Ximena

Ximena Sarinana and Graffiti6 at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

We’ve seen Ximena Sarinana perform a number of times. We’re big fans. Considering that she lives in LA, we decided to cut a business trip short to return to NYC to catch her show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night (who knows when the opportunities will present themselves!).

XimenaKeyboards

Ximena has two CDs under her belt. The first is all Spanish, produced when Ximena was living in Mexico (where she is a superstar). The new one (self-titled) is in English, except for track 10, Tu Y Yo (You and I). Both are excellent.

So if we own both CDs, and they’re excellent, why run back to NYC to catch Ximena live? Because the CDs don’t actually do justice to the two things that make Ximena such a special live act:

  • She has a stunning voice which comes across more powerfully/vibrantly live
  • She is delightful/effervescent/charming/funny/natural/cute and any number of other adjectives (all positive)

Did we make the right decision? Of course! Ximena’s voice was in full bloom last night, charming and mesmerizing. She played a mix of songs from both CDs (can’t let your original fans down by ignoring the old stuff!).

On Normal (a Spanish song from the first CD), Ximena looped her voice at least six times (I’d guess it was closer to eight), each time adding a new harmonizing track. It’s mindboggling how beautiful it was and how creative she is for being able to come up with that many different melodies that blend together so well.

XimenaSinging

Ximena was supported by two fantastic musicians, left-to-right on stage:

Aaron Steele on drums. I’ve seen Aaron once before (this past January). He was very impressive, but I was sitting inches away from the drums in the much-smaller Rockwood 1, and Aaron’s hard-hitting style overwhelmed me a bit. Last night was an even more impressive performance, with zero negatives.

AaronSteeleDrumKit

Aaron is fast, steady as a machine, doesn’t over-drum, and delivers a perfectly matched beat to Ximena’s power-pop style. On the jazzier numbers, he can be subtle as well.

Pete Lalish  on guitar. I’ve seen Pete a number of times (with Lucius as well as Ximena) and he’s impressed every time. Last night I noticed some things I hadn’t before. Ximena’s new music has quite a bit of electronica in it. I tend to think that most of that is generated on a keyboard (and much of it is, by Ximena herself).

PeteLalishGuitar

Last night I saw that Pete actually produces more of it than Ximena. He spent a fair amount of time on his knees furiously working his pedal board with both hands (with the guitar just hanging on the strap, unattended), making the electronica sounds.

PeteLalishPedalBoardXimenaElectronica

I’m not the biggest fan of electronica in general (having nothing to do with Ximena), but that doesn’t mean that I’m not impressed at seeing it performed/produced live, giving fans of the CD a real taste of the same sound in a live setting.

Here’s the set list, which was a big hit. We attended the early show, but Ximena was on again for a second show, after a short break!

SetList

Gaffiti6 opened the show (both shows). We knew nothing about them, other than the many tweets that I saw, including one from another musician that we both really like, Valerie Mize:

ValerieMIZE Valerie MIZE

Hey, NEW YORKERS! Catch UK Harmonic Awesomeness@Graffiti6 at #ROCKWOODmusicHall w @ximenamusicTONIGHT! 2 Shows! @TommyDD @JamieScottG6

OK, so instead of me making up a new description, pay attention to Valerie’s: “UK Harmonic Awesomeness”.

I would describe them as power folk. Two acoustic guitars (the duo that formed Graffiti6) and an electric bass.

Graffiti6

Jamie Scott sings the majority of the leads, with Tommy Danvers (TommyD) joining for a lot of very powerful harmonies. The bass player (Pete Cherry) was excellent and added three-part harmony to many of the numbers.

JamieScottTommyDanvers

PeteCherry

The crowd was extremely enthusiastic in their support for Graffiti6. I thoroughly enjoyed their sound, but I’d have to listen again to have a better sense of whether the lyrics will grab me if I give them another shot.

As we were leaving, we ran into one of our favorite musicians/people, Alex Berger. Come to Rockwood 2 on Tuesday (12/20) to see him play at 9pm. Stay for Alex Wong immediately thereafter. That’s where we’ll be. Smile

AlexBergerHadar

Alex Wong at Rockwood Music Hall CMJ

Send to Kindle

Alex Wong has a full-band show this coming Monday night (10/24/2011) at 9pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. There are three other shows that we want to see that night and we haven’t figured out how to be at two places at once, just yet.

