Matt Simons

Matt Simons, Chris Ayer and Ryan Vaughn at The Cupping Room Cafe

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Many of the musicians that we see regularly tour all over the US and Europe. In addition to playing the kinds of shows we attend, a number of them also play semi-regularly at local bars and restaurants. We new that Matt Simons serenades the diners at The Cupping Room Café, often with guest performers, but we hadn’t been able to make it there on a night when he was performing.

We had early dinner plans last night and also intended to see a late show at Rockwood Music Hall (the subject of the next post). Then I saw the following tweet:

ryandrummerboy Ryan M. Vaughn

playing The Cupping Room in SoHo w/ the likes of @matt_simons and @chrisayer TONIGHT from 8PM til 11PM! A healthy mix of originals & covers!

Our dinner ended at 8:15. We grabbed a cab and headed down. It was gorgeous outside when we left the restaurant. By the time we reached SoHo it was pouring. It never let up the rest of the evening (no rain was predicted for yesterday). We walked into the Cupping Room shortly before 9pm to the very sweet sounds of Chris Ayer and Matt Simons singing harmony, accompanied by Ryan Vaughn on all manner of percussion, primarily his signature cajon.

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With one exception, Matt and Chris alternated singing songs (with most having the other harmonize). They played roughly 2/3’s originals and 1/3 covers. That’s a great strategy to pick up new fans (which restaurants and bars are better suited to than shows, where people won’t typically show up unless they know your music to begin with). The covers are familiar and allow people to see your talent as a singer and musician. The originals show who you are in your heart, soul and intellect.

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Even though we missed the first 45 minutes, we got to hear a number of our favorite songs. All of the covers were big hits, but we hadn’t heard them do these specific ones before, so that was a real treat as well.

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They took a break at around 10pm. After saying a quick hi to both Matt and Chris, I had a long-ish conversation with Ryan Vaughn, my first time speaking to him (I don’t think I ever introduced myself to him before either). I got a hard-core and very much appreciated lesson in drumming equipment (and cajon’s). It started when I joked about how bent his cymbal was and he explained how it happened (and why). Thanks Ryan, I’m a thirsty sponge for this kind of stuff!

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Since we had dinner earlier (including a wonderful bottle of wine), we took advantage of the full coffee bar section of The Cupping Room and both had lattes. During their break, the restaurant fed them (I think all three ordered burgers). The food looked fantastic, so next time we come see Matt there (yes, there will be a next time), we’ll try to schedule it to have dinner there as well.

In a delightful surprise, a couple of our friends showed up to see them play as well. They hadn’t been to this place either and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.

When they started playing again, we stuck around for another two songs and then had to duck out to make our 11pm Rockwood set. I got to mention that to Chris during the break, so they didn’t have to wonder why we didn’t hang around to the very end.

An absolutely wonderful way to spend two hours on a dreary night in NYC.

Here’s an abbreviated version of the songs Chris considered playing last night:

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Chris Ayer and Matt Simons at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Chris Ayer and Matt Simons were scheduled to have back-to-back full sets at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 last Saturday night (8/27/2011). Hurricane Irene had a different plan for NYC that night. Rockwood, along with nearly every other business in NYC, shut down for the weekend, canceling a highly anticipated night out for us (and many others).

While NYC wasn’t crushed by Irene (though many individuals were, even in NYC), Upstate NY was devastated in parts, in particular, Schoharie County. 43 NYC-based musicians banded together and within days released a 43-track album, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting Schoharie Country.

Chris Ayer and Matt Simons each donated a track to this amazing collection of music. Minimum donation is just $15 (for 43 tracks!), but please give much more generously if you can afford to, especially if you’re a music lover.

Since Rockwood books a couple of months out, giving Chris and Matt their own sets, in particular consecutive ones (so they could play on each other’s) would be difficult on short notice. The compromise was to give them a set to split, at the much larger Stage 2 next door. It was scheduled for exactly one week later, same starting time (last night, 8pm).

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Matt Simons sang and played keyboards (grand piano and electronic) throughout the set. He opened solo, singing Fall in Line (the title cut of one of Matt’s two EPs). Fantastic! Matt was in excellent voice (lead and harmony with Chris) and his keyboard play was buttery smooth.

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Matt invited Chris up to sing harmony on his next three numbers. Lois and I are suckers for great harmony. We’re spoiled by the consistently brilliant three-part harmonies of Girlyman, but I have to tell you, Matt and Chris (and Chris and Matt) are two of the best at duo harmony (and when Morgan Holland used to sing with them before deserting the East Coast, at three part as well). Their voices blend so well.

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When Matt is singing lead, Chris typically takes the high parts (often very high). When Chris sings lead, they switch and Matt hits high notes so sweetly.

Matt played two new songs, Pieces and Emotionally Involved with You, closing with an older one, I’m Already Over You. Great selection, but there was a twist to these three songs that was executed perfectly. One one, they played together (Matt on keyboards, Chris on acoustic guitar). On another Chris played the acoustic guitar and Matt sang without playing the keyboards. That was quite unusual for him to sing lead on his own song without touching an instrument. It was perfect (they’re smart guys).

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To round it out, Matt sang lead and played keyboards with Chris singing harmony without playing guitar, so all permutations were displayed in the three songs.

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Matt walked off the stage to turn the second half of the set over to Chris.

Chris opened solo playing a new-ish song, Where Do You Want to Go. Then Matt joined him for the remaining numbers. The traditional Chris Ayer set list is included in both views (ours and his). Matt’s set list (spelled out above) is written on Chris’ arm below his own list.

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Just as with Matt’s set, Chris’ voice was spot on, as were their harmonies. The place was crowded. I could tell from a number of the people around me that Chris picked up some new fans. They were mesmerized during his numbers, but it was fairly obvious they had never seen/heard him before.

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If you read this space regularly, you’re probably getting tired of me telling you what a brilliant songwriter Chris is (independent of his amazing delivery, both live and recorded). Deal with it. If there’s even one new person reading this post, they need to understand that Chris isn’t just another talented singer/songwriter (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Winking smile but rather, he’s a true gift to those of us who want to have our horizons expanded by the poets of the world.

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Two perfect mini-sets, combined into one perfect full set. Exactly as it should be.

Another Amazing Weekend

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This was our third consecutive weekend hosting out-of-town visitors. Since the last two were fantastic, the bar was set high for this one. Don’t worry, we cleared it.

When our friends (parents of our godchildren and our closest friends for nearly 30 years!) asked whether this weekend would be a good one for them to come up from VA, the automatic answer was of course! The only (minor) complication was our unmovable commitment to attending four sets of music on Saturday night.

I’ve already written about the music separately, but since this is a post about the entire weekend, I’ll link them here again. Rebecca Haviland: covered here. Matt Simons: covered here. Sierra Noble: covered here. Chris Ayer: covered here.

We had a small scare before everything got rolling. Our friends called from the airport to say that there was a mechanical problem on the plane. While it was (theoretically) simple to fix, they didn’t know how long it would take the mechanic to show up. There was a chance that they wouldn’t even get out that night (Friday, July 1st).

That’s exactly how the first of these three weekends began, with David and Rebecca (their son and daughter-in-law) not getting out until the next morning! This case turned out differently. Not 15 minutes later they called back to say they were boarding. I’m guessing the mechanic was on a smoke break. Winking smile

Shortly after they arrived at the apartment, nine of us (counting a 2-year-old as a full person) Winking smile walked up to the Peking Duck House for dinner. It’s been a while since we’ve been there (a minor crime against humanity). We had been talking about our need to correct that for the past two weeks, so this worked out perfectly.

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The meal was perfect. I never doubted it would be, but I report it here for the record.

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Given our music-filled night, we decided that Saturday would be a day of rest for us (conserving our energy). The parents, their daughter and son-in-law went to the Doughnut Plant (the site currently lists a Lower East Side address only, but there is one at 220 W. 23rd St. as well, which is where they went). Afterward, they walked the Highline Park.

