Cameron Mitchell

The Vanity Belles at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The Vanity Belles are a couple of hard-working ladies. Roughly 28 hours before headlining a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night, they were in Charlotte to sing the National Anthem at The Bobcats NBA game:

I’m sure they blew away the large crowd there, but those fans only got to hear one song. We got a full set, with their regular (awesome) band, so we win. Smile

I’ve written about the Belles a lot in the past three months, so rather than repeat all of that, if you’re new to them (or me), please read this post.

As with that show, everything clicked last night. Their voices were great, the band was great, their set selection was great.

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One of the hallmarks of The Vanity Belles (TVB) show is getting baked goods by Jessi Rae Waltz. Given their hectic schedule the day before, she couldn’t pull off her usual magic. Not to worry.

Patryk Larney came up on stage early in the set and read a poem that he wrote about saving the day. Rebecca Haviland held up his fold-out carboard teleprompter. His treat? Hershey’s Kisses, connected in barbell form (a kiss on each end). Patryk used one as a prop to act out the poem. Extremely well done! (Rebecca might have been auditioning to replace Vanna White on The Wheel of Fortune.) Smile

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The Belles often produce a custom video to promote an upcoming show. They did one for last night, around the theme of the opening number, Superman:

The Vanity Belles promote their Rockwood Music Hall show

Sitting one table over from us was none other than the star himself, Superman.

Superman

As is their custom, the Belles picked up their instruments for one song, Bottle. This time, Jessi introduced it and explained where the inspiration came from. Then they nailed it, with Jessi on the electronic keyboards and Carrie on acoustic guitar.

JessiRaeWaltzKeyboardsCarrieWellingGuitar

TVB recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. Their new CD will be released in a few months. One of the reward levels was getting them to arrange and record a cover song of your choice. I think that included playing it at a show as well. The person who chose that reward picked Africa by Toto as the song. The Belles did a wonderful version, accompanied by two acoustic guitars.

Great job all around Ladies. On to the always amazing band, left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth on double-decker electronic keyboards and background vocals. Patrick never disappoints (as you will see if you read two posts from now, as yet unwritten).

PatrickFirth

Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitars. Oscar thrills at every show. Last night, when taking a lead, he gave a hand motion to the others to take it down a bit. They all complied immediately. He worked the guitar soulfully, building up to a crescendo as the rest of the band followed. One of the songs that he played acoustic guitar on was the Toto cover.

OscarBautista

Zach Jones on drums and background vocals. Another of our favorites (have I mentioned how much I love this band?). TVB has so many driving songs and Zach keeps the action moving at just the right pace.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. It’s been 72 hours since we’d seen Chris perform (at a house concert in VA), so we were due. Thankfully, since he’s another that always delivers!

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Cameron Mitchell on electric and acoustic guitars and vocals. Cameron plays rhythm guitar to Oscar’s lead (for the most part) and does it extremely well. He’s also co-written with the Belles. Typically, Cameron is on acoustic when Oscar is on electric and vice versa. Last night they mixed it up a bit. Cameron opened the show on electric (with Oscar also on electric) and Cameron joined Oscar on acoustic for the Toto cover.

CameronMitchellElectricGuitarCameronMitchellAcousticGuitar

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Last year, we used to consistently be out of town for TVB shows. I’m glad to say we’re in a nice zone at the moment, catching them in a variety of configurations and venues. Keep it up ladies and we’ll keep coming out to see ya. Smile

PatrickFirthCarrieWellingOscarBautistaJessiRaeWaltz

The Vanity Belles at Watercolor Cafe

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The Vanity Belles opened for Rebecca Haviland at Watercolor Café in Larchmont last night. Rebecca Haviland plays at Watercooler regularly, but we’ve not been able to make any of her previous shows. That we were finally able to get there on a night when The Vanity Belles (TVB) were opening was doubly delicious.

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We’ve seen two full sets by TVB (plus a number of guest appearances). Both sets were at Arlene’s Grocery, with a full band. Both were more rock in terms of the overall sound, even though TVB never lose their country roots. Here’s the post covering the most recent show.

