Sierra Noble

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery

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

TheVanityBelles

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

A quick recap:

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

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

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

CarrieWellingJessiRaeWaltz

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

TheVanityBellesWithInstruments

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

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

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

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

BenMorgan

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

OscarBautista

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

ZachJonesDrumsZachJones

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

ChrisAndersonBassChrisAnderson

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

CameronMitchell

On to the guests.

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

RebeccaHaviland

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

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

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

SierraNobleHappyBirthdaySierraNoble

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

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

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

SetListEPandGoodies

Sierra Noble and Michael Sackler-Berner at Joe’s Pub

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Sierra Noble was opening for Michael Sackler-Berner at Joe’s Pub last night. We weren’t supposed to be in NYC. After missing Sierra last week, when she played a co-bill with Rebecca Haviland, we decided that we had to get our priorities straight. We cut our trip short and returned in time to attend with two friends. Smile

Joe’s Pub was our favorite venue in NYC for nearly four years. For a number of reasons, we ended up not attending a single show there for 20 months! Now that they’ve remodeled the inside and switched to assigned seats (tables), we’ve been back three times in seven weeks. I’m sure we’ll continue to attend regularly.

Sierra played a full set (which was so welcome, because sometimes openers get short-shrift) and was fantastic on every number. As always, she switched between acoustic guitar and fiddle, impressing on both. Of course, her vocals (even though she was fighting a cold) were amazing.

SierraNobleSierraNobleGuitar

All that said, she’s simply a great songwriter (and she picks great people to co-write with as well), so even if her cold had been worse, listening to her (and her band) play those songs would have been worth the trip. Here’s the set list:

SierraNobleSetList

Speaking of her band, let’s give them the credit they are due, left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on electric and acoustic guitar and vocals. If this isn’t your first time here, then you know that Greg Mayo is my favorite local guitar player. If it is your first time, now you know that too! Smile

GregMayo

When Sierra was on acoustic guitar, Greg was on electric. When she was on fiddle he was on acoustic. He sang a lot of harmony and was as good as he ever is.

Seth Faulk on drums and vocals. Seth was masterful on the drums, which for most of the set were on the very subtle side (lots of brushes, with some mallets thrown in for good measure). He got to let loose on the last number, DABE, which is a collection of fiddle tunes that are highly energetic.

SethFaulk

Seth has a wonderful voice (I’ve written about that a number of times) and he sang even more than Greg did. Most of the time it was three part harmony with Sierra and Greg and it was luscious.

GregMayoSierraNobleSethFaulk3PartHarmony

Brian Killeen on upright bass. Brian was filling in for Chris Anderson who is on vacation. Since Brian is independently one of our favorite bass players (as is Chris), I wasn’t nervous as to whether Brian would sound good, even though he’s not familiar with Sierra’s catalog. I was right, no need to worry.

BrianKilleen

The biggest difference was that Chris sings a bunch with Sierra and Brian doesn’t know the material well enough to fill in there.

That led to another highlight of the set.

Martin Rivas was invited up to sing the duet Human After All (that Chris has been singing with Sierra at the last few shows). Martin has such a great voice and knows the song well. Sierra and Martin nailed it.

MartinRivasSierraNobleMartinRivas

Sierra co-wrote Human After All with Michael Logen. When I first saw Michael Logen perform, he did that song solo. After the show I went up to him to ask whether it had been on TV. I told him I was sure I heard it before and fell in love with it instantly. He said it had come close to being placed, but sadly, was never on TV.

Then I remembered that I had heard it just the week before, when Sierra played it at a Backscratch. She sang it with Martin that night as well. It turns out that I was prescient. Human After All was just recently featured on Parenthood, on NBC, in season 3 episode 11.

Sierra asked Martin to stay and sing background on the next two numbers as well, creating lovely four-part harmony with Greg and Seth. #winning

SierraNoble4PartHarmony

In fact, on I Can See, Sierra asked the audience to sing along. It sounded really good from where I was sitting. I hope it did to her on stage as well. Smile

We had never heard of Michael Sackler-Berner (MSB) before, but were looking forward to serendipitously discovering him.

I really like his voice a lot and he plays the guitar quite nicely (mostly electric, but he switched to acoustic a couple of times). With the exception of a couple of very mellow folky songs (which I liked as well), most of the numbers were very high energy accompanied by a full band.

