Tag Archives: Portland

Milo Greene with Hey Marseilles

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Have you ever loved a band, listened to their album a hundred times, but then invited friends to come see them live with you and the band totally fell flat and you felt responsible? This was that.

I fell in love with LA’s Milo Greene when they opened for The Civil Wars at Berklee Performance Arts Center in November of 2011. I bought their three-song sampler for $5 and listened to it easily a hundred times waiting for their first full-length album. I saw them in Boston at Brighton Music Hall in October of 2012 (playing with Lucius), and again touring for their folky, harmonic self-titled album in March of 2013 at Empire in Portland. I re-read my post from 2012 at Brighton Music Hall where I wrote “their strength is in their live show.” Milo Greene didn’t bring it to Port City Music Hall that night.

Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall. October 2012.

Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall in Boston. October 2012.

Milo Greene at Empire in Portland, Maine. March 2013.

Milo Greene at Empire in Portland, Maine. March 2013.

I have always described Milo Greene to first-timers as an upbeat indie group without a lead singer. They pass instruments back and forth. Their harmonies are stunning and their songs catchy and relatable. Their new album, Control, is a different thing altogether. Released in early 2015, it is much more pop and percussive. It’s a pretty big departure, and not in a direction I was excited about, but I still thought their live show would impress. It didn’t.

The only wholly bright spot of the night was show opener Hey Marseilles from Seattle. They have a folky pop sound with great harmonies and a string section. Matt Bishop, their lead singer, was engaging and friendly. He joked that their band name is hard to say but easy to Google search. I wasn’t familiar with their music before the show, but I enjoyed the bulk of it (especially “Heart Beats”) and have listened more since the show. I’d definitely see them again.

Seattle's Hey Marseilles

Seattle’s Hey Marseilles

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Milo Greene took the stage and thanked us for waiting three years for them to come back to town. That might have been just about the only thing anyone in the band said for the majority of the show. They played in the near dark, song after song. No song introductions, no checking in with the audience. It felt like we might as well not have been there. Much later in their set, Robbie said that their new album is the real them (that was the gist, anyhow). Marlana piped up that she thought it might take a little convincing, but he clearly disagreed. I wondered how united the group is about their new musical direction.

LA's Milo Greene

LA’s Milo Greene

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This beautiful shot of Milo Greene is courtesy of Caroline Carrigan

This beautiful shot of Milo Greene is courtesy of Caroline Carrigan

Milo Greene sped through their Control-heavy set. On their website they’re quoted as saying that their “first album was a massive wall of harmonies.” It is a glorious sound, if you ask me, and the crowd’s reaction led me to think I’m not the only one who misses the old stuff. I was happy to hear a handful of their earlier songs like “1957,” “What’s The Matter,” and “Autumn Tree.” They covered Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home,” which I thought was fantastic. The band rushed through their songs and hurried off stage and I was surprised by how early I got home after a show on a school night. If they came back to town, I’d sadly pass, which is kind of heartbreaking.

xo,

bree

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Eric Hutchinson, Tristan Prettyman, and Nick Howard

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This was the kind of grey and dreary Tuesday that felt like it should have been a Thursday already. I was so ready for Daylight Savings Time, and I think the dark weather sadly ended up clouding my show experience. I had a sluggish afternoon after school holding my dear friend’s two-month-old baby girl for a few hours before heading down to Portland to catch this show. I got to Sarah’s house just as Eric Hutchinson and Tristan Prettyman’s Studio Z interview on 98.9 WCLZ began and listened while I snuggled baby Isabelle. I’d seen Eric live back in 2012 on his “Almost Solo Tour” with accompanist Elliott Blaufuss, and he was a supreme entertainer—as much a stand up comedian as a singer-songwriter. I was happy to hear that he was just as engaging over the radio, joking that the way he and Tristan co-headlined this tour was by each playing their set simultaneously on opposite sides of a curtain and seeing who gets more attention from the crowd. Tristan and Eric talked about being good friends for over a decade and how excited they were to put the City & Sand Tour together (she’s from San Diego and he’s living in NYC). Tristan talked about going through a lot of transitions—being dropped by her label, firing her manager, becoming a one-woman operation, and getting married in August right before spending two weeks in the studio after her honeymoon recording her new EP, Back To Home. They sounded like they were already having fun together on the road (the tour just started the night before in Boston), and they played a fun cover of “All About That Bass” together that got me geared up for the show.

