Jammin Java

Ian Axel, Bess Rogers and Allie Moss at Jammin Java

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Another night, another stop on the Intergalactic Tour of the Universe and Beyond Tour. It wasn’t originally meant to be, but when the Universe (and Beyond!) wants something, it makes it happen.

Two years ago, Richmond CenterStage opened with a big gala celebration. I covered one of the nights. Last night was a big anniversary celebration, with Patti LaBelle as the headliner. We had tickets and were committed to attending a very long time ago.

On June 30th, I saw the following tweet:

JamnJavaDoorGal
I know what can make a few smile, especially @linds047 – 9/10 -Ian Axel + Bess Rogers + Allie Moss http://bit.ly/kE5gyC

So, even though we knew about this show 10 weeks out, we also knew there was no way we could attend. A few weeks ago, my friend told me that I’d have to wear a suit to attend the Patti LaBelle show. If you know me, you can probably guess what my body language involuntarily portrayed. I was going to do it, but I didn’t need to be happy about it.

Earlier this week, he called me (we were still in NY) and said that he knew some people who would really appreciate getting their hands on our tickets. Obviously, he would be delighted if we really wanted to attend, but essentially, he was letting me off the hook (he knows me for 29.5 years, so the suit reaction wasn’t a surprise to him). It took us all of two minutes to conclude that the tickets were better used by the local Richmonders.

Suddenly, going to Jammin’ Java to see another round of the Intergalactic Tour was a reality. If you’re wondering whether we had even one second’s hesitation about seeing them for a fourth time in five days, you’ve never met us or read my tiny corner of the Internet.

As with all shows, there’s enough of a twist to make them worth showing up to. That was true last night too, even though two of the twists weren’t so positive. The overall show/experience was great, so I am not (really) complaining.

There was a late show scheduled for 10pm (different group) so the start time for this show was moved up to 7pm (that part, us old folks like, especially since we had a 2.5 hour round-trip drive to get to/from the venue). I assumed our folks would play until at least 9pm, and then the hustle would begin to clear the place.

I was wrong. They were told that they had to be off the stage by 8:30pm sharp! There wasn’t even a chance to cajole an encore. The second the set was over, the lights came on and the house music started playing.

On the flip side (a very positive flip side at that!), the crowd got to line-up and connect with the artists for quite a long time (so people were not hustled out at 8:30). I haven’t seen that long a line at a merch table in quite a while (separate from the long line of people waiting to hi, or get some of that merch signed!). Lindsie (of yesterday’s post’s fame) was working the merch table. A very valiant effort!

The other positive flip side is that there were no breaks between the the sets of the three performers. Each took exactly 30 minutes. While that probably cut roughly 10-15 minutes off what each has been doing on this tour, saving the 10-15 minutes between sets was actually quite pleasant (to me at least). The fact that we were back in the hotel room shortly after 10pm was a very pleasant side-effect of the early ending.

Allie Moss kicked it off, with the full band, playing Passerby, which included everyone singing at the end (everyone = Bess Rogers, Ian Axel, Adam Christgau and Chris Anderson). Ian then left the stage, returning once more to play with Allie with the others taking a beak. They played Prisoner of Hope. I think that was the first time they played it where we were in attendance (though I haven’t grabbed set lists this week, so I could be remembering it incorrectly).

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With the exception of another solo song (or two?), Bess sang harmony with Allie (perfectly) and Adam and Chris did their always amazing jobs on the drums and electric bass respectively.

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Allie seemed dramatically healthier than the night before, thank goodness. Otherwise, she took great pains to avoid talking about feeling poorly.

When her 30 minutes was up, she and Bess simply traded spots. Bess introduced herself by saying: “You may remember me from earlier in the night when I was standing over there.” Smile

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Bess had Allie sing harmony on most of her songs too (again, perfectly). Adam and Chris were on each of those numbers as well. She also played some solo numbers, including In My Life on the ukulele.

She finished up her set by inviting Ian to join the rest of them in performing Anchor (the single from her upcoming CD, where In My Life is the B Side).