Yesterday, Alex had an afternoon showcase at Rockwood, at MPress Records MPressFest (part of the week-long CMJ Festival). Alex isn’t signed to MPress, but they are fans of his (as we are) and wanted to highlight him among their own lineup of artists.

AlexWongPiano

Alex had a full band at this show so we got a preview of what the rest of you can see on Monday. It’s a rare treat (the last time we saw him with a full band was in July), but I suspect we’ll see more of this setup as we head toward next year’s release of Alex’s first solo CD.

Alex is an incredible producer (who is about to enter a grueling stretch of producing albums for: Martin Rivas, Anne Heaton, Delta Rae, Alex Berger, and likely others I am unaware of or can’t recall at the moment). There’s little doubt that he’s transitioning his live shows to bring out more of the flavor that we’ll hear on his own solo CD, rather than the more stripped-down versions we’ve been hearing before he hit the studio.

I say amen to that.

Alex was supported by three people, left-to-right on stage:

Ximena Sarinana on vocals. Ximena sang on a few numbers, including the opener, Always Something Better. A superstar in her own right, hearing her voice blend with Alex’s (or anyone’s, to be honest), is always satisfying.

XimenaSarinana

Ward Williams on cello and electric guitar. Ward always delivers. He switched back-and-forth between the cello and guitar. On one song, he started off looping an ethereal sound on the cello, then picked up the guitar for the majority of the song, turning the cello loop off/on as appropriate. Very cool.

WardWilliamsGuitarWardWilliamsCello

Elliot Jacobson on drums. You couldn’t have seen two more different drum performances than yesterday’s Alex Wong set and Wednesday’s Jenny Owen Youngs set. Yet, both were fantastic, and both were provided by Elliot, showing off why he’s a very sought after drummer. Given that Alex is a top drummer/percussionist in his own right, selecting Elliot is a very high compliment (well deserved).

ElliotJacobson

Alex spent most of the set at the grand piano. He stepped out to play acoustic guitar on two numbers. One was a nearly solo performance of Patiently (off the upcoming album). The other is one of The Paper Raincoat’s best songs, Brooklyn Blurs.

AlexWongGuitar

Standing next to Elliot was another great drummer, Seth Faulk. I’ve noted at least twice that Seth has an excellent voice. Those comments weren’t made at a Seth Faulk show. In both cases, Seth was in the audience, singing along with the performer on stage. In one of those cases, Seth was standing right behind me, so I got a personal serenade (that was at an Alex Wong show too!).

Alex is obviously aware that Seth knows his material and can sing it beautifully. He egged Seth to join him on stage for Brooklyn Blurs. It took roughly five attempts, but finally Seth came center stage and harmonized with Alex. Yay!

AlexWongSethFaulkWardWilliams

The set was so good that I feel even worse that we’ll be missing Alex on Monday. On the other hand, I feel great that we caught this one and got a preview of Monday’s set. The other advantage of this one over Monday’s is that Ximena will no longer be in town for that show, so we were rewarded for playing hooky from work on a Friday afternoon. Smile

Alex Wong and Ximena at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Alex Wong had a show listed at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 as: “Alex Wong and Special Guest”. A number of days ago the title changed to “Alex Wong and Ximena”. We didn’t need any extra incentive to attend the show, but if Alex was worried that we were getting tired of seeing him as often as we do, revealing that Ximena would be there would certainly have pushed us (and many others) over the edge.

The last time we saw Alex, Ximena was there as well, but she was only supporting Alex with harmony and piano. Well, they also played a song they co-wrote in a day as part of Dubway Days. This time, the show was a real collaboration. They alternated singing their own songs.

Alex opened the show with what seems to be his new signature opener: Always Something Better. Ximena sang harmony.

AlexWongPiano

Chris Benelli joined on the drums. We’ve seen Chris twice before and I really like his drumming. This was particularly interesting. Every other time I’ve seen Alex play Always Something Better, he starts by looping his own percussion, tapping the body of his acoustic guitar and rubbing the strings, before moving to the piano to perform the song.

ChrisBenelli

It’s very cool (very!), but hearing a professional drummer give a fuller, more dynamic bottom, brought more life to the song. It only made me want to hear Alex’s new CD sooner (he said it should be out in Feb 2012).

Jeff Kerestes played the electric bass. He was quite good.

