Ryan Vaughn

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.

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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).

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

Chris Ayer at The Living Room

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Topping off an extraordinary night of music was one of our favorites, Chris Ayer. For those of you who are new here, you might require proof that Chris is one of our favorites. Luckily, I can provide that.

Two weeks ago we hosted our first house concert. We wanted a solo, guitar slinging singer/songwriter. Without hesitation, both Lois and I agreed that we should approach Chris first. He said yes, and this was the result. Lois and I share a lot of musical taste in common, but we differ a bunch as well, especially at the extremes. So, agreeing on Chris so easily tells you everything you need to know about how we feel about him.

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Back to last night. We had gotten delicious doses of Chris during both Matt Simons’ and Sierra Noble’s sets. You can read about those sets here and here respectively. You can also get a flavor of the band that supported all three sets.

Let’s start with the traditional photos of Chris’ set list, first from our perspective, then his. The twist is that this time, we’ll throw in a bonus of a bit of his guitar as well (no extra charge!):

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He kicked the set off solo, starting with two very new songs. Great start. Both were good, new material feeds the brain, old (great) material feeds the soul/heart.

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Then Chris brought the band up. A quick rundown (probably repetitious for the stauncher readers out there):

Chris Anderson on electric and upright bass plus vocals. Chris switched back to electric for most of the set, but threw in some upright to keep me on my toes, making Sierra’s set the only one that he exclusively played the upright on.

Ryan Vaughn on drums. Once again, superb.

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. Since I can never say enough good things about Greg, I feel badly (for me!) to make this one so short. Here goes: he was his usual (awesome) self.

Matt Simons on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and heavy vocals. As I mentioned in the post about Matt, when Chris and Matt sing together, it’s magic, no matter whose song it is or which one is singing lead. No exception on Chris’ set, Matt was perfect.

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Here’s a group shot (where Matt was out of the picture).

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After a couple of songs with the band, Chris brought up Sierra Noble to sing harmony and play some violin. He gave the band (excluding Matt) a break. When Sierra and Matt sang three-part harmony with Chris, everything got cranked up another level (which only made me mad that Chris clearly was holding something back on the earlier stuff!). Winking smile

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Sierra remained on stage when the band returned.

If you know Chris Ayer’s music, then you know from the set list above what a great choice he made last night. He mixed it up with completely new stuff, great older stuff and very recent stuff. He mixed it up with solo, full band, three-part harmony (without the band), etc. If there’s anything in particular that is your favorite thing about Chris, you were sure to have at least a healthy dose of it last night. If you’re like us and love it all, it was a buffet.

In what has become a bit of a tradition at Chris’ shows, he ended the evening with a descent into the crowd to perform Roy G Biv. As he did the last time he played The Living Room, the entire band descended with him. Well, they all did except for Ryan Vaughn who remained at the drums.

Chris (and everyone else) would have none of that. Since the most critical thing Ryan would be playing during Roy G Biv is the cowbell (look up the lyrics if you don’t know why), they teased him about the fact that cowbells are notoriously portable. He didn’t protest too much. He too came into the audience with a few percussion goodies in hand.

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Once Ryan was in, the party could begin. Chris actually kept turning (slowly) in a full 360, to make sure everyone got serenaded head on.

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The rest might be a bit hard to pick out, but here’s one shot that has Sierra in the background and Greg Mayo playing guitar. The highlight of the picture are Matt Simon’s hands, leading the audience in keeping the beat by clapping.

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A fantastic, energetic end to one of our best nights out. From 8pm until nearly midnight, without a single disappointing song, surrounded by friends who enjoyed it every bit as much as we did. It doesn’t get much better than this, but I promise, we’ll keep trying to disprove that! Smile

Sierra Noble at The Living Room

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In what is obviously becoming a regular occurrence, we discover new musicians in the following cycle: 1) they perform side-person duties with someone we regularly see, 2) we see some mini-set where they headline a portion, 3) we see them perform a full set of their own, falling madly in love with them directly.

Sierra Noble fits that cycle perfectly, but amazingly, I was indifferent after that first side-person performance (nothing negative). Then we saw her at Backscratch 13. Here’s what I wrote about Sierra that night:

Sierra Noble on vocals, acoustic guitar and violin. We’ve seen Sierra Noble backing up both Rachel Platten and Martin Rivas (back-to-back sets on the same night). I am aware of how much her fellow musicians respect and love her, but that night, while she did a fine job, I didn’t see the light. Last night, headlining the three-song set, I got it. She has an incredible voice. She writes beautiful songs.

