Tag Archives: Jason Pipkin

The Lone Bellow with The Wild Reeds

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

The Lone Bellow is my favorite band. That’s saying something, right? I saw them for the first time back in 2013 in Boston and they stole my heart. Zach, Brian, and Kanene pour their hearts out on stage and give the audience 110%. This is the eighth time I’ve seen them live, and I’ve never seen them offer even just 95% to the crowd. I honestly don’t know how they do it. They’re the best.

This show came at a bad time for me, but I made it work. I was pretty under the weather, and it was parent teacher conference night at school, so I taught all day, had conferences until 8pm, and then flew down to Portland. (Coincidentally, they also played Portland four years ago on my parent teacher conference night. Can I request we stop booking them in November?). Colin, my steadfast concert buddy, kindly saved me a front row center spot along the barricade at the State Theatre, and I arrived a song or two into The Wild Reeds’ opening set. Bobbie and Abra, who run The Lone Bellow’s online fan community, Tree to Grow, were right there along the barricade, too. It was their 39th Lone Bellow show that night. They win. It’s not a competition, though, because everyone who sees The Lone Bellow live wins.

LA’s The Wild Reeds are led by three strong female vocalists and multi instrumentalists–Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe, and Sharon Silva–with powerful voices and great energy on stage. I enjoyed their set (even though it was little hard to hear their vocals) and people near me were clearly fans who knew the words and sang along, too. I listened to their Tiny Desk Concert to prep for the show, and they are quite talented. I would definitely see them again.

The Lone Bellow took the stage after a brief stage swap and dazzled the small, but delighted crowd. I remember a few moments during the show when Zach, Brian, and Kanene were gathered around one mic and I noticed that there was no sound in the room other than their voices. It’s rare that a band can mesmerize a crowd like that, but it’s within the power of The Lone Bellow, for sure.

The Lone Bellow played almost every song from their new album, Walk into a Storm. The new album is excellent and there’s not a single song to skip over, but my favorite song on it is definitely “Long Way to Go,” and I loved hearing it live for the first time in person. Jason (Kanene’s husband) and their new drummer Rico left the stage during an acoustic mini set. I’m not sure how it started, but Zach, Brian, and Kanene ended up covering “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)” by Bryan Adams, and it was amazing. They also sang “Watch Over Us,” which is among my most favorite songs, too.

I learned a fair amount about Zach’s childhood during the show, including the time he set his kitchen on fire toasting a Pop Tart after school and his hobby of catching and naming cottonmouth snakes that his dad wouldn’t let him keep. I also learned that his first CD was the Bodyguard movie soundtrack. 

I was thrilled to hear “You Never Need Nobody”and “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” live, and was equally happy that “Then Came the Morning”was the encore. The Wild Reeds joined the Lone Bellow on stage, and it was great to see such big, genuine smiles from everyone up there. It was clear they were having a blast. “Then Came the Morning” is such a badass song. Check out these lyrics–“Take my words, breathe them out like smoke/Burn every single letter that I wrote/Let the pages turn to ash, I don’t want them back.” Zach divided the crowd in half and we sang parts and filled the room with sound to close the night together.

The Lone Bellow has gone through some major stuff in the last year, and you can read about it here. It seems like all is well for them and they’re all living in Nashville now and growing their families and fans alike. I can’t say enough about this band. Please check them out. Here’s a full Lone Bellow show recorded in Boston a few years ago that still captures the essence of this soulful, passionate group quite nicely. Please come back to Maine soon!

xo,

bree

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The Lone Bellow with Odessa

Monday, February 23, 2015

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

*If you are strapped for time, the short version of this post is that The Lone Bellow is my favorite band and their live show is the most passionate, heartfelt experience you’ll be lucky enough to be part of. Read their deeply personal biography in this intimate Josh Jackson feature in Paste Magazine for context. Watch this Lone Bellow concert filmed by Front Row Boston, or, better yet, just trust me and go see them in person!*

What a beautiful day! My friend Colin asked me to join him for a private concert with The Lone Bellow (TLB) at 98.9 WCLZ’s Studio Z in the afternoon and we were back in front of the stage at Port City Music Hall just a couple of hours later to see their full show. We chatted briefly with the band, too, (which I normally avoid) and they were down to earth and grateful we liked their music so much. Phew. That’s gone badly before.

