Monthly Archives: April 2016

Connor Garvey and Sorcha Cribben-Merrill

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Frontier, Brunswick Maine

I was so glad to finally get to see Maine’s own Connor Garvey. We’ve traveled in similar Maine music circles for ages, but our paths had somehow never crossed. Sorcha Cribben-Merrill is a friend in music. She’s played Swine & Stein Oktoberfest in my sweet little town in 2013 and 2014, but I’d also never seen her play a sit down show. This was a lovely Saturday night to really sit down and see both of these talented Maine musicians shine.

Connor and Sorcha played the whole night together, alternating between their songs. Connor joked that he’d wanted Sorcha to play some shows together for a long time, and so he just went ahead and booked a handful of dates as a duo. It forced them to finally sit down and work out parts for each other on their songs. Their harmonies were lovely. These two are clearly friends and it was great to watch them happily share the stage with their wide range of musical stylings.

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Connor Garvey and Sorcha Cribben-Merrill

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I really like Connor’s song “Willow.” His voice is crystal clear and it’s always refreshing to be able to hear all the words to a song. The lyrics to “Willow” resonate—“The more she showed/Her longing for a love not there/She wept for a love not there.” One of the best things about this night was hearing the stories behind a lot of the songs. Sorcha talked a lot about her grandfather, who was a country doctor in Oregon, and played “Carving,” which she wrote about his life, and “Spark,” which she wrote on an airplane on her way to his memorial.

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Connor played a lovely song for us he played on his wedding day. Sorcha followed up with a song about unrequited love. The whole night was like sitting around a campfire in their backyard. It all felt wonderfully personal. Connor told us a funny story about how he accidentally booked a gig on St. Patrick’s Day (he’s a redhead with an Irish name, so avoids that), and played plucky “Irish Song,” which he wrote for the occasion.

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Sorcha and Connor co-wrote a stunning song about the love they have for their grandparents and more specifically about all of the things their grandparents have passed on to them. You should really check out “All These Things.” I hope Sorcha and Connor record it together soon. What a treat to see you both play!

xo,

bree

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Rose Cousins, Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barry

Friday, March 18, 2016

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

Talk about a delightful night full of rock solid good music, plentiful laughs, and pro-community spirit. This show was a gem. Johnson Hall Executive Artist Director Mike Miclon handed out CDs full of music from this season’s Johnson Hall artists last fall during the season reveal event, and Rose Cousins’ “Go First” played on repeat in my car for weeks. Her voice is all the best things—soulful, clear, ethereal, and evocative. I had this show circled in permanent marker on my concert calendar for months. I feel lucky to have been there.

Carol Noonan is a name you know in the Maine music scene. A singer-songwriter with a long career, she is also the mastermind behind Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine. One of the things that I was struck by on this fabulous night was how complimentary she was of Gardiner and our effort to bring live music and new life to our community. When Mike welcomed everyone to the stage, he also announced that Lisa’s Legit Burritos, The Craft Beer Cellar, and Niche, Inc. (Gardiner’s new record store) were staying open late after the show and we were all going to go to all three places to support these local businesses. Carol was on board wholeheartedly. Before Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield wasn’t even a blip on the map, she said. Now, it’s a music destination that has inspired a lot of growth in the area. She said “music brings a community to life.” Johnson Hall has been a tremendous part of Gardiner’s growth with Mike Miclon at the helm. Gardiner’s time is now, and we have a wonderful community—one I feel proud and fortunate to be part of.

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From left to right–Rose Cousins, Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barry

Rose Cousins, Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barry took the stage together and played together the bulk of the night—alternating between Carol’s songs and Rose’s songs. Rose Cousins is a singer-songwriter who grew up on a potato farm in Prince Edward Island. The baby on stage that night, Carol joked that she graduated from high school the year that Rose Cousins was born. They met because Rose sent Carol her CD If You Were For Me (2006), and even though Carol receives so many submissions at Stone Mountain that she can’t listen to many, she picked up Rose’s album because she was drawn to the horse on the cover. A decade later, and they’re friends who play music together.

 

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Duke Levine is maybe best known for touring with The J. Geils Band and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Kevin Barry is an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston and has played with Paula Cole and Mary Chapin Carpenter, as well. Duke and Kevin have played together for ages, and have both played on both Carol and Rose’s albums, too.

I particularly liked Rose’s song, “Farmer’s Wife.” Rose spoke about growing up on a farm—one of five kids—and not really having a full appreciation of her mother’s role until her sister married a farmer and started her own family. Her 2014 Stray Birds EP includes a cover of Lori McKenna’s “Shake,” which the group played for us. Lori McKenna is a folk rock star. I just wrote about hearing her song “Girl Crush” that won a Grammy for Best Country Song covered by Ellis Paul at One Longfellow Square on January 1. I’ve only managed to see Lori live a couple of times, but sadly not since 2012 at One Longfellow Square in Portland with Mark Erelli. Rose was as much a storyteller in word as in song. She introduced “Chosen” by talking about how incredible it is to be chosen by someone but how it also gives you pause to think about all the things you don’t like about yourself. Her honesty was refreshing.

We cheered at the end of this night, thoroughly entertained by the stories and songs of these four talented musicians who are also friends and so supportive of each other. They took the stage for an encore and did an awesome cover of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” that we got to sing along with. It was a lovely way to bring the night to an end together.

I’m seeing Rose again on Sunday night (April 24) at One Longfellow Square opening for Nashville’s Penny and Sparrow. I’m really looking forward to it!

xo,

bree

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Going upstairs to see the concert hall at Johnson Hall never gets old! Just wait to see how it looks fully restored!

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Ellis Paul

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Unitarian Universalist Church, Brunswick, Maine

This was my 46th Ellis Paul show, and it was fantastic. Obviously, some Ellis Paul shows are better than others, and I can tell the difference, even if I’m biased. There was a point in time a few years ago when Ellis’ voice sounded strained (he plays hundreds of shows a year, so that’s to be expected) and he needed to work with a voice coach and get some vocal rest. I also didn’t love how he gave up telling a lot of his best stories about a year ago (how he found his guitar, Guinness, for example) to banter instead about how we’ve lost our connection to music we can hold in our hands and carried a record player around to all of his shows. The last two of his shows that I saw (January 1 at One Longfellow Square) and this lovely night were full of the best of Ellis—with a powerful voice and great storytelling.

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Ellis Paul

Hedda and I have been friends since we both had bad hair in high school (she had a bowl cut. I had a spiral perm). She was able to join me at the beautiful Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick for her first-ever Ellis Paul show. My dear colleague Dennis and his beloved wife, Jean, were also able to come for their first-ever Ellis experience. I love introducing people to Ellis Paul. It never gets old. All of them, of course, loved him. He was really on that night!

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Girls’ night out! Me and Hedda!

This show was one in a series of Concerts for a Cause at the UU Church. They host concerts to raise money for local charities chosen by church members. This year’s charities are Midcoast Hunger Prevention, Tedford Housing, Independence Association, Spindleworks, Habitat for Humanity, Gathering Place, Boys to Men, Maine Hospice, ILAP (Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project), Natural Resources of Maine, Coastal Humane Society, and Doctors Without Borders.

It’s time for a brief concert etiquette lesson. If you’re taking photos at a concert with a camera that makes sound, it’s polite to shoot during a few songs and then put the camera away. The same goes for taking photos with a cell phone, even if it’s silent. No one wants to listen to your camera click or watch a show through your cell phone screen if they’re stuck sitting behind you. It is not polite to take photos throughout every song such that people around you can’t enjoy the tender moments in the song because everyone in a five-plus row radius can only hear the constant click of your camera. I spoke to this particular Ellis superfan during intermission and asked her to kindly put the loud camera away after intermission, and she obliged. I think the folks sitting behind her had to endure watching the rest of the show through the screen of her cell phone while she took photos without sound (a bummer still, even if somewhat an improvement), but the second half of the show was a ton more enjoyable for those of us a bit farther away.

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Ellis at the piano and the offending constant click of that camera in the foreground. Audience etiquette no no.

Ellis obviously impressed the sold out crowd. Folks were toe tapping and laughing and singing along (when invited) all night long. The truly talented Laurie MacAllister from Red Molly sang a few songs with Ellis. She’s performed with him every time I’ve seen him over the last year or so, and is a real treat. He introduced us to his beautiful new guitar, Sprocket, which he invited us to take a closer look at after the show. I didn’t take notes and just enjoyed the show; so I have nothing resembling a set list for you, but I remember that he wrapped his set with an improved song at the piano about being back in Maine (which was creative and hilarious) and his encore was an unplugged sing along to Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” from the middle of the room.

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Ellis and Laurie

Ellis Paul and Laurie MacAllister

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“Circle Game” from the center of the room.

Do you think you get to sing a song on stage with Ellis at your 50th Ellis show? Starting to plan ahead. Thank you, Ellis, for another wonderful night!

xo,

bree

Sprocket

Ellis’ new guitar, Sprocket!

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The Ghost of Paul Revere

Friday, March 4, 2016

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

I hadn’t seen The Ghost of Paul Revere play live in at least a year, so I was really excited for them to come play at Johnson Hall in my own sweet little town. I was only slightly tempted to stay home and binge on the fourth season of House of Cards, which was released that day, but I’m glad I made it downtown for this show instead. The Ghost of Paul Revere (GPR) had played Johnson Hall a year or so ago (I’d suggested them to Johnson Hall Executive Artistic Director Mike Miclon), and many folks in the near sell out crowd were returning to see them again.

