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Racer X

Friday, July 14, 2017

Casco Bay Lines, Portland, Maine

Racer X is my favorite 80s cover band. They earned a huge following playing annually at Homecoming and Reunion at Bowdoin College for many years. Now that the band is all grown up with partners and children, they (sadly) only play once a year–on a booze cruise in Casco Bay. I’d never gone on a cruise to see them, but I sure am glad I made it this year. What fun it was to see them play again, hear the songs that defined my childhood, and spend the evening with WAKA kickball friends from way back in the day. Vin and Aaron (guitar/lead vocals and keys) are Bowdoin College professors in the daytime, but they really know how to get down! I was also truly honored to have George Michael’s “Faith” dedicated to me (a Seminary degree gets you that, when you’re friends with the band!). Until next year! Check out Casco Bay Lines’ music cruise schedule! It was  a super fun night!

xo,

bree

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Scars on 45

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I finally got to see Scars on 45 live, and they were a delight. They sang beautifully, were warm and chatty with the crowd, explained the backstory of a few of their songs, and generally have great band chemistry. I am so glad I finally had the opportunity to see them, and I appreciate that 98.9 WCLZ brought them to Portland to do a free show for their listeners at intimate One Longfellow Square. Scars on 45 (Danny, Aimee, Nova, and Nate) are highly listenable, and I bet you’ve already heard some of their songs on the radio. Here’s a session they recorded recently at Paste Magazine’s studios.

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The rest of this post is a laundry list of sadness about poor concert etiquette. If you could use a brush up on how to be respectful during a concert experience, keep reading. If not, just check out England’s lovely Scars on 45 and call it a day.

This night was full of concert etiquette faux pas, which frustrated my concert experience a lot. Why didn’t I move, you ask? People ask me that sometimes. The better question (I think) is, why aren’t people more considerate at shows? I got to One Longfellow Square when the doors opened to get a front row spot. I am visually impaired, and I like to be close to the stage so I can see the band well. If I had moved, I would have had to give up my proximity to the stage or block someone else’s view who’d also arrived early. That’s just not fair. Also, the venue is so small that these annoyances could be experienced by plenty of people in the room.

I’d had a busy day, and I went out of my way to get to this show, both by driving all the way to South Portland to 98.9 WCLZ’s studio solely to pick up the tickets and by leaving a season reveal event at Johnson Hall in Gardiner early to get to Portland in time for doors. I was especially bummed that I ended up between three people who were not considerate of other audience members during the show.

Here are three things I witnessed that I think you should NOT do at an intimate concert:

1. Sing along. It is not your concert. Your name is not on the ticket stub. We came to hear the band sing these songs we like and that have meaning to us in person. (ESPECIALLY do not sing EVERY word to EVERY song SO LOUDLY that people hear you INSTEAD of the band). EXCEPTION–Of course you can sing along when the band invites you to. But that’s it. If you have to sing along, sing quietly. For serious. Besides pushing people aside and trying to steal their earned spots at shows, this is my biggest concert pet peeve. The girl to my immediate left sang over the band all night while standing directly underneath them. It drove me NUTS.

2. Clap. (ESPECIALLY during slow songs and definitely not during covers of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” which does not lend itself to clapping at all, Man Standing Immediately Behind Me).

3. Make awkward conversation with the band while they’re on stage. Don’t heckle the band to get their attention either. This note is mostly for people who need to feel like they’re having a special, one-on-one moment with the band. You don’t impress us by interrupting the band to talk at them. Talk to the band after the show.

My friend Andrea likes pop music and sees a lot of bands that have younger fans that love to sing along and take video all night long. She is used to all of the aforementioned concert behaviors and is truly not bothered by any of them. In fact, she said “they’re just feeling the music.” I wish I was able to see things in that kind light!

