Tag Archives: The Alternate Routes

Liz Longley with Monique Barrett

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was a perfect day. My 2019 class officers and I delivered hundreds of roses and carnations to kids at school, I had a decadent spa facial after school, and Colin met me at One Longfellow Square for this fantastic show. I hadn’t seenPortland songstress Monique Barrett in too long, so when I saw she was opening forLiz Longley, I eagerly added the show to my calendar. I am SO glad I was in the room for this stellar night.

Monique Barrett was charming and personal with the audience. I always appreciate when a musician interacts with the crowd by sharing stories behind the songs and making us feel like part of a concert experience. Monique does this so well. She played all of her songs about love for us in honor of Valentine’s Day, including a sweet song for her nephew Luca. Monique’s honesty shone through, and we laughed a lot together. Monique told us that she was first introduced to Liz Longley’s music when a friend asked her to learn Liz’s “When You’ve Got Trouble” to sing with her at her sister’s wedding. Monique said that her heart was so full in that moment, and she was honored both to have sung that song for a her friend’s sister on her wedding day and now to share the stage with Liz. She ended her lovely set with my favorite of her songs, “Make It Better.”

Monique Barrett

I’d somehow never seen Liz Longley before, but she impressed me in mere seconds. I remember leaning over to Colin maybe 30 seconds into her first song and whispering “I LOVE her!” Her voice is so strong and full that it fills the space that sometimes exists in songs by other singer songwriters. I was smitten right away. Liz told us she had to dig really deep into her catalog of songs to find any about love in a positive way. Most of her songs, and Monique’s too, were about love lost. She asked if anyone in the crowd wasn’t on a date. Colin and I raised our hands (were we the only ones?) and she looked at us and said, “so most of these songs are really for you.” I love a good break up song, so Liz’s music is firmly in my wheelhouse.

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Liz Longley

Liz told us that she just turned 30 and was a little freaked out about it, but the crowd reassured her life is better after 30. She wrote a song the day before our show in the car during her six hour drive, and told us that writing in the car can be liberating because she doesn’t getting get stuck in the structure of a guitar or piano part. She also told us that one of her favorite childhood memories was driving home from the Shore with her mom. Her mom used to sing while she drove to stay awake, and “I Will” by the Beatles was a favorite of her songs to sing. Liz sang a beautiful cover of it for us.

She introduced “Weightless”by telling us that she’d dated someone for three years and they ended up fighting over how to divide their stuff when they broke up even though they’d gotten it all off Craiglist because they were both poor musicians. The lyrics are personal and relatable:

“You can have the couch, the lamp, the diamond ring/the books on the shelf, the dishes in the sink/take take take take take everything.” She told us that she stopped writing music for almost a year afterwards.

I absolutely loved learning that“Rush” was written for Jim and Pam from The Office. Liz said she was watching the episode where they have their first kiss with the sound off, and the words came to her–“as we surrender to it all, have you ever felt so alive/as I feel with you tonight.” Liz told us that she studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that’s when it clicked for me that I loved her honest, personal, hard hitting lyrics as much as I loved her voice. I realized as I wrote this that I don’t often quote song lyrics, but that’s an area where Liz shines. “Memphis” just slays–“The skies aren’t clear and you’re not here/so I just keep telling myself/you wouldn’t make it to Memphis/you wouldn’t make it halfway/you take that lonely road/and you realize your mistake.”

I read up on Liz after this show, and I listened to her entire musical catalog. She lives in Nashville and makes her living as a musician. I spent some of the night trying to figure out who she sounds like, but she sang the first line to a song I can’t find the name of–the lyrics were “Late in September when autumn came”–and it occurred to me that she sounds like Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars), which is a sincere compliment.

Liz played the first song of hers I ever heard, “When You’ve Got Trouble,”and I was so glad to hear it in person. She joked with us all night–she’s pretty self-deprecating, actually–and told us that she was drunk shopping on Amazon years ago and bought some rollerblades. Turns out, she loves them, and bought another pair for her 30th birthday. She laughed as she told us, “if you need to spice up your life, buy rollerblades!”

Liz earned the standing ovation she received, and she kindly closed the night with an encore–a cover of the Alternate Routes“Nothing More.” She played a Concert Window show a couple of months ago to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief, and attributed the night’s success (they raised $3,500 for hurricane victims) to that song, “because it brings people together, which we need in these times.” I couldn’t agree more.

This was a special night. I felt lucky to be there. I hope you’ll look up both of these talented women and see them live.

xo,

bree

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The Alternate Routes with Luke Fradiani

Friday, September 15, 2017

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’m catching up on blogging today with a heavy heart. I go to school every day in this post-Sandy Hook world, and have no hope that anything will change. I often think about music as being my religion–appreciating the power music has to bring us together and to change us for the better–and being at a concert as being in a sanctuary. My heart breaks for those who went to a concert in Las Vegas and instead got murdered. It’s unfathomable, and yet a norm we are starting to live with.

The Alternate Routes have grappled with the issue of gun violence in their music. Guitarist Eric Donnelly’s parents were murdered by an addict with a gun in their Fairfield, Connecticut jewelry store back in 2005, and his song “Somewhere in America” is a stunning song that reflects on the pervasiveness of gun violence in America.

Read these lyrics to “Somewhere in America”:

“The last thing that my father saw when he was still alive

Was the gun in the hands of a sick young man with bright blue eyes.

A man who looked just like me as far as anyone else could see.

A stranger, not an enemy.

And my mother watched it all.

That was the last thing that she saw.

Somewhere in America

A phone’s about to ring.

An unlucky break.

Wrong time, wrong place.

I’ve heard them all so many times.

If your dad had had a gun of his own,

maybe they’d still be alive.”

The Alternate Routes have also collaborated with Newtown Kindness, an organization that sprang up after the tragedy in the Sandy Hook community, and wrote “Nothing More,” which reminds us that “we are how we treat each other, and nothing more.” So here’s a band that puts their energy into this vital issue, and here’s another day in America where someone’s phone is going to ring. I tried to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s response, but couldn’t make it through.

I first saw the Alternate Routes open for Carbon Leaf back in 2009, and it was a spectacular, super fun show. Alternate Routes lead singer Tim Warren wrote “With all the love I have in my heart” on the CD I bought that night, their 2009 album A Sucker’s Dream. I also saw the Alternate Routes open for Martin Sexton in 2013 and play with the Ballroom Thieves in 2014, but it had been a while since I’d seen them. I watched their Studio Z performance live on Facebook earlier in the day and they told stories that showed their humanity and heart. It made me more excited to see them later that night.

I grabbed a quick solo dinner at the bar at Empire (a regular tradition for me on show nights in Portland), but ended up making friends with a few folks at the bar who let me join in their dinner conversation. I also ran into my friend Griffin Sherry from The Ghost of Paul Revere. His publicist had sent me a preview of their newest song, “Montreal,” and I was able to tell him I’d listened a few times earlier in the day and love it. The Ghost recently announced shows for December 30 and 31 at Port City Music Hall, if you’re looking for end of year plans.

I made my way to Port City Music Hall and joined my friend Andrea in the front row for some of show opener Luke Fradiani’s set. Andrea went to the show to see Luke Fradiani, and didn’t know the Alternate Routes. I was in the opposite situation. Luke was engaging and chatty, and he has a lovely voice. Apparently, he won a season of American Idol, which is pretty cool. Alternate Routes guitarist Eric Donnelly and drummer Kurt Leon were in his band, and I enjoyed the bonus time with them on stage. They did an amazing cover of Billy Joel’s “Downeaster Alexa,” which was amazing. Luke’s songs are a bit simple for my taste, but he was a fine show opener. Andrea disappeared for an hour after Luke’s set to make friends with the band, and his pianist, Mikel Paris walked us out of the venue at the end of the night. It was precious. I don’t usually want to talk to people in bands in case they’re having a bad night and aren’t nice, but Andrea goes for it all the time.

The Alternate Routes were great, if a little subdued compared to the first time I saw them back in 2009 (I think alcohol was involved all those years ago, though). I was glad to hear “The Future’s Nothing New” with a bit of Amy Winehouse’s “Trouble” in the mix. My favorite of their songs is probably “Ordinary,” and I liked hearing it with just Tim and Eric as a duo. Their new song, “Safe Haven,” is sweet as honey, too. Tim sincerely thanked 98.9 WCLZ for their ongoing support of the band. He introduced the last song in their set, “Nothing More,” by saying they were told that should write a song to inspire people to be kind–especially children–and thought it was a good idea. They wrote the song in memory of and in tribute to a bunch of folks and their families who lost children. Tim said that “everybody in here knows something about losing something and I hope you know very little about that, but if the people who went through that can pick up the pieces and carry the torch and try to put something good in the world despite that, the hardest thing that you can imagine, certainly we can try.”

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This is Grace and a friend. They were right here all night and it was super cute.

The band came back for two more songs–“Asked You Twice,” which was a sing along, and we danced the last minutes of the night away to “One Dance Left,” which Tim told us was about feeling free of worry, which doesn’t happen that much. It was a good place to leave it.

Check this band out. They’re using their art to do some powerful things, and it matters.

xo,

bree


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The Alternate Routes with The Ballroom Thieves

Friday, January 17, 2014

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Happy 2014!! I had a fantastic winter break in Hawaii and am feeling rejuvenated and excited for a great year of live music as whatbreesees.com starts year number three. Thank you so much for all of your support!

I was pretty happy to be in Hawaii in December!

I was pretty happy to be in Hawaii in December!

I was really glad to start my concert year with The Alternate Routes and The Ballroom Thieves. I’ve seen both bands a couple of times before and know they put on a great live show. I had a marvelous afternoon before the show, too—sadly missing The Alternate Routes’ Studio Z on WCLZ I was invited to—but got to catch up over gelato with my dear friend Jess who was only briefly in town before jetting off to her last semester of architecture school in Minneapolis. I also randomly got to have a leisurely dinner with my long lost high school friend Hedda at Green Elephant before the show. And my great Friday only got better…

Boston’s The Ballroom Thieves is quickly becoming one of my favorite live acts. They have it all—powerful songs, musicianship, comedic banter, and chemistry. If you haven’t seen them live, you really are missing out. Martin Early (guitar/vocals), Devin Mauch (percussion/vocals), and Calin Peters (cello/vocals) took the stage and opened with an acoustic song around a single microphone. Their airy, beautiful harmonies enticed people to start moving towards the stage. “Coward’s Son” was next, and it’s my favorite Ballroom Thieves song. Martin greeted us and told us they love Portland. No one clapped. Devin piped in and joked that sometimes people like their city and we tried again and clapped some for Portland.

Boston's The Ballroom Thieves

Boston’s The Ballroom Thieves

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The Thieves showed off their percussive prowess on “Down By the River.” The crowd was still really far from the stage, so the Thieves asked us who would dare to stand within 15 feet of them. Two people bravely moved forward and the boys joked that it was funny because they had friends and family in the crowd and didn’t know either of the two.

“Wait for the Water” was really pretty. They joked (a theme of the night, which I appreciated) about their pick me up song called “Bullet.” They mentioned their show a few months back with The Last Bison (which was quite a night—here’s my recap). The “Vampires” introduction got a lot of laughs. Martin said it was about the Twilight trilogy, which they’d recently learned was a “quadrology” now. He said that he and Devin were Team Jacob (because “dogs are a man’s best friend and descended from wolves”) and Calin is Team Edward. She joked about the hotness of sparkly men. I’m on Team Charlie.

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Martin played a brand new song “about a big tree” called “Oak” solo. Devin and Calin came back on stage and Devin introduced his band mates with hilarious details, including Calin’s two rabbits and Martin’s 25 week-old (long pause) puppy. He joked that Martin’s mom was probably shaking for a minute there. They played “Brother” about “a sibling who is a boy” and “Drones” off their newest EP with a great cello intro from Calin. Her cello parts are so rich and emotive that they’re like adding a fourth vocalist to the mix. Impressive.

Calin Peters

Calin Peters

Devin Mauch

Devin Mauch

Martin Early and Calin Peters

Martin Early and Calin Peters

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“Save Me” is so pretty and I was happy to hear it again. The Thieves thanked us for coming out to the show—their best turnout in Portland so far—and closed their set with “Archers,” which will be on their upcoming full-length album. The Ballroom Thieves has been spot on all three times I’ve seen them. Check out this post from when they played with Swear and Shake and The Lone Bellow back in June. I like them more and more each time I see them. They really shine live and I’m sure they earned a bunch more fans that night.

I could tell I was out of concert-going practice waiting for The Alternate Routes to take the stage around 10PM. I’d taken a five-week concert break (because I always want this blog to be about seeing music because I love it and I don’t want it to feel like work) and it was hard to stay awake so late on a Friday night!

Ethan Minton from 98.9 WCLZ took the stage to introduce The Alternate Routes. He said it’s really great to be able to promote a band by playing their music on the radio—especially when they’re such great people. He mentioned the Studio Z The Alternate Routes recorded earlier in the day and invited the band to the stage. The Alternate Routes took the stage as a full band. I’d seen Tim and Eric as a duo opening for Martin Sexton last time, so was excited to see them surrounded by a band.

98.9 WCLZ's Ethan Minton introducing The Alternate Routes

98.9 WCLZ’s Ethan Minton introducing The Alternate Routes

The Alternate Routes' Tim Warren

The Alternate Routes’ Tim Warren

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The Alternate Routes' Eric Donnelly

The Alternate Routes’ Eric Donnelly

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Tim told us during the beginning on their set that they’re in the process of recording an album that they hope to have out in a few months. He told us how much they love Portland and thanked WCLZ and Ethan and said they’d wanted to play at Port City Music Hall for a long time. I was excited to hear new music that’s being recorded right now, but was happy to hear “Ordinary,” which is from their first album Good and Reckless and True.

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There was a little girl in the front row who was pumped about the show. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I did a double take and realized that I knew her—her dad installed my new furnace back in November. It’s a small world! Her mom kept taking videos of Faith enjoying the show and panning back and forth to the band onstage. It was adorable. It’s that kind of joy that I like to see at a show. I’m always dumbfounded by people at shows who spend their time at the bar talking (usually loudly) over the performers. I don’t see the point. Anyhow, Faith restored my faith (see what I did there?) in the joy that concert going can bring.

Tim performed “Won’t Let Go,” which he wrote for his bride and performed at their wedding last year. The audience happily sang our part on “Standing At Your Door,” and people who hadn’t seen The Alternate Routes before laughed when Tim picked up a toolbox to use as percussion on “Future’s Nothing New.” Tim nailed the harmonica part on that song. Eric played killer guitar all night, too.

Tim using the toolbox as percussion on "Future's Nothing New." It's a crowd pleaser.

Tim using the toolbox as percussion on “Future’s Nothing New.” It’s a crowd pleaser.

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Tim is an adorable front man. At some point in the set he paused to say “I’m really happy. Are you really happy? This is a special night for us. The rooms we play don’t always fill up but tonight they did and we are grateful.” I hadn’t turned around the whole show (and I was in the front row, as always), but he inspired me to do so and the room was pretty full. I was glad to hear “Time is a Runaway” from back in the day, too. Tim talked about writing it in his uncle’s living room in Beverly, Massachusetts.

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A really cool thing happened over the summer for The Alternate Routes. They were approached by a company and introduced to Newtown Kindness, an organization founded to promote kindness in memory of Charlotte Bacon, whose life was tragically taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Newtown Kindness needed a song and “Nothing More” came to life. Tim talked about how the video for “Nothing More” is home movie footage of his sister running around and his mom pregnant with him in 1980. It’s a very sweet video. People have been encouraged to participate in the movement by synching their own home videos to the song. Tim gave a shout out to Deb and her yoga teacher Kathy. He said he saw Deb’s touching video and stopped in his tracks. He said “the whole thing makes me want to hug everything.” Music has the power to bring people together and to heal. It’s why I see so many live shows, I think. There’s magic in every concert venue—stories told, friends made, moments that make you pause and reflect. For me, live music is the best thing.

I really liked their last song, a new one called “Give,” and was very glad The Alternate Routes came back to the stage to end the night with “Carry Me Home.” This night was a lovely start to my concert going year.

xo,

bree

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