Jamestown Revival

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I set up for the senior prom Friday night, hosted the prom Saturday night, but still made my way down to Portland Sunday night to see Jamestown Revival at Port City Music Hall. In retrospect, I was way too spent to not take some time off over the weekend, but they’re so worth it. I saw Jamestown Revival on my birthday back in 2017, and it was my third favorite show of 2017. I was happy to see they were coming back to town after two years away, and I’m glad I was in the room.

I showed up at the end of Chris Ross and the North’s set, and they sounded great and made me wish I’d gotten there earlier. There was a huge gap between the stage and the audience when I arrived, so I made my way to an empty space at the stage edge in between sets. I met Annie, a science teacher from Portland, and we chatted about our Jamestown Revival experiences. I often go to shows solo, so it’s nice when I end up in a good pocket of people to enjoy a show with.

Magnolia, Texas’ Jamestown Revival is warm and inviting in person. Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay share the lead, and they’ve been friends since high school. They introduced their songs with details (which I love), sincerely thanked us for being there, and even remembered the woman dressed up like a zebra at their first-ever show in Maine a couple of Octobers back. She was right there in the front row, and loved hearing that they remembered her. “Revival,” “Fur Coat Blues,” and “California (Cast Iron Soul)” stick out as crowd favorites. I thought it was interesting that they didn’t play their best-known song, “Love Is A Burden.” 98.9 WCLZ has played that song on heavy rotation for a couple of years, and I’m bet it’s the only Jamestown Revival song some of folks in the room knew. Their new single, “Who Hung The Moon,” is out now from their upcoming album, San IsabelJonathan introduced “Killing You, Killing Me” saying, “It’s like we work to distract ourselves with our phones. They keep us from having conversations where we look each other in the eye and they take us away from moments and people that matter the most.” We asked for an encore and they graciously obliged with the whole band unplugged around one microphone (while the crowd really listened!) for “Round Prairie Road.”img_2452Lots of my former students were in the room and I got to catch up with them after the show, which made it a really sweet Sunday night, too.

xo,

bree

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Courtney Marie Andrews

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’m grateful to Brandi Carlile for putting Courtney Marie Andrews on my radar. They toured together in 2018. When Brandi recommends an up-and-coming artist, I listen. I was so glad to see Courtney Marie Andrews was opening for Deer Tick at Port City Music Hall last week. I’m the senior class advisor and teaching a new course in American Foreign Policy this year, so I’m often short on time. Even so, I got myself down to Port City just in time to snag an available front row spot a few minutes before she took the stage. I knew I didn’t have the energy to stay up late for Deer Tick, so I drove 80 minutes round trip to see Courtney Marie Andrews play for 45 minutes. She was SO worth the effort! Do you ever feel that excited energy of knowing an awesome secret before other people? I feel like that with her, though I dug into her background a bit and was surprised to learn that she’s already been making music for over a decade. I am actually really late to the Courtney Marie Andrews party, but am here to invite you anyhow.

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Courtney Marie Andrews shared the stage with a drummer, bassist, and pianist. She played electric guitar and just stunned the room with her powerful lyrics and transcendent voice. The show was sold out and lots of people were clearly in the room ready for Deer Tick, but Courtney Marie Andrews held the crowd in the palm of her hand. Listen to “Rough Around the Edges” and “May Your Kindness Remain” to hear for yourself how powerful her voice is. If I had any wish for her live show, I’d (of course) want a bit more banter and to learn something about some of her songs in person. Even though she stuck almost exclusively to the songs, I was so blown away by her voice that I’d see her again in a heartbeat. Check out this live set and interview from KEXP for a bit of context about Courtney Marie Andrew’s background as a bartender and experience as a touring musician. Read NPR’s review of her 2018 album, May Your Kindness Remain, too. She’s the real deal, y’all.

xo,

bree

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Patty Griffin with Ruston Kelly

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I’ve been listening to Patty Griffin since my senior year of high school, so for over 20 years now. I have always liked knowing that she grew up two towns over from me. It made me feel like anything was possible for a kid from a small town in Maine. Her songs, full of heart, are among my all-time favorites. If I absolutely had to narrow down my favorite songs from her long career, I would still have to pick six–“Rain,” “Nobody’s Crying,” “When It Don’t Come Easy,” “Top Of The World,” “Let Him Fly,” and “Burgundy Shoes.” Patty’s songs have been recorded by so many talented musicians who’ve helped share her music in the world. Patty is pretty epic. Somehow, I’ve only managed to see her twice, in 2002 and 2007. I was thrilled when I saw she was going on tour with Ruston Kelly. I saw his incredibly talented wife, Kacey Musgraves, back in January. I eagerly snagged a solo seat in the third row at The Music Hall in Portsmouth when tickets went on sale, and I made my way south on a sunny Sunday afternoon to see the show. I was pumped to run into my friend and fellow music enthusiast Aimsel Ponti and her friend Kathryn, who had incredible front row center seats for the show.

For me, Ruston Kelly stole the show and my music-loving heart. His set was full of sincerity, heart, and power. His voice is compelling and his songs are honest and self-aware. He shared the stage with his dad, TK Kelly, on pedal steel guitar. Ruston introduced his dad–“not only is he a fantastic dresser, but he happens to be my biological father. We found out on Maury. He’s the strong, silent type.” Something that crept up early in the night was a little bit of sarcasm from the audience that I found annoying and I think Ruston did, too. A few people interjected during his banter–one to give him a hard time about tuning his guitar. He responded, “I’m tuning my guitar so I can play better.” He mentioned the comments later in his set. He said, “that’s the stuff you remember later.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.

Ruston told us early in his set that “I feel like it will give some context that in that at this period in my artwork, I had to dig myself out of a pretty low hole dealing with substance abuse and I’m happy to say that I’m on solid ground these days. There’s a silver lining to most of it, but the songs are still pretty sad.” I was surprised to hear him introduce “Mockingbird” by saying “I wrote this song standing next to a dumpster.” His song “Alive” gave me chills. I’m already looking forward to seeing Ruston again live. He is the real deal. I was excited when one of the guys on the tour crew handed me his setlist during intermission, too.

I can’t believe I hadn’t seen Patty Griffin live in 12 years, and I was sad to hear how much thinner her voice sounds in person these days. If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t love this live show. I appreciated learning about some of the songs on her new album, Patty Griffin, though. Patty told us that “Boys from Tralee” is about a couple of boys getting out of Ireland during the Famine. She said her grandparents came to America couple of generations after the Famine, because Ireland was still pretty devastated. She told us that, “one of the reasons I’m alive is because the gates were open. I think about that a lot lately.”

Patty told us that “Hourglass” was inspired by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and she encouraged us to check him out on YouTube. More of the songs on her new album were inspired by other musicians, too. Patty was in Europe when she had a vivid dream about Billie Holliday. She explained, “I’d never immersed myself in her music before because her voice is awfully sad and I didn’t think I could handle it. In this dream, she was young and was smiling and was singing this beautiful song in a barn to a bunch of people. I woke up out of this dream and started listening to her consistently. I’ve learned from her that singers can sometimes never waste a note. She meant every single note she used. I learned what a huge supreme gift it is to have a voice that sad because when you need to feel sad she carries you there with her and that’s a gift to the world. I thought about what made her sad. She was born a Black woman in America in the era she was born into. I heard there were many difficult moments in her life and as a child her mother was not able to be in her life. This sadness in her voice is where people go to cry their tears and it inspired Had a Good Reason.

Photo courtesy of Aimsel Ponti

Patty didn’t play many older songs, which I was disappointed about, too, so I was especially glad to hear “Long Ride Home” in person. Patty honored her mother when she introduced “Bluebeard.” She told us her mom was an English teacher and they went to the library every week. “Bluebeard” is a murder ballad that retells the story she read as a kid. She said, “sometimes there are things in life that you don’t want to know but then they become obvious and you can’t unknow them so you have to do something about them.”

Patty told us that she wrote “Where I Come From” about Old Town, Maine. She was driving her mom around town (she still lives there) looking for a store that has long disappeared and “thought about how different the town is now. When I was born there were 5 or 6 factories–they made shoes, paper, and canoes–and now they’re down to just one canoe factory. I thought about how there’s no plan B and that is the case all over America. There are all these little towns that need a little love.”

I really love Patty’s new single, “River.” The lyrics are powerful (like Patty’s always are): “Isn’t she a river? / She doesn’t need a diamond to shine / You can’t really have her / But you can hold her for a time / Takes an army just to bend her.” I was over the moon to hear one of my favorite Patty Griffin songs, “When It Don’t Come Easy,” in person. I’ll take a sappy lyric anytime, like “if you break down / I’ll drive out and find you / If you forget my love / I’ll try to remind you

And stay by you when it don’t come easy.” Patty sincerely thanked her band, Ruston Kelly, the folks at The Music Hall, and all of us for coming before wrapping her set with “Shine a Different Way.” She came back to the stage solo and sang “Heavenly Day” for us, which was enthusiastically received by a much warmer audience. It was not my favorite Patty Griffin show to date, but I am forever grateful to her for decades of songs that make me feel all the feelings.

xo,

bree

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Maggie Rogers

Saturday, March 23, 2019

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I was prepared to not like this show. In fact, I almost skipped it out of sheer frustration. I’d emailed back and forth with Maggie’s publicist about a press pass back in August for the originally scheduled November date at State Theatre. I reached out again closer to the rescheduled date in late February and got the runaround about a press pass and then a final no the week before the show. By then, the show was long sold out. I hadn’t wanted to take a ticket from a fan if I was going to be covering the show, so I didn’t buy one. I can say that I can’t remember a time I worked so hard to get a single ticket to a show. I ended up posting in every Facebook event related to the show and finally a real person messaged me and was selling a ticket AT COST. Two things–there were SO MANY fake Facebookers selling fake tickets in the Facebook event thread. If a person doesn’t have a single Facebook friend–they’re a scammer. Watch out! I connected with a real person who I have mutual friends with on Facebook and they wanted $100 for a single ticket. Bad concert karma to folks who jack up ticket prices! Dear Katia asked for $40 for a single ticket, which covered just the cost of the ticket and fees. Good on you and many, many thanks, Katia.

Saw so many friends at the show!

Turns out, I am so damn happy I worked so hard to find a ticket to this show. I know Maggie is coming back to Portland at the end of July to play Thompson’s Point, but I really hate that venue and have decided I just can’t have a quality concert experience there. It is simply too big a venue for me personally, especially when proximity to the stage is so important to me. Actually, I’d really love the opportunity to talk with the Thompson’s Point team about a trend of simply awful concert etiquette I’ve experienced there and see what we might do as a community to make shows better for everyone. The number of times I’ve been physically pushed at shows there, and often by women in their 50s telling me “it’s a concert!,” (which I found surprising at first), despite many clear statements to people to STOP TOUCHING ME is alarming. Many folks have such little regard for others at that venue particularly, and I just can’t enjoy a concert there anymore.

I digress. I won’t see you at Thompson’s Point, Maggie Rogers, but your electric, captivating, darling sold out show at State Theatre really *almost* makes me want to ditch my Thomspon’s Point boycott.

Maggie Rogers was pure delight. She came out ready to party in a silver shirt that shone all night like her smiling face. She grooved the entire show and worked every inch of the stage. She put on an excellent show, and I am so, so grateful that I had the opportunity to see her live. Sean and I snagged our favorite spot (it’s a secret) and had a great view of the stage. Everyone was so excited for the show and people danced and sang along and threw their hands up in the air during her 75-minute set. It had been awhile since I’d seen a show at State Theatre where concert etiquette wasn’t a huge issue for me. I suppose most folks this night were so into Maggie that they were too busy dancing and singing along to be awful, or, I just got lucky.

img_0914-1Maggie introduced a few of her songs with honest, open details, and seemed genuinely moved to be headlining the State Theatre, which she’d known from years of attending summer camp in Maine. She expressed sincere gratitude about waiting so long for the show and for being willing to reschedule. She thanked us “for being so understanding and for being so open about changing your plans–your hotels, your planes, your trains, your buses–so that I could go do Saturday Night Live.” It turns out, I was glad to see Maggie live for the first time after the release of her 2019 Heard It In A Past Life debut album, because we got to hear every single song from the album in person and had listened to it enough times through (on repeat in my car, at least) that we knew all of the words, too!

Sean lost his mind a little during Maggie’s cover of Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw” and he was coincidentally wearing a Taylor Swift shirt to the show! Maggie sang “Light On,” and told us it’s about graduating from college and figuring out adulthood. She said it recalls a “time when I was scared and overwhelmed. I got on stage every night and felt like I could be vulnerable and could share and I felt so supported doing this thing I love to do more than anything else in the world. SNL is part of the dreams you don’t stay out loud, but so is Thompson’s Point, and I can’t wait to be back here this summer.” Friends–I assure you–Maggie Rogers will kill it at Thompson’s Point. If you like the big venue thing, you should totally go see her there.

Maggie put on a hell of a show and she told us, “You can journal and you can go to therapy, but sometimes you just need to dance things off. I’m up here because singing makes me super happy, but it also gives me a lot of joy to help people release.” And it shows! I think Maggie closed with “Fallingwater,” and the crowd roared for an encore.

Maggie came back to the stage solo and spoke to us about how hard it’s been to fall asleep after the shows because “we create a lot of energy in this space together and being loud together is amazing. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being quiet with a group of people. I’m going to sing and it’s important to know it’s a camp song I grew up singing in Maine in the woods in the dark and it’s special to have my fellow campers’ blessing to sing it. There’s not really rules at concerts, but there’s like guidelines, and if you feel like yelling something, you should wait till after cause that’s rude (AMEN, Maggie!).” Maggie sang “Color Song” from her Maine summer camp a cappella for us to end the night, and I was so happily surprised when everyone in the room stopped to listen. Thanks for that wonderful moment, all!

This was such a happy show and I was so glad to be there. Also, State Theatre played “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” just after the house lights went up, and it kept the good vibes going all the way out the door.

xo,

bree

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SnugHouse and Max Garcia Conover

Friday, March 22, 2019

Portland House of Music and Events, Portland, Maine

There’s nothing quite like starting the weekend with not one, but two, of your favorite live acts! And, in this case, they played a show together!! This show was my dream double bill, and it was everything I knew it would be. I got a killer parking spot in front of PHOME right before 8pm. I love that seats were set up for us, because neither of these bands is putting out a dance album anytime soon (challenge accepted?!), and I got a second row spot a few minutes before my friend Max Garcia Conover took the stage. Sophie sat with me, and I was so glad to get to see her excited facial expressions as her husband put on a truly inspired show. Max came out of the gate with “Crow Song,” “My Neighbor Joe,” “Self Portrait,” “New Sweden,” and “Rich Man.” I find Max’s live show so compelling–he’s earnest and humble–a true storyteller. On this night, he played hard, sang loud, thumped his kickdrum, and had the crowd in the palm of his hand (as usual).

SnugHouse is such a delight. I love their shows because they’re a total lovefest. Nikhil Dasgupta, Alex Millan, Laura Pauline, Rosie Borden, and new-ish fifth member Sam Kyzivat have chemistry and talent to spare. They played virtually every song they’ve written in their short tenure as a group, including “I Couldn’t Be” (sung around one microphone), “Irie,” and “Glass” (from their 2018 EP, Like Water). Rosie brings an effervescence to stage that juxtaposes nicely with SnugHouse’s typically reflective songs. Rosie’s parents were in the audience and had driven up from Connecticut for the show. They were adorable and blew kisses to Rosie from their seats on the floor. Laura’s folks were there from Florida, and I chatted with Nikhil’s dad after the show. I told you that SnugHouse shows are full of love, and it’s not an exaggeration.

I really appreciate that everyone in SnugHouse shares the spotlight, writes their own songs, and plays multiple instruments, too. Laura debuted a new song she wrote at SnugHouse’s EP release show back in November called “A Love I’ve Never Had Before,” and I loved hearing it with a full arrangement. Her vocals on their covers of “Stayin’ Alive” and “Fever” are crazy impressive, too. The crowd was captivated and asked for an encore. I was hopeful when Nikhil sat down at the piano and said that they hadn’t played this song in a while. I wondered–could it be my favorite SnugHouse song–the one I’ve listened to seriously no fewer than 100 times?! He said that “it’s about having to say goodbye to a place when you’re not ready to” and then he scanned the crowd, saw me, and said “this song is dedicated to Bree” and I was so touched. “Brunswick” (Bowdoin’s my alma mater, too) shows the maturity of Nikhil’s lyrics. My favorite in this song–“So find my hand and walk me through the unfinished parts. Through my search for beginnings in the end, the truth that I can’t bend.” What a delight to hear that song in person for the first time and frankly it was an honor to hear my name mentioned from stage, too. Thanks so much for that surprise, Nikhil. SnugHouse–I love y’all so much. What you have created together is truly special.

xo,

bree

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Lucy Dacus with Mal Blum and Fenne Lily

Sunday, March 17, 2019

SPACE Gallery, Portland, Maine

This was such a lovely night of music. It’s been rare to see shows with a listening audience, but SPACE seems to draw the right folks who really care about the craft of songwriting. I was so pleased to be able to hear the whole show instead of it being drowned out by people treating the show as background noise. I attribute it, also, to the evident love folks in the crowd had for all three artists. So many people sang along and were really joyful all night. It was such a salve for the sadness show-going has brought me in the last couple of years. I’m glad my concert buddy Sean was there to witness it with me, too.

