Wednesday, June 6, 2012
One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine
*I hope you’ve noticed I’ve been working diligently to get caught up on the bloggity blog! Many more things coming to you soon—including information about Zac Clark and the Young Volcanoes’ new album, Laura Marling, two days of the Newport Folk Festival, The Gawler Family Band, Run on Sentence, and Mumford & Sons and friends who I’ll see later today!! Don’t forget that Ben Sollee is coming to One Longfellow Square Sunday (tomorrow) night. He was the “Waldo” of the Newport Folk Festival, and popped up in just about everyone’s sets. He’s super Earth conscious, and he and his whole band have been traveling the whole east coast on bicycles. I won’t be surprised if he shows up later today at the Mumford & Sons shows (I should get to bed soon, actually).*
The MGC/JAW GEMS show was very special to me because it was the first show officially sponsored by my blog! I am a Max Garcia Conover super fan and always work hard to be sure people come out for his shows. I really want people to hear his beautiful and unique music. Max thought that I should get some official credit for that work, so my logo went on the poster. Cool, right? Here’s my post hyping the show. Here are links to two of my write ups about Max from his shows I attended in February and April—just in case you want to know more (or, in this case, just about everything there is to know about Max).
I got to One Longfellow Square early to hear Max’s sound check and went out for dinner afterwards at Local Sprouts with Max, Sophie, and Max’s friend Jason. Our friend Ben showed up and we wandered back to OLS for the show. I was thrilled that some of my former students from Mt. Ararat came to the show—it was so great to see aspiring musicians Genevieve (who has an EP coming out soon—more on that later!) and Mary at the show. One of my homeroom advisees, Jameson, showed up and sat with me. That totally made my day because he was just days away from graduating and I was missing my kiddos already. My music buddy, Caroline, a rising senior at MTA, was there, too. Caroline graciously shared her pictures from that night with me since my memory card with the photos I took crashed and were lost. My friends Megan and Adam who I married last fall came and brought me belated birthday cookies in an awesome vintage-style Hello Kitty tin lunchbox. I shared. Max’s friends were out in full force, and there is always a lot of love in the room at MGC shows.
Max got the evening started by introducing Hassan from JAW GEMS to the stage. He told the story of how they’d met. Hassan had visited Bowdoin as a high schooler to check out campus and Max hosted—he said he’d worked hard to look cool because Hassan was a sick piano player. Hassan played a short solo set on piano. He is ridiculously talented. Hassan is a jazz pianist and I like listening to him even though (GASP) I don’t really like jazz. I prefer lyrics, guitars, and regular song structure. Jazz with lyrics—like Etta James—I do like that, if that helps. Hassan told a story about a class he took with Max on Friedrich Nietzsche at Bowdoin. They sat together and it seemed fitting that they were sharing the stage that night because one thing they’d talked about that semester was how much music connects people.
Hassan invited the rest of the guys from JAW GEMS to the stage. They played a handful of pieces—mostly interpretations of music from other artists—from “Solar” by Miles Davis to “Te Amo” by Atlas Sound. They played an original by Tyler who played a few different sets of keys during the piece. All of the musicians on stage were immensely talented. Jameson whispered to me during the set that they were so good it almost didn’t sound live. Hassan was blowing into a tube throughout the whole show—it sounded like a mix between a harmonica and a synthesizer—and it provided the idea of vocals for the songs. After their set, I asked Hassan and he told me that it was called a talk box. Andy did grab a microphone and there were a few proper lyrics in their final piece. It was layered with effects and had a tinge of Bon Iver to it.
Max Garcia Conover took the stage and played all of our favorites—“In City Light,” “Barn,” and “The Marshes.” He told a hilarious story about how he used to write love songs for a girl in his first grade class named Hannah. He’d record the songs for her on a tape and give them to her. Once he found out that she played them for her friends and her parents, he stopped writing love songs.
Max’s finger picking guitar style is just outstanding, and his lyrics are both subtle and captivating. He played “The Wide” (one of my favorites) unplugged and standing in the darkness in the front corner of the stage. Max could have played unplugged all night—you can always hear a pin drop at his shows because we’re so moved and tuned in. Max encouraged us to dance during “Spiral Through the Wheat” and we did a little. I love the way he belts out “I won’t ever be done!” during that song.
Max introduced us to his awesome mom Vivian who passed around his mailing list for people to sign up on. It was super cute. He plugged in his electric guitar for a few songs and admitted that it was only the fourth or fifth time he’d ever played the electric guitar. Max wrapped up his set—full of the humility we’re used to hearing from him in the form of lots of “thank you”s for coming out to the show—and we asked for an encore. He played “Among the White Birches,” which is the foundation of his newest EP, Birches Lo. He stepped from the stage to stand on a chair in the front row to play right in our midst. It was a delightful evening, and I always look forward to seeing Max live.
Max is playing out a lot these days, so you really should check him out! He won honors as “Best New Act” from The Portland Phoenix, which isn’t too shabby for someone who only started playing guitar and writing music in college!