Tag Archives: The Music Hall

José González with Bedouine

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

My friend Greg introduces me to a lot of new music, and many years ago, he included José González’s cover of “Heartbeats” on a mix he sent me. It’s been a favorite song ever since. It’s been streamed over 200 million times on Spotify, too, so I bet you’ve heard “Heartbeats” even if you don’t know the name José González. I’d hoped to see José González live for years, and I was happily surprised to see he was playing The Music Hall in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I don’t think José tours very much in the United States, and certainly not in New England, so this was an exciting opportunity.

Colin and I arrived  Portsmouth with enough time to grab a quick dinner at Flatbread. Our server let us know we could get to the venue faster if we left through their rear entrance, which was a time saving tip.

 

We made it to our awesome second row seats in time to see show opener, Bedouine. Bedouine was featured on NPR Music last summer, and from that I learned that she is Azniv Korkejian. She was “born in Aleppo, Syria, to Armenian parents, Korkejian spent her early childhood in Saudi Arabia. After her family won the green-card lottery, she moved to the U.S. at the age of 10, living in Massachusetts, Texas and Kentucky before winding up in California as an adult.” Her background is pretty interesting, but she didn’t say much on stage. She has a unique, folky voice and plays classical guitar, but her songs sounded a lot alike and if I’m being honest, I thought her set was boring. I saw that Bedouine will play Newport Folk Festival this summer, so you can check her out there for yourself and see what you think.

Bedouine

José took the stage solo and played a lovely set. Something that sticks out even a few weeks later is that a couple arrived during José’s set and sat in their front row seats in front of us. The man in front of me was so tall that I couldn’t see José until I asked him to take of his hat and scoot down a bit–which he kindly did. I’m glad I asked. I always end up just behind the tallest person in the room!

José González

José plays classical guitar and sings pretty melodies. He is soft spoken, but he told us the inspiration for a few of his songs, which I appreciated. He was warm with the audience. I find that José’s songs are a pleasure to listen to, but his lyrics are hard for me to decipher. I usually Google his lyrics, actually. I’m really glad I was in the room for this mellow night of good music. I was especially happy to hear “Heartbeats” and “Leaf Off / The Cave” (the video is amazing) live. He also played a beautiful cover of “Blackbird” that was stunning. José has an interesting life story, and I like context, so may want to check out this article. His full set on KEXP would give you a good sense of what you missed this night, too. An unexpected bonus was that I slept like a rock after this night of soothing music.

xo,

bree

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The Lone Bellow with Escondido

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Lone Bellow is my favorite band. Seeing The Lone Bellow perform is a spiritual experience—their passionate, soulful, high-octane live show is heartbreaking, uplifting, and kind of stunning. I’ve been fortunate to see them a half dozen times or so times now, and they never bring anything less than 100% to the stage. If anything, my love for a particular show of theirs has to do with how close to the stage I’m able to be. I love The Music Hall in Portsmouth and have seen The Lone Bellow there twice. The sound quality is beautiful, but I do prefer a standing room show where I can be right underneath the band to better see their facial expressions and enjoy their banter up close and personal.

My steadfast concert buddy Colin told me about this show while I was having a bummer of a Christmas. Buying my ticket to join him for this show was a big pick-me-up. We met up for a delicious dinner at Flatbread in downtown Portsmouth and made our way over to The Music Hall on the early side to catch Nashville’s Escondido. Jessica Maros and Tyler James are alt-country Escondido. Their bedazzled costumes were beautiful and they have a comfortable stage presence. Jessica has a beautiful voice. I particularly liked “Heart Is Black” and “Try.” Escondido has had some success being picked up to be played on TV shows like Nashville and Girls, so I expect you’ll be hearing even more from them in the days ahead.

Escondido 2

Escondido

Escondido

One of The Lone Bellow’s songs is aptly titled “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional,” because this band takes you on an emotional ride that gives you all the feels. I absolutely loved when Zach, Brian, and Kanene stepped to the front of the stage and played “Lovely in Blue,” “Watch Over Us,” and “Looking For You” unplugged. You could have heard a pin drop. I love Kanene’s powerful vocals on “Call To War” (I’m front and center and ecstatic to be there in this video), and the band wrapped their long set with a handful of commanding, driving songs—“Take My Love,” “You Never Need Nobody,” “Teach Me to Know,” and “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.” As if they hadn’t already left everything they had on stage, the band came back for an encore—“Then Came the Morning”—and asked us to sing along. It was a lovely way to end a beautiful, spirited night together. Thank you for being you, The Lone Bellow, and giving us so much of yourselves. Until next time.

xo,

bree

Lone Bellow

The Lone Bellow

Lone Bellow 2

Unplugged

Lone Bellow 3

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Lucius with Pavo Pavo

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I never miss an opening act. Some of my favorite musicians today were people I was lucky enough to catch open for someone else—Glen Hansard for Damien Rice, Brandi Carlile for Ray LaMontagne, Gregory Alan Isakov for Brandi Carlile, and the list goes on and on. I got to Boston embarrassingly early to catch Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall (who I’d seen open for The Civil Wars—sigh) in October of 2012 and Brooklyn’s Lucius was a phenomenal, totally take-you-by-surprise opening act. I was hooked. Jess and Holly’s harmonies are show stopping and their songs catchy. I bought their EP and listened to it hundreds of times.

I caught Lucius again in December of 2013 at Port City Music Hall in Portland. I will never forget that show, because I rushed to the show a little late after the best first date ever. Nearly two years later, and my sweetie and I got to see our first Lucius show together. He had a huge smile on his face all night. They are so impressive. Lucius was decidedly the sweetheart group of last summer’s Newport Folk Festival, sitting in with lots of groups (including my beloved The Lone Bellow) and even getting to sing with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.

Lucius. Port City Music Hall. December 2013.

Lucius. Port City Music Hall. December 2013.

Seeing Lucius together!

Seeing Lucius together!

Our friend Marian is a Lucius super fan, and she emailed the gang to remind us that tickets were going on sale to see Lucius at The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Ten of us snagged seats in the first few rows and got there early to catch Pavo Pavo, the eccentric opening act. I honestly don’t know how to describe that experience. I’m just glad I had friends there to witness it with me because it was a bit of a spectacle. The lead singer wore a black onesie jumpsuit complete with stirrup pants and a mock turtleneck. If they are trying to distract from their music (which I genuinely can’t recall at this point), with their look, then they’re succeeding brilliantly. I feel like I was the worst audience member ever for the opening because we were all texting (subtlely, and with our screens fully dimmed, mind you) our disbelief and discussed going out on Halloween dressed as Pavo Pavo in matching black mock turtleneck onesies. I laughed to tears at one point when the absurdity overwhelmed me. And even though they were absolutely not for me, I am so glad I got to see them that once.

The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Brooklyn's Pavo Pavo

Brooklyn’s Pavo Pavo

Lucius took the stage and was flawless. Their percussive, harmonic, powerful sound impresses and left us breathless. There wasn’t a stray voice in the crowd all night. We were spellbound. Guitarist Peter Lalish is from New Hampshire, and got a hometown welcome from the crowd. I was happy to hear “Don’t Just Sit There” and “Go Home”—both from their four song 2013 EP and their full length album, 2014’s Wildewoman. “How Loud Your Heart Gets” is another stand out. They tried out a handful of new songs on us, too, and I am pumped for their next release. They are so insanely good.

Lucius!

Lucius!

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I was sad, and I’ll admit, a bit grumpy, when people stood up to dance and were welcomed to the front of the stage to dance. A mass of eager dancers blocked our second row view of the show for the rest of the night and it was frustrating. I was bummed, especially for Marian, who’d been on the ball and bought a front row ticket just to have her view blocked by other fans.

Our sad view from the second row once the dancing started

Our sad view from the second row once the dancing started

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After they wrapped their set, I excused myself to the back of the room so I could actually see them, and caught one of my favorites, “Two of Us on the Run,” from there. The quintet unplugged for their encore and stepped in front of the stage curtain to play around one microphone. It was beautiful. I feel like the days of getting to see Lucius in intimate venues is dwindling as their popularity grows, so I’m grateful for even an obstructed second row view of this phenomenally talented powerhouse group.

xo,

bree

Encore

Encore

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Brandi Carlile’s Pin Drop Tour

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH

I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend Rachel’s VW Bug somewhere near Phoenix on a hot summer day in August when my friend Megan texted me about Brandi Carlile’s October Pin Drop Tour. I surely squealed in excitement when I found out that one of only eight venues in the United States that Brandi and the Twins were going to play COMPLETELY UNPLUGGED was The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. My heart soared. Brandi Carlile is one of my most favorites. I first saw her with my friend Kim in 2005 opening for Ray LaMontagne at Berklee in Boston. The last time I saw her was phenomenal—one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I was in the front row at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, while Brandi and the Twins belted from just centimeters away. The time I saw them before that, I was also in the very front row at Berklee in Boston. For this show at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, though, our seats were in the VERY LAST ROW. And it didn’t matter one single bit. This show was magic.

The pin drop tour announcement from brandicarlile.com

The pin drop tour announcement from brandicarlile.com

My favorite shot from the front row at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine on October 24, 2012

This was the third Brandi show Kim, Sarah, Megan, and I have seen together. The first was in 2009 when Gregory Alan Isakov opened for Brandi at South Portland High School. We still laugh (but only a little) about how I sat next to a woman in her forties at that show who texted constantly through the first four or five songs until I asked her to put her phone away. My intervention only reduced the frequency of her evil texting to once per song or so. We all went to see Brandi again the following summer at Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom the night before I flew out to visit my friend Brady in Alaska—a beautiful bucket list trip that I didn’t want to come home from. We managed to get four seats together for this show and it was great to spend a little bit of quality time together.

A pre show selfie

A pre-show selfie

I also got to see my concert friend Colin who miraculously had a seat in the second row for a few minutes during intermission. He caught the trio of musicians from Brandi’s band who played covers of popular songs on violin and cello during the opening slot. I missed most of their set, but what I heard (including “High & Dry” by Radiohead) was great. I settled into my seat just before intermission ended and Phil Hanseroth, one of the twins, was standing just a few feet away at the back door ready for the show to start. He and I shared a moment where he could see how excited I was and then the lights dimmed and he started singing his way down the aisle to the stage.

The view from Colin's seat

The view from Colin’s seat in the second row

The view from our seats in the back row

The view from our seats in the back row

So sweet to have a moment with Phil before the show!

So sweet to have a moment with Phil before the show!

This show was stunning. I feel lucky to have been there—it felt like being part of something special. Since there wasn’t any amplification, people in the crowd were on their best behavior. It was incredible to be able to see and hear so well even from the back row. Brandi’s team was recording the show, so there was a strict no cell phone rule, too. It created a focused, attentive atmosphere for seeing such an intimate show. Colin kept track of the night’s set list:

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Brandi was thrilled to kick off the pin drop tour with us and was obviously as excited as we were about the concept. We broke out into song during the chorus of “What Can I Say” while Brandi roamed the aisles and sang with us. I loved “The Eye,” a new song inspired by Crosby, Stills & Nash that will be on their upcoming album. The chorus goes—“I wrapped your love around me like a chain/But I never was afraid that it would die/You can dance in a hurricane/But only if you’re standing in the eye.” It’s a haunting song that gave me chills.

Brandi’s raspy, soulful voice soared on “Before It Breaks.” I got a little teary during the chorus of that one—“Say it’s over, say I’m dreaming/Say I’m better than you left me/Say you’re sorry, I can take it/Say you’ll wait, say you won’t/Say you love me, say you don’t/I can make my own mistakes/Let it bend before it breaks.” Brandi debuted “Wherever Your Heart Is, I Call Home,” which is a sweet love song.

I was sad this night would end before it even began. Brandi was a gracious host and it was such a thrill to have gotten a seat in the sold out Music Hall to be part of it. The last two songs of the night were covers. Brandi and the Twins—Phil and Tim Hanseroth—played an outstanding cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Brandi talked a little about her wife and their new baby, Evangeline Ruth, and covered “Murder in the City” by The Avett Brothers to sum up how important family is. She and the band recorded it a few days later in Virginia, and it gives you a sense of how intimate the pin drop shows were. Thank you, Brandi, Tim, Phil, the band, and The Music Hall for a beautiful night. I wish it didn’t have to end.

xo,

bree

I asked my friends at the show if anyone wanted to contribute to this post, and Megan, who is both a busy fourth year doctoral candidate and owner of Pencil Events, miraculously made time to capture this breathtaking night in these beautiful words:

When all the cords and speakers that often help to make shows epic are removed from Brandi Carlile’s stage, two things happen. First, a show is performed with only the essentials: the force of Carlile’s voice, the hum of her many unplugged guitars, the walls of The Music Hall and the many of us lucky enough to be witnesses. And that’s really what being a member of that first pin drop audience felt like. It felt like we were witnessing some sacred creation greater than the sum of its parts. Second, without electric amplification, everyone else’s voices became more useful alongside Brandi’s. So, witnesses though we were, we were not passive but active with a new sort of role to play. We were an intimate band of creative witnesses, the most evocative manifestation of which occurred when, moved by the muse of The Music Hall, we all organically began singing the chorus for “What Can I Say” alternating with Carlile singing the verses while she walked the aisles among us. In this moment I couldn’t tell if I was chilled to the bone or warmed to the core or both! When we remove all the cords and equipment from the stage, the artist becomes even more clearly a conduit for something greater than themselves. With frippery removed so, too was the barrier between the Brandi Carlile and the rest of us. Because she was brave enough to get up there and offer the chance, we all celebrated how unimaginably brilliant hard-working brave human beings can be.

Kim made time, too! I’m impressed. These are busy women.

Although I’ve seen PLENTY of Brandi shows, and PLENTY of shows with these girlfriends, my decision to join Bree, Megan, and Sarah for the Pin Drop tour was on a bit of a whim. I go to a LOT fewer concerts than I used to—my husband and I just finished paying for our wedding ourselves, and because we met in law school we have a nice chunk of student loan debt to pay off. So we pinch our pennies and I tend to only see shows on a whim, and more for the social opportunity to get together with some girlfriends. (And I will let you draw your own conclusions about my OTHER whimsical choice this summer, which was to see Beyonce & Jay-Z at Gillette Stadium in July.)

But I very much enjoy my “cult of Brandi” with these particular girls. When she played at South Portland High School, we had our first treat of Brandi’s acoustic brilliance. I can still remember the haunting clarity of her voice from the very edge of that high school stage while everyone in the room sat mesmerized. It was enchanting.

So the chance to “splurge” on the Pin Drop tour was an easy choice. I left feeling literally buoyant, lifted in mind and spirit as Brandi must have intended when they decided to try this experiment a decade ago. Without amplification, the show had an intense focus that was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I seemed much less distracted by other audience members in the ways that I typically am (the incessant photo/camera screens), people dancing (in or out of their chairs), and just generally the people watching. Here, all eyes and ears were intensely focused on Brandi and the twins. It sounds intense, but it was freeing, particularly in the current era of constant phone dings and pings. It coincidentally synced beautifully with a new commitment in my workplace among colleagues to being more unplugged from our emails in the evening hours. Without working about my iPhone, I was left to just let the experience wash over me.

