Monthly Archives: January 2013

Kaki King with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

SPACE Gallery, Portland, Maine

My concert buddy Monica and I saw the fabulous Martin Sexton a few nights ago. After the show, she asked me how I’d liked Kaki King—a show she’d recommended to me. She inspired me to get writing! Thanks, M!

I’d been a little on the fence about going to a show on a Tuesday, but Monica had encouraged me to go and my friends Kevin and Hedda were planning to be there, too. It was drizzling as I stood outside SPACE Gallery. I got there early because I’d inexplicably never seen Lady Lamb the Beekeeper live before and wanted a good spot. Like a lot of Mainers, I’d known Aly for years because she worked at Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion in Brunswick. She talked at length about that job and her songwriting in this Maine magazine feature. I’m embarrassed to think about how many times I returned a truly bad romantic comedy to her now that she’s a big deal on the music scene, even showing up in Rolling Stone magazine. Like you, I am so happy for her. After seeing her live show, I realized just how well deserved her accolades and success are.

The room was packed as LLB took the stage. She opened with “Up In The Rafters,” which is an incredible a cappella piece. You could have heard a pin drop through the whole song, and essentially through her entire set. I especially like the line, “”I want to know you like the clock knows the hour.” I loved “Bird Balloons.” It was musically interesting and layered. The lyrics were honest and compelling—“This is my loss of love/my loss of limb/You were my friend/and now/I’m a ghost and you all know it.”

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

LLB told us that “Milk Duds” was one of her first songs. She wrote it at her first apartment in Bath, Maine during “that time in your life when you’re young and waste money on candy.” What I loved about Aly’s set was how thrilled she was to be on stage. She told us again and again how happy she was to be home. She called out people in the audience she knew by name and was genuinely happy they’d come to the show. You all know how much I love friendly banter from performers and hearing what songs are about. LLB made me so happy on both counts, and I loved her songs to boot.

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She was beaming when she said, “Even without my glasses, I can see that everyone I love is here.” She announced that she’d be back again from Brooklyn to release her studio album at SPACE Gallery. The show will be March 2, and Xenia Rubinos and Cuddle Magic will join her. Check out Sam Pfeifle’s review of Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s first studio album Ripely Pine in The Portland Phoenix. Also check out Hilly Town’s pictures from the evening.

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LLB pointed out Dilly Dilly in the front row and told us she’d sung harmony vocals on the upcoming album on “Little Brother.” I thought Dilly Dilly might hop up on stage and sing with her, but maybe that’s for the next show. LLB thanked everyone at SPACE profusely. She said that SPACE is her favorite venue in the world—where she got her start. She was really happy to be there with us at the end of her first US/Canadian tour. You wouldn’t have been able to tell at all that this was her 30th or so show of a tour because her energy was so warm and upbeat.  She thanked us again and closed her six-song set with “Crane Your Neck.” The crowd was incredibly attentive the entire set. I realized when she took her leave just how mesmerized I’d been by her performance. I was not alone.

There was a brief intermission during which half of the crowd left SPACE and Kaki King’s touring manager set up the stage. This was definitely a LLB audience. I was excited to hear Kaki King live. My friend Greg had introduced her to me a while ago on a mix CD. I realize now that I was wholly unprepared. It’s probably better that I didn’t know more about Kaki King’s music, because I would have skipped the show and missed Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s lovely set. Here’s what totally threw me—Kaki King played beautiful song after beautiful song on lots of different guitars, but didn’t sing at all. I am drawn to lyrics. I was lost.

She bantered with the audience well at first and I appreciated it. She is quite petite, so when she sat down to play she asked all of the short people to move to the front if they were interested and for everyone to check behind them to see if someone shorter was behind them with an obstructed view. I thought it was a really considerate and awesome move!

Kaki King is very petite. Check out her chair/s!

Kaki King is very petite. Check out her chair/s!

She played four guitar-only songs in a row. They were lovely, but I realized soon that I was bored. I am not a guitar solo girl. At rock shows, the wailing guitar solos are the things I wait through to get to the lyrics. If that is odd, I can live with it. I am a folk girl at heart. I love a good sing a long. Kaki King gave a shout out to her guitar tech and LLB. She played a lot of new songs from her new album, Glow. It would be impossible for me to tell them apart to tell you what she played, though. She said it was the first time she’s ever liked her music. I am really happy for her. I know a lot of people are on board, too, but it’s not for me—live anyhow. I think I’d find her album perfect for relaxing after a long day on the car ride home or as background while I grade students’ work during my prep period.

