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The Lone Bellow

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

South Church, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Lone Bellow is my favorite band and I nearly missed the chance to see them play just a couple of hours from home! My dear friend Ken asked me when I saw him at Josh Ritter’s show on July 12th if I was planning to see The Lone Bellow as part of the Prescott Park Concert Series in Portsmouth a few days later. It hadn’t been on my radar, so Ken gets a gold star! Thanks, Ken! I taught at Upward Bound at Bowdoin College on Wednesday morning, had a great lunch with my good friend Sarah, and then headed south to Portsmouth to be in line early so I could get a good spot for the show. Since there was rain in the forecast, Prescott Park Arts worked feverishly to move the show inside to the beautiful South Church on Main Street in downtown Portsmouth. I found a fantastic parking spot just across a parking lot from the church and saw a small group of people gathered on the stairs when I got there. As I stepped out of my car I could hear the sweet sounds of The Lone Bellow’s sound check! The doors to the sanctuary were open, and it was quite a treat to get to hear them play for a bit!

South Church from my parking spot

South Church from my parking spot

I grabbed a spot in line and waited for the doors to open at 5. Since I’m not a Prescott Park Arts Festival member and hadn’t paid for their “reserve a blanket” program (since I’d figured we’d be outside and I’d get there many hours early), my seating choices (even though I was one of the first ten people inside) were limited to seats that weren’t front and center. You won’t be surprised if you’re a regular reader to know that I actually tested out the view from many seats before settling on an elevated section of seating stage left about six pews back in order to see the faces of everyone in the band. I read my friend Sarah’s dad’s new book of poetry for a while and was eventually joined by Mary (a Kindergarten teacher!) and then her husband Henry who told me about their son and his band in Maine. My concert friend Colin eventually joined me for the show and even brought me some snacks since I’d skipped dinner to get our seats. Thanks, Colin!

South Church is lovely

South Church is lovely

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A good read!

A good read!

Thanks for dinner, Colin! You're a lifesaver!

Thanks for dinner, Colin! You’re a lifesaver!

Baby's first concert?!

Baby’s first concert?!

The church was packed by show time. The temperature quickly rose and only got hotter when The Lone Bellow took the stage. The last time I’d seen The Lone Bellowwas back in February at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, and the fans they’d earned that night were back out in full force and had all brought friends. The Lone Bellow was introduced by Rita Carey from 92.5 The River and they got a standing ovation as they approached the stage. I don’t know if I’ve seen a standing O to start a show! It was abundantly clear that this crowd was jazzed and ready for a great night. I had a moment of pause as the show started and Zach sang the opening lyrics of the night—“I let you go/Hope you come back to me”—because their music is visceral and I am going through a break up and wondered if I’d get “all kinds of emotional” during the show. I’m happy (and a little surprised) to report that I made it and was pretty giddy for the rest of the night. In fact, I don’t think I had a conscious thought about anything other than the show for the duration. The Lone Bellow, well, they’ll cure what ails you. There is not another band out there right now that puts on the live show that The Lone Bellow does. They do not hold anything back. It is beyond a pleasure to see them live and I’d go see them night after night if I could.

The Lone Bellow!

The Lone Bellow!

The view from my seat

The view from my seat

Balcony view

Balcony view

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Front row view

Front row view

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Colin kept track of the night’s set list and posted it on setlist.fm:

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Everyone was up on their feet clapping during “Green Eyes and Heart of Gold.” I’ve always described seeing The Lone Bellow as a spiritual experience and have said that their show feels like going to a revival, but this venue took that feeling to a whole new level! I was over the moon when Zach, Brian, and Kanene unplugged and walked to the center of the room (in line with my seat) to play “Watch Over Us” and “Two Sides of Lonely” acoustically. Both were breathtaking. Their passion is palpable. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.

Everyone on their feet for "Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold"

Everyone on their feet for “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold”

Gorgeous light

Gorgeous light

Getting ready for "Watch Over Us"

Getting ready for “Watch Over Us”

This sequence of photos is my favorite from the night. Look at that passion. They give 110%.

This sequence of photos is my favorite from the night. Look at that passion. They give 110%.

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The crowd roared as Zach, Brian, and Kanene head back to the stage to play another of my favorites, “Tree To Grow,” which included some audience participation during the “a tree I’ll grow to let you know my love is older than my soul” refrain. After we belted out the “ba ba das” during “Bleeding Out,” Zach checked in with us to see if anyone had fainted or needed water. It was very sweet. They played their radio hit “You Never Need Nobody” next and then let us know that they’re recording their sophomore album with Aaron Dessner from The National and hope to have it out in January. Zach joked that they’d recorded 19 songs but could only afford to put 13 on the new album. I learned at their last show that their self-titled debut album was funded as a Kickstarter project. Lucky us that the project got funded, right!? Zach also joked about their drummer Brian’s hobbies and let us know that both he and their tour manager were single and looking. They wrapped their incredible set with “The One You Should Have Let Go” and left the stage as the crowd genuinely went wild.

