Greg Mayo

Big Apple Singers at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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I started the first of four posts tonight (this being the 4th and final one) with a question as to whether this night would turn out to be as epic as I expected. If you read posts #2 and #3, you’ll know that there were enough frustrations to make that highly unlikely.

That said, there was the promise that this final set would put the night over the top. After all, it was a similar setup to The Narwhals who completely blew me away just a few nights earlier. If you only want to hear glowing things about these musicians, read that post and stop now!

The two main people in The Narwhals are Josh Dion and Greg Mayo, both extraordinary musicians (multi-instrumentalists and vocalists). Both are equally highlighted in The Big Apple Singers (TBAS). In this configuration, Josh moves from the keyboards to the drums and Greg moves from guitar to the keyboards.

Another main person (likely the leader of TBAS) is Evan Watson on the electric guitar and vocals. Rounding out the group is one of our favorite bassists (and people), Chris Anderson.

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A disclaimer is necessary, for people who don’t regularly read my blog. I write this blog for 1.5 reasons. The main reason is simply to document the things we do that we want to remember for as long as we live. We know memories are fleeting (in the sense of accuracy). The minor one is to promote the musicians that we have fallen in love with, but that’s really secondary.

The few negative things I have to say about last night’s set are for me to remember how I felt, not to knock people who have more talent in their pinkie than I have in my whole body. Also, I might be the only person in the overwhelmingly crowded Rockwood Music Hall stage 2 that felt this way. The joint was jumping and everyone there appeared to be enjoying one of the best sets they’d ever seen (including the friends we were there with!).

So, how could the same basic set of people that thrilled me on Wednesday, just have me enjoying myself a few nights later.

First, everything was so loud (probably to compensate for the huge crowd) that it was all a bit fuzzy. Of course I could make out all the leads, but they were drowned out by the other instruments that were wailing along rather than subtly accompanying the leads. On Wed, due to the blizzard keeping the audience smaller, everything was a more reasonable volume and the clarity of every note was outstanding.

Second, while The Narwhals played a set of only covers, TBAS played both covers and originals. Some of the originals had excellent musicianship, but were hardly stellar songs (IMO). There was also one direct comparison. Both groups played The Shape I’m In by The Band (TBAS opened with it). TBAS did it well, The Narwhals were awesome. I guess that set the tone for me early on and TBAS never overcame it for me (with one notable exception).

Left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Mayo on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Wonderful on everything.

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Evan Watson on electric guitar and vocals. Evan is a very good guitarist, but a little too heavy handed for my taste. It’s possible that it was this particular show or set list. I’m already planning on catching him with his other band, The Headless Horesemen, on February 17th, so I’ll get a second look. He has a very good voice and classic hard-rock theatrics.

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Josh Dion on drums and vocals. Awesome on the drums, great vocals. He took one very long drum solo. When he was done, Evan challenged him to crank it up. He did. The second solo was dramatically faster than the first. I still don’t know how his arms didn’t fly off. That said, just like my comment about Vinnie Sperrazza from Wednesday, Josh is even better in his drumming on every single song than his solos.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. In the past, we’ve only heard Chris sing harmony, mostly when he’s playing with Ian Axel. Last night, during one song, Chris took an entire verse himself. He was great and the audience let him know it.

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Robbie Gil was brought up as a special guest singer for one song. Robbie performed the set before TBAS and Josh Dion and Greg Mayo played in his band. I was sorry to miss that set (and will correct that as soon as possible), but we were next door at stage 1 seeing Derek James.

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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.

Another thing that we rarely see, which we applaud, was Evan Watson squatting (Chris as well) whenever Josh Dion was singing lead. How rare to get a peek at the drummer, tucked way in the far corner at Rockwood 2. A wonderful touch.

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When they were done, even though they had passed their allotted time, people wanted more (remember, nearly every person there appeared to me to have loved every single second of the set!). After getting permission (which seemed to take longer than usual), the band reconfigured themselves.

Josh Dion took the keyboards, Greg Mayo the guitar and Evan Watson the drums. They did a Josh Dion original. Very nice and a little twist to end the evening.

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The Narwhals at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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After back-to-back sets at Rockwood Music Hall stage 1 we headed the three feet next door to Rockwood 2 to see a (newly formed?) band called The Narwhals. That link is directly to Josh Dion’s own site (a hard to read one, I’m afraid). Don’t search for a band site by that name (at least not today), because on Facebook, there is another band by that same name…

The Narwhals is a band headed by Josh Dion. We just saw Josh for the first time on Monday night at the Soul Revue Benefit concert. Even though he only sang lead on one song, it was obvious that he is extremely talented (singing and drumming). I would have gone just to see Josh, but there were two other reasons to be more excited.

