Girlyman

Girlyman with Edie Carey at City Winery

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Girlyman headlined City Winery last night. The minute the show was announced we snagged 15 tickets radiating out from center stage to the first aisle. Girlyman in NYC or VA == Party in our household. Smile

Since we accidentally discovered them in August 2007, they have had no trouble holding on to the top spot on my favorite band list. Coming up on our five year anniversary. I guess we’ll be exchanging something made of Wood in a few months. Winking smile

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One of the amazing things about Girlyman is that they are both the same and extremely different than they were then. They continue to grow and experiment (quite successfully) while retaining the same core qualities that ensnared me in my first 30-second listen of Joyful Sign (the song) on their MySpace page, all those years ago (yes, MySpace, for realz).

One measure that they stand the test of time is that I’m equally happy if they play their newest song or their oldest. At most shows you get a healthy mix. Because they are getting really close to releasing their latest CD (we already have it, since we were geniuses and pre-ordered it when they first announced it) last night was weighted toward the newest stuff (Supernova), but they would never leave their fans completely devoid of their classic numbers.

Supernova has 13 songs on it. They played 10 of them last night. You might think that wouldn’t leave time for anything else. If you thought that, you’ve never been to a Girlyman show. They play long sets and find a way to please almost everyone, even those of us who don’t get our request played. Including two encores, they played eight numbers that are not on Supernova (95 minutes on stage). For your convenience, each of the songs that were not on Supernova happened to be starred (have a leading asterisk) on the set list. The Request song ended up being Amaze Me. I’ll get to the two encores later.

SetList

I mentioned above that Girlyman has grown/changed through the years. The biggest change occurred 2.5 years ago, when JJ Jones started playing drums with them (first when she was part of their opening band, then when she joined Girlyman full time). This tour marks another significant shift.

JJJonesDrums

It’s the first show I’ve been at where they retired two beloved instruments: Ty no longer has the djembe on stage and Nate didn’t have his baritone guitar. As wonderful as the djembe sound is (and Ty has a great feel/touch on it), JJ satisfies every desire for percussive sounds. The baritone guitar has been replaced by two instruments: 1) an electric bass which is passed around between Doris, Ty and Nate (plus a special guest) and 2) an electronic keyboard that is now Nate’s primary instrument.

NateBorofskyKeyboardsTyGreensteinGuitarDorisMuramatsuSinging

You can judge how wonderful the set list was for yourself, but if you weren’t there, you need me to tell you that they sounded equally good. For certain shows, City Winery can be less-than-ideal, because audience cross-talk can really interfere with the listening experience. Girlyman fans are awesome (everywhere we’ve seen them, in multiple states), so there was no talking and the sound washed over us.

Of course there were tuning songs. It’s really good to know that the loss of the baritone guitar did not mean the loss of tuning songs. Nate did at least one on the bass, but most were on the keyboards. I won’t spoil any, since I suspect that one of the better ones may become a theme on the remainder of this tour.

Beside the tuning songs, all of their banter was funny, with Nate in particular tickling my funny bone (often with near-whispered comments that were spot on).

While the addition of JJ was a biggie, the new songs on Supernova were arranged with drums as a first-class citizen. At previous shows, as much praise as I heaped on JJ, the song I found myself always calling out was Young James Dean (which they closed the show with last night). She’s awesome on that number. But, I now have to call out practically every one of the 10 songs from Supernova that they played last night, as the drums is now very integral to the sound of each (on the CD as well as live).

Girlyman rotated three special guests throughout the set, at times even having all three on stage at the same time.

Julia Biber on cello. Julia played the cello on Supernova as well, so it was a real treat to see her perform a number of songs live. She bowed and plucked (during the finale, she was forced to pluck because her bow went missing). She was also the subject of a running joke throughout the set as both Nate and Ty kept pronouncing her last name in a British accent (they didn’t go quite so far as to say: “Biber, Julia Biber”, as in “Bond, James Bond”).

JuliaBiber

Ingrid Elizabeth (of Coyote Grace) played electric bass and danced (yes, danced!). First, let’s get the bass playing taken care of. We’ve seen Coyote Grace once, when they opened for Girlyman at The Barns at Wolf Trap. Ingrid plays both electric and upright bass magnificently, so having her play the electric with Girlyman was delicious.

When Girlyman played Kittery Tide they cleared the cello area (far left of the stage, which is how the bow got misplaced). Ingrid came out in tap shoes and danced (impressively IMHO) to the very upbeat number. I was particularly amazed at her perfectly timed high jumps, which coincided with JJ’s biggest drum strikes.

IngridElizabethDancing

Not to keep it too serious, in the middle of the song Ingrid danced across the stage, behind every member of Girlyman, with grand hand and arm gestures as her body was obscured by each of them. It was funny, entertaining and yet could still be considered very good dancing!

The final special guest was the opener, who sang on at least four numbers (you can see her name on three of them in the set list, but she also sang during the first encore). She complemented them well, but I’ll save her name for when I get to her set, just after describing the encores.

The first encore consisted of their now regular rendition of Staying Alive, to thank all that is holy for Doris’ recovery from Leukemia. It’s always a fun number, but having all three guests on stage (this is where Julia was forced to pluck) enriched the sound even further. It was a big finish, except that the crowd wouldn’t stop clapping and they were forced to return for a second encore.

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They asked for requests. It was obvious which song was called out the most. Nate just said “Yes, I heard you, Easy!”. It might have been clear, but it started a humorous debate that they now needed to pick a song of theirs that had Easy in the title. In seconds, they rattled off three different songs: 1) Everything’s Easy, 2) Easy Bake Ovens and 3) Easy Pearls. Of course, they knew/heard that the request was for Everything’s Easy, which they performed beautifully. Smile

Edie Carey opened the show. She started out talking for longer than I expected, and within seconds, had everyone (or at least me) eating out of her hand. She was charming, disarming, candid and interesting. That continued throughout the set, with long introductions that were at least as entertaining as the songs.

EdieCarey

I think she either had a slight cold or was suffering from allergies, because her voice sounded a touch nasally to me. It worked really well anyway (didn’t affect her ability to hit any notes), but I think it’s typically a little clearer.

She accompanied herself very well on an acoustic guitar. Like Girlyman, she rotated a number of guests.

EdieCareyGuitar

Elana Arian played the violin (fiddle) on every number. I think she also sang a bit of harmony, but don’t quote me (or hate me) in case I am making that up. Her violin play was excellent and I thought it complemented Edie’s vocals and guitar extremely well. I found out after the fact that she’s a singer/songwriter as well, so you can check out her original music by clicking on her name.

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Edie brought up Doris and JJ to join her a couple of songs into the set. Doris played the electric bass and JJ the drums (duh). Lovely, as the sound kept getting fuller.

Then Nate joined on the electronic keyboards and vocals.

Finally, Ty came out for two numbers (I believe). Ingrid Elizabeth joined for one of those as well. So, it started out with an acoustic guitar and violin, with solo vocals, and eventually built up to a full band with rich harmony. Very well done!

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Edie was an incredibly well-matched opener for Girlyman. That’s no surprise, as she’s opened for them on at least one previous tour, so it was no accident that they selected her again.

IngridElizabethEdieCarey

Ary does the sound, setup and teardown at all of Girlyman’s shows. She does an incredible job and deserves a huge shoutout:

Ary

Circling back to our Party. We invited a mix of people to join us. That included four NYC-based singer/songwriters (none of whom were familiar with Girlyman): Bri Arden, Jeff Litman, Matt Simons and John Schmitt. Unfortunately, John was performing at a house concert in NJ earlier in the day, and due to the monsoon, ended up not being able to make it to the show. We missed him, and he missed a great show (which he’ll know, when he reads this).

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Our party also included a family who traveled from MN specifically to see this show!

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The rest were our music loving friends with whom we enjoy so many shows together. Of those, two had never seen Girlyman before, so that was a treat to introduce them to their music.

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One of those was sporting a stunning diamond ring, having just accepted the proposal of another of our amazing singer/songwriter friends.

