Tag Archives: Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover and Friends

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lion’s Pride, Brunswick, Maine

Portland’s Max Garcia Conover is playing a couple of weekly shows, and he’s bringing his friends. MGC plays Mondays at Flask Lounge in Portland from 6-8 PM and Fridays at Lion’s Pride in Brunswick from 9-11 PM.

What a delightful Friday. We gave midterm exams at school for half the day. A bunch of us gathered to grade exams together in Dennis’ room in the afternoon—he has a classroom with windows in our predominantly windowless school. My boyfriend Jeff texted to say that he had an unexpected night off and could join a growing group of us for a dessert gathering and then Max’s first Lion’s Pride Friday night show! I was so excited!

Jeff and I had dinner at Bangkok Garden and one of my seniors was our server. She was excited to see me out on date night and told me she very much approved when Jeff was out of earshot. We picked up Will and headed over to Chris and Courtney’s for delicious treats and some time to catch up with friends before heading over to Max’s show.

An impromptu idea to rally the group for Max’s first Friday night show at Lion’s Pride was wildly successful. By the middle of his first set, the room was completely full with at least twenty of us—including most of the teachers in our friend group who decided to rally for Max late on a Friday night. I hadn’t seen Max play in a few months, not since he opened for David Berkeley back in November at One Longfellow Square. It was great to hear him sing the songs that I play on repeat while I’m driving or grading—like “Thatch House” and “The Creek Woman Poet” from Birches Lo.

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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Max claims to hate sing-alongs because they can be super awkward, but he always makes us do them anyway. We stood and belted “Honey, we’ve been trying…” during our audience participation part on “The Start of Fables” and it felt really good to be awake that late on a Friday night and singing with a room full of good friends. I liked Max’s new song, “Home,” and the idea behind it—that we think the place we grew up in is really lame until we leave and come back (I haven’t had that moment yet, but I grew up in Bangor).

Singing along with MGC

Singing along with MGC

Max said he is thinking of these weekly shows as a curator might, and that he hopes to bring friends to the mic every week. Sammie Francis and her new husband (!), Max Taylor, did a couple of songs. Our dear friend Brady joined Max on The Avett Brothers’ “Murder In The City.” I love Max’s story about meeting Jim Avett (the Brothers’ dad) at The Great Blue Heron Music Festival, but I’ll let you hear that story for yourself some week.

Sammie Francis and Max Taylor

Sammie Francis and Max Taylor

Brady and Max

Brady and Max

Max gave a lovely introduction about his teacher and music mentor, Ken Templeton. Ken and I graduated from Bowdoin together and he is someone I love running into so we can catch up about the bands we’re currently listening to and whatever Daytrotter session we last fell in love with. Ken took the stage and said that his professor Pete Coviello said that that best teachers teach kids how to love something and he was happy to have done that with music for Max.  Ken said he was so taken with The Lone Bellow (I will take full credit for introducing y’all to them) when we saw them together in November, that he decided to play “Watch Over Us.” I hadn’t heard Ken play in AGES and I was floored by his power. I was so stunned that I forgot to clap when he finished the song, too! Amazing, Ken!

Ken Templeton

Ken Templeton

Max sent the tip jar around and joked that if you claim deductions on your taxes for musical equipment because music is your profession but that you don’t make any money at it, then the IRS demotes it to “hobby.” He called his fiancée, the lovely and talented Sophie Nelson, up to the mic to sing “You’re the Farthest I Go.” (They did a great Damien Jurado cover together earlier in the evening, too). That new song is so very sweet and Max and Sophie sound great together.

Sophie and Max

Sophie and Max

Here are some things I was reminded of Friday at Max’s show:

1. 9-11 PM doesn’t feel as late if you’re surrounded by friends.

2. Be ready to sing along.

3. Don’t be the person who doesn’t have any cash for the tip jar.

4. These friends are the best anyone could ask for. We filled the room to support Max, as always.

Come out some week and join us.

xo,

bree

PS—Max gave out copies of his first full-length album, Burrow, at Lion’s Pride. Jeff and I listened to it in the car on Saturday and Jeff’s youngest son, Max, was already singing along to it by Sunday morning.

I love this blurry picture I snapped of Max at the end of the night.

I love this blurry picture I snapped of Max at the end of the night.