MichaelSackler-BernerAcousticGuitarMichaelSackler-BernerElectricGuitar

I had trouble concentrating on the lyrics (not really sure why), but the few times I was able to zone in, I was impressed with his imagery and phrasing. It will require more serious listening to determine whether this is true across a majority of his songs.

MichaelSackler-BernerSinging

MSB closed the show by inviting Sierra up (with her fiddle). He dismissed the band and played the acoustic guitar. They sang together (beautifully) and each sang verses on the lead. What a terrific way to end the evening!

MichaelSackler-BernerSierraNoble

His band was very good and tight. Left-to-right on stage:

Ben Stivers on keyboards (electronic and grand piano). He was quite good on both, including standing for the entire first number while playing the grand piano.

BenStivers

Henry Geller on electric guitar. I can’t find a good individual link, but I’m betting he’s the guitarist profiled in Rough Waters. He was very good.

HenryGeller

Liberty DeVitto on drums. He was great. Very hard hitter, very energetic, tight as a drum (OK, I couldn’t resist). Winking smile

LibertyDeVittoDrums

MSB mentioned on stage that he saw Liberty play when he (MSB) was 11-years old and fell in love with him. Later, DeVitto joked that he was just 14 at the time. If you clicked through to the link above, then you know that Liberty was Billy Joel’s drummer for 30 years! I’m betting that MSB saw a Billy Joel concert at the Nassau Coliseum when he was 11.

Paul Frazier on electric bass and vocals. He was fantastic on the bass (even though he was handicapped by being a lefty, like Paul McCartney). Winking smile He was also the only member of the band to sing harmony with MSB, very nicely! Very impressive performance.

PaulFrazier

Here’s MSB’s set list:

MichaelSackler-BernerSetList

We spotted Liberty as he was heading out and got to tell him how wonderful his play was and snap this picture as well:

LibertyDeVitto

Right after taking that picture, we headed out and got to say hello to Sierra, Seth and Greg. Brian had already left to get the car.

SethFaulkSierraNobleGregMayo

Totally worth having come back early, including enjoying our friends’ company before and after the show. The last two times we were at Joe’s Pub, they couldn’t make me my favorite Chocolate Martini. After they completed the remodel, they hadn’t stocked up on Chocolate Liqueur yet.

They finally remedied that situation and I got to enjoy it for the first time in nearly two years. Trust me, if you’re ever at Joe’s Pub, order the Chocolate Martini. Both of our friends tried it as well (first timers) and I am pretty sure they enjoyed it. Smile

RachelIris

Sierra Noble at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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I can’t tell you how happy I was to see Sierra Noble at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. We try to plan our musical calendar out at least a month in advance. While things come up occasionally, causing us to shift plans (not including health issues), we try hard to stick to our schedule.

SierraNobleGuitar

We returned to the city last Thursday with plans to have dinner with a couple we see often (at these shows), but had never had any quiet time with. Then I found out that Sierra had a show at The Living Room. I felt badly that I would miss it, but I wasn’t willing/interested in moving our dinner. Knowing that we already had the Rockwood show on the calendar for one week later made the decision a bit easier.

Yes, it’s true that we just saw Sierra three weeks ago at The Bitter End. Yes it’s true that we saw her two additional times in October before that. So I’ll allow myself to voice a question many of you may have? Why do we see some artists as often as we can?

Believe it or not, some artists actually ask me that directly, showing their humility (and normal insecurities). Let me begin answering with a set of related questions: are there CD’s that you play more than once? often? on repeat?

If you answered yes to the above (in particular to the last one), then I probably don’t need to explain anything to you. If you answer no, especially to the first, then you probably don’t go to live music much either.

If you do listen to CDs multiple times, as much pleasure as you derive from it, the music is identical, each and every time. Obviously, your mood might be different, other circumstances/ambience as well, making the experience different, but for the most part, you’re looking to enjoy something again, that you already know you enjoy.

In a live show, even with identical set lists and performers, no two shows are ever identical. Many aren’t even really similar (though reading about them and looking at the set list might make it seem so).

Here’s last night’s set list (note: Sierra didn’t get to the last song):

SetList

The overlap is significant with other recent shows (that’s not unusual). First, given how much we love the songs, that’s welcome. Second, even the addition of one song changes the flow. In this case, that song was Misty Morning, a Louisiana Fiddle Tune. Sierra’s play was wonderful, but the song also highlighted the rest of the band.