Isabelle is quite snuggly

Isabelle is quite snuggly

She's so snuggly that we fell asleep together for a little while before I took off for the show

She’s so snuggly that we fell asleep together for a little while before I took off for the show.

I arrived early to grab my press ticket and a front row spot. My friends Andrea and Cory were already at Port City Music Hall by the time I arrived, but sadly couldn’t stand up front with me because Cory was injured and needed to sit for the show. For whatever reason, being solo at this show made it less fun. I ended up in a pocket of obnoxious people—drunk people, loud talkers, adults waaaaay too old to be grinding on each other like that, and between that and the dreary weather, I think my positive show experience was over before it began. Most of those annoying people arrived only after Britain’s Nick Howard performed, so I did get an uninterrupted chance to enjoy at least part of the show. Nick was engaging—as far as an opening act goes, he did everything right. He chatted comfortably with the crowd, complimented the area (he joked about being able to see why so many presidents vacation in Maine), sang a few songs we knew (his cover song medley included “Wake Me Up” and “Save Tonight”), asked us to clap, whistle, and sing along, and didn’t play for too long. Well done, Nick. I especially liked his original songs “Can’t Break a Broken Heart” and “Falling for You.”

Nick Howard

Nick Howard

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I was impressed with the speedy set change (it being a school night and all), and Tristan Prettyman and her band took the stage in no time at all. I hadn’t seen her since 2011 at the Life is Good Festival in Canton, Massachusetts, and was glad to see her again. Her last album, Cedar + Gold, got a lot of play on long road trips in my car in 2012. It’s definitely a breakup album (this summer, my break up album was Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour) and was written about her broken engagement with Jason Mraz. Here’s Tristan performing a stripped-down version of “I Was Gonna Marry You” that she didn’t play at the show, since a lot has happened since then. Tristan told us she’d gotten married in August (her husband, Google Venture managing partner, Bill Maris, was in the crowd proudly taking photos). Her new EP, Back to Home, released the day before the show, is a much happier album, and Tristan told us she was playing these songs live for the first time on the City & Sand Tour with Eric. She joked about how all of her songs are about stupid men, and so she really didn’t have anything appropriate to play when she visited her friend’s sixth grade classroom, so she wrote a “namaste” song, “Open Up Your Eyes.” I was glad to hear “Say Anything,” “Madly,” and “My Oh My,” all songs that 98.9 WCLZ has played regularly for ages. Tristan surprised us with a fun cover of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” during her set, which had people happily singing along.

Tristan Prettyman

Tristan Prettyman

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The last time I saw Eric Hutchinson was a real treat. He told a ton of stories about his songs and interacted comfortably with the friendly crowd while playing stripped-down, acoustic songs—my ideal concert-going scenario. This show was different. Eric hopped up on stage with a full band and rocked from start to finish. He didn’t say a whole lot to the crowd, but he and his happy bandmates had great energy and put on a fun show. Eric has a lot of hits from his decade-plus-long career, and he played them all. The crowd was clearly excited to hear “Watching You Watch Him.” During “The Basement” he sampled a little Aretha, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Amy Winehouse. It was a big hit with the crowd and Eric and the band really went all out on it.

Eric Hutchinson

Eric Hutchinson

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Loved seeing this camaraderie

Loved seeing this camaraderie

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Look at the fun they're having!

Look at the fun they’re having!

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Eric called Tristan up on stage and they did one of her songs, “Love Love Love,” together. He told us that the first time he heard that song, he listened to it on repeat for an entire two hour drive. Eric tested out the security of the big speaker on the floor right next to me and then hopped up onto it to start singing “OK, It’s Alright with Me.” I physically had to move to get out of his way. That’s how close to a performer I want to be during a show! (It’s also why I didn’t move to a new spot when I probably should have to get away from the folks I was standing around. Lesson learned.)

Tristan and Eric on her "Love Love Love"

Tristan and Eric on her “Love Love Love”

Eric up on the speaker right next to me. This is the kind of stage proximity I look for!

Eric up on the speaker right next to me. This is the kind of stage proximity I look for!