After about 10 seconds of confusion as to whether they would take a break before Ian started, they decided against a break. Good decision!

Ian sat down (he was already on stage) and started playing Leave Me Alone! He played the same set from the night before, but had to toss a few songs due to the time constraint. So, no Amory. He played Say Something on the keyboards (reverting from the previous night’s ukulele version). It was awesome, so even though I (slightly) prefer the ukulele version, I’ll take it any way Ian wants to deliver it.

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Chad Vaccarino came out for the second half of Ian’s set to very loud cheers and applause. He was joined on the first number by Allie Moss. They sang Shorty Don’t Wait, with Ian on the ukulele (the only song Ian played on the uke, as opposed to three consecutive numbers the night before). Adam played acoustic guitar on Shorty.

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Of course they nailed it. When Chad sang, the whoops were exactly as you hear them in NYC. In other places, I am 100% sure that people feel the urge, but they probably think it’s impolite (and in general/theory, it is), but when it’s Chad, it’s such a natural reaction, and so expected in NYC (and now in DC as well), that you just have to let out the joy (otherwise, it would be like a holding in a sneeze, i.e., not good for you). Smile

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Allie does a fantastic job singing the second verse on the lead, bringing a similar style/emotion to the song that Chad does. The chorus and ending are three-part harmony (with Ian joining Chad and Allie) that simply forces a smile on your face.

Ian and Chad also played Rockstar (such a great song) and closed it out with This is the New Year.

We got to say hi/goodbye to everyone except for Chris Anderson (who I think was loading the equipment onto the van) and Allie (I simply didn’t see her in the dark). We will not be seeing them again on this tour (a single tear streaked down my cheek as I typed that).

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Thanks to all of them: Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino, Bess Rogers, Allie Moss, Adam Christgau and Chris Anderson for making this week unbelievably special for us. We’ll never forget it! Smile

Now for the second negative. The sound guy just couldn’t get the vocal levels right. For much of the night, they were too bright/loud. Eventually, I either got used to it, or he woke up a bit and toned it down. The sound booth was roughly 10 rows directly behind me, so I can’t imagine he was hearing it much differently than I was. It’s one of the mysteries of live show engineering that feels destined to elude my understanding forever…

We normally eat at Jammin’ Java when we see a show there. The food is excellent and we look forward to it. Last night we were having dinner with a friend and we were interested in something more leisurely, quiet, with a bit more choice. I did a search nearby in Google and found a dozen restaurants listed within 1000 feet of Jammin’ Java (apparently, that little strip mall is restaurant heaven).

I chose Café Renaissance, which is around the corner of the same block of stores that Jammin’ Java is in. The first few reviews I read were some of the most praise-worthy I had ever seen, describing the service as unparalleled and food excellent. Then I read some real slams as well. Then I read some people slamming the slammers. So, it didn’t seem to be a slam dunk, but we decided to try it anyway.

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I’m officially slamming the slammers as well. We had a great meal and were treated like kings (and a queen). I could complain that they were a bit over-solicitous, but that would only be true because we were time-constrained to make it to Jammin’ Java by showtime. Otherwise, their attention and conversation were delightful and welcome.

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It’s not cheap (if you go for the full treatment, which we did, of appetizer and wine), but I thought it was more than worth the price. I am absolutely sure that we will dine there again. We did buy two large lattes and one large coffee at Jammin’ Java. Partially out of guilt about not spending the money for dinner there, but mostly because they live up to having Java in their name! Smile

Rosi Golan and William Fitzsimmons at Jammin Java

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I’ve waited way too long to catch a Rosi Golan set. I’ve seen her perform a song or two here and there. I’ve even caught a complete set of her performing her new side project The Open Sea with Ari Hest (I can’t wait for the upcoming EP, the two of them are magic together!).

I love Rosi’s current CD The Drifter and the Gypsy and am looking forward to her upcoming CD as well.

One of the few benefits of living in NY and working in VA (say what?) is that we get more opportunities to catch our favorite musicians. When I noticed that Rosi was playing at Jammin’ Java (a venue we really like a lot) I made sure that our July trip south would include that date. We brought three friends with us to enjoy the show.