The band came back to the stage and thanked us profusely for a beautiful night before playing their cover of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ “Islands in the Stream.” Zach, Brian, and Kanene unplugged and went back to the center of the room to play “Teach Me to Know” standing on a pew surrounded by thrilled onlookers. The crowd joyfully joined them during the “carried away” refrain and we sang it over and over again, (I think) hoping to make the night last as long as possible. What a beautiful evening of heart-wrenching, hopeful music from some of the most gifted, enthusiastic, giving musicians you could possibly see live. Thank you to everyone who made this very special evening possible!

xo,

bree

P.S.—In case you need more convincing, check out The Lone Bellow’s full show at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston that Front Row Boston just debuted. You will surely be impressed, and sad you missed it live!

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Josh Ritter

Saturday, July 12, 2014

L.L.Bean, Freeport, Maine

I hadn’t seen a show in almost two months (anyone else feel like concert offerings this spring were slim?), so when our friend Bartlett sent a group email invite to join him for Josh Ritter at L.L.Bean, I decided to go for it even though I usually boycott those shows. (I really wish L.L.Bean would build an amphitheater worthy of the great artists they bring to Freeport). Of course, in true Bartlett fashion, he was the last one to join us before the show for a group dinner at Grittys. Michelle has been housesitting in Freeport, so she went at midnight to set up a blanket for the group and got us as good a spot as is possible at an L.L.Bean show. As we arrived at our awesome spot (thanks, Michelle!), students of mine at an adjacent blanket chimed “Hi, Ms. Candland!” in unison—it was nice to see you, girls! AH! I almost missed the most important detail of the entire night—this was almost six-week-old Mira’s FIRST CONCERT!

Mira's first concert!

Mira’s first concert!

Most of the gang had never seen Josh Ritter, but wanted to see him because we know that our dear friend and gifted singer songwriter Max Garcia Conover (who sadly couldn’t make it due to car trouble) credits Josh as one of his strongest musical influences. Josh Ritter is always a pleasure to see live. I don’t there’s a person happier to be on stage performing than he is—Josh is most often seen smiling from ear to ear. There’s something nice about being around that kind of joy that makes me go back to Josh’s shows time after time. My friend Grace was also excited to be working that night—her sign language interpreting during the show was a blast to watch!

This is the best view a blanket set out at midnight will get you at an L.L.Bean show.

This is the best view a blanket set out at midnight will get you at an L.L.Bean show.

Max Garcia Conover and Josh Ritter. May 2013. Courtesy of Chris Bartlett.

Max Garcia Conover and Josh Ritter. May 2013. Courtesy of Chris Bartlett.

Grace was so expressive!

Grace was so expressive!

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“Hopeful” was the first song of the night and it’s one of my favorites. Josh talked about how thrilled he was to be playing with his fabulous band and it was great to see those familiar faces on stage, too. Multi-talented Austin Nevins is incredibly gifted on guitar (here’s my post from a show Austin played with Dietrich Strause and Max). Sam Kassirer not only plays keys with Josh, but also produces amazing music from the likes of Josh, David Wax Museum, and Lake Street Dive at The Great North Sound Society in rural Parsonfield, Maine.

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“Here at the Right Time” and “Change of Time” were both lovely. Josh joked about being from Idaho, who are a “proud seafaring people” from the banks of ancient Lake Idaho. I took a peek behind me and noticed my dear friend Ken and his kiddo Liam dancing and singing along. I ran over to join them for a “Kathleen” sing-a-long.

The view from the dancing section.

The view from the dancing section.

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These two.

These two.

Josh talked about how much he loves Maine and said that he’s not allowed near sharp objects during recording sessions (at Sam’s place in Parsonfield) because it often ends badly. During a recording session, he opened a can of beans and cut himself badly enough that he needed medical attention, and instead of driving the hour to the nearest hospital, a kind veterinarian sewed him back together. Sounds like a perfectly Maine scenario to me. They wrapped their set with another of my top favorites, “Joy To You Baby,” which particularly resonated with me as a recently brokenhearted single person–“There’s pain in whatever/We stumble upon/If I never had met you/You couldn’t have gone/But then I couldn’t have met you/We couldn’t have been/I guess it all adds up/To joy to the end.” It’s easier hearing wisdom about love and loss come from Josh’s beaming face, somehow.

They said goodnight, but came back to serenade us with “The Temptation of Adam” and to rock out on “To the Dogs or Whoever.” My friend Colin (who I met because of whatbreesees.com–lucky me!) posted a set list from the night on setlist.fm (in case you’re curious about what you missed). So glad for a much needed night out with good friends and good music.

xo,

bree

 

Thanks, Colin!

Thanks, Colin!

