Tag Archives: State Theatre

The Lone Bellow with The Wild Reeds

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

The Lone Bellow is my favorite band. That’s saying something, right? I saw them for the first time back in 2013 in Boston and they stole my heart. Zach, Brian, and Kanene pour their hearts out on stage and give the audience 110%. This is the eighth time I’ve seen them live, and I’ve never seen them offer even just 95% to the crowd. I honestly don’t know how they do it. They’re the best.

This show came at a bad time for me, but I made it work. I was pretty under the weather, and it was parent teacher conference night at school, so I taught all day, had conferences until 8pm, and then flew down to Portland. (Coincidentally, they also played Portland four years ago on my parent teacher conference night. Can I request we stop booking them in November?). Colin, my steadfast concert buddy, kindly saved me a front row center spot along the barricade at the State Theatre, and I arrived a song or two into The Wild Reeds’ opening set. Bobbie and Abra, who run The Lone Bellow’s online fan community, Tree to Grow, were right there along the barricade, too. It was their 39th Lone Bellow show that night. They win. It’s not a competition, though, because everyone who sees The Lone Bellow live wins.

LA’s The Wild Reeds are led by three strong female vocalists and multi instrumentalists–Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe, and Sharon Silva–with powerful voices and great energy on stage. I enjoyed their set (even though it was little hard to hear their vocals) and people near me were clearly fans who knew the words and sang along, too. I listened to their Tiny Desk Concert to prep for the show, and they are quite talented. I would definitely see them again.

The Lone Bellow took the stage after a brief stage swap and dazzled the small, but delighted crowd. I remember a few moments during the show when Zach, Brian, and Kanene were gathered around one mic and I noticed that there was no sound in the room other than their voices. It’s rare that a band can mesmerize a crowd like that, but it’s within the power of The Lone Bellow, for sure.

The Lone Bellow played almost every song from their new album, Walk into a Storm. The new album is excellent and there’s not a single song to skip over, but my favorite song on it is definitely “Long Way to Go,” and I loved hearing it live for the first time in person. Jason (Kanene’s husband) and their new drummer Rico left the stage during an acoustic mini set. I’m not sure how it started, but Zach, Brian, and Kanene ended up covering “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)” by Bryan Adams, and it was amazing. They also sang “Watch Over Us,” which is among my most favorite songs, too.

I learned a fair amount about Zach’s childhood during the show, including the time he set his kitchen on fire toasting a Pop Tart after school and his hobby of catching and naming cottonmouth snakes that his dad wouldn’t let him keep. I also learned that his first CD was the Bodyguard movie soundtrack. 

I was thrilled to hear “You Never Need Nobody”and “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” live, and was equally happy that “Then Came the Morning”was the encore. The Wild Reeds joined the Lone Bellow on stage, and it was great to see such big, genuine smiles from everyone up there. It was clear they were having a blast. “Then Came the Morning” is such a badass song. Check out these lyrics–“Take my words, breathe them out like smoke/Burn every single letter that I wrote/Let the pages turn to ash, I don’t want them back.” Zach divided the crowd in half and we sang parts and filled the room with sound to close the night together.

The Lone Bellow has gone through some major stuff in the last year, and you can read about it here. It seems like all is well for them and they’re all living in Nashville now and growing their families and fans alike. I can’t say enough about this band. Please check them out. Here’s a full Lone Bellow show recorded in Boston a few years ago that still captures the essence of this soulful, passionate group quite nicely. Please come back to Maine soon!

xo,

bree

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Josh Ritter with Good Old War

Saturday, October 28, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

What an awesome night! I see a ton of music by myself, but I ended up with a hearty group of friends Saturday night, all right up front along the barricade. It was a truly A+ evening.

The folks at Empire Chinese Kitchen recognize me (it’s my go-to) and know that I’m probably grabbing a quick dinner before a show when I snag a solo seat at the bar, but my friend Colin (who I met years ago at Josh Ritter show) and his friend Meghan met me for pre-show drinks. I picked up my photo pass at the State Theatre box office and quickly made my way to the stage and grabbed a spot in the front row on the barricade. Colin and Meghan joined me, and my friend Bob surprised me by driving up from Massachusetts to join us (he and I met at an Iron & Wine show back in 2011 at the State Theatre). I chatted with Ashley and Marsha who were next to me along the barricade, and when my friend Grace and her husband Trent showed up, they all already knew each other. So what I’m saying is that Josh Ritter brings good people together and it was a delight to see a show with so many wonderful people. My friend Bartlett joined us, and then his friends Nick and Sarah showed up, too. It was a party.