Rosi Golan has an extraordinary voice. Range, power, clarity even at the softest moments, all deliciously delivered. She is an excellent songwriter too. Her lyrics are sticky as are her melodies.

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For those of you who haven’t heard her, I would liken her somewhat to The Weepies in overall feel and sound. That said, while I love The Weepies, Rosi’s voice is incalculably more beautiful.

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Rosi accompanies herself nicely on the guitar. Last night, she was supported on every number by Jake Phillips on guitar and harmony. Jake was amazing on both and really enhanced the sound (not that Rosi needs help).

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Rosi performed at least four songs from The Drifter and the Gypsy CD, including Think of Me, which I play very often and was hoping to hear live. Thanks Rosi! 🙂

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Rosi was on for roughly 40 minutes, every one of them wonderful.

William Fitzsimmons was the headliner. Rosi has been opening for William on much of his current tour, but not every night. I normally cover the headliner first, but since we specifically went to see Rosi, I reversed my usual order.

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This was our first time seeing William. In fact, we only heard about him because I was tracking Rosi.

William plays the guitar beautifully (more on that in a bit) and sings nicely. He’s extremely mellow in his delivery. Surprisingly so, because when he speaks, he has a deep rich voice, but when he sings, it’s an octave higher and pretty soft.

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William is very funny (not just to my taste, because most of the sold-out crowd was chucking or guffawing along with me). He’s extremely self-deprecating. I am sure that I would go see him if he was a stand-up comic.

As he himself will tell you, most of his songs are angst-ridden, not exactly pick-me-ups. They’re delivered really well, but given his soft vocals, it can be hard for newcomers to pick up all the words (clearly, a very integral part of the William Fitzsimmons experience!).

In contrast, I am flabbergasted by how well Rosi enunciates even when nearly whispering (check out the crispness of the last “s” in “ghosts”, which I couldn’t believe I could hear each times she sang/whispered it!).

Because of the above, a number of William’s songs feel similar (when the lyrics should be the big differentiators). Still, I enjoyed the full set, without wishing for any song to just be over.

Back to the guitar. Jake Phillips also accompanied William on all but two songs. The two of them were mesmerizing on the guitars on each and every song. They complement each other beautifully, with William starting most songs off with a finger-picking style that hooks you instantly, and then Jake dancing in and around that with a combination flat-picking and finger-picking lead/harmony.

JakePhillipsWilliamFitzsimmons

Jake also sang harmony with William (very nicely), but he was a bit softer than he was with Rosi. Even if neither of them had sung the entire evening, watching and listening to the two of them play guitar together would have been worth the price of admission. Jake also played banjo on one number, which made for a very interesting sound with William’s guitar play.

Rosi joined the two of them for a four songs. The first was a Rosi number that William had recorded with her a while ago, Hazy (he’s featured on it on the above-mentioned CD). Rosi also came back out for the last song in a two-song encore to close the show.

Before that last song, William asked Rosi to be the applause-o-meter for a contest to see who played the guitar better, he or Jake. When he asked the audience about Jake first, the applause was deafening, so it was obvious that asking about himself was going to be somewhere between amusing and embarrassing.

But, here’s the thing. If Jake was an 8 on a scale of 1-10, then William was a 7.8. Meaning, the deafening win for Jake was not even the slightest knock on William’s play, just an acknowledgement that Jake was highlighted a bit more, and didn’t disappoint throughout both Rosi and William’s sets.

William Fitzsimmons can definitely hold his own on the guitar, and did so extremely well on his two completely solo numbers, and on every other number when he picked the main theme (which Jake adorned).

A wonderful night out. I can finally scratch off my list the need to see Rosi Golan performing a full set of her own creations. That said, it doesn’t mean that I won’t want to see a lot more, just that it won’t be on my bucket list. 🙂

Here’s a shot of Rosi with her manager, David Margolis:

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Girlyman at Jammin Java

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Last night was our 14th time seeing Girlyman perform. Tonight will be our 15th and I’ll write about that tomorrow. 🙂

From March to October each year, we tend to see Girlyman in bursts, keeping our need/desire in check. Most years, we have a Girly-drought from October to March. It’s a rough patch, aptly named Winter, and we were happy to officially declare our version of Spring last night!

We were pleased and surprised to see Girlyman book Jammin’ Java. For the past two years, they have played The Barns at Wolf Trap this time of the year (on their VA visit). The Barns seats 400 people and Girlyman has sold out both times they’ve appeared there. We love The Barns, but the more intimate, the more we like it.

We’ve been to Jammin’ Java once before, covered in this post. We liked everything about that evening, including the food quality and selection. While that show was reasonably well attended, it didn’t prepare us for trying to accommodate Girlyman’s fans in this smaller venue.

Gone were the tables that were set up near the stage (making it easy to sit up close and still eat comfortably). Instead, they had rows of seats (theater style) from the stage all the way back to the bar area. People sat on the floor (lots of people) wherever there wasn’t a chair. Many more people stood behind the chairs all the way back to the entrance.

Jammin’ Java earned it’s name a few times over last night. First, while waiting for the seating to begin, the smell of their fresh brewed coffees was intoxicating. One of our guests commented to me that he would need to have some as dessert. We did. We got Lattes to go after the show was over and drank them on our way back to Fredericksburg.

Next there’s the intended meaning of Jammin’, the music. Wow, Girlyman was/were their usual extraordinary selves. Finally, people were literally Jammed into every opening, and no one seemed to mind in the least. We were all just happy to be part of the music and the energy (and the comedy) that is Girlyman.

So, why we do go to see groups that we love this many times, and often go out of our way to do it? The easy, obvious answer, which is 100% true is that we want to support (financially and emotionally) the groups that we love. But that’s not the whole answer.

The live experience brings with it a joy that is qualitatively different than listening to the CDs (which is something we also do a lot). With a group that has a large a catalogue like Girlyman, each show has a number of unique elements to it, even on back-to-back nights on the same tour. Then there’s also the inevitable moment of discovery, when they perform something on stage we’ve never heard, or they tell a story and reveal something we were unaware of, and our love of them deepens further.

There were a number of examples last night. We had an opportunity four months ago to tell Ty how much we love the song Could Have Guessed (on the new CD, Everything’s Easy). Last night, before playing it, we got our first shout out from them, as Ty dedicated the song to us. Cool!

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Ty told a story that we hadn’t heard before they played Young James Dean (a song we’ve seen them perform many times). She said she was inspired to write that song when she read The Last Time I Wore a Dress. Lois told me when we left that she wants to read the book.

They played a few songs we hadn’t heard them play live, including one we’ve simply never heard before, because they haven’t recorded it yet. They were:

  • St. Stephen, a song Ty co-wrote with Nate in 2006. I could feel Lois tingling throughout the song, her reaction was that palpable.
  • For the first song in the encore, Doris sang a cover of Loretta Lynn’s Fist City. We love country music, and it was fun to hear Girlyman’s take on this song.
  • They closed the encore with Up to the Sea, a stunning a capella number on the new CD. The music is by Beethoven, Nate wrote the lyrics. The three of them bunched up together and shared one microphone. We’ve listened to the song many times on the CD, but have never seen them perform it. It was magical. You couldn’t hear a rustle (let alone a whisper) in the crowd.

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Girlyman now officially has a fourth member, JJ Jones on the drums. We’ve seen JJ play with Girlyman twice before, but she was actually the full-time drummer for the opening band, Po’ Girl each of those nights, also sitting in with Girlyman.

JJ is an incredible drummer who adds a nice depth/dimension to Girlyman. Many of Girlyman’s songs have a full drum set on the CD version, so it’s quite natural to hear that full sound on stage as well.

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During Young James Dean, JJ was beyond awesome. I am grateful that I know the song so well, because I might have missed it given that I was fixated for much of it on JJ. I wasn’t alone in my awe. The second the song was over, before Ty even thanked the audience for their wild applause, she turned to JJ and introduced her, and said something to effect of “Wow, thanks JJ!”. Thank you indeed!

