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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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Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real with Nikki Lane

Friday, November 17, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This night gets top marks from start to finish. It was the end of a long week–I’d been sick, we had parent teacher conferences at school until late, I’d seen the Lone Bellow earlier in the week, and I was generally pooped–but when Lukas Nelson’s publicist invited me to come to the sold out show, I knew I needed to dig deep. It was definitely the right choice.

Marian joined me at Empire and we had a leisurely dinner before the show. Portland was packed–Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn were in town at the State Theatre, and Elton John was at the Cross Insurance Center, too. We made it to Port City Music Hall a little before 7:30, expecting to arrive on the early side in order to grab a good spot up front for the sold out show, but the line was up the block. I wondered if doors weren’t open yet, but it turned out that Port City has increased their security protocol and everyone was asked to empty their pockets and was wanded with metal detectors. It was a pretty slow process. I think a third person on the door wanding would help in the future, especially during sold out shows.

Marian and I made our way towards the stage and met Phyllis and her family. Phyllis has been to seven Farm Aid shows and is a huge Lukas Nelson  fan. I was unfamiliar with both Lukas and show opener Nikki Lane, but Phyllis’ enthusiasm was contagious. I’d also heard from friends who attended the Newport Folk Festival last summer that Nikki was a hit there, so I was excited for the entire double bill.

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Here’s Phyllis with Lukas. Thanks to her daughter, Sarah, for sending me this adorable picture!

Nikki Lane took the stage around 8:10. Nikki and her band live in Nashville, and she described it as a small community where everyone knows everyone. Nikki told us that a friend was in a serious relationship, but found out that her partner had a secret life with a wife and family, which inspired her song “Lies.”I’d heard “Right Time” and “Jackpot” on 98.9 WCLZ. Nikki’s music has a vintage country rock vibe and she has a killer voice.

IMG_5999IMG_6014Concert etiquette tip moment. I am always disappointed in people at shows who arrive at the last second, but push their way to the front and cut in front of people who arrived early to earn that good spot. This happened to us, too, and it was a bummer. Folks–if you want to be up front, arrive early. If you see an empty square foot of space in the front, that is not enough space for you to squeeze yourself into. Resist the urge. It is really rude.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real took the stage after a lengthy transition. I grabbed a spot just behind the barricade to photograph during the first three songs of Lukas’ set, and he was mesmerizing. I’d heard he was dreamy from friends in the music industry, but I think everyone in the room had an immediate crush on him. He has “it” factor, and a confident stage presence. My dear friend Ken Templeton interviewed Lukas for Red Line Roots, and you can learn a bit about Lukas’ recent album and songwriting process here.IMG_6032IMG_6048IMG_6050IMG_6084Up to that moment, I was a total Lukas Nelson & POTR novice. I’d only ever heard Lukas’ song “Find Yourself” on WCLZ, and I knew very little about him, except he is Willie Nelson’s son and has collaborated with Lady Gaga (that’s her singing with him on “Find Yourself”) and Jess and Holly of Lucius, whom I adore. Lukas played an acoustic Studio Z set earlier in the afternoon at 98.9 WCLZ that I’d also missed, but you can check out here. I didn’t know that POTR has been together about a decade, which is a long time since Lukas is only 28 years old. Lukas was joined on stage by Tato Melgar (percussion), Anthony LoGerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass), and Jesse Siebenberg (steel guitar and organ). Lukas introduced “Runnin’ Shine” by telling us that some things aren’t wrong, just illegal. He sang a song for his hometown of Austin, Texas, “Just Outside of Austin,” and a song about commitment that warns “forever is a four letter word.” He also revealed that he’d been in love with a girl named Georgia who he couldn’t put out of his mind after they broke up because he was playing Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” every night on tour with his dad, so he penned “Forget About Georgia.” You can hear more about Lukas (I like context) in this interview he did with NPR Music back in August. IMG_6102IMG_6135Lukas played a lot of cover songs. They were beautiful and he can really sing, but he has a lot of his own songs under his belt, and I was surprised to not hear more of them in person. He covered Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” and Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.” Nikki Lane joined him on stage to cover Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” too. At the time, I thought maybe Lukas and POTR only had one album out and didn’t have enough material for a headlining set, but I was wrong. It was certainly fun to sing along to a handful of classic tunes with a big crowd on a cold Friday night, though!