Colin and I grabbed a delicious dinner at Empire and hurried back to PCMH to be there when the doors opened. It was 3 degrees. And there was a line outside. We grabbed a spot behind a couple of women front and center named Bobbie and Abra who happen to write TreeToGrow.com, a Lone Bellow fan site. I started chatting with Dave and Kathy who were standing right behind me when they mentioned the Arcade Fire show I’d missed in Bangor this summer while I was driving cross-country. They mentioned that they live in Farmingdale and then a woman standing near us leaned in to say she and her husband live there, too. It turns out that Kelly and her husband Joe are both teachers and that Kelly’s dad and I worked together for over a decade at Mt. Ararat High School. Another woman standing on my other side overheard me mention Mt. Ararat and told me that she attended and then taught at Brunswick High School and we compared names and know a lot of the same people. I mention all of this because it was such a lovely experience and true to what the best possible concert experience can be when you find yourself surrounded by people because of music and find other things you have in common. I have a handful of friends who I only know because of our shared interest in music (Colin included), and I really appreciate the power of music to connect people.

The lights dimmed and Odessa took the stage. Odessa played electric guitar and was joined by two female musicians—one on bass and the other on guitar and lap steel guitar. Odessa’s voice was light and airy and their harmonies were strong, especially on “Hummed Low.” “I Will Be There” was definitely the standout of their set. Their short opening set was quite mellow and I would have loved some audience interaction. Check out this feature on Odessa—the “Best of What’s Next” in Paste Magazine for some background.

Odessa

Odessa

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Set up for The Lone Bellow’s set went quickly and they took the stage just after 9 PM and opened (appropriately) with “Cold As It Is.” Next up was “Then Came The Morning,” which is hymn-like with beautiful harmonies. Kanene talked about the song during their Studio Z performance earlier and mentioned that the woman on the cover of the album embodies the theme of the song because despite whatever she faces she gets up every morning and does her hair and makeup and goes to breakfast at the same diner. Something I appreciate about TLB is the depth and honesty of their lyrics. Consider the lyrics to “Then Came The Morning”—“Take my words, breathe them out like smoke/Burn every single letter that I wrote/Let the pages turn to ash, I don’t want them back/Everything you always said to me/Starts to sound like broken glass on streets/Spread out all over places where I sleep/Now you finally left me/Done with all your lying/Joy comes in the morning/You won’t see me crying.” The Lone Bellow doesn’t shy away from the hurt. They embrace it, reflect on it, and lift it up so the listener can share in it with them and feel a little better because we can relate. It’s a rawness—a realness, truth—that pervades their music and makes it genuine and compelling.

This is how Zach Willams welcomed us. Clapping on top of the monitor while leaning over the crowd. Such a great stage presence.

This is how Zach Willams welcomed us. Clapping on top of the monitor while leaning over the crowd. Such a great stage presence.

Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin of The Lone Bellow

Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin of The Lone Bellow

Justin Glasco on drums

Justin Glasco on drums

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The playful side of The Lone Bellow

The playful side of The Lone Bellow

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Husband and wife Jason and Kanene Pipkin

Husband and wife Jason and Kanene Pipkin

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Zach joined us in the crowd a number of times

Zach joined us in the crowd a number of times

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Did anyone else notice that TLB played nearly every song they’ve ever recorded for us? I took a look at the set list Colin posted online and they only left five of their songs off the night’s set list. Talk about giving it everything you’ve got. They got the crowd clapping and singing along during “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” from their self-titled debut album and then brought it right down with a trio of slow songs—“Call To War,” “Watch Over Us,” and “Two Sides of Lonely.” “Call To War” features Kanene’s lush, raspy voice and it is definitely my favorite on Then Came The Morning. “Watch Over Us” is transcendent. You can always hear a pin drop in the room when Brian, Zach, and Kanene stand around a single microphone and belt that heart-wrenching, beautiful song.

"Watch Over Us"

“Watch Over Us”

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Zach was charming as always and kept the audience engaged even between songs. He said they’d gone to Becky’s Diner and he’d eaten the nine-pound omelet called the Titanic. Someone shouted out that they should try Marcy’s Diner and he asked if Becky and Marcy are friends or if they’re in a fight over a fisherman.

98.9 WCLZ has played TLB’s “You Never Need Nobody” for a long while now, and the sold out crowd at PCMH was thrilled to hear it live. Kanene stunned (as always) on “Button.” Zach talked about working with Aaron Dessner from The National on their latest album at Dreamland Studio in Woodstock, New York. If you think you hear gospel influence in their music, you certainly do—and the album was recorded in a converted church for good measure.

