Hey Rosetta! and Stars

Friday, November 8, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I stumbled upon Canada’s Hey Rosetta! many years ago online and love their layered, full sound and lead singer’s Tim Baker’s smooth voice. I’d been keeping an eye on their tour schedule for what felt like forever, and was SO excited to see they were finally coming to Maine to open for Montreal’s Stars. This was the first night of their tour together. I got to Port City Music Hall early to make sure I had a good spot up front, and I met Jen there, who’d driven down from New Brunswick just for the show. It was great to watch the show with another fan, and there were plenty of Hey Rosetta! fans and friendly Canadians in the crowd. My friends Bartlett and Ellie showed up right before the show, too. I’d suggested to Bartlett that he catch Hey Rosetta’s set at Bonnaroo when they were both there in 2012 and he did and was hooked. Hey Rosetta! sounded great live. They are a seven-piece indie band and create a rich sound with the usual four-piece instruments, but also with the addition of a string section, horns, and tight harmonies. I was probably most excited to hear “Yer Spring” and “Young Glass,” both from their 2011 album, Seeds. Tim didn’t say a whole lot to the crowd (which I would have liked), but did tell us that he’d just recovered from being really sick, so I’ll give him a pass. Hey Rosetta! played eight beautiful songs and left the stage—many of us wanting more. I hope they’ll come back and headline a show sometime so we can dig in a bit more. You can stream their newest album, Second Sight, here. I hope you’ll give them a listen.

Tim Baker is the frontman of Hey Rosetta! (I didn't hear back in time from their publicist, so these aren't taken with my fancy camera).

Tim Baker is the frontman of Hey Rosetta!(I didn’t hear back in time from their publicist, so these aren’t taken with my fancy camera).

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I ended up literally front and center touching the stage (my favorite) for Stars, and they were awesome from the first second they took the stage. I’d been streaming their October release, No One is Lost, a lot in the weeks before the show, and really enjoyed their pop sound. Torquil Campbell took us all in immediately as he effortlessly engaged the crowd. He sang above me (and I had to duck out of his way) as he leaned into the eager, bopping crowd. Amy Millan also shone brightly on stage, with her sharp dance moves and comfortable banter. They have the kind of stage presence you earn after more than a decade together, and it shows that they care about the caliber of show they put on and don’t take it for granted. Check out the video for their newest single “From The Night” to get a taste of their style. Even though I was impressed, I hadn’t packed my earplugs, and Stars was L-O-U-D. Bartlett texted me to say they’d left because the sound was so overwhelming, and even though I decided to ditch my front row spot for a place in the very back of the room, I still felt overtaken by the sound in a way that pushed me out the doors early, too. I’ll definitely pack some earplugs and stay the whole show next time (and maybe the guys in the sound booth can turn it down a bit, too?).

Stars

Stars

Torquil Campbell

Torquil Campbell

I love being this close to the stage!

I love being this close to the stage!

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Amy Millan has got *it*!

Amy Millan has got *it*!

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So glad to have finally seen Hey Rosetta! live. I hope they’ll come back again soon and play twice as long.

xo,

bree

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Eric Hutchinson, Tristan Prettyman, and Nick Howard

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This was the kind of grey and dreary Tuesday that felt like it should have been a Thursday already. I was so ready for Daylight Savings Time, and I think the dark weather sadly ended up clouding my show experience. I had a sluggish afternoon after school holding my dear friend’s two-month-old baby girl for a few hours before heading down to Portland to catch this show. I got to Sarah’s house just as Eric Hutchinson and Tristan Prettyman’s Studio Z interview on 98.9 WCLZ began and listened while I snuggled baby Isabelle. I’d seen Eric live back in 2012 on his “Almost Solo Tour” with accompanist Elliott Blaufuss, and he was a supreme entertainer—as much a stand up comedian as a singer-songwriter. I was happy to hear that he was just as engaging over the radio, joking that the way he and Tristan co-headlined this tour was by each playing their set simultaneously on opposite sides of a curtain and seeing who gets more attention from the crowd. Tristan and Eric talked about being good friends for over a decade and how excited they were to put the City & Sand Tour together (she’s from San Diego and he’s living in NYC). Tristan talked about going through a lot of transitions—being dropped by her label, firing her manager, becoming a one-woman operation, and getting married in August right before spending two weeks in the studio after her honeymoon recording her new EP, Back To Home. They sounded like they were already having fun together on the road (the tour just started the night before in Boston), and they played a fun cover of “All About That Bass” together that got me geared up for the show.

Isabelle is quite snuggly

Isabelle is quite snuggly

She's so snuggly that we fell asleep together for a little while before I took off for the show

She’s so snuggly that we fell asleep together for a little while before I took off for the show.

