Rebecca Haviland

The Big Apple Singers at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The Big Apple Singers typically book really late shows at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Actually, they’re really early, as in midnight. That was the case last night. We planned to attend nonetheless, because it’s simply been way too long since we’ve seen Greg Mayo (one of the four members of the band) perform.

It ended up being the culmination of a truly epic night of music for us. This was the fifth consecutive set (split between Rockwood’s two stages), beginning at 8pm with Barnaby Bright.

This was the only set that we stood for, and even though I prefer sitting, I was actually glad to stand. The Big Apple Singers bring such energy that it’s nearly impossible not to move in some way, which is easier when you’re standing. It also made it easier to stay awake. Winking smile

The Big Apple Singers mix originals (there were three or four last night) with big-time covers (mostly from The Band). They are all incredible musicians and it’s impossible not to get sucked in to the spirit (I dare you, come on down, resistance is futile!).

The core band consists of:

Evan Watson on electric guitar and vocals. Evan is an excellent guitar player. If I understand correctly, he formed The Big Apple Singers. Thanks Evan! He’s quite the showman when he’s singing lead, or playing lead guitar. On the other hand, he’s one of the most generous people when it’s someone else’s turn to shine (as I’ve noted a number of times before). He kneels to ensure the crowd can see the drummer during a solo, etc. Evan also played the mandolin on one number.

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Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. It was no small irony to me that I sat through five sets of music, each of which had an excellent guitar player, and yet I didn’t get to hear my favorite of all of them, Greg Mayo. On the other hand, he was so awesome on the keyboards, that it didn’t matter in the least!

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Greg also used a small black tube to control the sound of the electronic keyboards by making sounds with his mouth. Totally cool and executed to perfection.

GregMayoKeyboards

Josh Dion on drums and vocals. Aside from being a mind-bogglingly great drummer and being an outstanding vocalist, Josh Dion is flat out exciting. If you’re not mesmerized by his performance, check your pulse, literally!

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Two sets in a row with Chris playing bass? Yes please! Very different performances. The set before called for more subtlety, this one for all-out rock. Both delivered on the money.

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The Big Apple Singers called up two separate guests.

Zach Jones, also an extraordinary drummer, was invited up to play some electric guitar. Cool! I didn’t know they were going to call him up. Right before the set began, I bumped into Zach and noted that many of my favorite drummers were in the room (Josh Dion, Zach Jones, Kenny Shaw and Seth Faulk). Zach pointed out another drummer as well. I told him that I ant to see them all on stage together, doing something like The Allman Brothers Band does. A boy can dream, right?

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Rebecca Haviland came up to sing one song with Evan. They fed off of each other, building the energy and having a (contagious) blast on stage. If you don’t know Rebecca’s voice and music (she co-writes with Chris Anderson), do yourself a huge favor and correct that oversight right now!

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Manish Gosalia was in the audience for four of the five sets that we attended. Whenever I see Manish at a show, I know two things for certain:

  1. It will be a great show, he has exquisite taste in which bands he likes
  2. There will be exceptional photographs (and sometimes videos) of the show, on his Flickr page. He’s a phenomenal photographer!

Here’s a shot of Manish and Rebecca Haviland:

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During the set, Patryk Larney walked over (he headlined the set we attended right before this one) and said: “We’re watching history being made!”. My answer? “Every single time they play!” Smile

We got home shortly before 1:30am. What a night out. After missing five weeks of this NYC music scene, we dove into the deep end without a tank. An exhilarating night out. Amazingly, we skipped another set that I have no doubt would have continued the epic evening. Jay Stolar was up at 1am. It was simply past my ability to fight exhaustion.

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery

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The Vanity Belles have a month-long residency at Arlene’s Grocery, every Monday at 8pm in February. We missed the first two and expected to miss last night as well. I was sick the last two weeks of January and we’ve been gone all of February. We cut our trip short by a few days, largely to make it to last night’s show. Glad we did!

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Amazingly, last night was the first full set we’ve see of the Belles! I honestly believe that they peek at my travel calendar and purposely schedule their shows for when I have to be out of town. At least I finally fooled them by coming home earlier than expected. Take that Belles! Winking smile

A quick recap:

The Vanity Belles (Carrie Welling and Jessie Rae Waltz) describe themselves as Cosmo-Country. Who am I to argue? Here’s what I can assure you of:

  • Carrie and Jessi have extraordinary voices, each sings lead wonderfully
  • They harmonize amazingly
  • They are excellent songwriters
  • They’re not hard to look at (OK, that one has nothing to do with music, my apologies)
  • When they employ a band, their taste in musicians is exquisite

All of the above was in abundance last night. The ladies were in fine voice, the set selection very upbeat (many songs feeling closer to rock). They were complemented by an incredible band with special guest stars thrown in just in case you needed to amp up the excitement a bit.

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On one of the more mellow (yet still very powerful) songs, Jessi played the keyboards and Carrie took up the acoustic guitar. Both played well and sang phenomenally.

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After the show, we bought two copies of the 3-song EP they released last year (yes, they scheduled the EP Release Show for when we were out of town). All three songs are wonderful!

We also backed their recent Kickstarter early (they were successful) and are looking forward to the new full-length CD, which should be coming out in the not-too-distant future.

I’ll cover the core band first, then the two special guests, even though one of the special guests was on stage for the first number, replacing one of the core band members. Left-to-right on stage:

Ben Morgan on electronic keyboards. Ben is extremely talented on the keyboards. We’ve seen him support the Belles a number of times. He was excellent last night.

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Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitars. Oscar is always fantastic. In fact, the last show we saw, just over a month ago, was also part of month-long Arlene’s residency, a Police tribute band. We went solely to see Oscar. While he was great throughout last night’s set, during No Regrets, the ladies stepped aside and let Oscar take over the lead. The sound and feel was reminiscent of listening to a great jam band reel you in with a long guitar solo. Very well done!

