Robbie Gil

Tony Maceli Full Vinyl Tribute to Talking Heads and Alanis Morissette at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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That title is a mouthful. Just typing it out has taken the wind out of me. But, it’s descriptive and accurate, so I’m going with it.

Note: There are no photos in this post yet. We’re running to Rockwood now for a 6pm show and I barely finished the words. Tomorrow morning I’ll add in a ton of photos and tweet the link out again, for those that might want to revisit the post to see it in its correct glory! I’ll delete this paragraph when I update the post with the photos.

Tony Maceli is one of the top bass players in the NYC indie music scene. Some months ago, he started organizing a regular mega-show called Full Vinyl. Last night was the first one we were able to attend, so I don’t know whether we’ve missed one or two. I also don’t know whether the format is always the same (or going to be). This show was at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

TonyMaceli

It was such a massive (fast moving) show, that I would be doing an injustice to multiple people if I tried to cover it the way I do normal sets. Most importantly, I’d be doing myself the massive injustice of sitting here and typing for the next few days. In other words, it isn’t going to happen.

I’ll give a high-level description, call out a few people (which is no slight on anyone that doesn’t get a separate shout-out), then do my best to at least give a link to every person who was on stage. There’s little doubt that I’ll miss someone, or not be able to identify someone (or their site). No omission is intentional, and whenever someone (cough, cough, Tony?) corrects me (public corrections are fine), I’ll update the post to reflect it.

The format last night was Talking Heads first (lead singers were all boys, with one very notable exception). To close out the Talking Heads portion, all lead singers return to the stage at the same time and each sings a piece of the finale, the uber-famous Psycho Killer. Each individual number had numerous band members swapping in and out on each song.

PsychoKillerFinale

Michelle Cassilas was the sole female lead singer during this part of the evening. She’s the head of the band Ursa Minor, writing their songs, singing lead vocals and playing guitar. She can certainly rock it out, so having her in the boys portion of the evening was just fine.

Here’s the set list for the Talking Heads portion. The order wasn’t strictly maintained because a few people (Jerry Fuentes and Derek James in particular) were still playing their set next door when it would have been their turn:

SetList1

Under each song you’ll see the band members that were slated to play (at least their last names). The first name listed was the primary lead singer for that song.

One male singer couldn’t make it due to illness (if Tony said who it was, I missed it). A last minute substitute was recruited, the amazing Robbie Gil. He’s not listed on the set list, because I think Tony already knew about the illness before he printed the sheets. I might be remembering this incorrectly, but I think that Robbie sang Burning Down the House, which has Greg Mayo listed as lead singer (which would have been a second lead for Mayo).

Tony Maceli opened the show. I missed most of his song because I was next door watching Jerry Fuentes and Derek James (I already posted about that show). A friend texted me when this show began and I waited until Jerry and Derek finished their current song to scoot over. I caught the last full verse of Tony singing.

TonyMaceliSinging

I then heard Tony sing a full verse during Psycho Killer. Folks, I’ve heard Tony sing before (rarely) and I praised him. Those previous times were nothing compared to last night. He really opened up his vocals and did a fantastic job. Perhaps he decided to put on these shows just to give himself a vehicle to sing for the rest of us. If that’s the case, I approve. Smile

On to the second half of the show. This time, the ladies were in control and the subject matter was Alanis Morissette. The format was the same, including all of the lads joining for the finale, Ironic, but you’ll notice that three of the woman sang two different songs on the lead. Here’s the set list for the ladies:

SetList2

I was never a Talking Heads fan, though songs like Psycho Killer are burned in my memory (was anything else played on the radio when that first came out?). Watching these people playing those 11 songs did not change that. For the most part, those songs don’t do it for me at all. But, watching these people play those songs (or practically anything), was truly thrilling. I don’t say that just because I love most of them (as people as well as musicians), but because the performance was simply that good. I still wouldn’t want to listen to any of it at home, without the energy in the room.

The Alanis Morissette portion, totally different story. Even though my eyes were droopy and I was yawning,  the second half was amazing, each song. It wasn’t that the women performed it any better than the men (they didn’t, both groups nailed their parts). It’s just that Alanis Morissette is a dramatically better songwriter for my taste.

Here’s the photo of the ladies’ finale:

IronicFinale

We left Rockwood at 2am (sheesh). Not for one second did I consider leaving early.

Before listing out as many people as I can find, I want to write out some incredibly subjective, almost silly thoughts. Not because I want to (or believe I can) sway anyone’s opinion. I just want to remember exactly how I felt and this is the best way. One more caveat. There wasn’t a single weak performance last night (seriously, I’m not sparing anyone’s feelings, you just have to trust me on that). So, by calling out anyone, it would be a major mistake on your part to assume that there was a vast difference between the people I’m mentioning and the people I’m not.

Last time, the following observations are entirely my personal opinions. I’m not casting them as facts. If these people delivered a level-10 performance, then the worst of the rest delivered a 9, with the average being 9.5+.

Josh Dion was the most thrilling male performer. When his song was done, I turned to anyone in my vicinity and said “Josh can only be described by one word: Excitement”.

JoshDion

Misty Boyce was mind-boggling in her lead, but she was also the primary harmony vocalist with both the males and females. She also played keyboards and melodica. I’ve seen Misty sing background with Bess Rogers before, and I’ve wanted to see her own sets (and came really close twice, including earlier this week), but this was my first time seeing her take center stage. She grabbed it and didn’t let go until we were all reduced to a puddle.

MistyBoyce

When her song was over, my friend leaned over and said: “Hard to imagine that she isn’t going to blow up one of these days!” (my friends and I are obviously gangsta, holla, in case you mistook that for being a bad thing!). Winking smile

Finally, let’s try to get everyone’s full name (with links if I can find them). I’ll do the male leads first, then the female leads, then the band members. And…… GO:

Tony Maceli, already covered. He also played bass on many of the songs, always his forte.

TonyMaceliBass

Greg Mayo, in addition to singing lead, Greg played electric and acoustic guitars on a majority of the numbers. He sang the most harmony by a male (even on the Alanis set). Even when he wasn’t singing in the mic, Greg was silently singing every word of every Alanis Morissette song. He’s clearly a big fan!

GregMayoSingingGregMayoElectricGuitarGregMayoAcousticGuitar

Scott Chasolen, in addition to singing lead, played the electronic keyboards on that song. He was great!

ScottChasolen

Jerry Fuentes, already discussed above, sang and played smoking lead guitar.

Derek James sang with Jerry Fuentes as part of Jerry’s number.

JerryFuentesDerekJamesMasonIngram

Michelle Casillas, also mentioned above. Great! (I’m going to stick with great, so no one reads into me trying to simply mix up my superlatives.)

MichelleCasillas

Chris Cubeta, I’ve heard about Chris for a while now, mostly as a producer (he produced the upcoming The Vanity Belles CD). This was my first time laying eyes on him and I was very impressed with his voice and guitar play. Misty Boyce sang harmony with him in near-lockstep. They sounded great together.

ChrisCubeta

Update:

Daniel Lanzetta was not listed on either set list, so I missed him the first time I posted this. When I added the photos, I realized my error. He joined Chris Cubeta and did the spoken parts of Once in a Lifetime (of which there are many).

DanielLanzetta

End Update.

Zach Jones, in addition to singing lead, also drummed for a good bit of each set. This is the first time we’ve ever seen Zach hatless. It turns out, that contrary to popular belief, he doesn’t get his superpowers from his hat, because he was great without it yesterday, both singing and drumming. Smile

ZachJonesSingingZachJonesDrumsZachJonesGuitar

Josh Dion. Already asked and answered! I’ll just mention that he was drumming while he was singing, but if you’ve heard of Josh Dion, then you probably guessed that already (you couldn’t have been sure, because he’s great on the keyboards too!).

JoshDionPaulAmorese

Robbie Gil, also mentioned above. Great!

RobbieGilSpencerCohen

Casey Shea not only was great (see, I’m not varying my adjectives in this section), but he also came off the stage, laid down on a table in front of it, and serenaded a woman within inches of her face. Let me think who that was… Oh yeah, it was Lois! Smile

CaseySheaCaseySheaJamieAlegreMattBasilePatrickFirthMistyBoyceCaseyShea

On to the female leads (remember, three of them sang twice, so their list will be shorter):

Jamie Rae, sang lead on two songs. She’s listed as Raeya on Tony’s set list. I think she recently started a new solo project under that moniker. Great!

