Girlyman

Candy Dulfer at BB King

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I’ve known for a few weeks that Candy Dulfer would be playing last night at BB King. As much as I like her music, I didn’t purchase tickets in advance for two reasons: I thought we might be up at the house over the weekend and Lois isn’t that big of a Jazz fan (yet).

When we went to see Dave Mason this past Friday at BB King and the show was canceled, we already knew we’d be in town over the weekend (all of this previously reported here and here). I asked Lois how she felt about coming back to see Candy and she was fine with that, so we bought two tickets on Friday.

I own each of Candy’s first two studio CDs, Saxuality (released in 1990) and Sax-a-Go-Go (released in 1993). I got each of them when they first came out, so I’ve been a fan for a very long time. One of the reasons I don’t own more of her stuff, and don’t listen to either of those two CDs all that often, is that in addition to being a brilliant smooth jazz artist (which is my favorite form of jazz), she’s also a world-class funky jazz artist (words and music), which is more of a mix of hip hop and rock.

Even on those early CDs, there’s a mix, and I’m nuts about the smooth jazz pieces, but I found (in the past) the funky stuff a little too repetitive (not bad, just not as creative).

True to form, last night, Candy and band played both smooth jazz and funk. They were literally amazing at both. Seeing the funk done live is dramatically different than listening to it on a CD. It’s fun (ahhhh, perhaps that’s where the term funky comes from) πŸ˜‰ and more visual when you see them play with the song. For the record, I still much prefer the smooth jazz stuff.

She played a bunch of stuff from her new CD (released in 2007) Candy Store. Late in the show, she started what appeared to be an impromptu discussion with the audience about requests, without actually ever using the word request. Lots of stuff was shouted out, but Candy said that she was surprised not to have heard the “L” song, and the crowd went nuts, knowing she was talking about her early hit Lily Was Here.

She played it right then (how could she not after that reaction?). Here’s a YouTube Video of her playing it with Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics) a long time ago. The version on the video is classic smooth jazz. While last night’s version was awesome, it was much more funk/rock, including the lead guitar being hard electric, not the acoustic version played by Dave Stewart in the video.

Her band is amazing.

Regular keyboardist and vocalist, Chance Howard. Actually, Candy’s band had two keyboardists last night, and Chance plays more of a synthesizer (to my ears). The first time he played a solo, it sounded more like a flute than a piano. He sings well, and the two of them harmonize during the show.

Chance Howard

Kirk Johnson is the drummer. He also sings backup vocals (Chance also sings lead). He is incredible! In addition to just keeping a tremendous beat the entire night, with all of the appropriate smooth jazz rolls and symbol play, he took one solo very early on that was stupendous. One thing you can never experience on a CD are the visual tricks which always delight the crowd. I described some pretty incredible ones performed by Kentric Morris, Najee’s drummer in this post.

Kirk did two things (one of which I hadn’t seen before). During his solo, he kept flipping one of the drumsticks in the air, of course never missing a single beat in a fast-paced romp. I’ve seen it before, but it’s cool nonetheless. Then he lifted his right leg up in the air, and put it straight out over the drums, and continued playing at a frantic pace, without missing a beat. The crowd ate it up.

Kevin Walker on bass, was new to the band, only with them for a week! I didn’t know that until the end of the show when Candy mentioned it. It would have been hard to guess, as he was flawless the entire night. She also gave him two solos that rocked the house. He’s fast and interesting. My only complaint about nearly all bass players in these lives shows is that their instrument overwhelms the others. It literally shakes the house on every note in every song (as does the bass drum). Still, he’s amazing.

Kevin Walker

The other keyboard player is Thomas Bank. He’s also excellent, but to be fair, unless he was taking a solo (only two or three last night), he can barely be heard over the rest of the instruments. He had a Macbook Pro sitting next to him, so perhaps I didn’t hear him because he was checking email rather than playing out loud. πŸ˜‰

Thomas Bank

Finally, the lead guitarist Ulco Bed. He’s excellent as well, playing mellow smooth jazz really well, and then taking some super full-blown rock leads that were awesome.

Ulco Bed and Candy Dulfer

Candy Dulfer was mind-bogglingly good on the sax, but there was no surprise in that. She also sang a bunch more than I expected. The other day I noted that Tim O’Brien played fiddle while singing (solo) and that it looked funny (but sounded great). Candy couldn’t sing and play the sax at the same time, proving that she’s human after all. πŸ˜‰

Candy Dulfer SingingCandy Dulfer on the Sax

Lois totally disagrees with me, but Candy’s face is a dead ringer for Courtney Thorne-Smith to me. πŸ˜‰

Toward the end, she played the sax accompanied just by Kirk on the drums. It was long and stunning. She was perfect on the sax, but Kirk lit up the joint. She had her back to the audience facing Kirk the entire time, and the spotlight was on him. It was way more interesting than just a drum solo (even though I’m a sucker for a good drum solo), but there was little doubt that the focus of that long segment was the drums. Perfect!

Kirk Johnson and Candy Dulfer

Kevin’s face reminded me of Michael Jordan. πŸ˜‰

We had a fantastic time. The only downside of the evening was that the music was deafeningly loud. It was also balanced perfectly, and clean, so it was purely a volume problem, not a distortion one, etc. My ears weren’t really ringing, exactly, but there’s little doubt that there was a real effect.

Last November, we saw Girlyman at the Highline Ballroom. Opening for them was Garrison Starr, a solo performer who also plays too loud (in my opinion). That night, we brought a family as our guests, which included a 4-year-old girl (she loves Girlyman!). The person working the door saw her and offered us a pair of ear plugs, warning us that she might very well need them!

Lois loved the idea, and has since bought a bunch of pairs to take to shows just in case. Last night was the first time she felt the need to use them. Thankfully, she had them. I know (not just because she told me so) πŸ˜‰ that she would have insisted that we leave if she didn’t have them! She loved the show, but was only able to tolerate it because she had the plugs in the entire night!

She might have needed them no matter where we sat, but last night we sat at the stage. Also, since we were on the far right side we were right in front of a bunch of the speakers and amplifiers, which didn’t help with the volume problem. Here’s a shot of me hugging the stage, looking at Candy play the sax.

Hadar watching Candy Dulfer

As I wrote on Saturday, I started my regular exercise routine this weekend. Yesterday included walking up and down 30 flights of stairs in our building. I prefer the long walks outside, but I didn’t have the time yesterday, and the stairs really cram a lot of sweat and elevated heart rate into a shorter workout.

We walked over the to show, and on the way, Lois made it clear that she would prefer (I’m being polite here) that I not have my usual Lucille (BB King’s version of a chocolate martini), and that I not have fries either. Bummer! I had club soda, and a Caesar Salad with Grilled Shrimp on it. Tasty, but not the same.

There are benefits to eating healthy. The meal cost much less. I had zero gastric distress. The liquor didn’t add to my usual exhaustion (because there was no liquor).

The downside is that I didn’t help prop up the economy, though I over-tipped our excellent waitress, partially out of guilt for what she would have gotten had I been eating my usual there. πŸ˜‰

We walked home and chatted about the show the entire way. We were both still feeling the energy.

Tonight we’re seeing The Wailin’ Jennys at Joe’s Pub. I have written about them many times in the past, and will most definitely write again tomorrow. You can’t imagine how excited I am to see them at Joe’s!

Finally, as always, here’s a link to the current month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter early and often, and win a signed copy of the new Live CD. It’s an awesome CD, and the contest is for a good cause, creating more awareness for this brilliant group! πŸ™‚

Sweet Bitters at Pete’s Candy Store

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Recently, I’ve written about a new group called Sweet Bitters (here’s their MySpace page). That story ended up being more focused on the place (Pete’s Candy Store) and their customer service, but ultimately, it was about discovering Sweet Bitters through my love of Girlyman.

I really wanted to make it to hear them last night. A bunch of things conspired against that. At the top of the list is our normal irresistible urge to spend the weekends at the house rather than the city. Luckily, we’ve been having some problems on our deck in the city, and Lois preferred to stay in the city over the weekend in order to take care of it. (Obviously, the lucky part was staying in the city, not having problems on our deck.) πŸ˜‰

Given the experience communicating with Pete’s, the only reason to go there was to catch Sweet Bitters, but that was motivation enough. Not knowing anything about the neighborhood, we decided to drive. We got there reasonably quickly, even with a little more traffic than expected. We walked into Pete’s at 8:04pm, the show was scheduled to start at 9pm.

One of the reasons to show up early was the complete lack of guidance from Pete’s. They did nothing to even describe the size of the room, etc. Walking in the front door answered all of our questions. Pete’s is a neighborhood bar. You could see that on the other side of the room, there was a hallway that led to the room where the music would be, but you couldn’t tell how big it was.

When we walked in to that room, it was empty. Very small room, skinny, and a little long. Roughly 24 chairs, with room for another dozen or so standing if everyone was willing to be cozy. Definitely the smallest place we’ve ever seen music in. It was empty. Again, nice job on Pete’s part, considering that unless a local star is playing there, I doubt it ever fills up more than hour before the show. That’s all they needed to communicate.

We took the first two seats near the stage and settled in. Five minutes later three people came in toting instruments. It wasn’t hard to guess that these were the Sweet Bitters ladies (Sharon Goldman and Nina Schmir) plus a helper. We chatted with them while they set up. Lovely women, and the helper is Nina’s boyfriend Craig (my assumption, but I’ll do a triple-take if I’m wrong) πŸ˜‰ is a great guy as well.

