Tag Archives: State Theatre

Lucius–An Intimate, Acoustic Performance

Lucius–An Intimate, Acoustic Performance

Friday, March 16, 2018

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

This was a lovely night. Lucius is such a pleasure to see live. Holly and Jess’ costumes and stage presence are always beautiful, and their voices are truly perfect. They were quite conversational, too, which I love in a concert experience. My friend Marian is a Lucius superfan and travels all over the country to see them. She’s even traveling to Amsterdam in September for a Lucius show. She ran into Jess at Speckled Ax in Portland the morning of the show and they talked for a few minutes, which totally made her day! Marian and I both accidentally had way too many tickets to this show (because we are always trying to introduce new people to Lucius), but we were able to find people to take them and finagle seats for ourselves in the first and second rows for this intimate, seated show at the State Theatre.

I’m still shocked that Lucius isn’t a household name. For those who know music, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who have been singing together for almost 15 years since they met at Berklee College of Music, have contributed vocals for Roger Waters, Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, John Prine, Lukas Nelson, and more. To say they’re the sweethearts of the Newport Folk Festival is an understatement. They were featured guests in many Newport artists’ sets over the last handful of years. Their ability to blend flawlessly and not outshine others while also being true rock stars is commendable. Marian and I were both excited to hear the announcement a few days after this show that Lucius will be back at Newport again this summer, which we’ll both attend.

I saw Lucius open for Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall back in 2012. I was totally smitten right away, and been lucky have seen them a handful of times since then. Lucius don’t know how to put on a bad show, which is a genuine compliment. Perhaps the most notable thing from this sold out show at the State Theatre was that the audience was silent the entire night. The stage presence it takes to captivate such a big crowd like that seems unimaginable, unless you’ve seen Lucius in person. Thank you, fellow audience members, for making this such a beautiful night. I’ve witnessed more and more disrespect from audiences at shows in the last couple of years, so this night gave me hope and elevated this concert experience to another level. Lucius sang a nice blend of songs from all of their albums–Wildewoman (2013), Good Grief (2016), and their new release, Nudes. They opened with“Go Home” and “Don’t Just Sit There”back-to-back, which brought me right back to when I discovered them in 2012. I wore out their 4 song EP disc from overuse after that first show at Brighton Music Hall. Jess and Holly also sang a few reimagined covers that made me like songs like Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” even more. I was over the moon to hear “Two of Us on the Run” and “How Loud Your Heart Gets” back-to-back towards the end of their set. They’re both stunning songs.

During the night, Jess said they were honored to be back in Maine at a sold out headlining show. Jess told us that they love Bob and Gail Ludwig fromGateway Mastering in Portland who are some of their most favorite people. Lucius opened for Tegan and Sara back in 2013 at the State, and Jess added that to “see you all here singing the words to our songs, supporting us at our own show, and seeing kids wearing golden capes is a dream come true.” They closed their set with “Woman” from Nudes and left the stage to thunderous applause.

Lucius came back to the stage for a three song encore, starting with “Dusty Trails,” which they invited show opener Ethan Gruska on stage to sing with them. They covered “Strangers” by the Kinks, and Jess introduced their final song of the night with heartfelt comments about the power of music to send positivity into the world. She said:

“This band and us working together has been the power of collaboration. The power of creating something that’s greater than ourselves as individuals that’s positive. We do that with our writing. We have two heads and two hearts lending perspective within one song and we have two voices making one voice and we have our whole band putting on a show together for you guys and at the end of the day, we wouldn’t be here without you, so thank you very much. We feel the power and love that you give to us and it fuels us to be able to do what we do and in having spent so much time together the thing that we’ve learned is that our greatest dream of all is that you each take something from this experience that we are all sharing tonight that you need–whether it’s joy or bittersweetness or sorrow or pain or love or humor–and you take it out into your everyday lives and pay it forward. Share it with a neighbor in the form of love because it may sound repetitive to say this, but it is all we need right now. No matter where you go, do something positive with this.”

They closed the night with a cover of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” which reinforced their hopes for positivity and community and was a perfect end for a beautiful night. What a night! If you don’t know Lucius, seize this moment to discover them. You’ll be so glad you did.

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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Bon Iver

Friday, December 8, 2017

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

In a sentence–for me, sadly, this show was a surprising disappointment.

I saw Bon Iver for the first time in September of 2012 at the Bank of America Pavillion in Boston. Caroline and I went together, and she wrote a lovely guest post giving the show a five star rating. I was in the third or fourth row for that full band show, and I was over the moon to hear some of my Bon Iver favorites in person and to sing “The Wolves (Acts I and II)” together. The energy at that show was palpably positive.

When I saw that Bon Iver was playing so nearby in Portland at State Theatre, I was thrilled. I set an alarm to buy tickets in the presale, but the timing of my teaching plans were a little off because we had an unexpected fire drill, so I selfishly asked my students to work on their homework for a few minutes while I tried to get tickets on both my laptop and my phone. My phone came through for me and I snagged a pair of tickets a few rows from the back of the room, and I can’t think of a time I was so happy to have basically back row seats. I checked again when tickets went on sale to the general public, but they seemed completely sold out right away. I read through more than a hundred comments from angry Bon Iver fans about how impossible it was to get tickets for the show, and revelled in my luck. I even looked online at StubHub just to see if I could get seats closer to the stage, but seats in my far away section were selling for $250 each (a huge markup over the $65 face value). I scoffed at the idea of selling my tickets for profit anyhow, but then I went to the show and thought twice.

Bartlett was my lucky date for the night, even though many people inquired about my extra ticket for the show right up until the night of the show. We met for dinner at El Rayo, had a couple of tacos and cocktails, and made our way to State Theatreearly to make it through their added security and because there was no opening act. Justin Vernon took the stage solo, which I am usually totally in favor of, but this was an odd night. I was surprised by how many people were back and forth to the bar and bathroom during the show because we’d all paid a decent amount for these highly sought after tickets and I figured everyone there would be a big fan. (A sarcastic shout out to the annoying super fan couple in the third row that spent most of the night dancing wildly on your feet–rudely obstructing the views of and distracting everyone all around you. You guys made me glad my seats were so far away). There was some sort of chatter coming from the other front orchestra section, I guess, because Justin interjected a snarky comment about them, and then followed up with a comment about how we should all just love each other. Later, someone from the crowd shouted out “I love you, Justin,” and he responded “I have plans later. But I appreciate that.” I thought some (but not all) of his banter with the audience was awkward to the point of kind of mean spirited. It felt like he didn’t want to have to perform for us, and it ruined the show experience for me.

My view of Justin Vernon from the back of the State Theatre

I didn’t feel at all this way five years ago when I first saw Bon Iver live, so I have some theories about this night’s cringeworthy moments. The easiest explanation would be that folks nearest him were being rude and I couldn’t hear it. That, sadly, has been the case at other shows I’ve been to in Portland, where people talk all night over the performer. Regina Spektor’s show earlier this year at State Theatrecomes right to mind. Maybe something has shifted for Justin during these years that makes performing difficult for him, or, he was just having a bad night. If I missed something, please tell me. I’d love to know there was an obvious cause for his somewhat grumpy demeanor.

Musically, Justin was great. I loved hearing so many songs I love live–“Flume,”“Perth,”“Blood Bank,”“Skinny Love,”and “Woods”–and his cover of“I Can’t Make You Love Me”was heart wrenching, as expected. I enjoyed hearing the heavily electronic songs from his 2016 album, 22, A Million in person, too. It felt good to sing “The Wolves (Acts I and II)” together to end the night at Justin’s invitation, but I was very surprised he only played a one song encore (a cover of Mahalia Jackson’s “Satisfied Mind”), because he was on stage less than an hour. I’d felt so lucky to have the opportunity to be in the room, but was genuinely sadly disappointed during and after the show. It felt like an off night from start to finish, and it seemed to me like Justin struggles with the pressures of being a beloved musician, which seemed to shine through during this show. In the end, I am fine with having spent $65 to see Justin Vernon from basically the back row, but I probably wouldn’t do it again, which is disappointing given how much his music has positively impacted my life.

If you missed this show, I honestly don’t think you missed much. Maybe something was going on with the crowd up front that I couldn’t hear. If folks were being rude and Justin was annoyed with them–I can totally live with that. From where I sat, though, this show was a bummer. If you saw another night of this tour and had a very positive experience, I would also like to hear from you so that I know this was simply an off night and that Justin is just fine. I’m truly hoping for that.

xo,

bree

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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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