We attend live shows to connect with the artists on a level deeper than just the music. As many times as we’ve seen Sierra perform Possibility (a mere fraction of the times I hope/expect to see her play it!), and as many times as she’s introduced it (often with a slight addition/variation), last night Sierra told an even deeper truth about how the song came to be. I won’t repeat it, so you better come to a show if you want to know. Suffice it to say that I would have been happy to come to the show just for the additional background. Smile

Sierra also fiddled from a sitting position for the first time in our experience, during the first song:

SierraNobleSittingFiddling

Supporting Sierra, left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on acoustic and electric guitar and harmony. Another stellar performance by the ever-wonderful Mr. Mayo. Greg and Sierra shared a single acoustic guitar (when she played it, Greg played electric, when she fiddled, he played the acoustic). Sierra mentioned that they usually have three acoustics on stage between them.

GregMayoAcousticGuitar

I asked whether the guitar that broke at the Bitter End was still broken. It turns out that it is. What I learned was that it was Bob Mayo’s guitar (Greg’s dad). Noting that, Sierra said that it could take all the time it needs to heal. True, but let’s hope it has a speedy recovery and Greg continues to make magic with it asap.

Seth Faulk on drums, percussion and harmony. We’ve seen Seth drum at a few of Sam Teichman’s benefit concerts. We’ve heard him sing on stage on one number with Alex Wong (recently) and I’ve heard him sing harmony from the audience a couple of times. So, I know how talented he is.

SethFaulk

That said, last night was the first time I’ve actually seen Seth play an entire set. He was excellent, playing the drums with sticks, brushes, mallets and adding shakers on the softer numbers. On a couple of songs, he was nearly whisper quiet with the brushes and mallets (totally appropriate). I already knew he has a wonderful voice and he proved that again on two numbers.

Chris Anderson on upright bass and harmony. I mentioned above that Sierra highlighted the band on Misty Morning. That applied the most to Chris, who lit up the upright during this number. He sang a lot, in particular on Human After All.

ChrisAndersonUprightBass

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Rebecca came up as a special guest on three or four songs, singing harmony with Sierra, and often at least with one of the three guys (sometimes two of them). Rebecca is a star on her own and the ladies sing wonderfully together.

RebeccaHavilandSierraNobleChrisAndersonRebeccaHaviland

Another reason we love going out is getting to share these experiences with the many friends we’ve made who enjoy the music as much as we do. We got to sit with a couple of them last night.

HadarKristenSamTeichmanGregMayoKristen

We won’t be seeing Sierra again until 2012, hopefully that means January!

Sierra Noble at The Bitter End

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

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

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

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

SierraNobleFiddle

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

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

SierraNobleSinging

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

Left-to-right on stage:

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

GregMayoAcousticGuitar

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

GregMayoElectricGuitar

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

GregMayoSierraNobleHarmony

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

ChrisAnderson

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

RebeccaHavilandSierraNobleRebeccaHavilandHarmony

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

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

thevanitybelles The Vanity Belles

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

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

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

SetList

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

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

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

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

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

Sierra Noble at The Living Room

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

SierraNoble

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

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

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

SierraNobleGuitar

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

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

SierraNobleFiddle

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

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

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

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

BergerAlex Alex Berger

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

Nothing more needs to be said.

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

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

ChrisAnderson

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

ChrisAndersonSierraNoble

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

GregMayo

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

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

RebeccaHaviland

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

ChrisAndersonSierraNobleGregMayoRebeccaHaviland

Here’s the set list:

SetList

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

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

Sierra Noble at Rockwood Music Hall

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It’s been three months since we last saw Sierra Noble perform. That’s a bit too long so I’m glad the dry spell is over. I had last night marked on the calendar for a long time (Rockwood Music Hall). Finding out a few days ago that a number of my favorite people/performers would be supporting Sierra was icing on the cake.

Sierra opened the set by saying that she intended to tell a story with the music. That story was a condensed biography of this young phenom’s life (sort of a live Wikipedia show). She hails from Winnipeg and started her musical career at the age of 12 (so says her actual Wikipedia page, see what I did there?). At 15-years-old, she released a CD of fiddle tunes (I have it, it’s wonderful!).

SierraNobleFiddleChrisAnderson

She started the set last night with a traditional fiddle tune.

Next she talked about how she was cajoled (nearly forced) into singing and songwriting. She explained that a number of her fiddle heroes went in that direction as well (unsuccessfully), making her extremely reluctant to follow that path. Thankfully, her friend(s) persisted and eventually got her to relent.

