Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Lone Bellow with Aoife O’Donovan

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

*The Lone Bellow is my favorite band of 2013. Their live show is joyful, breathtaking, heart wrenching, and beautiful. You’ve really, really got to see them live. I’m lucky to have seen them twice so far this year and already look forward to the next time. I was so excited when I showed up to the box office and saw my dear friends Ken and Max standing there buying tickets for the show. I’ve been talking about The Lone Bellow for basically the whole year, so was thrilled to have motivated some folks to come out for the show. At least ten of my friends were there that night and it was lovely to share the experience with so many people I care about. I’ve asked just a handful of friends to write posts about shows we’ve seen together for whatbreesees.com over the past couple of years, but three out of the four (you know who you are) didn’t complete their homework. My college classmate and teacher friend, the extraordinary Ken Templeton, was so moved by the performance that he not only readily agreed to write the show recap for whatbreesees.com, but also sent it to me just three short days later. Ken was an English major at Bowdoin and is a former English teacher, so please enjoy how well written this post is. Thanks so much, Ken! I’m thrilled you loved The Lone Bellow like I do!*

The show started with Aoife O’Donovan (of Crooked Still) opening. She is a singer/songwriter with a gorgeous voice that is clear and strong, but she doesn’t try to blow you out of the room. She is often quiet and understated in her delivery.  Aoife was joined by bassist Jacob Silver and guitarist Austin Nevins.

Austin Nevins, Aoife O'Donovan, and Jacob Silver

Austin Nevins, Aoife O’Donovan, and Jacob Silver

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Aoife opened with “Red and White and Blue and Gold,” from her first solo release, Fossils. It’s a catchy tune, evoking carefree summer days, leaving it all behind–good stuff like that. [Aoife also opened with that song earlier in the afternoon when she recorded a Newsroom Session in the Portland Press Herald studio with Aimsel Ponti]. Aoife sings, “Come on sit next to me / Bury my feet, bury my feet in the sand. / There’s a hole, it’s twelve miles deep. / I dug it with my hands.” She introduced her song “Lay My Burden Down,” noting that another person recorded it first (that other person is Alison Krauss). That has to be a funny thing, when some listeners might mistake your song for a cover.

Aoife did a wonderful cover of Blaze Foley’s tune “Clay Pigeons,” which she said she learned from John Prine. (Here’s his version and The Avett Brothers’ version too.) It’s a song that sounds like many songs that Prine wrote; it opens like this: “I’m goin’ down to the Greyhound Station, gonna get a ticket to ride. / Gonna find that lady with two or three kids and sit down by her side.” Everyday experiences, everyday people–we can all see that “lady,” even though she’s not described in any detail. Aoife takes a similar kind of approach in some of her songs, although the ‘speakers’ of her songs seem like they might read more books than John Prine’s do. In “Thursday’s Child,” she writes, “No one’s riding shotgun, I’m driving alone. /  I can turn up the music and do whatever I want. / When I get to border, I put a quarter / In the pay phone. / Oh, my tyranny’s gonna crumble. / So, sit next to me and fumble / With the buttons on my dress.”

Jacob Silver provided some sweet whistling on “Lovesick Redstick Blues” and there was a great sing-a-long on “Oh, Mama,” with a willing crowd belting out: “Oh, Mama, play me a love song / Pour me some bourbon / And lay me down low. / Mmm, baby, my poor heart is breakin’ / I feel the ground shakin’ / Under my feet / So put me to sleep.” Austin Nevins’s lead guitar work was exceptional. I’ve seen him play with Josh Ritter a few times, and have always been impressed with his spare decisions as a soloist. He is very efficient, picking notes here and there to accentuate the vocals and then traveling up and down the neck for his solos. Bree saw Austin play with Dietrich Strause a few months ago and with Josh Ritter back in May.

Now, as for The Lone Bellow

Bree told me. She did. When she saw The Lone Bellow at the Sinclair, she said that it was one of the best shows she’d ever seen. She was right. They put on a show that picks you up and shakes you by the shoulders and gives you a bear hug–you laugh and say, “Stop, put me down,” but they don’t, they spin you around and when they stop the whole place is dead quiet and you don’t even want to sniffle because you might miss something. This is all to say that if you get the chance to see The Lone Bellow, don’t miss them.

Zach Williams plays guitar and sings lead vocals, with a raspy, gritty sound that belies incredible range. Kanene Pipkin plays mandolin and sings lead and harmony. Brian Elmquist plays lead guitar and sings as well. To be clear, any one of these three would be a great lead singer–they’re all that good. They share the stage really beautifully with each other and at times seem genuinely in awe of each other’s talents. Brian Griffin was excellent on the drums and Jason Pipkin (Kanene’s husband) played bass.

The Lone Bellow: Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin

The Lone Bellow: Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin

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Brian Griffin on drums

Brian Griffin on drums

They opened with “I Let You Go,” a lovely little tune that takes full advantage of their stunning vocal harmony. It was an intimate start to a set that from there went 100 miles an hour for the next thirty minutes. Next up was “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional.” “You Never Need Nobody” followed, the first song I ever heard by The Lone Bellow (from their Tiny Desk Concert). Even on slower numbers like this one, the band is in full-tilt mode, stomping, sweating, and swooning all over the stage. They are physically exuberant about their music in a way that is, I think, uniquely Southern.  You see The Avett Brothers approach their shows in a similar way. Introducing “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To” as a song about marital strife, Zach got the crowd clapping while Kanene took over the lead vocals. The crowd sang along with “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.” How can you not sing along with that chorus; it’s too catchy: “Green eyes and a heart of gold / All the money’s gone and the house is cold / But it’s all right, it’s all right, / It’s all right, it’s all right.”

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Clapping along with Zach

Clapping along with Zach

The best part of the night, I thought, was when they pared down to just Zach, Brian, and Kanene around one microphone for a few numbers. The first of these, “Watch Over Us,” was the showstopper for me. Brian on lead vocals, Zach and Kanene supporting. Brian’s performance was so charged and emotional that when he sang, “But my baby’s sleeping,” then paused for at least four beats, the whole crowd was si-lent. That is hard to do. No “woos”. No jackass shouting “yeah!” or “ow!” Silent. Because we were right up front, I know why he paused–he was catching his breath. It’s not often that you see a singer expend that kind of energy, but man he was wringing himself out on that song.

"Watch Over Us" was breathtaking

“Watch Over Us” was breathtaking

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Jason Pipkin looking lovingly at this wife, Kanene

Jason Pipkin looking lovingly at this wife, Kanene

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Zach dedicated “Tree to Grow” to his wife, who was there for the concert with their infant daughter. It’s a great song, with this stirring refrain: “A tree I’ll grow to let you know / My love is older than my soul.” The band returned to blast through “Bleeding Out” and then they had Aoife come back on stage to sing “Angel from Montgomery.” It was a really great performance and prompted more passionate singing from the crowd. (Here is a wonderful version from The Lone Bellow with Brandi Carlile).

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The Lone Bellow invited Aoife up on stage for “Angel from Montgomery”

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Zach then engaged in some serious banter. He said that he ate at Becky’s Dinner and had a drink at Eventide. At Becky’s, he described a guy there who “took off his buffalo plaid jacket to reveal his buffalo plaid shirt,” and described “the rope that was holding up his pants.” This transitioned to a story about his uncle Dale, who seems like one of the more entertaining people in the world to hear about. Southerners can tell stories, and Zach told us a great one about his uncle, his uncle’s wife in the hospital and Dale’s decision to buy a number of items at the trick shop. I won’t ruin it for you–it’s better live. The song “Fire Red Horse” is about Dale: “The fire red horse / That could not be tamed. / He could not be broken / My uncle’s red flame.” “Button” was another highlight, with Kanene rattling the walls a bit with her vocals.

