Michelle Citrin

Rachael Sage and Michelle Citrin at Joe’s Pub

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The world puts out breadcrumbs and we follow them. Some people don’t notice, others notice but don’t care.

One of the more intense paths that we’ve followed began with Alex Berger posting a YouTube video from a concert we attended. After establishing a Twitter and Facebook relationship with Alex, we finally met in person at a Rockwood Music Hall concert. We then attended a Livestrong fundraiser. Alex arranged for all of the musicians who played that night.

The last musician of the night (not including Alex’s encore) was Michelle Citrin. Her motto: “lil grrl, with a big sound.” It’s very true. She has an incredible voice, produced from a 5’1” frame. Michelle was opening for, and listed as a special guest for someone we hadn’t heard of before, Rachael Sage, at the 9:30pm show last night at Joe’s Pub.

Since I wanted to see Michelle perform a longer set, I was more than happy to gamble on the headliner, Rachael Sage.

Michelle is an Internet/YouTube sensation. Last year she released a video called 20 Things To Do With Matzah. It has already been viewed over 1.2 million times! Trust me, I know how hard it is to get those kind of numbers. I recently put up a YouTube video of a Tonight Show Tribute Song. I think it’s pretty cool, but it has only been viewed 348 times as of this writing…

Michelle had excellent stage presence and her voice was as incredible as I had remembered. She does a very good job accompanying herself on the guitar. I was somewhat surprised that her lyrics/songs didn’t grab me. I was impressed with a line here and there, but overall, I was much more attuned to her voice and guitar.

MichelleCitrin

Michelle played for 24 minutes. After a 6-minute break, Rachael Sage took the stage with a 4-piece band behind her.

RachaelSageTheSequins

Rachael had the stage decked out in holiday style (both Hanukkah and Christmas). The band wore reindeer hats and Rachael was festively attired all around. She played electric keyboards very well, and sang and entertained the crowd with stories and commentary.

Rachael is a very talented performer and very funny as well. She was in complete control of the crowd from the second she stepped on stage. While most of her songs have a comic edge to them, she also threw in a few more serious numbers.

RachaelSage

Her band (The Sequins) struck just the right notes to accompany her perfectly, both musically and visually (meaning, they were in keeping with the lighthearted holiday spirit).

Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

Dave Eggar played the cello and sang a bit. His play all night was outstanding, as was his impish spirit. Rachael mentioned that Dave has played with Coldplay. As impressive as that sounds, you really need to peruse Dave’s Wikipedia Page. He was a child prodigy (appearing on Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera at age seven!). He has played with an amazing assortment of top stars/bands, including The Who!

DaveEggar

I didn’t catch the name of the person sitting behind Rachael. I thought it was Wes, but that’s probably not right. He played percussion. Sorry!

UnkownPercussionist

Quinn played the drums. He was good throughout the set. Apparently, he had trouble getting into NYC for the show. Thankfully for us, he made it. 🙂 He was obscured from our view the entire set. This is the only shot Lois got of him. Obviously, he can still safely commit a crime in our jurisdiction, as no one will recognize him from this mug shot… 😉

Quinn

Russ Johnson played the trumpet. He was excellent. He played most of the set with a trumpet cup to muffle his sound. It was perfect, as it created a smoky sound to back up Rachael, without ever overpowering her (something a trumpet can do all too easily).

RussJohnson

Seth Glier was a special guest. Seth played the accordion and glockenspiel and sang with Rachael as well. He did all of those very well!

SethGlier

Michelle Citrin came out for two guest appearances as well. On the second number, Michelle played Finger Cymbals to great effect!

MichelleCitrinFingerCymbals

A very pleasant evening indeed!

P.S. While entering Joe’s Pub last night Lois snapped this photo of a Techno Snowman. Right up my alley (and theirs…): 😉

TechnoSnowman

Paper Raincoat at Joe’s Pub

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We’ve had the pleasure of seeing The Paper Raincoat perform twice before, and I’ve covered both extensively, the first time at Canal Room and the second at Rockwood Music Hall. You can read those posts here and here, since I will take a different tack in this post, and everything that I said in those posts remains true and applies to last night’s show as well. 🙂

Quick background (refresher for those of you who’ve read the other posts, or know The Paper Raincoat). The group is a collaboration between ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong, accompanied on drums by the incredible Adam Christgau.

The Paper Raincoat

The Paper Raincoat

Adam Christgau

Adam Christgau

The only difference in last night’s show (and it was a very big one) was that they had a string quartet on stage throughout. The show was a release party for their brand new CD, self-titled (The Paper Raincoat). The CD has strings on a number of songs, so this was the first time they got to play live with the same sound as on the CD.

