Rachael Yamagata with Pressing Strings

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I have a lot of love for Rachael Yamagata. Her 2004 album, Happenstance, played on repeat in my car for a solid year. I saw her once in September of 2005 at my alma mater, so it had been over a decade since I’d seen her live. Now touring to support her new Tightrope Walker album, I was very excited to be able to see Rachael in Portland (much to the chagrin of my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor, whose class I had to skip to get to the show on time!).

I arrived at Port City Music Hall towards the end of opener Pressing Strings’ set. I don’t have much of a recollection of them two and a half weeks later, but I do remember they did a cover of “Going to California” that I thought was really good.

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Pressing Strings

Rachael Yamagata and her band took the stage to a small, but obviously loyal crowd. Rachael was a little under the weather, and had been encouraged not to talk too much between songs (which was clearly a struggle for her). I was thrilled to hear “Be Be Your Love” from Happenstance early in her set. It made my day. She told us that “I Don’t Want to Be Your Mother” was about her tendency to date men who need a lot of support, which women in the crowd near me chuckled and shared knowing glances about while Rachael introduced the song. I thought “Over” was great live. Rachael pushed her voice (I hope she was okay in the days that followed) and covered Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” which sounded lovely.

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Rachael Yamagata

Rachael’s band was great, too. Her drummer was leaving soon to tour with William Fitzsimmons (who I LOVE), Brandon Walters played bass and is in Lord Huron (seriously!), Michael Chavez on lead guitar has toured with Rachael forever, and Grammy nominated producer John Alagía played piano and guitar. Rachael was charming and open and her voice cuts right through.

Her last song, “Nobody,” is about “going for it” and she sampled Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” in there, too, which was an unexpected, welcome surprise. The grateful audience cheered for an encore and Rachael came back and played “Elephants” solo. People in the crowd shouted out requests and Rachael seemed happy to hear them and tried to oblige. She also sang a song for local music maven Aimsel Ponti, who is a longtime Rachael fan and was also at the show. Aimsel also made my day by telling me that Rachael had recorded an entirely acoustic version of Happenstance that was for sale at the merch table. So Happenstance is happily back in my car on repeat, and it holds up beautifully, twelve whole years later! So glad I made it to this show!

xo,

bree

P.S.–Check out the video for “Let Me Be Your Girl”–written/directed by Josh Radnor and starring Allison Janney!

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Darlingside with The DuPont Brothers

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Portland House of Music and Events, Portland, Maine

I was just at the beginning of what would be a week long illness that knocked me out when I decided to drink some tea, take some ibuprofen, and get down to see my beloved Darlingside at Portland House of Music and Events (H.O.M.E.). I’ve been fortunate to see Darlingside a handful of times since 2012, and they bring incredible warmth and talent to the stage.

I’d seen Burlington, Vermont’s The DuPont Brothers open for The Ballroom Thieves and Maine Youth Rock Orchestra back in April, and I really prefered them on this night without the full band. Brothers Zack and Sam DuPont were excellent as a duo. Their harmonies were richer and I could hear their lyrics and feel their meaning better without all the distraction.

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Sam and Zack DuPont–The DuPont Brothers

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Darlingside took the stage and the audience fell quickly under their spell. It’s always amazing to see a band command a crowd’s attention the way Darlingside does. Don, Dave, Auyon, and Harris share one microphone and an evident bond, and we listened intently.

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Darlingside is Don Mitchell, Dave Senft, Auyon Mukharji, and Harris Paseltiner

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I was especially glad to hear “My Love,” “God of Loss,” “The Catbird Seat,” and “Sweet and Low” live. If you haven’t listened to my advice the other half dozen times I’ve recommended Darlingside to you (shame!), it’s not too late to check them out. They are the full package–talented multi-instrumentalists, lovely lyricists, beautiful singers with lush harmonies, and friendly banterers to boot. It’s always a treat to see you, Darlingside! Come back soon!

It was also a pleasure to get to catch up with Maine Youth Rock Orchestra Director Kevin Oates after the show. I am a big MYRO fan and these talented, hard-working teenagers should definitely be on your radar! Kevin introduced me to some of his rock star musicians who were also at the show, and I am so in awe of how cool these kids are!

xo,

bree

 

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Kaleo

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I was the Mt. Ararat High School Class of 2016 Advisor and our graduation ceremony was slated (as always) for the same day and time as the Old Port Festival. I was particularly sad about the bad timing back in June because Iceland’s Kaleo was scheduled to perform and I’d have to miss them. As fate would have it, Kaleo wasn’t able to make the trip and agreed to do a makeup show. 98.9 WCLZ gave away free tickets to the first listeners to request them by mail or in person at the studio, and I was lucky to get a couple.

This was my fourth show in the span of eight days. I was pretty pumped to see Kaleo live. Their  lead singer JJ Julius Son’s voice is spellbinding–I mean, have you heard “All The Pretty Girls”?–and I was looking forward to seeing if he is the real deal. The answer is an emphatic yes. Kaleo’s live show was as crystal clear and flawless as their debut album, A/B. If I could have asked for anything more (and I will, even though I was perfectly happy), I wish that JJ would have interacted more with us and told us some stories about growing up in Iceland and their songs. I was happily surprised to learn that WCLZ recorded the show, so the loads of people who couldn’t get tickets could listen, too! Take a listen and let me know what you think. Oh, and check out Kaleo’s incredibly beautiful videos for “Way Down We Go” (filmed in a volcano) and “Save Yourself” (filmed on an iceberg)!

I also enjoyed Portland based band Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters. They had an upbeat Americana vibe with nice harmonies and energy and were clearly excited to warm up the sold out crowd at Port City Music Hall.

Thanks for making this happen, CLZ!

xo,

bree

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Ellis Paul

Friday, September 16, 2016

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

Ellis Paul is my favorite singer-songwriter. A Maine native, he’s an incredible storyteller, and I have taken every opportunity possible over the last thirteen years to see him live. This was a delightful night, and I’m so glad to have been in the audience. I’d asked Johnson Hall’s Executive Director Mike Miclon to bring Ellis Paul to Johnson Hall when he first took charge of the venue a couple of years ago, and he readily obliged. Before Mike introduced Ellis to the stage, he singled me out and said that this was my 47th Ellis Paul show and gave a kind shout out to whatbreesees.com, as well. Mike said that he trusts my taste in music, so takes my booking advice seriously. It was such a feel good moment for me, and one of the reasons I love seeing shows at Johnson Hall in teeny Gardiner, Maine so much. It feels like home.

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Ellis Paul

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Ellis took the stage and said his pickup on his guitar wasn’t working, so he came down into the audience and played the bulk of his set unplugged from there. It was such an intimate experience, and we loved it. Ellis had written a new song about traveling that he was still using notes for, and a sweet older gentleman was clearly over the moon to be asked to hold it for Ellis while he sang.

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Blurry but precious

Ellis told us about his experience putting Woody Guthrie’s song “God’s Promise” to music (even after embarrassing himself by awkwardly showing Woody’s son Arlo his Woody Guthrie tattoo). I wasn’t surprised that Ellis ended the night with an impromptu ditty on the piano about how women outnumber men 60/40 in colleges and universities and are clearly poised to take over the world. He sang that he’d be voting for Hillary for his two daughters, made a joke about Trump’s bad hair, and got off stage. It turned out that someone in the audience that night wrote him a letter to explain why Hillary is the Anti-Christ and admonished Ellis for talking about politics at a folk show. Clearly, someone is very lacking in the roots and purpose of folk music!  

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From Ellis Paul’s Facebook page

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As always, it’s a pleasure to see Ellis live. I went up to see the unfinished Opera House on the top levels of Johnson Hall after the show (there’s been some new money pledged to the renovation project, too!) and just before I left, Mike told Ellis that I can really sing and that we should do a duet at my 50th Ellis show. Sounds like a plan to me!

xo,

bree

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Glen Hansard with Joe Purdy

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Orpheum Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts

Glen Hansard is one of my favorite musicians, and I continue to be shocked that he’s not a household name. He should be. He is a phenomenal storyteller who gives 110% on stage. A seasoned busker, he knows how to connect with an audience and be heard. For those of you who don’t know Glen Hansard, let me introduce you. He’s been the lead singer of Irish rock band The Frames for over 25 years. He was in the 1990 film, The Commitments. He starred in and wrote the music for the acclaimed 2007 film Once. Glen and Markéta Irglová won the Oscar for Best Song with “Falling Slowly” (a song I suspect you’ve probably heard, but didn’t know who wrote it). Once The Musical is now on Broadway, and it’s a lovely adaptation of the film.

Here’s Glen’s 2012 NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Here’s Glen at NPR All Song Considered’s Sweet Sixteen party in 2016. Those should hook you.

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There was no question that I’d drive to Boston on a school night to see Glen live at The Orpheum. I met my steadfast concert friend Bob for dinner and we grabbed our great center orchestra seats in time to catch the last few songs of Joe Purdy’s opening set. Arkansas native folk singer-songwriter Joe Purdy was charming and honest. He told us he’d written his last album with a pretty sharp tongue but went home to be with his family for Christmas before he recorded it. He said his wonderful, Saint-like mother told him that if he wanted to make a real impact on people’s lives that he needed to take the anger out of his message. So he went back to California and rewrote the whole record, which was the right thing to do, even if “it was a huge pain in the ass.” Check out “My Country.” I wish we hadn’t missed so much of Joe’s set, and I hope I get the chance to see him again soon.

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Joe Purdy

Glen and his band took the stage and wowed from start to finish. They must have played close to 25 songs, which was such a gift. I was especially happy to hear Glen tell so many stories that inspired his songs. It’s the best part about getting to see your favorites live–when they tell you about their lives and the characters and moments that inspired them. It’s a special thing. Glen opened the show with “You Will Become,” which set exactly the perfect tone. He told us that his next song, “Just to Be the One,” was really about his hard-earned love for his dog. I was thrilled to hear “When Your Mind’s Made Up” from Once early in the set list. Bob leaned over to say how glad he was to hear “Bird of Sorrow,” which is also a favorite of mine. Glen told a long story about Renata–a gritty, honest waitress at a place in NYC who has her own fan club. The band closed their set with “Falling Slowly,” which Glen dedicated to Markéta.

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Glen Hansard

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Glen came back to the stage greeted by thunderous applause. He treated us to “Love Don’t Keep Me Waiting” solo, and invited the band back to join him for another five songs. I was over the moon to hear “Say It to Me Now,” which was the opening song of Once, and “This Gift,” which was beautifully featured in the movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Jake Clemons from the E Street Band joined Glen and the band on stage for the last three songs of the night, which included a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Drive All Night.” “Her Mercy” was lovely, and then all of the band and crew, Joe Purdy, and Jake Clemons joined Glen for a spectacular version of  “The Auld Triangle,” which I’m so glad someone recorded so I can enjoy it again and again. It was a magical evening, and this was the perfect ending. Please check out Glen Hansard if you haven’t. You can carpool to Boston with me next time he’s in town.

xo,

bree

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“The Auld Triangle”

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Justin Townes Earle with Max García Conover

 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Max García Conover is my friend and a heckuva guy. He is thoughtful and observes intently. He writes a song a week (you can be a patron of that project) and is working full-time as a singer-songwriter. I’m proud to know him. He was really excited to open for Justin Townes Earle, so the friend group rallied to support him on a school night.

Max took the stage to an attentive audience. Port City Music Hall had some seating set up in the general admission area, and it made for a special listening room show. Max told us that when he ended up in Puerto Rico without the grant money he’d expected to live on, he took to busking to earn money for groceries. He was just learning to play the guitar, and he’d play the same songs again and again, but no one dropped any money in his guitar case. He started playing a Justin Townes Earle song (“I Don’t Care”) on the streets, and it was the first song that made him any money. Max was clearly excited to open the show for JTE, and it was heartwarming to see him on stage at Port City in front of a big crowd that listened earnestly and enjoyed him. He played “My Neighbor Joe” early in his set, and it’s an intense song that reveals itself more and more each time I hear it. That something I appreciate about Max’s songs–they’re layered with meaning and take on new life at each listen.

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Max Garcia Conover

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Max said that everyone should have a preacher friend, so he invented one in a song. Max told us that he grew up going to church and on mission trips until one of his pastors gave an anti-gay sermon and so he immediately stopped doing both. He told us a story about a real investment banker with heart, who chatted with Max to make sure he was saving for retirement after his set at a music festival. Max’s last song of the night was one he wrote on a pizza box during intermission at a tough show in New Sweden, Maine (the song is aptly titled “New Sweden, Maine”), that has evolved over time and become a staple in his setlist.

