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Cluster-F averted at the Open Mic @ The Shil 1/13/15


Billy working the soundboard with his hetero life-mate Homeboy Hummus at his side. Photobomb courtesy of Rick Rocker, who Danielsan crane-kicked his way into the shot.

Open Mic signup begins at 9PM. 3PM I receive a text. Christian, one of our two sound engineers would not be able to make it. Our second engineer, Miles, was infirmed and hence would not be able to fill in. Zoinks. This has happened in the past, so I put my big boy underoos on (yes, the ones with the Spider-Man print on them), and got ready for the evening. I was, of course expecting a clusterfuck, but encountered nothing of the sort. I asked the Lord above (or below), and thus delivered upon me was the assistance for which I implored in the form of Billy Conahan. He showed up and my anxiety ceased. I knew Billy and I could handle this shit. So we both did some engineering that night, and he spun some tunes in between acts as well, as evidenced in the above photo.

Cluster-f avoided, we proceeded to have another fantastic open mic. I played a few songs. I was still under the weather, and battled my way through three tunes:

Homeward Found (original)

Come on Home (original)

Harvest Moon (Neil Young cover)

The two originals can be heard, as demos, on my Sound Cloud:

This is where the fun always starts – we begin with what is essentially a clean slate each night. Although we have a few regulars, each night continues to be unique and unexpected, and I love watching/having this variety of interaction with these artists. It is probably my favorite part of it all. I love people. And I love people being supportive people. It is one of the more beautiful things to observe in life. I love viewing art just as much, if not even more than I enjoy making it.

Round one went to the lovely Liverpudlian (Liverpool) Dogstar Rose, hailing from that wonderful little city across the pond. She had graced many stages since arriving in NYC, and we were lucky to have her that night. I was instantly enthralled by her music, and could sense the punk that wanted to seep its way through her Taylor acoustic. Her song Thin Disguise, with it’s eerily beautiful guitar riffs was powerful in message, having been written “For all women”; stated so by Ms. Rose. She plays in a band back in the UK called Futurejack. Be sure to check out her Facebook, and her Blog. Here is a clip of her performing a great original tune:

We are not typically a comedy open mic, but we made an exception for Andy Nadler, better known as Peter Pan. He gave us 10 minutes of very amusing material, interacting well with the crowd.

Matt Loguidice followed, playing awesome slide guitar on a beautiful resonator. Nimble fingers, and an authentic blues feel had the audience silently listening. At times, it looks like magic. I absolutely adore this play style. Check him out, slip sliding all over that fret-board, with the finesse of a surgeon:

Check out his SoundCloud, he has some really fantastic stuff on there.

At this point, Billy Conahan and I switched places and I got behind the soundboard while he hopped down to the stage, and in typical fashion, rocked house. Little needs to be said, much needs to be watched. His Facebook has links to all of the places you should be visiting to hear his stuff. Hear ye:

Next up, my main man. The one, the only: Andy Sydor. He played a great cover of a song by Tom Waits (the name escapes me and I am far too lazy to leave this page to make a Google on it). Feast your ears upon his folk stylings:

Therapy returned for another performance of songs full of haunting emotion. You can really hear the soul within the voice and lyrics of her songs, and the accompanying guitar creates the atmosphere for them to flourish. They are very new on the scene, and I look forward to seeing their progression. Here is one of their originals, Story:

Nessa Dove was a first-timer at my open mic, and I am hoping she is not a last-timer. Another soul-filled voice, soft at times and powerful at others. I really enjoyed her performance, and loved the accompaniment by Matt Loguidice as well as her fantastic guitar playing. I cannot get YouTube to amend the thumbnail, I apologize for it’s skewed-ness.

Rick Rocker, you know the name. Check out his stuff at Rickrockermusic.com, better yet get out to see him. He is a high energy performance waiting to be seen. This is one of his more reserved originals, perhaps for the lovers and the ladies ;):

After Rick finished, we had a friend of Billy’s, and a PHENOMENAL violinist, not get up and play the violin, but instead, provide us with 10 minutes of completely off the cuff, segue-less improv that had us all laughing our asses off. It was completely spur of the moment, and Homeboy Hummus was funny as hell. We are a music only open mic, so don’t get any ideas ;).

To finish the night, we had Brendan Smith who began with the disclaimer that he is a drummer, and a fantastic one at that. His Facebook has links to all things drumming. But that night he was there with a guitar, and closed us out with some great 90’s covers. Check out his rendition of Plush by Stone Temple Pilots.

These nights keep seeming to flow perfectly. You are only getting to see one song per performer, but they each did 3 total. It made for a night full of wonderfully eclectic music, and good times with good people. Together we all create this great energy and atmosphere, and it seems continuous. Another one in the books, and another one coming up in a few days. Can’t wait.

Thanks to Rusty as always, and to The Shillelagh Tavern for allowing us a space to exhibit our individual arts. It’s a very good thing.

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

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Debut Open Mic Night @ Astoria Beer and Brew 1/7/15


Last Wednesday night, a night so cold that it would freeze even Frosty’s snowballs, and a momentous occasion. The premier of the open mic night (Which I host) @ Astoria Beer and Brew, (my favorite haunt). I was beyond excited for the evening, and had already received attendee replies from several extremely talented people. I held hope that Old Man Winter wasn’t going win out and keep everyone in. He didn’t win. And what followed was an incredible evening.

For this show I use my own mixer, so I am “engineering” as well as hosting/performing. I got everything set up and said a few words, performed a few songs. I did:

Riptide (Vance Joy cover)
Uncommon Scents (original)
Play Pretend (original)

I may post some of my performances in separate blogs at some point, but I want this to be focused on the talent that we are showcasing. And the talent was stacked. I have been fighting a gnarly sinus/flu/ebola deal for the better part of two weeks now, so I am going to have to keep my words a bit short. I will let the performances speak for themselves.

I typically will edit clips to be shorter, or take shorter clips. This time, I’m just posting entire songs. It’s mostly due to having no energy, and having to leave shortly to host another open mic night. So here we go:

Lead off hitter was Billy Conahan, be sure to check out his Facebook and his Website. This guy is an enormous talent, as both a singer/songwriter and a hip hop artist. I’ve seen him do both, and he’s blown me away each time. The dude is unstoppable, watch for him in the future. Listen to him here, with Nicole Gough who absolutely killed it with vocals on the hook:

Second up, came a man of legend, Kyle Horn. He plays finger-style, and slap-taps the guitar (and himself) with amazing dexterity. His original melodies, dissonant and ringing, come together perfectly with the drumming he is creating in the midst of all this madness. Watch Hulk smash, but don’t blink or you may miss something:

Henry Colle. Please listen to this entire song. He is so good. Incredible voice and guitar playing. I strive for this kind of talent, and it gives me chills when I am met with it. Just really listen. Did I say that I wanted you to hear him?

After Henry came one of those moments, where people come into quick contact with one another, share something amazing, and then they part, perhaps never to meet again. Demier the Drifter, self proclaimed, came into our open mic and blew us away with his truly authentic folk stylings. He brought me back to days that I never knew, channeling that vibe throughout his songs. Check him out:

Nicole Gough stepped up to the mic again, this time for an unbelievable set, accompanied on guitar by Henry Colle. My jaw dropped during this beautiful cover of The A- Team by Ed Sheeran, further accompanied by Maya on vocals. Be prepared for some harmony people, it’s f-ing serious. The trio really put us over the top.

After them came my good friend Andy Sydor. If you’ve been following my blog, Andy and I play at the same places typically once or twice a week. This week, I wanted to share this original of his that I LOVE. I could close my eyes and listen to him all day. He really is one of my favorites.

At the end of the night was something that we were trying for the first time at Beer and Brew, an acoustic piano act. We did our best to mic the piano as well as the vocals and I love the result. I had to move the camera mid performance, as the 3 of us trying to get the sound right blocked the camera, which ended in some shoddy camera work. The perfect ending to a perfect night, Audrey graces the piano for us:

The first Open Mic night @ Astoria Beer and Brew could not have gone better. THanks to all of the wonderful performers who helped make the night as special as it was. Thank you so much to Rodrigo, the proprietor, for allowing us to play at his fine establishment. I love it there, you should come check it/us out! Next open mic is on the 21st!

