Morgan Holland

Morgan Holland at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

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.

MorganHollandSinging

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.

MorganHollandGuitarMorganHollandUkulele

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!

ChrisAyerSingingChrisAyerTuningUkulele

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.

Matt Simons and Chris Ayer at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Last night, Matt Simons and his friends threw him(self) a birthday party at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Rather than sit in the audience and have others perform for him, Matt chose to work on his birthday (midnight, this morning).

MattSimonsBirthdayBoy

Chris Ayer opened the show at 11pm on the dot (highly unusual for a Saturday night Rockwood 2 show to start on time!), but I’ll circle back to Chris after covering Matt.

Matt started at 11:28pm, so he serenaded us at two different ages. Winking smile

He played the keyboards (grand piano and electronic) extremely well and sang wonderfully. Matt opened the show with a brand new number, setting the mood immediately. Throughout his set, nearly every head in Rockwood was bobbing to the beat. It was hard to resist doing that (not that I tried!).

MattSimonsGrandPianoMattSimonsElectronicKeyboards

Matt played a few covers (one of them a solo Beatles number) and what I think was an original that morphed into Sweet Home Alabama (where the band joined to sing as well). It was an eclectic selection that showed off Matt’s and the band’s talents well.

ChrisAndersonGregMayoSinging

Aside from his solo, Matt was supported by three band members (covered shortly). For a few numbers, he invited Chris Ayer up as well.

Morgan Holland joined for at least two numbers, one of which was her own Subway Love (a wonderful fantasy song, at least I hope it’s a fantasy Winking smile ) that she sang lead on and played ukulele, with everyone supporting her (Chris Ayer was on stage for that too).

MorganHollandTuningMorganHollandSinging

A few minutes before midnight, a fan passed a cake onto the stage, with Happy Birthday Matt written on it. It would have been impossible to pass that around (like the cookies sometimes make the rounds) so the poor band probably had to enjoy it after the show. Smile

BirthdayCake

Of course, we all sang Happy Birthday to Matt!

HandingOverTheCakeBlowingOutTheCandle

The band (which played with Chris Ayer and Matt Simons), left-to-right:

Stephen Chopek on drums. I just wrote about Stephen 12 days ago, when many of the same people from last night performed at Jammin’ Java in VA at a show we attended. Stephen impressed me then as he did again last night.

StephenChopek

Chris Anderson on electric bass and light vocals. 12 days ago, Chris played the upright bass. Four days ago, he played the electric bass in support of Ian Axel at an amazing show at the Studio at Webster Hall. Chris is masterful with the bass. On Wednesday night, he had Webster Hall shaking (literally). Last night, much of his electric bass play was as subtle (and beautiful) as his upright play the week before.

ChrisAnderson

In other words, Chris is not a one-trick pony, simply blasting the bass. He has a feel for the music and complements it perfectly. Even last night his bass play varied, as some of the numbers were very upbeat and others were extremely mellow (and still enhanced by the bass). I wondered why he selected the electric over the upright for last night and I suspect it may have to do with the addition of the next band member.

Greg Mayo played the electric guitar and light vocals. Greg was a surprise for us. When we committed to attending this show, we didn’t know who else would show up other than Matt and Chris Ayer, who were the only ones listed. I never get tired of documenting how great Greg is on the guitar, so this was more than just the proverbial icing on the cake (especially since there was actual icing on a cake last night, no proverbs need apply!).

GregMayoGuitar

Greg took a number of traditional leads (I’d guess roughly seven between Chris and Matt’s sets). They were all awesome, as they always are. But, I got to experience a new level of enjoyment of Greg’s play last night. Previous shows where Greg played the guitar tend to be heavily weighted toward Rock. That means that between leads, much of the guitar play is straight-forward rhythm.

The mellower sounds of last night’s sets meant substantially fancier play, even when the guitar wasn’t the highlight. Over and over, I kept noticing that there was a subtle beauty dancing around the vocals and other instruments. Inevitably, looking over toward Greg revealed the source.

