Chad Vaccarino

Ian and Chad at The Standard Hotel

Send to Kindle

Ian and Chad is the new name for what used to be known as Ian Axel (which always featured Chad Vaccarino). Last night they headlined a show at The Standard Hotel (formerly known as The Cooper Square Hotel). They announced it as their first show of 2012. If you accept the notion of officially sanctioned shows then that’s true.

IanAndChad

On March 29th, they played a secret show (so it wasn’t real). We were there and I wrote about it. I thought that part of the reason for the secret show was to test some new material in public, before debuting it officially last night. As such, I assumed that I could save a lot of typing by pointing people at that post and saying “Read that, but imagine it in a more stunning setting.” To a large extent that was true, but the deviations surprised me.

IanAxelChadVaccarino

I’ll talk a bit about the venue and the promoter below, but first let’s dive into the performance.

Last names weren’t even mentioned. They introduced themselves separately, simply as Ian and Chad. They opened with the same sequence of three songs as they did at the secret show: 1) Cheer Up, 2) Rockstar, 3) This is the New Year. Again, they reversed which verses they sang in This is the New Year. Both did a great job with the other’s verses, but in the first surprise of the evening, the same spot that Chad came in late at the secret show (“I pass it back to you”), caused him a bit of trouble again last night. At both shows that ended up being a charming/disarming moment.

At the secret show, that was the only song performed that is on the current CD (same title, This is the New Year). Quick aside, you can download that entire CD and pay whatever you want!

This is where my big surprise came. After that song, Chad left the stage. I expected Ian to play the same brand-new song he played at Rockwood, a song about/for his parents, and his love of/for them.

Instead, he played Gone (also a song written for his parents). I wonder whether he’s simply not ready to play that song in front of his parents just yet (they were there last night, but not at the secret show). Still, in rebranding themselves Ian and Chad, he picked a song that was on the current Ian Axel CD. OK, no biggie.

IanAxelSinging

At the secret show, each played a single solo song. I expected Chad to come right back up (either solo, or for another song together). Instead, Ian played two more songs solo, Waltz and Say Something. Both are on the current CD (again, much to my surprise). Ian was amazing on all three solo numbers, so I’m not complaining, but it was totally unexpected (perhaps that’s a good thing!).

Chad did play his one solo song on the guitar. It’s gorgeous and I look forward to more of his efforts on the guitar and singing from his heart. I don’t know if the song has an official title, but I’d call it “I Don’t Want to Love Somebody Else”. Awesome.

ChadVaccarinoGuitar

Chad had a special seat for when he played the guitar. Winking smile

ChadSpecialSeat

Mike Campbell joined Ian and Chad for two numbers. Mike played acoustic guitar and sang harmony. Ian played the ukulele on both. The first was a song they all co-wrote, Amory. It would be hard to describe how incredible their harmony was and how absolutely pin-drop quiet the packed-in crowd was.

MikeCampbellMikeCampbellChadVaccarinoIanAxel

They followed that up with their signature Shorty Don’t Wait, which Chad crushed (as did Ian and Mike).

ChadVaccarinoSinging

Ian and Chad closed out the show with Homeward Bound/The More We Love/I Really Want It (no, not three songs, an untitled song, with any of those three titles fitting perfectly, so take your pick!). Winking smile

That brings me to a general observation. This was one of the most amazing crowds I’ve been a part of, both for Ian and Chad, and the opener, Elizabeth and the Catapult as well. Absolutely hushed silence during the songs, followed by thunderous (and long) applause, whoops, cat-calls, etc., the second every single song was over. Exactly as it should be for such spectacular performances.

Back to the venue and the promoter. We’ve been to this venue once before, when it was called The Cooper Square Hotel. It was also to see Ian and Chad (though then they were called Ian Axel). That night, they were the openers.

The shows are held in the Penthouse, which I believe has more outdoor than indoor space. The wrap-around deck/terrace is one of the wonders of NYC. While it’s only 24 (or so) floors up, there are no other tall buildings around, so the view is quite sweeping, including the Empire State Building, MetLife and Chrysler Buildings, etc. The start time for the show allows for the full transition from bright sunlight, through twilight, to complete night-time scenes of NYC. That the music complements and exceeds the visuals makes the entire experience all the more amazing.

StandardHotelPenthouseDeckNYC-Skyline

Both shows that we attended are part of a series put on by Annie Ohayon, called the Annie O. Music Series. There used to be a page dedicated to that on the Cooper Square site. I’m sure The Standard will put one up when they get around to it.

AnnieOhayon

Anyway, Annie O. has great taste in music and will continue showcasing Ian and Chad (I believe the next show is on May 7th, same place, with Teddy Geiger opening). She’s already announced a few other acts later this month. Get on her mailing list and be prepared to be wowed by her musical choices and the venue she has partnered with.

Lois didn’t get to capture everyone that we knew who attended, but she caught a representative sample:

AliceRachelJonJasonRebeccaJon

JonHadarJasonKristaJason

LinaElyseTerryElyseTerry

HadarDougNellDoug

RachelChockyStacey

Ian and Chad in a Secret Show at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

What happens when Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino drop their last names? Awesomeness!

It’s not quite official, but it’s not embargoed either, but the artist formerly known as Ian Axel will soon be known as Ian and Chad. Click that link to see how Ian describes the name change. Basically, it more accurately reflects the contributions that Chad was making all along and is making on stage even more than he used to.

IanAndChad

So, why a secret show? I would assume there are many reasons, but the most obvious are:

  • Rockwood Music Hall is pretty small, and if Ian and Chad had announced the show, many people would have been locked out. Instead, they simply didn’t know to show up. Without any tweets or Facebook updates (that I saw), the place was crowded.
  • With one exception, none of the songs they played have been recorded yet. This gives them an opportunity test things out. Even the one already released song was done very differently.
  • You get to figure out who your leaks are, so you know who not to trust with this kind of information in the future! Winking smile

They opened the show with a new song called Cheer Up. If you watch the video below (of that song), you’ll know what we saw. Ian actually brought that old Casio on stage for this one song and this was the NYC debut of Chad killing it on the triangle:

Ian and Chad perform Cheer Up

After that, Ian moved to the grand piano for all but two songs.

IanAxelPiano

Right after announcing that all of the songs performed would be unrecorded ones, Ian added: “Except for this one.”

ChadVaccarinoIanAxel

That turned out to be their most famous number, This is the New Year. I noted above that even here there was a huge twist. Huge indeed (if you’re the groupies that we are, and notice every nuance). Before I get to the twist, let’s have a bit of history about that song.

When they released it, they put up an Official video on YouTube. That garnered over 300,000 plays. Then they signed with a record label who insisted that the video be taken down and put up again on Vevo (a collaboration between YouTube and the music industry). The same video (ever-so-slightly different soundtrack) garnered well over 1,000,000 hits on Vevo (so over 1.3MM between them).

Then they left their record label (very recently) and the video was taken down from Vevo. They had to put it back on YouTube, with the play count zeroed out. Let’s see if we can all get it back up over 1,000,000 again (it certainly deserves to be seen that many times!).

Continuing with the history lesson. Also recently, Ian and Chad held a contest where people submitted their version of that video. Their friends (who are professional videographers and editors) sliced and diced all of the submissions into an incredible montage of fans celebrating this awesome song.

Finally, to celebrate their newfound freedom, Ian and Chad are offering up their CD (the entire thing, not just the song This is the New Year) for the whopping price of Pay Whatever You Want! I strongly suggest $130, to reflect that value of $10/song, though you might wish to pay less, I’ll forgive you. Winking smile Grab it here!

OK, now we can finally return to last night’s performance of that song. Whew.

They created a mirror image of the song, by switching vocal roles. Chad sang all of the parts that Ian normally does (including opening the song) and Ian sang all of Chad’s parts.

It was totally cool, and each did an incredible job. That is until the soft bridge where Ian nearly whispers: “I pass it back to you”.

Chad didn’t start to sing it, because his brain was expecting Ian to. He realized it halfway through the sentence (and the surrounding silence), laughed, and picked it up exactly where he should have been.

In addition to the debut of the triangle in the opener, Chad debuted a solo song on the acoustic guitar. He finger-picked a gut-wrenching love song, beautifully. So, we’ve now seen him play a trumpet, keyboards, guitar and a triangle. What will he break out next?

ChadVaccarinoGuitar

Ian and Chad then invited up a special guest.

Mike Campbell joined for two numbers. He sang and played acoustic guitar on both. On the first, Shorty Don’t Wait (or simply Shorty to most fans), Ian came out from behind the piano to play the ukulele. They were fantastic. Every time they play the song, it seems to me that Mike tries to top the previous little bridge guitar lead. Last night’s was definitely fast and tasty.

MikeCampbellIanAxelUkulele

Ian returned to the piano to play another song that the three of them co-wrote, Amory. Three part harmony washed over the audience. Gorgeous!

Ian played a song solo on the piano, which was inspired by his love for his parents. When he introduced it, he said it would have been more difficult to sing if his parents were there. Someone in the back of the crowd yelled: “We are!”, which got Ian (and the rest of us) laughing. Beautiful song!

Ian and Chad performed at least three other songs together. Very early in the set they did Rockstar, a song I could listen to 1000 times in a row and still ask “Can you play it again?”. Toward the end of the set they played You’ll Be OK (another incredible song).

They closed the show with one of our favorite songs (not just of theirs, but in general). It’s a song that goes by many names (Homeward Bound, The More We Love, I Really Want It), none of which are official, since they haven’t named it yet.

In that song there is a piano bridge that always dazzles every audience that hears it. That was true last night too, but because Rockwood is small, the crowd was big, and you could hear a pin drop while he was playing it (meaning, everyone was appropriately silent), the collective (reflexive) whoop when Ian finished was amazing (like a group exhalation after surviving a straight drop on the world’s tallest roller coaster).

What a show, shared with a ton of friends, some of whom we haven’t seen in a while. Just chatting with them for a few minutes before and after the show was worth going out for, but the show itself was the cake, they were the icing.

JasonHadarChrisAndersonRebeccaHavilandLindsie

LindsieSaraLinaRebeccaHaviland

LinaHadar

Happy Ending Music and Reading Series at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

Since the remodel, we seem to be racking up the frequent flyer miles at Joe’s Pub. We were back there again last night for something different than our usual fare.

The Happy Ending Music and Reading Series is founded, curated, hosted and produced by Amanda Stern. It’s been going on for a while (to large audiences and rave reviews), mostly held at Joe’s Pub, but I gather not always.

We don’t typically take the time to seek out new forms of entertainment (as thought provoking as they might be), given our crazy schedule. It takes an alignment of interests to push our boundaries. Last night it was the musical guests in the Music part of the title that got us to discover this series.

Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino don’t play all that often in NYC (even though they live here), so we grab every opportunity we can to see them, even when the set is known to be short. They were advertised as playing six songs (three to open the show and three to close it). It turned out to be five songs (two then three), but that was fine.

ChadVaccarinoIanAxel

I admit that hearing the other part of the series, authors reading their works, intrigued me.

Amanda opened the show. In order to promote the current sponsor of the series, Three by Three Seattle, Amanda did a pop-quiz, asking the audience about personal habits/foibles, rather than actual facts. People who answered interestingly, won a large magnet (dog, cat or arrow). The questions (and often amusing answers) continued until all magnets were given out.

AmandaStern

While it was clear from the outset that Amanda is quite clever and quick, I couldn’t be sure whether she was nervous or awkward. It was fun, but it wasn’t the smoothest beginning I’ve seen.

Amanda also described the series. Musicians frame the readings. Each author reads for 10 minutes or less (I’m told they get yanked from the stage if they go over, but I don’t believe it). Winking smile Then each author is required to perform a risk (personal challenge). They are asked to do something that would otherwise make them uncomfortable.

Amanda introduced Ian who came out alone. He sat at the baby grand piano. Joe’s has a great sound system and hearing Ian on a real piano (it’s often an electronic keyboard) was an absolute joy. Nearly every audience for every type of show at Joe’s is there to enjoy the performance (last night was no exception), so it was wonderfully quiet as well.

IanAxelSinging

Ian played Waltz and Gone.

IanAxelSingingPiano

Amanda returned to introduce the first author.

Diane Williams read six short stories. There was very clever writing, pacing, imagery going on, but I can’t say it’s the type of material I would personally choose to read. A few times (not too many) there were just enough vulgarities that would cause some people to instantly turn off. In most of those cases it wasn’t obvious to me whether they added to the story or were there for shock value (or to be cool).

DianeWilliams

Diane declined to do the risk portion on stage. She noted that simply agreeing to read her stories in public was risk enough for her. Smile

Amanda returned to introduce the next author.

Hari Kunzru read from a chapter in an upcoming book (to be published this spring). It appeared to be about 2/3’s to 3/4’s of the way into the book. I enjoyed both the concept and his delivery, though of course I have no idea how it fits in with the overall book.

HariKunzru

For his risk, Harry told a long (and completely captivating) story, leading up to the actual risk, juggling. Smile

HariKunzruJuggling

Amanda returned again to introduce the final author.

Adam Rapp read the first chapter from his upcoming book (also to be published this spring). It’s the kind of material I used to eat up when I was younger. First-person narrative (though Adam explained that there were four main characters, each of whom has their own voice in the book, but the first chapter is just one of them), that bounces all over the place, keeping your mind juggling (I was inspired by Hari to use that word!) a variety of images, not knowing where they’re heading.

AdamRapp

For his risk, Adam sang the chorus to Don’t Know Much (a Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville tune, one of my favorites). He sang it in his best Aaron Neville impression. The reason this was his risk? According to him, he sings it in Aaron’s voice, at home, every day. Winking smile

Amanda returned to introduce Ian, this time introducing Chad Vaccarino as well.

ChadVaccarino

Ian and Chad performed You’ll Be OK followed by This is the New Year. To repeat, with the sound system at Joe’s, and Ian on a real piano, wow is the only word to describe their delivery.

IanAxelChadVaccarino

Chad left the stage and Ian closed with the obligatory cover. I might not have mentioned above, but just like each author has to take a risk, each musician has to play one cover, and they have to try to get the audience to sing along.

Ian chose Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me. I am not sure how many people sang along, but I am 100% sure that Ian was awesome in his rendition. His piano play was crisp and his vocals were perfect. Randy would have been proud if he was there (perhaps he was, but he didn’t bother to introduce himself to me).

Amanda said her goodbyes immediately thereafter. I mentioned that she might have been nervous kicking off the show. While she never came across as a professional speaker, she definitely got more comfortable each time she stepped on the stage (a total of six times). She’s smart, funny, clever and quick. I haven’t read any of her books, but I’m betting those characteristics are apparent there as well.

Here is the program for the evening. Click on any picture for a larger image:

Program

We ran into friends there as well. Smile

TerKevinChadVaccarinoIanAxelHadar

An Australian fan (other than me) went up to speak to Ian and Chad after the show!

IanAxelAustralianFan

Rock Talk with Ian Axel at Feinstein’s Hosted by Phil Lipof

Send to Kindle

Another Monday, another excruciatingly difficult choice of shows to see. There were four can’t miss ones all going on at the same time. This week’s calculus was radically different than last, but after crunching the numbers, we ended up selecting the same group of performers.

Ian Axel appeared on Rock Talk, hosted by ABC’s Phil Lipof. The event (it’s not just a show) was held at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency Hotel. We selected this over the other shows because of the format. Rock Talk is a mix of interviews and performance. Phil Lipof interviews the performers about the specific songs, their writing process, motivations, experiences, etc.

ChadVaccarinoPhilLipofIanAxel

Given that Phil is an award winning Anchor and Reporter, the concept intrigued us. Phil was masterful (no surprise).

PhilLipof

Phil started by introducing Ian and asking a few questions. Then Ian played Waltz. The evening was sponsored by Gibson Guitar Corp., makers of Gibson Guitars and Baldwin Pianos. Ian sat behind a gorgeous looking and sounding Baldwin Grand Piano.

PhilLipofIanAxel

My guess is that most of the people in the room were familiar with Ian’s music. Some may never have seen him perform live before. Phil was among the latter, familiar with the music, watched the videos, but was finally experiencing it first hand. Waltz, on a grand piano, with a good sound system, in an intimate room, is a perfect way to be introduced to Ian.

