Pete Lalish

Ximena Sarinana and Graffiti6 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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We’ve seen Ximena Sarinana perform a number of times. We’re big fans. Considering that she lives in LA, we decided to cut a business trip short to return to NYC to catch her show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night (who knows when the opportunities will present themselves!).

XimenaKeyboards

Ximena has two CDs under her belt. The first is all Spanish, produced when Ximena was living in Mexico (where she is a superstar). The new one (self-titled) is in English, except for track 10, Tu Y Yo (You and I). Both are excellent.

So if we own both CDs, and they’re excellent, why run back to NYC to catch Ximena live? Because the CDs don’t actually do justice to the two things that make Ximena such a special live act:

  • She has a stunning voice which comes across more powerfully/vibrantly live
  • She is delightful/effervescent/charming/funny/natural/cute and any number of other adjectives (all positive)

Did we make the right decision? Of course! Ximena’s voice was in full bloom last night, charming and mesmerizing. She played a mix of songs from both CDs (can’t let your original fans down by ignoring the old stuff!).

On Normal (a Spanish song from the first CD), Ximena looped her voice at least six times (I’d guess it was closer to eight), each time adding a new harmonizing track. It’s mindboggling how beautiful it was and how creative she is for being able to come up with that many different melodies that blend together so well.

XimenaSinging

Ximena was supported by two fantastic musicians, left-to-right on stage:

Aaron Steele on drums. I’ve seen Aaron once before (this past January). He was very impressive, but I was sitting inches away from the drums in the much-smaller Rockwood 1, and Aaron’s hard-hitting style overwhelmed me a bit. Last night was an even more impressive performance, with zero negatives.

AaronSteeleDrumKit

Aaron is fast, steady as a machine, doesn’t over-drum, and delivers a perfectly matched beat to Ximena’s power-pop style. On the jazzier numbers, he can be subtle as well.

Pete Lalish  on guitar. I’ve seen Pete a number of times (with Lucius as well as Ximena) and he’s impressed every time. Last night I noticed some things I hadn’t before. Ximena’s new music has quite a bit of electronica in it. I tend to think that most of that is generated on a keyboard (and much of it is, by Ximena herself).

PeteLalishGuitar

Last night I saw that Pete actually produces more of it than Ximena. He spent a fair amount of time on his knees furiously working his pedal board with both hands (with the guitar just hanging on the strap, unattended), making the electronica sounds.

PeteLalishPedalBoardXimenaElectronica

I’m not the biggest fan of electronica in general (having nothing to do with Ximena), but that doesn’t mean that I’m not impressed at seeing it performed/produced live, giving fans of the CD a real taste of the same sound in a live setting.

Here’s the set list, which was a big hit. We attended the early show, but Ximena was on again for a second show, after a short break!

SetList

Gaffiti6 opened the show (both shows). We knew nothing about them, other than the many tweets that I saw, including one from another musician that we both really like, Valerie Mize:

ValerieMIZE Valerie MIZE

Hey, NEW YORKERS! Catch UK Harmonic Awesomeness@Graffiti6 at #ROCKWOODmusicHall w @ximenamusicTONIGHT! 2 Shows! @TommyDD @JamieScottG6

OK, so instead of me making up a new description, pay attention to Valerie’s: “UK Harmonic Awesomeness”.

I would describe them as power folk. Two acoustic guitars (the duo that formed Graffiti6) and an electric bass.

Graffiti6

Jamie Scott sings the majority of the leads, with Tommy Danvers (TommyD) joining for a lot of very powerful harmonies. The bass player (Pete Cherry) was excellent and added three-part harmony to many of the numbers.

JamieScottTommyDanvers

PeteCherry

The crowd was extremely enthusiastic in their support for Graffiti6. I thoroughly enjoyed their sound, but I’d have to listen again to have a better sense of whether the lyrics will grab me if I give them another shot.

As we were leaving, we ran into one of our favorite musicians/people, Alex Berger. Come to Rockwood 2 on Tuesday (12/20) to see him play at 9pm. Stay for Alex Wong immediately thereafter. That’s where we’ll be. Smile

AlexBergerHadar

Lucius at The Living Room CMJ

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Prior to last night, we’d never seen Lucius perform (that web site is not up yet, you can check out their MySpage page in the meantime). That makes them very unique in our personal history. They are the only band that we have contributed to (on Kickstarter) without ever having seem them perform (as a group or individually). In fact, we never heard their recorded music either.

