Chrissi Poland

Leave a Lasting Mark Soul Benefit The Bitter End

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Leave a Lasting Mark is a benefit concert series conceived and produced by Sam Teichman. We’ve been to a number of them, but have sadly missed some of the more spectacular ones (or so a number of people have told us). Our very first one was a Soul Revue (just like last night) 14 months ago. You can read about it, though it’s super long, as this one is likely to be as well. This one was also held at The Bitter End.

SamTeichmanMC

Instead of expecting you to read that long post, let me just pull out a single paragraph that I wrote about Sam right up front:

First and foremost, I need to bow to Sam Teichman (@samteichman on Twitter) as deeply and humbly as I can. Sam is a perfect example of one person, single-mindedly focused on getting something done and achieving that goal (actually, exceeding it). On November 4th, 2010, Sam sat next to me at Rockwood Music Hall as we enjoyed sets by Jesse Ruben and Alex Wong. Even on that night, Sam was doing for others, as I noted across three paragraphs toward the end of my post about that show.

I highly encourage you to read the next two paragraph from that post, but I’ll leave it to you to click through if you’re interested.

SamTeichman

These benefit shows are really important to attend (in particular if you’re a music lover) for a number of reasons. First, you’re contributing to charity (100% of the entrance price goes to whatever charity is being supported at that show). Last night’s charity was Foundation Fighting Blindness, specifically targeted for their Vision Walk 2012 initiative later this month. Seems like a good enough reason to attend the show.

Second, you have an opportunity to discover local musicians that you otherwise might never hear about. Every one of them donates their time to perform in these shows. Sam does a great job of paying them by constantly reminding the audience that they create their own music (often inspired by the people they’re covering at these shows!) and that we should all make it our business to follow up and check out their own sites and music.

That’s been true for me, starting back at my first Leave a Lasting Mark (LALM) show and solidly continuing last night. I’m going to follow the format I used for that first Soul Revue. I’ll group all of the sidemen (yes, there was a sidewoman as well) by instrument, first. I’ll skip mentioning the backup singers, because each of them took a turn singing a song on lead. Then I’ll cover each of the lead singers, in the order they appeared.

The real point will be for me to call out a few people I’ve never seen before, some of whom completely blew me away (repeating a trend that’s happened at each of the LALM shows).

Apologies for the varying qualities of the photos. Tons of people on stage, often obscured or very far away. So many of the lead performers were constantly moving, so it was tough to catch them in focus, or with un-passionate expressions. This is the best our little compact camera could do.

The brass section was up for nearly every song (not every person was up on every number that included brass). They performed yeoman duty and I imagine most are resting their lips and lungs today.

Ian Schaefer on trumpet, Mitch Marcus on sax and clarinet, Chris Hiatt on sax (@chrishiatt1, no good individual link), John Liotta on sax (also no good link), Steven Salcedo on sax.

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Ian took a number of trumpet leads (in particular on I Just Want to Make Love to You and This Little Light) that were awesome. We typically see John Liotta light up a baritone sax with the Greg Mayo band. Last night he lit up a tenor sax equally well. Mitch, Chris and Steven were amazing too, in any combination that happened to be on stage for a given song.

IanSchaeferTrumpetIanSchaeferChrisHiattJohnLiottaMitchMarcusClarinet

Sarah Stern joined for one number, late in the show, on the flute (I couldn’t find a good link). Delightful! She’s (possibly) the only person who didn’t make it on to the program. She stood with the brass section. This was our first time seeing Sarah.

SarahSternFlute

Bass players: Chris Kelly, Justin Goldner, James Preston (how can you not fall in love with someone whose middle name is Peanutbutter?), Jeff Litman and Sean Murphy. We’ve seen Chris, Justin and Jeff many times (they’re always great). In fact, we discovered Jeff at that first Soul Revue, and Chris and Justin at a LALM benefit featuring the songs of James Taylor and Carole King. This was our first time seeing James and Sean, probably not our last.

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One more of James Peanutbutter Preston:

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The first time I saw Jeff I really liked his bass play. But, it was after reading one of his blogs that I really started paying attention to him as a person, then discovered that he’s an excellent singer/songwriter and musician (guitar is his primary instrument for his own brand of rock). He just released a new CD, Outside, get it, and get his previous one, Postscript.

I note how I discovered Jeff because he just put up a new blog post this morning (or at least tweeted about it today) and it’s another amazing piece. So well considered and written. I learn from Jeff, both in his writing and in his music. Both Lois and I agree 100% with Jeff’s thesis in this post (at least with regards to the part about the MET, the music can be a little more nuanced IMHO).

Drummers: Justin Hofmann, Stephen Chopek, Alex Cohen, Mason Ingram and Matt Arbeiter (still no good link). Justin and Alex were new to us (both excellent). Stephen always delivers, as do Mason and Matt. Matt is another that we first discovered at a LALM show (the James Taylor / Carole King one).

JustinHofmannStephenChopekDrumsAlexCohen

MasonIngramMattArbeiter

Guitarists: Mark Marshall, Mike Bell (no good individual link, but here’s a link to a band he’s in, BELT Band), Jeremiah Birnbaum (also sang lead), Joe Brent, Hudson Mueller (also sang co-lead). Mike and Hudson were new to us. We’ve seen Joe once before, but not on guitar. Late in the show, Joe also joined on two numbers playing the fiddle. He’s a major talent, whatever instrument he touches.

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JoeBrentFiddle

Keyboards (grand piano and electronic): Megan Cox, Scott Chasolen, Nick Semrad (also sang lead), Kenneth Harris (also sang lead), Scott Stein (also sang lead). A first for us seeing Nick and Kenneth. In addition to playing the keyboards wonderfully on every number, each sang lead from the piano, so more on them later.

MeganCoxKeyboardsScottChasolenNickSemradKeyboards

KennethHarrisSingingScottSteinKeyboards

Scott Chasolen is a great pianist and proved it again last night. He has an excellent voice, but wasn’t one of last night’s leads.

Scott Stein is also great on the keyboards. More on his lead performance below.

We’ve seen Megan play fiddle, when we first discovered her at the first Soul Revue. This was our first time seeing her on the keyboards (very nice!). I lied above when I said all of the background singers sang lead. Megan sang background but didn’t sing lead. Sam told me this morning that Megan was scheduled to sing lead, but came down with a bad cold and couldn’t do it. What a trooper for playing the keyboards and singing background even though she wasn’t feeling well!

CrystalDurantMeganCoxSingingBackground

One last piece of reporting before moving on to the lead singers. The show was broken up into smaller sets to keep the transitions among musicians to a minimum. Each set had a Musical Director (M.D., as you’ll see below). Here’s is the order that they appeared on stage:

Mark Marshall, Justin Goldner, James Preston, Joe Brent and Scott Stein. Considering that there was only a single, five-hour rehearsal for everyone to come together, each of the M.D.’s deserves a huge round of applause (as do each of the musicians!).

Finally, the divas, both male and female. Winking smile

Chrissi Poland opened the show. Such a powerful voice. She’s currently raising money to record a new EP. Check out Chrissi’s music and help if you like it (and can afford to, obviously).

ChrissiPoland

Terry Brennan (no good individual link, but he’s in BELT Band with a couple of the other performers from last night!). I’ve seen Terry in the audience at a number of shows, but never knew his name, or that he was a performer himself. His voice was great last night, so now I know and can again count on LALM for introducing me to new talented people.

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Abby Ahmad put on yet another passionate performance.

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Martin Rivas was the only singer to sing two songs. In addition to killing it with a full band, he returned later to do the only solo, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.

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Stephanie White’s vocals soared above the music. Incredible power with a laser-like precision. Stephanie was supposed to sing another song late in the set. The entire program ran over by 20 minutes, and Stephanie’s second number was an unfortunate casualty, getting cut at the last minute. You can catch Stephanie as part of Philth Harmonic (a band she’s in with Robbie LaFalce).

StephanieWhite

Crystal Durant is another person we discovered at a LALM show (The Blues Bothers tribute). What a wonderful voice, both lead and background vocals.

CrystalDurant

Jared Saltiel was another first for us. He was impressive, but I’m actually liking the music on his site even more, so click the link and check him out. Smile

JaredSaltiel

Eva Alexander was also new for us. We were both extremely impressed with her voice.

EvaAlexander

Abby Payne is someone we’re very familiar with. In fact, I’ve written (glowingly) about her a number of times in the past few weeks. So, you’d think she couldn’t really surprise me, especially in an extremely positive way. Wrong. Backtracking for a bit. Abby is yet another performer that we discovered at the first Soul Revue. Here’s what I wrote about her lead singing that night:

Abby Payne did a very nice job (yes, the same Abby who nailed the piano parts!). The only issue is that it took Abby a bit to crank up the volume on her voice, which was necessary because she (and all of them) were competing with tons of instruments and other vocalists. Abby had an all-male backup singing contingent.

