Tag Archives: One Longfellow Square

Ellis Paul with Laurie MacAllister

Friday, December 29, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was my 49th Ellis Paul show! I hope I get to sing on stage with him at my 50th show. I can sing, Ellis!

I started seeing Ellis Paul in 2002, so that’s 15 years of great music I’ve gotten to hear him perform live. He’s still my favorite singer songwriter, and I love seeing him live at his now annual warm up to New Year’s Eve show at One Longfellow Square. I used to ring in the New Year with Ellis and friends every year at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but Portland is so much closer!  

I picked up my friend Hedda in the snow and we slowly made it to Portland on a slippery highway. We had a delicious dinner nearby at Mi Sen, but were squeezed for time and had to miss seeing my talented pianist friend, Ben Cosgrove, at Blue. We made it to One Longfellow Square right after 7 to get good seats up front, and there were easily already 25 people in the room. I know where the super fans sit (I am a fan, not a super fan), and decided I needed a couple of rows of buffer, so grabbed seats for Colin, Hedda, and me in the fourth row. We chatted for an hour and then Laurie MacAllister (of Red Molly) took the stage to start the show.

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David Glaser, Laurie McAllister, and Radoslav Lorkovic

Hedda saw her first Ellis Paul show (my 46th) with me last year at Brunswick’s Unitarian Universalist Church, and Laurie sang with him then, too. We thought their chemistry was obvious, and wondered if they were a couple back then. They were, we discovered at this show. Laurie MacAllister has a very pretty voice and was so grateful to perform her first solo show in 14 years in front of such a polite audience. Her new solo record, The Lies the Poets Tell, is out in late January. It’s a cover album of songs from artists you may not know–including Shawn Mullins (one of my all time favorites), Mark Erelli (who Laurie called her favorite songwriter and urged us to see live), Antje Duvekot, oh, and some guy named Ellis Paul. She opened with Shawn Mullins’ “My Stupid Heart.”David Glaser joined her on guitar–she told us she’d heard him play last year during preparations for Ellis’ annual New Year’s Eve shows and asked him to be her guitarist on her new album–and Radoslav Lorkovic, the “Croatian Sensation,” accompanied on piano and accordion. Laurie told us she met Rad for the first time back in 2005 when they played at the same music festival. When she and her Red Molly bandmates told him they were off to New York City for a gig later that evening, he asked if he could come with them and play, too, which they all quickly agreed to. David, Rad, and Laurie were also Ellis’ band that evening. They are obviously friends and it was fun to watch them together.

Ellis Paul took the stage to a sold out crowd after intermission. He told us he wrote a song with a friend in mind that was supposed to be more of a joke, but turned into his love song, “I Ain’t No Jesus.” I’d never heard Ellis talk about dating Laurie before, but he talked about her saying “I’ll Never Be this Young Again” in reference to recording a new album, and he stole her line and wrote a song featuring it. Laurie interjected that she came down to the living room the next morning and he played it for her–completely finished overnight. He told us it was one of the first times he’d ever played it live.

Ellis also played another new song I hadn’t heard before, which is always exciting when you see someone play as often as I do. He projected a picture onto the screen behind him and it was of Ellis and his father in front of a huge fire. He told us about a family reunion that turned into a major fire house fire over the 4th of July weekend in 1979. He thanked his relatives in the crowd who were there to support him, and told us about a relative who’d fought for the Union Army in the Civil War and was injured at Gettysburg. They gave him a farm–150 acres in Wasburn, Maine–and every generation in his family has produced potato farmers since then until now. He joked that he went into the more lucrative folk singer business. His grandparents had 9 kids and 40 grandchildren. He laughed as he told us “none of the names have been changed because everyone who is guilty deserves to be in this song.”

Ellis told us he’d record an album in 2018, and I think I’m most looking forward to “Scarecrow in a Corn Maze”–a song about a soldier injured in Iraq who comes home from war and struggles. The chorus goes, “scarecrow in a corn maze, just trying to find some way out.” Ellis has always been an excellent storyteller. His songs are relatable because they tell real human stories. This song stuck out to me the most among songs I don’t know very well. We sang along to a song that Ellis wrote about all of the states he’s performed in called “So You Ain’t From these Parts.” The verse about Maine features the crazy names of places here from Damariscotta to the Cobbosseecontee.

Every year, Ellis and his friends play a medley of songs during their NYE shows. This year, they paid tribute to music legends lost in the last couple of years–Tom Petty, Glen Campbell, and Glenn Frey. Their cover of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was incredible. I’ll admit I’d never heard Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” before. Everyone came off the stage into the audience and sang “Seven Bridges Road” (famously covered by the Eagles) for us.

