Monthly Archives: April 2013

Kris Allen

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Strand Theatre, Rockland, Maine

My teacher friend and neighbor Andrea asked me to join her for Kris Allen’s show at The Strand. I knew that he’d been on American Idol and had covered a couple songs that I like—“Falling Slowly” and “Heartless.” Google just informed me that Kris Allen won American Idol that season. He was up against Adam Lambert in the end. I’ve heard of him, too. I hadn’t seen Andrea in ages, so I agreed to join her for a little Girls Night. We left Gardiner pretty early in the afternoon for Rockland and had a delicious dinner at Sunfire Mexican Grill. We made it to The Strand right as doors opened, and there was already quite a line to get inside. We snagged a spot near the front and did some people watching. The crowd was an interesting range of ages, and wasn’t the predominantly teenage girl crowd I’d expected.

The Strand Theatre

The Strand Theatre

There was no opening act, so Kris Allen and his drummer, pianist, and guitarist took the stage right at 7:30. I didn’t know Kris’ music, but I’d searched him on YouTube earlier in the day and found out “Live Like We’re Dying” was his song. I’d heard it last summer. That’s when I realized that he was less a soulful singer songwriter type and more a teeny bopper.

Kris has a lovely voice. He tried to engage the audience all night. He said they’d been in town a lot of the day and enjoyed it a lot. They’d even walked the long way out to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and he joked it was a lot farther away then he’d expected. Here’s proof he made it:

From Kris Allen's Facebook page

From Kris Allen’s Facebook page

Kris was accompanied by a guitarist, pianist, and cajon box drummer on stage. I liked the cajon because it’s percussive without being overpowering. He did a cover of George Michael’s “Faith” that he mashed up with “We are Young” and “Some Nights” by fun. He sang George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care” as a tribute to the great musician who’d died earlier Friday.

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Kris Allen

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I liked “Leave You Alone.” I think it had more depth lyrically than his other songs. Kris played ukele on a couple of songs. He played “Unique” for the people who end up with the person you were supposed to be with. Kris sampled “No Woman, No Cry” in one of his songs—hearing a “everything’s gonna be alright” refrain on a Friday night is always welcome. He introduced all of his band mates and they each took a long solo. I appreciated that he highlighted them. They played Kris’ hit (are there more hits, and I just don’t know them?) “Live Like We’re Dying” before leaving the stage.

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The guys came back out for a few more songs. The second was another mash up of songs he’d covered on Idol—“Falling Slowly” (I was wearing my Glen Hansard t-shirt—he’s the guy who wrote that song that you may not have heard of!), “Heartless,” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Someone at our show recorded it. Kris can really sing. His songs were simple (as in, mentions of rainbows and such) and lacked substance. Maybe he’ll outgrow his Idol past and write some songs with a bit more soul in the future. Or, maybe that kind of music sells well and it’s just where he wants to be. I don’t judge.

Thanks for a fun Girls Night, Andrea! A drive, dinner, and show are always a great way to start the weekend! Also, there was an ADORABLE little girl in the front who was beside herself with joy. It was sweet to watch!

xo,

bree

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Happy Anniversary, Bob the Undertaker!

I met Bob two years ago at an Iron & Wine show at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine. He was concerting alone (my specialty), and my then pregnant friend Kristin and I went together.  I said something to him about his velvet jacket. He told me it was corduroy, actually, and I complimented him on the fine wale. We’ve been music buddies ever since. We chatted in between the acts that night, and he invited me to take his extra ticket to see Adele with The Civil Wars a few weeks later. Of course I went, and the rest is history. Happy anniversary, Bob! You are an amazing music buddy! I always look forward to his texts about upcoming shows, albums, and late night music appearances. And these messages come at odd hours because he works with dead people. Totally normal, right!?
xo,

bree

Happy Anniversary, Bob!

Happy Anniversary, Bob!

