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 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 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.
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.