Kenneth Pattengale

The Milk Carton Kids at Joe’s Pub

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The Milk Carton Kids (MCK) headlined Joe’s Pub last night. We bought tickets ages ago. We caught their first ever NYC show (after they officially formed MCK) almost five month ago. Sadly, we missed two NYC shows between then and last night.

TheMilkCartonKids

My post about that NYC debut show went into great detail describing the group, each of their individual styles, how we came to know them, what their business model is, etc. Rather than repeat all that, if you have interest in knowing more about them (and how great I think they are), please read that post.

I’ll add a few thoughts about last night’s show.

We love Joe’s Pub, in particular since the internal renovation (the exterior still has a ton of work left and the kitchen reno hasn’t even begun). The sound system was perfect (it usually is), so there was no distraction or straining to enjoy MCK.

Joey and Kenneth are always funny, with Joey typically doing much more of the talking. Last night, Kenneth piped up more often. It was an edgier, biting humor (I’m being polite) that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Joey’s responses/reactions to it were priceless, so in the end I was fine with it too. It will be interesting to see whether this was planned/calculated and will be repeated, or whether it was extemporaneous and fleeting (I’m hoping for the latter, even though I laughed).

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They were truly amazing last night (not a single complaint). That said, I believe the Rockwood show in October 2011 was technically better.

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Joey and Kenneth are very good friends with another top guitar player, NYC-based Adam Levy. In addition to giving guitar lessons, Adam tweets guitar tips on a regular basis. I doubt they changed their styles as a result of anything Adam tweeted publicly, but I was struck by the fact that they are the perfect poster boys for Adam’s advice. Specifically:

Don’t watch your hands.Nothing to see there.Look around-at audience, fellow musicians, the scenery.

As incredible as both are on the guitar (completely different styles), neither ever looks at their hands/guitar while they’re singing. They rarely look down when they’re just playing either.

I can’t find the set of tweets that covered this next tip, so I’ll paraphrase and butcher it, sorry:

If you play acoustic guitar, unless there’s a really good reason to (which there rarely is), don’t use pickups and an amplifier, use a microphone to amplify your guitar. It makes everything simpler, less things to travel with and less things that can go wrong.

MCK do exactly that. Four microphones on stage, two for their voices, two for their guitars. They can travel lightly (which in this business, means simplicity and money-savings). When Kenneth wants to tune his guitar, he steps a few feet back from the mic. He doesn’t need to dork with pedal boards, electronic tuners, signaling the sound guy that he’s about to unplug, etc.

If you’re interested in more of Adam’s tips/lessons, look here.

Here is the set list from last night:

SetList

MCK had an opener. It’s extremely rare for most of the clubs that we frequent to make any announcements (headliners or openers). At some point, one or more people are on stage, milling about. You hear a bunch of “check, check”, some tuning, but mostly, you hear the crowd carrying on, ignoring what’s happening on stage. Then the lights get a bit dimmer, and the person or group on stage either starts playing, or perhaps they say hello and introduce themselves.

In an even rarer event than the venue making an announcement, Joey Ryan (1/2 of the MCK) came out and gave a moving introduction of the opener. We know from past experience that Joey is a class act in every respect, so this wasn’t a surprise in terms of his behavior, but it was a surprise to have anyone mention the name of the opener before they hit the stage.

Trevor Menear is a solo singer/songwriter, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. I’m typically a big fan of this kind of music (having come of age to Bob Dylan) and I can see Trevor’s appeal in that regard. As good a job as he did, for whatever reason, I wasn’t particularly drawn to his songs.

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His guitar play was quite good when he wasn’t singing (during the bridges, or intro/closing), but was less polished (for the most part) while he was singing. That said, later in the set he switched to finger-picking on a couple of songs, and I shifted in my seat to pay more attention. He has skills.

I enjoyed his set, but I wouldn’t normally run out to see him again. Given how much Joey promoted him (at the end of the MCK set as well), he’s worth another listen (or two, or three), to see what I might be missing. Trevor is currently touring with MCK, so if  you’re about to see them, you’ll see him, and can form your own opinion.