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Their encore–“Teach Me To Know” maintained the all-out energy of their set. Another (yes, another) great sing along and everyone clapping to the driving beat.

As they stood on stage to huge applause, each band member said “Thank you, thank you” to the audience. This was more than perfunctory thanks. This is a humble group that works incredibly hard and knows that there are millions of talented, dedicated musicians who never make it and they appreciate their shot. Throughout the show, you could almost see them in an apartment in New York a couple of years or so ago, singing and stomping, knowing they had something special to share.

The setlist

The setlist

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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis with Talib Kweli and Big K.R.I.T.

Friday, November 8, 2013

TD Garden, Boston

This is my thirteenth year teaching social studies at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine. Working there and being a part of the MTA community has been incredibly fulfilling, and I realize now how many of my closest friends and people who feel like family have come into my life through Mt. Ararat. I’ve been truly lucky. As my fabulous students have grown up, some of them have stayed in touch and have even become great friends. Last December, I saw that one of my former students, Mike, posted an NPR Tiny Desk concert to our friend Sam’s Facebook wall. I was drawn to the pink shirt this guy named Macklemore was wearing, so I listened. I was in tears in the first minute. I reposted the NPR Tiny Desk concert and tagged some of my friends who I knew would love it. Macklemore wasn’t on the national stage at that point, but when I saw him a couple of weeks ago, he’d sold out the Boston Garden. Anyone who wants to rap about marriage equality and treating gay people with respect, well, I am going to support you and I’m definitely going to come see you perform live. I was in New Orleans in June visiting Chelsea, another former student who is now a great friend, when tickets for this show went on sale. I set an alarm clock for pretty early in the morning to buy my Macklemore ticket for almost six months later in the fan presale. Since I work in a school and have eyes, I can see the obvious pain that this issue causes for so many young people as they try to cope and live with who they are in the face of sometimes insurmountable adversity. It’s heart wrenching. Although I think our culture is changing and being gay is much more mainstream now, being part of a frequently judged minority can’t be easy. I applaud Macklemore for his contribution of “Same Love” (please watch the video) to the movement for marriage equality and for all that he does to encourage us to treat others with respect.

It's neat to be able to pinpoint this moment in time.

It’s neat to be able to pinpoint this moment in time.

I drove to Boston right after school got out and found an awesome parking spot right by the Garden. I grabbed a burrito and braved the strong, wintery winds to get inside soon after doors opened. I wisely decided I wouldn’t want to wait outside in November in the cold in order to get a good general admission spot, so I bought a great seat in the loge section closest to the stage. It was a super idea. I grabbed my awesome seat and Big K.R.I.T. from Meridian, Mississippi took the stage. Here’s when I had what should have been an obvious thought—I don’t get rap. I’m a folk music gal. If I never hear the word ‘motherfucker’ again, I’ll be perfectly happy. I was struck, though, by how much confidence it would take for someone to stand, essentially alone, in front of a crowd and offer their words to strangers. It’s a brave thing. I took a quick scan around the huge crowd and saw that there were so many kids at the show. Macklemore is really not for kids, folks. I’d hear ‘motherfucker’ plenty more throughout the night. Big K.R.I.T. did a whole number about smoking pot. Maybe these well-intentioned parents had never heard of Macklemore and just threw down the credit card to buy tickets and make their kiddos happy?

The Boston Garden at night

The Boston Garden at night

Big K.R.I.T.

Big K.R.I.T.

