Craig Meyer

Sierra Noble at Rockwood Music Hall

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It’s been three months since we last saw Sierra Noble perform. That’s a bit too long so I’m glad the dry spell is over. I had last night marked on the calendar for a long time (Rockwood Music Hall). Finding out a few days ago that a number of my favorite people/performers would be supporting Sierra was icing on the cake.

Sierra opened the set by saying that she intended to tell a story with the music. That story was a condensed biography of this young phenom’s life (sort of a live Wikipedia show). She hails from Winnipeg and started her musical career at the age of 12 (so says her actual Wikipedia page, see what I did there?). At 15-years-old, she released a CD of fiddle tunes (I have it, it’s wonderful!).

SierraNobleFiddleChrisAnderson

She started the set last night with a traditional fiddle tune.

Next she talked about how she was cajoled (nearly forced) into singing and songwriting. She explained that a number of her fiddle heroes went in that direction as well (unsuccessfully), making her extremely reluctant to follow that path. Thankfully, her friend(s) persisted and eventually got her to relent.

Her very first effort yielded the co-written tune Possibility. It inspired her EP Possibilities (released in 2008) showing off her amazing singing and songwriting talents. She played that song next. For that she switched to an acoustic guitar. She switched between the guitar and the fiddle a number of times throughout the set.

SierraNobleGuitar

That was part of a Nashville period for her and yielded the next few songs of the set. The musical journey continued until she brought it full circle, ending with another hard-driving fiddle tune (Sierra just played a number of shows and festivals in Winnipeg before coming to NYC for a nice stretch).

That she is only 21 is mind-boggling. Thinking about how much musical greatness we’ll see from her over the years makes me a bit giddy.

We’ll get to the band in a minute, but half way through the set she brought up Martin Rivas as a special guest. Martin sang harmony and wielded shakers a bit as well. On Human After All (a song co-written with Michael Logen) Martin sang lead as well as harmony, kicking off the first verse. Their voices blend beautifully.

SierraNobleMartinRivasChrisAnderson

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

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and harmony. Greg’s play was appropriately subtler last night than when he’s the main attraction. It was also just as good. On one number he made his guitar sound exactly like a peddle steel, without using a slide. Later, he used a slide as well, getting a different sound.

GregMayo

He sang a bit of harmony, beautifully, on a number of songs.

Come to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on Saturday (10/8/2011) at 11:30pm (yes, past my bedtime, but well worth staying up) to see Greg in all his guitar glory with a new incarnation called The Red Delicious Apples.

Ariel Posen on acoustic guitar. Ariel is a well-known guitarist in Winnipeg. He played mostly rhythm last night, but occasionally took short tasty leads showing off his skills. For one brief moment he and Greg did a little guitar duet. I look forward to seeing more of Ariel should he choose to hang around NYC.

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Chris Anderson on upright bass and background vocals. Chris was wonderful (as usual).

ChrisAnderson

Craig Meyer on drums. It’s been too long (four months) since we’ve seen Craig play a full set. His wonderful play last night drove that point home. While he was excellent on every number, he was the driving force behind the finale, keeping a very lively beat for Sierra to show off her fiddle skills.

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Joining Sierra on stage for one number:

Ian Schaefer  on trumpet. A gorgeous, subtle performance, with the cup muting the sound.

IanSchaefer

Sir Chuck Hancock on saxophone. Sierra noted that Sir Chuck was a last minute surprise. That implied to me that he didn’t rehearse with them. You couldn’t have guessed that from his perfect play dancing around between the verses.

SierraNobleSirChuckHancockIanSchaeferChrisAnderson

Later on, Sir Chuck played a bit from the audience (he was standing directly behind me, with the sax right at my left ear). It too was perfect, and amazingly, not even slightly too loud for me. I can only hope that Sierra heard his little magic on stage and enjoyed it as much as I did.

SirChuckHancock

No need to start the clock ticking on another Sierra Noble drought just yet. We’ll be seeing her again a week from today (10/13/11) at The Living Room, 7pm. Be there, trust me.

Here is the set list from last night, a winner!

SetList

Rachel Platten, Bess Rogers and Bethany and the Guitar at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse

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We’re nearing the middle of a two week hiatus from NYC music. We’ve already missed some very special shows and will be missing a few more before we get back on the horse.

None of that mattered, because I thought I was going to see a night of Musical Mud Wrestling starring two amazing female singer/songwriters, Rachel Platten and Bess Rogers at Ebenezers Coffeehouse:

bess-v-rachel

OK, you’d think it was billed as a topless boxing match from the above poster (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but I chose to believe they wanted to leave the image of them mud wrestling to the imagination. Note that in typical female fashion, the poster doesn’t include their weight (click on it for a larger version!). Bess only fueled the image with this tweet:

June tour with Rachel Platten! Come watch us fight to the finish!!http://fburls.com/46-mnKKwbgC

Before you head out to see them on this tour, let me assure you, it was all a lie. The only thing you’ll see/hear if you attend one of their shows is awesome music (and you might laugh a bunch as well, but that’s it!). Seriously, I could have stayed in NYC for that instead of driving to DC to catch this show. Winking smile

In my typical fashion, I’ll cover the acts (there were three) in reverse order.

Rachel Platten was up last. She very recently released a CD called Be Here. Get it, listen to it, fall in love with it.

RachelPlattenSinging

Rachel performed at least six of the songs from the CD last night and one or two songs I never heard before (always a treat). Rachel always delivers the goods live, in whatever configuration she chooses. She played one song solo, the rest with her band, and a few also had Bess Rogers singing harmony with her.

Bringing Bess up led to a number of funny lines, including the only thing that could be confused for delivering what the Poster (and tour name) promised! Rachel also sang harmony with Bess on a few numbers during Bess’ set. When Rachel took the stage, she commented that it’s much easier to think of things to say to the audience when it’s your own set and how you just look and sound goofy (not the word she used) when it’s someone else’s set.

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Of course, she said that exactly as Bess was settling in behind her mic. Everyone erupted in laughter (including Bess and Rachel), since it seemed like she was challenging Bess to say something clever, right then and there.

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In addition to having a great voice and writing great songs, Rachel is also superb on the keyboards. Last night she intro’ed one song with an incredible solo (mostly classical style, with fingers flying the length of the keyboard). She had a number of mini-solos, all filled with razzle-dazzle.

