Canal Room

Ian Axel and Greg Holden at Canal Room

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This one is gonna be long (surprise!), so let’s bottom line it for the impatient:

  1. Ian AxelCrazy good!
  2. Greg Holden – Very good, would have been nice if some in the crowd were more attentive.
  3. Katie Costello – Very good, need to hear more and I want to.
  4. Honey Larochelle – Delightful surprise.
  5. Kenny Muhammad – was a guest on one Honey Larochelle number. He’s incredible.
  6. Band Members – See below, if you have patience. 🙂

OK, I formally give you permission to bail on the rest of this, here’s your hall pass. 🙂

We saw Ian Axel once before at Rockwood Music Hall, and I covered that show in this post. We were so blown away that night that we’ve been eagerly awaiting another opportunity to see Ian perform. It turned out to be a 56 day wait, an eternity from our perspective.

IanAxelKeyboards

Ian has a new CD coming out on January 5th, and we are impatiently waiting for that as well. Ian Axel is an extraordinary singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and he isn’t half-bad on the ukulele either.

IanAxelUkulele

There were a few differences last night. At Rockwood, Ian played a grand piano, last night, electric keyboards. Who cares, he’s brilliant on both. He added an electric guitar to the mix, nice. Rockwood is tiny. While they can pack it in for a popular show (I guess between 80-100 people can become good friends quickly), it’s still a super-intimate place, generally filled with super-fans only. Canal Room is a bit more spacious (still pretty intimate) but audiences can be a bit more distracting, not there purely for the music.

From a selfish perspective, I’m glad Ian is still playing intimate clubs (our favorite experience). He has the talent to fill and captivate venues like the Beacon Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, etc. I know he’s not well known enough to fill them yet, and that’s a shame (for him and his eventual fans), but a short-term win for his existing fans. That big-venue day is coming, mark my words.

Backing up Ian, from left-to-right:

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and some vocal backup. Chris is better known for his bass playing than his guitar. I didn’t know that, but some people pointed out to me after the show that he’s a bass god, and listening to the pieces on his MySpace page convince me that’s dead on. I really couldn’t make out his guitar or vocals too well last night. It’s clear that his fellow musicians have enormous respect for him, and that’s more than good enough for me!

ChrisKuffner

Adam Christgau on the drums and some vocal backup. I’ve written about Adam numerous times. I loved his drumming from the first time we saw him, at the Canal Room (like last night), playing with The Paper Raincoat. My respect for him has only grown since then.

AdamChristgauLaughing

I mentioned in the last Ian post that Adam changes styles to match the artist/music, and that Ian brings out a much more dramatic flair in Adam. As much as I love the sophistication of the drumming for The Paper Raincoat, on many Ian numbers Adam can really let loose (power, speed, etc.), and it’s delightful (visually and aurally).

AdamChristgau

Also, as mentioned in the last post, the only reason we discovered Ian is because Adam was playing with him, and we made the assumption that if Adam was bothering, Ian had to be worth listening to. For that alone we’ll forever be grateful to Adam!

Chris Anderson played electric bass and some vocal backup. Chris also played bass for Ian at Rockwood. Chris impressed me at Rockwood, but the stage was super tight there and Ian played half the numbers without the band. Last night Chris got to stretch out a bit more (he has a ton of infectious energy on stage) and we both enjoyed every note he played.

ChrisAnderson

Ian brought Greg Holden out toward the end of the set to sing with him (Ian sat in a bit on Greg’s set as well). The two of them work well together and I’m sure they’ll be appearing on the same bill in the future, as they were the two times we’ve seen them so far.

Ian also played one number on his ukulele accompanied by Michael Campbell (sorry, couldn’t find a link for him) on the guitar and harmony vocals. Excellent!

MichaelCampbell1 MichaelCampbell2

Greg Holden did a roughly 40 minute set before he turned the stage over to Ian. When he came out, backing him were Chris Kuffner, Ian Axel, Adam Christgau, and a different bassist, Kyle McCammon (no decent photo). Kyle was very good on the bass, and was replaced by Chris Anderson for Ian’s set. He had another gig at 11pm at The National Underground, so he had a busy night. 🙂

Greg was quite good playing the guitar and singing. His voice is somewhere between a light raspiness and a bit of smokiness (now you know exactly what he sounds like). He writes good songs.

GregHolden1

If I had to pick a slight nit, a number of his songs tend to repeat the hook a few times too many. They’re good hooks, but he could work a bit to flesh the song out. I said that last time too, and he obviously has rewritten his songs just yet. 😉

Greg opened the set solo, even though all of the band members were on stage and in position. He played an untitled song that he debuted on YouTube, a song co-written with Joey Ryan. Lois has suggested that they name the song Nothing But a Memory (we’ll see if they listen to her!). Greg did a great job solo, but I was marginally surprised that he didn’t enlist Ian to sing the Joey part. We love the song, and listen to it many times.

As much as we love the song, and as excellent a job as Greg did with it last night, I’ll digress here to make two separate points, both regarding this song.

I’ll cover the opening act shortly, but as I’ve said in the past, the art of booking an opening act can be hit or miss in general. I’m of the opinion that the genre should be a match so that fans of the headliner will at least be hearing music that is likely to please, or at worst, not displease. Others might argue that it’s an opportunity to broaden your horizon, because you’ll still get to hear what you specifically came for.

Last night, Honey Larochelle opened, and the genre was quite different. It was very high energy and very loud, and ended on a very high note, with the crowd rising to their feet.

Even though there were 15 minutes between sets, the buzz was still swirling throughout the room when Greg took the stage. The first point is that Greg probably should have started with a full-band song, not a solo acoustic guitar effort, because a good portion of the audience wasn’t prepared for such a mellow opening, especially with the full band just sitting there. To repeat, we love the song he played, and we loved his version of it, it just should have been further down the setlist in my opinion.

