Monthly Archives: January 2019

Kacey Musgraves with Natalie Prass

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

Kacey Musgraves was just announced as an addition to the Newport Folk Festival lineup this summer. The Newport Festivals Foundation will be supporting her alma mater–Mineola High School in Texas–by purchasing new instruments for the band program there, too. Kacey said she grew up in a tiny Texas town at the show, and Google tells me that the population of Mineola was 4,515 in 2010, so she’s no liar.

I got to see Kacey Musgraves last week at State Theatre, and she was a delight. I went on faith–having only heard her song “Slow Burn,” but she’s received so many accolades for songwriting that I decided I needed to be there for what will surely be her first and only State Theatre show. The show was sold out because Kacey is already well-known in the country music world (I think? I wouldn’t know, really), but Sean and I both got half priced tickets on StubHub so we could be there.

Natalie Prass opened. She looked like Rainbow Brite in a pleather blue dress, and her band was all dress in blue, too. She told us she was from Richmond, Virginia, but has lived in Nashville for almost a decade and that she’d played the State Theatre twice before with other groups. I looked it up, and she’d been the keyboardist in Jenny Lewis’ band. Natalie worked the crowd and had spunk. I recognized “Short Court Style” from 98.9 WCLZ.

The break between acts was pretty long, and it was because Kacey’s staging was awesome. She took the stage dramatically by climbing up a staircase and suddenly appearing with a spotlight behind her while she opened with “Slow Burn.”The crowd went wild. Kacey is beautiful. She wore sequins. Her songs have heart and honesty and a spirit of inclusion. She kind of took me by surprise, because that’s not the vibe country music gives off. Kacey said as much when she introduced “Follow Your Arrow.” She said something like, “country music isn’t very inclusive, and I say ‘fuck that!’” She also thanked her band (who were dress all in maroon with turtlenecks and gold chains) and touring staff profusely for all of their hard work to “get the job done” and her fans for being there for her.

Kacey told us that Golden Hour, her 2018 album that won CMA’s Album of the Year, is all about falling in love with her husband, Ruston Kelly. WCLZ has also been playing his song, “Mockingbird,” and he’ll be opening for the incredible Patty Griffin at the Music Hall in Portsmouth on April 7. I already have my ticket, and am eager to see him live, too. “Butterflies” is certainly about their relationship.

The crowd sang “Merry Go ‘Round” together, and that and “Follow Your Arrow” were two of my favorites from the night. Both are from Kacey’s debut album, Same Trailer Different Park. I appreciate how she encourages people to be themselves and to ignore haters in “Follow Your Arrow,” singing–“If you can’t lose the weight/Then you’re just fat/But if you lose too much/Then you’re on crack/You’re damned if you do/And you’re damned if you don’t/So you might as well just do/Whatever you want.” That song was definitely a crowd favorite of the night, and Kacey ended her set with it right after a fabulous cover of “I Will Survive” that Natalie Prass sang with her.

Kacey played a three-song encore, starting with “Rainbow,” which is gorgeous song. The lights changed and the room lit up in rainbow colors while everyone sang along to these lyrics–”But you’re stuck out in the same old storm again/You hold tight to your umbrella, darlin’ I’m just tryin’ to tell ya’That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head.” Did I mention that this was an uplifting show? It really was. She closed her encore set with “High Horse,” which is a favorite of mine from Golden Hour.

Writing this almost two weeks later, I’d almost forgotten about the drunk girls who took selfies and talked through the whole show who stood (inevitably) right in front of me and Sean! OH! And one of then cried for a while (not about the touching songs) while her friends consoled her. Concert goers–chat with your friends and cry your eyes out if you want–but do it in the back of the room!

