Rachel Platten

Rachel Platten, Bess Rogers and Bethany and the Guitar at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse

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We’re nearing the middle of a two week hiatus from NYC music. We’ve already missed some very special shows and will be missing a few more before we get back on the horse.

None of that mattered, because I thought I was going to see a night of Musical Mud Wrestling starring two amazing female singer/songwriters, Rachel Platten and Bess Rogers at Ebenezers Coffeehouse:

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OK, you’d think it was billed as a topless boxing match from the above poster (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but I chose to believe they wanted to leave the image of them mud wrestling to the imagination. Note that in typical female fashion, the poster doesn’t include their weight (click on it for a larger version!). Bess only fueled the image with this tweet:

June tour with Rachel Platten! Come watch us fight to the finish!!http://fburls.com/46-mnKKwbgC

Before you head out to see them on this tour, let me assure you, it was all a lie. The only thing you’ll see/hear if you attend one of their shows is awesome music (and you might laugh a bunch as well, but that’s it!). Seriously, I could have stayed in NYC for that instead of driving to DC to catch this show. Winking smile

In my typical fashion, I’ll cover the acts (there were three) in reverse order.

Rachel Platten was up last. She very recently released a CD called Be Here. Get it, listen to it, fall in love with it.

RachelPlattenSinging

Rachel performed at least six of the songs from the CD last night and one or two songs I never heard before (always a treat). Rachel always delivers the goods live, in whatever configuration she chooses. She played one song solo, the rest with her band, and a few also had Bess Rogers singing harmony with her.

Bringing Bess up led to a number of funny lines, including the only thing that could be confused for delivering what the Poster (and tour name) promised! Rachel also sang harmony with Bess on a few numbers during Bess’ set. When Rachel took the stage, she commented that it’s much easier to think of things to say to the audience when it’s your own set and how you just look and sound goofy (not the word she used) when it’s someone else’s set.

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Of course, she said that exactly as Bess was settling in behind her mic. Everyone erupted in laughter (including Bess and Rachel), since it seemed like she was challenging Bess to say something clever, right then and there.

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In addition to having a great voice and writing great songs, Rachel is also superb on the keyboards. Last night she intro’ed one song with an incredible solo (mostly classical style, with fingers flying the length of the keyboard). She had a number of mini-solos, all filled with razzle-dazzle.

RachelPlattenFingersFlying

Backing her up on all but one number were:

Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and vocals. I was surprised that Martin played and sang. I expected him to be the referee for the fight. Oh well, we had to suffer his wonderful voice and guitar playing instead. Perhaps next time! Smile

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Craig Meyer on drums/percussion. Craig always does an amazing job, whether he’s playing with a full drum set or hitting his leg with brush sticks (yes, he did that last night during one song!). Rachel highlighted him giving Craig an intense solo, but to be honest, Craig generally is a highlight reel (in the best sense), whether he takes a solo or not, at each show.

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Behind Craig was a full drum set, in one of those glass cages you often see at a giant show (MSG, etc.). It would have been interesting to see him wail on that for a bit. That too will have to wait for another time.

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I include the set list here, but Rachel didn’t follow this to a T, even though it was sitting on the floor next to her. Specifically, she opened the show with Nothing Ever Happens, which appears second on this list:

RachelPlattenSetList

Bess Rogers had a similar setup to Rachel. She played one song solo (on acoustic guitar). For the rest, she was accompanied by Martin and Craig. She performed most of them on acoustic guitar, but switched to ukulele for a few. Rachel sang harmony on a few numbers and played a bit of keyboards on one.

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Not to be mistaken for a cool person, Bess paired a glockenspiel on one of the numbers that she also played uke on (the one Rachel played keys on). Bess pointed out that if you’re going to be a Nerd (and she considers herself one), then by all means, pair two nerdy instruments in the same song. Winking smile

BessRogersUkuleleGlockenspiel

To be honest, I felt a bit cheated on another score. Bess bought (and apparently mastered!) a new Omnichord. I was hoping she would break it out at this show. Alas, she did not…

Bess has an exceptional voice, with incredible control to boot. It was evident on every number except the very first one. We couldn’t tell why the sound engineer wasn’t boosting her mic during the opening number. We also weren’t sure whether Bess even knew she was sounding soft to us (since her monitor might have been fine).

RachelPlattenHarmonizingWithBessRogers

Thankfully, the minute the song was over she switched mic’s with Rachel, saying that for whatever reason, the one she had was simply too soft-sounding. Whew. Everything was perfect (sound-wise and voice-wise) after that!

Bess played a few from her latest EP (released in 2010), including the opener, Come Home and Favorite Day. In introducing Favorite Day (a song about her now-husband, who was only a boyfriend back then), Bess made someone named Courtney (in the audience) promise not to tell Chris Kuffner (her husband) that she shared the back-story/motivation for the song. Since I didn’t sign any legal documents and Bess didn’t admonish me personally, I’m mentioning it here. Winking smile

Bess played an older one (from her first CD, released in 2007) with an updated arrangement. I’m mentioning these because we didn’t snag a set list for Bess (not that I noticed one on stage). She also played a couple of new ones that will be on an upcoming CD that was funded (extremely successfully!) on Kickstarter. Congrats Bess, we’re waiting (semi-patiently) until we all get to enjoy it!

While Martin played normal guitar and sang harmony with Bess (wonderfully), he also played the acoustic guitar as if it was a bass on a couple of numbers, to excellent effect. Nicely done Martin!

There was an opening act for the evening, someone we never heard of before. While some opening acts don’t suit the headliners well, we’re reasonably open to finding out if they do, considering that some of our favorite bands/people were discovered that way. I suspect that last night’s opener will make that list (perhaps they already did?).

Bethany and the Guitar is a five-person group, but basically, the core is Bethany Parks and her brother, Kurtis Parks. Since Kurtis played the guitar on stage, I’m gonna guess that Kurtis == the Guitar. Smile The bio on their site implies that they co-write most of the songs. Either way, both are clearly extremely talented.