A separate but related point is that there were way too many people in the crowd who used the discordant mellowness as an excuse to talk quite loudly. I’ve faulted many people in the past when it’s an isolated couple or few people who talk during a performance, but this was perhaps a quarter to a third of the people, so I think they all thought that it was OK to do so, and that Greg was just background music. It was rude, and Greg didn’t deserve it.

Of course, when the full band played, people’s attention was drawn to the stage. That’s another reason why I think Greg could have controlled that situation a bit better by ordering his set differently.

Back to the main action. After playing a few songs with the full band, Greg invited Katie Costello on stage (and the band left, except for Chris who played one song with them). They played two songs together, with Katie playing a bit of keyboards but mostly singing with Greg.

KatieCostello

On the first number, Katie seemed to be straining during the first verse. Greg did a very classy thing. He stopped the song mid-stream and apologized for starting it in the wrong key! He slid the capo down two frets and started again. This time Katie hit every note beautifully, and they pulled the song off without another hitch.

I’ve been listening to her streaming from her site (linked above) for quite a while now. I like her a lot. She’s playing tomorrow (Sunday, December 20th) at Rockwood Music Hall at 11pm. We already have tickets to see the amazing Cherish the Ladies in Pawling, NY tomorrow night, so we won’t get to see Katie just yet, but if you’re in NYC tomorrow, and you’re a night owl, do yourself a favor and get over to Rockwood.

Greg played a bit more with the band, and a few more solos as well. Over all, a very nice set.

Opening the show was Honey Larochelle, backed by a four piece band and two backup singers. On her MySpace page she describes her music as Soul / Folk Rock / R&B. Yes, she’s all that, and more.

HoneyLarochelle2 HoneyLarochelle

Excellent voice, wide range, bubbly spirit, showmanship. All four band members are very good, as are the backup singers, so the whole ensemble works well together.

Honey announced that she would be doing a bunch of Christmas songs (and I’ll explain in a minute why I believed her). She opened the show with one, but I don’t think she played a second one for the remainder of the 35-minute set (though perhaps I’m addled after the rest of the great show).

The rest of the set was a romp that covered the above-mentioned genres and added a closing Hip Hop number with Kenny Muhammad called I Love a Human Beat Box (or it should be if it isn’t). Kenny truly is a human beat box. In fact, he sounds like a full drum set in addition to other DJ like sounds. Pretty amazing.

KennyMuhammad

Honey also did a wonderful number as a tribute to her mother’s common sense advice when she was growing up, which she now appreciates even though she ignored it at the time, called Hold You Down. She had the audience sing during the chorus. We did a better job than the audience in this YouTube version of the song. 🙂

Backing her up, left-to-right:

Devory Pugh on keyboards (sorry, no good standalone link). He was solid, highlighted on one number. We chatted with him for a minute after the show. He also manages artists. Very nice guy! One of his guys, Charles Perry, will be appearing at Gospel Uptown on 1/19/2010.

DevoryPugh

Playing the electric guitar was a new member to the band (this was the second time he appeared with them). He has a Polish name that I didn’t catch. I’ll update the post if someone fills in his name for me. He was quite tasty, playing a jazz/blues style. Clearly a superior talent.

GuitarPlayer

Greg Norwood (AKA G the Backbone) on drums (also no good links). He was absolutely incredible throughout the set.

GtheBackbone

Jesse Singer on bass (again, no good links). He was solid throughout the set.

JesseSinger

Regine Roy and Cole Williams sang backup and did a great job. They both had good stage presence.

RegineRoyColeWilliams

While I can appreciate R&B, it’s not the typical music we go to see, so it was a treat to see someone that we enjoyed as much as we did. Even though I still think that the genre was not well matched to the headliners, it worked for two reasons: 1) all of the performers were top notch; 2) Honey is good friends with Ian (and possibly Greg), so there were quite a number of overlapping fans.

The Canal Room website listed the show as starting at 7:30pm, with doors opening at 7pm. We like to get to General Admission shows early so that we can sit as close to the stage as possible (preferably the front row). While the sound isn’t the best that close up, the view is. Lois is very near-sighted, so if we’re not right near the stage, the entire show is a blur to her.

We showed up early, as usual, and found out that everything was shifted back 1/2 an hour. It was cold out, but we were fine braving it to be first in. After a bit, management took pity on us (we were the only ones in line!), and told us that we could wait in the lobby inside. We were grateful, it’s quite an unusual move (we know from long experience).

After waiting 15 minutes inside, still long before the doors were supposed to open, another member of management also took pity on us, and told us that we could go in, but that it was still sound check time, so we should be respectful of that. Of course, we were.

It turned out to be quite special. We sat in the front row and watched Honey and the band warm up and play a number of songs they didn’t do in the set (mostly Christmas numbers that I guess they intended to do). Really good! But, in addition to just enjoying the music, I got a much better look at the guitar player, who played a lot of interesting riffs throughout the sound check.

We also chatted with Honey very briefly after sound check, and she’s as lovely as could be.

After the show we talked to Ian for a minute and got him to sign one of his EPs that we purchased at the Rockwood show. I always implore my readers to support the artists that they like, and we do whatever we can ourselves.

We bought an Ian Axel T-Shirt from Chad Vaccarino who was working Ian’s merch table. Chad did a great job singing with Ian at Rockwood and is credited with convincing Ian to start singing. Thank you Chad!

We also purchased three Greg Holden CDs and an unmixed, unmastered, unreleased CD of Honey’s, pressed just for fans that come to these types of shows.

