I’d Be Lying If I Said I Didn’t Want More

Harper Blynn opened right before Greg Laswell last night. They are also Greg’s band, and they asked to make sure we didn’t think they were Greg, probably because two other openers preceded them (Dustin Christensen sounded lovely, and the band after him not only had a French horn but had other fun quirkinesses about them), and maybe they felt we were getting restless. But: They really, really rocked the house, and they performed a phenomenal cover of Beyonce’s “Halo.” When they come to New York, go early. See Harper Blynn. Be impressed. They’ll also make you laugh.

I’d never been to the Avalon Theater. The audience space isn’t an open floor, but rather, benches. We sat about six rows from the stage, and everybody stayed sitting down throughout the evening. There were still a lot of seats even by the time Greg got to the stage, which makes me a little sad. I wouldn’t have preferred to be anywhere else last night; apparently, not everyone agreed with me.

My third time seeing Greg didn’t disappoint. He told stories and also made us laugh, and he sang the way someone like Greg Laswell sings. I don’t need to describe it: I couldn’t do it justice anyway. If you’ve heard him, then you know. We stuck around for a little bit after the show to say hi, but we decided to go back to Provo. There will be other times. I just wanted him to play to a packed house.

The setlist:

Around the Bend
That It Moves
Off I Go
(the story about when he sat next to a woman on a plane who asked if he might be someone his daughter would know)
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
High and Low
(a few comments on writing a pop song and hearing himself on the radio)
Take Everything
Highway Patrolman (Bruce Springsteen cover)
What A Day (yes, I thought of you)
Marquee
Sweet Dream
How the Day Sounds

Encore:

Amazing Grace (I almost cried)
Not Out
Lie to Me
Your Ghost (yes, I thought of you)

Hmm, Hmm, Hmm, Hmm

Once, there was this May who
Went into the Living Room to listen to some tunes
So she went to the back room
To wait for the band she planned on seeing
The set was to begin when
The 9:00 had finished

Mmm mmm mmm mmm
Mmm mmm mmm mmm

Then there was this man who
Didn’t look familiar but sounded pretty cool
And they told him one more song
He asked the fans what he should be singing
He offered something upbeat
Or more like “Mmm Mmm Mmm”

Mmm mmm mmm mmm
Mmm mmm mmm mmm

So the man was Brad Roberts
Who sang for the Crash Test Dummies
Then May could place his voice now
And couldn’t help but wonder if it really was that man
But who else has that deep voice
That no one can deny is Brad Roberts?
His voice alone explains it
You really had to be there

Mmm mmm mmm mmm
Mmm mmm mmm mmm

Yesterday after work I visited Bryant Park to check out what singer-songwriter was performing. I came across Pete and J. They’re excellent, and everyone tells them they sound a lot like Simon and Garfunkel. They usually bring a band, but for Bryant Park, they went acoustic. They announced a gig later that night at the Living Room for 10:00. I decided to go to see how they sound with the band.

My first NYC stomping ground, the Lower East Side. I showed up about 20 minutes early, and I’d normally sit in on the set in session, but he charged admission for his gig. I looked at the name on the board, Brad Roberts, but it didn’t ring any bells. Then around 9:55, they took away the cash box and I slipped through the curtains to where Pete and J would be singing. Brad hadn’t yet started wrapping up, and I caught the end of a song. He talked with the audience a while, made them laugh. He played another song, but I wasn’t paying too much attention. I did notice his deep gritty voice, but again, no spark of recognition.

Then the guys up in the soundroom told him one more song. He offered something upbeat or more “Mmm Mmm Mmm.” When he said that, I actually listened to his singing. This guy sang with the same inflections and phrasings as that Crash Test Dummies Guy. He finished the song, he told the audience his name. I made a note to remember his name to research later.

I’m kind of embarrassed I didn’t know it all along. But he was there, at the Living Room, being all fun and singing for a fun crowd. The good news is if you missed him last night, he has the next few Wednesdays booked there. Go and give him an audience. He sounds great.

Pete and J are marvelous musicians and vocalists. They spent some time on tour this past month opening for Rusted Root. They sound incredible live. They have high energy and quick wit and their music as a whole is tight. Harmonies, instruments, everything. Plus, it’s completely different watching them experience their music and give it to the audience. I actually prefer them live.