Revisiting a Musical Friend

In addition to theatre, I’m a long-time folk music aficianado. So naturally, every time Tom Paxton comes to town, I’m out to see him. Last night was no exception: It was Tom’s second show at McCabes in Santa Monica. It was supposedly a sold-out show, yet there were a fair number of empty seats (I’d say the room was at 85%-90% of capacity) and the store was not as crowded as usual. It could be that the drizzily Saturday evening kept some folks in their homes.

The show itself was good, although looking back, it was roughly the same program as last year (this seems to be a common problem with artists–Erin noted that Bernadette Peters’ recent show repeated 80% of the show (including jokes) as her previous show two years before). Tom was accompanied last night by Zack Sokolow, Fred’s son, a regular performer in Los Angeles (he was out to do a Rockabilly show in Burbank after Tom’s show), and an instructor at McCabes. The show consisted of the following songs (* indicates new for this show):

Act I Act II
How Beautiful Upon The Mountain
Your Shoes, My Shoes*
Lament for a Lost Election
What Did You Learn In School Today?*
Getting Up Early*
Passing Through Tulsa*
My Pony Knows The Way*
And If It’s Not True
New Song – Central Square
Bottle of Wine
New Song – Buffalo Dreams*
New Song – Finding Ireland*
Jennifer’s Rabbit
Jennifer and Kate
Marry Me Again
Last Thing on My Mind (Parody)
Last Thing on My Mind
Ramblin’ Boy
The Bravest
Comedians and Angels

What was new this year was a collection of “Oklahoma” songs, starting with “Passing Through Tulsa” and going into songs from characters that just showed up in Tom’s notebook. This replaced the set of songs Tom did previously with Joe Frazier. In the second part of the show, there were some new songs that, to my knowledge, are not on any of Tom’s albums (“Central Square” is also new, but (a) Tom did it last year, and (b) it is available on an album by Geoff Bartley)

Upcoming Theatre, Concerts, and Dance: This coming weekend sees the beginning of April, as well as the beginning of Pesach. We may go to the Southern California Renaissance Faire on Easter Sunday (or perhaps the following Sunday). Friday the 13th sees us at the Pantages for Billy Elliot” and I”m hoping to get tickets for the new small-theatre production of “Spring Awakening” by Over The Moon Productions at the Arena Stage (curious to see this in a small production, runs 3/14-4/22) on that Sunday (they aren’t on Goldstar yet). The following weekend brings student-directed plays at Van Nuys HS (Erin is in one of them), plus I’m judging an ethics competitation at UCLA, and hoping to book tickets for the new production of “Working” at The Production Company in Hollywood (haven’t seen the show in years, opens 3/16). The last weekend in April sees us out in Thousand Oaks for “Once Upon a Mattress” at Cabrillo; I’m also hoping to book tickets for “The Heiress” at the Pasadena Playhouse on that Sunday (heard it on LA Theatre Works and it sounds good). May begins with “Dames at Sea” at the Colony.  It also brings the senior dance show at Van Nuys HS, the Spring Railfest at Orange Empire, “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” at REP East, and it may also bring “Follies” at the Ahmanson. Oh, and May also has my daughter’s HS graduation. June is more open, but does feature both “Addams Family” and “Million Dollar Quartet” at the Pantages. As always, open dates are subject to be filled in with productions that have yet to appear on the RADAR of Goldstar or LA Stage Alliance.

Music: Je m’appelle Barbra (Barbra Streisand): Free Again


Paul, Solo.

Last night we went to McCabes Guitar Shop to see Noel Paul Stookey, probably better known to most folks as the Paul in Peter, Paul, and Mary. Now, we’ve seen Peter solo before and are very familiar with his music; we of course can’t see Mary solo anymore, but we are familiar with her solo works. I knew less about Noel Paul. I have his first solo album, and a small smattering of other solo works, but I’ve never seen him in isolation before.

My conclusion? Noel Paul’s an interesting fellow (and certainly doesn’t look his age – he’s 73!). He was originally a standup comedian, and that is still a large part of his personality. He loves to tell humerous stories to the audience and just make people laugh, making wry observations on society. But he’s also much more about the music as music. Peter is more the folkie, with a standard folk feel and a singalong style, and Mary was the more sensitive but strident singer. Noel Paul was a virtuoso on the guitar, coaxing amazing music from the guitar (although he had to keep constantly retuning his instrument). He would play extremely fine and complex music, which would combine with his lyrics to be extremely moving.

