A look back at 2019
Dec 2019 20

From benefit shows to Beatles tributes to rock operas, some musical highlights on the verge of the 2020

The Celebration Ensemble. Photo by Michele Morningstar.


As we inch toward the holiday season and the end of 2019, I wanted to announce my three final performances of the year (two in Ithaca, one in my hometown of Reading, PA):

Friday, December 20, 9pmThru Spectrums @ The Range, Ithaca, NY (w/ Quail)

Friday, December 27, 9pmLuminous Beings @ Liberty Taproom, Reading, PA (w/ Sweaty Money)

Tuesday, December 31st, 10pmBig Soul Family Band @ Agava, Ithaca, NY

More importantly, though, I wanted to do a little recap of the shows and music releases that made 2019 special for me. Plus, it’s a good way for you to catch up on what I’ve done this year, in case you missed it the first time around (I’m always fighting against algorithms and my own insecurity about too much self-promotion in my quest to share my music). So here you go — chronologically, six of my greatest hits of 2019!

1. Gaibelball: A Benefit for Dan Gaibel & Family

The most personally meaningful musical event of my year was this tribute concert for my friend Dan Gaibel, who passed away in March after a ten-month battle with cancer. I took part in the event with my projects Thru Spectrums and Noon Fifteen, and also had the honor of sitting in with Dan’s old band, Spacetrain. I’ve included some highlights below; you can also watch the entire concert here.

Noon Fifteen and friends perform “Shine a Light” at Gaibelball

Thru Spectrums performs Phish’s “Stash” at Gaibelball

Spacetrain performs “Music is Food” as a tribute to founding member Dan Gaibel

2. Oxified

It was my great honor and privilege to take part in a project by composer Josh Oxford, who collaborated on ten new pieces with different musicians and bands in Ithaca. Josh is a magnificent artist, and if you don’t know his story, you can find out more about him at the record’s Kickstarter page. I played on two tracks on the Oxified album: a piece for voice and electric piano called “Samadhi” I played with my wife-and-partner-in-all-things, Mandy Goldman, as well as a track with my band Thru Spectrums called “E.S.T.”

I also got to play on a few of the other songs during the release show at the Ithaca Festival in June, all of which can be watched here. Just be warned: it gets a little out there!

3. The Julyfecta & “Finish What You Started,” part 1

Noon Fifteen met a fun challenge this summer: when we found ourselves with three hometown shows in close succession, we decided to play a different set at each, for a total of over 40 songs. Plus, we released a new song for each show, from our serial collection about fear, betrayal, and temptation we call “Finish What You Started.” Each song took the form of a 360 video, where you can watch the band performing in the studio from the angle of your choice. Check it out below!

4. At the Festival

After several years of work, Noon Fifteen celebrated Halloween by releasing At the Festival, a 20-minute suite masterminded by bassist and vocalist Harry Nichols. The lyrics tell the story of a man in mourning whose trip to a music festival takes a turn toward the supernatural. We got some lovely reviews that I’m very proud ofAt the Festival is available for download at noonfifteen.com, as well as from your preferred streaming services. An animated video is forthcoming.

5. Abbey Road at 50 with the Cosmic Joke Collective

I had the great honor of organizing over 30 musicians in different configurations to perform the entirety of the Beatles’ 1969 triumph, Abbey Road (plus some other favorites), as a benefit for the Ithaca Free Clinic. You can watch the finale, from “Golden Slumbers” through to “Her Majesty,” below.

Cosmic Joke Collective performs “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.”

6. The Eagles Celebration

Last fall, I participated in a Crosby Stills Nash and Young tribute show with some musicians I barely knew. This has grown into an annual event by the newly-minted Celebration Ensemble. This year, we took on the music of the Eagles, and while I try to prioritize songwriting and composition in my musical life, there’s something magical about playing familiar songs to a room packed full of people singing along with every word. Here’s a little audience capture of that:

The Celebration Ensemble performs “Hotel California”

There were plenty of other performances, recording sessions, and bursts of creativity over the year, too, and as the next decade dawns, I’ll be part of new music releases from Thru Spectrums, Julia Felice and the Whiskey Crisis, Noon Fifteen, and more. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I’ll enjoy making it.

It’s rough out there. Happy holidays, happy 2020, and please take care of each other.


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