Ellis thanked us for our continued support and for coming out in the bitter cold. He told us his kid just got $3,300 braces, and chuckled when he told us that we’d paid for them. I figure my 49 concert tickets will pay for at least a year of a teenager’s car insurance when his girls start driving.

Did we all sing along to “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down”to close the night? I think we did. I am sleep deprived from New Year’s Eve last night. Thanks for a lovely evening of music that always makes me feel like I’m home, Ellis and friends. I’ll see you soon!

Happy 2018! Let’s all hope for goodness and light in the year ahead!

xo,

bree

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Lucy Kaplansky

Saturday, December 2, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was such an excellent Saturday! I spent part of the day volunteering at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center’s Festival of Trees in Gardiner (I’m on the Board of Directors), enjoyed Gardiner’s Parade of Lights down Water Street from the second story window, and made my way to One Longfellow Square where my steadfast concert buddy, Colin, kindly saved me a front row seat for the show.

Festival of Trees at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner

I love seeing folk singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky live. She is consistently warm and open with the audience, and seeing her in person feels intimate–like sitting around together in her living room. I first saw Lucy open for Ellis Paul back in 2007, and have seen her maybe ten times since then. I always look forward to hearing updates about her beloved husband, daughter Molly, and Janie the beagle, and it feels a bit like catching up with an old friend. Lucy writes songs about her life, and I’m humbled when songwriters are so willing to share their life experiences with strangers.

One of the things I appreciate most about Lucy is how much she loves and respects her daughter Molly. She played a bittersweet song on mandolin about how fast her daughter is growing up. Lucy told us she’d be happy to play our requests, and even if she hadn’t played the songs we requested in ages, she still gave them her best shot. Someone asked her to play “This is Mine,” and she told us it was a poem her husband Richard Litvan had written for her. When she finished, she said, “and that’s why I love my husband so much.” She also played “Ten Year Night,” which is also about him.

One of the things that makes a concert a true concert experience is when artists discuss the inspiration for their songs. Lucy never disappoints in this area. This time, I learned about her song “Don’t Mind Me.” Her daughter Molly had been assigned to read a book by Sherman Alexie last year, and Lucy told her, “I know him.” Best known for his film, Smoke Signals, Alexie ended up coming backstage to meet Lucy, Dar Williams, and Richard Shindell after a Cry Cry Cry show twenty years ago in Seattle. They hit it off, and he asked them to write a song for a particular scene in a movie he was writing and directing. He told them to think “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” but with Joni Mitchell singing it. Dar gave it a shot and wrote “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono” and Lucy and her husband co-wrote “Don’t Mind Me.” Alexie liked it so much that he wrote Lucy into the movie to play herself as a street singer. The movie didn’t end up getting made, but Lucy did get the song out of it.

I follow Lucy on Facebook, so I see a lot of pictures of her beloved dog, Janie. Janie is Lucy’s first dog ever. Her mom had been afraid of dogs, so she grew up without them. Lucy’s daughter kept asking for a dog, and they finally said yes. Lucy said, “it was a revelation to me that I could fall in love with a dog. I have at least a hundred photos on my phone of her if you want to see her after the show.” She wrote a very sweet song for her NYC dog and their “Everyday Street.”

Lucy’s dad, Irving Kaplansky, was a mathematician, a professor, and a musician, and Lucy sang one of his quirky songs, “On an Asteroid with You,” about honeymooning in outer space for us, as well. She’s also recorded an album of his songs aptly titled Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky. You can only get that EP at her shows.

Lucy told us about another audience requested song, “Manhattan Moon,” as well. She’d worked on a song for months, but it wasn’t right, so she sadly threw it away. She took a few of the best lines from that song, though, and wrote a new song in four hours, which became “Manhattan Moon.”

Lucy draws attentive, polite audiences. That matters to me. She appreciates it, too. She told us a few times that she really appreciated playing for us and complimented us on how nice we were to play for. She told us that she truly enjoys her fans, and invited us to come chat with her after the show in the lobby, adding that “you don’t have to buy anything–I just want to meet you!” She closed the show with a cover of Elvis Costello’s  “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” but came back to play an encore after a standing ovation.

Lucy ended the night with one of my favorites–“This is Home.” I’ve heard Lucy say that she wrote this song when she and her husband were first starting the adoption process about 15 years ago. They knew there was a little girl waiting for them in China, but hadn’t met Molly yet. I don’t think of myself as much of a sap, but I shed a tear when Lucy sang “when we find her/we’ll belong to her/we won’t see her first smile, we won’t hear her first word/But ours will be the first heart she holds in her hands/She can keep them beside her in her very own room.” What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday! Thanks, Lucy!

xo,

bree

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Scars on 45

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I finally got to see Scars on 45 live, and they were a delight. They sang beautifully, were warm and chatty with the crowd, explained the backstory of a few of their songs, and generally have great band chemistry. I am so glad I finally had the opportunity to see them, and I appreciate that 98.9 WCLZ brought them to Portland to do a free show for their listeners at intimate One Longfellow Square. Scars on 45 (Danny, Aimee, Nova, and Nate) are highly listenable, and I bet you’ve already heard some of their songs on the radio. Here’s a session they recorded recently at Paste Magazine’s studios.

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The rest of this post is a laundry list of sadness about poor concert etiquette. If you could use a brush up on how to be respectful during a concert experience, keep reading. If not, just check out England’s lovely Scars on 45 and call it a day.

This night was full of concert etiquette faux pas, which frustrated my concert experience a lot. Why didn’t I move, you ask? People ask me that sometimes. The better question (I think) is, why aren’t people more considerate at shows? I got to One Longfellow Square when the doors opened to get a front row spot. I am visually impaired, and I like to be close to the stage so I can see the band well. If I had moved, I would have had to give up my proximity to the stage or block someone else’s view who’d also arrived early. That’s just not fair. Also, the venue is so small that these annoyances could be experienced by plenty of people in the room.

I’d had a busy day, and I went out of my way to get to this show, both by driving all the way to South Portland to 98.9 WCLZ’s studio solely to pick up the tickets and by leaving a season reveal event at Johnson Hall in Gardiner early to get to Portland in time for doors. I was especially bummed that I ended up between three people who were not considerate of other audience members during the show.

Here are three things I witnessed that I think you should NOT do at an intimate concert:

1. Sing along. It is not your concert. Your name is not on the ticket stub. We came to hear the band sing these songs we like and that have meaning to us in person. (ESPECIALLY do not sing EVERY word to EVERY song SO LOUDLY that people hear you INSTEAD of the band). EXCEPTION–Of course you can sing along when the band invites you to. But that’s it. If you have to sing along, sing quietly. For serious. Besides pushing people aside and trying to steal their earned spots at shows, this is my biggest concert pet peeve. The girl to my immediate left sang over the band all night while standing directly underneath them. It drove me NUTS.

2. Clap. (ESPECIALLY during slow songs and definitely not during covers of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” which does not lend itself to clapping at all, Man Standing Immediately Behind Me).

3. Make awkward conversation with the band while they’re on stage. Don’t heckle the band to get their attention either. This note is mostly for people who need to feel like they’re having a special, one-on-one moment with the band. You don’t impress us by interrupting the band to talk at them. Talk to the band after the show.

My friend Andrea likes pop music and sees a lot of bands that have younger fans that love to sing along and take video all night long. She is used to all of the aforementioned concert behaviors and is truly not bothered by any of them. In fact, she said “they’re just feeling the music.” I wish I was able to see things in that kind light!

I ended up at a free show of a band I really like at a venue I really like with three girlfriends I really like. And I was annoyed so much for so much of the night that I missed out on the joy of the night. The rest of my friends didn’t miss out on the joy, and I’m glad for them. I am always impressed by how a single person can have such a negative impact on a show, and how rarely they even seem to notice. Maybe it’s the teacher in me that just wants to correct the behavior for the greater good. I am so open to reading your suggestions about how to deal or just to commiserate about bad concert etiquette you’ve experienced. Let’s be politer at shows, folks!

xo,

(Whiny–I know) bree

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Look at my lovely lady friends!

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Penny & Sparrow with Lowland Hum

Saturday, April 29, 2017

3S Artspace, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This is a long post, so let me summarize here. Penny & Sparrow are a rare find. Their music is challenging and cathartic. Seeing them live is intense and beautiful. Please, please put them on your radar and see them live. You will thank me.

I saw Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke–Penny & Sparrow–for the first time a year ago at One Longfellow Square in Portland. The incomparable Rose Cousins opened, and it was easily one of the BEST SHOWS I’VE EVER SEEN. I remember thinking early on that night about how sad I was because the show would end. That feeling doesn’t happen very often.

My steadfast concert friend Colin joined me for that show a year ago, and he was eager to join me for this show at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as well. I held baby goats at Sunflower Farm in Cumberland earlier that afternoon (so this was an excellent day!) and picked Colin up in Portland on the way to the show. We grabbed dinner at The Green Elephant in Portsmouth (did you know they have a location there?) and enjoyed the beautiful art show in the gallery at 3S Artspace before the show.

You can also pet these adorable baby goats at Sunflower Farm!

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Art by Kenley Darling at 3S Artspace

Lowland Hum are husband and wife duo Daniel and Lauren Goans. They were engaging and won me over. The room was silent as they performed their set, and Daniel and Lauren were obviously grateful. They thanked us many times for being such attentive listeners and for spending our evening giving them the gift of having an audience. I liked their vibe. I also particularly liked “Pocket Knife” and “How Long.” Check out their 2014 NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Lowland Hum are Lauren and Daniel Goans

Someone nudged me after Lowland Hum left the stage. My concert buddy Bob, who I met at an Iron & Wine show in 2011, arrived from western Massachusetts in time for Penny & Sparrow, who I’ve been raving about to him for a solid year. I was excited because it was the first time Bob, Colin, and I were all at a show together. They compared their accounts on setlist.fm and chatted about favorite bands and past shows. It was nice to merge my concert worlds and introduce Bob to Penny & Sparrow. He texted me a picture after the show of all of the Penny & Sparrow albums he bought after Colin and I left for Maine.

Penny & Sparrow took the stage to a full room, but the audience was silent and soaked in every word. They are mesmerizing. They opened with “Gold,” which is one of my favorites from their 2016 release, Let a Lover Drown You, which is very depressing and right up my alley. They mixed in a little “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” from Whitney Houston, which we got to sing along to. Andy made up an elaborate story about being a nude model for Kyle in a pinch, which was totally false, but made us laugh heartily. Their songs are SAD, but their banter between songs is HILARIOUS. Seeing P & S live is a rollercoaster. I shed some tears that night–both during their sad songs and also because I laughed to tears in between songs. It’s a lot, and it’s wonderful.

Penny & Sparrow are Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke

Something that was different at this show is that Penny & Sparrow clearly had fans in the audience who traveled to see them and who know the words to their songs. I’m glad for them. It’s incredibly well deserved.

Andy explained the “deep end” of “Catalogue”–a song about old love and what we wish we knew about ourselves and our worth when we were young. Kyle told us that the “shallow end” of “Catalogue” is that it’s about catalogues like L.L.Bean and SkyMall (RIP) and that we could choose our own adventure about how deep into the song we wanted to get. They sang a bit of “O Holy Night” from their 2016 Christmas Songs album, which might be enough for me to start liking Christmas music.

One of the last songs of the night was “Duet,” and Andy introduced the song by saying that it’s about how love grows and how being together is about being committed to each other even though you know the worst there is to know about each other, but that you’re still not going anywhere. He invited Lauren from Lowland Hum up to sing it with them and then dedicated it to his wife (over 1,100 miles away, according to Google maps, he said) and to her husband, who she joked was “maybe 19 steps away.” He said, “the choosing of someone–love without an escape hatch–is what we want.”

Seeing Penny & Sparrow live is intense–the music is deep in subject matter, but the banter is more like a comedy show. There are highs and lows. What I appreciate about Andy and Kyle is their commitment to being authentically themselves and offering their truth so humbly and beautifully to a room full of strangers. It’s really a gift to be in their presence, and I can’t wait to see them live again next time they’re in our neck of the woods.

xo,

bree

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Mipso with Ten String Symphony

Friday, April 21, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was my fourth Mipso show. I love them and will see them whenever they come to Portland. I even kind of planned my April vacation trip to Charleston, South Carolina around making it back for this show. It all started with an email I got a couple of years ago from Mipso fiddle player/vocalist Libby Rodenbough inviting me to come check out their Maine debut at One Longfellow Square. Dan Mills (Barry’s nephew, for my Bowdoin College community readers) opened that show, so I readily accepted the invitation. North Carolina’s bluegrassy folk band Mipso stole my heart. I was hooked.

Mipso came back to OLS in February and November of 2016, and I was at both shows. I thought the addition of a drummer at the November show was an issue because I couldn’t hear their vocals, but their drummer returned for this show and the balance was totally fine. It’s a relief, because one of the things I like best about them is how crystal clear their lyrics are.

Mipso is Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Wood Robinson on upright bass, Joseph Terrell on lead vocal and guitar, Libby Rodenbough on fiddle, and Yan Westerlund on drums. Their 2017 release, Coming Down the Mountain, is excellent. I particularly like the title song and “Water Runs Red” (which they closed their set with). I was very happy to hear “4 Train,” “Marianne”, and “Louise” live. Mipso is a fantastic blend of musicianship and showmanship. Their live show is engaging and it’s a real pleasure to spend an evening in their company. Until next time!

xo,

bree
PS–My dear friend Ken Templeton saw Mipso the following night at The Sinclair and shared his thoughts at Red Line Roots.

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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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