It was awesome, and the quartet was great. Since you can mix a CD to balance everything perfectly, the strings only add to the beauty of the CD. If I understand correctly, a number of people consider their mixer, Eddie Jackson, to be a genius, and listening to the CD, I have no reason to object to that.

Live, the strings add a lot, but they also detract/distract a bit, since the subtlety and blend of ambeR and Alex (both vocals and instruments) got run over just a drop.

Why are we so enamored by ambeR, Alex and The Paper Raincoat, separately and together? You’ll be sorry you asked, because there are many reasons, not all of which will be covered here (you’ll be thankful for my restraint). 🙂

They feel like the hardest working people in the industry (of course I’m sure that’s not true, meaning that so many talented musicians give it their all), but when I recount some of their accomplishments, you might agree that it at least feels like they are delivering on more levels than many, if not most.

We only discovered them in mid-April this year. In six months, here are the accomplishments I’m aware of, off the top of my head, with zero research, presented in no particular order:

  1. They recorded an incredible CD, including writing all of the songs (music and lyrics). Go out and buy it, you won’t regret it. If you’re nervous, listen to five of their songs on their MySpace page first.
  2. They arranged and produced the CD themselves.
  3. They designed all of the artwork and packaging for the CD, which is completely non-standard (i.e., very creative). (Update: as per the comment below from Alex, the artwork was hand drawn by Diana Ho!)

    Paper Raincoat CD Package

    Paper Raincoat CD Package

  4. They promoted the pre-release of the CD very creatively, and designed three levels of pre-orders to connect with existing fans, and have the fans help pay for this effort, while providing great value in exchange for paying a premium, early.
  5. They toured (and are touring) in support of the CD, as headliners and opening for the incredible Vienna Teng as well.
  6. ambeR put out her own CD (a solo effort: Good Mystery), and what an effort it is. I’ll admit here for the first time publicly that I was nervous that the quality of each CD would suffer because ambeR was working on both at the same time, and I was wrong, as both are spectacular!
  7. ambeR also designed the CD packaging, and the pre-order extravaganza, which included hand-made boxes to lovingly hold the CD. We cherish ours.
    Amber Rubarth Good Mystery Collectors Edition CD Package
  8. ambeR headlined Joe’s Pub for her own CD release party on August 21st, 2009. I covered that show in this post, and I repeat here that it was flat-out one of the best shows we’ve ever seen, and we see so many shows, so that statement still amazes even me. 😉
  9. ambeR arranged the entire show at Joe’s Pub, as well as her solo CD.
  10. ambeR toured extensively with Joshua Radin and Gary Jules, and received rave reviews all over.
  11. Alex produced CDs for Alex Berger and Ari Hest.
  12. Alex runs (probably with others, but like I said, I’m not doing research here!) AngelHouse Studios in Williamsburg, NY (that’s Brooklyn for those of you not in the know). 😉
  13. Alex tours with Vienna Teng as part of her trio. This is separate and apart from when The Paper Raincoat opens for Vienna, where I imagine he plays both sets!
  14. Both of them support many other musicians, some of whom they’ve co-written with, by unselfishly appearing as guests in their shows.
  15. Each is a multi-instrumentalist (OK, this isn’t an accomplishment in the past six months, but it deserves mention in a list of their talents, including the fact that they have to practice that much longer to stay on top of multiple instruments!). For The Paper Raincoat, ambeR is mostly a keyboard player (including electric, piano, glockenspiel, etc.). Last night, she played guitar just once, in the encore. For ambeR Rubarth solo artist, she plays way more guitar (wonderfully!). Alex plays guitar, keyboards and a few other things for The Paper Raincoat. He drums (among other things?) for Vienna Teng, and on various CDs.

    ambeR Rubarth Guitar

    ambeR Rubarth Guitar

  16. They both (separately and collectively) are very active with Social Media. While I’m connected to them through a number of channels, I consume most of their updates via Twitter: @Paper_Raincoat – @ambeRRubarth – @highceilings (the last one is Alex Wong’s Twitter handle). Aside from being active without being obnoxious, they offer specials (like details of secret shows) so it’s useful to follow them if you’re a fan. Also, they are very responsive and interactive with their fans. Finally, because they are part of a very large community of talented artists, just checking out who they communicate with allows you to discover other great musicians!
  17. They are both extremely nice people, who are very accessible. Even if you never see them live, you can tell from their lyrics how deep they are in addition to just being nice. And yes, for the record, being nice is definitely an accomplishment! 😉
  18. Last one: they are fan friendly. When we pre-ordered ambeR’s CD, and then again for The Paper Raincoat one, the minute the final masters were ready, everyone who pre-ordered was given a link to download a digital version of the CD, so we could begin to enjoy them before the physical CD was available. I’m sure other bands do it, but we have pre-ordered a number of CDs from other artists, and only ambeR and Alex have done this in our personal experience. Trust your fans (not necessarily the world), they really want to help you not hurt you.

OK, I could probably go on (Really? Yes!), but if I haven’t made my point yet, then I should give up trying to convince you anyway… 🙂

We hope that they continue to produce more Paper Raincoat goodness over the years, but either way, we are 100% sure that we’ll be following ambeR and Alex in many other projects that they are involved in. It’s inevitable!

I mentioned in my post on Sunday morning about Ceili Rain that we believe it’s important to find as many ways to support the groups you love as you can. The most straightforward way is to purchase merchandise (CDs, T-Shirts, Posters, etc.) at the shows that you attend. We do that, nearly every time.

Since we pre-ordered two packages of their top-level, which comes with four CDs between the two, we didn’t really need to buy anything last night. That’s not the point though, right? It’s about supporting them (you are paying attention, right?) so we bought 13 additional CDs last night to give away as gifts to friends who otherwise would be unlikely to check them out.

So, at least some of you who are reading this post will be the very lucky recipients of a free copy of a fantastic CD. Congratulations, you’ve indirectly supported The Paper Raincoat, and you can help spread the word. 🙂

Whew, this has been way long already, but I needed to get all this goodness out of my system. Unfortunately for those of you who have OCD, and can’t quit reading a post until it’s over, you still have a while to get to the end… 😉

In addition to last night being the CD release party for The Paper Raincoat, it was actually a co-billed show with another group, Elizabeth and the Catapult. We hadn’t heard them before, but I had heard the name and had no idea what to expect. Sorry, all the pics of E&TC came out too poorly to post. 🙁

Elizabeth Ziman is the heart and soul of the group. She has an absolutely extraordinary voice, completely captivating. She plays the piano exceptionally well. She played accordion (well) on one number, and guitar on one other number. Still, even though her piano skills are top notch, it’s the voice, the voice, seriously, it’s the voice!

The Catapult consists of two really good musicians that support her well. Pete Lalish plays guitar (and accordion on one song) and Danny Molad on drums (I also believe he’s Elizabeth’s boyfriend, but don’t quote me on that). They had a bass player with them last night whose name I didn’t catch. I just had to work way too hard to (possibly) find the right one: Emeen Zarookian.

It’s a shame that Elizabeth doesn’t name him in any of the interviews (though she raves about him), because he really seemed to be the glue that brought their sound to life! I’m hoping that I indentified him correctly!

There are no obviously good links to the music of Peter Lalish or Danny Molad (as individuals). Peter was good all night, possibly even better than that. Danny was superb on the drums, throughout the set.

They are very tight and produced a quality sound. So, perfect, a new band to follow around like lost puppy dogs, right? Unfortunately, not for us (but yes, for many other people, including most of the crowd that remained after The Paper Raincoat set).

First, pigeonholing their sound/style is hard, and possibly a bit unfair to them. Still, I’ll do it. They are a very interesting mix/blend of Jazz/Pop/Classical/Blues, put together in a very creative way. All of that is heavily tinged with Rock, even hard rock at times, so it’s really hard to say they’re this or that. They also write original songs, though they do perform a few covers.

None of the lyrics grabbed us. And yet, they’re a clear focus. Elizabeth has a lot to say, and she’s clearly doing it through her lyrics. I suspect that if I listened to them in the quiet of my headphones, perhaps even just once, I too would become a huge fan. On the other hand, most of the groups that I heard in concert first (Girlyman, The Paper Raincoat, Indigo Girls, etc.), I was mesmerized by the lyrics instantly. They hooked me right away.

Last night, I found myself drifting away from the lyrics, and allowing Elizabeth’s voice to wash over me, purely as an instrument. No complaints, but it did feel like something (ever-so-slight) was missing…

The other downside (no blame to anyone, just a harsh reality) is that it took 30 minutes to tear down The Paper Raincoat and set up Elizabeth and the Catapult. Given that The Paper Raincoat didn’t come on until 9:40pm, and played for nearly 50 minutes, Elizabeth and the Catapult didn’t come on stage until 11pm! That’s way past our bedtime (and now true fans of E&TC have a good excuse to ignore everything I’ve said about them!).

They played a long set (thanks for that, it made the value of the ticket price exceptional!), on stage for about 70 minutes. After saying goodbye to The Paper Raincoat, we got out of there at 12:15am. Way too late for these old folks, but an incredible night nonetheless.

P.S. While waiting on line to get in, we bumped into Jason Black who we met on September 21st at the Livestrong Fundraiser we attended. Then, while seated, we spotted Michelle Citrin walking by (she performed at the Fundraiser) and I had to stop her to tell her how absolutely awesome she was at that show!

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!