ZZ Ward with Swear and Shake

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I had such a busy Saturday! I saw ZZ Ward’s Studio Z performance earlier (here’s my interview with her, too), went to her full show later that night with Swear and Shake, and then caught my friend Sam’s late night set with his band Comanchero at The Big Easy. I totally slept in on Sunday.

I left Studio Z earlier in the day and ran into Brooklyn’s Swear and Shake walking towards the Old Port. I’d seen them open for The Lone Bellow the night before and chatted with Adam and Kari after the show. I said hello and we chatted as we walked for a few blocks together towards their tour van. Kari is such a sweetheart—my goodness. I told them I’d see them later. I grabbed some tea and then met up with my dear friend Michelle for dinner and drinks at Shay’s in Monument Square. My friend Tracy (who has three awesome kids and amazing taste in music) was there, too, and we got to catch up a bit. One of the most ridiculous things that’s ever happened to me in my dating life went down while I was there, and so I was late for Swear and Shake! Boo! I’ll spare you the details, but I’m laughing about it already. Mostly. Okay, not yet, but I will.

I made my way to the stage and was glad it was so crowded at Port City Music Hall. I got to a great spot in the front row and caught the last half of Swear and Shake’s set. The crowd was energized and singing along—mirroring the band’s enthusiasm. I thought they sounded even better tonight than the night before. I really like their songs, but “Brother,” “Marbles,” and “These White Walls” stuck out to me. Kari has a lush voice and is just a delight to listen to. They sound really cohesive as a band—it was a great set.

Brooklyn's Swear and Shake

Brooklyn’s Swear and Shake


Adam McHeffey, Kari Spieler, and Shaun Savage

Adam McHeffey, Kari Spieler, and Shaun Savage

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There's Benny Goldstein on drums!

There’s Benny Goldstein on drums!


ZZ Ward and her band took the stage and rocked. Her smooth, bluesy voice is impressive, and her songs about heartbreak and wasting time on a failing relationship are incredibly relatable. She said her whole album, Til the Casket Drops, is about the same guy she spent waaaaay too much time on. Her song “Last Love Song” sums it up quiet nicely.

ZZ Ward

ZZ Ward

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I love this one! I think ZZ was happy with the energized crowd!

I love this one! I think ZZ was happy with the energized crowd!

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ZZ loves Etta James, and wrote “Charlie Ain’t Home” as a response to Etta’s “Waiting for Charlie.” She said it’s about being sick of waiting. She also did a sort of adapted cover of Son House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face.” She told us “If I Could Be Her” is about moving from a tiny town in Oregon to LA. ZZ said she hoped we couldn’t relate to “Cryin Wolf,” because it’s about being with someone who drinks too much and always lets you down.

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Here’s ZZ’s set list:


ZZ is heavily influenced by the blues and hip hop and really rocks on stage. There’s a depth to her that shines through during her live show. I was entertained from start to finish. ZZ interacted with the crowd with ease—telling us background about the songs, coming to the edge of the stage to dance with us, and asking us to sing along, too. I was really impressed with her live show. I was glad to hear “Blue Eyes Blind,” which ZZ left us with as her encore.

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I’d gotten to meet ZZ earlier and realized I could make it over to The Big Easy to see my friend Sam’s band, so I swung by Swear and Shake’s merch area to chat for a few minutes before taking off. Kari spotted me coming and started chanting my name. It was a warm welcome. I had a long chat with Swear and Shake’s somewhat new drummer Benny who produced their first full-length album, Maple Ridge. When I said goodnight to him, he gave me a hug. Swear and Shake are some lovely, approachable (and talented!) folks. I chatted with Kari about how they met as students (mostly) at SUNY Purchase and I noticed their matching tattoos of maple tree seeds. She said, “Yeah—we really like each other.” So precious. Kari heard I had a long ride home and sent me away with both their EP (extended play) and Maple Ridge. I ended up liking the EP so much that I listened to it twice before moving on to the next CD. I especially liked the first song, “Being And Time.” I listened to it three times before I moved on to the second song. “Bones” is great, too. I love “Marbles,” “These White Walls,” “Moving Parts,” and “The Light” on Maple Ridge. That’s nearly half the album. I can’t help it. Thanks, Swear and Shake! You guys are fabulous.

What a night! It wasn’t even over yet! I’m off to New Orleans tomorrow morning (!), so it might be a week until I can post about Comanchero and the shows I’m hopefully going to see in NOLA!




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