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JJ also was perfect on the always upbeat Joyful Sign, a song that really benefits from strong drumming. JJ never speaks on stage. Well, she never used to speak on stage. Nate asked her a question last night, which JJ typically answers with a particular drum roll. Last night she said “Yes”. Nate was as flabbergasted as the rest of us. 😉

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The other thing that Girlyman did wisely last night was not have an opening act. While we have discovered some of our favorite bands by accidentally hearing them when they were opening acts, sometimes it’s better to skip it.

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Girlyman was in effect their own opening act. They performed a 45-minute set and then broke for an intermission. They did something we are not accustomed to seeing (even in our few previous 2-set evenings seeing them). They came out during intermission to say hi to the fans and to sign merch and take photos. It’s a wonderful touch, especially for people who need to hit the road the minute the show is over and can’t wait in long lines no matter how badly they want to.

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When they returned to the stage, they played a 70-minute set, including the above-mentioned two-song encore. An absolutely wonderful evening, as I’m sure tonight will be as well. If you’re anywhere within driving distance of Charlottesville, VA, come see the magic at The Southern Cafe.

Here’s our gang (minus us) from last night:

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Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy at Jammin Java

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If you’ve been here before, you know we’re big fans of ambeR Rubarth both as a solo artist, and as part of The Paper Raincoat. It’s no big surprise that we would try to arrange our schedule to catch one of her shows.

What’s a bit of a surprise was trying to arrange our schedule to see her in another state (not NY), and using the opportunity to surprise her as well! We’ve been on the road for a bit longer than usual, having spent Thanksgiving in Birmingham, AL. We could have gotten home a day or two earlier, but chose to work in VA those days to catch ambeR and Adam Levy at Jammin’ Java.

We had heard good things about the venue, so we were interested in checking that out as well. ambeR and Adam were opening for Brooke Waggoner, whom I will say a few words about at the end.

We were expecting ambeR and Adam to be playing together for their entire set, because they are touring in promotion of their new EP. That’s not what happened. ambeR came out first, with her guitar. She did a solo set for 30 minutes. Fantastic!

We’ve seen ambeR a number of times now, and have loved every show. For the most part, she has been accompanied by at least two other musicians. I have mentioned in those posts that while she arranges most of the music, she is so strong on her own that the others are gravy to her meatloaf. Last night, the meatloaf was cooked to perfection. 🙂

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There was a 13-minute intermission after ambeR’s set, then Adam came out and did a wonderful set. We have only seen Adam once before, performing a duet with ambeR at Joe’s Pub during ambeR’s CD Release party. That was great, but seeing Adam command the stage himself was a real treat.

He has a terrific voice, writes excellent songs, and plays the guitar particularly well. He takes nice/tasty leads at least once every song, and they are always welcome.

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Toward the end of his set he invited ambeR to join him for his last two numbers. Both were excellent, and included the song they performed at Joe’s Pub, Washing Day, which they performed as well (if not better) than they did at Joe’s. Including his time with ambeR, Adam was on stage for a little over 30 minutes.

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After a nine minute break, Brooke Waggoner came out. She sings and plays electric keyboards. She is really incredible on the keyboards, playing many styles and sounds (from classical piano, to funky electronica beats, with jazzy sounds in between).

She has a really good voice too. We weren’t drawn in by the lyrics themselves, so I can’t comment on how good a songwriter she is. In any event, her voice complements the keyboards, or vice versa, so no problem either way.

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Including a one-song encore, which she seemed a tad reluctant to return for, she was on stage for a little over an hour.

Jammin’ Java is a really nice place, and my Chili was superb. It is now squarely on our list of venues to keep an eye on, and take advantage of whenever we are in VA (which is all too often…).

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We were planning on spending the night in a hotel and returning to NYC this morning. Amazingly, I had a burst of energy when we started driving, and we made it all the way to NY, getting to the apartment at 2:25am. Long day, but worth it! 🙂