Ellis Paul with Laurie MacAllister

Friday, December 29, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was my 49th Ellis Paul show! I hope I get to sing on stage with him at my 50th show. I can sing, Ellis!

I started seeing Ellis Paul in 2002, so that’s 15 years of great music I’ve gotten to hear him perform live. He’s still my favorite singer songwriter, and I love seeing him live at his now annual warm up to New Year’s Eve show at One Longfellow Square. I used to ring in the New Year with Ellis and friends every year at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but Portland is so much closer!  

I picked up my friend Hedda in the snow and we slowly made it to Portland on a slippery highway. We had a delicious dinner nearby at Mi Sen, but were squeezed for time and had to miss seeing my talented pianist friend, Ben Cosgrove, at Blue. We made it to One Longfellow Square right after 7 to get good seats up front, and there were easily already 25 people in the room. I know where the super fans sit (I am a fan, not a super fan), and decided I needed a couple of rows of buffer, so grabbed seats for Colin, Hedda, and me in the fourth row. We chatted for an hour and then Laurie MacAllister (of Red Molly) took the stage to start the show.

img_7468

David Glaser, Laurie McAllister, and Radoslav Lorkovic

Hedda saw her first Ellis Paul show (my 46th) with me last year at Brunswick’s Unitarian Universalist Church, and Laurie sang with him then, too. We thought their chemistry was obvious, and wondered if they were a couple back then. They were, we discovered at this show. Laurie MacAllister has a very pretty voice and was so grateful to perform her first solo show in 14 years in front of such a polite audience. Her new solo record, The Lies the Poets Tell, is out in late January. It’s a cover album of songs from artists you may not know–including Shawn Mullins (one of my all time favorites), Mark Erelli (who Laurie called her favorite songwriter and urged us to see live), Antje Duvekot, oh, and some guy named Ellis Paul. She opened with Shawn Mullins’ “My Stupid Heart.”David Glaser joined her on guitar–she told us she’d heard him play last year during preparations for Ellis’ annual New Year’s Eve shows and asked him to be her guitarist on her new album–and Radoslav Lorkovic, the “Croatian Sensation,” accompanied on piano and accordion. Laurie told us she met Rad for the first time back in 2005 when they played at the same music festival. When she and her Red Molly bandmates told him they were off to New York City for a gig later that evening, he asked if he could come with them and play, too, which they all quickly agreed to. David, Rad, and Laurie were also Ellis’ band that evening. They are obviously friends and it was fun to watch them together.

Ellis Paul took the stage to a sold out crowd after intermission. He told us he wrote a song with a friend in mind that was supposed to be more of a joke, but turned into his love song, “I Ain’t No Jesus.” I’d never heard Ellis talk about dating Laurie before, but he talked about her saying “I’ll Never Be this Young Again” in reference to recording a new album, and he stole her line and wrote a song featuring it. Laurie interjected that she came down to the living room the next morning and he played it for her–completely finished overnight. He told us it was one of the first times he’d ever played it live.

Ellis also played another new song I hadn’t heard before, which is always exciting when you see someone play as often as I do. He projected a picture onto the screen behind him and it was of Ellis and his father in front of a huge fire. He told us about a family reunion that turned into a major fire house fire over the 4th of July weekend in 1979. He thanked his relatives in the crowd who were there to support him, and told us about a relative who’d fought for the Union Army in the Civil War and was injured at Gettysburg. They gave him a farm–150 acres in Wasburn, Maine–and every generation in his family has produced potato farmers since then until now. He joked that he went into the more lucrative folk singer business. His grandparents had 9 kids and 40 grandchildren. He laughed as he told us “none of the names have been changed because everyone who is guilty deserves to be in this song.”

Ellis told us he’d record an album in 2018, and I think I’m most looking forward to “Scarecrow in a Corn Maze”–a song about a soldier injured in Iraq who comes home from war and struggles. The chorus goes, “scarecrow in a corn maze, just trying to find some way out.” Ellis has always been an excellent storyteller. His songs are relatable because they tell real human stories. This song stuck out to me the most among songs I don’t know very well. We sang along to a song that Ellis wrote about all of the states he’s performed in called “So You Ain’t From these Parts.” The verse about Maine features the crazy names of places here from Damariscotta to the Cobbosseecontee.

Every year, Ellis and his friends play a medley of songs during their NYE shows. This year, they paid tribute to music legends lost in the last couple of years–Tom Petty, Glen Campbell, and Glenn Frey. Their cover of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was incredible. I’ll admit I’d never heard Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” before. Everyone came off the stage into the audience and sang “Seven Bridges Road” (famously covered by the Eagles) for us.

Ellis thanked us for our continued support and for coming out in the bitter cold. He told us his kid just got $3,300 braces, and chuckled when he told us that we’d paid for them. I figure my 49 concert tickets will pay for at least a year of a teenager’s car insurance when his girls start driving.

Did we all sing along to “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down”to close the night? I think we did. I am sleep deprived from New Year’s Eve last night. Thanks for a lovely evening of music that always makes me feel like I’m home, Ellis and friends. I’ll see you soon!

Happy 2018! Let’s all hope for goodness and light in the year ahead!

xo,

bree

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bon Iver

Friday, December 8, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

In a sentence–for me, sadly, this show was a surprising disappointment.

I saw Bon Iver for the first time in September of 2012 at the Bank of America Pavillion in Boston. Caroline and I went together, and she wrote a lovely guest post giving the show a five star rating. I was in the third or fourth row for that full band show, and I was over the moon to hear some of my Bon Iver favorites in person and to sing “The Wolves (Acts I and II)” together. The energy at that show was palpably positive.

When I saw that Bon Iver was playing so nearby in Portland at State Theatre, I was thrilled. I set an alarm to buy tickets in the presale, but the timing of my teaching plans were a little off because we had an unexpected fire drill, so I selfishly asked my students to work on their homework for a few minutes while I tried to get tickets on both my laptop and my phone. My phone came through for me and I snagged a pair of tickets a few rows from the back of the room, and I can’t think of a time I was so happy to have basically back row seats. I checked again when tickets went on sale to the general public, but they seemed completely sold out right away. I read through more than a hundred comments from angry Bon Iver fans about how impossible it was to get tickets for the show, and revelled in my luck. I even looked online at StubHub just to see if I could get seats closer to the stage, but seats in my far away section were selling for $250 each (a huge markup over the $65 face value). I scoffed at the idea of selling my tickets for profit anyhow, but then I went to the show and thought twice.

Bartlett was my lucky date for the night, even though many people inquired about my extra ticket for the show right up until the night of the show. We met for dinner at El Rayo, had a couple of tacos and cocktails, and made our way to State Theatreearly to make it through their added security and because there was no opening act. Justin Vernon took the stage solo, which I am usually totally in favor of, but this was an odd night. I was surprised by how many people were back and forth to the bar and bathroom during the show because we’d all paid a decent amount for these highly sought after tickets and I figured everyone there would be a big fan. (A sarcastic shout out to the annoying super fan couple in the third row that spent most of the night dancing wildly on your feet–rudely obstructing the views of and distracting everyone all around you. You guys made me glad my seats were so far away). There was some sort of chatter coming from the other front orchestra section, I guess, because Justin interjected a snarky comment about them, and then followed up with a comment about how we should all just love each other. Later, someone from the crowd shouted out “I love you, Justin,” and he responded “I have plans later. But I appreciate that.” I thought some (but not all) of his banter with the audience was awkward to the point of kind of mean spirited. It felt like he didn’t want to have to perform for us, and it ruined the show experience for me.

My view of Justin Vernon from the back of the State Theatre

I didn’t feel at all this way five years ago when I first saw Bon Iver live, so I have some theories about this night’s cringeworthy moments. The easiest explanation would be that folks nearest him were being rude and I couldn’t hear it. That, sadly, has been the case at other shows I’ve been to in Portland, where people talk all night over the performer. Regina Spektor’s show earlier this year at State Theatrecomes right to mind. Maybe something has shifted for Justin during these years that makes performing difficult for him, or, he was just having a bad night. If I missed something, please tell me. I’d love to know there was an obvious cause for his somewhat grumpy demeanor.

Musically, Justin was great. I loved hearing so many songs I love live–“Flume,”“Perth,”“Blood Bank,”“Skinny Love,”and “Woods”–and his cover of“I Can’t Make You Love Me”was heart wrenching, as expected. I enjoyed hearing the heavily electronic songs from his 2016 album, 22, A Million in person, too. It felt good to sing “The Wolves (Acts I and II)” together to end the night at Justin’s invitation, but I was very surprised he only played a one song encore (a cover of Mahalia Jackson’s “Satisfied Mind”), because he was on stage less than an hour. I’d felt so lucky to have the opportunity to be in the room, but was genuinely sadly disappointed during and after the show. It felt like an off night from start to finish, and it seemed to me like Justin struggles with the pressures of being a beloved musician, which seemed to shine through during this show. In the end, I am fine with having spent $65 to see Justin Vernon from basically the back row, but I probably wouldn’t do it again, which is disappointing given how much his music has positively impacted my life.

If you missed this show, I honestly don’t think you missed much. Maybe something was going on with the crowd up front that I couldn’t hear. If folks were being rude and Justin was annoyed with them–I can totally live with that. From where I sat, though, this show was a bummer. If you saw another night of this tour and had a very positive experience, I would also like to hear from you so that I know this was simply an off night and that Justin is just fine. I’m truly hoping for that.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lucy Kaplansky

Saturday, December 2, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was such an excellent Saturday! I spent part of the day volunteering at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center’s Festival of Trees in Gardiner (I’m on the Board of Directors), enjoyed Gardiner’s Parade of Lights down Water Street from the second story window, and made my way to One Longfellow Square where my steadfast concert buddy, Colin, kindly saved me a front row seat for the show.

Festival of Trees at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner

I love seeing folk singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky live. She is consistently warm and open with the audience, and seeing her in person feels intimate–like sitting around together in her living room. I first saw Lucy open for Ellis Paul back in 2007, and have seen her maybe ten times since then. I always look forward to hearing updates about her beloved husband, daughter Molly, and Janie the beagle, and it feels a bit like catching up with an old friend. Lucy writes songs about her life, and I’m humbled when songwriters are so willing to share their life experiences with strangers.

One of the things I appreciate most about Lucy is how much she loves and respects her daughter Molly. She played a bittersweet song on mandolin about how fast her daughter is growing up. Lucy told us she’d be happy to play our requests, and even if she hadn’t played the songs we requested in ages, she still gave them her best shot. Someone asked her to play “This is Mine,” and she told us it was a poem her husband Richard Litvan had written for her. When she finished, she said, “and that’s why I love my husband so much.” She also played “Ten Year Night,” which is also about him.

One of the things that makes a concert a true concert experience is when artists discuss the inspiration for their songs. Lucy never disappoints in this area. This time, I learned about her song “Don’t Mind Me.” Her daughter Molly had been assigned to read a book by Sherman Alexie last year, and Lucy told her, “I know him.” Best known for his film, Smoke Signals, Alexie ended up coming backstage to meet Lucy, Dar Williams, and Richard Shindell after a Cry Cry Cry show twenty years ago in Seattle. They hit it off, and he asked them to write a song for a particular scene in a movie he was writing and directing. He told them to think “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” but with Joni Mitchell singing it. Dar gave it a shot and wrote “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono” and Lucy and her husband co-wrote “Don’t Mind Me.” Alexie liked it so much that he wrote Lucy into the movie to play herself as a street singer. The movie didn’t end up getting made, but Lucy did get the song out of it.

I follow Lucy on Facebook, so I see a lot of pictures of her beloved dog, Janie. Janie is Lucy’s first dog ever. Her mom had been afraid of dogs, so she grew up without them. Lucy’s daughter kept asking for a dog, and they finally said yes. Lucy said, “it was a revelation to me that I could fall in love with a dog. I have at least a hundred photos on my phone of her if you want to see her after the show.” She wrote a very sweet song for her NYC dog and their “Everyday Street.”

