Nathan Eklund

Ian Axel and Rachel Platten at Mercury Lounge

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When this show was announced in October, we instantly grabbed four tickets (the maximum that Mercury Lounge sells, online or in person!). Since then, we’ve been waiting impatiently for the show to start.

The last time we saw Ian Axel perform was a single song guest appearance on 9/22/2010. Before that, it was 7/22/2010 when he performed an intimate two-person show (Chad Vaccarino was the only person to appear with him that night) at Flux Studios. It was definitely full-on withdrawal time for us, since we missed Ian’s big CMJ show in October.

For those who don’t like all my details, the bottom line first: The show was absolutely awesome!

Ian is releasing a CD on 2/15/2011. Before that, next Tuesday (12/14/2010 to be exact) he will be releasing three of the songs from that CD on iTunes. If I understand correctly, you’ll be able to complete your purchase of the full CD on 2/15/2011 without being penalized (or buying double) if you buy the first three songs next week. Do it!

If you’re not familiar with Ian (shame on you), here’s a YouTube video of This is the New Year. If you are, consider this a warm-up to get you in the mood for the rest of this post:

Ian Axel This is the New Year video

You can preview (stream) next week’s release at Ian’s Facebook fan page. If you listen to This is the New Year carefully, you’ll note that it’s a new version. I (normally) hate when artists tinker with perfection (and I hope you’ll agree that the video above is perfection). Yet, I grudgingly admit that they made an even better version (not that it needed improving), so even fans who have the previous version stuck in their head will love this one!

Last night, Ian played all three of the songs on next week’s EP release. If you missed the show and want to experience a bit of the magic, listen to Girl I Got a Thing on the above Facebook page. When Ian sings “Girl I Got a Thing for You”, you respond with “Girl I Got a Thing for You” out loud (like we all did). Then, when he sings “Na na na na”, you shout out “Whoa Wo”. If you can get a couple of hundred people to do it with you, really loud, you’ll come close to reproducing what it sounded like at Mercury Lounge! Smile

Ian poured out his heart to us and from all of the FB statuses and tweets I’ve seen, everyone responded similarly. He rocked out on some numbers, played solo on Say Something (on the keyboards this time, rather the slightly more typical ukulele version) and added ukulele magic on two others.

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Ian typically plays with a four piece band (including Ian on the keyboards). Last night, they were down a man. It didn’t matter, the sound was huge. I’ll start with the core members who were on stage for all but Say Something, but stay tuned, because there are two other people who will be covered right after!

Adam Christgau on drums and background vocals. It’s simply been way too long since we’ve seen Adam play (7/8/2010 to be exact!). It felt good to feel Adam’s rhythm hitting me straight on (we were right in front of the stage, dead center). The clock for missing seeing Adam play is now officially ticking again…

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Chris Kuffner on electric bass and background vocals. If you read this space regularly, you know that we love Chris Kuffner. All but one of his performances have been on electric guitar (excellent). Still, I lament that I need to see him open it up on the bass. The one time I’ve seen him on the bass, the music called for a more sedate style.

Last night, Chris got to open it up and I’m glad I was there. He also did something I’ve never seen/heard before. Using his pedals to add effects, Chris got the bass to sound exactly like an organ! It was cool and a little eerie. Scratch another one off my music bucket list, seeing Chris play electric bass! Smile

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That everyone at every Ian show loves Ian is no surprise. In fact, if it weren’t true, there’d be some slapping going on in the audience. What warms my heart each and every time (even though it’s completely expected now!) is that the audience totally gets how awesome Chad Vaccarino is and what an integral part of the magic he is.

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First and foremost (before any of us get to see/hear the result), Chad is Ian’s regular writing partner, co-writing many of Ian’s songs. For that alone, he deserves a spot in some hall of fame. But it’s hardly that alone. When Chad steps on stage to sing with Ian (and now to play trumpet a bit as well), there is an electricity in the crowd. The roar when Chad sings is even greater than that.

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Last night was no exception. Chad ripped the room up. There’s little more to say than that. Each is an enormous talent on their own. Together, they boggle the mind.

