Stone Lonesome

Stone Lonesome at Rockwood Music Hall

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The Stone Lonesome headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. We saw them one month ago, also on a Saturday night at 9pm at Rockwood 1. I wrote a detailed post about that show, which described not just that set, but their music in general. I’m not being lazy, but rather than repeat that, I encourage you to read it if you’re not familiar with The Stone Lonesome and are interested in learning about them.

The show last night was reasonably faithful to the previous one, so I could (almost) just stop now (other than updating the photos), but there was one change in the band and I always have something to say (even if no one wants to hear it), just to remind myself in the future of what differentiated this show from others.

I ended that last post with:

Thanks Zach, Emily (and Greg, Tony and Ryan) for making it a very special set!

This is obviously a subjective remark, but I think that they are continuing to gel. It’s clear from the above that they didn’t need to improve to make me very happy, but the more often a group performs, the more comfort they have with each other, the audience, and the general flow (both during and between songs).

Zach mentioned that he and Emily were dressed nearly identically (as if The Stone Lonesome had some kind of official outfit). That seemed to be correct, until Emily pirouetted to show off the see-through lacy back of her black shirt. Zach gave in immediately. Since he didn’t spin around, I can’t be sure whether he did or did not have a lacy back. Winking smile Emily immediately covered it up, so we might never know…

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Emily wielded a tambourine. I can’t remember whether she did that last month (which is why I’m writing it down now, so I’ll remember!).

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For those that chose not to click through, The Stone Lonesome is made up of two people, Zach Jones and Emily Long. They could show up just the two of them and it would be a fine, albeit pretty mellow set. Instead, they surround themselves with top musicians who create a mix of modern and traditional alt-country sounds.

Last nights band, left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. This was the first of three consecutive sets where we saw both Greg and Zach perform. The next two posts will detail the sets where Greg’s name was on the marquee, with Zach supporting him. Greg is always great on the guitar.

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In addition to taking on the country genre in his play (wonderfully), on one song that Emily was singing lead, I thought I heard some lovely harmony, but I noticed Zach’s lips weren’t moving, so I looked around and noticed Greg was creating a sound similar to a pedal steel guitar, which sounded just like a beautiful vocal harmony.

Zach mentioned that Greg had a new toy. Specifically, he pointed to the Whammy Bar on Greg’s guitar, which Greg employed a number of times (more often in the sound check, once Zach highlighted it). But, perhaps the entire guitar was new, and it just happened to have a Whammy Bar on it.

Does it look like Greg and Zach and having a good time yet?

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Brian Killeen on electric bass. Brian was the one change from last month’s set. Tony Maceli did a great job in February, but March was Brian’s month to shine on bass for The Stone Lonesome. Unlike Greg and Zach, Brian didn’t play on the middle set, but he was back for the final set with an even more front-and-center role, so look for that post later if you want to read a lot more about Brian!

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Ryan Vaughn on drums, cajon, percussion, washboard, whatever you can bang on or shake. Seriously, if you can make noise on it, Ryan can make that noise sound good! More on him two posts from now too.

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I didn’t have the clearest view of Ryan, so I have to thank Sam Teichman for pointing out that Ryan was using two sticks in his right hand to get extra oomph out of the floor tom (including the rim) while beating the cajon with his left.

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It turns out, that Ryan is not Samson. This is the first time we saw Ryan clean shaven in forever. He was still just as good on everything, so he hasn’t been drawing his special percussion powers from the beard. Good to know! Winking smile

As with the prior month, Zach and Emily closed out the show by giving the band a break and hushing the crowd with a duet. Like I said above, they could easily do an entire set without the band, so getting a taste of the more mellow stuff was welcome. Another great set. Another great beginning to an amazing night of music.

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The Stone Lonesome at Rockwood Music Hall

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The Stone Lonesome headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. I had it on the calendar for a while, but I was sure we couldn’t make it. In fact, last Monday, I saw Zach Jones (1/2 of The Stone Lonesome) when he drummed for The Vanity Belles and I told him we wouldn’t be able to make this show. Read to the bottom to see what changed.

I’ve been aware of The Stone Lonesome for a while, entirely due to our love of Zach Jones.  The first time we saw Zach was July 2011, and here’s one of the things I wrote about him that night:

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.

Notice the link on “They have an album”. You can stream it for free to judge for yourself, or buy it for a whopping $5 (or more!).

I would describe them as sometimes traditional country, sometimes new country (more of a rock-tinged country), sometimes closer to just rock. To cover that in a bigger umbrella, let’s just call it Alt-Country. Yup, that feels right to me. Lois and I both really love Country music (go ahead, judge, you’re wrong). There’s not much of it in NYC, so The Stone Lonesome is a wonderful breath of fresh air (as are The Vanity Belles).

Emily Long is the other half of The Stone Lonesome. She has a number of projects, including the one linked to her name, which is her Rock persona. She has a wonderful voice that takes on a number of qualities/character, depending on what emotion she’s sharing with the audience. On roughly half of the numbers she reminded us of classic Cyndi Lauper. She’s also quite theatrical in her delivery, projecting her emotions, taking you on a visual journey.

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Zach sings with a purity that I would describe as sweet (and I don’t mean that in a unmanly way). On a number of songs (in particular the above-noted Bridge to Nowhere), he reminds me of John Denver at his best. In The Stone Lonesome Zach plays rhythm acoustic guitar, quite nicely. In other bands, he’s typically the drummer, one of the best we’ve ever seen.

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I don’t know what proportion they each write of the songs (or whether every one is a co-write), so I’ll give them equal credit here. The songs are great (verify the claim, please). Each of them sings lead (typically on different songs, rather than handing it off from verse to verse). In all songs, they blend fantastically for enough harmony to satisfy us.

Last night, they were supported by three of our favorite musicians, left-to-right on stage:

Greg Mayo on electric guitar and background vocals. Two nights after fake-complaining that I didn’t get to see Greg play guitar, I got my wish fulfilled. Greg is awesome no matter what genre he’s playing and he was totally true to the Alt-Country sound yesterday. He was highlighted a number of times. Thanks Zach and Emily for that! Smile

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Tony Maceli on electric bass. We love Tony and it was a complete surprise to see him there. He stopped tweeting last September (apparently, 114 lifetime tweets was the perfect number). Of course Tony did a terrific job.

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Ryan Vaughn on drums, cajon, percussion and washboard. Yes, washboard. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone break out the washboard. By the crowd’s reaction, I’d say it had been a while for most of them as well and they seemed as pleased as I was to get another taste.

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More importantly, Ryan is always a creative drummer/percussionist. He removed one of the toms and replaced the seat with his signature (amazingly beat up) cajon. He’s one of the best cajon players you’ll see, but rather than restrict himself to the cajon, he paired it with the floor tom and cymbal and occasionally the snare as well. When he wasn’t playing the cajon, he used the kick drum instead. A superb job all around.

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Here’s a shot of everyone (except for Ryan):

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They closed the show by giving the band a break. Zach unplugged his guitar and they each stepped away from their mic. In a 100% unplugged manner, they blew us away and brought a hush to the full house at Rockwood. Awesome job and quite a shift from the rest of the set.

We bought this giant CD at the show. It was black (unusual) and didn’t fit in our CD player, so perhaps they ripped us off. They called it a vinyl edition, perhaps that’s code for doesn’t work. Winking smile (OK, that was a really bad attempt at a joke, sorry.)

The records are numbered, so perhaps one day we’ll be rich off this collector’s piece! Zach’s father hand-drew each cover (I don’t know how well it will come across in the photo, but it looks great in real life). We think that each numbered record comes with a unique story in the included liner notes. Basically, a loving, thoughtful way to package an album that is good enough not to require these (much appreciated!) adornments.

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I have a turntable, but I never use it. I have a USB-turntable that I bought specifically to rip my ancient, large record collection. Unfortunately, I was wholly unsatisfied with the fidelity (and process) and stopped after one album. So, I knew I wouldn’t rip this either. We bought it to support them (and force them to sign it). I also bought the digital version so that I wouldn’t have think about ripping this. Smile

Now, how did we attend a show we were sure we couldn’t? On Monday, our schedule for the week seemed set in stone. Starting on Thursday, everything went into a tailspin (but in the best possible way) and we got to reevaluate. We still feel badly about not attending the shows we were originally planning to on Saturday, but both of us were buzzing the whole way home thinking about how happy we were that we ended up seeing The Stone Lonesome.

Thanks Zach, Emily (and Greg, Tony and Ryan) for making it a very special set!

A Holiday Benefit #5 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Wonderful.

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Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Spectacular.

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Kenny Shaw on drums. Excellent.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Superb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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