Parker Millsap

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Lisbon Concerts in the Park, Lisbon Falls, Maine

Lots of my friends posted updates from their weekend at Newport Folk Festival that made me incredibly jealous–especially because Brandi Carlile was a guest in just about everyone’s set AND DOLLY PARTON WAS THE SURPRISE FESTIVAL GUEST! It made me wish I’d been there in person. I did, however, have a delightful little Sunday with Dan where we took the introduction to cheesemaking class at the wonderful Sunflower Farm in Cumberland and even got to milk goats! It was fun and delicious! I realized the timing would work out perfectly for me to leave the farm and get over to Lisbon Falls just in time to see Parker Millsap at their free Concerts in the Park series. I texted my friend Christine to meet me, and hurried over.

img_4383

Photos courtesy of Hope Lipp Hall at Sunflower Farm

Parker Millsap had quite a weekend. From tiny Purcell, Oklahoma and at only 26 years old, Parker played the main stage at the Newport Folk Festival on Friday. And then, two days later, he played a free outdoor concert in tiny Lisbon Falls, Maine, to a couple hundred folks gathered in lawn chairs at Marion Morse Park. What a juxtaposition. Chrissy and I set up our chairs and caught up a little bit about our summer vacations. We both had delicious strawberry and nutella waffles from the My Waffle food truck. I was glad to see Parker Millsap and his band for the first time. He has a strong raspy voice and a bluesy rock sound. Check out his KEXP session if you’re unfamiliar with his sound. Parker didn’t say much more than “thank you very much” after each song, which is what makes or breaks a concert experience for me, but it’s probably pretty hard to keep your stage energy up after a weekend at Newport Folk Festival. I’d be curious to hear from folks who’ve seen him before if he brings a more raucous vibe to a more typical show. I’d like to see him again in an indoor venue, I think. 

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Ballroom Thieves with Max Garcia Conover

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Front Street Music Series

Downtown Augusta, Maine Riverfront

I’ve seen The Ballroom Thieves and Max Garcia Conover so many times over the years, but I’d never seen them share the same bill before. That was all the motivation I needed to convince Dan that we should leave our quiet lakefront weekend at camp on Clary Lake to see our friend Max play with The Ballroom Thieves. Plus, the last time we saw the Thieves was last summer at Ghostland, and Dan was in a giant food truck line at the very back of Thompson’s Point and sadly missed their whole set. 

It was a little tricky to figure out how to get to “downtown Augusta’s riverfront behind Cushnoc Brewery” as instructed by our Eventbrite tickets since we aren’t familiar with Augusta, but we managed. We were welcomed by folks at the entrance volunteering for the Front Street Music Series (which is happening all summer) to benefit the renovation of Augusta’s historic Colonial Theater. I have just left the Board of Directors of Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in nearby Gardiner, Maine, after my three-year term, so I was especially glad to show some support for our neighbors.

We showed up a few minutes into Max’s opening set, and I was impressed with how close to the Kennebec River the stage was. It was beautiful. We brought short folding chairs (I’d encourage you to do the same if you hit up the rest of this summer music series), and just sat back and enjoyed an easy night of great music. I didn’t love (shocker) that Cushnoc had a downstairs bar in the rear, because folks back there were chatty and distracted from the music for me. I know my dream for silent, engrossed audiences at shows is really impractical!

Thanks for taking this, Andrea! I’m never in concert pictures!

Max was glad to share the stage with the Thieves. He told us that he’d played a crazy cross-country tour and there was a show in Iowa where maybe 7 people showed up and 3 of them were the Ballroom Thieves and he was starstruck. He also said they’re as “wonderful and kind in real life and that’s a special thing.” I love how humble Max is, and something I appreciate about his music is that every song is a work in progress. I’ve heard Max play maybe 20 times, and I’ve heard him change so many of his songs over the years to add a verse or lyric about something current. He’s such a hard worker. I was glad to hear a couple of new songs and favorites like “Self Portrait” and “Rich Man.” He also introduced one of his songs by sharing the beginning of his touching, beautiful story about the first girl he ever loved that I’ve had the pleasure to hear him tell twice–once on The Moth mainstage! You should really listen

The Ballroom Thieves took the stage and played a long set. I didn’t love the performance overall, but it was out of their hands and was because Martin often sings the melody and his microphone was just not loud enough. I appreciate how sweet Martin, Callie, and Devin are on stage with each other. Devin’s band introductions are always funny and awkward. All three of the Thieves live in Maine now and Martin joked that the “last time I came to Augusta was to set up our cable with Spectrum. That’s not the best part of Augusta. This next song–‘Trouble’–is about setting up your cable package with Spectrum.”

