The CEO Artist

The CEO Artist Concert Series at Rockwood Music Hall

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Christina Morelli is the Energizer Bunny of the NYC Arts Scene. I originally discovered Christina through her work covering the local scene on that site. Since then, she’s broadened her horizons and kicked off an additional venture, The CEO Artist. In addition to having a NYC home base, The CEO Artist (TCA) will have a UK component as well (at the very least).

ChristinaMorelli

TCA is cooking up a variety of very innovative ideas to help artists broaden their fan base and make a living. I’ll save some of those for a future post, since this one is specifically meant to cover last night’s event.

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TCA had its inaugural Concert Series last night at Rockwood Music Hall. It was a showcase of four of TCA’s current artists, plus an MC who performed as well. The proceeds from the evening were donated (100%) to 2NDFLOOR, a hotline for NJ Youth in need of someone to talk to.

Christina was up first, mapping out the schedule and inviting up the MC.

Caleb Hawley was officially designated the MC, but he was really more of a performer interspersed between the the others, closing out the show as well. Christina came on stage to introduce each artist, so I think she was more of the MC.

I am a huge advocate of ask and ye shall receive. We just saw Caleb headline a show at Rockwood 2, on Friday night. Toward the end of that post, I said the following:

Back to Caleb. I already said how much I enjoyed the set, but he still hasn’t recaptured the feeling (for me) that I had the first time I saw him. For most artists that I see, if they do both full band and solo shows, I typically prefer the full band ones. That’s even true when they are amazing solo performers.

Caleb is an exception to that rule, so far (but not the only exception). His full band show was fun and engaging throughout, but his personal artistry and wizardry is lost (or rather, watered down) in the fullness. He’s so good on the guitar, which is so much more obvious when no other instrument is playing (or when he has only a light-touch drummer supporting him, e.g., Craig Meyer). He has a great voice, which is also more obvious when there aren’t other instruments wailing. He is a great songwriter and it’s easier to concentrate on the lyrics when it’s just him.

See, on Friday, I was somehow begging to see Caleb solo, and just three days later, bingo!

CalebHawley

He opened the show by repeating something he had tweeted earlier in the day:

Caleb Hawley ? @iamcalebhawley

Lilith Fair + Me = Rockwood tonight at 7pm. @theCEOartist showcase w/ @chrissipoland @annakrantzmusic @BriArden and@megfarrellmusic

He said that he always wanted to play Lilith Fair, and this might be the closest he got, given that the four showcase artists were all female (in case you missed the reference). Winking smile

He opened with Bada Boom Bada Bling, a fun song to get everyone smiling and in the mood for more music.

Meaghan Farrell was the first showcase artist up after Caleb. This was my first time seeing Meghan. That said, I thought I had some sense of her because I had visited her site and watched the YouTube video embedded on the home page (at least as of this writing), of the studio version of Lost in My Life. I love the song and the performance. You can visit her site to see it, but I’m going to embed it here, in case she swaps it for another in the future.

Lost in My Life by Meaghan Farrell

I really didn’t know what to expect of the showcase format specifically, but I guess I was slightly surprised that it was completely stripped down.

MeaghanFarrell

Meaghan was accompanied by an acoustic guitarist. Her voice is incredible (judge for yourself in the video). I believe that it comes across a bit better with the full band than it does over a single acoustic guitar. She’s also a bit theatrical in her delivery (you can get a small sense of that in the video as well), which also comes across a bit better with a fuller sound.

She played two originals followed by a cover of Natural Woman (co-written by Carole King).

Gus Fafalios accompanied Meaghan on acoustic guitar. He’s amazing. I watched some video on the site linked to his name where he played electric guitar (even better than he was last night on the acoustic). Someone I need to keep my eye on!

GusFafalios

Chrissi Poland was up next. We still haven’t caught a full set of Chrissi’s, but she’s amazed me every time we’ve seen her sing, even for a few minutes. The most recent time was a jaw-dropping wow, three months ago at a Holiday Benefit show.

ChrissiPolandGuitar

She accompanied herself on an acoustic guitar to open her mini-set. Her voice was flawless. She played songs from an upcoming EP. She’s launching a PledgeMusic this week. So, you can be part of the making of this new EP.

