Tag Archives: Rusty Belle

The Ballroom Thieves with The Suitcase Junket

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

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

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Photo by Jeff Lamb Photography

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

The Suitcase Junket is Matt Lorenz


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

Martin Earley

Callie Peters

The Ballroom Thieves

Devin Mauch and Callie

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

xo,

bree

 

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Chris Smither

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

This was a perfect Gardiner evening. I love my sweet little town, and living a quarter of a mile from downtown is the best. My dear friend Dot came up to join me and we had a delicious dinner at the incomparable A1 Diner, joined a handful of Gardiner friends for a glass of wine at Vintage Wine Bar, and made our way over to Johnson Hall to grab seats for the sold out Chris Smither show just before show time at 7:30.

Gardiner's A1 Diner on Bridge Street

Gardiner’s A1 Diner on Bridge Street

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Johnson Hall’s director Mike Miclon took the stage and welcomed us warmly. He let the crowd know that this is Johnson Hall’s 150th year and there’s an active capital campaign to renovate the beautiful 400-seat opera house on the top floor of the building. Mike would love Lyle Lovett to be the first to perform in the renovated space in 2019 when the space is complete. I’m enthusiastic about this project and know it will happen thanks to Mike’s leadership and the dedication of a loyal board of directors.

Mike explained that he’d stumbled across a CD of Chris Smither’s years ago at his former arts venue and has booked him time and again. Chris Smither took the stage solo and charmed us immediately. I was taken by his distinctive, raspy voice, toe tapping percussion, and impressive command of the guitar. I am not a huge fan of the blues (sorry, but true), but Chris Smither does it right. He was notably unassuming on stage and made me feel a bit like I was in his living room. Chris engaged the crowd throughout the night. He joked with us before playing “Origin of Species” that “evolution’s not something you believe in—you either know about it or you don’t.”

 

I snuck backstage to take a couple of pictures of Chris Smithers with my iPhone

I snuck backstage to take a couple of pictures of Chris Smithers with my iPhone

Dot, Clare (of Monkitree), and I took a tour of the beautiful upstairs of Johnson Hall during intermission. It’s going to be amazing when it’s renovated. It’s pretty phenomenal already, but probably not up to code.

Johnson Hall's incredible and not yet renovated third story

Johnson Hall’s incredible and not yet renovated third story

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Chris took the stage after intermission and told us about the first time he met fellow singer-songwriter Dave Carter at a music festival in Oregon. Chris said he rushed off stage after playing a set hoping to make it over to Dave Carter’s tent elsewhere with time to meet and talk before Dave’s set. As he ran, someone behind him called his name and it was Dave Carter—who’d gone to Chris’ set. Dave told Chris “you sure have a lot of words in your songs,” which Chris said was like the pot calling the kettle black. He covered Dave Carter’s “Crocodile Man” and showed us just what he meant. They both sure can fit a lot of words in one breath.

Chris Smither is a storyteller. I particularly enjoyed the funny stories he told in song—especially “Get A Better One.” We laughed a lot throughout the night. Chris talked about his family a lot during the show and wrote “I Don’t Know” using phrases his then four or five year old daughter said that he jotted down. He adopted a baby from China when he was 60 years old. She’s ten now, and even though he said his friends joked with him that parenthood would change his songwriting forever (and for the worse), but he feels like he hasn’t lost it. “No Love Today” is inspired by the roving produce seller (Mr. Okra’s dad, maybe?) who came down the street Chris grew up on in New Orleans singing about his fruits and vegetables twice a week.

A packed house at Johnson Hall

A packed house at Johnson Hall

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I’m glad I had the chance to see Chris Smither live. He is an American classic who has been writing music and performing for 50 years. His newest recording (his sixteenth), Still on the Levee, is a compilation of songs from Chris’ impressive career. He joked with us that he used to think he had to put new music out every three or so years or people would think he’d died, but now he’s not so worried about that.

Chris wrapped his set with “Leave the Light On,” which he recorded with Rusty Belle on Still on the Levee. I really enjoyed Rusty Belle when I saw them live with two of my favorites Caitlin Canty and Darlingside back in 2013 and am delighted that this intergenerational team is making music together. The engrossed crowd was on their feet after the last song, and Chris treated us to one more song before sending us on our way.

Thanks for hosting, Johnson Hall. I love seeing shows in this intimate space!

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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