Iron & Wine

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This was my third Iron & Wine show. My first was way back in 2011. I met Bob that night and we’ve been concert friends ever since. We were both at the last Iron & Wine show in Maine back in 2013 at the State Theatre, and together again earlier this week to see them again. It had been a while! Dan jokes that my favorite musicians are all sad singer-songwriters with guitars, and he’s not wrong. I’d obviously rather see Sam Beam live solo with just a guitar, but he seems to tour with a sizeable backing band all the time. This tour, he is joined by Helen Gillet on cello, Eliza Hardy Jones on piano and backing vocals, Elizabeth Goodfellow on percussion and backing vocals, and Sebastian Steinberg on bass. I think Sam had 10 musicians with him on stage last time, too, so he always brings a full band to round out his sound.

Sam played a nice variety of his songs from maybe 10 or so of his recordings, with the most songs coming from his 2017 release, Beast Epic. I was surprised and happy to hear “The Trapeze Swinger” so early in his set. Sam doesn’t really like to talk on stage–his banter game is pretty weak with lots of “you guys are great!” and “Thanks, Portland!” moments–so I guess his storytelling is entrenched in his songs. He also sacrifices audience interaction to play as many songs as possible. I think he played 25 songs the last time we saw him and probably 20 at this show.

Sam did make my solo Sam dreams come true for two songs midway through his set when he played “Naked as We Came” and his well-known cover of The Flaming Lips’ “Waitin’ for a Superman” solo. Something I noticed about then is just how quiet and attentive the crowd at the State Theatre was. That’s rare, especially in the last few years. Sam commented a number of times that we were “so well behaved,” and we were. Rude audiences have ruined a ton of show experiences for me in the last few years, so I especially appreciated how attentive everyone was. If you’re curious about what NOT to do at a show, check this out and spread the word!

I was also spoiled by Bob (who’d been first to arrive outside State Theatre much earlier that afternoon for the show) who saved a front row center spot along the barricade for me. People up front are usually at shows to listen, and it was also great not to get pushed around by folks after the opening set trying to push their way to the front, which happens a ton, too. A+ for audience concert etiquette, y’all! Thank you!

I quite liked “Call It Dreaming” from Beast Epic. The stage was also a beautiful, simple set of almost 20 fluffy clouds and a pretty light show. Sam closed with “Boy With a Coin” and came back for an encore and played “Claim Your Ghost.” If all of my Iron & Wine dreams had come true, I also would have heard “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” and “Walking Far From Home,” but I was so pleased with the crowd, the set, and the band that it would be selfish to wish for more.

xo,

bree

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Mipso

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Portland House of Music and Events, Portland, Maine

This was my fifth Mipso show. Libby Rodenbough, who plays fiddle and sings in Mipso,  emailed me back in 2015 to invite me to their first-ever show in Maine at One Longfellow Square in Portland, and I’m so glad I went. I don’t think I’ve missed them in Portland since. They’re touring to support their brand new album, Edges Run. Dan really liked “Moonlight” from that album and has mentioned it a couple of times since the show. “People Change” is also from their new album and it’s so depressing, which is right up my alley. The lyrics– “I used to love you like the world would end. I used to love you like a child. The thing about people is that they change when they walk away.” Ugh. I love an honest lyric.

 

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From left to right, Mipso is Libby Rodenbough, Wood Robinson, Joseph Terrell, Jacob Sharp, and Yan Westerlund.

Mipso has an Americana, bluegrassy vibe, and I love their heartfelt songs and tight harmonies. Jacob Sharp (mandolin), Wood Robinson (upright bass), Joseph Terrell (lead vocal and guitar), and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle) met at UNC Chapel Hill and have been a band for about five years, but they play together like it’s been longer. They added Yan Westerlund on drums in 2017, too, which has amplified their sound. The most important thing to me about Mipso’s music is that their lyrics are crystal clear and are at the forefront of their songs. For me, lyrics are the most compelling reason to fall in love with a song. I especially like “When I’m Gone” and “Down in the River.” They also circled one microphone to cover Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” It was perfect and Dan and I have watched the video more than once in the few days since the show.

If Mipso isn’t on your radar, you’re missing out. Mipso IS on SnugHouse and Maine Youth Rock Orchestra’s radar. I saw both Nikhil Dasgupta and Sam Kyzivat at the show, and they’ll be celebrating the release of SnugHouse’s new EP, Like Water, together on Friday night (November 9) at One Longfellow Square. I will definitely be there, and you should come check them out, too!

xo,

bree

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The Lone Bellow TRIIIO Tour

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

When Dan and I started dating, he surprised me with a mix CD of some of his favorite songs because he knows how important music is in my life and wanted me to get to know him better through the songs he loves. I melted. My huge music collection lives on a hard-to-access hard drive, so I reciprocated by buying him The Lone Bellow’s first CD from 2013. A week later, he joked with me, “I just want to tell them it’s going to be okay.” I explained the inspiration for those first songs, and then he understood. He picks on me for liking sad songs so much, and we joke that the more unplugged, the fewer percussive instruments, and the more harmonies there are, the more I’ll love a show. He’s not wrong. So when I saw that The Lone Bellow was going to leave the band behind (sorry, Jason!) and tour with just Zach, Kanene, and Brian, I was pumped. I wanted to win Dan over about The Lone Bellow (because they’re my favorite band), so I asked him to join me to see their TRIIO tour at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I haven’t seen as many concerts lately because I’m dating someone entrenched in the theater world–we saw 5 shows last month alone–so I was really glad to share an important part of my music world with Dan. I promised him that The Lone Bellow give 110% live and that I was positive he’d love them. I was totally right!

We had a leisurely dinner across the street at The Friendly Toast before the show, but still made it to our seats (my first time in the balcony at The Music Hall) in time for show opener Naia Izumi. I watched his NPR Tiny Desk Concert after he was named 2018 Tiny Desk Concert winner, and am always hopeful that I’ll love an opening act. I was not so lucky this night, however. Naia sat down and played a handful of songs for us. He lacked interest and energy in the performance. I was surprised and disappointed.

Zach, Brian, and Kanene took the stage a while later and the house had pretty much filled in by then. I think they’re mesmerizing, passionate, and generous live–truly the very best a band can be in person. I loved hearing them tell stories, trade instruments, cover Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and The National’s “Pink Rabbits,” and impromptuly sing some of  “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” too. “Pink Rabbits” is on The Lone Bellow’s new Restless EP.

I think “Watch Over Us” is always going to be so stunning live that I catch myself holding my breath every single time. Zach told us the sweetest story about his daughters getting the idea they wanted to build a treehouse the day before he left for tour for three weeks. He and his wife wondered if their friend (and fellow Nashville musician) Hugh Masterson might be able to price out how much one would cost, and, without them knowing, their daughter called him to ask him to come over to do an estimate. Zach told us that his wife sent him a photo of Hugh and their friend Micah out in the backyard building his family a treehouse. He was stunned when he told us, “they built my children a treehouse. They are fellas with jobs, too. I feel so loved by my neighbors and I hope you’ll get to know your neighbors.” I took a couple of screenshots of the treehouse in progress from Zach’s Instagram account to share with you. There so much love in this, and we need it.

In the next breath, Zach told us what I’m going to call his “nipple story.” He told us that he went on a long run earlier in the day. He joked that “I think I went to Maine.” He’d been wearing the same shirt for several days in a row, and his nipples started to chafe. He hurt so bad that he went to a running store in Portsmouth and whispered to a sales associate about his chafed nipples. They were out of the nipple stickers, so the sales guy called another store to get some for him. Before Zach left, the sales associate said to him “by the way, I’m really looking forward to the show tonight!” I love how small our world is.

I think they wrapped up a 15 or so song set with “May You Be Well,” which has such hopeful lyrics–”Whatever darkness/That you are concerned with/May you find peace/That is everlasting/Even when circumstances/They are crashing/Oh you can stand firm on the everlasting/May you be well.” It’s a lovely sentiment to end a show with, but The Lone Bellow came back for two more songs, “Tree to Grow” and “Green Eyes and Heart of Gold.” It really lifted my spirit to hear these three songs back to back. “Tree to Grow” is a top favorite Lone Bellow song, will the reassuring refrain “I’ll never leave, I’ll always stay/I swear on all that I keep safe.” I loved singing that line with them. Zach, Brian, and Kanene unplugged and climbed off stage and sang “Green Eyes and Heart of Gold” from the floor. I don’t think there’s a better feeling than hearing your favorite band sing “Our song is not a dying dream/You’re not alone, you’re not alone” at the end of a heartfelt night of connection through song. I love them so much, and if you still don’t know them, I know you would, too.

xo,

bree

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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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