Liz Longley with Monique Barrett

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was a perfect day. My 2019 class officers and I delivered hundreds of roses and carnations to kids at school, I had a decadent spa facial after school, and Colin met me at One Longfellow Square for this fantastic show. I hadn’t seenPortland songstress Monique Barrett in too long, so when I saw she was opening forLiz Longley, I eagerly added the show to my calendar. I am SO glad I was in the room for this stellar night.

Monique Barrett was charming and personal with the audience. I always appreciate when a musician interacts with the crowd by sharing stories behind the songs and making us feel like part of a concert experience. Monique does this so well. She played all of her songs about love for us in honor of Valentine’s Day, including a sweet song for her nephew Luca. Monique’s honesty shone through, and we laughed a lot together. Monique told us that she was first introduced to Liz Longley’s music when a friend asked her to learn Liz’s “When You’ve Got Trouble” to sing with her at her sister’s wedding. Monique said that her heart was so full in that moment, and she was honored both to have sung that song for a her friend’s sister on her wedding day and now to share the stage with Liz. She ended her lovely set with my favorite of her songs, “Make It Better.”

Monique Barrett

I’d somehow never seen Liz Longley before, but she impressed me in mere seconds. I remember leaning over to Colin maybe 30 seconds into her first song and whispering “I LOVE her!” Her voice is so strong and full that it fills the space that sometimes exists in songs by other singer songwriters. I was smitten right away. Liz told us she had to dig really deep into her catalog of songs to find any about love in a positive way. Most of her songs, and Monique’s too, were about love lost. She asked if anyone in the crowd wasn’t on a date. Colin and I raised our hands (were we the only ones?) and she looked at us and said, “so most of these songs are really for you.” I love a good break up song, so Liz’s music is firmly in my wheelhouse.


Liz Longley

Liz told us that she just turned 30 and was a little freaked out about it, but the crowd reassured her life is better after 30. She wrote a song the day before our show in the car during her six hour drive, and told us that writing in the car can be liberating because she doesn’t getting get stuck in the structure of a guitar or piano part. She also told us that one of her favorite childhood memories was driving home from the Shore with her mom. Her mom used to sing while she drove to stay awake, and “I Will” by the Beatles was a favorite of her songs to sing. Liz sang a beautiful cover of it for us.

She introduced “Weightless”by telling us that she’d dated someone for three years and they ended up fighting over how to divide their stuff when they broke up even though they’d gotten it all off Craiglist because they were both poor musicians. The lyrics are personal and relatable:

“You can have the couch, the lamp, the diamond ring/the books on the shelf, the dishes in the sink/take take take take take everything.” She told us that she stopped writing music for almost a year afterwards.

I absolutely loved learning that“Rush” was written for Jim and Pam from The Office. Liz said she was watching the episode where they have their first kiss with the sound off, and the words came to her–“as we surrender to it all, have you ever felt so alive/as I feel with you tonight.” Liz told us that she studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that’s when it clicked for me that I loved her honest, personal, hard hitting lyrics as much as I loved her voice. I realized as I wrote this that I don’t often quote song lyrics, but that’s an area where Liz shines. “Memphis” just slays–“The skies aren’t clear and you’re not here/so I just keep telling myself/you wouldn’t make it to Memphis/you wouldn’t make it halfway/you take that lonely road/and you realize your mistake.”

I read up on Liz after this show, and I listened to her entire musical catalog. She lives in Nashville and makes her living as a musician. I spent some of the night trying to figure out who she sounds like, but she sang the first line to a song I can’t find the name of–the lyrics were “Late in September when autumn came”–and it occurred to me that she sounds like Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars), which is a sincere compliment.

Liz played the first song of hers I ever heard, “When You’ve Got Trouble,”and I was so glad to hear it in person. She joked with us all night–she’s pretty self-deprecating, actually–and told us that she was drunk shopping on Amazon years ago and bought some rollerblades. Turns out, she loves them, and bought another pair for her 30th birthday. She laughed as she told us, “if you need to spice up your life, buy rollerblades!”

