Christina Morelli

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!

CalebHawley

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.

ChrissiPolandGuitar

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.

ChrissiPolandPiano

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.

NicoleRomaine-Settembrino

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

BriArdenGuitar

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

JustinGoldnerBriArdenJustinGoldner

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.

BriArdenPiano

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.

BriArdenAnnaKrantzBriArdenSinging

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.

AnnaKrantzGuitar

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.

CalebHawleyGuitar

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.

SamTeichman

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!

Caleb Hawley at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Caleb Hawley headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Ever since we saw Caleb play a house concert in VA, I’ve wanted to see him as often as I can. That hasn’t worked out as well as I had hoped, so when he returned to NYC for last night’s show, I wasn’t going to miss him again.

CalebHawley

When I first see someone, I tend to write a longer, more detailed (in the excruciating, please stop sense) post. That’s what I did for the house concert, but it was back in the days when I wrote a single post about the opener and the headliner together, something I rarely do now. Caleb was detailed lower down in the post, since we originally showed up primarily for the opener, Rachel Platten. If you want to know why I fell in love with Caleb Hawley, read that post.

We’ve seen Caleb a couple of times since then, never doing a full set of his own material. That’s a shame, because in addition to being an excellent performer, he’s an excellent songwriter.

One of the most impressive things about Caleb is how comfortable/natural he appears in front of any crowd. He might be quivering underneath, but there’s no hint of that. I’ve seen him take his shirt off (at another show) and unashamedly shake his less-than-six-pack-abs belly for our amusement. The more typical thing is his disarming smile and style, which just makes you want to keep your eyes on him.

That’s good, because while you’re keeping your eyes on him, you’re hearing an incredible voice and watching an absolutely exceptional guitar player.

CalebHawleyGuitar

Last night was a joyously fun set, complete with very talented people supporting Caleb. It also featured Caleb playing electronic keyboards on the first few numbers, something he claimed he was nervous about (see above for why I don’t believe Caleb ever gets nervous). Winking smile

Let me praise the band, then circle back to some additional comments about Caleb. Left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and heavy background vocals. Patrick is a perennial favorite of ours on the keyboards. We were seated a couple of feet from him, so we got to watch him work his magic directly. He also sang harmony on practically every number (perhaps every one), wonderfully.

PatrickFirthPatrickFirthKeyboards

PatrickFirthEvanWatsonSinging

Evan Watson performed double duty. For half the set, he manned the drums (that was a first for me, seeing him play the drums). He was good enough to support Caleb, but he’d have to work hard to match most of the other local drummers. For the other half of the set, he was well into his comfort zone, lead electric guitar. Totally sweet! Occasionally, he leaned over to share (or take over) the mic in front of the bass player, to sing some background vocals. He also sang a bit when he was at the drums.

EvanWatsonDrumsEvanWatsonGuitar

EvanWatsonSlideGuitar

Brian Killeen on electric bass and background vocals. Brian is always wonderful, but Caleb gave him a couple of long-ish leads, which Brian nailed, to the delight of the crowd. He also sang quite of bit of background vocals with Caleb and Patrick. Another winning performance.

BrianKilleenBrianKilleenBassSoloCalebHawleyBrianKilleenSinging

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Considering the name of the opening song, it was entirely appropriate that the entire band donned sunglasses to try and remain incognito while entertaining us:

CalebHawleyBrianKilleenEvanWatson

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.

I can imagine that with a different set list and a different arrangement, I could feel the same way about a full band show (certainly, there’s no issue with who he picks to support him!). Basically, I guess it boils down to Caleb being too generous with wanting everyone to be (nearly) equal in a full band show. In my opinion, his sets need to be about Caleb, first and foremost, with everyone else being the super professional musicians that they always are, and just support him.

I’ll be seeing Caleb again this coming Monday, 7-9pm, next door (Rockwood 1), when he is the MC for The CEO Artist showcase (put on by Christina Morelli). I imagine he’s quite the MC, given what I told you above about his stage presence.

Caleb is a celebrity in NYC (independent of his run on American Idol last year), so we always get to see many friends at any show that he is part of. We could have spent the entire evening chatting and catching up. Instead, after a few quick hugs and hellos, Lois just took photos of our friends. Winking smile

TerryIrisKellyRachelSamTeichman

Bri Arden will be one of the performers at Monday’s showcase with Christina Morelli (and Chrissi Poland, hidden from view, who will also be performing on Monday):

BriArdenChrstinaMorelliChrissiPolandSamTeichmanBriArdenHadar

Backscratch XIV at Rockwood Music Hall

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We’ve only been to one Backscratch before, but we’ll do our best to never miss one going forward. Last night was #14, but I decided to show off my mad Roman Numeral skills in the title. Winking smile This one was back at Rockwood Music Hall (not the original venue). I covered the last one and explained the concept thusly:

Here’s the concept: gather a bunch of musicians. Each plays three songs. Traditionally (or so the legend goes) each played one original song, one well-known cover and one cover of another of the evening’s musicians, which they were each assigned at random! Now, it’s often two originals followed by the backscratch.

Backscratch was conceived by Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer, the same geniuses that brought Campfires to the world. Since Martin is touring in the UK and Europe at the moment, and Craig is probably on the road with Rachel Platten, neither was there. No matter, the MC duties were performed by Christina Morelli of NYC Art Scene fame.

We would have gone even if none of the musicians was known to us. That wasn’t the case last night, as only two of the nine performers were strangers to us. A number of them are counted among our favorites!

Jeff Litman opened the show because his band’s equipment was already on stage from his birthday set. He performed the more traditional 3-song set. He opened with a solo acoustic cover, Never Going Back Again, by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. What a way to kick off Backscratch XIV!

JeffLitman

Jeff’s band (Bryan Dunn, Matt Basile and Elliot Jacobson) joined him for the next two numbers. The first was his original, Everything You’re Not (from his current CD, Postscript). Jeff closed his trio with a cover of Valerie Mize (his backscratch), Promises, from her Auspices EP.

I’m not going to be able to name every song from every artist, since I do this from memory (and I don’t know all of their songs well enough anyway). Where I think I know/remember, I’ll say so.

