Livestrong

Amy Rivard and Alex Berger at Waltz Astoria

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We attend a lot of live music. Just this week, we saw Red Molly and The Nields at Joe’s Pub on Sunday. On Monday we attended a Livestrong Fundraiser. On Wednesday we saw Wicked (for the 8th time!). Last night was supposed to be downtime, to recharge the batteries for an even more packed series of shows, some of which involve reasonably long drives to attend.

The best laid plans… On Monday, at the Fundraiser, we saw 11 performers (covered in this post). They were all terrific, but two of the standouts were Amy Rivard and Alex Berger. Alex is about to return to the UK for a number of months, so we thought that would be our last opportunity to see him for a while. The next day, Alex let me know that Amy and he had arranged for an impromptu show at a cafe in Astoria (Queens) called Waltz-Astoria.

One more opportunity to catch Alex before he left was reason enough to go, but if you read my previous post, then you know that we were both mesmerized by Amy’s performance on Monday, so the thought of not attending was ridiculous.

The show was scheduled for 8pm, and we got there at 7:30. That gave us some quality time to chat with Alex and Amy before the show started.

Alex Berger and Amy Rivard

Alex Berger and Amy Rivard

We had an extremely pleasant surprise when Shannon and Jason walked in as well (the Livestrong Fundraiser was organized by them!). We didn’t get a chance to meet them on Monday, so it was a treat to chat with them in a relaxed atmosphere last night.

Amy sang a number of classics last night, including Dream a Little Dream, Ain’t Misbehaving, etc. She also did Taylor the Latte Boy, which is what captivated us on Monday.

Amy Rivard

Amy Rivard

Lois and I have no doubt that we (and many of you!) will be seeing Amy on Broadway in the not-too-distant future. She’s a star, in every respect. It’s just a matter of time until someone who casts for Broadway will be thanking their lucky stars that they crossed paths with Amy! You heard it here folks!

After every few songs by Amy, all accompanied deliciously on a grand piano by Alex, Amy stepped aside and gave the stage over to Alex, who sang two songs solo at a time, before Amy returned.

Alex Berger

Alex Berger

Alex was incredible, including debuting a song he recently completed co-writing with Nate Campany (who was not there last night). The song was fantastic. You should definitely click on Nate’s name above, because the song that starts playing is excellent, and the video is incredibly creative (pay attention to the fades, in and out). 🙂

Now, we have to start following Nate as well. Our burden just grows every single day. Boo hoo for us… 😉

The show was terrific, start to finish. But, the evening was delightful beyond the wonderful music. Most of the shows we attend are structured, with little interaction between strangers in the audience, or any kind of quality time to chat with the performers.

Last night, with Waltz-Astoria being a normal cafe, that happens to spotlight musicians and comedians regularly at night, the atmosphere was completely different.

We stayed roughly one hour after the show ended, talking with Shannon, Jason (her husband), Alex, Amy, a friend of Amy’s (Liz), but mostly, we got know another Jason (Whitfield), also a friend of Amy’s. Really great guy, and we look forward to meeting his fiancée soon (not just because she’s a Rockette!). 😉

Jason Whitfield and Amy Rivard

Jason Whitfield and Amy Rivard

We had a lot of laughs, learned a bunch of interesting things from and about a number of interesting people, and got to hear two amazing performers. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Of course, it was a little bit better than I described though. Here’s the link to the Waltz-Astoria Menu. You don’t need to click through, I’ll copy the description of their Carrot Cake:

One slice of our famous carrot is enough to share with a friend, or.. not. The cream cheese frosting is to die for!

An extremely accurate description. It was more than enough to share, and even though I offered some to Liz, she politely declined, so I got to experience the “or.. not” part. I gained a couple of pounds (seriously), but it was worth it! 🙂

We were back up at the house by 11:15pm, still talking about what a great night out it was. Missing out on a chance to just relax, turned out just fine! Thanks everyone for making it such a special evening!

Livestrong Cancer Fundraiser

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Music can uplift, connect, and at times, even heal. Last night, we got to experience all three facets, working in unison, and it was a beautiful thing!

While we have attended a large number of shows over the past six years, it was only recently (April 2009 to be exact) that we noticed (and were happily pulled into) the incredibly vibrant indie music scene in NYC.

It all began with The Paper Raincoat. Through them, we’ve heard about a number of other local artists, and visited venues we hadn’t been to before. Through ambeR Rubarth (one of the members of The Paper Raincoat) we met Alex Berger (at first, virtually, then in person, at a Paper Raincoat show at Rockwood Music Hall).

We missed getting to see Alex in two consecutive shows. He told me he was playing at a Livestrong Fundraiser for a friend of his, Shannon Black, who is a cancer survivor, raising money for Livestrong, preparing to run in the NYC Marathon. It was such a great cause that we had no hesitation in committing to attend.

First, before telling you about last night, click on Shannon’s name above, and find the link to donate to her fundraiser. You’ll feel a lot better about reading the rest of this post, and enjoying the show you missed, vicariously!

OK, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

There were 11 performers last night. Nine of them are listed on the page linked to Shannon’s name above (I’ll repeat them all here, but still, click on that page to donate!). With the exception of Alex doing a one-song encore, all but one of the other performers played two songs.

I’m trying to get the order of the performers correct, but since I didn’t write anything down, apologies if I accidentally swap any of them.

Alex Berger opened the show. He sang and played the electric keyboards. Wow! I’d be happy to just listen to Alex play the keyboards, he’s excellent! But, he also writes wonderful songs, and has a really good voice, so he’s the complete package, end to end. Shannon shamed him into adding one last song to close the show. Thanks Shannon, and thanks Alex, for that!

Alex Berger

Alex Berger

Libbie Schrader sang and played electric keyboards. She plays the keyboards very well, and has a very powerful voice. As Libbie described her style to us before the show started, she’s more of a Pop person (Rock/Pop really), so soloing in a small space with just keyboards, probably isn’t the best spot for her. She has a ton of talent, but probably better suited to a larger venue with more pieces in the band (which she usually has).

Lois didn’t get a good shot of Libbie on the stage, but she got a great one of Libbie and Alex before the show started!

Libbie Schrader and Alex Berger

Libbie Schrader and Alex Berger

Deena Goodman and Dov Rosenblatt were on together. Deena sang and Dov played guitar and sang. Both have exceptional voices, blending beautifully, and Dov is an excellent guitarist. The first song was co-written by them. The second song was recently written by Dov (stunningly beautiful!), and he taught the harmony to Deena right before the show started. Folks, while Deena stumbled once or twice (understandably), she really knocked the ball out of the park in terms of enhancing an already gorgeous song. Bravo!

Deena Goodman

Deena Goodman

Dov Rosenblatt

Dov Rosenblatt

Will Knox sang and played guitar. Will’s guitar picking was superb. His voice and songs matched. Absolutely wonderful performance. He has quite a humble persona for someone with this much talent.

Will Knox

Will Knox

Martin Rivas sang and played guitar. Alex introduced him as his personal favorite. I was impressed by Martin (Lois more so than me), but I’d need to listen to him a lot more to understand why Alex feels the way he does, even compared to a number of the other performers last night. Martin has a very strong voice, and perhaps I was distracted that the only time the sound guy (who donated the equipment and his time for the event!) didn’t get it perfect was on Martin’s voice, which was a little too loud.

Martin Rivas

Martin Rivas

Amy Rivard sang, accompanied by Alex Berger on the keyboards. Before I begin, let me take a deep breath, and say Oh My God! Seriously, Amy has such an extraordinary voice. Alex was worried that Amy might be late, because she was singing the National Anthem at the NY Rangers game at Madison Square Garden last night. Holy cow, I can only imagine how awesome that must have been!

Amy Rivard

Amy Rivard

Amy has a Broadway style and quality voice. In fact, I would love to see her in Wicked! (We’re going again tomorrow night, 8th time, so if she could arrange to get into the cast by then, I’d appreciate it!) 😉 Kristin Chenoweth is one of our all-time favorite performers (song, stage, TV, comedy, everything!).

Kristin is one of many who covered a song called Taylor the Latte Boy (here’s the YouTube video, watch it!). That’s the song Amy did last night. Amy nailed the song in every way. Not just the voice, but the mannerisms, etc. (though she’s not quite as accomplished in that regard as Kristin is). Of course, Alex accompanied her to perfection (even though he needed Shannon’s husband, Jason, to hold the sheet music for him, and turn the pages). 🙂

Alex Berger, Amy Rivard and Jason Black

Alex Berger, Amy Rivard and Jason Black

The only disappointment was that Amy played only one song, though at least she played it to perfection! We have to start stalking Amy for future performances!

Kyle Patrick sang and played guitar. Kyle wasn’t listed on the Facebook page. He is the lead singer for a group called The Click Five. Aside from making the girls swoon with his looks, Kyle is an incredible singer, and plays the guitar well too. After his first number, he said he was going to play a brand new one. It turns out that he played the new song from The Click Five, called I QUIT! I QUIT! I QUIT!

Kyle Patrick

Kyle Patrick

Great song (both when he did it solo, and by the full group). In the middle of the song, Kyle popped a guitar string. He was a trooper, and just kept playing (he really didn’t miss a beat!). However, Martin Rivas was even faster. He dashed to the side of the stage, got his guitar out of his bag, and handed it to Kyle in a smooth motion (looping the strap over Kyle’s head as he handed him the guitar and took away Kyle’s!). It was great, and showed a lot of class on Martin’s part!

The shot below looks blurry. It’s not, it is truly capturing the speed with which Martin was moving. 😉

Kyle Patrick and Martin Rivas

Kyle Patrick and Martin Rivas

Shira Goldberg sang and played the electric guitar (all others were acoustic). Shira semi-joked that she was asked (as was everyone else) to play uplifting or happy songs, but that she hadn’t yet written any. 🙂 She sings beautifully, and plays the guitar quite well, but she really wasn’t kidding, her songs are deep bluesy numbers, slow, sad tales. Very talented, but perhaps not perfectly suited to last nights venue or cause.

Shira Goldberg

Shira Goldberg

Lynette Belardo sang. Yes, sang, with zero accompaniment. That’s a very hard, and brave thing to do. Of course, if you have a voice like Lynette, you can pull it off, and she certainly did. Lovely. The first song was a spiritual (very appropriate for the evening). Obviously, a very talented woman, given that most of the credits I spotted on the Net were dancing related!

Lynette Belardo

Lynette Belardo

Michelle Citrin sang and played guitar. She was the other person who wasn’t listed on the Facebook page. Another amazing voice, accompanied by excellent guitar skills. The surprising thing is that she’s tiny, and yet, such a big powerful voice. She had the entire crowd (OK, not including me) belting out some Bob Marley verses with her on one of her numbers. Superb!

Michelle Citrin

Michelle Citrin

I already mentioned that Alex closed the show. We immediately said goodnight and headed home (it was late for us old fogies). We had a wonderful night, discovered another slew of amazing local musicians, and supported a good cause, and some very inspirational people. Very grateful to have had the opportunity to be a small part of last night!