After the set we got to say a quick hi to Joey. Lois snapped this photo of Joey with two of our other favorite musicians:

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Then we bumped into Philip Ettinger. I’ve written about Phil once before and mentioned him in another post. Phil is an actor that you all better keep an eye on, he’s going places, mark my words. Of course, we forced him to pose for this shot:

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Lois forced me to pose for one as well:

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Another fun evening out seeing great music. Back for more music starting Sunday at 5pm (Zach Jones at Rockwood 1), then Rebecca Haviland on Monday night at Rockwood 2 (7:30pm).

The Milk Carton Kids at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The Milk Carton Kids (MKC) headlined their first ever NYC show last night, at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. MKC is comprised of two individual stars, Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale.

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Before MKC was formed, we were huge fans of Joey’s work and attended as many shows as we could. A few of those shows had Kenneth as a guest. The two created magic. Thankfully, they recognized it too (the audiences knew it instantly) and they decided to combine their efforts and talents as MKC.

TheMilkCartonKids

They both:

  • are excellent songwriters
  • have wonderful voices (each sings really high when they harmonize with the other)
  • play the guitar wonderfully, in complementary styles
  • are self-effacing
  • hysterical (though Joey speaks more than Kenneth on stage)

Before MKC, they played mostly Joey songs, with a couple of Kenneth songs thrown in the mix. Now they play a couple of each individual’s numbers, but they have written a lot of new music together. All are a delight to listen to.

SetList

They each sang lead on roughly half the numbers, with the other always harmonizing quite a bit. Joey finger picks his acoustic guitar beautifully, occasionally switching to rhythm.

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Kenneth Pattengale is one of my favorite guitarists. It’s ironic that I caught him on a night when I just saw back-to-back exceptional guitar players (Greg Mayo and Adam Levy). Kenneth’s style is different than both of them (though Adam on occasion comes closer to Kenneth’s style).

Kenneth is wicked fast, buttery smooth and most important, extraordinarily interesting. Those are facts (indisputable, I command you to stop reading this now if you disagree!). What’s as impressive to me is that his brain is creating these sounds (concepts) and then directing his fingers (which never fail him). I am at a loss for words (now that I’ve written the ones before these). Winking smile

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While Joey is finger picking, Kenneth is dancing in an around it, creating a mesmerizing sound.

That you could hear a pin drop in a crowded Rockwood 2, a place hardly known for it’s quiet, is a testament to the fact that I am not alone in my reaction to their set last night. Thunderous applause (at times during the songs, when Kenneth completed a lead), mixed with utter silence while they were singing. Exactly as it should be.

The only thing I know about the economics of the Music Industry is that for 99.9% of all musicians, it sucks. The only thing worse than how hard it is to make money, is how hard it is to get noticed. How nice it is that if you finally get noticed, you likely will continue to struggle financially. Sad smile

Joey is one of a number of artists who decided to experiment with breaking out of the cycle (even before MKC was formed). After creating some amazing CDs and EPs, he started giving away all of his music for free. There were zero catches. You didn’t even have to give your email address. You want his music, you get it.

MKC has continued that model. They’ve put out two albums already (one live, one studio). Both are available at their site for free download (Prologue and Retrospect, down the left-hand column). If you want to support the band, you can purchase them on iTunes. You can buy physical copies at shows. But clearly, they don’t expect to sell too many copies (please prove me wrong!).

This model requires them tour like crazy, which is exactly what they do. Recall that I said that getting noticed is the biggest problem. You can be crazy talented and tour like a fiend, and still play many shows in front of tiny audiences. Their concept is to try and get their music distributed (and discovered) as far and wide as possible, so that when they show up in your town, you’ll be excited to go see them play (and you should be excited!).

Another way to make money in the music business is through licensing. It’s difficult to get noticed in that arena too. Perhaps giving away your music will get it on the radar of people who place music in TV shows, commercials, movies, etc.

A year ago, we took our godson and his now-wife to see Joey in Birmingham, AL at Workplay. They really liked him a lot. I later told David that Joey made his albums available for free download and David grabbed them and listened and loved them (as I do). A few weeks ago David called to say that he was pretty sure he heard Joey’s voice in a Nature Valley commercial. Sure enough, he was right. Recognition, that’s what it’s all about!