While they were unpacking we saw that they had CDs for sale. This is a sampler CD with four songs on it, the same four songs available on their MySpace page. Since I know I like all four of those songs already, I bought a CD (yes, signed by both of them) in advance, so that I wouldn’t be wasting their time after the show when hopefully others would be lining up to buy the CD.

They then did a short sound check (we were the only ones still in the room at the time). The sound was great. Here’s a photo of them with me giving the thumb’s up after the sound check. Since Lois was right beside me, I apologize to Sharon and Nina that my head overwhelms the shot:

Sweet Bitters Sound Check

Craig and I went to the bar and brought back libations for ourselves and the ladies (Sharon and Nina stuck to water before the show). Shortly thereafter, still early, a few more people wandered in. By 9pm the room was nearly full. Let’s call it roughly 20 people there for the show.

Sweet Bitters did 10 songs (so clearly, they have more material than just the sampler CD, good!). Both Sharon and Nina are songwriters, and of the 10 songs, five were written by each of them. Sharon plays guitar (as can be seen in the photo above) and Nina plays the electric piano/organ (also seen above), but on a number of the songs, she also plays the guitar. Both are talented musicians. Both have lovely voices, and their harmonies are rich, interesting and anything but vanilla.

When they declared the show over, we all wanted them to play more. They hesitated, because the artist scheduled to be on next (Alice Lee) was in the audience and ready to go on. Alice signaled to them to play another song. Very generous of Alice, and we all appreciated it greatly! They sang one more song, which was also excellent.

As much as I would really have liked to hang around and listen to Alice Lee, both Lois and I were thoroughly exhausted. In addition, our garage closes for the night at midnight, so we had a secondary excuse. We waved goodbye to Sharon and Nina and headed home.

A completely fun and satisfying evening, with the extra special gift of getting to chat with them for quite a while, in a relaxed atmosphere, before enjoying their lovely music.

Their next confirmed date is May 30th, 2008 at Bar4 in Park Slope. Go see them (the show is free, just like last night!). Perhaps some day, they’ll open for Girlyman, just like We’re About 9 is doing at some of the shows on their current tour. πŸ™‚

On a potentially (hopefully) serendipitous note, Craig works for a software company that might have a product that we could (eventually) use at Zope. If that ends up working out, this evening could turn into a business success rather than just a pleasure success. We’ll see, as we’ll be following up with Craig this week.

We also got to meet Sharon’s fiance, a very nice guy. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there early enough for us to spend quality time with him, so other than being a really sweet guy, we know nothing about him.

While I’d do it anyway, and you all know that by now, tying in Girlyman into this post is natural, since I only discovered Sweet Bitters through Girlyman alerts. With that, let’s do our regular dance this month, which is promoting the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest going on now, in a browser near you!

Update: I forgot to mention this morning that when I ripped the CD, iTunes (via Gracenote) didn’t recognize it. I typed in all of the info and updated Gracenote, so anyone who rips it after I did it will have the pleasant surprise of seeing the correct ID3 tag info filled in automatically. πŸ™‚

Exercise Season Begins

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I am ashamed to admit that today was my first official exercise of the year. In fact, probably in six months! πŸ™

In July 2001, I had my first physical in forever (thanks for forcing me Lois!). I was way overweight and my cholesterol was high. The doctor wanted to put me on Lipitor immediately, and I decided to try diet and exercise first.

I went on a traditional low-fat diet, and started exercising regularly (I hadn’t purposely exercised in nearly 20 years!). Within a few months, I lost 30 pounds and my cholesterol dropped a bunch. Sounds good, and it was, except that I was starving all the time between meals.

One of the guys at Zope started Atkins when I was well into my diet. I was jealous at the things he was eating (while losing weight!), but Lois wouldn’t let me switch, because she was afraid it was unsafe. I ended up hitting a plateau and was maintaining the weight loss, while remaining hungry, unable to lose more. Ugh.

Then Lois read an article by a Duke professor. Our godson was Duke at the time, so she was paying attention to lots of Duke news. They performed a very large study and found Atkins to be relatively safe, with larger weight loss with the weight staying off longer as well. I was in. πŸ˜‰

When I switched to Atkins, I was instantly in love. I was stuffed beyond description, all the time. I had to force myself to eat according to the Atkins schedule, and I was still losing weight! At the peak of my weight loss, I was down a total of 68 pounds! I bounced off the bottom, but held pretty steady at down 56 pounds (which was fine!).

On rare occasions, I would get a little jealous about some of the things I couldn’t eat (notably bread), but overall, I was really happy. Then I went to the doctor again, and my cholesterol was sky high (much higher than the original reading that caused him to worry). This is counter to the general theory of Atkins, but there’s always an exception to the rule, and I was one of them. πŸ™

He told me to get off of Atkins instantly. I did. In the beginning, I drifted up a few pounds, but was able to maintain the new weight reasonably easily, while enjoying a whole new range of food. Ironically, I hadn’t missed rice at all, and didn’t miss potatoes as much as I thought I would, but now rice was like chocolate cake to me!

After weeks of not gaining too much weight, I foolishly started adding things, like, oh, say, chocolate cake. πŸ™

Even then, I only drifted up a few more pounds, and maintained there (for a long stretch), so of course, I continued to indulge (on occasion, but according to Lois, too many occasions).

Now for the real problem. When our schedule was hyper-busy last fall, and the weather turned ugly for a long period of time, I simply stopped exercising. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop eating. I kept drifting up. At the worst, I was down only 42 pounds from the 2001 weigh in. Enough is enough!

So, back to exercise season. My favorite form of exercise is a very long (brisk) walk around Manhattan. I walk from the apartment to the FDR drive, then walk up the drive to 96th street, then across to Central Park, then through the park down to 60th, then down Park Ave, back to the apartment. It’s roughly 8.25 miles and takes me between 2 hours and 2.25 hours.

The reason I added official in italics above, is that last Sunday, when we had our young guest (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re not a regular reader) πŸ˜‰ he wanted to play basketball. It was cold, and I wasn’t happy about it, but I’m a soft touch for kids. So, we went to play. He insisted on playing one-on-one, full court, and kicked my butt 50-12 (two points a basket). After we went to the park for other stuff, we came back and ended up in a half court game (he was dismayed, but other people took half the court after we started), and he only beat be me 20-18.

Either way, I ended up running around quite a bit, which was real exercise, but not my normal format. It left my legs sore the next day, which is how I knew it was real. πŸ˜‰

Today was just perfect weather. Cool, crisp, but sunny. I went in shorts and a T-Shirt, which was perfect in the sun, and ever-so-slightly cold in the shade, which overall was just right.

It worked out for another reason. Many of our friends participated today in the Richmond, VA 10K run/walk (probably more than a dozen friends, perhaps more than 20!). It made me feel that I was in some kind of sympathetic rhythm with them. They got rained on slightly, so I had the better of it weather-wise, but they had a good time and so did I.

I listened to my iPod Nano the entire way, to (guess what) Girlyman! I haven’t had a chance to copy over the new Live CD to the Nano (of course it lives on the iPod Classic) so I listened to 40 of the 44 Girlyman songs on the Nano.

That means all of Joyful Sign, Little Star, the five live bootlegs of the new songs from Club Passim, and all but the last four songs from Remember Who I Am. I listened to the last four after my shower. πŸ™‚

That lead in is perfect for my month-long advertisement of the Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter soon (and often) and win a CD. More importantly, do it so that other people discover them! Thanks!

Tim O’Brien at Joe’s Pub

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Last night we went to see Tim O’Brien perform at Joe’s Pub.

Before I get to the show, I need to correct one (possible) mis-statement in yesterday’s long post about Kathy Mattea. Near the end of that post, I said the following:

Kathy is playing at the Barns again tonight. Ironically, we’re headed (in a few minutes) back to Joe’s Pub, to see Tim O’Brien. Tim writes amazing songs, a number of them have become big hits for Kathy. So, we’ll continue to think about Kathy, Bill, Eamonn and David as we enjoy Tim tonight! :-)

Most of that is true, but I can’t verify this specific part:

a number of them have become big hits for Kathy.

Kathy spoke about Tim warmly, that she loves to sing harmonies with Tim and his sister Mollie, and she links to his site from hers. That said, I had assumed that because they sang Battle Hymn of Love together (and hit the charts with it) that he wrote it. Google searches seem to contradict that (though I found one site that listed him as the writer of the song).

Lois has been a (theoretical) fan of Tim’s ever since that song came out, but neither of us really knew his music (as a solo artist) at all. We had no idea what to expect last night. There was an opening act before him, but I’ll get to that after I cover Tim.

Tim came on the stage at 7:08pm. Before he stepped out, there were four instruments lined up on the stage (not unlike the photo I posted of Girlyman’s instruments sitting on the same stage three days earlier). There was a guitar, a banjo, a fiddle and a bouzouki (which looked exactly like a 12-string guitar to me). Both Lois and I assumed that he had a band with him.

Nope. Tim played all of the instruments during the course of the show (one at a time, of course). πŸ˜‰

Here are four photos of him, one with each instrument. Sorry, but the quality of at least three of them is pretty bad. Lighting at Joe’s conspires against high quality photos in general, but last night’s came out worse:

Tim O\'Brien on GuitarTim O\'Brien on Bouzouki

Tim O\'Brien on FiddleTim O\'Brien on Banjo

He’s an extremely self-effacing character/performer, but yet is in complete control of the rhythm of the performance. He is extremely funny, without telling many jokes. Here’s one example (of many):

He was about to play a sad song, and mentioned that D-Minor was the saddest key of all, as proven by This Is Spinal Tap. Therefore, he was going to play this song in C-Minor, to make it a little less sad… πŸ˜‰

Lois has never seen the movie This Is Spinal Tap, so she didn’t get the reference, but I laughed my head off (silently, of course). πŸ˜‰

With the exception of a few whimsical songs (which we thoroughly enjoyed!), his lyrics show an incredible depth and intelligence, in helping the rest of us understand the human condition. They vary over a wide array of topics, with recurring themes about love. The love part is one of the reasons that I assumed he wrote Battle Hymn of Love.

He has an excellent voice with a wide range. He is an excellent musician as well, on all four of the aforementioned instruments (I’ve read that he plays the mandolin as well, but he didn’t last night). Of the four instruments, the one that he didn’t come across as strong on was the banjo (one of my favorite instruments), but he’s no slouch on that one either.

Early in the evening, he played something on the guitar that prompted Lois to lean over and ask me what I thought of his talent relative to Bill Cooley. I couldn’t control myself, and I started laughing (thankfully, not loud enough to disturb anyone, at least I hope not!). Seriously, at that point in the concert, Tim’s playing seemed fine to me, but to compare him to Bill was funny.

That said, over the course of the evening, he played a number of songs that stretched his guitar playing considerably, including switching to a variety of styles, and he really nailed them all. I don’t amend my laughter at the comparison at all (Bill’s in a league with very few others), but Tim isn’t just a journeyman guitarist, he’s really excellent!

His fiddle playing is quite strong as well. I find it funny (not in a bad way) to watch a solo artist sing a song and accompany themselves on the fiddle. There’s something simply odd about it. I think it’s my own misconception that to play the fiddle well you have to concentrate so hard that you probably couldn’t also sing at the same time. I’m obviously wrong, at least in Tim’s case. He only played one instrumental during the show, and that was on the fiddle.

There’s no doubt that my other statement in yesterdays blog is definitely true, that he’s an amazing songwriter. He’s also prolific. On his site, there are 14 CDs by him, three more with his sister, quite a number more with bands he likely played in (sorry, no time to research too deeply now). Clearly, he has lots to say, because these aren’t instrumentals. At the show, we bought the latest CD, Chameleon, of which many songs in the show were from.

He left the stage on what seemed a tad on the early side. The crowd was applauding wildly when he came back out for an encore. Instead of doing just one song, he did a four-song encore, which ended up making his total time on the stage reasonable at one hour and 24 minutes.

We really enjoyed the show, and would happily go see Tim again!

Opening for Tim was Caroline Herring. I knew from Joe’s site that she would be opening, and I listened to one clip of her in advance, and knew that we would enjoy her music. It was probably listed correctly and I didn’t pay attention, but she came on the stage at 6:30pm. I was putting a forkful of their fantastic Tuna steak in my mouth, when people started clapping (I was facing slightly away from the stage at the time).

I thought “Hey, they can’t be clapping for me taking yet another mouth-watering taste of this Tuna, can they?” πŸ˜‰

I swung around and saw that Caroline just stepped onto the stage. I’m not happy about still having to eat while the performer is on stage, it’s at best a tad distracting only to the eater, and at worst distracting to others, including the performer! But, I love early shows (normally, we’re just old folk, but last night, we were also working on less than four hours of sleep), so I was quite happy about this surprise.

Caroline is good, and we enjoyed her solo act (she accompanies herself on the guitar). That said, we also didn’t find it to be anything particularly special, and I’m sure we wouldn’t rush out to see her again. If she was opening for someone else that we liked, we would be happy to see her again.

She definitely had some fans there who came to see her. One couple who was sitting one table up from us left after Caroline was done, so they were happy to pay the full freight for Tim O’Brien, just to see Caroline Herring. Good for her!

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Joe’s Pub is our favorite concert venue. When we go just the two of us, we reserve the same table for two every time (and as reported before, only got bumped from that table once, after being told we had it). When we go with four people, we also reserve the same table for four each time, and have never been bumped from that table.

Last night, we had our usual table reserved. We were the third and fourth people through the door and they sent us to a different table. When we asked, we were told that even though they reserve a specific table, it’s not a guarantee. Well, we realize that, but exactly what makes them change it? Anyway, when he saw the disappointment on our face, and perhaps realized that we come pretty darn often, he told the hostess to take us to our table. Whew. It was marginally frustrating to begin with, but kudos to Joe’s for doing the right thing for incredibly loyal customers! πŸ™‚

The food was great (as always). I know from past experience that there are two bartenders at Joe’s. They disagree on the proper ingredients in a Chocolate Martini. There are numerous variations on the theme, and all are correct (to my taste buds!) πŸ˜‰ so they are both right. Still, they’re different. 95% of the time I (without requesting it) get the one who is more right (to my taste), because s/he puts in some Bailey’s Irish Creme to top off the martini. That makes it perfect, instead of just awesome. πŸ˜‰

On Sunday, when we were there for Girlyman, I had the other bartender, because I got a dark chocolate martini. It was great, so I’m not complaining, even though I drew the short straw. Last night, all was right with the world again, since my drink showed up with the Bailey’s, right where it belonged. πŸ™‚

In my post about Canal Room (where we saw the awesome Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour and Craig D’Andrea) I railed about the lack of common courtesy that some people exhibit when they insist on having a loud conversation during a performance. Last night was nowhere near as bad, but two people (I’m pretty sure one was a guy and the other a gal, but they were directly behind me so it was hard to see) insisted on speaking to each other at the top of their lungs (of course, the music was interfering with their conversation), at least five times.

Folks, I just don’t understand this. At Canal Room, I had the impression that they were more on a date than there for the music. Last night stumped me, as the same couple did something else that was slightly less annoying, but annoying nonetheless. On the songs where they didn’t scream at each other (lovingly) πŸ˜‰ they clapped as loud as thunder, at inappropriate times, in the middle of the song. Perhaps they were just catching up with the clapping that they missed during their earlier conversations…

Even otherwise nice people, who are clearly fans, can get caught up in this lunacy! The table to our immediate right was a table for four. There were two couples seated there (boys on one side, girls on the other), and I’m 99% sure they had never met before. The couple immediately to my right (I was practically rubbing shoulders with the woman) were clearly big music fans (possibly Caroline and/or Tim fans specifically). They both clapped enthusiastically after each number, but the woman was a screamer (hey, settle down!).

At some point in the evening, the two couples started chatting a bit. I heard them discussing politics, but none of the individual comments. Now that they bonded, in the middle of one of Tim’s songs, the woman further away from me turned to the woman next to me and started chatting, loudly. Even though the woman next to me was a fan, I guess she didn’t want to be rude to her new friend, so she engaged in a song-long conversation, at quite a loud level. Thankfully, this only happened during one song. I still don’t get it…

We decided half way through the show that we were going to buy the new Chameleon CD. I handed Lois $20 (it cost $15) because she’s more nimble than me, and she was going to sprint to the merch table so we could get out quicker. I’d meet her there, but saunter over.

When the show was over, Lois was gone. The merch table is normally (heretofore always?!?) behind the stage, next to the coat check room. It’s in a fairly large and wide hallway, so even when a lot of fans line up, it’s usually not that hard to maneuver around there. Last night, as I was going through the narrow passageway that connects the show room to that back hallway, I saw Lois walking with and chatting with Tim O’Brien himself, carrying a small suitcase.

This seemed very odd to me. My first thought was that he was running outside to have a smoke before going back to sign CDs. I was wrong. For whatever reason, Joe’s didn’t want, or couldn’t accommodate the merch table in the back (perhaps the needs of the next act precluded having fans in the back). So, they made Tim and Caroline sell their own merch right at the front door. That’s one of the tiniest entrance ways I’ve ever seen, and many people just wanted to leave, so at best, it was confusing.

We also got the sense that they were (subtly or otherwise) trying to rush Tim and Caroline to get it over with, even though it hadn’t even started yet! In any event, it wasn’t a happy situation. Luckily for us, since Lois snagged Tim on the way to the front, she got to buy the first CD from him. I already told you that he’s a smart guy. Here’s one example. He had already removed the shrink-wrap off of all of the CDs, since most people want them signed, and therefore have to take the time to rip off the shrink-wrap anyway. Kudos Tim!

We were home by 8:55pm which was a real blessing given our state of exhaustion. Lois was zonked out 30 minutes later, and I finally called it quits by 10:15pm. Going to see Dave Mason tomorrow night, but tonight we get a break. Yippee! (or not…)

For the next month, I’ll conclude every post with the reminder that there’s still time to try and win a copy of the new Girlyman Live CD. I’m running a contest to win a signed copy all month!

Kathy Mattea at Wolftrap

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Last night we saw Kathy Mattea for the second time on her Coal tour (that’s the name of her new CD). The previous time was at Joe’s Pub on October 24th, 2007 covered in this post. We both thoroughly enjoyed that show, as you can see for yourself if you clicked on that post.

To me personally, the most important nugget in that review was my statement that:

Bill Cooley is possibly the greatest acoustic guitarist I have ever heard!

