Girlyman

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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I know I’m boring my regular readers by repeating that Girlyman is my favorite group. At least you now that this continues to be the case. 😉

Last night was the ninth time that we’ve seen them perform live, and the fourth time we’ve seen them at Joe’s Pub, our favorite club. We love their music and on stage antics enough to want to see them over and over (in addition to listening to their CDs a ton as well). But, while there are repeats (mostly crowd favorites) among the shows, they always manage to keep thing fresh, even within a given tour.

Last night had some serious surprises, even for those that have seen them as often (or even more) than we have. They played three songs that we’ve never heard before.

The first was Mary, a cover of a Patty Griffin song. Absolutely gorgeous. They also told a funny side-story about it, and Patty, who was also on their recent Folk Cruise, Cayamo.

Next was a new song of theirs called Wherever You Keep. As much as I love all three of them as musicians, the magic of Girlyman is their harmony and lyrics. In this new song, Nate plays a beautiful finger-picked acoustic guitar, while Ty and Doris just sing, no instruments in hand. (Saying that Ty and Doris just sing is like saying that Lance Armstrong just rides a bike!) 😉

The fact that there’s only a quiet (but gorgeous!) guitar for the background, makes their voices so front-and-center, that you get the chills seconds into the song. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this new song, even though I’ve only heard it once! I’m praying that it will be on the new studio CD coming out later this year (they’re hard at work on it now!).

Either way, I will have a copy in a month or so. Girlyman records all of their live concerts, and you can order a CD for $20, right after the show, and have it mailed to you after the tour is over, and they have a chance to mix it. We have CDs of the last four shows we’ve seen (ever since they started offering this service), and we love them all. The CDs include the on stage banter as well.

The last of the new songs is by Doris, called Nothing Called Home. They joked that it hasn’t been arranged yet, and that each time they do it on stage it comes out differently. Doris apologized in advance that she even occasionally forgets some of the words. Last night, they nailed it, Doris didn’t miss a beat, and the random arrangement of the night (Nate joked that it was #57) sounded great to me!

For the past year, they’ve been closing the shows with Joyful Sign (the first song I ever heard of theirs, and one of my favorites). Last night they opened the show with it, setting a different tone than in most of the other shows. Like I said above, they keep it fresh.

They always have a request section, and they did two last night, Young James Dean and Speechless. Wonderful!

They did an absolutely incredible rendition of Maori. Lois and I love this song and listen to it in the car all the time. Neither of us can remember whether we’ve ever heard them do it live though. It’s possible, but given how many times we listen to it on the CD, it’s hard to be sure and separate our memory from reality.

I linked the lyrics above, because the song starts with a startling line:

When I first met you, I said
“My God, get away.
You smell like fish heads.”

Obviously, we know this by heart (and I even joked about it in a Facebook comment recently). Last night, Nate told the story behind the song, and it turns out that the above line is actually true! Anyway, the song is so rich, and their harmonies intricate, that it has to be a very difficult song to nail live (perhaps that’s one of the reasons they don’t do it often), but last night was perfect.

They played a bunch of other favorites, that I could list out (because I snagged the set list, like we always try to), but I’ll let the above stand as the differences, rather than repeat things I’ve said before. As for all four times that we’ve seen them at Joe’s, we were right up against the stage, smack in front of Nate.

Nate Borofsky

Nate Borofsky

Ty Greenstein

Ty Greenstein

Doris Muramatsu

Doris Muramatsu

They came out for an encore and played two songs, also done to perfection. After the show, we stood on line with the rest of their adoring fans and ordered our live CD from the show we just saw. We said our hellos and goodbyes to all three and headed back to the apartment, still aglow.

After we said goodnight to our two guests, we turned to each other and simultaneously said that we each thought that this was likely the best Girlyman show we’d been to. Of course, we both laughed that they’re all great, so it’s a little like splitting hairs, but still, that was our initial instinct, and it hasn’t faded, nearly 24 hours later.

If you tuned in only to hear about the show, go away now. For the hardy among you, here are the background details of how we came to see the show, and the day that led up to it.

Last October, we bought tickets to see Girlyman this coming Saturday (4/4/09) at the Barns at Wolftrap. In keeping with that, we expected to be in Virginia for the week before that show so we purchased tickets to see Cherish The Ladies at the Barns for last night (4/1/09). We also bought tickets to see Colin Hay at the Birchmere tomorrow night (4/3/09).

I’ve written about Cherish The Ladies before. They are fantastic and I was really looking forward to seeing them again, especially on a bigger stage (more on that in a moment). We’ve never seen Colin Hay before, but he’s very quickly become a new favorite of ours, and we are excited to see him tomorrow night (yes, we’re down in Virginia now, so we’ll be able to make that show!).

A month ago, we found out that Girlyman was going to be at Joe’s Pub on 4/1. While I felt badly that we would miss them in our favorite venue, I told Lois that my vote would be to keep our original schedule, see Cherish The Ladies, and then see Girlyman a few days later, both at the Barns. She was torn and wanted to think about it.

After thinking about it for a few hours, she firmly decided that she’d prefer to see Girlyman. We gave our tickets to Cherish The Ladies away to a friend (and colleague at Zope). He went last night with his wife, and reported today that the show was great. In particular, he really liked the step dancers.

I mentioned above that I was interested in seeing them on a bigger stage (which is unusual for me, since I love tiny clubs!). That was precisely because I’ve seen YouTube videos of them playing venues that could support the step dancing, and I loved it, and really wanted to see it live. We saw them at an awesome venue, but a tiny one, where no dancers could fit.

So, even though I missed out, both of us were thrilled that the tickets went to good use. Of course, we were doubly glad that Girlyman created an even more magical night for us than we expected (and you all know, we have high expectations for them to begin with!).

We love to introduce as many people to the wonder and joys of Girlyman, so we never buy just two tickets to see them. Since this show was scheduled to begin at 9:30pm on a Wednesday, we only bought four tickets, because we knew it could be difficult to find people who would want to stay out that late on a school night.

We have been trying to get together for a while with a good friend of ours, and his new girlfriend (new to us, I don’t know how long they’ve been together). When I offered him to be our guests, he wrote back saying that she was a big Girlyman fan, and that they would be happy to join us. Obviously, we liked her instantly, even though we haven’t met her yet. 😉

Unfortunately, Tuesday morning, the day before the show, he let me know that both of them had horrible colds, and would be unable to attend. Uh oh, we realized that it might be tricky to find people at this late date. We were correct. A number of couples turned us down, one after another.

Finally, one friend told me that he would love to come, but his wife was in Japan with their baby. He said he’d understand if we passed and went for another couple. We liked the idea of filling one seat guaranteed, and being able to broaden our search to single people as well.

But, before we broadened our search, I called one of our favorite couples, and invited the husband only (and I made that invitation through the wife, so there was nothing nefarious involved), 😉 knowing that the wife wouldn’t want to be out that late under any circumstances. Thankfully, he accepted, and we were set. Whew.

The next day (yesterday, the day of the show), we had two friends over for lunch. We had the most amazing Sushi meal from our favorite sushi place (conveniently located exactly across the street from our apartment), Hane Sushi. In addition to many of my favorites, I tried the Spicy Lobster Tartar. It’s cooked, so I don’t know why they call it Tartar. That said, it’s one of the more exceptional dishes I’ve eaten lately. Yummy.

Neither of our guest husbands (not the same people that were over for lunch) had seen or heard Girlyman before. Both thoroughly enjoyed the show, and one of them became an instant fan, purchasing one of their CD’s (download) from Amazon minutes after he got home. 🙂

Update: after reading this post, their new fan wrote to me to say that he purchased three of their albums from Amazon downloads! Now he has something to do on the airplane on his upcoming trip. 🙂

The Boys

The Boys

One final Girlyman anecdote that happened today.

At Zope, our VP of Finance and Administration is a big Girlyfan. So is her 5-year-old daughter. Both have seen them live (with us) twice. The mom just had another child less than a month ago. Today, via IM, she was telling Lois that he was particularly cranky, and she was having trouble settling him down.

