Greg Mayo

Derek James and the Lovely Fool with New Band Members at Rockwood Music Hall

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Last night was my fourth time seeing Derek James and the Lovely Fools. Each setup was different (last night was no exception) and only one of them was disappointing (hint: not last night). The show was at Rockwood Music Hall.

There are many bands that create a party atmosphere. In many cases, it depends on the circumstances (the audience, venue, mood of the band, etc.).  Then there are bands where the music itself is a party! Derek James and the Lovely Fools are at the head of the class in that regard.

DerekJamesSmiling

In less than 10 notes (seriously), it’s nearly impossible to avoid: smiling, tapping your foot, bobbing your head and swaying your body. I dare you to show up when they play and prove me wrong!

Derek will be releasing a new CD this fall. I am praying that at least 20% of this magic can be bottled, so that I can party at will just by turning on my iPod. I’m hopeful! I can wager a ton that even if it’s perfect, it can’t match a live show. There is so much visual fun going on that simply can’t be reproduced on a CD. So, get the CD when it’s available, but get yourself to a show as often as you can, it will never get tiresome (that’s another promise I can safely make).

I’ll run through the band and mention what was different this time, then wrap up with a few complaints (which only means it could have been better, not that it wasn’t great!).

Derek James on vocals, acoustic guitar and kazoo. What can I say, Derek is obviously Mayor of Funtown. A winning/impish smile, fast rhythm guitar, very tasty leads (usually in 100% unison with the bass, lead guitar or both!) and a southern twang on his vocals (I don’t think he talks like that) that can charm your pants off (well, if I wasn’t taken they could). Winking smile Derek didn’t play the ukulele last night. It wasn’t missing, but it was still somewhat missed.

DerekJamesGuitar

Roy Gurel on electric guitar and vocals.  Roy was in Israel for over six months. He was not at the last show, which largely accounted for the only disappointing effort. While Derek was Derek that night, the Lovely Fools were talented, but not so Lovely. Roy is an exceptional guitarist. The last time I saw him, I described him as my second favorite local guitarist behind Greg Mayo.

RoyGurelTuning

Last night Roy was wonderful, but not quite as good as he’s been in the past. I’m not complaining, but since I’m ranking people anyway (for my own memory) I’ll say that he’s now third, behind Greg and John Kaiteris of Live Society. Roy could work his way back up a notch, but I am doubtful (on his behalf) that he will be able to top Greg. Here’s hoping he takes up the challenge! Winking smile

RoyGurelLeadGuitar

Assaf Spector (Assie) on electric bass, vocals and kazoo. Assie also missed the last show, make a clean sweep of me missing the truly Lovely Fools. Last night Assie was spot on, in every respect, back to a typical Derek James show. In addition to his incredible bass playing, wonderful background vocals and all around fun attitude on stage, he added a kazoo to the mix. Derek always plays a kazoo, but having two of them played on stage at the same time added to the carnival atmosphere.

AssafSpectorDerekJamesAssafSpectorSingingHarmony

Now to the additions (re-read the title!):

Greg Mayo on keyboards (I only heard electronic/organ ones, but he was sitting at the grand piano, so some of the piano-ish sounds might have come from that). I don’t know if Greg sang, since he was blocked by Derek the entire set from where I was sitting. I admit to feeling a little guilty noting that Roy’s play slipped a drop while realizing that Greg was sitting two feet behind him. I hope I get over it. Winking smile

GregMayo

Greg took a few very tasty leads, but they were extremely short (more like quick riffs than real leads). I’m guessing/hoping that he’s new to the band, and if he plays with them more, they’ll work on arrangements (and visual cues to each other) to have him play a bigger role. This was the first time we’ve seen keyboards added to a Derek James set.

Kenny Shaw on drums. It seems that we see Kenny more often in the past few months than any other drummer. That’s fine, he’s great. But, as with Abby Payne’s set last week, if the band plays really loud (and they did), Kenny can match them, making the drums a bit too loud as well.

KennyShaw

The show was fantastic, so you can stop reading now if you don’t want some negativity in your lives.

I’m coming to the (very unfortunate) conclusion that Rockwood 1 is simply not a good place for a highly amplified set (though I admit that I’ve seen a number of shows where it wasn’t a problem, including last week’s Greg Mayo set). In addition to the electronic keyboards being amplified (obviously), there were three separate amps on stage (Roy’s electric guitar, Derek’s acoustic guitar and Assie’s bass). That’s what caused Kenny to strike the drums really hard.

It’s not entirely the sound guy’s fault, since the amps are controlled directly by the players. Someone in the audience called out that Derek needed to turn up his vocals. They may have tried, but it didn’t make a difference. Derek responded that it’s hard to tone down the volume when the band is 1/2 deaf. He added that even if Roy crawled inside his own amp, it wouldn’t be loud enough for Roy’s taste. Winking smile

That said, all of the vocals could be heard reasonably well (as instruments), but on the faster/louder numbers (the majority), the lyrics were really hard to make out (unless you know the song well). From a party point of view, no biggie, the party was just as much fun. From a “Derek might be singing something interesting” point of view, not so much…

So, no one instrument overwhelmed the others (the sound was nicely balanced), but together they were all too loud (not painfully so!).

Let’s finish by repeating the more important points: great show, great new additions to the band, awesome to have the original Lovely Fools back! Smile

Live Society at Arlene’s Grocery

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I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to make this show. We had early dinner plans, but that didn’t mean the dinner wouldn’t last a long time. Amazingly, unbeknownst to us, our friend had a ticket for the 7:30pm show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, which I guess explains her agreement to an early hour for dinner (always our preference anyway!).

We shared a cab downtown, walked her to Rockwood and continued the extra 1.5 blocks to Arlene’s Grocery.

I really wanted to see Live Society again (I saw them last week at Rockwood 2, covered here) for two reasons:

  1. They’re awesome, so anytime it is convenient, I would go see them!
  2. Lois missed last week’s show, and I knew how much she’d enjoy it, so making up for last week’s miss this quickly was a big win!

Rather than repeat what’s so special about Live Society, please read the post linked above, or my post about the Soul Benefit where I first discovered them.

I’ll just post some photos, mentioning along the way some differences in last night’s performance, while saying a few words about each band member.

Left-to-right on stage (front row first, then the back row, stacked behind them):

Kevin Collazo on harmony vocals. This accounts for one of the differences. The previous two times I’ve seen Live Society, Kevin was on Brian’s left (our right). This time he was on Brian’s right (our left). I wasn’t sure I could handle the change, but thankfully, I made it. Winking smile

KevinCollazo

Kevin sings so well, but as I’ve mentioned both times in the past, he hasn’t taken a lead on any of the songs. After the show last night, I mustered up the courage to tell him (in front of Brian, his baby brother) that he needs to take the lead on at least one song. His response was extremely funny, but you would’ve had to have seen the show to get it (and I’ll spare you the back story, but encourage you to attend their shows, since their personalities shine on stage).

Brian chimed in right away, saying that Kevin does indeed have an amazing voice, and they would make sure to work in a lead soon. Great!

Brian Collazo on lead vocals, harmony and acoustic guitar on a few numbers. Brian was wonderful, as he has always been. We’ve seen Brian one additional time without Live Society, performing at an American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood 2 last week. He was amazing then as well. As I noted in that post, he’s even better with the tightness and shared experience of Live Society.

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Jason Vargas (a.k.a. Jay Vegas, though Brian did not call him that last night, for the first time) on vocals and general merriment duties. I mentioned in the last post that Jason has a smile that can melt the room. It was on last night, as was his banter. He knows how to work a room in the best sense. Oh yeah, let’s not forget how incredible his voice is (both on lead and harmony).

JasonVargas

Scott Harper on saxophone and flute. Scott was terrific on the sax (again), but broke out a flute on one song. If he played the flute at Rockwood, I missed it, since I was at the opposite end of the club from Scott that night.

ScottHarperScottHarperFlute

One of the side benefits of blogging about every show we attend is that I can quickly look up facts by simply searching my own site! I love the flute (have I mentioned that I love most instruments, perhaps not equally, but there isn’t a big gap between the ones I love!). So, I just searched for the last time I saw a flautist (impressed that I know that word, pretentious or otherwise?):

  1. 12/12/2010, we saw the Artemis Chamber Ensemble. Two of the pieces featured an incredible flute player, Melissa Healy.
  2. 10/09/2010 (American Date System in use here) we saw the Richmond Symphony. I described myself as being in flute heaven.
  3. 12/20/2009 we saw Cherish The Ladies. Don’t get me started on how amazing Joanie Madden is on the flute.

The list continues, but I’m already off topic, except to say that I hope Scott will do more flute in future shows (if he wants to skip it on the nights I can’t make it, I’ll allow that).

John Kaiteris on electric guitar. John writes many of Live Society’s songs. After a slow number, early in the set (that I’ll call “The Heights”, but that’s probably not the name), an audience member sitting right next to me asked who wrote it. John did, but it also afforded an opportunity for Brian and Jason to poke a little fun of John (in a loving way). Like I said, they all have excellent stage presence!

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John is also an incredible guitarist (I’ve mentioned it both times I’ve seen him before, but I will hammer that point home until you get it, OK?). Like Greg Mayo, John never disappoints, on any lead. It’s that simple. I will publicly admit that I had a momentary fantasy during one of John’s leads last night that he and Greg would play some Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd songs together, so I could get the multiple lead guitars done right, live. Smile

You’ll have to read to the bottom to see how I might have missed that happen. You’ll also have to read my fourth post of the day today (this is the first of four!) to see how it’s quite likely that I made it happen (assuming it did…).

Tyger MacNeal on drums. My only second of nervousness last night (other than seeing Kevin and Jason swap positions) Winking smile was in noticing during setup that Erik Perez was not manning the drums! Erik is really great and so well matched with Live Society (that shouldn’t be a surprise, as Brian told me last week Erik founded the group!).

TygerMacNeal

I will happily accept Erik back any day of the week (he’s that good), but, if Tyger replaces him when he can’t make it, I promise to be equally happy. Tyger is that good too. Only this morning did I get to look him up and see who he has played with. The list is a who’s who of All Stars (mind boggling actually), but my jaw dropped when I read that he toured with one of my all-time heroes, Jose Feliciano!

He’s been with Jose Feliciano for over 10 years and is the first person listed in Jose’s band. My mind is still reeling…

Anthony Candullo on electric bass. I’ve enjoyed his play both times before, but I had a better angle on him this time, and for whatever reason, was able to appreciate his play even more. I’m not sure it was different or better, just that I was able to notice it clearly.

AnthonyCandullo

Jeremy Baum on electronic keyboards. Jeremy was good last week and better this week. He took a longer solo (the set lists were not identical, which was great!) and he was excellent.

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After the show we went up to tell everyone how great it was and got a great shot of the band all squeezed in together.

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I mentioned above that I fantasized about John Kaiteris and Greg Mayo jamming together, entirely for my personal benefit.

We had two more shows on our schedule for last night (and ended up sitting in on a third, hence three more posts today!), so we missed another event across town.

Shortly before we left the apartment I saw a tweet from Martin Rivas that they were having another Campfire event, this time at Slane. We had just attended our first-ever Campfire (unfortunately one of the few that Martin, one of the co-founders of Campfire, ever missed) at Red Lion on Sunday night. You can read about the awesome mayhem. I was very sorry we were going to miss this one.

Imagine how sorrier I was when I saw the following tweet stream after I got back home (the first entry is actually from a friend’s Facebook status):

slane. NYC campfire. I think I died and went to music heaven.

@SamTeichman wrote: The joy, friendship, creativity and love of music that is on display at a@NYCcampfire is absolutely life changing. It’s indescribably good.

he added: 1. Saxophone duels are among the coolest things in music. 2. @NYCcampfire is RIDICULOUSLY fun. 3. My smile is illegally big right now.

OK, I missed an awesome show (I trust both Kelly and Sam’s opinions completely). But then, I read the following tweet from Martin Rivas:

That was a rather titanic @NYCcampfire. Thx guests @gregmayomusic @jefflitman @matt_simons @SierraNoble @livesocietyband @sethfaulk xo!!

Wait, what? Greg Mayo was there (only a minor surprise) but so was Live Society (a major surprise). Now I know what Sam meant by Dueling Saxophones! Obviously, Matt Simons (great) and Scott Harper (see above!) went at it, and I missed it.

I still don’t know (perhaps I don’t want to know!) whether Greg and John took simultaneous leads on any song. I might be heart-broken if the answer is yes. On the other hand, I might be heartened that it did happen, so that I know it could happen again! Smile

Greg Mayo, Craig Meyer, Tony Maceli and Guests at Red Lion

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I’m a fanatical lover of great guitar playing. If that’s news to you, welcome, this is likely your first time visiting here.

Candyrat Records has signed an impressive number of the top instrumental guitarists around. Every so often they schedule a tour with a number of their artists. We’ve seen one that was headlined by Andy McKee (covered here). It was as good as I hoped/expected.

Two months ago I saw that Candyrat scheduled a show at Rockwood 2 with four players, two of whom were new to me, but the other two I own all of their CDs. I was 90% sure that we would attend. I can’t explain why I didn’t buy tickets in advance (that’s my modus operandi) but I kept procrastinating. As the day got closer, I became more sure that we would attend.

Then this past week happened. We were out six nights in a row, most of which were long and very late (for us). On Saturday morning, knowing we’d be out late that night, I told Lois that I changed my mind, we’d skip the Candyrat show and head to the house for a much-needed collapsing. Ah well, the best laid plans…

I come to praise Twitter, not to bury it. Winking smile

I’ve repeatedly promoted the fact that you should follow your favorite artists on Twitter because you will often learn about late-breaking shows. Fortunately (or unfortunately if sleep is desperately needed!) Winking smile that’s exactly what happened mid-day yesterday. I noticed the following tweet from Greg Mayo:

Tonight I’m taking requests with my good friend @CraigJMeyer at the Red Lion 7:30 to 10:30…beware, I only know 6 songs, so request wisely

For the newbies here, in yesterday’s post, I anointed myself President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club. It felt unseemly to shirk my Presidential duties the very next day. So, sleep be damned, our plans changed on the spot.

GregMayoSettingUp

We arrived at the Red Lion (our first time there, though we’ve heard about it many times) at 7:25pm. Our first (of many!) surprises was revealed before we even got to step inside. Standing on the street with his bass strapped to his back was Tony Maceli, one of our favorite people (oh yeah, and also a great bass player, but who cares about that part, right?). Winking smile Since everything I knew about this show (you’ll understand the italics in a minute) was contained in the tweet above, I had no idea that Tony was sitting in with Greg and Craig.

When we walked in I spotted Bri Arden. I really enjoyed her rendition of Proud Mary at the Soul Benefit we attended. I’ve been following her since, but haven’t been around when she’s performed her own set. I introduced myself and headed to the table Lois had already grabbed, where she was sitting with Tony’s girlfriend. (Surprise #2 and #3)

I looked at the beer list and was happily surprised (#4) to see they had Smithwick’s on draught! (It’s pronounced Smiddick’s, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of having that explained to you in a pub in Ireland, when you are first introduced to Guinness’ biggest competitor). I also saw they serve food there (surprise #5) so I had a yummy garlic hummus plate (we ate a late-ish lunch and ran out thinking we’d skip dinner).

I left my beer for a minute when I noticed that Sierra Noble sat down at the same table Bri Arden was at. Tony Maceli was chatting with them. I knew that Sierra just arrived in town that day (from her tweets) and I wanted to introduce myself and share the small world story that I had blogged about her amazing song, Human After All. She cut me off by telling me she had read that post! Sweet! I was honored and humbled. (#6, I’m keeping count for the lazy and math-challenged among you!)

Oh yeah, there was also music, but since it hadn’t started yet, I filled in the time by telling you the above. Now we’re back in sync.

The music part of this post will be split into two logical sections. They occurred largely at the same time (with a three-song delay), but hopefully, you’ll understand why I’m splitting them up (if not, send me a lot of money and I’ll cover these events your way!). Winking smile

First, the purely musical aspect of the night. So, I see tweets all the time from Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer that they will be playing at Red Lion (they do a series there called Campfire, and they play there regularly otherwise as well). I think Martin was out of town either celebrating the day after his Birthday, or more likely, recovering from an alcohol infused daze. So, I think Craig invited Greg to sit in for Martin.

The core of the musical group, sitting left-to-right on stage:

Craig Meyer on drums and vocals. I can’t recall Craig ever singing before, so this was a welcome surprise (#7). A much bigger surprise was that Craig handled the MC duties throughout the two sets (they took a 20+ minute intermission). He was clever, charming, quick, funny and did it all in a rich, deep, radio DJ like voice. Clearly, there are many dimensions of Craig we were unexposed to, that we now know we need to mind. (#8).

CraigMeyerDrums

Greg Mayo on acoustic guitar and vocals. What? Acoustic? Hell yeah! This was the first time we’ve seen Greg with an acoustic guitar. Hopefully it won’t be the last. (#9). If you ask me whether he handled it with the same skill and ease that he exhibits on an electric, I’ll have to deny you membership to the Greg Mayo Fan Club (when you send your application, please include your dues, checks should be made out directly to me, PayPal gladly accepted!).

GregMayoRippingItUp

Tony Maceli on electric bass and vocals. Yes, vocals, and I’m not talking some way in the background harmony. Tony took the lead on a number of songs (I’ll be more specific in the next section) and sang more forcefully on the backgrounds on the others. (#10). I’ve always loved Tony’s bass play, largely because it’s understated but always appropriate to whomever he’s playing side-man to. Last night Tony took many full-on bass leads, a number of them a very high speed. Wonderful! (I won’t count that as a surprise, since I knew Tony had the skills, he just hadn’t busted them out in front of me yet.)

TonyMaceliSinging

The music was planned to be covers all night, but I didn’t know if there was a theme. Greg kicked it off with back-to-back Jazzy/Blues numbers, then shifted to some Soul. If the rest of the night hadn’t turned into what it did (see section two, shortly), and I hadn’t had a second Smithwick’s (Yeshhh, after all, Ireland is pretty close to Scotland!), I would probably remember which artist they were covering, as every song was a super-famous classic (I’ve never mentioned this, I don’t take notes, every blog is completely from memory, hence all the errors and omissions).

CraigMeyerGregMayoTonyMaceli

After the fourth number, Greg revealed the theme: they were planning to do two songs by each artist and move on to the next. Simple enough. Of course, just like my original plans for the evening, that isn’t the way it played out. In fact, immediately after announcing that, everything changed…

Before shifting gears I’ll note that during the first few numbers, I noticed Christina Morelli was there as well. I want to pad my surprise count, but saying that I am surprised to see Christina at a show that I’m at would be disingenuous. In fact, I could save myself time and effort and just hack into her Calendar and stop maintaining my own! Winking smile

While I didn’t connect with Christina last night, Lois went over to introduce herself, so between last night and the night before, Christina has met our entire family. Smile

Before (finally) moving on, let me just summarize that the music was fantastic all night (roughly two hours split over two sets). Last caveat, I’m reasonably sure I’ll mess up the order of some of the songs and guests below. You’ll have to excuse my still-delicious haze. I give you permission to correct me if you were there, or permission to imagine it in any order you’d rather if you weren’t. Winking smile

Having never been to the Red Lion before, and having never clicked on any of the Campfire YouTube videos either, I really had no idea what to expect. The minute we walked in, it was obvious that this was a pub-style restaurant where the music was meant to be more of a live jukebox. In other words, this wasn’t a listening room. That’s fine. One of my best night’s out was at Mona’s, listening to Dennis Lichtman and Mona’s Hot Four, while 80% of the people at the bar were socializing loudly (for a while, including me, oops!). It’s all about context (to me at least).

We were at the table closest to the stage, in front of Greg (center-stage). I figured that no matter what went on around us, I could tune in to the music and squelch the inevitable bar noise.

That turned out to be true (sort-of), but in a way I never anticipated. Starting at the very first song, a group of people (mostly women) at the table to our left started singing loudly along with Greg. I still had no idea what would come next. This could devolve, or get very interesting.

Craig (in his role as MC) engaged them directly. He asked where they were from and they said NJ. For the rest of the night, Craig referred to them as The Jersey Girls, which was an effective way of differentiating them (you’ll understand in a minute).

CraigMeyer

When Greg started the third song, Lois turned to me and Amy (Tony’s girlfriend) and said “Ask Greg to play Oh Bla Di”. I have never heard Lois ask for a Beatles song. Even though Lois controls the iPod in the car, not once has she put on a Beatles song (even though I have 90 on there!). I was in shock, which caused me to not call it out. I didn’t even know whether The Beatles were in their repertoire.

If you read yesterday’s post, then you know I said this:

Lois has a way of bending the universe to her will (if you know her, you know I’m not exaggerating!).

You’ll have to read the rest to figure out how that played out Fri/Sat, but I’ll tell you how it worked out here. Note that I mentioned the theme of the night wasn’t revealed until after the fourth song, so we didn’t yet realize that they would be running through many different artists when Lois asked me for this song.

Well, the next artist up after the fourth song was, Ta Da, The Beatles! The song wasn’t Oh Bla Di, but hey, you never know! Well, you never know, unless you’re married to Lois. I bet you’re all way ahead of me, because song number six was indeed Oh Bla Di, and none of the people at our table said a peep, so there’s no way Greg could have known (from us) that Lois wanted to hear it. Thanks Universe! (Unfortunately, as with Christina Morelli being there, it would be cheating to count this as a surprise, even though it seemed like an impossibility!)

By this time, people were rolling into the bar on a consistent basis. When you couple the quality of the music, with the classic nature of the songs, it’s not even marginally surprising that most newcomers stopped by the stage to listen and sing along, loudly! The Jersey Girls (TJG) were only the beginning of a trend.

Even though Greg said they would play Beatles songs until they (or we) got tired of it, that didn’t happen. I may have the order wrong, but they quickly switched gears, and next up might have been Stevie Wonder. At some point, both Bri Arden and Sierra Noble got on the stage and sang backup vocals (on two songs). Folks, each of them is a bona-fide lead vocalist that you should never miss an opportunity to hear. Adding them as background vocalists was fun and great, even though it was short-lived. (#11)

SierraNobleBriArden

A few sailors came in (it is Memorial Day Weekend, and therefore Fleet Week as well!). It’s always great to be around our Military (at least it is for me!), but it’s obviously more special when we remember those that gave their lives so that we could get silly (not that I’ve gotten to the silly part yet!) in a bar in Greenwich Village. We salute you all! TJG did their part and danced with the sailors.

Minutes later the night took a dramatic turn. Eight girls walked in front of us (between us and the stage), semi-danced while they were in front of the stage (to acknowledge the great music/band) as they made their way to the bar. We all noticed them because each of them had neon glow necklaces on. Clearly, something was going on.

NeonNecklaces

Craig broke into a fabulous rendition of Bust a Move by Young MC. The crowd went nuts! If he stopped rapping for a second, the next words could easily be heard out of a dozen different people. Craig raps? (#12)

Immediately thereafter (remember, I’m making up the order as I go along) Winking smile Craig was on top of his MC duties. He asked the necklaced women what was going on. It was a Bachelorette  party. He asked who the bride-to-be was, and we were all introduced to Laura. Along with TJG, we had Laura and her entire bachelorette party (which grew beyond the initial eight) to focus on the rest of the night.

Craig asked if he could have a neon necklace. Instead, they gave him a neon sticker (which Craig proudly wore the rest of the night) that said: “Fling, Fling before the Ring, Ring!”. Smile

CraigMeyerFlingFlingSticker

Craig asked if Laura had a list of things she needed to complete while at the bar (I didn’t even know such a thing existed, perhaps because I never attended a bachelorette party before. At a bachelor party, the list is pretty short.) Winking smile

Not only did she have a list, they were neatly written out on flash cards. One of the attendees handed a card to Craig, who offered to try and help Laura get as many items checked off her list as he could. He was successful with at least two items (I might have missed a couple more). One of them was that Laura needed to get a random man in the bar to buy her a drink, by saying some unmentionable things to him. After Craig read that out loud (replacing the words “unmentionable things” with the real words), Laura was able to cross that one off a second later.