Ha! I thought I got it, seriously, I really thought so. Last night, she hit me over the head with a sledgehammer (in the nicest way that one human being can do that to another). Here’s the point: at Backscratch, I realized she wrote beautiful songs. Last night (and now, listening to her CDs) I realize that she’s a phenomenal songwriter, consistently. In other words, she doesn’t just write beautiful songs, they pour out of her!

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At the same time, she has a great voice and style. I don’t feel that it’s necessary to compare any artist to another, but on the other hand, it’s sometimes helpful to get people interested in listening to someone new if they have a frame of reference. For me, Sierra’s voice evokes a mixture of Alison Krauss and Ruth Moody (of The Wailin’ Jennys).

The fact that Sierra and Alison both play fiddle has nothing to do with my comparison, it’s more about their voices. The fact that Sierra and Ruth both hail from Winnipeg may have more to do with the water they drink up there (the three days a year that it isn’t frozen). Winking smile

Sierra played acoustic guitar and the violin/fiddle on most songs and sang without instruments, backed by a full band on the remaining songs.

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Sierra was backed by the same band that played with Matt Simons the set before and with Chris Ayer the next set. I’ll just mention them briefly here, then continue with a few more of the highlights of Sierra’s set.

Left-to-right on the stage:

Chris Anderson on upright bass and light vocals. On the two earlier sets Chris played electric bass. He played the upright exclusively during this set. He’s masterful on both.

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Ryan Vaughn on drums. Excellent (again).

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Greg Mayo on acoustic and electric guitar and vocals. In my last post, I inadvertently said that Greg played both electric and acoustic (already corrected). He didn’t play acoustic during Matt’s set, but did play both on Sierra’s. On the acoustic he did some heavy finger picking (always a treat to see Greg perform varied styles!).

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Sierra also highlighted Greg on the song Bring an Angel, which they co-wrote.

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Sierra brought up Chris Ayer for two songs. The first was her amazing song Human After All, co-written with Michael Logen. We’ve seen Michael perform it twice (both times solo) and now Sierra perform it twice (both times with a male harmonizer). It’s a great song performed both ways, but give me a choice, and I’ll take the harmony every time. Make it Sierra and Chris and my heart will skip a few beats as well. Martin Rivas did an amazing job when he sang it with Sierra at Backscratch 13!

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The second song that Chris sang with Sierra was a song they co-wrote (recently) called Keep it With You. Wonderful, both the song and their performance. Chris added the acoustic guitar during this number.

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In keeping with the title Human After All, Sierra honored a friend and mentor who passed away three years ago today, July 3rd, 2008. She introduced the song saying that in most shows, she plays an upbeat fiddle medley. Instead, in memory of her friend, she would play a song he wrote for her.

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Oliver Schroer sounds like an extraordinary person (and a great musician as well). Sierra performed the instrumental, True Hearts Waltz. I’m impressed that she got through it. Clearly, this was an emotional undertaking for her. Our connection with Sierra grew immeasurably at that moment.

I started the above by relating it to Human After All. That’s what we are folks, whether we like it or not. All too often, we forget loved ones when they’re gone. Perhaps worse (though only on a few levels) is when we don’t have gratitude and love in our heart for people that help and inspire us along the way (noone makes their way through life on their own).

Witnessing Sierra Noble honor Oliver, and much more importantly, do her part in keeping his legacy alive by sharing with it people who didn’t have the privilege of knowing him, made both Lois and me very happy. That Sierra can feel and articulate this kind of human understanding at the tender age of 21 (did I fail to mention her age before?!?!?) is simply extraordinary.

Whew, back to the set. Here is the set list, though I think she might have played an additional song or two after the ones listed here:

SetList

Sierra announced that she has an EP available for purchase at iTunes and that she’s working on a new full-length CD. Given a choice, I will always purchase from Amazon.com over iTunes. Thankfully, Sierra’s EP, Possibilities, is available on Amazon. Not only did I buy it (it’s incredible), but I also discovered that she has a full-length CD from 2005 (she was 15!). I bought that too, Spirit of the Strings. It too is gorgeous.

