Caitlin Canty with Noam Pikelny

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I saw Caitlin Canty by chance back in May of 2012. I was at a Jeffrey Foucault show at One Longfellow Square. At some point in the night he introduced his friend and fellow musician, Vermont’s Caitlin Canty. She was in Portland working on a new record with Sam Kapala (a founding member of Darlingside), and he had taken her out for dinner before the show. He asked her to join him for a song, and I was smitten with her airy, mesmerizing voice. What I didn’t know at the time was that I’d witnessed their first of what would be many, many performances together. I chatted for a while with Caitlin after that show back in 2012, and she has become a friend-in-music who I look forward to seeing whenever she’s in town. I hadn’t seen Caitlin live since 2015 when she moved away to Nashville, so I was really looking forward to seeing her back in Portland.

Colin kindly saved me a seat in the front row, and I arrived a few minutes before show time. I’d had a migraine at school earlier in the day, but I took a nap and rallied for the show. Caitlin and Noam Pikelny took the stage just after 8, and opened with a beautiful song that caught the attention of NPR, “Get Up.” I love that song, and Caitlin grabbed everyone’s attention from the first measure of it, too. Something I noticed even more at this show than last time is that Caitlin has this Alison Krauss quality to her voice where every single sound she makes is truly gorgeous.

Caitlin told us about a song from the Golden Hour album she released back in 2012, “Dotted Line,” that made its way onto House of Cards. She told us “it’s a very good day for a songwriter” when a television show picks up a song. Caitlin, her mom, and her brother watched the episode to hear her song, but didn’t hear it. She’d already cashed the check, so she was puzzled. They watched it again, and realized that they heard three instrumental measures of it during a creepy moment where a woman carrying groceries was being followed down a street. Caitlin laughed and told us it was pretty ironic that one of her “kindest, friendliest” songs was the soundtrack of such a creepy on screen moment.We saw Caitlin and Noam at the end of the release tour for her newest album, Motel Bouquet, which they played every song from for us. Noam produced her album, although he normally tours with The Punch Brothers. It was really a treat to hear him play in such a tiny venue. Caitlin had played a hometown show in Vermont a night or two earlier, and she said it was a community effort. The show was in a space that’s not normally a venue, so her dad and brother set up chairs, her high school music teacher ran the sound, and they borrowed a rug from a neighbor to absorb some of the echo on stage. She joked that compared to that show “you’re all sitting so quietly and you’re not sweaty from setting up chairs or anything.”

Caitlin’s album is named for a bouquet of flowers someone left for her after a show that inspired a song, but she’d thought about naming it Who after one of her favorite songs on the album. She said she was so lucky to have Noam as her producer for many reasons, but also because he talked her out of naming her album Caitlin Canty: Who? Noam chimed in that it was “better than Caitlin Canty: Why?” Noam and Caitlin struck a deal that she’d play a song solo if he would. Noam introduced his solo song by telling us that a year and a half ago, “it became apparent that it was time, yet again, to milk the instrumental banjo cash cow.” His 2017 release, Universal Favorite, is mostly instrumental banjo music. He joked, “I’ll play you guys the first track off the record, a 53 minute piece, so lock the doors.” The song he played, “Wavelength,” was GORGEOUS. I had no idea that banjo could sound like that. Noam didn’t say much, but he was funny when he did talk. Caitlin mentioned that Noam’s friend texted that he couldn’t make it to the show because his guinea pig died. Noam chimed in, “some of you are laughing right now, but not me. It’s the strangest excuse yet, and shows folks are having to dig real deep to find excuses to not come out to hear me play.”

Caitlin told the story of how she’d come to sing her first song on stage at One Longfellow Square with Jeffrey Foucault, and thanked OLS for their continued support. She generously offered to give anyone who signed up to become a One Longfellow Square member that night one of her albums, which was very kind. She told us that she loves playing her songs for “cold weather folks, but they tend to scoot right out the door after the show.” She asked us to stop by the merch table and say hello before heading home.

I can’t remember what Caitlin played last, but my favorite song on Hotel Bouquet (which I’ve listened to a lot in the car over the last week) so far is “Leaping Out.” I do know that she and Noam earned and we gave a standing ovation. They treated us to one last song, a cover of Emmylou Harris’ “Tennessee Waltz” in honor of heading home to Nashville the next day after a successful record release tour. Caitlin remembered me when I saw her after the show and we chatted about how much she’s loved living in Nashville. I’m so happy for her success.

Colin saw Caitlin open for Josh Ritter last night in Portsmouth, and she’ll be back in town on July 20 opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter at the State Theatre. Caitlin is so worth hearing in person, and I hope you’ll check her out!

xo,

bree

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An Evening with Drew Holcomb and Josh Garrels with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra

Friday, April 27, 2018

Aura, Portland, Maine

This is somehow a much longer post than I’d meant to write.

I’d wanted to check out Drew Holcomband Josh Garrels for quite a while, so I was really glad to have the opportunity to see both bands together right in Portland. When I saw that Maine Youth Rock Orchestra was playing with both of them, I knew it would be an even better show. I’m a sucker for a string section, and MYRO is so impressive.

I made it to Aura with about ten minutes before showtime. I have to say this–I don’t like Aura, and I try to avoid going to shows there. Primarily, it’s because of the staff at the door. I’ve been there a handful of times, and the folks at the door are never welcoming. In fact, every time I’ve been, the first words someone says to me are “are you drinking tonight?” I’d recommend trying “Hello! Welcome to Aura” instead. I am never drinking at a show, because I’m there for the music, so I bought a ticket and started to head towards the metal detectors. Someone after the ID checker grabbed me and told me I needed a bracelet because I’m over 21. I told her that I wasn’t drinking, but she insisted that I needed to have my ID checked and needed a bracelet. The show was all ages, so I was really confused. The person checking IDs and the woman who stopped me before security disagreed about whether or not I needed to wear a bracelet in front of me. One insisted that they’d received directions to make everyone over 21 wear a bracelet. The other hadn’t gotten the memo. Either way, there shouldn’t be confusion at the door like that, and front of house staff should be on the same page and much friendlier. The whole time this exchange happened, the manager was steps away in the ticket office staring at a computer screen, ignoring all of the patrons he should be working hard to foster a positive impression of Aura with. This ends the constructive criticism portion of this post.

One of my favorite bands is Johnnyswim. They are husband and wife duo Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano from Los Angeles. They were easily the best live show I saw last year, and I’ll see them again this summer in Boston opening for NEEDTOBREATHE. Anyhow, Johnnyswim formed in Nashville, and they’re good friends with Drew Holcomb. Abner, Amanda, and Drew worked together to write some songs and just released an EP together called Goodbye Road. As if that collaboration wasn’t exciting enough, then they asked another of my true favorites, Penny & Sparrow, to work on the EP with them, including a gorgeous cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” that I learned after the fact was recorded last summer a week after Tom Petty’s death. Penny & Sparrow is another favorite band of mine that aren’t mainstream yet, so I hope you will check them out. I also put Penny & Sparrow on my list of top five shows of 2017, coming in right behind Johnnyswim at number two on my list. Both groups are an absolute pleasure to see live, and I hope you will at some point, because they’re both so good for what ails you.

Back to the this show.

Drew Holcomb and his band took the stage soon after I arrived, and they were great live. They were down a bandmate who’d gotten a call from his wife when they arrived in Portland, and hopped a flight home to meet their new baby. Drew’s guitarist decided to play piano to fill the void in sound, and I thought it was beautiful. Drew played “Ring the Bells” early in the set, which is one of the songs he co-wrote on the Goodbye Road EP. Drew chatted with the audience a fair amount during his set, which is the kind of personalized attention I really appreciate as a concert goer. He told us that he fell in love with his wife long before she returned the favor. They met in college and he tried not to be the guy that played music to get the girl, but had to go for it. He wrote “I Like To Be With Me When I’m With You” for her, and he joked that it took her from a “no” to a “maybe.” Someone in the crowd has sent him a message asking him to play “The Wine We Drink,” so he added it to his setlist. The lyrics are beautiful, too–“It’s in the miles we drive, never having to say goodbye/to the things we tell each other without saying a word./You are the one thing that I know.”

The Maine Youth Rock Orchestra joined Drew and the band for “American Beauty” and “Live Forever.” One of my favorite things about seeing MYRO play with bands is that the bands are always enamored with them and they often turn to watch the kids play with huge smiles on their faces. MYRO–y’all are impressive. Your hard work shows. You make the songs richer and more beautiful. It’s such a pleasure to hear you play!

Drew told us that he’s often asked what his favorite song he’s written is.  He said “if I had just one song to be proud of” it would be “What Would I Do Without You,” which he said almost didn’t make the cut to be on his 2013 album, Good Light, because the producer and a couple of guys in the band didn’t like the song much. He said he was glad they’d be wrong about it. He also told us a funny story about his all time favorite fan interaction. He’d been at the Austin City Limits Festival when he noticed a guy walking his way wearing a Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors t shirt and carrying a baby in his arms. He thanked Drew for his music and told him the baby had been conceived while listening to his music. Drew said it was the best compliment he’d ever gotten about his music.

I knew nothing about Josh Garrels except that his song “Farther Along” has been popping up on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist for ages. I didn’t know any of his other music, but liked that one song enough to know I wanted to see him live someday. I had not caught on that Josh is definitely a Christian artist. One of the first songs he played for us was called “Break Bread,” which was my first clue. It got much more evident after “Slip Away,” because Josh spoke for a solid five minutes about redemption. He said, and I am paraphrasing, “Some things that happen can’t be taken back or put back together. There is tragedy and loss, but there is redemption, which is making something new and potentially even more beautiful than it was before. For those of you who believe there is a God, he is in the business of redemption. I know the room. Some of you agree and some roll their eyes. Can there be good made from the awful things around us? I think we’re supposed to be agents of redemption in the world. We are not islands. Our decisions affect others. It’s scary to turn back and face it, though, but that’s called repentance. If you have the courage to turn around and face the wake you’ve created, you can see the things you thought were lost can be transformed.” I went to Seminary for five years and have a Master’s degree in Theology, so I was happy to hear from him about his beliefs, but I was a little surprised that the show turned more church meeting than concert. He acknowledged it, too, because he told us all of that had been “more than I’d planned to share.” He got a lot of amens from the crowd, though, so maybe I was the only one who didn’t know what to expect from him. No matter what I expected, his vibe was genuine and positive. He followed up his short sermon with “Ulysses,” which answers the question in “Slip Away”–can something be done about this? Josh says emphatically yes, there is hope for redemption.

MYRO joined Josh and his band for “Born Again” and “Morning Light.” They played beautifully, and it totally elevated the songs. A bit later in the set, Josh told us that his albums are all inspired by artists. His Home album was inspired by Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky. Kandinsky apparently had a condition (Josh called it a “gift”) where he could see sound and hear color. His parents didn’t want him to be an artist, but he walked away from his lucrative job to be a painter and is considered a father of abstract art. Josh said he believes that color is connected to sound and that there’s more than our five senses can comprehend. He introduced “Colors”by asking us to consider “what are we singing and speaking and putting out into the world? Is it corruption, slander, jealousy, or are we speaking life and blessing and singing songs that blossom in the atmosphere and banish corruption?”

I saw Kevin Oates, MYRO’s founder and director, head towards the merch table towards the end of the night, so I skipped the last couple of songs of Josh Garrels’ set to catch up with him about MYRO and to chat about Portland’s summer music landscape. Kevin told me later that one of his MYRO artists came back from college to play that night because she’d been the one who’d asked for them to play with Josh Garrels someday. What an awesome opportunity for these kids to play with artists that mean a lot to them! Kevin is a passionate advocate for his students and for music education and MYRO students and families are lucky to have such a fabulous leader at the helm.

It was time for the encore, so I scooted back over towards the stage in time to enjoy Josh Garrels and his band invite Drew Holcomb and his band to the stage to join them for “Farther Along.” It was uplifting and energetic and a great note to leave the night on. Both bands were warm and conversational with the audience, played beautifully, and left Portland’s music scene a bit better than they found it.

xo,

bree

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Bill Murray, Jan Vogler, and Friends

Monday, April 23, 2018

Merrill Auditorium, Portland, Maine

I love Bill Murray a bit more than the next person. I was sitting in the passenger seat, enjoying the sunshine and watching beautiful green hills roll by just south of Monterey, California, when I noticed on Facebook that Maine Todaywas offering a chance to win tickets to an upcoming show. But not just any show, because *the* Bill Murray was coming to perform at Merrill Auditorium the following week. Maine Today asked folks to comment with where they’d like to run into Bill Murray in Portland before his show with Jan Vogler and Friends. I commented that I’d love to share some garlic green beans with Bill at Empire Chinese Kitchen and that I had specifically visited Sullivan Island, South Carolina (where Bill lives), just hoping I’d run into him last April when I traveled to Charleston. Sadly, I didn’t have a Bill Murray sighting that day, but Maine Today must have felt for me because they “randomly” picked me to win tickets! My friend Sheila had also commented on the post, so I invited her to join me. We even saved a seat for Bill (just in case) at Empire, hoping he’d join us for dinner before the show. Maybe you ran into Bill while he was in town? I know some people were so lucky!

Sheila and I were surprised by how close our seats at Merrill Auditorium were. Thank you, Maine Today! I ran into my fellow music enthusiast and friend, Aimsel Ponti, and we got to catch up a bit before the show. We had lots of music business to discuss, including Aimsel’s “Summer of Brandi” (Carlile) and our excitement for the Newport Folk Festival, too. Here’s Aimsel’s review of the show, which you should definitely check out.

I had no idea what to expect of this show, but was confident it would be entertaining. Apparently Bill and Jan Vogler met in an airport when Bill noted Jan’s cello case and struck up a conversation. They decided to “do something together,” and created a concept, an album, and a tour. We saw them on the last night of the tour, and it was obvious that they were sad it was ending. Their album, New Worlds, features Murray on vocals and narration, Vogler on cello, Vanessa Perez on piano, and Mira Wang on violin. Bill read from American classics, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and sang songs, like Van Morrison’s “When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God?” Bill sings imperfectly but sincerely, and he was incredibly well received. Vogler on cello, Wang on violin, and Perez on piano together were absolutely stunning, too. Bill joked some with the audience, though this was definitely not a comedic show. We laughed heartily after they’d performed their first pieces when he said, “this is generally when people in the audience look at each other and shrug their shoulders and think, ‘meh.’ Trust me, it’s going to get better.” I really enjoyed the show and am so glad I happened to see Maine Today’s Facebookpost, or I wouldn’t even have known it was happening in the first place.

After many encores (why I’m so sure the quartet was sad the tour was ending), a couple of audience sing alongs (“Loch Lomond” and “El Paso” come to mind), and a plug for Karen Duffy’s book Backbone about living with chronic pain, the show came almost actually to an end. But then Bill was handed two dozen long stemmed red roses by a stagehand. He stepped off stage to the orchestra seating and started handing out roses to folks in the doting crowd. He launched one to an eager fan in the balcony, which earned raucous applause because it was no easy feat to throw it that far. Bill worked his way around the rear of the orchestra seating to the side I was on. HE MADE EYE CONTACT WITH ME, AND GAVE ME A ROSE! My friend Sheila captured the very next moment, and I think you’ll be able to tell from my crazy eyes that I was pretty ecstatic about the whole thing. It didn’t even matter when I found out the next day that Bill handed out roses on other nights of the tour and it wasn’t an impromptu thing at all, because BILL AND I HAD A MOMENT, damn it. Frankly, I’m thrilled that other people did, too. Bill has enough heart to go around, and it was a pleasure to witness it in person.I am so thankful for this unexpectedly uplifting, entertaining night.

xo,

bree

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Rodriguez with Lily & Madeleine

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I saw Searching for Sugar Man in 2012. It’s the true story of SixtoRodriguez–a singer-songwriter from Detroit who made a couple of folk albums in the 1970s that didn’t reach much of an audience in the US. What he didn’t know, though, was that his album Cold Fact made it to Apartheid-era South Africa, where he outsold Elvis Presley. Rodriguez had droves of dedicated fans in South Africa, but he never knew that and his South African fans didn’t know how to find him or even if he was alive. For two solid decades, while Rodriguez worked in construction and political activism, he was famous in South Africa. His fans tracked him down in the 1990s and it revived Rodriguez’s music career. I missed him by an hour in 2012 at the Newport Folk Festival and this show was scheduled for nearly a year ago, but was postponed. Six years after learning about him, and with Sixto Rodriguez clocking in at 75 years old, I finally had this opportunity to see him in person. I think most of us in the room knew we were lucky to be there.

Sisters Lily & Madeleine Jurkiewicz from Indianapolis opened the show with sparse, pretty songs and perfect sibling harmony. They were grateful for a listening audience, and sang a handful songs for us before turning the stage over to Rodriguez. I imagine it would be extra nerve-wracking to open a show for a legend, but they seemed calm and collected. Lily & Madeleine played piano and guitar, and have been recording together since 2013. Check out their 2014 NPR Tiny Desk Concert (Bob notes that they’re one of the youngest groups ever to record a session) to see what they’re about.

I was so glad I splurged on a second row seat at State Theatre so I could be closer to Rodriguez on stage. The whole night felt like sitting in a relative’s kitchen over coffee–including rants about politics, jokes, and storytelling. Given how hard he’s worked his whole life, I should have expected that Rodriguez shows his age. A couple of people helped him get out on stage, got him comfortable on his stool, positioned the microphone near his mouth, and set his two cups of tea (with lids) down on the table immediately next to him. He wore sunglasses all night, and it was obvious from where I was sitting that his vision is severely compromised at best. He’d touch the microphone to feel how close it was to his mouth. I noticed he’d feel around the lid of his cups of tea to find the slot to drink from. I thought about how much easier his life might have been if he’d been discovered for his talent in the US in the 70s, too, but I don’t think Rodriguez is worried about that at all. He joked that he uses his “senior advantage.”

He described himself as a “musical politico,” and added, “so you know what’s coming. Mr President–you’re under arrest. I have five soldiers in my family. Mexican people serve. And it would be wrong of me to not acknowledge their service in light of a draft dodger. My mother and father were both Mexican. And I know the meaning of the word indigenous.” The crowd roared in support. Well, most of the crowd did. Some of the crowd didn’t like his comments at all, which makes me think they didn’t know what show they’d bought tickets for.

Rodriguez played his own songs–“Inner City Blues,”“Crucify Your Mind,”“I Wonder,” and “Sugar Man” come to mind–and plenty of covers. He played Elton John’s “Your Song” early in the night. The timing wasn’t perfect, and I think some of the lyrics were wrong, but there was something mesmerizing about watching Rodriguez on stage doing his folky thing. The thing I love about folk music is that it tells stories about the truth, and Rodriguez did plenty of that. Some people in the crowd from the other side of the aisle surely thought he talked about politics way too much. Rodriguez had a lot to say, including “I’ve run for state representative of Michigan, Detroit city council, and I’ve also run for my life.” He said, “We need more women to run for public offices because we can see quite clearly that men can do it.” Again, most of the crowd loved it. Some did not.

Rodriguez had a table literally full of different hats on a small table right next to him. He’d feel around the table for a new hat after some of his songs and changed hats a handful of times throughout the night. Maybe they each put him in a different mood for particular songs he played? I don’t know, but it was kind of his “thing” that night. He cracked jokes some, too, and told us that “the secret to life is just to keep breathing in and out.”

I need to mention that the guy sitting next to me, who’d driven six hours from New Brunswick, Canada, paid $75 for his second row seat, and was SUPER DRUNK during the show. It was obnoxious. He literally fell out of his seat from a seated position. He trying to engage with people sitting around him, including me, but he was shouting. I don’t understand why people make the effort to get to a show if they’re not going to remember it after the fact. For the most part, though, the audience was notably attentive and respectful. When the guy next to me shouted at me “WHY IS NO ONE UP AND DANCING?” I was able to whisper to him, “because this is a FOLK CONCERT.”

Rodriguez talked a lot–certainly as much as he played. He named some places in the world where the people united to fight back against oppressive rulers–including Mexico, France, and South Africa–and told us that “oppression results in revolution.” Someone in the crowd shouted back “NELSON MANDELA BOMBED CHILDREN.” There was a strange pause in the room where I think many of us just tried to figure out why someone who was anti-Mandela paid $75 for a ticket to see Rodriguez in person. His music is so obviously about taking on the establishment.  Rodriguez replied, “know your enemy, man.” When he finished his song, he circled back to the moment and said, “whenever I speak to people, I appeal to their collective consciousness, because we know who kills children.” [Side note: Nelson Mandela is a hero of mine. He was elected president of South Africa on my 14th birthday. I studied abroad in Southern Africa because of him. My cat is named Nelson Mandela, too.]

Rodriguez’s show was as much a discourse about the state of the world and a meandering history lesson as a folk concert. I’m a social studies teacher, so I was down to learn from his experience, and I wish more of us were open to hearing the voices that have been silenced. He knew he talked a lot, of course, and told us “I shouldn’t talk so much. My father told me I have a big mouth.”

Rodriguez left us with this piece of advice–“Love is strong, so be gentle with your anger.” A couple of people arrived to help him find his way off stage. He (obviously) earned a standing ovation and was helped back to the stage to play a last song for us. He closed the night with a boldcover of The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” which felt like the right note to leave on. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever have the opportunity to see him in person again, and I am so glad I was there in the room for this.

xo,

bree

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Wild Child with The Wild Reeds

Friday, March 30, 2018

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This was such a fun, easy night. After the chaotic Glen Hansard show I attended at House of Blues in Boston the week before, I was really glad to have a night where everything was relaxed and the energy in the room was positive. Shouldn’t concerts be a good experience, after all?

I had a pretty sweet Friday afternoon–a massage, a chat with a friend who lives in Spain, and I attended a ceremony where some of my students were inducted into the National Technical Honors Society. I made it to Portland around 8:30 and grabbed a front row spot for the 9 PM show. I’d seen The Wild Reeds open for The Lone Bellow (one of my top favorite bands) back in November and really liked them. I’d never heard of Wild Child, but I listened to a few of their songs online and they were really good. I’m glad I made it to this show to check them out live.img_1137img_1149img_1153The Wild Reeds were great live a second time. Fronted by a trio of women with pipes, I like their sound and energy and that they share the lead. Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe, and Sharon Silva share the duties of playing electric and acoustic guitars, harmonium, keyboard, and harmonica. I suspect they all contribute songs to the group, too. Nick Jones and Nick Phapiseth fill out their sound on drums and bass. Kinsey, Mackenzie, and Sharon have powerful voices in their own right and also blend effortlessly. Rolling Stone named them one of “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: March 2017.” I wouldn’t call them country, but genre is so fluid these days. Check out their 2015 NPR Tiny Desk Concert to get a better feel for The Wild Reeds, and definitely put them on your live show calendar.

I’d noticed by the end of The Wild Reeds’ set that I was mostly surrounded by teenagers up front. I think most of them were there to support Wild Child, and I wonder how I’d managed to be so far behind on knowing about them myself. Either way, I am so glad I stayed to check them out. Wild Child is a seven piece band from Austin and, in a word, they’re fun. Their energy is infectiously positive, and I was so taken with lead singer/violinist Kelsey Wilson’s stage presence. She leaned into the audience, made direct eye contact with fans, and smiled warmly. “Break Bones” seemed to be a crowd favorite. This is their mellower side, but their show was dynamic. I found out a few days later that Kelsey will be at Newport Folk Festival this summer playing with Glorietta–which is a supergroup if ever there was one–including two of my favorites, Noah Gundersenand David Ramirez. I will definitely be there to check them out this summer!

I had an awesome, unobstructed front row spot for the Wild Child set, and when I decided to head home a little early, I offered my spot to a teenager who was near me and knew all of the words to all of their songs but was craning her neck to see. Her eyes lit up when we swapped spots and she realized how much better her view was. It made my day to enhance her concert experience. It’s always good for your concert karma to help your neighbors have the best possible concert experience, too. Thanks to everyone who went to this show for making this a no-drama night!

xo,

bree

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An Evening with Glen Hansard

Friday, March 23, 2018

House of Blues, Boston

I love Glen Hansard so much. The best show I’ve ever seen was back in 2004 at the State Theatre when Glen opened for Damien Rice. Glen got his start busking in Dublin, so his voice and presence are both powerful. This night, though, was an absolute disappointment. It’s getting harder to see Glen live now that Once the Musical, which Glen wrote the music and lyrics for, is so successful on Broadway, so I decided I needed to get myself to Boston for this show even though he played the House of Blues, which is not my favorite. Darlingside played the same night in Portland, Maine, and, in retrospect, I should have gone to see them instead. I was bummed that this night became such a mess.

My friend Aimsel often takes the bus to Boston for shows, and I admire her commitment to the environment, so I decided to take the bus. I always drive to Boston for shows, but since this was a Friday, I knew I’d hit tons of traffic and it would be a pain. I checked all of Glen’s social media accounts, and they posted every day of the tour that doors were at 7, there was no opener, and that Glen would be on stage at 8. The Facebook event said the same thing, so I believed them. I ran into a former student in the bus station, and it was great to catch up. When Jane and I parted ways, she joked that I should not talk to strangers and should be aware of my surroundings. I’d chaperoned Jane’s school trips to Scotland and Costa Rica, so we both laughed about the role reversal. This unexpected happiness was almost the end of the positives for the rest of the night, though.

I made my way on the T over to Kenmore from South Station in about half an hour. I was in line outside House of Blues at 6:20 PM for 7 PM doors, and there were maybe 40 people ahead of me. That’s when I noticed a sign outside the House of Blues restaurant that said show at 8:30 PM. The last bus to Maine leaves South Station at 11:15 PM. I had to be on it so I could get home and get some rest before the Brunswick March for Our Lives event that my students helped organize.

Getting into the venue was quick, and I found an awesome spot front and center behind someone shorter than me along the barricade. Ella McDonald is a Tufts student and musician and this was her first Glen show. I was so excited for her, and I was so glad to have an unobstructed view of the stage over her head, too. A foursome from Canada who’d driven down from New Brunswick joined the fold, and we compared bands we love (Penny & Sparrow was top on the list) and have really compatible taste. So far, this night was so good. Then it was 8 o’clock, and no one came to the stage. I figured that even if Glen played for 2 solid hours and started at 8:30, I’d still easily make it back to the bus with time to spare. I was so wrong.

A little after 8:30, Glen and an 11-piece band arrived on stage. If I can’t see Glen solo, which is my preference, I’ll take a band with both string and horn sections. Glen played “The Gift” first, which is easily a top favorite. I am so glad I had those minutes of happiness, because they were fleeting. Since people had arrived early expecting Glen on stage at 8, guess where they’d spent the time difference? Yep, at the bar. So people were drunk before the show even started. If you’ve ever been to a show at the House of Blues in Boston, you know that if someone is talking anywhere in the big room, you’re going to hear it. And we did. And so did Glen. I stopped keeping track of the number of times he stopped singing to scold people who were talking loudly at one of the bars. He even paused during a song and told someone shouting at a bar upstairs to “fuck off.” Glen was clearly frustrated, and it was frustrating as an audience member who’d worked really hard to get to this show to have the vibe turn negative so quickly.

The crowd settled down a bit for a few songs. “When Your Mind’s Made Up”was awesome live and the vibe started to improve a bit. Almost immediately, people close behind me started yelling “we need a doctor.” Someone had collapsed. I assume they’d fainted, which happens at shows, but this person stayed down. A nurse broke through the crowd to help, but no one stood up. People shouted to call 911. Glen spoke to ask the crowd to give them space and said we’d wait for the ambulance, which was absolutely the right call, but it took a solid 20 minutes. He sang “Bird of Sorrow” (another favorite) afterwards, and the lyrics–“well I’m callin’ to you, please get off the floor”–seemed too well planned given the recent medical event. We chuckled, and Glen was sure to add after the song that he saw the ill person leave and felt sure they were going to be fine and asked us to send our best energy to them.

For me, the show never recovered after this point. The whole night was disjointed, and I felt Glen just couldn’t get into a good rhythm, which was not his fault and was probably as frustrating for him as it was for us. My concert friend Bob, who joined me, insists this wasn’t a terrible show, and thinks I was just stressed about catching my bus home, but I disagree.

There were a couple of high points before I had to leave early, including genuinely nice remarks Glen offered about Woody Guthrie before covering his song, “Vigilante Man,” and the very sweet moment when Glen’s trombonist, Curtis Fowlkes, walked up to the microphone to sing a lovely rendition of “Wedding Ring” that I’m sure made more than just me a little misty eyed.

I’d told myself I would leave at 10:45 no matter what to give myself 30 minutes to catch the last bus home, and Glen just happened to play the first chords of “Falling Slowly” at that exact moment. Resigned to missing his best-known song, I sadly waved goodbye to my neighbors and tried not to interrupt the song for other people while also booking it out to Landsdowne Street. I was lucky to see a taxi coming my way a minute later that got me to South Station where my bus was waiting with 14 minutes to spare. It made me wish I’d stayed the three minutes to hear “Falling Slowly,” but I was already cutting it too close for my comfort and made the right call for me.

Since the show was supposed to start at 8, I was really surprised to learn from Bob that I’d missed SEVEN more songs after I left. Bob said Glen got into a groove and the show bounced back after I left. I’m glad it did. My friend Kay was in the crowd (I found out a few days later), and she said she didn’t make it back to her hotel across the street until almost midnight. Quite a long night–especially for a show with no opening act!

I’d see Glen again in a heartbeat, because he is magic. This was just a night when too many things when wrong that were no one’s fault, except the loud drunk people scattered throughout the many bars at the House of Blues. I can pretty confidently say I’ll actively avoid that venue in the future–even if it hosts my favorite musicians–because it’s not a venue designed to support active listening, which is crucial to me at a show.

I thought this was a really stressful, disappointing night. If this was your first Glen show, I hope you see him again in a venue that shows musicians more respect. Glen deserves it and the audience does, too. No matter the circumstances, Glen is amazing, and I hope you all have a perfect Glen concert experience someday. They are worth waiting for.

xo,

bree

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Lucius–An Intimate, Acoustic Performance

Lucius–An Intimate, Acoustic Performance

Friday, March 16, 2018

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This was a lovely night. Lucius is such a pleasure to see live. Holly and Jess’ costumes and stage presence are always beautiful, and their voices are truly perfect. They were quite conversational, too, which I love in a concert experience. My friend Marian is a Lucius superfan and travels all over the country to see them. She’s even traveling to Amsterdam in September for a Lucius show. She ran into Jess at Speckled Ax in Portland the morning of the show and they talked for a few minutes, which totally made her day! Marian and I both accidentally had way too many tickets to this show (because we are always trying to introduce new people to Lucius), but we were able to find people to take them and finagle seats for ourselves in the first and second rows for this intimate, seated show at the State Theatre.

I’m still shocked that Lucius isn’t a household name. For those who know music, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who have been singing together for almost 15 years since they met at Berklee College of Music, have contributed vocals for Roger Waters, Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, John Prine, Lukas Nelson, and more. To say they’re the sweethearts of the Newport Folk Festival is an understatement. They were featured guests in many Newport artists’ sets over the last handful of years. Their ability to blend flawlessly and not outshine others while also being true rock stars is commendable. Marian and I were both excited to hear the announcement a few days after this show that Lucius will be back at Newport again this summer, which we’ll both attend.

I saw Lucius open for Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall back in 2012. I was totally smitten right away, and been lucky have seen them a handful of times since then. Lucius don’t know how to put on a bad show, which is a genuine compliment. Perhaps the most notable thing from this sold out show at the State Theatre was that the audience was silent the entire night. The stage presence it takes to captivate such a big crowd like that seems unimaginable, unless you’ve seen Lucius in person. Thank you, fellow audience members, for making this such a beautiful night. I’ve witnessed more and more disrespect from audiences at shows in the last couple of years, so this night gave me hope and elevated this concert experience to another level. Lucius sang a nice blend of songs from all of their albums–Wildewoman (2013), Good Grief (2016), and their new release, Nudes. They opened with“Go Home” and “Don’t Just Sit There”back-to-back, which brought me right back to when I discovered them in 2012. I wore out their 4 song EP disc from overuse after that first show at Brighton Music Hall. Jess and Holly also sang a few reimagined covers that made me like songs like Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” even more. I was over the moon to hear “Two of Us on the Run” and “How Loud Your Heart Gets” back-to-back towards the end of their set. They’re both stunning songs.

During the night, Jess said they were honored to be back in Maine at a sold out headlining show. Jess told us that they love Bob and Gail Ludwig fromGateway Mastering in Portland who are some of their most favorite people. Lucius opened for Tegan and Sara back in 2013 at the State, and Jess added that to “see you all here singing the words to our songs, supporting us at our own show, and seeing kids wearing golden capes is a dream come true.” They closed their set with “Woman” from Nudes and left the stage to thunderous applause.

Lucius came back to the stage for a three song encore, starting with “Dusty Trails,” which they invited show opener Ethan Gruska on stage to sing with them. They covered “Strangers” by the Kinks, and Jess introduced their final song of the night with heartfelt comments about the power of music to send positivity into the world. She said:

“This band and us working together has been the power of collaboration. The power of creating something that’s greater than ourselves as individuals that’s positive. We do that with our writing. We have two heads and two hearts lending perspective within one song and we have two voices making one voice and we have our whole band putting on a show together for you guys and at the end of the day, we wouldn’t be here without you, so thank you very much. We feel the power and love that you give to us and it fuels us to be able to do what we do and in having spent so much time together the thing that we’ve learned is that our greatest dream of all is that you each take something from this experience that we are all sharing tonight that you need–whether it’s joy or bittersweetness or sorrow or pain or love or humor–and you take it out into your everyday lives and pay it forward. Share it with a neighbor in the form of love because it may sound repetitive to say this, but it is all we need right now. No matter where you go, do something positive with this.”

They closed the night with a cover of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” which reinforced their hopes for positivity and community and was a perfect end for a beautiful night. What a night! If you don’t know Lucius, seize this moment to discover them. You’ll be so glad you did.

xo,

bree

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