Monthly Archives: September 2013

Darlingside with Rusty Belle and Caitlin Canty

Friday, September 13, 2013

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This is a long post. Here’s the summation if you’re busy:  I love these musicians. This was definitely one of the best shows I’ve seen so far this year. Check all of them out and definitely see them live!

Darlingside is easily one of my favorite bands, and yet I hardly ever get to see them live. I was so excited when I saw that they were coming back to Maine to play at One Longfellow Square with Caitlin Canty and a new-to-me group, Rusty Belle. I saw Caitlin perform a song with Jeffrey Foucault in May of 2012, and we ended up chatting after that show and stayed in touch. She kindly sent me a digital copy of her album (that she’d been in Portland to record), Golden Hour, which I wrote about back in February. Caitlin is the real deal. I love her clear voice and her heartfelt, honest songs. I just knew this would be a great night, even on a Friday the 13th.

I went out for drinks at Gritty’s with colleagues after school (our first payday of the school year!) and over to David’s Bridal to pick up my maid of honor getup for my best friend’s wedding in November. When I got to the Longfellow Square neighborhood in Portland later than I expected, parking spaces were tough to find. I remembered that Michael Franti was in town that night at State Theatre, so at least it made sense. I eventually found a tight spot to parallel park in (thanks to the guy passing by on the sidewalk who cheered me on with a “You got this!”) and made it to the show just before 8. I was really surprised when I peeked inside and saw just a few people seated. I ran into Don from Darlingside who’d invited me to the show and he greeted me with a hug. We chatted about our summers and he was off to the green room. Don was the one who originally reached out to invite me to their show last September at One Longfellow that totally blew me away. Here’s my post about that awesome show that caught me completely off guard.

I grabbed a seat front and center and met Rob and Janet there. They were great to talk to and had a real passion for music. Rob even sent me an email the next day with links to some bands he thought I might like. I love meeting good people at shows and have found that good music can bring good people together. We turned around just before the show started and realized the room had quietly started to fill up. There was a healthy crowd by the time Darlingside took the stage a couple of sets later.

Caitlin Canty took the stage with the fabulously mustached Matt Lorenz from Rusty Belle (who also plays solo as Suitcase Junket). I was really excited to finally see Caitlin play a full set, and I was impressed. She interacted comfortably with the audience and told us about her songs. I’m always happy when artists tell us about themselves and about what inspired their music. Caitlin and Matt sounded lovely together, as well. I liked the fullness of sound that his voice, guitar, and percussion (and done all at once!) helped to create. Caitlin told us that she and Matt had crossed paths in high school in rural Vermont while competing in the long jump. Both were state champions! It’s a small world.

Caitlin Canty and Matt Lorenz

Caitlin Canty and Matt Lorenz

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I love this picture of Harris, Caitlin, and Matt

I love this picture of Harris, Caitlin, and Matt

I particularly enjoyed “Get Up” and “Southern Man.” Harris from Darlingside (who Caitlin frequently gigs with) joined them for “Lost in the Valley” which was layered and rich. He stayed on to sing background vocals on “Idaho,” which is easily my favorite Caitlin Canty song. Caitlin had just gotten back to the east coast after a month in Idaho, actually. She said the wildfires there were incredible. I have listened to “Idaho” countless times since last Friday night, especially because Caitlin kindly sent me home with a copy of her 2011 album with Peter Bradley Adams, Down Like Silver. I immediately recognized his voice on the album from a band I loved about a decade ago called eastmountainsouth. I Googled his name to confirm my suspicion and realized I was right! I didn’t know that Caitlin had been in town a day earlier to play a show with him at One Longfellow Square the night before! I was so sorry to miss it!

“Idaho” gets at the heart of what it’s like to be with someone for so long that things have changed and you’re really not happy with each other anymore—just going through the motions. The lyrics hit that feeling right on the head: “You’re silent beside me I don’t want to ask/last night I couldn’t help the things I said/you kept your distance painting on another mask/hard times knocking at our door again/just can’t fight it, forgotten how to run/cold hands like a stranger’s on your skin/can’t sleep beside you so I rise before the sun/where can we go from here/where can we go/we keep trying to get back to Idaho/old songs keep us dancing round the room/stuck in circles nothing new to say.” Caitlin is the whole package—a songwriter with chops, a true vocal talent, and possessor of stage presence in spades. I am a big fan.