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Zach Jones on drums. Zach is one of our favorite drummers. It was a complete surprise to see him playing with the Belles last night. He was at the top of his game. So are the other regular drummers that the Belles use, so it’s clear they can attract the best talent when they come a callin’.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chis is an amazing bass player with tremendous versatility. Arlene’s is a very loud club, often most noticeable in the bass shaking the joint on every note. I have little issue with it when the bass player has the skill that Chris has. Last night, Chris shook me, in a good way!

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Cameron Mitchell on electric and acoustic guitars. While Oscar took most of the leads, Cameron was playing rhythm for the most part, very well. He also seemed to be one of the leaders in terms of cueing the rest of the band.

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On to the guests.

Rebecca Haviland joined for three numbers, including the first one. Rebecca is one of our favorite singer/songwriters (she co-writes and performs with Chris Anderson). In her own band Rebecca plays electric guitar. The first time we ever saw her play an instrument though, it was the grand piano, just over a year ago. I think she’s great on the keyboards, and I can’t believe it’s taken this long to see her tickle the (fake) ivories again.

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In addition to playing the keyboards, Rebecca sang background vocals on the closing number. The Belles don’t need any help in the vocal department, but if they’re going to invite a third voice into the mix, it would be hard to pick someone better suited to hold their own than Rebecca.

We didn’t know until yesterday afternoon that Rebecca would be joining them, so it was an extra special treat.

Sierra Noble played the fiddle on two numbers. Yesterday was Sierra’s 22nd birthday. I’m glad that she chose to celebrate it on stage, entertaining us, rather than in a more private way. I knew for a week that Sierra was joining and it was one of the reasons for cutting our trip short. I don’t think Sierra will be there next Monday, so last night would have a special flavor all its own.

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We bumped into a number of friends that we haven’t seen in a month (always a big draw for going out). Hopefully, we made a new one too (I’m looking at you Jack!). Smile

We’re going to do our best to make it out to Arlene’s next Monday at 8pm for the final show in the residency. Do yourself a favor and come out as well!

The Vanity Belles usually hand out goodies at each show (I only know that from Twitter, this being our first full set). Here’s a photo of the set list, with the front and back of the EP, and the goodie bag (front and back). Don’t miss next week’s treats!

SetListEPandGoodies

Rebecca Haviland at Arlene’s Grocery

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Have I mentioned how much we love Rebecca Haviland before? If you don’t know the answer to that question, then welcome to this space, clearly you’re a first-timer. Winking smile

It’s been roughly six weeks since we’ve seen Rebecca perform. That’s bad enough, but she had a few shows in between that we couldn’t attend, including one co-bill with Sierra Noble. The last time we saw Rebecca was also at Arlene’s Grocery (the site of last night’s show). Given how good Howard (the sound engineer at Arlene’s) is and how hard he works to balance their sound, I was happy to return there.

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Rebecca and the band were awesome and Howard played his part in it as well. They performed most (all?) of the songs off of her upcoming CD (Rebecca announced that it was currently being mixed, so we’re getting closer folks). Here’s the set list:

SetList

We attend shows by the same artist many times for a number of reasons, some of which I recently articulated. One of the reasons is also the serendipitous surprises that occur on occasion (more often than you might guess, if you’re open to spotting them).

We both feel blessed that in addition to loving a lot of the music currently being played by many of the NYC indie artists, we genuinely love many of the people themselves (headliners, side-people, fans, venue staff, videographers, producers, significant others, etc.). I can’t say I expected that bonus when we first immersed ourselves in the scene here, in April 2009.

We love them, because they’re wonderful people independent of their involvement in music. That sometimes happens in a vacuum, but rarely. Usually, there are some pretty amazing parents behind them, having figured out some magic to turn out these young adults (young by our standards, for sure).

Last night we got to meet two sets of those parents, Rebecca’s (including her brother and his girlfriend) and Kenny Shaw’s. It didn’t take 30 seconds to see why Rebecca and Kenny turned out the way they did. Good job Havilands and Shaws! Smile

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Rebecca was accompanied by the same band she had last time out at Arlene’s, which (technically) had one fill-in for her more typical setup. For two reasons, I’m going to cover them from right-to-left, rather my usual left-to-right order:

Chris Anderson on electric bass (two actually, though not at the same time) and vocals. Chris is Rebecca’s primary writing partner on most of the numbers on the new CD (hence my desire to cover him first). He also sings harmony on every number. Independent of that, he’s a great bass player and that’s evident at every show (including last night).

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Kenny Shaw on drums. While Rebecca is considered a Rock person, most of her numbers are very soulful, bluesy ones, which call for less than straight-up drumming. But, she’s also an all-out rocker on occasion, calling for highly energetic and fast drumming. Kenny delivers both styles, equally well, seamlessly switching between them whenever appropriate. For a specific example, on It’s Not Wrong, Kenny really tore it up, switching into high gear.

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Todd Caldwell on electronic keyboards and vocals. Last time at Arlene’s was our first time hearing Todd. He impressed then, but was even better last night (he’s probably just getting more comfy with the material). He plays keyboards for Stephen Stills and Crosby, Stills and Nash, so you don’t need me to tell you how good he is (other than to tell you how well he fits with Rebecca’s music and band).

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While Todd was excellent on every number, the last two included a number of leads on his part, all absolutely terrific. He sang harmony (making it 3-part) on a few songs as well.

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Another winning performance from Rebecca and her band.

You can catch her this coming Saturday (Jan 14th) at Rockwood Music Hall, 9pm. If our dinner ends early enough, we’ll be there, but whether we make it or not, you should go! Smile

A Holiday Benefit #5 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Last week I scanned the Rockwood Music Hall website for this week’s shows. There was a show listed for last night simply labeled: “A Holiday Benefit”. The performers were a mixture of our favorite who’s who, plus a couple of groups we have wanted to see for a while, but scheduling has gotten in the way.

