Tag Archives: Johnson Hall

The Ballroom Thieves with Max Garcia Conover

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Front Street Music Series

Downtown Augusta, Maine Riverfront

I’ve seen The Ballroom Thieves and Max Garcia Conover so many times over the years, but I’d never seen them share the same bill before. That was all the motivation I needed to convince Dan that we should leave our quiet lakefront weekend at camp on Clary Lake to see our friend Max play with The Ballroom Thieves. Plus, the last time we saw the Thieves was last summer at Ghostland, and Dan was in a giant food truck line at the very back of Thompson’s Point and sadly missed their whole set. 

It was a little tricky to figure out how to get to “downtown Augusta’s riverfront behind Cushnoc Brewery” as instructed by our Eventbrite tickets since we aren’t familiar with Augusta, but we managed. We were welcomed by folks at the entrance volunteering for the Front Street Music Series (which is happening all summer) to benefit the renovation of Augusta’s historic Colonial Theater. I have just left the Board of Directors of Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in nearby Gardiner, Maine, after my three-year term, so I was especially glad to show some support for our neighbors.

We showed up a few minutes into Max’s opening set, and I was impressed with how close to the Kennebec River the stage was. It was beautiful. We brought short folding chairs (I’d encourage you to do the same if you hit up the rest of this summer music series), and just sat back and enjoyed an easy night of great music. I didn’t love (shocker) that Cushnoc had a downstairs bar in the rear, because folks back there were chatty and distracted from the music for me. I know my dream for silent, engrossed audiences at shows is really impractical!

Thanks for taking this, Andrea! I’m never in concert pictures!

Max was glad to share the stage with the Thieves. He told us that he’d played a crazy cross-country tour and there was a show in Iowa where maybe 7 people showed up and 3 of them were the Ballroom Thieves and he was starstruck. He also said they’re as “wonderful and kind in real life and that’s a special thing.” I love how humble Max is, and something I appreciate about his music is that every song is a work in progress. I’ve heard Max play maybe 20 times, and I’ve heard him change so many of his songs over the years to add a verse or lyric about something current. He’s such a hard worker. I was glad to hear a couple of new songs and favorites like “Self Portrait” and “Rich Man.” He also introduced one of his songs by sharing the beginning of his touching, beautiful story about the first girl he ever loved that I’ve had the pleasure to hear him tell twice–once on The Moth mainstage! You should really listen

The Ballroom Thieves took the stage and played a long set. I didn’t love the performance overall, but it was out of their hands and was because Martin often sings the melody and his microphone was just not loud enough. I appreciate how sweet Martin, Callie, and Devin are on stage with each other. Devin’s band introductions are always funny and awkward. All three of the Thieves live in Maine now and Martin joked that the “last time I came to Augusta was to set up our cable with Spectrum. That’s not the best part of Augusta. This next song–‘Trouble’–is about setting up your cable package with Spectrum.”

I absolutely love Devin’s lead vocals and their powerful interpretation of Frightened Rabbit’s “My Backwards Walk” and was so glad to hear it live. Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer, Scott Hutchison, ended his own life a little over a year ago, and a tribute album was recorded by the likes of Julien Baker and Ben Gibbard. Proceeds go to a mental health foundation in Scott’s name. While we’re here, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

I also really enjoyed their cover of Bahamas’ “Lost In The Light,” too. Devin introduced a “love song called ‘Fist Fight’” by encouraging people in the crowd to “at least say hi to the person who’s here that you’ve had your eye on.” He said “quit the crap and go say what’s up.” It was very sweet.

I appreciate that The Ballroom Thieves are using their voice as a band to speak up about issues of global importance. Martin introduced “Do Something”:

This is a risky thing to say in today’s political climate. We are on the side of basic human rights. Sometimes you have to just take a stand. I think this is where we make our stand. It’s a big issue in our country right now even though it shouldn’t be. It’s important to speak up for those who don’t have a voice or for those who have had their voices silenced. Since we are literally on a platform and we have microphones amplifying us across the river we might as well make a stand for basic human rights because I believe it’s the minimum stand you can take. This is a song called “Do Something” and it’s about holding people accountable, especially those in public office, because those people work for us and they have to do what we want them to do or they’re not fulfilling their duty. In a way, we’re Trump’s boss, which flips the Apprentice narrative. That’s where I’ll leave it for now because I’ve gotten in trouble before.

