Joe’s Pub

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our 12th CMA Songwriters Series show at Joe’s Pub. We look forward to all of them (and buy our tickets the minute the shows are announced).

We were even more excited about last night’s show when our friend in Nashville told us that Jessi Alexander was very special. Since this is the same friend who recommended we see Jeffrey Steele live, we knew not to take her opinion lightly. 🙂

I’m going to bury the headline down below, just because I don’t want to take away from the wonderful talented people who sang their hearts out and kept us entertained all evening with their stories. So, if you want the big news, you’ll have to keep reading, or skim/skip a ways down…

Sitting left to right on the stage:

BobJesseJonMark

Bob DiPiero was left-most this time (first time that he wasn’t in the middle in all 12 of our shows!). He’s always entertaining (musically, as MC and as comedian), but he was even more on last night. I think it was a combination of a few reasons, all of them positive, but one of them would ruin my headline surprise, so I’ll leave it at that.

BobDiPiero

Jessi Alexander sang and played acoustic guitar. Jessi sings beautifully and writes superb songs. She is a co-writer on Miley Cyrus’ huge hit The Climb.

Jesse2

I confess to knowing very few of Miley’s songs. I’ve never watched Hannah Montana, etc. However, we do watch a few hours of GAC (Great American Country) TV most weekends, and catch a number of the top videos of the week. The very first time I saw Miley’s The Climb video, I fell in love with the song. When Lois came back into the room I told her how shocked I was that I reacted so strongly to it.

Ironically, Miley’s movements in the video are distracting, so there’s nothing about the video that made me like the song. In fact, overcoming her overacting to fall in love with the song is what made me realize what an excellent song it was. So, it was a very nice treat to see/hear Jessi do it last night. I still love Miley’s version sonically. 🙂

Jon Randall sang and played acoustic guitar (all forms, rhythm, flat picking, finger picking, etc.). Let’s get the bottom line out of the way first: he’s amazing!

Jon2

Jon has a great voice (absolutely star performer quality). He writes great songs (you’ve probably seen/heard Whiskey Lullaby, cut by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss). He is one of the best guitar players that we’ve seen at a CMA show.

Jon happens to be married to Jessi Alexander. That may be one of the reasons that Bob sat on an end last night instead of the middle, so that Jessi and Jon could sit near each other. Jon accompanied Jessi on every one of her songs, and they sang harmony together on both of their numbers, beautifully.

JesseJon2

Mark Sanders sang and played acoustic guitar. I couldn’t find a link to a web site or MySpace page devoted to him, so I linked his name to an old article (1997) that might give you a good background on Mark.

Mark1

He’s an incredible songwriter. Don’t take it from me, he was recently inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of fame (Bob DiPiero is an inductee as well). He has written quite a number of smash hits, including one of our all-time favorites, I Hope You Dance (cut by Lee Ann Womack).

Mark is not much of a singer, and he pointed that fact out all night (in extremely funny fashion). He praised Jon over and over, and boy, is he right about that.

None of that matters. He writes extraordinary songs, plays the guitar well enough, and delivers the emotion associated with the person who actually conceived of and wrote the song, which is precisely what we love to hear!

In fact, all of the above would be enough for us to have been thrilled to see Mark last night. But wait, there’s more! If you order now… 😉

Mark is one of the funniest, natural, spontaneous people we’ve seen (not just at a CMA show, but in general). He kept us in stitches all night. Mark has also written a lot with Bob (including some smash hits), so they know each other well.

Mark2

We believe that one of the of factors that made Bob a bit different (and better!) last night was their shared history, love of having a good time together, and knowing that Mark would make fun of anything Bob said that might sound serious. 😉

We got to hear the story behind Daddy’s Money (a song we’ve heard Bob sing more than 10 times) and it was awesome! The inspiration behind the songs is fascinating to us.

Their banter was so funny that Jessi commented that she and Jon had to sit between them to keep them separated. 🙂

BobJesseJonMark2

OK, finally, the buried headline.

About 1/2 way through the show, Bob announced that we had a superstar in the audience, and with some encouragement, he was likely to agree to come on stage. No extra prodding was necessary.

A minute later, rising from the second level was none other than Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry. He walked through the crowd and climbed on to the stage. He performed two songs (singing and playing acoustic guitar), both written by Bob DiPiero. The first was Montgomery Gentry’s first #1 hit, If You Ever Stop Loving Me. He followed that with the crowd favorite Gone (which the crowd begs Bob to sing at every show!).

Troy1

He was awesome. He commented that he hasn’t played an acoustic set in a very long time, and he was nervous, because he’s usually surrounded by the giant sound of a large electric band. Troy, no need to worry, we’ll be thrilled to welcome you back onto the small stage any time. You owned it! 🙂

Troy2Troy3

Troy6

Another great CMA night at Joe’s Pub. The next one is expected to be in March 2010, no specific date set yet. Barring an unmovable scheduling conflict (and there might indeed be one if the CMA is near March 12th), we’ll be there!

Paper Raincoat at Joe’s Pub

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We’ve had the pleasure of seeing The Paper Raincoat perform twice before, and I’ve covered both extensively, the first time at Canal Room and the second at Rockwood Music Hall. You can read those posts here and here, since I will take a different tack in this post, and everything that I said in those posts remains true and applies to last night’s show as well. 🙂

Quick background (refresher for those of you who’ve read the other posts, or know The Paper Raincoat). The group is a collaboration between ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong, accompanied on drums by the incredible Adam Christgau.

The Paper Raincoat

The Paper Raincoat

Adam Christgau

Adam Christgau

The only difference in last night’s show (and it was a very big one) was that they had a string quartet on stage throughout. The show was a release party for their brand new CD, self-titled (The Paper Raincoat). The CD has strings on a number of songs, so this was the first time they got to play live with the same sound as on the CD.

It was awesome, and the quartet was great. Since you can mix a CD to balance everything perfectly, the strings only add to the beauty of the CD. If I understand correctly, a number of people consider their mixer, Eddie Jackson, to be a genius, and listening to the CD, I have no reason to object to that.

Live, the strings add a lot, but they also detract/distract a bit, since the subtlety and blend of ambeR and Alex (both vocals and instruments) got run over just a drop.

Why are we so enamored by ambeR, Alex and The Paper Raincoat, separately and together? You’ll be sorry you asked, because there are many reasons, not all of which will be covered here (you’ll be thankful for my restraint). 🙂

They feel like the hardest working people in the industry (of course I’m sure that’s not true, meaning that so many talented musicians give it their all), but when I recount some of their accomplishments, you might agree that it at least feels like they are delivering on more levels than many, if not most.

We only discovered them in mid-April this year. In six months, here are the accomplishments I’m aware of, off the top of my head, with zero research, presented in no particular order:

  1. They recorded an incredible CD, including writing all of the songs (music and lyrics). Go out and buy it, you won’t regret it. If you’re nervous, listen to five of their songs on their MySpace page first.
  2. They arranged and produced the CD themselves.
  3. They designed all of the artwork and packaging for the CD, which is completely non-standard (i.e., very creative). (Update: as per the comment below from Alex, the artwork was hand drawn by Diana Ho!)

