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!
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.
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!