Thursday, November 20, 2014
Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine
What a fun night! I held baby Isabelle for a while after school, and then picked up Megan for an adventurous evening celebrating our Friendiversary! We met six happy years ago at Bowdoin College’s amazing annual Thanksgiving dinner. We stopped by the Maine Tweetup at Glass Lounge in the Old Port’s new Hyatt Place hotel for a bit, and then had a scrumptious dinner at Empire before heading over to Port City Music Hall for the show.
I was surprised by how big the crowd was when we arrived, but I had a press pass and was able to snag a spot just behind the barricade adjacent to the stage with room for Megan, too. We were excited to see our Carbon Leaf friend Stacey very nearby with her husband Don. It’s always great to see them for a Carbon Leaf show and Stacey and I haven’t missed a single Maine Carbon Leaf appearance together since we met at a Carbon Leaf show at Port City in 2009.
I’d seen Tall Heights back in May of 2013 with Tricky Britches and The Ghost of Paul Revere at One Longfellow Square in Portland and was looking forward to seeing them again. Boston-based folk duo Tim Harrington on guitar and Paul Wright on cello impressed again with their flawless harmonies and engaging stage presence. I particularly liked “Eastern Standard Time” and “I Don’t Know, I Don’t Know.” Tim told us that Paul had just jumped into the Atlantic Ocean in Beverly, Massachusetts to celebrate his recent birthday, and Paul told us it was similarly cold in Maine while pointing out the winter hat Tim was wearing on stage. Their cover of “Yesterday” was really quite pretty, as well. Check out this story about Tall Heights’ background (including their extensive busking experience) and this live recording of “Running of the Bulls” filmed by Boston’s Sofar Sounds.
Virginia’s Carbon Leaf took the stage as an enthusiastic crowd cheered them on. Lead singer Barry Privett welcome us and they launched right into songs played frequently over the years on 98.9 WCLZ including “Life Less Ordinary” and “What About Everything?” There were lots of folks in the crowd singing along to all of the songs all night long. “Desperation Song” was a big hit with Barry on penny whistle. Carter Gravatt debuted a new guitar that sounded great and Barry joked that if Carter sold half his gear the band could retire tomorrow.
Barry and Carter were joined by the rest of their bandmates—Terry Clark (guitar), Jon Markel (bass), and Jason Neal (drums)—around a single microphone to sing a handful of songs, including a couple a cappella. Their harmonies are incredible—clearly the product of nearly twenty years playing together. Barry told us about their newest independently released album, Constellation Prize, and the re-release of their 2004 album Indian Summer, which had been the property of their former record label, but now belongs to them in the form of Indian Summer Revisited, which inspired their current 50 city tour.
The guy running stage security was particularly nice and even offered to create a path for me to get to the center of the room so I could take photos from another angle. I turned down his very kind offer, but took my camera and ventured over to the center of the room. I couldn’t believe how great everyone in the crowd was! It’s been a while since the crowd at a show was so lovely. People literally moved out of my way with smiles on their faces like I was Moses parting the sea. Even the guy standing front and center at the stage gladly moved aside to let me in to take a few shots. Maybe the crowd was so wonderfully kind and easy going because the guys in Carbon Leaf are down to earth and friendly themselves? Just a hypothesis.
Barry told us that we could take home a recording of that night’s show on USB (which is an awesome idea that I wish more bands would borrow). He told us about the music festival they curate at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, Virginia called Carbon Leaf’s Ragtime Carnival in May (in case anyone’s up for a road trip). The guys gave a shout out to WCLZ for always supporting them and for sponsoring the show and a Studio Z earlier in the day. They wrapped up the evening’s encore with one of my very favorites, “Let Your Troubles Roll By,” which was the last song I heard live in 2013 at my last Carbon Leaf show. Energized by the show, Megan and I turned to leave, and I ran into my cousin Jake on the way out, which was a big bonus! Megan was so enthused by the show that she spent part of the ride home downloading more Carbon Leaf music. She was especially taken with “The War Was in Color” during the show and downloaded a couple of versions as we talked about how much fun we had. We’re already excited for our next Carbon Leaf show! Thanks, guys! (Check out more pictures below!)