Rockwood Music Hall

Jeff Litman with Joe Brent at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jeff Litman headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s one of the few things that could get us to brave the crazy streets in NYC yesterday.

JeffLitman

Jeff recently released a new CD, Outside, and we sadly missed the Release Show due to an unmovable trip. We then missed an acoustic set, so we weren’t going to miss this one. We bought Outside the day it went up for sale at Bandcamp. Stream it for yourself and buy it if you like it. His previous CD, Postscript is fantastic as well.

We’ve seen Jeff perform three full sets before, all with a full band setup. We’ve also seen him perform a number of benefits plus a Backscratch. So, seeing him play a 100% acoustic set was going to be a change of pace.

The test came right away. Jeff opened the show with my favorite song of his, Maine. Let me digress and define what I consider to be a perfect song. If I can put a song on 24×7 repeat, for a year, and honestly not beg for mercy to hear something else, then it’s a perfect song, even if it’s not technically perfect in all respects. Maine is a perfect song. Got it?

I’ll have to defer for another minute before telling you how I liked this version of Maine (and the rest of the set), because that would require me to introduce Jeff’s special guest, a drop earlier than I’m ready to. I have a few more words to say about Jeff.

He’s a smart songwriter (lyrics and melodies) and he sings with a rockers passion. He’s an excellent guitarist (and bassist as well, which is how I discovered him). He takes care to put out really well-produced, excellent albums.

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All of that came across in the acoustic set as well, but it’s an entirely different feel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, independent of my love of many of the songs or Jeff, because I’m also a lover of acoustic guitar-playing singer/songwriters. Still, I think Jeff’s bigger strength is delivering a fuller sound, so buy the CDs and come to a full band show if it will be your first Jeff Litman Experience.

JeffLitmanSinging

OK, now that I’ve praised Jeff (just enough), let’s get on to what gave this set it’s real character.

Joe Brent played mandolin, violin and sang harmony. I’m embarrassed to admit (publicly) that I never heard of Joe before. Not just because he’s reasonably famous. Not just because he’s local and extraordinarily talented. Mostly because he has been reasonably active in playing with a number of people who I do pay attention to, and somehow, I’ve still never heard his name, so apparently I’ve missed some pretty cool shows. Sad smile

JoeBrentMandolin

I listed the mandolin first, for two reasons. Joe played significantly more mandolin than violin and he also lists only the mandolin in his bio/title on his site. But, on Maine, he opened the show on the violin.

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One of the (many) aspects that makes Maine a perfect song is the fast, crisp, tasty guitar leads that are sprinkled throughout. Yesterday, those guitar leads were replaced by the violin, beautifully. I listened again this morning, and there are definitely strings on the CD (or at least one violin), but they are not playing the part that Joe played yesterday.

So, even though the song was way more mellow than on the CD, the violin gave it the truly authentic sound that differentiated it from a purely acoustic guitar version if Jeff had performed solo. I think Joe only played the violin on one additional number (two, max). He was exceptional on it, so he either doesn’t list it because he’s modest, or because it’s his secret weapon. Winking smile

JeffLitmanJoeBrentViolin

On every other number, Joe played his signature mandolin. He’s amazing, but don’t take my word for it. If you visit his site (linked to his name), there’s a YouTube clip that starts playing immediately (something I typically disdain) and the first tidbit is from Joe’s EP, a mandolin piece that will have your head reeling.

JeffLitmanJoeBrentMandolin

Joe also sang a reasonable amount of harmony, quite well. It wasn’t what we would have gotten if Maddy Wyatt was there (unfortunately for us, but fortunately for her, she was at SXSW), but it was well done nonetheless.

Speaking of Maddy Wyatt, Jeff has another perfect song on the new CD: What Hasn’t Happened Yet. Maddy sings on that, but she also plays a gorgeous flute lead. Joe replaced that flute lead with the mandolin (unless I’m misremembering now, and that was perhaps the other violin song).

Suffice it to say that Joe spiced up the set nicely.