Jesse Terry was up next, solo with an acoustic guitar. Jesse is one of our favorites, so we knew we’d enjoy his numbers. I was more curious to hear what his backscratch would be (they are assigned randomly). Jesse opened with Pearl Diver, a very new song (which we’ve heard before, since we do our best to show up whenever and wherever Jesse performs). Next up was Scared of Nothing, another Jesse original. His voice was incredible on both numbers.

JesseTerry

For his backscratch, Jesse drew Live Society. If you read anything I write, you likely know how much I love Live Society. Given how amazing Jesse’s voice is, and how well he handles the guitar, I admit to being extremely excited about this. He performed No One, which isn’t on their current EP. It was fantastic (both the song, and Jesse’s interpretation), so I’m seriously hoping it will be on Live Society’s forthcoming CD!

I played a critical role during the performance (which you might someday get to see on YouTube, since the entire evening was filmed by Sam Teichman). There was quite a breeze inside Rockwood and the sheet music (most of the backscratchers require some cheat sheet) was flapping off the music stand. I bravely reached up and held the corner of Jesse’s sheet for the entire song, saving the day! Winking smile

Please allow me a digression here (or skip ahead, I might not even be able to tell). I used the word interpretation above for a few reasons. First, there’s the obvious one (in this case), where Jesse is a solo artist trying to reproduce a song performed by a band that crushes three-part harmony, and is accompanied by guitar, keyboards, bass and drums (usually).

Second, the backscratch is often a song that was learned quickly, at times even on the day of the show, so it’s not likely to be a studied copy. But the most important thing is that it’s often a true artistic interpretation, in the sense of paying homage to the original artist by delivering it to them in your style (for most cases, the original artist is hearing it live then and there).

Jesse delivered No One in his own style. I absolutely would have believed it was one of his songs if he had introduced it as such. After singing it, he met Live Society for the first time. How cool is that, practically and conceptually?

LiveSocietyJesseTerry

Unfortunately, Jesse had to leave shortly after performing. He had an early trip this morning, heading to Greenland, just shy of the North Pole (of all places). He’ll be serenading our troops there for the next week or so. He didn’t get to hear the backscratch that covered him (we’ll get to that later).

Valerie Mize was up next. She performed two originals with her band (Antar Goodwin on electric bass and Tomo Kanno on drums). She opened with Downtown Train. She followed that with a new number. She played electric guitar on both, finger picking (beautifully) for the most part, and strumming without a pick the rest of the time. She has a beautiful voice.

ValerieMizeSinging

We’ve seen Valerie only once before, at the Soul Benefit where she sang backup. Here’s what I wrote about her performance that night:

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.

I’d never seen Antar or Tomo before. Both did a very good job and are well-matched with Valerie.

AntarGoodwinTomoKonno

For her backscratch, Valerie dismissed the band and moved to the grand piano. She sang Ophelia by John Schmitt. He too is one of our favorites, as is that specific song (title cut from his current CD). Valerie played the piano beautifully and sang a very soulful version of Ophelia.

ValerieMizePiano

Patrick Firth was up next. We’ve seen Patrick many times, but last night was a first on two scores. We’d never seen him perform an original and we’d never seen him play anything other than keyboards. Instead of heading for the grand piano in the corner, Patrick (his friends seem to call him Pat, but that feels presumptuous on my part) sat on a stool, center stage, and sang an original accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. Very nicely done!

PatrickFirthGuitar

I already knew he had a nice voice (you can read about it in this post). Now I know that he can write and sing his own stuff (that night was covers) and play the guitar as well.

Patrick then moved to the piano and performed a brand new song that he wrote over the post three days (finishing it yesterday!). He plays with the Big Apple Circus and wrote it while in CT, on breaks, between shows.

PatrickFirthPiano

For his backscratch, Patrick played Grow by Nick Howard. What a fantastic job. We had just seen Nick perform a full set earlier that night (with a full band), next door at Rockwood 2 (covered here). He played that song with the full band. Patrick’s rendition was very different and equally beautiful.

Unfortunately, Nick hadn’t made it over to Rockwood 1 yet, so he missed hearing Patrick nail his song.

John Schmitt was up next. That alone would be reason enough for celebration. But, in a complete surprise for me, John brought up Greg Mayo to play guitar with him. John opened with Two Souls.

JohnSchmitt

Greg played some amazing guitar solos (surprise!) and sang a few words (way too few) of harmony (very nicely). He played Patrick Firth’s guitar.

GregMayo

Next John played Going Back (a fantastic new song of his, that isn’t on the Ophelia CD). Typically, he has a female voice singing harmony with him. Greg basically filled that role with guitar leads. Holy moly, it was awesome.

John is currently raising money to record that song professionally. We contributed early. Even though we did (quite happily), we noted to each other that the raw version John has up on his donation page is quite beautiful. We worried (privately) whether people would wonder why he needs/wants another version. Having heard how different it can sound by just adding another guitar (admittedly, one played by Greg Mayo!), made us just contribute a second time. We no longer doubt John Schmitt’s wisdom. Smile

Greg then left the stage and tried to take Patrick’s guitar with him. John kept it, asking Patrick if he could use it for his backscratch (John had broken a string earlier, and had to use a different one in its place. I’ll spare you the groaners about a broken G-string.) Winking smile

Patrick agreed to let John use the guitar, until John admitted that his backscratch was none other than Patrick. At that point Patrick said: “Then NO!”. Of course, he was kidding, but it was funny nonetheless.

I don’t know the name of the song, but it was great. So, Patrick can indeed write, and we already knew that John can deliver. A great combo!

Lara Ewen was up next, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. I had never heard of Lara, so I didn’t recognize the two originals that she played. They were both nice and I like her voice.

LaraEwen

For her backscratch, she drew Jesse Terry. She was quite funny in pointing out that most people give excuses like “I had to miss your performance because I was at the North Pole, but that in Jesse’s case, it was the truth!”. Winking smile She added that she was happy about that, because she was reasonably sure she was going to butcher his number.

She chose The Runner (the title cut from Jesse’s CD). She was correct in knowing that she hadn’t quite nailed the song, but I certainly wouldn’t say she butchered it, just that certain parts caused her some grief. Winking smile

Benjamin Wagner was up next, also accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Benjamin was the only other performer I hadn’t heard of before. In this case, it turned out to be a little less mysterious. He has a full-time job and a one-year-old, which has slowed down his live performances dramatically.

