Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Paper Kites with Larkin Poe

Friday, July 29, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I was so grateful for this concert experience. I received a very nice email from Larkin Poe’s publicist a few days before the show inviting me to come, and I decided to rearrange my schedule to attend. I am so glad I did. Larkin Poe had just played the Newport Folk Festival, and anyone who is invited to play there is definitely worth checking out. The Paper Kites have been popping up on my Spotify “Discover Weekly” playlists for a long while now, and I particularly like their song “Bloom.” I went to my first Muay Thai boxing class at my gym, and then showered and motored down to Portland to Port City Music Hall. After attending a show the night before at the Maine State Pier (which is such a disappointing place to “see” a show), I was so glad to be on my way to a venue I love where I knew I’d get to be up close and actually see the bands.

Larkin Poe is Rebecca and Megan Lovell, sisters from Atlanta, Georgia. They’ve both toured in Elvis Costello’s band, and they’ve got chops. They took the stage with a powerful a cappella song, and I was sold. I got there early, so was front and center, and I was mesmerized. These sisters have tons of chemistry, and I liked their lyrics, rock sensibility, and effort to connect with the crowd. Rebecca told us that their band name comes from their great-great-great-grandfather, who was a cousin of Edgar Allen Poe. I don’t know their music well, but I remember “Tornado” stuck out. They played “Trouble In Mind” on Conan O’Brien back in April. You should definitely check them out live.


Rebecca and Megan Lovell are Larkin Poe


During the break, I chatted with a trio of women who’d flown up from New Orleans, partially to visit a friend from Maine, but surely to coincide with seeing Australia’s Paper Kites live. They were lovely to chat with, and the crowd that night was 18+ and quite respectful and nice to be around. It’s always great when people come to a show to actually see the show, and an 18+ show often means there are fewer drunkards who detract from the overall concert experience. The “kids” in the audience were clearly fans, and they sang every word of every song.

The Paper Kites‘ front man Sam Bentley was quite chatty with the crowd, and he told us the stories behind a handful of their songs, which is something I absolutely love. He joked that “I’d like to connect with you by telling you the story of another song,” which was charming and worked beautifully. I wish more artists would tell us about their songs. Sam told us the story behind “Paint.” He was in a long distance relationship when he was young and living at home, and wanted to make a grand gesture to his girlfriend by painting a love note to her in invisible ink he’d ordered online from China on his bedroom ceiling. It turned out to not be all that invisible. His parents were mad and he had to paint over it. They also broke up. He explained the song as “dealing with a life that didn’t quite happen.” This was the last night of the Paper Kites’ tour, and I’m so glad I got to spend it with them. This fantastic show was a completely welcome nice surprise. Pictures below!




The Paper Kites



All the way from New Orleans for this double thumbs up show!



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Joe Walsh with JD & The Straight Shot

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Maine State Pier, Portland, Maine

When I got a kind invitation from JD & The Straight Shot’s publicist to attend this show where they were opening for legendary Eagles’ guitarist Joe Walsh, I decided I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity. I had two reservations about this, though, because classic rock is not really my thing and I HATE the Maine State Pier. I think it’s easily the worst venue in Maine. I avoid shows there. My former sweetie said it well after we went to see Jonny Lang and The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band there last summer, “maybe if I had been closer to the stage it would have been more engaging, but standing room feels essentially like you are standing outside the venue looking in.” I completely agree. Going to “see” a show at the Pier is practically guaranteed to be a disappointment. When people ask me about seeing a show at the Pier, I tell them to skip it. If they absolutely love the artist, I recommend they go see them on another stop of the tour in New Hampshire or Massachusetts. If the Pier is a must, I suggest getting reserved seat tickets as close to the stage as you can afford (tickets are usually very expensive at the Pier, no matter where you end up, though), or get there before doors open and make sure you’re in the front row along the outside third of either the right or left side of the barricade that separates GA from the reserved seats. Even if you’re in the second row of GA, you’re probably not going to be able to see a thing, and certainly not the stage. If you’re in GA, you absolutely cannot see if you’re directly behind the soundboard tent, which spans about 30% of the width of the Pier.

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I held my phone up over my head to take this picture. So, if you’re about 6’5”, this could be your view from GA at the Maine State Pier. See that ant on stage in yellow? That’s Joe Walsh. What a view!

Also, I always feel a little on edge at the Pier. There are always folks there who are shirtless and smoking cigarettes while shouting obscenities and stumbling from too much alcohol. Oh! And this show happened to be the night the Pier rolled out their new “security policy,” where no purses were allowed unless they were wristlet sized OR you waited in line to buy a clear plastic tote bag printed with the “Waterfront Concerts” logo that then you could just place your entire purse (much bigger than wristlet size) in. What is the point? It was so stupid. I am all for increased security, but do thorough bag searches—don’t just make a security policy that someone can circumvent by buying a crappy plastic bag for $5. I hate this venue. “Seeing” shows there is the worst and that means that I go there as infrequently as possible.


