all reviews and photos by John A. Wilcox

B*tches Loud Cafe Electro Glow Party - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 12/27/13

Twas a cool but lovely post-Christmas evening. My dear friend & I headed to a fine French cafe where I had a slice of blood orange cake and a cup of French roast. So, off to Toad's we went!

New faces as ever, but familiar ones as well. All were there to share the dance, the kind company, and the positive vibe. I must say, it was one of the happiest EDM gigs I've attended. I felt all warm & fuzzy.

The DJs in both rooms were in fine form, with the rain forest room inspiring some especially impressive grooves. A bit retro, a bit modern, a bit...strange. Of course, I love strange!

Lots of hugs & laughs & positive emotions. Perhaps it was the Hello Kitty balloon. Perhaps it was letting off a bit of holiday steam. Perhaps it was something else altogether. Whatever the reason, this was a high note to end my 2013 on!

The Musical Box - Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT 11/21/13

It was November in 2013. I was going to see the Musical Box for the 10 zillionth time. I'm like a junkie and the monkey on my back is named Banks and I feed him mellotrons. He rewards me like a good monkey to his music love junkie. Tonight's reward was a Selling England By The Pound show. No photos allowed! What?!?! OK! I'll bite, get in my seat and sit right. A "white" show from the early end of the tour. Authentic as reality, but far from normality. Off we go! Batter up! The version of Watcher Of The Skies that opened the show was actually the one from the Lamb tour with the different rhythmic accents after each verse. Powerful as ever. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight followed, with our very own Britannia personified walking us through landscapes - financial and otherwise. How can you not love such things? Next was a lovely trip to The Cinema Show with redolent harmonies and that awesome instrumental section! Lopping off time with the cosmic lawnmower and lead vocalist Denis Gagne enjoying the hell out of performing I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) as the crowd sang along on the choruses. Emotions ran high with the orgasmically wonderful Firth Of Fifth. High after high after high.

Such a nice time for some Victorian era grue courtesy of The Musical Box. Love those 12 strings! Old Henry vanished offstage as we got the spiritual breath mint that is Horizons. So very nice to clear the palate! Gang wars! Get your gang wars! The nasty tale of The Battle Of Epping Forest was as dense as ever. Who won the gang wars? Why, the listeners of course! Lump in the throat time. A spectacularly haunting Supper's Ready closed the set. Gagne was on another plane! Totally emotionally draining, and the Magog section was impossibly strong. The Knife was coarse and brutal, just as it ought to be. I wandered home dazed and dreaming of a show I still cannot claim was a reality. Wasn't I just living in 1973? I think my calendar is a liar!

Blackmore's Night - Paramount Theater, Peekskill, NY 11/08/13

Peekskill, NY. To the best of my knowledge, I'd never been there in my life. I made the trip early to give a bit of time to get my bearings and possibly check out the town. Good call! lovely area full of friendly people. Chief attraction? A place called the Treat Station where I found vintage candy (I even bought a childhood fave - Bonomo Turkish Taffy), cool toys, old pinball machines, and trains (see the photo above)! It was a baby boomer heaven! I played pinball, ran the trains, and was sad to leave the building! I will be back! Great used book store (bought a book of Robert Browning poems & a copy of Beowolf) and an awesome coffee shop where I took the chill off the crisp air as well.

What brought me to the comfy Paramount was, of course, Blackmore's Night. They were doing a handful of US dates to support Dancer And The Moon so I had to be there! I chatted with staff, crew, musicians, and audience - all were super friendly. Comfortable seats, fine acoustics, fascinating ambiance. It all created a relaxed atmosphere. Opening the show were 3 musicians calling themselves Wizard's Consort. Bass, lute (or was it a mandola?), and a percussionist who doubled on keys. Their set consisted of Renaissance era pieces played in what certainly seemed to be an authentic fashion. A strong version of Greensleeves was the highlight of their set. I need a CD of this ensemble!

Just after 8:30, The band took the stage. Ritchie Blackmore played the hurdy gurdy to open Dancer And The Moon. Great vocal from Candice Night. Rich, strong opener. The smoky vibe of Darkness came next, followed by Dance Of The Darkness - nice breathing room for all the players on this! Time for a singalong with Under A Violet Moon. This also got some of the crowd dancing. Blackmore's acoustic playing was the star of Soldier Of Fortune from the Deep Purple days. I sat there in awe. Durch Den Wald Zum Bach Haus was a fun instrumental workout with memorable playing from the Scarlet Fiddler. The exotic World Of Stone showcased a stunning vocal from Night. Momentum was building the show ever forward.

Being fine ladies and gents, we got not 1 but 2 songs to shout along to: All The Fun Of The Fayre and the remarkable Renaissance Faire. I had never connected the dots until Night made mention - ELP's Touch And Go and Blackmore's Night's Peasant's Promise are based on the same vintage melody. An enchanting song and performance. Toast To Tomorrow was quite the busy number. Blackmore & Night's children Autumn & Rory came onstage. Bard David of Larchmont did his Lady Gaga impression as well as playing a blinding keyboard solo. The Troubadour of Aberdeen turned in a positive kinetic drum solo. Lady Kelly DeWinter even added some French horn! Wow! The energy hit another gear with the rhythmic The Moon Is Shining (Somewhere Over The Sea). Blackmore played a tease of the Rainbow classic Starstruck before the band launched into a furious Loreley that saw Blackmore absolutely on fire as he delivered some of the finest, imagination-packed playing it has ever been my pleasure to witness!

The madness continued with idea-filled acoustic playing on Fires At Midnight. Just indescribable. If there was a single moment I had to pick to point out why I love Candice Night, it would be her vocal on the Joan Baez piece Diamonds And Rust. Power, sensitivity, and emotion came together elegantly. The serious air was met with fun courtesy of Home Again which featured bits of Hava Nagila, Drink Drink Drink, and The Happy Wanderer as well as shenanigans by Bard David as well as bassist/guitarist Earl Grey of Chimay. I'd be remiss here if I did not mention his solid, fine playing all night long! I tip my hat! The evening drew to a conclusion with 2 sweet pieces: Village Lanterne and Dandelion Wine. An unforgettable evening of music, friends, and a family of minstrels, jesters, maidens, squires, and the occasional foole such as myself!

New York City Comic Convention - Jacob Javits Center, NY, NY 10/12/13

Con time again. The biggie of the northeast. What was my experience? Read on...

THE GOOD: Carrie Goldman & Chase Masterson's wonderful anti-bullying booth. A great booth for a great cause! Paigey! One of my favorite young artists deftly combined Urusei Yatsura's Lum with a touch of Bettie Page and a heaping helping of hotness! Don Oriolo. Felix the cat's keeper of the flame played guitar & sang the Felix theme song with me! Outstanding booth & a great guy. The Fillbach brothers. Pushing their awesome Captain Freebird graphic novel, the brothers are gentlemen & gonzo geniuses! The fans! Cosplayers & just plain folks, the fans were the real jewel here.

THE BAD: Nowhere to sit. Horrid layout. Vast stretches of cramped areas of walking with no respite. It was the con's way of telling the overweight & the handicapped that they don't want you there! I asked a volunteer where I could go sit & he said "go find a stair." Expensive food & beverages. Hi, I'm a fan. Please rip me off!

THE UGLY: Outrageous pricing. Neal Adams was asking $150 bucks for a 20 second marker sketch. Klaus Janson wanted $250 for a chest-up doodle. Disgusting. Repellent. Shameful. The kicker - I was feeling dizzy ( a result of my recent stroke) and needed to leave ASAP. An outdoor security guy said "get out of here before you become my problem." Such caring, eh?

Ian Anderson - Beacon Theatre, NY, NY 10/11/13

OK, I'm supposed to say Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson Plays Thick As A Brick I & II. There ya go. My first time in the Beacon in over 10 years. Renovated, which translates to more narrow seats for fat guys like me. Still a lovely venue full of statues and gorgeous art. The band took the stage dressed as workers sweeping up the stage and such as the beer-loving crowd took their seats. A sort funny film led us to Thick As A Brick. For these shows, Anderson shared the vocal duties with Ryan O'Donnell. Great decision! O'Donnell's voice suited the material well and blended well with Anderson's. Beyond that, they worked very well together on stage. Animated and in tune with each other. I loved it!

John O'Hara on keys and accordion - tremendous. Truly. David Goodier on bass, glock, and vocals - the spiritual anchor of the band, the lynch pin to the evening. Scott Hammond on drums - Barriemore Barlow re-imagined with a precision and prowess distinctly his own. Florian Opahle on guitar - dead on. Perfect. Aggression without excess. A tornado. Every second of the original Brick was there. Minus the few seconds before the vocals. It reached into my brain and my heart and patted them lovingly. A few funny moments were added that I'm not telling you about in case you go see the show at a town near you.

After an intermission, we got Thick As A Brick II. The story continues. A more mature Gerald Bostock and his possible futures. More mature compositions with equal power. Anderson & O'Donnell's roles shifted a bit in my eyes, with O'Donnell perhaps representing Bostock's hopes and Anderson representing his realities. Perhaps I'm totally off-base! I was delighted with the Fray Bentos pie reference in the Shunt And Shuffle section of the piece. A fine bit of humor to leaven a heavy narrative.

Brick the second drew to a close and credits rolled on the screen behind the band. A superb Locomotive Breath served as the sole encore. So much to digest. Impressive, inventive theatrics punctuated both Bricks. The band was splendid. Anderson and O'Donnell worked so well together. I hope they continue to share the stage in the future. My inner teen was well sated by a chunk of the past. My inner adult was no less sated by a fine, rich present. Ian Anderson continues to inspire. A man with much more to say. Next tour is already a "must -see" no matter what material he chooses to bring my greedy ears!

Stamford Symphony Orchestra - Palace Theatre, Stamford, CT 10/6/13

Maestro Eckart Preu referred to our program as a "Beethoven immersion." Welcome news to all! After a rousing National anthem, the orchestra thrust us right into Beethoven's Overture To The Creatures Of Prometheus. Oh, Ludvig von, how we love you! The 50 + players brought us the excitement and drama of this composition. I thought to myself Beethoven owns a world others only rent. Ascending violins and plaintive woodwinds stood out on this fascinating opener. More, please!

The guest soloist was pianist Alon Goldstein. Ludvig von was surely smiling. Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 In C Major, Op. 15 was given life by Goldstein's nimble fingers. Impossible runs were just effortless. Goldstein has an immaculate reputation across the globe and I truly saw the reason why. The orchestra sat perfectly within the movements, supporting the heaven sent melodies emitting from Goldstein's piano. I felt uplifted and transported. Elegance, deep emotion, spiritual. A prime piece from Beethoven's early years.

As I watched the final piece of the program - Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 In A Major, Op. 92 - Maestro Preu seemed clearly excited. A veritable flurry of motion and emotion. Lilting flutes and joyous builds with this fascinating bass figure provided a rich feast for my ears. Oh, and that 2nd movement! Deep Purple fans will recall it as part of the song Exposition on 1968's The Book Of Taliesyn. A massive masterwork that brought us all to our feet! We earned an encore for going insane! It was Mozart Overture To The Marriage Of Figaro - familiar to all and stirringly performed. Yowza wowza! A great start to the season!
PS: A fond farewell to publicist Gina Ely who is off to other adventures. A pro full of class & grace. A true pleasure to have worked with her!

Richard Thompson - Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT 10/2/13

I wasn't familiar with Teddy Thompson's work before this show. I obviously knew his dad's work, as that was why I was there! I figured the apple doesn't often fall far from the tree, and I was correct From the first strains of Don't Know What I Was Thinking, I was in good hands. The song had an almost Crowded House feel to it, and that is a fine place to be. Next we got The One I Can't Have and I Should Get Up - excellent numbers. Teddy T had a dry sense of humor between numbers, joking about the wealthy nature of Ridgefield & gently poking it. Looking For A Girl drew a strong reaction from the crowd. While Richard Thompson was the main act, the audience had immediately taken to the strong songs of his son. Gotta Have Someone, a wry relationship song, kept things rolling.

The Things I Do and That's Enough Out Of You - I especially enjoyed the lyrics of the latter. Separate Ways was another double-edged romancer which the Playhouse crowd just ate up. Before his last number, Teddy talked a bit about his mother Linda & said he planned on going out to the parking lot to check out our cars to much laughter! He closed his set with the lovely In My Arms. Fantastic set!

Some 15 minutes or so later, it was time for dad's set. It just amuses me to say that, by the way. Richard Thompson and a guitar. No backing band. Flying without a net. I live for this stuff. Wasting no time, RT tore into Bathsheba Smiles and off we went! The Snow Goose highlighted RT's picking skills and gentle touch. The always fun rocker Valerie followed with a jaw dropper of a solo at the tail end to set the crowd screaming. Saving The Good Stuff For You brought us to a hilarious story that introduced the equally hilarious tale of cruise ship sex: Johnny's Far Away. In jarring contrast, RT gave us Pharaoh and its cold cautionary tale of power and money. Money and life were also touched upon on the sobering Stuck On The Treadmill.

Now we were in the Time for John to cry like a baby part of the set. The Fairport Convention classic Genesis Hall and aching 1952 Vincent Black Lightning kept my tear ducts well lubricated. Sunset Song was flat out beautiful and the only word to describe Good Things Happen To Bad People would be "cool!" The most stark contrast of the evening had to be a joyous cover of Frank Loesser's hepcat Hamlet and the bleak The Great Valerio. I Feel So Good served as a sort of emotional palate cleanser with some wicked guitar as a bonus.

A member of the audience shouted out a request - From Galway To Graceland - and RT immediately obliged to a roar from the entire venue. More classic RT numbers: Wall Of Death and Down Where The Drunkards Roll - how can you possibly miss? The set ended with the gorgeous Beeswing that saw RT puncturing his own balloon by deliberately hitting a flat note at the very end. Priceless! The devoted audience clapped, yelled, and stomped for encores. RT and son both came out and gave us a killer take of Persuasion. They followed it with a Teddy T song - Price Of Love - a fine number with nice father/son harmonies. The night concluded on a delicate note: a cover of Cyril Tawney's Grey Funnel Line - a song fellow folkies will remember the Silly Sisters performing so well. It ended the show with a sort of timeless feel. A show full of tears, joy, and wonder.

Steve Hackett - Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT 9/28/13

It's 2 AM and I'm writing this longhand on a yellow pad, sitting on my bed. A few hours earlier, I saw Steve Hackett & band absolutely tear the Ridgefield Playhouse down to the foundation. I can't sleep without expressing my thoughts on the show.

Gary O'Toole: You're kidding me! This guy was a monster on drums - an absolute best. Having said that, sensitive when a piece called for it. Great vocalist in his own right.
Lee Pomeroy: Watching him play I could swear that his hands had no bones. Precise yet fluid. Mick Karn comes to mind. Killer on 12 string as well.
Rob Townsend: Saxes, flutes, other stuff you blow in. Additional keyboards and percussion. He was a living overdub!
Roger King: Shut the front door! Every keyboard part spot on. Not just nailing the parts but also capturing every nuance of Tony Banks' style. Breathtaking.

Nad Sylvan: Let me pause. Nad Sylvan on vocals. Soak that in. Passion. Drama. A...rightness, an honesty on every note, every gesture. I did not miss Gabriel or Collins. Sylvan made every piece his. It was right there in front of you. He took each song right to you - to everyone in the audience. A gesture during The Musical Box. An eyebrow. A gaze. A pose. It was always meant to be like this, but we never knew! Thankfully, we have it now.
Steve Hackett: The reason we were at this sold out event. If you told me five years ago that I'd see Hackett play The Lamia or The Fountain Of Salmacis live, I'd insist you were balmy. What I observed this evening was mastery and assurance. Every note was the right note. Sections that required nothing, got nothing. Where a staggering run was needed, there it was. I've seen a few players lose a step over the years, but not Hackett. If anything, he's even faster. He's also an incredibly generous player, always allowing his bandmates to shine.

So, you might ask, what did they play? The set opened with Watcher Of The Skies. Sylvan scanned the venue with a spyglass and glowing read thumbs. A perfect opener as always. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight followed, with complete ending - quite a nice spot for Townsend. O'Toole took the vocals on Fly On A Windshield and Broadway Melody Of 1974 with Hackett wailing to the rafters. I had shivers during The Lamia. Emotive vocal by Sylvan and solo trade-offs from Hackett and Townsend. The Musical Box drove the crowd wild with O'Toole's drums a standout. The classical came out for Horizons and stayed out for Blood On The Rooftops with another fine O'Toole vocal and haunting keys courtesy of King. They stayed with Wind & Wuthering for the trio of Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers..., ...In That Quiet Earth, Afterglow. It was a perfect balance of power and delicate melody - the Brontes brought to life. Perhaps the highlight of ensemble playing for the night.

Next up: The Fountain Of Salmacis - murderously strong. Surprisingly fresh. Time for comic relief with the always perky I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).Sylvan and O'Toole shone here. A complete Dance On A Volcano was an ensemble jackhammer. King was ferocious. The set closed as you knew it must. Supper's Ready. Sylvan was on another plane of reality on this. What could the crowd do but scream? Encores were a Firth Of Fifth with complete piano opening and Los Endos - including bits of Myopia, Imagining, and Slogans. Glorious!

The Connecticut Renaissance Faire - Dodd Stadium Overflow Lot, Norwich, CT 9/22/13

I'd never been to Norwich in my life. Nice town - friendly. The Connecticut Renaissance was bringing the King, the coolness, and 1,487 lb of cleavage to town. This year, the King was Henry VIII. The coolness was provided by bands, knights, merchants, and fools. The cleavage - well, was inescapable (thankfully). Bagpipes, bodhrans, hammered dulcimers, and lots of guitars provided a wonderful soundtrack to the day. I watched folks swordfight & saw bits or archery and other activities. It was such a nice day - we managed to just miss morning rain, so everything was nice & dry.

If there was a personal highlight, it was the Bard of Avon himself: William Shakespeare. Our William put on a wild and hilarious improvisational version of Romeo And Juliet that involved pretty much every member of the audience, ye scribe included. I haven't laughed that much in ages - and over a tragedy, no less! Absolutely brilliant!

I really enjoyed the tent with eagles, hawks, kestrels, and other predatory birds. Power, beauty, and grace personified. I talked to lots of super friendly merchants and bought a few keepsakes and a bit of food. There was most definitely a good spirit in the air. The Faire runs every weekend until October 20. Give yourself a treat and go check it out!

DRK Takeover - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 9/6/13

A different sort of EDM / dubstep show in that the folks at DRK Productions put it on. A much smaller crowd for a Friday night, but still fun!

Once again, a DJ in the Rainforest room was laying down far more interesting stuff than the folks on the main stage. A question remains in my head: where are all the female DJs?

ComiCONN - Trumbull Marriott, Trumbull, CT 7/24/13

Ahhhhhhhh! A convention right in my backyard! The 4th annual ComiCONN took place in nearby Trumbull, minutes off route 15. I went to this with one of my nephews - before you ask, he's not a small fry - he's 36 & a big Steve Ditko fan (I raise my family well!). This was very much a family event, which has positives & negatives to it. The main negatives being lots of strollers blocking your way and little kids trying to touch and rend everything in their path as their parents ignore them.

Lots of interesting guests at this one. I had nice chats with Bob Camp of Ren And Stimpy and Bubble Guppies fame, Paranormal State's Shannon Sylvia, and indie cartoonist Dawn Griffin right off the bat. I was fascinated by Roger Phillips' The Gray Zone. It's a series of books on "gray" aliens. Very well done. Incredibly nice guy. Also met a voice from my teens! Most of you know Larry Kenney as the voice of Lion-o, but many of us in Connecticut fondly remember him as the host of Bowling For Dollars and the phrase Ohhhhhhh! Jersey Side!

A totally charming up-and-comer was Samantha Anne Kent. We had a nice talk about art as a fan argued about what he thought art was not. Great to see good buddies Frank McLaughlin and Jim Salicrup. Talked with Joe Staton, Jeff Shultz, Glenn Whitmore, Paul Kupperberg, Tom DeFalco, and the irrepressible Cliff Galbraith. So much talent at this show!

Tons of cosplayers as one might suspect. Black Canary, Wolverine, lots of Star Wars folks, Poison Ivy, even Jessica Rabbit! Some awesome vehicle displays, tons of merch, and more than I can mention made this a fun day. Simply put - a fantastic time courtesy of the ComiCONN people!

Here We Glow Again - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 8/17/13

By this point, I've been to quite a few dubstep shows. I have to say that this one was quite different. More energetic. More frenetic. Early on in the rainforest room of Toad's, I was checking out the DJ - in this case DJ Kapsoul. He was throwing down some strong beats when I Amidst the dense beats I heard some fleet country-style fretwork. I smiled. It was odd, but it worked! This DJ was truly experimental, putting a fresh stamp on his work. Major props!

On the main floor there was lots of twerking and torquing as the night went on. The beats were deep and hard and the crowd grew and grew. I saw a few faces I knew & many I'd never seen. Outside, the security seemed to be in a lousy mood and were...impatient with the dubsters outside for a break or a smoke. I felt everyone on staff could've been a good bit more kind. Everyone's there to get along & have fun.

Back in the rainforest room, I had my laugh of the night. This was an age 14 & up show, so there were a small handful of younger folks in the crowd. As I was walking into the room, 2 girls were wearing outfits about the size of an average bikini and grinding on the floor. A young boy - maybe all of 16 - was staring with his eyes all but popping out of his head. Seeing me, he ran off like I was his dad! I laughed and told the girls in question that they had just stunned a young kid's senses. Priceless!

After 11 pm the stage grew with dancers. The aforementioned girls I saw in the rainforest room. A striking woman in silver shorts. A gaggle of guys, various girls, and all sorts of characters. Some call-and-response from the DJs. A Co2 cannon or two. Energy, energy, energy. Summer is heading toward the sunset. Here We Glow Again showed that there was still plenty of Summer fun to be had!

Who's Next - City Center, Danbury, CT 8/2/13

I've been a Who fan pretty much my entire life, so I was jazzed to see this top shelf tribute act! The band - Bill Canell on guitar, Dave MacDonald on vocals, Mike Conte on bass, and Rich Savarese on drums are known for their ability to capture that Who energy - did not disappoint. Flawless versions of Substitute and Can't Explain started the show off strongly. Very confident vocals were the highlight of Who Are You. Relay and The Seeker seemed to puzzle a portion of the crowd, yet diehards such as myself were full of shouts and grins.

Magic Bus was pure fun and the crowd positively devoured Baba O'Riley. Conte was showcased nicely on My Wife, and we diehards were thrown another treat with the b-side I Don't Even Know Myself. Savarese recreated Keith Moon's humorous intro to a clutch of songs from Tommy, starting with Amazing Journey and a Canell-driven Sparks.

A rockin' Pinball Wizard took us to I'm Free, and the Tommy excerpts concluded with the uplifting See Me Feel Me. Behind Blue Eyes was, as expected, another huge crowd pleaser. Next was a trio of Quadrophenia pieces: The Real Me, 5:15, and Love Rain O'er Me. This was the emotional highlight of the night for yours truly.

You Better You Bet and Squeeze Box were packed with energy and enthusiasm. The set ended with the anthemic Won't Get Fooled Again. We needed more, so the band turned in a fine set of encores: My Generation, Join Together, Naked Eye, and the triumphant Long Live Rock. A microphone swinging, guitar windmilling, cymbal bashing good time!

ConnectiCon- Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, CT 7/14/13

In my experience, I find that every convention has a distinct vibe to it and ConnectiCon was no exception. A 4 day affair, I was able to haul up to Hartford from Westport on the final day. From the moment I stepped into the Connecticut Convention Center, there was a friendly aura to the proceedings. Getting my bearings and my badge, I was impressed by the almost overwhelming amount of cosplayers. It's safe to say that more folks were in costume than were not. My camera was happy!

I made my initial run across the main floor checking out the vendors and chatting. I was very impressed by an artist named Caroline Jones who does innovative art entirely of cut paper. Artsy, elegant, and edgy stuff. We had a conversation about art, school, and commerce. Charming woman - I hope to see more of her work! Next was Bill Tucci of Shi fame. He had a fantastic booth showcasing his art. Tucci has a wonderful illustrated religious book called A Child Is Born that I highly recommend. A great guy with a fertile mind always moving forward. Who should I run into next but the wildly gifted Arthur Suydam! I've admired his work for years but never had the pleasure of meeting him. Suydam did not disappoint. A great sense of humor & full of enthusiasm. My eyes were agog at his wondrous illustrations! Another talent new to me was Erica Henderson. Her illustrations and comic book work mesmerized me. I'm a sucker for strong composition & color. Henderson's work was a positive clinic on both. We had a great conversation about color and its application. I wish I had another hour of her time!

I bought a Grim Reaper "minion" from Flights Of Fantasy crafts - I just could not resist! I could've easily spent a hundred bucks at their table with no effort at all! This is a good place to mention the tremendously high level of quality handmade goods at this convention. Flights Of Fantasy, Hooked On Chibis, Kitty Armor, and Aardvark Tees (I bought a kickass Miyazaki shirt from them!) were just a few of the many that caught my eye. Lots of anime, manga, comic book, clothing, and gaming dealers were pumping out quality goods. No one tried to "hard sell" anyone. It was all very relaxed and friendly. I loved that aspect of it.

There was lots of gaming and plenty of panels, signings, and all that one expects at a convention. In the end, it was about the fans. They were straight up awesome. Several "Free Hugs" folks gave me just that. Lots of fun cosplayers portraying everyone from Ant Man to Freddie Mercury to that Halo girl I can never remember the name of! ConnectiCon was 1 huge smile for me. After more than 3 decades of conventions, I sometimes get cynical about such events. ConnectiCon was a massive restoration of my faith in cons by the fans, for the fans. See you next year!

Summer Glow 2 - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 7/6/13

Heart - Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT 7/4/13

This was my 31st year seeing Heart in concert. I've never been disappointed in a show they've done and this evening was no exception. Joining them for the tour was Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience. Bonham's band featured James Dylan on vocals; Tony Catania on guitar; Stephen Leblanc on keyboards and rhythm guitar; Michael Devin on bass. Bonham & co started things off on a celebratory note with Rock And Roll. This band was tight. Dylan's vocals were urgent and energetic. This was further evidenced by his take on Black Dog, which was also a showcase for the formidable rhythm section of Bonham and Devin. Catania pretty much ruled Over The Hills And Far Away. Catania played with a combination of muscle and finesse. Evidently Since I've Been Loving You was the very first Zep song Catania and Bonham ever played together some years ago. As a result, they were locked in like a well oiled unit. So low down bluesy, full of grit.

Leblanc and Catania were the icing on the funky Houses Of The Holy with Dylan the vocal cherry on top. The crowd were absolutely wild for Nobody's Fault But Mine, with a guy across from me wailing into an imaginary mic and flailing his body to the rhythm. When The Levee Breaks showcased the band as a whole (with a harmonica player I don't know the identity of!), while Whole Lotta Love brought the set to a knockout punch of an ending.

I had front row seats on the side for this gig, and sitting to my right were 3 members of keyboardist Debbie Shair's family. Warm and personable folks! I squeezed back into the photo pit just in time for Barracuda. A surprising opener as Heart usually close with it. Joining Ann and Nancy Wilson and the aforementioned Debbie Shair were Craig Bartock on guitar; Dan Rothchild on bass; Ben Smith on drums. Heartless was a slinky, pumped up rocker as always, with Ann's brilliant vocal and the twin guitar assault neatly anchored by Smith and Rothchild. At the center of the stage was a ramp leading several rows into the audience, with Ann stalking it to great effect on What About Love.I've heard Magic Man what seems like a zillion times, but it sounded fresh and current in no small part from the energy of Craig Bartock's guitar.

