Tag Archives: State Theatre

Johnnyswim

Friday, June 23, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

Once in a great while, a night is absolutely perfect.

I LOVE Johnnyswim, who are husband and wife duo Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano. They are beautiful together. I put off writing this show review because I was busy listening to all of their recorded music on repeat. By putting it to “paper” (as it were), it means the experience is over, too, which is a little sad. I wish we could do it over again.

Their show was on my last day of school and I was THRILLED. It was a tough teaching year. I grabbed celebratory drinks with my friends Jan and Fiona and then scooted down to Portland to get up close for my first ever Johnnyswim show. They were scheduled to come in March and play at Port City Music Hall, but due to scheduling issues, they postponed the show and moved it to the State Theatre. I think the State might have been at half capacity, which was a delight. The pressure of having to stake out a spot and never move from it for fear of losing it was gone. It was so, so nice to have an easy concert experience. I ended up in the front row with a small group of Johnnyswim superfans–two married couples–who were close friends but lived states apart. They’d come up from Connecticut and Massachusetts to enjoy kid-free weekends. They were psyched. It was adorable. We mingled and then met another couple who were visiting overnight from New Hampshire and were also excited to be kid-free for the night. If we’d just had someone from Vermont, we would have represented all of New England. They partied hard, and were a riot to take in a show with. It was great for me as a mostly solo show goer, too, because I felt like I was with a gaggle of good friends.

Johnnyswim’s guitarist (whose name I didn’t catch, but who goes solo by the name Sunbears) took the stage and played a handful of songs. He was warm and chatted a bit with the audience. Abner and Amanda joined him on stage for their set, but there was no other band. Since I was with superfans, I learned that there is often a touring band that includes a drummer. I prefer acoustic music, so I was thrilled to have a more intimate concert experience.

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Sunbears played a brief opening set

I love that Abner and Amanda have an obvious adoration for one another. It was a delight to watch them throughout the night. They were also incredibly warm and interactive with the audience, which is what a concert experience should definitely be. They went as far as climbing over the edge of the stage a few times to shake hands with the folks in the front row, borrowing an audience member’s cell phone to take a video for them, and playing a song unplugged from the middle of the room while we provided spotlights with our phones. Abner also offered a lovely toast to the crowd, observing that “the force that binds us together is much stronger than all the forces that try to tear us apart.” These are the moments that turn a concert into a concert experience.

img_2928img_2954img_3014img_2989img_2993img_2996Beyond their impeccable showmanship, Johnnyswim are talented musicians and beautiful songwriters. Take “Rescue You,” for example. They sing, “My love can’t rescue you/Can’t make your mountains move/Won’t make your desert bloom/The way you want it to/My love can’t heal the scars/You carved on your own heart.” In “Drunks,” I wanna learn what David played/When he found himself alone/Let it ring, let it ring/On every street and stage/Till the loneliest feel known.” These are songs that will do your heart good.

img_3009img_2947img_2983“Live While We’re Young” and “Diamonds,” are anthemic and will also help fix what ails you. I loved hearing them in person. “First Try,” “Georgica Pond,” and “Take The World” are all tender, heartfelt songs that will hit you squarely in the feels. I can’t pick a favorite song, but there’s a short list. I also laughed a lot during the night, especially when they sampled R. Kelly’s “Ignition” adjacent to their cover of “On the Road Again” during their encore. Seeing them live was a ride and I felt all the feelings. It was bliss. Thank you so much for coming to Maine, Johnnyswim. Come back soon!

xo,

bree

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City and Colour with Noah Gundersen

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This is one of those times when the opening act stole the show. This is why I get to shows early.

I left wine time with the ladies early to zip down to Portland for this show. I l-o-v-e City and Colour and really wanted to get to State Theatre around the time doors opened to get a spot up front. The first time I saw Canada’s City and Colour was back in 2011 at House of Blues Boston, and I was sadly a solid ten rows back. I was front row center for Dallas Green at the Newport Folk Festival in 2012. I’d hoped for a repeat of that beautiful night. He’d been chatty at that solo show, and told us a lot of the stories behind his songs. It was a real treat. Turns out, this night easily ended up being my least favorite City and Colour experience yet. I’m always honest about how I feel about shows, but it pains me a bit to be critical about this one.

I circled for ages looking for parking, and only made it inside 20 minutes before the show. Colin really likes Seattle’s Noah Gundersen, but he was hiking in Wales, so I went to the show solo. I grabbed a great spot to the side of the barricade in the front row to enjoy his set. Noah stole the show. He interacted warmly with the crowd, which I always really appreciate, but his songs rang out with such power and urgency. I was stunned. It was an absolute pleasure to see him live and I can’t wait to see him as a headliner. “Selfish Art,” “Day Is Gone,” and “Ledges” stuck out to me in person. His cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was better than the original, too. Bravo, Noah Gundersen.

City and Colour took the stage and played probably 15 songs and a three-song encore. Dallas said a total of six (it might have been five) short sentences the whole night. I was a little bored and very disappointed. If a band doesn’t interact with the crowd at all, it’s a bummer. I could have had exactly the same concert experience if I’d stayed home and watched a live show on YouTube. It was phoned in and fell very flat. I am still a little bummed about it, actually, especially because I’ve seen much better from Dallas Green. In fact, you can still listen to his set from the Newport Folk Festival online, so you can hear for yourself. I was happy to hear “The Girl,” “Body in a Box,” and “Comin’ Home” live, but I might skip the next City and Colour show. Please, let this just have been an off night.

xo,

b

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Ryan Adams with Alex Edelman

Sunday, May 7, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I’d avoided seeing Ryan Adams in the past because I’d heard he was temperamental live. A friend told me that an audience member heckled him at a show they attended, so Ryan cut his set short and walked off the stage. That kind of energy doesn’t appeal to me, so I needed some urging to give him a try. When I found out he was coming to our very own State Theatre in Portland, I decided to give him a shot and see for myself. Tickets sold out in minutes, so I was planning on going to the show solo, but both Bob and Colin bought tickets on StubHub the day of the show and joined me, which was awesome. Bob and I had dinner at Empire and got in line about 30 minutes before doors. The line already stretched around the corner by then and we stood out in the cold drizzle waiting for doors to open. I was glad to hear that the main bars were going to be closed at Ryan’s request. I think alcohol had a negative impact on Regina Spektor’s sold out show and encouraged rude audience behavior, so I was just fine with that call.


Bob, Colin, and I convened at our usual spot–second row center on the floor. We met a couple who’d driven up from Connecticut for the show and made a long weekend of it. They’d run into Ryan earlier in the day and spoken with him briefly and said he was approachable. We all enjoyed and laughed pretty hard at Alex Edelman’s brief comedy set. I loved that we didn’t have to stand through a full opening act set by someone we didn’t know and assumed it meant it would be an early night. I was wrong. Ryan Adams played nearly 25 songs, many of which I knew even though I haven’t really thought of myself as much of a fan. Colin and I’d both never seen Ryan live, and I’m glad I finally did. Fans of Ryan’s said it was a really “focused” show for him. He probably played eight songs before saying a word, and it’s clear that interacting with people isn’t easy for Ryan and he feels awkward and self-conscious about it.

I forgot how much they used the smoke machine at this show until I saw this. I get the feeling Ryan doesn’t like the spotlight.

His show was all rock ‘n roll and he and the band brought it. It was loud and people seemed into it. I was tired from standing for so long and couldn’t believe (in a good way) that he played so many songs for us. I think he’d rather play a ton of music and fill up the night that way, rather than say very much. That’s not my preference, but it seems like what works best for him. Ryan did initiative a conversation with a guy in the front row, who had approached him earlier in the day, but Ryan had avoided. He apologized from the stage and said he’d just needed some time alone in his head, and then they had a chat for a few minutes while we listened on. Ryan was very complimentary of our audience, and there were clearly some big fans in the room.

This is the guy Ryan stopped to have a conversation with. Nice photo, @rumbeggar!

I think Ryan had a good night, too


I’m glad I was there. Seeing Ryan Adams on a good night is a good time. Aimsel was there and here’s her review of the show.

xo,

bree

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Regina Spektor

Thursday, March 9, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This night gets a mixed review, but it’s not Regina’s fault. I met up with my concert friend Bob (six years as concert buddies and going strong!) at Empire for dinner, but couldn’t find parking after a long search and ended up late to dinner, so succumbed to paying $16 in a nearby parking lot (ugh). My fortune cookie had no fortune, which concerned me. Bob and I arrived at State Theatre before doors opened to stake out a good spot for my first-ever Regina Spektor show. We ended up third row center, in a pocket of real Regina fans. It turns out, we were lucky to be exactly where we ended up, because there were a lot of disrespectful people in the crowd.

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Getting a fortune cookie without a fortune kind of freaked me out.

There was no show opener, and we were told Regina was going on right at 8 PM. She went on a little after 8:30 instead, and people were restless and some had time to get drunk at the bar by then. It really negatively affected the show experience. Regina was a delight–her vocals and piano were spot on, her audience interaction on point, and she was humble and adorable. At one point, she sweetly told us that “every time you guys start clapping, I turn around to see who’s behind me.” She joked that she shouldn’t have worn jeans because “Portland is a delicious city” and she’d overindulged. Sadly, the crowd was a NIGHTMARE. Drunk, loud people talked over her the entire night. The interruptions were so frequent and loud that Regina stopped mid song to ask very politely for people to talk a bit quieter because it was hard for her to concentrate with all the noise. Have I ever witnessed a performer ask a crowd to be quiet because they were being so loud? I don’t think so. It was so sad. She handled it like a champ, but it persisted. I talked to other friends who were at the show later, and we agreed that a seated show for a singer-songwriter and her piano would probably have created a better listening environment than the sold out standing show we attended.

Regina forgot the lyrics to her last song, “Us,” but the crowd helped her find her way (the ones who were actually listening, that is). She played a generous four song encore, including “Fidelity” and “Samson, which were thrilling to hear live for the first time. This should have been a great show. Regina was engaging, sweet, and talented, but the crowd was AWFUL. Good luck booking her in Portland again! Concert etiquette tip–don’t be the drunk person yelling all through a show–it makes you a jerk!

My friend Aimsel Ponti’s take on the night.

xo,

bree

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Soundcheck with The Head and the Heart

Monday, March 6 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I love The Head and the Heart’s music, but saw them live in 2012, and I was so disappointed. Their songs are truly lovely and emotive, but their live show was b-o-r-i-n-g and phoned in. You know by now that the primary reason I go to see artists live is to have a concert experience, up close and personal. So, The Head and the Heart live is not for me. When I see they’re coming to town, I don’t bother to buy a ticket. Watching their YouTube channel is about as interactive as their live show is, so I’d rather not be in a crowded venue with a bunch of drunk, loud people to see a band if they’re not going to say very much. But I am conflicted about this, because THATH’s music is so moving, and I sometimes wonder if I’ve been too hard on them. Turns out, I don’t think so.

I felt undeserving when my friend Colin invited me to join him to The Head and the Heart’s soundcheck hosted by 98.9 WCLZ ahead of their sold out show at State Theatre. I decided that seeing them with just a handful of people in the room might provide a more intimate concert experience, so I went. We waited outside in the frigid cold for a solid thirty minutes, which was fine because MaineToday/Portland Press Herald/98.9 WCLZ Maine music maven Aimsel Ponti was with us and kept us chatting as a big group.

Once inside, the band assembled to say hello and patiently take pictures with all twenty or so of us. They were all completely nice, if a bit shy. It helped me better understand that they’re probably not super socially confident on the whole and that’s why their live show is flat. I chatted mostly with pianist Kenny Hensley and drummer Tyler Williams, who are the most outgoing in the group, and even had an unexpected conversation about the Sphinx with Tyler.

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Hey! I’m with the band. Thanks to 98.9 WCLZ for this opportunity and for the pic!

When Colin approached to get his picture taken, someone in the band recognized him and exclaimed “Colin!”

Aimsel and the band

The band played two songs–“Another Story” and “False Alarm”–for us after the meet and greet, and then we took off so their show opener could have their soundcheck. I had a twinge of regret about not getting a ticket for the show since they were very nice in person, but I went to two hours of jiu jitsu instead, which is a new love of mine. I felt fine about my decision when I learned (as expected) that they sounded great that night, but didn’t say much to the crowd, which is exactly what I don’t want in a concert experience. So, mixed reviews, but I was grateful for the opportunity to see THATH in a slightly different light.

Here’s Aimsel’s take on the show from her great Aimsel on the Record blog.

xo,

bree

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Lake Street Dive with Joey Dosik

Friday, February 17, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I wasn’t planning on going to this show. I love Lake Street Dive, but so does everyone else. I used to see them play at teeny One Longfellow Square, back when there were maybe 40 people in the audience and I could sit a few feet from the stage. I don’t always rally for their sold out shows, because being squished together with a lot of enthusiastic fans at maximum capacity is cozier than I prefer. I miss the old days, even though I’m thrilled for Lake Street Dive and their much-deserved success. I saw on Facebook that my friend-in-music Aimsel Ponti did an interview with the band the afternoon of the show, and I commented on her post. She zipped me an immediate message back, and invited me to be her photographer for the show for MaineToday.com. A photo pass at the State gives you access for a few songs to the space right at the foot of the stage–in front of the barricade–exactly the proximity I want at a live show. I was in.

I made it to State Theatre a song or two into opener Joey Dosik’s set. He has a great voice that filled the room. His sound reminded me a bit of Gavin DeGraw. He sat behind the piano and the crowd dug him. I ran into a couple of my students after the show, and they’d gotten tickets to the sold out show because they sent a message on Instagram to Joey (they are both in our school band and are big fans of Joey) who happily put the two eager fans on his guest list.

Lake Street Dive took the stage to a spirited audience. I watched a little of the show from the balcony, and couldn’t help but notice how many men were gesticulating wildly on air guitar and singing along to every word that Rachael Price belted out for us. LSD opened with “Bad Self Portraits” and I got to shoot for three songs up close, including “Side Pony.” They honored George Michael with their version of “Faith,” and played one of my favorites from earlier in their career–“Neighbor Song.” I can sure relate to “Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand,” loved “You Go Down Smooth,” and the band treated us to two encore songs, wrapping the show with “My Speed,” which we sang along to.

Bassist Bridget Kearney has a new solo album, Won’t Let You Down, which releases on March 24. She’ll be playing a show at One Longfellow Square on Monday, April 17. If tickets haven’t sold out already, they certainly will.


Aimsel wrote a great show review, which captures the energy of the enthusiastic crowd beautifully. Thanks for the show invite, Aimsel!

xo,

bree

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David Ramirez

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I saw David Ramirez for the first time a year and a half ago opening for Shakey Graves at the State Theatre in Portland. I was drawn to him immediately and enjoyed the sparseness of a man with a guitar juxtaposed with the urgency and passion he demonstrated with his powerful, rich voice. I sadly missed him a year ago at One Longfellow Square (I had tickets, but unfortunately didn’t make it to the show), so was eager to see him again. Colin went to that show a year ago and David played with a full band, which just isn’t really how I want to see him (or so I told myself, since I missed him). I was very excited to learn that I’d be seeing his 2016 Bootleg Tour–just David and a guitar–and each show would be recorded and audience members would get a link to a download of the show the next day. Right up my alley. Add that this was at teeny, intimate One Longfellow Square, and I was pumped.

I got to see my dear friend Fiona who was visiting from Minneapolis after school and then drove down to meet Colin at OLS. He snagged us great seats in the second row and we took in the living room scene assembled on stage–an area lamp, table, some books, and framed picture of Billy Murray–that gave us the feeling of really being in David Ramirez’s living room.

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David Ramirez wowed with his incredibly powerful voice and honest lyrics. At some point in the show, it dawned on me that David is probably not the nicest guy in real life. There was a distracting woman sitting right behind us who responded loudly after each song. David would finish a song and she’d shout “yes!” (I forgot her other go-to responses) and then try to initiate a conversation with him in between songs. We get it,  you KNOW him! (WOW!) It was annoying, and I totally chuckled when David realized it was his friend in the crowd who kept making it about her (which it sadly became, at times). Etiquette tip–don’t be that girl. No one came to see you perform if you’re not the one on stage. When I said that to Colin after the show, he smiled at me and said “doesn’t he say as much in his songs?” Good point, Colin. I was especially glad to hear “The Bad Days” and “Harder to Lie” in person. 

I will say, though, that even though David’s songs and stage banter mostly make him seem like a guy struggling to feed his healthy ego, he ended his set with “Find the Light,” which was a welcome surprise and an about face from his general tone. The song starts with some warm wishes–“I wish upon you peace/I wish upon you grace/I wish for less of what you want and more of what you need.” I’m so glad I went, even if David Ramirez is probably not someone I’d want to chat with or go have a beer with after the show. His voice and songs are layered and beautiful. And we’re all just learning how to be ourselves anyhow, and he seems to do that with his music, which is a healthy way to grow, I think.

I just realized that Spotify has David providing commentary about every song on his newest album Fables, which is right up my alley! Going to go listen now.

xo,

bree

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