Greg signed one of his CDs as well, and we got to tell him directly how much we love Nothing But a Memory (perhaps if I write it often, he and Joey will decide to make Lois happy and stick with that name!). 😉

We also ran into two of our favorite Alexes, Alex Berger and Alex Wong. We got to spend a bit more time with Alex Berger because we talked to him before Honey took the stage, and then after the show as well. Seeing Alex Wong was a treat too. I knew that he had a show in SF tonight and tomorrow, so we didn’t think he was still in town. His flight just made it out of NYC minutes ago, so hopefully he’ll hit the stage in time for the show…

AlexWongChrisAndersonAlexBerger

We know that the next time, we’ll be as likely to be told to wait outside until the doors officially open, but for last night, we’ll be forever grateful on all accounts. 🙂

ambeR Rubarth at Joe’s Pub

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I am being respectful, and writing ambeR Rubarth the way she capitalizes it herself, so no, I didn’t make a mistake. 🙂 She is soon to release a new CD, Good Mystery, and last night had a CD Release party show at Joe’s Pub in NYC, which we attended. You can hear some of the songs from that CD and a few from her previous work at her MySpace page.

In addition to her solo career, ambeR is also part of a duo called The Paper Raincoat. I wrote about them extensively when we accidentally discovered them opening for Colin Hay at the Canal Room. We were extremely impressed with both ambeR and Alex Wong (the other half of The Paper Raincoat).

Right after that show, I friended both of them on MySpace, as well as The Paper Raincoat. I’ve since followed both ambeR and The Paper Raincoat on Twitter: @ambeRRubarth and @Paper_Raincoat respectively. As a result, I saw a Tweet that ambeR was releasing a new solo CD. I was aware that The Paper Raincoat is also releasing a much anticipated CD, and now I know that their release party will be at Joe’s Pub, on October 6th at 9:30pm, and we bought tickets to that last night!

We pre-ordered the new CD (in a Collector’s Edition!) immediately, and bought tickets to the show. We knew there would be surprise guests, but we didn’t realize just how many.

OK, the intro has already been too long. So,  I have to skip to the bottom line first, before I lose all of you, and then I’ll add a lot more detail.

Last night’s show was one of the best concerts we’ve ever attended!

Read that again, especially if you know us. We attend a ton of live shows, so it’s not like we just went gaga because we finally saw someone perform in person!

To make the above statement even more amazing (to me), ambeR (and friends) were on stage for just about an hour (not a very long show by any measure), and yet, it was completely satisfying, in every regard. Of course, I would have loved another hour or two (or three, or four), but I didn’t feel let down in any way whatsoever.

On to the specifics of the show. For the most part, ambeR had three people supporting her throughout most of the show. Tony Maceli on bass, Austin Nevins on electric guitar and Billy Hawn on drums. I’ll cover them all after I gush some more about ambeR.

First and foremost, ambeR Rubarth is a superb songwriter. On any level that you want to take that statement. Her lyrics are moving, clever, authentic, wonderful. Her melodies are varied, interesting, lovely, terrific.

Her guitar playing is excellent (she could do a solo show, accompanying herself on the guitar, and we would be completely satisfied). She is an incredible pianist (again, she could perform a solo show, accompanying herself just on the piano, and we would be completely satisfied).

ambeR Rubarth Guitar

ambeR Rubarth Guitar

ambeR Rubarth Piano

ambeR Rubarth Piano

And yet, with many people on the stage at the same time, the arrangements were fantastic, complex, harmonious, subtle, effective, etc. ambeR arranged the entire show, except for the part that Threeds participated in, which they arranged. Add producing/arranging to the long list of strengths/talents that she possesses.

Finally, her voice. It’s lovely, with good range, and excellent delivery of the appropriate emotion at the appropriate time. She can be wistful, soulful, smokey, vulnerable, flirty, bluesy, jazzy, rock ‘n rolly and certainly, fully folksy. And, given her songwriting talents, she most certainly exercised all of the above during her set.

Tony Maceli was spectacular on the upright bass, playing a number of styles, including using a bow, and even slapping with the bow to achieve a sound I wasn’t used to hearing with a bass. He also played the electric bass on at least one number. He’s a star!

Austin Nevins was solid all night. I suspect he’s better than I realize, as he played more of a supporting role. He was very good, a perfect fit of what was expected of him last night, just not flashy enough for me to really get a sense of how good he is when he lets loose.

Billy Hawn was wonderful on the drums (including Djembe). He was tucked in the far right corner, diagonally opposite us, so I couldn’t see him except for a glimpse now and again, but his beat was excellent, and he never overwhelmed the mostly mellow sound throughout the show.

It doesn’t end there. ambeR promised a bunch of surprise guests and she delivered. I already mentioned Alex Wong, who joined on the first song, and then on a few more toward the end, including the encore.

Amber Rubarth and Alex Wong

Amber Rubarth and Alex Wong

Opening the show was a trio called Threeds. I’ll come back to them later. For now, I want to mention that all three of them came back on stage to play with ambeR during her second number, and they were great (as was the song, and the arrangement that included Threeds!). For two other numbers, Katie Scheele of Threeds joined alone. They/she added a wonderful dimension to ambeR’s set.

Paul Brill joined to sing harmony on one number. Very nice.

Austin Nevins - Amber Rubarth - Paul Brill - Tony Maceli

Austin Nevins - Amber Rubarth - Paul Brill - Tony Maceli

Vienna Teng joined for a stunningly beautiful version of In the Creases. Alex Wong, who co-wrote the song with ambeR before they formed The Paper Raincoat, joined as well. The three took turns singing lead (Alex kicked it off), and all three harmonized together. Vienna played the piano (her specialty).

Vienna Teng

Vienna Teng

Ironically, the night before, Vienna Teng was the headliner at the Highline Ballroom. We’ve never seen her live. I discovered her through The Paper Raincoat, and really wanted to see her perform. I tried to rearrange our schedule to make it there on Thursday, but couldn’t pull off the minor miracle. I was so happy to get to see and hear her (however briefly) last night, as I now know I need to go out of my way to ensure I see one of her full shows!

