Greg Mayo

Greg Mayo at Rockwood Music Hall

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In my last post, about Rebecca Haviland, I mentioned that we would never miss one of her shows at Rockwood Music Hall if we could physically make it. The same holds true for Greg Mayo. That each had sets on the same night, and played on each other’s set, was diabetic icing on the already sweet cake.

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Greg plays in a number of bands, including the Greg Mayo Band. This was not that, even though it was Greg Mayo headlining. One of Greg’s incarnations is meant for jamming, to originals and covers, with people he enjoys jamming with. Last night, he affectionately labeled it “Greg Mayo’s Fun Times Band”.

It’s basically a musical party, in your ears, for your eyes, for your soul and to enjoy socially with other music lovers. Last night lived up to that description, as did the time before, as will the next time. Just show up, you’ll understand.

Greg played a couple of his own songs (fabulous). The covers were all fantastic, with Greg sharing the lead vocals with two of his band members.

If you read the post about Rebecca, then you know that Greg played keyboards on her set. During his set, he switched to electric guitar. I love all things Greg (guitar, keyboards, vocals, bass), but readers of this space know that if I were forced to choose, I’d pick his play on the guitar (probably electric, but if he quibbled and chose acoustic, I’d still be in heaven).

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If you were there last night, then you wouldn’t ask me why, he was fully in his element. On the last number, he took such a long lead (not solo, the band was accompanying him), that it was dizzying in the most giddy sense of the word. It was past midnight, but my blood was pumping as if it was noon.

Rebecca came up to sing a few songs with Greg (singing a bit of lead, but mostly harmony). On one number she decided to come back up and just play the tambourine. Given the energy and speed that many of these numbers demand, and the length, that was no small task as she kept up her very energetic tambourine play throughout the song.

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The rest of the stellar band, left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). In addition to incredible keyboard play throughout (including some thrilling leads), Patrick opened the set singing lead vocals on Take Me to the Pilot. He sang a bunch of harmony and I think lead on one other song.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris killed it on the bass, letting loose many times (Greg’s set choices and his guitar play invite wide open bass playing). He sang lead on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and harmony on a bunch of others. Excellent!

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Kenny Shaw on drums. Like Chris, Kenny killed it.  I was less than two feet from the drums, and while this set was significantly louder than Rebecca’s (where I praised Kenny for not blowing my head off), it was still entirely within reason, so again, my thanks go out to Kenny for playing wonderfully, without making me deaf in my right ear. Smile

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Here’s a shot of Greg playing lead, while Patrick and Chris sing some background vocals:

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Greg had a number of very good friends there who were more than a bit supportive. They added color to the set. Since this was a musical party, it was very welcome.

Here is last night’s set list, which they were using as a coaster for some whiskey glasses. Consider this an honest-to-goodness Rock-N-Roll set list, just for having the appropriate condensation stains:

SetList

If you’re in NYC tonight and want a different take on last night’s fun, come to Rockwood 2 at 11:15pm. You’ll experience a brand new incarnation called The Crab Apple Singers. Greg Mayo on guitar, Patrick Firth on keyboards, Chris Anderson on bass and Josh Dion on drums. In other words, swap the drummer and it will be the same lineup as last night.

But, the set list will be different (though I wouldn’t bet against The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down being on there!) and Josh Dion is reason enough to come on down!

Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood Music Hall

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Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood Music Hall? Count us in, whenever it’s physically possible. Last night it was and we were there. Smile

RebeccaHaviland

Rebecca has a spectacular voice. She writes great songs. She has an amazing band. Everything else I write will be mere details. You now know what you need to know!

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Rebecca loves Led Zeppelin. No small irony then that her voice would be perfect for singing lead with them. When they reconstitute the band, especially if Robert Plant won’t participate, they should consider replacing him with her. They might even want to consider working in her opening number from last night.

While Rebecca writes wonderful original material (more on that shortly), she does a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog that shares lyrics, but little else with the original. It’s a slow, bluesy rock number, that gets under your skin and refuses to leave (in the good sense). Led Zeppelin could open with that, and close the show with their version (also perfect), creating fitting bookends to their world-wide tour, featuring Rebecca Haviland. Smile

The rest of Rebecca’s set were originals, a number of them co-written with her bass player, Chris Anderson (one of our favorites!). Chris sings harmony on many of the new songs.

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Later in the set Rebecca introduced a brand new song (written a week ago), Vultures. We were drawn in instantly!

I love all her new material, but lately, I’m particularly obsessed with If You. I can’t help singing the chorus (Wo, wo oh oh oh) out loud, it just feels so right. Thankfully, Rebecca isn’t averse to the audience doing that. In fact, last night she asked the band not to play on that number, so that we (the audience) could hear ourselves sing. How cool was that? Totally cool, because I (and a lot of other people) sang our little hearts out. Smile

Greg Mayo plays the piano and electronic keyboards in Rebecca’s band. He sings harmony on some of the numbers too. On How Can I, Rebecca called out Greg’s vocals in advance and the two of them harmonized beautifully throughout the song. Of course, the keyboard play was terrific on all the numbers.

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Kenny Shaw played the drums, wonderfully. He didn’t blow me out, even though I was less than two feet from the kit. Thanks Kenny! Smile

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Most (all?) of the songs from last night’s set will be on an upcoming full-length CD. Rebecca is currently in the beginning stages of a Kickstarter campaign. She’s just over 50% raised (with only a single tweet that I recall seeing). Let’s get her over the top quickly, and even beyond her goal. I need to have this CD in my hands, so if you’re not going to do it for Rebecca, do it for me, please? Smile

The only positive outcome of a delay is that instead of being in the studio, Rebecca found the time to write Vultures. Now to ensure that it makes it onto the CD…

Here is the set list from last night:

SetList

Jesse Terry with Greg Mayo at The Bitter End

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I rarely post the night of a show. Since we got home early and we’re swamped tomorrow, I’m happy to get my thoughts down while they’re fresh.

There are a growing number of musicians whose shows we do anything we can to catch.

Jesse Terry has been on that list since the first time we saw him, September 5th, 2010. We’ve seen him six times since then, plus tonight, makes eight in total. Each of those shows has been a solo effort on Jesse’s part. For the most part, others were on the same bill, performing in the round or separate sets. Occasionally, one of the others would sing with Jesse on a song.

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He’s great solo, and he works well harmonizing with others.

When Jesse announced the show at The Bitter End and listed Greg Mayo would be accompanying him on the entire set, those of you who know me have to realize that my heart skipped a few beats. Independent of Jesse, Greg Mayo is firmly on the above list of people I go out of my way to see as often as possible. Read to the end to see the next two (really three) times I’m sure I’ll be seeing him! Smile

Let’s cover the set list first, then the collaboration. Jesse travels a lot (he’s a road warrior touring musician). He recently returned from a week of entertaining the troops in Greenland and got closer to the North Pole than most of us will. Time at home is precious for two reasons: 1) He’s been married for just under eight months, so time with his wonderful wife is a priority and 2) He gets to write.

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He’s been on a tear lately and it showed in his set tonight. He played two songs (Scenic Route and Bitterroot Valley) that were written in the past week (or two?). He played other very recent songs (e.g., Pearl Diver). In fact, while one of his staples was on the set list, it’s the only song on it that he didn’t play, Noise (do yourself a favor and check it out!).

