Tag Archives: Shovels & Rope

Darlingside with Henry Jamison

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

This was a pretty spectacular Saturday. My friend Kay is fostering kittens (!), and Dan and I got to spend some time snuggling with them in the morning. I made Christmas cookies and watched A Christmas Prince (again) with my girlfriends and adorable almost one-year-old baby Norah, and had a delicious homemade dinner at Dan’s before the show. It was a really good day already, and the icing on the cake was getting to see Darlingside for their once-a-year Maine show.

I made my way over to Port City Music Hall just before 8. I ran into my buddy Aimsel Ponti at the door and met up with Colin and Sean up front along the stage for Darlingside and Henry Jamison. I saw Darlingside for the first time at One Longfellow Square back in 2012 and they impressed me with their rich harmonies and warm audience interaction. This was my eighth Darlingside show, and they are always a pleasure to see live.

I just missed seeing Henry Jamison live back in 2012 at The Oak + The Ax in Biddeford, Maine. I arrived late for a Joe Fletcher and brown bird co-headlining show, just as his Bowdoin College-era band, The Milkman’s Union, was wrapping up their set. I recognized Henry when he took the stage from his days living in Portland working at One Longfellow Square, and it was cool to see that he has become a known musician with a devoted following in the last few years.

Henry Jamison is a Burlington, Vermont native with a massive vocabulary and skillful, layered songs. He chatted warmly with the attentive crowd. He told us he’d done a bit the last few days where he introduced the members of Darlingside by revealing which Winnie the Pooh characters represented them best. He was joined on stage by Eric Maier on keys, Walker Allen on drums, and Willoughby Morse on guitar, and I liked the fullness of sound they produced together.

IMG_6773.jpgI’d never heard a Henry Jamison song before this show, and his songs are heavy and cerebral. I enjoyed him live. I looked him up after the show and saw a lot of praise for his debut album, The Wilds. The Guardian called it “a rare thing:  an unshowy, literate gem.” Henry joked about being the cover of the Portland Phoenix. The title of the article is “The Man, The Myth.” Henry joked that “the myth is that anybody knows about me.” I learned that Henry’s song “Real Peach,” which he closed his set with, has over 40 million streams on Spotify.

Henry’s next album, Gloria Duplex, comes out in February. Promotional material about the album from his publicist’s website says it’s “Henry’s razor sharp-focused look at masculinity in 2018.” I was also not at all surprised after seeing him live to also learn that his father is a classical composer and his mother an English professor. The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree as far as vocation goes.

Darlingside took the stage to a pretty full house. I had time between sets to chat with Elise (who I’d met in the very same spot up front last fall at an intimate show with Shovels & Rope) and her sweetie, Stuart, who’d never seen Darlingside before. Darlingside is Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner, and Dave Senft. Their star is especially rising in 2018 with their first NPR Tiny Desk Concert, first appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, and a run of tour dates opening for Brandi Carlile. Dave thanked Henry for opening the show and told us–“I listen to Elton John when I’m happy and I listen to Henry Jamison when I’m sad, so I’ve come to associate Henry with my own sadness,” which I thought was a beautiful compliment, really.

The guys are a united front and are clearly great friends. They met at Williams College and have been a group for nearly a decade. Sam Kapala, their drummer for the first four or five years as a band, lives in Portland and was at the show, too. Without Sam, Darlingside is four guys with string instruments (and an occasional kick drum and tambourine) around a single microphone. I’d call their genre indie-folk, which is why what happened next was especially frustrating.

Here are a two paragraphs about concert etiquette. We’d all noticed at the end of Henry’s set that two women next to us who were standing at the end of the front row against the far wall were talking a fair amount. It’s always confusing to me when people buy concert tickets and have full voice conversations near the stage when musicians are performing. It’s disrespectful to the artists and to their fans. Someone near us finally said something to them. He asked them to please stop talking so we could hear the band. I heard it. It was innocuous. One of the women broke down sobbing in response. She sobbed for five straight songs. I haven’t seen anything like it at a show. Her sobs were almost as loud as her talking was, and we could all still sadly hear her over the band.

Another group of people pushed their way to the front between sets as people often do. If you really love a band, you should always get to the venue early and get a spot you’re happy with. It’s not fair to fans who arrived early to push your way through the crowd and cut in front of anyone. In this case, a family with young children was front row center, and this trio pushed their way right up to them and hovered immediately over them for the rest of the night. You might assume this move meant they really love and respect the band and wanted to be closer, but I know from experience that it usually doesn’t. They chatted loudly with one another from their front row center spot immediately underneath the band while Darlingside played and while fans nearby tried to listen. When members of the band bantered with the crowd, one of the women in the group responded back very loudly to every single comment as if she was having a private conversation with them. Don’t be that fan who demands attention from the band and interrupts their flow. Wait until after the show and say hello to the band at the merch table instead.

I’ve got to say that for a folk-ish show, I had a really hard time staying focused on the music, and I was touching the stage in the front row near the band. An audience has the power to make or break a concert experience. Towards the end of their lovely set (distracted or not, they’re amazing), Darlingside unplugged and jumped off stage to play a new song from the center of the room in the crowd. They’d played many songs from their 2018 album, Extralife, but closed with “God of Loss,” which is a favorite of mine. They came back to the stage and left us with “Best of the Best of Times” from Extralife, and you’ve got to check out the awesome (as always) video.

IMG_6785IMG_6796IMG_6805IMG_6818Darlingside is always a treat to see live and I feel lucky we’re still able to see them at an intimate venue like Port City Music Hall. See you guys next year!

xo,

bree

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Ghostland Festival

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

I missed a ton of concerts this summer because my sweet dad and his awesome girlfriend came up from Florida to help me renovate my cute new house on a tight schedule, so I was so pumped to make up some missed music all at one at Ghostland. I’d forgotten, but I was at the first Ghostland Festival that The Ghost of Paul Revere put together back in 2014 at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick. This show, just four years later, was massive in comparison, and speaks to Ghost’s success and the community of fans they’ve built.

This was my last weekend before kids came back to school, and I was determined to make the most of it. Dan and I made it to Thompson’s Point to pick up our VIP bracelets (seven years of concert blogging has its perks) for the show and I gave my friends Rachel and Ian my spare presale ticket for the show. Colin saved us a spot up front and we made it to him just in time for Sibylline’s set. I’m a big fan of Sibylline, who you may recognize as Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters. I’ve seen them a few times, and their rich harmonies, soulful lyrics, and string arrangements are lovely.

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Sibylline

My dear friend Max Garcia Conover took the stage next, and wowed the crowd with his frank and passionate lyrics about social justice and greed. Max is a troubadour in the truest sense, and his banter was inspiring. He said, “I think we are all living through a time when our society is defined by constant vilification and our government is defined by selfishness. I think when you’re living in that kind of time, any act of empathy is an act of civil disobedience and every song is a protest song and every music festival is a rally.” Max clearly impressed everyone around me up front, and I was proud to be part of his fan club while he played for his biggest crowd to date. For more about Max, here’s my review of his last show at One Longfellow Square.

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Max Garcia Conover (right) and Ben Cosgrove (left)

I’d promised Dan a normal concert experience, but that’s not my jam. Typically, I get to a show before doors open, get a spot along the barricade right up front, and forgo food and drink to maintain a spot up close for the entire show. Dan was hungry, so he made his way to the food trucks along the water at Thompson’s Point, but there were so few that he ended up being in line for almost an hour and he sadly missed one of my favorite bands, The Ballroom Thieves. Martin explained that one of their new songs was “meant to be a song about love and kindness and about speaking up for people who don’t have a voice and can’t stand up for themselves. We need to find common ground with people who we disagree with to move forward.”

The Ballroom Thieves–Martin, Devin, and Callie–have chemistry and talent to spare, and I’m always happy to get to see them live. They were joined onstage for a couple of songs by the insanely talented Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, which takes any musical experience and makes it exponentially better. The Thieves all live in Maine now, so they’re playing here more, and just announceda show on December 28at Port City Music Hall. Check out this post for more on the Thieves.

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The Ballroom Thieves with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra

I was a little floored when I saw that South Carolina’s Shovels & Rope was slated to play Ghostland. Michael and Cary Ann are the real deal with percussive, rowdy songs and so much warmth onstage. My pal Aimsel and I saw them from the front row at Port City back last October, which was a truly special and unbeatable experience. The crowd started to swell during their boisterous set, so Dan and I left Colin and ventured over to the renovated shipping container that Thompson’s Point uses as a VIP lounge.

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Shovels & Rope

When The Ghost of Paul Revere took the stage, there were solidly 3,500 fans gathered to cheer them on. I think every single Buxton resident was there, for sure, because Ghostland was a hometown celebration of a band that locals have loved for many years now. Ghost–Griffin, Sean, and Max–always puts on a great show, and they were joined for their whole set by the immensely talented duo of Ben Cosgrove on piano and accordion and Kevin Oates on cello, which made their set exceptional. The Maine Youth Rock Orchestra joined them for a couple of songs, too, and I loved watching all the guys in the band turn around to cheer for the kids before they left the stage.

