Monthly Archives: July 2016

Gregory Alan Isakov with MYRO and the Ghost Orchestra

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I saw Gregory Alan Isakov open for my beloved Brandi Carlile back in 2009 at South Portland High School and was captivated by his lyrics and airy voice. I waited in a long line after the show that night to buy his 2009 album, This Empty Northern Hemisphere, and was really excited to hear Brandi Carlile’s beautiful voice singing along on so much of it. That album is one that you should listen to right now, actually. I saw Gregory Alan Isakov once more in 2011, but sadly not again until April of 2015. I was in love then, and my sweetie joined me for the show and fell in love with Gregory Alan Isakov, too.

Here’s the problem with introducing people you love to musicians you love—sometimes you aren’t in love anymore, and your ex comes to see a musician you introduced them to with the person they started dating a curious two weeks after you ended a two year long relationship. It was awful. I’d been excited about this show (obviously), and my steadfast concert companion Colin kindly bought us tickets for this reserved seating show at State Theatre the day tickets went on sale and our seats were front row center. Problem was, my ex and his girlfriend were just one row behind us. Thank goodness they were stage left and we were stage right, but eight people between us was really not enough for my concert enjoyment. Anyhow, I am human and I was so upset and jittery to see my manipulative, freeloading ex with his no-longer-new girlfriend that I was shaky for the vast majority of the show. If Colin hadn’t been there, I would definitely have left my front row seat and gone home before the show even started. Thinking back to this night, I feel a pit in my stomach and remember how distracted, sad, and angry I was the whole time. I tried to consciously focus on enjoying Gregory’s enchanting voice, Jeb Bows’ positive energy while he danced with his violin, or the powerful, full sound generated by having the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra and the Ghost Orchestra on stage all night, too, but I failed miserably. Coincidentally, my ex asked to borrow the very Gregory Alan Isakov CD I bought the night I first saw him live all those years ago, and he still has it.

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I am grateful that Colin posted the night’s setlist on setlist.fm (his concert schedule is far more impressive than mine, by the way), because you can click on the “play” arrow to the right of the first song of the night, and it will auto play all of the songs in order for you. I am taking this time to hear the show again (pretty much for the first time) right now, and these songs are so layered and beautiful. GAI played five songs from This Empty Northern Hemisphere, which is a perfect album. He is wonderful live—totally not interested in being the center of attention and humble and genuine. I will hopefully feel better next time he’s in town. Or I’ll just go to one of his shows farther away. Either way, he is not to be missed. I’ll close with apt lyrics from one of my favorite GAI songs—“The Moon Song”—“and those broken hearted lovers/they got nothing on me.”

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Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony is available now. Here’s some praise for his new album. Here’s a biographical piece in the New York Times about GAI balancing music and farming.

xo,

bree

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The Dixie Chicks with Anderson East

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, Bangor, Maine

We all have songs that bring us right back to a particular moment in our lives. The first song I ever sang in public on my own as an adult was “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks. I performed at an open mic competition in the pub my senior year of college and thought I was going to throw up because I was so nervous. Instead, I won the competition and tickets to our annual Spring Gala. I’ll never forget how that song pushed me to find my own voice, even when it was terrifying. So, when I saw that the Dixie Chicks were going to tour after a decade-long hiatus, you’d better believe I waited by the computer and treated myself to fancy seats in the 13th row. This was a bucket list show—my first time seeing Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Robison live—and I couldn’t wait for June 16 to arrive. Since we had three snow days this school year, it turned out that it was my last school night of the year, but well worth my first trip to Bangor’s ENORMOUS Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion (I had no idea my hometown had such an immense concert venue!) for the show. My dad was my date, and he leaned over early in the show to say that they were really good (this is high praise from him) and that Natalie had a great singing voice (that’s really high praise from him). I had no doubt. And I agree completely—the Dixie Chicks sounded fantastic. They haven’t toured in a decade, but they didn’t miss a beat.

Backing up a tiny bit, my dad and I arrived just as Anderson East began his set. I’d seen him open for my beloved Brandi Carlile at the State Theatre in Portland in the spring of 2015. He has grit in his voice, and I liked that his band has a horn section. He played his radio hits “Devil in Me” (a song he introduced by saying it was about “fornicating with a preacher’s daughter”), “Satisfy Me,” and covered Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.” Dad leaned over and told me he sounded like Joe Cocker. I wondered if Anderson East’s girlfriend Miranda Lambert was in town, too. She’d joined him a couple of months earlier on stage for a song, but we had no such luck. He wrapped his set with another song I liked—“All I’ll Ever Need.” At some point during Anderson East’s set, one of my delightful former students and her mom came to sit in the two seats immediately next to us. Such a big venue, and yet such a small world!

A bit later, Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” started playing, and the Dixie Chicks and their band took the stage wearing black and white to bring Maine the long-awaited DCX MMXVI World Tour. Even their instruments were black and white. It was visually impressive, but then a plethora of beautiful background videos and still images filled an enormous screen behind them and made the enormous venue feel a lot more intimate. Natalie Maines opened the show by letting us know they were going to “attempt to entertain us” and that they fondly remembered playing a festival in Maine years ago and it was the first time a big crowd had known the words to their songs. At some point, she joked that she hoped we wouldn’t wait ten years to invite them back.

The Dixie Chicks played a solid 25 songs. Since they haven’t spent the last decade writing new music together, they played most of their big hits and supplemented with some covers of Prince, Bob Dylan, and Beyonce. I thought opening with “The Long Way Around” was an apt choice, and I was pleased to hear three Patty Griffin songs (y’all know wildly talented songstress Patty Griffin is a native of nearby Old Town, Maine, right?)—“Truth #2,” “Top of the World,” and “Please Don’t Let Me Die in Florida.” I was THRILLED to hear “Top of the World” live, but it would have been better if the drunk twentysomethings behind us hadn’t been shouting and taking pictures to share on Snapchat the whole song. CONCERT ETIQUETTE, people. It DOES NOT MATTER that we’re in a huge outdoor venue—you should still let people listen to the songs they came to hear in person. Pretty, pretty please. Oh! The Chicks played a Prince song, too, and it was STUNNING. “Nothing Compares 2 U” was lovely. The twentysomethings were even quiet for that one. That good.

The Chicks came back from a video interlude and sat right along the edge of the stage to play a stripped down “Travelin’ Soldier.” Getting only mildly political, the Chicks performed “Ready To Run” while we were bombarded with fast moving images of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren—just to name a few. Confetti cannons spit out tons of red, white, and blue pieces of paper, and we were close enough to catch some (cheesy, but I have a piece on my fridge as a show souvenir). “Landslide” was lovely and the whole crowd sang along. We were all pretty excited to hear “Cowboy Take Me Away” and “Wide Open Spaces” back-to-back. They wrapped their set with “Sin Wagon” and the crowd erupted. The Chicks came back to the stage for “Not Ready to Make Nice,” which is a triumphant comeback song. If you haven’t seen Shut Up and Sing, the 2007 documentary about the insane, life-threatening backlash the Dixie Chicks suffered after Natalie made an anti-G.W. Bush comment on stage, I highly recommend it. A decade later, and even though so much has changed, so much still hasn’t. The Chicks ended the night on a hopeful note, closing with a cover of Ben Harper’s “Better Way.” They were joined on stage by about a dozen kids playing instruments under a giant rainbow heart. It’s been ten years, and the Chicks’ message is still the same—and their devoted fans poured into an enormous venue to sing along.

