Tag Archives: One Longfellow Square

Mipso with Lula Wiles

Thursday, November 3, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I am usually disappointed when I see shows I want to go to are scheduled for Thursday nights, because it means I have to skip sparring and my women’s Brazilian jiu jitsu class (and my instructor is a beast and doesn’t like it when I’m absent), but I am mostly glad I made an exception for this show. I introduced my former advisee, Carmen, who is now a freshman at Bowdoin College, to Mipso, and she came to see them with me last time they were in town on Valentine’s Day. When Carmen told me she was planning to go and would save me a seat (which she fortunately was able to do), I decided to join her.

When I arrived at One Longfellow Square, I ran into Portland’s own Griffin Sherry of The Ghost of Paul Revere fame, and was able to catch up with him about their upcoming touring scheduled (which is plentiful). I found Carmen in the front row of what little seating existed, since the staff had pushed the seats to the side to create a dance floor (which the website did warn about, but I’d forgotten). OLS–please don’t do this limited seating thing. It’s awful. You’re a listening room, and that’s a wonderful thing. When you clear the room, you encourage people to stop listening. It has happened 100% of the time I’ve been to one of these “limited seating” shows. This night, there was a belligerent dude in a CrossFit t shirt who kept heckling the band and shouting over the music the whole show. I just don’t think people would be as inclined to act so inappropriately in a seated venue. He was super obnoxious. Also, the bands you’ve cleared the floor for (maybe at their request?) just aren’t bands you really can or would dance to, either.

Lula Wiles opened the show and they were delightful. Isa Burke and Ellie Buckland traded a fiddle and guitar back and forth and both sang their hearts out. I wouldn’t have known they were a trio if they hadn’t mentioned that their bass player Mali was missing that night. Isa’s little sister, Julianna, joined them on stage and sang Mali’s part for one song and was great, too. Check out “Losing Side.” Lula Wiles is the real deal, and I will definitely see them next time they’re in town.

Carmen and I traded raised eyebrows when our beloved Mipso took the stage with a drummer in tow. They’re a young bluegrass band from North Carolina with beautiful lyrics and harmonies, but the drums drowned them out and it changed the entire vibe for both of us. I theorized that they added a drummer because they play a lot in bars and could use the volume for those venues, but I was disappointed, whatever the reason. Their drummer (who is talented, just not necessary) left the stage about halfway through their set, much to our relief. It was nice to hear the Mipso we know and love and actually be able to hear the lyrics of the songs.

Lead singer Joseph Terrell (who has a stunningly clear voice) sang “When I’m Gone” for his grandmother, Eldora. I glanced over to the “dance floor” (where no one was dancing because this was not dance music) and saw my dear college friend, Ken Templeton, who was there to cover the show for Boston’s Red Line Roots (he didn’t take kindly to the drunk CrossFit guy, either). Since he’d never seen Mipso before, he wasn’t offended at all by the addition of a drummer like we were (which is to say, you will still like them if you’ve never heard them before). At the end of the night, Mipso invited Lula Wiles back to the stage and treated us to a great rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” It was a delight to catch up with Griffin, Carmen, and Ken, and I was relieved that the obnoxious drunk guy wasn’t wearing a MMA shirt. #represent

xo,

bree

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David Ramirez

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I saw David Ramirez for the first time a year and a half ago opening for Shakey Graves at the State Theatre in Portland. I was drawn to him immediately and enjoyed the sparseness of a man with a guitar juxtaposed with the urgency and passion he demonstrated with his powerful, rich voice. I sadly missed him a year ago at One Longfellow Square (I had tickets, but unfortunately didn’t make it to the show), so was eager to see him again. Colin went to that show a year ago and David played with a full band, which just isn’t really how I want to see him (or so I told myself, since I missed him). I was very excited to learn that I’d be seeing his 2016 Bootleg Tour–just David and a guitar–and each show would be recorded and audience members would get a link to a download of the show the next day. Right up my alley. Add that this was at teeny, intimate One Longfellow Square, and I was pumped.

