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The Ballroom Thieves with The Suitcase Junket

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I love the Ballroom Thieves and have seen them live many times. They’re definitely one of my favorite bands. I was under the weather, but decided to go to this show anyhow, because my friend Marian saw them a few days earlier in Camden and said they’d been particularly “on” and extra fun and very chatty with the crowd. Colin saved me a spot up front because I rushed down to Port City Music Hall after being honored by one of my favorite senior boys on my school’s basketball team at Teacher Appreciation Night.

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Photo by Jeff Lamb Photography

I arrived just in time to see Matt Lorenz, touring solo as The Suitcase Junket, take the stage. I hadn’t seen Matt play for a few years (I saw him play with his band Rusty Belle at One Longfellow Square with Darlingside and Caitlin Canty back in 2013), and never as a solo act. He stole the show. His one-man-band is a powerhouse. Stomping on a kick drum, shaking a collection of shells, bones, and silverware, and playing a guitar he saved from a dumpster, Matt’s vintage sound, and his clear, lovely voice filled the room. He was charming and engaging with the obviously impressed crowd.

The Suitcase Junket is Matt Lorenz


The Ballroom Thieves took the stage after a quick break. They are super talented and sounded great, as always. They didn’t interact much with the crowd, which I missed, so this wasn’t their typical high energy show. My dear college friend, Ken Templeton, was in the crowd reviewing the show for Boston’s Red Line Roots, and I was a little worried that he wouldn’t love them like I do because they were so reserved, but he was quite impressed anyhow. Here’s Ken’s review.

Martin Earley

Callie Peters

The Ballroom Thieves

Devin Mauch and Callie

All of the guys from the Ghost of Paul Revere, Kevin Oates from Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, Connor Garvey, and Max García Conover were all in the house to support the band, and it was nice to witness the camaraderie and to catch up with all of them. Not the best Thieves’ show I’ve seen by far, but everyone is entitled to a mellow night here and there.

xo,

bree

 

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Blind Pilot with Dickie

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I grabbed my spot in the front row (where I like to be at Port City Music Hall) just after Dickie took the stage. Iowa’s Dickie was pretty good. I texted Colin that their lead singer, Dick Prall, reminded me of Hey Rosetta! (which is a compliment), but I didn’t love violinist Kristina Priceman’s sarcastic jokes directed towards Dick Prall. It detracted from the music for me. Maybe I’m drained from all of the negative energy in our world right now, but having one bandmate pick fun at another on stage was a big turn off. Too bad, because they can play (and they have a bass saxophonist, which is rad), and I bet they have a lot of fun together on the good nights. Check out their song “Pop Pop Pop.”

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Dickie

Blind Pilot took the stage after a very long break between sets. I hadn’t seen them live since I caught them from the front row at the Newport Folk Festival back in 2012, so I was very excited to see them in Portland, Maine. The six piece band plays so many instruments–upright bass, ukulele, trumpet, vibraphone, and one I had to Google, the mountain dulcimer. If you saw their stage set up before the six band members took the stage, you would expect a much bigger band.

Blind Pilot is from the “other Portland,” and we gave them a little bit of crap about that. Israel Nebeker has a silky smooth voice and when partnered with the harmonies of Kati Claborn and Luke Ydstie, they have a rich, upbeat sound. Blind Pilot played a solid 15 song set to a very happy crowd. “3 Rounds And A Song” is such a sweet love song, and I was glad to hear it in person. Right in the middle of the song, though, there was a loud gasp right behind me. A proposal! The crowd clapped and the band smiled. After the song ended, Luke made sure to get the couple’s names (Allie and Patrick) and wished them well. What a sweet moment to witness!

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The whole crowd sang along (including an adorable group of high school aged boys who were in the front row and knew all of the words) to Blind Pilot’s single “Packed Powder” from their most recent release, And Then Like Lions. The band came back for a two song encore, and ended the night with my favorite, “We Are The Tide,” which is a superb pick me up song. Blind Pilot is wonderful live, and I was so pleased to see them in my Portland.

xo,

bree

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Lucy Kaplansky

Saturday, December 11, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I was shocked to find out I’ve never blogged about the fabulous Lucy Kaplansky on whatbreesees.com. I first saw the New York City songstress open for my beloved Ellis Paul in 2007, and have had the pleasure of seeing her live a handful of times since then. Lucy’s music is autobiographical–she boldly shares her life through song. It’s a humbling experience to witness someone pour their heart out on stage like she does. To me, one of the best things an artist can do in person is interact warmly with the audience–and Lucy does this beautifully. I love hearing stories about her family’s new dog (Janie the beagle) or what her beloved daughter Molly is up to these days. (You can follow Lucy on Facebook for more about her day to day.) Lucy tells us the stories behind her songs and is incredibly open with her audience. Seeing her live makes me feel like I’m catching up with a good friend over a cup of tea. There’s something genuinely warm and honest about a Lucy Kaplansky concert experience. I chose this show to be my last of 2016, and it exceeded every expectation and closed out my concert year perfectly.

Lucy opened with “Bird on the Wire” by the recently departed Leonard Cohen. She was chilly and the fan directly above her was blowing, so someone from One Longfellow Square ran downstairs to grab her a long sleeved shirt while nearly every nearby audience member offered her a coat. It was cute. She played a new song that’s a work in progress about old friends and sang a birthday song for her daughter Molly who is shockingly already 14 years old! Lucy spoke so sweetly about Molly. She told us Molly is generous and kind and tough and won’t let anyone mess with her, and that “I’d like to be like her when I grow up.” Lucy played one of her most well known songs, “Ten Year Night,” and told us she and her husband were celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary. It was her last show of 2016, as well, and she gladly offered to play requests from the crowd.

Lucy told us about discovering Spotify and that her cover of Bryan Ferry’s More Than This” was on Spotify’s “Your Favorite Coffeehouse” playlist. It has been streamed (and she checks every morning) over 10.5 million times. She told us that she feels so lucky that people have listened to this recording that she’s really proud of. The reason she started playing the song was because she was doing an interview on the BBC in London and Bryan Ferry was listening and liked her voice and invited her to come sing with him on his Frantic album that very night. So, to commemorate the event, she learned a Bryan Ferry song to play at her gigs from then on.

Lucy also covered Paul McCartney’s “I’m Looking Through You.” Lucy showed us the mandolin that Duke Levine (who I saw back in March) gave her, and played a song on it for her dad called “Reunion.” Her dad, Irving Kaplansky, was a mathematician, a professor, and a musician, and Lucy played his “Song About Pi” for us, as well. She’s also recorded an album of his songs aptly titled Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky. She also played a song for her mom (who passed away six years ago) called “For Once In Your Life” shortly after.  

Lucy wrapped her set by playing all of the songs folks in the audience had requested, and she asked us to come say hello after the show. She told us that she’s always amazed at how nice people who come to her shows are and as someone who sees her shows, I agree. She played a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” which she played without rehearsal for the first time as a request at a show on the Jersey Shore. We sang along. It was a lovely way to close the show. The crowd asked for an encore, so Lucy gladly came back to the stage and played “Guinevere” for us. Seeing Lucy live feels intimate like a house concert, and she made One Longfellow Square feel like we were in her living room that night. Thanks, Lucy! See you next time! Happy 2017, All!

xo,

bree

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Carbon Leaf with The Accidentals

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

It’s always a pleasure to see Virginia’s Carbon Leaf live. I’ve been going to their shows in Maine since 2009, and they always bring positive energy and upbeat music. Lead singer Barry Privett told us that he’d done the math, and they’ve played Portland, Maine ten times. I left my fancy camera at home so I could dance, but here are posts from Carbon Leaf shows at Port City Music Hall in December of 2013 and November of 2014 that have longer recaps and far better pictures of the show.

I love Carbon Leaf shows because the crowd is always full of great people who sing along and have a great time. Being part of a great crowd means having a great time at the show, so this is truly an important point to mention. I met a couple who had driven up from Massachusetts for the show, and we danced and sang along from the front row while Carbon Leaf played a solid 20-song set, including songs you’ve definitely heard on 98.9 WCLZ, such as “Life Less Ordinary” and “What About Everything?” “The Boxer” takes on new meaning for me now that I’m training five days a week at a MMA gym. In fact, I met my teammates at our coach’s house after the show to watch the UFC fights until the wee hours.

“Let Your Troubles Roll By” is the Carbon Leaf song that means the most to me and inspires me to lift my head when things are hard. I always think of my friend Sarah, who I met at a Carbon Leaf show at Port City in 2009 and who suffered an aneurysm, but has really come a long way in her recovery. Carbon Leaf even sent her a get well soon card when she was in the hospital. They’re great musicians, but good people, too. That stuff matters to me.

Towards the end of the night, Barry asked to turn the house lights up. Since Veteran’s Day was the day before, Barry asked all of the veterans in the room to raise their hand for much deserved recognition and then dedicated and played “The War Was in Color” for them. It was a moving moment. I’m always glad to see you when you’re in town, Carbon Leaf! See you next fall!

xo,

bree

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Joan Osborne

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Chocolate Church, Bath, Maine

I’d been meaning to see Joan Osborne live for over twenty years. Her 1995 release, Relish, played on repeat when I was in high school. You probably know her most famous song “One of Us,” which I also love, but “St. Teresa” was my jam. Joan is currently touring as an acoustic duo with multi instrumentalist Keith Cotton. No opening act and close to home? You bet I made my way to Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath to see her live, and I’m glad I got to hear both of those songs in person, but otherwise, I thought the show was dull. I was also just about the only person who seemed to think so. I ran  into a handful of people I know during intermission and after the show who were wide eyed and smiling and all asked “can you believe how amazing she is?” I nodded politely. The couple sitting next to me didn’t come back after intermission, which I also sincerely contemplated, but she hadn’t played “One of Us” yet, and I knew she would.

Joan’s voice was incredibly vanilla in person. She sang a song she wrote for the stirring Sharon Jones (who has recently passed) and it was very kind and also dull. Joan sang a few Bob Dylan covers (she’d played a two-week stint covering Dylan songs at Café Carlyle in New York City before he was honored with a Nobel Prize), and I was glad I could understand the words (for a change), but the songs fell flat for me. I am glad I went, as my take is clearly in the minority (maybe it was an age-related thing? I was pretty young compared to the rest of the capacity crowd), but I’m all set with Joan shows forever. Still, you should always go see the people who have made the music that has made you when you are still able. I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t gone and checked it out for myself.

xo,

bree

 

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Mipso with Lula Wiles

Thursday, November 3, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I am usually disappointed when I see shows I want to go to are scheduled for Thursday nights, because it means I have to skip sparring and my women’s Brazilian jiu jitsu class (and my instructor is a beast and doesn’t like it when I’m absent), but I am mostly glad I made an exception for this show. I introduced my former advisee, Carmen, who is now a freshman at Bowdoin College, to Mipso, and she came to see them with me last time they were in town on Valentine’s Day. When Carmen told me she was planning to go and would save me a seat (which she fortunately was able to do), I decided to join her.

When I arrived at One Longfellow Square, I ran into Portland’s own Griffin Sherry of The Ghost of Paul Revere fame, and was able to catch up with him about their upcoming touring scheduled (which is plentiful). I found Carmen in the front row of what little seating existed, since the staff had pushed the seats to the side to create a dance floor (which the website did warn about, but I’d forgotten). OLS–please don’t do this limited seating thing. It’s awful. You’re a listening room, and that’s a wonderful thing. When you clear the room, you encourage people to stop listening. It has happened 100% of the time I’ve been to one of these “limited seating” shows. This night, there was a belligerent dude in a CrossFit t shirt who kept heckling the band and shouting over the music the whole show. I just don’t think people would be as inclined to act so inappropriately in a seated venue. He was super obnoxious. Also, the bands you’ve cleared the floor for (maybe at their request?) just aren’t bands you really can or would dance to, either.

Lula Wiles opened the show and they were delightful. Isa Burke and Ellie Buckland traded a fiddle and guitar back and forth and both sang their hearts out. I wouldn’t have known they were a trio if they hadn’t mentioned that their bass player Mali was missing that night. Isa’s little sister, Julianna, joined them on stage and sang Mali’s part for one song and was great, too. Check out “Losing Side.” Lula Wiles is the real deal, and I will definitely see them next time they’re in town.

Carmen and I traded raised eyebrows when our beloved Mipso took the stage with a drummer in tow. They’re a young bluegrass band from North Carolina with beautiful lyrics and harmonies, but the drums drowned them out and it changed the entire vibe for both of us. I theorized that they added a drummer because they play a lot in bars and could use the volume for those venues, but I was disappointed, whatever the reason. Their drummer (who is talented, just not necessary) left the stage about halfway through their set, much to our relief. It was nice to hear the Mipso we know and love and actually be able to hear the lyrics of the songs.

Lead singer Joseph Terrell (who has a stunningly clear voice) sang “When I’m Gone” for his grandmother, Eldora. I glanced over to the “dance floor” (where no one was dancing because this was not dance music) and saw my dear college friend, Ken Templeton, who was there to cover the show for Boston’s Red Line Roots (he didn’t take kindly to the drunk CrossFit guy, either). Since he’d never seen Mipso before, he wasn’t offended at all by the addition of a drummer like we were (which is to say, you will still like them if you’ve never heard them before). At the end of the night, Mipso invited Lula Wiles back to the stage and treated us to a great rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” It was a delight to catch up with Griffin, Carmen, and Ken, and I was relieved that the obnoxious drunk guy wasn’t wearing a MMA shirt. #represent

xo,

bree

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David Ramirez

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I saw David Ramirez for the first time a year and a half ago opening for Shakey Graves at the State Theatre in Portland. I was drawn to him immediately and enjoyed the sparseness of a man with a guitar juxtaposed with the urgency and passion he demonstrated with his powerful, rich voice. I sadly missed him a year ago at One Longfellow Square (I had tickets, but unfortunately didn’t make it to the show), so was eager to see him again. Colin went to that show a year ago and David played with a full band, which just isn’t really how I want to see him (or so I told myself, since I missed him). I was very excited to learn that I’d be seeing his 2016 Bootleg Tour–just David and a guitar–and each show would be recorded and audience members would get a link to a download of the show the next day. Right up my alley. Add that this was at teeny, intimate One Longfellow Square, and I was pumped.

I got to see my dear friend Fiona who was visiting from Minneapolis after school and then drove down to meet Colin at OLS. He snagged us great seats in the second row and we took in the living room scene assembled on stage–an area lamp, table, some books, and framed picture of Billy Murray–that gave us the feeling of really being in David Ramirez’s living room.

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David Ramirez wowed with his incredibly powerful voice and honest lyrics. At some point in the show, it dawned on me that David is probably not the nicest guy in real life. There was a distracting woman sitting right behind us who responded loudly after each song. David would finish a song and she’d shout “yes!” (I forgot her other go-to responses) and then try to initiate a conversation with him in between songs. We get it,  you KNOW him! (WOW!) It was annoying, and I totally chuckled when David realized it was his friend in the crowd who kept making it about her (which it sadly became, at times). Etiquette tip–don’t be that girl. No one came to see you perform if you’re not the one on stage. When I said that to Colin after the show, he smiled at me and said “doesn’t he say as much in his songs?” Good point, Colin. I was especially glad to hear “The Bad Days” and “Harder to Lie” in person. 

I will say, though, that even though David’s songs and stage banter mostly make him seem like a guy struggling to feed his healthy ego, he ended his set with “Find the Light,” which was a welcome surprise and an about face from his general tone. The song starts with some warm wishes–“I wish upon you peace/I wish upon you grace/I wish for less of what you want and more of what you need.” I’m so glad I went, even if David Ramirez is probably not someone I’d want to chat with or go have a beer with after the show. His voice and songs are layered and beautiful. And we’re all just learning how to be ourselves anyhow, and he seems to do that with his music, which is a healthy way to grow, I think.

I just realized that Spotify has David providing commentary about every song on his newest album Fables, which is right up my alley! Going to go listen now.

xo,

bree

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