Valentine’s Day recap featuring Ben Folds, blurry pic police and temporary dining rooms

UPDATED 2/17/09 to include YouTube video…


Ben Folds performs “Fair” in Dallas, Texas, during an October 2008 performance (link).

Because Ben Folds was playing at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia last night, my girlfriend, Alison, and I basically celebrated Valentine’s Day on Friday night. We exchanged gifts, she made me dinner and I gave her flowers…you know…all that stuff.

But we had made reservations for an early evening dinner Saturday at Copper Bistro in the Northern Liberties section of Philly since it is close to where the Electric Factory is. We get to the front door of the restaurant and there is a greeter outside…and nobody in the restaurant. After asking if we had reservations, he informs us that a problem with the restaurant’s oven hood meant the place was full of smoke. However, the owner was good friends with the owner of a small art gallery across the street, so the Copper Bistro staff moved all the tables and chairs over to the gallery, which served as dining room for the night. It was very resourceful and it was nice to see area businesses working together, especially in these times.

And the food was pretty good overall. The desserts were a bit of a let down, but the coffee was good and that’s all that matters to me after a meal.

Anyway, after dinner, we headed to the Electric Factory. Now, I am not one of those people at concerts who are constantly taking pictures — mostly because my photos usually turn out awful. But I like to take a few just to post on the ol’ blog. You may notice, however, that there is no photo to go along with this blog entry. I will explain that in a bit.

Knowing that I have received some pretty serious pat-downs upon entering the Electric Factory, I gave Alison my camera and my Flip camcorder to put in the bottom of her purse. In the past, it always seemed that women breezed through the security check while I was getting scrutinized for the various contact lens solutions I always carry around with me. This time, it was different…they didn’t even touch me, but they were going through all the women’s bags. Fortunately, Alison got through without the staff confiscating either camera.

However, they must have confiscated a lot because an announcement was made just before the night’s opening act, Miniature Tigers, took the stage that told people where to pick up their cameras before leaving.

So I wasn’t even going to attempt to take out my digital camera or the Flip. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt if I attempted to get one or two pics of Ben with my Blackberry.

Ben Folds and his band — now a five-musician unit — hit the stage around 10 p.m. and opened with “Fair” (see video of October 2008 performance above) from the Ben Folds Five CD “Whatever and Ever Amen”…a song I love that I haven’t heard Ben play live in quite some time. About a minute into the song, I noticed that everybody around me had their camera out taking pictures, including a few who were using flashes. Because I know any pic I take with the Blackberry is going to be crappy without using the flash, I figured I would try to take the photo and try to blend in with the 50 people or so around me who are taking pictures.

I take the pic and almost immediately, an Electric Factory staff member comes up behind me and tells me to delete the photo and to put the phone away…and that I would be thrown out if caught taking another photo.

So that was the end of my picture taking. But what bothered me was that, for the remainder of the night, there were people in my immediate vicinity who were obviously raising their cameras up to take photos and video. BUT NOTHING WAS SAID TO THEM. And since the LCD screens on these cameras were so freakin’ noticeable, I could see these photos and videos were coming out 50 times better than the piece of crap blurry pic that existed on my Blackberry for about 15 seconds. AGAIN, NOTHING WAS SAID TO ANY OF THESE PEOPLE. I think the “camera police” guy busted me and, possibly, the guy to my left, and that was it.

Hopefully, I will eventually find these better pics somewhere on the Interwebs and I will, as Mike Doughty says, gank one to accompany this blog post.

OK…so now that my rant is over about that, how was the show?

First, Miniature Tigers opened with a pretty decent set. I had listened to a couple of their songs on their MySpace page to familiarize myself a bit with them and didn’t really like what I had heard. But they sound much better live. And, even though Miniature Tigers are apparently gaining popularity among the young folks (they will be at South By Southwest next month), I don’t think I’ll be jumping on the bandwagon any time soon…just not my cup of tea.

In between Miniature Tigers and Ben Folds, the all-female Gracenotes a cappella group from West Chester University performed two original songs and then a version of “Fred Jones, Part 2” from Ben’s “Rockin’ the Suburbs” CD, which the group recorded with Ben for an upcoming disc featuring 18 a cappella groups from various colleges, universities and high schools performing songs from both Ben’s solo catalog and those from the Ben Folds Five days.

And, like I said, Ben Folds and his four fellow musicians hit the stage around 10 p.m. and knocked it out of the freakin’ park. Aside from nearly getting tossed out for taking a blurry picture with my Blackberry, this may have been the best show I have seen Ben play…especially with a band. He did an incredible solo show a few years ago in Princeton, N.J., that I hold in high regard. But last night’s show may have topped it.

By my count, he played 26 songs that covered a lot of musical territory. I don’t remember the setlist in sequential order, although I am trying to find an accurate setlist on a couple of the Ben Folds-dedicated forums that are out there. In the meantime, I have put together this list of songs based on what CDs they appeared and which were from the Ben Folds Five days:

BEN FOLDS – WAY TO NORMAL ( 2008 )
Effington
Brainwascht
You Don’t Know Me
Hiroshima
Before Cologne/Cologne
Free Coffee
Kylie From Connecticut
Dr. Yang
Dr. Yang (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
Bitch Went Nuts (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
Way to Normal (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)

BEN FOLDS – SONGS FOR SILVERMAN (2005)
Bastard
Landed

BEN FOLDS – ROCKIN THE SUBURBS (2001)
Annie Waits
Zak and Sara
The Luckiest (which he dedicated to his wife…contradicting an article published online just two days earlier stating that his fourth marriage, to Fleur, had recently ended)
Not the Same

BEN FOLDS FIVE (in order I remembered what songs were performed):
Fair
Alice Childress (with a credit to WXPN for making it an early “hit” for BF5)
Eddie Walker
Army
Lullabye
Underground
Philosophy (including Misirilou and a bit of Theme from Dr. Pyser at the end)
Kate
Emaline

Any Ben Folds show that features “Army,” “Emaline,” “Philosophy,” “Underground” and “Alice Childress” are considered freakin’ sweet by default. “Fair” and “Kate” made it that much better.

UPDATE (1:47 p.m. ET/2-15-2009):

Here is a setlist, courtesy of thesuburbs.org.uk:

onstage 10:00 PM

1. Fair
2. Effington
3. Brainwascht
4. You Don’t Know Me
5. Annie Waits
6. Alice Childress
7. Way To Normal
8. Lovesick Diagnostician (fake Dr. Yang)
9. Dr. Yang
10. Hiroshima
11. Bastard
12. Landed
13. Free Coffee
14. Eddie Walker
15. Lullabye
16. Emaline
17. The Luckiest
18. Kylie From Connecticut
19. Army
20. Underground
21. Not The Same
22. Cologne
23. Bitch Went Nutz

encore:
24. Zak and Sara
25. Kate
26. Philosophy

offstage 12:05 AM

Christian Beach (with yours truly) to perform at The Strand in Lakewood, NJ, on Feb. 7

My friend, singer-songwriter Christian Beach, will be bringing his band to the stage for a four-song set at the historic Strand Theater in Lakewood, NJ, on Saturday, February 7, 2009. I will be part of the backing band, playing organ and accordion.

The set will be part of Main Man Records’ CD release party for “A Few Uneven Rhymes: A Tribute to Winter Hours.” The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are just $10!

Just go to http://www.strandlakewood.com to order tickets.

Christian recorded a cover of Winter Hours’ “I Want” for the CD, which is available on the Main Man Records web site and on iTunes. He will be performing that song, as well as three tracks off his soon-to-be-available, self-titled CD.

The headlining act is Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes) and the Ryan Brothers, so it is sure to be a great night of music at The Strand.

UPDATE: The show is not being broadcast by WBJB-FM 90.5 The Night. That info was based on an ill-advised assumption (and aren’t all assumptions ill-advised?) on my part based on something I saw on the radio station’s web site. So unless you buy a ticket, you are going to miss this incredible show…and that would be a shame.

Ben Folds Five reunites for Chapel Hill, N.C., show on 9/18

Ben Folds Five will be reuniting for one night only in Chapel Hill, NC, on Sept. 18, 2008.
Ben Folds Five will be reuniting for one night only in Chapel Hill, NC, on Sept. 18, 2008.

I was stunned to see this news this morning, but Ben Folds will be performing with former bandmates Darren Jesse and Robert Sledge for a Ben Folds Five reunion show at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Sept. 18, 2008. The show, which kicks off MySpace.com’s new Front To Back concert series, will feature the band playing their 1999 CD “The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner” in its entirety.

Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. ET through eTix on Monday, Sept. 8.

“Hair Apparent” available Sept. 9

Hair Apparent - The Main Man Records Tribute to Hair Bands
“Hair Apparent – The Main Man Records Tribute to Hair Bands”

A couple of weeks ago, I posted that “Hair Apparent – The Main Man Records Tribute to Hair Bands,” featuring a bluegrass version of Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” recorded by Christian Beach, was going to be on sale at www.mainmanrecords.com today, Sept. 2. That information was taken from a blog posting on Main Man Records’ MySpace profile.

Well, Main Man has just set up a “Hair Apparent” MySpace profile, which states next Tuesday, Sept. 9, as the actual release date (it will be available on iTunes in October)…so look for it then.

Christian’s version of “I Wanna Rock” will be the fifth track on the CD and also features Dan Mulvey on upright bass, Michael Scotto (of Agency) on drums, John Pfeiffer on Dobro, Gorgo on mandolin and yours truly on accordion.

Another appearance on a Main Man Records CD

Hair Apparent CD Cover
"Hair Apparent" CD Cover

A few weeks ago, my friend, singer-songwriter Christian Beach, recorded a bluegrass version of Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” for an upcoming Main Man Records tribute to 80s hair metal. I contributed the accordion part and some backing vocals to the track.

Well, Main Man Records posted a blog on its MySpace site a few days ago to announce that “Hair Apparent” will be available for sale at www.mainmanrecords.com beginning September 2, 2008.

Here is the tracklisting, as posted in the Main Man Records MySpace blog:

1. Heavy Metal Love – LaBooze
Originally recorded by Helix
2. Cum On Feel The Noize – Bob “Derwood” Andrews
Originally recorded by Slade… and then again by Quiet Riot
3. Malibu Beach Nightmare – Mutant Monster Beach Party
Originally recorded by Hanoi Rocks
4. She’s Tight – Frankenstein 3000
Originally recorded by Cheap Trick
5. I Wanna Rock – Christian Beach
Originally recorded by Twisted Sister

6. Ballad of Jayne – Wynntown Marshals
Originally recorded by L.A. Guns
7. Chatterbox – K Roth
Originally recorded by The New York Dolls
8. Big Bottom – The Dennis Dunaway Project
Originally recorded by Spinal Tap
9. Babylon – Bad Biscuit
Originally recorded by Faster Pussycat
10. It’s So Easy – Pillow Theory
Originally recorded by Guns ‘N’ Roses
11. Another Piece of Meat – FourYearBeard
Originally recorded by The Scorpions
12. Shoot ‘Em Down – AB
Originally recorded by Twisted Sister
13. Public Enemy 1 – Mars Needs Women
Originally recorded by Motley Crue
14. 18 & Life – Johnny Dey
Originally recorded by Skid Row
15. Little Fighter – AB
Originally recorded by White Lion
16. Final Countdown – Killing Phantom
Originally recorded by Europe
17. After The Rain – Days Before Tomorrow
Originally recorded by Nelson
18. Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You – Frankenstein 3000
Originally recorded by Spinal Tap
19. Here I Go Again – Dan Maxwell & His Band
Originally recorded by Whitesnake
20. Wanted Dead Or Alive – Early Times
Originally recorded by Bon Jovi

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Christian for allowing me to be a small part of this project.

Just a reminder, Christian’s cover of David Bowie’s “Five Years,” on which I played organ, appears on “Hero: The Main Man Records Tribute to David Bowie,” which was released last Christmas Day. Look below for our live performance of that song, recorded at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ, on March 28, 2008.

Bowie tribute album set for Christmas release

A few weeks ago, my good friend Christian Beach invited me to play organ on a recording of David Bowie’s “Five Years.” Well, I am pleased to report that Christian’s cover of “Five Years” will be the first song on the second disc of a 2-CD Bowie tribute album to be released by Main Man Records on Dec. 25.

Follow the link to find out more about Hero-The Main Man Records Tribute to David Bowie.

Artist to Watch: Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer is a duo from Belfast, Ireland, who recently finished a U.S. tour opening for They Might Be Giants.

I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t care at all for opening acts, but I have had pretty good success at seeing openers who went on to bigger and better things. Actually, the first concert I ever went to was when my parents took me and my sister to what was then Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands for a Hall & Oates show. The opening act that night was a yet-to-hit-it-big band by the name of ‘Til Tuesday fronted by Aimee Mann. About a week later I saw their debut album, “Voices Carry” — on cassette — in a local store and bought it. A few weeks later, the album’s title track was all over the radio and on MTV.

So, anyway, I have had a pretty good history with seeing quality opening acts, especially in recent years. I saw Tegan and Sara open for Ben Folds at The College of New Jersey about five years ago and never heard of them before. Now, they seem to be all over the place. Then, I saw The Zutons and The Redwalls open for Keane a few years ago, the soon-to-be-all-over-the-place Nicole Atkins open for Mike Doughty, and the still-up-and-coming Dawn Landes open for Midlake just a few months ago.

And that leads me back to the point of this post: Oppenheimer has joined the list of opening acts I would certainly like to see and hear again…hopefully, as a headliner. They played a really strong set of synth-based, 2-to-3 minute pop songs, and their debut, self-titled album is more of the same.

And this quote from Oppenheimer’s Rocky O’Reilly reminds me of the days when my friend Christian Beach and I use to stand behind our array of synthesizers, samplers, drum machines and sequencers:

I could never imagine Oppenheimer being more than us Oppenheimers. We write and record all our own stuff, the creation is very studio based. It’s the two of us throwing our ideas back and forth at each other and seeing where it takes us. In that way I hope the live show reflects that process, that it is two people creating the sounds. On occasion people are upset that it’s not guitar/bass/drums, but that’s not really what we are about, it’s about pop/electronica and really it’s about having fun!

Here is dark, grainy YouTube video of Oppenheimer performing “This is Not a Test” during a recent CMJ show in New York City…

(photo and quote courtesy of Pixelsurgeon.com)