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Ellis Paul

Friday, May 16, 2014

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

I’d submitted my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards recertification portfolio earlier in the day after months of work and decided to treat myself to my 42nd Ellis Paul show not even half a mile from my house at Johnson Hall in downtown Gardiner. My dear friend Megan joined me, and since I’d just seen Ellis two months earlier, she agreed to write the show recap. Megan is also a fourth year PsyD graduate student and the incredibly creative mastermind behind Pencil Events (and this is wedding season), so I suspect her post will come in time. My sweetie called just before the show to tell me he’d gone home sick and he sounded terrible, so I was worried and distracted. I offered to leave right then to go take care of him, but he insisted I stay and come later (which I did, laden with Gatorade, chicken soup, and crackers). Ellis chatted with us a lot that night. He’d just had his beautiful guitar, Guinness, severely damaged by an airline and was working on a commencement speech and alma mater song for the University of Maine at Presque Isle that he’d be debuting the next day. You can read his speech here. Ellis wowed the audience, as always, and even graciously came over to say hello after the show. Always looking forward to my next Ellis show.

xo,

bree

Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul

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An unplugged encore

An unplugged encore

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Katie Herzig, Elizabeth and the Catapult, and Keelan Donovan

Friday, May 9, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

*I finished my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Recertification Portfolio! Back to seeing shows and writing recaps! YAY! I’m in Jersey City for the long weekend visiting my best friend. We rode a carousel and enjoyed the view of NYC from the waterfront. Seeing Book of Mormon tomorrow!*

I’d missed Katie Herzig at Empire two years ago and have been kicking myself ever since. Her albums The Waking Sleep (2011) and Apple Tree (2008) are in regular rotation on my iPod. I went to see The Head and the Heart that same night two years ago instead, and it was a strange, disconnected show. I was so was glad to finally be able to see Katie since she released Walk Through Walls in April and was on tour to support it.

Portland’s Keelan Donovan opened the show had a great voice. He engaged the audience and played guitar and a bit of harmonica. I especially liked the song he wrote for his godson (his sister’s son) on the night of his birth. Keelan is living and playing in Nashville these days.

Keelan Donovan

Keelan Donovan

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I’d seen Elizabeth and the Catapult open for Sara Bareilles back in April of 2011 at State Theatre and remembered that I’d liked her and was looking forward to see her again. Elizabeth Ziman’s voice is strong and clear, and her chops on the keys are impressive. I bet she’s classically trained. She used vocal looping to make her sound interesting, and she told us that the band was sick (with food poisoning or the flu, she guessed) and they were down to bare bones with just herself and Dave (?) on drums. I’m not sure he’s even in her band, but he had charisma, too.

Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and the Catapult

Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and the Catapult

Elizabeth sang “Like It Never Happened” that had some harsh language, including, “wish I didn’t give a shit” and then laughed and told us it was funny trying to sing it on NPR. Elizabeth was really engaging—funny and chatty all set long. I liked her silly song about bed bugs that reminded me of the dramatic music you’d hear at the circus. E told us they’d thought they were opening for Katie Herzig the night before in Connecticut but got there and found out they weren’t, so they drove straight to Maine and had a great, full day visiting Portland Headlight, Hot Suppa, Portland Museum of Art, Hot Suppa (again, to pick up more maple syrup lattes), and Eventide to get lobster rolls.

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I liked E’s solo cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” with looping effects. Elizabeth really played amazing piano on “You Can Trust Me Now.” I finally Googled her—she went to Berklee. I’m not surprised. She was really talented and had a lot of showmanship, too. She ended her set with her “future top 40 song about Ryan Gosling” called “Ry-ry.” We all chuckled while she sang,“I first saw you in the Mickey Mouse Club when I was 9. And I was in love cause you were so fine. I knew it was only in my mind, in my heart, in my soul–that you could dance, dance, dance, dance—better than Justin Timberlake. This much was true.”Elizabeth was engaging and talented—a great combination.

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Katie Herzig and her four person band took the stage. They each played SO MANY INSTRUMENTS—from guitar and bass to ukulele and cello, clarinet, and was that a French horn? Not to mention all of the computer effects they worked with. They had a very full sound and everyone sounded great. I was a little surprised by how little Katie said to the crowd. I think we were a solid ten songs in before she said more than a few sentences to the crowd. I am such a folk music lover that I long for interaction with an artist onstage—I want to hear stories about the songs and banter about what they’re up to on tour. That engagement brings the songs to life for me.

Katie Herzig

Katie Herzig

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“I Hurt Too” sounded beautiful and was one of my favorite songs of the night. It was followed up by another favorite of the evening, including lush orchestration—“Closest I Get.” Katie eventually did talk a little bit about the relevance of the new album in her life. She talked about the video shoot for “Walk Through Walls” which was filmed in Mexico at poet and artist Edward James’ quirky rainforest estate, Las Pozas. Katie looks downright disturbing in the video and when her dad saw it and said as much, so she showed him videos of Lady Gaga so he’d see it could have been worse. For as much as Katie was quiet during the show, when she did speak, it was personal. She told us that her mom had passed away after the last album came out and she immediately went on tour for a year and a half and wasn’t writing new music. She was inspired by seeing Radiohead and Feist at Bonnaroo to finally write again, so she went back into the studio and “Forgiveness” came to her first—it’s the first song on the new album. I especially liked the lyric “are we building walls or bridges.”