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Ellis Paul with Rebecca Loebe

Monday, April 15, 2013

Slates, Hallowell, Maine

Monday was a nightmare for everyone in Boston, in New England, for Americans, and for runners and their loved ones everywhere. I just watched a clip from last night’s Yankees game. They played Boston Red Sox standard “Sweet Caroline” while the crowd sang along. It brought tears to my eyes. Stephen Colbert’s response was priceless and worth watching, too. I am always impressed by those brave people trained to run towards danger when we run away from it. Those first responders were in full force Monday and continue to work to put the pieces together to try to figure out what happened that afternoon. We are grateful for them. Whenever there is tragedy, what sticks out to me the most is how many ordinary people step up to care for others. The well circulated Google doc with phone numbers and email addresses of people ready to offer meals, rides, and places to stay to stranded Marathoners was beautiful. What we all instinctively know, I think, is that the Boston Marathon will be back and better than ever next year. No question. Boston is full of hearty, resilient folks, and marathoners train year round to accomplish that life-affirming feat. Nothing’s going to slow them down. Like you, I spent a lot of the afternoon Monday trying to contact friends who were running or watching. It took until the evening to hear back from everyone, but they were all safe. They were lucky. Our thoughts continue to be with Boston—with the families of deceased 8-year-old Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, and an unnamed Chinese graduate student at Boston University, and with everyone traumatically injured on Monday. You can donate to the relief fund here.

I didn’t really want to leave the comfort of home, but I had been excited for my 40th Ellis Paul show that night at Slates for weeks. It’s less than five miles from my house, too, so I went for it. I knew it would be a comforting experience, and it really was. Oh. I know 40 shows is a lot, but plenty of Ellis fans have seen him more than I have. I only learned about him in 2002. You can check out my 2012 Ellis Paul show recaps from January 1, September 22, and December 29. I bookended 2012 with Ellis shows and it was a good way to start and end a challenging year.

I was seated at the table front and center at Slates with two married couples, their friend, and a woman who’d driven up to Hallowell from South Portland. Everyone was really warm and it was great to have some people to experience the show with. Rebecca Loebe took the stage and she was charismatic and sweet. Her first song was cute—“I can’t compete with her in that dress.” She gave a shout out to her new hometown, Austin, in her second song, “Darlin’.” Rebecca told a hilarious story about how she is inspired to write songs about the people she meets. “The Chicago Kid” is about an 18-year-old on his first flight ever to meet up with his high school sweetheart later that day and marry her at City Hall—a fulfillment of their promise and his reward for graduating for high school. I guess you should consider how much you want to tell Rebecca if you ever end up sitting next to her on a flight! Her last song, “Meridian,” was inspired by a town she passed on a long road trip from Texas to Georgia. She was a solid storyteller—with a pretty voice and warm presence.

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Rebecca Loebe

Rebecca Loebe

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Rebecca introduced Ellis and stayed with him onstage most of the night. He didn’t mention it to us, but fans on his email list received word that he’s struggling with vocal chord issues and needs to take better care of his voice and be more careful hitting some of his high notes. Rebecca helped fill in the sound all night.

Ellis told us that he and Rebecca had been watching the Boston Marathon earlier that day from Boston College. Ellis was a running stand out in Presque Isle, Maine who went to BC on a track scholarship. If memory serves, an injury that sidelined him in college was the impetus for him to pick up a guitar. He told us it had been incredible to watch Joan Benoit Samuelson run by them earlier in the day. She finished within 30 minutes of her world-record time 30 years earlier with a 2:50:29 finish. Incredible. Ellis recounted most of that to us and then dedicated his set to Joan and all of those hurt by the bombings at the Marathon earlier in the day. He said he hoped to bring as much light as he could that evening, and he succeeded.