When it was over, Lois bought two T-Shirts from Jeff’s friend Melissa, who was selling merch for him. I got the navy blue one and she got the white one. You too can be just like us and own one of these T-Shirts. They’re available for purchase at the same Bandcamp site linked to above for the Outside CD.

MelissaJeffLitmanJeffLitmanT-Shirts

We also had the pleasure of sharing the experience with a few of our friends:

KevinKellySamTeichmanHadar

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Derek James at Rockwood Music Hall

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Derek James headlined Rockwood Music Hall at midnight last night.

DerekJamesSinging

Q: When you’re his self-anointed #1 fan, and he’s listed at midnight, and you would do whatever you can to see him perform, what drastic action do you take?

A: Nap!

Yes, good plan, I did indeed nap yesterday afternoon and it paid off big-time. It was so crowded at Rockwood that I had to stand for the entire set (somewhat rare nowadays, especially for a midnight set). That turned out to be a blessing. I wasn’t falling asleep, and I couldn’t stop moving to the rhythms anyway.

The set was perfect! I’d be thrilled to have that exact set repeated (on demand) any time I could. Any further description will detract from the actual experience, though I’m going to do it, if only for my own memory (I’ll know how much better it was than your interpretation of my words). Winking smile

I’ve seen Derek quite a number of times, across a multitude of lineups, acoustic and electrified. Not all combinations of The Lovely Fools (the generic name for Derek’s band) work as well as others. I honestly thought that the original (at least original from when I discovered Derek), Roy Gurel and Assaf Spector would not be topped.

The most recent iteration (which I think is Derek’s default, go-to band), came really close. Close enough for me to honestly stop pining for Roy and Assie to return. There was one change in that band last night, due to the bass player, Mike Tuccillo, being on the road supporting Jenny Owen Youngs. I am thoroughly happy with Mike’s play (supporting Jenny as well as Derek), but I admit, I was even happier with the replacement.

Derek was great on the guitar and his vocals were crystal clear. I’ve complained a time or two that at Rockwood 1, sometimes Derek’s vocals get washed out a bit. His energy was high, which was important, because it would have been difficult to satisfy the anticipation and enthusiasm in the room if he wasn’t totally on.

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Derek was supported by an extraordinary band, left-to-right on stage:

Jerry Fuentes on electric guitar and vocals. I’ve just recently written about an excellent performance by Jerry of his own music (which you can support at his PledgeMusic page). Jerry is a fabulous guitar player, and Derek’s music highlights it just the right amount. Jerry also sings a bunch of harmony with Derek, wonderfully!

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and light vocals. Chris substituted for Mike. As many bassists as I see and like, there’s little doubt that we see Chris more often than any other. In fact, we just saw him earlier that evening supporting Burlap to Cashmere, a group we discovered only because we’ll go see anyone Chris is playing with!

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So, if Derek had called me to suggest someone to fill in for Mike, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say Chris. Derek didn’t call Sad smile but he made the right decision anyway! Smile Chris was fantastic! Like with Jerry, Derek’s music highlights the bass player dramatically. Assaf was so good at this particular role that I was afraid anyone else would be a letdown. Chris did not let me down.

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Jamie Alegre on drums (again, no good individual link). If you believe me that Derek’s music brings out the best in a guitarist and a bassist, then you better believe me that the drummer is critical to the sound. Jamie’s beats were rocking the crowd throughout.

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When the set was over, the lights were off and the band was already unplugging. The last thing they were expecting, or looking for, was an encore. The crowd had a different notion entirely. They were chanting one more song, repeatedly. The sound engineer (Drew) gave Derek the go-ahead, and they plugged back in. Derek said that this would be a crazy number and everyone better dance.

DrewTheSoundEngineer

Well, I can’t say that everyone danced, because I know all I did was sway. But, I can attest that a few people started dancing seriously (and vigorously) right near me, and that turned into a full blown conga line. Rockwood 1 is tiny to begin with, and it was so crowded you had to be careful not to hit your neighbor if you took a deep breath. And yet, somehow, a reasonably long conga line made a couple of back-and-forths in there. It was a thing to behold.