I got to see my dear friend Fiona who was visiting from Minneapolis after school and then drove down to meet Colin at OLS. He snagged us great seats in the second row and we took in the living room scene assembled on stage–an area lamp, table, some books, and framed picture of Billy Murray–that gave us the feeling of really being in David Ramirez’s living room.

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David Ramirez wowed with his incredibly powerful voice and honest lyrics. At some point in the show, it dawned on me that David is probably not the nicest guy in real life. There was a distracting woman sitting right behind us who responded loudly after each song. David would finish a song and she’d shout “yes!” (I forgot her other go-to responses) and then try to initiate a conversation with him in between songs. We get it,  you KNOW him! (WOW!) It was annoying, and I totally chuckled when David realized it was his friend in the crowd who kept making it about her (which it sadly became, at times). Etiquette tip–don’t be that girl. No one came to see you perform if you’re not the one on stage. When I said that to Colin after the show, he smiled at me and said “doesn’t he say as much in his songs?” Good point, Colin. I was especially glad to hear “The Bad Days” and “Harder to Lie” in person. 

I will say, though, that even though David’s songs and stage banter mostly make him seem like a guy struggling to feed his healthy ego, he ended his set with “Find the Light,” which was a welcome surprise and an about face from his general tone. The song starts with some warm wishes–“I wish upon you peace/I wish upon you grace/I wish for less of what you want and more of what you need.” I’m so glad I went, even if David Ramirez is probably not someone I’d want to chat with or go have a beer with after the show. His voice and songs are layered and beautiful. And we’re all just learning how to be ourselves anyhow, and he seems to do that with his music, which is a healthy way to grow, I think.

I just realized that Spotify has David providing commentary about every song on his newest album Fables, which is right up my alley! Going to go listen now.

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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Basia Bulat with Twin Limb

Sunday, April 3, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I’ve taken a very necessary break from blogging over the last few weeks. I’m in charge of all of the senior class events at my school and I’m selling my house and moving. It’s a crazy time in my life. I can’t remember a time I’ve been so busy!

I have fond memories of seeing Canadian singer-songwriter Basia Bulat live early last month at One Longfellow Square. Basia came across my radar back in January of 2011, when I saw her Tiny Desk Concert on NPR. I’d seen Twin Limb open for Houndmouth back in September at Port City Music Hall, and I’d liked them and was looking forward to seeing them again, as well. Colin and I had just seen Darlingside a couple of nights earlier and he had another show to go to, so I went solo.

I was surprised and a bit disappointed to find that the bulk of the seats at One Longfellow were stacked and pushed to the sides when I arrived. I’ve seen it once before, for a bluegrass show where the band really thought people would want to dance. We didn’t. People helped themselves to the stacks of chairs and set up rows before that show even started. One Longfellow Square is a listening room with a mature audience (I am often one of the youngest people in the audience when I see shows there) and we’ve come to expect having seats in rows so we can sit close and enjoy the show comfortably. I asked one of the staff members and was told one of the bands (she didn’t know which) had asked that the chairs be cleared to create a dance floor. I’ve heard lots of Twin Limb and Basia Bulat music and, trust me, it’s not dance music. I was annoyed. What ended up happening is that people sat really far away from the stage in the few seats that were set up. It ruined the intimacy we’ve come to count on at OLS shows and I’d ask the well meaning folks there to really discourage the vast majority of bands from using this seating arrangement in the future. I watched Twin Limb’s set from one of the few seats in the corner of the room and couldn’t see any of their facial expressions (have I mentioned that I’m pretty significantly visually impaired?) and their set fell totally flat for me because of it even though I’d really enjoyed them six or so months earlier. I was grumpy. I considered going home.

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My crappy view of Twin Limb during their opening set. Please don’t set up the room this way, OLS!

