|(Picture by Cindy Waffles)|
I recently attended a Neutral Uke Hotel concert, with Cindy Waffles of lookytasty.com, at Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, a little hidden art gallery by day, music venue by night spot, located in the back of the The Lovin' Cup Cafe. Cindy and I were amazed at how close Fogel comes to sounding like Magnum (admittedly, I never saw NMH live, but I have listened frequently to NMH's albums). If you close your eyes, you can practically picture Jeff Magnum on his guitar, except that when you open them it's Shawn Fogel, and he is playing a soprano ukulele.
|Neutral Uke Hotel (Picture by Cindy Waffles)|
|Shawn Fogel on Ukulele (Picture by WGINY)|
Fogel also had a lot of patience and was quick to provide some humorous banter with the audience when the venue's sound equipment refused to work. Unfortunately, Neutral Uke Hotel is not playing in NYC again anytime soon, but you can always take the Chinatown Bus or NJ Transit to Philadelphia and catch them at World Cafe Live Wednesday night, April 27. As Fogel said at the Cameo Gallery show, "It's not everyday you get to celebrate your favorite record with strangers."
|The MJE Memorial Library (Picture by Cindy Waffles)|
I also must point out opening band, The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, a band I had never before heard of, but which really blew me away. I walked out of the night's show with their album in hand. The music of MJE (not to be confused with the Manhattan Jewish Experience...) was catchy, fun and bouncy. They also incorporated use of ukulele, as well as a fiddle, which I found to be one of the group's highlights. Lead singers Michael J. Epstein and Tayna Palit blended well in perfect harmony, often backed up by the harmonizing vocals of their six piece band. Over and over again during their performance, the band churned out hip and fun songs about everything from love to evil space sharks... Their outfits were trendy (in that hipster way we all hate to love) and color-coordinated, and each band member wore fitting sexy-nerd library glasses. They had an indie rock/pop feel, and my favorite song of their set was Holy Ghost.
|Golden Bloom (Picture by WGINY)|
|Grand Finale (Picture by Cindy Waffles)|
At the end of the night, all of the bands got back on stage, together, and rocked out with the audience members. I must say that Tanya Patil, of MJE, is full of charisma and stage presence. All in all Neutral Uke Hotel and its opening acts put on a stellar display of music at Cameo Gallery and I look forward to uniting with obsessed NMH fans (and NUH fans) next time Shawn Fogel and his ukulele are in town.