I snagged two tickets and excitedly waited for the week to pass. It turns out that this was the fifth (and unfortunately last) installment of this particular annual Holiday Benefit. It is organized by Benjamin Wagner (with some others who helped co-found it). The money raised is for 826NYC. Great cause, great people involved in raising the money and great musicians all around.

Bottom line: my expectations were very high. I was blown away beyond those expectations on two levels: most of the people we know brought their A+ games and we discovered some people that became instant favorites!

There were 16 acts (individuals and groups), some accompanied by a house band. Each act performed two numbers. The entire atmosphere at Rockwood was that of a party filled with loved ones. In fact, some of the musicians noted (on Twitter, and probably elsewhere) that it was more like an Office Party for them, given how many musicians were performing and in the audience. We were thrilled to participate in said party.

In addition to the ticket price going to the charity, this was also an official CD Release Party. Physical CDs were on sale for $10. $20 got you the physical CD of A Holiday Benefit #5 plus downloads of the previous four albums. Of course we did that. We kicked in more money later to purchase CDs by some of the performers, signed, with the proceeds going to 826NYC as well.

At the end, the encore involved inviting all of the performers back on stage together to sing one last song. It was hard to count accurately, as people kept jumping on stage (even some who didn’t perform earlier), but I’m 99% sure that at one point there were at least 26 people on stage at the same time. If that’s correct, that’s a new record for a show I’ve attended (sorry Sam Teichman, you have your work cut out for you now!). Winking smile

There’s no way to review a show like this without spending an entire day writing (something I don’t have the time to do today, nor the inclination). In fact, it’s sort of beside the point. What I’ll do instead is similar to what I did for the Haiti Benefit nearly two years ago. I’ll list the acts in the order they appeared, and mention who supported them. When first mentioning a support person, I might say a few extra words.

Mary Bragg (#1). Mary was new to us. Great voice. On her second number she also played acoustic guitar. She was accompanied by two very talented people, who I think played only with her. I’ll list them next.

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Mike Cassedy on electronic keyboards. Excellent. Mary gave him a couple of leads and he was great.

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Jimmy Sullivan on electric bass (no good individual link). He too was excellent. He made the electric bass sound exactly like a very jazzy upright on one of the numbers. He was smooth.

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Casey Shea (#2) on electric guitar and vocals. Casey was wonderful. In addition to singing and playing well, he was very funny. He had two female backup singers, each of which was a lead performer later in the show, so I’ll save their names for their proper spots.

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Casey brought up Sean White to read a poem to end one of his songs. It continued the comic nature of an otherwise horrifyingly sad song (my house burned down on Christmas).

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Paula Valstein (#3). We’ve seen Paula once before, at the Haiti Benefit. She played solo at the electronic keyboards. Great voice, excellent piano play. Definitely someone we need to check out more (one of our friends has been telling that to me for a while). Paula was also one of Casey Shea’s backup singers.

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Astoria Boulevard (#4). Wow! I can’t believe I never heard them (or of them) before. Three guys who sing heavenly three-part harmony. They’re funny and natural on stage as well. They opened the first number a cappella and knocked me back a few steps with how awesome they were.

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Guitar, ukulele, harmonica and kazoos were played too. They were supported by the default house band (the next two people listed).

Ryan Vaughn on drums. Ryan was fantastic playing with roughly half of the acts last night. Ryan also joined for Mary Bragg’s second number, so I should have listed him earlier.

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Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony was his usual excellent self whenever he was on stage, which was a bit less than Ryan, but still the primary bass player for the evening.

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Dave Pittenger (#5). We’ve never seen him, but I’ve heard of him many times. Mostly because he’s producing Live Society’s new CD (or at least I think it’s him). Dave invited two special guests up, Bess Rogers and Chris Kuffner to kick off his first number. Dave and Bess flubbed Baby It’s Cold Outside a bit, but turned it into a very good natured thing.

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Chris played the electric guitar in an understated but fascinating manner. When they had to restart, he signaled to Ryan and Tony to join in, filling out the sound.

Dave then performed a second number accompanying himself on the electric guitar (with Ryan and Tony playing).

DavePittenger

Misty Boyce (#6). Misty kicked off her numbers on the guitar (I didn’t know she played the guitar), with the second number on the keyboards. Her voice is fantastic. In addition to playing the keyboards really well accompanying herself, she also played them with a couple of other acts, super tasty every time. I’ve been wanting to see her perform her own set for a while and this only increased that desire. She was the second backup singer supporting Casey Shea.

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Nick Africano (#7). We hadn’t seen Nick before. (That’s a total lie, Nick played with Misty during her first number, so we saw him before he took center stage!). He played the guitar beautifully (subtle slide leads). When he took over, Misty played the keyboards and she called up Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein and Charlene Kaye to sing backup. Very nicely done. We will be on the lookout for Nick in the future.

NickAfricano

Greg Mayo Band (#8). OK, it was technically the Greg Mayo Band, without the brass section. They also weren’t wearing suits, so I’m not sure how official this appearance was. That said, they were incredible, so I have no complaints! They had a guest vocalist and percussionist join them, but since each was a headliner as well, I’ll mention them later.

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Here are the people that were in the Greg Mayo Band setup last night (left-to-right on stage, not including the guests):

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Wonderful.

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Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Spectacular.

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Kenny Shaw on drums. Excellent.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Superb.

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The Vanity Belles (#9). We’ve seen them sing backup with other groups. We’ve seen them perform on TV twice. Unbelievably, this was the first time we saw them perform as The Vanity Belles, live. We’re proud supporters of the ladies through their recent (successful) Kickstarter, so this was one of the extra special reasons why I wanted to attend. Of course, they were fantastic. Whew! Winking smile

TheVanityBelles

Patrick Firth played electronic keyboards for them. Joining him to round out the band were: Greg Mayo on guitar and Chris Anderson on electric bass. The drummer was already on stage before with the Greg Mayo band (as the guest percussionist) but I still haven’t mentioned his name (soon, don’t panic!).

