The Vanity Belles

The Vanity Belles at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The Vanity Belles are a couple of hard-working ladies. Roughly 28 hours before headlining a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night, they were in Charlotte to sing the National Anthem at The Bobcats NBA game:

I’m sure they blew away the large crowd there, but those fans only got to hear one song. We got a full set, with their regular (awesome) band, so we win. Smile

I’ve written about the Belles a lot in the past three months, so rather than repeat all of that, if you’re new to them (or me), please read this post.

As with that show, everything clicked last night. Their voices were great, the band was great, their set selection was great.

TheVanityBellesCarrieWelling

JessiRaeWaltzJessiRaeWaltzSinging

One of the hallmarks of The Vanity Belles (TVB) show is getting baked goods by Jessi Rae Waltz. Given their hectic schedule the day before, she couldn’t pull off her usual magic. Not to worry.

Patryk Larney came up on stage early in the set and read a poem that he wrote about saving the day. Rebecca Haviland held up his fold-out carboard teleprompter. His treat? Hershey’s Kisses, connected in barbell form (a kiss on each end). Patryk used one as a prop to act out the poem. Extremely well done! (Rebecca might have been auditioning to replace Vanna White on The Wheel of Fortune.) Smile

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The Belles often produce a custom video to promote an upcoming show. They did one for last night, around the theme of the opening number, Superman:

The Vanity Belles promote their Rockwood Music Hall show

Sitting one table over from us was none other than the star himself, Superman.

Superman

As is their custom, the Belles picked up their instruments for one song, Bottle. This time, Jessi introduced it and explained where the inspiration came from. Then they nailed it, with Jessi on the electronic keyboards and Carrie on acoustic guitar.

JessiRaeWaltzKeyboardsCarrieWellingGuitar

TVB recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. Their new CD will be released in a few months. One of the reward levels was getting them to arrange and record a cover song of your choice. I think that included playing it at a show as well. The person who chose that reward picked Africa by Toto as the song. The Belles did a wonderful version, accompanied by two acoustic guitars.

Great job all around Ladies. On to the always amazing band, left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth on double-decker electronic keyboards and background vocals. Patrick never disappoints (as you will see if you read two posts from now, as yet unwritten).

PatrickFirth

Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitars. Oscar thrills at every show. Last night, when taking a lead, he gave a hand motion to the others to take it down a bit. They all complied immediately. He worked the guitar soulfully, building up to a crescendo as the rest of the band followed. One of the songs that he played acoustic guitar on was the Toto cover.

OscarBautista

Zach Jones on drums and background vocals. Another of our favorites (have I mentioned how much I love this band?). TVB has so many driving songs and Zach keeps the action moving at just the right pace.

ZachJones

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. It’s been 72 hours since we’d seen Chris perform (at a house concert in VA), so we were due. Thankfully, since he’s another that always delivers!

ChrisAnderson

Cameron Mitchell on electric and acoustic guitars and vocals. Cameron plays rhythm guitar to Oscar’s lead (for the most part) and does it extremely well. He’s also co-written with the Belles. Typically, Cameron is on acoustic when Oscar is on electric and vice versa. Last night they mixed it up a bit. Cameron opened the show on electric (with Oscar also on electric) and Cameron joined Oscar on acoustic for the Toto cover.

CameronMitchellElectricGuitarCameronMitchellAcousticGuitar

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Last year, we used to consistently be out of town for TVB shows. I’m glad to say we’re in a nice zone at the moment, catching them in a variety of configurations and venues. Keep it up ladies and we’ll keep coming out to see ya. Smile

PatrickFirthCarrieWellingOscarBautistaJessiRaeWaltz

The Vanity Belles at Watercolor Cafe

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The Vanity Belles opened for Rebecca Haviland at Watercolor Café in Larchmont last night. Rebecca Haviland plays at Watercooler regularly, but we’ve not been able to make any of her previous shows. That we were finally able to get there on a night when The Vanity Belles (TVB) were opening was doubly delicious.

TheVanityBelles

We’ve seen two full sets by TVB (plus a number of guest appearances). Both sets were at Arlene’s Grocery, with a full band. Both were more rock in terms of the overall sound, even though TVB never lose their country roots. Here’s the post covering the most recent show.

Last night was amazing, because it was a dramatically stripped down set. No electronic keyboards, no drums, no electric guitar. I never doubted whether their voices would hold up, but the songs themselves would obviously be judged differently.

CarrieWellingSingingCameronMitchellJessiRaeWaltz

I am thrilled (but not surprised) to report that when you write great songs, and deliver them through two incredible, angelic voices, you don’t really need much else. That they were supported by top musicians playing on acoustic instruments was icing on the cake. They probably could have thrilled me a cappella as well.

CarrieWellingCameronMitchellJessiRaeWaltz

The bottom line, TVB can play arenas with the full band and keep the place rocking, or they can play the most intimate club, with a small ensemble (or just themselves!), and have that audience realize that nothing was sacrificed in stripping down the sound.

On one song, Bottle, Jessi Rae Waltz (1/2 of TVB) took to the upright piano and Carrie Welling (the other 1/2) played the acoustic guitar. The other two members of the band didn’t join in until the song was well underway. That’s the reason I say that they could perform just themselves, a cappella or accompanied by the piano and guitar.

CarrieWellingCameronMitchellJessiRaeWaltzPiano

Speaking of the band, let’s name them, left-to-right:

Cameron Mitchell on acoustic guitar. Cameron was really good at both previous shows, but a bit overshadowed by the rest of the band on his acoustic (he also played some electric). Last night, his acoustic guitar was easily heard on every note and amazingly, he hit all of the right ones. Smile The guitar was a perfect accompaniment to the ladies vocals. Cameron also co-wrote at least one of the songs performed last night.

