Tag Archives: Berkeley College of Music

Lula Wiles with Mia Bertelli

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I saw Lula Wiles open for Mipso in 2016 and for Darlingside in 2017 and I was eager to see them headline a show. Dan made me a quick pre-show dinner after work and I made my way over to One Longfellow Square for Lula Wiles’ sold out show. OLS was packed when I arrived, but I managed to find a single seat in the corner near the stage. Lula Wiles–Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland and Mali Obomsawin–are all Mainers, so I think the room was packed with friends and family. Their recent exposure on NPR couldn’t have hurt, either. I’m happy for them that the word about Lula Wiles is getting out!

Mia Bertelli took the stage with Benjamin Foss, and sisters Edith and Elsie Gawler. Mia told us it was Ben’s debut on the upright bass. They all live in the Belfast area and gig regularly in that neck of the woods. Their harmonies are just lovely. Mia joked that they’d played out the night of the Super Bowl and might make their band name Mia Bertelli and the Harmony Touchdowns. I was fascinated to learn that everyone on stage all night (except Lula Wiles drummer, Sean Trischka) met at Maine Fiddle Camp. If Maine Fiddle Camp needs to drum up business, they should have just recorded this show as inspiration for the talent they help foster. One of the Gawler sisters acknowledged that night’s highlighted local organization, 317 Main, where their mom, Ellen, happens to teach. The quartet performed many songs about water, including “Dip and Sway.” To say that this opening band warmed up the audience is an understatement.I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer shows, and it’s because folks in audiences have grown increasingly rude–talking incessantly, recording the show with their phones above their heads, and even pushing (a lot). I’ve started to avoid shows at bigger venues in town, and I realized 45 minutes into this intimate show at One Longfellow Square–one of Portland’s only true listening rooms–I was just so grateful to be in the room and sharing a concert experience with an audience that really wanted to be right there, too.

Everyone was pumped for Lula Wiles, and they delivered. It’s such a pleasure to hear songs with depth that are steeped in social commentary from a trio of young women who are impressive musicians with beautiful voices. Isa called this show their home state record release show, and they played a lot of songs from their second album, What Will We Do. Check out NPR First Listen’s review of their sophomore album. Lula Wiles met at Maine Fiddle Camp, but they also refined their sound together at Berklee College of Music. They have both an ease and a sophistication from both of those worlds, too.A trapping of growing success, Isa told us that a girl who was mean to her all through school wanted to hang out with her during her last visit home. She wrote a fabulous new song about it, which included the refrain “We’re not making plans, Maryann.” Lula Wiles covered “The Pain of Loving You” by Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner on their record and played it for us. Mali teased Isa before they started singing, “this is another song about being alone, right Isa?” Isa responded, “happy love songs might happen at some point, but tonight is not that night.” It might have been Eleanor who interjected that “it’s not really a Lula Wiles show unless you get to learn a lot about our personal lives.” I really appreciate seeing a band in person that wears their hearts on their sleeves and interacts with each other and with the audience and creates a true concert experience–even if they’re gently picking on each other.

Mali lamented the “exploitation and erasure of Native people” asked us to reflect on “what it is like to be Native in a country that was not made for Native people” during “Good Old American Values.” As the trio tuned their instruments to prepare, Mali joked “we have to be perfectly in tune to talk about colonialism, so bear with us.” Mali also took the lead on “Morphine,” which she dedicated to anyone who has struggled with addiction.

Isa picked up a banjo (was that the third or fourth instrument she played that night?) and took the lead on “Shaking as It Turns.” Lula Wiles wrapped up their set on a high note and the audience jumped to a standing ovation. The trio returned to the stage and covered Lucius’ “Go Home” a cappella around a single microphone. I was glad to hear a song without any instruments to sit back and enjoy Lula Wiles’ easy, airy harmonies without any distractions.What a show! Lula Wiles is the real deal, y’all!

xo,

bree

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Lucius–An Intimate, Acoustic Performance

Lucius–An Intimate, Acoustic Performance

Friday, March 16, 2018

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This was a lovely night. Lucius is such a pleasure to see live. Holly and Jess’ costumes and stage presence are always beautiful, and their voices are truly perfect. They were quite conversational, too, which I love in a concert experience. My friend Marian is a Lucius superfan and travels all over the country to see them. She’s even traveling to Amsterdam in September for a Lucius show. She ran into Jess at Speckled Ax in Portland the morning of the show and they talked for a few minutes, which totally made her day! Marian and I both accidentally had way too many tickets to this show (because we are always trying to introduce new people to Lucius), but we were able to find people to take them and finagle seats for ourselves in the first and second rows for this intimate, seated show at the State Theatre.

I’m still shocked that Lucius isn’t a household name. For those who know music, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who have been singing together for almost 15 years since they met at Berklee College of Music, have contributed vocals for Roger Waters, Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, John Prine, Lukas Nelson, and more. To say they’re the sweethearts of the Newport Folk Festival is an understatement. They were featured guests in many Newport artists’ sets over the last handful of years. Their ability to blend flawlessly and not outshine others while also being true rock stars is commendable. Marian and I were both excited to hear the announcement a few days after this show that Lucius will be back at Newport again this summer, which we’ll both attend.

I saw Lucius open for Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall back in 2012. I was totally smitten right away, and been lucky have seen them a handful of times since then. Lucius don’t know how to put on a bad show, which is a genuine compliment. Perhaps the most notable thing from this sold out show at the State Theatre was that the audience was silent the entire night. The stage presence it takes to captivate such a big crowd like that seems unimaginable, unless you’ve seen Lucius in person. Thank you, fellow audience members, for making this such a beautiful night. I’ve witnessed more and more disrespect from audiences at shows in the last couple of years, so this night gave me hope and elevated this concert experience to another level. Lucius sang a nice blend of songs from all of their albums–Wildewoman (2013), Good Grief (2016), and their new release, Nudes. They opened with“Go Home” and “Don’t Just Sit There”back-to-back, which brought me right back to when I discovered them in 2012. I wore out their 4 song EP disc from overuse after that first show at Brighton Music Hall. Jess and Holly also sang a few reimagined covers that made me like songs like Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” even more. I was over the moon to hear “Two of Us on the Run” and “How Loud Your Heart Gets” back-to-back towards the end of their set. They’re both stunning songs.

During the night, Jess said they were honored to be back in Maine at a sold out headlining show. Jess told us that they love Bob and Gail Ludwig fromGateway Mastering in Portland who are some of their most favorite people. Lucius opened for Tegan and Sara back in 2013 at the State, and Jess added that to “see you all here singing the words to our songs, supporting us at our own show, and seeing kids wearing golden capes is a dream come true.” They closed their set with “Woman” from Nudes and left the stage to thunderous applause.

Lucius came back to the stage for a three song encore, starting with “Dusty Trails,” which they invited show opener Ethan Gruska on stage to sing with them. They covered “Strangers” by the Kinks, and Jess introduced their final song of the night with heartfelt comments about the power of music to send positivity into the world. She said:

“This band and us working together has been the power of collaboration. The power of creating something that’s greater than ourselves as individuals that’s positive. We do that with our writing. We have two heads and two hearts lending perspective within one song and we have two voices making one voice and we have our whole band putting on a show together for you guys and at the end of the day, we wouldn’t be here without you, so thank you very much. We feel the power and love that you give to us and it fuels us to be able to do what we do and in having spent so much time together the thing that we’ve learned is that our greatest dream of all is that you each take something from this experience that we are all sharing tonight that you need–whether it’s joy or bittersweetness or sorrow or pain or love or humor–and you take it out into your everyday lives and pay it forward. Share it with a neighbor in the form of love because it may sound repetitive to say this, but it is all we need right now. No matter where you go, do something positive with this.”

They closed the night with a cover of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” which reinforced their hopes for positivity and community and was a perfect end for a beautiful night. What a night! If you don’t know Lucius, seize this moment to discover them. You’ll be so glad you did.

xo,

bree

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Liz Longley with Monique Barrett

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was a perfect day. My 2019 class officers and I delivered hundreds of roses and carnations to kids at school, I had a decadent spa facial after school, and Colin met me at One Longfellow Square for this fantastic show. I hadn’t seenPortland songstress Monique Barrett in too long, so when I saw she was opening forLiz Longley, I eagerly added the show to my calendar. I am SO glad I was in the room for this stellar night.

Monique Barrett was charming and personal with the audience. I always appreciate when a musician interacts with the crowd by sharing stories behind the songs and making us feel like part of a concert experience. Monique does this so well. She played all of her songs about love for us in honor of Valentine’s Day, including a sweet song for her nephew Luca. Monique’s honesty shone through, and we laughed a lot together. Monique told us that she was first introduced to Liz Longley’s music when a friend asked her to learn Liz’s “When You’ve Got Trouble” to sing with her at her sister’s wedding. Monique said that her heart was so full in that moment, and she was honored both to have sung that song for a her friend’s sister on her wedding day and now to share the stage with Liz. She ended her lovely set with my favorite of her songs, “Make It Better.”

Monique Barrett

I’d somehow never seen Liz Longley before, but she impressed me in mere seconds. I remember leaning over to Colin maybe 30 seconds into her first song and whispering “I LOVE her!” Her voice is so strong and full that it fills the space that sometimes exists in songs by other singer songwriters. I was smitten right away. Liz told us she had to dig really deep into her catalog of songs to find any about love in a positive way. Most of her songs, and Monique’s too, were about love lost. She asked if anyone in the crowd wasn’t on a date. Colin and I raised our hands (were we the only ones?) and she looked at us and said, “so most of these songs are really for you.” I love a good break up song, so Liz’s music is firmly in my wheelhouse.

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Liz Longley

Liz told us that she just turned 30 and was a little freaked out about it, but the crowd reassured her life is better after 30. She wrote a song the day before our show in the car during her six hour drive, and told us that writing in the car can be liberating because she doesn’t getting get stuck in the structure of a guitar or piano part. She also told us that one of her favorite childhood memories was driving home from the Shore with her mom. Her mom used to sing while she drove to stay awake, and “I Will” by the Beatles was a favorite of her songs to sing. Liz sang a beautiful cover of it for us.

She introduced “Weightless”by telling us that she’d dated someone for three years and they ended up fighting over how to divide their stuff when they broke up even though they’d gotten it all off Craiglist because they were both poor musicians. The lyrics are personal and relatable:

“You can have the couch, the lamp, the diamond ring/the books on the shelf, the dishes in the sink/take take take take take everything.” She told us that she stopped writing music for almost a year afterwards.

I absolutely loved learning that“Rush” was written for Jim and Pam from The Office. Liz said she was watching the episode where they have their first kiss with the sound off, and the words came to her–“as we surrender to it all, have you ever felt so alive/as I feel with you tonight.” Liz told us that she studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that’s when it clicked for me that I loved her honest, personal, hard hitting lyrics as much as I loved her voice. I realized as I wrote this that I don’t often quote song lyrics, but that’s an area where Liz shines. “Memphis” just slays–“The skies aren’t clear and you’re not here/so I just keep telling myself/you wouldn’t make it to Memphis/you wouldn’t make it halfway/you take that lonely road/and you realize your mistake.”

I read up on Liz after this show, and I listened to her entire musical catalog. She lives in Nashville and makes her living as a musician. I spent some of the night trying to figure out who she sounds like, but she sang the first line to a song I can’t find the name of–the lyrics were “Late in September when autumn came”–and it occurred to me that she sounds like Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars), which is a sincere compliment.

Liz played the first song of hers I ever heard, “When You’ve Got Trouble,”and I was so glad to hear it in person. She joked with us all night–she’s pretty self-deprecating, actually–and told us that she was drunk shopping on Amazon years ago and bought some rollerblades. Turns out, she loves them, and bought another pair for her 30th birthday. She laughed as she told us, “if you need to spice up your life, buy rollerblades!”

Liz earned the standing ovation she received, and she kindly closed the night with an encore–a cover of the Alternate Routes“Nothing More.” She played a Concert Window show a couple of months ago to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief, and attributed the night’s success (they raised $3,500 for hurricane victims) to that song, “because it brings people together, which we need in these times.” I couldn’t agree more.

This was a special night. I felt lucky to be there. I hope you’ll look up both of these talented women and see them live.

xo,

bree

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