Tag Archives: Port City Music Hall

Noah Gundersen

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

If you’re lucky, every so often, a musician speaks right to your soul. I think Noah Gundersen does this for a lot of people, and I feel fortunate to count myself among them.

I saw Noah Gundersen open for City & Color back in June of 2017, and he stole the show. I’ve been a devoted City & Color fan for years, but Noah was just way more captivating that night. He’s a good example of why I try not to miss opening acts. I was really excited when he announced a headlining show at Port City Music Hall for February of this year. Our friend Max Garcia Conover was going to open, which in my mind is a very compatible match, but we got a major snowstorm and the show was postponed–for more than six months. Fortunately, Noah Gundersen is worth the wait.

I finally introduced two of my Portland concert friends, Colin and Sean, to each other a couple of weeks ago at an awesome Joseph show, and this was (already) our next show as a trio. I arrived while Harrison Whitford opened the show, and Colin and Sean were already standing along the stage when I showed up. Harrison’s music is very mellow, and many people were sitting on the floor during his set, which was kind of dear. His electric guitar reminded me a bit of Jeff Buckley. He sang a handful of songs for us and I was impressed by how attentive the small crowd was.IMG_6522

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Harrison Whitford

After Harrison’s set, my friends Bartlett and Brady came up front to say hi. Bartlett reminded me (I’d forgotten) that Max was originally supposed to open the show, so he’d checked out Noah to prep for that show and fell in love. I was glad to take in a show with some surprise bonus friends two weeks in a row at Port City.

Noah took the stage with his sister Abby on violin, and even though I had a photo pass, I only took photos during the first song. The crowd was so captivated that I could hear my shutter over any other noise in the room, and it felt like an unnecessary distraction. In fact, the crowd was so attentive, I can remember the three times I heard anything other than Noah all night–a drink being shaken at the bar, when a guy sneezed and Noah stopped to say “Bless You” to him, and towards the end of the night when a heavy footed woman made her way in boots across the room. How often at a show do you get to hear every single word with no distractions? It felt special.

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Noah and Abby Gundersen

I just really want you to know Noah’s music. His songs have depth, texture, and a kick in the feels if that’s up your alley. A handful of his songs that I particularly loved live were “Isaiah,” “Fear & Loathing,” “First Defeat,” “Family,” and “The Sound.” I was really sad to miss the Newport Folk Festival this summer (I had to sell my ticket and stay home to renovate while my dad was in town to help), because Noah performed there with Glorietta. I enjoyed “Lincoln Creek” from that project a whole lot, too. After a heavy, powerful, emotional set, Noah treated us to a two more beautifully depressing songs about death as an encore–“Send The Rain” and “Dying Now.” It was a pretty stunning night of music. I saw Brady and Bartlett over the weekend and we were excited to have the chance to relive the experience together. If Noah Gundersen is playing in your town, I couldn’t recommend seeing him live more highly. He is such a talent. I was really grateful to have been in that enthralled crowd listening to him last week. It was a true pleasure.

xo,

bree

 

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Joseph with Kelsey Kopecky

Monday, September 17, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This night was exactly what I needed. It was such a pleasure to see a band for the first time whose music I love in a room full of people who were actually listening. That should be the norm for a crowd at a show, but sadly, it typically isn’t. To my fellow show-goers–thank you for this night. I was so happy to share this night with you.

I made it to Port City Music Hall just after show opener Kelsey Kopecky took the stage. I recognized the name and Kelsey mentioned she’d played in Portland years ago opening for Michael Franti with her former band, the Kopecky Family Band, which I’d heard of. Kelsey has a pretty voice, but her banter was sometimes awkward and her songs all hit the same note to me. She made a lot of jokes about “her band,” which she called “Alexa and Siri.” I liked her cover of “Kids” by MGMT. She seems like someone learning how to be a solo act and even solicited ideas for a new band name and told us some of her mom’s suggestions.