Keep supporting live music!

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

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Open Mic @ Shillelagh Tavern 1/6/15


Erich Rastetter and I enjoying a set from Terry Edelman of Lost Kingdoms

Another talent filled evening @ The Shil to start off the New Year. I apologize for not getting the blog up earlier, I have been battling the flu all week. I will try to get out some words for this lineup, although I am still mid-delirium. Next open mic is in a few days -hope to see some more people, and possibly new faces!

I started off the night with a few songs:

Carry Me (Original)
I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles)
Uncommon Scents (Original)

“Uncommon Scents” is my newest song, and that night it was debuted. You may have realized that I have not posted any videos of myself performing within these blogs, and the reason is that I want it to be focused on the talent that we showcase. I don’t want it to be about me. I want the energy to be in the art that we are getting out there.

We began the night with a special act; a man named Peter Pan deliver some off the cuff comedy, engaging and interacting with the crowd. He got us nice and warmed up, and ready for more tunes.

The second one up was Thomas, who played a totally different style/set than last week. Last week was a chilled out 90s vibe, but this week was all about the fancy guitar riffs; powerful and loud. I apologize in advance for the camera strap, in an act of noobie brilliance I left it in front of the lens for a spell. Check out some shreddage:

The next act to perform was Michael B. and Ron, who were accompanied on-the-fly by another attendee, Ian. Solid and comforting, the three of them played with a confidence that I enjoyed heavily. Check out some of The Ballad of John and Yoko:

The fourth act came all the way down from the Bronx to grace our stage, and I think it was well worth the trip:). His flow was smooth (for a lack of a better word) and confident – he was every bit the performer. It was the first time I’ve had a hip-hop act, and hope to have many more. For me, being eclectic is the name of the game. I love diversity within my art and entertainment more than anything. Check out Smooth Being of FreakSide:

We were lucky enough to have Rabia Waters once again, and man do these guys keep getting better. I love the groove of their originals. They were awesome the first time I saw them (their first performance ever), and I see great things for them in the future. Their weekly progression speaks volumes on this. Hear ye, hear ye!:

Valerie Gianotti. Trying to think of a way to sum her up, and the word I keep returning to is astonishing. She approached the stage, unassuming and cracking jokes, and proceeded to blow us back with an amazing performance. Her voice is very powerful, and she’s got a great handle on it. Huge range and great breath control. Listen to a clip of a beautiful original here:

With two acts to go, up steps Terry Edelman, of the band Lost Kingdoms. I really connect to his performances. I think it is because his originals seem to have been incubated in a time period sweeping the 90s through today. They are fresh and familiar, and as I have said about him before soft and powerful at the right times. He is a guy who knows what he’s doing. Check out his band @ Lost Kingdoms, and a clip of his performance here:

Our final act of the evening is one of the most energetic performers I’ve seen. He brings it with him to every open mic, performance, etc…He could be playing a park bench or The Garden, and his level of energy would never falter. I am pretty sure that they use his blood as the main ingredient in Red Bull. Watch Rick Rocker and try to keep yourself from getting wings:

Also check out his website, Rickrockermusic.com for more.

These open mics just keep getting better and better. Sorry to the performers for my lack of wordage this week, and that it took so long to post. I am feeling in a decent state of near-death, but wanted to get this out to all of you.

Of course a huge thanks to Christian for providing us with excellent sound, and to Rusty and The Shillelagh Tavern for giving us a chance to display our art.

Keep live music…..alive? 🙂

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

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Show at Astoria Beer and Brew 12/19


Astoria Beer and Brew. An unassuming little spot in northern Queens, nestled comfortably in the grand shadow of the Triboro (RFK) bridge. You walk into this place and you are immediately drawn into its intensely chill atmosphere. The industrial/vintage style decor lends a hand at creating an environment that is both extremely inviting and interesting. The proprietor of this fine establishment, Rodrigo, is (with a simple yet perfect description) a great guy. He really cares about his place, and its patrons. He cares about the acts that he has perform there as well. They have delectable food to accompany the wonderful selection of wines and brews. You should make a pilgrimage at some point to check us out, if it’s while I am performing or not is up to you :).

I’ve been playing here regularly, solo shows beginning back in June when I played as part of the Make Music NY Festival running that weekend. I immediately fell in love with the place. The love seemed reciprocal, as Rodrigo asked me to play there every other week from then until basically whenever. I have been playing there almost to that exact frequency since then.

The sound at this place is fantastic, in fact all but one of my YouTube videos were filmed there (using a cellphone camera for lack of something better). Even through a cellphone mic, the sound is phenomenal. Check out some vids here:

Owls for Olive YouTube

I played a show last Friday night, and it went incredibly well. I went through my tunes without a hitch, and kept the crowd engaged the entire time. The harmonies and guitar melodies were flowing in rivers, converging into a wonderful mix aided by the JBL system that is concealed within the room. It seems as if the sound is coming from everywhere. It is really something to be heard.

Here’s my set list:

First Set, Electric

We Are Going to be Friends – White Stripes
Kids – MGMT
Breathe – Original
A Million Years – The Grass Roots
Homeward Found – Original
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has flown)- The Beatles
Demons – Imagine Dragons
Almost Enough – Original
All I Need is the Air That I Breathe – The Hollies
All of Me – John Legend
Speak Your Name – Original
Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley version
Friday I’m in Love – The Cure

That set finished off so sweetly. I sing the cover of Friday 3 steps above the great Robert Smith (capo on the 6th fret), in a soft falsetto. This is a complete juxtaposition to the previous song, Hallelujah, which is filled with emotional rasp, and some powerful wailing.

The second set, which is Acoustic went as follows:

Riptide – Vance Joy
I’ve Just Seen a Face – The Beatles
Play Pretend – Original
Melt With You – Modern English
Your Pride – Original
Who Did That to You? – John Legend (Django Unchained Soundtrack)
This Year’s Love – David Gray
Hard Truths – Original
Jealous Guy – John Lennon
Come on Home – Original
Harvest Moon – Neil Young

I love the rise and fall of this set, the wax and wane. Some songs are so soft and would lull the crowd, only to jolt them awake with something like “Who Did That to You?”. I like my sets AND my music to contain crescendos. Since it was Christmas, I wanted to do two sing-alongs, and thus began my favorite part of the evening. I played two covers:

Merry X-Mas War is Over – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
O Holy Night – Traditional

I never expected to have such a group of singers in the crowd. Rising harmonies, powerfully bouncing about everywhere, and people really feeling connected. The background to War is Over were excellent, alternating with my lead vocals. I got chills by the each time we hit the chorus on O, Holy Night. It was spontaneous, and real. It was wonderful. It is why I do what I do.

The night completely warmed my heart, and made this, my last show of the year, quite possibly the best show I’ve ever played. Thank you to Astoria Beer and Brew for allowing me to grace their wonderful establishment. You are a good man, Charlie Brown (Rodrigo Urbierta).

Check out A B&B at 21-76 21st Street, Queens, NY 11105. They are off the corner of 21st and Ditmars. You won’t be disappointed at this Astoria gem.

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Open mic success!

Performers 2

Three weeks ago I began hosting an Open mic @ The Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria, Queens. Although I typically have a good turnout at my shows and know many musicians, attendance was lacking for the first two weeks. There were literally but two performers each time. This brings me to this week. This week, I decided to (for lack of a better idiom) grab the bull by the horns. I began posting everywhere. Openmics.org, Craigslist, as well as many groups on Facebook. I sent out a mass message to all the musicians I know. This took hours of work and the following cliche phrase applies here; hard work in fact does pay off.

The night was an astounding success. All in all we had six amazing performances (besides my own), each one shining brilliantly in their own way. To kick it off I played a few songs on my acoustic. I’ve Just Seen a Face by The Beatles, Kids by MGMT, Carry Me which is an original and Happy X-Mas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I was, after all, feeling all Christmas-y. That was when the real fun began.

The second performance of the evening featured Rabia Waters. Marvin Marker on vocals and guitar, backed up by Kevin Orellana on drums. This was their first performance together, but you would have never been able to tell. He made his Strat sing high into the ceiling, dancing with his warm vocals and the perfectly subtle drum beats coming from behind. I got that good feeling when one knows something is going to turn out well. I don’t have photos or videos of their performance, but I am awaiting some and will put them up if/when I do.

Next up we had Nate Laze. We set him up, got his Ovation mic-ed and waited. What followed was a mixture of soulfully soft vocal melodies combined with fantastic guitar playing. Check out a clip below. I was blown away. 2 out of 2, I thought, not bad.  I had a feeling that the rest of the night would play out just as grandly, and soon found out that it would.

Here is a brief clip of Nate:

Yeah. He’s great.

After Nate, we had Terry Edelman who fronts the band The Lost Kingdoms. Please visit their FB page, and check out their tunes. Another fantastic performance. Great fingerpicking skills – perfectly soft – along with the immense vocal range put the audience into a peaceful ease; bringing back the power at just the right moment. He showed tremendous control of his vocals, evident in this clip:

The audience was very obviously connected to his performance.

So that brings us to number 4. I have to admit, I knew that Kyle Horn was coming. And I also knew that in that, I had a ringer for the audience. I’ve heard him before, so I knew what was in store for them. I won’t say much about him, I will let the clip speak for itself.

Actually, no. I will say some words. This guy is amazing. He plays in an Andy McKee style, tapping, slapping, strumming and hitting frets all over the place. It is just insane to watch him do his thing, with seeming ease. At times it seems impossible that within the blur of his hand so many different things are happening. He stepped up with his Martin with the strange pad above the strings next to the pick guard (necessary for his playing style). He plugged in, said some funny shit and then proceeded to make everyone’s jaws drop for the next few songs. Do yourself a favor and listen to this clip, and then visit his website for more.

He should be at the next Open Mic night, and has several shows coming up. If you want to hear him, which you most definitely should by now, get down to one and hear him. He’s one for the ages.

Thinking it couldn’t possibly get better, the night rolled along smoothly with one of my Astoria favorites, Andy Sydor. That’s ‘see’door’. Don’t get his name wrong, or you may suffer his wrath. Only there is no wrath, only a gently drawing voice that’ll have you wanting him to play forever. He has that authentic folk-y feeling that I love, for me a sort of Harry Chapin vibe. I could listen to him all day. Here is one of his originals. Andy will typically be at this Open Mic, another to be heard. Also, He kind of looks like Santa Clause (sorry Andy) ;).

That brings us to our final performer, Rick Rocker. Rick is another act I’ve heard a few times prior, so I knew what he would deliver; a high energy, crowd interacting performance. He gets everyone clapping along, feeling the music along with him. His originals are inspiring, and his covers take on lives of their own with his own arrangements. You should give him a listen, and even more see him live. He puts on a great show. You can check out his music, upcoming dates and links @ his site.

The night was phenomenal. So many great acts, and what an atmosphere. I can only hope that any of the Open Mics I host from now are even close to the caliber of this past Tuesday. It felt good to be a part of such a wonderful group of musicians, and I cannot wait for it to happen again.

I don’t want to forget to thank Miles and Rusty. Miles is the sound engineer, and he takes a lot of time shaping the sound, making everyone sound their best. He is truly a one-of-a-kind guy, both in and out of the sound booth. One of the nicest guys I’ve met. And Rusty, good ‘ol Rusty. Rusty books the gigs for the venue (if you are interested in performing there just ask for his information in the comments). He is a guy, again for lack of a better idiom, who always tries to do the right thing. He also keeps the drinks flowing behind the bar, and is a great personality. You can’t help but to like the guy. I dare you to try.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. I hope to have you back again in the future.

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

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Harvest Moon (Neil Young Cover)

It’s Sunday. It’s cold here in NYC, we’ve got the wind blowing in from every direction, somehow from both above and below. But you know what always warms me up? Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, that’s what! Enjoy 🙂

Light and harmony.

-Owls for Olive

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Demons – Imagine Dragons Cover by Owls for Olive (Justin Howard)

Check out this video a friend recorded of me on their phone at a recent show I did last week. Come for the gritty picture, stay for the good tunes. There’s a surprise at the end for you 🙂

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