I've always loved the energy of Kick It Out, and this evening was no exception. Fantastic solo by Bartock on this one. Of all the songs for the sound folks to have a huge glitch during, it would have to be Mistral Wind! Right during Ann Wilson's big note, the main sound cut out for a full minute. Despite this, the band valiantly played on through the technical adversity to bring the number to a stellar conclusion. Props to Ben Smith's drumming and Dan Rothchild's full, bright bass! The oily funk of Even It Up was a nice contrast with a playful vocal floating over that infectious rhythm. Ann turned the mic over to sister Nancy for 3 songs. The first was a solo rendition of Elton John's I Need You To Turn To sounding especially intimate with just voice and acoustic guitar. I believe we got the first performance on this tour of Walkin' Good from the Fanatic album. Ann added flute supporting the keyboard figure behind Nancy's folksy vocal. Very nice.

Nancy Wilson's feature spot came to a close with These Dreams with Nancy on mandolin and Ann on acoustic guitar. Lovely. Our final 80s tune was Alone with Ann tearing through the stratosphere with a high voltage vocal. After a rather appropriate Dear Old America, the main set concluded with a propulsive Crazy On You (with a snatch of the Beatles' Revolution during Nancy's acoustic intro). However, the show was far from over!

The first encore was Ann & Nancy up at the front of the ramp performing Battle Of Evermore - Ann on acoustic guitar, Nancy on mandolin captivating an enthralled crowd. Bartock, Shair, Rothchild, Bonham, and Catania joined the sisters for the rest of the encores, commencing with a frighteningly tight take of The Song Remains The Same. The gorgeous Rain Song came next with a lush vocal from Ann. The ensemble grooved right into The Ocean while the crowd was at fever pitch. Could things get any higher? A bulldozer version of Kashmir provided the answer. Exotic, triumphant, compelling - it had it all. When you need to go out on a big note, I imagine it doesn't get much bigger than Stairway To Heaven. Highlights were Debbie Shair's haunting keys, a 10 voice choir, Craig Bartock's blazing solo, and Ann Wilson's cyclonic delivery. Ann said she wanted to "Kiss our country on the big ol' lips!" several times during the evening - an evening of celebration and affirmation. More than a concert - an event. Awe inspiring.

Tom Brislin - Two Boots, Bridgeport, CT 6/29/13

This show marked the 5th different circumstance under which I'd seen keyboardist extraordinaire Tom Brislin. In the past I'd seen him play with Yes, Camel, Renaissance, and his band Spiraling. For this event, part of Scott Corcoran's wonderful Prog On The Sound series, Brislin was solo. Pure, unfiltered Brislin performing an early 4:30 set at Two Boots in Bridgeport. I loved the funky atmosphere and friendly staff there. Tom Brislin played keyboards, cajon, and some triggered percussion to great effect.

Brislin was on the road supporting his most recent effort - Hurry Up And Smell The Roses - a poignant collection of strong singer / songwriter pieces. The set opened with a number off that very album called I Hold A Candle. A lovely start to the afternoon. That was followed by a Spiraling fave: The Girl On Top (Of The Piano). I always thought it should've ruled the radio some Summer. Your Favorite Day was an beach boardwalk of escapist lyrics while When You Told Me Not To Go seemed to be a song about regret. Very melancholy lyrics on that. I could be wrong, but I sensed a bit of cynicism on Microphone - a sort of put-up-or-shut-up song. Brislin told a story about his sadness upon hearing that the space shuttle program was ending and hearing that his old school had been torn down. Both were the emotional fuel that powered the aching Liftoff which was followed rather appropriately by an instrumental cover of David Bowie's Ashes To Ashes.

A cover of Marillion's This Train Is My Life struck me as far more engaging than the original. Brislin's vocal and piano were much more intimate and fit the piece perfectly. Back to the Spiraling days once more with the hilariously titled The Concept Of The Quantum-Mechanical Bodymind Has Sparked A Great Idea. Industry In The Distance and Hurry Up And Smell The Roses brought the set to a strong close. The crowd managed to coax an encore of Joe Jackson's Steppin' Out from Brislin. This was an afternoon of amazing keys, fine vocals, strong rhythms, and even stronger compositions. Many thanks go out to Two Boots, Scott Corcoran, and the multitalented Tom Brislin for a magnificent afternoon in the Park City!

The Go-Gos - Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT 6/20/13

This was my first show since having a small stroke the week before, so I could use something pleasant in my life! My main draw here was the opportunity to see the wildly talented Abby Travis, who proggers may recall played bass & sang on Brainticket's 2011 tour. Travis joined Go-Gos mainstays Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, and Jane Wiedlin. The band opened with Get Up And Go and the crowd instantly leapt to their feet. This was a party gig from the first note to the last. Vacation had everyone singing and dancing. Tonite and How Much More kept the frenzied Eighties crowd in motion.

The vibe was even more electric with a Go-Go-fied take of Carlisle's hit song Mad About You. The mood came down with the more mellow Automatic Rainy Day and Fading Fast - both featuring fine keyboards from Caffey. Travis and Schock really had a chance to shine with an energetic cover of the Rolling Stones' Paint It Black. A doubly cool set of covers followed: Wiedlin's solo hit Cool Places, and the classic Cool Jerk. For the latter, the band brought up several members of the crowd to dance on stage to hilarious effect! This Town and Unforgiven kept the momentum going and the energy high.

Skidmarks On My Heart led to the iconic We Got The Beat and the crowd were just shy of out of control during the set ending medley of Our Lips Are Sealed and the KISS anthem Rock 'N' Roll All Nite. Sweaty and exhausted, we all swayed and sang along to the encores of Lust To Love and Head Over Heels. A night of party music no one will soon forget!

Glodown: Electro Glow Party - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 6/8/13

More dubstep madness! Once again I'll let my camera do the talking!

Robin Hood Springtime Festival Guilford, New Haven, CT 6/1/13

My second ren faire - this one in nearby Guilford. Not quite as large scale as the one I was at back in October, but still plenty to offer! Sword fights, songs, cleavage, adventure, games, and deviltry. Tons of fun on a very warm day. Everyone was super friendly. Spectators were having a ball. I heard great versions of John Barleycorn and Barnacle Bill The Sailor performed by a very talented minstrel. Plenty of food. Fascinating vendors. I bought awesome curry powder, throwing stars, a reptile foot, and a cat o' nine tails (don't ask!).

What truly struck me was what a great time families were having. A ren faire is a positive, fun way for a family to spend a day. Much better than sitting in a movie theatre of mesmerized at home by the TV. This is Game Of Thrones right in your face. Knights, maidens, jesters, royalty, and perhaps a wizard or two. I had a great time and I'm sure everyone there did as well!

Project / Object - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 5/11/13

An early show on a rainy day. Project / Object had a 7 - 9 slot at Toad's as there was another act going on at 10 or 11. Andre Cholmondeley and his pals made good use of the time! Joining the band were five Frank Zappa alumni: Ike Willis, Ray White, Denny Walley, Tom Fowler, and Ed Mann. Filling out the band were keyboardist Kendall Scott, drummer Ryan Berg, and Rich Rakowski on sax. The rabid crowd were thrilled to hear the opening strains of Montana, and one fan even handed Willis a stuffed pygmy pony! Walley joined the ensemble for City Of Tiny Lites, highlighted by White's powerful vocal. Next it was back to the earliest days of Zappa with a very solid More Trouble Every Day. Florentine Pogen showed just how monster this band was sounding. Hard, brutal, totally locked in.

A pair from the Roxy & Elsewhere album had the crowd at fever pitch (myself included!): Penguin In Bondage and Pygmy Twylyte. They were played with a ferocity and really showcased the chops of drummer Ryan Berg. This guy was a monster! More classics followed with the groove-driven Bamboozled By Love and the elegant Peaches En Regalia. The variety of this set spoke volumes about the quality of the Zappa catalogue. So many memorable songs!

I believe that I last heard Crew Slut played by FZ himself at the Pier in NYC back in 1984. 29 years later, I still sang along at the top of my lungs, and the band really nailed it. Great solos on A Pound For A Brown On The Bus gave Fowler a chance to stretch out and Scott acquitted himself quite well. Back to my childhood we went for a stunning take of The Idiot Bastard Son. Vocal perfection! It was nicely contrasted by the free and funky Fine Girl. Was it possible for me to smile more? I don't think so!

Sofa was the German Du Bist Mein Sofa version and it had the crowd getting rowdy. They went to the very edge with a searing Outside Now that had people screaming the line I can't wait to see what it's like on the outside now. With the time curfew looming over the band, there was time for just two more numbers. Thankfully, they were Cosmik Debris and San Ber'dino where we also saw the appearance of an inflatable "Justin Biever!" This band was a monster killer super tight machine. We need some more like that in this kind of town!

Lez Zeppelin - StageOne, Fairfield, CT 5/3/13

Four women playing the music of Led Zeppelin. Interesting. The women in question are Shannon Conley on vocals and harmonica; Steph Paynes on guitar; Megan X Thomas on bass, keys, and mandolin; Leesa Harrington-Squyres on drums. The band name made me chuckle. Within 4 seconds, the name didn't matter. Gender didn't matter. Rocking my ass was all the mattered. Launching into Good Times Bad Times, the band were a sledgehammer of sound. Tight, growling, menacing rock. Just what I needed to get over my disgust of the yuppified crowd of people named Muffy and Tyler and Linus who drove their Priuses & BMWs to fill the venue. The Ocean locked my focus in. Conley's vocals had the muscle and swagger of Robert Plant with the nasty grit of Steve Marriott. I was digging this more by the minute. Black Dog kicked every inch left of my expansive ass. Paynes just soared on guitar. Wonderful.

Conley absolutely owned The Rover with Thomas very solid on the lower registers. The crowd was growing in pitch louder and louder between songs. The screaming after a tight, sexy Ramble On was pretty epic. Thomas switched to keys on the ever wonderful Misty Mountain Hop and the first set ended on a rip-it-up take of When The Levee Breaks. More screaming and sweating as people left to get more cheap wine and to text their maids!

Set 2 began on an acoustic note with That's The Way with Paynes shining. The acoustics stayed out for a bluesy duo of Bron-Y-Aur Stomp and what I believe was Travelling Riverside Blues - both of which had some wicked slide guitar! I'm always a sucker for Over The Hills and Far Away and the band drove it home with great drumming courtesy of Harrington-Squyres. The Zepsters to a turn into the obscure with For Your Life - I'd not heard that one in over a decade!

On the much more familiar front, we next got a searing Heartbreaker How can you not love that riff? Rock And Roll segued into an explosive drum solo from Harrington-Squyres. This in turn led straight into a killer diller set closing Kashmir with all four members in synch and on fire. The encore was What Is And What Should Never Be, a piece totally owned by Paynes on guitar. Her solo included some sly bow work. Hellacious, elegant, melodic, moody - the solo had a bit of everything. Lez Zeppelin set the venue on fire with a show Plant & Page would have absolutely loved!

ABBA: The Concert - Wolf Den @ Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT 4/20/13

Life, death, love, peace, and ABBA. ABBA: The Concert featured the talents of Waterloo - an ABBA tribute band from Sweden. The four performers singing the leads were awesome. Sandra Wallin sang the part of Agnetha. Matilda Lindell sang as Frida. Benny's parts were played and sung by Martin Hakansson. Singing & playing wicked guitar as Bjorn was Patrik Lundstrom. They had a top notch band with them including Sax & flute player Janne Kling - part of the original ABBA's studio & live ensembles. The show at the Wolf Den got off to a roaring start with Summer Night City. Lots of positive energy. Knowing Me, Knowing You and the infectious Money, Money, Money followed. I was pleasantly surprised by a killer take of Why Did It Have To Be Me? as it's not a song you hear often. Such clear, pure vocals on Chiquitita! Not to mention that great piano toward the end. I'm always a sucker for the melancholy aspect of The Name Of The Game. A bit of wistful Swedish soul in there as well.

Take A Chance On Me pepped things right back up! The trilogy of songs from The Album concluded with the hopeful One Man, One Woman. Time for another lesser played piece - this time the lovely One Of Us. The band threw the audience a curve by singing Waterloo in Swedish, but we all sang along in English anyway! SOS and Mamma Mia had folks dancing in the aisles with their effervescence.

Lundstrom sang lead on Rock Me with the 2 female backing singers moving up front as Wallin and Lindell changed costumes. It was time for some funky dance music courtesy of Voulez-Vous and the crowd sang loudly during the choruses of Fernando to great effect. Very anthemic! Another singalong to Super Trouper, then the emotional lead vocals on The Winner Takes It All enthralling the audience.

The groove-filled Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) led to a medley of The Visitors (Crackin' Up) / Lay All Your Love On Me / When All Is Said And Done. Lundstrom again took the lead on Does Your Mother Know - a tune bursting with power. The set closed with a strong take of Dancing Queen, followed perfectly with the encore of Thank You For The Music. ABBAlicious!!

Pavel & Anna Vinnitsky - Steinway Piano Gallery, Westport, CT 3/10/13

A lovely, crisp March afternoon here in Westport. Cool but not cold. Perfect for a recital at the beautiful Steinway Piano Gallery. I grabbed a seat in the front row, slightly house left of center. I love to hear the mechanics of the music - be it bows scraping, pages turning, the breath of the performer. It reminds me that no matter the vintage of the piece, it is being performed now. Pavel Vinnitsky plays the clarinet much in the way Hendrix played the guitar - he is on a level few reach. The same may be said of Anna Vinnitsky on piano. As they opened with Grand Duo Concertante by von Weber, their skills became instantly apparent. Notes flew like sand in a hurricane. This was a muscular piece of fluid virtuosity. A brilliant beginning!

I must say, I'd never been that close to a clarinet - some 4 feet away. The depth of tone, the fullness, is astounding. Saint-Saens' Sonata For Clarinet And Piano was breathtaking. As notes twirled and flowed, every now and then the piano would hit this chord that you just don't quite expect. Just so satisfying.

Anna Vinnitsky's prowess on the piano was showcased in a solo spot: Ravel's Jeux D'eau For Piano Solo was a mesmerizing piece. Technically near-impossible in spots, it left my jaw dropping in total respect. Mozart's Clarinet Concerto In A Major was the final number of the recital. Everything one loves about the piano, the clarinet, and Mozart all converged in a delightful way. The husband/wife synergy of the Vinnitskys was almost psychic. 4 hands operating as one. Timeless and resonant.

Stamford Symphony Orchestra - Palace Theatre, Stamford, CT 2/17/13

Maestro Eckart Preu wasn't kidding when he titled this performance Musical Genius. Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Mozart - genius personified! As I got comfy in my seat a few aisles from the great Rex Twinkham, we were treated to Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite. Plucked cellos & basses; bouncing bows; a bassoon workout - this sweeping number had a bit of everything. The overture reminded me of a Spring morning in Europe. As the music grew in scope and complexity, I heard melodies calling Scotland to mind. Touches of humor tempering the strong fare. A memorable opening salvo!

The 2nd piece of the 1st set was Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto In G Minor, Op.25. Quite a lovely number in its own right. What made it extraordinary was the playing of pianist George Li. He flew across the keys at Mach 10. A hurricane of notes played with a breezy confidence. What was even scarier was that Li is all of 17. 17. My word! At the conclusion of the piece, the roar of the crowd demanded an encore and Li obliged with the twisty-turny Etude Op.10 No.4 by Chopin. I needed to catch some air and regain my bearings after that!

The second set began with a much more recent piece. Written in the 1970s, Fratres came from the mind of Estonian composer Arvo Part. Quite a meditative progressive piece built on a drone played by the basses. Concertmaster Erica Kiesewetter - resplendent in a colorful eastern European coat over her concert blacks - flew and fluttered over the symphonic intonations on her violin. The piece was 10 minutes of magic.

Here in Connecticut, we close big! Mozart's Symphony No.41 In C Major Jupiter K.551 is pretty darned huge. On the surface, it reminded me of "swordfighting" music from a Robin Hood-type film. Grand and rousing. Even the softer moments still had movement. The conclusion was flat out massive as all the themes came together in a convergence of sound and emotion. Musical genius indeed!

The Toy Fair - Jacob Javits Center, NY, NY 2/12/13

Let me paint you a picture. I decided to cover Toy Fair in NYC. Traded some emails with them & was assured that they had a shuttle running from the Grand Hyatt direct to the Javits. Free. Gratis. Be our guest! Wonderful. I waited in the designated spot - even double-checked with that Grand Hyatt folks. I waited. And waited. No shuttle after 35 min. My lower back already started to ache. So - $14.00 cab ride - my food money for the day. Go to the registration line with my barcoded invite. Sorry. Go allllll the way left & upstairs because you're press. I trudge over & up. Sorry. Go even further left & down 2 flights. My feet are beginning to hurt, but I'm finally at the right place. I get my badge & hey - they just turned off the up escalator! Thank you! Go down the corridor on the left & there's an elevator. Which just left for the top floor. What a well run event! Joy...

Finally, I'm inside. Before coming in to the show, I looked over the Toy Fair website. They had a list of events and giveaways for each day of the fair, including booth numbers & times for the giveaways. Cool! I went to the first of these & was greeted by a blank stare when I mentioned a giveaway. They had no clue. I went to the 2nd such booth. Another blank stare. No clue about a giveaway & puzzled that Toy Fair listed such things. As the day went on, I learned that "press" was synonymous with "treat like scum." Several people were quite rude & vocal about not wanting coverage & don't take pictures & don't even talk to them. Evidently a red slap bracelet or a generic baby doll are more top secret than government drones! Welcome to the wonderful world of toys!!

I must say that some companies were flat out wonderful & helpful. Rather than dwell on the nasties, here are a few companies that stood out in terms of quality and friendliness.
Tangle Creations: Their amazing puzzles are true works of art!
Wonderworld Toys: For every tree they use to make their magnificent wooden toys, they plant 2! An incredible gesture from a quality company. I can see kids digging everything they make!
RSV Productions: They make elegant games for adults like the challenging Jishaku. I want one!!
Modular Robotics: Inventors of tiny Borg-like robot cubes that took my breath away!
little Bits: The lower case l is not a mistake - it's in their logo. More imaginative electronics to inspire both children and adults.
Neuro Sky: They make these wildly cool ears you wear that respond to your brainwaves! It was like being plugged into the future.

Finally, I must single out 3 events that were my personal highlights.
Round 2: Makers of incredible model kits and bringing back many classics from my childhood. Their kits of Herman & Grandpa Munster made my eyes pop. Great conversation to boot!
Ran into my good pal Jim Salicrup (editor @ Papercutz) & Todd McFarlane at the McFarlane Toys booth. Back in the late 1980s, I had the pleasure of coloring McFarlane's work on Amazing Spider-Man which was being edited by Salicrup. First time the 3 of us were ever in the same room!
Lastly - Peter Yarrow. As in Peter, Paul, & Mary. Not only did he sing Puff, The Magic Dragon and I'm In Love With A Big Blue Frog! Not only was he giving away free CDs! When I asked him what song he wrote the fastest - he sang it to me! Don't Go Down To The Quarry being the song in question. Yarrow was a gentleman as well as a gentle man.
Certainly a day of contrasts that I won't soon forget.

Lita Ford - Wolf Den @ Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT 1/26/13

Sometimes, after a long week, you just need some straight up rock 'n' roll. That's where Lita Ford comes in. Her material is no frills balls-to-the-walls rock. The Wolf Den was packed with acolytes crowding the stage. Much different than the usually polite, genteel audiences there. I loved it! I laughed when she opened the set with a cover of Elton John's The Bitch Is Back. How appropriate! Hungry from the Stiletto album was next. So far so good. 2 new songs followed: Relentless and the title track of her latest - Living Like A Runaway. Both numbers were very strong. Things got thrashy with Gotta Let Go - the show highlight for me. I loved the energy!

Ford brought along a killer band. Mitch Perry on guitar (who I last saw in the John Payne incarnation of Asia). The hyperkinetic Marty O'Brien on bass. Locking it down on drums was Bobby Rock. Advice to Lita Ford: keep this band! Time for another new track called Devil In My Head. Great chorus. Next up were 3 songs from the Lita album: Back To The Cave, Can't Catch Me, and the propulsive Under The Gun. The crowd loved Dancin' On The Edge and so did I!

Ford seemed super relaxed and happy during the set and the band were all smiles. It was back to her first solo album with Out For Blood. Nice choice. Another strong new number - Hate - took us to the end of the set. The 1-2 punch of Close My Eyes Forever and Kiss Me Deadly closed us all out on a high note. Long live rock 'n' roll!

Elizabeth Mann & Margaret Kampmeier - Steinway Piano Gallery, Westport, CT 1/13/13

This afternoon, part of the Mozart & Friends series, made a wonderful case for the charms of intimacy. A small room with rapt attendees. A piano and a flute played by 2 virtuosos. Excellent compositions. My ears embraced every note. Bach's Sonata In Eb Maj opened the first set on an elegant, vibrant note. As I've mentioned in the past, pianist Margaret Kampmeier and flutist Elizabeth Mann are a perfect pair with a near psychic rapport. Next was a relatively recent piece by composer Belinda Reynolds. Share For Alto Flute And Piano painted an emotional landscape that reminded me of a still morning in the Winter wilderness. Fresh and glorious with Mann's alto flute adding a breathiness of tone. Albert Roussel's Joueurs De Flute, Opus 27 closed the first set. The 4 pieces within this featured impressionistic, evocative flute lines over abstract piano chord voicings. To see and hear this all 6 feet from my bulbous noggin was bliss.

After a brief break where I took a peek at a Steinway John Lennon signature piano, Kampmeier and Mann returned to the stage. Dracula's 2nd cousin Bela Bartok's Hungarian Peasant Suite was 14 pieces of varying lengths and textures with bluesy, folksy, and spry bits. Mann did some breathtaking octave jumps on the flute that exuded passion and skill - well met by Kampmeier's fleet fingers. Frederic Chopin's Theme And Variations closed the set strongly. Mann & Kampmeier gave us an encore with Chopin's Nocturne In C# Min. The flute delivered a winding, melancholy melody supported by beautiful piano. This was a beautiful afternoon of unforgettable music that showcased the timeless power of music.

Report To Base 2 - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 1/5/13

I was back for more dubstep glory. Once again, I'll let the photos speak for me!

Crazy On You - Wolf Den @ Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT 12/20/12

The line-up of Crazy On You remained the same: Cassandra Frazier on lead vocals; Cathy Applegate on guitars and vocals; Chris Piquette on guitar; Derek Waldron on keyboards and flute; Matt Simpson on bass; Ian Hogan on drums. They continue to grow and stretch and added 4 new tunes into their set! The show started with the 80s hit Who Will You Run To. Frazier was in great voice, really hitting those notes with power. Heartless and Straight On came next, taking us back to the 70s incarnation of Heart. Magic Man led to Black Dog - a Led Zeppelin tune I'd heard Heart cover on several occasions. Back to the 80s for a very passionate What About Love. This was a nice "band" piece with the playing so nice & tight.

Frazier & Applegate gave us a lovely performance of Dog & Butterfly as a duo, meshing beautifully. Hogan and Piquette shone brightly on Crazy On You, and Wild Child showcased the strength of the ensemble once again. Frazier knocked out Alone with a turbocharged vocal, and White Lightning And Wine was a very welcome addition to the set. The rhythm section of Simpson & Hogan dominated BeBe Le Strange with their commanding presence.

All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You and These Dreams were great performances of my 2 least favorite Heart songs, but I was rewarded with the transcendent Love Alive. Hogan's piano was the star of Love Reign O'er Me, and the evening came to a close with a version of Barracuda that had the crowd roaring. A power packed show I'd see again in a New York minute!

ABBAMANIA - Downtown Cabaret Theatre, Bridgeport, CT 12/16/12

I really need to get to this venue more often. It's such a comfortable, friendly space with great sound and a great staff. I always have a soft spot for the intelligent, well-crafted pop of ABBA, so this was a no-brainer for me. Canada's ABBAMANIA was a 7 piece for this show, with Michelle Truman in the Agnetha spot; Andrea Brunet singing the Frida parts; Nick Pattison Bjorning it on vocals and guitar; and Matt Whale as Benny on vocals and keyboards. They were joined by John Stevens on guitar; Neil Numminen on bass; Lorne Pinkney on drums. I know that tribute bands often like to keep an anonymous mystique, but I feel that fine musicians deserve credit.

After a programmed little instrumental intro, the band surprised me by opening with Dancing Queen right off the bat. It immediately had the crowd in the mood and was followed immediately by Mamma Mia. Vocals were flawless and the band was tight as could be. I've found that every ABBA band has a unique vibe, and with this one it was enthusiasm and a great ability to connect with the crowd. The bouncy Does Your Mother Know brought us to some of ABBA's earliest material with Waterloo and SOS. A frolic through Money, Money, Money led to a beautiful reading of The Winner Takes It All. It was back to the beat for Super Trouper with those great backing vocals.

Both sides of marriage were represented in the disillusioned Knowing Me, Knowing You and the celebratory I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do. Next up was a fine medley of Eagle, Ring Ring, and Honey Honey. What happened next caught me totally off guard. During the beautiful Chiquitita, Truman came into the crowd seeking someone to sing on the chorus. That someone ended up being yours truly. I gave it my best shot & they evidently approved as they pointed the mic at me again during Fernando. The set closed with the dance-friendly Voulez-Vous. The encores were the sparkling Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) and a reprise of Dancing Queen. A total blast for everyone at the theatre! Be sure to catch ABBAMANIA if they hit your area!

Riders On The Storm - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 12/14/12

A much needed night out. As always, seeing Riders On The Storm also means seeing a clutch of random acts beforehand. First up was a band called Action Potential. A 5 piece, they had an interesting feel about them. Songs like One Night, Avian Mistake, and Forgotten Thunder had moments that reminded me of the earliest days of Split Enz and the later days of Be Bop Deluxe. Quirky, angst-filled songs with peculiar rhythms. An excellent start to the evening.

The second act hailed from Amity. They were battle of the bands winners Terra Firma. Terra Firma were high energy high school kids. Fellow students and parents cheered them on and videoed their every move. A bit generic for my tastes, but they had a very talented drummer.

Silvergun were in the third slot. Sometimes a member defines a band and in the case of Silvergun, it's the lead singer. He is an explosion of motion and attitude - working the vocal, working the stage, working the crowd. Their high octane rock was exactly what I required. This is my 2nd time seeing this act and I contend that they deserve a headline slot at the Toad!

Things got even heavier once INK took the stage. A hard rock / metal trio, INK is Solar Steve on guitar and vocals; Richi Rich on bass; Gonz on drums. Solid, solid, solid. Deep, rich metal build on a fine rhythm section that punches you straight in the gut. Numbers like Khira Li were slabs of raw power. Solar Steve is an excellent frontman - a compelling vocalist and kickass guitarist. Get this band a label, folks. Another headliner to be sure!

Time for some Hendrix, and the Electric Lady Band were there to serve it up. The trio started their set with 2 originals: Fuel and Can You See Me. So nice to hear Foxey Lady and Spanish Castle Magic with their guitar fueled psychedelia. The classic Purple Haze had the crowd cheering. Hey Joe and Voodoo Chile brought a too brief set to a close. I need at least 3 hours of Hendrix!

It was nearly midnight when Riders On The Storm started their set. The dancers were on acid and openly smoking pot. with the first notes of Roadhouse Blues they were flinging and flailing and spinning on the floor. It was beautiful in its way. A guy said to me "Where else but at a Doors show?" I smiled and nodded. Love Her Madly took us to Alabama Song. Every time I see this band, it's a different vibe. This evening was clearly a very happy night, a celebration of Jim Morrison's birthday. The Changeling was extra time and Back Door Man was extra greasy, just the way you want it. Break On Through crackled with electricity. The vocal drove When The Music's Over right to the very edge, bringing the willing crowd right along with it. Light My Fire was like a Werther's candy - smooth and sweet. Next was a nice double dip into the deep end of the Doors catalogue via Waiting For The Sun and Wild Child.

