Tag Archives: Maine

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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All Roads Music Festival

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Belfast, Maine

My best friend’s parents live on the ocean in picturesque Bayside, Maine, which is a tiny village on the ocean right next to Belfast. It’s my favorite place anywhere. When I saw that my beloved Ballroom Thieves were playing the All Roads Music Festival in Belfast, I decided to go. I made it to Bayside with time to enjoy a leisurely lunch and long walk with Beverly and Patrick the pup, and then I made my way over to the Colonial Theatre to see the Festival’s “Legacy” Artist–Maine folk legend David Mallett. Dave played probably eight songs, mostly requests, and took questions from the audience. I asked him if playing “Fire,” a song about a personal tragedy, makes him sad every time he plays it. He said it does if he thinks about his parents, and then he played “Fire” for me, which was a treat. My first concert ever was David Mallett back in 1982 in Harrington, Maine. I was two years old.

Love this photo I snapped before Dave Mallett’s set!

Maine’s own David Mallett with bassist Michael Burd

I found these when I sold my house last year. I know his name is spelled incorrectly, but I was only two years old! Someone else really should have caught that!

I stopped by to visit my friends Sierra and Rob, their kids, and their new baby chicks (!) at their house in Belfast for a bit and made it back to the Colonial to see a new favorite band of mine, Hannah Daman and the Martell Sisters, who are from Portland. I saw them open for Kaleo back in September of 2016, and they opened for Jamestown Revival a couple of weeks earlier on my birthday. They were really excellent that night, too, which I told a very gracious Hannah when I ran into her in the bathroom before their set. They sounded great the third time, too. Hannah and the Martelle Sisters will play the 98.9 WCLZ stage at the Old Port Festival this weekend, and you should really go check them out (I’ll be on Mt. Ararat’s Project Graduation trip, so have to miss it).

I grabbed a delicious dinner at Belfast’s new food truck turned brick and mortar restaurant, Neighborhood. I had to make some tough decisions about how to juggle a handful of shows I was interested in, so I snuck in a few minutes of Chris Ross and the North’s set at Colonial and then went over to the American Legion Hall for the rest of the night. I missed Spose’s high octane set (I’ve somehow never seen him live before), and the crowd was buzzing when I arrived. I ran into a slew of people I know when I got there, which was a lovely surprise, and I spent nearly the entire Mallett Brothers Band set catching up with the fabulous Jay Brown outside. Jay was a favorite student when I was student teaching in his eighth grade social studies classroom, back when he had frosted blonde hair and wore fleece vests. He is a creative force in Maine, having filmed, directed, and produced a plethora of music and promotional videos. His newest project is The Rove Lab. Jay’s been the best forever, and I love that he’s made a name for himself. He introduced me to a bunch of people in the backstage area, and it was great to catch up with him. I also loved seeing musicians catching up back there, too. It was abundantly clear that these bands are friends and relished the opportunity to hang out and see each other play live for a change. I did catch a couple of the Mallett Brothers Band’s songs and their dad joined them on stage for one of them. The audience ate them up. They’re a blast live.

Loved catching up with Jay Brown and his friend Ant. I’m also sporting my Maine Youth Rock Orchestra t shirt! Love MYRO! Thanks for these pictures, Jeff Kirlin!

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The Mallett Brothers Band joined by Dave Mallett

The Ballroom Thieves were the last band of the night, and the tech company struggled to get their sound up and running. There was a really short scheduled turnaround period between bands already, and there was loading in and out to get done in maybe just a 30 minute window. The soundcheck seemed frustrating for all involved, and the Thieves started their set 15 minutes late, which meant they could only play for 45 minutes because of Belfast’s noise ordinance, I assume. I took in the show from the front row with Thieves fans, Erin and Darcie, who both teach at Westbrook High School. We met at a Thieves show a couple of years ago and I like knowing I’ll see them whenever I see the Thieves live. The Thieves basically cut the banter out and played a set of their most upbeat songs. They played hard and the crowd surely enjoyed them, although they didn’t get the full Thieves experience, because they’re actually very engaging when not so rushed. I skipped the after party to get a good night’s sleep and woke up on the ocean in Bayside, which was exactly where I wanted to be.

Major Thieves fans right here!

All Roads Music Festival was great overall. I usually pass on music festivals, but this one was chill and well organized. I was impressed.

xo,

bree

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Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Saturday, July 30, 2016

L.L.Bean, Freeport, Maine

I’ve been hard on Grace Potter and on the L.L.Bean Summer Concert Series in the past. On this night, though, I gave them both a chance, and they were amazing. It was great to be wrong. Grace Potter is a rock star, through and through. I saw her live from the front at the State Theatre in Portland back in 2012, and although she sounded great, I found her sensual dance moves distracting. I was positioned basically right underneath her at that show, though, so having a little physical distance and fast forwarding four years, I just saw a tremendous talent.

