Noah Gundersen

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

If you’re lucky, every so often, a musician speaks right to your soul. I think Noah Gundersen does this for a lot of people, and I feel fortunate to count myself among them.

I saw Noah Gundersen open for City & Color back in June of 2017, and he stole the show. I’ve been a devoted City & Color fan for years, but Noah was just way more captivating that night. He’s a good example of why I try not to miss opening acts. I was really excited when he announced a headlining show at Port City Music Hall for February of this year. Our friend Max Garcia Conover was going to open, which in my mind is a very compatible match, but we got a major snowstorm and the show was postponed–for more than six months. Fortunately, Noah Gundersen is worth the wait.

I finally introduced two of my Portland concert friends, Colin and Sean, to each other a couple of weeks ago at an awesome Joseph show, and this was (already) our next show as a trio. I arrived while Harrison Whitford opened the show, and Colin and Sean were already standing along the stage when I showed up. Harrison’s music is very mellow, and many people were sitting on the floor during his set, which was kind of dear. His electric guitar reminded me a bit of Jeff Buckley. He sang a handful of songs for us and I was impressed by how attentive the small crowd was.IMG_6522

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Harrison Whitford

After Harrison’s set, my friends Bartlett and Brady came up front to say hi. Bartlett reminded me (I’d forgotten) that Max was originally supposed to open the show, so he’d checked out Noah to prep for that show and fell in love. I was glad to take in a show with some surprise bonus friends two weeks in a row at Port City.

Noah took the stage with his sister Abby on violin, and even though I had a photo pass, I only took photos during the first song. The crowd was so captivated that I could hear my shutter over any other noise in the room, and it felt like an unnecessary distraction. In fact, the crowd was so attentive, I can remember the three times I heard anything other than Noah all night–a drink being shaken at the bar, when a guy sneezed and Noah stopped to say “Bless You” to him, and towards the end of the night when a heavy footed woman made her way in boots across the room. How often at a show do you get to hear every single word with no distractions? It felt special.

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Noah and Abby Gundersen

I just really want you to know Noah’s music. His songs have depth, texture, and a kick in the feels if that’s up your alley. A handful of his songs that I particularly loved live were “Isaiah,” “Fear & Loathing,” “First Defeat,” “Family,” and “The Sound.” I was really sad to miss the Newport Folk Festival this summer (I had to sell my ticket and stay home to renovate while my dad was in town to help), because Noah performed there with Glorietta. I enjoyed “Lincoln Creek” from that project a whole lot, too. After a heavy, powerful, emotional set, Noah treated us to a two more beautifully depressing songs about death as an encore–“Send The Rain” and “Dying Now.” It was a pretty stunning night of music. I saw Brady and Bartlett over the weekend and we were excited to have the chance to relive the experience together. If Noah Gundersen is playing in your town, I couldn’t recommend seeing him live more highly. He is such a talent. I was really grateful to have been in that enthralled crowd listening to him last week. It was a true pleasure.

xo,

bree

 

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Joseph with Kelsey Kopecky

Monday, September 17, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This night was exactly what I needed. It was such a pleasure to see a band for the first time whose music I love in a room full of people who were actually listening. That should be the norm for a crowd at a show, but sadly, it typically isn’t. To my fellow show-goers–thank you for this night. I was so happy to share this night with you.

I made it to Port City Music Hall just after show opener Kelsey Kopecky took the stage. I recognized the name and Kelsey mentioned she’d played in Portland years ago opening for Michael Franti with her former band, the Kopecky Family Band, which I’d heard of. Kelsey has a pretty voice, but her banter was sometimes awkward and her songs all hit the same note to me. She made a lot of jokes about “her band,” which she called “Alexa and Siri.” I liked her cover of “Kids” by MGMT. She seems like someone learning how to be a solo act and even solicited ideas for a new band name and told us some of her mom’s suggestions.

Kelsey Kopecky

I had been wanting to see Oregon’s sister trio Joseph for years. I missed them at Newport Folk Festival in 2017 (I had a ticket, but didn’t get to go), but my friend Marian saw them up close there in a tiny show and sent me a video so I knew I’d really missed out. I’d seen a few stressful, crowded shows over the summer, so it was particularly lovely to get to stand right up front along the stage just feet away from the band. It was so nice to get to see and hear at a show for a change.img_6046img_6035Joseph–sisters Natalie Closner Schepman, Allison Closner, and Meegan Closner–are something special. Their harmonies are beautiful, their songs full of heart and honesty, and their stage presence is captivating. I was so glad a handful of friends also came out to see them, because this is a band people really should know. Here’s their NPR Tiny Desk concert, an interview they did that gives good background, and a cover song they performed with Zach Williams from The Lone Bellow (a top favorite band of mine) at their 2017 stop at Newport Folk Festival.