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Ellis Paul

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$23 gets you a pretty nice hat at a gas station

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Rebecca leading the sing along

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Ellis telling the story of Guinness

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Here’s the setlist from the night:

  • “Chasing Beauty,” which will be on his forthcoming fan funded album.
  • “Rose Tattoo,” which has a phrase I found particularly comforting—“Love is what matters. Baby, I’ve got your back.” Ellis wore his $23 gas station hat for this one and gave a shout out to his sister Becky who runs Kennebec River Artisans just down the road from Slates.
  • A newer song about the Empire State Building
  • My friend Michelle’s favorite, “Kick Out the Lights,”—a song about when Johnny Cash famously kicked out the stage footlights at the Grand Ole Opry. It required audience participation in the form of “volume over quality,” and we readily obliged.
  • “Christmas Lullaby,” from Ellis’ Christmas album, City of Silver Dreams. Johnny Mathis might put the song on his next Christmas album. I liked, “I’m sending you a prayer—I hope it’s all the love you can take.”
  • “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down,” which Ellis told us is his most popular song because of its YouTube hits and the sheer number of creative covers of it on the web.
  • Ellis told us the hilarious story of his beloved guitar, Guinness. You can read it in one of my previous show recaps, or just wait and hear it live when you see Ellis. He told us that he loves Joni Mitchell, who he called “the Ted Williams” of songwriting, and covered “Circle Game.”
  • Before playing “3,000 Miles,” Ellis told us he was closing in on his 5,000th show and his 400,000th mile on his 7-year-old Honda CRV. There’s only 350,000 miles to the moon, he joked, “so I’m on my way back!”
  • “Snow in Austin”
  • “Once Upon a Summertime,” which Ellis said was partially inspired by the events of his prom night. He and his ex girlfriend went together to prom anyhow and fought all night. He fell asleep in his very uncool van while driving home and woke up to a moose running alongside him. The song flawlessly evokes the feelings of youth.
  • Ellis and Rebecca unplugged and came out into the audience (to the head of my table) to sing “Annalee.” He caught me taking pictures of him while he tuned and told the story of the luthier in Virgina who repaired Guinness for him and made eye (not quite eye–camera?) contact with me. Those two pictures make me smile.

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Oh hey, Ellis!

Oh hey, Ellis!

"Annalee" unplugged

“Annalee” unplugged

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"Let It Be"

“Let It Be”

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ENCORE

  • “Let It Be” was the right way to end the night. Ellis took the verses and Rebecca sang the chorus. It brought tears to my eyes. Ellis said that he thought the song would “be important today.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Thanks for a delightful night, Ellis and Rebecca. It was a hard day, but you really soothed my spirit with your songs and stories. Until next time.

xo,

bree

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Family of the Year with Forget, Forget

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I got a message from my friend McKay inviting me to come see his Portland-based band Forget, Forget open for Family of the Year at Port City Music Hall. I really like Family of the Year’s 2012 album, Loma Vista, so I actually already had a ticket. I emailed the band’s publicist to see if I could use my swanky new camera at the show, and she responded immediately with a yes. So then I had two tickets—well, a ticket and a press pass. And then I won two tickets from 98.9WCLZ that I’d signed up for weeks earlier. Oops. One girl. Four tickets. I took a friend and tried (unsuccessfully) to find a taker for the extras. I failed. I hope it doesn’t affect my concert karma. Fingers crossed.

I made my way to Portland at 7:30 after a long day of driving for my dear friend Melissa’s ordination service. There was a small crowd when I arrived that essentially filled the VIP section at Port City Music Hall. James and I grabbed a table in the front near the stage so we’d have a good view for the show. McKay came out to chat for a bit before Forget, Forget’s set. I’d just read a revealing and helpful article about the band in the Bangor Daily News that they’d posted on their Facebook page. Apparently, songwriter and band leader Tyler DeVos works with people with mental illness and writes down the things those folks say. The band’s songs are filled with collections of the seemingly random and sometimes disturbing phrases. The background information really helped me appreciate what they’re saying.

Tyler is joined by six band mates that together make a powerful sound—McKay Belk (guitar/banjo), John Nels Blanchette (guitar), Aaron LaChance (drums), Patia Maule (violin/keys), Dominic Grosso (bass), and Johanna Sorrell (cello). Yes, that’s a lot of strings. Sometimes I couldn’t hear all of the parts during their set, but I heartily enjoyed their music anyhow. They are a cohesive unit with great harmonies and I found them captivating.