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I liked “Cargo Cult.” She said she’d become interested in Cargo Cult (a religious practice of amassing material through magic and religious ritual says Wikipedia) which is the theme for 2013’s Burning Man. I Googled it. I am confused. I liked the song, though.

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KK stomped for percussion, played a variety of beautiful guitars, and chatted a little with the audience. My notes from the show are essentially a count of how many instrumental songs in a row she played. I eventually got to eight. Kevin and Hedda left before then—they’re not night owls like me and they weren’t compelled either. I waited another song or two and decided I was just not into the music enough to stay. I can’t remember the last time I’ve left a show early. I think the only time I’ve ever done it was in Boston when I had to catch the T late at night or be stranded. The last of KK’s songs I heard was one that she wrote in a NYU dorm room. I clocked out at 10:23 and was pretty excited to think I’d be home by 11:15 after a show on a school night. I think you should always check out music for yourself and make up your own mind, but without lyrics, Kaki King’s songs felt more like lovely background music to me.

xo,

bree

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Trampled By Turtles with Spirit Family Reunion

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I find that I start to feel a little over-concerted towards the end of the year. I hadn’t seen a show since Halloween in a deliberate concert break, and I was so excited to see Brooklyn’s Spirit Family Reunion in early December. I caught their last couple of songs at the Newport Folk Festival last summer, and they were energetic and powerful and the crowd was totally into it. Here’s the recording of their set at Newport Folk Festival. I was determined to see them live at some point. I’d seen Trampled By Turtles twice—once by chance in Skagway, Alaska, which is a magical place, and again last year in Portland at Port City Music Hall. They also played last summer’s Newport Folk Festival. Check out their live set from the Paste Ruins at the Festival here. They are incredibly upbeat and talented musicians, and I enjoyed their exuberant energy both times I saw them. I thought this evening of music fell a bit flat, though. Maybe it was just me, because I’d gotten some troubling news from a dear friend earlier in the day, but also because I’d built my expectations for the show up too much in the first place.

Spirit Family Reunion at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival

Spirit Family Reunion at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival

Paste Magazine’s description of Spirit Family Reunion on their website is spot on. Spirit Family Reunion plays “homegrown American music to stomp, clap, shake and holler with. Ever since they started singing together on the street corners, farmer’s markets and subway stations of New York City, their songs have rung-out in a pure and timeless way. When Spirit Family Reunion gather to sing, there is communion.” SFR plays with warm and friendly energy, traditional American instruments, and genuine, raspy vocals that impress. I preferred their set, actually.

I found my way to PCMH after dinner at the new-ish Kushiya Benkay on Congress Street with Hedda, my friend from high school, and her husband, Kevin. I saw a young woman standing alone reading a book in the second row, saw space next to her, and went for it. Amanda (who works at the awesome Café Miranda in Rockland) was reading (and recommended) Tom Robbins’ Skinny Legs and All. I ended up in a great pocket of fun and considerate young people and even saw Julie, who I’d met at an Audra Mae/Matt Nathanson show back in January. It was nice to have people to chat with—Hedda and Kevin were planning to come, but the show sold out before they got their tickets.

Spirit Family Reunion

Spirit Family Reunion

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Spirit Family Reunion opened with “Leave Your Troubles At The Gate,” and I quite liked “To All My Friends And Relations.” I love the timeless instruments they play—banjo, washboard, fiddle, guitar, upright bass, and drum. Their voices are powerful and homegrown—perfect in their imperfections. It would be hard not to like them or to keep from stomping along. I don’t know the names of many of their songs, but I loved the one about walking with eyes open wide. They didn’t banter much with us (and I love banter), but the guitarist said how nice it was to come back to Maine “where my boots are made!” He held up his foot to show us his Bean boot, and I’m sure half the crowd (myself included) had on the same pair.

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Look at that LL Bean boot!

Look at that LL Bean boot!

I LOVED “On That Day.” “Woody Guthrie” was great, and the fiddler took the lead vocals on “Green Rocky Road.” Woah. His voice is inspiring. Their banjo player has a completely unique power folk voice, too. Their sound is interesting and gospel and folk all at once. Check out their NPR Tiny Desk Concert and this Boston Globe feature.

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They played a quiet slow song after “Green Rocky Road” that I really liked. There was a pretty line in it, something like “you said that the freight train made a sound like my name.” They ended their set with a sing-a-long—“I’ll Find A Way.” It felt pretty good to sing along with the lyrics “don’t worry about me/I’ll find a way.” I think SPR is very much worth seeing live. There’s something organic about them that makes them extremely likeable.

The amply plaided crowd was really pumped for Duluth’s Trampled By Turtles. I liked “Victory,” “Sorry” (which was so energetic), and I loved “Widower’s Heart.” Amanda had moved up to the barricade just in front of me in a lucky move and offered me her spot when she took off early on her two-hour ride home to Rockland. I was pumped. There’s nothing like the front row.

Trampled By Turtles

Trampled By Turtles

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TBT played “Valley” and the crowd favorite was definitely “Alone.” I should amend the word “played.” TBT shreds—they rock, they give their music all they’ve got. There is a lot of energy during the songs. I was hoping for some energy between the songs, though. I can’t remember anyone in the band saying much at all during their set and I found that kind of cold and disappointing in juxtaposition to their upbeat, super high energy songs.

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They slowed their set down with “Beautiful” and brought it right back up again (and beyond) with “Wait So Long” which was the other crowd favorite of the night and is probably TBT’s best-known song. The guys had been lined up across the stage all night with their stringed instruments—Dave Simonett on guitar, Erik Berry on mandolin, Tim Saxhaug on bass, Ryan Young on fiddle, and Dave Carroll on banjo. They created a wall of sound. They left the stage and the audience was frenzied. They had left it all on stage—if they’d talked to us at all, I would have thought it was a phenomenal and well-rounded show.

TBT takes pictures of all of the crowds they play for. Here we are!

Hello from Portland, Maine! I'm in the flannel with my arms up in the front row on the right. So much flannel.

Hello from Portland, Maine! I’m in the flannel with my arms up in the front row on the right. So much flannel.

The audience was not going anywhere. They were pumped and so ready for an encore. TBT’s mandolin player Erik Berry took the stage alone and played a Christmas song for us as the beginning of the encore. The rest of the guys joined him for three more songs, and they closed with the lovely “Midnight On The Interstate” from their newest album, Stars and Satellites. Here are the lyrics:

“Late night

Midnight on the interstate

And I didn’t feel so great

Until I saw the city

And I was younger

And open like a child

Man, it’s been a while

Since I felt that way

More and more I hesitate

‘Cause I don’t know

Happy Birthday

You didn’t want to celebrate

And I was an hour late

And you fell apart

Mostly sober

Sometimes I change my mind

And I don’t have the time

No, we never do

Love and love and nothing else

It’s all I need”

Erik Berry solo on mandolin

Erik Berry solo on mandolin

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I think it was wise for TBT to play a slow song at the end of the night. It was certainly the best way to calm down a very appreciative crowd and prepare us to say goodnight. They’ve been together for a decade now, so they have a solid idea of how to please a crowd. I said goodnight to the people around me as I took my leave for my own midnight drive on the interstate.

xo,

bree

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The Best Shows I Saw in 2012!

Happy 2013, All! I’ve been working on this project for just shy of a full year, and it’s been quite a ride. I diligently tried to see fewer concerts this year so that I’d appreciate the ones I did see more. I ended up seeing 45 shows. When I think back over the year, the best shows readily jumped out at me. Sometimes the best show has to do with more than just the quality of the musical performance, though. I really respond to storytelling and audience interaction. The people I’m surrounded by at a show make a huge difference, too—whether they are enthusiastic and attentive or drunk and annoying can make or break a show regardless of the talent of the people on stage. So, here are my top five concert experiences of 2012. Below that list there’s a list of some great artists I saw in 2012 also deserving of your attention.

Let’s end with the top show of the year.

#5. Newport Folk Festival. I had the chance to see some amazing performances from the first and second row back in July. Highlights were City and Colour (!), Blind Pilot, First Aid Kit, Of Monsters and Men, Gary Clark Jr., and Tallest Man on Earth. I think it might be cheating to call a two-day music festival my #5 favorite “show” of the year, but I’m my own boss!

