Girlyman

Wonderful Weekend Wedding

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Heretofore, whenever I saw the letters WWW, I inevitably thought World Wide Web. From now on, when I see WWW, I’ll think Wonderful Weekend Wedding!

We have incredible godchildren who’ve brought many blessings into our lives. Among these is the wide circle of wonderful people attracted to them, who’ve become life-long friends of theirs. We’ve had the privilege and pleasure of meeting many of their friends, and in a number of cases, becoming their life-long friends independent of our godchildren.

One of the very special people who came into our lives this way is our godson’s college roommate. When he graduated, he moved to NYC and has been here for more than five years now. Let’s call him Neal.

On January 18th, 2009, we had a lovely lunch with him at our favorite Mexican restaurant, for the express purpose of meeting someone very special to him. We’ll call her Maggie. We loved her immediately, as everyone who ever meets her has and will.

(All photos in this blog can be clicked on to see a larger version.)

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In the summer, they told us that we should leave 10/17/2009 open for a possible wedding date. We were thrilled, and would have made any date they picked, but I turned to Lois and I said, “Man, if only they had picked 10/10/2009, it would be a tad more convenient for our crazy travel schedule up and down I95.” Of course, we never said anything to them.

A few weeks later, they wrote to say that the date was going to be 10/10/2009, and they hoped that the change wouldn’t be a problem for us. Sweet! 🙂

Aside from the scheduling convenience, 10/10 is such an auspicious day in our lives for weddings. Lois’ parents were married on 10/10. Both of her mom’s siblings (a brother and sister) were married on 10/10 (different years for all three). The CEO of our first portfolio company, who we are still close friends with all these years later, was also married on 10/10. All of those marriages were strong and long, as this one is sure to be!

We were also invited to the rehearsal on Friday afternoon, the rehearsal dinner Friday evening, and a breakfast send-off on Sunday morning, hence the appropriate WWW moniker for this wedding!

One last pre-wedding story. In June, we brought 17 people to join us at a Girlyman concert at the Highline Ballroom. I blogged about that night here, and ended with the following two paragraphs:

I have to conclude with an incredible small world story. One of the couples that attended last night was married last year on 08/08/08 (I blogged about that wedding too). Another couple that attended last night is getting married this year, on 10/10. They had never met before last night.

In introducing themselves, and getting to know each other a bit, they discovered that the pastor that married the 08/08/08 couple will be marrying the 10/10/09 couple as well. That this tidbit is true is strange and cool enough. That they would separately be invited by us, chat to each other, and figure that out so quickly is a little other-worldly to me. 🙂

The wedding was held in Trinity Church in Princeton, NJ (where Maggie’s parents live). The rehearsal was wonderful, lighthearted and informative. Their minister is a very special man, and while he kept everyone focused on the task at hand, it was done lovingly, with good humor.

TrinityChurchPrincetonOutsideTrinityChurchPrinceton BestMan NealBridesmaidsRehearsal GroomsmenRehearsal HighFive Organ

The flower girl practiced her glide down the aisle in a red wagon, pulled by the maid of honor:

FlowerGirlRehearsal

Before settling on that, other configurations were tried. Here’s one that was scrubbed after a test run down the aisle:

FailedFlowerBoyConcept

Afterward, we attended the rehearsal dinner with roughly 40 people, in a private room at a local Chinese restaurant, Sunny Garden. We sat at four round tables for 10, with a large Lazy Susan in the center of each, making it easy and fun to share a wonderful meal, with excellent company all around.

RD2

We met a number of Neal and Maggie’s friends and family at the rehearsal and got to meet more at the dinner. It was as warm and inviting an atmosphere as one could hope for, and the circle of friends got wider, quickly. Inevitable given how we all love Neal and Maggie!

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The wedding was at 2pm on Saturday. We got there early, so we could sit close up to the action. The ceremony was beautiful. Maggie underscored her exquisite taste by having elegant bridesmaid’s dresses, something I understand is unusual. 😉

Bridesmaids

While we knew the minister would be inspiring from the wedding we attended the previous year, he still managed to surprise us in a major way. The one question I never asked Neal or Maggie is how they knew the minister. Since Maggie grew up in NJ, and he’s based in NJ, I just assumed the connection was through her.

Well, I was wrong! The minister told how he met Neal when he was in high school, and how they became friends because of what an extraordinary person Neal is. No, the surprise for me wasn’t that Neal is an extraordinary person, of that, we were already sure. The surprise was how far back their relationship went, and how it began.

I’m sure (partially from experience) that the minister gives great advice to all couples who are about to be married. Still, I have a feeling that knowing Neal as well as he does, for so long, the moving speech he gave them wasn’t just a boilerplate one. It was great advice, that all married couples should heed.

Minister

No, I won’t repeat it here, because I don’t want to cut into the minister’s royalties or be sued for divulging trade secrets. 😉

We had a one in five chance of getting David as our usher. That’s exactly what happened. Here he is, about to seat us:

DavidHadar

More photos from the gorgeous ceremony:

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After the ceremony we headed back to the hotel to relax before the 5pm reception. A little while later, David called to ask if I could return to the church and shuttle some people back to the hotel. I was happy to do it, and ended up bringing back Neal’s sister (a bridesmaid herself), the maid of honor and David.

We then met David out front and headed off to the reception. The hors d’oeuvres were amazing (though I’m told I missed the best of them, which is hard to believe). I was also (virtually) forced to drink some lovely champagne, only because I noticed that they were serving them in my all-time favorite champagne glasses. 😉

FavoriteChampagneGlass

We watched a slide show of pictures of Neal and Maggie side-by-side in similar poses and outfits, from birth through high school. It was a hoot and incredibly creative. Following that were professional photos of them that were stunning. In a nice surprise, we saw that two photos that Lois took of them, one from the first time we met Maggie, and another from the concert I mentioned above, were included in the mix!

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More opportunities to meet new friends and catch up with old ones:

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Then we were off to the main dining hall. Great toasts by the maid of honor and the best man. A wonderful DJ, who played an eclectic mix of music while we dined, all at an appropriate volume to permit people to converse. The mix even included Acoustic Alchemy, one of my all-time favorite groups, that we are likely going to see for the third time this coming Sunday!

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The food was incredible. The service was impeccable, yet delivered with a zesty personality. Everyone at our table bonded with our primary server. If she could have joined us as a guest at the table, we would have welcomed it!

OurServer

There were a number of babies at the reception, including two at our table, and they were the focus of some wonderful memories that will be with us forever.

ReadyToParty Sharing SistersEntertainingABabySleepingItOff

Once the meal was over, the dancing commenced, and the DJ kicked it into another gear. The youngsters danced their hearts out. I’m never surprised when women dance well, but I admit to always being surprised when I see a man dance well. Color me purple, because at least a half a dozen guys there impressed the heck out of me!

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Neal’s sister took pity on me and tried to get me to dance. I’m proud that I stood my ground, and resisted. Lois wasn’t as strong-willed as me, and she ended up dancing one dance with David. 🙂

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The traditional cake cutting:

CakeCutting

After dessert and coffee, and plenty more non-stop dancing, we all bid the happy couple good night, and left for the hotel ourselves.

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Their Just Married car, with balloons streaming in the night air from behind, passed us on the highway! We drove Neal’s brother and his girlfriend back to the hotel. The girlfriend said “I think Maggie just waved to us!”. Sure enough, she was right. The next morning Neal asked us if we saw Maggie wave. 🙂

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Simply a perfect day/evening. The next morning we joined the bride and groom for a farewell buffet breakfast that was also outstanding. Eight of us then took a nice stroll around the Princeton campus. Afterward we met the newlyweds at the train station, where they came to say goodbye to the California contingent that was boarding the train back to Newark Airport.

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LeadingTheWay

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David and his friend took off in one car, and we left in ours, with the four of us heading straight to Alexandria, VA to see a Girlyman concert that night. As exhausted as we were, it was a fitting way to top off an already perfect weekend.

Neal and Maggie, have a extraordinary life (we know you will), but make sure to share as much of it as you can with the rest of us. You are both a joy to be around individually, and even more so when you’re together.

Thanks for including us in this most wonderful of celebrations!

Girlyman at Birchmere

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Last night was our 13th time seeing Girlyman live. The last time we saw them was the only time we took no guests. Last night, we set a new record (previously 19 at Highline Ballroom). Including us, we purchased 26 tickets for last night’s show. Two of our expected guests missed their flight in Chicago, so only 24 of us showed up. That worked out, since we sat at two tables for 12, right up against the stage.