Kacey’s already too famous to be playing a venue as intimate as the State Theatre, so I’m pumped I got to be in the room for this one!

xo,

bree

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Lake Street Dive

Sunday, December 30, 2018

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I got a great tip early on in the career of Lake Street Dive that they were a band I’d want to see live. I saw them for the first time at One Longfellow Square back in December of 2011 and was blown away. They’d played Portland maybe once before then, but were still quite unknown. I think there were only 30 people in the teeny room that night, but I still remember being absolutely floored by Rachael Price’s voice. I started writing whatbreesees.com a month later and reviewed my second Lake Street Dive show late in 2012. The word of mouth had gotten around by then and they packed the house that night at OLS. To see Lake Street Dive live is to love them, surely, and seven years later, Lake Street Dive has earned much more of the attention they richly deserve. I’d listen to Rachael sing the phone book, if phone books were still a thing. One of the top Google searches that somehow sends people to whatbreesees.com continues to be “is Rachael Price married?” Y’all–I don’t know, but her songs make it sound like you’ve got a chance!

Dan (adorably) made a mix CD of some of his top favorite songs for me early on in our relationship. He knows how much music means to me, so totally charmed me, and Lake Street Dive’s “Good Kisser” appeared on it, too. I am sort of sad in a nostalgic way that I have to see Lake Street Dive at crowded, sold out, giant venues like Thompson’s Point these days, so I’ve kind of stopped seeing them live. Dan had never seen them live, though, so I got him a ticket as one of his Christmas presents. I even agreed to sit in the balcony with him, which is a serious rarity for me. He made me a delicious dinner, and we arrived at the State Theatre as show opener, Dustbowl Revival, took the stage.

Dustbowl Revival was spirited and had great stage presence, but their songs were too repetitive and surface level for my taste. I think they’d make an incredible wedding cover band, though, which is meant to be a compliment. They were very entertaining, but their songs didn’t pierce my soul at all, which is what makes music matter to me in a way that would make me a fan.

Lake Street Dive took the stage to an adoring, sold out crowd, and folks danced and sang their hearts out all night long. Rachael’s dance moves have reached a whole new level, Bridget killed on the upright bass, McDuck played all the instruments, Mike’s drum solo was insane, and Akie Bermiss on keys was outstanding. Akie joined the band in 2017 and has added texture and richness to their funky sound. His unexpected and straight up gorgeous cover of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” was a highlight of the whole night.

I was glad to hear all of the Lake Street Dive hits in person–“Call Off Your Dogs,” “Bad Self Portraits,” “Good Kisser,” and “You Go Down Smooth.” I was especially happy to hear Rachael gave some context for “Shame, Shame, Shame” (give me some back story at a show and I’m over the moon), saying “frustration of being powerless is real, but we also hope to put as much positivity as we can into the world with our songs. So we are expressing our frustration, but we are hoping to make some changes.” My favorite song of the night was “I Can Change,” which is the closest Lake Street Dive has to a ballad. Give me a slow, sad song for the win any day!

This deserves a special paragraph all it’s own. Lake Street Dive’s perfect cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was one the best things I’ve ever seen performed live! HOLY SH#T! What an incredible way to end a super fun night!

Dan and I chatted with Sean (who reviewed this show on Forest City Magazine) on the walk home and learned they’d played pretty much the same set list both nights, but their dazzling “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover encore was special to our show only (boom!). Something Dan especially appreciates about live music is when a band is saturated with a lineup of equally-matched, impressively talented musicians. Lake Street Dive is the epitome of talent and showmanship. What a delight to see them again live and a perfect end to my 2018 concert year, too!

xo,

bree

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Ellis Paul with Laurie MacAllister

Saturday, December 29, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was my 50th Ellis Paul show! I saw him for the first time at my alma mater, Bowdoin College, back in 2002. I actually had to pass on a few of his shows in Maine over the last year so I could see my 50th show in a venue I really like, and One Longfellow Square fit the bill perfectly. Ellis and his friends have been warming up for their annual Club Passim New Year’s Eve shows at OLS for a solid decade or more, and that festive year-end energy felt like the right time for a milestone 50th show. I’d had a vision that I’d get to sing a song on stage or at least get a shout out from Ellis, and even though neither of those dreams came true, this was the best Ellis has sounded in a couple of years, so my 50th show was still an understated success.

