Monthly Archives: November 2012

Eric Hutchinson with Jessie Payo

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH

This was my third concert in three consecutive nights. I was a little worn down, to be perfectly honest. I might even have taken a quick nap at a rest stop in my car on the way to the show. But Eric Hutchinson was totally worth the long trip from Maine to the lovely Tupelo Music Hall. Half stand up comedian, half singer-songwriter—his live show was thoroughly entertaining. I saw that he was doing an “Almost Solo Tour” and knew it would be a good first time to catch him. I am so glad I did.

Jessie Payo opened the show. I liked her clear, raspy, slightly twangy voice. She had power. Her sound is pretty pop. She sang “Oh Betty,” for her 60-pound pitbull. I liked her song “Heaven Help Me” about how we ultimately have to be the one to help ourself. She joked that we could take her home for $10—her music, that is. Jessie also jokingly complimented Londonderry (which is very strip mall-esque) saying it was “SO nice! And nicer than the slums of Detroit!” I loved her cover of “Pumped Up Kicks.” She told us that she normally plays with a band but that her manager told her she needed to learn the songs to play solo for this tour with Eric or pass on it altogether. She encouraged us to step out of our comfort zone as she has because it’s worth it in the end and played “Take It On”—a song to that effect. I liked Jessie’s cover of “Angel From Montgomery.” She asked us to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and joked that we could also endorse her skills on Linkedin. Her last song, “Live Before I Die,” felt like an old spiritual.

Jessie Payo

The four seats in front of me in the front row never filled, so when Jessie’s set ended and the couple next to me decided to move up, I went with them. I always like a seat where I’m close enough to rest my feet on the stage. Eric Hutchinson took the stage with Elliott Blaufuss who played guitar and piano and also provided backing vocals. They opened with “Ok, It’s Alright,” which is definitely one of Eric’s best-known songs. His mic stand gave him some difficulties during the song and he joked afterwards that the show had “been going so well until then” and “welcome to my first show ever!” He has an infectious sense of humor. I laughed a lot all night long. If you’ve never heard Eric Hutchinson (even though I bet you have and just don’t know it), he has a Jason Mraz/Michael Buble vibe.

Eric Hutchinson was all smiles

Eric and Elliott Blaufuss

He warned us that he’d be calling on people at random to get their requests during the night, but that this wasn’t going to turn into an Elton John greatest hits show. Elton John was my first big concert in eighth grade, actually, but I was perfectly happy to hear Eric instead. He played “Talk is Cheap,” “You Don’t Have to Believe Me,” and “Oh.” We sang with him on “Oh” and I thought we sounded pretty good. You can count on audiences at Tupelo to sing along well when prompted. Eric joked we were only at 80% audience participation and he’s more of an “81% kind of guy.” He worked out loud on a hypothesis that the women were carrying the room and made us sing separately to test his theory. He encouraged the guys to drop down an octave and really go for it. I appreciated his encouragement. When a girl got up from the front row to grab another drink, he joked with her “it’s not for everyone—thanks for coming!” He really kept us engaged in the show all night long.

EH did “Give and Take” next, a song off his new album, Moving Up Living Down. Eric said it had been named “Best Album of the Year” and “has been given 6 out of 5 stars. By me.” Cute. We learned that he wrote the songs for the new album in his apartment in New York City, and that “stomping onto a towel is really unsatisfying.” He stomps when writing, and his landlady had emailed him five minutes into the beginning of the writing process for the new album when his neighbors complained he was being too loud. She called and said, “I told you—no band practices in the building!” He replied “Don’t you know who I am?” She didn’t. He joked that when she Googled him she wasn’t that impressed either. Based on the complaints, she thought a whole band had been practicing in the apartment. EH assured us it was just him, though. And he started stomping into the towel and giving out free music to his neighbors to keep the peace.

I liked “Not There Yet” and “Food Chain” that he played for Erica in the audience who’d requested it. He told us that we could listen, though. He gave us a little back story for “Back to Where I Was” by telling us “I wrote it.” He invited Jessie Payo to sing with him and I held her iPhone for her. (That reminds me of Dirty Dancing and Baby carrying the watermelons, but whatever.) After that, EH told a long and hilarious story about playing a corporate event in LA where no one paid any attention to him. Someone tapped him on the shoulder on stage and told him to turn so that Fergie and her hunky husband Josh Duhamel could see him better. They were very complimentary to Eric and he had a long conversation with them and shared a hamburger slider with Fergie after his set. There’s more to the story, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Eric nearly aborted the story when someone moved a chair in the audience and it made a really loud farting noise. It took a while for us all to recover from the laughing. In comedy, timing is everything. He got us back on track and played us “All Over Now,” Fergie’s favorite song from that evening, for us.

