John Schmitt

The Foggy Dudes at Red Lion

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The Foggy Dudes closed out the St. Patty’s weekend at Red Lion with three consecutive sets of traditional Irish music. Not fiddle/pipes stuff, rather, hardy sea shanty tunes.

TheFoggyDudes

Most of the numbers are very upbeat, often with hysterical lyrics (those seamen needed something to keep them awake). A few are more traditional protest songs, both slow (soulful) and upbeat.

We love Irish music (though in general, most of what we listen to is more Celtic, with lots of fiddle and flute parts), so we were happy to come out for this.

John Schmitt is the primary lead singer for the Dudes. We’re big fans of John’s own music, so when he announced this event we put it on the calendar. In addition to singing, John played the acoustic guitar (mostly) and switched to the banjitar (6-string banjo) on a few numbers.

JohnSchmittBanjitar

John and I traded a number of tweets about the show, because I had another one on the calendar for 10pm that night. When I told him I had to leave after the second set he tweeted the following:

John Schmitt ? @johnschmitt

@hadarvc great so we will play the most fun songs up front 😉

Ha! I’ll never know, though there were a ton of “fun songs” while we were there.

In addition to all of the Dudes playing instruments all four of them sing, often in 4-part harmony. Each sang lead on at least one song as well.

John posted before the show that he thought he had just enough voice left for this last show. The Dudes have been all over NYS performing during the big weekend. His voice did hold up (wonderfully), but there was one change that disappointed me mightily. On the second song, John asked the band to play one fret down because of the wear and tear on his voice. Man, I was really looking forward to hearing that song one fret up! Winking smile

JohnSchmittSinging

The rest of the Dudes, left-to-right on stage:

Carl Gallagher on banjo, electric guitar and vocals. No good individual link, so here’s his Tumblr page. In addition to playing the banjo on most numbers, Carl played lead electric guitar on two numbers (turning them into a bit more rock than traditional Irish, but I’m not complaining). Carl sang a lot and generally provided a bunch of merriment.

CarlGallagherBanjoCarlGallagherElectricGuitar

At one point John noted that Carl said he would keep the drinking to only one. Carl shot back instantly: “I only bought one tonight!”. I can’t attest to how many Carl bought, but I can attest that various people in the bar did indeed buy the band multiple drinks, but Carl more than the rest. Poor guy couldn’t insult his fans, right? Winking smile

Brandon Warren on electric bass, harmonica and vocals (sorry, I couldn’t find a good individual link). Brandon has the deepest voice of the bunch. In addition to adding color/flavor to the 4-part harmonies, he had a lot of one-line zingers throughout the sets, delivered in that booming bass voice. Very nicely done!

BrandonWarrenBass

Brandon is likely a professional harmonica player. Not only did he have a slew of them (defined at six or more that were visible), but they had their own very fancy carrying case.

BrandonWarrenHarmonica

The strange thing was that he looked like he could be Matt Simons older brother. It was strange because Matt happened to be in the audience, so I was compelled to keep looking back-and-forth to reverify my feeling. Yup, could be brothers. Smile

Scott Tofte on drums (modified kit) and vocals. Scott sat on a cajon which he used purely as a kick drum. This was the first time I’ve seen someone use an actual pedal, with a soft-mallet-head, to hit the cajon. Most other times, when using the cajon to deliver a kick drum sound, the heel of the shoe is used to strike the cajon directly. The pedal worked perfectly.

ScottTodteTinyDrumKit

Scott also had a baby snare drum (which he was masterful on) and two cymbals (one full size, one baby size). He also had a tambourine under his left foot. He played the tambourine only (in his hands) on one song where Carl sang lead. I really want to see Scott on a full drum kit, because he was great even with the incredible constraints of such a tiny kit.

ScottTodteBabySnare

This was only the second time I’ve seen Scott (Carl and Brandon were new to me last night). I saw Scott eleven days earlier, supporting John Schmitt during a show at Rockwood Music Hall. That night Scott wore a knit cap. I admit to having no idea that I was watching the same Scott until we walked out. Our friend Rachel said she was pretty sure it was the same guy. Color me surprised, oops.

The Dudes had their new, self-titled CD (seven songs) available for sale. We bought it and I’ve listened to it twice this morning and I really like it a lot! As we walked out last night, I teased John that he hadn’t played The Parting Glass. He told me it was going to be the last song of the last set. It turns out it’s the last song on the CD, so I got to listen to him singing it twice this morning despite his best efforts to keep that song from me! It’s the only song on the CD that John sings/plays solo.

TheFoggyDudesCD

You can stream the entire CD at their Bandcamp page and buy it for download there as well.

Sorry we missed the last set, but glad we caught the first two! A bunch of familiar faces in the audience, and we even got to introduce ourselves to Evan Watson finally, after enjoying his music a number of times at Rockwood. Woot!

Here’s the set list, and I see something suspiciously missing from it. The last song listed is not The Parting Glass. In fact, it’s not on the list at all. Perhaps John just wanted to make me feel guilty for leaving early. Winking smile

 

SetList

John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall

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John Schmitt headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. We used to see John frequently. I knew it’s been a while (with a couple of near misses recently), but I was actually shocked when I looked it up and saw that it was seven months ago. That’s just crazy talk. Glad to have corrected that.

Let’s the get the important stuff out of the way first. Either someone stole John Schmitt’s beard, and a sizable portion of his girth, or we actually saw an impersonator last night (a pretty darn good one if so). Now we can get on with more mundane things, like the music…

JohnSchmitt

Since it’s been so long, let’s recap the three things that the real John Schmitt has in spades:

  • Great voice
  • Fantastic songwriter
  • Excellent guitar player

(that’s how I was able to judge the potential impersonator, since he possessed two of those qualities. Clearly, if he was stealing John’s songs, I don’t know if he himself is a good songwriter.) Winking smile

There were a number of firsts (for us) in last night’s set:

John introduced his brand new banjitar (that’s a six-string banjo, tuned like a guitar, that sounds like a banjo). It’s a great idea. Lots of excellent guitar players don’t have the time or inclination to study the banjo, but have a few songs that might benefit from that sound. That’s exactly what John did, to perfection.

John birthed two songs publicly (first live performance). Both songs were great. We look forward to hearing them more often and embedding them in our brains like we have the rest of his set list.

John played a solo cover of Cat Stevens’ How Can I Tell You. Wow! He was choked up introducing the song, because he’s currently in a long-distance relationship and singing this song is all too close to home.

John had a full band plus one guest. I knew it would be a full band show, but I admit to being surprised to see two of the members, as in super-delighted-happy surprised. Left-to-right on stage, followed by the guest:

Matt Simons on grand piano, electronic keyboards, and harmony. Surprise #1. We love Matt and we’ll be back at Rockwood on March 31st to see him perform his own stuff, but I didn’t know he’d be supporting John. In addition to being wonderful on the keys (as always), Matt sang a bunch of harmony with John, in particular on Going Back, since Lissa Farquhar (John’s regular singing partner) was very ill and couldn’t make it.

MattSimons

Quick commercial break (someone has to pay the bills here!). Winking smile

Matt just finished recording a new CD in Nashville. He told me last night that it won’t be available until June. But, in the meantime, he’s sharing bits of it with the world. On his Birthday, he tweeted the following:

Matt Simons ? @matt_simons

As promised, here’s some reverse birthday love! It’s link to download a free song from my new album! Hope you enjoy it!noisetrade.com/mattsimons

If I heard him correctly, next week he’ll be doing the same thing with a second song. I’ve already seen a few musicians tweet that they’ve heard the new CD and are in love with it. I can’t confirm or deny whether I’ve had a sneak peek at it, but if I did, I’m sure it’s fantastic. If I didn’t, then I completely trust the folks that said the same thing. Smile

MattSimonsJohnSchmitt

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Brian was surprise #2, also an awesome one. Even though Brian (one of our favorite bassists) played with John the last time we saw him, that too was a fill in job for John’s regular bass player, Pasquale Chieffalo. Brian was great at that last show, but he was even better last night. Buttery smooth and constantly laying down sophisticated bass lines throughout.

BrianKilleen

Mike Sutton on drums (still can’t find a good individual link). Mike is John’s regular drummer and he’s done a great job at every show that we’ve seen him play. Clearly, he knows John’s music cold and it shows.

MikeSutton

Scott Tofte came up to sing harmony and shake some shakers on two numbers. Beautiful job. He had to consult the lyrics on his iPhone, because he joined John for one of the brand new songs.

ScottTofteScottTofteShakersJohnSmittBanjitar

Here’s the set list:

SetList

I couldn’t stop laughing throughout 7 Drunken Nights.

Lots of familiar faces in the audience, which Lois couldn’t help but document for our memories (and now yours). Smile

JohnSchmittChadVaccarinoLinaIanAxelLeivParton

John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last Friday, John Schmitt had a Birthday show at The Living Room. At that show he announced that his first show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 would be the following Thursday (last night). Of course, it immediately went on our calendar. Last night’s show was just as much fun as the Birthday one, with different guests (and one change in the band as well).

Since I’ve written about John many times, I’ll spare the regulars the intro, but I encourage all others to read the write-up on the Birthday show (linked above) and then continue here.

JohnScmitt

In addition to playing a bunch of his beloved songs, John broke out a brand new one. The song was written for a documentary called The Green Horns. It was the fourth song in a row he sang with one of his guests.

Lissa Farquhar has been a regular singing partner with John for months now, but she was unable to attend the Birthday show. I really like Lissa’s voice, but I do have a complaint/suggestion.

LissaFarquhar

On the harmonies, Lissa put a reasonable amount of power to match John’s volume and the two of them sounded wonderful together. Last night, her leads were way more delicate. I couldn’t tell why she was holding back. At first I thought it was a stylistic choice. Then I thought she might have a cold. Then I thought perhaps she was being deferential to John. Either way, I preferred her pumping it up the way she did the first time we saw her.

Before singing the Green Horns song (Rise Today), they sang Ave Regina and Going Back (Lissa also sang on Ophelia, but there’s simply not enough harmony arranged on that song). Two fabulous songs that are greatly enhanced by the harmonies. On Friday, John sang Ave Regina solo. It was beautiful, no doubt, but I’ll take the duet if I have a choice, thank you very much. Smile

JohnScmittLissaFarquhar

Alec Gross was the other special guest. He played harmonica on two songs, extremely well. On Ave Regina, it was the only instrument besides John’s acoustic guitar (the band took only that one song off). He wailed on Day in the Life right before that.