I arrived early to grab my press ticket and a front row spot. My friends Andrea and Cory were already at Port City Music Hall by the time I arrived, but sadly couldn’t stand up front with me because Cory was injured and needed to sit for the show. For whatever reason, being solo at this show made it less fun. I ended up in a pocket of obnoxious people—drunk people, loud talkers, adults waaaaay too old to be grinding on each other like that, and between that and the dreary weather, I think my positive show experience was over before it began. Most of those annoying people arrived only after Britain’s Nick Howard performed, so I did get an uninterrupted chance to enjoy at least part of the show. Nick was engaging—as far as an opening act goes, he did everything right. He chatted comfortably with the crowd, complimented the area (he joked about being able to see why so many presidents vacation in Maine), sang a few songs we knew (his cover song medley included “Wake Me Up” and “Save Tonight”), asked us to clap, whistle, and sing along, and didn’t play for too long. Well done, Nick. I especially liked his original songs “Can’t Break a Broken Heart” and “Falling for You.”

Nick Howard

Nick Howard

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I was impressed with the speedy set change (it being a school night and all), and Tristan Prettyman and her band took the stage in no time at all. I hadn’t seen her since 2011 at the Life is Good Festival in Canton, Massachusetts, and was glad to see her again. Her last album, Cedar + Gold, got a lot of play on long road trips in my car in 2012. It’s definitely a breakup album (this summer, my break up album was Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour) and was written about her broken engagement with Jason Mraz. Here’s Tristan performing a stripped-down version of “I Was Gonna Marry You” that she didn’t play at the show, since a lot has happened since then. Tristan told us she’d gotten married in August (her husband, Google Venture managing partner, Bill Maris, was in the crowd proudly taking photos). Her new EP, Back to Home, released the day before the show, is a much happier album, and Tristan told us she was playing these songs live for the first time on the City & Sand Tour with Eric. She joked about how all of her songs are about stupid men, and so she really didn’t have anything appropriate to play when she visited her friend’s sixth grade classroom, so she wrote a “namaste” song, “Open Up Your Eyes.” I was glad to hear “Say Anything,” “Madly,” and “My Oh My,” all songs that 98.9 WCLZ has played regularly for ages. Tristan surprised us with a fun cover of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” during her set, which had people happily singing along.

Tristan Prettyman

Tristan Prettyman

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The last time I saw Eric Hutchinson was a real treat. He told a ton of stories about his songs and interacted comfortably with the friendly crowd while playing stripped-down, acoustic songs—my ideal concert-going scenario. This show was different. Eric hopped up on stage with a full band and rocked from start to finish. He didn’t say a whole lot to the crowd, but he and his happy bandmates had great energy and put on a fun show. Eric has a lot of hits from his decade-plus-long career, and he played them all. The crowd was clearly excited to hear “Watching You Watch Him.” During “The Basement” he sampled a little Aretha, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Amy Winehouse. It was a big hit with the crowd and Eric and the band really went all out on it.

Eric Hutchinson

Eric Hutchinson

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Loved seeing this camaraderie

Loved seeing this camaraderie

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Look at the fun they're having!

Look at the fun they’re having!

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Eric called Tristan up on stage and they did one of her songs, “Love Love Love,” together. He told us that the first time he heard that song, he listened to it on repeat for an entire two hour drive. Eric tested out the security of the big speaker on the floor right next to me and then hopped up onto it to start singing “OK, It’s Alright with Me.” I physically had to move to get out of his way. That’s how close to a performer I want to be during a show! (It’s also why I didn’t move to a new spot when I probably should have to get away from the folks I was standing around. Lesson learned.)

Tristan and Eric on her "Love Love Love"

Tristan and Eric on her “Love Love Love”

Eric up on the speaker right next to me. This is the kind of stage proximity I look for!

Eric up on the speaker right next to me. This is the kind of stage proximity I look for!

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I appreciated the way that Eric gleefully interacted with his band on stage. He took the time to introduce all of them and to give them time to highlight their skills, which they especially did during “You Don’t Have to Believe Me.” The show is clearly not all about him to him, and that’s great to see. Eric talked about getting dropped from his label years ago and using the money to make his 2008 album, Sounds Like This. His newest album, Pure Fiction, came out in April of 2014. Eric sampled Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” during “A Little More,” one of his newer songs. I stayed through “Rock and Roll” and then decided to head home before the encore so I could be in bed before midnight on a school night. Eric’s so fun live. Next time I see him, I’ll try harder to bring my dancing shoes!

xo,

bree

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Gardiner, Maine’s 5th Annual Swine and Stein Oktoberfest

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gardiner, Maine

Dedicated people in my sweet little town have been working hard for years to revitalize the downtown and attract people to Gardiner. My sense is that this work is starting to pay off. Surely the biggest event hosted by Gardiner Maine Street is our annual Swine and Stein Oktoberfest. This was the fifth annual Swine and Stein, and I’d say it was the best one yet! I had such a fun day and there were smiling people everywhere. Thanks so much to everyone who came, and to Gardiner Maine Street, the vendors, the musicians, and the more than sixty (60!) volunteers who made such a wonderful event possible! Patrick Wright—director of Gardiner Main Street—you deserve a special shout out for a job incredibly well done! Thanks, Patrick! What I saw on Saturday makes me proud to live in Gardiner.

I showed up a few minutes before the gates opened at 11:30AM to grab a donut at Frosty’s and check out the layout since improvements are made each year to strengthen the event. I got to pet baby goats and sleeping piglets on my short walk along Water Street, which only heightened my excitement for Swine and Stein. If you’ve never been to Swine and Stein, we shut down auto traffic on our picturesque main street (Water Street), and host live animals, food vendors (featuring A LOT of local pork), a local beer tent, fun activities for all ages, and live local bands all day. It’s a great day, and this year, the weather cooperated beautifully, too.

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All of the photos in this post were taken by me. If you’d like to share, please give me (Bree Candland of whatbreesees.com) photo credit. Thanks!

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I overheard a couple wondering how Swine and Stein works, so I stopped to welcome them and explain the event and show them to the gate. I could hear superstar volunteer Derek Zardus of Zardus Art of Massage & Wellness Spa welcoming people to Gardiner and to Swine and Stein at the gate long before I could see him. We moved quickly through the line, got our three drink tickets (included with admission) cleverly attached to our wristband, and the first 1,000 through the line also got a souvenir 5 oz. tasting glass. Later in the day I saw how many people didn’t have one of those little glasses, so I am guessing a lot more than 1,000 people showed up!

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Derek Zardus

Derek Zardus

I LOVED the addition of a professional stage with a sound engineer this year! I could hear Sorcha and Monique Barrett playing as I said my hellos and wandered through the food area to scope out what I might want to get for lunch later. Sorcha is a friend in music—she’s played Swine and Stein before and I’m always happy to get to see her live. She and Monique harmonize beautifully, and their covers of “Jolene” and “Crazy” were flawless. I wasn’t taking notes because I wanted to enjoy the day, but I liked the song Sorcha wrote for a friend’s wedding (the name of which I’d normally have jotted down), and one of Monique’s that might be called “Make It Better.” Later in the day, I introduced them to Johnson Hall director Michael Miclon. We talked about having a singer-songwriter circle show at Johnson Hall sometime this season. I took Sorcha and Monique into Johnson Hall to show them the beautifully renovated performance space downstairs and to show off the cleaned up third floor, which is beautiful and totally ready for renovation. Built in 1864, Johnson Hall has been a ballroom, a movie house, and a theatre. Johnson Hall hopes to renovate the upper floors to use for performances and other events. The potential in that space is unreal. Monique and Sorcha talked about how cool it would be to record an album together (since they often play together, but don’t have one) in that space. The acoustics are amazing. When I took them to the top floor, they were so wowed by the beauty of the space that they broke out in song! I have high hopes for the capital campaign and would LOVE to see Johnson Hall restored.

Sorcha and Monique Barrett

Sorcha and Monique Barrett

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Mike Miclon and Logan Johnston

Mike Miclon and Logan Johnston in front of Johnson Hall

The amazing space on the top floor of Johnson Hall

The amazing space on the top floor of Johnson Hall

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I loved the fun competitions and events that were planned for the day in between bands. The event that stole my heart, however, was the first-ever Swine and Stein Beard and Mustache Competition. Danielle Rodrigue, local beauty expert from Concepts Hair Design and and the MAYOR of Gardiner, Thom Harnett, were the other two judges, and I was thrilled to be asked to join them. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Patrick called contestants to the stage and a wave of beautifully bearded and mustachioed men approached the stage. Did you know there’s a Maine Facial Hair Club? What a great group of guys. We judged in six categories—beards more or less than six inches, partial mustache, freestyle, and a couple of others that I can’t recall since I was on cloud nine the whole time. Clare Marron, Gardiner Maine Street board member and owner of Monkitree, Gardiner’s fine art and craft gallery, organized the event. She worked with The Potter’s House to create amazing mugs (in honor of American Craft Week) for the winners of each category. The winners were thrilled with their surprise award.

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That's me, Danielle, and Gardiner mayor Thom Harnett

That’s me, Danielle, and Gardiner mayor Thom Harnett

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I think you tell I was a BIG fan of the beard and mustache competition!

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Clare Marron of Monkitree gave out awesome prizes to the winners

Clare Marron of Monkitree gave out awesome prizes to the winners

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The German Oktoberfest Band always sets the perfect mood, and they had people swaying and toasting along. My dear friend Rachel came in her dirndl and valiantly competed in the frozen t-shirt contest, but lost in a very close race to the finish.

The German Oktoberfest Band

The German Oktoberfest Band

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Rachel and Ian appropriately dressed for Oktoberfest

Rachel and Ian appropriately dressed for Oktoberfest

The frozen t-shirt content was HILARIOUS

The frozen t-shirt content was HILARIOUS

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Photo finish! That was CLOSE!

Photo finish! That was CLOSE!

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Vintage Wine Bar had a wine tent this year!

Vintage Wine Bar had a wine tent this year!

Thumbs up!

Thumbs up!

BBQ!

BBQ!

My delicious lunch

My delicious lunch

Cute dogs!

Cute dogs!

