The Lone Bellow with Odessa

Monday, February 23, 2015

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

*If you are strapped for time, the short version of this post is that The Lone Bellow is my favorite band and their live show is the most passionate, heartfelt experience you’ll be lucky enough to be part of. Read their deeply personal biography in this intimate Josh Jackson feature in Paste Magazine for context. Watch this Lone Bellow concert filmed by Front Row Boston, or, better yet, just trust me and go see them in person!*

What a beautiful day! My friend Colin asked me to join him for a private concert with The Lone Bellow (TLB) at 98.9 WCLZ’s Studio Z in the afternoon and we were back in front of the stage at Port City Music Hall just a couple of hours later to see their full show. We chatted briefly with the band, too, (which I normally avoid) and they were down to earth and grateful we liked their music so much. Phew. That’s gone badly before.

Colin and I grabbed a delicious dinner at Empire and hurried back to PCMH to be there when the doors opened. It was 3 degrees. And there was a line outside. We grabbed a spot behind a couple of women front and center named Bobbie and Abra who happen to write TreeToGrow.com, a Lone Bellow fan site. I started chatting with Dave and Kathy who were standing right behind me when they mentioned the Arcade Fire show I’d missed in Bangor this summer while I was driving cross-country. They mentioned that they live in Farmingdale and then a woman standing near us leaned in to say she and her husband live there, too. It turns out that Kelly and her husband Joe are both teachers and that Kelly’s dad and I worked together for over a decade at Mt. Ararat High School. Another woman standing on my other side overheard me mention Mt. Ararat and told me that she attended and then taught at Brunswick High School and we compared names and know a lot of the same people. I mention all of this because it was such a lovely experience and true to what the best possible concert experience can be when you find yourself surrounded by people because of music and find other things you have in common. I have a handful of friends who I only know because of our shared interest in music (Colin included), and I really appreciate the power of music to connect people.

The lights dimmed and Odessa took the stage. Odessa played electric guitar and was joined by two female musicians—one on bass and the other on guitar and lap steel guitar. Odessa’s voice was light and airy and their harmonies were strong, especially on “Hummed Low.” “I Will Be There” was definitely the standout of their set. Their short opening set was quite mellow and I would have loved some audience interaction. Check out this feature on Odessa—the “Best of What’s Next” in Paste Magazine for some background.

Odessa

Odessa

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Set up for The Lone Bellow’s set went quickly and they took the stage just after 9 PM and opened (appropriately) with “Cold As It Is.” Next up was “Then Came The Morning,” which is hymn-like with beautiful harmonies. Kanene talked about the song during their Studio Z performance earlier and mentioned that the woman on the cover of the album embodies the theme of the song because despite whatever she faces she gets up every morning and does her hair and makeup and goes to breakfast at the same diner. Something I appreciate about TLB is the depth and honesty of their lyrics. Consider the lyrics to “Then Came The Morning”—“Take my words, breathe them out like smoke/Burn every single letter that I wrote/Let the pages turn to ash, I don’t want them back/Everything you always said to me/Starts to sound like broken glass on streets/Spread out all over places where I sleep/Now you finally left me/Done with all your lying/Joy comes in the morning/You won’t see me crying.” The Lone Bellow doesn’t shy away from the hurt. They embrace it, reflect on it, and lift it up so the listener can share in it with them and feel a little better because we can relate. It’s a rawness—a realness, truth—that pervades their music and makes it genuine and compelling.

This is how Zach Willams welcomed us. Clapping on top of the monitor while leaning over the crowd. Such a great stage presence.

This is how Zach Willams welcomed us. Clapping on top of the monitor while leaning over the crowd. Such a great stage presence.

Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin of The Lone Bellow

Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin of The Lone Bellow

Justin Glasco on drums

Justin Glasco on drums

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The playful side of The Lone Bellow

The playful side of The Lone Bellow

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Husband and wife Jason and Kanene Pipkin

Husband and wife Jason and Kanene Pipkin

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Zach joined us in the crowd a number of times

Zach joined us in the crowd a number of times

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Did anyone else notice that TLB played nearly every song they’ve ever recorded for us? I took a look at the set list Colin posted online and they only left five of their songs off the night’s set list. Talk about giving it everything you’ve got. They got the crowd clapping and singing along during “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” from their self-titled debut album and then brought it right down with a trio of slow songs—“Call To War,” “Watch Over Us,” and “Two Sides of Lonely.” “Call To War” features Kanene’s lush, raspy voice and it is definitely my favorite on Then Came The Morning. “Watch Over Us” is transcendent. You can always hear a pin drop in the room when Brian, Zach, and Kanene stand around a single microphone and belt that heart-wrenching, beautiful song.

"Watch Over Us"

“Watch Over Us”

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Zach was charming as always and kept the audience engaged even between songs. He said they’d gone to Becky’s Diner and he’d eaten the nine-pound omelet called the Titanic. Someone shouted out that they should try Marcy’s Diner and he asked if Becky and Marcy are friends or if they’re in a fight over a fisherman.

98.9 WCLZ has played TLB’s “You Never Need Nobody” for a long while now, and the sold out crowd at PCMH was thrilled to hear it live. Kanene stunned (as always) on “Button.” Zach talked about working with Aaron Dessner from The National on their latest album at Dreamland Studio in Woodstock, New York. If you think you hear gospel influence in their music, you certainly do—and the album was recorded in a converted church for good measure.

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Zach introduced the band—including Kanene’s husband Jason Pipkin (“the only man in the band with elbow pads, so he could slip and fall and it would be no problem”) and new drummer Justin Glasco—and got into some 80s references about shoulder pads and they broke out into Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True” for a hot second. TLB wrapped their high-energy, leave-it-all-on-the-stage set with “Take My Love” and the crowd went wild. The energy was palpable. TLB came back to wow us a bit more with “Tree to Grow” and “Teach Me to Know.” Zach took a long pause towards the end of “Tree to Grow” and there was silence in the packed room. It’s incredible to see a band be able to draw a crowd in like that. We enthusiastically sang along on the “carried away” refrain of “Teach Me to Know” as the magical night came to an end.

Zach giving us the thumbs up at the end of the night

Zach giving us the thumbs up at the end of the night

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The Lone Bellow is my favorite band and this was a dream of a night. Thank to you everyone, especially the band, for such a wonderful evening.

xo,

bree

 

Here are other posts I’ve written about The Lone Bellow:

June 2013 at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA

November 2013 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine

February 2014 at Portsmouth Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

July 2014 at South Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

February 2015 in Studio Z at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine

 

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Studio Z: The Lone Bellow

Monday, February 23, 2015

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I was THRILLED when my friend Colin invited me to join him to see my very favorite band, The Lone Bellow, at 98.9 WCLZ’s intimate Studio Z at Port City Music Hall. It was quite the treat to get to see them up close and personal with such a small group of fans. Zach Williams even reached down from the stage to introduce himself to me and shake my hand before the show.  They played four songs for us:

“Then Came the Morning”

“Call to War” (Featuring Kanene on vocals—this is my favorite song on the new album)

“Watch Over Us” (Featuring Brian on vocals—this is my favorite song to see performed live)

“Take My Love”

98.9 WCLZ's Studio Z with The Lone Bellow

98.9 WCLZ’s Studio Z with The Lone Bellow at Port City Music Hall

Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin of The Lone Bellow

Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin of The Lone Bellow

Zach Williams

Zach Williams

98.9 WCLZ host Brian Farrell asked the band well-researched questions that would be a great introduction to the band if you don’t know them (which could mean you’ve been ignoring me raving about them for two years). His questions addressed their history as a group to their incredible live performance to their album art for their latest release Then Came The Morning. You can listen to the whole Studio Z performance. I’ll add the video when it’s posted next week. The band also graciously chatted with all of us and posed for photos as well. I don’t usually like to meet people whose music I care so much about, but they were sincere and kind and grateful for our support of their music.

I’d seen The Lone Bellow live four amazing times before this, but it was such a pleasure to get to see them in such a personal, unique way. Thanks to The Lone Bellow for being so lovely, to Colin for inviting me, to 98.9 WCLZ for putting it together, and to Port City Music Hall for hosting. I am rarely starstruck, but this got to me and I smiled ridiculously for hours afterwards!

xo,

bree

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London Grammar with Until The Ribbon Breaks

Saturday, January 24, 2015

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

Please pardon the delay. I have been snowed in for far too many days now. Seriously—FOUR of the last FIVE weekdays until today were snow days. My will to do anything productive has been zapped for a week now. I’ve shoveled, had tea and watched The Wire. Rinse and repeat. I was SO ready to leave the house this morning even though the roads were horrendous. I’d missed my students. I also don’t want to shovel again. Ever.

I was so excited when I saw that Britain’s London Grammar was coming to Portland. I’d seen them on KEXP and was BLOWN AWAY. Their show had been pushed from July to maybe October and then moved to the State Theatre in January. A lot of us had great expectations and had waited more than half a year to see them live. They were well worth the wait.

I’m glad Colin and I made it early to the State after an amazing Hey Rosetta! show at One Longfellow Square and got a good spot for show opener Until The Ribbon Breaks. I’d come across them on NPR a couple of weeks before the show with a first listen of their new album, A Lesson Unlearnt. It’s lyrically heavy and more electronic than I tend towards, but it’s an interesting and layered piece. Seeing UTRB was similarly theatrical and intense. Pete Lawrie-Winfield is a strong front man and the videos played in the background throughout their set made it a complete, dramatic experience. Pete experienced a myriad of tech issues on stage that keyboardist/bassist/vocalist James Gordon fixed for him a number of times. It added a bit of levity to their set.

Until The Ribbon Breaks

Until The Ribbon Breaks

Pete Lawrie-Winfield

Pete Lawrie-Winfield

James Gordon

James Gordon

Elliot Wall

Elliot Wall

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Sophie and Kate arrived and found us in time for UK electronic pop trio London Grammar’s set. They were both strangers to London Grammar’s music, so I loved seeing their faces light up as they processed just what a treat they were in for. Sophie’s eyes widened as she mouthed “HOLY CRAP!” to me early on in the first song. That’s the London Grammar effect. Hannah Reid can’t be 25 years old yet, but her voice is ethereal and captivating. Hannah, Dan Rothman (guitar), and Dominic Major (keyboard/percussion) met early on while students at University of Nottingham and released their first EP in February of 2013. Their first full-length album, If You Wait, dropped in September of 2013. I was especially happy to hear “Hey Now” and “Strong” live. Everyone in London Grammar seemed humble and approachable. They interacted comfortably with the crowd and genuinely thanked us for our support. Hannah even pointed out a fan in the front row who’d attended all of their American tour dates and said how much it meant to the band to have such devoted fans. To say I was blown away by London Grammar live is such an understatement. I’ve struggled to find the words to talk about how amazing they are. Please check them out. I’m listening to them on repeat these days. See photos below!

xo,

bree

London Grammar

London Grammar

Dan Rothman

Dan Rothman

Hannah Reid

Hannah Reid

Dominic Major

Dominic Major

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Hey Rosetta!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I was very excited for this night of back-to-back shows! I was sad when I first saw that Newfoundland’s elusive Hey Rosetta! was coming back to Portland on the 24th, because I already had plans to see UK’s London Grammar that night. Imagine my delight when I found out that Hey Rosetta! was playing early because One Longfellow Square was hosting a second show there later that night. I could go to both! Serendipity!

I’d seen Hey Rosetta! just a few months earlier for the first time ever opening for Stars at Port City Music Hall. I’ve been a fan for years, and they sounded as good live as I’d hoped. I drove to Portland in a bit of a snowstorm and snagged what I thought was a miraculous parking spot between the two venues and hurried to get a good seat at One Longfellow. I learned when I got to OLS that my great parking spot was probably available because a parking ban was going into effect in a few hours and I’d have to move before the London Grammar show. My concert friend Colin surprised me by coming to the show based on my recommendation on a rare Saturday night off for him. He told me later that it was the best money he’d spent so far in 2015.

Hey Rosetta! took the stage filled to the brim with people,equipment, instruments, and cords. They are seven mostly multi-instrumentalists, and only six of them fit on the actual stage amongst all three keyboards, six guitars, two bass guitars, a cello, French horn, trumpet, fiddle, a drum kit, glockenspiel, and all variety of other percussive tools. They opened with “Soft Offering (For The Oft Suffering)” and completely won over the audience in short time with their powerful, layered sound. It’s also the opening track off their newest album, Second Sight, which just released in the US this week and you can stream here. Hey Rosetta’s last album, Seeds, came out in 2011, so this album is much anticipated.

Hey Rosetta!

Hey Rosetta!

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Tim Baker’s lead vocals are strong and clear. He can really sing, and he knows just where to project and with how much power to make the point. I could listen to him for hours and not tire of it. If there’s any one thing I wish Hey Rosetta! would do differently, it would be to interact more with the audience. Tim chatted a tiny bit to thank us for coming to the show, but I’d love to hear more about the band and about their songs sometime directly from them (Google searching is only so satisfying).

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Since they really did have to get off stage with time to clear off their insane amount of gear so another band could set up for a show, Hey Rosetta! didn’t have time to dally. They invited us to get up and dance together to “Red Heart,” and it was then that I noticed how many great folks were in the crowd. People were really friendly, so I suspect a lot of them were Canadian. They really didn’t have time to leave the stage and wait for us to clap and come back for an encore, so Tim just introduced their last song “Bandages” as being about the long Newfoundland winter and being ready for spring. After Juno and the amount of snow shoveling I’ve done the last two days, I’m ready for spring now, too! Come back anytime, Hey Rosetta! You guys are such a pleasure to see live!

xo,

bree

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Mipso with Dan Mills

Friday, January 16, 2015

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This show was one of those rare gems—it was such a treat to see both of these bands live!

I’d seen Dan Mills play at Bowdoin College in the fall of 2009—my dear friend Megan worked in student activities then and organized a “Shameless Plugs” concert (I found a video) of musicians with ties to Bowdoin. Dan is outgoing Bowdoin College President Barry Mills’ nephew. I joined Megan for the show and was impressed. I’d stayed on his mailing list all of these years, and was excited when he let us know he’d finally be back in Maine for this show at One Longfellow Square.

The One Longfellow Square board member who welcomed us introduced Dan Mills as Dan Hill. Dan smiled and came to the stage, played a sweet song and then said “it’s totally no big deal, but I figured I should tell you early on that I’m actually Dan Mills.” He handled it graciously and showed no ego—a big plus. Newly engaged Dan played a song about asking a girl’s father for her hand. It was a funny juxtaposition with the chatty girl sitting behind me who was texting with boys she was meeting on Tinder during the show (we moved during intermission). Dan appreciated the overall very attentive audience and said it was like playing in his living room. He told us they usually tour as a five-piece band, but it was just Dan, Adam Podd on upright bass, and Mark Goodell on guitar. I particularly liked “The Good Son” and singing along to “Lonely When You’re Gone.” I think Dan’s voice has a James Taylor thing going on. He’s great.

Adam Podd, Dan Mills, and Mark Goodell

Adam Podd, Dan Mills, and Mark Goodell

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I’d never heard of North Carolina’s Mipso, and am SO very glad that I happened to be front and center to see them live. I’ve haven’t been seeing many new-to-me bands lately, and so this fresh, charming, talented group was such a pleasant surprise. From left to right across the stage, Mipso is Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Wood Robinson on upright bass, Joseph Terrell on lead vocal and guitar, and Libby Rodenbough on fiddle. Their website aptly says “the renegade traditionalists of Mipso are doing their part to take three-part harmony and Appalachian influences into new territory.” I liked them immediately. Their songs are meaningful and it was so refreshing to be able to hear every single lyric sung by Joseph with his crystal clear, bright voice. The harmonies and vocals added by Jacob, Wood, and Libby throughout the night made rounded out their lovely, airy sound. I’m going to go on a little bit more because I do that when I’m excited about a band, but if you need to stop reading now just know that this band is one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Jacob Sharp, Wood Robinson, Joseph Terrell, and Libby Rodenbough

Mipso is Jacob Sharp, Wood Robinson, Joseph Terrell, and Libby Rodenbough

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Mipso told us it was their first time in Maine and they’ve played 160 (!) shows in the last year, including touring Japan (check out this documentary)! The band met at UNC Chapel Hill and Jacob, Wood, and Joseph toured for a year after graduating together while Libby finished her senior year. They joked they’d never had someone open the show for them that was such a show stealer (a nice compliment for Dan Mills and his band). Everyone was genuine and engaging on stage and I found myself completely drawn in. Jacob showed off his flashy “Bluegrass” belt buckle and said (joked?) he’d bought it for a friend for Christmas, but that for some reason they weren’t in touch anymore. When they introduced “Red Eye to Raleigh,” Libby chimed in to tell us “Raleigh is in North Carolina—just for context.”

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Joseph told us about growing up playing guitar with his grandmother and sang “When I’m Gone” for her. I found this blog post with an entire article about the inspiration for just this one song. I love context! Joseph won first place in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2014 for “Angelina Jane Is Long Gone.” No wonder he won, right? The band told us how much they’d enjoyed their time in Portland—being hosted by The Ghost of Paul Revere, meeting talented violin and guitar makers, enjoying local beer and ramen, and having dinner with Joe Walsh (one of Jacob’s idols). It sounded like a great visit to Portland, and the show was packed with people who obviously knew Mipso personally (friends from North Carolina going to medical school in Maine) and a handful of fans who even knew all of the words to their songs. I’m not sure why I’m so late to the Mipso phenomenon, but I’m on board now.

Mipso unplugged

Mipso unplugged

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I loved Libby’s rich lead vocals on “Down in the Water,” and the guys harmonized particularly beautifully on that tune. They tried out a couple of new songs (and a new verb—“guinea pigging”) on us, including one they’d never played anywhere before that I really liked called “50 Bucks.” Another of my favorites of the night was “This Lonely Town” which included the very pretty lyric “When the seasons change/I hope I never stay the same.” I started to be sad about halfway through Mipso’s set when I realized that they’d eventually have to stop playing, and when Mipso said goodnight, I was bummed. Luckily, they played a last song completely unplugged—a New Grass Revival cover—as a lovely sendoff. Mipso–hurry back to Maine! Friends–check this band out!

xo,

bree

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Max Garcia Conover with Ben Cosgrove

Sunday, January 4, 2014

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

We’re so happy that Max, Sophie, and Arlo the poodle are home from their cross-country fall tour! Our friends Ken, Tasha, and Sammie organized a surprise welcome home party for Max and Sophie before his show later that evening at One Longfellow Square. Ken asked us if we’d be willing to play a song or read something either written by Max or Sophie or inspired by them. It was wonderful to get to catch up with the gang and welcome Max and Sophie back in such a creative way. I was so impressed with friends who learned and reimagined Max’s complex songs and Ellery producer Ben Cosgrove blew us away with an impromptu performance (read: he forgot to prepare and it was still insanely good) of “Evelyn O.” on piano

A welcome home serenade!

A welcome home serenade!

Bartlett and Ben learned a Max song. No easy feat!

Bartlett and Ben learned a Max song. No easy feat!

Ben Cosgrove. You are too good.

Ben Cosgrove. You are too good.

Party organizer Ken Templeton played a Max song, too!

Party organizer Ken Templeton played a Max song, too!

Max played us a song while Sophie lovingly looked on

Max played us a song while Sophie lovingly looked on

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We ventured over to One Longfellow early to grab spots for the show. Ben Cosgrove is a musical prodigy. His piano pieces are layered and interesting. As someone who really loves lyrics (which he doesn’t write), Ben keeps me engaged by talking about the inspiration for each of his songs. He’s regularly inspired by place, he said, and some of the songs he played were “Montreal Song,” “Palo Alto”, and “Abilene”—which is about a cross-Kansas drive and the disorienting feeling of not understanding your place in the expanse. We saw Ben on the second night of his national tour, and he’s ended up in the Pacific Northwest where he’s doing a musical residency for a couple of months. Someone booed when he said he’d be gone a while, and he smiled and said “it’s okay, Mom.” It was a cute moment made better by the fact that Ben’s mom really was in the audience.

 

The insanely talented Ben Cosgrove

The insanely talented Ben Cosgrove

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Max Garcia Conover took the stage after an intermission and told us that playing a show with Ben Cosgrove is the best and also the most harrowing thing possible. Max told us a few stories about his national tour, including a night where he played a “world music night” in Venice Beach (the Garcia in his name must have done it) so he played a song about his Puerto Rican grandfather for good measure. The centerpiece of the tour was the 1986 Toyota Motorhome that Max and Sophie bought for $2,500 to travel America in. It finally gave out in a Wal-Mart parking lot on Thanksgiving and they had to cancel parts of the tour. Max and Sophie decided they really wanted stuffing, so they waiting in the Black Friday line at Wal-Mart to get Stove Top stuffing. Max said it was a low point of the tour. Sophie wrote about this particular adventure on her blog. They eventually made it home to upstate NY where Max learned Bob Dylan’s “I Was Young When I Left Home.”

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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Sammie Francis-Taylor performed her own interpretation of Max’s “I Won’t Mess You Up” on piano at the welcome home party and Max said it was awesome and the first time he’d ever heard someone play one of his songs. He invited Ben Cosgrove to the stage and they played the rest of the night together. He played “Home,” which is about where he grew up in Ellery, New York. My favorite song on Ellery is “Wildfires Outside Laramie, Wyoming” and Max was nervous about playing the song there on tour. He told us a story about the day he played Laramie (where they liked the song, by the way) and how he had the strange experience of observing a college kid having an existential crisis starting with perusing women’s purses in a used clothing store and ending in the bar where Max played his gig later that night drunk on gin and tonics with chili cheese fries all over his face.

Ben and Max

Ben and Max

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Max introduced “The Start of Fables” with an actually quite funny fable he wrote (finally) about bears and the bear baiting referendum question during Maine’s last election. I won’t ruin it for you since maybe he’ll tell it again. We sang along happily during the audience participation part, too. Max wrapped his set with an unplugged tune on the floor and then asked Ben to play a last song. I liked “Nashua River,” but also wanted to hear one more from Max. We stomped for an encore and Max took the stage to play a final song. Ben joined him and Max said he’d play a Strand of Oaks song called “Leave Ruin” and joked that he wouldn’t even tell Ben what key the song was in and even though Ben didn’t even know the song he’d still play it better than him.

Unplugged from the floor

Unplugged from the floor

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Max told us how grateful he was to be home and to play for us. He told us it can be exhausting to play for new people every night and it felt so good to be back home with the people he loves. He said, “you need your people.” We’re your people, Max. Welcome home!

xo,

bree

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Join me for back-to-back shows Saturday night!

I’m PUMPED for tomorrow night! I’m going to two shows I know are going to be amazing in the same night! Friends will be at both shows, too. Are you coming to either? Both?

I’m catching Newfoundland and Labrador’s Hey Rosetta! at One Longfellow Square in Portland at 6:30. Doors are at 6. I just saw them for the first time in November opening for Stars. They are as good live as I’d hoped they’d be. Check out their Audiotree session by clicking below:

Hey Rosetta! on Audiotree

Hey Rosetta! on Audiotree

I am kind of beside myself that I get to see Britain’s London Grammar for the first time Saturday night at 9 at The State Theatre. Doors are at 8. I’ve been obsessed with them since their KEXP session (click below) at the end of 2013. I’m so looking forward to seeing them in person. Until The Ribbon Breaks opens the show. If you can’t join me, I’ll let you know how the shows were sometime next week!

London Grammar on KEXP

London Grammar on KEXP

xo,

bree

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