This was the best I’d heard GPR sound since the first time I saw them play back in May of 2013 at One Longfellow Square. While I was doing research for this post, I found a quote from my May 2013 post on whatbreesees.com on The Ghost of Paul Revere’s website. Awesome!

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I love it when I show up on a band’s website! http://www.ghostofpaulrevere.com/epk/

Griffin Sherry has a clear, beautiful voice. Sean McCarthy claimed to be under the weather, but he was hilarious and kept us laughing with lots of banter anyhow. Their three part harmonies with Max Davis were lovely. Matt Young killed on harmonica. They really made me feel like I was in their living room, and that is the best kind of show possible.

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The Ghost of Paul Revere. From left to right–Matt Young, Griffin Sherry, Sean McCarthy, and Max Davis.

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“Ghostland” and “Mountain Song” were both early standouts of the night, and GPR recorded both songs during their Audiotree session. After their first show at Johnson Hall, GPR came back to film their video for “Wolves” upstairs in the stunning, unfinished upstairs concert hall. “San Antone” is easily my favorite GPR song, so I was glad to hear that one live. Their last song before intermission was a cappella. Sean asked a group of little kids in the front row if they knew what that meant. They didn’t. It was a super cute exchange. After intermission, GPR played “Ballad of the 20th Maine,” did an amazing cover of “Baba O’Riley,” and closed their set (appropriately) with “This is the End.”

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A screenshot of GPR’s “Wolves” video, shot in the unfinished upstairs concert hall at Johnson Hall in Gardiner, Maine.

After the show, Gardiner’s new-ish record store, Niche, Inc. stayed open to host folks who wanted to see their shop. I was impressed when all of the members of The Ghost of Paul Revere went over to support the store, whose owners Sam and Jason are big fans. I normally don’t chat with musicians (if they’re having an off night, I’ve found it can destroy all the love you have for their music), but since GPR did a nationwide tour with my dear friend Max Garcia Conover, I decided to break the rule. They’re all totally down to Earth, approachable guys. We got a chance to talk music for a long time, which was a sweet treat. Come back soon, guys! Thanks for a great show!

xo,

bree

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The Lone Bellow with Escondido

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Lone Bellow is my favorite band. Seeing The Lone Bellow perform is a spiritual experience—their passionate, soulful, high-octane live show is heartbreaking, uplifting, and kind of stunning. I’ve been fortunate to see them a half dozen times or so times now, and they never bring anything less than 100% to the stage. If anything, my love for a particular show of theirs has to do with how close to the stage I’m able to be. I love The Music Hall in Portsmouth and have seen The Lone Bellow there twice. The sound quality is beautiful, but I do prefer a standing room show where I can be right underneath the band to better see their facial expressions and enjoy their banter up close and personal.

My steadfast concert buddy Colin told me about this show while I was having a bummer of a Christmas. Buying my ticket to join him for this show was a big pick-me-up. We met up for a delicious dinner at Flatbread in downtown Portsmouth and made our way over to The Music Hall on the early side to catch Nashville’s Escondido. Jessica Maros and Tyler James are alt-country Escondido. Their bedazzled costumes were beautiful and they have a comfortable stage presence. Jessica has a beautiful voice. I particularly liked “Heart Is Black” and “Try.” Escondido has had some success being picked up to be played on TV shows like Nashville and Girls, so I expect you’ll be hearing even more from them in the days ahead.

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Escondido

Escondido

One of The Lone Bellow’s songs is aptly titled “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional,” because this band takes you on an emotional ride that gives you all the feels. I absolutely loved when Zach, Brian, and Kanene stepped to the front of the stage and played “Lovely in Blue,” “Watch Over Us,” and “Looking For You” unplugged. You could have heard a pin drop. I love Kanene’s powerful vocals on “Call To War” (I’m front and center and ecstatic to be there in this video), and the band wrapped their long set with a handful of commanding, driving songs—“Take My Love,” “You Never Need Nobody,” “Teach Me to Know,” and “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.” As if they hadn’t already left everything they had on stage, the band came back for an encore—“Then Came the Morning”—and asked us to sing along. It was a lovely way to end a beautiful, spirited night together. Thank you for being you, The Lone Bellow, and giving us so much of yourselves. Until next time.

xo,

bree

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The Lone Bellow

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Unplugged

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Mipso

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

Sunday, February 14, 2016

I was so grateful to get to spend Valentine’s Day with my dear friend Dot in Portland. We had a delicious dinner at Empire and arrived early at One Longfellow Square to grab seats up close for Mipso. North Carolina’s Mipso kindly invited me to their show with Dan Mills back in January of 2015, and I’m so glad I decided to check them out. They were so delightful, in fact, that I scheduled my February vacation trip to visit my dad in Florida around getting to see them play again in Portland. I also randomly caught Mipso playing “Bad Penny” on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so they’ve had quite the year! Maybe they’ll be a household name by the next time they play in Portland?

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Mipso riding on the KFC float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Mipso is Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Wood Robinson on upright bass, Joseph Terrell on lead vocal and guitar, and Libby Rodenbough on fiddle. This talented, charming group plays beautifully and their harmonies are spot on. They are clearly good friends and good people and are warm and friendly with the audience. I loved “Father’s House” and “Louise,” and it was a treat to see Maine’s most famous mandolin player, Joe Walsh, join Mipso for a couple of songs, too. “4 Train” and “When I’m Gone” both hit me in the feels with their somber lyrics. It’s refreshing to hear songs from a band that feel authentic and meaningful. It’s also wonderful to hear vocalists perform who have crystal clear voices so you can understand every word.

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Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Joseph Terrell on guitar, and Libby Rodenbough on fiddle

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Joseph’s voice has a decidedly Paul Simon sound, which became even more evident during their lovely cover of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” I’ve already named a lot of favorite songs of the night, but “Get Out,” was another top favorite. Mipso really does it right. They are an absolute pleasure to see live and I’m already eager to have them back to Maine. They joked that they keep coming in the winter and would really like to come back in the summer, so I hope we don’t have to wait as long for their next show here. Thanks again, Mipso! Libby—I hope you had a fun birthday in Portland!

xo,

bree

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Maine’s Joe Walsh joined Mipso on mandolin

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Joe delivered a gift basket to Libby on stage at the end of the night. Her sweet parents sent it to One Longfellow Square to arrive on her birthday.

 

 

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Ellis Paul and Friends with Betty Soo

Friday, January 1, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

When I went to this show—my 45th Ellis Paul show—I knew my two-year-long relationship was essentially over (I respect that this is minor in the scheme of the universe), and I was feeling all the feelings. I also hadn’t really shared this information yet, so I was trying to hold it all together. I’m someone who doesn’t have a lot of interest in major holidays, but I’ve always loved the clean slate that comes with a new year, and I really wanted to make this night—the first of 2016—as happy as I could muster. I am so grateful for dear friends and the comfort of music. If ever there was someone I’d want to see perform while tending a broken heart, it’s Ellis Paul. His songs are vignettes—stories from many people’s lives—full of love and loss and change. Seeing an Ellis show, for me, is like being home wherever I am, despite whatever is going on. This was a well-timed night for this very uplifting show. I left feeling much better than I did when I arrived. That’s pretty high praise.

I had a lovely dinner at Empire with my friend Megan and her parents. She’d gifted them dinner and their first-ever Ellis Paul show for Christmas, and I got to tag along with them for the night. Colin, my steadfast concert friend, joined us and we filled in the middle of the second and third rows at One Longfellow Square. It was already pretty full when we got there fifteen minutes after the doors opened, so we were lucky to get such good seats at cozy OLS.

Austin, Texas’ Betty Soo opened the show. She was personable and seemed glad to be with us. She told us some of the gross band names she’d seen written on the walls downstairs in the green room (I’ll spare you). I particularly liked the song she wrote for her husband (who is her roadie and merch guy, too), “Whisper My Name.” Betty is a celebrated songwriter and was even named Kerrville New Folk Winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival.

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Betty Soo

I was so glad to see Don Conoscenti and Radoslav Lorkovic take the stage with Ellis Paul. From that moment forward, I soaked in the familiar songs, the friendly banter, and the opportunities to sing along (when invited). It was the best I’d heard Ellis sound in a while. Laurie MacAllister from Red Molly joined the gang for about 1/3 of the songs, including a heart wrenching cover of “To Make You Feel My Love” and a cover of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” which Massachusetts-based folk singer-songwriter Lori McKenna co-wrote and won a Best Country Song Grammy Award for. Colin kept track of the night’s set list, which is helpful now that I’m finally emerging from hibernation and writing this four months later. I was grateful to hear some of my favorite “older” Ellis songs like “3,000 Miles” and “Martyr’s Lounge,” peppered with great covers by the whole gang (Don sounded awesome on “What a Fool Believes”), and Ellis reading his book The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas. This show gave me exactly the escape I needed and helped me feel at least a little glad to see 2016, after all.

xo,

bree

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Don Conoscenti and Ellis Paul

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Ellis and Radoslav Lorkovic

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Rad

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The Nights the Lights Went Out on Christmas

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