Since I’ve written about Girlyman endlessly, I’ll make this one very short (ha, you say!). Last night was the last show on their East Coast CD Release Tour. I think they played 11 out of 12 consecutive nights. Given that, the change of weather, the various colder northern states they played in (we saw them on the opening night of this tour, in Norfolk, CT, and it was 40 degrees that night), it wasn’t a surprise that both Ty and Nate had pretty bad colds. 🙁

DorisMuramatsu TyGreenstein NateBorofsky

The show was still generally excellent, as excusing a slightly sub-par performance was easy to do. The crowd gave them rousing ovations for every song. The banter was top notch, so their brains weren’t foggy, it was just their throats that were froggy. 😉

They played a long and well-balanced set (songs from the new album, but also songs from the early ones). They were on stage for roughly 100 minutes, including the encore.

I don’t begrudge Girlyman their political views, but Nate couldn’t resist taking a shot at the Bush Years when introducing the song True Enough (a somewhat tongue-in-cheek homage to Obama). I’m just curious as to when Obama supporters will start owning this nation’s problems. It’s so easy to only blame the past, and I’m sure it’s fun. Until you own the problem, you can’t and won’t fix it. Time to follow your most favorite advocacy group, and Move On!

Opening for Girlyman on this tour (with the exception of Joe’s Pub) was Po’ Girl. They were very good at Infinity Hall when we saw them on September 30th. That night, they played a 30 minute set. Last night, they were better, in fact, significantly better. They played a 45 minute set, and while they repeated a few songs (two or three I think), there were a number of new (to us) ones in the mix, and they were all really good.

PoGirl BenSidelinger JJJones

While we knew what to expect, none of our guests did. I was overwhelmed (in the most positive sense) by the spontaneous reaction of all of those around me to how awesome they thought Po’ Girl was. The two couples sitting immediately near me both went out and bought a Po’ Girl CD (one during intermission, they couldn’t wait to get their hands on it) and the other one after the show. I think others in our group also bought CDs (both Po’ Girl and Girlyman) after the show.

Everyone thanked us after the show and told us how much they enjoyed it. I’m sure that the entire experience delivered that feeling. The food was excellent (as it always is at the Birchmere), and a number of people commented to me how surprised they were at that (clearly first timers there).

More than half of our party saw Girlyman before (at least once), so they could factor the colds out and still know how awesome Girlyman is (and can be), but I felt a little bad for the first timers, who didn’t quite get to experience the real magic of Girlyman, even though it was still a really good show!

A bunch of shots of a portion of our our gang:

Birchmere11 Birchmere1 Birchmere2 Birchmere3 Birchmere5 Birchmere6 Birchmere7 Birchmere8 Birchmere9

Keith Urban and Sugarland at MSG

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Thursday was a very big night for our musical tastes in NYC. Our favorite band, Girlyman, was in town playing in our favorite club, Joe’s Pub. The Paper Raincoat (playing under the top-secret moniker Cardboard Bikini) was playing at Rockwood Music Hall. The group that has been opening for most of Girlyman’s shows on this tour, Po’ Girl was playing at The Living Room and Will Knox was playing at Rockwood Music Hall.

Months before any of those shows were announced, we bought two tickets to see Keith Urban and Sugarland at Madison Square Garden (MSG). Having seen them each once before at MSG (not on the same bill), we knew that even though we were missing other great shows, we wouldn’t be disappointed that we decided to stick with our original plan!

Keith came on stage at 9pm (I’ll cover Sugarland after Keith). He had five band members on stage with him. Keith is an extraordinary guitar player, all styles, has a superb voice (great range as well) and for the most part, has a really good catalog of songs. While we own two of his CDs, and I like them both, I’m not drawn to them in the way I am to many others.

All that changes when you see him live. He is a consummate performer and entertainer, and for that alone, it would worth seeing him live (along with the top-notch production crew and execution). Even that isn’t the real reason to go (IMHO). As I mentioned in my last post after seeing him at MSG, Keith has an aura, a presence, a soul, that is completely captivating. That he delivers 100% on the performance and the music, is gravy (good gravy, indeed).

KeithUrbanCloseup

He is generous in so many ways (a quality we admire greatly, and I call it out whenever I spot it). Not only does he thank everyone involved in bringing this big a show to so many cities, he thanked the crowd, for finding a way in these tough times, to come out to the show. More on that a little later on.

Keith delivers consistently from soft ballads, accompanying himself on a solo acoustic guitar, to hard-driving rock songs, with the full band cranking out ear-splitting sounds. He plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and on one special number, sung to his wife (Nicole Kidman, who was in the audience last night), he played electric keyboards (very well!).

KeithUrbanKeyboards KeithUrbanAcousticGuitar

We sat pretty far back and reasonably high up (these shows are nearly sold out before tickets go on sale, let’s not even get started on that nonsense, or the outrageous fees associated with purchasing via TicketMaster). That makes the people on the stage look like hand puppets. Here’s a view from our seats:

ViewFromOurSeats

Similar to last year, but still quite different this time, Keith overcomes that by projecting the action on very large screens at the back of the stage, and large (but much smaller ones) to the left and right of the stage. The effect is generally excellent, and you really do feel that you’re part of the show, and not just a distant observer.

Here are a group of shots to give you a sense. In most, you can see the people on the stage, in front of the giant screens. You can click on any picture in this post to see a larger version:

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To somewhat compensate for the fact that very few people can experience him up close and personal, Keith spends a decent amount of time moving around in the crowd. The simplest thing is that he has a ramp at either end of the stage where he plays to the crowds on either side, as if they were center stage!

KeithUrbanRightSideStage

The more complex maneuvers involve a few bodyguards leading (and trailing) the way as he runs through the crowd, continuing to sing and play the guitar while moving, until he settles somewhere. Twice, he ended up on a tiny alternate stage toward that back of the floor area. At most it was a 6’ x 6’ platform (it could have been as small as 4’ x 4’).

The first time he made his way back there, he played a solo number on electric guitar, leading it off by asking the crowd “Who has the good seats now?” 🙂

KeithUrbanMiniStage

He followed that by sitting down for a soulful acoustic number, accompanied subtly but gorgeously by the drums (perhaps a whisper of some other instruments) which were still back on the original (darkened) stage. Then the lights came up on the stage, and the full band played another number, with all of them seated on the stage, as Keith remained seated on the mini-stage in the back.

KeithUrbanMiniStageSeated

There was no buffer zone from the mini-stage to the crowd back there, so Keith was high-fiving and shaking hands with a lot of people between songs. He then promptly made his way back to the main stage, while singing and playing the guitar the entire way through the crowd.

KeithUrbanAmongTheCrowd

He descended into the crowd at least three more times. He went into the stands, and sang part of a song surrounded by the folks, no stage involved. He then made his way back to the mini-stage for part of a song, and from there, worked his way back to the main stage through the other side of the floor.

None of it feels like a trick, even though it obviously is, as you feel his desire to connect with, and give value to the audience, even those that are stuck far away from the main stage. He pulls it off perfectly, every time. When they show the beaming faces on the big screens, even if you’re not one of them, you feel the same elation on their behalf.

KeithUrbanAdoringFans

He warned the audience early on that this wasn’t going to be a short show, and he told the truth. Including a very nice encore, Keith was on stage for nearly two hours and 15 minutes! Don’t forget, there was also an opening act!

About 3/4’s of the way in, Keith invited Sugarland to join him. They did a stunning number that was 50% a capella and 50% with Keith and Kristian playing their guitars. Fantastic!

I mentioned his generosity, and I’d like to go into a bit more detail on that. I’ll start with his band. Nearly all artists introduce each member of their band by name at least once in the show. Not all do, and there will be an example of that later on. Keith goes way beyond just introducing them, and aside from the wonderful spirit in which he does it, for me personally, it made a big difference in another way.

Here are some good shots of the band on the big screens:

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There are five people in Keith’s band. Three of them play any number of stringed instruments, one of them plays the electric bass and there is a drummer. While it’s inconceivable that the band members aren’t among the best musicians around (after all, Keith can obviously have his pick), the general sound is so loud, and Keith is such a highlight in most songs, that it’s really hard to notice any of the band members too critically.

In particular, except for when the banjo is the lead-in to a song, it’s hard to even hear that the banjo is being played (later on in the same song). So, rather than just introduce each member, Keith explains what their expertise is, and then gives each of them (individually) the main mic, center stage, and let’s them have the sole spotlight for 2-3 minutes each.

Wow! Each of the four guys (not including the drummer, who I’ll get to in a minute), have incredible voices. While you can hear harmonies with Keith, you can’t tell who’s singing, and the instruments drown it out a bit. Those four guys are (each of the photos was of them, during their spotlight solo!):

Brad Rice on vocals, guitars, banjo and mandolin.

BradRice

Chris Rodriguez on vocals, guitars, banjo and mandolin.

ChrisRodriguez

Brian Nutter on vocals, guitars, banjo and mandolin.

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Jerry Flowers on vocals and bass.

JerryFlowers

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the extraordinary drummer, Chris McHugh. I am drum fanatic, and I write a lot about the many great drummers we see. For this kind of music (Country, Rock, Ballads), he’s the best (in my opinion). If you didn’t click through to my last post about seeing Keith at MSG, I’ll repeat what I said about Chris here:

While the entire band was superb, I feel the need to specifically call out the drummer, Chris McHugh. I had never heard the name before, but obviously, I’ve heard him before. If you look at the page I linked to, I own at least four of the albums he’s played on, and I saw the movie Cars as well. I don’t know how he finds the time to eat given how much studio work he puts in, but he’s so amazing, that I understand why all of these superstars want him!

He was that good, again, last night.

ChrisMcHugh

As if that wasn’t enough, Keith called up the entire road crew on the stage, and thanked them for the great job that they do. Come on, who else does that? When the encore was over, the big screen ran the Credits like in a movie, and in addition to the band, every member of the road crew was listed, along with their job. The scrolling went on and on. It’s the right thing to do, and we applaud Keith for doing it!

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As the encore was ending, Keith ran off stage (while the song was still going on). A camera followed him running through the tunnels in the back of MSG. Then he ran on to the street (all while the song was still being played by the band on stage). Then he hailed a cab, got in, waved, and drove off. It was a fun touch to end the evening. 🙂

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On to Sugarland. We both love Sugarland, now a duo made up of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. They are supported by five additional band members.

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KristianBush

For all that, Sugarland is effectively Jennifer Nettles  (don’t get me wrong, Kristian and the band are very talented, but it really doesn’t matter). Jennifer has one of the most consistently amazing voices in Country music. It’s strong, clear, has incredible range, deliver emotions appropriately and everything else you could want from a voice. She plays guitar (well) on a few numbers, but that doesn’t matter either.

She also has an infectious spirit on stage, and a great smile, that was captured in all its glory on the big screens.

The other thing that makes Sugarland great is that whomever picks their songs (they write some, but I believe that they cut more than they create) is a genius (it may be them, I don’t know). Whereas Keith brings average songs to life in person, Sugarland starts with 90% of their recorded songs being phenomenal to begin with. That they then deliver a fantastic live performance makes it all the more delicious.

While Keith’s sound got a bit too loud in the higher energy numbers, Sugarland’s never did, and Jennifer’s voice was perfect (in every sense, including volume) last night. In fact, we normally hate the acoustics (and sound levels) at MSG, but for Sugarland’s performance, I was quite impressed.

Here’s a picture of the audience from their perspective from the stage, as shown on the big screen:

ViewFromStage

They did two numbers (at least) where it was just the two of them, both singing (mostly Jennifer) and Kristian playing acoustic guitar. Not the type of sound you would expect to fill MSG. Her voice (all by itself), did! It enveloped every person in the crowd, and drizzled honey on all of us. 🙂

Here’s a shot of them with a cool effect where they appear in silhouette on the big screen (you can see them standing right in front of the big screens at the bottom of the photo if you click on it):

SugarlandSilhouette

All of that is the good stuff. For the bad, the mirror image of Keith’s generosity. Sugarland didn’t introduce a single member of their band, even though they were on stage for 70 minutes! They had excellent chemistry with the band, in particular with the female bassist. They even closed the show with the two of them surrounding the drummer on his final flourish.

We don’t understand that, and it doesn’t happen all that often.

I’m going to try to do what Sugarland doesn’t, and give them some credit, which they richly deserve. Unfortunately, I might be naming the wrong people, since I really can’t be sure who was on stage (in particular since we were so far away!):

Annie Clements played the electric bass and sang quite a bit. The bass playing was good, but the voice was exceptional. She also has an excellent stage presence, and hammed it up quite a bit with Jennifer (hence my assertion that the chemistry seemed great on stage).

AnnieClements

Brandon Bush (Kristian’s brother!) plays keyboards (don’t know if he sang, I simply couldn’t see). He was excellent throughout the set.

Scott Patton played lead guitar. At least I’m pretty sure it was him. He was really good throughout as well.

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Thad Beaty played guitar and sang. Another good performance all around.

Travis McNabb played the drums. He was particularly good.

Anyway, I feel better now. 🙂

When the show was over, we were both sorely tempted to do something that we’re too old to do, and not temperamentally suited to do, and that was to head over to Rockwood Music Hall, and catch the Paper Raincoat show, which began at midnight! We came close to pushing our limit, but some sanity returned and ruled the day.

The main reason we didn’t push it is that we have a wedding weekend that we’re attending in Princeton, NJ (I’m typing this in the hotel at the moment), and we didn’t want to fall asleep during the rehearsal dinner. 🙂

Girlyman at Infinity Hall

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Last night was our 12th time seeing Girlyman perform live. You’d think there wouldn’t be an opportunity for too many firsts but you’d be wrong. Amazingly, this was the first time we’ve seen Girlyman where we went alone. In the previous 11 shows, the smallest group we brought was two additional people, and the largest was 19 (including us).

Girlyman recently released their brand new studio CD, Everything’s Easy. I reviewed that CD in this post. A few weeks ago, they toured in Canada. Last night, they began an East Coast tour in support of this new CD.

Last night’s show was at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, CT. This is a beautifully restored building (from 1883) that opened for live music just a year ago. In May, they also opened a top-notch Bistro.

Infinity Hall Outside

Infinity Hall Outside

Infinity Hall Inside

Infinity Hall Inside

I’ve written about Girlyman so many times, that regular readers would be bored if I just repeated how wonderful they are/were last night. I’ll just mention a few things that were different (keeping in harmony with the opening paragraph, where I say there were a few firsts last night!).

Nate played a little electric keyboards (mostly with his left hand, with his baritone electric guitar still strapped on). This was a keyboard supplied by their opening act (who I will cover after I say a few more things about Girlyman).

Nate

Nate

Ty played a red electric guitar on a few numbers.

Ty Electric Guitar

Ty Electric Guitar

Doris was just her usual awesome self:

Doris

Doris

For roughly 2/3’s of the set, Girlyman had a drummer on stage with a full drum set. Her name is JJ Jones, who is the drummer for the opening act. She was excellent, throughout both sets. What was particularly interesting for me was hearing Joyful Sign (the second song of last night’s set), with a full drum set, live. It has a full drum set on the studio CD, so this was a more faithful reproduction of that.

I still love Girlyman without the drums, with or without Ty playing the djembe, but having a good drummer supporting them (and freeing Ty to play more guitar, something I’ve mentioned in some other posts), was a very nice touch. I’ll be fine with that becoming the norm, or reverting to no drums, if/when they stop touring with this opening act.

Finally, Nate was in rare form last night. His tuning songs were great and plentiful. All of their banter was hysterical. The audience ate up every drop of the music and laughter. They were on for just about 100 minutes.

Opening for Girlyman was Po’ Girl, the same group that they toured with in Canada, except that there, the roles were reversed, and Girlyman was the opening act.

Po’ Girl is made up of two exceptionally talented women, Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira, both singer/songwriters with fantastic voices and gorgeous harmonies between them. Accompanying them (and I guess now technically part of Po’ Girl) are Ben Sidelinger and the aforementioned JJ Jones. Between the four of them, they play a wide range of instruments, all expertly!

Allison Russell appears to be the front-person for the group. She has a wonderful voice and personality, and plays the clarinet, guitar, glockenspiel (and perhaps I missed one or two others!). Her clarinet play is outstanding, and unexpected in this type of group.

Allison Russell

Allison Russell

Awna Teixeira sings beautifully and plays guitar, electric bass, a small accordion, electric keyboards, glockenspiel and a bicycle bell (probably more). She has an energy on stage that draws you in.

Awna Teixeira

Awna Teixeira

Ben Sidelinger played the banjo, dobro, guitar (acoustic with Po’ Girl, and electric during the joint encore with Girlyman), electric bass and bicycle bell. He’s superb on all of them. As you will see from his site (linked above), he built the guitars that Po’ Girl was using! He also comes across as one of the nicest people around!

