Craig Wilson

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Bri Arden headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. We missed her last appearance at Stage 2, her EP Release show. I heard that it was absolutely incredible, and based on all of the times I’ve seen Bri, and having listened to her EP many times, I have no reason to doubt that.

It’s been 3.5 months since we last saw Bri perform. As I noted in that post, you never really know what to expect (lineup wise, hairstyle, guests, etc.). We were actually up in Westchester to catch two full sets (and an amazing meal!) at Watercolor Café earlier, and we dashed out after the second set, dropped some folks off and made it to Rockwood a few minutes late.

We were immediately bathed in Bri’s amazing voice, nice way to walk into a joint.

BriArdenSinging

Bri had a full band, always a treat. The only change that seems somewhat permanent (or at least it’s been a while), is that Bri no longer employs a duo of female backup singers. The sets are great without them, but I’ll happily admit that they were a fantastic addition (the default ladies were Valerie Mize, now based in Nashville and Kate Ferber, though others have filled in as well).

Bri mixed it up. While most of the show was full band, Bri also played one song solo on the acoustic guitar. She performed another one solo at the grand piano.

BriArdenGuitarBriArdenPiano

She had a special guest come up for another, but I’ll mention that after I let you know about the amazing band, left-to-right on stage:

Jason Wexler on grand piano and electronic keyboards. We see Jason supporting a number of our favorite artists, including Bri. He’s a superb keyboard player, and if I understood another musician friend correctly, a talented producer too.

JasonWexlerJasonWexlerKeyboards

Jake Cohen (Jacob Colin Cohen) on drums. Jake always does a great job on Bri’s sets. Glad to hear him again after 3.5 months. Sorry about the poor photo:

JakeCohen

Justin Goldner on electric bass and vocals. Like Jake, Justin always impresses. When there’s a full band, he’s the bass player. When Bri gets acoustic, he plays the guitar. In other words, he’s an integral part of Bri’s sound, including background vocals.

JustinGoldner

Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. Oscar is simply amazing, always, not just when supporting Bri. Unlike Jake and Justin, we’ve seen Oscar a number of times since, with his own Police tribute cover band and with The Vanity Belles. He’s awesome.

OscarBautista

Ian Schaefer (Ian Carleton Schaefer) on trumpet. I don’t know if Ian was in the opening songs which we missed. He was called up for the final two numbers and was great. As I noted to him when we stood next to each other for the following set, he helped Bri close out the show with a bang. Leave ‘em hanging, wanting more, in no small part due to the energy that the trumpet brought to those closing numbers.

IanCarltonSchaeferIanCarltonSchaeferTrumpet

Jeremiah Birnbaum on acoustic guitar. Jeremiah has filled in on bass a couple of times for Bri. Last night he joined Ian on the final two numbers to play acoustic guitar. I can’t really say that I could make out the acoustic guitar, but I can say that I really like Jeremiah, especially when he fronts his own group, The Ramblers.

JeremiahBirnbaum

I mentioned one special guest above. There was another, who replaced Jason at the piano, but the rest of the band played as well.

Craig Wilson played the piano on Scars Do Fade, a number he co-wrote with Bri. It’s one of a few songs they’ve co-written, all of which have impressed me, so they should continue collaborating.

CraigWilson

Anna Krantz joined for a number that they co-wrote very recently. Anna played the grand piano (gorgeously!) and sang harmony just a drop. Bri was spectacular on the song, with only the piano accompanying her (one of the three songs where the band got to rest).

AnnaKrantz

Here’s the set list, but I’m reasonably sure that not every number toward the bottom was played. Specifically, The Best Is Yet to Come wasn’t, at least I don’t remember it. Scars Do Fade and Good in Goodbye were likely the last two numbers, among my favorites!

SetList

We got to say a quick hello and take some photos with Bri afterward. Thanks to some strong-arming by Sam Teichman, The Ghost was actually caught on film! Winking smile

BriArdenHadarLoisBriArdenHadar

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall

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I need no extra incentives to attend a Bri Arden show, especially at Rockwood Music Hall. But, if you’re going to entice me, I’m paying attention. Here are a few tweets that Bri unleashed in the past few days (in order):

BriArden Bri Arden

Guys— show this Sat, 9pm at Rockwood. Super excited. Playing BRAND new songs… & I’m playing guitar (& piano) This will be a FUN one 😉

Tomorrow night: 9pm— bringing some very awesome, talented boys to play with me. Come on out! XO B http://fb.me/QPl7iraG

I can count the amount of hours I’ve slept this week on my fingers.