IanAxel

The expression on Phil’s face when Ian’s hands were flying up and down the keyboard was priceless. When the song was over, Phil told us that he wished there was an overhead camera so that we could all see what he was seeing. Typically, the piano is turned sideways (parallel to the stage) so half the audience can see the keyboard. Last night, it was perpendicular, so only Phil could see the keyboard.

That made for a number of amusing moments (to me). When Ian plays solos (meaning, when he’s not singing), he often tilts his head to one side or the other, getting lost in the music. Last night, given the angle of the piano, that meant that Ian completely disappeared from view, creating the impression that we were watching a player piano. At those moments, watching Phil’s face gave you a sense of the magic happening just out of sight.

Phil continued interviewing Ian, telling us that we were about to hear a song that was very different from Waltz. He was right, Say Something is different in every way. Ian talked about the inspiration for the song, how long it took to write, how and why it was started on piano (the writing) but finished on the ukulele.

He then played it for us. Phil summed it up by saying that even though he hadn’t gone through the same experience Ian did, his heart was breaking nonetheless while listening to Ian sing. I agree (though I have experienced exactly what Ian was singing about, long ago).

He then switched gears again, introducing Gone and explaining what he (Phil) found out during his research watching YouTube videos and reading the comments. He mentioned he had heard Ian’s Mom didn’t particularly care for that song. He then called out to ask whether she still felt that way. A second later Ian’s Mom called back “It’s not my favorite!”. That got a huge chuckle.

Ian’s family was well represented, including his Grandfather and Grandmother who drove up from Florida. I so enjoyed meeting them before the show and getting to chat a bit.

IanAxelGrandfather

Switching gears again, Phil talked about the fact that many people compare Ian to a young Elton John. After asking Ian some questions about that, he mentioned that Elton John has had a lifelong writing partner in Bernie Taupin. Phil asked Ian a lot of questions about his writing partner, Chad Vaccarino.

He asked him how they met and Ian told a funny story, which culminated in Chad buying Ian a singing lesson, starting Ian down the road that we’re all lucky to be a part of. When Phil brought Chad up on stage, the first thing he asked was whether Chad remembers it the same way Ian does. Chad burst out laughing saying “Yes, that’s exactly how it happened, even though it sounds unbelievable.” Smile

ChadVaccarinoPhilLipof

Musically, the gears shifted again, dramatically. Ian and Chad performed Rockstar. Such an awesome song, performed to perfection.

More interviewing (you get the format by now, right?), with both Ian and Chad. Followed by more gear shifting. During this round of interviews, they talked about another friend/singer/songwriter who they met in college (NYU), Mike Campbell. Chad was in a band with Mike before either of them met Ian.

Chad has written a number of great songs with Mike. Lately, Mike has been joining Ian and Chad from some writing sessions. They’ve already played a couple of those on stage (most recently, Amory), proving that this triumvirate will continue writing great songs.

Mike was called up to play a song with them. Given that this event was sponsored by Gibson, Mike didn’t have to provide his own guitar (though I’m pretty sure he had it there just in case). Gibson had a guitar all tuned and ready to go for Mike.

MikeCampbellGibsonGuitar

They played Shorty Don’t Wait (a song that Mike didn’t co-write with them, but plays often, always creating an extra bit of magic when he does). This is the only song that Ian left the Baldwin for, picking up us ukulele. Something was wrong with the electronics and Ian couldn’t get the uke to be amplified.

Rather than waste time figuring it out, he asked Chad and Mike, and the rest of us, if we’d be OK doing it completely acoustic. Everyone agreed. Mike unplugged the Gibson, and they pushed the microphones out of the way so that the vocals were acoustic as well.

IanAxelMikeCampbellChadVaccarino

The result? Awesome.

When Mike left the stage, the house lights signaled Phil that the show was nearing an end. He asked whether we wanted one more song before shutting down. Ha! Ian selected You’ll Be OK, and he and Chad killed it. It took a long time for the applause to die down (that was true after every song).

It was also clear that people wanted at least one more song. Phil seemed willing to push the venue for one more and no one in the audience wanted to leave. With some reluctance (I’m not sure why), Ian agreed to sing their newest song (as yet untitled, I continue to lobby for The More We Love). Who did Ian agree with? Let’s just say someone called it out repeatedly, enthusiastically, from the audience, using a different working title: Homeward Bound (no, not the Simon and Garfunkel one).

What a spectacular way to end an incredible evening. The applause lasted even longer, because even many of Ian’s die-hard fans haven’t seen this song yet (Ian joked that it was still being written while they were performing it!). I should mention that this last round of applause came in the form of a long standing ovation.

ChadVaccarinoPhilLipofIanAxelStandingOvation

Many people milled about for quite a while after the show was over, the glow was still too warm to want to let go. Right before we headed out we went over to say a quick goodbye to Ian. He was standing with a good friend of his, Philip Ettinger.

PhilipEttingerIanAxel

Lois got there before I did. When I made my way there, I burst out with: “I bet Lois just told you that we saw you on TV!”. Indeed, that’s what Lois had just done. Smile

Just this week we watched Phil as the special guest star on CBS’ Blue Bloods (we love that show). Phil was outstanding in a very dark role as the evil perp (oops, too late to say spoiler alert). I teased Ian that this blog would likely be all about Phil. Winking smile

After the show, Mike told me that the Gibson guitar was great. Lois tracked down their representative (Suzanne) to tell her how much we appreciated their sponsorship.

SuzanneFromGibsonGuitarsSponsoredByGibsonGuitarsBaldwinPianos

I’m sure we missed three other amazing shows, but at least we didn’t regret the choice we made!

In addition to the great show/interviews, we got there really early to enjoy a meal with many of our friends. For anyone considering going to Feinstein’s for a meal (whether that includes a show or not), let me say that the food was fantastic, as was the service. It’s not cheap (OK, it’s actually on the expensive side), but the quality was so good that I don’t have any complaint, just letting you know what to expect.

We got there a few minutes after the doors opened at 6pm. The show wasn’t scheduled to begin until 8:30. I admit to being a little worried about lingering over a meal for 2.5 hours, including wondering whether our friends would show up early or late.

Nearly everyone showed up early and more than 10 of us enjoyed the meal, drinks and non-stop conversations until the second the show started (right on time). The evening would have been a phenomenal success if we had stopped after the meal. Thankfully, it only got better from there.

(Apologies for the grainy photos, which were taken without flash)

EdithKevinLindsieMikeCampbellRachelChadVaccarino

JasonRachelLindsieMikeCampbellIanAxel

NonStopConversationRebeccaAndFriends

LindsieChadVaccarinoShannonJasonLindsieKevinTwice

IanAxelHadar

Ian Axel at Cooper Square Hotel

Send to Kindle

This is CMJ week in NYC. Think of it as our SXSW (since I’ve never to been to the real SXSW, I won’t compare them). That means that there are a ton of choices to see amazing music all day and night, for 7+ days. That makes it even more difficult than it sometimes is to just pick one.

Last night we had to choose from three shows that we would have loved to attend (next Monday, there are four can’t-miss shows, three of which we’ll obviously miss…). Matt Simons and Chris Ayer performed in Brooklyn back-to-back last night. We missed that. There were nine singer/songwriters performing at City Winery (“The 9 Songwriter Series”), which included a number of our favorites (that was brutal to pass on).

There are a number of criteria that we use to break these impossible ties. Last night we chose based on the venue.

Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell were the opening act in the penthouse at the Cooper Square Hotel. The penthouse is home to the Annie O. Music Series, run by Annie Ohayon of Annie O. Media. Here’s the description of the series:

The Annie O. Music Series is a monthly showcase for musicians around the city and the world. Curated by former music publicist Annie Ohayon, the series is open to the public and attendance is first-come, first-served.  Drinks are available for purchase at the bar.  The concerts take place in The Cooper Square Hotel’s scenic 21st floor penthouse, which provides a breathtaking backdrop and 360-degree views of New York.

Let me paraphrase why we went: “Blah blah blah… breathtaking backdrop and 360-degree views of New York.” Calm down folks, the “blah blah blah” part was a joke. I just wanted to highlight the purported views.

Purport no longer, the views are stunning. Some feeble shots from a compact camera (no justice to the actual views).

CooperSquareHotelPenthouseLookingNorthCooperSquareHotelPenthouseLookingNorth2

You can also see the other direction in two of the darker shots below during the intro and performance.

We arrived around 7pm. The show was supposed to begin around 7:30pm. The best laid plans…

The headlining group is from France, The Two. If I understood correctly (I wasn’t there, so I might have this very wrong), when Ian plugged in his electronic keyboard, he plugged it into a power strip that the French group had put out. Somehow, this was connected to a Euro power supply (must be 220v). Ian’s keyboard fuses melted.

Ian scrambled and rented a keyboard for the night from The Guitar Center. He was back by 7:30, but not ready to play. So, we got to hear a bit of the sound check for the temporary keyboard and Ian’s vocals. Let’s turn to the Judges on the sound check: 6.5. Uh oh. There was a sound guy there, and he did end up at the floor near Ian’s monitor, but who knows what kind of adjustment he made.

IanAxel

The show began at 8pm, with Annie O. introducing the evening and Ian Axel specifically. She invited people to sit on the floor if they wanted (it was very crowded by then, inside and on the mind-bogglingly incredible wrap-around deck). Two rows of people spontaneously sat down (as if Annie had a Svengali-like hold on them). Perfect, since I was in the third row and now had a dead-center unobstructed view. Smile

AnnieOhayonIntroducingIanAxel

Ian opened solo with Waltz. It was a CMJ miracle. The sound was flawless. I don’t know what magic this sound guy invoked, but he nailed it. Considering that the show was built around The Two, I was shocked to see that nearly everyone in the room was not only familiar with Ian’s music, but knew Waltz really well.

3/4’s of the way into the song, Ian abruptly stops singing and playing. In early shows (and still in a number of out-of-town ones), quite a number of people start applauding (naturally, the song definitely feels like it’s over). Not a single person clapped. Ian seems to feed on that silence, so he often stretches it out, almost daring someone in the room to clap. No one took his bait.

When he really finished the song, the place erupted. You had to be there to appreciate the beauty of dead silence in a crowded room, followed by deafening applause.

Ian invited Chad Vaccarino up and they sang one of their newer songs, Rockstar. Such a great song, such a great performance of it. Another crushing round of applause.

IanAxelChadVaccarino

I may have the order of the next two songs wrong (flip them in your mind if you were there).

You’ll Be OK was next, another winner.

They followed that with their newest song (only played in public for the first time 10/6/2011). I call it “The More We Love”. They won’t call it that, so at some point (when they name it), these posts will seem silly or quaint. Winking smile

When this song is recorded properly, if it doesn’t hit the charts, it will be because of a vast name-your-paranoid-delusion conspiracy. It’s the real deal. Unless everyone had been at Bess Rogers CD Release Show (where Ian debuted the song), I’m betting it was new to most of the people in the room. You couldn’t tell by the reaction, since the reaction to every song was thunderous.

Ian invited Mike Campbell to join them. They performed Shorty. One of my favorite songs, done in my favorite way, with Chad singing all of the verses (the choruses are three-part harmony). Mike always take a short but very sweet lead after one of the verses. Last night he went for broke and pulled off a really hard (and fast) lead. Awesome! Well done Mike!

Mike was totally obscured from the camera while he was playing, so you’ll have to settle for this great shot of him (unfortunately ruined by having me in the photo) from before the show:

MikeCampbellHadar

Ian announced that the next song would be their last. They played their signature, This is the New Year. Another incredible performance.

The crowd was so loud that Annie O. stepped in and asked Ian to play one more (thanks Annie!). A few people called out for Amory (which would have been awesome), but Ian decided to depress all of us instead. Winking smile

He closed the set solo with Say Something. I’ve seen it many times and loved it every time. I have to say that last night was perhaps the most emotionally charged delivery. What a way to end a set that was equally matched by the setting.

IanAxelSaySomething

Most unfortunately, we had to run when the set was over (it started later than expected and went over by a song as well), so we had to miss The Two. Given Annie’s taste, I’m sure they were amazing as well. Hopefully we’ll catch them some other time.

HadarRebecca

Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Last night was Bess Rogers CD Release Party for Out of the Ocean. It was a three-hour, three-act show. I’m going to post about each act separately.

Ian Axel was the middle act. He started playing seconds after Allie Moss walked off the stage. For people that know Ian’s music, it was obvious that his set began (he was playing the intro to Waltz). For people who didn’t know his music, I bet some thought he was just tickling the ivories between sets.

IanAxel

By the time he started singing, he had everyone’s attention. After playing such an energetic song, Ian announced that he was about to depress us. He played the always wonderful Say Something.

Ian then brought up his writing partner, Chad Vaccarino. They debuted a song (I believe this was the first time it’s ever been played in public). They didn’t name it and there wasn’t a set list. I call it The More You Love, but I’m willing to bet $1 that they won’t call it that (the challenge is on).

ChadVaccarino

This song is awesome. Ian and Chad sing together so amazingly (always, but this number really highlights their skill). At one point in the song Ian takes a piano solo that had a palpable effect on crowd. Lois captured the speed in this shot:

IanAxelPiano

Ian and Chad then played You’ll Be OK, and amazingly, we all were. Smile

Ian invited Mike Campbell up. It’s been over four months since we’ve seen Mike perform with Ian and Chad. Those of us who were used to seeing Mike join them regularly were excited before Mike even hit the stage. While Mike holds his own, the real magic comes from Ian and Chad elevating their game (how is that even possible?). They love playing with Mike and it shows. We love listening to them with Mike, so it’s a symbiotic relationship all around.

MikeCampbell

Ian switched from the piano to the ukulele and they played Shorty Don’t Wait. As many times as we’ve seen (and loved) Shorty, this was one of the most special versions. For the past few months, Ian and Chad have worked special guests into this song, giving the second verse to the guest. Each has done a fantastic job, and I’ve noted it, but last night the song was sung as it was destined to be performed.

IanAxelUkulele

This is basically Chad’s song. He sang all the verses, with Ian and Mike singing three-part harmony on the chorus and providing the instrumentation. Simply perfect.

Ian returned to the piano with Mike remaining on stage. They played another new song (it was debuted a month ago at Bowery Ballroom). It’s called Amory and was co-written by all three of them. We loved it the first time we heard it, but this was the first time we got to hear it with Mike. Fantastic.

Mike left the stage and Ian and Chad finished up with their signature song, This is the New Year. An absolutely incredible set.

I mentioned in the previous post (about Allie Moss) that we saw the Intergalactic Tour three times last month. One of those times was at a fantastic house concert hosted by Lindsie. She made the herculean effort of taking Amtrak up after work to attend this show. We sat with her and captured this shot of Chad coming over to say hi before the show started:

LindsieChadVaccarino

Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss at Jammin Java

Send to Kindle

Another night, another stop on the Intergalactic Tour of the Universe and Beyond Tour. It wasn’t originally meant to be, but when the Universe (and Beyond!) wants something, it makes it happen.

Two years ago, Richmond CenterStage opened with a big gala celebration. I covered one of the nights. Last night was a big anniversary celebration, with Patti LaBelle as the headliner. We had tickets and were committed to attending a very long time ago.

On June 30th, I saw the following tweet:

JamnJavaDoorGal
I know what can make a few smile, especially @linds047 – 9/10 -Ian Axel + Bess Rogers + Allie Moss http://bit.ly/kE5gyC

So, even though we knew about this show 10 weeks out, we also knew there was no way we could attend. A few weeks ago, my friend told me that I’d have to wear a suit to attend the Patti LaBelle show. If you know me, you can probably guess what my body language involuntarily portrayed. I was going to do it, but I didn’t need to be happy about it.

Earlier this week, he called me (we were still in NY) and said that he knew some people who would really appreciate getting their hands on our tickets. Obviously, he would be delighted if we really wanted to attend, but essentially, he was letting me off the hook (he knows me for 29.5 years, so the suit reaction wasn’t a surprise to him). It took us all of two minutes to conclude that the tickets were better used by the local Richmonders.

Suddenly, going to Jammin’ Java to see another round of the Intergalactic Tour was a reality. If you’re wondering whether we had even one second’s hesitation about seeing them for a fourth time in five days, you’ve never met us or read my tiny corner of the Internet.

As with all shows, there’s enough of a twist to make them worth showing up to. That was true last night too, even though two of the twists weren’t so positive. The overall show/experience was great, so I am not (really) complaining.

There was a late show scheduled for 10pm (different group) so the start time for this show was moved up to 7pm (that part, us old folks like, especially since we had a 2.5 hour round-trip drive to get to/from the venue). I assumed our folks would play until at least 9pm, and then the hustle would begin to clear the place.

