Tag Archives: Port City Music Hall

The Ballroom Thieves with The Suitcase Junket

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I love the Ballroom Thieves and have seen them live many times. They’re definitely one of my favorite bands. I was under the weather, but decided to go to this show anyhow, because my friend Marian saw them a few days earlier in Camden and said they’d been particularly “on” and extra fun and very chatty with the crowd. Colin saved me a spot up front because I rushed down to Port City Music Hall after being honored by one of my favorite senior boys on my school’s basketball team at Teacher Appreciation Night.


Photo by Jeff Lamb Photography

I arrived just in time to see Matt Lorenz, touring solo as The Suitcase Junket, take the stage. I hadn’t seen Matt play for a few years (I saw him play with his band Rusty Belle at One Longfellow Square with Darlingside and Caitlin Canty back in 2013), and never as a solo act. He stole the show. His one-man-band is a powerhouse. Stomping on a kick drum, shaking a collection of shells, bones, and silverware, and playing a guitar he saved from a dumpster, Matt’s vintage sound, and his clear, lovely voice filled the room. He was charming and engaging with the obviously impressed crowd.

The Suitcase Junket is Matt Lorenz

The Ballroom Thieves took the stage after a quick break. They are super talented and sounded great, as always. They didn’t interact much with the crowd, which I missed, so this wasn’t their typical high energy show. My dear college friend, Ken Templeton, was in the crowd reviewing the show for Boston’s Red Line Roots, and I was a little worried that he wouldn’t love them like I do because they were so reserved, but he was quite impressed anyhow. Here’s Ken’s review.

Martin Earley

Callie Peters

The Ballroom Thieves

Devin Mauch and Callie

All of the guys from the Ghost of Paul Revere, Kevin Oates from Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, Connor Garvey, and Max García Conover were all in the house to support the band, and it was nice to witness the camaraderie and to catch up with all of them. Not the best Thieves’ show I’ve seen by far, but everyone is entitled to a mellow night here and there.




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Blind Pilot with Dickie

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I grabbed my spot in the front row (where I like to be at Port City Music Hall) just after Dickie took the stage. Iowa’s Dickie was pretty good. I texted Colin that their lead singer, Dick Prall, reminded me of Hey Rosetta! (which is a compliment), but I didn’t love violinist Kristina Priceman’s sarcastic jokes directed towards Dick Prall. It detracted from the music for me. Maybe I’m drained from all of the negative energy in our world right now, but having one bandmate pick fun at another on stage was a big turn off. Too bad, because they can play (and they have a bass saxophonist, which is rad), and I bet they have a lot of fun together on the good nights. Check out their song “Pop Pop Pop.”



Blind Pilot took the stage after a very long break between sets. I hadn’t seen them live since I caught them from the front row at the Newport Folk Festival back in 2012, so I was very excited to see them in Portland, Maine. The six piece band plays so many instruments–upright bass, ukulele, trumpet, vibraphone, and one I had to Google, the mountain dulcimer. If you saw their stage set up before the six band members took the stage, you would expect a much bigger band.

Blind Pilot is from the “other Portland,” and we gave them a little bit of crap about that. Israel Nebeker has a silky smooth voice and when partnered with the harmonies of Kati Claborn and Luke Ydstie, they have a rich, upbeat sound. Blind Pilot played a solid 15 song set to a very happy crowd. “3 Rounds And A Song” is such a sweet love song, and I was glad to hear it in person. Right in the middle of the song, though, there was a loud gasp right behind me. A proposal! The crowd clapped and the band smiled. After the song ended, Luke made sure to get the couple’s names (Allie and Patrick) and wished them well. What a sweet moment to witness!


The whole crowd sang along (including an adorable group of high school aged boys who were in the front row and knew all of the words) to Blind Pilot’s single “Packed Powder” from their most recent release, And Then Like Lions. The band came back for a two song encore, and ended the night with my favorite, “We Are The Tide,” which is a superb pick me up song. Blind Pilot is wonderful live, and I was so pleased to see them in my Portland.



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Carbon Leaf with The Accidentals

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

It’s always a pleasure to see Virginia’s Carbon Leaf live. I’ve been going to their shows in Maine since 2009, and they always bring positive energy and upbeat music. Lead singer Barry Privett told us that he’d done the math, and they’ve played Portland, Maine ten times. I left my fancy camera at home so I could dance, but here are posts from Carbon Leaf shows at Port City Music Hall in December of 2013 and November of 2014 that have longer recaps and far better pictures of the show.