It had been a long school week and I was a bit pooped by Friday night (in sadly typical “School Year Bree” form), so I grabbed some coffee at the bar and chatted with a guy who was in town from Montana visiting his sister. I actually missed Rusty Belle’s first song because we got chatting about how he is a cartographer and I’m a social studies teacher and teach geography skills in my classes.

Rusty Belle was a treat. Brother and sister Matt and Kate Lorenz have obviously been singing harmonies since childhood, and Zak Trojano added some grit and rounded out the trio’s sound. They have a decidedly country vibe. Some of their songs are more upbeat and even a bit gospel inspired, while others are a bit slower and more pensive. Matt and Kate both played a variety of instruments—from washboard to fiddle to foot pedal. I was impressed with their musicianship. I loved hearing the low notes of Zak’s incredibly deep voice during “Devil in Your Smile.” I especially enjoyed their last song “Light in the Tunnel” which involved a little audience participation. I liked the lyric “Don’t be stingy with your love/Just keep giving it away” in the song.

Zak Trojano and Kate Lorenz of Rusty Belle

Zak Trojano and Kate Lorenz of Rusty Belle

Sister and brother Kate and Matt Lorenz of Rusty Belle

Sister and brother Kate and Matt Lorenz of Rusty Belle

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Rusty Belle

Rusty Belle

Rusty Belle gave a special shout out to Aimsel Ponti who had written a kind preview of the show for the Portland Press Herald. They said she’d written something about having a daydream where she took them out for barbeque, and they wanted her to know that they’d love to do that anytime! Rusty Belle gave off really good vibes onstage and were a pleasure to watch live. They talked about their crazy video for “Change My Heart” that involves stretch pants and a narwhal. You should check it out.

After the show, I chatted with Caitlin and Rusty Belle for a while and Zak said he’d give me a copy of their CD common courtesy if I could tell him who played MccGyver on television. Without missing a beat, I correctly identified Richard Dean Anderson. This child of the 80s for the win! Common courtesy is great and musically diverse. I appreciate the anguish love can leave you with captured on “Anything” and “Sink and Swim” is another standout.

Rob and Janet and I chatted in between sets and they were also impressed with Caitlin and Rusty Belle. I told them to get ready for Darlingside and promised they’d be blown away. I saw 45 shows in 2012, and I put Darlingside’s show the previous September on my “Top 5 Shows of 2012” list. They’re nestled among acts like Brandi Carlile, Glen Hansard, Gary Clark Jr., and Tallest Man on Earth on that list —if that helps put into perspective just how good they are live!

Darlingside looked and sounded a little different than the last time I saw them. Sam Kapala, who played percussion with Darlingside for many years, left the group to pursue other goals. Darlingside is now a less percussive “string rock quartet.” Think of the best a cappella group with the most flawless harmonies you’ve ever heard live and then add some guitars, a cello, a violin, and a mandolin to the mix. That’s Darlingside’s sound. They are so, so good.

Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, David Senft, and Harris Paseltiner of Darlingside

Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, David Senft, and Harris Paseltiner of Darlingside

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Darlingside keeps the audience involved in the show, as well. Auyon told us that someone had pointed out they were all dressed down (and all in shirts with square patterns), and he said it was because they’d come to see Portland as a second home and “we’re at that part of the relationship where we can dress down.” Caitlin (who plays in a wedding band with Darlingside) joined the guys on stage for “Sweet and Low,” a song that is on both of their albums. Harris joked that he likes getting to perform that song with Caitlin because otherwise he has to sing the girl part by himself.

