Chris Kuffner

Ian Axel and Rachel Platten at Mercury Lounge

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When this show was announced in October, we instantly grabbed four tickets (the maximum that Mercury Lounge sells, online or in person!). Since then, we’ve been waiting impatiently for the show to start.

The last time we saw Ian Axel perform was a single song guest appearance on 9/22/2010. Before that, it was 7/22/2010 when he performed an intimate two-person show (Chad Vaccarino was the only person to appear with him that night) at Flux Studios. It was definitely full-on withdrawal time for us, since we missed Ian’s big CMJ show in October.

For those who don’t like all my details, the bottom line first: The show was absolutely awesome!

Ian is releasing a CD on 2/15/2011. Before that, next Tuesday (12/14/2010 to be exact) he will be releasing three of the songs from that CD on iTunes. If I understand correctly, you’ll be able to complete your purchase of the full CD on 2/15/2011 without being penalized (or buying double) if you buy the first three songs next week. Do it!

If you’re not familiar with Ian (shame on you), here’s a YouTube video of This is the New Year. If you are, consider this a warm-up to get you in the mood for the rest of this post:

Ian Axel This is the New Year video

You can preview (stream) next week’s release at Ian’s Facebook fan page. If you listen to This is the New Year carefully, you’ll note that it’s a new version. I (normally) hate when artists tinker with perfection (and I hope you’ll agree that the video above is perfection). Yet, I grudgingly admit that they made an even better version (not that it needed improving), so even fans who have the previous version stuck in their head will love this one!

Last night, Ian played all three of the songs on next week’s EP release. If you missed the show and want to experience a bit of the magic, listen to Girl I Got a Thing on the above Facebook page. When Ian sings “Girl I Got a Thing for You”, you respond with “Girl I Got a Thing for You” out loud (like we all did). Then, when he sings “Na na na na”, you shout out “Whoa Wo”. If you can get a couple of hundred people to do it with you, really loud, you’ll come close to reproducing what it sounded like at Mercury Lounge! Smile

Ian poured out his heart to us and from all of the FB statuses and tweets I’ve seen, everyone responded similarly. He rocked out on some numbers, played solo on Say Something (on the keyboards this time, rather the slightly more typical ukulele version) and added ukulele magic on two others.

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Ian typically plays with a four piece band (including Ian on the keyboards). Last night, they were down a man. It didn’t matter, the sound was huge. I’ll start with the core members who were on stage for all but Say Something, but stay tuned, because there are two other people who will be covered right after!

Adam Christgau on drums and background vocals. It’s simply been way too long since we’ve seen Adam play (7/8/2010 to be exact!). It felt good to feel Adam’s rhythm hitting me straight on (we were right in front of the stage, dead center). The clock for missing seeing Adam play is now officially ticking again…

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Chris Kuffner on electric bass and background vocals. If you read this space regularly, you know that we love Chris Kuffner. All but one of his performances have been on electric guitar (excellent). Still, I lament that I need to see him open it up on the bass. The one time I’ve seen him on the bass, the music called for a more sedate style.

Last night, Chris got to open it up and I’m glad I was there. He also did something I’ve never seen/heard before. Using his pedals to add effects, Chris got the bass to sound exactly like an organ! It was cool and a little eerie. Scratch another one off my music bucket list, seeing Chris play electric bass! Smile

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That everyone at every Ian show loves Ian is no surprise. In fact, if it weren’t true, there’d be some slapping going on in the audience. What warms my heart each and every time (even though it’s completely expected now!) is that the audience totally gets how awesome Chad Vaccarino is and what an integral part of the magic he is.

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First and foremost (before any of us get to see/hear the result), Chad is Ian’s regular writing partner, co-writing many of Ian’s songs. For that alone, he deserves a spot in some hall of fame. But it’s hardly that alone. When Chad steps on stage to sing with Ian (and now to play trumpet a bit as well), there is an electricity in the crowd. The roar when Chad sings is even greater than that.

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Last night was no exception. Chad ripped the room up. There’s little more to say than that. Each is an enormous talent on their own. Together, they boggle the mind.