Note that my only complaint was that her voice didn’t soar above the music. Holy moly, last night Abby delivered all of the power, passion and clarity you could want in a voice that was clearly soaring above a stage full of awesome musicians. I was already a big Abby fan, but it seems that my fandom can grow.

AbbyPayne

Speaking of being a fan of Abby, please help her make a new CD (pretty please?). Nine days left as I write this. I have faith in all of you. Smile

Jeremiah Birnbaum did a wonderful job on his lead song, in addition to all of his guitar play and background singing throughout the set.

JeremiahBirnbaumJeremiahBirnbaumSinging

Nick Semrad was new to us. During the set that he played keyboards, he also sang lead on one song, very impressively.

NickSemradSinging

Ashley Lehmann sang (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, perhaps the best known song of the night (though there were a ton of real soul fans, who likely knew every song just as well as this one).

AshleyLehmann

Dani Tersini was awesome, hard to describe it any other way. Also new to us, but won’t be a stranger going forward. Her red dress seemed perfectly appropriate for her song, I Just Want to Make Love to You. Winking smile

DaniTersini

Scott Wolfson yet another first for us. I liked his voice a lot, and he did a fine job on his number, but I’m guessing that I’ll like his own shows even more.

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Maddy Wyatt was an extremely nice surprise for me. I was very impressed by her the only other time I’ve seen her, supporting Jeff Litman. That night she sang a ton of harmony (beautifully, but quite mellow) and played the flute (also beautifully). To see her come out and belt out a soul number with the full band was not what I expected. Oh yeah, she also accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar. Very nicely done, both vocals and guitar!

MaddyWyatt

Akie Bermiss continued the hit parade of firsters who did a marvelous job, with Crystal Durant doing heavy duty harmony with him. Akie is part of a band called Aabaraki (who we haven’t seen). You can stream and buy their album.

AkieBermiss

Alec Gross has to be put in the same camp as I put Abby Payne earlier. I’m a fan, and I’ve enjoyed his sets before. But, I think of him as a fairly mellow folk singer. Not last night. He lit it up, completely. Very impressed.

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Andy Mac is someone we’ve seen do one full set before, plus one song at the James Taylor / Carole King benefit. He cranked it up a couple of notches last night and really delivered. He also played acoustic guitar, both while singing lead, and supporting Ashley Lehmann.

AndyMac

Bri Arden sang This Little Light. Ha, I fooled you, because I said sang, like that’s what Bri did. If you read this space regularly, you know Bri is the subject of a lot of posts. That’s because she’s always awesome. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she took this song and created a soaring vocal masterpiece. Seriously, it is not possible to describe it in words. You’ll have to wait until Sam uploads the individual videos (which he will do) to see a poor reproduction of what we were all treated to live!

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Above, I showed a picture of Crystal Durant and Megan Cox singing background. That was on Bri’s song. Dani Tersini and Ahsley Lehmann also sang background during this song:

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Brian Collazo is another one of our favorites, any time, any place. While there’s no good individual link to him, he’s best known for fronting the incredible band, Live Society. Brian was extraordinary when he sang lead, as he was on the numbers he sang background. That we couldn’t keep our eyes open to see him sing with Martin Rivas at Slane right after this show is something we’ll regret until we get to see him again (soon, I hope!).

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Brian also sang background on a number of songs. On this one, he was part of an all male contingent:

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Here’s he was standing in front of the brass section:

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Kenneth Harris sang lead on one song, in addition to playing keyboards on one of the mini-sets. He was awesome. This was a first time for us seeing him, definitely not the last. By the time he sang lead, he didn’t surprise me. When Brian Collazo sang lead (the song before), Kenneth sang primary harmony with him and he was absolutely amazing on that number. Keeping up with Brian is no small feat, and Kenneth was definitely up to the task.

KennethHarris

Scott Stein came to center stage to sing his lead, after playing keyboards for the remainder of the mini-set. Excellent, on both the keys and on lead vocals!

ScottSteinSinging

Evan Felts and Hudson Mueller (of The Gold Magnolias) shared lead vocals, with Evan doing most of the singing. Both new to us, both impressive. Evan did a classic soul dance throughout (a la James Brown himself). He had the crowd completely worked up in a lather. Tons of energy, great vocals.

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Grace McLean was the final newcomer to us. Grace performed perhaps the second most famous song (to me at least), Chain of Fools. Let’s see if I can be succinct in describing her: Wow! (OK, that was succinct, but not sufficient, how about: Holy Wow, Unreal!, yes, that’s better).

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Closing out the show was someone who we also discovered during that first LALM Soul Revue. He blew us away that night, and topped it last night. He had a gig of his own earlier that evening and rushed over to close out this one.

Jay Stolar stolar’ed the show (ba dum chi!). What a voice, what stage presence and delivery. In addition to singing his you-know-what off, he put on a show. He climbed on a table, got everyone to get up and shake it, dropped to the floor (as did a few of the performers) and generally got the blood rushing everywhere.

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For that last song, Sam was up on stage, first playing the tambourine in the back (his signature) but then coming forward to sing background, sharing the mic with Dani Tersini.

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After Martin’s second number, roughly halfway through the show, Sam introduced a representative from Foundation Fighting Blindness. I won’t get her name right, so I won’t attempt it. She described the work they do and the Vision Walk, and invited all of us to learn more about it, and join on the walk on April 21st.

FoundationFightingBlindnessRepresentative

Whew, made it to the end (that comment was for me, not you!). Winking smile

Some closing notes and a treat!

When we were waiting for the doors to open, four German tourists came up to ask if we on line for the club next door. We told them what we were there to see. The guy in front of us in line went into a hard sales pitch to get them to join us. They seemed interested, but left to grab a bite, saying they might return.

Indeed, they got there in time for the start of the show. Both of us noticed them having a blast throughout, whooping louder than most people at the more feverish parts. Glad they believed us and joined. Even gladder they enjoyed it! Smile

As I noted up front, in addition to the artists donating their time, it’s also a showcase for them to be discovered. Sam does an amazing job of not only promoting them during the show, but of ensuring that they’re easy to find online. Sam had a two-page handout which listed every performer (except for Sarah Stern). You can find out what bands they play in, what site they’re at, what their Twitter handle is, etc. Here are both pages of the program:

ProgramPage1ProgramPage2

Here’s the set list (remember, they had to cut Stephanie White’s second song):

PersonalizedSetList

Finally, the treat. Sam cut a short highlight reel. It’s great and will give you a good sense of some of the performers, but you simply have to trust me on two points: 1) Many of the ones that didn’t make this reel were awesome and 2) no video will ever sound and feel like the live version does! Sam will also be uploading a longer highlight reel, which will have at least a bit of every single song in it, so keep checking his YouTube channel:

Leave a Lasting Mark Highlights from April 3rd, 2012

As always, we were surrounded by friends, some of whom Lois captured:

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StephenChopekHadar

The CEO Artist Concert Series at Rockwood Music Hall

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Christina Morelli is the Energizer Bunny of the NYC Arts Scene. I originally discovered Christina through her work covering the local scene on that site. Since then, she’s broadened her horizons and kicked off an additional venture, The CEO Artist. In addition to having a NYC home base, The CEO Artist (TCA) will have a UK component as well (at the very least).

ChristinaMorelli

TCA is cooking up a variety of very innovative ideas to help artists broaden their fan base and make a living. I’ll save some of those for a future post, since this one is specifically meant to cover last night’s event.

TheCEOArtist

TCA had its inaugural Concert Series last night at Rockwood Music Hall. It was a showcase of four of TCA’s current artists, plus an MC who performed as well. The proceeds from the evening were donated (100%) to 2NDFLOOR, a hotline for NJ Youth in need of someone to talk to.

Christina was up first, mapping out the schedule and inviting up the MC.

Caleb Hawley was officially designated the MC, but he was really more of a performer interspersed between the the others, closing out the show as well. Christina came on stage to introduce each artist, so I think she was more of the MC.

I am a huge advocate of ask and ye shall receive. We just saw Caleb headline a show at Rockwood 2, on Friday night. Toward the end of that post, I said the following:

Back to Caleb. I already said how much I enjoyed the set, but he still hasn’t recaptured the feeling (for me) that I had the first time I saw him. For most artists that I see, if they do both full band and solo shows, I typically prefer the full band ones. That’s even true when they are amazing solo performers.