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The first is that someone told me that Greg Mayo was part of The Narwhals. ‘Nuff said on that score! The second is that scheduled to play after The Narwhals was Live Society, the band that opened the Soul Revue that I was also excited to see again.

Given that Josh is a drummer, I was expecting to see Greg on the piano. Ha, just show up and don’t assume anything. Smile

Josh took to the keyboards last night, grand piano and electronic. He also alternated singing lead with Greg on every other song. The two of them sang harmony (incredibly) on most songs. I know nothing about Josh Dion, so there’s really nothing that should surprise me about him. Now I know a little more.

Specifically, I know that he’s an amazing keyboards player (not something I usually associate with someone who’s made their mark as a drummer!). He was crazy good on both the piano and the electronic keyboards, which he played in a variety of funky organ sounds/styles.

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His voice is wonderful (and perfectly suited to the music they played). His energy is infectious, not just to the audience, but to the band as well. Given that this is a relatively new effort, there had to be an awful lot of looking at Josh for a cue by the other members. Trust me, get out to see Josh Dion do whatever he’s doing, whether it’s The Narwhals, or any other project he’s involved with.

They covered some of my favorite classic rock tunes. A few from Traffic, The Band and a number of others. I know there are some great cover bands out there. Many (most?) concentrate on a specific group. The better ones often aim to mimic the original exactly (that’s great if they pull it off). Often, it’s great for the nostalgia (obviously, we all know the tunes cold), but there’s a stiffness to it.

The Narwhals are so awesome as individual musicians, that their covers don’t lose any of that energy, creativity and relaxed delivery (tight as a group, relaxed as individuals!). And yet, the original tune is never lost in them trying to outdo that version. Hard to explain, but you can’t be a fan of the original versions and not get lost in these updated ones.

Let’s run through the rest of the band. Instead of left-to-right (my usual, egalitarian way), I’ll cover them in terms of their highlighting during last night’s show:

Greg Mayo on lead electric guitar. If you read this space, you know that I am in love with Greg Mayo’s guitar playing. But, you’ll also know that I’m in love with his singing, his piano playing, his energy. OK, I’m in love with everything Greg Mayo (there, I said it, I have a man-crush on him). Smile

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I noted above that I expected him to be playing the piano. Why? I have no idea, since I thought Josh would be playing the drums. At Rockwood 1, someone asked me if I was heading over to see The Narwhals and when I said yes, they said “Josh will be playing keyboards tonight, with Greg on the guitar.” I was enjoying the set at Rockwood 1 (as you can read in my previous post), but I have to admit that I was driven to distraction (momentarily) knowing what I was in for.

Even so, I was wrong again. Not about Greg playing guitar, but by how much more I would get to enjoy it than I had in the past.

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In my previous times seeing Greg play guitar, he was supporting Martin Rivas (quite a number of times). His leads were always amazing, but they were always appropriate in length (in a supporting role), so they always left me wanting more.

When you’re covering classic rock bands during a blizzard, in the middle of the night, it’s largely about the leads (guitar, keyboards and drums). Josh is very generous with making sure that Greg took at least one long lead in every song (typically a few!). My mind is still racing, just thinking about them.

I already mentioned Greg’s voice and the fact that Josh gave Greg the lead vocals in every other song. Wonderful!

Vinnie Sperrazza on the drums. There are a lot of great drummers in the group of people we follow. I have no choice but to add Vinnie to that list, pretty darned close to the top. I actually anticipated it. Given how well thought of Josh Dion is as a drummer, how could he ever choose a drummer that didn’t impress him when he plays another instrument?

Vinnie took one long drum solo. It was extremely impressive. Still, that wasn’t even close to the reason I put him so high on the list. It’s his amazing consistency on how integral his drumming is on each and every song. Even the slower bluesy southern rock numbers have a deceptively up-beat tempo (at least as far as the drums are concerned).

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Geoff Kraly on electric bass. Not highlighted with any bass solos, but a perfectly professional performance in every respect. When the guitar and keyboards take a lot of leads, the bass and drums (but to a certain extent the bass a bit more) need to keep the feel of the song going. In other words, there needs to be a glue that allows the lead to dance while never feeling that they changed the basic structure of what they started.

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A good bassist pulls off that job. Geoff is more than a good bassist, keeping the bottom full. He was never overwhelming, which is very easy to do (unfortunately) with an electric bass. Impressive.

