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.
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.
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.
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!
Ian 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.