Tag Archives: Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul

Friday, April 28, 2017

Chocolate Church Arts Center, Bath, Maine

This was my 48th Ellis Paul show. That might sound like a lot, but I’ve really just seen him a few times a year since my first Ellis show at Bowdoin College back in 2002. He’s obviously my favorite, though, and this was a great night. I was thrilled that Colin could join me, because Ellis is better shared. I had a quick girls dinner at my house and then raced over to Bath’s Chocolate Church Arts Center for the show.

There was no show opener, which I love when I’m seeing my favorite artists (because how could they compare, really), and Ellis took the stage a little after 7:30. He was in a great mood, and was very chatty with the audience, which is my favorite. Ellis had some new banter topics and he led a brief whole audience conversation about which artists we could take or leave. Bob Dylan is my “zero artist,” because I love “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Forever Young” but I’d prefer to hear Dylan songs sung by just about anyone else.



Ellis played a couple of improvised songs at the piano–one about tourist season in Maine, and his encore was a song about how much he loves Tom Brady. He played a lovely song that I’ve maybe only heard once before (always a bonus) about Pawnee, Oklahoma. He explained that “Oklahoma is the Maine of the midwest” and that he was off to Tulsa for the 4th anniversary of the Woody Guthrie Center. He showed us his Woody Guthrie tattoo and told us the story about showing it awkwardly to Arlo after his opening set at the Boston Hatch Shell many years ago and then, many years later, showing it to Nora Guthrie (at her request) while chatting with a random German who ended up becoming her husband. When Ellis offered to play requests, I asked for “God’s Promise” (his music and Woody’s lyrics), which he picked first and I was thrilled to hear. The guy sitting next to me elbowed me with excitement when Ellis picked my request, which was pretty adorable.


img_1613Ellis shared that he’s celebrating 25 years as a touring musician, which is a long time! He read us the Thomas Edison piece from his The Hero in You book, sang a song in progress with verses from many states he’s visited that was hilarious, and generally interacted warmly with us and kept us laughing all night. He came down into the audience to sing “Annalee” together, wrapped up with his Tom Brady love ballad, and send us home smiling. It’s always a pleasure to see Ellis live, and I’m getting excited for my 50th show!

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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Rose Cousins, Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barry

Friday, March 18, 2016

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

Talk about a delightful night full of rock solid good music, plentiful laughs, and pro-community spirit. This show was a gem. Johnson Hall Executive Artist Director Mike Miclon handed out CDs full of music from this season’s Johnson Hall artists last fall during the season reveal event, and Rose Cousins’ “Go First” played on repeat in my car for weeks. Her voice is all the best things—soulful, clear, ethereal, and evocative. I had this show circled in permanent marker on my concert calendar for months. I feel lucky to have been there.

Carol Noonan is a name you know in the Maine music scene. A singer-songwriter with a long career, she is also the mastermind behind Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine. One of the things that I was struck by on this fabulous night was how complimentary she was of Gardiner and our effort to bring live music and new life to our community. When Mike welcomed everyone to the stage, he also announced that Lisa’s Legit Burritos, The Craft Beer Cellar, and Niche, Inc. (Gardiner’s new record store) were staying open late after the show and we were all going to go to all three places to support these local businesses. Carol was on board wholeheartedly. Before Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield wasn’t even a blip on the map, she said. Now, it’s a music destination that has inspired a lot of growth in the area. She said “music brings a community to life.” Johnson Hall has been a tremendous part of Gardiner’s growth with Mike Miclon at the helm. Gardiner’s time is now, and we have a wonderful community—one I feel proud and fortunate to be part of.

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From left to right–Rose Cousins, Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barry

Rose Cousins, Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barry took the stage together and played together the bulk of the night—alternating between Carol’s songs and Rose’s songs. Rose Cousins is a singer-songwriter who grew up on a potato farm in Prince Edward Island. The baby on stage that night, Carol joked that she graduated from high school the year that Rose Cousins was born. They met because Rose sent Carol her CD If You Were For Me (2006), and even though Carol receives so many submissions at Stone Mountain that she can’t listen to many, she picked up Rose’s album because she was drawn to the horse on the cover. A decade later, and they’re friends who play music together.