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Oscar Bautista played electric guitar as part of The Vanity Belles band. He is always great, so I wanted him to have a paragraph for himself. Smile Another reason to give Oscar his own section? He broke out the mandolin last night, one of my favorite instruments. Sweet!

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Next up was another group I’ve wanted to see for a long time.

The Stone Lonesome (#10). This is duo of Zach Jones (finally got to mention him) and Emily Long. We’ve seen Zach drum many times (including earlier last night, and he was the guest percussionist with the Greg Mayo Band as well). He’s an awesome drummer. I also knew that he sings well, and that was proven when he was front-and-center with Emily last night. What I didn’t know was that he also plays the guitar. Emily sings really well too and the two of them sound great together.

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Brian Killeen supported them on electric bass, a perennial favorite of ours. He was joined by Ryan Vaughn on drums and Greg Mayo on electric guitar. Zach let Greg take a number of fantastic leads. The entire night was amazing, but I would have left happy just for the guitar solos that Greg took during The Stone Lonesome songs!

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Martin Rivas (#11). Martin had previously sung as a guest with the Greg Mayo Band, wonderfully. He now took center stage and wowed everyone with two of his own songs (one a Christmas number, the other off of his new CD, due out in May, 2012). He was supported (incredibly) by Patrick Firth, Greg Mayo, Chris Kuffner, Zach Jones and Brian Killeen.

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A few items were raffled off during the evening. One of them was a jar of Martin Rivas’ world-famous spaghetti sauce (or is it more properly referred to as tomato sauce?!?). Anyway, we won it (see the proof here and again in a couple of the photos at the very bottom!). Can’t wait to savor it!

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Chrissi Poland (#12). We’ve only seen Chrissi singing backup with others. We knew she had an extraordinary voice but I have to say that I still didn’t understand the full effect of it until last night. Another wow. We won’t be attending, but if you want to catch her headlining a show, with Martin Rivas opening, head to Highline Ballroom this Sunday night (Dec 18th, 2011). You won’t be disappointed!

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On her first number, she played guitar and was accompanied by Patrick Firth, Greg Mayo, Rebecca Haviland, Martin Rivas, Ryan Vaughn and Brian Killeen.

She then put the guitar down and blew everyone away accompanied by the same band, minus the backup singers (Rebecca and Martin). Her voice and stage presence had us eating out of her hand.

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Caleb Hawley (#13). Caleb is one of my favorites and I’m always disappointed when I can’t make it to one of his shows (which happens more frequently than I care to admit, including the night before!). At least I got a taste last night to hold me over until his next full show.

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Caleb was supported by Patrick Firth, Ryan Vaughn, Zach Jones and Brian Killeen. There was dancing in the audience (not atypical of any Caleb performance), but I won’t post the pictures, since those people didn’t sign any waivers. Winking smile

Benjamin Wagner (#14). Benjamin was our host throughout the show, introducing each act as they were coming on stage. Now it was his turn to shine and shine he did. He has a wonderful voice and he wielded it for our delight. He was joined by a stellar band. I’ll mention all but two of them, since they were the next two headliners and hadn’t yet made an appearance.

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Misty Boyce on keyboards, Chrissi Poland singing backup, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. All, great!

For his second number, additional backup singers joined: Mary Bragg, Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein and Martin Rivas.

In true showman style, Benjamin left the stage and prostrated himself right in front of us! Smile

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Bryan Dunn (#15). Bryan also played guitar on Benjamin’s set. Bryan is wonderful all around. When Benjamin introduced him, he said “Bryan is normally a rocker, but he’s going to bring you down a bit with his first number.” Ha! I hope no one fell for that. It might have started out sounding like a ballad, but Bryan had everyone hopping in no time.

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Both his numbers were fantastic (and no, I wasn’t the least bit surprised!).

He was supported (wonderfully) by Misty Boyce, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. He also had another guitar player and vocalist, but since he was the next headliner, I’ll save his name for the very next line.

Chris Abad (#16). Another wow for me. He played guitar for Benjamin and Bryan Dunn and sang harmony with Bryan. His guitar play was awesome. It looked like he was playing one of Greg Mayo’s two electric guitars, so for a minute, I thought that perhaps Greg just has magical guitars and anyone could make them sound this good. I checked after the show, and the guitars are just look-a-likes, so apparently Chris is just really that good. Winking smile

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He also sang at center stage when Bryan was done, and did a great job. He was supported by Misty Boyce, Bryan Dunn, Ryan Vaughn and Tony Maceli. If I heard correctly, Chris also produced at least one of Bryan’s CDs, perhaps the upcoming one as well. Talented guy, no doubt!

For his second number, he was joined by a slew of backup singers: Mary Bragg, Bess Rogers, Paula Valstein, Charlene Kaye, Chris Kuffner and Benjamin Wagner.

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Like I said above, the finale had a ton of people on stage. Here are some photos:

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One of the only performers who didn’t hop on stage was Kenny Shaw. When Martin tried to get him to come up, Kenny seemed to motion to Martin to come down instead. Martin took it as an invitation to have Kenny hold him in his arms. Kenny obliged! Smile

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We shared the evening a number of friends. In one of the photos you can even see our hard-won jar of sauce (I went with the cautious “sauce” with no modifier there).

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Here’s a shot of our bounty from the night:

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Rebecca Haviland at Arelene’s Grocery

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We missed a bunch of great shows last week due to the extended holiday weekend and the wonderful company that was up from Richmond to spend it with us.

