Tag Archives: Portsmouth

Brandi Carlile’s Pin Drop Tour

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH

I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend Rachel’s VW Bug somewhere near Phoenix on a hot summer day in August when my friend Megan texted me about Brandi Carlile’s October Pin Drop Tour. I surely squealed in excitement when I found out that one of only eight venues in the United States that Brandi and the Twins were going to play COMPLETELY UNPLUGGED was The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. My heart soared. Brandi Carlile is one of my most favorites. I first saw her with my friend Kim in 2005 opening for Ray LaMontagne at Berklee in Boston. The last time I saw her was phenomenal—one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I was in the front row at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, while Brandi and the Twins belted from just centimeters away. The time I saw them before that, I was also in the very front row at Berklee in Boston. For this show at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, though, our seats were in the VERY LAST ROW. And it didn’t matter one single bit. This show was magic.

The pin drop tour announcement from brandicarlile.com

The pin drop tour announcement from brandicarlile.com

My favorite shot from the front row at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine on October 24, 2012

This was the third Brandi show Kim, Sarah, Megan, and I have seen together. The first was in 2009 when Gregory Alan Isakov opened for Brandi at South Portland High School. We still laugh (but only a little) about how I sat next to a woman in her forties at that show who texted constantly through the first four or five songs until I asked her to put her phone away. My intervention only reduced the frequency of her evil texting to once per song or so. We all went to see Brandi again the following summer at Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom the night before I flew out to visit my friend Brady in Alaska—a beautiful bucket list trip that I didn’t want to come home from. We managed to get four seats together for this show and it was great to spend a little bit of quality time together.

A pre show selfie

A pre-show selfie

I also got to see my concert friend Colin who miraculously had a seat in the second row for a few minutes during intermission. He caught the trio of musicians from Brandi’s band who played covers of popular songs on violin and cello during the opening slot. I missed most of their set, but what I heard (including “High & Dry” by Radiohead) was great. I settled into my seat just before intermission ended and Phil Hanseroth, one of the twins, was standing just a few feet away at the back door ready for the show to start. He and I shared a moment where he could see how excited I was and then the lights dimmed and he started singing his way down the aisle to the stage.

The view from Colin's seat

The view from Colin’s seat in the second row

The view from our seats in the back row

The view from our seats in the back row

So sweet to have a moment with Phil before the show!

So sweet to have a moment with Phil before the show!

This show was stunning. I feel lucky to have been there—it felt like being part of something special. Since there wasn’t any amplification, people in the crowd were on their best behavior. It was incredible to be able to see and hear so well even from the back row. Brandi’s team was recording the show, so there was a strict no cell phone rule, too. It created a focused, attentive atmosphere for seeing such an intimate show. Colin kept track of the night’s set list:

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Brandi was thrilled to kick off the pin drop tour with us and was obviously as excited as we were about the concept. We broke out into song during the chorus of “What Can I Say” while Brandi roamed the aisles and sang with us. I loved “The Eye,” a new song inspired by Crosby, Stills & Nash that will be on their upcoming album. The chorus goes—“I wrapped your love around me like a chain/But I never was afraid that it would die/You can dance in a hurricane/But only if you’re standing in the eye.” It’s a haunting song that gave me chills.

Brandi’s raspy, soulful voice soared on “Before It Breaks.” I got a little teary during the chorus of that one—“Say it’s over, say I’m dreaming/Say I’m better than you left me/Say you’re sorry, I can take it/Say you’ll wait, say you won’t/Say you love me, say you don’t/I can make my own mistakes/Let it bend before it breaks.” Brandi debuted “Wherever Your Heart Is, I Call Home,” which is a sweet love song.

