Karly Jurgensen

Jesse Ruben at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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I’ve seen Jesse Ruben do a full set at Rockwood Music Hall once before. Lois was sick that night. I had nothing but compliments for Jesse and you can read about it in the second half of this post. Last night he played Stage 2 and had a full band.

Everything I said about Jesse in the above-linked post was true last night, but it was a significantly better set. The full band was a nice enhancement and the set was more energetic (either because of the band or because of Jesse’s choice of songs). His stage presence was exceptional (as it was the first time).

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What impressed me most was his songwriting. I said that the last time too, but I’m sure I heard new songs and if the older ones held up on second listen, that’s impressive too.

For the most part, Jesse played rhythm because he had a high-quality band behind him. On one song, he called up two special guests and sang with them without the band. He finger-picked beautifully, so he can play the guitar nicely as well!

The guests were Kyle Patrick and Karly Jurgensen. It was convenient to call them up, since Karly had the set before Jesse’s (covered here) and Kyle had the set afterward. They sang gorgeous harmony (no surprise), but Jesse was the huge star in the song, called Advice (I believe). It’s an amazing song, his guitar play was excellent, and he sang most of it without harmony either.

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Twice he put down the guitar and sang his heart out at the mic. The first time was a cover of Joe Cocker’s The Letter. Really well done. Here’s Jesse singing with more than a bit of passion:

JesseRubenSinging

Supporting Jesse, left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Barbone on grand piano. We’ve seen Greg on a couple of sets, both on the same night. We were highly impressed with his play. That was true again last night on Jesse’s set.

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Nicky D’Agostino on drums. We’ve seen Nicky once before as well, and he was excellent last night, as he was the first time, supporting Carley Tanchon.

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Kyle McCammon on electric bass. Kyle played the set before with Karly, which was much more jazz oriented. He was really good on this set too, showing versatility in genre and style. He was also significantly more animated on stage during this high-energy pop/rock set. Jesse said that this was the first time Kyle played with him. That might be true, but I admit to thinking he was joking.

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Will Hensley on electric guitar. We just saw Will for the first time on July 31st at the Blues Brothers Benefit. He sounded good, but I noted that he was covered up (visually) and I couldn’t easily match what I thought was the guitar lead to Will’s hands. Last night, playing for Jesse, Will totally blew me away. He was amazing on traditional leads, and excellent with the slide as well.

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I will be thrilled to see Will play with anyone, just for his skill, until I find out he is willing to play with a dud headliner. Winking smile

Likewise, I’ll be very happy to see Jesse Ruben again.

Karly Jurgensen at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last night started off bittersweet. Sweet, because we finally got to see a full set of Karly Jurgensen (at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2). Bitter, because at the show, she announced that she’s moving back to Nebraska at the end of September.

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I first saw Karly on November 4th, 2010, when Jesse Ruben called her up as a special guest to sing one of her own songs. This is what I wrote that night:

Karly Jurgensen toured with Kyle and Jesse all summer. Jesse invited her up to perform one of her songs, accompanied by Jesse and Kyle. Karly has a wonderful voice and plays the piano solidly. The song was beautiful, a slower bluesy number. Jesse and Kyle harmonized during the chorus. Very nicely done.

A month later (December 1st, 2010), we were at Rockwood 2, and I wrote the following:

The show was called for 7:30pm. We arrived at 7:10pm. I noticed that Karly Jurgensen was playing next door at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 from 7-8pm. I have seen her perform one song when I saw Jesse Ruben there and he called her up as a guest.

I was impressed with that number. Lois was sick that night so she missed Jesse and Karly. I suggested that Lois go next door to catch at least one Karly song before the Bess/Lelia show started. She did.

When she returned, she couldn’t stop raving about how great Karly’s voice is! Whew, I didn’t steer her wrong. Winking smile

You can listen to her on her MySpace page. We’ll be looking out for Karly’s upcoming shows!

So, nine months ago, each of us had heard exactly one song (probably different ones) and we were both promoting Karly to the other. We then saw Karly sing backup and lead at the Soul Revue Benefit (no piano that night), followed by some harmony with John Schmitt two months ago.

Last night we got to see her shine, and it was mighty bright! First, I feel absolutely silly having described her piano play as solid that first night. She’s fantastic, pure and simple. Her style is largely jazz oriented, which often calls for more sophisticated play than pop piano numbers. She’s completely up to the task.

