Tag Archives: One Longfellow Square

The Avett Brothers with Lake Street Dive

Friday, October 4, 2019

The DCU Center, Worcester, Massachusetts

I hadn’t seen The Avett Brothers in eight years, and my Dan had never seen them. They were on his concert bucket list, so I logged into Ticketmaster the day tickets went on sale and we decided to make the trip to Worcester (their closest stop to us) and spend the night in a B&B. When Lake Street Dive was announced as the opening act, I was even more sold on the idea.

We checked into our B&B and walked the five or so minutes to the DCU Center. I ran into Bobbi, my friend-in-music, in the lobby before the show, which was a great surprise. We got to our nice seats just a few minutes before Lake Street Dive took the stage. I was surprised by how big the venue was. This was my sixth Lake Street Dive show. The first time I saw them was back in 2011 at One Longfellow Square in Portland with probably 40 people in the room. I’m happy for their success but much prefer to enjoy them in a more intimate venue.

Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price broke her foot “dancing alone in her living room” and so she sat on a giant blue velvet chair in the center of the stage. While she really tried to dance and move while seated and she sounds incredible no matter what, it really did affect the quality of the overall performance. Also, their sound was so echoey that it was really hard to hear. It was the worst Lake Street Dive experience I’ve had, though both issues were out of their control. I liked pianist Akie Bermiss on lead vocals for their cover of Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” and am always glad to hear “You Go Down Smooth” in person.

This was my third Avett Brothers show. I saw them twice in 2011, but not since then. I fondly remember their cellist, Joe Kwon, jumping up and down on stage at the State Theatre while playing his cello. He was incredible. 

I was a little nervous during the break between bands because the sound had been so bad during Lake Street Dive’s set, but the sound was perfect for the rest of the night. Scott and Seth Avett welcomed us to their album release show for Closer Than Together, which came out earlier in the day. I was glad to see the Avett Brothers again. They sounded great and I’d sort of forgotten how many of their songs are part of my regular rotation, like “Murder in the City,” “Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise,” and “I And Love And You.”

I was stunned by their new song, “We Americans,” that delves into patriotism in a heavy way:

The flag waves high and that’s how it should be 

So many lives given and taken in the name of freedom 

But the story’s complicated and hard to read 

Pages of the book obscured or torn out completely 

I am a son of Uncle Sam 

And I struggle to understand the good and evil 

But I’m doing the best I can 

In a place built on stolen land with stolen people

I have to mention Mia, the very, very drunk woman seated right behind us (of course) who shouted all through the Avett Brothers’ set. Mia shouted “soooooo goooooooooooood” so many times and talked loudly through every single one of their songs (except when she left to go find more drinks and got lost coming back to her seat). I kept my eyes open (because she was obviously drunk and asking her to quiet down would not have worked) and spotted a couple of seats across the aisle that we moved to so we could hear a bit less Mia for the last handful of songs. Are you going to a concert? Don’t be like Mia. Mia makes concerts not fun for people who drove a really long way to be there.

 Although the band didn’t say a whole lot or introduce many of the songs with some background (which is what I like), they played twenty songs and closed the night with “No Hard Feelings.” Dan was happy to have seen them for the first time, so, no matter what, I was glad to be there, too.

xo,

bree

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Mipso with Dan Mills 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I saw Dan Mills play on campus at Bowdoin College back in 2009 when his uncle Barry was our president. I really enjoyed him then and have seen him on the rare occasions when he’s come back to Maine. Dan Mills played a co-headlining show with Mipso at One Longfellow Square in 2015. Mipso’s fiddle player, Libby, invited me to that show, and since I knew I liked Dan Mills, I was totally game to check them out for the first time. I think I’ve seen Mipso a half dozen times now, and I will always make an effort to see them whenever they come to town. 

My Dan really likes Mipso (and our musical tastes are not super compatible, so that’s saying something), so he joined me for the show. We had our first meal at Eaux and it was DELICIOUS. My former student is a sous chef there and I loved getting to see him in his element. We walked off some of our chicken and waffles on our way over to Port City Music Hall. We grabbed a spot up front and Dan Mills took the stage soon after we arrived.

Dan Mills interacted warmly with the audience. He joked that “when you’re married, you know exactly what’s not going to happen when your wife puts in her mouthguard” before playing a sweet song about a married couple. It’s on his new EP–Small Talk and Saturdays–that he recorded in Parsonfield, Maine at Great North Sound Society. Joseph and Libby from Mipso joined Dan Mills on “Girl from Baltimore.” He told us he’d decided to scrap the whole music thing, and then a beautiful new song poured out of him just after making that choice. He played it for us as his closing song, and it was so, so lovely. Maybe it’s called “Only One,” and the lyrics “there’s aint a lighthouse you could find or any highway exit sign that’s shining brighter than the one that gets you home” hit me right in the feels. I can’t wait to hear it again.

Mipso is lovely, and I am always happy to see them live. I appreciate their warm energy, regard for one another, and crystal clear, lyric-drive,n heartfelt songs. Mipso is Joseph Terrell (lead vocal and guitar), Jacob Sharp (mandolin), Wood Robinson (upright bass), and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle). They added Yan Westerlund on drums in 2017, which I’ve adjusted to even though my Dan will you tell you that I hate drums.

I can’t really pick a favorite Mipso song, but always enjoy “Down in the Water,” “Coming Down the Mountain,” “My Burden With Me,” and “Marianne.” Their cover of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” is perfect. Mipso tours a lot, so they were especially excited to have their first day off in two weeks the day after the show. They told us they’ve always played Portland in the winter, so they were really excited to enjoy a summer day in Maine. 

I love when Mipso sings surrounding one microphone. There’s an intimacy to their shows that I really appreciate. Jacob shared the heavy inspiration behind “Hallelujah,” which I was so glad to know:

It’s a funny experience to be so intensely looking at our new songs and the emotions and experiences that we’ve had, because what we do, more than anything, is drive, and then second most, is being up here playing for you. We wrote “Hallelujah” after the Pulse shootings in Orlando. I remember starting to write it thinking that I was losing the ability to be shocked by mass shootings and that’s such a wild experience and a different type of hopelessness and helplessness than I’d felt before. I thought that surely it would feel dated by the time we sang it for people, but it feels realer and realer all the time. I remember being sad at that moment and now I just feel angry and it’s such bullshit that we can’t do anything. I think we can do something and I think there are people we can elect to office who will do something. I hope we can unite about a couple of things at least that seem pretty damn obvious.

The lyrics express that frustration, too–”We’ll say their names / Try our best to spread the blame / We’ll do the dance / We’ll hide from shame.” This song has power.

It’s always a pleasure to see Mipso, and I hope you’ll put them on your radar and check them out. This was a lovely night from start to finish!

xo,

bree

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Hiss Golden Messenger

Saturday, August 10, 2019

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

My friend Kenny T is a diehard Hiss Golden Messenger fan. Actually, a lot of guys who love music in my life love Hiss Golden Messenger, too. Without knowing any of his music, I decided to head to One Longfellow Square in Portland on a summer Saturday night to check him out for myself. There were a lot of dudes in the audience. Like, a lot. I nabbed a second row center seat, chatted with my neighbor about the Newport Folk Festival, and got ready to see what’s so great about HGM. I always prefer a solo performer and a guitar, and apparently that’s not the norm for HGM shows, so I was lucky to see MC Taylor up close and stripped down to a man, a guitar, and his songs.

MC told us that he married a Mainer and plays these shows annually when they’re here to visit family. He joked that he knew we’d be a discerning crowd, so he had to put a little work in–“it’s just a lot of words, you know?” And he was spot on. HGM songs are complex, wordy poems accompanied by guitar. I felt like not knowing the lyrics in advance was a disadvantage. I would have needed to read his songbook in advance to get the full force of what MC was trying to express. It was crystal clear that other folks in the audience adored MC and these songs. I appreciate that the songs meant so much to my fellow concert goers, though I don’t think I’m a convert.

MC said his new album Terms of Surrender is full of songs that started out in the same way with just him and his guitar in a room. He said he could remember the conception of all of the songs. He told us about writing the album last year. He said:

Last year was a tricky year for many of us. I was at loose ends. I was needing to find something. So I checked around looking for a place I could take some instruments and go write for a few days and I happened upon this cottage in the foothills of Virginia and the people that owned that land were kind enough to let me come up. I brought some guitars, recording equipment, and mushrooms with me. Not a lot, just a little bit. Not enough to lose my mind. I ate a little bit and walked to this deserted hillside. It was really cold and absolutely gorgeous and I felt thankful to be there. I was watching the sunset and then I heard the voices of children playing and I thought the mushrooms were hitting me because the place was absolutely deserted. I stood there just listening to these kids play, and instead of being terrified, I just enjoyed being in this in between place where I didn’t know if I was having a hallucination or not. Turns out, there were kids through the trees. There was a house through the trees I hadn’t seen before. They were just playing and having a normal day. However, it helped me write this song (“My Wing”). I came back into the house and wrote it really fast. It was probably the first song that was written for this new record called Terms of Surrender. When I got in touch with the people to see if I could come stay there they said, ‘yes you really should, we have two wild cats up here. One is called Hiss and the other is called Golden Messenger.’ What unwieldy names for cats.

MC paid tribute to David Berman from the Silver Jews who’d died a few days earlier. He covered “Dallas” by the Silver Jews and said:

We lost a great, great writer and musician this week named David Berman. He was a writer and an incredible poet and musician and had a band called the Silver Jews. He had a tough life, but he was a genius. When I bought my first Silver Jews record in 1996, really listening to the words he was singing cracked my head open in the best way and showed me you could be a true poet. I don’t think there was anyone in my musical universe around my same age that had a way with words quite like him. He was the best we had, I would say. The thing that’s so good about his music and his writing is that it’s hilarious and devastatingly sad at the same time. That’s what life feels like. 

The first track on MC’s new album is “I Need a Teacher.” He told us:

I have a lot of teachers in my family–my parents were both public school teachers. My wife is a public school teacher. My sister is a high school counselor. My kids both go to public school. I’ve been surrounded by teachers my entire life. When I wrote this tune, I wasn’t thinking specifically about public school teachers, but the video went down to the teacher walkout in Raleigh, North Carolina where I live. Teachers were out in force protesting for better pay and support for their students, our kids. Seems like a no brainer to me. So I asked the video director, my friend Derek, a complicated mission. He put together the pieces and thought to send a film crew to the rally. I said “if you can make a video that makes me cry, I’m all for it.” I was weeping when I watched the first edit of the video. Are there any teachers in the crowd tonight? Thank you all for doing that. That’s a hard, hard job. A lot harder than what I’m doing. This is for you guys. 

I raised my hand when MC asked if there were any teachers in the audience and we made eye contact. It was so nice to be thanked publicly for being a teacher. This moment really won me over. 

I looked up the set lists for both nights, and very few (if any) songs were repeated from the first HGM show on Friday night to the next. I think that’s awesome. It was also pretty clear that the folks in the crowd were devoted fans and many attended both nights. 

I loved MC’s story about “Happy Birthday, Baby”:

I have a daughter named Ione and she’s six years old and really feeling her oats now. I think she’s doing what I think that means. When she was about to turn five years old, she caught a snippet from “Biloxi”–‘six years old and truth be told you’re the only one’–was a bit of a birthday song for my son who is four years older than her. She got angry and didn’t like that song and said it wasn’t fair that I ‘played that song for Elijah.’ There is a song on the record called Ione’s song, but she didn’t know that, or maybe she didn’t like that song. So I told her I’d write her a song for her birthday. I wrote a song called “Happy Birthday, Baby” just to make it absolutely clear. I finished it and recorded it in my studio and added extra parts and the whole family was there and she listened intently and when it was done she said ‘thank you. It’s good. Let’s have cake.’ Since I’ve gone around the globe playing a song for Ione’s birthday I realize it’s probably more a song for me than for her and I hope she will grow into this tune. 

MC introduced his last song–“Caledonia, My Love”–telling us this song was one of those rare ones that fell into his lap. Before he played, he sincerely thanked us for being there. I enjoyed how humble and kind MC Taylor was, and how clearly he respected and appreciated his fans. He closed the night saying:

Thank you all for being here and for letting me do this job and to listening to these songs for so many years. It’s unbelievable to me that I get to do this. Whatever existential drama I go through on a day to day basis trying to be a poet and play an acoustic guitar, I am so deeply grateful to you for coming and listening to these songs. 

I am glad I checked Hiss Golden Messenger out for myself. I appreciated his sincerity and humility. I’m not sure I fell in love with his songs, but I could see so clearly that many people have, and I’m glad for them. It’s important to have music in your life that matters to you. MC Taylor has clearly provided that for a lot of people.

xo,

bree

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Lucy Dacus with Mal Blum and Fenne Lily

Sunday, March 17, 2019

SPACE Gallery, Portland, Maine

This was such a lovely night of music. It’s been rare to see shows with a listening audience, but SPACE seems to draw the right folks who really care about the craft of songwriting. I was so pleased to be able to hear the whole show instead of it being drowned out by people treating the show as background noise. I attribute it, also, to the evident love folks in the crowd had for all three artists. So many people sang along and were really joyful all night. It was such a salve for the sadness show-going has brought me in the last couple of years. I’m glad my concert buddy Sean was there to witness it with me, too.

Fenne Lily didn’t introduce herself until the very end of her set, but I was curious about her from the first few bars of her first sad song. Her guitarist’s name is impressively hard to find online, but they were clearly great friends. Both on electric guitars, Fenne Lily’s songs were honest and she shared what inspired nearly all of them (which is solid gold for me at a show). She was charming and funny and I’ll definitely listen to more of her. I did see that she’s somewhat internet famous. Her song “Top to Toe” has over 30 million plays on Spotify. If you like context like I do, check out this interview with Fenne Lily. She complemented the audience last night. She said “thank you for being loud and quiet in the right places.” I totally agree. It was SO NICE to see a show surrounded by people who wanted to be there for the music. It’s becoming more and more rare these days.

 

Fenne Lily

Mal Blum took the stage and I had to quickly search my bag for my earplugs. They were LOUD, but in a captivating, well-oiled way. Mal introduced the band and told us they’re all great friends and grateful to get to make music and tour together. Mal told us “Things Still Left To Say” is about being closeted, and told us they got to have a “Lady and Tramp moment with a turtle” in the video. Mal’s music is about heavy subjects–identity, acceptance, loss–and I was so impressed by how open Mal was when introducing songs. Mal also had self-deprecating charm and self-awareness that I thought was really refreshing. I was also a little bit caught off guard (in a fun way) but how rocking these sad songs were. Folks loved their set and sang along a lot. There were clearly a lot of people in the room to cheer on this band.

Mal Blum

Lucy Dacus took the stage and opened with a new (beautiful) song, “Fool’s Gold.” Lucy really lit up the room with her heartfelt songs and humility. I was standing right in front of the drum kit, so I wished I could have heard her lyrics better, but we were entranced. I’m trying to figure out how someone who is 23 years old has her profound ability to capture emotion in lyrics. Lucy is really impressive. I was introduced to Lucy by her 2016 NPR Tiny Desk Concert and love her collaboration with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers in boygenius.

 

Lucy Dacus

IMG_6840Lucy asked if anyone had seen her play at One Longfellow Square back in 2016. She said a lot has changed in the few years since that self-booked show. Lucy and her band played songs about equally from her 2016 album, No Burden, and her 2018 album, Historian. Everyone in the crowd was super attentive and sang along. Her band stayed behind for her solo encore. She warned us that “if you wanted to leave on a high note, you might want to leave now” before playing another new song about a friend’s difficult relationship with her father that just floored me. It was such a pleasure to be in the room for this sold out show. Thanks, Lucy!

xo,

bree

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Lula Wiles with Mia Bertelli

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I saw Lula Wiles open for Mipso in 2016 and for Darlingside in 2017 and I was eager to see them headline a show. Dan made me a quick pre-show dinner after work and I made my way over to One Longfellow Square for Lula Wiles’ sold out show. OLS was packed when I arrived, but I managed to find a single seat in the corner near the stage. Lula Wiles–Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland and Mali Obomsawin–are all Mainers, so I think the room was packed with friends and family. Their recent exposure on NPR couldn’t have hurt, either. I’m happy for them that the word about Lula Wiles is getting out!

Mia Bertelli took the stage with Benjamin Foss, and sisters Edith and Elsie Gawler. Mia told us it was Ben’s debut on the upright bass. They all live in the Belfast area and gig regularly in that neck of the woods. Their harmonies are just lovely. Mia joked that they’d played out the night of the Super Bowl and might make their band name Mia Bertelli and the Harmony Touchdowns. I was fascinated to learn that everyone on stage all night (except Lula Wiles drummer, Sean Trischka) met at Maine Fiddle Camp. If Maine Fiddle Camp needs to drum up business, they should have just recorded this show as inspiration for the talent they help foster. One of the Gawler sisters acknowledged that night’s highlighted local organization, 317 Main, where their mom, Ellen, happens to teach. The quartet performed many songs about water, including “Dip and Sway.” To say that this opening band warmed up the audience is an understatement.I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer shows, and it’s because folks in audiences have grown increasingly rude–talking incessantly, recording the show with their phones above their heads, and even pushing (a lot). I’ve started to avoid shows at bigger venues in town, and I realized 45 minutes into this intimate show at One Longfellow Square–one of Portland’s only true listening rooms–I was just so grateful to be in the room and sharing a concert experience with an audience that really wanted to be right there, too.

Everyone was pumped for Lula Wiles, and they delivered. It’s such a pleasure to hear songs with depth that are steeped in social commentary from a trio of young women who are impressive musicians with beautiful voices. Isa called this show their home state record release show, and they played a lot of songs from their second album, What Will We Do. Check out NPR First Listen’s review of their sophomore album. Lula Wiles met at Maine Fiddle Camp, but they also refined their sound together at Berklee College of Music. They have both an ease and a sophistication from both of those worlds, too.A trapping of growing success, Isa told us that a girl who was mean to her all through school wanted to hang out with her during her last visit home. She wrote a fabulous new song about it, which included the refrain “We’re not making plans, Maryann.” Lula Wiles covered “The Pain of Loving You” by Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner on their record and played it for us. Mali teased Isa before they started singing, “this is another song about being alone, right Isa?” Isa responded, “happy love songs might happen at some point, but tonight is not that night.” It might have been Eleanor who interjected that “it’s not really a Lula Wiles show unless you get to learn a lot about our personal lives.” I really appreciate seeing a band in person that wears their hearts on their sleeves and interacts with each other and with the audience and creates a true concert experience–even if they’re gently picking on each other.

Mali lamented the “exploitation and erasure of Native people” asked us to reflect on “what it is like to be Native in a country that was not made for Native people” during “Good Old American Values.” As the trio tuned their instruments to prepare, Mali joked “we have to be perfectly in tune to talk about colonialism, so bear with us.” Mali also took the lead on “Morphine,” which she dedicated to anyone who has struggled with addiction.

Isa picked up a banjo (was that the third or fourth instrument she played that night?) and took the lead on “Shaking as It Turns.” Lula Wiles wrapped up their set on a high note and the audience jumped to a standing ovation. The trio returned to the stage and covered Lucius’ “Go Home” a cappella around a single microphone. I was glad to hear a song without any instruments to sit back and enjoy Lula Wiles’ easy, airy harmonies without any distractions.What a show! Lula Wiles is the real deal, y’all!

xo,

bree

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Lake Street Dive

Sunday, December 30, 2018

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I got a great tip early on in the career of Lake Street Dive that they were a band I’d want to see live. I saw them for the first time at One Longfellow Square back in December of 2011 and was blown away. They’d played Portland maybe once before then, but were still quite unknown. I think there were only 30 people in the teeny room that night, but I still remember being absolutely floored by Rachael Price’s voice. I started writing whatbreesees.com a month later and reviewed my second Lake Street Dive show late in 2012. The word of mouth had gotten around by then and they packed the house that night at OLS. To see Lake Street Dive live is to love them, surely, and seven years later, Lake Street Dive has earned much more of the attention they richly deserve. I’d listen to Rachael sing the phone book, if phone books were still a thing. One of the top Google searches that somehow sends people to whatbreesees.com continues to be “is Rachael Price married?” Y’all–I don’t know, but her songs make it sound like you’ve got a chance!

Dan (adorably) made a mix CD of some of his top favorite songs for me early on in our relationship. He knows how much music means to me, so totally charmed me, and Lake Street Dive’s “Good Kisser” appeared on it, too. I am sort of sad in a nostalgic way that I have to see Lake Street Dive at crowded, sold out, giant venues like Thompson’s Point these days, so I’ve kind of stopped seeing them live. Dan had never seen them live, though, so I got him a ticket as one of his Christmas presents. I even agreed to sit in the balcony with him, which is a serious rarity for me. He made me a delicious dinner, and we arrived at the State Theatre as show opener, Dustbowl Revival, took the stage.

Dustbowl Revival was spirited and had great stage presence, but their songs were too repetitive and surface level for my taste. I think they’d make an incredible wedding cover band, though, which is meant to be a compliment. They were very entertaining, but their songs didn’t pierce my soul at all, which is what makes music matter to me in a way that would make me a fan.

Lake Street Dive took the stage to an adoring, sold out crowd, and folks danced and sang their hearts out all night long. Rachael’s dance moves have reached a whole new level, Bridget killed on the upright bass, McDuck played all the instruments, Mike’s drum solo was insane, and Akie Bermiss on keys was outstanding. Akie joined the band in 2017 and has added texture and richness to their funky sound. His unexpected and straight up gorgeous cover of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” was a highlight of the whole night.

I was glad to hear all of the Lake Street Dive hits in person–“Call Off Your Dogs,” “Bad Self Portraits,” “Good Kisser,” and “You Go Down Smooth.” I was especially happy to hear Rachael gave some context for “Shame, Shame, Shame” (give me some back story at a show and I’m over the moon), saying “frustration of being powerless is real, but we also hope to put as much positivity as we can into the world with our songs. So we are expressing our frustration, but we are hoping to make some changes.” My favorite song of the night was “I Can Change,” which is the closest Lake Street Dive has to a ballad. Give me a slow, sad song for the win any day!

This deserves a special paragraph all it’s own. Lake Street Dive’s perfect cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was one the best things I’ve ever seen performed live! HOLY SH#T! What an incredible way to end a super fun night!

Dan and I chatted with Sean (who reviewed this show on Forest City Magazine) on the walk home and learned they’d played pretty much the same set list both nights, but their dazzling “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover encore was special to our show only (boom!). Something Dan especially appreciates about live music is when a band is saturated with a lineup of equally-matched, impressively talented musicians. Lake Street Dive is the epitome of talent and showmanship. What a delight to see them again live and a perfect end to my 2018 concert year, too!

xo,

bree

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Ellis Paul with Laurie MacAllister

Saturday, December 29, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was my 50th Ellis Paul show! I saw him for the first time at my alma mater, Bowdoin College, back in 2002. I actually had to pass on a few of his shows in Maine over the last year so I could see my 50th show in a venue I really like, and One Longfellow Square fit the bill perfectly. Ellis and his friends have been warming up for their annual Club Passim New Year’s Eve shows at OLS for a solid decade or more, and that festive year-end energy felt like the right time for a milestone 50th show. I’d had a vision that I’d get to sing a song on stage or at least get a shout out from Ellis, and even though neither of those dreams came true, this was the best Ellis has sounded in a couple of years, so my 50th show was still an understated success.

I arrived early at OLS because this show is usually sold out and grabbed an extra seat for Colin in the front row. Ellis’ girlfriend, Laurie MacAllister of Red Molly, opened the show with Red Molly’s bassist, Craig Akin, on upright bass. Laurie put out The Lies the Poets Tell earlier in the year–a record of cover songs about love–and she played a handful of songs from that album for us. She told us that she hadn’t been able to write a song in many years, but her friend and collaborator, David Glaser, who we’d seen play at this very show last year, passed away unexpectedly, and “Out of the Darkness”–a song for David–poured out of her. She covered “Vertigo” by Mark Erelli and Antje Duvekot and “Ten Year Night” by Lucy Kaplansky. Laurie has a pretty voice and is humble and a bit shy on stage. I’d love to hear her singing her own songs in the years ahead.

Laurie MacAllister

Ellis Paul took the stage with Radoslav Lorkovic, Craig, and Laurie, and they entertained a warm crowd with a variety of Ellis’ songs spanning many years. Laurie sang lead vocals on “Home,” which she also covers on The Lies the Poets Tell. Laurie is a great support for Ellis on stage. It’s clear that his voice has struggled to hit the higher notes of his older songs given his rigorous touring schedule, and Laurie is able to supplement his vocals nicely, though it does feel like more of a duet act than a solo singer-songwriter one these days. The quartet dazzled with three covers in their annual end-of-the-year cover songs portion of the setlist–David Glaser’s lovely “Concrete River,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Africa” by Toto. Ellis joked that Don Con nearly quit the band years earlier the first time they tried to cover Toto, but that they’d worked it out.

 

 

I think Rad was “Kicking Out the Lights” in this one!

The band took an intermission after playing ten songs, and I decided to say hi to Ellis in the lobby and let him know it was my 50th show. I really don’t like talking to musicians for the most part because I’m weary about being an annoying fan, but I did want him to know. I said hello and told him it was my 50th show and he very kindly pulled me in for a hug and said a genuine thank you for the ongoing support.

After the break, Ellis and the gang played seven more songs for us. Ellis showed us his beautiful guitar made by George Krakat with Ellis’ signature on the headstock. He charmed us with the story of his family in Aroostook County’s Washburn, Maine, and the incident at the 1979 family reunion that inspired “Five Alarm Fire on the Fourth of July.” He laughed while he told us that he hadn’t changed the names of any of the people in his family in the song, and that “every generation of my family since the Civil War has produced a potato farmer until now–because everyone knows the big money is in folk music.”

Ellis told us about his upcoming album, The Storyteller’s Suitcase, which is funded by supporters. On his website, Ellis writes–”The music will be a collection of stories I’ve gathered from around the country. The Storyteller’s Suitcase will be an autobiography of songs. It’s about love, heroes, and family across the decades of my life. In the past five years since my last album Chasing Beauty I’ve left a marriage, a business partnership, a booking agency. I’ve lost my voice and regained a new one. I’m looking at this project as a new start, after a few years of regrouping and healing.” He told us that the album comes out early in 2019, and I’m eager to listen, especially after hearing “Afterlife,” which is a song Ellis wrote about explaining the death of his father to his then 5-year-old daughter. It was incredibly touching, and I had tears in my eyes while he played it. He did make us laugh, too, when he told us that this had been the “first profound conversation” he’d ever had with his daughter, but that “she’s 14 now, so our conversations are more often profoundly awkward these days.”

I am always happy to hear Ellis play Mark Erelli’s beautiful and timeless “The Only Way.” They dedicated the last song of their set–“The World Ain’t Slowin Down”–to their friend David Glaser and we sang along. We asked for an encore and Ellis and the gang unplugged and sang “Annalee” from within the crowd on the floor. It was the best Ellis show I’d seen in awhile, and a nice one to mark 50 Ellis Paul shows with, too.

xo,

bree

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