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Katie played ukulele on “Wasting Time” and the lyrics are complex–“How do you push away without a shove/It’s easier wasting time than breaking hearts you love.” Katie thanked Keelan and Elizabeth for opening the show and told us that they she and the band also live in Nashville. She introduced her talented, cohesive band to the crowd. I’d enjoyed their solid harmonies all night. She told us about an organization she cares about called Mocha Club, which provides clean water and other resources for people in Africa. She told us that if we signed up to support Mocha Club we could take anything from the merch table we wanted for free. I was so glad to hear “Lost and Found”–that song has power. Katie and the band said goodbye and left the stage.

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Everyone came back to the stage for an encore and Katie saw a little girl in the front who had been singing along all night long with her brother and sang “Human Too” for her. I was pumped when I heard the introductory notes play to “Wish You Well.” It’s one of my favorite songs and I was really glad to hear it live. Katie did a little freestyle rap about lobster rolls and mentioned they’d just played live on an episode of Big Morning Buzz with Nick Lachey on VH1. They wrapped the night with “Best Day of Your Life.”

I’m glad I finally got to see Katie Herzig live. Some of her songs have been important to me for years and it was nice to hear them sung in person.

xo,

bree

Setlist

Setlist

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Putnam Smith

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

Jeff and his boys spoiled me with a daytrip to Peaks Island for my 34th birthday. They packed a picnic lunch and birthday cupcakes and we walked the beach and played at the playground. We made it to the ferry just in time to see the sky turn from blue and sunny to dark and about to downpour. I made my way home to Gardiner to meet friends at Vintage Wine Bar to enjoy a glass of wine before the Putnam Smith show at Johnson Hall. The kind folks at Pastaz (who make great, homemade Italian food) made me a plate of gnocchi to go during a busy dinner shift so I could have some dinner before the show.

Peaks Island birthday adventuring!

Peaks Island birthday adventuring!

34 is off to a great start!

34 is off to a great start!

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No Saturday is complete without at least one trip to the playground.

No Saturday is complete without at least one trip to the playground.

I’d somehow not seen Maine’s own Putnam Smith live before. (Check out this pre-show interview Putnam did with Kennebec Journal’s Lucky Clark.) Putnam’s a mulit-instrumentalist traditional folk musician with an old soul. He talked about being a homesteader in Durham—farming, canning, and even letter pressing his own CD covers with a “small” 1901 800-pound letterpress he bought from Uncle Henry himself. Putnam said he usually stands to play, but he’d helped a friend move and woke up with a bad back. He thought he’d have to cancel the show, but discovered he was able to find a comfortable position to sit and play if he used a couch cushion he brought with him from home.

Putnam Smith

Putnam Smith

April Reed-Cox and Putnam

April Reed-Cox and Putnam

April Reed-Cox joined Putnam on stage all night and was a glorious cellist. My childhood decision to quit playing violin after just a year haunted me all night long. Putnam played a number of instruments and some of them were family heirlooms—his great grandfather’s banjo from the 1880’s, a fretless banjo, and a mandolin. I appreciated his song “Gold Rush” about the importance of the family farm and in which the grandpa’s farm in torn down to build luxury estates. “The Stars Will Line Up Someday” was my favorite song of the night. The line I was most drawn to was “your father joked maybe you’ll hit big shot fame, but what he really meant was—punch the clock and pay the rent and suffer his fate.”

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Putnam played some songs in mountain tuning and they were appropriately old timey. He played “Arkansas” for us and said he’d written it in one sitting before finishing his morning coffee. We chuckled knowingly as Putnam introduced “Lawnmower Repair” with a story about his broken lawnmower. As Mainers, we certainly know the value of our tools—the Valentine’s Day morning storm of 2014 put my snow blower out of commission for weeks!

I got a message from Jeff that he and the boys were back at my place (an unexpected surprise), so when Putnam said we were going to have an intermission, I decided that was my cue to leave. When I got home, there were five deer—does and fawns—in my backyard! I kept the lights of my car on so I could see them and I stood out on the porch and enjoyed their company for far longer than I thought they’d stay. I was in bed and asleep by 10 pm—tired from a fun birthday!

xo,

bree

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Support Max Garcia Conover’s crowd-funded album, Ellery

MGC

Max Garcia Conover at One Longfellow Square. November 2013.

Max Garcia Conover at One Longfellow Square. November 2013.

We have just 23 days left to support Max Garcia Conover’s upcoming album, Ellery. I’m really excited to have “You’re the Farthest I Go” and “Wildfires Outside Laramie, WY” on CD so I can listen again and again to these beautiful songs featuring the lovely vocals of Sophie Nelson. You can support Max’s campaign at a variety of levels, and he’ll send you unlimited free copies of Ellery to give to friends or leave behind in a local coffee shop for strangers to discover. Let’s help Max get this album done right!

xo,

bree

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My posts about Max–wow, I’ve seen him a lot!

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David Wax Museum

Friday, April 18, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’d heard good things, but had never seen David Wax Museum and was also quite unfamiliar with their music. I’m so glad I got to remedy that situation and finally see them live—what a blast! I absolutely recommend you check them out when they’re in your town! I knew they’d won an online contest to play Newport Folk Festival in 2010 and were so impressive that they were invited back in 2011. They were even named one of the “25 Best Live Acts of 2011” by Paste Magazine. They were so much fun to see.

This was a perfect start to the beginning of my April vacation! I got to catch up with Nate over gelato at The Gelato Fiasco, had tea with Megan, and met Andrea at Empire in Portland for dinner before the show. We had a delicious meal (as always) and were entertained and confused by a very outgoing woman at the table adjacent to us who kept bothering women around her to sign for a picture (in American sign language) the hashtag her husband “invented” for himself—wait for it–#mattisadick. The production easily lasted twenty minutes and at least half of the restaurant was involved or at least watching with curiosity. The good news is that the hashtag fiasco was an icebreaker and Andrea and I met Vivian and Sheri (hi, ladies!!) at the table next to us who were pumped to be seeing David Wax Museum that night as well.

Empire's hot & sour soup

Empire’s hot & sour soup

Spinach dumplings

Spinach dumplings

Andrea and I made our way to Port City Music Hall and took our spot up front just as Boston’s Kingsley Flood was wrapping their set. We set our stuff down on the floor at the base of the stage as David Wax came by and dropped his earpiece (don’t worry—we helped him find it). The David Wax Museum is genuinely impressive live. They dance all over the place, smile constantly, have an obviously strong group dynamic, harmonize with ease, and play instruments beautifully and soulfully. I kept looking over at Andrea and smiling—totally caught off guard by how fun they were to be watching.

The David Wax Museum

The David Wax Museum

David Wax was all smiles

David Wax was all smiles

Suz Slezak with a donkey jawbone and Jordan Wax on accordion

Suz Slezak with a donkey jawbone and Jordan Wax on accordion

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David Wax and Suz Slezak form the core of The David Wax Museum (DWM). They met in 2007 (and are married with a five month old baby now) and make upbeat, harmonic, danceable music together. They call their music “Mexo-Americana,” which works just perfectly to explain what a leona (think ukulele), upright bass, percussion, fiddle, keys, accordion, and donkey jawbone combine to become. It’s so fun.

A fun Maine connection is that the last two of DWM’s albums (their most recent is Knock Knock Get Up) were made with Sam Kassirer at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonfield. If you saw Lake Street Dive play at The State Theatre, you got to see Sam playing keys with LSD on a couple of songs as he also produced their latest album. Sam was at the DWM show and the band was excited to see him and reminisce.

David said they hadn’t headlined a show in Portland in three years (there’s my excuse) and were glad to be back in town. I really liked “Beekeeper,” which is an older one of their songs that’s mellow and folky—just how I like my music. Jordan Wax (David’s cousin) played keys and accordion and led a whole-crowd dance along from the center of the floor (he taught us choreography, folks). Talk about a guy having a good time on (and off) stage. Greg Glassman on bass and Philip Mayer on drums (even a cajon drum at one point) rounded out the group on stage that night.

Jordan teaching us our dance part

Jordan teaching us our dance part

Jordan leads the audience in dance

Jordan leads the audience in dance

I was impressed by DWM’s songs in Spanish, but couldn’t keep up with them lyrically (boy, they sing fast when they get going!) as I tried to translate in my head. David told us that Suz toured until she was 37 weeks pregnant and that her dad is on tour with them and their little one to make it work for them to travel. They sang a song about parenthood called “Everything Changes.” I loved when they all gathered around a single mic and sang “Let Me Rest.” The whole band grabbed their instruments and walked to the center of the room to play an unplugged song for us. Talk about a band that knows how to work a crowd and make us feel like we’re part of something. Well done, DWM!

"Let Me Rest" around one mic

“Let Me Rest” around one mic

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Philip Mayer on cajon drum

Philip Mayer on cajon drum 

Unplugged in the crowd

Unplugged in the crowd

I loved the flamenco dance introduction on “Yes, Maria, Yes” and loved “Singing to Me,” a song they dedicated to Bart—a former road manager from Portland who was at the show and singing and dancing along all night long. They talked about how they wrote the song because Bart would say that Tift Merritt (who they’d opened for on tour) was “singing to me” and how much they loved the ability music has to cut right through and connect the artist to the audience. That perfectly sums up why I write whatbreesees!

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David thanked us and told us that one of their very first shows was up the street at One Longfellow Square six years ago. They asked us to sing along for their final song “Harder Before It Gets Easier.” We gleefully sang along and cheered for an encore. Suz and David came out to play “Lavender Street” as a duet (which was lovely and you can watch here). I loved the lyric “I need you like the grass needs the rain.” The rest of the band joined them for “Born With a Broken Heart,” which gave me the energy I needed to drive home late on a Friday night. What an awesome show. Thanks for coming, David Wax Museum! SO glad I didn’t miss out this time!

xo,

bree

Glad you enjoyed the show, too, DWM!

Glad you enjoyed the show, too, DWM!