And wash it did. I will forever have an indelible memory of this evening, marked by Brandi’s roaming of the Music Hall for “What Did I Say.” As she walked the aisles in the style of an old-time troubadour, the audience began singing the chorus with her. It was such a powerfully gentle experience, and I found myself *not* singing, but just basking in awe of the moment. A few tears actually rolled down my face (I’m a crier, and this had been a particularly emotional week for me for other reasons). So many coincidences of how this “splurge” came together reminded me deeply of the value of making time for music itself and the community of music in my life, even though I’m not attending as many concerts as I’d like. Thank you, Brandi, for the bravery of the Pin Drop tour. You had precisely your intended effect on me!

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The Lone Bellow

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH

I have absolutely no objectivity when it comes to The Lone Bellow. They are by far my favorite band right now. I love their desperate, powerful delivery of gospel-infused country/folk songs. They are truly something special. I was so excited when my sweetie was able to take a night off of work to join me for a school night road trip down to lovely Portsmouth, New Hampshire to see them again. I decided to take the night “off” for date night, and so I didn’t get a press pass, didn’t take notes, and only took a few low quality photos with my iPhone at the show. (There are, however, two thorough posts about The Lone Bellow on my blog—one from last June and another from November. Check those out if you want to know more about the band and/or see quality photos).

Blue sky over Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Blue sky over Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Jeff and I grabbed some coffee, walked around downtown, and had a delicious dinner at The Friendly Toast before heading over to the stunning Music Hall for the show. The Lone Bellow played as part of The Music Hall’s Intimately Yours series, so there was no opening act and we got to have a whole night with just the band. It felt like we were in their living room.

The Friendly Toast

The Friendly Toast

Table

The Music Hall's pretty ceiling

The Music Hall’s pretty ceiling

A beautiful theatre for the show

A beautiful theatre for the show

Pre-show selfie

Pre-show selfie

stage

The Lone Bellow looks really different through an iPhone

The Lone Bellow looks really different through an iPhone

Zach on the floor leading the audience in our part

Zach on the floor conducting audience participation

My concert friend Colin was there, too, and he sent me The Lone Bellow’s set list for the night:

I Let You Go

You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional

You Never Need Nobody

You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To

Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold

Georgia Will

Watch Over Us (off mic)

Two Sides of Lonely (off mic)

Tree to Grow

Bleeding Out

Angel From Montgomery (Prine cover)

Hickory to Telluride

Button

The One You Should’ve Let Go

——

Slip Slidin’ Away (Simon cover)

Teach Me to Know

One of the biggest highlights of the night for me was when the band stepped away from the microphones and Brian led on “Watch Over Us.” His delivery of that beautiful song was breathtaking. He got a standing ovation. It was wonderful to hear “Two Sides of Lonely” off microphone, too, and both songs gave the night a genuinely intimate feel.

The band dedicated their performance of  “Angel From Montgomery” to the legendary John Prine, who is currently fighting lung cancer. Zach told us they’d recently played the song on the Cayamo Cruise and Brian’s hero, Kris Kristofferson, impromptuly jumped onstage to sing it with them. Check out this video of that moment.

I was totally taken with The Lone Bellow’s cover of Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away” with Kanene on lead vocal during their encore. Someone took a video of it that night, so you can see exactly what I mean! It was one of those rare times when a cover was absolutely better than the original. I sang it for days after the show. They closed the night with the crowd signing along on “Teach Me to Know” and sent us on our happy way. If The Lone Bellow isn’t on your radar, well, you are more than just missing out. They are spectacular. What a wonderful night.

xo,

bree

I can’t resist. Here are some proper Lone Bellow pictures from the last time I saw them:

The most fabulous Lone Bellow. My DSLR camera does them far more justice!

The most fabulous Lone Bellow. My DSLR camera does them far more justice!

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