AlecGross

Alec just had a CD release party on Saturday night (there is some video up on his YouTube channel).

The band, left-to-right on stage:

Eddie Wiernik on grand piano and electronic keyboards. Eddie was a fill-in on Friday. By my count, that makes two rehearsals and two shows now. I had only high praise for Eddie on Friday night. That said, it was crystal clear, seconds into the first song of the night, that Eddie was way more comfortable with the music and the band.

EddieWiernik

He opened up his play more and John highlighted him even more (he took a number of very tasty solos, both on the piano and the more organ-sounding electronic keyboards). It will interesting to see what John does if/when Greg Barbone becomes available again. Both Eddie and Greg are great, so John can’t lose, unless they both get mad at him. Winking smile

Mike Sutton on drums. I mentioned on Friday that my respect for Mike grew that night. Let’s call it a trend, since I was even more impressed last night. His play on Musical and Valerie (in particular) was great. Don’t slight the subtler play on numbers like Ophelia, where the drums are vital in creating the correct mood.

MikeSutton

Brian Killeen on electric bass. We love Brian and see him often. He was filling in for John’s regular bass player, Pasquale Chieffalo. Both are good fits for John’s music, so I didn’t feel a drop-off in having Brian sit in. At the end of Musical, they did a jazz jam, with Eddie leading on keys, but Brian was tearing it up on the bass and Mike was keeping up on the drums. It was a thing of beauty.

BrianKilleen

Here’s the complete set list:

SetList

Right before the show we met John’s girlfriend, Lucy. In addition to being nice and smart, independent of her real career, she’s also a talented designer. She created John’s business card:

JohnSchmittBusinessCardFrontJohnSchmittBusinessCardBack

We sat with her during the show and look forward to spending time with her (John can tag along if he wants) in the future. Smile

LucyJohnSchmitt

John Schmitt Birthday Show at The Living Room

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I seem to be saying this a lot lately: Musicians tend to play on or near their birthday, throwing a party for their fans, even though it’s work for them. That trend continued last night.

John Schmitt celebrated his birthday (and noted that two members of his band/guests had birthdays one day on either side of the show) by playing at The Living Room. He had a full band and some special guests.

JohnSchmitt

We don’t need an excuse (like a mere birthday) to come see John Schmitt. If we can make it, we’ll be there. In fact, during the show, he announced that he’s playing Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, this coming Thursday, at 7pm (also a full-band show). It’s his first time at Rockwood 2, and we’re already committed to being there (you should come too!).

Let’s review why we go see John as often as we can:

  • fantastic voice
  • excellent guitar player
  • terrific band (though he’s superb solo)
  • wonderful songwriter
  • as nice a human being as you could want to meet!

All of the above were there in spades last night.

One of the major differences was no paper set list. John splurged on a new iPad. He had it sitting on a music stand. Since we couldn’t walk away with a set list (I was a little offended that John wouldn’t hand over his iPad for us to take home!), Winking smile we insisted on taking a picture of the iPad with the set list open:

iPadSetList

That’s not the complete list, it’s the songs the band played on. John played at least two songs solo, mid-set, one of them being Ave Regina (more on that later). The other was about his grandfather, called Me and the Chief.

Since all of the song titles above are abbreviated (except the last one), you’ll have to work a bit (or already be a John Schmitt fan!) to figure out the full titles.

I’ll spare you the trouble on the second to last one, listed as Val. That’s actually a song called Valerie. Amy Winehouse covered that song, apparently one of her more famous covers. John wanted to play it as a tribute to Amy, trying to be true to her version.

Let’s mention the band first, then the special guests. Left-to-right on the stage:

Mike Sutton on drums. Here’s what I wrote the only other time I’ve seen Mike play:

Mike Sutton on drums (sorry, couldn’t find a good individual link to Mike). Recall what I said above, that I was expecting Stephen Chopek on drums. I was impressed with Mike’s play, but I need to hear more to form a better opinion.

OK, now that I’ve seen him twice, I can safely say he’s a very good drummer. Toward the end of the set John highlighted him a bit, calling: “Mike, take them to Church!”. Winking smile

MikeSutton

Pasquale Chieffalo on electric bass. Excellent all around bass play (both times that we’ve seen him).

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John’s regular keyboard player is Greg Barbone. I really like him. He was out-of-town, and recommended a friend of his who recently moved here from LA (or was just visiting, if I misunderstood).

Eddie Wiernik on grand piano. He was superb throughout the set (I bet he had very little rehearsal time, he’s clearly a pro!). John highlighted him a number of times (showing a lot of faith in the new guy). Even when he wasn’t highlighted, he was solidly supporting and enhancing the sound.

EddieWiernik

John sings a few of his songs with fabulous harmonies, often supplied by a number of female vocalists. Last night he brought up someone who was new to us.

Jessica Norland is a singer, actress and dancer (Lois got her business card after the performance, that’s how I know about her other talents). She has an excellent voice and equally impressive stage presence. She sang harmony and lead on Two Souls. We’re both looking forward to seeing/hearing Jessica again.

JessicaNorlandJessicaNorlandJohnSchmitt

Barnaby Bright is an incredible group (duo), comprised of a married couple. We’ve seen them once before, at Jammin’ Java, in a show that also featured John Schmitt, headlined by Chris Ayer. I have been kicking myself ever since that our schedule has collided with the many times that Barnaby Bright have performed.

Becky Bliss (1/2 of Barnaby Bright) came up to sing Going Back. She sang lead on one verse and harmony throughout. I already told you how badly I want to see Barnaby Bright again, so I shouldn’t have to tell you how good Becky sounded, but I will. She was great. Smile

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Speaking of Going Back, John is raising money to professionally record that song. He needs your help. If you’re already a fan, donating $5 will get you a digital copy of the new song when it’s released. But, if you don’t own John’s CD, Ophelia, you should consider donating $15, which will get you downloads of that CD plus the new song when it’s recorded. Just do it!

Nathan Bliss (the other 1/2 of Barnaby Bright) joined on that song as well. He played the banjo and was given a couple of leads. Nathan is an outstanding musician (with an excellent voice, that he didn’t use last night), but I admit that the banjo (an instrument I love) felt out of place on that song. I’m publicly voting that John not employ it on his recording of Going Back.

NathanBlissBanjo

Later, John invited Nathan back on stage to play the saxophone (I believe on the final number, Musical). Nathan blew everyone away. I told you he’s an outstanding musician. He played sax with John at Jammin’ Java, but it was only the two of them on stage. He was great then, but with the full band behind him he could really open it up (without overwhelming John alone). I loved catching the looks on the faces of those around me. Priceless!

NathanBlissSaxophone

An incredible set, thanks John.

MikeSuttonPasqualeChieffaloEddieWiernikJohnSchmitt

Above, I mentioned that I would have more to say about Ave Regina. At Jammin’ Java, Becky joined John to sing harmony on that song. It was extraordinary. I fell in love with the song on the spot (and I love it even when John sings it solo, like he did last night). But, since Becky was obviously there, I couldn’t help asking John why she didn’t sing it with him.

He said that they didn’t have time to rehearse it (it’s been a while since the Jammin’ Java show). Man, I can’t believe that these artists are such perfectionists and feel the need to rehearse before playing for us. Winking smile Oh well, next time! Smile

If you already forgot my calls-to-action above, you have two tasks:

  1. Donate to John’s Going Back project
  2. Come see John perform this Thursday (8/4/2011) at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, 7pm

Now go enjoy the rest of your day. If you want to enjoy it even more, come join us tonight at 7pm at The Bitter End, to see the wonderful Jesse Terry, supported by the extraordinary Greg Mayo.

Brian Killeen Birthday Bash at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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What do you do after driving 5.5 hours to return home from a 10-day business trip? If you’re most people, you catch up with what happened while you were on the road, then collapse for an evening of relaxation. If you’re crazy kids like us, you do that, add a catnap and after relaxing, head out to an 11pm show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

What could get us out at that hour on such a day? A number of the musicians in NYC celebrate their birthdays with shows. Last night was Brian Killeen’s turn. Considering that he’s a sought-after bass player who plays with a number of bands, there were quite a number of musicians that wanted to play with him. When I saw the tweet-stream of names that would be appearing, it was a combination of my local all-star list, coupled with a few new people I’ve been wanting to check out for a while. Perfect!

Apologies for the quality of a number of photos (and the lack of some others completely). The lighting was all over the map and many shots just came out poorly. Sad smile

Brian played on every song and sang harmony on a bunch. In a new twist (for me), Brian played the lead guitar on one song (later in the set) and did a very nice job! He also sang lead on that number (co-lead actually), which has become less of a novelty more recently.

BrianKilleen

Greg Mayo was on stage for all but two songs, earning him a close second in the Iron Man competition with Brian. Greg opened the show on the keyboards (grand piano and electronic). He switched to the electric guitar on the next song. On both he sang lead (very strongly), getting the large crowd completely riled up on Born on the Bayou (complete set list posted at the bottom). On the one song that Brian played lead guitar (Greg’s), Greg played Brian’s electric bass (it only seemed fitting).

GregMayoPiano

John Schmitt took center stage with his acoustic guitar. His voice was incredible (it always is) in belting out his two numbers. I’m always impressed when someone can handle solo singer/songwriter mellow (John is masterful) and can just as easily stand up to a full rock band and sound as good.

Late in the set John ended up sitting at our table. A few of the people behind me gushed uncontrollably “You are awesome!”. They are/were correct, he is/was. I told them that he has his own Birthday set next Friday (7/29) at 10pm at The Living Room. Come test the veracity of my statement and celebrate with John.

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Dorie Colangelo sang and played John Schmitt’s acoustic guitar. I’ve never seen Dorie before, but Lois caught the last song of her set seven months ago. Here’s what I wrote in the post about that night:

We got there 10 minutes before Alex’s set. I stood outside (brrr) and caught up on some comms on my Droid. Lois went in and heard the last song of the set before Alex, Dorie Colangelo. Lois was extremely impressed by Dorie.

