Joe’s Pub

Weekend Birthday Bash

Send to Kindle

Our friends from Richmond came up to spend a very special birthday weekend with us in NYC. They were supposed arrive at our apartment by 10am on Friday. That didn’t happen. There were significant snow flurries in NYC (nothing stuck), and the navigation system on the airplane was unable to make an instrument landing at LaGuardia, so while they were descending in NY, they we rerouted to Philadelphia.

I was tracking the flight in real-time and saw that it landed safely. I just didn’t realize it wasn’t anywhere near us… They ended up catching a 12:05pm flight from Philadelphia to LaGuardia, which got in at around 1pm, but that was enough for us to have rejigger Friday’s plans.

We had a blowout lunch scheduled for Rock-N-Sake. I have only eaten there once before, and loved it. I was really looking forward to introducing them to it. We ended up having to cancel that reservation (because they close at 2:30pm and reopen at 5:30pm). Instead, we went up to see Laura at her office and grabbed a light (and very fresh) lunch at Chop’t (a place I was interested in trying after hearing Laura speak highly of it).

(It’s been a long while since I’ve mentioned that clicking on any photo in any of my posts will display a larger image in a separate window/tab, so I’ll mention it again, now.) 🙂

Chop't

Chop't

We walked back to the apartment after lunch and relaxed for a bit. Not too long thereafter, we headed up toward Lincoln Center for dinner. We had tickets to South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont Theater for an 8pm show and we wanted to eat in the neighborhood. I searched the web and read a ton of reviews, and settled on an Indian restaurant called Sapphire.

We met Laura there. Unfortunately, Chris got hung up at work, and ended up joining us just as we ordered dessert. The food at Sapphire was simply extraordinary. The four of us who ate the Tandoori lamb all claimed that it was the best lamb we ever had. All of the other dishes were superb as well. As much as we were all looking forward to Rock-N-Sake for lunch, if we had eaten there, we would have opted for a very light dinner, and would not have discovered this jewel!

Saffron Shrimp

Saffron Shrimp

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

From there we walked over to see South Pacific. Laura thought of this as a special birthday gift for her dad, given his love for this show. She made a perfect choice, because love it he did! The two leads are exceptional. Interestingly, neither of the leads that we saw are the Tony winning actors. Kelli O’Hara left the show on March 7th and Paulo Szot took two month-long leaves, the second of which occurred during our show. Laura Osnes played Nellie Forbush, and David Pittsinger played Emile de Becque.

South Pacific

South Pacific

I suspect that Bob loved this show more than Wicked. As much as I enjoyed South Pacific, for me personally, there’s little comparison to Wicked. Since this was Bob’s birthday bash and not mine, South Pacific was the perfect choice! 🙂

When we got back, Lois and I conked out while the rest of them stayed up way too late watching the NCAA tournament.

Saturday morning we had breakfast outside on our deck. It was chilly, but the sun helped make it not-too-unpleasant. This was our first meal outside in 2009, so it was very special in that respect as well. As much as I love restaurant dining, there are few more special places to have a meal than our deck at the apartment, so I’m glad that the season is finally underway. 😉

Deck Breakfast

Deck Breakfast

After letting the food settle, Sally, Bob, Chris and I went for a long walk. Lois took care of things around the apartment, and Laura baked her magical Apple Pie for a birthday dessert. After walking roughly 2.5 miles, the three of them broke off and headed back to the apartment, making for a five mile walk in total. I continued on my normal walk, roughly 8.25 miles in total.

Mid-afternoon, we decided to foist our presents on Bob. He opened a bunch, one-by-one, but he had no idea what was in store for him as his special gift. After he thought it was all over, we broke out a package of gifts, specially created by his family and friends. In fact, it’s so cool that I will be devoting an entire post to it later on (could be as much as a week from now), but I’ll describe it briefly here as well.

We took a song by Colin Hay called What Would Bob Do, and seven of us wrote our own verses about our Bob. We then had it recorded by Jack Kapanka over a simple background acoustic guitar. We sent 100’s of photos to Jack, who put together a wonderful video synchronized to the words and music. He then produced a DVD of the movie/music. The song is 10 minutes long (we wrote lots of verses), and the result was phenomenal.

The six of us watched the DVD at least five times between Saturday and Sunday, and got a huge kick of out of it each and every time. In addition to the video, Lois created a book with the lyrics and photos, and some song-sheets with the lyrics as well. The full package was a wonderfully creative custom gift for a very special person, celebrating his life (to date) and his amazing accomplishments.

Watching the DVD

Watching the DVD

Like I said, more on this specific topic in about a week. 🙂

Right after viewing the DVD a number of times, we walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House. We had a fabulous meal (as always), and waddled back to the apartment.

Duck House

Duck House

We all gathered in Laura and Chris’ apartment to watch the Duke game, and couldn’t wait for half time to dig in to the Apple Pie. Again, Lois and I called it an early night, and the rest of them continued on with more NCAA action.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

On Sunday morning, the four of them had breakfast out, and then walked up to attend church services. We then all met up outside of Joe’s Pub at 12:45pm. We had tickets for a 2pm show for Eden Espinosa. This was her solo debut in NYC. Of the many Elphaba’s we’ve seen in Wicked, Eden was by far our favorite, so we were really looking forward to see her at our favorite club.

We had a nice lunch before the show, and she came on, with a five-piece band at about 2:05pm. She has a fantastic voice, with a surprising range (she hits incredibly high notes, with amazing power, and sustains them, even though you think, or at least I think, she’ll miss them). It was a real treat to see her, though I have some small nits to pick with the show.

Eden Espinosa

Eden Espinosa

The volume on the band was too high. They are superb musicians, and there was no distortion, but the place is too small to play that many pieces at that volume. While you could make out Eden’s voice even at the maximum volume of the group, that’s sheerly a testimony to how hard she was belting it out (and sweating as a result, even though it was on the cool side in the club).

Thankfully, she also did quite a number of songs with only the electric piano or acoustic guitar for accompaniment, so it wasn’t all top-of-the-lungs all the time. That brings me to my second nit. Song selection. While she’s great at the full range of songs she sang, I so much more enjoyed the ones with solo accompaniment (not just because of the volume). I don’t think she needs to prove her rock capabilities, at least not in a place as small as Joe’s.

She had a surprise guest, Katie Thompson. She came out and did a solo number, accompanying herself on the electric piano, called What Turns You On (available on the MySpace page linked above). She has one of the better voices we’ve heard, and she plays the piano marvelously as well. It was a real treat. After that, she played another of her songs, and Eden sang along with her, a bit of harmony (beautiful), but mostly alternating verses.

Katie Thompson

Katie Thompson

They played a third song together (with the rest of the band accompanying them as well), and then Katie left the stage.

Eden closed the show with an encore, singing Defying Gravity. We would have been disappointed to miss this one, so we were grateful that she came back out and gave us a taste of Wicked. 🙂

Even with the nits, I was very glad to see her (and discover Katie), and I suspect that I was more critical of the show than the rest of our guests, which is also a good thing!

Lois Eden Laura

Lois Eden Laura

Bob Eden Espinosa

Bob Eden Espinosa

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Three of us headed back to the apartment to relax, and three more headed to B&H for some browsing (in anticipation of future camera shopping). We all met up at the apartment for a little more snacking on Apple Pie and Cupcakes (and two people even had some shrimp), watched the DVD again, and then we headed out.

We dropped Bob and Sally back at LaGuardia, then headed up to the house. Other than being colder than predicted, and the nuisance of being routed to Philadelphia at the beginning of the trip, it was a picture-perfect weekend, and we hope Bob enjoyed his birthday blowout a fraction as much as we did!

Happy Birthday Bob!

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

Last night was our eighth CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub, and the first of 2009 (yes, there will be more shows in 2009, one is already scheduled for May 21).

The show started at 6:35pm (five minutes late), and was in the same format as most of the shows. There were five performers sitting across the stage. From left to right (with a picture of all of them together first):

CMA Lineup

CMA Lineup

Dave Berg played the guitar and sang. We’ve seen Dave once before, and loved him then, and last night again. In that post, I mentioned that he sang the first verse of one of his big hits (If You’re Going Through Hell) mimicing Bob Dylan. Last night, he did the entire song like Dylan would, except for the chorus. If you closed your eyes, you would swear Dylan was on the stage.

Dave Berg

Dave Berg

Dave was on comedicly as well, keeping the audience chuckling whenever he opened his mouth (other than to sing). He has a great stage presence, and gets along well with all of the other performers (many of whom he’s co-written with).

Sarah Buxton sang and played harmonica. She’s a rising star in the Country world. She has a raspy, powerful voice, and she hits notes in a wide range. I enjoyed her singing and her songs (at least two of which were co-written with Dave Berg, and one with Bob DiPiero). She has a bit of an over-the-top stage presence (not just when it’s her turn to perform), that was a little off-putting in the beginning. In fact, Lois never really got over it.

Sarah Buxton

Sarah Buxton

At some point in the evening, I got over it, because it started to feel real to me, rather than just put on, but who knows. One of her big hits (co-written with Dave Berg) is Keith Urban’s hit Stupid Boy. It’s autobiographical about her first husband (she’s divorced, and not remarried). It makes a lot of sense when you hear her back-story, and then hear it sung by a woman, and less so when Keith does it, even though it’s a nice song then as well…

To cut her some more slack, there was a reporter from People Magazine in the crowd, who was apparently there specifically to cover her (she’s the only one of the five that appears to be actively pursuing a performing career, in addition to being a songwriter). I think she was playing a bit to the reporter, and the rest of the guys on stage seemed perfectly happy to support her in doing so.

She’s definitely talented, and I won’t be surprised to see her continue to gain in popularity and success.

Bob DiPiero sat in the middle, as usual, running the show. He started this series, and is the one constant in every show. He’s a big-time hit with the crowd (there are many people in the crowd who consider him their favorite, in each show, even though large portions of his selection are repeats each time). He rarely disappoints, and last night he was really on (which he often is).

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Rivers Rutherford sang and played guitar. He’s awesome, in every respect. I’ve mentioned a number of times that the quality of the performances can vary dramatically, as these are primarily songwriters, not performers. Some have less-than-stellar voices, some play the guitar passably, etc.

Rivers Rutherford could be a performing star (IMHO). He has a fantastic voice, is a superb guitarist (one of the top two or three that we’ve seen in the eight CMA shows, but not like some of the superstar guitarists that are full-time professional guitarists that I’ve covered many times). In addition, his stage presence is fantastic. He’s funny, his timing is perfect, and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, the entire evening.

Rivers Rutherford

Rivers Rutherford

His guitar playing is so good that he’s the only person who has ever taken a guitar-only solo during our many CMA shows, and the crowd loved every second of it (including his hamming it up and standing and toying with the crowd while his fingers flew on the frets!). Bravo! Coming back to Dave Berg’s humor, at just the right second, Dave joked that he “remembered when he gave Rivers his very first guitar lesson…”. 🙂

Rivers Rutherford Standing

Rivers Rutherford Standing

Casey Beathard sang and played the guitar. He’s an awesome songwriter (many top hits), an excellent singer, and very solid guitar player as well. Personable, funny, and a very gentle (but excellent) stage presence.

Casey Beathard

Casey Beathard

After Rivers’ little romp on the stage during his guitar solo, Casey cracked up the crowd by standing for about five seconds (with one foot on his chair), emulating Rivers, then saying “That’s all I got…” 🙂 Of course, later on, Dave Berg did something similar, as did Sarah. It was funny, and a touching tribute to their respect for Rivers’ playing ability.

In total, they were on the stage for a very delightful 110 minutes. We’re already looking forward to May 21st. 🙂

Two Flew South

Send to Kindle

Lois asked me to name this post Two Flew South. She had a good reason, it was clever, so I didn’t hesitate in accepting her suggestion. Let’s not make it a habit though. This is my blog, not hers, and I intend to keep it that way. Of course, all of the photos are taken by her, so we’re partners in this, as we are in everything else in life. 🙂

Vacation is not a word that Lois or I use often. Even when we have a few days where we aren’t technically working, at least Lois (less so me), is working the Treo non-stop, and thinking about work issues non-stop as well. I’m better than she is at shutting that off, but I get sucked in, since I’m with her…

We’re on a two-week road trip at the moment, which is most definitely a vacation for me. Parts of it are even a vacation for Lois, though nowhere near the level that I am enjoying it. Since the road trip is mostly southbound, and there are two of us in the car, the title Two Flew South seems appropriate. It turns out it’s not the specific inspiration for the title (that’s coming later), but that’s why it was so easy to agree on.

The trip started nearly two weeks ago when we left NY and spent the day with our friends in Leesburg. We always have such a great time with them, even though seeing the dad suffer through his cancer treatments is heartbreaking. We then spent a week working at Zope.

Leesburg Friends

Leesburg Friends

We spent last weekend with our friends in Richmond, including a fantastic Super Bowl party at another friend’s house (10 of us enjoyed the game together). I was the only one rooting for the Steelers. That said, I really like Kurt Warner a lot, and wouldn’t have minded seeing him snag the victory. That made the last quarter all-the-more exciting, since the outcome was truly in doubt. A great game all around!

Richmond Friends

Richmond Friends

Super Bowl Party 1

Super Bowl Party 1

Super Bowl Party 2

Super Bowl Party 2

At 6:50am on Monday, we were on the road, officially on vacation (there’s that word again, I’m liking it a lot). 😉

We were headed straight for Nashville. On Ocotber 29th, 2008, we saw one of our many CMA Song Writer Series shows at Joe’s Pub. While the entire show was fantastic, we both were really blown away by Hillary Lindsey, and I highlighted that fact in a post the next day. Through that post, I ended up with an email relationship with a wonderful woman who lives and works in Nashville.

Through that email relationship, we had arranged to meet for dinner on Monday night. We had never even spoken on the phone, a true e-relationship. We asked her to select the restuarant. We met at 7pm at Tin Angel. We had the most wonderful evening. She’s a fascinating person and she picked an excellent restaurant (we all loved our meals). We ended up spending nearly three hours together, and we will definitely look her up the next time we’re in Nashville, and hope she does the same when she’s in NY!

New Nashville Friend

New Nashville Friend

The next day was carved out in advance to be spent with our good friend Jack Kapanka. It was freezing all over the south, Nashville included, so we decided in advance to see the sites from Jack’s car, rather than walk around the city. Jack picked us up at our hotel, and zigged and zagged all around Nashville, telling us about every building as we passed it. I loved every second of it!

We also took a long ride in the countryside, to and through Franklin, TN, gawking at mansion after mansion (they don’t call it Mansion Hill for nothing). We had lunch at a Pub in town (I should have written down the name, because we all really enjoyed our meals!). When we left, three men were approaching us (from quite a distance). Jack immediately recognized the middle man as James Otto. As we walked by them (they were headed to a Sushi restaurant for lunch) Lois casually said “Hi”, and James said hi back, so Lois can officially say that James Otto said hi to her. 😉

One Mansion

One Mansion

We then headed for Jack’s house, catching some incredible scenery along the way (including a bridge that isn’t obviously a bridge, until you’re on it, at which point everything around you is breathtakingly beautiful.

We had met Jack in person before, but this was the first time we were meeting his family. When we got to his house, his wife and toddler twins were there (the older girls were still in school). It’s hard to describe how/why you know you’ll be life-long friends with someone the instant you meet them, but there’s no doubt that this will be the case between us and Jack’s wife.

Jack's Wife

Jack's Wife

She’s an awesome person in her own right, on every level, but she might also be the best mom we’ve ever observed. That’s saying an awful lot, considering that our Richmond friends include a number of near-perfect moms (our godchildrens’ mom heading that list!). Lois can describe it better than I can, but no matter what’s going on around her, Jack’s wife exudes a strength and calmness, that nearly instantly tames all of those around her (her kids included!).

After meeting the older girls, and hanging for a bit, Jack and I took the oldest daughter and took a tour of their home town. Jack had been telling me for a while about another resident of the town, someone he had met in his church. He really wanted us to meet, so we stopped by his house. It took me all of 10 seconds to know how wonderful this man is, and why Jack likes him so much. We chatted for 20 minutes and then headed back to Jack’s house.