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Backing her up on all but one number were:

Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and vocals. I was surprised that Martin played and sang. I expected him to be the referee for the fight. Oh well, we had to suffer his wonderful voice and guitar playing instead. Perhaps next time! Smile

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Craig Meyer on drums/percussion. Craig always does an amazing job, whether he’s playing with a full drum set or hitting his leg with brush sticks (yes, he did that last night during one song!). Rachel highlighted him giving Craig an intense solo, but to be honest, Craig generally is a highlight reel (in the best sense), whether he takes a solo or not, at each show.

CraigMeyerCraigMeyerDrums

Behind Craig was a full drum set, in one of those glass cages you often see at a giant show (MSG, etc.). It would have been interesting to see him wail on that for a bit. That too will have to wait for another time.

MartinRivasCraigMeyer

I include the set list here, but Rachel didn’t follow this to a T, even though it was sitting on the floor next to her. Specifically, she opened the show with Nothing Ever Happens, which appears second on this list:

RachelPlattenSetList

Bess Rogers had a similar setup to Rachel. She played one song solo (on acoustic guitar). For the rest, she was accompanied by Martin and Craig. She performed most of them on acoustic guitar, but switched to ukulele for a few. Rachel sang harmony on a few numbers and played a bit of keyboards on one.

BessRogersSingingBessRogersUkulele

Not to be mistaken for a cool person, Bess paired a glockenspiel on one of the numbers that she also played uke on (the one Rachel played keys on). Bess pointed out that if you’re going to be a Nerd (and she considers herself one), then by all means, pair two nerdy instruments in the same song. Winking smile

BessRogersUkuleleGlockenspiel

To be honest, I felt a bit cheated on another score. Bess bought (and apparently mastered!) a new Omnichord. I was hoping she would break it out at this show. Alas, she did not…

Bess has an exceptional voice, with incredible control to boot. It was evident on every number except the very first one. We couldn’t tell why the sound engineer wasn’t boosting her mic during the opening number. We also weren’t sure whether Bess even knew she was sounding soft to us (since her monitor might have been fine).

RachelPlattenHarmonizingWithBessRogers

Thankfully, the minute the song was over she switched mic’s with Rachel, saying that for whatever reason, the one she had was simply too soft-sounding. Whew. Everything was perfect (sound-wise and voice-wise) after that!

Bess played a few from her latest EP (released in 2010), including the opener, Come Home and Favorite Day. In introducing Favorite Day (a song about her now-husband, who was only a boyfriend back then), Bess made someone named Courtney (in the audience) promise not to tell Chris Kuffner (her husband) that she shared the back-story/motivation for the song. Since I didn’t sign any legal documents and Bess didn’t admonish me personally, I’m mentioning it here. Winking smile

Bess played an older one (from her first CD, released in 2007) with an updated arrangement. I’m mentioning these because we didn’t snag a set list for Bess (not that I noticed one on stage). She also played a couple of new ones that will be on an upcoming CD that was funded (extremely successfully!) on Kickstarter. Congrats Bess, we’re waiting (semi-patiently) until we all get to enjoy it!

While Martin played normal guitar and sang harmony with Bess (wonderfully), he also played the acoustic guitar as if it was a bass on a couple of numbers, to excellent effect. Nicely done Martin!

There was an opening act for the evening, someone we never heard of before. While some opening acts don’t suit the headliners well, we’re reasonably open to finding out if they do, considering that some of our favorite bands/people were discovered that way. I suspect that last night’s opener will make that list (perhaps they already did?).

Bethany and the Guitar is a five-person group, but basically, the core is Bethany Parks and her brother, Kurtis Parks. Since Kurtis played the guitar on stage, I’m gonna guess that Kurtis == the Guitar. Smile The bio on their site implies that they co-write most of the songs. Either way, both are clearly extremely talented.

BethanyAndTheGuitar

Bethany sings beautifully and plays the ukulele on most songs. The first few numbers they performed reminded me of The Weepies. On others, she gave me more of the feel of Rosi Golan. In both cases, I describe it as ethereal/dreamy Pop, but with interesting lyrics, so it’s not just about the sound (though if that’s all that grabs you, it’s more than enough!).

BethanyParksSingingBethanyParksUkulele

Kurtis sings harmony a fair amount (very nicely, or I could never have likened them to The Weepies!) and plays guitar quite nicely on all the numbers. He sang lead on a verse or two as well. From his site (linked above), he has (and has had) his own bands as well.

KurtisParks

They performed two songs last night that Bethany didn’t write (or co-write). One was a cover, the other was co-written by Kurtis and a Nashville songwriter.

Bethany sang a new song (not on the CD) that she wrote for a NYC-based charity called Buy Her Bag Not Her Body. The bags were also for sale at the merch table. This charity saves women from the sex slave trade and gives them a skill (in this case making hand bags) to support themselves.

Rachel announced during her set that her birthday was upcoming and that Martin bought her one of the bags during intermission. Martin scores a double, for being a good friend and doing a good deed at the same time!

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

Eric Montgomery on electric bass. Very nice job throughout the set. He also helped Bess, Rachel, Martin and Craig with the monitor volumes and cabling during their sets. From the photo on Kurtis’ site, I see he is/was also part of Kurtis’ band (Kurits Parks and the Anthem). He’s on the right. The guy on the left was in the audience.

EricMontgomery

Sarah Parks vocals and clapping. Sarah is married to Kurtis. She has a lovely voice. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem comfortable enough on stage to want to use it forcefully. She often sang a little further back from the mic than would have been ideal. What I heard was really good though. I also listened to their CD and it’s easier to pick out Sarah’s voice there.

SarahParksClapping1

Speaking of the CD, we bought two copies. Thankfully, it holds up as well as I could have hoped given last night’s performance. I’ve listened to it twice today (after ripping it, not once per physical CD). The last track on the CD is labeled “World Famous (Bonus)”. They played it last night as well, I think closing the show with it. On that track Sarah sings the final verse on the lead (the only verse she sang lead on last night).

Kurtis produced the CD, so he’s talented beyond just singing, musicianship and songwriting abilities.