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We enjoyed a lovely meal and some wine made right on the premises (yummy if you ask me). It was a perfect evening. The only thing that tried to dampen our joy was the rain (get it, dampen?). Winking smile

OK, when does Girlyman return to NYC? I have to get it on the calendar and grab a bunch of seats together, so we can plan the reprise.

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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Girlyman played Joe’s Pub last night. Let’s the get the statistics portion of the post out of the way. This was our 21st time seeing Girlyman perform (give or take some arbitrary number, likely zero). We hadn’t seen Girlyman at Joe’s Pub since April 2009 (31 months!). We hadn’t seen any show at Joe’s Pub since March 2010! Joe’s Pub was completely renovated over the summer, re-opening roughly six weeks ago.

It seemed fitting that our return to Joe’s Pub (post renovation and long absence) would be to see Girlyman. Our original, accidental discovery of Girlyman occurred August 21st, 2007, at Joe’s Pub, purely because Joe’s Pub was our favorite venue. Before describing the evening, let me just say Bravo to the new Joe’s Pub. The exterior is still a full-on construction zone, but inside, they have built a gorgeous listening room.

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We saw Girlyman just 10 days earlier in VA, at The Barns at Wolf Trap. How things change in 10 days. The most striking difference? Nate was clean shaven after having a beard (for the first time) at The Barns. Man, you just never know what you’ll experience at a live show. Winking smile

Seriously, there were qualitative differences and even some musical surprises. First, no two venues are (exactly) alike and The Barns and Joe’s couldn’t be more different. Second, while Girlyman calls Atlanta home, they were formed in NYC (first scheduled rehearsal was on 9/11/2001, obviously canceled). Their NYC shows (not just at Joe’s, but for us, particularly at Joe’s) have an extra sprinkling of magic dust.

It comes somewhat from within them (NYC is still home, even though they no longer have to pay local income taxes), but mostly from the indescribable bond that the NYC audiences have with Girlyman (if you were there last night, you’re nodding your head in recognition/agreement right now).

What makes Girlyman special? Phenomenal songwriting, delivered in luscious three-part harmony. Completely independent, non-stop laughter between numbers, seamlessly gluing the songs into a fun-filled event. In other words, never a dull moment. You’re either listening to a great song, or a funny bit, often created on the spot based on something that just happened or was mentioned on stage. A few examples below.

Girlyman is producing a new CD. It will be out sometime next year (hopefully in Q1, unless they want their fans to get the shakes). That means that shows on this tour (last night was the last show) have been filled with spanking brand new songs. Of course, no Girlyman show leaves their long-time fans without multiple tastes of their favorites, going all the way back to album #1 (Remember Who I Am).

The new CD is called Supernova, and you can pre-order it now (do it). Buy multiple pre-orders, get a couple of bonuses.

The show last night was magical, as most Girlyman shows are. Everything flowed, musically and comically. While Girlyman often has wonderful openers in other venues, they never have an opener at Joe’s because the set time is constrained (Joe’s had another show after this one). I prefer the purity of a Girlyman-only show, even though one could argue that the value in having a high-quality opener is better.

They played roughly six songs from the new CD (including the opener). One of them (later in the set) was a song they had never played in public, a very personal song by Doris about her year-long battle with Leukemia (thankfully, now in full remission!). A gorgeous song. They said that the live arrangement is different than the one on the upcoming CD. I really look forward to hearing the fully produced version!

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For those who can’t wait any longer, here’s the set list:

SetList

I mentioned above that there were musical surprises in saying that there were differences from just a week earlier. In my previous post I noted that Everything’s Easy, performed with Coyote Grace, was spectacular, as each (normally) solo part was sung in harmony with a paired member of Coyote Grace.

Girlyman decided to reproduce that feeling without any outside help. For the first time in my experience, rather than each of them singing their verse solo, Nate’s verse had Ty singing harmony with him. Ty’s verse had Doris singing harmony with her and Doris’ verse had Nate singing harmony. Then they of course all sang their separate verses simultaneously, which was the only time they couldn’t fully reproduce the magic that Coyote Grace added. Awesome!

There were two requests and two encores not listed that I’ll add momentarily. Joe’s has always had black acoustical padding lining the walls of the stage. The renovated Joe’s has that too, but the design is slightly different (even more prominent). JJ Jones is a very active drummer. Nate pointed out that Joe’s is perfect for JJ as the padding protects her from injuring herself as she bounces off the walls. A number of times during the show, JJ did indeed show off that technique. Winking smile

This is just JJ sitting at the drums, not showing off the technique (which would have looked like a blur, even if Lois had captured it):

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Speaking of JJ, since she was wearing black and sitting way back on stage, she blended with the padded walls. Some of the shots Lois took last night make JJ appear to be a projection. Here’s one example:

JJJonesProjected

While Doris and Ty were tuning, a young girl walked up to the stage (accompanied by her mother, don’t worry folks) and handed Nate a note. He read it and noted that it was a specific request. He told them that there was an upcoming request section so he would have to ignore it for now.

But, the ladies continued to tune and Nate decided that he probably had enough time to sneak in this request. Before I tell you what it is, let me say that often, Girlyman asks the audience to vote for one of three (or four) songs, by simply describing each with a single word. Long-time fans know which song is tied to which word, but newcomers have no idea. That has never happened at a Joe’s Pub performance in all the times we’ve seen them there (meaning, they never offer this particular choice).

One of those four words is German. I always scream my head off for that choice. While I’ve seen them perform it three or four times, usually, I lose (at least in the past two years). It turns out that the note that was passed to Nate specifically asked for that song, Rock Me Amadeus by Falco. I would embarrass myself if I told you how excited I was (and that I paid that kid a lot of money to pass that note). Winking smile

We all get to sing along (not to the German lyrics, which Nate nails).

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For the formal request section, they settled on Reva (a song about Nate’s grandmother). Settling is always difficult, since nearly every song Girlyman ever wrote is called for at every show during the request section. People brought hand-written signs to hold up because they knew they were too far from the stage to be heard.

For the first encore, they played Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees, to honor Doris’ journey. After leaving the stage for the second time, they were forced back out for a second encore. They knew what they were going to play, but someone called out for Doris to play the banjo (Ty had played it, but Doris hadn’t touched it as yet). Doris pointed to it (standing quietly next to her) and said “There it is”. Smile

Ty and Nate encouraged her to pick it up, changing whatever they intended to play. They performed Kittery Tide (at a much faster clip than usual), but still nailed the tricky guitar and banjo leads. Well done ladies!

Coming back to one last humorous example. At one point Nate said “Who needs therapy?”. There was dead silence. Nate followed with “We’re in NYC, everyone in the audience is probably a therapist!”. Then he added that they lived in Atlanta. He said that if the show were in Atlanta, the equivalent question would have been “Who has a chicken?”, to which the answer would have been “Most of the audience.”.

After a few more cracks about NY Times articles on many 30-somethings now buying/raising chickens, Nate started up a classic Girlyman Tuning Song about therapists and chickens. As they often do, the girls chimed in with harmony along the way, only this time, they clucked the harmony (literally, it was hysterical).

At the end of the song, Nate finished with a line “Six of one, half a dozen of the other”. Other hadn’t been rhymed yet, but he was clearly done. Without missing a beat, surprising Nate (and the rest of us completely), Ty finished it off with something like (this is a complete paraphrase, I can’t remember her truly clever words!):

What issues did you have with your mother?

Bringing it all back to the therapist line that started everything out. It was (yet another) hysterical moment, showing how clever and quick all of them are.

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We shared the evening (and a table) with two friends who were new to Girlyman. We continued our 4+ year streak of constantly introducing as many new fans as we can. Last night’s mission: accomplished. Mirroring our seats on the other side of the stage were Kevin and Edith. They were very sneaky. We can’t thank them enough, but they better start worrying about our escalating retaliation. Winking smile

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We were the first two people on line (in line for the Brits amongst my readership). Shock, surprise, mock horror. Smile We got to say hi to Genevieve, Girlyman’s manager, both before and after the show. Here she is pictured with Ty, and Ty’s dad, Ron Greenstein (a wonderful musician in his own right, currently performing with The Chad Mitchell Trio!).