That wasn’t enough. When I visited Sierra’s Bandcamp Page, I saw that she had a smaller version of the Possibilities EP available for full streaming (and purchase). While it only has four songs vs Amazon’s six, there is a bonus track on Bandcamp that isn’t on the Amazon version. It’s a song she played last night: Coming Home to Say Goodbye (second song on the set list). I love the song, so I had to buy this one track separately as well.

OK, now you all go out and do what I did. Let’s make sure this youngster continues to make music for a very long time!

Matt Simons at The Living Room

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We’ve seen quite a bit of Matt Simons in the past few months, but they’ve all been in his exceptional role as sideman for a number of other artists who we follow. It’s been four months since we’ve seen him headline a set. Thankfully, that drought ended last night at The Living Room.

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Matt is a multi-instrumentalist with an excellent voice. When he headlines he always plays the keyboards (piano and electronic). I guess trying to sing and play the saxophone (he’s awesome) presents some logistical challenges (if anyone can solve that problem, I have faith in Matt). Winking smile

Matt opened the show solo with a powerful song (Miss You More) that had everyone stone silent. I laugh at my internal dialog at these kind of moments. I think “who needs a band at all?” Then the band joins, and I think “why ever play solo?”, etc. The real point is that both solo and with a band, Matt (and many others!) get it just right.

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Proving my point, right after Miss You More, Matt invited the band up. This is the same core band that played for the next two sets as well. Two of them played with Rebecca Haviland in an earlier set at Rockwood Music Hall (covered here). In other words, they played for the better part of four hours. Yeomen indeed!

I didn’t spy a set list, which indicates one of three things: 1) there wasn’t one, and Matt just winged it, 2) Matt had one on the piano and purposely hid it from me, or 3) it was written with invisible ink on invisible paper (again, probably to thwart me). Therefore, I can’t easily share with you the titles to all of his songs, though he played a number of them that I love.

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

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris also sang light backup vocals. Chris is one of our favorite bass players. Check out my previous post (linked above in “covered here”) for more on Chris, including his singing and songwriting chops.

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Ryan Vaughn on drums. I’ve been writing a lot about Ryan lately, as he’s been drumming more often with the people that we consistently go out to see. Our previous sightings always came when Ryan played percussion (not the drum kit) on Martin Rivas’ sets. Ryan is great and exhibited many different styles across the three consecutive sets last night.

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Greg Mayo on electric guitar and light vocals. I mentioned in the last post about my mind control abilities. On the first song that Greg appeared, he took a fantastic lead (I think he’s patented them, so if don’t want to go to jail, don’t try and copy them!). Before explaining the mind control aspect, I need to digress.

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Having true, committed fans, is one of the hallmarks of the music business. We (yes, we count ourselves as true, committed fans) will do an awful lot to support the musicians we love. Yesterday I tweeted an article that implores musicians to find a way to connect their fans with each other. Here’s a real-world example of the result of that advice.

We attended a fantastic house concert in VA hosted by Lindsie. That night featured Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino and Mike Campbell. We met Lindsie that night, due to our mutual love of Ian, Chad and Mike. Since then, Lindsie (being a true fan!) came up to see Ian Axel headline Bowery Ballroom and we hung out in front of the stage with her throughout the show. Last night, she came up again to catch these three consecutive sets and again, we sat together. Her friend Ashley (sp?) joined her this time.

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A number of last night’s artists were new to Lindsie, including Greg Mayo. Before Greg took the stage, I turned to Lindsie and told her that Greg is my favorite local guitar player and that she was about to have her mind blown. Finally, back on track, immediately after his lead in the first song, I turned toward Lindsie and rolled my eyes in disbelief at how quickly he proved me correct! Smile

But, while Greg was perfect in his support of Matt on the remaining songs, he didn’t take a real lead again (no complaints). Just as they started Matt’s last song of the set, that thought came to me front and center. Of course, given my mind control powers, Greg took another great lead. Damn. I should have remembered that I probably could have called up as many leads as I wanted throughout the set. Oh well, next time! Smile

Matt called up Chris Ayer to sing and play acoustic guitar a number of times (Chris headlined the 11pm set). The two of them sings so beautifully together, whether it’s Chris supporting Matt on his songs, or vice versa (as happened a bunch in the last set).

On one number, Matt came out from behind the piano and sang, with Chris accompanying him on vocals and acoustic guitar. Gorgeous!

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Matt called up Sierra Noble to sing harmony with Chris Ayer as well. That role has traditionally been filled by Morgan Holland. Since Morgan is returning to CA for a Master’s degree, she won’t be available to sing with Matt and Chris. While Sierra is a star in her own right (and therefore won’t be available often to sing with them), having her join them last night was a real treat.

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For the second to last song, both Chris and Sierra returned (after someone having to go out and find them!). This time Sierra added her violin to the mix!

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I’m a big fan of Matt and always enjoy his sets. But, I’ll definitively claim last night’s set to be the best we’ve seen so far, though doubtlessly it will be topped in the future!

Matt and Chris Ayer both leave tomorrow for a tour of the UK and Holland. Some of the dates/venues can be seen on Matt’s Facebook Page. You can also stream some of his songs there (or on MySpace linked at the top). But, to listen to Matt, I recommend you visit his Bandcamp page. There, you can hear a lot of his songs in their entirety, for free. Then you can buy all of them, or the ones you like best, etc. I love the model where you aren’t buying blind, or off an unrepresentative sample of the song.

Referring back to the “connect your fans” section above, a number of our friends were there last night (which is typical). Let me know if you prefer Kelly or Sam to wear the hat when their picture is taken. Winking smile

KellySamTeichmanKellySamTeichmanHat

Rachel

Martin Rivas Solo Campfire at Slane

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We’ve only been to one NYC Campfire before. That one was missing Martin Rivas, one of the co-founders of Campfire. Last night Martin was back hosting Campfire, this time at the original site of the Campfires, Slane (link is currently broken). Martin’s partner-in-music (crime?), Craig Meyer, was on the road and didn’t attend last night. It was the last Campfire until late August and we didn’t intend to miss it.

Campfire is held in a bar, so it’s not a traditional show. It’s mostly covers, though the artists will occasionally sneak in one of their originals (or as was the case last night, they might be forced to play some originals when someone requests it).

Martin kicked it off solo. It was our first time at Slane and I was impressed with the sound quality coming out of the portable PA/amp that Martin dragged out of the back room himself. Slane is a very nice bar.

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After Martin played a song of his choosing, he just started going in order in the audience asking people to pick songs. Ryan Vaughn sat closest to Martin and he chose first (a Police song). Ryan later joined Martin on percussion. I’ve seen Ryan a number of times, usually on percussion with Martin. Very recently, we saw Ryan on a full drum set twice, the first time supporting Robbie Gil and the second with John Schmitt.

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Last night, Ryan played the cajon (along with other percussive instruments like shakers and a tambourine). I am in love with cajons, and Ryan was masterful on his. I believe that someone (I know who, I’m just not naming them!) told me recently that Ryan was one of the first to play (and master) a cajon in the local scene and that he’s famous for it. Now I know why!

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Lois was second on the request parade. She chose Me and Julio, which Martin nailed (of course). It would have been my turn next, but Martin asked if it would be alright for him to play another Paul Simon song. You don’t think anyone objected, do you? Winking smile

While Martin was playing Me and Julio, Greg Mayo walked into Slane with a guitar case. Martin had tweeted that he might have a guest or two, but he didn’t name them. I was thrilled to be there just to see Martin, but how can the President of the Greg Mayo Fan Club (that’s me, in case you’re wondering) not be extra-thrilled that the object of the fan club was about to join the merriment?

By the middle of Me and Julio, Greg was set up and playing his patented awesome guitar leads. He was also singing harmony (fantastically) with Martin, but he wasn’t mic’ed. Thankfully, we were so close it was really easy to hear him.

GregMayoGuitar

It was finally my turn, and I noted that since we were in the Village, he should play at least one Dylan song. He said he’d have to break out the laptop for the lyrics. After the laptop was turned on, he proceeded to play an oldie that wasn’t even close to a Dylan song. I guess Martin was in the mood to tease me. After that, he did play a Dylan song, Positively 4th Street (great choice).

