Tag Archives: One Longfellow Square

Ghostland Festival

Saturday, September 1, 2019

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

I missed a ton of concerts this summer because my sweet dad and his awesome girlfriend came up from Florida to help me renovate my cute new house on a tight schedule, so I was so pumped to make up some missed music all at one at Ghostland. I’d forgotten, but I was at the first Ghostland Festival that The Ghost of Paul Revere put together back in 2014 at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick. This show, just four years later, was massive in comparison, and speaks to Ghost’s success and the community of fans they’ve built.

This was my last weekend before kids came back to school, and I was determined to make the most of it. Dan and I made it to Thompson’s Point to pick up our VIP bracelets (seven years of concert blogging has its perks) for the show and I gave my friends Rachel and Ian my spare presale ticket for the show. Colin saved us a spot up front and we made it to him just in time for Sibylline’s set. I’m a big fan of Sibylline, who you may recognize as Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters. I’ve seen them a few times, and their rich harmonies, soulful lyrics, and string arrangements are lovely.

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Sibylline

My dear friend Max Garcia Conover took the stage next, and wowed the crowd with his frank and passionate lyrics about social justice and greed. Max is a troubadour in the truest sense, and his banter was inspiring. He said, “I think we are all living through a time when our society is defined by constant vilification and our government is defined by selfishness. I think when you’re living in that kind of time, any act of empathy is an act of civil disobedience and every song is a protest song and every music festival is a rally.” Max clearly impressed everyone around me up front, and I was proud to be part of his fan club while he played for his biggest crowd to date. For more about Max, here’s my review of his last show at One Longfellow Square.

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Max Garcia Conover (right) and Ben Cosgrove (left)

I’d promised Dan a normal concert experience, but that’s not my jam. Typically, I get to a show before doors open, get a spot along the barricade right up front, and forgo food and drink to maintain a spot up close for the entire show. Dan was hungry, so he made his way to the food trucks along the water at Thompson’s Point, but there were so few that he ended up being in line for almost an hour and he sadly missed one of my favorite bands, The Ballroom Thieves. Martin explained that one of their new songs was “meant to be a song about love and kindness and about speaking up for people who don’t have a voice and can’t stand up for themselves. We need to find common ground with people who we disagree with to move forward.”

The Ballroom Thieves–Martin, Devin, and Callie–have chemistry and talent to spare, and I’m always happy to get to see them live. They were joined onstage for a couple of songs by the insanely talented Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, which takes any musical experience and makes it exponentially better. The Thieves all live in Maine now, so they’re playing here more, and just announceda show on December 28at Port City Music Hall. Check out this post for more on the Thieves.

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The Ballroom Thieves with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra

I was a little floored when I saw that South Carolina’s Shovels & Rope was slated to play Ghostland. Michael and Cary Ann are the real deal with percussive, rowdy songs and so much warmth onstage. My pal Aimsel and I saw them from the front row at Port City back last October, which was a truly special and unbeatable experience. The crowd started to swell during their boisterous set, so Dan and I left Colin and ventured over to the renovated shipping container that Thompson’s Point uses as a VIP lounge.

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Shovels & Rope

When The Ghost of Paul Revere took the stage, there were solidly 3,500 fans gathered to cheer them on. I think every single Buxton resident was there, for sure, because Ghostland was a hometown celebration of a band that locals have loved for many years now. Ghost–Griffin, Sean, and Max–always puts on a great show, and they were joined for their whole set by the immensely talented duo of Ben Cosgrove on piano and accordion and Kevin Oates on cello, which made their set exceptional. The Maine Youth Rock Orchestra joined them for a couple of songs, too, and I loved watching all the guys in the band turn around to cheer for the kids before they left the stage.

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From L to R: Ben Cosgrove, Griffin Sherry, Sean McCarthy, Max Davis, and Kevin Oates

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Cheering for MYRO

Sean asked if we’d be willing to turn on the flashlights on our cell phones, and the crowd happily obliged and lit up the lovely night at Thompson’s Point. I saw The Ghost of Paul Revere last on New Year’s Eve, and was especially happy to hear “Next Year”–the first song I heard in 2018–again live. The Ballroom Thieves joined Ghost onstage for an awesome cover of “Under Pressure” to end the night on a high note.

img_5766img_5814So many thanks to Griffin, Sean, and Max from Ghost for their painstaking effort to organize such an awesome party to celebrate the end of summer. So many of my friends were at this show and certainly most of my favorite bands were. Until next year?!

xo,

bree

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Max Garcia Conover with Kafari

Friday, June 29, 2019

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was a perfect day–a sunny day with a friend at Popham Beach, goat yoga (exactly what it sounds like) at Sunflower Farm in torrential rain that cleared and offered a rainbow, and then a lovely, warm album release show with tons of friends in the crowd to support our dear friend, Max Garcia Conover.

I’ve written enthusiastically about Max’s shows easily a dozen times now, but he keeps getting better and I like him more and more live. My Bowdoin College classmate and dear friend, Ken Templeton, interviewed Max ahead of this Stagger albumrelease show, and you should read it to learn a ton of context and dig into Max’s songwriting process. My good pal Aimsel Ponti is also a Max fan, and she interviewed him and talks a bit more about the songs on Stagger.

Max introduced his friend, Ahmad Kafari, to the stage to open the show. Max told us that he met Kafari when he was a prospective student visiting Bowdoin College. After dinner, he sat down at a piano outside the dining hall and played some of the most beautiful sounds Max said he’d ever heard. It drew a crowd. Kafari plays piano, rhythm bones, and mixes. His music is soothing and soulful and layered. He is humble and sweet. As a good teacher does, Kafari explained the surprising origins of rhythm bones to us (they came from Ireland and ended up in minstrel shows) and asked someone in the audience to hand out a bunch to the crowd so folks could learn to play them. Kafari played for about half an hour and then welcomed Max to the stage.

Max is a quiet and introspective guy. I listened to him sing a few songs and answer some questions on 98.9 WCLZ the day before the show, and I was struck by how very humble he is. Max had just gotten home from a month-long tour of Spain, Poland, Switzerland, and Sweden, and he seemed glad to be playing in Portland to a room full of his closest friends and supporters. He said, “there are lots of people here who are very close to me and who I admire and feel so much for. It’s just on the edge of overwhelming and too good.” Max played more than the eleven songs on Stagger, including a favorite older song of his called “The Wedding Line.” To introduce the song, he told us that when his dad got remarried about ten years ago, Max remembered seeing his dad standing at the altar in a vulnerable, hopeful way.

Max grew up in a religious town in western New York, and used to go to church because everyone else did, too. After he stopped going, he went for nature walks on Sundays with his awesome mom (Hi, Vivian!)  and they’d read and recite poetry together. Max said, “I thought we were praying, which says a lot about how I got here.” About his next song, “Holy Rider Pt. 4,” Max said, “this is the fourth time I’ve written this song about a preacher.” A lyric that sticks out to me is “The last thing I want / is to burn something down / The last thing I want is to ruin this song / To make anyone feel like they’re / hearing it wrong.” One of the things that Ken talked to Max about is how many times Max comes back to songs and changes them. On Stagger, 3 of 11 songs are titled as PT. 2, one is PT. 4, and one is PT. 1. Songwriting for Max is a never ending process, for sure.

Max is also writing songs about what’s going on in our world today–the good, the bad, and the ugly. He talked about the for profit prison system in Louisiana, which had the world largest prison population per capita. He talked about the crazy laws there designed to keep people in jail. For example, the second time you steal a car in Louisiana, you have to go to jail for 24 years. He wrote a song about the guy who profits from the system–he “probably has a house and wife and kids and this is a song about that guy.”

“Gone” is a song from Max’s 2017 release, Motorhome. Maybe five years after quitting church, Max started going back to because “this girl I liked was going there and one day we both admitted to each other that we didn’t like church at all.” They snuck away from church during the 4th of July fireworks, got on a bus, and took off to Canada together.

Max encouraged us to ask questions throughout the night, and someone asked about “Funeral Guests,” which is a stunning song. The lyrics are heart-wrenching:

I asked him not to tell everyone else
Alright he said
But they all like you
so much more than you like yourself

When he died
his mother called
to talk to me about his funeral guests
She said she wanted
to get to know me
to understand what I was to him

I said I don’t know myself
but I think he did

Someone asked if it was autobiographical, I think, but it’s not. Max said he was leaving a show in Burlington, Vermont headed for Cleveland, and he was listening to A Little Life and crying in the car a lot, so he didn’t notice that Google maps had adjusted his route to save him 5 minutes by sending him along the Trans-Canada Highway until he found himself sitting at the border without a passport. He finagled his way onward, but pulled over to write that song so he could spend a bit more time with the character in the book.