I love these sweet and slightly blurry pictures of Darlingside with Caitlin Canty during "Sweet and Low"

I love these sweet and slightly blurry pictures of Darlingside with Caitlin Canty during “Sweet and Low”

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Darlingside did a great cover of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” that got the crowd jazzed. “My Love” and “The Woods” from Darlingside’s only full-length album, Pilot Machines, stuck out to me as sounding particularly flawless. One of the things that makes Darlingside unique is that there is no lead singer—everyone in the group plays a crucial part in each song.

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Darlingside had a busy three days in Maine—a gig Thursday night at Bates College, the show at One Longfellow Friday night, and a wedding gig with Caitlin on Southport Island Saturday night. They also played on 207 while they were in town. I think it was Auyon who talked about how difficult it was to make decisions about where to eat in Portland when they only had three days to visit. He asked “how can we decide between Miyake, Local Sprouts, and Duckfat? There’s just not enough time!”

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Darlingside closed their fantastic set with one of my favorites—“Blow the House Down.” The crowd enthusiastically stomped for an encore, and we were treated to one last song. I was really hoping to hear “Terrible Things” and didn’t, but you should check out Darlingside’s really creative video for the song. Darlingside is so impressive live and I can’t recommend them enough to you. Thanks to everyone for a great night and come back to Maine soon!

xo,

bree

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Forget, Forget with These Animals and Rural Ghosts

Saturday, September 7, 2013

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

Forget, Forget is easily one of my favorite bands in Portland. My friend McKay plays all kinds of instruments in Forget, Forget and first invited me to come see them live back in April when they opened for Family of the Year at Port City Music Hall. I was immediately taken with them. The fullness of sound that those seven talented musicians are able to create together is really impressive. I will see Forget, Forget live again and again. If you haven’t had the chance to see them play, you’re really missing out.

Forget, Forget in April at Port City Music Hall

Forget, Forget in April at Port City Music Hall

I left Gardiner in the afternoon to meet up with my dear friend Sophie for a ride on her dad’s new scooter and dinner at Green Elephant before we parted ways and she left for Max Garcia Conover’s show at Acoustic Artisans and I headed over to One Longfellow Square for Forget, Forget’s We Are All CD release show. I ran into McKay outside and soon after Maina and Will arrived. I’ve known Maina for a few years now—she’s an artist and a farmer and is just all around awesome, and Will just started teaching English at my school! I’d come solo, so I was happy to have people to chat with that I knew. We made our way inside and saw that there weren’t seats set up downstairs, so we went up to the balcony and sat there. I really value proximity to the stage at any show, but One Longfellow is small enough that I didn’t feel too far away. (Side note: I really prefer having seats set up at One Longfellow shows. I’ve seen a couple of shows there lately where bands have cleared the room so people can dance. I’d argue that most bands that play One Longfellow are amazing, but aren’t danceable).

I'm not a natural on the scooter, but it sure was fun to ride!

I’m not a natural on the scooter, but it sure was fun to ride!

So excited for this show!

So excited for this show!

Portland’s Rural Ghosts took the stage. I’m getting more and more stumped these days when people ask me to put bands into a genre. Rural Ghosts had a strong rock sound. I was really impressed by their cellist and liked what he added to their overall sound. Their lead singer had a clear voice that reminded me at times of Jeff Buckley. Since I wasn’t familiar with their music, their songs sounded pretty similar to me. You can listen to a couple of their songs here. They have a new album coming out in October and will play a CD release show at Empire on October 4.

Rural Ghosts

New York City’s These Animals took the stage after a few words from a representative from NAMI—National Alliance on Mental Illness (more on that below). I liked their cohesive, percussive sound and thought they were polished and had good stage presence. Their album, Pages, came out in August after a successful Kickstarter campaign. You can see their Kickstarter plea, recording photos, and hear some of their songs here. These Animals played on 207 while they were in town, too.

These Animals

These Animals

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Another representative from NAMI took the stage before Forget, Forget’s set to talk about their work in Maine and to ask people to consider supporting the upcoming NAMI walk. I think it’s very helpful to know before you see Forget, Forget live that lead singer Tyler DeVos works full time with people with serious mental illnesses. Their words become song lyrics. I was really glad I’d read this Bangor Daily News article about the band before I saw them live. The lyrics are intense, but it helped me access them a bit better by having that critical piece of information.

