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

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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

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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.

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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

 

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Blind Pilot with Dickie

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I grabbed my spot in the front row (where I like to be at Port City Music Hall) just after Dickie took the stage. Iowa’s Dickie was pretty good. I texted Colin that their lead singer, Dick Prall, reminded me of Hey Rosetta! (which is a compliment), but I didn’t love violinist Kristina Priceman’s sarcastic jokes directed towards Dick Prall. It detracted from the music for me. Maybe I’m drained from all of the negative energy in our world right now, but having one bandmate pick fun at another on stage was a big turn off. Too bad, because they can play (and they have a bass saxophonist, which is rad), and I bet they have a lot of fun together on the good nights. Check out their song “Pop Pop Pop.”

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Dickie

Blind Pilot took the stage after a very long break between sets. I hadn’t seen them live since I caught them from the front row at the Newport Folk Festival back in 2012, so I was very excited to see them in Portland, Maine. The six piece band plays so many instruments–upright bass, ukulele, trumpet, vibraphone, and one I had to Google, the mountain dulcimer. If you saw their stage set up before the six band members took the stage, you would expect a much bigger band.

Blind Pilot is from the “other Portland,” and we gave them a little bit of crap about that. Israel Nebeker has a silky smooth voice and when partnered with the harmonies of Kati Claborn and Luke Ydstie, they have a rich, upbeat sound. Blind Pilot played a solid 15 song set to a very happy crowd. “3 Rounds And A Song” is such a sweet love song, and I was glad to hear it in person. Right in the middle of the song, though, there was a loud gasp right behind me. A proposal! The crowd clapped and the band smiled. After the song ended, Luke made sure to get the couple’s names (Allie and Patrick) and wished them well. What a sweet moment to witness!

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The whole crowd sang along (including an adorable group of high school aged boys who were in the front row and knew all of the words) to Blind Pilot’s single “Packed Powder” from their most recent release, And Then Like Lions. The band came back for a two song encore, and ended the night with my favorite, “We Are The Tide,” which is a superb pick me up song. Blind Pilot is wonderful live, and I was so pleased to see them in my Portland.

xo,

bree

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Lucy Kaplansky

Saturday, December 11, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I was shocked to find out I’ve never blogged about the fabulous Lucy Kaplansky on whatbreesees.com. I first saw the New York City songstress open for my beloved Ellis Paul in 2007, and have had the pleasure of seeing her live a handful of times since then. Lucy’s music is autobiographical–she boldly shares her life through song. It’s a humbling experience to witness someone pour their heart out on stage like she does. To me, one of the best things an artist can do in person is interact warmly with the audience–and Lucy does this beautifully. I love hearing stories about her family’s new dog (Janie the beagle) or what her beloved daughter Molly is up to these days. (You can follow Lucy on Facebook for more about her day to day.) Lucy tells us the stories behind her songs and is incredibly open with her audience. Seeing her live makes me feel like I’m catching up with a good friend over a cup of tea. There’s something genuinely warm and honest about a Lucy Kaplansky concert experience. I chose this show to be my last of 2016, and it exceeded every expectation and closed out my concert year perfectly.

Lucy opened with “Bird on the Wire” by the recently departed Leonard Cohen. She was chilly and the fan directly above her was blowing, so someone from One Longfellow Square ran downstairs to grab her a long sleeved shirt while nearly every nearby audience member offered her a coat. It was cute. She played a new song that’s a work in progress about old friends and sang a birthday song for her daughter Molly who is shockingly already 14 years old! Lucy spoke so sweetly about Molly. She told us Molly is generous and kind and tough and won’t let anyone mess with her, and that “I’d like to be like her when I grow up.” Lucy played one of her most well known songs, “Ten Year Night,” and told us she and her husband were celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary. It was her last show of 2016, as well, and she gladly offered to play requests from the crowd.

Lucy told us about discovering Spotify and that her cover of Bryan Ferry’s More Than This” was on Spotify’s “Your Favorite Coffeehouse” playlist. It has been streamed (and she checks every morning) over 10.5 million times. She told us that she feels so lucky that people have listened to this recording that she’s really proud of. The reason she started playing the song was because she was doing an interview on the BBC in London and Bryan Ferry was listening and liked her voice and invited her to come sing with him on his Frantic album that very night. So, to commemorate the event, she learned a Bryan Ferry song to play at her gigs from then on.

Lucy also covered Paul McCartney’s “I’m Looking Through You.” Lucy showed us the mandolin that Duke Levine (who I saw back in March) gave her, and played a song on it for her dad called “Reunion.” Her dad, Irving Kaplansky, was a mathematician, a professor, and a musician, and Lucy played his “Song About Pi” for us, as well. She’s also recorded an album of his songs aptly titled Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky. She also played a song for her mom (who passed away six years ago) called “For Once In Your Life” shortly after.  

Lucy wrapped her set by playing all of the songs folks in the audience had requested, and she asked us to come say hello after the show. She told us that she’s always amazed at how nice people who come to her shows are and as someone who sees her shows, I agree. She played a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” which she played without rehearsal for the first time as a request at a show on the Jersey Shore. We sang along. It was a lovely way to close the show. The crowd asked for an encore, so Lucy gladly came back to the stage and played “Guinevere” for us. Seeing Lucy live feels intimate like a house concert, and she made One Longfellow Square feel like we were in her living room that night. Thanks, Lucy! See you next time! Happy 2017, All!

xo,

bree

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Carbon Leaf with The Accidentals

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

It’s always a pleasure to see Virginia’s Carbon Leaf live. I’ve been going to their shows in Maine since 2009, and they always bring positive energy and upbeat music. Lead singer Barry Privett told us that he’d done the math, and they’ve played Portland, Maine ten times. I left my fancy camera at home so I could dance, but here are posts from Carbon Leaf shows at Port City Music Hall in December of 2013 and November of 2014 that have longer recaps and far better pictures of the show.

I love Carbon Leaf shows because the crowd is always full of great people who sing along and have a great time. Being part of a great crowd means having a great time at the show, so this is truly an important point to mention. I met a couple who had driven up from Massachusetts for the show, and we danced and sang along from the front row while Carbon Leaf played a solid 20-song set, including songs you’ve definitely heard on 98.9 WCLZ, such as “Life Less Ordinary” and “What About Everything?” “The Boxer” takes on new meaning for me now that I’m training five days a week at a MMA gym. In fact, I met my teammates at our coach’s house after the show to watch the UFC fights until the wee hours.

“Let Your Troubles Roll By” is the Carbon Leaf song that means the most to me and inspires me to lift my head when things are hard. I always think of my friend Sarah, who I met at a Carbon Leaf show at Port City in 2009 and who suffered an aneurysm, but has really come a long way in her recovery. Carbon Leaf even sent her a get well soon card when she was in the hospital. They’re great musicians, but good people, too. That stuff matters to me.

Towards the end of the night, Barry asked to turn the house lights up. Since Veteran’s Day was the day before, Barry asked all of the veterans in the room to raise their hand for much deserved recognition and then dedicated and played “The War Was in Color” for them. It was a moving moment. I’m always glad to see you when you’re in town, Carbon Leaf! See you next fall!

xo,

bree

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Joan Osborne

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Chocolate Church, Bath, Maine

I’d been meaning to see Joan Osborne live for over twenty years. Her 1995 release, Relish, played on repeat when I was in high school. You probably know her most famous song “One of Us,” which I also love, but “St. Teresa” was my jam. Joan is currently touring as an acoustic duo with multi instrumentalist Keith Cotton. No opening act and close to home? You bet I made my way to Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath to see her live, and I’m glad I got to hear both of those songs in person, but otherwise, I thought the show was dull. I was also just about the only person who seemed to think so. I ran  into a handful of people I know during intermission and after the show who were wide eyed and smiling and all asked “can you believe how amazing she is?” I nodded politely. The couple sitting next to me didn’t come back after intermission, which I also sincerely contemplated, but she hadn’t played “One of Us” yet, and I knew she would.

Joan’s voice was incredibly vanilla in person. She sang a song she wrote for the stirring Sharon Jones (who has recently passed) and it was very kind and also dull. Joan sang a few Bob Dylan covers (she’d played a two-week stint covering Dylan songs at Café Carlyle in New York City before he was honored with a Nobel Prize), and I was glad I could understand the words (for a change), but the songs fell flat for me. I am glad I went, as my take is clearly in the minority (maybe it was an age-related thing? I was pretty young compared to the rest of the capacity crowd), but I’m all set with Joan shows forever. Still, you should always go see the people who have made the music that has made you when you are still able. I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t gone and checked it out for myself.

xo,

bree

 

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