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I would love to sit down with Forget, Forget’s lyrics, and hope to do so later in the summer when their album is released. Stay tuned for their Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to get their first album out. Tyler’s job must be really interesting, because the lyrics are fascinating—“I’m married to Avril Lavigne, Cher, and Olivia Newton-John/I’m scared one day they will realize/I’ve been keeping multiple wives.” Everyone in the band sang these lyrics in a lovely round—“The sound is loud/The wild people rejoice/Don’t remember/Never remember/Forget/Forget/Forget/Forget/Forget.” And finally (and quite poignantly), “Do you love me/the way I was loved/the way I was loved/before I got sick.” I am already looking forward to seeing Forget, Forget again. They were a great surprise.

I was underwhelmed with Family of the Year’s live show. I really like their upbeat, harmonic pop music. Their harmonies are great and they are so tight as a unit that they occasionally sound like one voice. I love good banter, though, and to feel like I’m part of a concert experience. The band seemed quite comfortable during their songs, but they were stiff in between and relied on talking to each other instead of actively involving the small, but attentive crowd in the show.

Lead singer and guitarist Joe Keefe sounded great. His brother Sebastian kept the beat going strong on drums and tambourine. James Bucky on guitar looked a lot like Paul Simon and kept a low profile. Alex Walker on bass was having an awesome time and bounced around and smiled a ton and was a pleasure to watch. I found keyboardist Christina Schroeter very distracting because she gesticulated like a rapper and even did some fist pumping. She reminded me a lot of Gwen Stefani, so seemed a little out of place at an indie pop show. She was kind to the crowd when it came to talking about their album, though. Christina told us that they’d love for us to leave with their album, so they were available as “pay what you can.” She said that the most important thing is that we left with the music. I liked that.

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I liked every song Family of the Year played. You may have heard “Chugjug” a couple of years ago in an Advil commercial. 98.9 WCLZ (who promoted the show) is playing “Hero” regularly and it’s so good. I really liked “Buried” (which reminds me so much of Good Old War, who I love), “St. Croix,” “Living on Love,” and “Diversity.” They covered Richard and Linda Thompson’s “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.” I’m not sure what the last song of their set was, but they gave it their all and really rocked out.

Family of the Year left the stage and everyone clapped kindly for an encore, even though we were a small Sunday night crowd. I was really surprised that the band didn’t come back out for an encore. That rarely happens these days. In the rare instances when I’ve seen bands not do an encore, they’ve always said as much before leaving the stage. It was a little strange. In the end, I still quite like Family of the Year’s music, but their live show was not inspired. We all have off nights, so I’m willing to give them another shot. Have other people seen Family of the Year and loved their live show? Let us know! I’d be happy to be wrong about them.

xo,

bree

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Max Garcia Conover

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mayo Street Arts, Portland, Maine

It’s too late to pretend that I’m impartial when it comes to Max Garcia Conover. He’s a great friend in real life and ardent supporter of this bloggity blog. Max hasn’t been playing guitar, singing, or writing songs for all that long, but he’s already built a fan base of people who appreciate his finger picked, intricate songs. Max is easily one of the most humble people I know and has absolutely no ego as far as his musical talent. I love that he’s earning well-deserved success and is still the same guy I’ve known for years. I don’t expect that will ever change.

Max’s new (and first) full-length album, Burrow, is lovely. I think it’s best appreciated by listening the whole way through. There’s great flow from start to finish. I love the instrumental opening that “Teem” offers, and “Evergreen Cemetery,” (which Max assured us is not about the duck that followed him on a long walk through it one day), “Burrow,” and “The Wedding Line” stick out as other favorites. I love hearing Sophie Nelson’s sweet voice on “New Beast,” too. Max told us that the whole album’s basically about the importance of inspiration.

Burrow by Max Garcia Conover

Burrow by Max Garcia Conover

Check out Sam Pfeifle’s review of Burrow in The Portland Phoenix, a write up in his hometown paper, a shout out in The Deli National, and listen to Max’s interview on Greetings from Area Code 207 (starting around minute 17). Here’s my post about Max’s first EP release show, another about his show with Morris and the East Coast, and a last one about his show with JAW GEMS.