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One of Girlyman’s songs, Easy Bake Ovens (co-written by Ty and Nate), is a conglomeration of Ty’s earliest childhood memories. It ends with:

Dad took a picture on August the nine
Of us with the newspaper and the headline
‘Ford Steps Up; Nixon Resigns’

It turns out, this is literal. Here’s a blog post by Ty that shows her as a baby, with that newspaper headline! Last night, Ron Greenstein showed me the same photo on his little flip phone. So cool. It’s historic(al) on a number of levels. Smile

I’ll finish with a photo that Lois accidentally hijacked (don’t worry, they got plenty of other good ones). She noticed that Girlyman was lined up nicely for a shot with some fans. She was willing to get an off angle shot of them. JJ noticed Lois and pointed to her, which made Doris turn as well. Smile

GirlymanPhotoHijacked

Already counting the days until we see them again!

Girlyman and Coyote Grace at The Barns at Wolf Trap

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It’s been a little over six months since we’ve seen Girlyman in concert. Any longer than that and I start to twitch. Those of you who know me know I am unabashed in saying that they are my favorite group. For me, that’s quite a statement given how much live music we see (and love!) and how long they’ve held first place (4.25 years and counting!).

Seeing them perform at The Barns at Wolf Trap is always a joy. The place is gorgeous, the acoustics wonderful and the 400-seat venue is always full of people who love them as much as I do (many are more vocal at the performance than I am, so you might mistakenly believe that they love them more). Winking smile

Here are shots of each (so that you know who’s who) taken after the show:

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We didn’t spot JJ after the show, but here’s a photo of her on stage:

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So, why are they so special?

  • All three songwriters (I’m unaware of whether JJ Jones, the drummer, writes any songs), Ty, Doris and Nate are amazing on their own. They often collaborate (probably after one has gotten a song a certain distance) and produce even better efforts (one example is Easy Bake Ovens).
  • Collectively, their body of work is quite large for a group that’s only been together for 10 years (five CDs and counting, with the sixth already in pre-order). I think one of the reasons is that they all write great songs, so they have three times the output that a group might have when they have a lead creative.
  • They produce exquisite albums that can be listened to non-stop on repeat. I have no doubt that this will be true of the new one, Supernova, when it comes out in a few months. You can pre-order yours now (we did, come join us).
    PreorderSupernova
  • Their harmonies are mind-bogglingly beautiful. This actually has little to do with their voices (more on that below) and everything to do with their genius at arranging songs, in particular harmonies. They even teach classes on harmony (sounds like a Master Class to me!).
  • Their live shows are a treat, for their humanity, personality and laugh-out-loud extemporaneous humor. Of course it’s about the live music as well, often because you get to hear brand new songs that will be on forthcoming albums (not necessarily the next one!).

Here’s the set list. It’s sprinkled with brand new songs (a couple we had never heard before, plus two world debuts that no one had heard before!), new-ish songs (which will be on Supernova), old favorites (including the first song off the first album!), requests, etc. It’s one of the highlights of any Girlyman show, knowing in advance that they will surprise you, given the size of their catalog (the two-song encore is not listed):

GirlymanSetList

It also included Hold It All at Bay, my favorite Girlyman song for at least three years running. On some levels, it’s probably still my favorite, but I’m also obsessed with Could Have Guessed (which they didn’t play last night).

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Coyote Grace opened the show (you’ll have to read way down to get to that section). I mention them here because they spent a considerable amount of time on stage with Girlyman, individually and collectively. Here’s a shot of Doris, with Ingrid playing the bass (she’s excellent) behind her:

DorisMuramatsuIngridElizabeth

The most notable song (for me) was Everything’s Easy.

It’s an amazing song on a number of levels. As gorgeous as the production is on their latest CD (of the same title), I was much more used to the faster version that I’d heard live many times, which was recorded live, on Somewhere Different Now. So, I love the CD version for it’s quality, but still long to hear it sped up a bit.

Last night they did the slow version, but with a huge twist. Each of the three Coyote Grace people paired up with the Girlyman singers (JJ is reasonably silent during the shows, her drums speak for themselves!). Ingrid shared a mic with Nate, Michael with Ty and Joe with Doris.

The parts that Nate, Ty and Doris do solo (always), were now done in harmony (with the corresponding member of Coyote Grace at the same mic). That was beautiful enough. But, this song builds to two-part, then three-part harmony, with each part singing entirely different words/melodies.

Keep that last part, but add in that each different set of lyrics/melodies is itself being sung in harmony, having six voices sing three different parts, and you have something that I feel feeble in trying to describe. In this case, the slow version was (perhaps more) appropriate, since it made it much easier to shift focus between the three parts and the six different voices.

If you don’t want to read anything negative (even a hint), please stop now, the above should (hopefully) satisfy you.

For those that are reading on, but don’t know me, I’ll give my standard disclaimer that I blog to capture how I felt about each performance. At my age, memory fades fast, and this allows me to recall each show with clarity. I am not a music critic (even a bit, nor do I pretend to be). If others discover music that I love and also enjoy it, that’s a bonus.

We see a lot of shows in NY and VA. In VA, it’s often easier to organize larger groups to see shows together. That’s what happens when we see Girlyman, as I’ve been on a mission to spread their gospel since I first saw them in August 2007. Last night, we had a group of 10 at the Barns. Four of those had never seen Girlyman before.

Last night was our 20th time (give or take one) seeing Girlyman live. I’ve written one negative review, when both Ty and Nate were extremely sick and simply couldn’t deliver their typical performance. The other four in our group last night had all been to that one off show (for two of them, their only Girlyman experience).

Without being overly negative, here’s the difference between most Girlyman shows and last night: most Girlyman shows are magic, start-to-finish. Last night (and a very few others) have numerous magical moments, interspersed with too much thinking (referring to me, not being lost in the moment).

Part of my personal problem comes from the fact that we’re constantly introducing new people to the group. That makes me try to hear each show with new ears (ooh, how Zen of me!). Winking smile I try to anticipate how a newcomer would react, so that I don’t get defensive if they don’t understand instantly how awesome Girlyman is.

The problem is that given the heavy toll that the past year has taken on them (Doris was diagnosed with Leukemia almost exactly a year ago), it’s understandable that they don’t always deliver a peak performance, on every song (like they used to). For non-fans, Doris has responded extraordinarily well to the medicine (which she has to take daily) and is now in remission (or for you medical nerds, in full molecular response). That’s awesome. Still, the toll (on all of them!) has been exacted and it will likely take time to get (somewhat) beyond it.

For me, the manifestation comes in the harmonies (and even some solo leads) not being delivered as cleanly as they are on the albums (or were in most previous live shows). At other times it’s the rhythm of the show itself. Even though they were hysterical last night, there were only two tuning songs. If you’re a fan, you know what that means to us.

I’ll digress for a second and say that they opened the encore with a very funny bit, which culminated in the girls cajoling Nate into singing a parody song. The title: Undeterred. The homophone of that (not in the strictest sense, since it’s actually two words): Undy turd. Suffice it to say that it is a silly song filled with normal conversational words that all aim to project the image of the homophone, rather than the previously spelled out version.

I was wiping tears away during the song, I was laughing so hard. It was literally uncontrollable (bordering on embarrassing).

Not to belabor the original point, but rather to put it to bed, their delivery isn’t always perfect. No real fan of Girlyman cares. I bet many don’t notice (because they’re enraptured), but when I pull myself out of the moment to analyze the sound, I recognize the difference.

Do I care? No! I can’t wait to see them again on November 13th, at Joe’s Pub, where it all began for me in August 2007!

Finally, on to the opener. We’d heard amazing things about Coyote Grace. They’ve opened for Girlyman on a number of tours now, but the two shows that we saw in April were the only ones where Coyote Grace didn’t appear (Birchmere and The Southern Café).

Coyote Grace began as a duo (Joe Stevens and Ingrid Elizabeth, I only know that from their website). Michael Connolly joined them to form the current incarnation.

All three are extremely talented, vocally and instrumentally. They’re also all very comfy on stage and are often funny.

Unfortunately, even though it’s exactly my type of music, I didn’t really connect with them in any meaningful way. The sound of nearly every song was lovely, so they can certainly perform to a high level. But, the lyrics often felt forced to me.

A couple of weeks back I wrote about a singer/songwriter who I felt suffered from writing too directly about her personal feelings/experiences. We’ve all had those feelings, but her lyrics were so direct that I felt disconnected from them. A number of times, I felt the same thing about Coyote Grace.

I love song introductions. Often, it makes me appreciate a gorgeous lyric which could be interpreted a number of ways (which is one of the things that makes it a great lyric) in a very specific way (allowing me to connect specifically with the artist, independent of the song). The reverse was true last night a couple of times.

Coyote Grace introduced some songs in a very personal way (so far so good), but then sang lyrics that were laser-like targets of the intro. In other words, I couldn’t have easily misunderstood the lyrics in that context only. So, the songs themselves were not generically moving (to me).

The only other issue I had was that while Joe has a very nice voice (reasonably distinct characteristics), he doesn’t sing with much power. Ingrid has an amazing voice (truly), and can sing with power, but when she sings with Joe (which is way more often than the few times that Michael joins in), she tones it down to match Joe. That’s cool, except that in a 400-person venue, a little more power is called for (IMO).

JoeStevensIngridElizabeth

They are all talented multi-instrumentalists, but Michael Connolly tops the list. He played mandolin, fiddle, accordion, piano, upright bass and probably a few more that I am just forgetting. All extremely well! He sings well too.

MichaelConnolly

Still, that’s not what I will remember most about him. I couldn’t get it out of my mind that he’s the spitting image of Wayne Knight (Newman on Seinfeld). That Michael was very funny, facial expressions as well as some lines, only reinforced that for me.

Coyote Grace kicked off the show by having JJ drum for them (wonderfully!). They later invited Ty up to play the cajon (first time I recall seeing Ty play one). Then they brought them all out for at least two numbers, including a spiritual (written by their friends, Ma Muse) which they mostly snap to (and clap to in the faster parts), in a more a cappella feel. Stunning.

Here are all of them (except for JJ) in one shot, singing a different song:

GirlymanJoinsCoyoteGrace

I listened to the streaming music on the Coyote Grace site today, for more than 30 minutes. I liked the sound a lot, but I was easily able to work on other things (meaning, again, the lyrics didn’t pull me in). Listen for yourself, you’ll likely feel very differently.

Here’s their set list along with a page from the program with last night’s entry:

CoyoteGraceSetList

During intermission, I stood at my seat just to stretch. When I looked toward the back, I instantly recognized someone I’ve only seen once in my life. Five rows behind us was Owen Danoff, who we saw perform in NYC a few weeks back. He was there with a friend, celebrating his birthday. Here’s what I wrote about him. As you can see, I’m a big fan, including being able to pick him out in a crowd. Smile

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In a much smaller world story, when Lois slipped past me (also during intermission), she stopped in her tracks and looked at the person two to my right in our own row and said: “Are you?” and he replied “Yes.” Smile

It was another Girlyman fan, John Dickerson. I briefly met John at two other Girlyman shows, but had spoken to him on the phone before ever meeting him. John wrote a series of articles on risk taking. One of those was about Girlyman, and the risks of being an indie music group in our times. John interviewed me for that article. His wife sat between us. It made me feel like our group of 10 was really 12. Winking smile

Before heading to the Barns, eight of us had an amazing meal at P.F. Chang’s in McLean. We made Stacey pose with our server. Winking smile

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Here are the rest of us right before the show. The ghost is taking the picture, which is why there are only nine of us visible.

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Girlyman at The Southern

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The weekend began as great as it could, with a Girlyman show at the Birchmere. You can read about it here. It ended as well as it began, with Girlyman at The Southern Cafe.

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The Southern is the reincarnation of Gravity Lounge (in Charlottesville, VA). If I understand correctly, the sound engineer from Gravity Lounge bought the place, ripped out the décor and created a better listening room (not that it was bad to begin with). He did a very nice job.

Girlyman always delivers. Put them in a place with an excellent sound system, operate that system perfectly, fill it with an adoring (and respectful) crowd, and the magic is indescribable. Therefore, the rest is for my memory, since I can’t describe it to youWinking smile

There was no opening act so Girlyman performed two sets. They mingled with the audience during the 30-minute intermission (signing merch and chatting).

The set list had a fair amount of overlap from Friday night, but there were a number of significant changes (including kicking it off with Born at the Right Time by Paul Simon).

The request section is always a hoot. This time, they played Maori (with Nate cracking us up with the story behind the song). But, in typical fashion, dozens of songs were called for. A few people yelled out “Do the rest!” (meaning, play all of the songs that you didn’t play already). I can get behind that!

They closed the show with the same number from Friday, Postcards from Mexico, with them leading the audience in three-part harmony again. At Birchmere, while I was belting out my part (well, Nate’s part), I couldn’t hear a lot of other people joining in (even though the crowd loved Girlyman). Perhaps it was the acoustics, or perhaps there were 100’s of people there who don’t have confidence in their voices.

Last night, with a smaller crowd (just due to venue size), all three parts were being belted out (beautifully!). The audience sounded so good that Girlyman made us sing it (without them) a number of extra times, so they (and we) could soak it in. Fun!

I mentioned in Saturday’s post that their banter has migrated more toward the song intros rather than tuning songs. That continued last night. Even though some of the intro humor was similar, it wasn’t canned/rehearsed. We heard new twists, including things we had never heard before (like how/why Doris thought she was anemic, which turned into the discovery that she had Leukemia, not anemia).

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After Postcards from Mexico, everyone shot out of their seats to give Girlyman a standing ovation. They returned shortly for an encore. Nate gave what appeared to be an emotional speech about how grateful they were that Doris was still alive (which at the time, seemed like a somewhat strange way to phrase her/their ordeal). He said that they wanted to arrange an old Spiritual to convey how they felt about it.

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They then proceeded to play Staying Alive by the Bee Gee’s. They were flawless. Doris and Ty sang most of it, with Nate filling in some of the low parts on the chorus. So much fun, and yes, spiritual in the sense that it got everyone in the crowd moving to the beat and smiling throughout the song.

When they finished, there was another immediate standing ovation. It continued, so eventually, Girlyman was forced to come out yet again. Since they hadn’t prepared for a second encore, they solicited more requests from the audience. Again, dozens of titles were yelled out. They settled on The Shape I Found You In. Ty said it was the first love song she wrote, and she dedicated it to Genevieve who was in the audience.

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This picture of JJ is blurry, but captures her ever-present smile and gives you a glimpse into her wonderful soul:

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Because we got to say hello during intermission, we ran out when the second encore was over, since it’s a long ride back to Fredericksburg. We got to the hotel at 11:45pm.

The Southern is a great place to see a show. They also have excellent food. Unfortunately, even though they’ve been open for over a year (we saw Girlyman there in March 2010), they are still completely disorganized. They couldn’t tell us what time the show started when we called earlier in the day (in fact, they delivered some contradictory answers). Good luck finding out any useful information on their web site either.

Last year we missed most of the opening act because we were leisurely eating their excellent food with no clue that the show had started. We decided not to make the same mistake twice. Instead, we decided to make a new one! Winking smile

We met the same friends that we attended last year’s show with. They are both UVA grads so they are familiar with Charlottesville. We asked them to pick a place to meet for dinner. They gave us three choices and we picked Christian’s Pizza. They mentioned that it was a short walk to The Southern from there.

We showed up early and grabbed a table. After about 20 minutes, I realized that we were in the wrong location. There was no way that the one we were in was a short walk from anywhere other than the other stores in this strip mall. Oops. I called and verified that I was correct.

We headed to the correct one. The best part of the error was that someone was pulling out from the best possible spot near The Southern, just as we pulled up. We still had plenty of time to enjoy the pizza and catch up with our friends for 70 minutes before the show started. Whew.

Girlyman and Susan Werner at Birchmere

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Last night was almost exactly five months from the last time we saw Girlyman in concert. That’s just about our limit before we burst, so we were thankful for the opportunity to see them at Birchmere again. (Apologies for the quality of the photos. Birchmere has poor lighting for compact cameras in general, and our angle and distance from the stage made it worse for those on the left side, very far from us.)

Our normal excitement for a Girlyman show was complicated by the following fact: Days after seeing them play at City Winery (covered in this post) we discovered that Doris was diagnosed with Leukemia! This would be our first time seeing her/them perform since then.

While we still pray for Doris to continue getting better, there is no need to worry for Girlyman’s ability to live up to their previous showings. They were absolutely spectacular last night. I honestly didn’t doubt they would be, but hey, it’s live, so you never really know.

Doris was also spectacular. Her voice was so strong and clear. Her guitar, banjo and mandolin play, wonderful. When she introduced Supernova (a relatively new song written by Nate), she took the opportunity to explain to the crowd what happened to her and how affected she was by the outpouring of love she received from fans and friends, far and near. That love, plus crazy strong and expensive drugs have dramatically improved her condition (from 100% reading of cancerous blood cells at original diagnosis, down to 4% a month or so ago!).

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The reason she introduced Supernova is that when she was alone in the hospital waiting for the original test results, Supernova kept playing over and over in her head. We had just heard it for the first time at City Winery. That night, Nate sang the lead (not surprising). Now that it has become so meaningful to Doris, she takes the lead.

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There was another qualitative difference in the performance last night. Girlyman always slays me with their humor/banter. Much of it comes in the form of tuning songs (these are short songs made up on the spot by Nate, to kill time while the ladies tune their instruments). In fact, they have a CD of 24 of their tuning songs, and their Live CD (Somewhere Different Now) also has a bunch of awesome tuning songs on it.

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Last night, there was only one real tuning song (OK, maybe two or three tops). But, their humor/banter was as good as it ever is/was (perhaps better), with a significantly more natural flow to it. It often started as part of the introduction to a song, sometimes morphing into a story with each of them feeding off the others. Not one second of it felt forced. On rare occasions, the beginning of a tuning song feels forced, though they usually find a way to make it just right before it’s over.

I could give you a good example, but it would lose too much in the translation from how amazing it was last night, so just get out to a show and you’ll understand. Instead, I’ll give an example of how the Birchmere lighting guy enhanced a semi-serious (but in the end funny!) introduction of Ty’s (relatively new) song The Person You Want.

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The longer title of that song is The Person You Want Me to Be. It’s about people in long-term relationships and holds out the hope that if you give me enough time, one day you’ll wake up and find me to be the person you want me to be (a lot of me’s and be’s, but hopefully you understood).

Ty asked the audience to raise their hands if they were in a relationship. That led to some humorous comments (some people hesitating, putting their arms up half way, etc.). Ty made some cracks about people who might just be there on dates and how it might be awkward to answer that.

Then she asked those people who were in relationships whether they thought they were good people to be in a relationship with. Just as people were sheepishly moving their arms upward, the Birchmere lighting guy turned on the house lights. That made for a lot of giggling and looking around as we could all see across the large room, including Girlyman getting to see the audience fully for the first time that night.

In addition to a great set list (they can’t really put together a poor set list, trust me), they also introduced a brand new Ty song (Soul of You). Aside from the obvious fact that Ty is a brilliant songwriter, Lois and I continue to be amazed at how it typically takes one verse for us to consider a new Ty song among our all-time favorites. She has a Svengali hold on us…

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Nate performed his usual MC duties as well as he ever does and was in fine voice. He played the mandolin wonderfully in addition to his ever-present baritone electric guitar. Nate introduced an accordion to the mix as well. What will he think of next?

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JJ was wonderful on the drums throughout, as she always is. During the one real tuning song, Nate also yielded to a full-blown JJ solo (excellent). During the encore, JJ stood up and pushed her stool to the floor. She proceeded to drum like mad, including a few full 360 turns (without losing the beat, of course), turning it into more of a rock spectacular than a typical Girlyman Folk show. Smile

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All of the above was performed to roughly 550 people (my guess, based on capacity of 650 at Birchmere). Zero rudeness from the audience that I was aware of. Here is a tweet from today by Zach Braff (a giant music lover and extremely talented and funny actor):

You folks who go to see a really cool band and talk the entire time… yeah, what’s your deal? Anyone in nyc know a good blow-dart school?

I feel exactly the way Zach does (and have loudly complained on these pages numerous times). I hadn’t thought of a good solution to this problem until I read Zach’s tweet. I’m seriously considering opening a blow-dart school now, so that I can study there. Winking smile

Girlyman received a standing ovation after both the main set and the encore (that’s a bit unusual). Well deserved. We are going to see them again on Sunday in Charlottesville and I simply can’t wait. It will be a different experience because Girlyman always keeps it fresh and the venues are nothing alike.

The show was co-billed between Girlyman and Susan Werner. Even with a co-bill, someone has to walk out on stage first and last night that was Susan.

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We’ve seen Susan once before in a solo performance (covered in this post). She blew us away that night. Last night, she was accompanied on all but two songs (or was it three?) by two incredible musicians and singers. I’ll get to them shortly.

Susan has an incredible voice (power that can make your hair sway, but with clarity and enunciation skills that I rarely hear). She is an amazing songwriter (a number of her songs can readily bring tears to Lois’ eyes). She plays the piano and guitar so well that she doesn’t need any other accompaniment (though she picked well and was definitely enhanced by her band).

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In addition to the above, Susan has a stage presence that is simply astonishing. There’s no doubt that she could be a full-time comedian. I also have no doubt that she could be a professional motivational speaker. Suffice it to say that while we love listening to Susan’s CDs, her live show is something that exceeds all musical expectations.

Joining Susan were two talented ladies.

Trina Hamlin on percussion, harmonica and vocals. First the summary, then some details. Trina is masterful on all three. Her voice is beautiful and she harmonized with Susan really well. Her percussion was excellent. Her harmonica play was beyond belief. (no really good photos of Trina, who was furthest from us)

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I didn’t want to interrupt the flow on Girlyman above, so I left out that they invited Trina to join them on Kittery Tide. They claimed that they didn’t really prepare her for it, implying that they never practiced the number with her. Of course, she was great. But, Ty asked the audience: “Have you ever heard a better harmonica player?”

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Well, having seen/heard Trina during Susan’s set earlier, I had already asked (and answered) that question of myself. The answer is yes. I have heard exactly one better harmonica player, the freakishly amazing John Popper (of Blues Traveler). He’s in a class by himself (in my opinion), but Trina mesmerized me (and the rest of the 550 people as well!).

But wait, there’s more! When I visited Trina’s website to get you the link, I saw that she’s apparently an excellent guitar player as well (why am I not surprised?). Smile

Gail Ann Dorsey on the electric bass and light vocals. Gail was excellent on the bass. She created lovely three-part-harmony on the few numbers where she joined Susan and Trina. Check out her Wikipedia Page to see some of the incredible people/bands that Gail has performed with (e.g., David Bowie, Indigo Girls, Gwen Stefani).

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Both Susan Werner and Trina Hamlin joined Girlyman for their encore, Son of a Preacher Man, with Trina on harmonica and Susan on grand piano and vocals. What an awesome way to end an awesome evening.

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The five of us enjoyed a wonderful meal at Birchmere (I’m a pulled pork fanatic and Birchmere always gets it right).

After getting our hugs in, the five of us hit the road for what should have been an hour’s drive. This is I95 folks, so sitting in wall-to-wall traffic at midnight shouldn’t have surprised us as much as it did. Only cost us 30 extra minutes though, so enough complaining for today. (Last complaint, couldn’t easily get the red eye out of this photo…)

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Girlyman and Red Molly at City Winery

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This show was announced over six months ago and the minute it was, I grabbed tickets. It was a long wait and it was well worth it. We even got to see Girlyman three weeks ago in Birmingham, which only enhanced our anticipation of last night’s show.

It is the rarest Girlyman show that we attend alone. We want to share our joy and grow their fan base whenever we get a chance. Last night was no exception. We had a party of seven, four of whom were experiencing Girlyman and Red Molly for the first time.

Girlyman opened with an energetic Paul Simon cover. This already set the tone for an unusual evening. I don’t think that in the nearly 20 times that we’ve seen them perform they’ve ever opened with a cover. Lois and I are sensitive to the opening song (of all bands that we love, not just Girlyman) because it often determines whether newcomers are leaning forward or backward for the rest of the show. So, opening song jitters overcome with flying colors (ours, not theirs), check! Smile

My next fear was locale-based. City Winery is beyond gorgeous. The food and wine are excellent. The sound is generally excellent too. But, the place is large and many people sit at the bar or off to the opposite side of the stage. Every other show I’ve been to at City Winery has had too many loud talkers during the sets (amazing sets at that!). It distracts from the show.

Thankfully, even though the place last night was packed, it was full of Girlyman and Red Molly fans. That meant whisper quiet during nearly every song, and raucous noise between them. Exactly as it should be! Venue enhances show rather than distracts, check! Smile

Any additional fears to overcome? Nope, good, only enjoyment left. One last note, earlier this week someone adjusted Lois’ camera in order to take pictures of some close up items. Lois didn’t readjust the settings, so nearly every photo she took last night was blurry. I’ll post a very few just to give you a sense of the layout. The camera is now back to normal.

Girlyman has such a large catalog to select from. They mix it up frequently, which is one of the reasons that seeing them often is invigorating. Of course, it means that something you’re desperately in the mood for on a given night might not be delivered. No worries, the entire catalog is fantastic.

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The tuning songs last night weren’t quite up to par (less rhymes, shorter, fewer), but the general banter and interaction among the band was superb. I had the warm fuzzies throughout the set.

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When they got to the request section, it was complete bedlam. It sounded like 200 of the 300+ people there were screaming at the same time, at the top of their lungs. I can always make out at least a dozen distinct titles being yelled at any show. I couldn’t make out a single title last night, because I think that over 50 songs were being yelled out.

The band didn’t seem to hear them either. When there was a break for a second, quite a number of people coordinated their screams for Everything’s Easy (the title track of their latest CD). The band seemed willing to play it, given that it was the only one they could be sure of.

But, in another clever, coordinated, premeditated move, a handful of people sitting right in front of the stage held up sheets of paper with the word Angel printed on them. This created a memorable set of events.

Angel is one of Doris’ new songs on the latest CD. It’s a beautiful song and I understand why this group came prepared to lobby for it. But, it’s one of the few songs in Girlyman’s catalog that they haven’t practiced together in a while. They were checking with each other on the stage whether any of them remembered it well enough to perform it. No one (including Doris) exuded confidence!

It was impressive that they love and connect with their fans well enough to at least try performing the song. There were flubbed chords and a few missed words as well, but it still sounded great and showed their courage to deliver what people wanted to hear rather than just what they could guarantee would be a flawless performance.

What makes it more impressive is the fact that Girlyman returned to offering live recordings of last night’s show after stopping the practice over a year ago (we cherish the many live shows that we purchased from them). As they noted on stage, anyone who wanted to listen to them butcher Angel over and over could now do so, by purchasing last night’s show. We do, so we did! Smile

Rather than leave it at that, they also performed Everything’s Easy, ensuring that one of the requests was performed as people expected it.

They introduced two new songs, one of which we heard in Birmingham (and fell in love with instantly). That one was The Person You Want (Me to Be) by Ty. The other, which they said was only the second time they’ve performed it, was Supernova by Nate. Supernova was a big hit at our table!

They closed the show with Postcards From Mexico in the same fashion that they did in Birmingham, but the size of the crowd at City Winery made it more of a spectacle (in the best sense of the word). They split the crowd in thirds, according to vocal range. We sang the chorus with them. It’s complicated, because the three parts have different words and different melodies (they don’t all start on the same beat either!). It sounded pretty darned good from where I was sitting. When I get my live CD in the mail, I’ll get a better sense of the full effect.

They performed a one-song encore, bringing Red Molly out to join them for Through to Sunrise. Cool! Five part harmony on one of our favorite songs (Abbie Gardner of Red Molly didn’t really join in the singing, but she played a mean Dobro solo that was double the normal length of the traditional Banjo solo that Doris plays). Bravo!

In total, they were on the stage for just under two hours, a super healthy (and welcome) set, considering there was a top-notch opening act as well. They correctly thanked City Winery for allowing them to do that!

We also count Red Molly among our favorite performers. Earlier this year, they decided to start touring more and that caused Carolann Solebello to leave the group (in July). Some groups can’t survive the transition to a new core member.

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In a not-so-small irony, the group selected Molly Venter to join them. (Get it? Red Molly now has an actual Molly in the band?)

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I’ll admit to being a bit nervous as to whether the character of Red Molly would remain intact, even if Molly Venter was a talented solo performer. That remained true even though someone I trust told me that she knew Molly well and that she was very much up to the task.

She was and is! Molly has an excellent voice, plays the guitar well and her voice blends beautifully with Laurie MacAllister and Abbie Gardner. She also brings her songwriter cred to the group, something that I think will be a big win for Red Molly (who performs more covers than most groups that we like this much).

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The first of the new songs is a lullaby written by Molly Venter which was amazing. I definitely need a recording of it, STAT! The second is a song she recorded on her own in 2008 that Red Molly has arranged for their trademarked three-part harmony. Gorgeous!

Thankfully, their 40 minute set included the ever-heavenly a capella cover of Susan Werner’s May I Suggest. If any song would be the test of Molly Venter fitting in, that would be it. Check (again). Smile

We arrived at 6pm to enjoy a terrific meal, including City Winery’s own wine. It’s exciting to sit at a table of vegetable lovers. We had two orders of the brussels spouts (yes, we all loved them!) and the cauliflower was heavenly too. Main dishes were all devoured as well.

We hung around after the show catching up with the band, getting their updated poster signed by all and mingling with friends who also attended the show. Another amazing evening in the books, more on the way (including tonight).

Girlyman at Workplay

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Earlier in the week I said we’d finish off our Birmingham trip with a surprise. Seeing Girlyman perform at Workplay on Sunday night topped off an already incredible week of family, friends and fun (henceforth known as the 3 F’s). Smile

Anyone who has read more than a few of my posts knows how I feel about Girlyman. For the rest of you, here’s a brief summary. I tend to rank music (in my mind) in terms of whether I could listen to it over and over, forever, if I were stuck on a deserted island with nothing but that band’s music (and, I guess, some form of electricity, solar would probably be abundant).

There are at least 100 bands that I could be happy listening to over and over, with no other music to fill the rotation. That speaks to my general love of music, and the fact that there is so much great music to be enjoyed in the world. But, if I got to choose in advance which music to be stuck with forever, I would not hesitate to pick Girlyman. That answer hasn’t changed since the day I discovered them in August 2007.

Girlyman just completed their first UK tour a couple of weeks back. Nate returned home two weeks ago, but the girls made a week of it in Paris and returned early last week. Unfortunately, Doris brought back a European cold with her. She was worried whether her voice would hold out. Thankfully, it did, extremely well!

They opened with EZ Bake Ovens (a number of my friends count that as their favorite Girlyman song!). Nate sings a verse solo, then Ty, then Doris. When it came to Doris, she whispered the first line or two. Uh oh, I thought that she had lost her voice completely!

Fortunately, the sound engineer just had her mic off (or too soft). He noticed the problem and with a very loud crack (like someone plugging in an electric guitar), Doris’ voice came alive. It wasn’t her normal voice, but it was pretty cool (and really good) nonetheless. It wasn’t quite nasal, a bit more chesty and rounded off. Perfectly in tune. She wisely controlled the volume, not quite belting out the rage in Storms Were Mine.

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The set list was superb! Of course they didn’t play some songs I wanted to hear, but they didn’t play a single song that I didn’t want to hear either. What’s a fan to do? Winking smile In fact, in Girlyman’s large catalog, there is only a single song that I find boring. Lois is the only one who knows which it is. She also happens to disagree with me on that one. Smile

We were treated to some UK road trip banter. We now all know why they use 220v over there. You’ll have to attend an upcoming show to find out for yourself. Winking smile Speaking of banter, Nate and the gals did a fantastic tuning song to More Than Words by Extreme. When they were asking for requests, after hearing more than 20 different titles, someone yelled out Do More Than One. So, More Than One was born, to the tune of More Than Words. Excellent!

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There are always a few surprises at a Girlyman show. This one had them inviting the audience to sing the chorus of Postcards From Mexico (three separate parts) with them. Depending on our vocal range, we were singing with Nate, Ty or Doris. I sing out loud in the car to every one of their songs, so getting to sing out loud with them was a hoot. The guy to my left had a great voice. He harmonized (a fourth part!) with them at the song’s crescendo. Bravo!

Ty debuted a new song (likely called The Person You Want Me to Be). Absolutely gorgeous. After the show, I went over to her to tell her how much I loved it. In the car ride home, Lois bugged me many times asking me how she could get her hands on a recording of the song.

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Ask and ye shall receive! I just got a Google Alert on Girlyman with a link to a YouTube video of that song, played the night before we saw them, at Eddie’s Attic, in Decatur, GA. Thanks Donna, you made Lois’ day and my life got simpler at the same time. Smile

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JJ is an excellent drummer, always. One of the things that makes her excellent is always playing the appropriate accompaniment to a given piece. Since many of Girlyman’s songs are very mellow, JJ is correctly understated in most of her drumming with the band. Then, they sneak in Young James Dean and JJ lets loose. Fabulous, each and every time. The second the song is over, rather than enjoying the accolades the crowd is giving Ty (and Girlyman in general), Ty immediately turns to JJ and points out how amazing she is during that number. I couldn’t agree more! Smile

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As exhausted as they were and as sick as Doris was, they put on a terrific show. For those of you who are keeping track, Sunday night was our 16th Girlyman show. We have tickets to see them at City Winery (with the amazing Red Molly co-billed) on November 17th.

This blog is appearing 24 hours later than normal. We hit the road at 7am Birmingham time yesterday intending to stop in Northern VA for the night (at which point I might have blogged). Instead, we pushed on (like the whimsical people that we are), through torrential rainstorms in PA, making it back to NYC at 11:30pm. Only 15.5 hours in the car. No big deal…

We had invited a number of people to join us for the show. We ended up only purchasing four tickets, for our godson (David), his fiancée (Rebecca) and us. We were given another special surprise when Rebecca’s parents, one of her brothers and his girlfriend also purchased tickets and joined us (the eight of us dominated the front row!).

The brother and his girlfriend had to run out when the show ended (the life of students with papers due). The rest of us hung around to say hello to the band (always a treat).

Before the show, the eight of us dined at Silvertron Café. I heeded the advice of the locals and got the mini-steak sandwiches. Wow! We all had a great meal, putting us in the perfect mood to enjoy a great show. Can’t wait to do it again! Smile

Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller at Town Hall

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Many (most?) of our favorite performers (superstars and up-and-comers alike!) count Patty Griffin among their hero singer/songwriters. This includes Girlyman, whose cover of Patty’s Mary is haunting and stunning.

We are familiar with many of her songs mostly because our favorites play them (both covers and cuts). We hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing her perform.

I was aware that she was playing two nights in a row at Town Hall but didn’t purchase tickets in advance because we weren’t planning to be in NYC this week. On Monday, I checked ticket availability on a whim. I was flabbergasted when I saw two tickets available in the front row, center orchestra! Lois instantly agreed to change our plans and head to the city for the show.

Sweetening the deal for me was Buddy Miller, who was opening for and playing with Patty. We saw Buddy play with Alison Krauss and Robert Plant on their Raising Sand tour and he was outstanding on the guitar.

I normally cover the headliner first, but since they were on stage together for the majority of show, I’ll quickly mention Buddy’s opening set first.

Buddy Miller opened with a solo acoustic number. I already mentioned above what a terrific guitar player he is. What we found out a few seconds into the song is that he’s an incredible singer as well. Clear and powerful. We were both extremely impressed.

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The minute the song was over, he was joined by a drummer and bass player (more on them shortly) as well as Patty. The four of them played together for all but Buddy’s last song, which was again an acoustic solo. In total, a 45-minute set that was fantastic, enhanced by Patty’s harmonies. Buddy played most of those songs on a couple of electric guitars, and of course, sang lead on every number.

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After a 15-minute break, Patty Griffin came back on stage with her full band, which included Buddy, the drummer and bassist mentioned above, a keyboard player, and another guitar player (all detailed below).

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Let’s get the basics out of the way:

  1. She is a great songwriter.
  2. She has a phenomenal voice.
  3. She plays guitar well enough to accompany herself solo, though the full band sound was a wonderful complement.
  4. She’s a wonderful storyteller.

Bottom line: Patty Griffin is an exceptional performer. It’s very hard for me to imagine that anyone would be disappointed at one of her shows.

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This tour is largely in support of her latest CD, Downtown Church, put out on January 26th, 2010, produced by Buddy Miller. It’s mostly a gospel CD. Given her voice, she’s extremely well suited to this style (as she is to many other styles!).

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I would estimate that roughly 70% of the songs she performed last night were in the gospel tradition, including at least 11 of the 14 songs from the new CD.

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On at least three numbers, she brought out a surprise special guest star to sing harmony with her, Shawn Colvin. She was excellent as well, just not enough of her. We’ve seen Shawn at BB King before, and I play her soundtrack of Providence more times than I care to admit.

ShawnColvin1

The two of them performed Mary (mentioned in the opening paragraph) without the rest of the band on stage. It was fantastic. Now we need to get Patty to invite Girlyman on stage so that all four of them can sing it together. I’ll chip in to make that happen if anyone is paying attention!

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Appearing left-to-right on stage supporting Patty were:

Doug Lancio played electric guitar and sang harmony. He is also Patty’s band leader.

DougLancio1 DougLancioBuddyMiller

Buddy Miller played electric and acoustic guitar and sang harmony. On one number, he played what appeared to be some kind of an electric mandolin, but it also appeared to me to have 12 strings, so I don’t really know what it was, though I’m sure it made a cool sound. 🙂

BuddyMillerMandolin

Marco Giovino played drums and sang harmony on one number. The link is to him giving a drum lesson, I couldn’t find a more interesting one with a bio.

MarcoGiovino

Frank Swart played the upright bass and was the only one on stage to not sing harmony with Patty. I thoroughly enjoyed his play throughout both sets.

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John Deaderick played keyboards (electric and a grand piano) and sang harmony. Excluding Buddy Miller, I thought that John Deaderick was the strongest musician in Patty’s band.

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Patty was on stage for 105 minutes (including a very nice encore). A wonderful night out, as well as an opportunity to finally tick off seeing Patty Griffin perform on our list of things to do. 🙂

PattyGriffinBand

Girlyman at Southern Cafe

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Another night, another Girlyman concert. This one was in Charlottesville, at the relatively new The Southern Cafe. This used to be Gravity Lounge. It changed hands and was gutted on the inside.

Last night was the final show in the current East Coast tour for Girlyman. I can only imagine how exhausted they were. Thankfully, none of that was projected on the audience, as they performed with incredible energy over two sets.

All of the praise I heaped on them for the show the previous night applied last night. They varied the set list a lot, with at least half of the songs swapped from the night before. Their banter was almost 100% fresh. One of the reasons that this is almost always true for Girlyman is that they feed off the crowd’s reactions. They might start with a seed that they have in mind, or have used in a previous show, but each audience will take them in a completely different direction.

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There were more, and longer tuning songs last night. Not because Ty and Doris had more trouble tuning, but because they got stuck (in the best sense) on a particular theme/interplay and drove a truck through it at every opportunity.

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Girlyman audiences are among the best, at every venue, on a consistent basis. They are true fans who make unreal noise between songs, and are reverently quiet during songs. That’s all you can hope for.

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They played a 45-minute set and took a break to sign merch and mingle with the audience (exactly like they did the night before at Jammin’ Java). They returned for a 70-minute set including a three song encore.

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The first song in the encore was the Girlyman Benediction. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen them do it live, and it was fantastic (as it always is). In addition to their normal antics during the song (e.g., Doris does the belly-rubbing and head-patting motions at one point), adding JJ Jones to the mix (the newest Girlyman) was hysterical. She was balancing drumsticks and water bottles, making it very hard to look anywhere else to see what the rest of them were doing. 🙂

JJJonesBalancingDrumSticks JJJonesWaterBottle

Next they played the other encore favorite, Son of a Preacher Man, which has also been a while since we’ve seen it. They closed the show with the amazing a cappella number, Up to the Sea (from the new CD) like they did the night before.

GirlymanACappella

After the show Nate signed their latest CD for our friends. Lois bought one of their Everything’s Easy T-Shirts (for me, since they were out of her size).

NateBorofskySigningCD NateBorofskyWithFans

ModelingMyT-Shirt

Opening the show was Andy Moore. We missed the beginning of Andy’s set (my rant about that will come in a minute) but caught her last two numbers. She has a beautiful voice and accompanies herself well on an acoustic guitar. Very moving lyrics.

AndyMoore

Lois made up for our guilt of missing her entire set by buying two of her CDs, so we now have a chance to get to know her music better. We also spend a lot of time in Richmond, where she’s based, so we might get to catch one of her shows there.

The Southern Cafe is still relatively new, so it’s important to cut them some slack while they get their sea legs. On the other hand, I’ll still rant a bit in the hopes of sparing someone else what happened to us, and encouraging The Southern to get it together a bit more quickly than they seem to be.

The show was listed for 8pm, with doors opening at 7pm. We wrote in advance because the website is one of the things that hasn’t quite gotten fleshed out yet. They wrote back saying that the opening act would come on at 8pm, with Girlyman hitting the stage at around 8:30pm.

We arrived at 6:20pm, and our guests arrived at 6:30, exactly when we asked them to. The doors to the cafe were already open (very welcome, since it was drizzling outside). We tried multiple times to order dinner, and each time were politely told that they wouldn’t be taking orders until roughly 7pm (fine, that’s when the doors were officially supposed to open).

They did indeed take our order at 7pm. Even though it’s traditional southern style comfort food (I had an amazing pulled pork sandwich with equally amazing sides of mac ‘n cheese and slaw), it took forever to come out. The good news is that the food is good enough so that you should go there for lunch or dinner even if you’re not interested in the music.

Unfortunately, while eating our food (which got to the table at around 7:35), we heard some applause. We ignored it while we ate, but then Lois got curious. She went to check it out, and it turns out that Andy Moore came on at 7:30. No announcement was made in the cafe part that we were sitting in. We wolfed down the rest of the food and caught the end of her set.

Summary: The Southern Cafe is going to be a great venue for both food and music once they get their act together. You should still attend now, because the overall evening was fantastic, but, be aware that things might not be perfectly smooth, or as advertised, for the time being.

Girlyman at Jammin Java

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Last night was our 14th time seeing Girlyman perform. Tonight will be our 15th and I’ll write about that tomorrow. 🙂

From March to October each year, we tend to see Girlyman in bursts, keeping our need/desire in check. Most years, we have a Girly-drought from October to March. It’s a rough patch, aptly named Winter, and we were happy to officially declare our version of Spring last night!

We were pleased and surprised to see Girlyman book Jammin’ Java. For the past two years, they have played The Barns at Wolf Trap this time of the year (on their VA visit). The Barns seats 400 people and Girlyman has sold out both times they’ve appeared there. We love The Barns, but the more intimate, the more we like it.

We’ve been to Jammin’ Java once before, covered in this post. We liked everything about that evening, including the food quality and selection. While that show was reasonably well attended, it didn’t prepare us for trying to accommodate Girlyman’s fans in this smaller venue.

Gone were the tables that were set up near the stage (making it easy to sit up close and still eat comfortably). Instead, they had rows of seats (theater style) from the stage all the way back to the bar area. People sat on the floor (lots of people) wherever there wasn’t a chair. Many more people stood behind the chairs all the way back to the entrance.

Jammin’ Java earned it’s name a few times over last night. First, while waiting for the seating to begin, the smell of their fresh brewed coffees was intoxicating. One of our guests commented to me that he would need to have some as dessert. We did. We got Lattes to go after the show was over and drank them on our way back to Fredericksburg.

Next there’s the intended meaning of Jammin’, the music. Wow, Girlyman was/were their usual extraordinary selves. Finally, people were literally Jammed into every opening, and no one seemed to mind in the least. We were all just happy to be part of the music and the energy (and the comedy) that is Girlyman.

So, why we do go to see groups that we love this many times, and often go out of our way to do it? The easy, obvious answer, which is 100% true is that we want to support (financially and emotionally) the groups that we love. But that’s not the whole answer.

The live experience brings with it a joy that is qualitatively different than listening to the CDs (which is something we also do a lot). With a group that has a large a catalogue like Girlyman, each show has a number of unique elements to it, even on back-to-back nights on the same tour. Then there’s also the inevitable moment of discovery, when they perform something on stage we’ve never heard, or they tell a story and reveal something we were unaware of, and our love of them deepens further.

There were a number of examples last night. We had an opportunity four months ago to tell Ty how much we love the song Could Have Guessed (on the new CD, Everything’s Easy). Last night, before playing it, we got our first shout out from them, as Ty dedicated the song to us. Cool!

TyGreenstein TyGreensteinGuitar TyGreensteinDjembe

Ty told a story that we hadn’t heard before they played Young James Dean (a song we’ve seen them perform many times). She said she was inspired to write that song when she read The Last Time I Wore a Dress. Lois told me when we left that she wants to read the book.

They played a few songs we hadn’t heard them play live, including one we’ve simply never heard before, because they haven’t recorded it yet. They were:

  • St. Stephen, a song Ty co-wrote with Nate in 2006. I could feel Lois tingling throughout the song, her reaction was that palpable.
  • For the first song in the encore, Doris sang a cover of Loretta Lynn’s Fist City. We love country music, and it was fun to hear Girlyman’s take on this song.
  • They closed the encore with Up to the Sea, a stunning a capella number on the new CD. The music is by Beethoven, Nate wrote the lyrics. The three of them bunched up together and shared one microphone. We’ve listened to the song many times on the CD, but have never seen them perform it. It was magical. You couldn’t hear a rustle (let alone a whisper) in the crowd.

GirlymanACapella

Girlyman now officially has a fourth member, JJ Jones on the drums. We’ve seen JJ play with Girlyman twice before, but she was actually the full-time drummer for the opening band, Po’ Girl each of those nights, also sitting in with Girlyman.

JJ is an incredible drummer who adds a nice depth/dimension to Girlyman. Many of Girlyman’s songs have a full drum set on the CD version, so it’s quite natural to hear that full sound on stage as well.

JJJones

During Young James Dean, JJ was beyond awesome. I am grateful that I know the song so well, because I might have missed it given that I was fixated for much of it on JJ. I wasn’t alone in my awe. The second the song was over, before Ty even thanked the audience for their wild applause, she turned to JJ and introduced her, and said something to effect of “Wow, thanks JJ!”. Thank you indeed!

JJJonesDrums

JJ also was perfect on the always upbeat Joyful Sign, a song that really benefits from strong drumming. JJ never speaks on stage. Well, she never used to speak on stage. Nate asked her a question last night, which JJ typically answers with a particular drum roll. Last night she said “Yes”. Nate was as flabbergasted as the rest of us. 😉

NateBorofsky NateBorofskySinging

The other thing that Girlyman did wisely last night was not have an opening act. While we have discovered some of our favorite bands by accidentally hearing them when they were opening acts, sometimes it’s better to skip it.

DorisMuramatsu DorisMuramatsuTuning

Girlyman was in effect their own opening act. They performed a 45-minute set and then broke for an intermission. They did something we are not accustomed to seeing (even in our few previous 2-set evenings seeing them). They came out during intermission to say hi to the fans and to sign merch and take photos. It’s a wonderful touch, especially for people who need to hit the road the minute the show is over and can’t wait in long lines no matter how badly they want to.

GirlymanAndDjango

When they returned to the stage, they played a 70-minute set, including the above-mentioned two-song encore. An absolutely wonderful evening, as I’m sure tonight will be as well. If you’re anywhere within driving distance of Charlottesville, VA, come see the magic at The Southern Cafe.

Here’s our gang (minus us) from last night:

OurGang