Carbon Leaf with Sarah Blacker

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

It’s been a crazy week and a half since I saw my last concert of 2013. I’ve taken refuge at my boyfriend’s place to have access to power and the Internet. My house is covered in ice and is without power and heat. I’m packed for my trip to Hawaii tonight. Fingers crossed that I’ll be able to make my way Westward despite airport delays. Yes, I know these are first world problems. I suspect this will be my shortest blog post ever since I’m getting picked up in less than 90 minutes. Let’s see. (Nope, I’m still long winded even when I’m in a hurry!).

I was really happy to finally see Boston’s Sarah Blacker. She emailed me almost a year ago to invite me to a show in Maine, and even though I couldn’t make it, I checked out her website and really liked her crystal clear voice. I got in touch about this show, and she was kind enough to invite me again. Sarah was incredibly comfortable and interactive with the audience at Port City Music Hall, which I’m always a fan of, and she can really sing. I loved her cover of “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” She told us about an upcoming video for “Shiver” that was filmed outside in icy weather while she wore a flimsy dress.

The lovely Sarah Blacker

The lovely Sarah Blacker

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Sarah met Carbon Leaf in South Carolina and they’ve been friends since. She was gifted a beautiful ukulele named Leo (my uke is named Alice) and played a couple of songs on it for us. I was really impressed with Sarah’s banter when she introduced “The Most Beautiful Thing” to us—she said it was about someone she was dating who died in a car accident to memorialize him, but also to forgive the sobering moment and to keep drinking. I absolutely appreciated her song “Perfectly Imperfect” about trying to give up the idea of being perfect. Throughout her set she was incredibly sweet and personable. She also really knows how to make the most of her solo sound by beating on her guitar when she needs some percussion.

Sarah plugged Material Objects next door and told us she’d gotten her whole outfit, including grey cowboy boots there earlier in the day. It was a perfect segue to her song “Cowboy.” She closed with “These Summer Nights”—thinking back to warmer times, and said goodnight to us. I said hello to Sarah before I took off that night and she really was a dear. I’m always happy when good musicians are also good people.

Virginia’s Carbon Leaf took the festively decorated stage to an enthusiastic crowd, welcomed by 98.9 WCLZ’s Ethan Minton. My friends Don and Stacey joined me in the happy crowd, too. We met three years ago at the same venue the last time Carbon Leaf played Portland and have been in touch ever since. It was so great to see you guys!

Carbon Leaf concert friends Don and Stacey

Carbon Leaf concert friends Don and Stacey

Carbon Leaf's setlist

Carbon Leaf’s setlist

There was an especially enthusiastic band of folks in the first few rows who knew a lot of Carbon Leaf’s songs by heart. We sang a whole verse for Barry on “One Prairie Outpost.” Someone in the front was using FaceTime to bring a female friend along for the experience and Barry grabbed the phone and took her on a quick backstage tour and then set the phone up on stage for a song as well. Apparently she was home sick but had really wanted to be at the show. It was adorable. Barry also gave Ethan Minton a well-deserved shout out for playing their music on 98.9. He also apologized because it had been three years since they’d played Portland.

WCLZ's Ethan Minton introducing Carbon Leaf

WCLZ’s Ethan Minton introducing Carbon Leaf

Barry using FaceTime

Barry using FaceTime

I always like the gospel feel of “Raise the Roof.” All of the guys surrounded one mic in the center of the stage for a handful of songs, including “Red Punch, Green Punch.” We sang along on “Comfort” and Barry told us how nice it was to hear that we knew the words. He then moved into the sales portion of the evening. Carbon Leaf left their label in 2010 and is releasing music independently. He joked with us that they’ve put out two albums this year that most of us haven’t bought. After the Portland show, they had four shows left in a 50-city tour. Carter was featured on “The Fox and the Hare.” I’d forgotten how talented the guys in this group are because I hadn’t seen them in such a long time. They wrapped their set with “The Boxer” and really whipped the already appreciative crowd into a frenzy.

Carbon Leaf's Barry Privett

Carbon Leaf’s Barry Privett

Jason Neal

Jason Neal

Terry Clark and Barry

Terry Clark and Barry


Carter Gravatt

Carter Gravatt

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Bassist Jon Markel on lead vocals

Bassist Jon Markel on lead vocals

The guys came back out onstage for an encore and had bassist Jon Markel set up the story behind his song “Carter’s Christmas Beard.” He joked that Carter’s beard is his favorite muse. It’s nice to see a band that clearly likes each other a lot. We laughed through the song with the guys. They played “Tombstone vs. Ashes” and then left us with “Let Your Troubles Roll By,” which is easily my favorite Carbon Leaf song. I thought as I left after the show how that was a really good last live song to hear in a year. I turned on my car to head home and Carbon Leaf’s “What About Everything” was playing on 98.9 WCLZ. This was a solid end to a fantastic year of live music. Thanks to everyone for your support of in my first two years! I’ll be back in 2014!




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