Nick Welsh on cajon. Nick did an extremely good job. I haven’t seen too many cajon players, but I’ve liked the instrument every time. Nick had more of a snare sound to his (which was new to me).

NickWelshNickWelshCajon

During one song where there was clapping (note that I listed “clapping” as one of the things that Sarah did a number of times), Nick seemed to get the cajon to sound like multiple people clapping along with Sarah.

SarahParksClapping2

Both Nick and Bethany joined Rachel for her last song, each with a tambourine in hand with Nick adding a shaker (after all, he’s a professional percussionist!). Smile

NickWelshBethanyParksRachelPlatten

When Bethany was done performing, she told the crowd to stick around for two of her favorite artists, Bess and Rachel. We’ve heard many opening acts praise the headliners. Often it’s sincere (Bethany certainly appeared so), but sometimes it’s obviously meant to curry favor (points for the future perhaps).

During one song in Rachel’s set, I noticed that Bethany was singing along word for word. Obviously, Bethany didn’t only seem sincere, she’s really a fan. Nice, as it was clear from Rachel and Bess’ praise of Bethany on stage (multiple times) that if they weren’t fans before, they certainly became fans of Bethany last night. As did we!

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.

Rebecca Haviland and American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood Music Hall

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I’ve written about Rebecca Haviland quite a number of times, each time glowingly. That said, the most songs we ever saw her perform in a row were three, at a recent Backscratch show. We’ve wanted to catch a full set for a long time and nearly pulled it off twice. It finally happened last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1.

Rebecca played mostly originals, with two excellent covers thrown in for good measure. I was impressed with her set list, because it showed her voice off over a number of genres and volume levels.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

You shouldn’t have to ask, but for you insistent types, yes, Rebecca excelled at all of them, on every song.

She chose to play every number accompanying herself on electric guitar (very nicely). We’ve seen her play keyboards twice before and she impressed me mightily both times, so we still have that to look forward to in a future set.

RebeccaHavilandGuitar

Rebecca was accompanied by some of the best NY-based musicians (we count them among our favorites). I’ll cover them in a minute. Halfway through the set, she dismissed them all. She played a spanking brand new song, solo. It’s so new, that she decided to restart it a few seconds in, to get into the right rhythm.

It’s either called Pain and Pleasure, or Pleasure and Pain (though on the set list, it’s marked as “Sing”, which I doubt means that she needed to remember to use her voice, so I’m not really sure). Winking smile

Aside from really liking the song (and enjoying the intro Rebecca shared with us), I loved the fact that the guitar was so minimalist (almost dark/brooding), that this song was basically Rebecca, raw. The voice, lyrics and emotions, all delivered without any other distractions, other than a hauntingly simple guitar background.

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

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. Can I praise Greg more than I have in the past? It’s a difficult assignment, but I’ll be sure to work hard at it. Last night’s keyboards were wonderful, including solos on both piano and organ. Greg’s harmonies were excellent on many of the choruses as well. We’ll save more Mayo Hype for when he’s front and center. Smile

GregMayo

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris continues to impress more each time we see him (and that’s especially hard, since we seem to see him multiple times each week). I’ve mentioned recently that Chris has a good voice (something we didn’t discover until we saw the Big Apple Singers). Last night, in addition to quality bass play, Chris sang a lot of harmony with Rebecca (even more than Greg did). When the three of them sang together (on every chorus that Greg was singing), it was a complete delight.

ChrisAnderson

But, beyond playing the bass and singing, Rebecca mentioned that she writes some of her songs with Chris. I am guessing that would explain why Chris sang more harmonies with Rebecca than Greg did last night, considering that he likely knew the newer songs better.

Kenny Shaw on drums. This was the second night in a row seeing Kenny play the drums (the previous night was with The Thang Band over at Stage 2). What a contrast! (You’ll need to read this post to understand why). Aside from Kenny’s excellent play during Rebecca’s set, I got to tell him afterward how much I enjoyed The Thang experience.

KennyShawSettingUp

Kenny asked me whether I got a copy of their EP after the show. I said no. I turned away to say something To Chris Anderson and when I turned back, Kenny handed me the EP. I admit to not being quick on my feet. I took it, profusely thanking him, but my normal instinct would have been to pay for it. I don’t know whether they were charging for it the night before, but I’ll find out and make it right the next time I see Kenny. In any event, thanks!

After playing solo, Rebecca brought the band back out and sang a super-soulful, bluesy version of Black Dog by Led Zeppelin (she performed it at Backscratch as well). She then announced that she had two more songs.

After finishing the first, the house music and lights came on. Everyone was confused (band and audience alike). It took a minute to sort out, but the lights dimmed, the music went off, and Rebecca a flourish. Whew! It ended up feeling like an encore. Winking smile

An excellent set, delivered with an excellent band, by an exceptionally talented person. Thanks Rebecca!

RebeccaHavilandSetList

When the set was over, we headed next door to Stage 2 (like I did, sans-Lois, the night before).

Caleb Hawley (a mind-bogglingly talented individual) organized an American Idol Rejects Show. Aside from the kitsch factor, I can’t imagine missing an opportunity to see Caleb perform. There were other incentives to attend, covered below in the order they appeared.

CalebHawley

Caleb was on this season of American Idol, progressing a few rounds before finally being ousted (I don’t watch the show, so I can’t give a more technically accurate description). Winking smile

We saw him perform at a house concert in VA, that was over-subscribed and needed to be moved to a larger venue. To say that he blew us away would be an understatement. Since we knew/know nothing about American Idol, it had nothing to do with his new-found fame. Talent, that’s all he needed to win us over, instantly.

Caleb played all but one song on the electric guitar last night (the other was acoustic). At the house concert, he played an acoustic guitar. If you read about that night, you know I thought he was masterful on the acoustic. Let’s add an equal amount of praise for his skills on the electric. In addition to a bit of normal electric guitar play (using a pick to play fast leads), he also does his signature mixture of finger-picking, strumming and leads.

Caleb performed 1/2 a dozen songs (give or take), all accompanied by a full band (all of whom I’ll mention after I get to the remaining Idol Rejects). He was an excellent MC as well (note all of my previous comments on his stage presence). We’ll return to Caleb at the end, but he was also part of the house band (the guitar player, natch) for the rest of the guests.