Kelsey Kopecky

I had been wanting to see Oregon’s sister trio Joseph for years. I missed them at Newport Folk Festival in 2017 (I had a ticket, but didn’t get to go), but my friend Marian saw them up close there in a tiny show and sent me a video so I knew I’d really missed out. I’d seen a few stressful, crowded shows over the summer, so it was particularly lovely to get to stand right up front along the stage just feet away from the band. It was so nice to get to see and hear at a show for a change.img_6046img_6035Joseph–sisters Natalie Closner Schepman, Allison Closner, and Meegan Closner–are something special. Their harmonies are beautiful, their songs full of heart and honesty, and their stage presence is captivating. I was so glad a handful of friends also came out to see them, because this is a band people really should know. Here’s their NPR Tiny Desk concert, an interview they did that gives good background, and a cover song they performed with Zach Williams from The Lone Bellow (a top favorite band of mine) at their 2017 stop at Newport Folk Festival.

I appreciated that Natalie, Allison, and Meegan shared what some of their songs were about with us. I love it when artists do that at a show. I was particularly glad to hear “White Flag” and “I Don’t Mind” live. Natalie wrote a touching song about her best friend’s baby and the overwhelming feeling of love you have for a newborn and the idea, also, that no matter who who we become, we all started out as innocent as a tiny baby. Natalie gave a shout out to her friend Amber who she used to work with at Starbucks in Portland, Oregon. Amber brought her awesome service dog, Winston, who enjoyed the show with his headphones on right up front. He was the cutest!

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Do you see Winston?

Kelsey joined Joseph on stage for a beautiful, timely cover of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” too. This was such a lovely night. I noticed well into Joseph’s set that I couldn’t hear anything else but them. It’s so rare at a show these days, but we were into them. I sure hope they’ll be back.

xo,

bree

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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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Good Old War with Juke Ross

Monday, June 4, 2018

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I needed this show to go well more than I’d realized. I’ve seen many of my favorite musicians play in the last couple of years to crowds that were rudely on their phones or talking the whole show. It’s gotten disheartening, but this show was different, and helped restore my faith in audiences a little bit. Last night’s crowd was small (it was a Monday, after all), attentive, polite, and clearly appreciated being there. A special thanks to my fellow show-goers for making this such a great night!

I saw Philadelphia’s Keith [Good]win, Tim Arn[old], and Dan Sch[war]tz of Good Old War for the first time opening for my beloved Brandi Carlile at Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom back in 2010, but I’ve known their music for the whole decade they’ve been together. You know a band is great when they open the show for someone you really love, but you’re not in a hurry for them to get off stage. I’ve seen them a handful of times in person, and they are always great. I last saw them open for Josh Ritter at State Theatre in October 2017, and before that at Port City Music Hallin September of 2015. I was so glad to see they were coming back to town just six months after their last stop in Portland.

I checked out show opener, Juke Ross, online before heading down to Portland, and was eager to see him in person after watching this video of a gorgeous live performance of his song, “Colour Me.”Juke is a young singer-songwriter from Guyana, South America, which is on the Caribbean. Doors opened at Port City Music Hall an hour earlier than normal last night, and Juke Ross took the stage a few minutes after 7. There may have been 20 people in the room when he took the stage, but he decided to engage us even though we were such a small crowd, and I commend him for that. His voice is unique and lovely. He told us a little bit of the backstory behind most of his simple songs, and he shined on his cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.” I had a photo pass for the show last night from Good Old War, and I’d meant to take a few shots of Juke, but his songs were so delicate and the crowd was so attentive, that I decided my shutter would be a distraction. It’s really rare to have people at a show be so quiet and focused on the performer that taking a picture would be disruptive. I was psyched that was the case, for a change!