I was wrong. They were told that they had to be off the stage by 8:30pm sharp! There wasn’t even a chance to cajole an encore. The second the set was over, the lights came on and the house music started playing.

On the flip side (a very positive flip side at that!), the crowd got to line-up and connect with the artists for quite a long time (so people were not hustled out at 8:30). I haven’t seen that long a line at a merch table in quite a while (separate from the long line of people waiting to hi, or get some of that merch signed!). Lindsie (of yesterday’s post’s fame) was working the merch table. A very valiant effort!

The other positive flip side is that there were no breaks between the the sets of the three performers. Each took exactly 30 minutes. While that probably cut roughly 10-15 minutes off what each has been doing on this tour, saving the 10-15 minutes between sets was actually quite pleasant (to me at least). The fact that we were back in the hotel room shortly after 10pm was a very pleasant side-effect of the early ending.

Allie Moss kicked it off, with the full band, playing Passerby, which included everyone singing at the end (everyone = Bess Rogers, Ian Axel, Adam Christgau and Chris Anderson). Ian then left the stage, returning once more to play with Allie with the others taking a beak. They played Prisoner of Hope. I think that was the first time they played it where we were in attendance (though I haven’t grabbed set lists this week, so I could be remembering it incorrectly).

IanAxelAllieMoss

With the exception of another solo song (or two?), Bess sang harmony with Allie (perfectly) and Adam and Chris did their always amazing jobs on the drums and electric bass respectively.

AdamChristgauChrisAnderson

Allie seemed dramatically healthier than the night before, thank goodness. Otherwise, she took great pains to avoid talking about feeling poorly.

When her 30 minutes was up, she and Bess simply traded spots. Bess introduced herself by saying: “You may remember me from earlier in the night when I was standing over there.” Smile

BessRogersAllieMoss

Bess had Allie sing harmony on most of her songs too (again, perfectly). Adam and Chris were on each of those numbers as well. She also played some solo numbers, including In My Life on the ukulele.

She finished up her set by inviting Ian to join the rest of them in performing Anchor (the single from her upcoming CD, where In My Life is the B Side).

After about 10 seconds of confusion as to whether they would take a break before Ian started, they decided against a break. Good decision!

Ian sat down (he was already on stage) and started playing Leave Me Alone! He played the same set from the night before, but had to toss a few songs due to the time constraint. So, no Amory. He played Say Something on the keyboards (reverting from the previous night’s ukulele version). It was awesome, so even though I (slightly) prefer the ukulele version, I’ll take it any way Ian wants to deliver it.

IanAxel

Chad Vaccarino came out for the second half of Ian’s set to very loud cheers and applause. He was joined on the first number by Allie Moss. They sang Shorty Don’t Wait, with Ian on the ukulele (the only song Ian played on the uke, as opposed to three consecutive numbers the night before). Adam played acoustic guitar on Shorty.

AdamChristgauAllieMossChadVaccarinoIanAxelChrisAnderson

Of course they nailed it. When Chad sang, the whoops were exactly as you hear them in NYC. In other places, I am 100% sure that people feel the urge, but they probably think it’s impolite (and in general/theory, it is), but when it’s Chad, it’s such a natural reaction, and so expected in NYC (and now in DC as well), that you just have to let out the joy (otherwise, it would be like a holding in a sneeze, i.e., not good for you). Smile

ChadVaccarino

Allie does a fantastic job singing the second verse on the lead, bringing a similar style/emotion to the song that Chad does. The chorus and ending are three-part harmony (with Ian joining Chad and Allie) that simply forces a smile on your face.

Ian and Chad also played Rockstar (such a great song) and closed it out with This is the New Year.

We got to say hi/goodbye to everyone except for Chris Anderson (who I think was loading the equipment onto the van) and Allie (I simply didn’t see her in the dark). We will not be seeing them again on this tour (a single tear streaked down my cheek as I typed that).

ChrisAyerAdamChristgauChadVaccarino

Thanks to all of them: Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino, Bess Rogers, Allie Moss, Adam Christgau and Chris Anderson for making this week unbelievably special for us. We’ll never forget it! Smile

Now for the second negative. The sound guy just couldn’t get the vocal levels right. For much of the night, they were too bright/loud. Eventually, I either got used to it, or he woke up a bit and toned it down. The sound booth was roughly 10 rows directly behind me, so I can’t imagine he was hearing it much differently than I was. It’s one of the mysteries of live show engineering that feels destined to elude my understanding forever…

We normally eat at Jammin’ Java when we see a show there. The food is excellent and we look forward to it. Last night we were having dinner with a friend and we were interested in something more leisurely, quiet, with a bit more choice. I did a search nearby in Google and found a dozen restaurants listed within 1000 feet of Jammin’ Java (apparently, that little strip mall is restaurant heaven).

I chose Café Renaissance, which is around the corner of the same block of stores that Jammin’ Java is in. The first few reviews I read were some of the most praise-worthy I had ever seen, describing the service as unparalleled and food excellent. Then I read some real slams as well. Then I read some people slamming the slammers. So, it didn’t seem to be a slam dunk, but we decided to try it anyway.

OurTableCafeRenaissance

I’m officially slamming the slammers as well. We had a great meal and were treated like kings (and a queen). I could complain that they were a bit over-solicitous, but that would only be true because we were time-constrained to make it to Jammin’ Java by showtime. Otherwise, their attention and conversation were delightful and welcome.

PorkChopSpecialWithFigs

It’s not cheap (if you go for the full treatment, which we did, of appetizer and wine), but I thought it was more than worth the price. I am absolutely sure that we will dine there again. We did buy two large lattes and one large coffee at Jammin’ Java. Partially out of guilt about not spending the money for dinner there, but mostly because they live up to having Java in their name! Smile

Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss at a House Concert

Send to Kindle

Last night was our third time in four days seeing Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss perform (no big deal, don’t be too jealous). The last two shows were part of the Intergalactic Tour of the Universe and Beyond Tour. All three shows were unique because the venues were so different, as were the audiences. Of course, there were changes in the banter and the set lists as well.

The first was at Bowery Ballroom, covered here. The second was at The Falcon, covered here. Allie and Bess were a key part of Rosi Golan’s set at Bowery Ballroom on the same night that Ian performed. That post is here. Whew.

Last night’s show was a house concert in Arlington, VA, hosted by the extraordinary Lindsie. We met Lindsie when she hosted an Ian Axel house concert six months ago. It was one of the best shows we’ve attended, so when we go the invitation to this one, we made sure to be in VA for it.

Lindsie

The Bowery Ballroom was show was great! The Falcon show was better, in that it was much more intimate, zero talking by the audience and more talking by the performers.

Last night was even better. So much more intimate, total silence during the songs, thunderous applause after each song and lots of mixing/chatting with the musicians before, between and after the sets. Oh, and there were homemade moonpies (among other yummy desserts)! Smile

MoonPies

When we’re down in VA, we’re here to work at Zope Corporation. That gives us an opportunity to invite some of the music lovers in the company to attend shows with us. Last night, eight of us attended (one was a 7-year-old, not a slave-labor employee, the daughter of a slave-labor employee). Winking smile

ChadVaccarinoOurFriends

Bess Rogers opened the show. Before she came out, there was a microphone in the middle of the stage area (this is a home, there was no actual stage). Bess decided to have it removed and the rest of the singers sang without the aid of the microphone either. For the most part, that was fantastic. No effects, direct from their mouth to our ears. A few times, Bess sang softly, and her words were a bit swallowed up by the band. On balance, still excellent.

BessRogersUkulele

Bess played acoustic guitar and ukulele.

BessRogersGuitar

She played a few numbers solo (including her exceptional cover of In My Life by The Beatles). On the rest, she was accompanied by:

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris sat on his amp, and played a very quiet, mellow bass, even though it was amplified. I commented to him after the show that he was able to get even quieter than he could have with an acoustic upright bass (he agreed). It was perfect (volume, as well as his always amazing play).

ChrisAnderson

Adam Christgau on drums (and anything else you can hit!). A truly extraordinary performance by Adam. This was not the setting to plop a full drum set in and bang away. Aside from washing out the vocals, it would have overwhelmed the audience independently.