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IMG_3440Basia Bulat came out to watch Twin Limb’s set, and she sat on the floor, front and center. Again, my belief is that people shouldn’t come to a show and have to sit on the floor to be respectful to those seated in the back and on the sides. That type of seating situation is a mess, because anyone who wants to be up front has to either stand in front of seated people and be a jerk or sit on the floor. It was really endearing that Basia was so cool and enjoyed the set from the floor. People in the crowd were definitely her fans—a nice couple initially sitting behind me had driven nine hours from Halifax to be at the show. They were giddy when she plopped down on the floor and went to join her. So, Basia was the one who broke the ice and got people closer to the stage. This was the turning point of the night and things started moving in a better direction.

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Basia Bulat is front and center enjoying Twin Limb’s set

I’d been sitting with Jen Dean, a Westbrook photographer whose friend was sick and had decided to also come to the show solo. Even when I go to a show alone, it never lasts long. She was a dear. Basia and her band took the stage. I’d heard her music and although I didn’t expect this, she made it perfectly swayable. She really worked the stage with high energy dancing and switching instruments (she plays guitar, autoharp, dulcimer, piano, ukulele, and charango—which is a South American ukulele-like instrument I had to Google) and interacting sweetly with the crowd. She is a natural born entertainer, and even though I would have preferred a seated show (I’m done with the rant now), she jumped off stage and danced with the swaying crowd and even gave Jen a turn on the dance floor. My grumpiness about the seats dissipated and I found myself swaying along.

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Basia took to the floor to dance with us

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I don’t know a single one of Basia’s song titles, but I was glad I got to see her live in such a tiny venue. I get the feeling that she’s going places, not just because so many folks in the audience knew every word of every one of her songs, but also because she dazzled on stage and made it a feel-good night. Her most recent album, Good Advice, was released earlier this year (check out her song “Fool”), and her tour schedule is packed. Definitely get out to see Basia Bulat live if she’s in your corner of the world.

xo,

bree

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Twin Limb joined Basia and her band for a song

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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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Rose Cousins, Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barry

Friday, March 18, 2016

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

Talk about a delightful night full of rock solid good music, plentiful laughs, and pro-community spirit. This show was a gem. Johnson Hall Executive Artist Director Mike Miclon handed out CDs full of music from this season’s Johnson Hall artists last fall during the season reveal event, and Rose Cousins’ “Go First” played on repeat in my car for weeks. Her voice is all the best things—soulful, clear, ethereal, and evocative. I had this show circled in permanent marker on my concert calendar for months. I feel lucky to have been there.

Carol Noonan is a name you know in the Maine music scene. A singer-songwriter with a long career, she is also the mastermind behind Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine. One of the things that I was struck by on this fabulous night was how complimentary she was of Gardiner and our effort to bring live music and new life to our community. When Mike welcomed everyone to the stage, he also announced that Lisa’s Legit Burritos, The Craft Beer Cellar, and Niche, Inc. (Gardiner’s new record store) were staying open late after the show and we were all going to go to all three places to support these local businesses. Carol was on board wholeheartedly. Before Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield wasn’t even a blip on the map, she said. Now, it’s a music destination that has inspired a lot of growth in the area. She said “music brings a community to life.” Johnson Hall has been a tremendous part of Gardiner’s growth with Mike Miclon at the helm. Gardiner’s time is now, and we have a wonderful community—one I feel proud and fortunate to be part of.

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From left to right–Rose Cousins, Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barry

Rose Cousins, Carol Noonan, Duke Levine, and Kevin Barry took the stage together and played together the bulk of the night—alternating between Carol’s songs and Rose’s songs. Rose Cousins is a singer-songwriter who grew up on a potato farm in Prince Edward Island. The baby on stage that night, Carol joked that she graduated from high school the year that Rose Cousins was born. They met because Rose sent Carol her CD If You Were For Me (2006), and even though Carol receives so many submissions at Stone Mountain that she can’t listen to many, she picked up Rose’s album because she was drawn to the horse on the cover. A decade later, and they’re friends who play music together.

 

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Duke Levine is maybe best known for touring with The J. Geils Band and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Kevin Barry is an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston and has played with Paula Cole and Mary Chapin Carpenter, as well. Duke and Kevin have played together for ages, and have both played on both Carol and Rose’s albums, too.

I particularly liked Rose’s song, “Farmer’s Wife.” Rose spoke about growing up on a farm—one of five kids—and not really having a full appreciation of her mother’s role until her sister married a farmer and started her own family. Her 2014 Stray Birds EP includes a cover of Lori McKenna’s “Shake,” which the group played for us. Lori McKenna is a folk rock star. I just wrote about hearing her song “Girl Crush” that won a Grammy for Best Country Song covered by Ellis Paul at One Longfellow Square on January 1. I’ve only managed to see Lori live a couple of times, but sadly not since 2012 at One Longfellow Square in Portland with Mark Erelli. Rose was as much a storyteller in word as in song. She introduced “Chosen” by talking about how incredible it is to be chosen by someone but how it also gives you pause to think about all the things you don’t like about yourself. Her honesty was refreshing.

We cheered at the end of this night, thoroughly entertained by the stories and songs of these four talented musicians who are also friends and so supportive of each other. They took the stage for an encore and did an awesome cover of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” that we got to sing along with. It was a lovely way to bring the night to an end together.

I’m seeing Rose again on Sunday night (April 24) at One Longfellow Square opening for Nashville’s Penny and Sparrow. I’m really looking forward to it!

xo,

bree

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Going upstairs to see the concert hall at Johnson Hall never gets old! Just wait to see how it looks fully restored!

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Mipso

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

Sunday, February 14, 2016

I was so grateful to get to spend Valentine’s Day with my dear friend Dot in Portland. We had a delicious dinner at Empire and arrived early at One Longfellow Square to grab seats up close for Mipso. North Carolina’s Mipso kindly invited me to their show with Dan Mills back in January of 2015, and I’m so glad I decided to check them out. They were so delightful, in fact, that I scheduled my February vacation trip to visit my dad in Florida around getting to see them play again in Portland. I also randomly caught Mipso playing “Bad Penny” on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so they’ve had quite the year! Maybe they’ll be a household name by the next time they play in Portland?

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Mipso riding on the KFC float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Mipso is Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Wood Robinson on upright bass, Joseph Terrell on lead vocal and guitar, and Libby Rodenbough on fiddle. This talented, charming group plays beautifully and their harmonies are spot on. They are clearly good friends and good people and are warm and friendly with the audience. I loved “Father’s House” and “Louise,” and it was a treat to see Maine’s most famous mandolin player, Joe Walsh, join Mipso for a couple of songs, too. “4 Train” and “When I’m Gone” both hit me in the feels with their somber lyrics. It’s refreshing to hear songs from a band that feel authentic and meaningful. It’s also wonderful to hear vocalists perform who have crystal clear voices so you can understand every word.

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Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Joseph Terrell on guitar, and Libby Rodenbough on fiddle

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Joseph’s voice has a decidedly Paul Simon sound, which became even more evident during their lovely cover of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” I’ve already named a lot of favorite songs of the night, but “Get Out,” was another top favorite. Mipso really does it right. They are an absolute pleasure to see live and I’m already eager to have them back to Maine. They joked that they keep coming in the winter and would really like to come back in the summer, so I hope we don’t have to wait as long for their next show here. Thanks again, Mipso! Libby—I hope you had a fun birthday in Portland!

xo,

bree

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Maine’s Joe Walsh joined Mipso on mandolin

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Joe delivered a gift basket to Libby on stage at the end of the night. Her sweet parents sent it to One Longfellow Square to arrive on her birthday.

 

 

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