Mike Tuccillo

Derek James at The Delancey CMJ

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Derek James playing somewhere and we’re in town? That’s where we’ll be. He was headlining a CMJ Showcase at The Delancey on the main stage. We had never been to The Delancey, but now you know why we’ll never be able to say that again.

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I’ve written about Derek many times now. The most recent one was a review of his new CD (something I rarely do). The CD is out now, so you can just go buy it (and rate your reviewing skills vs mine). I mentioned in that post that I’d be buying it once it was out. Since we still enjoy physical CDs (luddites that we are), we bought two last night after the show and got Derek to sign one as well. Thanks!

The main stage at The Delancey is quite small (just wide enough to fit the four of them, barely deep enough for each to take a step or two forward or back. The room itself is extremely long and very narrow. I parked myself at the bar directly across from Derek.

The sound guy (sitting immediately to the left of the stage) was excellent, actively ensuring that the sound was right for us and the performers as well (more on that in the next post). That made a world of difference. I’ve complained twice now that at Rockwood 1 (one of our favorite places), Derek’s vocals have been washed out by the volume of the instruments. Not so last night.

CMJ sets tend to be a bit shorter than normal. It stinks when you can’t get enough of a performer, but it’s awesome that they try to have nearly every set at dozens of venues actually start on time!

Derek was supported by his newer set of Lovely Fools (not the ones on the CD). He tours with these guys now and this is the second time I’ve seen them playing with Derek. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know how much I love the original Fools. That will never change, but I publicly admit to be 100% satisfied with the current Lovelies.

Jerry Fuentes on electric guitar and vocals. Jerry is superb on the electric guitar and is a large part of why I don’t mug Derek in an alley for not being able to produce Roy Gurel at every show.

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Mike Tuccillo on electric bass and vocals. Mike is becoming a staple in our outings. We saw him supporting Jenny Owen Youngs just the night before. The bass play on a Derek James set is a critical part of the sound, and Mike is definitely up to the task.

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I mentioned to him after the set that he’s helping me forget Assaf Spector. He noted how different their styles are. True, and like I said above, I will always love the original Fools (Roy and Assie), but Jerry and Mike deliver.

During one song, the three of them (Jerry, Derek and Mike) take identical/simultaneous leads (electric, acoustic and bass, respectively). They nail it (it would be painfully obvious if any of them missed a single note).

Jamie Alegre on drums and vocals. Jamie had to work with a reduced kit (snare, kick, high hat and one additional cymbal) due to the size of the stage. As Derek noted between songs, Jamie kicked arse even with the smaller setup. Great job!

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Derek noted that when he tours with these guys, people ask whether they are brothers. Look at the mop-tops and beards, and decide for yourself. Smile

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Look who we ran into at The Delancey. Matt Simons was the person who suggested we go catch Alec Gross upstairs (before the Derek James set) and Chris Ayer was already up there enjoying the show.

ChrisAyerUnknownMattSimons

Jenny Owen Youngs at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 CMJ

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In April 2009 we accidentally were pulled into the orbit of the NYC indie music scene (courtesy of The Paper Raincoat, comprised of Alex Wong and ambeR Rubarth). Even though some of these artists are signed to labels, most of them still operate (and struggle) like indie musicians, with a one-inch leg up.

By December 2009, we had enlarged the circle of local musicians we follow a drop (it’s really big now). One of those was drummer Adam Christgau who posted a YouTube video of Jenny Owen Youngs. I really liked it and put Jenny on my list of shows to catch. Here’s the video:

Jenny Owen Youngs–Last Person

Amazingly, in the next two years, I never got to see Jenny. Once or twice I could have twisted myself into a pretzel, but I didn’t.

CMJ offers so many choices, but Jenny’s showcase at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 lined up so that I could finally scratch this one off the list.

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Jenny delivered a non-stop energetic rock set. It was nearly impossible not to be moving (not swaying, rather tapping, stomping, bobbing, jumping, dancing, etc.) to all but perhaps one slightly mellower number.

Jenny has an excellent voice. She played solid rhythm on the electric guitar. She’s funny (though with CMJ, banter is often kept to a minimum).

I can’t comment on the lyrics, because everything was so loud (well-balanced, not painful) that even though Jenny’s voice came through strongly, it was more of an instrument (for me at least) than a lyrical delivery system.

For such a big sound (independent of the volume), it was a stripped-down band. Jenny was supported by two people:

Elliot Jacobson on drums. Elliot is always great, no exceptions, but last night’s performance was a bit more herculean for two reasons. The first is that every song was so up-tempo, and there were only three instruments (including the drums). Couple that with the fact that Jenny didn’t play any lead on the guitar. For my taste, Elliot was the musical focal point of the set.

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He’s always a machine, but this set list called from him to be so non-stop, for roughly 45 minutes. It was almost like he took a 30-minute solo, supported by rhythm guitar and electric bass.

The second reason is a little frightening and only became clear a few hours after the show was over. When I got home (after seeing four additional CMJ sets!), I saw this tweet from Elliot:

elliotjacobson Elliot Jacobson

That was so fun. Thanks to all of you who came to the show! Sorry I wasn’t around to talk after. Food poisoning isn’t fun. ?

What? That performance occurred while Elliot was experiencing food poisoning? I can’t even imagine. Here’s hoping he’s better now.

Even the lighting guy felt the need to highlight Elliot. Winking smile

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Mike Tuccillo on electric bass and vocals. Mike was excellent on the bass and sang a bit of harmony with Jenny as well (very nicely). He was also the subject of one of Jenny’s introductions (she asked his permission first). Winking smile

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On two songs Jenny played on a bass drum (and hit Elliot’s cymbal a couple of times). Seeing as the drums were a focal point for me, this enhanced that feeling even more, with two of them drumming at the same time. In keeping with me sharing people’s tweets, here’s what Elliot had to say about that:

elliotjacobson Elliot Jacobson

Gave @jennyowenyoungs wimpy sticks to play her floor tom during our drum duet. She STILL played loud as hell. #profressionalbadass

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True!

I enjoyed the set, but I’d have to hear Jenny’s music recorded to know whether it’s something I’d clamor to hear over-and-over or to attend on a regular basis.

Here is the set list:

SetList

Derek James at Rockwood Music Hall

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Derek James has magical powers (at least over me). I am a very happy person, nearly 100% of the time. So, lifting my spirits seems like a silly thing to say, since they’re always pretty high (metaphorically speaking). Yet, every time I see Derek James perform (last night, at Rockwood Music Hall, was the fifth time), he does indeed lift my spirits even higher (and I was coming in with a wonderful frozen margarita high, so he had some work to do!). Winking smile

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Derek’s band is called The Lovely Fools. Sometimes shows are billed as Derek James and sometimes as Derek James and The Lovely Fools. As I noted in my last post, The Lovely Fools aren’t always the same set of folks, though I associate the canonical version of The Lovely Fools as Roy Gurel on guitar and Assaf Spector on bass. Both were at the last show, but neither was there last night.

Last night was a fantastic set, full of toe-tapping, head-bobbing, foot stomping and feel-gooding (Jr.?). Winking smile So, these Lovely Fools are very lovely too (I’ll note the differences below when I tell you who they were). First, the set list:

SetList

The biggest highlight between the shows was that the volume levels on all instruments (including the drums) was perfect. In the last post I lamented that perhaps Rockwood 1 shouldn’t host these types of shows. I noted exceptions to that (so it can be done) and it was awesome to have Derek himself reverse the feeling I previously had.

The biggest disappointment was once again having Derek’s voice be way too low to hear the words. I was right up at the stage, so I probably had the worst of it, sitting under the speakers. I hope the people further back got to enjoy his vocals (and hear the words clearly).

Most guitarists don’t plan for disasters. They foolishly bring guitars with six strings. When one breaks, there are certain notes they simply can’t play. Derek James is a genius. He brought a guitar that had a whopping 12 strings on it. When one of them broke during the set, he was able to play with nearly twice as many strings as those other guitarists do, and still hit every note. Winking smile

Even if all of his strings broke, he could have seamlessly moved over to full-time Kazoo playing. Smile

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Last night marked the beginning of a month-long, weekly (every Thursday) residency at Rockwood. The first three at Rockwood 1, the last at Rockwood 2, a ticketed CD Release show. Check him (them) out!

The minute I walked into Rockwood, I saw Jerry Fuentes on stage. I asked him whether he just played the set before Derek. He said he was playing with Derek. Sweet, I really enjoyed Jerry’s guitar play when we caught his headlining set back in January.

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Roy Gurel (the normal guitar-playing-fool) is really amazing. The one disappointing show featured a very skilled guitarist. Unfortunately, playing with Derek James requires a lot more than skill, it requires style. Seriously, there is so much fun (much of it delivered in a nuanced way), that if you’re going to share the stage with him, you better both be infected by the mood and also be capable of spreading it (like a virulent virus).

Jerry Fuentes has the skills (I already knew that), but thankfully, he totally has the style. His leads were fun and tasty. He can Fool me any time he wants.

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Mike Tuccillo on electric bass. Filling Assaf’s (Assie) shoes is no small feat, on the bass in general, and specifically as a Fool. I’ve seen Mike play twice before (at the Soul Revue Benefit and as part of Jerry’s band in the set linked to above), so I wasn’t worried about his bass play. Like Jerry above, Mike fit in really well with the sound.

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Kenny Shaw was on drums again (like he was the last time we saw Derek). He was fantastic. The beats in Derek’s songs are so integral to the irresistible desire to shake-your-thang, that the drummer’s role is critical. Every time he hits it, he’s tapping on something deep in your psyche (if he’s doing it correctly). Thanks Kenny (my psyche thanks you too!).

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After the show, Kenny asked me if he was too loud (I was sitting with my back directly in front of the kick drum). I was thrilled to answer No. It really was perfect.

So, with Jerry and Mike doing such a good job, are they perfect replacements for Roy and Assie? No, but I have zero complaints. It’s not so much a difference in skill levels, but rather than Roy and Assie can perform these numbers in their sleep. It’s most noticeable in the reduced harmonies (Jerry sang more than Mike did). Roy and Assie also move in unison (with and without Derek), again, almost unconsciously.

If Jerry and Mike continue to be the main Lovelies, they might get there, but even if they don’t, I promise to never be disappointed if they are the ones on stage when I show up to see Derek perform!

Mike Campbell and Jerry Fuentes at Rockwood Music Hall

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Another day, another very late night, again the need/desire to split the music into two posts.

First up, back-to-back sets at Rockwood Music Hall. The sets were related in that both headliners performed one song on the other’s set, and each had the same special guest appear. Otherwise, nothing remotely similar about the music.

Mike Campbell played his first-ever solo show on November 20th, 2010. I covered it in this post. Last night was his second effort. It was similar in some sense, radically different in others. The similarities were good set selection, good guitar play, nervous banter (perhaps not as much as he did the first time).

MikeCampbell

The differences: much stronger voice (Mike had a bad cold the last time), guest performers (he wanted the first solo show to be about him only, correctly so!).

Mike played a number of songs from the first show, but also added brand new and older tunes to the set.

He called up three different guests, in three different configurations. First up, the headliner of the next set.

Jerry Fuentes joined Mike to play electric guitar and sing a bit of harmony, including leading the audience in a refrain at the end of the song (which was a lot of fun to join in on). It was my first time seeing Jerry (I met him for a second the night before at Mona’s). The song they performed was great (of course, I don’t recall the name now, sorry!). I’ll have a lot more to say about Jerry below when I cover his set.

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A few solo numbers again, then Mike called up the next guest.

Chad Vaccarino joined him to sing a song they co-wrote in June, Days Gone By. When they announced the song, I thought they were about to do a cover of Keith Urban. Nope, just the same title, nothing else similar about the songs.

Here’s a YouTube video of their debut performance of the song last June (it appears to be at a house concert). In the video, Chad is singing lead. Last night, Mike sang lead. In both, Mike played the guitar, beautifully! They should perform this song much more often:

Days Gone By–Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell

Immediately thereafter, Mike called Ian Axel to the stage, with Chad staying up there. All three joked about the fact that they were about to perform the song standing up, something they’d never done before. They sang All the Love, co-written by Mike and Chad. It was perfect. The YouTube video below again has Chad singing lead. Last night, Mike nailed the lead, with Chad and Ian harmonizing.

All the Love by Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell, guest star Ian Axel

If I understand correctly, Mike arranged the harmonies. After the show, I went up to Mike to tell him how awesome it was. Watching the videos above gave me a new round of re-enjoying last night’s show.

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Mike writes beautiful songs all by himself, no doubt, but his collaborations with Chad Vaccarino are simply amazing.

When Mike was done, Jerry got on the stage immediately. Since Mike had only an acoustic guitar, they had set the stage up for Jerry in advance and there was no transition time at all.

Having never see Jerry before, I had no idea what to expect.

He’s an excellent lead guitarist (smooth, fast and interesting). He has an excellent voice. He also played the harmonica on many of the numbers, something I’m less used to seeing in a rock set than a folk set, but Jerry made it work well.

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I would describe the majority of the set as ballad/anthem style rock. There were a couple of exceptions. If you click on Jerry’s name at the top, his site starts streaming music instantly (not something I think sites should do), so you can get your own sense of his style.

Since Jerry began immediately after Mike’s set, he opened with the one song that Mike joined him on. They sang and played well together. Mike then left the stage and Jerry turned up the heat.

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Jerry was accompanied by two band members for all but two songs:

Mike Tuccillo on the electric bass. I just saw Mike for the first time two nights earlier at the Soul Revue Benefit. He was very good that night, but I couldn’t see him, mixed in among the 14 other people on stage. Last night, I was a few feet away from him and could appreciate his technique a lot more. Very well done.

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Aaron Steele on drums. Aaron is a real hitter (very powerful). That can be a great thing, especially for rock songs. The only problem was that my right ear was perhaps two feet from the drum set, so it took me a while to get used to it. Aside from that, Aaron was impressive. In particular, on the last song of Jerry’s set (not including the encore), Aaron was incredible on the drums, very fast, totally clean, still hard hitting. Also very well done.

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Ian Axel joined Jerry for five numbers. Ian played the piano on all of them, singing on one (or two?). The band sounded pretty full without Ian, but adding Ian’s heart-pounding piano to the mix took it up a notch. This capped off a pretty big day in Ian’s (and Chad’s) life. Earlier, they were featured on the Rachael Ray Show on national TV!

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Ian performed the title song from his upcoming CD (This is the New Year, out in a couple of weeks!). Rachael Ray also posted a bonus song, Girl I Got a Thing, that Ian played for the live audience while the credits were running for the rest of us. Great job!

Two of the numbers that Ian joined on were exceptions to the rock style. One is a brand new song of Jerry’s that will be on his upcoming CD. It’s called Standing in Line. I am not linking to the online video he has of it, because last night’s version was 100x better. Just wait until the CD is out and get it. The song highlights Jerry’s lyrical abilities. He also played it on the acoustic guitar, taking the entire sound down.

He tried to get off the stage, but the crowd wasn’t having any of that. He got permission to sing one more. He and Ian performed it alone. A lovely way to close a very good set.

Jerry is a theatrical performer and the band played quite loud. Rockwood 1 is not the perfect venue for that kind of music, partially due to the sheer loudness in such a small space. I think Jerry can command a much larger stage in a larger venue and be perfectly suited to it.

Once I gave Jerry my compliments, we were off next door (literally) to Rockwood 2. The two posts are really unrelated, so I won’t even link them to each other (like I did last night). If you’re interested in what I did next, you’ll have to use some of your Internet skills to find my next post. Winking smile