Juke Ross

I was pretty excited that this was an early show, and that Good Old War was on stage by 8pm. They played for a solid two hours, which was such a treat. They opened with “Coney Island,” and then told us that to celebrate their 10 year band anniversary, they’d play their first album, Only Way to Be Alone, from start to finish for us. The crowd had grown by then, and people around me seemed pretty excited to hear that announcement. Keith introduced “We’ve Come A Long Way” by telling us that he and his wife had dated and broken up in 8th grade, but that they got back together about a decade ago as Good Old War formed.

 

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Keith Goodwin

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Tim Arnold

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Good Old War, from L to R:  Kevin Goodwin, Dan Schwartz, and Tim Arnold

IMG_6335After they finished playing Only Way to Be Alone, GOW took and played many, many audience requests, including “Amazing Eyes,” “My Own Sinking Ship,” and the song Keith said is his favorite to play live, Woody’s Hood Boogie Woogie.” Keith remembered that they usually unplug and play part of their set from the floor at Port City Music Hall shows (which is just awesome), and asked us “should we play the rest of the songs down there?” We agreed enthusiastically, so the crowd parted for Keith, Tim, and Dan and the maybe 80-100 of us there encircled them for the rest of the night. Dan played guitar, and we all sang the last ten songs of the night together, which I thought was lovely and special. Also, the people around me had nice voices! Bonus!They started with “Loud Love,” which is one of my favorites. There was a kiddo named Clover who requested “Never Gonna See Me Cry,” so they played that for her even though they hadn’t practiced it and weren’t confident they knew the words (they didn’t, but figured it out). I was really happy to hear “I Should Go” and “That’s Some Dream.” They played “Here Are The Problems” as a request even though they weren’t sure they’d remember it, either. After a couple of songs they didn’t remember well, Keith wanted to play some newer songs they knew better and so they played “In a Heartbeat” and “That Feeling” from their 2018 EP, Part of You.

Keith told us that he loves Portland and even brought his family on vacation to Maine. He said “I took a boat cruise for an hour and a half and you have Eventide and Fore Street! This place is the best!” Mainers tend to agree that this is a pretty special place, so I appreciated the compliment. GOW wrapped their delightful unplugged set with “Calling Me Names,” a “Happy Birthday” song that we all sang for Tanner, who turned 28 yesterday, and “Not Quite Happiness.” They thanked us for being a great audience and told us they’d be back soon. I sure hope so. They are such a pleasure to see live, every single time. I’m always a little surprised that this band isn’t more famous than they are. They deserve the recognition, for sure. Thanks for a really lovely night, y’all!

xo,

bree

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Wild Child with The Wild Reeds

Friday, March 30, 2018

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This was such a fun, easy night. After the chaotic Glen Hansard show I attended at House of Blues in Boston the week before, I was really glad to have a night where everything was relaxed and the energy in the room was positive. Shouldn’t concerts be a good experience, after all?

I had a pretty sweet Friday afternoon–a massage, a chat with a friend who lives in Spain, and I attended a ceremony where some of my students were inducted into the National Technical Honors Society. I made it to Portland around 8:30 and grabbed a front row spot for the 9 PM show. I’d seen The Wild Reeds open for The Lone Bellow (one of my top favorite bands) back in November and really liked them. I’d never heard of Wild Child, but I listened to a few of their songs online and they were really good. I’m glad I made it to this show to check them out live.img_1137img_1149img_1153The Wild Reeds were great live a second time. Fronted by a trio of women with pipes, I like their sound and energy and that they share the lead. Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe, and Sharon Silva share the duties of playing electric and acoustic guitars, harmonium, keyboard, and harmonica. I suspect they all contribute songs to the group, too. Nick Jones and Nick Phapiseth fill out their sound on drums and bass. Kinsey, Mackenzie, and Sharon have powerful voices in their own right and also blend effortlessly. Rolling Stone named them one of “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: March 2017.” I wouldn’t call them country, but genre is so fluid these days. Check out their 2015 NPR Tiny Desk Concert to get a better feel for The Wild Reeds, and definitely put them on your live show calendar.