I was really excited for Max’s CD release show at Mayo Street Arts. It’s a great venue for a MGC show because it’s so tiny and intimate. Every seat was filled and people also stood along the back wall when Max took the stage. Satronen Sound recorded the show, and Max wasn’t amplified. You could hear a pin drop. It was so quiet that I didn’t want to take too many pictures with my awesome new DSLR camera (thanks, Dad!) because the shutter was louder than the sound of the people in the room. I think that’s a pretty good sign that we were captivated.

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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I’ll include a picture of Max’s set list for the evening. People who were at the show will perhaps (okay, surely) be surprised to find out that Max’s banter topics were pre-planned and written down on his set list. Max’s banter is hilarious, because it clearly makes him uncomfortable to talk about himself and his songs and his stories meander a bit. He gave whatbreesees.com a couple of nice shout outs at the show, which I appreciated.

Max's setlist

Max’s setlist

I liked Max’s new song, “So Be Hardened,” a lot. Max plays with the talented and percussive Samuel James from time to time, and “So Be Hardened” was Max’s attempt at writing a waltz (per James’ suggestion). After the intermission, Max opened with one of my favorites, “As Much a Rising Sun as a Setting One” and had us sing along with him. He taught us our part for his cover of “Wonderful Life” by The Felice Brothers and said we’d do it later so we’d have time to let the words percolate. He joked that we should sing it joyfully and also heartbrokenly. He taught it to us with hand motions, too. Max is a teacher by trade, and it showed.

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Max teaching us “Wonderful Life” with hand gestures

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Max gave a shout out to his awesome mom who was at the show and had ironed his shirt for him. He said he was going to play her a song because she likes it, but that there’s another song she really likes that he wasn’t going to play. Soon after that he told us it was time to talk about the rest of our night. He said it’s always hard for him to play a show and have all of that adrenaline left over because everyone goes home afterwards and leaves him all alone. So we were instructed that we’d all walk out together and straight over to The Big Easy to see him open for The Pete Kilpatrick Band. A lot of us actually went.

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Max stepped off stage and walked to the small clearing in the back of the room to close the night with “Wonderful Life” with our help. It was great to sing together. We demanded an encore and Max took the stage to play “The Wide” for us. That song is amazing. Max’s hand percussion and tempo changes make it really outstanding. We gave him a standing ovation and he basically made time to hug a few people as he rushed out of the building to get to The Big Easy because he was already running late for his slot.

Max leading us in "Wonderful Life" from the back of the room

Max leading us in “Wonderful Life” from the back of the room

Thank you for coming!

Thank you for coming!

I stayed to help clean up and then made it over to The Big Easy just as Max started his set. A lot of people from the Mayo Street show had gathered to enjoy another Max mini-set. Even though it’s also a bar, I think people were polite and listened pretty attentively. Max told a story about how he’d opened for Jim Avett (The Avett Brothers’ dad) at a festival in New York and covered “Murder In the City” for us.

Max at The Big Easy

Max at The Big Easy

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I was impressed by Portland’s Doubting Gravity. They were filling in for another band at the last minute and were great live. Their lead singer, Andi Fawcett, can sing all day long. She has a Melissa Etheridge/Janis Joplin voice with a lot of control and power. We all liked her and their rockin’ music—a stark contrast from Max, but also great.

Doubting Gravity

Doubting Gravity

The Pete Kilpatrick Band took the stage last. They’re a Portland favorite and the room started to fill up just as soon as they started their set. Here’s my post about the last Pete Kilpatrick Band show I saw. Pete told us about their recent show with John Popper of Blues Traveler and how they pranked their drummer on April Fools Day by listing his number on Craigslist and saying he was selling a house on 10 acres in West Falmouth for $100,000. His phone rang off the hook all day. PKB is always fun to see live. They know how to have a good time and their success is steadily growing.

Pete Kilpatrick Band

Pete Kilpatrick Band

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What a great night!

xo,

bree

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