 

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Duke Levine is maybe best known for touring with The J. Geils Band and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Kevin Barry is an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston and has played with Paula Cole and Mary Chapin Carpenter, as well. Duke and Kevin have played together for ages, and have both played on both Carol and Rose’s albums, too.

I particularly liked Rose’s song, “Farmer’s Wife.” Rose spoke about growing up on a farm—one of five kids—and not really having a full appreciation of her mother’s role until her sister married a farmer and started her own family. Her 2014 Stray Birds EP includes a cover of Lori McKenna’s “Shake,” which the group played for us. Lori McKenna is a folk rock star. I just wrote about hearing her song “Girl Crush” that won a Grammy for Best Country Song covered by Ellis Paul at One Longfellow Square on January 1. I’ve only managed to see Lori live a couple of times, but sadly not since 2012 at One Longfellow Square in Portland with Mark Erelli. Rose was as much a storyteller in word as in song. She introduced “Chosen” by talking about how incredible it is to be chosen by someone but how it also gives you pause to think about all the things you don’t like about yourself. Her honesty was refreshing.

We cheered at the end of this night, thoroughly entertained by the stories and songs of these four talented musicians who are also friends and so supportive of each other. They took the stage for an encore and did an awesome cover of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” that we got to sing along with. It was a lovely way to bring the night to an end together.

I’m seeing Rose again on Sunday night (April 24) at One Longfellow Square opening for Nashville’s Penny and Sparrow. I’m really looking forward to it!

xo,

bree

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Going upstairs to see the concert hall at Johnson Hall never gets old! Just wait to see how it looks fully restored!

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Ellis Paul

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Unitarian Universalist Church, Brunswick, Maine

This was my 46th Ellis Paul show, and it was fantastic. Obviously, some Ellis Paul shows are better than others, and I can tell the difference, even if I’m biased. There was a point in time a few years ago when Ellis’ voice sounded strained (he plays hundreds of shows a year, so that’s to be expected) and he needed to work with a voice coach and get some vocal rest. I also didn’t love how he gave up telling a lot of his best stories about a year ago (how he found his guitar, Guinness, for example) to banter instead about how we’ve lost our connection to music we can hold in our hands and carried a record player around to all of his shows. The last two of his shows that I saw (January 1 at One Longfellow Square) and this lovely night were full of the best of Ellis—with a powerful voice and great storytelling.

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Ellis Paul

Hedda and I have been friends since we both had bad hair in high school (she had a bowl cut. I had a spiral perm). She was able to join me at the beautiful Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick for her first-ever Ellis Paul show. My dear colleague Dennis and his beloved wife, Jean, were also able to come for their first-ever Ellis experience. I love introducing people to Ellis Paul. It never gets old. All of them, of course, loved him. He was really on that night!

Bree and Hedda

Girls’ night out! Me and Hedda!

This show was one in a series of Concerts for a Cause at the UU Church. They host concerts to raise money for local charities chosen by church members. This year’s charities are Midcoast Hunger Prevention, Tedford Housing, Independence Association, Spindleworks, Habitat for Humanity, Gathering Place, Boys to Men, Maine Hospice, ILAP (Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project), Natural Resources of Maine, Coastal Humane Society, and Doctors Without Borders.

It’s time for a brief concert etiquette lesson. If you’re taking photos at a concert with a camera that makes sound, it’s polite to shoot during a few songs and then put the camera away. The same goes for taking photos with a cell phone, even if it’s silent. No one wants to listen to your camera click or watch a show through your cell phone screen if they’re stuck sitting behind you. It is not polite to take photos throughout every song such that people around you can’t enjoy the tender moments in the song because everyone in a five-plus row radius can only hear the constant click of your camera. I spoke to this particular Ellis superfan during intermission and asked her to kindly put the loud camera away after intermission, and she obliged. I think the folks sitting behind her had to endure watching the rest of the show through the screen of her cell phone while she took photos without sound (a bummer still, even if somewhat an improvement), but the second half of the show was a ton more enjoyable for those of us a bit farther away.