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Mike Campbell was a special guest on two numbers, playing acoustic guitar and singing harmony. I just recently covered Mike’s first solo show in this post. The first song that Mike joined on was also the first song that Ian played the ukulele on, Pacific Sun (a song Ian rarely plays live, so it was a very special treat). Chad stood between them and the three of them harmonized beautifully. I’ll get to the other song in a minute. Well done Mike (who also got a rousing cheer when he came up each time!).

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When Ian played his last song the crowd went nuts screaming for him to play more. After the band milled around on the stage hugging each other for a minute, Ian looked at the sound engineer to see if he could play another one. He got the OK. He announced that he would play a new song that wasn’t on the new CD. He and Chad performed You’ll Be OK. They nailed it (you didn’t expect otherwise, did you?).

Once they finished, they tried to get off the stage again. A 100+ people starting chanting Shorty (short for Shorty Don’t Wait, another new number that isn’t on the new CD). If Ian and Chad had stepped off the stage, trouble might have brewed. Ian looked up at the sound engineer again and got the OK for one last number.

Mike Campbell came back up and Ian picked up the ukulele again. They blew the crowd away. I can’t think of a better way to finish off an extraordinary evening than by playing a song the crowd demands and delivering it better than the crowd could hope for.

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They were on stage for 53 minutes. It felt like one minute in terms of time flying by. It felt like three hours in terms of the level of satisfaction.

As if the above weren’t enough, that’s only part of the story of why last night was so spectacular. There was an opening act before Ian that was incredible.

Rachel Platten opened the show. I’ve seen Rachel perform a full set just once before (covered in this post). If you read that, you know I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of Rachel’s show that night. Unfortunately, Lois was sick and missed that show.

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Last night Rachel had a smaller band and that worked really well for me to appreciate her on an entirely new level. While I like the sound of a bigger band (in general), sometimes it’s harder to pick up on the lyrics to songs. Last night I had no trouble hearing every word that Rachel sang. I have a huge new respect for her as a songwriter. Every song was interesting, but some were deep and moving.

Rachel’s voice is unbelievable. Power, but crystal clear as well. It’s almost laser like. As I mentioned in the last post, she beams throughout her set. If you’re not infected with her energy and sweetness, get yourself to a doctor stat!

I knew she was good on the keyboards from the last show, but last night she also had a song where she danced up and down the keyboard at high speed. I was standing right in front of her and could see every finger movement. She’s better than I realized the first time and I had no complaints that night!

Here’s last night’s set list, all gems!

RachelPlattenSetList

Playing with Rachel were:

Craig Meyer on drums. This is the third or fourth time that I’ve apologized for not having a good link to an individual page for Craig. One of his friends better force him to have a presence somewhere, soon. Craig is excellent. His drumming is as much a visual art form as it is aural. He played a snare and a djembe last night rather than a full drum set. He also played the smallest glockenspiel that I’ve ever seen, with the tip of a drum stick. It was funny.

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Nathan Eklund on trumpet and harmony. Nathan sang beautifully with Rachel, I really liked their harmonies. He’s excellent on the trumpet as well, lending jazz tinges to Rachel’s songs when he took his solos.

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When the show was over, Lois headed to the merch table and bought a CD and a T-Shirt from Rachel. We both got to tell her how wonderful she was.

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Even though we only bought four tickets (hence two guests), we ended up seeing a dozen friends there, most of us standing front and center stage. It was truly a party in the best sense of the word, with Ian and Rachel performing DJ duties. Winking smile

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Bess Rogers and Lelia Broussard at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Scratch another one off my music bucket list, Bess Rogers. We’ve been aware of her for a long time, having seen her husband, Chris Kuffner perform at least a dozen times. Even though we were hoping to stay in last night and catch up on some much-needed rest, when I found out Bess was playing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, neither of us hesitated to add it to our schedule.

Bess is part of Ingrid Michaelson’s band, tours as a solo artist and is also a member of The Flux Capacitors. Last night was a solo show (with full band), opening for Lelia Broussard (they’ve been touring together). Bess and Lelia shared the same band, so when I say something about a member of Bess’ band, the same goes for their performance when Lelia was on stage.

Bess played a mix of catchy pop songs and up-tempo rock numbers. Both styles worked well. Her voice was excellent, even though she noted that she had been sick all day and was chugging DayQuil. She opened on the ukulele, mostly played an acoustic guitar and finger-picked when she played the electric guitar.

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Bess just recently released a 5-song EP called Bess Rogers Presents Bess Rogers. She played all of the songs from the EP last night, along with five others (one called out from the crowd that isn’t on the set list).

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One of the songs on the EP was put up on YouTube and all of the band members (that I’m about to cover) appear in the video. The song is Favorite Day. There are two additional musicians in the video that were not on stage last night, Dan Romer and Saul Simon-MacWilliams, both playing brass:

Favorite Day by Bess Rogers

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

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and harmony. Chris is excellent on electric guitar and on bass (which he didn’t play last night). I’ve heard him sing before (well), but last night, harmonizing with Bess (his wife), was even better. Clearly, they get some quality practice time. Winking smile In general, their interaction on stage is fun and fresh.

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Elliot Jacobson on drums. I’ve heard about Elliot for a while now. He too plays in Ingrid Michaelson’s band. In 2010, Elliot was voted as #1 Up and Coming Drummer in the Modern Drummer Magazine’s Readers Poll. I was very impressed with Elliot’s performance last night. Both Bess and Lelia had a ton of very up-tempo songs. It’s easy to over-drum them, or under-drum them. Elliot did neither. He was really interesting and extremely fast, time and again. I’m officially a fan now!

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Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony is such a solid musician, on electric and upright bass, as well as trumpet. Last night was no exception as the combination of Tony and Elliot created such a solid bottom, giving both Bess and Lelia a very big sound.

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Bess called Lelia up twice to join her on stage. The first time was to play ukulele (no singing). The second time Bess also called up Allison Weiss. Lelia played the electric guitar and Allison harmonized with Bess. Very well done.

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Bess’ set lasted 45 minutes. I look forward to the next time!

Immediately after Bess left the stage, Lelia’s set began. Since they were sharing the band, no additional setup was required. Except, the band reminded her that the first song on her set list was solo, so they all walked off the stage.

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In retrospect, that was the one mistake Lelia made in arranging her set (IMO). She’s a fine solo performer, but that one song was nothing like the rest of the set, so it set the wrong expectation for newcomers like us.

Once the band rejoined, the rest of the numbers were up-tempo rock. The music was totally engaging and I found my foot tapping (and stomping) throughout the set. The only downside is that for me, Lelia’s voice (excellent) was another instrument, not a lyrics delivery system. The music was loud (not annoying, just really full) that I could hardly make out more than a few words/lyrics in a row. Musically, I still enjoyed every number.

Lelia sang, played the ukulele, electric and acoustic guitars. Late in the set she too called up Bess and Allison Weiss. Bess played the tambourine and both Bess and Allison sang harmony with Lelia. I thoroughly enjoyed Lelia’s set. There was a bit more musical variety in Bess’ set, but every song in Lelia’s set was well executed.

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Lelia’s set also lasted roughly 45 minutes.

After the show, Lois went over to buy a T-Shirt from Bess. Bess announced on stage that if you bought a T-Shirt, she’d throw in the new EP. Cool! I listened to the EP while writing this post. Wonderful!

We also ran into Tony and Chris afterward:

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The show was called for 7:30pm. We arrived at 7:10pm. I noticed that Karly Jurgensen was playing next door at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 from 7-8pm. I have seen her perform one song when I saw Jesse Ruben there and he called her up as a guest.

I was impressed with that number. Lois was sick that night so she missed Jesse and Karly. I suggested that Lois go next door to catch at least one Karly song before the Bess/Lelia show started. She did.

When she returned, she couldn’t stop raving about how great Karly’s voice is! Whew, I didn’t steer her wrong. Winking smile

You can listen to her on her MySpace page. We’ll be looking out for Karly’s upcoming shows!

Allie Moss, Matthew Perryman Jones and Lauren Zettler at Rockwood Stage 2

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I have no fear of emptying my music bucket list in my lifetime, because I add things to the list at a faster rate than I check them off. Last night, I got to finally remove two items that have been on the list for a while. I can summarize in advance that both items were as satisfying as I had hoped they’d be when they first made it on to the list. 🙂

Allie Moss was very high on the list. The other was seeing Chris Kuffner play bass. I’ve seen him play lead electric guitar a dozen times. Check and check!

Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2, a fantastic venue) mostly has one-hour sets (45 minutes plus setup between artists), so there isn’t typically a headliner, except for the paid shows at Rockwood 2 (this was a free show, one drink minimum with a voluntary tip jar for each set). They often cluster a  group of friends so that they can join each other on the various sets, which is exactly what happened last night, to great effect.

Since I came specifically to see Allie, I’ll start with her set.

One other important note. Lois takes all of the photos for this blog. She had a fever last night and didn’t attend. My Droid failed me completely in the low light. I chatted for a bit with Allie’s mom, who was taking photos of all three sets. I asked her if she would be kind enough to email some of them so I could include them in the blog.

Yvonne Moss took every one of these shots (click on any for a larger version), including the B&W and negative artistic transformations. I hope you agree with me that she’s an excellent photographer. The link from her name will take you to her blog on various topics. A most interesting woman!

Allie Moss is a superb singer/songwriter/musician in her own right, but she spends a good deal of time as a member of Ingrid Michaelson’s band. Given Ingrid’s commercial success, Allie tours quite a bit with her.

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Allie has a beautiful voice, plays the guitar very well and writes very good songs (light Pop, Jazz/Folk). You can listen to nine songs on her site (linked to her name above) and get a very good sense of whether your taste aligns with mine.

Allie has a very relaxed stage presence, getting the crowd to chuckle many times. She’s a natural performer.

While she performed a couple of solo numbers (beautifully), she was backed on most by an excellent group of musicians. Here’s one of Yvonne’s transformations (can you feel a Poster being formed?):

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Lauren Zettler on piano and harmony. Lauren played the piano beautifully and sang gorgeous harmonies with Allie. Lauren had her own set prior to Allie’s, which I’ll cover later, but she never played the piano during her set, so this was a very pleasant addition/surprise.

There were no photos of Lauren playing the piano with Allie, but you’ll see a couple below when I cover Lauren’s set.

Saul Simon MacWilliams on a lot of stuff (Allie was between us, totally obscuring my view, but I am sure he was on percussion, electric guitar, electric keyboards, at a minimum, probably more, including some background vocals). He was excellent throughout. Even though I couldn’t see him, thanks to Yvonne, you can! 🙂

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Chris Kuffner on electric bass and background vocals. I’ve written a number of times that people I trust have told me that Chris is an extraordinary bassist. Finally, I can judge for myself. During the set, most of what Chris played was solid straight-up bass playing. Allie’s set didn’t call for anything fancier. (Chris is blended into the background on the right hand side in this photo):

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Luckily for me, while he was warming up, Chris ripped off a few riffs that were mind-boggling, so even though I didn’t get to see it during the set, I now know that my peeps correctly clued me in to yet another of Chris’ many talents!

I’m most definitely an Allie fan now, so expect to see me at future shows (please make room for me). 🙂

Matthew Perryman Jones was up after Allie. He’s a singer/songwriter/guitar player. He opened with one number on electric guitar and switched to acoustic for the rest of the set. Matthew has an exceptional voice making the entire set a pleasure to listen to.

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Allie joined him for two numbers singing beautiful harmony, including one number that she learned right before the show. She had an iPhone cheat sheet, just in case. 🙂

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Todd Bragg played the drums for all but one number. Todd did an excellent job. What was impressive to me (this is more about Matthew, but speaks to Todd getting it right as well) is that it’s not all that common to have a singer with an acoustic guitar being backed by a full drum set (no bass, no other instruments or vocals).

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Matthew’s voice is so strong (not overwhelming in the least) and there’s enough of a reason to have a beat in many of his songs, that it just works, well!

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Peter Bradley Adams played the piano on three numbers. He did a fine job, but it wasn’t integral to the sound of these songs. In a not-so-small irony, Peter Bradley Adams is on my music bucket list too. I’ve listened to the free EP’s that he regularly gives away and I’m extremely impressed with him. I still need to catch him doing his own set before I can cross his name off the list.

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Lauren Zettler was the first artist up for the evening. She sang, amazingly (what a voice) and played acoustic guitar on all but the last song (I’ll get to that shortly). Lauren has the kind of voice that can easily be the lead in a Rock band, though her own songs are more Folk/Pop.

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On her last number, Lauren switched to an electric ukulele (it looked like a baby Stratocaster). I have never seen anything like it and I have to admit that I missed much of the song just staring at that cute little thing. 😉

Cameron Mizell accompanied Lauren throughout her set on electric guitar and harmonica. He did an excellent job.

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If I don’t catch what Lois had/has, I’ll be crossing another 1.5 items off my bucket list tonight (unfortunately, late for me). I’ll be back at Rockwood 2 (10pm), seeing Rachel Platten for the first time and seeing Martin Rivas play a full set following that (counts as .5, since I’ve seen Martin play short sets many times now).

Ian Axel Triumphantly Returns to Fair Lawn

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Ian Axel grew up in Fair Lawn, NJ. Last night they coaxed him back to play in the beautiful Fair Lawn Community Center. It was a very special night, filled with family, friends and fans. I can’t even imagine the emotions running through Ian’s head throughout the night, even though he did a great job giving us all a tiny glimpse with his stories and song intros.

They had a beautiful baby grand on stage, which Ian owned. He had his full band with him (I’ll mention each member shortly) and two special guests. As incredible as Ian is playing solo (an example was his last Rockwood show), the full band experience amplifies that significantly.

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That said, Ian played quite a number of solos last night (one in the the middle of the set, then all of the encore pieces), and each song was phenomenal, so take what I said above with a grain of salt. 😉

Ian mentioned that he had lost his voice the day before the show. Let me assure you, he found it just in time, because he hit the high notes as crisply as you could hope for. Of course, he never lost his fingers, so the piano playing (and ukulele on one number) were top notch throughout as well.

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From left to right on the stage with Ian:

Chris Kuffner played electric guitar. I’ve mentioned a number of times that I’ve had trouble picking out Chris’ sound during Ian sets. Last night was totally different. Chris’ amp was angled slighted, and pointed dead on to my seat. His volume was perfect (for my seat) as well. It’s the first time I got to fully appreciate how much his sound complements Ian’s playing. Bravo!

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Adam Christgau on drums. I can never say enough about how amazing Adam is on drums. Some drummers need to take a solo to show your their chops. Adam shows it on every song, just by enhancing the song itself, no solo necessary. He is one of the reasons that the full band experience is such a plus (for me) at an Ian show.

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Chris Anderson on bass. As I’ve mentioned many times before, Chris is the perfect bassist for Ian’s music, not only because he nails his part on each song, but because he has the energy to keep up with (or is that match?) Ian (which is saying a lot!).

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All three of the above sing a little bit with Ian. Not so much harmony, but more like call-and-answer parts, where typically, the audience ends up singing with the three of them as well in the answer part.

Joining for two number was the ever-wonderful Chad Vaccarino. It’s so heart-warming to see every crowd (this one being no exception) go nuts (literally) when Chad comes on stage. He’s a major vocal talent (with a deep passion for what he’s singing), and to have so many people be aware of that, in advance, is the kind of recognition he deserves.

