Tag Archives: NPR Music

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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Penny and Sparrow with Rose Cousins

Sunday, April 24, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I sold my house! I moved ten years of my possessions to my new place, which is half the size of my beloved old place! I also threw a senior prom for almost 250, senior awards night, graduation for almost 180, and went on the Project Graduation trip with my seniors. Now I’m feeling settled in my new place and am SO READY to get back to more live music in my life. I don’t know about you, but times are heavy and music helps me through. I offer you “Rise Up” from Andra Day at Austin City Limits, just in case you need a boost right this minute.

I have pondered what to write about the incredible Penny and Sparrow show I saw back in late April at One Longfellow Square for a long while. It was incredible and one of the BEST SHOWS I HAVE EVER SEEN. That’s a little hard to process, just like the show still is. I wish I could relive every moment. I am so glad my steadfast concert companion Colin joined me, because I needed backup. This show was intense. Overwhelming. Wonderful. It hit me so hard in the feels that I needed a tissue.

I’d been lucky to see Canada’s talented Rose Cousins back in March in my former sweet little town of Gardiner, Maine at Johnson Hall. She is hilarious and gritty and open live and is a true entertainer. Juxtaposed with her beautiful, depressing songs, it’s a lot to see her perform. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster between the sad songs and her sharp banter and storytelling. It prepared me really well for this night, though.

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Rose Cousins

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Rose Cousins took the stage and gushed about Austin’s Penny and Sparrow. She told us they’d met in January at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival and that “these men have more feelings than me.” And listening to them is like “wearing your favorite hoodie right out of the dryer.” She joked that it was nice to be touring with people who just play sad music “so I don’t have to explain myself.” Rose opened with a cover of Lori McKenna’s “Shake” (I haven’t seen Lori in ages, but her songs are so good) and “Go First,” which was featured in the finale of season 9 of Grey’s Anatomy (but not in the kind of scene Rose envisioned for her song).

We all sang along with Rose’s cover of “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” and Rose told quippy stories in between these somber songs, including “Farmer’s Wife,” which she told us was inspired by her sister, who is (in fact) a farmer’s wife. Rose told us about her trip to Ireland last May to write and record a forthcoming album, which I am eager to hear. Rose wrapped her set with “Heart Be With Me Now,” “I Make Way For Love,” and “Tender is the Man,” all of which I assume/hope will be on her new album. She left the stage by telling us that there are “no tenderer men” than Andy and Kyle of Penny and Sparrow.

Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke took the stage and warmed the crowd immediately with light humor about our “summer” weather in Maine that had them both wearing double coats. Then, Kyle quietly strummed his guitar, Andy put his hands in his pockets and leaned toward the microphone, and “Gold” sprung from their mouths. It was one of those rare moments at a show when you start to get sad because you realize the night will end. I felt like that from the first note.

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Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke are Penny and Sparrow

I was not the only one entranced by Penny and Sparrow. Their sparse, evocative songs—Andy’s straightforward voice and Kyle’s gentle strumming and harmonies—are stunning. Kyle read our group response beautifully and told us our “give a damn” meter was high and it was a huge compliment to them and thanked us for listening. I laughed out loud in between songs at Kyle’s jokes, and then teared up during the songs. It was a lot to take in. Kyle told us that he gets it’s “taxing” (that’s the word he used) to listen to their music and genuinely appreciated we were along for the ride. He said it’s good to “shake your emotional snow globe” from time to time so that you don’t harden and can process your feelings. No kidding.

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Penny and Sparrow hit me in the feels with “Finery” and “Catalogue,” did a complete turnaround to sing a few lighthearted bars of “Hero” by Nickelback, and then got right back to it with Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.” Seeing them live is a ride I would have lined up for again immediately after the show. I wish I could relive the magic of this night. I wish you were all there, too.

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Kyle gave us a lengthy scenario about running into an ex at a dinner party to introduce “Bed Down.” He talked about a kind of love where you are intimately aware of the struggles but don’t leave—a love with “no escape hatch.” I’d seen NPR Music feature “Bed Down” as a “Song We Love” back in February, and that’s when I learned that my beloved John Paul White (formerly of The Civil Wars) produced their album. I got to see John Paul again a few weeks ago from the front row at Cafe 939 in Boston and he is so incredibly down to earth and talented. What a pairing for Penny and Sparrow’s third studio album.

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Rose Cousins joined Andy and Kyle for “Duet.” Andy introduced the song by saying there just weren’t enough songs about married love, so they wrote one. He said it’s about being together for a long time and still being into each other. The lyrics show resolve “Because I’ve seen you/And I know you/And I’m not going anywhere.”

This was a perfect night of music and easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I wish I could do it again. Thank you, Rose, Andy, and Kyle for a cathartic night of music, storytelling, and laughter. I am in awe of all of you. You shook my emotional snow globe, and I feel better for it. Please come back to Maine again. Come together, too, if you can.

xo,

bree

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The Ballroom Thieves with Maine Youth Rock Orchestra and The DuPont Brothers

Friday, April 15, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Nearly two months late but with many, many wonderful senior events at my school behind me (most precious were the graduation marches my seniors did through four of our five district elementary schools), I can catch a quick breath and write a bit. The Ballroom Thieves are easily one of my top favorites live bands. [Fun fact: I first saw The Ballroom Thieves live opening for The Lone Bellow three years ago today!] I feel really lucky to have seen them a lot, and am so glad that their star continues to rise, having now played at the Newport Folk Festival and opened for Lake Street Dive at Thompson’s Point in Portland. That’s a huge venue, and friends who were able to go and had never seen the Thieves messaged me to say how great they are (um, yeah!).

Thinking back, I remember that I was able to grab a quick dinner at Slab with one of my dear former class presidents before heading over to the show. I got to Port City Music Hall early to make sure I’d have my favorite spot up front and even beat Colin there. Erin and Darcy, teachers from Westbrook High School who we’d met a couple of shows back, were also there, and my current (well, graduation was Sunday, but I’m not ready to let go) class president, Carmen, also joined the full house for the show. This was one of those nights when the crowd was top notch. I think it’s because there were a lot of proud Maine Youth Rock Orchestra family members in the crowd, celebrating the beginning of their April vacation week tour with The Ballroom Thieves. Anyhow, it’s always great to be surrounded by positive energy and attentive people at a show, and this was a real treat.

Burlington, Vermont’s The DuPont Brothers took the stage and warmed up the crowd. Their harmonies, pretty guitar arrangements, and friendly banter made for a good set. Brother Zack was celebrating his birthday, so we sang for him. They’d used Kickstarter to fund their most recent album, A Riddle for You, and played a lot of those songs for us. They invited Maine Youth Rock Orchestra (MYRO) to join them for “Trespassers,” which they sweetly dedicated to a big group of young kids sitting on the floor just in front of the stage. The DuPont Brothers will be back in Portland at One Longfellow Square on Thursday, June 30.

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“Trespassers” with The DuPont Brothers and MYRO

Kevin Oates, the founder and director of Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, took the stage to do a little fundraising to support their ten-day tour with The Ballroom Thieves. He said he’d shave his head (and he has really good hair) if they reached their fundraising goal before the show ended, which shows dedication. MYRO is awesome. As a teacher, it hits me right in the feels that this awesome group exists, and that they’ve had such great success, including being featured on NPR Music and being the first youth orchestra to tour with a national artist. Kevin tells the story himself on medium.com with “Why I started Maine Youth Rock Orchestra.” I have a front row ticket to see MYRO play with Gregory Alan Isakov on June 21 at the State Theatre and am SO excited to see them with another of my favorite artists.

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Kevin Oates, founder and director of MYRO

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Martin and Devin of The Ballroom Thieves with MYRO

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Martin, Devin, and Callie of The Ballroom Thieves with MYRO

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The Ballroom Thieves are fantastic. Their songs and harmonies resonate, their desire to connect to the audience admirable, and the sheer force of their musicianship is moving. This was another in a series of top-notch performances from Martin, Devin, and Callie. Hearing them with MYRO, adding to the richness of their already full sound, was phenomenal. I feel really lucky to have been at this show. I was so glad to learn that a new album is forthcoming. You’ve got to check out the video for “Bury Me Smiling” featuring MYRO that NPR Music picked up. “Peregrine” sticks out as a newer song I’m looking forward to getting better acquainted with. “Here I Stand” was a particularly driving force live, and “The Loneliness Waltz” is surely one of my favorite Thieves’ songs. This was truly a phenomenal show—start to finish. See these groups live whenever you have the chance. The Thieves will be joined by MYRO on July 12 at Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney, Maine. Come! I will see you there.

xo,

bree

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Darlingside with Haroula Rose

Friday, April 1, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

What an extraordinary April 1st! My dear friend gave birth to a beautiful (and surely brilliant) baby girl, I got to hold baby sheep and goats after school at a friend’s farm, and I finally got to see Darlingside again after an all-too-long break! (The last Darlingside show I caught was in late 2014, when they shared the stage with the wonderfully talented Maine Youth Rock Orchestra).

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I got to hold baby farm animals!

Darlingside is one of my favorite bands to see live. Think indie rock meets orchestra. “Grandpa” Don, the eldest band member (I learned during band introductions), emailed me to invite me to Darlingside’s show at One Longfellow Square back in 2012, and they stole my heart. Multi instrumentalists Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner, and Dave Senft are magnificently talented. Their perfect harmonies show how close they are and how long they’ve been making music together. They really sing with one voice, which is a real feat.

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

IMG_3312IMG_3318Colin and I grabbed our favorite spot up front at Port City Music HallPort City Music Hall for the show, where we met Westbrook High School teachers Darcie and Erin. It’s always nice to find a pocket of real music lovers to share a show with. Don emerged from backstage and gave me a quick hug. He was trying to track down some missing equipment on stage. I joked with him that I was impressed he was still dealing with his own gear now that Darlingside has gotten so famous. He laughed, but they’ve had a really big year! Darlingside was featured in The New Yorker (in an article called “Harmonious,” no less), their song “The God of Loss” was named a Favorite Song of 2015 by NPR Music, and Folk Alliance International named them 2015 Artist of the Year. Well deserved!

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Haroula Rose

IMG_3282Haroula Rose took the stage alone to open the show—just her and a guitar. She told us that her name means “joy” in Greek, which she gets asked a lot. Her set was sparse and somber, and I respect that her songs are so personal. “Time’s Fool” is a song about love, and “The Leaving Song” is about loss. She told us that she couldn’t play that song for a long while, too. Haroula just released her sophomore album, Here the Blue River, and I particularly like “Songbird.”

Darlingside was flawless, as always. Their banter was hilarious and their songs crisp and inviting. Seeing them live is a real treat—without exception. They played a lot of their new album, Birds Say. They opened their set with “The God of Loss,” which is one of my favorites from the new record, but I was really glad to hear “My Love” and “Sweet and Low” from Pilot Machines, too. I think the song that surprised me most live was “Clay & Cast Iron,” which kind of took my break away. Come join me the next time Darlingside is in town. I’ll be front and center and you should be, too! More pictures below!

xo,

bree

P.S.—I just remembered that David Wax Museum co-headlined this show and I didn’t mention them at all! I think they’re super fun live, but their music just isn’t in my wheelhouse. I stayed and danced for a handful of songs, but didn’t recap their set above because I really don’t post about a band unless I see their whole set and/or fall in love.

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