Talib Kweli took the stage next. He’s’ known for his social consciousness and at least I’d heard of him before. Hailing from Brooklyn, he congratulated us on our recent World Series win, which I thought was classy. He called Res, a singer from Philadelphia, on stage to accompany him. She is apparently working on an album of Fleetwood Mac cover songs and performed her version of “Dreams” for us. They covered “Eleanor Rigby” for us, too. I know and appreciate that Talib Kweli is a lyricist worth paying attention to. I promise to look up his lyrics and see what his message is. Now if someone sang his lyrics while playing an acoustic guitar…

Talib Kweli and Res

Talib Kweli and Res

We were ecstatic when Seattle’s Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took the stage. They were joined on stage by folks on strings, horns, and extra percussion for the whole night, too. I was impressed (but totally not surprised) with how elaborate the stage was. There were set changes and their amazing, creative, and hilarious videos playing on huge screens behind them all night long. It’s really quite a show. I also liked how appreciative Ben Haggerty (Macklemore) was towards us. He talked a lot that night, and reminisced about the first show they’d played in Boston a few years ago and how 200 people were there and now the Garden was at capacity with 12,000 people in the room. He was grateful. He wore Larry Bird’s number 33 Boston Celtics jersey from the third song on that night, too. Ben also told a long and surely embellished (or just totally false, but fun) story about arriving in the wee hours of the morning and walking around Boston and ending up skinny-dipping in the Harbor. When a couple of punks stole his clothes (see how I don’t believe him, but I’m just going with it), an older woman took him to the thrift shop to get something to wear. Want to guess what song they did next? The stage crew even brought out racks of vintage clothes. Backup dancers arrived on stage, too. It was nuts in the room.

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Macklemore told us that he was grateful to everyone at the show for their support, whether or not we knew them before “Thrift Shop.” He told us his story about wanting to be a rapper since he was a teenager, but he started to do drugs at the same time. It stifled his creativity and he eventually went to rehab. When he left rehab, sober, in 2008, he moved in with his parents. Ryan Lewis was also living in his own parents’ basement while he was in college. Ryan sent Ben a Myspace friend request, and the rest is history.

I am happy every single time I hear “Same Love” on the radio. That’s the message we’ve got to be sharing with young people. Macklemore introduced the song by saying that everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and that no one should tell us who to love. He said that we are letting go of the fear and prejudice and are starting to see that our words have value and it’s up to us how we use those words. He told us that he believes in equality and love. Mary Lambert (just 24 years old!) took the stage and sang her heart out on “Same Love.” I was pumped she was there. It was a poignant moment and you could feel something special in the room during the song.

Mary Lambert and Macklemore sing "Same Love"

Mary Lambert and Macklemore sing “Same Love”

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Macklemore told us that after every tour, Snoop Dogg and Mariah Carey come over to his house and they have dinner and talk about what the craziest cities on tour were. I’m sure that must really happen. It encouraged the crowd to go wild during “Can’t Hold Us.” I didn’t ask for a press pass for the show, so I just brought my little Cannon PowerShot. I jumped up and down so much during the song that I lost my camera and eventually found it a song later on the ground a row in front of me. I was pumped that Ray Dalton (just a baby at age 22!) came on stage during the song, too, because his voice is soulful and beautiful. Macklemore did a little freestyle and joked about how rappers used to like to freestyle more until the iPhone came out and then they knew it would be up on YouTube instantly—whether it went well or not. When I did a little research for this post I found Superglued.com. You can check out a bunch of videos there that people took just at this show. “White Walls” was great and the string section really nailed it during the introduction to “Wing$.” Everyone said goodnight after that and left the stage. Obviously, we weren’t ready to leave yet.

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Oh hey, Ray Dalton!

Oh hey, Ray Dalton!

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Macklemore likes to crowd surf. These are blurry, but beautiful.

Macklemore likes to crowd surf. These are blurry, but beautiful.

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Everyone came back on stage to raucous applause. The video that played during “And We Danced” was hilarious and the perfect start to their encore. The dancers really went for it, too. “Irish Celebration” went over really well on the Boston crowd. Ben told us that his grandparents were from 45 minutes outside Boston and that he visited every summer. His grandfather really loved bringing the family together and would have loved that 12,000 family members and about 40 Haggertys were all gathered together that night in the Boston Garden. He introduced everyone on stage with hyperbolic and funny details. He saved Ryan Lewis for last and said that it was the most important friend request he’d ever accepted. Aren’t we lucky they found each other? I’ve been listening to The Heist for a year now and it’s unique and layered. I appreciate that I can hear and understand a story in every song, even though I generally don’t get this genre of music at all. Thanks for a truly spectacular evening! How did I forget to mention all of the streamers and fireworks and crowd surfing?! Oh my! It gave me all the energy I needed for an almost three hour drive home to Maine!

xo,

bree

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Ryan Lewis

Ryan Lewis

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Confetti! I love these.