CameronMitchell

We also got to spend some time with Cameron (Cam) after the show and I can assure you he’s one of the nicest people you could have the pleasure of meeting.

Chris Anderson on upright bass. Unless you’re a newcomer here, I don’t need to tell you how great Chris is in general, on every set. Any set that has fewer instruments makes the bass pop even more, easily differentiating the greats from the goods. Chris is great and really enhanced TVB’s sound.

ChrisAnderson

Rebecca Haviland was a special guest on the first two numbers, then the last few as well, playing the upright piano. As much as I love Rebecca’s own songs (more on that in the next post), I don’t really get enough of her keyboard play, which is actually the first instrument I ever saw her play. So, this was a real treat to hear her on a real piano, in such an intimate place. Thanks TVB for having Rebecca join you!

You can see Rebecca’s back in a photo above. For good photos of Rebecca, look in my next post about her set. Smile

As if amazing music delivered by incredible musicians wouldn’t have been enough, this was our first trip to Watercooler Café and there’s no way it will be our last. The food was fantastic. I had the Baked Eggplant with a Three Cheese Spinach and Mushroom stuffing for an appetizer (OMG) and Wasabi-Sesame Crusted Tuna for the main dish (holy moly).

That we also got to spend it with two other couples, that we weren’t sure would be there, turned it into a festive and interesting evening, independent of the music.

CarrieWellingEdithKevinHadarEdith

The staff at Watercooler were all delightful and funny, making us feel completely at home.

The Vanity Belles at Arlene’s Grocery Final Residency Show

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The Vanity Belles (Carrie Welling and Jessi Rae Waltz) finished up their month-long residency at Arlene’s Grocery with a bang! It was crowded (mobbed actually), it was rockin’, it was awesome. If you missed it, I feel sorry for you (seriously).

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This was the last of four consecutive Monday performances throughout February. We missed the first two (darned work/travel nonsense), so I can’t tell you anything about them. We did catch last week’s show. For the geeks among you, let’s display the link this way:

#include last_weeks_show

Not that this wasn’t completely fresh (it was), even though there was an 88.89% overlap in the set lists. The differences were large enough to make this a very different show than last week (including something as simple as completely varying the order of the set list!).

There was a different guest, the regular keyboard player was back, and the Belles themselves seemed to be feeding off of the frenzied crowd. Or, perhaps it was the $5 Country Cosmos (created especially by Arlene’s for this one night) that fueled them (and many others).

If you don’t understand the drink name above, the Belle’s self-titled genre is Cosmo-Country. So, take a Cosmopolitan (the drink), twist it a bit to be sassy like the Belles, and you have a Country Cosmo. Smile

There was one song swap from last week’s set list (independent of the complete change in song order). Last night they played Till I’m Me. This is a very recent song which they wrote and recorded live in order to get it on their upcoming CD (after the real studio recording had already been wrapped up). Wow, awesome song. I’m very glad that I’ll have it when the CD comes out. Oops! When I Was With You was the new song, Till I’m Me was new for this set, but is already on last year’s EP.

CarrieWellingJessiRaeWaltz

The ladies each played an instrument on Bottle, as they did last week. Once again, they crushed the song.

CarrieWellingGuitarJessiRaeWaltzKeyboards

There was only one change to the core band, though both of last week’s guests played instruments as well. I’ll save the very special guest for after I say a few words about each core band member, left-to-right on stage:

Patrick Firth, the normal keyboard player for the Belles, was back in the saddle. He’s always great, whatever group he plays with. I was a few feet from the keyboards last night, so in addition to hearing Patrick’s fine play, I got to watch him work, close up.

PatrickFirth

When he relinquished the keyboards on Bottle, so that Jessi could take over, Patrick stood near the drums and played the tambourine.

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Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitars, and mandolin. Oscar is always superb on the guitar. Last week I described his long solo as having a jam band feel. Last night it may have started out that way, but it took on more of a rock god type lead, and Oscar obviously realized the crowd felt that way. He stepped out from the back and finished up the lead front and center stage. It was a huge crowd-pleaser.

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On one number, Oscar played the mandolin. Considering I love the mandolin, and love Oscar’s play, this was a real treat for me.

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Zach Jones on drums. If you’ve read this space recently, then you know I’ve been raving about Zach a lot lately (in fact, my most recent post was all about his band The Stone Lonesome). Of course his drumming was amazing last night (it always is). He even played the snare with his bare hands during one song, bringing out a bongo-like sound.

ZachJonesPatrickFirthOscarBautistaZachJones

Chris Anderson on electric bass. As with Zach, I’ve been raving about Chris a lot recently. Unlike Zach, I’ve been raving about Chris for years (I only first heard Zach last July). Chris impresses every time, that is all.

ChrisAnderson

Cameron Mitchell on acoustic and electric guitars. Just like last week, Cameron took on the rhythm guitar duties to complement Oscar’s lead and mandolin play. Once again, a wonderful job!

CameronMitchellCameronMitchellElectricGuitarCameronMitchellAcousticGuitar

Brian Collazo (lead singer from Live Society) was the special guest last night. We could listen to Brian sing all night, every night. Amazingly (and achingly), it’s been five months since we’ve seen him sing, when he guested with the Belle’s Manager (I’ll get to him in a minute). It’s been eight months since we’ve seen a full Live Society show (also at Arlene’s), and we’ve been trying hard (with near misses along the way) to get to one.

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Brian sang on No Regrets (amazingly) and on Recently (which Rebecca Haviland sang with the Belles last week). It only made us want to see Brian and Live Society all-the-more.

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Patryk Larney has his own musical career (check him out, fall in love, and donate to his current Pledge Music campaign!). In addition to that, he manages the Belles. One of the 1,873 jobs that managing them entails, is being The Bucket Man at their shows. The Belles prepare treats for their audiences, and wrap them in The Vanity Belles goodie bags (genius, and delicious). He carried around a bucket filled the goodie bags last week and last night, handing them out to greedily awaiting fans.

PatrykLarney

In an homage to the tireless Patryk, I’ve written the chorus to an as yet unwritten song called Bucket Man (sung to the tune of Elton’s Rocket Man):

And I think it’s not gonna be so long

Before these goodie bags are taken home

And ripped apart and eaten up with joy

Oh no no no, he’s a Bucket Man

Bucket Man, handing out the treats for everyone

Ben Morgan, last week’s keyboard player (filling in whenever Patrick Firth can’t make it), was in the audience enjoying himself as much as the rest of us were.

BenMorgan

Manish Gosalia once again documented everything in a way that only he does. I was right up against the stage, so I noticed (for the first time) that Manish also had a camera set up at the back of the stage which he controlled with a remote. A meticulous master, now captured from the other side of a lens as well:

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Last week I mentioned someone named Jack. This time I’ll add a photo. Next time, who knows what I’ll reveal… Winking smile

Jack

Finally, the set list:

SetList

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!

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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’.

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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!

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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.

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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

Patryk Larney at Rockwood Music Hall

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I so thoroughly enjoyed my first Patryk Larney show (also at Rockwood Music Hall) that I was looking forward to seeing him again. Having an 11pm start time isn’t conducive, so I didn’t think we’d make it out last night. When our plans changed for the evening due to the set before Patryk (covered here), I was happy to push it an extra hour.

PatrykLarney

Before heading out, I saw these back-to-back tweets:

patryklarney Patryk Larney

Also tonight I will have a listening Holiday gift for everyone that comes. I open the show with an epic sound gift. for real. do not miss.

my opening guest will floor you. like nothing you have ever heard. A world touring musician. i can not mention here for safety reasons..ha!

What could it be, who could it be?

When his guest stepped on the stage, I recognized him. I’ve seen him exactly once before, almost two years ago to the day (12/18/2009). He was a special surprise guest that night too.

Kenny Muhammad is known as the human orchestra. One of his specialties is being a human beat box. You would swear that someone was playing a full drum kit when he’s working his magic. I can assure you that while Patryk had a drummer (we’ll get to him shortly), he didn’t touch the drums during both songs that Kenny performed.

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Jessi Rae Waltz (of The Vanity Belles) was called up for the second song of the set and Patryk asked Kenny to stick around for that too, even though they hadn’t rehearsed it. The number is called Filler. It’s a fun/playful song about nothing. While some of the lyrics are amusing, the real reason to listen to it is Patryk and Jessi’s voices, which are fantastic. All of the musicians are wonderful, and Kenny just kills the beats (in particular at the 2:25 minute mark and again at the end).

JessiRaeWaltz

If you’re going to watch the video I strongly recommend using headphones that handle bass well. If you listen with them on, you can hear Kenny clearly throughout, but really pick up all the nuances when he’s center stage:

Patryk Larney, Kenny Muhammad and Jessi Rae Waltz perform Filler

Carrie Welling, the other half of The Vanity Belles joined for the next number (and Kenny Muhammad was done for the night), with Jessi staying on stage. Independent of Patryk, you simply have to check out The Vanity Belles, they’re extraordinary. Throw in Patryk’s wonderful voice and the sound is amazing.

PatrykLarneyTheVanityBelles

Carrie stayed and Jessi left. Patryk and Carrie sang City in the Fall. It was absolutely gorgeous. At the last show, Brian Collazo from Live Society sang it with Patryk. Their version was much more playful, showing off their soul chops. This was a more serious rendition of a beautiful song.

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Patryk sings with passion (without ever screaming) and has a very wide vocal range:

PatrykLarneySinging

Update: I can’t believe I left this out. Patryk performed an incredible version of Auld Lang Syne, in an Irish accent. He finger picked it soulfully and you could have heard a pin drop. Very moving.

He had an incredible band supporting him, left-to-right on stage:

Ben Morgan on grand piano, vocals and melodica. We’ve seen Ben a number of times, including on TV supporting The Vanity Belles. He’s a superb piano player with an excellent voice. He also played MC twice, introducing Patryk and Kenny to kick off the show. He has a mild-mannered touch to his humor, which works very well.

BenMorgan

When he picked up the melodica, and blew into it directly (no hose), the place went nuts. So much so that he had to stand up and play it like he was a rockstar. Smile

BenMorganMelodica

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris was wonderful. It’s hard to say whether his bass play, or his beard, was more impressive. You can judge for yourself how impressive his beard is, but you’ll have to listen really carefully to the video above to pick out his play.

ChrisAnderson

Kenny Shaw on drums. Another great performance from Kenny, though he did get to totally slack off for the first two numbers while the other Kenny was beat-boxing up a storm. I guess that made this Kenny that much fresher than the rest of the band when he finally joined in. Winking smile

KennyShaw

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Most of the people that were there for the set before were here for this one as well. In fact, most of them were sticking around for the next set too! We badly wanted to as well. Nightmare River Band was new to us, but we’re fans of Seth Faulk so we really wanted to check them out. Unfortunately, it was past midnight, and we were fading really fast. Lois caught a great shot of Carrie Welling and Seth Faulk as we ran out:

CarrieWellingSethFaulk

We also ran into Jeff Litman. Mark your calendars (February 9th, 2012) to go see Jeff Litman’s CD Release show at The Bitter End. In fact, go earlier that evening to see Sam Teichman’s Leave a Lasting Mark benefit. This CD will be great and I’m sure the show will be too! We have a huge sad face, because we’re nearly sure we can’t be in the city that night. Sad smile

LindseyJeffLitman

Backscratch XVII at Rockwood Music Hall

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Last night we attended the early show at Joe’s Pub. Under normal circumstances, we would have run home after the show. These were not normal circumstances. Over at Rockwood Music Hall, timed perfectly for us, was Backscratch XVII. That would have been more than enough to get us to stay out for another few hours.

More poignantly, and most unfortunately, this was also billed as the last NYC-based Backscratch. Folks, that’s simply a tragedy (of reasonably large proportions). The concept of Backscratch was originated by Martin Rivas (and I think Craig Meyer). It will live on in London, run by Alex Berger, but unless I can find a way to blackmail Martin (or twist his arm really hard), it’s going to be very expensive to catch one of these shows in the future.

MartinRivas

In addition to just wanting to catch any Backscratch show, the lineup for last night was particularly tasty. Every performer was particularly sharp (they understood the stakes), so it ended up being an extra-special night all around.

Quick recap of what a Backscratch is: 6-9 performers. Each does three numbers. One has to be a cover of one of the other performers. They get drawn randomly and no one knows in advance who is doing their song. For the other two numbers, deep tradition has the artist performing one of their originals plus a well-known cover. More recently, many artists perform two originals.

Stephanie White and the Philth Harmonic were up first. The Philth Harmonic is Robbie LaFalce (considering that Stephanie’s name appears separately and there are only two of them). Let’s start with Stephanie. We’ve seen her sing one song, at one of Sam Techman’s Leave a Lasting Mark benefit shows. She was extraordinary then, and again last night. The woman can sing, pure and simple.

RobbieLaFalceStephanieWhite

We’ve seen Robbie LaFalce three times, all at Sam Teichman benefits. At the first, he drummed. The second, he played piano. The third, he drummed, played piano, and sang. Last night, he played the electric guitar on all three numbers. Beautiful play, subtly, but interestingly supporting Stephanie.

RobbieLaFalce

This was the first time that we saw them play together, as the Philth Harmonic.

Unlike most Backscratch performers, they chose to do their cover as the middle number (there are no hard-and-fast rules). They drew The Vanity Belles. I am not familiar enough with the VB version to tell you how much Stephanie morphed it, but I can tell you that Stephanie was exceptional in performing her version.

On one of the numbers, Robbie added a percussion loop and some looping of him clapping and playing guitar. It created a much bigger sound than the two of them would otherwise have.

Morgan Karr was up next. I had never seen him before. He kicked it off on the grand piano, playing beautifully, but really, showing off a great voice. For the next number, he came to center stage and just sang (he had accompaniment) without playing any instrument. Again, his voice really shone and I really liked his songs as well.

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For his backscratch, he sang accompanied by only an upright bass. He drew Jay Stolar. Again, I wasn’t familiar with Jay’s song, but Morgan nailed his rendition of it, hitting some high notes spectacularly.

MorganKarrSinging

Morgan was accompanied by two top-notch musicians:

Justin Goldner on acoustic guitar. I’ve seen Justin a number of times, mostly playing bass for Bri Arden and Sam’s benefits. I also saw him play acoustic guitar for a very intimate performance of Bri’s. He blows me away on the bass, but hadn’t on the acoustic guitar that one time. Last night, supporting Morgan, he showed a lot more skill on the acoustic guitar.

JustinGoldner

Lorenzo Wolff on upright bass. Very good on the first two numbers. On the backscratch, he was the sole accompaniment (Justin sat that one out and Morgan sang). Hearing just a bass with a great vocalist really highlights how good (or not) the bass player is. Lorenzo is really good! Smile

LorenzoWolff

Abby Ahmad was up next. Another first for me. Great voice, very interesting guitar play. I really liked her songs as well. In other words, someone I intend to go see doing a full set soon (she’s playing Rockwood on Thursday at 11pm, but that might be too late for me that night).

AbbyAhmad

For her backscratch, she drew Morgan Karr. Another winner (both the song and her rendition).

Abb

Abby was accompanied by two extremely talented people:

Adam Minkoff on electric bass and floor tom. On Abby’s first number, Adam took the floor tom from the drum kit and brought it up on stage. He and the drummer (up next) played together, mostly on the rims first (in unison) and then separately, creating an extraordinary jungle rhythm for Abby to sing to.

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For the next two numbers, Adam switched to his more usual electric bass, and of course, was his usual excellent self.

AdamMinkoffBass

Sean Dixon on drums (again, no good link for him). This was my second time seeing Sean, and again he was excellent. In addition to playing the drum kit (minus the floor tom which Adam swiped, he also played the djembe on one number, beautifully. In fact, he put the djembe where the floor tom would have been. Not sure where else he could have placed it otherwise. Smile

SeanDixon

Jay Stolar was up next. We’ve never seen Jay do his own stuff, but have seen him sing a song here and there (as a guest, and at a benefit concert). He has a superb voice which was in full effect last night and played the acoustic guitar. I really enjoyed his two songs.

JayStolar

He drew Derek James for his backscratch. He chose Mama Said (it helps that I’m Derek James’ biggest fan, self-declared, so that I at least know which song Jay was covering). He played it so much slower than Derek does, but it totally worked. I’ll still take Derek’s version, but huge Kudos to Jay for creative arrangement and execution!