Caleb is an exception to that rule, so far (but not the only exception). His full band show was fun and engaging throughout, but his personal artistry and wizardry is lost (or rather, watered down) in the fullness. He’s so good on the guitar, which is so much more obvious when no other instrument is playing (or when he has only a light-touch drummer supporting him, e.g., Craig Meyer). He has a great voice, which is also more obvious when there aren’t other instruments wailing. He is a great songwriter and it’s easier to concentrate on the lyrics when it’s just him.

See, on Friday, I was somehow begging to see Caleb solo, and just three days later, bingo!

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He opened the show by repeating something he had tweeted earlier in the day:

Caleb Hawley ? @iamcalebhawley

Lilith Fair + Me = Rockwood tonight at 7pm. @theCEOartist showcase w/ @chrissipoland @annakrantzmusic @BriArden and@megfarrellmusic

He said that he always wanted to play Lilith Fair, and this might be the closest he got, given that the four showcase artists were all female (in case you missed the reference). Winking smile

He opened with Bada Boom Bada Bling, a fun song to get everyone smiling and in the mood for more music.

Meaghan Farrell was the first showcase artist up after Caleb. This was my first time seeing Meghan. That said, I thought I had some sense of her because I had visited her site and watched the YouTube video embedded on the home page (at least as of this writing), of the studio version of Lost in My Life. I love the song and the performance. You can visit her site to see it, but I’m going to embed it here, in case she swaps it for another in the future.

Lost in My Life by Meaghan Farrell

I really didn’t know what to expect of the showcase format specifically, but I guess I was slightly surprised that it was completely stripped down.

MeaghanFarrell

Meaghan was accompanied by an acoustic guitarist. Her voice is incredible (judge for yourself in the video). I believe that it comes across a bit better with the full band than it does over a single acoustic guitar. She’s also a bit theatrical in her delivery (you can get a small sense of that in the video as well), which also comes across a bit better with a fuller sound.

She played two originals followed by a cover of Natural Woman (co-written by Carole King).

Gus Fafalios accompanied Meaghan on acoustic guitar. He’s amazing. I watched some video on the site linked to his name where he played electric guitar (even better than he was last night on the acoustic). Someone I need to keep my eye on!

GusFafalios

Chrissi Poland was up next. We still haven’t caught a full set of Chrissi’s, but she’s amazed me every time we’ve seen her sing, even for a few minutes. The most recent time was a jaw-dropping wow, three months ago at a Holiday Benefit show.

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She accompanied herself on an acoustic guitar to open her mini-set. Her voice was flawless. She played songs from an upcoming EP. She’s launching a PledgeMusic this week. So, you can be part of the making of this new EP.

Chrissi moved over to the grand piano to do another number. I enjoyed all three of her songs, but she’s quite good on the piano and the fullness of it matched her voice better as well. So, given a choice, I’d prefer to see her do more piano-based songs. I can independently attest to the fact that she slays it with a full band behind her.

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Christina had been on stage between the ladies, but now returned to introduce Nicole Romaine-Settembrino, the representative from 2NDFLOOR. Nicole came up and explained why the group was formed and let everyone know that there was more literature available for those interested in learning about the service.

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Bri Arden was introduced and came up with an acoustic guitar. In an unplanned moment, her normal bass player happened to walk into Rockwood with his bass, and he happened to have played that song with her once before, so she invited him up to play it with her again. Bri’s voice was spectacular (that’s been the case every time we’ve seen her). She jokes about her guitar play needing work. It’s true, but partially because she’s thinking about it too much. Just keep playing, it will come. Smile

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

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She moved over to the piano and played The Other Man. Bri is definitely more comfortable on the piano and as with Chrissi, her big voice benefits from the additional richness of the grand. Beautifully done.

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Completing the trifecta, Bri returned to center stage, this time without an instrument. She was joined by the next showcase artist, who accompanied Bri on the piano on a brand new song they co-wrote, What Do I Do. Bri was amazing. The piano play was excellent and the way-too-brief harmony was wonderful.

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Anna Krantz was the piano player on the last Bri song, but I saved her name to tout it as the final showcase artist. This was our first time seeing Anna perform, though we did briefly meet her a few months back at the bar at Rockwood 2.

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She opened with her new single, Rubble and the Dust. The video (quite clever if you ask me) is currently on her home page (linked to her name above). The song also starts playing immediately (as I type, you might get a different one) when you visit that page. She performed it on the acoustic guitar (I guess that Chrissi, Bri and Anna all wanted to make sure we knew they were multi-instrumentalists).

Anna has a fantastic voice. Like the others, she too moved over to the piano, where I’ve already noted she excellent.

AnnaKrantzPiano

She closed her mini-set with a song called Foundation (or The Foundation). Oh man, both Lois and I were blown away by it. This morning Lois wrote to our friend who introduced us at the bar to say that he was so right that we needed to see her perform.

After a few more words from Christina, Caleb returned to the stage for a playful number about hitting the gym to stay sexy for the girls. I had the sense that this was a cover that I didn’t recognize, but for all I know it’s just another Caleb original. Hard to stop smiling throughout the number.

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When he was done, he was unplugging and saying goodnight. It was on the early side and people were calling out for more. After a bit of looking around, they finished off the show with a bang.

Caleb picked up his guitar again, but this time, all four women (Meaghan, Chrissi, Bri and Anna) joined him on stage. They sang Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend. Fantastic!

ChrissiPolandBriArdenAnnaKrantzMeaghanFarrellChrissiPolandBriArdenAnnaKrantzMeaghanFarrellCalebHawley

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It turns out there was a unifying theme for the showcase. Christina Morelli is obviously a magnet for females with extraordinary voices. Keep following The CEO Artist to see what other goodies Christina unearths for us!

The show was filmed by Sam Teichman, so soon, you’ll be able to watch the performances for yourself. They’ll probably be listed (or at least linked to) on The CEO Artist site.

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We bolted really quickly. After the late nights we’ve had recently, both of us were really looking forward to being near a pillow on the early side. Apologies to anyone we didn’t say a proper goodbye to!

A Holiday Benefit #5 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last week I scanned the Rockwood Music Hall website for this week’s shows. There was a show listed for last night simply labeled: “A Holiday Benefit”. The performers were a mixture of our favorite who’s who, plus a couple of groups we have wanted to see for a while, but scheduling has gotten in the way.

I snagged two tickets and excitedly waited for the week to pass. It turns out that this was the fifth (and unfortunately last) installment of this particular annual Holiday Benefit. It is organized by Benjamin Wagner (with some others who helped co-found it). The money raised is for 826NYC. Great cause, great people involved in raising the money and great musicians all around.

Bottom line: my expectations were very high. I was blown away beyond those expectations on two levels: most of the people we know brought their A+ games and we discovered some people that became instant favorites!

There were 16 acts (individuals and groups), some accompanied by a house band. Each act performed two numbers. The entire atmosphere at Rockwood was that of a party filled with loved ones. In fact, some of the musicians noted (on Twitter, and probably elsewhere) that it was more like an Office Party for them, given how many musicians were performing and in the audience. We were thrilled to participate in said party.

In addition to the ticket price going to the charity, this was also an official CD Release Party. Physical CDs were on sale for $10. $20 got you the physical CD of A Holiday Benefit #5 plus downloads of the previous four albums. Of course we did that. We kicked in more money later to purchase CDs by some of the performers, signed, with the proceeds going to 826NYC as well.

At the end, the encore involved inviting all of the performers back on stage together to sing one last song. It was hard to count accurately, as people kept jumping on stage (even some who didn’t perform earlier), but I’m 99% sure that at one point there were at least 26 people on stage at the same time. If that’s correct, that’s a new record for a show I’ve attended (sorry Sam Teichman, you have your work cut out for you now!). Winking smile

There’s no way to review a show like this without spending an entire day writing (something I don’t have the time to do today, nor the inclination). In fact, it’s sort of beside the point. What I’ll do instead is similar to what I did for the Haiti Benefit nearly two years ago. I’ll list the acts in the order they appeared, and mention who supported them. When first mentioning a support person, I might say a few extra words.

Mary Bragg (#1). Mary was new to us. Great voice. On her second number she also played acoustic guitar. She was accompanied by two very talented people, who I think played only with her. I’ll list them next.

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Mike Cassedy on electronic keyboards. Excellent. Mary gave him a couple of leads and he was great.

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Jimmy Sullivan on electric bass (no good individual link). He too was excellent. He made the electric bass sound exactly like a very jazzy upright on one of the numbers. He was smooth.