I have loathed the L.L.Bean Summer Concert Series for ages. I think L.L.Bean needs to build a large amphitheatre outside of town with ample parking facilities. The knoll where shows are located between their stores is wholly inadequate for the caliber of shows they bring to town. I continue to be flummoxed by their policy allowing people to put up chairs for the show at 6AM the day of shows, as well. Back in 2010, I went with my friends Tricia and Rebecca to see Joshua Radin at L.L.Bean, and we got there (they’d driven up from Boston, in fact) at 1PM, picnic packed, ready to hang out on the lawn for the day and save a spot up close to see the show. When we arrived, though, we couldn’t get any closer than 25 rows from the stage, and we were the only people there for hours. People will often remind me that these shows are FREE, and that’s why I’d rather pay good money to get to venue early to get a great spot up front. I have only seen two L.L.Bean shows in five or so years. My friend Andrea insisted I give it another try, so she set up seats for Guster at 6AM the day of the show, and even then, I was so far from the stage (the stage barricade is quite far from the stage–am I right?) that I could barely see their faces on stage. This Grace Potter show was the other exception to my firm L.L.Bean ban. My friend Grace declared she needed a girls night and wanted to go, and then I heard that Grace Potter herself had insisted it be a dance party, so people couldn’t set up seats in the front at all. It was worth a shot, and it paid off beautifully. I think a lot of regular L.L.Bean show goers skipped the show because they couldn’t set up chairs. I would definitely go to more shows if this were the policy. We arrived around and were six rows back. People sat on the lawn until about an hour before the show and a staff member got on the mic to welcome us and tell us it was time to stand up. People spread out, and we were easily able to move right up to second row center.

We stood next to a sweet seven year old girl, who was a huge Grace Potter fan and seeing her first-ever concert. If you saw Grace come down to the crowd and give a guitar pick away, it was to this little girl. Grace totally won me over with that classy move. Her voice was raspy and strong, her banter upbeat, and her energy well beyond what most people could give from start to finish. She brought her dad Sparky on stage to dance (Grace didn’t inherit her dance moves from him) with her, and was an absolute delight. The crowd danced and sang along happily, and we had a blast.

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Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

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A pick hand delivered by Grace Potter to this adorable fan!

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I was very surprised that we had negative interactions with four pushy, loud people all trying to get to the front, especially because they were all people in their sixties. It’s just not what I expected. The seven year old girl’s mom played concert security guard for our whole area, though, and was able to convince three out of four folks to do the right thing and not push their way ahead of us. Overall, it let me just relax and enjoy the show, which I was grateful for, but this is worth noting. If you stake out a spot at a concert, it’s yours. If you arrive later and push your way to the front, that’s never okay.

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Grace and her dad, Sparky

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Grace designed the colorful dress (I’d call it a shirt, but I don’t have her legs) she was wearing, and it coordinated beautifully with an incredible sunset behind her. She invited us to think about our loved ones who have passed on before playing “Stars,” and wrapped her set with high octane crowd pleasers “Medicine” and “Paris (Ooh La La).” Grace went for it and really blew us all away. She’s playing in her home state of Vermont this weekend at the Grand Point North Festival in Burlington if you need another fix. She rocks.

xo,

bree

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Tricky Britches at the Gardiner Fire Relief Benefit Concert

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Gardiner Waterfront, Gardiner, Maine

Gardiner, Maine—the sweet little town I proudly call home—suffered a major fire on July 16, 2015. Four historical buildings on Water Street (our main drag downtown) were destroyed along with a few businesses and all the possessions of a dozen tenants. The Gardiner Fire Department responded swiftly and decisively, and with the help of many neighboring fire departments, was able to contain the fire.

Aerial views of the fire from Jason Daughtery via WMTW's Facebook page

Aerial views of the fire from Jason Daughtery via WMTW’s Facebook page

Gardiner's Water Street

Gardiner’s Water Street

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Although there was, amazingly, no loss of human life, a cat was reported lost in the fire. As a proud cat lady, my heart was heavy in the days that followed, not just because so many people had lost all of their cherished possessions, but also because Jolene’s cat, Carol Ann, was gone. I cried some tears over it. To my amazement, a few weeks later, I saw this post on Facebook:

Jolene and Carol Ann--reunited! Courtesy of Gardiner Police Department's Facebook Page

Jolene and Carol Ann–reunited! Courtesy of Gardiner Police Department’s Facebook Page

A kind soul in downtown Gardiner spotted a cat wandering around the rubble of the gutted buildings lost in the fire in the weeks that followed. The cat was taken to Kennebec Valley Humane Society, and Carol Ann, hereby dubbed “The Miracle Kitty!,” was found and reunited with her overjoyed mom, Jolene. My heart grew three sizes. I called At Home Veterinary Hospital and covered the cost of Carol Ann’s vet bill so she could be cleared and go home to her mom.

So many people and businesses have graciously supported the Gardiner fire relief fund after this devastating fire. Clare Marron at Monkitree hosted a silent auction that raised over $5,000 in one weekend alone. The Boys & Girls Club of Gardiner hosted a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. There were many others too. It’s still not too late to donate to the fire relief fund hosted by the United Way of Kennebec Valley. I noticed just last week that Gardiner’s Hannaford was collecting donations for the fund, too.

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Gardiner Main Street, with help from generous local sponsors, threw a “Thank You” party for the firefighters who responded to the fire. The Gardiner Rotary Club grilled dinner for all of the firefighters and their guests and then opened up the remains for the rest of us and raised an additional $1,500. Johnson Hall hosted Portland bluegrass band, Tricky Britches, as part of their free summer Waterfront Concert Series that night, and the band provided great entertainment at this wonderful community event. WMTW Channel 8 was on hand to cover the event.

Gardiner Main Street Director Patrick Wright alongside Tricky Britches

Gardiner Main Street Director Patrick Wright alongside Tricky Britches

Mayor Thom Harnett thanking local fire fighters

Mayor Thom Harnett thanking local fire fighters

Johnson Hall Director Mike Miclon with Tricky Britches

Johnson Hall Director Mike Miclon with Tricky Britches

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I was among a handful of people honored during intermission by Thom Harnett, Gardiner’s extraordinary mayor, with a Gardiner Heart & Soul Award for efforts related to the fire relief. My small contribution to helping Gardiner’s “Miracle Kitty” being recognized publicly, and totally unnecessarily, just goes to show what a dear community Gardiner is. I was genuinely overjoyed that night to be cheered as a local supporter of my sweet town. If you are looking for a community that will welcome, nurture, support, and celebrate you, too, Gardiner’s the place! More photos below!

xo,

bree

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A beautiful night on the Gardiner Waterfront

A beautiful night on the Gardiner Waterfront

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A wholly undeserved, but very welcome recognition from my sweet town!

A wholly undeserved, but very welcome recognition from my sweet town!

Surely one of Gardiner's cutest little ones

Surely one of Gardiner’s cutest little ones

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Max Garcia Conover

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Frontier, Brunswick, Maine

I got home from a long and relatively taxing trip to see U2 with just moments to spare before Max’s show started at Frontier. I love seeing shows at Frontier—it’s an intimate theater space, and it encourages performers to interact with the audience. It often feels like seeing a show in someone’s living room. After a challenging few days full of jam-packed travel and a disappointing U2 show, I was relieved and nearly teary, to get home to see Max play. I’ve seen Max perform easily a dozen times, but this was his best show. He spent the bulk of the summer on a national tour with Ghost of Paul Revere, and he’d clearly hit his stride. His older songs sounded stronger than ever, his banter was comfortable and jokes well timed, and his new songs revealed an innovative, powerful one-man band sound with a kick drum and tambourine. I snuggled up to Sophie in the front row for the duration and requested “You’re The Farthest I Go,” which Sophie graciously joined Max to sing unplugged from the floor. I hadn’t heard them sing together for a long while, and even without practicing, they sounded beautiful.

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Max Garcia Conover

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Max and Sophie, by request

Max and Sophie, by request

Max sent me home with a recording of ten of his new songs, and I have listened to them again and again. I love “Motorhome”—Max’s tribute to his and Sophie’s now deceased motorhome and their life together on the road. “If I’m staring out at the road/It’s probably her that I’m missing/Our dear departed motorhome.” There’s also a different energy, a darkness even, in a couple of the new songs. “My Neighbor Joe” is heavy. There’s a lot to digest there. He wrote another song that makes you think twice—“As Much A Rising Sun As A Setting One Pt. 2” while on a break during a show in northern Maine. The folks there were having a bad week and some of that energy is processed in the song. It’s interesting to hear how Max’s style evolves over time. It’s always a pleasure to see him play live. It’s like being home. Thanks, Max! (More pictures below).

xo,

bree

P.S.—You can support Max’s effort to write a new song a week here!

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Chris Smither

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

This was a perfect Gardiner evening. I love my sweet little town, and living a quarter of a mile from downtown is the best. My dear friend Dot came up to join me and we had a delicious dinner at the incomparable A1 Diner, joined a handful of Gardiner friends for a glass of wine at Vintage Wine Bar, and made our way over to Johnson Hall to grab seats for the sold out Chris Smither show just before show time at 7:30.

Gardiner's A1 Diner on Bridge Street

Gardiner’s A1 Diner on Bridge Street

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Johnson Hall’s director Mike Miclon took the stage and welcomed us warmly. He let the crowd know that this is Johnson Hall’s 150th year and there’s an active capital campaign to renovate the beautiful 400-seat opera house on the top floor of the building. Mike would love Lyle Lovett to be the first to perform in the renovated space in 2019 when the space is complete. I’m enthusiastic about this project and know it will happen thanks to Mike’s leadership and the dedication of a loyal board of directors.

Mike explained that he’d stumbled across a CD of Chris Smither’s years ago at his former arts venue and has booked him time and again. Chris Smither took the stage solo and charmed us immediately. I was taken by his distinctive, raspy voice, toe tapping percussion, and impressive command of the guitar. I am not a huge fan of the blues (sorry, but true), but Chris Smither does it right. He was notably unassuming on stage and made me feel a bit like I was in his living room. Chris engaged the crowd throughout the night. He joked with us before playing “Origin of Species” that “evolution’s not something you believe in—you either know about it or you don’t.”

 

I snuck backstage to take a couple of pictures of Chris Smithers with my iPhone

I snuck backstage to take a couple of pictures of Chris Smithers with my iPhone

Dot, Clare (of Monkitree), and I took a tour of the beautiful upstairs of Johnson Hall during intermission. It’s going to be amazing when it’s renovated. It’s pretty phenomenal already, but probably not up to code.