Jason Wexler accompanied Jay Stolar on his two numbers, sitting out the backscratch. Jason was superb on the grand piano. It started off in a funny manner. Jay began by picking on one or two notes, repeatedly, in a slow rhythmic manner, alone, no singing and no piano accompaniment. After a minute, Jay turned to Jason and said “Feel free to join in any time!”. Winking smile

JasonWexler

Jason laughed and immediately launched into a fantastic series of piano leads. Satisfied, Jay started singing. Smile

Derek James was up next. This was the first time I’ve seen Derek solo. I loved both of his numbers, which he dedicated to Terry. He kicked it off with What’s That Sound from his first CD, Stray. In a small-world story, I didn’t have that CD (though I’ve seen Derek perform the song a number of times), but Lois had secretly arranged with Derek in advance to purchase the CD last night, so I have it now! Smile

DerekJames

I was totally satisfied with Derek’s solo performance, but I admit that with the full band, there’s a swagger that was missing last night.

Derek drew Stephanie and the Philth Harmonic for his backscratch and did a beautiful job. Another example of me not knowing the original, so I can’t compare the versions.

The final act to close down the NYC-based backscratches (unless I have my way with Martin!) were The Vanity Belles. I’ve mentioned how much I love them a number of times, even though the first time I’ve ever seen them perform live, as themselves, was just this past Wednesday at a benefit show.

They were stripped down last night, the two Belles, Carrie Welling and Jessi Rae Waltz, accompanied by the amazing Oscar Bautista on acoustic guitar (they typically have a full band).

OscarBautistaTheVanityBelles

They opened with a brand new song that so blew me away I can’t find the words to describe it. I happened to be standing next to their manager, Patryk Larney, and I couldn’t contain myself after the song. I turned to him and said: “Holy cow, that was absolutely extraordinary!”.

He said that he agreed, and they just finished it and rushed to get it on the new CD (of which I am a very proud Kickstarter contributor). I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know that I will soon own this song.

CarrieWellingJessiRaeWaltzOscarBautista

Their next song had Jessi move to the grand piano. It too was absolutely breathtaking.

They finished with their backscratch, drawing Abby Ahmad. Another mind-blowing performance, and I really loved the song too (credit for that to Abby, obviously, though I have no idea how her original version sounds).

Folks, if The Vanity Belles don’t make it, the world is very broken.

They closed the show by awarding Martin Rivas with an actual backscratcher, dated and signed by everyone who appeared last night. A very nice gesture indeed!

MartinRivasBackscratcher

Here a pic of Alex Berger, currently the only Backscratch Master, with Jay Stolar. Alex has a show in 3 hours at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, so hurry up and get over there! Smile

AlexBergerJayStolar

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.

MaryBragg

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

MikeCassedy

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.

JimmySullivan

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.

CaseyShea

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).

CaseySheaPaulaValsteinMistyBoyceSeanWhite

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.

PaulaValstein

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.

AstoriaBoulevard

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.

RyanVaughn

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.

TonyMaceli

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.

ChrisKuffnerDavePittengerBessRogers

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).

DavePittenger

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.

MistyBoyceGuitarMistyBoyceKeyboards

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.

NickAfricano

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.

GregMayoKeyboards

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.

PaulMaddison

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Spectacular.

RebeccaHaviland

Kenny Shaw on drums. Excellent.

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Superb.

ChrisAndersonSinging

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

TheVanityBelles

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!).

PatrickFirth

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!

OscarBautistaOscarBautistaMandolin

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.

TheStoneLonesome

GregMayoZachJonesEmilyLong

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!

BrianKilleen

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.

MartinRivas

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!

BenjaminWagnerRivasSauceJarMartinRivasLoisSauce

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!

ChrissiPolandGuitar

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.

ChrissiPolandSinging

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.

CalebHawley

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.

BenjaminWagnerSinging

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

BenjaminWagnerOnTheFloor

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.

BryanDunn

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

ChrisAbad

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.

ChrisAbadMaryBraggBessRogersPaulaValsteinCharleneKayChrisKuffnerBenjaminWagner

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

Finale1Finale2

Finale3Finale4

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

MartinRivasKennyShawPreludeMartinRivasKennyShaw

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).

RebeccaHavilandRobinChrisAndersonMom

KellySamTeichmanKellyKristenSauce

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

HolidayBenefitBounty

Patryk Larney and Guests at Rockwood Music Hall

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Patryk Larney is the most recent singer/songwriter who has completed this pattern:

  1. See a glimpse of a performance
  2. See a bit more
  3. See a full set
  4. Fall in love

PatrykLarney

We saw him do one cover song at the Leave a Lasting Mark Benefit show and loved it. A few nights ago we saw him perform two originals and a cover at Backscratch XV. Another winning performance.

Last night he performed a full set at Rockwood Music Hall and there was no way we were going to miss it. At Backscratch, he had Ben Morgan accompany him on piano. I didn’t now what to expect last night when I locked it in our calendar. Then the tweets started:

thevanitybelles The Vanity Belles

Singin tonight Aug 31st w/ @patryklarney for his show & ROCKWOOD 9pm! Come down & hang…this show will be full of surprises I’m sure 😉

BriArden Bri Arden

Singing tonight w/ Mr. @patrykLarney at Rockwood 1 & as many awesome people as he can pack on that stage! Come on out 🙂

collazo Brian Collazo

NYC!! Good tunes & good people tonight at Rockwood Music Hall. Patryk Larney hits @ 9pm. I’ll be helping out on one tune. Come hang!

