Tag Archives: Port City Music Hall

Noah Gundersen

Friday, October 11, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This was my third Noah Gundersen show, and I plan to be front and center to see him every time he comes to Portland to play forever. I saw Noah for the first time in 2017, opening for City and Colour at the State Theatre, and he stole the show. I saw Noah headline in 2018 at Port City Music Hall, and the audience was captivated. I didn’t hear a peep out of the crowd the entire night as we all just soaked in the feelings listening to Noah’s songs creates. A couple of people in the crowd were chatty this time around (unfortunately, but common these days), but it was clear that the overwhelming majority of the crowd was there because they’re totally into Noah Gundersen and were entranced. Just a heads up regarding concert etiquette at a Noah Gundersen show–if you’re whispering, you’re being too loud. Noah deserves your attention and everyone who’s a fan wants to hang on every word. 

Noah’s brother, Jonny, opened the show, and Noah and his band took the stage after a brief break. Sean (here’s his review of the show) and I found each other and our usual spot up front at Port City, and I introduced him to Elise and Stuart (who met because of Noah Gundersen and were right along the stage to see him together). I chatted with Sam Kyzivat from SnugHouse during the quick break, and my friend Bartlett showed up around then, too. The point is, Noah Gundersen brings good people together who share the bond of appreciating his heavy, soul-baring songs. 

fullsizeoutput_eb6.jpegNoah’s ability to cast a net and pull a crowd together for a meaningful shared experience is powerful. He doesn’t say much in between songs, but it doesn’t bother me because his songs are dripping with feelings and he emotes so much while performing. It’s palpable. I think Noah is really special. Noah played all but two songs from his 2019 album, Lover, which is *beautiful.* I can’t pick a favorite song, but the first three songs on the album–“Robin Williams,” “Crystal Creek,” and “Lover”–pack quite a punch.  

fullsizeoutput_ebc.jpegNoah introduced “Jesus, Jesus” by telling us that “I was basically a kid when I wrote it and my perspective has changed on some of it, but I guess the sentiment is the same.” Noah’s lyrics are heavy, including:

Jesus, Jesus there are those that say they love you

But they have treated me so goddamn mean

And I know you said ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’

But sometimes I think they do

I knew about Noah’s side project, Glorietta, but I learned about another side project, Young In The City, at this show. Noah told us his bassist Erik is also in the group and they played a Young In The City song,  “Annie,” for us. I found their full set at KEXP and look forward to listening. I will always seek to maximize my Noah Gundersen listening options. He’s incredibly talented.

I was SO glad to hear “The Sound” and “Send the Rain (To Everyone)” live. Noah introduced “Wild Horses” this way–“people are pissed about a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of stuff to be pissed about. I wrote this song as a reminder to myself to remember that we’re dealing with people. Even if we’re pissed at people, they’re still people.” Check out the lyrics we could take a lesson from: 

Maybe you would rather be angry

But I’d rather sleep at night

There’s a fraction to every outcome

There’s a spectrum of wrong and right

So give me a minute

To come to my senses

To look out the window

And stop building fences

Noah wrapped his superb set with “Lover,” and he and his band came back to the stage to play “All My Friends” as the encore. Noah’s music has such a powerful impact on me and I hope you’ll take a listen. Here’s his KEXP full set to check out. If you’re into feeling heavy feelings like I am, he’s your guy.

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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Lori McKenna with Hailey Whitters

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer shows these days. There are two reasons for the lack of live music in my life. The first is that my partner works in theater and I’ve seen 26 plays in the last year alone. The heart of the matter, though, is that audiences seem to be more and more full of people lacking basic concert etiquette these days, and it’s just not fun to go to concerts when people in the audience push, talk non-stop, and record the whole show through their phone screen. I’ve lost my patience with it, so I’m being a lot more picky about the shows I am choosing to attend. I am primarily attending seated shows, where pushing is basically impossible, because people can’t show up late and steal your chair. All of these conscious decisions absolutely melted away from my anxious concert-going brain on Sunday night, though, and I am so grateful for it.

Lori McKenna and her band came to Port City Music Hall to play her album, Bittertown, on its 15th anniversary, and it was a GA seated show. I showed up just after the doors opened (after stopping on Washington Avenue to support Hannah Daman’s [of Sibylline] new delicious maple creemee food truck venture), and found an empty second row center seat. I was blown away by the show in every sense and was so grateful to my fellow concert-goers who were attentive and came to listen. It was perfect and was such an unexpected joy. 

Hailey Whitters took the stage in vintage overalls Lori McKenna gave her, and she just blew me away. I try to never miss an opening act, and Hailey exemplifies the reason why. You just never know who you might fall in love with. Hailey is 29 and from a small town in Iowa. She’s been living in Nashville–co-writing and performing–for 12 years, and she has a voice and songs with lyrics that pierced me in the heart. I was hit right in the feels by “The Days” and “Heartland.” Hailey told us she wrote “Ten Year Town” with fellow songwriter Brandy Clark about feeling low and broken hearted by Nashville and the music industry and being away from home for ten years and not having a lot to show for it. She’d just found out she was going to get to play the Grand Ole Opry later in the week because of that song and told us, “if you have a dream and you feel like giving up–don’t.” I laughed and cried moments apart while she sang “Janice and the Hotel Bar.” Her album, The Dream, is due to be released later this year and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I am so sure Hailey’s on the cusp of getting the recognition she’s worked so hard for. Check her out in Rolling Stone

I heard a couple of women behind me talking about music during the break, so I turned around and they kindly let me join the conversation. I enjoyed the chat with Jo, who owns Cup of Joe in Portsmouth (Jo–I am listening to Erick Baker on repeat right now!), and Fiona from Bait Bag, a feminist punk trio from North Haven I’d heard of because my friend Aimsel is nuts for them.

Lori McKenna came to the stage with her band–Jamie Edwards, John Sands, Paul Kochanski, and Lyle Brewer–after a long break. She told us that Bittertown came out three days after her son David was born. Lori played the entire album straight through and she told us the story behind each and every song. It was my concert dream! She joked that she had to look most of the songs up on Google to have other people teach her how to play them again. She made us laugh a lot all night long. She said, “I have five children and they only really care about whether or not they’re going to get fed after school when they come home and I’m writing a song at the table in my sweatpants.” I loved hearing about the songs from Lori. She told us she could tell when she learned certain things about her own life and when she learned how to play certain chord progressions and with a drummer. We were in the palm of her hand all night, and I remember thinking about halfway through her set that I hadn’t heard a peep from anywhere in the room the whole set. We were all there together to hear these stories, and that really meant something to me. So, it made me laugh even more when Lori told us, “this is a master class in the worst things you can say before or after songs,” because she did everything so right, from start to finish.

We laughed throughout the evening, but especially when Lori told us about her dad, Frank Giroux, who worked for Boston Edison for 42 years and gave his six children a hard time when they didn’t turn off the lights at home. He’d say, “I work for the electric company, I don’t own the electric company.” She joked, “I can’t get away from these utility people. My husband works for the gas company in the maps and records department, which is the name of my publishing company” and she made us promise to call Dig Safe and wait two days for Gene McKenna to see if he sprays a G or does not spray a G in your yard before you dig even a little hole to put up a new mailbox.” 

I was particularly glad to hear a favorite Lori McKenna song, “If You Ask,” in person again. I think I’ve only seen Lori three times live–once in 2006 and again in 2012. All three times have been such a pleasure. She is the best of the best.

Lori’s high school in Stoughton, Massachusetts is about to be torn down, so her last two kids will attend the brand new Stoughton High School that’s been built adjacent to the old one that’s inspired so much of her songwriting. She told us there was never a timeframe that would have made sense for her and Gene to move away, so they stayed put and can walk to her dad’s house and the house her husband Gene grew up in.

Lori said that a lot of songwriting is writing songs that no one ever hears, so she was especially grateful to get to play songs for an audience. She told us that she’d talked about that aspect of songwriting with Liz Rose and Hillary Lidnsey on Malcolm Gladwell’s Broken Record. They wrote an absolutely stunning song together inspired by David Letterman, who on a Netflix special interviewing Howard Stern, said “my son is 14 years old. What’s the world going to be like when he’s my age?” It inspired When You’re My Age,” which had the audience in tears.

Lori played “Humble & Kind” and then Hailey joined her on stage for “Girl Crush” and “Happy People.” Lori told us that they first time she and Hailey ever wrote a song together she showed up in Stoughton and wanted to write a song called “Happy People.” Lori said that the best parts of the song came from Hailey–especially the parts about how we affect one another.  Lori said “It’s the happiest damn song I’ve ever helped write, so we’ll leave you with this and I hope you’re the happiest people we know.” I was a whole lot happier after this show, for sure! Thank you Lori! I sure hope you’ll come back to Maine, too, Hailey! 

xo,

bree

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Jamestown Revival

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I set up for the senior prom Friday night, hosted the prom Saturday night, but still made my way down to Portland Sunday night to see Jamestown Revival at Port City Music Hall. In retrospect, I was way too spent to not take some time off over the weekend, but they’re so worth it. I saw Jamestown Revival on my birthday back in 2017, and it was my third favorite show of 2017. I was happy to see they were coming back to town after two years away, and I’m glad I was in the room.

I showed up at the end of Chris Ross and the North’s set, and they sounded great and made me wish I’d gotten there earlier. There was a huge gap between the stage and the audience when I arrived, so I made my way to an empty space at the stage edge in between sets. I met Annie, a science teacher from Portland, and we chatted about our Jamestown Revival experiences. I often go to shows solo, so it’s nice when I end up in a good pocket of people to enjoy a show with.

Magnolia, Texas’ Jamestown Revival is warm and inviting in person. Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay share the lead, and they’ve been friends since high school. They introduced their songs with details (which I love), sincerely thanked us for being there, and even remembered the woman dressed up like a zebra at their first-ever show in Maine a couple of Octobers back. She was right there in the front row, and loved hearing that they remembered her. “Revival,” “Fur Coat Blues,” and “California (Cast Iron Soul)” stick out as crowd favorites. I thought it was interesting that they didn’t play their best-known song, “Love Is A Burden.” 98.9 WCLZ has played that song on heavy rotation for a couple of years, and I’m bet it’s the only Jamestown Revival song some of folks in the room knew. Their new single, “Who Hung The Moon,” is out now from their upcoming album, San IsabelJonathan introduced “Killing You, Killing Me” saying, “It’s like we work to distract ourselves with our phones. They keep us from having conversations where we look each other in the eye and they take us away from moments and people that matter the most.” We asked for an encore and they graciously obliged with the whole band unplugged around one microphone (while the crowd really listened!) for “Round Prairie Road.”img_2452Lots of my former students were in the room and I got to catch up with them after the show, which made it a really sweet Sunday night, too.

xo,

bree

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Courtney Marie Andrews

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’m grateful to Brandi Carlile for putting Courtney Marie Andrews on my radar. They toured together in 2018. When Brandi recommends an up-and-coming artist, I listen. I was so glad to see Courtney Marie Andrews was opening for Deer Tick at Port City Music Hall last week. I’m the senior class advisor and teaching a new course in American Foreign Policy this year, so I’m often short on time. Even so, I got myself down to Port City just in time to snag an available front row spot a few minutes before she took the stage. I knew I didn’t have the energy to stay up late for Deer Tick, so I drove 80 minutes round trip to see Courtney Marie Andrews play for 45 minutes. She was SO worth the effort! Do you ever feel that excited energy of knowing an awesome secret before other people? I feel like that with her, though I dug into her background a bit and was surprised to learn that she’s already been making music for over a decade. I am actually really late to the Courtney Marie Andrews party, but am here to invite you anyhow.

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Courtney Marie Andrews shared the stage with a drummer, bassist, and pianist. She played electric guitar and just stunned the room with her powerful lyrics and transcendent voice. The show was sold out and lots of people were clearly in the room ready for Deer Tick, but Courtney Marie Andrews held the crowd in the palm of her hand. Listen to “Rough Around the Edges” and “May Your Kindness Remain” to hear for yourself how powerful her voice is. If I had any wish for her live show, I’d (of course) want a bit more banter and to learn something about some of her songs in person. Even though she stuck almost exclusively to the songs, I was so blown away by her voice that I’d see her again in a heartbeat. Check out this live set and interview from KEXP for a bit of context about Courtney Marie Andrew’s background as a bartender and experience as a touring musician. Read NPR’s review of her 2018 album, May Your Kindness Remain, too. She’s the real deal, y’all.

xo,

bree

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Darlingside with Henry Jamison

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This was a pretty spectacular Saturday. My friend Kay is fostering kittens (!), and Dan and I got to spend some time snuggling with them in the morning. I made Christmas cookies and watched A Christmas Prince (again) with my girlfriends and adorable almost one-year-old baby Norah, and had a delicious homemade dinner at Dan’s before the show. It was a really good day already, and the icing on the cake was getting to see Darlingside for their once-a-year Maine show.

I made my way over to Port City Music Hall just before 8. I ran into my buddy Aimsel Ponti at the door and met up with Colin and Sean up front along the stage for Darlingside and Henry Jamison. I saw Darlingside for the first time at One Longfellow Square back in 2012 and they impressed me with their rich harmonies and warm audience interaction. This was my eighth Darlingside show, and they are always a pleasure to see live.

I just missed seeing Henry Jamison live back in 2012 at The Oak + The Ax in Biddeford, Maine. I arrived late for a Joe Fletcher and brown bird co-headlining show, just as his Bowdoin College-era band, The Milkman’s Union, was wrapping up their set. I recognized Henry when he took the stage from his days living in Portland working at One Longfellow Square, and it was cool to see that he has become a known musician with a devoted following in the last few years.

Henry Jamison is a Burlington, Vermont native with a massive vocabulary and skillful, layered songs. He chatted warmly with the attentive crowd. He told us he’d done a bit the last few days where he introduced the members of Darlingside by revealing which Winnie the Pooh characters represented them best. He was joined on stage by Eric Maier on keys, Walker Allen on drums, and Willoughby Morse on guitar, and I liked the fullness of sound they produced together.

IMG_6773.jpgI’d never heard a Henry Jamison song before this show, and his songs are heavy and cerebral. I enjoyed him live. I looked him up after the show and saw a lot of praise for his debut album, The Wilds. The Guardian called it “a rare thing:  an unshowy, literate gem.” Henry joked about being the cover of the Portland Phoenix. The title of the article is “The Man, The Myth.” Henry joked that “the myth is that anybody knows about me.” I learned that Henry’s song “Real Peach,” which he closed his set with, has over 40 million streams on Spotify.

Henry’s next album, Gloria Duplex, comes out in February. Promotional material about the album from his publicist’s website says it’s “Henry’s razor sharp-focused look at masculinity in 2018.” I was also not at all surprised after seeing him live to also learn that his father is a classical composer and his mother an English professor. The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree as far as vocation goes.

Darlingside took the stage to a pretty full house. I had time between sets to chat with Elise (who I’d met in the very same spot up front last fall at an intimate show with Shovels & Rope) and her sweetie, Stuart, who’d never seen Darlingside before. Darlingside is Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner, and Dave Senft. Their star is especially rising in 2018 with their first NPR Tiny Desk Concert, first appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, and a run of tour dates opening for Brandi Carlile. Dave thanked Henry for opening the show and told us–“I listen to Elton John when I’m happy and I listen to Henry Jamison when I’m sad, so I’ve come to associate Henry with my own sadness,” which I thought was a beautiful compliment, really.

The guys are a united front and are clearly great friends. They met at Williams College and have been a group for nearly a decade. Sam Kapala, their drummer for the first four or five years as a band, lives in Portland and was at the show, too. Without Sam, Darlingside is four guys with string instruments (and an occasional kick drum and tambourine) around a single microphone. I’d call their genre indie-folk, which is why what happened next was especially frustrating.

Here are a two paragraphs about concert etiquette. We’d all noticed at the end of Henry’s set that two women next to us who were standing at the end of the front row against the far wall were talking a fair amount. It’s always confusing to me when people buy concert tickets and have full voice conversations near the stage when musicians are performing. It’s disrespectful to the artists and to their fans. Someone near us finally said something to them. He asked them to please stop talking so we could hear the band. I heard it. It was innocuous. One of the women broke down sobbing in response. She sobbed for five straight songs. I haven’t seen anything like it at a show. Her sobs were almost as loud as her talking was, and we could all still sadly hear her over the band.

Another group of people pushed their way to the front between sets as people often do. If you really love a band, you should always get to the venue early and get a spot you’re happy with. It’s not fair to fans who arrived early to push your way through the crowd and cut in front of anyone. In this case, a family with young children was front row center, and this trio pushed their way right up to them and hovered immediately over them for the rest of the night. You might assume this move meant they really love and respect the band and wanted to be closer, but I know from experience that it usually doesn’t. They chatted loudly with one another from their front row center spot immediately underneath the band while Darlingside played and while fans nearby tried to listen. When members of the band bantered with the crowd, one of the women in the group responded back very loudly to every single comment as if she was having a private conversation with them. Don’t be that fan who demands attention from the band and interrupts their flow. Wait until after the show and say hello to the band at the merch table instead.

I’ve got to say that for a folk-ish show, I had a really hard time staying focused on the music, and I was touching the stage in the front row near the band. An audience has the power to make or break a concert experience. Towards the end of their lovely set (distracted or not, they’re amazing), Darlingside unplugged and jumped off stage to play a new song from the center of the room in the crowd. They’d played many songs from their 2018 album, Extralife, but closed with “God of Loss,” which is a favorite of mine. They came back to the stage and left us with “Best of the Best of Times” from Extralife, and you’ve got to check out the awesome (as always) video.

IMG_6785IMG_6796IMG_6805IMG_6818Darlingside is always a treat to see live and I feel lucky we’re still able to see them at an intimate venue like Port City Music Hall. See you guys next year!

xo,

bree

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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 & Colour back in June of 2017, and he stole the show. I’ve been a devoted City & Colour 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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