Jack and Older Daughters

Jack and Older Daughters

Shortly after getting back, we took two cars and headed to dinner with the entire family. We had an excellent meal at the Applebees right near our hotel. We said goodnight and were missing all of them by the time we were up in our room. Thanks for a wonderful day to all of the Kapankas! 🙂

Jack and Twins

Jack and Twins

The baby girl does fist bumps on cue!

Fist Bumping Baby

Fist Bumping Baby

On Wednesday morning, we worked in the room a bit, catching up on a ton of emails, then hit the road again. This time, our destination was Atlanta. We got there mid-afternoon, checked into the hotel, and did a bit more work.

At 5:30pm we headed over to a friend’s house. A number of our Atlanta friends also came over and we had an extraordinary home cooked meal. We brought wine from NY, and were really afraid (sure might be a better word) that it would spoil due to the extreme temperature swings throughout the trip (it was 19 degrees that morning in Nashville and Atlanta). Amazingly, the wine tasted yummy to me (and I hope our friends agreed).

Home Made Feast

Home Made Feast

Incredible Pie

Incredible Pie

The next morning we got together with a subset of the same folks we were with the night before for an incredible breakfast at Rise-N-Dine. It’s quite unusual to have an appetizer during breakfast, but we all split three Sweet Potato Pancakes as one. Wow. They were amazing, and I knew I would love my Polish Omelette as well (and I was correct!).

We said our sad goodbyes, lamenting that this wonderful whirlwind 18 hours was ending, and we hit the road for Birmingham to visit our godson. We settled into our hotel in Birmingham, and caught up with some more work. When David called to say he was on the way home from the hospital, we were thrilled to log off and head over to see him.

After catching up for a bit in his apartment, we headed for dinner at Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ. I didn’t realize it was a chain until I just looked it up. It’s a beautiful place. The service was excellent. All that is nice, but get to the food Hadar! Man, it was unbelievable. They start you off with homemade corn muffins that are infused with cheese (subtle, but delectable) that melt in your mouth.

Feeding the Meter

Feeding the Meter

David and I both had the Pulled Pork platter, and Lois had Smoked Chicken that she raved about. We capped it off with some Starbucks and headed back to David’s to cath up on Lost. We were two episodes behind, but David was happy to watch the one he had seen already again, and then he too got to watch the new one from the night before. We’re all caught up now, and anxiously awaiting the next few episodes. The excitement is back (it never left for me, but Lois is into this season more than last year’s).

Being a first-year resident, David is one rung above an indentured slave. Today is one of his all-too-regular 30-hour calls (he leaves early in the morning for the hospital, and doesn’t return until the following afternoon!). That meant we were on own own today. We headed to his apartment after breakfast and set up our computers for more catching up (he was long gone, and yes, it’s still a vacation). 😉

Just before lunch, we headed out for a shopping spree. Being godparents, we had a severe need to populate every empty space in David’s apartment with useful things (OK, so it was really more of Lois’ maternal instincts, but I was happy to play along). We bought a bunch of stuff at Bed Bath and Beyond. Then I dropped Lois at Costco and headed to have lunch by myself.

When we were last in Birmingham, we had another of our friends along with us, Wes. During that trip, both Wes and David told us that their favorite fast-food place is Chick-Fil-A. They couldn’t believe that I had never been in one. We had an aborted attempt to have lunch from there one day (my fault). After the trip, Wes sent us a Chick-Fil-A gift card (thanks again Wes!) to ensure that we made it our business to check it out.

Amazingly, in two consecutive trips to Zope, we were unable to schedule a visit to any of the Chick-Fil-A’s, including the one that is 1/4 of a mile from our hotel! I was determined to make it to one on this trip, and this seemed to be the most opportune time.

So, I drove 1/4 of a mile from Costco and ate a #1 meal in the place. It was excellent, so I now understand why many people rave about Chick-Fil-A (since Wes and David, at least five additional friends have told me that they consider it the best fast-food place). Considering that I still have a couple more meals left on the gift card, I will be thanking Wes again (and again). 🙂

I wandered into the Costco, and was surprised that I didn’t have too much trouble finding Lois, even though she was in the diagonally opposite corner from the main entrance (a very long walk!). She was just about done, so we both were impressed with the timing of my arrival. You would not believe how much stuff she bought. Of course, you might, given that I got to drive to Chick-Fil-A, eat a meal there, and get back, before she was done shopping. 🙂

When we got back, we experienced a few weeks worth of weight-lifting exercise. There is a very steep set of stairs outside of David’s apartment complex, then two more landings inside to get to his unit. We lugged all of the booty up over the course of four or five trips. Given how cold it had been on this trip, I had forgotten that sweating was possible. In addition to the manual labor, the weather broke today, and it was 60 degrees while we were unpacking.

While I am finishing this blog, Lois is on the phone with a Zope engineer, working away (is anyone surprised?). We will relax the rest of the evening (a little late night shopping is on the current agenda, but not for David this time). We can’t wait to see David again tomorrow afternoon (or more appropriately, after his obligatory nap!).

So, what’s left to say? Just the real explanation of the title of the blog.

In addition to listening to a ton of music (live and on the iPod), Lois also reads about music a lot. When something sounds like she would like it, she makes a note. A few times a year, she emails a list to me telling me that the time has come to place a large order. Lois really prefers physical CDs, largely for the liner notes, and I prefer downloads, both because they are cheaper (typically) and immediate (always).

One of the groups that she had on her list was One Flew South. I downloaded it a while ago, but for any number of reasons, we hadn’t listened to it (or most of the others on her most recent list). During this trip, Lois fired up One Flew South. Instant love. Lois thought there were nine voices (the harmonies are so rich), but it turns out that it’s only three guys.

Lois usually zones in on a handful of songs on a CD and she plays them over-and-over, to the exclusion of the others. This happened on this CD as well, and the ones that sang to her, have been listened to more than I would care to admit.

So, after hearing them for the umpteenth time, Lois said, “When you blog, please title it Two Flew South“, and it was so. 🙂

One more week to go on this road trip, and I intend to savor every single moment!

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

Last night was our eighth Girlyman concert. It was the third time we’ve seen them at Joe’s Pub (where it all began). The other five shows were spread out over five venues, in two states, in five cities, with vast differences between the venues and at times, the audience makeup as well. These statistics may become relevant later in the post. 😉

There were many things that were typical of every Girlyman show:

  1. Amazing music
  2. Lots of laughs
  3. Adoring audience
  4. Great venue
  5. Long line after the show to say Hi to Girlyman and buy Merchandise

Some things were notably different. There are probably many reasons for that, including some that I probably couln’t guess, but here are the three categories of things I believe contributed (perhaps all incorrect):

  1. Obama becoming the President-Elect the night before
  2. Girlyman playing in NYC
  3. 9:30pm show, rather than the typically earlier shows we attend

Before I tackle each of those, in the order I listed them, I’ll say something that is also delightful (but both different and not different at the same time) about most Girlyman shows. Even though we’ve just seen Girlyman shows four times in a three week period (meaning, the same tour), their repertoire is large enough to mix it up, even on consecutive nights, to keep it fresh for the fans who attend more than one show.

Last night was no different (in that it was different!). 😉 They played Saints Come Marching In. This is only the second time we’ve heard it live, the first being on November 4th, 2007 at the Highline Ballroom, so it was like an Anniversary Gift. 🙂

It was one of the five great songs they introduced last year, but also one of the two (Trees Still Bend being the other) that didn’t make it to the Somewhere Different Now Live CD. On the other hand, they’ve been regularly playing Trees Still Bend on this tour, but not last night.

Another one that I listen to all the time on the CD, but haven’t heard live in a long while was Good Enough. There were a few other differences from recent shows in the playlist, but my observations to those changes might be more appropriate in one of the three above-mentioned categories.

Here are photos of the three of them. We were flush up against the stage, so the angles aren’t great, and the lighting was aimed toward the cameras, etc., so apologies all around:

Doris

Doris

Ty

Ty

Nate

Nate

1. Obama

Aside from the obvious fact that Obama won a clear majority across the country, including winning some previously hard-core Red States, there are few places where his support is more obvious than NYC. Any mention of his name last night (or allusion to the victory) brought incredible cheers from the crowd, and joy from Girlyman. They told amusing stories of a party the night before, and bantered with the audience, very happily.

