Tag Archives: 98.9 WCLZ

Shawn Mullins

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

I’ve been a Shawn Mullins fan since the mid-90s. I got through a sophomore slump in college with help from his 1998 album, Soul’s Core, and it was one of the few albums I took with me to my study abroad program in Namibia in 1999. I listened to it when I was homesick. To say that album has been there for me is really an understatement. 98.9 WCLZ briefly did a thing where they’d play listeners’ “Desert Island Discs” from start to finish at noon with snippets of an interview with the nominator. Obviously, my desert island disc was Soul’s Core. I finally got to tell Shawn how much his music means to me at a show at The Strand in Rockland back in 2011. I almost never stay after a show to meet musicians. I took a gamble that night, though, and he was so kind.

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I had the pleasure of seeing Shawn again at One Longfellow Square in 2013. Shawn shared the stage with Chuck Cannon and Tom Ryan that night, and they were lovely and had such a positive vibe. I’m not sure Shawn’s been back to Maine since, though. I saw that Shawn was crowdfunding to record a 20th anniversary release of Soul’s Core, so I promptly sent $150 to show support that also put my name in the liner notes and came with an autographed copy of the final product. It came in the mail a few days after this show, actually, and I’ve loved listening to Soul’s Core Revival. I’ve only heard the acoustic disc so far, but was thrilled to learn (and this is my favorite thing) that it includes Shawn talking about what inspired each of the songs on the album. That’s honestly my dream as a listener, so I’m extra happy!

Late in the summer I noticed that Shawn was touring in Maine, and I just happen to be on the Board of Directors of Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner, Maine, so I asked our amazing executive director if he might be able to book Shawn while he was in the area. I was overjoyed that he could and that Shawn came to teeny Gardiner, Maine for an intimate night of storytelling and song. The crowd was obviously thrilled and there was a lot of love and admiration in the room that night. I had a chance to catch up with Tom about the album and the tour before the show, and it was great to see him again, too.

Johnson Hall executive director Mike Miclon welcomed Shawn to the stage and left him a dollar because “Lullaby” was the first song he ever downloaded on Napster. Shawn made his way to the stage with Tom and Radoslav Lorkovic! I’ve seen Rad a ton of times touring with Ellis Paul over the years. He played piano and accordion on the anniversary release of Soul’s Core, too, and it’s always a pleasure to see him live.

I was thrilled to hear songs that have meant so much to me for so long in person again. Shawn’s voice is a stunning and beautiful bass with rasp and character. He played a few songs from Soul’s Core–but also covered “The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” and “House of the Rising Sun,” which he recorded in 2006 on 9th Ward Pickin Parlor.

img_7785The audience was particularly pumped for “Light You Up” and clapped along poorly, but with such enthusiasm that I wasn’t annoyed that they were so offbeat. Shawn told us about recording his My Stupid Heart album at Chuck and Lari Cannon’s home studio. He had a dream that Bing Crosby was singing the title song and doing a wonderful job with it while Shawn was on the film crew making a video. He woke up a lot more confident about the song.

Shawn introduced a friend of his from high school who came to the stage to interpret “Shimmer” in American Sign Language. I was surprised to hear the story Shawn told on Soul’s Core Revival about the events that inspired “Shimmer,” by the way, but I won’t ruin it for you.

img_7805I’ve got to say that “Lullaby” is even better in person. Shawn talked about how grateful he is for the song, although he doesn’t understand why this particular song (written just like any other, he said) went “worldwide big.” He told us that a local DJ in Atlanta liked the song, believed in it, and played it a lot and it just got picked up by other stations. After 9 years of being on his own, he had his pick of record label and management. As he glanced around the room he joked that “one song can change things for you–and also not–as you can see by the stadium we’re sitting in.” “Lullaby” came out of a poem Shawn wrote while in Los Angeles. He’d played a show at a tiny venue in LA that he finally sold out on his third show there–even though “it was free to get in and only 25 people could fit in the room.” The song was such a hit that it landed Shawn a record deal, on MTV, and touring with the Backstreet Boys, which Shawn said was completely out of his element.

img_7817A devout and very appreciative audience asked for an encore, and Shawn, Tom, and Rad played one last song from Soul’s Core–his cover of “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” I was so happy to be in the room for this lovely show. What a treat for Gardiner to have talent of this caliber come to town. I hope they’ll come back in a couple of years when Johnson Hall’s upstairs 400-seat theater is renovated!

I chatted briefly with Rad after the show and told him I’ll see him in a few weeks at One Longfellow Square for my 50th Ellis Paul show! I love a milestone!

xo,

bree

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SnugHouse

Friday, November 9, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I’m a big fan of Portland’s SnugHouse, and based on the love in the room at this near sell-out EP release show, many of you are, too. SnugHouse’s star has risen quickly in the year they’ve been a band. They played the WCLZ stage at the Old Port Festival in June, are played in regular rotation on Aimsel Ponti’s Music from 207 show on 98.9 WCLZ, and have been featured on 207 twice. If you somehow haven’t heard about SnugHouse yet, let me introduce you. Nikhil Dasgupta, Alex Millan, Laura Pauline, and Rosie Borden came together as solo artists and regulars at the open mic night at the Dogfish Bar in Portland. What they’ve created together is really special.

I was surprised to learn this was only my second SnugHouse show, because I like them so very much. I ran into Nikhil and Sam Kyzivat from Maine Youth Rock Orchestra a week earlier at a Mipso show at Portland House of Music and Events. Sam told me that he was joining SnugHouse on violin and keys for their upcoming tour, so I was even more excited for their Like Water EP release show at One Longfellow Square. I asked Dan to join me and he surprised me by making my favorite Indian dish and pakoras at home before the show. We made our way over to OLS and it was crowded when we got there at the end of the show opener’s set. We grabbed a front row balcony seat, and I got to say hello to Kevin Oates of MYRO and Geneviève Beaudoin (my delightful former student!) of Dead Gowns during intermission.

The energy in the room was supportive and warm. The audience was clearly full of friends, family, and fans, and the band obviously felt the love and were all smiles all night. They told us a bit about some of their songs, their recording process, and highlights from their EP release tour. I always appreciate storytelling on stage–it makes a show more of an experience. Something else I like about SnugHouse is that everyone in the band is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. They share the lead depending on who wrote the song they’re playing and move about the stage from instrument to instrument.

I thought their cover of “Fever” was fun and Laura debuted a new song she wrote called “A Love I’ve Never Had Before.” Laura told us that they didn’t have time to arrange it to play with the full band, so everyone cleared the stage while she sang and you could feel the positive energy her bandmates sent her way from the wings. It makes me happy to see a band that genuinely likes and supports one another. SnugHouse covered a sad, beautiful song by Donovan Woods called “I Ain’t Never Loved No One.” The original song features Rose Cousins, who is one of my top favorite artists.

Take a few minutes and check out SnugHouse. They’ve just put out videos for “Firefly” and “Glass” from Like Water.  They’re a treat in person.

xo,

bree

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Max Garcia Conover with Kafari

Friday, June 29, 2018

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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Ben Cosgrove and Friends

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Blue, Portland, Maine

My friend Ben Cosgrove is an insanely talented pianist and a mighty fine accordion player, too. I met him back in 2014 when he produced our friend Max Garcia Conover’s Ellery album. Ben tours non-stop, crisscrossing the United States and playing really any venue that will have him. I follow Ben on Instagram, and he’ll post a beautiful picture from St. Louis one night and from Wyoming the next. His determination to play for people is really commendable. His music is inspired by the landscape he experiences in his travel, which is plentiful. I heard him play on 98.9 WCLZ last summer, and if you like context like I do, check out my friendKen Templeton’s interview with Ben ahead of his 2017 release, Salt.

Happy 30th, Ben Cosgrove!

Ben turned 30 last week, and he asked the kind folks at Blue if they’d open their doors on a Tuesday (it’s usually their day off) so he could play a birthday show. It was such a treat to spend the evening listening to Ben and his talented friends play for us. I showed up while Hannah Daman (she was a highlight of my 2017concerts) was on stage. Griffin Sherry and Max Davis, both from the Ghost of Paul Revere, played a couple of songs with Ben, as did Max Garcia Conover. To close the night, Ben and his friends covered Dawes’ “All Your Favorite Bands.”Ben played with the Ghost of Paul Reverelast summer when they opened for Guster at Thompson’s Point, and he is about to head out on tour with them for the next month or so.

If you’re sad you missed this fun night, Ben, Max Garcia Conover, Griffin Sherry, and Max Davis play tonight at Blue at 6pm.

xo,

bree

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SnugHouse

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Portland House of Music and Events

My friend Aimsel Ponti hosts the Music from 207 radio show on WCLZ. She’s been playing “I Couldn’t Be” by Portland’s SnugHouse regularly, and it hits me right in the feels. Aimsel also called “I Couldn’t Be” one of her favorite songs of 2017. I finally looked SnugHouse up, and have been listening to their songs nonstop for weeks now. Nikhil Dasgupta is the primary songwriter for SnugHouse, and we talked local music shop talk by email and he let me know they were playing at Portland House of Music and Events last night. I decided to stay up late on a school night and check them out live mostly to hear “Brunswick” live, but also because Nikhil is also a Bowdoin College alumnus and that makes us family. SnugHouse was excellent live. Put this band on your radar.

I am a person who likes context, so I read this band feature on Rawkus and listened to their Studio Z performance on WCLZ to learn a bit about where SnugHouse came from. In it, I learned that their name is derived from local Portland pub, The Snug. It’s also evident that SnugHouse has gone through a few lineup and genre changes, but they seem to have settled on their current folky vibe and the lineup of Nikhil Dasgupta, Alex Millan, Rosie Borden, and Laura Pauline. SnugHouse also played on 207 this week ahead of their show at PHOME.

I grabbed a quick dinner at El Rayo, and made it to PHOME with time to catch up with my concert friend and fellow Bowdoin alumna Ally and her roommate, Jill. I met them both this summer at The Head and The Heart’s show at Thompson’s Point, and Ally and I have run into each other at lots of shows since then already. I found a good spot to take some photos of the band, and I ended up chatting with Nikhil’s adorably proud dad, who’d driven up from Boston from the show and had Nikhil’s mom on FaceTime the whole night so she could watch the show. It was precious.

SnugHouse played a long opening set–over an hour, and the audience was hooked. Everyone in the band took the lead on at least one song, and most of them write songs for the band, too. This is a talented group of musicians–with soulful songwriting, multi instrumentalists, and rich, lovely harmonies. They are wise beyond their years.

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SnugHouse is (from left to right):  Laura Pauline, Rosie Borden, Nikhil Dasgupta, and Alex Millan

IMG_6159SnugHouse played some incredibly well-received and creative covers, too–Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” and “Philadelphia,” the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” the Commodores’ “Easy,” and “I Can’t Make you Love Me.” I was so glad to hear “Brunswick” and “I Couldn’t Be” in person. I really liked the songs that Rosie and Alex wrote and took lead on, too, including the one that Alex wrote and the group performed on 207 earlier this week.IMG_6162IMG_6206IMG_6215I chatted with Nikhil’s dad after the show for a while, and got to talk to both Nikhil and Alex for a while. This is a creative, talented group of musicians with many musical projects going, but I like the sound and vibe of this particular ensemble A LOT. Check them out!

xo,

bree

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Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real with Nikki Lane

Friday, November 17, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This night gets top marks from start to finish. It was the end of a long week–I’d been sick, we had parent teacher conferences at school until late, I’d seen the Lone Bellow earlier in the week, and I was generally pooped–but when Lukas Nelson’s publicist invited me to come to the sold out show, I knew I needed to dig deep. It was definitely the right choice.

Marian joined me at Empire and we had a leisurely dinner before the show. Portland was packed–Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn were in town at the State Theatre, and Elton John was at the Cross Insurance Center, too. We made it to Port City Music Hall a little before 7:30, expecting to arrive on the early side in order to grab a good spot up front for the sold out show, but the line was up the block. I wondered if doors weren’t open yet, but it turned out that Port City has increased their security protocol and everyone was asked to empty their pockets and was wanded with metal detectors. It was a pretty slow process. I think a third person on the door wanding would help in the future, especially during sold out shows.

Marian and I made our way towards the stage and met Phyllis and her family. Phyllis has been to seven Farm Aid shows and is a huge Lukas Nelson  fan. I was unfamiliar with both Lukas and show opener Nikki Lane, but Phyllis’ enthusiasm was contagious. I’d also heard from friends who attended the Newport Folk Festival last summer that Nikki was a hit there, so I was excited for the entire double bill.

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Here’s Phyllis with Lukas. Thanks to her daughter, Sarah, for sending me this adorable picture!

Nikki Lane took the stage around 8:10. Nikki and her band live in Nashville, and she described it as a small community where everyone knows everyone. Nikki told us that a friend was in a serious relationship, but found out that her partner had a secret life with a wife and family, which inspired her song “Lies.”I’d heard “Right Time” and “Jackpot” on 98.9 WCLZ. Nikki’s music has a vintage country rock vibe and she has a killer voice.

IMG_5999IMG_6014Concert etiquette tip moment. I am always disappointed in people at shows who arrive at the last second, but push their way to the front and cut in front of people who arrived early to earn that good spot. This happened to us, too, and it was a bummer. Folks–if you want to be up front, arrive early. If you see an empty square foot of space in the front, that is not enough space for you to squeeze yourself into. Resist the urge. It is really rude.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real took the stage after a lengthy transition. I grabbed a spot just behind the barricade to photograph during the first three songs of Lukas’ set, and he was mesmerizing. I’d heard he was dreamy from friends in the music industry, but I think everyone in the room had an immediate crush on him. He has “it” factor, and a confident stage presence. My dear friend Ken Templeton interviewed Lukas for Red Line Roots, and you can learn a bit about Lukas’ recent album and songwriting process here.IMG_6032IMG_6048IMG_6050IMG_6084Up to that moment, I was a total Lukas Nelson & POTR novice. I’d only ever heard Lukas’ song “Find Yourself” on WCLZ, and I knew very little about him, except he is Willie Nelson’s son and has collaborated with Lady Gaga (that’s her singing with him on “Find Yourself”) and Jess and Holly of Lucius, whom I adore. Lukas played an acoustic Studio Z set earlier in the afternoon at 98.9 WCLZ that I’d also missed, but you can check out here. I didn’t know that POTR has been together about a decade, which is a long time since Lukas is only 28 years old. Lukas was joined on stage by Tato Melgar (percussion), Anthony LoGerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass), and Jesse Siebenberg (steel guitar and organ). Lukas introduced “Runnin’ Shine” by telling us that some things aren’t wrong, just illegal. He sang a song for his hometown of Austin, Texas, “Just Outside of Austin,” and a song about commitment that warns “forever is a four letter word.” He also revealed that he’d been in love with a girl named Georgia who he couldn’t put out of his mind after they broke up because he was playing Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” every night on tour with his dad, so he penned “Forget About Georgia.” You can hear more about Lukas (I like context) in this interview he did with NPR Music back in August. IMG_6102IMG_6135Lukas played a lot of cover songs. They were beautiful and he can really sing, but he has a lot of his own songs under his belt, and I was surprised to not hear more of them in person. He covered Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” and Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.” Nikki Lane joined him on stage to cover Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” too. At the time, I thought maybe Lukas and POTR only had one album out and didn’t have enough material for a headlining set, but I was wrong. It was certainly fun to sing along to a handful of classic tunes with a big crowd on a cold Friday night, though!

I emphatically recommend seeing Lukas Nelson and POTR in person. Lucky for you, they’re still on tour! This night was an absolute blast!

xo,

bree

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The Alternate Routes with Luke Fradiani

Friday, September 15, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’m catching up on blogging today with a heavy heart. I go to school every day in this post-Sandy Hook world, and have no hope that anything will change. I often think about music as being my religion–appreciating the power music has to bring us together and to change us for the better–and being at a concert as being in a sanctuary. My heart breaks for those who went to a concert in Las Vegas and instead got murdered. It’s unfathomable, and yet a norm we are starting to live with.

The Alternate Routes have grappled with the issue of gun violence in their music. Guitarist Eric Donnelly’s parents were murdered by an addict with a gun in their Fairfield, Connecticut jewelry store back in 2005, and his song “Somewhere in America” is a stunning song that reflects on the pervasiveness of gun violence in America.

Read these lyrics to “Somewhere in America”:

“The last thing that my father saw when he was still alive

Was the gun in the hands of a sick young man with bright blue eyes.

A man who looked just like me as far as anyone else could see.

A stranger, not an enemy.

And my mother watched it all.

That was the last thing that she saw.

Somewhere in America

A phone’s about to ring.

An unlucky break.

Wrong time, wrong place.

I’ve heard them all so many times.

If your dad had had a gun of his own,

maybe they’d still be alive.”

The Alternate Routes have also collaborated with Newtown Kindness, an organization that sprang up after the tragedy in the Sandy Hook community, and wrote “Nothing More,” which reminds us that “we are how we treat each other, and nothing more.” So here’s a band that puts their energy into this vital issue, and here’s another day in America where someone’s phone is going to ring. I tried to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s response, but couldn’t make it through.

I first saw the Alternate Routes open for Carbon Leaf back in 2009, and it was a spectacular, super fun show. Alternate Routes lead singer Tim Warren wrote “With all the love I have in my heart” on the CD I bought that night, their 2009 album A Sucker’s Dream. I also saw the Alternate Routes open for Martin Sexton in 2013 and play with the Ballroom Thieves in 2014, but it had been a while since I’d seen them. I watched their Studio Z performance live on Facebook earlier in the day and they told stories that showed their humanity and heart. It made me more excited to see them later that night.

I grabbed a quick solo dinner at the bar at Empire (a regular tradition for me on show nights in Portland), but ended up making friends with a few folks at the bar who let me join in their dinner conversation. I also ran into my friend Griffin Sherry from The Ghost of Paul Revere. His publicist had sent me a preview of their newest song, “Montreal,” and I was able to tell him I’d listened a few times earlier in the day and love it. The Ghost recently announced shows for December 30 and 31 at Port City Music Hall, if you’re looking for end of year plans.

I made my way to Port City Music Hall and joined my friend Andrea in the front row for some of show opener Luke Fradiani’s set. Andrea went to the show to see Luke Fradiani, and didn’t know the Alternate Routes. I was in the opposite situation. Luke was engaging and chatty, and he has a lovely voice. Apparently, he won a season of American Idol, which is pretty cool. Alternate Routes guitarist Eric Donnelly and drummer Kurt Leon were in his band, and I enjoyed the bonus time with them on stage. They did an amazing cover of Billy Joel’s “Downeaster Alexa,” which was amazing. Luke’s songs are a bit simple for my taste, but he was a fine show opener. Andrea disappeared for an hour after Luke’s set to make friends with the band, and his pianist, Mikel Paris walked us out of the venue at the end of the night. It was precious. I don’t usually want to talk to people in bands in case they’re having a bad night and aren’t nice, but Andrea goes for it all the time.

The Alternate Routes were great, if a little subdued compared to the first time I saw them back in 2009 (I think alcohol was involved all those years ago, though). I was glad to hear “The Future’s Nothing New” with a bit of Amy Winehouse’s “Trouble” in the mix. My favorite of their songs is probably “Ordinary,” and I liked hearing it with just Tim and Eric as a duo. Their new song, “Safe Haven,” is sweet as honey, too. Tim sincerely thanked 98.9 WCLZ for their ongoing support of the band. He introduced the last song in their set, “Nothing More,” by saying they were told that should write a song to inspire people to be kind–especially children–and thought it was a good idea. They wrote the song in memory of and in tribute to a bunch of folks and their families who lost children. Tim said that “everybody in here knows something about losing something and I hope you know very little about that, but if the people who went through that can pick up the pieces and carry the torch and try to put something good in the world despite that, the hardest thing that you can imagine, certainly we can try.”

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This is Grace and a friend. They were right here all night and it was super cute.

The band came back for two more songs–“Asked You Twice,” which was a sing along, and we danced the last minutes of the night away to “One Dance Left,” which Tim told us was about feeling free of worry, which doesn’t happen that much. It was a good place to leave it.

Check this band out. They’re using their art to do some powerful things, and it matters.

xo,

bree


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