House Concert

Chris Ayer, Rebecca Haviland and Chris Anderson at a House Concert

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Two weeks ago I announced that we were no longer involved with Zope Corporation. That was supposed to mean not driving up and down I95 every month. Apparently, our love of music and friends didn’t get the message. Winking smile

Lindsie Davis runs regular house concerts. We’ve been lucky to have attended three of them (including last night). In addition to loving every one of the shows, we’ve become good friends with Lindsie, which in the long run (even the short run) is more valuable to us.

Update: Lindsie just forwarded three photos that she took. We’re in two of them. I’ll post the first here, then the others down below.

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Before we knew we’d be out of Zope, we were discussing coming to Lindsie’s next show, which she was trying to put together but hadn’t set a date yet. By the time the date was set, we were already out, but we decided to make the trip, and turn it into a going away party as well. I’ll cover the party aspect briefly after capturing my thoughts about the show itself.

Rebecca Haviland and Chris Anderson opened the show. They have now named their group Rebecca Haviland and Whiskey Heart (I guess that makes Chris’ name: Whiskey Heart). It works for me, but I’m probably just going to call him Whiskey from now on. Winking smile

RebeccaHavilandAndWhiskeyHeart

We see them perform a bunch, recently in a variety of configurations, but I have to admit that I was still taken by surprise last night (a most pleasant surprise). On March 21st, we saw them perform as a duo (for the first time) at Watercolor Café. The big difference last night was no vocal microphones.

Rebecca and Chris each had their instruments (electric guitar and electric bass respectively) plugged into amps. But, they had them dialed softly (perfectly). That Rebecca’s amazing voice could easily be heard above the amps was not a surprise. That Chris sang loud enough to be so perfectly balanced with Rebecca was the giant surprise. They sounded better together vocally than at any previous show. That means that Chris will have to sing louder, or the sound guy will need to crank him more, at future full band shows.

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The acoustics were perfect and every song was fantastic. After missing If You at the last show, they performed it last night. Even though it was new to probably 95% of the people in the room (it was a very well attended show!), this was the best crowd participation in singing the Oh, oh oh oh oh part (along with me, of course). Really great!

RebeccaHaviland

Whenever Rebecca was tuning, she was quite funny telling us stories and informing us that this was her first-ever house concert performance! I’m willing to bet that it won’t be her last. I have a strong suspicion that she had every bit the blast that we in the audience did. Chris Anderson is an old pro at this. In fact, he was at all of the previous house concerts that we attended at Lindsie’s.

ChrisAndersonRebeccaHaviland

After their set, Lindsie announced that there would be a 10-minute break to eat the amazing desserts and stretch the legs. Those rarely last only 10 minutes, so I was impressed that this one was officially ended (with blinking lights) at the 14-minute mark. Well done running a tight ship Lindsie!

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Chris Ayer took to the stage (OK, the front of the room) and captivated everyone with his incredible songs, voice and guitar play.

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Chris always gets a ton of requests for particular songs (many of them long out of his regular rotation). He told us about one guy in Europe who took to the Interwebz to hammer Chris when he didn’t get his desired song. That dude needs to chill (see, I’m still young at heart). Winking smile

Last night, Chris decided to finally perform two songs he’s been promising someone for a while now (two different people, if I understood, both of whom were at the show). One was Opening and the other was Warmer. Bravo! It’s such a treat to hear great songs that rarely get played live nowadays.

As with Rebecca, whenever Chris was tuning, he had us cracking up. Aside from his typical tuning, he complained that the capo the guy at The Guitar Center talked him into was a bad choice. I noticed it once, it doesn’t put equal pressure across the fret, so Chris had to play with it to tighten it, but also compensated by retuning the string it wouldn’t catch. That gave him plenty of time to make us laugh.

ChrisAyerTuning

While I could recite Rebecca’s set list by heart (but won’t), Chris provided his official set list for Lois to photograph:

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Our host with the performers:

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Our host with us and Chris Anderson:

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It was a great show, well worth the long drive down (unreal traffic once we got into Friday afternoon Washington rush hour). Afterward, we headed to our friends’ house in Leesburg, where we spent the night (and where I’m now typing this). Shortly I’ll be off to watch the older son play baseball (he’ll be the starting pitcher) and then after lunch, the long trek home.

OurGreetingParty

Back to the party aspect of last night. We reached out to a bunch of current and former Zope employees and their families. 15 of us met for dinner at Portabellos in Arlington. Wow, such a great meal, excellent company and everyone in the restaurant was nice and treated us very well.

PortabellosDinnerParty

After the meal, 13 of us headed to the house concert. So, Zope was very well represented at the show. In a nice twist, one of the current Zope employees (Satchit) won the merch raffle, so he walked away with two of Chris Ayer’s CDs and two of Rebecca’s. Score!

SatchitRebeccaHavilandChrisAyerSatchit

An absolutely fantastic night, beginning to end. So glad we never hesitated to make this long drive to implant those memories.

AnneDonFamilyMembers

Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss at a House Concert

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Last night was our third time in four days seeing Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss perform (no big deal, don’t be too jealous). The last two shows were part of the Intergalactic Tour of the Universe and Beyond Tour. All three shows were unique because the venues were so different, as were the audiences. Of course, there were changes in the banter and the set lists as well.

The first was at Bowery Ballroom, covered here. The second was at The Falcon, covered here. Allie and Bess were a key part of Rosi Golan’s set at Bowery Ballroom on the same night that Ian performed. That post is here. Whew.

Last night’s show was a house concert in Arlington, VA, hosted by the extraordinary Lindsie. We met Lindsie when she hosted an Ian Axel house concert six months ago. It was one of the best shows we’ve attended, so when we go the invitation to this one, we made sure to be in VA for it.

Lindsie

The Bowery Ballroom was show was great! The Falcon show was better, in that it was much more intimate, zero talking by the audience and more talking by the performers.

Last night was even better. So much more intimate, total silence during the songs, thunderous applause after each song and lots of mixing/chatting with the musicians before, between and after the sets. Oh, and there were homemade moonpies (among other yummy desserts)! Smile

MoonPies

When we’re down in VA, we’re here to work at Zope Corporation. That gives us an opportunity to invite some of the music lovers in the company to attend shows with us. Last night, eight of us attended (one was a 7-year-old, not a slave-labor employee, the daughter of a slave-labor employee). Winking smile

ChadVaccarinoOurFriends

Bess Rogers opened the show. Before she came out, there was a microphone in the middle of the stage area (this is a home, there was no actual stage). Bess decided to have it removed and the rest of the singers sang without the aid of the microphone either. For the most part, that was fantastic. No effects, direct from their mouth to our ears. A few times, Bess sang softly, and her words were a bit swallowed up by the band. On balance, still excellent.

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Bess played acoustic guitar and ukulele.

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She played a few numbers solo (including her exceptional cover of In My Life by The Beatles). On the rest, she was accompanied by:

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris sat on his amp, and played a very quiet, mellow bass, even though it was amplified. I commented to him after the show that he was able to get even quieter than he could have with an acoustic upright bass (he agreed). It was perfect (volume, as well as his always amazing play).

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Adam Christgau on drums (and anything else you can hit!). A truly extraordinary performance by Adam. This was not the setting to plop a full drum set in and bang away. Aside from washing out the vocals, it would have overwhelmed the audience independently.

AdamChristgauSetup

Adam had a single snare drum (no cymbals). For most of the evening, he had his shirt draped over it to mute it even further. On occasion he used a shaker. At other times a tambourine, all while using the other hand to continue hitting the snare. He used Bess’ guitar case as a kick drum (which sounded really good). That wasn’t enough. He often hit the top of the guitar case with a stick or mallet.

He also used brushes to great effect. And, when he wanted the sound of a cymbal, he hit the tambourine with a stick, or with his foot. Basically, he was inventive.

AdamChristgauBrushes

All of that was amazing, but the best part of Adam’s performance was his singing. He sang a lot with Bess. I knew he could sing, but his range was much greater than I had previously experienced. He sang some really high parts, wonderfully.

In my post about The Falcon, I mentioned that we bought Bess’ single of her upcoming CD, Anchor, with In My Life on the “B side”. I didn’t have a chance to listen to it until after I posted. Yesterday, before we headed up to the show I listened to it. Both songs are great, but I was blown away to hear In My Life, professionally produced, with harmony (Bess overdubs and harmonizes with herself). I was already excited for the new CD, but even more so now.

I also mentioned how funny/clever/quick Bess was at The Falcon. Ditto last night. It’s largely a self-deprecating humor, but nothing about is canned. One of the running gags last night involved the above-highlighted moonpies. Bess had one on a plate that she placed on Ian’s keyboard (so that she could keep an eye on it while she performed).

Way on the left edge of this photo, you can Bess still connecting with her moonpie. Winking smile

BessRogersMoonPieAdamChristgauChrisAnderson

She mentioned that she didn’t want to risk them all being gone by the end of her set. She kept eyeing it between songs and making a number of jokes about it. The second her set was done, she took a big bite, sharing her obvious satisfaction with us. Smile

Allie Moss sang on two songs with Bess, playing glockenspiel. In the two days since we saw Allie at The Falcon, she got sick and nearly lost her voice. I think that’s why Adam filled in singing on songs that Allie otherwise would have sung with Bess. Still, her harmonies with Bess were beautiful.

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Ian Axel joined for one song as well on the piano, the above-mentioned Anchor, one of the songs Allie was on as well. It was awesome, having everyone (yes, all five of them, including Adam and Chris) singing together.

In the car on the way back to Fredericksburg, one of the guys asked me whether Bess puts her music up on Bandcamp. I just checked, and yes indeed, it’s available for streaming (both Anchor and In My Life). Once you listen, spend the $1.98 to buy it so that Bess can afford her next moonpie!

Allie Moss was up next. It was clear that she wasn’t feeling well. She could have easily gotten away without performing, but she was a trooper and delivered a pretty incredible set. A very few times you could see an expression on her face that she thought she wouldn’t be able to hit the next note. She did, but it obviously took more concentration than it normally does.

AllieMoss

Her guitar play wasn’t affected, it was very good. She sang a few solo and the rest with Adam and Chris supporting her.

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Bess joined for at least two songs (one on the glockenspiel) and sang gorgeous harmony with her.

Allie was hysterical as well, but it was largely due to jokes about her illness and the effects of any medication she took (it seemed to kick in gradually during the course of her set). Trust me, she’s very funny when she’s healthy as well.

When she sang Passerby and reached the line “What if we’d shared a pint”, she leaned forward toward the 7-year-old and whispered “of ice cream”, without missing a beat. Did I tell you how quick and clever these ladies are? Smile

Like with Bess’ Digital 45, I didn’t have a chance to listen to Allie’s CD, Late Bloomer when I last posted. That too was rectified before the show. Another winner. A beautiful CD from start to finish. These ladies are on a roll, with their individual careers as well as their roles in Ingrid Michaelson’s band.

Ian was up next, starting out with Leave Me Alone, accompanied by Adam and Chris. Since Ian’s keyboard had to be amplified, both Adam and Chris were able (needed) to crank it up a bit. Amazingly, Ian’s voice was strong and clear enough to be heard perfectly on every note throughout the set, even though he had a more difficult task than Bess and Allie.

Ian is always impish (at least at times) during every show, and the audience always responds to it. At a house concert, it’s so much easier to connect with that side of his personality, and it was in full force last night.

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Lois told Ian before the show that the 7-year-old and her 2-year-old brother (who wasn’t at the show) are entranced whenever their mom puts on Waltz. They both play air piano trying to keep up with Ian (it’s not possible, but A for effort to the kids!). Smile

IanAxelKeyboards

After playing Gone, Ian played Waltz, looking at the 7-year-old and saying: “This one’s for you”. Smile

There were some changes to the set list from the other shows. One biggie started with Ian coming out from behind the keyboard and picking up the ukulele. He said that he was getting sick of playing the song he was about to play and he hoped that playing it on the ukulele (rather than the keyboards) would make it fresher for him.

IanAxelUkulele

I knew immediately which song he was going to play, Say Something. It’s absolutely gorgeous on the piano, which is how he mostly plays it the past year, but it was originally written on the ukulele, which is how I heard it the first few times. I’m partial to the ukulele version, because it’s rawer, allowing the overwhelming emotion of the song (and Ian’s delivery!) to smack you in the face. That’s doubly true in such an intimate venue.

After the show, a few people told Ian that he had to continue to play the song, even if he’s sick of it, because it’s cathartic for them, or people they know. Lindsie was one of those people and she told us (and Ian) about a friend of hers who attended a show in LA a few weeks ago and was totally moved by the song due to current circumstances in his life.

Ian continued with two more numbers on the ukulele (I might not have the order correct). He asked Allie if she was up to singing with him and she was. She and Chad Vaccarino (Ian’s writing and performing partner) came up to sing Shorty (with Adam Christgau switching to acoustic guitar to accompany them).

AllieMossChadVaccarinoIanAxel

We saw Chad, Allie and Ian (with Adam) do Shorty (one of my favorites) at Bowery and The Falcon, both amazingly well. Still, last night was even better. At the other shows, the leads were sung right into the microphone (perfectly), but all three (Chad, Allie and Ian) shared that same mic to sing the chorus. These mic’s are mostly directional, with short pickup ranges, so the harmonies could be heard (because it’s relatively quiet), but there’s really a lack of power.

Last night, no microphone, all three voices (even Allie’s sick one) came through flawlessly and at the right volume.

When Allie left, Ian, Chad and Adam played a song they debuted at Bowery but didn’t play at The Falcon, Amory. It was stunning at Bowery, but like Shorty, even better last night (for the same reasons). Three-part harmony for the win!

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There were a couple of funny moments as Ian and Adam weren’t on the same page about a repeating section. That’s another major advantage of a house concert, the comfort level between the performers and the audience, where you can actually enjoy a flub, especially when you know you’re watching a great song being birthed.

Ian then announced that the ukulele portion of the evening was over. Winking smile

IanAxelChadVaccarino

Back at the keyboards, Ian and Chad (along with Adam and Chris) played Rockstar and killed it. They finished up with This is the New Year. Of course it was great, but I was blown away by how interesting Adam kept the drumming, with such a minimalist setup.

Speaking of Adam, one one song (of course I can’t remember which right now), Adam switched from the snare to his signature use of a Frisbee as a percussive instrument. Well done! Smile

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Of course, the eight of us bought a ton of merch! Here is a photo of Ian, with his T-Shirt Brigade. The Tour Poster (also in the photo) was designed by Kristine Thune:

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Here’s Ian signing a CD for one our folks:

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The only negative the entire evening was that the show started 50-minutes late. We were tempted to run out instantly when it was over (we had a 1-hour drive ahead of us), but the glow in the room was impossible to leave, so we ended up schmoozing and taking a ton of photos with everyone. It was worth it, but we didn’t get back to the hotel until midnight.

We drove up in two cars, boys in one, girls in the other. Before heading over to the show we had a lovely dinner at Sawatdee, a Thai restaurant in Arlington. Thanks for the recommendation Lindsie! Smile

Jesse Terry, Michael Logen and Carley Tanchon at a House Concert

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For people who see live music as often as we do, I’m still amazed that it’s only been eight months since our first-ever house concert. We’ve been to a reasonable number of them since. Last night brought us full circle. We attended a concert at the same house that kicked it off, with the same headliner, with two other artists.

I’m normally very long winded (for the newcomers here, it’s because I write purely for myself, to remember the events in detail). Today, since I’ve written about all three performers (Jesse most of all), I’ll be briefer about them. You can click through above to see more about Jesse from the last house concert, or the links below for my coverage of Michael and Carley. You’re welcome! Smile

Jesse Terry was spectacular (again). In addition to selecting (and performing) a great set, he was on fire with his banter (quick and witty). He dedicated two songs to our amazing hostess. He dedicated another to a therapist in the room (a deeply moving song called Silver Hills, that melted everyone’s heart when Jesse introduced it). He dedicated another to Lois (I think just because he knew he could make her cry, he’s cruel that way!). Winking smile

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Jesse made reference to a video shot in Vanuatu. He mentioned that it’s the last documented case of cannibalism (we found out later it was roughly 25 years ago). None of the people in the video look like they were involved in that incident, but you never know, so be careful (especially of the one guy who dances behind Jesse, looking a little too happy!). The woman in the pink dress is now Jesse’s wife (not yet when the video was shot) and the woman in the straw hat, bikini top and shorts is Carley, another of the performers last night:

Ain’t No Tellin by Jesse Terry

Here’s Jesse telling the story about the video:

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And the lovely ladies who appear in the video:

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And the effect the story had on Carley!

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Michael Logen alternated songs with Jesse (like he did the only other time we’ve seen him). This time it was only acoustic guitar (he played the grand piano as well at Rockwood). I’ll repeat that Jesse was right when he said we’d love Michael, we do!

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Michael has a wonderful voice, plays the guitar and harmonica beautifully, and writes excellent songs, many of which are very moving. We were happy to buy his CD last night, Things I Failed to Mention (we ran out too quickly after the Rockwood show), so now we’ll get to hear them over and over.

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At Rockwood, Michael harmonized with Jesse on Noise (a song they co-wrote), while accompanying him on the piano. Last night, he also harmonized (beautifully) and accompanied Jesse on the guitar. In fact, Michael added a bit of harmony to a few of Jesse’s songs last night (and Jesse returned the favor once or twice). I was sitting less than two feet from Michael, so I could hear every note, but Lois asked him to sing his harmonies louder, because they were so well done!

Carley Tanchon opened the show. We had a tiny taste of Carley, singing harmony with Jesse on one song at The Bitter End. Then we finally got to see her goods at her CD Release Show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. That was a full band, all-out Rock ‘N Roll show.

Last night was solo with acoustic guitar. Still, everything I said about her in that show applies. Aside from the generic fact that Carley has a stunning voice, it’s a bit hard to imagine a better fitting voice for a house concert. No microphone? No problem! Her voice projects so clearly and cleanly. She has such power, but there’s no yelling about it.

CarleyTanchonPerforming

Jesse called Carley up to sing harmony on Ain’t No Tellin (the video above). Of course, the harmony was gorgeous.

They closed the show by calling Carley back up again and all three (but mostly Jesse and Carley) sang To Love Somebody by the Bee Gees. Of course they nailed it, but more interestingly, nearly everyone sang the chorus with them, quite well.

Excluding an intermission, they played for three hours (or a bit more!). It was by far the longest house concert we’ve seen. It was awesome, but made for a very late night, since we still had to drive back to Manhattan from Long Island.

Here are a few photos from before and after the show:

CarleyTanchonJesseTerryJesseTerryHadarHadarMichaelLogen

Now that I’ve gotten the music out of the way, let’s get to real point of last night, eating our hostess’ food! Ah, you think I jest, but I don’t! Last year’s meal was one of the best home cooked meals I’ve had. I’ll admit (now) that I was bit nervous if the second time around would live up to my own memories and expectations.

OurAmazingHosts

No need to worry! There was an even bigger choice, so there were a few dishes I didn’t get to taste, but everything I ate (which was a lot of variety) was simply amazing. Pasta Puttanesca, Beet Salad, Rigatoni with meat sauce, Meatballs, Tandoori Chicken, Indian-spiced Chickpeas (cooked, not a salad), Bean Dip with Chips, Homemade Breads (made by a male guest!).

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Every bite was excellent, but I still can’t get the taste of the meatballs out of my head. If my godson had been there, I don’t think they could have gotten him to leave. Winking smile

The reason I didn’t eat everything (I skipped the Poached Salmon, Asparagus Salad, Grilled Chicken, Basmati Rice, Veggie Wraps and a few other dishes) is because last year I was too full to enjoy the incredible desserts. Since I am occasionally capable of learning from my mistakes, I saved room.

While trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid stares from Lois, I did indeed indulge in a number of desserts during intermission and after the show. They were all amazing, but I have to shout out to the chocolate covered strawberries (OMG) and the blond-mini-kisses covered pretzels. Desserts were provided by a variety of guests, so a special thank you to all of you!

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Merry, you outdid yourself! So, now I’m already nervous about the next house concert and what you will serve to delight me (that’s why you’re doing these shows, right?). Smile

Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell at VA House Concert

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We’re missing some mind-bogglingly good music in NYC this week (and next). Is there a cure for that? Yes, catching Ian Axel on consecutive nights, in different settings.

Our two most recent Ian Axel concerts were both big stage, full band, crowded standing audience venues. We’ve seen Ian solo and acoustic before, but nothing like last night. Ian, Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell appeared last night in Northern Virginia (NoVA) at a house concert organized by two of their many super fans (our heartfelt thanks go out to Lindsie and Sara for putting this together!).

LindsieSara

House concerts vary in so many ways (so far, we’ve loved every one we’ve been at). Last night had a big crowd (75 confirmed in advance). Consistent with the other ones, there was no amplification of anything other than Ian’s electronic keyboards (he debuted a new amp that was set at just the right volume). Vocals, guitar and ukulele were all au natural.

That was a huge difference. Even for a solo show at Rockwood, Ian/Chad/Mike are mic’ed for vocals and guitar. That introduces a number of things, including the skill and mood of the sound engineer that night, plus your physical placement from the speaker(s) (rather than from the performer). Last night we were six feet away from the actual mouths producing the sounds.

Ian kicked off his set with Leave Me Alone! Of course it was great, but it also set the tone for the rest of the set nicely. Sitting to my left were a mother/daughter. The daughter finished her Masters in NYC last summer and moved back to NoVA. She is (and was) a fan of Ian’s and saw many shows in NYC when she lived there. Right after Ian sings the first verse, there is a fun clapping part (both on the record and at all of his live shows).

IanAxelSinging

I badly wanted to clap, but admit to not doing it. Lisa (the daughter, two seats to my left) started clapping. I joined in instantly (and looked over to thank her for doing it!). I can’t imagine the tension that would have built up inside me if I didn’t get to clap along. Of course, everyone sang the ask/answer It’s Not Easy part (could even have been 100% participation, it certainly sounded like it).

The same song set the tone in another way as well. One of the lines is “Take all your sh*t, I’m over it”. Given that there were a few kids there, Ian switched it to “Take all your stuff” and of course, couldn’t rhyme it. We all laughed, as did Ian. Smile Next time, I suggest: “Take all your stuff, I’ve had enough!”. Winking smile

I am sure I could reconstruct the entire set list from memory, but I would probably get the order wrong, so I’ll just mention a few songs in context. I think the second/third songs were The Music that Haunts this Town morphing into Waltz. I mention it because of the long instrumental lead. You could have heard a pin drop people were so respectful of Ian’s incredible piano play (and likely mesmerized, since we could easily see his fingers fly up and down the keyboard).

IanAxelKeyboards

Ian introduced a number of the songs with his classic self-effacing style (privately we describe it as impish, but now I’ve outed us). He got big laughs a number of times, including his introduction to Gone. Of course, no laughter whatsoever during the playing of the very emotional Gone.

Ian played the equally heart-tugging Say Something (after another moving intro) to end the first solo-section of his set. He then called Chad Vaccarino up to join him. The two of them performed You’ll Be OK. We had already gotten more than just a taste of Chad’s magic earlier (I’ll get to that shortly), so it wasn’t a surprise to see them nail this.

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Ian invited Mike Campbell up. Ian came out from behind the keyboards and took out his ukulele. The three of them played Pacific Sun. They followed that up with a song we’d never heard before (something like “Down to the River”, but not exactly that). More gorgeous three-part harmony!

After that, back to some more solo Ian. He sang a song about his sister that he was worried he would mess up, since he rarely plays it. He needn’t have worried, beautiful! Since I’m mentioning most of the songs anyway, I’ll add that one of the solo numbers was Afterglow.

Then Ian called Chad back up and announced that they were about to play his single. Before he started, he said he wanted to dedicate it to the kids of our hostess. She replied that they just went up to bed, but that the little girl would be very upset if she missed this one. She asked Ian to wait a minute as she went up to get the kids. You could hear them running down the stairs with excitement, it was too cute for words.

I’m sure people would have been happy to show up just to hear this song. Smile

Ian called Mike back up again and the three of them closed the show with Shorty Don’t Wait. I could listen to them sing this song 100 times in a row and not get tired of it. Each of them does their part so well and when the three sing together (especially the last line a cappella) it’s magic.

IanAxelChadVaccarinoMikeCampbellShortyDontWait

The feeling in the room was extraordinary. For a few minutes, no one wanted to get up from their seats because it would mean that the evening had ended. We had a one-hour drive back to the hotel so we finally did get up, say our thank yous and goodbyes and hit the road.

Mike Campbell opened the show solo. He performed five numbers accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. We’ve seen Mike perform solo before, but this too was special. Without a microphone or an amplified guitar, we got to appreciate him opening up his voice a bit more. He nailed each song and the crowd let him hear it (very sustained applause after each number, which of course, Ian got as well).

Apologies for how dark many of theses photos are:

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Mike invited Chad up and they sang Days Gone By (a song they wrote together). Wow. We’ve seen them perform it before with Mike singing the lead, last night they switched and Chad took the lead. Chad is a very emotive singer to begin with and I was curious what he would sound like un-mic’ed. Holy cow, he was perfect.

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They played a song we hadn’t heard before (another co-write) called something like Don’t Worry (but that’s not it exactly). Another winner. Then they called Ian up.

This created a Three Stooges like comedy moment. Mike and Chad were sitting on tall bar stools (as you can see from the above photos). Chad pulled out the small piano stool from behind the keyboard and placed it between the stools for Ian to sit on. Ian pointed out that he would be really short sitting there and offered to switch with Chad. Of course, Chad being the shortest of the three couldn’t readily accept the logic of that offer.

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After a bit more milling around, they agreed to all stand (as you can see). Smile

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They performed another song that Chad and Mike co-wrote, All the Love. Another wow. Ian and Chad write amazingly well together, but so do Chad and Mike.

In addition to organizing an amazing show, our lovely ladies (Lindsie and Sara) had a great spread to eat. Most notable were the special Ian Axel Fortune Cookies! Each fortune was a song lyric. Brilliant and totally appropriate as real fortunes!

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Tonight we get to repeat most of the joy (Mike won’t be joining them) at Jammin’ Java (again in NoVA). Can’t wait!

SaraIanAxelChadVaccarinoLindsie

Caleb Hawley and Rachel Platten at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg

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I can think of at least five independent introductions to this post, all appropriate. That means I have an 80% chance of picking the wrong one. Oh well, here goes…

I’ve recently written that Rachel Platten is one of our current obsessions. We last saw her perform on January 23rd, 2010 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. At that show, we saw Caleb Hawley join for some harmony with Martin Rivas (our first Caleb Hawley sighting). You can read about that night in this post. Our first house concert was September 5th, 2010. Since then we’ve attended two more, we like them a lot. We spend a considerable amount of our lives in Fredericksburg, VA.

When I noticed that on our next trip down to Fredericksburg, Caleb Hawley would be headlining a house concert there and Rachel Platten would be opening, I was equal parts dumbfounded and excited. This house concert was being produced by an amazing woman named Ruth (I can say that definitively, now that we’ve met her), who runs a regular series called House About Tonight (clever, right?). Smile

I was a bit surprised when she couldn’t confirm the venue right away, even though she immediately responded that she’d hold four spots for us. The reason was obvious once she explained. For those of you who don’t own a TV (or didn’t read my last post about Rachel), Caleb Hawley is a current contestant on American Idol. He blew away the judges (YouTube video now removed) (in particular, Steven Tyler) during the audition phase and got his ticket to Hollywood.

This was obviously not going to be an ordinary house concert. It wasn’t. After getting many more RSVP’s than usual, Ruth arranged for the show to be moved from a house to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg. Roughly 100 people attended a professionally run show. Ruth’s tireless energy, coupled with the incredible number of volunteers who handled the logistics of collecting the money (100% of the ticket price goes to the artists, yay!), laying out the amazing food (brought by the attendees!) and keeping everything on a reasonable schedule, made the evening better than most commercial venues deliver.

On to the show. Rachel opened, accompanied throughout by an amazing drummer (who we’ve seen many times), Craig Meyer. Rachel can handle herself perfectly, even playing alone on her keyboards (and singing, of course). With Craig, there is a noticeable uptick in keeping the beats fresh and interesting. Rachel also performs with a full band. Catch her any way you can when she’s in your town, you won’t regret it!

RachelPlattenSinging

I’m repeating what I’ve written about her before, but here’s the summary:

  • Superb songwriter, both lyrics and music
  • Lyrics can get lost in the fun, upbeat music, so listen carefully, there are too many gems to call out
  • Absolutely stunning voice
  • Excellent on the keyboards
  • 1000 megawatt smile that bathes the room
  • Bubbly, quick-witted personality that entertains the audience and keeps things lively

RachelPlattenKeyboards

Rachel called Caleb up to sing harmony and play guitar on two numbers. I’ll save my commentary on Caleb for just another minute.

Rachel shared some fantastic news with us. Just a couple of days earlier she announced a new record deal. Read all about it.

Craig played an even more amazing set than we’ve seen before, largely because both Rachel and Caleb (Craig played with both of them) turned it over to him more often than usual. Not only did he rise to the challenge, I was impressed at how nearly everyone in the crowd was totally into the drum solos.

CraigMeyerBrushes

After singing with Rachel, Caleb stayed on the stage and Rachel stepped off (just to the side) and they transitioned from Rachel’s opening set to Caleb’s headlining set more naturally than I’ve seen before.

Let me repeat that even though we saw Caleb sing one verse (with a very large band) and saw his YouTube video on American Idol, we really knew nothing about him. That’s not entirely accurate. We have a lot of friends who we sit with at the various NYC clubs that we frequent. Many of them told me multiple times that I will be blown away by Caleb. Scheduling never worked for me to verify their outrageous claims, until last night.

Before I tell you why, let me assure you that my friends continue to impress me with their musical taste. I was indeed completely blown away by Caleb Hawley and can’t imagine missing another opportunity to see him whenever one presents itself!

No matter what order I list Caleb’s multitude of skills, you will (incorrectly) assume that some are better than others. One of the things that makes this kid (yes, he’s still a kid to us) so special is that everything he does is at a level that is rarified. Even fewer can put it all together. Caleb is the real deal!

Caleb has an incredible voice. If you don’t know him (like we didn’t), please don’t judge him by one a cappella performance with YouTube quality. Go see him, and/or buy one of his CD’s (we bought two last night!). I could definitely listen to him a cappella, live, for an entire set (especially his own songs).

CalebHawleySinging

Most solo singer/songwriters that accompany themselves on the guitar do so acceptably (I wanted to say passably). That is to say that if they weren’t singing, most couldn’t hold my interest for very long just playing the guitar. Caleb Hawley is a notable exception. He’s a wonderful guitar player. I could listen to an entire set of his guitar play without any vocals and leave completely satisfied.

CalebHawleyGuitar

He mixes an incredible finger-picking style, with leads and rhythm in a manner that I don’t recall seeing in a long while (if ever).

So, he sings and he plays the guitar really well. Is that all? Ha, sorry, the list continues. He played the keyboards for one song, very well. I didn’t hear enough to rave like I did about the guitar, but he was good enough to warrant further listening!

CalebHawleyKeyboards

Songwriting? Check! He bookended the show with covers. He opened with the Ray Charles song that he performed on American Idol (Hallelujah I Love Her So), but this time, accompanied by the guitar and Craig on the drums. Much richer, gorgeous. He closed the encore (no way he could have left without an encore) with a Randy Newman number (Feels Like Home).

Not only did he nail Feels Like Home, but it had very special meaning to us. When our godson proposed to his soon-to-be-bride he made a very special DVD for her. One of the songs that he picked was Feels Like Home.

In between those covers, Caleb played a parade of wonderful original songs that made us laugh and tear up (sometimes in the same song). So yes, he’s an excellent songwriter. I’m listening to Seeing Colors this very second (while I type) and I’m reminded that Lois cried while he sang it last night.

OK, let’s recap: Great voice, great guitar player, very good on keyboards, great songwriter (picks good covers too). Is that it? Nope, one more thing (really two).

The one is stage presence. He had every single person eating out of his hands (like at a petting zoo). This included little kids and old folk like us. It’s not just rehearsed lines (or if it is, he’s even more masterful than I realized) but a natural persona that you bond with instantly as an audience member.

The two (really an extension of one) is that he’s hysterical. He could definitely be a stand-up comic (in terms of delivery/style).

CalebHawleyEntertaining

Craig accompanied Caleb on all but two numbers, wonderfully. Rachel joined Caleb to sing harmony on at least three numbers, one of which she also played the keyboards on.

They split the show into two sets, with Rachel opening each.

Two spontaneous things that turned into highlight reels. We had two guests with us, a mother and daughter. Craig called the daughter up to play the shakers during one song. She did a great job and Caleb actually interacted with her a bunch during the song and thanked her by name afterward.

KPShakersCraigMeyerCalebHawleyKPShakers

During the intermission, we bought two CD’s and a T-Shirt from Rachel and two CD’s from Caleb. Lois was wearing her Rachel T-Shirt already. Here are two shots of Craig with each of the girls in their Rachel shirts:

KPCraigMeyerRachelPlattenTShirtLoisCraigMeyerRachelPlattenTShirt

The other highlight occurred during the song Caleb called Cookies (the same song with the shakers, above). While he was performing the song (with Rachel singing too), Caleb noticed that a bunch of people were dancing at the back of the room. He made them all come up to the stage (Craig was instrumental in insisting they come forward as well). Once there, he taught them the Cookie Making Dance (my term). The audience hooted the entire time and they ended the song with a conga-like procession off the stage dancing the Cookie Making Dance.

Here’s a small sample of the dancing (Lois was too close to the stage to capture all the motion):

MakingCookiesDance

We were already big fans of Rachel and Craig. What a bonus to discover how enormously talented (and nice) Caleb Hawley is. We will now make it our business to see him as often as we can as well.

Thanks Ruth and the entire Unitarian Fellowship for putting on an extraordinary show and making us outsiders (Northerners at that!) feel so welcome!

RuthCalebHawleyRachelPlattenCraigMeyer

P.S. If you want to support this wonderful community, please make your next purchase from Amazon by clicking on the big Amazon ad on the front page of the Unitarian site. You’ll pay exactly what you would have otherwise and they’ll earn some affiliate commission. Smile

ambeR Rubarth and Ed Romanoff at a House Concert

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This was our second house concert on the upper west side of NYC. It’s a series called Music On 4 run by a wonderful couple who create a perfect atmosphere to enjoy live music.

amber Rubarth is no stranger to us or to readers of this blog. I’ve written about her and The Paper Raincoat (her project with the amazing Alex Wong) dozens of times. We’ve seen ambeR perform in a wide-variety of venues. Highline Ballroom (which seats 400+), down to NAU (a clothing store where she set up in the back). I’ve written about each one if you have the inclination to read for a few days.

ambeRRubarth

We’ve seen ambeR play solo, with a trio and with a large band (strings, oboes, the works!). She excels and adapts in all of those situations. There was no way ambeR could surprise me last night. Musically, that was true. Emotionally, it wasn’t. There was an intimacy (roughly 60 people attended, which is a sell-out at Music On 4) that was new.

ambeR introduced a few songs with backgrounds that I hadn’t heard before, even though I know the songs well. She chose a perfect set list for the setting, complemented by three requests from the audience that were all good choices. The entire evening (including the opener) was un-mic’ed (both vocals and acoustic guitars). She finger-picked beautifully and her voice was the perfect volume for the room.

What makes ambeR so special? She’s an incredible songwriter. Don’t take my word for it. She just won the Mountain Stage NewSong Contest for 2010! (If you’re reading this a year from now, the link might no longer be highlighting ambeR.) Still not convinced? She co-wrote Washing Day with Adam Levy. It too won an award:

Amber Rubarth’s song Washing Day (co-written with Adam Levy) won 1st Place in the 2006 International Songwriting Competition in the ‘Lyrics only’ category, judged by Tom Waits, Brian Wilson and Robert Smith

ambeR writes about universal experiences in a way that captures the deepest feelings succinctly and honestly. Along the way, there is enough disarming humor (both outright funny and bittersweet introspection) to keep the mood just right. Her imagery is vivid and insightful.

She’s off for a European tour today. I miss her already! Smile

HostAmberRubarth

Ed Romanoff opened for ambeR. He’s joining her on the European tour as well. We’ve seen Ed a few times before and enjoyed his sets. Last night was no exception, but I don’t feel that he’s as suited to an un-mic’ed house concert as ambeR is. For a big guy, Ed tends to sing reasonably softly. When he’s mic’ed correctly, that’s fine. When he isn’t, at times his guitar overwhelms his voice.

EdRomanoff

Even so, he was a good choice to open for ambeR. He is a very good story-teller (this was particularly true when we last saw him at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2) so he had the audience totally warmed up by the time his set was done.

Ed and ambeR closed the show with a duet, performing Hold On by Tom Waits.

EdRomanoffAmberRubarth

As with many shows, not everything always goes according to plan. Ed and ambeR had a bit of trouble getting there, arriving roughly 20 minutes after they were supposed to appear. Unlike a commercial venue, house concerts can deal with this situation more creatively.

One member of the audience came up to the stage area (not raised) and led everyone in singing the first verse of Amazing Grace! Then another member came up and sang a song he wrote. A third member stood up and sang another song (not written by her) right from her seat. All were a cappella since there were no instruments in the apartment. Just as the third song was finished, ambeR and Ed walked in. A very warm experience shared by and between audience members only.

Another night of great music shared with a wonderful group of people!

Antje Duvekot and Anne Heaton at House Concert

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Last night we attended our second ever house concert. I can easily see this becoming a habit. I started this blog 3.5 years ago with one goal in mind, document our lives so that as our memory fades (inevitable) we will have a permanent record to reflect back on.

A completely unexpected side-benefit has been the incredible people that we’ve met (both virtually and IRL: in real life) as a result of this endeavor and the heavy emphasis on blogging about musical events.

One person who I met through this blog (IRL, before he ever commented on the blog!) alerted me to someone who runs regular house concerts on the upper west side in NYC, telling me specifically about last night’s show. The host was kind enough to reserve two spots for Lois and me.

Antje Duvekot opened the show. We weren’t familiar with most of her work, but the very first time we saw the Bank of America commercial featuring Merry Go Round (written by Antje), we fell in love with the song. I was excited to hear more of her music live for my first impression. I’m now officially a big fan of Antje (personally) and her music.

AntjeDuvekot

Six weeks ago, Antje took a serious tumble off her bike. She broke her hand and shouldn’t have been playing guitar yet. She joked that none of us should be telling her hand surgeon that she was disobeying orders. Here’s hoping that my blog isn’t popular enough to be read by him/her. 😉

AntjeDuvekotCast

Even with a cast on, her guitar playing was beautiful. Her left pinkie was effectively immobilized (she didn’t use it all in the first set and barely did in the second). She finger-picks most of the songs and I look forward to seeing her again when she can use all of her fingers (though I wasn’t disappointed in the least in her delivery last night!).

Antje has a broad vocal range. For me, in all of my two experiences of a house concert, I don’t think you can properly judge a singer’s voice at the extremes in this kind of setting. For some, to hit the high notes, they need to belt it out. It’s obvious that they don’t want to overwhelm the small, close-in crowd, so they clearly pull back. I don’t know whether Antje was pulling back, or whether that’s how she normally sings the high notes.

In general, there is a smokey quality to her vocals.

She’s mostly hard-core folk (one of my favorite genre’s for over 40 years!) and she’s extremely good at it in every respect. She also did a Jason Mraz cover and her own Merry Go Round isn’t really folk either. She closed her part of the show with Merry Go Round. So great to see that live after being a fan of the song from the minute it was released.

Antje’s personality comes across wonderfully. Sweet, self-effacing, interesting, funny, warm (and probably a few other nice adjectives). She opened with an a capella number (which gave her an opportunity to showcase her cast). In my opinion it was a difficult and dangerous thing to do in such an intimate environment. She won me (and I’m guessing nearly everyone) over within the first verse!

Anne Heaton was the other headliner. We had not heard of her, but after mentioning her name to a few musician friends, all we heard were raves! Anne sings wonderfully and plays the keyboards really well. Her style is mostly Jazz so the contrast between Antje and Anne was big.

AnneHeaton

Not to be outdone by Antje’s obvious handicap, Anne topped her, by showing up 8.5 months pregnant! 😉

AnneHeatonPregnant

Her (understandable) obvious discomfort was made even clearer when she shared a huge scare that she underwent just two days earlier. In addition, she told us that the baby was pressing on her lungs. Yikes!

With all that, her vocal control and range were superb. I like Jazz in general (though I lean toward the instrumental smooth jazz variety), so I enjoyed her numbers, but it’s not typically the kind of stuff that makes my heart flutter.

She played a whimsical number that she wrote as a bridal toast (she was maid of honor) for her childhood friend. I loved every second of it (delivery, lyrics, style). The crowd loved it too, as many laughed throughout the song.

During the first of two sets, Antje played the first six songs (roughly) and Anne played the next six. But, they joined each other on at least four songs to harmonize (they do a lovely job, since they also perform together as part of Winterbloom). For the second set, they both remained on stage (in front of us) throughout, alternating songs, again harmonizing frequently.

Anne also has a wonderful stage presence. Obviously, the topics last night trended more around her current condition, but it’s clear that she can handle any audience in any situation.

I would guess that there were roughly 50 people in attendance. The hosts ran the evening as well as I could have hoped. There was beer/wine/cheese/cold cuts/soft drinks/fruit/etc., spread out in multiple spots so there were no long lines anywhere. They are delightful people who have found an incredible way to share their love of music while getting to experience it themselves in the best possible way!

I was sorry to run out the minute the show was over, but we were heading straight to the house and wanted to get on the road.

Jesse Terry and Marjory Lee at a House Concert

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We became aware of how many house concerts there are only a few years ago. There have been a few that we really wanted to attend, but scheduling or illness confounded every one, until last night.

Our friends (stay tuned for how we met them at the end) hosted a house concert featuring one of their favorite artists. We were thrilled that we were able to attend.

Jesse Terry is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter/guitar player. He was (until recently) based in Nashville. That might make you think he’s pure country. You’d be wrong. He crosses a number of genres, effortlessly. During one song, I could swear I was listening to James Taylor (the feel, not a clone). On another, Lois leaned over to me and whispered “Jackson Browne”. Oh yeah, he’s also a little bit country. 😉

JesseTerry

Lois described Jesse to me as “a painter and a poet”. Poet is obvious, but by painter, she meant that his lyrical imagery is vivid. She cried during two of his songs. Here are YouTube videos of each:

Not to overwhelm you with YouTube videos, but this one is worth watching as well (then I’ll leave you alone). Jesse met his fiancée on a cruise ship in the South Pacific (I’m sure the setting had nothing to do with their falling in love 😉 ). Back in the states, in the famous Bluebird Cafe, she was in the audience when he sang this song (which he wrote for her) and then proposed to her in front of the audience. She was at the house concert last night and is as lovely a person as you can imagine, so we completely understand their mutual attraction/admiration/love:

JessJesseTerry

Jesse was wonderful on every song (including the three covers he did), but he’s particularly masterful at love songs and deeply sad ones. He tended to finger-pick the slower ones, beautifully. His guitar play in general was very good. His voice is excellent with good range. Excellent personality (both on and off the stage).

While we attend shows in all types of venues (including the dreaded Madison Square Garden), we really prefer intimate shows. Well, last night redefined intimate (in the best possible way). I often mention that a performance was acoustic. That’s technically correct, but in most cases, while the instrument is acoustic, it’s still amplified.

Last night was 100% acoustic, and the vocals weren’t mic’ed either. We had front row seats, but I’ll bet that the one guy who insisted on standing in the back of the room (yes, he was offered a seat), could hear every note and every word as perfectly as I could. Perfect. No sound engineer to muck it up (don’t jump on me, most do a great job, but some screw it up so bad you wonder how they got the job).

I was nervous for a second, because Jesse plugged a cord into his guitar, so I thought he had a small amp tucked away somewhere. It turned out he was just plugging in to an auto-tuner pedal. Whew. 🙂

I’ll come back to the actual ending of the show after I cover the opening act.

Our hostess for the evening is an incredible woman (her husband is awesome too, but what I’m about to tell is all her, so I want to give credit where credit is due!). Years ago, she discovered Jesse Terry accidentally, on MySpace, clicking on his link from another artist’s page. She instantly fell in love with his music and reached out to contact Jesse. She has followed his career and become his friend ever since that fateful night.

While in Key West for the annual singer/songwriter festival, she discovered the woman who opened for Jesse last night. She befriended her as well and told both of them that they needed to meet and get to know each other. That eventually happened, and our hostess was indeed correct, they became friends. That they ended up playing a show together, in our heroine’s home, was beyond fitting!

Marjory Lee sang and played acoustic guitar (as above, 100% acoustic, with Marjory even tuning by hand, shudder 😉 ). Our friend warned us about Marjory’s voice and she was correct. It’s gorgeous! Power when she wants/needs it, subtlety when that’s called for, range and perhaps most interesting, an ability to change styles and gears effortlessly.

MarjoryLee

Marjory was equally at home singing softly in the upper registers as she was belting out a soulful rendition of The Dock of the Bay, adding a gritty gravelly voice, sung in the lower registers.

She accompanies herself very nicely on the guitar. Completing the package is her stage presence. For such a young woman, she has an easy rapport with the audience. As with Jesse, that’s true both on and off the stage.

MarjoryLeeTuning

Circling back to the end of the show. During both of their sets, a number of people called out for them to sing a duet. They each joked that they had planned to work up something together for quite a while, but never got around to it. That (apparently) didn’t let them off the hook.

When Jesse was wrapping up, people again called out for them to do something together. Marjory joined Jesse and they sang The Dock of the Bay (mentioned above) alternating verses, with Marjory occasionally venturing some harmony on top of Jesse (very well done!).

JesseTerryMarjoryLee

Then Marjory sang Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean with Jesse singing a few key parts. As with another cover that Marjory did during her own set, she successfully got most of the audience to sing the chorus with her. She/they did a great job bringing the evening to a wonderful close.

We purchased both Jesse and Marjory’s CDs.

Here’s Jesse’s Set List, not followed to a T:

SetList

Back to how we met our friends. We’ve been to 13 CMA Writers Series shows at Joe’s Pub. CMA = Country Music Association. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that our friends have seen more of them than we have. In all of our times at Joe’s Pub, we have always been seated at a table for two, or at a table for four, but with the other two people attending with us.

The one exception was one CMA show where we were seated at a table for four next to this couple that we instantly had a rapport with. The next time we attended a CMA show, Lois spotted them on line and called out for them to join us. We sat together while we ate, but ended up watching the show from different spots. Ever since then we’ve maintained an active email and Facebook friendship.

Last night was excellent, but I can’t say that I didn’t feel badly or guilty. We paid way too little for the value of the show, even after buying the CDs. But that’s not the bad part. Our hostess cooked for two (or three?) days. It was one of the most incredible meals I’ve ever had. The meal alone was worth more than we paid for the show and the CDs, but of course, it was free. Guilty pleasure. All I can say is that I was not even slightly exaggerating when I told our friend that she should be a professional caterer. Awesome!

TheFood

There were a ton of desserts as well. I grabbed some (store bought, but also incredible) but we didn’t hang around. During the intermission our host asked me if we were driving back to the city after the show. He asked whether we could take Marjory (and her friend) back with us, which we were delighted to do. Another friend of theirs took the train out from Manhattan so we took her along with us.

Having another hour to get to know Marjory and her friend only cemented our feeling that she was a very special person (all three of our passengers are!) and it enhanced an already special evening all the more.

MeaganMarjoryLee

In a not-so-small irony, we are already scheduled for our next house concert this Thursday (from zero to two in five days). This time, in a complete stranger’s home, so we’re branching out. I’ll report on that on Friday, as usual.