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Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald proved to be a dynamic duo Saturday night.

Michael McDonald kicked off the evening with the sun beating directly down on him as he sat center stage with his keyboard.  Despite the heat, Mr. McDonald delivered a 14-song. 65-minute fast paced set.  After the third song, Mr. McDonald said he better introduce the band and 2 female back-up singers before he got "heat stroke" (the band pulled double duty, supporting Boz Scaggs as well.)  From my seat, I was only able to see the back-up singers and Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, so I will take Mr. McDonald's word for it that the band was made up of "middle-aged ugliness" - although I couldn't see them, the band sounded good on guitar, drums, bass, keys, Hammond B-3 organ, and sax.  Mr. McDonald started out strong with Doobie Brothers classics You Belong to Me and It Keeps You Runnin'.  He recorded three albums for Motown and sang soulful versions of I Made It Through the Grapevine, Aint No Mountain High Enough and Living in the City.  From his solo work he reached back for I Keep Forgettin', Sweet Freedom and Yah Mo B There.  During Minute by Minute a train roared by and Mr. McDonald said that was probably a comment from the Doobie Brothers management.  This segment of the show ended, as it began, with another Doobie Brothers song What A Fool Believes.

After a brief 20-minute intermission, Boz Scaggs just casually walked on to the stage with his guitar for a 70-minute set of a dozen songs.  I felt transported back to my teen age years, listening to my 45 rpm records in the mid to late 1970s.  These were not the AM radio versions of the songs.  They sounded very true to the original recordings, only without the scratches and skips you'd often hear on a well worn vinyl record.  It amazed me that I still knew almost all the lyrics.  The setlist was a collection of Boz Scagg's greatest hits from the past 35 years: Jojo, Some Change, Lowdown, Breakdown Dead Ahead, Miss Sun, Look What You've Done to Me (a song that would be a must have on my MP3 player if ever I found myself stranded on a deserted island), Georgia and Lido Shuffle. One of the talented back up singers, Ms. Mone't, did an extended spirited version of Bonnie Raitt's Something to Talk About in the middle of the set.

Within 5-minutes, a keyboard was added to the stage and Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs returned to perform a 5-song encore that extended the concert to nearly 3-hours:  Hallelujah, Drowning in the Sea of Love, Ces't La Vie (Chuck Berry) and It's Alright with Mr. McDonald on accordion, and the final song of the night was Takin' it to the Streets.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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The first music festival I ever attended was the Warped Tour in 1999. I was 12 years old. I remember watching a scrawny, drugged out, bleach-headed Eminem perform “My Name Is” and thinking, “man, this guy’s fifteen minutes are about up.”

And yet, twelve years later, at the 10th Anniversary Bonnaroo Festival, there he was: sober and brunette, playing the main stage for what seemed like 84,999 of the 85,000 in attendance.

Aside from Eminem’s notable career climb and my completion of puberty, a lot has changed since then in the culture of music festivals. 1999 was also the year of the 30th Anniversary Woodstock concert, which, aside from Altamont, ranks as one of the biggest catastrophes in festival history. An event that was supposed to pay homage to a landmark in music culture ended in violence and a million dollars in property damage. What happened?

Some people pointed to the characteristically angry nature of the artists (Korn, Limp Bizkit). Others pointed to the characteristically bad nature of the music (Korn, Limp Bizkit). And many blamed the concert planners for gross mismanagement of the crowds and poor preparation. Whatever the cause, it became a huge story and shined a light on many of the risks and potential dangers involved in putting on concerts of this scale.

As I drove to Manchester, TN for B’Roo last week, these questions of foresight and preparation brought me considerable angst. What if things turned violent? What if there was a tornado? How would they evacuate 85,000 people? What about de-hydration, drug and alcohol overdoses, sun poisoning? What if I lost my sunglasses?

How can an event so replete with risks (heat, drug-use, crowds) run smoothly?

Well, the simple answer is experience. As it was the 10th Anniversary, it seemed like Bonnaroo’s planners had benefited from each and every one of their ten years experience. Every possible problem seemed preemptively recognized, a decade of trial-and-errors answered, like a suggestion box converted directly into policy.