They headed over to Broadway to see How to Succeed in Business. All four of them said it was terrific and they were sure both of us would love it. Something to add to the list. Smile

The six of us had a wonderful dinner at El Rio Grande (our favorite Mexican restaurant). In a complete shock, we bumped into a few good friends who were dining there outside. We were seated inside (our choice) on the other side of the window from them. Even though our chats with them were brief (before our meal and after theirs), it was a special delight.

After nearly falling asleep (due to the amazing frozen margaritas), I somehow gathered myself for the epic night of music and easily made it all the way through! I don’t know what the others did, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they didn’t fight the feeling of sleep and succumbed to it. Winking smile

On Sunday morning the four of them attended Church services at Redeemer. They spent some time at the Cooper Hewitt Museum then returned to the apartment to relax a bit. This week is both our and Laura and Chris’ anniversaries. We decided to celebrate at the Old Homestead steakhouse. All six of us couldn’t stop raving about the meal afterward. At least three (perhaps as many as five) counted this meal (and therefore this restaurant) as their favorite steakhouse meal (that includes Lois saying that her Lobster was the best she’s ever had).

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I loved my meal (thoroughly), but I admitted (out loud) that The Palm is still my favorite. I promise not to complain or hesitate to return to the Old Homestead though, should anyone suggest it again. Smile

After dinner, we all wanted (and needed) to walk off the calories (please don’t make me estimate the full damage). We walked the super-long block from the restaurant to the 14th Street entrance to the Highline Park. This was my first time seeing it in person. We walked from 14th St. until the end, currently 30th St. It’s spectacular. I highly recommend making the effort to get there, whether you’re a New Yorker or an out-of-towner here on a visit.

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We collapsed when we got back to the apartment (well, at least Lois and I collapsed, the others may have gone dancing for all I know).

On Monday morning (the venerable July 4th), Chris and I went for a long walk. When we’re in the city, I typically take long walks for exercise. For me, that means somewhere between five and eight miles, depending on my mood and my schedule. I do it 2-3 times a week, if I have the time. Amazingly, blogging is often the cause of me not having the time to walk. The things we do for our readers… Winking smile

Few of you who read this know Chris. He served six years in the Navy and remains in amazing shape by regularly working out. My only hesitation in walking with him, ever, is that he can keep up a grueling pace forever. He can walk backward, faster than I walk forward, and keep it up seemingly forever as well. I negotiated through an intermediary (Laura) that he would drop the drill-sergeant routine this time.

When we got to the Brooklyn Bridge (typically as far as I’d walk), that marked the 3.9 mile point. That would be just under an eight mile walk if we turned around. Chris looked at me and asked if I’d walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. I told him it had been over 30 years since I’d done that, but I was game. Instead, he suggested we just keep trucking further from the apartment. It had been a year since I’d done the loop I knew we were now committing to, but I (happily) agreed.

We continued south, past the Seaport, on to the Staten Island Ferry, where we headed north up the west side. At 34th Street we started the long trek over to the east side. When we arrived at the apartment, Chris was fresh as a daisy. I was a puddle of sweat who dreamt only of removing my sneakers from my feet. Total distance: 11.36 miles (I wear a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch that they all bought me for my birthday a couple of years ago). Total time was 3:14, but that included a stop in the World Financial Center to check out the progress at Ground Zero.

After a nice lunch out (Euro Diner if you’re keeping score) we veg’ed out all afternoon (I might have even slept a bit, shhh). All of that was to prepare for attending a July 4th party.

Up until three years ago, we used to host an annual 4th of July party on our deck. We had pretty good views of the Macy’s Fireworks when they had them on East River. This is the third year in a row that they were on the Hudson instead and we had no plans to fight the crowds to try and see them.

On Friday, we received an invitation to a party that claimed to have a spectacular view of the fireworks. Under normal circumstances, we would have said yes in a heartbeat, but we would have been adding four strangers to the party list, which felt wrong on our part. I politely declined, explaining why.

In a I’m not taking No for an answer reply, our host told us to bring our guests along. I only had one No in me, so this time I said Yes! We negotiated on what we could bring and settled on Sushi.