I’d noticed by the end of The Wild Reeds’ set that I was mostly surrounded by teenagers up front. I think most of them were there to support Wild Child, and I wonder how I’d managed to be so far behind on knowing about them myself. Either way, I am so glad I stayed to check them out. Wild Child is a seven piece band from Austin and, in a word, they’re fun. Their energy is infectiously positive, and I was so taken with lead singer/violinist Kelsey Wilson’s stage presence. She leaned into the audience, made direct eye contact with fans, and smiled warmly. “Break Bones” seemed to be a crowd favorite. This is their mellower side, but their show was dynamic. I found out a few days later that Kelsey will be at Newport Folk Festival this summer playing with Glorietta–which is a supergroup if ever there was one–including two of my favorites, Noah Gundersenand David Ramirez. I will definitely be there to check them out this summer!

I had an awesome, unobstructed front row spot for the Wild Child set, and when I decided to head home a little early, I offered my spot to a teenager who was near me and knew all of the words to all of their songs but was craning her neck to see. Her eyes lit up when we swapped spots and she realized how much better her view was. It made my day to enhance her concert experience. It’s always good for your concert karma to help your neighbors have the best possible concert experience, too. Thanks to everyone who went to this show for making this a no-drama night!

xo,

bree

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The Best Shows I Saw in 2017!

Happy 2018, All!

2017 was a hard year, but I saw some amazing shows that helped me through. I have been writing whatbreesees.com for six years now, but I’ve only ever written one “Best of” list–all the way back in 2012. I’ll try to make a “Best of” list every year from here on out. It’s good to look back.

I saw 34 shows in 2017, including musicians I’ve seen many times like Ellis Paul, Mipso, Josh Ritter, Lucy Kaplansky, The Ballroom Thieves, and Guster. Even though I saw a solid number of shows, it was actually pretty easy to choose five that stood out. Here they are:

#5. An Evening with Shovels & Rope on Wednesday, October 11 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine. This intimate show with husband and wife duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst gave me all the feels. It was just what I didn’t know I needed.

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Shovels & Rope is Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst

#4. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real with Nikki Lane on Friday, November 17 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine. I got an invitation from Lukas Nelson’s publicist the day before this sold out show and it was totally worth making it out on short notice. Lukas Nelson has loads of charisma.

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Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

#3. Jamestown Revival with Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters on Wednesday, May 3 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine. This was my birthday show, and I loved every second of the night from start to finish. Both of these bands are excellent and engaging live.

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Jamestown Revival

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Hannah Daman & the Martelle Sisters

#2. Penny & Sparrow with Lowland Hum on Saturday, April 29 at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Penny & Sparrow are easily one of my favorite live acts. Kyle and Andy write depressing, haunting songs, but their stage banter is hilarious. Their show is a rollercoaster ride in the best way possible. If you want to see a show where you can hear a pin drop, this is it. They are captivating.

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Penny & Sparrow is Kyle Jahnke and Andy Baxter

And #1. Johnnyswim on Friday, June 23 at State Theatre in Portland, Maine. Husband and wife duo Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano put on a swoon-worthy show. This show was how I started my summer vacation and it was a perfect, beautiful, inspiring night. Put this band on your “get to know” list.

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Johnnyswim is Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez

There are a few honorable mentions, too.

  • I had a blast seeing The Ghost of Paul Revere and Max Garcia Conover on New Year’s Eve at Port City Music Hall. Both of those acts are on to great things.

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    The Ghost of Paul Revere, Max Garcia Conover, and Friends

  • Noah Gundersen stole the show opening for City & Colour back in June at State Theatre. He’ll be back in Portland in a couple of weeks at Port City Music Hall. I can’t wait to see him as the headliner.

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    Noah Gundersen

  • The Suitcase Junket (Matt Lorenz) also impressed opening for The Ballroom Thieves back in February at Port City Music Hall. I’d seen him before, but he really caught my attention at this show.

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    The Suitcase Junket/Matt Lorenz

Thanks so much to all of these artists and venues for enriching 2017! To readers–thank you! I hope to see you at a show in 2018! Come say hi–I’ll be right up front.

xo,

bree

 

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The Ghost of Paul Revere with Max Garcia Conover and GoldenOak

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I really care about the clean slate a new year provides, and so I am always a little anxious about having New Year’s Eve plans I am excited about. This night fit the bill perfectly. I had a blast. Welcome, 2018!

I specifically bought a ticket to this show because my friend Max Garcia Conover joined the bill as the night’s first opener, so I knew friends would be there to support him and we could ring in 2018 together. Max was on fire. His songs always have teeth, but the crowd was clearly feeling him and folks erupted with applause after each of his songs. Max is shy by nature, but he shared with the audience and told us the background stories of a few of his songs, which I always appreciate as a concert-goer. Max mesmerized with his guitar playing and kick drum. I’ve seen Max play at least a dozen times, and this was one of his best shows. After his set, people in the audience near me asked me to tell them more about him and asked me to pass along to him how much they’d enjoyed his set.

Max Garcia Conover

Max’s new album, Motorhome, is excellent. No Depression Magazinecalled Motorhome “one of the strongest albums of 2017.” I had coffee with one of my former advisees who also attended the NYE show. She told me that she keeps meaning to take Motorhome out of the CD player in her car so she won’t overplay it, but she keeps forgetting and loves listening to it every time. “Gone,”“Motorhome,”“Abigail for a While,” and “Self Portrait”are some of my favorites on the album, but I love the whole album and think it shows Max’s most cohesive and best writing yet.

I’d never seen Portland’s GoldenOak before, but I liked their sound. They were mellower than Max, so I might have put them on first, but they have a good thing going and I’m glad I got to see them. Check out their new video for “Brother.” They’ll be at Empire with Max Garcia Conover opening on February 22.

GoldenOak

Where do I start about the Ghost of Paul Revere? 2017 was a huge year for them. They toured basically non-stop, criss crossed the country playing in most of the states in America, and put out a killer album–Monarch–that premiered on Billboard. Griffin, Max, and Sean are the best of friends, and it shows in their tight sound and relaxed, engaging stage presence. This was clearly a hometown show for GPR, and they thanked us many times for our ongoing support of the band. In their seventh year as a band, they’ve had their most successful year to date. The momentum they’ve built is palpable and will carry them to the next level. That’s even more obvious as they take the stage tomorrow night to play Conan–their first late night national talk show performance. GPR is definitely on the way to stardom. Ray Routhier featured GPR in an article for the Portland Press Herald last week appropriately titled, “The Ghost of Paul Revere is on the road to making it big.”

The Ghost of Paul Revere

img_7610Ghost had a blast on stage and played their hearts out for us. We were a doting sold out crowd, and it was all good vibes. They invited a few friends on stage to join them throughout the night–Kevin Oates from Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, Devin Mauch from The Ballroom Thieves, and Brian Graham from Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds–come to mind. Someone proposed to his girlfriend during their set, and another friend of the band announced that they’re expecting their first baby, too. It felt like a family reunion as much as a show. I like that.

Sean, Max, and Devin from The Ballroom Thieves

We counted down and rang in 2018 together, and the first song I heard in 2018 was “Next Year,” which is a heartfelt, complex tune and my favorite on Monarch. GPR invited everyone from both opening sets on stage for one of two finales and covered Dawes’ “All Your Favorite Bands” for us. Did they close the night with Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”? They definitely played it towards the end of the night, along with a fantastic cover of the Isley Brothers’ classic feel good song, “Shout.” This night was a total blast and a great way to turn the page on 2017. All good things to all of you in 2018!

xo,

bree

I spy Kevin Oates of MYRO on cello

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I’m usually the one taking photos at concerts, so I was surprised to see that I’m front row center in this picture that Matthew Robbins of matthewrobbinsphoto.com took!

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