img_4058I’m always glad to see Max Garcia Conover and The Ballroom Thieves live. They both use their platform to speak up for people without a voice, and if you’re down with treating all people with respect and dignity, you’d like them and would be in good company at one of their shows!

xo,

bree

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Shawn Mullins

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

I’ve been a Shawn Mullins fan since the mid-90s. I got through a sophomore slump in college with help from his 1998 album, Soul’s Core, and it was one of the few albums I took with me to my study abroad program in Namibia in 1999. I listened to it when I was homesick. To say that album has been there for me is really an understatement. 98.9 WCLZ briefly did a thing where they’d play listeners’ “Desert Island Discs” from start to finish at noon with snippets of an interview with the nominator. Obviously, my desert island disc was Soul’s Core. I finally got to tell Shawn how much his music means to me at a show at The Strand in Rockland back in 2011. I almost never stay after a show to meet musicians. I took a gamble that night, though, and he was so kind.

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I had the pleasure of seeing Shawn again at One Longfellow Square in 2013. Shawn shared the stage with Chuck Cannon and Tom Ryan that night, and they were lovely and had such a positive vibe. I’m not sure Shawn’s been back to Maine since, though. I saw that Shawn was crowdfunding to record a 20th anniversary release of Soul’s Core, so I promptly sent $150 to show support that also put my name in the liner notes and came with an autographed copy of the final product. It came in the mail a few days after this show, actually, and I’ve loved listening to Soul’s Core Revival. I’ve only heard the acoustic disc so far, but was thrilled to learn (and this is my favorite thing) that it includes Shawn talking about what inspired each of the songs on the album. That’s honestly my dream as a listener, so I’m extra happy!

Late in the summer I noticed that Shawn was touring in Maine, and I just happen to be on the Board of Directors of Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner, Maine, so I asked our amazing executive director if he might be able to book Shawn while he was in the area. I was overjoyed that he could and that Shawn came to teeny Gardiner, Maine for an intimate night of storytelling and song. The crowd was obviously thrilled and there was a lot of love and admiration in the room that night. I had a chance to catch up with Tom about the album and the tour before the show, and it was great to see him again, too.

Johnson Hall executive director Mike Miclon welcomed Shawn to the stage and left him a dollar because “Lullaby” was the first song he ever downloaded on Napster. Shawn made his way to the stage with Tom and Radoslav Lorkovic! I’ve seen Rad a ton of times touring with Ellis Paul over the years. He played piano and accordion on the anniversary release of Soul’s Core, too, and it’s always a pleasure to see him live.

I was thrilled to hear songs that have meant so much to me for so long in person again. Shawn’s voice is a stunning and beautiful bass with rasp and character. He played a few songs from Soul’s Core–but also covered “The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” and “House of the Rising Sun,” which he recorded in 2006 on 9th Ward Pickin Parlor.

img_7785The audience was particularly pumped for “Light You Up” and clapped along poorly, but with such enthusiasm that I wasn’t annoyed that they were so offbeat. Shawn told us about recording his My Stupid Heart album at Chuck and Lari Cannon’s home studio. He had a dream that Bing Crosby was singing the title song and doing a wonderful job with it while Shawn was on the film crew making a video. He woke up a lot more confident about the song.

Shawn introduced a friend of his from high school who came to the stage to interpret “Shimmer” in American Sign Language. I was surprised to hear the story Shawn told on Soul’s Core Revival about the events that inspired “Shimmer,” by the way, but I won’t ruin it for you.

img_7805I’ve got to say that “Lullaby” is even better in person. Shawn talked about how grateful he is for the song, although he doesn’t understand why this particular song (written just like any other, he said) went “worldwide big.” He told us that a local DJ in Atlanta liked the song, believed in it, and played it a lot and it just got picked up by other stations. After 9 years of being on his own, he had his pick of record label and management. As he glanced around the room he joked that “one song can change things for you–and also not–as you can see by the stadium we’re sitting in.” “Lullaby” came out of a poem Shawn wrote while in Los Angeles. He’d played a show at a tiny venue in LA that he finally sold out on his third show there–even though “it was free to get in and only 25 people could fit in the room.” The song was such a hit that it landed Shawn a record deal, on MTV, and touring with the Backstreet Boys, which Shawn said was completely out of his element.

img_7817A devout and very appreciative audience asked for an encore, and Shawn, Tom, and Rad played one last song from Soul’s Core–his cover of “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” I was so happy to be in the room for this lovely show. What a treat for Gardiner to have talent of this caliber come to town. I hope they’ll come back in a couple of years when Johnson Hall’s upstairs 400-seat theater is renovated!

I chatted briefly with Rad after the show and told him I’ll see him in a few weeks at One Longfellow Square for my 50th Ellis Paul show! I love a milestone!

xo,

bree

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Rose Cousins and Mark Erelli

Friday, June 8, 2018

Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield, Maine

This is a really long post. Sometimes I love an artist and go overboard.

Rose Cousins is one of those tremendously talented singer-songwriters who is far less known that she should be. I was introduced to her by Mike Miclon, who is the Executive Artist Director of Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner, Maine, for which I serve on the Board of Directors. Mike put together a compilation CD a couple of years ago of all of the upcoming acts at Johnson Hall, and Rose was on it. Her song “Go First” stole my heart in the first 15 seconds, and so I went to her show with Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barryin March of 2016. Her songs are stunningly heart-wrenching, but she raises your spirit with witty, self-deprecating banter between songs. Her live show is definitely an emotional roller coaster ride.

Colin texted me two days before the show to ask me to join him to see Rose Cousins and Mark Erelli. I’d somehow never been to Stone Mountain Arts Centerin Brownfield, because it’s a solid couple of hours away from my house and felt very far out of the way. I jumped at the invitation, knowing that this was the perfect show to be my first there, and Colin offered to drive, which was a bonus. I hate to write this next sentence, but it’s burned into my memory. Colin and I were five cars behind a fatal accident on Route 113 in Brownfield on our way to Stone Mountain. I looked for information after the show online to see if what we saw was what we thought we’d seen (it sadly was), and found out that particular stretch of road near SMAC has been home to many fatal accidents, which gave me pause. My heart is still heavy for that person and their family.

Colin and I arrived a little bit after doors opened, a bit shaken from the accident, but hopeful everyone was going to be okay. For those of you who have also not been to Stone Mountain, you pick up a number in order of your arrival, which is the number you wait to hear before you get seated for dinner and the show. Colin and I were maybe number 21, and we were seated four or five rows away from the stage. We had a delicious but very expensive dinner (our shrimp pizza alone was $33!), and you need to be prepared with cash, because SMAC doesn’t accept credit cards. I think we split dinner and each paid $51, which is quite pricey to me, but was part of an elevated show experience. Anyhow, be prepared with that information before you go, if you haven’t visited SMAC yet. I really appreciate how much effort Carol Noonan (she played with Rose at Johnson Hall and spoke so much about how important live music is to a thriving community) has put into creating a venue that artists will want to play and show goers will want to frequent. It is a LISTENING ROOM. Period. I loved it. Photography and talking during the show was clearly prohibited, and it was amazing to see such a big crowd all intently focused on the show for a change. (Also, I did take one photo, but just so readers can see what a gorgeous venue SMAC is. I took it in 5 seconds from the bathroom door in the rear of the room and literally no one could see me and I obstructed no one’s view–promise promise!)

img_3226img_3248Rose Cousins and Mark Erelli took the stage and played in the round all night. I hadn’t seen Mark since 2012 playing with the incredible Lori McKenna, but he is warm in person and puts on a great show. Rose joked in between all of her depressing songs, and started the show by saying that she likes playing in Maine because Mainers have a deeper appreciation for Canadians because we’re literally attached. She told us that she quit her job in 2005 and the first thing she did was open for Mark Erelli at Club Passim. She opened the night with “Freedom.” A couple of songs later, she quipped “here’s a devastating little number called ‘White Flag.’” I absolutely LOVE it when artists tell us what inspired their songs, and Rose and Mark introduced every single song with thoughtful details all night. I was totally blissed out by that, the exceptional audience concert going etiquette, and the heartbreakingly beautiful songs.