I emphatically recommend seeing Lukas Nelson and POTR in person. Lucky for you, they’re still on tour! This night was an absolute blast!

xo,

bree

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An Evening with Shovels & Rope

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Some nights are good for your soul. This was one of them. It was just what I needed, actually. I guess that’s what makes this a longer post than I’d intended to write. Here goes!

I booked my ticket to Florida to visit my dad in February, introduced my beloved rescue cats Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher to friends, and made my way to Portland in time to grab a quick dinner at Empire with my friend-in-music, Aimsel Ponti. I actually saw husband and wife duo Shovels & Rope upstairs at Empire for the first time back in March of 2012. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are a force. I was really glad to have the chance to see them again in Portland.

Aimsel and I nerded out about our favorite new albums, recent shows we’ve seen or booked, and bands we love over a delicious dinner, and we got to Port City Music Hall when doors opened. Port City graciously posted on Facebook to remind us that this was an intimate sold out “Evening with” Shovels & Rope, and that there was no opening act. I was psyched about that, too. It was awesome to be home and in bed at 10:30 on a school night.

Thanks, Aims, for taking this selfie. I am never in show pictures!

Aimsel and I grabbed a spot front row center next to preschool teacher Elise (she’s a regular Newport Folk Festival goer) and we all chatted about bands we love (man, that is good for what ails you). Charleston’s Cary Ann and Michael took the stage right at 8 o’clock, and they wowed for two solid hours. Their music is a powerful Southern folky rock and their mastery of so many instruments–their voices, guitar, kick drum, snare, tambourine, harmonica, shaker, and keys–are downright impressive. If I could sing like someone, I might just pick Cary Ann. Her raspy, powerful voice cuts right through. It was an absolute pleasure to be in their company. It was a real treat to be just five feet away, too, because I was clearly able to witness their passion and chemistry.

Cary Ann and Michael opened with a cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” that gathered our attention beautifully. Cary Ann told us about a trip to New Orleans for a wedding they went on where they got mixed up in a pedestrian parade of revelers by the river dressed in beautiful costumes. There was a moment at the river before the wedding where the revelers sang to say goodbye to people they’d lost in the year. She said it was a full circle moment of seeing life and death celebrated together, and it inspired “St. Anne’s Parade.”

This blurry picture sums up Shovels & Rope quite nicely

Times are hard for those who care about others these days. Cary Ann told us “We will be hopeful for you. You just hold on. We will keep holding on and will be holding onto it for you for when you’re ready to come back to the hopeful side.” It was nice to hear. Michael introduced “San Andreas Fault Line Blues” by telling us about driving their van from California to the east coast listening to Grapes of Wrath. The book was inspired by that part of the country, and they started to get loopy from the drive and imagined being able to hop into the book to tell the characters to watch out for the dangers in the book.

A newer song, “Come On Utah,” imagines a hero horse named Utah that helps people reconnect after a wall that was put up comes down. Cary Ann told us that they used to play four hour rock ‘n roll cover gigs in Charleston and used to depend on Tom Petty’s “Anything That’s Rock ‘n Roll” to propel them into the third set. She said “It was a dream back then that we would be out of that club and here playing for you someday. And on Tom Petty’s wings we will sail into the future.”

I go to shows because I want to have a concert experience. When musicians tell us the inspiration for their songs, I am happy to listen and learn. It makes the music mean more to me. Michael spoke for a bit about his dad, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. He told us that they’d recently had to move his dad into a place, “and that’s terrible. My parents have been married for 56 years and my dad is a musician. We used to jam with him a lot, and we still do, just in a new, weird way. He used to rope my mom into playing music with him and would buy weird instruments like an autoharp for her to play. We wrote this song a couple of years ago when he was a little bit better than he is now. We wrote it for my mother. Cary and my mom are besties. This is called ‘Mourning Song’ and it’s kind of weird to play because there’s real human stuff going on. . .”

Someone in the crowd responded “People can relate!”

Michael heard her and nodded, and said “and for that reason, we wanted to share it for you, to have a moment, whether it’s dark or joyful or whatever with you. And the idea of the song is that after he has left, he left my mom a few chords and a tune to remember him by, which I think would be a sweet thing for somebody to do. Anyhow, thank you for the indulgence.” Check out the lyrics:

Morning song, mourning song/You were always on my mind and even though now I am gone/I taught you these four chords so you could sing your mourning song.

It cuts right to the heart of everything, doesn’t it?

After a high octane, personal, interactive set, Shovels & Rope left the stage. They came back for a few songs, including a brand new one. They grabbed a piece of paper with typed lyrics and sang a powerful song for us (they’ve since started calling it “Oh Great, America”). Cary Ann told us that it is a reflection on the current state of affairs. There was a collective sigh. Michael told us, “Some of you might not agree with all of this and that’s fine. I’m just glad we are all here together in one room trying to celebrate something and have fun together, and I think that’s important given everything that’s going on. If it pisses you off, maybe just laugh it off and have a drink.” Check out some of the lyrics:

There’s a steady stream of insanity/In 2017/There’s a dog with the nuclear bomb in his mouth/ Everybody’s scared, everybody’s inspired/The world is under water/It’s also on fire/In 2017/You talk this, but you live like that/It says “Go back home” on your welcome mat/There’s constant unchecked brutality/A brave man takes a stand by dropping to a knee.

It’s heavy and timely, and gets right to the point. It would piss off my Uncle Steve, too. Oh well.

Oh Great, America!

This was an evening that I didn’t know I needed so much. It was really edifying. If Shovels & Rope come to your town, you owe it to yourself to check them out. If you think a wall between the US and Mexico is a good idea, maybe you won’t like them in person. I think you should check them out anyway.

xo,

bree

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The Alternate Routes with Luke Fradiani

Friday, September 15, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’m catching up on blogging today with a heavy heart. I go to school every day in this post-Sandy Hook world, and have no hope that anything will change. I often think about music as being my religion–appreciating the power music has to bring us together and to change us for the better–and being at a concert as being in a sanctuary. My heart breaks for those who went to a concert in Las Vegas and instead got murdered. It’s unfathomable, and yet a norm we are starting to live with.

The Alternate Routes have grappled with the issue of gun violence in their music. Guitarist Eric Donnelly’s parents were murdered by an addict with a gun in their Fairfield, Connecticut jewelry store back in 2005, and his song “Somewhere in America” is a stunning song that reflects on the pervasiveness of gun violence in America.

Read these lyrics to “Somewhere in America”:

“The last thing that my father saw when he was still alive

Was the gun in the hands of a sick young man with bright blue eyes.

A man who looked just like me as far as anyone else could see.

A stranger, not an enemy.

And my mother watched it all.

That was the last thing that she saw.

Somewhere in America

A phone’s about to ring.

An unlucky break.

Wrong time, wrong place.

I’ve heard them all so many times.

If your dad had had a gun of his own,

maybe they’d still be alive.”

The Alternate Routes have also collaborated with Newtown Kindness, an organization that sprang up after the tragedy in the Sandy Hook community, and wrote “Nothing More,” which reminds us that “we are how we treat each other, and nothing more.” So here’s a band that puts their energy into this vital issue, and here’s another day in America where someone’s phone is going to ring. I tried to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s response, but couldn’t make it through.

I first saw the Alternate Routes open for Carbon Leaf back in 2009, and it was a spectacular, super fun show. Alternate Routes lead singer Tim Warren wrote “With all the love I have in my heart” on the CD I bought that night, their 2009 album A Sucker’s Dream. I also saw the Alternate Routes open for Martin Sexton in 2013 and play with the Ballroom Thieves in 2014, but it had been a while since I’d seen them. I watched their Studio Z performance live on Facebook earlier in the day and they told stories that showed their humanity and heart. It made me more excited to see them later that night.

I grabbed a quick solo dinner at the bar at Empire (a regular tradition for me on show nights in Portland), but ended up making friends with a few folks at the bar who let me join in their dinner conversation. I also ran into my friend Griffin Sherry from The Ghost of Paul Revere. His publicist had sent me a preview of their newest song, “Montreal,” and I was able to tell him I’d listened a few times earlier in the day and love it. The Ghost recently announced shows for December 30 and 31 at Port City Music Hall, if you’re looking for end of year plans.