Chrissi moved over to the grand piano to do another number. I enjoyed all three of her songs, but she’s quite good on the piano and the fullness of it matched her voice better as well. So, given a choice, I’d prefer to see her do more piano-based songs. I can independently attest to the fact that she slays it with a full band behind her.

ChrissiPolandPiano

Christina had been on stage between the ladies, but now returned to introduce Nicole Romaine-Settembrino, the representative from 2NDFLOOR. Nicole came up and explained why the group was formed and let everyone know that there was more literature available for those interested in learning about the service.

NicoleRomaine-Settembrino

Bri Arden was introduced and came up with an acoustic guitar. In an unplanned moment, her normal bass player happened to walk into Rockwood with his bass, and he happened to have played that song with her once before, so she invited him up to play it with her again. Bri’s voice was spectacular (that’s been the case every time we’ve seen her). She jokes about her guitar play needing work. It’s true, but partially because she’s thinking about it too much. Just keep playing, it will come. Smile

BriArdenGuitar

Justin Goldner was the above-mentioned bass player. You can read my raves about him in any previous post I’ve had about Bri.

JustinGoldnerBriArdenJustinGoldner

She moved over to the piano and played The Other Man. Bri is definitely more comfortable on the piano and as with Chrissi, her big voice benefits from the additional richness of the grand. Beautifully done.

BriArdenPiano

Completing the trifecta, Bri returned to center stage, this time without an instrument. She was joined by the next showcase artist, who accompanied Bri on the piano on a brand new song they co-wrote, What Do I Do. Bri was amazing. The piano play was excellent and the way-too-brief harmony was wonderful.

BriArdenAnnaKrantzBriArdenSinging

Anna Krantz was the piano player on the last Bri song, but I saved her name to tout it as the final showcase artist. This was our first time seeing Anna perform, though we did briefly meet her a few months back at the bar at Rockwood 2.

AnnaKrantzGuitar

She opened with her new single, Rubble and the Dust. The video (quite clever if you ask me) is currently on her home page (linked to her name above). The song also starts playing immediately (as I type, you might get a different one) when you visit that page. She performed it on the acoustic guitar (I guess that Chrissi, Bri and Anna all wanted to make sure we knew they were multi-instrumentalists).

Anna has a fantastic voice. Like the others, she too moved over to the piano, where I’ve already noted she excellent.

AnnaKrantzPiano

She closed her mini-set with a song called Foundation (or The Foundation). Oh man, both Lois and I were blown away by it. This morning Lois wrote to our friend who introduced us at the bar to say that he was so right that we needed to see her perform.

After a few more words from Christina, Caleb returned to the stage for a playful number about hitting the gym to stay sexy for the girls. I had the sense that this was a cover that I didn’t recognize, but for all I know it’s just another Caleb original. Hard to stop smiling throughout the number.

CalebHawleyGuitar

When he was done, he was unplugging and saying goodnight. It was on the early side and people were calling out for more. After a bit of looking around, they finished off the show with a bang.

Caleb picked up his guitar again, but this time, all four women (Meaghan, Chrissi, Bri and Anna) joined him on stage. They sang Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend. Fantastic!

ChrissiPolandBriArdenAnnaKrantzMeaghanFarrellChrissiPolandBriArdenAnnaKrantzMeaghanFarrellCalebHawley

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It turns out there was a unifying theme for the showcase. Christina Morelli is obviously a magnet for females with extraordinary voices. Keep following The CEO Artist to see what other goodies Christina unearths for us!

The show was filmed by Sam Teichman, so soon, you’ll be able to watch the performances for yourself. They’ll probably be listed (or at least linked to) on The CEO Artist site.

SamTeichman

We bolted really quickly. After the late nights we’ve had recently, both of us were really looking forward to being near a pillow on the early side. Apologies to anyone we didn’t say a proper goodbye to!

Caleb Hawley at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Caleb Hawley headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Ever since we saw Caleb play a house concert in VA, I’ve wanted to see him as often as I can. That hasn’t worked out as well as I had hoped, so when he returned to NYC for last night’s show, I wasn’t going to miss him again.

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When I first see someone, I tend to write a longer, more detailed (in the excruciating, please stop sense) post. That’s what I did for the house concert, but it was back in the days when I wrote a single post about the opener and the headliner together, something I rarely do now. Caleb was detailed lower down in the post, since we originally showed up primarily for the opener, Rachel Platten. If you want to know why I fell in love with Caleb Hawley, read that post.