First, there were the watering stations throughout the massive, 700-acre farm, both for hydrating and bathing purposes. Second, there were plenty of opportunities to cool off in air conditioned tents without charge (temperatures between 90-100 degrees daily). Third, there was enough food to feed...well, 85,000 people for four days (pizza, falafel, burritos, sandwiches, ice cream, beer, etc...). Fourth, there were B’Roo employees everywhere giving directions, answering questions and helping concert-goers find the right receptacle for their trash (B’Roo is a thoroughly “green” outfit, as they are quick to inform you).

Hydration, hygiene and sustenance may seem like obvious staples of survival, but B’Roo planners also put considerable effort into treating boredom. It may seem counter-intuitive to clout a music festival with distractions, but it’s actually a really nice touch. Four days of non-stop concerts can be pretty taxing on the knees (and ears), so it makes sense to throw in some alternatives.

And there were plenty of alternatives. There were comedians performing in an air conditioned tent (Lewis Black, Donald Glover, Hannibal Burress), a movie theater, endless shopping (various essentials, artwork, a hemp district), a sports bar (NBA and NHL finals were both in full swing), a build-your-own drum station, a mid-size amusement park (ferris wheel included) and a water slide. Oh, and a hair salon hosted by Garnier Fructis (sponsorship is a ubiquitous force at B’Roo and any festival of this size, including a carnival brought to us by Adult Swim, a “Crunch Den” presented by Wheat Thins and a new flavor of Ben & Jerry’s called “Bonnaroo Buzz”).

Aside from all the fanfare and celebrity spotting (a Ron Jeremy sighting among the highlights of my press-area party experience), we were there for the music. Like many festivals this summer, Bonnaroo has a huge emphasis on creating a diverse and stimulating lineup. While the debut in 2002 had its share of rap and electronica (Jurassic 5, Blackalicious, Cut Chemist), this year saw a remarkable rise in focus on mainstream artists in those genres (Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Girl Talk, Pretty Lights, Ratatat). And considering the fact that many performances overlap in different areas of the festival, it’s nice to have a little variety.

For me, the biggest draw in attending a festival is the mix of top-shelf headliners and smaller acts sharing the same venue (loosely speaking). The main stage hosted headliners like My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys and Eminem, all of whom managed to give remarkable performances despite monstrous crowds. The Black Keys in particular played so well and from such a distance that they could have easily switched with lip-syncing stunt doubles, I would not have noticed.

Some of my favorite performances came from artists I had actually photographed for WYEP at previous events, like The Low Anthem or Ben Sollee. But no mid-level performer rocked the dust out of my sandals like Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears. I had previously seen them at the Rex Theater for a perfectly enjoyable show, but this performance blew me away. Not Dr. John’s midnight performance with the Meters, nor Neil Young “Rockin’ In The Free World” with Buffalo Springfield during a thunderstorm could compare to what BJL&TH did at a side-stage tent at 2:30 in the afternoon on Friday.

And that’s the beauty of going to a festival like Bonnaroo. After all the hype, all the buildup, all the buzz, our hopes are essentially the same as they’d be for an opening act at a regular concert: to be blown away by a band that we only half-know. And in that sense, I’d say Bonnaroo did it’s job.

Having enjoyed a few weeks to recover from the festival (aloe vera, dust-removal), I thought I’d impart some of my festival knowledge for those of you still on the fence for your summer concert plans.

Many of you shared my sense of uncertainty about going to a festival of this size, one Facebook comment deeming the setting as “third world.” As Lewis Black put it in his performance, only in America would people pay hundreds of dollars to live like a refugee.

The question becomes, how do the unfavorable circumstances of festival-life weigh against the star-spangled lineups?

The truth is that many of these artists are promiscuous in the festival circuit so lineups aren’t necessarily distinct. In that sense, choosing a festival to attend has less to do with the music and more with the other factors (wait, the music doesn’t matter?). Like any decision, it’s about measuring pros and cons on a personal level. Based on my experience at Bonnaroo, I'd say the most important factors are experience, non-musical alternatives and amenities. So here are the basic bullet points for a few festivals on the horizon for this summer.

Summerfest
Date: June 30- July 10
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Lineup Highlights: Peter Gabriel, Buddy Guy, The Black Keys w/ Florence & The Machine, Jason Mraz & Guster, Cage The Elephant, (Britney Spears, Katy Pary, Kanye), Better Than Ezra, Girl Talk, Fitz & The Tantrums, Owl City, Ben Harper, Old 97s, The Flaming Lips
Price: Too many pricing options to mention.
Website
Rundown: Summerfest boasts the title of "The World's Largest Music Festival," and this is true in duration and scale (11 days, 700 bands). As you can tell from the bill, it's a pretty expansive group of artists ranging from top 40 to bands you'll hear on WYEP (Fitz!). They're expecting over 200,000 attendees, so if the Bonnaroo pictures made you squeamish, Summerfest is probably not the best option.

Camp Bisco
Date: July 7-9
Location: Mariaville, NY
Lineup Highlights: Disco Biscuits, Ratatat, Yeasayer, Four Tet,
Website
Price: Varies depending on ticket-type. 3-Day pass for $160, Saturday only $80, VIP combo 3-day pass $389.
Rundown: Like Jane’s Addiction/Lollapalooza or Wilco/Solid Sound Festival, this was started by musicians, in this case,the jamband Disco Biscuits. Slightly more electronic this year, with acts like Pretty Lights, Cut Copy, Bassnectar. This is the 10th Anniversary of Camp Bisco.

All Good Festival
Date: July 14-17
Location: Marvin’s Mountaintop, Masontown, WV
Lineup Highlights: Further (ft. Bob Weir & Phil Lesh), Umphrey’s McGee, John Butler Trio, Keller Williams, Toots & The Maytals, JJ Grey & Mofro, Donna The Buffalo, moe.
Price: $170-$200
Website
Rundown: This is the 15th year for All Good, might benefit from that maturity as B’Roo did. It’s much smaller in scale than Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo. Like the name suggests, it is focused on jambands and the like. It's a convenient drive for Pittsburgh residents, just a little south of Morgantown. There are lots of great artists, similar in genre and prominence. (There’s an oddly high number of anniversary festivals this summer, suspicious correlation with the release of “Wayne’s World 2").

Lollapalooza
Date: August 5-7
Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Lineup Highlights: Like Bonnaroo, there are almost too many to mention. My Morning Jacket, Muse, Explosions In The Sky, Arctic Monkeys, The Cars, Portugal The Man, Best Coast, Bright Eyes, Ween, Tennis, Foo Fighters, Coldplay
Website
Price: Single day tix for $90
Rundown: This is an awesome lineup with reasonable pricing. It's a good example of how much money you can save by paying one price to see all these bands in one event, rather than in individual shows. But, like Summerfest, this is a gigantic festival. In 2010, they estimated 240,000 attendees and should see similar numbers this year.

Hopscotch
Date: September 8-10
Location: Raleigh, NC
Lineup Highlights: The Flaming Lips, Guided By Voices, Drive-by Truckers, The Dodos, Superchunk, Vivian Girls, Titus Andronicus
Website
Price: Cheapest! $105 for whole show
Rundown: Hopscotch ranks among the most interesting and provocative lineup this summer. There are 13 venues hosting 150 bands bands, 40% of which hail from the Raleigh/Durham area. It's not a huge number, but it's one of the few summer festivals that places much emphasis on local music. I'd say based on price, lineup and proximity to Pittsburgh, Hopscotch is the most appealing festival this summer.

There are plenty of other concert series this summer, but these are the most intriguing to me. Whatever you decide, be safe, have fun and hydrate.

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Since 2006 Danish producer/beatmaker Robin Hannibal has been behind such diverse projects like Quadron, Boom Clap Bachelors, Bobby and Owusu & Hannibal. Catch him on Dubmission this weekend discussing the new Boom Clap Bachelors' electronic soul-pop EP, Mellem Dine Laeber.

Tune in This Saturday late night after 1am for an interview Robin Hannibal. The Dubmission airs each Saturday, after Keller's Cellar on 91.3fm WYEP and wyep.org from 1am until 5am.

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Ben Sollee returned to Pittsburgh in support of his recently released CD Inclusions.

The music on Ben Sollee's CDs sound lush, rich.  With 3 young and talented musicians on-stage, that robust sound and more was duplicated at Club Cafe Wednesday night.  Joining Ben Sollee (vocals, cello, guitar):  Phoebe Hunt (formerly of The Belleville Outfit) on vocals, violin and bass with Jordon Eillis on drums and percussion.  I was simply amazed at how electrifying the music was and how it filled the room and yet the concert was still very intimate.

The show began with Ben Sollee singing Carrie Bell a cappella.  The set was heavy on the new music from Inculsions, which has only been out on the streets for a little over a week.  I've only had the chance to preview the new CD, and hearing the songs live for the first time, makes me want to listen even more closely to the CD.  Can I add again how amazed I am that the songs really come to life during a live performance - you can see the passion and how the musicians are feeling Ben Sollee's music. Close to You, Embrace, The Globe, Bible Belt, and Electrified were among the songs performed from Inclusions.  There was It's Not Impossible (Boys Don't Cry) and How to See the Sun Rise (also featured in the TV show Weeds) from Learning to Bend. From his project with Daniel Martin Moore (Dear Companion) Mr. Sollee sang Try.  I've seen Mr. Sollee perform a couple of times and I was reminded how beautifully he plays the cello when he intros his songs with an extended instrumental.  Ms. Hunt treated us to one of her own tunes Fly On.  It didn't seem like Mr. Sollee wanted the music to end, even after an hour and forty-five minutes.  For the encore, everyone on stage, including Sean Rowe, huddled around one microphone to sing and then the final song, a cover of Cat Stevens Wild World, which got the audience to join in on the singing.

Ben Sollee with Phoebe Hunt and Jordon Ellis performed a Studio Session at WYEP earlier in the day, electrifying the space with music.

Opening was singer-songwriter Sean Rowe.  He reminds me a lot of Darrell Scott.  He played about a 45-minute set, using a couple of different guitars (which he could finger-pick very well).  His newest CD is Magic and we heard a few tasty tunes like: Jonathan, Wet (which mentions Pittsburgh, and Mr. Rowe was happy to sing it here), Old Black Dodge, Time to Think and American.  He included a cover of a Tom Waits song (Jesus Gonna Be Here) and ended with a cover of a Richard Thompson tune, both of which really suited his playing and singing style.  I am a new fan of  Sean Rowe's music.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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In December 2010 I was asking myself who is Jann Klose? After having the opportunity to interview him via email for the WYEP Music Blog I was able to answer that question and after seeing him in concert for the first time, I became even more aware of his music.  On Friday the 13th I again had the opportunity to experience the music of Jann Klose.

Jann Klose on vocals and guitar along with Lars Potteiger on keyboard, accordion and backing vocals performed original music for an hour at Club Cafe.  Mr. Klose even treated us to a few new songs, like The Kite.  Most of the songs were from his most recent release Reverie:  Mother Said Father Said (by request), Question of the Heart (usually with a harp, but this time with keys) Doing Time, Watching You Go and Hold Me Down.  The final song was an extended version of All These Rivers, when Mr. Klose invited Colter Harper and Preach Freedom back to the stage.  Mr. Klose has an engaging stage presence and is a talented songwriter.

Two members of Rusted Root began the early evening of music.  Colter Harper on baritone guitar and Preach Freedom on percussion and vocals.  Mr. Freedom sang covers of Bill Wither’s Sweet Wanomi and Use Me along with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.  There was also Unity and Identity. Very entertaining,

Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host

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The Solo and Low Down Tour brought Stephen Kellogg and Tift Merritt to a sold-out Club Café on Cinco de Mayo.



The petite and feisty Tift Merritt took the stage all in black.  With a lot of energy and spunk Ms. Merritt played the guitar and keyboards.  At only 5 feet tall, she commands the stage with her strong voice and musicianship.  She performed music from her catalog that included Broken and Mixtape, a song she wrote in France, Another Country, along with a couple of new songs and Good Hearted Man from her CD Tambourine, which was Grammy nominated in the Best Country Album category.

When you see Stephen Kellogg without the Sixers, it really makes you focus on his strong songwriting skills.  I found myself listening intently to all the lyrics.  He stayed center stage, playing the guitar and harmonica with a crate nearby acting as a table holding his mugs and various harmonicas.  Mr. Kellogg, tall and slim all in black, performed for about 70 minutes with mostly a mix of Sixers fan favorites.  There was one new song 1993 that will be on the upcoming Sixers CD due out in September.  It’s another love song, about meeting his wife and starting a family.  Among the songs:  A (With Love), 4th of July, Sweet Sophia, My Old Man.  Mr. Kellogg shared some quotes about life, romance, work and success.  Ms. Merritt joined Mr. Kellogg on stage for a duet on the Kenny Loggins penned Danny’s Song.  The 3-song encore included The Bear and Satisfied Man followed by a toast to the audience.

Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host

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Sometimes you have to travel 95 miles to see a show.  Edwin McCain, with the acoustic trio, plus one, performed at the Kent Stage, in Kent, OH, Thursday night.

The Kent Stage is one of the best "listening rooms" I've been to over the last couple of years to see some of my favorite singer-songwriters perform including Livingston Taylor and Marc Cohn.  I can now add Edwin McCain to that list.

Mr. McCain was in Pittsburgh in March with his full band.  It was an energetic performance with the songs sounding like what you hear on the CD's with some great jams.  But where Mr. McCain is at his best is when he can tell stories and just let the songs speak for themselves.  The acoustic trio consists of Edwin McCain on vocals and guitar with long time sidemen Larry Chaney on guitar and Craig Shields on saxophone and wind instruments.  A couple of songs into the set a long time friend of Mr. McCain's, Kay Smith from Kent State made the trio a four-some when he came on stage to play percussion. In his early 40's. Mr. McCain is married with three young children at home.  His stories now are more about his family life and how he tries to still look cool driving a sedan to a local coffee shop drive-thru with car seats in the back. Mr. McCain casually walked on stage and began the show with Walk With You. The set included more of the songs that make you think and sound good in a small theater with just a few musicians on stage.  White Crosses, I Could Not Ask For More, Shooting Stars, Sober, and I'll Be were intertwined with stories of Mr. McCain's life with his family, including his mother-in-law. The three song encore started with Mr. McCain on stage alone singing The Lucky One, and ended with all the other musicians joining him on stage one by one on Holy City.

Opening the show was 22 year-old Seth Glier.

He began his 35-minute, 7-song set singing the title track of his latest CD The Next Right Thing acapella. He next performed Walk Katie Home and Gotta Get Away before Pittsburgh musician Brad Yoder joined him on stage to play sax on I Don't Need You and First.  Mr. Glier also tells stories:  living at home in a small town in MA with his parents and taking care of his 26-year old brother Jamie who is autistic.  The young singer-songwriter has been polishing his performance by spending 200 nights on the road each year.  Mr. Glier ended his set with the song he was thrilled to hear on the radio as he was driving into Ohio, Lauralee.  The audience rewarded Mr. Glier with a standing ovation.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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What a treat: two hours of stories and music from Colin Hay on Tuesday night.

There may have been more stories than music from this singer-songwriter, who was born in Scotland, moved to Australia and now calls California home.  He came to the Rex Theater alone, not only reminding us of his success with Men at Work, but also of his body of music as a solo artist.  Between sipping water and changing guitars were the stories of his father, touring with Ringo Starr, meeting Paul McCartney, Men at Work supporting Fleetwood Mac, writing Men at Work songs, and even goats.  There was some music too, in between the banter.  The title track of his most recent CD Gathering Field began the set. The title track of his 2nd CD Wayfaring Sons and his 5th album Transcendental Highway, with a track from his 3rd CD Into the Cornfields. In the early 1980's we probably would not have appreciated hearing acoustic versions of Down Under, Who Can It Be Now? and Overkill but the songs have aged very well. Another new song Invisible. Also Beautiful World and Waiting For My Real Life To Begin, which he gently reminded us was now 17 years old.  The evening ended with Kool & the Gang's Celebration playing over the speakers. To really appreciate that song, you would have had to be there to hear that story.

Opening was Chris Trapper, out of Boston, MA. You may know him as the leader of The Push Stars.  I came in near the end of his set as he was introducing a song which he had written in Pittsburgh. He ended with a song he wrote for his parent's 50th wedding anniversary.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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Ellis Paul, playing a new space Thursday night, Calliope Center Stage, reminisced about the various venues, including house concerts that he has played in the Pittsburgh area over the years.  The Center Stage would be a welcome new home for Mr. Paul’s future visits.

Performing two sets of music, with a brief intermission, Mr. Paul was alone on stage with his guitar, harmonica and keyboard in a very intimidate setting.  It was like having your very talented singer-songwriter friend in your basement performing just for you.

Mr. Paul opened with Rose Tattoo from his most recent release The Day After Everything Changed and ended the set out in front of the stage with an acoustic version of Annalee.  In between, he also performed Hurricane Angel, Dragonfly and Once Upon a Summertime.  Roy Orbison would have been 75 this Saturday (April 23) and Mr. Paul paid tribute by doing his version of Crying. He did a new song that he co-wrote with a member of Enter the Haggis, which is about Johnny Cash.  The audience joined in on the chorus of “Kick Off the Lights – Johnny Cash”.  Mr. Paul said the song was about the time Mr. Cash kicked out the stage lights at the Grand Ole Opry.  There were old favorites like Alice’s Champagne Palace and 3,000 Miles.

The second set had older material, fulfilling some requests from the audience.  In addition to asking for song suggestions, Mr. Paul opened up the floor to questions.  He shared with us which guitars he favors, and how he tunes them.  He also revealed he was working on his second children’s CD (he recited a poem about Thomas Edison to us) and a Christmas CD.  Before singing Jukebox On My Grave, Mr. Paul mentioned the gravesites of famous musicians that he had visited and the audience let him know that he could add another to his list, as Stephen Foster’s grave is nearby.  Maria’s Beautiful Mess, Eighteen, Roll Away Bed and The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down were highlights.  Mr. Paul ended the evening at the keyboard singing Johnny Cash’s The Night Hank Williams Came to Town.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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Ari Hest came to Pittsburgh Wednesday night to kick off his Sunset Over Hope Street tour.  The new Sunset Over Hope Street CD released only a day earlier.

Ari Hest performed 16 songs, plus a 2 song encore in about a 1 hour and 25 minute set.  It was funny to hear Mr. Hest refer to songs in his catalog that were less than 10 years old as an “oldie”.  The new songs were just that, new to him and the audience, as his CD was just officially released the day before.  His third song in was the title track of the CD Sunset Over Hope Street.  We were also treated to such new songs as:  Until Next Time (technically an oldie from 2008 when Mr. Hest wrote and recorded a song once a week for 52 weeks, releasing them on his website to his fans on each Monday that year, leading to the 2009 release of Twelve Mondays) which got new treatment; A Good Look Around; One Track Mind (Mr. Hest played the solo version); Swan Song and as part of the encore an acoustic version of Business of America (a very timely song which has the memorable line “Oh that’s the system at work, Everybody’s a jerk”).

The “oldies” included:  Reason to Believe, Morning Streets, The Weight, Anne Marie (a song about an old ex-girlfriend that he loves to sing), When and If, Ride the Break (Mr. Hest substituted his current touring vehicle a Ford Explorer for the Honda Civic and substituted Pittsburgh for St. Louis but just couldn’t find something to rhyme with Pittsburgh), Bird Never Flies (the audience was invited to sing along on the lines “I won’t give you up, bird never flies”), the wicked I’ll Be There; Cranberry Lake (he invited an audience member to come up and sing with him and Karen did a great job!) and ending the set with probably one of his best known songs Dead End Driving.  The final song of the evening was inspired by Norah Jones I’ve Got You; which highlighted Mr. Hest’s vocal range.

Mr. Hest was joined on stage by the very talented Doug Yowell on drums and percussion.  I was probably watching Mt. Yowell more than Mr. Hest (who was alternating between guitar and keyboards).  Mr. Yowell was doing amazing things, including looping the music while providing sweet backing vocals.  The duo managed to sound almost like a whole band, thanks to Mr. Yowell’s magic.

The set was fresh.  Mr. Hest was engaging, sharing stories about his songs old and new.  This was not just a dress rehearsal the first night out in front of a live audience.  The new material really was combined well with the more familiar older tunes.

I read a review on line of Sunset Over Hope Street, in which Mr. Hest’s voice was compared to Springsteen and Marc Cohn.  When I told the woman next to me at the show that I had a copy of Sunset Over Hope Street; her first question was whether it sounded like Twelve Mondays or Mr. Hest’s older material.  My response was that it sounds like a better Ari Hest.  I’ve never fully understood the comparisons of Mr. Hest to other artists.  He writes well constructed mid-tempo songs about his life experiences.  He has a dry sense of humor that is reflected in the ironic twists his lyrics sometime take (“I’ll be there to make you miserable”).  Twelve Mondays was my favorite CD of 2009.  I believe Sunset Over Hope Street will make my best of 2011 list; maybe even find itself on the top spot.  We still have 10 months worth of new releases to look forward to this year.

Opening was singer-songwriter Ali Klaren.  She is a transplanted Pittsburgher.  She plays guitar and was joined on stage for a few songs by Miguel Hernandez.  He’s a lefty who played flamenco guitar solos that garnered appreciative applause from the audience.  Ms. Klaren’s 6-song 30-minute set included:  Fall, Closer and Blood of Everyone, which highlighted Mr. Hernandez on guitar.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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