SetList

So, in addition to adding a full-time sideman in Greg, Jesse was stretching his wings and breaking out super fresh material in public (likely for the first time in a number of cases). If he, or any of you are wondering whether he needs to take them back to the drawing board, wonder no more, they came off really well!

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If anyone has to ask what I think of Greg Mayo, then it’s a certainty that this is your first visit to this blog. Welcome! Smile

Greg has so many things going for him that it would be unfair to list them all here (if I could even articulate everything) given that this was Jesse’s set and songs. For this purpose, there are four things to note (which is why Jesse picked him):

  • He’s an amazing guitar player
  • He’s incredible on keyboards
  • He sings extremely well (harmony and lead)
  • His sensibility as a sideman is up there with the best

Greg played on every song with Jesse. He sang some harmony, not on every song. He played roughly half the numbers on the piano (guess what percentage he played on the guitar?). Winking smile

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The collaboration worked extremely well. I checked with the judges (me) and they scored an 8.5 (out of a possible 10). The Russian judge penalized them (probably out of jealously). Winking smile

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Seriously, as good as they were, if they ever play together again, I personally guarantee it will be better, even if they do nothing different. Here’s why:

  • They played it a bit safe (IMHO). Those of you in the audience who saw Greg for the first time have no idea (literally) how good a guitarist Greg is. His play tonight complemented Jesse wonderfully, so I don’t have the slightest quibble with what he played, but neither of them wanted to take a chance on opening up Greg’s play the first time out (again, my opinion, neither of them said anything to me!).
  • Greg was a bit more open (aggressive, in the positive sense) on the piano, but not on every song.
  • There were way too few harmonies, because the ones they did, were wonderful.

How do I know they don’t need to work hard to improve, just play together again? Two reasons:

  • They’re both so professional, they now already intuit exactly what the other will do, and more importantly can do, and they will trust each other more, without even needing to plan it in advance!
  • The last two songs on the set were by far their best collaboration (Only a Pawn and The Runner). On both, Greg sang more harmony and with more power. Both had Greg on the piano, highlighted more. I believe that it’s proof of my previous point. Even within this first set, their comfort and confidence with each other grew rapidly.

Let’s put the 8.5 in perspective. Each of these guys can bring it half speed and be better than most other performers. Neither did that and Jesse delivered his usual A game. The collaboration brought it up a notch. There are a few more notches to crank up further.

I’m already anticipating the next time. In the meantime, you can join me in appreciating everything that Greg Mayo has to offer when he’s front and center.

This coming Friday, August 5th, 11pm, Rockwood Music Hall is a Greg Mayo show. The very next night, August 6th, 11:15pm, next door at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, is a new group called The Crab Apple Singers (a rejiggering of The Big Apple Singers). Greg will be playing lead guitar and singing a bunch at that show, along with a phenomenal band.

If that’s not enough Greg Mayo for you (it’s not enough for me!), then you can come earlier on Friday. Same place, Rockwood Music Hall, 9pm, the amazing Rebecca Haviland is performing (what a voice, playing terrific songs). Greg plays the keyboards in Rebecca’s band. Nice bonus, since we’d show up for Rebecca even if Greg wasn’t there. Smile

Brian Killeen Birthday Bash at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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What do you do after driving 5.5 hours to return home from a 10-day business trip? If you’re most people, you catch up with what happened while you were on the road, then collapse for an evening of relaxation. If you’re crazy kids like us, you do that, add a catnap and after relaxing, head out to an 11pm show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

What could get us out at that hour on such a day? A number of the musicians in NYC celebrate their birthdays with shows. Last night was Brian Killeen’s turn. Considering that he’s a sought-after bass player who plays with a number of bands, there were quite a number of musicians that wanted to play with him. When I saw the tweet-stream of names that would be appearing, it was a combination of my local all-star list, coupled with a few new people I’ve been wanting to check out for a while. Perfect!

Apologies for the quality of a number of photos (and the lack of some others completely). The lighting was all over the map and many shots just came out poorly. Sad smile

Brian played on every song and sang harmony on a bunch. In a new twist (for me), Brian played the lead guitar on one song (later in the set) and did a very nice job! He also sang lead on that number (co-lead actually), which has become less of a novelty more recently.

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Greg Mayo was on stage for all but two songs, earning him a close second in the Iron Man competition with Brian. Greg opened the show on the keyboards (grand piano and electronic). He switched to the electric guitar on the next song. On both he sang lead (very strongly), getting the large crowd completely riled up on Born on the Bayou (complete set list posted at the bottom). On the one song that Brian played lead guitar (Greg’s), Greg played Brian’s electric bass (it only seemed fitting).

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John Schmitt took center stage with his acoustic guitar. His voice was incredible (it always is) in belting out his two numbers. I’m always impressed when someone can handle solo singer/songwriter mellow (John is masterful) and can just as easily stand up to a full rock band and sound as good.

Late in the set John ended up sitting at our table. A few of the people behind me gushed uncontrollably “You are awesome!”. They are/were correct, he is/was. I told them that he has his own Birthday set next Friday (7/29) at 10pm at The Living Room. Come test the veracity of my statement and celebrate with John.

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Dorie Colangelo sang and played John Schmitt’s acoustic guitar. I’ve never seen Dorie before, but Lois caught the last song of her set seven months ago. Here’s what I wrote in the post about that night:

We got there 10 minutes before Alex’s set. I stood outside (brrr) and caught up on some comms on my Droid. Lois went in and heard the last song of the set before Alex, Dorie Colangelo. Lois was extremely impressed by Dorie.

When I walked in, she was telling Dorie how wonderful her voice was. She asked if Dorie had any CDs/EPs and Dorie handed her one (she didn’t want money for it). Lois insisted. She asked me for money. Since I wasn’t privy to the conversation, I handed her a $5, thinking it was the standard fee for most EPs. When I loaded it up this morning, I saw that it was an 11-song CD. I’ll slip Dorie some more money the next time we see her. Given Lois’ reaction, I’m sure there will be a next time. Smile

Oops! I wish I had re-read that post before last night. Of course, I forgot that I wanted to give Dorie some extra money. Next time (and this time I mean it).

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As for last night, Dorie’s voice was wonderful. Her guitar-playing was fine. Unfortunately, the songs were way slower than the rest of the set and the shift didn’t feel natural to me. Ironically, I did like her really slow (earthy/sexy) version of I’m So Excited. Still, it seemed to break a mood (just a bit). I’m still as interested in catching Dorie doing her own stuff as I was before last night (perhaps more).

Since she was playing John’s guitar, the strap was way too loose for her comfort. Between her two songs, John came to the stage to adjust the strap, which worked out much better for Dorie during I’m So Excited.

Patrick Firth left his normal spot at the grand piano (he played a ton of electronic keyboards as well) and took center stage with his acoustic guitar. He sang the first original of the night, a song off his upcoming album called Boomerang (that’s the song title, I don’t know what the CD will be called).

