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CONCERT: Acoustic Christmas, 12/10/12 – Worcester, MA

"Head" of the pack.

“Head” of the pack.

For a part-time job, I’m lucky enough to work in radio, and last night was our station’s annual Acoustic Christmas concert, featuring Gavin DeGraw, Andy Grammer, Tristan Prettyman and Sam James, who was on the television show, The Voice. Everything went really smoothly, which was awesome. We got a few group photos with some of the artists. That was the easy part. Of course, there was the driving of the station’s van, setting up signs and tables, all the soundchecks, screaming young girls (and soccer moms), etc, but our team pulled it off. However, this isn’t a blog post about us. I mean, I could make it about us, but then you would probably flip the page and look at something else. It’s time to actually talk about the great music coming out of the concert tonight, which I was very much impressed with.

First off, the venue. Mechanics Hall. I’ve now been there a total of… three times, I believe, even though I pass right by quite a bit more often. Great space, the acoustics are phenomenal, and the staff was totally fine. We hold a few events at the place every year, so it’s always a nice time there.

Sam James opened with a small set, including some of the songs he performed on his television debut, like “Imagine”, a John Lennon remake. I remember being upset because the night he got kicked off the show was the night that Hurricane Sandy hit, and thus, the power was out and I couldn’t watch him sadly get knocked out by Christina Perri, Jr., Melanie Martinez, with her soft-serve twist looking hair. (P.S. He’s far better. I can’t speak for him about his favorite ice cream flavor, however.) He’s definitely a great talent with a strong voice, so I hope that he does continue to pursue music. The studio versions of his song choices from The Voice are still available on iTunes.

Next up was Tristan Prettyman, who is as cute as a button, plus she’s super nice. I only really got into the singles from her last studio release, so I wasn’t sure how exactly things were going to pan out for her latest album, Cedar + Gold. She won me over. Big time. Plus, she’s not afraid to have some girl talk, because sometimes you have to spill the tea and I totally understand that. Highlights were for sure “The Rebound” (and the explanation of the Trader Joe’s incident, that was funny) as well as a pretty ballad that didn’t make the album titled “Unconditional”. Of course, the crowd went wild for “My Oh My” as well. I’ve seen her perform in acoustic setting before an even smaller audience and was good, but she absolutely knocked it out of the park tonight. She was the only one to sign autographs, take pictures, and really talk to people afterwards. That’s dedication, and I think her fan base grew a little bit bigger tonight. Her care really shows through. Outstanding job.

Then, gracing the stage with his skinny red pants and leather jacket was Andy Grammer. Now, I remember hearing “Keep Your Head Up” for the first time around Halloween back in 2010 and I thought, “Man, this is going to be big.” So, it was. His debut album has launched three big hits on the Hot AC chart, all of which were performed during the set along with a few album cuts. “Miss Me” was probably the best of the three, just because it was so stylistically different in an acoustic setting. His choice of cover songs was straight up his alley; the best of them was “Chasing Cars”, the Snow Patrol tune, in which he beat-boxed and sang. His cover of Maroon 5‘s “Sunday Morning” almost, and I mean, almost out-did the original. I’m not going to start over-analyzing singers because Grammer did his thing with a lot of charisma and pizzazz. I mean, I would never attempt to do a trumpet impression during a song, but even he went for that. (He mentioned that he played the instrument when he was younger.) Also, it’s probably worth mentioning that “Head” closed out his set, with a 16-year-old girl coming out of the crowd with “oh” and “eh” signs, which she gracefully flashed at the audience so that they could know what two syllables they needed to sing during the chorus. I’m assuming that they probably didn’t, but, you know, I’m not going to judge people. Oh, and Grammer dawned a Santa hat. Festive, he was. No big white beard, however. He can save that for his next album cover. I would definitely see him live again. He has the chops and the presence to make it a while in the industry.

Side note: there was a Brad Davidson sighting in the building later in the night. You might know his work as the co-owner of ThinkSay Records; their only act on the roster at this point, Chris Wallace, has been in the top 50 on the CHR chart for about four months now with his solo single, “Remember When (Push Rewind)”. I follow him on a few social media sites. Somehow, I imagined that we would have a half an hour conversation, talking about everything from his success with the new record label to his pets, the music industry, my personal chart and how his acts were doing on it, living in Massachusetts, if the Patriots would win the Super Bowl, and then I think it ended with me on all fours begging and pleading with him to take a chance on me, though I didn’t belt out any ABBA. Let’s face it, I’m no Agnetha Fältskog. Well, it turns out that the conversation never happened (though somehow, I still have the rug burn) and I was reduced to seeing him from afar, which is better than nothing, I suppose. I still very much respect his work and I’m sure Grammer and everybody else are lucky to work with him. (Here’s hoping for 2013. Alright, enough of about me trying to find full-time work.)

So, by this time, everybody’s on their feet and maybe a little bit tipsy (lotta bit tipsy) when Mr. Red Fedora, Gavin DeGraw, struts on the stage and takes us to church, the first time I have been there since Sister Patterson screamed “PRAISE HIM!” out of her lungs on an episode of I Love New York. Also, I like songs that make fun of televangelists. Alright, but seriously, he’s a very good live performer, much better than on the record. You were hard-pressed to find one of his singles that he didn’t perform. (OK, I found one, but again, I’m not going to judge because everything else was there. Plus, I doubt people would remember it.) Best ones for me were some of his earlier hits: “Follow Through”, which featured a nice little sing along with the crowd, and “Chariot”. “In Love With A Girl” was another highlight, just DeGraw plugging away at his piano. He also packed a lot of energy into “Sweeter”, which is 10x better live than as an album track (with a slight upgrade on the radio remix.) He was the most interactive of the performers, moving around the stage a lot and getting people pumped up for whatever song he was playing next. He was going into his rendition of a Christmas song (which I don’t remember what it was at the moment) when I was starting to pack things away and get them back to the studio, so I missed about the last quarter of his set, but I’m sure people were loving him. Oh, and I’m sure it was chaos trying to get out of the place afterwards. He was very nice, though, and people appreciated it. Good ending to a great night in classy ol’ Worcester.

Overall, the concert was a huge upgrade from last year’s snoozefest, which was headlined by The Fray, who, as you can see right now, are sort of in the twilight of their career three albums in. These four musicians, however, are still going to be on the scene, at least for a little while. Lastly, to the two girls with their Andy Grammer t-shirts plastered in glitter-drawn song titles who were on the verge of tears and hyperventilating in line when they saw him sing “Happy Birthday” to another fan, you would rival Taylor Swift‘s surprised face any day of the week, and that’s a huge accomplishment. Oh, and I hope you kept your heads up to look at the camera. Otherwise, your photo probably wouldn’t have turned out well. I think they had a good night. Another successful night.

(This post may be updated with photos and video as they appear online.)

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