BenjaminWagner

Of all the performers, he was the chattiest. While I found his style entertaining and the content interesting and well-delivered, he was also the only one who cursed (and quite a bit at that). I’m no prude, but it was still jarring in contrast to the rest of the show.

He has a very good voice and plays the guitar well enough. That said, neither of his two originals (Giving Up the Ghost and Dear Elizabeth) grabbed me.

He inserted his backscratch in between them. He drew Lara Ewen and chose One Day. Wow, I really liked it a lot, both the song and his performance of it. So, I know Lara is capable of writing songs that will grab me, and I know that Benjamin is capable of delivering a song in a manner that will engage me as well. Neither pulled that off with their own originals, but the sample size was two in each case, so let’s toss that out and start again, the next time I see either of them.

Benjamin blogs regularly and he posted his thoughts about last night’s show.

Nick Howard was up next (and had arrived by then). He played solo acoustic, quite a contrast to his earlier full-band set at Rockwood 2. One of the two originals that he played was Grow, which he had performed in the earlier set. It’s the same song that Patrick Firth had covered for his backscratch, but Nick was unaware, since he hadn’t made it in yet.

NickHoward

That made three performances of Grow in one night for us. All were quite different from each other (even though Nick himself performed two of them!). All three were very well done.

Nick’s other original was Falling for You, which he had also performed with the full band in the earlier set. Once again, his solo performance was different and beautiful. As I noted in the earlier post, he had to work harder to get his voice heard over the full band. In the solo set, his voice was just right.

For his backscratch, Nick drew Benjamin Wagner. I don’t recall the song, but I remember thinking it was nice and that Nick did a good job with it.

Last, but certainly not least, was Live Society. They were without their guitarist (John Kaiteris), keyboard player (varies) and drummer (Erik Perez). The three singers, Brian Collazo, Jason Vargas and Kevin Collazo were joined by their regular bass player, Anthony Candullo. Anthony also played acoustic guitar on one number.

BrianCollazoGuitarAnthonyCandulloGuitar

Two special guests joined them: Patrick Firth on grand piano and Greg Mayo on acoustic guitar.

Live Society reverted to the classic format, one famous cover, one original and one backscratch, mirroring the opener (Jeff Litman) as the only acts who did that last night. That was more than fitting, as they asked the crowd if any of us had done the calculus to guess who their backscratch was? Even you who weren’t there should be able to figure it out. I’ll give you a minute while I get to their other two songs.

GregMayoLiveSociety

They opened with their original Better Man. Gorgeous! They followed that with I Second that Emotion by Smokey Robinson. Jason Vargas took the lead for a good portion of the song. It was fantastic.

JasonVargas

For their backscratch, they drew Jeff Litman (please don’t tell me you haven’t figured it out yet). They performed Open Arms. Frist, the bottom line: Wow! Now, some details.

Jeff’s version is wonderful, but it’s straight up power Pop. Live Society owned their version, which was about as Mowtown/R&B as you could hope and it couldn’t have worked better.

All three of them traded singing lead. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’ve followed my other ravings about Live Society, then you know that I have started a campaign to get them to have Kevin sing some lead. He did, and he was terrific! I had to tease him/them after the show, pointing out that it took a backscratch to get Kevin to take a lead. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a trend. All three of them can sing, including Kevin!

KevinCollazo

What a way to end a spectacular evening.

Backscratch was listed as 9-11pm on the Rockwood schedule. Before the show started, the sound guy told Christina that the previous show had run over and he would appreciate her trying to keep it moving at a rapid pace. Ha!

Last night’s show ran over by only an hour. No one dawdled. Let’s do the math: nine artists each performing three songs, averaging four minutes = 108 minutes. That’s nearly the full two hours, without accounting for time between songs, banter, and oh yeah, changeover between acts (sometimes including moving equipment around). The fact that it’s not scheduled for three hours is the joke, not that it ran over.

Update: A number of people commented to me via email and Twitter that the site correctly listed it as three hours, albeit confusingly. That’s correct, in the sense that there was no artist listed at 11pm. But, the show was listed as 9-11pm, which was explained to me as meaning that 11pm was considered a continuing start time. Wow, not the clearest communication. Anyway, I’ll still knock Rockwood for not making that part clear, but Christina Morelli did indeed deliver an on-time performance! 🙂

It was late, obviously, but I can’t imagine having missed it. Smile

Greg Mayo, Craig Meyer, Tony Maceli and Guests at Red Lion

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I’m a fanatical lover of great guitar playing. If that’s news to you, welcome, this is likely your first time visiting here.

Candyrat Records has signed an impressive number of the top instrumental guitarists around. Every so often they schedule a tour with a number of their artists. We’ve seen one that was headlined by Andy McKee (covered here). It was as good as I hoped/expected.

Two months ago I saw that Candyrat scheduled a show at Rockwood 2 with four players, two of whom were new to me, but the other two I own all of their CDs. I was 90% sure that we would attend. I can’t explain why I didn’t buy tickets in advance (that’s my modus operandi) but I kept procrastinating. As the day got closer, I became more sure that we would attend.

Then this past week happened. We were out six nights in a row, most of which were long and very late (for us). On Saturday morning, knowing we’d be out late that night, I told Lois that I changed my mind, we’d skip the Candyrat show and head to the house for a much-needed collapsing. Ah well, the best laid plans…

I come to praise Twitter, not to bury it. Winking smile

I’ve repeatedly promoted the fact that you should follow your favorite artists on Twitter because you will often learn about late-breaking shows. Fortunately (or unfortunately if sleep is desperately needed!) Winking smile that’s exactly what happened mid-day yesterday. I noticed the following tweet from Greg Mayo:

Tonight I’m taking requests with my good friend @CraigJMeyer at the Red Lion 7:30 to 10:30…beware, I only know 6 songs, so request wisely

For the newbies here, in yesterday’s post, I anointed myself President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club. It felt unseemly to shirk my Presidential duties the very next day. So, sleep be damned, our plans changed on the spot.

GregMayoSettingUp

We arrived at the Red Lion (our first time there, though we’ve heard about it many times) at 7:25pm. Our first (of many!) surprises was revealed before we even got to step inside. Standing on the street with his bass strapped to his back was Tony Maceli, one of our favorite people (oh yeah, and also a great bass player, but who cares about that part, right?). Winking smile Since everything I knew about this show (you’ll understand the italics in a minute) was contained in the tweet above, I had no idea that Tony was sitting in with Greg and Craig.

When we walked in I spotted Bri Arden. I really enjoyed her rendition of Proud Mary at the Soul Benefit we attended. I’ve been following her since, but haven’t been around when she’s performed her own set. I introduced myself and headed to the table Lois had already grabbed, where she was sitting with Tony’s girlfriend. (Surprise #2 and #3)

I looked at the beer list and was happily surprised (#4) to see they had Smithwick’s on draught! (It’s pronounced Smiddick’s, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of having that explained to you in a pub in Ireland, when you are first introduced to Guinness’ biggest competitor). I also saw they serve food there (surprise #5) so I had a yummy garlic hummus plate (we ate a late-ish lunch and ran out thinking we’d skip dinner).

I left my beer for a minute when I noticed that Sierra Noble sat down at the same table Bri Arden was at. Tony Maceli was chatting with them. I knew that Sierra just arrived in town that day (from her tweets) and I wanted to introduce myself and share the small world story that I had blogged about her amazing song, Human After All. She cut me off by telling me she had read that post! Sweet! I was honored and humbled. (#6, I’m keeping count for the lazy and math-challenged among you!)

Oh yeah, there was also music, but since it hadn’t started yet, I filled in the time by telling you the above. Now we’re back in sync.

The music part of this post will be split into two logical sections. They occurred largely at the same time (with a three-song delay), but hopefully, you’ll understand why I’m splitting them up (if not, send me a lot of money and I’ll cover these events your way!). Winking smile

First, the purely musical aspect of the night. So, I see tweets all the time from Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer that they will be playing at Red Lion (they do a series there called Campfire, and they play there regularly otherwise as well). I think Martin was out of town either celebrating the day after his Birthday, or more likely, recovering from an alcohol infused daze. So, I think Craig invited Greg to sit in for Martin.

The core of the musical group, sitting left-to-right on stage:

Craig Meyer on drums and vocals. I can’t recall Craig ever singing before, so this was a welcome surprise (#7). A much bigger surprise was that Craig handled the MC duties throughout the two sets (they took a 20+ minute intermission). He was clever, charming, quick, funny and did it all in a rich, deep, radio DJ like voice. Clearly, there are many dimensions of Craig we were unexposed to, that we now know we need to mind. (#8).

CraigMeyerDrums

Greg Mayo on acoustic guitar and vocals. What? Acoustic? Hell yeah! This was the first time we’ve seen Greg with an acoustic guitar. Hopefully it won’t be the last. (#9). If you ask me whether he handled it with the same skill and ease that he exhibits on an electric, I’ll have to deny you membership to the Greg Mayo Fan Club (when you send your application, please include your dues, checks should be made out directly to me, PayPal gladly accepted!).

GregMayoRippingItUp

Tony Maceli on electric bass and vocals. Yes, vocals, and I’m not talking some way in the background harmony. Tony took the lead on a number of songs (I’ll be more specific in the next section) and sang more forcefully on the backgrounds on the others. (#10). I’ve always loved Tony’s bass play, largely because it’s understated but always appropriate to whomever he’s playing side-man to. Last night Tony took many full-on bass leads, a number of them a very high speed. Wonderful! (I won’t count that as a surprise, since I knew Tony had the skills, he just hadn’t busted them out in front of me yet.)

TonyMaceliSinging

The music was planned to be covers all night, but I didn’t know if there was a theme. Greg kicked it off with back-to-back Jazzy/Blues numbers, then shifted to some Soul. If the rest of the night hadn’t turned into what it did (see section two, shortly), and I hadn’t had a second Smithwick’s (Yeshhh, after all, Ireland is pretty close to Scotland!), I would probably remember which artist they were covering, as every song was a super-famous classic (I’ve never mentioned this, I don’t take notes, every blog is completely from memory, hence all the errors and omissions).

CraigMeyerGregMayoTonyMaceli

After the fourth number, Greg revealed the theme: they were planning to do two songs by each artist and move on to the next. Simple enough. Of course, just like my original plans for the evening, that isn’t the way it played out. In fact, immediately after announcing that, everything changed…

Before shifting gears I’ll note that during the first few numbers, I noticed Christina Morelli was there as well. I want to pad my surprise count, but saying that I am surprised to see Christina at a show that I’m at would be disingenuous. In fact, I could save myself time and effort and just hack into her Calendar and stop maintaining my own! Winking smile

While I didn’t connect with Christina last night, Lois went over to introduce herself, so between last night and the night before, Christina has met our entire family. Smile

Before (finally) moving on, let me just summarize that the music was fantastic all night (roughly two hours split over two sets). Last caveat, I’m reasonably sure I’ll mess up the order of some of the songs and guests below. You’ll have to excuse my still-delicious haze. I give you permission to correct me if you were there, or permission to imagine it in any order you’d rather if you weren’t. Winking smile

Having never been to the Red Lion before, and having never clicked on any of the Campfire YouTube videos either, I really had no idea what to expect. The minute we walked in, it was obvious that this was a pub-style restaurant where the music was meant to be more of a live jukebox. In other words, this wasn’t a listening room. That’s fine. One of my best night’s out was at Mona’s, listening to Dennis Lichtman and Mona’s Hot Four, while 80% of the people at the bar were socializing loudly (for a while, including me, oops!). It’s all about context (to me at least).

We were at the table closest to the stage, in front of Greg (center-stage). I figured that no matter what went on around us, I could tune in to the music and squelch the inevitable bar noise.

That turned out to be true (sort-of), but in a way I never anticipated. Starting at the very first song, a group of people (mostly women) at the table to our left started singing loudly along with Greg. I still had no idea what would come next. This could devolve, or get very interesting.

Craig (in his role as MC) engaged them directly. He asked where they were from and they said NJ. For the rest of the night, Craig referred to them as The Jersey Girls, which was an effective way of differentiating them (you’ll understand in a minute).

CraigMeyer

When Greg started the third song, Lois turned to me and Amy (Tony’s girlfriend) and said “Ask Greg to play Oh Bla Di”. I have never heard Lois ask for a Beatles song. Even though Lois controls the iPod in the car, not once has she put on a Beatles song (even though I have 90 on there!). I was in shock, which caused me to not call it out. I didn’t even know whether The Beatles were in their repertoire.

If you read yesterday’s post, then you know I said this:

Lois has a way of bending the universe to her will (if you know her, you know I’m not exaggerating!).

You’ll have to read the rest to figure out how that played out Fri/Sat, but I’ll tell you how it worked out here. Note that I mentioned the theme of the night wasn’t revealed until after the fourth song, so we didn’t yet realize that they would be running through many different artists when Lois asked me for this song.

Well, the next artist up after the fourth song was, Ta Da, The Beatles! The song wasn’t Oh Bla Di, but hey, you never know! Well, you never know, unless you’re married to Lois. I bet you’re all way ahead of me, because song number six was indeed Oh Bla Di, and none of the people at our table said a peep, so there’s no way Greg could have known (from us) that Lois wanted to hear it. Thanks Universe! (Unfortunately, as with Christina Morelli being there, it would be cheating to count this as a surprise, even though it seemed like an impossibility!)

By this time, people were rolling into the bar on a consistent basis. When you couple the quality of the music, with the classic nature of the songs, it’s not even marginally surprising that most newcomers stopped by the stage to listen and sing along, loudly! The Jersey Girls (TJG) were only the beginning of a trend.

Even though Greg said they would play Beatles songs until they (or we) got tired of it, that didn’t happen. I may have the order wrong, but they quickly switched gears, and next up might have been Stevie Wonder. At some point, both Bri Arden and Sierra Noble got on the stage and sang backup vocals (on two songs). Folks, each of them is a bona-fide lead vocalist that you should never miss an opportunity to hear. Adding them as background vocalists was fun and great, even though it was short-lived. (#11)

SierraNobleBriArden

A few sailors came in (it is Memorial Day Weekend, and therefore Fleet Week as well!). It’s always great to be around our Military (at least it is for me!), but it’s obviously more special when we remember those that gave their lives so that we could get silly (not that I’ve gotten to the silly part yet!) in a bar in Greenwich Village. We salute you all! TJG did their part and danced with the sailors.

Minutes later the night took a dramatic turn. Eight girls walked in front of us (between us and the stage), semi-danced while they were in front of the stage (to acknowledge the great music/band) as they made their way to the bar. We all noticed them because each of them had neon glow necklaces on. Clearly, something was going on.

NeonNecklaces

Craig broke into a fabulous rendition of Bust a Move by Young MC. The crowd went nuts! If he stopped rapping for a second, the next words could easily be heard out of a dozen different people. Craig raps? (#12)

Immediately thereafter (remember, I’m making up the order as I go along) Winking smile Craig was on top of his MC duties. He asked the necklaced women what was going on. It was a Bachelorette  party. He asked who the bride-to-be was, and we were all introduced to Laura. Along with TJG, we had Laura and her entire bachelorette party (which grew beyond the initial eight) to focus on the rest of the night.

Craig asked if he could have a neon necklace. Instead, they gave him a neon sticker (which Craig proudly wore the rest of the night) that said: “Fling, Fling before the Ring, Ring!”. Smile

CraigMeyerFlingFlingSticker

Craig asked if Laura had a list of things she needed to complete while at the bar (I didn’t even know such a thing existed, perhaps because I never attended a bachelorette party before. At a bachelor party, the list is pretty short.) Winking smile

Not only did she have a list, they were neatly written out on flash cards. One of the attendees handed a card to Craig, who offered to try and help Laura get as many items checked off her list as he could. He was successful with at least two items (I might have missed a couple more). One of them was that Laura needed to get a random man in the bar to buy her a drink, by saying some unmentionable things to him. After Craig read that out loud (replacing the words “unmentionable things” with the real words), Laura was able to cross that one off a second later.

Here are four of those flash cards:

BachelorettePartyFlashCards

The next one was Do The Twist with a stranger, for the entire song. Sure enough, the band instantly started playing The Twist, and one of the sailors played the part of the stranger. After the song (yes, she twisted the entire time), he lifted her up like Richard Gere does with Debra Winger at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, to the delighted whoops of everyone who saw it. Laura ended up in the right bar on the right night. Smile

SailorAndLauraTwisting

While playing The Twist, the entire bachelorette party came out to dance (let’s just officially call the area between our table and the stage, The Dance Floor). Many others joined them (including TJG), and it remained crowded the rest of the evening. The people who danced, along with the people who sat close by, continued to sing along on nearly every song.

At one point, Craig invited Laura and her posse on stage to sing a couple of songs. They acquitted themselves very nicely!

LauraAndPosse

Out of the blue, Chris Ayer walks into the bar. For the newbies, he’s another one who we can’t get enough of (if I’m the President of Greg’s fan club, Lois is the Emperor of Chris’). Winking smile Greg spots Chris (who apparently wasn’t expected to be there, thanks again Twitter!), and announces that Chris would be joining them in a little bit to sing. Awesome! I’m sure it was as big a surprise to Chris as it was to us. (#13).

A few minutes later, a man in a hat walked in carrying a small saxophone case. He stood by the side of the stage for a song, and then walked across the dance floor very deliberately, looking at the band in what felt to me was like one gang eyeing another. What I didn’t realize is that he knew them well (at least Craig, if not Greg too). He’s played with Craig and Martin at the Red Lion many times (I found that out while Googling him). (#14)

The sax player was Chuck Hancock (I hope I linked to the correct person). Craig called him “Sir Chuck Hancock” throughout the night. Googling for that made it easy to see that Martin and Craig always call him by that name. Whether others do is a task I’ll leave to you!

After getting to the other side of the stage, he unpacked his sax and got on stage next to Tony. He’s an excellent sax player (he hits some extremely high notes so sweetly). He stayed on stage for much of the rest of the night and sang a bunch too (extremely well!). He took the lead vocals on Jackomo Fina Fina Nay. Trust me, that one got the crowd going too, since we all called back “Hey Now, Hey Now”, etc.

SirChuckHancockSax

In yesterday’s post I asked the rhetorical question: “Who doesn’t like a party?”. Well, while I thought I was in the middle of a party already (at least a bachelorette one), it only got more fun (and raucous) from there. I think one TJG called out for some Tom Petty. If not, once Greg decided to shift to Tom Petty, they (and others!) wouldn’t let him get off that theme for a while.

What made it crank up a notch is that it was during The Tom Petty Portion of the Evening (henceforth known as TTPPotE) that we got to hear Tony Maceli belt out the vocals to a couple of songs.

It was in TTPPotE that Chris Ayer came up and sang one. No disrespect to any of the other singers, but holy moly, with all that was going on in the room at the time, you could palpably feel everyone (in particular the women) take note of his voice and style of singing. (Seriously, Greg was awesome all night on the vocals, but do yourself a favor and check out Chris Ayer, you’ll be amazed!).

ChrisAyerSinging

(Full Disclosure: The previous paragraph was sponsored by Lois, in her capacity as Emperor of the Chris Ayer Fan Club)

Chris remained on stage for quite a while, singing mostly background vocals (I think he sang lead on one other number).

A little later on I spotted John Schmitt standing next to the stage. Sure enough, seconds later Craig announced that another special guest would be serenading us.

JohnSchmitt

They moved on to Paul Simon, with John Schmitt singing lead, including Me & Julio, featuring Chris and Sir Chuck on background vocals (and Chuck tearing it up on the sax, again).

ChrisAyerSirChuckHancock

Later in the evening, Sir Chuck took his sax into the middle of the dance floor and serenaded Laura (the bride-to-be, in case you aren’t paying attention any longer!), while she danced to his music, inches away.

SirChuckHancockInTheCrowd

I’m probably missing many more highlights, but it’s all a blur now, and I’m about to be late to what I expect will be a terrific Memorial Day BBQ at our friends’ house. So, I’ll just say that this turned out to be one of the most fun nights out, which is almost an incredulous statement given that it was our seventh night out in a row, all of which were amazing. To think that not only wasn’t this planned, I didn’t even know it was going to happen until that afternoon.

We are grateful that we changed our plans (fan club membership has its privileges) and can’t thank the band and all of the incredible guests for putting on more than a show, they hosted one of the best parties we’ve ever attended.

I can also scratch off Attend a Bachelorette Party from my bucket list. Winking smile

P.S. I couldn’t finish the photos before I had to call our hosts and apologize for only being 30 minutes late (it ended up being 32 minutes). I’m now at our friend’s house, full and happy, and being anti-social by finishing this up. At least they have Verizon FiOS, so the upload will go faster than if I wait until I’m back at the apartment.

Martin Rivas and Robbie Gil at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Martin Rivas was bringing his current Saturday Night residency at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 to a close last night (he’ll be touring Europe much of the summer). That would be reason enough to go see him (the last full-band show in NYC until late August or early September). But I’ll give you a better reason (even though you’re too late to act on it if you weren’t there), it was Martin’s Birthday!

In typical Martin style (his heart is bigger than any three of us mere mortals combined), he threw a party for the rest of us, rather than the other way around!

MartinRivas

Martin performed a set full of his original crowd favorites plus a few covers. Let’s give him none of the credit for that though. One of his birthday surprises was the set list itself. Martin didn’t get to peek at it until nearly show time. His band decided what songs Martin would have to play. Extremely cool idea on their part, well executed by everyone (Martin included). Since they are big fans of Martin as well, they were effectively making this a fan-driven set list.

MartinRivasBirthdaySetList

They had another surprise for him, which affected the entire set as well. They got him stinkin’ drunk (on top shelf hooch) before the show. I’ve never seen Martin wasted before, since he always has a long drive home after the shows. He announced (with another drink in hand!) that this was the first Rockwood show that he was going to be driven home from. Since his wife was in the audience, I presume that she was his designated driver. Perhaps the band also chipped in for a Limo (I can fantasize on Martin’s behalf, can’t I?). Smile

Martin was in excellent voice (which was a relief, since he’s been sick recently).

MartinRivasSinging

His guitar play was spot on as well (including an extremely tasty lead on an acoustic guitar, late in the set). During one song he popped a string. He played through the rest of the song without missing a beat (I saw the string fly away from the guitar when it happened).

When the song was over, he bestowed the honor of restringing it to Greg Mayo. It turned into a little bit on stage though, as it was the G string that popped. If you’re not following me, and some of the ensuing guffaws in the audience, that’s fine, as this is a PG-13 rated blog. Winking smile

A minute later, Greg emerged from the green room and informed Martin that he couldn’t repair it. I think I heard him say that the peg (the part that holds the string on the body of the guitar) came flying out as well. They took a quick look in front of Martin, didn’t spot it, and Martin decided to play the rest of the set without a guitar (no worries, there were two guitarists on stage with him throughout).

Greg being the clever guy that he is would have none of that. He returned a minute later with Robbie Gil’s guitar (Robbie headlined the set before, which I’ll cover later in this post). The tasty lead I mentioned above was performed on Robbie’s guitar, so thanks Greg for thinking of that, and Robbie for being willing to part with it (it was unbelievably worn/scratched, so it has to be one of Robbie’s favorites).

Martin got the crowd singing a few times (only once by asking us to). Even when people weren’t singing out loud, I saw so many people mouthing every word that Martin was singing. Most of his sets are like that, but there was definitely a special feeling in the air last night (I wonder why…).

Martin always has The Spirit in him. Since last night he also had the Spirits in him, he did something we often wish more performers would do on behalf of their fans/audience. He tried (with mixed success) a number of times to quiet the inevitable talkers. For the most part, he did it in the most loving way imaginable (seriously, he simply appealed to the talkers to listen quietly for one special song, then resume their talk about Stock Portfolios and Second Homes in the Hamptons!). Smile

One particularly annoying woman in the far corner yelled out “Hey, it’s SATURDAY NIGHT” (at the top of her lungs). Martin had a different kind of spirited response for her. The cheers and applause let him know that he was speaking for all us (well, I guess most of us). Here’s a Twitter exchange from a few minutes ago (as I am writing this) between Tony Maceli and Martin:

@martinrivas do you recall asking a young lady at Rockwood to ‘be quiet’ in a very un-Martin like way, followed by rousing applause?

@whosthebass did I do that?! Awesome!!!!! Hope it wasn’t too rude

Ah, reliving that moment this morning was sweet. Thanks Tony and Martin for making that happen. Smile

One last incident before we get back to the music (actually, the amazing band and guest!). Someone (I’d give them credit if I knew who) brought a lot of cupcakes (fancy ones from what I saw) to celebrate Martin’s birthday. One was passed to Martin on stage and we all sang Happy Birthday to him. Well, we started to, in a rag-tag disarrayed fashion. Martin made us all stop and said:

If you’re going to do this, then at least do it right. Ready? 1… 2… 3…

MartinRivasCoordinatingHappyBirthdaySong

That’s all it took to get us all on the right page. Thanks for that as well Martin. But that’s not the incident, I needed to relate that part so that you’d know there were a lot of cupcakes in the room. Winking smile

MartinRivasHappyBirthdayCupcake

One moron (yes, I spent hours considering the exact right word to describe this person) thought it would be funny to toss a cupcake on the stage. Of course, it landed icing side down on top of the electronic keyboard (somehow finding the most damageable thing it could on stage). It took time and effort to clean it off before the next song could start. Well done moron (sorry, it deserved repeating).

The band was amazing musically, but they were also the driving force in lifting Martin’s spirit even higher than usual (who knew that was even possible?). In combination with Martin, they turned an awesome show in a giant party as well (who doesn’t like a party?).

Left-to-right on the stage, followed by a very special guest appearance:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. I’ve written about Patrick many times, but this was our third night in a row seeing him tickle the ivories brilliantly (each night with a different band!), so there’s a lot of ink about Patrick on the home page at the moment. It was his keyboards (the top one of the double-decker setup) that had the pleasure of hosting the upside-down cupcake.

PatrickFirthKeyboards

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. Ryan did a fantastic job (as he does whenever he sits in on Martin’s full-band shows) banging on everything in sight. Not only did he play his own toys (cowbells, tambourine, shakers, etc.), but a couple of times he got up and shared the drumming duties (two drummers playing the same drum set at the same time). Awesome! Ryan was the person who diligently cleaned Patrick’s keyboard after the cupcake fiasco.

RyanVaughnPercussion

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Chris shared the leads with the other guitarist, Greg Mayo. In addition to each being excellent in their own right, they feed off of and complement each other. I’ll have a bit more to say about Chris’ vocals in a minute. This was also the second time we’ve seen Chris this week. He was part of Ian Axel’s band on Tuesday and rocked out that night as well.

ChrisKuffnerGuitarLeadChrisJuffnerSinging

Craig Meyer on drums. Craig is always superb on the drums. Last night was no exception. In fact, if it’s possible, he rose to the occasion of wanting/needing to make this night a bit more special. After all, he’s Martin’s Baby Brother (if you haven’t been to one of Martin’s show, don’t bother looking up which one of them changed their last name, it’s Martin’s homage to how much he loves and respects Craig as a person and as his primary drumming partner!). This was our second time seeing Craig at Rockwood 2 this week.

CraigMeyerDrumsCraigMeyerTambourine

Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. Another excellent performance by Brian. As with Patrick Firth, this was our third consecutive night enjoying Brian’s play (they were in the same bands each night).

BrianKilleen

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. Since we saw Greg headlining a set that ended just 22 hours before Martin hit the stage, I’ll point you to that post to read my thoughts on this extraordinary musician. For the people at my table last night (you know who you are!), the looks we exchanged every time Greg took a lead will remain etched in my memory forever! I’ll have something to add when I cover Robbie Gil, since Greg (along with Patrick Firth and Ryan Vaughn) also played in that set.

GregMayoJamming

There weren’t any really slow songs last night, so it’s not surprising that this band kept such a steady level of energy that had practically everyone in the crowd swaying, dancing, bobbing, tapping, clapping, etc., throughout every song. The possible exception was the woman that Martin needed to slap down (sorry, I couldn’t resist one last cheap shot).

Bess Rogers was called up as a special guest. This is the song where Martin pleaded with people to be quiet (before his exchange with the woman, he was speaking to a different set of women at the bar). Martin knew why quiet would be necessary for the full enjoyment of what we were about to experience (we had no clue, or at least I didn’t).

Martin started singing, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar, with Chris Kuffner  playing the electric, softly. Both Bess and Chris sang soft harmonies, not even that often. I admit (why do I always bare my soul here?) that I wondered for a second why Martin bothered to call Bess up. It seemed like he was wasting an opportunity to share her talent with the crowd.

Then the moment came. Both Martin and Chris stopped playing their guitars. Martin, Bess and Chris continued a capella in stunning three-part harmony. It was so breath-taking, even the talkers stopped (like seeing the burning bush, even non-believers have to at least wonder). Suddenly, Bess’ role in celebrating Martin’s birthday became crystal clear. Thanks!

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBessRogers

Bess and Martin are touring together (I assume with Chris as well). Folks, even if they just play this one three-minute song and leave the stage, get out to see them if/when they hit your town. With a little luck, they might stick around and dazzle you a bit more than that. Winking smile

At one point late in the show, Seth Faulk jumped on stage to join in the percussion merriment. A little later, Adam Christgau followed his lead and turned the merriment into a bit more percussion mayhem. Smile

GregMayoSethFaulkAdamChristgauClapping

Martin closed out the show with North. Such a soulful song to underscore the evening. He brought out a dancer (Whitney G-Bowley of GIG) to add a visual dimension to the song.

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasWhitneyG-Bowley

When I say “closed the show”, of course, I mean pre-encore. For the encore, Martin brought out two additional special guests, Robbie Gil and Casey Shea (who was headlining the next set). Along with the full band, they performed Stand By Me, which included having the crowd sing the chorus (with them and separately!) a number of times. The party atmosphere was at its height!

What a spectacular way to end the show (rather than close the show). Winking smile

Since we were there for the set before Martin’s, I had time during the break between them to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, find and introduce myself to Christina Morelli. While she’s talented in many ways, I came to discover her through her passion for covering and promoting the NYC Art Scene. Subscribe there and follow her on Twitter.

Aside from her own excellent writing, she gives a voice, platform and exposure to many talented NYC-based artists. She also does interesting video interviews in collaboration with the effervescent Sam Teichman (whom you can also follow on Twitter). Want to know why you should follow Sam on Twitter? Consider this tweet from last night (sent during Martin’s set!):

Music is my religion. Rockwood Music Hall is my favorite place of worship. @martinrivas can be my spiritual leader anytime. So inspiring.

On to Robbie Gil! We’ve only seen Robbie perform one song, as a guest at a Big Apple Singers show. He was excellent. In fact, the song he led that night was the highlight of the set for me. Here’s an out-of-context quote from that post (but you can read the entire thing to really understand what I was saying):

Robbie kicked off another The Band song but insisted that each of the other band members sing at least one verse (that’s the song that Chris took a lead on). Robbie’s voice was wonderful as was his spirit on the stage. It’s the one exception I noted above to nearing the feeling I had on Wednesday.

We’ve missed Robbie Gil’s full sets three times now. The first one (mentioned in the above-linked post) was simply because I chose to see Derek James perform next door (and I’m choosing to see Derek James again this Wed, 8pm, Rockwood 1). The next two times I tried to see Robbie, the place was so crowded that the bouncer wouldn’t let me in. One of those nights was bitterly cold (and windy to boot), but I stood outside and suffered so that I could at least enjoy Martin’s set (they often follow each other). How could I not keep trying to see someone who was obviously so popular?

Well, I guess I have to thank New Yorkers need (or is it just desire?) to escape the city on holiday weekends. Third time’s the charm, as we got in to see Robbie. It was a large crowd, but not at capacity, like it was in my previous attempts.

Robbie is a soulful, gravelly-voiced singer (which is why he killed it when singing The Band song with The Big Apple Singers) that seems to drain every ounce of energy in his body on every song. Miraculously, he has some secret recharging source that gets him ready for the next song in the few seconds he has between them.

He played both grand piano (which he opened the show with) and acoustic guitar, very well. He also sang a bit without an instrument (but always with the band, with one exception I’ll note below).

RobbieGilPiano

Robbie performed a number of originals, mixed with covers, all well. Given the amount of passion he puts into every note, it’s sometimes hard to hear the words clearly, so I don’t have enough of a sense of him as a lyricist yet (with the same exception noted above).

What comes across most is his joy on stage, which he spreads like a warm blanket on a cold day over the audience. Pairing his sets with Martin’s is brilliant, both for the genre similarities (that will make an audience for one happily stick around for the other) and for the spiritual well-being projecting from the stage from each of them.

Robbie was accompanied by a full band on nearly every number. Three of the four band members played with Martin as well: Patrick Firth, Ryan Vaughn and Greg Mayo.

Patrick Firth played both electronic keyboards and grand piano (the grand piano was lifted off the stage for Martin’s set). As good as Patrick is on the electronic keyboards, I am even more taken by his play on the grand piano (it’s simply purer).

RobbieGilPatrickFirth

While singing one number, Robbie Gil stepped over to the far left corner of the stage and started playing four-handed piano with Patrick (he remained standing while playing!). We’ve seen this before (The Paper Raincoat’s Right Angles comes to mind), but with no disrespect to other piano players, this was the best I can recall. Awesome!

RobbieGilPatrickFirthBothPlayingPiano

Ryan Vaughn played the full drum set. I’ve heard nothing but praise for his drumming from so many people, but previous to this set I’ve only seen him play percussion to Craig Meyer’s drums. I can now confirm that those rumors of his skill were not exaggerated. He’s a wonderful drummer! Sorry about the red eye in the photo.

RyanVaughnDrums

I don’t have anything new to say about Greg Mayo’s guitar play (it was equally awesome in both sets), other than to note that he took much longer leads during Robbie’s set, partially because he wasn’t sharing the duties with Chris Kuffner.

GregMayoLeadGuitar

I’ll note two critical things:

  1. Robbie kneeled down a number of times when Greg was taking a solo, so that people on the opposite side of the stage could enjoy it visually as well as aurally. This was precisely the same type of classy move I praised Evan Watson for (in the same post linked above where we first saw Robbie sing!).RobbieGilKneeling
  2. Robbie heaped so much praise on Greg (repeatedly), that I felt certain he was actively campaigning for my position as President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club. BACK OFF ROBBIE, the job is taken! Winking smile

Lois ended up sitting right next to Robbie’s dad. Toward the end of the set Robbie gave him a shout out and the crowd enthusiastically gave him an ovation.

RobbieGilWithHisDadLookingOn

Nick Morrison on electric bass (the only additional band member, but I can’t find a good link to him). Very well done! Now I can finally get to the exception. Robbie dismissed all but Nick from the stage. He took to the piano and sang a new original number named I Believe. Nick accompanied him quietly and beautifully on the bass. Since it was a quiet song, we could hear the words clearly. Both Lois and I thought it was a really good song, so hearing more of his material is warranted.

NickMorrison

Robbie called up Martin Rivas to close his set and they sang Feeling Alright by Dave Mason. Of course, as with Martin’s Stand By Me, the crowd joined in for much of the song, included a few choruses of just the audience singing.

RobbieGilMartinRivasNickMorrison

Lois has a way of bending the universe to her will (if you know her, you know I’m not exaggerating!). The night before, when we were at Greg Mayo’s midnight set, Lois whispered to me “Ask Greg to play anything by Dave Mason!” (that’s the gospel truth!). I said: “While he’s doing covers tonight, they’re not requests, we’ll have to take whatever he gives us!”.

Obviously, Lois wasn’t satisfied with my answer, so she took matters into her own hands and found a way to force Robbie to satisfy her desire to hear a Dave Mason song performed live. Be afraid people, be very afraid… Winking smile

What an absolutely spectacular night.

We had fully intended to stay for Casey Shea next, since so many people have told me I need to get to know his music. We did hear the first three songs (all good!), but we left for two reasons: 1) His set started 75 minutes later than expected (I was ready to collapse rather than get wound even tighter) and 2) The volume doubled the minute they started, to an uncomfortable level. We’ll catch a set of Casey’s soon enough, I’m sure.