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The first number Chad did was Shorty Don’t Wait. On that number, Ian played the ukulele and the other special guest, Mike Campbell joined and played guitar and sang. I’ve apologized a few times in the past for not having a good link for Mike Campbell. I snagged him after the show to ask for one, and he told me that I was right that he doesn’t have a web page. So, until he does, I’ll stop apologizing. 🙂

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There are a few times during Shorty Don’t Wait that Chad hits some high notes in such an electrifying manner than the audience reaction is palpable. Last night was about as good as I can imagine him hitting those notes, but I look forward to being proven wrong in the future! 🙂

The three of them (Ian, Chad and Mike) sing harmony beautifully together. Given that Ian doesn’t do much other harmony, any additional arrangements that he does with these fellas will be just fine with me.

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After Shorty, Mike left the stage. There was some hilarity in watching Chad flit back-and-forth between two different microphones, deciding which to use for the next number. Once that issue was settled, they jumped into the song that everyone knows by now (if you don’t, shame on you): This is the New Year. Like I’ve said before, if we all showed up and Ian and Chad just performed that one song 10 times in a row, we’d all leave feeling that we saw a great set!

After the set was over, we all gave Ian a standing ovation. He returned to the stage alone, and played one song. When he left again, people were chanting for him to return. When he did, he ended up playing three more songs, including Home (a song he doesn’t play often, but should!).

Lois cried when he played Mozart, a song he wrote after his dog (guess his name) passed away. I think it’s the first time we heard Ian play that song (solo, during the encore).

After the show, the entire band was out in the lobby to meet and greet. It was a party atmosphere given the makeup of the audience, and the quality of the performance.

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Apologies for the red eye in the following shot. My crude editing tools only made it worse so I left the red eye in (every photo in every post can be clicked for a larger version)…

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Opening for Ian was a last minute substitution, Patti Rothberg. From the introduction, it’s clear that Patti was a big deal a number of years ago, largely in the Rock world. Last night she played exactly 30 minutes of solo acoustic guitar (singing on each number). I was impressed with her voice.

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The audience certainly wasn’t all family and friends, at least three other fans from NY came across the river to see the show, all of whom we are friends with due to our mutual connection to another wonderful singer/songwriter, Alex Berger. We monopolized the center of the first row, and enjoyed every second of the show!

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For you New Yorkers, Ian is playing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on June 29th. If you’re on the west coast, you’ll get to see him sooner, along with the wonderful ambeR Rubarth!

Here’s the set list from last night, missing a few songs (mostly from the encores):

SetList

Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel at Mercury Lounge

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Lois and I go out of our way to avoid concerts where we have to stand throughout the show. That cuts out a number of top venues in NYC where that’s the norm.

For most rules, there are some exceptions. Last night, knowing we would be standing, we still couldn’t imagine skipping The Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel. We would have gone to see either separately, but together, it was a lineup that was a crime to miss.

In fact, here’s my friend’s Facebook update about last night’s show:

HOLY CRAP!! Okay, seriously if you live in NYC and you did not come out to the Mercury Lounge to hear Ian Axel and The Paper Raincoat tonight you should be ashamed of yourself. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G show!

The only thing that would have added icing to the most delicious (birthday) cake would have been adding Vienna Teng to the lineup. While that magic didn’t happen, she was in the audience, so we were at least graced with her presence. 🙂

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Both The Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel had all-star musicians supporting them. I’ll give each of them a shout-out toward the end.

Aside from the always spectacular performances that these artists deliver, last night had an extra-special surprise in store for us. Lois has a birthday this week, and The Paper Raincoat worked up a rendition of Happy Birthday which the jam-packed crowd sang along to.

They were singing the wonderful It All Depends, and toward the end, stopped singing, but continued the beat. Alex Wong announced that their friend Lois was in the crowd, and that it was her birthday, and would everyone please sing Happy Birthday to her. That was cool enough, but he got everyone in the audience to clap a rapid beat (to match the song), and ambeR Rubarth handed Lois a tambourine to play along.

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This was super meaningful to both of us, because it’s only a tad over a year ago, April 17th, 2009, that we first discovered The Paper Raincoat, and that night, Lois also played the tambourine during It All Depends at Canal Room!

They end the song with three people drumming fantastically on the same drum set at the same time (Alex, ambeR and Greg Ritchie). It’s incredible. But this time, because Alex got the crowd clapping in high-speed rhythm, everyone was essentially drumming together at the same time. What a crescendo!