I ended up at a free show of a band I really like at a venue I really like with three girlfriends I really like. And I was annoyed so much for so much of the night that I missed out on the joy of the night. The rest of my friends didn’t miss out on the joy, and I’m glad for them. I am always impressed by how a single person can have such a negative impact on a show, and how rarely they even seem to notice. Maybe it’s the teacher in me that just wants to correct the behavior for the greater good. I am so open to reading your suggestions about how to deal or just to commiserate about bad concert etiquette you’ve experienced. Let’s be politer at shows, folks!

xo,

(Whiny–I know) bree

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Look at my lovely lady friends!

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U2 with The Lumineers

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts

Seeing U2 live is always an experience. My friend Kim is a superfan, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a U2 show without her. She organized a tailgate and we got to Gillette early to meet up with some other fans and beat the traffic. We got to hear soundcheck from the parking lot, too, and fans were pumped. My friends Aimsel and Colin did the GA thing, and we stopped by to say hello to them, as well. Kim and I did GA back in 2011 in Montreal, and well it was well worth it to be a few rows from the stage. However, it makes for an exhausting experience, especially standing outside for all of those hours in the middle of the day in the summer. Turns out, I was jealous later when I saw their pictures, so I’ll have to reconsider my position on GA next time U2 tours. You can check out Aimsel’s show recap and pictures from the GA section here.

The Lumineers are excellent live, and I was really excited that they were opening the show. I saw them last summer at Thompson’s Point in Portland, and they put on a fantastic show. I loved hearing “Ophelia,” “Ho Hey,” and “Stubborn Love” again in person. I bet they had a blast playing for such a massive crowd, too.

U2 took the stage and brought their A game. They opened with a mini set of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “New Year’s Day,” “Bad,” and “Pride” before playing their entire 1987 Joshua Tree album from start to finish. It was incredible to hear The Joshua Tree all the way through. Those songs are the soundtrack to so many lives, and it’s hard to believe the album came out 30 years ago. I feel lucky I got to be there. Also, “Where The Streets Have No Name” is definitely my favorite live U2 song, and it was exhilarating to enjoy it with 60,000+ other fans.

U2 always creates a phenomenal concert experience, and this night was no different. Their stage design was incredible, with the extension stage in the shape of a joshua tree. They projected stunning videos all night on a 200-foot long 45-foot-high LED screen. Also, it always feels a bit like worshipping at the Church of Bono, as I like to call it, and it’s always interesting to hear what global issues Bono will talk about. He dedicated “One Tree Hill” to Boston Marathon Bombing victim Martin Richard and told us that his family was in the audience. He said “there is no end to grief, and that’s how we know there’s no end to love.” He gave a shout out to John Kerry for his early support of HIV/AIDS research and told us that millions of people are now living long lives despite HIV/AIDS. They did a whole video montage about great women and promoted women’s equality. Finally, during “Miss Sarajevo,” we watched a video of of young woman in Syria who dreamed of making it to America someday and passed an enormous sheet with her face on it around the stadium. Bono sure knows how to use his platform to stir up emotion and affect change.

They turned up the energy for “Beautiful Day,” “Elevation,” and “Vertigo,” and closed the night with “One.” Since Boston is their favorite American city, they also treated us to “The Little Things That Give You Away,” from their forthcoming album, Songs of Experience. It’s always a treat to see U2 live. They’re nothing quite like singing along with 60,000+ other fans and worshipping at the Church of Bono.

xo,

bree

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Johnnyswim

Friday, June 23, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

Once in a great while, a night is absolutely perfect.

I LOVE Johnnyswim, who are husband and wife duo Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano. They are beautiful together. I put off writing this show review because I was busy listening to all of their recorded music on repeat. By putting it to “paper” (as it were), it means the experience is over, too, which is a little sad. I wish we could do it over again.

Their show was on my last day of school and I was THRILLED. It was a tough teaching year. I grabbed celebratory drinks with my friends Jan and Fiona and then scooted down to Portland to get up close for my first ever Johnnyswim show. They were scheduled to come in March and play at Port City Music Hall, but due to scheduling issues, they postponed the show and moved it to the State Theatre. I think the State might have been at half capacity, which was a delight. The pressure of having to stake out a spot and never move from it for fear of losing it was gone. It was so, so nice to have an easy concert experience. I ended up in the front row with a small group of Johnnyswim superfans–two married couples–who were close friends but lived states apart. They’d come up from Connecticut and Massachusetts to enjoy kid-free weekends. They were psyched. It was adorable. We mingled and then met another couple who were visiting overnight from New Hampshire and were also excited to be kid-free for the night. If we’d just had someone from Vermont, we would have represented all of New England. They partied hard, and were a riot to take in a show with. It was great for me as a mostly solo show goer, too, because I felt like I was with a gaggle of good friends.

Johnnyswim’s guitarist (whose name I didn’t catch, but who goes solo by the name Sunbears) took the stage and played a handful of songs. He was warm and chatted a bit with the audience. Abner and Amanda joined him on stage for their set, but there was no other band. Since I was with superfans, I learned that there is often a touring band that includes a drummer. I prefer acoustic music, so I was thrilled to have a more intimate concert experience.

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Sunbears played a brief opening set

I love that Abner and Amanda have an obvious adoration for one another. It was a delight to watch them throughout the night. They were also incredibly warm and interactive with the audience, which is what a concert experience should definitely be. They went as far as climbing over the edge of the stage a few times to shake hands with the folks in the front row, borrowing an audience member’s cell phone to take a video for them, and playing a song unplugged from the middle of the room while we provided spotlights with our phones. Abner also offered a lovely toast to the crowd, observing that “the force that binds us together is much stronger than all the forces that try to tear us apart.” These are the moments that turn a concert into a concert experience.

img_2928img_2954img_3014img_2989img_2993img_2996Beyond their impeccable showmanship, Johnnyswim are talented musicians and beautiful songwriters. Take “Rescue You,” for example. They sing, “My love can’t rescue you/Can’t make your mountains move/Won’t make your desert bloom/The way you want it to/My love can’t heal the scars/You carved on your own heart.” In “Drunks,” I wanna learn what David played/When he found himself alone/Let it ring, let it ring/On every street and stage/Till the loneliest feel known.” These are songs that will do your heart good.

img_3009img_2947img_2983“Live While We’re Young” and “Diamonds,” are anthemic and will also help fix what ails you. I loved hearing them in person. “First Try,” “Georgica Pond,” and “Take The World” are all tender, heartfelt songs that will hit you squarely in the feels. I can’t pick a favorite song, but there’s a short list. I also laughed a lot during the night, especially when they sampled R. Kelly’s “Ignition” adjacent to their cover of “On the Road Again” during their encore. Seeing them live was a ride and I felt all the feelings. It was bliss. Thank you so much for coming to Maine, Johnnyswim. Come back soon!

xo,

bree

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City and Colour with Noah Gundersen

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This is one of those times when the opening act stole the show. This is why I get to shows early.

I left wine time with the ladies early to zip down to Portland for this show. I l-o-v-e City and Colour and really wanted to get to State Theatre around the time doors opened to get a spot up front. The first time I saw Canada’s City and Colour was back in 2011 at House of Blues Boston, and I was sadly a solid ten rows back. I was front row center for Dallas Green at the Newport Folk Festival in 2012. I’d hoped for a repeat of that beautiful night. He’d been chatty at that solo show, and told us a lot of the stories behind his songs. It was a real treat. Turns out, this night easily ended up being my least favorite City and Colour experience yet. I’m always honest about how I feel about shows, but it pains me a bit to be critical about this one.

I circled for ages looking for parking, and only made it inside 20 minutes before the show. Colin really likes Seattle’s Noah Gundersen, but he was hiking in Wales, so I went to the show solo. I grabbed a great spot to the side of the barricade in the front row to enjoy his set. Noah stole the show. He interacted warmly with the crowd, which I always really appreciate, but his songs rang out with such power and urgency. I was stunned. It was an absolute pleasure to see him live and I can’t wait to see him as a headliner. “Selfish Art,” “Day Is Gone,” and “Ledges” stuck out to me in person. His cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was better than the original, too. Bravo, Noah Gundersen.