Liz earned the standing ovation she received, and she kindly closed the night with an encore–a cover of the Alternate Routes“Nothing More.” She played a Concert Window show a couple of months ago to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief, and attributed the night’s success (they raised $3,500 for hurricane victims) to that song, “because it brings people together, which we need in these times.” I couldn’t agree more.

This was a special night. I felt lucky to be there. I hope you’ll look up both of these talented women and see them live.




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José González with Bedouine

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

My friend Greg introduces me to a lot of new music, and many years ago, he included José González’s cover of “Heartbeats” on a mix he sent me. It’s been a favorite song ever since. It’s been streamed over 200 million times on Spotify, too, so I bet you’ve heard “Heartbeats” even if you don’t know the name José González. I’d hoped to see José González live for years, and I was happily surprised to see he was playing The Music Hall in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I don’t think José tours very much in the United States, and certainly not in New England, so this was an exciting opportunity.

Colin and I arrived  Portsmouth with enough time to grab a quick dinner at Flatbread. Our server let us know we could get to the venue faster if we left through their rear entrance, which was a time saving tip.


We made it to our awesome second row seats in time to see show opener, Bedouine. Bedouine was featured on NPR Music last summer, and from that I learned that she is Azniv Korkejian. She was “born in Aleppo, Syria, to Armenian parents, Korkejian spent her early childhood in Saudi Arabia. After her family won the green-card lottery, she moved to the U.S. at the age of 10, living in Massachusetts, Texas and Kentucky before winding up in California as an adult.” Her background is pretty interesting, but she didn’t say much on stage. She has a unique, folky voice and plays classical guitar, but her songs sounded a lot alike and if I’m being honest, I thought her set was boring. I saw that Bedouine will play Newport Folk Festival this summer, so you can check her out there for yourself and see what you think.


José took the stage solo and played a lovely set. Something that sticks out even a few weeks later is that a couple arrived during José’s set and sat in their front row seats in front of us. The man in front of me was so tall that I couldn’t see José until I asked him to take of his hat and scoot down a bit–which he kindly did. I’m glad I asked. I always end up just behind the tallest person in the room!

José González

José plays classical guitar and sings pretty melodies. He is soft spoken, but he told us the inspiration for a few of his songs, which I appreciated. He was warm with the audience. I find that José’s songs are a pleasure to listen to, but his lyrics are hard for me to decipher. I usually Google his lyrics, actually. I’m really glad I was in the room for this mellow night of good music. I was especially happy to hear “Heartbeats” and “Leaf Off / The Cave” (the video is amazing) live. He also played a beautiful cover of “Blackbird” that was stunning. José has an interesting life story, and I like context, so may want to check out this article. His full set on KEXP would give you a good sense of what you missed this night, too. An unexpected bonus was that I slept like a rock after this night of soothing music.



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Ben Cosgrove and Friends

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Blue, Portland, Maine

My friend Ben Cosgrove is an insanely talented pianist and a mighty fine accordion player, too. I met him back in 2014 when he produced our friend Max Garcia Conover’s Ellery album. Ben tours non-stop, crisscrossing the United States and playing really any venue that will have him. I follow Ben on Instagram, and he’ll post a beautiful picture from St. Louis one night and from Wyoming the next. His determination to play for people is really commendable. His music is inspired by the landscape he experiences in his travel, which is plentiful. I heard him play on 98.9 WCLZ last summer, and if you like context like I do, check out my friendKen Templeton’s interview with Ben ahead of his 2017 release, Salt.

Happy 30th, Ben Cosgrove!

Ben turned 30 last week, and he asked the kind folks at Blue if they’d open their doors on a Tuesday (it’s usually their day off) so he could play a birthday show. It was such a treat to spend the evening listening to Ben and his talented friends play for us. I showed up while Hannah Daman (she was a highlight of my 2017concerts) was on stage. Griffin Sherry and Max Davis, both from the Ghost of Paul Revere, played a couple of songs with Ben, as did Max Garcia Conover. To close the night, Ben and his friends covered Dawes’ “All Your Favorite Bands.”Ben played with the Ghost of Paul Reverelast summer when they opened for Guster at Thompson’s Point, and he is about to head out on tour with them for the next month or so.

If you’re sad you missed this fun night, Ben, Max Garcia Conover, Griffin Sherry, and Max Davis play tonight at Blue at 6pm.



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Rachael & Vilray with The Brother Brothers

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Blue, Portland, Maine

This evening was an absolute delight. I felt lucky to get a ticket for this intimate, sold out show in such a teeny venue in the first place, and it was a treat. I made it to Blue around 8:20, but was still able to grab seats for Marian and me at Sean and Rosie’s front row table (they came all the way from Canada to see the show).

I was impressed with The Brother Brothers. I love their folky, harmonic sound. David and Adam Moss are identical twins from Peoria, Illinois who write and record together and live in Brooklyn. David plays cello and guitar, and Adam plays the fiddle. Their harmonies were lovely, and I was taken with their songs–especially Tugboats” and “Cairo, Ill.” Definitely check out their Audiotree session.

Adam and David Moss are the Brother Brothers

Concert etiquette gets an A+ for the evening. It was such a welcome change to see a show where the audience was totally respectful and engaged.

Rachael Price and Vilray (pronounced Vill-ree) took the stage after a short intermission. I started seeing Lake Street Dive live back in 2011, but it’s been ages since I’ve seen Rachael perform in such a small room. Rachael and Vilray met at New England Conservatory of Music 15 years ago, and are clearly good friends. They faced each other and shared one microphone for the night–performing jazz standards and new songs that have the feel of the Jazz Age, but with updated, entertaining lyrics.

Rachael Price and Vilray

Jazz is not even remotely my favorite genre, but I’d listen to Rachael Price sing the phone book and enjoy it. I particularly liked “Let’s Make Love on this Plane” and “Do Friends Fall in Love.” Rachael and Vilray were warm and interactive with the audience, and they told us the stories behind most of the songs they sang, which I really value as a concert-goer.

I know a lot of you were disappointed that you couldn’t get tickets for either night, so check out this video of a show Rachael and Vilray played in Brooklyn to get a feel for what you missed. I feel lucky to have been in the room.



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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Portland House of Music and Events

My friend Aimsel Ponti hosts the Music from 207 radio show on WCLZ. She’s been playing “I Couldn’t Be” by Portland’s SnugHouse regularly, and it hits me right in the feels. Aimsel also called “I Couldn’t Be” one of her favorite songs of 2017. I finally looked SnugHouse up, and have been listening to their songs nonstop for weeks now. Nikhil Dasgupta is the primary songwriter for SnugHouse, and we talked local music shop talk by email and he let me know they were playing at Portland House of Music and Events last night. I decided to stay up late on a school night and check them out live mostly to hear “Brunswick” live, but also because Nikhil is also a Bowdoin College alumnus and that makes us family. SnugHouse was excellent live. Put this band on your radar.

I am a person who likes context, so I read this band feature on Rawkus and listened to their Studio Z performance on WCLZ to learn a bit about where SnugHouse came from. In it, I learned that their name is derived from local Portland pub, The Snug. It’s also evident that SnugHouse has gone through a few lineup and genre changes, but they seem to have settled on their current folky vibe and the lineup of Nikhil Dasgupta, Alex Millan, Rosie Borden, and Laura Pauline. SnugHouse also played on 207 this week ahead of their show at PHOME.

I grabbed a quick dinner at El Rayo, and made it to PHOME with time to catch up with my concert friend and fellow Bowdoin alumna Ally and her roommate, Jill. I met them both this summer at The Head and The Heart’s show at Thompson’s Point, and Ally and I have run into each other at lots of shows since then already. I found a good spot to take some photos of the band, and I ended up chatting with Nikhil’s adorably proud dad, who’d driven up from Boston from the show and had Nikhil’s mom on FaceTime the whole night so she could watch the show. It was precious.

SnugHouse played a long opening set–over an hour, and the audience was hooked. Everyone in the band took the lead on at least one song, and most of them write songs for the band, too. This is a talented group of musicians–with soulful songwriting, multi instrumentalists, and rich, lovely harmonies. They are wise beyond their years.


SnugHouse is (from left to right):  Laura Pauline, Rosie Borden, Nikhil Dasgupta, and Alex Millan

IMG_6159SnugHouse played some incredibly well-received and creative covers, too–Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” and “Philadelphia,” the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” the Commodores’ “Easy,” and “I Can’t Make you Love Me.” I was so glad to hear “Brunswick” and “I Couldn’t Be” in person. I really liked the songs that Rosie and Alex wrote and took lead on, too, including the one that Alex wrote and the group performed on 207 earlier this week.IMG_6162IMG_6206IMG_6215I chatted with Nikhil’s dad after the show for a while, and got to talk to both Nikhil and Alex for a while. This is a creative, talented group of musicians with many musical projects going, but I like the sound and vibe of this particular ensemble A LOT. Check them out!



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The Best Shows I Saw in 2017!

Happy 2018, All!

2017 was a hard year, but I saw some amazing shows that helped me through. I have been writing for six years now, but I’ve only ever written one “Best of” list–all the way back in 2012. I’ll try to make a “Best of” list every year from here on out. It’s good to look back.

I saw 34 shows in 2017, including musicians I’ve seen many times like Ellis Paul, Mipso, Josh Ritter, Lucy Kaplansky, The Ballroom Thieves, and Guster. Even though I saw a solid number of shows, it was actually pretty easy to choose five that stood out. Here they are:

#5. An Evening with Shovels & Rope on Wednesday, October 11 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine. This intimate show with husband and wife duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst gave me all the feels. It was just what I didn’t know I needed.


Shovels & Rope is Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst

#4. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real with Nikki Lane on Friday, November 17 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine. I got an invitation from Lukas Nelson’s publicist the day before this sold out show and it was totally worth making it out on short notice. Lukas Nelson has loads of charisma.


Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

#3. Jamestown Revival with Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters on Wednesday, May 3 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine. This was my birthday show, and I loved every second of the night from start to finish. Both of these bands are excellent and engaging live.


Jamestown Revival


Hannah Daman & the Martelle Sisters

#2. Penny & Sparrow with Lowland Hum on Saturday, April 29 at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Penny & Sparrow are easily one of my favorite live acts. Kyle and Andy write depressing, haunting songs, but their stage banter is hilarious. Their show is a rollercoaster ride in the best way possible. If you want to see a show where you can hear a pin drop, this is it. They are captivating.


Penny & Sparrow is Kyle Jahnke and Andy Baxter

And #1. Johnnyswim on Friday, June 23 at State Theatre in Portland, Maine. Husband and wife duo Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano put on a swoon-worthy show. This show was how I started my summer vacation and it was a perfect, beautiful, inspiring night. Put this band on your “get to know” list.


Johnnyswim is Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez

There are a few honorable mentions, too.

  • I had a blast seeing The Ghost of Paul Revere and Max Garcia Conover on New Year’s Eve at Port City Music Hall. Both of those acts are on to great things.


    The Ghost of Paul Revere, Max Garcia Conover, and Friends

  • Noah Gundersen stole the show opening for City & Colour back in June at State Theatre. He’ll be back in Portland in a couple of weeks at Port City Music Hall. I can’t wait to see him as the headliner.


    Noah Gundersen

  • The Suitcase Junket (Matt Lorenz) also impressed opening for The Ballroom Thieves back in February at Port City Music Hall. I’d seen him before, but he really caught my attention at this show.


    The Suitcase Junket/Matt Lorenz

Thanks so much to all of these artists and venues for enriching 2017! To readers–thank you! I hope to see you at a show in 2018! Come say hi–I’ll be right up front.




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The Ghost of Paul Revere with Max Garcia Conover and GoldenOak

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I really care about the clean slate a new year provides, and so I am always a little anxious about having New Year’s Eve plans I am excited about. This night fit the bill perfectly. I had a blast. Welcome, 2018!

I specifically bought a ticket to this show because my friend Max Garcia Conover joined the bill as the night’s first opener, so I knew friends would be there to support him and we could ring in 2018 together. Max was on fire. His songs always have teeth, but the crowd was clearly feeling him and folks erupted with applause after each of his songs. Max is shy by nature, but he shared with the audience and told us the background stories of a few of his songs, which I always appreciate as a concert-goer. Max mesmerized with his guitar playing and kick drum. I’ve seen Max play at least a dozen times, and this was one of his best shows. After his set, people in the audience near me asked me to tell them more about him and asked me to pass along to him how much they’d enjoyed his set.

Max Garcia Conover

Max’s new album, Motorhome, is excellent. No Depression Magazinecalled Motorhome “one of the strongest albums of 2017.” I had coffee with one of my former advisees who also attended the NYE show. She told me that she keeps meaning to take Motorhome out of the CD player in her car so she won’t overplay it, but she keeps forgetting and loves listening to it every time. “Gone,”“Motorhome,”“Abigail for a While,” and “Self Portrait”are some of my favorites on the album, but I love the whole album and think it shows Max’s most cohesive and best writing yet.

I’d never seen Portland’s GoldenOak before, but I liked their sound. They were mellower than Max, so I might have put them on first, but they have a good thing going and I’m glad I got to see them. Check out their new video for “Brother.” They’ll be at Empire with Max Garcia Conover opening on February 22.


Where do I start about the Ghost of Paul Revere? 2017 was a huge year for them. They toured basically non-stop, criss crossed the country playing in most of the states in America, and put out a killer album–Monarch–that premiered on Billboard. Griffin, Max, and Sean are the best of friends, and it shows in their tight sound and relaxed, engaging stage presence. This was clearly a hometown show for GPR, and they thanked us many times for our ongoing support of the band. In their seventh year as a band, they’ve had their most successful year to date. The momentum they’ve built is palpable and will carry them to the next level. That’s even more obvious as they take the stage tomorrow night to play Conan–their first late night national talk show performance. GPR is definitely on the way to stardom. Ray Routhier featured GPR in an article for the Portland Press Herald last week appropriately titled, “The Ghost of Paul Revere is on the road to making it big.”

The Ghost of Paul Revere

img_7610Ghost had a blast on stage and played their hearts out for us. We were a doting sold out crowd, and it was all good vibes. They invited a few friends on stage to join them throughout the night–Kevin Oates from Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, Devin Mauch from The Ballroom Thieves, and Brian Graham from Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds–come to mind. Someone proposed to his girlfriend during their set, and another friend of the band announced that they’re expecting their first baby, too. It felt like a family reunion as much as a show. I like that.

Sean, Max, and Devin from The Ballroom Thieves

We counted down and rang in 2018 together, and the first song I heard in 2018 was “Next Year,” which is a heartfelt, complex tune and my favorite on Monarch. GPR invited everyone from both opening sets on stage for one of two finales and covered Dawes’ “All Your Favorite Bands” for us. Did they close the night with Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”? They definitely played it towards the end of the night, along with a fantastic cover of the Isley Brothers’ classic feel good song, “Shout.” This night was a total blast and a great way to turn the page on 2017. All good things to all of you in 2018!



I spy Kevin Oates of MYRO on cello



I’m usually the one taking photos at concerts, so I was surprised to see that I’m front row center in this picture that Matthew Robbins of took!

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