AdamChristgauSetup

Adam had a single snare drum (no cymbals). For most of the evening, he had his shirt draped over it to mute it even further. On occasion he used a shaker. At other times a tambourine, all while using the other hand to continue hitting the snare. He used Bess’ guitar case as a kick drum (which sounded really good). That wasn’t enough. He often hit the top of the guitar case with a stick or mallet.

He also used brushes to great effect. And, when he wanted the sound of a cymbal, he hit the tambourine with a stick, or with his foot. Basically, he was inventive.

AdamChristgauBrushes

All of that was amazing, but the best part of Adam’s performance was his singing. He sang a lot with Bess. I knew he could sing, but his range was much greater than I had previously experienced. He sang some really high parts, wonderfully.

In my post about The Falcon, I mentioned that we bought Bess’ single of her upcoming CD, Anchor, with In My Life on the “B side”. I didn’t have a chance to listen to it until after I posted. Yesterday, before we headed up to the show I listened to it. Both songs are great, but I was blown away to hear In My Life, professionally produced, with harmony (Bess overdubs and harmonizes with herself). I was already excited for the new CD, but even more so now.

I also mentioned how funny/clever/quick Bess was at The Falcon. Ditto last night. It’s largely a self-deprecating humor, but nothing about is canned. One of the running gags last night involved the above-highlighted moonpies. Bess had one on a plate that she placed on Ian’s keyboard (so that she could keep an eye on it while she performed).

Way on the left edge of this photo, you can Bess still connecting with her moonpie. Winking smile

BessRogersMoonPieAdamChristgauChrisAnderson

She mentioned that she didn’t want to risk them all being gone by the end of her set. She kept eyeing it between songs and making a number of jokes about it. The second her set was done, she took a big bite, sharing her obvious satisfaction with us. Smile

Allie Moss sang on two songs with Bess, playing glockenspiel. In the two days since we saw Allie at The Falcon, she got sick and nearly lost her voice. I think that’s why Adam filled in singing on songs that Allie otherwise would have sung with Bess. Still, her harmonies with Bess were beautiful.

AllieMossGlockenspiel

Ian Axel joined for one song as well on the piano, the above-mentioned Anchor, one of the songs Allie was on as well. It was awesome, having everyone (yes, all five of them, including Adam and Chris) singing together.

In the car on the way back to Fredericksburg, one of the guys asked me whether Bess puts her music up on Bandcamp. I just checked, and yes indeed, it’s available for streaming (both Anchor and In My Life). Once you listen, spend the $1.98 to buy it so that Bess can afford her next moonpie!

Allie Moss was up next. It was clear that she wasn’t feeling well. She could have easily gotten away without performing, but she was a trooper and delivered a pretty incredible set. A very few times you could see an expression on her face that she thought she wouldn’t be able to hit the next note. She did, but it obviously took more concentration than it normally does.

AllieMoss

Her guitar play wasn’t affected, it was very good. She sang a few solo and the rest with Adam and Chris supporting her.

AllieMossAdamChristgauChrisAnderson

Bess joined for at least two songs (one on the glockenspiel) and sang gorgeous harmony with her.

Allie was hysterical as well, but it was largely due to jokes about her illness and the effects of any medication she took (it seemed to kick in gradually during the course of her set). Trust me, she’s very funny when she’s healthy as well.

When she sang Passerby and reached the line “What if we’d shared a pint”, she leaned forward toward the 7-year-old and whispered “of ice cream”, without missing a beat. Did I tell you how quick and clever these ladies are? Smile

Like with Bess’ Digital 45, I didn’t have a chance to listen to Allie’s CD, Late Bloomer when I last posted. That too was rectified before the show. Another winner. A beautiful CD from start to finish. These ladies are on a roll, with their individual careers as well as their roles in Ingrid Michaelson’s band.

Ian was up next, starting out with Leave Me Alone, accompanied by Adam and Chris. Since Ian’s keyboard had to be amplified, both Adam and Chris were able (needed) to crank it up a bit. Amazingly, Ian’s voice was strong and clear enough to be heard perfectly on every note throughout the set, even though he had a more difficult task than Bess and Allie.

Ian is always impish (at least at times) during every show, and the audience always responds to it. At a house concert, it’s so much easier to connect with that side of his personality, and it was in full force last night.

IanAxelSmiling

Lois told Ian before the show that the 7-year-old and her 2-year-old brother (who wasn’t at the show) are entranced whenever their mom puts on Waltz. They both play air piano trying to keep up with Ian (it’s not possible, but A for effort to the kids!). Smile

IanAxelKeyboards

After playing Gone, Ian played Waltz, looking at the 7-year-old and saying: “This one’s for you”. Smile

There were some changes to the set list from the other shows. One biggie started with Ian coming out from behind the keyboard and picking up the ukulele. He said that he was getting sick of playing the song he was about to play and he hoped that playing it on the ukulele (rather than the keyboards) would make it fresher for him.

IanAxelUkulele

I knew immediately which song he was going to play, Say Something. It’s absolutely gorgeous on the piano, which is how he mostly plays it the past year, but it was originally written on the ukulele, which is how I heard it the first few times. I’m partial to the ukulele version, because it’s rawer, allowing the overwhelming emotion of the song (and Ian’s delivery!) to smack you in the face. That’s doubly true in such an intimate venue.

After the show, a few people told Ian that he had to continue to play the song, even if he’s sick of it, because it’s cathartic for them, or people they know. Lindsie was one of those people and she told us (and Ian) about a friend of hers who attended a show in LA a few weeks ago and was totally moved by the song due to current circumstances in his life.

Ian continued with two more numbers on the ukulele (I might not have the order correct). He asked Allie if she was up to singing with him and she was. She and Chad Vaccarino (Ian’s writing and performing partner) came up to sing Shorty (with Adam Christgau switching to acoustic guitar to accompany them).

AllieMossChadVaccarinoIanAxel

We saw Chad, Allie and Ian (with Adam) do Shorty (one of my favorites) at Bowery and The Falcon, both amazingly well. Still, last night was even better. At the other shows, the leads were sung right into the microphone (perfectly), but all three (Chad, Allie and Ian) shared that same mic to sing the chorus. These mic’s are mostly directional, with short pickup ranges, so the harmonies could be heard (because it’s relatively quiet), but there’s really a lack of power.

Last night, no microphone, all three voices (even Allie’s sick one) came through flawlessly and at the right volume.

When Allie left, Ian, Chad and Adam played a song they debuted at Bowery but didn’t play at The Falcon, Amory. It was stunning at Bowery, but like Shorty, even better last night (for the same reasons). Three-part harmony for the win!

AdamChristgauIanAxelChadVaccarino

There were a couple of funny moments as Ian and Adam weren’t on the same page about a repeating section. That’s another major advantage of a house concert, the comfort level between the performers and the audience, where you can actually enjoy a flub, especially when you know you’re watching a great song being birthed.

Ian then announced that the ukulele portion of the evening was over. Winking smile

IanAxelChadVaccarino

Back at the keyboards, Ian and Chad (along with Adam and Chris) played Rockstar and killed it. They finished up with This is the New Year. Of course it was great, but I was blown away by how interesting Adam kept the drumming, with such a minimalist setup.

Speaking of Adam, one one song (of course I can’t remember which right now), Adam switched from the snare to his signature use of a Frisbee as a percussive instrument. Well done! Smile

ChadVaccarinoAdamChristgauFrisbee

Of course, the eight of us bought a ton of merch! Here is a photo of Ian, with his T-Shirt Brigade. The Tour Poster (also in the photo) was designed by Kristine Thune:

IanAxelAndHisT-ShirtBrigadeAndPosterWeHadMoonPiesToo

Here’s Ian signing a CD for one our folks:

IanAxelSigningCD

The only negative the entire evening was that the show started 50-minutes late. We were tempted to run out instantly when it was over (we had a 1-hour drive ahead of us), but the glow in the room was impossible to leave, so we ended up schmoozing and taking a ton of photos with everyone. It was worth it, but we didn’t get back to the hotel until midnight.

We drove up in two cars, boys in one, girls in the other. Before heading over to the show we had a lovely dinner at Sawatdee, a Thai restaurant in Arlington. Thanks for the recommendation Lindsie! Smile

Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss at The Falcon

Send to Kindle

We love surprising musicians by showing up in places they’d never expect us. It’s way more fun when the venue is new to us and everything we read makes us think it will be a favorite, instantly. Such was the case last night.