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Dublin the golden retriever

Dublin the golden retriever

Bo surrounded by admirers at Monkitree

Bo surrounded by admirers at Monkitree. Photo courtesy of Clare Marron.

I’d never seen Gunther Brown live, even though lead singer Pete Dubuc sent me their music early on in whatbreesees.com and I liked it a lot. Senator Susan Collins and her team were at Swine and Stein, and she stopped to give a wave to the band early in their set. I was especially glad to hear “(Don’t Forget To) Don’t Go” and “Hello Tonight” live.

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Senator Susan Collins saying hello to Gunther Brown

Senator Susan Collins saying hello to Gunther Brown

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The rock-paper-scissors competition run by Mike Miclon of Johnson Hall was awesome. He held preliminary rounds earlier in the day that I watched and then the semi finalists joined him at the stage to compete in front of all of the Swine and Stein attendees. It was an absolute hoot to watch, and the winner won two free tickets to any upcoming Johnson Hall event. Patrick Wright called up local bearded men to compete in a scaled down version of the earlier event, and a handful of kids who’d made their own mustaches at the craft table competed as well.

The rock-paper-scissor competition preliminary rounds

The rock-paper-scissors competition preliminary rounds

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The rock-paper-scissor finals were a BLAST!

The rock-paper-scissors final rounds were a BLAST!

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I was glad to see The Jason Spooner Band again. It had been quite a while and they sound great. As the day wound down, The Spare Parts Band, featuring Oakland Farms owner and Gardiner city councilor Logan Johnston took the stage to close the event.

The Jason Spooner Band

The Jason Spooner Band

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I nearly forgot about this adorable competition!

I nearly forgot about this adorable competition!

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The Spare Parts Band

The Spare Parts Band

Logan Johnston

Logan Johnston

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Swine and Stein was a blast this year! I went right home and drank some tea to warm and up promptly ended up taking a nap! Thank you so much to everyone who helped make it a success and we’ll see you next year!

xo,

bree

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Darlingside and Jacob Augustine

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Empire, Portland, Maine

This was only my third Darlingside show? That doesn’t seem possible, because they hold a pretty big spot in my musical heart. I first saw them in September of 2012 at One Longfellow Square only because they invited me and I was completely flabbergasted. I declared it one of my top five shows of 2012—which means something since I saw 45 shows that year. They came to play OLS again last fall with the lovely and talented Caitlin Canty, who is a regular collaborator of theirs, and the effervescent Rusty Belle. I’ve mostly adjusted to teacher hours and the show didn’t start until after 9:30PM, so I was excited for the show, but afraid I’d fall asleep in the car on the drive home. I texted my concert buddy Colin, who promised me he’d meet me at the show, so I mustered up the energy for a late night and an hour and a half of driving to see them. Totally worth it. I love seeing shows with Colin because he appreciates music like I do, but also because he keeps track of set lists (which means I don’t have to). It’s kind of like seeing shows just for fun again!

Darlingside's set list--courtesy of Colin

Darlingside’s set list–courtesy of Colin

Darlingside took the stage about 9:45PM. As I glanced around the room, I saw most of The Ghost of Paul Revere, some guys from Tricky Britches, and Eric, who manages The Ballroom Thieves in the crowd. I feel like that turnout tells you this show was worth going to, eh?

Darlingside is a “string rock quartet.” Don, Dave, Auyon, and Harris went to Williams together, and their harmonies are flawless. As they played “God of Loss” and “My Love” to warm up, you could have heard a pin drop. In a bar. Late on a Saturday night. They’re impressive and they draw you in to listen. “My Love” is one of my favorites—a bit of self reflection about the effort one makes in a relationship—“My half-assed best was all I had for your love/my maybe-tomorrows for your heart-to-hearts/my punch-drunk house calls for your candles and wine/my brother, my banjo, my never-done-wrong/all you wanted was me by your side/I tend to get what I want/and do as I please/but you taught me I can’t always get away with everything I thought I could/and for that I thank you, my love.” Their cover of Smashing Pumpkin’s “1979” was energizing and a hit with the crowd.

From left to right, Darlingside is Don Mitchell,  David Senft, Auyon Mukharji, and Harris Paseltiner

From left to right, Darlingside is Don Mitchell,
David Senft, Auyon Mukharji, and Harris Paseltiner

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Dave promised to try very hard not to hit Auyon with his instruments.

Dave promised to try very hard not to hit Auyon with his instruments.

Darlingside’s harmonies on “The Woods” were particularly standout. I was glad to hear “The Catbird Seat.” It’s pretty, but sad—“By you I swore/By the light or the way you wore it/Now instead I swear I’m over it.” “Blow the House Down” was a crowd favorite. They ended their set with “Good Man,” and the crowd cheered loudly enough for an encore. I was really happy to hear “Sweet and Low” live. I also would have liked to hear “Terrible Things,” but alas. Check out the video, though. It’s excellent.

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Darlingside will join The Ghost of Paul Revere and The Ballroom Thieves (two more of my favorite bands) for Hollerfest 2 at The Strand Theatre in Rockland on Saturday, November 22. They’ll be joined by the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra. I will definitely be there!

Mike, of my former students who is all grown up now, works downstairs at Empire and joined us for a bit. Mike was impressed with Jacob Augustine’s beard, and I told him to get ready to be surprised by Jacob’s sweet falsetto voice. He was. I’d just seen Jacob a few weeks either at Ghostland Music Festival, but he hasn’t played out much and it was a treat to get to see him again so soon. I’d never seen Jacob Augustine with a full band, and the fullness of sound amplified the message of his songs beautifully. Jacob’s band for the night included Asher Platts on upright/bass, Peter McLaughlin on percussion, and my friend McKay Belk rocking the steel guitar. “Halfway to Harlem” was a favorite. They played the long versions of each song, and since I could see their set list from my front row spot, I knew I wouldn’t make it to the end of the night and sadly excused myself for the haul home. I listened to this version of “Peace Comes” in the car en route, though. Sad to miss the rest, Jacob, but so glad to see you twice in short time!

xo,

bree

Jacob Augustine

Jacob Augustine

Jacob with McKay Belk on steel guitar

Jacob with McKay Belk on steel guitar

Jacob with Peter McLaughlin on percussion

Jacob with Peter McLaughlin on percussion

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Asher Platts on upright bass

Asher Platts on upright bass

What's that called, Peter?

What’s that called, Peter?

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Brandi Carlile’s Pin Drop Tour

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH

I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend Rachel’s VW Bug somewhere near Phoenix on a hot summer day in August when my friend Megan texted me about Brandi Carlile’s October Pin Drop Tour. I surely squealed in excitement when I found out that one of only eight venues in the United States that Brandi and the Twins were going to play COMPLETELY UNPLUGGED was The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. My heart soared. Brandi Carlile is one of my most favorites. I first saw her with my friend Kim in 2005 opening for Ray LaMontagne at Berklee in Boston. The last time I saw her was phenomenal—one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I was in the front row at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, while Brandi and the Twins belted from just centimeters away. The time I saw them before that, I was also in the very front row at Berklee in Boston. For this show at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, though, our seats were in the VERY LAST ROW. And it didn’t matter one single bit. This show was magic.

The pin drop tour announcement from brandicarlile.com

The pin drop tour announcement from brandicarlile.com

My favorite shot from the front row at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine on October 24, 2012

This was the third Brandi show Kim, Sarah, Megan, and I have seen together. The first was in 2009 when Gregory Alan Isakov opened for Brandi at South Portland High School. We still laugh (but only a little) about how I sat next to a woman in her forties at that show who texted constantly through the first four or five songs until I asked her to put her phone away. My intervention only reduced the frequency of her evil texting to once per song or so. We all went to see Brandi again the following summer at Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom the night before I flew out to visit my friend Brady in Alaska—a beautiful bucket list trip that I didn’t want to come home from. We managed to get four seats together for this show and it was great to spend a little bit of quality time together.

A pre show selfie

A pre-show selfie

I also got to see my concert friend Colin who miraculously had a seat in the second row for a few minutes during intermission. He caught the trio of musicians from Brandi’s band who played covers of popular songs on violin and cello during the opening slot. I missed most of their set, but what I heard (including “High & Dry” by Radiohead) was great. I settled into my seat just before intermission ended and Phil Hanseroth, one of the twins, was standing just a few feet away at the back door ready for the show to start. He and I shared a moment where he could see how excited I was and then the lights dimmed and he started singing his way down the aisle to the stage.

The view from Colin's seat

The view from Colin’s seat in the second row

The view from our seats in the back row

The view from our seats in the back row

So sweet to have a moment with Phil before the show!

So sweet to have a moment with Phil before the show!

This show was stunning. I feel lucky to have been there—it felt like being part of something special. Since there wasn’t any amplification, people in the crowd were on their best behavior. It was incredible to be able to see and hear so well even from the back row. Brandi’s team was recording the show, so there was a strict no cell phone rule, too. It created a focused, attentive atmosphere for seeing such an intimate show. Colin kept track of the night’s set list:

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Brandi was thrilled to kick off the pin drop tour with us and was obviously as excited as we were about the concept. We broke out into song during the chorus of “What Can I Say” while Brandi roamed the aisles and sang with us. I loved “The Eye,” a new song inspired by Crosby, Stills & Nash that will be on their upcoming album. The chorus goes—“I wrapped your love around me like a chain/But I never was afraid that it would die/You can dance in a hurricane/But only if you’re standing in the eye.” It’s a haunting song that gave me chills.

Brandi’s raspy, soulful voice soared on “Before It Breaks.” I got a little teary during the chorus of that one—“Say it’s over, say I’m dreaming/Say I’m better than you left me/Say you’re sorry, I can take it/Say you’ll wait, say you won’t/Say you love me, say you don’t/I can make my own mistakes/Let it bend before it breaks.” Brandi debuted “Wherever Your Heart Is, I Call Home,” which is a sweet love song.

I was sad this night would end before it even began. Brandi was a gracious host and it was such a thrill to have gotten a seat in the sold out Music Hall to be part of it. The last two songs of the night were covers. Brandi and the Twins—Phil and Tim Hanseroth—played an outstanding cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Brandi talked a little about her wife and their new baby, Evangeline Ruth, and covered “Murder in the City” by The Avett Brothers to sum up how important family is. She and the band recorded it a few days later in Virginia, and it gives you a sense of how intimate the pin drop shows were. Thank you, Brandi, Tim, Phil, the band, and The Music Hall for a beautiful night. I wish it didn’t have to end.

xo,

bree

I asked my friends at the show if anyone wanted to contribute to this post, and Megan, who is both a busy fourth year doctoral candidate and owner of Pencil Events, miraculously made time to capture this breathtaking night in these beautiful words:

When all the cords and speakers that often help to make shows epic are removed from Brandi Carlile’s stage, two things happen. First, a show is performed with only the essentials: the force of Carlile’s voice, the hum of her many unplugged guitars, the walls of The Music Hall and the many of us lucky enough to be witnesses. And that’s really what being a member of that first pin drop audience felt like. It felt like we were witnessing some sacred creation greater than the sum of its parts. Second, without electric amplification, everyone else’s voices became more useful alongside Brandi’s. So, witnesses though we were, we were not passive but active with a new sort of role to play. We were an intimate band of creative witnesses, the most evocative manifestation of which occurred when, moved by the muse of The Music Hall, we all organically began singing the chorus for “What Can I Say” alternating with Carlile singing the verses while she walked the aisles among us. In this moment I couldn’t tell if I was chilled to the bone or warmed to the core or both! When we remove all the cords and equipment from the stage, the artist becomes even more clearly a conduit for something greater than themselves. With frippery removed so, too was the barrier between the Brandi Carlile and the rest of us. Because she was brave enough to get up there and offer the chance, we all celebrated how unimaginably brilliant hard-working brave human beings can be.

Kim made time, too! I’m impressed. These are busy women.

Although I’ve seen PLENTY of Brandi shows, and PLENTY of shows with these girlfriends, my decision to join Bree, Megan, and Sarah for the Pin Drop tour was on a bit of a whim. I go to a LOT fewer concerts than I used to—my husband and I just finished paying for our wedding ourselves, and because we met in law school we have a nice chunk of student loan debt to pay off. So we pinch our pennies and I tend to only see shows on a whim, and more for the social opportunity to get together with some girlfriends. (And I will let you draw your own conclusions about my OTHER whimsical choice this summer, which was to see Beyonce & Jay-Z at Gillette Stadium in July.)

But I very much enjoy my “cult of Brandi” with these particular girls. When she played at South Portland High School, we had our first treat of Brandi’s acoustic brilliance. I can still remember the haunting clarity of her voice from the very edge of that high school stage while everyone in the room sat mesmerized. It was enchanting.

So the chance to “splurge” on the Pin Drop tour was an easy choice. I left feeling literally buoyant, lifted in mind and spirit as Brandi must have intended when they decided to try this experiment a decade ago. Without amplification, the show had an intense focus that was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I seemed much less distracted by other audience members in the ways that I typically am (the incessant photo/camera screens), people dancing (in or out of their chairs), and just generally the people watching. Here, all eyes and ears were intensely focused on Brandi and the twins. It sounds intense, but it was freeing, particularly in the current era of constant phone dings and pings. It coincidentally synced beautifully with a new commitment in my workplace among colleagues to being more unplugged from our emails in the evening hours. Without working about my iPhone, I was left to just let the experience wash over me.

And wash it did. I will forever have an indelible memory of this evening, marked by Brandi’s roaming of the Music Hall for “What Did I Say.” As she walked the aisles in the style of an old-time troubadour, the audience began singing the chorus with her. It was such a powerfully gentle experience, and I found myself *not* singing, but just basking in awe of the moment. A few tears actually rolled down my face (I’m a crier, and this had been a particularly emotional week for me for other reasons). So many coincidences of how this “splurge” came together reminded me deeply of the value of making time for music itself and the community of music in my life, even though I’m not attending as many concerts as I’d like. Thank you, Brandi, for the bravery of the Pin Drop tour. You had precisely your intended effect on me!

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Ghostland Music Festival

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thomas Point Beach, Brunswick, Maine

The school year has been SUPER busy! This lovely day was weeks ago now! Sorry for the delay!

My friend Grace texted in the morning to ask if I had any interest in going to the first ever Ghostland Music Festival at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick. It had been on my radar, so I took her text as a sign I should commit. I hurried by Gardiner’s annual Barks in the Park to pet some pups, take some pictures, and chat with my mayor about our most recent concert experiences before heading to Brunswick for the afternoon.

I fell in love with Otis at Gardiner's Barks in the Park!

I fell in love with Otis at Gardiner’s Barks in the Park!

Pretty Penny

Pretty Penny

It was a bit of a gloomy day—overcast and chilly—so turnout for the festival might have a little less than hoped for. I set up folding chairs and blankets close to the stage just outside of the fenced off beer area when I arrived and scoped out the grounds a bit. I was impressed with how well things were organized; especially given it was a first-time festival. Festival sponsor 98.9 WCLZ’s Ethan Minton took the stage to welcome us and tell us about the important work we were supporting by buying a ticket to the festival. He told us that 1 in 4 kids in Maine is food insecure, but Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program feeds over a thousand families each year and provides food to kids on the weekends through their Backpack Program.

98.9 WCLZ's Ethan Minton

98.9 WCLZ’s Ethan Minton

I’d hurried to get to the festival early because I really wanted to see Matt Lorenz who plays as The Suitcase Junket and was scheduled to kick off the festival. He is one talented guy, who I first saw play with his band Rusty Belle and the ever-talented Caitlin Canty. Matt was nowhere to be seen, however, and Ethan told us that he sadly couldn’t make it because of car trouble. When I saw Jacob Augustine come to the stage with his beautiful guitar in hand, I knew we were in for an unexpected treat. Jacob was the second artist I ever wrote about on whatbreesees. I was going through a breakup at the time, and his incredibly heavy, soulful songs were no help at all! But he is beautiful to see in person. Jacob’s playing with one of my favorite bands, the harmonic Darlingside, this Saturday night at Empire in Portland, and you should REALLY go! Jacob’s voice will surprise you because it doesn’t match how he appears at all. He’s tattooed and has an amazing beard, but his voice is a beautiful falsetto full of vibrato. He had us join him in a whistled rendition of Happy Birthday for his friend and closed with “Waco.”

Jacob Augustine

Jacob Augustine

Grace and I grabbed lunch from the food trucks after Jacob’s set. My teriyaki jalapeno pineapple grilled chicken sandwich from the Good Shepherd Food Bank’s food truck was insanely good. Grace picked up some poutine from the other truck and we headed back to our seats in time for Maine’s most talented female vocalist, Anna Lombard. I first saw Anna at Slates in Hallowell and she blew me away. This woman can sing. She headlined Gardiner’s annual Swine and Stein Oktoberfest two years ago and impressed everyone there, too. (Swine and Stein is coming up next Saturday, October 11!). I saw my friend Vivian (who I met before a David Wax Museum show at Empire in Portland) sitting near the stage and grabbed her to come join us and share in the poutine and good music. A very pregnant Anna and her band of well-known Maine musicians like Tony McNaboe and Nate Soule took the stage and serenaded us with most of the tracks from Anna’s 2013 album, Head Full of Bells, including “They Want Us Dead,” “Nothing of Us Left,” “Waiting for Rescue,” “Why Did You Leave Me,” and “Confessions.” Anna sounded good as ever. Dave Gutter joined Anna and the band for “All For You” to end their set.

A great girls' day with Grace!

A great girls’ day with Grace!

Good Shepherd Food Bank's INCREDIBLE food truck!

Good Shepherd Food Bank’s INCREDIBLE food truck!

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Fun and games at Ghostland

Fun and games at Ghostland

Anna Lombard

Anna Lombard

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Dave Gutter’s set was up next. You probably know Dave and his recognizably raspy voice best from Rustic Overtones, which provided the soundtrack to my early college years. “Gangster” sounded great, and Dave said he’d “one up” Anna by inviting an already born child on stage to sing “I Like It Low” with him. Young Connie sounded great and was adorable. “Letter To The President” is a heavy song worth a listen, and Dave kept that mood rolling by ending his set with a song about addiction called “High On Everything.”

Dave Gutter

Dave Gutter

"I Like It Low" featuring Connie

“I Like It Low” featuring Connie on vocals

Boston based Will Dailey and his band took the stage and rocked with their electric guitars. I particularly liked “So Do I” and “Don’t Take Your Eyes Off of Me.” Anna Lombard seemed to be a big Will Dailey fan and she joined him for a song, too.

Will Dailey

Will Dailey

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Will Dailey featuring Anna Lombard

Will Dailey featuring Anna Lombard

An overcast day for a festival

An overcast day for a festival

I’d just seen Samuel James the night before at our dear friend Max Garcia Conover’s national RV tour kickoff show at Mayo Street Arts, and he was up next. The first time I saw Samuel James at Frontier in Brunswick, I felt like I was in his living room. The guy’s got soul. His blues guitar is impressive. I was glad to hear “It Ain’t Right” and “Nineteen,” which he wrote for his dad.

Samuel James

Samuel James

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Ethan invited everyone to move to inside because rain was imminent. Grace and I had been snuggled under our blankets for hours and were kind of spent, so we decided to head home after Samuel James. We missed Dominic and the Lucid, Spencer Albee, and The Ghost of Paul Revere (who I think are the bees knees). The Ghost of Paul Revere did a great job organizing Ghostland and I’m looking forward to seeing them in my sweet little town at Johnson Hall on November 8. I hope you raised a lot of well deserved and much needed funds for Mid Coast Hunger Prevention! Great job, guys!

xo,

bree

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Max Garcia Conover with Ben Cosgrove

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mayo Street Arts, Portland, Maine

Max Garcia Conover is a name that’s popped up on whatbreesees more than most. Max is a helluva guy—humble, talented, soft-spoken, introspective. If you haven’t seen Max live, it feels a lot like being serenaded in your own living room—intimate and warm. There’s not much more I can say about Max that I haven’t in countless posts about him and his live show, and this night was similarly wonderful but also somewhat bittersweet. Max, Sophie, and their dog Arlo are off in their RV on a three-month family tour of the US to promote their new album, ellery, and this was their sendoff. The gang was all assembled for a final hoorah before saying goodbye for a while to a couple of our favorite people.

The gang's all here!

The gang’s all here!

I got to Mayo Street Arts early after a great Friday afternoon happy hour with dear colleagues in Freeport just in time to snuggle Arlo and keep Sophie company in the RV while she got ready for the show. She introduced me to the now famous Ben Cosgrove, who not only arranged and produced ellery, but also played too many instruments on it to count. Max has been singing the praises of Ben for a long while now, so it was great to meet him and also to hear him play in person.

Mayo Street Arts filled in just as the show started, and the kind folks who work there had to fetch more and more seating from the back room to seat everyone, including a bunch of Max’s students from Breakwater School. Max opened the show by thanking us all for coming out and introducing Ben Cosgrove, who sat in for the entire show and wowed the crowd with his instrumental prowess. They opened with “Teem,” and Max told us that Ben really made that song happen—a difficult, instrumental piece that opens Max’s 2013 album, Burrow. Ben liked “Teem” and so learned it just by listening to it on his drive to Maine and then played it from memory at a show he and Max played together in Portland. Take a listen. You’ll start to understand how truly gifted Ben is.

Ben Cosgrove and Max Garcia Conover

Ben Cosgrove and Max Garcia Conover

Max is from Ellery, New York, and he told us that the album is about the idea of home and trying to belong somewhere. He called his new wife (!) Sophie Nelson onstage to sing “Amapolas, Part One” together. Max said this song (which means ‘poppies’ in Spanish) is meant to continue on in future albums. Sophie’s airy vocals are a nice juxtaposition to Max’s grittier sound. Ben accompanied them not only on piano but also on the flugelhorn at the same time.

Sophie Nelson joins Ben and Max

Sophie Nelson joins Ben and Max

Ben played a couple of songs solo. He said that his instrumental music is inspired by landscape and played two impressive piano pieces—“Montreal Song” and “Abilene.” I just drove cross country last month, and so I appreciated Ben’s introductory words about how disorienting it is to drive through Kansas. Max joined Ben onstage and read lyrics for one more of Ben’s songs—“The Contoured Shape of the Ground”—which I think Ben said he’d never played live before. They played “The Songs” from ellery before the break, which is a song about writing songs. I particularly like the driving tempo in the song and the lyric “they don’t want truth/just tell better lies.”

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Max called us back together after intermission and played “I Won’t Mess You Up”—a song he said is about getting married. He told us that growing up in Ellery he didn’t really know what a singer songwriter was, except he read about a guy who toured New York in a canoe with his ukulele. And then he pointed to Chris, the very sweet guy I’d been sitting with, and welcomed him to the stage! Chris Bell didn’t have his ukulele with him, but played a couple of bold, looping songs with his electric cello and a serious array of foot pedals instead.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

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Max told a story about driving home to upstate New York with Sophie and Arlo when their car died with an hour to go in the middle of the night. Sophie fell asleep in the tow truck and soon, so did the driver. Max, feeling a need to protect his new wife, had to break out of his shell to engage the driver in conversation to keep him awake. He didn’t know where to start, so he just asked him about the gigantic crack down the middle of the windshield. It worked. Max invited Sammie Francis-Taylor to the stage to play shaker on “Say That You Know Me,” which is partially about having to connect with people even when you don’t know how or even really want to.

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I was really excited when Max started to introduce “Wildfires Outside Laramie, WY.” It’s one of those songs that cuts right to the heart of the matter and is one of my favorites of all of Max’s songs. He said it’s about when you can’t find common ground. He also told us that he just booked a gig in Laramie, and I’ll be interested to hear how playing that song there goes. It’s a heavy one.

Max, Sophie, and Ben left the stage and said goodnight, but we weren’t ready for the night to end. They came back and played another favorite, the very lovely “You’re the Farthest I Go” and went right into “Evelyn O.” to end their encore. I loved watching Sophie and Max looking at each other with sideways glances and knowing smiles during the songs they sang together. It is really sweet, how those two are together. It was a real treat to be there for this sendoff show. We didn’t get in our traditional Mayo Street sing along! I’ve gotten used to belting out the chorus on “The Start of Fables,” but Max wanted to be sure he built in some time for us all to hang out after the show since they’re off on tour for so long. Miss you guys already. Thanks for a great night!

xo,

bree

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