I mentioned above that I was excited to see the next set by Live Society. When I sat down, while The Narwhals were setting up, I did a quick email and Twitter check. I noticed a tweet by Brian Collazo (lead singer of Live Society) that they had to cancel the show due to the blizzard (or, more aptly, snowpocalypse). I was sad, but also relieved that I might make it home a bit earlier than I expected.

Another example of my silliness in thinking that I could predict anything. Of course, with no set on after them, no one was rushing The Narwhals off the stage, least of which the audience! When they tried to call it a night (a little over an hour into the set), people starting yelling out requests.

All of the requests were good and Josh even agreed to one. Then a guy sitting at my table yelled out Whipping Post. Josh got really excited, looking at the guy and saying “Perfect choice!”. The rest of the band instantly agreed.

I can’t tell you how great it was (but I’m gonna try). Here’s what I said to Vinnie as he came off the stage:

The Allman Brothers have three drummers when they perform Whipping Post. You made me feel like all three of them were here on stage. You’re awesome!

Need I tell you how amazing Greg Mayo was on the lead guitar? The Allman Brothers have two lead guitarists. I didn’t miss the second one a bit. But, while I am still madly in love with my recordings of Dickey Betts and Duane Allman, I admit that Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes don’t do it for me when they appear as the Allman Brothers. Both are extraordinary guitarists (there’s no arguing that), but in my opinion, they don’t do justice to the original (no, I don’t require an exact clone). Greg did justice, and obviously, couldn’t have cloned two guys doing it!

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Of course, Josh took some incredible keyboard leads as well and both he and Greg sang their hearts out.

I went up to Greg after the show and told him: “I could listen to you play the guitar 24/7!” (and I meant every word!).

There wasn’t a face that didn’t have a big silly smile plastered on it when the set was over.

Josh and Greg will be back at Rockwood 2 this Saturday (Jan 29) as part of The Big Apple Singers (11:15pm). Lois and I will be there too. Clearly, this will be a different configuration. Evan Watson plays the guitar (I think), so I’m gonna guess that Josh will play the drums and Greg the keyboards. I no longer care. Whatever they want to do, I’m down with it. Smile

I have no quibble with any song The Narwhals chose. That doesn’t mean that my mind wasn’t racing with a ton of covers I’d love to hear them do. That said, I held my tongue last night. Perhaps next time, I’ll venture a shout or two myself.

Back to the blizzard. We walked out of Rockwood at 12:30am. It was sleeting a heavy, freezing snow. It had already piled up a ton and cars were either slipping or completely stuck. Cabs? Ha! Four of us waiting to get one, spreading out trying to catch them from separate strategic approaches.

Amazingly, after about 15 minutes, our friend used her magic powers to hear a cab door unlock. The cab’s lights were totally covered in snow, so there was no other way to know he was available. She yelled to us and we all slished and sloshed over to the cab. After a harrowing (but ultimately very successful ride), we walked in the door after 1am. Two consecutive very late nights out. Both ended in a blissful musical experience. Hard to complain, so I won’t! Smile

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Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The last time we saw Martin Rivas perform a full set was September 13th, 2010, over four months ago! That night, the set before him was Rachel Platten. That show was at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 and I wrote about it in this post. It was my first time seeing each of them performing a full set and if you read my previous post, you know how I impressed I was with both! Last night was a repeat of the lineup and we couldn’t have been more excited to see it again.

There are three major reasons why we are energized to see artists that we love multiple times:

  1. We enjoy the electricity of the live show, even if we’ve seen the same set a dozen times. Enjoying it with other fans enhances it all the more.
  2. We love to support the artists (monetarily and by being part of the audience experience).
  3. Even when the sets are the same, there’s always something fresh and different (banter, band composition, etc.).

Martin came out with an electric guitar. I’m think that was a first for us in all the times we’ve seen him. He had an extra-full band last night (more on that in a minute). It was loud (not too loud, but darn loud). It was rockin’, in a heart-pumping way.

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There are so many people to cover that I won’t go on-and-on about Martin (since I have in the past and you’re welcome to read all about it), but I’ll repeat that Martin has a wonderful voice, an incredible energy, plays guitar really well and is very generous with highlighting the amazing musicians that play with him whenever he has a full-band show.

Martin has a warmth and ease on stage that is fantastic. There was a young boy sitting at our table (I’ll guess roughly 10-years-old, yes, his dad was there too). Martin chatted with him for a minute before the show started, but he called him out a couple of times during the show and got the entire audience (the place was incredibly mobbed for both sets) to say “Hello Alfonso!” as well. I assume (and hope) it was a very magical evening for Alfonso.

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Covering the band, then special guests, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth on grand piano, electronic keyboards and background vocals. Patrick is wonderful all around and Martin gave him a number of leads which Patrick nailed.

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Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Chris is always wonderful and last night was no exception. He took quite a number of leads, all tasty. He closed the show with a lead that was so fast it was mind-boggling. I was sitting four feet away from him, so I got the full visual experience as well as the aural sweetness of being directly in front of his amp.

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Ryan Vaughn on percussion. This is one of the things I meant by extra-full band above. Martin had his normal drummer with him (next in my lineup). Ryan complemented him with washboard (always a favorite of mine), cowbell, tambourine, triangle, bongo, shaker and sharing the drum set at times as well. It brought such a fullness to the percussion. An absolutely fantastic addition and Ryan has an excellent sense of rhythm.

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Craig Meyer on drums (web site coming, I think). Craig is a very animated drummer. Even with his larger than life drum strokes, his hand, stick, brush, etc., all hit the drum at exactly the right time. The music during Martin’s set was very hard-charging and Craig drummed his %$#! off to keep the beat lively. Coupled with Ryan, the two of them delivered the rhythm section perfectly.

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Brian Killeen on electric bass. Brian did an excellent job keeping the bottom full and interesting. Toward the end of the set he cut loose a bit more (never a solo) and actually harmonized (on the bass) with Martin’s singing.

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Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. I’ve written about Greg a number of times. The most recent one was about his own band, the Greg Mayo Band. He (they) blew us away that night, but the biggest surprise was how amazing Greg was (is) on the keyboards. I went because every time Greg has played with others he was on the electric guitar and I simply love his play. Last night was spectacular (no surprise). I was three feet from Greg and four feet from his amp. His leads were so crisp, and his amp was pointed directly at my right ear, that the only downside was a bit of ringing. Well worth it!

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Sierra Noble on fiddle. Sierra joined Martin’s band for roughly half the numbers. Except for the few leads that Martin gave her, it was hard for me to pick out the fiddle with three electric guitars, an electric bass, grand piano, electronic keyboards and two percussionists. I will need to hear Sierra in a more conducive environment to form a clearer opinion.

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That made for a core band of seven and for many numbers eight people on stage at the same time. That’s the same number that the Greg Mayo Band had on stage for their set. It is one short of the record set by Alex Berger for sets that I have attended at Rockwood.

Martin brought up two special guests to sing a song with him. Had he brought them up at the same time, he would have set the record for the most people on stage at the same time. Instead, he just tied Berger twice, once with each guest.

The first was someone I’ve heard about for a while now. Many of my friends rave about his shows at Rockwood. This week, he got a lot more famous than he’s been before.

Caleb Hawley sang harmony and lead. In addition to being a local NYC favorite, Caleb was a first round contestant on American Idol. He blew away Steven Tyler and moved on to the Hollywood round! So, you can only imagine the reception he received when Martin called him up. Local hero makes good! Smile

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Rachel Platten joined Martin to sing North. Wonderful, but more about Rachel in a second.

Martin handed out home-baked cookies to pass around. I had one (even though I got the evil eye from Lois, since I had dessert when we were out to dinner earlier).

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Martin played a slightly longer set than usual at Rockwood and said goodnight. The crowd really wanted to hear more. Martin checked with the sound engineer and got the OK. He closed the show with a Stevie Wonder cover, Living For the City. They did it long and strong. We sang along a bunch (everyone, not just Lois and me). What a way to end an already incredible set.

When it was over (actually, before the encore!), I grabbed one of the set lists. Unfortunately, the corner was tucked under one of the monitors and it ripped when I yanked it. You’ll just have to make do with this. Winking smile

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Rachel Platten also plays in a number of band configurations. Last night was a 4-piece. Rachel on electronic keyboards, Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and tons of harmony, Craig Meyer on drums (dramatically stripped down from the set he used with Martin) and Sierra Noble on fiddle.

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Rachel has an incredible voice, plays the keyboards extremely well (with zest!) and writes very catchy pop tunes. Many of her lyrics are deep and quite good, but that can (unfortunately) be easily lost in the hooky tunes and her captivating voice. So, listen to the words closely, she’s a very good songwriter!

If that weren’t enough to get you to go out and see Rachel (she’s touring all over at the moment and releasing a new CD in the spring), she has a 1000 megawatt smile that bathes the audience in a floodlight effect. If you can listen to her sing and play and watch that smile and not have your spirits lifted, a defibrillator might be your only hope! Winking smile

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In addition to straight-up pop, Rachel mixes it up in a number of ways. Don’t Care What Time It Is is a hip hop/rap song that she stood and sang (the only number she didn’t play the keyboards on). It’s also one of two numbers that she played a human beat-box on. She and Martin killed it. A number of times they sing so fast that your head spins. Delicious.