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Zach introduced the band—including Kanene’s husband Jason Pipkin (“the only man in the band with elbow pads, so he could slip and fall and it would be no problem”) and new drummer Justin Glasco—and got into some 80s references about shoulder pads and they broke out into Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True” for a hot second. TLB wrapped their high-energy, leave-it-all-on-the-stage set with “Take My Love” and the crowd went wild. The energy was palpable. TLB came back to wow us a bit more with “Tree to Grow” and “Teach Me to Know.” Zach took a long pause towards the end of “Tree to Grow” and there was silence in the packed room. It’s incredible to see a band be able to draw a crowd in like that. We enthusiastically sang along on the “carried away” refrain of “Teach Me to Know” as the magical night came to an end.

Zach giving us the thumbs up at the end of the night

Zach giving us the thumbs up at the end of the night

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The Lone Bellow is my favorite band and this was a dream of a night. Thank to you everyone, especially the band, for such a wonderful evening.

xo,

bree

 

Here are other posts I’ve written about The Lone Bellow:

June 2013 at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA

November 2013 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine

February 2014 at Portsmouth Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

July 2014 at South Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

February 2015 in Studio Z at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine

 

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The Lone Bellow with Aoife O’Donovan

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

*The Lone Bellow is my favorite band of 2013. Their live show is joyful, breathtaking, heart wrenching, and beautiful. You’ve really, really got to see them live. I’m lucky to have seen them twice so far this year and already look forward to the next time. I was so excited when I showed up to the box office and saw my dear friends Ken and Max standing there buying tickets for the show. I’ve been talking about The Lone Bellow for basically the whole year, so was thrilled to have motivated some folks to come out for the show. At least ten of my friends were there that night and it was lovely to share the experience with so many people I care about. I’ve asked just a handful of friends to write posts about shows we’ve seen together for whatbreesees.com over the past couple of years, but three out of the four (you know who you are) didn’t complete their homework. My college classmate and teacher friend, the extraordinary Ken Templeton, was so moved by the performance that he not only readily agreed to write the show recap for whatbreesees.com, but also sent it to me just three short days later. Ken was an English major at Bowdoin and is a former English teacher, so please enjoy how well written this post is. Thanks so much, Ken! I’m thrilled you loved The Lone Bellow like I do!*

The show started with Aoife O’Donovan (of Crooked Still) opening. She is a singer/songwriter with a gorgeous voice that is clear and strong, but she doesn’t try to blow you out of the room. She is often quiet and understated in her delivery.  Aoife was joined by bassist Jacob Silver and guitarist Austin Nevins.

Austin Nevins, Aoife O'Donovan, and Jacob Silver

Austin Nevins, Aoife O’Donovan, and Jacob Silver

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Aoife opened with “Red and White and Blue and Gold,” from her first solo release, Fossils. It’s a catchy tune, evoking carefree summer days, leaving it all behind–good stuff like that. [Aoife also opened with that song earlier in the afternoon when she recorded a Newsroom Session in the Portland Press Herald studio with Aimsel Ponti]. Aoife sings, “Come on sit next to me / Bury my feet, bury my feet in the sand. / There’s a hole, it’s twelve miles deep. / I dug it with my hands.” She introduced her song “Lay My Burden Down,” noting that another person recorded it first (that other person is Alison Krauss). That has to be a funny thing, when some listeners might mistake your song for a cover.

Aoife did a wonderful cover of Blaze Foley’s tune “Clay Pigeons,” which she said she learned from John Prine. (Here’s his version and The Avett Brothers’ version too.) It’s a song that sounds like many songs that Prine wrote; it opens like this: “I’m goin’ down to the Greyhound Station, gonna get a ticket to ride. / Gonna find that lady with two or three kids and sit down by her side.” Everyday experiences, everyday people–we can all see that “lady,” even though she’s not described in any detail. Aoife takes a similar kind of approach in some of her songs, although the ‘speakers’ of her songs seem like they might read more books than John Prine’s do. In “Thursday’s Child,” she writes, “No one’s riding shotgun, I’m driving alone. /  I can turn up the music and do whatever I want. / When I get to border, I put a quarter / In the pay phone. / Oh, my tyranny’s gonna crumble. / So, sit next to me and fumble / With the buttons on my dress.”

Jacob Silver provided some sweet whistling on “Lovesick Redstick Blues” and there was a great sing-a-long on “Oh, Mama,” with a willing crowd belting out: “Oh, Mama, play me a love song / Pour me some bourbon / And lay me down low. / Mmm, baby, my poor heart is breakin’ / I feel the ground shakin’ / Under my feet / So put me to sleep.” Austin Nevins’s lead guitar work was exceptional. I’ve seen him play with Josh Ritter a few times, and have always been impressed with his spare decisions as a soloist. He is very efficient, picking notes here and there to accentuate the vocals and then traveling up and down the neck for his solos. Bree saw Austin play with Dietrich Strause a few months ago and with Josh Ritter back in May.

Now, as for The Lone Bellow

Bree told me. She did. When she saw The Lone Bellow at the Sinclair, she said that it was one of the best shows she’d ever seen. She was right. They put on a show that picks you up and shakes you by the shoulders and gives you a bear hug–you laugh and say, “Stop, put me down,” but they don’t, they spin you around and when they stop the whole place is dead quiet and you don’t even want to sniffle because you might miss something. This is all to say that if you get the chance to see The Lone Bellow, don’t miss them.

Zach Williams plays guitar and sings lead vocals, with a raspy, gritty sound that belies incredible range. Kanene Pipkin plays mandolin and sings lead and harmony. Brian Elmquist plays lead guitar and sings as well. To be clear, any one of these three would be a great lead singer–they’re all that good. They share the stage really beautifully with each other and at times seem genuinely in awe of each other’s talents. Brian Griffin was excellent on the drums and Jason Pipkin (Kanene’s husband) played bass.

The Lone Bellow: Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin

The Lone Bellow: Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin

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Brian Griffin on drums

Brian Griffin on drums

They opened with “I Let You Go,” a lovely little tune that takes full advantage of their stunning vocal harmony. It was an intimate start to a set that from there went 100 miles an hour for the next thirty minutes. Next up was “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional.” “You Never Need Nobody” followed, the first song I ever heard by The Lone Bellow (from their Tiny Desk Concert). Even on slower numbers like this one, the band is in full-tilt mode, stomping, sweating, and swooning all over the stage. They are physically exuberant about their music in a way that is, I think, uniquely Southern.  You see The Avett Brothers approach their shows in a similar way. Introducing “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To” as a song about marital strife, Zach got the crowd clapping while Kanene took over the lead vocals. The crowd sang along with “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.” How can you not sing along with that chorus; it’s too catchy: “Green eyes and a heart of gold / All the money’s gone and the house is cold / But it’s all right, it’s all right, / It’s all right, it’s all right.”

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Clapping along with Zach

Clapping along with Zach

The best part of the night, I thought, was when they pared down to just Zach, Brian, and Kanene around one microphone for a few numbers. The first of these, “Watch Over Us,” was the showstopper for me. Brian on lead vocals, Zach and Kanene supporting. Brian’s performance was so charged and emotional that when he sang, “But my baby’s sleeping,” then paused for at least four beats, the whole crowd was si-lent. That is hard to do. No “woos”. No jackass shouting “yeah!” or “ow!” Silent. Because we were right up front, I know why he paused–he was catching his breath. It’s not often that you see a singer expend that kind of energy, but man he was wringing himself out on that song.

"Watch Over Us" was breathtaking

“Watch Over Us” was breathtaking

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Jason Pipkin looking lovingly at this wife, Kanene

Jason Pipkin looking lovingly at this wife, Kanene

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Zach dedicated “Tree to Grow” to his wife, who was there for the concert with their infant daughter. It’s a great song, with this stirring refrain: “A tree I’ll grow to let you know / My love is older than my soul.” The band returned to blast through “Bleeding Out” and then they had Aoife come back on stage to sing “Angel from Montgomery.” It was a really great performance and prompted more passionate singing from the crowd. (Here is a wonderful version from The Lone Bellow with Brandi Carlile).

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The Lone Bellow invited Aoife up on stage for “Angel from Montgomery”

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Zach then engaged in some serious banter. He said that he ate at Becky’s Dinner and had a drink at Eventide. At Becky’s, he described a guy there who “took off his buffalo plaid jacket to reveal his buffalo plaid shirt,” and described “the rope that was holding up his pants.” This transitioned to a story about his uncle Dale, who seems like one of the more entertaining people in the world to hear about. Southerners can tell stories, and Zach told us a great one about his uncle, his uncle’s wife in the hospital and Dale’s decision to buy a number of items at the trick shop. I won’t ruin it for you–it’s better live. The song “Fire Red Horse” is about Dale: “The fire red horse / That could not be tamed. / He could not be broken / My uncle’s red flame.” “Button” was another highlight, with Kanene rattling the walls a bit with her vocals.

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Their encore–“Teach Me To Know” maintained the all-out energy of their set. Another (yes, another) great sing along and everyone clapping to the driving beat.

As they stood on stage to huge applause, each band member said “Thank you, thank you” to the audience. This was more than perfunctory thanks. This is a humble group that works incredibly hard and knows that there are millions of talented, dedicated musicians who never make it and they appreciate their shot. Throughout the show, you could almost see them in an apartment in New York a couple of years or so ago, singing and stomping, knowing they had something special to share.

The setlist

The setlist

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