Kevin Collazo

Live Society at Arlene’s Grocery

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I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to make this show. We had early dinner plans, but that didn’t mean the dinner wouldn’t last a long time. Amazingly, unbeknownst to us, our friend had a ticket for the 7:30pm show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, which I guess explains her agreement to an early hour for dinner (always our preference anyway!).

We shared a cab downtown, walked her to Rockwood and continued the extra 1.5 blocks to Arlene’s Grocery.

I really wanted to see Live Society again (I saw them last week at Rockwood 2, covered here) for two reasons:

  1. They’re awesome, so anytime it is convenient, I would go see them!
  2. Lois missed last week’s show, and I knew how much she’d enjoy it, so making up for last week’s miss this quickly was a big win!

Rather than repeat what’s so special about Live Society, please read the post linked above, or my post about the Soul Benefit where I first discovered them.

I’ll just post some photos, mentioning along the way some differences in last night’s performance, while saying a few words about each band member.

Left-to-right on stage (front row first, then the back row, stacked behind them):

Kevin Collazo on harmony vocals. This accounts for one of the differences. The previous two times I’ve seen Live Society, Kevin was on Brian’s left (our right). This time he was on Brian’s right (our left). I wasn’t sure I could handle the change, but thankfully, I made it. Winking smile

KevinCollazo

Kevin sings so well, but as I’ve mentioned both times in the past, he hasn’t taken a lead on any of the songs. After the show last night, I mustered up the courage to tell him (in front of Brian, his baby brother) that he needs to take the lead on at least one song. His response was extremely funny, but you would’ve had to have seen the show to get it (and I’ll spare you the back story, but encourage you to attend their shows, since their personalities shine on stage).

Brian chimed in right away, saying that Kevin does indeed have an amazing voice, and they would make sure to work in a lead soon. Great!

Brian Collazo on lead vocals, harmony and acoustic guitar on a few numbers. Brian was wonderful, as he has always been. We’ve seen Brian one additional time without Live Society, performing at an American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood 2 last week. He was amazing then as well. As I noted in that post, he’s even better with the tightness and shared experience of Live Society.

BrianCollazoSingingBrianCollazoGuitar

Jason Vargas (a.k.a. Jay Vegas, though Brian did not call him that last night, for the first time) on vocals and general merriment duties. I mentioned in the last post that Jason has a smile that can melt the room. It was on last night, as was his banter. He knows how to work a room in the best sense. Oh yeah, let’s not forget how incredible his voice is (both on lead and harmony).

JasonVargas

Scott Harper on saxophone and flute. Scott was terrific on the sax (again), but broke out a flute on one song. If he played the flute at Rockwood, I missed it, since I was at the opposite end of the club from Scott that night.

ScottHarperScottHarperFlute

One of the side benefits of blogging about every show we attend is that I can quickly look up facts by simply searching my own site! I love the flute (have I mentioned that I love most instruments, perhaps not equally, but there isn’t a big gap between the ones I love!). So, I just searched for the last time I saw a flautist (impressed that I know that word, pretentious or otherwise?):

  1. 12/12/2010, we saw the Artemis Chamber Ensemble. Two of the pieces featured an incredible flute player, Melissa Healy.
  2. 10/09/2010 (American Date System in use here) we saw the Richmond Symphony. I described myself as being in flute heaven.
  3. 12/20/2009 we saw Cherish The Ladies. Don’t get me started on how amazing Joanie Madden is on the flute.

The list continues, but I’m already off topic, except to say that I hope Scott will do more flute in future shows (if he wants to skip it on the nights I can’t make it, I’ll allow that).

John Kaiteris on electric guitar. John writes many of Live Society’s songs. After a slow number, early in the set (that I’ll call “The Heights”, but that’s probably not the name), an audience member sitting right next to me asked who wrote it. John did, but it also afforded an opportunity for Brian and Jason to poke a little fun of John (in a loving way). Like I said, they all have excellent stage presence!