Lois instantly suggested that she play one of Joyful Sign, Through To Sunrise or Kittery Tide (all three being very up-beat Girlyman songs). A few minutes later, the mom replied that the song that did the trick was Hold It All At Bay. She said “You should have seen the look on his face the minute that song started playing!”

For the few of you that made it this far (congratulations on being masochists), and somehow don’t know this yet, that’s my favorite Girlyman song. So, he’s a kindred spirit of mine, and Girlyman has just increased their lifelong fan club by one very young fan. 🙂

Update: with permission from the mom, here’s a photo of the confirmed youngest Girlyfan, as of 4/2/2009!

Youngest Girlyfan

Youngest Girlyfan

Sister Hazel at Fillmore NYC

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We own two Sister Hazel CDs. In the pre-iPod days, Lois used to bring 20-30 CDs along whenever we took long drives. One or both of the Sister Hazel CDs made it into that pile nearly every time.

In the last few years, even though Sister Hazel is on our iPod, they didn’t get much play. A few months ago, Lois played them, and we fell in love all over again. That made me look to see whether they were touring, and indeed, they had a concert scheduled for NYC last night (December 13th).

It was at the new Fillmore at Irving Plaza, a venue we had never been to. Pretty close to our apartment. I wasn’t crazy about the 9pm start time (we’re old) but we were reasonably excited nonetheless.

We rarely purchase tickets for a show unless the seats are reasonably good, it’s first come first served (so we can line up early), or it’s Girlyman. 😉

The Fillmore is either owned, or exclusively run, by Live Nation. When I purchased the tickets, they were Row 9, Seats 31 and 32. Sounded reasonably good, so we were happy.

We drove from the house to the apartment and spent the day there. At 8pm, we headed to the Fillmore. When we walked in, we were completely disoriented. No seats at all. Everyone standing up (scrunched in near the stage), in a cavernous room with a big screen showing videos covering the stage. A bar in the back. A very young crowd, looking for a great show, but also a ton of drinking and dancing.

So not our scene I can’t even tell you. We asked a few people where the seats were (I honestly thought this might be a staging area, before the concert started. A few people pointed us up to the balcony. There were some small round tables with bar stools, but more people were standing up there.

We went downstairs to the main entrance and asked about the seats. We were told that it was a standing up show, general admission. When the manager came out, he showed us on the tickets that it said Section GA, which we were supposed to understand meant Section General Admission. Huh? GA, but with an assigned Row and Seat?

He said that the row and seat were purely for accounting purposes. Wow, how nice of them to account for where I might have been seated.

Lois asked for a refund, and he refused. After a bit of arguing back-and-forth, he said that he would do what he could, but that I would have to take care of it back on the website that we originally ordered the tickets from. He took down some information from me and said he would submit the info on his side to make the transaction smoother for me.

I’m very skeptical as to whether we’ll get our money back, but we were glad to leave anyway, even if we lose our money. There were two opening acts, so Sister Hazel wasn’t going to be on stage before 10pm, likely between 10:30 and 11pm! That meant that we could be standing until 1am or later.

It simply wasn’t going to happen. As a bonus, instead of spending the night in the apartment and returning to the house in the morning, we hopped a bus back to the apartment, grabbed our stuff, and were home by 10pm. At least the evening ended smoothly…

Rhonda Vincent at Birchmere

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Last night we saw Rhonda Vincent and The Rage perform at Birchmere. We’ve seen them once before at Joe’s Pub, and I wrote about it here. I concluded that post with the following paragraph:

We had a great time, and would definitely see her again given the chance. We’d also go back to the 9:30 show if the right performer was there, but we’d be gnashing our teeth all the way. I am grateful that the majority of the shows we have been interested in are the 7-7:30 ones, and I hope that it will continue to be the case.

Well, we did see one more Joe’s Pub 9:30 show since, but that was Girlyman, and we would go see them at 2am if that was the only choice. 😉

More important, we also got to fulfill our desire to see Rhonda Vincent and The Rage again. They’re simply wonderful. Last night the regular banjo player, Kenny Ingram was back, so we got to enjoy his amazing playing. He’s one of the fastest (and cleanest) banjo players we’ve seen. That said, he outran the rest of the band a couple of times (and they are super fast too), so it wasn’t a flawless performance in my opinion.

Rhonda’s microphone wasn’t right at Joe’s, but last night the sound was perfect. She has an exceptional voice and exceptional energy on stage. To repeat what I said in my last post, she’s also beautiful, and looks half her actual age.

Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent

Left to right on the stage:

Kenny Ingram playing banjo. I already mentioned how terrific he is. In addition to playing banjo all night, he played the guitar on one number, and sang only once, in a four-person a capella number.

Kenny Ingram

Kenny Ingram

Hunter Berry played the fiddle all night and he’s the only one that never sings (though Kenny comes close). He does chat up the crowd and banters with Rhonda a bunch, so you get a good feel for his personality and sense of humor.

I mentioned in my last post that he’s an incredible fiddle player. Last night only brought that to the forefront even more. He’s definitely up there with my all-time favorites, having seen him twice now. At Joe’s, he had to sit all night, coming off an injury. Last night he (and the rest of them) stood the entire night.

Hunter Berry

Hunter Berry

Mickey Harris played the upright bass. He’s an excellent upright bass player, with a terrific voice as well. He harmonizes with Rhonda on most songs, but also sang lead on a few numbers from his new CD. He’s also a new father, so he had a grin plastered on his face all night that was infectious. On one number he played the mandolin (quite well) accompanying Rhonda without the others.

Mickey Harris

Mickey Harris

Darrell Webb played the guitar. He’s a classic bluegrass flat picker. He’s fast and clean. He too (like Mickey) has an excellent voice, and he harmonizes with Rhonda and Mickey on most numbers creating a very nice sound. He too sang lead on a few numbers, which the crowd loved. On two numbers he played the mandolin, one of which highlighted a superb lead mandolin.

Darrell Webb

Darrell Webb

In between them all, center stage, was Rhonda. I’ve already heaped superlatives on her, all deserved. In addition to her signature mandolin playing (on most songs), she played guitar on a few numbers (at Joe’s, she only played the guitar during the encore). She also played the fiddle at least twice. She’s really good on the fiddle, but just like the mandolin, she chooses to take a huge back seat to her incredible band, rarely taking a lead. When she does, she nails it, so it would be nice to hear her let loose a bit more often.

I mentioned above that Kenny participated in a four-person a capella number. It was gorgeous. People mailed in requests before the show, and that number was one of them. The four of them (Rhonda, Mickey, Kenny and Darrell) shared one microphone, center stage, and nailed the song.

A Capella

A Capella

They were on stage for exactly 90 minutes, then said goodnight. After a standing ovation, they played one more song (never leaving the stage). They walked off to another standing ovation.

We knew we would love the show, but I was particularly grateful that the sound system was perfect and that we ended up with a pretty good table (given that we were 24th on line (it’s first come first served). We went with five folks from Zope Corporation, so there were seven of us. I suspect we were introducing the other five to their first bluegrass experience, so I can only hope that they enjoyed it 1/2 as much as I did.

The food at Birchmere is always good (classic southern comfort food), and my pulled pork sandwich was as good as it gets! Given that today is a work day, it was very nice to not have an opening act, and for the show to start exactly on time (7:30pm). We were back in the hotel room a few minutes after 10pm. Not too bad!

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our eighth Girlyman concert. It was the third time we’ve seen them at Joe’s Pub (where it all began). The other five shows were spread out over five venues, in two states, in five cities, with vast differences between the venues and at times, the audience makeup as well. These statistics may become relevant later in the post. 😉

There were many things that were typical of every Girlyman show:

  1. Amazing music
  2. Lots of laughs
  3. Adoring audience
  4. Great venue
  5. Long line after the show to say Hi to Girlyman and buy Merchandise

Some things were notably different. There are probably many reasons for that, including some that I probably couln’t guess, but here are the three categories of things I believe contributed (perhaps all incorrect):

  1. Obama becoming the President-Elect the night before
  2. Girlyman playing in NYC
  3. 9:30pm show, rather than the typically earlier shows we attend

Before I tackle each of those, in the order I listed them, I’ll say something that is also delightful (but both different and not different at the same time) about most Girlyman shows. Even though we’ve just seen Girlyman shows four times in a three week period (meaning, the same tour), their repertoire is large enough to mix it up, even on consecutive nights, to keep it fresh for the fans who attend more than one show.

