Tag Archives: Portland Maine

Rachael & Vilray with The Brother Brothers

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Blue, Portland, Maine

This evening was an absolute delight. I felt lucky to get a ticket for this intimate, sold out show in such a teeny venue in the first place, and it was a treat. I made it to Blue around 8:20, but was still able to grab seats for Marian and me at Sean and Rosie’s front row table (they came all the way from Canada to see the show).

I was impressed with The Brother Brothers. I love their folky, harmonic sound. David and Adam Moss are identical twins from Peoria, Illinois who write and record together and live in Brooklyn. David plays cello and guitar, and Adam plays the fiddle. Their harmonies were lovely, and I was taken with their songs–especially Tugboats” and “Cairo, Ill.” Definitely check out their Audiotree session.

Adam and David Moss are the Brother Brothers

Concert etiquette gets an A+ for the evening. It was such a welcome change to see a show where the audience was totally respectful and engaged.

Rachael Price and Vilray (pronounced Vill-ree) took the stage after a short intermission. I started seeing Lake Street Dive live back in 2011, but it’s been ages since I’ve seen Rachael perform in such a small room. Rachael and Vilray met at New England Conservatory of Music 15 years ago, and are clearly good friends. They faced each other and shared one microphone for the night–performing jazz standards and new songs that have the feel of the Jazz Age, but with updated, entertaining lyrics.

Rachael Price and Vilray

Jazz is not even remotely my favorite genre, but I’d listen to Rachael Price sing the phone book and enjoy it. I particularly liked “Let’s Make Love on this Plane” and “Do Friends Fall in Love.” Rachael and Vilray were warm and interactive with the audience, and they told us the stories behind most of the songs they sang, which I really value as a concert-goer.

I know a lot of you were disappointed that you couldn’t get tickets for either night, so check out this video of a show Rachael and Vilray played in Brooklyn to get a feel for what you missed. I feel lucky to have been in the room.

xo,

bree

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Ellis Paul with Laurie MacAllister

Friday, December 29, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was my 49th Ellis Paul show! I hope I get to sing on stage with him at my 50th show. I can sing, Ellis!

I started seeing Ellis Paul in 2002, so that’s 15 years of great music I’ve gotten to hear him perform live. He’s still my favorite singer songwriter, and I love seeing him live at his now annual warm up to New Year’s Eve show at One Longfellow Square. I used to ring in the New Year with Ellis and friends every year at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but Portland is so much closer!  

I picked up my friend Hedda in the snow and we slowly made it to Portland on a slippery highway. We had a delicious dinner nearby at Mi Sen, but were squeezed for time and had to miss seeing my talented pianist friend, Ben Cosgrove, at Blue. We made it to One Longfellow Square right after 7 to get good seats up front, and there were easily already 25 people in the room. I know where the super fans sit (I am a fan, not a super fan), and decided I needed a couple of rows of buffer, so grabbed seats for Colin, Hedda, and me in the fourth row. We chatted for an hour and then Laurie MacAllister (of Red Molly) took the stage to start the show.

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David Glaser, Laurie McAllister, and Radoslav Lorkovic

Hedda saw her first Ellis Paul show (my 46th) with me last year at Brunswick’s Unitarian Universalist Church, and Laurie sang with him then, too. We thought their chemistry was obvious, and wondered if they were a couple back then. They were, we discovered at this show. Laurie MacAllister has a very pretty voice and was so grateful to perform her first solo show in 14 years in front of such a polite audience. Her new solo record, The Lies the Poets Tell, is out in late January. It’s a cover album of songs from artists you may not know–including Shawn Mullins (one of my all time favorites), Mark Erelli (who Laurie called her favorite songwriter and urged us to see live), Antje Duvekot, oh, and some guy named Ellis Paul. She opened with Shawn Mullins’ “My Stupid Heart.”David Glaser joined her on guitar–she told us she’d heard him play last year during preparations for Ellis’ annual New Year’s Eve shows and asked him to be her guitarist on her new album–and Radoslav Lorkovic, the “Croatian Sensation,” accompanied on piano and accordion. Laurie told us she met Rad for the first time back in 2005 when they played at the same music festival. When she and her Red Molly bandmates told him they were off to New York City for a gig later that evening, he asked if he could come with them and play, too, which they all quickly agreed to. David, Rad, and Laurie were also Ellis’ band that evening. They are obviously friends and it was fun to watch them together.

Ellis Paul took the stage to a sold out crowd after intermission. He told us he wrote a song with a friend in mind that was supposed to be more of a joke, but turned into his love song, “I Ain’t No Jesus.” I’d never heard Ellis talk about dating Laurie before, but he talked about her saying “I’ll Never Be this Young Again” in reference to recording a new album, and he stole her line and wrote a song featuring it. Laurie interjected that she came down to the living room the next morning and he played it for her–completely finished overnight. He told us it was one of the first times he’d ever played it live.

Ellis also played another new song I hadn’t heard before, which is always exciting when you see someone play as often as I do. He projected a picture onto the screen behind him and it was of Ellis and his father in front of a huge fire. He told us about a family reunion that turned into a major fire house fire over the 4th of July weekend in 1979. He thanked his relatives in the crowd who were there to support him, and told us about a relative who’d fought for the Union Army in the Civil War and was injured at Gettysburg. They gave him a farm–150 acres in Wasburn, Maine–and every generation in his family has produced potato farmers since then until now. He joked that he went into the more lucrative folk singer business. His grandparents had 9 kids and 40 grandchildren. He laughed as he told us “none of the names have been changed because everyone who is guilty deserves to be in this song.”

Ellis told us he’d record an album in 2018, and I think I’m most looking forward to “Scarecrow in a Corn Maze”–a song about a soldier injured in Iraq who comes home from war and struggles. The chorus goes, “scarecrow in a corn maze, just trying to find some way out.” Ellis has always been an excellent storyteller. His songs are relatable because they tell real human stories. This song stuck out to me the most among songs I don’t know very well. We sang along to a song that Ellis wrote about all of the states he’s performed in called “So You Ain’t From these Parts.” The verse about Maine features the crazy names of places here from Damariscotta to the Cobbosseecontee.

Every year, Ellis and his friends play a medley of songs during their NYE shows. This year, they paid tribute to music legends lost in the last couple of years–Tom Petty, Glen Campbell, and Glenn Frey. Their cover of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was incredible. I’ll admit I’d never heard Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” before. Everyone came off the stage into the audience and sang “Seven Bridges Road” (famously covered by the Eagles) for us.

Ellis thanked us for our continued support and for coming out in the bitter cold. He told us his kid just got $3,300 braces, and chuckled when he told us that we’d paid for them. I figure my 49 concert tickets will pay for at least a year of a teenager’s car insurance when his girls start driving.

Did we all sing along to “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down”to close the night? I think we did. I am sleep deprived from New Year’s Eve last night. Thanks for a lovely evening of music that always makes me feel like I’m home, Ellis and friends. I’ll see you soon!

Happy 2018! Let’s all hope for goodness and light in the year ahead!

xo,

bree

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Bon Iver

Friday, December 8, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

In a sentence–for me, sadly, this show was a surprising disappointment.

I saw Bon Iver for the first time in September of 2012 at the Bank of America Pavillion in Boston. Caroline and I went together, and she wrote a lovely guest post giving the show a five star rating. I was in the third or fourth row for that full band show, and I was over the moon to hear some of my Bon Iver favorites in person and to sing “The Wolves (Acts I and II)” together. The energy at that show was palpably positive.

When I saw that Bon Iver was playing so nearby in Portland at State Theatre, I was thrilled. I set an alarm to buy tickets in the presale, but the timing of my teaching plans were a little off because we had an unexpected fire drill, so I selfishly asked my students to work on their homework for a few minutes while I tried to get tickets on both my laptop and my phone. My phone came through for me and I snagged a pair of tickets a few rows from the back of the room, and I can’t think of a time I was so happy to have basically back row seats. I checked again when tickets went on sale to the general public, but they seemed completely sold out right away. I read through more than a hundred comments from angry Bon Iver fans about how impossible it was to get tickets for the show, and revelled in my luck. I even looked online at StubHub just to see if I could get seats closer to the stage, but seats in my far away section were selling for $250 each (a huge markup over the $65 face value). I scoffed at the idea of selling my tickets for profit anyhow, but then I went to the show and thought twice.

Bartlett was my lucky date for the night, even though many people inquired about my extra ticket for the show right up until the night of the show. We met for dinner at El Rayo, had a couple of tacos and cocktails, and made our way to State Theatreearly to make it through their added security and because there was no opening act. Justin Vernon took the stage solo, which I am usually totally in favor of, but this was an odd night. I was surprised by how many people were back and forth to the bar and bathroom during the show because we’d all paid a decent amount for these highly sought after tickets and I figured everyone there would be a big fan. (A sarcastic shout out to the annoying super fan couple in the third row that spent most of the night dancing wildly on your feet–rudely obstructing the views of and distracting everyone all around you. You guys made me glad my seats were so far away). There was some sort of chatter coming from the other front orchestra section, I guess, because Justin interjected a snarky comment about them, and then followed up with a comment about how we should all just love each other. Later, someone from the crowd shouted out “I love you, Justin,” and he responded “I have plans later. But I appreciate that.” I thought some (but not all) of his banter with the audience was awkward to the point of kind of mean spirited. It felt like he didn’t want to have to perform for us, and it ruined the show experience for me.

My view of Justin Vernon from the back of the State Theatre

I didn’t feel at all this way five years ago when I first saw Bon Iver live, so I have some theories about this night’s cringeworthy moments. The easiest explanation would be that folks nearest him were being rude and I couldn’t hear it. That, sadly, has been the case at other shows I’ve been to in Portland, where people talk all night over the performer. Regina Spektor’s show earlier this year at State Theatrecomes right to mind. Maybe something has shifted for Justin during these years that makes performing difficult for him, or, he was just having a bad night. If I missed something, please tell me. I’d love to know there was an obvious cause for his somewhat grumpy demeanor.

Musically, Justin was great. I loved hearing so many songs I love live–“Flume,”“Perth,”“Blood Bank,”“Skinny Love,”and “Woods”–and his cover of“I Can’t Make You Love Me”was heart wrenching, as expected. I enjoyed hearing the heavily electronic songs from his 2016 album, 22, A Million in person, too. It felt good to sing “The Wolves (Acts I and II)” together to end the night at Justin’s invitation, but I was very surprised he only played a one song encore (a cover of Mahalia Jackson’s “Satisfied Mind”), because he was on stage less than an hour. I’d felt so lucky to have the opportunity to be in the room, but was genuinely sadly disappointed during and after the show. It felt like an off night from start to finish, and it seemed to me like Justin struggles with the pressures of being a beloved musician, which seemed to shine through during this show. In the end, I am fine with having spent $65 to see Justin Vernon from basically the back row, but I probably wouldn’t do it again, which is disappointing given how much his music has positively impacted my life.

If you missed this show, I honestly don’t think you missed much. Maybe something was going on with the crowd up front that I couldn’t hear. If folks were being rude and Justin was annoyed with them–I can totally live with that. From where I sat, though, this show was a bummer. If you saw another night of this tour and had a very positive experience, I would also like to hear from you so that I know this was simply an off night and that Justin is just fine. I’m truly hoping for that.

xo,

bree

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The Head and the Heart

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

This was a lovely, easy Saturday. I hadn’t planned to go to this show, but a girlfriend had an extra ticket, and I thought it would be fun to spend an evening with some fabulous ladies I don’t see nearly enough. We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon outside on a friend’s porch in the sunshine, and had hours to really catch up. It was wonderful. We packed up and made our way over to the last show of the season at Thompson’s Point. You take a risk about the weather when you buy a ticket to an outdoor concert, especially one in autumn, but it was a perfect, comfortable night. We’d snacked all afternoon, so we skipped the food trucks and found our way to the front when we arrived. I caught a handful of songs from The Shelters from LA, but their music didn’t connect with me even though I appreciated their rock band finesse.

I sort of gave up on the The Head and The Heart years ago after seeing them at the State Theatre in March of 2012. I LOVE their music and listen to them often, but their live show left so much to be desired. I care a lot about a concert experience, but THATH barely spoke to the crowd at all. I’ve seen great videos of them on YouTube playing acoustic songs in beautiful places, but their live show was no more intimate or revealing that watching those, so I stopped seeing them live. It was too disappointing.

My steadfast concert companion, Colin, won tickets to THATH’s soundcheck in March of 2017 and invited me to join him. I hadn’t seen them in five years, but he has always loved them and seen them live and encouraged me to give them another shot. They were lovely in person, and stayed to take pictures with each and every one of us. They were so kind and engaging one-on-one that it made me a little sad that their show later that night was sold out and that I didn’t have a ticket.

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I loved meeting THATH in March at State Theatre. Thanks, Colin!

The Head and the Heart were pretty engaging at Thompson’s Point. I was glad to hear so much of their debut self-titled 2010 album live. I appreciate the lyrics of those songs a lot. THATH played “Coeur d’Alene” early in their set, which cries–“Oh the songs/People will sing for hope/And for the ones that have been gone for too long/Oh the things/People will do for the ones that they love.” The crowd roared anytime Charity Rose took the lead and especially for “Lost in My Mind” mid-set. I always appreciate the line, “Momma once told me/You’re already home where you feel loved.”

THATH did a timely, beautiful cover of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House. It was amazing to hear how relevant those lyrics still are thirty years later–“Hey now, hey now/When the world comes in/They come, they come/To build a wall between us/We know they won’t win.” THATH wrapped their set with “Down in the Valley,” which was another crowd favorite.

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I always end up behind the tallest person at the show. Don’t worry, I moved. Ten times.

THATH came back for a four song encore, and ended the night with “Rivers and Roads,” which Charity Rose dedicated to the legendary Charles Bradley. She spoke at length about meeting him at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. She told us “this guy was watching our set and was standing next to friend during ‘Rivers and Roads’ and he was incredibly moved by it, I guess, and I got to meet him afterwards and hug him. He’s a real inspiration, but I wanted to dedicate this song to him, Mr. Charles Bradley. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s an incredible inspiration–a performer and musician–who aspired his whole life and became kind of well known in the latter part of his life and we lost him today.” I was grateful to her for her touching words and it was powerful to be part of a group of thousands of people singing this tribute to him:

“A year from now we’ll all be gone/All our friends will move away/And they’re going to better places/But our friends will be gone away/Nothing is as it has been/And I miss your face like Hell.”

Rest in Peace, Charles Bradley. You were a light in the darkness.

This was a lovely, uplifting night. I’m glad I was there. THATH seemed charmed by Portland, and I’m confident they’ll be back soon.

xo,

bree

PS–Ally! It was great to meet a fellow polar bear! I’m so glad I wore my Bowdoin sweatshirt to the show! Go U Bears!

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Jonathan Russell sported a Bissell Brothers shirt at the show and apparently took more garb on the road with them. I think he hearts 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!

xo,

bree

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David Ramirez

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I saw David Ramirez for the first time a year and a half ago opening for Shakey Graves at the State Theatre in Portland. I was drawn to him immediately and enjoyed the sparseness of a man with a guitar juxtaposed with the urgency and passion he demonstrated with his powerful, rich voice. I sadly missed him a year ago at One Longfellow Square (I had tickets, but unfortunately didn’t make it to the show), so was eager to see him again. Colin went to that show a year ago and David played with a full band, which just isn’t really how I want to see him (or so I told myself, since I missed him). I was very excited to learn that I’d be seeing his 2016 Bootleg Tour–just David and a guitar–and each show would be recorded and audience members would get a link to a download of the show the next day. Right up my alley. Add that this was at teeny, intimate One Longfellow Square, and I was pumped.

I got to see my dear friend Fiona who was visiting from Minneapolis after school and then drove down to meet Colin at OLS. He snagged us great seats in the second row and we took in the living room scene assembled on stage–an area lamp, table, some books, and framed picture of Billy Murray–that gave us the feeling of really being in David Ramirez’s living room.

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David Ramirez wowed with his incredibly powerful voice and honest lyrics. At some point in the show, it dawned on me that David is probably not the nicest guy in real life. There was a distracting woman sitting right behind us who responded loudly after each song. David would finish a song and she’d shout “yes!” (I forgot her other go-to responses) and then try to initiate a conversation with him in between songs. We get it,  you KNOW him! (WOW!) It was annoying, and I totally chuckled when David realized it was his friend in the crowd who kept making it about her (which it sadly became, at times). Etiquette tip–don’t be that girl. No one came to see you perform if you’re not the one on stage. When I said that to Colin after the show, he smiled at me and said “doesn’t he say as much in his songs?” Good point, Colin. I was especially glad to hear “The Bad Days” and “Harder to Lie” in person. 