JohnKaiteris

John is also an incredible guitarist (I’ve mentioned it both times I’ve seen him before, but I will hammer that point home until you get it, OK?). Like Greg Mayo, John never disappoints, on any lead. It’s that simple. I will publicly admit that I had a momentary fantasy during one of John’s leads last night that he and Greg would play some Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd songs together, so I could get the multiple lead guitars done right, live. Smile

You’ll have to read to the bottom to see how I might have missed that happen. You’ll also have to read my fourth post of the day today (this is the first of four!) to see how it’s quite likely that I made it happen (assuming it did…).

Tyger MacNeal on drums. My only second of nervousness last night (other than seeing Kevin and Jason swap positions) Winking smile was in noticing during setup that Erik Perez was not manning the drums! Erik is really great and so well matched with Live Society (that shouldn’t be a surprise, as Brian told me last week Erik founded the group!).

TygerMacNeal

I will happily accept Erik back any day of the week (he’s that good), but, if Tyger replaces him when he can’t make it, I promise to be equally happy. Tyger is that good too. Only this morning did I get to look him up and see who he has played with. The list is a who’s who of All Stars (mind boggling actually), but my jaw dropped when I read that he toured with one of my all-time heroes, Jose Feliciano!

He’s been with Jose Feliciano for over 10 years and is the first person listed in Jose’s band. My mind is still reeling…

Anthony Candullo on electric bass. I’ve enjoyed his play both times before, but I had a better angle on him this time, and for whatever reason, was able to appreciate his play even more. I’m not sure it was different or better, just that I was able to notice it clearly.

AnthonyCandullo

Jeremy Baum on electronic keyboards. Jeremy was good last week and better this week. He took a longer solo (the set lists were not identical, which was great!) and he was excellent.

JeremyBaum

After the show we went up to tell everyone how great it was and got a great shot of the band all squeezed in together.

LiveSociety

I mentioned above that I fantasized about John Kaiteris and Greg Mayo jamming together, entirely for my personal benefit.

We had two more shows on our schedule for last night (and ended up sitting in on a third, hence three more posts today!), so we missed another event across town.

Shortly before we left the apartment I saw a tweet from Martin Rivas that they were having another Campfire event, this time at Slane. We had just attended our first-ever Campfire (unfortunately one of the few that Martin, one of the co-founders of Campfire, ever missed) at Red Lion on Sunday night. You can read about the awesome mayhem. I was very sorry we were going to miss this one.

Imagine how sorrier I was when I saw the following tweet stream after I got back home (the first entry is actually from a friend’s Facebook status):

slane. NYC campfire. I think I died and went to music heaven.

@SamTeichman wrote: The joy, friendship, creativity and love of music that is on display at a@NYCcampfire is absolutely life changing. It’s indescribably good.

he added: 1. Saxophone duels are among the coolest things in music. 2. @NYCcampfire is RIDICULOUSLY fun. 3. My smile is illegally big right now.

OK, I missed an awesome show (I trust both Kelly and Sam’s opinions completely). But then, I read the following tweet from Martin Rivas:

That was a rather titanic @NYCcampfire. Thx guests @gregmayomusic @jefflitman @matt_simons @SierraNoble @livesocietyband @sethfaulk xo!!

Wait, what? Greg Mayo was there (only a minor surprise) but so was Live Society (a major surprise). Now I know what Sam meant by Dueling Saxophones! Obviously, Matt Simons (great) and Scott Harper (see above!) went at it, and I missed it.

I still don’t know (perhaps I don’t want to know!) whether Greg and John took simultaneous leads on any song. I might be heart-broken if the answer is yes. On the other hand, I might be heartened that it did happen, so that I know it could happen again! Smile

Live Society, The Thang and Chelsea Lee at Rockwood Music Hall

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I’ve seen Live Society once before when they opened a Benefit Concert at The Bitter End. They were awesome. Ever since then, I’ve followed them and have been trying hard to get to one of their shows (they play reasonably frequently). Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out.

I was reasonably sure it wouldn’t work out last night either. We had tentative plans. Late in the afternoon, they got moved to Monday night, so I was suddenly free and quite happy about it. Lois was wiped from our consecutive late night escapades (captured in posts yesterday and the day before), so she stayed home. In a serendipitous turn, our friend (and extraordinary singer!) Amy Rivard was working in our neighborhood. She agreed to keep me company and we headed down together. We caught a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 first, but I’ll cover that at the end of the post.

