Thursday, February 16, 2012
Empire Dine and Dance, Portland, Maine
The beauty of being relatively unfamiliar with bands I see hopefully means I’ll learn the act of brevity when recapping the shows. That was more than 1,000 words ago—oops! I guess today was not the day to learn to be concise
Sorry this post is so belated—I was busy seeing shows during February vacation week and then I’ve been sick the whole week since. I haven’t done much more than watch two seasons of Downtown Abbey in the last seven days. I need to keep resting to be ready to enjoy The Black Keys on Tuesday! I’m so excited!
I’ve known about Chamberlin for about six months now. I heard about them when they were asking their fans to vote on which songs to cover for their Cabin Covers EP. I hope their cover of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” got them some deserved notice. It sounds great. When Hurricane Irene hit and devastated parts of Vermont—Chamberlin’s home—they decided to donate all of the proceeds from the sale of their EP to Hurricane Irene relief in Vermont. Good guys, eh? I heard that Chamberlin was coming to Portland last November and missed them, so when I heard they were coming back in February, I put them on my “definitely going” list. I am often in search of concert buddies, and Max and Sophie, after listening to some of Chamberlin’s videos on YouTube, were convinced they should go with me.
We decided to have dinner at Tu Casa in Portland, and then went back to Max and Sophie’s before the show. The poster for the event said the show was at 9pm. The website for Empire Dine and Dance didn’t specify doors vs. show, so we decided to head over at 9:30pm. I should mention that this was a school night for me. When we arrived at Empire at about 9:40pm, we thought we might have missed some of the first opening band, Worried Well. We were wrong. Doors had just opened and Worried Well didn’t go on until 10pm. Max was feeling a little under the weather and I had three ninth grade classes the next day and needed to be up at 6:15am to teach my kiddos about the President’s Cabinet.
Portland-based Worried Well had a lot of sound for just two people—one on electric guitar and the other on drums. Lead singer Daniel James had a strong voice. Their harmonies were solid, and the drumming was tight. They reminded me of Jump, Little Children, who I liked a lot about a decade ago. Sophie leaned over and said Daniel sounded a little like Chris Carrabba from Dashboard Confessional. I am not sure how he would take that because some musicians might not want to be associated with “emo” music—but from Sophie and I, it’s a compliment. Now I’m thinking about Chris Carrabba and swooning. Back to business—Daniel and drummer Cam Jones said they’d been in the studio recording that day and were making good progress on their upcoming album. They’d also recorded a video for “Human Beans” in Deering Oaks in early February. I love Daniel’s excellent moustache in the video. I talked to both guys after their set (they were both very nice) and Cam told me that they’ll be playing Brothers by The Black Keys in its entirety at The Big Easy after The Black Keys show on Tuesday. I would definitely see these guys again.
New Hampshire’s Tan Vampires took the stage at almost 11pm. I started to estimate the number of hours of sleep I’d be getting before school in the morning and got a little anxious because the band I’d really come to see was still obviously about an hour away from taking the stage. The first line out of the lead singer’s voice was captivating, something like “on my hands there are bands to remind me of the friends I’m trying to remember.” I was instantly hooked. They were five handsome, flannel-clad guys on stage, two with some of the sickest beards I’ve seen in ages. They played two guitars, bass, drums, and keys. I really like their sound and recommend checking out their music on their website and YouTube channel. They remind me some of Young the Giant, who I love and who I won’t be seeing in Boston on Thursday because I didn’t buy tickets early and now they are sold out and I am sad. The keyboard adds a little Death Cab for Cutie-ness to Tan Vampires’ sound, too. I was especially drawn to their lyrics, though, and was surprised at how well they captured the room during the 11 o’clock hour on a school night at bar in the big city. I remember hearing a line like “you can help me forget/Just lock those memories in your chest.” Their songwriting got them a nod from NPR’s All Songs Considered, too. I’m looking forward to hearing more of their music and becoming much more familiar with it. They joked about their band name and how they weren’t the sparkling kind of vampire (a Twilight reference I imagine many of you won’t get), but that their t-shirts are glow in the dark. Their website says they are coming back to Empire on April 6, and I definitely recommend going.
So, the band I came to see took the stage at midnight. Awesome. Empire, you’re killing me. I am going to have to start coming to shows there during the school year on weekends and vacations only if we can’t get the evening started a little earlier. I will say that the midnight appearance of Vermont’s Chamberlin (I’m just now realizing that there was a ME-NH-VT trifecta represented that night) was stressful and I knew I was going to have to leave early in their set if I was going to get any useful sleep before school in the morning. I was sad about that, too, since I’d already waited at least three months to see them. They have a great sound, much louder and rockin’ that night than the videos on their YouTube channel had led me to believe they’d be. They had two guitars, bass, drums, and keys and jammed out a lot more than I’d expected. They can all really play; their lyrics were great and their harmonies solid. The lead singer can sing. His voice is amazing, actually. I like the lyrics from the title track of their album, Bitter Blood, and we can all relate to the line, “I felt in my bones what turned out to be true.” I also love their song, “Turn Around,” that has the great line, “my memories are silent films/Playing in my mind.” I was really, really sad to leave early, and begrudgingly left at 12:38am. I got maybe four and a half hours of sleep and had a lot of adrenaline in my veins the next morning to teach my kids about the President’s Cabinet. In retrospect, I think I would have made it okay through the teaching day on Friday if I’d stayed to the end of their set, but I’m looking forward to seeing Chamberlin again when I don’t have somewhere important to be the next day. I think they have a tremendous sound and are definitely up and coming and you will be hearing about them more (and not just from me) for sure.