I love Carbon Leaf shows because the crowd is always full of great people who sing along and have a great time. Being part of a great crowd means having a great time at the show, so this is truly an important point to mention. I met a couple who had driven up from Massachusetts for the show, and we danced and sang along from the front row while Carbon Leaf played a solid 20-song set, including songs you’ve definitely heard on 98.9 WCLZ, such as “Life Less Ordinary” and “What About Everything?” “The Boxer” takes on new meaning for me now that I’m training five days a week at a MMA gym. In fact, I met my teammates at our coach’s house after the show to watch the UFC fights until the wee hours.

“Let Your Troubles Roll By” is the Carbon Leaf song that means the most to me and inspires me to lift my head when things are hard. I always think of my friend Sarah, who I met at a Carbon Leaf show at Port City in 2009 and who suffered an aneurysm, but has really come a long way in her recovery. Carbon Leaf even sent her a get well soon card when she was in the hospital. They’re great musicians, but good people, too. That stuff matters to me.

Towards the end of the night, Barry asked to turn the house lights up. Since Veteran’s Day was the day before, Barry asked all of the veterans in the room to raise their hand for much deserved recognition and then dedicated and played “The War Was in Color” for them. It was a moving moment. I’m always glad to see you when you’re in town, Carbon Leaf! See you next fall!



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Rachael Yamagata with Pressing Strings

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I have a lot of love for Rachael Yamagata. Her 2004 album, Happenstance, played on repeat in my car for a solid year. I saw her once in September of 2005 at my alma mater, so it had been over a decade since I’d seen her live. Now touring to support her new Tightrope Walker album, I was very excited to be able to see Rachael in Portland (much to the chagrin of my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor, whose class I had to skip to get to the show on time!).

I arrived at Port City Music Hall towards the end of opener Pressing Strings’ set. I don’t have much of a recollection of them two and a half weeks later, but I do remember they did a cover of “Going to California” that I thought was really good.


Pressing Strings

Rachael Yamagata and her band took the stage to a small, but obviously loyal crowd. Rachael was a little under the weather, and had been encouraged not to talk too much between songs (which was clearly a struggle for her). I was thrilled to hear “Be Be Your Love” from Happenstance early in her set. It made my day. She told us that “I Don’t Want to Be Your Mother” was about her tendency to date men who need a lot of support, which women in the crowd near me chuckled and shared knowing glances about while Rachael introduced the song. I thought “Over” was great live. Rachael pushed her voice (I hope she was okay in the days that followed) and covered Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” which sounded lovely.


Rachael Yamagata

Rachael’s band was great, too. Her drummer was leaving soon to tour with William Fitzsimmons (who I LOVE), Brandon Walters played bass and is in Lord Huron (seriously!), Michael Chavez on lead guitar has toured with Rachael forever, and Grammy nominated producer John Alagía played piano and guitar. Rachael was charming and open and her voice cuts right through.

Her last song, “Nobody,” is about “going for it” and she sampled Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” in there, too, which was an unexpected, welcome surprise. The grateful audience cheered for an encore and Rachael came back and played “Elephants” solo. People in the crowd shouted out requests and Rachael seemed happy to hear them and tried to oblige. She also sang a song for local music maven Aimsel Ponti, who is a longtime Rachael fan and was also at the show. Aimsel also made my day by telling me that Rachael had recorded an entirely acoustic version of Happenstance that was for sale at the merch table. So Happenstance is happily back in my car on repeat, and it holds up beautifully, twelve whole years later! So glad I made it to this show!



P.S.–Check out the video for “Let Me Be Your Girl”–written/directed by Josh Radnor and starring Allison Janney!

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Justin Townes Earle with Max García Conover


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Max García Conover is my friend and a heckuva guy. He is thoughtful and observes intently. He writes a song a week (you can be a patron of that project) and is working full-time as a singer-songwriter. I’m proud to know him. He was really excited to open for Justin Townes Earle, so the friend group rallied to support him on a school night.

Max took the stage to an attentive audience. Port City Music Hall had some seating set up in the general admission area, and it made for a special listening room show. Max told us that when he ended up in Puerto Rico without the grant money he’d expected to live on, he took to busking to earn money for groceries. He was just learning to play the guitar, and he’d play the same songs again and again, but no one dropped any money in his guitar case. He started playing a Justin Townes Earle song (“I Don’t Care”) on the streets, and it was the first song that made him any money. Max was clearly excited to open the show for JTE, and it was heartwarming to see him on stage at Port City in front of a big crowd that listened earnestly and enjoyed him. He played “My Neighbor Joe” early in his set, and it’s an intense song that reveals itself more and more each time I hear it. That something I appreciate about Max’s songs–they’re layered with meaning and take on new life at each listen.


Max Garcia Conover


Max said that everyone should have a preacher friend, so he invented one in a song. Max told us that he grew up going to church and on mission trips until one of his pastors gave an anti-gay sermon and so he immediately stopped doing both. He told us a story about a real investment banker with heart, who chatted with Max to make sure he was saving for retirement after his set at a music festival. Max’s last song of the night was one he wrote on a pizza box during intermission at a tough show in New Sweden, Maine (the song is aptly titled “New Sweden, Maine”), that has evolved over time and become a staple in his setlist.


Justin Townes Earle took the stage, and the crowd was pumped. Some friends I trust love his music, so I was excited to see him live. I’ve got to say that his live show fell flat for me. People in the crowd were smitten. Some shouted out song requests. I heard someone yell a song title and say it was his wedding song. JTE’s songs obviously mean a lot to his fans, so I thought it was unfortunate that Justin didn’t receive love from the audience warmly. At one point early in his set he said “I’m an asshole,” and it seemed true. I have a hard time getting interested in someone’s music when they don’t seem to care at all about the listener. Everyone is entitled to an off night, which perhaps this was, but it was enough to turn me off. I very rarely leave a show before it’s over, but I did on this night, and I don’t feel like I missed out. If you’ve had an incredible Justin Townes Earle show experience (and if you thought he was amazing at this particular show), I want to hear from you about what you see that I missed.



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The Paper Kites with Larkin Poe

Friday, July 29, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I was so grateful for this concert experience. I received a very nice email from Larkin Poe’s publicist a few days before the show inviting me to come, and I decided to rearrange my schedule to attend. I am so glad I did. Larkin Poe had just played the Newport Folk Festival, and anyone who is invited to play there is definitely worth checking out. The Paper Kites have been popping up on my Spotify “Discover Weekly” playlists for a long while now, and I particularly like their song “Bloom.” I went to my first Muay Thai boxing class at my gym, and then showered and motored down to Portland to Port City Music Hall. After attending a show the night before at the Maine State Pier (which is such a disappointing place to “see” a show), I was so glad to be on my way to a venue I love where I knew I’d get to be up close and actually see the bands.

Larkin Poe is Rebecca and Megan Lovell, sisters from Atlanta, Georgia. They’ve both toured in Elvis Costello’s band, and they’ve got chops. They took the stage with a powerful a cappella song, and I was sold. I got there early, so was front and center, and I was mesmerized. These sisters have tons of chemistry, and I liked their lyrics, rock sensibility, and effort to connect with the crowd. Rebecca told us that their band name comes from their great-great-great-grandfather, who was a cousin of Edgar Allen Poe. I don’t know their music well, but I remember “Tornado” stuck out. They played “Trouble In Mind” on Conan O’Brien back in April. You should definitely check them out live.


Rebecca and Megan Lovell are Larkin Poe


During the break, I chatted with a trio of women who’d flown up from New Orleans, partially to visit a friend from Maine, but surely to coincide with seeing Australia’s Paper Kites live. They were lovely to chat with, and the crowd that night was 18+ and quite respectful and nice to be around. It’s always great when people come to a show to actually see the show, and an 18+ show often means there are fewer drunkards who detract from the overall concert experience. The “kids” in the audience were clearly fans, and they sang every word of every song.