Dancing

Most of the staff at Rockwood (both rooms) are wonderful people. Good at what they do, but nice and interesting as well. At the very top of that heap is the person who served us the very first time we set foot in Rockwood, back in 2009!

Christina Shipp is an actress as well as an efficient contortionist, working her way through the Rockwood crowd to serve drinks, pick up the empties, pass around the tip jar and generally make the entire experience more pleasant for everyone in the room. It may sound silly, but Lois and I look forward to seeing her as much as we do seeing whatever artist we are showing up for. After all, we’ve had a three-year relationship with Christina. Smile

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Bed at 2am last night, but no worries, the nap saved the day (or night as the case may be!).

Here’s the set list (encore not included):

SetList

Here are a few of our friends hanging out with us outside of Rockwood, waiting for Derek’s set to begin:

KevinSamTeichmanTerry

Man, next to Rebecca Haviland, my head is a giant melon:

RebeccaHavilandHadar

Paula Valstein at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Paula Valstein headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. I’ve been wanting to see a full set of Paula’s for a while now. The fact that she was on right after the amazing Burlap to Cashmere meant that I would already be there and didn’t have to leave my seat.

I’ve seen Paula do a couple of numbers, at two different benefit concerts. The first was back in January 2010 at the Haiti Benefit show. The second was three months ago at the Holiday Benefit #5 show. Both times, Paula impressed, albeit briefly.

PaulaValsteinSinging

Paula has a fantastic voice and plays the piano extremely well. Last night she also played the electric guitar on one number, very nicely. I liked every one of the songs, which ranged from Pop to Rock, with Jazz tinges here and there. So, she’s a good songwriter too. In other words, Paula’s one talented lady.

PaulaValsteinPiano

Given my seat for the previous set, I had the misfortune of staring at her back for all but the song when she played the guitar (nice tattoo by the way) Winking smile. It didn’t affect what I heard (thankfully). Lois had a better angle, which is why you can even see Paula’s face. Smile

PaulaValsteinGuitar

I didn’t know what to expect (other than I knew about her voice and piano skills). What I found out is that Paul has a regular band, of very talented musicians, helping create a big sound that has a high energy level throughout the set.

Her guitarist was out sick. In addition to the rest of her band, she had one special guest, who I’ll mention after listing the band members.

I’ve complained in the past when an artist makes it hard to find their band members’ names. That complaint is valid to me when they have a regular band. In this case, let me do the opposite and praise Paula. She has a separate page that names each band member and has a photo of them as well. It’s named THE BAND. Thank you Paula. I admit that I would have had to spend considerable time tracking down the spelling of some of the names I thought I heard on stage last night!

Left-to-right on stage:

Ben Antelis on vocals and tambourine. Ben’s site lists him as a drummer, among other skills. Last night he sang a ton of harmony, perfectly. I sometimes hesitate to say sweetly when I’m writing about a guy, but I always mean it as a high compliment, so I’ll say it here. Ben sang harmony sweetly! His tambourine play was really good too, not surprising for a drummer/percussionist.

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Aaron Comess on drums. Aaron was excellent on the drums (more on that when I get to the guest). I admit to not recognizing the name, but when I visited his site now to get the link, I was quite impressed with his accomplishments, including being a founding member of Spin Doctors!

AaronComess

Daniel Ori on electric bass. Daniel was also excellent throughout the set. Clearly, talented musicians like to play with talented musicians, and Paul is one, and has gathered like-minded and like-talented people around her.

DanielOri

Michael Feigenbaum was a special guest. He provided great beat-boxing on one number. Toward the end of the song, he started a long-running duel with Aaron on drums. Michael would beat-box some rhythm, then turn and point to Aaron, who would wail on a drum solo, then back to Michael, etc. At first, the solos were on the longer side, showing each person’s individual talent. Each one got shorter, turning it more into a call-and-answer duel, with Michael belting out some short beat, expecting Aaron to mimic him. Extremely cool and very well done!

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I very much enjoyed the entire set and look forward to catching Paula again, perhaps from a better angle next time. Winking smile

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Burlap to Cashmere at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Burlap to Cashmere headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. We only discovered them exactly one week earlier, when they played the Next Charity Concert Series at Paulies in Pleasantville, NY.

BurlapToCashmere

Since that was my first time seeing them, it doesn’t make sense to repeat everything I said so recently, so if you don’t know them, please read last week’s post.

We were extremely excited to get a second helping of Burlap to Cashmere (B2C) so soon. There were some differences (as there usually are), and I’ll mention those. First, just a quick recap of the players, one of whom accounted for one of the differences.

Steven Delopoulos on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. In the last post I noted that his voice is very special. Last night it hit me, on many songs, there’s a Van Morrison quality to it that just hits my ears perfectly.

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John Philippidis on acoustic guitar and harmony. Another outstanding performance on both the guitar (he’s crazy good) and excellent vocals. That said, given our specific seats, right up at the stage but as far left as can be (I was actually looking at the keyboards from behind them!), John’s guitar was the only instrument that was severely under-mic’ed. It might have sounded loud and proud elsewhere in Rockwood, but not at my seat.

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On the other hand, we were just a few feet from him, and the neck of the guitar was in full view throughout (before the show, I was worried that we might be staring at his back), so I was easily able to match up the weak volume of the guitar with his flying fingers, enhancing the sound in my head. Smile

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Theodore Pagano on drums. Another stellar performance.

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Chris Anderson on electric and upright bass and background vocals. Even though I couldn’t see Chris from my seat, I could hear every single bass note on both the electric and the upright. Outstanding! Lois had an occasional view and also got up to get some photos of Chris.

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Todd Caldwell on electronic keyboards and background vocals. Todd has been the regular keyboard player for B2C for the past year and half. We didn’t get to see him last week because he was rehearsing for an upcoming tour with Crosby, Stills and Nash. He was back in the saddle last night, and all of one foot away from me. He was fantastic, as he’s been every time we’ve seen him supporting Rebecca Haviland. He’s more familiar and intimate with the B2C material and I found his performance to be an upgrade from the previous week.

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So, in recapping the players, I highlighted the two most significant differences: 1) Johnny’s guitar was way too low volume for me (and it’s one of the biggest highlights of a B2C set) and 2) Todd Caldwell was a wonderful upgrade to the entire set.

In general, the sound at Paulies was way better. That night the system was brought in by BNK Productions. I noted that it was a system built for a larger place than Paulies, but they didn’t blast us out, so the sound engineer knew what he was doing. They were kind enough to comment on the post (about The Callen Sisters, who opened for B2C that night), so I now know who they are.

It’s quite possible (even probable) that it was purely my vantage point that caused the sound dropoff. On the other hand, I could hear the bass and keyboards perfectly, every note, so I just don’t know.

Another difference was that we got to bring our godchildren along. When I posted last week, I heard from both of our goddaughters that they were each big fans of B2C before their long hiatus. It was fun to take one of them, with her husband, to see B2C all these years later. A few notes into one of the songs, before any of the vocals came on, she leaned over to me and said “That’s the title track from their first album, Anybody Out There”. Indeed, she was correct. Smile

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Finally, this was a shorter set than the week before. Rockwood 2 had an unusual lineup of back-to-back ticketed one-hour sets. Amazingly, they accomplished the turnover more cleanly than I would have guessed, but largely because the band that was on before B2C seemed to play an exceptionally short set (unless they started much earlier than the listed time).

I really enjoyed seeing B2C again, and sharing the experience with our godchildren, but given the guitar sound issues, and our particular vantage point (not seeing Chris at all, for example), made the set less magical than the week before. No matter, the next time they play anywhere that I can get to, you can bet we’ll be there!

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The set list was identical to last week, except that songs #1 and #10 are struck through, because of the shorter set. I wouldn’t swear that they got through 11 songs either, but this is the best I can do. Smile

SetList

Jesse Ruben at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Jesse Ruben headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. It’s been seven months since we’ve seen Jesse perform. The last time was also at Stage 2, covered here.

JesseRubenGuitar

The last show included a full band. Last night was (nearly) 100% solo. I was surprised, as Rockwood 2 tends to feature bigger sounds (many exceptions) and the one solo set that I saw of Jesse’s was at Rockwood 1.