Live Society was playing next door at Stage 2.

If you read my thoughts on Live Society in the previously linked post, you won’t have many surprises in what I’m about to say. They were awesome, again. Since the last time was clearly in the context of a Soul Revue, let me at least state that Live Society is an R&B/Soul/Funk band, and a darn good one.

Update: There are a number of corrections/clarifications and filled-in items below. All of the updated information was provided by the all-knowing, all-seeing Sam Teichman. Thanks Sam! 🙂

Brian Collazo is the front man and lead singer. He also played the acoustic guitar on a couple of songs. He has a great voice and an exceptional stage presence. It’s hard to take your eyes off of him during the show, except that you have to (and do), because there’s a ton of additional talent to pay attention to on stage with him.

BrianCollazoSingingBrianCollazoGuitar

Jason Vargas on vocals. Jason sang lead on one song (smooth as silk) and incredible harmony on all the others (with a lead verse thrown in here and there for good measure). He’s a got a smile (and a wink) that melts the ladies hearts (I was surrounded by women, not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I could swear that every time Brian refers to him he calls him “Jay Vegas”, which might be his nickname, but hey, I’m old, and perhaps I’m just doddering and not hearing it correctly. Winking smile

JasonVargas

Kevin Collazo rounds out the vocal part of the band. While he doesn’t sing lead on any songs, his harmony is strong and an integral part of the group. He and Jason are also somewhat like original Motown backup singers, in that they physically move in unison (often enough to notice) and make gestures (like hearts, with their hands) to match the lyrics. Very nicely executed. Here is Kevin, singing with Brian:

BrianCollazoKevinCollazo

John Kaiteris on electric guitar. John is a superb guitar player. He also writes many of the songs that Live Society records and performs. Simply an incredibly talented individual, even though he doesn’t open his mouth on stage (he let’s his fingers do the walking and talking). Winking smile

JohnKeitaris

Erik Perez on drums. Excellent! This type of music is so beat-heavy that even a decent drummer could bring the overall experience down if they don’t handle the transitions perfectly. Erik does. Problem solved (or actually, never created!).

ErikPerez

Anthony Candullo on electric bass. Solid job throughout the set. A relief (for me) from the night before, where the bass players were overwhelming in their volume. Anthony’s bass blended in just right. Note that Anthony’s name is linked, but the others aren’t. That’s because I can’t find a good link to each of them as individuals. I guess it’s “Go Team!” for Live Society.

AnthonyCandullo

Scott Harper on tenor saxophone. Scott is listed as a regular member of the band, but I didn’t mention him at the Benefit Concert. So, either I messed up badly, or he wasn’t able to make it that night. In any event, Scott did a terrific job last night on a number of tasty leads. Horns might not be a requirement for this type of music, but they sure are welcome on every single note they play.

Update: Sam confirms that while Scott is the regular sax player for Live Society, he did indeed miss the Benefit Concert, so I didn’t mess up reporting on that show (though I certainly have on many others).

ScottHarper

At the benefit concert, they had a special guest keyboard player, Patrick Firth. Last night a different special guest sat in on keyboards.

Jeremy Baum on electronic keyboards. Very nicely done throughout the set.

JeremyBaum

Amy and I both enjoyed the set so much that in addition to signing up for the mailing list (not really necessary since I follow the band and Brian Collazo on Twitter) we also both bought their current EP (they are recording a full-length CD as well). We were both very happy to support the band (tip jar as well) but I’ll admit publicly that I was surprised that a 5-song EP was $10. Hopefully, they’re putting the money to good use, they’re worth it. Smile

Sitting to Amy’s left was a beautiful blond (hey, I already mentioned that I was surrounded by women). It turns out that she’s Brian’s girlfriend (though it sounds way more serious than that, not that I should be putting words in Brian’s mouth!). He noted that last night was their three-year anniversary of making their relationship official. He also noted that she was very kind to be supportive of him for booking a show on their anniversary. Smile

When I first noticed the Live Society show, I also saw that another band was playing the set after them, that I had never seen, but heard interesting things about. Unfortunately, when I thought I couldn’t make it out last night, I promptly forgot about anything other than Live Society. When I showed up at Rockwood, at 8:35, I didn’t realize I’d be staying as late as I did.