Jessie saying goodbye to Eric. Sometimes my seat is too close to get a good photo. I can live with that.

Eric told us about his college days in Boston and how he wrote and played music to maintain his sanity. He joked that there’s medication that does that now. He played “Breakdown More” for us—a song he relearned by watching a guy cover it on YouTube. He said he’d forgotten the song, like it was an old, favorite college sweatshirt that you misplaced and eventually forgot about. As if we weren’t laughing enough, EH read us some of his deep thoughts that he wrote down after being the stereotypical American who goes to Amsterdam and gets high. There was a deep thought about shoes and another about ice cream. We laughed a lot. He wrote “Shine On Me” about the experience.

I was happy to hear “Watching You Watch Him” from his new album. 98.9 WCLZ out of Portland, Maine is playing it regularly, and I think it’s catchy and insightful. He said the song is about being in love with someone who loves someone else who isn’t even interested. He also told us (I’m assuming this was a joke) that he recently took a meeting with Red Lobster (inspired by Snoop Dogg—now Snoop Lion—who sold “Drop It Like It’s Hot” to Hot Pockets?) to see about altering the lyrics to “Watching You Eat Shrimp. $10.99.” It was catchy.

EH played “The Basement” next and then opened it up for “the interview portion of the evening.” Someone asked him about his favorite soul singers and he identified Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin as some of his personal favorites. Eric told us that since there’s no real backstage area at Tupelo, we should pretend this was their last song. It would save them the long walk to and from the dressing room, and we’d be spared those minutes of our life—like TiVo. We stood and clapped and pretended it was the end of the night.

Eric encouraged us to stay standing and dance for the last couple of songs. I remembered the adorable little boy sitting behind me in the third row with his parents who I’d talked to earlier and realized he wouldn’t be able to see the stage, so I invited he and his mom to take my spot in the front for the pretend encore. From the first second of the first song I recognized it as a cover of “I Want It That Way.” It was great! EH ended the night with “Rock & Roll,” the hit song from his 2003 album That Could Have Gone Better that put him on the map.

A happy little boy gets a front row view of the encore!

Eric Hutchinson puts on a great live show. I had a blast. Thanks, Eric, Elliott, Jessie, and Tupelo Music Hall!




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Lake Street Dive with Laura Cortese

Thursday, October 25, 2012

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

Robin Hilton from All Songs Considered on NPR Music asked a few days ago on their Facebook page, “Question Of The Day: Top Five Bands That Should Be Way Bigger Than They Are?” I added Lake Street Dive to their growing list of artists who should definitely already be famous. Tom Rota from One Longfellow Square and I have been in touch from time to time for years about acts I’d like to see come to Portland, and he mentioned about a year ago that I wouldn’t want to miss Lake Street Dive. I am so glad that I listened to him and made my way to OLS to see them last December. I was blown away by their talent—Rachael’s vocals are nearly unmatched in the music biz today, the harmonies were tight, the songs were playful and catchy with jazz influence, and they interacted comfortably with each other and the audience. It was a phenomenal show. I was really excited when I saw they were coming back to One Longfellow Square—even if it meant that my concert calendar got packed with four shows in four consecutive days.

I had a leisurely and much needed girls’ dinner at The Merry Table with my friends Courtney and Sophie before the show. I was so happy to have time to catch up with them that I didn’t even rush out to catch the opening act. Courtney dropped me off outside OLS instead and I struggled to find a spot in the packed house, but managed to find a seat in the third row. It was a sold out show for LSD (I realize LSD is also a drug, but in this post I’m referring to the band)! I’m glad that the word is out! I only caught the last two songs that Laura Cortese played. She was solo on fiddle (can stomping in your cool boots count as percussion, though?) and had a folky vibe.

Laura Cortese

Lake Street Dive took the stage after a short break. They are crazy talented. Rachael Price, Mike Calabrese, Bridget Kearney, and Mike Olson met years ago as classmates at Boston’s New England Conservatory and have been together for a few years. I’ve listened to Lake Street Dive many times during my morning commute to get my energy up for my kiddos. It’s so good and does the trick. They opened with “You Go Down Smooth” and then played a song about drummer Mike Calabrese’s feelings, “Miss Disregard.” The opening of the song is cheeky—“I’m done with you/I’m totally done with you/I’m completely and utterly done with you.” Sometimes we wish, right?

Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price

I love that lead singer Rachael introduced most of the songs by telling us which band member wrote them. I liked learning that everyone in the group is a writer. Bassist Bridget’s new song, “Lonely Woman,” about a woman trying to keep busy after a break up by taking night classes and making sculptures was moving. You might recognize Bridget’s name from Joy Kills Sorrow, but she’s made the move to work full time with Lake Street Dive. Rachael told us that they’re recording their new album in Parsonsfield, Maine in a barnwith no cell reception or WiFi, so the sound will be inherently Maine-inspired. You can get LSD’s most recent EP Fun Machine from Signature Sounds. The description of Lake Street Dive posted there is just spot on and so perfect that I had to share:

“Classic soul, R&B, jazz, and British invasion form the backdrop for the quirky and irreverent brand of pop that Lake Street Dive is known for. Combine this with the unstoppable joy of their live shows and near viral collection of YouTube videos, and you get the sum of the Lake Street Dive equation: pure pop music fun. Knock-your-socks-off vocals and virtuosic instrumentation top it all off. This Brooklyn based quartet is garnering a growing fan base in and beyond their native East Coast. Incorporating the unlikely elements of upright bass and jazz-inflected trumpet along with the more traditional rock staples of drums and electric guitar, Lake Street Dive are equally at home in a jazz club, a dive bar or a festival stage.”

Love Rachael’s face in this one! Try getting a picture of Bridget who is constantly in motion! There’s Mike Olson, too.

As a single girl, I LOVED and completely appreciated their song with the lyric “If you’re married, wear a wedding band!” There was a lot of laughing in the crowd during that one. They played another of drummer Mike’s songs (“What About Me?”) that Rachael told us he’s written “from a woman’s perspective.” Apparently he does that from time to time. I think he’s pretty observant, actually!

Drummer Mike Calabrese and Rachael

Kevin Bacon has recently helped spread the word about the fabulousness of Lake Street Dive. He tweeted a link to their video for “I Want You Back” with the comment “This is amazing! Gives me chills!” You can’t pay for better advertising! The video has gotten over 350,000 hits in the last two weeks alone. Rachael said that Ryan Seacrest tweeted about them after that as well. They played it for us and then we had a little intermission. I turned around and met a bunch of great people who’d driven from Fryeburg for the show. They were great to talk to and were really interested in music and the concerts I’ve seen.

One degree from Kevin Bacon?! Impressive!

After the break, LSD opened their second set with a song by their guitarist/trumpeter Mike Olson about “an unfortunate woman” that featured Bridget with a KILLER bass solo. Woah. I loved their cover of “Faith,” and “Neighbor Song” was up next. It’s one of my favorite LSD songs, and I love the lyrics “In this city all the humans live in layers/I got people down the hall and down the stairs/We all move in and out and live our lives in stacks and rows and pairs/And try to find someone with whom we can share it.” You know those black and white movies of women in uniform singing songs like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” in clubs during WWII? I can picture this band there so easily. They have a timelessness about them that makes it easy for a diverse audience to relate to them.

I like “Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand” a lot, and enjoyed another song drummer Mike wrote from a female perspective about having a crush on a guy in a band. He can really sing, by the way. Everyone in LSD can, for that matter, and their harmonies are spot on. There was less storytelling at this show than at the last one, but they barely took a pause between songs and really packed in the music. Rachael acknowledged the lack of banter and said she was at her “quota of awkward.” I liked Mike O’s new song “Use Me Up”—and the new songs they played made me look forward to hearing the album they’re recording right now.

I love this shot! I had to get up and walk to the back of the room to fit all of LSD into one frame.

They wrapped up their set with one of my favorites, “Hello? Goodbye!” I think it’s easy to relate—“I should tell my mind to stop remembering/I should make my fingers stop their trembling/And when I pass your doorway I should just walk right by/When you say hello, I’ll say goodbye.” LSD was kind to us and seemed sincerely grateful we’d come out. We stomped and cheered for an encore and they obliged with “Got Me Fooled.” Drummer Mike joked that we should sing along because it’s a song about Rachael’s feelings and singing it makes her feel vulnerable. I don’t think many people did sing along—Lake Street Dive is so good that I didn’t want to interfere with their impeccable sound. Another great LSD show! If they’re in your neck of the woods, do yourself a favor and get out to see them!



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