Tag Archives: Portsmouth New Hampshire

The Milk Carton Kids 

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I’ve barely seen a show all summer! Summer is when I recharge after an inevitably crazy school year, so dealing with what seems to be an epidemic of awful concert etiquette at shows is really low on my summer to-do list these days. Dan and I did make a plan, however, to celebrate my last day of school with a Milk Carton Kids show at The Music Hall in Portsmouth. He put their song “Michigan” on a mix CD he made for me (I know–he is thoughtful and knows me so well!) early on in our relationship. I’d heard of the band, but didn’t know their music at all. I was excited to give them a try.

We made our way to Portsmouth with time to enjoy a delicious and wonderfully unique Himalayan dinner at Durbar Square Restaurant. We tried a lot of things and highly recommend it! We grabbed our second row seats just before the show started. Something I enjoy about The Music Hall (and most seated shows anywhere) is that folks in the audience tend to be there for the music and exhibit proper concert etiquette, which is rarer and rarer these days. Yes, I’m a broken record about this, but at least I shut up and listen at shows!

Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan remind me a lot of Kyle Jahnke and Andy Baxter of a band I adore, Penny & Sparrow. Their songs are serious and often sad, but their banter with the audience and each other is absolutely hilarious. Joey is the funny guy. He introduced “A Sea of Roses” thusly:

He [Kenneth] had a difficult breakup and a cancer diagnosis. I am happy to say he’s completely cured and is fine now. He has new love in his life and some hormone pills that keep him relatively even. Everything’s been going pretty well for me. I did lose my glasses. And after months trying to find a suitable replacement, I gave up and now the whole world is blurry. I don’t mean to compare anybody’s misfortunes. All of Kenneth’s trials and tribulations are in the past, while I’m still dealing with this. Many of the songs Kenneth wrote for this album are personal and it’s some of the most beautiful and revealing he’s written in a long time. But due to an early agreement between us, I do own half of the songs. Ok, that’s enough now. Do you want to do your cancer song now? I mean, our cancer song.

We laughed so much all night long. I was also blown away by Kenneth’s guitar playing, too. What I didn’t connect with was their songwriting, which turns out to be the most important thing for me. Dan loves the Milk Carton Kids and generally appreciates music that sounds good to listen to. No argument from me that their music sounds amazing, but I care more about the lyrics, which I just didn’t connect with, unfortunately. Still, I was entertained from start to finish and am really glad we started my summer vacation off with a truly fun musical adventure.

xo,

bree

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Patty Griffin with Ruston Kelly

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I’ve been listening to Patty Griffin since my senior year of high school, so for over 20 years now. I have always liked knowing that she grew up two towns over from me. It made me feel like anything was possible for a kid from a small town in Maine. Her songs, full of heart, are among my all-time favorites. If I absolutely had to narrow down my favorite songs from her long career, I would still have to pick six–“Rain,” “Nobody’s Crying,” “When It Don’t Come Easy,” “Top Of The World,” “Let Him Fly,” and “Burgundy Shoes.” Patty’s songs have been recorded by so many talented musicians who’ve helped share her music in the world. Patty is pretty epic. Somehow, I’ve only managed to see her twice, in 2002 and 2007. I was thrilled when I saw she was going on tour with Ruston Kelly. I saw his incredibly talented wife, Kacey Musgraves, back in January. I eagerly snagged a solo seat in the third row at The Music Hall in Portsmouth when tickets went on sale, and I made my way south on a sunny Sunday afternoon to see the show. I was pumped to run into my friend and fellow music enthusiast Aimsel Ponti and her friend Kathryn, who had incredible front row center seats for the show.

For me, Ruston Kelly stole the show and my music-loving heart. His set was full of sincerity, heart, and power. His voice is compelling and his songs are honest and self-aware. He shared the stage with his dad, TK Kelly, on pedal steel guitar. Ruston introduced his dad–“not only is he a fantastic dresser, but he happens to be my biological father. We found out on Maury. He’s the strong, silent type.” Something that crept up early in the night was a little bit of sarcasm from the audience that I found annoying and I think Ruston did, too. A few people interjected during his banter–one to give him a hard time about tuning his guitar. He responded, “I’m tuning my guitar so I can play better.” He mentioned the comments later in his set. He said, “that’s the stuff you remember later.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.

Ruston told us early in his set that “I feel like it will give some context that in that at this period in my artwork, I had to dig myself out of a pretty low hole dealing with substance abuse and I’m happy to say that I’m on solid ground these days. There’s a silver lining to most of it, but the songs are still pretty sad.” I was surprised to hear him introduce “Mockingbird” by saying “I wrote this song standing next to a dumpster.” His song “Alive” gave me chills. I’m already looking forward to seeing Ruston again live. He is the real deal. I was excited when one of the guys on the tour crew handed me his setlist during intermission, too.