I could feel the crowd start to ramp up their devotion as the band strode through Moonlight Drive then took the mood higher with a fierce Peace Frog. The darker textures of Spanish Caravan and Ship Of Fools were mellowed out by the consoling groove of Riders On The Storm. A good chunk of Celebration Of The Lizard drew the crowd in even further, to be rewarded with a pleading Touch Me. People Are Strange was paired well with Strange Days. The evening concluded with a joyous LA Woman. "Last call!" came the voice over the speakers. A celebration of sound to soothe a day of tragedy in Connecticut. As I said - much needed.

Stamford Symphony Orchestra - Palace Theatre, Stamford, CT 12/2/12

Christmas is just around the corner. This year, the Stamford Symphony decided to celebrate with a program full of holiday classics. I headed to the Palace early to catch pre-concert festivities. Cookies, cakes, candy, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cranberry juice, carols, carolers, musicians, and good old Santa Claus filled the room. The symphony folks put on an excellent dessert feast! Santa was properly jovial, and everyone sang carols. The show hadn't even started & I was already in great spirits!

Our very own maestro Eckart Preu was off for the holiday, so the symphony had a guest conductor behind the baton. He was none other than John McDaniel, who you may recall from his Emmy winning years on the Rosie O'Donnell Show. McDaniel was a perfect fit for the holiday tunes. He also brought along 2 Broadway vocalists - Doug LaBrecque and Anne Runolfsson. Their Broadway pedigrees include stints in Les Miserables, Phantom Of The Opera, and Victor/Victoria. The program ran the gamut from classical pieces to contemporary hits like All I Want For Christmas Is You. The first set ended big with a soulful version of Children Go Where I Send Thee. I have sweet memories of the Tennessee Ernie Ford version, but LaBrecque and Runolfsson knocked this one straight out of the park!

Many highlights in the program, but I was especially fond of McDaniel's turn at the piano playing Vince Gauraldi's Christmas Time Is Here from A Charlie Brown Christmas. McDaniel's playing was sensitive and elegant. It made a huge grab for the heart. The second set included a singalong of Holiday standards and a clutch of Broadway tunes from Les Miserables, Wicked, and Phantom Of The Opera that truly brought the house down. A sublime O Holy Night was the encore. Santa Claus spoke to me, I got to hear the symphony swing, and as I walked out into the early evening air, Santa & Rudolph were rappelling down the side of a building as fireworks shot into the sky. I won't soon forget this experience!

The Musical Box - Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT 11/18/12

It seems that it's time to say farewell to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. The Musical Box are touring this production for the very last time. For that reason, I found it to be an even more emotional show than it already was. In contrast to last year's performance at this venue, there seemed to be fewer idiots in the crowd. People were there to actually pay attention and enjoy the show. And what a show we all got!

The Musical Box always give their very best. Of that there is no dispute. Having said that, lead singer Denis Gagne just seemed to be on fire. Of all the performances I've seen of this album, this was easily the most passionate. His delivery on Broadway Melody Of 1974 was enthralling. In The Cage was full of acid and angst. The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging twistedly comic.

Not to neglect the rest of the band. They smoked. The aforementioned In The Cage, The Chamber Of 32 Doors, The Waiting Room, and Here Comes The Supernatural Anaesthetist saw them play as an ultra-tight unit - a fierce beast that was unstoppable. People often overlook the power of the early Genesis catalogue.

By the time the main set concluded with it, I was simultaneously elated and sad. Never again to have this experience. The encores of The Musical Box and Watcher Of The Skies were gothic, majestic slices of aural bliss. Good for the heart. Good for the soul. A reminder of what music can achieve.

"Wobble Wobble" BASSgiving EDM Party - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 11/17/12

Yes, I was back for more dubstep madness! This evening was a great learning experience for me. Age means nothing. Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Everyone needs more of it. This night of EDM (electronic dance music) encompassed the main room, the rainforest room, and Lily's Pad upstairs. DJs like Delusional Society, Knowledge, JiggaWompz, and HighLife kept the beats strong and hard.

I saw several regulars from my previous dubstep excursions, so it was quite a friendly community vibe. While I spent the bulk of my time on the main floor, I also hit the rain forest room now and again. The beats were a bit slower there - a nice grinding feel going on. I didn't venture upstairs as my left knee was whining all night, but I saw waves of people flowing in and out all night, so it was a very popular destination. Kandi 4 A Cause was a table selling bracelets and other items to raise money for victims of hurricane Sandy - a beautiful gesture. Once again - CO2 cannons blasted out now and then. Lights, beats, glowing fingers, glowing globes, glowing clothing, freaks, geeks, trannies, Yalies, guidettes, fools, geniuses, artists, and maybe even a saint or 2 came to let go & dance. If you haven't been to a dubstep/EDM show - get to it!

Jay And Silent Bob Get Old - Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT 11/8/12

Well, this was certainly something different. Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith - Jay and Silent Bob - doing a live podcast (or "smodcast" as they prefer) from the Ridgefield Playhouse. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Would they talk "in character?" Nope. It was purely Mewes and Smith. The hour and 40 min show was basically some intimate and funny stories linked together by conversation. Wearing a goofy white hat, Mewes was compared to Gilligan by a member of the audience, so Smith dubbed him the modern day Gilligan. This all led to a discussion of the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which in turn took us back to the early days of Mewes and Smith, an old VW they owned, a flood, comics, laserdiscs, and FEMA. The kicker of this was that Smith used his FEMA money to help finance the making of Clerks. Smith was giving shout outs to audience members who had tweeted him which resulted in an impromptu call-and-response happy birthday song that was hilarious. Jason Mewes told a lewd tale about masturbating on an airplane that segued into a story of OxyContin fueled sex in New Haven graphically acted out on stage and bringing everyone to tears from laughing!

Smith related a warm and funny story of a defunct pub in New Jersey called the Wharf, and stealing a chair for a play. Oh, and making out. I neglected to mention that pretty much every story involved sex, and we were all the better for it! The evening took a serious turn as Mewes talked about the downside of drug addiction. On the happy side of the coin, Mewes is sober and clean 861 days as I write this. The evening closed with a game called Let Us Fuck! 3 audience volunteers enacted bizarre and outrageous sexual positions. Volunteer #1 - a guy - mimed signing the constitution, then getting it in the "Connecti-butt." For a lovely woman named Jenna, it was "clean shaven in New Haven," which saw Mewes crawling behind her like a Yale bulldog as she mimed shaving her genitals. The last volunteer - another guy - acted out the mystifying "Dammit, Carl!" In the end, a night of laughs, friends, and a packed house united in good will toward each other. More, please!

Stamford Symphony Orchestra - Palace Theatre, Stamford, CT 11/4/12

Having successfully survived hurricane Sandy, it was time for a show! What could be better than an afternoon at the symphony? The program for the day was Baroque: Bach To Buenos Aires and I was unfamiliar with 4 of the 5 pieces. The featured soloist was our very own Erica Kiesewetter, so I was very proud to see her have the deserved opportunity to shine. First up on Maestro Eckart Preu's bill was Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 In G Major. This saw Preu behind the harpsichord rather than the baton. Flutes joined Kiesewetter up front - 1 flute using a wooden mouthpiece, the other an ebony mouthpiece to simulate a sound closer to a recorder while keeping the purity of tone the flute offers. Such a lovely piece, as one expects from Bach. I was particularly fond of the Andante movement with its descending flute lines. A piece with a deep resonance for me.

For the next number, George Frederic Handel's Concerto Grosso No. 1, Op. 3 In B Flat Major, Preu took to the baton, while Dallas native and professional beard wearer Elliot Figg took over the harpsichord duties. From the call and response runs on the violins during the Allegro movement, to the slow aching melody of the Largo movement, this was a very satisfying, very European sounding piece.

Maestro Preu loves to challenge the ear of the listener. The final piece before the break was as fine as an example as any. Contemporary composer Avner Dorman's Concerto Gross. Dorman is all of 37 years old, but his ominous, brooding, at times harsh concerto spoke of a maturity and inventiveness beyond his years. My ears ate this dark gem up and took me to the break craving more!

Pierre Jalbert's Autumn Rhapsody opened the 2nd act. It was full of dramatic builds and guitar-like runs by our beautiful violinist Claire Jolivet. The rhapsody had a sort of smoky air about it, enthralling the listener with deep colors and just a pinch of melancholy. The day came to a memorable conclusion with Astor Piazzolla's The Four Seasons Of Buenos Aires. Keisewetter was on fire. Her fingers flew across the fretboard with abandon like sparks flying into the air. Acrobatic, emotional, exciting - her playing took no prisoners. Instruments were scraped and slapped percussively. This piece was entirely strings - no winds, brass, or percussion. Piazzolla's work was sly and sexy as it built to a huge, brisk, fun climax, ultimately winding down on the last note like a phonograph losing its power. From start to finish, this was 1 massive "WOW!!"

Blackmore's Night - Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown, NY 10/25/12

To the best of my recollection, this was my first visit to Tarrytown. Nice little town. The Tarrytown Music Hall was a beautiful venue - great acoustics, comfortable seats, bits of art deco still peeking out on the interior design. Come 8 PM, the opening act hit the stage. He was Giacomo The Jester a/k/a Carl Asch. Asch is a mainstay of Renaissance Faires and it's easy to see why. Asch had a strong voice, a genial nature, and picked a fine guitar. Not to mention strong songs. Cyrus In The Moonlight, Compass Rose, and most especially his interpretation of Patrick Street had the crowd clapping, singing, and laughing. For his final number, Until They Meet Again, he brought out guest vocalist / guitarist Laura Crisci. The results were outstanding. This was a great start to the evening.

It had been several years since I last saw Blackmore's Night and the band had changed quite a bit. In addition to Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night, there was Bard David of Larchmont on keys; Earl Grey of Chimay on bass; Troubadour of Aberdeen on drums; Scarlet Fiddler on violin; and Lady Kelly DeWinter on vocals and French horn. Their set opened with the rousing Locked Within The Crystal Ball featuring strong mandolin playing from Blackmore. Queen For A Day saw night play the shawm to good effect, as well as a vocal smooth as butter. The crowd were quick to their feet to dance and sing to Under A Violet Moon with a nice bit o' bass from Chimay! Blackmore took a seat and blew the minds of everyone with a spontaneous intro (that included the riff from Hey Joe) to the Deep Purple classic Soldier Of Fortune. This also had evocative, emotional keys as well. Night and DeWinter took a brief break to allow the others to gallop through a fun take of Durch Den Wald Zum Bach Haus.

More shawm and French horn in the moody, dusky World Of Stone - another powerful vocal from Night here. More audience participation from the dancing contingent during All The Fun Of The Fayre. As Night introduced Joan Baez' Diamonds And Rust as being by the finest woman in folk music, Blackmore quipped Bruce Springsteen? to a sea of giggles. Toast To Tomorrow saw David of Larchmont come out in a red & white wig as Lady Gaga (looking more like the hairstyle of the Wendy's mascot), singing a snippet of a Gaga song! Hysterical.

It's an important to note here that this wasn't just a concert - it was a show. Lots of good natured humor and between song patter. Very nice to see a band actually concerned that everyone had a good time - right down to Blackmore handing out free cups of beer to the crowd all night. Next up was an interpretation of Greensleeves with seriously great playing from Blackmore and a funny line about David of Larchmont's drinking habits! Peasant's Promise had everyone up and dancing again. Larchmont took a fantastic keboard solo, then joined by the band to slip in a few classical bits. Blackmore rejoined on his Fender Strat this time for a kickass Journeyman that rolled right into an equally kickass Loreley.

Pennywhistle and rauschpfeife were well played during Darkness and Dance Of The Darkness. Such a strong number. Blackmore had a stellar solo guitar spot during Fires At Midnight. His playing still gives me shivers. The singalong Home Again included bits of Hava Nagila, Drink, Drink, Drink, and The Happy Wanderer. A spirited end to a great evening, with the wistful Village Lanterne (featuring a superb vocal from Night) serving as the coda. A timeless evening of equally timeless music.

IZZ and District 97 - Marisa's, Trumbull, CT 10/22/12

The moment I walked through the door of Marisa's in nearby Trumbull, I spotted Pinnacle drummer & caffeine genius Greg Jones. I immediately relaxed as Jones is a sure sign that a gig is going to be great. Indeed it was. This was my first time seeing District 97. They surely did not disappoint. If I had to describe them in a simple phrase, it would be "kinetic energy." Vocalist Leslie Hunt seemed to be in constant motion both physically as well as vocally. Drummer Jonathan Schang was a percussive blur, well matched with bassist Patrick Mulcahy. Keyboardist Rob Clearfield also doubled on guitar, and guitarist Jim Tashjian was full of complex, intertwining lines. As a group, they were focused and locked tight.

At about 7:39 on a fine Monday evening, District 97 began the set with I Can't Take You With Me - an energetic start followed by the first of several new pieces called Learned From Danny. I loved Hunt's vocal on this. Who Cares? and Read Your Mind came next. For such a youthful band (I good naturedly teased Schang for looking all of 14), District 97 haved the sound of an experienced band playing on a level it often takes decades to achieve.

I could not resist singing along to their killer cover of King Crimson's Lament - dominated by Schang and Mulcahy sounding like 1 massive rhythmic beast. Back And Forth and another new piece called Handlebars kept the momentum going. Leslie Hunt took a break and the 4 lads tackled an adaptation of Olivier Messiaen's Quartet For The End Of Time. Good Lord, what an impossible sounding piece! A total band workout that had the crowd roaring in approval.

End Of Time led to an incredible take of The Perfect Young Man. I loved the guitar on this - it perfectly complimented the vocal. The set closed with the very catchy, upbeat Open Your Eyes. 90 minutes that passed waaaaay too quickly!