Blind Pilot with guest cellist Sergey Antonov at The Newport Folk Festival

Blind Pilot with guest cellist Sergey Antonov at The Newport Folk Festival

One of my favorite jams of 2012 is Blind Pilot’s “We Are The Tide.” It’s super upbeat. I heard it on the radio this morning on my way to work and was totally seen car dancing.

#4. Sarah Jarosz with Lera Lynn. Erin and I drove to the fabulous Tupelo Music Hall in New Hampshire back in March to see bluegrass virtuoso Sarah Jarosz from the second row. She is an impressive talent and obviously a humble person, too. I fell in love with Lera Lynn, Sarah’s show opener, too. Both women are on the rise and will be household names at some point. The post I wrote about their show was my most searched and most read of 2012.

Nathaniel Smith, Sarah Jarosz, and Alex Hargreaves

Nathaniel Smith, Sarah Jarosz, and Alex Hargreaves

#3. Darlingside and Tricky Britches. Darlingside invited me to their show (I’m always happy to get those invitations) at my beloved One Longfellow Square (I’m a member!) back in September and I was blown away! I’d never seen either band before, although I’d heard great things about both. I was so impressed by the energy of Tricky Britches and the insane musicianship of Darlingside.

Darlingside

Darlingside

#2. Glen Hansard. I saw Glen and The Frames open for Damien Rice back in 2004 and fell in love. It’s still the best show I have ever seen. This show in September at Berklee School of Music in Boston (a great place to see a show) was overwhelming good. I decided to go at the last minute (thanks to my concert buddy, Bob), and was able to snag third row seats just the night before. Being that close to someone whose music I love was incredible. He plays with such passion and power. When he asked a woman from the front row to sing “Falling Slowly” with him, I lost it. I totally cried.

Glen Hansard

Glen Hansard

Drumroll, please!

The number one show I saw in 2012 was:

Brandi Carlile.

Oh my goodness. I love Brandi Carlile and the twins. I’ve seen her seven times, but this was Brandi at her very best. I was front row center. The proximity to the stage did it for me. She and Phil and Tim were in my personal space for parts of the show—I was completely overwhelmed. They sounded incredible and the energy in the room was electric. I ended up positioned in the middle of a delightful and considerate bunch of show goers, too. This was one of those shows where the stars just aligned beautifully.

THE Brandi Carlile!

THE Brandi Carlile!

I want to mention some other bands that were totally worth seeing in 2012, though. In no particular order:

  • I want to give an honorable mention for “super entertaining show” to Eric Hutchinson. He really put on a great show—part music and part stand up comedy. I really enjoyed myself.
  • One of my favorite bands is Milo Greene. I saw them again in late October from the front row with Brooklyn’s super talented Lucius. Please, please check out both bands. [Maddie! We met at this show!]
  • I was really impressed with Lost In The Trees and Poor Moon. Sophie and I went at the last minute back in April and had a great night at SPACE in Portland.
  • Company of Thieves puts on a great live show full of passion and humility. I also had the great fortune of meeting Zac Clark of Zac Clark and The Young Volcanoes at this show at Café 939 at Berklee in Boston back in February.
  • I am a huge fan of my dear friend and talented singer songwriter Max Garcia Conover. I saw him back in April at Frontier in Brunswick (a venue I really like) with Morris and the East Coast, who I really, really liked a lot.
  • Audra Mae rocks. I saw her open for Matt Nathanson in January. She is a total rock star and a great gal, too!
  • I’m a big fan of Maine’s own anna & the diggs. Lead singer Anna is a friend of this blog and I appreciate their talent and support.
  • Finally, Shovels & Rope are making an incredibly well deserved name for themselves. The power duo opened for Jack White and The Lumineers this year (among many, many others). They put on an incredibly fun show! I saw them back in March and would see them again in a heartbeat.

Thank you all so much for joining me on the first year of this journey. I had no idea what this would turn into, but it’s become a big part of my life. I’ve met a ton of awesome people along the way, and there’s been so much good music. Looking forward to some great shows and finding some new great bands in 2013! Let’s see a show together!

xo,

bree

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