What a great plan, until we found out that our go-to Sushi restaurant was closed all weekend. Our backup Sushi place (also exceptional) was going to be closed on Monday as well. In a twist of fate (actually two twists), the first place was clearly marked as being closed all weekend. The backup place hadn’t updated their sign, so when Lois went in, she thought they’d be open on Monday.

Hiroshi Sushi is across the street from our apartment. I filled in our order before Lois walked over. When she started to say what time she wanted the order ready by, she found out that they were closed on Monday. As she was turning to leave, the person she was talking to called her back.

He told her that he remembered us from years earlier when we used to come in all the time with Lois’ mother to their former Japanese Restaurant (a few doors down, now closed for probably eight years!). He was our waiter many of those times. He asked Lois if he could call the owner (and head chef), who was also involved in the other restaurant, to ask if he’d come in just to prepare this order.

20 minutes later he called us and said that the owner would happily do this for us. Wow, we were so grateful. The order was ready to be picked up at exactly 5pm (as promised) and was fantastic (as evidenced by the oohs and aahs of the partiers). I couldn’t resist trying something called “peanut and avocado roll”. Yummy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

We also brought a white pizza (for those who might not like Sushi). I had the first two slices (and didn’t notice if anyone else did). Man, that was really good too. Finally, we brought a gigantic fresh fruit salad that was seemingly bottomless, but it got completely devoured (or so I heard), so it apparently had a bottom after all. That too was a big hit.

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On to the actual party (I have a tough time not talking or thinking about food though). Winking smile

When we first arrived at our friend’s apartment we were blown away by the view. But, he lives in a one bedroom (very high up) and we wondered how everyone would get to enjoy the fireworks while being crowded like sardines in the living room. Ah, I’m so naïve at times. That was never the plan.

There was a friend of our friend, who lived 15 floors down (still quite high!). He has a much larger apartment, but more importantly, a massive deck, facing the Hudson River. The two of them decided to combine their parties. In an additional act of generosity, the second host (the friend of our friend), allowed an entire party of his next door neighbors to attend the viewing of the fireworks on his deck, when they were done with their meal (and drinking) on their adjacent (but not facing the river!) deck.

I don’t need to describe the view or the fireworks to you. All of the photos above were taken by Lois, on her compact camera. She took a ton of photos last night too, but I don’t need to share them.

Our friend (Bob) from VA is a semi-professional photographer (with professional equipment). He set up his Nikon on a tripod and captured stunning photos. His daughter (Laura) is following in his footsteps. A few of her shots are included with his. Here’s a representative sample (I’m not compressing these photos, for those of you who want the full effect).

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Followed by the calm after the storm:

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Our friend (let’s call him Host #1) made two pitchers of exotic drinks. The first was green, looked like slime, and was called Key Lime Martini. The second was blue (and frothy) and had Blue Curacao, some coconut stuff and other secret ingredients. I tried the Key Lime first. It was amazing, but one sip was nearly lethal. I am putting my name on a list for when it’s time for me to go, this is the way I’d like to end it all. While I know at least two people who loved it, but purposely didn’t finish theirs (for fear of expiring), I was brave and downed my entire glass.

I later moved on to the Blue mixture. It tasted even better. So much so that I had a second glass (don’t tell Lois!). It didn’t feel as lethal, but for all I know, that’s part of it’s secret. I heard many people raving about this concoction (actually both). Our Host #1 can definitely fall back on Mixologist if his primary profession hits a brick wall. Wow!

Host #2 is a fascinating person who couldn’t have been kinder or more generous (as noted above). In fact, we met many friends of Host #1, each one was a complete delight to converse with. Without a doubt, we’ll be following up with a number of them!

We had to walk a number of blocks before finding the first of the two cabs that got us home and a bit further for the second one.

An absolutely incredible ending to an incredible weekend. I’m no longer annoyed that the fireworks have moved to the west side. I’ll need to be nice to Host #1 for the entire year, just in case Macy’s decides to do it there again next year. It will be hard to keep up the façade, but I’ll do my best. Winking smile

Thank you for including all six of us. It’s a night we’ll never forget!

Chris Ayer at The Living Room

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Topping off an extraordinary night of music was one of our favorites, Chris Ayer. For those of you who are new here, you might require proof that Chris is one of our favorites. Luckily, I can provide that.

Two weeks ago we hosted our first house concert. We wanted a solo, guitar slinging singer/songwriter. Without hesitation, both Lois and I agreed that we should approach Chris first. He said yes, and this was the result. Lois and I share a lot of musical taste in common, but we differ a bunch as well, especially at the extremes. So, agreeing on Chris so easily tells you everything you need to know about how we feel about him.

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Back to last night. We had gotten delicious doses of Chris during both Matt Simons’ and Sierra Noble’s sets. You can read about those sets here and here respectively. You can also get a flavor of the band that supported all three sets.

Let’s start with the traditional photos of Chris’ set list, first from our perspective, then his. The twist is that this time, we’ll throw in a bonus of a bit of his guitar as well (no extra charge!):

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He kicked the set off solo, starting with two very new songs. Great start. Both were good, new material feeds the brain, old (great) material feeds the soul/heart.

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Then Chris brought the band up. A quick rundown (probably repetitious for the stauncher readers out there):

Chris Anderson on electric and upright bass plus vocals. Chris switched back to electric for most of the set, but threw in some upright to keep me on my toes, making Sierra’s set the only one that he exclusively played the upright on.

Ryan Vaughn on drums. Once again, superb.

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. Since I can never say enough good things about Greg, I feel badly (for me!) to make this one so short. Here goes: he was his usual (awesome) self.

Matt Simons on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and heavy vocals. As I mentioned in the post about Matt, when Chris and Matt sing together, it’s magic, no matter whose song it is or which one is singing lead. No exception on Chris’ set, Matt was perfect.

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Here’s a group shot (where Matt was out of the picture).

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After a couple of songs with the band, Chris brought up Sierra Noble to sing harmony and play some violin. He gave the band (excluding Matt) a break. When Sierra and Matt sang three-part harmony with Chris, everything got cranked up another level (which only made me mad that Chris clearly was holding something back on the earlier stuff!). Winking smile

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Sierra remained on stage when the band returned.

If you know Chris Ayer’s music, then you know from the set list above what a great choice he made last night. He mixed it up with completely new stuff, great older stuff and very recent stuff. He mixed it up with solo, full band, three-part harmony (without the band), etc. If there’s anything in particular that is your favorite thing about Chris, you were sure to have at least a healthy dose of it last night. If you’re like us and love it all, it was a buffet.

In what has become a bit of a tradition at Chris’ shows, he ended the evening with a descent into the crowd to perform Roy G Biv. As he did the last time he played The Living Room, the entire band descended with him. Well, they all did except for Ryan Vaughn who remained at the drums.

Chris (and everyone else) would have none of that. Since the most critical thing Ryan would be playing during Roy G Biv is the cowbell (look up the lyrics if you don’t know why), they teased him about the fact that cowbells are notoriously portable. He didn’t protest too much. He too came into the audience with a few percussion goodies in hand.

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Once Ryan was in, the party could begin. Chris actually kept turning (slowly) in a full 360, to make sure everyone got serenaded head on.

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The rest might be a bit hard to pick out, but here’s one shot that has Sierra in the background and Greg Mayo playing guitar. The highlight of the picture are Matt Simon’s hands, leading the audience in keeping the beat by clapping.

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A fantastic, energetic end to one of our best nights out. From 8pm until nearly midnight, without a single disappointing song, surrounded by friends who enjoyed it every bit as much as we did. It doesn’t get much better than this, but I promise, we’ll keep trying to disprove that! Smile

Matt Simons at The Living Room

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We’ve seen quite a bit of Matt Simons in the past few months, but they’ve all been in his exceptional role as sideman for a number of other artists who we follow. It’s been four months since we’ve seen him headline a set. Thankfully, that drought ended last night at The Living Room.

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Matt is a multi-instrumentalist with an excellent voice. When he headlines he always plays the keyboards (piano and electronic). I guess trying to sing and play the saxophone (he’s awesome) presents some logistical challenges (if anyone can solve that problem, I have faith in Matt). Winking smile

Matt opened the show solo with a powerful song (Miss You More) that had everyone stone silent. I laugh at my internal dialog at these kind of moments. I think “who needs a band at all?” Then the band joins, and I think “why ever play solo?”, etc. The real point is that both solo and with a band, Matt (and many others!) get it just right.

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Proving my point, right after Miss You More, Matt invited the band up. This is the same core band that played for the next two sets as well. Two of them played with Rebecca Haviland in an earlier set at Rockwood Music Hall (covered here). In other words, they played for the better part of four hours. Yeomen indeed!

I didn’t spy a set list, which indicates one of three things: 1) there wasn’t one, and Matt just winged it, 2) Matt had one on the piano and purposely hid it from me, or 3) it was written with invisible ink on invisible paper (again, probably to thwart me). Therefore, I can’t easily share with you the titles to all of his songs, though he played a number of them that I love.

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

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris also sang light backup vocals. Chris is one of our favorite bass players. Check out my previous post (linked above in “covered here”) for more on Chris, including his singing and songwriting chops.

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Ryan Vaughn on drums. I’ve been writing a lot about Ryan lately, as he’s been drumming more often with the people that we consistently go out to see. Our previous sightings always came when Ryan played percussion (not the drum kit) on Martin Rivas’ sets. Ryan is great and exhibited many different styles across the three consecutive sets last night.

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Greg Mayo on electric guitar and light vocals. I mentioned in the last post about my mind control abilities. On the first song that Greg appeared, he took a fantastic lead (I think he’s patented them, so if don’t want to go to jail, don’t try and copy them!). Before explaining the mind control aspect, I need to digress.

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Having true, committed fans, is one of the hallmarks of the music business. We (yes, we count ourselves as true, committed fans) will do an awful lot to support the musicians we love. Yesterday I tweeted an article that implores musicians to find a way to connect their fans with each other. Here’s a real-world example of the result of that advice.

We attended a fantastic house concert in VA hosted by Lindsie. That night featured Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell. We met Lindsie that night, due to our mutual love of Ian, Chad and Mike. Since then, Lindsie (being a true fan!) came up to see Ian Axel headline Bowery Ballroom and we hung out in front of the stage with her throughout the show. Last night, she came up again to catch these three consecutive sets and again, we sat together. Her friend Ashley (sp?) joined her this time.

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A number of last night’s artists were new to Lindsie, including Greg Mayo. Before Greg took the stage, I turned to Lindsie and told her that Greg is my favorite local guitar player and that she was about to have her mind blown. Finally, back on track, immediately after his lead in the first song, I turned toward Lindsie and rolled my eyes in disbelief at how quickly he proved me correct! Smile

But, while Greg was perfect in his support of Matt on the remaining songs, he didn’t take a real lead again (no complaints). Just as they started Matt’s last song of the set, that thought came to me front and center. Of course, given my mind control powers, Greg took another great lead. Damn. I should have remembered that I probably could have called up as many leads as I wanted throughout the set. Oh well, next time! Smile

Matt called up Chris Ayer to sing and play acoustic guitar a number of times (Chris headlined the 11pm set). The two of them sings so beautifully together, whether it’s Chris supporting Matt on his songs, or vice versa (as happened a bunch in the last set).

On one number, Matt came out from behind the piano and sang, with Chris accompanying him on vocals and acoustic guitar. Gorgeous!

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Matt called up Sierra Noble to sing harmony with Chris Ayer as well. That role has traditionally been filled by Morgan Holland. Since Morgan is returning to CA for a Master’s degree, she won’t be available to sing with Matt and Chris. While Sierra is a star in her own right (and therefore won’t be available often to sing with them), having her join them last night was a real treat.

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For the second to last song, both Chris and Sierra returned (after someone having to go out and find them!). This time Sierra added her violin to the mix!

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I’m a big fan of Matt and always enjoy his sets. But, I’ll definitively claim last night’s set to be the best we’ve seen so far, though doubtlessly it will be topped in the future!

Matt and Chris Ayer both leave tomorrow for a tour of the UK and Holland. Some of the dates/venues can be seen on Matt’s Facebook Page. You can also stream some of his songs there (or on MySpace linked at the top). But, to listen to Matt, I recommend you visit his Bandcamp page. There, you can hear a lot of his songs in their entirety, for free. Then you can buy all of them, or the ones you like best, etc. I love the model where you aren’t buying blind, or off an unrepresentative sample of the song.

Referring back to the “connect your fans” section above, a number of our friends were there last night (which is typical). Let me know if you prefer Kelly or Sam to wear the hat when their picture is taken. Winking smile

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Rachel

Morgan Holland at Rockwood Music Hall

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I just posted about John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall. At the end of his set, he implored us all to stick around for the next set, headlined by Morgan Holland. He didn’t need to implore us, or even inform us. Morgan’s set was on our schedule from the day I found out about it.

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But, John accidentally announced it in an unintentional manner. He said: “Morgan Holland will be leaving us soon, so stick around for her last set” (or something to that affect). Morgan was standing in the far corner of the club and I caught her reaction. She was bemused.

Morgan is indeed leaving us, but the us in that sentence are New Yorkers (not the world)! Winking smile

She is starting graduate school in the fall, in LA. She’s becoming a left-coastie (she originally was before transplanting here). We’ll all miss her a lot, but if she ever returns, she’ll be brainier, so we have that to look forward to. Smile

While Morgan is not a full-time musician, I am a fan of her work, including the EP that she put out last year. As is typical for most of the shows that we’ve seen her perform, Morgan sang, played guitar some and ukulele on one number.

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What was radically different last night was that Morgan was dramatically more chatty on stage, to fantastic effect. She was funny and warm. The place was packed, and the crowd consisted of many of Morgan’s friends. Perhaps that gave her the courage. Whatever the reason, I like it and if I get to see her again, I’d like more of it.

She had an excellent set selection and sang well. She was joined by three of our favorite musicians, left-to-right on the stage:

Chris Ayer on acoustic guitar, vocals and ukulele on one song. Chris was wonderful all around. Chris produced Morgan’s EP!

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Matt Simons on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Matt was wonderful as well. It was a treat to see Matt switch instruments from the set before, so that we got to enjoy the sax (with John Schmitt) and then the piano in this set. Matt didn’t sing with John, so having him sing harmony with Morgan was a nice bonus.

MattSimonsSinging

Chris Anderson on upright bass. Always one of our favorite bass players, no exception last night. The upright was a very good choice for complementing the more smoky quality of Morgan’s voice. Chris plucked and used the bow.

ChrisAnderson

We didn’t get to snag a paper set list, but Chris had one written out on his arm (as he does for his sets), so Lois snapped a photo, and you can see it from his perspective and ours as well:

MorganHollandSetListOnChrisAyerArmMorganHollandSetListOnChrisAyerArmFlipped

An excellent sendoff to a lovely lady. We all wish you the best on the other coast. Come back soon! Smile

P.S. This is post #3 of five about last night.

John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall

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

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

JohnSchmittSinging

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

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

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

JohnSchmittGuitar

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

First, the band:

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

PasqualeChieffalo

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

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

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

RyanVaughn

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

MattSimonsSaxophone

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

On to the ladies:

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

KarlyJurgensen

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

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

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

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

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

LissaFarquharJohnSchmittHarmony

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

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

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

Chris Ayer at Rockwood Music Hall

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On May 13th, we saw Chris Ayer perform at The Living Room. You can read about it here. Before we made it out of the room, Lois turned to me and said “When does Chris play again?”. It wouldn’t have mattered if the answer was “At 3am, across town”, she was ready to head over and wait in line. Smile

The great news is that she wouldn’t have had to waste an ounce of energy convincing me to join her. That’s true for a lot of Chris’ fans, as two of the people we shared a table with at The Living Room told us the night before last that we should hold seats for them for this one (we did!). The only people that aren’t fans of Chris Ayer are people that have never heard him.