    Paper Raincoat CD Package

    Paper Raincoat CD Package

  4. They promoted the pre-release of the CD very creatively, and designed three levels of pre-orders to connect with existing fans, and have the fans help pay for this effort, while providing great value in exchange for paying a premium, early.
  5. They toured (and are touring) in support of the CD, as headliners and opening for the incredible Vienna Teng as well.
  6. ambeR put out her own CD (a solo effort: Good Mystery), and what an effort it is. I’ll admit here for the first time publicly that I was nervous that the quality of each CD would suffer because ambeR was working on both at the same time, and I was wrong, as both are spectacular!
  7. ambeR also designed the CD packaging, and the pre-order extravaganza, which included hand-made boxes to lovingly hold the CD. We cherish ours.
    Amber Rubarth Good Mystery Collectors Edition CD Package
  8. ambeR headlined Joe’s Pub for her own CD release party on August 21st, 2009. I covered that show in this post, and I repeat here that it was flat-out one of the best shows we’ve ever seen, and we see so many shows, so that statement still amazes even me. 😉
  9. ambeR arranged the entire show at Joe’s Pub, as well as her solo CD.
  10. ambeR toured extensively with Joshua Radin and Gary Jules, and received rave reviews all over.
  11. Alex produced CDs for Alex Berger and Ari Hest.
  12. Alex runs (probably with others, but like I said, I’m not doing research here!) AngelHouse Studios in Williamsburg, NY (that’s Brooklyn for those of you not in the know). 😉
  13. Alex tours with Vienna Teng as part of her trio. This is separate and apart from when The Paper Raincoat opens for Vienna, where I imagine he plays both sets!
  14. Both of them support many other musicians, some of whom they’ve co-written with, by unselfishly appearing as guests in their shows.
  15. Each is a multi-instrumentalist (OK, this isn’t an accomplishment in the past six months, but it deserves mention in a list of their talents, including the fact that they have to practice that much longer to stay on top of multiple instruments!). For The Paper Raincoat, ambeR is mostly a keyboard player (including electric, piano, glockenspiel, etc.). Last night, she played guitar just once, in the encore. For ambeR Rubarth solo artist, she plays way more guitar (wonderfully!). Alex plays guitar, keyboards and a few other things for The Paper Raincoat. He drums (among other things?) for Vienna Teng, and on various CDs.

    ambeR Rubarth Guitar

    ambeR Rubarth Guitar

  16. They both (separately and collectively) are very active with Social Media. While I’m connected to them through a number of channels, I consume most of their updates via Twitter: @Paper_Raincoat – @ambeRRubarth – @highceilings (the last one is Alex Wong’s Twitter handle). Aside from being active without being obnoxious, they offer specials (like details of secret shows) so it’s useful to follow them if you’re a fan. Also, they are very responsive and interactive with their fans. Finally, because they are part of a very large community of talented artists, just checking out who they communicate with allows you to discover other great musicians!
  17. They are both extremely nice people, who are very accessible. Even if you never see them live, you can tell from their lyrics how deep they are in addition to just being nice. And yes, for the record, being nice is definitely an accomplishment! 😉
  18. Last one: they are fan friendly. When we pre-ordered ambeR’s CD, and then again for The Paper Raincoat one, the minute the final masters were ready, everyone who pre-ordered was given a link to download a digital version of the CD, so we could begin to enjoy them before the physical CD was available. I’m sure other bands do it, but we have pre-ordered a number of CDs from other artists, and only ambeR and Alex have done this in our personal experience. Trust your fans (not necessarily the world), they really want to help you not hurt you.

OK, I could probably go on (Really? Yes!), but if I haven’t made my point yet, then I should give up trying to convince you anyway… 🙂

We hope that they continue to produce more Paper Raincoat goodness over the years, but either way, we are 100% sure that we’ll be following ambeR and Alex in many other projects that they are involved in. It’s inevitable!

I mentioned in my post on Sunday morning about Ceili Rain that we believe it’s important to find as many ways to support the groups you love as you can. The most straightforward way is to purchase merchandise (CDs, T-Shirts, Posters, etc.) at the shows that you attend. We do that, nearly every time.

Since we pre-ordered two packages of their top-level, which comes with four CDs between the two, we didn’t really need to buy anything last night. That’s not the point though, right? It’s about supporting them (you are paying attention, right?) so we bought 13 additional CDs last night to give away as gifts to friends who otherwise would be unlikely to check them out.

So, at least some of you who are reading this post will be the very lucky recipients of a free copy of a fantastic CD. Congratulations, you’ve indirectly supported The Paper Raincoat, and you can help spread the word. 🙂

Whew, this has been way long already, but I needed to get all this goodness out of my system. Unfortunately for those of you who have OCD, and can’t quit reading a post until it’s over, you still have a while to get to the end… 😉

In addition to last night being the CD release party for The Paper Raincoat, it was actually a co-billed show with another group, Elizabeth and the Catapult. We hadn’t heard them before, but I had heard the name and had no idea what to expect. Sorry, all the pics of E&TC came out too poorly to post. 🙁

Elizabeth Ziman is the heart and soul of the group. She has an absolutely extraordinary voice, completely captivating. She plays the piano exceptionally well. She played accordion (well) on one number, and guitar on one other number. Still, even though her piano skills are top notch, it’s the voice, the voice, seriously, it’s the voice!

The Catapult consists of two really good musicians that support her well. Pete Lalish plays guitar (and accordion on one song) and Danny Molad on drums (I also believe he’s Elizabeth’s boyfriend, but don’t quote me on that). They had a bass player with them last night whose name I didn’t catch. I just had to work way too hard to (possibly) find the right one: Emeen Zarookian.

It’s a shame that Elizabeth doesn’t name him in any of the interviews (though she raves about him), because he really seemed to be the glue that brought their sound to life! I’m hoping that I indentified him correctly!

There are no obviously good links to the music of Peter Lalish or Danny Molad (as individuals). Peter was good all night, possibly even better than that. Danny was superb on the drums, throughout the set.

They are very tight and produced a quality sound. So, perfect, a new band to follow around like lost puppy dogs, right? Unfortunately, not for us (but yes, for many other people, including most of the crowd that remained after The Paper Raincoat set).

First, pigeonholing their sound/style is hard, and possibly a bit unfair to them. Still, I’ll do it. They are a very interesting mix/blend of Jazz/Pop/Classical/Blues, put together in a very creative way. All of that is heavily tinged with Rock, even hard rock at times, so it’s really hard to say they’re this or that. They also write original songs, though they do perform a few covers.

None of the lyrics grabbed us. And yet, they’re a clear focus. Elizabeth has a lot to say, and she’s clearly doing it through her lyrics. I suspect that if I listened to them in the quiet of my headphones, perhaps even just once, I too would become a huge fan. On the other hand, most of the groups that I heard in concert first (Girlyman, The Paper Raincoat, Indigo Girls, etc.), I was mesmerized by the lyrics instantly. They hooked me right away.

Last night, I found myself drifting away from the lyrics, and allowing Elizabeth’s voice to wash over me, purely as an instrument. No complaints, but it did feel like something (ever-so-slight) was missing…

The other downside (no blame to anyone, just a harsh reality) is that it took 30 minutes to tear down The Paper Raincoat and set up Elizabeth and the Catapult. Given that The Paper Raincoat didn’t come on until 9:40pm, and played for nearly 50 minutes, Elizabeth and the Catapult didn’t come on stage until 11pm! That’s way past our bedtime (and now true fans of E&TC have a good excuse to ignore everything I’ve said about them!).