I made my way to Port City Music Hall and joined my friend Andrea in the front row for some of show opener Luke Fradiani’s set. Andrea went to the show to see Luke Fradiani, and didn’t know the Alternate Routes. I was in the opposite situation. Luke was engaging and chatty, and he has a lovely voice. Apparently, he won a season of American Idol, which is pretty cool. Alternate Routes guitarist Eric Donnelly and drummer Kurt Leon were in his band, and I enjoyed the bonus time with them on stage. They did an amazing cover of Billy Joel’s “Downeaster Alexa,” which was amazing. Luke’s songs are a bit simple for my taste, but he was a fine show opener. Andrea disappeared for an hour after Luke’s set to make friends with the band, and his pianist, Mikel Paris walked us out of the venue at the end of the night. It was precious. I don’t usually want to talk to people in bands in case they’re having a bad night and aren’t nice, but Andrea goes for it all the time.

The Alternate Routes were great, if a little subdued compared to the first time I saw them back in 2009 (I think alcohol was involved all those years ago, though). I was glad to hear “The Future’s Nothing New” with a bit of Amy Winehouse’s “Trouble” in the mix. My favorite of their songs is probably “Ordinary,” and I liked hearing it with just Tim and Eric as a duo. Their new song, “Safe Haven,” is sweet as honey, too. Tim sincerely thanked 98.9 WCLZ for their ongoing support of the band. He introduced the last song in their set, “Nothing More,” by saying they were told that should write a song to inspire people to be kind–especially children–and thought it was a good idea. They wrote the song in memory of and in tribute to a bunch of folks and their families who lost children. Tim said that “everybody in here knows something about losing something and I hope you know very little about that, but if the people who went through that can pick up the pieces and carry the torch and try to put something good in the world despite that, the hardest thing that you can imagine, certainly we can try.”

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This is Grace and a friend. They were right here all night and it was super cute.

The band came back for two more songs–“Asked You Twice,” which was a sing along, and we danced the last minutes of the night away to “One Dance Left,” which Tim told us was about feeling free of worry, which doesn’t happen that much. It was a good place to leave it.

Check this band out. They’re using their art to do some powerful things, and it matters.

xo,

bree


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Guster with The Ghost of Paul Revere and the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

Guster on the Ocean was a great time. I think I’m in the sweet spot age-wise of people who have known Guster since early on in their career as a band, so attending their 25th anniversary show with thousands of fans at Thompson’s Point was a treat.

I’d had a busy week helping my best friend’s dad after back surgery, and I spent the afternoon with him at Maine Med before leaving to meet Rachel and Ian to Uber to the show. We set up a blanket in the front of the blanket area just behind the barricade, but were told to move (of course that area was littered with blankets later in the evening, which seems to happen every time I go to Thompson’s Point). We arrived early to enjoy dinner (I had an awesome grilled cheese with lobster from the SaltBox Cafe) and to explore the Reverb Eco Village (which earned us free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream). I also scored an awesome Guster on the Ocean Nalgene water bottle, which was apparently in short supply.

I ran into so many people from all corners of my life during Spencer Albee’s opening set that I honestly didn’t hear a single one of his songs. I got to catch up with my friend Ben Cosgrove before he joined the Ghost of Paul Revere on stage on keys and accordion. Ben played a few songs on 98.9 WCLZ a few weeks later, and you should definitely check out the session. Ben is incredibly talented.

I loved seeing Portland’s the Ghost of Paul Revere play in front of such a big crowd. They had nearly a dozen musicians with them on stage, including Ben, Kevin Oates from the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra on cello, and a handful of other musicians that beautifully rounded out their sound. They had a blast up there, and I made my way to the stage to see them up close and easily enjoyed their set from the second row with some strangers who became fast friends. Good music is good for that.