I appreciated that Natalie, Allison, and Meegan shared what some of their songs were about with us. I love it when artists do that at a show. I was particularly glad to hear “White Flag” and “I Don’t Mind” live. Natalie wrote a touching song about her best friend’s baby and the overwhelming feeling of love you have for a newborn and the idea, also, that no matter who who we become, we all started out as innocent as a tiny baby. Natalie gave a shout out to her friend Amber who she used to work with at Starbucks in Portland, Oregon. Amber brought her awesome service dog, Winston, who enjoyed the show with his headphones on right up front. He was the cutest!

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Do you see Winston?

Kelsey joined Joseph on stage for a beautiful, timely cover of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” too. This was such a lovely night. I noticed well into Joseph’s set that I couldn’t hear anything else but them. It’s so rare at a show these days, but we were into them. I sure hope they’ll be back.

xo,

bree

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Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats with Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds

Saturday, September 15, 2019

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

So here’s the thing about seeing shows at Thompson’s Point–it’s so much a festival experience, with a beer tent, food trucks, and plenty of other booths and entertainment–that hearing a band in person just doesn’t seem to be a big priority for a lot of folks at those shows. Thompson’s Point is booking bands I desperately want to see in person, but the crowds at their shows are full of people who are pushy, talkative, drunk, and flat out rude. It’s getting harder and harder to balance the desire to see some amazing bands in person with wanting to have a positive concert experience. Even on this night, when I did a “normal” show experience for Dan’s sake–we got there after doors opened, had dinner at Tacos Del Seoul, and didn’t stake out spots way up front like I normally would–we were still surrounded by inconsiderate people that really put a damper on the night. Someone lit a joint immediately in front of the 8 year-old kid and his mom standing between us, and when the mom quickly grabbed her kid to move away, person after person circumvented us to stand inches in front of us where they’d been and block my view of the show entirely. One gaggle of women “apologized” as they scooted in front of us and assured us “don’t worry–we’re short.” They were all taller than me, and they talked non-stop for the rest of the show, too, so why their need to push past people there to actually listen to the performers? I’m just so floored by the consistently poor behavior of audience members in Portland in the last two years, but especially at Thompson’s Point shows. It really feels like there’s no way to actually see and hear a band there without people physically pushing, talking over the show, or rudely cutting in front of you and blocking your view. It’s also not Thompson’s Point fault in any way or the fact that these shows were sold out that’s the problem. Concert goers are responsible for their behavior and should have basic common courtesy. I’m disappointed that it’s so difficult for people to be respectful of others at concerts and am curious about people who seemingly have so much disposable income that they’d buy a $50 concert ticket to just talk through the whole show.

Dan thought Nathaniel Rateliff put on a great show despite the disappointing crowd around us, but I have almost no feedback about the music itself. I could actually see and follow so little of the show because of the frustrating crowd that I could have stayed home and watched a Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats concert on YouTube and gotten more out of it. I felt like I was standing outside of an arena listening to a show from the parking lot, which sucks.

Nathaniel Ratliff & the Night Sweats

For the record, both Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats are talented and are quite compatible big bands with amazing horn sections to boot. Dan and I enjoyed Sister Sparrow’s set from the rear at the food trucks, and we were probably about 20 rows back stage left for Nathaniel Rateliff’s set. I thought we’d chosen a spot far enough back and to the side to avoid some of the usual antics from fellow audience members, but I was sorely mistaken. I haven’t discovered the secret to having a great Thompson’s Point experience. If you have, please share!

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My view of the show. At least I could see the stage through their iPhone?! Ugh.

Since I saw so little of their set with my own eyes, I read a bit about Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats online after the show. I didn’t firmly know Nathaniel was from Mississippi and had played in a church band with his family growing up. His father was killed in a car accident on his way to church, actually, and Nathaniel dropped out of school to work as a janitor in the school where he otherwise would have been a student. Nathaniel and his best friend and bassist Joseph Pope III moved to Denver and have been making music there for 20 years. I didn’t realize how lucky their big break on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon was (one of Jimmy’s friends sent him a link to their video and he loved it). Their sophomore album, Tearing at the Seams, contains songs about Nathaniel’s divorce, and I’m impressed with how personal and soul-baring songs like “Babe I Know” are.