BethanyAndTheGuitar

Bethany sings beautifully and plays the ukulele on most songs. The first few numbers they performed reminded me of The Weepies. On others, she gave me more of the feel of Rosi Golan. In both cases, I describe it as ethereal/dreamy Pop, but with interesting lyrics, so it’s not just about the sound (though if that’s all that grabs you, it’s more than enough!).

BethanyParksSingingBethanyParksUkulele

Kurtis sings harmony a fair amount (very nicely, or I could never have likened them to The Weepies!) and plays guitar quite nicely on all the numbers. He sang lead on a verse or two as well. From his site (linked above), he has (and has had) his own bands as well.

KurtisParks

They performed two songs last night that Bethany didn’t write (or co-write). One was a cover, the other was co-written by Kurtis and a Nashville songwriter.

Bethany sang a new song (not on the CD) that she wrote for a NYC-based charity called Buy Her Bag Not Her Body. The bags were also for sale at the merch table. This charity saves women from the sex slave trade and gives them a skill (in this case making hand bags) to support themselves.

Rachel announced during her set that her birthday was upcoming and that Martin bought her one of the bags during intermission. Martin scores a double, for being a good friend and doing a good deed at the same time!

The rest of the band, left-to-right on stage:

Eric Montgomery on electric bass. Very nice job throughout the set. He also helped Bess, Rachel, Martin and Craig with the monitor volumes and cabling during their sets. From the photo on Kurtis’ site, I see he is/was also part of Kurtis’ band (Kurits Parks and the Anthem). He’s on the right. The guy on the left was in the audience.

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Sarah Parks vocals and clapping. Sarah is married to Kurtis. She has a lovely voice. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem comfortable enough on stage to want to use it forcefully. She often sang a little further back from the mic than would have been ideal. What I heard was really good though. I also listened to their CD and it’s easier to pick out Sarah’s voice there.

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Speaking of the CD, we bought two copies. Thankfully, it holds up as well as I could have hoped given last night’s performance. I’ve listened to it twice today (after ripping it, not once per physical CD). The last track on the CD is labeled “World Famous (Bonus)”. They played it last night as well, I think closing the show with it. On that track Sarah sings the final verse on the lead (the only verse she sang lead on last night).

Kurtis produced the CD, so he’s talented beyond just singing, musicianship and songwriting abilities.

Nick Welsh on cajon. Nick did an extremely good job. I haven’t seen too many cajon players, but I’ve liked the instrument every time. Nick had more of a snare sound to his (which was new to me).

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During one song where there was clapping (note that I listed “clapping” as one of the things that Sarah did a number of times), Nick seemed to get the cajon to sound like multiple people clapping along with Sarah.

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Both Nick and Bethany joined Rachel for her last song, each with a tambourine in hand with Nick adding a shaker (after all, he’s a professional percussionist!). Smile

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When Bethany was done performing, she told the crowd to stick around for two of her favorite artists, Bess and Rachel. We’ve heard many opening acts praise the headliners. Often it’s sincere (Bethany certainly appeared so), but sometimes it’s obviously meant to curry favor (points for the future perhaps).

During one song in Rachel’s set, I noticed that Bethany was singing along word for word. Obviously, Bethany didn’t only seem sincere, she’s really a fan. Nice, as it was clear from Rachel and Bess’ praise of Bethany on stage (multiple times) that if they weren’t fans before, they certainly became fans of Bethany last night. As did we!

Caleb Hawley and Rachel Platten at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg

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I can think of at least five independent introductions to this post, all appropriate. That means I have an 80% chance of picking the wrong one. Oh well, here goes…

I’ve recently written that Rachel Platten is one of our current obsessions. We last saw her perform on January 23rd, 2010 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. At that show, we saw Caleb Hawley join for some harmony with Martin Rivas (our first Caleb Hawley sighting). You can read about that night in this post. Our first house concert was September 5th, 2010. Since then we’ve attended two more, we like them a lot. We spend a considerable amount of our lives in Fredericksburg, VA.

When I noticed that on our next trip down to Fredericksburg, Caleb Hawley would be headlining a house concert there and Rachel Platten would be opening, I was equal parts dumbfounded and excited. This house concert was being produced by an amazing woman named Ruth (I can say that definitively, now that we’ve met her), who runs a regular series called House About Tonight (clever, right?). Smile

I was a bit surprised when she couldn’t confirm the venue right away, even though she immediately responded that she’d hold four spots for us. The reason was obvious once she explained. For those of you who don’t own a TV (or didn’t read my last post about Rachel), Caleb Hawley is a current contestant on American Idol. He blew away the judges (YouTube video now removed) (in particular, Steven Tyler) during the audition phase and got his ticket to Hollywood.

This was obviously not going to be an ordinary house concert. It wasn’t. After getting many more RSVP’s than usual, Ruth arranged for the show to be moved from a house to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg. Roughly 100 people attended a professionally run show. Ruth’s tireless energy, coupled with the incredible number of volunteers who handled the logistics of collecting the money (100% of the ticket price goes to the artists, yay!), laying out the amazing food (brought by the attendees!) and keeping everything on a reasonable schedule, made the evening better than most commercial venues deliver.

On to the show. Rachel opened, accompanied throughout by an amazing drummer (who we’ve seen many times), Craig Meyer. Rachel can handle herself perfectly, even playing alone on her keyboards (and singing, of course). With Craig, there is a noticeable uptick in keeping the beats fresh and interesting. Rachel also performs with a full band. Catch her any way you can when she’s in your town, you won’t regret it!

RachelPlattenSinging

I’m repeating what I’ve written about her before, but here’s the summary:

  • Superb songwriter, both lyrics and music
  • Lyrics can get lost in the fun, upbeat music, so listen carefully, there are too many gems to call out
  • Absolutely stunning voice
  • Excellent on the keyboards
  • 1000 megawatt smile that bathes the room
  • Bubbly, quick-witted personality that entertains the audience and keeps things lively

RachelPlattenKeyboards

Rachel called Caleb up to sing harmony and play guitar on two numbers. I’ll save my commentary on Caleb for just another minute.

Rachel shared some fantastic news with us. Just a couple of days earlier she announced a new record deal. Read all about it.

Craig played an even more amazing set than we’ve seen before, largely because both Rachel and Caleb (Craig played with both of them) turned it over to him more often than usual. Not only did he rise to the challenge, I was impressed at how nearly everyone in the crowd was totally into the drum solos.

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After singing with Rachel, Caleb stayed on the stage and Rachel stepped off (just to the side) and they transitioned from Rachel’s opening set to Caleb’s headlining set more naturally than I’ve seen before.

Let me repeat that even though we saw Caleb sing one verse (with a very large band) and saw his YouTube video on American Idol, we really knew nothing about him. That’s not entirely accurate. We have a lot of friends who we sit with at the various NYC clubs that we frequent. Many of them told me multiple times that I will be blown away by Caleb. Scheduling never worked for me to verify their outrageous claims, until last night.

Before I tell you why, let me assure you that my friends continue to impress me with their musical taste. I was indeed completely blown away by Caleb Hawley and can’t imagine missing another opportunity to see him whenever one presents itself!

No matter what order I list Caleb’s multitude of skills, you will (incorrectly) assume that some are better than others. One of the things that makes this kid (yes, he’s still a kid to us) so special is that everything he does is at a level that is rarified. Even fewer can put it all together. Caleb is the real deal!

Caleb has an incredible voice. If you don’t know him (like we didn’t), please don’t judge him by one a cappella performance with YouTube quality. Go see him, and/or buy one of his CD’s (we bought two last night!). I could definitely listen to him a cappella, live, for an entire set (especially his own songs).

CalebHawleySinging

Most solo singer/songwriters that accompany themselves on the guitar do so acceptably (I wanted to say passably). That is to say that if they weren’t singing, most couldn’t hold my interest for very long just playing the guitar. Caleb Hawley is a notable exception. He’s a wonderful guitar player. I could listen to an entire set of his guitar play without any vocals and leave completely satisfied.

CalebHawleyGuitar

He mixes an incredible finger-picking style, with leads and rhythm in a manner that I don’t recall seeing in a long while (if ever).

So, he sings and he plays the guitar really well. Is that all? Ha, sorry, the list continues. He played the keyboards for one song, very well. I didn’t hear enough to rave like I did about the guitar, but he was good enough to warrant further listening!

CalebHawleyKeyboards

Songwriting? Check! He bookended the show with covers. He opened with the Ray Charles song that he performed on American Idol (Hallelujah I Love Her So), but this time, accompanied by the guitar and Craig on the drums. Much richer, gorgeous. He closed the encore (no way he could have left without an encore) with a Randy Newman number (Feels Like Home).

Not only did he nail Feels Like Home, but it had very special meaning to us. When our godson proposed to his soon-to-be-bride he made a very special DVD for her. One of the songs that he picked was Feels Like Home.

In between those covers, Caleb played a parade of wonderful original songs that made us laugh and tear up (sometimes in the same song). So yes, he’s an excellent songwriter. I’m listening to Seeing Colors this very second (while I type) and I’m reminded that Lois cried while he sang it last night.

OK, let’s recap: Great voice, great guitar player, very good on keyboards, great songwriter (picks good covers too). Is that it? Nope, one more thing (really two).

The one is stage presence. He had every single person eating out of his hands (like at a petting zoo). This included little kids and old folk like us. It’s not just rehearsed lines (or if it is, he’s even more masterful than I realized) but a natural persona that you bond with instantly as an audience member.

The two (really an extension of one) is that he’s hysterical. He could definitely be a stand-up comic (in terms of delivery/style).

CalebHawleyEntertaining

Craig accompanied Caleb on all but two numbers, wonderfully. Rachel joined Caleb to sing harmony on at least three numbers, one of which she also played the keyboards on.

They split the show into two sets, with Rachel opening each.

Two spontaneous things that turned into highlight reels. We had two guests with us, a mother and daughter. Craig called the daughter up to play the shakers during one song. She did a great job and Caleb actually interacted with her a bunch during the song and thanked her by name afterward.

KPShakersCraigMeyerCalebHawleyKPShakers

During the intermission, we bought two CD’s and a T-Shirt from Rachel and two CD’s from Caleb. Lois was wearing her Rachel T-Shirt already. Here are two shots of Craig with each of the girls in their Rachel shirts:

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The other highlight occurred during the song Caleb called Cookies (the same song with the shakers, above). While he was performing the song (with Rachel singing too), Caleb noticed that a bunch of people were dancing at the back of the room. He made them all come up to the stage (Craig was instrumental in insisting they come forward as well). Once there, he taught them the Cookie Making Dance (my term). The audience hooted the entire time and they ended the song with a conga-like procession off the stage dancing the Cookie Making Dance.

Here’s a small sample of the dancing (Lois was too close to the stage to capture all the motion):

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We were already big fans of Rachel and Craig. What a bonus to discover how enormously talented (and nice) Caleb Hawley is. We will now make it our business to see him as often as we can as well.

Thanks Ruth and the entire Unitarian Fellowship for putting on an extraordinary show and making us outsiders (Northerners at that!) feel so welcome!

RuthCalebHawleyRachelPlattenCraigMeyer

P.S. If you want to support this wonderful community, please make your next purchase from Amazon by clicking on the big Amazon ad on the front page of the Unitarian site. You’ll pay exactly what you would have otherwise and they’ll earn some affiliate commission. Smile

Chasing Violet and Michael Daves at Rockwood Music Hall

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Once again, Twitter delivers. I’ve mentioned it before, I’ll mention it again, follow the artists that you like on Twitter, you never know when you’ll find out about something that you might otherwise never hear about.

For a few months now, Melissa Tong has been telling me that I need to see Michael Daves perform. Beginning a few weeks back, he has a residency at Rockwood Music Hall every Tuesday night at 10pm. We had an aborted attempt to see him last Tuesday, but were finally able to commit to going last night.

We were sitting around watching TV, resting up for what was going to be a later night than usual (it ended up being even later than we had imagined). I was catching up on Twitter, when I saw a tweet from Rachel Platten (if you read this space, you know she’s one of our current obsessions!):

Whatever. Get it together Platten. Oh and come to Rockwood Music Hall tonight! My new band is playing at 9 ~ it’s free!

Say what? The set immediately before the set we’re already going to be there for is Rachel Platten? How could I have missed this? I didn’t! I went back to check the website and the band listed at the 9pm slot was called Chasing Violet. If you’ve learned anything in these posts, it’s that many (most?) of these NYC-based musicians have at least one side project, some have a dozen!

Listen to the five songs available on the Chasing Violet link above and if you don’t love them, I’ll immediately refund the money you spent on my advice here! Winking smile

We happily accelerated our plans and showed up at Rockwood exactly at 9pm. The place was crazy mobbed as Ed Romanoff was packing up his equipment from an obviously very successful set. As people left we got to squeeze in and even (luckily) grab two seats.

Chasing Violet is Rachel Platten and Nick Howard. Nick is a Brit (we won’t hold that against him). Winking smile In a small world story, I was introduced to Nick by Alex Berger on December 7th, 2010, when we all attended an Ian Axel show at Mercury Lounge. Nick was charming and funny and we had some good laughs (all at Berger’s expense, in front of him). Winking smile So, I was now even more intrigued to hear Chasing Violet (though Rachel was draw enough).

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This was their first-ever public show. The songs are great, their voices amazing. For a first show, considerably polished. The flubs (of course there were flubs) were turned into very light-hearted moments that enhanced the show. Each is charming in their own right and together even more so.

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One big surprise was hearing Nick sing after hearing him talk (even at the show, not just when I met him in December). With one exception, Nick sang in an alto register, often taking the higher harmonies and Rachel does not have a deep voice. He hits the high notes so crisply, but when he speaks, it’s a more normal male baritone. Quite interesting.

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They joked a number of times about how this would likely be their last show as well. That’s not true, as they’re already listed at Rockwood on March 8th at 9pm (once again followed by Michael Daves). Of course they’ll get better with each show, but they might lose some opportunities to make us laugh along the way.

I’m so glad that I found out about this show and that we were able to make it in time. I would not have been happy to hear about it after the fact.

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Back to why we were originally going to Rockwood to begin with, Michael Daves!

Michael played acoustic guitar and sang solo (with the exception of one surprise guest). He had his own microphone with him (the kind you see in a studio, with a shock mount). I’ve never seen anyone have that kind of mic at Rockwood before. Amazingly, I’ll bet $1.75 that for whatever reason, the mic was not playing through the PA. In other words, it didn’t matter that he brought (or even had) a mic at all. His guitar wasn’t plugged into an amp either, he was raising it to the mic to play.

Did it make a difference? Not in the least! He sings so powerfully, and with a serious bite in his voice, that it carried cleanly throughout the room. His guitar was a bit softer, but since it wasn’t competing with any other instruments or voices, it was easy to hear as well.

He’s a superb guitar player. I had no doubt of that going in, since I became aware that he regularly plays with Chris Thile. Chris wouldn’t play with a musical slouch.

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Michael’s set consisted of traditional Appalachian-style bluegrass/roots music (since I’m not familiar with him, I don’t know if all of his sets are this style or not). I’m mildly surprised that a place like Rockwood gave him a long every-Tuesday residency, since this isn’t the most popular music in NYC.

We like most kinds of music, in particular bluegrass (though typically, the more full-band bluegrass sounds). So, it was definitely a treat to see his particular picking style. He was capable of mixing a flat-picking lead with a strumming rhythm, at the same time. Sort of accompanying his own leads. Sweet.

Toward the end of his set, in a complete surprise to everyone (including her), Michael called up Melissa Tong (our reason for being there to begin with!) to sing a song with him. It was the best song in his set (IMHO). Melissa has a lovely voice (though she doesn’t sing often enough). Because the mic was off (no one has proven to me that I am wrong yet, so my $1.75 goes unclaimed) Melissa had to sing louder than she normally does. Bravo, more Melissa! Smile

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When the set was over we bumped into Rebecca Haviland and got to tell her in person how amazing she was on Monday night at the Soul Revue Benefit.

Lois and I probably could have just fallen asleep right there at Rockwood. Melissa gently twisted our arms to extend the evening a bit longer and head over to Mona’s for their amazing Tuesday night jams. We had no idea what we were in for, but we agreed.

Continue reading about our experience at Mona’s, which was amazing enough for me to want to make it a separate post.

Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The last time we saw Martin Rivas perform a full set was September 13th, 2010, over four months ago! That night, the set before him was Rachel Platten. That show was at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 and I wrote about it in this post. It was my first time seeing each of them performing a full set and if you read my previous post, you know how I impressed I was with both! Last night was a repeat of the lineup and we couldn’t have been more excited to see it again.

There are three major reasons why we are energized to see artists that we love multiple times:

  1. We enjoy the electricity of the live show, even if we’ve seen the same set a dozen times. Enjoying it with other fans enhances it all the more.
  2. We love to support the artists (monetarily and by being part of the audience experience).
  3. Even when the sets are the same, there’s always something fresh and different (banter, band composition, etc.).

Martin came out with an electric guitar. I’m think that was a first for us in all the times we’ve seen him. He had an extra-full band last night (more on that in a minute). It was loud (not too loud, but darn loud). It was rockin’, in a heart-pumping way.

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There are so many people to cover that I won’t go on-and-on about Martin (since I have in the past and you’re welcome to read all about it), but I’ll repeat that Martin has a wonderful voice, an incredible energy, plays guitar really well and is very generous with highlighting the amazing musicians that play with him whenever he has a full-band show.

Martin has a warmth and ease on stage that is fantastic. There was a young boy sitting at our table (I’ll guess roughly 10-years-old, yes, his dad was there too). Martin chatted with him for a minute before the show started, but he called him out a couple of times during the show and got the entire audience (the place was incredibly mobbed for both sets) to say “Hello Alfonso!” as well. I assume (and hope) it was a very magical evening for Alfonso.

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Covering the band, then special guests, standing left-to-right on the stage:

Patrick Firth on grand piano, electronic keyboards and background vocals. Patrick is wonderful all around and Martin gave him a number of leads which Patrick nailed.

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Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Chris is always wonderful and last night was no exception. He took quite a number of leads, all tasty. He closed the show with a lead that was so fast it was mind-boggling. I was sitting four feet away from him, so I got the full visual experience as well as the aural sweetness of being directly in front of his amp.

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Ryan Vaughn on percussion. This is one of the things I meant by extra-full band above. Martin had his normal drummer with him (next in my lineup). Ryan complemented him with washboard (always a favorite of mine), cowbell, tambourine, triangle, bongo, shaker and sharing the drum set at times as well. It brought such a fullness to the percussion. An absolutely fantastic addition and Ryan has an excellent sense of rhythm.

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Craig Meyer on drums (web site coming, I think). Craig is a very animated drummer. Even with his larger than life drum strokes, his hand, stick, brush, etc., all hit the drum at exactly the right time. The music during Martin’s set was very hard-charging and Craig drummed his %$#! off to keep the beat lively. Coupled with Ryan, the two of them delivered the rhythm section perfectly.

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Brian Killeen on electric bass. Brian did an excellent job keeping the bottom full and interesting. Toward the end of the set he cut loose a bit more (never a solo) and actually harmonized (on the bass) with Martin’s singing.

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Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. I’ve written about Greg a number of times. The most recent one was about his own band, the Greg Mayo Band. He (they) blew us away that night, but the biggest surprise was how amazing Greg was (is) on the keyboards. I went because every time Greg has played with others he was on the electric guitar and I simply love his play. Last night was spectacular (no surprise). I was three feet from Greg and four feet from his amp. His leads were so crisp, and his amp was pointed directly at my right ear, that the only downside was a bit of ringing. Well worth it!

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Sierra Noble on fiddle. Sierra joined Martin’s band for roughly half the numbers. Except for the few leads that Martin gave her, it was hard for me to pick out the fiddle with three electric guitars, an electric bass, grand piano, electronic keyboards and two percussionists. I will need to hear Sierra in a more conducive environment to form a clearer opinion.

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That made for a core band of seven and for many numbers eight people on stage at the same time. That’s the same number that the Greg Mayo Band had on stage for their set. It is one short of the record set by Alex Berger for sets that I have attended at Rockwood.

Martin brought up two special guests to sing a song with him. Had he brought them up at the same time, he would have set the record for the most people on stage at the same time. Instead, he just tied Berger twice, once with each guest.

The first was someone I’ve heard about for a while now. Many of my friends rave about his shows at Rockwood. This week, he got a lot more famous than he’s been before.

Caleb Hawley sang harmony and lead. In addition to being a local NYC favorite, Caleb was a first round contestant on American Idol. He blew away Steven Tyler and moved on to the Hollywood round! So, you can only imagine the reception he received when Martin called him up. Local hero makes good! Smile

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Rachel Platten joined Martin to sing North. Wonderful, but more about Rachel in a second.

Martin handed out home-baked cookies to pass around. I had one (even though I got the evil eye from Lois, since I had dessert when we were out to dinner earlier).

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Martin played a slightly longer set than usual at Rockwood and said goodnight. The crowd really wanted to hear more. Martin checked with the sound engineer and got the OK. He closed the show with a Stevie Wonder cover, Living For the City. They did it long and strong. We sang along a bunch (everyone, not just Lois and me). What a way to end an already incredible set.

When it was over (actually, before the encore!), I grabbed one of the set lists. Unfortunately, the corner was tucked under one of the monitors and it ripped when I yanked it. You’ll just have to make do with this. Winking smile

MartinRivasSetList

Rachel Platten also plays in a number of band configurations. Last night was a 4-piece. Rachel on electronic keyboards, Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and tons of harmony, Craig Meyer on drums (dramatically stripped down from the set he used with Martin) and Sierra Noble on fiddle.

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Rachel has an incredible voice, plays the keyboards extremely well (with zest!) and writes very catchy pop tunes. Many of her lyrics are deep and quite good, but that can (unfortunately) be easily lost in the hooky tunes and her captivating voice. So, listen to the words closely, she’s a very good songwriter!

If that weren’t enough to get you to go out and see Rachel (she’s touring all over at the moment and releasing a new CD in the spring), she has a 1000 megawatt smile that bathes the audience in a floodlight effect. If you can listen to her sing and play and watch that smile and not have your spirits lifted, a defibrillator might be your only hope! Winking smile

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In addition to straight-up pop, Rachel mixes it up in a number of ways. Don’t Care What Time It Is is a hip hop/rap song that she stood and sang (the only number she didn’t play the keyboards on). It’s also one of two numbers that she played a human beat-box on. She and Martin killed it. A number of times they sing so fast that your head spins. Delicious.

I linked to the lyrics of the song and you can also listen to it (free!) at that link. On the right side bar are a number of other Rachel hits. Explore and fall in love with her. Buy her CD when it comes out!

Craig was great even though he played a minimalist drum set (as he does for most of Rachel’s shows). In addition, Craig was very playful with Rachel and Martin, often using his brushes on them and on Martin’s guitar as well. Basically, if he could hit it, he did. Smile

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As with Martin’s set, I couldn’t hear Sierra Noble playing the fiddle at all, whenever Rachel, Martin and Craig were playing. Rachel did give Sierra two distinct solos, which were very easy to hear. I can’t put my finger on it, but I wasn’t as impressed as I expected to be, given the raves I’ve heard about Sierra. I intend to listen to her some more and perhaps catch one of her own shows as well, to get a better sense.

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The only disappointing thing about Rachel’s set was that it was a tad shorter than normal. She started 20 minutes late (the person who was on before Rachel filled Rockwood to the brim and it took a while to transition between them and their respective crowds). I think Rachel cut it a bit short in order to get Martin and Rockwood closer to their original schedule.

Another amazing night out. Thanks to everyone who was on stage and to our friend for snagging two seats right up against the stage for us (you know who you are!).

We have a big week of music continuing tonight, so check this space each day for what we did the night before! Smile

Alex Wong and Guests at Rockwood Music Hall

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It’s been a month since we’ve seen Alex Wong perform at Rockwood Music Hall. It’s not good to go much more than a month between doses of Alex, so it’s good that he had a show last night. Winking smile

In fact, after seeing his solo show at Rockwood 1 on December 9th, we saw him sit in for one song with Alex Berger at Rockwood 2 on the 13th. That night, they performed a song they had written that weekend (and just finished up the morning of the show!), called The Fighter. I wrote about how beautiful a song it is.

Alex opened last night’s show with that song, solo this time, at the piano. As much as I like the song, it also immediately reminded me of the fact that our beloved Alex Berger is now too many thousands of miles away, back in merry old England, leaving us less merry in these old United States…

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Next Alex invited Rachel Platten to join him. Rachel played the piano and Alex the guitar. They played a song they co-wrote about Alex’s first Christmas in NYC (one he spent here not by choice!). It’s a wonderful song called Make It Home. We’ve seen Alex perform it solo a number of times, but this is the first time we got to see Alex perform it with Rachel, harmonies included.

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The song is special for another reason. Alex and Rachel have made the song available for purchase at Bandcamp. It costs (a minimum of) $2.25 (please feel free to donate more, we did!). 100% of the proceeds go to City Harvest. The production quality is superb (no surprise, Alex is one of the best producers around!). You’ll get a great song and be donating to a very worth charity. Just do it, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself and have the music to enjoy for years to come!

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Next Alex invited Melissa Tong and David Fallo to join him. I’ve written about both many times. Suffice it to say that any string section in any style of music would be instantly enhanced if either Melissa or David joined them. Both at the same time? Dream time!

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But wait, there’s more! I purposely left out one thing about Make It Home above because it fits better here. One of our favorite drummers is Adam Christgau. Adam was supposed to leave for a tour in Australia, yesterday morning. On Tuesday, his flight was canceled preemptively due to the anticipated snow storm (that wasn’t much of a storm after all). So, Adam was stranded in NYC (much as Alex had been in 2004, for different reasons). Alex dedicated Make It Home to Adam, who happened to be in the audience for Alex’s show.

With Melissa and David on stage, Alex coaxed Adam to join them to play the drums. Since Adam was there as a guest, he didn’t have his equipment with him. No worries. Seth Faulk, another top local drummer handed Adam his cymbals (Rockwood has the core drum set) and his brushes. Thanks Seth!

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With that, Alex proceeded to right a wrong that he perpetrated on his audience a month ago. As I mentioned in the post about that show, Alex teased us by playing the intro to Brooklyn Blurs (one of our favorite songs) and then changed his mind. Last night he played it, with the strings and drum, more than making up for his indiscretion the month before.

During the song, I could swear that I heard someone singing the ambeR Rubarth part (harmony) absolutely perfectly with Alex. I couldn’t see anyone doing it, and it wasn’t anyone on stage (it was a female voice). After the show, my friend turned to me and said: “Did you hear that woman over there singing the ambeR part perfectly?”. Yes, yes, I did! I honestly thought it was just me knowing the song so well that my mind filled in ambeR’s part on it’s own! Whew, I’m not totally addled just yet… Winking smile

Adam tried to get up after Brooklyn Blurs, but Alex cajoled him into playing one more song, Motion Sickness, with Melissa and David as well. Not just them, but the entire crowd was split into two to sing along with the chorus. I was on the side of the audience that in the previous two shows was assigned the “na na na na, na na na na, na na na na, na” part. Alex changed it up this time, and our side was given the “oh, oh, oh oh oh” part. I’m adept at both, so he didn’t throw me for the loop that he hoped to! Winking smile

After dismissing the band, Alex started his looping machine and tapped out some percussion on the guitar body. Then he added a whooshing sound by rubbing the strings. While that looped endlessly, he returned to the piano and played another new(-ish) song (I think it’s one he co-wrote with Paul Freeman). Absolutely wonderful!

For more Alex Wong / Paul Freeman goodness, check out their new project, Bellows Band where you can hear three songs stream for free!

He followed that with a song he co-wrote with Nate Campany. I call it the Yeah Yeah Yeah song (that’s the entire chorus). Last time, Alex Berger sang the Yeah Yeah Yeah part in harmony with Wong. This time, the audience did. It was awesome. In particular, Seth Faulk (the aforementioned drummer) stood right over my left shoulder and sang incredible harmony with Alex. Nicely done all, but especially Seth who gave me a personal concert! Smile

I might be missing another song or two, but suffice it to say that the entire set was a blast.

Making it even better was running into three friends who we sat with (I didn’t know any of them would be at the show, though I could have guessed). We even got to introduce one to the other two, so the circle widens. Good music, good company and a good glass of wine. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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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Alex Wong and Jesse Ruben at Rockwood Music Hall

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I haven’t been to Rockwood Music Hall (the original, Stage 1) in quite a while. In fact, I had to look it up (I knew there was a reason that I bother to blog!). It was 7/29/2010 to see Delta Rae. I’ve been to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 a bunch of times since then, so Rockwood is still getting the majority of my NYC music business. Winking smile

Alex Wong is reason enough to show up wherever he is. He’s an extraordinarily talented individual (note, I didn’t just say musician). He’s a singer/songwriter, songwriting collaborator, multi-instrument musician, amazing producer and all around nice guy.

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While Alex was reason enough to come out, he had a number of guests announced (not all played) and I have long wanted to see the person who was on at 9pm before Alex.

First the bottom line, then some color commentary. Last night’s set was fantastic.

Alex played 2/3’s of the set solo, mostly on the acoustic guitar. He played two songs at the grand piano. He opened solo with The Same Old Things.

AlexWongSinging

Melissa Tong on the violin joined Alex for the next number, one of my favorites, Brooklyn Blurs, which they knocked out of the park. I’ve said it so many times, Melissa is an incredible musician, we can’t get enough of her. I look forward to seeing her play with a symphony, her specialty.

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David Fallo on the viola joined both Alex and Melissa. David is a star (as are all of the musicians who play with Alex). In addition to sitting in on these types of shows, David is currently part of the orchestra in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. That’s no shabby gig!

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The three of them played a fun and energetic version of Motion Sickness. Alex divided the audience in half. I was in the Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na section (yes, those were the exact number of Na’s we sang at a clip, over and over). Smile

Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and harmony joined Alex for another favorite of mine, A Girl Like You, from Alex’s previous group, The Animators. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again. Martin is an excellent guitar player who always defers to his plethora of guest star guitar players in his own sets. When playing with Alex, he’s the guest and therefore featured on the guitar. Such a wonderful thing to hear. Do more of it in your sets too Martin!

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Alex finished the show by playing three consecutive new songs, all co-written with other wonderful singer/songwriters. If you weren’t there last night, you wouldn’t know that I just lied to you. Alex announced on Facebook that he would play three new songs in a row, but he actually threw in an existing song after the first new one, before completing the new trilogy.

The first new song was a Christmas song co-written with Rachel Platten. Alex told a long story about the derivation of the song. It was his first Christmas in NYC (2004), which wasn’t supposed to be a Christmas in NYC. The story was incredible, funny and touching. Alex doesn’t usually talk this much on stage. I vote that he talk more, it was a very nice addition to the set.

The second new song was played on the piano. It was co-written with Paul Freeman. Alex is producing Paul’s new CD. A very moving song.

AlexWongPiano

Finally, also on the piano, Alex played a song he co-wrote with Nate Campany. Nate was supposed to be there to sing harmony with Alex, but he didn’t show up (I saw him tweet today, so there’s no reason for concern). Excellent song. I told Alex after the show that when he produces it, he needs to have a full choir singing the “Yeah, yeah, yeah” part. I heard it as clear as a bell in my head even though Alex was singing alone.

Alex offered that I produce it instead. I told him I’ll happily produce those three words, he can work his usual magic on the rest. Winking smile

Jesse Ruben played the set before Alex. I have wanted to see Jesse for a long time. He tours with some other people that I like and I like his MySpace stuff (linked to his name). Not only didn’t Jesse disappoint me, he surprised me in a number of positive ways.

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Jesse is a very good songwriter (wide range of topics). He sings extremely well. He plays the acoustic guitar solidly, mostly rhythm, but beautiful finger picking on a song I’ll cover in a minute.

The biggest surprise was Jesse’s general stage presence, in particular his wit. There was a ton of laughter throughout the set. It came both from his stories and from his very quick responses to things that audience members shouted out.

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Jesse introduced practically every song with a story. It was extremely well delivered and enhanced my enjoyment of each song.

Kyle Patrick joined Jesse for two songs. We’ve seen Kyle once before at the Livestrong fundraiser. I thoroughly enjoyed his 2-song set that night and I have tried hard to arrange my schedule to catch Kyle again, unsuccessfully. He sang lead on one of the songs last night harmony on another. There was a good bit of na-na-na-na on the song that Kyle sang lead, with much of the audience joining in.

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Karly Jurgensen toured with Kyle and Jesse all summer. Jesse invited her up to perform one of her songs, accompanied by Jesse and Kyle. Karly has a wonderful voice and plays the piano solidly. The song was beautiful, a slower bluesy number. Jesse and Kyle harmonized during the chorus. Very nicely done.

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Back to the song that Jesse finger picked. If you know me, or read this blog regularly, then you know that Lois and I are obsessed with Wicked and The Wizard of Oz in general. Not that this is too small-worldish (given how huge Wicked and The Wizard of Oz are), but we always get signs from one or the other that connect us more deeply to things we already like.

Out of the blue, without even announcing a cover song, Jesse played If I Only Had a Heart. Absolutely gorgeous rendition. The only thing missing was not having Lois there to look at knowingly and hold hands with. That Jesse also chose that song to show off a bit of his guitar skills is the kind of thing I was talking about in the paragraph above. Smile

Rockwood was packed for Jesse’s set, dominated by people who were obviously huge Jesse Ruben fans. That always makes the sets more fun even though Jesse was new to me.

One of the people in the audience was Sam Teichman. Sam, Jesse and a bunch of other people in the audience are running in the NYC Marathon this Sunday, raising money for cancer care. Last Thursday, Sam was involved in putting together a charity concert at The Bitter End, called the “Born to Run” show, featuring Bruce Springsteen covers.

I would have loved to attend that show and a number of my friends did. I was already committed to a house concert featuring ambeR Rubarth and I too had an amazing evening.

Jesse mentioned that Sam was still raising money for the cause and that he was offering a DVD filled with music from 22 different artists that participated in the Born to Run show. Donations greater than $1 would get you the DVD. I was sitting across the table from Sam (whom I have met once before at a Rockwood 2 show) and I donated in exchange for the DVD right after Jesse’s set.

After Alex Wong’s set, I made a quick tour of Rockwood to say hi/bye to a number of friends. We’ve been away for a long time and it was really good to see everyone (performers and audience members alike). I wish Lois could have been with me, but she’s been sick ever since we returned. Today is day 12. Let’s hope it’s one of the last. This isn’t the type of streak anyone is proud of.

Given that Lois wasn’t in attendance, any complaints about photo quality land squarely on my shoulders.

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.

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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. 🙂

Allie Moss, Matthew Perryman Jones and Lauren Zettler at Rockwood Stage 2

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I have no fear of emptying my music bucket list in my lifetime, because I add things to the list at a faster rate than I check them off. Last night, I got to finally remove two items that have been on the list for a while. I can summarize in advance that both items were as satisfying as I had hoped they’d be when they first made it on to the list. 🙂

Allie Moss was very high on the list. The other was seeing Chris Kuffner play bass. I’ve seen him play lead electric guitar a dozen times. Check and check!

Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2, a fantastic venue) mostly has one-hour sets (45 minutes plus setup between artists), so there isn’t typically a headliner, except for the paid shows at Rockwood 2 (this was a free show, one drink minimum with a voluntary tip jar for each set). They often cluster a  group of friends so that they can join each other on the various sets, which is exactly what happened last night, to great effect.

Since I came specifically to see Allie, I’ll start with her set.

One other important note. Lois takes all of the photos for this blog. She had a fever last night and didn’t attend. My Droid failed me completely in the low light. I chatted for a bit with Allie’s mom, who was taking photos of all three sets. I asked her if she would be kind enough to email some of them so I could include them in the blog.

Yvonne Moss took every one of these shots (click on any for a larger version), including the B&W and negative artistic transformations. I hope you agree with me that she’s an excellent photographer. The link from her name will take you to her blog on various topics. A most interesting woman!

Allie Moss is a superb singer/songwriter/musician in her own right, but she spends a good deal of time as a member of Ingrid Michaelson’s band. Given Ingrid’s commercial success, Allie tours quite a bit with her.

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Allie has a beautiful voice, plays the guitar very well and writes very good songs (light Pop, Jazz/Folk). You can listen to nine songs on her site (linked to her name above) and get a very good sense of whether your taste aligns with mine.

Allie has a very relaxed stage presence, getting the crowd to chuckle many times. She’s a natural performer.

While she performed a couple of solo numbers (beautifully), she was backed on most by an excellent group of musicians. Here’s one of Yvonne’s transformations (can you feel a Poster being formed?):

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Lauren Zettler on piano and harmony. Lauren played the piano beautifully and sang gorgeous harmonies with Allie. Lauren had her own set prior to Allie’s, which I’ll cover later, but she never played the piano during her set, so this was a very pleasant addition/surprise.

There were no photos of Lauren playing the piano with Allie, but you’ll see a couple below when I cover Lauren’s set.

Saul Simon MacWilliams on a lot of stuff (Allie was between us, totally obscuring my view, but I am sure he was on percussion, electric guitar, electric keyboards, at a minimum, probably more, including some background vocals). He was excellent throughout. Even though I couldn’t see him, thanks to Yvonne, you can! 🙂

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Chris Kuffner on electric bass and background vocals. I’ve written a number of times that people I trust have told me that Chris is an extraordinary bassist. Finally, I can judge for myself. During the set, most of what Chris played was solid straight-up bass playing. Allie’s set didn’t call for anything fancier. (Chris is blended into the background on the right hand side in this photo):

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Luckily for me, while he was warming up, Chris ripped off a few riffs that were mind-boggling, so even though I didn’t get to see it during the set, I now know that my peeps correctly clued me in to yet another of Chris’ many talents!

I’m most definitely an Allie fan now, so expect to see me at future shows (please make room for me). 🙂

Matthew Perryman Jones was up after Allie. He’s a singer/songwriter/guitar player. He opened with one number on electric guitar and switched to acoustic for the rest of the set. Matthew has an exceptional voice making the entire set a pleasure to listen to.

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Allie joined him for two numbers singing beautiful harmony, including one number that she learned right before the show. She had an iPhone cheat sheet, just in case. 🙂

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Todd Bragg played the drums for all but one number. Todd did an excellent job. What was impressive to me (this is more about Matthew, but speaks to Todd getting it right as well) is that it’s not all that common to have a singer with an acoustic guitar being backed by a full drum set (no bass, no other instruments or vocals).

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Matthew’s voice is so strong (not overwhelming in the least) and there’s enough of a reason to have a beat in many of his songs, that it just works, well!

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Peter Bradley Adams played the piano on three numbers. He did a fine job, but it wasn’t integral to the sound of these songs. In a not-so-small irony, Peter Bradley Adams is on my music bucket list too. I’ve listened to the free EP’s that he regularly gives away and I’m extremely impressed with him. I still need to catch him doing his own set before I can cross his name off the list.

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Lauren Zettler was the first artist up for the evening. She sang, amazingly (what a voice) and played acoustic guitar on all but the last song (I’ll get to that shortly). Lauren has the kind of voice that can easily be the lead in a Rock band, though her own songs are more Folk/Pop.

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On her last number, Lauren switched to an electric ukulele (it looked like a baby Stratocaster). I have never seen anything like it and I have to admit that I missed much of the song just staring at that cute little thing. 😉

Cameron Mizell accompanied Lauren throughout her set on electric guitar and harmonica. He did an excellent job.

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If I don’t catch what Lois had/has, I’ll be crossing another 1.5 items off my bucket list tonight (unfortunately, late for me). I’ll be back at Rockwood 2 (10pm), seeing Rachel Platten for the first time and seeing Martin Rivas play a full set following that (counts as .5, since I’ve seen Martin play short sets many times now).