Lucy’s dad, Irving Kaplansky, was a mathematician, a professor, and a musician, and Lucy sang one of his quirky songs, “On an Asteroid with You,” about honeymooning in outer space for us, as well. She’s also recorded an album of his songs aptly titled Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky. You can only get that EP at her shows.

Lucy told us about another audience requested song, “Manhattan Moon,” as well. She’d worked on a song for months, but it wasn’t right, so she sadly threw it away. She took a few of the best lines from that song, though, and wrote a new song in four hours, which became “Manhattan Moon.”

Lucy draws attentive, polite audiences. That matters to me. She appreciates it, too. She told us a few times that she really appreciated playing for us and complimented us on how nice we were to play for. She told us that she truly enjoys her fans, and invited us to come chat with her after the show in the lobby, adding that “you don’t have to buy anything–I just want to meet you!” She closed the show with a cover of Elvis Costello’s  “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” but came back to play an encore after a standing ovation.

Lucy ended the night with one of my favorites–“This is Home.” I’ve heard Lucy say that she wrote this song when she and her husband were first starting the adoption process about 15 years ago. They knew there was a little girl waiting for them in China, but hadn’t met Molly yet. I don’t think of myself as much of a sap, but I shed a tear when Lucy sang “when we find her/we’ll belong to her/we won’t see her first smile, we won’t hear her first word/But ours will be the first heart she holds in her hands/She can keep them beside her in her very own room.” What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday! Thanks, Lucy!

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real with Nikki Lane

Friday, November 17, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This night gets top marks from start to finish. It was the end of a long week–I’d been sick, we had parent teacher conferences at school until late, I’d seen the Lone Bellow earlier in the week, and I was generally pooped–but when Lukas Nelson’s publicist invited me to come to the sold out show, I knew I needed to dig deep. It was definitely the right choice.

Marian joined me at Empire and we had a leisurely dinner before the show. Portland was packed–Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn were in town at the State Theatre, and Elton John was at the Cross Insurance Center, too. We made it to Port City Music Hall a little before 7:30, expecting to arrive on the early side in order to grab a good spot up front for the sold out show, but the line was up the block. I wondered if doors weren’t open yet, but it turned out that Port City has increased their security protocol and everyone was asked to empty their pockets and was wanded with metal detectors. It was a pretty slow process. I think a third person on the door wanding would help in the future, especially during sold out shows.

Marian and I made our way towards the stage and met Phyllis and her family. Phyllis has been to seven Farm Aid shows and is a huge Lukas Nelson  fan. I was unfamiliar with both Lukas and show opener Nikki Lane, but Phyllis’ enthusiasm was contagious. I’d also heard from friends who attended the Newport Folk Festival last summer that Nikki was a hit there, so I was excited for the entire double bill.

23721999_10210477861643072_899139000_n

Here’s Phyllis with Lukas. Thanks to her daughter, Sarah, for sending me this adorable picture!

Nikki Lane took the stage around 8:10. Nikki and her band live in Nashville, and she described it as a small community where everyone knows everyone. Nikki told us that a friend was in a serious relationship, but found out that her partner had a secret life with a wife and family, which inspired her song “Lies.”I’d heard “Right Time” and “Jackpot” on 98.9 WCLZ. Nikki’s music has a vintage country rock vibe and she has a killer voice.