Having just seen Ian Axel the night before (Tuesday) at Bowery Ballroom, he didn’t expect to see us two hours north of there the next night. Allie Moss was at Bowery Ballroom as well, singing on more than 1/2 of Rosi Golan’s CD Release Show. Bess Rogers joined Rosi and Allie to close the show, so we were actually seeing every performer for a second night in a row.

The venues couldn’t be more different. The night out at Bowery Ballroom was fantastic (you can read about the three sets here, here and here). Even so, The Falcon (last night’s venue) is so much more to our liking on every level. I’ll tell you why after I cover the music.

I’m reverting back to my normal style of covering the performers in reverse order.

Ian Axel got to return to a real grand piano. He’s been playing electronic keyboards and even a mock baby grand (looked like a grand, but was actually electronic at the Beacon Theatre). You can see its effect on Ian. He brightens up and is infused with even more energy (if that’s possible) when his fingers connect with ivory, rather than plastic.

IanAxelPiano

He set a different tone immediately. At Bowery Ballroom, Ian opened with Gone (a slow, emotional song). He played it last night too (fairly early), but opened with Leave Me Alone! It was fantastic, for two reasons: 1) It’s a great song and Ian and the band nailed it, and 2) The audience surprised the heck out of me!

IanAxelSinging

Here’s what I wrote about that song the night before (Chris refers to the bass player):

Hearing that song in NYC is so different than anywhere else. In NYC, such a large proportion of the crowd knows the cool clapping part (and has Chris to make sure they know when to do it, not that we don’t). In other places, there are a few lonely clappers who typically give up quickly.

My hubris was smacked down the very next night. Most of the people in the audience last night clapped correctly, immediately (in other words, they knew the song!). More importantly, three guys in the second row clapped it even when no one else ever does (it was appropriate from a percussion point of view, but it’s not in spots where the band expects it). They kept it up until the song was over. That’s commitment folks. Strike my comments from the night before!

Ian played most of the set accompanied by two band members (they didn’t travel with a guitar player):

Adam Christgau on drums, acoustic guitar and background vocals. Having seen Adam play the night before, it was impressive to see him shift gears and play some of the same songs with substantially more subtlety, matching the venue’s acoustics and size very appropriately. He did a very nice job on the acoustic guitar as well (something we only discovered he could play the night before).

AdamChristgau

We met Adam’s mother at the show. She showed us a photo of Adam playing the drums at 3-years-old. It was one of the cutest photos we’ve ever seen. She was willing to send us a copy, but Adam insisted against it. So, I’m hereby considering starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to bribe his mom to ignore him, so we can release that photo into the wild (where it belongs!). Winking smile

AdamChristgauMom

Chris Anderson on electric bass and background vocals. Like Adam, Chris was also more subdued at The Falcon. Also like Adam, there was a sophistication to his play that made it no less interesting than the night before. I’m always impressed by how professional Chris is. We see him so often, it amazes me how consistent he is.

ChrisAnderson

Ian played Say Something solo. He introduced the song and seemed a bit more emotional to me than he is at most shows. In fact, The Falcon seemed to bring out a bit more talkativeness in general (from the other performers as well) and that’s always a plus for me.

Chad Vaccarino, Ian’s primary writing partner, joined for a number of songs. The first, Shorty Don’t Wait, also had Allie Moss joining in, with Adam switching to the acoustic guitar. Chad sang lead on all but one verse, where Allie took over the mic. Allie, Chad and Ian shared the mic to sing the chorus and Ian played the ukulele. Shorty is one of my favorite songs and they delivered another winning performance.

AllieMossChadVaccarinoIanAxel

One of the songs that Chad and Ian performed was Rockstar, sure to be one of the bigger hits off their next CD (no, they haven’t started recording it yet, sigh…). When they opened for Five for Fighting in CT, they introduced a twist to the song. They morphed it into Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, then back to finish Rockstar.

ChadVaccarinoAdamChristgau

In CT, it was awesome. They did a longer version of Tiny Dancer. But, it wasn’t the smoothest transition in or out of Rockstar. At Bowery Ballroom and again last night, the transitions in/out were so seamless (really, perfect), that you would swear Elton John collaborated with them on Rockstar and Tiny Dancer.

I mentioned that to Ian after the Bowery Ballroom show, but I forgot to mention it in the post. I’m grateful to him for repeating the seamlessness last night, so I had a chance to correct my omission. Winking smile

They killed This is the New Year (do they ever not?). This was also the best example of Adam changing up the drums (quite dramatically) from the night before.

Ian had to come back for an encore (yes, had to) and he and Chad did You’ll Be OK. When they finished, everyone in the room gave them a standing ovation. No hesitations in people standing up. Great way to end the evening.

Bess Rogers was up before Ian. Adam and Chris backed her up for most of the set (though she did play solo acoustic guitar as well as ukulele). Allie Moss sang harmony on many of the numbers and played glockenspiel on at least one. The two of them sound so good (I guess it doesn’t hurt that they are forced to spend so much time together).

BessRogersAdamChristgauAllieMossChrisAndersonAllieMossGlockenspielChrisAnderson

Ian played piano on at least one number.

Bess played some songs from her upcoming CD (already recorded thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign). It should be out in October (fingers crossed). She also played a few off of her EP Bess Rogers Presents Bess Rogers.

BessRogersAdamChristgau

It was all excellent, but I have to say that she totally blew me away (and I suspect everyone else) when she switched to the ukulele, gave an introduction and then played, In My Life, by The Beatles. Wow. Not only did she sing it wonderfully, she went for it and played the fast instrumental part (played on the piano on Rubber Soul) on the ukulele and nailed it.

BessRogersUkulele

Aside from the music, Bess is just hysterical. Possibly NC-17 (not quite R), but it works for me. She’s smart and quick-witted. What else can you ask for? Nothing, that’s right!

Allie Moss opened the adult portion of the evening (you’ll understand that comment in a minute). I already mentioned above how great she sounded singing with Ian and Bess. I also linked to the post praising her performance singing with Rosi Golan.

AllieMoss

Let me add now that in addition to clearly having an excellent voice (and playing the guitar really well), she’s also a very good songwriter. She opened the show with Passerby. It’s a song inspired by the feeling we all have about other drivers (inducing the desire for road rage). One of the phrases that struck me:

Would I have grace for you
And you for me

Amen, let’s just all do it, have grace for each other, in all situations! She also sang the title cut from her CD, Late Bloomer, among others (we didn’t grab any set lists, so I can’t rattle off all the songs). Bess sang harmony on a few numbers and played ukulele on the opener. She also played glockenspiel on one number. Adam and Chris supported Allie on a good portion of the set as well.

AllieMossSinging

Ian played piano during Allie’s first number. I can’t recall whether he returned during her set.

Opening the show were two girls (yes, girls, not women or ladies), The Knox Sisters. They will soon be 13 and 11 (Hailey and Samantha). Don’t worry, their parents were there as well.

SamanthaKnoxHaileyKnox

Hailey played the guitar and sang all of the leads. Samantha played the cajon and dejembe and sang harmony on a song she wrote!

TheKnoxSisters

One of the songs they performed is the (current) default song on their YouTube Channel (Doorbell). It’s a year old, but is a reasonable representation of their performance last night. Hailey’s voice has matured further (IMO).

They received rousing applause after each song (from me as well) and were called back for an encore. I enjoyed their set, so I wasn’t just being polite, but I have to wonder whether everyone else felt that much more impressed than I was.

They are extremely impressive for their age, no doubt, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they make it, eventually, if they continue to work hard. That said, they aren’t really phenoms (in the child-prodigy sense). I wasn’t experiencing an 11-year-old Chris Thile, or a 10-year-old Sierra Hull, etc.

Allie, Bess and Ian all gushed over them, repeatedly. Whether they were being nice (supportive), or whether they saw something in these girls that I didn’t (being performers themselves), it was a very nice thing to do.

Lois bought a bunch of merch after the show. I look forward to listening to Allie’s Late Bloomer CD. We also bought a single from Bess’ upcoming CD. I think Bess said that the B-side is In My Life. We were driving all day today, so I haven’t had a chance to load it and find out if my wish will come true (that I heard correctly!).

AdamChristgauIanAxelBessRogersChadVaccarinoChrisAndersonAllieMoss

We bought a couple of T-Shirts (you can never have enough). Smile

OK, let’s wrap this up with some words about the venue itself.

The Falcon is simply an extraordinary place. It seats roughly 100 people. The first two rows are traditional seats. The rest of the room is tables that normally would seat four, but they orient the entire room toward the music. No one sits with their back to the stage or on the sides of the tables. That meant that the two of us shared that table for four, both sitting on one end together, facing the stage. Perfect!

Every person in the place (wait staff, owner Tony Falco, bartenders, bus-people, sound person) was happy, helpful, energetic and took their job seriously, doing it well.

The food was outstanding. I would go back for the food, even if there wasn’t music (it’s an hour’s drive from our house).

All of the above is great, but we showed up for the music. That’s where The Falcon shines even more. The acoustics were fantastic, in particular, the vocals (and kids, Allie, Bess, Ian and Chad are first and foremost about the vocals!). I was sitting in the stereo sweet spot (as if this was my living room and I got to design my own perfect sitting area).

The sound guy (he looked like a kid himself) was very active. I noticed a few times that if someone’s mic wasn’t just right (from the audience’s perspective), it was adjusted quickly. I often marvel at other places where the sound is awful and I think: is the sound guy in the restroom? He can’t be listening to what I’m listening to.

We’ll be back at the Falcon, no doubt. Here’s a great overview photo of the room.

Ian Axel at Bowery Ballroom

Send to Kindle

Continuing with the pattern started in my last post about The Spring Standards, I am separating this one out from the other two sets at last night’s Bowery Ballroom show.

Ian Axel co-headlined Bowery Ballroom on May 24th, 2011 with The Spring Standards. Last night he co-headlined with Rosi Golan.

IanAxelPluggingIn

Since that night, we’ve only seen Ian perform with a full band once, when he opened for Five for Fighting. In fact, that show wasn’t quite a full band either. They played without a guitar and they had a substitute drummer, Zach Jones (who was absolutely incredible). We’ve seen Ian perform with Chad Vaccarino quite a number of times in between (so don’t worry about how we held up in the interim), including an extraordinary show at The Beacon Theatre.

There was still one change in the band, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Ian performed an exceptional set, which included three unrecorded songs, one of which we had never heard before (I’m not sure they’ve ever performed it at a show). The wide range of styles showed off Ian’s (and Chad’s) song-writing and performing capabilities (they’re most certainly not stuck in a single genre). The different styles were interspersed, so there wasn’t a “rock portion”, followed by an “acoustic portion”, followed by a “pop portion”, etc. That kept things very fresh.

IanAxelSinging

Two of the unrecorded songs are now well-known by Ian’s fans (everyone around me was singing out loud to both): Rockstar and Gold Digger. The new one is called Amory (though I admit to hearing it as Anne Marie). We had to look it up, Amory implies Heaven, or the epitome of the perfect American City. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense. But, it also worked in real-time when I thought it was a woman’s name. Winking smile

Amory was performed acoustically, with three-part harmony, and was simply gorgeous.

IanAxelChadVaccarino

Before we get to the band, there was a very special guest on one number.

Allie Moss came out to sing on Shorty Don’t Wait. In addition to singing three-part harmony with Chad and Ian, Allie sang a verse on lead, switching places with Chad to stand between the boys. Absolutely incredible.

ChadVaccarinoAllieMossIanAxelAllieMossChadVaccarinoIanAxelAdamChristgauIanAxelUkulele

For the one person out there that doesn’t know, Chad Vaccarino is Ian’s primary writing partner. They produce nothing short of magic together. They also sing a number of their songs together, alternating leads and harmonizing together (beautifully). In addition to singing, Chad plays electronic keyboards (adding an organ flavor to Ian’s piano sound) and trumpet.

ChadVaccarinoC

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

Andy Stack on electric guitar. This was the one change to the band last night. Previously, Chris Kuffner was the lead guitarist for Ian’s band. Recently, Chris has gotten very busy producing and his performing has had to take a back seat. I have no idea whether his withdrawal from Ian’s band is permanent, but I’m guessing that for the time being, that’s the case.

AndyStack

We’ve seen Andy Stack once before, when he played electric guitar with Greg Mayo. It was only two songs, but Andy impressed instantly. He’s brand new to Ian’s band (likely getting only one rehearsal in) and I have no idea whether the intention is for him to join the band on an ongoing basis.

That said, they worked hard to integrate the electric guitar into the music more that at any show I’ve been at (I’ve mentioned a number of times how unimportant the guitar has been). On most songs, that effort paid off. Andy is more than capable, but the real key was finding the right spots to highlight the guitar.

On one or two songs (Gone, the opener, in particular), the arrangement needs work (IMO). Since it was the first song, I was nervous that Andy wouldn’t blend well the entire set. Thankfully, I was way wrong. I’m looking forward to more of Andy in Ian’s band.

Adam Christgau on drums, acoustic guitar and vocals. We haven’t seen Adam play with Ian since May. He missed the CT show because he was touring with Sia, playing a string of sold-out shows in large venues (poor baby). He also got to listen to Ximena open for Sia every night (making him a lot luckier than most of us!).

AdamChristgau

Hearing Adam crush the drums on an Ian set is no surprise (but always a pleasure). Adam had an additional surprise for us. I’ve seen him tweet that he plays electric bass on occasion at Slane, where Martin Rivas holds Campfire shows. I never heard him mention anything about guitar. (That’s a white lie, I think he mentioned once on Twitter that he was playing some Dylan on acoustic guitar in his room.)

Last night, Adam played acoustic guitar on two numbers. First on Shorty, taking 1/2 of Mike Campbell’s role (Allie took the other 1/2, the singing part). Poor Mike Campbell was suffering on a beach in Aruba. I’m sure he would have preferred to be at Bowery Ballroom, if only he had a choice. Winking smile

AdamChristgauAcousticGuitar

On Amory, not only did Adam play the guitar (very nicely), but he also sang a bunch, completing the three-part harmony with Ian and Chad. This will add a new dimension to Ian and Chad’s sound if they start making more use of Adam this way. Bravo!

Chris Anderson on electric bass and background vocals. Chris was fantastic, as always. He also led the clapping on Leave Me Alone. Hearing that song in NYC is so different than anywhere else. In NYC, such a large proportion of the crowd knows the cool clapping part (and has Chris to make sure they know when to do it, not that we don’t). In other places, there are a few lonely clappers who typically give up quickly.

ChrisAnderson

Chris was also instrumental in the sing-a-long portion of Girl I Got a Thing.

Speaking of Girl I Got a Thing, when they play it in NYC, you never know what to expect. When Ian introduced the song, he said that he himself wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

Leiv Parton came out dressed like one of the Men in Black, sporting a tambourine and a drink. As the song built up, Chocky came out (as he usually does) and conked Leiv on the head with a bottle that shattered all over the stage. Leiv spent the remainder of the song sprawled out (lifelessly) on the stage. He was dragged off (with difficulty) after the song was over.

LeivPartonManInBlackManDown

At the last Bowery Ballroom show, Chocky was dressed in sweats. This time, he was a full-on cowboy gear. When he finished his whiskey, another Man in Black came out (sorry, I don’t know who it was) and he handed Chocky a replacement whiskey, then stood robotically for the remainder of the song.

ChockyChockyManInBlackChrisAnderson

It added a visual flair to a fantastic song. I shudder to imagine how they intend to top it next time!

After the show, we had to force Leiv to take a photo with me, to prove that he survived the on-stage attack. Winking smile

LeivPartonHadar

After playing their signature This is the New Year (killing it), everyone but Ian left the stage. Ian played Say Something, on the keyboards (he sometimes performs it on the ukulele). It was incredible, bringing a real hush to the large crowd. Great way to end the set.

Here’s the set list:

Gone
Leave Me Alone!!!!!!!!
Waltz
Rockstar
You’ll Be Okay
Shorty (acoustic w/ Adam)
Amory (acoustic w/ Adam)
Gold Digger
Girl I Got a Thing
This Is The New Year
Say Something (acoustic)

We shared this evening with a lot of friends. Here are but a few of them:

AxelsAndersonsElyseTerryHadar

RebeccaHavilandHadarAdiraRachel

ChadVaccarinoIanAxelHadar