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Run On Sentence

Monday, April 7, 2014

Slates, Hallowell, Maine

I was so happy to hear that Dustin Hamann would be in town to play some shows surrounding the release of the soundtrack he scored for just-released Beneath the Harvest Sky, a film made in Van Buren (that’s nearly Canada, folks) by Maine-native Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly. They are responsible for the very moving film The Way We Get By, which connects the lives and struggles of three elderly troop greeters at the Bangor International Airport. I grew up in Bangor and greeted the troops regularly at odd hours when I was in elementary and middle school, and I’m thrilled that lovely film was made so well and was so well received. Check out this feature about filmmakers in Maine including Aron and Gita in April’s Maine Magazine. Beneath the Harvest Sky seems dark and suspenseful compared to The Way We Get By and I don’t think of Dustin’s music as dark, so I’ll be interested to see how the two go together. There are many screenings of Beneath the Harvest Sky planned this week throughout Maine and Dustin is playing before some of them. If you’re able to get out to see him, you will be glad you did. He is really special.

Beneath the Harvest Sky soundtrack by Dustin Hamann

Beneath the Harvest Sky soundtrack by Dustin Hamann

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Dustin is the driving force behind Run On Sentence and writes powerful, captivating music. The first time I ever saw him play (thanks to the suggestion of Mark Wethli) was late summer 2010. I was moved by the music—so much so that I went to see him play again the very next night. It had been a year and a half since the last time I got to see Dustin play in 2012 (here’s that post), so I was thrilled to see that he would be just down the road from me at Slates in Hallowell to celebrate his birthday and the release of the soundtrack he wrote for the film. I was excited to see Mark and Cassie at the show, too, and in the soundtrack liner notes, Dustin said he first really started the real work writing the soundtrack at Cassie and Mark’s place in Brunswick after leaving the film shoot in Van Buren.

Dan Galucki, who grew up in the area and went to Hall Dale High School in Hallowell, is Dustin’s Run On Sentence band mate and was able to play this hometown show, as well. Music enthusiast Lucky Clark interviewed Dan for the Kennebec Journal before the show. It was great to hear them play together and hear the fullness of sound they were able to create on the soundtrack for the film.

I was glad that Dustin and Dan played some older Run On Sentence songs from You The Darkness And Me like “Water,” “These Hills,” and “Out In the Woods.” We didn’t hear my favorite ROS song, “I Am The Blood” that night, but I really hope you’ll take a listen to it. Dustin’s lyrics are meaningful and his voice is raw and intense. He also plays a mean mouth trumpet.

Dustin Hamann and Dan Galucki

Dustin Hamann and Dan Galucki

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I love Dustin’s song “Albion” about his mom’s hometown in Nebraska and am glad it showed up on the soundtrack. Dustin’s songs “The County” and “Rainbows” both appear on the soundtrack and are both captivating. “The County” perfectly sums up the stagnation one might feel living in such a depressed area—“How I lie at night and think of ways I’d say goodbye if ever I could manage to get out/In my dreams I’d up and go/I’d shrug away that heavy load and step out from the shadow of my doubts/But when I’d wake up all my troubles lay around me/Up here in the County.” Rainbows seems a cautionary tale—“Tearing down the rainbows/So they can take the pieces home/Tearing down the rainbows/So they can sell the pieces. . .Well if you ever tear down rainbows/Make sure you wear comfortable shoes/Cause your shoulders they will weigh you down/Til you can’t feel a thing.”

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Dustin and Dan both appear in the film and lived in Van Buren for a couple of months working on writing music while it was filming. Dustin gave me a copy of the 21-song soundtrack it’s a mix of Run On Sentence songs, Dustin solo, and ambient guitar/percussion pieces. Listening to it a few times made me even more eager to see the film. “Stonewall” shows up on the soundtrack and on Dustin’s newest release, Feelings. He said it was about a guy who wouldn’t stop sleeping on his couch so he had to kick him out. It’s a standout song—true to ROS because of it’s varying tempo and intensity—but special because of Dustin’s surprising hearty rounds of “HA HA HAs” in the song.

“Run To You” is surely a favorite on both albums, as well. I particular like the lyrics “And I wonder now and then/If I could do this all again/Would I just lie and watch the wind blow through the grass/Instead of trying to find the words to make it last/Cause I can never quite convey/All the things I mean to say/My words are arrows taking aim upon the truth/That’s all I’ve got/I guess the rest is up to you.” I grabbed a copy of Feelings on my way out because I want to keep a complete ROS hard copy discography on hand. Dustin’s dog, Frankie, an adorable Papillon/Chihuahua mix, is featured on the cover.

Feelings with Dustin and Frankie on the cover

Feelings with Dustin and Frankie on the cover

Dustin told us that Aron and Gita had invited him to write the soundtrack for Beneath the Harvest Sky because of his song “Wide Open Sky” (which is on the soundtrack), which he played while we sang along. He took out his three string cigar box guitar “Li’l Red” for a song or two, and used a piece from a socket wrench as a slide. Dustin’s mom sent a birthday cake for him, so we paused the show and sang him “Happy Birthday.” He asked us (as his birthday gift) to sing loud on “Stoned, Drunk, and Blind.” It’s a great song for a sing along and a perfect way to wrap a Monday night. So glad to see you again, Dustin and Dan! Come back soon!

xo,

bree

Happy Birthday, Dustin!