Aside from the natural focus on this historic event, and the relief that most of the people in the audience (and most definitely on the stage!) felt at the end of the current Administration, it also affected the playlist of the show!

In the previous seven times that we’ve seen them perform, the last six in a row all had the same opening number for every show: On The Air. It’s a fantastic song in every respect, but it also sets such an up-tempo that we think they are smart for opening with it, and getting everyone’s juices flowing.

Last night, they opened (after a nod to Obama) with Through To Sunrise. While also an upbeat song (and for a very long time Lois’ favorite Girlyman song, though on occasion she’s not as sure, because others are rising fast to catch up), I believe they chose it because it is their protest song against the current Administration. They didn’t introduce it as such last night, but I’d be surprised if I was wrong. They play that song in most shows anyway (thankfully!), but opening with it was a statement (IMHO).

I already mentioned above that Saints Come Marching In was added to the playlist. Ty introduced it as fitting last night, so I assume that this one too moved them in relation to Obama’s victory to get back on the list.

Finally, while they play Amaze Me at many shows, right before they played it last night, Ty said that she’s been waiting a long time for America to Amaze Her (since she wrote the song over seven years ago), and it was clear that she was no longer singing it as a hopeless plea, but rather as a done deal!

2. Girlyman playing in NYC

Girlyman is consistently excellent wherever they play. Their audiences love them wherever they play. Those are just the facts (ma’am). But, this crazy thing started right here, in little ‘ol NYC, so their tenured fan base is here. That too is just a fact. Moreover, since they lived here for six+ years (as Girlyman), many of the people who come to their NYC shows are close friends, independent of the music.

Like it or not, that changes the character of the shows in NYC a bit (or sometimes more than a bit!) from some other venues. Girlyman definitely feeds off of the energy in the NYC crowd, as do the vast majority of the audience (perhaps all), but I do think about what it must be like for a first-time attendee, who may even know and love the music, to find themselves in the midst of this kind of a love-fest.

That would be on even a normal night in NYC. Add to that the euphoria of the Obama victory, and it was more than a little raucous there. For one (bad) example, Girlyman rarely curses on stage (I said rarely just to cover myself, because I was tempted to say never). Last night, more than a few times, the expletives flew. For those who might prefer not to hear that, I can only hope that they could appreciate the unique circumstances of last night’s show, and not think about it too much…

3. 9:30pm start time

Joe’s Pub has an early show (start time anywhere from 6:30pm to 7:30pm) and a 9:30pm show, nearly every night. The two prior times that we’ve seen Girlyman there, they had the earlier show (one of those times, they also did the 9:30 show). For most folks, there are pros and cons associated with that. For us, it’s mostly cons, other than the overwhelming pro of getting to see Girlyman in the first place!

Pros (for some people, not us!):

  • Don’t worry about having to leave work early
  • Potential for a show to go longer. Early show has a hard-stop deadline
  • Some artists don’t wake up before 9pm 😉

Cons (for us, and some other people, clearly not all):

  • Doors rarely open by 9pm when they are supposed to
  • Not enough time to finish dinner before the band comes on stage
  • A very late night (way past our bedtime)
  • The show might be shorter (e.g., if the band needs to hit the road)

All of that was in play last night. The doors didn’t open until nearly 9:20pm, for a 9:30 show, where you are expected to order dinner! I am not blaming Joe’s Pub, that’s just the nature of the beast, and I understand it. But, we hate to eat in the band’s face (we sat flush up against the stage!). Nothing we could do, so we did it, as discretely as possible.

Girlyman is performing in Philadelphia tonight, and I think it caused them to play a few less songs than they have at every other show we’ve been to on this tour (three others). They were also likely exhausted from partying the night before, and I am not blaming them for that either. 😉

The other change (not likely caused by any of the above) is how the show ended. On this tour, they’ve been closing each show with Joyful Sign. They did that last night as well. Then, after the inevitable thunderous applause, they came out for their typical encore. Also typical of this tour, the first song they played for the encore was a brand new one, My Eyes Get Misty (I really like it a ton!).

In the three previous shows on this tour (and in most of the ones in the Fall/Winter tour), they conclude with Son Of A Preacher Man (and on occasion, though not often enough, they throw in the Girlyman Benediction). Last night, after singing My Eyes Get Misty, they left the stage. What? Really?

The applause didn’t die down, so they came back out (reasonably quickly). That was unusal as well (score another one for NYC). At that point, I was sure they would do Son Of A Preacher Man. Wrong! They asked for another request (The Shape I Found You In was the requested number during the regular show). This time they performed Speechless, another great song. Then they left the stage for good. Definitely different, though no complaints!

Since I’ve gone on for a long while already, I’ll keep the backstory short this time. We invited two very dear friends who we get to see all-too-rarely. We asked them to meet us at Joe’s at 8:45pm. Lois always insists on leaving too early, and I usually resist just enough to irritate her a lot, but not get to the venue ridiculously early.

Last night, I irritated her, but not enough to avoid getting there ridiculously early. 😉 We were first on line (shocking) when we arrived at 8:19pm. The guy working the door came out and said “You realize that the show that’s currently going on won’t end until past 8:40, right?”. Sadly, I told him we realized that all too well… 🙂

But, in an amazing stroke of serendipity, roughly six minutes later, our friends (who drove in from Long Island) found a legal spot across the street from Joe’s, and we got to catch up and chit-chat for nearly an hour before the doors finally opened. That was an unexpected treat.

Three of us had the burger and all raved about it. The fries are heavenly too. Last night was the first time that I have seen Joe’s have a Price Fixed offering, and we took advantage of that as well, so we had starters and chocolate cake, all for a very reasonable price. OK, to be honest, it was more than reasonable for Lois and me, since our guests insisted on paying for dinner. Thank you very much! 🙂

It was raining throughout the evening, and since we live very close to the midtown tunnel (which our friends had to go through anyway), they gave us a lift back to the apartment. That was a very nice ending to an exceptionally enjoyable evening.

We already have our tickets for the next time we’ll be seeing Girlyman, which is April 4th, 2009, at The Barns at Wolftrap (where we saw them this past March). We can’t wait, but somehow, we’ll make do…

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

Another day, another CMA Song Writer Series concert at Joe’s Pub! 😉

Seriously, in addition to this being our seventh such show, it was also our second night in a row. The only repeat performer was the host, Bob DiPiero.

I will have some things to say a little later on that will feel less flattering than I’ve been about previous shows, but it’s truly not meant to be that, so I feel the need to start off with a bottom line first: this show was excellent, and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!

Sitting left-to-right on the stage with a shot of all of them first:

CMA Writers Series 20081030

CMA Writers Series 20081030

Jonathan Singleton was a newcomer for us. In addition to not having seen him live before, we hadn’t heard of him. But, we did know one of his big hits, Watching Airplanes which was cut by Gary Allan. Jonathan was probably the strongest guitar player from last night’s bunch, and he has a nice voice as well. He put on a good show in general and we enjoyed him, though his songs haven’t gotten to us like many of the previous performers in this series. He’s solid, if unspectacular.

Jonathan Singleton

Jonathan Singleton

Bob DiPiero couldn’t be exactly in the middle, since there were four people on stage last night instead of the more typical five. 😉 I’ve noted in the past (including in yesterday’s post) that Bob typically plays the same five giant hits at each show. Interestingly, and thankfully, that changed last night (perhaps he’s reading these posts). 😉

He opened the show with one of the usual numbers, The Church On Cumberland Road. But, when it came around to him again, he picked a song that he hadn’t played in a while at Joe’s (I’m not sure he ever played it while we were in attendance). Then the next time around, someone from the crowd yelled out “Play Blue Clear Sky”. He told us a really long and funny story about how George Strait came to cut the song. Here’s a much shorter version of the story.

On his next turn, he also sang something that he normally doesn’t play, but then finished up the show with another of his standards. He was funny all night, and kept the crowd entertained with his stories and music.