Here are four of those flash cards:

BachelorettePartyFlashCards

The next one was Do The Twist with a stranger, for the entire song. Sure enough, the band instantly started playing The Twist, and one of the sailors played the part of the stranger. After the song (yes, she twisted the entire time), he lifted her up like Richard Gere does with Debra Winger at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, to the delighted whoops of everyone who saw it. Laura ended up in the right bar on the right night. Smile

SailorAndLauraTwisting

While playing The Twist, the entire bachelorette party came out to dance (let’s just officially call the area between our table and the stage, The Dance Floor). Many others joined them (including TJG), and it remained crowded the rest of the evening. The people who danced, along with the people who sat close by, continued to sing along on nearly every song.

At one point, Craig invited Laura and her posse on stage to sing a couple of songs. They acquitted themselves very nicely!

LauraAndPosse

Out of the blue, Chris Ayer walks into the bar. For the newbies, he’s another one who we can’t get enough of (if I’m the President of Greg’s fan club, Lois is the Emperor of Chris’). Winking smile Greg spots Chris (who apparently wasn’t expected to be there, thanks again Twitter!), and announces that Chris would be joining them in a little bit to sing. Awesome! I’m sure it was as big a surprise to Chris as it was to us. (#13).

A few minutes later, a man in a hat walked in carrying a small saxophone case. He stood by the side of the stage for a song, and then walked across the dance floor very deliberately, looking at the band in what felt to me was like one gang eyeing another. What I didn’t realize is that he knew them well (at least Craig, if not Greg too). He’s played with Craig and Martin at the Red Lion many times (I found that out while Googling him). (#14)

The sax player was Chuck Hancock (I hope I linked to the correct person). Craig called him “Sir Chuck Hancock” throughout the night. Googling for that made it easy to see that Martin and Craig always call him by that name. Whether others do is a task I’ll leave to you!

After getting to the other side of the stage, he unpacked his sax and got on stage next to Tony. He’s an excellent sax player (he hits some extremely high notes so sweetly). He stayed on stage for much of the rest of the night and sang a bunch too (extremely well!). He took the lead vocals on Jackomo Fina Fina Nay. Trust me, that one got the crowd going too, since we all called back “Hey Now, Hey Now”, etc.

SirChuckHancockSax

In yesterday’s post I asked the rhetorical question: “Who doesn’t like a party?”. Well, while I thought I was in the middle of a party already (at least a bachelorette one), it only got more fun (and raucous) from there. I think one TJG called out for some Tom Petty. If not, once Greg decided to shift to Tom Petty, they (and others!) wouldn’t let him get off that theme for a while.

What made it crank up a notch is that it was during The Tom Petty Portion of the Evening (henceforth known as TTPPotE) that we got to hear Tony Maceli belt out the vocals to a couple of songs.

It was in TTPPotE that Chris Ayer came up and sang one. No disrespect to any of the other singers, but holy moly, with all that was going on in the room at the time, you could palpably feel everyone (in particular the women) take note of his voice and style of singing. (Seriously, Greg was awesome all night on the vocals, but do yourself a favor and check out Chris Ayer, you’ll be amazed!).

ChrisAyerSinging

(Full Disclosure: The previous paragraph was sponsored by Lois, in her capacity as Emperor of the Chris Ayer Fan Club)

Chris remained on stage for quite a while, singing mostly background vocals (I think he sang lead on one other number).

A little later on I spotted John Schmitt standing next to the stage. Sure enough, seconds later Craig announced that another special guest would be serenading us.

JohnSchmitt

They moved on to Paul Simon, with John Schmitt singing lead, including Me & Julio, featuring Chris and Sir Chuck on background vocals (and Chuck tearing it up on the sax, again).

ChrisAyerSirChuckHancock

Later in the evening, Sir Chuck took his sax into the middle of the dance floor and serenaded Laura (the bride-to-be, in case you aren’t paying attention any longer!), while she danced to his music, inches away.

SirChuckHancockInTheCrowd

I’m probably missing many more highlights, but it’s all a blur now, and I’m about to be late to what I expect will be a terrific Memorial Day BBQ at our friends’ house. So, I’ll just say that this turned out to be one of the most fun nights out, which is almost an incredulous statement given that it was our seventh night out in a row, all of which were amazing. To think that not only wasn’t this planned, I didn’t even know it was going to happen until that afternoon.

We are grateful that we changed our plans (fan club membership has its privileges) and can’t thank the band and all of the incredible guests for putting on more than a show, they hosted one of the best parties we’ve ever attended.

I can also scratch off Attend a Bachelorette Party from my bucket list. Winking smile

P.S. I couldn’t finish the photos before I had to call our hosts and apologize for only being 30 minutes late (it ended up being 32 minutes). I’m now at our friend’s house, full and happy, and being anti-social by finishing this up. At least they have Verizon FiOS, so the upload will go faster than if I wait until I’m back at the apartment.

Martin Rivas and Robbie Gil at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Martin Rivas was bringing his current Saturday Night residency at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 to a close last night (he’ll be touring Europe much of the summer). That would be reason enough to go see him (the last full-band show in NYC until late August or early September). But I’ll give you a better reason (even though you’re too late to act on it if you weren’t there), it was Martin’s Birthday!

In typical Martin style (his heart is bigger than any three of us mere mortals combined), he threw a party for the rest of us, rather than the other way around!

MartinRivas

Martin performed a set full of his original crowd favorites plus a few covers. Let’s give him none of the credit for that though. One of his birthday surprises was the set list itself. Martin didn’t get to peek at it until nearly show time. His band decided what songs Martin would have to play. Extremely cool idea on their part, well executed by everyone (Martin included). Since they are big fans of Martin as well, they were effectively making this a fan-driven set list.

MartinRivasBirthdaySetList

They had another surprise for him, which affected the entire set as well. They got him stinkin’ drunk (on top shelf hooch) before the show. I’ve never seen Martin wasted before, since he always has a long drive home after the shows. He announced (with another drink in hand!) that this was the first Rockwood show that he was going to be driven home from. Since his wife was in the audience, I presume that she was his designated driver. Perhaps the band also chipped in for a Limo (I can fantasize on Martin’s behalf, can’t I?). Smile

Martin was in excellent voice (which was a relief, since he’s been sick recently).

MartinRivasSinging

His guitar play was spot on as well (including an extremely tasty lead on an acoustic guitar, late in the set). During one song he popped a string. He played through the rest of the song without missing a beat (I saw the string fly away from the guitar when it happened).

When the song was over, he bestowed the honor of restringing it to Greg Mayo. It turned into a little bit on stage though, as it was the G string that popped. If you’re not following me, and some of the ensuing guffaws in the audience, that’s fine, as this is a PG-13 rated blog. Winking smile

A minute later, Greg emerged from the green room and informed Martin that he couldn’t repair it. I think I heard him say that the peg (the part that holds the string on the body of the guitar) came flying out as well. They took a quick look in front of Martin, didn’t spot it, and Martin decided to play the rest of the set without a guitar (no worries, there were two guitarists on stage with him throughout).

Greg being the clever guy that he is would have none of that. He returned a minute later with Robbie Gil’s guitar (Robbie headlined the set before, which I’ll cover later in this post). The tasty lead I mentioned above was performed on Robbie’s guitar, so thanks Greg for thinking of that, and Robbie for being willing to part with it (it was unbelievably worn/scratched, so it has to be one of Robbie’s favorites).

Martin got the crowd singing a few times (only once by asking us to). Even when people weren’t singing out loud, I saw so many people mouthing every word that Martin was singing. Most of his sets are like that, but there was definitely a special feeling in the air last night (I wonder why…).

Martin always has The Spirit in him. Since last night he also had the Spirits in him, he did something we often wish more performers would do on behalf of their fans/audience. He tried (with mixed success) a number of times to quiet the inevitable talkers. For the most part, he did it in the most loving way imaginable (seriously, he simply appealed to the talkers to listen quietly for one special song, then resume their talk about Stock Portfolios and Second Homes in the Hamptons!). Smile

One particularly annoying woman in the far corner yelled out “Hey, it’s SATURDAY NIGHT” (at the top of her lungs). Martin had a different kind of spirited response for her. The cheers and applause let him know that he was speaking for all us (well, I guess most of us). Here’s a Twitter exchange from a few minutes ago (as I am writing this) between Tony Maceli and Martin:

@martinrivas do you recall asking a young lady at Rockwood to ‘be quiet’ in a very un-Martin like way, followed by rousing applause?

@whosthebass did I do that?! Awesome!!!!! Hope it wasn’t too rude

Ah, reliving that moment this morning was sweet. Thanks Tony and Martin for making that happen. Smile

One last incident before we get back to the music (actually, the amazing band and guest!). Someone (I’d give them credit if I knew who) brought a lot of cupcakes (fancy ones from what I saw) to celebrate Martin’s birthday. One was passed to Martin on stage and we all sang Happy Birthday to him. Well, we started to, in a rag-tag disarrayed fashion. Martin made us all stop and said:

If you’re going to do this, then at least do it right. Ready? 1… 2… 3…

MartinRivasCoordinatingHappyBirthdaySong

That’s all it took to get us all on the right page. Thanks for that as well Martin. But that’s not the incident, I needed to relate that part so that you’d know there were a lot of cupcakes in the room. Winking smile

MartinRivasHappyBirthdayCupcake

One moron (yes, I spent hours considering the exact right word to describe this person) thought it would be funny to toss a cupcake on the stage. Of course, it landed icing side down on top of the electronic keyboard (somehow finding the most damageable thing it could on stage). It took time and effort to clean it off before the next song could start. Well done moron (sorry, it deserved repeating).

The band was amazing musically, but they were also the driving force in lifting Martin’s spirit even higher than usual (who knew that was even possible?). In combination with Martin, they turned an awesome show in a giant party as well (who doesn’t like a party?).

Left-to-right on the stage, followed by a very special guest appearance:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. I’ve written about Patrick many times, but this was our third night in a row seeing him tickle the ivories brilliantly (each night with a different band!), so there’s a lot of ink about Patrick on the home page at the moment. It was his keyboards (the top one of the double-decker setup) that had the pleasure of hosting the upside-down cupcake.

PatrickFirthKeyboards

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. Ryan did a fantastic job (as he does whenever he sits in on Martin’s full-band shows) banging on everything in sight. Not only did he play his own toys (cowbells, tambourine, shakers, etc.), but a couple of times he got up and shared the drumming duties (two drummers playing the same drum set at the same time). Awesome! Ryan was the person who diligently cleaned Patrick’s keyboard after the cupcake fiasco.

RyanVaughnPercussion

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Chris shared the leads with the other guitarist, Greg Mayo. In addition to each being excellent in their own right, they feed off of and complement each other. I’ll have a bit more to say about Chris’ vocals in a minute. This was also the second time we’ve seen Chris this week. He was part of Ian Axel’s band on Tuesday and rocked out that night as well.

ChrisKuffnerGuitarLeadChrisJuffnerSinging

Craig Meyer on drums. Craig is always superb on the drums. Last night was no exception. In fact, if it’s possible, he rose to the occasion of wanting/needing to make this night a bit more special. After all, he’s Martin’s Baby Brother (if you haven’t been to one of Martin’s show, don’t bother looking up which one of them changed their last name, it’s Martin’s homage to how much he loves and respects Craig as a person and as his primary drumming partner!). This was our second time seeing Craig at Rockwood 2 this week.

CraigMeyerDrumsCraigMeyerTambourine

Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. Another excellent performance by Brian. As with Patrick Firth, this was our third consecutive night enjoying Brian’s play (they were in the same bands each night).

BrianKilleen

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. Since we saw Greg headlining a set that ended just 22 hours before Martin hit the stage, I’ll point you to that post to read my thoughts on this extraordinary musician. For the people at my table last night (you know who you are!), the looks we exchanged every time Greg took a lead will remain etched in my memory forever! I’ll have something to add when I cover Robbie Gil, since Greg (along with Patrick Firth and Ryan Vaughn) also played in that set.