Update: Read the comment below from Brian Killeen himself. I got it totally wrong! Every performer did an original. You can see my response about Greg’s opening number below Brian’s comment. Thanks again Brian, I like to be accurate when possible. 🙂

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Martin Rivas came on stage to support Patrick Firth the song before and stayed to perform a couple as well. He kicked it off with his own North. Not only was it superbly delivered, but I felt like it was my birthday as well. After Greg Mayo took a short but very sweet guitar solo, Martin turned to him and motioned that he should continue. He took a much longer, killer solo. Thanks Martin for making Greg give me an early birthday present too. Smile

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Wes Hutchinson was up next, singing and playing acoustic guitar. While he was standing off stage, I mentioned to Lois that he looked so familiar that I was sure we’ve seen him before, but the name was escaping me. Ha! When he got on stage he mentioned that he had just chopped off his hair. That’s it! I’ve seen him twice recently, both times in support of Chelsea Lee, and both times I was extremely impressed with Wes.

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Last night Wes was excellent again, this time singing lead (our first time experiencing that). There will be more Wes in our lives, I’m sure (as there was a bit later in the show as well).

Emily Zuzik sang and played electric guitar. Emily was high on my list of people to see. I nearly got to see her a couple of Friday’s ago. I already know I can’t make her next two NYC shows, so this was such a big bonus that she was part of this celebration. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since Brian Killeen is part of her band. The other members of her band were all part of this show (independent of Emily), so it was preordained that she be there too.

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She opened with Want to Go Out Tonight, the first cut on her new CD, The Wild Joys of Living. Wonderful delivery of a fun, upbeat song. Emily has a great voice. Wes Hutchinson moved over to electric guitar (he too borrowed Mayo’s, making Emily’s two songs the only ones that Greg wasn’t on stage).

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For her second number, Emily performed a gutty version of Psycho Killer. Her voice was completely different, showing that she controls it, rather than the other way around. A total blast.

After the show, I introduced myself to Emily. She told me that she couldn’t hear herself sing. I assured her that it sounded awesome in the audience and I assure those of you who weren’t there as well. Smile

When you see the set list below, you’ll see that the next performer is listed as Me! If you’re not paying attention, the Me! is Brian Killeen. He actually wasn’t formally introduced as being the next lead performer. Instead, Josh Dion was brought up and began the song as if he were leading it.

This is the song that I previously noted Brian took over lead guitar duties on as well as singing lead. Josh did a bunch of lead singing on the song as well, so it was really co-leads. Brian did a terrific job.

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Josh killed it on both of his numbers. The second was an original called Feel. I might be one of the few people in the audience who hadn’t heard it before. Even though Josh plays a lot, it’s interesting to me that he’s also a legend in this community for his previous band, The Josh Dion Band. I know a number of musicians who I respect who speak about Josh Dion Band shows in awe, claiming that to this day, they are still the best live shows they’ve seen.

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Here’s a YouTube video of Josh performing Feel in 2007. He looks nothing like that now, but he sounds just as good, singing and playing the drums (and he’s excellent on the keyboards as well). Brian Killeen is in the video, as is Patrick Firth on the keyboards, so you’re getting some of the experience I had last night.

Josh Dion performing Feel

Robbie Gil was up to close the show. He sang two numbers, playing acoustic guitar on the first and just singing on the second. Saying just singing with regard to Robbie is probably a crime in 37 states. The man has a passion that will pull you onto to the stage with him and he certainly left us energized, even though it was after 1am.

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Don’t believe everything you read. The set list shows Robbie’s second song as Baba O’Riley. It was The Who’s Teenage Wasteland. Awesome! Smile Patrick Firth on the keys was spectacular as was Zach Jones on the drums (I introduce Zach below!). Robbie also wailed on the harmonica during this song.

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The Set List:

SetList

As I got up to leave, Martin Rivas returned to the stage and said that we couldn’t let it end this way. While we had sung a wishy washy Happy Birthday to Brian mid-set (I think when Wes was up), Martin wanted a more proper version. He, Robbie, Greg Mayo, Patrick Firth and Zach Jones sang an awesome rendition of Happy Birthday by The Beatles. Martin was right, a much more fitting way to end the night!

Don’t run away just yet. There were a few more core band members that deserve mentions, including two people we’d never seen before.

Ryan Vaughn performed much of the drumming for the night. He was superb throughout.

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Andy Stack played electric guitar during the first two songs (Greg Mayo’s numbers). He was really good. He was the primary lead guitarist on the first number when Greg was on keyboards. But in Born on the Bayou, he traded leads with Greg in classic Rock fashion (wonderfully) and they teamed up for simultaneous leads after the duel. I did mention up above that Greg got the crowd completely riled up during this song. Andy was part of the reason. Andy also sang harmony on both numbers.

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Zach Jones played drums for Greg Mayo, Robbie Gil, and I think one other, making it seven songs in total. He also played some percussion on another song. He sang into the mic on both of Greg’s songs, and mouthed a lot of the other lyrics. I was very impressed with his drumming. I’ll be seeing him again next week and I’m already looking forward to that show (for many other reasons as well).

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The link from his name above is to a group he is in with Emily Long called The Stone Lonesome. They have an album out that Zach sings a bunch on as well and I am really impressed with his voice (listen to the second song, Bridge to Nowhere). I’m sure we’ll be hearing about him a lot and hopefully seeing him a lot as well.

We went to bed at 2am, certainly not something we want to get used to, but it was worth it (at least last night it was!). Smile

Chris Ayer at The Living Room

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Topping off an extraordinary night of music was one of our favorites, Chris Ayer. For those of you who are new here, you might require proof that Chris is one of our favorites. Luckily, I can provide that.

Two weeks ago we hosted our first house concert. We wanted a solo, guitar slinging singer/songwriter. Without hesitation, both Lois and I agreed that we should approach Chris first. He said yes, and this was the result. Lois and I share a lot of musical taste in common, but we differ a bunch as well, especially at the extremes. So, agreeing on Chris so easily tells you everything you need to know about how we feel about him.

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Back to last night. We had gotten delicious doses of Chris during both Matt Simons’ and Sierra Noble’s sets. You can read about those sets here and here respectively. You can also get a flavor of the band that supported all three sets.

Let’s start with the traditional photos of Chris’ set list, first from our perspective, then his. The twist is that this time, we’ll throw in a bonus of a bit of his guitar as well (no extra charge!):

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He kicked the set off solo, starting with two very new songs. Great start. Both were good, new material feeds the brain, old (great) material feeds the soul/heart.

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Then Chris brought the band up. A quick rundown (probably repetitious for the stauncher readers out there):

Chris Anderson on electric and upright bass plus vocals. Chris switched back to electric for most of the set, but threw in some upright to keep me on my toes, making Sierra’s set the only one that he exclusively played the upright on.

Ryan Vaughn on drums. Once again, superb.

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. Since I can never say enough good things about Greg, I feel badly (for me!) to make this one so short. Here goes: he was his usual (awesome) self.

Matt Simons on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and heavy vocals. As I mentioned in the post about Matt, when Chris and Matt sing together, it’s magic, no matter whose song it is or which one is singing lead. No exception on Chris’ set, Matt was perfect.

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Here’s a group shot (where Matt was out of the picture).

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After a couple of songs with the band, Chris brought up Sierra Noble to sing harmony and play some violin. He gave the band (excluding Matt) a break. When Sierra and Matt sang three-part harmony with Chris, everything got cranked up another level (which only made me mad that Chris clearly was holding something back on the earlier stuff!). Winking smile

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Sierra remained on stage when the band returned.

If you know Chris Ayer’s music, then you know from the set list above what a great choice he made last night. He mixed it up with completely new stuff, great older stuff and very recent stuff. He mixed it up with solo, full band, three-part harmony (without the band), etc. If there’s anything in particular that is your favorite thing about Chris, you were sure to have at least a healthy dose of it last night. If you’re like us and love it all, it was a buffet.

In what has become a bit of a tradition at Chris’ shows, he ended the evening with a descent into the crowd to perform Roy G Biv. As he did the last time he played The Living Room, the entire band descended with him. Well, they all did except for Ryan Vaughn who remained at the drums.

Chris (and everyone else) would have none of that. Since the most critical thing Ryan would be playing during Roy G Biv is the cowbell (look up the lyrics if you don’t know why), they teased him about the fact that cowbells are notoriously portable. He didn’t protest too much. He too came into the audience with a few percussion goodies in hand.

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Once Ryan was in, the party could begin. Chris actually kept turning (slowly) in a full 360, to make sure everyone got serenaded head on.

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The rest might be a bit hard to pick out, but here’s one shot that has Sierra in the background and Greg Mayo playing guitar. The highlight of the picture are Matt Simon’s hands, leading the audience in keeping the beat by clapping.

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A fantastic, energetic end to one of our best nights out. From 8pm until nearly midnight, without a single disappointing song, surrounded by friends who enjoyed it every bit as much as we did. It doesn’t get much better than this, but I promise, we’ll keep trying to disprove that! Smile

Sierra Noble at The Living Room

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In what is obviously becoming a regular occurrence, we discover new musicians in the following cycle: 1) they perform side-person duties with someone we regularly see, 2) we see some mini-set where they headline a portion, 3) we see them perform a full set of their own, falling madly in love with them directly.

Sierra Noble fits that cycle perfectly, but amazingly, I was indifferent after that first side-person performance (nothing negative). Then we saw her at Backscratch 13. Here’s what I wrote about Sierra that night:

Sierra Noble on vocals, acoustic guitar and violin. We’ve seen Sierra Noble backing up both Rachel Platten and Martin Rivas (back-to-back sets on the same night). I am aware of how much her fellow musicians respect and love her, but that night, while she did a fine job, I didn’t see the light. Last night, headlining the three-song set, I got it. She has an incredible voice. She writes beautiful songs.

Ha! I thought I got it, seriously, I really thought so. Last night, she hit me over the head with a sledgehammer (in the nicest way that one human being can do that to another). Here’s the point: at Backscratch, I realized she wrote beautiful songs. Last night (and now, listening to her CDs) I realize that she’s a phenomenal songwriter, consistently. In other words, she doesn’t just write beautiful songs, they pour out of her!

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At the same time, she has a great voice and style. I don’t feel that it’s necessary to compare any artist to another, but on the other hand, it’s sometimes helpful to get people interested in listening to someone new if they have a frame of reference. For me, Sierra’s voice evokes a mixture of Alison Krauss and Ruth Moody (of The Wailin’ Jennys).

The fact that Sierra and Alison both play fiddle has nothing to do with my comparison, it’s more about their voices. The fact that Sierra and Ruth both hail from Winnipeg may have more to do with the water they drink up there (the three days a year that it isn’t frozen). Winking smile

Sierra played acoustic guitar and the violin/fiddle on most songs and sang without instruments, backed by a full band on the remaining songs.

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Sierra was backed by the same band that played with Matt Simons the set before and with Chris Ayer the next set. I’ll just mention them briefly here, then continue with a few more of the highlights of Sierra’s set.

Left-to-right on the stage:

Chris Anderson on upright bass and light vocals. On the two earlier sets Chris played electric bass. He played the upright exclusively during this set. He’s masterful on both.

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Ryan Vaughn on drums. Excellent (again).

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Greg Mayo on acoustic and electric guitar and vocals. In my last post, I inadvertently said that Greg played both electric and acoustic (already corrected). He didn’t play acoustic during Matt’s set, but did play both on Sierra’s. On the acoustic he did some heavy finger picking (always a treat to see Greg perform varied styles!).

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Sierra also highlighted Greg on the song Bring an Angel, which they co-wrote.

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Sierra brought up Chris Ayer for two songs. The first was her amazing song Human After All, co-written with Michael Logen. We’ve seen Michael perform it twice (both times solo) and now Sierra perform it twice (both times with a male harmonizer). It’s a great song performed both ways, but give me a choice, and I’ll take the harmony every time. Make it Sierra and Chris and my heart will skip a few beats as well. Martin Rivas did an amazing job when he sang it with Sierra at Backscratch 13!

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The second song that Chris sang with Sierra was a song they co-wrote (recently) called Keep it With You. Wonderful, both the song and their performance. Chris added the acoustic guitar during this number.

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In keeping with the title Human After All, Sierra honored a friend and mentor who passed away three years ago today, July 3rd, 2008. She introduced the song saying that in most shows, she plays an upbeat fiddle medley. Instead, in memory of her friend, she would play a song he wrote for her.

SierraNobleSpeaking

Oliver Schroer sounds like an extraordinary person (and a great musician as well). Sierra performed the instrumental, True Hearts Waltz. I’m impressed that she got through it. Clearly, this was an emotional undertaking for her. Our connection with Sierra grew immeasurably at that moment.

I started the above by relating it to Human After All. That’s what we are folks, whether we like it or not. All too often, we forget loved ones when they’re gone. Perhaps worse (though only on a few levels) is when we don’t have gratitude and love in our heart for people that help and inspire us along the way (noone makes their way through life on their own).

Witnessing Sierra Noble honor Oliver, and much more importantly, do her part in keeping his legacy alive by sharing with it people who didn’t have the privilege of knowing him, made both Lois and me very happy. That Sierra can feel and articulate this kind of human understanding at the tender age of 21 (did I fail to mention her age before?!?!?) is simply extraordinary.

Whew, back to the set. Here is the set list, though I think she might have played an additional song or two after the ones listed here:

SetList

Sierra announced that she has an EP available for purchase at iTunes and that she’s working on a new full-length CD. Given a choice, I will always purchase from Amazon.com over iTunes. Thankfully, Sierra’s EP, Possibilities, is available on Amazon. Not only did I buy it (it’s incredible), but I also discovered that she has a full-length CD from 2005 (she was 15!). I bought that too, Spirit of the Strings. It too is gorgeous.

That wasn’t enough. When I visited Sierra’s Bandcamp Page, I saw that she had a smaller version of the Possibilities EP available for full streaming (and purchase). While it only has four songs vs Amazon’s six, there is a bonus track on Bandcamp that isn’t on the Amazon version. It’s a song she played last night: Coming Home to Say Goodbye (second song on the set list). I love the song, so I had to buy this one track separately as well.

OK, now you all go out and do what I did. Let’s make sure this youngster continues to make music for a very long time!

Matt Simons at The Living Room

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We’ve seen quite a bit of Matt Simons in the past few months, but they’ve all been in his exceptional role as sideman for a number of other artists who we follow. It’s been four months since we’ve seen him headline a set. Thankfully, that drought ended last night at The Living Room.

MattSimons

Matt is a multi-instrumentalist with an excellent voice. When he headlines he always plays the keyboards (piano and electronic). I guess trying to sing and play the saxophone (he’s awesome) presents some logistical challenges (if anyone can solve that problem, I have faith in Matt). Winking smile

Matt opened the show solo with a powerful song (Miss You More) that had everyone stone silent. I laugh at my internal dialog at these kind of moments. I think “who needs a band at all?” Then the band joins, and I think “why ever play solo?”, etc. The real point is that both solo and with a band, Matt (and many others!) get it just right.

MattSimonsSolo

Proving my point, right after Miss You More, Matt invited the band up. This is the same core band that played for the next two sets as well. Two of them played with Rebecca Haviland in an earlier set at Rockwood Music Hall (covered here). In other words, they played for the better part of four hours. Yeomen indeed!

I didn’t spy a set list, which indicates one of three things: 1) there wasn’t one, and Matt just winged it, 2) Matt had one on the piano and purposely hid it from me, or 3) it was written with invisible ink on invisible paper (again, probably to thwart me). Therefore, I can’t easily share with you the titles to all of his songs, though he played a number of them that I love.

The core band, left-to-right on stage:

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris also sang light backup vocals. Chris is one of our favorite bass players. Check out my previous post (linked above in “covered here”) for more on Chris, including his singing and songwriting chops.

ChrisAndersonElectricBass

Ryan Vaughn on drums. I’ve been writing a lot about Ryan lately, as he’s been drumming more often with the people that we consistently go out to see. Our previous sightings always came when Ryan played percussion (not the drum kit) on Martin Rivas’ sets. Ryan is great and exhibited many different styles across the three consecutive sets last night.

RyanVaughn

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and light vocals. I mentioned in the last post about my mind control abilities. On the first song that Greg appeared, he took a fantastic lead (I think he’s patented them, so if don’t want to go to jail, don’t try and copy them!). Before explaining the mind control aspect, I need to digress.

GregMayoElectricGuitar

Having true, committed fans, is one of the hallmarks of the music business. We (yes, we count ourselves as true, committed fans) will do an awful lot to support the musicians we love. Yesterday I tweeted an article that implores musicians to find a way to connect their fans with each other. Here’s a real-world example of the result of that advice.

We attended a fantastic house concert in VA hosted by Lindsie. That night featured Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell. We met Lindsie that night, due to our mutual love of Ian, Chad and Mike. Since then, Lindsie (being a true fan!) came up to see Ian Axel headline Bowery Ballroom and we hung out in front of the stage with her throughout the show. Last night, she came up again to catch these three consecutive sets and again, we sat together. Her friend Ashley (sp?) joined her this time.

HadarLindsie

A number of last night’s artists were new to Lindsie, including Greg Mayo. Before Greg took the stage, I turned to Lindsie and told her that Greg is my favorite local guitar player and that she was about to have her mind blown. Finally, back on track, immediately after his lead in the first song, I turned toward Lindsie and rolled my eyes in disbelief at how quickly he proved me correct! Smile

But, while Greg was perfect in his support of Matt on the remaining songs, he didn’t take a real lead again (no complaints). Just as they started Matt’s last song of the set, that thought came to me front and center. Of course, given my mind control powers, Greg took another great lead. Damn. I should have remembered that I probably could have called up as many leads as I wanted throughout the set. Oh well, next time! Smile

Matt called up Chris Ayer to sing and play acoustic guitar a number of times (Chris headlined the 11pm set). The two of them sings so beautifully together, whether it’s Chris supporting Matt on his songs, or vice versa (as happened a bunch in the last set).

On one number, Matt came out from behind the piano and sang, with Chris accompanying him on vocals and acoustic guitar. Gorgeous!

MattSimonsChrisAyer

Matt called up Sierra Noble to sing harmony with Chris Ayer as well. That role has traditionally been filled by Morgan Holland. Since Morgan is returning to CA for a Master’s degree, she won’t be available to sing with Matt and Chris. While Sierra is a star in her own right (and therefore won’t be available often to sing with them), having her join them last night was a real treat.

SierraNobleChrisAyerSingingHarmony

For the second to last song, both Chris and Sierra returned (after someone having to go out and find them!). This time Sierra added her violin to the mix!

SierraNobleChrisAyer

I’m a big fan of Matt and always enjoy his sets. But, I’ll definitively claim last night’s set to be the best we’ve seen so far, though doubtlessly it will be topped in the future!

Matt and Chris Ayer both leave tomorrow for a tour of the UK and Holland. Some of the dates/venues can be seen on Matt’s Facebook Page. You can also stream some of his songs there (or on MySpace linked at the top). But, to listen to Matt, I recommend you visit his Bandcamp page. There, you can hear a lot of his songs in their entirety, for free. Then you can buy all of them, or the ones you like best, etc. I love the model where you aren’t buying blind, or off an unrepresentative sample of the song.

Referring back to the “connect your fans” section above, a number of our friends were there last night (which is typical). Let me know if you prefer Kelly or Sam to wear the hat when their picture is taken. Winking smile

KellySamTeichmanKellySamTeichmanHat

Rachel

Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood Music Hall

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We attended a Leave a Lasting Mark benefit show on Thursday. Rebecca Haviland was one of the many performers that night. She performed a version of Carolina On My Mind that captivated the audience. You can read about it here.

Even though we had a jam-packed 48 hours in between, I admit that I was still distracted a number of times, anticipating Rebecca performing a full set at Rockwood Music Hall.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

This was only the second full set that we’ve seen by Rebecca. The first one was five weeks ago. In that post I mis-identified one of her new songs as “Sing”. Looking more closely at the set list (and having Rebecca correct me), it’s called Sins. She didn’t play it last night, so I don’t know why I felt the need to correct that here. Winking smile

Rebecca is in the midst of a writing spree. We all are the beneficiaries of that. Well, all of us who see her perform live. Later today she should be launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new CD (I’ll update this post with the link once I get it). Once that gets funded (and it will!), the rest of you who don’t live in NYC or don’t come out for live music, can hear what I’m talking about.

While Rebecca sings a variety of styles (all equally well), at heart, she’s a blues rocker, and a darn good one. Last night’s set was mostly originals (I love every one of them) plus a few extraordinary covers. One of my favorites (it grabbed me the first time I heard it) is If You. The chorus has a recurring “Oh, oh oh oh oh”. At times Rebecca is singing that too, at other times she’s singing over that.

The last time we saw her, she invited the crowd to sing the “Oh, oh oh oh oh” part with her and we all did. Last night, without thinking about it, I started singing it (out loud) with her. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the audience singing (as we weren’t explicitly invited this time). Even though I was self-conscious for a second, I admit to continuing to sing it each time the chorus repeated. Ha, that’s how I roll (occasionally, OK, rarely). Winking smile

We didn’t snag the set list (I’ll have to talk to my minions about that oversight!), so I can’t share all the song titles with you. In addition to If You, I’m sure Rebecca played Collide With Me and Direction (also new, unreleased) along with at least two other brand new ones.

The two other covers were her signature version of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog and another Zeppelin number that she morphed into (and back out of) mid-song.

After singing two songs with the band, Rebecca dismissed them and fulfilled my secret wish. She played Carolina On My Mind. For those of us who had seen her perform it Thursday, there was a deep satisfaction in not having had to wait too long to hear it again. For the newbies, I can only assume that their minds were sufficiently blown. In my next post (there will be four today!) you’ll see that I need to use my extraordinary powers of mind control more often (I promise to use my powers for good only).

RebeccaHavilandSolo

Before bringing the band back, Rebecca brought back Chris Anderson. In addition to being Rebecca’s bass player (electric bass last night), Chris is also Rebecca’s primary writing partner on her current project. He’s also been singing background vocals a lot more, thanks to Rebecca prodding him. In addition to singing a lot of harmony last night, Chris also sang lead on one number, kicking off the first verse on his own.

ChrisAndersonSinging

We got to meet Chris’ parents, who came to hear him serenade his fans:

ChrisAndersonParents

After one (or possibly two) numbers performed by Rebecca and Chris alone, the rest of the band rejoined.

Greg Mayo on keyboards and background vocals. Fantastic, as always. I’ll have more to say about Greg in the next three posts.

GregMayo

Kenny Shaw on drums. After seeing Kenny perform five times in one week, he decided to hide from us. Exactly one month later, we picked up his trail again. He was his usual solid self, complementing Rebecca really well. In particular, when Rebecca morphed into her second Zeppelin cover, Kenny was instrumental in supporting her.

KennyShaw

Sierra Noble was called up as a special guest to play the violin/fiddle on one number, taking a long solo. The sound complemented Rebecca perfectly (though a good violin solo complements a variety of music beautifully). My third post of the night will be about Sierra Noble’s own set, but the other two will mention her as well. Last night was a big ol’ party. Smile

RebeccaHavilandSierraNobleChrisAnderson

Before Thursday’s benefit, we reached out to Rebecca and asked her to bring all of her previous CDs for us to purchase. We got two of them at the show (a full CD: Three Thousand Miles and an EP: What I’m Sayin’). As I noted at the top, we had a very busy 48 hours, so I haven’t gotten to listen to either yet (hopefully later today).

Last night, Rebecca brought us the earliest one, Taking Advice From Strangers (from 2003-2004). I’m listening to that one now while typing this. Gorgeous. A bitt Jazzier than much of her current stuff, with as perfect a voice as you could hope for. Lovely lyrics, I’m drifting… a.w..a…y….

Here’s a suggestion for Rebecca: make one of your levels on Kickstarter include all of your past CDs (I suggest $50) so that your more recent fans can find out that your talent is deep, broad, wide, and consistent, for at least eight years, probably more! (Disclaimer: this advice is free, I am not a paid endorser.) Winking smile

Backscratch XIV at Rockwood Music Hall

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We’ve only been to one Backscratch before, but we’ll do our best to never miss one going forward. Last night was #14, but I decided to show off my mad Roman Numeral skills in the title. Winking smile This one was back at Rockwood Music Hall (not the original venue). I covered the last one and explained the concept thusly:

Here’s the concept: gather a bunch of musicians. Each plays three songs. Traditionally (or so the legend goes) each played one original song, one well-known cover and one cover of another of the evening’s musicians, which they were each assigned at random! Now, it’s often two originals followed by the backscratch.

Backscratch was conceived by Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer, the same geniuses that brought Campfires to the world. Since Martin is touring in the UK and Europe at the moment, and Craig is probably on the road with Rachel Platten, neither was there. No matter, the MC duties were performed by Christina Morelli of NYC Art Scene fame.

We would have gone even if none of the musicians was known to us. That wasn’t the case last night, as only two of the nine performers were strangers to us. A number of them are counted among our favorites!

Jeff Litman opened the show because his band’s equipment was already on stage from his birthday set. He performed the more traditional 3-song set. He opened with a solo acoustic cover, Never Going Back Again, by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. What a way to kick off Backscratch XIV!

JeffLitman

Jeff’s band (Bryan Dunn, Matt Basile and Elliot Jacobson) joined him for the next two numbers. The first was his original, Everything You’re Not (from his current CD, Postscript). Jeff closed his trio with a cover of Valerie Mize (his backscratch), Promises, from her Auspices EP.

I’m not going to be able to name every song from every artist, since I do this from memory (and I don’t know all of their songs well enough anyway). Where I think I know/remember, I’ll say so.

Jesse Terry was up next, solo with an acoustic guitar. Jesse is one of our favorites, so we knew we’d enjoy his numbers. I was more curious to hear what his backscratch would be (they are assigned randomly). Jesse opened with Pearl Diver, a very new song (which we’ve heard before, since we do our best to show up whenever and wherever Jesse performs). Next up was Scared of Nothing, another Jesse original. His voice was incredible on both numbers.

JesseTerry

For his backscratch, Jesse drew Live Society. If you read anything I write, you likely know how much I love Live Society. Given how amazing Jesse’s voice is, and how well he handles the guitar, I admit to being extremely excited about this. He performed No One, which isn’t on their current EP. It was fantastic (both the song, and Jesse’s interpretation), so I’m seriously hoping it will be on Live Society’s forthcoming CD!

I played a critical role during the performance (which you might someday get to see on YouTube, since the entire evening was filmed by Sam Teichman). There was quite a breeze inside Rockwood and the sheet music (most of the backscratchers require some cheat sheet) was flapping off the music stand. I bravely reached up and held the corner of Jesse’s sheet for the entire song, saving the day! Winking smile

Please allow me a digression here (or skip ahead, I might not even be able to tell). I used the word interpretation above for a few reasons. First, there’s the obvious one (in this case), where Jesse is a solo artist trying to reproduce a song performed by a band that crushes three-part harmony, and is accompanied by guitar, keyboards, bass and drums (usually).

Second, the backscratch is often a song that was learned quickly, at times even on the day of the show, so it’s not likely to be a studied copy. But the most important thing is that it’s often a true artistic interpretation, in the sense of paying homage to the original artist by delivering it to them in your style (for most cases, the original artist is hearing it live then and there).

Jesse delivered No One in his own style. I absolutely would have believed it was one of his songs if he had introduced it as such. After singing it, he met Live Society for the first time. How cool is that, practically and conceptually?

LiveSocietyJesseTerry

Unfortunately, Jesse had to leave shortly after performing. He had an early trip this morning, heading to Greenland, just shy of the North Pole (of all places). He’ll be serenading our troops there for the next week or so. He didn’t get to hear the backscratch that covered him (we’ll get to that later).

Valerie Mize was up next. She performed two originals with her band (Antar Goodwin on electric bass and Tomo Kanno on drums). She opened with Downtown Train. She followed that with a new number. She played electric guitar on both, finger picking (beautifully) for the most part, and strumming without a pick the rest of the time. She has a beautiful voice.

ValerieMizeSinging

We’ve seen Valerie only once before, at the Soul Benefit where she sang backup. Here’s what I wrote about her performance that night:

For most numbers, there were three or four backup singers on stage. All but one sang lead as well, so I’ll mention them in a second. The only backup singer who didn’t sing lead on at least one song was Valerie Mize. She did a wonderful job. I’m sure if there was more time, she too would have taken a turn at the center mic and wow’ed us.

I’d never seen Antar or Tomo before. Both did a very good job and are well-matched with Valerie.

AntarGoodwinTomoKonno

For her backscratch, Valerie dismissed the band and moved to the grand piano. She sang Ophelia by John Schmitt. He too is one of our favorites, as is that specific song (title cut from his current CD). Valerie played the piano beautifully and sang a very soulful version of Ophelia.

ValerieMizePiano

Patrick Firth was up next. We’ve seen Patrick many times, but last night was a first on two scores. We’d never seen him perform an original and we’d never seen him play anything other than keyboards. Instead of heading for the grand piano in the corner, Patrick (his friends seem to call him Pat, but that feels presumptuous on my part) sat on a stool, center stage, and sang an original accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. Very nicely done!

PatrickFirthGuitar

I already knew he had a nice voice (you can read about it in this post). Now I know that he can write and sing his own stuff (that night was covers) and play the guitar as well.

Patrick then moved to the piano and performed a brand new song that he wrote over the post three days (finishing it yesterday!). He plays with the Big Apple Circus and wrote it while in CT, on breaks, between shows.

PatrickFirthPiano

For his backscratch, Patrick played Grow by Nick Howard. What a fantastic job. We had just seen Nick perform a full set earlier that night (with a full band), next door at Rockwood 2 (covered here). He played that song with the full band. Patrick’s rendition was very different and equally beautiful.

Unfortunately, Nick hadn’t made it over to Rockwood 1 yet, so he missed hearing Patrick nail his song.

John Schmitt was up next. That alone would be reason enough for celebration. But, in a complete surprise for me, John brought up Greg Mayo to play guitar with him. John opened with Two Souls.

JohnSchmitt

Greg played some amazing guitar solos (surprise!) and sang a few words (way too few) of harmony (very nicely). He played Patrick Firth’s guitar.

GregMayo

Next John played Going Back (a fantastic new song of his, that isn’t on the Ophelia CD). Typically, he has a female voice singing harmony with him. Greg basically filled that role with guitar leads. Holy moly, it was awesome.

John is currently raising money to record that song professionally. We contributed early. Even though we did (quite happily), we noted to each other that the raw version John has up on his donation page is quite beautiful. We worried (privately) whether people would wonder why he needs/wants another version. Having heard how different it can sound by just adding another guitar (admittedly, one played by Greg Mayo!), made us just contribute a second time. We no longer doubt John Schmitt’s wisdom. Smile

Greg then left the stage and tried to take Patrick’s guitar with him. John kept it, asking Patrick if he could use it for his backscratch (John had broken a string earlier, and had to use a different one in its place. I’ll spare you the groaners about a broken G-string.) Winking smile

Patrick agreed to let John use the guitar, until John admitted that his backscratch was none other than Patrick. At that point Patrick said: “Then NO!”. Of course, he was kidding, but it was funny nonetheless.

I don’t know the name of the song, but it was great. So, Patrick can indeed write, and we already knew that John can deliver. A great combo!

Lara Ewen was up next, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. I had never heard of Lara, so I didn’t recognize the two originals that she played. They were both nice and I like her voice.

LaraEwen

For her backscratch, she drew Jesse Terry. She was quite funny in pointing out that most people give excuses like “I had to miss your performance because I was at the North Pole, but that in Jesse’s case, it was the truth!”. Winking smile She added that she was happy about that, because she was reasonably sure she was going to butcher his number.

She chose The Runner (the title cut from Jesse’s CD). She was correct in knowing that she hadn’t quite nailed the song, but I certainly wouldn’t say she butchered it, just that certain parts caused her some grief. Winking smile

Benjamin Wagner was up next, also accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Benjamin was the only other performer I hadn’t heard of before. In this case, it turned out to be a little less mysterious. He has a full-time job and a one-year-old, which has slowed down his live performances dramatically.

BenjaminWagner

Of all the performers, he was the chattiest. While I found his style entertaining and the content interesting and well-delivered, he was also the only one who cursed (and quite a bit at that). I’m no prude, but it was still jarring in contrast to the rest of the show.

He has a very good voice and plays the guitar well enough. That said, neither of his two originals (Giving Up the Ghost and Dear Elizabeth) grabbed me.

He inserted his backscratch in between them. He drew Lara Ewen and chose One Day. Wow, I really liked it a lot, both the song and his performance of it. So, I know Lara is capable of writing songs that will grab me, and I know that Benjamin is capable of delivering a song in a manner that will engage me as well. Neither pulled that off with their own originals, but the sample size was two in each case, so let’s toss that out and start again, the next time I see either of them.

Benjamin blogs regularly and he posted his thoughts about last night’s show.

Nick Howard was up next (and had arrived by then). He played solo acoustic, quite a contrast to his earlier full-band set at Rockwood 2. One of the two originals that he played was Grow, which he had performed in the earlier set. It’s the same song that Patrick Firth had covered for his backscratch, but Nick was unaware, since he hadn’t made it in yet.

NickHoward

That made three performances of Grow in one night for us. All were quite different from each other (even though Nick himself performed two of them!). All three were very well done.

Nick’s other original was Falling for You, which he had also performed with the full band in the earlier set. Once again, his solo performance was different and beautiful. As I noted in the earlier post, he had to work harder to get his voice heard over the full band. In the solo set, his voice was just right.

For his backscratch, Nick drew Benjamin Wagner. I don’t recall the song, but I remember thinking it was nice and that Nick did a good job with it.

Last, but certainly not least, was Live Society. They were without their guitarist (John Kaiteris), keyboard player (varies) and drummer (Erik Perez). The three singers, Brian Collazo, Jason Vargas and Kevin Collazo were joined by their regular bass player, Anthony Candullo. Anthony also played acoustic guitar on one number.

BrianCollazoGuitarAnthonyCandulloGuitar

Two special guests joined them: Patrick Firth on grand piano and Greg Mayo on acoustic guitar.

Live Society reverted to the classic format, one famous cover, one original and one backscratch, mirroring the opener (Jeff Litman) as the only acts who did that last night. That was more than fitting, as they asked the crowd if any of us had done the calculus to guess who their backscratch was? Even you who weren’t there should be able to figure it out. I’ll give you a minute while I get to their other two songs.

GregMayoLiveSociety

They opened with their original Better Man. Gorgeous! They followed that with I Second that Emotion by Smokey Robinson. Jason Vargas took the lead for a good portion of the song. It was fantastic.

JasonVargas

For their backscratch, they drew Jeff Litman (please don’t tell me you haven’t figured it out yet). They performed Open Arms. Frist, the bottom line: Wow! Now, some details.

Jeff’s version is wonderful, but it’s straight up power Pop. Live Society owned their version, which was about as Mowtown/R&B as you could hope and it couldn’t have worked better.

All three of them traded singing lead. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’ve followed my other ravings about Live Society, then you know that I have started a campaign to get them to have Kevin sing some lead. He did, and he was terrific! I had to tease him/them after the show, pointing out that it took a backscratch to get Kevin to take a lead. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a trend. All three of them can sing, including Kevin!