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I appreciated the way that Eric gleefully interacted with his band on stage. He took the time to introduce all of them and to give them time to highlight their skills, which they especially did during “You Don’t Have to Believe Me.” The show is clearly not all about him to him, and that’s great to see. Eric talked about getting dropped from his label years ago and using the money to make his 2008 album, Sounds Like This. His newest album, Pure Fiction, came out in April of 2014. Eric sampled Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” during “A Little More,” one of his newer songs. I stayed through “Rock and Roll” and then decided to head home before the encore so I could be in bed before midnight on a school night. Eric’s so fun live. Next time I see him, I’ll try harder to bring my dancing shoes!

xo,

bree

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Darlingside and Jacob Augustine

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Empire, Portland, Maine

This was only my third Darlingside show? That doesn’t seem possible, because they hold a pretty big spot in my musical heart. I first saw them in September of 2012 at One Longfellow Square only because they invited me and I was completely flabbergasted. I declared it one of my top five shows of 2012—which means something since I saw 45 shows that year. They came to play OLS again last fall with the lovely and talented Caitlin Canty, who is a regular collaborator of theirs, and the effervescent Rusty Belle. I’ve mostly adjusted to teacher hours and the show didn’t start until after 9:30PM, so I was excited for the show, but afraid I’d fall asleep in the car on the drive home. I texted my concert buddy Colin, who promised me he’d meet me at the show, so I mustered up the energy for a late night and an hour and a half of driving to see them. Totally worth it. I love seeing shows with Colin because he appreciates music like I do, but also because he keeps track of set lists (which means I don’t have to). It’s kind of like seeing shows just for fun again!

Darlingside's set list--courtesy of Colin

Darlingside’s set list–courtesy of Colin

Darlingside took the stage about 9:45PM. As I glanced around the room, I saw most of The Ghost of Paul Revere, some guys from Tricky Britches, and Eric, who manages The Ballroom Thieves in the crowd. I feel like that turnout tells you this show was worth going to, eh?

Darlingside is a “string rock quartet.” Don, Dave, Auyon, and Harris went to Williams together, and their harmonies are flawless. As they played “God of Loss” and “My Love” to warm up, you could have heard a pin drop. In a bar. Late on a Saturday night. They’re impressive and they draw you in to listen. “My Love” is one of my favorites—a bit of self reflection about the effort one makes in a relationship—“My half-assed best was all I had for your love/my maybe-tomorrows for your heart-to-hearts/my punch-drunk house calls for your candles and wine/my brother, my banjo, my never-done-wrong/all you wanted was me by your side/I tend to get what I want/and do as I please/but you taught me I can’t always get away with everything I thought I could/and for that I thank you, my love.” Their cover of Smashing Pumpkin’s “1979” was energizing and a hit with the crowd.

From left to right, Darlingside is Don Mitchell,  David Senft, Auyon Mukharji, and Harris Paseltiner

From left to right, Darlingside is Don Mitchell,
David Senft, Auyon Mukharji, and Harris Paseltiner

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Dave promised to try very hard not to hit Auyon with his instruments.

Dave promised to try very hard not to hit Auyon with his instruments.

Darlingside’s harmonies on “The Woods” were particularly standout. I was glad to hear “The Catbird Seat.” It’s pretty, but sad—“By you I swore/By the light or the way you wore it/Now instead I swear I’m over it.” “Blow the House Down” was a crowd favorite. They ended their set with “Good Man,” and the crowd cheered loudly enough for an encore. I was really happy to hear “Sweet and Low” live. I also would have liked to hear “Terrible Things,” but alas. Check out the video, though. It’s excellent.

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Darlingside will join The Ghost of Paul Revere and The Ballroom Thieves (two more of my favorite bands) for Hollerfest 2 at The Strand Theatre in Rockland on Saturday, November 22. They’ll be joined by the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra. I will definitely be there!

Mike, of my former students who is all grown up now, works downstairs at Empire and joined us for a bit. Mike was impressed with Jacob Augustine’s beard, and I told him to get ready to be surprised by Jacob’s sweet falsetto voice. He was. I’d just seen Jacob a few weeks either at Ghostland Music Festival, but he hasn’t played out much and it was a treat to get to see him again so soon. I’d never seen Jacob Augustine with a full band, and the fullness of sound amplified the message of his songs beautifully. Jacob’s band for the night included Asher Platts on upright/bass, Peter McLaughlin on percussion, and my friend McKay Belk rocking the steel guitar. “Halfway to Harlem” was a favorite. They played the long versions of each song, and since I could see their set list from my front row spot, I knew I wouldn’t make it to the end of the night and sadly excused myself for the haul home. I listened to this version of “Peace Comes” in the car en route, though. Sad to miss the rest, Jacob, but so glad to see you twice in short time!

xo,

bree

Jacob Augustine

Jacob Augustine

Jacob with McKay Belk on steel guitar

Jacob with McKay Belk on steel guitar

Jacob with Peter McLaughlin on percussion

Jacob with Peter McLaughlin on percussion

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Asher Platts on upright bass

Asher Platts on upright bass

What's that called, Peter?

What’s that called, Peter?

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Max Garcia Conover with Ben Cosgrove

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mayo Street Arts, Portland, Maine

Max Garcia Conover is a name that’s popped up on whatbreesees more than most. Max is a helluva guy—humble, talented, soft-spoken, introspective. If you haven’t seen Max live, it feels a lot like being serenaded in your own living room—intimate and warm. There’s not much more I can say about Max that I haven’t in countless posts about him and his live show, and this night was similarly wonderful but also somewhat bittersweet. Max, Sophie, and their dog Arlo are off in their RV on a three-month family tour of the US to promote their new album, ellery, and this was their sendoff. The gang was all assembled for a final hoorah before saying goodbye for a while to a couple of our favorite people.

The gang's all here!

The gang’s all here!

I got to Mayo Street Arts early after a great Friday afternoon happy hour with dear colleagues in Freeport just in time to snuggle Arlo and keep Sophie company in the RV while she got ready for the show. She introduced me to the now famous Ben Cosgrove, who not only arranged and produced ellery, but also played too many instruments on it to count. Max has been singing the praises of Ben for a long while now, so it was great to meet him and also to hear him play in person.

Mayo Street Arts filled in just as the show started, and the kind folks who work there had to fetch more and more seating from the back room to seat everyone, including a bunch of Max’s students from Breakwater School. Max opened the show by thanking us all for coming out and introducing Ben Cosgrove, who sat in for the entire show and wowed the crowd with his instrumental prowess. They opened with “Teem,” and Max told us that Ben really made that song happen—a difficult, instrumental piece that opens Max’s 2013 album, Burrow. Ben liked “Teem” and so learned it just by listening to it on his drive to Maine and then played it from memory at a show he and Max played together in Portland. Take a listen. You’ll start to understand how truly gifted Ben is.

Ben Cosgrove and Max Garcia Conover

Ben Cosgrove and Max Garcia Conover

Max is from Ellery, New York, and he told us that the album is about the idea of home and trying to belong somewhere. He called his new wife (!) Sophie Nelson onstage to sing “Amapolas, Part One” together. Max said this song (which means ‘poppies’ in Spanish) is meant to continue on in future albums. Sophie’s airy vocals are a nice juxtaposition to Max’s grittier sound. Ben accompanied them not only on piano but also on the flugelhorn at the same time.

Sophie Nelson joins Ben and Max

Sophie Nelson joins Ben and Max

Ben played a couple of songs solo. He said that his instrumental music is inspired by landscape and played two impressive piano pieces—“Montreal Song” and “Abilene.” I just drove cross country last month, and so I appreciated Ben’s introductory words about how disorienting it is to drive through Kansas. Max joined Ben onstage and read lyrics for one more of Ben’s songs—“The Contoured Shape of the Ground”—which I think Ben said he’d never played live before. They played “The Songs” from ellery before the break, which is a song about writing songs. I particularly like the driving tempo in the song and the lyric “they don’t want truth/just tell better lies.”

