Tag Archives: One Longfellow Square

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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Lake Street Dive with Joey Dosik

Friday, February 17, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I wasn’t planning on going to this show. I love Lake Street Dive, but so does everyone else. I used to see them play at teeny One Longfellow Square, back when there were maybe 40 people in the audience and I could sit a few feet from the stage. I don’t always rally for their sold out shows, because being squished together with a lot of enthusiastic fans at maximum capacity is cozier than I prefer. I miss the old days, even though I’m thrilled for Lake Street Dive and their much-deserved success. I saw on Facebook that my friend-in-music Aimsel Ponti did an interview with the band the afternoon of the show, and I commented on her post. She zipped me an immediate message back, and invited me to be her photographer for the show for MaineToday.com. A photo pass at the State gives you access for a few songs to the space right at the foot of the stage–in front of the barricade–exactly the proximity I want at a live show. I was in.

I made it to State Theatre a song or two into opener Joey Dosik’s set. He has a great voice that filled the room. His sound reminded me a bit of Gavin DeGraw. He sat behind the piano and the crowd dug him. I ran into a couple of my students after the show, and they’d gotten tickets to the sold out show because they sent a message on Instagram to Joey (they are both in our school band and are big fans of Joey) who happily put the two eager fans on his guest list.

Lake Street Dive took the stage to a spirited audience. I watched a little of the show from the balcony, and couldn’t help but notice how many men were gesticulating wildly on air guitar and singing along to every word that Rachael Price belted out for us. LSD opened with “Bad Self Portraits” and I got to shoot for three songs up close, including “Side Pony.” They honored George Michael with their version of “Faith,” and played one of my favorites from earlier in their career–“Neighbor Song.” I can sure relate to “Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand,” loved “You Go Down Smooth,” and the band treated us to two encore songs, wrapping the show with “My Speed,” which we sang along to.

Bassist Bridget Kearney has a new solo album, Won’t Let You Down, which releases on March 24. She’ll be playing a show at One Longfellow Square on Monday, April 17. If tickets haven’t sold out already, they certainly will.


Aimsel wrote a great show review, which captures the energy of the enthusiastic crowd beautifully. Thanks for the show invite, Aimsel!

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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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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