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Balloons on the reprise of "Can't Hold Us." The last song of the night.

Balloons on the reprise of “Can’t Hold Us.” The last song of the night.

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David Berkeley with Max Garcia Conover

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

What can I say about Max Garcia Conover that I haven’t already? Max is a dear friend and a fantastic singer-songwriter. I’ve seen him play so many times, but each experience is different and wonderful. I love watching him grow and develop as an artist. His first major show for the release of his first EP was back in 2011 at One Longfellow Square opening for David Berkeley. Max sent David a copy of his EP when it was finished and wrote him an email to let him know how much his music had inspired him to become a songwriter. David replied kindly and asked if they might play a show together. And then they did. How amazing!

Max opened with “In City Light,” which is about living in a city. He joked that even thought he’d like to live in the wild, he’d definitely die if he tried. Actually, that’s something new I can add about Max’s live show—his banter has gotten a lot more confident and he told funnier stories! We laughed a lot that night with Max (not at him). For example, Max told a story about taking Sophie out for her birthday dinner in Portland on their new scooter and a guy who hollered out to him to give him “mad props” for a getting a girl like that with the scooter! It was hilarious.

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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I really love Max’s newer song “Wildfires Outside Laramie, Wyoming.” He talked about it being about a national tragedy and two sides that can’t communicate with each other. Max also talked about how people at shows like to hear banter (I know I do!) and how he’s a quiet person (although he said a lot more at this show than he usually does). It inspired “Say That You Know Me.” I think “The Wedding Line” is my favorite song off of Max’s newest album, Burrow. I’m excited to report that Max is recording his next album this winter, too!

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Max told us about his very elderly grandmother in New York who has encouraged his songwriting from the very beginning and always wants him to play his songs for her whenever he visits home. He went to visit her in her assisted living apartment last time he was home and she wanted him to play with the door open so others could hear. She can’t hear very well, so she didn’t realize another resident was playing the organ just outside the open door. The organist and Max had a little unplanned competition for the attention of folks walking by in the hallway.

Blurry Max leading a sing along

Blurry Max leading a sing along

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Max wrapped his set with “As Much A Rising Sun as a Setting One,” which is one of my favorites, and “The Start of Fables,” which included some audience participation. Max likes to ask the audience to sing, and since his twenty best friends come out to all of his shows (including me), we always oblige and really go for it. He always reminds the crowd that sing alongs can be awkward or awesome—so just to go for volume over quality. Max recorded a set with Sofar Sounds in Boston a few nights later and you can see they sang along on “The Start of Fables” with him quite happily. Always great to see you live, Max! Until next time.

David Berkeley took the stage after intermission joined by Bill Titus on guitar. They opened with “Angelina.” I like how the song reminisces about an old love and wonders how she feels about it, too—“I hope you don’t regret me.” I’m a big fan of “George Square,” which we learned is in Glasgow, Scotland. David and his family have lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico since August of 2012. It never rains there, David told us, which inspired his most recent album, The Fire In My Head.

David Berkeley

David Berkeley

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I appreciate David’s crystal clear voice. As someone who is interested in lyrics, I really appreciate being able to hear each and every word that he sings. He covered Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” and it was the first time I understood all of the words! I really liked “Wishing Well” about a man who was left by his wife and finds solace in the construction of a bridge. I especially liked the lyric “build me a bridge that’s forever between two heads and two hearts.”