Jeff Kerestes

Chris Benelli didn’t return after the first song, but Jeff joined for one additional number later in the set and played in a style I don’t often see. He spent much of the song sliding one hand or the other, up and down the frets, very slowly. It produced a gorgeous sound in accompaniment of a slower, more soulful song.

Ximena took the piano next, with Alex taking over the drums to support her. She sang Love Again. It’s off her upcoming CD (I believe it will be released next week), her first English one.

XimenaSarinanaPiano

Pete Lalish joined Ximena playing electric guitar (with lots of effects) on all but her last two numbers.

PeteLalish

Sebastian Sarinana (Ximena’s brother) joined on a few as well, crouching throughout each song. He wielded an electronic gizmo that produced organ-like sounds, but also seemed to be able to add effects (reverb, distortion, etc.) to what he and Ximena were playing. He sang harmony with Ximena on most of the numbers.

SebastianSarinanaCrouchingSebastianSarinanaPeteLalishSebastianSarinana

A last reminder that Alex and Ximena alternated singing lead. I don’t have a set list from last night (I stood behind the tables for the entire set, so I wasn’t close enough to the stage to grab one). Rather than cover each song and tell you which order they were played in, I’ll just mention some of the highlights.

When Alex came back to the piano he brought up another very special guest, Dave Eggar. If you’ve never read my posts before, then you won’t know how exciting that was for me. That doesn’t mean that you won’t know Dave. He’s a world-class cello player (and that’s a bit of an understatement).

DaveEggar

For the first number that he was on stage, he didn’t play the cello in a traditional style (which in itself is not unusual for Dave). Alex mentioned that when rehearsals take place at a drummers house (Alex is a top percussionist), people tend to hit lots of things. Throughout the first song, Dave literally just hit the cello strings with a short baton-like stick. Cool!

DaveEggarBaton

Later in the set, Dave played more traditional cello bits, enhancing one of my favorite Alex Wong songs quite a bit.

That was Alex’s closing number, his now necessary to play: Are You Listening (or as my friends know, the one I call the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah song). I say necessary, because if he left the stage without playing it, he wouldn’t be able to make it out of the place without being hassled.

I think that’s the song Jeff did the hand-sliding on the electric bass as well. Ximena slipped off stage before the song started (she sang harmony on all/most of Alex’s other songs). But, Alex invited her up to lead us in the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah chorus, a task for which she is perfectly suited.

DaveEggar and JeffKerestesXimenaSarinana

Repeating: I told you what I call Are You Listening. Ximena introduced a song saying that she and her brother used to do covers occasionally, but rarely do now. They were in the mood to work up a new one and decided to play it last night. They did a song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Ha. Seemed fitting.

When she finished she said goodnight, but the chanting began immediately. I don’t know if they chanted for a specific song, or whether they were chanting “encore” in Spanish. Either way, she came back for one last solo song.

Ximena chose Mediocre, the title cut of her Spanish CD. She was extraordinary (no surprise), but I was extremely impressed by how different a feel a song can have based on venue and fan perception. Here’s what I wrote about this song the last time we saw her perform it. That was at Bowery Ballroom, in front of 400+ people, at 1am:

Ximena dismissed the band for her last number. She played the title track off her original CD, Mediocre, solo. When she introduced the song, the crowd was feverish, knowing what was coming. With a microphone and electronic keyboards and no other support, she blew away a crowd of hundreds of people, most of whom had been standing for over four hours already.

Her voice and skills at live performances are that good. Again, the crowd sang every word with her. They were good (hitting the notes as far as I could tell), but this song builds, and Ximena pours some amazing power into it, so she was always easily recognizable above the audience’s singing.

Last night, even though a good portion of the audience were Ximena’s fans (you can’t miss them, they love her to pieces and video every second of the show), people mouthed the song with her, but didn’t sing out loud. Who would want to break the incredible mood that Ximena was creating alone?

It’s quite possible that I screwed up the order above. Mediocre might have been the closing solo number, followed by a solo encore, also from the original CD. Sorry if I messed that up.

In what felt a bit herculean to me, Ximena had played a set earlier that night at Webster Hall. She opened for Sia, performing before a sold-out crowd of 1,400 people! That is an emotionally (if not physically) draining thing. Running over to Rockwood and giving us her all, was much appreciated. I tried to buy tickets to the Webster Hall show two weeks ago, but it was already sold out.

Tonight, Ximena plays another sold-out show at Webster Hall, again opening for Sia.

Ximena Sarinana at LAMC at Bowery Ballroom

Send to Kindle

We only recently discovered Ximena Sarinana, having seen her perform for the first time on May 31st, 2011. You can read my post on that show. Two nights ago we got the tiniest taste when Ximena sang some harmony with Alex Wong during his show.

The Latin Alternative Music Conference is in town this week. As part of the conference, there is a giant Showcase (essentially, a festival) spread over a couple of nights at Bowery Ballroom. Ximena was scheduled to play last night (or more accurately, very early this morning) at 12:15am.

XimenaKeyboards

If you read my post about our first experience, then you know we wouldn’t have missed a chance to see her again. We had plans earlier in the evening, but in a lucky break, we had nothing scheduled after midnight! (other than sleep, that is…) Winking smile

We arrived at Bowery Ballroom at 11:45pm and parked ourselves very close to center stage. We arrived between acts, so there was just general socializing going on. A few minutes later the act before Ximena took the stage. A top Venezuelan based Hip-Hop group. Six people performing the singing and dancing and a DJ (part of the group) in the back left of the stage.

While Hip-Hop isn’t my thing, and seeing it performed in a language I don’t understand isn’t likely to change that, I was still completely fascinated by how much energy and effort goes into such a performance. I can’t imagine how much rehearsal time it takes to make it look as smooth as it does. Of course, the crowd was wild for them.

Ximena started setting up on stage at roughly 12:20am. While I don’t speak Spanish, I would guess that while she was plugging in all of her electronics, she received at least 14 marriage proposals from the guys standing all around me. Most of those guys were with their wives/girlfriends. I’m betting those women understood (if not supported) the guys in their quest to marry Ximena. Winking smile

XimenaPluggingIn

The set started closer to 12:40am. The character was dramatically different than the Rockwood show, immediately. For starters, Ximena stood and played electronic keyboards. At Rockwood, grand piano and sitting (until the a cappella encore). There was an additional band member (electric guitar) and Alex Wong was on a monster drum kit. Of course, the biggest difference was the venue.

AlexWongDrumKit

Bowery Ballroom is large. The audience stands throughout the show (except for some seats in the balcony). It’s way louder than Rockwood. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Ximena is up to any task and the change in venue was right up her alley as well. She harnessed the crowd’s energy by dancing while she was singing and playing the keyboards, amping them (us) even further.

Ximena’s first full-length CD was released in Mexico, in Spanish. It’s a huge seller. Given my reaction to every song she sang in Spanish at the first show, I have no doubt why that is the case. Having recently moved to the US, she is about to release a second CD, this time in English, on August 2nd.

She opened the show with Shine Down, in English, off the upcoming CD. It’s super-charged power Pop/Rock. She followed that with Echo Park, also in English. A few people around me started calling out to her to sing in Spanish. That was completely understandable, given that this was LAMC and a predominantly Hispanic crowd.

She obliged, immediately, but I have a strong sense that this was her predefined set list anyway! She played a song I instantly fell in love with at Rockwood, Normal, off her original CD. Everyone around us sang every word with her, out loud.

At the end of Normal (at least I’m pretty sure it was Normal), Ximena turned on her loop for her voice. If you’ve still resisted reading my last post about her, but want to really understand what I mean about looping her voice, go back and read that now. Each track in the loop last night was incredibly complex, beautiful and powerful.

I know it isn’t possible, but here are six shots of her singing, each one taken during a different vocal acrobatic act. You can see her facial expressions and mouth formations are radically different as she’s singing something to layer in the current loop.

XimenaSingingLoop1XimenaSingingLoop2

XimenaSingingLoop3XimenaSingingLoop4

XimenaSingingLoop5XimenaSingingLoop6

She returned to English for the next song, Love Again.

Ximena dismissed the band for her last number. She played the title track off her original CD, Mediocre, solo. When she introduced the song, the crowd was feverish, knowing what was coming. With a microphone and electronic keyboards and no other support, she blew away a crowd of hundreds of people, most of whom had been standing for over four hours already.

XimenaSolo

Her voice and skills at live performances are that good. Again, the crowd sang every word with her. They were good (hitting the notes as far as I could tell), but this song builds, and Ximena pours some amazing power into it, so she was always easily recognizable above the audience’s singing.

Pete Lalish on electric guitar. For much of the set it sounded like Pete was playing bass. In retrospect, I’m thinking that some of that might have been coming from Ximena’s keyboards, because Pete’s hands/fingers weren’t moving the way they should have to produce what I was hearing. Basically, it was a little tough for me to pick out his specific sound.

PeteLalishTuningPeteLalishGuitar

Alex Wong on drums and electronic keyboards. Alex had a rock star drum kit setup, high up on stage. The only thing missing was a glass enclosure to make him feel completely unapproachable. Given the power Pop/Rock nature of the English songs, Alex’s arms were flying at really high speeds, mostly on the snare, high-hat and one other cymbal. Of course, he was masterful with the kick drum. I didn’t see him make too much use of the remainder of the drum kit.

AlexWongRaisedDrumPlatform

On at least one song, he played keyboards, which he had laid out to his right on top of one of the larger drums. On another song he also had a drum machine going for the underlying beat, and he powered through more tasty drum parts above and around that beat.

AlexWongKeyboardsXimena

Here’s a more artistic shot of Alex, with the trails of the drumstick (recall how fast I said he was) creating an interesting look across his face.

AlexWongDrumstick

If you are a New Yorker and want to check out my claims, you have two chances later this month, when Ximena opens for Sia at Webster Hall on July 26th and 27th. Get your tickets now. We’ll be there on the 26th. Smile

The energy created by Ximena, the Hip-Hop group and the crowd, easily sustained us way beyond our typical bedtime. We got home around 1:30am and were asleep by 2. Nothing normal or mediocre (yes, a closing pun on two of Ximena’s more awesome songs) about the evening. Smile

Alex Wong at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

We try never to miss an Alex Wong show if we can help it. To prove my point, we saw him last night at Rockwood Music Hall, we’ll see him tonight (supporting Ximena Sarinana) and again tomorrow night as a special guest playing with Dave Eggar’s Deoro band. Three nights in a row feels just about right, especially since all three performances will be radically different.

Last night was a classic Alex Wong solo show. I put solo in italics because Alex had three guests, but there’s no doubt that this was an Alex show.

AlexWong

Alex opened with a new-ish song (still unrecorded), Always Something Better. Such a beautiful, deeply true song. We spend way too much time searching for (trying to acquire) fill-in-the-blank. I was thinking that every time I hear the song I realize the truth of it, and of course, the minute it’s over, I’m back to living in the same foolish manner I did before Alex reached me in the moment.

AlexWongPiano

Next, he invited Melissa Tong and David Fallo up to accompany him on Brooklyn Blurs (a song I will never tire of). Since they were on stage already, he followed it up with Don’t Be Afraid. He introduced the song by explaining that the first line came during an argument with a friend, who yelled the line at him. Inspiration comes from many places. Winking smile

DavidFalloMelissaTongAlexWong

DavidFalloViolaMelissaTongTuning

Alex had another special guest up his sleeve, the absolutely incredible Ximena Sarinana (linked above, who he will be supporting at midnight tonight at Bowery Ballroom). Ximena sang harmony on a few numbers and played some notes that sounded like a glockenspiel on an electronic device that looked like a WiFi router.

I told this out of order, because I wanted to say a bunch of nice things about Ximena in a block. The part about playing the WiFi Router came in the very first song, which she also sang harmony on. Smile That’s my back in the next photo, so you can see how close I was to the stage.

AlexWongXimena

Ximena took to the piano later in the set to play and sing a song that she co-wrote with Alex. The song was written in a day, at Dubway Studios, as part of a challenge to write a song while being filmed. I declare them winners in this endeavor! Alex moved off the stage to the corner where the drums are. He played the kick drum and high-hat cymbal while sitting and playing guitar during this song.

XimenaPiano

It was a slightly surreal experience for me (not necessarily for most of the people at Rockwood). I was right up at the stage. Alex’s guitar amp was four feet to my left, but Alex was eight feet to my right. I could hear the guitar coming from behind me (because I was facing Alex), even though I could see him playing it in front of me. It was a little eerie.

AlexWongAtTheDrums

One of the songs that Ximena sang gorgeous harmony on is a song that Alex Wong co-wrote with another of our favorite Alex’s, Alex Berger, called The Fighter. We’ve missed hearing that song, so thanks for that! 🙂

We’ll be at Ximena’s midnight set tonight (it’s part of the Latin Alternative Music Conference Showcase). Any show that Ximena is part of should automatically be labeled a Showcase, because that’s what it will turn into!

I didn’t snag a set list (I’m not sure there was one). So, I can’t tell you every song that was played. What I can tell you, with certainty, is that Alex closed the show with another new-ish (unrecorded) song that he co-wrote with Nate Campany. It’s called Are You Listening (but secretly, I will continue to call it the “Yeah Yeah Yeah” song, like I did until I knew the title, even though there are four Yeah’s in a row, not three, sue me!).

Alex invited us to sing the “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” part. He might have meant only at the end, when it continues to build a few times in a row. I didn’t care, I sang it from the first time he sang it, reasonably loudly. Perhaps no one noticed, since I was in front, singing toward the stage. When we likely were supposed to sing, I heard many people joining in. If it’s not completely obvious, I’m in love with this song.

Alex is producing and recording a solo album for release later this year (at least I think that’s the plan). I can’t wait, because a number of the songs that will be on it can only be heard when Alex blows through NYC on occasion. Smile

Ximena Sarinana at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

We are huge fans of everything Alex Wong does. His talents seem boundless. One of those talents is spotting other talented people, then collaborating with them to increase the talent level in the room geometrically.

Recently, Alex toured with Elizabeth and the Catapult (see, I told you he knows talent) when they opened for Sara Bareilles. Elizabeth ended up being the middle group each night.

Ximena Sarinana opened those shows, which was Alex’s first introduction to her and her music. Like I said, Alex can spot talent. He is now touring with Ximena and last night they hit Rockwood Music Hall. We knew about the show for a few weeks and had it marked as an unmovable event (which is why we missed last night’s epic Campfire at Slane).

XimenaSarinana

Before I describe the show, let me state some facts. The typical (successful) indie musician in NYC has between 1,000 and 6,000 followers on Twitter. These are people who release CDs, have a lot of fans (obviously not all of them are on Twitter, or bother to follow musicians), and sell out shows regularly.

Take it up a notch. One of the bigger NY-based artists is Ingrid Michaelson. She has nearly 80,000 followers (more than 10x the top of the other local artists).

@XimenaMusic has how many? Over 600,000! That’s 7.5x more than Ingrid, and 100x the following of the typical Rockwood headliner. Why would she be opening for Sara Bareilles then? Because Sara has over 2,000,000 followers! There’s always a bigger fish. Winking smile

Let’s back it up a bit. Ximena is huge in Mexico, where she broke out years ago (she’s all of 25 now!). After conquering Mexico (my words, not hers or anything I’ve read), she decided to see if she could crack the US market. She moved here and is now touring. Her first CD was released in Spanish (to huge sales). Her next CD (I believe she said that the release is expected in August 2011) will be in English.

That’s the buildup, now we find out whether there is any meat to go with those potatoes.

Yes!

OK, I’m done. Winking smile

Seriously, I was blown away. For all but one number Ximena played the grand piano. There was nothing particularly amazing about her play (compared to some other singer/songwriters who specialize in keyboards) but her play is extremely solid and interesting.

XimenaPiano

Then she opens her mouth. The sound that comes out is heavenly. Range, power, sweetness, raw emotion, basically, whatever she wants to project, you’re going to take it, and say “Thank you ma’am, may I have another?”. It’s not just the voice (which is stunning), but also the melody, the chords, the arrangement, etc.

Note that I haven’t mentioned anything yet about lyrics. Last night, Ximena chose to play 1/2 the show in Spanish (opening with it) and 1/2 in English. She alternated songs the entire set.

I speak zero Spanish. The only words I could understand were the biggies, like bueno, aqui, corazon, etc. It didn’t matter, I didn’t care. I was hearing a vocal instrument that took me somewhere (even if was different from where the lyrics were taking the Spanish speakers in the room), that was more than sufficient. I would have been happy if the entire set was in Spanish, though I enjoyed the English songs just as much (and I admit that I didn’t pay as close attention to the words as I otherwise might have, given the lesson I learned in enjoying the Spanish ones!).

Ximena opened the set solo. For the second song she called up a surprise guest (to her as much as to us!). I apologize if I get the facts wrong, but I thought I heard her say that she bumped into him at a show next door (Stage 2) where they were both audience members. They used to play together in Mexico, years ago!

Ilan Bar-Lavi played electric guitar. It was a gorgeous Jazz style. I have no idea whether they had the time to rehearse, or whether they fell back to an old favorite and executed like it was yesterday. Either way, it worked. I’ll have to keep my eye out for Ilan independent of Ximena. That’s the only song he joined her for.

IlanBar-LaviIlanBar-LaviXimena

Alex Wong joined Ximena for three songs, playing a full drum set (something that we’ve rarely, if ever seen Alex do, though we’ve seen him as a percussionist, including pieces of drum sets, many times). Of course he was excellent, don’t ask.

AlexWong

Ximena used a loop on two numbers. The first was awesome and unaccompanied by any commentary on her part. She merely looped her voice and sang harmony with herself, adding piano (I don’t recall whether Alex joined on that one as well, but I think he did). Here’s a shot of her holding the loop before the show started:

XimenaHoldingTheLoop

Toward the end of the set, Ximena was about to use the loop again, but this time she apologized for it (I don’t know why, it’s one of the most amazing live experiences I can imagine, as I’ve noted from Vienna Teng concerts many times). She said that she normally doesn’t like the loop, but that she was going to use it one last time tonight.

Now that I’ve experienced that song, I have to say that if I see her again and she refuses to play it because she’s bored with the loop, she’ll have to answer to me after the show.

While there was a touch of piano in the song (barely a hint), there was no drum. It was basically a dozen (or more) loops of Ximena’s voice doing various vocal acrobatics, while she also snapped her fingers into various loops at various tempos, creating her own percussion section.

If you’ve never experienced looping done by a pro, it will be hard for you to understand/imagine what it’s like. It’s not just gorgeous harmony (though it’s certainly that). Because of the way the loop works, it’s a process that keeps building on itself. Every time she sings a phrase, that phrase continues to loop. But, so do all of the phrases she sang before that.

So, one, then two voices at the same time, but the key is that the second is live, and the first is now recorded (it was live a minute ago, if you’re following). Now the third voice (obviously still hers) is live, while the first two continue looping. You can always distinguish the current live voice, because it’s typically doing the most interesting thing in the loop, soaring over the other loops and of course blending into the background looping a minute later when the newer, fresher vocal is added live.

Man, I feel inadequate to describe the experience. Sad smile

All I can say is that if she had played that one song and left, I would have been perfectly satisfied.

She closed with another song then said goodnight. Obviously, the completely jammed room would have none of that. Since many in the room were fans who knew every word to her Spanish songs (remember, the English CD has not come out yet), they started yelling out various song requests.

While Ximena looked up to the sound engineer to ask whether she could play another, the crowd magically agreed on a song and started chanting it. It sounded to me like a single Spanish word as the title, but obviously, I have no idea.

I may have this wrong, but I think Ximena said that this was the first song she ever wrote and it was for (or placed in) a movie or TV show (again, apologies if I misheard or just don’t remember correctly today). She said that she doesn’t play guitar (implying that the song is normally accompanied by a guitar) and that she doesn’t know how to play it on the piano.

So, rather than disappoint the crowd, she calmly took the microphone stand that was stretched out over the piano all night, carefully brought it out on the stage, straightened it up, and announced that she’d perform it a cappella.

When you read the next sentence, remember what I said about the looping song, and how close that was to a cappella too (just a hint of piano in that number).

I can’t imagine not having heard her sing this song!

XimenaSingingAnEncoreACappella

Got it? Just like I now know how special that looping song is, even though this one is as stripped down as it gets (Ximena and microphone, no loops, no accompaniment), I didn’t want the song to ever end (of course, I didn’t understand a word). You can only imagine how the crowd felt, since they chanted (literally) for it to begin with.

I have no real word to describe it other than Wow!

So, is that all Hadar? You got nothing else for us? Ha! Just like Ximena was forced to give an encore, I will too! Smile

She is one of the most charming, natural, witty, disarming people on stage. Did I mention that she’s only 25? Yup, she’s got it, whatever it is.

Alex Wong (a.k.a. @highceilings), we bow to you again. That doesn’t mean we are surprised, but we’ll bow nonetheless. Smile

P.S. I know I missed an absolutely extraordinary Campfire at Slane last night, but at least I have a reasonable sense (or illusion) of what I missed there. Had I missed Ximena’s show, I would still be a clueless dolt in thinking “How could I enjoy songs that I can’t understand?”.