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Justin Townes Earle took the stage, and the crowd was pumped. Some friends I trust love his music, so I was excited to see him live. I’ve got to say that his live show fell flat for me. People in the crowd were smitten. Some shouted out song requests. I heard someone yell a song title and say it was his wedding song. JTE’s songs obviously mean a lot to his fans, so I thought it was unfortunate that Justin didn’t receive love from the audience warmly. At one point early in his set he said “I’m an asshole,” and it seemed true. I have a hard time getting interested in someone’s music when they don’t seem to care at all about the listener. Everyone is entitled to an off night, which perhaps this was, but it was enough to turn me off. I very rarely leave a show before it’s over, but I did on this night, and I don’t feel like I missed out. If you’ve had an incredible Justin Townes Earle show experience (and if you thought he was amazing at this particular show), I want to hear from you about what you see that I missed.

xo,

bree

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The Lumineers, Langhorne Slim, and Rayland Baxter

Friday, August 5, 2016

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

I snagged a ticket for this show at Thompson’s Point the moment they went on sale, and I am so glad I did. The show sold out early (impressive, given the capacity at outdoor Thompson’s Point), and as show openers were announced, I got more excited, because both Langhorne Slim and Rayland Baxter have both been on my radar for ages. I feel really lucky that I got to see three great bands for the first time at a fantastic venue on a perfect summer night.

I picked up my friend Marian and we got to Thompson’s Point early to grab a spot up front. We ended up seventh row center, surrounded by great people who’d also arrived early to enjoy the music up close. There was a brief bit of drama where a woman pushed her way through the crowd to get a better spot, but another woman who’d been there since doors opened with her kids convinced her to do the right thing and leave. Concert etiquette–if you want a good spot, arrive early. You can’t push your way to the front and expect to stay there and have people welcome you with open arms. It’s rude. Don’t do it.

Nashville’s Rayland Baxter took the stage and was friendly with the crowd. 98.9 WCLZ has been playing his song “Yellow Eyes” for ages, and I was glad to hear that live. He seemed like a chill guy and his country music inspired jam band was a fine opening to the night.

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Raymond Baxter

I have a handful of friends who are devotees of Langhorne Slim, so my expectations were high. Langhorne Slim & The Law took the stage and worked it. I like the lyrics to his opening song “Airplane”You and I’ve got our backs against the wall/When you don’t move, no one throws you the ball/Life’s a dance between riding the bench and/Waiting for your chance to swing for the fence.” “The Spirit Moves” sounds a lot like a song The Lumineers would write, so it seemed fitting that Langhorne (born Sean Scolnick) would open for them. We sang along on “Love Crimes” while Langhorne jumped off stage and into the crowd and sang most of the song sitting on a fan’s shoulders. I was glad to hear “Changes” live. Langhorne Slim & The Law will kind of incredibly be back to Portland to play at teeny One Longfellow Square on Friday, October 28. It will be a great show and will sell out early.

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Langhorne Slim & The Law

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The Lumineers took the stage and the audience roared. My friend Ken Templeton introduced me to them back in 2012. I fell in love with their Daytrotter session he recommended and looked up their tour schedule, just to find I’d missed them playing at teeny tiny Red Room at Cafe 939 at Berklee in Boston by three days. I’ve been waiting for four years to see this band. I also sang their breakout hit, “Ho Hey,” at my best friend’s little brother’s wedding. He’d played the song to woo his now-wife and I sang it while they had their first dance.

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The Lumineers

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The huge crowd roared with applause and sang along every word of every song. It was such a feel good night. I loved hearing “Ophelia” and “Ho Hey” early in the set. Lead singer Wesley Schultz made a deal with the enormous crowd that we’d all put our cell phones away after “Ho Hey” and just be present in the moment. It was so refreshing to see a show without having to watch through the cell phone screen of the person in front of me. Wesley told us that “Cleopatra” is a true (and heartbreaking) story of a female taxi driver who he met in the Republic of Georgia.

The band grabbed their instruments and ran back to rear of the crowd and played a few songs on a small stage set up there, including “Gale Song,” which was featured on the Hunger Games soundtrack. I thought it was cool that the band wanted to reach as much of the crowd as possible. When Wesley returned to the main stage, he walked through the huge crowd and right by me! The Lumineers returned to the main stage for another eight or so songs and a three song encore. They wrapped the night with “Stubborn Love,” which the happy crowd ate up. What a night! I feel lucky I got to be at this show. Seeing The Lumineers live was well worth the wait.

xo,

bree

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