KevinCollazo

What a way to end a spectacular evening.

Backscratch was listed as 9-11pm on the Rockwood schedule. Before the show started, the sound guy told Christina that the previous show had run over and he would appreciate her trying to keep it moving at a rapid pace. Ha!

Last night’s show ran over by only an hour. No one dawdled. Let’s do the math: nine artists each performing three songs, averaging four minutes = 108 minutes. That’s nearly the full two hours, without accounting for time between songs, banter, and oh yeah, changeover between acts (sometimes including moving equipment around). The fact that it’s not scheduled for three hours is the joke, not that it ran over.

Update: A number of people commented to me via email and Twitter that the site correctly listed it as three hours, albeit confusingly. That’s correct, in the sense that there was no artist listed at 11pm. But, the show was listed as 9-11pm, which was explained to me as meaning that 11pm was considered a continuing start time. Wow, not the clearest communication. Anyway, I’ll still knock Rockwood for not making that part clear, but Christina Morelli did indeed deliver an on-time performance! 🙂

It was late, obviously, but I can’t imagine having missed it. Smile

Martin Rivas Solo Campfire at Slane

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We’ve only been to one NYC Campfire before. That one was missing Martin Rivas, one of the co-founders of Campfire. Last night Martin was back hosting Campfire, this time at the original site of the Campfires, Slane (link is currently broken). Martin’s partner-in-music (crime?), Craig Meyer, was on the road and didn’t attend last night. It was the last Campfire until late August and we didn’t intend to miss it.

Campfire is held in a bar, so it’s not a traditional show. It’s mostly covers, though the artists will occasionally sneak in one of their originals (or as was the case last night, they might be forced to play some originals when someone requests it).

Martin kicked it off solo. It was our first time at Slane and I was impressed with the sound quality coming out of the portable PA/amp that Martin dragged out of the back room himself. Slane is a very nice bar.

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After Martin played a song of his choosing, he just started going in order in the audience asking people to pick songs. Ryan Vaughn sat closest to Martin and he chose first (a Police song). Ryan later joined Martin on percussion. I’ve seen Ryan a number of times, usually on percussion with Martin. Very recently, we saw Ryan on a full drum set twice, the first time supporting Robbie Gil and the second with John Schmitt.

RyanVaughnShakers

Last night, Ryan played the cajon (along with other percussive instruments like shakers and a tambourine). I am in love with cajons, and Ryan was masterful on his. I believe that someone (I know who, I’m just not naming them!) told me recently that Ryan was one of the first to play (and master) a cajon in the local scene and that he’s famous for it. Now I know why!

RyanVaughnCajon

Lois was second on the request parade. She chose Me and Julio, which Martin nailed (of course). It would have been my turn next, but Martin asked if it would be alright for him to play another Paul Simon song. You don’t think anyone objected, do you? Winking smile

While Martin was playing Me and Julio, Greg Mayo walked into Slane with a guitar case. Martin had tweeted that he might have a guest or two, but he didn’t name them. I was thrilled to be there just to see Martin, but how can the President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club (that’s me, in case you’re wondering) not be extra-thrilled that the object of the fan club was about to join the merriment?

By the middle of Me and Julio, Greg was set up and playing his patented awesome guitar leads. He was also singing harmony (fantastically) with Martin, but he wasn’t mic’ed. Thankfully, we were so close it was really easy to hear him.

GregMayoGuitar

It was finally my turn, and I noted that since we were in the Village, he should play at least one Dylan song. He said he’d have to break out the laptop for the lyrics. After the laptop was turned on, he proceeded to play an oldie that wasn’t even close to a Dylan song. I guess Martin was in the mood to tease me. After that, he did play a Dylan song, Positively 4th Street (great choice).

MartinRivasSingingDylanAidedByLaptop

But, in classic Martin style, he turned it into a full-blown Soul number. It was 100% recognizable, but only from the lyrics. Otherwise, you would have thought it could have been from the catalog of any of the top Soul/R&B groups of the 60’s! Nicely done.

The person sitting next to me chose Cecelia (it turns out it’s her middle name!), and of course, Martin (and Greg) obliged.

In the meantime, Slane kept filling up, both with people who specifically came for Campfire and with a typical bar crowd. I was impressed that the people at the bar seemed to be enjoying the performance as much as we who came specifically for it were.

Brian Killeen was one of the people who came in that wave. He sat down to enjoy the music, but a few songs in, he was coaxed to come up and play the electric bass. It was at the same time that Ryan Vaughn jumped in on percussion. Greg took a break and joined the audience.

BrianKilleen

Brian was fantastic, with a number of long leads on the bass. He also sang “I’m gonna add some bottom, so that the dancers just won’t hide” during Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music”.

If you need proof that our deceased loved ones can directly affect our world, in order to reach out and let us know they’re watching over us, here you go…

Brian had a margarita. I missed it, but somehow, it got spilled. After successfully soaking his shirt, the rest landed on the floor in front of the band. Lauren (I only know her first name) sprang into action, got a towel from the bar and cleaned it up lickity split. In the meantime, Brian got up and asked Greg Mayo to take over the bass duties for the next song.

GregMayoBass

Just as Greg took over the electric bass, someone (I actually think it was the same Lauren who took care of the cleanup on aisle 3) requested Sara Smile by Hall and Oates. Now for the proof part: Bob Mayo, Greg’s dad (sadly taken from us way too early!), toured for roughly 10 years with Hall and Oates!

A drink gets spilled, causing a change of bass players, followed by a request for a song by a band that the replacement bass player’s dad toured with? Coincidence? I think not. Smile

Martin passed the mic to Greg who sang a few verses. He hit the high notes perfectly (more thrills and more evidence!). Smile This was my first time seeing Greg on the electric bass. Can you believe that even though it has two fewer strings, and they’re way thicker, that he’s still as buttery smooth and his sensibilities are just as awesome as his guitar play? I knew you wouldn’t argue with me on that.

I think Brian took the bass back on the very next number. Final piece of evidence. Smile

It was Lois’ turn again. She picked Into the Mystic by Van Morrison. Martin complied, wonderfully! Rachel, who sat across the table from me, was intending to request Sara Smile when it was her turn, but she was scooped by Lauren. Then she was going to request Moondance by Van Morrison. She told Iris both of those before they were called out, so she had a witness. All that proves is that we in the audience have similar (wonderful) taste in music. I guess that explains why we all like to hang out at these shows together.

A few songs later (nearly two hours in), Martin announced that they would take a short break, then play one more short set. At first we intended to stay, but a few minutes into the break and our eyes were getting droopy (it was 11:05pm). We called it a night.

On our way out, I spotted two of my favorite people coming in, Brian Collazo and Jason Vargas of Live Society. I bet they sang a bit with Martin after we left. That’s a little soul-crushing for me (get the double-entendre?), but the sleep was so welcome (we slept later than we have in a very long time), so missing them (assuming they sang) was a price that had to be paid.

Martin is opening one of the biggest concerts of the year in NYC tonight (7pm, River to River show). Unfortunately, we’ll be missing that. Then he’s off for a concert tour in the UK and Europe the very next day! Knock ‘em dead Martin, we know you (Chrissi Poland and Alex Berger) will indeed do so!