Don’t you feel safer already?

I invited my friend Ian to join me, because he’d just finished taking the bar exam (no, I didn’t invite him to the Pier because I don’t like him), and we parked and got to the venue when I was told by their publicist the opening band was slated to start. I don’t know why, but JD & The Straight Shot took the stage early. By the time I got my press pass (see, I had to wait in the same line as the ladies looking to buy their “secure” $5 clear plastic bag), they were well into their set. I was there at the invitation of their publicist, so I wanted to be sure to get a nice photo of the band for them, but someone who worked for the Pier shooed me away and told me I’d missed the first three songs of their set, so I couldn’t take any pictures. I told him I’d been invited by the band and asked if I could just sit in an empty seat for one minute and take a handful of shots, but he flatly refused. I was frustrated. I emailed their publicist with the bad news and only ended up hearing a song or two. I thought the band was pretty talented, but their front man, Knicks owner James Dolan (JD), was odd. He wore a Mad Hatter hat and was awkward during his banter and then literally pulled a stuffed bunny out of it and threw it into the crowd. He reminded me of a creepy uncle that you try to avoid at Thanksgiving because everything he says and does makes people cringe. It definitely seemed like he just put some money into hiring a talented backup band so he could go on tour and be a rock star. I actually think the band could be good if they got a new lead singer, though.


JD & The Straight Shot


I was excited to see Joe Walsh. I watched an interview with him online, and I respect that he got clean after decades of heavy drug use. I was a little surprised to hear how great he sounded live. He’s still got it. I shot at the stage for one song before someone from the Walsh Toor (that’s what they’re calling it) let me know I needed to shoot from the sound booth. Since that is really far from the stage, I decided it wasn’t worth it, so I lingered at the side and ended up chatting with the only other photographer, who turned out to be Ben Moore from Active Beer Geek. Ian and I “watched” some of Joe’s set from general admission, but people around us were drunk and belligerent and you can’t actually see anything from GA, so we left early after hearing Joe do a cover of “Everyday People.” The backup singers were great, too!

FullSizeRender 13IMG_3859IMG_3830IMG_3862Ian and I grabbed a shared table on the deck next door at Flatbread, and enjoyed delicious cocktails (we were trying to salvage the night after an icky trip to the Pier, after all) while eavesdropping a little on the couple sitting at the other end of our table. They were definitely on a first date, and it seemed to be going really well. We thought the woman talked a little bit too much about weddings for a first date, but her date seemed into her overall and was quite attentive. We agreed they’d probably have a second date. We were far better able to hear the Joe Walsh show from Flatbread’s deck than the Pier, and heard “Take It to the Limit” (which he played in honor of his Eagles bandmate, Glenn Frey, who passed away early this year) and “Life in the Fast Lane.” We had a delicious dinner, and when a new couple sat down at the other end of our table, I jokingly asked them if they were also on their first date, and they told us they’d just gotten engaged! They were really sweet, and Ian and I were among the first to know! The second half of the night helped salvage the first, and we had fun, despite having tried and failed (again) to enjoy a show at the Maine State Pier.



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The Ballroom Thieves

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Snow Pond Center for the Arts, Sidney, Maine

I’d never been to Snow Pond Center for the Arts before, but a friend got married there, and when I saw the wedding photos afterwards, I knew I wanted to check out this beautiful amphitheatre in the woods. I love The Ballroom Thieves and have seen them live maybe ten times now. They are easily one of my top favorite bands, and I’ve said so very often and really hope they’re on your radar by now. Martin, Devin, and Callie are wonderfully talented musicians with lyrics and harmonies that hit you in the feels. I met my friend Andrea at the venue. She is a superfan by definition—gets to shows before doors open, connects with bands she loves over social media, and stays after shows to talk to bands—so we drove separately so she could do all of those things. We paid for tickets that included a delicious BBQ, which is the dinner the kids at New England Music Camp eat every night. I was over the moon when I ran into one of my incredible Mt. Ararat kiddos who was attending music camp. We got to catch up a bit and she told me later that she was really impressed with the Thieves and loved the show.

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The Ballroom Thieves took the stage and wowed the crowd. Andrea and I sat on a blanket front and center and soaked it in. It was pretty special to see the Thieves with birds singing their own songs in the trees nearby and enjoying the sky change colors over the amphitheatre. New England Music Camp musicians joined The Thieves on stage and accompanied them for a few songs (which they’d just learned that day), which rounded out the sound. I am really glad I made the trip to see one of my favorite bands in such a lovely spot! Check out “Here I Stand,” which is a favorite Thieves song of mine. Thanks, Thieves! When’s your new album debuting? I am so ready!

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I got a very nice email a couple of weeks later from Christine Durgin, the Director of Community Relations at Snow Pond Center for the Arts. She said it was great to meet me (she gave me such a warm welcome when I arrived) and reminded me I was invited to come back to take a tour. If you need to throw an event of any kind, I suspect these folks are fabulous to work with. Thanks, Christine! I’ll be back!



I feel like I’ve gone on and on about the Thieves for years, so I intentionally wrote a short post here. If you are someone who likes to know more, here are links to a few older show recaps:

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John Paul White with The Secret Sisters

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Red Room at Café 939, Boston, MA

My friend Mac first introduced me to The Civil Wars on a cold winter’s night in 2009. John Paul White and Joy Williams were captivating. Their April 2009 set at Eddie’s Attic was recorded and released online as a free download a couple of months later on The Civil Wars’ website. The pair had undeniable musical chemistry and their songs resonated with me. I made a friend at an Iron & Wine show in 2011 who invited me to join him for Adele at the House of Blues in Boston a month later. Those tickets were impossible to get, so I was thrilled. I squealed out loud when I found out that The Civil Wars had been added to the bill and that I was going to get to finally see them live. I stayed after the show and approached John Paul White at the merch table, which is something I rarely do. I was sure he is a genuine person who would be kind (doesn’t it ruin it for you when you meet an artist whose music you care about, and they’re not?), and he was a dear. I told him that I’d been hoping to see them for a couple of years, and that I was actually more excited to see them that night. He glanced at Joy and said “don’t you think that deserves a group hug?” And then they hugged me. It was very, very sweet, and a moment I still recall fondly. I was lucky to see The Civil Wars again a handful of months later at Berklee’s Performing Arts Center in Boston from the fourth or fifth row. They were spellbinding. Then they broke up.

I was thrilled when I saw that John Paul White was writing music and was planning a tour. He produced Penny and Sparrow’s beautiful album, Let a Lover Drown You, which I’ve listened to countless times. I bought my ticket to see JPW at The Red Room at Café 939 at Berklee College of Music in Boston the minute they went on sale. I would not pass up an opportunity to see him live in such an intimate setting. My friend Jan and I drove to Boston and grabbed an early dinner at Bukowski’s and lined up before doors opened so we could be front and center, and it paid off, because we were able to stand a foot or two away from such talented musicians all night.

I’d first seen Laura and Lydia Rogers, The Secret Sisters, open for my beloved Brandi Carlile (she and the Twins are producing their upcoming album, too) about six months after first seeing The Civil Wars back in November of 2011 at Berklee in Boston. I loved their vintage vibe, beautiful harmonies, and funny audience banter. I got to see them again a couple of years later with my concert friend Bob (who’d taken me to see Adele and The Civil Wars) when they opened for Iron & Wine at State Theatre in Portland, Maine. The Secret Sisters played a half dozen songs and told stories and entertained thoroughly. I particularly liked “Carry Me,” which was such a sweet song about being daddy’s girls and having a wonderful father. I also really wish I could find a video of “He’s Fine” to share with you because I loved it and would love to listen to it again. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next album! Here they are on Jay Leno playing “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” which is on The Hunger Games sountrack. Check out “Rattle My Bones” to get a sense of their more upbeat side. They’re great.


Lydia and Laura Rogers are The Secret Sisters


John Paul White and his band took the stage and he poured his heart out for us. He played fifteen songs for a captivated audience (I still can’t believe I got to see him play in such a small venue from the front row!). He talked a lot with us about feeling conflicted about the songs that started to pour out of him because he knew he’d want to share them with the world and touring meant he’d have to spend some time away from his family. He asked us to come talk to him after the show to give him feedback about what resonated with us and what didn’t. I can’t think of a time a musician wore his heart on his sleeve more at a show. It was humbling to witness someone who so desperately wants his music to connect with people. His voice was clear and haunting as ever, and The Secret Sisters joined him throughout his set and added beautiful harmonies that amplified the message.


Lydia Rogers of The Secret Sisters and John Paul White

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It was pretty incredible to stand right next to this man during his set!

John Paul shared with us a song about his grandparents. He said he appreciates music you can step inside and become the character in, but didn’t know how to feel about this particular song because “I loved my grandfather and thought he walked on water, but he did not. He had a lot of demons and my grandmother raised fourteen children by herself.” He played “No One Will Ever Love You,” which was featured on season one of Nashville. It’s easy to be a character in this song, John Paul—“Don’t you try to tell me someone’s waiting/They’re not waiting for you/Oh and don’t you try to tell me that you’re wanted/That you’re needed/Cause it’s not true.” Oh my heart. Check out “The Martyr” on NPR Music and “What’s So” at Rolling Stone. I am so eager to have my hands on John Paul White’s upcoming album, “Beulah,” which will be released August 19. Thanks for coming back into our world and putting yourself out there so honestly, John Paul. You’ve been missed.



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