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Mike Campbell was a special guest on two numbers, playing acoustic guitar and singing harmony. I just recently covered Mike’s first solo show in this post. The first song that Mike joined on was also the first song that Ian played the ukulele on, Pacific Sun (a song Ian rarely plays live, so it was a very special treat). Chad stood between them and the three of them harmonized beautifully. I’ll get to the other song in a minute. Well done Mike (who also got a rousing cheer when he came up each time!).

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When Ian played his last song the crowd went nuts screaming for him to play more. After the band milled around on the stage hugging each other for a minute, Ian looked at the sound engineer to see if he could play another one. He got the OK. He announced that he would play a new song that wasn’t on the new CD. He and Chad performed You’ll Be OK. They nailed it (you didn’t expect otherwise, did you?).

Once they finished, they tried to get off the stage again. A 100+ people starting chanting Shorty (short for Shorty Don’t Wait, another new number that isn’t on the new CD). If Ian and Chad had stepped off the stage, trouble might have brewed. Ian looked up at the sound engineer again and got the OK for one last number.

Mike Campbell came back up and Ian picked up the ukulele again. They blew the crowd away. I can’t think of a better way to finish off an extraordinary evening than by playing a song the crowd demands and delivering it better than the crowd could hope for.

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They were on stage for 53 minutes. It felt like one minute in terms of time flying by. It felt like three hours in terms of the level of satisfaction.

As if the above weren’t enough, that’s only part of the story of why last night was so spectacular. There was an opening act before Ian that was incredible.

Rachel Platten opened the show. I’ve seen Rachel perform a full set just once before (covered in this post). If you read that, you know I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of Rachel’s show that night. Unfortunately, Lois was sick and missed that show.

RachelPlattenKeyboards

Last night Rachel had a smaller band and that worked really well for me to appreciate her on an entirely new level. While I like the sound of a bigger band (in general), sometimes it’s harder to pick up on the lyrics to songs. Last night I had no trouble hearing every word that Rachel sang. I have a huge new respect for her as a songwriter. Every song was interesting, but some were deep and moving.

Rachel’s voice is unbelievable. Power, but crystal clear as well. It’s almost laser like. As I mentioned in the last post, she beams throughout her set. If you’re not infected with her energy and sweetness, get yourself to a doctor stat!

I knew she was good on the keyboards from the last show, but last night she also had a song where she danced up and down the keyboard at high speed. I was standing right in front of her and could see every finger movement. She’s better than I realized the first time and I had no complaints that night!

Here’s last night’s set list, all gems!

RachelPlattenSetList

Playing with Rachel were:

Craig Meyer on drums. This is the third or fourth time that I’ve apologized for not having a good link to an individual page for Craig. One of his friends better force him to have a presence somewhere, soon. Craig is excellent. His drumming is as much a visual art form as it is aural. He played a snare and a djembe last night rather than a full drum set. He also played the smallest glockenspiel that I’ve ever seen, with the tip of a drum stick. It was funny.

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Nathan Eklund on trumpet and harmony. Nathan sang beautifully with Rachel, I really liked their harmonies. He’s excellent on the trumpet as well, lending jazz tinges to Rachel’s songs when he took his solos.

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When the show was over, Lois headed to the merch table and bought a CD and a T-Shirt from Rachel. We both got to tell her how wonderful she was.

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Even though we only bought four tickets (hence two guests), we ended up seeing a dozen friends there, most of us standing front and center stage. It was truly a party in the best sense of the word, with Ian and Rachel performing DJ duties. Winking smile

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Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I expected to knock another 1.5 items off my music bucket list. I’m upgrading the .5 to a full point! 😉

Not only did I get to finally see Martin Rivas perform a full set, but it was different than I expected (his adoring fans clearly knew what they were in for) in two wonderful ways.

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First, Martin had two lead electric guitar players and both happen to be among my individual favorites (we’ll get to the band shortly).

Much more important, while I’ve seen people rave about Martin being a Rock ‘N Roller, I have only ever gotten a hint of that, as most of his previous sets were acoustic or mixed in nature.

Last night was full-on Rock, with a dab of Soul (hard rocking soul!) thrown in for good measure. The place (Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2) was electric. Everyone around me was physically participating in the music. If you were just sitting there, it would have been prudent to check for a pulse!