I’ve been following him closely ever since (and have written about him and his CDs a number of times). Here are two links for Bill Cooley, one being his new MySpace page. When he let me know about his new MySpace page, I blogged about it. During that first visit to his new page, I saw that he was going to be at the Barns at Wolftrap with Kathy on April 1st and 2nd, 2008. We already had tickets to see Girlyman there (which was to be our first time at Wolftrap) on March 26th, 2008.

I told Lois that I would be happy to pass. I think Kathy is wonderful, but the Coal stuff, while extremely interesting and moving (she delivers it with all the emotion due such a project!), is heavy stuff, and hearing it again live wasn’t a priority.

Lois is a long-time fan of Kathy’s, and I would have been thrilled to go there if Lois really wanted to see it again. I shouldn’t have been surprised by Lois’ (unselfish) answer. She said “Bill Cooley is your favorite guitarist, how can you pass up an opportunity to see him?”

OK, that cinched it, we grabbed two tickets, unfortunately, in the balcony, since Kathy is a big name that fills seats quickly. At the time we bought the tickets, we had no idea whether that was going to be nose-bleed territory, or good seats. Also at the time, we were scheduled to be down at Zope for two weeks (the week before during the Girlyman show, and then this week).

If you read this space regularly, you know that got turned upside down with our unplanned trip to back to NYC to see Girlyman again on Sunday March 30th, 2008, covered in this post. That meant running back to VA to see Kathy. We had to drop our young guest off anyway, so it wasn’t a chore.

When we saw Girlyman, we saw that the balcony seats weren’t that far. Lois noticed that they were plastic, while the chairs in the main area are like padded dining room chairs. At least we knew what we’d be in for last night, a week in advance.

OK, finally, the show, followed by tons of background info (trust me, it will be worth reading the background if you like connectedness stories).

Kathy came on the stage just with Bill at 8:03. That was already exciting (for me). πŸ˜‰ She sang a slow ballad without her guitar, with only Bill accompanying her. After that song, the other two members of the band came on stage. Eamonn O’Rourke and David Spicher. Here’s what I wrote about Eamonn in the Joe’s Pub post, and there’s no need to change a word:

Eamonn O’Rourke is an outstanding mandolin player. His fiddle playing is even better. In the past few years, I’ve seen some amazing fiddle work. While I wouldn’t say that Eamonn is the best (like I did for Bill Cooley above), he certainly isn’t far from it. He also sings harmonies with Kathy.

David Spicher plays the upright bass and is new to the band. He was absolutely outstanding! Like Eamonn, he sang harmonies with Kathy (more on that later). Here’s David’s bio from the above link:

David Spicher (bass & vocals) The son of session fiddle king Buddy Spicher, David’s performed with Crystal Gayle, Merle Haggard, Pam Tillis, the Jerry Douglas Band, polka queen Lynn Marie, the Nashville Symphony, and his own Nashville Swing Band.

They can now safely add Kathy Mattea to the above string of stars that David has played with. πŸ™‚

The new Coal CD was released yesterday, so last night was the first chance for anyone to buy it. Kathy talked about the release as a birthing process, so she intended to change things up on this special day from previous nights on the tour. At Joe’s Pub, she intermixed the mostly Coal songs with a smattering of her hits. Last night, she announced that the first set would be the hits part, with Coal coming in one long shot after an intermission.

This was a crowd well familiar with Kathy’s hits. One wonders whether they come there to really discover the Coal stuff, to simply support the new effort, or secretly hoping that Kathy will do enough of the hits to make it great, regardless of how they respond to Coal. The first set didn’t disappoint even for a second. She was great on the hits, and the crowd loved every second of it.

Roughly four songs into the set, she asked if there were any requests. The Barns have phenomenal acoustics, so you could hear the individual requests quite clearly, even in the balcony! People screamed out so many different titles. After a bunch were screamed out, someone yelled out another, and many of the people in our section starting murmuring to each other (not loud enough for Kathy to hear) “Yes, that’s a good one.”

All the while, Lois was trying to get me to yell out Asking Us To Dance. I didn’t do it, and I could tell she was disappointed in me. I don’t recall hearing anyone else yell it out either, so that meant that we could only hope it would be played later in the set, by design, rather than by request.

A minute later Kathy had decided what she was going to play. She turned to the bass player, and said “You’ve never heard this one before, so just fake it in C”. πŸ˜‰

Then she started playing Asking Us To Dance! I have written before that Lois is Always Right (search if you want to read it, it pains me to link to it so many times) πŸ˜‰ but what I am not sure I’ve ever mentioned in public before is that Lois also conjures people and things by simply speaking about them out loud. No, I’m not kidding! Perhaps that’s why we have such an affinity to Wicked! πŸ˜‰

To repeat, the rest of the set was spectacular as well, and the band is scary good, as individuals and as a group. Of course, Bill nails every single guitar riff, the subtle ones, and the scary fast ones as well.

Here’s an admission that I hope will be taken in the spirit it is intended (meaning, this has nothing to do with Kathy’s abilities!). On occasion, without trying or thinking about it, I realize that I’m concentrating on Bill’s playing, and Kathy’s voice becomes the background accompaniment to this extraordinary guitar playing. Again, that’s not to say that Kathy isn’t an amazing headliner, she truly is.

This is possible because Kathy is extremely generous in giving Bill so many opportunities to shine. I am willing to swear on a stack of bibles that she looks over at Bill with the same awe that I do, every time he takes a solo. They’ve been playing together for 18 years, and she’s no slouch on the guitar herself, so if I’m right, it’s a beautiful thing to see that she appreciates him now as much (if not more!) than she did in the beginning.

In addition, Bill arranges much of their music (he arranged the Christmas Tour and worked with Kathy on the Coal album as well). In other words, in addition to being a genius on the guitar, he’s also an amazing musician from a theory point of view as well.

The first set lasted 55 minutes. After a 15 minute intermission, they came out for the Coal set. As Kathy herself jokes, it’s quite depressing. It’s historically important to never forget the stories and times that these songs are about, but that doesn’t make it any more lighthearted. It’s beautiful stuff, extremely evocative, but it’s not something I’d want to listen to constantly.

Ironically, it’s in this set that Eamonn really wailed on some fiddle playing. You have to blink really rapidly to make sure it’s possible to move your fingers and the bow that fast and make such gorgeous sounds at the same time. Wow.

They finished with the same instrumental (the only instrumental of the night) that they did at Joe’s Pub, including Kathy playing on the penny whistle (or piccolo, or tiny flute, who knows?). I am crazy about that song. I could swear it’s something either Nickel Creek or Chris Thile plays too, but I’m not really sure. Simply brilliant.

They left the stage at 10:20pm, which made for two hours of playing (not including the intermission). A very generous show! I’m extremely glad we went. That said, as much as I loved the show (and I did!), it’s the rest of the story, coming up right now (to a browser near you), that really made the evening special!

I said I’d mention the harmonies. They are pleasant (and professional) enough, but very sparse (only during choruses) and both Eamonn and David seem to sing the same notes (meaning, two-part harmony, not three). Bill doesn’t even have a mic, so he doesn’t sing on stage. After seeing Girlyman twice in the last week, the harmonies last night felt gratuitous. Nothing wrong with them, but hard to call them harmonies in comparison…

OK, now is the part of the post that I most enjoy writing, and I hope I don’t lose you along the way.

When I first posted the above-referenced announcement of Bill Cooley’s MySpace page, I got a lovely comment on my blog from a complete stranger, Willa Shaffer. After replying to her comment, I visited her MySpace page. As a result of that, and another page of hers that I visited, we exchanged a few emails directly.

She is a very big Kathy Mattea fan and saw my Bill Cooley news via a Google alert. Since she has been to many Kathy concerts, she knows the band well too, including Bill. She’s a big fan of Bill’s as well! Great! She let me know that she would be at the same show we would be at, and that she had seats in the first row, so coupled with her photo on MySpace, I should be able to find her easily. Cool. After a few more emails, we stopped communicating until a week ago, when we confirmed that we would try and get together.

As an homage to Willa, let me provide a link to another of her favorite artists. She feels similarly about Krista Detor as Lois and I feel about Girlyman. Meaning, not only does she love Krista, but she really works hard to make sure others discover her. Here’s my small attempt to help her on her mission!

We got to the Barns at 7:15 and bought both the Coal CD as well as a John Vezner CD (that’s Kathy’s husband, who is an amazing songwriter, who Lois really loves). There was a sign at the merch table saying that Kathy would be out to sign CDs after the show. It was our intention to get on line and get both CDs signed.

We went in to the Barn (theater) at 7:40 and took our seats in the balcony. It seemed further away from the stage than the view from our fifth row seats made it appear the week before. On the other hand, the plastic seats were surprisingly more comfortable than the padded ones on the floor. We looked for Willa, but she had let me know in advance that she couldn’t make it early, so we decided to wait for the intermission or after the show.

At 7:45pm, both Lois and I noticed that Bill came on the stage to set up his guitars. He was alone on the stage. Lois encouraged me to go down and say hello. We were very far away, and I didn’t know if he’d still be there after I climbed down the stairs and made my way to the stage, but Lois insisted, so I dutifully went. I indeed got to shake his hand. He remembered that I was from NY (which was cool in itself!), and thanked me for coming. We agreed to connect after the show. Here’s a grainy photo that Lois took of that encounter from the balcony:

Hadar and Bill Cooley at the Stage

Yes folks, that’s my honking bald spot. Nothing more to see here, keep moving along…

At intermission, Lois told me to go down and look for Willa. Given my mental image of her (with reasonably light hair color being the key, since we could only see the back of people’s heads!), I declined, since I had no likely suspects. Lois went instead. After standing there for a few minutes, and asking one woman (who declined to accept being called Willa), Lois was about to head back.