Melissa Tong, one of our favorite violin/fiddle players, told us about their upcoming CD and suggested we would love them. We contributed sight unseen. That CD is delayed, but at least we finally got to see them live.

There are four members listed on the band’s Facebook page. All four were there, with a very special guest star as well. But, while they all play a critical role in the sound, the group is centered on the two women.

Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig could be right out of an episode of Mad Men. They dress alike (last night in orange pastel colored dresses). They wore matching different colored shoes (meaning, they matched each other, but their left and right feet didn’t match). They wore funky sunglasses. They defined hipsterism (or the antithesis of it… ooh… makes me think too much). Smile

HollyLaessigJessWolfeTheShoes

They stand on stage facing each other (so the audience gets a profile, except that we were at the extreme edge of the front row so we had a direct view of Jess and a rear view of Holly). They each play electronic keyboards, with Jess throwing in a tambourine on a stand and some additional percussion and Holly having an actual drum to her right.

LuciusPercussion

All of that is theater (aside from the instruments) and good theater at that. What’s special is their voices and their songs. Their voices are great (individually) and their harmonies are spectacular. At a minimum, it’s the two of them, but often it’s at least three voices. Quite a number of times, all five people on stage were singing together. Stunning.

HollyLaessigDanMoladJessWolfeSinging

The songs were all great too, so the vehicle for their voices is nice to sit in while you’re along for the ride. Smile

Supporting the ladies, left-to-right on stage:

James Cleare on electric guitar, a drum, tambourine and vocals. James was the special guest. He’s a member of The Spring Standards, one of the most innovative/fun groups in NYC. He clearly knows their material well, since he was singing a lot. He spices up any performance he’s a part of.

JamesCleareJamesCleareSinging

Dan Molad on drums and vocals (no good individual link). Dan was excellent.

DanMolad

Pete Lalish on electric guitar and vocals (no good individual link). Pete was excellent as well.

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Dan and Pete are both former members of Elizabeth and the Catapult. That should tell you all you need to know about their talent. Pete has also toured extensively with Ximena Sarinana (including an appearance on The Tonight Show).

Lucius is playing again tonight at 9pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1. We might not be able to make it, but I would be thrilled to see them again, even knowing we’d be packed like sardines there. Thanks Jason for suggesting we see them with a little more breathing room at The Living Room. It was definitely worth staying up later than we planned.

I am very thankful that I enjoyed the set so much, or I might have felt foolish blindly contributing to the making of their upcoming CD. Now I can truly appreciate the anticipation of receiving it, sometime early next year. Smile

Ximena Sarinana at LAMC at Bowery Ballroom

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We only recently discovered Ximena Sarinana, having seen her perform for the first time on May 31st, 2011. You can read my post on that show. Two nights ago we got the tiniest taste when Ximena sang some harmony with Alex Wong during his show.

The Latin Alternative Music Conference is in town this week. As part of the conference, there is a giant Showcase (essentially, a festival) spread over a couple of nights at Bowery Ballroom. Ximena was scheduled to play last night (or more accurately, very early this morning) at 12:15am.

XimenaKeyboards

If you read my post about our first experience, then you know we wouldn’t have missed a chance to see her again. We had plans earlier in the evening, but in a lucky break, we had nothing scheduled after midnight! (other than sleep, that is…) Winking smile

We arrived at Bowery Ballroom at 11:45pm and parked ourselves very close to center stage. We arrived between acts, so there was just general socializing going on. A few minutes later the act before Ximena took the stage. A top Venezuelan based Hip-Hop group. Six people performing the singing and dancing and a DJ (part of the group) in the back left of the stage.

While Hip-Hop isn’t my thing, and seeing it performed in a language I don’t understand isn’t likely to change that, I was still completely fascinated by how much energy and effort goes into such a performance. I can’t imagine how much rehearsal time it takes to make it look as smooth as it does. Of course, the crowd was wild for them.

Ximena started setting up on stage at roughly 12:20am. While I don’t speak Spanish, I would guess that while she was plugging in all of her electronics, she received at least 14 marriage proposals from the guys standing all around me. Most of those guys were with their wives/girlfriends. I’m betting those women understood (if not supported) the guys in their quest to marry Ximena. Winking smile

XimenaPluggingIn

The set started closer to 12:40am. The character was dramatically different than the Rockwood show, immediately. For starters, Ximena stood and played electronic keyboards. At Rockwood, grand piano and sitting (until the a cappella encore). There was an additional band member (electric guitar) and Alex Wong was on a monster drum kit. Of course, the biggest difference was the venue.

AlexWongDrumKit

Bowery Ballroom is large. The audience stands throughout the show (except for some seats in the balcony). It’s way louder than Rockwood. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Ximena is up to any task and the change in venue was right up her alley as well. She harnessed the crowd’s energy by dancing while she was singing and playing the keyboards, amping them (us) even further.

Ximena’s first full-length CD was released in Mexico, in Spanish. It’s a huge seller. Given my reaction to every song she sang in Spanish at the first show, I have no doubt why that is the case. Having recently moved to the US, she is about to release a second CD, this time in English, on August 2nd.

She opened the show with Shine Down, in English, off the upcoming CD. It’s super-charged power Pop/Rock. She followed that with Echo Park, also in English. A few people around me started calling out to her to sing in Spanish. That was completely understandable, given that this was LAMC and a predominantly Hispanic crowd.

She obliged, immediately, but I have a strong sense that this was her predefined set list anyway! She played a song I instantly fell in love with at Rockwood, Normal, off her original CD. Everyone around us sang every word with her, out loud.

At the end of Normal (at least I’m pretty sure it was Normal), Ximena turned on her loop for her voice. If you’ve still resisted reading my last post about her, but want to really understand what I mean about looping her voice, go back and read that now. Each track in the loop last night was incredibly complex, beautiful and powerful.

I know it isn’t possible, but here are six shots of her singing, each one taken during a different vocal acrobatic act. You can see her facial expressions and mouth formations are radically different as she’s singing something to layer in the current loop.

XimenaSingingLoop1XimenaSingingLoop2

XimenaSingingLoop3XimenaSingingLoop4

XimenaSingingLoop5XimenaSingingLoop6

She returned to English for the next song, Love Again.

Ximena dismissed the band for her last number. She played the title track off her original CD, Mediocre, solo. When she introduced the song, the crowd was feverish, knowing what was coming. With a microphone and electronic keyboards and no other support, she blew away a crowd of hundreds of people, most of whom had been standing for over four hours already.

XimenaSolo

Her voice and skills at live performances are that good. Again, the crowd sang every word with her. They were good (hitting the notes as far as I could tell), but this song builds, and Ximena pours some amazing power into it, so she was always easily recognizable above the audience’s singing.

Pete Lalish on electric guitar. For much of the set it sounded like Pete was playing bass. In retrospect, I’m thinking that some of that might have been coming from Ximena’s keyboards, because Pete’s hands/fingers weren’t moving the way they should have to produce what I was hearing. Basically, it was a little tough for me to pick out his specific sound.

PeteLalishTuningPeteLalishGuitar

Alex Wong on drums and electronic keyboards. Alex had a rock star drum kit setup, high up on stage. The only thing missing was a glass enclosure to make him feel completely unapproachable. Given the power Pop/Rock nature of the English songs, Alex’s arms were flying at really high speeds, mostly on the snare, high-hat and one other cymbal. Of course, he was masterful with the kick drum. I didn’t see him make too much use of the remainder of the drum kit.

AlexWongRaisedDrumPlatform

On at least one song, he played keyboards, which he had laid out to his right on top of one of the larger drums. On another song he also had a drum machine going for the underlying beat, and he powered through more tasty drum parts above and around that beat.

AlexWongKeyboardsXimena

Here’s a more artistic shot of Alex, with the trails of the drumstick (recall how fast I said he was) creating an interesting look across his face.

AlexWongDrumstick

If you are a New Yorker and want to check out my claims, you have two chances later this month, when Ximena opens for Sia at Webster Hall on July 26th and 27th. Get your tickets now. We’ll be there on the 26th. Smile

The energy created by Ximena, the Hip-Hop group and the crowd, easily sustained us way beyond our typical bedtime. We got home around 1:30am and were asleep by 2. Nothing normal or mediocre (yes, a closing pun on two of Ximena’s more awesome songs) about the evening. Smile