I will say, though, that even though David’s songs and stage banter mostly make him seem like a guy struggling to feed his healthy ego, he ended his set with “Find the Light,” which was a welcome surprise and an about face from his general tone. The song starts with some warm wishes–“I wish upon you peace/I wish upon you grace/I wish for less of what you want and more of what you need.” I’m so glad I went, even if David Ramirez is probably not someone I’d want to chat with or go have a beer with after the show. His voice and songs are layered and beautiful. And we’re all just learning how to be ourselves anyhow, and he seems to do that with his music, which is a healthy way to grow, I think.

I just realized that Spotify has David providing commentary about every song on his newest album Fables, which is right up my alley! Going to go listen now.

xo,

bree

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The Lumineers, Langhorne Slim, and Rayland Baxter

Friday, August 5, 2016

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

I snagged a ticket for this show at Thompson’s Point the moment they went on sale, and I am so glad I did. The show sold out early (impressive, given the capacity at outdoor Thompson’s Point), and as show openers were announced, I got more excited, because both Langhorne Slim and Rayland Baxter have both been on my radar for ages. I feel really lucky that I got to see three great bands for the first time at a fantastic venue on a perfect summer night.

I picked up my friend Marian and we got to Thompson’s Point early to grab a spot up front. We ended up seventh row center, surrounded by great people who’d also arrived early to enjoy the music up close. There was a brief bit of drama where a woman pushed her way through the crowd to get a better spot, but another woman who’d been there since doors opened with her kids convinced her to do the right thing and leave. Concert etiquette–if you want a good spot, arrive early. You can’t push your way to the front and expect to stay there and have people welcome you with open arms. It’s rude. Don’t do it.

Nashville’s Rayland Baxter took the stage and was friendly with the crowd. 98.9 WCLZ has been playing his song “Yellow Eyes” for ages, and I was glad to hear that live. He seemed like a chill guy and his country music inspired jam band was a fine opening to the night.

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Raymond Baxter

I have a handful of friends who are devotees of Langhorne Slim, so my expectations were high. Langhorne Slim & The Law took the stage and worked it. I like the lyrics to his opening song “Airplane”You and I’ve got our backs against the wall/When you don’t move, no one throws you the ball/Life’s a dance between riding the bench and/Waiting for your chance to swing for the fence.” “The Spirit Moves” sounds a lot like a song The Lumineers would write, so it seemed fitting that Langhorne (born Sean Scolnick) would open for them. We sang along on “Love Crimes” while Langhorne jumped off stage and into the crowd and sang most of the song sitting on a fan’s shoulders. I was glad to hear “Changes” live. Langhorne Slim & The Law will kind of incredibly be back to Portland to play at teeny One Longfellow Square on Friday, October 28. It will be a great show and will sell out early.

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Langhorne Slim & The Law

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The Lumineers took the stage and the audience roared. My friend Ken Templeton introduced me to them back in 2012. I fell in love with their Daytrotter session he recommended and looked up their tour schedule, just to find I’d missed them playing at teeny tiny Red Room at Cafe 939 at Berklee in Boston by three days. I’ve been waiting for four years to see this band. I also sang their breakout hit, “Ho Hey,” at my best friend’s little brother’s wedding. He’d played the song to woo his now-wife and I sang it while they had their first dance.

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The Lumineers

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The huge crowd roared with applause and sang along every word of every song. It was such a feel good night. I loved hearing “Ophelia” and “Ho Hey” early in the set. Lead singer Wesley Schultz made a deal with the enormous crowd that we’d all put our cell phones away after “Ho Hey” and just be present in the moment. It was so refreshing to see a show without having to watch through the cell phone screen of the person in front of me. Wesley told us that “Cleopatra” is a true (and heartbreaking) story of a female taxi driver who he met in the Republic of Georgia.

The band grabbed their instruments and ran back to rear of the crowd and played a few songs on a small stage set up there, including “Gale Song,” which was featured on the Hunger Games soundtrack. I thought it was cool that the band wanted to reach as much of the crowd as possible. When Wesley returned to the main stage, he walked through the huge crowd and right by me! The Lumineers returned to the main stage for another eight or so songs and a three song encore. They wrapped the night with “Stubborn Love,” which the happy crowd ate up. What a night! I feel lucky I got to be at this show. Seeing The Lumineers live was well worth the wait.

xo,

bree

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