I linked to the lyrics of the song and you can also listen to it (free!) at that link. On the right side bar are a number of other Rachel hits. Explore and fall in love with her. Buy her CD when it comes out!

Craig was great even though he played a minimalist drum set (as he does for most of Rachel’s shows). In addition, Craig was very playful with Rachel and Martin, often using his brushes on them and on Martin’s guitar as well. Basically, if he could hit it, he did. Smile

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As with Martin’s set, I couldn’t hear Sierra Noble playing the fiddle at all, whenever Rachel, Martin and Craig were playing. Rachel did give Sierra two distinct solos, which were very easy to hear. I can’t put my finger on it, but I wasn’t as impressed as I expected to be, given the raves I’ve heard about Sierra. I intend to listen to her some more and perhaps catch one of her own shows as well, to get a better sense.

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The only disappointing thing about Rachel’s set was that it was a tad shorter than normal. She started 20 minutes late (the person who was on before Rachel filled Rockwood to the brim and it took a while to transition between them and their respective crowds). I think Rachel cut it a bit short in order to get Martin and Rockwood closer to their original schedule.

Another amazing night out. Thanks to everyone who was on stage and to our friend for snagging two seats right up against the stage for us (you know who you are!).

We have a big week of music continuing tonight, so check this space each day for what we did the night before! Smile

Greg Mayo Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Another day, another post that’s 24 hours late, another day of two posts (this one being the first).

Everyone knows the expression: Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

Let’s add a new one: Be careful what you wish for, you might just think you’re getting it, but get something wildly different than you expected, and be completely blown away (in the positive sense) in the process.

Perfect, just rolls off the tongue. Winking smile

Regular readers know that I’m working my way through a mental music bucket list, mostly local performers who I have a burning desire to see perform full sets. Most come from seeing them support other artists and recognizing their enormous individual talent. The rest come from trusting other people who tell me “You have to see so-and-so”.

Greg Mayo has been way up on my list since I saw him support Martin Rivas at a benefit for the Gulf on July 30th, 2010. I have seen Greg a number of times since then, always in a supporting role, always on the electric guitar.

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We see a lot of excellent local musicians, including a lot of fine guitar players. In my opinion, Greg is the best of them. His buttery smooth leads are flawless and always interesting. I had heard that he also headlines his own band/shows as The Greg Mayo Band. I knew that I wanted to see him bust loose even more, expecting guitar explosions extraordinaire.

When I saw that Greg was playing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (a simply fantastic place) I knew I was going. When I saw that it was at 10pm (normally a bit later than we like to go), I was doubly excited, because I badly wanted to see the show at Rockwood 1 from 8-10pm that I wrote about yesterday.

So, bottom line, you all want to know how amazing Greg Mayo was on the guitar, right? Well, your guess is as good as mine, because Greg didn’t touch a guitar during his show. If I had done any research at all, I would have known that. Now go back and read our new rolls-off-your-tongue expression: BCWYWFYMJTYGIBGSWDTYEABCBA(ITPS)ITP!

Greg played the grand piano and electronic keyboards, fantastically. He sang, amazingly. In general, he and his big band put on a killer show that was completely unexpected (to me, not to his fans).

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I would describe Greg’s music as Rock-N-Soul, with a good measure of Big Band thrown in. I noted recently that the most people I’ve seen on stage at one time at Rockwood 2 is nine (Alex Berger’s show). Greg only had eight in his band, so the record still stands, but it was quite a huge sound.

I love most instruments, so I always feel silly when I say things like: “I love the guitar”, etc. But whenever an extraordinary musician plays an instrument, I am compelled to not only recognize that musician, but the fact that the instrument they are playing has its own special qualities that stir something in me that other instruments stir in different ways.

Ever since I was obsessed with music as a teenager, good brass sections (even good brass soloists) can reach somewhere inside me and get to places that other instruments don’t typically reach (though other instruments reach me in different, often more interesting ways!). As an example, for years, Chicago was my favorite rock band, partially due to their brass section.

I can keep going with background, but let’s skip all that and mention each person in the band, they all deserve their own shout-out! Standing left-to-right (stacked) on the stage:

Rebecca Haviland on vocals and tambourine. Gorgeous voice. Perhaps a bit under-mic’ed, but nonetheless a wonderful addition to Greg on the harmonies, with a reasonable number of leads for Rebecca as well. Her dancing and energy added to the color and impact of the set.

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Matt Simons on tenor sax. From Greg’s website, it seems that Matt is not Greg’s normal tenor sax player. That appears to be Matt Abatelli. I can’t speak to the other Matt’s sax skills, but let me heap some crazy praise on Matt Simons, who I didn’t even know played the sax to begin with!

