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.

xo,

bree

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

SnugHouse

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.

IMG_6152

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!

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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 whatbreesees.com 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.

img_6041

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.

IMG_6048

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.

IMG_5471

Jamestown Revival

IMG_5399

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.

img_1661

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.

img_2993

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.

    img_7711

    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.

    img_2547

    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.

    img_9570

    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.

xo,

bree

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

GoldenOak

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!

xo,

bree

I spy Kevin Oates of MYRO on cello

img_7711

img_7736

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 matthewrobbinsphoto.com took!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ellis Paul with Laurie MacAllister

Friday, December 29, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was my 49th Ellis Paul show! I hope I get to sing on stage with him at my 50th show. I can sing, Ellis!

I started seeing Ellis Paul in 2002, so that’s 15 years of great music I’ve gotten to hear him perform live. He’s still my favorite singer songwriter, and I love seeing him live at his now annual warm up to New Year’s Eve show at One Longfellow Square. I used to ring in the New Year with Ellis and friends every year at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but Portland is so much closer!  

I picked up my friend Hedda in the snow and we slowly made it to Portland on a slippery highway. We had a delicious dinner nearby at Mi Sen, but were squeezed for time and had to miss seeing my talented pianist friend, Ben Cosgrove, at Blue. We made it to One Longfellow Square right after 7 to get good seats up front, and there were easily already 25 people in the room. I know where the super fans sit (I am a fan, not a super fan), and decided I needed a couple of rows of buffer, so grabbed seats for Colin, Hedda, and me in the fourth row. We chatted for an hour and then Laurie MacAllister (of Red Molly) took the stage to start the show.

img_7468

David Glaser, Laurie McAllister, and Radoslav Lorkovic

Hedda saw her first Ellis Paul show (my 46th) with me last year at Brunswick’s Unitarian Universalist Church, and Laurie sang with him then, too. We thought their chemistry was obvious, and wondered if they were a couple back then. They were, we discovered at this show. Laurie MacAllister has a very pretty voice and was so grateful to perform her first solo show in 14 years in front of such a polite audience. Her new solo record, The Lies the Poets Tell, is out in late January. It’s a cover album of songs from artists you may not know–including Shawn Mullins (one of my all time favorites), Mark Erelli (who Laurie called her favorite songwriter and urged us to see live), Antje Duvekot, oh, and some guy named Ellis Paul. She opened with Shawn Mullins’ “My Stupid Heart.”David Glaser joined her on guitar–she told us she’d heard him play last year during preparations for Ellis’ annual New Year’s Eve shows and asked him to be her guitarist on her new album–and Radoslav Lorkovic, the “Croatian Sensation,” accompanied on piano and accordion. Laurie told us she met Rad for the first time back in 2005 when they played at the same music festival. When she and her Red Molly bandmates told him they were off to New York City for a gig later that evening, he asked if he could come with them and play, too, which they all quickly agreed to. David, Rad, and Laurie were also Ellis’ band that evening. They are obviously friends and it was fun to watch them together.

Ellis Paul took the stage to a sold out crowd after intermission. He told us he wrote a song with a friend in mind that was supposed to be more of a joke, but turned into his love song, “I Ain’t No Jesus.” I’d never heard Ellis talk about dating Laurie before, but he talked about her saying “I’ll Never Be this Young Again” in reference to recording a new album, and he stole her line and wrote a song featuring it. Laurie interjected that she came down to the living room the next morning and he played it for her–completely finished overnight. He told us it was one of the first times he’d ever played it live.

Ellis also played another new song I hadn’t heard before, which is always exciting when you see someone play as often as I do. He projected a picture onto the screen behind him and it was of Ellis and his father in front of a huge fire. He told us about a family reunion that turned into a major fire house fire over the 4th of July weekend in 1979. He thanked his relatives in the crowd who were there to support him, and told us about a relative who’d fought for the Union Army in the Civil War and was injured at Gettysburg. They gave him a farm–150 acres in Wasburn, Maine–and every generation in his family has produced potato farmers since then until now. He joked that he went into the more lucrative folk singer business. His grandparents had 9 kids and 40 grandchildren. He laughed as he told us “none of the names have been changed because everyone who is guilty deserves to be in this song.”

Ellis told us he’d record an album in 2018, and I think I’m most looking forward to “Scarecrow in a Corn Maze”–a song about a soldier injured in Iraq who comes home from war and struggles. The chorus goes, “scarecrow in a corn maze, just trying to find some way out.” Ellis has always been an excellent storyteller. His songs are relatable because they tell real human stories. This song stuck out to me the most among songs I don’t know very well. We sang along to a song that Ellis wrote about all of the states he’s performed in called “So You Ain’t From these Parts.” The verse about Maine features the crazy names of places here from Damariscotta to the Cobbosseecontee.

Every year, Ellis and his friends play a medley of songs during their NYE shows. This year, they paid tribute to music legends lost in the last couple of years–Tom Petty, Glen Campbell, and Glenn Frey. Their cover of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was incredible. I’ll admit I’d never heard Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” before. Everyone came off the stage into the audience and sang “Seven Bridges Road” (famously covered by the Eagles) for us.

Ellis thanked us for our continued support and for coming out in the bitter cold. He told us his kid just got $3,300 braces, and chuckled when he told us that we’d paid for them. I figure my 49 concert tickets will pay for at least a year of a teenager’s car insurance when his girls start driving.

Did we all sing along to “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down”to close the night? I think we did. I am sleep deprived from New Year’s Eve last night. Thanks for a lovely evening of music that always makes me feel like I’m home, Ellis and friends. I’ll see you soon!

Happy 2018! Let’s all hope for goodness and light in the year ahead!

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bon Iver

Friday, December 8, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

In a sentence–for me, sadly, this show was a surprising disappointment.

I saw Bon Iver for the first time in September of 2012 at the Bank of America Pavillion in Boston. Caroline and I went together, and she wrote a lovely guest post giving the show a five star rating. I was in the third or fourth row for that full band show, and I was over the moon to hear some of my Bon Iver favorites in person and to sing “The Wolves (Acts I and II)” together. The energy at that show was palpably positive.

When I saw that Bon Iver was playing so nearby in Portland at State Theatre, I was thrilled. I set an alarm to buy tickets in the presale, but the timing of my teaching plans were a little off because we had an unexpected fire drill, so I selfishly asked my students to work on their homework for a few minutes while I tried to get tickets on both my laptop and my phone. My phone came through for me and I snagged a pair of tickets a few rows from the back of the room, and I can’t think of a time I was so happy to have basically back row seats. I checked again when tickets went on sale to the general public, but they seemed completely sold out right away. I read through more than a hundred comments from angry Bon Iver fans about how impossible it was to get tickets for the show, and revelled in my luck. I even looked online at StubHub just to see if I could get seats closer to the stage, but seats in my far away section were selling for $250 each (a huge markup over the $65 face value). I scoffed at the idea of selling my tickets for profit anyhow, but then I went to the show and thought twice.

Bartlett was my lucky date for the night, even though many people inquired about my extra ticket for the show right up until the night of the show. We met for dinner at El Rayo, had a couple of tacos and cocktails, and made our way to State Theatreearly to make it through their added security and because there was no opening act. Justin Vernon took the stage solo, which I am usually totally in favor of, but this was an odd night. I was surprised by how many people were back and forth to the bar and bathroom during the show because we’d all paid a decent amount for these highly sought after tickets and I figured everyone there would be a big fan. (A sarcastic shout out to the annoying super fan couple in the third row that spent most of the night dancing wildly on your feet–rudely obstructing the views of and distracting everyone all around you. You guys made me glad my seats were so far away). There was some sort of chatter coming from the other front orchestra section, I guess, because Justin interjected a snarky comment about them, and then followed up with a comment about how we should all just love each other. Later, someone from the crowd shouted out “I love you, Justin,” and he responded “I have plans later. But I appreciate that.” I thought some (but not all) of his banter with the audience was awkward to the point of kind of mean spirited. It felt like he didn’t want to have to perform for us, and it ruined the show experience for me.

My view of Justin Vernon from the back of the State Theatre

I didn’t feel at all this way five years ago when I first saw Bon Iver live, so I have some theories about this night’s cringeworthy moments. The easiest explanation would be that folks nearest him were being rude and I couldn’t hear it. That, sadly, has been the case at other shows I’ve been to in Portland, where people talk all night over the performer. Regina Spektor’s show earlier this year at State Theatrecomes right to mind. Maybe something has shifted for Justin during these years that makes performing difficult for him, or, he was just having a bad night. If I missed something, please tell me. I’d love to know there was an obvious cause for his somewhat grumpy demeanor.

Musically, Justin was great. I loved hearing so many songs I love live–“Flume,”“Perth,”“Blood Bank,”“Skinny Love,”and “Woods”–and his cover of“I Can’t Make You Love Me”was heart wrenching, as expected. I enjoyed hearing the heavily electronic songs from his 2016 album, 22, A Million in person, too. It felt good to sing “The Wolves (Acts I and II)” together to end the night at Justin’s invitation, but I was very surprised he only played a one song encore (a cover of Mahalia Jackson’s “Satisfied Mind”), because he was on stage less than an hour. I’d felt so lucky to have the opportunity to be in the room, but was genuinely sadly disappointed during and after the show. It felt like an off night from start to finish, and it seemed to me like Justin struggles with the pressures of being a beloved musician, which seemed to shine through during this show. In the end, I am fine with having spent $65 to see Justin Vernon from basically the back row, but I probably wouldn’t do it again, which is disappointing given how much his music has positively impacted my life.

If you missed this show, I honestly don’t think you missed much. Maybe something was going on with the crowd up front that I couldn’t hear. If folks were being rude and Justin was annoyed with them–I can totally live with that. From where I sat, though, this show was a bummer. If you saw another night of this tour and had a very positive experience, I would also like to hear from you so that I know this was simply an off night and that Justin is just fine. I’m truly hoping for that.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized