Tag Archives: Newport Folk Festival

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real with Nikki Lane

Friday, November 17, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This night gets top marks from start to finish. It was the end of a long week–I’d been sick, we had parent teacher conferences at school until late, I’d seen the Lone Bellow earlier in the week, and I was generally pooped–but when Lukas Nelson’s publicist invited me to come to the sold out show, I knew I needed to dig deep. It was definitely the right choice.

Marian joined me at Empire and we had a leisurely dinner before the show. Portland was packed–Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn were in town at the State Theatre, and Elton John was at the Cross Insurance Center, too. We made it to Port City Music Hall a little before 7:30, expecting to arrive on the early side in order to grab a good spot up front for the sold out show, but the line was up the block. I wondered if doors weren’t open yet, but it turned out that Port City has increased their security protocol and everyone was asked to empty their pockets and was wanded with metal detectors. It was a pretty slow process. I think a third person on the door wanding would help in the future, especially during sold out shows.

Marian and I made our way towards the stage and met Phyllis and her family. Phyllis has been to seven Farm Aid shows and is a huge Lukas Nelson  fan. I was unfamiliar with both Lukas and show opener Nikki Lane, but Phyllis’ enthusiasm was contagious. I’d also heard from friends who attended the Newport Folk Festival last summer that Nikki was a hit there, so I was excited for the entire double bill.

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Here’s Phyllis with Lukas. Thanks to her daughter, Sarah, for sending me this adorable picture!

Nikki Lane took the stage around 8:10. Nikki and her band live in Nashville, and she described it as a small community where everyone knows everyone. Nikki told us that a friend was in a serious relationship, but found out that her partner had a secret life with a wife and family, which inspired her song “Lies.”I’d heard “Right Time” and “Jackpot” on 98.9 WCLZ. Nikki’s music has a vintage country rock vibe and she has a killer voice.

IMG_5999IMG_6014Concert etiquette tip moment. I am always disappointed in people at shows who arrive at the last second, but push their way to the front and cut in front of people who arrived early to earn that good spot. This happened to us, too, and it was a bummer. Folks–if you want to be up front, arrive early. If you see an empty square foot of space in the front, that is not enough space for you to squeeze yourself into. Resist the urge. It is really rude.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real took the stage after a lengthy transition. I grabbed a spot just behind the barricade to photograph during the first three songs of Lukas’ set, and he was mesmerizing. I’d heard he was dreamy from friends in the music industry, but I think everyone in the room had an immediate crush on him. He has “it” factor, and a confident stage presence. My dear friend Ken Templeton interviewed Lukas for Red Line Roots, and you can learn a bit about Lukas’ recent album and songwriting process here.IMG_6032IMG_6048IMG_6050IMG_6084Up to that moment, I was a total Lukas Nelson & POTR novice. I’d only ever heard Lukas’ song “Find Yourself” on WCLZ, and I knew very little about him, except he is Willie Nelson’s son and has collaborated with Lady Gaga (that’s her singing with him on “Find Yourself”) and Jess and Holly of Lucius, whom I adore. Lukas played an acoustic Studio Z set earlier in the afternoon at 98.9 WCLZ that I’d also missed, but you can check out here. I didn’t know that POTR has been together about a decade, which is a long time since Lukas is only 28 years old. Lukas was joined on stage by Tato Melgar (percussion), Anthony LoGerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass), and Jesse Siebenberg (steel guitar and organ). Lukas introduced “Runnin’ Shine” by telling us that some things aren’t wrong, just illegal. He sang a song for his hometown of Austin, Texas, “Just Outside of Austin,” and a song about commitment that warns “forever is a four letter word.” He also revealed that he’d been in love with a girl named Georgia who he couldn’t put out of his mind after they broke up because he was playing Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” every night on tour with his dad, so he penned “Forget About Georgia.” You can hear more about Lukas (I like context) in this interview he did with NPR Music back in August. IMG_6102IMG_6135Lukas played a lot of cover songs. They were beautiful and he can really sing, but he has a lot of his own songs under his belt, and I was surprised to not hear more of them in person. He covered Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” and Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.” Nikki Lane joined him on stage to cover Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” too. At the time, I thought maybe Lukas and POTR only had one album out and didn’t have enough material for a headlining set, but I was wrong. It was certainly fun to sing along to a handful of classic tunes with a big crowd on a cold Friday night, though!

I emphatically recommend seeing Lukas Nelson and POTR in person. Lucky for you, they’re still on tour! This night was an absolute blast!

xo,

bree

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City and Colour with Noah Gundersen

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This is one of those times when the opening act stole the show. This is why I get to shows early.

I left wine time with the ladies early to zip down to Portland for this show. I l-o-v-e City and Colour and really wanted to get to State Theatre around the time doors opened to get a spot up front. The first time I saw Canada’s City and Colour was back in 2011 at House of Blues Boston, and I was sadly a solid ten rows back. I was front row center for Dallas Green at the Newport Folk Festival in 2012. I’d hoped for a repeat of that beautiful night. He’d been chatty at that solo show, and told us a lot of the stories behind his songs. It was a real treat. Turns out, this night easily ended up being my least favorite City and Colour experience yet. I’m always honest about how I feel about shows, but it pains me a bit to be critical about this one.

I circled for ages looking for parking, and only made it inside 20 minutes before the show. Colin really likes Seattle’s Noah Gundersen, but he was hiking in Wales, so I went to the show solo. I grabbed a great spot to the side of the barricade in the front row to enjoy his set. Noah stole the show. He interacted warmly with the crowd, which I always really appreciate, but his songs rang out with such power and urgency. I was stunned. It was an absolute pleasure to see him live and I can’t wait to see him as a headliner. “Selfish Art,” “Day Is Gone,” and “Ledges” stuck out to me in person. His cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was better than the original, too. Bravo, Noah Gundersen.

City and Colour took the stage and played probably 15 songs and a three-song encore. Dallas said a total of six (it might have been five) short sentences the whole night. I was a little bored and very disappointed. If a band doesn’t interact with the crowd at all, it’s a bummer. I could have had exactly the same concert experience if I’d stayed home and watched a live show on YouTube. It was phoned in and fell very flat. I am still a little bummed about it, actually, especially because I’ve seen much better from Dallas Green. In fact, you can still listen to his set from the Newport Folk Festival online, so you can hear for yourself. I was happy to hear “The Girl,” “Body in a Box,” and “Comin’ Home” live, but I might skip the next City and Colour show. Please, let this just have been an off night.

xo,

b

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The Ballroom Thieves

Friday, September 25, 2015

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

The Ballroom Thieves are a rock solid favorite band of mine and I’ve written about them a bunch on whatbreesees.com. I first saw The Ballroom Thieves open for The Lone Bellow in June of 2013 at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The fact that I am in love with The Lone Bellow, but that I didn’t want The Thieves to rush their opening set, speaks volumes about how good they are. Their infectious, percussive, dynamic sound—with honest lyrics and gorgeous harmonies—makes them the full package.

I send an annual email to Mike Miclon, Executive Artistic Director of Gardiner’s historical Johnson Hall, with a list of my favorite acts I’d like to see perform a mere .2 miles from my house in the upcoming year. He fell in love with The Ballroom Thieves right away and reached out to book them for this great season of shows at Johnson Hall. Coming off their first performance at Newport Folk Festival, I wasn’t sure they’d take a gig in such a small town, but they did!

This abundantly talented Boston-based trio—Maine’s own Martin Earley (guitar/vocals), Calin Peters (cello/vocals), and Devin Mauch (percussion/vocals)—is simply made to play music together. This show coincided with their second anniversary as a group. It’s incredible to think how quickly they’ve become such a strong unit. Their first full-length album, A Wolf in the Doorway, beautifully captures their spirit, and their newest songs (a few of which they treated us to) continue to show their growth and evolving energy as a band. I like their music so much that it’s impossible to pick favorites, but I always appreciate getting to hear “Coward’s Son” (Martin’s folks were in the crowd and he reminded us it’s just a lyric) and “Bury Me Smiling” (featuring Calin on lead vocal) live. Devin sang lead on a fantastic cover of Frightened Rabbit’s “My Backwards Walk,” and it shined brightly as a highlight of the night, especially because I can’t recall ever hearing him take the lead vocal part before. I like the trend towards featuring each vocalist solo from time to time. Their beautiful blend makes it tricky to distinguish their individual voices, so getting to hear each one solo is a treat.

The Ballroom Thieves--Martin, Devin, and Calin

The Ballroom Thieves–Martin, Devin, and Calin

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I appreciated that Mike gave me a shout out before introducing the band and credited me with getting The Ballroom Thieves to Gardiner. Although I rarely like to talk to musicians I admire (you never know when they might be having a bad day and it ruins the love you have), I enjoyed friendly banter during the show with all three, which was very kind. After the show, my sweetie pointed out that I chatted with the band enough during the show to be a fourth band member. Devin joked that he must have lost the invitation I sent for putting them up at my house for the night. Funny, because I had meant to send an email to their manager Eric extending an invitation to house them after the show, but I was so busy running Homecoming week at my school that it completely slipped my mind. Sorry, Thieves! You have an open invitation, both to return to Johnson Hall and to escape the van life for an evening at my house next time you come to town! More pictures below!

xo,

bree

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Unplugged encore on the floor

Unplugged encore on the floor

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Houndmouth with Twin Limb

Monday, September 21, 2015

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Indiana’s Houndmouth played the Newport Folk Festival in 2013 (here’s their full set) and came to Port City Music Hall with Rayland Baxter in March of 2014. They were on the fringes of my radar then, and I missed both shows. I’d heard good buzz about their live show, though, and was excited when I won tickets from 98.9 WCLZ for this one. It was the encouragement I needed to get myself to Portland on a Monday night.

Twin Limb—a duo from Louisville, KY—was well worth showing up early for. Lacey Guthrie on accordion (yep, accordion) and Maryliz Bender on drums sang lovely harmonies and sounded fantastic together. Their sound was ethereal and full and not completely unlike Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine. Check out their song “Red Sun” to get a sense of their style.

Twin Limb

Twin Limb

Houndmouth brought it! They were quite a departure from their friends Twin Limb, and were so different style-wise, that their raucous rock music caught me a tiny bit off guard in the best possible way. They came out in costume, too—a shiny silver (potentially) pleather shirt with a bright blue cape, cheetah print bellbottom stretch pants, even a faux fur coat. They didn’t take themselves too seriously (obviously) and clearly came to entertain. I had a total blast! I was glad to hear “Sedona” and “Say It,” both from their 2015 release Little Neon Limelight. We had such fun early on that we texted our friend Bartlett, who looks an awful lot like the guitarist with the cheetah pants, and got him over to the party halfway through the set. A super fun Monday night! Definitely catch Houndmouth if they’re in a city near you! iPhone pictures below!

xo,

bree

Houndmouth

Houndmouth

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Lucius with Pavo Pavo

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I never miss an opening act. Some of my favorite musicians today were people I was lucky enough to catch open for someone else—Glen Hansard for Damien Rice, Brandi Carlile for Ray LaMontagne, Gregory Alan Isakov for Brandi Carlile, and the list goes on and on. I got to Boston embarrassingly early to catch Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall (who I’d seen open for The Civil Wars—sigh) in October of 2012 and Brooklyn’s Lucius was a phenomenal, totally take-you-by-surprise opening act. I was hooked. Jess and Holly’s harmonies are show stopping and their songs catchy. I bought their EP and listened to it hundreds of times.

I caught Lucius again in December of 2013 at Port City Music Hall in Portland. I will never forget that show, because I rushed to the show a little late after the best first date ever. Nearly two years later, and my sweetie and I got to see our first Lucius show together. He had a huge smile on his face all night. They are so impressive. Lucius was decidedly the sweetheart group of last summer’s Newport Folk Festival, sitting in with lots of groups (including my beloved The Lone Bellow) and even getting to sing with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.

Lucius. Port City Music Hall. December 2013.

Lucius. Port City Music Hall. December 2013.

Seeing Lucius together!

Seeing Lucius together!

Our friend Marian is a Lucius super fan, and she emailed the gang to remind us that tickets were going on sale to see Lucius at The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Ten of us snagged seats in the first few rows and got there early to catch Pavo Pavo, the eccentric opening act. I honestly don’t know how to describe that experience. I’m just glad I had friends there to witness it with me because it was a bit of a spectacle. The lead singer wore a black onesie jumpsuit complete with stirrup pants and a mock turtleneck. If they are trying to distract from their music (which I genuinely can’t recall at this point), with their look, then they’re succeeding brilliantly. I feel like I was the worst audience member ever for the opening because we were all texting (subtlely, and with our screens fully dimmed, mind you) our disbelief and discussed going out on Halloween dressed as Pavo Pavo in matching black mock turtleneck onesies. I laughed to tears at one point when the absurdity overwhelmed me. And even though they were absolutely not for me, I am so glad I got to see them that once.

The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Brooklyn's Pavo Pavo

Brooklyn’s Pavo Pavo

Lucius took the stage and was flawless. Their percussive, harmonic, powerful sound impresses and left us breathless. There wasn’t a stray voice in the crowd all night. We were spellbound. Guitarist Peter Lalish is from New Hampshire, and got a hometown welcome from the crowd. I was happy to hear “Don’t Just Sit There” and “Go Home”—both from their four song 2013 EP and their full length album, 2014’s Wildewoman. “How Loud Your Heart Gets” is another stand out. They tried out a handful of new songs on us, too, and I am pumped for their next release. They are so insanely good.

Lucius!

Lucius!

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I was sad, and I’ll admit, a bit grumpy, when people stood up to dance and were welcomed to the front of the stage to dance. A mass of eager dancers blocked our second row view of the show for the rest of the night and it was frustrating. I was bummed, especially for Marian, who’d been on the ball and bought a front row ticket just to have her view blocked by other fans.

Our sad view from the second row once the dancing started

Our sad view from the second row once the dancing started

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After they wrapped their set, I excused myself to the back of the room so I could actually see them, and caught one of my favorites, “Two of Us on the Run,” from there. The quintet unplugged for their encore and stepped in front of the stage curtain to play around one microphone. It was beautiful. I feel like the days of getting to see Lucius in intimate venues is dwindling as their popularity grows, so I’m grateful for even an obstructed second row view of this phenomenally talented powerhouse group.

xo,

bree

Encore

Encore

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David Wax Museum

Friday, April 18, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’d heard good things, but had never seen David Wax Museum and was also quite unfamiliar with their music. I’m so glad I got to remedy that situation and finally see them live—what a blast! I absolutely recommend you check them out when they’re in your town! I knew they’d won an online contest to play Newport Folk Festival in 2010 and were so impressive that they were invited back in 2011. They were even named one of the “25 Best Live Acts of 2011” by Paste Magazine. They were so much fun to see.

This was a perfect start to the beginning of my April vacation! I got to catch up with Nate over gelato at The Gelato Fiasco, had tea with Megan, and met Andrea at Empire in Portland for dinner before the show. We had a delicious meal (as always) and were entertained and confused by a very outgoing woman at the table adjacent to us who kept bothering women around her to sign for a picture (in American sign language) the hashtag her husband “invented” for himself—wait for it–#mattisadick. The production easily lasted twenty minutes and at least half of the restaurant was involved or at least watching with curiosity. The good news is that the hashtag fiasco was an icebreaker and Andrea and I met Vivian and Sheri (hi, ladies!!) at the table next to us who were pumped to be seeing David Wax Museum that night as well.

Empire's hot & sour soup

Empire’s hot & sour soup

Spinach dumplings

Spinach dumplings

Andrea and I made our way to Port City Music Hall and took our spot up front just as Boston’s Kingsley Flood was wrapping their set. We set our stuff down on the floor at the base of the stage as David Wax came by and dropped his earpiece (don’t worry—we helped him find it). The David Wax Museum is genuinely impressive live. They dance all over the place, smile constantly, have an obviously strong group dynamic, harmonize with ease, and play instruments beautifully and soulfully. I kept looking over at Andrea and smiling—totally caught off guard by how fun they were to be watching.

The David Wax Museum

The David Wax Museum

David Wax was all smiles

David Wax was all smiles

Suz Slezak with a donkey jawbone and Jordan Wax on accordion

Suz Slezak with a donkey jawbone and Jordan Wax on accordion

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David Wax and Suz Slezak form the core of The David Wax Museum (DWM). They met in 2007 (and are married with a five month old baby now) and make upbeat, harmonic, danceable music together. They call their music “Mexo-Americana,” which works just perfectly to explain what a leona (think ukulele), upright bass, percussion, fiddle, keys, accordion, and donkey jawbone combine to become. It’s so fun.

A fun Maine connection is that the last two of DWM’s albums (their most recent is Knock Knock Get Up) were made with Sam Kassirer at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonfield. If you saw Lake Street Dive play at The State Theatre, you got to see Sam playing keys with LSD on a couple of songs as he also produced their latest album. Sam was at the DWM show and the band was excited to see him and reminisce.

David said they hadn’t headlined a show in Portland in three years (there’s my excuse) and were glad to be back in town. I really liked “Beekeeper,” which is an older one of their songs that’s mellow and folky—just how I like my music. Jordan Wax (David’s cousin) played keys and accordion and led a whole-crowd dance along from the center of the floor (he taught us choreography, folks). Talk about a guy having a good time on (and off) stage. Greg Glassman on bass and Philip Mayer on drums (even a cajon drum at one point) rounded out the group on stage that night.

Jordan teaching us our dance part

Jordan teaching us our dance part

Jordan leads the audience in dance

Jordan leads the audience in dance

I was impressed by DWM’s songs in Spanish, but couldn’t keep up with them lyrically (boy, they sing fast when they get going!) as I tried to translate in my head. David told us that Suz toured until she was 37 weeks pregnant and that her dad is on tour with them and their little one to make it work for them to travel. They sang a song about parenthood called “Everything Changes.” I loved when they all gathered around a single mic and sang “Let Me Rest.” The whole band grabbed their instruments and walked to the center of the room to play an unplugged song for us. Talk about a band that knows how to work a crowd and make us feel like we’re part of something. Well done, DWM!

"Let Me Rest" around one mic

“Let Me Rest” around one mic

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Philip Mayer on cajon drum

Philip Mayer on cajon drum 

Unplugged in the crowd

Unplugged in the crowd

I loved the flamenco dance introduction on “Yes, Maria, Yes” and loved “Singing to Me,” a song they dedicated to Bart—a former road manager from Portland who was at the show and singing and dancing along all night long. They talked about how they wrote the song because Bart would say that Tift Merritt (who they’d opened for on tour) was “singing to me” and how much they loved the ability music has to cut right through and connect the artist to the audience. That perfectly sums up why I write whatbreesees!

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David thanked us and told us that one of their very first shows was up the street at One Longfellow Square six years ago. They asked us to sing along for their final song “Harder Before It Gets Easier.” We gleefully sang along and cheered for an encore. Suz and David came out to play “Lavender Street” as a duet (which was lovely and you can watch here). I loved the lyric “I need you like the grass needs the rain.” The rest of the band joined them for “Born With a Broken Heart,” which gave me the energy I needed to drive home late on a Friday night. What an awesome show. Thanks for coming, David Wax Museum! SO glad I didn’t miss out this time!

xo,

bree

Glad you enjoyed the show, too, DWM!

Glad you enjoyed the show, too, DWM!

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