Tag Archives: Empire Chinese Kitchen

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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Josh Ritter with Good Old War

Saturday, October 28, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

What an awesome night! I see a ton of music by myself, but I ended up with a hearty group of friends Saturday night, all right up front along the barricade. It was a truly A+ evening.

The folks at Empire Chinese Kitchen recognize me (it’s my go-to) and know that I’m probably grabbing a quick dinner before a show when I snag a solo seat at the bar, but my friend Colin (who I met years ago at Josh Ritter show) and his friend Meghan met me for pre-show drinks. I picked up my photo pass at the State Theatre box office and quickly made my way to the stage and grabbed a spot in the front row on the barricade. Colin and Meghan joined me, and my friend Bob surprised me by driving up from Massachusetts to join us (he and I met at an Iron & Wine show back in 2011 at the State Theatre). I chatted with Ashley and Marsha who were next to me along the barricade, and when my friend Grace and her husband Trent showed up, they all already knew each other. So what I’m saying is that Josh Ritter brings good people together and it was a delight to see a show with so many wonderful people. My friend Bartlett joined us, and then his friends Nick and Sarah showed up, too. It was a party.

I am a fan of show opener Good Old War, and I arrived when doors open to be sure I’d be right up front. I first saw Philadelphia’s Keith [Good]win, Tim Arn[old], and Dan Sch[war]tz open for Brandi Carlile back in 2010, but hadn’t caught them live since 2015. I supported their Pledge Music campaign to produce Broken Into Better Shape, and I wear the Good Old Warrior t-shirt they sent me often. It was a little strange to see them in such a big venue, because the thing I’ve enjoyed most about them live is how intimate it feels. They played an entire glorious set unplugged standing in the middle of the crowd when I saw them in 2015, but I suppose that’s not something an opening band can pull off when most people are usually only there for the headliner. Folks in the audience listened during their set, and I saw a bunch of people up front singing along to all of the songs, too.  I was so glad to hear “That’s Some Dream,” “Amazing Eyes,” and “My Own Sinking Ship” in person again. I’m pretty sure Good Old War didn’t play “Tell Me What You Want From Me,” which I expected to hear because 98.9 WCLZ plays it regularly. I am eager to see them as a headliner again, and hope they’ll come back to Maine soon.

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Good Old War

IMG_5923IMG_5925IMG_5928I have known about Josh Ritter for ages, and I’ve seen him a handful of times live, but I’ve never taken the time to dig into his music catalog until about a month ago. I’ve mostly gone to see him live because his music matters to people who matter to me and he puts on a great show. What I appreciate most about him as a performer is the joy he exudes in the form of a giant smile while he’s on stage. His music is layered and lyrical, and it’s laden with Bible references and heavy themes that don’t work for me as background music. What I’m trying to say is that his songs really deserve a listener’s attention. I also love a sad song, so listening to his newest album, Gathering, has been right up my alley. “Showboat,” “When Will I Be Changed,” “Train Go By,” and “Thunderbolt’s Goodnight” stick out to me on the album and all strike me as deeply personal, beautiful, and relatable.

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Josh Ritter

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Zack Hickman

Josh posted on Facebook when his album dropped that “I have never lived in times like these. That music somehow manages to survive and matter amidst the chaos seems ever more miraculous, ever more something to celebrate and be grateful for.” We are living in strange, dark days, but Gathering helps me feel a bit better, because Josh eloquently captures the sadness and makes the darkness feel less isolating.

This was by far the most engaged I’ve been at a Josh Ritter show. I’d listened to him a lot in the weeks leading up to the show, and it was the first time I knew a lot of the words and could sing along. The crowd was awesome. I remember a few moments during the show when I realized I could only hear Josh–which is incredible in a big venue with multiple bars. People who love Josh listen to him, too, I guess, and it was a welcome treat to really hear an artist like that. Since no one was pushy or drunk or yelling I could relax. I took pictures during the first three songs of both sets, but I danced, had a few drinks, and enjoyed every moment.

Josh didn’t say a whole lot during the show, but we did learn that “Train Go By” was about a stint living in the country, where the only entertainment was to go park by the train tracks and watch the trains go by. That adventure didn’t last long. Josh humbly expressed his gratitude for having the opportunity to write music and perform for a living. Josh did three songs acoustic in the middle of his set, and Zack joined him for “Hopeful,” which is one of my favorites. Check out these lyrics–“How many times did you give all your love/And find out it was so far from enough?/I followed her out into the street in the rain/And the whole world stopped spinning and just went up in flames.” I have a lot of respect for an artist that will bear their soul, and Josh is one of them.

IMG_5989IMG_5992IMG_5994I loved the energy at the end of their set. They wrapped up with “When Will I Be Changed,” “Homecoming,” and “Getting Ready to Get Down,” which punctuated the night’s messages of hope and optimism and brought the energy up enough to encourage a dance party to end the show. I love acoustic music best, and loved the three song acoustic encore, especially “Roll On,” which is a song I didn’t know before. It has a particularly beautiful line in it, too–“Somewhere out there I believe in me.” Josh closed the night solo acoustic with “Girl in the War.” I loved this show and it hit me right in the feels to hear sadness, honesty, and hope mingled together in the air.

My friend Aimsel Ponti interviewed Josh a week or so before his Portland stop and asked some great questions that I wanted to know the answers to. Also, here’s a 45 minute set that Josh and bassist Zack Hickman played for 75 lucky fans at The Clown Lounge in St. Paul, and it captures their energy and current set list nicely.

To the woman in the bathroom who told me you liked my highlights–you made my night! I don’t have highlights, just a lot of gray hair.

My night wrapped with Bartlett, Nick, and Sarah over slices at Otto, and I ran into my friend Kevin Oates (the talented director of the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra) for hugs and catching up on the sidewalk on my way back to my car. This was such a fun night that was full of surprises from start to finish.

xo,

bree

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Buffalo Tom

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

For many years, I spent Memorial Day weekend with my best friend in NYC. She’s moved to the suburbs in New Jersey and has a family now, so our annual MDW tradition has ended. This year, I looked forward to some downtime at home instead of a big weekend away. I went to Bowdoin’s Commencement and marched in the alumni parade, visited the farmers’ market, and ventured down to Portland to meet up with Bob for an early dinner at Empire. He insisted we meet at 5:30 for dinner, because he was confident there would be a line at Port City Music Hall for the Buffalo Tom show and wanted to be there by 7–when doors opened. I told him his worries were unnecessary, but there was a short line of fans outside when we arrived at 6:50. Bob loved it. We were front and center for a solid 40 minutes before really anyone else arrived for the show, though (Bob won the battle, but I won the war on our bet).

Times Square. Memorial Day weekend 2010

Bob vouched for Buffalo Tom, has seen them a lot live, and promised they’d be “smart and funny” in person, so I decided to join him for the show. Probably like many other women in their 30s, Buffalo Tom came onto my radar back in 1994, when I was a freshman in high school and watched My So-Called Life religiously. There’s an entire episode that revolves around Angela and Rayanne acquiring fake IDs to sneak into a club to see Buffalo Tom play because Angela’s love interest, Jordan Catalano, was going to be there. Buffalo Tom performed in the club in the episode, and surely expanded their listening audience to include lots more teenage girls than just me. I bought Buffalo Tom’s 1993 album, Big Red Letter Day, after the episode aired, and listened to “Late At Night” on repeat.

Buffalo Tom formed in 1986 when guitarist Bill Janovitz, bassist Chris Colburn, and drummer Tom Maginnis attended U Mass Amherst, and they are currently touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their 1992 album, Let Me Come Over. They don’t have an opening act, play a full set of a mix of their songs, and then play the entire album after an intermission. Since I’ve never heard that album and didn’t fall in love with them live, I didn’t feel bad about leaving after the first set.

They played all of my favorites from Big Red Letter Day–“Late At Night,” “Sodajerk,” “I’m Allowed,” and “Tree House” right at the beginning of their first set. I was happy to hear these songs that reminded me of a formative time in my life in person from the front row. Bill Janovitz chatted with the crowd a bit, mostly to make fun of his own age and say how their fans must already be tired like them from all the standing, but he also had some adorable rock guitar antics. They played an impressive total of 27 songs that night, including a quick bit of “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers as a tribute to Greg Allman, who’d passed away earlier in the day.

I’m a little behind in blogging because my last remaining elderly kitty (sweet Yeltsin) passed away recently, but Bob texted me this today, fully knowing that I didn’t love Buffalo Tom live:

RIP, Yeltsin kitty

“Buffalo Tom is playing Royale on September 10! I’ll pick you up at NOON. There will be a line!”

xo,

bree

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Regina Spektor

Thursday, March 9, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This night gets a mixed review, but it’s not Regina’s fault. I met up with my concert friend Bob (six years as concert buddies and going strong!) at Empire for dinner, but couldn’t find parking after a long search and ended up late to dinner, so succumbed to paying $16 in a nearby parking lot (ugh). My fortune cookie had no fortune, which concerned me. Bob and I arrived at State Theatre before doors opened to stake out a good spot for my first-ever Regina Spektor show. We ended up third row center, in a pocket of real Regina fans. It turns out, we were lucky to be exactly where we ended up, because there were a lot of disrespectful people in the crowd.

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Getting a fortune cookie without a fortune kind of freaked me out.

There was no show opener, and we were told Regina was going on right at 8 PM. She went on a little after 8:30 instead, and people were restless and some had time to get drunk at the bar by then. It really negatively affected the show experience. Regina was a delight–her vocals and piano were spot on, her audience interaction on point, and she was humble and adorable. At one point, she sweetly told us that “every time you guys start clapping, I turn around to see who’s behind me.” She joked that she shouldn’t have worn jeans because “Portland is a delicious city” and she’d overindulged. Sadly, the crowd was a NIGHTMARE. Drunk, loud people talked over her the entire night. The interruptions were so frequent and loud that Regina stopped mid song to ask very politely for people to talk a bit quieter because it was hard for her to concentrate with all the noise. Have I ever witnessed a performer ask a crowd to be quiet because they were being so loud? I don’t think so. It was so sad. She handled it like a champ, but it persisted. I talked to other friends who were at the show later, and we agreed that a seated show for a singer-songwriter and her piano would probably have created a better listening environment than the sold out standing show we attended.

Regina forgot the lyrics to her last song, “Us,” but the crowd helped her find her way (the ones who were actually listening, that is). She played a generous four song encore, including “Fidelity” and “Samson, which were thrilling to hear live for the first time. This should have been a great show. Regina was engaging, sweet, and talented, but the crowd was AWFUL. Good luck booking her in Portland again! Concert etiquette tip–don’t be the drunk person yelling all through a show–it makes you a jerk!

My friend Aimsel Ponti’s take on the night.

xo,

bree

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