IMG_5999IMG_6014Concert etiquette tip moment. I am always disappointed in people at shows who arrive at the last second, but push their way to the front and cut in front of people who arrived early to earn that good spot. This happened to us, too, and it was a bummer. Folks–if you want to be up front, arrive early. If you see an empty square foot of space in the front, that is not enough space for you to squeeze yourself into. Resist the urge. It is really rude.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real took the stage after a lengthy transition. I grabbed a spot just behind the barricade to photograph during the first three songs of Lukas’ set, and he was mesmerizing. I’d heard he was dreamy from friends in the music industry, but I think everyone in the room had an immediate crush on him. He has “it” factor, and a confident stage presence. My dear friend Ken Templeton interviewed Lukas for Red Line Roots, and you can learn a bit about Lukas’ recent album and songwriting process here.IMG_6032IMG_6048IMG_6050IMG_6084Up to that moment, I was a total Lukas Nelson & POTR novice. I’d only ever heard Lukas’ song “Find Yourself” on WCLZ, and I knew very little about him, except he is Willie Nelson’s son and has collaborated with Lady Gaga (that’s her singing with him on “Find Yourself”) and Jess and Holly of Lucius, whom I adore. Lukas played an acoustic Studio Z set earlier in the afternoon at 98.9 WCLZ that I’d also missed, but you can check out here. I didn’t know that POTR has been together about a decade, which is a long time since Lukas is only 28 years old. Lukas was joined on stage by Tato Melgar (percussion), Anthony LoGerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass), and Jesse Siebenberg (steel guitar and organ). Lukas introduced “Runnin’ Shine” by telling us that some things aren’t wrong, just illegal. He sang a song for his hometown of Austin, Texas, “Just Outside of Austin,” and a song about commitment that warns “forever is a four letter word.” He also revealed that he’d been in love with a girl named Georgia who he couldn’t put out of his mind after they broke up because he was playing Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” every night on tour with his dad, so he penned “Forget About Georgia.” You can hear more about Lukas (I like context) in this interview he did with NPR Music back in August. IMG_6102IMG_6135Lukas played a lot of cover songs. They were beautiful and he can really sing, but he has a lot of his own songs under his belt, and I was surprised to not hear more of them in person. He covered Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” and Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.” Nikki Lane joined him on stage to cover Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” too. At the time, I thought maybe Lukas and POTR only had one album out and didn’t have enough material for a headlining set, but I was wrong. It was certainly fun to sing along to a handful of classic tunes with a big crowd on a cold Friday night, though!

I emphatically recommend seeing Lukas Nelson and POTR in person. Lucky for you, they’re still on tour! This night was an absolute blast!

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Lone Bellow with The Wild Reeds

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

The Lone Bellow is my favorite band. That’s saying something, right? I saw them for the first time back in 2013 in Boston and they stole my heart. Zach, Brian, and Kanene pour their hearts out on stage and give the audience 110%. This is the eighth time I’ve seen them live, and I’ve never seen them offer even just 95% to the crowd. I honestly don’t know how they do it. They’re the best.

This show came at a bad time for me, but I made it work. I was pretty under the weather, and it was parent teacher conference night at school, so I taught all day, had conferences until 8pm, and then flew down to Portland. (Coincidentally, they also played Portland four years ago on my parent teacher conference night. Can I request we stop booking them in November?). Colin, my steadfast concert buddy, kindly saved me a front row center spot along the barricade at the State Theatre, and I arrived a song or two into The Wild Reeds’ opening set. Bobbie and Abra, who run The Lone Bellow’s online fan community, Tree to Grow, were right there along the barricade, too. It was their 39th Lone Bellow show that night. They win. It’s not a competition, though, because everyone who sees The Lone Bellow live wins.

LA’s The Wild Reeds are led by three strong female vocalists and multi instrumentalists–Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe, and Sharon Silva–with powerful voices and great energy on stage. I enjoyed their set (even though it was little hard to hear their vocals) and people near me were clearly fans who knew the words and sang along, too. I listened to their Tiny Desk Concert to prep for the show, and they are quite talented. I would definitely see them again.

The Lone Bellow took the stage after a brief stage swap and dazzled the small, but delighted crowd. I remember a few moments during the show when Zach, Brian, and Kanene were gathered around one mic and I noticed that there was no sound in the room other than their voices. It’s rare that a band can mesmerize a crowd like that, but it’s within the power of The Lone Bellow, for sure.

The Lone Bellow played almost every song from their new album, Walk into a Storm. The new album is excellent and there’s not a single song to skip over, but my favorite song on it is definitely “Long Way to Go,” and I loved hearing it live for the first time in person. Jason (Kanene’s husband) and their new drummer Rico left the stage during an acoustic mini set. I’m not sure how it started, but Zach, Brian, and Kanene ended up covering “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)” by Bryan Adams, and it was amazing. They also sang “Watch Over Us,” which is among my most favorite songs, too.