The Paper Kites‘ front man Sam Bentley was quite chatty with the crowd, and he told us the stories behind a handful of their songs, which is something I absolutely love. He joked that “I’d like to connect with you by telling you the story of another song,” which was charming and worked beautifully. I wish more artists would tell us about their songs. Sam told us the story behind “Paint.” He was in a long distance relationship when he was young and living at home, and wanted to make a grand gesture to his girlfriend by painting a love note to her in invisible ink he’d ordered online from China on his bedroom ceiling. It turned out to not be all that invisible. His parents were mad and he had to paint over it. They also broke up. He explained the song as “dealing with a life that didn’t quite happen.” This was the last night of the Paper Kites’ tour, and I’m so glad I got to spend it with them. This fantastic show was a completely welcome nice surprise. Pictures below!




The Paper Kites



All the way from New Orleans for this double thumbs up show!


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The Ballroom Thieves with Maine Youth Rock Orchestra and The DuPont Brothers

Friday, April 15, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Nearly two months late but with many, many wonderful senior events at my school behind me (most precious were the graduation marches my seniors did through four of our five district elementary schools), I can catch a quick breath and write a bit. The Ballroom Thieves are easily one of my top favorites live bands. [Fun fact: I first saw The Ballroom Thieves live opening for The Lone Bellow three years ago today!] I feel really lucky to have seen them a lot, and am so glad that their star continues to rise, having now played at the Newport Folk Festival and opened for Lake Street Dive at Thompson’s Point in Portland. That’s a huge venue, and friends who were able to go and had never seen the Thieves messaged me to say how great they are (um, yeah!).

Thinking back, I remember that I was able to grab a quick dinner at Slab with one of my dear former class presidents before heading over to the show. I got to Port City Music Hall early to make sure I’d have my favorite spot up front and even beat Colin there. Erin and Darcy, teachers from Westbrook High School who we’d met a couple of shows back, were also there, and my current (well, graduation was Sunday, but I’m not ready to let go) class president, Carmen, also joined the full house for the show. This was one of those nights when the crowd was top notch. I think it’s because there were a lot of proud Maine Youth Rock Orchestra family members in the crowd, celebrating the beginning of their April vacation week tour with The Ballroom Thieves. Anyhow, it’s always great to be surrounded by positive energy and attentive people at a show, and this was a real treat.

Burlington, Vermont’s The DuPont Brothers took the stage and warmed up the crowd. Their harmonies, pretty guitar arrangements, and friendly banter made for a good set. Brother Zack was celebrating his birthday, so we sang for him. They’d used Kickstarter to fund their most recent album, A Riddle for You, and played a lot of those songs for us. They invited Maine Youth Rock Orchestra (MYRO) to join them for “Trespassers,” which they sweetly dedicated to a big group of young kids sitting on the floor just in front of the stage. The DuPont Brothers will be back in Portland at One Longfellow Square on Thursday, June 30.



“Trespassers” with The DuPont Brothers and MYRO

Kevin Oates, the founder and director of Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, took the stage to do a little fundraising to support their ten-day tour with The Ballroom Thieves. He said he’d shave his head (and he has really good hair) if they reached their fundraising goal before the show ended, which shows dedication. MYRO is awesome. As a teacher, it hits me right in the feels that this awesome group exists, and that they’ve had such great success, including being featured on NPR Music and being the first youth orchestra to tour with a national artist. Kevin tells the story himself on medium.com with “Why I started Maine Youth Rock Orchestra.” I have a front row ticket to see MYRO play with Gregory Alan Isakov on June 21 at the State Theatre and am SO excited to see them with another of my favorite artists.


Kevin Oates, founder and director of MYRO



Martin and Devin of The Ballroom Thieves with MYRO



Martin, Devin, and Callie of The Ballroom Thieves with MYRO


The Ballroom Thieves are fantastic. Their songs and harmonies resonate, their desire to connect to the audience admirable, and the sheer force of their musicianship is moving. This was another in a series of top-notch performances from Martin, Devin, and Callie. Hearing them with MYRO, adding to the richness of their already full sound, was phenomenal. I feel really lucky to have been at this show. I was so glad to learn that a new album is forthcoming. You’ve got to check out the video for “Bury Me Smiling” featuring MYRO that NPR Music picked up. “Peregrine” sticks out as a newer song I’m looking forward to getting better acquainted with. “Here I Stand” was a particularly driving force live, and “The Loneliness Waltz” is surely one of my favorite Thieves’ songs. This was truly a phenomenal show—start to finish. See these groups live whenever you have the chance. The Thieves will be joined by MYRO on July 12 at Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney, Maine. Come! I will see you there.




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