Brian Collazo was a contestant on Season 2, so this wasn’t a Rejects from 2011 Idol show. Brian was nearly as equal a draw for me as Caleb was. As with Kenny Shaw above, I saw Brian perform the night before at Rockwood 2 (the set before Kenny’s), with his band, Live Society. If you clicked through to my coverage of Kenny’s set with The Thang, then you either read the beginning about Live Society, or you need to go back and read it now! Winking smile

BrianCollazo

Brian sang three songs and nailed every one of them. One was a Live Society number (that they played the night before on the same stage). As good as it was, and with top-notch musicians backing him last night, they couldn’t match how intimate the Live Society band (and backup singers) are with this number. Last night == Great. The night before == Awesome! Smile

CalebHawleyCraigMeyerBrianCollazoMartinRivasBrianKilleen

Devyn Rush was up next. She was on Idol this season, making it to Hollywood before having her dreams shattered. I don’t know if her situation is currently resolved, but in Googling her, I found this article that shows that chasing your dreams can have negative consequences besides not achieving them directly.

DevynRushSinging

This was the first time we’ve heard of Devyn, but not likely the last. She performed three songs, one at the center microphone and two at the piano. She sings really well and played the piano beautifully.

Lois was particularly impressed with her energy and stage presence. Reading the front page of her site (linked above) makes me feel that she’s an incredibly nice/good/kind-hearted person, so that the sweetness that comes across on stage is not an act.

While I was impressed with her performance in general, I’ll need to see her in a different setting to know what I really think of her. I wasn’t drawn to the particular song selection.

Devyn wrote a short blog entry about the show which you should definitely read! At the bottom of that post are links to three YouTube videos from last night. The first is when she sang at the mic, the second, of one of her two songs at the piano and the third was the finale with all of the guests on stage (I haven’t gotten to the next and last guest yet). If you watch the first two, you can make up your own mind about Devyn. Keep in mind that while the video quality is quite good (kudos to the videographer for having a very steady hand!), the sound quality is what you get from a hand-held and there’s a reasonable amount of crowd noise (I’ll say more on that at the end).

Jerome Bell was the next and last guest. Even though we don’t watch Idol, in a small-world coincidence, we’ve actually seen Jerome Bell perform two songs at Rockwood 2 before. He performed a set there on April 27th, 2011. We came to see Rosi Golan perform the next set and arrived early enough to catch the end of Jerome Bell’s. It was crowded beyond belief (Jerome has a lot of loyal fans, deservedly so).

JeromeBellSinging

Jerome performed a number of songs last night, including a Stevie Wonder cover (which he crushed) and his own hit, Collide, co-written with his Idol roommate Chris Medina while they were still in competition. That was one of the two songs we heard last time too. We enjoyed it as much last night as we did the previous time. You can purchase the song on iTunes, the link is in the article above.

In addition to the full band that everyone else employed, Jerome had his two regular backup singers join him on stage. After the show he named and thanked them, claiming that he always forgets to introduce them during the shows. He said their names clearly, and I thought I’d easily remember them (or be able to find them with a quick search), but, of course, neither happened. Sorry. They definitely added both flair and excellent harmonies to Jerome’s performance.

(I just watched the entire video embedded below, and right before the 7-minute mark, Jerome introduces them! Devin Snow and Steven Cutts [sp?]. Yay!)

JeromeBellStevenCuttsDevinSnow

Jerome is appearing tonight (Friday, May 27th, 2011) at 10pm at Rockwood 1.

On to the band (finally), left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). Patrick is always excellent, last night was no exception. In fact, he took a couple of great solos (one was unexpected, when Caleb’s pedal board failed briefly and Patrick quickly stepped in).

PatrickFirth

Most electronic keyboard players keep a Mac (or another laptop, but it’s almost always a Mac) right beside the keyboards. In a post about Candy Dulfer, I joked that Thomas Bank was checking his email on his Macbook Pro during the show. He dropped me an email (seriously!) letting me know that wasn’t the case! Winking smile

We sat right behind the piano, so I could clearly see what was on the screen. Now I understand completely. The laptop program showed a keyboard on the screen. Apparently, if the keyboard player forgets what note to play, they can look over at the simulated keyboard on the laptop and cheat. Sort of like the old Player Piano days! Winking smile

PatrickFirthPiano

Craig Meyer on the drums. Always great, both listening to his excellent drumming and watching his never-ending smile, which will lift the spirits of even the most depressed person on earth (let’s find that person, so I can test my theory soon!).

CraigMeyer

Martin Rivas on tambourine, shaker and vocals. Martin was mostly a percussionist last night (singing harmony on one, or possibly two songs). I couldn’t resist joking with Martin after the show that I had no idea he was hiding his talent with the shaker until last night (I’ve seen him wield a tambourine before). At times, he even hit the tambourine with the shaker. How creative is that? Smile

MartinRivas

In significantly more important Martin Rivas news, his birthday is tomorrow (Saturday) and he’s throwing us (the world, not Lois and me) a party at Rockwood 2, 10pm. Come join us (this time I mean Lois and me) to hear him serenade us on his birthday!

Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. We’ve seen (and written about) Brian many times. He’s a consistently excellent bass player who hasn’t let us (or more importantly the people he supports) down. I learned something new about Brian last night. He can sing! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him open his mouth even to speak. He sang a bit of harmony on some of Caleb’s numbers.

BrianKilleen

For the finale, Caleb called Brian, Devyn and Jerome back up to reprise Jerome’s triumphant cover of Let’s Get it On by Marvin Gaye from his American Idol audition. The third video linked in Devyn’s blog is of this finale (all nine minutes of it!). I’m including it here, for those who didn’t bother to click through. Again, forget the audio quality, but enjoy the atmosphere and imagine it in high fidelity. It was a blast! The song actually begins at the 1:00 mark.

Finale of American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

If you watched the whole thing, you may have a partial sense of how funny Caleb is. If you didn’t watch it, then you might be wondering about the thumbnail above, where Caleb’s shirt is off. You can skip directly to the 4-minute mark to see why he took it off and what those tattoos on his belly are. Winking smile

Greg Mayo also jumped on the stage during the finale. I was on the opposite side of the room, so I didn’t see whether he had an instrument, sang, or was up there just to lend some moral support. No matter what, Greg enhances anything he’s around, so thanks for jumping in, no matter what role you played! Smile

After the show, I made a beeline to the stage to introduce myself to Brian Collazo. I also got to meet his significant other (or should I say better half) that I mentioned in yesterday’s post (she was the blond that sat two to my left). Here are the three of us (Lois insisted we pose):

BrianCollazoHisGF-Hadar

I have a lot to say about the crowd but I think I’m going to turn it into a full, separate post, because I had some insights that have previously eluded me. If our current schedule holds, I might be able to get that post out on Tuesday. With some luck, perhaps I’ll work on it after blogging tomorrow about the shows we will see tonight:

Abby Payne and Chris Ayer, 7pm and 8pm at Rockwood 1. Come join us in kicking off the Memorial Day Weekend off with some awesome music tonight! Smile

Backscratch 13 at Rockwood Music Hall

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Given how awesome last night was, I’m still a little in shock that I missed the first 12 Backscratch sessions. This was the second time it was held in Rockwood Music Hall.

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.

It’s great for many reasons (just come to the next one, June 27th, and make your own list of reasons to keep coming!).

Since there were so many people performing last night, I’ll be really brief (ha ha, I didn’t believe it when I first wrote it, but now that I’m proof-reading, I know it’s a lie!). Winking smile Refer back to the first line for how much we enjoyed the three-hour show: awesome!

Shwa Losben opened the show on vocals and acoustic guitar. I had never heard of him. Excellent! After playing two originals (both wonderful songs) his backscratch was an Alexa Wilkinson song (Alexa was new to us too, more on her later).

ShwaLosben1ShwaLosben2

Scott Chasolen on vocals and keyboards. Another one we hadn’t heard of. Also excellent! I loved both of his originals. His backscratch was a Matt Simons song (I’m Already Over You). We’re big fans of Matt and Scott did him proud (IMHO).

ScottChasolen

Scott performs with two others and they are known as the Scott Chasolen Trio:

Adam Minkoff on electric bass and light harmony. Very nice job.

AdamMinkoff

Josh Giunta on drums. Excellent. A lot of eyes were on Josh during a fair amount of Scott’s set. No good photo of Josh, sorry.

Sierra Noble on vocals, acoustic guitar and violin. We’ve seen Sierra Noble backing up both Rachel Platten and Martin Rivas (back-to-back sets on the same night). I am aware of how much her fellow musicians respect and love her, but that night, while she did a fine job, I didn’t see the light. Last night, headlining the three-song set, I got it. She has an incredible voice. She writes beautiful songs.

SierraNobleGuitarSierraNobleViolin

Sierra was accompanied by Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and a lot of harmony, Chris Anderson on electric bass and light harmony and Craig Meyer on the drums (Craig is the co-founder of Backscratch with Martin Rivas).

ChrisAndersonCraigMeyer

Not much else needs to be added. But, let’s add an anecdote (actually two!) anyway. Her backscratch was a Chris Ayer song. Sierra was expecting Greg Mayo to show up in time to perform it with her (and Martin, Chris and Craig). Greg must have been held up in traffic. Somehow, that threw Sierra off a bit.

While she did a great job on the parts that she got out (did I mention she has a great voice?), she also lost it (laughing) a number of times (including dropping the lyrics on the floor). The mood was light in the room and everyone got a kick out of it, including Chris Ayer. Sierra correctly noted that Chris is a poet and that it was difficult to sing his song because she hadn’t graduated from college (could be a joke, but it was an honest homage to how wonderful Chris’ lyrics are!).

The other one is a small world story. I’ve written a number of times about a great singer/songwriter, Jesse Terry. We’re going to see him again twice in May, once in Rockwood (next week) and the week after at a house concert (where we first saw him). Appearing with him at both shows is a friend of his, Michael Logen. Jesse has told me how much I am going to like Michael. One of Sierra’s originals was co-written with Michael Logen. Martin sang Michael’s part in gorgeous harmony with Sierra.

Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and vocals. Martin opened with Raise Me Again. That song gets to me every time (including last night). His second song was a new one (excellent!). Rachel Platten was standing behind us and she couldn’t resist singing some soft harmony with Martin (wonderful).

MartinRivas

Pick up Rachel’s new album, Be Here (released today!), it’s fantastic!

For his backscratch, Martin drew Bess Rogers. He played Come Home. In case that wasn’t good enough (it was!), he morphed the end into a song that most people in the audience recognized, but I believe were still caught completely by surprise!

Bess Rogers is in the final four days of a very successful Kickstarter project. You should watch the video on her Kickstarter page to see how records are made. Martin performed that song (perfectly) and everyone was blown away (especially Bess). You still have a chance to contribute to Bess’ record. Stop thinking, just do it. Smile

Chris Ayer on acoustic guitar and vocals. Chris played Graduate and Stranded (two of our favorite Chris Ayer songs). Throughout the evening (3+ hours), there was generally a background noise of some people talking steadily at the bar. Occasionally it was annoying, most of the time it was reasonably white noise. When Chris played Stranded (a relatively long song), you could have heard a pin drop (as it should have been for every song by every performer!).

ChrisAyer

On Graduate, Chris was accompanied by Matt Simons on keyboards and Chris Anderson on electric bass. On Stranded, Matt accompanied and Chris Anderson left the stage. For his backscratch, Chris Ayer played a Sierra Noble song solo. Wow! Not just Chris’ performance, but Sierra’s song. Chris didn’t even look over at his sheet music. Sierra was standing a few people behind us and she sang some soft harmony with Chris (that most probably couldn’t hear, but I could). It was amazing!

Bess Rogers performed two new songs (acoustic guitar and vocals) accompanied by her husband, Chris Kuffner, on acoustic guitar (Chris also sang harmony). Both songs were hits with the crowd and I assume (but don’t know) that they will both be on Bess’ new CD. Bess drew Rebecca Haviland for her backscratch.

BessRogersChrisKuffner

Rebecca Haviland on electric guitar, keyboards and vocals. Rebecca honored the original spirit of Backscratch by performing an original, a well-known cover and a backscratch. Let’s get out the most important thing first, Rebecca has a phenomenal voice. She plays the guitar well. She really shines on the keyboards. For her cover, she chose Black Dog by Led Zeppelin. If you didn’t know the title, or recognize the words, you would never have known it was a Led Zeppelin song. She (and her band) made it completely their own, a slow, soul/funk version.

RebeccaHavilandGuitar

On those songs Rebecca was accompanied by Greg Mayo on keyboards (yes, he eventually showed up), Chris Anderson on electric bass and Kenny Shaw on drums. All were great, as we’ve come to expect.

RebeccaHavilandGregMayoKennyShaw

For her backscratch, Rebecca switched to the piano and Greg to the electric guitar. She played a Martin Rivas tune with such heart and soul (joking in advance that she had to change it up a bit, since Martin is the king of soul!). Greg played a couple of long guitar solos. If you’re read this space before, you know that this excites and soothes me at the same time. I will never get enough of Greg Mayo’s guitar play. Thank goodness he showed up! Smile

RebeccaHavilandPianoGregMayo

Alexa Wilkinson on acoustic guitar and vocals. I’ve been following Alexa on Twitter for quite a while but have never seen her perform. We had planned to catch Mercy Bell, Julie Peel and Alexa at the Living Room a long time ago, but I got very sick and we never made it. Alexa has a wonderful voice and accompanies herself on the guitar very well. I enjoyed both of her songs. For her backscratch, she drew Shwa. Alexa has a relaxed and funny stage presence in addition to her musical talents.

AlexaWilkinson

Matt Simons closed the show on keyboards and vocals. He too reverted to the original spirit. After his original song, he played one by Death Cab for Cutie. He was accompanied by Greg Mayo on electric guitar and Chris Anderson on bass and Kenny Shaw for his original number. For his backscratch, he drew Scott Chasolen (who had drawn him, as did Sierra/Chris). He did a fantastic job (making me want to hear more Scott originals).

MattSimons1MattSimons2

Even though we didn’t get home until 12:20am, it was well worth it.

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.

PatrickFirth

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.

ChrisKuffner

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.

WayneTucker

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.

BrianKilleenBassBrianKilleen

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.

GregMayoGuitar1GregMayoGuitar2

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

GregMayoBeerGregMayoBirthdayGift

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.

PatrickFirthVocals

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.

Caleb Hawley and Rachel Platten at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg

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I can think of at least five independent introductions to this post, all appropriate. That means I have an 80% chance of picking the wrong one. Oh well, here goes…

I’ve recently written that Rachel Platten is one of our current obsessions. We last saw her perform on January 23rd, 2010 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. At that show, we saw Caleb Hawley join for some harmony with Martin Rivas (our first Caleb Hawley sighting). You can read about that night in this post. Our first house concert was September 5th, 2010. Since then we’ve attended two more, we like them a lot. We spend a considerable amount of our lives in Fredericksburg, VA.

When I noticed that on our next trip down to Fredericksburg, Caleb Hawley would be headlining a house concert there and Rachel Platten would be opening, I was equal parts dumbfounded and excited. This house concert was being produced by an amazing woman named Ruth (I can say that definitively, now that we’ve met her), who runs a regular series called House About Tonight (clever, right?). Smile

I was a bit surprised when she couldn’t confirm the venue right away, even though she immediately responded that she’d hold four spots for us. The reason was obvious once she explained. For those of you who don’t own a TV (or didn’t read my last post about Rachel), Caleb Hawley is a current contestant on American Idol. He blew away the judges (YouTube video now removed) (in particular, Steven Tyler) during the audition phase and got his ticket to Hollywood.

This was obviously not going to be an ordinary house concert. It wasn’t. After getting many more RSVP’s than usual, Ruth arranged for the show to be moved from a house to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg. Roughly 100 people attended a professionally run show. Ruth’s tireless energy, coupled with the incredible number of volunteers who handled the logistics of collecting the money (100% of the ticket price goes to the artists, yay!), laying out the amazing food (brought by the attendees!) and keeping everything on a reasonable schedule, made the evening better than most commercial venues deliver.

On to the show. Rachel opened, accompanied throughout by an amazing drummer (who we’ve seen many times), Craig Meyer. Rachel can handle herself perfectly, even playing alone on her keyboards (and singing, of course). With Craig, there is a noticeable uptick in keeping the beats fresh and interesting. Rachel also performs with a full band. Catch her any way you can when she’s in your town, you won’t regret it!

RachelPlattenSinging

I’m repeating what I’ve written about her before, but here’s the summary:

  • Superb songwriter, both lyrics and music
  • Lyrics can get lost in the fun, upbeat music, so listen carefully, there are too many gems to call out
  • Absolutely stunning voice
  • Excellent on the keyboards
  • 1000 megawatt smile that bathes the room
  • Bubbly, quick-witted personality that entertains the audience and keeps things lively

RachelPlattenKeyboards

Rachel called Caleb up to sing harmony and play guitar on two numbers. I’ll save my commentary on Caleb for just another minute.

Rachel shared some fantastic news with us. Just a couple of days earlier she announced a new record deal. Read all about it.

Craig played an even more amazing set than we’ve seen before, largely because both Rachel and Caleb (Craig played with both of them) turned it over to him more often than usual. Not only did he rise to the challenge, I was impressed at how nearly everyone in the crowd was totally into the drum solos.

CraigMeyerBrushes

After singing with Rachel, Caleb stayed on the stage and Rachel stepped off (just to the side) and they transitioned from Rachel’s opening set to Caleb’s headlining set more naturally than I’ve seen before.

Let me repeat that even though we saw Caleb sing one verse (with a very large band) and saw his YouTube video on American Idol, we really knew nothing about him. That’s not entirely accurate. We have a lot of friends who we sit with at the various NYC clubs that we frequent. Many of them told me multiple times that I will be blown away by Caleb. Scheduling never worked for me to verify their outrageous claims, until last night.

Before I tell you why, let me assure you that my friends continue to impress me with their musical taste. I was indeed completely blown away by Caleb Hawley and can’t imagine missing another opportunity to see him whenever one presents itself!

No matter what order I list Caleb’s multitude of skills, you will (incorrectly) assume that some are better than others. One of the things that makes this kid (yes, he’s still a kid to us) so special is that everything he does is at a level that is rarified. Even fewer can put it all together. Caleb is the real deal!

Caleb has an incredible voice. If you don’t know him (like we didn’t), please don’t judge him by one a cappella performance with YouTube quality. Go see him, and/or buy one of his CD’s (we bought two last night!). I could definitely listen to him a cappella, live, for an entire set (especially his own songs).

CalebHawleySinging

Most solo singer/songwriters that accompany themselves on the guitar do so acceptably (I wanted to say passably). That is to say that if they weren’t singing, most couldn’t hold my interest for very long just playing the guitar. Caleb Hawley is a notable exception. He’s a wonderful guitar player. I could listen to an entire set of his guitar play without any vocals and leave completely satisfied.

CalebHawleyGuitar

He mixes an incredible finger-picking style, with leads and rhythm in a manner that I don’t recall seeing in a long while (if ever).

So, he sings and he plays the guitar really well. Is that all? Ha, sorry, the list continues. He played the keyboards for one song, very well. I didn’t hear enough to rave like I did about the guitar, but he was good enough to warrant further listening!

CalebHawleyKeyboards

Songwriting? Check! He bookended the show with covers. He opened with the Ray Charles song that he performed on American Idol (Hallelujah I Love Her So), but this time, accompanied by the guitar and Craig on the drums. Much richer, gorgeous. He closed the encore (no way he could have left without an encore) with a Randy Newman number (Feels Like Home).

Not only did he nail Feels Like Home, but it had very special meaning to us. When our godson proposed to his soon-to-be-bride he made a very special DVD for her. One of the songs that he picked was Feels Like Home.

In between those covers, Caleb played a parade of wonderful original songs that made us laugh and tear up (sometimes in the same song). So yes, he’s an excellent songwriter. I’m listening to Seeing Colors this very second (while I type) and I’m reminded that Lois cried while he sang it last night.

OK, let’s recap: Great voice, great guitar player, very good on keyboards, great songwriter (picks good covers too). Is that it? Nope, one more thing (really two).

The one is stage presence. He had every single person eating out of his hands (like at a petting zoo). This included little kids and old folk like us. It’s not just rehearsed lines (or if it is, he’s even more masterful than I realized) but a natural persona that you bond with instantly as an audience member.

The two (really an extension of one) is that he’s hysterical. He could definitely be a stand-up comic (in terms of delivery/style).

CalebHawleyEntertaining

Craig accompanied Caleb on all but two numbers, wonderfully. Rachel joined Caleb to sing harmony on at least three numbers, one of which she also played the keyboards on.

They split the show into two sets, with Rachel opening each.

Two spontaneous things that turned into highlight reels. We had two guests with us, a mother and daughter. Craig called the daughter up to play the shakers during one song. She did a great job and Caleb actually interacted with her a bunch during the song and thanked her by name afterward.

KPShakersCraigMeyerCalebHawleyKPShakers

During the intermission, we bought two CD’s and a T-Shirt from Rachel and two CD’s from Caleb. Lois was wearing her Rachel T-Shirt already. Here are two shots of Craig with each of the girls in their Rachel shirts:

KPCraigMeyerRachelPlattenTShirtLoisCraigMeyerRachelPlattenTShirt

The other highlight occurred during the song Caleb called Cookies (the same song with the shakers, above). While he was performing the song (with Rachel singing too), Caleb noticed that a bunch of people were dancing at the back of the room. He made them all come up to the stage (Craig was instrumental in insisting they come forward as well). Once there, he taught them the Cookie Making Dance (my term). The audience hooted the entire time and they ended the song with a conga-like procession off the stage dancing the Cookie Making Dance.

Here’s a small sample of the dancing (Lois was too close to the stage to capture all the motion):

MakingCookiesDance

We were already big fans of Rachel and Craig. What a bonus to discover how enormously talented (and nice) Caleb Hawley is. We will now make it our business to see him as often as we can as well.

Thanks Ruth and the entire Unitarian Fellowship for putting on an extraordinary show and making us outsiders (Northerners at that!) feel so welcome!

RuthCalebHawleyRachelPlattenCraigMeyer

P.S. If you want to support this wonderful community, please make your next purchase from Amazon by clicking on the big Amazon ad on the front page of the Unitarian site. You’ll pay exactly what you would have otherwise and they’ll earn some affiliate commission. Smile

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).

MikeTuccilloJeffLitman

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.

MeganCox

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!

LukeWesley

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.

Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The last time we saw Martin Rivas perform a full set was September 13th, 2010, over four months ago! That night, the set before him was Rachel Platten. That show was at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 and I wrote about it in this post. It was my first time seeing each of them performing a full set and if you read my previous post, you know how I impressed I was with both! Last night was a repeat of the lineup and we couldn’t have been more excited to see it again.

There are three major reasons why we are energized to see artists that we love multiple times:

  1. We enjoy the electricity of the live show, even if we’ve seen the same set a dozen times. Enjoying it with other fans enhances it all the more.
  2. We love to support the artists (monetarily and by being part of the audience experience).
  3. Even when the sets are the same, there’s always something fresh and different (banter, band composition, etc.).

Martin came out with an electric guitar. I’m think that was a first for us in all the times we’ve seen him. He had an extra-full band last night (more on that in a minute). It was loud (not too loud, but darn loud). It was rockin’, in a heart-pumping way.

MartinRivasTuning

There are so many people to cover that I won’t go on-and-on about Martin (since I have in the past and you’re welcome to read all about it), but I’ll repeat that Martin has a wonderful voice, an incredible energy, plays guitar really well and is very generous with highlighting the amazing musicians that play with him whenever he has a full-band show.

Martin has a warmth and ease on stage that is fantastic. There was a young boy sitting at our table (I’ll guess roughly 10-years-old, yes, his dad was there too). Martin chatted with him for a minute before the show started, but he called him out a couple of times during the show and got the entire audience (the place was incredibly mobbed for both sets) to say “Hello Alfonso!” as well. I assume (and hope) it was a very magical evening for Alfonso.

MartinRivasGuitar

Covering the band, then special guests, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth on grand piano, electronic keyboards and background vocals. Patrick is wonderful all around and Martin gave him a number of leads which Patrick nailed.

