One of my online buddies from Ecto wrote this great review of a show I’d loved to have been at.
Artist: Vienna Teng, Alex Wong, Ari Heist, Melissa Tong, Ben Russell
Date: July 19, 2010.
Venue: Rockwood Music Hall
City: New York, NY
Review by [JoAnn]
Just got back from seeing Vienna Teng and friends at the Rockwood Music Hall, stage 2, in New York. Which means the trip home was just about as long as the set. Which is why I rarely go out to late shows (this one started shortly after I rrived at 10:42 pm). Which is why (or at least partly why) I haven’t gotten around to seeing Vienna in New York until now.
But I digress.
The show was wonderful. Great music, ranging from solo to quartet; charming banter. The musicians all seemed very low-key. Vienna has an easy, friendly manner with the audience. Her guests did too. The room was crowded, which was good considering this seems to have been a fairly last minute gig. Of course the room isn’t that big (neither is the stage). Still, I stood by the door.
Vienna started the show by asking the audience for requests. I only heard a guy shout, “Surprise us!”, but she said she heard Shasta and Gravity, and she did play both. Shasta was first, solo. It seemed there was an echo coming from the vocal mic, but it either got fixed during the night or I stopped noticing it. Next she played an unrecorded song, Everything’s Fine, which she said was written with Amber Rubarth as part of an unreliable narrator assignment.
Alex Wong joined her on guitar and vocals for Gravity , which was quite slow and delicate. Vienna added some minimalist electronics she controlled with a device on top of the piano.
Next up were a few non-Vienna songs. Alex introduced a song he’d written, saying that Vienna had yelled the first line (Don’t be afraid of what you want) at him during an argument. He sang lead vocals and played guitar, Vienna played piano and sang, and Melissa Tong added violin. I wrote down the lyric:
“and if you close your fingers, ghosts will pass right through / and I’ll be on the other side of the river waiting for you”
because I love the image.
Ari Hest made a different trio, singing and playing guitar for a song he said he wrote at the height of his Lost addiction, about the moment between inhaling and exhaling, between preparation and doing. It was the group’s second time playing it together. I’ll call the song Green Light Go for lack of a proper title. Alex switched to drums (or I think just one drum? a snare played with brushes?). Next was Ari’s Cranberry Lake, a sweet, folky song, done in the same guitar/piano/drum trio format. They had to restart the verse Vienna sang because Ari “forgot [she was] here” which made me laugh. I don’t really mind when musicians mess up. It reminds me that they’re human and that I’m getting something different from the album.
Melissa came back for Blue Caravan. Vienna wasn’t sure everyone on stage had played it all together before. She confessed a sudden urge to hear keys tinkling during the song. The audience was happy to comply, so we jingled our keys during the opening bars and later as directed by Vienna.
Ari’s last song was Sunset Over Hope Street from his forthcoming album done as Vienna/Ari/Alex trio. After Ari left, Melissa returned to the stage, bringing her friend Ben Russell, also on violin, who was playing with Vienna for the first time. They did a gorgeous version of Antebellum which Vienna called “glorious.” It really was.
After that, another unrecorded song, played solo. Pencil Sketch with the lyric: “dreams that want to be set down in charcoal and graphite.” Alex returned to the stage and shared the piano bench with Vienna for The Last Snowfall. He played piano while Vienna looped vocals and sang over them. I thought that would be the last song, but Melissa returned to the stage and Vienna asked the audience to clap for an energetic version of Grandmother Song that she clearly enjoyed.
After the set ended, I quickly wrote a note to Vienna thanking her for a great
performance and requesting a song for August’s Highline Ballroom show. She was hanging around talking to various people in the audience. When I gave her the note she asked if she should read it then or wait. I said it didn’t matter, but it was too dark to read, so she said she would read it later and gave me a hug. A wonderful way to end a beautiful night.
Amy’s Note: Thanks JoAnn, great review! I’ve seen Vienna and Alex together a few times now and they’re so great. I’m jealous I didn’t get to see this, but with your descriptions I almost felt like I was there.
The song you wrote the words down to is Don’t be Afriad and it’s available on the Paper Raincoat album (which is mucho fantastic). [get it here]
For the great live album Vienna adn Alex did together, The Moment Always Vanishing