I love watching NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. They are an awesome way to watch bands you love perform stripped down versions of their songs. They are also awesome for discovering new music!
A few years ago, NPR decided to launch a yearly Tiny Desk Contest, where emerging artists could record their own music in front of a desk. Last year, I recorded a stripped down version of my song, “Howlin.” This year, it’s a stripped down version of “A New Start,” complete with a live vocal loop during the bridge. Hope you enjoy it!
On Thursday, May 4th, I had the privilege of entertaining the front room at Maxwell’s Tavern in Hoboken, NJ. Ty Tuschen joined me for two sets and also ran his GoPro during the gig! Check out this video, which features a unique acoustic interpretation of Disclosure’s (feat. Sam Smith) “Latch.”
A few beautiful Saturday’s ago, Christina Alessi & the Toll Collectors performed at Stevens Institute of Technology. Check out a couple videos from the day, including our covers of “Seven Nation Army” and “Cheap Thrills.”
I remember the night I learned it all was happening.
I was riding an Uber from Hoboken back into the city. I had just played a solo acoustic show at Northern Soul. It was the day we learned of Prince’s passing. I was sharing the Uber with Jaime de Jesus, mastermind of ALEO Productions and also the man who not only booked me for the night but also ran the soundboard.
He said, “Hey man, I’m putting together a tribute for David Bowie. It’s going to be on the waterfront. We’ll have the Manhattan skyline in the background. The sun will be going down. It’s going to be extraordinary. You should be part of it.”
How couldn’t I?
“Oh… And instead of doing the thing where I have a core backing band and then swap out the singers, I’m going to open it up. I want to feature everyone… the full breadth of this music community.”
It was then that I knew this man had to be insane. Not only is he trying to put together a tribute to a brilliant and musically-challenging artist, but he’s also trying to organize the entire music community? Just thinking about getting a rehearsal scheduled made my head spin, let alone how we were going to orchestrate the changes during the performance. Each drummer will have to use the same exact setup… there’s no time to make adjustments when we would be constantly swapping!
But wow, did it happen. The community pulled together and more than 35 musicians paid tribute to the music of David Bowie in front of the most beautiful skyline there is. It was an amazing display of community, artistry, and camaraderie. I felt proud to be part of something so special.
Here is the final song of the evening, “Young Americans,” where the role of backing vocals was assigned to EVERYONE. So here we are. Everyone involved in the performance on stage at once. Enjoying the moment.
I’ve enjoyed a few great shows in Hoboken with the Toll Collectors this month. The first was at Finnegan’s on July 16. I actually got to open up the night with an acoustic set. Here I am with Ty Tuschen on electric guitar and Jack Breslin on bass.
Our second show was at Maxwell’s on 7/22 opening for Jane Lee Hooker.
Here was the setlist.
And here’s a video of our cover of “Long as I Can See the Light,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. If you can’t see the embed below, here is the link.
Just a few hours after we learned of Prince’s passing, Northern Soul’s Thursday night of music began. Surrounded by videos of Prince performances on screen and the feeling that music has the power to connect us in mysterious ways, I took the stage with Ty Tuschen joining me on electric guitar. It was a special night to be playing music and one that I won’t forget anytime soon.
At the end of my set, we paid tribute to the purple one with two songs. “Nothing Compares 2U,” which Prince wrote but Sinéad O’Connor made popular. And for “Kiss,” we were joined by Jaime De Jesus, who had the perfect falsetto to take the lead vocal up into the stratosphere. To close the night, Jaime, Ty, James Calio, and I did a collaborative rendition of “Purple Rain.”