You can read the many things I’ve said to describe and praise Chris elsewhere on this blog (start with the link above regarding the last show), so I’ll spare you the repetition here.

Earlier in the day, Chris tweeted the following:

I finished two songs today, and I’m playing them both at the show tonight.. Which is equal parts exciting and scary. Exscarting.

True to his word, Chris opened the show with those songs, back-to-back. The first one might not have been 100% completed, because he morphed the ending into one of his well-known songs, depriving us of giving him the applause he richly deserved.

ChrisAyer

Seriously, both songs are amazing. I say that without any surprise, since Chris is a fantastic songwriter. The first is called Where Do You Want to Go. The second: Turnip (a word that doesn’t appear in the song, but Chris explained to us why that’s the title).

Chris played another one solo, then invited Matt Simons to play the piano and electronic keyboards. Oh yeah, and sing absolutely wonderful harmony with him. I mentioned to Matt after the show that their harmony was so good it was borderline illegal (well, at least in some states, I’m sure). Smile

ChrisAyerMattSimonsSettingUpChrisAyerMattSimonsSingingHarmony

Matt stayed at the piano but didn’t join Chris on another solo number, Hiding Place, another relatively new one (we heard it at the last show and instantly fell in love with it).

Chris then invited Chris Anderson to join them. Chris Anderson played the electric bass. If I have to tell you whether he was good or not, you don’t read my blog (an earlier one today, or 100 other ones!).

ChrisAndersonChillin

I should mentioned the room got quite crowded right before Chris’ set started (I did note that the only people who aren’t fans are people who haven’t heard him, right?). I mention that because it was after all the beginning of the Memorial Day Weekend, and NYC is notoriously empty (for many holiday weekends). Chris’ fans had to cancel family vacations once they heard about this show. Winking smile

At The Living Room, Chris closed the show with Roy G. Biv, one of Lois’ favorite songs of his (that’s silly talk, as many of Chris’ songs are Lois’ favorites!). That night, he, Matt Simons and John Schmitt walked into the crowd (with Chris Anderson and Stephen Chopek moving to the edge of the stage) to do it unplugged.

Rockwood is a way smaller room, and Chris and Matt came to the center of the room (obviously unplugged) and absolutely mesmerized everyone in the room with the same finale, Roy G. Biv. It was great at The Living Room, but the intimacy and power of every single person being within 10+ feet of Chris and Matt made this rendition all the more special.

ChrisAyerMattSimonsPerformingRoyGBiv

This set hasn’t stopped us from already planning to attend the next one. I heard a rumor as to when and where it might be, but that venue doesn’t list it yet, so I’ll refrain from raising anyone’s hopes just yet.

According to tradition (which we’ve unfortunately missed a couple times), I present you with Chris Ayer’s set list, presented both from his perspective and ours:

ChrisAyerSetListFlippedChrisAyerSetList

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

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

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

I received back the following back from John:

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

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

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

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

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

ChrisAyerSolo

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

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

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

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

ChrisAyerMorganHolland

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

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

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

ChrisAndersonElectricBass

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

StephenChopek

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

MattSimonsMattSimonsSinging

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

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

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

JohnSchmitt

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

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

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

LissaFarquhar

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

JohnSchmittChrisAyer

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

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

GregBarboneOrgan

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

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

BrianKilleen

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

MikeSutton

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

JohnSchmittSetList

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

AndyMac

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

SeanDixonAndyMacHockeyMasksFridayThe13th

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

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

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

AndyMacHorrorDVD

Andy’s band, left-to-right:

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

MalGibbesJimMcNamara

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

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

JimMcNamara

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

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

SeanDixon

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

GregBarbonePiano

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

ShakyDavePollack

Not to slight Andy, here is his set list:

AndyMacSetList

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

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

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

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

KristopherTongMelissaTong

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

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