany themselves on the guitar do so acceptably (I wanted to say passably). That is to say that if they weren’t singing, most couldn’t hold my interest for very long just playing the guitar. Caleb Hawley is a notable exception. He’s a wonderful guitar player. I could listen to an entire set of his guitar play without any vocals and leave completely satisfied.

CalebHawleyGuitar

He mixes an incredible finger-picking style, with leads and rhythm in a manner that I don’t recall seeing in a long while (if ever).

So, he sings and he plays the guitar really well. Is that all? Ha, sorry, the list continues. He played the keyboards for one song, very well. I didn’t hear enough to rave like I did about the guitar, but he was good enough to warrant further listening!

CalebHawleyKeyboards

Songwriting? Check! He bookended the show with covers. He opened with the Ray Charles song that he performed on American Idol (Hallelujah I Love Her So), but this time, accompanied by the guitar and Craig on the drums. Much richer, gorgeous. He closed the encore (no way he could have left without an encore) with a Randy Newman number (Feels Like Home).

Not only did he nail Feels Like Home, but it had very special meaning to us. When our godson proposed to his soon-to-be-bride he made a very special DVD for her. One of the songs that he picked was Feels Like Home.

In between those covers, Caleb played a parade of wonderful original songs that made us laugh and tear up (sometimes in the same song). So yes, he’s an excellent songwriter. I’m listening to Seeing Colors this very second (while I type) and I’m reminded that Lois cried while he sang it last night.

OK, let’s recap: Great voice, great guitar player, very good on keyboards, great songwriter (picks good covers too). Is that it? Nope, one more thing (really two).

The one is stage presence. He had every single person eating out of his hands (like at a petting zoo). This included little kids and old folk like us. It’s not just rehearsed lines (or if it is, he’s even more masterful than I realized) but a natural persona that you bond with instantly as an audience member.

The two (really an extension of one) is that he’s hysterical. He could definitely be a stand-up comic (in terms of delivery/style).

CalebHawleyEntertaining

Craig accompanied Caleb on all but two numbers, wonderfully. Rachel joined Caleb to sing harmony on at least three numbers, one of which she also played the keyboards on.

They split the show into two sets, with Rachel opening each.

Two spontaneous things that turned into highlight reels. We had two guests with us, a mother and daughter. Craig called the daughter up to play the shakers during one song. She did a great job and Caleb actually interacted with her a bunch during the song and thanked her by name afterward.

KPShakersCraigMeyerCalebHawleyKPShakers

During the intermission, we bought two CD’s and a T-Shirt from Rachel and two CD’s from Caleb. Lois was wearing her Rachel T-Shirt already. Here are two shots of Craig with each of the girls in their Rachel shirts:

KPCraigMeyerRachelPlattenTShirtLoisCraigMeyerRachelPlattenTShirt

The other highlight occurred during the song Caleb called Cookies (the same song with the shakers, above). While he was performing the song (with Rachel singing too), Caleb noticed that a bunch of people were dancing at the back of the room. He made them all come up to the stage (Craig was instrumental in insisting they come forward as well). Once there, he taught them the Cookie Making Dance (my term). The audience hooted the entire time and they ended the song with a conga-like procession off the stage dancing the Cookie Making Dance.

Here’s a small sample of the dancing (Lois was too close to the stage to capture all the motion):

MakingCookiesDance

We were already big fans of Rachel and Craig. What a bonus to discover how enormously talented (and nice) Caleb Hawley is. We will now make it our business to see him as often as we can as well.

Thanks Ruth and the entire Unitarian Fellowship for putting on an extraordinary show and making us outsiders (Northerners at that!) feel so welcome!

RuthCalebHawleyRachelPlattenCraigMeyer

P.S. If you want to support this wonderful community, please make your next purchase from Amazon by clicking on the big Amazon ad on the front page of the Unitarian site. You’ll pay exactly what you would have otherwise and they’ll earn some affiliate commission. Smile

Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The last time we saw Martin Rivas perform a full set was September 13th, 2010, over four months ago! That night, the set before him was Rachel Platten. That show was at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 and I wrote about it in this post. It was my first time seeing each of them performing a full set and if you read my previous post, you know how I impressed I was with both! Last night was a repeat of the lineup and we couldn’t have been more excited to see it again.

There are three major reasons why we are energized to see artists that we love multiple times:

  1. We enjoy the electricity of the live show, even if we’ve seen the same set a dozen times. Enjoying it with other fans enhances it all the more.
  2. We love to support the artists (monetarily and by being part of the audience experience).
  3. Even when the sets are the same, there’s always something fresh and different (banter, band composition, etc.).

Martin came out with an electric guitar. I’m think that was a first for us in all the times we’ve seen him. He had an extra-full band last night (more on that in a minute). It was loud (not too loud, but darn loud). It was rockin’, in a heart-pumping way.

MartinRivasTuning

There are so many people to cover that I won’t go on-and-on about Martin (since I have in the past and you’re welcome to read all about it), but I’ll repeat that Martin has a wonderful voice, an incredible energy, plays guitar really well and is very generous with highlighting the amazing musicians that play with him whenever he has a full-band show.

Martin has a warmth and ease on stage that is fantastic. There was a young boy sitting at our table (I’ll guess roughly 10-years-old, yes, his dad was there too). Martin chatted with him for a minute before the show started, but he called him out a couple of times during the show and got the entire audience (the place was incredibly mobbed for both sets) to say “Hello Alfonso!” as well. I assume (and hope) it was a very magical evening for Alfonso.

MartinRivasGuitar

Covering the band, then special guests, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth on grand piano, electronic keyboards and background vocals. Patrick is wonderful all around and Martin gave him a number of leads which Patrick nailed.

PatrickFirthCloseupPatrickFirthKeyboards

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Chris is always wonderful and last night was no exception. He took quite a number of leads, all tasty. He closed the show with a lead that was so fast it was mind-boggling. I was sitting four feet away from him, so I got the full visual experience as well as the aural sweetness of being directly in front of his amp.

ChrisKuffnerChrisKuffnerGuitarLead

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. This is one of the things I meant by extra-full band above. Martin had his normal drummer with him (next in my lineup). Ryan complemented him with washboard (always a favorite of mine), cowbell, tambourine, triangle, bongo, shaker and sharing the drum set at times as well. It brought such a fullness to the percussion. An absolutely fantastic addition and Ryan has an excellent sense of rhythm.

RyanVaughn

Craig Meyer on drums (web site coming, I think). Craig is a very animated drummer. Even with his larger than life drum strokes, his hand, stick, brush, etc., all hit the drum at exactly the right time. The music during Martin’s set was very hard-charging and Craig drummed his %$#! off to keep the beat lively. Coupled with Ryan, the two of them delivered the rhythm section perfectly.

CraigMeyerCloseup

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Brian did an excellent job keeping the bottom full and interesting. Toward the end of the set he cut loose a bit more (never a solo) and actually harmonized (on the bass) with Martin’s singing.

BrianKilleenBrianKilleenBass

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. I’ve written about Greg a number of times. The most recent one was about his own band, the Greg Mayo Band. He (they) blew us away that night, but the biggest surprise was how amazing Greg was (is) on the keyboards. I went because every time Greg has played with others he was on the electric guitar and I simply love his play. Last night was spectacular (no surprise). I was three feet from Greg and four feet from his amp. His leads were so crisp, and his amp was pointed directly at my right ear, that the only downside was a bit of ringing. Well worth it!

GregMayoCloseupGregMayoGuitarVocals

Sierra Noble on fiddle. Sierra joined Martin’s band for roughly half the numbers. Except for the few leads that Martin gave her, it was hard for me to pick out the fiddle with three electric guitars, an electric bass, grand piano, electronic keyboards and two percussionists. I will need to hear Sierra in a more conducive environment to form a clearer opinion.

SierraNoble

That made for a core band of seven and for many numbers eight people on stage at the same time. That’s the same number that the Greg Mayo Band had on stage for their set. It is one short of the record set by Alex Berger for sets that I have attended at Rockwood.

Martin brought up two special guests to sing a song with him. Had he brought them up at the same time, he would have set the record for the most people on stage at the same time. Instead, he just tied Berger twice, once with each guest.

The first was someone I’ve heard about for a while now. Many of my friends rave about his shows at Rockwood. This week, he got a lot more famous than he’s been before.

Caleb Hawley sang harmony and lead. In addition to being a local NYC favorite, Caleb was a first round contestant on American Idol. He blew away Steven Tyler and moved on to the Hollywood round! So, you can only imagine the reception he received when Martin called him up. Local hero makes good! Smile

CalebHawley

Rachel Platten joined Martin to sing North. Wonderful, but more about Rachel in a second.

Martin handed out home-baked cookies to pass around. I had one (even though I got the evil eye from Lois, since I had dessert when we were out to dinner earlier).

Cookies

Martin played a slightly longer set than usual at Rockwood and said goodnight. The crowd really wanted to hear more. Martin checked with the sound engineer and got the OK. He closed the show with a Stevie Wonder cover, Living For the City. They did it long and strong. We sang along a bunch (everyone, not just Lois and me). What a way to end an already incredible set.

When it was over (actually, before the encore!), I grabbed one of the set lists. Unfortunately, the corner was tucked under one of the monitors and it ripped when I yanked it. You’ll just have to make do with this. Winking smile

MartinRivasSetList

Rachel Platten also plays in a number of band configurations. Last night was a 4-piece. Rachel on electronic keyboards, Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and tons of harmony, Craig Meyer on drums (dramatically stripped down from the set he used with Martin) and Sierra Noble on fiddle.

SierraNobleRachelPlattenCraigMeyer

Rachel has an incredible voice, plays the keyboards extremely well (with zest!) and writes very catchy pop tunes. Many of her lyrics are deep and quite good, but that can (unfortunately) be easily lost in the hooky tunes and her captivating voice. So, listen to the words closely, she’s a very good songwriter!

If that weren’t enough to get you to go out and see Rachel (she’s touring all over at the moment and releasing a new CD in the spring), she has a 1000 megawatt smile that bathes the audience in a floodlight effect. If you can listen to her sing and play and watch that smile and not have your spirits lifted, a defibrillator might be your only hope! Winking smile

RachelPlattenSmiling

In addition to straight-up pop, Rachel mixes it up in a number of ways. Don’t Care What Time It Is is a hip hop/rap song that she stood and sang (the only number she didn’t play the keyboards on). It’s also one of two numbers that she played a human beat-box on. She and Martin killed it. A number of times they sing so fast that your head spins. Delicious.

I linked to the lyrics of the song and you can also listen to it (free!) at that link. On the right side bar are a number of other Rachel hits. Explore and fall in love with her. Buy her CD when it comes out!

Craig was great even though he played a minimalist drum set (as he does for most of Rachel’s shows). In addition, Craig was very playful with Rachel and Martin, often using his brushes on them and on Martin’s guitar as well. Basically, if he could hit it, he did. Smile

CraigMeyerAnimated

As with Martin’s set, I couldn’t hear Sierra Noble playing the fiddle at all, whenever Rachel, Martin and Craig were playing. Rachel did give Sierra two distinct solos, which were very easy to hear. I can’t put my finger on it, but I wasn’t as impressed as I expected to be, given the raves I’ve heard about Sierra. I intend to listen to her some more and perhaps catch one of her own shows as well, to get a better sense.

SierraNobleFiddle

The only disappointing thing about Rachel’s set was that it was a tad shorter than normal. She started 20 minutes late (the person who was on before Rachel filled Rockwood to the brim and it took a while to transition between them and their respective crowds). I think Rachel cut it a bit short in order to get Martin and Rockwood closer to their original schedule.

Another amazing night out. Thanks to everyone who was on stage and to our friend for snagging two seats right up against the stage for us (you know who you are!).

We have a big week of music continuing tonight, so check this space each day for what we did the night before! Smile