GregMayoJamming

There weren’t any really slow songs last night, so it’s not surprising that this band kept such a steady level of energy that had practically everyone in the crowd swaying, dancing, bobbing, tapping, clapping, etc., throughout every song. The possible exception was the woman that Martin needed to slap down (sorry, I couldn’t resist one last cheap shot).

Bess Rogers was called up as a special guest. This is the song where Martin pleaded with people to be quiet (before his exchange with the woman, he was speaking to a different set of women at the bar). Martin knew why quiet would be necessary for the full enjoyment of what we were about to experience (we had no clue, or at least I didn’t).

Martin started singing, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar, with Chris Kuffner  playing the electric, softly. Both Bess and Chris sang soft harmonies, not even that often. I admit (why do I always bare my soul here?) that I wondered for a second why Martin bothered to call Bess up. It seemed like he was wasting an opportunity to share her talent with the crowd.

Then the moment came. Both Martin and Chris stopped playing their guitars. Martin, Bess and Chris continued a capella in stunning three-part harmony. It was so breath-taking, even the talkers stopped (like seeing the burning bush, even non-believers have to at least wonder). Suddenly, Bess’ role in celebrating Martin’s birthday became crystal clear. Thanks!

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBessRogers

Bess and Martin are touring together (I assume with Chris as well). Folks, even if they just play this one three-minute song and leave the stage, get out to see them if/when they hit your town. With a little luck, they might stick around and dazzle you a bit more than that. Winking smile

At one point late in the show, Seth Faulk jumped on stage to join in the percussion merriment. A little later, Adam Christgau followed his lead and turned the merriment into a bit more percussion mayhem. Smile

GregMayoSethFaulkAdamChristgauClapping

Martin closed out the show with North. Such a soulful song to underscore the evening. He brought out a dancer (Whitney G-Bowley of GIG) to add a visual dimension to the song.

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasWhitneyG-Bowley

When I say “closed the show”, of course, I mean pre-encore. For the encore, Martin brought out two additional special guests, Robbie Gil and Casey Shea (who was headlining the next set). Along with the full band, they performed Stand By Me, which included having the crowd sing the chorus (with them and separately!) a number of times. The party atmosphere was at its height!

What a spectacular way to end the show (rather than close the show). Winking smile

Since we were there for the set before Martin’s, I had time during the break between them to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, find and introduce myself to Christina Morelli. While she’s talented in many ways, I came to discover her through her passion for covering and promoting the NYC Art Scene. Subscribe there and follow her on Twitter.

Aside from her own excellent writing, she gives a voice, platform and exposure to many talented NYC-based artists. She also does interesting video interviews in collaboration with the effervescent Sam Teichman (whom you can also follow on Twitter). Want to know why you should follow Sam on Twitter? Consider this tweet from last night (sent during Martin’s set!):

Music is my religion. Rockwood Music Hall is my favorite place of worship. @martinrivas can be my spiritual leader anytime. So inspiring.

On to Robbie Gil! We’ve only seen Robbie perform one song, as a guest at a Big Apple Singers show. He was excellent. In fact, the song he led that night was the highlight of the set for me. Here’s an out-of-context quote from that post (but you can read the entire thing to really understand what I was saying):

Robbie kicked off another The Band song but insisted that each of the other band members sing at least one verse (that’s the song that Chris took a lead on). Robbie’s voice was wonderful as was his spirit on the stage. It’s the one exception I noted above to nearing the feeling I had on Wednesday.

We’ve missed Robbie Gil’s full sets three times now. The first one (mentioned in the above-linked post) was simply because I chose to see Derek James perform next door (and I’m choosing to see Derek James again this Wed, 8pm, Rockwood 1). The next two times I tried to see Robbie, the place was so crowded that the bouncer wouldn’t let me in. One of those nights was bitterly cold (and windy to boot), but I stood outside and suffered so that I could at least enjoy Martin’s set (they often follow each other). How could I not keep trying to see someone who was obviously so popular?

Well, I guess I have to thank New Yorkers need (or is it just desire?) to escape the city on holiday weekends. Third time’s the charm, as we got in to see Robbie. It was a large crowd, but not at capacity, like it was in my previous attempts.

Robbie is a soulful, gravelly-voiced singer (which is why he killed it when singing The Band song with The Big Apple Singers) that seems to drain every ounce of energy in his body on every song. Miraculously, he has some secret recharging source that gets him ready for the next song in the few seconds he has between them.

He played both grand piano (which he opened the show with) and acoustic guitar, very well. He also sang a bit without an instrument (but always with the band, with one exception I’ll note below).

RobbieGilPiano

Robbie performed a number of originals, mixed with covers, all well. Given the amount of passion he puts into every note, it’s sometimes hard to hear the words clearly, so I don’t have enough of a sense of him as a lyricist yet (with the same exception noted above).

What comes across most is his joy on stage, which he spreads like a warm blanket on a cold day over the audience. Pairing his sets with Martin’s is brilliant, both for the genre similarities (that will make an audience for one happily stick around for the other) and for the spiritual well-being projecting from the stage from each of them.

Robbie was accompanied by a full band on nearly every number. Three of the four band members played with Martin as well: Patrick Firth, Ryan Vaughn and Greg Mayo.

Patrick Firth played both electronic keyboards and grand piano (the grand piano was lifted off the stage for Martin’s set). As good as Patrick is on the electronic keyboards, I am even more taken by his play on the grand piano (it’s simply purer).

RobbieGilPatrickFirth

While singing one number, Robbie Gil stepped over to the far left corner of the stage and started playing four-handed piano with Patrick (he remained standing while playing!). We’ve seen this before (The Paper Raincoat’s Right Angles comes to mind), but with no disrespect to other piano players, this was the best I can recall. Awesome!

RobbieGilPatrickFirthBothPlayingPiano

Ryan Vaughn played the full drum set. I’ve heard nothing but praise for his drumming from so many people, but previous to this set I’ve only seen him play percussion to Craig Meyer’s drums. I can now confirm that those rumors of his skill were not exaggerated. He’s a wonderful drummer! Sorry about the red eye in the photo.

RyanVaughnDrums

I don’t have anything new to say about Greg Mayo’s guitar play (it was equally awesome in both sets), other than to note that he took much longer leads during Robbie’s set, partially because he wasn’t sharing the duties with Chris Kuffner.

GregMayoLeadGuitar

I’ll note two critical things:

  1. Robbie kneeled down a number of times when Greg was taking a solo, so that people on the opposite side of the stage could enjoy it visually as well as aurally. This was precisely the same type of classy move I praised Evan Watson for (in the same post linked above where we first saw Robbie sing!).RobbieGilKneeling
  2. Robbie heaped so much praise on Greg (repeatedly), that I felt certain he was actively campaigning for my position as President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club. BACK OFF ROBBIE, the job is taken! Winking smile

Lois ended up sitting right next to Robbie’s dad. Toward the end of the set Robbie gave him a shout out and the crowd enthusiastically gave him an ovation.

RobbieGilWithHisDadLookingOn

Nick Morrison on electric bass (the only additional band member, but I can’t find a good link to him). Very well done! Now I can finally get to the exception. Robbie dismissed all but Nick from the stage. He took to the piano and sang a new original number named I Believe. Nick accompanied him quietly and beautifully on the bass. Since it was a quiet song, we could hear the words clearly. Both Lois and I thought it was a really good song, so hearing more of his material is warranted.

NickMorrison

Robbie called up Martin Rivas to close his set and they sang Feeling Alright by Dave Mason. Of course, as with Martin’s Stand By Me, the crowd joined in for much of the song, included a few choruses of just the audience singing.

RobbieGilMartinRivasNickMorrison

Lois has a way of bending the universe to her will (if you know her, you know I’m not exaggerating!). The night before, when we were at Greg Mayo’s midnight set, Lois whispered to me “Ask Greg to play anything by Dave Mason!” (that’s the gospel truth!). I said: “While he’s doing covers tonight, they’re not requests, we’ll have to take whatever he gives us!”.

Obviously, Lois wasn’t satisfied with my answer, so she took matters into her own hands and found a way to force Robbie to satisfy her desire to hear a Dave Mason song performed live. Be afraid people, be very afraid… Winking smile

What an absolutely spectacular night.

We had fully intended to stay for Casey Shea next, since so many people have told me I need to get to know his music. We did hear the first three songs (all good!), but we left for two reasons: 1) His set started 75 minutes later than expected (I was ready to collapse rather than get wound even tighter) and 2) The volume doubled the minute they started, to an uncomfortable level. We’ll catch a set of Casey’s soon enough, I’m sure.

Greg Mayo at Rockwood Music Hall

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We saw Greg Mayo perform at Rockwood Music Hall two nights ago, in support of Rebecca Haviland (covered here). Here are two things I said in that post:

Can I praise Greg more than I have in the past? It’s a difficult assignment, but I’ll be sure to work hard at it.

and

We’ll save more Mayo Hype for when he’s front and center. Smile

At the bottom of the post I mentioned that we also saw Greg jump on stage next door at the finale of the Idol Rejects Show. I bumped into him after the show and told him that while I was aware he had a show at midnight the next night (last night), we likely wouldn’t be able to force our bodies to stay up that late. Obviously, he understood.

I’ve already written four posts today about 3.5 sets that we saw at Rockwood (6, 7, 8 and 1/2 of 9pm sets!). This is the fifth and last post of the day. After taking care of a small task at 9:30pm, we went home and collapsed (Lois fell asleep while I tinkered with my Droid).

Given the first quote above, I realized that I had set myself a difficult assignment and that I would be furthering the cause if I made the effort to go back out to see Greg at midnight. Since Lois is a light sleeper, when I just considered moving, she was up like a shot, insisting that she was joining me.

We arrived exactly at midnight. Greg and the band were just about done setting up. Perfect timing.

Greg introduced last night’s lineup as “Greg Mayo and his Cronies”. However, he noted that the name will likely change weekly, so don’t get used to it. Brian Killeen, the bass player, joked that previously, they were called “Greg Mayo and his Acquaintances”. Greg quipped back that eventually, they might be known as “Greg Mayo and his Family!”. Smile

The show was billed as a mix of originals and covers and they delivered just that. When I noticed that Patrick Firth was joining Greg, I assumed Patrick would be on the keyboards and Greg would on the electric guitar. This is what provided the added adrenaline I needed to get myself up and out.

However, earlier in the evening, when I mentioned exactly that to a friend of Greg’s, she told me that Patrick Firth might break out some new songs he was recording and that if he did, he’d likely play them on the guitar. Ah, I was back to not having a clue.

Luckily for me (and any other serious guitar fans), my original instinct turned out to be correct.

Greg Mayo played guitar for the entire set, and of course, sang a ton as well (lead and harmony). What made this beyond special for me is that I sat directly in front of Greg. When he was at the microphone, I was roughly 18 inches from the guitar. When he stepped back to take a lead, I was all of 24 inches away. I was in heaven.

GregMayoSinging

Unfortunately for Greg, I was able to study all of his secrets. I no longer need to come see him play. I can just whip out my own guitar (which I’ll have to buy first), and recreate his leads flawlessly, whenever I’m in the mood. Winking smile

Greg played at least two of his originals, taking incredible, long leads during each one. Of course the shorter leads during every song were just as tasty, but I could sense he just wanted to leave me hanging, wanting more. Smile

GregMayoGuitar

Patrick Firth on grand piano and electronic keyboards sang lead on two songs. The first was Take Me to the Pilot by Elton John. I’ve heard Patrick sing harmony on many of Martin Rivas’ sets, but this is the first time he took the lead. He has an excellent voice. More important, as I mentioned just the night before (in the post linked at the top), he kicked off the song with a spectacular piano solo. Between his solos and Greg’s, tiredness was no longer an issue. Getting my blood pressure down was the task at hand!

PatrickFirth

The second time Patrick took the lead he sang The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band. While his voice was just as good, it’s not as suited to the gravelly, southern rock style that I’m more accustomed to hearing on this number (as done to perfection by The Big Apple Singers and The Narwhals, both bands that Greg Mayo is in). Also, Patrick lost the words a couple of times, which raised smiles on and off the stage. These shows are about sharing the experience, not about perfect recitals.

PatrickFirthSinging

In the same post above, I mentioned that we finally heard Brian Killeen (on electric bass) sing! Well, in addition to continuing that last night (singing backup), Greg asked Brian to sing a song on the lead. Hilarity ensued, having nothing to do with Brian’s voice.

BrianKilleen

First, he had the lyrics typed out and they couldn’t get the stand to work correctly. In fact, it came apart a few times. Finally, they decided to leave it in a stable position, too low for Brian to comfortably see. Then, the fans in the room kept the lyrics swaying back and forth (looking like they would fly off the stand). At one point, I held the paper steady, but by then, Brian had given up all hope of getting this done.

BrianKilleenLyricSheet

The song was still a ton of fun, it just basically was delivered with every third word instead of all of them. Winking smile

Kenny Shaw rounded out the band, playing the drums, to perfection.

KennyShaw

Such a great set, such a great time, so glad we went!

I was quite surprised at the size of the crowd. It was nice when we got there, but over the course of the next 15 minutes kept building. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. If I was willing to get out of bed, given how tired I was, why wouldn’t everyone else (most of whom are younger and more vigorous to begin with). After all, it was an opportunity to hear four exceptional musicians jam their hearts out, in as relaxed an atmosphere as you could hope for.

Closing the circle on a comment I made in post #3 today, the one about Abby Payne. I lamented that there is often an inconsistency in the sound engineering, even in the same room, with the same people at the controls, with different bands that have similar equipment.

Since Greg’s set occurred on the same night, I am sure the same guy was working the sound (tucked in the ceiling at Rockwood). There was one less electronic keyboard in Greg’s set, but otherwise, the same instruments. The drummer was even the same (this was the fifth set that included Kenny that we saw this week!).

Even though I was three feet from Greg’s amp, it was never too loud, even for a single note! This, even though his guitar was the main event (which it wasn’t for Abby’s set). Also, same drummer, same drum set, same loud music (no soft numbers in the Greg’s set). This time, Kenny didn’t need to be overwhelming to match the guitar. Granted, I was also further away from the drum, so that might have accounted for much of the difference.

So, the sound was just right last night. As opposed to blame, I don’t know who to praise this time. Did the sound guy make the difference, or did these musicians realize that they didn’t need to set the amps and instruments on 10 and hope for the best?

Rebecca Haviland and American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood Music Hall

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I’ve written about Rebecca Haviland quite a number of times, each time glowingly. That said, the most songs we ever saw her perform in a row were three, at a recent Backscratch show. We’ve wanted to catch a full set for a long time and nearly pulled it off twice. It finally happened last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1.

Rebecca played mostly originals, with two excellent covers thrown in for good measure. I was impressed with her set list, because it showed her voice off over a number of genres and volume levels.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

You shouldn’t have to ask, but for you insistent types, yes, Rebecca excelled at all of them, on every song.

She chose to play every number accompanying herself on electric guitar (very nicely). We’ve seen her play keyboards twice before and she impressed me mightily both times, so we still have that to look forward to in a future set.

RebeccaHavilandGuitar

Rebecca was accompanied by some of the best NY-based musicians (we count them among our favorites). I’ll cover them in a minute. Halfway through the set, she dismissed them all. She played a spanking brand new song, solo. It’s so new, that she decided to restart it a few seconds in, to get into the right rhythm.

It’s either called Pain and Pleasure, or Pleasure and Pain (though on the set list, it’s marked as “Sing”, which I doubt means that she needed to remember to use her voice, so I’m not really sure). Winking smile

Aside from really liking the song (and enjoying the intro Rebecca shared with us), I loved the fact that the guitar was so minimalist (almost dark/brooding), that this song was basically Rebecca, raw. The voice, lyrics and emotions, all delivered without any other distractions, other than a hauntingly simple guitar background.

On to the band, left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. Can I praise Greg more than I have in the past? It’s a difficult assignment, but I’ll be sure to work hard at it. Last night’s keyboards were wonderful, including solos on both piano and organ. Greg’s harmonies were excellent on many of the choruses as well. We’ll save more Mayo Hype for when he’s front and center. Smile

GregMayo

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris continues to impress more each time we see him (and that’s especially hard, since we seem to see him multiple times each week). I’ve mentioned recently that Chris has a good voice (something we didn’t discover until we saw the Big Apple Singers). Last night, in addition to quality bass play, Chris sang a lot of harmony with Rebecca (even more than Greg did). When the three of them sang together (on every chorus that Greg was singing), it was a complete delight.

ChrisAnderson

But, beyond playing the bass and singing, Rebecca mentioned that she writes some of her songs with Chris. I am guessing that would explain why Chris sang more harmonies with Rebecca than Greg did last night, considering that he likely knew the newer songs better.

Kenny Shaw on drums. This was the second night in a row seeing Kenny play the drums (the previous night was with The Thang Band over at Stage 2). What a contrast! (You’ll need to read this post to understand why). Aside from Kenny’s excellent play during Rebecca’s set, I got to tell him afterward how much I enjoyed The Thang experience.

KennyShawSettingUp

Kenny asked me whether I got a copy of their EP after the show. I said no. I turned away to say something To Chris Anderson and when I turned back, Kenny handed me the EP. I admit to not being quick on my feet. I took it, profusely thanking him, but my normal instinct would have been to pay for it. I don’t know whether they were charging for it the night before, but I’ll find out and make it right the next time I see Kenny. In any event, thanks!

After playing solo, Rebecca brought the band back out and sang a super-soulful, bluesy version of Black Dog by Led Zeppelin (she performed it at Backscratch as well). She then announced that she had two more songs.

After finishing the first, the house music and lights came on. Everyone was confused (band and audience alike). It took a minute to sort out, but the lights dimmed, the music went off, and Rebecca a flourish. Whew! It ended up feeling like an encore. Winking smile

An excellent set, delivered with an excellent band, by an exceptionally talented person. Thanks Rebecca!

RebeccaHavilandSetList

When the set was over, we headed next door to Stage 2 (like I did, sans-Lois, the night before).

Caleb Hawley (a mind-bogglingly talented individual) organized an American Idol Rejects Show. Aside from the kitsch factor, I can’t imagine missing an opportunity to see Caleb perform. There were other incentives to attend, covered below in the order they appeared.

CalebHawley

Caleb was on this season of American Idol, progressing a few rounds before finally being ousted (I don’t watch the show, so I can’t give a more technically accurate description). Winking smile

We saw him perform at a house concert in VA, that was over-subscribed and needed to be moved to a larger venue. To say that he blew us away would be an understatement. Since we knew/know nothing about American Idol, it had nothing to do with his new-found fame. Talent, that’s all he needed to win us over, instantly.

Caleb played all but one song on the electric guitar last night (the other was acoustic). At the house concert, he played an acoustic guitar. If you read about that night, you know I thought he was masterful on the acoustic. Let’s add an equal amount of praise for his skills on the electric. In addition to a bit of normal electric guitar play (using a pick to play fast leads), he also does his signature mixture of finger-picking, strumming and leads.

Caleb performed 1/2 a dozen songs (give or take), all accompanied by a full band (all of whom I’ll mention after I get to the remaining Idol Rejects). He was an excellent MC as well (note all of my previous comments on his stage presence). We’ll return to Caleb at the end, but he was also part of the house band (the guitar player, natch) for the rest of the guests.

Brian Collazo was a contestant on Season 2, so this wasn’t a Rejects from 2011 Idol show. Brian was nearly as equal a draw for me as Caleb was. As with Kenny Shaw above, I saw Brian perform the night before at Rockwood 2 (the set before Kenny’s), with his band, Live Society. If you clicked through to my coverage of Kenny’s set with The Thang, then you either read the beginning about Live Society, or you need to go back and read it now! Winking smile

BrianCollazo

Brian sang three songs and nailed every one of them. One was a Live Society number (that they played the night before on the same stage). As good as it was, and with top-notch musicians backing him last night, they couldn’t match how intimate the Live Society band (and backup singers) are with this number. Last night == Great. The night before == Awesome! Smile

CalebHawleyCraigMeyerBrianCollazoMartinRivasBrianKilleen

Devyn Rush was up next. She was on Idol this season, making it to Hollywood before having her dreams shattered. I don’t know if her situation is currently resolved, but in Googling her, I found this article that shows that chasing your dreams can have negative consequences besides not achieving them directly.

DevynRushSinging

This was the first time we’ve heard of Devyn, but not likely the last. She performed three songs, one at the center microphone and two at the piano. She sings really well and played the piano beautifully.

Lois was particularly impressed with her energy and stage presence. Reading the front page of her site (linked above) makes me feel that she’s an incredibly nice/good/kind-hearted person, so that the sweetness that comes across on stage is not an act.

While I was impressed with her performance in general, I’ll need to see her in a different setting to know what I really think of her. I wasn’t drawn to the particular song selection.

Devyn wrote a short blog entry about the show which you should definitely read! At the bottom of that post are links to three YouTube videos from last night. The first is when she sang at the mic, the second, of one of her two songs at the piano and the third was the finale with all of the guests on stage (I haven’t gotten to the next and last guest yet). If you watch the first two, you can make up your own mind about Devyn. Keep in mind that while the video quality is quite good (kudos to the videographer for having a very steady hand!), the sound quality is what you get from a hand-held and there’s a reasonable amount of crowd noise (I’ll say more on that at the end).

Jerome Bell was the next and last guest. Even though we don’t watch Idol, in a small-world coincidence, we’ve actually seen Jerome Bell perform two songs at Rockwood 2 before. He performed a set there on April 27th, 2011. We came to see Rosi Golan perform the next set and arrived early enough to catch the end of Jerome Bell’s. It was crowded beyond belief (Jerome has a lot of loyal fans, deservedly so).

JeromeBellSinging

Jerome performed a number of songs last night, including a Stevie Wonder cover (which he crushed) and his own hit, Collide, co-written with his Idol roommate Chris Medina while they were still in competition. That was one of the two songs we heard last time too. We enjoyed it as much last night as we did the previous time. You can purchase the song on iTunes, the link is in the article above.

In addition to the full band that everyone else employed, Jerome had his two regular backup singers join him on stage. After the show he named and thanked them, claiming that he always forgets to introduce them during the shows. He said their names clearly, and I thought I’d easily remember them (or be able to find them with a quick search), but, of course, neither happened. Sorry. They definitely added both flair and excellent harmonies to Jerome’s performance.

(I just watched the entire video embedded below, and right before the 7-minute mark, Jerome introduces them! Devin Snow and Steven Cutts [sp?]. Yay!)

JeromeBellStevenCuttsDevinSnow

Jerome is appearing tonight (Friday, May 27th, 2011) at 10pm at Rockwood 1.

On to the band (finally), left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). Patrick is always excellent, last night was no exception. In fact, he took a couple of great solos (one was unexpected, when Caleb’s pedal board failed briefly and Patrick quickly stepped in).

PatrickFirth

Most electronic keyboard players keep a Mac (or another laptop, but it’s almost always a Mac) right beside the keyboards. In a post about Candy Dulfer, I joked that Thomas Bank was checking his email on his Macbook Pro during the show. He dropped me an email (seriously!) letting me know that wasn’t the case! Winking smile

We sat right behind the piano, so I could clearly see what was on the screen. Now I understand completely. The laptop program showed a keyboard on the screen. Apparently, if the keyboard player forgets what note to play, they can look over at the simulated keyboard on the laptop and cheat. Sort of like the old Player Piano days! Winking smile

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Craig Meyer on the drums. Always great, both listening to his excellent drumming and watching his never-ending smile, which will lift the spirits of even the most depressed person on earth (let’s find that person, so I can test my theory soon!).

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Martin Rivas on tambourine, shaker and vocals. Martin was mostly a percussionist last night (singing harmony on one, or possibly two songs). I couldn’t resist joking with Martin after the show that I had no idea he was hiding his talent with the shaker until last night (I’ve seen him wield a tambourine before). At times, he even hit the tambourine with the shaker. How creative is that? Smile

MartinRivas

In significantly more important Martin Rivas news, his birthday is tomorrow (Saturday) and he’s throwing us (the world, not Lois and me) a party at Rockwood 2, 10pm. Come join us (this time I mean Lois and me) to hear him serenade us on his birthday!

Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. We’ve seen (and written about) Brian many times. He’s a consistently excellent bass player who hasn’t let us (or more importantly the people he supports) down. I learned something new about Brian last night. He can sing! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him open his mouth even to speak. He sang a bit of harmony on some of Caleb’s numbers.

BrianKilleen

For the finale, Caleb called Brian, Devyn and Jerome back up to reprise Jerome’s triumphant cover of Let’s Get it On by Marvin Gaye from his American Idol audition. The third video linked in Devyn’s blog is of this finale (all nine minutes of it!). I’m including it here, for those who didn’t bother to click through. Again, forget the audio quality, but enjoy the atmosphere and imagine it in high fidelity. It was a blast! The song actually begins at the 1:00 mark.

Finale of American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

If you watched the whole thing, you may have a partial sense of how funny Caleb is. If you didn’t watch it, then you might be wondering about the thumbnail above, where Caleb’s shirt is off. You can skip directly to the 4-minute mark to see why he took it off and what those tattoos on his belly are. Winking smile

Greg Mayo also jumped on the stage during the finale. I was on the opposite side of the room, so I didn’t see whether he had an instrument, sang, or was up there just to lend some moral support. No matter what, Greg enhances anything he’s around, so thanks for jumping in, no matter what role you played! Smile

After the show, I made a beeline to the stage to introduce myself to Brian Collazo. I also got to meet his significant other (or should I say better half) that I mentioned in yesterday’s post (she was the blond that sat two to my left). Here are the three of us (Lois insisted we pose):

BrianCollazoHisGF-Hadar

I have a lot to say about the crowd but I think I’m going to turn it into a full, separate post, because I had some insights that have previously eluded me. If our current schedule holds, I might be able to get that post out on Tuesday. With some luck, perhaps I’ll work on it after blogging tomorrow about the shows we will see tonight:

Abby Payne and Chris Ayer, 7pm and 8pm at Rockwood 1. Come join us in kicking off the Memorial Day Weekend off with some awesome music tonight! Smile

Big Apple Singers and Mighty Kate at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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What do you do when an extremely talented group of musicians doesn’t blow you away, then announces a new show? You go, without hesitation. No two shows are alike and the likelihood of a repeat experience is low.

When I noticed that The Big Apple Singers (TBAS) were playing last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 10:15pm, I admit to a second’s hesitation (making my second sentence above a bit of a white lie). However, when I also noticed that it would be a night of songs exclusively by The Band and would likely be TBAS last show for a while (ever?), I really had no hesitation.

It was a fantastic set. The only complaint was that much of it was too loud, but not in exactly the same way as the last time.

TBAS is four people and they brought up four guests as well. I’ll get to the guests after I mention the main guys. Left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and organ) and vocals. Greg has an excellent voice and he put it to good use last night on leads and harmonizing with the others. Greg is my favorite local guitarist, but he doesn’t play guitar in TBAS. Greg is an excellent keyboardist (aside from seeing him with TBAS before, that’s his instrument of choice in his own band, the Greg Mayo Band).

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I have always enjoyed Greg’s keyboard play (at every show), but last night he took it up a notch. He played some parts with both hands on the grand, others with both hands on the organ and many with his left on the organ and right on the grand. All were tingle-worthy.

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All three of the lead vocalists (including Greg) took one very long solo (without any accompaniment whatsoever) to start off one song each. Greg’s was entirely on the organ. He played for somewhere between 3-5 minutes while everyone on stage and in the audience stared at him and his fingers in amazement.

GregMayoOrganSolo

Evan Watson on electric guitar and vocals. Evan is an excellent guitarist and has a powerful voice. As I mentioned in my last post about TBAS, he’s very generous on stage. When Josh sings or does a drum solo, Evan squats on the stage so that the audience can see Josh. I didn’t mention it in the last post, but this is the second time that Evan broke a string on his primary guitar. Just like last show, rather than string a new one, he grabbed a spare electric guitar on the next number.

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Just like Greg above, Evan took a 3-5 minute solo on the electric guitar to kick off a song. It wasn’t too flashy, more like a building melody that kept the crowd interested, with their pulse (or at least mine) rising slowly but surely throughout, so that we were primed for the full band to kick in when the solo was done.

On the last number, Evan wailed on the harmonica quite well. I knew he wasn’t going to play it again that set, because when he was done with the harmonica, he tossed it (unceremoniously) on the floor and immediately switched to a guitar lead. Smile

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Josh Dion on drums and vocals. I was late to the party on hearing about and seeing Josh. He’s a favorite of many people whom I respect and that goes for me as well now that I’ve seen him a number of times (on drums and on keyboards). He’s an excellent singer and an amazing drummer.

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Just like Greg and Evan, Josh took a 3-5 minute solo. He’s soulful when he’s drumming slowly and blazingly fast when the sticks are just a blur. At either speed, he’s tasty and captivating. The looks on the band’s faces (let alone the crowd’s) were priceless!

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris did a great job on the bass. In addition to singing harmony, Chris took the lead on a verse in at least two separate songs. The only other time I’ve heard Chris sing lead was at the last TBAS show. He does it quite well.

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Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Rebecca jumped up on stage a number of times. Twice by herself and two other times with the ladies I will mention next. What can I say about Rebecca’s voice that I haven’t said before? Well, I’ve mentioned how powerful it is (coming from a tiny person), but not how easily she was able to be heard over the too-loud music. Such a force. Rebecca has her own set at Rockwood 1 on Thursday at 8pm. We’ll be there. Join us and experience this dynamo first hand!

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The first time Rebecca came up, three other women joined. Two of them are the leads in a group called The Vanity Belles. Carrie Welling (no good individual link) and Jessi Rae Waltz (also no good link) both added to the vocals and dancing, standing on either side of Rebecca. Both Carrie and Jessi joined Rebecca on a second song later in the set.

CarrieWellingRebeccaHavilandJessRaeWaltzAshleyLehmann

Ashley Lehmann joined Rebecca and The Vanity Belles the first time they were all up on stage. Considering that all four members of TBAS sing (well!), that made eight voices rockin’ it out on that number. Fantastic!

I am very glad to went to see TBAS again. Smile

Before going to a show at Rockwood, I always check to see who’s playing the set before. Aside from the opportunity to discover good music serendipitously, I do it because Rockwood has limited seating and we prefer to sit. Back in January, when doing exactly that, the set before was Mighty Kate (Katy Pfaffl).

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If you visit the site I linked above, at the time I’m typing this, the song Better Days starts playing automatically. That’s all I needed to hear to know we’d be attending the earlier set independent of the desire to sit. Unfortunately, Katy (or should I call her Kate, or Mighty?) got very sick and canceled that set back in January. I admit that I forgot to track her, but it turned out she didn’t reschedule until last night anyway (I’ll explain later!).

Imagine my surprise when I checked who was on before TBAS and immediately recognized the site and song. This was a no-brainer, we weren’t going to miss a second chance to see Kate/Katy/Mighty (OK, I’ll stop now). Winking smile

The set before Katy was a paid show, so even though we arrived way too early for her set, we had to wait outside. Thankfully, the weather was nice (it ended up pouring at some point while we were enjoying the two sets and was nice when we left again!).

Even though we were the first two to line up for Katy, the line got long pretty quickly. It was amusing to see how many people showed up claiming to be performing with Katy. It felt like a cast of thousands (it ended up being seven people in total).

Kate (see what I did there, I switched to her performing name) started the set off solo, playing the grand piano and singing. A very mellow, jazzy number that highlighted both her incredible voice and her excellent piano skills. Not the greatest song to grab a somewhat noisy crowd by the throat, but for those who listened, a well executed opener.

For the most of the remaining numbers (very few exceptions), Kate was joined by a drummer and bassist (electric). I’ll get to them shortly.

In addition to having such a great voice, Kate is also a mutli-instrumentalist. In addition to her piano play (most of the songs), she played an acoustic guitar (mostly picking, a little strumming) and a violin (on one number). She’s good on all three, but the piano play was the strongest (and most consistent).

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Not every song grabbed me, but all were very pleasant to listen to. Some were great. Many of the lyrics were deep, sophisticated and flowed very naturally. She’s a very talented woman (more on that in a bit).

Rich Mercurio on drums. I can’t find a good individual link for him, but here’s a summary on a band page (a little outdated, but wildly impressive nonetheless):

Manhattan based producer/musician/songwriter, has produced and written for various record and television projects. Rich has recorded and/or performed with artists including Enrique Iglesias, Jewel, Chris Whitley, Vitamin C, Jonatha Brooke, Michael Bolton, and Ronan Tynan. Appearances include The Tonight Show, The Late Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brian. He can currently be seen in the broadway production, Martin Short, Fame Becomes Me

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Richard Hammond on electric bass. Read his performances and discography. Be prepared to have your mouth agape while you’re doing it.

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That accounts for two of the seven people that performed with Kate, the two Rich’s (as she called them) forming the core band members.

Matt Doyle joined Kate to sing a cover, Thin Air by Aqualung. Kate played acoustic guitar and they sang harmony throughout. They were amazing together. Matt’s voice was buttery smooth.

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This is as good a time as any to fill in why Kate waited five months to reschedule at Rockwood. Both she and Matt are currently appearing in War Horse at Lincoln Center. While Kate was on stage entertaining us, War Horse was winning the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play! Nicely done, Kate, Matt and all involved in the play.

Kate brought out two women to sing harmony with her on two numbers. Morgan Paige and Nisha Asnani. Very nicely done ladies.

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Jody Shelton joined Kate toward the end of the set for another duet with Kate on acoustic guitar. Another winning combo. In other words, in addition to singing so well alone, Kate is masterful at singing harmony with others and at choosing the right people to sing with.

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OK, we’re down to one last (very special) guest. Kate brought out Scott Chasolen to accompany her on piano while she sang a gospel song (the only song that Kate did not play an instrument on). Scott wowed us the only other time we’ve seen him, at a recent Rockwood-based Backscratch show. I found out after the show that Scott is Kate’s husband. They too were well matched, but Scott, who has an excellent voice himself, didn’t sing on this number.

ScottChasolenMightyKateSingingGospel

Kate closed the set with Morgan and Nisha singing harmony. She explained that she tries really hard to sing at least one new song every time she performs. Given her current schedule, she hasn’t had much time to write. She performed a song that she said she wrote mostly in her head, Bright Star. It was awesome, truly, so perhaps we need to lock her in her loft bed (I think that’s where she said she wrote it) more often. Smile

There was quite a large crowd there for Kate and they wouldn’t let her get off the stage when her set was over. She was given permission to play one more. She performed it solo on the piano. It was another brand new song, that she begged forgiveness for in advance if we didn’t like it. This was the first time anyone was hearing it in public.

Kate, no need to worry, it too was beautiful. Lois was particularly drawn to that last number, so you left us on a high note. Smile

MightyKateSetList

Backscratch 13 at Rockwood Music Hall

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Given how awesome last night was, I’m still a little in shock that I missed the first 12 Backscratch sessions. This was the second time it was held in Rockwood Music Hall.

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.

It’s great for many reasons (just come to the next one, June 27th, and make your own list of reasons to keep coming!).

Since there were so many people performing last night, I’ll be really brief (ha ha, I didn’t believe it when I first wrote it, but now that I’m proof-reading, I know it’s a lie!). Winking smile Refer back to the first line for how much we enjoyed the three-hour show: awesome!

Shwa Losben opened the show on vocals and acoustic guitar. I had never heard of him. Excellent! After playing two originals (both wonderful songs) his backscratch was an Alexa Wilkinson song (Alexa was new to us too, more on her later).

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Scott Chasolen on vocals and keyboards. Another one we hadn’t heard of. Also excellent! I loved both of his originals. His backscratch was a Matt Simons song (I’m Already Over You). We’re big fans of Matt and Scott did him proud (IMHO).

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Scott performs with two others and they are known as the Scott Chasolen Trio:

Adam Minkoff on electric bass and light harmony. Very nice job.

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Josh Giunta on drums. Excellent. A lot of eyes were on Josh during a fair amount of Scott’s set. No good photo of Josh, sorry.