At that point, the real Willa stopped her and asked if her name was Lois? Haha. Thank goodness I sent Willa a link with our pictures in it as well, so she recognized Lois from that! From the balcony, Willa’s hair looked jet black. It wasn’t.

Willa mentioned to Lois that there were four empty seats in the row behind them. Lois asked the usherette whether we could move down from the balcony and she said yes. Cool. So, for the second half of the show, we were in the second row, in the exact same seats that we were in three rows further back for Girlyman! While it would have been great to sit in those seats for the entire show, I have to admit that having both perspectives during the same show was quite interesting.

After the show, we got on line and waited to get our CDs signed. I was also waiting for Bill to come out. After a while, Willa joined us and said that Bill almost never comes out, and that I should go back to the stage to catch him while he was packing his guitars. I hesitated, and didn’t go. After a few more minutes, I decided to hit the men’s room before our long drive back to NY.

When I came out, Bill was standing there with Lois and Willa. Willa was so kind to have gone back and asked Bill to come out! Thanks Willa!

We chatted briefly with Bill and Lois took this photo of us together:

Hadar and Bill Cooley

By this time, it was getting late, and we were going to push through all the way back to NY, so reluctantly, we bailed on meeting Kathy. Bill signed our CDs, so it wasn’t a loss. πŸ™‚

Willa informed me later that Kathy got caught up with a group of her former Music Teachers, and ended up coming out much later than she usually does. Great for her, and slightly bad luck for us. We’ll catch her next time!

I noticed as we were leaving that people were surrounding Bill and asking for autographs. He had admitted to me during our chat that he rarely comes out. He should, as Willa told me today that people continued to surround him long after we left. We’re not alone in understanding that this man has more talent in his 10 fingers than most people have in their entire bodies! πŸ™‚

Kathy is playing at the Barns again tonight. Ironically, we’re headed (in a few minutes) back to Joe’s Pub, to see Tim O’Brien. Tim writes amazing songs, a number of them have become big hits for Kathy. So, we’ll continue to think about Kathy, Bill, Eamonn and David as we enjoy Tim tonight! πŸ™‚

We got home (to the house) at 3am. We slept for three hours and 40 minutes, and got up and drove to the city. Now we’re off.

Today, we exchanged a ton of emails with Willa. She’s a hoot, and writes fantastically, and we are so glad to have made a new life-long friend. Have I mentioned how much I love the Internet? If not, let me say I love the Internet! πŸ™‚

Don’t forget, we have a Girlyman Live CD Contest going on. One entry so far, and it’s a very good one! πŸ™‚

Girlyman Live CD Contest

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Girlyman is my favorite band. There, I’ve said it, it’s official now. Of course, if you know me, or have visited this blog before, you’re probably laughing at the fact that there might be someone on earth who doesn’t know that yet. πŸ˜‰

I love music in general, and tons of different bands and individual performers, and I write about many of them in these pages. Still, if I were about to be stranded on a deserted island forever, and could only pick one band to listen to, it would be Girlyman!

I’d like to believe that I am the #1 Girlyfan, but that’s not likely true. I was late to the party, discovering them accidentally on August 19th, 2007. There are many fans who have been following them since the start, and even longer when they were performing great stuff before the three of them came together.

Back in September 2007, I announced to the world that I was on a Girlyman Mission. It pains me to think how easy it is for people with this talent and spirit to share with the world, to not be noticed by a critical mass of people. While they’re not alone in this, I am aware of Girlyman, and on my mission to make sure they get noticed!

This is the next step in my mission. When I heard they were producing a new Live CD, I instantly wanted to promote them through a contest. I contacted the band and told them about it (more accurately, I ran the idea by their manager Genevieve Barber). She gave me the go ahead, but it’s important to note this is entirely my doing, so if it annoys anyone, don’t blame the band!

The new CD is called Somewhere Different Now (Live). It’s available (for a very short time!) on an early bird special. I reviewed the CD in this post last night.

Again with their agreement, I told the band I was going to be buying 13 copies of the new CD at Joe’s Pub. To save them time (and spare the rest of their fans), I asked them to pre-sign 10 of them as follows:

Congratulations on winning the contest!

The other three were signed to us and our friends. In all, we purchased 17 CDs at Joe’s Pub. 10 of those are for YOU.

We had no idea, no clue, but when we opened the CD cover, we found both of our names being thanked in the dedication. We were blown away. Thanks Girlyman! If you don’t believe me, rush out an by one now, or try really hard to win one here!

Here’s the point of the contest: Promote Girlyman Far and Wide!

Finally, the rules, and some requests:

  • You can simply leave a comment on this blog with your reason for deserving a CD
  • You can be more creative, and explain to the world why you deserve it, by posting on your own site, creating a YouTube video (or any other service), etc. In other words, do something that shows your love for Girlyman in a very public way. Then you have to comment on this blog, and link to your work
  • When you comment here, you must fill in a valid email address on the Disqus Comment Form (I will be the only one who can see it, and I won’t share it)
  • If you publish your work on another site, you must link back to this post. Remember, the point is to spread the word far and wide! That way, other people who find your work, will be able to find all other odes to Girlyman, with this post being the hub. Let’s get those comments flying!!!
  • All entries must be completed by April 30th, 2008, 11:59pm EST. That coincides with the end of the early bird release of the CD

The second bullet above is the best way to do it, because it promotes Girlyman on the maximum number of sites rather than just this post. Still, you have to leave a comment here with a link to your work, or I may not know about it, and I also need a way to contact you if you win!

In addition, whether you enter or not, I’m requesting (for the first time ever!) that you bookmark this post to your favorite social network sites (there are buttons below for some of them, e.g., Digg, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, etc.), but feel free to spread it wider than the ones I’ve pre-loaded. Feel free to just link to this post on your blog, even if you aren’t entering the contest. The point isn’t really to win (unless you are lucky and creative enough to win) πŸ˜‰ but rather to get Girlyman to the next level of exposure!

Now for the inevitable question: What’s in it for Hadar?

The answer: Nothing Financial!

I get zero money out of this contest, in fact, since I paid for the CDs and will pay for the shipping, it’s costing me money. I also don’t have a single advertisement on this site, so I get zero money for any extra traffic generated here either! Also, opticality.com already has a page rank of 5 (not shabby, but not extraordinary either), so I don’t really need the links either.

What I do get (if this succeeds) is the psychic, karmic reward of doing the right thing, and helping this ultra-deserving band become better known. It’s really that simple.

OK, so how do we determine the 10 winners?

Ultimately, it’s entirely at Lois and my discretion, sorry, that’s the way it goes. That said, we’re happy to hear everyone’s opinions, so feel free to comment here and point to anyone who you feel is deserving. At the end of the contest, we may post a Poll and invite people to vote. We may be swayed, but we still reserve the right to ignore any and all input (so don’t bother ballot stuffing) πŸ˜‰ and make the final decision ourselves. We will get the winning CDs in the mail no later than the end of May (we’re swamped with work and graduations of both of our godchildren in mid-May!).

That’s it. Get to it! πŸ™‚

This is not an April Fool’s joke!!!

New Girlyman Live CD

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I just wrote about an awesome show put on by Girlyman last night at Joe’s Pub. In that post, I mentioned that they have a new Live CD called Somewhere Different Now (Live). Because I have a bunch of things to say about that CD, and because I always ramble on, I decided to break out these thoughts into a separate post.

Lois and I like to support the group in any way that we can. Aside from going to see them live, and taking new guests each time, we also buy a lot of their CDs and give them as gifts. Our first order (after seeing them for the first time) was for 11 CDs.

If you go to a live show in April, you can buy the new Live CD for $15. If you order it online, through the link above, by April 5th, 2008 at midnight, you can get it for $16.50 (that includes shipping). Why April 5th? Unitl then, the band is selling the CDs directly, so all of the proceeds go directly to them. Help them out (and enjoy yourself in the process!) by ordering the CD now!

On May 1st, the CD becomes officially available through normal distribution channels, including downloads, etc. If you haven’t bought it by then, you still should, but the band will get a much smaller cut.

OK, aside from supporting the band, is there any other reason to buy the CD? Are you kidding? πŸ˜‰

There are many awesome live CDs out there. Two of my favorites are CSNY’s 4 Way Street and The Allman Brother’s Band Live At The Fillmore East. As great as both of those double live CDs are, there are a few songs on 4 Way Street that I nearly always skip, and at the risk of being stoned by uber-fans of ABB, songs like Whipping Post, while awesome, go on a bit too long to listen to too often.

Somewhere Different Now (Live) is a terrific CD, from the first second, remaining good to the last drop. πŸ˜‰

Why buy this CD?

