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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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The Wind and The Wave with The Native Sibling and Justin Kawika Young

Friday, May 19, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Some nights just feel really good, and this was surely one of them. I was surprised by how quiet it was at Port City Music Hall for this triple bill on a Friday night, but it meant the small crowd had plenty of personal space and room to dance, which was a treat.

I got to Port City around 7:45 and noticed a guy I’d seen at Jamestown Revival, so I said hi. He said, “don’t you write that music blog?,” which made me feel a little famous. Sean and I chatted about bands we love and upcoming shows until Seattle’s The Native Sibling took the stage. My Spotify “discover weekly” playlist introduced me to them a while back, and I kept going back to their songs and was really excited to see them in person. Brother and sister duo Ryan and Kaylee Williams were engaging, kind, and genuine. Ryan asked if anyone knew their music, and I raised my hand from front and center. I bought their 2014 album, Letters Kept to Ourselves, after the show and have listened to it on repeat. Kaylee and Ryan were nice in real life and were glad to know I’d already been a fan. Sometimes their song “Here With Me” makes me a little teary. If you like lovely songs with airy harmonies, you’ll like The Native Sibling.

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The Native Sibling–Kaylee and Ryan Williams

Hawaii’s Justin Kawika Young took the stage next, and my friend Marian showed up to enjoy the rest of the night with me. He had tons of stage presence and warmly interacted with the crowd. He asked if any of us had been to Hawaii, so I raised my hand and we ended up having a quick chat during his set. He told us he’d written a song about justice based on a book he’d just finished reading and I was impressed with his passion for social justice. He also played a fantastic medley of songs from the 90s that made my night. Justin had a smooth voice and lots of charisma. Here’s a video of Justin performing his song “Three Weeks From Tomorrow.” I spoke to Justin after the show and he told me that I sounded like a native when I pronounced Hawaiian places, which was a huge compliment.

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Justin Kawika Young

Aimsel Ponti showed up just in time for The Wind and The Wave’s set. She’s a fan. You can read her interview with the band here. Austin’s The Wind and The Wave sounded great. Patty Lynn has a lovely voice. Guitarist/vocalist Dwight Baker told us he was really high, and it showed. The band didn’t interact with us hardly at all. I know we were a small crowd (which might have been disappointing to them), but we were enthusiastic, and it was a bummer that we didn’t get a chance to get to have much of a show experience. Their newest album, Happiness Is Not A Place, was recorded live and is worth a listen. Maybe the band had an off night, but that album is better than their live show was. I ended up chatting with Patty Lynn after the show, and she was very nice, so I expect they have the potential for a more energetic, engaging live show. Their song “Grand Canyon” is about not taking things for granted, and it’s excellent.

Overall, this was an effortless, fun night, and I am glad I was there.

xo,

bree

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Ryan Adams with Alex Edelman

Sunday, May 7, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I’d avoided seeing Ryan Adams in the past because I’d heard he was temperamental live. A friend told me that an audience member heckled him at a show they attended, so Ryan cut his set short and walked off the stage. That kind of energy doesn’t appeal to me, so I needed some urging to give him a try. When I found out he was coming to our very own State Theatre in Portland, I decided to give him a shot and see for myself. Tickets sold out in minutes, so I was planning on going to the show solo, but both Bob and Colin bought tickets on StubHub the day of the show and joined me, which was awesome. Bob and I had dinner at Empire and got in line about 30 minutes before doors. The line already stretched around the corner by then and we stood out in the cold drizzle waiting for doors to open. I was glad to hear that the main bars were going to be closed at Ryan’s request. I think alcohol had a negative impact on Regina Spektor’s sold out show and encouraged rude audience behavior, so I was just fine with that call.


Bob, Colin, and I convened at our usual spot–second row center on the floor. We met a couple who’d driven up from Connecticut for the show and made a long weekend of it. They’d run into Ryan earlier in the day and spoken with him briefly and said he was approachable. We all enjoyed and laughed pretty hard at Alex Edelman’s brief comedy set. I loved that we didn’t have to stand through a full opening act set by someone we didn’t know and assumed it meant it would be an early night. I was wrong. Ryan Adams played nearly 25 songs, many of which I knew even though I haven’t really thought of myself as much of a fan. Colin and I’d both never seen Ryan live, and I’m glad I finally did. Fans of Ryan’s said it was a really “focused” show for him. He probably played eight songs before saying a word, and it’s clear that interacting with people isn’t easy for Ryan and he feels awkward and self-conscious about it.

I forgot how much they used the smoke machine at this show until I saw this. I get the feeling Ryan doesn’t like the spotlight.

His show was all rock ‘n roll and he and the band brought it. It was loud and people seemed into it. I was tired from standing for so long and couldn’t believe (in a good way) that he played so many songs for us. I think he’d rather play a ton of music and fill up the night that way, rather than say very much. That’s not my preference, but it seems like what works best for him. Ryan did initiative a conversation with a guy in the front row, who had approached him earlier in the day, but Ryan had avoided. He apologized from the stage and said he’d just needed some time alone in his head, and then they had a chat for a few minutes while we listened on. Ryan was very complimentary of our audience, and there were clearly some big fans in the room.

This is the guy Ryan stopped to have a conversation with. Nice photo, @rumbeggar!

I think Ryan had a good night, too


I’m glad I was there. Seeing Ryan Adams on a good night is a good time. Aimsel was there and here’s her review of the show.

xo,

bree

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Jamestown Revival with Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Some shows totally catch you by surprise, and this was definitely one of them. It was well timed, too, because it was also my birthday. This show really made the first day of my new year a special one. I got to Port City Music Hall early enough to snag my favorite spot, and I ran into and got to catch up with Maine Youth Rock Orchestra Executive Director Kevin Oates. It was a treat to be greeted with a big “Happy Birthday” and a hug from him to start the night. Kevin had to head backstage to get ready, and a small crowd emerged just in time for Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters’ opening set.

I saw Hannah and the Martelle Sisters for the first time back in September, when they played with a bigger band and opened for Kaleo. I liked them back then, but they were even better at this show. They took the stage, just the three of them, with a guitar, mandolin, and violin. I was impressed by the fullness of the sound they created. I was glad my friend Marian showed up early on in their set to enjoy it with me. Kevin joined them on cello for a couple of songs, and it’s always a pleasure to hear him play.

A proper crowd streamed in during the opening set, and people were clearly pretty pumped to see Magnolia, Texas’ Jamestown Revival. I’d skipped their first visit to Portland back in October because I didn’t know their music then and it can be tough to get pumped for Sunday night shows, but I regretted it. I was glad for the chance to rectify the situation. Plus, The Ghost of Paul Revere is currently out on tour with them and has spoken very highly of them. Their endorsement matters. I got to catch up with Griffin Sherry after the show, too. He’s the best!

I was impressed by Jamestown Revival. I loved that the band took the stage sporting some combination of ten-gallon hats, cowboy boots, and toothpicks in a totally unironic way. Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay are the frontmen of the band, and they’ve been friends since high school. The band slayed. Every song was strong–and they interacted warmly with the crowd, played requests, and really made it a fantastic night for us. The audience was great, too. There were a lot of fans in the house and people danced and sang along. Early on in the set, Zach said that he could tell this was going to be a special night, and it truly was.

I particularly like “Love Is A Burden” from Jamestown Revival’s 2016 release, The Education Of A Wandering Man. That song is a hit, and you’ve probably heard it on 98.9 WCLZ (who sponsored the show). I enjoyed “Revival” and “California (Cast Iron Soul)” from Jamestown Revival’s 2014 album, Utah. They played “Medicine” from that album at the request of an audience member, even though it wasn’t on their set list. They also did a very pretty cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.”

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The crowd was a delight that night (which has such an impact on a show experience), and Jamestown Revival really brought it. The moment the band left the stage, Port City turned the house music on and “Footloose” flooded the room. An impromptu dance party broke out, and a woman I didn’t know grabbed me to dance with her. It was a total blast and shows perfectly the mood Jamestown Revival created in that room that night. We didn’t want the night to end. What a show! Definitely see this band live!

xo,

bree

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A blurry picture of a happy moment dancing to Footloose after the show!


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Penny & Sparrow with Lowland Hum

Saturday, April 29, 2017

3S Artspace, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This is a long post, so let me summarize here. Penny & Sparrow are a rare find. Their music is challenging and cathartic. Seeing them live is intense and beautiful. Please, please put them on your radar and see them live. You will thank me.

I saw Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke–Penny & Sparrow–for the first time a year ago at One Longfellow Square in Portland. The incomparable Rose Cousins opened, and it was easily one of the BEST SHOWS I’VE EVER SEEN. I remember thinking early on that night about how sad I was because the show would end. That feeling doesn’t happen very often.

My steadfast concert friend Colin joined me for that show a year ago, and he was eager to join me for this show at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as well. I held baby goats at Sunflower Farm in Cumberland earlier that afternoon (so this was an excellent day!) and picked Colin up in Portland on the way to the show. We grabbed dinner at The Green Elephant in Portsmouth (did you know they have a location there?) and enjoyed the beautiful art show in the gallery at 3S Artspace before the show.

You can also pet these adorable baby goats at Sunflower Farm!

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Art by Kenley Darling at 3S Artspace

Lowland Hum are husband and wife duo Daniel and Lauren Goans. They were engaging and won me over. The room was silent as they performed their set, and Daniel and Lauren were obviously grateful. They thanked us many times for being such attentive listeners and for spending our evening giving them the gift of having an audience. I liked their vibe. I also particularly liked “Pocket Knife” and “How Long.” Check out their 2014 NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Lowland Hum are Lauren and Daniel Goans

Someone nudged me after Lowland Hum left the stage. My concert buddy Bob, who I met at an Iron & Wine show in 2011, arrived from western Massachusetts in time for Penny & Sparrow, who I’ve been raving about to him for a solid year. I was excited because it was the first time Bob, Colin, and I were all at a show together. They compared their accounts on setlist.fm and chatted about favorite bands and past shows. It was nice to merge my concert worlds and introduce Bob to Penny & Sparrow. He texted me a picture after the show of all of the Penny & Sparrow albums he bought after Colin and I left for Maine.

Penny & Sparrow took the stage to a full room, but the audience was silent and soaked in every word. They are mesmerizing. They opened with “Gold,” which is one of my favorites from their 2016 release, Let a Lover Drown You, which is very depressing and right up my alley. They mixed in a little “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” from Whitney Houston, which we got to sing along to. Andy made up an elaborate story about being a nude model for Kyle in a pinch, which was totally false, but made us laugh heartily. Their songs are SAD, but their banter between songs is HILARIOUS. Seeing P & S live is a rollercoaster. I shed some tears that night–both during their sad songs and also because I laughed to tears in between songs. It’s a lot, and it’s wonderful.

Penny & Sparrow are Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke

Something that was different at this show is that Penny & Sparrow clearly had fans in the audience who traveled to see them and who know the words to their songs. I’m glad for them. It’s incredibly well deserved.

Andy explained the “deep end” of “Catalogue”–a song about old love and what we wish we knew about ourselves and our worth when we were young. Kyle told us that the “shallow end” of “Catalogue” is that it’s about catalogues like L.L.Bean and SkyMall (RIP) and that we could choose our own adventure about how deep into the song we wanted to get. They sang a bit of “O Holy Night” from their 2016 Christmas Songs album, which might be enough for me to start liking Christmas music.

One of the last songs of the night was “Duet,” and Andy introduced the song by saying that it’s about how love grows and how being together is about being committed to each other even though you know the worst there is to know about each other, but that you’re still not going anywhere. He invited Lauren from Lowland Hum up to sing it with them and then dedicated it to his wife (over 1,100 miles away, according to Google maps, he said) and to her husband, who she joked was “maybe 19 steps away.” He said, “the choosing of someone–love without an escape hatch–is what we want.”

Seeing Penny & Sparrow live is intense–the music is deep in subject matter, but the banter is more like a comedy show. There are highs and lows. What I appreciate about Andy and Kyle is their commitment to being authentically themselves and offering their truth so humbly and beautifully to a room full of strangers. It’s really a gift to be in their presence, and I can’t wait to see them live again next time they’re in our neck of the woods.

xo,

bree

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