Last night was amazing, because it was a dramatically stripped down set. No electronic keyboards, no drums, no electric guitar. I never doubted whether their voices would hold up, but the songs themselves would obviously be judged differently.

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I am thrilled (but not surprised) to report that when you write great songs, and deliver them through two incredible, angelic voices, you don’t really need much else. That they were supported by top musicians playing on acoustic instruments was icing on the cake. They probably could have thrilled me a cappella as well.

CarrieWellingCameronMitchellJessiRaeWaltz

The bottom line, TVB can play arenas with the full band and keep the place rocking, or they can play the most intimate club, with a small ensemble (or just themselves!), and have that audience realize that nothing was sacrificed in stripping down the sound.

On one song, Bottle, Jessi Rae Waltz (1/2 of TVB) took to the upright piano and Carrie Welling (the other 1/2) played the acoustic guitar. The other two members of the band didn’t join in until the song was well underway. That’s the reason I say that they could perform just themselves, a cappella or accompanied by the piano and guitar.

CarrieWellingCameronMitchellJessiRaeWaltzPiano

Speaking of the band, let’s name them, left-to-right:

Cameron Mitchell on acoustic guitar. Cameron was really good at both previous shows, but a bit overshadowed by the rest of the band on his acoustic (he also played some electric). Last night, his acoustic guitar was easily heard on every note and amazingly, he hit all of the right ones. Smile The guitar was a perfect accompaniment to the ladies vocals. Cameron also co-wrote at least one of the songs performed last night.

CameronMitchell

We also got to spend some time with Cameron (Cam) after the show and I can assure you he’s one of the nicest people you could have the pleasure of meeting.

Chris Anderson on upright bass. Unless you’re a newcomer here, I don’t need to tell you how great Chris is in general, on every set. Any set that has fewer instruments makes the bass pop even more, easily differentiating the greats from the goods. Chris is great and really enhanced TVB’s sound.

ChrisAnderson

Rebecca Haviland was a special guest on the first two numbers, then the last few as well, playing the upright piano. As much as I love Rebecca’s own songs (more on that in the next post), I don’t really get enough of her keyboard play, which is actually the first instrument I ever saw her play. So, this was a real treat to hear her on a real piano, in such an intimate place. Thanks TVB for having Rebecca join you!

You can see Rebecca’s back in a photo above. For good photos of Rebecca, look in my next post about her set. Smile

As if amazing music delivered by incredible musicians wouldn’t have been enough, this was our first trip to Watercooler Café and there’s no way it will be our last. The food was fantastic. I had the Baked Eggplant with a Three Cheese Spinach and Mushroom stuffing for an appetizer (OMG) and Wasabi-Sesame Crusted Tuna for the main dish (holy moly).

That we also got to spend it with two other couples, that we weren’t sure would be there, turned it into a festive and interesting evening, independent of the music.

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The staff at Watercooler were all delightful and funny, making us feel completely at home.

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery Final Residency Show

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The Vanity Belles (Carrie Welling and Jessi Rae Waltz) finished up their month-long residency at Arlene’s Grocery with a bang! It was crowded (mobbed actually), it was rockin’, it was awesome. If you missed it, I feel sorry for you (seriously).

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This was the last of four consecutive Monday performances throughout February. We missed the first two (darned work/travel nonsense), so I can’t tell you anything about them. We did catch last week’s show. For the geeks among you, let’s display the link this way:

#include last_weeks_show

Not that this wasn’t completely fresh (it was), even though there was an 88.89% overlap in the set lists. The differences were large enough to make this a very different show than last week (including something as simple as completely varying the order of the set list!).

There was a different guest, the regular keyboard player was back, and the Belles themselves seemed to be feeding off of the frenzied crowd. Or, perhaps it was the $5 Country Cosmos (created especially by Arlene’s for this one night) that fueled them (and many others).