I am a fan of show opener Good Old War, and I arrived when doors open to be sure I’d be right up front. I first saw Philadelphia’s Keith [Good]win, Tim Arn[old], and Dan Sch[war]tz open for Brandi Carlile back in 2010, but hadn’t caught them live since 2015. I supported their Pledge Music campaign to produce Broken Into Better Shape, and I wear the Good Old Warrior t-shirt they sent me often. It was a little strange to see them in such a big venue, because the thing I’ve enjoyed most about them live is how intimate it feels. They played an entire glorious set unplugged standing in the middle of the crowd when I saw them in 2015, but I suppose that’s not something an opening band can pull off when most people are usually only there for the headliner. Folks in the audience listened during their set, and I saw a bunch of people up front singing along to all of the songs, too.  I was so glad to hear “That’s Some Dream,” “Amazing Eyes,” and “My Own Sinking Ship” in person again. I’m pretty sure Good Old War didn’t play “Tell Me What You Want From Me,” which I expected to hear because 98.9 WCLZ plays it regularly. I am eager to see them as a headliner again, and hope they’ll come back to Maine soon.

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Good Old War

IMG_5923IMG_5925IMG_5928I have known about Josh Ritter for ages, and I’ve seen him a handful of times live, but I’ve never taken the time to dig into his music catalog until about a month ago. I’ve mostly gone to see him live because his music matters to people who matter to me and he puts on a great show. What I appreciate most about him as a performer is the joy he exudes in the form of a giant smile while he’s on stage. His music is layered and lyrical, and it’s laden with Bible references and heavy themes that don’t work for me as background music. What I’m trying to say is that his songs really deserve a listener’s attention. I also love a sad song, so listening to his newest album, Gathering, has been right up my alley. “Showboat,” “When Will I Be Changed,” “Train Go By,” and “Thunderbolt’s Goodnight” stick out to me on the album and all strike me as deeply personal, beautiful, and relatable.

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Josh Ritter

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Zack Hickman

Josh posted on Facebook when his album dropped that “I have never lived in times like these. That music somehow manages to survive and matter amidst the chaos seems ever more miraculous, ever more something to celebrate and be grateful for.” We are living in strange, dark days, but Gathering helps me feel a bit better, because Josh eloquently captures the sadness and makes the darkness feel less isolating.

This was by far the most engaged I’ve been at a Josh Ritter show. I’d listened to him a lot in the weeks leading up to the show, and it was the first time I knew a lot of the words and could sing along. The crowd was awesome. I remember a few moments during the show when I realized I could only hear Josh–which is incredible in a big venue with multiple bars. People who love Josh listen to him, too, I guess, and it was a welcome treat to really hear an artist like that. Since no one was pushy or drunk or yelling I could relax. I took pictures during the first three songs of both sets, but I danced, had a few drinks, and enjoyed every moment.

Josh didn’t say a whole lot during the show, but we did learn that “Train Go By” was about a stint living in the country, where the only entertainment was to go park by the train tracks and watch the trains go by. That adventure didn’t last long. Josh humbly expressed his gratitude for having the opportunity to write music and perform for a living. Josh did three songs acoustic in the middle of his set, and Zack joined him for “Hopeful,” which is one of my favorites. Check out these lyrics–“How many times did you give all your love/And find out it was so far from enough?/I followed her out into the street in the rain/And the whole world stopped spinning and just went up in flames.” I have a lot of respect for an artist that will bear their soul, and Josh is one of them.

IMG_5989IMG_5992IMG_5994I loved the energy at the end of their set. They wrapped up with “When Will I Be Changed,” “Homecoming,” and “Getting Ready to Get Down,” which punctuated the night’s messages of hope and optimism and brought the energy up enough to encourage a dance party to end the show. I love acoustic music best, and loved the three song acoustic encore, especially “Roll On,” which is a song I didn’t know before. It has a particularly beautiful line in it, too–“Somewhere out there I believe in me.” Josh closed the night solo acoustic with “Girl in the War.” I loved this show and it hit me right in the feels to hear sadness, honesty, and hope mingled together in the air.