They played a long set (thanks for that, it made the value of the ticket price exceptional!), on stage for about 70 minutes. After saying goodbye to The Paper Raincoat, we got out of there at 12:15am. Way too late for these old folks, but an incredible night nonetheless.

P.S. While waiting on line to get in, we bumped into Jason Black who we met on September 21st at the Livestrong Fundraiser we attended. Then, while seated, we spotted Michelle Citrin walking by (she performed at the Fundraiser) and I had to stop her to tell her how absolutely awesome she was at that show!

Red Molly and The Nields at Joe’s Pub

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Last night I finally got to scratch an itch that I’ve had since April 5th, 2008! That’s the night that we first saw Sweet Bitters live. I covered that show in this post, but as you can see, in the comments, Sharon suggested that I check out Red Molly. The minute I heard their stuff (you can hit the Play button on the top right of their site) I knew I would love their show.

We had a failed attempt to see them that month (as I noted in the comments), and since then, I’ve actively searched for opportunities, but scheduling kept conspiring against us. Until last night, finally!

As a bonus, another group that I’m pretty sure I heard about through Sweet Bitters (but I wouldn’t swear to it), The Nields, were opening for Red Molly.

Red Molly were awesome, in every respect. They opened the show with an a capella number, showing off their amazing voices, individually, and collectively (in glorious harmonies). They also closed the show with an a cappella encore, again, sending shivers down our spines.

Red Molly consists of three very talented ladies. Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Abbie Gardner sings, plays dobro and acoustic guitar. She sings like an angel, usually taking the highest part in the harmonies, but she sang quite a bit of lead as well. She’s an excellent dobro player (no one is in Jerry Douglas’ league, so don’t ask!). She plays the guitar well too. She also wrote at least one of the songs they played last night (Red Molly does more covers than originals), and it was excellent. Abbie was also very funny and engaging on the stage.

Abbie Gardner

Abbie Gardner

Laurie MacAllister sang, played the banjo, acoustic guitar, and acoustic bass. Laurie has an incredible voice, plays the banjo, guitar and bass well. I’d never seen this style of acoustic bass before. It looks exactly like a normal guitar, but it only has four strings, and sounds like an upright bass.

Laurie MacAllister

Laurie MacAllister

Carolann Solebello sang, played the acoustic guitar and acoustic bass. Carol also has an incredible voice, carrying the lower range for the group. She’s also a talented guitar player, and handled the bass with aplomb as well. Of the three, Carolann is probably a little more animated on stage, but all three are extremely warm.

Carolann Solebello

Carolann Solebello

They played for roughly 50 minutes, including the encore, and every note was a joy. After the show, we bought one of their CDs, and Lois got Abbie to sign it. 🙂

Red Molly

Red Molly

The Nields are two sisters, Nerissa and Katryna. Nerissa sings and plays the acoustic guitar. Katryna sings. Both have lovely voices, and they sing beautifully together. Nerissa plays the guitar well, and accompaniment and arrangements are traditional folk style (like Peter, Paul and Mary, etc.), which is one of my all-time favorite genres.

Katryna Nields

Katryna Nields

Nerissa Nields

Nerissa Nields

They are both very warm and engaging with the audience. Katryna told a very long story (very well), and Nerissa took over at the end to make some corrections (remember, they’re sisters!) 😉 and it was funny and worth the break from the music (not that any break would be necessary when these two are on stage!).

We bought their CD too after the show, and Lois got both of them to sign it. I’m in the process of loading both the Red Molly and The Nields CDs onto my iPod as I type this, and we look forward to many listens in the months to come.

Thanks to both Red Molly and The Nields for exceeding our very big expectations after such a long wait to finally get to see them perform live!

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

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Wed night was our 11th CMA Songwriters Series show at Joe’s Pub. It won’t be our last, we already have tickets for the November 5th show.

We were supposed to be at Zope this week, and were planning on missing this show. As I’ve noted before, on occasion, the show scores a major Country star, who also happens to be a serious songwriter (that’s a requirement!), and this show was scheduled to have Chuck Wicks in that role!

He’s a serious talent, but the fact that he’s a serious hottie probably weighed in Lois’ desire to postpone our trip south by a few days. Of course, Lois is no dummy, so instead of even hinting at that, she said to me that perhaps Chuck’s girlfriend, Julianne Hough might show up.

Chuck Wicks Closeup

Chuck Wicks Closeup

Well, I don’t stare at stunningly beautiful, talented women, so the prospect of sitting next to Julianne Hough wasn’t even slightly interesting to me, but I did agree to stick around for Lois. 😉

There were four songwriters on the stage, with two additional people supporting Chuck (not atypical when a touring star shows up, though it’s usually only one supporter). Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

Chuck Wicks played guitar and sang, and told some funny stories as well. He has an incredible voice, and sings every song with a real passion. He’s a very good songwriter as well, including the song we discovered him through, Stealing Cinderella, which he played to the crowd’s delight. He’s as personable and natural on stage as you could hope for in a performer.

Chuck Wicks

Chuck Wicks

Backing him up, both playing acoustic guitar, both singing harmony, beautifully, were two men named Jack (they never said their last names). They are half of Chuck’s band. I had to work too hard to figure out their names, but finally got it. Stars like Chuck should really do a better job of highlighting their band members on their website (he’s not unique, many don’t bother!).

Jack Sizemore sat behind Chuck, playing acoustic guitar and singing harmony. He was the primary background vocalist, but the other Jack sang a bunch too. Jack is very good on the guitar, and he sings wonderfully.

Jack Sizemore

Jack Sizemore

Jack Kincaid sat behind Chuck, playing acoustic guitar and singing harmony. He played smoking leads on the acoustic guitar, and when he sang, it was wonderful as well. The three of their voices blend so well together, it was a real treat that they decided to attend the show with Chuck!

Jack Kincaid

Jack Kincaid

He’s such a consummate guitarist, that after a few bars of other people’s songs, he started throwing in great leads on them as well. Unfortunately, Bob DiPiero cracked a joke about having to chip in to pay him (it was definitely a joke), and Jack Kincaid didn’t seem sure it was a joke, and he stopped doing it. 🙁

Bob DiPiero played guitar and sang. He was his usual gregarious self, and entertained the crowd all night.

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Marv Green played the guitar and sang. An excellent songwriter who has an excellent voice as well. Extremely relaxed with the crowd as well, telling a number of stories throughout the set. Thoroughly enjoyed all of his numbers.

Marv Green

Marv Green

Ashley Gorley played the guitar, electric keyboards and sang. Ashley is excellent on the keyboards, decent on the guitar and has a decent voice as well. Middle of the road in terms of the typical singer/songwriter that comes through these shows. That said, he’s in the top portion of the list as far as being a great songwriter. He’s got exactly what it takes, writing and collaborating on quite a number of giant hits. Lois was particularly blown away by Ashley!

Ashley Gorley

Ashley Gorley

Another fantastic night at a CMA show at Joe’s Pub. Already looking forward to the next one. 🙂

Paper Raincoat at Rockwood Music Hall

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ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong are two of the hardest working musicians in NYC’s vibrant indie music scene. Each has a number of projects going on simultaneously. They also regularly guest star at local shows with other indie rising stars.

The Paper Raincoat is their collaboration project, an ingenious concept, telling a long-running story (a novel), unfolding song after song. Of course, each song stands alone superbly on its own, making their music all the more delicious.

Paper Raincoat

Paper Raincoat

For those who missed it, I first wrote about The Paper Raincoat in April. More recently, I wrote about ambeR Rubarth’s CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub.

The Paper Raincoat is also having a CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub, on October 6th, at 9:30pm. We already have tickets, and I urge you to get yours soon, as there is little doubt that the show will sell out, and that it will be fantastic!

With that background, it should come as no surprise to find that ambeR and Alex joined in a new project last night, debuting at Rockwood Music Hall, called Cardboard Bikini. It was billed as a super secret show!

Before you rush around the web, spending too much time figuring out that this was a wonderful tongue-in-cheek play on Paper (Cardboard) Raincoat (Bikini), I’ll spare you the trouble, by sharing my perspective on why they did this at the end of the post (I have zero insight from them, just my speculation).

We’d never been to Rockwood Music Hall before, and were curious to check it out, as a number of people we like show up there regularly. It turns out that it’s a teeny tiny bar a few doors in on Allen Street, off of Houston Street. I chuckled when I got inside, at the Music Hall moniker…

All shows at Rockwood are free, and the vast majority last an hour. One drink minimum per person is required, and for some shows, a tip bucket is passed around at the end (last night included, most people donated, along with us).

Joining ambeR and Alex last night was Adam Christgau on drums, just as he did at the Canal Room show where we discovered them. Just like at that show, Adam was awesome last night. I am always impressed when a drummer can play it just right for the size of the room they’re in, and given the teeny size of Rockwood, Adam managed a very large sound, without ever stepping on ambeR or Alex.

Adam Christgau

Adam Christgau

Rockwood was packed to the gills. Roughly 20-25 people were seated at a handful of tables near the stage, and another 50-80 were packed in like sardines standing and enjoying the music. Lois was lucky (due to a number of selfless, kind people) to get the seat immediately in front of the stage, right in the center, between ambeR and Alex! I stood for the entire show, and enjoyed every second of it (except for the standing part). 😉

They opened the show with two of their hits, Brooklyn Blurs and Sympathetic Vibrations (two songs we can’t get enough of!). They played a few other songs that we’re familiar with, but in the middle of the set, they debuted (at least for us) a couple of songs that were fantastic. This included a song called Right Angles, where both Alex and ambeR play the grand piano simultaneously, meaning, four handed! Wonderful!

Alex Amber One Piano

Alex Amber One Piano

They closed the show with the same two numbers that they closed Canal Room with, and we can only hope that they do it again at Joe’s Pub, because they bring the house down every time. On the first one, all three end up drumming on Adam’s drum set at the same time. It’s incredible. At Canal Room, Lois was the designated tambourine player. Last night, a wonderful NYC musician named Adam Levy (I covered him in the ambeR post) had the honor.

Adam is pictured in the front here, with the tambourine in his hand:

Amber Adam Alex Drumming

Amber Adam Alex Drumming

The Famous Tambourine

The Famous Tambourine

They finished up with an a capella number, including Adam, which is a joy to experience. Quite a transition from pure drumming, to pure singing (well, not so pure, as they use their bodies for percussion to accompany the a capella singing, and I’ll say no more, just go see them!). 🙂

Adam Amber Alex A Capella

Adam Amber Alex A Capella

The only disappointment was that setting up on the tiny stage required more maneuvering than normal, and it took them longer to finish the setup than they anticipated. So, instead of the show starting at 10pm as scheduled, they started playing at 10:25pm. They played over their 11pm limit (by 11 minutes), to make up a bit of it, but otherwise, an amazing evening.

Now, my speculation as to why the show was billed as Cardboard Bikini, not Paper Raincoat (to repeat my caveat, this is only my opinion, I have no idea whether this is correct or not!):

  1. The official CD Release Party is October 6th, and they wanted a way to test out some of the new material live, in anticipation of the Joe’s Pub show, without the pressure of formally debuting it as Paper Raincoat.
  2. Rockwood Music Hall is so small, and Paper Raincoat has a very nice following (as do ambeR and Alex separately), that if they had announced a formal show, lots of people would have been disappointed to not even be able to fit. While they not-so-secretly announced it to their Twitter/Facebook/MySpace followers, at least people who checked out the Rockwood web site, or follow other concert update sites, might have skipped a show by the unknown band Cardboard Bikini. (A good reason for you to follow them on Twitter/Facebook/MySpace!)
  3. They have a great sense of humor, and the whole concept of a top-secret, not-so-secret show, with a clever name, appealed to them for no other reason.
  4. All of the above.
  5. None of the above.

Come see them at Joe’s Pub on October 6th, and buy the new CD there (you won’t regret it). Also, consider signing up for the mailing list and getting the announcement for pre-orders. That’s always a great way to support a band that you like! Hope to see you there!

P.S. Standing right behind me for the entire set was Greg Holden, another excellent artist who is about to start a long tour with the wonderful Ingrid Michaelson. I really want to catch him live, soon. I wouldn’t have recognized him. He said to someone else that Adam Christgau is his drummer too, so I asked Adam after the show who it was, and he told me it was Greg. Cool! 🙂

ambeR Rubarth at Joe’s Pub

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I am being respectful, and writing ambeR Rubarth the way she capitalizes it herself, so no, I didn’t make a mistake. 🙂 She is soon to release a new CD, Good Mystery, and last night had a CD Release party show at Joe’s Pub in NYC, which we attended. You can hear some of the songs from that CD and a few from her previous work at her MySpace page.

In addition to her solo career, ambeR is also part of a duo called The Paper Raincoat. I wrote about them extensively when we accidentally discovered them opening for Colin Hay at the Canal Room. We were extremely impressed with both ambeR and Alex Wong (the other half of The Paper Raincoat).

Right after that show, I friended both of them on MySpace, as well as The Paper Raincoat. I’ve since followed both ambeR and The Paper Raincoat on Twitter: @ambeRRubarth and @Paper_Raincoat respectively. As a result, I saw a Tweet that ambeR was releasing a new solo CD. I was aware that The Paper Raincoat is also releasing a much anticipated CD, and now I know that their release party will be at Joe’s Pub, on October 6th at 9:30pm, and we bought tickets to that last night!

We pre-ordered the new CD (in a Collector’s Edition!) immediately, and bought tickets to the show. We knew there would be surprise guests, but we didn’t realize just how many.

OK, the intro has already been too long. So,  I have to skip to the bottom line first, before I lose all of you, and then I’ll add a lot more detail.

Last night’s show was one of the best concerts we’ve ever attended!

Read that again, especially if you know us. We attend a ton of live shows, so it’s not like we just went gaga because we finally saw someone perform in person!

To make the above statement even more amazing (to me), ambeR (and friends) were on stage for just about an hour (not a very long show by any measure), and yet, it was completely satisfying, in every regard. Of course, I would have loved another hour or two (or three, or four), but I didn’t feel let down in any way whatsoever.

On to the specifics of the show. For the most part, ambeR had three people supporting her throughout most of the show. Tony Maceli on bass, Austin Nevins on electric guitar and Billy Hawn on drums. I’ll cover them all after I gush some more about ambeR.

First and foremost, ambeR Rubarth is a superb songwriter. On any level that you want to take that statement. Her lyrics are moving, clever, authentic, wonderful. Her melodies are varied, interesting, lovely, terrific.

Her guitar playing is excellent (she could do a solo show, accompanying herself on the guitar, and we would be completely satisfied). She is an incredible pianist (again, she could perform a solo show, accompanying herself just on the piano, and we would be completely satisfied).

ambeR Rubarth Guitar

ambeR Rubarth Guitar

ambeR Rubarth Piano

ambeR Rubarth Piano

And yet, with many people on the stage at the same time, the arrangements were fantastic, complex, harmonious, subtle, effective, etc. ambeR arranged the entire show, except for the part that Threeds participated in, which they arranged. Add producing/arranging to the long list of strengths/talents that she possesses.

Finally, her voice. It’s lovely, with good range, and excellent delivery of the appropriate emotion at the appropriate time. She can be wistful, soulful, smokey, vulnerable, flirty, bluesy, jazzy, rock ‘n rolly and certainly, fully folksy. And, given her songwriting talents, she most certainly exercised all of the above during her set.

Tony Maceli was spectacular on the upright bass, playing a number of styles, including using a bow, and even slapping with the bow to achieve a sound I wasn’t used to hearing with a bass. He also played the electric bass on at least one number. He’s a star!

Austin Nevins was solid all night. I suspect he’s better than I realize, as he played more of a supporting role. He was very good, a perfect fit of what was expected of him last night, just not flashy enough for me to really get a sense of how good he is when he lets loose.

Billy Hawn was wonderful on the drums (including Djembe). He was tucked in the far right corner, diagonally opposite us, so I couldn’t see him except for a glimpse now and again, but his beat was excellent, and he never overwhelmed the mostly mellow sound throughout the show.

It doesn’t end there. ambeR promised a bunch of surprise guests and she delivered. I already mentioned Alex Wong, who joined on the first song, and then on a few more toward the end, including the encore.

Amber Rubarth and Alex Wong

Amber Rubarth and Alex Wong

Opening the show was a trio called Threeds. I’ll come back to them later. For now, I want to mention that all three of them came back on stage to play with ambeR during her second number, and they were great (as was the song, and the arrangement that included Threeds!). For two other numbers, Katie Scheele of Threeds joined alone. They/she added a wonderful dimension to ambeR’s set.

Paul Brill joined to sing harmony on one number. Very nice.

Austin Nevins - Amber Rubarth - Paul Brill - Tony Maceli

Austin Nevins - Amber Rubarth - Paul Brill - Tony Maceli

Vienna Teng joined for a stunningly beautiful version of In the Creases. Alex Wong, who co-wrote the song with ambeR before they formed The Paper Raincoat, joined as well. The three took turns singing lead (Alex kicked it off), and all three harmonized together. Vienna played the piano (her specialty).

Vienna Teng

Vienna Teng

Ironically, the night before, Vienna Teng was the headliner at the Highline Ballroom. We’ve never seen her live. I discovered her through The Paper Raincoat, and really wanted to see her perform. I tried to rearrange our schedule to make it there on Thursday, but couldn’t pull off the minor miracle. I was so happy to get to see and hear her (however briefly) last night, as I now know I need to go out of my way to ensure I see one of her full shows!

Rosi Golan joined to sing with ambeR on two numbers (including the encore). I admit that I simply couldn’t hear her differentiated from the rest of the sounds (she only sang harmony, never lead), so I don’t have an opinion. Sorry!

Adam Levy (pronounced Levee) closed the show with ambeR, just the two of them, performing a song they co-wrote. Lovely. Adam is a good guitarist, and has a very good voice as well. He also returned to sing during the encore.

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy

Chel O’Reilly joined for the encore, to sing along with the all-star cast. I couldn’t make out her voice individually either, so nothing really to report. Sorry.

Austin Nevins - Chel O'Reilly - Adam levy - Rosi Golan - Tony Maceli - Alex Wong

Austin Nevins - Chel O'Reilly - Adam levy - Rosi Golan - Tony Maceli - Alex Wong

Simply a stunning show, all around. Kudos to everyone involved, in particular, the extremely talented ambeR Rubarth!

Threeds opened the show, and played a varied 20-minute set. Threeds is three oboists, Kathy Halvorson, Mark Snyder and Katie Scheele. In addition to the oboe, Katie also played the English Horn. I was impressed by the breadth of styles they covered in such a short set, all extremely well done. They are very tight together, and their music delighted the crowd.

Threeds

Threeds

It was an incredible treat to have them come back on stage with ambeR and have them add such richness to the otherwise rich sound that ambeR and her crew and guests produced!

Thank you all for an evening we will never forget!

In addition to the performers all putting on such a great show, last night was one of the best audiences we’ve been part of. Bravo to all of you as well! 🙂

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our 10th show in the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe’s Pub. It won’t be our last. 🙂

Last night’s show was awesome, among the best we’ve seen.

There were only four performers last night (which has happened before, typically there are five), but there were five people on stage (I’ll explain shortly).

Doing my usual left-to-right recap:

Keith Follese sang, played the electric keyboards and acoustic guitar. Keith is a fantastic songwriter, penning a large number of hits, getting big applause every time he started one of his songs. He also debuted a song that hasn’t been picked up yet, and from the audience response, someone should, and soon!

Keith Follese

Keith Follese

Keith is wonderful on the keyboards, and good on the guitar. I don’t know if he ever had a good voice, but if he did, he lost it a while ago. He sings on key, so there was nothing wrong with it, but he’s more in the mold of the songwriters where you don’t wonder why he isn’t performing his own material.

For one number, he was joined on stage by his wife, Adrienne Follese (a songwriter herself). It was her birthday. They sang a duet. She has a lovely voice, and a sweet personality. No disrespect to Keith, but it would have been interesting to have Adrienne sing his/their songs with him accompanying her.

Adrienne Follese

Adrienne Follese

Bob DiPiero sang and played the guitar. He’s the host, and only regular performer at each show. He was on last night (as he is on most nights), doing a great job with his songs, and with the crowd banter as well.

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Billy Currington sang and played acoustic guitar. This is one of those rare treats, when a real star performer (who happens to also be a top-notch songwriter!) attends the show. Billy has the current #1 Country hit, People are Crazy (it’s a really fun video as well).

Billy Currington

Billy Currington snapping a photo of the audience

Billy has a great voice, and plays rhythm guitar very well. I mentioned above that I would explain that there were five people on stage. Tucked in the right corner of the stage, behind the four performers, was Doug Collins (I’m pretty sure I heard the name correctly, but I can’t find any links to him!), who was there to support Billy Currington.

This is the same type of setup that occurred when Craig Morgan was at the CMA show last October, and he brought Mike Rogers along with him. Doug played fantastic leads all night (invisible to us, obscured by Billy), and sang harmonies with Billy on most songs as well.

Lois snapped this one photo of Doug while he was tuning up, which was the only time we could see him. It’s dark, and I adjusted it, and it’s still bad, but this is all I can offer up now. Sorry:

Doug Collins

Doug Collins

They were very polished together (as were Craig and Mike), which in addition to their generally better performing skills, raises the ante a bit more for the lonely singer/songwriter who performs at these shows. The only difference was that Mike sat right alongside Craig Morgan for that. I think it would have been a nice touch to have Doug sit next to Billy, but it wasn’t my call. 😉

Jason Sellers sang and played acoustic guitar. He has an excellent voice, writes great songs, plays the guitar well, and gives a good performance all around. He’s also a story-teller by nature, and was extremely comfortable with the crowd. For those of you who are Country trivia types, his ex-wife is Lee Ann Womack!

Jason Sellers

Jason Sellers

They went around a bunch of times, each singing a song and telling a story (that’s the usual format). When they left the stage, it wasn’t clear whether they would come back. While there have been encores at most shows, sometimes, only Bob and perhaps on other returns. Last night, all five came back on the stage and performed another round, much to the delight of the entire crowd (the place was bursting at the seems).

They were on stage for almost exactly two hours. Two wonderful hours. We are currently scheduled to be out of town the next time they are set to show up at Joe’s Pub, but we’re seriously considering trying to change some things around to be able to continue our attendance at this extremely satisfying series.

Toward the end of the show, Keith Follese shared some excellent personal news with us. I already mentioned that his wife was there, and that it was her birthday. After she left the stage, she ended up sitting two tables to our left. At her table was their daughter, whom Keith introduced as a basketball player.

But, DiPiero prompted him to mention that a third generation of Follese’s were now officially in the music business (Keith is second generation). Keith then told us that both of his boys (ages 22 and 17) are in a band with other famous kids.

The band is Hot Chelle Rae. Keith’s kids are: Ryan Keith Follese and Jamie Follese. The other band members are: Nash Overstreet (son of Paul Overstreet, a longtime favorite of ours) and Ian Keaggy (son of the great Phil Keaggy, whom I was late discovering, but now count as a favorite as well!). They were in NJ opening for David Cook!

Was it all great? The show was, with no disappointments whatsoever. We had incredible seats (they gave away our normal table to someone who was a guest of one of the performers, even though we confirmed it last week). But, there was a row of people immediately behind us that were close to the rudest, loudest bunch of people we’ve ever had the displeasure of sitting next to.

When that happens, and I’ve written about it before, it’s almost always someone who isn’t a fan to begin with. They’re either on a date, and happened to randomly select a show to impress their date, or they’re along for the ride with friends, and don’t care to show respect to anyone around them, the performers included.

Last night was different, a first for us. The people behind us were obviously big Country music fans. For the few minutes that they stopped talking, they knew every word to every song from all of the performers. I was beyond impressed with their breadth. But, that didn’t stop them from talking nearly non-stop, at the top of their lungs.

The microphones on stage were set pretty loud last night (good quality, but high volume). Even so, when these people were screaming (without the aid of a mic), it was louder than the singer at that moment. They were sitting 10 feet from the stage, so there’s no way the performers weren’t aware of the distraction, and no amount of shushing from us or the people around them could slow them down.

I don’t get what the attraction is for paying to see someone you obviously admire enough to memorize their songs, and then interrupt them with your personal chatter, at top volume. I hope I never understand that, and I hope it annoys me every time it happens, because I don’t want to be callous to the effect it must have on the performers…

Jeffrey Steele at Joe’s Pub

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Last night we saw Jeffrey Steele (and band) at Joe’s Pub. If you’re used to Twitter, and only have patience to read one paragraph, then let me describe his show in one word: Wow!

We’ve had it on our list to catch a Jeffrey Steele show for a while now (if you read to the bottom, you’ll find out why). He was in NYC in March, but we were out of town. When I found out he was going to be back now, I jumped on the opportunity immediately.

Jeffrey Steele is one of the giants in Country Music songwriting. Many top artists have cut his songs, including Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins, Montgomery Gentry, Tim McGraw, etc. I’ve written numerous times about our love for the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe’s Pub (in fact, we have another show there tomorrow night).

We knew we’d enjoy Jeffrey Steele from that angle alone (meaning, seeing a songwriter that has written many songs that we already love), but we had no idea what kind of a show he puts on himself.

Jeffrey Steele is a great singer, and an even better guitar player (blazing electric leads, in Country style, as well as true Rock tradition). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he’s an exceptional piano player! He also played a bit of harmonica last night. I looked at the credits on one of his albums, and he plays many more instruments, I’m sure all equally well. Mind-boggling!

Jeffrey Steele Guitar

Jeffrey Steele Guitar

Jeffrey Steele Piano

Jeffrey Steele Piano

Jeffrey Steele Harmonica

Jeffrey Steele Harmonica

Stevie Cirkvencic played lead guitar. He’s incredible. Since Jeffrey Steele is himself a great guitarist, for Stevie to make the cut and take leads away from Jeffrey, says all you need to know about Jeffrey’s respect for Stevie’s play (more on that in a bit).

Stevie Cirkvencic

Stevie Cirkvencic

Stevie looked to me to be a dead ringer for Kenny Chesney (under his cowboy hat), and I was suspicious that Kenny was just sitting in with Jeffrey for a laugh. 😉

Tommy MacDonald played the bass. He too was incredible. Jeffrey Steele’s brand of music (even the slow songs) requires a ton of energy, and the bass needs to be interesting and constant, to keep up, and Tommy “Mac” is a perfect complement to Jeffrey and Stevie.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy McDonald

Tom Hambridge on the drums, was also perfect all night. He was the only one who occasionally sang harmony with Jeffrey, though for most of the evening, Jeffrey sang solo. His nickname is “The Hammer”.

Tom Hambridge

Tom Hambridge

The four of them are awesome. In addition to playing some (not enough time to make a serious dent) of Jeffrey’s big hits, they also throw in some classic rock (at times, in the middle of a Jeffrey Steele song, at other times, on it’s own). They played a little bit of Country Joe and the Fish, The Who and ZZ Top!

The point is that they are both a top Country group, and an all-out top-notch Rock group. Basically, whatever they want to be, they deliver!

Here’s the quote that Lois said as we walked out:

Steele: A force of nature with a volcanic yet spiritual soul

We’ve been to Joe’s Pub more times than I can count. For the most part, the sound is very good, though on occasion, not so much. Last night, Jeffrey Steele thanked someone named Steve on sound. I’m glad he called him out, because that guy is a genius on the sound board.

This was flat-out hard rock, and yet, while everything was plenty loud, it was perfectly balanced (you could hear every note on the guitar, piano and bass), and all at a level that made it enjoyable, rather than head-splitting. Bravo!

They were on stage for 110 minutes of bliss. That’s just about the maximum you can squeeze out at Joe’s Pub for a 7pm start, given that there is another show at 9:30pm.

Most headliners call out their band members names at some point in the show, usually toward the very end. Jeffrey Steele is an exception, willingly, happily, joyously sharing the spotlight with his band. After the second number of the evening, he introduced each band member. He repeated their names multiple times during the show, and called them out whenever they were highlighted in a song. We loved every second of it, and all three of them deserved the recognition!

The only distraction that I had during the show is that Jeffrey Steele is the doppelganger for a good friend of mine (also a famous guy in his own right), Dick Hardt. If Dick had Jeffrey’s hair, they could be twins. 😉

If Dick were a rock star, I truly believe that his style and personality on the stage would be very similar to Jeffrey’s. Of course, Dick is a rock star, just in a different industry. 😉

I started blogging purely to document our experiences (most of them wonderful) right after they happen, so that as we age, we will have easy access to these memories. I could have done that in a journal, without making it public in a blog, but others (most notably Rob Page, CEO of Zope Corporation) hounded me to keep it public.

I’m very happy I did. Mostly, because of some amazing personal connections we’ve made through this blog. One such connection is a woman who runs a management company in Nashville (I’ll update this post with her name, and a link, if she says it’s OK).

We’ve met her once IRL (in real life) already, and correspond on a semi-regular basis. During one of those exchanges, she told us that we simply had to see Jeffrey Steele live. She knew that we (Lois in particular) love to see singer/songwriters, and she knew Jeffrey would blow us away. She was right! Thanks!

We can’t wait to see Jeffrey Steele, and Stevie, Tommy and Tom, as soon as practical. Wow!

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our ninth CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub. Yes, we already have our tickets for the next one, which will be #10. 🙂

They started at 6:35pm. This time, there were only four people on the stage, rather than the more typical five. There was a qualitative difference as well. As I’ve pointed out in the past, many of the songwriters are less-than-spectacular performers. On occasion, there’s a real full-time performer (e.g., Craig Morgan), or someone who could be if they wanted to be (e.g., Hillary Lindsey).

Aside from those exceptions (they were just examples, there are other professional performers on occasion), the talent level varies, pretty dramatically.

Last night saw three people, plus the ever-present Bob DiPiero, who were all excellent performers in their own right. In addition, they were every bit as interesting and entertaining in their story-telling as the more typical songwriters who are the backbone of this series.

From left-to-right on the stage:

Jimmy Wayne played the guitar and sang. He’s a singer-songwriter, meaning, he performs his own work, and cuts his own CDs, and tours. He’s opening for Brad Paisley this summer! He plays a superb finger-picking style on the guitar, and doesn’t need any further accompaniment to create an excellent sound to complement his singing.

Jimmy Wayne

Jimmy Wayne

Jimmy had a very rough childhood, and overcame more than most of us have to experience (thankfully so, on both fronts!). I thought he looked 25, but he’s 37. Because of his difficult upbringing, many of his songs are filled with those stories, including all of the anguish, but with hopeful or uplifting endings. In other words, he sings from the heart!

We enjoyed every one of Jimmy’s numbers, and his stories were touching and much appreciated as well. He has a winning smile. For the first time in our nine appearances at this series, we experienced women screaming to Jimmy about him, rather than just about the songs. If he wanted to go home with someone, he could have had his pick. 😉

Bob DiPiero played the guitar and sang. Bob did his usual giant hits, and also introduced a brand new one that was just cut by Brooks and Dunn. Nice to know that when you hit the CMA Writers Hall of Fame, you don’t stop writing new ones. 😉

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Scotty Emerick played the guitar and sang. Scotty is a master guitarist (again, an anomaly for this kind of show, but not unheard of). Jimmy Wayne is excellent, but Scotty is better, exhibiting more styles. Scotty often writes with/for Toby Keith, which meant we got to hear a couple of our favorite Country songs, Beer for My Horses and I Love this Bar (both huge Toby Keith hits!).

Scotty Emerick

Scotty Emerick

Scotty has a gorgeous voice (click from the above site to his MySpace page to hear four of his songs). Couple that with his guitar playing, and he could be a full-time performer. Unlike Jimmy, he concentrates more on song-writing. That said, he does have a CD out, and Lois bought it last night (signed, of course).

Aside from getting to hear the Toby Keith songs, Scotty also played some hysterical songs, including the first cut from his CD (also available for you to listen to on MySpace) called Love Me Like My Dog! I laughed out loud at each and every line in the song. Aside from being funny, it’s also a good song musically. He’s a real talent!

He sang another song that broke up the crowd on every verse as well, I’ll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Again. If you want to see Scotty sing and play the guitar for yourself, then enjoy this YouTube version yourself:

Dean Dillon played guitar and sang. Dean was a professional performer for many years, so it was no surprise that he was excellent last night as well. However, he concentrates more nowadays on his writing, and it has more than paid off for him. George Strait has cut more than 30 of Dean’s songs!

Dean Dillon

Dean Dillon

I am sure that Dean and Scotty are good friends, and I think I heard them say that they have written together as well. That came across last night when they each sang harmony on the other’s songs. For example, in the video above, Scotty and Toby Keith sing harmony, and Dean played the Toby part last night (just for the harmony, as Scotty sang each of the verses).

In addition, Scotty played lead guitar on many of Dean’s numbers, enriching Dean’s performance very nicely. Well done by both of them.

As much as the crowd always goes nuts for anything/everything that Bob DiPiero sings or says, surrounding himself with three people who can all sing and play so much better than him is a testament to his committment to bring extrmeley talented people for us New Yorker’s to enjoy! Bravo Bob!

That’s it for the show. We had a little adventure that worked out in the end…

We walked to Joe’s Pub last night, something we haven’t done before. We got there in plenty of time, and were probably 20th on line. When we finally got in, for the first time ever, our name was not in the computer for a dinner reservation. Aside from being hungry, you need a dinner reservation if you want to sit. No reservation? You might end up standing, especially if the show sells out (which the CMA does nearly every time).

We’re super-regulars at Joe’s and were treated extremely curteously by the staff, who never accused us of lying about not having a dinner reservation, etc. They put us in a roped-off VIP area (communal seating) while they sorted it out. As they started putting other people in there with us, we heard the same story over and over, that these people also had reservations which were lost.

This was a first, and we’ve been to Joe’s so many times, so we’ll definitely forgive them.

10 minutes into the show (so two songs were played already), they came and got us and gave us a table. Well, not just a table, but rather our table, meaning, the exact table that we request in advance every time we call for a reservation. So, no harm no foul.

I got to eat my Tuna Steak, which was cooked to perfection! I also had a perfect Chocolate Martini (they make them so well there, it’s a crime not to order one!). 😉

Next CMA show is July 30th. See you there! 🙂

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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I know I’m boring my regular readers by repeating that Girlyman is my favorite group. At least you now that this continues to be the case. 😉

Last night was the ninth time that we’ve seen them perform live, and the fourth time we’ve seen them at Joe’s Pub, our favorite club. We love their music and on stage antics enough to want to see them over and over (in addition to listening to their CDs a ton as well). But, while there are repeats (mostly crowd favorites) among the shows, they always manage to keep thing fresh, even within a given tour.

Last night had some serious surprises, even for those that have seen them as often (or even more) than we have. They played three songs that we’ve never heard before.

The first was Mary, a cover of a Patty Griffin song. Absolutely gorgeous. They also told a funny side-story about it, and Patty, who was also on their recent Folk Cruise, Cayamo.

Next was a new song of theirs called Wherever You Keep. As much as I love all three of them as musicians, the magic of Girlyman is their harmony and lyrics. In this new song, Nate plays a beautiful finger-picked acoustic guitar, while Ty and Doris just sing, no instruments in hand. (Saying that Ty and Doris just sing is like saying that Lance Armstrong just rides a bike!) 😉

The fact that there’s only a quiet (but gorgeous!) guitar for the background, makes their voices so front-and-center, that you get the chills seconds into the song. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this new song, even though I’ve only heard it once! I’m praying that it will be on the new studio CD coming out later this year (they’re hard at work on it now!).

Either way, I will have a copy in a month or so. Girlyman records all of their live concerts, and you can order a CD for $20, right after the show, and have it mailed to you after the tour is over, and they have a chance to mix it. We have CDs of the last four shows we’ve seen (ever since they started offering this service), and we love them all. The CDs include the on stage banter as well.

The last of the new songs is by Doris, called Nothing Called Home. They joked that it hasn’t been arranged yet, and that each time they do it on stage it comes out differently. Doris apologized in advance that she even occasionally forgets some of the words. Last night, they nailed it, Doris didn’t miss a beat, and the random arrangement of the night (Nate joked that it was #57) sounded great to me!

For the past year, they’ve been closing the shows with Joyful Sign (the first song I ever heard of theirs, and one of my favorites). Last night they opened the show with it, setting a different tone than in most of the other shows. Like I said above, they keep it fresh.

They always have a request section, and they did two last night, Young James Dean and Speechless. Wonderful!

They did an absolutely incredible rendition of Maori. Lois and I love this song and listen to it in the car all the time. Neither of us can remember whether we’ve ever heard them do it live though. It’s possible, but given how many times we listen to it on the CD, it’s hard to be sure and separate our memory from reality.

I linked the lyrics above, because the song starts with a startling line:

When I first met you, I said
“My God, get away.
You smell like fish heads.”

Obviously, we know this by heart (and I even joked about it in a Facebook comment recently). Last night, Nate told the story behind the song, and it turns out that the above line is actually true! Anyway, the song is so rich, and their harmonies intricate, that it has to be a very difficult song to nail live (perhaps that’s one of the reasons they don’t do it often), but last night was perfect.

They played a bunch of other favorites, that I could list out (because I snagged the set list, like we always try to), but I’ll let the above stand as the differences, rather than repeat things I’ve said before. As for all four times that we’ve seen them at Joe’s, we were right up against the stage, smack in front of Nate.

Nate Borofsky

Nate Borofsky

Ty Greenstein

Ty Greenstein

Doris Muramatsu

Doris Muramatsu

They came out for an encore and played two songs, also done to perfection. After the show, we stood on line with the rest of their adoring fans and ordered our live CD from the show we just saw. We said our hellos and goodbyes to all three and headed back to the apartment, still aglow.

After we said goodnight to our two guests, we turned to each other and simultaneously said that we each thought that this was likely the best Girlyman show we’d been to. Of course, we both laughed that they’re all great, so it’s a little like splitting hairs, but still, that was our initial instinct, and it hasn’t faded, nearly 24 hours later.

If you tuned in only to hear about the show, go away now. For the hardy among you, here are the background details of how we came to see the show, and the day that led up to it.

Last October, we bought tickets to see Girlyman this coming Saturday (4/4/09) at the Barns at Wolftrap. In keeping with that, we expected to be in Virginia for the week before that show so we purchased tickets to see Cherish The Ladies at the Barns for last night (4/1/09). We also bought tickets to see Colin Hay at the Birchmere tomorrow night (4/3/09).

I’ve written about Cherish The Ladies before. They are fantastic and I was really looking forward to seeing them again, especially on a bigger stage (more on that in a moment). We’ve never seen Colin Hay before, but he’s very quickly become a new favorite of ours, and we are excited to see him tomorrow night (yes, we’re down in Virginia now, so we’ll be able to make that show!).

A month ago, we found out that Girlyman was going to be at Joe’s Pub on 4/1. While I felt badly that we would miss them in our favorite venue, I told Lois that my vote would be to keep our original schedule, see Cherish The Ladies, and then see Girlyman a few days later, both at the Barns. She was torn and wanted to think about it.

After thinking about it for a few hours, she firmly decided that she’d prefer to see Girlyman. We gave our tickets to Cherish The Ladies away to a friend (and colleague at Zope). He went last night with his wife, and reported today that the show was great. In particular, he really liked the step dancers.

I mentioned above that I was interested in seeing them on a bigger stage (which is unusual for me, since I love tiny clubs!). That was precisely because I’ve seen YouTube videos of them playing venues that could support the step dancing, and I loved it, and really wanted to see it live. We saw them at an awesome venue, but a tiny one, where no dancers could fit.

So, even though I missed out, both of us were thrilled that the tickets went to good use. Of course, we were doubly glad that Girlyman created an even more magical night for us than we expected (and you all know, we have high expectations for them to begin with!).

We love to introduce as many people to the wonder and joys of Girlyman, so we never buy just two tickets to see them. Since this show was scheduled to begin at 9:30pm on a Wednesday, we only bought four tickets, because we knew it could be difficult to find people who would want to stay out that late on a school night.

We have been trying to get together for a while with a good friend of ours, and his new girlfriend (new to us, I don’t know how long they’ve been together). When I offered him to be our guests, he wrote back saying that she was a big Girlyman fan, and that they would be happy to join us. Obviously, we liked her instantly, even though we haven’t met her yet. 😉

Unfortunately, Tuesday morning, the day before the show, he let me know that both of them had horrible colds, and would be unable to attend. Uh oh, we realized that it might be tricky to find people at this late date. We were correct. A number of couples turned us down, one after another.

Finally, one friend told me that he would love to come, but his wife was in Japan with their baby. He said he’d understand if we passed and went for another couple. We liked the idea of filling one seat guaranteed, and being able to broaden our search to single people as well.

But, before we broadened our search, I called one of our favorite couples, and invited the husband only (and I made that invitation through the wife, so there was nothing nefarious involved), 😉 knowing that the wife wouldn’t want to be out that late under any circumstances. Thankfully, he accepted, and we were set. Whew.

The next day (yesterday, the day of the show), we had two friends over for lunch. We had the most amazing Sushi meal from our favorite sushi place (conveniently located exactly across the street from our apartment), Hane Sushi. In addition to many of my favorites, I tried the Spicy Lobster Tartar. It’s cooked, so I don’t know why they call it Tartar. That said, it’s one of the more exceptional dishes I’ve eaten lately. Yummy.

Neither of our guest husbands (not the same people that were over for lunch) had seen or heard Girlyman before. Both thoroughly enjoyed the show, and one of them became an instant fan, purchasing one of their CD’s (download) from Amazon minutes after he got home. 🙂

Update: after reading this post, their new fan wrote to me to say that he purchased three of their albums from Amazon downloads! Now he has something to do on the airplane on his upcoming trip. 🙂

The Boys

The Boys

One final Girlyman anecdote that happened today.

At Zope, our VP of Finance and Administration is a big Girlyfan. So is her 5-year-old daughter. Both have seen them live (with us) twice. The mom just had another child less than a month ago. Today, via IM, she was telling Lois that he was particularly cranky, and she was having trouble settling him down.

Lois instantly suggested that she play one of Joyful Sign, Through To Sunrise or Kittery Tide (all three being very up-beat Girlyman songs). A few minutes later, the mom replied that the song that did the trick was Hold It All At Bay. She said “You should have seen the look on his face the minute that song started playing!”

For the few of you that made it this far (congratulations on being masochists), and somehow don’t know this yet, that’s my favorite Girlyman song. So, he’s a kindred spirit of mine, and Girlyman has just increased their lifelong fan club by one very young fan. 🙂

Update: with permission from the mom, here’s a photo of the confirmed youngest Girlyfan, as of 4/2/2009!

Youngest Girlyfan

Youngest Girlyfan