Ben Sollee at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall

On Friday, I caught Ben Sollee at Rockwood (stage 2, which is so much more comfortable than stage 1 and doesn’t make me feel like I’m enochlophobic as stage 1 does). I’ve seen Sollee play a couple of other times over the years, but this was hands down the best performance I’ve seen and one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Sollee’s new album Inclusions, was released last week. He played a good mix of songs off the new record and songs from previous albums (including his recent project with Daniel Martin Moore).

I was sitting almost uncomfortably close to Sollee (right at his feet as you can see from my shot above) I was so close he felt the need to say hello (but he could have also thought I was Moby, which happens from time to time when you look like I do). I could even read the set list…so I was totally immersed. The crowd was packed in and FIRED UP. Rockwood was pushing him off stage at the end as usual, but gave in to the crowd for an encore.

Playing with Ben was violinist Phoebe Hunt, who toured with The Belleville Outfit for a number of years. She had an amazing presence, as did drummer Jordan Ellis who did a fundraising bike tour with Sollee and Patagonia last year. The room was stunned during the quiet, minimalist songs like “Prettiest Tree On The Mountain”, but erupted for others, like the encore cover of “Wild World” by Cat Stevens. The quiet numbers remain my favorites, but the diversity of the performance was really what floored me the most. One disappointment: “Panning for Gold” was on the set list, but got cut because of time. Huge bummer, but appropriately balanced by an amazing night of music.

Opening the show was the raw, gritty Americana singer songwriter, Sean Rowe, who was a great balance to the perfectly polished performance from Sollee.

Below are some more pics (all taken with my phone) along with a few vids from various stops on the tour (including one from the Thursday show at Rockwood)…