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Speaking of clapping, there was another magical moment early in their set. They opened with Brooklyn Blurs, and then played Sympathetic Vibrations. Before announcing Sympathetic Vibrations or playing a single note, Alex merely said:

For those of you who already know your part, join me now

Nearly everyone in the crowd (probably close to 200 people) didn’t need any other clue. We all started clapping a pretty intricate beat to Sympathetic Vibrations. Too cool to describe, seriously. Having 200 people stop on cue as well is something to behold.

For the tiniest taste of the show (you can’t capture the feeling in a YouTube video), here they are performing the above-mention song, clapping and all, Sympathetic Vibrations at Mercury Lounge, last night.

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Mercury Lounge has a capacity of 250 people. It had to be close to full. The crowd was insane for Ian Axel and just as loud (between songs) and interactive for The Paper Raincoat. Standing wasn’t bad, because it’s impossible not to move with the music, so you’re really not stationary (not that we’ll start searching out shows to stand for).

Early in Ian’s set, he played a particularly energetic song, sung with his usual passion. He was probably close to collapsing in a pool of sweat at the end of the number. Someone in the crowd yelled out “Play in again!”. Lois immediately added “This time, with feeling!”, which evoked a huge laugh both from the audience, and from Ian himself. 🙂

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Joining Ian on stage for two numbers was Chad Vaccarino. For the first number, they were also joined by Mike Campbell (I can’t find a good link for him). They played Shorty Don’t Wait. It was awesome. Here’s a YouTube video of them performing it from last night’s show.

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Immediately following that, Ian did his signature song (which is the title cut of his new CD), This Is The New Year. Chad is featured on that as well. Seriously, check out the “official” video of that song as well. If an Ian set was comprised of simply playing that song 10 times in a row, I bet no one would leave disappointed! 🙂

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During The Paper Raincoat set, they announced that Paste Magazine (one of the premiere music industry publications) will be featuring them for the next month or so. I think the magazine will be giving away a free song each week, and a bonus free song from artists that The Paper Raincoat will pick to match their own free song. Awesome for those of you who haven’t yet bought their amazing CD!

The Paper Raincoat et. al. taking a bow at the end of their show:

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On to the shout-outs for all the amazing musicians who were on stage. Starting with the people supporting The Paper Raincoat:

David Fallo on viola was superb!

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Melissa Tong on violin was her typical excellent self!

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Greg Ritchie on drums. As I pointed out in a recent blog covering The Paper Raincoat in Norfolk, VA, the drums are an integral part of The Paper Raincoat sound. They did an amazing job in Norfolk without a drummer, but the sound was distinctly different.

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Filling the shoes of Kevin Rice and Adam Christgau, the two drummers who between them play at nearly every show is no small task. Greg did an excellent job. I judge that by how many times I can’t help but look away from the singing (and other instruments) and I’m forced to zone in on some top-notch drumming. That happened often enough last night. 🙂

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony is always wonderful. Typically, Tony plays the upright bass and occasionally switches to the electric. Last night’s show was purely electric (both the instrument, and Tony’s play!).

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On to Ian’s band:

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar. As masterful as he always is, but I’m still dying to see him wail on the bass (where I’m told by people I trust that Chris will blow my mind!). We also finally got to meet Chris last night after seeing him play quite a number of times. He’s incredibly nice (no surprise for this group of musicians!).

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Adam Christgau on drums. Man, it’s been a little too long since we’ve had the pleasure. We got hooked on seeing Adam often over the past year, and he’s captivated me each time. Adam was a trooper because directly from last night’s set with Ian, he ran to Joe’s Pub to play the 9:30 show with Julian Velard.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris is perfectly matched with Ian, both musically and passionately. We love his play and his style every time we see him.

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We were at the head of the line to get in when the doors opened (no surprise). That had the added benefit of us being at the door when the musicians were coming and going after sound check. Here are some pictures right outside the club, before the show started, with a few shots at the bar after the show thrown in for good measure. 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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…

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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. 🙂