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Martin was his usual shining light. I love his voice. His guitar playing is excellent, but he purposely takes a back seat when he has the full band on stage and just plays mostly rhythm (he somewhat picked on one number).

Here’s the band, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth electric keyboards and background vocals. Patrick is excellent (we’ve seen him before on a grand piano). Last night he had stacked keyboards. I think he had one set to a more organ sound and the other a more piano one.

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Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and background vocals. One night after finally seeing Chris play the bass, he was back to electric guitar. Given the rocking going on, that was awesome and freeing for Chris, as he wailed on a number of leads, fingers flying.

ChrisKuffner

Craig Meyer on drums (still no good individual link). Craig kept the beat going strong with really tasty riffs. His smile alone is worth the price of admission (in this case, free, but a one drink minimum). 😉

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Brian Killeen on electric bass and background vocals (the link is to an unmaintained MySpace page). Brian is solid all around.

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Greg Mayo on electric guitar, lap steel guitar and background vocals. We’ve only seen Greg once before (also playing with Martin) and he was an instant favorite. Buttery smooth guitar playing. He and Chris shared the leads equally and beautifully. Greg is still on my bucket list to see playing his own stuff as a headliner.

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Rachel Platten joined Martin for one song. Rachel headlined the set before Martin’s and she is the other full point that I wanted/needed to cross off my list. Check.

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Until my friend pointed it out to me before the set began, I didn’t realize that I had seen Rachel perform (ever-so-briefly). She and Kailin Garrity sang harmony/backup with Martin Rivas at the Haiti Benefit in January. I didn’t catch Rachel’s name that night.

Last night it was Rachel front-and-center. Rachel has a gorgeous voice and plays keyboards really well (last night electric). The set was mostly Pop/Rock. The energy was fantastic, with a similarity in the crowd’s visceral reaction to what I described above for Martin.

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There’s a sweetness to Rachel that is evident in her performance. Her smile is wide and never disappears during the set. She connects with many people in the audience.

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If you’re looking to catch a fun show, with upbeat lyrics and melodies, delivered with passion, played by excellent musicians, I highly recommend Rachel Platten.

Backing Rachel were three of the same band members that played with Martin: Patrick Firth on keyboards, Craig Meyer on drums and Brian Killeen on bass.

Martin Rivas played guitar and sang harmony with Rachel throughout her set.

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Nathan Eklund on trumpet and background vocals. Excellent on the trumpet, added a nice touch to the all around great sound of Rachel’s set.

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Lois had not recovered 100% so she couldn’t join me again. Since I couldn’t count on Allie Moss’ mom for photos (not that I knew I could in advance the night before), Lois handed me her camera as I was walking out the door. Any photo mishaps can only be blamed on me this time.

Martin is playing again at Rockwood 1 this Friday night (Sep 17th, 2010) at 9pm. It will essentially be the same band, except that (lucky stiff) Brian Killeen will be in Las Vegas (my favorite city) so Chris Kuffner will be on bass.

We aren’t supposed to be in the city that night, but the enticement of Chris on the bass for an entire rock set might be enough for us to rearrange, plus Lois will get to see Martin do a full set as well. We’re working on it. 🙂

Update: just heard that Chris might be out of town on Friday, so if we go, it will be to see Martin and the gang again. I’ll still be (not-so-patiently) waiting for another opportunity to see Chris on the bass. 🙂

P.S. On the way out, I passed Derek James (a lot of awesome musicians came out to hear Martin and Rachel!). I introduced myself and told him how incredible he is. There’s one less musician in the world who needs to wonder what I think of them now. 😉

P.P.S. there’s always time for a mini-rant. We’ve been to Rockwood 1 & 2 so many times I can’t count. All but two nights have run as close to clockwork as you can hope for. Last night was the second time that something went off the rails (before I got there) causing a major delay.

The group that was supposed to be on from 9-10pm was still going strong at 10pm (the tip jar didn’t even come out until 10:10, so they had to have started late). That caused Rachel’s set to start at 10:50 rather than 10. Martin’s set wasn’t over until roughly 12:30am, making for a longer night than expected. Thank goodness it was incredible. 🙂