This show was mostly new material for an upcoming album to be released in November. Some of the songs were simple, some were destined to be standards, and one, about two French children during the holocaust, were haunting. There were a few old standands (Virtual Party, Wedding Song, The Love of It All, Blowing in the Wind). Noel Paul’s voice has held up well; I could easily have seen him doing vocal standards, his voice is that smooth. It was interesting to contrast his audience style with that of Tom Paxton, who we saw in January. Tom has his stock routines, and pretty much sticks with them. You know what his jokes are going to be. Tom’s songs are pretty but workman. Noel Paul was joyful to be there, ecstatic to be performing for a small audience as opposed to a large concert hall (in opening, he indicated it reminded him of the days at the “Hungry i”). This made the show fun.

My one fear was that Noel Paul’s evangelicalism would come through too strong. Luckily, it didn’t. There were a few songs with Christalogical overtones I could detect, they weren’t the bulk of the show and didn’t detract from the night.

All and all, an enjoyable night.


A Night of Folk at McCabes

Last night, we celebrated my birthday by going down to McCabes Guitar Shop to see Tom Paxton. Now, Tom didn’t come to town just for my birthday (although it is nice to think he did), but it was nice synchronity. It was also one of the high points of a mostly poor birthday day (the day started with a 3am migraine, and ended with the headache coming back). Tom’s concert was a good one, and was reasonably upbeat. The concert also features the multitalented Fred Sokolow as Tom’s accompaniest. Tom was also joined on two songs by Joe Frazier, who was an original member of the Chad Mitchell Trio. The song set was a mix of old favorites, one or two new/unrecorded songs, and a few topical songs:

Act I

  1. How Beautiful Upon the Mountain
  2. I’m Changing My Name to Fannie Mae
  3. Lament for a Lost Election
  4. Sarah Palin
  5. There Goes the Mountain
  6. Whose Garden Was This?
  7. Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound
    (with Joe Frazier)

  8. One Time Only
    (with Joe Frazier)

  9. And If It’s Not True
  10. Central Square
  11. The Marvellous Toy
  12. Bottle of Wine
Act II

  1. It Only Took 10 Years (Fred Sokalow)
  2. Did You Hear John Hurt
  3. He Couldn’t Lay His Hands On A Gun
  4. Jennifer’s Rabbit
  5. Katy
  6. Jennifer and Kate
  7. Marry Me Again
  8. Last Thing on my Mind (Parody)
  9. Last Thing on my Mind
  10. Rambling Boy
  11. The Bravest
  12. Comedians and Angels

Upcoming Theatre: Next week brings a bunch of dance programs at Van Nuys High School, with a Dance Showcase on Thursday, and the Alumni Dance Show on Friday. Saturday is still pending ticketing, but I hope to seeLoving Repeating: A Musical of Gertrude Stein” at ICT Long Beach. February starts with “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune” at Repertory East on February 4, and (pending a ticket switch)Dangerous Beauty” at The Pasadena Playhouse on February 5. The next weekend also brings two shows: “The Marvelous Wonderettes at Cabrillo Music Theatre on February 12, and “Adding Machine: The Musical at The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble on February 13. The third weekend of February is another with two shows: “Rock of Ages at The Pantages Theatre on February 19, and “33 Variations at the Ahmanson Theatre for February 20. February closes with “Moonlight and Magnolias” at The Colony Theatre on February 26. March is also starting to fill up. It begins with a Noel Paul Stookey concert at McCabes on March 4. “Dangerous Beauty” was originally ticketed for March 5 is , but I’m hoping to change that so I can attend the MRJ Regional Man of the Year dinner at TBH. March 12 is being held for “The Cradle Will Rock” at the Blank Theatre (pending ticketing). Lastly, March 26 brings “The Diary of Anne Frank” at Repertory East. April will bring the Renaissance Faire, “The Producers” at Cabrillo Music Theatre, “The All Night Strut” at the Colony Theatre, and (pending ticketing) Brian Stokes Mitchell at the new Valley Performing Arts Center.


Folk Singers Never Age

This evening we went out to McCabes to see Tom Paxton. Tom has been writing and playing folk music since 1960s (he wrote Marvelous Toy in the summer of 1960), meaning he is approaching 50 years of being a folk singer, but is ever young. Each of his shows has a distinct character: some are more political, some are downers, and some are just family affairs. This evening was a family affair: there were lots of sing-a-longs, and lots of Tom’s friends in the audience, including Milt Okun (his publisher), the person who signed him to Elecktra records, and Joe Frazier of the Chad Mitchell Trio. Tom was accompanied in his performance by Fred Sokolow. The songs sang during the show were (“?” indicates I’m unsure about the song name; “*” indicates songs where Joe Frazier from the Chad Mitchell Trio sang with Tom):

How Beautiful Upon The Mountain
I’m Changing My Name to Fannie Mae
There Goes The Mountain
Whose Garden Was This
Out on the Ocean
What a Friend?
She’s My Reason To Be?
And If It’s Not True
The Marvelous Toy
I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound*
Bottle of Wine*

Did You Hear John Hurt?
I Took Another Way?
Jennifer’s Rabbit
Katie, Little Katie
Jennifer and Kate
Marry Me Again
The Last Thing On My Mind
The Last Thing On My Mind (Parody)
Rambling Boy

The Bravest
Comedians and Angels

All in all, it was a delightful show. Tom always does great folk music. One other note: During the intermission, Tom was out signing copies of his new book, The Marvelous Toy (signing activates the full color), as well as CDs (it activates the full sonic quality). I indicated I thought about having him sign my iPod to activate the full sound quality of his songs there. He didn’t think it would help. 🙂


Tom Paxton Notes

As this afternoon has been quiet, I was checking some sites I check infrequently. I know some of you out there are Tom Paxton fans. According to Tom’s schedule:

I’ll have to keep an eye out for when the tickets go on sale at McCabes (ETA: They are on sale… I know what I’m doing when I get home). Locals: Let me know if you’re interested in doing a group thing. Tom’s one of those artists that always puts on a great show — one of the best in folk music.


The Honor of His Company

Last night, we went to see the early Tom Paxton concert at McCabes Guitar in Santa Monica. For many, many, many, many years McCabes has been holding concerts in their back room; Tom is a long-time regular.

For those unfamiliar with Tom Paxton, he is one of the greats in American Folk Music. Tom started in the 1960s folks scene with greats such as Pete Seeger, Ian & Sylvia, Peter Paul and Mary, and other “New Folk” performers, and is still going strong in his 70th year. I never pass up a chance to see him when he is in town. He is one of my favorite folk performers (he’s even starting to eclipse PP&M), and McCabes is one of my favorite venues (ever since I first saw Shep Cooke play there in the early 1980s).

Attending the concert with me were nsshere, ellipticcurve, and ixixlix (in gf_guruilla’s stead, as she was sick [she gave me the cold I have today]). After a wonderful dinner at Rae’s (see “Dining Notes” below), all but EC got on line at McCabes. EC joined us about 10 minutes before the show started.

On to the show, which consisted of a single act (as I recall, Tom’s last show was also single-act, although the show before that had an intermission). Note that I didn’t keep a formal playlist — song titles are from memory. Tom mostly did songs from his new album “Comedians & Angels” [indicated with *](which will be formally released in the US early next year — it isn’t even on Amazon yet). These are mostly slower love songs. Songs that I remember Tom doing during the show are:

How Beautiful Upon The Mountain* The First Song Is For You*
And If It’s Not True* I Like The Way You Look*
A Long Way From Your Mountain* Jennifer and Kate*
You Are Love* Comedians and Angels*
George W. Told The Nation Katy
Jennifer’s Rabbit Bottle of Wine
The Last Thing on My Mind Ramblin’ Boy
The Bravest  

As a result of the song selection, the show was much slower in tone; something I also remember from Tom’s last show at McCabes. I miss the heavily political Tom and the faster songs, but I also understand that song tastes and selection changes as one ages. Tom, as always, was in fine form, and was ably assisted by the ever wonderful Fred Sokolow.

Currently, there’s nothing up coming on the concert agenda. I am thinking about getting tickets to Peter Paul & Mary at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in March 2008. As our “New Folk” musicians age (and especially given Mary’s health problems), this may be the last time they are in the Los Angeles area. McCabes also has a few interesting concerts coming up, including Odetta and Holly Near, but I’m not sure if I’ll get tickets. This is McCabes’ 50th Anniversary year, so they should have a spectacular concert schedule (including a big concert in the fall at UCLA). Of course, if the Austin Lounge Lizards ever bothered to come to Southern California (they visit NoCal regularly, but haven’t been down here in almost 5 years), I’d snap up tickets in a minute!

Dining Notes: Dinner for the evening was at Rae’s in Santa Monica. Rae’s is an old-time diner, in business since 1958. Not a chain, but a small local hangout with a few booths and a counter, super-friendly waitresses, clean facilities, and super-cheap prices (cash only). I had the Chicken Fried Steak, and it was excellent… and everything, from the soup to the potatoes, was home made. ixixlix had the turkey with stuffing, and nsshere had a ham and cheese omlette… both of which were supposedly excellent. Rae’s is one of those top-notch dives, an homage to 1950s diners that is real, not manufactured (read “Mel’s Drive In”, which we ate at on Friday night).