Monthly Archives: May 2012

What Bree Sees presents its first concert next Wednesday!

Well this is exciting! Max Garcia Conover and JAW GEMS are having a show next Wednesday, June 6, at One Longfellow Square in Portland. I’m a humongous MGC fan (which you all know), so he asked me to officially sponsor the event. You should really come! Max is decidedly folk and JAW GEMS is pretty experimental with pop and jazz influences. It will be a really cool, very diverse night of music. There’s a Bowdoin thread, too–I’m Bowdoin 2001, Max is Bowdoin 2009, and Hassan Muhammad from JAW GEMS is Bowdoin 2010. Colby kids are welcome, though–I promise. Tickets are affordable at $8 in advance. You can get them here, and I also have about eight more $8 tickets  currently in my possession (so let me know if you want one of mine!). Tickets will be $10 at the door. If you need more incentive, both groups were nominated for awards from The Portland Phoenix–MGC for Best New Act and JAW GEMS for Best Jazz Group. Don’t miss it! I’ll see you there next week!



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anna & the diggs

Monday, April 30, 2012

Slates, Hallowell, Maine

*Sorry for the delay on recapping this show that I saw two weeks ago. I was already pretty behind on blogging at that point because I went to Eastern Europe with 13 amazing seniors from Mt. Ararat during April vacation and came home to jet lag and then my birthday (which I was able to eke ten solid days of celebration out of). I threw a prom for 300 seniors two nights ago because I’m the senior class advisor this year, and I thought I’d catch up on blogging to wind down from my busy (and hugely successful) prom weekend.*

I’m basically always up for going to a show alone, especially at small venues. I generally like chatting with people sitting near me at places like One Longfellow Square or Frontier. I’ve seen lots of Maine Music posts on Facebook in the last few months about anna & the diggs. I liked the songs they’d posted, and I loved Anna’s voice. When I saw that they were doing a Monday night show at Slates in Hallowell (a mere five miles from my house), I was in.

Their Facebook page gives a little background about anna & the diggs—“comprised of members from the alt-country/americana troupe known as Gypsy Tailwind, is a Portland-based super group that is a perfect blend of deeply expressive and soulful rock, rhythm & blues. . . The band consists of Maxwell Cantlin (guitar/vocals), Colin Winsor (bass guitar), Chris Dow (drums), Benjamin Trout (mandolin) and Anna Lombard (lead vocals/guitar).”

I saw Gypsy Tailwind open for Guster a couple of years ago, but Anna had left the group by then and Amanda Gervasi was the lead vocalist. I think there’s probably a bit of a back story here, and not only because Dispatch magazine recently gave anna & the diggs a pretty negative album review. I suspect there’s a bit of a music “scene” in Portland with its own drama, and I don’t care to get involved. I’m not interested in judging music based on personality or history. What I heard two Monday nights ago was nothing short of impressive.

I grabbed a seat at Slates around 8pm. There was a modest crowd for a Monday night show. Anna & the diggs’ sound is very much R&B/soul. There was a lot of head bobbing in the room as the small, but appreciative audience listened intently. I was completely caught off guard by how powerful Anna’s voice is. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised because I’d heard a few of their tracks, but her breathy, clear voice is truly phenomenal. I see a show a week and have seen Adele, Brandi Carlile, and Joy Williams of The Civil Wars in the last year, and Anna’s voice is right up there with those powerhouses. I am not at all surprised that she’s nominated for Portland’s Best Female Vocalist in the Portland Phoenix’s “Best of 2012.” I will be surprised, though, if she doesn’t win.

anna & the diggs (minus Ben on mandolin)

I thought the songs were simple, but catchy. The power in the songs is definitely in Anna’s voice for me. Since they’re in the process of releasing their first EP, “River Girl,” I think they did a good job introducing us to their songs. They opened with “How Will I Know” and “I’m Waiting For You.” They “grooved it up” for us with “Here We Are” which transitioned right into “I Will Be Here.” They did a brand new song that they recorded at Slates, “We Were So Much Younger Then,” that Anna said was about being with someone for a long time and remembering when the love was new. It has the lyric “You know I’d give anything if we could meet back there.” It came off as bittersweet, but Anna assured us it was meant to be a “feel good song.”

Anna profusely complimented the band, and they sounded great. It’s clear they’ve been together a long time. They read each other well and had great interplay. They revamped one of Anna’s songs, “Nothing Of Us Left,” from her solo album. It seemed like a conversation between her and the guys. I got a great vibe from them, and they laughed a lot and seemed to really enjoy playing with each other. When they finished the song, Anna chuckled and let us know that they’d learned it in the parking lot before the show.

anna & the diggs

Anna said she loves Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi, and she and the guys did a great cover of Tedeschi Trucks Band’s “Midnight in Harlem.” I loved “All For You”—it was a decidedly pretty song (and more folky than jazzy, so more my thing) and Max’s voice sounded great during a refrain of “all for you.” It had a great line—“Your heart is my shield/Don’t leave me now.”

They joked that our show was a “T-Shirt Release Party” because they’d picked up new t-shirts just before the show. Their EP, “River Girl,” is out now (or very soon) at Bull Moose, and they are having an EP release show Saturday, June 2 at The Big Easy. They played “Lord Save the Day,” and I took note during that song how great they sounded that night. Seeing this group in a listening room is the way to go if, like me, you’re interested in lyrics. I could hear every word, and I loved getting to really appreciate anna & the diggs’ music for the first time in such an intimate setting.

Anna said she’d streamed Bonnie Raitt’s newest album, Slipstream, on NPR Music and wrote another brand new song—a Bonnie Raitt-inspired song that I loved called something like “Put It All On The Line.” They followed with a cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” They did “To Feel Alive” and rocked out on “Taste,” which reminded me (quite happily) of Grace Potter. Anna said she’d initially thought it was weird that no one was ignoring them because they’re used to playing at loud bars. We were also a particularly attentive crowd (and I’m always happy to be part of one). They wrapped up with “River Girl,” and I loved Max’s great guitar part. You can check out anna & the diggs’ songs “Are You Okay?,” “To Feel Alive,” and “River Girl” on their website.

The appreciative crowd and I asked for an encore, and anna & the diggs obliged with an awesome, funky version of “Mercedes Benz.” The rowdy front table across the room from me even helped out the band with a spoon introduction. It was a fabulous night of great music, incredible vocals, camaraderie, and I even got home at 10pm on a school night for a change. If you’re able to see anna & the diggs live, do. They put on a great show.



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Max Garcia Conover with Morris and the East Coast

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Frontier, Brunswick, Maine

*I wanted to be sure to get this post up today in honor of Max’s 25th birthday! Max, you’re one of the greatest guys I know. Happy Birthday!*

I think you all know by now that I’m one of Max Garcia Conover’s biggest fans. I’ve sort of written the book on Max and how awesome he is, so I’ll try to keep my comments about him brief. I even stayed home from the second annual Belfast Free Range Music Festival so I could catch Max’s show in Brunswick at Frontier—but it was also because I really wanted to see Morris and the East Coast live. I first learned about Morris and the East Coast through Max’s “Sunday Sessions.” He records a new song every weekend and fans can download it for free for the week. A couple of months ago, Max released “Hundred Mile House” by Chris Morris on “Sunday Sessions.” I love the song. I am drawn to Chris’ voice and his catchy and intelligent lyrics. Max and Chris met through a mutual friend, and Max recently went to Providence (the home base for Morris and the East Coast) for a show. The show at Frontier was Morris and the East Coast’s chance to come to Maine in return.

Max let me know that they were planning to do a bunch of mini-concerts throughout Brunswick to advertise for the show at Frontier later that night. He asked if I wanted to join them and do some singing. I loved the idea and was totally in. I met everyone at Wild Oats. Morris and the East Coast (MEC) has quite an entourage, and everyone I met was lovely. The band is Chris Morris on vocals and guitar (he’s a sixth grade English teacher in real life), James Rutter on guitar, Ryan Crowley on bass (who didn’t have an upright bass to play acoustically on the mini tour, but carried the sandwich board beautifully), and Dave Davignon on drums and vocals. We toured Brunswick, stopping next at Gulf of Maine Books, Big Top, Gelato Fiasco, and Bowdoin College. People were receptive and I saw people tapping their feet and even singing along. We amassed quite a crowd at Gelato Fiasco, and lots of little kiddos were excited for some live music with their gelato. The famous Ivies Weekend concert was happening at Bowdoin at the same time, so campus was eerily deserted. We recorded a song next to the Bowdoin Polar Bear, though, just to prove we were there.

Morris and the East Coast at Wild Oats

Morris and the East Coast at Gulf of Maine Books

Max Garcia Conover at Gulf of Maine Books

A little acoustic MEC to go with your sandwiches

Lots of little kiddos enjoyed the show at Gelato Fiasco

Everyone loves Gelato Fiasco. Photo by Sophie Nelson.

Wandering the streets of Brunswick. Photo by Sophie Nelson.

Hardworking musicians. Photo by Sophie Nelson.

Prepping for the Polar Bear Sessions. Cameo by Ryan!

A MGC preview for Frontier’s dinner-goers

We made our way to Frontier for a delicious dinner and sound check. The guys decided to do one more mini show for early diners at Frontier. They sounded great, and had a full house for their show at 8. MEC, much like Max, has a devoted fan base, and there was an enthusiastic crowd that came up from Rhode Island and Boston to support the guys, sing along, and dance rowdily. I’d heard the guys playing acoustically all day, so I was a little surprised that their sound got a lot more rockin’ when they were all plugged it. It was great to hear Ryan on bass, too. He adds great depth to the music. I liked every one of their songs, and they also did a beautiful cover of “Harvest Moon.” I think MEC was a little caught off guard with how quiet we were overall. The loyal Max following is used to really listening to his lyrics, and we extended the courtesy to MEC. Chris said they’ve gotten used to playing in bars, so having a show in a listening room was really different for them. MEC played almost a dozen songs, and I was sad because I could only take seven of them home with me on their fantastic album, Wolf City. I’ve listened to this album dozens of times since their show, and I like it more every time. A number of people remarked (since I sold merch) how funny it was that their album has white birches on it. If you know Max’s music, you’ll get why it’s perfect, actually.

Morris and the East Coast

I was going to tell you my favorite songs on Wolf City, but I’d be listing essentially all of them. I do particularly like “Four-Hundred Ninety-Five,” “Summer Sweat Blues,” and “Fortune and Fate.” MEC wrapped up their set with two great songs—“Telephone,” which they’d played all day and is super catchy, and ended with a really powerful song, “Fortune and Fate.” I love the lyrics—“I know that there’s a difference between my fortune and my fate. . . I don’t you owe you nothing/I don’t owe nothing to anyone. . . And I’ll still be able to sing/And I’ll still be able to sing/And I’ll still be able to sing/And I’ll still be able to sing/And I want to bite the bullet/But I hate the way it tastes/And I may not got no money, honey/But the money don’t got none of me.” There’s a swelling instrumental section and a final, almost desperate, but also powerful refrain of “But you would take my name/And give it up for money on the stage.” The crowd got involved and sung that part along with the band. I think it was the perfect way to end their set. I know they brought fans with them, but they earned a bunch more at the show. I hope they’ll be back in Maine again soon.

Here is my sincerest attempt to speak briefly of Max. I told him I’d essentially write a set list. Let’s see. Max took the stage and played two songs unplugged from the floor. He opened with one of my favorites, “In City Light,” and then did “The Marshes.” He played “The Wide,” which has quickly become one of my favorites because the guitar part is so interesting and fabulous. Max pulled out an electric guitar and played “Hide,” “Evergreen Cemetery,” and “Burn.” I was surprised to see Max on an electric, and he confessed it was the third time he’d ever played it. He said that group of songs was about the process of making art and he mentioned that one of his role models who’d inspired him to write songs had put out some really bad albums lately, but also that art roots us in the world we live in. He asked Chris from MEC to come up to adjust the amp because he didn’t know how. It was precious.

Max Garcia Conover playing for a packed house at Frontier

Max playing an electric guitar?

Max, Chris, and Dave

Max played “Thatch House” and “For Blackwater Woods,” and then joked about how he’d plugged “The Creek Woman Poet” into software that analyzes songs to determine their market value, and that one had zero market potential. Sammie Francis joined him for “As Much a Rising Sun as a Setting One,” and literally tap-danced while waiting for Max to get his guitar in tune. Our friend Chris Bartlett also took the mic at some point to deliver a knock-knock joke while Max tuned. We’re those kinds of helpful friends, I guess? Max covered Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” which he’d played a lot that day during the traveling tour. He asked Chris and Dave from MEC to join him onstage to sing it, too. He closed his set with “Spiral Through the Wheat,” which I love because of its brashness on the “I won’t ever be done!” parts of the song. We asked for an encore, and Max obliged with “Barn,” which slowed us down and probably gave Frontier the only chance they were going to get to start to get rid of such an enthusiastic audience. We hung out for a while after the show, MEC fans and MGC fans intermingled. I think they’re a great pairing, and I know we’re all excited to see them share the stage again.



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Lost In The Trees with Poor Moon

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SPACE Gallery, Portland, Maine

*I’m still behind on blogging about shows. This show happened right before I took 13 amazing seniors from Mt. Ararat High School to Berlin, Prague, Krakow, and Budapest during April vacation. I came back and was jet lagged for about a week. Then I celebrated my birthday week and was too busy to write. I read that Christian Wargo (from Poor Moon and Fleet Foxes) and I have the same birthday. I hope it was great, Christian!*

Some shows are just magical, and this was definitely one of them. I am not a spontaneous person—a creature of habit and advance planner by nature, I am actually really surprised I ended up at this show at all. I was perusing my Facebook news feed on a Monday afternoon and saw a brilliant post by SPACE Gallery. It reminded us how Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver, Of Montreal, and Josh Ritter (just to name a few amazing acts) played at SPACE before moving on to play much bigger venues. They suggested that upcoming shows (such as Lost In The Trees) would be our “last chance to see these bands up close and intimate before they move on to bigger venues.” I already liked Lost In The Trees, so decided to take SPACE’s advice and go to the show.

Wise words from SPACE

I love Fleet Foxes, and was excited to learn that Seattle’s Poor Moon (the show opener) is a side project of two of its members. Sophie, Max, and I met for a quick slice at Otto’s and Sophie and I meandered over to SPACE with plenty of time to mingle and grab a drink before Poor Moon took the stage. I met a guy at the bar who I complimented on his fabulous Mad Bomber-esque hat. It turns out that he is the bass player for Poor Moon. We got to chat with Jonas for quite a while, actually, and he was super sweet. He spent most of the Lost In The Trees set with us, too, and when we left for the night, it felt like we’d spent the evening amongst friends.

Poor Moon was great. Their music is ethereal—the pace, their harmonies, the sound mix—it was all spot on. I enjoyed the sound effects, mandolin, industrial-sized shaker, xylophone, tambourine, and keys that gave them such a full sound. It was their first time in Maine, and they were friendly with the audience and thanked us for coming early to listen. I think my favorite song of the night was “Come Home,” which you can listen to in this video recorded at SXSW. The first two songs in the video are “Phantom Light” and “Clouds Below.”

Seattle’s Poor Moon

Poor Moon is quite a talented ensemble. Christian Wargo (Fleet Foxes’ bassist), Casey Wescott (Fleet Foxes’ keys/mandolin player), and brothers Ian and Peter Murray (The Christmas Cards) are joined by Jonas Haskins on bass, Jason Merculief on percussion, and audio wizard Jared Hankins. If you’re interested in a little background about how they came together, check out this interview with Christian. Their first EP, Illusion, is out now and you can listen to it here. If you can see them play out, do.

I’m a sucker for music with a string section (I will forever love Metallica’s S&M album), so Lost In The Trees already had a leg up on finding a spot in my heart. They played violin, cello, drums, guitar, keys, bass, tambourine, accordion, French horn, tuba, glockenspiel, and even some instruments I couldn’t identify. Their sound is rich and haunting (especially with Emma’s harmonies), and the lyrics are heavy. Their music was compelling and beautiful.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Lost In The Trees (LIIT) is led by Ari Picker, and he’s joined by Drew Anagnost, Leah Gibson, Mark Daumen, Emma Nadeau, Jenavieve Varga, and Yan Westerlund. Their first album, All Alone in an Empty House, was picked up and has been featured prominently on NPR Music. NPR appropriately dubbed LIIT “orchestral folk.” Check out their 2010 Tiny Desk Concert to get a taste of that album. NPR is a big fan of LIIT, and they even filmed Lost In The Trees’ show the night after we saw them at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. It is essentially the same show we saw, and you should really, really check it out.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Lost In The Trees

Anti-Records has a bio of Lost In The Trees on their website, and calls A Church That Fits Our Needs “a work of vaulting ambition, a cathedral built on loss and transformation. In the summer of 2009 Ari Picker – writer, composer, and architect of the band – lost his mother, an artist in her own right, when she took her own life. Picker was in the midst of releasing his band’s debut album, All Alone in an Empty House, a collection of folk-inflected songs that surprised with its orchestral arrangements, to an acclaim usually reserved for seasoned veterans.” I think I’m glad I learned about the tragic backdrop of this album after the show. I definitely felt that the music was heavy, but I didn’t know it was so autobiographical. I wonder how it must feel for Ari to get up and perform these songs each night. I hope it’s healing for him. Check out this interview with Ari about his mom and how A Church That Fits Our Needs creates space to process his loss. The first song on the album is “Red.” It contains the beautiful lyrics “A beautiful garden blooms/My dearest one/Your love carried me through today/I’ll give you the moon/Dearest one/Your love carried me through today.”

LIIT had never played in Maine before, and they bantered a little with us and made us feel welcome and appreciated. Ari said they’d played the night before in Burlington and that they were going to play a slow song and asked us not to “let Burlington out-dance” us. He lamented that they “should have brought a disco ball,” and like clockwork, SPACE’s disco ball started spinning and was lit up while they played a beautiful slow song. We were all mesmerized by the song and the lights. It was a lovely moment. They rocked out during their last song, but hopped off stage and came to the center of the room to play one more—“All Alone in an Empty House”—for us acoustically. Here’s a video of that song from my favorite west coast radio station, KEXP. It was an intimate, special ending to a beautiful night of storytelling and music. Lost In The Trees, please, please come back to Maine soon.



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Vote for Portland’s Best Music of 2012!

I’m a big fan of voting. My parents started taking me into polling booths with them when I was an infant. I’ve never not voted in an election–even in off-year elections. I remember voting absentee from my hut in northern Namibia when I studied abroad there in 1999–and it was just for Bangor City Council. I even had the opportunity to be an international election observer in Namibia’s 1999 presidential elections–the second-ever free elections there post-apartheid.

19 year-old me

So, we have the chance to vote for our favorite Portland-area music thanks to The Portland Phoenix. I think you should vote for whoever you like, but I do have some favorites! You can vote once a day until May 18th. Vote here:

My dear friend Max Garcia Conover is up for Best New Act! Good luck, Max! Check out all things Max related here. I’ve been voting once a day for him.

It’s natural to have favorites



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