Fenne Lily didn’t introduce herself until the very end of her set, but I was curious about her from the first few bars of her first sad song. Her guitarist’s name is impressively hard to find online, but they were clearly great friends. Both on electric guitars, Fenne Lily’s songs were honest and she shared what inspired nearly all of them (which is solid gold for me at a show). She was charming and funny and I’ll definitely listen to more of her. I did see that she’s somewhat internet famous. Her song “Top to Toe” has over 30 million plays on Spotify. If you like context like I do, check out this interview with Fenne Lily. She complemented the audience last night. She said “thank you for being loud and quiet in the right places.” I totally agree. It was SO NICE to see a show surrounded by people who wanted to be there for the music. It’s becoming more and more rare these days.

 

Fenne Lily

Mal Blum took the stage and I had to quickly search my bag for my earplugs. They were LOUD, but in a captivating, well-oiled way. Mal introduced the band and told us they’re all great friends and grateful to get to make music and tour together. Mal told us “Things Still Left To Say” is about being closeted, and told us they got to have a “Lady and Tramp moment with a turtle” in the video. Mal’s music is about heavy subjects–identity, acceptance, loss–and I was so impressed by how open Mal was when introducing songs. Mal also had self-deprecating charm and self-awareness that I thought was really refreshing. I was also a little bit caught off guard (in a fun way) but how rocking these sad songs were. Folks loved their set and sang along a lot. There were clearly a lot of people in the room to cheer on this band.

Mal Blum

Lucy Dacus took the stage and opened with a new (beautiful) song, “Fool’s Gold.” Lucy really lit up the room with her heartfelt songs and humility. I was standing right in front of the drum kit, so I wished I could have heard her lyrics better, but we were entranced. I’m trying to figure out how someone who is 23 years old has her profound ability to capture emotion in lyrics. Lucy is really impressive. I was introduced to Lucy by her 2016 NPR Tiny Desk Concert and love her collaboration with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers in boygenius.

 

Lucy Dacus

IMG_6840Lucy asked if anyone had seen her play at One Longfellow Square back in 2016. She said a lot has changed in the few years since that self-booked show. Lucy and her band played songs about equally from her 2016 album, No Burden, and her 2018 album, Historian. Everyone in the crowd was super attentive and sang along. Her band stayed behind for her solo encore. She warned us that “if you wanted to leave on a high note, you might want to leave now” before playing another new song about a friend’s difficult relationship with her father that just floored me. It was such a pleasure to be in the room for this sold out show. Thanks, Lucy!

xo,

bree

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Bobby Long with Darrell Foster

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Empire, Portland, Maine

I have no memory of how British singer-songwriter Bobby Long came across my radar, but it was a long time ago and his name has been tucked away in my brain. When I saw he was coming to Empire in Portland, I bought a ticket and showed up, even though I wasn’t very familiar with his folky music. It was an odd night. There were probably 20 people in the room upstairs at Empire at the most crowded point. I sat next to a group of four who’d come all the way up from Long Island for the show and were on a Bobby Long tour road trip.

Less than a week later, most of the night has faded from my mind. Sometimes, shows just aren’t very memorable. Portland-based musician Darrell Foster opened the show, and there were probably only 10 people in the room when he took the stage. That must have been awkward for him, but he rolled with it. He had the guy from college who sang at the open mics on campus vibe. He interacted with the tiny crowd and made a real effort despite the small turnout, which I appreciate. I remember he covered The Tallest Man On Earth, too, which I enjoyed. Check out his song “Dreamer.”

Bobby Long was also pretty mellow, which matched the energy in the room. He chatted warmly with the small crowd, though, and told us what some of his songs were about, which I always appreciate. He even impromptuly covered Macy Gray’s “I Try” after an audience member requested it. There was a fair amount of back and forth chatting with the engaged people in the front of the room who’d come up to Maine from Long Island. As someone who hasn’t listened to him much, I’ve got to say that his songs all sounded alike to me. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t stay until the end of a show, but I felt like I wouldn’t miss anything remarkable if I left early, so I did. Listen to Bobby Long on World Cafe or check out his song “1985.” I heard “The Bounty of Mary Jane” live and liked it and also enjoyed Bobby’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright,” too.

Also, concert etiquette continues to be a huge issue at shows in Portland, which did surprise me given how few people were in the room. There were two women who were having drinks at a high top table 20 feet from the stage who talked super loudly through both sets. Frankly, they were so loud that I couldn’t always hear Darrell or Bobby over them and I was in the front row. Again, if you’re not going to a show to listen, why go at all? The table next to me asked them to please be quiet, but they kept cackling away. I am not surprised anymore, unfortunately. It’s sadly the thing I remember most clearly about the night. Portland concert goers–you’ve really got to get it together.

xo,

bree

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