GregMayoShadows

I suspect that Chris Anderson chose the electric over the upright because this time there was an electric guitar to play against. Greg’s play was so appropriate to the mood that I think Chris could have easily pulled off the upright had he chosen that instead.

Chris Ayer opened the show. Chris has made our list of must see musicians after just two shows. Deeply interesting lyrics (we discover something new on each listen) sung by a fantastic voice, accompanied by wonderful finger picking guitar (he can most definitely perform solo and completely hold our attention).

ChrisAyerSingingChrisAyerFingerPicking

I pointed out to Lois afterward that for the first time, she did not take a photo of the set list that Chris writes on his arm. She was not happy with me. I guess I should have remained silent…

Chris opened with Graduate and Awake, both great songs. The band took a break when he sang Relativity (a new song, available on iTunes) with Matt Simons and Morgan Holland supplying the amazing three-part harmony. The iTunes version has much more instrumentation (last night Chris’ guitar was the only instrument). Both versions are fantastic. Morgan sang harmony on a couple of other numbers.

Lois loves her Chris Ayer T-Shirt (which she wore to the show):

ChrisAyerTShirt

We don’t seek out late-starting shows. Having been out later than expected for Ian’s show on Wednesday, we ended up bailing on both Thursday and Friday, even though we were really looking forward to both nights out. Thankfully, we regained enough energy to make it last night.

Happy Birthday Matt (all day today!).

In order to raise our chances for good seats for Matt and Chris’ sets, we decided to come for the 10pm set as well. Our plan worked out fine in terms of grabbing the exact two seats we wanted.

Kendra Morris sang, supported by a full band. Kendra has a very good voice and all of the songs (originals plus a few covers) were good. Even though we listened like we would for anyone else, I couldn’t say that the songs left any lasting impressions.

Kendra projects an image as you can see in photos of her outfit and tattoos. She also adds quite a bit of drama in her on-stage movements. Not exactly our thing, but the younger men behind us made sure Kendra knew how much they appreciated it. Smile

KendraMorrisOutfitKendraMorrisSinging

The band was extremely professional. Left-to-right on stage:

Tyler Cash on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). Very nice job. A bit more noticeable on the electronic keyboards than on the grand, but well done all around.

TylerCash

Jeremy Siegel on electric bass (sorry, couldn’t find a good individual link). I’m sorry I couldn’t find a good link, because I was extremely impressed with Jeremy’s play. Very understated in terms of affect, but very precise and tasty bass play on every number. He was playing harmonic lines to the melody.

JeremySiegel

Sam Merrick on drums. Sam grabbed my attention on the very first number. While his drumming remained good throughout, for me, the highlight was that first song.

SamMerrick

Jeremy Page on electric guitar (also no good individual link that I could find). Kendra credited Jeremy for being the creative force behind this project. He played the guitar really well, also very understated, like the other Jeremy in the band.

JeremyPage

On one number, Kendra brought up someone who’s name I thought was Godfrey. A quick search this morning looking for Jeremy Page gave me the real name: Godforbid. Nice. Smile

Godforbid

Godforbid held a mic in one hand a beer in the other. They sang 500 Miles by The Proclaimers. Their version was played at about 1/3 the speed of the original, with a melodramatic flair by each singer (they alternated leads and sang harmony with each other throughout). While it was nothing like the original, it was really good. If I closed my eyes to avoid the show, it would have been even better.

KendraMorrisGodforbid

Here’s how I found Godforbid. He, both Jeremys and Sam were/are in a band called That Handsome Devil. Considering that I really like every band member and that Godforbid has quite a good voice as well, if the band still plays I’d be interesting in checking them out sometime.

Chris Ayer, Barnaby Bright, John Schmitt and Morgan Holland at Jammin Java

Send to Kindle

It’s great to see a show you know you’re going to like because you like a number of the artists. It’s even better for that to come true and have very pleasant discoveries/surprises thrown in for good measure.

Jammin’ Java had the show listed as Chris Ayer headlining, supported by Barnaby Bright and John Schmitt. This would be our third time seeing Chris, so there was little risk there. We just recently saw John perform one song at the Soul Revue Benefit in NYC and were very interested in hearing more of him. We didn’t know who Barnaby Bright was and I admit to thinking it was a person born in 18th century England, who somehow was still touring around. Winking smile

Since I follow a lot of musicians on Twitter, I found out earlier that day that Morgan Holland and Matt Simons would be there as well. When we got there, we saw two more surprise guests, Chris Anderson, who we will see at least three times in the next week in NYC (with three different bands!) and Stephen Chopek. So, even before the show began, our anticipation was elevated.

I normally describe the evening backwards, headliner to opener. I will do that in this post as well, but since I mostly write for my own memory, I will need to disturb that flow a drop, to note my reaction to certain things, which obviously occurred in forward order. Hopefully, I won’t confuse you too much (or myself when I revisit this years from now).

Chris opened his set solo. Considering how good his voice is and how well he plays the guitar, he could easily perform entire sets solo and deliver satisfaction to the audience. But, given the three-car caravan that came down from NYC yesterday, it was no surprise to any of us when he invited the full band on the stage. I’ll cover the band at the end, because they played with three of the four acts.

ChrisAyerGuitar

Chris performed a fantastic set (as with the last show we saw, here’s his set list, our perspective, then his):

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

On many songs, if I close my eyes, I could swear that James Taylor is performing a Chris Ayer song on stage, that’s how uncannily close Chris sounds to James (at times). But, Chris has quite a large repertoire of songs in various styles, including a number of ballad-style Rock numbers.

ChrisAyerSinging

Lois and I often agree/overlap in our opinion of the artists, but we don’t always get there at the same speed. Lois loved Chris from the first song he performed at Parkside Lounge. I was very impressed, but it took a second look (linked above) for me to catch up to Lois. Before the show started, Lois bought two CD’s and a T-Shirt from Chris. We own both the CD’s but neither of us could remember whether our copies are signed (one of our things) so now we have two CD’s to give as gifts and two that are definitely signed! Smile

Chris played two songs that he just released this week on iTunes, Relativity and Stranded. Both were wonderful, so I bought those this morning as well. Excellent. Except, last night, Morgan Holland joined Chris to sing harmony on Stranded. It was gorgeous. The download is also gorgeous, but no female harmony to make it even better (score another one for a live experience!).

Chris played a number of favorites, including Evaporate, which he sang in three-part harmony with Morgan and Matt Simons. Beautiful! He accompanied himself on the guitar, and Chris Anderson and Stephen Chopek chilled out behind them.

Chris closed the show with The Noise. He called up Morgan Holland, John Schmitt and Barnaby Bright (all of the acts before him) to sing harmony with him (and us) on this. He invited the crowd to sing the refrain (ah, ah, ah ah ah) with them. Normally, I can tell when the crowd joins in. I admit that last night I could only make out my own voice, but I’ll also admit I was awesome! Winking smile

ChrisAyerFinale

You can listen to a live version of that song (linked above) where you can make out that the audience is joining in, and then buy it right there as well!

On to the biggest surprise for me of the night. Barnaby Bright is not in fact a 300+ year old troubadour. It’s a husband and wife duo.

Nathan and Becky Bliss. This is where I have to disturb the backward flow for a minute. Each of them joined John Schmitt, the act before them, separately. Nathan played the sax with John on one number (just the two of them on the stage), and then again with the full band. Becky sang harmony with John on one number where only they were on stage.

So, I thought I had a sense of them. Nathan would come out and play the sax and Becky would sing soft (but stunning) harmonies with Nathan. Hahahaha, not even close. Back to the correct reverse order of things.

Becky took center stage with a small folding table in front of her. On the first number, she played the harmonium and sang. Wait, let me try that again, trying to impart to you what I experienced.

Becky Bliss sang. Hmmm, that doesn’t do it justice either. Let me embarrass myself by sharing with you how I fumbled for words when I spoke to Becky after the show. Instead of saying something coherent, I said: “Your voice is frighteningly beautiful!”. Huh? Come on Hadar, you weren’t frightened even for a second, you were completely enveloped and mesmerized. Yeah, that’s what I should have said…

BeckyBlissHarmonium

OK, that was no fluke. On each and every song, Becky amazed me. In addition to her voice and the harmonium, she played some rhythm acoustic guitar, ukulele and a tiny electronic keyboard that she laid on top of the harmonium for one number. She also wrote some of the songs they performed last night, though I recall her giving Nathan credit for the majority of them.

BeckyBlissHadar

Nathan didn’t play the sax even once during their set. Instead, he was fantastic on the acoustic guitar (a few of them in fact). Many styles, including the finger-tapping style of people like Kaki King (just one example).

NathanBlissGuitar

In addition he too played the ukulele on one number and the mridangam (or something very close to that).

NathanBlissMridangam

That’s not all. When they were playing, I could swear I heard a kick drum, but no one was on stage with them and all four of their hands were busy. Then I noticed that Nathan was tapping with his foot on something that looked like a closed up scissor jack for a car. I asked Becky about it after the show. It’s called a porch board. Cool! Nathan did a very nice job of keeping the beat and adding a fullness to their sound while continuing to impress on the guitar.

Nathan sang too, a bit of lead (a song he wrote about his father’s passing) and a lot of harmony. Their harmonies are beautiful, many times with a very ethereal quality (most notably on the CD, which I’ll get to in a sec). If I had one complaint, it’s that Nathan isn’t very forceful with his voice when singing with Becky. I don’t know if he’s intimidated by singing with that voice (I know I would be), but I doubt it. So, next time, Nathan, kick it up a notch, just for me. Smile

They nervously performed a song they had just finished in the car on the way down (or so they said). They nailed it, no reason to have been nervous.

Speaking of the CD. After their set, Lois ran up to buy a copy. I listened to it today and I like it a lot. But, it’s nothing like the show I saw last night (even though they performed much of it). Becky’s voice is gorgeous on the CD, but very mellow. Last night was phenomenal power (there was a bite to it). The ethereal quality I mentioned above comes across throughout the CD.

Score one for the old man (oops, I mean married couple!). We both can’t wait to see Barnaby Bright perform again.

John Schmitt is someone I’ve heard about from a number of our friends. He performed most of his set solo with a guitar. I mentioned that Nathan joined him on the sax for one number (John gave Nathan two nice sax solos in that one). The song Becky joined him on was Ave Regina. Wow, great song, beautiful harmony.

NathanBlissSaxophone

John is an excellent guitarist, so like Chris Ayer, no problem holding my attention when it’s just him and the guitar. But, it’s not really about the guitar. John writes wonderful songs (lyrics) and has a major voice. He had a horrible cold, which he said was causing him to sing more deeply than his normal range. I felt bad for him, but even a slightly gruffer, slightly deeper voice came across marvelously last night.

JohnSchmittGuitar

He has a very natural rapport with the audience and I look forward to seeing if there is a difference when he’s feeling better, though I don’t have anything but praise to heap on John for last night’s performance.

JohnSchmittSinging

He closed his set with the full band on stage with Nathan joining on the sax. They played Ophelia, the title track from his recently released CD. Lois was blown away and as with Barnaby Bright, ran up right after the set was over to buy a copy from John.

On Friday night we saw another show in VA. The headliner that night was Caleb Hawley and you can read about how great we thought Caleb was. When we found out that Caleb produced John’s CD, we knew it would be a winner even before we listened to it. Yup, it’s a winner (I say with confidence, now that we’ve enjoyed it).

Speaking of colds, I failed to mention that Chris Ayer was battling a cold as well. It didn’t seem to affect his performance either (well, it affected John’s, but not negatively).

Morgan Holland opened the show with the full band plus Chris Ayer. I really like her EP (Old New) and encourage you to check it out and buy it too (you can stream the whole thing first to make sure you agree with me).

MorganHollandSinging

Morgan played songs from the EP plus one Billy Joel cover, She’s Always a Woman. She played acoustic guitar and ukulele and also sang with no instruments, with the full band backing her. Chris Ayer or Matt Simons sang harmony on most numbers, occasionally all three together. Beautiful.

MorganHollandGuitarMorganHollandUkulele

MorganHollandHadar

Finally (but certainly not least!), the band. Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

Matt Simons on electronic keyboards and harmony. Matt is a singer/songwriter in his own right. We own his current EP and like it a lot. If you’re in NYC on Sat Feb 19th, you can join us for Matt’s own show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 11pm. It will be his birthday at midnight. Last night he was purely a side man, supporting the others, extremely well.

MattSimonsKeyboardsMattSimonsSinging

MattSimons

Stephen Chopek on the drums. We’ve only seen Stephen once before, during the Morgan Holland EP Release show at Rockwood. I enjoyed his play a lot, but this is all I wrote about him after that show:

This was our first time seeing Stephen play. He was very good.

Not effusive, but still accurate, he was very good. I have a much better sense after last night, given that he played throughout Morgan’s set, then for one number with John Schmitt, followed by most of Chris Ayer’s set. The songs were much more varied so Stephen displayed more styles.

StephenChopek

Morgan’s set called for sophisticated but understated drumming. Stephen excelled at that. Many of Chris’ numbers called for dramatically more drum fills. The very first number that the full band joined Chris on was Graduate (a song I really like but can’t find anywhere to purchase!). The drums are integral. I wish I knew the technical term for that style of drumming, because it’s among my favorite. If you know the movie 1941, you’ll know the drumming style I’m describing as it runs throughout the movie.

Update: A friend who read this post emailed me a link to a live version of Graduate. You can stream it free, or download and name your price. It’s gorgeous (I knew that already), but it’s solo, so you won’t hear the drum pattern I’m talking about above.

StephenChopekHadar

Chris Anderson played the upright bass, both plucking (mostly) and with a bow (on a few numbers). Chris is one of our favorite bass players and we are fortunate that he plays with quite a number of the bands that we like. We first discovered Chris when we first heard Ian Axel and we’ll see Chris next Wednesday playing with Ian Axel for his CD release show at the Studio at Webster Hall in NYC.

ChrisAndersonBassChrisAndersonBow

We can’t wait for that show, but we’ll see Chris (or at least I assume so) this coming Saturday, playing with the Greg Mayo band. Can’t wait for that either. Smile

A great night of music (nearly three hours). If you factor out the mega shows (which we too enjoy!), this kind of night out is still one of the most enjoyable and value-packed things you can do. If you see a show like this at a place like Jammin’ Java, where the food is excellent and reasonably priced, the value is increased. That’s exactly what we did, along with three of our friends, who hadn’t seen any of these artists before last night.

Morgan Holland, Chris Ayer and Matt Simons at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

Morgan Holland had her EP Release Party last night at Rockwood Music Hall. She invited most of the people who performed on the EP to play with her last night. Two of them opened for Morgan before joining her in the extended (two hour) set.

Chris Ayer was first up. We’ve only seen Chris perform once before (covered in this post) and we were excited to see him again last night. He’s excellent, all around.

ChrisAyerGuitar

Chris has a fantastic voice, plays the guitar very well and writes interesting and entertaining songs. He has a charm on stage that is hard to resist. Oh, and the ladies can’t take their eyes off of him. They’ll show up even if they’re tone deaf. Winking smile

ChrisAyer

Chris had a strange-looking tattoo on his right forearm, or at least that’s what I thought until I saw him consult it the second time. Then I realized it was his set list, written in sharpie. Winking smile Here it is the way it looked to us, then flipped and rotated, the way it looked to Chris. Smile

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

After performing a number of songs solo, Chris invited Matt Simons to join him. Matt played the piano and sang harmony (beautifully).

To close out his set, Chris invited Morgan and Matt up to sing harmony with him on a gorgeous number. When the song was over, Chris and Morgan left the stage and Matt went into his solo set.

Lois and I participated in Matt Simons’ Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of his current EP. I am really pleased with the result and encourage all of you to check it out (and buy it, of course!).

Matt played on the grand piano and electric keyboards (standing!) and of course sang. As with Chris’ set, Matt invited Morgan and Chris up to join him on his last number.

MattSimonsGrandPianoMattSimonsKeyboardsStanding

As much as I like Matt (and I have more praise to heap on him in my next post), I wasn’t as enamored with his set selection last night. Still, always a treat to see him!

There was a brief break before Morgan’s set, since there were more instruments and musicians that needed to be squeezed onto the stage. I’ll cover the additional musicians in a minute.

The night that we had previously seen Chris Ayer was the same night we discovered Matt Simons, who was accompanying Chris. Morgan Holland joined them for Chris’ last song and sang harmony. At the time I didn’t realize that she was also pursuing a solo career.

A few months ago I heard that Morgan released a new EP. It was available on Bandcamp (I linked Morgan’s name at the head of this post to her Bandcamp page). I really like Bandcamp in general and have bought a number of albums/songs from them. One of the best reasons is that most (every?) songs are available for full, free streaming. You pay only if you want to download. Even then, it’s often a pay-what-you-wish model (perhaps with a minimum).

It’s hard to complain when you can check something out (many times if you like) before wanting to own it, and more importantly, supporting the artist.

It took me exactly one listen to Morgan’s EP (Old New) to know I wanted to own it and support her. I bought it right away and have enjoyed it (multiple times) ever since.

Morgan opened the show with an a cappella number with Chris and Matt. I’m a sucker for any well-delivered a cappella, and this was extremely well delivered!

ChrisAyerMorganHollandMattSimons

Morgan gave a good performance of a number of the songs last night, but she also threw in a cover. She praised her band many times, rightfully so.

MorganHollandUkulele

Joining her on stage, left-to-right were:

Chris Ayer on guitar, ukulele and background vocals. Chris was excellent. His guitar play complemented Morgan’s play (she played guitar and ukulele on a few numbers) and his voice blends beautifully with hers.

ChrisAyerUkuleleMorganHollandGuitar

Matt Simons on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Ditto what I said about Chris above. Smile

Chris Anderson on upright bass. Chris is one of our favorite bassists. Of the many times we’ve seen him, this might be the first time we’ve seen him play upright, but I wouldn’t swear to it. He was excellent, of course!

ChrisAnderson

Stephen Chopek on drums. This was our first time seeing Stephen play. He was very good.

StephenChopek

I can’t tell you how mobbed Rockwood 1 was for this set, it was crazy. That would be impressive in and of itself. But, when you couple that with the fact that the show was up against none other than Sean Lennon (yes, that Lennon, John’s son) playing immediately next door at Rockwood 2, it was even more impressive.

I’m very glad we were among those that chose to check out and support the up-and-comers, though I’m sure that Sean delivered right next door!

P.S. Wanting to grab seats for Morgan’s set, we showed up 20 minutes early. We caught the last three songs of the previous set, a Jazz Quartet named The As-Is Ensemble headed by Michael Bellar. Michael played the grand piano and electronic keyboards (very well). I didn’t catch the other names (sorry!), but the upright bass player was excellent, as were both drummers. Very impressive!

MichaelBellarPlusBassistTheAsIsEnsembleDrummers

Vienna Teng at Parkside Lounge

Send to Kindle

Ignorance is bliss, at least it was last night. 🙂

On March 14th, our friend @HappyBee3 tweeted the following:

Wow nice line up! RT @chrisayer: Added NYC show March 23 w/ @viennateng & Rachael Sage at Parkside Lounge!

I had never heard of Parkside Lounge before, but I made a mental note to see the show for three reasons:

  1. Vienna Teng (OK, I didn’t really need any more reasons) 😉
  2. Rachael Sage (we saw her at Joe’s Pub and I enjoyed her show)
  3. Chris Ayer (@HappyBee3 saw him at Canal Room and tweeted her love for the show, so I was really looking forward to catching Chris, as @HappyBee3 has very good taste in music!)

The show was listed on Parkside’s calendar as: “Stanford University Alumni Showcase”. Tickets were not available for purchase, so it seemed like a free show, with a likely drink minimum. I knew Vienna graduated from Stanford, and I assumed so did Rachael and Chris, and this was a bit of fun to bill their show as such.

That was the ignorance part. We showed up and it turns out it was run by Stanford in Entertainment, with the audience all being Stanford Alums, as were all of the performers. Oops!

The ladies who put on the event were so nice to us and let us in. We made a donation to their “Raise Money for Haiti” drive (we would have anyway) and bought a few drinks (which had to help out Parkside, etc.). It’s possible that we were the only two non-Stanford alums in the very crowded audience.

Vienna closed the show, but since I nearly always cover performers in reverse order, and since we mostly showed up for her, I’ll stay with my tradition.

We’ve seen Vienna perform seven times before (hence, reason #1 above). This was the first time she performed every number solo. It’s also the first time we’ve seen her on an electronic keyboard (I’ve seen her play one on YouTube videos, but live, it’s always been a grand piano until last night). It’s not that the sound of the electronic keyboards is different, it’s the visual aspect of the performance.

ViennaTeng

When Vienna plays on a grand, you have a profile view of her at best. For many, she’s nearly completely obscured. When she plays the electronic keyboards, she’s center stage, facing the audience. Vienna is an emotive singer, so the full-on view is very welcome.

ViennaTeng1

She’s always very warm and engaging with the audience, but this was a special audience, with many shared experiences and memories. There were inside jokes (that everyone but us got). Vienna gave longer introductions to a few songs, something we love to hear, so that too was a treat.

She chose a very fitting set list for both the audience and the venue (in our opinion). She was a bit worried that she wouldn’t pull off the magic in The Last Snowfall, since her looping machine was on a stool, much lower than normal. She needn’t have worried, it was perfect!

ViennaTeng2

I know a number of her fans really want a set list from each show. I’m probably missing one or two, but here’s what I recall (not necessarily in order!):

Whatever You Want, Blue Caravan, 1 Br / 1 Ba, Soon Love Soon, The Last Snowfall, Grandmother Song

ViennaTengGrandmotherSong

Amazingly, as much we love every one of those, there are many of our favorites that she didn’t play, hence my remark about her tailoring the set list to the specific crowd/venue.

Next up was Rachael Sage. When we saw her at Joe’s Pub, she had a full band, which included the mind-bogglingly brilliant Dave Eggar. It was a holiday show, and she played significantly more upbeat numbers that night.

RachaelSage

Last night she was solo, on Vienna’s keyboards. She has an excellent voice, and plays the piano wonderfully. She cracks me up to no end (very quick, witty, inventive). Unfortunately, she too crafted her set list specifically for last night’s show, and the choice didn’t sit as well with us. Her songs were darker, a bit less melodic. I still got a kick out of seeing her, and laughing a bunch, but for my taste, the show at Joe’s was substantially more to my liking.

Chris opened the show. He’s a superb guitarist. He’s a lefty, but I won’t hold that against him. 😉 He has a wonderful voice, and writes very interesting songs. Excellent stage presence.

ChrisAyer

For 2/3’s of his numbers he had Matt Simons join him. Matt played electronic keyboards and sang a lot of harmony. Their voices blended beautifully!

MattSimons

Chris played a few solo numbers in the middle of the set. For the last two songs he was also joined by Morgan Holland (sorry, couldn’t find a good link for her). Here’s a YouTube video of her singing with Chris at Capital Ale House (a lot of background noise…).

MattSimonsMorganHolland

Stanford Alums, sorry we crashed your party, but thanks for being so warm and thanks to Vienna, Rachael, Chris, Matt and Morgan for making the evening so enjoyable!

Parkside Lounge is a very nice venue. We’ll be happy to return there whenever we get the chance!