I arrived early at OLS because this show is usually sold out and grabbed an extra seat for Colin in the front row. Ellis’ girlfriend, Laurie MacAllister of Red Molly, opened the show with Red Molly’s bassist, Craig Akin, on upright bass. Laurie put out The Lies the Poets Tell earlier in the year–a record of cover songs about love–and she played a handful of songs from that album for us. She told us that she hadn’t been able to write a song in many years, but her friend and collaborator, David Glaser, who we’d seen play at this very show last year, passed away unexpectedly, and “Out of the Darkness”–a song for David–poured out of her. She covered “Vertigo” by Mark Erelli and Antje Duvekot and “Ten Year Night” by Lucy Kaplansky. Laurie has a pretty voice and is humble and a bit shy on stage. I’d love to hear her singing her own songs in the years ahead.

Laurie MacAllister

Ellis Paul took the stage with Radoslav Lorkovic, Craig, and Laurie, and they entertained a warm crowd with a variety of Ellis’ songs spanning many years. Laurie sang lead vocals on “Home,” which she also covers on The Lies the Poets Tell. Laurie is a great support for Ellis on stage. It’s clear that his voice has struggled to hit the higher notes of his older songs given his rigorous touring schedule, and Laurie is able to supplement his vocals nicely, though it does feel like more of a duet act than a solo singer-songwriter one these days. The quartet dazzled with three covers in their annual end-of-the-year cover songs portion of the setlist–David Glaser’s lovely “Concrete River,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Africa” by Toto. Ellis joked that Don Con nearly quit the band years earlier the first time they tried to cover Toto, but that they’d worked it out.

 

 

I think Rad was “Kicking Out the Lights” in this one!

The band took an intermission after playing ten songs, and I decided to say hi to Ellis in the lobby and let him know it was my 50th show. I really don’t like talking to musicians for the most part because I’m weary about being an annoying fan, but I did want him to know. I said hello and told him it was my 50th show and he very kindly pulled me in for a hug and said a genuine thank you for the ongoing support.

After the break, Ellis and the gang played seven more songs for us. Ellis showed us his beautiful guitar made by George Krakat with Ellis’ signature on the headstock. He charmed us with the story of his family in Aroostook County’s Washburn, Maine, and the incident at the 1979 family reunion that inspired “Five Alarm Fire on the Fourth of July.” He laughed while he told us that he hadn’t changed the names of any of the people in his family in the song, and that “every generation of my family since the Civil War has produced a potato farmer until now–because everyone knows the big money is in folk music.”

Ellis told us about his upcoming album, The Storyteller’s Suitcase, which is funded by supporters. On his website, Ellis writes–”The music will be a collection of stories I’ve gathered from around the country. The Storyteller’s Suitcase will be an autobiography of songs. It’s about love, heroes, and family across the decades of my life. In the past five years since my last album Chasing Beauty I’ve left a marriage, a business partnership, a booking agency. I’ve lost my voice and regained a new one. I’m looking at this project as a new start, after a few years of regrouping and healing.” He told us that the album comes out early in 2019, and I’m eager to listen, especially after hearing “Afterlife,” which is a song Ellis wrote about explaining the death of his father to his then 5-year-old daughter. It was incredibly touching, and I had tears in my eyes while he played it. He did make us laugh, too, when he told us that this had been the “first profound conversation” he’d ever had with his daughter, but that “she’s 14 now, so our conversations are more often profoundly awkward these days.”

I am always happy to hear Ellis play Mark Erelli’s beautiful and timeless “The Only Way.” They dedicated the last song of their set–“The World Ain’t Slowin Down”–to their friend David Glaser and we sang along. We asked for an encore and Ellis and the gang unplugged and sang “Annalee” from within the crowd on the floor. It was the best Ellis show I’d seen in awhile, and a nice one to mark 50 Ellis Paul shows with, too.

xo,

bree

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