Ben Sidelinger

Ben Sidelinger

JJ Jones played the drums and a bicycle bell. She also played the tambourine on one number during the Girlyman set. She was as wonderful playing with/for Po’ Girl as she was for Girlyman. Given that she played both sets, and was highly active throughout, she’s a kinetic wonder! She also delivered on a number of rim shots and other appropriately effective sounds during many of Nate’s comedic forays.

JJ Jones

JJ Jones

Po’ Girl played a 30 minute set, and as mentioned above, joined Girlyman on stage for an energetic rendition of their always wonderful Son of a Preacher Man encore.

Girlyman Po Girl All

Girlyman Po Girl All

Girlyman Po Girl Most

Girlyman Po Girl Most

Infinity Hall is nearly a two hour drive from our house. Given that this was opening night for the tour, and that we will be missing them a week from tonight when they play at Joe’s Pub (our favorite place in general, and the place where we first discovered them), we were happy to make the drive.

We drove up early, intending to eat dinner in Norfolk. We knew they had a Bistro, but we actually didn’t realize it was a full-time restaurant that operated separately from the theater (they are in the same physical building). In addition to us not fully researching the Bistro in advance, we also were hoping to surprise Girlyman so we decided not to eat at the Bistro, just in case they might spot us. 😉

Just a few doors down from Infinity Hall is an Italian Restaurant / Pizza place called Mizza’s Pizza. We ate there and both thoroughly enjoyed our meals (good value too!). They were reasonably empty while we were there, so we ended up spending much of the time chatting with a young man who was one of our servers (he’s engaged to our other server). A delightful conversation getting to know a very interesting person. We’ll look him up again in the future.

Afterward, we found out that the Bistro is awesome (from a number of folks, including the Girlypeople themselves, and they are definitely foodies!). Next time, we’ll eat there, even though we really enjoyed our meals and the people at the Italian place.

Our surprise was only partial. Doris came out before their set and Lois got to tap her on the shoulder. So, we surprised one of them. We caught up briefly after the show, but all of us were dog tired, and had long drives ahead, so we skedaddled and got home at 12:40am.

We had a great time. Thanks Po’ Girl and Girlyman, as well as all of the folks at Infinity Hall (and the Italian Restaurant for that matter) for making last night a great night out!

Everything’s Easy by Girlyman

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Who doesn’t know that Girlyman is our favorite group yet? Come on, raise your hand.

With the production of their new CD, Everything’s Easy, Girlyman tried something different: asking their fans to help them buy a top-notch microphone for their vocals. We joined many other Girlyfans and pitched in to get them that mic!

So, can you buy this CD yet? No. It will be available in late August, 2009. Do I have a copy yet? Yes. Am I special? No. You too could have had it, especially if you follow me on Twitter, where I urged people to pre-order a copy.

The pre-order was at a premium price, but came with a lovingly signed copy of the CD, and helped the band directly, so fans should have been happy to pay a bit more, to get it early, and support the band.

According to Ty’s blog post last week, over 1,000 fans pre-ordered, which is music to my ears!

I have had my hands on the CD for nearly a week. I have listened to it eight times. I didn’t want anything that I wrote here to be based on a single first impression listen.

One word to describe the new CD: Gorgeous!

Lois’ needed to one up me, so she decided to double the number of words she used to describe the CD: Soulful…Intimate!

There are so many dimensions to personally grade a song and/or a CD, and I’ll cover a few of them here. First, when it’s an artist you are a fan of, you can ask yourself if it’s similar or different from their previous work.

Neither is inherently good or bad. If it’s similar, some fans will be bored, others will be over the moon. If it’s different, some fans will be angry, others will be over the moon. Of course, if it’s too different, it’s not inconceivable to lose a majority of your fans, but possibly pick up another whole group who like the new genre.

So, how do I grade this CD in that respect? Similar: Yes. In a number of ways (especially the important ones). Amazing harmonies, brilliant lyrics, wonderful melodies, superb production.

Different: Yes. In a number of ways (mostly good). First, there are studio versions of three songs that were actually debuted on their last CD, Somewhere Different Now (a Live CD). There is a song called Hudson, where Ty sings without Doris and Nate.

Perhaps the biggest difference (to me) is the mood of the CD. On all of the previous efforts (four, not including the many CDs we have from their live performances, which are priceless to me!) there is a wide mix of songs. Ballads sit side-by-side with very up-beat numbers (causing people to label them as Folk/Pop, since without the Pop, it’s hard for some to peg them as just Folk).

The only song on this CD that truly qualifies as perky (to me) is My Eyes Get Misty (a song we have loved for over ninth months, having seen them perform it many times!). True Enough is a very happy song, but still retains a relatively mellow sound.

Even the title song, Everything’s Easy, which is a happier song, with a little bit of an up-tempo feel on the Live CD, has been slowed down dramatically on this studio version.

It’s nearly one minute longer, due entirely to the pace. It’s gorgeous, but if you’re used to other version (and what fan wouldn’t be?), then it might take some getting used to (which is why I wanted to listen many times before writing this!).

Another dimension: new vs familiar. If you’ve never seen Girlyman live, and never heard one of their recent concert CDs (not counting Somewhere Different Now Live), then only the three songs from that Live CD will be familiar. Everything else is brand-spanking-new material.

Of course, if you’re like us, and follow them around like puppy dogs, then you will have heard some of the songs in one show or another. For us, here’s the count:

Total number of songs on the CD: 15.

Number released on a previous CD: 3 (Everything’s Easy, Somewhere Different Now and Storms Were Mine).

Number we’ve heard in concert: 9 (several were debuted at the recent Highline Ballroom show, so even if you’ve seen them before, the odds of you having heard nine of the songs isn’t likely).

Number we never heard before: 3 (whew, the math happened to work out!).

There isn’t a weak song on this CD. But, you better be in the mood to be moved! To repeat Lois’ characterization above, it’s a very Soulful, Intimate CD, both lyrics and sound, with a lush feel.

I’d describe this CD as making you feel Swept Away rather than Swept Up. The music and lyrics drape and carry you with them, to another place.

If you are a Girlyman fan, I’ll be shocked if you don’t love the CD. If you’re a newbie, it will depend on what brought you to this one.

Personally, I am thrilled to have my name associated with Everything’s Easy. Well done Girlyman! 🙂

Disclaimer: We are listed as Executive Producers (EP) on this CD but had nothing to do with the creative part of the CD, nor were we EPs in the sense of helping with the business (distribution, etc.). But, in our small way, we helped get it made.

We participated in the production of this CD in the form of a donation, and we have zero financial relationship with Girlyman. We don’t derive any money from sales of the CDs.

I Made Lemonade from Ceili Rain

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I’ve written about our love of Ceili Rain before, most recently after we saw them perform at Joyful Noise III. At the time, their new CD, I Made Lemonade was not yet available for purchase, but as of July 1, happily, that’s no longer the case!

In the above link, the new CD is highlighted in the big block in the center. You can order it (please do), listen to snippets of every song and read all of the lyrics.

You can also hear full Ceili Rain tracks (including the title track: I Made Lemonade) on their MySpace page. You can also check out two of their huge hits, That’s All the Lumber and Love Travels.

In other words, don’t take my word for it, listen for yourself, fall in love, then go out and buy the new CD (and the old ones, if you don’t already own them!).

I Made Lemonade is very special to Ceili Rain, and to their fans as well (including us). After making five studio CDs under the Music Label system, Ceili Rain decided to create and produce this CD with the direct support of their fans. Lois and I happily and heartily participated, sponsoring two songs on the CD, including the title track: I Made Lemonade.

Hadar and Bob

Hadar and Bob

The sound is fantastic (who needs a record label anyhow) and the songs are wonderful! We believe Ceili Rain will appeal to all music lovers who appreciate great musicians, an amazing vocalist, uplifting lyrics and a totally professional, energetic performance that always delivers.

Most people (including me) classify them as Christian Rock/Pop, because the messages are full of spirituality, love, God, etc. The music supports, yet far transcends that classification in the universality of message and sound. I have read that they would like to spread their message more broadly.

I don’t believe they’ll add an overwhelming number of non-Christian listeners with this one, as it is a Christian-themed CD throughout. It’s a joy to listen to, over and over, but they’ll need to make another one if they want to expand the current base. So, even though I’m still enjoying this one, I’m eagerly anticipating the next one. 🙂

In the past, when we love an artist, we’ve done one of two things:

  1. Run a contest to give away CDs
  2. Give CDs away to our friends

This time, we’re going to do it a bit differently. We have a bunch of the new CDs, and are going to give them all away, with a twist. Instead of just handing them out, we’re specifically asking our friends whether they want the CD, and if so, that they try their best to share the music with at least one other person, hopefully more.

In other words, ask for a copy of the new CD if you will help spread the word actively!

Second, instead of a contest, we’ll entertain requests from strangers for a free CD, but it will have to be in the same spirit as with our friends.

Tell us why you want I Made Lemonade, preferably by pointing out how you have, or will help spread the Ceili Rain love, and we’ll seriously consider sending you one of the CDs. No promises (as opposed to the contest above), but we’re serious about sharing the music with people who will appreciate it and spread the word as well.

Disclaimer: while we participated in the production of this CD, it was purely a donation, and we have no financial relationship of any kind with Ceili Rain. We don’t derive a penny from any sales of the CDs.

Indigo Girls at Lewis Ginter

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When I first heard the Indigo Girls sing Closer to Fine, in 1989, I ran out and bought the CD right away. I didn’t regret it, as there are many other great songs on the CD as well.

If you read my earlier post today about Eddie From Ohio, then you know that back then (OK, not quite back in 1989) I was extremely selective about what made it on to my MP3 player. Three songs from the CD Indigo Girls (by the Indigo Girls) made it on to the MP3: Closer to Fine, Secure Yourself and Prince of Darkness. I still listen to all three regularly.

Unfortunately, we’ve never gotten to see them live. In a major irony, our favorite group for the past two years is Girlyman. It turns out, unbeknownst to us at the time we discovered Girlyman, they used to regularly open for the Indigo Girls. Cool! We rectified that oversight last night at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in an outdoor concert.

Even though we both love the few songs of theirs that we know well, we really didn’t know what to expect from this type of show, both musically and audience-wise. Given our disappointment in seeing both the Proclaimers and Blues Traveler, both on the basis of just a few loved songs as well, there was at least a touch of nervousness.

Not to worry fans, the Indigo Girls were/are awesome, and their show is also different than expected given the type of shows we typically attend.

On the very off chance that you don’t know anything about the Indigo Girls, they are two amazing singer songwriters. Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Amy Ray sings and plays guitar, mandolin and harmonica. Amy writes amazing songs, sings beautifully, plays all of her instruments with energy (mostly a very driving rhythm style, not much lead) and harmonizes angelically with Emily.

Amy Guitar Harmonica

Amy Guitar Harmonica

Amy Mandolin

Amy Mandolin

Emily Saliers sings and plays guitar and banjo. Emily writes amazing songs, sings beautifully (with a broader range than Amy, as Emily hits some incredibly high notes, with wonderful clarity). Emily plays the guitar in many styles, from driving rhythm to fantastic finger picking, to high-quality leads, to a slide on one number as well.

Emily Guitar

Emily Guitar

Emily Banjo

Emily Banjo

Each of them could easily be a solo superstar, both in terms of their songwriting and their vocal and instrumental ability. But, like with Girlyman, the magic happens when they come together. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts (in both groups), and they are starting with pretty darn high quality parts/ingredients to begin with!

Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls

In addition to their typical brilliant blending of voices in harmony, last night they added a third person on the stage for the majority of the numbers.

Julie Wolf played electric keyboards, accordion and sang. Julie is excellent on the keyboards. She sang on roughly 1/2 of the numbers for at least a few phrases in support of Amy and Emily, and she was wonderful. The three voices worked perfectly together.

Julie Wolf Keyboards

Julie Wolf Keyboards

Julie Wolf Accordion

Julie Wolf Accordion

The Indigo Girls put out a new CD a few months ago called Poseidon and the Bitter Bug. They played roughly 1/2 of the CD last night. I really liked it a lot.

Their fans knew even their newest stuff cold. Quite a number of people sitting near us (we were in the third row) were singing out loud during every song. But, when the Girls started playing their more classic hits (not that we knew those either), significantly more people starting singing along out loud (without a request from the stage to do so).

In the bigger hits, during at least one verse (and of course during the chorus), Emily would invite the crowd to sing the verse instead of them, and the crowd obliged by belting it out at the top of their lungs.

When requested from the stage, it’s a very cool experience to hear the audience get to experience a sing-a-long with their heroes. When they are singing along with Amy and Emily at other times, it could have been distracting at best, and wildly annoying at worst. Amazingly, it was neither, as I was quite impressed with the quality of the voices of those who sat around us, and it all just worked!

They closed the set with Closer to Fine, which was beyond awesome, with the entire crowd screaming along for most of the song. They brought on the opening act (not the full band, just the star) to sing that song with them. It was wonderful (I’ll cover him shortly).

For the encore, which most of the crowd stood for, they did two numbers, closing the show with Galileo, which the crowd had been screaming for all night long. The opening act came out to join them for part of the encore as well!

So, I said above that the show was different, unexpected. Here are the two main things:

  • Very little banter. In fact, very little talking at all, though what little there was, was very warm. In fact, while Emily named Amy, and formally introduced Julie Wolf, no one returned the favor. Emily’s name wasn’t mentioned even once the entire evening!
  • They never used the same instrument on consecutive numbers! Their roadie, Sully, brought two replacement instruments up on the stage to hand to Amy and Emily after each number. That’s beyond incredible (and performed smoothly every time) because it meant that the Indigo Girls didn’t spend one second tuning between songs, as Sully clearly tuned off stage before handing the instruments to the Girls.

I’ve never been to a show where the performers don’t end up killing some serious time tuning. In the case of Girlyman, it’s an opportunity for some of the best banter you can imagine, so they turn it into a positive. For the Indigo Girls, you simply get that much more amazing music crammed into the evening, because they sang and played their hearts out for 100 minutes. Bravo!

On to the opening act, Matt Nathanson. We’ve only recently discovered Matt. One of our favorite groups is Sugarland. Sugarland is in heavy rotation on our iPod in the car. Lois can’t get enough of quite a number of their songs. On their Love on the Inside CD, the last song is called Come On Get Higher. As I’ve said many times, Lois cares who wrote the song, and in this case, it’s Matt Nathanson.

Sugarland’s cover of Come On Get Higher is fantastic, and we love listening to it over and over. But, it also made us go out and buy one of Matt’s CDs (before we had a clue we would get to see him live), called Some Mad Hope.

The fact that he was opening for the Indigo Girls last night was a super bonus for us, because we would have happily gone to see him headline somewhere. We would not have been disappointed.

Matt Nathanson

Matt Nathanson

He was awesome. He sings incredibly well, and plays the guitar well with a terrific energy. He writes great songs, often irreverent and tongue-in-cheek.

He’s incredibly funny, bantering aggressively (but cleverly as well) with the crowd throughout the show. Many people in the crowd knew all of his songs, and the two women in front of us actually came to see him, not the Indigo Girls, though they ended up hanging around and thoroughly enjoying the Girls as well.

Matt was supported by three other people on stage. Left-to-right:

Aaron Tap played guitar, electric keyboards and sang harmony with Matt. He’s an excellent guitarist, and sings wonderfully well with Matt (his voice is quite high, surprisingly so). He’s the only one who sang with Matt.

Aaron Tap

Aaron Tap

John Thomasson played the upright bass. Given the up-tempo sound, and power of the band, it was a little surprising to see an upright bass rather than an electric one, but John played it magnificently either way. Great bass lines all night long.

John Thomasson

John Thomasson

Konrad Meissner played the drums extremely well throughout the set.

Konrad Meissner

Konrad Meissner

They were on stage for roughly 45 minutes, and we would have been delighted to listen to them for hours longer. As I noted above, Matt (not the rest of the band) joined the Indigo Girls for Closer to Fine, and for part of the encore as well. That was a ton of fun too.

Matt Nathanson and Amy Ray

Matt Nathanson and Amy Ray

It was a magical evening, that we hope to relive as soon as we can. Unfortunately, it will be repeated in our home town in Central Park this coming Tuesday, but we’ll still be in Virginia, so we’ll miss it!

First a blessing, and then a few complaints, to round out our story.

Rain was called for throughout the evening, and it looked extremely threatening as we got on line. Amazingly, after perhaps three drops, it stopped, and the rain held off until we were driving back to Fredericksburg. Thank you!

As gorgeous as Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is, and as wonderful as the show was, they could stand to improve some things, especially as compared to Innsbrook After Hours from the night before.

Update: I was contacted by both Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and Haymaker Productions (who put on the show). Both were examples of superb customer service, and both made me feel that they are professionals who care about making each event as good as possible! Good answers to my specific points, not just “sorry, but please come again…”. Thanks to both organizations for taking the time!

Original complaints below, unedited, but I felt that the caveat above was important to insert before you get to the complaints!

First, they said that the gates would open at 5:30pm. They didn’t open until 5:50pm. Standing in the hot sun, for an indeterminate amount of time (yes, the sun came out after the few drops of rain stopped), is simply unpleasant.

Waiting on Line

Waiting on Line

To compound that anxiety, the web site said that Matt Nathanson would be on stage at 6pm. We all wanted to eat first, so by 5:50, it was looking and feeling dicey. In the end, the show didn’t start until 6:30pm, so we had plenty of time to eat, but even that was unexpected, since the show was called for 6pm.

Now the food. It was quite tasty, so after the fact, no complaints. But, dramatically less choice than the night before, and nothing that could easily be eaten in one hand (like a sandwich, burger, etc.). So, they should have a broader offering next time. Also, a salad for $6 felt like a rip-off, but otherwise, while a tad on the expensive side, it ended up doing the job nicely.

Only two more complaints! We had Gold Circle Seating (near the stage), which we paid a premium for. Lois called in advance, and we were told that even with this premium seating area, we needed to bring our own chairs. Fine, no problem. So, we dragged three heavy folding chairs and one bulky plastic one.

Of course, the information was wrong. The Gold Circle Seating supplied the seats. We looked like idiots holding our chairs. We ended up placing them on the side, and they got used by four strangers (at least someone benefitted from our schlepping!). Thankfully, they were all intact at the end of the show, and we got to schlep them back to the car, nice!

Last complaint. The ground was sopping wet (fine, no one can control that). But, after the show, over a thousand people were tramping through the soggy grass with practically no light whatsoever. It was a disaster in the making. At least no one near us fell over, potentially causing a major problem, and I’m hopeful that it didn’t happen to others that we were unaware of either.

After the show, we headed back to our friends’ house to pick up our car, and then hit the road back to the hotel in Fredericksburg. A fantastic two days in Richmond, with the better show capping it off last night!

Wes and Hadar’s Excellent Adventure

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Many more people participated in one or more of the activities I’m about to list. Only Wes and I enjoyed every single one of them, hence the accurate title. 🙂

Wes flew up on Thursday morning and I picked him up at Newark Airport. We headed straight to the city and met Lois and two friends for lunch at Westville. We met there at 11:30am because the place is tiny and fills up fast. Only one of the five of us had ever eaten there, so it was a new experience for the three four of us. The food was fantastic! I had the Caesar Salad with grilled chicken. Here are pics of three of the dishes, starting with mine:

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

Hot Dogs

Hot Dogs

After lunch, Lois, Wes and I relaxed and caught up with work/email, etc. Then we headed for our night at the Highline Ballroom to see our favorite group, Girlyman. That evening was covered extensively in this post.

The next morning, after breakfast, we headed up to the house. Wes had never seen it. We logged on there and all did our own thing until lunch. After lunch, Wes and I headed to see the new Star Trek movie. Lois was intending to come as well, but we had a problem with the dampers again, and she called the HVAC people and waited for an emergency technician to arrive. Sorry Lois!

Wes Hadar Living Room

Wes Hadar Living Room

Wes and I both enjoyed the movie. I would be lying if I said it was great in any way (other than the special effects, which were stunning), but it’s action-packed, moves at a very quick pace, is an inventive story, etc. I agree with the comments I had heard about the movie before I saw it, that you don’t need to be a trekkie to appreciate the movie, but that it pays homage to the original in so many ways that it’s extra satisfying to a real trekkie. Kudos to JJ Abrams and the entire creative staff of the movie for pulling off that difficult balancing act!

When we got home, we both logged on again, and  I finally got the blog post about Girlyman published. We then headed for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Tarrytown (that we had never eaten at before). It wasn’t our original destination for dinner, but the two places we wanted to eat at were 30+ minute waits (you know, in this economy, where supposedly no one can afford to eat out any longer…). We were quite disappointed in our meals, so this place won’t be visited again by us. Oh well…

After dinner, we walked 200 feet to our real destination for the evening, Tarrytown Music Hall. We had 10th row seats to see Steven Wright, one of my all-time favorite standup comics. This was my first time seeing him live, but I’ve been a fan ever since he burst on the scene (probably longer ago than many of you are alive). 😉

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

As is typical of most shows at Tarrytown Music Hall, he didn’t come on the stage until 8:25pm (scheduled time, 8pm). It’s annoying, but otherwise, we really love Tarrytown Music Hall. He was fantastic. He did his routine non-stop for 85 minutes.

For those of you don’t know, he’s the king of dead-pan one liners. For the most part, they are based on word play. He never (OK, rarely) smiles, except for specific effect. In other words, his own jokes don’t appear to make him laugh (and that works really well for his type of material). He only told one vulgar joke, and I’d bet that none of the kids that were in the audience had a clue that it was vulgar!

He used the F-word perhaps 10 times, so in general, his act is pretty clean. He speaks softly, so the audience trained themselves (incredibly quickly) to come to a dead silence seconds after laughing hysterically, for fear of missing the next joke!

Here are but two (of hundreds of) examples of the style of humor that no one masters quite like Steven Wright:

I have a friend who has a stained glass eye.

24-Hour Banking. I don’t have that kind of time.

No two jokes are connected. Topics fly all over the place. It’s really funny to hear delayed laughter around you, when you realize that people are trying hard to process a joke, and finally get it, a few seconds too late. 😉

We had a great time there. Afterward, we drove back to the city and watched a bit of Conan O’Brien in his new gig as host of the Tonight Show. I also watched the first two nights on Hulu, and I think Conan is doing a marvelous job in his new time slot. Congrats Conan!

On Saturday, after breakfast and the obligatory emailing, Wes and I met Laura in the lobby and went on one of my patented long walks up the East River. It was the nicest day of 2009 in NYC (so far), and our walk was spectacular in every regard. It took us two hours and 10 minutes, and we loved every second of it (or at least I did!).

After a shower, Wes, Laura, Lois and I grabbed a cab and headed to Five Napkin Burger for lunch. None of us had ever been there before. So, what made me pick it for lunch? I subscribe to Fred Wilson’s blog (one of the top VC’s in NYC) and read every one of his posts religiously. He often writes about his wife, who blogs under the moniker The Gotham Gal. For whatever reason, I had never clicked through to her site.

The other day, Fred blogged that The Gothan Gal had updated the design of her site, and he was very pleased with the result. That’s the first time I clicked through. I liked her writing style and started reading a bunch of her posts. Then I came to this one about Five Napkin Burger! I decided to give it a shot. I’m very glad I did, as all four of us really enjoyed our burgers (all different kinds). Mine was an Italian Turkey Burger. Yum!

From there, the four of us walked back to Times Square, and went to see Angels and Demons. Thoroughly enjoyable. Substantially better movie than The DaVinci Code. We walked back to the apartment after that.

While I caught up on some email, Laura and Wes walked the few blocks to Red Mango and picked up frozen yogurt for a light dinner for the four of us. It was my first taste of it, and I liked it a lot. Chris (Laura’s husband), who was at the dentist while we were lunching and enjoying Angels and Demons, joined us for dinner, which he picked up for himself from the brand new Just Salad a block away from the apartment.

After dinner, the five of us grabbed two cabs and went to see the show Altar Boys at New World Stages. New World Stages is a fantastic space/building, a block off Broadway, that houses seven smaller theaters (Altar Boyz can seat 363 people). All of the shows are quirky (or at least have very quirky and provocative titles and posters). Wes picked this one.

Altar Boyz

Altar Boyz

Wes, Lois and I really loved the show. I caught Laura and Chris chuckling a few times, but I suspect (strongly) that they didn’t like it as much as the rest of us did. It’s very borderline whether any audience member will consider the show one of the following:

  1. Irreverent, but still uplifting and respectful of Christianity
  2. Blasphemous
  3. Some mixture of the two

Personally, I choose #1, with no hesitation, though I have no trouble accepting and understanding that many people could legitimately believe #2 is more accurate. Without a doubt, it’s blasphemous in it’s caricature of Boy Bands. But, in getting you to laugh at that, I believe it still very effectively gets across a message of the best of Christianity’s teachings. It turns out that Laura and her family made the show a birthday present for Lois, and Lois loved and appreciated every second of it!

Thanks M&M’s. 😉

We walked home from the show. When we reached the apartment building, I made the scandalous suggestion that Wes and I go across the street to my favorite Mexican restaurant, El Rio Grande, for a nightcap. Laura and Chris decided to join us as well. Technically, the outside was closed already, but we’re regulars there, and they were kind enough to sneak us in. The inside was still officially open, but it was the most beautiful night, so we were glad to sit outside.

Three of us enjoyed frozen margaritas, and the fourth wisely picked a Banana Pinata for dessert, that the rest of us got to taste (and swoon over!). We then sat on our deck for another 40 minutes, soaking in the remainder of a perfect day.

This morning, we dropped Wes off at Newark Airport and headed down for our usual road trip down I95. Memories of a perfect weekend (uh, I mean, excellent adventure) still linger!

Wes, thanks so much for making the trek up from NC to spend such quality time with us! 🙂

Girlyman at Highline Ballroom

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For those keeping score, and I know that there are scores of you doing so, 😉 last night was the 11th time we’ve seen Girlyman perform live (the second time at the Highline Ballroom).

In addition to owning their four CDs, we also purchase the recordings of each show we see live (and yes, I listen to them all!). If you don’t know Girlyman, you might think that after all of the listening on my iPod, and seeing them live, that we’re merely groupies (stalkers?), because what could be new and fresh for us in a Girlyman show?

Well, you’d be wrong, but if you’ve ready any of my previous (lengthy) posts about Girlyman, you would have chosen your response more wisely. 😉

First, there were the usual surprises. By that I mean that Girlyman introduced three new songs last night (at least, perhaps it was four, but I’m pretty sure it was three). One, a new song by Ty, was sung solo by her, with Doris and Nate leaving the stage completely. That’s a first for any of the shows we’ve seen.

Ty

Ty

Most of the shows we’ve seen in the past year have had at least one song we’ve never heard before. That alone makes it worth it for us to show up, and order our live CD, so that we can capture that song before the new CD hits the stands (more on that in a minute). Of course, some of those new songs may not even make the new CD, so we still want the live version.

In addition, Girlyman has a pretty big catalog by now, so each show has some mystery to it in terms of what they’re in the mood to play, or what people will call for in the request section. Lately (as I’ve written from the past few shows), they’ve surprised with some oldies but goodies. Last night they picked another one that we’ve never heard them play live: Even If.

The Highline Ballroom is a gorgeous, large club. It can seat 400. The sound system is excellent, and a majority of the seats (dinner table style seating) have good views of the stage. The shows at Joe’s Pub are more intimate, but the vibe of a larger audience at Highline, coupled with the excellent sound system, makes this a wonderful venue for Girlyman.

Girlyman really had their vocals humming last night. All three were in good voice, and as the songs built momentum (a trademark of many Girlyman numbers), their power really came through, and their voices remained crystal clear even at full volume.

Doris

Doris

Nate

Nate

On stage, they announced that they just finished recording their new CD. They also just finished mixing it. Their relief was palpable. My guess is that we’ll all have our sweaty little hands on the CD in late July, or early August, but what do I know…

In what I ascribe as at least partially caused by that milestone, there were some more muffs last night than usual in a Girlyman show. In what is completely typical of all Girlyman shows, those muffs (e.g., starting a song while a guitar was still out of tune) were handled with humor and class. In all cases, they restarted the song, and (of course) nailed it the second time. That too is one of the joys of live music, being part of the experience.

Newcomers most likely thought they were funny throughout, and they were, but the humor was a little choppier than usual, not as crisp and incisive. Still, I laughed a bunch, and since the music is the top billing, any laughs are a wonderful bonus.

Another result of the exhaling process is that they were willing to entertain more requests than they typically do (though they were very generous at the Barns at Wolf Trap as well). In addition to satisfying many people in the audience, it also caused the show to be a little longer than usual, which was very welcome (yes, I could listen to them all night!). The encore ended up being two more requests, making it something like five songs requested by the audience during this show.

Girlyman

Girlyman

In total, they were on stage for roughly 105 minutes of wonderful music and good (but not their best) banter.

Opening for them was Katie Sawicki, accompanied by Adam Sweeney. This was the fourth time that Adam has accompanied Katie, and both Lois and Wes commented to me afterward that Katie should continue touring with him.

Katie Sawicki

Katie Sawicki

Adam Sweeney

Adam Sweeney

For the most part, we’ve been very impressed with the groups that open for Girlyman (that is, when it’s their choice as to who opens). The one serious exception (and it may not have been their choice) was the only other time we’ve been to the Highline Ballroom, when the opening act was too much of a mismatch (style-wise) to Girlyman.

Katie Sawicki was an exceptionally good match to Girlyman. She finger-picks the guitar beautifully, both electric and acoustic. Adam plays banjo, guitar and accordion, and sings harmony very nicely with Katie. She did one song solo.

Katie has a lovely voice, thoughtful lyrics, and a very gentle style on stage. If I had a single complaint, it might be that she could have sung a tad louder, or they could have cranked the sound board just a tad. If she had to err, she erred on the correct side, as too loud would not have been welcome.

The only freaky thing to me was that Katie is the doppelganger of a very good friend of ours (who happens to live in Atlanta, where Girlyman reside) even down to the facial expressions. So, I kept thinking that our very dear friend was on stage singing to us. I got over it, and enjoyed her music, but it still was a very strange sensation.

Katie played for about 45 minutes, and a number of people told me after the show that they were extremely surprised and pleased with how much they enjoyed her performance. I guess most people have very low expectations from an opening act…

There’s always a back story to any of our nights out, and usually a Girlyman back story is longer. Last night was no exception. We’ve seen them in NY a few more times than in VA (seven in NY, four in VA), but we tend to bring a larger crowd with us in VA, partially because of the venues, and partially because scheduling a bunch of NY friends on the same night is often an insurmountable challenge.

If you’ve been reading this space for two years, then you know that ever since I accidentally discovered Girlyman in August 2007, I’ve been on a mission to introduce them to as many people as I can. One of the most effective ways of doing that is by bringing people to see them live. Most enjoy the music and become fans. A few have become fanatics for the band (very gratifying). It’s the rarest person that doesn’t really care for their music after the show, but that’s happened too, and I survived. Whew.

Given that last night was in a large venue with excellent table seating, and that we knew about it well in advance, we decided to try and break the record of the number of people we had brought to a Girlyman show in the past. Our record was 15 people at the Birchmere, this past October.

Two months before the show, I sent out a large blind distribution inviting people to be our guests for the show. Sparing you the many twists and turns along the way, we ended up purchasing 20 tickets, and due to some last-minute personal issues, ended up bringing 19 (including us) to the show. Most of the tables at the Highline Ballroom seat six people, so we took three of them and squeezed a seventh at the head of one of the tables, right up against the stage.

We had lots of food, drink and merriment for the two hours leading up to Katie, and it was a blast catching up with some people that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like. I think I can honestly say that everyone in our party had a delightful evening, in terms of company, food, drink, and of course, the show itself!

We broke our record (and have set a new bar, which we hope to leap over on October 11th, back at the Birchmere again) and created at least a handful of new fans (hopefully more).

A fabulous evening all around. Thanks to everyone who attended, and to Girlyman for putting on such a great show! 🙂

I have to conclude with an incredible small world story. One of the couples that attended last night was married last year on 08/08/08 (I blogged about that wedding too). Another couple that attended last night is getting married this year, on 10/10. They had never met before last night.

In introducing themselves, and getting to know each other a bit, they discovered that the pastor that married the 08/08/08 couple will be marrying the 10/10/09 couple as well. That this tidbit is true is strange and cool enough. That they would separately be invited by us, chat to each other, and figure that out so quickly is a little other-worldly to me. 🙂

Girlyman at Barns at Wolf Trap

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Another night, another fabulous Girlyman concert. Same old, same old, blah blah blah. Right? Wrong! 🙂

So, I just covered their April Fool’s NYC show at Joe’s Pub extensively in this post the other day. I’ll try not to be too repetitious, but I will highlight some of the similarities.

I mentioned in that post that Girlyman mixes it up, even on the same tour (in this case, in the same week). That was the case last night too. For the past year, Joyful Sign has been featured in every show, either as an opening number (at Joe’s) or a closing number (at Gravity Lounge, Birchmere, etc.). They didn’t play it last night. Not complaining, just reporting. 🙂

They opened the show with my favorite song, Hold It All At Bay. Since I closed my last post about them mentioning that, I’ll fantasize for a second and say that they did that to specifically make me happy. 😉

Girlyman

Girlyman

Next they played one of our favorites (a very silly thing to say, because 95% of their songs are amongst our favorites), On The Air, which they hadn’t played at Joe’s, but opened most of their 2008 shows with. During the set they also played their new cover of Mary by Patty Griffin, and their new song Wherever You Keep, both of which are so wonderful that it was great to hear them again and start to cement them in our minds.

They did not play Doris’ new song, Nothing Called Home, so we’ll have to wait for our CD of the live recording at Joe’s to hear it again.

So, why did I say that this night was not the same old, same old? (Aside from the obvious fact that all of their shows have a freshness to them!) Last year, at the Barns, they played their cover of Rock Me Amadeus (the previous link is not their version) by Falco. I have been dying to hear it again ever since. I’ve called it out a couple of times during the request section of their shows, to no avail.

Last night, they did the same bit that they did at the Barns last year (which was the only time I’ve seen them do it before). They had the audience vote on which of three whimsical songs they should do, based just on keywords. Of course, their fans know which songs are associated with which keyword, but any newbies wouldn’t know

The keywords were:

  • Backwards
  • German
  • Moose

They voted on them in the order: Backwards, Moose, German. Lois clapped her little heart out for Backwards. It moved the needle, but it was clear that the majority of the audience was holding their vote for one of the next two.

Next up was Moose, which got a ton of applause (Nate also noted some serious whistles as well). I was sure it was going to end up being Moose. Then we voted on German, which is what I wanted, badly. Thankfully, enough other fans wanted it too, as it ended up surpassing Moose. Whew!

Why was it so important to me to hear them do it again? Aside from the instantaneous enjoyment of the song (which they delivered on), I knew that I’d be buying a CD of the performance, so I would finally have a copy I could listen to forever, whenever I am in the mood. Sweet!

Of course, the audience sang the chorus out loud with them, so I’ll be able to enjoy remembering singing my little heart out as well. 🙂

They played a number of songs from Little Star (five in total!) only two of which they played at Joe’s on Wednesday night. They also played Good Enough, something I haven’t heard them play often live, so that was a real treat too.

For the request, so many titles were yelled out it was overwhelming. Nate joked that people had just yelled out their entire repertoire (which wasn’t so far from the truth!). Of course, with 400 people in the audience, even though all of them were Girlyfans, clearly, there would be a wide range of favorites.

After much discussion between the three of them on stage, they settled on Maori. I mentioned in the last post that Maori is stunning, and difficult to nail live. They clearly didn’t intend to do it at the Barns, but with enough people yelling for it (perhaps because they all read my last post!) 😉 they decided to do it again. Gorgeous!

They closed the show with This Is Me (one of the five Little Star songs). They returned to the stage quickly to a standing ovation. They played two more songs. In total, they were on the stage for 100 minutes. Let me correct myself, 100 blissful minutes!

After the show, we ordered our live CD (as we always do). Then we waited patiently to say our hellos, goodbyes and see you next times.

That’s it for the concert, but (unfortunately for those of you who can’t look away from an accident) nowhere near the end of the post itself. 😉

We bought tickets for last night’s show the minute we became aware of it, last October. We saw them at the same venue, the Barns at Wolf Trap last year, and loved the place (there should be no doubt about our loving Girlyman, right?). Even though the show was seven months away, in purchasing six tickets (at the time) together, the best we could do was the fourth row. Later on, we bought three more tickets, and those were relegated back in the 13th row…

Every seat at the Barns gets great sound, but aside from Lois’ poor vision, even well-sighted people lose a lot of the feel of a live performance when they sit further back, given that the faces of the performers are just a blur. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about Colin Hay, when the performers are funny (in addition to their obvious musical talent), you miss out on some of the raised eyebrows, smirks (at exactly the right second), etc.

Nate was so on last night (is he ever not?), that it was particularly cool to be close enough to him to catch every nuance of his between-song antics.

The fourth row was just fine for that, but our friends who ended up in the 13th row really loved the show, but admitted to seeing more of a blur on the stage than what we saw. Oh well, Girlyman fills the Barns (400 seats!), so you have to pounce early to get seats up front. I ended up in the middle seat in our row, dead center stage, which was perfect!

If you read the last post, then you know that Elizabeth left me a comment that she’d be at the show too. She’s a major Girlyfan as well. She ended up sitting right behind us, and was finally able to bring her daughter to a show (she was too young to attend the last two times, when Elizabeth brought her son). Both her kids are big-time Girlyfans.

Elizabeth also stepped up her support for the band by volunteering at the Merch table. Kudos Elizabeth! We all need to find ways to help and support the people we love and who give us so much joy. Writing these blog posts about Girlyman is one of the ways we try to help, as is introducing them to as many people as we can convince to join us at their shows!

I know that Elizabeth reads my missives about Girlyman and pays attention. At least I know it now, after last night. I usually mention that we really do everything we can (including leaping onto the stage after the show) to snag a set list, whenever we can. That didn’t happen last night, because we were four rows back, and had a lot of people with us.

After we said our goodbyes to Girlyman, Lois told me that she had something in the car that she really wanted me to give to Girlyman. It was a one sheet printout of the last few paragraphs of my last blog about them, including the photo of the youngest Girlyfan. I went to the car and came back in to hand it to them and got back on line. Elizabeth spotted me with a piece of paper, waiting on line (looking like I wanted it signed by the band), and she said to me “Is that tonight’s Set List?”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t, but I applaud Elizabeth’s fortitude in making it through all my wordiness. 😉

On to what we did before the show. Nine of us had dinner at Hunan Lion. We accidentally discovered this wonderful restaurant last year, when we dined there before the Girlyman show. We were seated at a round table, so we were all able to enjoy each other’s company thoroughly. The food was great, again.

Here is a shot of our seven guests with Lois. Ironically, I am not the one taking the picture, as I was off getting the car. A patron who was about to enter the restaurant saw Lois snapping photos of our guests, and offered to take one with her in it. Thanks! 🙂

Guests at Hunan Lion

Guests at Hunan Lion

Recall that we purchased the tickets seven months ago. We didn’t look at them carefully, and we made a pretty big mistake. We were caught in bad traffic on I95 on our way to the restaurant, and we got there later than we had planned. Still, we thought we had plenty of time, because we thought the opening act came on the stage at 8pm.

After dinner, we headed over to the Barns (first incorrectly going to the main Wolf Trap, about 1/3 of a mile down the road). We walked in at 7:58pm, which was cutting it too close, but since we had assigned seats, we thought we were fine.

Unfortunately, the show started at 7:30pm, and the opening act, Adrianne, was about to start her last number. I felt badly that I messed up the schedule, but was grateful that we didn’t miss any Girlyman! Thankfully, they pumped Adrianne’s number in the cafe where we waited, and the sound system was excellent, so we got a taste of what a talent she is. A very beautiful voice!

Lois took a shot of our guests, with me in it this time, waiting in the cafe while Adrianne sang her last song:

Guests at Barns

Guests at Barns

A few minutes later, her set was over, and there was a 20 minute intermission, so we were able to get to our seats and settle in. You already know about the show, so I’ll leave you with one more baby Girlyfan story.

One of our guests was 6.5 months pregnant. After the opening number, Hold It All At Bay, she turned to us and said that the baby was kicking beyond belief. Before you freak out, that’s typically a very good thing, and the mother definitely took it that way! Amazingly, it was the same song that calmed down the 5-week-old that I reported about in the last post. Of course, I have similar tastes to newborns (or even nearly borns!). 😉

After the show, the mom-to-be reported that the baby continued to happily kick along throughout the show. She was very pleased.

If you made it all the way to this point, there just might be a pleasant surprise reward for you (depending on who you are). 😉

The next time we’ll be seeing Girlyman live (at least the next time we’re sure about) will be June 4th, 2009, at the Highline Ballroom in NYC. Since that is a much larger venue than Joe’s Pub, we’ve decided to invite a lot more people than we usually do.

On Friday, I sent a large blind distribution out to a bunch of our Tri-State area friends, inviting them to be our guests at the show. If you are a friend, and didn’t get an invitation from me (then apologies for accidentally leaving your name off the list!), and would like to attend, please let me know.

If you don’t live in the area, then you didn’t get an invitation, but if you will be around on June 4th, or are willing to commit to making the trip, then also let me know.

Hope to see everyone at the Highline Ballroom on June 4th. Let’s sell the place out! 🙂