Before Amy and I headed into Rockwood 1 we bumped into Chris Anderson on the street. If you never read this blog and don’t see live music in NYC, I’ll forgive you for not knowing that he’s one of our favorite bass players. We saw him the two previous nights, playing with The Big Apple Singers on Monday and with Ian Axel on Tuesday.

Chris mentioned that if we could, we should seriously consider sticking around to catch the set after Live Society. Of course, that jogged my memory that my original intention was to do just that. Amy couldn’t hang that late so she left right after Live Society was done.

The Thang Band is a nearly indescribable group/experience (experience is the better word). First, let me note that I can’t believe that they were able to grab the domain name at this late date in the Internet world. Amazing that everyone else let that go! Winking smile

Of course, I never let indescribable things stop me from describing them, so here goes my best effort.

What happens when you cross/mix the following?

  • Awesome musical talent
  • Incredible showmanship
  • Irreverance2 (that’s squared, not a notation that you missed Note #1 above)
  • Crazy amount of liquor consumption on stage (impressive whether it was real or fake)
  • Something between R and XXX rated themes and innuendo
  • Near-male-burlesque! (OK, not so near, but you’ll understand when you see photos below)
  • An audience of the who’s who of the NYC indie music scene
  • An audience who knows the above and insists that the boundaries be pushed further!
  • Theatrical choreography

Before I answer, while I give you time to imagine it yourself, I’ll note that if I had more time now (I don’t), I could list at least another 1/2 dozen bullet points. Suffice it to say that I was delighted that Lois stayed in, since some of it would have made her squirm, making me more self-conscious as well. This is a show that needs to be enjoyed with complete abandon.

OK, time’s up, what do you get if you mix the above?

Something that could and should be a long-running off-Broadway show, like The Fantasticks, which generated cult-like following, or the Rocky Horror Picture Show (again, for the effect it had on its fans). Not that The Thang is anything like those shows. It’s really a night of inanity and insanity, in song, performed by incredibly talented people.

If you were a blind foreigner, who didn’t understand a word they were singing, and couldn’t see their acting out the words for you (while they are playing and singing!), you would describe the show to your friends as some of the best Rock ‘n Roll you’d heard live in a while. The level of musicianship is top-notch.

If you were a prude, you wouldn’t have the guts to describe it to anyone, and you wouldn’t have a lot to describe, because you’d probably have left after a few minutes. Winking smile

So, since it’s still relatively indescribable, I’ll just say that there’s a lot of sexual innuendo, delivered with a giant dose of tongue-in-cheek (see what I did there?) Winking smile deliciously executed. In fact, rather than saying it’s like The Fantasticks, I really should have described it as one of the better SNL (Saturday Night Live) skits you’ll ever see, because rather than being performed by fake musicians making fun of real musicians, this is performed by real musicians, making fun of fake musicians who make fun of real musicians.

Now you might understand what the Thang refers to in their name…

As you will see in the photos below, the band had an outfit. I need to point it out to you, because if you don’t look carefully enough, you’ll think they weren’t even on stage (they are, after all, wearing camouflage). Smile

TheThangBand

A quick shoutout to the members of the band:

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and co-lead vocals. Paul was excellent on the guitar and vocals! I’m listing him first because he’s the reason I wanted to see them. I had no idea (not until they walked onto the stage) what I was in for. In other words, while Chris Anderson (and others) told me I should see them, I thought it was just going to be another local band that I would like.

PaulMaddisonSinging

I had seen Paul before, twice, supporting the Greg Mayo band. I was interested to see what he would be like front-and-center. Now I know. Winking smile In a not-so-small irony, one of the first words out of Paul’s mouth on stage was a (very friendly) jab at Chris Anderson. He followed it with “See what happens when you don’t stick around for the show?”.