Surprise aside, Jesse was great and the entire set was a joy to listen to. It’s nice to know that I won’t spend a second in the future thinking about whether to attend one of Jesse’s shows based on whether he’s solo or complemented by a band. Smile

Jesse opened the show with a comment that reflected the sentiment that he tweeted earlier in the day:

Jesse Ruben ? @jesseruben

twitter makes me forget that there are in fact other things happening on earth besides sxsw.

Amen brother. When you follow as many musicians as I do, your timeline blows up during the week of SXSW. In fact, since I follow a bunch of tech people too, the problem is even larger.

Jesse declared this set to be the Anti-SXSW show. Well, I would have accepted that, except that the single most important piece of information that I’ve gleaned from the billions of SXSW tweets is that there are more beards in Austin at the moment than there are in all other cities in the world, combined.

Jesse was sporting quite the beard himself last night. If he truly intended this to be the Anti-SXSW show, he should have shaved. Winking smile

The point of telling you all that (aside from having an excuse to praise Jesse’s beard) was to highlight Jesse’s stage presence, something I’ve written about glowingly twice before. He’s warm, funny, quick, without overdoing any of it. It flows and works.

So, I already told you that Jesse was great. In a few words, all of which are repetition from past posts, the reasons are:

  • He’s an excellent songwriter
  • He sings beautifully (at times really quietly, at times with intense emotion and volume)
  • He plays the guitar beautifully (most of the time rhythm, occasionally wonderful finger-picking)
  • He keeps the audience laughing (and thinking) between songs

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In addition to playing a string of his hits (his word, delivered with sarcastic humility, though they should be hits), he invited one guest up to join him for a cover of Don’t Think Twice by Bob Dylan.

Alexis Babini joined Jesse and played the harmonica between verses. During each chorus, he looked like he was going to sing harmony as well, but he stayed just far enough away from the mic for that not have really happened from my perspective. That’s the only reason I added “(nearly)” when describing the show as 100% solo.

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There was a really nice crowd at Rockwood, so not every music lover ran to Austin this week. We’re very glad that we were part of it as well.

After the show, Lois asked Jesse for his set list. In fact, she just wanted to take a photo and return it to him. Before she could explain that, he ripped the page out of an actual book that he had written the set list in. The page ripped at the top left corner. Lois tried to paste a blank piece of paper in and fill in the missing piece of the first song title, but it came out worse/unreadable (in my opinion). The first song was Unbreakable, an absolutely fantastic song.

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Bryan Dunn Sweetheart of the Music Hall

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Bryan Dunn is releasing a new CD on April 6th, 2012. He’s performing a CD Release Show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 7pm. I’ll be there, you should be too.

It’s rare that I review CDs (before or after they are released). Mostly because I’m not a trained music critic/theoretician, nor a musician either. When I read reviews, they’re usually covering things I wouldn’t think to say, nor would I necessarily feel comfortable saying them even if I thought of it. Winking smile

So why bother reviewing this as-yet-unreleased CD? Because it’s worth it! Last Thursday we saw Jesse Terry play a show at Rockwood. Bryan happened to be in the audience and happened to bring a CD to give to Jesse. When Lois asked him whether he had some more on him, he did one and we bought it.

The last two lines of the post about Jesse’s show were:

Lois already listened to the CD and was blown away. I’ll be getting to it over the weekend.

Now that I’ve listened to it five times, I concur. End of review. Winking smile

Well, perhaps I could be coaxed to say a few more words…

The overall umbrella genre/feel of the CD is straight up Rock. By that, I mean no artificial DJ-like sounds to show off techno-wizardry, just excellent musicians making music.

That said, there is quite a variety of rock styles across the songs, including Classic Rock, Country Rock, Jazz/Swing Rock and perhaps a hint of Bluesy Rock thrown in to fool you. A couple of the songs could easily be in America’s Country Countdown, in my opinion.

All of that is actually secondary though, seriously. What separates Bryan from the pack are his (apparently) effortless lyrical masterpieces (song after song).

The lyrics are simultaneously sophisticated and simple. Huh? What I really mean are they are sophisticated but simultaneously accessible. Big words aren’t used to impress (and force us to look them up), they’re words that are more unexpected that paint a vivid image.

Since Lois and I are drawn to great lyricists, we know a lot of them. One problem that occasionally arises is that the songwriter will fall in love with a phrase, but can’t quite fit it in smoothly with the current melody and beat. The truly greats rework one or the other to make everything feel so natural that you wonder what came first, the lyrics or music. It’s like a marriage made in heaven.

If you couldn’t tell from the above paragraph, Bryan is in the latter category. The lyrics are so perfectly intertwined with the music that you can easily listen to every word while still getting completely lost in the music. Nothing jars you out of the trance with a phrasing that clearly doesn’t fit, no matter how clever it is.

I hesitate to pull out any specific lyrics. First, songs are contextual. Second, as specifically noted above, these lyrics are delivered married to the music (not that they aren’t also poetic in the stand-alone sense). Still, I’ll do it (under protest). This is the last verse in the song 3 Years On:

I have murdered minutes
But still there’s so much precious time to kill
The boy that she left waiting
I do believe he’s waiting for her still
I wrote her a letter on a stone
I don’t think I’m ever coming home

I’ve murdered minutes too…

One of the advantages of buying a physical CD is getting the liner notes (when an artist bothers to include them). We have all of the lyrics written out and Lois listened over and over with the lyrics in her hands and she continued to interrupt me while I was writing about Jesse, to tell me this line or that line that kept getting to her. Now I understand.

I’ll wrap up by saying that this CD was produced by Chris Cubeta. I only saw Chris perform for the first time last Wed night, but I’ve heard about what a great producer he is for a while (specifically with regard to the upcoming The Vanity Belles CD), and now I hear his work first hand.

For example, on Marlene, which has a lot of Swing elements to it, the use of the clarinet (Hideaki Aomori) fits perfectly. On other numbers he employs a trumpet or accordion (Michael Leonhart and JP Schlegelmilch respectively).

OK, I’m drifting into the territory that makes me uncomfortable, so I’ll just stop here. Come to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 7pm on April 6th and judge for yourself. Bryan will have physical CDs for sale there, so you can then experience what we’ve been enjoying for the past five days! Smile

Jesse Terry at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jesse Terry headlined Rockwood Music Hall last night. Amazingly, it’s been just over seven months since we’ve seen Jesse perform. I was sick the last time he played Rockwood. Sad smile

JesseTerryGuitar

Since that time, Jesse has completed a new CD called Empty Seat on a Plane. It’s not officially released yet, but we have a digital copy, because we were smart enough to contribute to his successful PledgeMusic campaign (if you want the goodies early, you gotta help get them made!). According to Twitter, Jesse is in his car as I type, driving in NJ, to pick up the physical copies of the CD, so we’re getting closer.

In the eight previous times that we’ve seen Jesse, all but one have basically been solo shows (occasionally having someone sing harmony with him). He’s never disappointed as a solo artist, because his voice is fantastic (very pure) and he accompanies himself beautifully on the acoustic guitar (I particularly love his finger picking).

The exception occurred last time, when he paired up with Greg Mayo who accompanied him on both the piano and acoustic guitar for most of Jesse’s set at The Bitter End.

This time, Jesse had a core trio, adding percussion. He also had a guest vocalist on two numbers. While I will be very happy to see him solo any time, it’s clear that Jesse has created a very nice blend with this trio (perhaps inspired by recording the new CD with many studio musicians). The most important thing to note is that Jesse has remained 100% true to his personal sound. The trio supports and enhances him (subtly), it doesn’t change the core beauty of his music.

Jesse performed songs off the new CD, some off his debut CD (The Runner) and one of our favorites, Natural (which he finger-picked, solo). Jesse is a superb songwriter, but there are many great songwriters who will never write a song as good as Natural. Jesse has another one that’s in that league, Noise. I expect more of that caliber from him, since he continues to write at a furious pace.

The other members of the trio, left-to-right:

Jeremy Goldsmith on acoustic guitar and harmony. We just discovered Jeremy the night before, at the Full Vinyl mega-show next door at Rockwood 2. That night, Jeremy was on electric guitar. It turns out he’s equally good on the acoustic. He complemented Jesse with sweet leads throughout the set, and even harmonized on the guitar with some of Jesse vocals!

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Jeremy also sang some harmony, absolutely beautifully. More would have been just fine as well. Smile

James Williams on cajon and percussion. On his Facebook page, he lists his name as James Dwntwn Williams. Extremely impressive play on the cajon, shakers, tambourines (plural, he even switched between two of them in the middle of a song), bells strapped to his ankle, etc.

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He had something that looked like a giant firecracker on stage. I don’t think he used it. At least I’m still here to tell the tale, if he did… Winking smile

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There were a couple of hysterical impromptu moments between James and the guest singer, and James and Jesse. It would lose everything in translation, so I’ll leave it there. Basically, one of the reasons to go to live shows is to experience these types of moments. You laugh hard and naturally, and it cleanses many of the ills of being human.

Michele Riganese sang harmony on two numbers. Wonderful voice that blended with Jesse perfectly. She is a singer/songwriter on her own and plays around town, so we’ll likely get to see her perform her own material in the not-too-distant future.

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Here’s the set list. Jesse noted that he rarely has one, and I believe him. He seemed to get uncomfortable having to stick to it, so don’t rely on this as the gospel order of what was played. Winking smile

SetList

Jesse’s back at Rockwood 1 on April 19th, at 6pm. Come on down and discover him for yourself. It turns out that both Jeremy and James are touring that week, so it will be a complete surprise to see who Jesse taps to join him that night. Whoever it is, I’m excited to hear them, because I know it will be special. Smile

You might think the following photo is of Jesse’s younger sister. You’d be wrong, it’s his mom!

Patty

Bryan Dunn was in the audience and we got to buy his new (still unreleased) CD. His CD Release show is at Rockwood 2, 7pm on April 6th. We’ll be there. Lois already listened to the CD and was blown away. I’ll be getting to it over the weekend.

HadarBryanDunn

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

Jerry Fuentes and Derek James at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jerry Fuentes headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall. We’ve seen Jerry headline only once, over a year ago, so this was a show I’ve been looking forward to for a while.

Jerry’s finalizing a new CD as I type this. In fact, if you agree with me that Jerry’s talent should be shared with a wider audience, you can help by pledging on his PledgeMusic campaign.

What’s Jerry’s secret sauce? Amazing guitar player, excellent voice, unreal energy on stage, catchy songs. Not bad, right?

Jerry played the entire set (or rather the part that I was able to attend, more on that below) on an acoustic guitar. This was the first time I’ve seen him handle one, and it was putty in his hands. Not all lead electric guitarists can make similar magic happen on an acoustic, Jerry can.

JerryFuentes

He played songs from his upcoming CD. I’ve already pledged, so I’m tapping my fingers waiting for it to arrive.

I mentioned above that I’ve only seen Jerry headline once. That doesn’t mean that I’ve only seen him play once. He’s been the lead guitarist for another favorite of mine twice, each time delivering the goods.

Derek James is that person, and Jerry returned the favor by inviting Derek to join him, turning it into a duo show, but still Jerry’s songs.

DerekJames

Derek sang harmony (wonderfully), played the guitar (12-string acoustic) and a synth. I overheard someone in the audience saying the synth was preloaded with Chad Vaccarino’s voice, and only because I heard that, did I believe it to be true when Derek played it. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me.

DerekJamesSetup

I’m Derek James’ self-anointed #1 fan (whether he, or any of his other fans like it!), so it’s always a special treat to go to someone else’s show and get a taste of Derek in the process.

As much as I was enjoying the set, I had posted on the event page in advance that I wouldn’t be able to stay until the end. That’s because there was a blow-out show next door that I wanted to attend. Given the nature of the show, missing a single song meant missing one local superstar or another (and I wouldn’t know who in advance). To make matters worse, Jerry’s set started 30 minutes late.

I still got four full songs in (all excellent) before I got the text that the show next door had begun (thanks to my unpaid spy).

The super extra good news? Jerry and Derek came next door after their set and sang the lead on one of the songs in the blow-out show, with Jerry back on electric guitar. Jerry also accompanied others on the electric on a few additional numbers. Sweet!

John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall

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John Schmitt headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. We used to see John frequently. I knew it’s been a while (with a couple of near misses recently), but I was actually shocked when I looked it up and saw that it was seven months ago. That’s just crazy talk. Glad to have corrected that.

Let’s the get the important stuff out of the way first. Either someone stole John Schmitt’s beard, and a sizable portion of his girth, or we actually saw an impersonator last night (a pretty darn good one if so). Now we can get on with more mundane things, like the music…

JohnSchmitt

Since it’s been so long, let’s recap the three things that the real John Schmitt has in spades:

  • Great voice
  • Fantastic songwriter
  • Excellent guitar player

(that’s how I was able to judge the potential impersonator, since he possessed two of those qualities. Clearly, if he was stealing John’s songs, I don’t know if he himself is a good songwriter.) Winking smile

There were a number of firsts (for us) in last night’s set:

John introduced his brand new banjitar (that’s a six-string banjo, tuned like a guitar, that sounds like a banjo). It’s a great idea. Lots of excellent guitar players don’t have the time or inclination to study the banjo, but have a few songs that might benefit from that sound. That’s exactly what John did, to perfection.

John birthed two songs publicly (first live performance). Both songs were great. We look forward to hearing them more often and embedding them in our brains like we have the rest of his set list.

John played a solo cover of Cat Stevens’ How Can I Tell You. Wow! He was choked up introducing the song, because he’s currently in a long-distance relationship and singing this song is all too close to home.

John had a full band plus one guest. I knew it would be a full band show, but I admit to being surprised to see two of the members, as in super-delighted-happy surprised. Left-to-right on stage, followed by the guest:

Matt Simons on grand piano, electronic keyboards, and harmony. Surprise #1. We love Matt and we’ll be back at Rockwood on March 31st to see him perform his own stuff, but I didn’t know he’d be supporting John. In addition to being wonderful on the keys (as always), Matt sang a bunch of harmony with John, in particular on Going Back, since Lissa Farquhar (John’s regular singing partner) was very ill and couldn’t make it.

MattSimons

Quick commercial break (someone has to pay the bills here!). Winking smile

Matt just finished recording a new CD in Nashville. He told me last night that it won’t be available until June. But, in the meantime, he’s sharing bits of it with the world. On his Birthday, he tweeted the following:

Matt Simons ? @matt_simons

As promised, here’s some reverse birthday love! It’s link to download a free song from my new album! Hope you enjoy it!noisetrade.com/mattsimons

If I heard him correctly, next week he’ll be doing the same thing with a second song. I’ve already seen a few musicians tweet that they’ve heard the new CD and are in love with it. I can’t confirm or deny whether I’ve had a sneak peek at it, but if I did, I’m sure it’s fantastic. If I didn’t, then I completely trust the folks that said the same thing. Smile

MattSimonsJohnSchmitt

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Brian was surprise #2, also an awesome one. Even though Brian (one of our favorite bassists) played with John the last time we saw him, that too was a fill in job for John’s regular bass player, Pasquale Chieffalo. Brian was great at that last show, but he was even better last night. Buttery smooth and constantly laying down sophisticated bass lines throughout.

BrianKilleen

Mike Sutton on drums (still can’t find a good individual link). Mike is John’s regular drummer and he’s done a great job at every show that we’ve seen him play. Clearly, he knows John’s music cold and it shows.

MikeSutton

Scott Tofte came up to sing harmony and shake some shakers on two numbers. Beautiful job. He had to consult the lyrics on his iPhone, because he joined John for one of the brand new songs.

ScottTofteScottTofteShakersJohnSmittBanjitar

Here’s the set list:

SetList

I couldn’t stop laughing throughout 7 Drunken Nights.

Lots of familiar faces in the audience, which Lois couldn’t help but document for our memories (and now yours). Smile

JohnSchmittChadVaccarinoLinaIanAxelLeivParton