Rosi Golan joined to sing with ambeR on two numbers (including the encore). I admit that I simply couldn’t hear her differentiated from the rest of the sounds (she only sang harmony, never lead), so I don’t have an opinion. Sorry!

Adam Levy (pronounced Levee) closed the show with ambeR, just the two of them, performing a song they co-wrote. Lovely. Adam is a good guitarist, and has a very good voice as well. He also returned to sing during the encore.

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy

Chel O’Reilly joined for the encore, to sing along with the all-star cast. I couldn’t make out her voice individually either, so nothing really to report. Sorry.

Austin Nevins - Chel O'Reilly - Adam levy - Rosi Golan - Tony Maceli - Alex Wong

Austin Nevins - Chel O'Reilly - Adam levy - Rosi Golan - Tony Maceli - Alex Wong

Simply a stunning show, all around. Kudos to everyone involved, in particular, the extremely talented ambeR Rubarth!

Threeds opened the show, and played a varied 20-minute set. Threeds is three oboists, Kathy Halvorson, Mark Snyder and Katie Scheele. In addition to the oboe, Katie also played the English Horn. I was impressed by the breadth of styles they covered in such a short set, all extremely well done. They are very tight together, and their music delighted the crowd.

Threeds

Threeds

It was an incredible treat to have them come back on stage with ambeR and have them add such richness to the otherwise rich sound that ambeR and her crew and guests produced!

Thank you all for an evening we will never forget!

In addition to the performers all putting on such a great show, last night was one of the best audiences we’ve been part of. Bravo to all of you as well! 🙂

Colin Hay at Canal Room

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I was very late to the blogging world. Rob Page (CEO of Zope Corporation) needled me for a while, and I finally relented. My only goal was to document our lives (mostly the good memories) in excruciating detail, so that as our memories fade (or fail), we’d have a record to look back on, semi-authoritative.

In doing so, I told the stories of our lives in chronological order, because I was writing for myself. After a while, when covering music events became a major theme here, Lois strongly requested (she would be annoyed at me if I said insisted) 😉 that I cover the headliner first, then the opening act, then our background story. That became my pattern, which I’ve been faithful to for a long time now.

That isn’t the case for this post (already, given this long intro), but really for another reason.

In every performance that we’ve attended for the past six years, if there was an opening act, the headliner at least acknowledged the opening act, typically thanking him/her/them, and usually requesting another round of applause. Often, the headliner gushes about the opening act. Occasionally, the headliner brings out the opening act to do a number with him/her/them, or surprises the audience by joining the opening act during their stint (Girlyman has done that a few times in our experience).

Last night was the only exception. Colin Hay didn’t acknowledge (or even mention) the opening act, The Paper Raincoat. For that, I will cover their part of the show first, and then cover Colin’s piece. They deserved the mention last night, and still do this morning. I would have preferred for it to come from Colin, who has a wee bit more influence than me, but here goes my take.

We saw Colin Hay live for the first time two weeks ago, at the Birchmere, covered in this post. We both loved the show, Lois in particular. I noticed that he was playing two nights at the Canal Room (4/15 and 16). We weren’t scheduled to return to NYC until the 17th, but Lois got very excited about the prospect of seeing Colin again, in particular in such an intimate venue (we’ve been to Canal Room once before).

He had different opening acts for the two nights. I listened to both on their respective MySpace pages (The Paper Raincoat page is linked above). Both were good, but I particularly liked The Paper Raincoat. While it didn’t hurt that they were the second night (altering our trip a bit less), I really did prefer to hear them live, given the choice.

So, we locked in tickets to see Colin again, influenced by the fact that The Paper Raincoat sounded like a group we would like. We were right!

While there are many differences, I would say that The Paper Raincoat has a similar sound and feel to The Weepies. You won’t confuse the two, but if you like The Weepies (and we do, a lot), then you’ll like The Paper Raincoat.

I encourage you to listen to all of the songs on their MySpace page, and to read the detailed biography there. I’ll highlight one unique (and cool) feature about the band, but they go into much more detail in the biography than they did on the stage last night.

While every one of their songs stands alone musically and lyrically, and is thoroughly enjoyable, unlike other bands, all of their songs combine to tell one long story (basically, a novel, unfolding in a series of songs). The concept is very cool, and can serve as an extra impetus to follow the band long term, if they can keep up the genre and keep the story interesting. It’s also the reason for naming the group The Paper Raincoat (but you’ll have to read the MySpace bio to understand why).

Standing on the stage from left-to-right were:

Amber Rubarth playing electric keyboards and mini xylophone. She sings lead and harmony, and writes/co-writes their material. A very talented lady, who also exudes a ton of warmth on stage.

Amber Rubarth

Amber Rubarth

Alex Wong played the guitar, a tiny electric keyboard, and the mini xylophone. He too sings lead and harmony as well as writes/co-writes their material. He has an excellent voice, with a very self-effacing stage presence.

Alex Wong Mini Xylophone

Alex Wong Mini Xylophone

Alex Wong Mini Keyboard

Alex Wong Mini Keyboard

The two of them comprise The Paper Raincoat. In addition to them, they had a guest drummer.

Adam Christgau played the drums, and sang harmony for much of the set. He’s really good, at both. He also did some unique (to me) things on the drums. On a couple of songs, he covered the snare drum with a towel, achieving a very interesting sound. On one song, he put the towel on the Hi-hat cymbal, also to good effect. Finally, he used a brush drumstick on a frisbee. Really? Yes, a frisbee (or at least, that’s exactly what it looked like to me!).

