Joe’s Pub

Suzy Boggus at Joes Pub

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We have very good friends who we get together with in NYC regularly. Both couples have crazy schedules, so we try really hard to make it work whenever we can. We had suggested Thursday, September 20th for a get-together. They responded that the wife couldn’t make it that week, but the husband could. We agreed, since they were away for all of August in France, and we missed them and wanted to hear about the trip.

Then, 10 days ago, they said that if we could move it to Friday the 21st, they could both make it. Done! But, on the same day that we agreed to do that, I got my normal email newsletter from Joe’s Pub, and much to my surprise, one of our favorite artists, Suzy Boggus, was going to be there on the 21st. We immediately bought 4 tickets online.

We ended up reserving the exact same table that we’ve been at every time we’ve been there with 4 people in total, smack flush up against the stage, right in the middle of the stage. I had the same seat, meal, and drinks, that I had when we saw Girlyman there on August 19th.

Starting with the meal, I had the Seared Tuna. A giant portion, served on top of artichoke hearts, done to perfection (every time). Of course, I had to have a chocolate martini as well, also always prepared correctly at Joe’s Pub.

Suzy and her band came on at 7:35pm. She was great. The one thing that surprised both Lois and I is that she writes most of her own songs, but last night chose to play at least 4 (perhaps 5?) covers. They were good songs, and she did them really well, but still, some of our favorites got left on the floor.

Perhaps our favorite is her song Cinderella from the album Something Up My Sleeve. We spotted their play sheet on the stage floor, and Cinderella was on it, second from last song (more accurately, last song before the encore song). Unfortunately, the show likely ran a few minutes longer than timed, or started a few minutes later, and the only song that got cut from the playlist was Cinderella.

Right before the encore, Lois asked Suzy to play Cinderella. She leaned over to Lois and said: “Maybe I can play it for you privately later on…” Oh well…

Anyway, another lovely evening at Joe’s Pub, and another one of our favorites that we can now check off our list as having seen them perform live. πŸ™‚

I you want to hear some of Suzy’s songs for free, here is her Myspace page. Ironically, at least 3 of the 4 songs currently available there are covers, not her own. She played two of them (maybe even 3?) last night…

Finally, according to the new Terms of Service instituted roughly a month ago by the management of this site, I am required to include an obligatory link to the Girlyman Myspace page whenever a post mentions anything about music. πŸ˜‰

Girlyman

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No, I’m not looking to pick a fight with you. πŸ˜‰

Girlyman is a fantastic acoustic group (well, they do use an electric guitar more as a bass, but essentially, they are acoustic). I had never heard of them. Once we locked in the tickets for Spamalot and decided to do a matinΓ©e, I searched a bit for something fun to do Sunday evening.

Lois and I both really love Joe’s Pub. It’s a really small venue, so every show there is intimate, and they are rarely too loud, which is one small complaint that we have from some other venues. So, one of the first places I checked was their site. Sure enough, they had a show that wasn’t sold out, Girlyman. I probably noticed it in my original scan of things to do for the weekend, but since I didn’t recognize them, and didn’t know whether we’d do Broadway in the evening, I didn’t focus on it.

This time, I went to their website (linked above with their name), and the music instantly started playing (Joyful Sign, the title track of their new CD). I was mesmerized. The other songs on the site are really great too, so you can freely discover this great band for yourself.

Lois and I are nuts about beautiful harmonies. In fact, one of our complaints is that many groups that excel in harmonizing, think it’s more appropriate to be understated in its use, a point with which we vigorously disagree. Little Big Town (blogged about in my Martina McBride update) are one exception, a group that understands the harmonies as one of their big strengths.

So too with Girlyman. The three of them sing so beautifully together, that it would be a shame for them to spend too much time singing solos. They pass the solos around very generously as well (none of them hog the mike), but they spend more time singing harmony than solo (both two at a time, and mostly three at a time). Wow.

Knowing absolutely zero about them before the show, it was reasonably obvious to us that they were gay when they came on the stage. At least two of them were obvious, but I’m betting all three are gay. They didn’t abuse that fact and turn the show into a political opportunity, but they sprinkled their show with enough humorous comments as to be proud of who they are, without offending anyone who would rather not know (at least, they didn’t offend any of us in any way).

One subtle example: when they introduced the song Through the Sunrise (also highlighted on their myspace site), they first said it was Bluegrass. Then they corrected themselves and said: “Or in our case, we like to call it Pinkgrass.” After people chuckled a bit, they went on to play the song, and the entire audience (us included) clapped the beat for them the entire song. Tons of fun!

They used to live in NY (Brooklyn to be specific) for a number of years. At least two of them moved to Atlanta recently. They joked that it was ironic that they were playing more often in NYC now that they lived in Atlanta. Someone from the audience yelled out “Move back here!”. To which they quickly (and wittily) replied: “Why, you want us to play here less often?” πŸ™‚

We bought two of their three CD’s after the show, and our godson got them to autograph the latest one, which is cool. We look forward to seeing them again, as soon as they’re back in NY!

Rediscovering Live Music

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Sorry folks, this is likely gonna be another long one. It’s 5:30pm on a Sunday, and I’m relaxing in the hotel down near Zope, and this is what I feel like doing at the moment…

From my mid-teens until my early twenties, I was a fanatic for going to live concerts. I went to a variety of shows, but by far it was mostly rock or folk. Among my favorites back then were Dylan, David Bromberg, The Greatful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Santana, etc.

The greatest concert I ever attended was a 12 hour affair. My friends and I drove from NYC to Washington, D.C. for a concert at RFK Stadium. I was 16, and only had a learner’s permit (this will become important later in the story). πŸ˜‰ At noon, the warm-up group came on, The New Riders of the Purple Sage. They played for 2 hours, and were excellent. At 2pm, The Greatful Dead came on, and played for 5 hours. At 7pm, The Allman Brothers Band came on, and played for another 5 hours.

Both the Dead and the Allman Brothers were awesome. Hard to pick between them that day, but perhaps (just perhaps), the Brothers outdid them a bit. Of course, since they got to go last, it could simply have been that their stuff was still ringing in our ears all the way home. πŸ™‚

Anyway, when we left (hitting the parking lot at 12:30am), the driver (the only female in our group) was too tired to drive at all. So were the other two. I felt fine, but wasn’t legally allowed to drive at night, without an adult, and oh yeah, I had never driven on a highway either! πŸ˜‰

Suffice it to say, it was quite an experience for me, and a drive that normally takes 4+ hours took a little more than 3.

I can still remember my last live concert (of that era) like it was yesterday. I got two tickets to see David Bromberg at Town Hall. First row in the Balcony. I was incredibly excited. I had seen Bromberg live 5 times before, and each one was better than the one before. He’s a magical live performer who really connects with the audience.

Much to my surprise (and chagrin), the audience was mostly teeny boppers. I was all of (perhaps) 23, so I was truly mature… It seemed to me that I was the only person in the audience who had ever heard of Bromberg, and came to actually see him specifically. The rest seemed to be out for the evening, hanging with their friends. They never stopped talking (loudly) even for a second. At least twice, Bromberg stopped playing in the middle of a song (I had never seen something like that ever before) and practically begged the audience to be quiet. They didn’t comply… πŸ™

I decided that night to stop going to see live music…

That pretty much held true until nearly 15 years later. The Greatful Dead were playing Madison Square Garden, and I was able to get two tickets in the fifth row center as part of a charity thing. I wanted to do it both because I was crazy about the Dead, and because I wanted to share this kind of experience with Lois, who had never seen a band like the Dead play live.

We were grossly disappointed. Everyone stood the entire evening, and Lois could barely see the stage even standing on her seat (and we were 5 rows back!). The selection of music was a little strange as well, and they played the shortest concert I’ve ever seen them do, in the 5 times I’ve seen them live. Oh well, my admonition not to go to live concerts seemed safely back on…

I think the only exception to that rule was an evening at a Jazz Club in NYC (Birdland) to see Stanley Jordan. If you don’t know him, he plays an amazing style of guitar whereby he taps on the strings on the frets, rather than ever picking or strumming. He creates quite unique sounds, and is a fantastic performer. I enjoyed the evening. That night was more about an evening out with friends, including dinner, rather than the concert being a real destination.

Then it all changed (albeit a little more slowly to begin with) πŸ˜‰

On January 17th, 2003, our godson (who was a junior at Duke at the time) came for a long weekend with some of his friends from school. Lois is a master planner and goes out of her way to try and pack as many interesting things to do whenever people come to visit. Our godson played the trumpet in the Duke marching band so Lois looked around to see if any famous trumpet players were in town. Indeed, Arturo Sandoval was playing at the Blue Note.

I think there were 7 of us there for the show, and we had dinner beforehand, and totally enjoyed the show. As much as I love jazz (and I really do!), Arturo’s style isn’t necessarily my favorite, but seeing him perform live was still a wonderful experience. In December 2003, our godson returned with a nearly identical set of friends for an encore (I think there was one swap in the group). We went back to the Blue Note, and saw Jane Monheit. Wow, can this lady sing. I got in trouble on this trip because we got to the club a little later than usual, and had the worst seats in the house (which aren’t that bad!), but Lois still hasn’t forgiven me, over three years later…

From that point on, we went occasionally to the Blue Note, either by ourselves, or when someone was visiting from out of town, and once even went with local friends (if you can believe that). πŸ™‚ Among the people we saw there (I can’t remember them all) were Bob James (writer of the theme song from the TV show Taxi), Maynard Ferguson (twice, unfortunately now deceased), Acoustic Alchemy (probably my favorite jazz group!), Chuck Mangione (was my favorite for a long time, and is still amazing live) and probably another one or two.

This was over a period of three years, which is why I said above that it built slowly at first. Last September, it hit a fevered pitch, as we broadened our venues beyond the Blue Note. I started actively searching for tour dates for some of my favorite groups, and immediately found out that David Bromberg was playing at BB King Blues Club. We had never been there. The show was awesome, and included an hour of a group called Angel Band (which is three women who sing harmonies like angels, including David’s wife Nancy Josephson).

Since then, we’ve been to BB King’s many times. We’ve seen a wide variety of shows there, including the following groups: Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (who tour and record together now, which we didn’t know in advance. They were awesome.), Shawn Colvin, Paul Thorn (he opened for Ricky and Bruce, and was a delightful surprise), Quicksilver Messenger Service (they were boring), Jefferson Starship (used to be a favorite, but they’re over the hill, were awful, and we left early!), The Commitments (from the movie of the same name), Yama Bandit (unannounced opening group for The Commitments), Sunday Gospel Brunch (tons of fun!), perhaps one or two others…

We also discovered a fantastic small club in NYC called Joe’s Pub. The first group we saw there is one of my recent favorites, The Duhks. Then we saw Master McCarthy and Fools for April with our godchildren. Finally, we saw David Bromberg solo there. A great treat!

We saw Dave Koz at the Beacon Theater on Valentine’s Day. It was an amazing show, even though the acoustics were horrible! He had two special guests that played most of the evening with him and his band. David Benoit and Jonathan Butler. David Benoit is one of the great jazz pianists. Lois is now one of his biggest fans. I had never heard of Jonathan Butler before. He’s a South African singer and guitarist. He blew me away. Anita Baker was supposed to be a special guest, but she got snowed in and couldn’t make it. Koz got his buddy Be Be Winans to step in at the last minute. Be Be sings “The Dance” on the Koz album of the same name, and is one of our favorites. It was a special treat to see him sing that song live!

Last week we saw Chris Thile and his new band The Tensions Mountain Boys at Zankel Hall, which is part of Carnegie Hall. Chris is considered by some to be the world’s greatest mandolin player. We used to think his last name was pronounced “teal”, but it turns out it’s “theely”, who knew. After recording a few albums on his own, he was the lead person in Nickel Creek (one of my favorite groups), before forming this group. Zankel Hall is under ground at Carnegie Hall, and perhaps the best acoustical venue we’ve ever been in.

That pretty much catches you up on what we’ve done. We have two more shows coming up in the next month. On April 3rd, we were supposed to see The Allman Brothers Band together at the Beacon Theater. Two weeks ago, we were having dinner with two of our favorite people, and we realized that the guy was a big Allman Brothers fan. Lois isn’t (simply because she hasn’t listened to them much, not because she actively dislikes them), and we offered up her ticket to him. Instead, Lois and his wife are now scheduled to see Abigal Washburn and Bethany Yarrow + Rufus Cappadocia at Joe’s Pub. We found out about Abigail Washburn when we were seeing Yama Bandit at BB King, and the person next to us (who was friends with the Yama Bandit band) told us how great Abigail is.

Finally, friends of ours who got dizzy when we recounted the above to them over sushi, surprised us a few weeks back and told us that they bought four tickets to see Harry Connick Jr. at Radio City Music Hall on April 21st (inspired by us). We’re looking forward to that show as well. πŸ™‚

Whew! Done at 8:10pm…