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Max called us back together after intermission and played “I Won’t Mess You Up”—a song he said is about getting married. He told us that growing up in Ellery he didn’t really know what a singer songwriter was, except he read about a guy who toured New York in a canoe with his ukulele. And then he pointed to Chris, the very sweet guy I’d been sitting with, and welcomed him to the stage! Chris Bell didn’t have his ukulele with him, but played a couple of bold, looping songs with his electric cello and a serious array of foot pedals instead.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

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Max told a story about driving home to upstate New York with Sophie and Arlo when their car died with an hour to go in the middle of the night. Sophie fell asleep in the tow truck and soon, so did the driver. Max, feeling a need to protect his new wife, had to break out of his shell to engage the driver in conversation to keep him awake. He didn’t know where to start, so he just asked him about the gigantic crack down the middle of the windshield. It worked. Max invited Sammie Francis-Taylor to the stage to play shaker on “Say That You Know Me,” which is partially about having to connect with people even when you don’t know how or even really want to.

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I was really excited when Max started to introduce “Wildfires Outside Laramie, WY.” It’s one of those songs that cuts right to the heart of the matter and is one of my favorites of all of Max’s songs. He said it’s about when you can’t find common ground. He also told us that he just booked a gig in Laramie, and I’ll be interested to hear how playing that song there goes. It’s a heavy one.

Max, Sophie, and Ben left the stage and said goodnight, but we weren’t ready for the night to end. They came back and played another favorite, the very lovely “You’re the Farthest I Go” and went right into “Evelyn O.” to end their encore. I loved watching Sophie and Max looking at each other with sideways glances and knowing smiles during the songs they sang together. It is really sweet, how those two are together. It was a real treat to be there for this sendoff show. We didn’t get in our traditional Mayo Street sing along! I’ve gotten used to belting out the chorus on “The Start of Fables,” but Max wanted to be sure he built in some time for us all to hang out after the show since they’re off on tour for so long. Miss you guys already. Thanks for a great night!

xo,

bree

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David Wax Museum

Friday, April 18, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’d heard good things, but had never seen David Wax Museum and was also quite unfamiliar with their music. I’m so glad I got to remedy that situation and finally see them live—what a blast! I absolutely recommend you check them out when they’re in your town! I knew they’d won an online contest to play Newport Folk Festival in 2010 and were so impressive that they were invited back in 2011. They were even named one of the “25 Best Live Acts of 2011” by Paste Magazine. They were so much fun to see.

This was a perfect start to the beginning of my April vacation! I got to catch up with Nate over gelato at The Gelato Fiasco, had tea with Megan, and met Andrea at Empire in Portland for dinner before the show. We had a delicious meal (as always) and were entertained and confused by a very outgoing woman at the table adjacent to us who kept bothering women around her to sign for a picture (in American sign language) the hashtag her husband “invented” for himself—wait for it–#mattisadick. The production easily lasted twenty minutes and at least half of the restaurant was involved or at least watching with curiosity. The good news is that the hashtag fiasco was an icebreaker and Andrea and I met Vivian and Sheri (hi, ladies!!) at the table next to us who were pumped to be seeing David Wax Museum that night as well.

Empire's hot & sour soup

Empire’s hot & sour soup

Spinach dumplings

Spinach dumplings

Andrea and I made our way to Port City Music Hall and took our spot up front just as Boston’s Kingsley Flood was wrapping their set. We set our stuff down on the floor at the base of the stage as David Wax came by and dropped his earpiece (don’t worry—we helped him find it). The David Wax Museum is genuinely impressive live. They dance all over the place, smile constantly, have an obviously strong group dynamic, harmonize with ease, and play instruments beautifully and soulfully. I kept looking over at Andrea and smiling—totally caught off guard by how fun they were to be watching.

The David Wax Museum

The David Wax Museum

David Wax was all smiles

David Wax was all smiles

Suz Slezak with a donkey jawbone and Jordan Wax on accordion

Suz Slezak with a donkey jawbone and Jordan Wax on accordion

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David Wax and Suz Slezak form the core of The David Wax Museum (DWM). They met in 2007 (and are married with a five month old baby now) and make upbeat, harmonic, danceable music together. They call their music “Mexo-Americana,” which works just perfectly to explain what a leona (think ukulele), upright bass, percussion, fiddle, keys, accordion, and donkey jawbone combine to become. It’s so fun.

A fun Maine connection is that the last two of DWM’s albums (their most recent is Knock Knock Get Up) were made with Sam Kassirer at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonfield. If you saw Lake Street Dive play at The State Theatre, you got to see Sam playing keys with LSD on a couple of songs as he also produced their latest album. Sam was at the DWM show and the band was excited to see him and reminisce.

David said they hadn’t headlined a show in Portland in three years (there’s my excuse) and were glad to be back in town. I really liked “Beekeeper,” which is an older one of their songs that’s mellow and folky—just how I like my music. Jordan Wax (David’s cousin) played keys and accordion and led a whole-crowd dance along from the center of the floor (he taught us choreography, folks). Talk about a guy having a good time on (and off) stage. Greg Glassman on bass and Philip Mayer on drums (even a cajon drum at one point) rounded out the group on stage that night.

Jordan teaching us our dance part

Jordan teaching us our dance part

Jordan leads the audience in dance

Jordan leads the audience in dance

I was impressed by DWM’s songs in Spanish, but couldn’t keep up with them lyrically (boy, they sing fast when they get going!) as I tried to translate in my head. David told us that Suz toured until she was 37 weeks pregnant and that her dad is on tour with them and their little one to make it work for them to travel. They sang a song about parenthood called “Everything Changes.” I loved when they all gathered around a single mic and sang “Let Me Rest.” The whole band grabbed their instruments and walked to the center of the room to play an unplugged song for us. Talk about a band that knows how to work a crowd and make us feel like we’re part of something. Well done, DWM!

"Let Me Rest" around one mic

“Let Me Rest” around one mic

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Philip Mayer on cajon drum

Philip Mayer on cajon drum 

Unplugged in the crowd

Unplugged in the crowd

I loved the flamenco dance introduction on “Yes, Maria, Yes” and loved “Singing to Me,” a song they dedicated to Bart—a former road manager from Portland who was at the show and singing and dancing along all night long. They talked about how they wrote the song because Bart would say that Tift Merritt (who they’d opened for on tour) was “singing to me” and how much they loved the ability music has to cut right through and connect the artist to the audience. That perfectly sums up why I write whatbreesees!

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David thanked us and told us that one of their very first shows was up the street at One Longfellow Square six years ago. They asked us to sing along for their final song “Harder Before It Gets Easier.” We gleefully sang along and cheered for an encore. Suz and David came out to play “Lavender Street” as a duet (which was lovely and you can watch here). I loved the lyric “I need you like the grass needs the rain.” The rest of the band joined them for “Born With a Broken Heart,” which gave me the energy I needed to drive home late on a Friday night. What an awesome show. Thanks for coming, David Wax Museum! SO glad I didn’t miss out this time!

xo,

bree

Glad you enjoyed the show, too, DWM!

Glad you enjoyed the show, too, DWM!

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Lake Street Dive with Ages and Ages

Saturday, April 5, 2014

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

Here’s something I never thought would be true—I missed half of Lake Street Dive’s set because I had to get home to meet our babysitter. Really. Lake Street Dive’s kind publicist offered me a plus one ticket to the show, and my sweetie and I asked my awesome student Lauren to babysit his two kiddos—the first time we’ve gone out together on a Saturday night since we started dating. Lauren met up with us earlier in the day so we could introduce her to the boys, and from that moment on, Jeff’s oldest asked “when is Lauren coming” every twenty minutes for the rest of the day! Adorable! I nearly forgot that Lauren couldn’t drive past midnight (driving laws these days are so different than when I was in high school), so we had to leave at 11 to get home to her in time.

Here is a public declaration of thanks to the fabulous Tom Rota, outgoing Programming Director of my favorite intimate listening room anywhere—Portland’s One Longfellow Square. It was Tom who introduced me to Lake Street Dive back in 2011. I saw them at OLS in 2011 and 2012 play to pretty full houses—almost 200 seats in the house. Here’s my post from their October 2012 show. To see them play to a sold out crowd of nearly ten times that amount of people at State Theatre just over a year later was incredible. Lake Street Dive is getting the attention they truly deserve. It’s funny to see them called a “new” band since they’ve been together since 2009, but I’m happy people are catching on and am lucky to have gotten to know them early on.

Love Rachael's face in this one! Try getting a picture of Bridget who is constantly in motion! There's Mike Olson, too.

From my post in 2012–I love Rachael’s face in this one! Try getting a picture of Bridget who is constantly in motion! There’s Mike Olson, too.

I love this shot! I had to get up and walk to the back of the room to fit all of LSD into one frame.

I love this shot from 2012 at One Longfellow Square! I had to get up and walk to the back of the room to fit all of LSD into one frame.

Portland, Oregon’s Ages and Ages opened the show and reminded me of The Partridge Family. All six band members sang and played percussion at some point during their set. Their upbeat harmonic pop sound was full and energizing. When the tambourine came out, Up with People came to mind. Their hopeful songs like “I See More” promised “It’s all OK, I’ll be on your side.” Mike Calabrese from Lake Street Dive joined Ages and Ages on drums for their last song, “Divisionary,” and we were happily surprised when the rest of Lake Street Dive came out to join him, too.

Ages and Ages

Ages and Ages

Ages and Ages joined by Lake Street Dive

Ages and Ages joined by Lake Street Dive

There was an excruciatingly long break between bands, and I started to realize that we’d have to leave the show early because of that. Boo. Luckily, Steve Feeney wrote this show review for the Portland Press Herald so I could read about what I missed—including a sing along cover of “Rich Girl” to end the evening. The State was packed and people were jockeying for a place to stand around us near the front—a far cry from the last times I’ve seen LSD play in teeny listening rooms to seated small audiences. The show was originally supposed to be at Port City Music Hall, but after shout outs in Rolling Stone and The New Yorker, multiple late night show appearances, and the successful release of their acclaimed newest album Bad Self Portraits, the move to State Theatre was made and the show sold out. Awesome.

Lake Street Dive’s lead singer, the incomparable Rachael Price, was a showstopper, but absolutely humble and genuinely grateful for the warm reception they received. She welcomed us to “the biggest show we’ve ever done,” and she seemed stunned by our presence as we surely were by hers. She was buoyed by the enthusiastic crowd and told us that they were at the end of a long tour and we were lifting them up. I love it when a band shows appreciation for the audience. A little friendly banter goes a very long way in my book and can make or break a concert experience.

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Rachael Price, Mike Calabrese, Bridget Kearney, and Mike Olson met almost a decade ago as classmates at Boston’s New England Conservatory and have been together ever since. One of the many things I love about this insanely talented jazzy pop group is that each is a star in their own right. Rachael is the most obvious talent because she leads with breathtaking vocals, but everyone is an integral part of this perfect puzzle. Bridget’s bass is full and mesmerizing. Mike Olson’s trumpet parts feel like they have their own voice. Mike Calabrese knows how to showcase everyone and when to pick it up or slow it down on drums for the greatest impact. They are a true team.

Bridget had a sick solo on “Henrietta” and Rachael told us Bridget wrote “Love Doctor” as well. Bridget seems to be the head writer for the group these days. Their producer, Sam Kassirer, joined them onstage for a few songs on the keys. He owns and operates The Great North Sound Society in isolated Parsonfield, Maine—so there’s a Maine connection to Lake Street Dive’snew album, which was recorded there.

I am so happy you were all there to see Lake Street Dive live. What a treat. Lake Street Dive posted a picture and a thank you to the sold out crowd on Facebook and I’ve rarely seen so many likes and comments on a post in such short time.

Lake Street Dive showing Portland, Maine some love on Facebook!

Lake Street Dive showing Portland, Maine some love on Facebook!

Whatever it was that introduced you to Lake Street Dive—Kevin Bacon’s tweet with a link of their cover of “I Want You Back” (which has almost two million views now), their appearances on The Colbert Report, The Ellen Degeneres Show, and The Late Show with David Letterman, or even just that Portland’s 98.9 WCLZ made their song the free download of the week a month or so ago, welcome to the fan club!

To quote David Letterman after their performance on his show—“Are you kidding me? Come back every night. Can you do that?” Perfectly said, Dave. I’m sure I speak for everyone at the show when I say that I hope you’ll come back soon to see us again! Thanks, Lake Street Dive!

xo,

bree

A packed State Theatre crowd. So sad to have to leave early!

A packed State Theatre crowd. So sad to have to leave early!

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The Ballroom Thieves with the Soil & the Sun and Starlight Cicada

Friday, April 4, 2014

Empire, Portland, Maine

The Ballroom Thieves is one of my favorite bands from New England. Their percussive, harmonic sound and heartfelt, relatable lyrics are infectious. I’m a fan and plan to see them whenever they come to Maine. Fridays are usually the day of the week that I’m most tired and ready for bed before dark, but I gladly persevered until midnight to see the Thieves again. Check out my previous Ballroom Thieves posts from June 2013, October 2013, and January 2014.

I hadn’t seen a show at Empire since it’s reopening, and I liked the updates to the concert space upstairs. An aside: I’m often confused by folks who come out to see live music at bars. It seems like a lot of people just talk (loudly and even louder as the night goes on) throughout the show. Why bother buying a ticket to a show? Maybe just go to a bar without a band playing? It’s distracting (okay, annoying) for those of us who came to listen, but I digress.

I showed up late after a long dinner with girlfriends and was glad to catch the bulk of Starlight Cicada’s set. Maine’s own Elizabeth Taillon (Starlight Cicada is her unique moniker) is a former busker. I was impressed with the power of her vocals and with how revelatory and heavy her lyrics were. Her simple, finger picked electric guitar was a perfect accompaniment for her big voice and slow, mellow songs. I was drawn to a song that had the refrain “love me or be alone.” I ended up leaning over to the guy standing next to me to ask if he knew anything about Starlight Cicada—and, lucky me, he was her boyfriend. I’d like to see her again in a listening room and hear a little biographical information and background about the songs. Check out Starlight Cicada’s EP “The Mansion Demos.

Starlight Cicada

Starlight Cicada

The Ballroom Thieves discovered the Soil & the Sun when recording their Audiotree SXSW Showcase in Austin and invited them to come to New England and play some shows together. Grand Rapids, Michigan’s the Soil & the Sun was fantastic. I was glad that Caroline finished work downstairs and could come up to join me so I’d have someone to chat with about how interesting their music was. Their sound is full—six gifted musicians play multiple, rotating instruments including two keyboards, violin, drums, bass, guitar, tambourine, oboe (that wasn’t a clarinet, right?), and assorted percussive items. Since genres are so blurred these days, I’d dub theirs “indie orchestral.” I was reminded of North Carolina’s Lost in the Trees a bit during their set. I was impressed with their layered songs with ever-changing tempos, gorgeous harmonies, and instrumentation. I would have loved to hear a bit about the band and their songs, and I wish they’d been able to play a bit longer so my sweetie (who was a music major in college and a quite serious, accomplished flute player for many years) could have heard them. They’re impressive and I hope they’ll come back this way.

the Soil & the Sun

the Soil & the Sun

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The Ballroom Thieves took the stage and opened with “Brother.” It stuck out as one of their best to me and was a strong opening. Devin, Martin, and Calin were spot on, as always. Jeff made it in time to catch their set from the beginning and he and Caroline, seeing them for the first time, were both impressed. The Thieves complimented the new Empire and raved about their fantastic meal as they recounted their entrees by name.

Martin Earley, Devin Mauch, and Calin Peters are The Ballroom Thieves

Martin Earley, Devin Mauch, and Calin Peters are The Ballroom Thieves

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“Oak” is pretty. I’m looking forward to having that song to listen to on repeat when The Ballroom Thieves’ upcoming album drops. I liked hearing new songs, too, and the Thieves played a few. One of the lyrics that caught me was “I would burn into the ground to take you home.” Their harmonies are always strong, but were even more mesmerizing when they sang a cappella on “Stones.” I appreciated it at the end of the night when the guys thanked us sincerely for coming out and for our continued support of their music. They can be a little goofy onstage (and I like their comfortable banter with the crowd), but it’s clear that they genuinely appreciate the opportunity to play for an attentive audience.

I love this shot of Devin

I love this shot of Devin

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They unplugged and came out into the middle of the room to play “Save Me,” definitely one of my favorites, to wrap the night. Folks circled around them and the room was completely silent but for the beautiful lyrics and harmonies of that song. I was impressed (but not surprised) that the Thieves garnered total silence from a bar crowd at midnight on a Friday night. They’re that good. Check them out next time they’re in town—you can meet me front and center!

"Save Me" unplugged in the middle of the room

“Save Me” unplugged in the middle of the room

Thanks, Thieves!

xo,

bree

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