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David Berkeley with Max Garcia Conover

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

What can I say about Max Garcia Conover that I haven’t already? Max is a dear friend and a fantastic singer-songwriter. I’ve seen him play so many times, but each experience is different and wonderful. I love watching him grow and develop as an artist. His first major show for the release of his first EP was back in 2011 at One Longfellow Square opening for David Berkeley. Max sent David a copy of his EP when it was finished and wrote him an email to let him know how much his music had inspired him to become a songwriter. David replied kindly and asked if they might play a show together. And then they did. How amazing!

Max opened with “In City Light,” which is about living in a city. He joked that even thought he’d like to live in the wild, he’d definitely die if he tried. Actually, that’s something new I can add about Max’s live show—his banter has gotten a lot more confident and he told funnier stories! We laughed a lot that night with Max (not at him). For example, Max told a story about taking Sophie out for her birthday dinner in Portland on their new scooter and a guy who hollered out to him to give him “mad props” for a getting a girl like that with the scooter! It was hilarious.

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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I really love Max’s newer song “Wildfires Outside Laramie, Wyoming.” He talked about it being about a national tragedy and two sides that can’t communicate with each other. Max also talked about how people at shows like to hear banter (I know I do!) and how he’s a quiet person (although he said a lot more at this show than he usually does). It inspired “Say That You Know Me.” I think “The Wedding Line” is my favorite song off of Max’s newest album, Burrow. I’m excited to report that Max is recording his next album this winter, too!

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Max told us about his very elderly grandmother in New York who has encouraged his songwriting from the very beginning and always wants him to play his songs for her whenever he visits home. He went to visit her in her assisted living apartment last time he was home and she wanted him to play with the door open so others could hear. She can’t hear very well, so she didn’t realize another resident was playing the organ just outside the open door. The organist and Max had a little unplanned competition for the attention of folks walking by in the hallway.

Blurry Max leading a sing along

Blurry Max leading a sing along

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Max wrapped his set with “As Much A Rising Sun as a Setting One,” which is one of my favorites, and “The Start of Fables,” which included some audience participation. Max likes to ask the audience to sing, and since his twenty best friends come out to all of his shows (including me), we always oblige and really go for it. He always reminds the crowd that sing alongs can be awkward or awesome—so just to go for volume over quality. Max recorded a set with Sofar Sounds in Boston a few nights later and you can see they sang along on “The Start of Fables” with him quite happily. Always great to see you live, Max! Until next time.

David Berkeley took the stage after intermission joined by Bill Titus on guitar. They opened with “Angelina.” I like how the song reminisces about an old love and wonders how she feels about it, too—“I hope you don’t regret me.” I’m a big fan of “George Square,” which we learned is in Glasgow, Scotland. David and his family have lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico since August of 2012. It never rains there, David told us, which inspired his most recent album, The Fire In My Head.

David Berkeley

David Berkeley

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I appreciate David’s crystal clear voice. As someone who is interested in lyrics, I really appreciate being able to hear each and every word that he sings. He covered Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” and it was the first time I understood all of the words! I really liked “Wishing Well” about a man who was left by his wife and finds solace in the construction of a bridge. I especially liked the lyric “build me a bridge that’s forever between two heads and two hearts.”

David Berkeley and Bill Titus

David Berkeley and Bill Titus

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David got a request from someone in the front row and realized they were asking for a song he’d written for someone else. He told us that he tries not to get attached to those songs and doesn’t play them live. He’s also found a calling as a marriage proposal singer. He’s literally played during someone’s marriage proposal. He thinks it’s kind of weird, as do I, except then my friend and singer-songwriter Taylor Carson mentioned doing the same thing just a few days later. It’s apparently a thing I didn’t know about.

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David played “Glory” for Max. I especially like the lines “And I’m sorry I’m not all those things/But I’m doing the best that I can/So don’t let go of me.” In thinking about what I like about David’s songs, I appreciate the emotion they evoke. We’ve all loved and lost, so they are easy to connect to. “Fire Sign” is one of my favorite David Berkeley songs and I was glad to hear it live.

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David gave a shout out to his friend he’d gone to high school with who was in the audience. They’d sung together in an a cappella group, and he credited this friend with making him really like music. Lucky us. He also told us that he and Bill had been stopped by police in NYC on this leg of the tour. Bill was driving a rental car with Florida plates and pulled over to pick up David who was wearing a backpack and had just climbed up the stairs from the subway. They couldn’t actually figure out how to roll down the window for the police officer, either, and David eventually had to play a song to prove they were musicians on tour.

I am truly lucky to be part of a marvelous friend group. Max is in it. There are about twenty of us. We do things like go to Max’s shows (we took up the first few rows at this one, for example), spend weekends at Sugarloaf snowshoeing in the winter, and enjoy Friendsgiving together. One thing that has become part of our vernacular since the first time we saw Max with David Berkeley is the use of the phrase “hard merge.” We use to describe times we’re struggling. Most weeks, someone will send out an email inviting the girls in the group to wine time in Portland. If one of us is having a bad week, we might reply, “Can’t wait for wine time—this week’s been a hard merge.” We’ve borrowed the phrase from David Berkeley’s song “Willis Avenue Bridge.” I mentioned it to him after the show and he didn’t seem offended that we’ve incorporated “hard merge” into our lives.

David talked about vinyl and how excited he was that his music was available on it now. He started to wrap up his set with “Shelter,” which I really love. He played “Jefferson” and without pause, went right into a cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.” At least that’s what I think happened. I was a bit mesmerized at the power of the songs woven together and forgot to write it down and now that was over two weeks ago and my memory is fuzzy. For the first time I can remember, I got a migraine during a show. I couldn’t actually see Max at the end of his set or David and Bill at the beginning of theirs.

It’s always nice to see David Berkeley play those beautiful songs of his live. One of my favorite moments from the last time I saw him was when he read “Empty Tank Denial” from his book 140 Goats and a Guitar—essays about what inspired his album Some Kind of Cure. “Empty Tank Denial” is a hilarious true story that sets up his song “Parachute.” It’s worth a listen. Thanks again, Bill and David. See you next time!

xo,

bree

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Dietrich Strause and Austin Nevins with Max Garcia Conover

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mayo Street Arts, Portland, Maine

*I meant to write this post before the start of the school year. Oops. And now that school’s in session, I basically try not to fall asleep on the couch every afternoon when I get home. I love teaching, but it takes a lot of energy! I apologize for the delay!*

You all know Max Garcia Conover is a great friend of mine and he can really do no wrong in my eyes, but man—he is so good live! Max toured for six solid weeks right after our school year got out in June, and he came back stronger than ever. It was great to see him again onstage in Portland after a four-month interlude.

Max and Sammie Francis sound checking before the show

Max and Sammie Francis sound checking before the show

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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I didn’t know that someone broke into Max’s car in Delaware when he was on tour and stole his electric guitar and banjo! Max shook it off when he told us and said that he was bad at electric guitar anyway and didn’t know how to play the banjo anyhow. He bought the classical guitar he played that night instead of replacing the stolen instruments.

I absolutely love “The Wedding Line.” I think I can finally say it’s my favorite song on Max’s album, Burrow. Max interrupted the song to tell us he’s getting married next year (!!!) and said it seemed almost superfluous because “she’s been such a part of me for so long.” I can see what people search online that brings them to whatbreesees.com, and “is Max Garcia Conover married” is a top referrer! Sorry, folks—he’s taken!

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Max introduced his friend and fellow singer songwriter, Sammie Francis, who joined him onstage for “As Much a Rising Sun as a Setting One.” Sammie’s CD release show will be at Mayo Street Arts on September 28. Max told us a story about how he’d tried to play the very quiet song outside in Boston when he was on tour because someone in the attentive audience had requested it. Out of nowhere, a guy came by and stole the garbage out of a trash can, fell, dropped everything, created a serious stench, cleaned it up, and then got chased down by the guy in the garbage truck when he came by and saw what was happening. Max played through it all.

Max and Sammie Francis

Max and Sammie Francis

Max is a quiet guy and talked about how he’s never been very talkative but that he always felt people would be more comfortable around people who talk more. He wrote a new song about that notion called “Say That You Know Me.” It was great to hear new songs from Max, and he even departed from his signature finger picking guitar playing for a couple of songs. I was totally floored by another one of his new songs, a response to a tragic news story called “Wildfires Outside Laramie, Wyoming.”

Max handed around the set list and a mailing list sign up in a notebook and asked us to put a happy or sad face next to the songs we liked or didn’t like. I loved the idea. People really followed directions (Max has a lot of teacher friends!) and some even left thorough feedback. Cool idea! Max told us that introducing “In City Light” as the song he wrote about living on the top floor of one of the tallest buildings in Maine—on the eighth floor—just wasn’t impressing crowds in bigger cities when he was on tour.

A favorite tradition we have at Max’s Mayo Street Arts gigs is to have a sing along where pitch is less important than volume. We were a small, but enthusiastic crowd, and heartily sang along our part—“Honey we’ve been trying/Like the barn swallow tries.” The best sing along so far, of course, is this one of “Goin’ to Acapulco” from Max’s Birches Lo EP release show. We’ll top that someday, but it was magical. Max stepped off stage and sang his last song on the floor in the audience.

Max playing from the floor

Max playing from the floor

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We took an intermission while Dietrich and Austin tuned for their set. I was really excited to see them. I’d seen Dietrich open for cello virtuoso Ben Sollee at One Longfellow Square last fall, and I was taken with his simple, pretty songs. I chatted with him after the show on my way out, and he was a delight. I saw Dietrich again in March at Blue in Portland. He was playing after one of my former students, the fabulous Genvieve Beaudoin. I wish I’d been able to stay for his set that night, so I was especially glad when I found out that he and Max were playing this show together. I’d also seen the very talented Austin Nevins play with Josh Ritter at The State Theatre back in May. It was quite a show. I was excited to be in a room with such talented musicians.

Austin Nevins and Dietrich Strause

Austin Nevins and Dietrich Strause

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Dietrich has such a lovely tone, and Austin’s guitar parts added what felt like another voice to the songs. It was fabulous and quite a treat. Dietrich told us he’d been on tour with the great Aoife O’Donovan (he’s playing with some amazing musicians) and was mixing an album with Austin (his producer) in Massachusetts the next day.

I especially enjoyed “Our Lady Ponderosa”—it was thought provoking and yet musically accessible. Dietrich told us he’d just spent a week in Maine on the Moose River, and everyone else on the trip saw moose (a few of them) while he was asleep. I guess you need to come back to Maine soon, Dietrich!

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“Like a Rock” is Dietrich’s retelling of the story of David and Goliath. He joked about his Sunday school teacher who was tough and hit him over the head with a Bible when he fell asleep in class. Dietrich Strause fun facts: Dietrich’s from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and his dad is a Lutheran pastor. You can definitely hear that influence in his songs.

I absolutely loved the story Dietrich told about traveling for a week in Canada over the summer with his parents, sister, and 87 year-old grandparents in a minivan. Forgive me, because the details are a little fuzzy. On the way home, they stopped in New York to visit his grandfather’s (?) hometown. They stopped at the town office to see if his grandfather’s neighbor, Wendy, was still alive (she’s 97). The person at the office (I think I remember there was a small world moment where this person was Wendy’s grandchild) directed them to Wendy’s nursing home, and they went to visit her. Apparently, Dietrich’s grandfather (great-grandfather?) once played a fantastic prank on Wendy (who was obsessed with her tomato plants) where he taped ripe tomatoes on her plants in the middle of the night. It was a sweet segue to get us to “Tell Me Mary,” which includes the lyric “tell me Mary/I’ve got to know/what makes your garden grow.” Austin Nevins is featured in this video of “Tell Me Mary.”

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Austin spoke through his awesome guitar playing for the most part, but he did speak up at the end of the night to say that the room was really beautiful, but the lights were so bright that it was a little like an interrogation room up on stage. I got to chat with Austin a bit after the show and he was so kind. He’s producing in Jamaica Plain, MA when he’s not on tour playing a mean lead guitar.

Dietrich and Austin ended the night with two songs I really loved. Check out “Lemonade Springs” and “Annie Dear.” You can hear both songs and get some biographical information about Dietrich and Austin on this episode of The Lancast. If you can catch Dietrich and Austin near you, don’t miss out!

xo,

b

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Upcoming Shows!

I am often in need of a concert buddy. Let me know if you’re interested in joining me at any of the following, or at least check out some of these great artists I’m excited to see soon!

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