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We already knew her voice was amazing, and that was true over the entire set. It has a laser-like cleanliness to it. She hits notes unwaveringly, and with as much power (or subtlety) as she wants, seemingly without straining (or even breathing deeply).

What we didn’t know, and pleasantly discovered, is that she’s an excellent songwriter as well.

While I described her style as being largely jazz, there is quite a bit of variety in her songs. She tackles various subject matter (lyrically) and her melodies and tempos vary nicely as well.

Karly was supported by two excellent musicians:

Matt Arbeiter on drums. We just saw Matt a week ago at the Blues Brothers Benefit. He continues to impress, last night playing a jazzier set. I think it was the first time Matt played with Karly, even though they are both from Omaha.

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Kyle McCammon on electric bass. Karly joked that when she sent Matt a number of YouTube video links for him to get familiar with her music, the only constant in her band was Kyle. We’ve seen Kyle once before, but I didn’t remember that until I searched my blog. It was on December 18th, 2009, when he supported Greg Holden at the Canal Room.

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Since then, I’ve heard about him dozens of times, and he impressed in consecutive sets last night.

Karly was very charming throughout the set, though also in a bittersweet way. Her intros/stories were captivating, but they were delivered with a sadness (or so it seemed) over the fact that this was her last NY show for a while.

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Of course, now we’re mad at Karly for opening our eyes just as she shuts off our access. Winking smile At least we bought her CD, Good Company, and her EP, Grace, at the show, and we’ll continue to look for any new projects she produces. I just listened to both Good Company and Grace. They are gorgeous. If you love female jazz singers, with gorgeous instrumentation, get both!

Lois passed a hand-written note to a friend of Karly’s during a subsequent set. She received a hand-written set list on the opposite side of the napkin. Here are photos of both sides:

LoisNoteSetList

Come back soon and often Karly!

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).

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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.

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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

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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).

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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

Bess Rogers and Lelia Broussard at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Scratch another one off my music bucket list, Bess Rogers. We’ve been aware of her for a long time, having seen her husband, Chris Kuffner perform at least a dozen times. Even though we were hoping to stay in last night and catch up on some much-needed rest, when I found out Bess was playing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, neither of us hesitated to add it to our schedule.

Bess is part of Ingrid Michaelson’s band, tours as a solo artist and is also a member of The Flux Capacitors. Last night was a solo show (with full band), opening for Lelia Broussard (they’ve been touring together). Bess and Lelia shared the same band, so when I say something about a member of Bess’ band, the same goes for their performance when Lelia was on stage.

Bess played a mix of catchy pop songs and up-tempo rock numbers. Both styles worked well. Her voice was excellent, even though she noted that she had been sick all day and was chugging DayQuil. She opened on the ukulele, mostly played an acoustic guitar and finger-picked when she played the electric guitar.

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Bess just recently released a 5-song EP called Bess Rogers Presents Bess Rogers. She played all of the songs from the EP last night, along with five others (one called out from the crowd that isn’t on the set list).

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One of the songs on the EP was put up on YouTube and all of the band members (that I’m about to cover) appear in the video. The song is Favorite Day. There are two additional musicians in the video that were not on stage last night, Dan Romer and Saul Simon-MacWilliams, both playing brass:

Favorite Day by Bess Rogers

On to the band, left-to-right on stage:

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and harmony. Chris is excellent on electric guitar and on bass (which he didn’t play last night). I’ve heard him sing before (well), but last night, harmonizing with Bess (his wife), was even better. Clearly, they get some quality practice time. Winking smile In general, their interaction on stage is fun and fresh.

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Elliot Jacobson on drums. I’ve heard about Elliot for a while now. He too plays in Ingrid Michaelson’s band. In 2010, Elliot was voted as #1 Up and Coming Drummer in the Modern Drummer Magazine’s Readers Poll. I was very impressed with Elliot’s performance last night. Both Bess and Lelia had a ton of very up-tempo songs. It’s easy to over-drum them, or under-drum them. Elliot did neither. He was really interesting and extremely fast, time and again. I’m officially a fan now!

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Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony is such a solid musician, on electric and upright bass, as well as trumpet. Last night was no exception as the combination of Tony and Elliot created such a solid bottom, giving both Bess and Lelia a very big sound.

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Bess called Lelia up twice to join her on stage. The first time was to play ukulele (no singing). The second time Bess also called up Allison Weiss. Lelia played the electric guitar and Allison harmonized with Bess. Very well done.

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Bess’ set lasted 45 minutes. I look forward to the next time!

Immediately after Bess left the stage, Lelia’s set began. Since they were sharing the band, no additional setup was required. Except, the band reminded her that the first song on her set list was solo, so they all walked off the stage.

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In retrospect, that was the one mistake Lelia made in arranging her set (IMO). She’s a fine solo performer, but that one song was nothing like the rest of the set, so it set the wrong expectation for newcomers like us.

Once the band rejoined, the rest of the numbers were up-tempo rock. The music was totally engaging and I found my foot tapping (and stomping) throughout the set. The only downside is that for me, Lelia’s voice (excellent) was another instrument, not a lyrics delivery system. The music was loud (not annoying, just really full) that I could hardly make out more than a few words/lyrics in a row. Musically, I still enjoyed every number.

Lelia sang, played the ukulele, electric and acoustic guitars. Late in the set she too called up Bess and Allison Weiss. Bess played the tambourine and both Bess and Allison sang harmony with Lelia. I thoroughly enjoyed Lelia’s set. There was a bit more musical variety in Bess’ set, but every song in Lelia’s set was well executed.

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Lelia’s set also lasted roughly 45 minutes.

After the show, Lois went over to buy a T-Shirt from Bess. Bess announced on stage that if you bought a T-Shirt, she’d throw in the new EP. Cool! I listened to the EP while writing this post. Wonderful!

We also ran into Tony and Chris afterward:

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The show was called for 7:30pm. We arrived at 7:10pm. I noticed that Karly Jurgensen was playing next door at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 from 7-8pm. I have seen her perform one song when I saw Jesse Ruben there and he called her up as a guest.

I was impressed with that number. Lois was sick that night so she missed Jesse and Karly. I suggested that Lois go next door to catch at least one Karly song before the Bess/Lelia show started. She did.

When she returned, she couldn’t stop raving about how great Karly’s voice is! Whew, I didn’t steer her wrong. Winking smile

You can listen to her on her MySpace page. We’ll be looking out for Karly’s upcoming shows!

Alex Wong and Jesse Ruben at Rockwood Music Hall

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I haven’t been to Rockwood Music Hall (the original, Stage 1) in quite a while. In fact, I had to look it up (I knew there was a reason that I bother to blog!). It was 7/29/2010 to see Delta Rae. I’ve been to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 a bunch of times since then, so Rockwood is still getting the majority of my NYC music business. Winking smile

Alex Wong is reason enough to show up wherever he is. He’s an extraordinarily talented individual (note, I didn’t just say musician). He’s a singer/songwriter, songwriting collaborator, multi-instrument musician, amazing producer and all around nice guy.

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While Alex was reason enough to come out, he had a number of guests announced (not all played) and I have long wanted to see the person who was on at 9pm before Alex.

First the bottom line, then some color commentary. Last night’s set was fantastic.

Alex played 2/3’s of the set solo, mostly on the acoustic guitar. He played two songs at the grand piano. He opened solo with The Same Old Things.

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Melissa Tong on the violin joined Alex for the next number, one of my favorites, Brooklyn Blurs, which they knocked out of the park. I’ve said it so many times, Melissa is an incredible musician, we can’t get enough of her. I look forward to seeing her play with a symphony, her specialty.

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David Fallo on the viola joined both Alex and Melissa. David is a star (as are all of the musicians who play with Alex). In addition to sitting in on these types of shows, David is currently part of the orchestra in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. That’s no shabby gig!

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The three of them played a fun and energetic version of Motion Sickness. Alex divided the audience in half. I was in the Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na section (yes, those were the exact number of Na’s we sang at a clip, over and over). Smile

Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and harmony joined Alex for another favorite of mine, A Girl Like You, from Alex’s previous group, The Animators. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again. Martin is an excellent guitar player who always defers to his plethora of guest star guitar players in his own sets. When playing with Alex, he’s the guest and therefore featured on the guitar. Such a wonderful thing to hear. Do more of it in your sets too Martin!

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Alex finished the show by playing three consecutive new songs, all co-written with other wonderful singer/songwriters. If you weren’t there last night, you wouldn’t know that I just lied to you. Alex announced on Facebook that he would play three new songs in a row, but he actually threw in an existing song after the first new one, before completing the new trilogy.

The first new song was a Christmas song co-written with Rachel Platten. Alex told a long story about the derivation of the song. It was his first Christmas in NYC (2004), which wasn’t supposed to be a Christmas in NYC. The story was incredible, funny and touching. Alex doesn’t usually talk this much on stage. I vote that he talk more, it was a very nice addition to the set.

The second new song was played on the piano. It was co-written with Paul Freeman. Alex is producing Paul’s new CD. A very moving song.

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Finally, also on the piano, Alex played a song he co-wrote with Nate Campany. Nate was supposed to be there to sing harmony with Alex, but he didn’t show up (I saw him tweet today, so there’s no reason for concern). Excellent song. I told Alex after the show that when he produces it, he needs to have a full choir singing the “Yeah, yeah, yeah” part. I heard it as clear as a bell in my head even though Alex was singing alone.

Alex offered that I produce it instead. I told him I’ll happily produce those three words, he can work his usual magic on the rest. Winking smile

Jesse Ruben played the set before Alex. I have wanted to see Jesse for a long time. He tours with some other people that I like and I like his MySpace stuff (linked to his name). Not only didn’t Jesse disappoint me, he surprised me in a number of positive ways.

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Jesse is a very good songwriter (wide range of topics). He sings extremely well. He plays the acoustic guitar solidly, mostly rhythm, but beautiful finger picking on a song I’ll cover in a minute.

The biggest surprise was Jesse’s general stage presence, in particular his wit. There was a ton of laughter throughout the set. It came both from his stories and from his very quick responses to things that audience members shouted out.

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Jesse introduced practically every song with a story. It was extremely well delivered and enhanced my enjoyment of each song.

Kyle Patrick joined Jesse for two songs. We’ve seen Kyle once before at the Livestrong fundraiser. I thoroughly enjoyed his 2-song set that night and I have tried hard to arrange my schedule to catch Kyle again, unsuccessfully. He sang lead on one of the songs last night harmony on another. There was a good bit of na-na-na-na on the song that Kyle sang lead, with much of the audience joining in.

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Karly Jurgensen toured with Kyle and Jesse all summer. Jesse invited her up to perform one of her songs, accompanied by Jesse and Kyle. Karly has a wonderful voice and plays the piano solidly. The song was beautiful, a slower bluesy number. Jesse and Kyle harmonized during the chorus. Very nicely done.

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Back to the song that Jesse finger picked. If you know me, or read this blog regularly, then you know that Lois and I are obsessed with Wicked and The Wizard of Oz in general. Not that this is too small-worldish (given how huge Wicked and The Wizard of Oz are), but we always get signs from one or the other that connect us more deeply to things we already like.

Out of the blue, without even announcing a cover song, Jesse played If I Only Had a Heart. Absolutely gorgeous rendition. The only thing missing was not having Lois there to look at knowingly and hold hands with. That Jesse also chose that song to show off a bit of his guitar skills is the kind of thing I was talking about in the paragraph above. Smile

Rockwood was packed for Jesse’s set, dominated by people who were obviously huge Jesse Ruben fans. That always makes the sets more fun even though Jesse was new to me.

One of the people in the audience was Sam Teichman. Sam, Jesse and a bunch of other people in the audience are running in the NYC Marathon this Sunday, raising money for cancer care. Last Thursday, Sam was involved in putting together a charity concert at The Bitter End, called the “Born to Run” show, featuring Bruce Springsteen covers.

I would have loved to attend that show and a number of my friends did. I was already committed to a house concert featuring ambeR Rubarth and I too had an amazing evening.

Jesse mentioned that Sam was still raising money for the cause and that he was offering a DVD filled with music from 22 different artists that participated in the Born to Run show. Donations greater than $1 would get you the DVD. I was sitting across the table from Sam (whom I have met once before at a Rockwood 2 show) and I donated in exchange for the DVD right after Jesse’s set.

After Alex Wong’s set, I made a quick tour of Rockwood to say hi/bye to a number of friends. We’ve been away for a long time and it was really good to see everyone (performers and audience members alike). I wish Lois could have been with me, but she’s been sick ever since we returned. Today is day 12. Let’s hope it’s one of the last. This isn’t the type of streak anyone is proud of.

Given that Lois wasn’t in attendance, any complaints about photo quality land squarely on my shoulders.