Tag Archives: State Theatre

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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John Paul White with The Secret Sisters

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Red Room at Café 939, Boston, MA

My friend Mac first introduced me to The Civil Wars on a cold winter’s night in 2009. John Paul White and Joy Williams were captivating. Their April 2009 set at Eddie’s Attic was recorded and released online as a free download a couple of months later on The Civil Wars’ website. The pair had undeniable musical chemistry and their songs resonated with me. I made a friend at an Iron & Wine show in 2011 who invited me to join him for Adele at the House of Blues in Boston a month later. Those tickets were impossible to get, so I was thrilled. I squealed out loud when I found out that The Civil Wars had been added to the bill and that I was going to get to finally see them live. I stayed after the show and approached John Paul White at the merch table, which is something I rarely do. I was sure he is a genuine person who would be kind (doesn’t it ruin it for you when you meet an artist whose music you care about, and they’re not?), and he was a dear. I told him that I’d been hoping to see them for a couple of years, and that I was actually more excited to see them that night. He glanced at Joy and said “don’t you think that deserves a group hug?” And then they hugged me. It was very, very sweet, and a moment I still recall fondly. I was lucky to see The Civil Wars again a handful of months later at Berklee’s Performing Arts Center in Boston from the fourth or fifth row. They were spellbinding. Then they broke up.

I was thrilled when I saw that John Paul White was writing music and was planning a tour. He produced Penny and Sparrow’s beautiful album, Let a Lover Drown You, which I’ve listened to countless times. I bought my ticket to see JPW at The Red Room at Café 939 at Berklee College of Music in Boston the minute they went on sale. I would not pass up an opportunity to see him live in such an intimate setting. My friend Jan and I drove to Boston and grabbed an early dinner at Bukowski’s and lined up before doors opened so we could be front and center, and it paid off, because we were able to stand a foot or two away from such talented musicians all night.

I’d first seen Laura and Lydia Rogers, The Secret Sisters, open for my beloved Brandi Carlile (she and the Twins are producing their upcoming album, too) about six months after first seeing The Civil Wars back in November of 2011 at Berklee in Boston. I loved their vintage vibe, beautiful harmonies, and funny audience banter. I got to see them again a couple of years later with my concert friend Bob (who’d taken me to see Adele and The Civil Wars) when they opened for Iron & Wine at State Theatre in Portland, Maine. The Secret Sisters played a half dozen songs and told stories and entertained thoroughly. I particularly liked “Carry Me,” which was such a sweet song about being daddy’s girls and having a wonderful father. I also really wish I could find a video of “He’s Fine” to share with you because I loved it and would love to listen to it again. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next album! Here they are on Jay Leno playing “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” which is on The Hunger Games sountrack. Check out “Rattle My Bones” to get a sense of their more upbeat side. They’re great.

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Lydia and Laura Rogers are The Secret Sisters

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John Paul White and his band took the stage and he poured his heart out for us. He played fifteen songs for a captivated audience (I still can’t believe I got to see him play in such a small venue from the front row!). He talked a lot with us about feeling conflicted about the songs that started to pour out of him because he knew he’d want to share them with the world and touring meant he’d have to spend some time away from his family. He asked us to come talk to him after the show to give him feedback about what resonated with us and what didn’t. I can’t think of a time a musician wore his heart on his sleeve more at a show. It was humbling to witness someone who so desperately wants his music to connect with people. His voice was clear and haunting as ever, and The Secret Sisters joined him throughout his set and added beautiful harmonies that amplified the message.

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Lydia Rogers of The Secret Sisters and John Paul White

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It was pretty incredible to stand right next to this man during his set!

John Paul shared with us a song about his grandparents. He said he appreciates music you can step inside and become the character in, but didn’t know how to feel about this particular song because “I loved my grandfather and thought he walked on water, but he did not. He had a lot of demons and my grandmother raised fourteen children by herself.” He played “No One Will Ever Love You,” which was featured on season one of Nashville. It’s easy to be a character in this song, John Paul—“Don’t you try to tell me someone’s waiting/They’re not waiting for you/Oh and don’t you try to tell me that you’re wanted/That you’re needed/Cause it’s not true.” Oh my heart. Check out “The Martyr” on NPR Music and “What’s So” at Rolling Stone. I am so eager to have my hands on John Paul White’s upcoming album, “Beulah,” which will be released August 19. Thanks for coming back into our world and putting yourself out there so honestly, John Paul. You’ve been missed.

xo,

bree

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Gregory Alan Isakov with MYRO and the Ghost Orchestra

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

I saw Gregory Alan Isakov open for my beloved Brandi Carlile back in 2009 at South Portland High School and was captivated by his lyrics and airy voice. I waited in a long line after the show that night to buy his 2009 album, This Empty Northern Hemisphere, and was really excited to hear Brandi Carlile’s beautiful voice singing along on so much of it. That album is one that you should listen to right now, actually. I saw Gregory Alan Isakov once more in 2011, but sadly not again until April of 2015. I was in love then, and my sweetie joined me for the show and fell in love with Gregory Alan Isakov, too.

Here’s the problem with introducing people you love to musicians you love—sometimes you aren’t in love anymore, and your ex comes to see a musician you introduced them to with the person they started dating a curious two weeks after you ended a two year long relationship. It was awful. I’d been excited about this show (obviously), and my steadfast concert companion Colin kindly bought us tickets for this reserved seating show at State Theatre the day tickets went on sale and our seats were front row center. Problem was, my ex and his girlfriend were just one row behind us. Thank goodness they were stage left and we were stage right, but eight people between us was really not enough for my concert enjoyment. Anyhow, I am human and I was so upset and jittery to see my manipulative, freeloading ex with his no-longer-new girlfriend that I was shaky for the vast majority of the show. If Colin hadn’t been there, I would definitely have left my front row seat and gone home before the show even started. Thinking back to this night, I feel a pit in my stomach and remember how distracted, sad, and angry I was the whole time. I tried to consciously focus on enjoying Gregory’s enchanting voice, Jeb Bows’ positive energy while he danced with his violin, or the powerful, full sound generated by having the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra and the Ghost Orchestra on stage all night, too, but I failed miserably. Coincidentally, my ex asked to borrow the very Gregory Alan Isakov CD I bought the night I first saw him live all those years ago, and he still has it.

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I am grateful that Colin posted the night’s setlist on setlist.fm (his concert schedule is far more impressive than mine, by the way), because you can click on the “play” arrow to the right of the first song of the night, and it will auto play all of the songs in order for you. I am taking this time to hear the show again (pretty much for the first time) right now, and these songs are so layered and beautiful. GAI played five songs from This Empty Northern Hemisphere, which is a perfect album. He is wonderful live—totally not interested in being the center of attention and humble and genuine. I will hopefully feel better next time he’s in town. Or I’ll just go to one of his shows farther away. Either way, he is not to be missed. I’ll close with apt lyrics from one of my favorite GAI songs—“The Moon Song”—“and those broken hearted lovers/they got nothing on me.”

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Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony is available now. Here’s some praise for his new album. Here’s a biographical piece in the New York Times about GAI balancing music and farming.

xo,

bree

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Brandi Carlile

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

If Brandi Carlile is coming to town, I’m going to be there. It’s a no-brainer. Brandi and the Hanseroth twins—Tim and Phil—bring it every single time. They’re easily one of my top five live acts. The last time I got to see them was at the State Theatre back in May of 2015, which they sold out in two days. People packed into Thompson’s Point to see them on this cloudy night, and it was lovely to be surrounded by good people and good music. This was the furthest I’ve ever been from the stage at a Brandi show, and since proximity is paramount to my concert going experience, this was my least favorite Brandi show to date, but it was my fault for being over scheduled and not making the show my top priority. I should have gotten to Thompson’s Point when doors opened to get a spot up front against the stage like I normally would, but it was my 15th college reunion weekend and my dear friends’ daughter’s second birthday, and I tried to do it all. I’ve had the front row Brandi experience a few times, so I am still a whole person, but it’s hard for me to be so far way. A few of the perks of our spot, though, were that we got to witness a sweet proposal by the entrance, had room for our friends Kay and Spud to join us for the second half of the show, and that Portland songstresses Monique Barrett and Sorcha Cribben-Merrill spotted me on their way to the beer tent and we sang a song together.

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My 15th college reunion! And I just moved back to town, too!

Mira is 2

Mira is 2!

Proposal

Check out the newly engaged couple kissing on the right. Congratulations!

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This makes my heart happy! I felt like a celebrity when fabulously talented songstresses Monique Barrett and Sorcha Cribben-Merrill stopped by!

Girls Night

Thanks for taking this, Sarah! I’m rarely in concert pictures!

Sarah, Megan, and I were in the first row of low folding chairs, which is the first section back from the standing general admission area. Thompson’s Point is absolutely gorgeous, and if you’re someone who likes the feel of a festival, it’s going to be right up your alley. They have a handful of delicious food trucks, a fully stocked beer tent, and are in a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.

 

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I found this information very helpful!

Brandi opened with “Again Today,” and it was great to hear one of her “older” songs. I love “The Eye” and “That Wasn’t Me,” and was so glad to hear both. Brandi invited an adorable kiddo named Isabelle from the crowd up on stage to sing “Keep Your Heart Young” with her and it was precious. I’m so glad someone got it on video. It’ll make your day to watch. Ruby Amanfu opened the show, but I missed all but her very last song. I hate to miss an opening act, too, but I did this concert experience totally unlike the norm. I was glad when she joined Brandi for “Shadow on the Wall.”

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Courtesy of @statetheatreportland on Instagram

Brandi and the Twins

Brandi Carlile, the Hanseroth twins, and the band

BrandiBrandi introduced a new song about the “beauty and terror of being a mother” aptly titled “Mother.” I love that Brandi is open and shares her life with her fans. She reaches out and offers herself to the audience and it’s impossible not to feel that positive energy at her shows. They ended their set with a powerful, beautifully orchestrated “Pride and Joy,” and came back to play a two song encore—Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (which gave me chills) and Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.”

Brandi Carlile and the twins have soul and sincerity in spades, and getting the opportunity to see them live is a treat. Sarah dropped me off back on campus, and I rejoined my 15th college reunion and stayed up until last call dancing to Boston’s phenomenal Soul City. Quite a little Saturday! Thanks, Brandi, Tim, and Phil! Y’all rock!

xo,

bree

PS—I found a driver’s license on my walk to Thompson’s Point, and mailed it to Jamie on Monday morning with my card. She emailed me a very sweet note, which included “It’s cliché I know, but I am so thankful that there are people in the world like you.” #goodconcertkarma

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The Ballroom Thieves with Maine Youth Rock Orchestra and The DuPont Brothers

Friday, April 15, 2016

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Nearly two months late but with many, many wonderful senior events at my school behind me (most precious were the graduation marches my seniors did through four of our five district elementary schools), I can catch a quick breath and write a bit. The Ballroom Thieves are easily one of my top favorites live bands. [Fun fact: I first saw The Ballroom Thieves live opening for The Lone Bellow three years ago today!] I feel really lucky to have seen them a lot, and am so glad that their star continues to rise, having now played at the Newport Folk Festival and opened for Lake Street Dive at Thompson’s Point in Portland. That’s a huge venue, and friends who were able to go and had never seen the Thieves messaged me to say how great they are (um, yeah!).

Thinking back, I remember that I was able to grab a quick dinner at Slab with one of my dear former class presidents before heading over to the show. I got to Port City Music Hall early to make sure I’d have my favorite spot up front and even beat Colin there. Erin and Darcy, teachers from Westbrook High School who we’d met a couple of shows back, were also there, and my current (well, graduation was Sunday, but I’m not ready to let go) class president, Carmen, also joined the full house for the show. This was one of those nights when the crowd was top notch. I think it’s because there were a lot of proud Maine Youth Rock Orchestra family members in the crowd, celebrating the beginning of their April vacation week tour with The Ballroom Thieves. Anyhow, it’s always great to be surrounded by positive energy and attentive people at a show, and this was a real treat.

Burlington, Vermont’s The DuPont Brothers took the stage and warmed up the crowd. Their harmonies, pretty guitar arrangements, and friendly banter made for a good set. Brother Zack was celebrating his birthday, so we sang for him. They’d used Kickstarter to fund their most recent album, A Riddle for You, and played a lot of those songs for us. They invited Maine Youth Rock Orchestra (MYRO) to join them for “Trespassers,” which they sweetly dedicated to a big group of young kids sitting on the floor just in front of the stage. The DuPont Brothers will be back in Portland at One Longfellow Square on Thursday, June 30.

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“Trespassers” with The DuPont Brothers and MYRO

Kevin Oates, the founder and director of Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, took the stage to do a little fundraising to support their ten-day tour with The Ballroom Thieves. He said he’d shave his head (and he has really good hair) if they reached their fundraising goal before the show ended, which shows dedication. MYRO is awesome. As a teacher, it hits me right in the feels that this awesome group exists, and that they’ve had such great success, including being featured on NPR Music and being the first youth orchestra to tour with a national artist. Kevin tells the story himself on medium.com with “Why I started Maine Youth Rock Orchestra.” I have a front row ticket to see MYRO play with Gregory Alan Isakov on June 21 at the State Theatre and am SO excited to see them with another of my favorite artists.

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Kevin Oates, founder and director of MYRO

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Martin and Devin of The Ballroom Thieves with MYRO

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Martin, Devin, and Callie of The Ballroom Thieves with MYRO

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The Ballroom Thieves are fantastic. Their songs and harmonies resonate, their desire to connect to the audience admirable, and the sheer force of their musicianship is moving. This was another in a series of top-notch performances from Martin, Devin, and Callie. Hearing them with MYRO, adding to the richness of their already full sound, was phenomenal. I feel really lucky to have been at this show. I was so glad to learn that a new album is forthcoming. You’ve got to check out the video for “Bury Me Smiling” featuring MYRO that NPR Music picked up. “Peregrine” sticks out as a newer song I’m looking forward to getting better acquainted with. “Here I Stand” was a particularly driving force live, and “The Loneliness Waltz” is surely one of my favorite Thieves’ songs. This was truly a phenomenal show—start to finish. See these groups live whenever you have the chance. The Thieves will be joined by MYRO on July 12 at Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney, Maine. Come! I will see you there.

xo,

bree

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