When I walked in, she was telling Dorie how wonderful her voice was. She asked if Dorie had any CDs/EPs and Dorie handed her one (she didn’t want money for it). Lois insisted. She asked me for money. Since I wasn’t privy to the conversation, I handed her a $5, thinking it was the standard fee for most EPs. When I loaded it up this morning, I saw that it was an 11-song CD. I’ll slip Dorie some more money the next time we see her. Given Lois’ reaction, I’m sure there will be a next time. Smile

Oops! I wish I had re-read that post before last night. Of course, I forgot that I wanted to give Dorie some extra money. Next time (and this time I mean it).

DorieColangelo

As for last night, Dorie’s voice was wonderful. Her guitar-playing was fine. Unfortunately, the songs were way slower than the rest of the set and the shift didn’t feel natural to me. Ironically, I did like her really slow (earthy/sexy) version of I’m So Excited. Still, it seemed to break a mood (just a bit). I’m still as interested in catching Dorie doing her own stuff as I was before last night (perhaps more).

Since she was playing John’s guitar, the strap was way too loose for her comfort. Between her two songs, John came to the stage to adjust the strap, which worked out much better for Dorie during I’m So Excited.

Patrick Firth left his normal spot at the grand piano (he played a ton of electronic keyboards as well) and took center stage with his acoustic guitar. He sang the first original of the night, a song off his upcoming album called Boomerang (that’s the song title, I don’t know what the CD will be called).

Update: Read the comment below from Brian Killeen himself. I got it totally wrong! Every performer did an original. You can see my response about Greg’s opening number below Brian’s comment. Thanks again Brian, I like to be accurate when possible. 🙂

PatrickFirthGuitar

Martin Rivas came on stage to support Patrick Firth the song before and stayed to perform a couple as well. He kicked it off with his own North. Not only was it superbly delivered, but I felt like it was my birthday as well. After Greg Mayo took a short but very sweet guitar solo, Martin turned to him and motioned that he should continue. He took a much longer, killer solo. Thanks Martin for making Greg give me an early birthday present too. Smile

MartinRivasGregMayoGuitar

Wes Hutchinson was up next, singing and playing acoustic guitar. While he was standing off stage, I mentioned to Lois that he looked so familiar that I was sure we’ve seen him before, but the name was escaping me. Ha! When he got on stage he mentioned that he had just chopped off his hair. That’s it! I’ve seen him twice recently, both times in support of Chelsea Lee, and both times I was extremely impressed with Wes.

WesHutchinson

Last night Wes was excellent again, this time singing lead (our first time experiencing that). There will be more Wes in our lives, I’m sure (as there was a bit later in the show as well).

Emily Zuzik sang and played electric guitar. Emily was high on my list of people to see. I nearly got to see her a couple of Friday’s ago. I already know I can’t make her next two NYC shows, so this was such a big bonus that she was part of this celebration. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since Brian Killeen is part of her band. The other members of her band were all part of this show (independent of Emily), so it was preordained that she be there too.

EmilyZuzik

She opened with Want to Go Out Tonight, the first cut on her new CD, The Wild Joys of Living. Wonderful delivery of a fun, upbeat song. Emily has a great voice. Wes Hutchinson moved over to electric guitar (he too borrowed Mayo’s, making Emily’s two songs the only ones that Greg wasn’t on stage).

EmilyZuzikBrianKilleenWesHutchinson

For her second number, Emily performed a gutty version of Psycho Killer. Her voice was completely different, showing that she controls it, rather than the other way around. A total blast.

After the show, I introduced myself to Emily. She told me that she couldn’t hear herself sing. I assured her that it sounded awesome in the audience and I assure those of you who weren’t there as well. Smile

When you see the set list below, you’ll see that the next performer is listed as Me! If you’re not paying attention, the Me! is Brian Killeen. He actually wasn’t formally introduced as being the next lead performer. Instead, Josh Dion was brought up and began the song as if he were leading it.

This is the song that I previously noted Brian took over lead guitar duties on as well as singing lead. Josh did a bunch of lead singing on the song as well, so it was really co-leads. Brian did a terrific job.

BrianKilleenSingingElectricGuitar

Josh killed it on both of his numbers. The second was an original called Feel. I might be one of the few people in the audience who hadn’t heard it before. Even though Josh plays a lot, it’s interesting to me that he’s also a legend in this community for his previous band, The Josh Dion Band. I know a number of musicians who I respect who speak about Josh Dion Band shows in awe, claiming that to this day, they are still the best live shows they’ve seen.

JoshDion

Here’s a YouTube video of Josh performing Feel in 2007. He looks nothing like that now, but he sounds just as good, singing and playing the drums (and he’s excellent on the keyboards as well). Brian Killeen is in the video, as is Patrick Firth on the keyboards, so you’re getting some of the experience I had last night.

Josh Dion performing Feel

Robbie Gil was up to close the show. He sang two numbers, playing acoustic guitar on the first and just singing on the second. Saying just singing with regard to Robbie is probably a crime in 37 states. The man has a passion that will pull you onto to the stage with him and he certainly left us energized, even though it was after 1am.

RobbieGil

Don’t believe everything you read. The set list shows Robbie’s second song as Baba O’Riley. It was The Who’s Teenage Wasteland. Awesome! Smile Patrick Firth on the keys was spectacular as was Zach Jones on the drums (I introduce Zach below!). Robbie also wailed on the harmonica during this song.

PatrickFirthPiano

The Set List:

SetList

As I got up to leave, Martin Rivas returned to the stage and said that we couldn’t let it end this way. While we had sung a wishy washy Happy Birthday to Brian mid-set (I think when Wes was up), Martin wanted a more proper version. He, Robbie, Greg Mayo, Patrick Firth and Zach Jones sang an awesome rendition of Happy Birthday by The Beatles. Martin was right, a much more fitting way to end the night!

Don’t run away just yet. There were a few more core band members that deserve mentions, including two people we’d never seen before.

Ryan Vaughn performed much of the drumming for the night. He was superb throughout.

RyanVaughnSettingUp

Andy Stack played electric guitar during the first two songs (Greg Mayo’s numbers). He was really good. He was the primary lead guitarist on the first number when Greg was on keyboards. But in Born on the Bayou, he traded leads with Greg in classic Rock fashion (wonderfully) and they teamed up for simultaneous leads after the duel. I did mention up above that Greg got the crowd completely riled up during this song. Andy was part of the reason. Andy also sang harmony on both numbers.

AndyStackB

Zach Jones played drums for Greg Mayo, Robbie Gil, and I think one other, making it seven songs in total. He also played some percussion on another song. He sang into the mic on both of Greg’s songs, and mouthed a lot of the other lyrics. I was very impressed with his drumming. I’ll be seeing him again next week and I’m already looking forward to that show (for many other reasons as well).

ZachJones

The link from his name above is to a group he is in with Emily Long called The Stone Lonesome. They have an album out that Zach sings a bunch on as well and I am really impressed with his voice (listen to the second song, Bridge to Nowhere). I’m sure we’ll be hearing about him a lot and hopefully seeing him a lot as well.

We went to bed at 2am, certainly not something we want to get used to, but it was worth it (at least last night it was!). Smile

Backscratch XIV at Rockwood Music Hall

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We’ve only been to one Backscratch before, but we’ll do our best to never miss one going forward. Last night was #14, but I decided to show off my mad Roman Numeral skills in the title. Winking smile This one was back at Rockwood Music Hall (not the original venue). I covered the last one and explained the concept thusly:

Here’s the concept: gather a bunch of musicians. Each plays three songs. Traditionally (or so the legend goes) each played one original song, one well-known cover and one cover of another of the evening’s musicians, which they were each assigned at random! Now, it’s often two originals followed by the backscratch.

Backscratch was conceived by Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer, the same geniuses that brought Campfires to the world. Since Martin is touring in the UK and Europe at the moment, and Craig is probably on the road with Rachel Platten, neither was there. No matter, the MC duties were performed by Christina Morelli of NYC Art Scene fame.

We would have gone even if none of the musicians was known to us. That wasn’t the case last night, as only two of the nine performers were strangers to us. A number of them are counted among our favorites!

Jeff Litman opened the show because his band’s equipment was already on stage from his birthday set. He performed the more traditional 3-song set. He opened with a solo acoustic cover, Never Going Back Again, by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. What a way to kick off Backscratch XIV!

JeffLitman

Jeff’s band (Bryan Dunn, Matt Basile and Elliot Jacobson) joined him for the next two numbers. The first was his original, Everything You’re Not (from his current CD, Postscript). Jeff closed his trio with a cover of Valerie Mize (his backscratch), Promises, from her Auspices EP.

I’m not going to be able to name every song from every artist, since I do this from memory (and I don’t know all of their songs well enough anyway). Where I think I know/remember, I’ll say so.

Jesse Terry was up next, solo with an acoustic guitar. Jesse is one of our favorites, so we knew we’d enjoy his numbers. I was more curious to hear what his backscratch would be (they are assigned randomly). Jesse opened with Pearl Diver, a very new song (which we’ve heard before, since we do our best to show up whenever and wherever Jesse performs). Next up was Scared of Nothing, another Jesse original. His voice was incredible on both numbers.

JesseTerry

For his backscratch, Jesse drew Live Society. If you read anything I write, you likely know how much I love Live Society. Given how amazing Jesse’s voice is, and how well he handles the guitar, I admit to being extremely excited about this. He performed No One, which isn’t on their current EP. It was fantastic (both the song, and Jesse’s interpretation), so I’m seriously hoping it will be on Live Society’s forthcoming CD!

I played a critical role during the performance (which you might someday get to see on YouTube, since the entire evening was filmed by Sam Teichman). There was quite a breeze inside Rockwood and the sheet music (most of the backscratchers require some cheat sheet) was flapping off the music stand. I bravely reached up and held the corner of Jesse’s sheet for the entire song, saving the day! Winking smile

Please allow me a digression here (or skip ahead, I might not even be able to tell). I used the word interpretation above for a few reasons. First, there’s the obvious one (in this case), where Jesse is a solo artist trying to reproduce a song performed by a band that crushes three-part harmony, and is accompanied by guitar, keyboards, bass and drums (usually).

Second, the backscratch is often a song that was learned quickly, at times even on the day of the show, so it’s not likely to be a studied copy. But the most important thing is that it’s often a true artistic interpretation, in the sense of paying homage to the original artist by delivering it to them in your style (for most cases, the original artist is hearing it live then and there).

Jesse delivered No One in his own style. I absolutely would have believed it was one of his songs if he had introduced it as such. After singing it, he met Live Society for the first time. How cool is that, practically and conceptually?

LiveSocietyJesseTerry

Unfortunately, Jesse had to leave shortly after performing. He had an early trip this morning, heading to Greenland, just shy of the North Pole (of all places). He’ll be serenading our troops there for the next week or so. He didn’t get to hear the backscratch that covered him (we’ll get to that later).

Valerie Mize was up next. She performed two originals with her band (Antar Goodwin on electric bass and Tomo Kanno on drums). She opened with Downtown Train. She followed that with a new number. She played electric guitar on both, finger picking (beautifully) for the most part, and strumming without a pick the rest of the time. She has a beautiful voice.

ValerieMizeSinging

We’ve seen Valerie only once before, at the Soul Benefit where she sang backup. Here’s what I wrote about her performance that night:

For most numbers, there were three or four backup singers on stage. All but one sang lead as well, so I’ll mention them in a second. The only backup singer who didn’t sing lead on at least one song was Valerie Mize. She did a wonderful job. I’m sure if there was more time, she too would have taken a turn at the center mic and wow’ed us.

I’d never seen Antar or Tomo before. Both did a very good job and are well-matched with Valerie.

AntarGoodwinTomoKonno

For her backscratch, Valerie dismissed the band and moved to the grand piano. She sang Ophelia by John Schmitt. He too is one of our favorites, as is that specific song (title cut from his current CD). Valerie played the piano beautifully and sang a very soulful version of Ophelia.

ValerieMizePiano

Patrick Firth was up next. We’ve seen Patrick many times, but last night was a first on two scores. We’d never seen him perform an original and we’d never seen him play anything other than keyboards. Instead of heading for the grand piano in the corner, Patrick (his friends seem to call him Pat, but that feels presumptuous on my part) sat on a stool, center stage, and sang an original accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. Very nicely done!

PatrickFirthGuitar

I already knew he had a nice voice (you can read about it in this post). Now I know that he can write and sing his own stuff (that night was covers) and play the guitar as well.

Patrick then moved to the piano and performed a brand new song that he wrote over the post three days (finishing it yesterday!). He plays with the Big Apple Circus and wrote it while in CT, on breaks, between shows.

PatrickFirthPiano

For his backscratch, Patrick played Grow by Nick Howard. What a fantastic job. We had just seen Nick perform a full set earlier that night (with a full band), next door at Rockwood 2 (covered here). He played that song with the full band. Patrick’s rendition was very different and equally beautiful.

Unfortunately, Nick hadn’t made it over to Rockwood 1 yet, so he missed hearing Patrick nail his song.

John Schmitt was up next. That alone would be reason enough for celebration. But, in a complete surprise for me, John brought up Greg Mayo to play guitar with him. John opened with Two Souls.

JohnSchmitt

Greg played some amazing guitar solos (surprise!) and sang a few words (way too few) of harmony (very nicely). He played Patrick Firth’s guitar.

GregMayo

Next John played Going Back (a fantastic new song of his, that isn’t on the Ophelia CD). Typically, he has a female voice singing harmony with him. Greg basically filled that role with guitar leads. Holy moly, it was awesome.

John is currently raising money to record that song professionally. We contributed early. Even though we did (quite happily), we noted to each other that the raw version John has up on his donation page is quite beautiful. We worried (privately) whether people would wonder why he needs/wants another version. Having heard how different it can sound by just adding another guitar (admittedly, one played by Greg Mayo!), made us just contribute a second time. We no longer doubt John Schmitt’s wisdom. Smile

Greg then left the stage and tried to take Patrick’s guitar with him. John kept it, asking Patrick if he could use it for his backscratch (John had broken a string earlier, and had to use a different one in its place. I’ll spare you the groaners about a broken G-string.) Winking smile

Patrick agreed to let John use the guitar, until John admitted that his backscratch was none other than Patrick. At that point Patrick said: “Then NO!”. Of course, he was kidding, but it was funny nonetheless.

I don’t know the name of the song, but it was great. So, Patrick can indeed write, and we already knew that John can deliver. A great combo!

Lara Ewen was up next, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. I had never heard of Lara, so I didn’t recognize the two originals that she played. They were both nice and I like her voice.

LaraEwen

For her backscratch, she drew Jesse Terry. She was quite funny in pointing out that most people give excuses like “I had to miss your performance because I was at the North Pole, but that in Jesse’s case, it was the truth!”. Winking smile She added that she was happy about that, because she was reasonably sure she was going to butcher his number.

She chose The Runner (the title cut from Jesse’s CD). She was correct in knowing that she hadn’t quite nailed the song, but I certainly wouldn’t say she butchered it, just that certain parts caused her some grief. Winking smile

Benjamin Wagner was up next, also accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Benjamin was the only other performer I hadn’t heard of before. In this case, it turned out to be a little less mysterious. He has a full-time job and a one-year-old, which has slowed down his live performances dramatically.

BenjaminWagner

Of all the performers, he was the chattiest. While I found his style entertaining and the content interesting and well-delivered, he was also the only one who cursed (and quite a bit at that). I’m no prude, but it was still jarring in contrast to the rest of the show.

He has a very good voice and plays the guitar well enough. That said, neither of his two originals (Giving Up the Ghost and Dear Elizabeth) grabbed me.

He inserted his backscratch in between them. He drew Lara Ewen and chose One Day. Wow, I really liked it a lot, both the song and his performance of it. So, I know Lara is capable of writing songs that will grab me, and I know that Benjamin is capable of delivering a song in a manner that will engage me as well. Neither pulled that off with their own originals, but the sample size was two in each case, so let’s toss that out and start again, the next time I see either of them.

Benjamin blogs regularly and he posted his thoughts about last night’s show.

Nick Howard was up next (and had arrived by then). He played solo acoustic, quite a contrast to his earlier full-band set at Rockwood 2. One of the two originals that he played was Grow, which he had performed in the earlier set. It’s the same song that Patrick Firth had covered for his backscratch, but Nick was unaware, since he hadn’t made it in yet.

NickHoward

That made three performances of Grow in one night for us. All were quite different from each other (even though Nick himself performed two of them!). All three were very well done.

Nick’s other original was Falling for You, which he had also performed with the full band in the earlier set. Once again, his solo performance was different and beautiful. As I noted in the earlier post, he had to work harder to get his voice heard over the full band. In the solo set, his voice was just right.

For his backscratch, Nick drew Benjamin Wagner. I don’t recall the song, but I remember thinking it was nice and that Nick did a good job with it.

Last, but certainly not least, was Live Society. They were without their guitarist (John Kaiteris), keyboard player (varies) and drummer (Erik Perez). The three singers, Brian Collazo, Jason Vargas and Kevin Collazo were joined by their regular bass player, Anthony Candullo. Anthony also played acoustic guitar on one number.

BrianCollazoGuitarAnthonyCandulloGuitar

Two special guests joined them: Patrick Firth on grand piano and Greg Mayo on acoustic guitar.

Live Society reverted to the classic format, one famous cover, one original and one backscratch, mirroring the opener (Jeff Litman) as the only acts who did that last night. That was more than fitting, as they asked the crowd if any of us had done the calculus to guess who their backscratch was? Even you who weren’t there should be able to figure it out. I’ll give you a minute while I get to their other two songs.

GregMayoLiveSociety

They opened with their original Better Man. Gorgeous! They followed that with I Second that Emotion by Smokey Robinson. Jason Vargas took the lead for a good portion of the song. It was fantastic.

JasonVargas

For their backscratch, they drew Jeff Litman (please don’t tell me you haven’t figured it out yet). They performed Open Arms. Frist, the bottom line: Wow! Now, some details.

Jeff’s version is wonderful, but it’s straight up power Pop. Live Society owned their version, which was about as Mowtown/R&B as you could hope and it couldn’t have worked better.

All three of them traded singing lead. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’ve followed my other ravings about Live Society, then you know that I have started a campaign to get them to have Kevin sing some lead. He did, and he was terrific! I had to tease him/them after the show, pointing out that it took a backscratch to get Kevin to take a lead. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a trend. All three of them can sing, including Kevin!

KevinCollazo

What a way to end a spectacular evening.

Backscratch was listed as 9-11pm on the Rockwood schedule. Before the show started, the sound guy told Christina that the previous show had run over and he would appreciate her trying to keep it moving at a rapid pace. Ha!

Last night’s show ran over by only an hour. No one dawdled. Let’s do the math: nine artists each performing three songs, averaging four minutes = 108 minutes. That’s nearly the full two hours, without accounting for time between songs, banter, and oh yeah, changeover between acts (sometimes including moving equipment around). The fact that it’s not scheduled for three hours is the joke, not that it ran over.

Update: A number of people commented to me via email and Twitter that the site correctly listed it as three hours, albeit confusingly. That’s correct, in the sense that there was no artist listed at 11pm. But, the show was listed as 9-11pm, which was explained to me as meaning that 11pm was considered a continuing start time. Wow, not the clearest communication. Anyway, I’ll still knock Rockwood for not making that part clear, but Christina Morelli did indeed deliver an on-time performance! 🙂

It was late, obviously, but I can’t imagine having missed it. Smile

John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall

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Even though it’s only been a few weeks since we last saw John Schmitt perform (May 13th at The Living Room), we were really looking forward to this show last night. The set at The Living Room was excellent, which is reason enough to want more. But Rockwood Music Hall is also more intimate which in itself was a draw.

John delivered a completely satisfying experience (to high expectations!). He had a few surprises for us as well (another great reason to go see your favorite artists often).

JohnSchmittSinging

You can read a number of my posts about John. Here are the key facts that you’ll learn:

  • he has a wonderful voice
  • he plays guitar wonderfully
  • he writes exceptional songs (OK, I should have said wonderful songs, to stick with the theme) Winking smile
  • he has many talented musical buddies (both genders), who are only too happy to make music with him

All of those were in play last night, including John selecting an excellent set list.

JohnSchmittGuitar

He played two songs solo, at least two with one female guest (two different women, we’ll get to them shortly) and the rest with a full band (which also had a surprise guest).

First, the band:

Pasquale Chieffalo on electric bass. John joked on stage that I would have to work extra-hard to figure out the correct spelling of Pasquale’s name. He was right, but he was also wrong, because I gave up pretty quickly and just shot John a message and he gave it to me, so I cheated. Winking smile Last night, I quipped back that I would just describe Pasquale as “The tall bass player”. Man, he is tall. Smile

PasqualeChieffalo

None of that is important, of course. The fact that Pasquale played really well and was at exactly the right volume is all that mattered. He played the bass on John’s CD, Ophelia, which we love.

One of the songs that John played solo was called “Me and the Chief”. He claims that it’s about his grandfather, but now that I see how to spell Pasquale’s last name, I’m less convinced. Winking smile

Ryan Vaughn on drums. I just praised Ryan’s drumming last week when he played with Robbie Gil. That was a louder, more upbeat set, and required a different kind of drumming. Obviously, Ryan handled the switch in styles last night extremely well (he’s one of the top NY-based drummers). Also the right volume (I mention it as a contrast to the drummer the set before, who was good, but too loud).

RyanVaughn

Matt Simons was a special guest on two songs, playing the saxophone! I pretty much like everything Matt Simons does, but from the first time I ever saw him play sax with the Greg Mayo Band, I knew that my softest spot for him would likely come whenever he broke out the sax. It was a complete surprise to see him play it with John.

MattSimonsSaxophone

John was very generous in giving Matt multiple long leads, and Matt nailed every one of them. Kudos and Bravo! Needless to say, the sax was well-matched to both songs that John invited him up for, the second of which was You Got Me Brother.

On to the ladies:

Karly Jurgensen was invited up to sing two songs with John. The first was Evangeline, a cover of a version of the song performed by The Band with special guest star Emmylou Harris (in 1976!). If you haven’t guessed yet, Karly played the part of Emmylou Harris. John performed the role of “The Band”, since he gave his band the song off (he’s generous like that). Lovely!

KarlyJurgensen

The second song was Ophelia, the title track of John’s CD (this time his band played as well). On this song Karly’s part doesn’t come in until nearly the end, when she sings “Adieu Love” quite a number of times, in harmony with John, but also while John sings some other lines.

John just released a live CD (pay what you will, so I advise you to pay a lot). Winking smile Ophelia on that CD (which you can stream for free) has both Chris Ayer and Julia Poorman singing along. In that version, Chris speaks to the audience (at the 1:18 mark) saying: “I promise I’m going to sing at some point”. I note that because Karly was much more patient and simply waited for the end of the song to do her part. Winking smile

Update: two people independently reached out privately to me to say that Chris would never be so rude as to talk during John’s song. One of them noted it was John who said “I promise they’re going to sing at some point”. It never occured to me that Chris was bring rude. Depending on how the show was going, previous banter with the audience and between them, I assumed (incorrectly) that he was being particularly funny. There was a wink at the end of the above paragraph, but I know not everyone trusts a winking man. 🙂

A little later on, John called up another female guest star.

Lissa Farquhar joined him to sing Going Back. In addition to singing beautiful harmony, Lissa sang lead as well. She then sang fantastic harmony on Ave Regina (what a wonderful song).

LissaFarquharJohnSchmittHarmony

John is one of the more consistent performers of the (way too many) ones that we follow.

P.S. This was the second of five sets that we saw last night, and one of the three that we originally planned to. Smile

Greg Mayo, Craig Meyer, Tony Maceli and Guests at Red Lion

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I’m a fanatical lover of great guitar playing. If that’s news to you, welcome, this is likely your first time visiting here.

Candyrat Records has signed an impressive number of the top instrumental guitarists around. Every so often they schedule a tour with a number of their artists. We’ve seen one that was headlined by Andy McKee (covered here). It was as good as I hoped/expected.

Two months ago I saw that Candyrat scheduled a show at Rockwood 2 with four players, two of whom were new to me, but the other two I own all of their CDs. I was 90% sure that we would attend. I can’t explain why I didn’t buy tickets in advance (that’s my modus operandi) but I kept procrastinating. As the day got closer, I became more sure that we would attend.

Then this past week happened. We were out six nights in a row, most of which were long and very late (for us). On Saturday morning, knowing we’d be out late that night, I told Lois that I changed my mind, we’d skip the Candyrat show and head to the house for a much-needed collapsing. Ah well, the best laid plans…

I come to praise Twitter, not to bury it. Winking smile

I’ve repeatedly promoted the fact that you should follow your favorite artists on Twitter because you will often learn about late-breaking shows. Fortunately (or unfortunately if sleep is desperately needed!) Winking smile that’s exactly what happened mid-day yesterday. I noticed the following tweet from Greg Mayo:

Tonight I’m taking requests with my good friend @CraigJMeyer at the Red Lion 7:30 to 10:30…beware, I only know 6 songs, so request wisely

For the newbies here, in yesterday’s post, I anointed myself President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club. It felt unseemly to shirk my Presidential duties the very next day. So, sleep be damned, our plans changed on the spot.

GregMayoSettingUp

We arrived at the Red Lion (our first time there, though we’ve heard about it many times) at 7:25pm. Our first (of many!) surprises was revealed before we even got to step inside. Standing on the street with his bass strapped to his back was Tony Maceli, one of our favorite people (oh yeah, and also a great bass player, but who cares about that part, right?). Winking smile Since everything I knew about this show (you’ll understand the italics in a minute) was contained in the tweet above, I had no idea that Tony was sitting in with Greg and Craig.

When we walked in I spotted Bri Arden. I really enjoyed her rendition of Proud Mary at the Soul Benefit we attended. I’ve been following her since, but haven’t been around when she’s performed her own set. I introduced myself and headed to the table Lois had already grabbed, where she was sitting with Tony’s girlfriend. (Surprise #2 and #3)

I looked at the beer list and was happily surprised (#4) to see they had Smithwick’s on draught! (It’s pronounced Smiddick’s, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of having that explained to you in a pub in Ireland, when you are first introduced to Guinness’ biggest competitor). I also saw they serve food there (surprise #5) so I had a yummy garlic hummus plate (we ate a late-ish lunch and ran out thinking we’d skip dinner).

I left my beer for a minute when I noticed that Sierra Noble sat down at the same table Bri Arden was at. Tony Maceli was chatting with them. I knew that Sierra just arrived in town that day (from her tweets) and I wanted to introduce myself and share the small world story that I had blogged about her amazing song, Human After All. She cut me off by telling me she had read that post! Sweet! I was honored and humbled. (#6, I’m keeping count for the lazy and math-challenged among you!)

Oh yeah, there was also music, but since it hadn’t started yet, I filled in the time by telling you the above. Now we’re back in sync.

The music part of this post will be split into two logical sections. They occurred largely at the same time (with a three-song delay), but hopefully, you’ll understand why I’m splitting them up (if not, send me a lot of money and I’ll cover these events your way!). Winking smile

First, the purely musical aspect of the night. So, I see tweets all the time from Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer that they will be playing at Red Lion (they do a series there called Campfire, and they play there regularly otherwise as well). I think Martin was out of town either celebrating the day after his Birthday, or more likely, recovering from an alcohol infused daze. So, I think Craig invited Greg to sit in for Martin.

The core of the musical group, sitting left-to-right on stage:

Craig Meyer on drums and vocals. I can’t recall Craig ever singing before, so this was a welcome surprise (#7). A much bigger surprise was that Craig handled the MC duties throughout the two sets (they took a 20+ minute intermission). He was clever, charming, quick, funny and did it all in a rich, deep, radio DJ like voice. Clearly, there are many dimensions of Craig we were unexposed to, that we now know we need to mind. (#8).

CraigMeyerDrums

Greg Mayo on acoustic guitar and vocals. What? Acoustic? Hell yeah! This was the first time we’ve seen Greg with an acoustic guitar. Hopefully it won’t be the last. (#9). If you ask me whether he handled it with the same skill and ease that he exhibits on an electric, I’ll have to deny you membership to the Greg Mayo Fan Club (when you send your application, please include your dues, checks should be made out directly to me, PayPal gladly accepted!).

GregMayoRippingItUp

Tony Maceli on electric bass and vocals. Yes, vocals, and I’m not talking some way in the background harmony. Tony took the lead on a number of songs (I’ll be more specific in the next section) and sang more forcefully on the backgrounds on the others. (#10). I’ve always loved Tony’s bass play, largely because it’s understated but always appropriate to whomever he’s playing side-man to. Last night Tony took many full-on bass leads, a number of them a very high speed. Wonderful! (I won’t count that as a surprise, since I knew Tony had the skills, he just hadn’t busted them out in front of me yet.)

TonyMaceliSinging

The music was planned to be covers all night, but I didn’t know if there was a theme. Greg kicked it off with back-to-back Jazzy/Blues numbers, then shifted to some Soul. If the rest of the night hadn’t turned into what it did (see section two, shortly), and I hadn’t had a second Smithwick’s (Yeshhh, after all, Ireland is pretty close to Scotland!), I would probably remember which artist they were covering, as every song was a super-famous classic (I’ve never mentioned this, I don’t take notes, every blog is completely from memory, hence all the errors and omissions).

CraigMeyerGregMayoTonyMaceli

After the fourth number, Greg revealed the theme: they were planning to do two songs by each artist and move on to the next. Simple enough. Of course, just like my original plans for the evening, that isn’t the way it played out. In fact, immediately after announcing that, everything changed…

Before shifting gears I’ll note that during the first few numbers, I noticed Christina Morelli was there as well. I want to pad my surprise count, but saying that I am surprised to see Christina at a show that I’m at would be disingenuous. In fact, I could save myself time and effort and just hack into her Calendar and stop maintaining my own! Winking smile

While I didn’t connect with Christina last night, Lois went over to introduce herself, so between last night and the night before, Christina has met our entire family. Smile

Before (finally) moving on, let me just summarize that the music was fantastic all night (roughly two hours split over two sets). Last caveat, I’m reasonably sure I’ll mess up the order of some of the songs and guests below. You’ll have to excuse my still-delicious haze. I give you permission to correct me if you were there, or permission to imagine it in any order you’d rather if you weren’t. Winking smile

Having never been to the Red Lion before, and having never clicked on any of the Campfire YouTube videos either, I really had no idea what to expect. The minute we walked in, it was obvious that this was a pub-style restaurant where the music was meant to be more of a live jukebox. In other words, this wasn’t a listening room. That’s fine. One of my best night’s out was at Mona’s, listening to Dennis Lichtman and Mona’s Hot Four, while 80% of the people at the bar were socializing loudly (for a while, including me, oops!). It’s all about context (to me at least).

We were at the table closest to the stage, in front of Greg (center-stage). I figured that no matter what went on around us, I could tune in to the music and squelch the inevitable bar noise.

That turned out to be true (sort-of), but in a way I never anticipated. Starting at the very first song, a group of people (mostly women) at the table to our left started singing loudly along with Greg. I still had no idea what would come next. This could devolve, or get very interesting.

Craig (in his role as MC) engaged them directly. He asked where they were from and they said NJ. For the rest of the night, Craig referred to them as The Jersey Girls, which was an effective way of differentiating them (you’ll understand in a minute).

CraigMeyer

When Greg started the third song, Lois turned to me and Amy (Tony’s girlfriend) and said “Ask Greg to play Oh Bla Di”. I have never heard Lois ask for a Beatles song. Even though Lois controls the iPod in the car, not once has she put on a Beatles song (even though I have 90 on there!). I was in shock, which caused me to not call it out. I didn’t even know whether The Beatles were in their repertoire.

If you read yesterday’s post, then you know I said this:

Lois has a way of bending the universe to her will (if you know her, you know I’m not exaggerating!).

You’ll have to read the rest to figure out how that played out Fri/Sat, but I’ll tell you how it worked out here. Note that I mentioned the theme of the night wasn’t revealed until after the fourth song, so we didn’t yet realize that they would be running through many different artists when Lois asked me for this song.

Well, the next artist up after the fourth song was, Ta Da, The Beatles! The song wasn’t Oh Bla Di, but hey, you never know! Well, you never know, unless you’re married to Lois. I bet you’re all way ahead of me, because song number six was indeed Oh Bla Di, and none of the people at our table said a peep, so there’s no way Greg could have known (from us) that Lois wanted to hear it. Thanks Universe! (Unfortunately, as with Christina Morelli being there, it would be cheating to count this as a surprise, even though it seemed like an impossibility!)

By this time, people were rolling into the bar on a consistent basis. When you couple the quality of the music, with the classic nature of the songs, it’s not even marginally surprising that most newcomers stopped by the stage to listen and sing along, loudly! The Jersey Girls (TJG) were only the beginning of a trend.

Even though Greg said they would play Beatles songs until they (or we) got tired of it, that didn’t happen. I may have the order wrong, but they quickly switched gears, and next up might have been Stevie Wonder. At some point, both Bri Arden and Sierra Noble got on the stage and sang backup vocals (on two songs). Folks, each of them is a bona-fide lead vocalist that you should never miss an opportunity to hear. Adding them as background vocalists was fun and great, even though it was short-lived. (#11)

SierraNobleBriArden

A few sailors came in (it is Memorial Day Weekend, and therefore Fleet Week as well!). It’s always great to be around our Military (at least it is for me!), but it’s obviously more special when we remember those that gave their lives so that we could get silly (not that I’ve gotten to the silly part yet!) in a bar in Greenwich Village. We salute you all! TJG did their part and danced with the sailors.

Minutes later the night took a dramatic turn. Eight girls walked in front of us (between us and the stage), semi-danced while they were in front of the stage (to acknowledge the great music/band) as they made their way to the bar. We all noticed them because each of them had neon glow necklaces on. Clearly, something was going on.

NeonNecklaces

Craig broke into a fabulous rendition of Bust a Move by Young MC. The crowd went nuts! If he stopped rapping for a second, the next words could easily be heard out of a dozen different people. Craig raps? (#12)

Immediately thereafter (remember, I’m making up the order as I go along) Winking smile Craig was on top of his MC duties. He asked the necklaced women what was going on. It was a Bachelorette  party. He asked who the bride-to-be was, and we were all introduced to Laura. Along with TJG, we had Laura and her entire bachelorette party (which grew beyond the initial eight) to focus on the rest of the night.

Craig asked if he could have a neon necklace. Instead, they gave him a neon sticker (which Craig proudly wore the rest of the night) that said: “Fling, Fling before the Ring, Ring!”. Smile

CraigMeyerFlingFlingSticker

Craig asked if Laura had a list of things she needed to complete while at the bar (I didn’t even know such a thing existed, perhaps because I never attended a bachelorette party before. At a bachelor party, the list is pretty short.) Winking smile

Not only did she have a list, they were neatly written out on flash cards. One of the attendees handed a card to Craig, who offered to try and help Laura get as many items checked off her list as he could. He was successful with at least two items (I might have missed a couple more). One of them was that Laura needed to get a random man in the bar to buy her a drink, by saying some unmentionable things to him. After Craig read that out loud (replacing the words “unmentionable things” with the real words), Laura was able to cross that one off a second later.

Here are four of those flash cards:

BachelorettePartyFlashCards

The next one was Do The Twist with a stranger, for the entire song. Sure enough, the band instantly started playing The Twist, and one of the sailors played the part of the stranger. After the song (yes, she twisted the entire time), he lifted her up like Richard Gere does with Debra Winger at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, to the delighted whoops of everyone who saw it. Laura ended up in the right bar on the right night. Smile

SailorAndLauraTwisting

While playing The Twist, the entire bachelorette party came out to dance (let’s just officially call the area between our table and the stage, The Dance Floor). Many others joined them (including TJG), and it remained crowded the rest of the evening. The people who danced, along with the people who sat close by, continued to sing along on nearly every song.

At one point, Craig invited Laura and her posse on stage to sing a couple of songs. They acquitted themselves very nicely!

LauraAndPosse

Out of the blue, Chris Ayer walks into the bar. For the newbies, he’s another one who we can’t get enough of (if I’m the President of Greg’s fan club, Lois is the Emperor of Chris’). Winking smile Greg spots Chris (who apparently wasn’t expected to be there, thanks again Twitter!), and announces that Chris would be joining them in a little bit to sing. Awesome! I’m sure it was as big a surprise to Chris as it was to us. (#13).

A few minutes later, a man in a hat walked in carrying a small saxophone case. He stood by the side of the stage for a song, and then walked across the dance floor very deliberately, looking at the band in what felt to me was like one gang eyeing another. What I didn’t realize is that he knew them well (at least Craig, if not Greg too). He’s played with Craig and Martin at the Red Lion many times (I found that out while Googling him). (#14)

The sax player was Chuck Hancock (I hope I linked to the correct person). Craig called him “Sir Chuck Hancock” throughout the night. Googling for that made it easy to see that Martin and Craig always call him by that name. Whether others do is a task I’ll leave to you!

After getting to the other side of the stage, he unpacked his sax and got on stage next to Tony. He’s an excellent sax player (he hits some extremely high notes so sweetly). He stayed on stage for much of the rest of the night and sang a bunch too (extremely well!). He took the lead vocals on Jackomo Fina Fina Nay. Trust me, that one got the crowd going too, since we all called back “Hey Now, Hey Now”, etc.

SirChuckHancockSax

In yesterday’s post I asked the rhetorical question: “Who doesn’t like a party?”. Well, while I thought I was in the middle of a party already (at least a bachelorette one), it only got more fun (and raucous) from there. I think one TJG called out for some Tom Petty. If not, once Greg decided to shift to Tom Petty, they (and others!) wouldn’t let him get off that theme for a while.

What made it crank up a notch is that it was during The Tom Petty Portion of the Evening (henceforth known as TTPPotE) that we got to hear Tony Maceli belt out the vocals to a couple of songs.

It was in TTPPotE that Chris Ayer came up and sang one. No disrespect to any of the other singers, but holy moly, with all that was going on in the room at the time, you could palpably feel everyone (in particular the women) take note of his voice and style of singing. (Seriously, Greg was awesome all night on the vocals, but do yourself a favor and check out Chris Ayer, you’ll be amazed!).

ChrisAyerSinging

(Full Disclosure: The previous paragraph was sponsored by Lois, in her capacity as Emperor of the Chris Ayer Fan Club)

Chris remained on stage for quite a while, singing mostly background vocals (I think he sang lead on one other number).

A little later on I spotted John Schmitt standing next to the stage. Sure enough, seconds later Craig announced that another special guest would be serenading us.

JohnSchmitt

They moved on to Paul Simon, with John Schmitt singing lead, including Me & Julio, featuring Chris and Sir Chuck on background vocals (and Chuck tearing it up on the sax, again).

ChrisAyerSirChuckHancock

Later in the evening, Sir Chuck took his sax into the middle of the dance floor and serenaded Laura (the bride-to-be, in case you aren’t paying attention any longer!), while she danced to his music, inches away.

SirChuckHancockInTheCrowd

I’m probably missing many more highlights, but it’s all a blur now, and I’m about to be late to what I expect will be a terrific Memorial Day BBQ at our friends’ house. So, I’ll just say that this turned out to be one of the most fun nights out, which is almost an incredulous statement given that it was our seventh night out in a row, all of which were amazing. To think that not only wasn’t this planned, I didn’t even know it was going to happen until that afternoon.

We are grateful that we changed our plans (fan club membership has its privileges) and can’t thank the band and all of the incredible guests for putting on more than a show, they hosted one of the best parties we’ve ever attended.

I can also scratch off Attend a Bachelorette Party from my bucket list. Winking smile

P.S. I couldn’t finish the photos before I had to call our hosts and apologize for only being 30 minutes late (it ended up being 32 minutes). I’m now at our friend’s house, full and happy, and being anti-social by finishing this up. At least they have Verizon FiOS, so the upload will go faster than if I wait until I’m back at the apartment.

Chris Ayer, John Schmitt and Andy Mac at The Living Room

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On April 21st, 2011, I tweeted the following:

Crushing traffic on I95 yesterday. Listening to @johnschmitt and @chrisayer saved our sanity!

I received back the following back from John:

@hadarvc Thx Radar! If you’re free on May 13th, Chris and I play the Living Room, at 10 & 11pm! Would love to say hello! I’ll have my band!

Yes, iPhone autocorrect prefers my name be Radar, such is life. Winking smile

That’s all the information we needed to lock it in our calendar (the show took place at The Living Room, as noted the tweet above). Even though something else important came up, we weren’t going to miss this show (see the very bottom of this post for our compromise/workaround). Doing my usual working backwards on the sets.

Chris Ayer started his set shortly after 11pm. I’ve written about Chris many times and how amazing he is. The last time I wrote about him I noted that Sierra Noble called Chris a poet (and I agreed). Let me take a stab at defining what I (and Lois) mean when we say that.

There are a ton of great lyricists out there. Substantially fewer of those are also poets. Great lyrics can tell a great story, have catchy rhymes or phrases and therefore clearly are the foundation of great songs. Poets create all that, but in addition, they emblazon images in your mind. Their turns of phrases are like Van Gogh’s brushstrokes. Many great songwriters achieve poetry on occasion. Poets achieve it regularly and prolifically. Chris is one such poet.

ChrisAyerSolo

Chris played his usual fantastic set. It was a blend of solo, full band and duets, all of which were equally satisfying. He played a new song, something like Hide in Plain Sight (but I’m reasonably sure it’s not that exactly). Wow, another one that had our table mesmerized.

Chris closed the show with Roy G. Biv. Lois might have tripped him on his way out if had skipped that song last night. Fortunately, she asked him to play it before the set started and he told her it was already on his set list. Winking smile

The band unplugged for Roy G. Biv. John Schmitt joined Chris. Chris, John and Matt Simons came into the audience standing in a large triangle so they could serenade different members. Chris Anderson and Stephen Chopek (the other two band members) came to the front of the stage. It was an amazing way to end a wonderful night.

In addition to bringing John up as a special guest, Chris also brought up Morgan Holland to sing with him on two songs. Perfect! John Schmitt and Morgan Holland will be playing back-to-back sets at Rockwood 1 on June 4th, at 7 and 8pm respectively. Come join us to enjoy what will undoubtedly be a great evening!

ChrisAyerMorganHolland

Speaking of upcoming shows, Chris Ayer will be at Rockwood 1 before them. May 27th at 8pm. We’ll be there too. Smile

The band, from left-to-right on stage:

Chris Anderson on electric and upright bass. Chris is one of our favorite bass players and last night was no exception. As fun as it is to listen to him play a more mellow set like Chris Ayer’s, I am distractedly looking forward to seeing Chris play with Ian Axel at the Bowery Ballroom on May 24th. Aside from the fact that it will be one of the epic nights of music in NYC, Chris Anderson will let loose in a way that tickles me to no end!

ChrisAndersonElectricBass

Stephen Chopek on drums and percussion. Stephen has quickly become a favorite drummer of ours. I was extremely pleased to see him playing with Chris Ayer last night, because he was not drumming for John Schmitt the set before. When we saw John and Chris at Jammin’ Java, Stephen drummed for both (it’s too expensive to bring two drummers I imagine). Another wonderful performance last night by Stephen.

StephenChopek

Matt Simons on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. Matt is an excellent singer/songwriter in his own right and complements Chris Ayer perfectly when he plays sideman to him (which he does quite often). Their harmonies are wonderful and Matt’s keyboard play is excellent. While he didn’t play it last night, I love his sax playing as well.

MattSimonsMattSimonsSinging

I think we missed our tradition of showing Chris Ayer’s unique set list (from his and our vantage) the last time or two. Here is the one from last night:

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

John Schmitt mirrored Chris’ set (or the reverse, since John was on first) by playing solo, full band and duet as well. He just so happened to do it with an entirely different crew. While John is a somewhat newer discovery for us, you can see from the tweet that started this off, being late to the party hasn’t cost him any of our affection.

JohnSchmitt

His recent CD release, Ophelia, is a gorgeous album. John has a fantastic voice (very soulful) and he plays the guitar beautifully. Add a top band (which isn’t necessary, but always welcome!) and he too wows the crowd, every time.

We like a lot of John’s songs, but at the top are Ophelia and Ave Regina. If he hadn’t sung either of those we might have had to mug him in the (proverbial) parking lot. Thankfully, he performed both (more on each in a minute when I mention the guest stars). Both qualify as poet songs. Smile

Joining John on Ave Regina and Going Back was Lissa Farquhar on vocals. Lissa has a beautiful voice and did a great job on both songs. Ave Regina has stunning harmonies in it, in addition to Lissa taking a verse on the lead. What I particularly liked is the fact that Lissa belted out the harmony as well as the lead. Many backup vocalists think it’s incumbent on them to sing softly to let the lead vocalist shine. It’s a nice thought, but it makes the harmonies so much more difficult to appreciate. Let your voices ring out! Smile

LissaFarquhar

Joining John for his last two numbers was Chris Ayer on vocals. Another wonderful piece of harmony.

JohnSchmittChrisAyer

John’s band, from left-to-right on stage:

Greg Barbone on keyboards (organ and grand piano). The Living Room has both a grand piano on stage and a double-decker organ (the size of an upright piano). They are on opposite ends of the stage. John joked that Greg was going to be running back-and-forth, but it turned out not to be a joke. So, I could have listed Greg first or last. Since he kicked it off on the organ, first it is.

GregBarboneOrgan

Greg was great on both. We already knew he would be great on the piano, because he was also the pianist for the set before (covered shortly). The organ was covered up during that set, so I didn’t even know it was there (two feet from where I was sitting).

Brian Killeen on electric bass. We’ve seen Brian many times (mostly with Martin Rivas) and have enjoyed his play each and every time (last night included). When John mentioned that Brian had recently opened for Bon Jovi, Brian joked that it was a solo bass performance, and he did a quick and cute bass-rock-star like thing on stage.

BrianKilleen

Mike Sutton on drums (sorry, couldn’t find a good individual link to Mike). Recall what I said above, that I was expecting Stephen Chopek on drums. I was impressed with Mike’s play, but I need to hear more to form a better opinion.

MikeSutton

Here is John’s set list. Don’t believe everything you read. For example, Lissa did not join on Ophelia and there was no sax during the set (it does say “possible Sax solo” after all):

JohnSchmittSetList

Originally, we had intended to show up just for those two sets. John tweeted that Andy Mac would be on at 9pm. We’d never heard of him, but if he’s part of John and Chris’ crew, we wanted to give him a shot. It was a fun set, so I’m glad we made the effort.

AndyMac

Andy started the show off with a bang. After being ready to go, he just walked off the stage. While our attention was focused on him walking away, his band quietly slipped on Hockey Masks in honor of Friday the 13th. When Andy came back on stage, he too was wearing the mask and had a hoodie on as well. All very menacing. He sang the entire first song with the mask on.

SeanDixonAndyMacHockeyMasksFridayThe13th

That first song is an ancient classic, Build Me up Buttercup. Andy didn’t do it in the classic style. Rather, it was a very slow, Jazzy version, with a few substituted lyrics to make it dead-on for Friday the 13th. What makes me note it is that in the same week, in Philadelphia, we heard Julia Nunes play the same song (on the ukulele, in the more traditional style). The universe is telling me something, I just don’t know what, yet…

Andy has a really nice voice, plays the guitar well, and was accompanied by a tight band. While there were a number of styles performed during the set, most had a fun up-beat vibe to them.

Andy is quite funny. One of his bits was pulling out seven really bad horror movie DVDs that he found while cleaning his apartment. He promised the first seven people who bought one or more of his CDs (he had three available for sale) would get to pick which free horror movie DVD they’d like to take as a bonus.

AndyMacHorrorDVD

Andy’s band, left-to-right:

Mal Gibbes on saxophone (which looked like it was an antique and my apologies, I couldn’t find a good individual link). He performed in roughly 1/2 the numbers. He was excellent, but on most of the numbers he was trying to be super mellow and soft (more complementary than lead, even when they were clearly his leads!). On the last number, Sara, he blew it out, loud and proud and he nailed it!

MalGibbesJimMcNamara

Jim McNamara on upright bass. First, the Mac in Andy Mac is really McNamara. Jim and Andy are brothers! Second, we’ve seen Jim once before, supporting Bryan Dunn at Rockwood 1. We were there to see Vienna Teng followed by The Open Sea (Ari Hest and Rosi Golan). We showed up one set early to ensure good seats for Vienna. Here’s what I had to say that night about Jim:

Jim McNamara played an upright bass. He blew me away. I can’t say that I recall an upright bass being used by a mostly rock ‘n roll band, but Jim made it work perfectly. A few times he played leads in harmony with Bryan’s guitar. Some of those licks were pretty darn fast, and he nailed every one of them!

JimMcNamara

Suffice it to say, he was excellent last night as well, though nowhere near as highlighted as he was with Bryan Dunn’s group (perhaps there’s some sibling rivalry going on). Winking smile

Sean Dixon on drums (also couldn’t find a good individual link and thanks Sam for saving my old-man brain again!). He was excellent, in particular really interesting cymbal play. I’d like to hear more of him.

SeanDixon

Greg Barbone on grand piano. As mentioned above, Greg was outstanding. This was our first time seeing him, but certainly not our last.

GregBarbonePiano

For his last two songs, Andy called up Dave Pollack (a.k.a. Shaky Dave, also no good individual link) to play the harmonica. Very nicely done!

ShakyDavePollack

Not to slight Andy, here is his set list:

AndyMacSetList

To make the evening all the more enjoyable, we shared our tiny table with three lovely ladies, all of whom we consider friends, all met through this music scene.

After saying goodbye to a bunch of people (most of whom were on stage during the three sets), we headed off to the compromise mentioned above.

Earlier last night, The Borromeo String Quartet had a show at the TENRI Cultural Center. Melissa Tong’s brother (Kristopher Tong) is one of the violinists in the quartet and she has told us how awesome he and the quartet are (and she should know!). We’ve missed them once before when they played in NY and we felt badly missing them again last night (we would have had to leave at intermission and we would have missed Andy Mac’s set completely).

In addition to the show, there was a surprise Birthday Celebration for Kristopher afterward. His parents flew in, but the bigger surprise was that his other sister flew in too. Since she wasn’t landing in LaGuardia until 11:30pm, Melissa told us that we could show up as late we needed and the party would still be going. She was correct!

KristopherTongMelissaTong

We walked into the café at 12:30am and indeed, got to meet everyone and wish Kristopher a happy birthday. Even though it was brief, it was a very happy time. I particularly enjoyed meeting Melissa’s Dad and chatting with him a bit. It’s no wonder his kids are so awesome!

Another late night tonight, but you gotta do what you gotta do… Smile

Chris Ayer, Barnaby Bright, John Schmitt and Morgan Holland at Jammin Java

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It’s great to see a show you know you’re going to like because you like a number of the artists. It’s even better for that to come true and have very pleasant discoveries/surprises thrown in for good measure.

Jammin’ Java had the show listed as Chris Ayer headlining, supported by Barnaby Bright and John Schmitt. This would be our third time seeing Chris, so there was little risk there. We just recently saw John perform one song at the Soul Revue Benefit in NYC and were very interested in hearing more of him. We didn’t know who Barnaby Bright was and I admit to thinking it was a person born in 18th century England, who somehow was still touring around. Winking smile

Since I follow a lot of musicians on Twitter, I found out earlier that day that Morgan Holland and Matt Simons would be there as well. When we got there, we saw two more surprise guests, Chris Anderson, who we will see at least three times in the next week in NYC (with three different bands!) and Stephen Chopek. So, even before the show began, our anticipation was elevated.

I normally describe the evening backwards, headliner to opener. I will do that in this post as well, but since I mostly write for my own memory, I will need to disturb that flow a drop, to note my reaction to certain things, which obviously occurred in forward order. Hopefully, I won’t confuse you too much (or myself when I revisit this years from now).

Chris opened his set solo. Considering how good his voice is and how well he plays the guitar, he could easily perform entire sets solo and deliver satisfaction to the audience. But, given the three-car caravan that came down from NYC yesterday, it was no surprise to any of us when he invited the full band on the stage. I’ll cover the band at the end, because they played with three of the four acts.

ChrisAyerGuitar

Chris performed a fantastic set (as with the last show we saw, here’s his set list, our perspective, then his):

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

On many songs, if I close my eyes, I could swear that James Taylor is performing a Chris Ayer song on stage, that’s how uncannily close Chris sounds to James (at times). But, Chris has quite a large repertoire of songs in various styles, including a number of ballad-style Rock numbers.

ChrisAyerSinging

Lois and I often agree/overlap in our opinion of the artists, but we don’t always get there at the same speed. Lois loved Chris from the first song he performed at Parkside Lounge. I was very impressed, but it took a second look (linked above) for me to catch up to Lois. Before the show started, Lois bought two CD’s and a T-Shirt from Chris. We own both the CD’s but neither of us could remember whether our copies are signed (one of our things) so now we have two CD’s to give as gifts and two that are definitely signed! Smile

Chris played two songs that he just released this week on iTunes, Relativity and Stranded. Both were wonderful, so I bought those this morning as well. Excellent. Except, last night, Morgan Holland joined Chris to sing harmony on Stranded. It was gorgeous. The download is also gorgeous, but no female harmony to make it even better (score another one for a live experience!).

Chris played a number of favorites, including Evaporate, which he sang in three-part harmony with Morgan and Matt Simons. Beautiful! He accompanied himself on the guitar, and Chris Anderson and Stephen Chopek chilled out behind them.

Chris closed the show with The Noise. He called up Morgan Holland, John Schmitt and Barnaby Bright (all of the acts before him) to sing harmony with him (and us) on this. He invited the crowd to sing the refrain (ah, ah, ah ah ah) with them. Normally, I can tell when the crowd joins in. I admit that last night I could only make out my own voice, but I’ll also admit I was awesome! Winking smile

ChrisAyerFinale

You can listen to a live version of that song (linked above) where you can make out that the audience is joining in, and then buy it right there as well!

On to the biggest surprise for me of the night. Barnaby Bright is not in fact a 300+ year old troubadour. It’s a husband and wife duo.

Nathan and Becky Bliss. This is where I have to disturb the backward flow for a minute. Each of them joined John Schmitt, the act before them, separately. Nathan played the sax with John on one number (just the two of them on the stage), and then again with the full band. Becky sang harmony with John on one number where only they were on stage.

So, I thought I had a sense of them. Nathan would come out and play the sax and Becky would sing soft (but stunning) harmonies with Nathan. Hahahaha, not even close. Back to the correct reverse order of things.

Becky took center stage with a small folding table in front of her. On the first number, she played the harmonium and sang. Wait, let me try that again, trying to impart to you what I experienced.

Becky Bliss sang. Hmmm, that doesn’t do it justice either. Let me embarrass myself by sharing with you how I fumbled for words when I spoke to Becky after the show. Instead of saying something coherent, I said: “Your voice is frighteningly beautiful!”. Huh? Come on Hadar, you weren’t frightened even for a second, you were completely enveloped and mesmerized. Yeah, that’s what I should have said…

BeckyBlissHarmonium

OK, that was no fluke. On each and every song, Becky amazed me. In addition to her voice and the harmonium, she played some rhythm acoustic guitar, ukulele and a tiny electronic keyboard that she laid on top of the harmonium for one number. She also wrote some of the songs they performed last night, though I recall her giving Nathan credit for the majority of them.

BeckyBlissHadar

Nathan didn’t play the sax even once during their set. Instead, he was fantastic on the acoustic guitar (a few of them in fact). Many styles, including the finger-tapping style of people like Kaki King (just one example).

NathanBlissGuitar

In addition he too played the ukulele on one number and the mridangam (or something very close to that).

NathanBlissMridangam

That’s not all. When they were playing, I could swear I heard a kick drum, but no one was on stage with them and all four of their hands were busy. Then I noticed that Nathan was tapping with his foot on something that looked like a closed up scissor jack for a car. I asked Becky about it after the show. It’s called a porch board. Cool! Nathan did a very nice job of keeping the beat and adding a fullness to their sound while continuing to impress on the guitar.

Nathan sang too, a bit of lead (a song he wrote about his father’s passing) and a lot of harmony. Their harmonies are beautiful, many times with a very ethereal quality (most notably on the CD, which I’ll get to in a sec). If I had one complaint, it’s that Nathan isn’t very forceful with his voice when singing with Becky. I don’t know if he’s intimidated by singing with that voice (I know I would be), but I doubt it. So, next time, Nathan, kick it up a notch, just for me. Smile

They nervously performed a song they had just finished in the car on the way down (or so they said). They nailed it, no reason to have been nervous.

Speaking of the CD. After their set, Lois ran up to buy a copy. I listened to it today and I like it a lot. But, it’s nothing like the show I saw last night (even though they performed much of it). Becky’s voice is gorgeous on the CD, but very mellow. Last night was phenomenal power (there was a bite to it). The ethereal quality I mentioned above comes across throughout the CD.

Score one for the old man (oops, I mean married couple!). We both can’t wait to see Barnaby Bright perform again.

John Schmitt is someone I’ve heard about from a number of our friends. He performed most of his set solo with a guitar. I mentioned that Nathan joined him on the sax for one number (John gave Nathan two nice sax solos in that one). The song Becky joined him on was Ave Regina. Wow, great song, beautiful harmony.

NathanBlissSaxophone

John is an excellent guitarist, so like Chris Ayer, no problem holding my attention when it’s just him and the guitar. But, it’s not really about the guitar. John writes wonderful songs (lyrics) and has a major voice. He had a horrible cold, which he said was causing him to sing more deeply than his normal range. I felt bad for him, but even a slightly gruffer, slightly deeper voice came across marvelously last night.

JohnSchmittGuitar

He has a very natural rapport with the audience and I look forward to seeing if there is a difference when he’s feeling better, though I don’t have anything but praise to heap on John for last night’s performance.

JohnSchmittSinging

He closed his set with the full band on stage with Nathan joining on the sax. They played Ophelia, the title track from his recently released CD. Lois was blown away and as with Barnaby Bright, ran up right after the set was over to buy a copy from John.

On Friday night we saw another show in VA. The headliner that night was Caleb Hawley and you can read about how great we thought Caleb was. When we found out that Caleb produced John’s CD, we knew it would be a winner even before we listened to it. Yup, it’s a winner (I say with confidence, now that we’ve enjoyed it).

Speaking of colds, I failed to mention that Chris Ayer was battling a cold as well. It didn’t seem to affect his performance either (well, it affected John’s, but not negatively).

Morgan Holland opened the show with the full band plus Chris Ayer. I really like her EP (Old New) and encourage you to check it out and buy it too (you can stream the whole thing first to make sure you agree with me).

MorganHollandSinging

Morgan played songs from the EP plus one Billy Joel cover, She’s Always a Woman. She played acoustic guitar and ukulele and also sang with no instruments, with the full band backing her. Chris Ayer or Matt Simons sang harmony on most numbers, occasionally all three together. Beautiful.

MorganHollandGuitarMorganHollandUkulele

MorganHollandHadar

Finally (but certainly not least!), the band. Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

Matt Simons on electronic keyboards and harmony. Matt is a singer/songwriter in his own right. We own his current EP and like it a lot. If you’re in NYC on Sat Feb 19th, you can join us for Matt’s own show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 11pm. It will be his birthday at midnight. Last night he was purely a side man, supporting the others, extremely well.

MattSimonsKeyboardsMattSimonsSinging

MattSimons

Stephen Chopek on the drums. We’ve only seen Stephen once before, during the Morgan Holland EP Release show at Rockwood. I enjoyed his play a lot, but this is all I wrote about him after that show:

This was our first time seeing Stephen play. He was very good.

Not effusive, but still accurate, he was very good. I have a much better sense after last night, given that he played throughout Morgan’s set, then for one number with John Schmitt, followed by most of Chris Ayer’s set. The songs were much more varied so Stephen displayed more styles.

StephenChopek

Morgan’s set called for sophisticated but understated drumming. Stephen excelled at that. Many of Chris’ numbers called for dramatically more drum fills. The very first number that the full band joined Chris on was Graduate (a song I really like but can’t find anywhere to purchase!). The drums are integral. I wish I knew the technical term for that style of drumming, because it’s among my favorite. If you know the movie 1941, you’ll know the drumming style I’m describing as it runs throughout the movie.

Update: A friend who read this post emailed me a link to a live version of Graduate. You can stream it free, or download and name your price. It’s gorgeous (I knew that already), but it’s solo, so you won’t hear the drum pattern I’m talking about above.

StephenChopekHadar

Chris Anderson played the upright bass, both plucking (mostly) and with a bow (on a few numbers). Chris is one of our favorite bass players and we are fortunate that he plays with quite a number of the bands that we like. We first discovered Chris when we first heard Ian Axel and we’ll see Chris next Wednesday playing with Ian Axel for his CD release show at the Studio at Webster Hall in NYC.

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We can’t wait for that show, but we’ll see Chris (or at least I assume so) this coming Saturday, playing with the Greg Mayo band. Can’t wait for that either. Smile

A great night of music (nearly three hours). If you factor out the mega shows (which we too enjoy!), this kind of night out is still one of the most enjoyable and value-packed things you can do. If you see a show like this at a place like Jammin’ Java, where the food is excellent and reasonably priced, the value is increased. That’s exactly what we did, along with three of our friends, who hadn’t seen any of these artists before last night.