JamieRae

Misty Boyce, I want to repeat what I said above, but I’ll restrain myself.

MistyBoyceMelodica

Lelia Broussard, sang lead on two songs. She also danced around a bunch and raised the already high energy level higher as a result. Great!

LeliaBroussard

Charlene Kaye, in addition to singing lead, also sang harmony with a few others. Great!

CharleneKaye

Emily Long, sang lead, and was one of the people that Charlene Kay sang with. The two of them are in a Guns N’ Roses cover band called Guns N’ Hoses. Emily was great!

EmilyLong

Mighty Kate (Katy Pfaffl), sang lead on one song. What a change-up from her own music which we saw just this past Monday (here’s my post raving about her). Great!

MightyKateMightyKateMistyBoyce

Julia Haltigan, sang lead on one song. She too was great! She was recently at Rockwood for her own set, and will be again next week, but beside that, she’s performing soon at The Kennedy Center in Washington. No biggie, I’m sure. Winking smile

JuliaHaltiganJuliaHaltiganSteveWilliams

Dallin Applebaum, sang lead on two songs. Great!

DallinApplebaumDallinApplebaumZachJones

Onward, to the unsung (get it?) folks who supported the above, in the most amazing fashion (I’m not going to repeat the ones who sang, but separately played an instrument on many other songs):

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and light vocals. He really wailed on the synth/organ sounds. Great!

PatrickFirth

Jeremy Goldsmith on electric guitar. We’re about to see him in a couple of hours, supporting Jesse Terry at Rockwood. I’m looking forward to seeing him again, because, wait for it, he was great last night! Smile

JeremyGoldsmith

Brian Killeen on electric bass. I had just seen Brian Killeen kill it on an earlier set supporting John Schmitt (post is here) and got to watch him do it again with this group. Great!

BrianKilleen

Ben Zwerin on electric bass. Great!

BenZwerin

Paul Amorese on drums. Great!

PaulAmorese

Matt Simons on electronic keyboards and light vocals. I just saw Matt Simons on the same set with Brian Killeen, supporting John Schmitt. Great!

MattSimons

Mason Ingram on drums. I’ve seen Mason once before, supporting Alec Gross. He was impressive that night. The music was radically different last night, with Mason being equally impressive. Great!

MasonIngram

Steven Elliot on electric guitar. Great!

StevenElliot

Rob Jost on electric bass. Great!

RobJost

Robert DiPietro on drums. I’m pretty sure they called him Rob last night, but the link says Robert, so I’ll stick with that. Great!

RobDiPietro

Both Robs (Jost and DiPietro) are in Ursa Minor with Michelle Casillas and they supported her when she sang lead.

Matt Aranoff on electric bass. Great!

MattAranoff

Ryan Vaughn on drums. Great! I ran into Ryan at John Schmitt’s set and told him that I personally blamed him for keeping us up way past our bedtime. Meaning, we really like catching sets when Ryan is drumming.

RyanVaughn

Spencer Cohen on drums and cowbell. Yes, Spencer is a master percussionist, including playing a naked cowbell, center stage! Great!

SpencerCohenCowbell

John Kengla on electric bass. Great!

Update: I just looked through the photos and not only can’t I find one with John Kengla, the song he was supposed to play on, Heaven, sung by Zach Jones, has Tony Maceli playing on it. So, no photo, and he might not even have been there. Oops.

Rob Heath on drums. Great!

RobHeath

Dan Tirer on electric guitar. Also great, but I’ll add that this was my first time seeing him, and I was particularly impressed. In fact, Lois, who doesn’t pay as much attention to certain instruments as I do, turned to me and commented on how good she thought he was.

DanTirer

Matt Basile on electric bass. Matt always delivers, great!

MattBasile

Jamie Alegre on drums. Great!

JamieAlegre

Steve Williams on drums. I saw Steve once before, supporting Julia Haltigan. He was great that night and again last night!

SteveWilliams

Jeff Litman on acoustic guitar. Great!

JeffLitman

Wow, can’t believe I got through the list, with or without mistakes. Yay me! Smile

Greg Mayo Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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What’s a Saturday night in NYC without a taste of Greg Mayo? Empty! Thankfully, NYC was full last night. Greg often plays with others on a Saturday, but it was his turn to shine in the spotlight with The Greg Mayo Band.

GregMayo

Given the time of year, it was no surprise that there were some substitutions. While we will welcome the regulars back with open arms (they are all exceptional), last night’s replacements were no slouches and the show was up there with the best we’ve seen!

The only missing piece was female vocals (Rebecca Haviland was performing in MD). That said, while Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 often gets the sound right (or at least really good), I can’t recall it ever being better than last night.

Greg is always an excellent vocalist, but last night was perhaps his best effort (possibly due entirely to the sound engineer getting everyone’s levels perfect).

GregMayoSinging

Greg was as masterful as ever on the grand piano and electronic keyboards. We typically sit/stand on that side of the stage for a Greg Mayo Band show, but last night we stood very close at a better angle to watch Greg play. Wow!

GregMayoKeyboard

I wondered whether there would be a good crowd, because Greg’s set was sandwiched between two paid shows. Logistically, that can be a headache. No worries, it was a large and very energetic/enthusiastic crowd.

It was impossible to stand still. Foot tapping, head bobbing, body swaying, full-on dancing. If you weren’t doing at least one of those, you weren’t at the same show.

Let’s get to the amazing band, left-to-right on stage:

Jeff Richardi on baritone sax. Jeff was filling in for John Liotta, very ably. Jeff took a couple of leads, one was very long and tasty. He also kicked off a number of the songs with a funky bottom.

JeffRichardi

Josh Reed on trumpet. Josh tore it up on one long solo and was consistently excellent on the remaining fills, as always.

JoshReed

Jon Irabagon on tenor sax. Jon was filling in for Matt Simons. I am in love with Matt Simons sax play, but I still feel a bit silly labeling Jon as filling in. Here’s part of the first line of Jon’s bio:

winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition

Yes folks, we had a superstar in our midst. That’s what can happen at any time at a place like Rockwood. Jon hasn’t forgotten his friends as he’s moved up the ladder and when given an opportunity to sit in, happily took it. Happily for us as well!

JonIrabagon

Kenny Shaw on drums. It’s been nearly a month since we’ve seen Kenny hit the skins. Something was probably askew with the universe, as we’ve seen Kenny more often this year than any other drummer. He was on fire last night, so I guess he felt he had to make it up to us. OK Kenny, we’re back to even again. Until next time! (which I hope will be this Friday, 8pm, Rockwood 1, for Rebecca Haviland’s show) Smile

KennyShawKennyShawDrums

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris always delivers on the bass. He also sings background on every Greg Mayo Band show, but without Rebecca’s voice last night, Chris was way more prominent on the harmony with Greg. Given how good the sound levels were, he was crystal clear and really did a great job. Way to belt it out Chris!

ChrisAndersonChrisAndersonSinging

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Paul was excellent throughout on both. During one number, Greg seemed to finish the song abruptly. A few people clapped, but it didn’t feel like the song was actually over. In fact, they took the few seconds of silence to morph it into a song by a band that Paul Maddison and Kenny Shaw are in, which Greg Mayo produces.

PaulMaddisonSinging

Paul sang two verses of Lipstick on My Booty, a staple of The Thang Band. I’ve seen one Thang Band show, and have been waiting (impatiently and excitedly) for another opportunity.

To prove that the original song wasn’t over, after singing the second verse of Lipstick, they morphed back into the original song and Greg finished it up big. A nice tease for The Thang Band.

Paul also sang a lot of background vocals on the other numbers, often with Chris Anderson as well.

Robbie Gil was called up as a special guest star on two numbers. One in the middle of the set and again for the encore. Robbie has a very powerful voice, which reminds me of Joe Cocker. He fit in perfectly with Greg’s sound, and sang a verse on lead in each number, along with background for the rest of the song.

RobbieGilChrisAndersonPaulMaddisonRobbieGilSinging

Here’s the set list:

SetList

At one point, Greg introduced himself. After saying that he was Greg Mayo, he added: “Or when my mom is in the room, like now, Gregory is OK as well”. Smile

The audiences at Rockwood definitely like the human interest side of their artists (we certainly do), so everyone started looking around immediately. At first Greg said “Perhaps she doesn’t want attention called to her”. That didn’t stop people from trying to figure out who it was. So, eventually, he said “Mom, raise your hand”. She did and we were all satisfied and allowed Greg to back to singing. Smile

A great show which definitely made going out on a chilly Saturday night the right decision. I think Greg mentioned that the next Greg Mayo Band show was on December 17th, also at Rockwood 2, but the website doesn’t go out that far yet, so double check.

Some shots of the brass section and the rest of the band (can’t see Kenny or Greg in these angles). Last shot is of the encore, with Robbie Gil back on stage:

BrassSectionCloseupJeffRichardiJoshReedChrisAndersonJonIrabagonPaulMaddison

GregMayoBandEncore

Robbie Gil at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 CMJ

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Robbie Gil headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 as one of many artists to wind down a spectacular week-long CMJ shows.

RobbieGil

Rockwood was jammed and they removed all of the tables near the stage (except for one row to create a barrier between the audience and the stage).

Robbie delivered his usual high-energy show which caused many people in the audience to dance (to the extent that they could without knocking over their neighbors).

Robbie sings with such passion, with a gravelly voice, accompanied by a loud, top-notch band, that it’s sometimes hard to understand the lyrics. All you had to do was look around the room and read the lips of dozens of people who were singing along to every word.

In addition to singing, Robbie played acoustic guitar and grand piano. He also sang a song with no instrument, accompanied by the band. Songs ranged from soulfully quiet (at least the beginning) to raucous rock ‘n roll.

RobbieGilSinging

Robbie had a great band, as he always does. Left-to-right on stage:

Update: thanks to the kind person who gave me the info on the keyboard player. 🙂

Chris Lopresto Keyboard player (on grand piano and electronic keyboards) and some background vocals. I’ve seen him before, but can’t remember his name at the moment (sorry). I’ll update and link when I get it. He played the keyboards really well. Rather than stacking the electronic one on top of the grand (like most do), he had the electronic keyboards on a stand behind Robbie, and he walked back-and-forth between them whenever he switched.

Chris LoprestoChris Lopresto Keyboards

On one of Robbie’s signature numbers has him leaving center stage to join the keyboard player Chris at the grand piano. They played together, giving the song a huge finish.

RobbieGilPianoDuet

Zach Jones on drums and background vocals. Zach always does a great job on the drums, no matter who he’s supporting. Robbie’s sets are so high energy that drumming for him can be a challenge. Zach exceeds any expectations.

ZachJones

Nick Morrison on electric bass and background vocals. We’ve seen Nick play with Robbie once before (but at the time I couldn’t find a good link to him). He did a great job that first night, and again last night.

NickMorrisonNickMorrisonBass

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and background vocals. What can I say about Greg that I haven’t said before. Nothing. He’s that good every time, so coming up with new ways to say it is hard. Robbie is obviously a huge Mayo fan because he gives Greg long leads. To close the show (during the encore), Robbie gave Greg a really long lead.

GregMayo

When Greg was done, Robbie signaled the band that he wanted to take another round. They wound down the song in slow fashion, while Greg took leads between each of the down beats, extending what was already a bone-crushing performance. Awesome!

ZachJonesNickMorrisonGregMayo

As he’s done before, Robbie understands how much the crowd enjoys watching Greg’s fingers fly up and down the frets. During one long lead, Robbie knelt down to give people on the opposite side of the stage a view of Greg. That turned into a series of maneuvers that included laying on his back. At all times, he continued playing the acoustic guitar. It was a hoot!

RobbieGilKneelingRobbieGilLayingDown

Here’s the set list:

SetList

The set right after Robbie was headlined by none other than Greg Mayo himself. Smile

The Crab Apple Singers at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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If you ask who the Crab Apple Singers are, I won’t fault you for not knowing, since last night was their first-ever performance. It’s a spinoff of a group called The Big Apple Singers. The founder of TBAS, Evan Watson is on an extended tour with Def Leppard. The rest of the group was itching to play, and I’m certainly not the only audience member that was itching to hear them.

Here is my post on the last TBAS show. Since Evan Watson plays electric guitar for TBAS, some changes were required to constitute The Crab Apple Singers (TCAS).

Greg Mayo moved from keyboards to electric guitar.

GregMayo

Patrick Firth replaced Evan, but really he replaced Greg at the keyboards (grand piano and electronic).

PatrickFirth

Chris Anderson was slated to play electric bass (he’s the primary bass player in TBAS, and therefore in TCAS as well). He had a late conflict and he too was replaced.

Brian Killeen played electric bass. As good as Chris is, there’s no drop-off with Brian, so we’ll call that an even trade.

BrianKilleenBass

Josh Dion is the only member of TBAS who fulfilled the same role, drummer, in TCAS.

JoshDionSinging

All four members sang lead and harmony. All four did that as well as you could hope.

My friends, if you weren’t there, you missed a heck of a set. Every one of them was on fire on their instrument (guitar, keyboards, bass and drums). The leads were sizzling and the drums were mind-boggling.

People literally got out of their seats and started to dance. Once they started, they didn’t stop. Many cameras switched their focus to capture the joy of the dancers, but all ears were on the band.

I’ve been praising Greg Mayo and Patrick Firth a bunch this week, so let me just tell you that there was no letdown from their previously praise-worthy performances. They were both absolutely amazing.

Brian Killeen traded his bass for Greg’s guitar on one song. Brian sang lead on Cinnamon Girl (with Josh Dion singing co-lead). He took a wailing lead late in the song, showing that he’s no slouch on the electric guitar. Very nicely done Brian!

BrianKilleenGuitar

Greg tore it up on the bass, so the switch didn’t cost the audience enjoyment on either instrument.

I love drummers. There are good ones, great ones, and exciting ones. Josh is in the exciting category. Keep in mind that this category subsumes the great category as well, the excitement doesn’t come at the cost of greatness. That Josh’s singing produces the same type of excitement, separate from his drumming, is even more mind-boggling.

JoshDionDrumming

Looking at the faces in the crowd while Josh is ripping up the drums made me feel like I was in an old-time revival meeting. People were seeing the light.

Robbie Gil came up to close he show. He sang Feeling Alright and the band killed it supporting him. Dave Mason closes every one of his shows with his money song, and he’d have been proud to hear Robbie sing it with TCAS backing him up. What a way to end an epic (nearly six hour!) night of music.

RobbieGilBrianKilleen

Here’s the set list, but there were changes. At least you can get a good sense of the type of songs they select:

SetList

I missed most of Robbie Gil’s set, the one immediately before TCAS, because I was next door seeing Bri Arden. Lois stayed and watched Robbie’s set. She had a mutual friend text me that Greg Mayo was playing guitar on Robbie’s set. I replied that I knew, but was happily committed to seeing Bri nonetheless.

Then she told me (and showed me a photo) that Greg played the lap steel guitar during one number in Robbie’s set. That was the only (momentary) twinge I had about my decision. Oh well, I’ll just have to keep showing up at Greg’s sets until he whips out the lap steel again. Smile

GregMayoLapSteelGuitar

Brian Killeen Birthday Bash at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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What do you do after driving 5.5 hours to return home from a 10-day business trip? If you’re most people, you catch up with what happened while you were on the road, then collapse for an evening of relaxation. If you’re crazy kids like us, you do that, add a catnap and after relaxing, head out to an 11pm show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

What could get us out at that hour on such a day? A number of the musicians in NYC celebrate their birthdays with shows. Last night was Brian Killeen’s turn. Considering that he’s a sought-after bass player who plays with a number of bands, there were quite a number of musicians that wanted to play with him. When I saw the tweet-stream of names that would be appearing, it was a combination of my local all-star list, coupled with a few new people I’ve been wanting to check out for a while. Perfect!

Apologies for the quality of a number of photos (and the lack of some others completely). The lighting was all over the map and many shots just came out poorly. Sad smile

Brian played on every song and sang harmony on a bunch. In a new twist (for me), Brian played the lead guitar on one song (later in the set) and did a very nice job! He also sang lead on that number (co-lead actually), which has become less of a novelty more recently.