I was sporting my “The Way Rock Should Be” t-shirt from the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, and I ran into Kevin’s whole family and got to chat with them in between sets, too. I guess I was technically wearing the shirt of the band to see the band, but I don’t care. So was Matty Oates! I have been listening to Ghost’s new song, “Montreal,” on repeat. It’s fantastic. I am pumped to hear their new album soon. It’s always a pleasure to see GPR live. They also just announced back-to-back shows on December 30 and 31 at Port City Music Hall, which is the next time they’ll play in town because they’re off touring basically every minute until almost 2018. I’m so happy to see this band getting some of the notice they richly deserve.

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Me and Matty Oates showing our MYRO support!

Guster took the stage and we partied for the rest of the night. It was great fun. I loved hearing most of my Guster favorites–“What You Wish For,” “Barrel of a Gun,” “Parachute,” “Either Way,” and “Happier”–live. Guster isn’t playing live much these days, but my alma mater hosted them for a private gig two years ago for Homecoming, and I got to be front and center for that show. I decided to enjoy this show from further away this time, and take it everything Thompson’s Point has to offer.

The phenomenal Maine Youth Rock Orchestra joined Guster for nearly half of the show, and they enriched the sound and elevated the show to another level. Guster was pleased as punch to host this party, and were chatty and grateful all night long. Ryan asked Kevin who the youngest member of MYRO was, and we all chanted “Luke, Luke, Luke” while he accepted a standing ovation. Ryan even freestyled a song for Luke in that moment and the huge cheered along. It was incredible. What a way to make those kids understand they are already rock stars. I loved everything about this night. Let’s do it again next summer!

xo,

bree

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Buffalo Tom

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

For many years, I spent Memorial Day weekend with my best friend in NYC. She’s moved to the suburbs in New Jersey and has a family now, so our annual MDW tradition has ended. This year, I looked forward to some downtime at home instead of a big weekend away. I went to Bowdoin’s Commencement and marched in the alumni parade, visited the farmers’ market, and ventured down to Portland to meet up with Bob for an early dinner at Empire. He insisted we meet at 5:30 for dinner, because he was confident there would be a line at Port City Music Hall for the Buffalo Tom show and wanted to be there by 7–when doors opened. I told him his worries were unnecessary, but there was a short line of fans outside when we arrived at 6:50. Bob loved it. We were front and center for a solid 40 minutes before really anyone else arrived for the show, though (Bob won the battle, but I won the war on our bet).

Times Square. Memorial Day weekend 2010

Bob vouched for Buffalo Tom, has seen them a lot live, and promised they’d be “smart and funny” in person, so I decided to join him for the show. Probably like many other women in their 30s, Buffalo Tom came onto my radar back in 1994, when I was a freshman in high school and watched My So-Called Life religiously. There’s an entire episode that revolves around Angela and Rayanne acquiring fake IDs to sneak into a club to see Buffalo Tom play because Angela’s love interest, Jordan Catalano, was going to be there. Buffalo Tom performed in the club in the episode, and surely expanded their listening audience to include lots more teenage girls than just me. I bought Buffalo Tom’s 1993 album, Big Red Letter Day, after the episode aired, and listened to “Late At Night” on repeat.

Buffalo Tom formed in 1986 when guitarist Bill Janovitz, bassist Chris Colburn, and drummer Tom Maginnis attended U Mass Amherst, and they are currently touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their 1992 album, Let Me Come Over. They don’t have an opening act, play a full set of a mix of their songs, and then play the entire album after an intermission. Since I’ve never heard that album and didn’t fall in love with them live, I didn’t feel bad about leaving after the first set.

They played all of my favorites from Big Red Letter Day–“Late At Night,” “Sodajerk,” “I’m Allowed,” and “Tree House” right at the beginning of their first set. I was happy to hear these songs that reminded me of a formative time in my life in person from the front row. Bill Janovitz chatted with the crowd a bit, mostly to make fun of his own age and say how their fans must already be tired like them from all the standing, but he also had some adorable rock guitar antics. They played an impressive total of 27 songs that night, including a quick bit of “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers as a tribute to Greg Allman, who’d passed away earlier in the day.

I’m a little behind in blogging because my last remaining elderly kitty (sweet Yeltsin) passed away recently, but Bob texted me this today, fully knowing that I didn’t love Buffalo Tom live:

RIP, Yeltsin kitty

“Buffalo Tom is playing Royale on September 10! I’ll pick you up at NOON. There will be a line!”

xo,

bree

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