Johnson Hall's incredible and not yet renovated third story

Johnson Hall’s incredible and not yet renovated third story

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Chris took the stage after intermission and told us about the first time he met fellow singer-songwriter Dave Carter at a music festival in Oregon. Chris said he rushed off stage after playing a set hoping to make it over to Dave Carter’s tent elsewhere with time to meet and talk before Dave’s set. As he ran, someone behind him called his name and it was Dave Carter—who’d gone to Chris’ set. Dave told Chris “you sure have a lot of words in your songs,” which Chris said was like the pot calling the kettle black. He covered Dave Carter’s “Crocodile Man” and showed us just what he meant. They both sure can fit a lot of words in one breath.

Chris Smither is a storyteller. I particularly enjoyed the funny stories he told in song—especially “Get A Better One.” We laughed a lot throughout the night. Chris talked about his family a lot during the show and wrote “I Don’t Know” using phrases his then four or five year old daughter said that he jotted down. He adopted a baby from China when he was 60 years old. She’s ten now, and even though he said his friends joked with him that parenthood would change his songwriting forever (and for the worse), but he feels like he hasn’t lost it. “No Love Today” is inspired by the roving produce seller (Mr. Okra’s dad, maybe?) who came down the street Chris grew up on in New Orleans singing about his fruits and vegetables twice a week.

A packed house at Johnson Hall

A packed house at Johnson Hall

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I’m glad I had the chance to see Chris Smither live. He is an American classic who has been writing music and performing for 50 years. His newest recording (his sixteenth), Still on the Levee, is a compilation of songs from Chris’ impressive career. He joked with us that he used to think he had to put new music out every three or so years or people would think he’d died, but now he’s not so worried about that.

Chris wrapped his set with “Leave the Light On,” which he recorded with Rusty Belle on Still on the Levee. I really enjoyed Rusty Belle when I saw them live with two of my favorites Caitlin Canty and Darlingside back in 2013 and am delighted that this intergenerational team is making music together. The engrossed crowd was on their feet after the last song, and Chris treated us to one more song before sending us on our way.

Thanks for hosting, Johnson Hall. I love seeing shows in this intimate space!

xo,

bree

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Eric Hutchinson, Tristan Prettyman, and Nick Howard

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This was the kind of grey and dreary Tuesday that felt like it should have been a Thursday already. I was so ready for Daylight Savings Time, and I think the dark weather sadly ended up clouding my show experience. I had a sluggish afternoon after school holding my dear friend’s two-month-old baby girl for a few hours before heading down to Portland to catch this show. I got to Sarah’s house just as Eric Hutchinson and Tristan Prettyman’s Studio Z interview on 98.9 WCLZ began and listened while I snuggled baby Isabelle. I’d seen Eric live back in 2012 on his “Almost Solo Tour” with accompanist Elliott Blaufuss, and he was a supreme entertainer—as much a stand up comedian as a singer-songwriter. I was happy to hear that he was just as engaging over the radio, joking that the way he and Tristan co-headlined this tour was by each playing their set simultaneously on opposite sides of a curtain and seeing who gets more attention from the crowd. Tristan and Eric talked about being good friends for over a decade and how excited they were to put the City & Sand Tour together (she’s from San Diego and he’s living in NYC). Tristan talked about going through a lot of transitions—being dropped by her label, firing her manager, becoming a one-woman operation, and getting married in August right before spending two weeks in the studio after her honeymoon recording her new EP, Back To Home. They sounded like they were already having fun together on the road (the tour just started the night before in Boston), and they played a fun cover of “All About That Bass” together that got me geared up for the show.

Isabelle is quite snuggly

Isabelle is quite snuggly

She's so snuggly that we fell asleep together for a little while before I took off for the show

She’s so snuggly that we fell asleep together for a little while before I took off for the show.

I arrived early to grab my press ticket and a front row spot. My friends Andrea and Cory were already at Port City Music Hall by the time I arrived, but sadly couldn’t stand up front with me because Cory was injured and needed to sit for the show. For whatever reason, being solo at this show made it less fun. I ended up in a pocket of obnoxious people—drunk people, loud talkers, adults waaaaay too old to be grinding on each other like that, and between that and the dreary weather, I think my positive show experience was over before it began. Most of those annoying people arrived only after Britain’s Nick Howard performed, so I did get an uninterrupted chance to enjoy at least part of the show. Nick was engaging—as far as an opening act goes, he did everything right. He chatted comfortably with the crowd, complimented the area (he joked about being able to see why so many presidents vacation in Maine), sang a few songs we knew (his cover song medley included “Wake Me Up” and “Save Tonight”), asked us to clap, whistle, and sing along, and didn’t play for too long. Well done, Nick. I especially liked his original songs “Can’t Break a Broken Heart” and “Falling for You.”

Nick Howard

Nick Howard

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I was impressed with the speedy set change (it being a school night and all), and Tristan Prettyman and her band took the stage in no time at all. I hadn’t seen her since 2011 at the Life is Good Festival in Canton, Massachusetts, and was glad to see her again. Her last album, Cedar + Gold, got a lot of play on long road trips in my car in 2012. It’s definitely a breakup album (this summer, my break up album was Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour) and was written about her broken engagement with Jason Mraz. Here’s Tristan performing a stripped-down version of “I Was Gonna Marry You” that she didn’t play at the show, since a lot has happened since then. Tristan told us she’d gotten married in August (her husband, Google Venture managing partner, Bill Maris, was in the crowd proudly taking photos). Her new EP, Back to Home, released the day before the show, is a much happier album, and Tristan told us she was playing these songs live for the first time on the City & Sand Tour with Eric. She joked about how all of her songs are about stupid men, and so she really didn’t have anything appropriate to play when she visited her friend’s sixth grade classroom, so she wrote a “namaste” song, “Open Up Your Eyes.” I was glad to hear “Say Anything,” “Madly,” and “My Oh My,” all songs that 98.9 WCLZ has played regularly for ages. Tristan surprised us with a fun cover of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” during her set, which had people happily singing along.

Tristan Prettyman

Tristan Prettyman

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The last time I saw Eric Hutchinson was a real treat. He told a ton of stories about his songs and interacted comfortably with the friendly crowd while playing stripped-down, acoustic songs—my ideal concert-going scenario. This show was different. Eric hopped up on stage with a full band and rocked from start to finish. He didn’t say a whole lot to the crowd, but he and his happy bandmates had great energy and put on a fun show. Eric has a lot of hits from his decade-plus-long career, and he played them all. The crowd was clearly excited to hear “Watching You Watch Him.” During “The Basement” he sampled a little Aretha, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Amy Winehouse. It was a big hit with the crowd and Eric and the band really went all out on it.

Eric Hutchinson

Eric Hutchinson

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Loved seeing this camaraderie

Loved seeing this camaraderie

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Look at the fun they're having!

Look at the fun they’re having!

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Eric called Tristan up on stage and they did one of her songs, “Love Love Love,” together. He told us that the first time he heard that song, he listened to it on repeat for an entire two hour drive. Eric tested out the security of the big speaker on the floor right next to me and then hopped up onto it to start singing “OK, It’s Alright with Me.” I physically had to move to get out of his way. That’s how close to a performer I want to be during a show! (It’s also why I didn’t move to a new spot when I probably should have to get away from the folks I was standing around. Lesson learned.)

Tristan and Eric on her "Love Love Love"

Tristan and Eric on her “Love Love Love”

Eric up on the speaker right next to me. This is the kind of stage proximity I look for!

Eric up on the speaker right next to me. This is the kind of stage proximity I look for!

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I appreciated the way that Eric gleefully interacted with his band on stage. He took the time to introduce all of them and to give them time to highlight their skills, which they especially did during “You Don’t Have to Believe Me.” The show is clearly not all about him to him, and that’s great to see. Eric talked about getting dropped from his label years ago and using the money to make his 2008 album, Sounds Like This. His newest album, Pure Fiction, came out in April of 2014. Eric sampled Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” during “A Little More,” one of his newer songs. I stayed through “Rock and Roll” and then decided to head home before the encore so I could be in bed before midnight on a school night. Eric’s so fun live. Next time I see him, I’ll try harder to bring my dancing shoes!

xo,

bree

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Gardiner, Maine’s 5th Annual Swine and Stein Oktoberfest

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gardiner, Maine

Dedicated people in my sweet little town have been working hard for years to revitalize the downtown and attract people to Gardiner. My sense is that this work is starting to pay off. Surely the biggest event hosted by Gardiner Maine Street is our annual Swine and Stein Oktoberfest. This was the fifth annual Swine and Stein, and I’d say it was the best one yet! I had such a fun day and there were smiling people everywhere. Thanks so much to everyone who came, and to Gardiner Maine Street, the vendors, the musicians, and the more than sixty (60!) volunteers who made such a wonderful event possible! Patrick Wright—director of Gardiner Main Street—you deserve a special shout out for a job incredibly well done! Thanks, Patrick! What I saw on Saturday makes me proud to live in Gardiner.

I showed up a few minutes before the gates opened at 11:30AM to grab a donut at Frosty’s and check out the layout since improvements are made each year to strengthen the event. I got to pet baby goats and sleeping piglets on my short walk along Water Street, which only heightened my excitement for Swine and Stein. If you’ve never been to Swine and Stein, we shut down auto traffic on our picturesque main street (Water Street), and host live animals, food vendors (featuring A LOT of local pork), a local beer tent, fun activities for all ages, and live local bands all day. It’s a great day, and this year, the weather cooperated beautifully, too.

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All of the photos in this post were taken by me. If you’d like to share, please give me (Bree Candland of whatbreesees.com) photo credit. Thanks!

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I overheard a couple wondering how Swine and Stein works, so I stopped to welcome them and explain the event and show them to the gate. I could hear superstar volunteer Derek Zardus of Zardus Art of Massage & Wellness Spa welcoming people to Gardiner and to Swine and Stein at the gate long before I could see him. We moved quickly through the line, got our three drink tickets (included with admission) cleverly attached to our wristband, and the first 1,000 through the line also got a souvenir 5 oz. tasting glass. Later in the day I saw how many people didn’t have one of those little glasses, so I am guessing a lot more than 1,000 people showed up!

I LOVED the addition of a professional stage with a sound engineer this year! I could hear Sorcha and Monique Barrett playing as I said my hellos and wandered through the food area to scope out what I might want to get for lunch later. Sorcha is a friend in music—she’s played Swine and Stein before and I’m always happy to get to see her live. She and Monique harmonize beautifully, and their covers of “Jolene” and “Crazy” were flawless. I wasn’t taking notes because I wanted to enjoy the day, but I liked the song Sorcha wrote for a friend’s wedding (the name of which I’d normally have jotted down), and one of Monique’s that might be called “Make It Better.” Later in the day, I introduced them to Johnson Hall director Michael Miclon. We talked about having a singer-songwriter circle show at Johnson Hall sometime this season. I took Sorcha and Monique into Johnson Hall to show them the beautifully renovated performance space downstairs and to show off the cleaned up third floor, which is beautiful and totally ready for renovation. Built in 1864, Johnson Hall has been a ballroom, a movie house, and a theatre. Johnson Hall hopes to renovate the upper floors to use for performances and other events. The potential in that space is unreal. Monique and Sorcha talked about how cool it would be to record an album together (since they often play together, but don’t have one) in that space. The acoustics are amazing. When I took them to the top floor, they were so wowed by the beauty of the space that they broke out in song! I have high hopes for the capital campaign and would LOVE to see Johnson Hall restored.

Sorcha and Monique Barrett

Sorcha and Monique Barrett

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Mike Miclon and Logan Johnston

Mike Miclon and Logan Johnston in front of Johnson Hall

The amazing space on the top floor of Johnson Hall

The amazing space on the top floor of Johnson Hall

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I loved the fun competitions and events that were planned for the day in between bands. The event that stole my heart, however, was the first-ever Swine and Stein Beard and Mustache Competition. Danielle Rodrigue, local beauty expert from Concepts Hair Design and and the MAYOR of Gardiner, Thom Harnett, were the other two judges, and I was thrilled to be asked to join them. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Patrick called contestants to the stage and a wave of beautifully bearded and mustachioed men approached the stage. Did you know there’s a Maine Facial Hair Club? What a great group of guys. We judged in six categories—beards more or less than six inches, partial mustache, freestyle, and a couple of others that I can’t recall since I was on cloud nine the whole time. Clare Marron, Gardiner Maine Street board member and owner of Monkitree, Gardiner’s fine art and craft gallery, organized the event. She worked with The Potter’s House to create amazing mugs (in honor of American Craft Week) for the winners of each category. The winners were thrilled with their surprise award.

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That's me, Danielle, and Gardiner mayor Thom Harnett

That’s me, Danielle, and Gardiner mayor Thom Harnett

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I think you tell I was a BIG fan of the beard and mustache competition!

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The German Oktoberfest Band always sets the perfect mood, and they had people swaying and toasting along. My dear friend Rachel came in her dirndl and valiantly competed in the frozen t-shirt contest, but lost in a very close race to the finish.

The German Oktoberfest Band

The German Oktoberfest Band

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Rachel and Ian appropriately dressed for Oktoberfest

Rachel and Ian appropriately dressed for Oktoberfest

The frozen t-shirt content was HILARIOUS

The frozen t-shirt content was HILARIOUS

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Photo finish! That was CLOSE!

Photo finish! That was CLOSE!

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Thumbs up!

Thumbs up!

BBQ!

BBQ!

Cute dogs!

Cute dogs!

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Dublin the golden retriever

Dublin the golden retriever

Bo surrounded by admirers at Monkitree

Bo surrounded by admirers at Monkitree. Photo courtesy of Clare Marron.

I’d never seen Gunther Brown live, even though lead singer Pete Dubuc sent me their music early on in whatbreesees.com and I liked it a lot. Senator Susan Collins and her team were at Swine and Stein, and she stopped to give a wave to the band early in their set. I was especially glad to hear “(Don’t Forget To) Don’t Go” and “Hello Tonight” live.

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Senator Susan Collins saying hello to Gunther Brown

Senator Susan Collins saying hello to Gunther Brown

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The rock-paper-scissors competition run by Mike Miclon of Johnson Hall was awesome. He held preliminary rounds earlier in the day that I watched and then the semi finalists joined him at the stage to compete in front of all of the Swine and Stein attendees. It was an absolute hoot to watch, and the winner won two free tickets to any upcoming Johnson Hall event. Patrick Wright called up local bearded men to compete in a scaled down version of the earlier event, and a handful of kids who’d made their own mustaches at the craft table competed as well.

The rock-paper-scissor competition preliminary rounds

The rock-paper-scissors competition preliminary rounds

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The rock-paper-scissor finals were a BLAST!

The rock-paper-scissors final rounds were a BLAST!

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I was glad to see The Jason Spooner Band again. It had been quite a while and they sound great. As the day wound down, The Spare Parts Band, featuring Oakland Farms owner and Gardiner city councilor Logan Johnston took the stage to close the event.

The Jason Spooner Band

The Jason Spooner Band

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I nearly forgot about this adorable competition!

I nearly forgot about this adorable competition!

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The Spare Parts Band

The Spare Parts Band

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Swine and Stein was a blast this year! I went right home and drank some tea to warm and up promptly ended up taking a nap! Thank you so much to everyone who helped make it a success and we’ll see you next year!

xo,

bree

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Darlingside and Jacob Augustine

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Empire, Portland, Maine

This was only my third Darlingside show? That doesn’t seem possible, because they hold a pretty big spot in my musical heart. I first saw them in September of 2012 at One Longfellow Square only because they invited me and I was completely flabbergasted. I declared it one of my top five shows of 2012—which means something since I saw 45 shows that year. They came to play OLS again last fall with the lovely and talented Caitlin Canty, who is a regular collaborator of theirs, and the effervescent Rusty Belle. I’ve mostly adjusted to teacher hours and the show didn’t start until after 9:30PM, so I was excited for the show, but afraid I’d fall asleep in the car on the drive home. I texted my concert buddy Colin, who promised me he’d meet me at the show, so I mustered up the energy for a late night and an hour and a half of driving to see them. Totally worth it. I love seeing shows with Colin because he appreciates music like I do, but also because he keeps track of set lists (which means I don’t have to). It’s kind of like seeing shows just for fun again!

Darlingside's set list--courtesy of Colin

Darlingside’s set list–courtesy of Colin

Darlingside took the stage about 9:45PM. As I glanced around the room, I saw most of The Ghost of Paul Revere, some guys from Tricky Britches, and Eric, who manages The Ballroom Thieves in the crowd. I feel like that turnout tells you this show was worth going to, eh?

Darlingside is a “string rock quartet.” Don, Dave, Auyon, and Harris went to Williams together, and their harmonies are flawless. As they played “God of Loss” and “My Love” to warm up, you could have heard a pin drop. In a bar. Late on a Saturday night. They’re impressive and they draw you in to listen. “My Love” is one of my favorites—a bit of self reflection about the effort one makes in a relationship—“My half-assed best was all I had for your love/my maybe-tomorrows for your heart-to-hearts/my punch-drunk house calls for your candles and wine/my brother, my banjo, my never-done-wrong/all you wanted was me by your side/I tend to get what I want/and do as I please/but you taught me I can’t always get away with everything I thought I could/and for that I thank you, my love.” Their cover of Smashing Pumpkin’s “1979” was energizing and a hit with the crowd.

From left to right, Darlingside is Don Mitchell,  David Senft, Auyon Mukharji, and Harris Paseltiner

From left to right, Darlingside is Don Mitchell,
David Senft, Auyon Mukharji, and Harris Paseltiner

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Dave promised to try very hard not to hit Auyon with his instruments.

Dave promised to try very hard not to hit Auyon with his instruments.

Darlingside’s harmonies on “The Woods” were particularly standout. I was glad to hear “The Catbird Seat.” It’s pretty, but sad—“By you I swore/By the light or the way you wore it/Now instead I swear I’m over it.” “Blow the House Down” was a crowd favorite. They ended their set with “Good Man,” and the crowd cheered loudly enough for an encore. I was really happy to hear “Sweet and Low” live. I also would have liked to hear “Terrible Things,” but alas. Check out the video, though. It’s excellent.

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Darlingside will join The Ghost of Paul Revere and The Ballroom Thieves (two more of my favorite bands) for Hollerfest 2 at The Strand Theatre in Rockland on Saturday, November 22. They’ll be joined by the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra. I will definitely be there!

Mike, of my former students who is all grown up now, works downstairs at Empire and joined us for a bit. Mike was impressed with Jacob Augustine’s beard, and I told him to get ready to be surprised by Jacob’s sweet falsetto voice. He was. I’d just seen Jacob a few weeks either at Ghostland Music Festival, but he hasn’t played out much and it was a treat to get to see him again so soon. I’d never seen Jacob Augustine with a full band, and the fullness of sound amplified the message of his songs beautifully. Jacob’s band for the night included Asher Platts on upright/bass, Peter McLaughlin on percussion, and my friend McKay Belk rocking the steel guitar. “Halfway to Harlem” was a favorite. They played the long versions of each song, and since I could see their set list from my front row spot, I knew I wouldn’t make it to the end of the night and sadly excused myself for the haul home. I listened to this version of “Peace Comes” in the car en route, though. Sad to miss the rest, Jacob, but so glad to see you twice in short time!

xo,

bree

Jacob Augustine

Jacob Augustine

Jacob with McKay Belk on steel guitar

Jacob with McKay Belk on steel guitar

Jacob with Peter McLaughlin on percussion

Jacob with Peter McLaughlin on percussion

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Asher Platts on upright bass

Asher Platts on upright bass

What's that called, Peter?

What’s that called, Peter?

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Ghostland Music Festival

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thomas Point Beach, Brunswick, Maine

The school year has been SUPER busy! This lovely day was weeks ago now! Sorry for the delay!

My friend Grace texted in the morning to ask if I had any interest in going to the first ever Ghostland Music Festival at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick. It had been on my radar, so I took her text as a sign I should commit. I hurried by Gardiner’s annual Barks in the Park to pet some pups, take some pictures, and chat with my mayor about our most recent concert experiences before heading to Brunswick for the afternoon.

I fell in love with Otis at Gardiner's Barks in the Park!

I fell in love with Otis at Gardiner’s Barks in the Park!

Pretty Penny

Pretty Penny

It was a bit of a gloomy day—overcast and chilly—so turnout for the festival might have a little less than hoped for. I set up folding chairs and blankets close to the stage just outside of the fenced off beer area when I arrived and scoped out the grounds a bit. I was impressed with how well things were organized; especially given it was a first-time festival. Festival sponsor 98.9 WCLZ’s Ethan Minton took the stage to welcome us and tell us about the important work we were supporting by buying a ticket to the festival. He told us that 1 in 4 kids in Maine is food insecure, but Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program feeds over a thousand families each year and provides food to kids on the weekends through their Backpack Program.

98.9 WCLZ's Ethan Minton

98.9 WCLZ’s Ethan Minton

I’d hurried to get to the festival early because I really wanted to see Matt Lorenz who plays as The Suitcase Junket and was scheduled to kick off the festival. He is one talented guy, who I first saw play with his band Rusty Belle and the ever-talented Caitlin Canty. Matt was nowhere to be seen, however, and Ethan told us that he sadly couldn’t make it because of car trouble. When I saw Jacob Augustine come to the stage with his beautiful guitar in hand, I knew we were in for an unexpected treat. Jacob was the second artist I ever wrote about on whatbreesees. I was going through a breakup at the time, and his incredibly heavy, soulful songs were no help at all! But he is beautiful to see in person. Jacob’s playing with one of my favorite bands, the harmonic Darlingside, this Saturday night at Empire in Portland, and you should REALLY go! Jacob’s voice will surprise you because it doesn’t match how he appears at all. He’s tattooed and has an amazing beard, but his voice is a beautiful falsetto full of vibrato. He had us join him in a whistled rendition of Happy Birthday for his friend and closed with “Waco.”

Jacob Augustine

Jacob Augustine

Grace and I grabbed lunch from the food trucks after Jacob’s set. My teriyaki jalapeno pineapple grilled chicken sandwich from the Good Shepherd Food Bank’s food truck was insanely good. Grace picked up some poutine from the other truck and we headed back to our seats in time for Maine’s most talented female vocalist, Anna Lombard. I first saw Anna at Slates in Hallowell and she blew me away. This woman can sing. She headlined Gardiner’s annual Swine and Stein Oktoberfest two years ago and impressed everyone there, too. (Swine and Stein is coming up next Saturday, October 11!). I saw my friend Vivian (who I met before a David Wax Museum show at Empire in Portland) sitting near the stage and grabbed her to come join us and share in the poutine and good music. A very pregnant Anna and her band of well-known Maine musicians like Tony McNaboe and Nate Soule took the stage and serenaded us with most of the tracks from Anna’s 2013 album, Head Full of Bells, including “They Want Us Dead,” “Nothing of Us Left,” “Waiting for Rescue,” “Why Did You Leave Me,” and “Confessions.” Anna sounded good as ever. Dave Gutter joined Anna and the band for “All For You” to end their set.

A great girls' day with Grace!

A great girls’ day with Grace!

Good Shepherd Food Bank's INCREDIBLE food truck!

Good Shepherd Food Bank’s INCREDIBLE food truck!

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Fun and games at Ghostland

Fun and games at Ghostland

Anna Lombard

Anna Lombard

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Dave Gutter’s set was up next. You probably know Dave and his recognizably raspy voice best from Rustic Overtones, which provided the soundtrack to my early college years. “Gangster” sounded great, and Dave said he’d “one up” Anna by inviting an already born child on stage to sing “I Like It Low” with him. Young Connie sounded great and was adorable. “Letter To The President” is a heavy song worth a listen, and Dave kept that mood rolling by ending his set with a song about addiction called “High On Everything.”

Dave Gutter

Dave Gutter

"I Like It Low" featuring Connie

“I Like It Low” featuring Connie on vocals

Boston based Will Dailey and his band took the stage and rocked with their electric guitars. I particularly liked “So Do I” and “Don’t Take Your Eyes Off of Me.” Anna Lombard seemed to be a big Will Dailey fan and she joined him for a song, too.

Will Dailey

Will Dailey

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Will Dailey featuring Anna Lombard

Will Dailey featuring Anna Lombard

An overcast day for a festival

An overcast day for a festival

I’d just seen Samuel James the night before at our dear friend Max Garcia Conover’s national RV tour kickoff show at Mayo Street Arts, and he was up next. The first time I saw Samuel James at Frontier in Brunswick, I felt like I was in his living room. The guy’s got soul. His blues guitar is impressive. I was glad to hear “It Ain’t Right” and “Nineteen,” which he wrote for his dad.

Samuel James

Samuel James

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Ethan invited everyone to move to inside because rain was imminent. Grace and I had been snuggled under our blankets for hours and were kind of spent, so we decided to head home after Samuel James. We missed Dominic and the Lucid, Spencer Albee, and The Ghost of Paul Revere (who I think are the bees knees). The Ghost of Paul Revere did a great job organizing Ghostland and I’m looking forward to seeing them in my sweet little town at Johnson Hall on November 8. I hope you raised a lot of well deserved and much needed funds for Mid Coast Hunger Prevention! Great job, guys!

xo,

bree

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