To introduce “New Sweden,” Max joked that “people in Sweden don’t love the idea of New Sweden.” That song is heavy, and it’s evolved over the years to its current incarnation. Afterwards, Max introduced us to his band–his mom’s suitcase from when she was in college and one of her suitcases from when she was in her twenties. Max introduced “Rich Man” by saying it feels like the first song he’s written that’s completely in his voice. Spencer Albee produced the song and wrote about “Rich Man” on his Facebook page ahead of the show:

“This song is intimate, honest and vulnerable. To my ears, ‘protest’ songs are usually heavy handed, or they are pandering to a particular audience, but this one is different. What I hear in this song, and what I relate to most, is that this is the voice of a person in the world who is trying to make sense of all the crazy shit going on around them.

It strikes a chord.

That’s why I really wanted to help bring it to life. Max is a tremendous guy. ‘Rich Man’ is a tremendous song.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Spencer, and I hope you’ll give “Rich Man” a listen. Max also played it on 207 the week before this show. I am so glad that Max is getting the attention we know he deserves, though I doubt he thinks he deserves any attention at all.

Max told us the backstory of the “Crow Song.” His record label, Son Canciones, invites two musicians from their label to meet on a working farm in Barcelona and spend a week together to write and record an album. Max said, “it sounded wonderful and romantic, but I got there and it was the worst.” He said it was beautiful on the farm–he watched horses galloping by–but he couldn’t think of any songs at all. He searched for inspiration inside the very old farmhouse, and eventually found a dark room and sat down to strum a few chords when a crow randomly stepped out of the fireplace, got upset that Max was there and tried to escape, but just kept hitting the walls again and again, missing the small exit, until he died. We tried not to laugh when Max told us that the poor crow inspired the first he wrote that week. Max is decidedly an introvert, so when he asked us to sing along with “Crow Song,” he readily admitted he probably wouldn’t if he were in the crowd. Our friend Ken has a booming voice, and without naming him, I knew why Max knew it would work on this particular night to ask us to sing. We closed Max’s set together while he unplugged and came to the front of the stage with the hopeful lines “I’ll be home where I go / I’ll be home wherever I go / I’ll be home where I go / Someday.”

We cheered for an encore, so Max played “Grand Marquis” for us. The main character of the song is a 1986 Grand Marquis that Max found on Craigslist when his van died. Max chuckled as he told us that it “wasn’t listed as a car–it was listed as a one bedroom apartment. I called the guy and we talked about it over the phone and after a long time, he told me it didn’t have an engine. So I didn’t get it, and wrote a song about it instead.”

This was a spectacular night. Max has hit his stride with banter even though it pains him some and he made us laugh a lot, despite how serious and heavy many of his songs are. I grabbed a physical copy of Stagger that night, but I suspect they’re all gone by now. The only place where you can find it for now is here, and I really encourage you to listen. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that I have listened to it probably 20 times straight through on repeat in the couple of weeks since the show. It is by far my favorite MGC album.

I can’t pick a favorite song on Stagger, but a handful of lines that I haven’t mentioned above really do stick out to me at every listen. In “We’ll Be Friends,” I love the notion that“this is bravery / this is the romance of the century / this is music right in front of me.” Also, in “The End of Fables,” the image that “the shepherd shot the sheep / Fell to his knees and he cried / They looked like wolves to me” is particularly heartbreaking. Stagger is incredibly well-written and Max’s songs are more melodic than I’m used to in a way that I find intriguing.

This post is so long, but it was a night worthy of a thorough recap. I do that for the musicians I really love. Max is surely one of them.

xo,

bree

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Caitlin Canty with Noam Pikelny

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I saw Caitlin Canty by chance back in May of 2012. I was at a Jeffrey Foucault show at One Longfellow Square. At some point in the night he introduced his friend and fellow musician, Vermont’s Caitlin Canty. She was in Portland working on a new record with Sam Kapala (a founding member of Darlingside), and he had taken her out for dinner before the show. He asked her to join him for a song, and I was smitten with her airy, mesmerizing voice. What I didn’t know at the time was that I’d witnessed their first of what would be many, many performances together. I chatted for a while with Caitlin after that show back in 2012, and she has become a friend-in-music who I look forward to seeing whenever she’s in town. I hadn’t seen Caitlin live since 2015 when she moved away to Nashville, so I was really looking forward to seeing her back in Portland.