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Forget, Forget with a representative from NAMI

Forget, Forget

Forget, Forget

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Tyler DeVos is joined by six band mates that together create a seriously powerful sound—McKay Belk (guitar/banjo/a little bit of everything), John Nels Blanchette (guitar), Aaron LaChance (drums), Patia Maule (violin/keys/vocals), Dominic Grosso (bass), and Johanna Sorrell (cello). Forget, Forget’s music is complex and interesting. The lyrics are fascinating and thought provoking. I love what the addition of violin and cello and harmonizing vocals does for the fullness of their sound. I continue to be especially blown away by “Do You Love Me” and “It’s My Illness.”

McKay and Patia

McKay and Patia

Tyler DeVos

Tyler DeVos

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Tyler expressed so much heartfelt thanks to the audience for coming out and also to the many people in the crowd who donated to their Kickstarter campaign to make the album possible. I was going to donate to their Kickstarter campaign myself, but Forget, Forget raised all of the money they needed (and actually, quite a lot more) in no time at all. There is certainly a lot of support for Forget, Forget and I can definitely see why. I can’t recommend their live show enough. Thank you for a lovely evening! Scroll down to see more photos I took at the show!

xo,

bree

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John Nels Blanchette (who really moves with his guitar!) and Johanna Sorrell

John Nels Blanchette (who really moves with his guitar!) and Johanna Sorrell

Aaron LaChance on drums

Aaron LaChance on drums

Dominic Grosso on bass

Dominic Grosso on bass

Forget, Forget's setlist

Forget, Forget’s setlist

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Dietrich Strause and Austin Nevins with Max Garcia Conover

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mayo Street Arts, Portland, Maine

*I meant to write this post before the start of the school year. Oops. And now that school’s in session, I basically try not to fall asleep on the couch every afternoon when I get home. I love teaching, but it takes a lot of energy! I apologize for the delay!*

You all know Max Garcia Conover is a great friend of mine and he can really do no wrong in my eyes, but man—he is so good live! Max toured for six solid weeks right after our school year got out in June, and he came back stronger than ever. It was great to see him again onstage in Portland after a four-month interlude.

Max and Sammie Francis sound checking before the show

Max and Sammie Francis sound checking before the show

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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I didn’t know that someone broke into Max’s car in Delaware when he was on tour and stole his electric guitar and banjo! Max shook it off when he told us and said that he was bad at electric guitar anyway and didn’t know how to play the banjo anyhow. He bought the classical guitar he played that night instead of replacing the stolen instruments.

I absolutely love “The Wedding Line.” I think I can finally say it’s my favorite song on Max’s album, Burrow. Max interrupted the song to tell us he’s getting married next year (!!!) and said it seemed almost superfluous because “she’s been such a part of me for so long.” I can see what people search online that brings them to whatbreesees.com, and “is Max Garcia Conover married” is a top referrer! Sorry, folks—he’s taken!

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Max introduced his friend and fellow singer songwriter, Sammie Francis, who joined him onstage for “As Much a Rising Sun as a Setting One.” Sammie’s CD release show will be at Mayo Street Arts on September 28. Max told us a story about how he’d tried to play the very quiet song outside in Boston when he was on tour because someone in the attentive audience had requested it. Out of nowhere, a guy came by and stole the garbage out of a trash can, fell, dropped everything, created a serious stench, cleaned it up, and then got chased down by the guy in the garbage truck when he came by and saw what was happening. Max played through it all.

Max and Sammie Francis

Max and Sammie Francis

Max is a quiet guy and talked about how he’s never been very talkative but that he always felt people would be more comfortable around people who talk more. He wrote a new song about that notion called “Say That You Know Me.” It was great to hear new songs from Max, and he even departed from his signature finger picking guitar playing for a couple of songs. I was totally floored by another one of his new songs, a response to a tragic news story called “Wildfires Outside Laramie, Wyoming.”