Dan Golden on keyboards and co-lead vocals. A match for Paul in many ways. They were totally in sync and seemed to feed off each other. The two of them drank what appeared to be huge swigs of vodka from their own bottles in the middle of the set. If it was real liquor (and I suspect it was), it was an impressive amount, considering they still hit every note afterward (and they probably started off drunk, considering that one of their songs is called I’m Still Drunk!).

Update: Sam informs me that they were drinking water on stage, but that all bets were off once the show was over. OK, maybe. Or, they got to him after reading this, and told him to make sure I change it, before their parents got the wrong idea of what they were doing with their time! Sam is clever enough to have thrown me a bone about Kenny Warren (see below) and Scott Harper (see above) to make it all seem a bit more legitimate…

DanGolden

Rob Pawlings on electric bass and vocals. If you look at the photos, you’ll notice that the band are wearing gaudy necklaces. The only one that looks different is Rob’s, because, apparently, his alter-ego is named Bobby Bananas. Excellent on the bass, excellent on the vocals and Rob/Bobby led the male burlesque part of the evening.

It’s hard to see, but just over Paul’s fingers and guitar is a Banana on a gold chain, hanging from Rob’s neck (in the first photo):

RobPawlingsRobPawlingsSinging

Dave Freedman on electric guitar. Dave did an excellent job on both rhythm and lead guitar playing. At the end, he and Paul Maddison took simultaneous leads in harmony with each other. Awesome, but could have been longer.

DaveFreedman

Kenny Shaw on drums, vocals and some very dry banter. If I understand correctly (just from some quick Googling), Kenny Shaw started this Thang, originally called ShawThang! That shocked me, because I’ve seen Kenny perform with the Greg Mayo Band a couple of times, and he comes off like the most sedate, normal person you could imagine. Clearly, he has a sick, twisted mind that required an outlet. Thankfully, he found one that the rest of us could enjoy with him! Smile

For the last two numbers, a trumpet player jumped up on the stage and sang as well (so he obviously knew the songs). There was too much going on for them to stop and introduce him, so I don’t know who he is.

Update: Sam informs me that it was Kenny Warren. Kenny has a long association with The Thang Band and was also the original trumpet player with The Greg Mayo Band.

OK, I know most of you don’t believe a word I said. This won’t be proof, by any stretch of the imagination, but it should open your mind to some possibilities. It’s a two-year-old video of one of their hit songs, Lipstick on My Booty. Last night, the performance was way more visually descriptive than the video below:

Lipstick on My Booty by The Thang Band

I left chuckling, and once again glad that Lois missed it. Winking smile

Circling back to the beginning of the evening. Amy Rivard was one of a number of friends who was out with us the previous Wednesday to see three sets at Rockwood 1. The first set that night was Chelsea Lee.

As with Live Society, I knew that Chelsea was playing again last night but also thought I’d have to miss it. Once I knew I could make it, I asked Amy if she wanted to head down earlier and catch Chelsea Lee again. She was interested.

ChelseaLee

The set, again accompanied by Wes Hutchinson and Spencer Cohen was close (if not a copy) of the previous week. That’s fine, as I thoroughly enjoyed it last week, as I did again last night.

WesHutchinsonSpencerCohen

If there was one complaint, it was that it was a short set. That made for a more relaxed evening, but I would have preferred to listen to more of Chelsea. She’s still very young, so I have no doubt that the material will continue to be written and the sets will get longer in time.

In addition to Chelsea repeating an excellent performance, the same could be said of both Wes and Spencer. The three are well matched. Last week I purchased Chelsea’s 5-song EP. I have listened to it a number of times this week and I have enjoyed every single listen.

Chelsea will be back next week, this time at Rockwood 2, on Tuesday (May 31st), at 7:30pm, in a ticketed show, opening for Greg Holden who is having his CD Release Show that night.

Since the set was short, I had the time to introduce myself to Spencer and tell him how much I enjoy his percussion.

Another excellent night out. My heartfelt thanks to all of you people who spend your lives honing the skills required to entertain me! Smile