David Berkeley and Bill Titus

David Berkeley and Bill Titus

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David got a request from someone in the front row and realized they were asking for a song he’d written for someone else. He told us that he tries not to get attached to those songs and doesn’t play them live. He’s also found a calling as a marriage proposal singer. He’s literally played during someone’s marriage proposal. He thinks it’s kind of weird, as do I, except then my friend and singer-songwriter Taylor Carson mentioned doing the same thing just a few days later. It’s apparently a thing I didn’t know about.

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David played “Glory” for Max. I especially like the lines “And I’m sorry I’m not all those things/But I’m doing the best that I can/So don’t let go of me.” In thinking about what I like about David’s songs, I appreciate the emotion they evoke. We’ve all loved and lost, so they are easy to connect to. “Fire Sign” is one of my favorite David Berkeley songs and I was glad to hear it live.

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David gave a shout out to his friend he’d gone to high school with who was in the audience. They’d sung together in an a cappella group, and he credited this friend with making him really like music. Lucky us. He also told us that he and Bill had been stopped by police in NYC on this leg of the tour. Bill was driving a rental car with Florida plates and pulled over to pick up David who was wearing a backpack and had just climbed up the stairs from the subway. They couldn’t actually figure out how to roll down the window for the police officer, either, and David eventually had to play a song to prove they were musicians on tour.

I am truly lucky to be part of a marvelous friend group. Max is in it. There are about twenty of us. We do things like go to Max’s shows (we took up the first few rows at this one, for example), spend weekends at Sugarloaf snowshoeing in the winter, and enjoy Friendsgiving together. One thing that has become part of our vernacular since the first time we saw Max with David Berkeley is the use of the phrase “hard merge.” We use to describe times we’re struggling. Most weeks, someone will send out an email inviting the girls in the group to wine time in Portland. If one of us is having a bad week, we might reply, “Can’t wait for wine time—this week’s been a hard merge.” We’ve borrowed the phrase from David Berkeley’s song “Willis Avenue Bridge.” I mentioned it to him after the show and he didn’t seem offended that we’ve incorporated “hard merge” into our lives.

David talked about vinyl and how excited he was that his music was available on it now. He started to wrap up his set with “Shelter,” which I really love. He played “Jefferson” and without pause, went right into a cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.” At least that’s what I think happened. I was a bit mesmerized at the power of the songs woven together and forgot to write it down and now that was over two weeks ago and my memory is fuzzy. For the first time I can remember, I got a migraine during a show. I couldn’t actually see Max at the end of his set or David and Bill at the beginning of theirs.

It’s always nice to see David Berkeley play those beautiful songs of his live. One of my favorite moments from the last time I saw him was when he read “Empty Tank Denial” from his book 140 Goats and a Guitar—essays about what inspired his album Some Kind of Cure. “Empty Tank Denial” is a hilarious true story that sets up his song “Parachute.” It’s worth a listen. Thanks again, Bill and David. See you next time!

xo,

bree

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Red Tail Ring

Saturday, November 2, 2013

House Concert, Bowdoinham, Maine

My Bowdoin College classmates Harriet and Atlee moved back to Maine last year and bought a beautiful old home on the Cathance River in Bowdoinham. It’s been wonderful to have them back in the area. Harriet knew I was getting a new furnace over this weekend and wouldn’t have heat or hot water at home, so she invited me to join them for a potluck and house concert in Bowdoinham and to spend the night afterwards. I had no idea what a treat I was in for! My dear (and very busy) friend Megan lives just down the road from Harriet and Atlee, and I was excited when Harriet told me that she was going to come over before the show and then join us for the house concert.

I feel like the Bowdoinham house concert series at this fabulous family’s home is pretty much at capacity already, so I’ll wait to hear from their organizer before I put more specific information about them here. It seems that the shows started organically about six years ago and have been going on ever since. There’s a delicious potluck before the concert and then everyone goes upstairs to a beautiful room with great acoustics and cozies up for an unplugged show by musicians from far and wide. Attendees are asked to leave a minimum $10 tip for the musicians, and everyone mingles and gets to know their neighbors and has a great time. I got on the email list after the show and can’t wait to go again. It was lovely.

I had no expectations at all about Michigan’s Red Tail Ring, but they were really wonderful. The thing that’s most important to me about concerts is feeling like there’s a connection between the performers and the audience, and I like to be right up front to be able to see artists’ facial expressions and to hear stories about their lives and songs. That’s the best kind of night. And here we were—in someone’s lovely living room—surrounded by people who had come out strictly to listen and enjoy the music of people who’d come to share stories with us. It was a real treat.

Red Tail Ring--Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp

Red Tail Ring–Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp

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Red Tail Ring duo Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp were warm and charming. If I hadn’t actually been in someone’s living room, I would have said that it felt like we were in their living room anyhow. They played traditional folk songs on guitar, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle and sang beautiful harmonies, too. I think we were all pretty taken with them right from the start. “Katy Came Breezing” from Red Tail Ring’s most recent album, The Heart’s Swift Foot, completely stole my heart. Red Tail Ring has previously released two other albums—their interpretation of public domain songs called Mountain Shout and their original songs on Middlewest Chant.

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I love it when artists talk about their lives and their music—context is the best. Red Tail Ring did just that. Michael told us that they have a regular gig playing a square dance back in Michigan. Their song “Dirt Triangle” is about their dream to build a dance hall where the Burger King used to be. Walgreens got the lease, though. They told us that “Eliza” is the story of a delusional man who keeps asking women to run away with him. I also really loved “A Clearing in the Wild,” which Laurel told us was about finding a calm place in the wild of our minds. Before intermission, Michael and Laurel gave a shout out to their friend and Maine musician Putnam Smith for connecting them with the Bowdoinham house concert hosts.

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After intermission, Laurel and Michael played a cover of a song by their friends Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys and it was at that point in the night when they gave so many music recommendations that they joked they were creating a Pandora station for us (I’d listen!). Michael talked about their neighbor and mentor Joel Mabus who lives just down the road from them in Kalamazoo. Laurel played her jaw harp for us, which was really neat, and they closed with a lovely cover of Hazel Dickens’ beautiful song “My Heart’s Own Love.”

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Laurel on the jaw harp

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We were clearly smitten with Red Tail Ring and asked for an encore. Someone in the audience suggested they play “Pretty Polly.” Michael and Laurel kindly obliged, and joked that the song is really a warning against dating online. They were such a pleasure to see live. If you’re a fan of traditional music, definitely check them out. If you have the chance to see them live, whether or not you’re generally a fan of traditional folk music, you’ll want to go. I promise.

Thanks so much to our fabulous hosts for opening up their home and to Michael and Laurel for a wonderful evening! Harriet and Atlee—thanks for inviting me to join you and for putting me up for the night!

xo,

bree

Harriet and Atlee's fabulous and photogenic pup, Kiera

Harriet and Atlee’s fabulous and photogenic pup, Kiera

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Welcome to my world, new furnace!

Welcome to my world, new furnace!

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Martin Sexton

Friday, November 1, 2013

Strand Theatre, Rockland, Maine

I was perfectly happy to say goodbye to October. That context is important, because I think that Martin Sexton heals all, and when I realized that he was going to play the tiny Strand Theatre in Rockland, I knew I really needed to be there. I’ve mostly seen him at the State Theatre in Portland, so the idea of seeing him in a far more intimate space was really exciting. The first time I ever saw Martin Sexton was at the State in Portland with my college friends, Ken and Jed. They were both Martin fans, but I’d never heard of him. We’d all just almost completely survived our first year as teachers, and my college boyfriend had driven from New Hampshire the very same afternoon as the show to say we were in different places in our lives (true) and it was time to part ways. It was the right thing, but the end of a long relationship (two and a half years in that case) is never easy. I mentioned the breakup haphazardly in the car on the way down to the Martin Sexton show just a few hours later. I was probably still a little in shock, actually. I couldn’t have ended up in a better space that night, though. That first Martin Sexton show (May 31, 2002) was like a free therapy session. I felt so much better leaving than I did when I arrived. Martin Sexton is a kind of magic. He’s got a cure for whatever ails ya. Seeing him live lets you breathe that big sigh of relief you maybe didn’t even know you needed.