Her very first effort yielded the co-written tune Possibility. It inspired her EP Possibilities (released in 2008) showing off her amazing singing and songwriting talents. She played that song next. For that she switched to an acoustic guitar. She switched between the guitar and the fiddle a number of times throughout the set.

SierraNobleGuitar

That was part of a Nashville period for her and yielded the next few songs of the set. The musical journey continued until she brought it full circle, ending with another hard-driving fiddle tune (Sierra just played a number of shows and festivals in Winnipeg before coming to NYC for a nice stretch).

That she is only 21 is mind-boggling. Thinking about how much musical greatness we’ll see from her over the years makes me a bit giddy.

We’ll get to the band in a minute, but half way through the set she brought up Martin Rivas as a special guest. Martin sang harmony and wielded shakers a bit as well. On Human After All (a song co-written with Michael Logen) Martin sang lead as well as harmony, kicking off the first verse. Their voices blend beautifully.

SierraNobleMartinRivasChrisAnderson

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

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and harmony. Greg’s play was appropriately subtler last night than when he’s the main attraction. It was also just as good. On one number he made his guitar sound exactly like a peddle steel, without using a slide. Later, he used a slide as well, getting a different sound.

GregMayo

He sang a bit of harmony, beautifully, on a number of songs.

Come to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on Saturday (10/8/2011) at 11:30pm (yes, past my bedtime, but well worth staying up) to see Greg in all his guitar glory with a new incarnation called The Red Delicious Apples.

Ariel Posen on acoustic guitar. Ariel is a well-known guitarist in Winnipeg. He played mostly rhythm last night, but occasionally took short tasty leads showing off his skills. For one brief moment he and Greg did a little guitar duet. I look forward to seeing more of Ariel should he choose to hang around NYC.

ArielPosenGregMayoArielPosen

Chris Anderson on upright bass and background vocals. Chris was wonderful (as usual).

ChrisAnderson

Craig Meyer on drums. It’s been too long (four months) since we’ve seen Craig play a full set. His wonderful play last night drove that point home. While he was excellent on every number, he was the driving force behind the finale, keeping a very lively beat for Sierra to show off her fiddle skills.

CraigMeyer

Joining Sierra on stage for one number:

Ian Schaefer  on trumpet. A gorgeous, subtle performance, with the cup muting the sound.

IanSchaefer

Sir Chuck Hancock on saxophone. Sierra noted that Sir Chuck was a last minute surprise. That implied to me that he didn’t rehearse with them. You couldn’t have guessed that from his perfect play dancing around between the verses.

SierraNobleSirChuckHancockIanSchaeferChrisAnderson

Later on, Sir Chuck played a bit from the audience (he was standing directly behind me, with the sax right at my left ear). It too was perfect, and amazingly, not even slightly too loud for me. I can only hope that Sierra heard his little magic on stage and enjoyed it as much as I did.

SirChuckHancock

No need to start the clock ticking on another Sierra Noble drought just yet. We’ll be seeing her again a week from today (10/13/11) at The Living Room, 7pm. Be there, trust me.

Here is the set list from last night, a winner!

SetList

Another Amazing Weekend

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This was our third consecutive weekend hosting out-of-town visitors. Since the last two were fantastic, the bar was set high for this one. Don’t worry, we cleared it.

When our friends (parents of our godchildren and our closest friends for nearly 30 years!) asked whether this weekend would be a good one for them to come up from VA, the automatic answer was of course! The only (minor) complication was our unmovable commitment to attending four sets of music on Saturday night.

I’ve already written about the music separately, but since this is a post about the entire weekend, I’ll link them here again. Rebecca Haviland: covered here. Matt Simons: covered here. Sierra Noble: covered here. Chris Ayer: covered here.

We had a small scare before everything got rolling. Our friends called from the airport to say that there was a mechanical problem on the plane. While it was (theoretically) simple to fix, they didn’t know how long it would take the mechanic to show up. There was a chance that they wouldn’t even get out that night (Friday, July 1st).

That’s exactly how the first of these three weekends began, with David and Rebecca (their son and daughter-in-law) not getting out until the next morning! This case turned out differently. Not 15 minutes later they called back to say they were boarding. I’m guessing the mechanic was on a smoke break. Winking smile

Shortly after they arrived at the apartment, nine of us (counting a 2-year-old as a full person) Winking smile walked up to the Peking Duck House for dinner. It’s been a while since we’ve been there (a minor crime against humanity). We had been talking about our need to correct that for the past two weeks, so this worked out perfectly.

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The meal was perfect. I never doubted it would be, but I report it here for the record.

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PekingDuckHouse

Given our music-filled night, we decided that Saturday would be a day of rest for us (conserving our energy). The parents, their daughter and son-in-law went to the Doughnut Plant (the site currently lists a Lower East Side address only, but there is one at 220 W. 23rd St. as well, which is where they went). Afterward, they walked the Highline Park.

They headed over to Broadway to see How to Succeed in Business. All four of them said it was terrific and they were sure both of us would love it. Something to add to the list. Smile

The six of us had a wonderful dinner at El Rio Grande (our favorite Mexican restaurant). In a complete shock, we bumped into a few good friends who were dining there outside. We were seated inside (our choice) on the other side of the window from them. Even though our chats with them were brief (before our meal and after theirs), it was a special delight.

After nearly falling asleep (due to the amazing frozen margaritas), I somehow gathered myself for the epic night of music and easily made it all the way through! I don’t know what the others did, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they didn’t fight the feeling of sleep and succumbed to it. Winking smile

On Sunday morning the four of them attended Church services at Redeemer. They spent some time at the Cooper Hewitt Museum then returned to the apartment to relax a bit. This week is both our and Laura and Chris’ anniversaries. We decided to celebrate at the Old Homestead steakhouse. All six of us couldn’t stop raving about the meal afterward. At least three (perhaps as many as five) counted this meal (and therefore this restaurant) as their favorite steakhouse meal (that includes Lois saying that her Lobster was the best she’s ever had).

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I loved my meal (thoroughly), but I admitted (out loud) that The Palm is still my favorite. I promise not to complain or hesitate to return to the Old Homestead though, should anyone suggest it again. Smile

After dinner, we all wanted (and needed) to walk off the calories (please don’t make me estimate the full damage). We walked the super-long block from the restaurant to the 14th Street entrance to the Highline Park. This was my first time seeing it in person. We walked from 14th St. until the end, currently 30th St. It’s spectacular. I highly recommend making the effort to get there, whether you’re a New Yorker or an out-of-towner here on a visit.

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We collapsed when we got back to the apartment (well, at least Lois and I collapsed, the others may have gone dancing for all I know).

On Monday morning (the venerable July 4th), Chris and I went for a long walk. When we’re in the city, I typically take long walks for exercise. For me, that means somewhere between five and eight miles, depending on my mood and my schedule. I do it 2-3 times a week, if I have the time. Amazingly, blogging is often the cause of me not having the time to walk. The things we do for our readers… Winking smile

Few of you who read this know Chris. He served six years in the Navy and remains in amazing shape by regularly working out. My only hesitation in walking with him, ever, is that he can keep up a grueling pace forever. He can walk backward, faster than I walk forward, and keep it up seemingly forever as well. I negotiated through an intermediary (Laura) that he would drop the drill-sergeant routine this time.

When we got to the Brooklyn Bridge (typically as far as I’d walk), that marked the 3.9 mile point. That would be just under an eight mile walk if we turned around. Chris looked at me and asked if I’d walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. I told him it had been over 30 years since I’d done that, but I was game. Instead, he suggested we just keep trucking further from the apartment. It had been a year since I’d done the loop I knew we were now committing to, but I (happily) agreed.

We continued south, past the Seaport, on to the Staten Island Ferry, where we headed north up the west side. At 34th Street we started the long trek over to the east side. When we arrived at the apartment, Chris was fresh as a daisy. I was a puddle of sweat who dreamt only of removing my sneakers from my feet. Total distance: 11.36 miles (I wear a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch that they all bought me for my birthday a couple of years ago). Total time was 3:14, but that included a stop in the World Financial Center to check out the progress at Ground Zero.

After a nice lunch out (Euro Diner if you’re keeping score) we veg’ed out all afternoon (I might have even slept a bit, shhh). All of that was to prepare for attending a July 4th party.

Up until three years ago, we used to host an annual 4th of July party on our deck. We had pretty good views of the Macy’s Fireworks when they had them on East River. This is the third year in a row that they were on the Hudson instead and we had no plans to fight the crowds to try and see them.