I can’t believe I hadn’t seen Patty Griffin live in 12 years, and I was sad to hear how much thinner her voice sounds in person these days. If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t love this live show. I appreciated learning about some of the songs on her new album, Patty Griffin, though. Patty told us that “Boys from Tralee” is about a couple of boys getting out of Ireland during the Famine. She said her grandparents came to America couple of generations after the Famine, because Ireland was still pretty devastated. She told us that, “one of the reasons I’m alive is because the gates were open. I think about that a lot lately.”

Patty told us that “Hourglass” was inspired by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and she encouraged us to check him out on YouTube. More of the songs on her new album were inspired by other musicians, too. Patty was in Europe when she had a vivid dream about Billie Holliday. She explained, “I’d never immersed myself in her music before because her voice is awfully sad and I didn’t think I could handle it. In this dream, she was young and was smiling and was singing this beautiful song in a barn to a bunch of people. I woke up out of this dream and started listening to her consistently. I’ve learned from her that singers can sometimes never waste a note. She meant every single note she used. I learned what a huge supreme gift it is to have a voice that sad because when you need to feel sad she carries you there with her and that’s a gift to the world. I thought about what made her sad. She was born a Black woman in America in the era she was born into. I heard there were many difficult moments in her life and as a child her mother was not able to be in her life. This sadness in her voice is where people go to cry their tears and it inspired Had a Good Reason.

Photo courtesy of Aimsel Ponti

Patty didn’t play many older songs, which I was disappointed about, too, so I was especially glad to hear “Long Ride Home” in person. Patty honored her mother when she introduced “Bluebeard.” She told us her mom was an English teacher and they went to the library every week. “Bluebeard” is a murder ballad that retells the story she read as a kid. She said, “sometimes there are things in life that you don’t want to know but then they become obvious and you can’t unknow them so you have to do something about them.”

Patty told us that she wrote “Where I Come From” about Old Town, Maine. She was driving her mom around town (she still lives there) looking for a store that has long disappeared and “thought about how different the town is now. When I was born there were 5 or 6 factories–they made shoes, paper, and canoes–and now they’re down to just one canoe factory. I thought about how there’s no plan B and that is the case all over America. There are all these little towns that need a little love.”

I really love Patty’s new single, “River.” The lyrics are powerful (like Patty’s always are): “Isn’t she a river? / She doesn’t need a diamond to shine / You can’t really have her / But you can hold her for a time / Takes an army just to bend her.” I was over the moon to hear one of my favorite Patty Griffin songs, “When It Don’t Come Easy,” in person. I’ll take a sappy lyric anytime, like “if you break down / I’ll drive out and find you / If you forget my love / I’ll try to remind you

And stay by you when it don’t come easy.” Patty sincerely thanked her band, Ruston Kelly, the folks at The Music Hall, and all of us for coming before wrapping her set with “Shine a Different Way.” She came back to the stage solo and sang “Heavenly Day” for us, which was enthusiastically received by a much warmer audience. It was not my favorite Patty Griffin show to date, but I am forever grateful to her for decades of songs that make me feel all the feelings.

xo,

bree

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The Lone Bellow TRIIIO Tour

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

When Dan and I started dating, he surprised me with a mix CD of some of his favorite songs because he knows how important music is in my life and wanted me to get to know him better through the songs he loves. I melted. My huge music collection lives on a hard-to-access hard drive, so I reciprocated by buying him The Lone Bellow’s first CD from 2013. A week later, he joked with me, “I just want to tell them it’s going to be okay.” I explained the inspiration for those first songs, and then he understood. He picks on me for liking sad songs so much, and we joke that the more unplugged, the fewer percussive instruments, and the more harmonies there are, the more I’ll love a show. He’s not wrong. So when I saw that The Lone Bellow was going to leave the band behind (sorry, Jason!) and tour with just Zach, Kanene, and Brian, I was pumped. I wanted to win Dan over about The Lone Bellow (because they’re my favorite band), so I asked him to join me to see their TRIIO tour at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I haven’t seen as many concerts lately because I’m dating someone entrenched in the theater world–we saw 5 shows last month alone–so I was really glad to share an important part of my music world with Dan. I promised him that The Lone Bellow give 110% live and that I was positive he’d love them. I was totally right!

We had a leisurely dinner across the street at The Friendly Toast before the show, but still made it to our seats (my first time in the balcony at The Music Hall) in time for show opener Naia Izumi. I watched his NPR Tiny Desk Concert after he was named 2018 Tiny Desk Concert winner, and am always hopeful that I’ll love an opening act. I was not so lucky this night, however. Naia sat down and played a handful of songs for us. He lacked interest and energy in the performance. I was surprised and disappointed.

Zach, Brian, and Kanene took the stage a while later and the house had pretty much filled in by then. I think they’re mesmerizing, passionate, and generous live–truly the very best a band can be in person. I loved hearing them tell stories, trade instruments, cover Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and The National’s “Pink Rabbits,” and impromptuly sing some of  “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” too. “Pink Rabbits” is on The Lone Bellow’s new Restless EP.

I think “Watch Over Us” is always going to be so stunning live that I catch myself holding my breath every single time. Zach told us the sweetest story about his daughters getting the idea they wanted to build a treehouse the day before he left for tour for three weeks. He and his wife wondered if their friend (and fellow Nashville musician) Hugh Masterson might be able to price out how much one would cost, and, without them knowing, their daughter called him to ask him to come over to do an estimate. Zach told us that his wife sent him a photo of Hugh and their friend Micah out in the backyard building his family a treehouse. He was stunned when he told us, “they built my children a treehouse. They are fellas with jobs, too. I feel so loved by my neighbors and I hope you’ll get to know your neighbors.” I took a couple of screenshots of the treehouse in progress from Zach’s Instagram account to share with you. There so much love in this, and we need it.

In the next breath, Zach told us what I’m going to call his “nipple story.” He told us that he went on a long run earlier in the day. He joked that “I think I went to Maine.” He’d been wearing the same shirt for several days in a row, and his nipples started to chafe. He hurt so bad that he went to a running store in Portsmouth and whispered to a sales associate about his chafed nipples. They were out of the nipple stickers, so the sales guy called another store to get some for him. Before Zach left, the sales associate said to him “by the way, I’m really looking forward to the show tonight!” I love how small our world is.

I think they wrapped up a 15 or so song set with “May You Be Well,” which has such hopeful lyrics–”Whatever darkness/That you are concerned with/May you find peace/That is everlasting/Even when circumstances/They are crashing/Oh you can stand firm on the everlasting/May you be well.” It’s a lovely sentiment to end a show with, but The Lone Bellow came back for two more songs, “Tree to Grow” and “Green Eyes and Heart of Gold.” It really lifted my spirit to hear these three songs back to back. “Tree to Grow” is a top favorite Lone Bellow song, will the reassuring refrain “I’ll never leave, I’ll always stay/I swear on all that I keep safe.” I loved singing that line with them. Zach, Brian, and Kanene unplugged and climbed off stage and sang “Green Eyes and Heart of Gold” from the floor. I don’t think there’s a better feeling than hearing your favorite band sing “Our song is not a dying dream/You’re not alone, you’re not alone” at the end of a heartfelt night of connection through song. I love them so much, and if you still don’t know them, I know you would, too.

xo,

bree

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I’m With Her

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Prescott Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This was a picture perfect day. Friends from church invited me to join them for a sail out of Georgetown and Captain Ben even let me take the helm some. It was a hot and sunny day with good wind and great company. Meg and Ben kindly accommodated my need to get back to shore by 4 so I could scoot to Portland to pick up moving boxes I’d found for free on Craigslist (I bought a house!) and make my way to Prescott Park in Portsmouth to see I’m With Her.

I’d seen Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan all live, but never together. I’m With Her released their debut album, See You Around, in February of 2018, and I had never listened to it and didn’t know a single one of their songs as a trio. Their other projects were so strong and I love all of their individual voices enough that I got off a sailboat to drive 100 minutes each way to see them in person.

 

Colin and Sabrina arrived at Prescott Park closer to doors opening and put down a blanket third row center for us (they’re the best!), and I got to catch up with them about their upcoming trip to Canada a bit before the show. I thought Sara, Sarah, and Aoife’s harmonies were lovely, and they told us the backstories to many of their songs, which is always a plus in my book. They’re all talented instrumentalists, too, and played a soothing set juxtaposed with a very busy Seussical set.

Sarah told us that they wrote their songs for their album in Vermont in December. They’d rented a minivan to drive from New York to Vermont, lost cell reception, got rerouted by Google, and were stuck on an icy mountain, unable to move. Sarah said that “a magical mountain man in a pickup truck” helped them turn around and led them back to the highway. The bonus was that they got a song out of it aptly titled “I-89.” Their songs “Hundred Miles” and “Overland” also stuck out as favorites.

I’m With Her also played two incredible and well-received covers of Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” and John Hiatt’s “Crossing Muddy Waters.” I’m With Her will play the State Theatre in Portland on November 11, and a duo that I really like, The Brother Brothers, will open the show. If you like tender songs and strong harmonies, you should check them out!

xo,

bree

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Darlingside with Lula Wiles

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Prescott Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I took a two month hiatus to enjoy the summer, but am back and excited for great music this fall!

I’m watching the Hand In Hand telethon to support hurricane victims right now. They’re putting on a great show! Music can be such a healing force. I’m counting my blessings, too. My dad in Florida is unharmed. There’s heartbreak, though, and a lot of work to do. You can donate $25 right now by texting GIVE to 80077.

Back to blogging. . .

I almost didn’t make the trip to Portsmouth for this show back in July, but I’m so glad I did! I thought I was too busy that day to swing it, but then I remembered that I was a teacher on summer vacation, so I got my act together! Colin told me he was going and we could carpool, so that was the right nudge. Thanks, Colin!

I picked up Colin in Portland and we found parking near Prescott Park. Colin staked out a perfect spot up front in the second row and put a blanket down for us to use later. We grabbed yummy burritos at Dos Amigos and got to the show early to enjoy pretty Prescott Park. I’d never been to a show there, but they’ve got a good system, a lovely space, and the price ($10) is right! We met some wonderful blanket neighbors who shared their desserts with us, and Bobbi (who I’d met years ago at a Lone Bellow show and is a superfan of some bands that I also love) noticed me and came over to catch up.

What a pretty sunset on the Piscataqua River!

We also observed some concert real estate drama. An older gentleman and his wife came up to the front and pushed a couple of blankets aside to set up their high backed chairs in the blanket section. Someone from the Prescott Park Arts Festival saw the chairs when the couple was grabbing food and moved them. The man who’d put the chair down was annoyed. He didn’t seem to understand that it was A. unacceptable to show up late and move other people’s things, and 2. rude to set up high backed chairs in the blanket section. Concert etiquette woes abound lately, it seems. Later in the evening, a gaggle of women sitting near me talked at full voice for half an hour during an acoustic performance. Why buy a ticket to a show and sit up front if you don’t want to listen to the band? Super annoying.

Let the fine folks from Newport Folk Festival show you what kind of chair to bring to a show!

It was nice to see Boston’s Lula Wiles again. I’d seen them play last fall opening for Mipso and really enjoyed them live. They’ve got pretty voices and great harmonies. I love stringed instruments, so hearing an upright bass with guitar and violin is right up my alley. They were obviously happy to be on stage and were warm and chatty with the audience.

I’ve been a Darlingside fan for years, and they were voted by Prescott Park crowds at the end of last season as the band people most wanted to invite back to play this season. That didn’t surprise me at all. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Darlingside at least a handful of times, and they are the real deal. Don, Dave, Auyon, and Harris are talented multi-instrumentalists who share one microphone and serenade the audience with their smooth harmonies and friendly banter. It’s always a treat to see Darlingside live, and you should definitely check them out when they come to town. Check out “Go Back” and “Clay and Cast Iron”–both beautifully recorded by OurVinyl in Nashville.

Prescott Park is a great place to see a summer show! I’ll be back!

xo,

bree

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The Lone Bellow with Escondido

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Lone Bellow is my favorite band. Seeing The Lone Bellow perform is a spiritual experience—their passionate, soulful, high-octane live show is heartbreaking, uplifting, and kind of stunning. I’ve been fortunate to see them a half dozen times or so times now, and they never bring anything less than 100% to the stage. If anything, my love for a particular show of theirs has to do with how close to the stage I’m able to be. I love The Music Hall in Portsmouth and have seen The Lone Bellow there twice. The sound quality is beautiful, but I do prefer a standing room show where I can be right underneath the band to better see their facial expressions and enjoy their banter up close and personal.

My steadfast concert buddy Colin told me about this show while I was having a bummer of a Christmas. Buying my ticket to join him for this show was a big pick-me-up. We met up for a delicious dinner at Flatbread in downtown Portsmouth and made our way over to The Music Hall on the early side to catch Nashville’s Escondido. Jessica Maros and Tyler James are alt-country Escondido. Their bedazzled costumes were beautiful and they have a comfortable stage presence. Jessica has a beautiful voice. I particularly liked “Heart Is Black” and “Try.” Escondido has had some success being picked up to be played on TV shows like Nashville and Girls, so I expect you’ll be hearing even more from them in the days ahead.