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If you clicked on the link above about yesterday’s post at Rockwood 1, then you know that I’m a big fan of Matt Simons’ own work (solo and in conjunction with Chris Ayer and Morgan Holland). I had only seen Matt play keyboards, very well. His sax solos were killer. Now I need to find out what other instruments he plays. Awesome!

(Now an apology that I will correct later. I heard the trumpet player’s name clearly on Saturday, so this isn’t Greg’s fault, but since I’m late in posting this, I’ve already forgotten it, and it wasn’t his regular trumpet player. I sort-of remember Tony as the first name, so I’ll use that as a placeholder, until I get the right name.)

Wayne Tucker played the trumpet. Kenny Warren is listed as the normal trumpet player on Greg’s site. As with the Matts above, I assume Kenny is great, but I know that Wayne is! He didn’t take as many solos as Matt Simons did, nor were they as long, but he was great in his play throughout the set.

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John Liotta on baritone sax. John was excellent as well, making for the brass section trifecta! Seriously, these three guys rocked it hard!

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Kenny Shaw on drums. As you might imagine, a sound this big requires quite a good drummer to keep everyone charging (including the audience!). Kenny didn’t disappoint. OK, that wasn’t positive enough, he did his job wonderfully!

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. I wrote about Chris in yesterday’s post, as he, like Matt Simons, did the same 5-foot walk from Rockwood 1 to Rockwood 2. While Chris played the upright bass in support of Morgan Holland, he was an integral part of the big sound of Greg’s band on the electric bass and of course, singing background vocals as well. Chris always delivers on the bass (always). For the huge sound that Greg’s band produces, Chris was at the top of his game. The bass was quite loud and easy to pick out, even though I couldn’t see Chris at all from my seat.

In addition to changing instruments, Chris also changed outfits, since Greg likes the band to dress up. Smile

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Paul Maddison Erik White on electric guitar and vocals. Paul was playing the instrument that I expected Greg to be playing, so he had a tall order to fill in my mind. He did an excellent job, but the music isn’t really oriented to overly-highlighting the guitar (though there were enough cool licks to satisfy).

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On one number, Paul was playing a riff that sounded exactly like a Doobie Brothers number. I turned to Lois and said exactly that. One second later, the song morphed, and Rebecca Haviland indeed sang two verses of a Doobie Bothers song before morphing back into the original number. Cool!

Like the set at Rockwood 1, Rockwood 2 was jammed for Greg’s set. Not only that, but the energy carried a number of people to dance (in very close quarters), and to jump up and down when Rebecca did it on stage. The floor was shaking like there was a train passing underground. That’s something we all experience at Joe’s Pub (where the underground train is real!), but this was a first at Rockwood for me. The joint was literally jumping!

We’ll be back for Greg’s next show at Rockwood 2 on February 12th and you should be too!

So, who was on before Greg’s set at Rockwood 2, opposite the completely mobbed show that I attended at Rockwood 1? None other than Beatle progeny Sean Lennon!

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While we were settling in for Greg’s show, Sean and his band were breaking down their equipment on the stage. Yes, he was packing up, being a regular musician. He stopped and allowed us newcomers to take some close-up photos as well. I didn’t hear his music, but I got the strong sense that he’s grounded and nice. So wonderful to see!

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Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I expected to knock another 1.5 items off my music bucket list. I’m upgrading the .5 to a full point! 😉

Not only did I get to finally see Martin Rivas perform a full set, but it was different than I expected (his adoring fans clearly knew what they were in for) in two wonderful ways.

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First, Martin had two lead electric guitar players and both happen to be among my individual favorites (we’ll get to the band shortly).

Much more important, while I’ve seen people rave about Martin being a Rock ‘N Roller, I have only ever gotten a hint of that, as most of his previous sets were acoustic or mixed in nature.

Last night was full-on Rock, with a dab of Soul (hard rocking soul!) thrown in for good measure. The place (Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2) was electric. Everyone around me was physically participating in the music. If you were just sitting there, it would have been prudent to check for a pulse!

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBrianKilleen

Martin was his usual shining light. I love his voice. His guitar playing is excellent, but he purposely takes a back seat when he has the full band on stage and just plays mostly rhythm (he somewhat picked on one number).

Here’s the band, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth electric keyboards and background vocals. Patrick is excellent (we’ve seen him before on a grand piano). Last night he had stacked keyboards. I think he had one set to a more organ sound and the other a more piano one.

PatrickFirth

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and background vocals. One night after finally seeing Chris play the bass, he was back to electric guitar. Given the rocking going on, that was awesome and freeing for Chris, as he wailed on a number of leads, fingers flying.

ChrisKuffner

Craig Meyer on drums (still no good individual link). Craig kept the beat going strong with really tasty riffs. His smile alone is worth the price of admission (in this case, free, but a one drink minimum). 😉

CraigMeyerSmiling

Brian Killeen on electric bass and background vocals (the link is to an unmaintained MySpace page). Brian is solid all around.

BrianKilleen

Greg Mayo on electric guitar, lap steel guitar and background vocals. We’ve only seen Greg once before (also playing with Martin) and he was an instant favorite. Buttery smooth guitar playing. He and Chris shared the leads equally and beautifully. Greg is still on my bucket list to see playing his own stuff as a headliner.

GregMayo GregMayoLapSteelGuitar

Rachel Platten joined Martin for one song. Rachel headlined the set before Martin’s and she is the other full point that I wanted/needed to cross off my list. Check.

MartinRivasRachelPlatten2

Until my friend pointed it out to me before the set began, I didn’t realize that I had seen Rachel perform (ever-so-briefly). She and Kailin Garrity sang harmony/backup with Martin Rivas at the Haiti Benefit in January. I didn’t catch Rachel’s name that night.

Last night it was Rachel front-and-center. Rachel has a gorgeous voice and plays keyboards really well (last night electric). The set was mostly Pop/Rock. The energy was fantastic, with a similarity in the crowd’s visceral reaction to what I described above for Martin.

RachelPlattenMartinRivasCraigMeyerBrianKilleen

There’s a sweetness to Rachel that is evident in her performance. Her smile is wide and never disappears during the set. She connects with many people in the audience.

RachelPlatten

If you’re looking to catch a fun show, with upbeat lyrics and melodies, delivered with passion, played by excellent musicians, I highly recommend Rachel Platten.

Backing Rachel were three of the same band members that played with Martin: Patrick Firth on keyboards, Craig Meyer on drums and Brian Killeen on bass.

Martin Rivas played guitar and sang harmony with Rachel throughout her set.

MartinRivasRachelPlatten

Nathan Eklund on trumpet and background vocals. Excellent on the trumpet, added a nice touch to the all around great sound of Rachel’s set.

NathanEklund

Lois had not recovered 100% so she couldn’t join me again. Since I couldn’t count on Allie Moss’ mom for photos (not that I knew I could in advance the night before), Lois handed me her camera as I was walking out the door. Any photo mishaps can only be blamed on me this time.

Martin is playing again at Rockwood 1 this Friday night (Sep 17th, 2010) at 9pm. It will essentially be the same band, except that (lucky stiff) Brian Killeen will be in Las Vegas (my favorite city) so Chris Kuffner will be on bass.

We aren’t supposed to be in the city that night, but the enticement of Chris on the bass for an entire rock set might be enough for us to rearrange, plus Lois will get to see Martin do a full set as well. We’re working on it. 🙂

Update: just heard that Chris might be out of town on Friday, so if we go, it will be to see Martin and the gang again. I’ll still be (not-so-patiently) waiting for another opportunity to see Chris on the bass. 🙂

P.S. On the way out, I passed Derek James (a lot of awesome musicians came out to hear Martin and Rachel!). I introduced myself and told him how incredible he is. There’s one less musician in the world who needs to wonder what I think of them now. 😉

P.P.S. there’s always time for a mini-rant. We’ve been to Rockwood 1 & 2 so many times I can’t count. All but two nights have run as close to clockwork as you can hope for. Last night was the second time that something went off the rails (before I got there) causing a major delay.

The group that was supposed to be on from 9-10pm was still going strong at 10pm (the tip jar didn’t even come out until 10:10, so they had to have started late). That caused Rachel’s set to start at 10:50 rather than 10. Martin’s set wasn’t over until roughly 12:30am, making for a longer night than expected. Thank goodness it was incredible. 🙂

Martin Rivas, Vienna Teng and ambeR Rubarth at City Winery

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In January, City Winery hosted three shows to benefit the Haiti earthquake disaster. We attended one of those shows and I covered it in this post. They have repeated that generosity this week, hosting three shows to benefit those affected by the Gulf Coast Oil Spill. All proceeds went to the Gulf Restoration Network.

This provided another opportunity to do some good, while enjoying a night of incredible music, and for us, dinner and NYC-made wine as well!

Update: Thanks to the commenter below who correctly chided me for not mentioning the two videos that were shown before the music started. Here is the link to the organization that presented them.

Covering the acts in the order they appeared:

Martin Rivas opened the show. I have been waiting too long to see Martin perform a full set. Last night was small progress, three songs in a row. It only made me want to see more, so my quest continues. Martin has such a clear, strong voice, I can listen to him sing all night!

MartinRivas

Martin was accompanied by a full band (left-to-right):

Patrick Firth on piano (not sure that’s the right link). Very nice job, playing both the grand piano and an electric keyboard propped on top of the grand.

PatrickFirth

Greg Mayo on electric guitar. I have seen Greg’s name many times, tweeted by many musicians, but I hadn’t heard/seen him before. Wow! Fantastic guitar playing. After the set, my friend told me that he caught Greg for the first time the night before, and Greg was playing the piano in that show, just as well! I now have to catch Greg doing his own thing, asap!

GregMayo

Chris Anderson on electric bass. We love Chris on the bass and I’ve written about that many times. Last night was the first time we’ve seen him accompanying someone other than the amazing Ian Axel. Of course, we weren’t surprised to find out that Chris was just as good backing up Martin. Chris is Greg Mayo’s bassist, which is probably how he came to play with Martin last night.

ChrisAnderson

Craig Meyer on drums (couldn’t find a good individual link). We saw Craig drum for Martin at the Haiti benefit as well. He’s very good, and I enjoyed his play last night tremendously. Chris Anderson is always full of energy in his play, and whenever he turned to Craig, the two of them cranked it up a notch, with Craig getting into it as much as Chris did.

CraigMeyer

Vienna Teng was up next. This was a wonderful surprise for us. Vienna (and ambeR as well) was not originally listed on the bill when we purchased our tickets. Jay Nash was, and he didn’t make it. Vienna performed three songs (as did every artist): Harbor, 1000 Oceans (a Tori Amos cover) and a song that she co-wrote with ambeR at a songwriters retreat. ambeR came out to sing harmony with Vienna on their co-written song. Another awesome performance by Vienna.

ViennaTengPiano ViennaTengAmberRubarth

ambeR Rubarth opened with Novocaine, a song I can listen to 10 times every day and not tire of. She played it on an electric guitar, something we haven’t seen her do before. She then switched to the piano and Vienna returned the favor of singing harmony with her on Rough Cut. ambeR returned to the guitar to close her three-song set with Letter to My Lonelier Self.

ambeRRubarthGuitar ambeRRubarthPiano ViennaTengSinging

Christina Courtin played the ukulele and sang. We hadn’t heard of her before. Not exactly our taste.

ChristinaCourtin

Ryan Scott on acoustic guitar, accompanying Christina Courtin. Ryan was very good on the guitar, and gave me something positive to focus on during Christina’s set.

RyanScott

Among the Oak and Ash was up next. They were great! Josh Joplin is the front man and constant in this band. Josh plays the guitar and sings (and writes very good songs). Tons of energy creating a knee-slapping, toe-tapping experience for us. His band last night, left-to-right:

AmongTheOakAndAsh

JoshJoplin

Claudia Chopek on the fiddle (she has a MySpace page, but Chrome warned be about some content on there, so I’m not sharing the link). Claudia was excellent! In a not-so-small-world story (because the Indie music scene has many interconnections), Claudia has also played with Vienna Teng. Here is a YouTube video of Claudia (front and center) playing with Vienna and Alex Wong. Of course, since it’s closer to a classical sound, she was playing the violin (not the fiddle) in that one. 🙂

ClaudiaChopek

Ward White played the electric bass and sang harmony with Josh. Very nice job on both!

WardWhite

The drummer for Among the Oak and Ash was really good too, but unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. If someone lets me know who it was, I’ll update this section.

ATOAA-Drummer

John Wesley Harding closed the show, on acoustic guitar and vocals. John was excellent, singing and playing, and cracked me up quite a bit with his very relaxed delivery of a number of quips. He had two excellent musicians accompanying him:

JohnWesleyHarding

I didn’t catch the name of either the piano and guitar player (I think his first name was David), nor the bass player. Both were excellent, with particular kudos to the piano playing which was highlighted a few times.

Update: From a comment below, the name of the Piano/Guitar player is David Nagler. No good individual link for him.

JohnWesleyHarding-Pianist JohnWesleyHarding-Guitarist JohnWesleyHarding-Bassist

It frustrates me when I work really hard to figure out who is in the band and it isn’t prominently mentioned on the artist’s site. As above, I’ll update if/when someone clues me in.

One very unusual thing during this show was that as artists finished their three-song sets, they came out and sat in the audience to enjoy the other sets. It was cool, and we were sitting among a number of our favorite musicians. 🙂

MarthaViennaTeng WardWhiteClaudiaChopek

We arrived early and had a lovely dinner, including a carafe of City Winery’s home-pressed Syrah, recommended!