Colin kindly saved me a seat in the front row, and I arrived a few minutes before show time. I’d had a migraine at school earlier in the day, but I took a nap and rallied for the show. Caitlin and Noam Pikelny took the stage just after 8, and opened with a beautiful song that caught the attention of NPR, “Get Up.” I love that song, and Caitlin grabbed everyone’s attention from the first measure of it, too. Something I noticed even more at this show than last time is that Caitlin has this Alison Krauss quality to her voice where every single sound she makes is truly gorgeous.

Caitlin told us about a song from the Golden Hour album she released back in 2012, “Dotted Line,” that made its way onto House of Cards. She told us “it’s a very good day for a songwriter” when a television show picks up a song. Caitlin, her mom, and her brother watched the episode to hear her song, but didn’t hear it. She’d already cashed the check, so she was puzzled. They watched it again, and realized that they heard three instrumental measures of it during a creepy moment where a woman carrying groceries was being followed down a street. Caitlin laughed and told us it was pretty ironic that one of her “kindest, friendliest” songs was the soundtrack of such a creepy on screen moment.We saw Caitlin and Noam at the end of the release tour for her newest album, Motel Bouquet, which they played every song from for us. Noam produced her album, although he normally tours with The Punch Brothers. It was really a treat to hear him play in such a tiny venue. Caitlin had played a hometown show in Vermont a night or two earlier, and she said it was a community effort. The show was in a space that’s not normally a venue, so her dad and brother set up chairs, her high school music teacher ran the sound, and they borrowed a rug from a neighbor to absorb some of the echo on stage. She joked that compared to that show “you’re all sitting so quietly and you’re not sweaty from setting up chairs or anything.”

Caitlin’s album is named for a bouquet of flowers someone left for her after a show that inspired a song, but she’d thought about naming it Who after one of her favorite songs on the album. She said she was so lucky to have Noam as her producer for many reasons, but also because he talked her out of naming her album Caitlin Canty: Who? Noam chimed in that it was “better than Caitlin Canty: Why?” Noam and Caitlin struck a deal that she’d play a song solo if he would. Noam introduced his solo song by telling us that a year and a half ago, “it became apparent that it was time, yet again, to milk the instrumental banjo cash cow.” His 2017 release, Universal Favorite, is mostly instrumental banjo music. He joked, “I’ll play you guys the first track off the record, a 53 minute piece, so lock the doors.” The song he played, “Wavelength,” was GORGEOUS. I had no idea that banjo could sound like that. Noam didn’t say much, but he was funny when he did talk. Caitlin mentioned that Noam’s friend texted that he couldn’t make it to the show because his guinea pig died. Noam chimed in, “some of you are laughing right now, but not me. It’s the strangest excuse yet, and shows folks are having to dig real deep to find excuses to not come out to hear me play.”

Caitlin told the story of how she’d come to sing her first song on stage at One Longfellow Square with Jeffrey Foucault, and thanked OLS for their continued support. She generously offered to give anyone who signed up to become a One Longfellow Square member that night one of her albums, which was very kind. She told us that she loves playing her songs for “cold weather folks, but they tend to scoot right out the door after the show.” She asked us to stop by the merch table and say hello before heading home.

I can’t remember what Caitlin played last, but my favorite song on Hotel Bouquet (which I’ve listened to a lot in the car over the last week) so far is “Leaping Out.” I do know that she and Noam earned and we gave a standing ovation. They treated us to one last song, a cover of Emmylou Harris’ “Tennessee Waltz” in honor of heading home to Nashville the next day after a successful record release tour. Caitlin remembered me when I saw her after the show and we chatted about how much she’s loved living in Nashville. I’m so happy for her success.

Colin saw Caitlin open for Josh Ritter last night in Portsmouth, and she’ll be back in town on July 20 opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter at the State Theatre. Caitlin is so worth hearing in person, and I hope you’ll check her out!

xo,

bree

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Liz Longley with Monique Barrett

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was a perfect day. My 2019 class officers and I delivered hundreds of roses and carnations to kids at school, I had a decadent spa facial after school, and Colin met me at One Longfellow Square for this fantastic show. I hadn’t seenPortland songstress Monique Barrett in too long, so when I saw she was opening forLiz Longley, I eagerly added the show to my calendar. I am SO glad I was in the room for this stellar night.

Monique Barrett was charming and personal with the audience. I always appreciate when a musician interacts with the crowd by sharing stories behind the songs and making us feel like part of a concert experience. Monique does this so well. She played all of her songs about love for us in honor of Valentine’s Day, including a sweet song for her nephew Luca. Monique’s honesty shone through, and we laughed a lot together. Monique told us that she was first introduced to Liz Longley’s music when a friend asked her to learn Liz’s “When You’ve Got Trouble” to sing with her at her sister’s wedding. Monique said that her heart was so full in that moment, and she was honored both to have sung that song for a her friend’s sister on her wedding day and now to share the stage with Liz. She ended her lovely set with my favorite of her songs, “Make It Better.”

Monique Barrett

I’d somehow never seen Liz Longley before, but she impressed me in mere seconds. I remember leaning over to Colin maybe 30 seconds into her first song and whispering “I LOVE her!” Her voice is so strong and full that it fills the space that sometimes exists in songs by other singer songwriters. I was smitten right away. Liz told us she had to dig really deep into her catalog of songs to find any about love in a positive way. Most of her songs, and Monique’s too, were about love lost. She asked if anyone in the crowd wasn’t on a date. Colin and I raised our hands (were we the only ones?) and she looked at us and said, “so most of these songs are really for you.” I love a good break up song, so Liz’s music is firmly in my wheelhouse.

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Liz Longley

Liz told us that she just turned 30 and was a little freaked out about it, but the crowd reassured her life is better after 30. She wrote a song the day before our show in the car during her six hour drive, and told us that writing in the car can be liberating because she doesn’t getting get stuck in the structure of a guitar or piano part. She also told us that one of her favorite childhood memories was driving home from the Shore with her mom. Her mom used to sing while she drove to stay awake, and “I Will” by the Beatles was a favorite of her songs to sing. Liz sang a beautiful cover of it for us.

She introduced “Weightless”by telling us that she’d dated someone for three years and they ended up fighting over how to divide their stuff when they broke up even though they’d gotten it all off Craiglist because they were both poor musicians. The lyrics are personal and relatable:

“You can have the couch, the lamp, the diamond ring/the books on the shelf, the dishes in the sink/take take take take take everything.” She told us that she stopped writing music for almost a year afterwards.

I absolutely loved learning that“Rush” was written for Jim and Pam from The Office. Liz said she was watching the episode where they have their first kiss with the sound off, and the words came to her–“as we surrender to it all, have you ever felt so alive/as I feel with you tonight.” Liz told us that she studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that’s when it clicked for me that I loved her honest, personal, hard hitting lyrics as much as I loved her voice. I realized as I wrote this that I don’t often quote song lyrics, but that’s an area where Liz shines. “Memphis” just slays–“The skies aren’t clear and you’re not here/so I just keep telling myself/you wouldn’t make it to Memphis/you wouldn’t make it halfway/you take that lonely road/and you realize your mistake.”

I read up on Liz after this show, and I listened to her entire musical catalog. She lives in Nashville and makes her living as a musician. I spent some of the night trying to figure out who she sounds like, but she sang the first line to a song I can’t find the name of–the lyrics were “Late in September when autumn came”–and it occurred to me that she sounds like Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars), which is a sincere compliment.

Liz played the first song of hers I ever heard, “When You’ve Got Trouble,”and I was so glad to hear it in person. She joked with us all night–she’s pretty self-deprecating, actually–and told us that she was drunk shopping on Amazon years ago and bought some rollerblades. Turns out, she loves them, and bought another pair for her 30th birthday. She laughed as she told us, “if you need to spice up your life, buy rollerblades!”

Liz earned the standing ovation she received, and she kindly closed the night with an encore–a cover of the Alternate Routes“Nothing More.” She played a Concert Window show a couple of months ago to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief, and attributed the night’s success (they raised $3,500 for hurricane victims) to that song, “because it brings people together, which we need in these times.” I couldn’t agree more.

This was a special night. I felt lucky to be there. I hope you’ll look up both of these talented women and see them live.

xo,

bree

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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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