City and Colour took the stage and played probably 15 songs and a three-song encore. Dallas said a total of six (it might have been five) short sentences the whole night. I was a little bored and very disappointed. If a band doesn’t interact with the crowd at all, it’s a bummer. I could have had exactly the same concert experience if I’d stayed home and watched a live show on YouTube. It was phoned in and fell very flat. I am still a little bummed about it, actually, especially because I’ve seen much better from Dallas Green. In fact, you can still listen to his set from the Newport Folk Festival online, so you can hear for yourself. I was happy to hear “The Girl,” “Body in a Box,” and “Comin’ Home” live, but I might skip the next City and Colour show. Please, let this just have been an off night.

xo,

b

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Buffalo Tom

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

For many years, I spent Memorial Day weekend with my best friend in NYC. She’s moved to the suburbs in New Jersey and has a family now, so our annual MDW tradition has ended. This year, I looked forward to some downtime at home instead of a big weekend away. I went to Bowdoin’s Commencement and marched in the alumni parade, visited the farmers’ market, and ventured down to Portland to meet up with Bob for an early dinner at Empire. He insisted we meet at 5:30 for dinner, because he was confident there would be a line at Port City Music Hall for the Buffalo Tom show and wanted to be there by 7–when doors opened. I told him his worries were unnecessary, but there was a short line of fans outside when we arrived at 6:50. Bob loved it. We were front and center for a solid 40 minutes before really anyone else arrived for the show, though (Bob won the battle, but I won the war on our bet).

Times Square. Memorial Day weekend 2010

Bob vouched for Buffalo Tom, has seen them a lot live, and promised they’d be “smart and funny” in person, so I decided to join him for the show. Probably like many other women in their 30s, Buffalo Tom came onto my radar back in 1994, when I was a freshman in high school and watched My So-Called Life religiously. There’s an entire episode that revolves around Angela and Rayanne acquiring fake IDs to sneak into a club to see Buffalo Tom play because Angela’s love interest, Jordan Catalano, was going to be there. Buffalo Tom performed in the club in the episode, and surely expanded their listening audience to include lots more teenage girls than just me. I bought Buffalo Tom’s 1993 album, Big Red Letter Day, after the episode aired, and listened to “Late At Night” on repeat.

Buffalo Tom formed in 1986 when guitarist Bill Janovitz, bassist Chris Colburn, and drummer Tom Maginnis attended U Mass Amherst, and they are currently touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their 1992 album, Let Me Come Over. They don’t have an opening act, play a full set of a mix of their songs, and then play the entire album after an intermission. Since I’ve never heard that album and didn’t fall in love with them live, I didn’t feel bad about leaving after the first set.

They played all of my favorites from Big Red Letter Day–“Late At Night,” “Sodajerk,” “I’m Allowed,” and “Tree House” right at the beginning of their first set. I was happy to hear these songs that reminded me of a formative time in my life in person from the front row. Bill Janovitz chatted with the crowd a bit, mostly to make fun of his own age and say how their fans must already be tired like them from all the standing, but he also had some adorable rock guitar antics. They played an impressive total of 27 songs that night, including a quick bit of “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers as a tribute to Greg Allman, who’d passed away earlier in the day.

I’m a little behind in blogging because my last remaining elderly kitty (sweet Yeltsin) passed away recently, but Bob texted me this today, fully knowing that I didn’t love Buffalo Tom live:

RIP, Yeltsin kitty

“Buffalo Tom is playing Royale on September 10! I’ll pick you up at NOON. There will be a line!”

xo,

bree

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All Roads Music Festival

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Belfast, Maine

My best friend’s parents live on the ocean in picturesque Bayside, Maine, which is a tiny village on the ocean right next to Belfast. It’s my favorite place anywhere. When I saw that my beloved Ballroom Thieves were playing the All Roads Music Festival in Belfast, I decided to go. I made it to Bayside with time to enjoy a leisurely lunch and long walk with Beverly and Patrick the pup, and then I made my way over to the Colonial Theatre to see the Festival’s “Legacy” Artist–Maine folk legend David Mallett. Dave played probably eight songs, mostly requests, and took questions from the audience. I asked him if playing “Fire,” a song about a personal tragedy, makes him sad every time he plays it. He said it does if he thinks about his parents, and then he played “Fire” for me, which was a treat. My first concert ever was David Mallett back in 1982 in Harrington, Maine. I was two years old.

Love this photo I snapped before Dave Mallett’s set!

Maine’s own David Mallett with bassist Michael Burd

I found these when I sold my house last year. I know his name is spelled incorrectly, but I was only two years old! Someone else really should have caught that!

I stopped by to visit my friends Sierra and Rob, their kids, and their new baby chicks (!) at their house in Belfast for a bit and made it back to the Colonial to see a new favorite band of mine, Hannah Daman and the Martell Sisters, who are from Portland. I saw them open for Kaleo back in September of 2016, and they opened for Jamestown Revival a couple of weeks earlier on my birthday. They were really excellent that night, too, which I told a very gracious Hannah when I ran into her in the bathroom before their set. They sounded great the third time, too. Hannah and the Martelle Sisters will play the 98.9 WCLZ stage at the Old Port Festival this weekend, and you should really go check them out (I’ll be on Mt. Ararat’s Project Graduation trip, so have to miss it).

I grabbed a delicious dinner at Belfast’s new food truck turned brick and mortar restaurant, Neighborhood. I had to make some tough decisions about how to juggle a handful of shows I was interested in, so I snuck in a few minutes of Chris Ross and the North’s set at Colonial and then went over to the American Legion Hall for the rest of the night. I missed Spose’s high octane set (I’ve somehow never seen him live before), and the crowd was buzzing when I arrived. I ran into a slew of people I know when I got there, which was a lovely surprise, and I spent nearly the entire Mallett Brothers Band set catching up with the fabulous Jay Brown outside. Jay was a favorite student when I was student teaching in his eighth grade social studies classroom, back when he had frosted blonde hair and wore fleece vests. He is a creative force in Maine, having filmed, directed, and produced a plethora of music and promotional videos. His newest project is The Rove Lab. Jay’s been the best forever, and I love that he’s made a name for himself. He introduced me to a bunch of people in the backstage area, and it was great to catch up with him. I also loved seeing musicians catching up back there, too. It was abundantly clear that these bands are friends and relished the opportunity to hang out and see each other play live for a change. I did catch a couple of the Mallett Brothers Band’s songs and their dad joined them on stage for one of them. The audience ate them up. They’re a blast live.

Loved catching up with Jay Brown and his friend Ant. I’m also sporting my Maine Youth Rock Orchestra t shirt! Love MYRO! Thanks for these pictures, Jeff Kirlin!

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The Mallett Brothers Band joined by Dave Mallett

The Ballroom Thieves were the last band of the night, and the tech company struggled to get their sound up and running. There was a really short scheduled turnaround period between bands already, and there was loading in and out to get done in maybe just a 30 minute window. The soundcheck seemed frustrating for all involved, and the Thieves started their set 15 minutes late, which meant they could only play for 45 minutes because of Belfast’s noise ordinance, I assume. I took in the show from the front row with Thieves fans, Erin and Darcie, who both teach at Westbrook High School. We met at a Thieves show a couple of years ago and I like knowing I’ll see them whenever I see the Thieves live. The Thieves basically cut the banter out and played a set of their most upbeat songs. They played hard and the crowd surely enjoyed them, although they didn’t get the full Thieves experience, because they’re actually very engaging when not so rushed. I skipped the after party to get a good night’s sleep and woke up on the ocean in Bayside, which was exactly where I wanted to be.

Major Thieves fans right here!

All Roads Music Festival was great overall. I usually pass on music festivals, but this one was chill and well organized. I was impressed.

xo,

bree

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