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.
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.
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.
- “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.