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From L to R: Ben Cosgrove, Griffin Sherry, Sean McCarthy, Max Davis, and Kevin Oates

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Cheering for MYRO

Sean asked if we’d be willing to turn on the flashlights on our cell phones, and the crowd happily obliged and lit up the lovely night at Thompson’s Point. I saw The Ghost of Paul Revere last on New Year’s Eve, and was especially happy to hear “Next Year”–the first song I heard in 2018–again live. The Ballroom Thieves joined Ghost onstage for an awesome cover of “Under Pressure” to end the night on a high note.

img_5766img_5814So many thanks to Griffin, Sean, and Max from Ghost for their painstaking effort to organize such an awesome party to celebrate the end of summer. So many of my friends were at this show and certainly most of my favorite bands were. Until next year?!

xo,

bree

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The Best Shows I Saw in 2017!

Happy 2018, All!

2017 was a hard year, but I saw some amazing shows that helped me through. I have been writing whatbreesees.com for six years now, but I’ve only ever written one “Best of” list–all the way back in 2012. I’ll try to make a “Best of” list every year from here on out. It’s good to look back.

I saw 34 shows in 2017, including musicians I’ve seen many times like Ellis Paul, Mipso, Josh Ritter, Lucy Kaplansky, The Ballroom Thieves, and Guster. Even though I saw a solid number of shows, it was actually pretty easy to choose five that stood out. Here they are:

#5. An Evening with Shovels & Rope on Wednesday, October 11 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine. This intimate show with husband and wife duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst gave me all the feels. It was just what I didn’t know I needed.

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Shovels & Rope is Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst

#4. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real with Nikki Lane on Friday, November 17 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine. I got an invitation from Lukas Nelson’s publicist the day before this sold out show and it was totally worth making it out on short notice. Lukas Nelson has loads of charisma.

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Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

#3. Jamestown Revival with Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters on Wednesday, May 3 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine. This was my birthday show, and I loved every second of the night from start to finish. Both of these bands are excellent and engaging live.

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Jamestown Revival

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Hannah Daman & the Martelle Sisters

#2. Penny & Sparrow with Lowland Hum on Saturday, April 29 at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Penny & Sparrow are easily one of my favorite live acts. Kyle and Andy write depressing, haunting songs, but their stage banter is hilarious. Their show is a rollercoaster ride in the best way possible. If you want to see a show where you can hear a pin drop, this is it. They are captivating.

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Penny & Sparrow is Kyle Jahnke and Andy Baxter

And #1. Johnnyswim on Friday, June 23 at State Theatre in Portland, Maine. Husband and wife duo Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano put on a swoon-worthy show. This show was how I started my summer vacation and it was a perfect, beautiful, inspiring night. Put this band on your “get to know” list.

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Johnnyswim is Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez

There are a few honorable mentions, too.

  • I had a blast seeing The Ghost of Paul Revere and Max Garcia Conover on New Year’s Eve at Port City Music Hall. Both of those acts are on to great things.

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    The Ghost of Paul Revere, Max Garcia Conover, and Friends

  • Noah Gundersen stole the show opening for City & Colour back in June at State Theatre. He’ll be back in Portland in a couple of weeks at Port City Music Hall. I can’t wait to see him as the headliner.

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    Noah Gundersen

  • The Suitcase Junket (Matt Lorenz) also impressed opening for The Ballroom Thieves back in February at Port City Music Hall. I’d seen him before, but he really caught my attention at this show.

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    The Suitcase Junket/Matt Lorenz

Thanks so much to all of these artists and venues for enriching 2017! To readers–thank you! I hope to see you at a show in 2018! Come say hi–I’ll be right up front.

xo,

bree

 

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An Evening with Shovels & Rope

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Some nights are good for your soul. This was one of them. It was just what I needed, actually. I guess that’s what makes this a longer post than I’d intended to write. Here goes!

I booked my ticket to Florida to visit my dad in February, introduced my beloved rescue cats Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher to friends, and made my way to Portland in time to grab a quick dinner at Empire with my friend-in-music, Aimsel Ponti. I actually saw husband and wife duo Shovels & Rope upstairs at Empire for the first time back in March of 2012. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are a force. I was really glad to have the chance to see them again in Portland.

Aimsel and I nerded out about our favorite new albums, recent shows we’ve seen or booked, and bands we love over a delicious dinner, and we got to Port City Music Hall when doors opened. Port City graciously posted on Facebook to remind us that this was an intimate sold out “Evening with” Shovels & Rope, and that there was no opening act. I was psyched about that, too. It was awesome to be home and in bed at 10:30 on a school night.

Thanks, Aims, for taking this selfie. I am never in show pictures!

Aimsel and I grabbed a spot front row center next to preschool teacher Elise (she’s a regular Newport Folk Festival goer) and we all chatted about bands we love (man, that is good for what ails you). Charleston’s Cary Ann and Michael took the stage right at 8 o’clock, and they wowed for two solid hours. Their music is a powerful Southern folky rock and their mastery of so many instruments–their voices, guitar, kick drum, snare, tambourine, harmonica, shaker, and keys–are downright impressive. If I could sing like someone, I might just pick Cary Ann. Her raspy, powerful voice cuts right through. It was an absolute pleasure to be in their company. It was a real treat to be just five feet away, too, because I was clearly able to witness their passion and chemistry.

Cary Ann and Michael opened with a cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” that gathered our attention beautifully. Cary Ann told us about a trip to New Orleans for a wedding they went on where they got mixed up in a pedestrian parade of revelers by the river dressed in beautiful costumes. There was a moment at the river before the wedding where the revelers sang to say goodbye to people they’d lost in the year. She said it was a full circle moment of seeing life and death celebrated together, and it inspired “St. Anne’s Parade.”

This blurry picture sums up Shovels & Rope quite nicely

Times are hard for those who care about others these days. Cary Ann told us “We will be hopeful for you. You just hold on. We will keep holding on and will be holding onto it for you for when you’re ready to come back to the hopeful side.” It was nice to hear. Michael introduced “San Andreas Fault Line Blues” by telling us about driving their van from California to the east coast listening to Grapes of Wrath. The book was inspired by that part of the country, and they started to get loopy from the drive and imagined being able to hop into the book to tell the characters to watch out for the dangers in the book.

A newer song, “Come On Utah,” imagines a hero horse named Utah that helps people reconnect after a wall that was put up comes down. Cary Ann told us that they used to play four hour rock ‘n roll cover gigs in Charleston and used to depend on Tom Petty’s “Anything That’s Rock ‘n Roll” to propel them into the third set. She said “It was a dream back then that we would be out of that club and here playing for you someday. And on Tom Petty’s wings we will sail into the future.”

I go to shows because I want to have a concert experience. When musicians tell us the inspiration for their songs, I am happy to listen and learn. It makes the music mean more to me. Michael spoke for a bit about his dad, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. He told us that they’d recently had to move his dad into a place, “and that’s terrible. My parents have been married for 56 years and my dad is a musician. We used to jam with him a lot, and we still do, just in a new, weird way. He used to rope my mom into playing music with him and would buy weird instruments like an autoharp for her to play. We wrote this song a couple of years ago when he was a little bit better than he is now. We wrote it for my mother. Cary and my mom are besties. This is called ‘Mourning Song’ and it’s kind of weird to play because there’s real human stuff going on. . .”

Someone in the crowd responded “People can relate!”

Michael heard her and nodded, and said “and for that reason, we wanted to share it for you, to have a moment, whether it’s dark or joyful or whatever with you. And the idea of the song is that after he has left, he left my mom a few chords and a tune to remember him by, which I think would be a sweet thing for somebody to do. Anyhow, thank you for the indulgence.” Check out the lyrics:

Morning song, mourning song/You were always on my mind and even though now I am gone/I taught you these four chords so you could sing your mourning song.

It cuts right to the heart of everything, doesn’t it?

After a high octane, personal, interactive set, Shovels & Rope left the stage. They came back for a few songs, including a brand new one. They grabbed a piece of paper with typed lyrics and sang a powerful song for us (they’ve since started calling it “Oh Great, America”). Cary Ann told us that it is a reflection on the current state of affairs. There was a collective sigh. Michael told us, “Some of you might not agree with all of this and that’s fine. I’m just glad we are all here together in one room trying to celebrate something and have fun together, and I think that’s important given everything that’s going on. If it pisses you off, maybe just laugh it off and have a drink.” Check out some of the lyrics:

There’s a steady stream of insanity/In 2017/There’s a dog with the nuclear bomb in his mouth/ Everybody’s scared, everybody’s inspired/The world is under water/It’s also on fire/In 2017/You talk this, but you live like that/It says “Go back home” on your welcome mat/There’s constant unchecked brutality/A brave man takes a stand by dropping to a knee.

It’s heavy and timely, and gets right to the point. It would piss off my Uncle Steve, too. Oh well.

Oh Great, America!

This was an evening that I didn’t know I needed so much. It was really edifying. If Shovels & Rope come to your town, you owe it to yourself to check them out. If you think a wall between the US and Mexico is a good idea, maybe you won’t like them in person. I think you should check them out anyway.

xo,

bree

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