I was sad this night would end before it even began. Brandi was a gracious host and it was such a thrill to have gotten a seat in the sold out Music Hall to be part of it. The last two songs of the night were covers. Brandi and the Twins—Phil and Tim Hanseroth—played an outstanding cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Brandi talked a little about her wife and their new baby, Evangeline Ruth, and covered “Murder in the City” by The Avett Brothers to sum up how important family is. She and the band recorded it a few days later in Virginia, and it gives you a sense of how intimate the pin drop shows were. Thank you, Brandi, Tim, Phil, the band, and The Music Hall for a beautiful night. I wish it didn’t have to end.

xo,

bree

I asked my friends at the show if anyone wanted to contribute to this post, and Megan, who is both a busy fourth year doctoral candidate and owner of Pencil Events, miraculously made time to capture this breathtaking night in these beautiful words:

When all the cords and speakers that often help to make shows epic are removed from Brandi Carlile’s stage, two things happen. First, a show is performed with only the essentials: the force of Carlile’s voice, the hum of her many unplugged guitars, the walls of The Music Hall and the many of us lucky enough to be witnesses. And that’s really what being a member of that first pin drop audience felt like. It felt like we were witnessing some sacred creation greater than the sum of its parts. Second, without electric amplification, everyone else’s voices became more useful alongside Brandi’s. So, witnesses though we were, we were not passive but active with a new sort of role to play. We were an intimate band of creative witnesses, the most evocative manifestation of which occurred when, moved by the muse of The Music Hall, we all organically began singing the chorus for “What Can I Say” alternating with Carlile singing the verses while she walked the aisles among us. In this moment I couldn’t tell if I was chilled to the bone or warmed to the core or both! When we remove all the cords and equipment from the stage, the artist becomes even more clearly a conduit for something greater than themselves. With frippery removed so, too was the barrier between the Brandi Carlile and the rest of us. Because she was brave enough to get up there and offer the chance, we all celebrated how unimaginably brilliant hard-working brave human beings can be.

Kim made time, too! I’m impressed. These are busy women.

Although I’ve seen PLENTY of Brandi shows, and PLENTY of shows with these girlfriends, my decision to join Bree, Megan, and Sarah for the Pin Drop tour was on a bit of a whim. I go to a LOT fewer concerts than I used to—my husband and I just finished paying for our wedding ourselves, and because we met in law school we have a nice chunk of student loan debt to pay off. So we pinch our pennies and I tend to only see shows on a whim, and more for the social opportunity to get together with some girlfriends. (And I will let you draw your own conclusions about my OTHER whimsical choice this summer, which was to see Beyonce & Jay-Z at Gillette Stadium in July.)

But I very much enjoy my “cult of Brandi” with these particular girls. When she played at South Portland High School, we had our first treat of Brandi’s acoustic brilliance. I can still remember the haunting clarity of her voice from the very edge of that high school stage while everyone in the room sat mesmerized. It was enchanting.

So the chance to “splurge” on the Pin Drop tour was an easy choice. I left feeling literally buoyant, lifted in mind and spirit as Brandi must have intended when they decided to try this experiment a decade ago. Without amplification, the show had an intense focus that was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I seemed much less distracted by other audience members in the ways that I typically am (the incessant photo/camera screens), people dancing (in or out of their chairs), and just generally the people watching. Here, all eyes and ears were intensely focused on Brandi and the twins. It sounds intense, but it was freeing, particularly in the current era of constant phone dings and pings. It coincidentally synced beautifully with a new commitment in my workplace among colleagues to being more unplugged from our emails in the evening hours. Without working about my iPhone, I was left to just let the experience wash over me.

And wash it did. I will forever have an indelible memory of this evening, marked by Brandi’s roaming of the Music Hall for “What Did I Say.” As she walked the aisles in the style of an old-time troubadour, the audience began singing the chorus with her. It was such a powerfully gentle experience, and I found myself *not* singing, but just basking in awe of the moment. A few tears actually rolled down my face (I’m a crier, and this had been a particularly emotional week for me for other reasons). So many coincidences of how this “splurge” came together reminded me deeply of the value of making time for music itself and the community of music in my life, even though I’m not attending as many concerts as I’d like. Thank you, Brandi, for the bravery of the Pin Drop tour. You had precisely your intended effect on me!

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The Lone Bellow

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

South Church, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Lone Bellow is my favorite band and I nearly missed the chance to see them play just a couple of hours from home! My dear friend Ken asked me when I saw him at Josh Ritter’s show on July 12th if I was planning to see The Lone Bellow as part of the Prescott Park Concert Series in Portsmouth a few days later. It hadn’t been on my radar, so Ken gets a gold star! Thanks, Ken! I taught at Upward Bound at Bowdoin College on Wednesday morning, had a great lunch with my good friend Sarah, and then headed south to Portsmouth to be in line early so I could get a good spot for the show. Since there was rain in the forecast, Prescott Park Arts worked feverishly to move the show inside to the beautiful South Church on Main Street in downtown Portsmouth. I found a fantastic parking spot just across a parking lot from the church and saw a small group of people gathered on the stairs when I got there. As I stepped out of my car I could hear the sweet sounds of The Lone Bellow’s sound check! The doors to the sanctuary were open, and it was quite a treat to get to hear them play for a bit!

South Church from my parking spot

South Church from my parking spot

I grabbed a spot in line and waited for the doors to open at 5. Since I’m not a Prescott Park Arts Festival member and hadn’t paid for their “reserve a blanket” program (since I’d figured we’d be outside and I’d get there many hours early), my seating choices (even though I was one of the first ten people inside) were limited to seats that weren’t front and center. You won’t be surprised if you’re a regular reader to know that I actually tested out the view from many seats before settling on an elevated section of seating stage left about six pews back in order to see the faces of everyone in the band. I read my friend Sarah’s dad’s new book of poetry for a while and was eventually joined by Mary (a Kindergarten teacher!) and then her husband Henry who told me about their son and his band in Maine. My concert friend Colin eventually joined me for the show and even brought me some snacks since I’d skipped dinner to get our seats. Thanks, Colin!

South Church is lovely

South Church is lovely

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A good read!

A good read!

Thanks for dinner, Colin! You're a lifesaver!

Thanks for dinner, Colin! You’re a lifesaver!

Baby's first concert?!

Baby’s first concert?!

The church was packed by show time. The temperature quickly rose and only got hotter when The Lone Bellow took the stage. The last time I’d seen The Lone Bellowwas back in February at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, and the fans they’d earned that night were back out in full force and had all brought friends. The Lone Bellow was introduced by Rita Carey from 92.5 The River and they got a standing ovation as they approached the stage. I don’t know if I’ve seen a standing O to start a show! It was abundantly clear that this crowd was jazzed and ready for a great night. I had a moment of pause as the show started and Zach sang the opening lyrics of the night—“I let you go/Hope you come back to me”—because their music is visceral and I am going through a break up and wondered if I’d get “all kinds of emotional” during the show. I’m happy (and a little surprised) to report that I made it and was pretty giddy for the rest of the night. In fact, I don’t think I had a conscious thought about anything other than the show for the duration. The Lone Bellow, well, they’ll cure what ails you. There is not another band out there right now that puts on the live show that The Lone Bellow does. They do not hold anything back. It is beyond a pleasure to see them live and I’d go see them night after night if I could.

The Lone Bellow!

The Lone Bellow!

The view from my seat

The view from my seat

Balcony view

Balcony view

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Front row view

Front row view

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Colin kept track of the night’s set list and posted it on setlist.fm:

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Everyone was up on their feet clapping during “Green Eyes and Heart of Gold.” I’ve always described seeing The Lone Bellow as a spiritual experience and have said that their show feels like going to a revival, but this venue took that feeling to a whole new level! I was over the moon when Zach, Brian, and Kanene unplugged and walked to the center of the room (in line with my seat) to play “Watch Over Us” and “Two Sides of Lonely” acoustically. Both were breathtaking. Their passion is palpable. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.

Everyone on their feet for "Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold"

Everyone on their feet for “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold”

Gorgeous light

Gorgeous light

Getting ready for "Watch Over Us"

Getting ready for “Watch Over Us”

This sequence of photos is my favorite from the night. Look at that passion. They give 110%.

This sequence of photos is my favorite from the night. Look at that passion. They give 110%.

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The crowd roared as Zach, Brian, and Kanene head back to the stage to play another of my favorites, “Tree To Grow,” which included some audience participation during the “a tree I’ll grow to let you know my love is older than my soul” refrain. After we belted out the “ba ba das” during “Bleeding Out,” Zach checked in with us to see if anyone had fainted or needed water. It was very sweet. They played their radio hit “You Never Need Nobody” next and then let us know that they’re recording their sophomore album with Aaron Dessner from The National and hope to have it out in January. Zach joked that they’d recorded 19 songs but could only afford to put 13 on the new album. I learned at their last show that their self-titled debut album was funded as a Kickstarter project. Lucky us that the project got funded, right!? Zach also joked about their drummer Brian’s hobbies and let us know that both he and their tour manager were single and looking. They wrapped their incredible set with “The One You Should Have Let Go” and left the stage as the crowd genuinely went wild.

The band came back to the stage and thanked us profusely for a beautiful night before playing their cover of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ “Islands in the Stream.” Zach, Brian, and Kanene unplugged and went back to the center of the room to play “Teach Me to Know” standing on a pew surrounded by thrilled onlookers. The crowd joyfully joined them during the “carried away” refrain and we sang it over and over again, (I think) hoping to make the night last as long as possible. What a beautiful evening of heart-wrenching, hopeful music from some of the most gifted, enthusiastic, giving musicians you could possibly see live. Thank you to everyone who made this very special evening possible!

xo,

bree

P.S.—In case you need more convincing, check out The Lone Bellow’s full show at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston that Front Row Boston just debuted. You will surely be impressed, and sad you missed it live!

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The Lone Bellow

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH

I have absolutely no objectivity when it comes to The Lone Bellow. They are by far my favorite band right now. I love their desperate, powerful delivery of gospel-infused country/folk songs. They are truly something special. I was so excited when my sweetie was able to take a night off of work to join me for a school night road trip down to lovely Portsmouth, New Hampshire to see them again. I decided to take the night “off” for date night, and so I didn’t get a press pass, didn’t take notes, and only took a few low quality photos with my iPhone at the show. (There are, however, two thorough posts about The Lone Bellow on my blog—one from last June and another from November. Check those out if you want to know more about the band and/or see quality photos).

Blue sky over Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Blue sky over Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Jeff and I grabbed some coffee, walked around downtown, and had a delicious dinner at The Friendly Toast before heading over to the stunning Music Hall for the show. The Lone Bellow played as part of The Music Hall’s Intimately Yours series, so there was no opening act and we got to have a whole night with just the band. It felt like we were in their living room.

The Friendly Toast

The Friendly Toast

Table

The Music Hall's pretty ceiling

The Music Hall’s pretty ceiling

A beautiful theatre for the show

A beautiful theatre for the show

Pre-show selfie

Pre-show selfie

stage

The Lone Bellow looks really different through an iPhone

The Lone Bellow looks really different through an iPhone

Zach on the floor leading the audience in our part

Zach on the floor conducting audience participation

My concert friend Colin was there, too, and he sent me The Lone Bellow’s set list for the night:

I Let You Go

You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional

You Never Need Nobody

You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To

Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold

Georgia Will

Watch Over Us (off mic)

Two Sides of Lonely (off mic)

Tree to Grow

Bleeding Out

Angel From Montgomery (Prine cover)

Hickory to Telluride

Button

The One You Should’ve Let Go

——

Slip Slidin’ Away (Simon cover)

Teach Me to Know

One of the biggest highlights of the night for me was when the band stepped away from the microphones and Brian led on “Watch Over Us.” His delivery of that beautiful song was breathtaking. He got a standing ovation. It was wonderful to hear “Two Sides of Lonely” off microphone, too, and both songs gave the night a genuinely intimate feel.

The band dedicated their performance of  “Angel From Montgomery” to the legendary John Prine, who is currently fighting lung cancer. Zach told us they’d recently played the song on the Cayamo Cruise and Brian’s hero, Kris Kristofferson, impromptuly jumped onstage to sing it with them. Check out this video of that moment.

I was totally taken with The Lone Bellow’s cover of Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away” with Kanene on lead vocal during their encore. Someone took a video of it that night, so you can see exactly what I mean! It was one of those rare times when a cover was absolutely better than the original. I sang it for days after the show. They closed the night with the crowd signing along on “Teach Me to Know” and sent us on our happy way. If The Lone Bellow isn’t on your radar, well, you are more than just missing out. They are spectacular. What a wonderful night.

xo,

bree

I can’t resist. Here are some proper Lone Bellow pictures from the last time I saw them:

The most fabulous Lone Bellow. My DSLR camera does them far more justice!

The most fabulous Lone Bellow. My DSLR camera does them far more justice!

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