Tag Archives: Berklee Performing Arts Center

John Paul White with The Secret Sisters

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Red Room at Café 939, Boston, MA

My friend Mac first introduced me to The Civil Wars on a cold winter’s night in 2009. John Paul White and Joy Williams were captivating. Their April 2009 set at Eddie’s Attic was recorded and released online as a free download a couple of months later on The Civil Wars’ website. The pair had undeniable musical chemistry and their songs resonated with me. I made a friend at an Iron & Wine show in 2011 who invited me to join him for Adele at the House of Blues in Boston a month later. Those tickets were impossible to get, so I was thrilled. I squealed out loud when I found out that The Civil Wars had been added to the bill and that I was going to get to finally see them live. I stayed after the show and approached John Paul White at the merch table, which is something I rarely do. I was sure he is a genuine person who would be kind (doesn’t it ruin it for you when you meet an artist whose music you care about, and they’re not?), and he was a dear. I told him that I’d been hoping to see them for a couple of years, and that I was actually more excited to see them that night. He glanced at Joy and said “don’t you think that deserves a group hug?” And then they hugged me. It was very, very sweet, and a moment I still recall fondly. I was lucky to see The Civil Wars again a handful of months later at Berklee’s Performing Arts Center in Boston from the fourth or fifth row. They were spellbinding. Then they broke up.

I was thrilled when I saw that John Paul White was writing music and was planning a tour. He produced Penny and Sparrow’s beautiful album, Let a Lover Drown You, which I’ve listened to countless times. I bought my ticket to see JPW at The Red Room at Café 939 at Berklee College of Music in Boston the minute they went on sale. I would not pass up an opportunity to see him live in such an intimate setting. My friend Jan and I drove to Boston and grabbed an early dinner at Bukowski’s and lined up before doors opened so we could be front and center, and it paid off, because we were able to stand a foot or two away from such talented musicians all night.

I’d first seen Laura and Lydia Rogers, The Secret Sisters, open for my beloved Brandi Carlile (she and the Twins are producing their upcoming album, too) about six months after first seeing The Civil Wars back in November of 2011 at Berklee in Boston. I loved their vintage vibe, beautiful harmonies, and funny audience banter. I got to see them again a couple of years later with my concert friend Bob (who’d taken me to see Adele and The Civil Wars) when they opened for Iron & Wine at State Theatre in Portland, Maine. The Secret Sisters played a half dozen songs and told stories and entertained thoroughly. I particularly liked “Carry Me,” which was such a sweet song about being daddy’s girls and having a wonderful father. I also really wish I could find a video of “He’s Fine” to share with you because I loved it and would love to listen to it again. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next album! Here they are on Jay Leno playing “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” which is on The Hunger Games sountrack. Check out “Rattle My Bones” to get a sense of their more upbeat side. They’re great.


Lydia and Laura Rogers are The Secret Sisters


John Paul White and his band took the stage and he poured his heart out for us. He played fifteen songs for a captivated audience (I still can’t believe I got to see him play in such a small venue from the front row!). He talked a lot with us about feeling conflicted about the songs that started to pour out of him because he knew he’d want to share them with the world and touring meant he’d have to spend some time away from his family. He asked us to come talk to him after the show to give him feedback about what resonated with us and what didn’t. I can’t think of a time a musician wore his heart on his sleeve more at a show. It was humbling to witness someone who so desperately wants his music to connect with people. His voice was clear and haunting as ever, and The Secret Sisters joined him throughout his set and added beautiful harmonies that amplified the message.


Lydia Rogers of The Secret Sisters and John Paul White

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It was pretty incredible to stand right next to this man during his set!

John Paul shared with us a song about his grandparents. He said he appreciates music you can step inside and become the character in, but didn’t know how to feel about this particular song because “I loved my grandfather and thought he walked on water, but he did not. He had a lot of demons and my grandmother raised fourteen children by herself.” He played “No One Will Ever Love You,” which was featured on season one of Nashville. It’s easy to be a character in this song, John Paul—“Don’t you try to tell me someone’s waiting/They’re not waiting for you/Oh and don’t you try to tell me that you’re wanted/That you’re needed/Cause it’s not true.” Oh my heart. Check out “The Martyr” on NPR Music and “What’s So” at Rolling Stone. I am so eager to have my hands on John Paul White’s upcoming album, “Beulah,” which will be released August 19. Thanks for coming back into our world and putting yourself out there so honestly, John Paul. You’ve been missed.



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Milo Greene with Hey Marseilles

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Have you ever loved a band, listened to their album a hundred times, but then invited friends to come see them live with you and the band totally fell flat and you felt responsible? This was that.

I fell in love with LA’s Milo Greene when they opened for The Civil Wars at Berklee Performance Arts Center in November of 2011. I bought their three-song sampler for $5 and listened to it easily a hundred times waiting for their first full-length album. I saw them in Boston at Brighton Music Hall in October of 2012 (playing with Lucius), and again touring for their folky, harmonic self-titled album in March of 2013 at Empire in Portland. I re-read my post from 2012 at Brighton Music Hall where I wrote “their strength is in their live show.” Milo Greene didn’t bring it to Port City Music Hall that night.

Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall. October 2012.

Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall in Boston. October 2012.

Milo Greene at Empire in Portland, Maine. March 2013.

Milo Greene at Empire in Portland, Maine. March 2013.

I have always described Milo Greene to first-timers as an upbeat indie group without a lead singer. They pass instruments back and forth. Their harmonies are stunning and their songs catchy and relatable. Their new album, Control, is a different thing altogether. Released in early 2015, it is much more pop and percussive. It’s a pretty big departure, and not in a direction I was excited about, but I still thought their live show would impress. It didn’t.

The only wholly bright spot of the night was show opener Hey Marseilles from Seattle. They have a folky pop sound with great harmonies and a string section. Matt Bishop, their lead singer, was engaging and friendly. He joked that their band name is hard to say but easy to Google search. I wasn’t familiar with their music before the show, but I enjoyed the bulk of it (especially “Heart Beats”) and have listened more since the show. I’d definitely see them again.

Seattle's Hey Marseilles

Seattle’s Hey Marseilles

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Milo Greene took the stage and thanked us for waiting three years for them to come back to town. That might have been just about the only thing anyone in the band said for the majority of the show. They played in the near dark, song after song. No song introductions, no checking in with the audience. It felt like we might as well not have been there. Much later in their set, Robbie said that their new album is the real them (that was the gist, anyhow). Marlana piped up that she thought it might take a little convincing, but he clearly disagreed. I wondered how united the group is about their new musical direction.

LA's Milo Greene

LA’s Milo Greene

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This beautiful shot of Milo Greene is courtesy of Caroline Carrigan

This beautiful shot of Milo Greene is courtesy of Caroline Carrigan

Milo Greene sped through their Control-heavy set. On their website they’re quoted as saying that their “first album was a massive wall of harmonies.” It is a glorious sound, if you ask me, and the crowd’s reaction led me to think I’m not the only one who misses the old stuff. I was happy to hear a handful of their earlier songs like “1957,” “What’s The Matter,” and “Autumn Tree.” They covered Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home,” which I thought was fantastic. The band rushed through their songs and hurried off stage and I was surprised by how early I got home after a show on a school night. If they came back to town, I’d sadly pass, which is kind of heartbreaking.



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