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Casey Shea (#2) on electric guitar and vocals. Casey was wonderful. In addition to singing and playing well, he was very funny. He had two female backup singers, each of which was a lead performer later in the show, so I’ll save their names for their proper spots.

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Casey brought up Sean White to read a poem to end one of his songs. It continued the comic nature of an otherwise horrifyingly sad song (my house burned down on Christmas).

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Paula Valstein (#3). We’ve seen Paula once before, at the Haiti Benefit. She played solo at the electronic keyboards. Great voice, excellent piano play. Definitely someone we need to check out more (one of our friends has been telling that to me for a while). Paula was also one of Casey Shea’s backup singers.

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Astoria Boulevard (#4). Wow! I can’t believe I never heard them (or of them) before. Three guys who sing heavenly three-part harmony. They’re funny and natural on stage as well. They opened the first number a cappella and knocked me back a few steps with how awesome they were.

AstoriaBoulevard

Guitar, ukulele, harmonica and kazoos were played too. They were supported by the default house band (the next two people listed).

Ryan Vaughn on drums. Ryan was fantastic playing with roughly half of the acts last night. Ryan also joined for Mary Bragg’s second number, so I should have listed him earlier.

RyanVaughn

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony was his usual excellent self whenever he was on stage, which was a bit less than Ryan, but still the primary bass player for the evening.

TonyMaceli

Dave Pittenger (#5). We’ve never seen him, but I’ve heard of him many times. Mostly because he’s producing Live Society’s new CD (or at least I think it’s him). Dave invited two special guests up, Bess Rogers and Chris Kuffner to kick off his first number. Dave and Bess flubbed Baby It’s Cold Outside a bit, but turned it into a very good natured thing.

ChrisKuffnerDavePittengerBessRogers

Chris played the electric guitar in an understated but fascinating manner. When they had to restart, he signaled to Ryan and Tony to join in, filling out the sound.

Dave then performed a second number accompanying himself on the electric guitar (with Ryan and Tony playing).

DavePittenger

Misty Boyce (#6). Misty kicked off her numbers on the guitar (I didn’t know she played the guitar), with the second number on the keyboards. Her voice is fantastic. In addition to playing the keyboards really well accompanying herself, she also played them with a couple of other acts, super tasty every time. I’ve been wanting to see her perform her own set for a while and this only increased that desire. She was the second backup singer supporting Casey Shea.

MistyBoyceGuitarMistyBoyceKeyboards

Nick Africano (#7). We hadn’t seen Nick before. (That’s a total lie, Nick played with Misty during her first number, so we saw him before he took center stage!). He played the guitar beautifully (subtle slide leads). When he took over, Misty played the keyboards and she called up Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein and Charlene Kaye to sing backup. Very nicely done. We will be on the lookout for Nick in the future.

NickAfricano

Greg Mayo Band (#8). OK, it was technically the Greg Mayo Band, without the brass section. They also weren’t wearing suits, so I’m not sure how official this appearance was. That said, they were incredible, so I have no complaints! They had a guest vocalist and percussionist join them, but since each was a headliner as well, I’ll mention them later.

GregMayoKeyboards

Here are the people that were in the Greg Mayo Band setup last night (left-to-right on stage, not including the guests):

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Wonderful.

PaulMaddison

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Spectacular.

RebeccaHaviland

Kenny Shaw on drums. Excellent.

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Superb.

ChrisAndersonSinging

The Vanity Belles (#9). We’ve seen them sing backup with other groups. We’ve seen them perform on TV twice. Unbelievably, this was the first time we saw them perform as The Vanity Belles, live. We’re proud supporters of the ladies through their recent (successful) Kickstarter, so this was one of the extra special reasons why I wanted to attend. Of course, they were fantastic. Whew! Winking smile

TheVanityBelles

Patrick Firth played electronic keyboards for them. Joining him to round out the band were: Greg Mayo on guitar and Chris Anderson on electric bass. The drummer was already on stage before with the Greg Mayo band (as the guest percussionist) but I still haven’t mentioned his name (soon, don’t panic!).

PatrickFirth

Oscar Bautista played electric guitar as part of The Vanity Belles band. He is always great, so I wanted him to have a paragraph for himself. Smile Another reason to give Oscar his own section? He broke out the mandolin last night, one of my favorite instruments. Sweet!

OscarBautistaOscarBautistaMandolin

Next up was another group I’ve wanted to see for a long time.

The Stone Lonesome (#10). This is duo of Zach Jones (finally got to mention him) and Emily Long. We’ve seen Zach drum many times (including earlier last night, and he was the guest percussionist with the Greg Mayo Band as well). He’s an awesome drummer. I also knew that he sings well, and that was proven when he was front-and-center with Emily last night. What I didn’t know was that he also plays the guitar. Emily sings really well too and the two of them sound great together.

TheStoneLonesome

GregMayoZachJonesEmilyLong

Brian Killeen supported them on electric bass, a perennial favorite of ours. He was joined by Ryan Vaughn on drums and Greg Mayo on electric guitar. Zach let Greg take a number of fantastic leads. The entire night was amazing, but I would have left happy just for the guitar solos that Greg took during The Stone Lonesome songs!

BrianKilleen

Martin Rivas (#11). Martin had previously sung as a guest with the Greg Mayo Band, wonderfully. He now took center stage and wowed everyone with two of his own songs (one a Christmas number, the other off of his new CD, due out in May, 2012). He was supported (incredibly) by Patrick Firth, Greg Mayo, Chris Kuffner, Zach Jones and Brian Killeen.

MartinRivas

A few items were raffled off during the evening. One of them was a jar of Martin Rivas’ world-famous spaghetti sauce (or is it more properly referred to as tomato sauce?!?). Anyway, we won it (see the proof here and again in a couple of the photos at the very bottom!). Can’t wait to savor it!

BenjaminWagnerRivasSauceJarMartinRivasLoisSauce

Chrissi Poland (#12). We’ve only seen Chrissi singing backup with others. We knew she had an extraordinary voice but I have to say that I still didn’t understand the full effect of it until last night. Another wow. We won’t be attending, but if you want to catch her headlining a show, with Martin Rivas opening, head to Highline Ballroom this Sunday night (Dec 18th, 2011). You won’t be disappointed!

ChrissiPolandGuitar

On her first number, she played guitar and was accompanied by Patrick Firth, Greg Mayo, Rebecca Haviland, Martin Rivas, Ryan Vaughn and Brian Killeen.

She then put the guitar down and blew everyone away accompanied by the same band, minus the backup singers (Rebecca and Martin). Her voice and stage presence had us eating out of her hand.

ChrissiPolandSinging

Caleb Hawley (#13). Caleb is one of my favorites and I’m always disappointed when I can’t make it to one of his shows (which happens more frequently than I care to admit, including the night before!). At least I got a taste last night to hold me over until his next full show.

CalebHawley

Caleb was supported by Patrick Firth, Ryan Vaughn, Zach Jones and Brian Killeen. There was dancing in the audience (not atypical of any Caleb performance), but I won’t post the pictures, since those people didn’t sign any waivers. Winking smile

Benjamin Wagner (#14). Benjamin was our host throughout the show, introducing each act as they were coming on stage. Now it was his turn to shine and shine he did. He has a wonderful voice and he wielded it for our delight. He was joined by a stellar band. I’ll mention all but two of them, since they were the next two headliners and hadn’t yet made an appearance.

BenjaminWagnerSinging

Misty Boyce on keyboards, Chrissi Poland singing backup, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. All, great!

For his second number, additional backup singers joined: Mary Bragg, Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein and Martin Rivas.

In true showman style, Benjamin left the stage and prostrated himself right in front of us! Smile

BenjaminWagnerOnTheFloor

Bryan Dunn (#15). Bryan also played guitar on Benjamin’s set. Bryan is wonderful all around. When Benjamin introduced him, he said “Bryan is normally a rocker, but he’s going to bring you down a bit with his first number.” Ha! I hope no one fell for that. It might have started out sounding like a ballad, but Bryan had everyone hopping in no time.

BryanDunn

Both his numbers were fantastic (and no, I wasn’t the least bit surprised!).

He was supported (wonderfully) by Misty Boyce, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. He also had another guitar player and vocalist, but since he was the next headliner, I’ll save his name for the very next line.

Chris Abad (#16). Another wow for me. He played guitar for Benjamin and Bryan Dunn and sang harmony with Bryan. His guitar play was awesome. It looked like he was playing one of Greg Mayo’s two electric guitars, so for a minute, I thought that perhaps Greg just has magical guitars and anyone could make them sound this good. I checked after the show, and the guitars are just look-a-likes, so apparently Chris is just really that good. Winking smile

ChrisAbad

He also sang at center stage when Bryan was done, and did a great job. He was supported by Misty Boyce, Bryan Dunn, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. If I heard correctly, Chris also produced at least one of Bryan’s CDs, perhaps the upcoming one as well. Talented guy, no doubt!