Adam Christgau

Adam Christgau

On their second-to-last number, they did something very cool. Alex had two tambourines in his hand, and he invited Colin Hay up to the stage to shake one with them. After 10 seconds of waiting (jokingly), he decided to offer the tambourine to an audience member (without the invitation to come up on the stage). The tambourine ended up in Lois’ hands.

While Lois was shaking her heart out (pretty well, if I say so myself), Alex and Amber joined Adam, and all three of them played the one drum set simultaneously. It was really cool (not just because I was sitting the closest to the tambourine player). 😉

Amber Adam Alex Drumming

Amber Adam Alex Drumming

They finished their set with an a capella number sung by Amber, with Alex and Adam harmonizing, and playing percussion on their chest and legs. In addition to well-timed hand-clapping (for additional rhythm) by each of them, they did some cool cross-person hand clapping, making it a visually interesting song as well.

The Paper Raincoat A Capella

The Paper Raincoat A Capella

They were on stage for a total of 40 minutes, all of it fun and beautifully sounding. To repeat, they deserved more than a mention from Colin. Of course, if he had given it, I probably would have spent less time on them, so perhaps he did my readers a favor, in giving me an excuse to highlight them. 🙂

Colin Hay came out 30 minutes after The Paper Raincoat exited the stage, at 9:22pm.

Colin Hay

Colin Hay

Everything that I said about him at the Birchmere applied last night. He was hysterical, had a great set list, sang amazingly and played the guitar wonderfully. It was an excellent show. I won’t repeat those things. There were a few qualitative differences in the show, so I’ll concentrate on that instead.

At the Birchmere, Colin noticed a kid in the front row (just a few feet over from us), who was likely around eight-years-old. It caused him to catch himself a couple of times when he was about to say something raunchy, or drug related. He still cursed a bit, but you could tell that he was trying not to do it as much as he wanted to (and told the audience that he normally does).

Well, last night, there was nothing holding him back. If you haven’t heard the F-word spoken in a while, you should try to catch a Colin Hay show, so that you can get your fill quickly. It doesn’t bother me whatsoever (Lois isn’t a fan of this type of communication), so I’m just mentioning it in case any future concert-goer cares to know that in advance.

He also told more drug-related stories (mostly pot, not hard drugs). They were very funny, and usually related to the song he was about to sing (as were his stories at the Birchmere). While there were quite a number of repeats in his comedic stories (quite natural for a given tour, and for an introduction to the same song!), there were also a reasonable number of fresh stories, all well told, and all extremely funny. The audience was (once again) eating out of his hand!

The second difference is that at the Birchmere, the entire show was solo. Last night, he had a special guest, his wife, Cecelia Noel. In addition to having her own band, she occasionally performs with Colin, even when his full band is on stage (you can easily find YouTube videos of the full band, with Cecelia on stage too).

She has an excellent voice, and obviously knows the material cold. She dances in pantomime to the lyrics, which we found a bit distracting, but I’m sure that others enjoyed it immensely. Especially the men, since she’s quite beautiful, and her movements are anything by shy and demure. 😉

Cecelia Noel

Cecelia Noel

Colin was able to work her in to some of his gags as well. One small example is his song Beautiful World. There is a line in there “I Like Sleeping With Marie”. At the Birchmere, he sang that line straight. Last night, with Cecelia on the stage (she joined him for roughly 1/3 of the numbers), after singing “I Like Sleeping With Marie”, he smiled at the audience, and added “Not Anymore”, in the pause between lines, very naturally, very good naturedly, and Cecelia played along as well. It was very cute.

The other difference was the venue itself. Birchmere is very large, with very large tables (it’s a place where you eat dinner and watch the show at the same table). It seats 650 people, and Colin sold it out.

Canal Room is a small venue. The only other time we were there, it was set up in a lounge atmosphere, with plush chairs and sofas, quite spread out. In other words, not all that much seating, allowing a capacity of roughly 100 people (I’m just guessing). Last night, it was set up with tiny fold-up chairs (that hurt my butt quite a bit). That permitted a lot more people to sit, and then they crammed in the standing room crowd around the bar, and in every other corner of the place.

My best guess is that there were roughly 300 people there last night. As with the Birchmere, this was not a crowd that wandered in off the street to hear whoever was playing. These were hard-core Colin-loving fans, that knew every word to every song (except perhaps the gorgeous number that he did from his upcoming August release of his new CD). Whenever he invited the audience to sing along, they were only too thrilled to oblige.

Colin was on stage for exactly 105 minutes, all wonderful. He’s a joy to see live, and I’m sure we’ll do it again in the future.

We got to the Canal Room very early on purpose (we were expecting the more limited seating like the first time we were there). The doors opened at 7:30pm, but we arrived at 6:25 to stand patiently outside. It turns out that we were first on line! The bouncer felt bad for us, and actually suggested we go get a bite or a drink at his favorite place around the corner. There was no way Lois was going to miss out getting the best seat in the house, so we just stood there.

I am actually amazed at how quickly the hour passed, and that I didn’t even have a second of physical discomfort for standing in one place for an hour. Whew. I am also extremely impressed with how organized the Canal Room staff are (and how nice they all are as well).

When they opened the doors, we were the first two in, and grabbed the two center seats in the first row. Aside from neck strain in looking up at The Paper Raincoat and Colin Hay all night, the seats were fantastic.

At intermission, Lois bolted out of her seat and bought two copies (both signed) of The Paper Raincoat’s EP (four songs, all of which are on their MySpace page). Before the show started, she also bought Going Somewhere by Colin Hay (she bought two different CDs of his at Birchmere). We intended to hang around and have him sign it after the show. Unfortunately, we were really wiped, so just like Birchmere, we bailed and didn’t say hello to him at either place. Some other time…

Andy McKee with Antoine Dufour and Craig D’Andrea

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Last night, Lois and I went to Canal Room to hear three amazing acoustic guitarists, Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour and Craig D’Andrea.