Happy Birthday, Dustin!

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Lake Street Dive with Ages and Ages

Saturday, April 5, 2014

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

Here’s something I never thought would be true—I missed half of Lake Street Dive’s set because I had to get home to meet our babysitter. Really. Lake Street Dive’s kind publicist offered me a plus one ticket to the show, and my sweetie and I asked my awesome student Lauren to babysit his two kiddos—the first time we’ve gone out together on a Saturday night since we started dating. Lauren met up with us earlier in the day so we could introduce her to the boys, and from that moment on, Jeff’s oldest asked “when is Lauren coming” every twenty minutes for the rest of the day! Adorable! I nearly forgot that Lauren couldn’t drive past midnight (driving laws these days are so different than when I was in high school), so we had to leave at 11 to get home to her in time.

Here is a public declaration of thanks to the fabulous Tom Rota, outgoing Programming Director of my favorite intimate listening room anywhere—Portland’s One Longfellow Square. It was Tom who introduced me to Lake Street Dive back in 2011. I saw them at OLS in 2011 and 2012 play to pretty full houses—almost 200 seats in the house. Here’s my post from their October 2012 show. To see them play to a sold out crowd of nearly ten times that amount of people at State Theatre just over a year later was incredible. Lake Street Dive is getting the attention they truly deserve. It’s funny to see them called a “new” band since they’ve been together since 2009, but I’m happy people are catching on and am lucky to have gotten to know them early on.

Love Rachael's face in this one! Try getting a picture of Bridget who is constantly in motion! There's Mike Olson, too.

From my post in 2012–I love Rachael’s face in this one! Try getting a picture of Bridget who is constantly in motion! There’s Mike Olson, too.

I love this shot! I had to get up and walk to the back of the room to fit all of LSD into one frame.

I love this shot from 2012 at One Longfellow Square! I had to get up and walk to the back of the room to fit all of LSD into one frame.

Portland, Oregon’s Ages and Ages opened the show and reminded me of The Partridge Family. All six band members sang and played percussion at some point during their set. Their upbeat harmonic pop sound was full and energizing. When the tambourine came out, Up with People came to mind. Their hopeful songs like “I See More” promised “It’s all OK, I’ll be on your side.” Mike Calabrese from Lake Street Dive joined Ages and Ages on drums for their last song, “Divisionary,” and we were happily surprised when the rest of Lake Street Dive came out to join him, too.

Ages and Ages

Ages and Ages

Ages and Ages joined by Lake Street Dive

Ages and Ages joined by Lake Street Dive

There was an excruciatingly long break between bands, and I started to realize that we’d have to leave the show early because of that. Boo. Luckily, Steve Feeney wrote this show review for the Portland Press Herald so I could read about what I missed—including a sing along cover of “Rich Girl” to end the evening. The State was packed and people were jockeying for a place to stand around us near the front—a far cry from the last times I’ve seen LSD play in teeny listening rooms to seated small audiences. The show was originally supposed to be at Port City Music Hall, but after shout outs in Rolling Stone and The New Yorker, multiple late night show appearances, and the successful release of their acclaimed newest album Bad Self Portraits, the move to State Theatre was made and the show sold out. Awesome.

Lake Street Dive’s lead singer, the incomparable Rachael Price, was a showstopper, but absolutely humble and genuinely grateful for the warm reception they received. She welcomed us to “the biggest show we’ve ever done,” and she seemed stunned by our presence as we surely were by hers. She was buoyed by the enthusiastic crowd and told us that they were at the end of a long tour and we were lifting them up. I love it when a band shows appreciation for the audience. A little friendly banter goes a very long way in my book and can make or break a concert experience.

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Rachael Price, Mike Calabrese, Bridget Kearney, and Mike Olson met almost a decade ago as classmates at Boston’s New England Conservatory and have been together ever since. One of the many things I love about this insanely talented jazzy pop group is that each is a star in their own right. Rachael is the most obvious talent because she leads with breathtaking vocals, but everyone is an integral part of this perfect puzzle. Bridget’s bass is full and mesmerizing. Mike Olson’s trumpet parts feel like they have their own voice. Mike Calabrese knows how to showcase everyone and when to pick it up or slow it down on drums for the greatest impact. They are a true team.

Bridget had a sick solo on “Henrietta” and Rachael told us Bridget wrote “Love Doctor” as well. Bridget seems to be the head writer for the group these days. Their producer, Sam Kassirer, joined them onstage for a few songs on the keys. He owns and operates The Great North Sound Society in isolated Parsonfield, Maine—so there’s a Maine connection to Lake Street Dive’snew album, which was recorded there.

I am so happy you were all there to see Lake Street Dive live. What a treat. Lake Street Dive posted a picture and a thank you to the sold out crowd on Facebook and I’ve rarely seen so many likes and comments on a post in such short time.

Lake Street Dive showing Portland, Maine some love on Facebook!

Lake Street Dive showing Portland, Maine some love on Facebook!