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.

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Sierra was accompanied by Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and a lot of harmony, Chris Anderson on electric bass and light harmony and Craig Meyer on the drums (Craig is the co-founder of Backscratch with Martin Rivas).

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Not much else needs to be added. But, let’s add an anecdote (actually two!) anyway. Her backscratch was a Chris Ayer song. Sierra was expecting Greg Mayo to show up in time to perform it with her (and Martin, Chris and Craig). Greg must have been held up in traffic. Somehow, that threw Sierra off a bit.

While she did a great job on the parts that she got out (did I mention she has a great voice?), she also lost it (laughing) a number of times (including dropping the lyrics on the floor). The mood was light in the room and everyone got a kick out of it, including Chris Ayer. Sierra correctly noted that Chris is a poet and that it was difficult to sing his song because she hadn’t graduated from college (could be a joke, but it was an honest homage to how wonderful Chris’ lyrics are!).

The other one is a small world story. I’ve written a number of times about a great singer/songwriter, Jesse Terry. We’re going to see him again twice in May, once in Rockwood (next week) and the week after at a house concert (where we first saw him). Appearing with him at both shows is a friend of his, Michael Logen. Jesse has told me how much I am going to like Michael. One of Sierra’s originals was co-written with Michael Logen. Martin sang Michael’s part in gorgeous harmony with Sierra.

Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and vocals. Martin opened with Raise Me Again. That song gets to me every time (including last night). His second song was a new one (excellent!). Rachel Platten was standing behind us and she couldn’t resist singing some soft harmony with Martin (wonderful).

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Pick up Rachel’s new album, Be Here (released today!), it’s fantastic!

For his backscratch, Martin drew Bess Rogers. He played Come Home. In case that wasn’t good enough (it was!), he morphed the end into a song that most people in the audience recognized, but I believe were still caught completely by surprise!

Bess Rogers is in the final four days of a very successful Kickstarter project. You should watch the video on her Kickstarter page to see how records are made. Martin performed that song (perfectly) and everyone was blown away (especially Bess). You still have a chance to contribute to Bess’ record. Stop thinking, just do it. Smile

Chris Ayer on acoustic guitar and vocals. Chris played Graduate and Stranded (two of our favorite Chris Ayer songs). Throughout the evening (3+ hours), there was generally a background noise of some people talking steadily at the bar. Occasionally it was annoying, most of the time it was reasonably white noise. When Chris played Stranded (a relatively long song), you could have heard a pin drop (as it should have been for every song by every performer!).

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On Graduate, Chris was accompanied by Matt Simons on keyboards and Chris Anderson on electric bass. On Stranded, Matt accompanied and Chris Anderson left the stage. For his backscratch, Chris Ayer played a Sierra Noble song solo. Wow! Not just Chris’ performance, but Sierra’s song. Chris didn’t even look over at his sheet music. Sierra was standing a few people behind us and she sang some soft harmony with Chris (that most probably couldn’t hear, but I could). It was amazing!

Bess Rogers performed two new songs (acoustic guitar and vocals) accompanied by her husband, Chris Kuffner, on acoustic guitar (Chris also sang harmony). Both songs were hits with the crowd and I assume (but don’t know) that they will both be on Bess’ new CD. Bess drew Rebecca Haviland for her backscratch.

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Rebecca Haviland on electric guitar, keyboards and vocals. Rebecca honored the original spirit of Backscratch by performing an original, a well-known cover and a backscratch. Let’s get out the most important thing first, Rebecca has a phenomenal voice. She plays the guitar well. She really shines on the keyboards. For her cover, she chose Black Dog by Led Zeppelin. If you didn’t know the title, or recognize the words, you would never have known it was a Led Zeppelin song. She (and her band) made it completely their own, a slow, soul/funk version.

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On those songs Rebecca was accompanied by Greg Mayo on keyboards (yes, he eventually showed up), Chris Anderson on electric bass and Kenny Shaw on drums. All were great, as we’ve come to expect.

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For her backscratch, Rebecca switched to the piano and Greg to the electric guitar. She played a Martin Rivas tune with such heart and soul (joking in advance that she had to change it up a bit, since Martin is the king of soul!). Greg played a couple of long guitar solos. If you’re read this space before, you know that this excites and soothes me at the same time. I will never get enough of Greg Mayo’s guitar play. Thank goodness he showed up! Smile

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Alexa Wilkinson on acoustic guitar and vocals. I’ve been following Alexa on Twitter for quite a while but have never seen her perform. We had planned to catch Mercy Bell, Julie Peel and Alexa at the Living Room a long time ago, but I got very sick and we never made it. Alexa has a wonderful voice and accompanies herself on the guitar very well. I enjoyed both of her songs. For her backscratch, she drew Shwa. Alexa has a relaxed and funny stage presence in addition to her musical talents.

AlexaWilkinson

Matt Simons closed the show on keyboards and vocals. He too reverted to the original spirit. After his original song, he played one by Death Cab for Cutie. He was accompanied by Greg Mayo on electric guitar and Chris Anderson on bass and Kenny Shaw for his original number. For his backscratch, he drew Scott Chasolen (who had drawn him, as did Sierra/Chris). He did a fantastic job (making me want to hear more Scott originals).

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Even though we didn’t get home until 12:20am, it was well worth it.

Matt Simons and Chris Ayer at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last night, Matt Simons and his friends threw him(self) a birthday party at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Rather than sit in the audience and have others perform for him, Matt chose to work on his birthday (midnight, this morning).

MattSimonsBirthdayBoy

Chris Ayer opened the show at 11pm on the dot (highly unusual for a Saturday night Rockwood 2 show to start on time!), but I’ll circle back to Chris after covering Matt.

Matt started at 11:28pm, so he serenaded us at two different ages. Winking smile

He played the keyboards (grand piano and electronic) extremely well and sang wonderfully. Matt opened the show with a brand new number, setting the mood immediately. Throughout his set, nearly every head in Rockwood was bobbing to the beat. It was hard to resist doing that (not that I tried!).

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Matt played a few covers (one of them a solo Beatles number) and what I think was an original that morphed into Sweet Home Alabama (where the band joined to sing as well). It was an eclectic selection that showed off Matt’s and the band’s talents well.

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Aside from his solo, Matt was supported by three band members (covered shortly). For a few numbers, he invited Chris Ayer up as well.

Morgan Holland joined for at least two numbers, one of which was her own Subway Love (a wonderful fantasy song, at least I hope it’s a fantasy Winking smile ) that she sang lead on and played ukulele, with everyone supporting her (Chris Ayer was on stage for that too).

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A few minutes before midnight, a fan passed a cake onto the stage, with Happy Birthday Matt written on it. It would have been impossible to pass that around (like the cookies sometimes make the rounds) so the poor band probably had to enjoy it after the show. Smile

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Of course, we all sang Happy Birthday to Matt!

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The band (which played with Chris Ayer and Matt Simons), left-to-right:

Stephen Chopek on drums. I just wrote about Stephen 12 days ago, when many of the same people from last night performed at Jammin’ Java in VA at a show we attended. Stephen impressed me then as he did again last night.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and light vocals. 12 days ago, Chris played the upright bass. Four days ago, he played the electric bass in support of Ian Axel at an amazing show at the Studio at Webster Hall. Chris is masterful with the bass. On Wednesday night, he had Webster Hall shaking (literally). Last night, much of his electric bass play was as subtle (and beautiful) as his upright play the week before.

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In other words, Chris is not a one-trick pony, simply blasting the bass. He has a feel for the music and complements it perfectly. Even last night his bass play varied, as some of the numbers were very upbeat and others were extremely mellow (and still enhanced by the bass). I wondered why he selected the electric over the upright for last night and I suspect it may have to do with the addition of the next band member.

Greg Mayo played the electric guitar and light vocals. Greg was a surprise for us. When we committed to attending this show, we didn’t know who else would show up other than Matt and Chris Ayer, who were the only ones listed. I never get tired of documenting how great Greg is on the guitar, so this was more than just the proverbial icing on the cake (especially since there was actual icing on a cake last night, no proverbs need apply!).

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Greg took a number of traditional leads (I’d guess roughly seven between Chris and Matt’s sets). They were all awesome, as they always are. But, I got to experience a new level of enjoyment of Greg’s play last night. Previous shows where Greg played the guitar tend to be heavily weighted toward Rock. That means that between leads, much of the guitar play is straight-forward rhythm.

The mellower sounds of last night’s sets meant substantially fancier play, even when the guitar wasn’t the highlight. Over and over, I kept noticing that there was a subtle beauty dancing around the vocals and other instruments. Inevitably, looking over toward Greg revealed the source.

GregMayoShadows

I suspect that Chris Anderson chose the electric over the upright because this time there was an electric guitar to play against. Greg’s play was so appropriate to the mood that I think Chris could have easily pulled off the upright had he chosen that instead.

Chris Ayer opened the show. Chris has made our list of must see musicians after just two shows. Deeply interesting lyrics (we discover something new on each listen) sung by a fantastic voice, accompanied by wonderful finger picking guitar (he can most definitely perform solo and completely hold our attention).

ChrisAyerSingingChrisAyerFingerPicking

I pointed out to Lois afterward that for the first time, she did not take a photo of the set list that Chris writes on his arm. She was not happy with me. I guess I should have remained silent…

Chris opened with Graduate and Awake, both great songs. The band took a break when he sang Relativity (a new song, available on iTunes) with Matt Simons and Morgan Holland supplying the amazing three-part harmony. The iTunes version has much more instrumentation (last night Chris’ guitar was the only instrument). Both versions are fantastic. Morgan sang harmony on a couple of other numbers.

Lois loves her Chris Ayer T-Shirt (which she wore to the show):

ChrisAyerTShirt

We don’t seek out late-starting shows. Having been out later than expected for Ian’s show on Wednesday, we ended up bailing on both Thursday and Friday, even though we were really looking forward to both nights out. Thankfully, we regained enough energy to make it last night.

Happy Birthday Matt (all day today!).

In order to raise our chances for good seats for Matt and Chris’ sets, we decided to come for the 10pm set as well. Our plan worked out fine in terms of grabbing the exact two seats we wanted.

Kendra Morris sang, supported by a full band. Kendra has a very good voice and all of the songs (originals plus a few covers) were good. Even though we listened like we would for anyone else, I couldn’t say that the songs left any lasting impressions.

Kendra projects an image as you can see in photos of her outfit and tattoos. She also adds quite a bit of drama in her on-stage movements. Not exactly our thing, but the younger men behind us made sure Kendra knew how much they appreciated it. Smile

KendraMorrisOutfitKendraMorrisSinging

The band was extremely professional. Left-to-right on stage:

Tyler Cash on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). Very nice job. A bit more noticeable on the electronic keyboards than on the grand, but well done all around.

TylerCash

Jeremy Siegel on electric bass (sorry, couldn’t find a good individual link). I’m sorry I couldn’t find a good link, because I was extremely impressed with Jeremy’s play. Very understated in terms of affect, but very precise and tasty bass play on every number. He was playing harmonic lines to the melody.

JeremySiegel

Sam Merrick on drums. Sam grabbed my attention on the very first number. While his drumming remained good throughout, for me, the highlight was that first song.

SamMerrick

Jeremy Page on electric guitar (also no good individual link that I could find). Kendra credited Jeremy for being the creative force behind this project. He played the guitar really well, also very understated, like the other Jeremy in the band.

JeremyPage

On one number, Kendra brought up someone who’s name I thought was Godfrey. A quick search this morning looking for Jeremy Page gave me the real name: Godforbid. Nice. Smile

Godforbid

Godforbid held a mic in one hand a beer in the other. They sang 500 Miles by The Proclaimers. Their version was played at about 1/3 the speed of the original, with a melodramatic flair by each singer (they alternated leads and sang harmony with each other throughout). While it was nothing like the original, it was really good. If I closed my eyes to avoid the show, it would have been even better.

KendraMorrisGodforbid

Here’s how I found Godforbid. He, both Jeremys and Sam were/are in a band called That Handsome Devil. Considering that I really like every band member and that Godforbid has quite a good voice as well, if the band still plays I’d be interesting in checking them out sometime.

Martin Rivas and Greg Mayo Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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There was an all-star triple-header lineup at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. Robbie Gil at 9pm, Martin Rivas at 10pm and the Greg Mayo Band at 11pm. I was committed to seeing Martin and Greg, but I was really looking forward to catching Robbie’s set as well. The best laid plans… I’ll end the post with why/how I missed Robbie’s set (again).

Lois didn’t make the show (see why at the bottom). All complaints about photo quality go to me, but I was also further away, so there was little I could do. As you’ll see below, tons of people on stage, some were basically out of view for much of the show.

As is typical for a big lineup Saturday at Rockwood, three things could be counted on:

  • Capacity crowd (great on most levels, crappy on a few)
  • Sets starting late (due to setup time and fans insisting on longer sets than scheduled)
  • Awesome music

Martin Rivas had a full(er) band. He opened the show with seven people on stage, but after three (or four?) numbers, he brought out a horn section as well, bringing the number of people on stage to 10. That was a new record for the number of people on stage at the same time at Rockwood for a show that I was at. Later on, Martin had two separate guests join, setting the new record at 11.

MartinRivasChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBrassSection

This was a typical Martin Rivas show:

  • Incredible energy from every band member
  • Incredible energy from every audience member
  • Lots of Soul, Funk and Rock, sprinkled with other stuff
  • Generosity from Martin, giving solos to (nearly) every band member (no bass solo)
  • Freshly baked cookies passed around the audience (Lois, no worries, amazingly, the cookies never passed me, so I didn’t have to show any restraint!) Winking smile
  • Pins passed around the audience (Sam Teichman made sure I got one, but he did not make sure I got a cookie, or Lois secretly got to him and he made sure I didn’t!)
  • Spirits lifted

Given how many people played across these two sets, I’ll get right to it, left-to-right, front-to-back on the stage, supporting Martin:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. They lifted the grand piano off the stage (one of the cool sights at Rockwood 2). Patrick was his usual excellent self, including a few great solos.

PatrickFirth

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Another fantastic performance from an all-around star. I’ll have a couple more things to say about Chris when I get to the other guitarist, Greg Mayo.

ChrisKuffner

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. If you can bang it or shake it, Ryan was doing it.

RyanVaughn

Craig Meyer on drums. Craig is always wonderful. We saw him a week ago supporting Rachel Platten. The difference in styles (including the drum kit itself) between that type of performance and last night is dramatic. Craig handles it all. He was such an integral part of the upbeat sound keeping everything hopping. (No photo, sorry!)

John Liotta on the baritone sax. Excellent. He was more prominent in the next set, but held his own in this one.

JohnLiotta

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Wayne was terrific. He took a couple of solos, including one where he played a few notes staccato at very high speed for a few bars, very tasty, adding to the funk sounds beautifully.

WayneTucker

From my vantage point, it appeared to me that Wayne’s right cheek was bruised with a shiner the likes of which I hadn’t seen for a very long time. Every time he puffed his cheek to play, I winced on his behalf. You’ll have to stick around (or skip ahead) to the next set to find out how wrong I was. Smile

WayneTuckerShiner

Dan Voss on tenor sax. This was our first time seeing Dan play. He was excellent. One of the people I was standing with told me that he’s a real pro. I have no reason to doubt that from last night’s performance!

DanVoss

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Another extremely solid performance from Brian. Martin’s full band sound requires a very solid bottom to keep things going and Brian and Craig are well matched to deliver.

BrianKilleenBassBrianKilleen

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. I can’t get enough of Greg’s guitar play and last night was no exception. Every time he stops his leads, I wait impatiently for the next one. He and Chris Kuffner trade off the leads, each with their own excellent style. On a few numbers (most notably the closer), they took independent simultaneous leads (very different from each other). It was mind-blowingly satisfying.

GregMayoGuitar1GregMayoGuitar2

Chrissi Poland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Chrissi has such a wonderful and powerful voice and is so well-suited to soul music. Their duets are a real crowd favorite. When she was on stage, there were 11 performers. Since the record is for shows I attend, I am the sole arbiter (and counter) of who holds the record. Martin actually looked at me and asked if this was the record. Indeed it was. Smile

ChrissiPolandBrassSection

Rebecca Haviland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Like Chrissi, Rebecca has a very big voice, also suited to soul (among many other genres). She was great (as she always is). The record stood at 11, since Chrissi and Rebecca were not on stage at the same time.

MartinRivasRebeccaHavilandMartinRivasChrisKuffnerRebeccaHaviland

Martin had a number of family members in the audience, including his sister and aunt. His aunt might be his biggest fan. She kept flying out of her seat, singing, clapping over her head, screaming and dancing. You’d think she was a teen with the energy she displayed.

When the set was over it was difficult to stand in place. People were coming and going, pushing and shoving (not in a mean way, it was necessary simply to get through the crowd). The person I was standing with spotted two people leaving their seats 1/2 way across the club. She headed there to see if it was just temporary. Amazingly, when she got there, the seats were still available. It took me a while to work my way through (rather around) the crowd, but she held the seat for me. To quote her: “It’s nice to sit!”. Amen! Smile

The Greg Mayo Band is a relatively recent discovery for us, but they made our favorites list instantly, so we were really looking forward to this set. To remove any mystery, they remain high on our favorites list.

The core band consists of eight members. Last night, Greg had a few special guests, one of whom played on every song making the minimum number of people on stage nine.

The similarities with the prior set are the basic style of music (Greg’s band concentrates on Funk and Soul, with some good old fashioned Rock as well). The differences aren’t huge, but they’re noticeable and material. Martin’s sets are very guitar heavy (three of them on the stage at all times) and Greg’s set is very piano centric (they brought the grand piano back down for Greg to play and he played electronic keyboards as well).

The other difference is that Martin rarely has a horn section and Greg always does. The horns were a wonderful addition to Martin’s set, but they are extremely integral to Greg’s sound, much more highlighted with more and longer solos. Finally, Greg has a full-time female voice to sing harmony with, while Martin’s regular vocalists are male.

This show was billed as a Valentine’s Day extravaganza, which will become important in a minute.

Let’s cover the band, again left-to-right, front-to-back.

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. I have a single complaint about Rebecca’s role in the Greg May Band: give us more Rebecca! She does sing some lead, but not enough. She and Greg sing so beautifully together, but there too she takes a back seat and doesn’t sing as much harmony with Greg as I’d like.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

The above is meant to compliment Rebecca. Greg has a wonderful voice and I can listen to him sing alone all night. Together is better, it’s that simple. Smile

Erik White on tambourine (and mic-less vocals!). Erik was a special guest. He was the original guitarist in the Greg May Band. He projected energy on stage throughout the show, singing with Greg even though he didn’t have a mic (except for one song when the brass section walked off the stage and Rebecca shared her mic with Erik). He played some seriously good tambourine. He wasn’t just a prop.

ErikWhite

John Liotta on baritone sax. Highlighted a bit more in Greg’s set, John did a wonderful job.

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Another excellent job. Since we moved to seats that were behind the piano, I had a very different vantage point on what I had thought was a terrible shiner on Wayne’s right cheek. It turns out it was a large red heart (looked like it was drawn in red lipstick). Made sense with the Valentine’s Day theme, but I missed it during Martin’s set. I was glad Wayne wasn’t injured after all. Winking smile

WayneTuckerHeart

Matt Simons on tenor sax. Matt is another incredible musician. We just saw him perform a few days earlier in VA, playing electronic keyboards and singing. Last night, he was master of the sax (I love his play!). Come to Rockwood 2 this Saturday night (2/19/2011) at 11pm for a 90-minute set which Matt is headlining (with guest, Chris Ayer). It’s a longer set than usual, so that we can all celebrate Matt’s birthday at midnight. Smile

MattSimons

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny keeps up perfectly with the upbeat tempos of the Greg Mayo Band. Well suited to this style of music.

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass (and probably some vocals, but I only caught a few glimpses of Chris). Chris is one of our favorite bassists. He too played in the same VA show that Matt did a few days ago, but that night he played upright bass. We’ll see him again this Wednesday when he plays with Ian Axel for his CD Release Show. Another performance that is perfectly suited to this band and coupled tightly with Kenny Shaw’s drumming. (Horrible photo, sorry!)

ChrisAnderson

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Paul did a very nice job, taking a well-known lead on one of the covers. He also sang well. The Greg Mayo band doesn’t highlight the guitar that much so I look forward to catching Paul in one of his other projects (most notably Julius C).

PaulMaddison

The above was the core band last night. Greg brought up another special guest very early in the show.

Matt Abatelli on tenor sax. Matt was a founding member of the band but doesn’t appear to play with them regularly any longer. Matt Simons stepped off the stage to make way for Matt Abatelli (apparently, you have to be named Matt in order to qualify to play the tenor sax in this band!). Winking smile (No photo, sorry!)

Given his stature with the band, Greg chose a song to highlight Matt right from the get-go. Matt (Abitelli) didn’t disappoint. He wailed on the sax and I look forward to catching him again in a longer set.

Greg’s birthday was 6 weeks ago. You can only imagine his surprise when Rebecca announced that the band bought him a special gift, albeit a little late. She asked us all to sing Happy Birthday to Greg (which we did) and asked Greg to open the gift and show it to us. It was a bag of custom guitar picks. On one side, it said “Greg Mayo”. On the other, “How you doin’ y’all?”. Perfect! Smile

GregMayoBeerGregMayoBirthdayGift

After a very satisfying set, Greg announced that if we made enough noise after his next (and last) number, they would do an encore to give a proper sendoff to two of the musicians who played the earlier set. You shouldn’t have to ask whether there was enough cheering to keep them on stage.

Both Patrick Firth and Ryan Vaughn are leaving shortly for an extended tour to Russia, supporting John Forte. Greg wanted to give them a proper sendoff.

He called both of them on the stage. Ryan took control of the full drum set. Kenny Shaw moved over to play percussion (exactly what Ryan did the set before). Patrick just took to a microphone to sing (lead and harmony). If that was it, that would have just tied the record for 11 people on stage at the same time.

PatrickFirthVocals

Records are meant to be broken, even if they were set just an hour earlier. Greg also called up Martin Rivas to sing and Matt Abatelli on the sax (this time, Matt Simons stayed on stage!). Uh oh, that smashed Martin’s record with 13 people on stage! Well, technically, there were only 12 people on stage, because Paul Maddison played the entire song standing on his amp! Yes, it was that jam packed on the stage and he’s that much of a rock star. Winking smile

Martin looked over to me and said “Oh well, at least I held the record for a bit…”. Indeed, he ousted Alex Berger before being ousted himself.

Earlier, Sam Teichman told me that during the second Soul Revue Benefit (which we missed because we were out of town), they had either 13 or 14 people on stage at the same time (he’s going to send me a video to prove it). I don’t doubt him, but this record doesn’t count if I’m not there, so, nice try Sam! Smile

Here is Greg’s set list:

GregMayoSetList

Circling back to why I missed Robbie Gil, again…

Four of us had an absolutely incredible meal at The Green Table in the Chelsea Market. Organic food that was delectable, served by people who we enjoyed interacting with.

OrganicBeefOrganicRoastChickenCrabCakes

Lois wasn’t feeling too well even before dinner, but it was early enough for her to push herself. After the meal, she grabbed a cab home. Two of us got into a car and headed east to Rockwood. Cross-town traffic was slow so it took a bit longer to get there than expected. Then we circled a few times looking for a non-existent spot. Eventually, the driver forced me out of the car so I could get in line for Martin’s show (Robbie’s was a distant memory).

I waited outside for over 30 minutes (yes, it was very cold). Robbie’s set was packed to the gills (no pun intended) and it appeared from the outside that they were tearing the house down. I am determined to catch his set one of these days, sooner rather than later.

When the show was over, a little after 1am, there were a dozen people looking for a cab, with none available. I eventually walked over a mile and while waiting for the bus (for quite a while) finally caught a cab the rest of the way home. I walked in the apartment at 2:10am. Yippee. I loved the entire evening/night (with the exception of the 30 minutes waiting in the cold), but I’m too old to be acting like a kid.