Last night was no different (in that it was different!). 😉 They played Saints Come Marching In. This is only the second time we’ve heard it live, the first being on November 4th, 2007 at the Highline Ballroom, so it was like an Anniversary Gift. 🙂

It was one of the five great songs they introduced last year, but also one of the two (Trees Still Bend being the other) that didn’t make it to the Somewhere Different Now Live CD. On the other hand, they’ve been regularly playing Trees Still Bend on this tour, but not last night.

Another one that I listen to all the time on the CD, but haven’t heard live in a long while was Good Enough. There were a few other differences from recent shows in the playlist, but my observations to those changes might be more appropriate in one of the three above-mentioned categories.

Here are photos of the three of them. We were flush up against the stage, so the angles aren’t great, and the lighting was aimed toward the cameras, etc., so apologies all around:

Doris

Doris

Ty

Ty

Nate

Nate

1. Obama

Aside from the obvious fact that Obama won a clear majority across the country, including winning some previously hard-core Red States, there are few places where his support is more obvious than NYC. Any mention of his name last night (or allusion to the victory) brought incredible cheers from the crowd, and joy from Girlyman. They told amusing stories of a party the night before, and bantered with the audience, very happily.

Aside from the natural focus on this historic event, and the relief that most of the people in the audience (and most definitely on the stage!) felt at the end of the current Administration, it also affected the playlist of the show!

In the previous seven times that we’ve seen them perform, the last six in a row all had the same opening number for every show: On The Air. It’s a fantastic song in every respect, but it also sets such an up-tempo that we think they are smart for opening with it, and getting everyone’s juices flowing.

Last night, they opened (after a nod to Obama) with Through To Sunrise. While also an upbeat song (and for a very long time Lois’ favorite Girlyman song, though on occasion she’s not as sure, because others are rising fast to catch up), I believe they chose it because it is their protest song against the current Administration. They didn’t introduce it as such last night, but I’d be surprised if I was wrong. They play that song in most shows anyway (thankfully!), but opening with it was a statement (IMHO).

I already mentioned above that Saints Come Marching In was added to the playlist. Ty introduced it as fitting last night, so I assume that this one too moved them in relation to Obama’s victory to get back on the list.

Finally, while they play Amaze Me at many shows, right before they played it last night, Ty said that she’s been waiting a long time for America to Amaze Her (since she wrote the song over seven years ago), and it was clear that she was no longer singing it as a hopeless plea, but rather as a done deal!

2. Girlyman playing in NYC

Girlyman is consistently excellent wherever they play. Their audiences love them wherever they play. Those are just the facts (ma’am). But, this crazy thing started right here, in little ‘ol NYC, so their tenured fan base is here. That too is just a fact. Moreover, since they lived here for six+ years (as Girlyman), many of the people who come to their NYC shows are close friends, independent of the music.

Like it or not, that changes the character of the shows in NYC a bit (or sometimes more than a bit!) from some other venues. Girlyman definitely feeds off of the energy in the NYC crowd, as do the vast majority of the audience (perhaps all), but I do think about what it must be like for a first-time attendee, who may even know and love the music, to find themselves in the midst of this kind of a love-fest.

That would be on even a normal night in NYC. Add to that the euphoria of the Obama victory, and it was more than a little raucous there. For one (bad) example, Girlyman rarely curses on stage (I said rarely just to cover myself, because I was tempted to say never). Last night, more than a few times, the expletives flew. For those who might prefer not to hear that, I can only hope that they could appreciate the unique circumstances of last night’s show, and not think about it too much…

3. 9:30pm start time

Joe’s Pub has an early show (start time anywhere from 6:30pm to 7:30pm) and a 9:30pm show, nearly every night. The two prior times that we’ve seen Girlyman there, they had the earlier show (one of those times, they also did the 9:30 show). For most folks, there are pros and cons associated with that. For us, it’s mostly cons, other than the overwhelming pro of getting to see Girlyman in the first place!

Pros (for some people, not us!):

  • Don’t worry about having to leave work early
  • Potential for a show to go longer. Early show has a hard-stop deadline
  • Some artists don’t wake up before 9pm 😉

Cons (for us, and some other people, clearly not all):

  • Doors rarely open by 9pm when they are supposed to
  • Not enough time to finish dinner before the band comes on stage
  • A very late night (way past our bedtime)
  • The show might be shorter (e.g., if the band needs to hit the road)

All of that was in play last night. The doors didn’t open until nearly 9:20pm, for a 9:30 show, where you are expected to order dinner! I am not blaming Joe’s Pub, that’s just the nature of the beast, and I understand it. But, we hate to eat in the band’s face (we sat flush up against the stage!). Nothing we could do, so we did it, as discretely as possible.

Girlyman is performing in Philadelphia tonight, and I think it caused them to play a few less songs than they have at every other show we’ve been to on this tour (three others). They were also likely exhausted from partying the night before, and I am not blaming them for that either. 😉

The other change (not likely caused by any of the above) is how the show ended. On this tour, they’ve been closing each show with Joyful Sign. They did that last night as well. Then, after the inevitable thunderous applause, they came out for their typical encore. Also typical of this tour, the first song they played for the encore was a brand new one, My Eyes Get Misty (I really like it a ton!).

In the three previous shows on this tour (and in most of the ones in the Fall/Winter tour), they conclude with Son Of A Preacher Man (and on occasion, though not often enough, they throw in the Girlyman Benediction). Last night, after singing My Eyes Get Misty, they left the stage. What? Really?

The applause didn’t die down, so they came back out (reasonably quickly). That was unusal as well (score another one for NYC). At that point, I was sure they would do Son Of A Preacher Man. Wrong! They asked for another request (The Shape I Found You In was the requested number during the regular show). This time they performed Speechless, another great song. Then they left the stage for good. Definitely different, though no complaints!

Since I’ve gone on for a long while already, I’ll keep the backstory short this time. We invited two very dear friends who we get to see all-too-rarely. We asked them to meet us at Joe’s at 8:45pm. Lois always insists on leaving too early, and I usually resist just enough to irritate her a lot, but not get to the venue ridiculously early.

Last night, I irritated her, but not enough to avoid getting there ridiculously early. 😉 We were first on line (shocking) when we arrived at 8:19pm. The guy working the door came out and said “You realize that the show that’s currently going on won’t end until past 8:40, right?”. Sadly, I told him we realized that all too well… 🙂

But, in an amazing stroke of serendipity, roughly six minutes later, our friends (who drove in from Long Island) found a legal spot across the street from Joe’s, and we got to catch up and chit-chat for nearly an hour before the doors finally opened. That was an unexpected treat.

Three of us had the burger and all raved about it. The fries are heavenly too. Last night was the first time that I have seen Joe’s have a Price Fixed offering, and we took advantage of that as well, so we had starters and chocolate cake, all for a very reasonable price. OK, to be honest, it was more than reasonable for Lois and me, since our guests insisted on paying for dinner. Thank you very much! 🙂

It was raining throughout the evening, and since we live very close to the midtown tunnel (which our friends had to go through anyway), they gave us a lift back to the apartment. That was a very nice ending to an exceptionally enjoyable evening.

We already have our tickets for the next time we’ll be seeing Girlyman, which is April 4th, 2009, at The Barns at Wolftrap (where we saw them this past March). We can’t wait, but somehow, we’ll make do…

Image Rich Lyrics

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There are two kinds of great songwriters in the world: those that can tell stories in easy to grasp (yet captivating) words, and those that can paint the richest canvas with image-laden words. Of course, there are many super-great songwriters who can do both equally well, and move between the two at will.

We are familiar with many such talented songwriters (I wrote about one earlier today, Jack Kapanka), largely because Lois has been a devoted listener of words forever, and she deeply cares about who wrote the songs (as I’ve written about often) sometimes more so than who made it famous.

When an artist can also deliver their own creation in a stunning and moving way, that’s when true magic is made. There are many artists who achieve that, including many that we listen to and see frequently. However, no one does it better than Girlyman (at least not in our opinion).

I love nearly every one of their songs, almost equally (though I recently revealed that I still have no trouble picking Hold It All At Bay as the #1 choice). So, while I’m about to pick one specific song to make my point, I am not suggesting that they don’t have other just as special songs, because in fact they have many.

What happens to me with Girlyman songs is that hearing any one of them can suddenly get under my skin (that will become even more meaningful, in an ironic way, in a minute), and I end up playing the song over-and-over in my head, sometimes for days on end.

The current song that keeps playing in my head is The Shape I Found You In. The trigger was hearing Girlyman perform it live in VA (I think it was at Birchmere). We’ve listened to it a bunch of times since in the car as well, but my head plays it back non-stop.

You can check out the complete lyrics (they’re very short). But, as gorgeous as the poetry is, this is also one of those songs that take on an even deeper meaning when performed, in this case specifically by the same artist who wrote the song (Ty Greenstein, supported by Girlyman). Even though the lyrics are short, the pacing of the song is slow, and builds and emphasizes the deepest lyrics in a very emotional way (giving added meaning to the words).

While I often hesitate linking to home-made YouTube videos of live shows, because the quality of the sound and the panning of the camera often don’t show off a group as well as the actual show comes off, I’ll do it anyway, to make my point about how the singing of this particular song is very different from just reading the poetry. In another small-world story, this particular video was shot seven months ago by our recent neighbor at Golding Park Cafe this past Saturday!

Now, to the point of this post. 🙂

None of us are perfect significant others, as much as we’d like to be, or like to believe we are or can be. What we rarely are conscious of though, is that we bring so much baggage from our previous relationships, that it’s nearly impossible to achieve that perfect harmony. When things go badly, we rarely have the insight to realize that a previous relationship created a trigger we couldn’t avoid.

Ty captures this searing insight perfectly in this song. More important, she does it not by telling a story, but by painting a clear picture, in very few words. The famous saying goes: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. But, in Ty’s hands, A Phrase is Worth a Masterpiece Painting!

Here are two phrases that keep going through my head:

But your heart was busy within
Building bomb shelters under your skin

and:

So I felt around in the dark
Building rope ladders into your heart
Climbing hand over hand to get in

Earlier, I said that many of their songs get under my skin. The first phrase above contains Building bomb shelters under your skin. What an image!

When I hear Ty sing: Climbing hand over hand to get in, I nearly cry for everyone who has found the right person, but can’t reach them, because of the damage someone else has caused, previously.

I am grateful every day of my life that Lois and I found each other, and battled (in every sense of the word!) through the scars of our previous relationships, to reach each other’s true core, and make a wonderful life together!

Girlyman at Golding Park Cafe

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For the few people who follow me on Twitter (I have a private feed, so there aren’t many), they knew something was up yesterday when I tweeted the following:

Heading out for a long and secret adventure with Laura and Chris. Back around 1am, blog tomorrow! 😉

So mysterious. Now the mystery can be revealed. We have tickets to see Girlyman this Wednesday night (Nov 5th) at Joe’s Pub. We were intending to take Laura and Chris with us (Laura is the only member of her family to not see them in concert yet). Both Laura and Chris work in and around the Financial Services industry in NYC, and both have long and unpredictable hours.

We were worried that they might not be able to make even a 9:30pm show, so when I spotted the Golding Park Cafe gig, I made an unusual offer to them. They could take the train to our house, have lunch in Westchester, and drive with us for three hours, to guarantee that they would see Girlyman sooner rather than later. Thankfully, they liked the idea, and off we went.

I’ll complete the rest of the back story after I talk about the show itself (Lois will probably nag me that this intro has been too long already). 😉

Golding Park Cafe is a spectacular place to see a group like Girlyman, so we’re both thrilled that we made the effort to go there (Cobleskill, NY, for those who didn’t follow the link to the Cafe). I guess that they can accommodate a maximum of roughly 100 people, and there were close to that number last night. We sat in the front row. It was awesome.

Here they are, individually, as they stood on the stage, left-to-right:

Doris

Doris

Ty

Ty

Nate

Nate

There were two firsts for us last night:

  1. Girlyman took a break, and played two distinct sets. That hadn’t happened in any of our previous six shows.
  2. They purposely (and correctly) lowered the volume dramatically to fit the size, layout and mood of the place (thanks to Turtle – their road manager, and sound engineer last night – for doing that, and getting it just right!).

While everything was definitely amplified (voices as well as instruments), due to #2, it was closer to an unplugged (completely acoustic) experience, than any previous Girlyman show. It was mellower, and therefore somewhat different and very interesting. For one example, some of the songs seemed to be a 1/2 tempo slower, but purposely so, with all of them on the same page.

The other difference (not mentioned above) from their recent tour (where we saw them twice in VA) was a possible glitch in the live recording equipment. They now record all of their shows live, and if you buy (pre-pay) it after the show, they mail you the CD after they get back and mix it properly.

We purchased CDs for both of the VA shows that we attended (and are breathlessly awaiting their arrival). Last night, because of the possible glitch, Girlyman did not want to take anyone’s money in advance. Instead, they took email addresses for those who are interested, and if they can produce the CD when they get back from the tour, they will contact people and arrange to sell and deliver the CD.

As usual, they were on, in every sense of the word, as performers. They were really hysterical all night, including dealing with the possible recording glitch. They are quick witted, warm and engaging (with the audience, as well as between them), making for a wonderful evening of fantastic music and great laughs.

The show was called for 7:30pm. They came on at around 7:45pm. The first set was 54 minutes. The second set (including an encore) was a little over an hour, making for nearly two hours on stage. Very generous, and thoroughly appreciated by the audience. They performed a total 21 songs, including two requests and two numbers in the encore (no, I didn’t count while they were singing, Lois snagged the set lists). 😉

OK, now more back story…

When possible, we like to support the venue. In this case, the venue made it clear (which we love) that they served dessert and coffee, but they encouraged people to support the town and have dinner locally before the show. We wanted to do that, as well as arrive early enough to not worry about finding the place, or have any crazy Thruway traffic problems.

While we knew the doors didn’t open until 6:45pm, we timed it to get to the Cafe at 4pm. Our intention was to wander around the town, have an early-ish dinner, then be at the Cafe in time for the doors opening, so we could get front-row seats.

We pulled up to the address that our GPS guided us to at exactly 4pm. It was a Youth Center, with no signs (that we could see) mentioning Golding Park Cafe. Lois got out to ask where the real Cafe was. I didn’t have a view of Lois, but Laura (who was in the back seat) told me that a van door opened up and Lois seemed to be chatting with someone inside the van. At that moment, a very nice gentlemen wandered over to the car to tell me where we might eat in town.

It turns out that the van was the infamous Girlyman road van, and Lois got to say a quick hi to them before they set up for the show. The lovely gentleman who helped me out turned out to be our host for the evening (Brian Kaiser), current Treasurer of the Cobleskill Partnership, Inc. When Lois got back to the car, she told me who was in the van, and I went to say a very quick hello to Girlyman as well, then we headed out.

Don’t ever understimate what we’re missing by not having a Walmart Supercenter in Manhattan, we don’t. So, before worrying about dinner, we doubled back to spend some quality time at the Cobleskill Walmart. All four of us got at least one thing, and Lois and I got a lot more than that. 😉

We then made a quick (and successful) stop at the Ace Hardware for Laura and Chris to pick up some fasteners (or brackets, I’m not really sure) for their bookshelves.

Finally, we settled on a local Italian Restaurant (and Pizza shop). It was crowded, so clearly a local favorite. We enjoyed it too. We then walked around a bit, and got back to the Cafe parking lot at around 6:15pm. Here’s proof that we walked around the town:

Hadar Laura Chris Cobleskill

Hadar Laura Chris Cobleskill

We went inside at 6:50pm, and there were five people sitting in the front row already (it can accommodate perhaps 12). However, when I paid for our tickets (we had reservations), we were ushered to table 17. There is no bad seat at Golding Park Cafe, and table 17 certainly would have been fine. But, after driving three hours to get there, and waiting another three hours to be seated, coupled with the fact that Lois is essentially legally blind, we really were hoping for the front row.