I must take a moment here to mention Scott Corcoran. Corcoran envisioned a new series of concerts in Connecticut he calls Prog On The Sound. This show was hit premiere event. The show drew quite a crowd - unheard of for a Monday in Trumbull. Corcoran treated everyone walking in the door like gold. The music industry is all the better for having him in it. On to IZZ! Once more, we get the Galgano brothers: Tom on keyboards and vocals; John on bass, guitars, vocals, and a bit of keys. Anmarie Byrnes on vocals. Paul "Brems" Bremner on guitars. Brian Coralian and Greg DiMiceli on drums and percussion.

It doesn't take you long, let's say a minute or 2, into You've Got A Time to see that IZZ are a special band. Layers of keyboards. Lush, strong vocals and vocal harmonies. Solid, organic rhythms and guitar lines weaving in and out of an audio tapestry. Music for the heart, soul, and mind. The expansive Can't Feel The Earth II was on the bill. Great moods and textures on this. I loved John Galgano's vocal on Regret - such a strong number.

Solid Ground was a testament for my love of progressive music - packed with ideas brought into focus through excellent, inventive music and colorful arrangements. Crush Of Night was the centerpiece of IZZ's show. Strong vocals from the Galganos as well as Anmarie Byrnes. Keyboards that shifted moods; intense rhythms, blazing guitar. A true epic that was an emotional rollercoaster!

Tom Galgano made more than a few folks gasp with his lightning fast interpretation of the middle piano section of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Take A Pebble, which also served as a sort of intro for the wonderful I Already Know. It was followed by another standout song: 23 Minutes Of Tragedy. I absolutely loved the line A life becomes morose, drink a toast to your own TV show. 23 minutes of tragedy. Just a killer. The set as well as the evening concluded with the wild instrumental Star Evil Gnome Su - a blast of cosmic rays that sent notes into the air like sparks in the ether. If this was the start of Prog On The Sound, Connecticut is in for some killer events!

Renaissance - Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT 10/19/12

I must give credit for suffering for your art. Despite painful back problems requiring her to wear a restrictive brace, Renaissance vocalist Annie Haslam soldiered on and hit the road with the band. Not only did she perform, but she performed beautifully. From the opening notes of Prologue, it was obvious that Renaissance were in high gear. Haslam's voice was in fine form on the lovely Carpet Of The Sun, with that wonderful acoustic guitar by Michael Dunford. Things I Don't Understand was driven by the bass of David Keyes and the excellent drumming of Joe Goldberger. Very jazzy with cool harmonies.

The title track of Renaissance's upcoming 2013 release, Grandine Il Vento, was premiered at this gig. It was a strong ensemble piece very much in the mold of the band's top output. Next, we went back to the Ashes Are Burning album for Let It Grow. It's a piece that's charming in its folky simplicity, with that uplifting chorus. Another new song was premiered - this time the very catchy Cry To The World. Another winner! Set 1 closed with a scorcher of a take of Mother Russia with breathtaking piano from Rave Tesar and symphonic keys from Jason Hart that were sheer perfection.

For several decades, I've had a soft spot in my heart for the album Novella. It pushes all of my buttons. You can imagine my joy knowing that set 2 was Novella in its entirety. Things kicked off with the ever- haunting Can You Hear Me? I loved Dunford's locked-in acoustic crosspicking contrasted by Keyes' liquid bass work. I could be mistaken, but I do believe that this was the very first live performance of The Sisters. Such a regal piece resting on the voice of Haslam and the delicate orchestrations by Hart.

Dunford's 12 string and Tesar's piano arpeggios were the stars of Midas Man. Some 35 years later, it still sounds fresh, still connects. Next was the seldom performed gem The Captive Heart with sweet vocals by Haslam, Hart, and Keyes floating over Tesar's piano. The album and the set closed with Touching Once (Is So Hard To Keep). It was another true ensemble effort with everyone shining at what they did. The encore was a strong version of Running Hard starring phenomenal drumming from Goldberger. An incredible evening of unforgettable music.

New York Comic Con - Jacob Javits Center, NY, NY 10/12/12

Once again, this Wilcox ventured to the huge Jacob Javits Center to attend the New York Comic Con. Every year it seems to grow larger, and this year was no exception. It was huuuuuge. Also, I must say, it is turning more and more into the East coast San Diego con, focusing more & more on television and motion pictures, and further away from comics.

Having said that, lots of comics and comics related booths & folks. Nice to see the talented Chandra Free (who drew me a cool little sketch!), Jim Salicrup, Don Oriolo, and many others. Nice chats with the folks from Limit Break Studios as well as the publishers of Electrolyte and an upcoming new photo comic called Women Of The Armageddon. I also saw several female wrestlers - the Bella Twins, Ashley, Kelly Kelly (now called Barbara Blank), and my pal Velvet Sky! Said a quick hi to Dr Who actress Caitlin Blackwood!

Ultimately, it was about the fans. I saw a lovely girl sitting on the floor doing a great drawing for someone. After that, she drew me an awesome Batgirl for free! Great to see new talent! Cosplayers of every shape and size. Black Canary, Power Man, Zatanna, Power Girl, the Penguin, videogame characters, anime characters - everything imaginable. It did my heart good to see fans of several generations having a great time and expressing their inner Batgirl.

My one caveat is places to sit. Every year the con takes away more seating to sell more booth space. Next year they plan to expand even further. I hope in that expansion they show a little bit more compassion for attendees who'd get through the day easier with some chairs to sit on beyond the scant few available. That aside, another winner!

Three Friends - B B King's, NY, NY 10/9/12

I'd been anticipating this gig for months. Gentle Giant alumni guitarist Gary Green and drummer Malcolm Mortimore plus 4 other players: vocalist Mick Wilson; keyboardist Gary Sanctuary; bassist Lee Pomeroy; violinist/winds player Charlotte Glasson are Three Friends. I had a front center table against the stage, so I was happy. Got to say hi to fellow journalist Ken Pierce of - great guy! After a brief guitar amplifier snafu, it was show time. The band started on the good foot with a crankin' take of Prologue, with that heavy, heavy riff. Glasson's violin skills were nicely showcased on the Celtic tinged Mobile. A snapping fingers sample opened the rockin' Just The Same with a great vocal by Mick Wilson. Speaking of vocals, Wilson's heavenly verse vocals were strongly contrasted by the oblique harmonies on the Pantagruel Born section of Pantagruel's Nativity. Killer guitar on this by Gary Green!

The incredibly complex In A Glass House was next in all its glory. Very much an ensemble piece with lots of work for all players. I was fascinated by the interplay between Green, Lee Pomeroy, and Gary Sanctuary during the transitional section of I Lost My Head. Such a powerful piece. Green, Pomeroy, and Wilson were the stars of the delicate His Last Voyage. The line Age rules over all things, fate rules over hope is still an emotional grabber. Wilson took a break during the instrumental The Boys In The Band. With Malcolm Mortimore driving the bus, everyone got their own moment to shine here.

Staying with the Octopus album, it was time for The Advent Of Panurge. I loved Glasson's treated sax on this as well as Pomeroy's bass. Another fine Green solo during Playing The Game with sly keys by Sanctuary. There's so much I can say about The House, The Street, The Room - it's a favorite song of mine. The band played the hell out of it. Parts were flying by liked greased mice. I loved it! Sanctuary and Mortimore were the stars of Proclamation while Green's riffage against Pomeroy's punchy bass dominated Valedictory.

If you ever wondered how Mick Wilson got the gig as vocalist, his breathtaking performance on Schooldays is the answer. Mortimore was a demonic polyrhythmic clock on this - I was mesmerized. Once again, Glasson was a wonder on Mister Class And Quality along with Sanctuary. It led directly into Three Friends with fine vocals and ensemble playing to end the set. The crowd exploded in applause and cheers and we were rewarded with the much beloved Free Hand as well as the last song I thought I'd ever get to hear: Alucard! Rather appropriate with Halloween just a few weeks away. This was one of those gigs you remember the rest of your life. Pure sublime excellence.

Heart - MGM Grand Theater @ Foxwoods, Ledyard, CT 10/6/12

After a fine afternoon at the CT Renaissance Faire and a bit of relaxation in a quiet lounge in the casino (with an amazing pianist tickling a baby grand), it was time to rock! Opening for Heart was an act that I'd never heard nor seen: Alejandro Escovedo ( Uncle of Sheila E). Escovedo and his band The Sensitive Boys delivered a 6 song set of cowpunk/blues/rockabilly that rang strong and true. Songs like Big Station and Sally Was A Cop were full of catchy hooks and solid licks. All the players were pretty kickass with bassist Bobby Daniel a standout. I want to hear more of this act!

A brief break, then Heart hit the stage. In support of their new album Fanatic, the band opened with the title track. New bassist Dan Rothchild fit right in like a glove, locking well with drummer Ben Smith. Next up was a scorching take of Heartless with those nice tight guitar harmonies courtesy of Nancy Wilson & Craig Bartock. The band dipped into the Eighties end of the catalogue with What About Love - entirely ruled by Ann Wilson's vocal. Speaking of which: a fanboy moment. I was up against the stage on Nancy's side (house left) when Ann spotted me singing along to Mashallah!. Well, lo and behold, she walks over to me and sings part of the chorus to me! Great moment! Another new number, 59 Crunch, followed. Nancy & Ann went back and forth singing lead on the verses, together on the choruses. A trippy lyric with some crunchazoid guitar. The crowd was already hot & heavy & very vocal and the 1-2 punch of Even It Up and Straight On just about pushed them over the edge. I understand that the evening was being filmed for a possible DVD release. If so, you'd be hard pressed to find a more enthusiastic crowd and a hotter, tighter band performance!

The band calmed things down a bit for a few numbers. Dog & Butterfly saw an incredible, expansive new arrangement dominated by Debbie Shair's sensitive keyboards. Ann's lead vocal floated through the air, supported by acoustic guitars from both sisters. Walkin' Good had a nice, folksy vocal from Nancy & a bit of flute from Ann. Nancy Wilson's mandolin got a chance to shine a bit on These Dreams, and Ann showed why she's the finest vocalist in rock with a smoky rearrangement of Alone. Dear Old America, dedicated to the Wilson's Dad, brought us to the inimitable Crazy On You (nice to hear Nancy throw in the lick from Hijinx in the intro). The set closed, of course, with Barracuda. I've heard it a zillion times, but it stills packs a massive punch. Encores were Magic Man and Zep's Misty Mountain Hop. An evening of dangerously explosive rock & roll via the Wilson sisters. My ass was kicked and I can't wait for more!

The Connecticut Renaissance Faire, Hebron, CT 10/6/12

Connecticut is the 3rd smallest state in the country, and I have resided in it my entire life. Hebron is in the Northeast sector of the state and to be honest, I don't believe I'd ever been there in my life. What a lovely, rural area. I'd always heard that Renaissance Faires were fun events, so I decided to give one a try. I was expecting lots of cosplayers, swords, and cleavage. It indeed had all of that, but I found out that it offered much, much more!

In my wanderings, I ran into fantasy romance author Carol J Weakland; artists; artisans and craftspeople of every sort. Hawks, falcons, and eagles were on display and later did aerial performances. There was a fun and friendly spirit of adventure to the day.

Wonderfool did a show full of laughs and thrills, spewing fireballs between his gags. The husband and wife team that is Circus Stella delivered high wire acrobatics and chainsaw juggling. Vixens en Garde performed a hilariously demented audience participation version of Titus Andronicus that brought the house down!

The food & drink were tasty as well as affordable, and the joust was positively rousing. I had a fantastic time at this event, I must say. If you're able to head to Hebron, the Faire runs every Saturday & Sunday for the remainder of October. Get thee there, Lords & Ladies!

Tusk - City Center, Danbury, CT 8/24/12

It was a good omen. As I found my spot outdoors for this gig, the sound man played King Crimson's The Power To Believe over the system while the band was setting up. I'd braved the rain at this same venue last year to see Tusk and they put on a wonderful show. This year, there was no rain - just a warm, comfortable evening. There was an utterly forgettable opening act better left unmentioned, then we were good to go.

Once again, Tusk opened strong with The Chain. Locked in harmonies and whip-tight playing straight out of the gate. Dreams and Say You Love Me with that nice little guitar solo were next. Second Hand News and I Don't Wanna Know were finely polished pop, while Gold Dust Woman gave everyone a chance to stretch out a bit. Kathy Phillips' vocal on the latter fit like a velvet glove. Kim Williams hit Over My Head right out of the park with her vocal & dreamy keys. Guitarist Scott McDonald smoked on Big Love with a passionate vocal. Things came down a notch with Silver Springs, which also brought couples onto the green to slow dance. Think About Me and Monday Morning took the energy level back up, and set 1 concluded with a warm, soft Rhiannon.

You Make Lovin' Fun opened set 2 on a singalong note. Gypsy and World Turning kept the good vibes going. Randy Artiglere's bass propelled the stately Sara as the band headed into Stevie Nicks solo territory with Stop Draggin' My Heart Around. After a mighty fine Hold Me, the guys left the stage and left the women to deliver a sweet Landslide. The ladies gave the gents the stage and the trio blazed through a medley of Oh Well and Black Magic Woman in a nod to the Peter Green days of Fleetwood Mac.

Go Your Own Way saw all 5 players back on stage. Another Nicks solo number - Edge Of Seventeen - took us to the set closing Tusk with a fun, inventive drum solo from Tom Nelson. The crowd danced their way through the encore of Don't Stop. Tusk delivered a great show under the bright Danbury moon. Just fabulous!

10cc - Society For Ethical Culture, NY, NY 7/13/12

We all have our "bucket lists" of bands we hope to see some day. 10cc was one such band for me. As they last played in the USA in 1978, I wasn't exactly holding my breath on this one. Imagine my shock and delight when I heard about this show! I made my way to the venue, right off Central Park West, on a warm, humid Friday the 13th. Opening for the band were, well, the band. Graham Gouldman, Rick Fenn, Mick Wilson, and Mike Stevens played an opening acoustic set of songs Gouldman wrote for others in the swinging Sixties as well as 2 new Gouldman compositions. Graham Gouldman started out with a solo take of Pamela Pamela. Heart Full Of Soul saw Rick Fenn join him, while Bus Stop added Mick Wilson for good measure. A new piece called Daylight was a beautiful song about Gouldman's partner in Wax - the late Andrew Gold. Somewhere among No Milk Today and Look Through Any Window, Mike Stevens joined the others. For Your Love and another new tune - Memory Lane - closed out the opening set. The harmonies on the latter were so perfect as to defy description!

One short break later, 10cc proper roared into The Second Sitting For The Last Supper to the delight of all. Lots of energy and fine drumming from Paul Burgess. The cynicism of Wall Street Shuffle seems even more timely in 2012 than it did in 1974. Megahit The Things We Do For Love was perfectly paired with Good Morning Judge, which featured some wicked slide work from Fenn. I must admit to goose bumps during I'm Mandy, Fly Me. A longtime favorite performed to perfection with an amazing lead vocal by Wilson backed by the tightest harmonies I can ever recall.

I must make mention that the crowd was going insane between each and every number - showing massive amounts of love for this band. Life Is A Minestrone with that quirky singalong chorus was followed by a crisp and dark Art For Art's Sake that had me in disbelief. Back to the earliest days with the infectious Silly Love before launching into the epic Feel The Benefit, again with such spectacular vocals and virtuoso playing. Mick Wilson hit those impossibly high notes at the end of Donna without getting a hernia - Kevin Godley would have surely been proud! The gorgeous Old Wild Men brought a lump to my throat. That beautiful vocal melody and understated arrangement never fail to grab me. I was so surprised to hear them announce Sand In My Face that I involuntarily shouted "wow!" like some little kid. In some ways I was like a kid at this show. So in awe of what was happening on that stage.

The Dean And I had me singing the humdrum days and humdrum ways line right along with Gouldman and From Rochdale To Ocho Rios was a bright piece of audio confection with zesty acoustic guitar and acrobatic bass. The monster smash I'm Not In Love was uncannily faithful to the original, and the band brought the main set home with the reggaefied Dreadlock Holiday. The first encore was Donna once again, only this time sung a capella in a sort of doo wop style - absolutely flawless! The finale for the night - Rubber Bullets - had everyone on their feet clapping, singing, celebrating. A concert I'll never forget! The luckiest Friday the 13th in ages!

The Sixties Show - Patriot Parking Garage, Danbury, CT 7/6/12

Anyone that knows me knows I despise heights and the Grateful Dead. What better way to start the evening than to find out the concert was relocated from the green in Danbury to the very top of the parking garage across the street and that the opening act - The Phoenix Tree - were Dead wannabes. Oh, joy. After their, ummmm, performance, a woman representing the arts in Danbury gave a coma inducing speech, the highlight of which was her saying some children have never seen broccoli. I kid you not. Despite my exasperation and tight colon, things were about to get much, much, much better!

The Sixties Show were a 5 piece ensemble: 2 guitars, bass,drums, keyboards. Everyone but the drummer sang. Kickass tight players packed with energy. Kicks and So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star set the tone. Strong playing, strong vocals, fun stagecraft. Can't Explain, You Can't Do That, and Sunny Afternoon kept things moving. The crowd was loving it. I loved the ballsy transition to go from the Doors' Soul Kitchen to the Monkees' Last Train To Clarksville. Mr Soul and Mr Spaceman were a perfect pairing. A Hard Day's Night and Got To Get To You Into My Life fairly crackled. The mood got lighter with the gentle Everybody's Talkin' before taking the left turn that is People Are Strange

Summer In The City and The Letter kept the crowd rockin', and what better place than a rooftop to hear Get Back? Heart Full Of Soul led into a truly wonderful Tuesday Afternoon. Quite a nice surprise! Get Together brought us to 2 Byrds classics: I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better and My Back Pages. Here Comes The Sun, the theme from Hawaii Five-0, and Love Me Two Times closed a memorable evening out. With their great musicianship and clever use of old radio & TV jingles between songs, The Sixties Show will always be welcome to these ears!

Luminescence Glow EDM Dance Party - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 6/16/12

Another night of dubstep. Beautiful people of all colors, shapes, and sizes having a great time. I'll step back and let my photos speak for this one.

Riders On The Storm - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 6/15/12

Another adventure at Toad's Place in New Haven, square in the heart of Yale. As with all Riders On The Storm shows, many opening acts. The first was Pink Missile, much to my delight. I've seen them in the past and was impressed. It was no different on this evening. Bassist Jessica Karjanis and the guys tore through pieces like Sex Is For Fun, CT 2 Hollywood, and Stinky In Pink with a fun energy. They remind me of a sort of Tasmanian devil blasting out vocals and whirling slabs of music with boundless energy. I'll never tire of this band!

Something In The Attic headed in a different direction. Their sound was dark and brooding. Guitars and bass would grind and pound, reinforced by drums. Solid, gritty vocals fit the pieces well, with the final one, which I believe was called Barcelona, the perfect climax to a propulsive set.

Total Hacks followed. They were a trio: guitar, bass, drums. All three not only sang, but sang well. Lots of covers from different eras here. I wasn't expecting to hear Lump, We Can Work It Out, One Thing Leads To Another, You Might Think, and Loser in the same set, yet Total Hacks pulled it off! I could see this band play for 2 or 3 hours and never get tired. Enthusiastic, fun band.

Time again for Father Time. Another band I've seen before, and another band I was glad to see. Father Time have strong elements of pop, rock, funk, jazz, and a bit of jam on top. Adrian's Song started the crowd grooving from the first note. Excellent vocals on Feast Or Famine, which lead into One Way Down. A surprise reworking of the classic Ain't No Sunshine featured fine vocals from the sax player. Guitar and bass were the stars of 125th St, and damn that drummer knocked me out all night! Seething Dry closed their set. Toad's seriously need to let this band headline! Props to the guitarist's beautiful dancing niece - a ray of sunshine in her own right!

Next was Impact, who I'd seen a few months ago. Very young kids with very expensive equipment. Once again, they were very good players playing 80s style light metal. Their sound reminded me of a young Ratt. They very definitely brought a following. Strong set.

Eggy And The Delegates hit the stage shortly after. Certainly good players. Very much a Grateful Dead jammy band. Lots of stoner-friendly shuffles. Their set ended with a jammy cover of Frank Zappa's Peaches En Regalia - nicely done.

Shortly before midnight, Riders On The Storm took the stage, launching immediately into a blistering Five To One. The mood was intense but playful. Break On Through, Love Her Madly, and The Changeling followed. Energy, energy, energy. Back Door Man, Touch Me, People Are Strange, Strange Days. The band were on a roll. Spanish Caravan, Ship Of Fools, Roadhouse Blues. Wigs were being discarded openly as the crowd loosened up.

Light My Fire was an obvious crowd pleaser. The more hardcore Doors fans dug Crystal Ship, When The Music's Over, and Peace Frog even more! Next were Texas Radio And The Big Beat and Soft Parade. A fan shouted a request and Riders obligingly played the seldom heard Hyacinth House. The set drew to a close with Love Street, Riders On The Storm, and a wicked take of The Celebration Of The Lizard. The sole encore was LA Woman, and a tired but satisfied crowd hit the streets after one of Riders' finest gigs ever.

School Of Rock - Acoustic Cafe, Fairfield, CT 6/7/12

I hadn't been to the Acoustic Cafe in the Black Rock section that floats between Fairfield and Bridgeport in far too long a time. I have very fond memories of the venue and even played there once or twice. On this night it was hot inside as it was packed to the rafters. My friend and I managed to acquire a mini table and 2 chairs. It was Women Who Rock night for the adult students of the Fairfield School Of Rock. Piece Of My Heart, Somebody To Love, and The Tide Is High got us off to a nice start. The players rotated song to song as is SOR tradition. Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Criminal, and a massively fun version of I Love Rock N Roll kept the ball rolling.

All the singers save one were women. Most of the players were women as well, with a few guys rotating into the drum, guitar, bass, & keyboard spots. I Feel The Earth Move sounded very nice and Our Lips Are Sealed and Middle Of The Road were tons of fun. It would be hard to have a bigger contrast in decades than Me And Bobby McGee and Adele's Rolling In The Deep. Promises In The Dark brought the first set to a solid close.

The second set began with a nice feeling "communal" version of Big Yellow Taxi with many players joining in on percussion. A great feeling to this one! Magic Man had some nice guitar soloing on it, followed by a nice Who Knew. The male singer's version of Blondie's One Way Or Another just about stole the show - it was busting wide open with punky energy and the singer - I believe his name was Sean - just totally owned that stage! Proud Mary was a nice take with fun backing vocals

The feline You're So Vain was nicely contrasted by Just A Girl. What followed was my personal highlight: a surprising take of Missing Persons' Words that was just excellent. The set closed with White Rabbit, Heartbreaker, and Respect. The evening definitely had a family- meets-party vibe to it. A great time and a great feeling all around!

School Of Rock - StageOne, Fairfield, CT 5/13/12

Hey! It's Sunday afternoon! Let's all have some fun! This was a nooner gig over at StageOne in Fairfield - pretty much right in my metaphoric back yard. The Fairfield School Of Rock students were giving us Yes Vs Rush, so you know I had to be there! Twentysomeodd students from ages 11 to 18 in various combinations tackling some very challenging music. They opened with a clutch of Rush tunes: 2112 Overture / Temples Of Syrinx, Fly By Night, A Passage To Bangkok, The Trees. I was impressed with the energy brought to the pieces. I could see a few nerves here and there, but I see that in performers of all ages. Into the Yes catalogue with Long Distance Runaround and The Fish. I loved seeing all those bass players on the latter covering all of Chris Squire's bass overdubs!

Very nice lap steel on Going For The One. An energetic version of Working Man with a great vocal was one of the highlights of the show. Tempus Fugit and Owner Of A Lonely Heart brought us to the ever popular The Spirit Of Radio to close the first set. Everything had a very positive feel and it was great to see the players so in to the music. A bit like seeing the world through new eyes.

After some pizza and a diet Coke, it was time for set 2. A very nice Starship Trooper led to an even nicer Closer To The Heart. Both Limelight and Tom Sawyer sounded hot. It was also quite a treat to hear the students run through one of my favorite Yes numbers - Yours Is No Disgrace. Way cool vocals on that!

Next up were 2 of the more complex Rush numbers - Freewill and YYZ. Most excellent guitar shredding on YYZ, by the way. Speaking of complex, Heart Of The Sunrise was tackled - a beast for any ensemble to perform! More shredding & some fine drum work highlighted La Villa Strangiato. I've Seen All Good People and Roundabout ended the set on a high note. I truly enjoyed this show. It was heartening to see so many young players looking to keep this music alive. I can't wait to see (and hear) what they do next!

Stick Men - StageOne, Fairfield, CT 4/26/12

As I thought of it, this was the second show in 1 week that featured a bass player from King Crimson. In this case, the always wonderful Tony Levin. He played a Chapman stick in lieu of a bass, but close enough! Joining Levin was the ever-kinetic Pat Mastelotto on drums & other things to hit, and Markus Reuter on touch guitar. The Stick Men arrived in Fairfield to kick asses, take names, and sign CDs!

I had great seats - 3rd row - at this charmingly intimate venue. StageOne has a relaxed and friendly vibe. Stick Men got business underway with Smudge - a new song that crackled and thumped. Reuter's touch guitar felt like the center of this one. A quick dive into the King Crimson catalogue turned up VROOOM VROOOM played with great spirit and enthusiasm. You know I was loving that! Another new piece - Cusp - was pretty wild. Lots of moods thrown back and forth between all 3 players. Levin chatted a bit - such a friendly guy - before a Stick Men arrangement of Robert Fripp's Breathless. This had a nicely crunchy energy to it. Lots of sonic exploration on Slow Glide. Great Tony Levin vocal and some mighty fine stick & drum work. Set 1 closed with the aptly titled Relentless, driven by an insane stick / touch guitar riff.

The second set started with Soup. A fun vocal and wild riffing made this a highlight. Mastelotto played his kit with mallets on Sepia - another new piece with fascinating textures. Big Dog featured a huge riff from Levin and Reuter and some truly acrobatic drumming. A new piece - Open pt 3 - was my highlight of the show. It was bursting with ideas, colors, and rhythms. I didn't want it to end! Another Crimson piece - Larks' Tongues In Aspic pt 2 - was positively brutal in its execution. Levin and Reuter punched through the piece as Mastelotto did things that frankly seemed impossible. I swear I saw extra limbs! The set came to a close with a stately interpretation of 4 movements from Stravinsky's Firebird Suite in all its grand glory. The encore was a playful take of Indiscipline that drove the crowd well past the limit of sanity. I like it!!!!

Greg Lake - Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT 4/21/12

It's not often I'm at a live event listening to the strains of Moonchild playing over the system, yet here it was. Things got even more surreal as I heard the Kanye West song Power blast the venue. At that moment, Greg Lake appeared onstage and usurped West's sample of 21st Century Schizoid Man with his powerful bass and voice. An unforgettable entrance! Next up was the beautiful Lend Your Love To Me Tonight with a slightly altered final verse. Such an elegant piece! The show was set up as a sort of Storytellers / Autobiographical evening of songs from Lake's career, songs that were important to his life, and stories about all of the above. A story about Lake's pre-fame days served as intro to the Johnny Kidd & The Pirates classic Shakin' All Over with some cool electric guitar from Lake. From The Beginning sounded great with a nice little acoustic guitar solo markedly different from the studio version. Lake told a fascinating story about going to see Elvis Presley perform in Las Vegas back in the ELP days. He followed the tale with a rockin' version of Heartbreak Hotel.

It was back to the beginnings of King Crimson with a medley of Epitaph and In The Court Of The Crimson King. Background on the formation and the style of the band took us to the lovely I Talk To The Wind - easily one of the highlights of the entire evening. Lake followed this with some humorous and insightful anecdotes about working with Ringo Starr and the massive influence of the Beatles on music and culture. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away closed the first set on a very strong note!

