Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul

Friday, April 28, 2017

Chocolate Church Arts Center, Bath, Maine

This was my 48th Ellis Paul show. That might sound like a lot, but I’ve really just seen him a few times a year since my first Ellis show at Bowdoin College back in 2002. He’s obviously my favorite, though, and this was a great night. I was thrilled that Colin could join me, because Ellis is better shared. I had a quick girls dinner at my house and then raced over to Bath’s Chocolate Church Arts Center for the show.

There was no show opener, which I love when I’m seeing my favorite artists (because how could they compare, really), and Ellis took the stage a little after 7:30. He was in a great mood, and was very chatty with the audience, which is my favorite. Ellis had some new banter topics and he led a brief whole audience conversation about which artists we could take or leave. Bob Dylan is my “zero artist,” because I love “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Forever Young” but I’d prefer to hear Dylan songs sung by just about anyone else.



Ellis played a couple of improvised songs at the piano–one about tourist season in Maine, and his encore was a song about how much he loves Tom Brady. He played a lovely song that I’ve maybe only heard once before (always a bonus) about Pawnee, Oklahoma. He explained that “Oklahoma is the Maine of the midwest” and that he was off to Tulsa for the 4th anniversary of the Woody Guthrie Center. He showed us his Woody Guthrie tattoo and told us the story about showing it awkwardly to Arlo after his opening set at the Boston Hatch Shell many years ago and then, many years later, showing it to Nora Guthrie (at her request) while chatting with a random German who ended up becoming her husband. When Ellis offered to play requests, I asked for “God’s Promise” (his music and Woody’s lyrics), which he picked first and I was thrilled to hear. The guy sitting next to me elbowed me with excitement when Ellis picked my request, which was pretty adorable.


img_1613Ellis shared that he’s celebrating 25 years as a touring musician, which is a long time! He read us the Thomas Edison piece from his The Hero in You book, sang a song in progress with verses from many states he’s visited that was hilarious, and generally interacted warmly with us and kept us laughing all night. He came down into the audience to sing “Annalee” together, wrapped up with his Tom Brady love ballad, and send us home smiling. It’s always a pleasure to see Ellis live, and I’m getting excited for my 50th show!

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mipso with Ten String Symphony

Friday, April 21, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was my fourth Mipso show. I love them and will see them whenever they come to Portland. I even kind of planned my April vacation trip to Charleston, South Carolina around making it back for this show. It all started with an email I got a couple of years ago from Mipso fiddle player/vocalist Libby Rodenbough inviting me to come check out their Maine debut at One Longfellow Square. Dan Mills (Barry’s nephew, for my Bowdoin College community readers) opened that show, so I readily accepted the invitation. North Carolina’s bluegrassy folk band Mipso stole my heart. I was hooked.

Mipso came back to OLS in February and November of 2016, and I was at both shows. I thought the addition of a drummer at the November show was an issue because I couldn’t hear their vocals, but their drummer returned for this show and the balance was totally fine. It’s a relief, because one of the things I like best about them is how crystal clear their lyrics are.

Mipso is Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Wood Robinson on upright bass, Joseph Terrell on lead vocal and guitar, Libby Rodenbough on fiddle, and Yan Westerlund on drums. Their 2017 release, Coming Down the Mountain, is excellent. I particularly like the title song and “Water Runs Red” (which they closed their set with). I was very happy to hear “4 Train,” “Marianne”, and “Louise” live. Mipso is a fantastic blend of musicianship and showmanship. Their live show is engaging and it’s a real pleasure to spend an evening in their company. Until next time!

xo,

bree
PS–My dear friend Ken Templeton saw Mipso the following night at The Sinclair and shared his thoughts at Red Line Roots.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Regina Spektor

Thursday, March 9, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This night gets a mixed review, but it’s not Regina’s fault. I met up with my concert friend Bob (six years as concert buddies and going strong!) at Empire for dinner, but couldn’t find parking after a long search and ended up late to dinner, so succumbed to paying $16 in a nearby parking lot (ugh). My fortune cookie had no fortune, which concerned me. Bob and I arrived at State Theatre before doors opened to stake out a good spot for my first-ever Regina Spektor show. We ended up third row center, in a pocket of real Regina fans. It turns out, we were lucky to be exactly where we ended up, because there were a lot of disrespectful people in the crowd.

IMG_0608

Getting a fortune cookie without a fortune kind of freaked me out.

There was no show opener, and we were told Regina was going on right at 8 PM. She went on a little after 8:30 instead, and people were restless and some had time to get drunk at the bar by then. It really negatively affected the show experience. Regina was a delight–her vocals and piano were spot on, her audience interaction on point, and she was humble and adorable. At one point, she sweetly told us that “every time you guys start clapping, I turn around to see who’s behind me.” She joked that she shouldn’t have worn jeans because “Portland is a delicious city” and she’d overindulged. Sadly, the crowd was a NIGHTMARE. Drunk, loud people talked over her the entire night. The interruptions were so frequent and loud that Regina stopped mid song to ask very politely for people to talk a bit quieter because it was hard for her to concentrate with all the noise. Have I ever witnessed a performer ask a crowd to be quiet because they were being so loud? I don’t think so. It was so sad. She handled it like a champ, but it persisted. I talked to other friends who were at the show later, and we agreed that a seated show for a singer-songwriter and her piano would probably have created a better listening environment than the sold out standing show we attended.

Regina forgot the lyrics to her last song, “Us,” but the crowd helped her find her way (the ones who were actually listening, that is). She played a generous four song encore, including “Fidelity” and “Samson, which were thrilling to hear live for the first time. This should have been a great show. Regina was engaging, sweet, and talented, but the crowd was AWFUL. Good luck booking her in Portland again! Concert etiquette tip–don’t be the drunk person yelling all through a show–it makes you a jerk!

My friend Aimsel Ponti’s take on the night.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Soundcheck with The Head and the Heart

Monday, March 6 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I love The Head and the Heart’s music, but saw them live in 2012, and I was so disappointed. Their songs are truly lovely and emotive, but their live show was b-o-r-i-n-g and phoned in. You know by now that the primary reason I go to see artists live is to have a concert experience, up close and personal. So, The Head and the Heart live is not for me. When I see they’re coming to town, I don’t bother to buy a ticket. Watching their YouTube channel is about as interactive as their live show is, so I’d rather not be in a crowded venue with a bunch of drunk, loud people to see a band if they’re not going to say very much. But I am conflicted about this, because THATH’s music is so moving, and I sometimes wonder if I’ve been too hard on them. Turns out, I don’t think so.

I felt undeserving when my friend Colin invited me to join him to The Head and the Heart’s soundcheck hosted by 98.9 WCLZ ahead of their sold out show at State Theatre. I decided that seeing them with just a handful of people in the room might provide a more intimate concert experience, so I went. We waited outside in the frigid cold for a solid thirty minutes, which was fine because MaineToday/Portland Press Herald/98.9 WCLZ Maine music maven Aimsel Ponti was with us and kept us chatting as a big group.

Once inside, the band assembled to say hello and patiently take pictures with all twenty or so of us. They were all completely nice, if a bit shy. It helped me better understand that they’re probably not super socially confident on the whole and that’s why their live show is flat. I chatted mostly with pianist Kenny Hensley and drummer Tyler Williams, who are the most outgoing in the group, and even had an unexpected conversation about the Sphinx with Tyler.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 12.34.44 PM

Hey! I’m with the band. Thanks to 98.9 WCLZ for this opportunity and for the pic!

When Colin approached to get his picture taken, someone in the band recognized him and exclaimed “Colin!”

Aimsel and the band

The band played two songs–“Another Story” and “False Alarm”–for us after the meet and greet, and then we took off so their show opener could have their soundcheck. I had a twinge of regret about not getting a ticket for the show since they were very nice in person, but I went to two hours of jiu jitsu instead, which is a new love of mine. I felt fine about my decision when I learned (as expected) that they sounded great that night, but didn’t say much to the crowd, which is exactly what I don’t want in a concert experience. So, mixed reviews, but I was grateful for the opportunity to see THATH in a slightly different light.

Here’s Aimsel’s take on the show from her great Aimsel on the Record blog.

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Driftwood with Max García Conover

Friday, February 24, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I am a longtime Max García Conover fan. He’s a humble, thoughtful guy and a talented musician. His finger picking is out of this world. It was great to see him with a group of friends on a Friday night in Portland. I scheduled my February break trip to Savannah around getting back in time for this show, and even got to grab dinner with Max’s wife Sophie beforehand. Our friend Bartlett mentioned to a friend of a friend at the show that we used to see Max play “just about every other week,” but it’s been a bit, so this was a real treat.

Max’s songs are poems and autobiography set to music. I’m impressed by how much of himself he reveals in his songs. “My Neighbor Joe” sticks out as one of those songs. It’s heavy, and layered, and SO good. I didn’t realize, until he didn’t play either, how much “Wildfires Outside Laramie, WY” and “You’re the Farthest I Go” are my favorite Max songs. Max is shy, and banter is not in his nature, but he is really honest and funny on stage. He told us that he plays at bars a lot and so he’s used to people not listening to him and joked “I don’t really bring the fun.” He also admitted that he tried to write an upbeat song that would make people want to dance, so he thought of the song that would most likely make him dance, and then wrote a folk song using the same rhythm (cue “SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake). Will Max blush reading this? Probably. Justin Timberlake makes me want to dance, too, Max. It’s cool.

Max is a fan of Driftwood. He told us that they’re the band he likes the most every year at a music festival they play together in upstate New York, where Driftwood is from. Driftwood was great. The four–Dan Forsyth, Joe Kollar, Claire Byrne, and Joey Arcuritook the stage and are a tight unit. On fiddle, upright bass, guitar, banjo, kick drum, and with great harmonies, they are definitely entertaining. I can tell they play in bars a lot, because it seemed like they played the extended, instrumental jam version of most of their songs. Check out “The Sun’s Going Down.” They played a ton of songs and we were out super late dancing the night away.

Thanks for a fun night, y’all!

xo,

bree

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lake Street Dive with Joey Dosik

Friday, February 17, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I wasn’t planning on going to this show. I love Lake Street Dive, but so does everyone else. I used to see them play at teeny One Longfellow Square, back when there were maybe 40 people in the audience and I could sit a few feet from the stage. I don’t always rally for their sold out shows, because being squished together with a lot of enthusiastic fans at maximum capacity is cozier than I prefer. I miss the old days, even though I’m thrilled for Lake Street Dive and their much-deserved success. I saw on Facebook that my friend-in-music Aimsel Ponti did an interview with the band the afternoon of the show, and I commented on her post. She zipped me an immediate message back, and invited me to be her photographer for the show for MaineToday.com. A photo pass at the State gives you access for a few songs to the space right at the foot of the stage–in front of the barricade–exactly the proximity I want at a live show. I was in.

I made it to State Theatre a song or two into opener Joey Dosik’s set. He has a great voice that filled the room. His sound reminded me a bit of Gavin DeGraw. He sat behind the piano and the crowd dug him. I ran into a couple of my students after the show, and they’d gotten tickets to the sold out show because they sent a message on Instagram to Joey (they are both in our school band and are big fans of Joey) who happily put the two eager fans on his guest list.

Lake Street Dive took the stage to a spirited audience. I watched a little of the show from the balcony, and couldn’t help but notice how many men were gesticulating wildly on air guitar and singing along to every word that Rachael Price belted out for us. LSD opened with “Bad Self Portraits” and I got to shoot for three songs up close, including “Side Pony.” They honored George Michael with their version of “Faith,” and played one of my favorites from earlier in their career–“Neighbor Song.” I can sure relate to “Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand,” loved “You Go Down Smooth,” and the band treated us to two encore songs, wrapping the show with “My Speed,” which we sang along to.

Bassist Bridget Kearney has a new solo album, Won’t Let You Down, which releases on March 24. She’ll be playing a show at One Longfellow Square on Monday, April 17. If tickets haven’t sold out already, they certainly will.


Aimsel wrote a great show review, which captures the energy of the enthusiastic crowd beautifully. Thanks for the show invite, Aimsel!

xo,

bree

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

img_9647

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized