Tag Archives: Austin Nevins

Josh Ritter

Saturday, July 12, 2014

L.L.Bean, Freeport, Maine

I hadn’t seen a show in almost two months (anyone else feel like concert offerings this spring were slim?), so when our friend Bartlett sent a group email invite to join him for Josh Ritter at L.L.Bean, I decided to go for it even though I usually boycott those shows. (I really wish L.L.Bean would build an amphitheater worthy of the great artists they bring to Freeport). Of course, in true Bartlett fashion, he was the last one to join us before the show for a group dinner at Grittys. Michelle has been housesitting in Freeport, so she went at midnight to set up a blanket for the group and got us as good a spot as is possible at an L.L.Bean show. As we arrived at our awesome spot (thanks, Michelle!), students of mine at an adjacent blanket chimed “Hi, Ms. Candland!” in unison—it was nice to see you, girls! AH! I almost missed the most important detail of the entire night—this was almost six-week-old Mira’s FIRST CONCERT!

Mira's first concert!

Mira’s first concert!

Most of the gang had never seen Josh Ritter, but wanted to see him because we know that our dear friend and gifted singer songwriter Max Garcia Conover (who sadly couldn’t make it due to car trouble) credits Josh as one of his strongest musical influences. Josh Ritter is always a pleasure to see live. I don’t there’s a person happier to be on stage performing than he is—Josh is most often seen smiling from ear to ear. There’s something nice about being around that kind of joy that makes me go back to Josh’s shows time after time. My friend Grace was also excited to be working that night—her sign language interpreting during the show was a blast to watch!

This is the best view a blanket set out at midnight will get you at an L.L.Bean show.

This is the best view a blanket set out at midnight will get you at an L.L.Bean show.

Max Garcia Conover and Josh Ritter. May 2013. Courtesy of Chris Bartlett.

Max Garcia Conover and Josh Ritter. May 2013. Courtesy of Chris Bartlett.

Grace was so expressive!

Grace was so expressive!

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“Hopeful” was the first song of the night and it’s one of my favorites. Josh talked about how thrilled he was to be playing with his fabulous band and it was great to see those familiar faces on stage, too. Multi-talented Austin Nevins is incredibly gifted on guitar (here’s my post from a show Austin played with Dietrich Strause and Max). Sam Kassirer not only plays keys with Josh, but also produces amazing music from the likes of Josh, David Wax Museum, and Lake Street Dive at The Great North Sound Society in rural Parsonfield, Maine.

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“Here at the Right Time” and “Change of Time” were both lovely. Josh joked about being from Idaho, who are a “proud seafaring people” from the banks of ancient Lake Idaho. I took a peek behind me and noticed my dear friend Ken and his kiddo Liam dancing and singing along. I ran over to join them for a “Kathleen” sing-a-long.

The view from the dancing section.

The view from the dancing section.

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These two.

These two.

Josh talked about how much he loves Maine and said that he’s not allowed near sharp objects during recording sessions (at Sam’s place in Parsonfield) because it often ends badly. During a recording session, he opened a can of beans and cut himself badly enough that he needed medical attention, and instead of driving the hour to the nearest hospital, a kind veterinarian sewed him back together. Sounds like a perfectly Maine scenario to me. They wrapped their set with another of my top favorites, “Joy To You Baby,” which particularly resonated with me as a recently brokenhearted single person–“There’s pain in whatever/We stumble upon/If I never had met you/You couldn’t have gone/But then I couldn’t have met you/We couldn’t have been/I guess it all adds up/To joy to the end.” It’s easier hearing wisdom about love and loss come from Josh’s beaming face, somehow.

They said goodnight, but came back to serenade us with “The Temptation of Adam” and to rock out on “To the Dogs or Whoever.” My friend Colin (who I met because of whatbreesees.com–lucky me!) posted a set list from the night on setlist.fm (in case you’re curious about what you missed). So glad for a much needed night out with good friends and good music.

xo,

bree

 

Thanks, Colin!

Thanks, Colin!

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The Lone Bellow with Aoife O’Donovan

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

*The Lone Bellow is my favorite band of 2013. Their live show is joyful, breathtaking, heart wrenching, and beautiful. You’ve really, really got to see them live. I’m lucky to have seen them twice so far this year and already look forward to the next time. I was so excited when I showed up to the box office and saw my dear friends Ken and Max standing there buying tickets for the show. I’ve been talking about The Lone Bellow for basically the whole year, so was thrilled to have motivated some folks to come out for the show. At least ten of my friends were there that night and it was lovely to share the experience with so many people I care about. I’ve asked just a handful of friends to write posts about shows we’ve seen together for whatbreesees.com over the past couple of years, but three out of the four (you know who you are) didn’t complete their homework. My college classmate and teacher friend, the extraordinary Ken Templeton, was so moved by the performance that he not only readily agreed to write the show recap for whatbreesees.com, but also sent it to me just three short days later. Ken was an English major at Bowdoin and is a former English teacher, so please enjoy how well written this post is. Thanks so much, Ken! I’m thrilled you loved The Lone Bellow like I do!*

The show started with Aoife O’Donovan (of Crooked Still) opening. She is a singer/songwriter with a gorgeous voice that is clear and strong, but she doesn’t try to blow you out of the room. She is often quiet and understated in her delivery.  Aoife was joined by bassist Jacob Silver and guitarist Austin Nevins.

Austin Nevins, Aoife O'Donovan, and Jacob Silver

Austin Nevins, Aoife O’Donovan, and Jacob Silver

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Aoife opened with “Red and White and Blue and Gold,” from her first solo release, Fossils. It’s a catchy tune, evoking carefree summer days, leaving it all behind–good stuff like that. [Aoife also opened with that song earlier in the afternoon when she recorded a Newsroom Session in the Portland Press Herald studio with Aimsel Ponti]. Aoife sings, “Come on sit next to me / Bury my feet, bury my feet in the sand. / There’s a hole, it’s twelve miles deep. / I dug it with my hands.” She introduced her song “Lay My Burden Down,” noting that another person recorded it first (that other person is Alison Krauss). That has to be a funny thing, when some listeners might mistake your song for a cover.

Aoife did a wonderful cover of Blaze Foley’s tune “Clay Pigeons,” which she said she learned from John Prine. (Here’s his version and The Avett Brothers’ version too.) It’s a song that sounds like many songs that Prine wrote; it opens like this: “I’m goin’ down to the Greyhound Station, gonna get a ticket to ride. / Gonna find that lady with two or three kids and sit down by her side.” Everyday experiences, everyday people–we can all see that “lady,” even though she’s not described in any detail. Aoife takes a similar kind of approach in some of her songs, although the ‘speakers’ of her songs seem like they might read more books than John Prine’s do. In “Thursday’s Child,” she writes, “No one’s riding shotgun, I’m driving alone. /  I can turn up the music and do whatever I want. / When I get to border, I put a quarter / In the pay phone. / Oh, my tyranny’s gonna crumble. / So, sit next to me and fumble / With the buttons on my dress.”

Jacob Silver provided some sweet whistling on “Lovesick Redstick Blues” and there was a great sing-a-long on “Oh, Mama,” with a willing crowd belting out: “Oh, Mama, play me a love song / Pour me some bourbon / And lay me down low. / Mmm, baby, my poor heart is breakin’ / I feel the ground shakin’ / Under my feet / So put me to sleep.” Austin Nevins’s lead guitar work was exceptional. I’ve seen him play with Josh Ritter a few times, and have always been impressed with his spare decisions as a soloist. He is very efficient, picking notes here and there to accentuate the vocals and then traveling up and down the neck for his solos. Bree saw Austin play with Dietrich Strause a few months ago and with Josh Ritter back in May.

Now, as for The Lone Bellow

Bree told me. She did. When she saw The Lone Bellow at the Sinclair, she said that it was one of the best shows she’d ever seen. She was right. They put on a show that picks you up and shakes you by the shoulders and gives you a bear hug–you laugh and say, “Stop, put me down,” but they don’t, they spin you around and when they stop the whole place is dead quiet and you don’t even want to sniffle because you might miss something. This is all to say that if you get the chance to see The Lone Bellow, don’t miss them.

Zach Williams plays guitar and sings lead vocals, with a raspy, gritty sound that belies incredible range. Kanene Pipkin plays mandolin and sings lead and harmony. Brian Elmquist plays lead guitar and sings as well. To be clear, any one of these three would be a great lead singer–they’re all that good. They share the stage really beautifully with each other and at times seem genuinely in awe of each other’s talents. Brian Griffin was excellent on the drums and Jason Pipkin (Kanene’s husband) played bass.

The Lone Bellow: Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin

The Lone Bellow: Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin

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Brian Griffin on drums

Brian Griffin on drums

They opened with “I Let You Go,” a lovely little tune that takes full advantage of their stunning vocal harmony. It was an intimate start to a set that from there went 100 miles an hour for the next thirty minutes. Next up was “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional.” “You Never Need Nobody” followed, the first song I ever heard by The Lone Bellow (from their Tiny Desk Concert). Even on slower numbers like this one, the band is in full-tilt mode, stomping, sweating, and swooning all over the stage. They are physically exuberant about their music in a way that is, I think, uniquely Southern.  You see The Avett Brothers approach their shows in a similar way. Introducing “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To” as a song about marital strife, Zach got the crowd clapping while Kanene took over the lead vocals. The crowd sang along with “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.” How can you not sing along with that chorus; it’s too catchy: “Green eyes and a heart of gold / All the money’s gone and the house is cold / But it’s all right, it’s all right, / It’s all right, it’s all right.”

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Clapping along with Zach

Clapping along with Zach

The best part of the night, I thought, was when they pared down to just Zach, Brian, and Kanene around one microphone for a few numbers. The first of these, “Watch Over Us,” was the showstopper for me. Brian on lead vocals, Zach and Kanene supporting. Brian’s performance was so charged and emotional that when he sang, “But my baby’s sleeping,” then paused for at least four beats, the whole crowd was si-lent. That is hard to do. No “woos”. No jackass shouting “yeah!” or “ow!” Silent. Because we were right up front, I know why he paused–he was catching his breath. It’s not often that you see a singer expend that kind of energy, but man he was wringing himself out on that song.

"Watch Over Us" was breathtaking

“Watch Over Us” was breathtaking

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Jason Pipkin looking lovingly at this wife, Kanene

Jason Pipkin looking lovingly at this wife, Kanene

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Zach dedicated “Tree to Grow” to his wife, who was there for the concert with their infant daughter. It’s a great song, with this stirring refrain: “A tree I’ll grow to let you know / My love is older than my soul.” The band returned to blast through “Bleeding Out” and then they had Aoife come back on stage to sing “Angel from Montgomery.” It was a really great performance and prompted more passionate singing from the crowd. (Here is a wonderful version from The Lone Bellow with Brandi Carlile).

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The Lone Bellow invited Aoife up on stage for “Angel from Montgomery”

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Zach then engaged in some serious banter. He said that he ate at Becky’s Dinner and had a drink at Eventide. At Becky’s, he described a guy there who “took off his buffalo plaid jacket to reveal his buffalo plaid shirt,” and described “the rope that was holding up his pants.” This transitioned to a story about his uncle Dale, who seems like one of the more entertaining people in the world to hear about. Southerners can tell stories, and Zach told us a great one about his uncle, his uncle’s wife in the hospital and Dale’s decision to buy a number of items at the trick shop. I won’t ruin it for you–it’s better live. The song “Fire Red Horse” is about Dale: “The fire red horse / That could not be tamed. / He could not be broken / My uncle’s red flame.” “Button” was another highlight, with Kanene rattling the walls a bit with her vocals.

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Their encore–“Teach Me To Know” maintained the all-out energy of their set. Another (yes, another) great sing along and everyone clapping to the driving beat.

As they stood on stage to huge applause, each band member said “Thank you, thank you” to the audience. This was more than perfunctory thanks. This is a humble group that works incredibly hard and knows that there are millions of talented, dedicated musicians who never make it and they appreciate their shot. Throughout the show, you could almost see them in an apartment in New York a couple of years or so ago, singing and stomping, knowing they had something special to share.

The setlist

The setlist

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Dietrich Strause and Austin Nevins with Max Garcia Conover

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mayo Street Arts, Portland, Maine

*I meant to write this post before the start of the school year. Oops. And now that school’s in session, I basically try not to fall asleep on the couch every afternoon when I get home. I love teaching, but it takes a lot of energy! I apologize for the delay!*

You all know Max Garcia Conover is a great friend of mine and he can really do no wrong in my eyes, but man—he is so good live! Max toured for six solid weeks right after our school year got out in June, and he came back stronger than ever. It was great to see him again onstage in Portland after a four-month interlude.

Max and Sammie Francis sound checking before the show

Max and Sammie Francis sound checking before the show

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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I didn’t know that someone broke into Max’s car in Delaware when he was on tour and stole his electric guitar and banjo! Max shook it off when he told us and said that he was bad at electric guitar anyway and didn’t know how to play the banjo anyhow. He bought the classical guitar he played that night instead of replacing the stolen instruments.

I absolutely love “The Wedding Line.” I think I can finally say it’s my favorite song on Max’s album, Burrow. Max interrupted the song to tell us he’s getting married next year (!!!) and said it seemed almost superfluous because “she’s been such a part of me for so long.” I can see what people search online that brings them to whatbreesees.com, and “is Max Garcia Conover married” is a top referrer! Sorry, folks—he’s taken!

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Max introduced his friend and fellow singer songwriter, Sammie Francis, who joined him onstage for “As Much a Rising Sun as a Setting One.” Sammie’s CD release show will be at Mayo Street Arts on September 28. Max told us a story about how he’d tried to play the very quiet song outside in Boston when he was on tour because someone in the attentive audience had requested it. Out of nowhere, a guy came by and stole the garbage out of a trash can, fell, dropped everything, created a serious stench, cleaned it up, and then got chased down by the guy in the garbage truck when he came by and saw what was happening. Max played through it all.

Max and Sammie Francis

Max and Sammie Francis

Max is a quiet guy and talked about how he’s never been very talkative but that he always felt people would be more comfortable around people who talk more. He wrote a new song about that notion called “Say That You Know Me.” It was great to hear new songs from Max, and he even departed from his signature finger picking guitar playing for a couple of songs. I was totally floored by another one of his new songs, a response to a tragic news story called “Wildfires Outside Laramie, Wyoming.”

Max handed around the set list and a mailing list sign up in a notebook and asked us to put a happy or sad face next to the songs we liked or didn’t like. I loved the idea. People really followed directions (Max has a lot of teacher friends!) and some even left thorough feedback. Cool idea! Max told us that introducing “In City Light” as the song he wrote about living on the top floor of one of the tallest buildings in Maine—on the eighth floor—just wasn’t impressing crowds in bigger cities when he was on tour.

A favorite tradition we have at Max’s Mayo Street Arts gigs is to have a sing along where pitch is less important than volume. We were a small, but enthusiastic crowd, and heartily sang along our part—“Honey we’ve been trying/Like the barn swallow tries.” The best sing along so far, of course, is this one of “Goin’ to Acapulco” from Max’s Birches Lo EP release show. We’ll top that someday, but it was magical. Max stepped off stage and sang his last song on the floor in the audience.

Max playing from the floor

Max playing from the floor

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We took an intermission while Dietrich and Austin tuned for their set. I was really excited to see them. I’d seen Dietrich open for cello virtuoso Ben Sollee at One Longfellow Square last fall, and I was taken with his simple, pretty songs. I chatted with him after the show on my way out, and he was a delight. I saw Dietrich again in March at Blue in Portland. He was playing after one of my former students, the fabulous Genvieve Beaudoin. I wish I’d been able to stay for his set that night, so I was especially glad when I found out that he and Max were playing this show together. I’d also seen the very talented Austin Nevins play with Josh Ritter at The State Theatre back in May. It was quite a show. I was excited to be in a room with such talented musicians.

Austin Nevins and Dietrich Strause

Austin Nevins and Dietrich Strause

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Dietrich has such a lovely tone, and Austin’s guitar parts added what felt like another voice to the songs. It was fabulous and quite a treat. Dietrich told us he’d been on tour with the great Aoife O’Donovan (he’s playing with some amazing musicians) and was mixing an album with Austin (his producer) in Massachusetts the next day.

I especially enjoyed “Our Lady Ponderosa”—it was thought provoking and yet musically accessible. Dietrich told us he’d just spent a week in Maine on the Moose River, and everyone else on the trip saw moose (a few of them) while he was asleep. I guess you need to come back to Maine soon, Dietrich!

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“Like a Rock” is Dietrich’s retelling of the story of David and Goliath. He joked about his Sunday school teacher who was tough and hit him over the head with a Bible when he fell asleep in class. Dietrich Strause fun facts: Dietrich’s from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and his dad is a Lutheran pastor. You can definitely hear that influence in his songs.

I absolutely loved the story Dietrich told about traveling for a week in Canada over the summer with his parents, sister, and 87 year-old grandparents in a minivan. Forgive me, because the details are a little fuzzy. On the way home, they stopped in New York to visit his grandfather’s (?) hometown. They stopped at the town office to see if his grandfather’s neighbor, Wendy, was still alive (she’s 97). The person at the office (I think I remember there was a small world moment where this person was Wendy’s grandchild) directed them to Wendy’s nursing home, and they went to visit her. Apparently, Dietrich’s grandfather (great-grandfather?) once played a fantastic prank on Wendy (who was obsessed with her tomato plants) where he taped ripe tomatoes on her plants in the middle of the night. It was a sweet segue to get us to “Tell Me Mary,” which includes the lyric “tell me Mary/I’ve got to know/what makes your garden grow.” Austin Nevins is featured in this video of “Tell Me Mary.”

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Austin spoke through his awesome guitar playing for the most part, but he did speak up at the end of the night to say that the room was really beautiful, but the lights were so bright that it was a little like an interrogation room up on stage. I got to chat with Austin a bit after the show and he was so kind. He’s producing in Jamaica Plain, MA when he’s not on tour playing a mean lead guitar.

Dietrich and Austin ended the night with two songs I really loved. Check out “Lemonade Springs” and “Annie Dear.” You can hear both songs and get some biographical information about Dietrich and Austin on this episode of The Lancast. If you can catch Dietrich and Austin near you, don’t miss out!

xo,

b

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