Tag Archives: Max Garcia Conover

Driftwood with Max García Conover

Friday, February 24, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I am a longtime Max García Conover fan. He’s a humble, thoughtful guy and a talented musician. His finger picking is out of this world. It was great to see him with a group of friends on a Friday night in Portland. I scheduled my February break trip to Savannah around getting back in time for this show, and even got to grab dinner with Max’s wife Sophie beforehand. Our friend Bartlett mentioned to a friend of a friend at the show that we used to see Max play “just about every other week,” but it’s been a bit, so this was a real treat.

Max’s songs are poems and autobiography set to music. I’m impressed by how much of himself he reveals in his songs. “My Neighbor Joe” sticks out as one of those songs. It’s heavy, and layered, and SO good. I didn’t realize, until he didn’t play either, how much “Wildfires Outside Laramie, WY” and “You’re the Farthest I Go” are my favorite Max songs. Max is shy, and banter is not in his nature, but he is really honest and funny on stage. He told us that he plays at bars a lot and so he’s used to people not listening to him and joked “I don’t really bring the fun.” He also admitted that he tried to write an upbeat song that would make people want to dance, so he thought of the song that would most likely make him dance, and then wrote a folk song using the same rhythm (cue “SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake). Will Max blush reading this? Probably. Justin Timberlake makes me want to dance, too, Max. It’s cool.

Max is a fan of Driftwood. He told us that they’re the band he likes the most every year at a music festival they play together in upstate New York, where Driftwood is from. Driftwood was great. The four–Dan Forsyth, Joe Kollar, Claire Byrne, and Joey Arcuritook the stage and are a tight unit. On fiddle, upright bass, guitar, banjo, kick drum, and with great harmonies, they are definitely entertaining. I can tell they play in bars a lot, because it seemed like they played the extended, instrumental jam version of most of their songs. Check out “The Sun’s Going Down.” They played a ton of songs and we were out super late dancing the night away.

Thanks for a fun night, y’all!

xo,

bree

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The Ballroom Thieves with The Suitcase Junket

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I love the Ballroom Thieves and have seen them live many times. They’re definitely one of my favorite bands. I was under the weather, but decided to go to this show anyhow, because my friend Marian saw them a few days earlier in Camden and said they’d been particularly “on” and extra fun and very chatty with the crowd. Colin saved me a spot up front because I rushed down to Port City Music Hall after being honored by one of my favorite senior boys on my school’s basketball team at Teacher Appreciation Night.

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Photo by Jeff Lamb Photography

I arrived just in time to see Matt Lorenz, touring solo as The Suitcase Junket, take the stage. I hadn’t seen Matt play for a few years (I saw him play with his band Rusty Belle at One Longfellow Square with Darlingside and Caitlin Canty back in 2013), and never as a solo act. He stole the show. His one-man-band is a powerhouse. Stomping on a kick drum, shaking a collection of shells, bones, and silverware, and playing a guitar he saved from a dumpster, Matt’s vintage sound, and his clear, lovely voice filled the room. He was charming and engaging with the obviously impressed crowd.

The Suitcase Junket is Matt Lorenz


The Ballroom Thieves took the stage after a quick break. They are super talented and sounded great, as always. They didn’t interact much with the crowd, which I missed, so this wasn’t their typical high energy show. My dear college friend, Ken Templeton, was in the crowd reviewing the show for Boston’s Red Line Roots, and I was a little worried that he wouldn’t love them like I do because they were so reserved, but he was quite impressed anyhow. Here’s Ken’s review.

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Callie Peters

The Ballroom Thieves

Devin Mauch and Callie

All of the guys from the Ghost of Paul Revere, Kevin Oates from Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, Connor Garvey, and Max García Conover were all in the house to support the band, and it was nice to witness the camaraderie and to catch up with all of them. Not the best Thieves’ show I’ve seen by far, but everyone is entitled to a mellow night here and there.

xo,

bree

 

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Justin Townes Earle with Max García Conover

 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Max García Conover is my friend and a heckuva guy. He is thoughtful and observes intently. He writes a song a week (you can be a patron of that project) and is working full-time as a singer-songwriter. I’m proud to know him. He was really excited to open for Justin Townes Earle, so the friend group rallied to support him on a school night.

Max took the stage to an attentive audience. Port City Music Hall had some seating set up in the general admission area, and it made for a special listening room show. Max told us that when he ended up in Puerto Rico without the grant money he’d expected to live on, he took to busking to earn money for groceries. He was just learning to play the guitar, and he’d play the same songs again and again, but no one dropped any money in his guitar case. He started playing a Justin Townes Earle song (“I Don’t Care”) on the streets, and it was the first song that made him any money. Max was clearly excited to open the show for JTE, and it was heartwarming to see him on stage at Port City in front of a big crowd that listened earnestly and enjoyed him. He played “My Neighbor Joe” early in his set, and it’s an intense song that reveals itself more and more each time I hear it. That something I appreciate about Max’s songs–they’re layered with meaning and take on new life at each listen.

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Max Garcia Conover

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Max said that everyone should have a preacher friend, so he invented one in a song. Max told us that he grew up going to church and on mission trips until one of his pastors gave an anti-gay sermon and so he immediately stopped doing both. He told us a story about a real investment banker with heart, who chatted with Max to make sure he was saving for retirement after his set at a music festival. Max’s last song of the night was one he wrote on a pizza box during intermission at a tough show in New Sweden, Maine (the song is aptly titled “New Sweden, Maine”), that has evolved over time and become a staple in his setlist.

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Justin Townes Earle took the stage, and the crowd was pumped. Some friends I trust love his music, so I was excited to see him live. I’ve got to say that his live show fell flat for me. People in the crowd were smitten. Some shouted out song requests. I heard someone yell a song title and say it was his wedding song. JTE’s songs obviously mean a lot to his fans, so I thought it was unfortunate that Justin didn’t receive love from the audience warmly. At one point early in his set he said “I’m an asshole,” and it seemed true. I have a hard time getting interested in someone’s music when they don’t seem to care at all about the listener. Everyone is entitled to an off night, which perhaps this was, but it was enough to turn me off. I very rarely leave a show before it’s over, but I did on this night, and I don’t feel like I missed out. If you’ve had an incredible Justin Townes Earle show experience (and if you thought he was amazing at this particular show), I want to hear from you about what you see that I missed.

xo,

bree

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The Ghost of Paul Revere

Friday, March 4, 2016

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

I hadn’t seen The Ghost of Paul Revere play live in at least a year, so I was really excited for them to come play at Johnson Hall in my own sweet little town. I was only slightly tempted to stay home and binge on the fourth season of House of Cards, which was released that day, but I’m glad I made it downtown for this show instead. The Ghost of Paul Revere (GPR) had played Johnson Hall a year or so ago (I’d suggested them to Johnson Hall Executive Artistic Director Mike Miclon), and many folks in the near sell out crowd were returning to see them again.

This was the best I’d heard GPR sound since the first time I saw them play back in May of 2013 at One Longfellow Square. While I was doing research for this post, I found a quote from my May 2013 post on whatbreesees.com on The Ghost of Paul Revere’s website. Awesome!

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I love it when I show up on a band’s website! http://www.ghostofpaulrevere.com/epk/

Griffin Sherry has a clear, beautiful voice. Sean McCarthy claimed to be under the weather, but he was hilarious and kept us laughing with lots of banter anyhow. Their three part harmonies with Max Davis were lovely. Matt Young killed on harmonica. They really made me feel like I was in their living room, and that is the best kind of show possible.

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The Ghost of Paul Revere. From left to right–Matt Young, Griffin Sherry, Sean McCarthy, and Max Davis.

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“Ghostland” and “Mountain Song” were both early standouts of the night, and GPR recorded both songs during their Audiotree session. After their first show at Johnson Hall, GPR came back to film their video for “Wolves” upstairs in the stunning, unfinished upstairs concert hall. “San Antone” is easily my favorite GPR song, so I was glad to hear that one live. Their last song before intermission was a cappella. Sean asked a group of little kids in the front row if they knew what that meant. They didn’t. It was a super cute exchange. After intermission, GPR played “Ballad of the 20th Maine,” did an amazing cover of “Baba O’Riley,” and closed their set (appropriately) with “This is the End.”

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A screenshot of GPR’s “Wolves” video, shot in the unfinished upstairs concert hall at Johnson Hall in Gardiner, Maine.

After the show, Gardiner’s new-ish record store, Niche, Inc. stayed open to host folks who wanted to see their shop. I was impressed when all of the members of The Ghost of Paul Revere went over to support the store, whose owners Sam and Jason are big fans. I normally don’t chat with musicians (if they’re having an off night, I’ve found it can destroy all the love you have for their music), but since GPR did a nationwide tour with my dear friend Max Garcia Conover, I decided to break the rule. They’re all totally down to Earth, approachable guys. We got a chance to talk music for a long time, which was a sweet treat. Come back soon, guys! Thanks for a great show!

xo,

bree

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Jeffrey Foucault with Caitlin Canty

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I first caught Jeffrey Foucault sharing songs with Mark Erelli at One Longfellow Square back in December of 2011 and I was smitten. There’s something incredibly unassuming about him, so when he opened his mouth and these captivating, heartfelt, honest lyrics poured beautifully out of him, I was caught a little off guard. He is fantastic live—a true storyteller. He came back to OLS in May of 2012, and I grabbed a front row spot to soak in the show. At some point in the night he introduced his friend and fellow musician, Vermont’s Caitlin Canty. She was in Portland working on a new record, and he’d taken her out for dinner before the show. He said she owed him a song, and “invited” her to the stage to sing with him. She is the real deal, and I was really impressed with her gritty, yet airy voice. What I didn’t know at the time was that I’d witnessed (and documented) their first performance together. Now, a few years later, they’ve toured extensively together. I feel lucky to have witnessed them at the very beginning of their musical relationship. I also had the pleasure of chatting with Caitlin after that show back in 2012, and she has become a friend-in-music who I look forward to seeing whenever she’s in town.

My steadfast concert buddy Colin and I grabbed front row spots at One Longfellow Square to enjoy the show up close (obviously). We met Nicole, who was solo and sitting next to us in the front row. She was lovely—it’s always great to meet great folks at shows. Nicole lives in Madrid and runs a travel company, but was staying in Portland for a month and had picked this show to check out. I made her a list of musicians I thought she should know about, and as if on cue, my dear friend and talented Portland-based musician, Max Garcia Conover, sat down with us to enjoy the show. He was obviously on the list I’d made for Nicole.

Caitlin Canty took the stage, and was joined by Jeffrey Foucault, Billy Conway, and Jeremy Moses Curtis for the whole of her seven-song set. Their energy as a band is fantastic—these folks are definitely friends and their chemistry is apparent. I especially enjoyed “Southern Man,” “Get Up,” and Caitlin’s stunning cover of Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend.” Caitlin’s second full-length album, Reckless Skyline (produced by Jeffrey Foucault), is getting some of the attention it deserves, especially by NPR, who introduced “Get Up” as one of the “Songs We Love” early in 2015.

From left to right: Jeffrey Foucault, Caitlin Canty, and Billy Conway

From left to right: Jeffrey Foucault, Caitlin Canty, Billy Conway, and Jeremy Moses Curtis

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Jeffrey Foucault and the band (now including Caitlin) took the stage (again) after a quick break to play Jeffrey’s songs. They were also joined at some point by guitarist Mark Spencer. They played a bunch of tunes from Jeffrey’s October 2015 release, Salt As Wolves, which was apparently recorded in just three days in rural Minnesota. I especially enjoyed “Slow Talker” and “Heart to the Husk” in the beginning of their set. Jeffrey and Caitlin unplugged and stepped to the edge of the stage to play her song “Leaping Out” and a cover of “Drown in My Own Tears” together. They both had big smiles on their faces while they played and the positive energy was contagious.

Jeffrey and Caitlin unplugged

Jeffrey and Caitlin unplugged

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The band wrapped up their set with the melancholy, lovely “Paradise” and then brought it up with “Left This Town.” We roared with applause and the band treated us to an encore—one of my (new) favorite Jeffrey Foucault songs, “Hurricane Lamp.” I listened to Jeffrey’s interview with David Greene on NPR’s Morning Edition, and he talked about thinking about a friend having a hard time fighting cancer when he wrote the song.

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You should definitely see Jeffrey Foucault and Caitlin Canty live if they come to town. Check out their Daytrotter session if you need a little extra urging. Thanks so much for a great night!

xo,

bree

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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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Max Garcia Conover with Ben Cosgrove

Sunday, January 4, 2014

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

We’re so happy that Max, Sophie, and Arlo the poodle are home from their cross-country fall tour! Our friends Ken, Tasha, and Sammie organized a surprise welcome home party for Max and Sophie before his show later that evening at One Longfellow Square. Ken asked us if we’d be willing to play a song or read something either written by Max or Sophie or inspired by them. It was wonderful to get to catch up with the gang and welcome Max and Sophie back in such a creative way. I was so impressed with friends who learned and reimagined Max’s complex songs and Ellery producer Ben Cosgrove blew us away with an impromptu performance (read: he forgot to prepare and it was still insanely good) of “Evelyn O.” on piano

A welcome home serenade!

A welcome home serenade!

Bartlett and Ben learned a Max song. No easy feat!

Bartlett and Ben learned a Max song. No easy feat!

Ben Cosgrove. You are too good.

Ben Cosgrove. You are too good.

Party organizer Ken Templeton played a Max song, too!

Party organizer Ken Templeton played a Max song, too!

Max played us a song while Sophie lovingly looked on

Max played us a song while Sophie lovingly looked on

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We ventured over to One Longfellow early to grab spots for the show. Ben Cosgrove is a musical prodigy. His piano pieces are layered and interesting. As someone who really loves lyrics (which he doesn’t write), Ben keeps me engaged by talking about the inspiration for each of his songs. He’s regularly inspired by place, he said, and some of the songs he played were “Montreal Song,” “Palo Alto”, and “Abilene”—which is about a cross-Kansas drive and the disorienting feeling of not understanding your place in the expanse. We saw Ben on the second night of his national tour, and he’s ended up in the Pacific Northwest where he’s doing a musical residency for a couple of months. Someone booed when he said he’d be gone a while, and he smiled and said “it’s okay, Mom.” It was a cute moment made better by the fact that Ben’s mom really was in the audience.

 

The insanely talented Ben Cosgrove

The insanely talented Ben Cosgrove

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Max Garcia Conover took the stage after an intermission and told us that playing a show with Ben Cosgrove is the best and also the most harrowing thing possible. Max told us a few stories about his national tour, including a night where he played a “world music night” in Venice Beach (the Garcia in his name must have done it) so he played a song about his Puerto Rican grandfather for good measure. The centerpiece of the tour was the 1986 Toyota Motorhome that Max and Sophie bought for $2,500 to travel America in. It finally gave out in a Wal-Mart parking lot on Thanksgiving and they had to cancel parts of the tour. Max and Sophie decided they really wanted stuffing, so they waiting in the Black Friday line at Wal-Mart to get Stove Top stuffing. Max said it was a low point of the tour. Sophie wrote about this particular adventure on her blog. They eventually made it home to upstate NY where Max learned Bob Dylan’s “I Was Young When I Left Home.”

Max Garcia Conover

Max Garcia Conover

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Sammie Francis-Taylor performed her own interpretation of Max’s “I Won’t Mess You Up” on piano at the welcome home party and Max said it was awesome and the first time he’d ever heard someone play one of his songs. He invited Ben Cosgrove to the stage and they played the rest of the night together. He played “Home,” which is about where he grew up in Ellery, New York. My favorite song on Ellery is “Wildfires Outside Laramie, Wyoming” and Max was nervous about playing the song there on tour. He told us a story about the day he played Laramie (where they liked the song, by the way) and how he had the strange experience of observing a college kid having an existential crisis starting with perusing women’s purses in a used clothing store and ending in the bar where Max played his gig later that night drunk on gin and tonics with chili cheese fries all over his face.

Ben and Max

Ben and Max

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Max introduced “The Start of Fables” with an actually quite funny fable he wrote (finally) about bears and the bear baiting referendum question during Maine’s last election. I won’t ruin it for you since maybe he’ll tell it again. We sang along happily during the audience participation part, too. Max wrapped his set with an unplugged tune on the floor and then asked Ben to play a last song. I liked “Nashua River,” but also wanted to hear one more from Max. We stomped for an encore and Max took the stage to play a final song. Ben joined him and Max said he’d play a Strand of Oaks song called “Leave Ruin” and joked that he wouldn’t even tell Ben what key the song was in and even though Ben didn’t even know the song he’d still play it better than him.

Unplugged from the floor

Unplugged from the floor

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Max told us how grateful he was to be home and to play for us. He told us it can be exhausting to play for new people every night and it felt so good to be back home with the people he loves. He said, “you need your people.” We’re your people, Max. Welcome home!

xo,

bree

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