For his second number, he was joined by a slew of backup singers: Mary Bragg, Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein, Charlene Kaye, Chris Kuffner and Benjamin Wagner.

ChrisAbadMaryBraggBessRogersPaulaValsteinCharleneKayChrisKuffnerBenjaminWagner

Like I said above, the finale had a ton of people on stage. Here are some photos:

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One of the only performers who didn’t hop on stage was Kenny Shaw. When Martin tried to get him to come up, Kenny seemed to motion to Martin to come down instead. Martin took it as an invitation to have Kenny hold him in his arms. Kenny obliged! Smile

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We shared the evening a number of friends. In one of the photos you can even see our hard-won jar of sauce (I went with the cautious “sauce” with no modifier there).

RebeccaHavilandRobinChrisAndersonMom

KellySamTeichmanKellyKristenSauce

Here’s a shot of our bounty from the night:

HolidayBenefitBounty

Alex Berger at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Alex Berger headlined a special show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. Special, because we Americans rarely get an opportunity to see him since he abandoned us 20 months ago to return to his native England. His last show in NYC was also at Rockwood 2, 11 months ago (covered here).

AlexBergerPiano

Alex is like a giant English magnet. In addition to hearing great music, performed wonderfully, it was like being in a friend’s living room (a very large, crowded one), given how many of the people we love we bumped into, hugged, waved to, chatted with, etc. (Photos at the bottom of a small sample of said people.)

Right before Alex returned to England, he put out his debut album, Snow Globe. It has since won two International awards. He has amassed enough new material to record his second CD, which he’ll be doing in a few months, produced by Alex Wong (who also produced Snow Globe).

Alex opened the show solo at the grand piano. He captivated the audience with his silky voice and exceptional piano play. From that point on, most of the songs had at least one special guest (often more). This morning I read a tweet, which I couldn’t agree with more:

martinrivas Martin Rivas

So impressed with how @BergerAlex so effortlessly carries a room by himself. What a show!

Alex switched back-and-forth between the piano and an electric guitar. In a not-so-small irony, that guitar (which sounded amazing) was borrowed from his good friend Adam Levy. Adam just happened to be headlining a set on the other side of the wall at Rockwood 1. Each would likely have happily guested on the other’s set, if it were not for the bad luck scheduling.

AlexBergerSinging

In addition to sporting Adam’s guitar, Alex used it to play a song they co-wrote, which will be on the upcoming CD, A Kiss is as Sweet as it Gets.

Alex played a number of songs that he co-wrote with other top NYC-based songwriters. I believe that every one of them will be on the new CD. Two of them were guest stars who got to sing the song with Alex.

The first was Jay Stolar who came up with an acoustic guitar. That song was not the song Jay co-wrote with Alex. He sang Ari Hest’s part in a song Ari co-wrote with Alex.

JayStolarAlexBergerJayStolar

Alex Wong joined Alex Berger, along with Martin Rivas (who played Adam Levy’s guitar, beautifully!), to sing their co-written The Fighter. That song will be on each of their upcoming CD’s. Let the battle begin to see which one does it better. Keep in mind that Wong is producing both CDs, so Berger better be careful of sabotage if winning the title is important to Wong. Winking smile

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Jay Stolar returned late in the set (second-to-last song?) with Martin Rivas and Chrissi Poland to sing the song he co-wrote with Alex. The introduction was but one example of how relaxed and entertaining Alex is in talking to the audience (I’d almost say caressing the audience). He noted that this was a very upbeat song about the End of the World. Winking smile

MartinRivasChrissiPolandJayStolar

The four of them proceeded to make us laugh while singing their hearts out.

Speaking of laughing, perhaps my favorite song of the evening was one Alex co-wrote with Bess Rogers (who is on tour and couldn’t be there). This song is about reading too much into every situation. It’s hysterical, but so melodic and lyrical. Alex was awesome on the guitar as well, making his lush picking and strumming seem effortless. It was a joy, with everyone laughing at practically every line.

This photo doesn’t quite capture the ease with which Alex delivers his banter, but it will at least remind us of it. Smile

AlexBergerBantering

For completeness sake, another song Alex performed was co-written with Allie Moss (who also couldn’t attend last night). In other words, Alex has very good taste in who to write with, as do each of the people who were wise enough to write with him. Smile

I can’t give you the titles to any of these songs, as I didn’t notice a set list on stage to grab.

Ezra Gale on upright bass accompanied Alex on roughly half the songs. He was terrific on every number.

EzraGale

Andrew Nemr joined Alex to dance on two numbers. He tapped beautifully (and mostly subtly), adding the only percussion of the performance. He was originally scheduled to do one number, but everyone encouraged him to stay on stage for the next one as well.

AlexBergerAndrewNemrEzraGale

I mentioned above that Snow Globe won two awards. One was by a panel that included Tom Waits, one of Alex’s inspirations. Even though Alex had a ton of new (original) material he would never have the time to get through in this set, he wanted to honor Tom’s influence on him (and the selection of Snow Globe as Best Story Song!), so he played one Tom Waits song on the piano.

The guest performers obviously enjoyed the set even when they weren’t on stage!

MartinRivasJayStolarAlexWong

Great music, performed wonderfully, surrounded by friends in a warm environment. Alex Berger better not make us wait another 11 months before he plays in NYC again!

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Martin Rivas and Greg Mayo Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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There was an all-star triple-header lineup at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. Robbie Gil at 9pm, Martin Rivas at 10pm and the Greg Mayo Band at 11pm. I was committed to seeing Martin and Greg, but I was really looking forward to catching Robbie’s set as well. The best laid plans… I’ll end the post with why/how I missed Robbie’s set (again).

Lois didn’t make the show (see why at the bottom). All complaints about photo quality go to me, but I was also further away, so there was little I could do. As you’ll see below, tons of people on stage, some were basically out of view for much of the show.

As is typical for a big lineup Saturday at Rockwood, three things could be counted on:

  • Capacity crowd (great on most levels, crappy on a few)
  • Sets starting late (due to setup time and fans insisting on longer sets than scheduled)
  • Awesome music

Martin Rivas had a full(er) band. He opened the show with seven people on stage, but after three (or four?) numbers, he brought out a horn section as well, bringing the number of people on stage to 10. That was a new record for the number of people on stage at the same time at Rockwood for a show that I was at. Later on, Martin had two separate guests join, setting the new record at 11.

MartinRivasChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBrassSection

This was a typical Martin Rivas show:

  • Incredible energy from every band member
  • Incredible energy from every audience member
  • Lots of Soul, Funk and Rock, sprinkled with other stuff
  • Generosity from Martin, giving solos to (nearly) every band member (no bass solo)
  • Freshly baked cookies passed around the audience (Lois, no worries, amazingly, the cookies never passed me, so I didn’t have to show any restraint!) Winking smile
  • Pins passed around the audience (Sam Teichman made sure I got one, but he did not make sure I got a cookie, or Lois secretly got to him and he made sure I didn’t!)
  • Spirits lifted

Given how many people played across these two sets, I’ll get right to it, left-to-right, front-to-back on the stage, supporting Martin:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. They lifted the grand piano off the stage (one of the cool sights at Rockwood 2). Patrick was his usual excellent self, including a few great solos.

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Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Another fantastic performance from an all-around star. I’ll have a couple more things to say about Chris when I get to the other guitarist, Greg Mayo.

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Ryan Vaughn on percussion. If you can bang it or shake it, Ryan was doing it.

RyanVaughn

Craig Meyer on drums. Craig is always wonderful. We saw him a week ago supporting Rachel Platten. The difference in styles (including the drum kit itself) between that type of performance and last night is dramatic. Craig handles it all. He was such an integral part of the upbeat sound keeping everything hopping. (No photo, sorry!)

John Liotta on the baritone sax. Excellent. He was more prominent in the next set, but held his own in this one.

JohnLiotta

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Wayne was terrific. He took a couple of solos, including one where he played a few notes staccato at very high speed for a few bars, very tasty, adding to the funk sounds beautifully.

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From my vantage point, it appeared to me that Wayne’s right cheek was bruised with a shiner the likes of which I hadn’t seen for a very long time. Every time he puffed his cheek to play, I winced on his behalf. You’ll have to stick around (or skip ahead) to the next set to find out how wrong I was. Smile

WayneTuckerShiner

Dan Voss on tenor sax. This was our first time seeing Dan play. He was excellent. One of the people I was standing with told me that he’s a real pro. I have no reason to doubt that from last night’s performance!

