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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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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