Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine
*Long time, no see!? I know! I think I needed a break, because I haven’t posted in a month. In that time, my baby sister graduated from high school, my seniors at Mt. Ararat graduated, I went whitewater rafting, saw Max Garcia Conover with JAW GEMS, saw Laura Marling, visited college friends in Boston, saw two sets of fireworks, had many lunch and dinner dates with old friends, enjoyed a few beach days, read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, attended a Tweetup, babysat my favorite boxer, and prepared for my first summer job since I graduated from college teaching at Upward Bound at Bowdoin College. I’m teaching a “Community Engagement” class and a course in world religions, too. Wednesday was my first day, actually. Perhaps my least favorite thing that happened is that I accidentally (and apparently irreparably) deleted 12GB of photos and videos from my camera’s memory card—everything since early December 2011. I hadn’t uploaded any graduation pictures, June’s Max Garcia Conover/JAW GEMS show, or Laura Marling pictures yet, so those are gone. I’m pretty bummed. If you know someone who is a tech miracle worker, please shoot me an email, as I’d be thrilled to have some of those memories back.*
So, back to the music. I am trying to see fewer shows this year, and I only saw two in June. Let me catch you up on May first, though—
It often happens that I see a lot of shows all at once and then have a week or ten days with no shows to see at all. The Kathleen Edwards show was the last of three shows in four consecutive days. My dear friend and frequent concert buddy Michelle got me a ticket for this show as an early birthday present. We carpooled from Brunswick with Chris and Kay and had a delicious dinner at Taco Escobarr and were positioned in the front row center at Port City Music Hall when Hannah took the stage.
I started to wonder if Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) might show up during Kathleen’s set and sing a song or two with her. I think people know that they are an item and he co-produced her most recent album with her. I was simultaneously hoping he’d show and also terrified and overwhelmed with the thought of seeing him from five feet away and potentially passing out. Spoiler alert: Bon Iver did not take the stage, and I still haven’t been able to see him live. I got an email while writing this post, though, that Bon Iver will be playing the Bank of America Pavillion in September. My seat’s in the fourth row. Crisis averted.
Hannah Georgas took the stage and I was immediately struck by her Bjork-y voice. Her sound was surely electronic: she and her band mate, Ted Gowans, both played electric guitars, keys, and used a drum kit and effects pedal. They’d had a couple of days off in Portland before the show and said it reminded them of Vancouver, their hometown. Hannah outed Ted about going to see The Lucky One at the movie theatre earlier in the day. He said he only had a two-hour window, so it was his only option. He may even have called seeing this film an “accident.” I figure any movie with a shirtless Zac Efron is probably worth watching—at least with a fast forward option. Let me go ahead and put that in my Netflix queue, actually, and Magic Mike, too. I also very much enjoyed Hot Tub Time Machine, which I saw with Michelle last week. Perhaps now you’re relieved I’m writing a music and not a movie blog.
I couldn’t understand the lyrics of the first few songs Hannah and Ted played—I think the mix was off a bit. I liked the third song they played—it was more of a ballad. Maybe it was called “Buried”? I liked them more with every song, but their electronic sound is really not my thing. I think this song, “Bang Bang You’re Dead” gives a good sense of their style. Hannah told us this show marked the end of a four-month tour with fellow Canadian Kathleen Edwards. They seemed to have a great relationship with the Kathleen Edwards team, and were sad the run was almost over. Ted played a really cool accordion-like instrument on “Shine,” and Jim Bryson from Kathleen’s band joined them on ukulele for “The Deep End.” I looked at some of Hannah’s videos on YouTube and they are much more stripped down than her live performance. I preferred these versions (no surprise, there!) of songs like “The Beat Stuff” and “The Deep End.” Here’s an interview with Hannah, too.
I hadn’t seen Kathleen Edwards in almost a decade. I saw her with Beth Orton, As Fast As, and Crash Test Dummies at the State Theatre in 2003. She took the stage and played three songs before talking to the crowd. Kathleen commands the stage and plays with intensity. She told us she’d seen a bottle of it at Whole Foods while shopping earlier, so decided to play “Pink Champagne,” a song she rarely plays out. They’d certainly had time to explore Portland, and Kathleen said she’d wanted to take the band out somewhere nice for Jim’s birthday, and decided on Flatbread because Fore St. was too expensive. They enjoyed a soak at Soakology first, too, which I imagine was adorable band bonding time.
Kathleen and her band rocked out and then did a few ballads. They were able to go back and forth seamlessly—it felt coherent and even. I especially loved “12 Bellevue.” She played a beautiful rendition of “Mercury,” definitely one of my favorite KE songs with just Jim accompanying her. Here’s a video of KE and Bon Iver performing “Mercury” together. I loved “House Full of Empty Rooms,” and appreciated that KE told us what it was about for her. She talked about how she’d thought it was a major life accomplishment when she bought a home, but realized it’s “just a place where you try to make beautiful things happen.” I loved “Going to Hell” and “Soft Place to Land” too. This “Soft Place to Land” video shows you the full band we saw that night, including Hannah on backing vocals.
Charlie was a very special audience member trying to steal KE’s thunder. He called out lyrics from “Back to Me” to KE over and over again. I’m not sure he knew the title of the song, actually. She finally called out to him to come to the stage and told him the name of the song and said, “I know the words. I wrote it.” Then she had to kick Charlie off the stage while she played the song. I’m not sure what Charlie’s deal was, but he was so outrageous that it was nearly entertaining (it was obviously mostly annoying). Since KE spoke to him directly and called him to the stage, he was quite emboldened, and he snuck up onstage and tried to take Hannah’s mic from her during “Change the Sheets.” The sound engineer eventually had to cross the front of the stage to get Charlie off stage because there wasn’t a Port City Music Employee in sight to do it. “Change the Sheets” has quickly become one of my all-time favorite songs and I was kind of furious that Charlie interfered with it. KE wasn’t all that amused, either—she somewhat sarcastically gave Charlie a thumbs up for his impromptu performance and then told him to “get the F%$* off the stage.” I would decidedly not mess with Kathleen Edwards. Just saying.
I heard “Change the Sheets” yesterday on my way to beautiful Reid State Park in Georgetown (did I type some of this post while sitting ON the beach?), and think it’s so easy to relate to the song. “My love is a stockpile of broken wills/Like Santa Fe, margaritas and sleeping pills/I want to lie in the cracks of this lonely road/I can fill in the blanks every time you don’t phone/Here is the truth, I swear it used to be fun/Go ahead run, run, run, run/Change this feeling under my feet/Change the sheets and then change me.” It’s really a stunning song.
KE and her rocking band came back for an encore and played “Six O’Clock News.” She said she doesn’t play it much these days and flubbed the lyrics a bit. She joked about how much she loved Whole Foods and said the band was going to do picklebacks (whiskey shots followed by pickle juice) for Howard’s birthday at midnight. Next, they covered Big Star’s “September Gurls.” KE saw a couple near the front and recognized them from a few nights back at her gig in Boston. She asked them what they wanted to hear. I thought that was a really classy move. They asked for “The Cheapest Key” and she readily obliged. She closed the night with Iris DeMent’s “Our Town.” Her voice and sincerity commanded our attention and you could have heard a pin drop at Port City. Even Charlie was not to be heard.
KE and the band thanked us for being good to them and took their leave. Thinking back to the show (wow—two months ago), I was totally caught off guard by how sassy and rocking KE and her band were. I love acoustic music (I know you know this already) and I prefer her earlier stuff, but I appreciate her evolution as a musician. Her newest album, Voyageur, is great. She has confidence and really puts on a show. Definitely catch her live.