Rebecca Haviland was appearing at Rockwood Music Hall on Friday night, and that’s the only show we had planned to abandon our company to go see. Unfortunately, our goddaughter baked one of her world-famous apple pies and got permission from Lois for me to have a slice (the answer is often hit-or-miss). Couple that with their latte machine (cherry, or cherry chocolate that night, amazing!) plus an awesome bottle of port, and well, somehow, we didn’t make it to Rockwood…

The saving grace is that we knew Rebecca was playing again, last night, at Arlene’s Grocery. While I prefer Rockwood over Arlene’s for most shows, I admit that I was more excited to see Rebecca at Arlene’s this time around. She’s a rocker, and Arlene’s is well-suited for rock shows (much more so than Rockwood 1).

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Even if we had seen her at Rockwood, it would have been worth coming out again, for the contrast in venues and the swap of two band members.

We never worry about whether Rebecca’s sets will be good, they always are, last night too. If there’s ever a concern, it’s about the sound. Arlene’s has a very good sound guy (Howard), but on occasion, it can get too loud. Last night the volumes were all balanced perfectly. In fact, Chris’ vocals were at a better level than any other show. More on Howard the sound guy a bit later.

In addition to Rebecca’s voice being extremely tasty throughout, on one number Howard cranked the reverb but had a long delay on it (unless Rebecca was controlling that through her pedal). It sounded like Rebecca had a background vocalist singing with her (rather than a trail or echo). It was an extremely cool sound, hearing Rebecca twice.

When Rebecca got to If You (possibly my favorite song of hers, but there’s no shortage of songs to love), she called out that if the audience didn’t know when to sing, they should follow me. Ha! Indeed, good advice, since I belt it out whenever I can (even at home, without the CD on, seriously!). Sorry Krista, I hope I wasn’t too loud, sitting right next to you. Winking smile

Let’s cover the band, right-to-left this time (not my normal direction), then return to Howard the sound guy:

Chris Anderson on electric bass (two of them, one an 8-string) and vocals. Another excellent performance on the bass, in particular, on Money, when Chris was wailing fantastic bass lines while Todd was ripping up the keyboards. More importantly, as mentioned above, Chris’ vocals were leveled perfectly and he sounded great singing with Rebecca on every number.

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Chris asked for less of Rebecca’s vocals in his monitor, and Rebecca asked for more of Chris in hers. Chris was particularly impish last night (in general), and after that exchange, hilarity ensued.

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny wasn’t able to make Friday’s show, even though he’s Rebecca’s normal drummer. Always a treat to see him. Many of the numbers last night called for slower, but deeply rhythmical (jungle/swing) drumming. Absolutely wonderful.

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Todd Caldwell on electronic keyboards. (The site linked to his name isn’t fully active yet, but hopefully it will be in the near future.) I’d never seen Todd before, and I’m very glad to have corrected that oversight. An incredible keyboard player who took a number of wonderful leads throughout the set. I already mentioned above that he ripped it up on Money.

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In 2007, Stephen Stills selected Todd to tour with him. In addition to holding on to that role, he was also invited to play with Crosby, Stills and Nash, another continuing role. Need I say more? I didn’t think so!

ToddCaldwellRebeccaHaviland

I’ve noted in other posts that Howard (the sound guy) is one of the hardest working people I’ve seen. His dedication is impressive. After working the stage to set everyone up, he comes out of the booth during the show to stand in the audience to hear it like we do. During one number, he thought that the electric guitar was a bit too bright. He left the room and came on stage from a side door. He moved a mic that was in front of the amp about four inches further away. That solved the problem perfectly.

He’s also a fan of Rebecca (which means he has good taste too). When her set was over, he asked them to play one more. Folks, it’s highly unusual for a sound guy to do that. They often allow the extra number, but rarely insist on it, like Howard did. Rebecca noted that it was almost time for the next band to go on, but Howard told her to play on!

Then he said something into his mic that cracked me up: “Don’t worry, once you start playing, I’ll turn off the sound.” Winking smile

So, the impromptu encore is not listed on the set list:

SetList

We were both pooped and a bit under the weather, so we bagged another show we were planning on seeing at Rockwood and most unfortunately a special birthday party that we had hoped to attend as well.

Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood Music Hall

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Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood Music Hall? We’re there. We’d go even if we knew it would be identical to the last show, but this time I knew there would be at least a small twist. One of her band members, Greg Mayo, was playing in Washington, DC, so something would be different. It turns out that her drummer Kenny Shaw wasn’t there either.

RebeccaHaviland

Rebecca didn’t replace Greg at the keyboards, nor his vocals, so the set was a bit more stripped down and raw. While I will welcome Greg back with open arms, I have to admit that there was a grittiness to having Rebecca’s electric guitar be the primary sound (along with her stunning voice) that was an interesting change of pace.

RebeccaHavilandGuitar

Rebecca just finished tracking (perhaps even mixing) a new CD, after a successful Kickstarter campaign. I believe that most of last night’s set will be on the CD. Another thing to look forward to in the coming months! Here’s the set list:

SetList

Rebecca got the crowd singing (pretty loudly) on If You (I never need an invitation for that one! In fact, it hurts me not to also sing on the lead-in, “If you want me to”, but I muzzle myself.).

She was supported by two outstanding musicians, with a very special surprise guest on one number.

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris co-wrote many of the songs with Rebecca. Their collaboration works perfectly in my opinion. Chris always sings a bunch on Rebecca’s sets, but with Greg Mayo out last night, it was always the two of them, rather than the occasional three-part harmony.

ChrisAnderson

Another effect of having Greg out was the lack of keyboard solos. Chris made up for one by kicking a** and taking numbers on a long and terrific bass solo. Even when Greg returns, I hope they keep that in the set!

ChrisAndersonBass

Dave Burnett on drums. Dave did a fantastic job throughout the set. I admit to be a little worried during the first number (Direction). Dave was great on that too, but a bit more hyper at times than Kenny Shaw’s style and it felt a little out of place to me. I never had that feeling again on the rest of the numbers. Dave is just flat out excellent.