Max handed around the set list and a mailing list sign up in a notebook and asked us to put a happy or sad face next to the songs we liked or didn’t like. I loved the idea. People really followed directions (Max has a lot of teacher friends!) and some even left thorough feedback. Cool idea! Max told us that introducing “In City Light” as the song he wrote about living on the top floor of one of the tallest buildings in Maine—on the eighth floor—just wasn’t impressing crowds in bigger cities when he was on tour.

A favorite tradition we have at Max’s Mayo Street Arts gigs is to have a sing along where pitch is less important than volume. We were a small, but enthusiastic crowd, and heartily sang along our part—“Honey we’ve been trying/Like the barn swallow tries.” The best sing along so far, of course, is this one of “Goin’ to Acapulco” from Max’s Birches Lo EP release show. We’ll top that someday, but it was magical. Max stepped off stage and sang his last song on the floor in the audience.

Max playing from the floor

Max playing from the floor

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We took an intermission while Dietrich and Austin tuned for their set. I was really excited to see them. I’d seen Dietrich open for cello virtuoso Ben Sollee at One Longfellow Square last fall, and I was taken with his simple, pretty songs. I chatted with him after the show on my way out, and he was a delight. I saw Dietrich again in March at Blue in Portland. He was playing after one of my former students, the fabulous Genvieve Beaudoin. I wish I’d been able to stay for his set that night, so I was especially glad when I found out that he and Max were playing this show together. I’d also seen the very talented Austin Nevins play with Josh Ritter at The State Theatre back in May. It was quite a show. I was excited to be in a room with such talented musicians.

Austin Nevins and Dietrich Strause

Austin Nevins and Dietrich Strause

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Dietrich has such a lovely tone, and Austin’s guitar parts added what felt like another voice to the songs. It was fabulous and quite a treat. Dietrich told us he’d been on tour with the great Aoife O’Donovan (he’s playing with some amazing musicians) and was mixing an album with Austin (his producer) in Massachusetts the next day.

I especially enjoyed “Our Lady Ponderosa”—it was thought provoking and yet musically accessible. Dietrich told us he’d just spent a week in Maine on the Moose River, and everyone else on the trip saw moose (a few of them) while he was asleep. I guess you need to come back to Maine soon, Dietrich!

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“Like a Rock” is Dietrich’s retelling of the story of David and Goliath. He joked about his Sunday school teacher who was tough and hit him over the head with a Bible when he fell asleep in class. Dietrich Strause fun facts: Dietrich’s from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and his dad is a Lutheran pastor. You can definitely hear that influence in his songs.

I absolutely loved the story Dietrich told about traveling for a week in Canada over the summer with his parents, sister, and 87 year-old grandparents in a minivan. Forgive me, because the details are a little fuzzy. On the way home, they stopped in New York to visit his grandfather’s (?) hometown. They stopped at the town office to see if his grandfather’s neighbor, Wendy, was still alive (she’s 97). The person at the office (I think I remember there was a small world moment where this person was Wendy’s grandchild) directed them to Wendy’s nursing home, and they went to visit her. Apparently, Dietrich’s grandfather (great-grandfather?) once played a fantastic prank on Wendy (who was obsessed with her tomato plants) where he taped ripe tomatoes on her plants in the middle of the night. It was a sweet segue to get us to “Tell Me Mary,” which includes the lyric “tell me Mary/I’ve got to know/what makes your garden grow.” Austin Nevins is featured in this video of “Tell Me Mary.”

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Austin spoke through his awesome guitar playing for the most part, but he did speak up at the end of the night to say that the room was really beautiful, but the lights were so bright that it was a little like an interrogation room up on stage. I got to chat with Austin a bit after the show and he was so kind. He’s producing in Jamaica Plain, MA when he’s not on tour playing a mean lead guitar.

Dietrich and Austin ended the night with two songs I really loved. Check out “Lemonade Springs” and “Annie Dear.” You can hear both songs and get some biographical information about Dietrich and Austin on this episode of The Lancast. If you can catch Dietrich and Austin near you, don’t miss out!

xo,

b

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