Vienna Teng

Vienna Teng, Alex Wong and Joey Ryan at Highline Ballroom

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Last night was very special on many levels. At the top of the list was seeing Vienna Teng perform in NYC (at the Highline Ballroom) for the last time in a while (she’s off to grad school later this month!).

Even though Vienna tours the US and Europe regularly, we have come to rely on the fact that NYC was her (temporary) adopted home and we had so many opportunities to see her here over the last year. (We also saw her perform in Atlanta, Birmingham and Norfolk.)

We’re thankful that we made the time to do it, without taking for granted that we could see her whenever we wanted. Her shows will be few and far between over the next three years, but they will happen, and anyone who gets the chance to catch one better do it!

Vienna’s voice and piano playing are magical and last night was no exception. She can soothe the savage beast or impassion the near lifeless.

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In addition to a few typical songs that Vienna invites the crowd to join in on (more on that later), she added Antebellum to the list, inviting us to join her or Alex in their respective parts. I could swear that the majority of the crowd selected Alex’s part (perhaps because it’s easier, or perhaps because Alex admonished us to “Choose Wisely”). 🙂

While Vienna often introduces songs, last night felt different. She knew she wouldn’t have many more opportunities to connect with the very large crowd so she introduced nearly every song and shared stories with great warmth. (Highline seats roughly 450 people, and there were very few empty seats. It was the first show we’ve been at where people were sitting in the Highline balcony as well!)

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One story that she shared was going to a Karaoke night with a group of non-musician friends. She and her friend sang A Whole New World from Aladdin. She described the inevitable Karaoke Key Nightmare, where the music is simultaneously too high and too low for your vocal range.

Many songs later (I think it was during 1BR / 1BA, but don’t quote me), 2/3’s of the way through the song, she and Alex broke into a full-on rendition of A Whole New World! Their harmony was fantastic and the entire bit was both wonderful and funny at the same time. Of course, after the song, Alex complained that Vienna chose his Karaoke key. Actually, to quote him more accurately, he said she chose his coming into puberty range. 🙂

Alex Wong (the Alex in the above paragraph) joined her as he has for nearly all of the performances we’ve been to. In addition to being Vienna’s touring partner, co-writer on a few of her songs and producer of her amazing CD Inland Territory, Alex is also 1/2 of The Paper Raincoat.

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On the set list, which I reproduce below for Vienna’s many fans, there is an entry labeled (Alex). Vienna lamented that she would really miss seeing The Paper Raincoat and asked Alex to pick one of their songs to play. People shouted out many songs. Probably the one most loudly requested was In the Creases. Technically, not a Paper Raincoat song, but co-written by Alex Wong and ambeR Rubarth (who are The Paper Raincoat), so it qualifies.

Alex chose to do Don’t Be Afraid. He too introduced the song with a short, but meaningful anecdote. Vienna sang perfect harmony with Alex.

Toward the end of the show Vienna said that she wanted to deviate from the set list and get Alex to play another song. Once again, lots of requests from the audience. Alex chose a song of his that he performed with his original group, The Animators, Help is on the Way. We’ll all need it for the withdrawal we’ll be feeling from Vienna’s absence. 🙁

AlexWongHelpIsOnTheWay

Ward Williams joined them for the entire show (as he does on most of their tours). Ward sang beautifully with Vienna on a few numbers and played cello or electric guitar on all the numbers. As I’ve said before, Ward is a top-notch musician who always enhances any show he’s a part of!

WardWilliamsGuitar WardWilliamsCello

Update: Lois asked me to say how funny (and quick) Ward is, so here goes. For one song, Vienna asked us to take our keys out. She directed us when to jingle our keys and when to stop (like wind chimes). Alex used his Harry Potter Wand (aka: Waterphone bow) to direct people to make whooshing sounds like the wind itself.

Vienna joked that Ward was left out of the directing. Without missing a beat, he offered that when he put his right arm over his head (in a ballet-like pose), the audience should let out a blood-curdling scream! After testing us once before the song, he sprung the actual arm movement late in the song, and the audience did indeed scream on cue (good paying attention folks!). Vienna definitely got a kick out of it, as did the rest of us. 🙂

I’ve never seen a weak Vienna performance, so raving about last night shouldn’t be taken to imply that other shows weren’t incredible (they all have been!). That said, perhaps it was the poignancy of knowing that it would be a while, making me listen even more acutely, Vienna was in perfect voice last night. The clarity and power were mesmerizing.

As promised, here is the set list:

SetList

As you can see, she ended the set (a long and satisfying one) with Grandmother song. She asked the entire audience to stand for it and we turned the song into a 400+ person party! When they left the stage, we all remained standing until she came back out, this time solo.

Vienna dedicated the song, 1000 Oceans by Tori Amos, to us. We were both choked up. I am still speechless this many hours later, but thankfully, I can still type! 😉

All I can say in return/response is that the amount of joy and personal/spiritual growth that Vienna and the too-many-to-mention other Indie artists that we have come to know and love have given us, fuels us daily! Thank you Vienna, and all of you (you know who you are!).

After 1000 Oceans, both Alex and Ward returned to the stage and they performed two more numbers. The last one was Soon Love Soon, sung by the entire audience in three-part harmony! Here is Vienna directing the right side of the audience:

ViennaTengDirectingAudienceWardWilliams

Including the encore, they were on stage for 100 minutes. As vivid as the memory is at the moment, I miss it already.

When we bought the tickets (many moons ago, when the show was first announced) there was no opening act listed. What a phenomenal surprise to found out it was another of our favorites.

Joey Ryan performed solo, singing and playing acoustic guitar. In addition to always nailing his sets (with and without accompaniment) he was even funnier (and more self-deprecating) than he usually is (and he’s always funny!). He had everyone in the crowd laughing and chuckling, within seconds of stepping on the stage.

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Personally, I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to come out to an un-warmed-up crowd who is eating, drinking and conversing loudly. To do that solo, acoustically and not be the headliner, even more so.

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Yet, like I noted above, within seconds, Joey had the place whisper quiet, with everyone hanging on his every word. He owned not only the stage, but the entire place. I’m humbled by that ability, and enjoy being a part of it each time I experience it.

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Lois asked me if I’d call out for Broken Headlights. I didn’t need to. Joey invited Vienna and Alex on stage to sing it with him. Gorgeous, both the song (always) and their arrangement and harmonies.

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The Highline Ballroom is a wonderful venue. Doors open two hours before show time and they have excellent food (and drinks). Because of that, we wanted to celebrate with friends and share the great music. We bought seven tickets and squeezed all of us in to a table for six.

We had an excellent meal, including way too many desserts (that Lois forced on us, and of course didn’t partake in). Here is a photo of a very small portion of the desserts we all shared:

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In what had to be the universe speaking to us (though I didn’t find this out until this morning!), I ordered a glass of Shiraz. Then someone else in our party ordered the same thing. The waitress asked if we wanted a bottle instead and I said yes. Then she said that they had a special on a different bottle of Shiraz, one that wasn’t available by the glass. I ordered that. It was really good!

This morning, when I looked at the bill, I saw the name of the wine:

Flying Piano

A totally fitting thing to be drinking during a Vienna Teng show, no doubt! 😉

We all hung around after the show to tell Vienna, Alex, Ward and Joey how amazing they were and what a special night it was. The same group (including Joey) will be performing tonight in Fairfield, CT, tomorrow at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and Saturday in Silver Spring, MD. Do yourself a favor and go to one of these shows, time is running out…

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The Paper Raincoat at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Q: What word describes the following situation? You’re old and exhausted and one of your favorite bands schedules a show at 6pm!

A: Perfect! 🙂

That’s exactly what happened last night. The Paper Raincoat played a show at 6pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. The only worry in our minds (possibly in theirs too) was whether people would show up that early. No need to worry folks, the place was packed to the teeth with people spilling out the door. Of course, we got there very early and snagged the two seats at center stage.

I know that most of the people who read this blog know about The Paper Raincoat (TPR) already, but for the Google robot out there, it’s a duo comprised of ambeR Rubarth and Alex Wong, each tremendous talents in their own right, that prove (yet again) that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts!

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Alex joked a number of times that they were playing the Happy Hour show. As Ken Rockwood himself joked back: “Every hour is Happy Hour at Rockwood!”. 😉

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They played a nine-song set (not including the encore). If you’re a fan, you’ll know how good a selection it was. Either way, let me assure you that it was extremely well received by the audience.

SetList

To give you a sense of how unusual the scene was, ambeR lost her place in Sympathetic Vibrations for a second. She always nails that one (though I won’t be able to say always any longer) 😉 and she explained that seeing so many people jammed into Rockwood that early distracted her. I don’t doubt that!

When they started Sympathetic Vibrations, Alex turned to the crowd and said: “You know your part.” We did. We (everyone, not just Lois and me) clapped our part perfectly, loudly, in unison. ambeR recovered from her momentary lapse by joking that at least we knew our part. 😉

When Alex introduced January, he explained that it should be thought about from the perspective of an older drunk guy. To ensure that we really understood that, three members of the band (I’ll cover each individually shortly) switched places, ensuring that they were no longer superstars on their respective instruments. It was fresh and fun. ambeR played the drums. She’s tweeted that she’s practicing but I didn’t expect to see the result so soon.

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On Right Angles both Alex and ambeR played on the grand piano at the same time:

AlexWongAmbeRRubarthSamePiano

On It All Depends, they ended with their signature drumming extravaganza. First, they warmed it up by getting the audience to clap in a fast and steady beat. Then Alex joined Kevin with the two of them drumming together, with the audience never missing a beat. Then ambeR joined them with all three drumming on the same drum set (well, to be honest, Alex had a snare a little off to Kevin’s left). It was as awesome as it always is, perhaps a drop more.

Both Alex and ambeR play a number of instruments. At times, Alex plays multiple ones simultaneously:

AlexWongMultiInstrumentalist

Closing the show (not the encore) with Rewind, ambeR, Alex and Kevin were awesome. The only thing that differentiates some previous TPR shows is that when Adam Christgau does Rewind, he also sings, making it three-part harmony at some points. Kevin doesn’t sing, but the three of them still make live magic every time they perform this song.

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ambeR and Alex returned to thunderous applause for an encore without the band. They played In the Creases, a song they co-wrote before TPR existed. We love the song. Lois felt it was the best rendition she had heard. I loved it, but I doubt I’ll ever experience it like I did at Joe’s Pub for ambeR’s CD release party, when Vienna Teng sang three-part harmony with them, and Katie Scheele played the oboe, and a full band supported them (including Vienna on the grand piano).

On to the wonderful band:

Kevin Rice on drums. Kevin was the original drummer for TPR, though for the first few shows that we saw them, Adam Christgau was their drummer. Kevin is awesome (as is Adam!) and many of the TPR songs allow great drummers to stretch a bit. The beat is such an integral part of the songs and Kevin never disappoints. For January, Kevin switched to the electric bass. He did a very nice job.

KevinRiceDrums KevinRiceBass

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony was great all night (as he always is). He’s a lot more understated than a number of the bassists we’ve seen recently, but that’s one of the things that makes him a great match for a lot of groups, his bottom is there for them, without Tony (or his riffs) becoming a distraction to their music. For January, Tony took ambeR’s place. He played the electric keyboards with his left hand, and the trumpet with his right! Bravo Tony!

TonyMaceli TonyMaceliTrumpetKeyboards

Melissa Tong on violin. Melissa always delights us and last night was no exception. Many groups add strings to their CD’s without ever using them live. TPR (and ambeR and Alex individually) often have strings on stage, creating the same huge, rich sound that they deliver in studio. While Melissa (and David, up next) were excellent throughout, they were really brought to the forefront in the opening of Right Angles, which is mostly strings for the first 45 seconds. Gorgeous!

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David Fallo on viola. David is wonderful on the viola. In addition to playing on all the numbers that Melissa played on, David also played on one that Melissa sat out. Everything that I said above about Melissa, in particular about Right Angles, applies equally to David!

DavidFallo

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I already mentioned that we grabbed the two seats front and center. Joining us at our table were three very interesting people that we hadn’t met before, but had shared a number of shows together. Getting to know them before the show started made the time fly (another advantage of getting there early) and we look forward to seeing them at many shows in the future!

Here’s hoping that when we get even older, and NYC kicks us out and forces us to move to Florida, that TPR will show up and play a 3pm show for us while we grab our early-bird dinner special. 😉

Martin Rivas, Vienna Teng and ambeR Rubarth at City Winery

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In January, City Winery hosted three shows to benefit the Haiti earthquake disaster. We attended one of those shows and I covered it in this post. They have repeated that generosity this week, hosting three shows to benefit those affected by the Gulf Coast Oil Spill. All proceeds went to the Gulf Restoration Network.

This provided another opportunity to do some good, while enjoying a night of incredible music, and for us, dinner and NYC-made wine as well!

Update: Thanks to the commenter below who correctly chided me for not mentioning the two videos that were shown before the music started. Here is the link to the organization that presented them.

Covering the acts in the order they appeared:

Martin Rivas opened the show. I have been waiting too long to see Martin perform a full set. Last night was small progress, three songs in a row. It only made me want to see more, so my quest continues. Martin has such a clear, strong voice, I can listen to him sing all night!

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Martin was accompanied by a full band (left-to-right):

Patrick Firth on piano (not sure that’s the right link). Very nice job, playing both the grand piano and an electric keyboard propped on top of the grand.

PatrickFirth

Greg Mayo on electric guitar. I have seen Greg’s name many times, tweeted by many musicians, but I hadn’t heard/seen him before. Wow! Fantastic guitar playing. After the set, my friend told me that he caught Greg for the first time the night before, and Greg was playing the piano in that show, just as well! I now have to catch Greg doing his own thing, asap!

GregMayo

Chris Anderson on electric bass. We love Chris on the bass and I’ve written about that many times. Last night was the first time we’ve seen him accompanying someone other than the amazing Ian Axel. Of course, we weren’t surprised to find out that Chris was just as good backing up Martin. Chris is Greg Mayo’s bassist, which is probably how he came to play with Martin last night.

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Craig Meyer on drums (couldn’t find a good individual link). We saw Craig drum for Martin at the Haiti benefit as well. He’s very good, and I enjoyed his play last night tremendously. Chris Anderson is always full of energy in his play, and whenever he turned to Craig, the two of them cranked it up a notch, with Craig getting into it as much as Chris did.

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Vienna Teng was up next. This was a wonderful surprise for us. Vienna (and ambeR as well) was not originally listed on the bill when we purchased our tickets. Jay Nash was, and he didn’t make it. Vienna performed three songs (as did every artist): Harbor, 1000 Oceans (a Tori Amos cover) and a song that she co-wrote with ambeR at a songwriters retreat. ambeR came out to sing harmony with Vienna on their co-written song. Another awesome performance by Vienna.

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ambeR Rubarth opened with Novocaine, a song I can listen to 10 times every day and not tire of. She played it on an electric guitar, something we haven’t seen her do before. She then switched to the piano and Vienna returned the favor of singing harmony with her on Rough Cut. ambeR returned to the guitar to close her three-song set with Letter to My Lonelier Self.

ambeRRubarthGuitar ambeRRubarthPiano ViennaTengSinging

Christina Courtin played the ukulele and sang. We hadn’t heard of her before. Not exactly our taste.

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Ryan Scott on acoustic guitar, accompanying Christina Courtin. Ryan was very good on the guitar, and gave me something positive to focus on during Christina’s set.

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Among the Oak and Ash was up next. They were great! Josh Joplin is the front man and constant in this band. Josh plays the guitar and sings (and writes very good songs). Tons of energy creating a knee-slapping, toe-tapping experience for us. His band last night, left-to-right:

AmongTheOakAndAsh

JoshJoplin

Claudia Chopek on the fiddle (she has a MySpace page, but Chrome warned be about some content on there, so I’m not sharing the link). Claudia was excellent! In a not-so-small-world story (because the Indie music scene has many interconnections), Claudia has also played with Vienna Teng. Here is a YouTube video of Claudia (front and center) playing with Vienna and Alex Wong. Of course, since it’s closer to a classical sound, she was playing the violin (not the fiddle) in that one. 🙂

ClaudiaChopek

Ward White played the electric bass and sang harmony with Josh. Very nice job on both!

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The drummer for Among the Oak and Ash was really good too, but unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. If someone lets me know who it was, I’ll update this section.

ATOAA-Drummer

John Wesley Harding closed the show, on acoustic guitar and vocals. John was excellent, singing and playing, and cracked me up quite a bit with his very relaxed delivery of a number of quips. He had two excellent musicians accompanying him:

JohnWesleyHarding

I didn’t catch the name of either the piano and guitar player (I think his first name was David), nor the bass player. Both were excellent, with particular kudos to the piano playing which was highlighted a few times.

Update: From a comment below, the name of the Piano/Guitar player is David Nagler. No good individual link for him.

JohnWesleyHarding-Pianist JohnWesleyHarding-Guitarist JohnWesleyHarding-Bassist

It frustrates me when I work really hard to figure out who is in the band and it isn’t prominently mentioned on the artist’s site. As above, I’ll update if/when someone clues me in.

One very unusual thing during this show was that as artists finished their three-song sets, they came out and sat in the audience to enjoy the other sets. It was cool, and we were sitting among a number of our favorite musicians. 🙂

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We arrived early and had a lovely dinner, including a carafe of City Winery’s home-pressed Syrah, recommended!

Jay Nash, Joey Ryan and Chris Seefried

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Joey Ryan in NYC the same night that we are? No need to wonder what we had planned. 🙂

Joey just completed a UK/Europe tour with Jay Nash. After joining a lot of our favorite artists for a show (way) upstate in NY over the 4th of July weekend, they headed down to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 to spread some of the love to us sweltering city dwellers (OK, the heat actually broke yesterday, but perhaps that was Joey and Jay’s doing as well!). 😉

There was another musician on the bill last night, Chris Seefried. All three played at various times with each other, but technically, they played three separate sets (with nearly zero time between them, since each had their instruments already on the stage). I’ll cover them in reverse order (as I typically do).

Jay Nash was ostensibly the headliner, playing last. This was our first time seeing Jay. We’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while, since he is beloved by many of the people that we love.

JayNashAcousticGuitar

Not only weren’t we disappointed, we feel cheated that the people we love didn’t kidnap us and force us to go see Jay sooner. Wow!

I just followed him on Twitter (@Jay_nash) so that I would never miss an announcement of a future show. He’s also moving (or just moved?) back to the East Coast (after seven years in LA) so we should have more opportunities to fulfill our new wish.

Jay is an exceptional guitar player, both acoustic and electric. He has a powerful voice that is also incredibly clear. He writes great songs and delivers them with a passion and energy that is infectious.

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He plays a variety of styles. Last night included the softest (gorgeous) finger-picked number, a fantastic Country tune, and full-on Rock ‘N Roll (in the best tradition). He can carry the show alone (vocally and instrumentally), but he also sings amazing harmony during his set, and backing the other two guys.

Jay has excellent stage presence, keeping us all amused and interested during the tunings and shuffling around on the stage.

All three were joined by a variety of band members and special guests. I would normally mention the band members here, as part of Jay’s set, but since most played with all three performers, I’ll save my comments about each until after I cover Joey and Chris as well.

The crowd wouldn’t let Jay off the stage, so the show ran longer than planned. Yay! 🙂

Joey Ryan started his set off solo, and as usual, just crushed it. After that he was joined by a combination of players (to be covered later). What never ceases to amaze me about Joey is his ability to delicately hit very high notes, but deliver such incredible power in the middle range.

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Of course, he writes great songs, and delivers them well when playing solo, or with the full band pumping up the volume supporting him.

Joey also has a great stage presence, but it’s extremely different than both Jay and Chris. Joey is both completely self-deprecating (100% of the time) and soft-spoken (you have to strain to hear his cracks, but man, it’s totally worth it, as the cracks are as clever as his lyrics).

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After a couple of songs, Joey asked the crowd for requests. Lois asked for Broken Headlights. Joey ignored her and played California (beautifully). One song later, we found out why he didn’t consider Broken Headlights. He invited the one-and-only Vienna Teng on stage to join him (and the full band) in playing (and singing) Broken Headlights. It was awesome. Lois was happy. 🙂

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Joey asked Vienna to play on the next song even though she didn’t know it. While the others were tuning and setting up, Joey played one verse (no vocals) and the chorus for Vienna, so she would be prepared. Vienna needed nothing else, as her piano playing on the song was outstanding, complementing the mind-blowing leads that Jay Nash played on the electric guitar.

Kicking off the show (six minutes early) was Chris Seefried. We’ve never seen Chris before (nor heard of him). He was excellent in every respect (vocally, on acoustic and electric guitar and on the piano supporting Jay Nash). He also has a warmth (with strength) on stage.

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He started off the show with Rich Pagano singing harmony and playing a drumstick that had a built-in cymbal/tambourine for the percussion. Immediately thereafter, both Joey and Jay joined him and people kept coming and going from the stage throughout his set.

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At one point he introduced a song saying that it would start out a cappella and that we might all be asked to join in at the end of the song (we weren’t). The three part a cappella harmony was chill-inducing (Joey/Jay/Chris). But, there were a few people chatting loudly toward the back of the room.

Few things annoy me more than people who are so rude, in particular during a super soft number. There are hundreds of bars/restaurants/lounges in NYC where you can go to have a drink and conversation, and perhaps even hear background music. If you’re going to a show, in particular one where people are buying tickets in advance, don’t come if you want to talk.

Chris handled it perfectly (something 99.9% of all artists simply ignore, though it has to annoy them nearly as much as it annoys me!). He stopped the song and said: “If you want to talk, please try to do it in the key of A”. Thankfully, they took the hint and stopped. He restarted the song, and it was mesmerizing start-to-finish.

One interesting fact was that both Jay and Chris allowed the other to shine on the guitar during their respective sets. When Chris was up he played well, but Jay took the majority of the leads. During Jay’s set, Chris played the electric guitar (which he didn’t during his own set), and took some incredible leads, really showing off his skills.

Chris also played piano during one of Jay’s songs, and Jay played piano during one of Chris’. Nicely done, highlighting the other during your own set!

ChrisSeefriedPiano JayNashPiano

On to the band:

Rich Pagano (mentioned above) sang with Chris, and played the drums (and the aforementioned percussion). I liked his harmony. I would have enjoyed it more if he had been a bit more forceful with it. He was very respectful of not wanting to step on Chris’ vocals, but he needn’t have worried, Chris has a powerful voice.

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Adam Christgau played the drums on various numbers with all three performers. If you’ve never read any of my posts, then I need to tell you that we love everything about Adam, as a drummer and as a person. We discovered the great Ian Axel through him and would be grateful to Adam if that was all he ever delivered to us.

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Matt Delvecchio on electric bass. He played a bit with Chris, a lot with Joey, and throughout all of Jay’s set. Very solid on the bass. Toward the end of Jay’s set, he gave Matt a bass lead (Jay continued to play) and it was extremely tasty. Matt also sang harmony on a few songs (mostly Jay, but also a bit with Joey). He did an excellent job, both when it was just him and Jay, and when he was one of a four or five part harmony.

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Jano Rix played drums throughout Jay’s set and a bit of percussion on Joey’s. He was tight and solid throughout. The bio leads me to believe he’s much more awesome than he let on last night, though he didn’t miss a beat nor disappoint in any way.

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Here are two typical fancy set lists:

FancySetlists

In addition to a perfect night of music we had the pleasure of bumping into other friends and musicians during and after the show. In fact, we typically run out immediately after saying goodnight, so us old folks can hit the sack, but we lingered for quite a while chatting on Allen Street and having a blast.

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Alex Wong and Adam Levy at Rockwood

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Last night was a real treat for us. We got to see one of our favorite musicians perform his first solo show. We also caught the set before his, which was wonderful, and I’ll cover that as well.

Alex Wong is an incredible talent, something I repeat very often (well deserved repetition). We never had the pleasure of seeing him with his original group, The Animators, but we’ve seen him often as part of The Paper Raincoat (a group he formed with ambeR Rubarth) and when he tours with Vienna Teng (something he’s doing again starting tonight in Atlantic City).

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He has delighted us since the first time we saw him. It is my understanding that Alex isn’t looking to launch a solo career, but rather, as with many artists, he continually wants to stretch and grow. Playing solo affords him the opportunity to do that.

He played a mix of his own, The Paper Raincoat and The Animators songs. His selection was outstanding. For The Paper Raincoat (TPR) songs (Brooklyn Blurs, The Same Old Things, Don’t Be Afraid and Motion Sickness), hearing them in the pure mellowness of just Alex with the guitar was a nice change-of-pace. That said, I’m nowhere near getting enough of TPR’s sound.

Adam Levy (covered in more detail below) accompanied Alex on an electric guitar on two songs (possibly three). One was the first song Alex Wong wrote with Devon Copley (his partner in The Animators) A Girl Like You. The other was In the Creases, a song Alex wrote with ambeR Rubarth before they formed TPR (one of our favorite songs!).

Adam was a great addition on both songs, in particular on In the Creases, where his leads were fantastic. On Creases, he also sang harmony. He didn’t have a microphone in front of him, but since I was three feet away, I could hear how good a job he did. 🙂

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Alex didn’t come on until 11pm. Even though it was that late, in the middle of the week, there was a really nice-sized crowd at Rockwood Music Hall. When Alex finished his set, the applause wouldn’t die down. He had already unplugged his acoustic guitar from the amp, but it was obvious that people weren’t going to stop clapping until he played another song.

Alex looked up at the sound engineer, who nodded to him that he could play another one. He closed the show with Motion Sickness. Like I already said, a real treat for us, even though it was way past our bedtime.

A number of the people that we are thrilled to see on stage were in the audience. In particular, Tony Maceli, Ward Williams and Melissa Tong. Always nice to see them, even if they aren’t part of the show. We also bumped into three more friends there, proving yet again that Alex has a strong following.

Adam Levy played the 10pm set with a band. He wasn’t opening for Alex. Rockwood typically has 45-minute sets with 15-minute breaks for the next artist to set up.

AdamLevy

We’ve seen Adam perform solo (at Jammin’ Java). We’ve seen him back Alex Berger, and we’ve seen him perform duets with ambeR Rubarth. This is the first time we saw him with a band. Hopefully, it won’t be the last!

For those who don’t know, Adam Levy was the guitar player in Norah Jones band, both touring and on at least three of her CDs. ‘Nuff said!

He plays a number of styles and exhibited Country, Jazz, Blues and Folk last night (perhaps more?). He has a gravelly voice, but it’s compelling and draws you in to the song.

Tony Mason on drums. In addition to playing solidly throughout the set, Tony distinguished himself on one extremely tasty drum solo. He also played sidekick to Adam on a number of bits/banter. Clearly, they are friends and mesh together well.

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Jonathan Maron played the bass (I can’t be sure the link is correct since there’s no picture on that profile). He was good throughout the set, but not highlighted.

JonathanMaron

We already own Adam’s EP that he recently put out with ambeR Rubarth, but after his set, we also picked up his CD Washing Day (also the name of a song that he co-wrote with ambeR, which we really like!).

We met a friend for dinner before the show. We wandered into Noodle Bar on a whim. We ordered three dishes (one rice, one noodle and one soup) plus ice cream for dessert. I was impressed with every one. The only disappointment came when the bill arrived, and it turned out that they are a cash-only establishment. I had enough (it’s not a very expensive place), but it could have been awkward if it was a few dollars more…

Another wonderful evening out, adding to our already indescribable exhaustion.

Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel at Mercury Lounge

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Lois and I go out of our way to avoid concerts where we have to stand throughout the show. That cuts out a number of top venues in NYC where that’s the norm.

For most rules, there are some exceptions. Last night, knowing we would be standing, we still couldn’t imagine skipping The Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel. We would have gone to see either separately, but together, it was a lineup that was a crime to miss.

In fact, here’s my friend’s Facebook update about last night’s show:

HOLY CRAP!! Okay, seriously if you live in NYC and you did not come out to the Mercury Lounge to hear Ian Axel and The Paper Raincoat tonight you should be ashamed of yourself. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G show!

The only thing that would have added icing to the most delicious (birthday) cake would have been adding Vienna Teng to the lineup. While that magic didn’t happen, she was in the audience, so we were at least graced with her presence. 🙂

LoisViennaTeng

Both The Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel had all-star musicians supporting them. I’ll give each of them a shout-out toward the end.

Aside from the always spectacular performances that these artists deliver, last night had an extra-special surprise in store for us. Lois has a birthday this week, and The Paper Raincoat worked up a rendition of Happy Birthday which the jam-packed crowd sang along to.

They were singing the wonderful It All Depends, and toward the end, stopped singing, but continued the beat. Alex Wong announced that their friend Lois was in the crowd, and that it was her birthday, and would everyone please sing Happy Birthday to her. That was cool enough, but he got everyone in the audience to clap a rapid beat (to match the song), and ambeR Rubarth handed Lois a tambourine to play along.

LoisTambourine

This was super meaningful to both of us, because it’s only a tad over a year ago, April 17th, 2009, that we first discovered The Paper Raincoat, and that night, Lois also played the tambourine during It All Depends at Canal Room!

They end the song with three people drumming fantastically on the same drum set at the same time (Alex, ambeR and Greg Ritchie). It’s incredible. But this time, because Alex got the crowd clapping in high-speed rhythm, everyone was essentially drumming together at the same time. What a crescendo!

GregRitchieAlexWong ambeRRubarthGregRitchieAlexWong

Speaking of clapping, there was another magical moment early in their set. They opened with Brooklyn Blurs, and then played Sympathetic Vibrations. Before announcing Sympathetic Vibrations or playing a single note, Alex merely said:

For those of you who already know your part, join me now

Nearly everyone in the crowd (probably close to 200 people) didn’t need any other clue. We all started clapping a pretty intricate beat to Sympathetic Vibrations. Too cool to describe, seriously. Having 200 people stop on cue as well is something to behold.

For the tiniest taste of the show (you can’t capture the feeling in a YouTube video), here they are performing the above-mention song, clapping and all, Sympathetic Vibrations at Mercury Lounge, last night.

ambeRRubarth AlexWong1

Mercury Lounge has a capacity of 250 people. It had to be close to full. The crowd was insane for Ian Axel and just as loud (between songs) and interactive for The Paper Raincoat. Standing wasn’t bad, because it’s impossible not to move with the music, so you’re really not stationary (not that we’ll start searching out shows to stand for).

Early in Ian’s set, he played a particularly energetic song, sung with his usual passion. He was probably close to collapsing in a pool of sweat at the end of the number. Someone in the crowd yelled out “Play in again!”. Lois immediately added “This time, with feeling!”, which evoked a huge laugh both from the audience, and from Ian himself. 🙂

IanAxel2

Joining Ian on stage for two numbers was Chad Vaccarino. For the first number, they were also joined by Mike Campbell (I can’t find a good link for him). They played Shorty Don’t Wait. It was awesome. Here’s a YouTube video of them performing it from last night’s show.

ChadVaccarino MikeCampbell

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Immediately following that, Ian did his signature song (which is the title cut of his new CD), This Is The New Year. Chad is featured on that as well. Seriously, check out the “official” video of that song as well. If an Ian set was comprised of simply playing that song 10 times in a row, I bet no one would leave disappointed! 🙂

IanAxel1

During The Paper Raincoat set, they announced that Paste Magazine (one of the premiere music industry publications) will be featuring them for the next month or so. I think the magazine will be giving away a free song each week, and a bonus free song from artists that The Paper Raincoat will pick to match their own free song. Awesome for those of you who haven’t yet bought their amazing CD!

The Paper Raincoat et. al. taking a bow at the end of their show:

DavidFalloMelissaTongGregRitchieAmberRubarthAlexWongTonyMaceli

On to the shout-outs for all the amazing musicians who were on stage. Starting with the people supporting The Paper Raincoat:

David Fallo on viola was superb!

DavidFallo

Melissa Tong on violin was her typical excellent self!

MelissaTong

Greg Ritchie on drums. As I pointed out in a recent blog covering The Paper Raincoat in Norfolk, VA, the drums are an integral part of The Paper Raincoat sound. They did an amazing job in Norfolk without a drummer, but the sound was distinctly different.

GregRitchie

Filling the shoes of Kevin Rice and Adam Christgau, the two drummers who between them play at nearly every show is no small task. Greg did an excellent job. I judge that by how many times I can’t help but look away from the singing (and other instruments) and I’m forced to zone in on some top-notch drumming. That happened often enough last night. 🙂

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony is always wonderful. Typically, Tony plays the upright bass and occasionally switches to the electric. Last night’s show was purely electric (both the instrument, and Tony’s play!).

TonyMaceli

On to Ian’s band:

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar. As masterful as he always is, but I’m still dying to see him wail on the bass (where I’m told by people I trust that Chris will blow my mind!). We also finally got to meet Chris last night after seeing him play quite a number of times. He’s incredibly nice (no surprise for this group of musicians!).

ChrisKuffner

Adam Christgau on drums. Man, it’s been a little too long since we’ve had the pleasure. We got hooked on seeing Adam often over the past year, and he’s captivated me each time. Adam was a trooper because directly from last night’s set with Ian, he ran to Joe’s Pub to play the 9:30 show with Julian Velard.

AdamChristgau

Chris Anderson on electric bass. Chris is perfectly matched with Ian, both musically and passionately. We love his play and his style every time we see him.

ChrisAnderson

We were at the head of the line to get in when the doors opened (no surprise). That had the added benefit of us being at the door when the musicians were coming and going after sound check. Here are some pictures right outside the club, before the show started, with a few shots at the bar after the show thrown in for good measure. 🙂

AlexWongHadar AdamChristgauChrisKuffner

ChadVaccarinoIanAxel

IanAxelViennaTeng ambeRRubarthLois

Vienna Teng and The Paper Raincoat at Attucks

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Vienna Teng and The Paper Raincoat are up there among our favorite performers, both live and their CDs. Recently, Vienna announced that she’s taking a break from touring and returning to school this fall.

While I’m sure that The Paper Raincoat (TPR) will continue to perform (in fact, we have tickets to see them on May 6th a Mercury Lounge in NYC), both Alex Wong and ambeR Rubarth have so much going on individually and with other projects that they don’t play together all that regularly.

So, having a chance to see both acts perform on the same stage on the same night was going to be hard to pass up. They played last night at The Attucks Theatre in Norfolk, VA.

We wouldn’t likely have gone from NYC, but luckily, we were a little closer, in Fredericksburg, VA. Still 2.5 hours away, but that’s a walk in the park for us.

I’ve written about Vienna and TPR many times. You can search for either on the top right of this page if you want to see how consistently amazing both are.

Last night Vienna was the headliner, so I’ll cover her performance first. Vienna performed one song solo, standing at ambeR Rubarth’s electronic keyboards. That was the first time we’ve seen her stand and play the keyboards. She also performed one song with ambeR Rubarth alone, a new song they co-wrote on a writers retreat in January. Gorgeous!

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ViennaTengElectronicKeyboards

For all of her other numbers, Vienna was accompanied by Alex Wong and Ward Williams. I can never say enough about Alex, and he was as wonderful again last night as he always is.

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We’ve seen Ward Williams briefly, twice before. Last night he was on stage for the entire TPR set, and for all but the two songs mentioned above with Vienna. He’s a delight as a musician (cello and electric guitar) and as a personality with a humorous on-stage presence.

WardWilliamsCello WardWilliamsGuitar

Reconstructing the set list from memory (a few of Vienna’s fans have asked me to do this whenever I see her):

Whatever You Want, Blue Caravan, Gravity, Kansas (solo), In Another Life, Stray Italian Greyhound, Everything’s Fine (with ambeR), Homecoming, Antebellum, Augustine, The Last Snowfall, St. Stephen’s Cross, Harbor, Grandmother Song, Keep The Customer Satisfied (Simon and Garfunkel cover)

It was a 90-minute set, capped off with Grandmother Song. For the first time in our experience, Vienna suggested that the audience might want to stand (in order to better participate) during the song. I was impressed at how fast everyone stood up. The energy was incredible.

They came out for an encore (no one sat down after Grandmother song, so it was a standing ovation) and played a wonderful version of Keep The Customer Satisfied, a Simon and Garfunkel cover.

The Paper Raincoat opened the show (which surprisingly, started 15 minutes earlier than announced). Everything about the performance last night was different (still awesome) because for the first time in our experience, TPR had no full-time drummer.

ThePaperRaincoat1

Instead, Ward Williams joined them mostly on the cello. Alex multi-tasked more than usual (which is saying a lot!) because he did play some percussion, which he rarely does for a TPR show.

I would describe the difference as mellowing out their sound quite a bit. It was gorgeous, and the crowd loved every note, but it didn’t have the feel of a typical TPR show.

ambeRRubarthGuitar

They closed the show with the always crowd-pleasing Rewind, this time joined by Vienna Teng (where Adam Christgau or Kevin Rice typically are). The crowd went nuts and shot to their feet at the end of the song, sending TPR off the stage to a roaring standing ovation.

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This was the last show in this year’s Discovery Series at The Attucks Theatre. Most of the people in the audience were unfamiliar with either Vienna or TPR, and I would say that it was one of the better audiences we’ve been part of, and both picked up hundreds of new fans. There was brisk business at the Merch table selling CDs, and all four artists came out to meet, greet and sign the CDs.

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ambeRRubarth WardWilliams

I already mentioned that we drove 2.5 hours to see the show. What I didn’t mention is that I caught a horrible cold a day or two earlier, and we were very close to not making the effort. Our original intention was to drive the 2.5 hours back after the show, but given my condition, our compromise was to stay in Norfolk for the night.

We got to our hotel at 3pm and I napped for a couple of hours. After saying hello/goodbye to the artists, we headed back to the hotel for the night, returning to Fredericksburg this morning. More than worth it, even though my condition hasn’t improved one iota…

Vienna Teng, Rosi Golan and Ari Hest at Rockwood Music Hall

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On Tuesday night we saw Vienna Teng perform at Parkside Lounge. I detailed the show in this post. Two points to carry over from that night: 1) Vienna tailored the set list for the audience/venue and 2) She played 100% solo. Last night showed her flexibility in mixing it up.

If you’re a fan of an artist or a venue, I highly encourage you to find as many ways to follow them on the Internet (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Buzz, etc.). You never know when a last minute show will be announced, or the artist might appear under a pseudonym, etc.

On March 19th, Vienna tweeted the following:

Gig alert: NYC, Linz Ho plays Rockwood again Wed 3/24, w/band no less. Then to SF to join Paper Raincoat @ Noe Valley Ministry, Fri 3/26!

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that it’s possible that Linz Ho was going to be Vienna herself. A little digging could easily confirm that. We knew we’d be there.

ViennaTeng

Yesterday afternoon, when checking the Rockwood Music Hall site to see who was on before Vienna I noticed that right after her (I mean, right after Linz Ho) were Ari Hest and Rosi Golan appearing together, as a new group called The Open Sea. A couple of hours later, Rosi tweeted the same thing, so I had two chances to discover their last-minute engagement.

Vienna was back on a grand piano last night. Her set list was excellent. Constructed from memory, so excuse any lapses:

The Drugs Don’t Work (a cover of The Verve), Blue Caravan, I Don’t Feel So Well, The Last Snowfall (with Ari Hest), accompanying Ari Hest on one of his songs, [Update: I knew I missed at least one, she played a new song co-written with ambeR Rubarth called Everything’s Fine], 1 Br / 1 Ba, Augustine, City Hall

ViennaTengPiano

Vienna closed the show with City Hall, which was the first time in the nine times we’ve seen her perform that she didn’t close with Grandmother Song. City Hall was an excellent choice, and she continues to keep us on our toes. 🙂

The song that Ari sang during her set was a song he debuted during a Vienna set in January that I covered in this post. He didn’t write the lyrics on his hand this time, and therefore didn’t need to use a candle to see them (a shame, because that was a very cool visual effect!).

Here they are singing The Last Snowfall together:

ViennaTengAriHest

Vienna apologized for not having prepared enough in January to accompany him that night (to her standards, as none of us noticed anything other than excellent piano playing on her part). She was determined to rectify that, and she did. Her piano was incredible on this song, and I encourage Ari to get her to record with him whenever he gets this track into the studio.

Even though she performed under a pseudonym, Rockwood was packed. In contrast with the act on before her (which I’ll cover briefly at the end of this post), people were hanging on her every word/sound, meaning, it was a quiet and respectful crowd.

The band referred to above turned out to be:

Melissa Tong on violin (and even harmony on one number, which was a huge and pleasant surprise!). Melissa is always top-notch and last night was no exception.

MelissaTong MelissaTongSinging

Doug Yowell on drums. I think this was the first time that Doug has played with Vienna. [Update: Vienna’s manager informed me that Doug has played with her before, and is in fact on the live DVD which we own, but haven’t watched yet. Thanks Amy!] He was excellent throughout the set, and did a very nice job on the potentially difficult Augustine, which has a lot of drama (should that be drumma?) 😉 in it.

DougYowell

In the middle of one her songs, Vienna forced Doug to take a dual solo. While continuing to play the drums alone, she made him do his rendition of John Wayne’s drunken commencement speech. When he hit the punch lines, the crowd was hysterical. It took a while to compose ourselves, even when Vienna was singing again. Well done! 🙂

We’ve only gotten to see Rosi Golan and Ari Hest perform briefly. In addition to Ari’s song with Vienna in January, both he and Rosi performed at the Haiti Benefit which I covered in this post. Both had a full band, and it was a pretty crazy night with so many performers rotating throughout the show.

At the Haiti Benefit, Rosi won the raffle for a high-end Martin guitar, signed by all of the performers (including Rosi, Ari and Vienna!). She debuted it in public last night, and here’s Ari making a surgical adjustment to it before it was formally introduced to live play:

AriHestRosiGolanGuitarSurgery

Last night was a perfect setting to see each (and both) perform to their true abilities. We were sitting two feet from them (literally). They are each headlining performers (solo and with full bands) in their own right. They also have a side project together, called The Open Sea. This show highlighted The Open Sea, but each did a few of their own numbers as well, with Ari doing one solo.

AriHestRosiGolan

Both Rosi and Ari have exceptional voices. I can’t describe how well they go together, you’ll simply have to make it to a show to be placed under their spell. I already told you how quiet the crowd was for Vienna, the same was true for Ari and Rosi, because the thought of missing a single note was inconceivable.

They performed four numbers that they co-wrote for The Open Sea. They played at least another four of their individual songs (photo of the napkin set list appears below). Ari finger-picked the guitar on all but one song, and this is the first time I got a chance to notice and appreciate what a wonderful guitar player he is.

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Rosi complained that she had SXSW Voice, a condition caused by having to give so many interviews and performances in a short time, often yelling over tons of incredibly loud music. While it may have felt awful inside of her, it sounded as sweet as could be externally. Rosi will be headlining The Highline Ballroom on April 22nd, and I encourage you to run (not walk) to get tickets and make it to that show!

RosiGolan

In the fall, Alex Berger told me that I needed to buy Rosi’s CD The Drifter and the Gypsy. I dawdled longer than I should have, but bought it a few months ago. Wow! The entire CD is fantastic. The opening song, Think of Me, grabs me every time I listen to it. It was just featured in the new movie Dear John. Excellent choice on the part of the producers of the film!

Think of Me is available for you to listen to on Rosi’s MySpace page (linked above). Do yourself a favor and check out my claim. 🙂

Ari Hest just finished recording and mixing a new CD. It was produced by the extraordinary Alex Wong. Given how much I love The Paper Raincoat, Alex Berger’s Snow Globe and Vienna Teng and Alex Wong’s Inland Territory CDs (all produced by Alex Wong!), I can’t wait to get my hands on Ari’s CD when it finally lands.

AriHest

The Open Sea is working on a new EP. I can’t wait for that either. Why are you folks eating and sleeping, when I have a need to listen to your new music over and over?!? 😉

To repeat my point from the introduction to this post, if I didn’t follow Vienna on Twitter, I would be reading someone else’s account of last night’s show, rather than sharing these extraordinary memories with the rest of you, having experienced them first hand!

Rockwood is a fantastic place to see live music. Unfortunately, it’s small and has very few seats. We would stand for Vienna, Rosi and Ari, but we much prefer to sit (much). So, I looked up the act that was on before Vienna, and we decided to catch that set as well, in the hopes of snagging a seat we could hang on to throughout the night.

Bryan Dunn played with a full band, singing lead vocals and playing both acoustic and electric guitar. Most songs were a driving rock style with Bryan singing his heart out. He played rhythm on his acoustic (mostly) but took some nice leads on his electric. He has a great personality on stage and comes across like a very nice guy.

BryanDunn

Jim McNamara played an upright bass. He blew me away. I can’t say that I recall an upright bass being used by a mostly rock ‘n roll band, but Jim made it work perfectly. A few times he played leads in harmony with Bryan’s guitar. Some of those licks were pretty darn fast, and he nailed every one of them!

JimMcNamara

Craig Greenberg played the piano and sang some harmony vocals. Craig did a solid job on both, and Bryan gave him a few leads to stretch himself on the piano.

CraigGreenberg

Chris Benelli played the drums. This was the first time that Chris played with Bryan Dunn, and he did a very nice job.

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Here’s a shot of their set list:

BryanDunnSetList

We enjoyed their music, though it was a bit loud given how close we were to the stage. The only surprise (mentioned to contrast the quiet we experienced for Vienna, Rosi and Ari) is that people took the opportunity to talk to each other too much for our taste during Bryan’s set.

To make matter worse, because the music was so loud (which is what I think makes people feel that it’s OK to talk, heck, no one will hear them, right?), they had to scream at each other, which of course, then makes it easy to hear them.

Amazingly, a number of the worst offenders were personal friends of Bryan, who obviously came out to support him. He closed the show with a cool song where the audience sings and he responds. Two tables filled with his friends (one included his wife) did a fantastic job of singing and making the song a ton of fun. One of those tables was filled with people who talked throughout the rest of his set.

Oh well…

Another fantastic night out! 🙂

Vienna Teng at Parkside Lounge

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Ignorance is bliss, at least it was last night. 🙂

On March 14th, our friend @HappyBee3 tweeted the following:

Wow nice line up! RT @chrisayer: Added NYC show March 23 w/ @viennateng & Rachael Sage at Parkside Lounge!

I had never heard of Parkside Lounge before, but I made a mental note to see the show for three reasons:

  1. Vienna Teng (OK, I didn’t really need any more reasons) 😉
  2. Rachael Sage (we saw her at Joe’s Pub and I enjoyed her show)
  3. Chris Ayer (@HappyBee3 saw him at Canal Room and tweeted her love for the show, so I was really looking forward to catching Chris, as @HappyBee3 has very good taste in music!)

The show was listed on Parkside’s calendar as: “Stanford University Alumni Showcase”. Tickets were not available for purchase, so it seemed like a free show, with a likely drink minimum. I knew Vienna graduated from Stanford, and I assumed so did Rachael and Chris, and this was a bit of fun to bill their show as such.

That was the ignorance part. We showed up and it turns out it was run by Stanford in Entertainment, with the audience all being Stanford Alums, as were all of the performers. Oops!

The ladies who put on the event were so nice to us and let us in. We made a donation to their “Raise Money for Haiti” drive (we would have anyway) and bought a few drinks (which had to help out Parkside, etc.). It’s possible that we were the only two non-Stanford alums in the very crowded audience.

Vienna closed the show, but since I nearly always cover performers in reverse order, and since we mostly showed up for her, I’ll stay with my tradition.

We’ve seen Vienna perform seven times before (hence, reason #1 above). This was the first time she performed every number solo. It’s also the first time we’ve seen her on an electronic keyboard (I’ve seen her play one on YouTube videos, but live, it’s always been a grand piano until last night). It’s not that the sound of the electronic keyboards is different, it’s the visual aspect of the performance.

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When Vienna plays on a grand, you have a profile view of her at best. For many, she’s nearly completely obscured. When she plays the electronic keyboards, she’s center stage, facing the audience. Vienna is an emotive singer, so the full-on view is very welcome.

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She’s always very warm and engaging with the audience, but this was a special audience, with many shared experiences and memories. There were inside jokes (that everyone but us got). Vienna gave longer introductions to a few songs, something we love to hear, so that too was a treat.

She chose a very fitting set list for both the audience and the venue (in our opinion). She was a bit worried that she wouldn’t pull off the magic in The Last Snowfall, since her looping machine was on a stool, much lower than normal. She needn’t have worried, it was perfect!

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I know a number of her fans really want a set list from each show. I’m probably missing one or two, but here’s what I recall (not necessarily in order!):

Whatever You Want, Blue Caravan, 1 Br / 1 Ba, Soon Love Soon, The Last Snowfall, Grandmother Song

ViennaTengGrandmotherSong

Amazingly, as much we love every one of those, there are many of our favorites that she didn’t play, hence my remark about her tailoring the set list to the specific crowd/venue.

Next up was Rachael Sage. When we saw her at Joe’s Pub, she had a full band, which included the mind-bogglingly brilliant Dave Eggar. It was a holiday show, and she played significantly more upbeat numbers that night.

RachaelSage

Last night she was solo, on Vienna’s keyboards. She has an excellent voice, and plays the piano wonderfully. She cracks me up to no end (very quick, witty, inventive). Unfortunately, she too crafted her set list specifically for last night’s show, and the choice didn’t sit as well with us. Her songs were darker, a bit less melodic. I still got a kick out of seeing her, and laughing a bunch, but for my taste, the show at Joe’s was substantially more to my liking.

Chris opened the show. He’s a superb guitarist. He’s a lefty, but I won’t hold that against him. 😉 He has a wonderful voice, and writes very interesting songs. Excellent stage presence.

ChrisAyer

For 2/3’s of his numbers he had Matt Simons join him. Matt played electronic keyboards and sang a lot of harmony. Their voices blended beautifully!

MattSimons

Chris played a few solo numbers in the middle of the set. For the last two songs he was also joined by Morgan Holland (sorry, couldn’t find a good link for her). Here’s a YouTube video of her singing with Chris at Capital Ale House (a lot of background noise…).

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Stanford Alums, sorry we crashed your party, but thanks for being so warm and thanks to Vienna, Rachael, Chris, Matt and Morgan for making the evening so enjoyable!

Parkside Lounge is a very nice venue. We’ll be happy to return there whenever we get the chance!

Vienna Teng, Alex Wong and Glen Phillips at Workplay

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This post is a day late because we didn’t complete the trifecta and follow Vienna Teng and Alex Wong to Louisiana. Instead, we kept our word and drove home from Birmingham, AL, a trip that took a day and a half of driving.

On Thursday, we drove from Atlanta to Birmingham to catch Vienna and Alex (along with Glen Phillips) for the second night in a row, this time at Workplay. In addition to not wanting to miss another opportunity to see Vienna and Alex, we really wanted to introduce David and Rebecca to their music, and David told me that Workplay was a great venue. He was right, Workplay is highly recommended!

I don’t know whether the artists that we surprise in strange places like being surprised (or care either way). All I know is that we amuse ourselves and get a kick out of showing up in unexpected places to see our favorite performers. For a second night in a row, our surprise was sprung earlier than expected. While we were sitting in the bar area waiting for the doors to open, Alex Wong wandered out to get something, and we were busted. 🙂

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Workplay is a much smaller venue than Variety Playhouse (at least on the Theater side, which is where this show was held). This alone would have made the experience different from the night before. Of course, road warrior artists find other ways to keep each night fresh.

There were a few substitutions from the previous night’s set list. Even for songs that were repeated (thankfully, because we promise not to tire of hearing them if Vienna promises to keep performing them!), different ones were introduced with stories than from the night before, and in one case, a totally different story was told (consistent with the night before).

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Vienna and Alex were a little more chatty (and funny) early on as well, which is always welcome. Glen joined them for one number, playing guitar but not singing. He didn’t join them in Atlanta.

ViennaTeng2 AlexWong

They played for 70 minutes with no encore. This was a few minutes longer than the night before, including the encore. They created a new set of fans, including David and Rebecca. The guy who sat in front of me became a fan as well (he was there to see Glen). He bought Inland Territory after the show and Vienna and Alex signed it for him. 🙂

Lois asked me to include the following thoughts from her (consider it a guest blog):

Vienna Teng is the epitome of grace and generosity. She’s a brilliant songwriter who paints the human condition via her great and diverse musical creations. Being in her presence is humbling and inspiring.

Her voice is pure and strong. Her lyrics capture deep emotions, often making you joyful and even toe-tapping to her strong rhythms and playful themes.

You’d imagine there were triplets on that stage as she effortlessly gives us her takes on life with classical – folk – jazz – country (and more) overtones in her songs. It’s extraordinary to hear her go from ‘Augustine’ to ‘Stray Italian Greyhound’ to ‘Grandmother’s Song’ and realize it’s the same Vienna writing and performing vastly different numbers.

She’s a hero to many – and it’s clear to Hadar and I why this is so: She is to us as well. We’ll continue crisscrossing the country to keep up with her. 🙂

We saw her twice on our recent journey south with the also-incomparable Alex Wong. Individually they amaze. Together they create sheer musical bliss for their audiences! We are grateful they do what they do – and that they share their magic with the rest of us!

Glen Phillips also mixed up his set a bit and changed his banter as well. He told a few stories he hadn’t the night before. He continues to impress me as a solo performer, and the audience once again was way more familiar with his songs than we are/were (though we’re starting to catch up).

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In Atlanta, Vienna joined Glen for one song and then again for his encore. In Birmingham, Vienna joined Glen for three consecutive songs during his set, and Glen performed his encore solo.

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We had a fantastic time and hung around to say hi after the show even though we were exhausted.

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Here is the set list reconstructed from memory (now two days late), and not presented in order (other than the opening and closing numbers). I am sure that I left out a few songs, and I apologize for that. I guess I was too busy enjoying the show to note each number:

  • Whatever You Want
  • Gravity
  • The Tower
  • Harbor
  • Stray Italian Greyhound
  • In the Creases (Alex sang lead and played the guitar beautifully. He also dedicated the song to two audience members who traveled far to see them. I assume he meant us!) 🙂
  • 1 Br / 1 Ba (1 Bedroom / 1 Bath)
  • The Last Snowfall (Vienna had trouble with the buttons on the looping machine, and she started the song three times. I love that she’s a pro, and didn’t just muddle through it, wanting to give the crowd the best experience. She did! Bravo!)
  • Augustine
  • No Gringo
  • Antebellum
  • Grandmother Song

Just to repeat, I’m sure about the above, but I likely dropped a few inadvertently.

We’re so happy to be home it’s hard to describe. That said, there’s no way that coming home two days earlier and missing these two shows would have been worth it. If only we were going on the Cayamo Cruise starting tomorrow, we could try and get our fill of Vienna and Alex (unsuccessfully, of course!)… 🙂