Whatever it was that introduced you to Lake Street Dive—Kevin Bacon’s tweet with a link of their cover of “I Want You Back” (which has almost two million views now), their appearances on The Colbert Report, The Ellen Degeneres Show, and The Late Show with David Letterman, or even just that Portland’s 98.9 WCLZ made their song the free download of the week a month or so ago, welcome to the fan club!

To quote David Letterman after their performance on his show—“Are you kidding me? Come back every night. Can you do that?” Perfectly said, Dave. I’m sure I speak for everyone at the show when I say that I hope you’ll come back soon to see us again! Thanks, Lake Street Dive!

xo,

bree

A packed State Theatre crowd. So sad to have to leave early!

A packed State Theatre crowd. So sad to have to leave early!

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The Ballroom Thieves with the Soil & the Sun and Starlight Cicada

Friday, April 4, 2014

Empire, Portland, Maine

The Ballroom Thieves is one of my favorite bands from New England. Their percussive, harmonic sound and heartfelt, relatable lyrics are infectious. I’m a fan and plan to see them whenever they come to Maine. Fridays are usually the day of the week that I’m most tired and ready for bed before dark, but I gladly persevered until midnight to see the Thieves again. Check out my previous Ballroom Thieves posts from June 2013, October 2013, and January 2014.

I hadn’t seen a show at Empire since it’s reopening, and I liked the updates to the concert space upstairs. An aside: I’m often confused by folks who come out to see live music at bars. It seems like a lot of people just talk (loudly and even louder as the night goes on) throughout the show. Why bother buying a ticket to a show? Maybe just go to a bar without a band playing? It’s distracting (okay, annoying) for those of us who came to listen, but I digress.

I showed up late after a long dinner with girlfriends and was glad to catch the bulk of Starlight Cicada’s set. Maine’s own Elizabeth Taillon (Starlight Cicada is her unique moniker) is a former busker. I was impressed with the power of her vocals and with how revelatory and heavy her lyrics were. Her simple, finger picked electric guitar was a perfect accompaniment for her big voice and slow, mellow songs. I was drawn to a song that had the refrain “love me or be alone.” I ended up leaning over to the guy standing next to me to ask if he knew anything about Starlight Cicada—and, lucky me, he was her boyfriend. I’d like to see her again in a listening room and hear a little biographical information and background about the songs. Check out Starlight Cicada’s EP “The Mansion Demos.

Starlight Cicada

Starlight Cicada

The Ballroom Thieves discovered the Soil & the Sun when recording their Audiotree SXSW Showcase in Austin and invited them to come to New England and play some shows together. Grand Rapids, Michigan’s the Soil & the Sun was fantastic. I was glad that Caroline finished work downstairs and could come up to join me so I’d have someone to chat with about how interesting their music was. Their sound is full—six gifted musicians play multiple, rotating instruments including two keyboards, violin, drums, bass, guitar, tambourine, oboe (that wasn’t a clarinet, right?), and assorted percussive items. Since genres are so blurred these days, I’d dub theirs “indie orchestral.” I was reminded of North Carolina’s Lost in the Trees a bit during their set. I was impressed with their layered songs with ever-changing tempos, gorgeous harmonies, and instrumentation. I would have loved to hear a bit about the band and their songs, and I wish they’d been able to play a bit longer so my sweetie (who was a music major in college and a quite serious, accomplished flute player for many years) could have heard them. They’re impressive and I hope they’ll come back this way.

the Soil & the Sun

the Soil & the Sun

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The Ballroom Thieves took the stage and opened with “Brother.” It stuck out as one of their best to me and was a strong opening. Devin, Martin, and Calin were spot on, as always. Jeff made it in time to catch their set from the beginning and he and Caroline, seeing them for the first time, were both impressed. The Thieves complimented the new Empire and raved about their fantastic meal as they recounted their entrees by name.

Martin Earley, Devin Mauch, and Calin Peters are The Ballroom Thieves

Martin Earley, Devin Mauch, and Calin Peters are The Ballroom Thieves

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“Oak” is pretty. I’m looking forward to having that song to listen to on repeat when The Ballroom Thieves’ upcoming album drops. I liked hearing new songs, too, and the Thieves played a few. One of the lyrics that caught me was “I would burn into the ground to take you home.” Their harmonies are always strong, but were even more mesmerizing when they sang a cappella on “Stones.” I appreciated it at the end of the night when the guys thanked us sincerely for coming out and for our continued support of their music. They can be a little goofy onstage (and I like their comfortable banter with the crowd), but it’s clear that they genuinely appreciate the opportunity to play for an attentive audience.

I love this shot of Devin

I love this shot of Devin

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They unplugged and came out into the middle of the room to play “Save Me,” definitely one of my favorites, to wrap the night. Folks circled around them and the room was completely silent but for the beautiful lyrics and harmonies of that song. I was impressed (but not surprised) that the Thieves garnered total silence from a bar crowd at midnight on a Friday night. They’re that good. Check them out next time they’re in town—you can meet me front and center!

"Save Me" unplugged in the middle of the room

“Save Me” unplugged in the middle of the room

Thanks, Thieves!

xo,

bree

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