Photo by Denny Renshaw
Ten years ago, there were (relatively) few who knew of The Gregory Brothers. But four years before Evan, Michael, Andrew and Evan’s wife Sarah began auto-tuning the news, and five years before their YouTube videos for “Double Rainbow” and “The Bed Intruder” started logging tens of millions of views, the Virginia-born and Brooklyn-based musicians hosted their first Christmas Extravaganza – an event that celebrates it’s 10th birthday at Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 2 this Sunday, December 14th.
While this all-Christmas music show is a damn fine party and typically pretty hilarious (no sketches or stand-up, but there will be a staged, Garrison Keillor-style reading of The Gift of the Magi), the Gregory’s aren’t just funny, they’ve got incredibly soulful voices and are each individually strong musicians. This year, the backing band is also especially great: Josh Rutner, sax (Respect Sextet), Justin Keller, sax (Land of Leland), Alex Foote, guitar (Savoir Adore and The Welcome Wagon), Andrew Pertes, bass (Savoir Adore, Penguin Prison, Ron Pope and the Nighthawks, Paper White and Akudama) and Ben Marshall, drums (Savoir Adore and Paper White). Just as in Christmases past, singer-songwriters Dusty Brown and Melanie Penn will again open up the night with their own fine Christmas tunes. Also, Andrew’s new wife, Casey McIntyre, joins the festive fold this year with foley sounds in the radio play.
As for anything special to mark 10 years, Evan says there’s nothing on the agenda. “No over-the-top showboating to gloat about ten years of Christmas tunes,” he said in an email. “Just a couple bells and whistles to treat the folks that have been to more than a few. Including us. Rest assured the show will be the same incredibly cozy feelgood time that everyone has come to expect. Fave songs, a couple singalongs, and a staged reading of our radio musical.”
The first Christmas Extravaganza was actually not in New York, but at a coffee shop in Radford, VA, the Gregory’s hometown. The next year – and every year since – they’ve done two shows, keeping the Radford tradition while also adding New York.
“We put it up at the now-defunct Rose Live Music in Williamsburg and started doing one show each year in NYC and one in VA,” he said. “The following year we moved to Rockwood 1 and the show grew to include opening guest acts and our sound had a bigger band. We love the feel of Rockwood 2 so we’ve kept the show there for years. Every show benefits a local charity, e.g. the Bowery Mission, a VA women’s shelter, a VA after-school program.”
Evan, Sarah and I ran in similar circles when I moved to the city in 2003. Back then, they played shows that were mostly attended by folks we knew. And even though The Gregory’s songs are now hummed by people around the world, this show always feels like the good ole days. And that’s why it’s our Show of the Week.
Check out a few Gregory Christmas clips from over the years below. Tickets are still available at the time of posting, but will likely sell out soon.