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Chris Wallin was next in line. We had seen him before in this format. It was his first time at Joe’s Pub (last night was his second), and it was our first time at the CMA Song Writers Series (though we’ve beaten him in between). I wrote about what a great writer Chris is the last time we saw him. He’s phenomenal. He has a sonorous voice (rich and deep), but he has trouble keeping from drifting off key. It doesn’t bother us at all, but he’s one where I’m not surprised he’s not a full-time performer (as opposed to Hillary Lindsey from the night before!).

Chris was as warm and funny last night as he was the first time we saw him. He seems like the kind of person I would love to hang out with.

Chris Wallin

Chris Wallin

Rodney Clawson was on the far right. We didn’t know his name but certainly recognized a number of his hits. Included among them last night were Sweet Southern Comfort (cut by Buddy Jewell), a song I really love. He also performed Lost In This Moment (cut by Big and Rich). He has a long list of hits cut by major stars.

As a performer, he’s completely solid, but also not of the caliber of the performers from the previous night. He comes across as a terrific guy, and there’s simply no doubt that he’s a prolific and wonderful songwriter.

Rodney Clawson

Rodney Clawson

No encore last night (I’ll explain in a second), but they were still on the stage for nearly two hours (probably 10 minutes shorter than the night before). Like I said at the beginning, an excellent show. Here’s another shot of all of them together on stage:

CMA Writers Series 20081030-2

CMA Writers Series 20081030-2

Now for some color about last night. On Tuesday, the show was effectively a sold out performance (I counted two empty seats, but I bet they were sold, but the people just didn’t show up). This is typical of all of the CMA Song Writers Series shows. In addition, not only do they sell out every show, but they also have the longest lines awaiting the opening of the doors, always.

The only show at Joe’s Pub that we’ve ever attended where we had to stand throughout was our first CMA event (the one where we first saw Chris Wallin). Clearly, there is a very loyal fan base for these shows.

That said, last night was the least attended show we’ve been at for any artist at Joe’s Pub. I estimate that the place was roughly 1/2 full (perhaps 75 people). They seated the audience throughout the club, spaced out nicely, so that it didn’t really feel empty at all, just a little roomier than usual. In addition, the audience loved the performance (entusiastically), so there was a decent energy and applause in the room for every song.

For that reason, I believe that DiPiero made the right call not to do an encore, but to simply stay on stage the same amount of time, and gracefully and graciously exit. When the place is full, it’s very hard to avoid an encore, because enough people start a clapping (and possibly standing ovation) fest, that it becomes infectious. Last night, I suspect it would have fizzled, so they didn’t risk the embarrassment.

I choose to highlight this to make a different point. One of the running jokes on stage at these events is that of being surprised at the number of Hillbillies in NYC. This is true to some extent. After all, these shows sell out every time (until last night).

And yet, NYC was unable to sustain a single country music radio station. The one station we had (and it was a good one), folded years ago (perhaps as many as 10, though I’m not sure). If you don’t have XM Radio in NYC, you don’t get Country Radio. So, on a number of occasions after one of these concerts, Lois has commented to me that this was proof that there are real Country fans in NYC.

True. In fact, when Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban all sell out Madison Square Garden, and you can see that all of the fans know every word to every song (meaning, they aren’t there just to see a star that they haven’t heard of), and Martina McBride and Dolly Parton sell out Radio City Music Hall, clearly, there are 10’s of thousands of Country fans in NYC.

Still, when CMA chooses to put on back-to-back shows at a small venue like Joe’s Pub, the drop-off from one night to the next was jarring. I don’t think the economy suffered that much more one day later. I think that the regular sellouts at Joe’s come from a core crowd, with a number of them unable or unwilling to make that commitment on consecutive days.

When DiPiero asked the audience last night how many people had attended a previous showing in this series, I’d say that 80% raised their hands. When he just mentioned that they had been there the night before, roughly 60% of the audience whooped it up indicating that they had been there for that show too (we recognized a few people on the line before the show).

So, as much as we loved the opportunity to see this series on back-to-back nights, I think they do better when they space them out. That won’t be a problem for the next show, which was just scheduled for March 19th, 2009. That’s a little too much time between shows for our taste, but hey, you can’t have it all! 🙂

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

Last night was our sixth time attending the CMA Song Writers Series at Joe’s Pub. Tonight will be our seventh. 😉

We’ve enjoyed every single rendition, including last night. As I’ve written before, the performance abilities of the multitude of writers can be quite varied. Some are quite raw, while a few are close to professional-level performers. Last time, we missed a real professional, Josh Turner, who only appeared in the 9:30pm show, while we attended the 6:30 one.

Last night, we didn’t miss out. Joining the regularly scheduled writers was Craig Morgan, a superstar in his own right (both as a writer and as a performer). Just this past week, he was inducted as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry!

Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

CMA Song Writers 20081029

CMA Song Writers 20081029

Mike Rogers is the head of Craig Morgan’s band, playing a number of instruments (normally). Last night, he was there to play guitar with Craig (though he took some incredible leads when supporting some of the others on the stage as well). Mike’s guitar playing is star quality (after all, that’s what he does for a living, as he’s not the typical songwriter that appears in these shows). In addition, his harmonies with Craig were simply outstanding.

Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers

Craig Morgan was in town doing the Today Show on NBC in the morning. Lucky for all of us, since he would normally be a solo headliner in a much larger venue than Joe’s Pub. His voice is silky smooth, with tremendous range. He’s delightful interacting with the crowd, and there was zero sense of a swelled head, given his recent induction into the Grand Ole Opry, or his otherwise considerable stardom compared to the rest of the people he shared the stage with.

Oh, and did I mention, he’s a great songwriter, and therefore fully deserves to share the stage purely as a songwriter? I already mentioned Mike Rogers above, but the fact that Craig brought Mike along made for a super-professional performance whenever it was Craig’s turn. The two of them sing beautifully together, and Mike is a superb guitarist.

Craig Morgan

Craig Morgan

Bob DiPiero held court in the middle, as he always does. He’s a natural, and always has the crowd (and the rest of the writers) in stiches throughout the show. Since he’s at every show, some of the schtick is a little repetitious. That said, it’s delivered perfectly, and the crowd eats it up every time, so we enjoy it over and over as well.

Likewise, while Bob has a large repertoire to select from, he has a handful of mega-hits, and he plays the same five songs at every show. Again, it’s possibe that he would be skinned alive by the crowd if he didn’t play them, so I completely understand. We too tap and clap along each time, because they are great songs.

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Hillary Lindsey was the one female on stage last night. She defines the enigma that is the music business to us. Her songwriting is incredible, both alone and in collaboration with others. While her guitar playing is weak (but acceptable), her voice is as good as it gets, and her performance (sharing the true emotion of various parts of the songs) was as good as it gets as well. So, why is she not a superstar performer in her own right?

I don’t know the answer to these kinds of mysteries. Carrie Underwood (who is an extraordinary performer) doesn’t play an instrument on stage. She simply has a stunning voice. So does Hillary. Carrie is gorgeous (that doesn’t hurt when you want to draw a crowd). Hillary is extremely attractive as well, and clearly didn’t have (or need!) a team of stylists and makeup artists to prepare her for this show. Perhaps she’s simply not interested in being a full-time performer. I wish I knew the answers to these types of questions…

She added wonderful harmonies to songs that the other writers sang, making her overall contribution to last night’s show outstanding!

Hillary Lindsey Brett James

Hillary Lindsey Brett James

Brett James sat on the far-right of the stage. He too has an excellent voice, plays the guitar reasonably well, and has a terrific stage presence. He too is a prolific songwriter with a number of top hits to his credit. He too writes well alone and in collaboration. What was particularly interesting is that he specifically collaborates with Hillary Lindsey, many times, for many years.

They co-wrote Jesus Take The Wheel, Carrie Underwood’s first smash hit! On his Wikipedia page, you can see a number of other great songs he’s written (or co-written), including Blessed (with Hillary Lindsey) and Who I Am (with Jessica Andrews, who made the song a #1 hit).

What made last night a treat, is that since Hillary and Brett co-wrote a number of the songs each performed, they were able to sing stunning harmonies on them as well (Jesus Take The Wheel was but one example).

Brett James

Brett James

So, while we’ve truly enjoyed every show, and are looking forward to tonight’s performance as well, last night was definitely special, in particular due to Craig Morgan and Hillary Lindsey! Thanks to all five performers for making last night very memorable!

They were on stage for just under two hours including a rousing one-song encore. After the show, Lois sprinted to the back to tell Hillary how much she enjoyed and was moved by her performance (and songs in general). She snapped this photo of Hillary while waiting patiently, and then indeed got to share her thoughts directly with Hillary.

Hillary Lindsey

Hillary Lindsey

The Duhks at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

We first discovered Joe’s Pub because of The Duhks. The Duhks were an automated recommendation for me from Amazon.com, based on the fact that I had purchased Nickel Creek CDs from them. I listened, I liked, a lot.

After that, I bought both Duhks CDs, and checked where they were touring. I noticed they were coming to NYC to Joe’s Pub. We had never heard of Joe’s, but went to see them there. We loved the show, thoroughly, and bought their third CD at the show. That was roughly two years ago. We’ve been to Joe’s dozens of times since, and it’s our favorite place to see live music.

Shortly after we saw them (measured in months) Jessee Havey (their lead singer) left the band. She was replaced by Sarah Dugas, announced as an interim selection, until the band made a longer-term choice. Sarah ended up staying for the long term, and the percussionist, Scott Senior was replaced by Sarah’s brother, Christian Dugas, a drummer with a complete drum set.

We knew that they released a new CD a month ago, but we decided to buy it at the show to more directly support the band.

We knew we loved their music (Lois had a handful of songs she played over-and-over in the car, and I like a broader selection of their stuff from all three CDs), and we wanted to share that experience with others, so we bought four tickets to the show. That’s often a risk, because while music is universal, each person’s taste is hardly universal.

Since Joe’s serves really good food, we figured that it would at least be a nice social outing. Sparing you the crazy details of how we ended up with our specific guests, two of our married male friends came, with each of their wives having previous commitments.

The tickets had the show starting at 7:30pm, but the outside sign said 7pm. It turned out that they had a special guest star opening the show for them at 7pm, but I’ll cover him later. He ran over (knowingly), and after resetting the stage, The Duhks came on at 7:45pm.

Normally, Joe’s Pub gets the acoustics down pat. On occasion (unfortunately, not infrequently enough, as I’ve now written about this a few times), they screw it up, pretty badly at times. Last night was one of those times, but The Duhks have changed in a number of ways, and that change didn’t help out with the poor sound management.

The first obvious change was from a percussionist (Scott Senior), to a full drum kit (Christian Dugas). Christian is a fantastic drummer, from every perspective. Unfortunately, a full drum kit overwhelms the roots sounds and instruments that characterize The Duhks. That means that everyone else in the band needs to amp up more, causing more problems for the sound engineer, etc. When the sound system isn’t perfect, the problems accelerate quickly, to the point of no return.

We had an inkling of what was to come before the show even started. One of the founders of the band, Leonard Podolak was out on the stage helping the opening act pack up, and he was squatting on the stage about 12 inches from Lois. Lois told him how much we love them, and asked whether they were going to play her favorite songs (she mentioned them by name, she didn’t assume he knew which ones were our favorites). 😉

Leonard told her that they don’t play those songs any longer, now that Sarah is in the band. Given that Sarah’s voice is quite similar (earthy, husky, full-bodied, etc.) to Jessee, neither of us understood the comment. After the fact, I worried that perhaps this was another Wailin’ Jennys moment, where they no longer perform live any songs written by Annabelle Chvostek. Who knows?

In any event, Leonard didn’t lie. They mostly played songs from the new CD (we bought a copy before the show started, and I’ve listened to it today) plus a few from their old albums (none of our favorites), plus a few new covers.

The show was awful, on a number of levels. First, the sound was horrible. The guitarist, Jordan McConnell is normally amazing. He’s probably got the fastest right hand I’ve ever seen, and he plays a mixture of the best rhythm guitar, with fantastic leads. Last night, the only thing you could hear out of his guitar was pure bass. It almost sounded like pure feedback. No strumming or leads. It was a crushing disappointment.

Partially, it was due to our placement right up against the stage, where the drum was blaring in our ears. That doesn’t explain it entirely though. The fiddle player, Tania Elizabeth is brilliant. She’s in my top five favorite fiddle players, and we’ve seen a ton of great fiddle players in the past two years. She also sings harmony on a number of songs (really well).

Last night, it was hit or miss whether you could make out the fiddle. On some numbers, clear as a bell (and Tania hasn’t lost a step), on others, muddled sound or no sound. Quite a few times Tania had to gesture desperately up at the sound board, pointing at her fiddle and raising her thumb up, indicating that she needed more volume.

Leonard Podolak played the banjo extremely well, and ironically, you could make out most of the notes he played all night long. Still, they were in the distant background, but at least audible. One of our guests noted after the show that it was a very weird feeling to be sitting two feet from the banjo, but only hearing the banjo sound coming from the far corner of the stage. It was disorienting. I agree.

Sarah had her voice on, but also had to complain to the sound person that her mic was not reliable. She conjectured that the cable was loose, and was making the mic cut in and out. On one song that Leonard sang lead on, he had to switch positions on stage with Sarah, because he too felt that his mic was garbling his sound. Ugh…

So, you’d think that all of the problems last night could be summed up as sound related, either with physical equipment problems, a poor sound engineer, or a mixture of the two. Alas, that wouldn’t be correct, at least not for our taste.

Basically, this band bears little resemblance to The Duhks that we knew and loved. Sure, they are absolutely exceptional musicians (not that you could hear Jordan to be sure, but trust me, he’s spectacular!). Somehow, adding Sarah and Christian Dugas has changed the soul of this band.

I’m sure that they will find many new fans, but they will also leave some old ones behind, including us. Basically, they want to be more of a Rock band, in Roots clothing. That’s fine, but it’s not our style. They’re too loud (regardless of the sound problems) for that particular mix of instruments, as well as for our taste. To give a concrete example, they closed with a rock cover, including mixing in some Whole Lotta Love there. Sorry folks, this is the wrong configuration of instruments and musicians to pull that off.

Sarah has the pipes to sing that stuff, and clearly she’s pulling the band to play that, but the fit is so bad as to be laughable. It’s a true shame.

All that said, I listened to the entire CD today, and it’s not bad. Clearly, it’s mixed way more professionally than last night’s show was, and I was in control of the volume, so I could listen at pleasant levels. I’m not sorry that we bought the CD, but I doubt Lois will ever listen to it, she was so turned off by the performance.

On to the opening act. Leonard Podolak went to high school with Luke Doucet. Luke is an incredible Rock guitarist. He was accompanied by his wife, Melissa McLelland (singing and playing rhythm electric guitar), Catherine Popper (playing electric bass) and Rob Heath on the drums (Luke had never played with Rob before).

We didn’t come prepared to hear loud Rock music, thinking that The Duhks would have a more similar sound for their opening group. Of course, we didn’t know that The Duhks were morphing more toward this sound, nor that they were promoting a friend more than trying to match the crowd’s taste in music.

That said, Luke is incredibly talented. His amlifier was three feet away from us, so we had no trouble hearing his fantastic leads. In fact, two people in our party put in ear plugs when he started playing, that’s how little trouble we had hearing him. That said, the microphones for his voice and Melissa’s, were too soft in comparison. I could make out most of the words, but partially because I could see his lips move.

He’s a good songwriter as well, and I enjoyed the lyrics that I was able to make out. I liked their harmonies as well, though they were definitely overshadowed if not drowned out.

Luke said that he was given 25 minutes to complete his set. He took 35. That was 10 minutes less for the headliner, his friends, so who knows how they worked that out…

Last night was the first time that I left Joe’s Pub with a ringing in my ears, and a generally unpleasant feeling due to the loudness and poor sound quality. 🙁

Anyway, even though we didn’t get to talk about it until after the show, I knew that Lois was cringing during most of The Duhks performance (as was I) over the fact that we picked this show to bring our friends to (we see most concerts alone). We had a lovely time with them, and enjoyed an excellent meal and drinks before the show, and we always love every opportunity to see them, but still, it would have been nicer if the music was special too.

Still, we have a lot to thank The Duhks for. If not for The Duhks, we might never have discovered Joe’s Pub in the first place. If we had never discovered Joe’s Pub, we would definitely never have discovered our favorite band, Girlyman. Girlyman is a band that we’ve never seen alone. In the four times that we’ve seen them so far, we took two people three times, and three people once.

We’re about to see them three times in close proximity. We’re bringing 12 people to one show, 14 to another the next night, and two weeks later four people (all of the above includes us in the count, with no other duplicates among the three shows!). We aren’t worried in the least that anyone we bring to a Girlyman show will be disappointed. We know we won’t be either.

Finally, some positive news from last night. When we go to Joe’s, 70% of the time we take a bus, 30% a cab. Last night, the second we got to the corner, we saw the bus waiting at a red light. We didn’t have to run, but we had to hustle a bit. When we boarded the bus, I noticed that there was a piece of paper sticking out of the slot where I would have inserted my MetroCard. Clearly, the box was broken, and the ride was about to be free, even though the driver never waved anyone on, they all just figured it out.

It’s not the savings of the $4 (though I’m not complaining about that), it’s actually more the fact that I deferred having to buy a new MetroCard by two rides. It also sped the ride up a bit, because no one had to fumble to get the MetroCard into the reader in the correct orientation.

The biggest joy about it was watching everyone’s expression as they realized they didn’t have to pay (I include myself as well!). There was an uncontrollable smile that overtook each and every person’s face. I kid you not. They felt that they were getting away with something. Something that they knew they secretly deserved to get away with.

It’s not possible to describe how different an experience it is to ride on a NYC bus, with 100 other people, and see most of them smiling at least at one point during the ride. I’m not sure it’s ever happened before, and it may never happen again. 🙂

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

Last night we attended our fifth CMA Songwriters Series concert at Joe’s Pub. We’ve enjoyed every single one and last night was no exception.

The format was identical to the past ones (at least for the early show). Five Country songwriters, siting side-by-side on the stage, taking turns doing songs of theirs that have been big hits.

Here’s what the lineup looked like last night:

CMA Lineup

CMA Lineup

I called out the distinction between the early and late shows even though they are normally identical. Last night, Josh Turner (a major Country star) was joining the set for the later show at 9:30pm. We didn’t have the pleasure of seeing him, as we much prefer the early show and he wasn’t announced as an addition to the late show until after we had our tickets.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the performing abilities of some of the writers don’t quite live up to the versions cut by the stars, but we don’t mind a bit. Recently, some of that has changed, as the caliber of the perfomances has gotten a bit better (as I reported last time). Last night continued that trend.

From left-to-right on the stage:

Sam and Annie Tate, an award-winning husband-and-wife team. While they performed separate numbers (accompanying each other on their respective guitars, and singing harmony), they often write together. Together, they won the SESAC Songwriters of the Year award.

Sam Tate Singing

Sam Tate Singing

Annie has a MySpace page. Sam sang quite a number of incredible songs, including Going Through Hell, which also won Song of the Year. That was co-written with Annie, as well as Dave Berg, who blew us away at the last CMA Writers Series show. Annie had a bit of a cold, so she didn’t take every opportunity that was given to her to perform, but when she did, she was incredible, including singing Somebody, made famous by Reba McEntire.

Annie Tate

Annie Tate

All of the shows come with a good deal of humor. Last night was no exception, and Sam was particularly funny in telling stories leading up to each of his numbers. Annie is very quick witted, and interjected wry remarks into stories told by the others throughout the evening. Sam reminded me a bit of Bill Engvall, both physically, and in his sense of humor. 🙂

Sam Tate Storytelling

Sam Tate Storytelling

Bob DiPiero sat in the middle (as always). He’s the leader of this series, and host of each show, in addition to being a regular star performer. He was totally on last night. His selection was the same as it always is, but they are top hits, that the crowd goes nuts singing along with him, so even though he has way more songs he could play, he’d probably be lynched if he dropped any of these favorites. He’s in the CMA Songwriters Hall of Fame!

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Gary Burr was next. This guy has an excellent voice, and was probably the most talented guitarist of the five last night (though all of them could hold their own). In addition to being a great writer (he too is in the CMS Songwriters Hall of Fame!), an excellent singer and an excellent guitar player, Gary is hysterically funny, and extremely quick as well. He and Bob are very good friends, and they rode each other all night long, keeping the audience in stitches!

Gary Burr Singing

Gary Burr Singing

Gary Burr Joketelling

Gary Burr Joketelling

David Lee Murphy was at the rightmost edge of the stage. He too (like Gary) has a superb voice. He also plays the guitar well. He too is quite funny, but significantly lower-key than Gary or Bob. He too is long-time friends with Bob, and they co-write on occasion. He too played hit-after-hit that the crowd sang along with.

David Lee Murphy

David Lee Murphy

All-in-all, another great night enjoying Country Music in NYC (yes, generally thought of as an oxymoron…). We already have tickets to the next two installments of this series! 🙂

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

We’ve been to three previous shows in this series and loved all of them. The first one, was the only show we’ve had to stand the entire time at Joe’s Pub. We were away a few weeks ago and missed one show. Last night was another in the series. We didn’t find out about it until last week, but were lucky enough to get tickets. These shows always sell out.

Here is a shot promoting the sponsors of the series. They deserve the attention!

CMA Sponsors

CMA Sponsors

As I’ve mentioned in the past when reviewing these shows, typically, these aren’t the most polished performances by seasoned performers. It doesn’t matter. There is a raw power to hearing a song (that you know well!) sung by the person that actually wrote it. You often get a completely different image than the one you associate with the star who made it famous. They also tell some great back stories, which are interesting and often hysterical as well.

In the past, there has been an occasional ringer in the bunch. By that I mean someone who does indeed perform a lot, and therefore raises the level of the performance beyond the others. One notable example of that was Ronnie Bowman. He’s been a star in his own right for ages, and deservedly so. As you’ll see below, all four guests (Bob DiPiero is always there) were great performers!

Last night there were five people on stage. The one staple is the host for each of these shows, who is also in the CMA Writers Hall of Fame, Bob DiPiero. He always does a great job as both host, and performer, and last night was no exception. The crowd loves every story he tells and every song he sings.

Here’s a broad shot of the stage:

CMA Lineup

CMA Lineup

He sat in the middle of the stage. The format is the same each time, all of the artists sit on the stage together, but they go one at a time in line singing one of their famous songs. The others join in on occasion but often, the songwriter is doing their song solo (Bob is the most common accompanist).

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

With that, I’ll name last night’s performers as they sat on the stage, left-to-right:

Chris Tompkins had an electric keyboard in front of him. He’s excellent on the keyboards and sings quite nicely. His songs are fantastic. The crowd loved every second of Chris. He’s a Grammy winning songwriter, for the Carrie Underwood hit Before He Cheats.

Last night was Chris’ wife’s birthday, and she’s pregnant as well. I had the privilege of sitting shoulder to shoulder with her, so I got to congratulate her personally, and tell her how awesome her husband is. They were definitely having a blast being in the Big Apple. 🙂

Chris Tompkins

Chris Tompkins

Karyn Rochelle was next, with her acoustic guitar. Karyn only played the guitar on her own songs, but she also sang backup for some of the other artists. She has a stellar voice, and of course, by virtue of being invited to this series, writes great songs as well! She penned Kellie Picklers hit Red High Heels (for example). Bob joked (though it was clear that it wasn’t really a joke!) that Kellie sings it like Karyn, rather than the other way around!

Karyn Rochelle

Karyn Rochelle

On the other side of Bob:

Dave Berg played acoustic guitar. He has an excellent voice, plays the guitar well, and writes fabulous songs. He has a great stage presence as well. He did the first verse of one of his big hits in Bob Dylan’s voice, and it was a hoot!

Dave Berg

Dave Berg

Jedd Hughes (an Aussie!) rounded out the group, playing the acoustic guitar. Of all the performers we’ve seen in the four times we’ve been to this series, Jedd is the best musician. His guitar playing is superb and the others often highlighted him playing lead during their numbers, which was always good for a big ovation from the crowd. He sings well too, and writes beautiful songs.

Jedd Hughes

Jedd Hughes

So, we have loved all four of these. Last night we already purchased tickets for the next one in the series, September 9th. We also bought tickets to one of my favorite groups, The Duhks, for the next night, September 10th. The Duhks are the reason we discovered Joe’s Pub to begin with, so it will be great to see them there again!