I have written about all three before, as well as their label Candyrat Records in this post. I also posted about Andy McKee (including how I discovered him) in this post. I owned all seven albums that the three artists had out between them (or so I thought). 😉

It was my instinct to cover the bad parts about last night first, and then end on a high note. Lois intuited that I was leaning that way, and asked me to cover the good parts first. Since Lois is always right, I am acceding to her wishes. 😉

Even though Andy McKee was the clear headliner, he came out first, and introduced the other two guys. Well, aside from saying who they both were, he actually introduced Craig D’Andrea, who opened the show. Here is a photo of Andy during the intro (click on any photo for a larger version). I’ll describe more about the place and the stage and other things you will see in the photos, in the bad section of the post. 😉

Andy McKee

Craig had an instant rapport with the crowd. Perhaps that was partially because his parents were there as well (two tables over from us). Just kidding, since we didn’t know it was his parents until near the end of the show. He’s a superb guitarist, who entertained both with his music, and his self-deprecating humor, which he worked well. He played for roughly 25 minutes.

He opened the show with Morrison County. Here is a YouTube video of him opening his show at CMU with the same song (therefore live, and close to the experience we had last night). He’s being introduced by Antoine Dufour, so you can get a sense of his gentleness on stage as well. You can also get a sense of the pacing of this type of concert. The song itself doesn’t start until nearly the two minute mark, but watch the whole thing, it’s most definitely worth it!

Next up was Antoine Dufour. In my Candyrat post, I mentioned that while I love all of them (that includes Don Ross, Kaki King and Peter Ciluzzi as well), I probably have an ever-so-slight preference for Antoine. The rest are brilliant, so I feel silly sharing such a razor-sharp distinction, but, if I didn’t say it, I wouldn’t be sharing my complete thoughts.

Antoine was a little slow to engage the crowd with banter, but when he got going, he was quite hysterical. He is a soft-spoken Canadian (I covered that fact in a short Canada Rocks post) with a French accent. Completely entertaining in every way, including his amazing guitar playing.

So, earlier I mentioned that I owned all of the albums that the three had between them. It turns out that Antoine released a new album last week. I bought it at the end of the show, and got to shake his hand and tell him how awesome he is, so now, again, I own every album that they have released. 😉

Antoine played half of the songs from the new album, so when I listened to it today at home, it was comfortable and familiar. Here is a YouTube video from the same CMU concert of Spiritual Groove, which is off of his Development album (not the newest, which is Existence).

Antoine played for roughly 35 minutes. Here is a fuzzy photo of him. I like to think it’s fuzzy because his hands are moving at the speed of light while he’s playing. 😉

Antoine Dufour

After an intermission (there was no break between Craig and Antoine), Andy McKee took the stage. He too is completely personable, and when he tells a story, you hang on his every word. He too is a genius with the guitar.

Here is a YouTube video of him playing Art of Motion at the same CMU concert. The music starts at the one minute mark, and he tells a story about how the song came to be named, which he also told last night.

Andy played for roughly 70 minutes. When he was done, he called Antoine and Craig up to the stage, and they played one of Antoine’s new songs, A Hiding Place for the Moon. The only word to describe it is Wow! Here is a YouTube video of them playing it together. While it’s incredible, it really doesn’t match the quality of sound or experience that we enjoyed last night. The CMU recordings are better quality…

Here is a still photo of them during our show last night:

Andy McKee with Antoine Dufour and Craig D’Andrea

After the trio played that song, Andy stayed on the stage for one final solo. Between the trio and the solo, the encore was roughly 20 minutes, and was awesome.

The crowd was nuts about all three of them, with ovations lasting a pretty long time after each number.

That ends the good part of the post, and if you are spiritually averse to negativity, this would be a very good time to close your browser.

Last night was far from perfect (though the music was as close to perfect as you could hope for in a live show!). Let’s start with the one part that was entirely my fault. 🙁

We have never been to Canal Room before, so I committed the cardinal sin of assuming I knew where it was. From the website, I just zoned in on Canal and Broadway. I know where that is. Given that I cut it way too close on Thursday for the Al Jarreau and Najee concert, I decided to grab a cab rather than risk another bus ride. It was raining, but not too badly.

We got to the corner of Canal and Broadway at 7:15pm, and the doors were scheduled to open at 7:30pm. Perfect. Except for the fact that from the addresses, it was obvious we were in the wrong place. Oops. I used Google Maps on my Treo to see that it was on West Broadway. I knew it was close, so I didn’t panic, but I didn’t know exactly where. Again, Google Maps with Directions, led the way. It was a three block walk, and we got there at 7:34.

The doors were open, but the line was still outside, as only a few people at a time could get in. It’s completely unclear whether we would have been near the front of the line if we had gotten there 10 minutes earlier, but it’s possible, and might have made a world of difference.

Canal Room is not a full-time concert venue (like Joe’s Pub, BB King, Blue Note, etc.). As an example, there are only three nights in the next 11 days in February that have a show listed, and 10 dates in March. Perhaps because of that, it’s a complete waste of space as far as concerts are concerned. If you click on the link to their site (at the top of this post), you can see an automatically rotating slide-show of photos of the place. It’s beautiful, and comfortable, but not oriented to maximum quality seating for a concert.

So, comfy leather chairs and booths, but spread out for their bar/lounge business. By the time we got in, there were no seats left on the lower level, near the stage. You could stand there, but we weren’t interested in standing for hours on end. We went upstairs, where most of the seats were taken as well, but one round booth that comfortably seats six, and could easily accommodate eight (though more snugly), was empty.

The two end seats on one side had a reasonably good view of the stage (you can judge for yourself, as all of the photos that Lois took were from that seat). I would say that we were between 30-50 feet from the stage (so not far), and elevated (which was good), so they weren’t awful seats. The acoustics turned out to be excellent, so hearing the subtleties of their guitar playing was not a problem.

That ends my contribution to the bad parts. While our seats were fine, it was still very annoying that there was a ton of wasted space right near the stage. On the top level (as can be seen in all of our photos) there was a glass divider. You could easily see through it, but it also often cut the performers at the neck, meaning, part of them was above the glass, part below. It was mildly irritating.

Much more irritating were the gigantic columns that obscured the view of many people on the upper level. While it didn’t obscure ours at all, it affected where people wanted to stand, sit, etc., and possibly caused some people to talk more than they otherwise would have, if they had a clear view of the stage.

Next, the service. Most people started off walking to the bar (downstairs) and bringing back their own drinks. Neither of us was in a hurry to drink, so we just relaxed at our table. After a bit, a waitress came over and asked if we wanted drinks. I asked for a chocolate martini (surprise!) 😉 and Lois asked for club soda (because, at the time, we just assumed that there was some kind of drink minimum).

The waitress asked me what the ingredients were for the chocolate martini (which didn’t bode well), but, when it showed up, it was perfect, so no complaints there. Lois’ club soda came completely flat (which I guess, technically makes it water). The waitress knew it in advance, telling Lois that the machine lost it’s compression, but that she would bring her another one when they fixed it.

At that point Lois asked if there was a drink minimum, and we were told no, so she just canceled the drink. Now it got weird, very weird. The waitress asked me if I wanted to run a tab. I said yes. She asked me for my credit card (for her to keep until the tab was closed), and for my driver’s license. When I showed her my license (should I have been flattered that I was being carded, or was it just to check photo id to match to my credit card?), she said “I need to take it with me.”

What? We were incredulous. We’re no youngsters, and this has never happened to us at any restaurant, bar, club, concert, etc. Perhaps when renting a car. She said she needed to photocopy the license because of credit card fraud. Wow, Canal Room must attract some type of crowd for this to be such a problem there, and not at our other haunts. I’ve gone on too long about this, but suffice it to say, it was weird at best…

More peeves on the way. The show was scheduled for 8pm. No announcements of any sort were made. Andy McKee walked on to the stage at exactly 8:30pm. No apologies or explanations for the late start. At best, it’s rude. Why not just print 8:30pm on the tickets and be done with it?

I’ve already covered the show, which was simply awesome, so in the midst of these complaints, I need to reiterate that point! 🙂

Craig D’Andrea’s set was relatively unmarred, in other words, completely enjoyable. One other couple was sitting at our booth (and they got there just minutes after we did). The booth is a large semi-circle. We were at the left edge and had a clear view. The right edge had an obstructed view. So, the couple slid in, but not entirely to the middle. We all seemed OK with our situation.

When Antoine started his set, a bunch more people started drifting upstairs, looking for seats. I feel like dragging this part out, because it completely annoyed us, but I’ll cut to the chase. An extremely rude couple ending up sitting back-to-back with us (meaning, they were the right edge of the next booth over). The people at their table warned them when they asked if the seats were available that they would provide little-to-no view. They sat down anyway.

They then proceeded to talk to each other, rather loudly, nearly non-stop. Stares did nothing. This continued into Andy McKee’s set as well. When Andy was playing a song he wrote for his father, who had passed away (a clearly emotional part of the show), finally, someone shushed them. They looked around angrily, to see who might have been so rude as to interrupt their conversation.

Listen up folks. There are a million places in NYC to sit and chat, with and without drinks, with and without food, with and without music. A concert, where people specifically pay to see a specific artist is not once of those places. Thankfully, due to their annoyance at being shushed, they moved far enough away from us that we were able to enjoy the rest of the show without having to hear them on their date.

Anyway, we’re old folks, and this is the third night this week that we’ve been out later than we’re usually awake. Last night was 30 minutes later than it needed to be, just because they started late.

I’m probably leaving out a number of additional nuisances. We basically don’t like the place, even though it’s reasonably beautiful on some levels. We are hoping that these (and other) Candyrat artists discover the joys of playing a place like Joe’s Pub, where you hear zero conversations during the performances, ever. We also hope that no one else that we love ends up playing Canal Room. We’d likely go, with eyes wide open this time, but prefer not to find out if this was unusual or not…

Candyrat Records

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I have written twice now about Magnatune as a real leader in the new age of publishing music. I am completely impressed with their business model and operation, and if you missed the first post, here it is.

Candyrat Records is another cool online music label, but they don’t quite measure up to Magnatune in my opinion.

First, let’s cover what makes Candyrat Records cool.

  1. They have some amazing artists on the label
  2. They actively promote many (not all?!?) on YouTube
  3. Those that they promote, are very high quality videos (specifically, the audio is very good quality, so you really get a good sense of the artists capabilities)
  4. They offer DRM-free downloads (320Kbps MP3’s)
  5. They sell some/most (not all?!?) albums on Amazon.com MP3 downloads also

I’ve been threatening for a few posts now to tell how I discovered Magnatune and through them Jeff Wahl. This is as good a time as any. 😉

In this post, I mentioned that Rob Page (CEO of Zope Corporation) had introduced me to an Andy McKee video on YouTube. That video was posted by user “rpoland”, who I believe is the owner of Candyrat Records. He has 108 videos posted. Most of them are for a variety of acoustic guitarists that Candyrat represents.

At the time, I didn’t pay attention to that, but I did fall in love with Andy McKee. Instead of going to Candyrat’s site, I searched for Andy McKee on Amazon’s MP3 downloads site. I found three albums and bought them all immediately.

A few weeks after I bought those albums, I was listening to Pandora. I have six different stations that I’ve created on Pandora, and one of them is mostly acoustic music. On January 2nd, 2008, I heard a song that I thought was fantastic, so I made sure to write down the artist’s name: Don Ross. I went to YouTube and found tons of videos of him as well, and noticed that it was the same “rpoland” and Candyrat Records.

This time I went to the site. I saw on the front page of the site that a few days from then, Don Ross was releasing a new CD with Andy McKee. Cool! I went to Amazon.com and checked for Don Ross, and sure enough, they had something like five of his CDs available. I decided to wait to see if they would pick up his new CD when it was released.

When the day came, I checked, and Amazon was not carrying the new CD. They still aren’t, over a week after release. So, I decided to investigate Candyrat a little further. I searched for Candyrat DRM. I found a very interesting blog post here. As you’ll see if you read that post, he makes a lot of the same points I make here (or will make, shortly). 😉

When I clicked on Magnatune, I listened to Jeff Wahl (and watched a bunch of his YouTube videos as well), and ended up buying all three of his CDs (as previously reported).

Now that I was sure that Candyrat music was DRM-free, I decided to buy the new Don Ross and Andy McKee album from them, which I did. While everything worked, and the experience wasn’t bad, it wasn’t Magnatune quality either. Here are the material differences:

  1. Music is available in one format only, 320Kbps MP3 (or you can order a physical CD). Magnatune is just awesome in offering a variety of download formats
  2. You can only pay with PayPal. I happen to have a PayPal account, so I personally don’t mind. I know that you can use a plain old credit card through PayPal, but there are still many people out there who will likely be nervous about new-fangled services like PayPal. It should be an option. They should get a Merchant Account and accept credit cards directly.
  3. All music costs $9.95 per CD. (OK, I didn’t actually check all the music on the site, but all of the albums I checked were $9.95.) There are two separate problems with that. The first is that as I mentioned previously, not all music is created equally, and therefore shouldn’t necessarily be priced equally. But, the bigger problem is that when the same CD is available on Amazon.com, it’s cheaper, so it would appear that they are driving you to purchase on another site. Perhaps that’s their intention.
  4. When you purchase on their site, the zip file you download has horrible naming conventions for the files inside. Magnatune unzips into a perfect directory tree for direct import into iTunes (and most other naturally organized music player software). I had to create my own directory structure and rename and move all of the individual MP3 files in the Candyrat download. Not a huge problem, but annoying nonetheless. Another reason to buy their albums from Amazon.com when available!
  5. All Magnatune albums (over 441!) are available on Amazon.com. Some (many?, but not all) Candyrat albums are. Why?
  6. On Magnatune, I can listen to every album, for free, completely. On Candyrat, I can hear 30 seconds of each song. The saving grace is that for the artists I was interested in, there are a plethora of YouTube videos, but Magnatune still gets it more correct on this feature.
  7. Pricing differences! Aside from the fact that Magnatune lets you name your own price (with a $5 floor), they suggest a price for each album. Their suggested price is the same price they’ve negotiated on Amazon.com. Candyrat sels their albums at a fixed price (that’s fine), but charges more than Amazon.com. How can their costs be higher to deliver directly when they don’t have to pay Amazon?
  8. Transparency with the artists. I love knowing exactly how much money that I spend is going to the artist with Magnatune. If I knew for sure that spending the extra $1 with Candyrat over Amazon was putting that $1 directly in the artist’s pocket, perhaps I would pay it happily. But, for all I know, that extra $1 goes only to Candyrat, in which case the Amazon experience is better, so why not save the $1 as well?

There may be some other differences, but those generally cover the big points for me. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing evil, or even wrong with Candyrat, but they don’t get it, quite like Magnatune does.

As for artists, I’m in love with the Candyrat acoustic guitarists, of whom they have a number of superstars! Since discovering Don Ross on January 2nd, I have bothered to look more closely at Candyrat, and have purchased one album by Peter Ciluzzi, one by Craig D’Andrea, and two by Antoine Dufour. All of them are spectacular, and all have amazing YouTube videos available. I have linked one to each of their names, but you should check them all out, and then buy their music (I bought mine on Amazon.com, not Candyrat.com).

In addition to the above, Candyrat also represents Kaki King, who I’ve written about before. I bought two of her CDs from Amazon as well, and a third is available on Candyrat, which I may buy in the future.

So, I’ve supported Candyrat and their artists quite a bit lately. I’ve purchased two more Don Ross CDs from Amazon, the Don Ross and Andy McKee one from Candyrat directly, the two Kaki King, the three Andy McKee, and the four mentioned above (Peter, Craig and Antoine), for a total of 12 CDs in a short period of time.

I know this is crazy long already, but I need to add one more story to the mix. When the Don Ross and Andy McKee album was announced, a quick search showed that they were touring together. I was really excited to see them. Unfortunately, they are touring in Hawaii and the West Coast only (for the time being). I mentioned to Rob Page that I really wanted to see Andy McKee live, and he said that he too had looked at his site and couldn’t find anything on the East Coast.

When I went to either Don Ross’ or Andy McKee’s MySpace page (I can’t remember which), I noticed that the top friends linked were all Candyrat artists. I think it’s really cool that they support each other so well, and it’s one of the benefits of the label I guess. That’s how I first discovered Craig D’Andrea. Then, on his MySpace page, I saw that he was playing in NYC on February 17th at the Canal Room.

When I clicked over to their calendar, I saw that Andy McKee was headlining that show, and Craig was the second guy listed. The third guy listed was Antoine Dufour. By the end of the day, I had tickets to see the three of them (I can’t wait for Feb 17th!), and had bought Craig’s CD and both of Antoine’s. I love them all, but even though Antoine is listed third on the bill, I may actually be most impressed with him. I’m listening to him on iTunes now as I type this post. 😉

Whew. Another mega-post, sorry, but I had to get this all out of my head, and I finally did. 🙂