Ellis Piano

Ellis at the piano and the offending constant click of that camera in the foreground. Audience etiquette no no.

Ellis obviously impressed the sold out crowd. Folks were toe tapping and laughing and singing along (when invited) all night long. The truly talented Laurie MacAllister from Red Molly sang a few songs with Ellis. She’s performed with him every time I’ve seen him over the last year or so, and is a real treat. He introduced us to his beautiful new guitar, Sprocket, which he invited us to take a closer look at after the show. I didn’t take notes and just enjoyed the show; so I have nothing resembling a set list for you, but I remember that he wrapped his set with an improved song at the piano about being back in Maine (which was creative and hilarious) and his encore was an unplugged sing along to Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” from the middle of the room.

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Ellis and Laurie

Ellis Paul and Laurie MacAllister

Encore

“Circle Game” from the center of the room.

Do you think you get to sing a song on stage with Ellis at your 50th Ellis show? Starting to plan ahead. Thank you, Ellis, for another wonderful night!

xo,

bree

Sprocket

Ellis’ new guitar, Sprocket!

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Ellis Paul and Friends with Betty Soo

Friday, January 1, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

When I went to this show—my 45th Ellis Paul show—I knew my two-year-long relationship was essentially over (I respect that this is minor in the scheme of the universe), and I was feeling all the feelings. I also hadn’t really shared this information yet, so I was trying to hold it all together. I’m someone who doesn’t have a lot of interest in major holidays, but I’ve always loved the clean slate that comes with a new year, and I really wanted to make this night—the first of 2016—as happy as I could muster. I am so grateful for dear friends and the comfort of music. If ever there was someone I’d want to see perform while tending a broken heart, it’s Ellis Paul. His songs are vignettes—stories from many people’s lives—full of love and loss and change. Seeing an Ellis show, for me, is like being home wherever I am, despite whatever is going on. This was a well-timed night for this very uplifting show. I left feeling much better than I did when I arrived. That’s pretty high praise.

I had a lovely dinner at Empire with my friend Megan and her parents. She’d gifted them dinner and their first-ever Ellis Paul show for Christmas, and I got to tag along with them for the night. Colin, my steadfast concert friend, joined us and we filled in the middle of the second and third rows at One Longfellow Square. It was already pretty full when we got there fifteen minutes after the doors opened, so we were lucky to get such good seats at cozy OLS.

Austin, Texas’ Betty Soo opened the show. She was personable and seemed glad to be with us. She told us some of the gross band names she’d seen written on the walls downstairs in the green room (I’ll spare you). I particularly liked the song she wrote for her husband (who is her roadie and merch guy, too), “Whisper My Name.” Betty is a celebrated songwriter and was even named Kerrville New Folk Winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival.

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Betty Soo

I was so glad to see Don Conoscenti and Radoslav Lorkovic take the stage with Ellis Paul. From that moment forward, I soaked in the familiar songs, the friendly banter, and the opportunities to sing along (when invited). It was the best I’d heard Ellis sound in a while. Laurie MacAllister from Red Molly joined the gang for about 1/3 of the songs, including a heart wrenching cover of “To Make You Feel My Love” and a cover of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” which Massachusetts-based folk singer-songwriter Lori McKenna co-wrote and won a Best Country Song Grammy Award for. Colin kept track of the night’s set list, which is helpful now that I’m finally emerging from hibernation and writing this four months later. I was grateful to hear some of my favorite “older” Ellis songs like “3,000 Miles” and “Martyr’s Lounge,” peppered with great covers by the whole gang (Don sounded awesome on “What a Fool Believes”), and Ellis reading his book The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas. This show gave me exactly the escape I needed and helped me feel at least a little glad to see 2016, after all.

xo,

bree

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Don Conoscenti and Ellis Paul

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Ellis and Radoslav Lorkovic

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Rad

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The Nights the Lights Went Out on Christmas

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Ellis Paul with Shun Ng

Friday, April 10, 2015

Boothbay Opera House, Boothbay Harbor, Maine

My dear friend Dot asked if I wanted to join her for her very first Ellis Paul show. Of course I wanted to! I love going with Ellis Paul first-timers to see their reaction to his fantastic storytelling and engaging live show. Dot and I met after school and carpooled to Boothbay Harbor, where we boldly invited ourselves to share a big table with a man and his son at the very crowded The Thistle Inn (who, of course, we found out we had people in common with) and made it over to the Boothbay Opera House when doors opened. I hadn’t been to the Boothbay Opera House in years and it looks fantastic!

Guitar prodigy Shun Ng took the stage and wowed with very impressive, complex guitar pieces and reinterpreted songs, including “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Ellis is a mentor to this talented 25 year old, and helped him write the lyrics for the first of the songs he played that night. When Ellis’ guitar string broke later in the evening, Shun brought Ellis his own guitar to use. I liked seeing their friendship and admiration for each other, and am happy to see Ellis’ continued support of young musicians.

Shun Ng

Shun Ng

Ellis took the stage and welcomed us warmly. He lived for a couple of years in the midcoast and many of his friends and neighbors from those years were at the show. This was my 44th Ellis Paul show, and I think he sounded the best he has in ages (even though he told us later in the show that he had a bit of a cold). The majority of songs he played over the course of the evening were from his most recent fan-funded album, Chasing Beauty, and his 2010 release, The Day After Everything Changed. Ellis showed us the vinyl version of Chasing Beauty and a copy of his first children’s book The Hero In You. He reminisced with the crowd throughout the night about shows he’s played in the area, including a show years ago at Bowdoin College (I couldn’t help myself and shouted out that the Bowdoin show was my first time seeing him and he joked that “you never forget your first time!”). Laurie MacAllister, who plays bass for Red Molly, joined Ellis for two songs. They honored the late Pete Seeger by playing his “If I Had A Hammer” and closed the night together with a beautiful version of “Let It Be.” I see Ellis live so often that I am very familiar with the content of his live show, but I got a special treat because he played a song I’d never heard before–“I Ain’t No Jesus”—which I loved.

Ellis Paul smiling for his former hometown crowd

Ellis Paul smiling for his former hometown crowd

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I was glad that Ellis played some of my favorites for Dot to experience live—including “Maria’s Beautiful Mess” and “Hurricane Angel.” We got to sing along on “Kick Out the Lights” about Johnny Cash kicking out the lights at the Grand Ole Opry. Ellis hopped off stage and played “Annalee” and “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down” unplugged from the floor. He asked us to sing along and at some point I realized mine was the only voice besides his I could hear. It was as close to singing a duet with Ellis that I’ve come. Maybe we should do a song together at my 50th Ellis show? It won’t be long. Thanks for a great night!

xo,

bree

Red Molly's Laurie MacAllister

Red Molly’s Laurie MacAllister

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Ellis unplugged

Ellis unplugged

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"Let It Be"

“Let It Be”

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Ellis Paul with Radoslav Lorkovic and Chris Trapper

Saturday, December 27, 2014

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I was so happy to end my concert year with a girls’ night out in Portland and my 43rd Ellis Paul show! Megan, Sarah, and I had a delicious dinner at Mi Sen on Congress Street (the custard with coconut sticky rice is DELIGHTFUL) and hurried back over to One Longfellow Square to grab good seats and see if anyone had canceled since the show was sold out and Megan accidentally didn’t have a ticket. She eventually did make it in, and my concert friend Colin joined us as well. The show was so crowded that OLS removed half of the stage to accommodate a couple extra rows of seating.

I hadn’t seen Chris Trapper since 2011 when he opened for Colin Hay at The Strand in Rockland. I was a big fan of his band The Push Stars when I was in college, and I was excited when I learned he was opening the show. I was happy to hear “Keg on My Coffin,” which included a pretty solid audience participation part to start the show. Chris told us that his song “This Time” was nominated for a Grammy as part of the August Rush soundtrack and he also got to hang out with Jonathan Rhys Meyers who sang it in the film (which impresses all of his female friends). He also admitted to writing the theme song for a much-hated show called Sox Appeal in which a guy was set up on three two-inning blind dates at Fenway Park during a Red Sox game. I’ll admit to watching a few episodes. Chris also told us about his album of original Christmas songs including “Black and Blue Christmas.” He said he’d been a professional songwriter for about 14 years and that Ellis Paul had been a great mentor throughout that time. He talked about having written so many songs about falling in love, but that staying in love is the much harder part, so he wrote a song about working to stay in love called “Love You Still.”

Chris Trapper

Chris Trapper

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Ellis Paul and pianist extraordinaire Radoslav Lorkovic took the stage after intermission. Their show at One Longfellow Square very near the end of the year has become a tradition I’m grateful for since I went to Club Passim for their New Year’s Eve show every year for eight years before my friends in the area moved away and couldn’t join me there anymore for NYE. I’m so happy they bring the warm up show for the New Year’s show to me in Portland every year!

Ellis and Radoslav opened the show with three of Ellis’ best-known songs“The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down,” “3,000 Miles,” and “Maria’s Beautiful Mess.” Ellis asked us to sing with him on all three. Rad hilariously accompanied Ellis on piano while he read his poem “The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas.” Ellis told us that people have started to show him their rose tattoos because of his song “Rose Tattoo.” He joked that the song is just a love song and not a call to action. Oops! Kidding.

Radoslav Lorkovic and Ellis Paul

Radoslav Lorkovic and Ellis Paul

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“The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas”

“The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas”

Ellis has talked at length at the last few of his shows I’ve attended about the loss of music you can hold in your hand. He laments the loss of the chance to admire album artwork and read the liner notes while listening to an album for the first time. In the age of digital music, we’ve lost that part of our musical heritage. This epiphany happened for him after driving a rental car that didn’t even have a CD player. When he arrived home, he immediately went out and bought his daughters a record player to give them the musical experience he grew up with. His newest album, Chasing Beauty, is now available on vinyl.

Ellis designed the album art for Chasing Beauty

Ellis designed the album art for Chasing Beauty

Vinyl!

Vinyl!

Megan and I were in stiches at one point during the show because Ellis’ family was scattered throughout the crowd and heckled him during the show. He joked that “they have Tourette’s and talk all the time.” He remembered the amazing Pete Seeger who died in January of 2014 and played “If I Had a Hammer” in his honor. Ellis turned 50 yesterday and hosted a house concert on concert window to celebrate. Happy 50th, Ellis! He told us (with help) that “I Feel Fine” was on the top of the chart the week he was born in 1965.

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I was happy to hear “Mary, Mary” live—it’s got to be my favorite Christmas song. Ellis made a beautiful video using sand art for “Mary, Mary” that you should really check out. He’s an artist in many senses of the word. Ellis and Rad unplugged and joined us in the crowd and wrapped their set with “Love is a Curious Thing.” We stomped for an encore and Chris Trapper joined Rad and Ellis on stage to play “Waiting on a Break,” which Ellis said is inspired by the “godfather of Boston music,” Dennis Brennan.

Unplugged in the crowd

Unplugged in the crowd

Rad, Ellis, and Chris sing one more for us

Rad, Ellis, and Chris sing one more for us

I’m always so happy to start or end (or both) my concert year with you, Ellis! Cheers to health, happiness, and good music for all in 2015!

xo,

bree

The set list. Thanks, Colin!

The set list. Thanks, Colin!

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