DaveBurnett

Evan Watson came up to sing and play harmonica on Whiskey. His harmonica play was great. He took a verse on the lead and was absolutely wonderful.

Update: almost every time I second guess my memory, I put in incorrect information in the blog. it happened again this time. Because they joked about Whiskey, I said that Evan played on Whiskey, even though I was pretty sure he didn’t. Today, Manish Gosalia posted a video of the song Evan played on, Dig My Grave. Sorry folks, that’s what I remembered, but I overruled myself… 🙁

EvanWatsonHarmonica

In a fitting moment, Rebecca called for him to come up and she didn’t spot him right away. When she asked if he was still in the room, he called out that he was just getting a Whiskey at the bar. Winking smile

RebeccaHavilandEvanWatsonChrisAndersonWhiskey

Rebecca announced that she’d be back at Rockwood sometime in November and then again in December, though the specific dates haven’t been booked yet. If we’re in town, we’ll be there, no question about it.

Manish Gosalia is an exceptional photographer. As important, he has superb taste in music, as I find myself at many of the same shows he’s at. He has always put up a photo or two of each show, but lately I feel like he’s sharing more of them (which is a very good thing). He put up a slideshow of last night’s set. Enjoy!

Sierra Noble at The Bitter End

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What do you do when one of your favorite performers has a show at one of your least favorite venues? You go, without hesitation. Smile

Sierra Noble easily qualifies as one of our favorites. The Bitter End easily qualifies as one of the least enjoyable venues we frequent semi-regularly.

Both turned out exactly as expected. Sierra (and band) put on a great show. The Bitter End didn’t disappoint in its disappointment. Let’s start with the good stuff.

Sierra Noble opened with a long traditional fiddle tune (a collection of styles that are popular in her hometown fiddle community, Winnipeg). This was an excellent choice as there was still a bunch of milling around from the previous show’s audience.

SierraNobleFiddle

When things settled down, Sierra changed to singer/songwriter mode and rattled off one winner after another, starting with Possibility. She switched back-and-forth between the fiddle and an acoustic guitar.

Her voice is gorgeous. Her lyrics are captivating. The music (melodies) enchanting. What more could you ask for? Nothing, that’s right.

SierraNobleSinging

But wait, there’s more. All of that would be more than enough if Sierra were performing solo (which she easily could). Given her talent, it’s easy for her to attract equally talented people to play with her on a regular basis. In NYC, she has just such a regular collection of musicians she can call her band.

Left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on guitar (electric and acoustic) and vocals. I’m not sure whether Greg’s acoustic guitar is rebelling against him personally, or if it prefers to enjoy Sierra’s sets from the back of the stage without having to work at the same time. At The Living Room show (the last time we saw Sierra), Greg popped a string the minute he picked up the guitar (he had popped one on the same guitar during sound check!). Last night, the strap holder flew out. In both cases, Greg switched to one of Sierra’s two acoustic guitars.

GregMayoAcousticGuitar

No matter, he was wonderful on Sierra’s guitar and played significantly more on his own electric, which he wields masterfully (read the dozens of posts I’ve written that mention Greg’s skills).

GregMayoElectricGuitar

Greg also sings a lot of harmony with Sierra, beautifully. All around A+.

GregMayoSierraNobleHarmony

Chris Anderson on upright bass and vocals. Chris was excellent on the bass, plucking and bowing. He also sang quite a bit, including providing the primary harmony on the gorgeous Human After All.

ChrisAnderson

Rebecca Haviland was a special guest vocalist on at least three songs. One one song, Rebecca sang harmony throughout. On the other two, she sang a bit of harmony during the verses, but completed fantastic four-part harmony with Sierra, Greg and Chris.

RebeccaHavilandSierraNobleRebeccaHavilandHarmony

Another Sierra Noble show in the books. Already looking forward to the next one.

After the show, I introduced myself to Carrie Welling of The Vanity Belles. I’m a proud contributor to their current Kickstarter campaign. Here’s what she tweeted during the show:

thevanitybelles The Vanity Belles

@SierraNoble @gregmayomusic @rebeccahaviland @CAndersonbass makin beautiful music here @BitterEndNYC tonight! Lovin’ it!

I couldn’t have said it better. Smile Lois bought another copy of Sierra’s EP, Possibilities, to give to our goddaughter.

Here’s the set list. Sierra didn’t get to play the last song, as The Bitter End was running a bit behind due to the show before Sierra’s.

SetList

That’s a good segue into three of my complaints about The Bitter End (I don’t want to turn this into a rant).

There is a cover charge (fine), but there is also a two drink minimum, per person, per set. That’s nuts. I’m not complaining about the money. In fact, I would have thrown more into a Rockwood tip jar for Sierra than the cover charge. If I sat through as many consecutive sets at The Bitter End as I do at Rockwood, I would worry that the Medical Examiner would declare my death an internal drowning.

The Bitter End is very long and narrow. The stage is smack in the middle, facing the narrow part. Very few people get a direct view of the stage. As in most venues where that’s the case, people on either side of the stage delude themselves into thinking no one can hear them, even though they are just as close to the stage.

The Bitter End didn’t list the start time of Sierra’s set. She tweeted 9pm. A friend warned us that she was unlikely to go on before 10pm. They were correct. Sierra started playing at 10:12pm. That’s a dilemma. We didn’t want to show up at 10 to find out she was on at 9. We showed up at 8:45 and endured 75 minutes that I would gladly have put to use differently.

I don’t blame Sierra for picking the more conservative start time. I blame The Bitter End for not posting any start time for her, even if they ended up slipping it dramatically.

Greg Mayo Band Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 CMJ

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Greg Mayo Band headlined at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, one of the last sets to officially close out the week-long CMJ Festival (of course, there were a ton of other sets closing out the week in many other venues). But there was only one venue for us to be, namely the one Greg was playing at.