A group of friends and I saw Martin Sexton together at the State Theatre in January of this year. The show was recorded, actually, and I like to listen to it from time to time to reminisce. We came together to worship in the “Temple of Marty” (as I like to call whatever venue he’s playing). His live show is a profound experience—an interweaving of song, scat, stories, and sing-alongs. I got to Rockland early for the show because I wanted to see Marty’s one man show (even if he sounds like a whole band) from nearer the stage. My friend Bartlett and his lady friend Ellie were joining me later and I got there well before doors opened, so I stopped in at an art opening down the street at asymmetrick arts. I found my way into the theatre when doors opened and grabbed three seats in the fourth row. I ended up sitting next to Sam, who’d driven up from Portland solo because he’s a big Marty fan as well. He grew up in Winslow, so we got to chat about the fabulousness of Big G’s and other bands we like. Sam and I have kept in touch since the show and he saved the day when my pictures from the show turned out terribly and he sent me a few he’d taken that night.  Thanks, Sam!

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asymmetrick arts

asymmetrick arts

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The incomparable Martin Sexton. Photo courtesy of Sam Overlock

Photo courtesy of Sam Overlock

Photo courtesy of Sam Overlock

The incomparable Martin Sexton. Photo courtesy of Sam Overlock.

Photo courtesy of Sam Overlock.

Bartlett and Ellie showed up just before Marty took the stage and we joked about how they’d both been on first dates at the last Martin Sexton show in January. Martin had played “Diggin Me” that night and dedicated it to everyone on a first date in the audience. It didn’t work out for either of them that night, so they were relieved this Martin show wasn’t their first date. Martin played “Diggin Me” for us early in his set.

We heard about a feisty Sicilian girlfriend Martin had back in the day who founght Cambridge City Hall for him when they tried to ban busking. He played “Livin’ the Life” for anyone who might be considering leaving their corporate gig and “Failure” for “anyone who has ever f*cked up.” He told us that writing songs is like doing homework to him, but that playing live is like getting to play baseball.

My less than ideal Martin Sexton pictures. I should have switched lenses, but I was too entranced to pay attention to details!

My less than ideal Martin Sexton pictures. I should have switched lenses, but I was too entranced to pay attention to details!

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After intermission, Martin joked about how his daughter came into the world because a woman wanted to give him some money when he was busking but she only had a twenty-dollar bill. She gave him her phone number instead, and the rest is history.  I was happy to hear “Candy,” “Angeline,” and especially “Hallelujah.”  “Hallelujah is definitely one of my favorite Marty songs and I was glad he asked us to sing along with him. It was unfortunately also at that point in the evening when two very loud (and surely drunk) women in the front started becoming a major distraction. Anyone who was at the show will definitely remember them. If either of you happen to be reading this—we’d really appreciate being able to hear the performer over you next time.

Martin is absolutely a one-man band, and the amount of sound he can produce with just his voice and guitar is really astounding. His beat boxing on “Things You Do To Me” was really impressive. He told us about mending his relationship with his grown son, which inspired “Friends Again.” “Gypsy Woman” was killer, as were “Glory Bound” and “Love Keep Us Together.” Martin was really open with us all night—from confessing that he was nervous because there hadn’t been an opening performer, to telling us about his rift with his son, to letting us know that “Love Keep Us Together” was about first love and teenage pregnancy. I felt like I was in his living room and we were all sitting on the floor in a circle watching our friend play. I was thrilled when Martin played “Black Sheep.” It was the song I was most hoping to hear him play. We sang along during the “bye byes,” and it was the perfect song for him to end the show with. We stomped and clapped for an encore, though, and Martin came back to the stage and did one more song for us. It was such a great night of music. Thanks, Martin!

xo,

bree

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