On Friday, we received an invitation to a party that claimed to have a spectacular view of the fireworks. Under normal circumstances, we would have said yes in a heartbeat, but we would have been adding four strangers to the party list, which felt wrong on our part. I politely declined, explaining why.

In a I’m not taking No for an answer reply, our host told us to bring our guests along. I only had one No in me, so this time I said Yes! We negotiated on what we could bring and settled on Sushi.

What a great plan, until we found out that our go-to Sushi restaurant was closed all weekend. Our backup Sushi place (also exceptional) was going to be closed on Monday as well. In a twist of fate (actually two twists), the first place was clearly marked as being closed all weekend. The backup place hadn’t updated their sign, so when Lois went in, she thought they’d be open on Monday.

Hiroshi Sushi is across the street from our apartment. I filled in our order before Lois walked over. When she started to say what time she wanted the order ready by, she found out that they were closed on Monday. As she was turning to leave, the person she was talking to called her back.

He told her that he remembered us from years earlier when we used to come in all the time with Lois’ mother to their former Japanese Restaurant (a few doors down, now closed for probably eight years!). He was our waiter many of those times. He asked Lois if he could call the owner (and head chef), who was also involved in the other restaurant, to ask if he’d come in just to prepare this order.

20 minutes later he called us and said that the owner would happily do this for us. Wow, we were so grateful. The order was ready to be picked up at exactly 5pm (as promised) and was fantastic (as evidenced by the oohs and aahs of the partiers). I couldn’t resist trying something called “peanut and avocado roll”. Yummy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

We also brought a white pizza (for those who might not like Sushi). I had the first two slices (and didn’t notice if anyone else did). Man, that was really good too. Finally, we brought a gigantic fresh fruit salad that was seemingly bottomless, but it got completely devoured (or so I heard), so it apparently had a bottom after all. That too was a big hit.

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On to the actual party (I have a tough time not talking or thinking about food though). Winking smile

When we first arrived at our friend’s apartment we were blown away by the view. But, he lives in a one bedroom (very high up) and we wondered how everyone would get to enjoy the fireworks while being crowded like sardines in the living room. Ah, I’m so naïve at times. That was never the plan.

There was a friend of our friend, who lived 15 floors down (still quite high!). He has a much larger apartment, but more importantly, a massive deck, facing the Hudson River. The two of them decided to combine their parties. In an additional act of generosity, the second host (the friend of our friend), allowed an entire party of his next door neighbors to attend the viewing of the fireworks on his deck, when they were done with their meal (and drinking) on their adjacent (but not facing the river!) deck.

I don’t need to describe the view or the fireworks to you. All of the photos above were taken by Lois, on her compact camera. She took a ton of photos last night too, but I don’t need to share them.

Our friend (Bob) from VA is a semi-professional photographer (with professional equipment). He set up his Nikon on a tripod and captured stunning photos. His daughter (Laura) is following in his footsteps. A few of her shots are included with his. Here’s a representative sample (I’m not compressing these photos, for those of you who want the full effect).

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Followed by the calm after the storm:

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Our friend (let’s call him Host #1) made two pitchers of exotic drinks. The first was green, looked like slime, and was called Key Lime Martini. The second was blue (and frothy) and had Blue Curacao, some coconut stuff and other secret ingredients. I tried the Key Lime first. It was amazing, but one sip was nearly lethal. I am putting my name on a list for when it’s time for me to go, this is the way I’d like to end it all. While I know at least two people who loved it, but purposely didn’t finish theirs (for fear of expiring), I was brave and downed my entire glass.

I later moved on to the Blue mixture. It tasted even better. So much so that I had a second glass (don’t tell Lois!). It didn’t feel as lethal, but for all I know, that’s part of it’s secret. I heard many people raving about this concoction (actually both). Our Host #1 can definitely fall back on Mixologist if his primary profession hits a brick wall. Wow!

Host #2 is a fascinating person who couldn’t have been kinder or more generous (as noted above). In fact, we met many friends of Host #1, each one was a complete delight to converse with. Without a doubt, we’ll be following up with a number of them!

We had to walk a number of blocks before finding the first of the two cabs that got us home and a bit further for the second one.

An absolutely incredible ending to an incredible weekend. I’m no longer annoyed that the fireworks have moved to the west side. I’ll need to be nice to Host #1 for the entire year, just in case Macy’s decides to do it there again next year. It will be hard to keep up the façade, but I’ll do my best. Winking smile

Thank you for including all six of us. It’s a night we’ll never forget!

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

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Rachel