GregMayoPiano

Having just seen Greg shred the guitar minutes earlier when he was part of Robbie Gil’s band, we got to enjoy an extremely different set. Greg likes his band to dress up, so there was just enough of a break to reset the stage and give Greg time to put on a suit.

Greg Mayo Band is a big-band sound of rock/soul/R&B/funk. The performances are always stellar, with Greg killing it on the grand piano, electronic keyboards, and singing everyone (including himself) into a frenzy.

GregMayoSinging

Toward the end of the set Greg split the audience in two and we sang along to the chorus, in harmony. Greg made sure we knew exactly when to sing. Winking smile

GregMayoDirectingUsToSing

We were able to sit near the piano for every previous show. Last night there were no tables so we stood dead center, right in front of the horn section. That was a ton of fun (I love me some brass).

Lots of people on stage (eight, counting Greg), so let’s get to them:

Rebecca Haviland on vocals and tambourine. The girl’s got voice, pure and simple. She sang with Greg throughout, but took the reigns on lead vocals when they morphed a song into Long Train Running (and later morphed back into the original song). Rebecca blew us all away. I told Lois after the show that they would have to rename the group The Doobie Sisters in her honor!

RebeccaHavilandSingingRebeccaHavilandTambourine

Rebecca will be headlining a set at Rockwood 1 this Friday (October 28th) at 10pm. Come at 8pm to enjoy Chris Ayer as well. Smile

RebeccaHaviland

John Liotta on baritone sax. John was excellent throughout, as he always is, taking a long solo toward the end of the set.

JohnLiotta

Josh Reed on trumpet. I was afraid Josh would be fired on the spot. While he had a jacket on, he was the only member of the band who didn’t have a tie on (including Rebecca!). Once he took a solo, and Greg praised him, I calmed down and realized he was safe (at least for the night). Winking smile

JoshReed

Matt Simons on tenor sax. Seconds before Matt walked on stage I commented to Lois that the band was short one horn player (John and Josh were already on stage and it looked like the show was about to start). Thank goodness Matt was there. He destroys the sax, and one of his super fast solos was in the very first song.

MattSimons

Matt wasn’t there for the last Greg Mayo Band show we attended. He was ably substituted for that night, but I am personally very happy whenever I can get even the slightest taste of Matt’s masterful sax play.

MattSimonsSaxSolo

Kenny Shaw on drums. I never doubt that I will love Kenny’s play. Considering he’s the drummer we’ve seen most often in 2011, there’s little chance I’ll be wrong about that. The set before had one of my favorite drummers, Zach Jones, so any contrast would be a little more obvious.

KennyShawDrumsKennyShaw

No difference in quality. They have different personas and they were supporting different styles of music, but in the end, both deliver as good a performance as you could hope for, every time.

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Another musician that we see a ton of times, who has never disappointed. He co-writes and performs with Rebecca Haviland, so if you take my advice and show up this Friday, you’ll get to see him sing and play.

ChrisAndersonChrisAndersonBass

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Paul was solid throughout, but this set didn’t call for any particular leads on the guitar. He did play a critical role in the transition to Long Train Running (mentioned above), with the iconic guitar part that kicks off that song. All eyes were on Paul until Rebecca let loose.

PaulMaddison

Another fantastic set by the Greg Mayo Band. I think Greg announced that they’ll be back at Rockwood 2 on November 19th. It’s not listed on the site yet, so please confirm before showing up. Here’s last night’s set list:

SetList

Sierra Noble at The Living Room

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Sierra Noble played The Living Room last night. Eight days earlier we we saw Sierra at Rockwood (covered here). If you told me that we would see an identical performance we would have attended, happily. Just as happily, that wasn’t the case.

SierraNoble

Sierra had a different setup (no drummer, one less guitarist and a very special female vocalist). The sound system at The Living Room is nearly always great.

Without a drummer and the extra guitar, even though there was a large overlap in the set lists, the shows had an extremely different feel to them (each equally gorgeous). It’s also interesting how changing the order of the songs ends up producing a different feel/flow to a set, even if the band was identical.

Sierra played the first few songs on acoustic guitar, then played both fiddle and guitar for the remainder of the set. Her voice was fantastic (as it always is), if a bit smokier than usual (her vocals so remind me of Alison Krauss, having nothing to do with the fact that both are fiddlers).

SierraNobleGuitar

I knew that Sierra co-wrote Human After All with Michael Logen from the first time she played it, but I thought that was the only song they worked on together. Last night she said that they’ve written three. One of the others is Happy Here, which she also played last week, but I might have missed her saying who she co-wrote it with then. They’re clearly a great team.

Sierra closed the show with the same fiddle tune, Dabe, that she closed the Rockwood show with. But, it was quite different (both were awesome) without the drum. More importantly, Sierra took really long solos and stretched the song out to show off her fiddle skills.

SierraNobleFiddle

A few minutes into the tune a few people started clapping along. In seconds, that turned into nearly everyone clapping. They clapped the beat (replacing the drum) throughout the very long song. I was mightily impressed by their timing and stamina, but all that did was make Sierra’s fiddle play all the more spectacular (it’s like the crowd’s clapping was rocket fuel for her).

I mentioned to Sierra after the show that there must be something in the water in Winnipeg which gives fiddlers extra special powers. Two of my other favorite fiddlers hail from there, Tania Elizabeth (of The Duhks) and Jeremy Penner (of The Wailin’ Jennys).

It’s only been 15 hours, and we saw two other incredible sets after Sierra’s show, but I’m already anticipating seeing her again. We bought a physical copy of her EP last night so we could get it signed. We already own a digital download (purchased on Amazon) and love it!

I mentioned to another musician friend that he should come to the show. If he hadn’t tweeted publicly, I wouldn’t be outing him here:

BergerAlex Alex Berger

Just saw @SierraNoble for the 1st time. Blown away. ow.ly/i/j8m7

Nothing more needs to be said.

Except, of course, about the talented people who supported Sierra making the show all the more special. Left-to-right on the stage:

Chris Anderson on upright bass and vocals. Chris’ upright bass filled in the bottom so well that the drums really weren’t missed (even though the drums were a very special part of last week’s set). In addition to singing background vocals on a few numbers, Chris was the primary harmonizer on Human After All.

ChrisAnderson

Chris didn’t take any verses by himself (like Martin Rivas did last week), but he sang on every chorus and on the bridge and nailed it. Great job, Sierra and Chris sounded terrific together.

ChrisAndersonSierraNoble

Greg Mayo on electric and acoustic guitars and vocals. I mentioned this in last week’s writeup, supporting Sierra brings out an entirely different performance from Greg (from his typical headlining guitar style). In a word, his play was fantastic, without ever stepping on Sierra even for a second.

GregMayo

Greg also provided the primary harmony on most of the numbers. Absolutely wonderful. Greg’s string of never disappointing me continues. He’s the Cal Ripken Jr. of musicians (at least for me). Smile

Rebecca Haviland was a very special guest vocalist, singing harmony on roughly 40% of the numbers. If you’ve read this space, you know what I think of Rebecca’s voice. Having it blend with Sierra’s, aaaaaaaaah.

RebeccaHaviland

During one number, all four sang together, beautiful is an understatement.

ChrisAndersonSierraNobleGregMayoRebeccaHaviland

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Sierra is next appearing this Monday night (Oct 17th) at City Winery as part of a singer/songwriter circle (along with quite a number of other amazing singer/songwriters!). Unfortunately, we’ll be missing that for another pair of great singer/songwriters. CMJ week is hell when trying to choose who to see.

The week after, she’s at The Bitter End on Tuesday, Oct 25th, at 9pm. We’ll be there. I give you permission to go see her at City Winery, but I insist you come to The Bitter End either way. Winking smile

Rebecca Haviland at Rockwood Music Hall

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Rebecca Haviland is near the top of our list as both a person and an artist. We would twist ourselves into a pretzel to get to one of her shows. Thankfully, last night required no such acrobatics, given that we were next door at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 for an earlier show (Chris Ayer and Matt Simons, both of whom came to see Rebecca’s show like we did).

We aren’t alone in our love of Rebecca’s music, as the place was jammed. On a holiday weekend in the summer in NYC? Give me a break. Typically the place is a ghost town. Obviously, the few New Yorkers that stayed in town made it a point to show up for the two shows we targeted as well. Smart.

Rebecca played an excellent set, including a brand new song. So new in fact, that the band had to sit it out (clearly, they didn’t have time to rehearse it in advance). Chris Anderson, Rebecca’s regular writing partner now (and bass player in her band) didn’t join either, even though he co-wrote it (or so I think she said). So, they haven’t arranged the vocals or bass part yet either. Of course, Rebecca can carry any song all by herself, even a cappella. This time she accompanied herself on the electric guitar (which she played on every song).

RebeccaHavilandGuitar

In addition to Chris co-writing many of Rebecca’s new songs, he’s singing harmony on most of them. With every performance, he’s getting more comfortable in that role. He’s opening it up (wonderfully) and seems to be having a good time with it. Keep it up Chris!

Rebecca played a number of songs off her upcoming CD (currently in the final three weeks of a Kickstarter campaign). After last night’s performance, we upped our contribution (we had the distinction of being first as well). That’s how badly I want to get my hands on this CD. If you like bluesy rock, delivered by one of the most interesting, gorgeous voices around, click on the link above and make sure it gets made!

RebeccaHavilandSinging

My current favorite (it’s closer to an obsession) is If You, which she got many people in the crowd to sing along with. As always, I sang my heart out. The two young women next to me looked at me strangely (I didn’t care, but I did notice). I guess seeing an old man letting loose was shocking. I know I wasn’t off key (heaven forbid). Winking smile

She also played Collide With Me, which Lois is in love with (as am I), so she spread the love around (at least among our household). One of the rare times that we didn’t snag a set list or take a photo of it, so I can’t rattle off every song. Of course, she played her signature cover of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog.

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

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and harmony. Greg was great (as always). When singing with Rebecca and Chris, the three-part harmony was wonderful. Greg took a couple of solos on the keyboards and was fast and tasty.

GregMayoKeyboards

My lovely bride, knowing how huge a Greg Mayo fan I am, surreptitiously arranged with Greg to purchase all of his CDs for me. Right before the show, he delivered four of them (handing them to me, and saying they were from Lois). Smile Still one more to go. One of the CD’s was actually Bergers with Mayo, with the Mayo in that one being Greg’s Dad, Bob. What an amazing gift, I can’t wait to get lost in all of them. Thanks Lois and Greg!

Chris Anderson on electric bass and harmony. I already mentioned how well Chris did singing and co-writing. Might as well round it out and state (for the 100th time) that he’s a top bass player as well. He had a surprise for the audience (which Rebecca introduced). He bought a new toy and debuted it. An 8-string electric bass (isn’t that just a guitar with really fat strings?). Winking smile

ChrisAnderson

Kenny Shaw on drums. There’s no doubt that we see more of Kenny than any other drummer, at least in 2011. That’s just fine with me, he’s that good. In the picture below, it looks like Kenny is using a clown cymbal. Smile

KennyShaw

I am a drum-loving fool, so I always pay particular attention to the drummer. As much as I love it, it’s only this year that I’ve come to notice something I think of as discipline.

There are drummers that I loved (and still do), for their skills at being super fast and many times super interesting. This year, I’ve realized that a bit too often, they’re also sloppy. I’ve really come to appreciate drummers that are machine like in their precision, across styles and genres, while still being fast and interesting when called for. In other words, sometimes understated is exactly what is called for and necessary to support the song.

Another fantastic night out, surrounded by friends, immersed in music that we love.

KellySamTeichman