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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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!