Seriously? We would have come out to see any one of those (The Vanity Belles, Bri Arden or Brian Collazzo of Live Society) on their own. It turns out, not all surprises were revealed via Twitter. Well, some weren’t really surprises, except to us, since we hadn’t seen Patryk in his own show before.

When we walked into Rockwood, the first person I saw was Kenny Shaw. I never know whether I just missed someone or am about to catch them, so I asked. Indeed, Kenny was sitting in with Patryk. Cool! The very next person I saw, Chris Anderson, was sitting in as well. Then I spotted Ben Morgan sitting behind the piano. Completing the band superfecta was Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. What a lineup!

Patryk and the band opened the show with a fun song called Filler. It’s about a song he never quite wrote, and promptly forgot. It’s nonsense, delivered whimsically, with good music. An upbeat way to kick off the show.

From then on, each song had at least one very special guest singing with Patryk. I’ll cover them all, but first a few more words on Patryk and his band.

So, we now know something we only suspected after Monday night’s Backscratch. Patryk is an excellent songwriter. We already knew he has a wonderful voice and that he plays the guitar well. In addition to songwriting, let’s add amazing stage presence to his list of talents/skills.

Tomorrow, there will be an absolutely extraordinary collection of music released digitally, to benefit the mind-numbing devastation of Schoharie Country in upstate NY. There are over 40 artists contributing a song each to this benefit release. Patryk Larney is one of those artists.

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

Oscar Bautista on electric guitar. After seeing Oscar perform a full set supporting Bri Arden, he quickly climbed into my top five list of local guitar players. Last night he easily held that position, in particular on the first number, Filler, where Patryk highlighted him quite a bit. Even in his background riffs, supporting the remaining songs, he was incredibly interesting.

OscarBautista

Ben Morgan on grand piano and harmony. Another terrific job by Ben on both piano and vocals. He also did the introduction, so he has a bit of MC in him as well. Smile

BenMorgan

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Always a treat to see Chris play. We’ll be seeing him quite a bit of him in the next 10 days, including this Saturday at Rockwood at 10pm, Tuesday at Bowery Ballroom, and later in the week in VA. Very happy about that!

ChrisAndersonPatrykLarneyChrisAndersonPlotting

Kenny Shaw on drums. Another superb performance. Patryk plays a wide variety of styles and Kenny kept each shift fresh and interesting. We’ll be seeing Kenny again at 10pm on Saturday, but that’s probably the last time until October. Sad about that…

KennyShaw

The new brand-new songs that Patryk played at Backscratch (Fine, Fine, Fine and Gotta Get Out) were played with full band and guest singers this time. They worked even better (which is to say they worked really well just with Ben on Monday). Fine, Fine, Fine is not on the set list (we all wanted more than he originally intended to give us). Here is the set list, but the only two songs that were played in the order they appear here are the first and last, Filler and Clingy (longer title: Clingy in my Brain):

SetList

I suspect that I will mess up a song or two in terms of pairing them with the correct guest. Forgive me (I do this from memory only) and I’ll update (happily) if anyone points out my error (and can prove it with video evidence and a sworn affidavit!). Winking smile

The first guest called up was Carrie Welling (1/2 of The Vanity Belles). She sang TV Feeds with Patryk. If I understood Patryk after the show, this is the song that will be on the Benefit collection released tomorrow. I really like it, so I’m happy I’ll have a recorded version shortly! Carrie was wonderful individually, and singing harmony with Patrick.

CarrieWellingOscarBautistaCarrieWellingPatrykLarneyChrisAnderson

Bri Arden was up next. They sang Genesis. It would be hard for me to heap more praise on Bri than I already have, but let’s try. She did a great job singing harmony, but finished up the song by taking over and hitting notes so high (and with power) that I hadn’t heard her attempt yet. The streak continues.

BriArdenOscarBautistaBriArden

Mike Larney (no relation, just kidding, Patryk’s brother) joined him to sing Maria. Mike did an excellent job (my guess is that he knows Patryk’s songs as well as anyone else). In fact, he did such a good job that Patryk invited him back up for the finale, Clingy in my Brain. That song has a lot of very tricky Rap-style lyrics, and like I said, Mike knew them cold.

MikeLarney

Brian Collazo joined Patryk to sing City in the Fall. Patryk chose very wisely here. He introduced the song saying every singer/songwriter that moves to the city feels compelled to write a song about it. He was determined not to do that. He ended writing a song named: City in the Fall… during the Fall… while he was living in the City. Winking smile

BrianCollazo

The two of them sang Motown-style, full of falsettos. At around the 3:30 mark, they decided to simply riff off of each other’s voice, with Brian following Patryk’s lead. Nicely done boys! Patryk was kind enough to give me permission to share the mp3 from last night’s performance with all of you. Since it was a live recording, you might have to crank the volume a bit (the song starts very softly).

The voices are obvious, as are the drums. If you listen closely, you can hear Oscar Bautista do some really cool things on the guitar (it was much more obvious live) and the bass and piano can be picked out as well. Enjoy!

Download City in the Fall, by Patryk Larney, featuring Brian Collazo

The Vanity Belles came up to sing Oak Tree Tavern. I already mentioned that Carrie Welling was 1/2 of The Vanity Belles. The other half is the equally capable Jessi Rae Waltz. Oak Tree Tavern isn’t really about a tavern (shhh). The song will appear (along with the other new ones) on an upcoming CD by Patryk (we’ll be contributing to the Kickstarter campaign when Patryk launches it).

