Saturday, July 30, 2016
L.L.Bean, Freeport, Maine
I’ve been hard on Grace Potter and on the L.L.Bean Summer Concert Series in the past. On this night, though, I gave them both a chance, and they were amazing. It was great to be wrong. Grace Potter is a rock star, through and through. I saw her live from the front at the State Theatre in Portland back in 2012, and although she sounded great, I found her sensual dance moves distracting. I was positioned basically right underneath her at that show, though, so having a little physical distance and fast forwarding four years, I just saw a tremendous talent.
I have loathed the L.L.Bean Summer Concert Series for ages. I think L.L.Bean needs to build a large amphitheatre outside of town with ample parking facilities. The knoll where shows are located between their stores is wholly inadequate for the caliber of shows they bring to town. I continue to be flummoxed by their policy allowing people to put up chairs for the show at 6AM the day of shows, as well. Back in 2010, I went with my friends Tricia and Rebecca to see Joshua Radin at L.L.Bean, and we got there (they’d driven up from Boston, in fact) at 1PM, picnic packed, ready to hang out on the lawn for the day and save a spot up close to see the show. When we arrived, though, we couldn’t get any closer than 25 rows from the stage, and we were the only people there for hours. People will often remind me that these shows are FREE, and that’s why I’d rather pay good money to get to venue early to get a great spot up front. I have only seen two L.L.Bean shows in five or so years. My friend Andrea insisted I give it another try, so she set up seats for Guster at 6AM the day of the show, and even then, I was so far from the stage (the stage barricade is quite far from the stage–am I right?) that I could barely see their faces on stage. This Grace Potter show was the other exception to my firm L.L.Bean ban. My friend Grace declared she needed a girls night and wanted to go, and then I heard that Grace Potter herself had insisted it be a dance party, so people couldn’t set up seats in the front at all. It was worth a shot, and it paid off beautifully. I think a lot of regular L.L.Bean show goers skipped the show because they couldn’t set up chairs. I would definitely go to more shows if this were the policy. We arrived around and were six rows back. People sat on the lawn until about an hour before the show and a staff member got on the mic to welcome us and tell us it was time to stand up. People spread out, and we were easily able to move right up to second row center.
We stood next to a sweet seven year old girl, who was a huge Grace Potter fan and seeing her first-ever concert. If you saw Grace come down to the crowd and give a guitar pick away, it was to this little girl. Grace totally won me over with that classy move. Her voice was raspy and strong, her banter upbeat, and her energy well beyond what most people could give from start to finish. She brought her dad Sparky on stage to dance (Grace didn’t inherit her dance moves from him) with her, and was an absolute delight. The crowd danced and sang along happily, and we had a blast.
I was very surprised that we had negative interactions with four pushy, loud people all trying to get to the front, especially because they were all people in their sixties. It’s just not what I expected. The seven year old girl’s mom played concert security guard for our whole area, though, and was able to convince three out of four folks to do the right thing and not push their way ahead of us. Overall, it let me just relax and enjoy the show, which I was grateful for, but this is worth noting. If you stake out a spot at a concert, it’s yours. If you arrive later and push your way to the front, that’s never okay.
Grace designed the colorful dress (I’d call it a shirt, but I don’t have her legs) she was wearing, and it coordinated beautifully with an incredible sunset behind her. She invited us to think about our loved ones who have passed on before playing “Stars,” and wrapped her set with high octane crowd pleasers “Medicine” and “Paris (Ooh La La).” Grace went for it and really blew us all away. She’s playing in her home state of Vermont this weekend at the Grand Point North Festival in Burlington if you need another fix. She rocks.