Monthly Archives: January 2014

Max Garcia Conover and Friends

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lion’s Pride, Brunswick, Maine

Portland’s Max Garcia Conover is playing a couple of weekly shows, and he’s bringing his friends. MGC plays Mondays at Flask Lounge in Portland from 6-8 PM and Fridays at Lion’s Pride in Brunswick from 9-11 PM.

What a delightful Friday. We gave midterm exams at school for half the day. A bunch of us gathered to grade exams together in Dennis’ room in the afternoon—he has a classroom with windows in our predominantly windowless school. My boyfriend Jeff texted to say that he had an unexpected night off and could join a growing group of us for a dessert gathering and then Max’s first Lion’s Pride Friday night show! I was so excited!

Jeff and I had dinner at Bangkok Garden and one of my seniors was our server. She was excited to see me out on date night and told me she very much approved when Jeff was out of earshot. We picked up Will and headed over to Chris and Courtney’s for delicious treats and some time to catch up with friends before heading over to Max’s show.

An impromptu idea to rally the group for Max’s first Friday night show at Lion’s Pride was wildly successful. By the middle of his first set, the room was completely full with at least twenty of us—including most of the teachers in our friend group who decided to rally for Max late on a Friday night. I hadn’t seen Max play in a few months, not since he opened for David Berkeley back in November at One Longfellow Square. It was great to hear him sing the songs that I play on repeat while I’m driving or grading—like “Thatch House” and “The Creek Woman Poet” from Birches Lo.

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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Max claims to hate sing-alongs because they can be super awkward, but he always makes us do them anyway. We stood and belted “Honey, we’ve been trying…” during our audience participation part on “The Start of Fables” and it felt really good to be awake that late on a Friday night and singing with a room full of good friends. I liked Max’s new song, “Home,” and the idea behind it—that we think the place we grew up in is really lame until we leave and come back (I haven’t had that moment yet, but I grew up in Bangor).

Singing along with MGC

Singing along with MGC

Max said he is thinking of these weekly shows as a curator might, and that he hopes to bring friends to the mic every week. Sammie Francis and her new husband (!), Max Taylor, did a couple of songs. Our dear friend Brady joined Max on The Avett Brothers’ “Murder In The City.” I love Max’s story about meeting Jim Avett (the Brothers’ dad) at The Great Blue Heron Music Festival, but I’ll let you hear that story for yourself some week.

Sammie Francis and Max Taylor

Sammie Francis and Max Taylor

Brady and Max

Brady and Max

Max gave a lovely introduction about his teacher and music mentor, Ken Templeton. Ken and I graduated from Bowdoin together and he is someone I love running into so we can catch up about the bands we’re currently listening to and whatever Daytrotter session we last fell in love with. Ken took the stage and said that his professor Pete Coviello said that that best teachers teach kids how to love something and he was happy to have done that with music for Max.  Ken said he was so taken with The Lone Bellow (I will take full credit for introducing y’all to them) when we saw them together in November, that he decided to play “Watch Over Us.” I hadn’t heard Ken play in AGES and I was floored by his power. I was so stunned that I forgot to clap when he finished the song, too! Amazing, Ken!

Ken Templeton

Ken Templeton

Max sent the tip jar around and joked that if you claim deductions on your taxes for musical equipment because music is your profession but that you don’t make any money at it, then the IRS demotes it to “hobby.” He called his fiancée, the lovely and talented Sophie Nelson, up to the mic to sing “You’re the Farthest I Go.” (They did a great Damien Jurado cover together earlier in the evening, too). That new song is so very sweet and Max and Sophie sound great together.

Sophie and Max

Sophie and Max

Here are some things I was reminded of Friday at Max’s show:

1. 9-11 PM doesn’t feel as late if you’re surrounded by friends.

2. Be ready to sing along.

3. Don’t be the person who doesn’t have any cash for the tip jar.

4. These friends are the best anyone could ask for. We filled the room to support Max, as always.

Come out some week and join us.

xo,

bree

PS—Max gave out copies of his first full-length album, Burrow, at Lion’s Pride. Jeff and I listened to it in the car on Saturday and Jeff’s youngest son, Max, was already singing along to it by Sunday morning.

I love this blurry picture I snapped of Max at the end of the night.

I love this blurry picture I snapped of Max at the end of the night.

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The Alternate Routes with The Ballroom Thieves

Friday, January 17, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Happy 2014!! I had a fantastic winter break in Hawaii and am feeling rejuvenated and excited for a great year of live music as whatbreesees.com starts year number three. Thank you so much for all of your support!

I was pretty happy to be in Hawaii in December!

I was pretty happy to be in Hawaii in December!

I was really glad to start my concert year with The Alternate Routes and The Ballroom Thieves. I’ve seen both bands a couple of times before and know they put on a great live show. I had a marvelous afternoon before the show, too—sadly missing The Alternate Routes’ Studio Z on WCLZ I was invited to—but got to catch up over gelato with my dear friend Jess who was only briefly in town before jetting off to her last semester of architecture school in Minneapolis. I also randomly got to have a leisurely dinner with my long lost high school friend Hedda at Green Elephant before the show. And my great Friday only got better…

Boston’s The Ballroom Thieves is quickly becoming one of my favorite live acts. They have it all—powerful songs, musicianship, comedic banter, and chemistry. If you haven’t seen them live, you really are missing out. Martin Early (guitar/vocals), Devin Mauch (percussion/vocals), and Calin Peters (cello/vocals) took the stage and opened with an acoustic song around a single microphone. Their airy, beautiful harmonies enticed people to start moving towards the stage. “Coward’s Son” was next, and it’s my favorite Ballroom Thieves song. Martin greeted us and told us they love Portland. No one clapped. Devin piped in and joked that sometimes people like their city and we tried again and clapped some for Portland.