We’ve seen Caleb a couple of times since then, never doing a full set of his own material. That’s a shame, because in addition to being an excellent performer, he’s an excellent songwriter.

One of the most impressive things about Caleb is how comfortable/natural he appears in front of any crowd. He might be quivering underneath, but there’s no hint of that. I’ve seen him take his shirt off (at another show) and unashamedly shake his less-than-six-pack-abs belly for our amusement. The more typical thing is his disarming smile and style, which just makes you want to keep your eyes on him.

That’s good, because while you’re keeping your eyes on him, you’re hearing an incredible voice and watching an absolutely exceptional guitar player.

CalebHawleyGuitar

Last night was a joyously fun set, complete with very talented people supporting Caleb. It also featured Caleb playing electronic keyboards on the first few numbers, something he claimed he was nervous about (see above for why I don’t believe Caleb ever gets nervous). Winking smile

Let me praise the band, then circle back to some additional comments about Caleb. Left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and heavy background vocals. Patrick is a perennial favorite of ours on the keyboards. We were seated a couple of feet from him, so we got to watch him work his magic directly. He also sang harmony on practically every number (perhaps every one), wonderfully.

PatrickFirthPatrickFirthKeyboards

PatrickFirthEvanWatsonSinging

Evan Watson performed double duty. For half the set, he manned the drums (that was a first for me, seeing him play the drums). He was good enough to support Caleb, but he’d have to work hard to match most of the other local drummers. For the other half of the set, he was well into his comfort zone, lead electric guitar. Totally sweet! Occasionally, he leaned over to share (or take over) the mic in front of the bass player, to sing some background vocals. He also sang a bit when he was at the drums.

EvanWatsonDrumsEvanWatsonGuitar

EvanWatsonSlideGuitar

Brian Killeen on electric bass and background vocals. Brian is always wonderful, but Caleb gave him a couple of long-ish leads, which Brian nailed, to the delight of the crowd. He also sang quite of bit of background vocals with Caleb and Patrick. Another winning performance.

BrianKilleenBrianKilleenBassSoloCalebHawleyBrianKilleenSinging

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Considering the name of the opening song, it was entirely appropriate that the entire band donned sunglasses to try and remain incognito while entertaining us:

CalebHawleyBrianKilleenEvanWatson

Back to Caleb. I already said how much I enjoyed the set, but he still hasn’t recaptured the feeling (for me) that I had the first time I saw him. For most artists that I see, if they do both full band and solo shows, I typically prefer the full band ones. That’s even true when they are amazing solo performers.

Caleb is an exception to that rule, so far (but not the only exception). His full band show was fun and engaging throughout, but his personal artistry and wizardry is lost (or rather, watered down) in the fullness. He’s so good on the guitar, which is so much more obvious when no other instrument is playing (or when he has only a light-touch drummer supporting him, e.g., Craig Meyer). He has a great voice, which is also more obvious when there aren’t other instruments wailing. He is a great songwriter and it’s easier to concentrate on the lyrics when it’s just him.

I can imagine that with a different set list and a different arrangement, I could feel the same way about a full band show (certainly, there’s no issue with who he picks to support him!). Basically, I guess it boils down to Caleb being too generous with wanting everyone to be (nearly) equal in a full band show. In my opinion, his sets need to be about Caleb, first and foremost, with everyone else being the super professional musicians that they always are, and just support him.

I’ll be seeing Caleb again this coming Monday, 7-9pm, next door (Rockwood 1), when he is the MC for The CEO Artist showcase (put on by Christina Morelli). I imagine he’s quite the MC, given what I told you above about his stage presence.

Caleb is a celebrity in NYC (independent of his run on American Idol last year), so we always get to see many friends at any show that he is part of. We could have spent the entire evening chatting and catching up. Instead, after a few quick hugs and hellos, Lois just took photos of our friends. Winking smile

TerryIrisKellyRachelSamTeichman

Bri Arden will be one of the performers at Monday’s showcase with Christina Morelli (and Chrissi Poland, hidden from view, who will also be performing on Monday):

BriArdenChrstinaMorelliChrissiPolandSamTeichmanBriArdenHadar