Last night was different (and in that sense very special) from the other CMA Writers Series shows. All of the performers were individually polished and collectively much more polished than previous shows. We’re happy even when that isn’t the case, but when the performances also match the quality of the writing, it’s just double goodness! 🙂

Since we purchased our tickets late, we got a little bit of a shock when we were told that no dinner reservations were available. That meant that we’d be standing again, like we did the first time we attended one of these shows. That’s simply not fun for us (even though we did love that show!). Luckily, and thankfully, Lois called two days in a row to check, and indeed one table opened up. It turned out to be our favorite table, so that ended up being a wonderful surprise as well!

My Seared Tuna was perfect, as was my chocolate martini (which I hadn’t had at Joe’s in many months!). Welcome back chocolate martini, I missed you! 😉

Angel Band at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

If you’re one of the few people who reads the comments to these posts, then you probably know how we spent last night. Angel Band performed at Joe’s Pub. It also happened to be the official release party for their brand new CD With Roots & Wings. It’s also available as a download from Amazon.com.

We’ve seen Angel Band twice before, at BB King when they opened for David Bromberg (Nancy Josephson’s husband, and a long-time favorite performer of mine!) and when they opened for David at Paramount Theater in Peekskill, NY. In both shows they were wonderful (as reported here and here) and we bought their one CD, Beautiful Noise, and have listened to it many times since.

Last night it was all about them (though David Bromberg’s band backs them, so he was on the stage the entire time). It was their show, their party. More to say about that after the review of the set itself.

Regular readers know that Joe’s Pub is our favorite place to see live music. Angel Band came out at exactly 7:30pm (the announced show time). The three ladies, Nancy Josephson, Jen Schonwald and Kathleen Weber were joined by David Bromberg (guitars), Bobby Tangrea (mandolin and fiddle), Bob Taylor (bass) and Nate Grower (fiddle). Here they all are on stage:

Angel Band

After getting their positions set on the stage, the ladies erupted with an a cappella rendition of Hey Papa Legba, the first cut from the new CD. The acoustics at Joe’s Pub are among the best, when the person working the sound board knows what they are doing. Last night, the person working the sound board was nearly perfect! (Bromberg’s guitar had terrible feedback for five seconds, and at the end of one song, Nancy’s microphone nearly exploded, otherwise, one of the best blended sounds ever!)

One of the things that distinguishes Angel Band from a number of other vocal groups that we love (Girlyman, The Wailin’ Jennys, The Weepies, etc.) is the raw power that each of Nancy, Jen and Kathleen produce. And yet, even though they are belting it out (with all of the emotion that connotes), their blended sound is perfect and never overwhelms. I can’t explain the acoustics behind that (other than to credit their sound person again!), because it feels like you should be knocked out of your chair by their individual and collective power.

You are, sort of, by the beauty of their sound, not by being overpowered by it.

They performed at least seven of the 13 songs on the new CD (perhaps one or two more). They were all fantastic. On the first CD, few (if any, sorry, I’m not sure) of the numbers were written by Angel Band. I’ve reported in the past that Lois is drawn more to music written by artists that perform their own creations. I never cared, but am more sensitized to it after 26 years with Lois. 😉

The new CD has a number of songs written by Nancy, Bobby Tangrea or the two collaborating together. It still has covers, including Angel of the Morning, which is the one duplicated song from Beautiful Noise, though the version on the previous CD is nearly one minute longer. They performed that last night as well, amazingly, with Nancy holding a note at the end for so long that she received an ovation that lasted through the normal end-of-song ovation. She had a good joke about it too, which I’ll keep secret, so that you have another reason (aside from their singing talent) to see them live.

So now, I have four versions of Angel of the Morning in iTunes. Two by Angel Band, one by Juice Newton, and one by Girlyman on their new Live CD. Guess which one I like best? 😉 Seriously, I love them all, and I’ve been listening to Juice Newton’s version for the longest time (and have never tired of it!), but Girlyman’s is the mellowest, and most soulful rendition of the four.

In an irony (for me, since I was unaware of it), Nancy explained that the author of Angel of the Morning, Chip Taylor, also wrote Wild Thing. The irony is that one of Girlyman’s funniest bits on stage is their rendition of Thing Wild, singing Wild Thing backwards. So, they cover two different Chip Taylor songs, one forwards, and one backwards. 😉

After saying goodnight, they returned to the stage for a one-song encore. It’s one of their signature numbers, One Voice, written by Ruth Moody of The Wailin’ Jennys. I’m nuts about this song, and Angel Band does it wonderfully, each and every time.

They were on stage for exactly one hour (including the encore). I’ll have more to say about that in a minute. When the show was over, we sprinted to the back, where they were selling the new CD. We were first on line, and I also got to finally meet Nancy.

Nancy Josephson

We have traded a few emails since I bought Beautiful Noise directly from her nearly two years ago! It was nice that she remembered my name (not that it’s all that common). 😉 Of course, we got the CD signed by all three of them, thanks Angel Band!

The CD is gorgeous, and I recommend it highly! The cover shot for the CD was taken before last night, because you’d have trouble recognizing both Jen and Kathleen from that photo. Kathleen cut her hair to just below ear length, and Jen chopped it all off in a complete buzz cut. 🙂

Here are close-ups of Jen and Kathleen, so you can see the difference:

Jen SchonwaldKathleen Weber

Here are individual shots of the rest of the band:

David BrombergBobby TangreaBob TaylorNate Grower

Now the back story to last night. Having seen Angel Band twice before, both times opening for David Bromberg, we were used to seeing them for exactly one hour (which for an opening group, is actually on the generous side nowadays!). We were really looking forward to seeing them at Joe’s Pub for two reasons:

  1. It’s our favorite place, regardless of the band
  2. We expected a longer show than usual

Unfortunately, when I saw that the start time was 7:30pm, not the more typical 7pm, I knew the show couldn’t be more than 75 minutes long (with encore), given that there was a 9:30 show as well.

They are also playing tonight, at BB King, a place we also like a lot, opening for David Bromberg. So, we could have had the same length show, and the enjoyment of a full David Bromberg set as well, by going to BB King. Of course, I prefer Joe’s Pub, and an early night, so I had a real dilemma.

I started this post by mentioning that you might have known we were going. That’s because the Angel Band publicist commented on this blog a few weeks back, pointing out the upcoming CD Release and the Joe’s Pub date.

I wrote to him asking about the short show. He contacted a member of the band (my guess is Nancy, but I have no way of knowing), and he replied with the following direct quote:

…we’ll give ’em everything we got and leave ’em lying in the aisles

OK, it was only an hour, but I will heartily admit, she (whichever of the Angels it was), was right. We left thoroughly satisfied with the performance, other than always wanting more from any artist we really like. They really do give every show their all, and the fans completely appreciate it!

Last night was unusual for another reason. The majority of the audience was related to at least one member of the band. The release party was more of a family get-together. It was pretty cool. We walked in right behind a group of them, which included David’s brother Charney. He sat immediately in front of us. Nancy spent an hour before the show making the rounds with various family members. A number of the cousins had never met before, and we were smack in the middle of all of the introductions.

This kind of scene was right up Lois’ alley, and even if the show wasn’t good (which you now know wasn’t the case), she might have called the evening a success just for the people watching. 🙂

So, the concert was a complete success. Unfortunately, the aftermath wasn’t. We intended to head up to the house last night. We boarded a bus heading to the apartment. The air conditioning was blasting (a good thing for Lois). After a stop or two (perhaps the bus driver overheard one woman complain when she got on), he shut off the air conditioning.

Lois doesn’t do well (in general) with motion, in particular fits and starts, and when you add stale warm air to the mix, she gets sick instantly. She also doesn’t recover for long periods of time. By the time we got to the apartment, she was violently ill (nauseous and dizzy). I suggested we spend the night in the city instead of going to the house. She insisted. As silly as that was, I have learned (the hard way) not to argue (at least not too much).

We made great time going home, but it did nothing to help her get better. She’s totally out of it today as well, having recovered not even a bit, no doubt made worse by being in a car immediately after the bus ride. Hopefully, she’ll be back to normal tomorrow! 🙁