  1. If you’ve ever seen Girlyman live, you can instantly transport back to a front row seat, and enjoy the experience all over again
  2. If you love their studio CDs (and who doesn’t? No, really, who? Tell me, and I’ll straighten them out!), but have never seen them live, you’ll get a sense (a good sense) of what you’re missing
  3. If you’ve never heard them before (live or on CD), then this is very good and broad sampler of their songs, along with some hysterical on-stage banter
  4. Three of their new songs (one each by Nate, Doris, and title cut by Ty) are only available on this CD (so far). If you want to hear how they continue to grow and stretch, or if you’ve already heard these and desperately need to own a copy, now’s your chance
  5. There are three covers (songs written by non-Girlypeople), that aren’t on any other of their CDs
  6. Some of their best banter and tuning songs are on this CD. We’ve seen them live four times now, and most of the stuff on the live CD was new to us (and completely cracked us up!)
  7. 29 Tracks, over 70 minutes of wonderful music and great laughs

Enough, go, buy it, now! Better yet, get to one of their shows this month (April that is), and enjoy a live show, followed by purchasing a signed copy of the live CD!

So, I started this by telling you how many CDs I bought the first time I saw them. Actually, that was a little bit of a lie. At the show itself, we bought two CDs. After listening to them each once (Joyful Sign and Remember Who I Am) we ordered 11 more.

Last night, we bought 15 of the new Live CDs (yes, fifteen). We also bought copies of Joyful Sign and Remember Who I Am as gifts for our guest.

There’s a story as to why we bought 15 copies of the new CD, and that will have to wait until tomorrow morning. I’m crashing, and that post is too important to just wing

Goodnight, but before you log off, buy the new CD. πŸ™‚

Update: I meant to mention that the minute I got back on Sunday night, I ripped the new CD into iTunes. I was surprised (perhaps I shouldn’t have been) that the CD was recognized by Gacenote and all the track names were filled in, etc. I sync’ed to the iPod and went to bed. For many reasons, I was restlessly awake at 4am. By 5am I couldn’t toss and turn any longer, so I listened to the CD, finally. Then yesterday, during the drive from NY to VA, Lois and I listened to it in the car, so I’ve been through it twice, which is what the above review is based on.

Last Update: I also meant to mention that there’s a cool surprise on the live version of Postcards From Mexico. Since the band recorded all of their live shows last fall, they could have picked a flawless version. Instead, they chose to share the reality of a live show. Bravo, it was a lot of fun! πŸ™‚

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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The wait between Girlyman concerts wasn’t quite as challenging this time around. As I reported in this post, it had been 143 days between concerts until we saw them last Wednesday at the Barns at Wolftrap. This time, we only had to amuse ourselves for four days. How we came to see them first in VA, then four days later in NYC is a long story, which I’ll tell after reviewing the concert itself.

The show was at Joe’s Pub. Aside from being our favorite place to see concerts, it also happens to be the first place we saw Girlyman, on August 19th, 2007. We were back at the same table, right up against the stage.

Girlyman took the stage at 7:03pm, so we were cheated out of three minutes of their wonder. πŸ˜‰

They opened the show with the same song that they had opened the previous two shows we saw, On the Air (from the Little Star CD). If you read my post about the Wolftrap show, then you know that I took them to task about experimenting with the song. I have no idea whether they read the entry, nor if they did, whether it had any influence on them at all. That said, they played On the Air straight down the middle (which is to say, awesomely), and it was obvious that this night was going to be pure magic.

Lois prefers for me to share my bottom line first, mostly because she says people who skim won’t know how I really feel. I think she’s just too polite to say that people will likely fall asleep trying to get through my post before they get to the bottom line. So, in honor of Lois, here’s the bottom line on last night’s concert, followed by the details:

Girlyman was/were PERFECT last night!

OK, you can safely stop reading now, and go back to your real lives.

The banter was great (as always), but it wasn’t 100% identical to last week. That’s very cool. I’ve discussed this before, where some groups have great stories, but they’re repeated identically at each show. I still like those stories, but fresh is always good.

The set list was close to Wolftrap as well, but also not identical, and that too was great. One of the marks of a creative group is that they have too much material to fit into a single show. That means that you have to leave wanting more, because inevitably, they simply can’t play everything you’d like to hear.

Putting to rest the other problem from Wolftrap, Through To Sunrise. That was the other song that they played with. Last night, perfect. Whew.

The night before (therefore not in time for the Wolftrap show), the band finally started selling their new Live CD, Somewhere Different Now (Live). The link to the CD is an earlybird special. Run (don’t walk) to your favorite browser and buy this CD now, you have five days left (if you’re reading it shortly after I’m writing this). I’ll have more to say about this CD in one (possibly two) more post(s). The point of buying it now, is that all of the money goes to the band, so show your support, and just order it, don’t think about it!

The reason I mentioned the CD above, is that they tailored the set (at least that’s what I read into it) to match some of the selections that are on the Live CD. To me, it was a very nice touch, because it meant that those who would take the CD home could instantly relate to their own personal live experience with the band.

Their singing and playing was simply spectacular. Above, I described it as perfect. If you’ve made it all the way here, I’ll tell you a secret. While playing Kittery Tide, Doris actually missed one riff on the banjo (shhhhh). Why did I call the performance perfect then? Because Doris handled it perfectly. She laughed, made a funny exasperated face, and plowed on wonderfully. I got a big kick out of it, and that’s part of the live experience. We’re not paying to see automatons.

Last comparison to Wolftrap. In that review, I took Ty to task for getting a cheap laugh at Bush’s expense. Last night, she didn’t, but during the introduction of the same song (Through To Sunrise), Nate took a similar shot, and received a similar reaction (positive, of course). OK, next time, we’ll let Doris get the cheap laugh, so that no one is ahead in the collection of cheap laughs, and then we can all take a deep breath. πŸ˜‰

Because we sat touching the stage, we could see the set list. That meant that we knew what songs they were going to play, in what order (it pays to learn to read upside down!). They got through every song on the list, except for one of their new songs. Usually, when they do their request section, I scream Through To Sunrise at the top of my lungs (that’s Lois’ favorite song, and near the top of my list). We saw that they were going to play it so I showed a drop of class (not typical for me), and I didn’t call out for anything.

The problem is that I wanted to yell out at least five different songs. They settled on Hey Rose, and did it wonderfully! It happens to be on the new Live CD as well, so I think that may have influenced them choosing it from the many songs that were yelled out at them.

OK, I could give more details, but I’d end up repeating myself saying things like “They sang great! They played great!”, etc., etc.

Instead, on to the back story leading up to the show, then the after show stuff. I’ve decided to follow this post with a separate post on the new Live CD.

The second I noticed the tickets to Girlyman at Wolftrap, I snagged four of them. We invited our friends in Richmond, knowing that if they couldn’t make it, finding other people wouldn’t be a chore. We like to introduce new people to Girlyman live (they already have copies of Joyful Sign as gifts from us) so we buy extra tickets.

We were scheduled to work at Zope that week (or rather, once we bought the tickets, we were committed to making that a work week at Zope), and we were intending to work through the next week (this week) as well. Because we knew we’d be down here already, I snagged two tickets to see Kathy Mattea (and Bill Cooley!), also at Wolftrap, tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 1st). So far, so good.

Then, a few weeks later, Girlyman adds a previously unscheduled show to their site, Joe’s Pub on March 30th! I went to Joe’s Pub site, and the show wasn’t even up yet. Hot off the presses. We discussed it, and even though we knew it was crazy (or least those that don’t understand the magic of Girlyman would think we were crazy), we decided to do it. Do it meant coming back to NYC over the weekend, then returning back to VA no later than Tuesday to see Kathy Mattea.

A few days later, Joe’s Pub listed the show, and I grabbed four tickets and a dinner reservation.

I had just connected in an interesting way with another VC in NYC, who also is a music fanatic. We’ve never met, just exchanged some emails and commented on each other’s blog. Lois thought it would be nice to invite him and his wife along as our guests. She sent him an email, and he never replied. From everything I know about him, it doesn’t seem to be his style, so we both assumed it went to a SPAM folder, never to be seen again.

I could have written (and Lois wanted me to), because he was getting my emails (and responding), but I didn’t want to, mostly because if he had seen Lois’ email, we would essentially be stalking him, which was most definitely not our intent.

Then we had a brainstorm. We’re very friendly with a family of five in Leesburg, VA. Dad, Mom, 10-year-old boy, 7-year-old boy, 2-year-old girl. We thought that we could take the two boys, picking them up on our way back to NYC, dropping them back home on Monday, since we had to return for Kathy anyway.

When we called, it turned out that the 7-year-old was attending his ceremony for attaining a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do on the day of the concert. No way he was missing that. The older boy already has his, and was getting a certificate at the same ceremony. He was willing to miss the ceremony. So, we locked in picking him up on Friday, on our way back to NYC.

That left us with one ticket. The universe likes to fill these kinds of voids, usually elegantly (at least if you pay attention to the cues). A day or two later, I received an email from someone in MN that I had only met once, through a mutual friend. We got along great during that one dinner. Of course, during that dinner, I raved about Girlyman (do I ever shut up about them? No!). He bought Joyful Sign on iTunes the next day.

In the email, he mentioned that he was in love with Joyful Sign, was ready for another dose of Girlyman, and could I recommend Remember Who I Am or Little Star as the next taste. They’re both fantastic albums, but I recommended Remember Who I Am. Even though he lives in MN, I mentioned that we had an extra ticket to the March 30th show, and he was welcome to join us. I couldn’t believe it when he replied that he already had a business trip scheduled to NYC and would be in that night! Wow, thanks universe! πŸ˜‰

So, on Friday, we drove from Fredericksburg to Leesburg and took the Mom and the three kids to lunch, then headed to NY with the 10-year-old. On Saturday we took him to the circus (and I wrote about that here).