A tender moment that sticks out from the show is that Nathaniel told us that they’d just flown in from Portland, Oregon where they laid their friend and producer Richard Swift to rest. They dedicated their last song of the night, “Tearing at the Seams,” to him, and I heard some of the his dedication and the song over the girls near us who were Snapchatting and talking over it. Again, folks–I don’t get you when you act like this. Especially in the tender moments, you’re missing everything.

I think I’ve got to stick to small venues and folk shows for a bit.

xo,

bree

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Ghostland Festival

Saturday, September 1, 2019

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

I missed a ton of concerts this summer because my sweet dad and his awesome girlfriend came up from Florida to help me renovate my cute new house on a tight schedule, so I was so pumped to make up some missed music all at one at Ghostland. I’d forgotten, but I was at the first Ghostland Festival that The Ghost of Paul Revere put together back in 2014 at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick. This show, just four years later, was massive in comparison, and speaks to Ghost’s success and the community of fans they’ve built.

This was my last weekend before kids came back to school, and I was determined to make the most of it. Dan and I made it to Thompson’s Point to pick up our VIP bracelets (seven years of concert blogging has its perks) for the show and I gave my friends Rachel and Ian my spare presale ticket for the show. Colin saved us a spot up front and we made it to him just in time for Sibylline’s set. I’m a big fan of Sibylline, who you may recognize as Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters. I’ve seen them a few times, and their rich harmonies, soulful lyrics, and string arrangements are lovely.

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Sibylline

My dear friend Max Garcia Conover took the stage next, and wowed the crowd with his frank and passionate lyrics about social justice and greed. Max is a troubadour in the truest sense, and his banter was inspiring. He said, “I think we are all living through a time when our society is defined by constant vilification and our government is defined by selfishness. I think when you’re living in that kind of time, any act of empathy is an act of civil disobedience and every song is a protest song and every music festival is a rally.” Max clearly impressed everyone around me up front, and I was proud to be part of his fan club while he played for his biggest crowd to date. For more about Max, here’s my review of his last show at One Longfellow Square.

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Max Garcia Conover (right) and Ben Cosgrove (left)

I’d promised Dan a normal concert experience, but that’s not my jam. Typically, I get to a show before doors open, get a spot along the barricade right up front, and forgo food and drink to maintain a spot up close for the entire show. Dan was hungry, so he made his way to the food trucks along the water at Thompson’s Point, but there were so few that he ended up being in line for almost an hour and he sadly missed one of my favorite bands, The Ballroom Thieves. Martin explained that one of their new songs was “meant to be a song about love and kindness and about speaking up for people who don’t have a voice and can’t stand up for themselves. We need to find common ground with people who we disagree with to move forward.”

The Ballroom Thieves–Martin, Devin, and Callie–have chemistry and talent to spare, and I’m always happy to get to see them live. They were joined onstage for a couple of songs by the insanely talented Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, which takes any musical experience and makes it exponentially better. The Thieves all live in Maine now, so they’re playing here more, and just announceda show on December 28at Port City Music Hall. Check out this post for more on the Thieves.

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The Ballroom Thieves with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra

I was a little floored when I saw that South Carolina’s Shovels & Rope was slated to play Ghostland. Michael and Cary Ann are the real deal with percussive, rowdy songs and so much warmth onstage. My pal Aimsel and I saw them from the front row at Port City back last October, which was a truly special and unbeatable experience. The crowd started to swell during their boisterous set, so Dan and I left Colin and ventured over to the renovated shipping container that Thompson’s Point uses as a VIP lounge.

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Shovels & Rope

When The Ghost of Paul Revere took the stage, there were solidly 3,500 fans gathered to cheer them on. I think every single Buxton resident was there, for sure, because Ghostland was a hometown celebration of a band that locals have loved for many years now. Ghost–Griffin, Sean, and Max–always puts on a great show, and they were joined for their whole set by the immensely talented duo of Ben Cosgrove on piano and accordion and Kevin Oates on cello, which made their set exceptional. The Maine Youth Rock Orchestra joined them for a couple of songs, too, and I loved watching all the guys in the band turn around to cheer for the kids before they left the stage.