BrianKilleen

Greg Mayo was on stage for all but two songs, earning him a close second in the Iron Man competition with Brian. Greg opened the show on the keyboards (grand piano and electronic). He switched to the electric guitar on the next song. On both he sang lead (very strongly), getting the large crowd completely riled up on Born on the Bayou (complete set list posted at the bottom). On the one song that Brian played lead guitar (Greg’s), Greg played Brian’s electric bass (it only seemed fitting).

GregMayoPiano

John Schmitt took center stage with his acoustic guitar. His voice was incredible (it always is) in belting out his two numbers. I’m always impressed when someone can handle solo singer/songwriter mellow (John is masterful) and can just as easily stand up to a full rock band and sound as good.

Late in the set John ended up sitting at our table. A few of the people behind me gushed uncontrollably “You are awesome!”. They are/were correct, he is/was. I told them that he has his own Birthday set next Friday (7/29) at 10pm at The Living Room. Come test the veracity of my statement and celebrate with John.

JohnSchmittAmyRivard

Dorie Colangelo sang and played John Schmitt’s acoustic guitar. I’ve never seen Dorie before, but Lois caught the last song of her set seven months ago. Here’s what I wrote in the post about that night:

We got there 10 minutes before Alex’s set. I stood outside (brrr) and caught up on some comms on my Droid. Lois went in and heard the last song of the set before Alex, Dorie Colangelo. Lois was extremely impressed by Dorie.

When I walked in, she was telling Dorie how wonderful her voice was. She asked if Dorie had any CDs/EPs and Dorie handed her one (she didn’t want money for it). Lois insisted. She asked me for money. Since I wasn’t privy to the conversation, I handed her a $5, thinking it was the standard fee for most EPs. When I loaded it up this morning, I saw that it was an 11-song CD. I’ll slip Dorie some more money the next time we see her. Given Lois’ reaction, I’m sure there will be a next time. Smile

Oops! I wish I had re-read that post before last night. Of course, I forgot that I wanted to give Dorie some extra money. Next time (and this time I mean it).

DorieColangelo

As for last night, Dorie’s voice was wonderful. Her guitar-playing was fine. Unfortunately, the songs were way slower than the rest of the set and the shift didn’t feel natural to me. Ironically, I did like her really slow (earthy/sexy) version of I’m So Excited. Still, it seemed to break a mood (just a bit). I’m still as interested in catching Dorie doing her own stuff as I was before last night (perhaps more).

Since she was playing John’s guitar, the strap was way too loose for her comfort. Between her two songs, John came to the stage to adjust the strap, which worked out much better for Dorie during I’m So Excited.

Patrick Firth left his normal spot at the grand piano (he played a ton of electronic keyboards as well) and took center stage with his acoustic guitar. He sang the first original of the night, a song off his upcoming album called Boomerang (that’s the song title, I don’t know what the CD will be called).

Update: Read the comment below from Brian Killeen himself. I got it totally wrong! Every performer did an original. You can see my response about Greg’s opening number below Brian’s comment. Thanks again Brian, I like to be accurate when possible. 🙂

PatrickFirthGuitar

Martin Rivas came on stage to support Patrick Firth the song before and stayed to perform a couple as well. He kicked it off with his own North. Not only was it superbly delivered, but I felt like it was my birthday as well. After Greg Mayo took a short but very sweet guitar solo, Martin turned to him and motioned that he should continue. He took a much longer, killer solo. Thanks Martin for making Greg give me an early birthday present too. Smile

MartinRivasGregMayoGuitar

Wes Hutchinson was up next, singing and playing acoustic guitar. While he was standing off stage, I mentioned to Lois that he looked so familiar that I was sure we’ve seen him before, but the name was escaping me. Ha! When he got on stage he mentioned that he had just chopped off his hair. That’s it! I’ve seen him twice recently, both times in support of Chelsea Lee, and both times I was extremely impressed with Wes.

WesHutchinson

Last night Wes was excellent again, this time singing lead (our first time experiencing that). There will be more Wes in our lives, I’m sure (as there was a bit later in the show as well).

Emily Zuzik sang and played electric guitar. Emily was high on my list of people to see. I nearly got to see her a couple of Friday’s ago. I already know I can’t make her next two NYC shows, so this was such a big bonus that she was part of this celebration. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since Brian Killeen is part of her band. The other members of her band were all part of this show (independent of Emily), so it was preordained that she be there too.

EmilyZuzik

She opened with Want to Go Out Tonight, the first cut on her new CD, The Wild Joys of Living. Wonderful delivery of a fun, upbeat song. Emily has a great voice. Wes Hutchinson moved over to electric guitar (he too borrowed Mayo’s, making Emily’s two songs the only ones that Greg wasn’t on stage).

EmilyZuzikBrianKilleenWesHutchinson

For her second number, Emily performed a gutty version of Psycho Killer. Her voice was completely different, showing that she controls it, rather than the other way around. A total blast.

After the show, I introduced myself to Emily. She told me that she couldn’t hear herself sing. I assured her that it sounded awesome in the audience and I assure those of you who weren’t there as well. Smile

When you see the set list below, you’ll see that the next performer is listed as Me! If you’re not paying attention, the Me! is Brian Killeen. He actually wasn’t formally introduced as being the next lead performer. Instead, Josh Dion was brought up and began the song as if he were leading it.

This is the song that I previously noted Brian took over lead guitar duties on as well as singing lead. Josh did a bunch of lead singing on the song as well, so it was really co-leads. Brian did a terrific job.

BrianKilleenSingingElectricGuitar

Josh killed it on both of his numbers. The second was an original called Feel. I might be one of the few people in the audience who hadn’t heard it before. Even though Josh plays a lot, it’s interesting to me that he’s also a legend in this community for his previous band, The Josh Dion Band. I know a number of musicians who I respect who speak about Josh Dion Band shows in awe, claiming that to this day, they are still the best live shows they’ve seen.

JoshDion

Here’s a YouTube video of Josh performing Feel in 2007. He looks nothing like that now, but he sounds just as good, singing and playing the drums (and he’s excellent on the keyboards as well). Brian Killeen is in the video, as is Patrick Firth on the keyboards, so you’re getting some of the experience I had last night.

Josh Dion performing Feel

Robbie Gil was up to close the show. He sang two numbers, playing acoustic guitar on the first and just singing on the second. Saying just singing with regard to Robbie is probably a crime in 37 states. The man has a passion that will pull you onto to the stage with him and he certainly left us energized, even though it was after 1am.

RobbieGil

Don’t believe everything you read. The set list shows Robbie’s second song as Baba O’Riley. It was The Who’s Teenage Wasteland. Awesome! Smile Patrick Firth on the keys was spectacular as was Zach Jones on the drums (I introduce Zach below!). Robbie also wailed on the harmonica during this song.

PatrickFirthPiano

The Set List:

SetList

As I got up to leave, Martin Rivas returned to the stage and said that we couldn’t let it end this way. While we had sung a wishy washy Happy Birthday to Brian mid-set (I think when Wes was up), Martin wanted a more proper version. He, Robbie, Greg Mayo, Patrick Firth and Zach Jones sang an awesome rendition of Happy Birthday by The Beatles. Martin was right, a much more fitting way to end the night!

Don’t run away just yet. There were a few more core band members that deserve mentions, including two people we’d never seen before.

Ryan Vaughn performed much of the drumming for the night. He was superb throughout.

RyanVaughnSettingUp

Andy Stack played electric guitar during the first two songs (Greg Mayo’s numbers). He was really good. He was the primary lead guitarist on the first number when Greg was on keyboards. But in Born on the Bayou, he traded leads with Greg in classic Rock fashion (wonderfully) and they teamed up for simultaneous leads after the duel. I did mention up above that Greg got the crowd completely riled up during this song. Andy was part of the reason. Andy also sang harmony on both numbers.

AndyStackB

Zach Jones played drums for Greg Mayo, Robbie Gil, and I think one other, making it seven songs in total. He also played some percussion on another song. He sang into the mic on both of Greg’s songs, and mouthed a lot of the other lyrics. I was very impressed with his drumming. I’ll be seeing him again next week and I’m already looking forward to that show (for many other reasons as well).

ZachJones

The link from his name above is to a group he is in with Emily Long called The Stone Lonesome. They have an album out that Zach sings a bunch on as well and I am really impressed with his voice (listen to the second song, Bridge to Nowhere). I’m sure we’ll be hearing about him a lot and hopefully seeing him a lot as well.

We went to bed at 2am, certainly not something we want to get used to, but it was worth it (at least last night it was!). Smile

Martin Rivas and Robbie Gil at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Martin Rivas was bringing his current Saturday Night residency at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 to a close last night (he’ll be touring Europe much of the summer). That would be reason enough to go see him (the last full-band show in NYC until late August or early September). But I’ll give you a better reason (even though you’re too late to act on it if you weren’t there), it was Martin’s Birthday!

In typical Martin style (his heart is bigger than any three of us mere mortals combined), he threw a party for the rest of us, rather than the other way around!

MartinRivas

Martin performed a set full of his original crowd favorites plus a few covers. Let’s give him none of the credit for that though. One of his birthday surprises was the set list itself. Martin didn’t get to peek at it until nearly show time. His band decided what songs Martin would have to play. Extremely cool idea on their part, well executed by everyone (Martin included). Since they are big fans of Martin as well, they were effectively making this a fan-driven set list.

MartinRivasBirthdaySetList

They had another surprise for him, which affected the entire set as well. They got him stinkin’ drunk (on top shelf hooch) before the show. I’ve never seen Martin wasted before, since he always has a long drive home after the shows. He announced (with another drink in hand!) that this was the first Rockwood show that he was going to be driven home from. Since his wife was in the audience, I presume that she was his designated driver. Perhaps the band also chipped in for a Limo (I can fantasize on Martin’s behalf, can’t I?). Smile

Martin was in excellent voice (which was a relief, since he’s been sick recently).

MartinRivasSinging

His guitar play was spot on as well (including an extremely tasty lead on an acoustic guitar, late in the set). During one song he popped a string. He played through the rest of the song without missing a beat (I saw the string fly away from the guitar when it happened).

When the song was over, he bestowed the honor of restringing it to Greg Mayo. It turned into a little bit on stage though, as it was the G string that popped. If you’re not following me, and some of the ensuing guffaws in the audience, that’s fine, as this is a PG-13 rated blog. Winking smile

A minute later, Greg emerged from the green room and informed Martin that he couldn’t repair it. I think I heard him say that the peg (the part that holds the string on the body of the guitar) came flying out as well. They took a quick look in front of Martin, didn’t spot it, and Martin decided to play the rest of the set without a guitar (no worries, there were two guitarists on stage with him throughout).

Greg being the clever guy that he is would have none of that. He returned a minute later with Robbie Gil’s guitar (Robbie headlined the set before, which I’ll cover later in this post). The tasty lead I mentioned above was performed on Robbie’s guitar, so thanks Greg for thinking of that, and Robbie for being willing to part with it (it was unbelievably worn/scratched, so it has to be one of Robbie’s favorites).

Martin got the crowd singing a few times (only once by asking us to). Even when people weren’t singing out loud, I saw so many people mouthing every word that Martin was singing. Most of his sets are like that, but there was definitely a special feeling in the air last night (I wonder why…).

Martin always has The Spirit in him. Since last night he also had the Spirits in him, he did something we often wish more performers would do on behalf of their fans/audience. He tried (with mixed success) a number of times to quiet the inevitable talkers. For the most part, he did it in the most loving way imaginable (seriously, he simply appealed to the talkers to listen quietly for one special song, then resume their talk about Stock Portfolios and Second Homes in the Hamptons!). Smile

One particularly annoying woman in the far corner yelled out “Hey, it’s SATURDAY NIGHT” (at the top of her lungs). Martin had a different kind of spirited response for her. The cheers and applause let him know that he was speaking for all us (well, I guess most of us). Here’s a Twitter exchange from a few minutes ago (as I am writing this) between Tony Maceli and Martin:

@martinrivas do you recall asking a young lady at Rockwood to ‘be quiet’ in a very un-Martin like way, followed by rousing applause?

@whosthebass did I do that?! Awesome!!!!! Hope it wasn’t too rude

Ah, reliving that moment this morning was sweet. Thanks Tony and Martin for making that happen. Smile

One last incident before we get back to the music (actually, the amazing band and guest!). Someone (I’d give them credit if I knew who) brought a lot of cupcakes (fancy ones from what I saw) to celebrate Martin’s birthday. One was passed to Martin on stage and we all sang Happy Birthday to him. Well, we started to, in a rag-tag disarrayed fashion. Martin made us all stop and said:

If you’re going to do this, then at least do it right. Ready? 1… 2… 3…

MartinRivasCoordinatingHappyBirthdaySong

That’s all it took to get us all on the right page. Thanks for that as well Martin. But that’s not the incident, I needed to relate that part so that you’d know there were a lot of cupcakes in the room. Winking smile

MartinRivasHappyBirthdayCupcake

One moron (yes, I spent hours considering the exact right word to describe this person) thought it would be funny to toss a cupcake on the stage. Of course, it landed icing side down on top of the electronic keyboard (somehow finding the most damageable thing it could on stage). It took time and effort to clean it off before the next song could start. Well done moron (sorry, it deserved repeating).

The band was amazing musically, but they were also the driving force in lifting Martin’s spirit even higher than usual (who knew that was even possible?). In combination with Martin, they turned an awesome show in a giant party as well (who doesn’t like a party?).

Left-to-right on the stage, followed by a very special guest appearance:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. I’ve written about Patrick many times, but this was our third night in a row seeing him tickle the ivories brilliantly (each night with a different band!), so there’s a lot of ink about Patrick on the home page at the moment. It was his keyboards (the top one of the double-decker setup) that had the pleasure of hosting the upside-down cupcake.

PatrickFirthKeyboards

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. Ryan did a fantastic job (as he does whenever he sits in on Martin’s full-band shows) banging on everything in sight. Not only did he play his own toys (cowbells, tambourine, shakers, etc.), but a couple of times he got up and shared the drumming duties (two drummers playing the same drum set at the same time). Awesome! Ryan was the person who diligently cleaned Patrick’s keyboard after the cupcake fiasco.

RyanVaughnPercussion

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Chris shared the leads with the other guitarist, Greg Mayo. In addition to each being excellent in their own right, they feed off of and complement each other. I’ll have a bit more to say about Chris’ vocals in a minute. This was also the second time we’ve seen Chris this week. He was part of Ian Axel’s band on Tuesday and rocked out that night as well.

ChrisKuffnerGuitarLeadChrisJuffnerSinging

Craig Meyer on drums. Craig is always superb on the drums. Last night was no exception. In fact, if it’s possible, he rose to the occasion of wanting/needing to make this night a bit more special. After all, he’s Martin’s Baby Brother (if you haven’t been to one of Martin’s show, don’t bother looking up which one of them changed their last name, it’s Martin’s homage to how much he loves and respects Craig as a person and as his primary drumming partner!). This was our second time seeing Craig at Rockwood 2 this week.

CraigMeyerDrumsCraigMeyerTambourine

Brian Killeen on electric bass and vocals. Another excellent performance by Brian. As with Patrick Firth, this was our third consecutive night enjoying Brian’s play (they were in the same bands each night).

BrianKilleen

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. Since we saw Greg headlining a set that ended just 22 hours before Martin hit the stage, I’ll point you to that post to read my thoughts on this extraordinary musician. For the people at my table last night (you know who you are!), the looks we exchanged every time Greg took a lead will remain etched in my memory forever! I’ll have something to add when I cover Robbie Gil, since Greg (along with Patrick Firth and Ryan Vaughn) also played in that set.

GregMayoJamming

There weren’t any really slow songs last night, so it’s not surprising that this band kept such a steady level of energy that had practically everyone in the crowd swaying, dancing, bobbing, tapping, clapping, etc., throughout every song. The possible exception was the woman that Martin needed to slap down (sorry, I couldn’t resist one last cheap shot).

Bess Rogers was called up as a special guest. This is the song where Martin pleaded with people to be quiet (before his exchange with the woman, he was speaking to a different set of women at the bar). Martin knew why quiet would be necessary for the full enjoyment of what we were about to experience (we had no clue, or at least I didn’t).

Martin started singing, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar, with Chris Kuffner  playing the electric, softly. Both Bess and Chris sang soft harmonies, not even that often. I admit (why do I always bare my soul here?) that I wondered for a second why Martin bothered to call Bess up. It seemed like he was wasting an opportunity to share her talent with the crowd.

Then the moment came. Both Martin and Chris stopped playing their guitars. Martin, Bess and Chris continued a capella in stunning three-part harmony. It was so breath-taking, even the talkers stopped (like seeing the burning bush, even non-believers have to at least wonder). Suddenly, Bess’ role in celebrating Martin’s birthday became crystal clear. Thanks!

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBessRogers

Bess and Martin are touring together (I assume with Chris as well). Folks, even if they just play this one three-minute song and leave the stage, get out to see them if/when they hit your town. With a little luck, they might stick around and dazzle you a bit more than that. Winking smile

At one point late in the show, Seth Faulk jumped on stage to join in the percussion merriment. A little later, Adam Christgau followed his lead and turned the merriment into a bit more percussion mayhem. Smile

GregMayoSethFaulkAdamChristgauClapping

Martin closed out the show with North. Such a soulful song to underscore the evening. He brought out a dancer (Whitney G-Bowley of GIG) to add a visual dimension to the song.

ChrisKuffnerMartinRivasWhitneyG-Bowley

When I say “closed the show”, of course, I mean pre-encore. For the encore, Martin brought out two additional special guests, Robbie Gil and Casey Shea (who was headlining the next set). Along with the full band, they performed Stand By Me, which included having the crowd sing the chorus (with them and separately!) a number of times. The party atmosphere was at its height!

What a spectacular way to end the show (rather than close the show). Winking smile

Since we were there for the set before Martin’s, I had time during the break between them to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, find and introduce myself to Christina Morelli. While she’s talented in many ways, I came to discover her through her passion for covering and promoting the NYC Art Scene. Subscribe there and follow her on Twitter.

Aside from her own excellent writing, she gives a voice, platform and exposure to many talented NYC-based artists. She also does interesting video interviews in collaboration with the effervescent Sam Teichman (whom you can also follow on Twitter). Want to know why you should follow Sam on Twitter? Consider this tweet from last night (sent during Martin’s set!):

Music is my religion. Rockwood Music Hall is my favorite place of worship. @martinrivas can be my spiritual leader anytime. So inspiring.

On to Robbie Gil! We’ve only seen Robbie perform one song, as a guest at a Big Apple Singers show. He was excellent. In fact, the song he led that night was the highlight of the set for me. Here’s an out-of-context quote from that post (but you can read the entire thing to really understand what I was saying):

Robbie kicked off another The Band song but insisted that each of the other band members sing at least one verse (that’s the song that Chris took a lead on). Robbie’s voice was wonderful as was his spirit on the stage. It’s the one exception I noted above to nearing the feeling I had on Wednesday.

We’ve missed Robbie Gil’s full sets three times now. The first one (mentioned in the above-linked post) was simply because I chose to see Derek James perform next door (and I’m choosing to see Derek James again this Wed, 8pm, Rockwood 1). The next two times I tried to see Robbie, the place was so crowded that the bouncer wouldn’t let me in. One of those nights was bitterly cold (and windy to boot), but I stood outside and suffered so that I could at least enjoy Martin’s set (they often follow each other). How could I not keep trying to see someone who was obviously so popular?

Well, I guess I have to thank New Yorkers need (or is it just desire?) to escape the city on holiday weekends. Third time’s the charm, as we got in to see Robbie. It was a large crowd, but not at capacity, like it was in my previous attempts.

Robbie is a soulful, gravelly-voiced singer (which is why he killed it when singing The Band song with The Big Apple Singers) that seems to drain every ounce of energy in his body on every song. Miraculously, he has some secret recharging source that gets him ready for the next song in the few seconds he has between them.

He played both grand piano (which he opened the show with) and acoustic guitar, very well. He also sang a bit without an instrument (but always with the band, with one exception I’ll note below).

RobbieGilPiano

Robbie performed a number of originals, mixed with covers, all well. Given the amount of passion he puts into every note, it’s sometimes hard to hear the words clearly, so I don’t have enough of a sense of him as a lyricist yet (with the same exception noted above).

What comes across most is his joy on stage, which he spreads like a warm blanket on a cold day over the audience. Pairing his sets with Martin’s is brilliant, both for the genre similarities (that will make an audience for one happily stick around for the other) and for the spiritual well-being projecting from the stage from each of them.

Robbie was accompanied by a full band on nearly every number. Three of the four band members played with Martin as well: Patrick Firth, Ryan Vaughn and Greg Mayo.

Patrick Firth played both electronic keyboards and grand piano (the grand piano was lifted off the stage for Martin’s set). As good as Patrick is on the electronic keyboards, I am even more taken by his play on the grand piano (it’s simply purer).

RobbieGilPatrickFirth

While singing one number, Robbie Gil stepped over to the far left corner of the stage and started playing four-handed piano with Patrick (he remained standing while playing!). We’ve seen this before (The Paper Raincoat’s Right Angles comes to mind), but with no disrespect to other piano players, this was the best I can recall. Awesome!

RobbieGilPatrickFirthBothPlayingPiano

Ryan Vaughn played the full drum set. I’ve heard nothing but praise for his drumming from so many people, but previous to this set I’ve only seen him play percussion to Craig Meyer’s drums. I can now confirm that those rumors of his skill were not exaggerated. He’s a wonderful drummer! Sorry about the red eye in the photo.

RyanVaughnDrums

I don’t have anything new to say about Greg Mayo’s guitar play (it was equally awesome in both sets), other than to note that he took much longer leads during Robbie’s set, partially because he wasn’t sharing the duties with Chris Kuffner.

GregMayoLeadGuitar

I’ll note two critical things:

  1. Robbie kneeled down a number of times when Greg was taking a solo, so that people on the opposite side of the stage could enjoy it visually as well as aurally. This was precisely the same type of classy move I praised Evan Watson for (in the same post linked above where we first saw Robbie sing!).RobbieGilKneeling
  2. Robbie heaped so much praise on Greg (repeatedly), that I felt certain he was actively campaigning for my position as President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club. BACK OFF ROBBIE, the job is taken! Winking smile

Lois ended up sitting right next to Robbie’s dad. Toward the end of the set Robbie gave him a shout out and the crowd enthusiastically gave him an ovation.

RobbieGilWithHisDadLookingOn

Nick Morrison on electric bass (the only additional band member, but I can’t find a good link to him). Very well done! Now I can finally get to the exception. Robbie dismissed all but Nick from the stage. He took to the piano and sang a new original number named I Believe. Nick accompanied him quietly and beautifully on the bass. Since it was a quiet song, we could hear the words clearly. Both Lois and I thought it was a really good song, so hearing more of his material is warranted.

NickMorrison

Robbie called up Martin Rivas to close his set and they sang Feeling Alright by Dave Mason. Of course, as with Martin’s Stand By Me, the crowd joined in for much of the song, included a few choruses of just the audience singing.

RobbieGilMartinRivasNickMorrison

Lois has a way of bending the universe to her will (if you know her, you know I’m not exaggerating!). The night before, when we were at Greg Mayo’s midnight set, Lois whispered to me “Ask Greg to play anything by Dave Mason!” (that’s the gospel truth!). I said: “While he’s doing covers tonight, they’re not requests, we’ll have to take whatever he gives us!”.

Obviously, Lois wasn’t satisfied with my answer, so she took matters into her own hands and found a way to force Robbie to satisfy her desire to hear a Dave Mason song performed live. Be afraid people, be very afraid… Winking smile

What an absolutely spectacular night.

We had fully intended to stay for Casey Shea next, since so many people have told me I need to get to know his music. We did hear the first three songs (all good!), but we left for two reasons: 1) His set started 75 minutes later than expected (I was ready to collapse rather than get wound even tighter) and 2) The volume doubled the minute they started, to an uncomfortable level. We’ll catch a set of Casey’s soon enough, I’m sure.

Martin Rivas and Greg Mayo Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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There was an all-star triple-header lineup at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. Robbie Gil at 9pm, Martin Rivas at 10pm and the Greg Mayo Band at 11pm. I was committed to seeing Martin and Greg, but I was really looking forward to catching Robbie’s set as well. The best laid plans… I’ll end the post with why/how I missed Robbie’s set (again).

Lois didn’t make the show (see why at the bottom). All complaints about photo quality go to me, but I was also further away, so there was little I could do. As you’ll see below, tons of people on stage, some were basically out of view for much of the show.

As is typical for a big lineup Saturday at Rockwood, three things could be counted on:

  • Capacity crowd (great on most levels, crappy on a few)
  • Sets starting late (due to setup time and fans insisting on longer sets than scheduled)
  • Awesome music

Martin Rivas had a full(er) band. He opened the show with seven people on stage, but after three (or four?) numbers, he brought out a horn section as well, bringing the number of people on stage to 10. That was a new record for the number of people on stage at the same time at Rockwood for a show that I was at. Later on, Martin had two separate guests join, setting the new record at 11.

MartinRivasChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBrassSection

This was a typical Martin Rivas show:

  • Incredible energy from every band member
  • Incredible energy from every audience member
  • Lots of Soul, Funk and Rock, sprinkled with other stuff
  • Generosity from Martin, giving solos to (nearly) every band member (no bass solo)
  • Freshly baked cookies passed around the audience (Lois, no worries, amazingly, the cookies never passed me, so I didn’t have to show any restraint!) Winking smile
  • Pins passed around the audience (Sam Teichman made sure I got one, but he did not make sure I got a cookie, or Lois secretly got to him and he made sure I didn’t!)
  • Spirits lifted

Given how many people played across these two sets, I’ll get right to it, left-to-right, front-to-back on the stage, supporting Martin:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. They lifted the grand piano off the stage (one of the cool sights at Rockwood 2). Patrick was his usual excellent self, including a few great solos.

PatrickFirth

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Another fantastic performance from an all-around star. I’ll have a couple more things to say about Chris when I get to the other guitarist, Greg Mayo.

ChrisKuffner

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. If you can bang it or shake it, Ryan was doing it.

RyanVaughn

Craig Meyer on drums. Craig is always wonderful. We saw him a week ago supporting Rachel Platten. The difference in styles (including the drum kit itself) between that type of performance and last night is dramatic. Craig handles it all. He was such an integral part of the upbeat sound keeping everything hopping. (No photo, sorry!)

John Liotta on the baritone sax. Excellent. He was more prominent in the next set, but held his own in this one.

JohnLiotta

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Wayne was terrific. He took a couple of solos, including one where he played a few notes staccato at very high speed for a few bars, very tasty, adding to the funk sounds beautifully.

WayneTucker

From my vantage point, it appeared to me that Wayne’s right cheek was bruised with a shiner the likes of which I hadn’t seen for a very long time. Every time he puffed his cheek to play, I winced on his behalf. You’ll have to stick around (or skip ahead) to the next set to find out how wrong I was. Smile

WayneTuckerShiner

Dan Voss on tenor sax. This was our first time seeing Dan play. He was excellent. One of the people I was standing with told me that he’s a real pro. I have no reason to doubt that from last night’s performance!

DanVoss

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Another extremely solid performance from Brian. Martin’s full band sound requires a very solid bottom to keep things going and Brian and Craig are well matched to deliver.

BrianKilleenBassBrianKilleen

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. I can’t get enough of Greg’s guitar play and last night was no exception. Every time he stops his leads, I wait impatiently for the next one. He and Chris Kuffner trade off the leads, each with their own excellent style. On a few numbers (most notably the closer), they took independent simultaneous leads (very different from each other). It was mind-blowingly satisfying.

GregMayoGuitar1GregMayoGuitar2

Chrissi Poland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Chrissi has such a wonderful and powerful voice and is so well-suited to soul music. Their duets are a real crowd favorite. When she was on stage, there were 11 performers. Since the record is for shows I attend, I am the sole arbiter (and counter) of who holds the record. Martin actually looked at me and asked if this was the record. Indeed it was. Smile

ChrissiPolandBrassSection

Rebecca Haviland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Like Chrissi, Rebecca has a very big voice, also suited to soul (among many other genres). She was great (as she always is). The record stood at 11, since Chrissi and Rebecca were not on stage at the same time.

MartinRivasRebeccaHavilandMartinRivasChrisKuffnerRebeccaHaviland

Martin had a number of family members in the audience, including his sister and aunt. His aunt might be his biggest fan. She kept flying out of her seat, singing, clapping over her head, screaming and dancing. You’d think she was a teen with the energy she displayed.

When the set was over it was difficult to stand in place. People were coming and going, pushing and shoving (not in a mean way, it was necessary simply to get through the crowd). The person I was standing with spotted two people leaving their seats 1/2 way across the club. She headed there to see if it was just temporary. Amazingly, when she got there, the seats were still available. It took me a while to work my way through (rather around) the crowd, but she held the seat for me. To quote her: “It’s nice to sit!”. Amen! Smile

The Greg Mayo Band is a relatively recent discovery for us, but they made our favorites list instantly, so we were really looking forward to this set. To remove any mystery, they remain high on our favorites list.

The core band consists of eight members. Last night, Greg had a few special guests, one of whom played on every song making the minimum number of people on stage nine.

The similarities with the prior set are the basic style of music (Greg’s band concentrates on Funk and Soul, with some good old fashioned Rock as well). The differences aren’t huge, but they’re noticeable and material. Martin’s sets are very guitar heavy (three of them on the stage at all times) and Greg’s set is very piano centric (they brought the grand piano back down for Greg to play and he played electronic keyboards as well).

The other difference is that Martin rarely has a horn section and Greg always does. The horns were a wonderful addition to Martin’s set, but they are extremely integral to Greg’s sound, much more highlighted with more and longer solos. Finally, Greg has a full-time female voice to sing harmony with, while Martin’s regular vocalists are male.

This show was billed as a Valentine’s Day extravaganza, which will become important in a minute.

Let’s cover the band, again left-to-right, front-to-back.

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. I have a single complaint about Rebecca’s role in the Greg May Band: give us more Rebecca! She does sing some lead, but not enough. She and Greg sing so beautifully together, but there too she takes a back seat and doesn’t sing as much harmony with Greg as I’d like.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

The above is meant to compliment Rebecca. Greg has a wonderful voice and I can listen to him sing alone all night. Together is better, it’s that simple. Smile

Erik White on tambourine (and mic-less vocals!). Erik was a special guest. He was the original guitarist in the Greg May Band. He projected energy on stage throughout the show, singing with Greg even though he didn’t have a mic (except for one song when the brass section walked off the stage and Rebecca shared her mic with Erik). He played some seriously good tambourine. He wasn’t just a prop.

ErikWhite

John Liotta on baritone sax. Highlighted a bit more in Greg’s set, John did a wonderful job.

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Another excellent job. Since we moved to seats that were behind the piano, I had a very different vantage point on what I had thought was a terrible shiner on Wayne’s right cheek. It turns out it was a large red heart (looked like it was drawn in red lipstick). Made sense with the Valentine’s Day theme, but I missed it during Martin’s set. I was glad Wayne wasn’t injured after all. Winking smile

WayneTuckerHeart

Matt Simons on tenor sax. Matt is another incredible musician. We just saw him perform a few days earlier in VA, playing electronic keyboards and singing. Last night, he was master of the sax (I love his play!). Come to Rockwood 2 this Saturday night (2/19/2011) at 11pm for a 90-minute set which Matt is headlining (with guest, Chris Ayer). It’s a longer set than usual, so that we can all celebrate Matt’s birthday at midnight. Smile

MattSimons

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny keeps up perfectly with the upbeat tempos of the Greg Mayo Band. Well suited to this style of music.

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass (and probably some vocals, but I only caught a few glimpses of Chris). Chris is one of our favorite bassists. He too played in the same VA show that Matt did a few days ago, but that night he played upright bass. We’ll see him again this Wednesday when he plays with Ian Axel for his CD Release Show. Another performance that is perfectly suited to this band and coupled tightly with Kenny Shaw’s drumming. (Horrible photo, sorry!)

ChrisAnderson

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Paul did a very nice job, taking a well-known lead on one of the covers. He also sang well. The Greg Mayo band doesn’t highlight the guitar that much so I look forward to catching Paul in one of his other projects (most notably Julius C).

PaulMaddison

The above was the core band last night. Greg brought up another special guest very early in the show.

Matt Abatelli on tenor sax. Matt was a founding member of the band but doesn’t appear to play with them regularly any longer. Matt Simons stepped off the stage to make way for Matt Abatelli (apparently, you have to be named Matt in order to qualify to play the tenor sax in this band!). Winking smile (No photo, sorry!)

Given his stature with the band, Greg chose a song to highlight Matt right from the get-go. Matt (Abitelli) didn’t disappoint. He wailed on the sax and I look forward to catching him again in a longer set.

Greg’s birthday was 6 weeks ago. You can only imagine his surprise when Rebecca announced that the band bought him a special gift, albeit a little late. She asked us all to sing Happy Birthday to Greg (which we did) and asked Greg to open the gift and show it to us. It was a bag of custom guitar picks. On one side, it said “Greg Mayo”. On the other, “How you doin’ y’all?”. Perfect! Smile

GregMayoBeerGregMayoBirthdayGift

After a very satisfying set, Greg announced that if we made enough noise after his next (and last) number, they would do an encore to give a proper sendoff to two of the musicians who played the earlier set. You shouldn’t have to ask whether there was enough cheering to keep them on stage.

Both Patrick Firth and Ryan Vaughn are leaving shortly for an extended tour to Russia, supporting John Forte. Greg wanted to give them a proper sendoff.

He called both of them on the stage. Ryan took control of the full drum set. Kenny Shaw moved over to play percussion (exactly what Ryan did the set before). Patrick just took to a microphone to sing (lead and harmony). If that was it, that would have just tied the record for 11 people on stage at the same time.

PatrickFirthVocals

Records are meant to be broken, even if they were set just an hour earlier. Greg also called up Martin Rivas to sing and Matt Abatelli on the sax (this time, Matt Simons stayed on stage!). Uh oh, that smashed Martin’s record with 13 people on stage! Well, technically, there were only 12 people on stage, because Paul Maddison played the entire song standing on his amp! Yes, it was that jam packed on the stage and he’s that much of a rock star. Winking smile

Martin looked over to me and said “Oh well, at least I held the record for a bit…”. Indeed, he ousted Alex Berger before being ousted himself.

Earlier, Sam Teichman told me that during the second Soul Revue Benefit (which we missed because we were out of town), they had either 13 or 14 people on stage at the same time (he’s going to send me a video to prove it). I don’t doubt him, but this record doesn’t count if I’m not there, so, nice try Sam! Smile

Here is Greg’s set list:

GregMayoSetList

Circling back to why I missed Robbie Gil, again…

Four of us had an absolutely incredible meal at The Green Table in the Chelsea Market. Organic food that was delectable, served by people who we enjoyed interacting with.

OrganicBeefOrganicRoastChickenCrabCakes

Lois wasn’t feeling too well even before dinner, but it was early enough for her to push herself. After the meal, she grabbed a cab home. Two of us got into a car and headed east to Rockwood. Cross-town traffic was slow so it took a bit longer to get there than expected. Then we circled a few times looking for a non-existent spot. Eventually, the driver forced me out of the car so I could get in line for Martin’s show (Robbie’s was a distant memory).

I waited outside for over 30 minutes (yes, it was very cold). Robbie’s set was packed to the gills (no pun intended) and it appeared from the outside that they were tearing the house down. I am determined to catch his set one of these days, sooner rather than later.

When the show was over, a little after 1am, there were a dozen people looking for a cab, with none available. I eventually walked over a mile and while waiting for the bus (for quite a while) finally caught a cab the rest of the way home. I walked in the apartment at 2:10am. Yippee. I loved the entire evening/night (with the exception of the 30 minutes waiting in the cold), but I’m too old to be acting like a kid.

Big Apple Singers at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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I started the first of four posts tonight (this being the 4th and final one) with a question as to whether this night would turn out to be as epic as I expected. If you read posts #2 and #3, you’ll know that there were enough frustrations to make that highly unlikely.

That said, there was the promise that this final set would put the night over the top. After all, it was a similar setup to The Narwhals who completely blew me away just a few nights earlier. If you only want to hear glowing things about these musicians, read that post and stop now!

The two main people in The Narwhals are Josh Dion and Greg Mayo, both extraordinary musicians (multi-instrumentalists and vocalists). Both are equally highlighted in The Big Apple Singers (TBAS). In this configuration, Josh moves from the keyboards to the drums and Greg moves from guitar to the keyboards.

Another main person (likely the leader of TBAS) is Evan Watson on the electric guitar and vocals. Rounding out the group is one of our favorite bassists (and people), Chris Anderson.

GregMayoChrisAnderson

A disclaimer is necessary, for people who don’t regularly read my blog. I write this blog for 1.5 reasons. The main reason is simply to document the things we do that we want to remember for as long as we live. We know memories are fleeting (in the sense of accuracy). The minor one is to promote the musicians that we have fallen in love with, but that’s really secondary.

The few negative things I have to say about last night’s set are for me to remember how I felt, not to knock people who have more talent in their pinkie than I have in my whole body. Also, I might be the only person in the overwhelmingly crowded Rockwood Music Hall stage 2 that felt this way. The joint was jumping and everyone there appeared to be enjoying one of the best sets they’d ever seen (including the friends we were there with!).

So, how could the same basic set of people that thrilled me on Wednesday, just have me enjoying myself a few nights later.

First, everything was so loud (probably to compensate for the huge crowd) that it was all a bit fuzzy. Of course I could make out all the leads, but they were drowned out by the other instruments that were wailing along rather than subtly accompanying the leads. On Wed, due to the blizzard keeping the audience smaller, everything was a more reasonable volume and the clarity of every note was outstanding.

Second, while The Narwhals played a set of only covers, TBAS played both covers and originals. Some of the originals had excellent musicianship, but were hardly stellar songs (IMO). There was also one direct comparison. Both groups played The Shape I’m In by The Band (TBAS opened with it). TBAS did it well, The Narwhals were awesome. I guess that set the tone for me early on and TBAS never overcame it for me (with one notable exception).

Left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Mayo on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Wonderful on everything.

GregMayoKeyboards

Evan Watson on electric guitar and vocals. Evan is a very good guitarist, but a little too heavy handed for my taste. It’s possible that it was this particular show or set list. I’m already planning on catching him with his other band, The Headless Horesemen, on February 17th, so I’ll get a second look. He has a very good voice and classic hard-rock theatrics.

EvanWatsonEvanWatsonChrisAnderson

Josh Dion on drums and vocals. Awesome on the drums, great vocals. He took one very long drum solo. When he was done, Evan challenged him to crank it up. He did. The second solo was dramatically faster than the first. I still don’t know how his arms didn’t fly off. That said, just like my comment about Vinnie Sperrazza from Wednesday, Josh is even better in his drumming on every single song than his solos.

JoshDion

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. In the past, we’ve only heard Chris sing harmony, mostly when he’s playing with Ian Axel. Last night, during one song, Chris took an entire verse himself. He was great and the audience let him know it.

ChrisAndersonSinging

Robbie Gil was brought up as a special guest singer for one song. Robbie performed the set before TBAS and Josh Dion and Greg Mayo played in his band. I was sorry to miss that set (and will correct that as soon as possible), but we were next door at stage 1 seeing Derek James.

RobbieGilSinging

Robbie kicked off another The Band song but insisted that each of the other band members sing at least one verse (that’s the song that Chris took a lead on). Robbie’s voice was wonderful as was his spirit on the stage. It’s the one exception I noted above to nearing the feeling I had on Wednesday.

Another thing that we rarely see, which we applaud, was Evan Watson squatting (Chris as well) whenever Josh Dion was singing lead. How rare to get a peek at the drummer, tucked way in the far corner at Rockwood 2. A wonderful touch.

JoshDionSingingEvanWatsonSquatting

When they were done, even though they had passed their allotted time, people wanted more (remember, nearly every person there appeared to me to have loved every single second of the set!). After getting permission (which seemed to take longer than usual), the band reconfigured themselves.

Josh Dion took the keyboards, Greg Mayo the guitar and Evan Watson the drums. They did a Josh Dion original. Very nice and a little twist to end the evening.

JoshDionPianoGregMayoGuitarEvanWatsonDrums