JessiRaeWaltzTheVanityBelles

A slightly different version of the same song will appear on the upcoming Vanity Belles CD (Update: Patryk is their manager producer and he co-produced their upcoming CD with Chris Cubeta, and if I heard correctly, I believe Carrie and Jessi co-wrote the song with him).

Needless to say, the song and their collective performance was outstanding. Each of the ladies took a lead. Each sang harmony with Patryk, and all three sang harmony together. All permutations were great!

TheVanityBellesPatrykLarney

Next was the biggest surprise of the evening, because it was unplanned. Patryk looked around the room and asked if there was any singer that he hadn’t called up yet? Both Lois and I pointed to Rebecca Haviland who was sitting immediately to Lois’ right. Patryk didn’t need any further encouragement to insist that she come up.

RebeccaHaviland

He proceeded to tell her that she was about to sing along to a song she’d never heard. He played the song Monday night, so we knew it. He taught her the chorus in front of us. When he asked her to give it try (before the actual song started), she busted out a perfect harmony instead of just singing along like he expected. This was gonna be good.

OscarBautistaRebeccaHavilandBenMorganPatrykLarney

Yup, I was right. Rebecca nailed the harmony each and every time, getting a bit fancier as the song continued. It’s a deep song that tells the age-old tale of the grass is always greener from a different perspective.

As I mentioned above, Mike came back to close the show on Clingy.

MikeLarneyPatrykLarney

Let’s recap: Patryk Larney, with an amazing band, performing a collection of excellent originals. Great, right? Right. Now add some of the best singers on the scene: Carrie Welling, Bri Arden, Brian Collazo, Jessi Rae Waltz, Rebecca Haviland and Patryk’s brother Mike, and you have some truly awesome sauce.

OK, I’m ready for the next round, just let me know when and where to show up. Smile

Big Apple Singers and Mighty Kate at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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What do you do when an extremely talented group of musicians doesn’t blow you away, then announces a new show? You go, without hesitation. No two shows are alike and the likelihood of a repeat experience is low.

When I noticed that The Big Apple Singers (TBAS) were playing last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 10:15pm, I admit to a second’s hesitation (making my second sentence above a bit of a white lie). However, when I also noticed that it would be a night of songs exclusively by The Band and would likely be TBAS last show for a while (ever?), I really had no hesitation.

It was a fantastic set. The only complaint was that much of it was too loud, but not in exactly the same way as the last time.

TBAS is four people and they brought up four guests as well. I’ll get to the guests after I mention the main guys. Left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and organ) and vocals. Greg has an excellent voice and he put it to good use last night on leads and harmonizing with the others. Greg is my favorite local guitarist, but he doesn’t play guitar in TBAS. Greg is an excellent keyboardist (aside from seeing him with TBAS before, that’s his instrument of choice in his own band, the Greg Mayo Band).

GregMayoPiano

I have always enjoyed Greg’s keyboard play (at every show), but last night he took it up a notch. He played some parts with both hands on the grand, others with both hands on the organ and many with his left on the organ and right on the grand. All were tingle-worthy.

GregMayoOrganPiano

All three of the lead vocalists (including Greg) took one very long solo (without any accompaniment whatsoever) to start off one song each. Greg’s was entirely on the organ. He played for somewhere between 3-5 minutes while everyone on stage and in the audience stared at him and his fingers in amazement.

GregMayoOrganSolo

Evan Watson on electric guitar and vocals. Evan is an excellent guitarist and has a powerful voice. As I mentioned in my last post about TBAS, he’s very generous on stage. When Josh sings or does a drum solo, Evan squats on the stage so that the audience can see Josh. I didn’t mention it in the last post, but this is the second time that Evan broke a string on his primary guitar. Just like last show, rather than string a new one, he grabbed a spare electric guitar on the next number.

EvanWatsonGuitarJoshDionSinging

Just like Greg above, Evan took a 3-5 minute solo on the electric guitar to kick off a song. It wasn’t too flashy, more like a building melody that kept the crowd interested, with their pulse (or at least mine) rising slowly but surely throughout, so that we were primed for the full band to kick in when the solo was done.

On the last number, Evan wailed on the harmonica quite well. I knew he wasn’t going to play it again that set, because when he was done with the harmonica, he tossed it (unceremoniously) on the floor and immediately switched to a guitar lead. Smile

EvanWatsonHarmonica

Josh Dion on drums and vocals. I was late to the party on hearing about and seeing Josh. He’s a favorite of many people whom I respect and that goes for me as well now that I’ve seen him a number of times (on drums and on keyboards). He’s an excellent singer and an amazing drummer.

JoshDion

Just like Greg and Evan, Josh took a 3-5 minute solo. He’s soulful when he’s drumming slowly and blazingly fast when the sticks are just a blur. At either speed, he’s tasty and captivating. The looks on the band’s faces (let alone the crowd’s) were priceless!

JoshDionSoloSticksFlying

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris did a great job on the bass. In addition to singing harmony, Chris took the lead on a verse in at least two separate songs. The only other time I’ve heard Chris sing lead was at the last TBAS show. He does it quite well.

ChrisAndersonBassChrisAndersonSinging

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Rebecca jumped up on stage a number of times. Twice by herself and two other times with the ladies I will mention next. What can I say about Rebecca’s voice that I haven’t said before? Well, I’ve mentioned how powerful it is (coming from a tiny person), but not how easily she was able to be heard over the too-loud music. Such a force. Rebecca has her own set at Rockwood 1 on Thursday at 8pm. We’ll be there. Join us and experience this dynamo first hand!

RebeccaHavilandSingingTambourine

The first time Rebecca came up, three other women joined. Two of them are the leads in a group called The Vanity Belles. Carrie Welling (no good individual link) and Jessi Rae Waltz (also no good link) both added to the vocals and dancing, standing on either side of Rebecca. Both Carrie and Jessi joined Rebecca on a second song later in the set.

CarrieWellingRebeccaHavilandJessRaeWaltzAshleyLehmann

Ashley Lehmann joined Rebecca and The Vanity Belles the first time they were all up on stage. Considering that all four members of TBAS sing (well!), that made eight voices rockin’ it out on that number. Fantastic!

I am very glad to went to see TBAS again. Smile

Before going to a show at Rockwood, I always check to see who’s playing the set before. Aside from the opportunity to discover good music serendipitously, I do it because Rockwood has limited seating and we prefer to sit. Back in January, when doing exactly that, the set before was Mighty Kate (Katy Pfaffl).

MightyKatePiano

If you visit the site I linked above, at the time I’m typing this, the song Better Days starts playing automatically. That’s all I needed to hear to know we’d be attending the earlier set independent of the desire to sit. Unfortunately, Katy (or should I call her Kate, or Mighty?) got very sick and canceled that set back in January. I admit that I forgot to track her, but it turned out she didn’t reschedule until last night anyway (I’ll explain later!).

Imagine my surprise when I checked who was on before TBAS and immediately recognized the site and song. This was a no-brainer, we weren’t going to miss a second chance to see Kate/Katy/Mighty (OK, I’ll stop now). Winking smile

The set before Katy was a paid show, so even though we arrived way too early for her set, we had to wait outside. Thankfully, the weather was nice (it ended up pouring at some point while we were enjoying the two sets and was nice when we left again!).

Even though we were the first two to line up for Katy, the line got long pretty quickly. It was amusing to see how many people showed up claiming to be performing with Katy. It felt like a cast of thousands (it ended up being seven people in total).

Kate (see what I did there, I switched to her performing name) started the set off solo, playing the grand piano and singing. A very mellow, jazzy number that highlighted both her incredible voice and her excellent piano skills. Not the greatest song to grab a somewhat noisy crowd by the throat, but for those who listened, a well executed opener.

For the most of the remaining numbers (very few exceptions), Kate was joined by a drummer and bassist (electric). I’ll get to them shortly.

In addition to having such a great voice, Kate is also a mutli-instrumentalist. In addition to her piano play (most of the songs), she played an acoustic guitar (mostly picking, a little strumming) and a violin (on one number). She’s good on all three, but the piano play was the strongest (and most consistent).

MightyKateViolin

Not every song grabbed me, but all were very pleasant to listen to. Some were great. Many of the lyrics were deep, sophisticated and flowed very naturally. She’s a very talented woman (more on that in a bit).

Rich Mercurio on drums. I can’t find a good individual link for him, but here’s a summary on a band page (a little outdated, but wildly impressive nonetheless):

Manhattan based producer/musician/songwriter, has produced and written for various record and television projects. Rich has recorded and/or performed with artists including Enrique Iglesias, Jewel, Chris Whitley, Vitamin C, Jonatha Brooke, Michael Bolton, and Ronan Tynan. Appearances include The Tonight Show, The Late Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brian. He can currently be seen in the broadway production, Martin Short, Fame Becomes Me

RichMercurio

Richard Hammond on electric bass. Read his performances and discography. Be prepared to have your mouth agape while you’re doing it.

RichardHammond

That accounts for two of the seven people that performed with Kate, the two Rich’s (as she called them) forming the core band members.

Matt Doyle joined Kate to sing a cover, Thin Air by Aqualung. Kate played acoustic guitar and they sang harmony throughout. They were amazing together. Matt’s voice was buttery smooth.

MightyKateMattDoyle

This is as good a time as any to fill in why Kate waited five months to reschedule at Rockwood. Both she and Matt are currently appearing in War Horse at Lincoln Center. While Kate was on stage entertaining us, War Horse was winning the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play! Nicely done, Kate, Matt and all involved in the play.

Kate brought out two women to sing harmony with her on two numbers. Morgan Paige and Nisha Asnani. Very nicely done ladies.

MorganPaigeNishaAsnani

Jody Shelton joined Kate toward the end of the set for another duet with Kate on acoustic guitar. Another winning combo. In other words, in addition to singing so well alone, Kate is masterful at singing harmony with others and at choosing the right people to sing with.

MightyKateJodyShelton

OK, we’re down to one last (very special) guest. Kate brought out Scott Chasolen to accompany her on piano while she sang a gospel song (the only song that Kate did not play an instrument on). Scott wowed us the only other time we’ve seen him, at a recent Rockwood-based Backscratch show. I found out after the show that Scott is Kate’s husband. They too were well matched, but Scott, who has an excellent voice himself, didn’t sing on this number.

ScottChasolenMightyKateSingingGospel

Kate closed the set with Morgan and Nisha singing harmony. She explained that she tries really hard to sing at least one new song every time she performs. Given her current schedule, she hasn’t had much time to write. She performed a song that she said she wrote mostly in her head, Bright Star. It was awesome, truly, so perhaps we need to lock her in her loft bed (I think that’s where she said she wrote it) more often. Smile

There was quite a large crowd there for Kate and they wouldn’t let her get off the stage when her set was over. She was given permission to play one more. She performed it solo on the piano. It was another brand new song, that she begged forgiveness for in advance if we didn’t like it. This was the first time anyone was hearing it in public.

Kate, no need to worry, it too was beautiful. Lois was particularly drawn to that last number, so you left us on a high note. Smile

MightyKateSetList