Backing up, when we got home on Friday night, there was an email from my new friend in MN saying that he had to cancel his trip due to a nasty cold. He kindly offered to pay for his ticket, and I told him that was unnecessary. First, the show was sold out and I could have sold the ticket if I wanted to. Second, I expected the universe to bail me out again. πŸ˜‰

I quickly made a phone call to someone I know loves live music, and lives in Manhattan. He was busy and had to pass. We then sent out a number of emails, but in particular, wanted to take someone I’ve written about before in this space, Jonathan Pytell. He’s a wonderful pianist, who we’ve also previously raved to about Girlyman, and I thought he’d really appreciate them. The rest of the people were informed in their emails that if Jonathan said yes, we’d have to rescind our offer.

Again, the universe delivered. Jonathan was the first to answer, with a Yes, so I was able to send emails to everyone else before they responded.

Here’s one part of an unedited response from one of my friends who received an invitation. He happens to be as funny (to me) as any professional comedian out there, and this is but a tiny example:

I was sooooo looking forward to a mention in the inevitable blog entry on the Girlyman concert. “Last night, Lois and I took our two favorite boys, one who’s 10 and another who often acts like he is, to the Girlyman show at Joe’s Pub. What a night! The set selection included…” Perhaps you could still squeeze me in with “Although distraught that our favorite pre-teen compatible friend could not make it, we nonetheless loved Girlyman at Joe’s Pub last night…”

Here’s a photo that Lois took of the three boys in our party at Joe’s Pub:

The Boys at Joe\'s Pub

We had excellent meals (as always) at Joe’s. I had the Seared Tuna Steak, on top of Artichoke Hearts and Pine Nuts. It too was perfect. The other boys had burgers. Lois had a salad, because she’s always so good

While we were eating, we were staring at the shiny GIrlyman instruments on the stage, just tantalizing us. Nate’s electric guitar is not in this shot, as it was hiding behind another piece of equipment:

Girlyman Instruments

After the show, we lined up with tons of other fans to finally meet the group. We did, and we can prove it:

Girlyman, Lois and Hadar

It was a very exciting moment for us. Thanks Ty, Nate and Doris, we’ll never forget it! πŸ™‚

This morning, we woke up and drove our young guest back to Leesburg. After dropping him off, we headed to the office in Fredericksburg, and are now in the hotel. A very long day. I don’t know if I have the energy to bang out the post about the CD, but if not, it will arrive early tomorrow morning. Look for it! πŸ™‚

Girlyman at Wolftrap

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Last night finally came, thankfully! We’ve been waiting (not so patiently!) since November 4th, 2007 to see Girlyman live again. That’s 143 days, in a row (if you can believe that). Somehow, we survived, but I’m not sure how!

Continuing with the new tradition, I’ll cover the concert first, then circle back and share lots more stuff from the day. That will allow people who only care about their Girlyman Fix to bail out after this part.

This was our first time at the Barns at Wolftrap. It won’t be our last. Not just because the place is simply fantastic, but we just so happen to have tickets for this coming Tuesday night (April 1st, 2008) to see Kathy Mattea (and of course, accompanying her, the amazing Bill Cooley!).

We had four seats in the fifth row, left center stage. Excellent! Opening for Girlyman was a group called We’re About 9. I have quite a bit to say about them, but I’ll save it for the section immediately following Girlyman, before the rest of my shtick, since this post is really about Girlyman.

Girlyman came on stage at exactly 9pm. It’s hard to describe the joy and excitement that was evident in the entire crowd. There might have been a reasonable number of newbies in the audience, but even the vast majority of those have either heard the band before (CD, streaming, etc.) or were there with friends who are die-hard groupies.

In fact, the two people we brought were seeing Girlyman for the first time live, but each have separate copies of Joyful Sign (gifts from us) even though they are a married couple. πŸ˜‰

The band feels the love immediately, and reflects it back. These are not jaded people who take the love for granted, even though they absolutely should expect it at this point! It’s heartwarming.

They open the show with the same song that they opened the Highline Ballroom show with (that was our last time, on November 4th, 2007), On The Air (the first cut on the Little Star CD). Unfortunately, for the first time ever (OK, we’ve only seen them live twice before) πŸ˜‰ they actually take liberty with the song and do it somewhat differently than the CD version.

It was OK, but not as good. Sorry folks, I have to call it like I see it. Many might disagree (perhaps everyone except for me), but while very nice, it wasn’t as good. I was immediately nervous. If this was going to be a night of complete experimentation, I would probably be somewhat disappointed. Not the least of which is that one minute before they came on, I leaned over to my friend and said “Wait until they come out, it’s complete magic!”.

I’ve written about this before, in a different (but somewhat analogous) situation (about the lead performers in Wicked the Musical). I can understand how an artist can be bored doing the same thing every night for years on end. They want to grow, stretch, etc. In the case of Girlyman, for me (I realize this obviously isn’t true for them), it shouldn’t apply. Here’s why:

  • They actually don’t tour as much as other road bands (e.g., The Wailin’ Jennys)
  • They have more material than a single show, so they can mix it up
  • They have quite a lot of new material, so they are experimenting!
  • While they’ve been around a while (7+ years?), it’s hardly an eternity…

So, I say that their fans (a constantly expanding group, especially if I have anything to do about it!), are hardly sick of the current versions.

Whew. Onward. The fear passed quickly, as they only fooled around with one other song, more about that later.

While everything was beautiful, even from the beginning, to my ear, it took a while for their voices to warm up, get stronger, and gel together as wonderfully as we’ve come to expect. That’s not so much of a complaint as a surprising observation. They dazzled last year from the first note at both Joe’s Pub and the Highline, and the acoustics at the Barns were good.

Once they got rolling (not too long into the set), they were spectacular (you better not be surprised!). πŸ™‚

They always have an amazing stage presence, rapport with the crowd, and banter (between them, and separately aimed toward the audience). Last night took it to new heights. Seriously, they were so on, I’m not sure people would have stoned them if they didn’t play a single song! OK, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not as much as you might think.

When they talk to the crowd, you feel like you’re at a family reunion, sharing laughs and catching up with relatives, people who you deeply care about, and want to hear about, even though you have mostly separate lives the rest of the year!

They had a phenomenal mini-set of fun stuff. Sorry, but I don’t like to ruin these kinds of surprises for those that have tickets to see them on this tour. What’s really cool is that while the songs are fun, they still share all of the musical qualities that we’ve all come to expect from Girlyman, great musicianship, great voices, and impeccable harmonies. If you get that, and get to laugh out loud at the same time, who can complain? πŸ™‚

All three of them were on top of their game yesterday. Ty actually spent a bit more time on the guitar (she’s excellent!) than she has before. The new material is a real hit. They have a new Live CD coming out this week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ready last night. Thankfully, it will be available when we see them again this coming Sunday, in NYC. Yippee!

Time to pick one last bone with the band. Their politics are reasonably obvious. No problem, we all have our own politics (of some sort or another), whether we make it obvious or not. In the case of Girlyman, its often laudable. For example, I learned more about biodiesel (the good and the bad!) from Nate and Ty’s separate blog posts than I had previously known. I admire their effort and caring to do the right thing!

That said, I’ve written before that I don’t pay for musical entertainment with the expectation to be lectured to on politics (by either side!). Having seen Girlyman twice before, I had no reason to expect that to happen (as it hadn’t happened at Joe’s or Highline). It didn’t really happen last night either (meaning, no lecture, no speech, etc.).

But, during the intro to Through To Sunrise (Lois’ favorite song of theirs!), Ty couldn’t resist saying that she partially wrote the song looking forward to the end of the Bush Presidency. The crowd ate it up, giving her a rousing ovation. That’s all she said, hardly a lecture. Also, hardly necessary.

I’m not writing this in support of Bush, or the Presidency in general. I’m writing this because it’s odd, that a group that writes so deeply and passionately about love and other subjects, should find the need to take open slaps at anyone, including someone who they obviously disagree with politically.

I’d actually go further. I found it to be pandering (to the audience!). It’s a guaranteed laugh and clap getter, in most venues. To me, it’s a cheap laugh, especially given that one way or another, he’s out in less than a year. It’s no longer wishful thinking on the part of his detractors.

Sorry to drone on, but I need to put a fine point on it. Earlier in the show, in a more light-hearted romp on the current crop of candidates, Ty made it clear that she believes in Obama (at least it was clear to me). Until Obama got dragged into the mud relatively recently, his rhetoric lectured us on being united, not divided. No one with a public megaphone needs to take cheap shots at the opposition (though they all do…).

Sorry. It’s off my chest now. Do I love Girlyman (or Ty) any less? Not a single drop. It wasn’t egregious, didn’t show me a dark side I was previously unaware of. It was just unnecessary.

The other disappointing thing about Through To Sunrise is that it was the only other song last night that they heavily experimented with. It too was fine, but not even close to the standard that Lois and I are nuts about. Oh well.

Everything else was perfect! πŸ˜‰ Including a one and a half song encore (with a fun surprise). Girlyman was on stage for 105 minutes. Very nice!

We loved it, in every way, so the amount of words dedicated to the negative stuff shouldn’t be used to judge the overall effect of the evening. Our friends loved it as well!

We really wanted to hang around and finally say hello to the group, but our friends had a very early flight out of Dulles and we wanted to drop them off at their airport hotel as quickly as possible. Hopefully, we’ll rectify this on Sunday at Joe’s Pub.

OK, that’s the end of the Girlyman section, and you can safely stop reading if that’s the only reason you landed here. Next is We’re about 9.

Whenever I buy tickets to see a headliner that I’m in love with, I get a twinge when I see an opening act announced that I’ve never heard of. There are two reasons:

  1. The group might stink (which can affect the crowd too, possibly spilling into the headliner’s vibe)
  2. The headliner might simply play a short set (perhaps much shorter!) especially when the venue has hard time deadlines

When I saw that We’re About 9 was opening for Girlyman, I went to their music page and listened to the songs available there. I liked them instantly, so #1 could be scratched off the list. Just as Girlyman was complementary when opening for the Indigo Girls, We’re About 9 was going to be complementary to Girlyman.

I’ve already reported that Girlyman was on stage for 105 minutes, so #2 turned out to be nothing to worry about this time either.

From their website, We’re About 9 has three members. When we were reading the program waiting for the show to start, we noticed that the full page ad showing the group, only had two people in the picture. The Bio on the next page talked about all three. We remarked that it seemed strange. They never mentioned the third person the entire night, even though only two of them performed last night (Brian Gundersdorf and Katie Graybeal).

It’s hard to describe them succinctly (of course, it’s hard for me to do anything succinctly). πŸ˜‰

They are old-style folk meisters, with very nice harmonies, and excellent musicianship. Brian is very good on the guitar, and Katie is excellent on the bass (and on the one song that she played the guitar). They both have good voices.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Bob Dylan, especially in my youth. Brian reminds me of him in some ways. There is a depth to most of their lyrics that can be insightful and instructive. His voice isn’t gravelly like Dylan, but it has an earthy quality, passion, and driving nature that is still reminiscent of Dylan.

On the other hand, some of their songs are incredibly playful (not that this wasn’t the case for Dylan as well!). But, even the playful songs are rich and complicated in their lyrics. At their heart, they are story tellers, sometimes with a deep message, sometimes a playful one, but almost always with a story.

Many of their lyrics are also sophisticated. By that, I meant that you have to listen very closely to get the meaning, as well as sometimes just to understand the actual words. Some of their songs cram so many words into a stanza of music, that you wonder not only how they can remember all the words, but how they can sing them in synchronized harmony without missing a note, breath or word. It’s extremely impressive!

I could go on, but I’ll end by simply saying that they were a hit with the four of us, and Lois went and bought two of their CDs during the intermission (signed, of course). πŸ™‚ They have more CDs, and after I listened to both today (Engine and Paperdust::Stardust), I am sure I will be buying more of their music (I think they have six CDs out, but I’m not sure).

They are not playing with Girlyman this Sunday at Joe’s, but they are playing in a number of other future dates with them. There was a cool surprise during the We’re About 9 set, but I won’t ruin it, in case they repeat it in future shows.

They were on for 38 minutes. As much as I enjoyed it, it made me a little worried that Girlyman wouldn’t be on for as long as I would want them to be, but it all worked out (as reported above).

OK, if you came just for the music, leave now. The rest is about everything yesterday leading up to the concert. πŸ™‚

We bought last night’s tickets a long time ago. We bought four tickets, in the hopes of bringing our friends from Richmond, but knowing that if they couldn’t make it, we’d have no trouble enticing other people to discover the wonders of Girlyman.

Our Richmond friends committed right away, so we were set. The original plan was that they would drive to Fredericksburg (where we often work) and we’d drive up together to Vienna, VA. A week ago, those plans changed. They needed to fly out early this morning from Dulles to CA. They got to Fredericksburg via car service, and we drove them to the show, and as reported above, dropped them afterwards at an airport hotel.

In between, we had dinner in Vienna. We would have been happy to have sandwiches at the bar at the Barns. They don’t open their doors until an hour before show time (7pm last night), but we were in the neighborhood by 6pm. So, I asked the GPS to highlight nearby restaurants. It generated a large list, but we decided to go simple, and headed for a local TGI Friday’s.

When we arrived, we didn’t see it. We asked a group of people relaxing outside in the gorgeous 75 degree weather where it was. They laughed and said it was long gone. Oh well. Right there was another choice that the GPS had shown, Hunan Lion. We went in there instead.

Fantastic food, fantastic value (prices), fantastic atmosphere, great service, zero complaints! The only thing that made me feel bad (and always does) is that the place was relatively empty. The staff still went out of their way to enhance everyone’s experience by spreading out the guests widely in what is a very large restaurant. We appreciated the comfort and privacy, but it made the place feel even emptier than it really was.

Hunan Lion in Vienna, VA is highly recommended.

When we got to the Barns, at 7:05pm, we had coffee and cookies in the bar. Yummy, and bodes well for the sandwiches, which Lois and I will likely do for dinner this coming Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, someone I worked with for many years at UBS stopped by the office to visit. When he was at UBS, he worked in our London office (he relocated from VA just for the job). His family fell in love with the UK, and when the stint at UBS ended, they moved back to VA for a few years, but really missed the UK. Roughly five years ago, they moved back, and he runs his own software company there.

I hadn’t seen him since he moved, and we had a very leisurely lunch together, and had a great time catching up. Thanks for making the drive down Chris, it was great to see you! πŸ™‚

Tomorrow, we head back to NYC. We’ll be seeing Girlyman again on Sunday night at Joe’s Pub. We head back down on Monday, and have Kathy Mattea back at the Barns on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we’re back at Joe’s Pub to see Tim O’Brien, so we have an insane travel schedule ahead of us, but all for good and fun reasons, so we promise not to complain. πŸ™‚

Snarky Customer Service

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As you all know, I’m a huge fan of Girlyman. I have an alert service that informs me whenever there is news about them (and The Wailin’ Jennys as wel). Today, I received an alert pointing me to a blog about Brooklyn. In this post, she writes about a Brooklyn-based group called Sweet Bitters. She lists their influences, which include Girlyman, hence my alert notification.

So, I listened to the four songs on their MySpace page (linked above), and liked their sound. They only have two upcoming live dates listed there, one being on April 5th, 2008 at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. I wouldn’t mind seeing them, and there’s a slight chance that we could make it there that night.

Sweet Bitters’ link to the venue makes it clear that the show is free. Since there is no place to purchase tickets, Pete’s is clear enough that tickets are free as well. They have a menu link, with five sandwiches listed and some cocktails, so one assumes that they make their money that way, but there’s no mention of a cover or minimum so who knows.

Utilizing the better safe than sorry theory, I sent an email to one of the addresses listed in their contact link (I think it rotates on reloads, because I saw another name appear at a different time).

If you read this space regularly you already know that the above italics aren’t rare for me. πŸ˜‰ I will happily admit that I overdid the quote marks (to indicate the same emphasis I use italics for here). I thought I was helping highlight the underlying points. Here is my email in it’s entirety:

Hi. I’ve never been to Pete’s. I might be able to make it on 4/5 to see the 9pm show (Sweet Bitters), but I’m not sure yet.

Can you tell me how Pete’s “works”?

What time should we show up for the 9pm show to get good “seats”?

Are there tables or rows of chairs, etc.?

Obviously we’d like to give you “business”, so the above question is related to whether we show up early and order drinks and dinner, but whether we have to move afterwards or sit at the table and watch the show?

Do you “sell out” (we’d be coming from Manhattan, so it would be frustrating to show up and not get in)?

Thanks in advance, and I’m glad to have found out about your place today! πŸ™‚

P.S. I don’t know if it matters, but there would be two of us for sure, and possibly four…

OK, a little over-the-top, but reasonably clear, no? In particular, the part about my desire to want to support the venue given that the show is free?

Here is the entire unedited response, cutting out my original email from the bottom:

“all” pete’s shows are “free”. if you are worried about “it” being ” too full”, then “come early”. you do not have to “leave your seats” from one show to the next. i hope this “response” was “helpful”.

for more “info”, go to www.petescandystore.com.

“take care”

OK, let’s analyze. First and foremost, did he respond to my questions? Mostly, but not as accurately as one would hope. What does come early mean? 8pm, 7pm, 3pm? It would seem that he mistook my question about selling out to simply mean is it free. Otherwise, he might have said something like “on occasion, in particular on Saturdays, if you don’t get here by 8:45pm, there is no room left in the place”.

More importantly, is his response appropriate? I’m a potential customer. Could he be sure that I was savvy enough to take his sarcastic reply in the (hopefully amusing/entertaining) manner that he intended? Wasn’t it as likely that if I’m so clueless as to have put the quotes in to begin with, that I might be offended at being made fun of?

Let’s assume that he doesn’t care (that’s my assumption!). After all, they’re not charging for the concert. In any event, they must have some reason to open their doors, and perhaps I would never come there, not just that night. Perhaps I’d even blog about it, affecting other people. πŸ˜‰

Bottom line, I think his response was at best snarky, not necessarily out-and-out nasty, nor obviously meant simply to be humorous.

Is that the best way to get business? Who knows. I still don’t know whether I can make it or not, but I’d still like to. Whether I’m interested in giving them business is another matter, but we’ll see how that plays out as well.

I could have been indignant in my response, ignored it, or chosen something in between. Here’s the entire text of my response:

“thanks”, “cute answer” πŸ˜‰

Hope he doesn’t think I was insulting him. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, I really wrote this post to promote Sweet Bitters, even though I am also indirectly promoting Pete’s Candy Store. I just couldn’t resist telling the whole story behind it, because I have written about the lack of customer service in the past, and this is but one more example…