DanVoss

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Another extremely solid performance from Brian. Martin’s full band sound requires a very solid bottom to keep things going and Brian and Craig are well matched to deliver.

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Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. I can’t get enough of Greg’s guitar play and last night was no exception. Every time he stops his leads, I wait impatiently for the next one. He and Chris Kuffner trade off the leads, each with their own excellent style. On a few numbers (most notably the closer), they took independent simultaneous leads (very different from each other). It was mind-blowingly satisfying.

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Chrissi Poland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Chrissi has such a wonderful and powerful voice and is so well-suited to soul music. Their duets are a real crowd favorite. When she was on stage, there were 11 performers. Since the record is for shows I attend, I am the sole arbiter (and counter) of who holds the record. Martin actually looked at me and asked if this was the record. Indeed it was. Smile

ChrissiPolandBrassSection

Rebecca Haviland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Like Chrissi, Rebecca has a very big voice, also suited to soul (among many other genres). She was great (as she always is). The record stood at 11, since Chrissi and Rebecca were not on stage at the same time.

MartinRivasRebeccaHavilandMartinRivasChrisKuffnerRebeccaHaviland

Martin had a number of family members in the audience, including his sister and aunt. His aunt might be his biggest fan. She kept flying out of her seat, singing, clapping over her head, screaming and dancing. You’d think she was a teen with the energy she displayed.

When the set was over it was difficult to stand in place. People were coming and going, pushing and shoving (not in a mean way, it was necessary simply to get through the crowd). The person I was standing with spotted two people leaving their seats 1/2 way across the club. She headed there to see if it was just temporary. Amazingly, when she got there, the seats were still available. It took me a while to work my way through (rather around) the crowd, but she held the seat for me. To quote her: “It’s nice to sit!”. Amen! Smile

The Greg Mayo Band is a relatively recent discovery for us, but they made our favorites list instantly, so we were really looking forward to this set. To remove any mystery, they remain high on our favorites list.

The core band consists of eight members. Last night, Greg had a few special guests, one of whom played on every song making the minimum number of people on stage nine.

The similarities with the prior set are the basic style of music (Greg’s band concentrates on Funk and Soul, with some good old fashioned Rock as well). The differences aren’t huge, but they’re noticeable and material. Martin’s sets are very guitar heavy (three of them on the stage at all times) and Greg’s set is very piano centric (they brought the grand piano back down for Greg to play and he played electronic keyboards as well).

The other difference is that Martin rarely has a horn section and Greg always does. The horns were a wonderful addition to Martin’s set, but they are extremely integral to Greg’s sound, much more highlighted with more and longer solos. Finally, Greg has a full-time female voice to sing harmony with, while Martin’s regular vocalists are male.

This show was billed as a Valentine’s Day extravaganza, which will become important in a minute.

Let’s cover the band, again left-to-right, front-to-back.

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. I have a single complaint about Rebecca’s role in the Greg May Band: give us more Rebecca! She does sing some lead, but not enough. She and Greg sing so beautifully together, but there too she takes a back seat and doesn’t sing as much harmony with Greg as I’d like.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

The above is meant to compliment Rebecca. Greg has a wonderful voice and I can listen to him sing alone all night. Together is better, it’s that simple. Smile

Erik White on tambourine (and mic-less vocals!). Erik was a special guest. He was the original guitarist in the Greg May Band. He projected energy on stage throughout the show, singing with Greg even though he didn’t have a mic (except for one song when the brass section walked off the stage and Rebecca shared her mic with Erik). He played some seriously good tambourine. He wasn’t just a prop.

ErikWhite

John Liotta on baritone sax. Highlighted a bit more in Greg’s set, John did a wonderful job.

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Another excellent job. Since we moved to seats that were behind the piano, I had a very different vantage point on what I had thought was a terrible shiner on Wayne’s right cheek. It turns out it was a large red heart (looked like it was drawn in red lipstick). Made sense with the Valentine’s Day theme, but I missed it during Martin’s set. I was glad Wayne wasn’t injured after all. Winking smile

WayneTuckerHeart

Matt Simons on tenor sax. Matt is another incredible musician. We just saw him perform a few days earlier in VA, playing electronic keyboards and singing. Last night, he was master of the sax (I love his play!). Come to Rockwood 2 this Saturday night (2/19/2011) at 11pm for a 90-minute set which Matt is headlining (with guest, Chris Ayer). It’s a longer set than usual, so that we can all celebrate Matt’s birthday at midnight. Smile

MattSimons

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny keeps up perfectly with the upbeat tempos of the Greg Mayo Band. Well suited to this style of music.

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass (and probably some vocals, but I only caught a few glimpses of Chris). Chris is one of our favorite bassists. He too played in the same VA show that Matt did a few days ago, but that night he played upright bass. We’ll see him again this Wednesday when he plays with Ian Axel for his CD Release Show. Another performance that is perfectly suited to this band and coupled tightly with Kenny Shaw’s drumming. (Horrible photo, sorry!)

ChrisAnderson

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Paul did a very nice job, taking a well-known lead on one of the covers. He also sang well. The Greg Mayo band doesn’t highlight the guitar that much so I look forward to catching Paul in one of his other projects (most notably Julius C).

PaulMaddison

The above was the core band last night. Greg brought up another special guest very early in the show.

Matt Abatelli on tenor sax. Matt was a founding member of the band but doesn’t appear to play with them regularly any longer. Matt Simons stepped off the stage to make way for Matt Abatelli (apparently, you have to be named Matt in order to qualify to play the tenor sax in this band!). Winking smile (No photo, sorry!)

Given his stature with the band, Greg chose a song to highlight Matt right from the get-go. Matt (Abitelli) didn’t disappoint. He wailed on the sax and I look forward to catching him again in a longer set.

Greg’s birthday was 6 weeks ago. You can only imagine his surprise when Rebecca announced that the band bought him a special gift, albeit a little late. She asked us all to sing Happy Birthday to Greg (which we did) and asked Greg to open the gift and show it to us. It was a bag of custom guitar picks. On one side, it said “Greg Mayo”. On the other, “How you doin’ y’all?”. Perfect! Smile

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After a very satisfying set, Greg announced that if we made enough noise after his next (and last) number, they would do an encore to give a proper sendoff to two of the musicians who played the earlier set. You shouldn’t have to ask whether there was enough cheering to keep them on stage.

Both Patrick Firth and Ryan Vaughn are leaving shortly for an extended tour to Russia, supporting John Forte. Greg wanted to give them a proper sendoff.

He called both of them on the stage. Ryan took control of the full drum set. Kenny Shaw moved over to play percussion (exactly what Ryan did the set before). Patrick just took to a microphone to sing (lead and harmony). If that was it, that would have just tied the record for 11 people on stage at the same time.

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Records are meant to be broken, even if they were set just an hour earlier. Greg also called up Martin Rivas to sing and Matt Abatelli on the sax (this time, Matt Simons stayed on stage!). Uh oh, that smashed Martin’s record with 13 people on stage! Well, technically, there were only 12 people on stage, because Paul Maddison played the entire song standing on his amp! Yes, it was that jam packed on the stage and he’s that much of a rock star. Winking smile

Martin looked over to me and said “Oh well, at least I held the record for a bit…”. Indeed, he ousted Alex Berger before being ousted himself.

Earlier, Sam Teichman told me that during the second Soul Revue Benefit (which we missed because we were out of town), they had either 13 or 14 people on stage at the same time (he’s going to send me a video to prove it). I don’t doubt him, but this record doesn’t count if I’m not there, so, nice try Sam! Smile

Here is Greg’s set list:

GregMayoSetList

Circling back to why I missed Robbie Gil, again…

Four of us had an absolutely incredible meal at The Green Table in the Chelsea Market. Organic food that was delectable, served by people who we enjoyed interacting with.

OrganicBeefOrganicRoastChickenCrabCakes

Lois wasn’t feeling too well even before dinner, but it was early enough for her to push herself. After the meal, she grabbed a cab home. Two of us got into a car and headed east to Rockwood. Cross-town traffic was slow so it took a bit longer to get there than expected. Then we circled a few times looking for a non-existent spot. Eventually, the driver forced me out of the car so I could get in line for Martin’s show (Robbie’s was a distant memory).

I waited outside for over 30 minutes (yes, it was very cold). Robbie’s set was packed to the gills (no pun intended) and it appeared from the outside that they were tearing the house down. I am determined to catch his set one of these days, sooner rather than later.

When the show was over, a little after 1am, there were a dozen people looking for a cab, with none available. I eventually walked over a mile and while waiting for the bus (for quite a while) finally caught a cab the rest of the way home. I walked in the apartment at 2:10am. Yippee. I loved the entire evening/night (with the exception of the 30 minutes waiting in the cold), but I’m too old to be acting like a kid.

Soul Revue Benefit at The Bitter End

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I’m rarely at a loss for words. Unluckily for those who intend to make it to the bottom of this post, this won’t be one of those rare times either. But, it’s still unusual, because simply following my normal structure of mentioning every single performer won’t do justice to what happened last night. So, I’ll take a slightly different tack today.

First and foremost, I need to bow to Sam Teichman (@samteichman on Twitter) as deeply and humbly as I can. Sam is a perfect example of one person, single-mindedly focused on getting something done and achieving that goal (actually, exceeding it). On November 4th, 2010, Sam sat next to me at Rockwood Music Hall as we enjoyed sets by Jesse Ruben and Alex Wong. Even on that night, Sam was doing for others, as I noted across three paragraphs toward the end of my post about that show.

SamTeichman

More importantly, that night, a mere 2.5 months ago, Sam told me to stay tuned for a benefit concert he was starting to put together. Sam is not a rich guy. Sam is not a powerful guy. Sam is not Oprah Winfrey, who merely has to mention the word benefit and superstars around the globe will claw to be a part of it.

Sam is just a guy with a huge heart, a love of people, a love of music, a talent for video production, perseverance and a tireless work ethic. Because of those loves and talents, Sam has amassed an incredible number of real friends™ many of whom happen to be amazing musicians. That allows Sam to pull off these miracles. It’s inspirational. We should all aspire to be like Sam.

Free Arts NYC was the beneficiary of last night’s fundraiser. Emilia Vincent, Director of Special Events for Free Arts NYC, came up on stage to thank Sam (and all of us). A number of other staffers were in attendance as well. Every donation taken at the door (minimum donation requested $10) and every CD and DVD sold (also name-your-price donations) went entirely to Free Arts NYC. All the performers (dozens) donated their time and talent.

FreeArtsNYC

The event was held at The Bitter End. A very nice club (very storied) who’s stage is just large enough to accommodate the often 15 people who performed simultaneously. Most of the night was an ensemble (more of an amalgamation) of people who don’t typically play together in a regular group (though subsets of them do play together). The one exception was the opening act.

Live Society opened the show (they also have a MySpace page). A couple of friends told me that I would really enjoy their performance. That turned out to be a huge understatement. What a total blast. Brian Collazo sings most of the leads and played acoustic guitar on two numbers. Jason Vargas sang lead on at least one number and incredible harmony on the rest. Kevin Collazo (Brian’s brother) sang harmony beautifully. The three of them could easily be an a capella group if they wanted to be.

LiveSociety

But, why would/should they be? Their guitarist, John Kaiteris, was awesome. In addition to being great on the electric guitar on every song, he wrote a number of them as well. Extremely talented! Erik Perez on the drums was very impressive. Superb feel for the rhythm of soul. Anthony Candullo on bass complements them. No weak link in this group.

But wait, there’s more. Making a guest appearance for Live Society’s entire set was Patrick Firth (I’ve written about him a number of times). He played the grand piano and electronic keyboards. He’s a master and both fit in with and was highlighted by Live Society.

PatrickFirth

Brian called up another special guest to sing with them on one song, the always incredible Martin Rivas.

They’re working on a CD. I look forward to the release. Check out their music on the above links, you’ll love it.

After a 10-minute break, a cast of thousands piled on to the stage (OK, it only looked and sounded like a cast of thousands). At the most, there were 15 people performing at the same time. At the least, three. For the majority of the numbers, it was 14. What a huge sound (even when there were only three people on stage!).

The musicians didn’t stress about stage placement or sound checks as they shuffled on and off the stage in rapid succession. There was a core house band that played on most numbers, but that shifted as well. The transitions were smoother than I ever could have imagined.

The amazing brass section consisted of: John Liotta (alto/baritone sax), Ian Schaefer (trumpet) and Matt Simons (sax). They were on stage for roughly half the numbers.

JohnLiottaIanSchaeferMattSimons

Mike Tuccillo and Jeff Litman alternated on the electric bass (really well).

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Oscar Bautista and (Sergio) Serge Ortega shared the electric guitar duties (extremely well).

OscarBautistaSergeOrtega

Seth Falk, Robbie LaFalce, Josh Dion and Craig Meyer all shared percussion duties (drums, djembe, tambourine) often with two on stage at the same time. Each and every one of them was wonderful. More on Josh Dion momentarily.

SethFaulkRobbieLaFalceCraigMeyer

For most numbers, there were three or four backup singers on stage. All but one sang lead as well, so I’ll mention them in a second. The only backup singer who didn’t sing lead on at least one song was Valerie Mize. She did a wonderful job. I’m sure if there was more time, she too would have taken a turn at the center mic and wow’ed us.

ValerieMizeKarlyJurgensenBriArden

Megan Cox played the violin, wonderfully.

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Abby Payne and Rebecca Haviland shared the grand piano and electronic keyboards duties (for those songs where there were keyboards, I’ll guesstimate that Abby played 1/3 and Rebecca 2/3’s of them). Both ladies were incredible.

AbbyPaynePianoRebeccaHavilandPiano

This brings me to the one unimaginably sad note of the evening. Greg Mayo suffered the untimely passing of his brother Christopher in a car accident earlier that day. Our hearts and prayers go out to Greg and the entire Mayo family over this unspeakable loss. A number of people on stage mentioned this tragedy.

On to the people who sang at the mic at center stage, raising our blood pressure (in the good way) and making us shout “Yeah” and “Hell Yeah” (among other grunts and words), literally.

Jesse Ruben led off, great start.

JesseRuben

Rebecca Haviland has an extraordinary voice and stage presence. I wrote about her briefly when I covered the Greg Mayo Band, of which she is a part. Last night her voice roared above the other 13 people on stage. Totally captivating. I already mentioned how amazing she was on the keyboards as well.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

Luke Wesley has a very powerful and distinctive voice. It was our first time seeing him. Thoroughly enjoyed his number!

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Bri Arden (also on Reverb Nation). A quick aside before telling you about Bri’s performance. Bri was a member of the backup singers for much of the night. When she took the lead, she changed her dress into something substantially more eye catching. Before she got to sing, someone else on stage asked her where the other half of her dress was. Winking smile

BriArden

Bri sang Proud Mary, starting off slow and building to a heart-pounding final few verses (just like Tina Turner’s signature version). Someone in the crowd mentioned how difficult it is to emulate Tina. Bri pulled it off! When she next appeared as a backup singer, she was back in her other dress. Smile

John Schmitt was up next. A number of my friends have told me that I have to see John Schmitt perform. Having heard his voice and style last night, I understand why. He’s now on my list.

JohnSchmitt

Abby Payne did a very nice job (yes, the same Abby who nailed the piano parts!). The only issue is that it took Abby a bit to crank up the volume on her voice, which was necessary because she (and all of them) were competing with tons of instruments and other vocalists. Abby had an all-male backup singing contingent.

AbbyPayneSingingSethFaulkMartinRivasJoshDionJayStolar

Karly Jurgensen was also a regular member of the backup singers before taking center stage. Karly has been a recent discovery of ours and I’ve written (briefly) about her twice. She is high on our list to see a full set and we got on her mailing list after the show to ensure we don’t miss out!

KarlyJurgensen

Up until now, each of the aforementioned singers performed one number.

Martin Rivas took the stage in a minimalist way. He was accompanied by Chrissi Poland on vocals and Craig Meyer on drums. Martin played the acoustic guitar. Rather than sing one song, or 10, Martin played a long (and absolutely amazing) medley of 7-10 numbers over a nearly 10-minute appearance.

MartinRivas

He and Chrissi were both great (more on her shortly) and they really got the crowd to sing along, multiple times. It’s Martin who also got the crowd (yes, the placed was packed!) to groan, as I mentioned above.

Brian Collazo (of Live Society) joined them for two numbers. A few others came and went (Rebecca Haviland, Valerie Mize, Josh Dion, the brass section). A great mini-set.

Chrissi Poland stayed on stage for the rest of the show. She alternated singing with whomever had the center stage mic, and taking the center stage mic herself. All told, she probably sang the most leads of the night, even including Martin’s numbers. She was awesome. We’ve only seen her once before, singing a few numbers with Martin at Rockwood 2. We were impressed then, and continue to be now. We want/need more Chrissi, now!

ChrissiPoland

Josh Dion was already mentioned above as one of the drummers. It took me a second to notice that after Martin left the stage, someone was singing, but no one was standing at the mic at center stage. That’s because Josh Dion was singing his heart out, while playing the drums (which were center stage, but against the back wall). He was incredible!

JoshDion

Jay Stolar (lead singer for Julius C) was up next, and he shared the stage with Chrissi Poland. He was also incredible. What a voice and what passion and energy on stage (very theatrical, in the best sense). I shouldn’t be surprised. For the past month, every time I ask a question of a friend in an audience (like: “Who’s that guitar player”?), the answer often comes back: “Oh, he’s in Julius C, you really need to check them out!”. Indeed, I do!

JayStolar

It was inevitable that this post would get to this length, even with the abbreviated mentions of many of the amazing musicians. Even at that, I haven’t done justice to what was obviously an epic night at The Bitter End.

Thanks again to Sam Teichman and everyone mentioned above (and anyone I missed) for putting on such a great show for such a great cause.

Just to make this post even longer, I will reproduce Sam’s entire thank you stream from Twitter, for those who didn’t click on his link above, or for those reading this long after it has scrolled off of his Twitter page:

Wow! Thanks to @jesseruben, @rebeccahaviland, @lukewesleymusic, @BriArden @johnschmitt, @abbypaynemusic, @KarlyJurgensen, @martinrivas….

…. @joshdion, jay stolar of @juliusc, @chrissipoland for singing your hearts out tonight on lead vocals.

And thanks to Oscar Bautista and @Serge_Ortega for brilliant guitar work, @jefflitman and @its5knobmike on the bass…

.. Robbie LaFalce of @PhilthHarmonic, @sethfaulk and Josh Dion on the drums and percussion. Valerie Mize on the backing vocals…

@matt_simons, Ian Schaefer and John Liotta on the brilliant horn work, and Megan Cox on the violin. You all amaze me. Words are not enough.

Thanks more so to every single one of you who came to support the cause, and the artists, tonight. You all reaffirmed my faith in music.

Special thanks to @CMorelliNYC for taking pictures, and @achance42, Matt Golub, Alex Depew and Doug Cion for filming the show.

I can not imagine a more perfect opening band for a night of soul than @collazo and the Live Society crew, and you guys crushed it tonight.

And a huge thanks to @hadarvc, @tinajbowen, @ArtSceneNYC, @thejujuqueen and all the others who retweeted and publicized the show so well.

Mostly, tonight reaffirmed my belief that people can make things happen, things of consequence, big or small. Believe in the arts…..

…. believe in charity. Believe in the ability to make a difference one dollar at a time, one song at a time, one life at a time.

The only goal in life should be to create, to smile, to give, and to love. The rest is just details. Thank you all. We’ll do it again soon.

Well said Sam.

Angel Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Prior to last night, we’ve seen Angel Band perform three times. The last one was over two years ago and was a CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub, covered in this post. Last night was also a CD Release party for their new album, Bless My Sole, this time at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

A lot has changed in the past two years, but the core experience is the same, excellent!

Angel Band is three fantastic female vocalists singing three part harmony. One of the things that’s somewhat different about Angel Band vs other three part harmony groups that we love is the sheer power that all three project (individually and simultaneously), without ever sounding too loud or overbearing. They can do subtle too, quite well, but they really shine when they crank it up.

We are also major fans of most things Bluegrass. While you certainly can’t characterize Angel Band as a mostly Bluegrass band, their instrumentation and many of their songs do fit the description and that suits us just fine. They have a fiddle, mandolin, flat-picking guitar player, etc.

So, what’s changed? First, one of the three Angels has changed. Jen Schonwald is no longer with the band, replaced by Aly Paige. Second, in previous shows the band backing up the Angels was always The David Bromberg Band. Last night was their own band, now formally highlighted on their site as well.

The heart of Angel Band is Nancy Josephson. She writes or co-writes most of their original songs (they do some incredible covers as well) and has a wonderful voice. My friend asked me to take a picture of what appeared to be a very cool hand-made tambourine:

NancyJosephsonTambourine NancyJosephson

Kathleen Weber also has an incredible voice and sings lead and harmony with equal effect.

KathleenWeber KathleenWeberWashboard

Aly Paige sings beautifully, both harmony and lead. It took her one lead effort to warm up and put a little more power into her solo singing.

AlyPaige

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

Christie Lenee on acoustic and electric guitar. Wow! She was filling the shoes of David Bromberg in the role of guitar-player for Angel Band. Not easy shoes to fill. While their styles are quite different, I was very impressed with Christie on both acoustic and electric, she’s a great match for Angel Band’s style, but I’m sure she’s great independent of them as well.

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Marc Moss on mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar and drums! A man of many talents, he excelled on all four instruments. He also co-wrote a number of the songs that they performed last night. Well done!

MarcMossDrums MarcMossMandolin

Bob Taylor on electric bass. Bob has played bass with David Bromberg for years and has toured with Angel Band for years as well. He’s extremely solid but not highlighted in their repertoire.

BobTaylor

Nate Grower on fiddle. Nate is listed on the front page of Angel Band’s site, but he doesn’t have a video intro of himself like the others do, at least not linked on the same The Band page. Nancy joked that she’s had a headache for longer than Nate’s been alive. She also correctly points out that that doesn’t stop him from being an amazing fiddler, which he is.

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David Bromberg joined them as a special guest for three songs (for those who don’t know, he’s Nancy’s husband). He played both acoustic and electric guitar. During the 70’s, I attended as many David Bromberg shows as I could. He was one of my favorite live performers and he still thrills all these years later. We only discovered Angel Band because they were opening for David Bromberg at BB King in 2006 when I went to see David for the first time in many years.

DavidBrombergChristieLeneeMarcMoss

Joining Angel Band as another special guest for the last song and the one-song encore was Matt Parker on Saxophone. (I actually didn’t catch the first name, so I apologize if I linked to the wrong sax player!)

MattParker

So, we would have gone just to see Angel Band, no matter who was opening, or even if there wasn’t an opening act. But, much to my delight, the opening act was reason enough to show up, no matter who the headliner was. That’s my kind of show!

Martin Rivas played a six-number set on two different acoustic guitars. I keep saying that I need to see more of Martin, and last night continued the trend of getting a bit more of him (it was the longest set we’ve seen so far), but still not long enough.

MartinRivas

Martin played a number of songs from his new EP (The Convalescence EP). One of those songs was Raise Me Again. It’s a gorgeous song, very deep, that describes the pain that many children feel but likely can’t (or don’t) express as movingly as Martin does. His introduction made the song all the more meaningful.

Chrissi Poland joined Martin for one song where she sang a verse on her own and sang harmony with Martin as well. We’re going to have to keep an eye out for her, she has a fabulous voice, well paired with Martin’s.

ChrissiPoland

OK Martin, next time better be at least eight songs! 😉

MartinRivasHadar

We got to introduce three people to Angel Band, and two of them discovered Martin for the first time as well. All in all a wonderful evening out.

Time for a rant, so tune out if all you want is peace and love. 🙂

I rarely have a harsh word for Rockwood Music Hall. In general, both venues are fantastic in all respects, in particular to the musicians. Last night was a first at Rockwood in my experience. We showed up early (we always do) because there is limited seating, first-come, first-served. The center table was empty, but we were told it was reserved by Angel Band.

What? This kind of nonsense plays at BB King and Joe’s Pub, and is annoying there as well (but at least there are many other tables there), but we came to believe that it wouldn’t happen at Rockwood. I hope it’s not a trend.

Why is it so bad for the band to reserve a table (in a club that has so few!)? Because in our experience, almost never do the people show up for that table. On the rare occasion that they do, fewer people show up than the number of reserved seats, and they never (as in never) show up for the opening act. These aren’t music lovers, they are perk seekers (IMHO).

That was the case last night too, as the two seats that Lois and I tried to sit in were unoccupied for the entire show! 🙁

Here’s a tweet from one of our guests (unprompted by me!) that sums it up more succinctly than I did above:

Wuz up with this BS of Reserved tables at Rockwood now? Me no likey! No likey at all!!

100% agreed. Let’s nip this practice in the bud now!

Rant #2, and one I’ve only had to call this out once before (Colin Hay in regard to The Paper Raincoat). Nancy Josephson never once thanked or mentioned Martin Rivas for opening. Another classless act that matches the reserving a table for people who don’t show up motif… Martin mentioned Angel Band (and thanked them) at least 1/2 a dozen times, totally classy!

Update: Please read the comments below for an apology directly from Nancy Josephson! Class has completely been restored! Whew.