I learned a fair amount about Zach’s childhood during the show, including the time he set his kitchen on fire toasting a Pop Tart after school and his hobby of catching and naming cottonmouth snakes that his dad wouldn’t let him keep. I also learned that his first CD was the Bodyguard movie soundtrack. 

I was thrilled to hear “You Never Need Nobody”and “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” live, and was equally happy that “Then Came the Morning”was the encore. The Wild Reeds joined the Lone Bellow on stage, and it was great to see such big, genuine smiles from everyone up there. It was clear they were having a blast. “Then Came the Morning” is such a badass song. Check out these lyrics–“Take my words, breathe them out like smoke/Burn every single letter that I wrote/Let the pages turn to ash, I don’t want them back.” Zach divided the crowd in half and we sang parts and filled the room with sound to close the night together.

The Lone Bellow has gone through some major stuff in the last year, and you can read about it here. It seems like all is well for them and they’re all living in Nashville now and growing their families and fans alike. I can’t say enough about this band. Please check them out. Here’s a full Lone Bellow show recorded in Boston a few years ago that still captures the essence of this soulful, passionate group quite nicely. Please come back to Maine soon!

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Josh Ritter with Good Old War

Saturday, October 28, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

What an awesome night! I see a ton of music by myself, but I ended up with a hearty group of friends Saturday night, all right up front along the barricade. It was a truly A+ evening.

The folks at Empire Chinese Kitchen recognize me (it’s my go-to) and know that I’m probably grabbing a quick dinner before a show when I snag a solo seat at the bar, but my friend Colin (who I met years ago at Josh Ritter show) and his friend Meghan met me for pre-show drinks. I picked up my photo pass at the State Theatre box office and quickly made my way to the stage and grabbed a spot in the front row on the barricade. Colin and Meghan joined me, and my friend Bob surprised me by driving up from Massachusetts to join us (he and I met at an Iron & Wine show back in 2011 at the State Theatre). I chatted with Ashley and Marsha who were next to me along the barricade, and when my friend Grace and her husband Trent showed up, they all already knew each other. So what I’m saying is that Josh Ritter brings good people together and it was a delight to see a show with so many wonderful people. My friend Bartlett joined us, and then his friends Nick and Sarah showed up, too. It was a party.

I am a fan of show opener Good Old War, and I arrived when doors open to be sure I’d be right up front. I first saw Philadelphia’s Keith [Good]win, Tim Arn[old], and Dan Sch[war]tz open for Brandi Carlile back in 2010, but hadn’t caught them live since 2015. I supported their Pledge Music campaign to produce Broken Into Better Shape, and I wear the Good Old Warrior t-shirt they sent me often. It was a little strange to see them in such a big venue, because the thing I’ve enjoyed most about them live is how intimate it feels. They played an entire glorious set unplugged standing in the middle of the crowd when I saw them in 2015, but I suppose that’s not something an opening band can pull off when most people are usually only there for the headliner. Folks in the audience listened during their set, and I saw a bunch of people up front singing along to all of the songs, too.  I was so glad to hear “That’s Some Dream,” “Amazing Eyes,” and “My Own Sinking Ship” in person again. I’m pretty sure Good Old War didn’t play “Tell Me What You Want From Me,” which I expected to hear because 98.9 WCLZ plays it regularly. I am eager to see them as a headliner again, and hope they’ll come back to Maine soon.

IMG_5906

Good Old War

IMG_5923IMG_5925IMG_5928I have known about Josh Ritter for ages, and I’ve seen him a handful of times live, but I’ve never taken the time to dig into his music catalog until about a month ago. I’ve mostly gone to see him live because his music matters to people who matter to me and he puts on a great show. What I appreciate most about him as a performer is the joy he exudes in the form of a giant smile while he’s on stage. His music is layered and lyrical, and it’s laden with Bible references and heavy themes that don’t work for me as background music. What I’m trying to say is that his songs really deserve a listener’s attention. I also love a sad song, so listening to his newest album, Gathering, has been right up my alley. “Showboat,” “When Will I Be Changed,” “Train Go By,” and “Thunderbolt’s Goodnight” stick out to me on the album and all strike me as deeply personal, beautiful, and relatable.

IMG_5947

Josh Ritter

IMG_5957

IMG_5965

Zack Hickman

Josh posted on Facebook when his album dropped that “I have never lived in times like these. That music somehow manages to survive and matter amidst the chaos seems ever more miraculous, ever more something to celebrate and be grateful for.” We are living in strange, dark days, but Gathering helps me feel a bit better, because Josh eloquently captures the sadness and makes the darkness feel less isolating.

This was by far the most engaged I’ve been at a Josh Ritter show. I’d listened to him a lot in the weeks leading up to the show, and it was the first time I knew a lot of the words and could sing along. The crowd was awesome. I remember a few moments during the show when I realized I could only hear Josh–which is incredible in a big venue with multiple bars. People who love Josh listen to him, too, I guess, and it was a welcome treat to really hear an artist like that. Since no one was pushy or drunk or yelling I could relax. I took pictures during the first three songs of both sets, but I danced, had a few drinks, and enjoyed every moment.

Josh didn’t say a whole lot during the show, but we did learn that “Train Go By” was about a stint living in the country, where the only entertainment was to go park by the train tracks and watch the trains go by. That adventure didn’t last long. Josh humbly expressed his gratitude for having the opportunity to write music and perform for a living. Josh did three songs acoustic in the middle of his set, and Zack joined him for “Hopeful,” which is one of my favorites. Check out these lyrics–“How many times did you give all your love/And find out it was so far from enough?/I followed her out into the street in the rain/And the whole world stopped spinning and just went up in flames.” I have a lot of respect for an artist that will bear their soul, and Josh is one of them.

IMG_5989IMG_5992IMG_5994I loved the energy at the end of their set. They wrapped up with “When Will I Be Changed,” “Homecoming,” and “Getting Ready to Get Down,” which punctuated the night’s messages of hope and optimism and brought the energy up enough to encourage a dance party to end the show. I love acoustic music best, and loved the three song acoustic encore, especially “Roll On,” which is a song I didn’t know before. It has a particularly beautiful line in it, too–“Somewhere out there I believe in me.” Josh closed the night solo acoustic with “Girl in the War.” I loved this show and it hit me right in the feels to hear sadness, honesty, and hope mingled together in the air.

My friend Aimsel Ponti interviewed Josh a week or so before his Portland stop and asked some great questions that I wanted to know the answers to. Also, here’s a 45 minute set that Josh and bassist Zack Hickman played for 75 lucky fans at The Clown Lounge in St. Paul, and it captures their energy and current set list nicely.

To the woman in the bathroom who told me you liked my highlights–you made my night! I don’t have highlights, just a lot of gray hair.

My night wrapped with Bartlett, Nick, and Sarah over slices at Otto, and I ran into my friend Kevin Oates (the talented director of the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra) for hugs and catching up on the sidewalk on my way back to my car. This was such a fun night that was full of surprises from start to finish.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Rough Sawn

Friday, October 20, 2017

Side Door Coffeehouse, Unitarian Universalist Church, Brunswick, Maine

 

This was the perfect start to the weekend. I had a wonderful Friday night catching up over dinner with my 2008 Mt. Ararat class president to start planning our ten year reunion next year, and I remembered that my friend Ben’s band, Rough Sawn, was playing around the corner at the UU Church Side Door Coffeehouse. A handful of friends were going, so I joined them at Joshua’s for a quick drink and we made it over just in time for Rough Sawn’s first song. I was impressed. Father and son Nick and Ben Whatley, Seth Gallant, and Steve Frens are a talented bluegrassy quartet. I liked their mix of country standards by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson tunes along with Seth’s lovely original songs. If you like stringed instruments, Rough Sawn will delight on upright bass, guitar, banjo, and mandolin.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized