Dashboard Confessional

Friday, August 24, 2018

Maine State Pier, Portland, Maine

I bought a house this summer, which meant that I canceled a solid month of concert-going to renovate and move, including a trip to the Newport Folk Festival. I couldn’t, however, skip seeing Dashboard Confessional at the Maine State Pier, which says a lot, because the Pier is a terrible venue and I was slammed. If you’re in your late 30s, you might also be at the right age for Dashboard Confessional to have been important to you at a transition point in your life. Their 2001 album, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, has been my go-to break up album for almost 20 years.

I spent the afternoon with my friend Jan at Reid State Park and then scooted down to Portland to catch Dashboard’s set. The person I talked to at the ticket booth was friendly, which is about the only positive interaction I’ve ever had with a staff member at the Pier, so it deserves a mention. I ran into one of my former students and her big sister and caught up for a bit, and then grabbed my spot in front of the barricade to take photos for the first three songs of Dashboard’s set.

If you have nostalgic feelings about Dashboard, then this was a pretty okay show. If you didn’t, I bet you thought their set fell flat. Chris Carrabba’s got a lot of screechy high notes to hit in his songs, so he balances that with a lot of chatting with the audience. He also gave personal introductions of every member of the band. Chris knows his audience well by now, and said, “some of you guys were in drama and got beat up like me. If we all feel weird together, we don’t have to feel weird alone.” I was so glad to hear “Again I Go Unnoticed,” “Saints and Sailors,” and “Screaming Infidelities” early in their 14-song set. To introduce “Screaming Infidelities,” Chris said “come on kids–we’re going crying.”

IMG_6392Chris said Weezer was the first band to believe in Dashboard Confessional, so they covered “Say It Ain’t So” to thank them. I didn’t like the new song for this tour–“Kinda Yeah Sorta,” but Dashboard hasn’t been putting a ton of music out in the last decade, so I’ll forgive it. Chris talked a lot between songs, and his messages were about inclusion and kindness. To introduce “We Fight,” he said “we are all accepting of each other’s differences in this space. I don’t know what’s going on with the rest of the world, but I beg you to show them what we are doing right. Let’s make a better world for ourselves and our children.”

IMG_6497I made my way to the rear of the audience to watch the full moon behind the stage light up the sky. Chris played “Hands Down,” which he always says is about the “best day he’s ever had in his whole life” to end their set. I was glad to hear some of these songs that mean a lot to me in person again, and was happy to get to do that nearby in Portland on a gorgeous night.

xo,

bree

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Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

This night was an absolute blast! I’d planned to see Brandi and Jason the following weekend at the Newport Folk Festival, but bought a house and my closing date was too near. I actually didn’t have a ticket for this show because I’d planned on a bachelorette weekend getaway with girlfriends, but I needed to stay home and pack, so treated myself to a night out with one of my top favorite musicians. The show had sold out before I knew I needed a ticket, but my friend Aimsel connected me with a ticket, and even though she got to go to Brandi’s soundcheck and had a VIP ticket for the show, she popped over to fourth row center to hang out with Colin and me for a little bit before the show.

I got to Thompson’s Point at 5PM to be in line for doors at 6PM. There was already quite a long line when I arrived. Folks chatted happily in line, and I met Kristen, Caitlin, and Remy–a mom and her two daughters–who were also long-time Brandi fans (my first Brandi show was back in 2005). I caught Remy’s eye later in the crowd and we waved from across the fourth row, and we also bumped into each other and debriefed as we head out of the show later.

Colin and I grabbed an incredible fourth row center spot and met Steve and Donna, Zach (who’d come from Iowa), Lisa, and her 11-year-old nephew, Noah. We bonded and chatted for an hour and I was pretty psyched about the pocket of great people we’d ended up with.

Jason Isbell and his band, which sometimes, but on this night included his gorgeous wife, Amanda Shires, took the stage right on time. I’d never seen Jason live, but I love his songs. I especially liked “24 Frames,” “White Man’s World,” and “Cover Me Up.” He sounded great and they played a fun set for us, with a guest appearance from Brandi and her daughter Evangeline, too. I’d hoped Jason would be more of a storyteller in person, but he really let his songs speak for him and didn’t talk to us except to introduce members of the band. Jason Isbell threw a pick into the crowd and it came right for me. It bounced off my hand and right to the nice woman behind me who was a much bigger fan and I was glad I’d helped it get to her.

I knew the crowd would shift in between acts, but things got messy for us up front quickly once Jason left the stage. We were prepared to stick together, but I was surprised by how many people tried the “my friend is up there” line and the physical force to push their way forward route. I was particularly surprised because Brandi exudes love, and I was disappointed that so many fans used force to push their way up. I was most surprised that the people who pushed me were women in their 50s. The woman behind me was rightly furious that people pushed in front of her, and she let folks know. Many argued “this is a rock show” and “it’s general admission!” I had a woman (also in her 50s) press every inch of her body against my backside to try to push me forward. I told her to stop touching me and asked her if she was embarrassed by her behavior. She told me– “I’m completely at peace.” People are gross sometimes. Even Brandi fans. *If you haven’t arrived early to earn your spot up front, it’s not yours to take later. Concert etiquette 101.* Of course the women who pushed their way up front talked through the rest of the show and didn’t seem to pay much attention at all, which is *exactly* what I’d expected from folks that rude in the first place. Bad concert karma to them!

We settled into our pressed, but mostly intact group for Brandi, and tried to let the frustration of the full court press wash over us (it was hardest for me, I’m sure, because I’m a teacher and bad behavior is maddening). Brandi and the twins and their band took the stage, and the night improved quite quickly. They opened with “Every Time I Hear That Song” and the audience was immediately caught up in their energy.

Most of Brandi’s “the” songs–“The Eye,” “The Mother,” and “The Joke” came back-to-back and they’re all stunning in their own right. Brandi told us that “The Mother” is about her daughter Evangeline, but it’s really about everybody’s Evangeline. Brandi introduced “Sugartooth” by telling us that “everybody is somebody’s baby, some of them have fallen on really hard times. Nobody is just a criminal or an incarcerated person or a junkie.” Their cover of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” left me SPEECHLESS. I’d heard them play it back in May in Boston, but I was too far away at that show, so this was a totally different thing to hear it up close and personal. Brandi told us that “Party of One” is about a fight with a spouse, and the lyrics ring true–“Don’t even think about your freedom / Or taking that flight / Or going back upon your promise after fighting for the right / Because your eggshells and your right statements and your weaponized words / Are paper tigers now.” The tone took a sharp change after when Brandi and the twins left us with “Hold Out Your Hand.” The sold out crowd was in unison as we sang and clapped along, which I think we all needed.

No one really does a live show as well as Brandi, Tim, and Phil, and I am so grateful that I got to be right up close to feel all the goodness they showered on us that night!

xo,

bree

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I’m With Her

Sunday, July 8, 2019

Prescott Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This was a picture perfect day. Friends from church invited me to join them for a sail out of Georgetown and Captain Ben even let me take the helm some. It was a hot and sunny day with good wind and great company. Meg and Ben kindly accommodated my need to get back to shore by 4 so I could scoot to Portland to pick up moving boxes I’d found for free on Craigslist (I bought a house!) and make my way to Prescott Park in Portsmouth to see I’m With Her.

I’d seen Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan all live, but never together. I’m With Her released their debut album, See You Around, in February of 2018, and I had never listened to it and didn’t know a single one of their songs as a trio. Their other projects were so strong and I love all of their individual voices enough that I got off a sailboat to drive 100 minutes each way to see them in person.

Colin and Sabrina arrived at Prescott Park closer to doors opening and put down a blanket third row center for us (they’re the best!), and I got to catch up with them about their upcoming trip to Canada a bit before the show. I thought Sara, Sarah, and Aoife’s harmonies were lovely, and they told us the backstories to many of their songs, which is always a plus in my book. They’re all talented instrumentalists, too, and played a soothing set juxtaposed with a very busy Seussical set.

Sarah told us that they wrote their songs for their album in Vermont in December. They’d rented a minivan to drive from New York to Vermont, lost cell reception, got rerouted by Google, and were stuck on an icy mountain, unable to move. Sarah said that “a magical mountain man in a pickup truck” helped them turn around and led them back to the highway. The bonus was that they got a song out of it aptly titled “I-89.” Their songs “Hundred Miles” and “Overland” also stuck out as favorites.

I’m With Her also played two incredible and well-received covers of Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” and John Hiatt’s “Crossing Muddy Waters.” I’m With Her will play the State Theatre in Portland on November 11, and a duo that I really like, The Brother Brothers, will open the show. If you like tender songs and strong harmonies, you should check them out!

xo,

bree

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Max Garcia Conover with Kafari

Friday, June 29, 2019

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was a perfect day–a sunny day with a friend at Popham Beach, goat yoga (exactly what it sounds like) at Sunflower Farm in torrential rain that cleared and offered a rainbow, and then a lovely, warm album release show with tons of friends in the crowd to support our dear friend, Max Garcia Conover.

I’ve written enthusiastically about Max’s shows easily a dozen times now, but he keeps getting better and I like him more and more live. My Bowdoin College classmate and dear friend, Ken Templeton, interviewed Max ahead of this Stagger albumrelease show, and you should read it to learn a ton of context and dig into Max’s songwriting process. My good pal Aimsel Ponti is also a Max fan, and she interviewed him and talks a bit more about the songs on Stagger.

Max introduced his friend, Ahmad Kafari, to the stage to open the show. Max told us that he met Kafari when he was a prospective student visiting Bowdoin College. After dinner, he sat down at a piano outside the dining hall and played some of the most beautiful sounds Max said he’d ever heard. It drew a crowd. Kafari plays piano, rhythm bones, and mixes. His music is soothing and soulful and layered. He is humble and sweet. As a good teacher does, Kafari explained the surprising origins of rhythm bones to us (they came from Ireland and ended up in minstrel shows) and asked someone in the audience to hand out a bunch to the crowd so folks could learn to play them. Kafari played for about half an hour and then welcomed Max to the stage.

Max is a quiet and introspective guy. I listened to him sing a few songs and answer some questions on 98.9 WCLZ the day before the show, and I was struck by how very humble he is. Max had just gotten home from a month-long tour of Spain, Poland, Switzerland, and Sweden, and he seemed glad to be playing in Portland to a room full of his closest friends and supporters. He said, “there are lots of people here who are very close to me and who I admire and feel so much for. It’s just on the edge of overwhelming and too good.” Max played more than the eleven songs on Stagger, including a favorite older song of his called “The Wedding Line.” To introduce the song, he told us that when his dad got remarried about ten years ago, Max remembered seeing his dad standing at the altar in a vulnerable, hopeful way.

Max grew up in a religious town in western New York, and used to go to church because everyone else did, too. After he stopped going, he went for nature walks on Sundays with his awesome mom (Hi, Vivian!)  and they’d read and recite poetry together. Max said, “I thought we were praying, which says a lot about how I got here.” About his next song, “Holy Rider Pt. 4,” Max said, “this is the fourth time I’ve written this song about a preacher.” A lyric that sticks out to me is “The last thing I want / is to burn something down / The last thing I want is to ruin this song / To make anyone feel like they’re / hearing it wrong.” One of the things that Ken talked to Max about is how many times Max comes back to songs and changes them. On Stagger, 3 of 11 songs are titled as PT. 2, one is PT. 4, and one is PT. 1. Songwriting for Max is a never ending process, for sure.

Max is also writing songs about what’s going on in our world today–the good, the bad, and the ugly. He talked about the for profit prison system in Louisiana, which had the world largest prison population per capita. He talked about the crazy laws there designed to keep people in jail. For example, the second time you steal a car in Louisiana, you have to go to jail for 24 years. He wrote a song about the guy who profits from the system–he “probably has a house and wife and kids and this is a song about that guy.”

“Gone” is a song from Max’s 2017 release, Motorhome. Maybe five years after quitting church, Max started going back to because “this girl I liked was going there and one day we both admitted to each other that we didn’t like church at all.” They snuck away from church during the 4th of July fireworks, got on a bus, and took off to Canada together.

Max encouraged us to ask questions throughout the night, and someone asked about “Funeral Guests,” which is a stunning song. The lyrics are heart-wrenching:

I asked him not to tell everyone else
Alright he said
But they all like you
so much more than you like yourself

When he died
his mother called
to talk to me about his funeral guests
She said she wanted
to get to know me
to understand what I was to him

I said I don’t know myself
but I think he did

Someone asked if it was autobiographical, I think, but it’s not. Max said he was leaving a show in Burlington, Vermont headed for Cleveland, and he was listening to A Little Life and crying in the car a lot, so he didn’t notice that Google maps had adjusted his route to save him 5 minutes by sending him along the Trans-Canada Highway until he found himself sitting at the border without a passport. He finagled his way onward, but pulled over to write that song so he could spend a bit more time with the character in the book.

To introduce “New Sweden,” Max joked that “people in Sweden don’t love the idea of New Sweden.” That song is heavy, and it’s evolved over the years to its current incarnation. Afterwards, Max introduced us to his band–his mom’s suitcase from when she was in college and one of her suitcases from when she was in her twenties. Max introduced “Rich Man” by saying it feels like the first song he’s written that’s completely in his voice. Spencer Albee produced the song and wrote about “Rich Man” on his Facebook page ahead of the show:

“This song is intimate, honest and vulnerable. To my ears, ‘protest’ songs are usually heavy handed, or they are pandering to a particular audience, but this one is different. What I hear in this song, and what I relate to most, is that this is the voice of a person in the world who is trying to make sense of all the crazy shit going on around them.

It strikes a chord.

That’s why I really wanted to help bring it to life. Max is a tremendous guy. ‘Rich Man’ is a tremendous song.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Spencer, and I hope you’ll give “Rich Man” a listen. Max also played it on 207 the week before this show. I am so glad that Max is getting the attention we know he deserves, though I doubt he thinks he deserves any attention at all.

Max told us the backstory of the “Crow Song.” His record label, Son Canciones, invites two musicians from their label to meet on a working farm in Barcelona and spend a week together to write and record an album. Max said, “it sounded wonderful and romantic, but I got there and it was the worst.” He said it was beautiful on the farm–he watched horses galloping by–but he couldn’t think of any songs at all. He searched for inspiration inside the very old farmhouse, and eventually found a dark room and sat down to strum a few chords when a crow randomly stepped out of the fireplace, got upset that Max was there and tried to escape, but just kept hitting the walls again and again, missing the small exit, until he died. We tried not to laugh when Max told us that the poor crow inspired the first he wrote that week. Max is decidedly an introvert, so when he asked us to sing along with “Crow Song,” he readily admitted he probably wouldn’t if he were in the crowd. Our friend Ken has a booming voice, and without naming him, I knew why Max knew it would work on this particular night to ask us to sing. We closed Max’s set together while he unplugged and came to the front of the stage with the hopeful lines “I’ll be home where I go / I’ll be home wherever I go / I’ll be home where I go / Someday.”

We cheered for an encore, so Max played “Grand Marquis” for us. The main character of the song is a 1986 Grand Marquis that Max found on Craigslist when his van died. Max chuckled as he told us that it “wasn’t listed as a car–it was listed as a one bedroom apartment. I called the guy and we talked about it over the phone and after a long time, he told me it didn’t have an engine. So I didn’t get it, and wrote a song about it instead.”

This was a spectacular night. Max has hit his stride with banter even though it pains him some and he made us laugh a lot, despite how serious and heavy many of his songs are. I grabbed a physical copy of Stagger that night, but I suspect they’re all gone by now. The only place where you can find it for now is here, and I really encourage you to listen. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that I have listened to it probably 20 times straight through on repeat in the couple of weeks since the show. It is by far my favorite MGC album.

I can’t pick a favorite song on Stagger, but a handful of lines that I haven’t mentioned above really do stick out to me at every listen. In “We’ll Be Friends,” I love the notion that“this is bravery / this is the romance of the century / this is music right in front of me.” Also, in “The End of Fables,” the image that “the shepherd shot the sheep / Fell to his knees and he cried / They looked like wolves to me” is particularly heartbreaking. Stagger is incredibly well-written and Max’s songs are more melodic than I’m used to in a way that I find intriguing.

This post is so long, but it was a night worthy of a thorough recap. I do that for the musicians I really love. Max is surely one of them.

xo,

bree

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Rose Cousins and Mark Erelli

Friday, June 8, 2018

Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield, Maine

This is a really long post. Sometimes I love an artist and go overboard.

Rose Cousins is one of those tremendously talented singer-songwriters who is far less known that she should be. I was introduced to her by Mike Miclon, who is the Executive Artist Director of Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner, Maine, for which I serve on the Board of Directors. Mike put together a compilation CD a couple of years ago of all of the upcoming acts at Johnson Hall, and Rose was on it. Her song “Go First” stole my heart in the first 15 seconds, and so I went to her show with Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barryin March of 2016. Her songs are stunningly heart-wrenching, but she raises your spirit with witty, self-deprecating banter between songs. Her live show is definitely an emotional roller coaster ride.

Colin texted me two days before the show to ask me to join him to see Rose Cousins and Mark Erelli. I’d somehow never been to Stone Mountain Arts Centerin Brownfield, because it’s a solid couple of hours away from my house and felt very far out of the way. I jumped at the invitation, knowing that this was the perfect show to be my first there, and Colin offered to drive, which was a bonus. I hate to write this next sentence, but it’s burned into my memory. Colin and I were five cars behind a fatal accident on Route 113 in Brownfield on our way to Stone Mountain. I looked for information after the show online to see if what we saw was what we thought we’d seen (it sadly was), and found out that particular stretch of road near SMAC has been home to many fatal accidents, which gave me pause. My heart is still heavy for that person and their family.

Colin and I arrived a little bit after doors opened, a bit shaken from the accident, but hopeful everyone was going to be okay. For those of you who have also not been to Stone Mountain, you pick up a number in order of your arrival, which is the number you wait to hear before you get seated for dinner and the show. Colin and I were maybe number 21, and we were seated four or five rows away from the stage. We had a delicious but very expensive dinner (our shrimp pizza alone was $33!), and you need to be prepared with cash, because SMAC doesn’t accept credit cards. I think we split dinner and each paid $51, which is quite pricey to me, but was part of an elevated show experience. Anyhow, be prepared with that information before you go, if you haven’t visited SMAC yet. I really appreciate how much effort Carol Noonan (she played with Rose at Johnson Hall and spoke so much about how important live music is to a thriving community) has put into creating a venue that artists will want to play and show goers will want to frequent. It is a LISTENING ROOM. Period. I loved it. Photography and talking during the show was clearly prohibited, and it was amazing to see such a big crowd all intently focused on the show for a change. (Also, I did take one photo, but just so readers can see what a gorgeous venue SMAC is. I took it in 5 seconds from the bathroom door in the rear of the room and literally no one could see me and I obstructed no one’s view–promise promise!)

img_3226img_3248Rose Cousins and Mark Erelli took the stage and played in the round all night. I hadn’t seen Mark since 2012 playing with the incredible Lori McKenna, but he is warm in person and puts on a great show. Rose joked in between all of her depressing songs, and started the show by saying that she likes playing in Maine because Mainers have a deeper appreciation for Canadians because we’re literally attached. She told us that she quit her job in 2005 and the first thing she did was open for Mark Erelli at Club Passim. She opened the night with “Freedom.” A couple of songs later, she quipped “here’s a devastating little number called ‘White Flag.’” I absolutely LOVE it when artists tell us what inspired their songs, and Rose and Mark introduced every single song with thoughtful details all night. I was totally blissed out by that, the exceptional audience concert going etiquette, and the heartbreakingly beautiful songs.

Mark introduced “Look Up” (a song he said was one of those “don’t blink songs”) by telling us that he and Rose had realized “there were short but clearly definable stretches of the program where we were going to be unable to save you from double or even triple devastation.” Rose told us that Mark is so good at writing story songs, but she usually goes straight into an emotion that’s extremely uncomfortable and talks about that in her song instead. She told us both her mom and sister are married to farmers, and that she has a deep respect for how much work that is for them, which she fleshes out in “Farmer’s Wife.” Rose also mentioned that “Lock and Key” is about those people in your life who you are drawn to who are disruptive to your life who “you don’t want around but also do really want around.”  

Mark played “The Hitter” for his son, who’s team was just eliminated in his Little League playoffs. He said he’d searching for cell service around SMAC (there isn’t any) to get text updates about the game. Mark and Rose have been playing an annual cover song show together for 13 or 14 years (they couldn’t remember) and recorded an album called Mixtape of the songs they’ve played at those shows. Mark joked that making his fans a mix tape was his way of “asking my audience to go steady” to introduce their cover of “Ophelia” by The Band.

Mark and Rose had just arrived at SMAC after an annual songwriting retreat on an island in New Hampshire. Mark and Rose both talked about how important that week is to them at length. Mark said, “there were maybe 18 of us this year and I think we wrote 63 songs together in five days.” He said that he collects scraps of lyrics and tells himself he’ll turn them into songs at the retreat. Mark and Rose played a song he wrote on the island a couple of days earlier inspired by just three lines on an otherwise blank notebook page called “Handmade.” It was gorgeous.

Rose also raved about the retreat. She said, it’s a “privilege to be with these nutritious friend. All year long, I empty my tank and this retreat is the best part of my year when I refill my tank.” They rough it on the island–there’s poor cell signal, no wifi, and no showers–but everyone comes together and is excited to be there to create with a creative community. Rose turned a conversation on the island with a friend who is a mother of two into a GORGEOUS, heartbreaking song about the perception others have of you compared to how you really feel you’re doing. She explained that “as a mom, you want to make everything so great and fix your kids’ emotions when they’re sad. As my dad would say, ‘they’re just emotions.’” The lyrics of her new, untitled song are stunning–“I wish my heart was a hammer, I’d put you back together, but it’s just a heart, like yours. If my hands were a pedal, I’d pull you through this struggle, but they’re just hands, like yours. Here’s what these hands can do. Be here to hold you. And when you lose your way, here’s what my heart would say–love comes back around.” I felt like the whole audience held our breath from start to finish to not interrupt a single second of that incredible song. What a treasure Rose is. I hope she appreciates how impressive her skill to express feelings so beautifully in song really is.

A few years ago, Rose told us that she arrived at the retreat feeling like a “garbage person” and wanted to write an anthemic song called “Grace.” She said she was “thinking about how it’s such a great way to walk in the world but sometimes it’s hard to apply grace in the moment.” “Freedom” rolled out of her at the retreat first, but then “Grace” came, with help from Mark Erelli. “Grace” won Song of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards, and she said it is a testament to how important that week of songwriting on the island is. Mark agreed and told us that everyone brings little pieces of ideas to the island and they work together to form songs and everyone is changed in the process. It inspired “For a Song.”

Rose told us that she wrote “Tender Is the Man” with the intention of “relieving men of the shame of having emotions.” She said “society makes it hard for that to be a normal human thing. Men are taught to compact and push aside their feelings, and that discomfort is emotion and if you want to talk about it, you can. I recorded it and realized that I have shame about having emotions, too.”

I was sad not to hear “Go First” in person again, but Rose closed with another of my favorite of her songs,“Chosen.” Rose will be back at SMAC on August 5 opening for the incredible Patty Griffin. Tickets are $100 each to support Brownfield’s Public Library. Before she sang, she told us that “Chosen” is “about the disparity between how we present ourselves in the world and how we feel about each other and the quest to bring those two things closer together.” She asked us to sing the “ooohs” together and fostered a beautiful feeling of unity in the room while she sang lyrics that bravely express self doubt and vulnerability. It felt like just the right note on which to end this beautiful evening. Rose is such a sharp lyricist, and “Chosen” is no exception–“take these arms, these legs, they are broken. This love is too much, I am frozen. And I don’t know if I have what it takes to be chosen. I arose with wings, and I am flightless. Someone’s carving a statue in my likeness and I will never live up to this portrait. I’m just posing. And I don’t know if I have what it takes to be chosen.” To hear these lyrics sung in person make them even better. Please see Rose Cousins when she comes to your town.

The crowd erupted with the first noise we’d made all night (thanks, fellow show-goers, for being so wonderfully attentive!), and Mark and Rose came back to the stage and played a lovely cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind.” I felt lucky to be in the room that night. Thank you, Rose and Mark, for the gift of your vulnerability and honesty in your songwriting and your bravery in sharing your heart with your fans.

xo,

bree

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Good Old War with Juke Ross

Monday, June 4, 2018

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I needed this show to go well more than I’d realized. I’ve seen many of my favorite musicians play in the last couple of years to crowds that were rudely on their phones or talking the whole show. It’s gotten disheartening, but this show was different, and helped restore my faith in audiences a little bit. Last night’s crowd was small (it was a Monday, after all), attentive, polite, and clearly appreciated being there. A special thanks to my fellow show-goers for making this such a great night!

I saw Philadelphia’s Keith [Good]win, Tim Arn[old], and Dan Sch[war]tz of Good Old War for the first time opening for my beloved Brandi Carlile at Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom back in 2010, but I’ve known their music for the whole decade they’ve been together. You know a band is great when they open the show for someone you really love, but you’re not in a hurry for them to get off stage. I’ve seen them a handful of times in person, and they are always great. I last saw them open for Josh Ritter at State Theatre in October 2017, and before that at Port City Music Hallin September of 2015. I was so glad to see they were coming back to town just six months after their last stop in Portland.

I checked out show opener, Juke Ross, online before heading down to Portland, and was eager to see him in person after watching this video of a gorgeous live performance of his song, “Colour Me.”Juke is a young singer-songwriter from Guyana, South America, which is on the Caribbean. Doors opened at Port City Music Hall an hour earlier than normal last night, and Juke Ross took the stage a few minutes after 7. There may have been 20 people in the room when he took the stage, but he decided to engage us even though we were such a small crowd, and I commend him for that. His voice is unique and lovely. He told us a little bit of the backstory behind most of his simple songs, and he shined on his cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.” I had a photo pass for the show last night from Good Old War, and I’d meant to take a few shots of Juke, but his songs were so delicate and the crowd was so attentive, that I decided my shutter would be a distraction. It’s really rare to have people at a show be so quiet and focused on the performer that taking a picture would be disruptive. I was psyched that was the case, for a change!

Juke Ross

I was pretty excited that this was an early show, and that Good Old War was on stage by 8pm. They played for a solid two hours, which was such a treat. They opened with “Coney Island,” and then told us that to celebrate their 10 year band anniversary, they’d play their first album, Only Way to Be Alone, from start to finish for us. The crowd had grown by then, and people around me seemed pretty excited to hear that announcement. Keith introduced “We’ve Come A Long Way” by telling us that he and his wife had dated and broken up in 8th grade, but that they got back together about a decade ago as Good Old War formed.

 

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Keith Goodwin

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Tim Arnold

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Good Old War, from L to R:  Kevin Goodwin, Dan Schwartz, and Tim Arnold

IMG_6335After they finished playing Only Way to Be Alone, GOW took and played many, many audience requests, including “Amazing Eyes,” “My Own Sinking Ship,” and the song Keith said is his favorite to play live, Woody’s Hood Boogie Woogie.” Keith remembered that they usually unplug and play part of their set from the floor at Port City Music Hall shows (which is just awesome), and asked us “should we play the rest of the songs down there?” We agreed enthusiastically, so the crowd parted for Keith, Tim, and Dan and the maybe 80-100 of us there encircled them for the rest of the night. Dan played guitar, and we all sang the last ten songs of the night together, which I thought was lovely and special. Also, the people around me had nice voices! Bonus!They started with “Loud Love,” which is one of my favorites. There was a kiddo named Clover who requested “Never Gonna See Me Cry,” so they played that for her even though they hadn’t practiced it and weren’t confident they knew the words (they didn’t, but figured it out). I was really happy to hear “I Should Go” and “That’s Some Dream.” They played “Here Are The Problems” as a request even though they weren’t sure they’d remember it, either. After a couple of songs they didn’t remember well, Keith wanted to play some newer songs they knew better and so they played “In a Heartbeat” and “That Feeling” from their 2018 EP, Part of You.

Keith told us that he loves Portland and even brought his family on vacation to Maine. He said “I took a boat cruise for an hour and a half and you have Eventide and Fore Street! This place is the best!” Mainers tend to agree that this is a pretty special place, so I appreciated the compliment. GOW wrapped their delightful unplugged set with “Calling Me Names,” a “Happy Birthday” song that we all sang for Tanner, who turned 28 yesterday, and “Not Quite Happiness.” They thanked us for being a great audience and told us they’d be back soon. I sure hope so. They are such a pleasure to see live, every single time. I’m always a little surprised that this band isn’t more famous than they are. They deserve the recognition, for sure. Thanks for a really lovely night, y’all!

xo,

bree

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Apocalyptica

Friday, May 25, 2018

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I think nearly every song could be taken to the next level with the addition of a string section, so it shouldn’t surprise you (totally) that I’ve loved Metallica’s S&M (Symphony and Metallica) album for 20 years now. I saw a post from the State Theatre on Facebook announcing a show called Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos, and had literally no idea what it meant. I saw Metallica and cellos together in the same sentence, though, so put the show in my concert calendar without any additional research. A few days ahead of the show, the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra posted a contest on their Facebook and Instagram accounts for a single third row center ticket for the show, which I entered and won. I am SO GLAD that I went to this show on a whim. It was supremely entertaining.

I grabbed my seat and chatted with other Metallica fans around me, who totally knew Apocalyptica and were really excited for the show. I took that as a good sign, but I was SO surprised by how cool and just totally fun this show was. Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso, Paavo Lötjönen, and Antero Manninen were the current touring lineup of Apocalyptica, and the first half of the show was literally the four of them playing four cellos across the stage. They were amazing! I obviously had to look Apocalyptica up after the show, and learned that they are a Finnish orchestral rock band with eight studio releases, including their debut album from 1996, which was Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. I watched an interview with Eicca Toppinen, where he said he was told that Apocalyptica’s album of Metallica covers inspired Metallica to do their collaboration with The San Francisco Symphony in 1999 that became the S&M album. Apocalyptica was even invited to the performance.

After a pretty long intermission, Apocalyptica came back to the stage with Mikko Sirén on a giant drum kit for the second half of their show, which was a total blast and very much a rock concert. I had so much fun at this engaging, unexpectedly awesome show. Thanks for the ticket, MYRO!

xo,

bree

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