I absolutely love Devin’s lead vocals and their powerful interpretation of Frightened Rabbit’s “My Backwards Walk” and was so glad to hear it live. Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer, Scott Hutchison, ended his own life a little over a year ago, and a tribute album was recorded by the likes of Julien Baker and Ben Gibbard. Proceeds go to a mental health foundation in Scott’s name. While we’re here, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

I also really enjoyed their cover of Bahamas’ “Lost In The Light,” too. Devin introduced a “love song called ‘Fist Fight’” by encouraging people in the crowd to “at least say hi to the person who’s here that you’ve had your eye on.” He said “quit the crap and go say what’s up.” It was very sweet.

I appreciate that The Ballroom Thieves are using their voice as a band to speak up about issues of global importance. Martin introduced “Do Something”:

This is a risky thing to say in today’s political climate. We are on the side of basic human rights. Sometimes you have to just take a stand. I think this is where we make our stand. It’s a big issue in our country right now even though it shouldn’t be. It’s important to speak up for those who don’t have a voice or for those who have had their voices silenced. Since we are literally on a platform and we have microphones amplifying us across the river we might as well make a stand for basic human rights because I believe it’s the minimum stand you can take. This is a song called “Do Something” and it’s about holding people accountable, especially those in public office, because those people work for us and they have to do what we want them to do or they’re not fulfilling their duty. In a way, we’re Trump’s boss, which flips the Apprentice narrative. That’s where I’ll leave it for now because I’ve gotten in trouble before.

img_4058I’m always glad to see Max Garcia Conover and The Ballroom Thieves live. They both use their platform to speak up for people without a voice, and if you’re down with treating all people with respect and dignity, you’d like them and would be in good company at one of their shows!

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Milk Carton Kids 

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I’ve barely seen a show all summer! Summer is when I recharge after an inevitably crazy school year, so dealing with what seems to be an epidemic of awful concert etiquette at shows is really low on my summer to-do list these days. Dan and I did make a plan, however, to celebrate my last day of school with a Milk Carton Kids show at The Music Hall in Portsmouth. He put their song “Michigan” on a mix CD he made for me (I know–he is thoughtful and knows me so well!) early on in our relationship. I’d heard of the band, but didn’t know their music at all. I was excited to give them a try.

We made our way to Portsmouth with time to enjoy a delicious and wonderfully unique Himalayan dinner at Durbar Square Restaurant. We tried a lot of things and highly recommend it! We grabbed our second row seats just before the show started. Something I enjoy about The Music Hall (and most seated shows anywhere) is that folks in the audience tend to be there for the music and exhibit proper concert etiquette, which is rarer and rarer these days. Yes, I’m a broken record about this, but at least I shut up and listen at shows!

Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan remind me a lot of Kyle Jahnke and Andy Baxter of a band I adore, Penny & Sparrow. Their songs are serious and often sad, but their banter with the audience and each other is absolutely hilarious. Joey is the funny guy. He introduced “A Sea of Roses” thusly:

He [Kenneth] had a difficult breakup and a cancer diagnosis. I am happy to say he’s completely cured and is fine now. He has new love in his life and some hormone pills that keep him relatively even. Everything’s been going pretty well for me. I did lose my glasses. And after months trying to find a suitable replacement, I gave up and now the whole world is blurry. I don’t mean to compare anybody’s misfortunes. All of Kenneth’s trials and tribulations are in the past, while I’m still dealing with this. Many of the songs Kenneth wrote for this album are personal and it’s some of the most beautiful and revealing he’s written in a long time. But due to an early agreement between us, I do own half of the songs. Ok, that’s enough now. Do you want to do your cancer song now? I mean, our cancer song.

We laughed so much all night long. I was also blown away by Kenneth’s guitar playing, too. What I didn’t connect with was their songwriting, which turns out to be the most important thing for me. Dan loves the Milk Carton Kids and generally appreciates music that sounds good to listen to. No argument from me that their music sounds amazing, but I care more about the lyrics, which I just didn’t connect with, unfortunately. Still, I was entertained from start to finish and am really glad we started my summer vacation off with a truly fun musical adventure.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Jamestown Revival

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I set up for the senior prom Friday night, hosted the prom Saturday night, but still made my way down to Portland Sunday night to see Jamestown Revival at Port City Music Hall. In retrospect, I was way too spent to not take some time off over the weekend, but they’re so worth it. I saw Jamestown Revival on my birthday back in 2017, and it was my third favorite show of 2017. I was happy to see they were coming back to town after two years away, and I’m glad I was in the room.

I showed up at the end of Chris Ross and the North’s set, and they sounded great and made me wish I’d gotten there earlier. There was a huge gap between the stage and the audience when I arrived, so I made my way to an empty space at the stage edge in between sets. I met Annie, a science teacher from Portland, and we chatted about our Jamestown Revival experiences. I often go to shows solo, so it’s nice when I end up in a good pocket of people to enjoy a show with.

Magnolia, Texas’ Jamestown Revival is warm and inviting in person. Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay share the lead, and they’ve been friends since high school. They introduced their songs with details (which I love), sincerely thanked us for being there, and even remembered the woman dressed up like a zebra at their first-ever show in Maine a couple of Octobers back. She was right there in the front row, and loved hearing that they remembered her. “Revival,” “Fur Coat Blues,” and “California (Cast Iron Soul)” stick out as crowd favorites. I thought it was interesting that they didn’t play their best-known song, “Love Is A Burden.” 98.9 WCLZ has played that song on heavy rotation for a couple of years, and I’m bet it’s the only Jamestown Revival song some of folks in the room knew. Their new single, “Who Hung The Moon,” is out now from their upcoming album, San IsabelJonathan introduced “Killing You, Killing Me” saying, “It’s like we work to distract ourselves with our phones. They keep us from having conversations where we look each other in the eye and they take us away from moments and people that matter the most.” We asked for an encore and they graciously obliged with the whole band unplugged around one microphone (while the crowd really listened!) for “Round Prairie Road.”img_2452Lots of my former students were in the room and I got to catch up with them after the show, which made it a really sweet Sunday night, too.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Courtney Marie Andrews

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’m grateful to Brandi Carlile for putting Courtney Marie Andrews on my radar. They toured together in 2018. When Brandi recommends an up-and-coming artist, I listen. I was so glad to see Courtney Marie Andrews was opening for Deer Tick at Port City Music Hall last week. I’m the senior class advisor and teaching a new course in American Foreign Policy this year, so I’m often short on time. Even so, I got myself down to Port City just in time to snag an available front row spot a few minutes before she took the stage. I knew I didn’t have the energy to stay up late for Deer Tick, so I drove 80 minutes round trip to see Courtney Marie Andrews play for 45 minutes. She was SO worth the effort! Do you ever feel that excited energy of knowing an awesome secret before other people? I feel like that with her, though I dug into her background a bit and was surprised to learn that she’s already been making music for over a decade. I am actually really late to the Courtney Marie Andrews party, but am here to invite you anyhow.

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Courtney Marie Andrews shared the stage with a drummer, bassist, and pianist. She played electric guitar and just stunned the room with her powerful lyrics and transcendent voice. The show was sold out and lots of people were clearly in the room ready for Deer Tick, but Courtney Marie Andrews held the crowd in the palm of her hand. Listen to “Rough Around the Edges” and “May Your Kindness Remain” to hear for yourself how powerful her voice is. If I had any wish for her live show, I’d (of course) want a bit more banter and to learn something about some of her songs in person. Even though she stuck almost exclusively to the songs, I was so blown away by her voice that I’d see her again in a heartbeat. Check out this live set and interview from KEXP for a bit of context about Courtney Marie Andrew’s background as a bartender and experience as a touring musician. Read NPR’s review of her 2018 album, May Your Kindness Remain, too. She’s the real deal, y’all.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Patty Griffin with Ruston Kelly

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I’ve been listening to Patty Griffin since my senior year of high school, so for over 20 years now. I have always liked knowing that she grew up two towns over from me. It made me feel like anything was possible for a kid from a small town in Maine. Her songs, full of heart, are among my all-time favorites. If I absolutely had to narrow down my favorite songs from her long career, I would still have to pick six–“Rain,” “Nobody’s Crying,” “When It Don’t Come Easy,” “Top Of The World,” “Let Him Fly,” and “Burgundy Shoes.” Patty’s songs have been recorded by so many talented musicians who’ve helped share her music in the world. Patty is pretty epic. Somehow, I’ve only managed to see her twice, in 2002 and 2007. I was thrilled when I saw she was going on tour with Ruston Kelly. I saw his incredibly talented wife, Kacey Musgraves, back in January. I eagerly snagged a solo seat in the third row at The Music Hall in Portsmouth when tickets went on sale, and I made my way south on a sunny Sunday afternoon to see the show. I was pumped to run into my friend and fellow music enthusiast Aimsel Ponti and her friend Kathryn, who had incredible front row center seats for the show.

For me, Ruston Kelly stole the show and my music-loving heart. His set was full of sincerity, heart, and power. His voice is compelling and his songs are honest and self-aware. He shared the stage with his dad, TK Kelly, on pedal steel guitar. Ruston introduced his dad–“not only is he a fantastic dresser, but he happens to be my biological father. We found out on Maury. He’s the strong, silent type.” Something that crept up early in the night was a little bit of sarcasm from the audience that I found annoying and I think Ruston did, too. A few people interjected during his banter–one to give him a hard time about tuning his guitar. He responded, “I’m tuning my guitar so I can play better.” He mentioned the comments later in his set. He said, “that’s the stuff you remember later.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.

Ruston told us early in his set that “I feel like it will give some context that in that at this period in my artwork, I had to dig myself out of a pretty low hole dealing with substance abuse and I’m happy to say that I’m on solid ground these days. There’s a silver lining to most of it, but the songs are still pretty sad.” I was surprised to hear him introduce “Mockingbird” by saying “I wrote this song standing next to a dumpster.” His song “Alive” gave me chills. I’m already looking forward to seeing Ruston again live. He is the real deal. I was excited when one of the guys on the tour crew handed me his setlist during intermission, too.

I can’t believe I hadn’t seen Patty Griffin live in 12 years, and I was sad to hear how much thinner her voice sounds in person these days. If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t love this live show. I appreciated learning about some of the songs on her new album, Patty Griffin, though. Patty told us that “Boys from Tralee” is about a couple of boys getting out of Ireland during the Famine. She said her grandparents came to America couple of generations after the Famine, because Ireland was still pretty devastated. She told us that, “one of the reasons I’m alive is because the gates were open. I think about that a lot lately.”

Patty told us that “Hourglass” was inspired by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and she encouraged us to check him out on YouTube. More of the songs on her new album were inspired by other musicians, too. Patty was in Europe when she had a vivid dream about Billie Holliday. She explained, “I’d never immersed myself in her music before because her voice is awfully sad and I didn’t think I could handle it. In this dream, she was young and was smiling and was singing this beautiful song in a barn to a bunch of people. I woke up out of this dream and started listening to her consistently. I’ve learned from her that singers can sometimes never waste a note. She meant every single note she used. I learned what a huge supreme gift it is to have a voice that sad because when you need to feel sad she carries you there with her and that’s a gift to the world. I thought about what made her sad. She was born a Black woman in America in the era she was born into. I heard there were many difficult moments in her life and as a child her mother was not able to be in her life. This sadness in her voice is where people go to cry their tears and it inspired Had a Good Reason.

Photo courtesy of Aimsel Ponti

Patty didn’t play many older songs, which I was disappointed about, too, so I was especially glad to hear “Long Ride Home” in person. Patty honored her mother when she introduced “Bluebeard.” She told us her mom was an English teacher and they went to the library every week. “Bluebeard” is a murder ballad that retells the story she read as a kid. She said, “sometimes there are things in life that you don’t want to know but then they become obvious and you can’t unknow them so you have to do something about them.”

Patty told us that she wrote “Where I Come From” about Old Town, Maine. She was driving her mom around town (she still lives there) looking for a store that has long disappeared and “thought about how different the town is now. When I was born there were 5 or 6 factories–they made shoes, paper, and canoes–and now they’re down to just one canoe factory. I thought about how there’s no plan B and that is the case all over America. There are all these little towns that need a little love.”

I really love Patty’s new single, “River.” The lyrics are powerful (like Patty’s always are): “Isn’t she a river? / She doesn’t need a diamond to shine / You can’t really have her / But you can hold her for a time / Takes an army just to bend her.” I was over the moon to hear one of my favorite Patty Griffin songs, “When It Don’t Come Easy,” in person. I’ll take a sappy lyric anytime, like “if you break down / I’ll drive out and find you / If you forget my love / I’ll try to remind you

And stay by you when it don’t come easy.” Patty sincerely thanked her band, Ruston Kelly, the folks at The Music Hall, and all of us for coming before wrapping her set with “Shine a Different Way.” She came back to the stage solo and sang “Heavenly Day” for us, which was enthusiastically received by a much warmer audience. It was not my favorite Patty Griffin show to date, but I am forever grateful to her for decades of songs that make me feel all the feelings.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Maggie Rogers

Saturday, March 23, 2019

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I was prepared to not like this show. In fact, I almost skipped it out of sheer frustration. I’d emailed back and forth with Maggie’s publicist about a press pass back in August for the originally scheduled November date at State Theatre. I reached out again closer to the rescheduled date in late February and got the runaround about a press pass and then a final no the week before the show. By then, the show was long sold out. I hadn’t wanted to take a ticket from a fan if I was going to be covering the show, so I didn’t buy one. I can say that I can’t remember a time I worked so hard to get a single ticket to a show. I ended up posting in every Facebook event related to the show and finally a real person messaged me and was selling a ticket AT COST. Two things–there were SO MANY fake Facebookers selling fake tickets in the Facebook event thread. If a person doesn’t have a single Facebook friend–they’re a scammer. Watch out! I connected with a real person who I have mutual friends with on Facebook and they wanted $100 for a single ticket. Bad concert karma to folks who jack up ticket prices! Dear Katia asked for $40 for a single ticket, which covered just the cost of the ticket and fees. Good on you and many, many thanks, Katia.

Saw so many friends at the show!

Turns out, I am so damn happy I worked so hard to find a ticket to this show. I know Maggie is coming back to Portland at the end of July to play Thompson’s Point, but I really hate that venue and have decided I just can’t have a quality concert experience there. It is simply too big a venue for me personally, especially when proximity to the stage is so important to me. Actually, I’d really love the opportunity to talk with the Thompson’s Point team about a trend of simply awful concert etiquette I’ve experienced there and see what we might do as a community to make shows better for everyone. The number of times I’ve been physically pushed at shows there, and often by women in their 50s telling me “it’s a concert!,” (which I found surprising at first), despite many clear statements to people to STOP TOUCHING ME is alarming. Many folks have such little regard for others at that venue particularly, and I just can’t enjoy a concert there anymore.

I digress. I won’t see you at Thompson’s Point, Maggie Rogers, but your electric, captivating, darling sold out show at State Theatre really *almost* makes me want to ditch my Thomspon’s Point boycott.

Maggie Rogers was pure delight. She came out ready to party in a silver shirt that shone all night like her smiling face. She grooved the entire show and worked every inch of the stage. She put on an excellent show, and I am so, so grateful that I had the opportunity to see her live. Sean and I snagged our favorite spot (it’s a secret) and had a great view of the stage. Everyone was so excited for the show and people danced and sang along and threw their hands up in the air during her 75-minute set. It had been awhile since I’d seen a show at State Theatre where concert etiquette wasn’t a huge issue for me. I suppose most folks this night were so into Maggie that they were too busy dancing and singing along to be awful, or, I just got lucky.

img_0914-1Maggie introduced a few of her songs with honest, open details, and seemed genuinely moved to be headlining the State Theatre, which she’d known from years of attending summer camp in Maine. She expressed sincere gratitude about waiting so long for the show and for being willing to reschedule. She thanked us “for being so understanding and for being so open about changing your plans–your hotels, your planes, your trains, your buses–so that I could go do Saturday Night Live.” It turns out, I was glad to see Maggie live for the first time after the release of her 2019 Heard It In A Past Life debut album, because we got to hear every single song from the album in person and had listened to it enough times through (on repeat in my car, at least) that we knew all of the words, too!

Sean lost his mind a little during Maggie’s cover of Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw” and he was coincidentally wearing a Taylor Swift shirt to the show! Maggie sang “Light On,” and told us it’s about graduating from college and figuring out adulthood. She said it recalls a “time when I was scared and overwhelmed. I got on stage every night and felt like I could be vulnerable and could share and I felt so supported doing this thing I love to do more than anything else in the world. SNL is part of the dreams you don’t stay out loud, but so is Thompson’s Point, and I can’t wait to be back here this summer.” Friends–I assure you–Maggie Rogers will kill it at Thompson’s Point. If you like the big venue thing, you should totally go see her there.

Maggie put on a hell of a show and she told us, “You can journal and you can go to therapy, but sometimes you just need to dance things off. I’m up here because singing makes me super happy, but it also gives me a lot of joy to help people release.” And it shows! I think Maggie closed with “Fallingwater,” and the crowd roared for an encore.

Maggie came back to the stage solo and spoke to us about how hard it’s been to fall asleep after the shows because “we create a lot of energy in this space together and being loud together is amazing. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being quiet with a group of people. I’m going to sing and it’s important to know it’s a camp song I grew up singing in Maine in the woods in the dark and it’s special to have my fellow campers’ blessing to sing it. There’s not really rules at concerts, but there’s like guidelines, and if you feel like yelling something, you should wait till after cause that’s rude (AMEN, Maggie!).” Maggie sang “Color Song” from her Maine summer camp a cappella for us to end the night, and I was so happily surprised when everyone in the room stopped to listen. Thanks for that wonderful moment, all!

This was such a happy show and I was so glad to be there. Also, State Theatre played “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” just after the house lights went up, and it kept the good vibes going all the way out the door.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized