Tuesday, April 10, 2012
SPACE Gallery, Portland, Maine
*I’m still behind on blogging about shows. This show happened right before I took 13 amazing seniors from Mt. Ararat High School to Berlin, Prague, Krakow, and Budapest during April vacation. I came back and was jet lagged for about a week. Then I celebrated my birthday week and was too busy to write. I read that Christian Wargo (from Poor Moon and Fleet Foxes) and I have the same birthday. I hope it was great, Christian!*
Some shows are just magical, and this was definitely one of them. I am not a spontaneous person—a creature of habit and advance planner by nature, I am actually really surprised I ended up at this show at all. I was perusing my Facebook news feed on a Monday afternoon and saw a brilliant post by SPACE Gallery. It reminded us how Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver, Of Montreal, and Josh Ritter (just to name a few amazing acts) played at SPACE before moving on to play much bigger venues. They suggested that upcoming shows (such as Lost In The Trees) would be our “last chance to see these bands up close and intimate before they move on to bigger venues.” I already liked Lost In The Trees, so decided to take SPACE’s advice and go to the show.
I love Fleet Foxes, and was excited to learn that Seattle’s Poor Moon (the show opener) is a side project of two of its members. Sophie, Max, and I met for a quick slice at Otto’s and Sophie and I meandered over to SPACE with plenty of time to mingle and grab a drink before Poor Moon took the stage. I met a guy at the bar who I complimented on his fabulous Mad Bomber-esque hat. It turns out that he is the bass player for Poor Moon. We got to chat with Jonas for quite a while, actually, and he was super sweet. He spent most of the Lost In The Trees set with us, too, and when we left for the night, it felt like we’d spent the evening amongst friends.
Poor Moon was great. Their music is ethereal—the pace, their harmonies, the sound mix—it was all spot on. I enjoyed the sound effects, mandolin, industrial-sized shaker, xylophone, tambourine, and keys that gave them such a full sound. It was their first time in Maine, and they were friendly with the audience and thanked us for coming early to listen. I think my favorite song of the night was “Come Home,” which you can listen to in this video recorded at SXSW. The first two songs in the video are “Phantom Light” and “Clouds Below.”
Poor Moon is quite a talented ensemble. Christian Wargo (Fleet Foxes’ bassist), Casey Wescott (Fleet Foxes’ keys/mandolin player), and brothers Ian and Peter Murray (The Christmas Cards) are joined by Jonas Haskins on bass, Jason Merculief on percussion, and audio wizard Jared Hankins. If you’re interested in a little background about how they came together, check out this interview with Christian. Their first EP, Illusion, is out now and you can listen to it here. If you can see them play out, do.
I’m a sucker for music with a string section (I will forever love Metallica’s S&M album), so Lost In The Trees already had a leg up on finding a spot in my heart. They played violin, cello, drums, guitar, keys, bass, tambourine, accordion, French horn, tuba, glockenspiel, and even some instruments I couldn’t identify. Their sound is rich and haunting (especially with Emma’s harmonies), and the lyrics are heavy. Their music was compelling and beautiful.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Lost In The Trees (LIIT) is led by Ari Picker, and he’s joined by Drew Anagnost, Leah Gibson, Mark Daumen, Emma Nadeau, Jenavieve Varga, and Yan Westerlund. Their first album, All Alone in an Empty House, was picked up and has been featured prominently on NPR Music. NPR appropriately dubbed LIIT “orchestral folk.” Check out their 2010 Tiny Desk Concert to get a taste of that album. NPR is a big fan of LIIT, and they even filmed Lost In The Trees’ show the night after we saw them at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. It is essentially the same show we saw, and you should really, really check it out.
Anti-Records has a bio of Lost In The Trees on their website, and calls A Church That Fits Our Needs “a work of vaulting ambition, a cathedral built on loss and transformation. In the summer of 2009 Ari Picker – writer, composer, and architect of the band – lost his mother, an artist in her own right, when she took her own life. Picker was in the midst of releasing his band’s debut album, All Alone in an Empty House, a collection of folk-inflected songs that surprised with its orchestral arrangements, to an acclaim usually reserved for seasoned veterans.” I think I’m glad I learned about the tragic backdrop of this album after the show. I definitely felt that the music was heavy, but I didn’t know it was so autobiographical. I wonder how it must feel for Ari to get up and perform these songs each night. I hope it’s healing for him. Check out this interview with Ari about his mom and how A Church That Fits Our Needs creates space to process his loss. The first song on the album is “Red.” It contains the beautiful lyrics “A beautiful garden blooms/My dearest one/Your love carried me through today/I’ll give you the moon/Dearest one/Your love carried me through today.”
LIIT had never played in Maine before, and they bantered a little with us and made us feel welcome and appreciated. Ari said they’d played the night before in Burlington and that they were going to play a slow song and asked us not to “let Burlington out-dance” us. He lamented that they “should have brought a disco ball,” and like clockwork, SPACE’s disco ball started spinning and was lit up while they played a beautiful slow song. We were all mesmerized by the song and the lights. It was a lovely moment. They rocked out during their last song, but hopped off stage and came to the center of the room to play one more—“All Alone in an Empty House”—for us acoustically. Here’s a video of that song from my favorite west coast radio station, KEXP. It was an intimate, special ending to a beautiful night of storytelling and music. Lost In The Trees, please, please come back to Maine soon.