Saturday, November 22, 2014
Strand Theatre, Rockland, Maine
I was really excited when I saw the lineup for Hollerfest 2. Darlingside and The Ballroom Thieves, both Massachusetts-based bands with strong ties to Maine, are both on my short list of favorite live bands. Add the promise of seeing them play with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, especially when I’m such a sucker for stringed instruments, and I was pumped. My friend Colin and I both skipped seeing insanely talented Lake Street Dive at The State Theatre in Portland to catch this show. It seemed like more bang for the buck and Colin’s a big Ghost of Paul Revere fan, too. I beat Colin to The Strand in Rockland and grabbed front row center seats for us.
I’ve written about Darlingside a bunch now. This “string rock quartet” is the real deal. I love that they perform huddled together around a single microphone and are gifted instrumentalists and vocalists. Their harmonies have such strength—surely a result of many years living and playing together. Don Mitchell (guitar), Auyon Mukharji (violin/mandolin), David Senft (guitar), and Harris Paseltiner (cello) are such a pleasure to watch live. They joked with the crowd in between songs and seemed genuinely excited to play with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, especially since Harris and Auyon played in orchestras growing up.
They joked that “My Love” is a musical guide for how not to behave in a relationship. It’s one of my favorite Darlingside songs. They told us that “Whippoorwill” was about how great childhood was before fully processing how “uncool they’d been due to lack of youth orchestra.” Auyon kept the laughs going by introducing the band to us with fun facts about everyone’s eating habits while on the road.
They played one of my favorites, “Sweet and Low,” next and then welcomed the MYRO and their director Kevin Oats to the stage. They told us that the orchestra had done all of the work—all Darlingside had done was pick a couple of songs and MYRO director Kevin Oats arranged and taught them. They played two songs together—“The Ancestor” and “Blow the House Down.” The guys from Darlingside were all smiles during both songs and kept looking at the orchestra behind them—clearly tickled about how cool it was to be backed by a talented orchestra. Don joked that he often imagined an orchestra playing behind him in everyday life, but that the MYRO was much better. Auyon said to blame the MYRO if they were actually too awesome and actually did “blow the house down.” It was AWESOME to see the MYRO with Darlingside. All of my regrets about quitting violin after one year playing when I was in third grade came flooding back to me!
The Ballroom Thieves took the stage next and played a few songs I hadn’t heard live before—“Carolina” (?) and “Wild Woman.” Devin Mauch (percussion), Martin Earley (guitar), and Calin Peters (cello) were spot on. Their driving, percussive sound with strong harmonies was such a treat to witness after not having seen them play live since April. They played “Bullet,” which they said “killed in the South”—a relief because they’d been getting blank stares up until they played that song that southerners could relate to. They gave a shout out to Paul on sound who’d run sound for an opera at The Strand earlier in the day before doing sound for three bands and an entire orchestra.
I loved hearing Calin on lead vocals for “Bury Me Smiling.” They did their own cute band introductions, as well. I really liked “Here I Stand.” They brought the MYRO to the stage to play “Archers” with them and told us that the orchestra had literally done all the work. Thieves—when do you have new music coming out? I am so ready to have my hands on this newer music to jam to during my morning commute!
The Ghost of Paul Revere came to the stage and I was really looking forward to having the chance to sit down and listen to their lyrics because I hadn’t seen them in a sit down venue for almost a year and a half. Griffin Sherry talked about being really excited to play with the MYRO and Shawn McCarthy joked that he was nervous because the MYRO are “all better than we are.” I think they played a song or two (I’m still pretty unfamiliar with their music, thus my excitement for this show) before Shawn invited people to get up and dance. A happy bunch of dancers made their way to the stage, inches from me in my front row seat. What that meant for me was that I couldn’t see the band anymore even though I was sitting feet from them front and center. I was so frustrated about having to watch people shaking their butts in my face and blocking my view that I ended up leaving after a couple more songs. My suggestion from a concert goer’s perspective for any live band is that if it’s a sit down venue, then the show is a sit down show. If you want people to be up and dancing, that’s what bars and other non-seated venues are for. I was super disappointed.
On the plus side, I did run into Don from Darlingside on my way out and we got to catch up a bit. I’m already looking forward to seeing them again. What talent. A mixed bag of a night, but great to see two of my favorite live bands play with the talented Maine Youth Rock Orchestra!