So very excited for a VERY special show tonight 🙂 SURPRISES!!! 9pm Rockwood 1! Come early for @JeffJacobsMusic! XO B

Let’s summarize: New songs, Bri on guitar and piano, talented boys, Bri sleepwalking, and SURPRISES! Come on, who doesn’t want to experience all of those things?

One of those surprises? Bri’s hair was straight. The last show, it was extremely curly. You just never know what to expect. Winking smile

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So, even though we had some last-minute monkey wrench thrown into our schedule, we still made it down to Rockwood for this show. We ended up missing two other shows, one of which I badly wanted to see (The Stone Lonesome at midnight), but monkey wrenches will have their way with you at times.

So, let’s back up and review what’s special about Bri, independent of this show. Phenomenal voice. Great songwriter. Amazing band (when she has one!). Excellent stage presence. Nice (never discount nice!). I could go on, but if that’s not enough to get you to check her music out, or come to a show, then anything I add won’t help.

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I’ve seen Bri perform in a number of configurations, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them and fully appreciated the differences. Full band with backup singers, check. Practically solo, accompanied by a single acoustic guitarist, check. Full band without backup singers (except, psych, the band sang backup to make up for the loss of the backup singers!).

Tonight was different again, on a number of levels. The first was a psych of the psych. Full band (very different though!), with none of them singing backup. The only vocals were Bri’s and she was absolutely incredible. In fact, a couple of times in the past I complained that picking out some of her lyrics was difficult given how much sound (power) was coming from the stage. Tonight, every word was crystal clear. Perfect!

In the times that I’ve seen Bri, she’s never played guitar on stage. Tonight, the band took a break on one song and Bri played the guitar. Afterward, she said she’d never do it again. While the guitar playing wasn’t perfect, Bri was way too hard on herself about it.

But, the song, wait, not enough emphasis: the song! I’m Fine, is a real winner, whether she accompanies herself in the future or not. Her introduction was emotional and authentic and the song lived up to the intro.

A little later, Bri gave the band another break and played a solo on the piano, The Other Man. The only intro to that song was her telling us that she gets requests for it often enough that she decided to play it. Thank you all you requesters!

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Every number was special. Not every band member played on every song. There are few notes on the set list to guide you, but it’s not exact. Also, Bri had to cut out one number due to time constraints.

SetList

The band, left-to-right on stage:

Oscar Bautista on acoustic guitar. I’ve seen Oscar play electric many times (most often with Bri, but not exclusively). He’s masterful. This was my first time seeing him on the acoustic, and his play was equally terrific. On Fly Away (a cover), Oscar played the guitar and Bri sang, without the rest of the band.

OscarBautista

Craig Wilson on piano. Craig has co-written a number of songs with Bri. He played on three numbers, the opener and closer (both full band) and Scars Do Fade, where most of the band took a break. Folks, Scars Do Fade is incredible. Bri and Craig are a very good team, and Craig did a wonderful job accompanying her on the piano.

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Ian Schaefer on trumpet. Ian played on three or four numbers, all with a muting cup. He was as good as he always is lending a character to the songs that works really well.

IanSchaefer

Jeremiah Birnbaum on electric bass. This was one of the aforementioned surprises, and was also covered by the talented boys tweet. It wasn’t a surprise to me, since Jeremiah himself tweeted:

jeremiahmusic jeremiahbirnbaum

Very excited to play bass for the fabulously talented @BriArden tonight at Rockwood Music Hall, 9pm!

I’ve seen Jeremiah on electric guitar and singing lead vocals, a number of times (most specially with his group The Ramblers). This was the first time I saw him on bass. He was replacing Bri’s regular bass player, Justin Goldner (who is excellent), and Jeremiah acquitted himself well.

JeremiahBirnbaum

Bruno Esrubilsky on cajon, shaker and percussion. Bruno was a sub for Bri’s regular drummer/percussionist, Jake Cohen. That said, Jake has played drums every time I’ve seen him, so Bruno playing the cajon (extremely well) created an entirely different sound.

BrunoEsrubilsky

Rather than butchering Bruno’s last name, Bri gave him the opportunity to pronounce it himself. He quickly retorted: “So, you’ll let me butcher it myself?”. Winking smile

I have enjoyed every one of Bri’s shows. That said, I think I can say with little hesitation that I enjoyed this one the most.

After the show, Bri wanted to introduce us to her mom. Unfortunately, I got separated from Lois and Bri as the crowd divided us and pushed me further away. Lois got to say hi, but my introduction will have to wait for another time.

For the astute among you, you may have noticed that this post is about 12-15 hours earlier than normal. Tomorrow (by now actually today), is a crazy and somewhat unpredictable day for us. I didn’t want to take the chance on not posting until Monday, so I stayed up late to get it out now. Time for bed! Smile

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall

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Bri Arden headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. This was a full-band show, but with some changes from Bri’s normal lineup. It’s one of the things that makes seeing the same artist many times interesting, you never know quite what to expect, even though you know you’ll likely enjoy whatever they throw at you.

The biggest change was that neither of Bri’s female backup singers (Valerie Mize and Kate Ferber) were able to make the show. That alone guaranteed to change the character of the show. What I didn’t know was that Bri would force two of her boys to sing with her, so there were still three voices in many of the expected parts, just at a different timbre.

Bri Arden is a singer/songwriter with an extraordinary voice. She sings with a passion that is infectious. She surrounds herself with top musicians. The energy emanating from the stage knocks you back a bit, but the music is good enough to make you fight to hold your position.

BriArdenSinging

In addition to singing her heart out last night, Bri introduced a number of her songs (something we love) and had an attempt at humor as well. Rather than describe that attempt, I’ll reproduce Bri’s Tumblr account of it:

Thank you everyone for being such an amazing audience tonight and putting up with my failed attempts at humor. As someone pointed out to me after the show “You set the joke up really well, the only glitch was you forgot the punch line.” Working on it!!! XO B

Most importantly, Bri’s personality (extremely joyful) came out in the attempt. She made herself laugh, which made us laugh, regardless of the joke.

BriArden

In the introduction to Aha Moment, Bri explained how her parents met. Fate will find a way. Smile

The band, left-to-right on stage:

Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. Oscar is one of the best guitarists on the local scene and I look forward to every show that he’s a part of. Last night was another example of why I do.

OscarBautista

Jason Wexler on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). Jason did a great job on both. At one point I heard some cool sounds that I thought were being made by Oscar (who was hidden from my view behind Bri). When I leaned to my left, I saw that it was Jason on the electronic keyboards. Very nicely done!

JasonWexler

Ian Schaefer on trumpets and shaker (yes, trumpets, plural). Ian is always great on the trumpet, but last night was different. Ian often plays with a cup (or whatever the technical term is for what you shove in the big hole at the end of the trumpet to mute it and morph the sound). I think he does it because the trumpet could (theoretically) overwhelm the vocals.

IanCarltonSchaefer

Last night, after testing with the cup first, he removed it quickly and let the sound loose. But that wasn’t the big qualitative difference. I don’t know if I missed it before, or if he doesn’t do it when Valerie and Kate are singing, but a number of times Ian actually used the trumpet to harmonize with Bri’s voice. It was fantastic.

BriArdenIanCarltonSchaefer

For one song, Ian put down the trumpet and picked up a much smaller trumpet. For a minute, I wondered what would happen if in each succeeding song, he would pull out an even smaller trumpet, which made me think of the trumpet version of a Matryoshka Doll. Winking smile

For another song Ian put down all trumpets and played a shaker. Basically, he wasn’t getting off the stage last night. Do you think he was into playing the shaker? Winking smile

IanCarltonSchaeferShaker

Justin Goldner on electric bass and vocals. Justin is an excellent bass player. I’m sure he sings a bit on many sets, but last night he was pressed into full backup singer mode. Well done!

JustinGoldnerSinging

Jake Cohen (I should really say Jake Colin Cohen) on drums and vocals. Excellent job on the drums, with the sole exception that they were a bit too loud (a typical Rockwood 1 problem). That had the side-effect of slightly washing out some of Bri’s amazing vocals. Jake joined Justin as the other male backup singer, doing a fine job as well.

JakeColinCohen

Craig Wilson on acoustic guitar and vocals. Craig was on stage for the opening number only. He co-wrote it. Bri called is name out again later in the set giving him credit for another co-write, even though he didn’t come up to sing it with her.

CraigWilson

Do you think they were having fun on stage?

BriArdenIanCarltonSchaeferJustinGoldner

We certainly had fun in the audience. Thanks Bri and gang.

Here’s last night’s set list:

SetList

Bri Arden at Rockwood Music Hall

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Prior to seeing this show we attended a benefit concert at The Bitter End. I wrote about it here, which included a section on Bri Arden (the subject of this post). After it was over, Lois couldn’t keep her eyes open, so she grabbed a cab and headed home. Unfortunately, she took her camera with her. I took five shots with my (original) Droid. All were so bad that I won’t insult anyone who was on stage by posting them, so there will be no photos.

I walked from The Bitter End to see Bri and her band perform at Rockwood Music Hall. For those that care, including waiting at a few lights, it took 18 minutes.

I’ve seen Bri sing lead on two songs, at two different Leave a Lasting Mark benefits (both at The Bitter End). She was spectacular both times. I was very interested in seeing her headline her own set.

In addition to being a singer/songwriter, Bri is also a student at Columbia University. This year she entered the Battle of the College Bands. She won in the NY region! Yet another reason to go see her. The place was mobbed, so I wasn’t the only genius with the idea to do this.

Bri has a fantastic voice. She brings a passion to her singing that’s infectious. For the first time, I was hearing songs that she wrote (or co-wrote). They were all good in terms of being catchy. Given how much was happening on stage, I can’t say that I heard all of the lyrics (or could pay close attention to them), so I’ll save heavier comments about that aspect for a future post. What I heard, I liked, so I don’t mean to imply anything negative.

This was a show, not just a singer/songwriter performance. For starters, this was the most people that I’ve ever seen on the Rockwood 1 stage at the same time, nine for two songs, eight for most of the rest. In addition to a full band, there were two full-time backup singers (without instruments).

I kept thinking that this group of 8+ people could easily fill the sound of a much larger place (by much larger, I mean 1000+ seat places!).

Not counting Bri, five of the eight people on stage were part of the earlier benefit show, so you can click on the link in the first sentence on top to see what I had to say about each of them. I’ll be extremely brief here.

Backup singers: Kate Ferber and Valerie Mize. Each is a legitimate lead singer in their own right (not a theoretical comment, they each are lead singers). That gives them a sensibility and a voice to complement Bri perfectly.

Justin Goldner on electric bass. Simply an awesome bass player (or, as they add in the show Wicked, “Well, not so simply!”).

Jake Cohen on drums. Excellent. I was particularly impressed that he was not too loud, even though he was supporting eight other people. In Rockwood 1, it’s unbelievable easy (and therefore common) for a drummer to be crazy loud when there are electric instruments.

Ian Schaefer on trumpet. Ian was excellent, as he was earlier at the benefit.

Two additional musicians joined Bri for most of the songs:

Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. I’ve seen Oscan once before, at the Soul Revue Benefit. He was excellent that night, but less highlighted, by necessity. Last night, as part of a much smaller ensemble, Oscar was a main component of Bri’s sound. He was more obviously excellent. Smile

Jason Wexler on grand piano and electronic keyboards. I just saw Jason support Jeff Litman on a few numbers this past Monday at the same piano. He was excellent then, as he was last night.

Craig Wilson joined Bri on three numbers, two on acoustic guitar (which made it nine on stage) and once at the piano (when he replaced Jason during that song). Bri introduced him as one of her main writing partners, so presumably Craig co-wrote all three of the songs. He didn’t sing when he was playing guitar and I couldn’t see him on the piano (but I could hear him play very well).

All in all, a very exciting show delivered with extremely high energy. The crowd would not let Bri off the stage without an encore and Rockwood obliged, even though Bri’s set started a bit late and therefore had run a bit over as well.

I’m glad I made the effort and I will happily do it again.