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But, in classic Martin style, he turned it into a full-blown Soul number. It was 100% recognizable, but only from the lyrics. Otherwise, you would have thought it could have been from the catalog of any of the top Soul/R&B groups of the 60’s! Nicely done.

The person sitting next to me chose Cecelia (it turns out it’s her middle name!), and of course, Martin (and Greg) obliged.

In the meantime, Slane kept filling up, both with people who specifically came for Campfire and with a typical bar crowd. I was impressed that the people at the bar seemed to be enjoying the performance as much as we who came specifically for it were.

Brian Killeen was one of the people who came in that wave. He sat down to enjoy the music, but a few songs in, he was coaxed to come up and play the electric bass. It was at the same time that Ryan Vaughn jumped in on percussion. Greg took a break and joined the audience.

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Brian was fantastic, with a number of long leads on the bass. He also sang “I’m gonna add some bottom, so that the dancers just won’t hide” during Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music”.

If you need proof that our deceased loved ones can directly affect our world, in order to reach out and let us know they’re watching over us, here you go…

Brian had a margarita. I missed it, but somehow, it got spilled. After successfully soaking his shirt, the rest landed on the floor in front of the band. Lauren (I only know her first name) sprang into action, got a towel from the bar and cleaned it up lickity split. In the meantime, Brian got up and asked Greg Mayo to take over the bass duties for the next song.

GregMayoBass

Just as Greg took over the electric bass, someone (I actually think it was the same Lauren who took care of the cleanup on aisle 3) requested Sara Smile by Hall and Oates. Now for the proof part: Bob Mayo, Greg’s dad (sadly taken from us way too early!), toured for roughly 10 years with Hall and Oates!

A drink gets spilled, causing a change of bass players, followed by a request for a song by a band that the replacement bass player’s dad toured with? Coincidence? I think not. Smile

Martin passed the mic to Greg who sang a few verses. He hit the high notes perfectly (more thrills and more evidence!). Smile This was my first time seeing Greg on the electric bass. Can you believe that even though it has two fewer strings, and they’re way thicker, that he’s still as buttery smooth and his sensibilities are just as awesome as his guitar play? I knew you wouldn’t argue with me on that.

I think Brian took the bass back on the very next number. Final piece of evidence. Smile

It was Lois’ turn again. She picked Into the Mystic by Van Morrison. Martin complied, wonderfully! Rachel, who sat across the table from me, was intending to request Sara Smile when it was her turn, but she was scooped by Lauren. Then she was going to request Moondance by Van Morrison. She told Iris both of those before they were called out, so she had a witness. All that proves is that we in the audience have similar (wonderful) taste in music. I guess that explains why we all like to hang out at these shows together.

A few songs later (nearly two hours in), Martin announced that they would take a short break, then play one more short set. At first we intended to stay, but a few minutes into the break and our eyes were getting droopy (it was 11:05pm). We called it a night.

On our way out, I spotted two of my favorite people coming in, Brian Collazo and Jason Vargas of Live Society. I bet they sang a bit with Martin after we left. That’s a little soul-crushing for me (get the double-entendre?), but the sleep was so welcome (we slept later than we have in a very long time), so missing them (assuming they sang) was a price that had to be paid.

Martin is opening one of the biggest concerts of the year in NYC tonight (7pm, River to River show). Unfortunately, we’ll be missing that. Then he’s off for a concert tour in the UK and Europe the very next day! Knock ‘em dead Martin, we know you (Chrissi Poland and Alex Berger) will indeed do so!

John Schmitt at Rockwood Music Hall

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Even though it’s only been a few weeks since we last saw John Schmitt perform (May 13th at The Living Room), we were really looking forward to this show last night. The set at The Living Room was excellent, which is reason enough to want more. But Rockwood Music Hall is also more intimate which in itself was a draw.

John delivered a completely satisfying experience (to high expectations!). He had a few surprises for us as well (another great reason to go see your favorite artists often).

JohnSchmittSinging

You can read a number of my posts about John. Here are the key facts that you’ll learn:

  • he has a wonderful voice
  • he plays guitar wonderfully
  • he writes exceptional songs (OK, I should have said wonderful songs, to stick with the theme) Winking smile
  • he has many talented musical buddies (both genders), who are only too happy to make music with him

All of those were in play last night, including John selecting an excellent set list.

JohnSchmittGuitar

He played two songs solo, at least two with one female guest (two different women, we’ll get to them shortly) and the rest with a full band (which also had a surprise guest).

First, the band:

Pasquale Chieffalo on electric bass. John joked on stage that I would have to work extra-hard to figure out the correct spelling of Pasquale’s name. He was right, but he was also wrong, because I gave up pretty quickly and just shot John a message and he gave it to me, so I cheated. Winking smile Last night, I quipped back that I would just describe Pasquale as “The tall bass player”. Man, he is tall. Smile

PasqualeChieffalo

None of that is important, of course. The fact that Pasquale played really well and was at exactly the right volume is all that mattered. He played the bass on John’s CD, Ophelia, which we love.

One of the songs that John played solo was called “Me and the Chief”. He claims that it’s about his grandfather, but now that I see how to spell Pasquale’s last name, I’m less convinced. Winking smile

Ryan Vaughn on drums. I just praised Ryan’s drumming last week when he played with Robbie Gil. That was a louder, more upbeat set, and required a different kind of drumming. Obviously, Ryan handled the switch in styles last night extremely well (he’s one of the top NY-based drummers). Also the right volume (I mention it as a contrast to the drummer the set before, who was good, but too loud).

RyanVaughn

Matt Simons was a special guest on two songs, playing the saxophone! I pretty much like everything Matt Simons does, but from the first time I ever saw him play sax with the Greg Mayo Band, I knew that my softest spot for him would likely come whenever he broke out the sax. It was a complete surprise to see him play it with John.

MattSimonsSaxophone

John was very generous in giving Matt multiple long leads, and Matt nailed every one of them. Kudos and Bravo! Needless to say, the sax was well-matched to both songs that John invited him up for, the second of which was You Got Me Brother.

On to the ladies:

Karly Jurgensen was invited up to sing two songs with John. The first was Evangeline, a cover of a version of the song performed by The Band with special guest star Emmylou Harris (in 1976!). If you haven’t guessed yet, Karly played the part of Emmylou Harris. John performed the role of “The Band”, since he gave his band the song off (he’s generous like that). Lovely!

KarlyJurgensen

The second song was Ophelia, the title track of John’s CD (this time his band played as well). On this song Karly’s part doesn’t come in until nearly the end, when she sings “Adieu Love” quite a number of times, in harmony with John, but also while John sings some other lines.

John just released a live CD (pay what you will, so I advise you to pay a lot). Winking smile Ophelia on that CD (which you can stream for free) has both Chris Ayer and Julia Poorman singing along. In that version, Chris speaks to the audience (at the 1:18 mark) saying: “I promise I’m going to sing at some point”. I note that because Karly was much more patient and simply waited for the end of the song to do her part. Winking smile

Update: two people independently reached out privately to me to say that Chris would never be so rude as to talk during John’s song. One of them noted it was John who said “I promise they’re going to sing at some point”. It never occured to me that Chris was bring rude. Depending on how the show was going, previous banter with the audience and between them, I assumed (incorrectly) that he was being particularly funny. There was a wink at the end of the above paragraph, but I know not everyone trusts a winking man. 🙂

A little later on, John called up another female guest star.

Lissa Farquhar joined him to sing Going Back. In addition to singing beautiful harmony, Lissa sang lead as well. She then sang fantastic harmony on Ave Regina (what a wonderful song).

LissaFarquharJohnSchmittHarmony

John is one of the more consistent performers of the (way too many) ones that we follow.

P.S. This was the second of five sets that we saw last night, and one of the three that we originally planned to. 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.

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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.

Martin Rivas and Rachel Platten at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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

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

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

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

MartinRivasTuning

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

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

MartinRivasGuitar

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

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

PatrickFirthCloseupPatrickFirthKeyboards

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

ChrisKuffnerChrisKuffnerGuitarLead

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

RyanVaughn

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

CraigMeyerCloseup

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

BrianKilleenBrianKilleenBass

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

GregMayoCloseupGregMayoGuitarVocals

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

SierraNoble

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

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

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

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

CalebHawley

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

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

Cookies

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

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

MartinRivasSetList

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

SierraNobleRachelPlattenCraigMeyer

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

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

RachelPlattenSmiling

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

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

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

CraigMeyerAnimated

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

SierraNobleFiddle

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

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

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