xo,

bree

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Brandi Carlile

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

If Brandi Carlile is coming to town, I’m going to be there. It’s a no-brainer. Brandi and the Hanseroth twins—Tim and Phil—bring it every single time. They’re easily one of my top five live acts. The last time I got to see them was at the State Theatre back in May of 2015, which they sold out in two days. People packed into Thompson’s Point to see them on this cloudy night, and it was lovely to be surrounded by good people and good music. This was the furthest I’ve ever been from the stage at a Brandi show, and since proximity is paramount to my concert going experience, this was my least favorite Brandi show to date, but it was my fault for being over scheduled and not making the show my top priority. I should have gotten to Thompson’s Point when doors opened to get a spot up front against the stage like I normally would, but it was my 15th college reunion weekend and my dear friends’ daughter’s second birthday, and I tried to do it all. I’ve had the front row Brandi experience a few times, so I am still a whole person, but it’s hard for me to be so far way. A few of the perks of our spot, though, were that we got to witness a sweet proposal by the entrance, had room for our friends Kay and Spud to join us for the second half of the show, and that Portland songstresses Monique Barrett and Sorcha Cribben-Merrill spotted me on their way to the beer tent and we sang a song together.

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My 15th college reunion! And I just moved back to town, too!

Mira is 2

Mira is 2!

Proposal

Check out the newly engaged couple kissing on the right. Congratulations!

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This makes my heart happy! I felt like a celebrity when fabulously talented songstresses Monique Barrett and Sorcha Cribben-Merrill stopped by!

Girls Night

Thanks for taking this, Sarah! I’m rarely in concert pictures!

Sarah, Megan, and I were in the first row of low folding chairs, which is the first section back from the standing general admission area. Thompson’s Point is absolutely gorgeous, and if you’re someone who likes the feel of a festival, it’s going to be right up your alley. They have a handful of delicious food trucks, a fully stocked beer tent, and are in a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.

 

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I found this information very helpful!

Brandi opened with “Again Today,” and it was great to hear one of her “older” songs. I love “The Eye” and “That Wasn’t Me,” and was so glad to hear both. Brandi invited an adorable kiddo named Isabelle from the crowd up on stage to sing “Keep Your Heart Young” with her and it was precious. I’m so glad someone got it on video. It’ll make your day to watch. Ruby Amanfu opened the show, but I missed all but her very last song. I hate to miss an opening act, too, but I did this concert experience totally unlike the norm. I was glad when she joined Brandi for “Shadow on the Wall.”

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Courtesy of @statetheatreportland on Instagram

Brandi and the Twins

Brandi Carlile, the Hanseroth twins, and the band

BrandiBrandi introduced a new song about the “beauty and terror of being a mother” aptly titled “Mother.” I love that Brandi is open and shares her life with her fans. She reaches out and offers herself to the audience and it’s impossible not to feel that positive energy at her shows. They ended their set with a powerful, beautifully orchestrated “Pride and Joy,” and came back to play a two song encore—Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (which gave me chills) and Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.”

Brandi Carlile and the twins have soul and sincerity in spades, and getting the opportunity to see them live is a treat. Sarah dropped me off back on campus, and I rejoined my 15th college reunion and stayed up until last call dancing to Boston’s phenomenal Soul City. Quite a little Saturday! Thanks, Brandi, Tim, and Phil! Y’all rock!

xo,

bree

PS—I found a driver’s license on my walk to Thompson’s Point, and mailed it to Jamie on Monday morning with my card. She emailed me a very sweet note, which included “It’s cliché I know, but I am so thankful that there are people in the world like you.” #goodconcertkarma

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Penny and Sparrow with Rose Cousins

Sunday, April 24, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I sold my house! I moved ten years of my possessions to my new place, which is half the size of my beloved old place! I also threw a senior prom for almost 250, senior awards night, graduation for almost 180, and went on the Project Graduation trip with my seniors. Now I’m feeling settled in my new place and am SO READY to get back to more live music in my life. I don’t know about you, but times are heavy and music helps me through. I offer you “Rise Up” from Andra Day at Austin City Limits, just in case you need a boost right this minute.

I have pondered what to write about the incredible Penny and Sparrow show I saw back in late April at One Longfellow Square for a long while. It was incredible and one of the BEST SHOWS I HAVE EVER SEEN. That’s a little hard to process, just like the show still is. I wish I could relive every moment. I am so glad my steadfast concert companion Colin joined me, because I needed backup. This show was intense. Overwhelming. Wonderful. It hit me so hard in the feels that I needed a tissue.

I’d been lucky to see Canada’s talented Rose Cousins back in March in my former sweet little town of Gardiner, Maine at Johnson Hall. She is hilarious and gritty and open live and is a true entertainer. Juxtaposed with her beautiful, depressing songs, it’s a lot to see her perform. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster between the sad songs and her sharp banter and storytelling. It prepared me really well for this night, though.

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Rose Cousins

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Rose Cousins took the stage and gushed about Austin’s Penny and Sparrow. She told us they’d met in January at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival and that “these men have more feelings than me.” And listening to them is like “wearing your favorite hoodie right out of the dryer.” She joked that it was nice to be touring with people who just play sad music “so I don’t have to explain myself.” Rose opened with a cover of Lori McKenna’s “Shake” (I haven’t seen Lori in ages, but her songs are so good) and “Go First,” which was featured in the finale of season 9 of Grey’s Anatomy (but not in the kind of scene Rose envisioned for her song).

We all sang along with Rose’s cover of “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” and Rose told quippy stories in between these somber songs, including “Farmer’s Wife,” which she told us was inspired by her sister, who is (in fact) a farmer’s wife. Rose told us about her trip to Ireland last May to write and record a forthcoming album, which I am eager to hear. Rose wrapped her set with “Heart Be With Me Now,” “I Make Way For Love,” and “Tender is the Man,” all of which I assume/hope will be on her new album. She left the stage by telling us that there are “no tenderer men” than Andy and Kyle of Penny and Sparrow.

Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke took the stage and warmed the crowd immediately with light humor about our “summer” weather in Maine that had them both wearing double coats. Then, Kyle quietly strummed his guitar, Andy put his hands in his pockets and leaned toward the microphone, and “Gold” sprung from their mouths. It was one of those rare moments at a show when you start to get sad because you realize the night will end. I felt like that from the first note.

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Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke are Penny and Sparrow

I was not the only one entranced by Penny and Sparrow. Their sparse, evocative songs—Andy’s straightforward voice and Kyle’s gentle strumming and harmonies—are stunning. Kyle read our group response beautifully and told us our “give a damn” meter was high and it was a huge compliment to them and thanked us for listening. I laughed out loud in between songs at Kyle’s jokes, and then teared up during the songs. It was a lot to take in. Kyle told us that he gets it’s “taxing” (that’s the word he used) to listen to their music and genuinely appreciated we were along for the ride. He said it’s good to “shake your emotional snow globe” from time to time so that you don’t harden and can process your feelings. No kidding.

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Penny and Sparrow hit me in the feels with “Finery” and “Catalogue,” did a complete turnaround to sing a few lighthearted bars of “Hero” by Nickelback, and then got right back to it with Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.” Seeing them live is a ride I would have lined up for again immediately after the show. I wish I could relive the magic of this night. I wish you were all there, too.

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Kyle gave us a lengthy scenario about running into an ex at a dinner party to introduce “Bed Down.” He talked about a kind of love where you are intimately aware of the struggles but don’t leave—a love with “no escape hatch.” I’d seen NPR Music feature “Bed Down” as a “Song We Love” back in February, and that’s when I learned that my beloved John Paul White (formerly of The Civil Wars) produced their album. I got to see John Paul again a few weeks ago from the front row at Cafe 939 in Boston and he is so incredibly down to earth and talented. What a pairing for Penny and Sparrow’s third studio album.

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Rose Cousins joined Andy and Kyle for “Duet.” Andy introduced the song by saying there just weren’t enough songs about married love, so they wrote one. He said it’s about being together for a long time and still being into each other. The lyrics show resolve “Because I’ve seen you/And I know you/And I’m not going anywhere.”

This was a perfect night of music and easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I wish I could do it again. Thank you, Rose, Andy, and Kyle for a cathartic night of music, storytelling, and laughter. I am in awe of all of you. You shook my emotional snow globe, and I feel better for it. Please come back to Maine again. Come together, too, if you can.

xo,

bree

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