PatrickFirthCloseupPatrickFirthKeyboards

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Chris is always wonderful and last night was no exception. He took quite a number of leads, all tasty. He closed the show with a lead that was so fast it was mind-boggling. I was sitting four feet away from him, so I got the full visual experience as well as the aural sweetness of being directly in front of his amp.

ChrisKuffnerChrisKuffnerGuitarLead

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. This is one of the things I meant by extra-full band above. Martin had his normal drummer with him (next in my lineup). Ryan complemented him with washboard (always a favorite of mine), cowbell, tambourine, triangle, bongo, shaker and sharing the drum set at times as well. It brought such a fullness to the percussion. An absolutely fantastic addition and Ryan has an excellent sense of rhythm.

RyanVaughn

Craig Meyer on drums (web site coming, I think). Craig is a very animated drummer. Even with his larger than life drum strokes, his hand, stick, brush, etc., all hit the drum at exactly the right time. The music during Martin’s set was very hard-charging and Craig drummed his %$#! off to keep the beat lively. Coupled with Ryan, the two of them delivered the rhythm section perfectly.

CraigMeyerCloseup

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Brian did an excellent job keeping the bottom full and interesting. Toward the end of the set he cut loose a bit more (never a solo) and actually harmonized (on the bass) with Martin’s singing.

BrianKilleenBrianKilleenBass

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. I’ve written about Greg a number of times. The most recent one was about his own band, the Greg Mayo Band. He (they) blew us away that night, but the biggest surprise was how amazing Greg was (is) on the keyboards. I went because every time Greg has played with others he was on the electric guitar and I simply love his play. Last night was spectacular (no surprise). I was three feet from Greg and four feet from his amp. His leads were so crisp, and his amp was pointed directly at my right ear, that the only downside was a bit of ringing. Well worth it!

GregMayoCloseupGregMayoGuitarVocals

Sierra Noble on fiddle. Sierra joined Martin’s band for roughly half the numbers. Except for the few leads that Martin gave her, it was hard for me to pick out the fiddle with three electric guitars, an electric bass, grand piano, electronic keyboards and two percussionists. I will need to hear Sierra in a more conducive environment to form a clearer opinion.

SierraNoble

That made for a core band of seven and for many numbers eight people on stage at the same time. That’s the same number that the Greg Mayo Band had on stage for their set. It is one short of the record set by Alex Berger for sets that I have attended at Rockwood.

Martin brought up two special guests to sing a song with him. Had he brought them up at the same time, he would have set the record for the most people on stage at the same time. Instead, he just tied Berger twice, once with each guest.

The first was someone I’ve heard about for a while now. Many of my friends rave about his shows at Rockwood. This week, he got a lot more famous than he’s been before.

Caleb Hawley sang harmony and lead. In addition to being a local NYC favorite, Caleb was a first round contestant on American Idol. He blew away Steven Tyler and moved on to the Hollywood round! So, you can only imagine the reception he received when Martin called him up. Local hero makes good! Smile

CalebHawley

Rachel Platten joined Martin to sing North. Wonderful, but more about Rachel in a second.

Martin handed out home-baked cookies to pass around. I had one (even though I got the evil eye from Lois, since I had dessert when we were out to dinner earlier).

Cookies

Martin played a slightly longer set than usual at Rockwood and said goodnight. The crowd really wanted to hear more. Martin checked with the sound engineer and got the OK. He closed the show with a Stevie Wonder cover, Living For the City. They did it long and strong. We sang along a bunch (everyone, not just Lois and me). What a way to end an already incredible set.

When it was over (actually, before the encore!), I grabbed one of the set lists. Unfortunately, the corner was tucked under one of the monitors and it ripped when I yanked it. You’ll just have to make do with this. Winking smile

MartinRivasSetList

Rachel Platten also plays in a number of band configurations. Last night was a 4-piece. Rachel on electronic keyboards, Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and tons of harmony, Craig Meyer on drums (dramatically stripped down from the set he used with Martin) and Sierra Noble on fiddle.

SierraNobleRachelPlattenCraigMeyer

Rachel has an incredible voice, plays the keyboards extremely well (with zest!) and writes very catchy pop tunes. Many of her lyrics are deep and quite good, but that can (unfortunately) be easily lost in the hooky tunes and her captivating voice. So, listen to the words closely, she’s a very good songwriter!

If that weren’t enough to get you to go out and see Rachel (she’s touring all over at the moment and releasing a new CD in the spring), she has a 1000 megawatt smile that bathes the audience in a floodlight effect. If you can listen to her sing and play and watch that smile and not have your spirits lifted, a defibrillator might be your only hope! Winking smile

RachelPlattenSmiling

In addition to straight-up pop, Rachel mixes it up in a number of ways. Don’t Care What Time It Is is a hip hop/rap song that she stood and sang (the only number she didn’t play the keyboards on). It’s also one of two numbers that she played a human beat-box on. She and Martin killed it. A number of times they sing so fast that your head spins. Delicious.

I linked to the lyrics of the song and you can also listen to it (free!) at that link. On the right side bar are a number of other Rachel hits. Explore and fall in love with her. Buy her CD when it comes out!

Craig was great even though he played a minimalist drum set (as he does for most of Rachel’s shows). In addition, Craig was very playful with Rachel and Martin, often using his brushes on them and on Martin’s guitar as well. Basically, if he could hit it, he did. Smile

CraigMeyerAnimated

As with Martin’s set, I couldn’t hear Sierra Noble playing the fiddle at all, whenever Rachel, Martin and Craig were playing. Rachel did give Sierra two distinct solos, which were very easy to hear. I can’t put my finger on it, but I wasn’t as impressed as I expected to be, given the raves I’ve heard about Sierra. I intend to listen to her some more and perhaps catch one of her own shows as well, to get a better sense.

SierraNobleFiddle

The only disappointing thing about Rachel’s set was that it was a tad shorter than normal. She started 20 minutes late (the person who was on before Rachel filled Rockwood to the brim and it took a while to transition between them and their respective crowds). I think Rachel cut it a bit short in order to get Martin and Rockwood closer to their original schedule.

Another amazing night out. Thanks to everyone who was on stage and to our friend for snagging two seats right up against the stage for us (you know who you are!).

We have a big week of music continuing tonight, so check this space each day for what we did the night before! Smile