If you don’t understand the drink name above, the Belle’s self-titled genre is Cosmo-Country. So, take a Cosmopolitan (the drink), twist it a bit to be sassy like the Belles, and you have a Country Cosmo. Smile

There was one song swap from last week’s set list (independent of the complete change in song order). Last night they played Till I’m Me. This is a very recent song which they wrote and recorded live in order to get it on their upcoming CD (after the real studio recording had already been wrapped up). Wow, awesome song. I’m very glad that I’ll have it when the CD comes out. Oops! When I Was With You was the new song, Till I’m Me was new for this set, but is already on last year’s EP.

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The ladies each played an instrument on Bottle, as they did last week. Once again, they crushed the song.

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There was only one change to the core band, though both of last week’s guests played instruments as well. I’ll save the very special guest for after I say a few words about each core band member, left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth, the normal keyboard player for the Belles, was back in the saddle. He’s always great, whatever group he plays with. I was a few feet from the keyboards last night, so in addition to hearing Patrick’s fine play, I got to watch him work, close up.

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When he relinquished the keyboards on Bottle, so that Jessi could take over, Patrick stood near the drums and played the tambourine.

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Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitars, and mandolin. Oscar is always superb on the guitar. Last week I described his long solo as having a jam band feel. Last night it may have started out that way, but it took on more of a rock god type lead, and Oscar obviously realized the crowd felt that way. He stepped out from the back and finished up the lead front and center stage. It was a huge crowd-pleaser.

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On one number, Oscar played the mandolin. Considering I love the mandolin, and love Oscar’s play, this was a real treat for me.

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Zach Jones on drums. If you’ve read this space recently, then you know I’ve been raving about Zach a lot lately (in fact, my most recent post was all about his band The Stone Lonesome). Of course his drumming was amazing last night (it always is). He even played the snare with his bare hands during one song, bringing out a bongo-like sound.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass. As with Zach, I’ve been raving about Chris a lot recently. Unlike Zach, I’ve been raving about Chris for years (I only first heard Zach last July). Chris impresses every time, that is all.

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Cameron Mitchell on acoustic and electric guitars. Just like last week, Cameron took on the rhythm guitar duties to complement Oscar’s lead and mandolin play. Once again, a wonderful job!

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Brian Collazo (lead singer from Live Society) was the special guest last night. We could listen to Brian sing all night, every night. Amazingly (and achingly), it’s been five months since we’ve seen him sing, when he guested with the Belle’s Manager (I’ll get to him in a minute). It’s been eight months since we’ve seen a full Live Society show (also at Arlene’s), and we’ve been trying hard (with near misses along the way) to get to one.

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Brian sang on No Regrets (amazingly) and on Recently (which Rebecca Haviland sang with the Belles last week). It only made us want to see Brian and Live Society all-the-more.

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Patryk Larney has his own musical career (check him out, fall in love, and donate to his current Pledge Music campaign!). In addition to that, he manages the Belles. One of the 1,873 jobs that managing them entails, is being The Bucket Man at their shows. The Belles prepare treats for their audiences, and wrap them in The Vanity Belles goodie bags (genius, and delicious). He carried around a bucket filled the goodie bags last week and last night, handing them out to greedily awaiting fans.

PatrykLarney

In an homage to the tireless Patryk, I’ve written the chorus to an as yet unwritten song called Bucket Man (sung to the tune of Elton’s Rocket Man):

And I think it’s not gonna be so long

Before these goodie bags are taken home

And ripped apart and eaten up with joy

Oh no no no, he’s a Bucket Man

Bucket Man, handing out the treats for everyone

Ben Morgan, last week’s keyboard player (filling in whenever Patrick Firth can’t make it), was in the audience enjoying himself as much as the rest of us were.

BenMorgan

Manish Gosalia once again documented everything in a way that only he does. I was right up against the stage, so I noticed (for the first time) that Manish also had a camera set up at the back of the stage which he controlled with a remote. A meticulous master, now captured from the other side of a lens as well:

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Last week I mentioned someone named Jack. This time I’ll add a photo. Next time, who knows what I’ll reveal… Winking smile

Jack

Finally, the set list:

SetList

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery

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

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

A quick recap:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BenMorgan

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

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

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

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

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On to the guests.

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

RebeccaHaviland

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

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

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

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

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

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

SetListEPandGoodies