Our request wasn’t handled as smoothly as one could hope, but in the end, they did the right thing, and we were seated exactly where we had hoped to be. Whew. 🙂

Above, I mentioned that there were already five people seated in the front row. It turns out that they are huge Girlyman fans (as were a number of people in the crowd, including a family who drove down from Rochester, NY to see the show!). Girlyman thanked the Rochester folks for coming the furthest distance. While they drove 30 minutes longer than we did, our guests had an extra 45-minute train ride to get to our car, so technically, they came the furthest. 😉

The other fans that sat in the front row are also bloggers. This morning, Lois got a Google Alert pointing to their blog about last night’s show. If you click through (and you should, because they also have a very cute YouTube video of three of them doing Girlyman’s Everything’s Easy!), you will note that Lois was the one who took the photo of all of them together at the show. 🙂

Even though we were all pretty stuffed from dinner, we ordered coffee and dessert (an excellent Pumpkin Pie for three of us) in order to support the Cafe. I insanely overtipped our waitress. I italicized waitress, because the argument amogst our group was whether she was over or under 12-years-old. When we saw her out of uniform at the end of the show, we all seemed to agree that under 12 was more likely accurate. This is, after all, a Youth Center… 🙂

At 7:45pm, Brian Kaiser came on stage to introduce Girlyman. In my life, I have never heard such a heartfelt and gushing-praise introduction for an artist. Of course, Lois and I not only agreed with every word he said, but would have said the same thing if we were the ones introducing Girlyman! Nate noted that they would never be able to live up to that intro. Of course, he was wrong. 😉

Every Girlyman show we’ve been to has had extremely enthusiastic audiences. Last night was significantly more special. In fact, the applause were so long, so hearty, and nearly overwhelming (after every song!), that Nate coined the term: Extended Applause (aptly so!). Later on, when that continued to be the norm, he joked about Inspector Gadget, and renamed the extended applause to Go go extended applause (if you’ve never seen Inspector Gadget, never mind…). 😉

After the show, Lois said a quick goodbye to the band, and hopefully successfully signed up to be notified if the live CD becomes available. The rest of us didn’t want to get trapped by the crowd that was gathering to buy CDs, T-Shirts, and meet Girlyman, so we didn’t get to say goodbye. We hit the road, and arrived home a little before 1am. Thankfully, we gained an hour on the clock last night (good timing Congress!).

Of course, we’re not satisfied, so we’re doing it again on Wednesday evening, bringing two new (soon-to-be) Girlyman fans with us. 🙂

Girlyman at Birchmere

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This time around, we only had to wait a day to see Girlyman again. I’m glad to say we made it. 😉

While Gravity Lounge is a small, intimate place, Birchmere is cavernous. The other difference is that Gravity Lounge is concert style seating (everyone facing the stage) and Birchmere is dining table style (most people have a shoulder facing the stage and need to twist to have a full stage view).

Birchmere can seat 650 people. Given the economic hard times, and the generic fact that Girlyman’s style of music (Alt-Folk/Pop) doesn’t typically draw gigantic crowds (though it most definitely should!), I was marginally worried that the place might feel a bit empty.

I should have had more faith (after all, they sold out the Barns at Wolftrap in March, a nearby venue that seats 400!). We sat right up against the stage, so it was a little hard to gauge an accurate count (though I tried). My best guess is that there were at least 350 people there, possibly 400+. That generated the same feel as a sold out house, because there are many tables that are way off to the sides, and the entire center section (the bulk) had very few empty seats.

The show had a similar feel to the night before. However, as I expected (and was delighted to be correct), Girlyman mixed it up enough to keep it fresh even for the few of us (possibly just Lois and me?) that saw them on consecutive nights. The set list had at least three additions to it, and the one song that was on the set list the night before, but wasn’t played (James Dean) was done last night.

In addition, the requests that they played last night were different, so there were at least a half dozen different numbers. The tuning songs were different too, but there were actually fewer of them both nights than usual. I ascribe that to there being more new material, which might not require as many drastic re-tunings of the guitars/banjo/mandolin as the older stuff. Here’s a photo of a tuning song:

Girlyman Tuning Song

Girlyman Tuning Song

The music was fantastic (the acoustics at the Birchmere are wonderful). Their banter (and general stage presence) was perfect as well. In fact, playing to a significantly larger crowd can make the banter more difficult, since comedic tastes can be that much more varied, and there’s a slight reduction in intimacy. That wasn’t a problem, as the crowd universally and uniformly ate up every bit of the act, which fed the energy on the stage.

It’s hard (if not impossible) to describe a song. Lois really wants me try, so here goes. 🙂

One of their newer songs is Everything’s Easy (it’s on their new/current Live CD). It’s a great song in general, but also very special. Each of them sings one verse alone. Nate starts, then Ty sings a different melody. Doris sings a dramatically different melody (alone as well, the first time). Then, after blending together a bit, and starting to build in volume (and passion), they sing simultaneously (in harmony), but each singing their own verse.

Not only are they singing wildly different words, they are singing entirely different tunes (as opposed to singing in a normal harmony, where you are mostly just offset from the main melody). It’s stunning. The focus that they each need to maintain is incredible, but we shouldn’t care if it’s hard for them, we should care whether the result is sonically gorgeous. It is, in every way. Bravo!

If you’re interested in checking it out, go to their MySpace page, and the second song (at least as of this writing) is Everything’s Easy. Enjoy!

When they got to the request section (they do that at every show), I yelled (twice, at the top of my lungs) Hold It All At Bay. I was only five feet away from Doris, perhaps 10 from Ty, so I know they heard me. Unfortunately, lots of other people yelled out lots of other song requests, and I don’t think I heard any other requests for Hold It All At Bay.

I love so many of their songs so much, that it somehow feels silly to say “My favorite song of theirs is Hold It All At Bay”. And yet, I can say it with no caveat or hesitation. While there may be two dozen close seconds, from the first second I heard that song, it remains the most played song on my iPod, and it moves me (lyrically and musically) each and every time I listen to it.

I hadn’t heard them sing it live in a while, and I fully expected to miss out again last night. While I might never be sure, I want to believe that they chose to give me a personal gift when they decided to play Hold It All At Bay for the first request. They couldn’t have played it better! Thank you Girlyman! 🙂

Since they knew that they didn’t pick the most called for song, they were kind enough (and connected enough with their audience) to select another song for a request after that as well.

They closed the show with Joyful Sign. When they returned for the encore (as the result of a standing ovation) they played Nate’s new song (the one I didn’t know the title of in yesterday’s post). I think he didn’t mention the title last night either, but he did give the same cute intro. Lois and I are calling the song “My Eyes Get Misty” until we hear differently. They skipped the typical Girlyman Benediction song (which I love) and went straight to their stock closing number Son Of A Preacher Man (which they nail, every time!).

In total, they were on stage for 110 minutes. This was fantastic. It wasn’t just the extra five minutes over the night before, but they also came on later due to the opening act (different from the night before) being on stage significantly longer.

Girlyman

Girlyman

The opening act last night was Chelsea Lee (we didn’t know there would be one until we showed up). She came out at 7:30pm accompanied by Todd Wright on guitar (and harmony). Chelsea has a stunning voice, truly extraordinary. Todd is a good rhythm guitarist, whose voice complements Chelsea’s on their harmonies, perfectly. Unfortunately, since she’s the star, and they’re not officially a duo, he doesn’t sing nearly enough with her. Not that her voice isn’t amazing all by itself (it most definitely is), but their blended voices are even better.

Chelsea Lee

Chelsea Lee

As spectacular as Chelsea’s voice is, her material (mostly, if not all written by her) doesn’t live up to the same standard. It’s actually reasonably repetitive, both in general feel/sound, as well as brooding theme. She would do better playing in a real Blues Club (in my opinion) than in a place like the Birchmere. She’s a cross between Blues and Jazz. While Todd’s guitar playing complemented her really well, I couldn’t help but think that if there was a soulful grand piano accompanying her, in a blues club setting, she might have come across more authentically.

Todd did something that perhaps other musicians do regularly on stage, but I am generally unaware of the technique. Because we sat so close to him, I was able to see it clearly (this time). On one number, he clicked a switch with his sneaker on a board full of switches. Apparently, that started recording what he was playing. After a few bars, he clicked another switch and the previous recording started playing back in a loop. He literally took his hands off the guitar, but the sound kept coming out of the Birchmere speakers accompanying Chelsea.

Then, after a few seconds, he played a little lead guitar, supported by his own strumming, which he had just recorded live. After a few more bars of that, he eased back into strumming along with the recording, and when that was sync’ed up correctly, he turned off the recording and was back to strumming live only. It was an interesting and cool experience, which might be going on more often on stage than I previously realized.

Todd Wright

Todd Wright

Regarding Chelsea again, one more nit to pick. She’s not really comfortable on the stage. She’s not awkward either, just not comfy. She’s not leading/controlling the crowd in any way, she’s just settling herself down between numbers, building up the courage and focus to perform the next one. Last night’s crowd was extremely respectful of her, and clapped generously, so it ended up being fine. I could easily see her losing control of a crowd if she opened for someone other than Girlyman, who draws wonderful people wherever they perform.

She joked (awkwardly) a few times about how old the crowd was. When she was hawking her CD, she babbled about how we (the audience) were likely too old to be users of MySpace (uh huh). She and Todd spent a good deal of time teasing each other (including about the difference in their ages). Still, we didn’t know how old she was (if you already checked the link I gave above, the next paragraph will be anti-climactic for you).

I tried to guess her age, and figured something between 21-25. It turns out she’s 17! Wow. That certainly explains the lack of stage presence (not that 17-year-olds can’t have it, as Taylor Swift clearly demonstrates). She’ll likely get there. Hopefully it won’t take too long.

As talented as she is (vocally), she was still just an opening act, with the vast majority of the people in the crowd breathlessly awaiting Girlyman’s appearance on stage. In my opinion, Birchmere gave her too much stage time. She was on for 55 minutes. That’s long, even for a well-known opening act. Given that most of her songs have a very similar sound/feel, it dragged a bit, and a true Girlyfan would have to wonder whether it was eating into Girlyman’s time.

You already know the answer to that. Thankfully, Girlyman gave us every drop of value for our money. Whew!

If you read yesterday’s post, you know that Lois and I brought ten friends to see Girlyman at Gravity Lounge. Last night, we brought 13 people from Zope Corporation (including some family members). We drove three of them up with us and got there at 4:25pm (doors open at 5pm) to pick up our tickets and get a number to be seated early. I had asked the rest of the gang to be there no later than 5:45pm (the doors to the concert hall open at 6pm when they call people in for dinner in the order that they picked up their tickets).

Here are our car guests:

Zope Guys

Zope Guys

I was amazed (and really appreciative) when every single person in our party was there by 5:40pm. We were number five to be called in. However, since we had 15 people, we couldn’t sit together center stage. We chose two tables at the left edge of the stage and split our group. Each table could seat 12, but we put seven at one table and eight at the next.

Here’s the gang that sat at the first table:

Zope Table 1

Zope Table 1

And, table number two:

Zope Table 2

Zope Table 2

The food at Birchmere is Southern-style Comfort food, and they do it really well. I had the Pulled Pork sandwich. When I went over to the other table to survey what they had ordered, I said that my pulled pork was fanastic but greasy. Our CTO pointed out that I used the word but incorrectly in that sentence. He was right, and I corrected it to “my pulled pork sandwich was fanastic and greasy”. 😉

Everyone seemed to like their food, and it all looked great. A number of us had decadent desserts as well (I succumbed), but we had to do what needed to be done…

Of the 13 people we brought along, only two had seen Girlyman before. While it’s hard to know whether people are being polite, our group all said that they thoroughly enjoyed the show. One of the guys said that while he liked the music, he loved all of the non-music parts (which are significant in any Girlyman show).

Interestingly enough, most of them were not as kind (polite) about Chelsea’s performance. While the majority did praise her voice, they found little else to compliment. When asked what she thought, one person actually answered “I wasn’t paying that much attention…”. I didn’t love it, but I think I enjoyed it more than most (if not all) of them did.

After the show, seven of us waited in line to say hi to Girlyman. I got to thank them directly for playing Hold It All At Bay, and tell them how perfectly they did it. We took a customary photo with them, which included the youngest member of our group as well. She was a last-minute substitute when her dad got caught in a business trip and she joined her mom (who works at Zope). Ironically, it is the mom and the little one who had seen Girlyman before in NYC (nearly a year ago).

Girlyman and Us

Girlyman and Us

As with the previous night at Gravity Lounge, we ordered a copy of last night’s live show and I’m sure we’ll do the same at Joe’s Pub. Yes, we’re seeing them again on November 5th! 🙂

We talked about the show with our three car guests for the next hour on the ride back to Fredericksburg. For us, it was a perfect evening. We hope our guests enjoyed it at least 10% as much as we did. 🙂

Update: The little one’s mom just emailed us a great picture of Girlyman with her daughter. Here it is:

Little One Girlyman

Little One Girlyman

Girlyman at Gravity Lounge

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Last night we (finally) saw Girlyman again (fifth time for us). It was a long dry spell, lasting exactly 200 days in between shows. During that time, we saw 27 other live shows (all blogged about). If you are a complete masochist, you can see all of those, including a few other music-related but not live-show related posts, at this link.

While the vast majority of the past 27 live shows were awesome, in every respect, there’s something more magical about an evening spent with Girlyman. You have to experience it to understand that, even if you love their CDs.

Not only was last night no exception, it was particularly special, because the venue (Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville, VA) is a very special place to see this kind of group. We’ve been there once before to see The Wailin’ Jennys, and that evening was magical as well.

Gravity Lounge is ultra-intimate. The stage is raised roughly a foot off the seating area, so you’re not craning your neck to look up at the performers. The worst seat in the house isn’t bad, and 80% of the seats are fantastic.

Girlyman has a large repertoire of songs, and we love nearly every one of them, so going to a show will always yield surprises and some (extremely minor) disappointments, given that they simply can’t play everything we’d want to hear. In addition, they are continually writing new songs (all fantastic) and arranging new covers, so the pool of available numbers keeps growing.

They recently started a video blog (low-res version available on YouTube, hi-res version available on Vimeo). You can also video podcast them at iTunes. In those video blogs, you can hear snippets of two new songs and one complete new cover. Last night, they performed the full version of all three.

Easy Bake Ovens hooked me even in the video (as short as it was, from the first video blog). The song is perfect for their soaring harmonies, and the lyrics are fun and insightful as well. They performed it flawlessly last night. They performed Tell Me The Reason (which Doris lip-sync’s on the most recent clip, labeled Video Blog, Part 2). Gorgeous!

Sandwiched in between Part 1 and Part 2, is a video labeled Islands In The Stream, their new cover. The song was made famous by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, but was actually written by the Bee Gees (Lois and I were quite surprised at that, but Wikipedia confirms it). We’ve always liked the song, and there’s nothing wrong with Girlyman’s arrangement, but in my opinion, it was the weakest song of the night (not weak, just weaker than any of the others), and I would personally have preferred them to substitute any of their other songs.

At the very end of the show, they played another new one by Nate. Unfortunately, it isn’t in a video yet, and wasn’t on the printed set list (which we snagged), and I don’t recall the title. Another big winner though, so we (and the rest of you) will need to be on the lookout for the name. 🙂

Speaking of the set list, there was only one song that they planned to play that they didn’t (James Dean). In addition to playing two requests, they also played at least two additional songs that weren’t on the set list. A very generous show indeed!

Of course, they also played many crowd favorites (Joyful Sign, Through To Sunrise, Kittery Tide, Postcards From Mexico, Somwhere Different Now, Storms Were Mine, and quite a number of others!). Speaking of the audience, the overwhelming majority of them were clearly super Girlyfans. The energy in the room was electric and the rapport between Girlyman and the audience was seamless and relaxed.

Ty added a snare drum to her customary djembe. Two of us (I was one of them) simultaneously teased her about not bringing along her collander highhat. You’ll have to watch the first video blog to understand the reference…

After a standing ovation, they returned for their signature encore: Girlyman Benediction and Son Of A Preacher Man. Wonderful! They were on stage for roughly 105 minutes. Given that they had an opening act, the show was long, and satisfying.

Here’s the only picture Lois snapped of them together on the stage. Given that we were in the front row, center, and they were spread out, all other shots have only one or two of them together:

Girlyman

Girlyman

Speaking of opening acts, Nervous But Excited opened for Girlyman last night. The group consists of Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver. Both talented singer/songwriters who harmonize well together (though not as often as they could). They performed five or six numbers. All were good, but they don’t produce the kind of sound Girlyman does, so there was anticipation of the real show, even though they were good.

They ended with Smaller Taller. You can hear that (and a bunch of other tracks from their live CD) here. It was the coolest/best of their stuff, but to repeat, all of their stuff was pretty good. On this last song, Girlyman joined them on the stage. Musically, it was an unecessary addition since they had the audience sing the chorus with them, canceling out the wonderful Girlyman harmonies. But, Nate performed special duties during the song, so it was a blast from that perspective, but you had to be there to appreciate it, so I won’t even describe it. 😉

They were on for exactly 30 enjoyable minutes.

As you may know, I’m on a personal mission to increase awareness of this simply amazing group (this == Girlyman). One way to do that is to make sure that people actually see them live (the fastest way to fall in love with them). Toward that end, Lois and I invited 10 Richmond based friends to join us (we were coming from Zope in Fredericksburg). The place only seats about 150 (max), so we would be roughly 10% of the crowd, all by ourselves. 😉

Of the 10 friends that we invited, two had seen them before (with us) at the Barns at Wolftrap. That made eight newbies, though half of them have received a Girlyman CD from us in advance well.

We arrived at 5:50pm, thinking that the doors would open at 6pm (which is what they did for the Jennys). When we got there, the door was open, with no one on line, so we walked right in. Girlyman was in the middle of their sound check, and no patrons were there yet. That was a very cool experience for us because the sound checks are off limits to customers, nearly 100% of the time. 10 minutes later, six more people from our group arrived, and with all of the hugging and catching up, the owner of Gravity Lounge realized he should never have left the door open, and he kicked us out. Oh well, at least we were still first in line.

Here’s a shot of them during the sound check. You can also get a good sense of the setup of the room, given that it was empty:

Girlyman Sound Check

Girlyman Sound Check

At 6:30 he opened the door and we went back in and snagged seats in the front and second rows. Lois and I sat front and center, and couldn’t have loved our seats or the show any more! We ordered dinner at the club as well. The food took forever to come out of the kitchen, but was superb and very value priced. The chef came out to apologize to Lois (her food came out dead last, by a long measure). It turns out it was her first night working there. So, she’s not fast, but she’s really good.

Because we were so early, we got to schmooze a bit with each of the Girlypeople, separately. That was a real treat. One of the innovations at this show (and apparently all of them on this tour) is that they record the entire show, and offer the CD for sale afterwards. I have written about this before, when we purchased the CD for a live show of California Guitar Trio at BB King. This is slightly different. Girlyman doesn’t burn the CDs on the spot (like CGT did), but mails them to you later. We trust them, and are looking forward to our CD in a few weeks.

Here’s a shot of Doris and me, proving the above schmoozing claim: 😉

Doris and Hadar

Doris and Hadar

After saying our goodbyes (to our friends, and later to Girlyman), we didn’t need to feel badly about how long it would take us to see them again. We’re heading in exactly the opposite direction from Fredericksburg tonight, to Alexandria, VA, to see them at the Birchmere. Tonight, we’re bringing 13 people with us (total of 15), and again only two of those have seen them before (with us). So, we continue to do our part in spreading the word.

Now, the rest of you, get on the stick and spread the word!!! 🙂

The Duhks at Joe’s Pub

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We first discovered Joe’s Pub because of The Duhks. The Duhks were an automated recommendation for me from Amazon.com, based on the fact that I had purchased Nickel Creek CDs from them. I listened, I liked, a lot.

After that, I bought both Duhks CDs, and checked where they were touring. I noticed they were coming to NYC to Joe’s Pub. We had never heard of Joe’s, but went to see them there. We loved the show, thoroughly, and bought their third CD at the show. That was roughly two years ago. We’ve been to Joe’s dozens of times since, and it’s our favorite place to see live music.

Shortly after we saw them (measured in months) Jessee Havey (their lead singer) left the band. She was replaced by Sarah Dugas, announced as an interim selection, until the band made a longer-term choice. Sarah ended up staying for the long term, and the percussionist, Scott Senior was replaced by Sarah’s brother, Christian Dugas, a drummer with a complete drum set.

We knew that they released a new CD a month ago, but we decided to buy it at the show to more directly support the band.

We knew we loved their music (Lois had a handful of songs she played over-and-over in the car, and I like a broader selection of their stuff from all three CDs), and we wanted to share that experience with others, so we bought four tickets to the show. That’s often a risk, because while music is universal, each person’s taste is hardly universal.

Since Joe’s serves really good food, we figured that it would at least be a nice social outing. Sparing you the crazy details of how we ended up with our specific guests, two of our married male friends came, with each of their wives having previous commitments.

The tickets had the show starting at 7:30pm, but the outside sign said 7pm. It turned out that they had a special guest star opening the show for them at 7pm, but I’ll cover him later. He ran over (knowingly), and after resetting the stage, The Duhks came on at 7:45pm.

Normally, Joe’s Pub gets the acoustics down pat. On occasion (unfortunately, not infrequently enough, as I’ve now written about this a few times), they screw it up, pretty badly at times. Last night was one of those times, but The Duhks have changed in a number of ways, and that change didn’t help out with the poor sound management.

The first obvious change was from a percussionist (Scott Senior), to a full drum kit (Christian Dugas). Christian is a fantastic drummer, from every perspective. Unfortunately, a full drum kit overwhelms the roots sounds and instruments that characterize The Duhks. That means that everyone else in the band needs to amp up more, causing more problems for the sound engineer, etc. When the sound system isn’t perfect, the problems accelerate quickly, to the point of no return.

We had an inkling of what was to come before the show even started. One of the founders of the band, Leonard Podolak was out on the stage helping the opening act pack up, and he was squatting on the stage about 12 inches from Lois. Lois told him how much we love them, and asked whether they were going to play her favorite songs (she mentioned them by name, she didn’t assume he knew which ones were our favorites). 😉

Leonard told her that they don’t play those songs any longer, now that Sarah is in the band. Given that Sarah’s voice is quite similar (earthy, husky, full-bodied, etc.) to Jessee, neither of us understood the comment. After the fact, I worried that perhaps this was another Wailin’ Jennys moment, where they no longer perform live any songs written by Annabelle Chvostek. Who knows?

In any event, Leonard didn’t lie. They mostly played songs from the new CD (we bought a copy before the show started, and I’ve listened to it today) plus a few from their old albums (none of our favorites), plus a few new covers.

The show was awful, on a number of levels. First, the sound was horrible. The guitarist, Jordan McConnell is normally amazing. He’s probably got the fastest right hand I’ve ever seen, and he plays a mixture of the best rhythm guitar, with fantastic leads. Last night, the only thing you could hear out of his guitar was pure bass. It almost sounded like pure feedback. No strumming or leads. It was a crushing disappointment.

Partially, it was due to our placement right up against the stage, where the drum was blaring in our ears. That doesn’t explain it entirely though. The fiddle player, Tania Elizabeth is brilliant. She’s in my top five favorite fiddle players, and we’ve seen a ton of great fiddle players in the past two years. She also sings harmony on a number of songs (really well).

Last night, it was hit or miss whether you could make out the fiddle. On some numbers, clear as a bell (and Tania hasn’t lost a step), on others, muddled sound or no sound. Quite a few times Tania had to gesture desperately up at the sound board, pointing at her fiddle and raising her thumb up, indicating that she needed more volume.

Leonard Podolak played the banjo extremely well, and ironically, you could make out most of the notes he played all night long. Still, they were in the distant background, but at least audible. One of our guests noted after the show that it was a very weird feeling to be sitting two feet from the banjo, but only hearing the banjo sound coming from the far corner of the stage. It was disorienting. I agree.

Sarah had her voice on, but also had to complain to the sound person that her mic was not reliable. She conjectured that the cable was loose, and was making the mic cut in and out. On one song that Leonard sang lead on, he had to switch positions on stage with Sarah, because he too felt that his mic was garbling his sound. Ugh…

So, you’d think that all of the problems last night could be summed up as sound related, either with physical equipment problems, a poor sound engineer, or a mixture of the two. Alas, that wouldn’t be correct, at least not for our taste.

Basically, this band bears little resemblance to The Duhks that we knew and loved. Sure, they are absolutely exceptional musicians (not that you could hear Jordan to be sure, but trust me, he’s spectacular!). Somehow, adding Sarah and Christian Dugas has changed the soul of this band.

I’m sure that they will find many new fans, but they will also leave some old ones behind, including us. Basically, they want to be more of a Rock band, in Roots clothing. That’s fine, but it’s not our style. They’re too loud (regardless of the sound problems) for that particular mix of instruments, as well as for our taste. To give a concrete example, they closed with a rock cover, including mixing in some Whole Lotta Love there. Sorry folks, this is the wrong configuration of instruments and musicians to pull that off.

Sarah has the pipes to sing that stuff, and clearly she’s pulling the band to play that, but the fit is so bad as to be laughable. It’s a true shame.

All that said, I listened to the entire CD today, and it’s not bad. Clearly, it’s mixed way more professionally than last night’s show was, and I was in control of the volume, so I could listen at pleasant levels. I’m not sorry that we bought the CD, but I doubt Lois will ever listen to it, she was so turned off by the performance.

On to the opening act. Leonard Podolak went to high school with Luke Doucet. Luke is an incredible Rock guitarist. He was accompanied by his wife, Melissa McLelland (singing and playing rhythm electric guitar), Catherine Popper (playing electric bass) and Rob Heath on the drums (Luke had never played with Rob before).

We didn’t come prepared to hear loud Rock music, thinking that The Duhks would have a more similar sound for their opening group. Of course, we didn’t know that The Duhks were morphing more toward this sound, nor that they were promoting a friend more than trying to match the crowd’s taste in music.

That said, Luke is incredibly talented. His amlifier was three feet away from us, so we had no trouble hearing his fantastic leads. In fact, two people in our party put in ear plugs when he started playing, that’s how little trouble we had hearing him. That said, the microphones for his voice and Melissa’s, were too soft in comparison. I could make out most of the words, but partially because I could see his lips move.

He’s a good songwriter as well, and I enjoyed the lyrics that I was able to make out. I liked their harmonies as well, though they were definitely overshadowed if not drowned out.

Luke said that he was given 25 minutes to complete his set. He took 35. That was 10 minutes less for the headliner, his friends, so who knows how they worked that out…

Last night was the first time that I left Joe’s Pub with a ringing in my ears, and a generally unpleasant feeling due to the loudness and poor sound quality. 🙁

Anyway, even though we didn’t get to talk about it until after the show, I knew that Lois was cringing during most of The Duhks performance (as was I) over the fact that we picked this show to bring our friends to (we see most concerts alone). We had a lovely time with them, and enjoyed an excellent meal and drinks before the show, and we always love every opportunity to see them, but still, it would have been nicer if the music was special too.

Still, we have a lot to thank The Duhks for. If not for The Duhks, we might never have discovered Joe’s Pub in the first place. If we had never discovered Joe’s Pub, we would definitely never have discovered our favorite band, Girlyman. Girlyman is a band that we’ve never seen alone. In the four times that we’ve seen them so far, we took two people three times, and three people once.

We’re about to see them three times in close proximity. We’re bringing 12 people to one show, 14 to another the next night, and two weeks later four people (all of the above includes us in the count, with no other duplicates among the three shows!). We aren’t worried in the least that anyone we bring to a Girlyman show will be disappointed. We know we won’t be either.

Finally, some positive news from last night. When we go to Joe’s, 70% of the time we take a bus, 30% a cab. Last night, the second we got to the corner, we saw the bus waiting at a red light. We didn’t have to run, but we had to hustle a bit. When we boarded the bus, I noticed that there was a piece of paper sticking out of the slot where I would have inserted my MetroCard. Clearly, the box was broken, and the ride was about to be free, even though the driver never waved anyone on, they all just figured it out.

It’s not the savings of the $4 (though I’m not complaining about that), it’s actually more the fact that I deferred having to buy a new MetroCard by two rides. It also sped the ride up a bit, because no one had to fumble to get the MetroCard into the reader in the correct orientation.

The biggest joy about it was watching everyone’s expression as they realized they didn’t have to pay (I include myself as well!). There was an uncontrollable smile that overtook each and every person’s face. I kid you not. They felt that they were getting away with something. Something that they knew they secretly deserved to get away with.

It’s not possible to describe how different an experience it is to ride on a NYC bus, with 100 other people, and see most of them smiling at least at one point during the ride. I’m not sure it’s ever happened before, and it may never happen again. 🙂

Girlyman Discovery

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OK, so it’s been way too long since I’ve even mentioned Girlyman in this space, let alone actually written something specific about them. 🙂

I was intending to walk (my long exercise walk) on Wednesday, in NYC. Instead, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, I had lunch with an old friend. That made me itch to exercise (though it was a very good trade!).

Today, I scratched that itch by walking in the woods near our house. I reported on this new (to me) path from our house to Rockwood Park and back in this post. That’s the exact route I took again today. One hour of very vigorous walking, with tons of uphill climbing.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening exclusively to podcasts of The Business from KCRW. I’ve written about them before, but I’ve let them just build up, knowing that I would enjoy them if I just listened. So, I’ve eschewed the music, and started whittling down the number of unlistened to episodes, and I’ve enjoyed every second. Each episode is 29 minutes, so I listen to four on my NYC walks and two on these new walks at the house.

So, I planned to listen to two more today. Each episode generally has two separate topics. During the first episode the second topic ended up being a repeat. So, I started the next episode. Again, the second topic was a repeat. So, instead of starting a third episode, I decided to go back to my roots, Girlyman.

I started playing the Live album, Somewhere Different Now. I’ve listened to it many times, and the songs that are on their studio CDs have been listened to more times than I can count. So, I know them well (or so I thought), and I sing along to almost every one out loud, if I’m alone, or if I don’t mind bugging Lois. 😉

Perhaps, because I was walking alone, in the bliss of nature, I had an epiphany during one verse of This Is Me, that I’ve sung along with out loud many times (so I knew the words cold), but never thought about them before. The second verse (not including the chorus) is:

The noble mind, it traps four pieces of the heart inside
We came in twos, and two by twos it seemed of little use
We felt the rain, our faces cold and pale, the colors drained
The oceans grew until we floated on a deeper hue

I had the most vivid vision of Noah’s Ark when I heard this verse. I realize that’s not a stretch when you read “We came in twos…” and “The oceans grew…”. But, when you read the rest of the lyrics, it doesn’t (necessarily) tie in to that theme, so when these words come in the middle, they don’t necessarily evoke that image.

Of course, Girlyman (Nate and Doris specifically) may not have meant that at all. I don’t care, which is one of the great things about great music/lyrics, you (the listener) get to bring your perception to the experience! 😉

Anyway, it was a wonderful moment for me, which feels a little trivial now, reporting it here in the cold light of the laptop, but I’m sharing it more for the renewal of spirit that comes from a great walk in nature, than for any insight about this particular song.

So, go, enjoy nature, listen to Girlyman, renew your spirit, then continue to do whatever it is you do, a little better for it! 🙂