My friend Aimsel Ponti interviewed Josh a week or so before his Portland stop and asked some great questions that I wanted to know the answers to. Also, here’s a 45 minute set that Josh and bassist Zack Hickman played for 75 lucky fans at The Clown Lounge in St. Paul, and it captures their energy and current set list nicely.

To the woman in the bathroom who told me you liked my highlights–you made my night! I don’t have highlights, just a lot of gray hair.

My night wrapped with Bartlett, Nick, and Sarah over slices at Otto, and I ran into my friend Kevin Oates (the talented director of the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra) for hugs and catching up on the sidewalk on my way back to my car. This was such a fun night that was full of surprises from start to finish.

xo,

bree

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The Head and the Heart

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine

This was a lovely, easy Saturday. I hadn’t planned to go to this show, but a girlfriend had an extra ticket, and I thought it would be fun to spend an evening with some fabulous ladies I don’t see nearly enough. We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon outside on a friend’s porch in the sunshine, and had hours to really catch up. It was wonderful. We packed up and made our way over to the last show of the season at Thompson’s Point. You take a risk about the weather when you buy a ticket to an outdoor concert, especially one in autumn, but it was a perfect, comfortable night. We’d snacked all afternoon, so we skipped the food trucks and found our way to the front when we arrived. I caught a handful of songs from The Shelters from LA, but their music didn’t connect with me even though I appreciated their rock band finesse.

I sort of gave up on the The Head and The Heart years ago after seeing them at the State Theatre in March of 2012. I LOVE their music and listen to them often, but their live show left so much to be desired. I care a lot about a concert experience, but THATH barely spoke to the crowd at all. I’ve seen great videos of them on YouTube playing acoustic songs in beautiful places, but their live show was no more intimate or revealing that watching those, so I stopped seeing them live. It was too disappointing.

My steadfast concert companion, Colin, won tickets to THATH’s soundcheck in March of 2017 and invited me to join him. I hadn’t seen them in five years, but he has always loved them and seen them live and encouraged me to give them another shot. They were lovely in person, and stayed to take pictures with each and every one of us. They were so kind and engaging one-on-one that it made me a little sad that their show later that night was sold out and that I didn’t have a ticket.

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I loved meeting THATH in March at State Theatre. Thanks, Colin!

The Head and the Heart were pretty engaging at Thompson’s Point. I was glad to hear so much of their debut self-titled 2010 album live. I appreciate the lyrics of those songs a lot. THATH played “Coeur d’Alene” early in their set, which cries–“Oh the songs/People will sing for hope/And for the ones that have been gone for too long/Oh the things/People will do for the ones that they love.” The crowd roared anytime Charity Rose took the lead and especially for “Lost in My Mind” mid-set. I always appreciate the line, “Momma once told me/You’re already home where you feel loved.”

THATH did a timely, beautiful cover of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House. It was amazing to hear how relevant those lyrics still are thirty years later–“Hey now, hey now/When the world comes in/They come, they come/To build a wall between us/We know they won’t win.” THATH wrapped their set with “Down in the Valley,” which was another crowd favorite.

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I always end up behind the tallest person at the show. Don’t worry, I moved. Ten times.

THATH came back for a four song encore, and ended the night with “Rivers and Roads,” which Charity Rose dedicated to the legendary Charles Bradley. She spoke at length about meeting him at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. She told us “this guy was watching our set and was standing next to friend during ‘Rivers and Roads’ and he was incredibly moved by it, I guess, and I got to meet him afterwards and hug him. He’s a real inspiration, but I wanted to dedicate this song to him, Mr. Charles Bradley. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s an incredible inspiration–a performer and musician–who aspired his whole life and became kind of well known in the latter part of his life and we lost him today.” I was grateful to her for her touching words and it was powerful to be part of a group of thousands of people singing this tribute to him:

“A year from now we’ll all be gone/All our friends will move away/And they’re going to better places/But our friends will be gone away/Nothing is as it has been/And I miss your face like Hell.”

Rest in Peace, Charles Bradley. You were a light in the darkness.

This was a lovely, uplifting night. I’m glad I was there. THATH seemed charmed by Portland, and I’m confident they’ll be back soon.

xo,

bree

PS–Ally! It was great to meet a fellow polar bear! I’m so glad I wore my Bowdoin sweatshirt to the show! Go U Bears!

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Jonathan Russell sported a Bissell Brothers shirt at the show and apparently took more garb on the road with them. I think he hearts Portland!

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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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