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From L to R: Ben Cosgrove, Griffin Sherry, Sean McCarthy, Max Davis, and Kevin Oates

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Cheering for MYRO

Sean asked if we’d be willing to turn on the flashlights on our cell phones, and the crowd happily obliged and lit up the lovely night at Thompson’s Point. I saw The Ghost of Paul Revere last on New Year’s Eve, and was especially happy to hear “Next Year”–the first song I heard in 2018–again live. The Ballroom Thieves joined Ghost onstage for an awesome cover of “Under Pressure” to end the night on a high note.

img_5766img_5814So many thanks to Griffin, Sean, and Max from Ghost for their painstaking effort to organize such an awesome party to celebrate the end of summer. So many of my friends were at this show and certainly most of my favorite bands were. Until next year?!

xo,

bree

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Dashboard Confessional

Friday, August 24, 2018

Maine State Pier, Portland, Maine

I bought a house this summer, which meant that I canceled a solid month of concert-going to renovate and move, including a trip to the Newport Folk Festival. I couldn’t, however, skip seeing Dashboard Confessional at the Maine State Pier, which says a lot, because the Pier is a terrible venue and I was slammed. If you’re in your late 30s, you might also be at the right age for Dashboard Confessional to have been important to you at a transition point in your life. Their 2001 album, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, has been my go-to break up album for almost 20 years.

I spent the afternoon with my friend Jan at Reid State Park and then scooted down to Portland to catch Dashboard’s set. The person I talked to at the ticket booth was friendly, which is about the only positive interaction I’ve ever had with a staff member at the Pier, so it deserves a mention. I ran into one of my former students and her big sister and caught up for a bit, and then grabbed my spot in front of the barricade to take photos for the first three songs of Dashboard’s set.

If you have nostalgic feelings about Dashboard, then this was a pretty okay show. If you didn’t, I bet you thought their set fell flat. Chris Carrabba’s got a lot of screechy high notes to hit in his songs, so he balances that with a lot of chatting with the audience. He also gave personal introductions of every member of the band. Chris knows his audience well by now, and said, “some of you guys were in drama and got beat up like me. If we all feel weird together, we don’t have to feel weird alone.” I was so glad to hear “Again I Go Unnoticed,” “Saints and Sailors,” and “Screaming Infidelities” early in their 14-song set. To introduce “Screaming Infidelities,” Chris said “come on kids–we’re going crying.”

IMG_6392Chris said Weezer was the first band to believe in Dashboard Confessional, so they covered “Say It Ain’t So” to thank them. I didn’t like the new song for this tour–“Kinda Yeah Sorta,” but Dashboard hasn’t been putting a ton of music out in the last decade, so I’ll forgive it. Chris talked a lot between songs, and his messages were about inclusion and kindness. To introduce “We Fight,” he said “we are all accepting of each other’s differences in this space. I don’t know what’s going on with the rest of the world, but I beg you to show them what we are doing right. Let’s make a better world for ourselves and our children.”

IMG_6497I made my way to the rear of the audience to watch the full moon behind the stage light up the sky. Chris played “Hands Down,” which he always says is about the “best day he’s ever had in his whole life” to end their set. I was glad to hear some of these songs that mean a lot to me in person again, and was happy to get to do that nearby in Portland on a gorgeous night.

xo,

bree

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Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

This night was an absolute blast! I’d planned to see Brandi and Jason the following weekend at the Newport Folk Festival, but bought a house and my closing date was too near. I actually didn’t have a ticket for this show because I’d planned on a bachelorette weekend getaway with girlfriends, but I needed to stay home and pack, so treated myself to a night out with one of my top favorite musicians. The show had sold out before I knew I needed a ticket, but my friend Aimsel connected me with a ticket, and even though she got to go to Brandi’s soundcheck and had a VIP ticket for the show, she popped over to fourth row center to hang out with Colin and me for a little bit before the show.

I got to Thompson’s Point at 5PM to be in line for doors at 6PM. There was already quite a long line when I arrived. Folks chatted happily in line, and I met Kristen, Caitlin, and Remy–a mom and her two daughters–who were also long-time Brandi fans (my first Brandi show was back in 2005). I caught Remy’s eye later in the crowd and we waved from across the fourth row, and we also bumped into each other and debriefed as we head out of the show later.

Colin and I grabbed an incredible fourth row center spot and met Steve and Donna, Zach (who’d come from Iowa), Lisa, and her 11-year-old nephew, Noah. We bonded and chatted for an hour and I was pretty psyched about the pocket of great people we’d ended up with.

Jason Isbell and his band, which sometimes, but on this night included his gorgeous wife, Amanda Shires, took the stage right on time. I’d never seen Jason live, but I love his songs. I especially liked “24 Frames,” “White Man’s World,” and “Cover Me Up.” He sounded great and they played a fun set for us, with a guest appearance from Brandi and her daughter Evangeline, too. I’d hoped Jason would be more of a storyteller in person, but he really let his songs speak for him and didn’t talk to us except to introduce members of the band. Jason Isbell threw a pick into the crowd and it came right for me. It bounced off my hand and right to the nice woman behind me who was a much bigger fan and I was glad I’d helped it get to her.

I knew the crowd would shift in between acts, but things got messy for us up front quickly once Jason left the stage. We were prepared to stick together, but I was surprised by how many people tried the “my friend is up there” line and the physical force to push their way forward route. I was particularly surprised because Brandi exudes love, and I was disappointed that so many fans used force to push their way up. I was most surprised that the people who pushed me were women in their 50s. The woman behind me was rightly furious that people pushed in front of her, and she let folks know. Many argued “this is a rock show” and “it’s general admission!” I had a woman (also in her 50s) press every inch of her body against my backside to try to push me forward. I told her to stop touching me and asked her if she was embarrassed by her behavior. She told me– “I’m completely at peace.” People are gross sometimes. Even Brandi fans. *If you haven’t arrived early to earn your spot up front, it’s not yours to take later. Concert etiquette 101.* Of course the women who pushed their way up front talked through the rest of the show and didn’t seem to pay much attention at all, which is *exactly* what I’d expected from folks that rude in the first place. Bad concert karma to them!

We settled into our pressed, but mostly intact group for Brandi, and tried to let the frustration of the full court press wash over us (it was hardest for me, I’m sure, because I’m a teacher and bad behavior is maddening). Brandi and the twins and their band took the stage, and the night improved quite quickly. They opened with “Every Time I Hear That Song” and the audience was immediately caught up in their energy.

Most of Brandi’s “the” songs–“The Eye,” “The Mother,” and “The Joke” came back-to-back and they’re all stunning in their own right. Brandi told us that “The Mother” is about her daughter Evangeline, but it’s really about everybody’s Evangeline. Brandi introduced “Sugartooth” by telling us that “everybody is somebody’s baby, some of them have fallen on really hard times. Nobody is just a criminal or an incarcerated person or a junkie.” Their cover of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” left me SPEECHLESS. I’d heard them play it back in May in Boston, but I was too far away at that show, so this was a totally different thing to hear it up close and personal. Brandi told us that “Party of One” is about a fight with a spouse, and the lyrics ring true–“Don’t even think about your freedom / Or taking that flight / Or going back upon your promise after fighting for the right / Because your eggshells and your right statements and your weaponized words / Are paper tigers now.” The tone took a sharp change after when Brandi and the twins left us with “Hold Out Your Hand.” The sold out crowd was in unison as we sang and clapped along, which I think we all needed.

No one really does a live show as well as Brandi, Tim, and Phil, and I am so grateful that I got to be right up close to feel all the goodness they showered on us that night!

xo,

bree

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I’m With Her

Sunday, July 8, 2019

Prescott Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This was a picture perfect day. Friends from church invited me to join them for a sail out of Georgetown and Captain Ben even let me take the helm some. It was a hot and sunny day with good wind and great company. Meg and Ben kindly accommodated my need to get back to shore by 4 so I could scoot to Portland to pick up moving boxes I’d found for free on Craigslist (I bought a house!) and make my way to Prescott Park in Portsmouth to see I’m With Her.

I’d seen Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan all live, but never together. I’m With Her released their debut album, See You Around, in February of 2018, and I had never listened to it and didn’t know a single one of their songs as a trio. Their other projects were so strong and I love all of their individual voices enough that I got off a sailboat to drive 100 minutes each way to see them in person.

Colin and Sabrina arrived at Prescott Park closer to doors opening and put down a blanket third row center for us (they’re the best!), and I got to catch up with them about their upcoming trip to Canada a bit before the show. I thought Sara, Sarah, and Aoife’s harmonies were lovely, and they told us the backstories to many of their songs, which is always a plus in my book. They’re all talented instrumentalists, too, and played a soothing set juxtaposed with a very busy Seussical set.

Sarah told us that they wrote their songs for their album in Vermont in December. They’d rented a minivan to drive from New York to Vermont, lost cell reception, got rerouted by Google, and were stuck on an icy mountain, unable to move. Sarah said that “a magical mountain man in a pickup truck” helped them turn around and led them back to the highway. The bonus was that they got a song out of it aptly titled “I-89.” Their songs “Hundred Miles” and “Overland” also stuck out as favorites.

I’m With Her also played two incredible and well-received covers of Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” and John Hiatt’s “Crossing Muddy Waters.” I’m With Her will play the State Theatre in Portland on November 11, and a duo that I really like, The Brother Brothers, will open the show. If you like tender songs and strong harmonies, you should check them out!

xo,

bree

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