Escondido 2

Escondido

Escondido

One of The Lone Bellow’s songs is aptly titled “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional,” because this band takes you on an emotional ride that gives you all the feels. I absolutely loved when Zach, Brian, and Kanene stepped to the front of the stage and played “Lovely in Blue,” “Watch Over Us,” and “Looking For You” unplugged. You could have heard a pin drop. I love Kanene’s powerful vocals on “Call To War” (I’m front and center and ecstatic to be there in this video), and the band wrapped their long set with a handful of commanding, driving songs—“Take My Love,” “You Never Need Nobody,” “Teach Me to Know,” and “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.” As if they hadn’t already left everything they had on stage, the band came back for an encore—“Then Came the Morning”—and asked us to sing along. It was a lovely way to end a beautiful, spirited night together. Thank you for being you, The Lone Bellow, and giving us so much of yourselves. Until next time.

xo,

bree

Lone Bellow

The Lone Bellow

Lone Bellow 2

Unplugged

Lone Bellow 3

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Lucius with Pavo Pavo

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I never miss an opening act. Some of my favorite musicians today were people I was lucky enough to catch open for someone else—Glen Hansard for Damien Rice, Brandi Carlile for Ray LaMontagne, Gregory Alan Isakov for Brandi Carlile, and the list goes on and on. I got to Boston embarrassingly early to catch Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall (who I’d seen open for The Civil Wars—sigh) in October of 2012 and Brooklyn’s Lucius was a phenomenal, totally take-you-by-surprise opening act. I was hooked. Jess and Holly’s harmonies are show stopping and their songs catchy. I bought their EP and listened to it hundreds of times.

I caught Lucius again in December of 2013 at Port City Music Hall in Portland. I will never forget that show, because I rushed to the show a little late after the best first date ever. Nearly two years later, and my sweetie and I got to see our first Lucius show together. He had a huge smile on his face all night. They are so impressive. Lucius was decidedly the sweetheart group of last summer’s Newport Folk Festival, sitting in with lots of groups (including my beloved The Lone Bellow) and even getting to sing with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.

Lucius. Port City Music Hall. December 2013.

Lucius. Port City Music Hall. December 2013.

Seeing Lucius together!

Seeing Lucius together!

Our friend Marian is a Lucius super fan, and she emailed the gang to remind us that tickets were going on sale to see Lucius at The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Ten of us snagged seats in the first few rows and got there early to catch Pavo Pavo, the eccentric opening act. I honestly don’t know how to describe that experience. I’m just glad I had friends there to witness it with me because it was a bit of a spectacle. The lead singer wore a black onesie jumpsuit complete with stirrup pants and a mock turtleneck. If they are trying to distract from their music (which I genuinely can’t recall at this point), with their look, then they’re succeeding brilliantly. I feel like I was the worst audience member ever for the opening because we were all texting (subtlely, and with our screens fully dimmed, mind you) our disbelief and discussed going out on Halloween dressed as Pavo Pavo in matching black mock turtleneck onesies. I laughed to tears at one point when the absurdity overwhelmed me. And even though they were absolutely not for me, I am so glad I got to see them that once.

The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Brooklyn's Pavo Pavo

Brooklyn’s Pavo Pavo

Lucius took the stage and was flawless. Their percussive, harmonic, powerful sound impresses and left us breathless. There wasn’t a stray voice in the crowd all night. We were spellbound. Guitarist Peter Lalish is from New Hampshire, and got a hometown welcome from the crowd. I was happy to hear “Don’t Just Sit There” and “Go Home”—both from their four song 2013 EP and their full length album, 2014’s Wildewoman. “How Loud Your Heart Gets” is another stand out. They tried out a handful of new songs on us, too, and I am pumped for their next release. They are so insanely good.

Lucius!

Lucius!

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I was sad, and I’ll admit, a bit grumpy, when people stood up to dance and were welcomed to the front of the stage to dance. A mass of eager dancers blocked our second row view of the show for the rest of the night and it was frustrating. I was bummed, especially for Marian, who’d been on the ball and bought a front row ticket just to have her view blocked by other fans.

Our sad view from the second row once the dancing started

Our sad view from the second row once the dancing started

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After they wrapped their set, I excused myself to the back of the room so I could actually see them, and caught one of my favorites, “Two of Us on the Run,” from there. The quintet unplugged for their encore and stepped in front of the stage curtain to play around one microphone. It was beautiful. I feel like the days of getting to see Lucius in intimate venues is dwindling as their popularity grows, so I’m grateful for even an obstructed second row view of this phenomenally talented powerhouse group.

xo,

bree

Encore

Encore

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