The first notes of Touch And Go let us know that the second set had begun! Lake played a fragile acoustic guitar driven version of the first vocal section of Trilogy and got huge applause for Still...You Turn Me On. Greg Lake next opened up the house to questions. We heard stories about ELP, Yes, The Who, and many others. A mesmerizing Jimi Hendrix story led to a wild cover of Axis: Bold As Love - a song rarely covered!

A short trip to France and C'est La Vie then the story behind Keith Emerson's Moog bit on Lucky Man. Before I knew it, Lake was behind a keyboard playing and singing People Get Ready and the show was over! A loud crowd demanded an encore and Lake gave them Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2. A unique evening looking into the heart and soul of a truly classic (and classy) artist.

The Nutopians - Palace Theatre, Danbury, CT 4/13/12

Sometimes, you just know. Before the first note is played, something lets you know that you're in for a magical gig. This was one of those. The Nutopians were fronted by Rex Fowler from Aztec Two-Step and Tom Dean from Devonsquare. Joining them were Alana MacDonald on violin; Robby Coffin on guitars; Teg Glendon on bass; Gary Schreiner on accordion, keys, and harmonica; Jordan Jancz on cello; and young Maggie Coffin on vocals. Fowler played guitar and Dean played guitar and mandolin. All 8 sang and sang very well! The show was a sort of celebration of the music of John Lennon - both as a Beatle and as a solo artist.

Before the band came on, we got a video package - about 5 minutes or so of John Lennon footage highlighted by a very young Lennon and George Harrison goofing about on a train and wisecracking about Marlboro cigarettes. All in all a fine little intro. On to the show. The evening got under way with I'll Get You which got lovingly infiltrated by Imagine. Fowler and Dean sang the leads and both had immaculate voices. I'll Cry Instead had a few "beep beeps" thrown in from Drive My Car. It became apparent that Fowler and company were revealing layers of emotion within the pieces by coaxing new arrangements out of every song. Schreiner's accordion was the perfect touch for Girl - taking the song straight to an intimate cafe in Paris. I loved the sly combination of Come Together and I Am The Walrus with awesome guitar from Coffin. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away coupled with Norwegian Wood seemed like such a natural pairing, I was surprised it had never occured to me before! MacDonald delivered such a warm vocal on Beautiful Boy - I felt like I was in Heaven.

I always liked the chord progression to You Can't Do That and the Nutopians took it to another level by combining it with the often overlooked I Call Your Name. Dear Prudence brought Coffin's 15 year old daughter Maggie to the mic. Her voice was silky and pure and added a pleasant and interesting dimension to the song. What a talent! It was psychedelic time with a clutch of songs: Rain, A Day In The Life, and Across The Universe. Set 1 came to a close with perhaps my favorite Beatles song ever - And Your Bird Can Sing!

The second set took us all back to the days of Beatles For Sale with No Reply. A downbeat, reflective song, it was followed by the equally melancholy I'll Be Back. The mood picked up a bit with I Should Have Known Better, but headed back to regret with I Don't Want To Spoil The Party - one of Lennon's finest. The room got righteous for a moment with Power To The People, with the crowd shouting the chorus. Things were taken down a notch with Revolution - again with Maggie Coffin on lead - it started out languid and slinky before exploding with power. Julia was an absolute tear jerker with breathy vocals and inspiring chromatic harmonica from Schreiner. My inner lava lamp bubbled during the combo of The Word and We Can Work It Out - it was so fine and sunshine!

MacDonald took lead once more on the poignant In My Life with Fowler and Schreiner looking on in approval. Wigginess abounded during the grafting of Tomorrow Never Knows and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds with absolutely killer guitar and violin. The band and the crowd closed the set out with a singing, clapping, stomping Instant Karma. Encores were Help! and a killer diller version of The Ballad Of John And Yoko with a phrase of Day Tripper slipped in for good measure. This was an evening all about love, fond memories, and new rejoicing. You simply must see this band!

Beyond The Wall - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 4/7/12

I went to this gig to check out a Pink Floyd tribute band that was new to my ears. Before them, Toad's booked 5 opening bands. The first of which was Johnny Tripps. Johnny Tripps was a 3 piece band with a kickin' bass / drums combo and a dominant guitarist. Their stuff was mostly instrumental, with 1 vocal piece. Great feel to the band and their set was full of energy. A very cool start to the evening.

The last time I saw Mile Marker Zero was a few years ago up in Hartford. This progressive quintet was packed with butt kicking power. Songs like Toughest Love and Rhythm Child had complex arrangements and thought provoking lyrics. I was grinning from ear to ear through their entire set. As Reaping Tide brought the set to a close, I was wishing for another 2 hours of their brand of high octane prog!

2 prog bands in a row? Cool! I'd seen Trag before, so I knew I was in for a great set. They did not disappoint! They opened with a playful cover of Fanfare For The Common Man before launching into a clutch of originals. Sorrowful & Pitiful Situations and Chance For Change especially stood out in my mind. Nora Tragianese looked hot & sounded great as always! Husband Mark was a wizard on drums once again. I loved their entire set and The Moment was an excellent way to close it out.

Next up was a band called Impact. My first impression was "teenagers with rich parents" because, well, they in fact were teenagers with rich parents. I've seen bands play Madison Square Garden with less expensive instruments. Having said that, they were surprisingly good. Impact played a hard rock / metally set that kicked some butt. Their cover of Judas Priest's Livin' After Midnight was pretty damned scorching. If they keep at it, this band definitely has a promising future!

In contrast, Father Time had a seasoned look to them. They've been around the block a few times and were all the better for it! These boys were a tight unit with a knockout rhythm section. Their style was good time rock with a definite groove to it. I forgot to write down song titles, but I remember being especially impressed with an instrumental they played about 125th street in NY with amazing guitar work. Father Time was a hot band I hope I get to see again!

Beyond The Wall hit the boards at last. As soon as I heard that opening chord, I knew they were opening with Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and a very solid version at that. 2 guitars, bass, keys, drums. Everyone except the bass player sang at least a bit of lead at some point or other during the set. Time and Hey You followed. Quite a nice version of Pigs (Three Different Kinds) and a slightly abbreviated take Echoes brought us to side 2 of Dark Side Of The Moon: Money / Us And Them / Any Colour You Like / Brain Damage / Eclipse. Whoever did sound had the keyboards mix back a bit more than I'd like, but that's a rather minor caveat. The sole encore was Comfortably Numb. A few rough edges here and there, but I thought it was an excellent show overall! Most definitely worth seeing again.

Arrival From Sweden - Edgerton Center For The Performing Arts, Fairfield, CT 3/28/12

The Edgerton Center For The Performing Arts is a beautiful venue on the campus of Sacred Heart university in Fairfield, Connecticut - right off route 15. I was there to get my ABBA fix, courtesy of Arrival From Sweden. They were quite an ensemble: Rolf Ivraens on keyboards; Fredrik Bjorns on guitars; Victoria Norback on vocals; and Jenny Gustafsson on vocals in the roles of the principals. Joining them were Adam Gust on drums; Maths Tarneberg on percussion; Ronald Hogan on bass; Markus Ernehed on sax / guitar / keyboards; and Anneli Axelsson, Sinikka Thorn, and Sabina Ulleryd on backing vocals. The playing was 100% perfection. The costumes were exact. They looked and sounded like ABBA at their very best! As spotlights scanned the stage and the crowd, the band launched right into That's Me, an often forgotten ABBA chestnut. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do and Knowing Me, Knowing You followed with plenty of singing from the crowd. Norback and Gustafsson's vocals were stunning - just flawless. When I Kissed The Teacher was a piece of audio cotton candy. Ivraens was featured well on Intermezzo No 1 - he really had command of those keys! One outfit change later, the girls were back for a medley of tunes from the early days of ABBA: I've Been Waiting For You / Honey, Honey / He Is Your Brother.

Norback sat on a stool to deliver the anthemic Fernando. The energy was ramped up for celebratory versions of SOS and the quirky Money, Money, Money. The first set closed with high energy singalongs of Waterloo and Mamma Mia. I was taken with the level of musicianship this band had. This material was tough stuff to pull off correctly and Arrival From Sweden handled it with ease!

More spotlights scanning the venue signaled set 2. The throbbing of the rhythm section segued into the dancerrific Voulez-Vous. Does Your Mother Know has always been a fave of mine, and this version was just wonderful! Another medley followed - this time made up of later ABBA numbers: Kisses Of Fire / Angeleyes / Lay All Your Love On Me. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) morphed into Super Trouper, which had me shouting su-papaa trou-papaa during the choruses! Next up was The Name Of The Game which segued into Eagle - the latter highlighted by a terrific guitar solo from Bjorns.

It was ballad time with The Winner Takes It All and Chiquitita. Both were nice features for the girls to show off their wonderful voices. The set came to a close with the energetic songs Take A Chance On Me and Hole In Your Soul (which ABBA often closed their shows with for years). These had a crowd of folks dancing up against the stage. Thank You For The Music was the first encore, then the band sent the audience dancing out of the building to the strains of Dancing Queen. An evening of total Swedish "salighet"!

Bright Night Neon Glow Party - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 3/17/12

It was St Pat's at Toad's! Instead of green beer, it was green glo sticks, lasers, CO2 cannons, balloons, a gogo dancer, and a wild assortment of humanity all flinging themselves across the floor to the beat. Although it was still Winter technically, it was a warm evening. Toad's Place was well packed from the get go, getting more sardine can-like as the night wore on. Lots of neon shirts, skirts, shoes, hats, and pants. Lots of glowing everything: necklaces, bracelets, even faces!

The DJs kept the beat strong and persistent. Were the dancers dancing to the music, or was the music throbbing to their pulse? It was all very organic. Then I saw the guy in the silver cape/poncho. Bands of silver swam in the air like liquid light. He manipulated that cape like it was alive. Perhaps it was. The girl with the glowing mouth had "Let's Party" on her neon butt. The gogo dancer undulated and contorted relentlessly to the beat like a fish dancing on a line, never quite letting go. Beauty was everywhere. Women of every size and shape danced and danced everywhere you turned.

For all the bodies packing the club, there were no surly drunks, no altercations. It was a friendly crowd partying through the night. Mermaids, princesses, sailors, jocks, geeks, fishnetted girls and boys. Everyone creating an event. Some neon magic on the floor as the CO2 cannons spit fog and cold air into the club. Lasers danced over our heads. Light and love and laughing were in the air. If you weren't there, I hope you had a damned good reason!

Big Time Wrestling - Danbury PAL, Danbury, CT 3/10/12

Ever wonder why professional wrestling has lasted for decade after decade? The reason is surprisingly simple: people like to root for the hero and boo the villain. Sticking to this tried and true formula, Big Time Wrestling packed the Danbury PAL building to capacity!

Kids and adults alike got to meet wrestling superstars from several eras: Bret "The Hitman" Hart, Shane "The Franchise" Douglas (who is also the BTW champion), Raven, Rosita, Virgil, The Nasty Boys, The Powers Of Pain, Bobby Lashley, and Carlito. I had the good fortune to chat with most of them and found them to be friendly and very down to Earth. The wrestlers and the crowd were full of smiles - this was very much a family event with lots of small fry attending.

As for the events, all of the above were in the ring during various matches, as well as East Coast specific talent like Slyck Wagner Brown, Mister TA, Flex Armstrong, the Delfonzo Brothers, and others. I saw ladders, chairs, and garbage cans used as weapons. High flying wrestlers, suplexes, body slams, and much more! These athletes gave their all to put on an evening of jet powered entertainment. They succeeded - everyone left with grins on their faces - myself included! Come and see the show!

Stamford Symphony Orchestra - Palace Theatre, Stamford, CT 3/4/12

Every so often, the symphony gives our Maestro, Eckart Preu, a weekend off. In his stead, we get to see our symphony through the eyes of a guest conductor. This afternoon, it was South Carolina native Robert Moody. As the first piece, Tchaikovsky's Serenade For Strings In C Major, unfolded, I noticed that Moody was a non-baton guy. Using his hands, and twirling his very animated body, Moody's passion for the music was evident from the get go. The majesty of the Tchaikovsky piece led to our dear brother Wolfgang. Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 In G Major featured the talents of violinist Arnaud Sussman. From France via Julliard, Sussman was fluid and conversational. His talent and totally organic playing were nothing short of stunning. I felt that violin speak, laugh, sing, cry. I instantly saw why Perlman chose him as his teaching assistant - a player like this is rare indeed!

We went off-program to begin the second half with Gershwin's Lullaby. Such a beautiful little number that fit in perfectly with the rest of the afternoon. We concluded with a piece familiar to most classical fans - Mozart's Symphony No. 40 In G Minor. Huge and velvety, it was a satisfying conclusion to an afternoon of sheer delight. Before and after the concert, Moody was well represented by his alma mater - the Eastman School Of Music at University Of Rochester and the lovely Lisa Seischab, who is the executive director of advancement there. My best to them all for a lovely apres concert soiree! Go 'Jackets!!

Dubstep Night - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT 2/15/12

Back in his Marillion days, Fish once sang all the best freaks are here!. A perfect description of this evening in "Lily's Pad" - the upstairs room in Toad's Place. "Dubstep," for those new to it, is part of the electronica / dance scene. Heavy emphasis on the beat, DJs alter / twist / bend / cajole songs into beasts of their own making, mutating the music into something previously unheard.

There was a woman who acted like a robot all night. Guys spinning glowing bolos. A man with glowing gloves twirling his fingers as if he had no bones. A man sucking a pacifier with a stuffed Yoshi on his back. Batman. A man with his face painted somewhere between a skull and the Joker threw himself onto the floor and started contorting and hurling himself like a human pinball. A guy in top hat and wizard cape. And girls. lots of girls.

As the evening progressed, the lights spun crazily. The beats got boomier. The crowd swelled and it was covered in sweat, glow bracelets, and smiles. It wasn't a concert as much as it was an event. A gathering. Perhaps a culture. Whatever it was, I felt invigorated. I felt part of some sort of human electricity. In a weird way, I felt like I was...home. All the best freaks are here!

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