Mark introduced “Look Up” (a song he said was one of those “don’t blink songs”) by telling us that he and Rose had realized “there were short but clearly definable stretches of the program where we were going to be unable to save you from double or even triple devastation.” Rose told us that Mark is so good at writing story songs, but she usually goes straight into an emotion that’s extremely uncomfortable and talks about that in her song instead. She told us both her mom and sister are married to farmers, and that she has a deep respect for how much work that is for them, which she fleshes out in “Farmer’s Wife.” Rose also mentioned that “Lock and Key” is about those people in your life who you are drawn to who are disruptive to your life who “you don’t want around but also do really want around.”  

Mark played “The Hitter” for his son, who’s team was just eliminated in his Little League playoffs. He said he’d searching for cell service around SMAC (there isn’t any) to get text updates about the game. Mark and Rose have been playing an annual cover song show together for 13 or 14 years (they couldn’t remember) and recorded an album called Mixtape of the songs they’ve played at those shows. Mark joked that making his fans a mix tape was his way of “asking my audience to go steady” to introduce their cover of “Ophelia” by The Band.

Mark and Rose had just arrived at SMAC after an annual songwriting retreat on an island in New Hampshire. Mark and Rose both talked about how important that week is to them at length. Mark said, “there were maybe 18 of us this year and I think we wrote 63 songs together in five days.” He said that he collects scraps of lyrics and tells himself he’ll turn them into songs at the retreat. Mark and Rose played a song he wrote on the island a couple of days earlier inspired by just three lines on an otherwise blank notebook page called “Handmade.” It was gorgeous.

Rose also raved about the retreat. She said, it’s a “privilege to be with these nutritious friend. All year long, I empty my tank and this retreat is the best part of my year when I refill my tank.” They rough it on the island–there’s poor cell signal, no wifi, and no showers–but everyone comes together and is excited to be there to create with a creative community. Rose turned a conversation on the island with a friend who is a mother of two into a GORGEOUS, heartbreaking song about the perception others have of you compared to how you really feel you’re doing. She explained that “as a mom, you want to make everything so great and fix your kids’ emotions when they’re sad. As my dad would say, ‘they’re just emotions.’” The lyrics of her new, untitled song are stunning–“I wish my heart was a hammer, I’d put you back together, but it’s just a heart, like yours. If my hands were a pedal, I’d pull you through this struggle, but they’re just hands, like yours. Here’s what these hands can do. Be here to hold you. And when you lose your way, here’s what my heart would say–love comes back around.” I felt like the whole audience held our breath from start to finish to not interrupt a single second of that incredible song. What a treasure Rose is. I hope she appreciates how impressive her skill to express feelings so beautifully in song really is.

A few years ago, Rose told us that she arrived at the retreat feeling like a “garbage person” and wanted to write an anthemic song called “Grace.” She said she was “thinking about how it’s such a great way to walk in the world but sometimes it’s hard to apply grace in the moment.” “Freedom” rolled out of her at the retreat first, but then “Grace” came, with help from Mark Erelli. “Grace” won Song of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards, and she said it is a testament to how important that week of songwriting on the island is. Mark agreed and told us that everyone brings little pieces of ideas to the island and they work together to form songs and everyone is changed in the process. It inspired “For a Song.”

Rose told us that she wrote “Tender Is the Man” with the intention of “relieving men of the shame of having emotions.” She said “society makes it hard for that to be a normal human thing. Men are taught to compact and push aside their feelings, and that discomfort is emotion and if you want to talk about it, you can. I recorded it and realized that I have shame about having emotions, too.”

I was sad not to hear “Go First” in person again, but Rose closed with another of my favorite of her songs,“Chosen.” Rose will be back at SMAC on August 5 opening for the incredible Patty Griffin. Tickets are $100 each to support Brownfield’s Public Library. Before she sang, she told us that “Chosen” is “about the disparity between how we present ourselves in the world and how we feel about each other and the quest to bring those two things closer together.” She asked us to sing the “ooohs” together and fostered a beautiful feeling of unity in the room while she sang lyrics that bravely express self doubt and vulnerability. It felt like just the right note on which to end this beautiful evening. Rose is such a sharp lyricist, and “Chosen” is no exception–“take these arms, these legs, they are broken. This love is too much, I am frozen. And I don’t know if I have what it takes to be chosen. I arose with wings, and I am flightless. Someone’s carving a statue in my likeness and I will never live up to this portrait. I’m just posing. And I don’t know if I have what it takes to be chosen.” To hear these lyrics sung in person make them even better. Please see Rose Cousins when she comes to your town.

The crowd erupted with the first noise we’d made all night (thanks, fellow show-goers, for being so wonderfully attentive!), and Mark and Rose came back to the stage and played a lovely cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind.” I felt lucky to be in the room that night. Thank you, Rose and Mark, for the gift of your vulnerability and honesty in your songwriting and your bravery in sharing your heart with your fans.

xo,

bree

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Lucy Kaplansky

Saturday, December 2, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was such an excellent Saturday! I spent part of the day volunteering at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center’s Festival of Trees in Gardiner (I’m on the Board of Directors), enjoyed Gardiner’s Parade of Lights down Water Street from the second story window, and made my way to One Longfellow Square where my steadfast concert buddy, Colin, kindly saved me a front row seat for the show.

Festival of Trees at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner

I love seeing folk singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky live. She is consistently warm and open with the audience, and seeing her in person feels intimate–like sitting around together in her living room. I first saw Lucy open for Ellis Paul back in 2007, and have seen her maybe ten times since then. I always look forward to hearing updates about her beloved husband, daughter Molly, and Janie the beagle, and it feels a bit like catching up with an old friend. Lucy writes songs about her life, and I’m humbled when songwriters are so willing to share their life experiences with strangers.

One of the things I appreciate most about Lucy is how much she loves and respects her daughter Molly. She played a bittersweet song on mandolin about how fast her daughter is growing up. Lucy told us she’d be happy to play our requests, and even if she hadn’t played the songs we requested in ages, she still gave them her best shot. Someone asked her to play “This is Mine,” and she told us it was a poem her husband Richard Litvan had written for her. When she finished, she said, “and that’s why I love my husband so much.” She also played “Ten Year Night,” which is also about him.

One of the things that makes a concert a true concert experience is when artists discuss the inspiration for their songs. Lucy never disappoints in this area. This time, I learned about her song “Don’t Mind Me.” Her daughter Molly had been assigned to read a book by Sherman Alexie last year, and Lucy told her, “I know him.” Best known for his film, Smoke Signals, Alexie ended up coming backstage to meet Lucy, Dar Williams, and Richard Shindell after a Cry Cry Cry show twenty years ago in Seattle. They hit it off, and he asked them to write a song for a particular scene in a movie he was writing and directing. He told them to think “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” but with Joni Mitchell singing it. Dar gave it a shot and wrote “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono” and Lucy and her husband co-wrote “Don’t Mind Me.” Alexie liked it so much that he wrote Lucy into the movie to play herself as a street singer. The movie didn’t end up getting made, but Lucy did get the song out of it.

I follow Lucy on Facebook, so I see a lot of pictures of her beloved dog, Janie. Janie is Lucy’s first dog ever. Her mom had been afraid of dogs, so she grew up without them. Lucy’s daughter kept asking for a dog, and they finally said yes. Lucy said, “it was a revelation to me that I could fall in love with a dog. I have at least a hundred photos on my phone of her if you want to see her after the show.” She wrote a very sweet song for her NYC dog and their “Everyday Street.”

Lucy’s dad, Irving Kaplansky, was a mathematician, a professor, and a musician, and Lucy sang one of his quirky songs, “On an Asteroid with You,” about honeymooning in outer space for us, as well. She’s also recorded an album of his songs aptly titled Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky. You can only get that EP at her shows.

Lucy told us about another audience requested song, “Manhattan Moon,” as well. She’d worked on a song for months, but it wasn’t right, so she sadly threw it away. She took a few of the best lines from that song, though, and wrote a new song in four hours, which became “Manhattan Moon.”

Lucy draws attentive, polite audiences. That matters to me. She appreciates it, too. She told us a few times that she really appreciated playing for us and complimented us on how nice we were to play for. She told us that she truly enjoys her fans, and invited us to come chat with her after the show in the lobby, adding that “you don’t have to buy anything–I just want to meet you!” She closed the show with a cover of Elvis Costello’s  “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” but came back to play an encore after a standing ovation.

Lucy ended the night with one of my favorites–“This is Home.” I’ve heard Lucy say that she wrote this song when she and her husband were first starting the adoption process about 15 years ago. They knew there was a little girl waiting for them in China, but hadn’t met Molly yet. I don’t think of myself as much of a sap, but I shed a tear when Lucy sang “when we find her/we’ll belong to her/we won’t see her first smile, we won’t hear her first word/But ours will be the first heart she holds in her hands/She can keep them beside her in her very own room.” What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday! Thanks, Lucy!

xo,

bree

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Gardiner’s 8th Annual Swine & Stein Oktoberfest

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Water Street, Downtown Gardiner, Maine

I lived in Gardiner for a decade, but moved back to Brunswick last summer to be closer to work. I am always glad to spend the day in my former town at one of my favorite events, our eighth annual Swine & Stein Oktoberfest. Sponsored by the dedicated folks at Gardiner Main Street, it combines Maine beer and pork, games, and live music from Maine artists. There’s even more fun to be had at Swine & Stein, though, and it’s truly family friendly. There’s a hilarious beard and mustache competition, a frozen t-shirt contest, (impressively partially blindfolded) butchering demonstrations led by Leon from Emery’s Meat and Produce), a rock-paper-scissors competition, giant Jenga, and even a chicken fling.

I was thrilled to be asked back as a local judge for the fourth annual Swine & Stein Beard and Mustache Competition, sponsored by Monkitree. We love hosting the guys from the Maine Facial Hair Club, and they were out in full force. Gardiner Main Street’s Executive Director, Patrick Wright, emceed the entire day and did a fabulous job.

We were treated to Maine musical acts on the main stage all day—Oktoberfest German Band, Spare Parts Band, Duquette, The Jason Spooner Band, and OC and the Offbeats. I had to take off early in OC and the Offbeats’ set to make it to school to chaperone the Homecoming dance (quite a Saturday, eh?), but they were really fun and I’d like to see them invited back for an earlier set.

The VIP tent hosted by Craft Beer Cellar was steadily busy all day. The 6th Annual Rock-Paper-Scissors Competition was fiercely competitive. The finalists were a couple, and I hope they’re okay since only one of them could win. The chicken fling competition was hilarious, as always, and Amy and Steve won a second year in a row! I love the fire that folks bring to these friendly competitions.

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make Swine & Stein a great day! Gardiner Main Street and all of the many, many volunteers I saw in bright orange t-shirts—you rock! See you next year! I posted lots more photos below, so please check them out. If you’d like to use one somehow, please give photo credit to whatbreesees.com. Thank you!

xo,

bree

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Scars on 45

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I finally got to see Scars on 45 live, and they were a delight. They sang beautifully, were warm and chatty with the crowd, explained the backstory of a few of their songs, and generally have great band chemistry. I am so glad I finally had the opportunity to see them, and I appreciate that 98.9 WCLZ brought them to Portland to do a free show for their listeners at intimate One Longfellow Square. Scars on 45 (Danny, Aimee, Nova, and Nate) are highly listenable, and I bet you’ve already heard some of their songs on the radio. Here’s a session they recorded recently at Paste Magazine’s studios.

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The rest of this post is a laundry list of sadness about poor concert etiquette. If you could use a brush up on how to be respectful during a concert experience, keep reading. If not, just check out England’s lovely Scars on 45 and call it a day.

This night was full of concert etiquette faux pas, which frustrated my concert experience a lot. Why didn’t I move, you ask? People ask me that sometimes. The better question (I think) is, why aren’t people more considerate at shows? I got to One Longfellow Square when the doors opened to get a front row spot. I am visually impaired, and I like to be close to the stage so I can see the band well. If I had moved, I would have had to give up my proximity to the stage or block someone else’s view who’d also arrived early. That’s just not fair. Also, the venue is so small that these annoyances could be experienced by plenty of people in the room.

I’d had a busy day, and I went out of my way to get to this show, both by driving all the way to South Portland to 98.9 WCLZ’s studio solely to pick up the tickets and by leaving a season reveal event at Johnson Hall in Gardiner early to get to Portland in time for doors. I was especially bummed that I ended up between three people who were not considerate of other audience members during the show.

Here are three things I witnessed that I think you should NOT do at an intimate concert:

1. Sing along. It is not your concert. Your name is not on the ticket stub. We came to hear the band sing these songs we like and that have meaning to us in person. (ESPECIALLY do not sing EVERY word to EVERY song SO LOUDLY that people hear you INSTEAD of the band). EXCEPTION–Of course you can sing along when the band invites you to. But that’s it. If you have to sing along, sing quietly. For serious. Besides pushing people aside and trying to steal their earned spots at shows, this is my biggest concert pet peeve. The girl to my immediate left sang over the band all night while standing directly underneath them. It drove me NUTS.

2. Clap. (ESPECIALLY during slow songs and definitely not during covers of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” which does not lend itself to clapping at all, Man Standing Immediately Behind Me).

3. Make awkward conversation with the band while they’re on stage. Don’t heckle the band to get their attention either. This note is mostly for people who need to feel like they’re having a special, one-on-one moment with the band. You don’t impress us by interrupting the band to talk at them. Talk to the band after the show.

My friend Andrea likes pop music and sees a lot of bands that have younger fans that love to sing along and take video all night long. She is used to all of the aforementioned concert behaviors and is truly not bothered by any of them. In fact, she said “they’re just feeling the music.” I wish I was able to see things in that kind light!

I ended up at a free show of a band I really like at a venue I really like with three girlfriends I really like. And I was annoyed so much for so much of the night that I missed out on the joy of the night. The rest of my friends didn’t miss out on the joy, and I’m glad for them. I am always impressed by how a single person can have such a negative impact on a show, and how rarely they even seem to notice. Maybe it’s the teacher in me that just wants to correct the behavior for the greater good. I am so open to reading your suggestions about how to deal or just to commiserate about bad concert etiquette you’ve experienced. Let’s be politer at shows, folks!

xo,

(Whiny–I know) bree

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Look at my lovely lady friends!

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Ellis Paul

Friday, September 16, 2016

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

Ellis Paul is my favorite singer-songwriter. A Maine native, he’s an incredible storyteller, and I have taken every opportunity possible over the last thirteen years to see him live. This was a delightful night, and I’m so glad to have been in the audience. I’d asked Johnson Hall’s Executive Director Mike Miclon to bring Ellis Paul to Johnson Hall when he first took charge of the venue a couple of years ago, and he readily obliged. Before Mike introduced Ellis to the stage, he singled me out and said that this was my 47th Ellis Paul show and gave a kind shout out to whatbreesees.com, as well. Mike said that he trusts my taste in music, so takes my booking advice seriously. It was such a feel good moment for me, and one of the reasons I love seeing shows at Johnson Hall in teeny Gardiner, Maine so much. It feels like home.

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Ellis Paul

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Ellis took the stage and said his pickup on his guitar wasn’t working, so he came down into the audience and played the bulk of his set unplugged from there. It was such an intimate experience, and we loved it. Ellis had written a new song about traveling that he was still using notes for, and a sweet older gentleman was clearly over the moon to be asked to hold it for Ellis while he sang.

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Blurry but precious

Ellis told us about his experience putting Woody Guthrie’s song “God’s Promise” to music (even after embarrassing himself by awkwardly showing Woody’s son Arlo his Woody Guthrie tattoo). I wasn’t surprised that Ellis ended the night with an impromptu ditty on the piano about how women outnumber men 60/40 in colleges and universities and are clearly poised to take over the world. He sang that he’d be voting for Hillary for his two daughters, made a joke about Trump’s bad hair, and got off stage. It turned out that someone in the audience that night wrote him a letter to explain why Hillary is the Anti-Christ and admonished Ellis for talking about politics at a folk show. Clearly, someone is very lacking in the roots and purpose of folk music!  

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From Ellis Paul’s Facebook page

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As always, it’s a pleasure to see Ellis live. I went up to see the unfinished Opera House on the top levels of Johnson Hall after the show (there’s been some new money pledged to the renovation project, too!) and just before I left, Mike told Ellis that I can really sing and that we should do a duet at my 50th Ellis show. Sounds like a plan to me!

xo,

bree

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