Every couple of weeks, Kenneth tweets his road statistics (proving just how committed they are to the grueling life of a traveling musician). This is his most recent one:

kpattengale Kenneth Pattengale

Away = 202 Home = 76 #NightsInMyOwnBed2011

Ouch! On the other hand, I think it’s required, in particular with the model that they have chosen.

Go grab their music, go see them in your town (they’re all over the place, all the time) and judge for yourself.

Joey Ryan, Kenneth Pattengale, The Springs Standards and Meg and Dia at The Studio at Webster Hall

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Joey Ryan comes to NYC a few times a year. If we’re here too, you can bet we’ll make it to one of his shows. Even though we love seeing him solo, this time he was touring with Kenneth Pattengale as well. The two of them make magic together, so we run rather than jog to see them whenever we can.

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Last night included an interesting first, one I completely support and was impressed by. For many of the shows we go to, it’s hit or miss whether an artist (even the headliner) will actually get an introduction. Most times, the lights dim and people start to clap when they notice the band coming on stage. Occasionally, there might be an announcement over the PA. Rarely, someone from the club will come on stage and make a more formal introduction.

At 8pm (show time), Dia, of Meg and Dia came on stage. She introduced Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale. She did it in a completely humorous, sarcastic manner, which might have confused (or offended) people who misunderstood or don’t get that kind of humor. I don’t think there were many in the audience who missed the real meaning.

The more important thing here is that the headliner bothered to come on stage, to let their fans know how highly they thought of the opener. I haven’t seen that before and I’d love to see It happen more often. Occasionally, a great opening group gets little respect from a crowd who is there primarily to see the headliner. Perhaps they would pay more attention if they realized that the headliner chose the opener for a reason! Bravo Meg and Dia!

Joey and Kenneth performed seven songs, alternating their material with each singing lead on the songs they wrote. Joey started and ended the set with Kenneth performing the even numbered songs.

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Both are very good guitar players. Joey mostly finger picks and Kenneth is a masterful flat-picker. They blend beautifully. The same is true of their voices. Harmonies are gorgeous. Each has a wide range. Each tends to sing very high when they’re harmonizing for the other, and lower when they’re singing lead.

In his signature style (making it worth coming to a show even if you listen to their CDs and EPs constantly), Joey (and Kenneth as well) is just plain funny. Completely deadpan delivery (and soft-spoken to the point of having to strain to hear him at times). I believe that Joey could have a career in comedy if he wanted it. He was most definitely on last night (not that I recall ever seeing him off).

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The crowd was extremely enthusiastic for them. There’s no doubt that we weren’t the only people there who know and love Joey and Kenneth’s music, but I also suspect that aside from them being able to win people over on their own, having Dia come out to give her fans the word had to nudge some to pay more attention. Their set lasted around 35 minutes.

After a pretty quick turnaround (a little less than 10 minutes), the second of the three groups took the stage.

The Spring Standards have been on my list for nearly a year and it just hasn’t worked out in my schedule to catch them. We saw them perform at the New York Sings for Haiti Benefit in January. They did two songs and had a minimal setup. I was extremely impressed and I wanted to see/hear more.

Last night was nothing like the Haiti Benefit. The fact that they were able to set up in under 10 minutes was quite impressive given all the gear that they had on stage. Nothing minimal about their set this time.

Standing left-to-right on the stage (for the most part, though the two James’ switched sides a number of times):

James Cleare played the acoustic guitar, electric bass, drums, harmonica and sang (lead and harmony). Excellent all around.

Heather Robb (apparently an actor as well as a member of this group). Heather played the drums, double-decker electric keyboards, glockenspiel and sang (lead and harmony). She also had a melodica out, but if she played it, I missed it. She too was excellent all around, though her voice sounded a bit strained at times (markedly different from the Haiti benefit, where her voice was the highlight).

James Smith (no good individual link, so I linked to a good but old photo of him) played electric bass, acoustic guitar, trumpet, drums and sang (lead and harmony). Another excellent performance all around.

Updated: I had the two James reversed originally, even I was pretty sure I was wrong. The photos at ContactMusic are mislabeled and I incorrectly followed their lead. 🙁 Thanks to the commenter who pointed out my error!

All three are talented multi-instrumentalists. They all drum standing up, playing other instruments during the same song. Typically, two of them are drumming on the same song (e.g., James Cleare will be using the kick drum while playing the electric bass, as Heather plays the snare, bass drum and cymbals while mixing in the keyboards or glock).

Joining them for at least half of their numbers (standing/sitting behind them) was their Tour Manager, Noah Goldman. Noah played pedal steel guitar, bass, acoustic and electric guitars (possibly something else).

The energy level they put out is incredible. Everything about their performance is fun. Due to the big sound (loud, but clear) and the amazing amount of visual distractions (eye candy) to pay attention to on stage, I can’t say that I registered more than a handful of their lyrics, here and there. As such, their songs aren’t (yet) memorable to me.

They finished up their set in a big way. First they invited Joey and Kenneth to join them. They performed I Shall Be Released by Bob Dylan. Joey sang the first verse, followed by each of The Spring Standards singing a verse. Kenneth played electric guitar (first time I’ve seen him do that). Many people in the audience (myself included) sang the chorus with them (we were invited to). Gorgeous version of an old-time favorite song!

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Immediately after, they invited up the entire Meg and Dia band (five members) to sing a high-energy song. There were 11 people on stage for this number. The Spring Standards did all the singing, with everyone else banging away at something (part of the drum set, a tambourine, etc.), making a big sound.

They were on stage for roughly 45 minutes.

I was more intrigued by the initial (mellower) Haiti performance, but there’s little doubt in my mind that this group is filled to the brim with incredibly talented people who mesh really well together. I want/need to explore them more.

Roughly 20 minutes later, the headliners came on stage.

We were really wiped out and would have loved to have just bolted, but I really wanted to get a sense of Meg and Dia.

We stayed for two songs. I’m impressed with their voices. I was impressed with their musicianship as well, but in general, it was just a bit too loud. Great energy and rhythm. I would see them again, but I was glad to get off my feet and hit the sack before midnight.

Speaking of getting off my feet, this was a standing-only show (yes, there are a handful of seats along the side and back). I stood the entire time. Standing for people like Joey and Kenneth is simply ridiculous. That kind of a mellow sound should be savored from the comfort of a chair.

The Spring Standards have the energy and sound to drive people to their feet, but I know that I would prefer to see them in a seated show as well. Meg and Dia can definitely generate the more dance-crowd kind of feel, so I’m not surprised that they would play a room that is standing only. Independent of whether the music fits, we will always prefer venues that are seated.

We attended with three other people (and unexpectedly met two other friends at the show). Before the show, the five of us had a lovely dinner around the corner from Webster Hall (our first time there) at Apiary (also a first for us). Another winning night out! Smile

P.S. Lois dropped her camera on Saturday night and it was acting up a lot last night. Given that today is Cyber Monday, there is a new camera in her very near future. So, the shots above are the last ones you’re likely to ever see from her old, trusty Canon PowerShot 1100 IS. May it rest in peace. This, plus Lois’ vantage point in the few seats in the back, explain the lack of photos.

ambeR Rubarth, Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Another night, another awesome show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (third one in four nights!). I guess there’s nothing left to say. This will officially be my shortest post ever.

Why are you still here? OK, just for you, take a peek below this line and I’ll share my experience from last night’s show. Don’t tell anyone else though. 😉

I’ll cover the acts in reverse order of their appearance, but the names will be interspersed as a number of our favorite performers joined each of the headliners.

ambeR Rubarth closed the show. She played acoustic guitar and the grand piano and of course, sang. When she came out she looked around the room and called up Katie Scheele (a member of Threeds) to join her on stage.

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Katie came up with her oboe (actually, that first number was likely an English Horn, Katie’s other specialty). They kicked off a fantastic set together.

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In addition to playing a number of songs solo, ambeR played Full Moon in Paris with three guests: Kenneth Pattengale on acoustic guitar (lead), Joey Ryan and Greg Holden sharing a microphone to sing harmony with ambeR.

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Kenneth Pattengale joined ambeR alone for at least two other numbers. One on acoustic guitar and the other with them both seated at the piano. Their piano duet brought down the house!

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Alex Wong joined ambeR for two numbers. The first was Rough Cut where Alex played the snare drum while ambeR played the grand piano. The second was In the Creases, where Katie Scheele joined them (this time on the oboe, I’m sure). Awesome (as In the Creases always is, but the oboe adds such a great touch!).

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To close the show, ambeR brought up Joey and Kenneth again, but added a super special guest star, Joshua Radin. The four of them did an amazing job of covering Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice. It was our first time seeing Joshua Radin. It won’t be our last. Pinky swear!

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When ambeR left the stage the crowd just wouldn’t stop making noise. ambeR poked her head out from the green room curtain, looked up at the sound board and received the OK to come back for an encore. She asked the crowd for a request. I was the quickest with a loud “Novacaine”. Given that I was so close to the stage, before others got to say anything, she just said: “OK”. 🙂

I’ve never heard a bad version of Novacaine in any number of settings, but I can definitively say that last night was the best. ambeR nailed every single harmonic on the guitar and the pace of the song was perfect. What a way to end an incredible night.

Joey Ryan is an amazing solo performer (here’s my post from the last time we saw him solo). Joey also tours in other configurations. One of our favorite shows was at Rockwood 1 when Joey brought along Kenneth Pattengale and Mark Stepro. I covered that in this post. Last night he played with Kenneth for most songs, with two additional guests.

Joey finger-picked nearly every song and sang beautifully.

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Kenneth Pattengale is a master on the acoustic guitar. His non-stop leads (I described it as dancing in my last post) are mesmerizing. He sings gorgeous harmony with Joey. Either can take the high or low side equally well.

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In the first show, Kenneth sang lead on only one song, Charlie, a beautiful song written for his yet-to-be-conceived daughter (oh yeah, he is yet to meet her mom either, or he doesn’t know he met her already!). 😉

Aside from Kenneth being so amazing on the guitar, I put his name in the title here because in addition to singing Charlie, he also sang two other songs (with Joey providing wonderful harmony) and he was on stage with ambeR for three numbers as well. He was a very integral part of last night’s show.

The first of Joey’s guests was none other than Ian Axel who played the piano on Joey’s Broken Headlights (probably Lois’ favorite of Joey’s songs). Ian was icing on an already delicious cake. Independent of that, we could listen to Ian play the 1-800-MATTRESS song and be nearly as happy. 😉

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For his last number, Joey called ambeR up to sing harmony with him (and of course Kenneth).

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Throughout the set, the interplay of Joey finger-picking and Kenneth playing mind-boggling leads was stunning. The singing was equally amazing, but I would have been totally satisfied to hear an all-instrumental show with Joey and Kenneth.

Of course, a Joey show is not complete without his signature self-deprecating humor. He was certainly on last night, introducing new lines that I hadn’t heard before. ambeR, Joey and Kenneth are at World Cafe in Philadelphia tonight. To give you a flavor of Joey’s humor, here is a tweet from him today, announcing tonight’s show:

Philadelphia. Get ready for the quietest show you’ve ever heard. Tonight at world cafe. Whisper it to your friends.

🙂

You probably don’t believe the way I describe Joey (angelic). Thankfully, Lois captured an elusive slip-up, when he flashed his halo for a second. 😉

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Will Knox opened the show. We’ve seen Will twice before, each time doing just two songs as part of a much larger lineup (the first was a Livestrong fundraiser, the second was a Haiti Benefit).

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Last night Will had a full band (he did not avail himself of the house band at the Haiti Benefit, and he played solo at the Livestrong event). It was a very pleasant surprise as the band was talented and fit well with Will’s songs.

Will is an excellent guitar player (he picked most songs, strummed a few). He has a very good voice. The rest of the band, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Kyle James Hauser on banjo. Kyle was really good throughout. My only complaint was that his instrument was the softest of the bunch. I had to work hard to pick him out. Still, it was worth the effort. 🙂

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Timur Yusef on drums and background vocals. Good job on both.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and background vocals. I’ve written about Chris many times (he’s the bassist for Ian Axel and he plays occasionally with Martin Rivas as well). We love Chris’ play, last night being no exception!

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Here’s proof that Ian is willing to be seen in public with Chris. 😉

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Clayton Mathews on fiddle (violin for you snootier types). The entire band was excellent, but Clayton Mathews was the highlight for me. His fiddle play was crisp and interesting throughout. To top it off, he threw out a half-dozen half-liners (not quite one-liners) that had the crowd (and Will!) in stitches. Very well done!

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Could anything make this night better? Yes, two things:

1) So many wonderful friends there to share the show with us (including people we never expected to see there, let alone share a table with!)

2) After the show we headed straight to the house (an unusual mid-week treat)

For a variety of reasons, last night might be our last NYC show for at least a month. We’ll miss some amazing shows in October during CMJ week. We’re sad about that, but happy that our sendoff show will keep us looking forward to more such evenings out.

If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom, here’s a little reward for you. Lois takes nearly all of the photos and typically refuses to be photographed herself. One of our tablemates convinced her to hand over her precious camera and we were captured as a result:

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Ian Axel and Joey Ryan at Rockwood Music Hall

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We had a big birthday celebration weekend for Lois. I just put up a short blog (OK, short for me) about The Addams Family which we saw on Friday night. Last night, we had a special dinner at the Peking Duck House, and I will write about that in the next couple of days.

We pushed the dinner up to 6pm, so that we could be sure to make it to Rockwood in time to see Ian Axel and Joey Ryan.

We’ve seen Ian mostly with a full band, and once mostly solo (with others, like Joey Ryan, accompanying him a bit). He’s great both ways. Last night was the first time he was solo on a grand piano (the other time he was on electric keyboards).

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Ian creates a big enough sound to fill the room with the piano and his voice alone, so no disappointment at not having the full band. That said, if I get to choose, Adam Christgau and Chris Anderson are so wonderful, and fit Ian’s sound so perfectly, that it’s a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts (or some other high brow observation).

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Joining Ian for two songs was the ever-wonderful Chad Vaccarino. They did both Shorty Don’t Wait and This is the New Year. Even though it was just the piano and the two of them on the stage for This is the New Year, when the two of them were belting out the vocals together, the sound got very big.

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Joining them on stage for Shorty Don’t Wait were both Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale (who I will call out later on). Joey and Kenneth were also on stage with Ian for Say Something (which Ian played on the ukulele, which he also played during Shorty Don’t Wait).

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Ian played a song that he co-wrote with Greg Holden. Greg joined him to sing harmony. Gorgeous song. It was the first time we’ve heard it.

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Rockwood was packed to the gills. Ian mesmerized the crowd. When he whispered during a song, you could close you eyes and believe that you were the only one in the audience, it got that quiet. That’s not the norm, even for Rockwood, where you can often hear people chattering during the songs.

We spotted a number of friends in the crowd, who also juggled other plans to make sure that they didn’t miss Ian. Kindred souls we are. Check Ian out sometime soon, and join our club. 🙂

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Coming on immediately after Ian was Joey Ryan. This is the first time we’ve seen Joey play with a trio. We have loved Joey both live and on his CDs, even when it’s just him and a guitar. I have to say that putting together this trio, with their exceptional harmonies and guitar interplay was brilliant.

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Joey’s songs are rich musically and lyrically and his self-effacing banter is endearing. He’s also an excellent guitar player. He was hitting on all cylinders last night.

To his left (stage right) was Kenneth Pattengale on guitar, harmony vocals and lead vocals on one of Kenneth’s songs, Charlie (which you can listen to on Kenneth’s site, linked to above). Kenneth’s voice blends beautifully with Joey’s. But the real magic happens when you lose yourself in Kenneth’s lead acoustic guitar.

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Kenneth has a feel for dancing in and around the melody of a song enhancing the basic structure with his soulful leads. He sounded great on the few songs he played with Ian, but he is so much more familiar with Joey’s music that he felt looser and more creative during every one of Joey’s numbers.

Rounding out the trio is the very talented Mark Stepro. Mark played guitar and sang harmony throughout the set. All three have excellent on-stage personalities.

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Ian joined them for two numbers.

Rockwood is mostly a set of 45 minute sets. Matt Duke played the set before Ian. Matt has been touring with Ian and Joey, so technically, he was opening for them last night. We got there in time to catch his set.

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Matt plays mostly straight up folk style, solo vocals accompanied on an acoustic guitar. He’s a talented guy, good guitar playing. Unfortunately, for people who came to see Ian and Joey, worse if they already knew Ian and/or Joey, it was a little hard for Matt to hold the crowd’s attention or live up to the others musically.