Boston's The Ballroom Thieves

Boston’s The Ballroom Thieves

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The Thieves showed off their percussive prowess on “Down By the River.” The crowd was still really far from the stage, so the Thieves asked us who would dare to stand within 15 feet of them. Two people bravely moved forward and the boys joked that it was funny because they had friends and family in the crowd and didn’t know either of the two.

“Wait for the Water” was really pretty. They joked (a theme of the night, which I appreciated) about their pick me up song called “Bullet.” They mentioned their show a few months back with The Last Bison (which was quite a night—here’s my recap). The “Vampires” introduction got a lot of laughs. Martin said it was about the Twilight trilogy, which they’d recently learned was a “quadrology” now. He said that he and Devin were Team Jacob (because “dogs are a man’s best friend and descended from wolves”) and Calin is Team Edward. She joked about the hotness of sparkly men. I’m on Team Charlie.

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Martin played a brand new song “about a big tree” called “Oak” solo. Devin and Calin came back on stage and Devin introduced his band mates with hilarious details, including Calin’s two rabbits and Martin’s 25 week-old (long pause) puppy. He joked that Martin’s mom was probably shaking for a minute there. They played “Brother” about “a sibling who is a boy” and “Drones” off their newest EP with a great cello intro from Calin. Her cello parts are so rich and emotive that they’re like adding a fourth vocalist to the mix. Impressive.

Calin Peters

Calin Peters

Devin Mauch

Devin Mauch

Martin Early and Calin Peters

Martin Early and Calin Peters

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“Save Me” is so pretty and I was happy to hear it again. The Thieves thanked us for coming out to the show—their best turnout in Portland so far—and closed their set with “Archers,” which will be on their upcoming full-length album. The Ballroom Thieves has been spot on all three times I’ve seen them. Check out this post from when they played with Swear and Shake and The Lone Bellow back in June. I like them more and more each time I see them. They really shine live and I’m sure they earned a bunch more fans that night.

I could tell I was out of concert-going practice waiting for The Alternate Routes to take the stage around 10PM. I’d taken a five-week concert break (because I always want this blog to be about seeing music because I love it and I don’t want it to feel like work) and it was hard to stay awake so late on a Friday night!

Ethan Minton from 98.9 WCLZ took the stage to introduce The Alternate Routes. He said it’s really great to be able to promote a band by playing their music on the radio—especially when they’re such great people. He mentioned the Studio Z The Alternate Routes recorded earlier in the day and invited the band to the stage. The Alternate Routes took the stage as a full band. I’d seen Tim and Eric as a duo opening for Martin Sexton last time, so was excited to see them surrounded by a band.

98.9 WCLZ's Ethan Minton introducing The Alternate Routes

98.9 WCLZ’s Ethan Minton introducing The Alternate Routes

The Alternate Routes' Tim Warren

The Alternate Routes’ Tim Warren

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The Alternate Routes' Eric Donnelly

The Alternate Routes’ Eric Donnelly

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Tim told us during the beginning on their set that they’re in the process of recording an album that they hope to have out in a few months. He told us how much they love Portland and thanked WCLZ and Ethan and said they’d wanted to play at Port City Music Hall for a long time. I was excited to hear new music that’s being recorded right now, but was happy to hear “Ordinary,” which is from their first album Good and Reckless and True.

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There was a little girl in the front row who was pumped about the show. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I did a double take and realized that I knew her—her dad installed my new furnace back in November. It’s a small world! Her mom kept taking videos of Faith enjoying the show and panning back and forth to the band onstage. It was adorable. It’s that kind of joy that I like to see at a show. I’m always dumbfounded by people at shows who spend their time at the bar talking (usually loudly) over the performers. I don’t see the point. Anyhow, Faith restored my faith (see what I did there?) in the joy that concert going can bring.

Tim performed “Won’t Let Go,” which he wrote for his bride and performed at their wedding last year. The audience happily sang our part on “Standing At Your Door,” and people who hadn’t seen The Alternate Routes before laughed when Tim picked up a toolbox to use as percussion on “Future’s Nothing New.” Tim nailed the harmonica part on that song. Eric played killer guitar all night, too.

Tim using the toolbox as percussion on "Future's Nothing New." It's a crowd pleaser.

Tim using the toolbox as percussion on “Future’s Nothing New.” It’s a crowd pleaser.

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Tim is an adorable front man. At some point in the set he paused to say “I’m really happy. Are you really happy? This is a special night for us. The rooms we play don’t always fill up but tonight they did and we are grateful.” I hadn’t turned around the whole show (and I was in the front row, as always), but he inspired me to do so and the room was pretty full. I was glad to hear “Time is a Runaway” from back in the day, too. Tim talked about writing it in his uncle’s living room in Beverly, Massachusetts.

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A really cool thing happened over the summer for The Alternate Routes. They were approached by a company and introduced to Newtown Kindness, an organization founded to promote kindness in memory of Charlotte Bacon, whose life was tragically taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Newtown Kindness needed a song and “Nothing More” came to life. Tim talked about how the video for “Nothing More” is home movie footage of his sister running around and his mom pregnant with him in 1980. It’s a very sweet video. People have been encouraged to participate in the movement by synching their own home videos to the song. Tim gave a shout out to Deb and her yoga teacher Kathy. He said he saw Deb’s touching video and stopped in his tracks. He said “the whole thing makes me want to hug everything.” Music has the power to bring people together and to heal. It’s why I see so many live shows, I think. There’s magic in every concert venue—stories told, friends made, moments that make you pause and reflect. For me, live music is the best thing.

I really liked their last song, a new one called “Give,” and was very glad The Alternate Routes came back to the stage to end the night with “Carry Me Home.” This night was a lovely start to my concert going year.

xo,

bree

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