Friday, April 24, 2015
Empire, Portland, Maine
*I think nearly seven weeks to process the strange events of this night is long enough. I wrote the bulk of this post just days after the show, but was so weirded out by the behavior of a woman in the crowd that I lost focus and never went back to finish the article. Since this show, The Ballroom Thieves have released a new Audiotree session AND have been invited to play their first Newport Folk Festival set! I am thrilled for them. The long story short of this article is that they are phenomenal live and when you go to a concert, you should be nice to the people around you.*
This was the best/worst show I’ve seen in a long while and I am still processing the events of the evening. I’ll explain. My sweetie and I planned our April vacation getaway around going to this show. I love Boston’s The Ballroom Thieves and have seen them a half dozen times and even wrote a preview piece for this show and a review of their debut album, A Wolf in the Doorway, which I rarely do. The last time I saw them play was also with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, which is incredible. I’m a sucker for a string section, so getting to see The Thieves play with an orchestra is a real treat.
Jeff and I wrapped up our adventure in the Kennebunks with an afternoon in Portland, including a trip to the Love Locks fence and a delicious dinner at El Rayo before the show. We stood outside in line at Empire just before doors at 9PM, met up with my concert friend Colin outside, and made our way front and center to the stage so we could be close. It was not very crowded in the front when Tall Heights took the stage. My friend Marian joined us, and then Kate, too. It’s rare for me to be at a show with such a posse, but the Thieves are just that good.
Sadly, there was a loud woman standing right behind me for the bulk of Tall Heights’ set talking with her friends about how “great” the band was and how she’d “pick up the CD after the show.” I was so happy they were happy, but they were also five feet from the performers and one foot from my ear having this ongoing conversation at full volume. *This leads me to concert etiquette tip #1 of the night—if you really must have a (long, loud) conversation, please move away from the stage where people who are probably bigger fans than you are trying to listen.* Unfortunately, I was distracted for most of Tall Heights’ set, but I always appreciate their lovely harmonies, and I enjoyed that Eric Jones (manager of The Ballroom Thieves and Darlingside) played drums with them for a lot of their set. Tim Harrington (guitar) joked that although we were there to celebrate the release of The Ballroom Thieves’ new album, their exciting debut of a Tall Heights tank top surely was more important. He dubbed the night “Tanksgiving.” They wrapped their set with “Spirit Cold,” with the delightful Maine Youth Rock Orchestra as featured performers.
Tall Heights’ Paul Wright on cello
Tall Heights’ Tim Harrington on guitar
Eric Jones on percussion
I won’t hold it against you if you skip this next paragraph, but HOLY COW, I was NOT expecting this to happen at a folk rock show:
This is when my night got really interesting. The gist is that the woman who was so loud and chatty right behind me during Tall Heights physically pushed me out of the way and stood between my sweetie and me at the stage. I was stunned. We were at a folk show, after all, and she was definitely in her thirties. She told me I’d been “taking up the room of three people” during the opening act and she intended to stand in front of me for the rest of the night. I’m not sure how she ended up moving away from me, but then she started poking her elbows and knees into Jeff to try to finagle a spot in front of him. SERIOUSLY? She told him that he was “rude” because he’s tall and blocked her view. Have you been to Empire? There’s plenty of room next to the stage on the floor and she could have stood anywhere. She kept attacking us verbally and Jeff turned around and used his dad voice and told her “I don’t want to hear another word from you for the rest of the night.” *This leads me to concert etiquette tip #2 of the night—if you want to stand in front of me at a show, you need to get there before me, or you need to ask nicely. You cannot physically shove people at a concert. That’s assault.* After Jeff’s stern warning, she moved and didn’t come back. People around us that we didn’t even know approached us to talk about her odd and unacceptable behavior. It was incredibly strange. Maine is a small place, because not even three days later, I saw a picture of this woman show up on my Facebook news feed because we have a mutual friend and they were tagged in a photo together. I sent my friend a message and she assures me that this woman seems nice and normal and must have just been having a bad night and is not the wretched woman I interacted with.
It took a bunch of songs for me to shake that strange experience, but I finally got my head in the game and The Ballroom Thieves rocked our socks, as they always do. They are so solid live—with passionate, urgent vocals, relatable songwriting, strong musicianship, and steady engagement with the crowd. They’re the real deal and I sincerely hope you’ll check them out. I didn’t take notes during the show, but I remember that they played “Coward’s Son”—a favorite of mine, which Martin dedicated to his parents who were at the show. They played “Archers” (which dazzles) and “Lantern” with the awesome Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, Calin wowed on lead on “Bury Me Smiling,” and they wrapped their set with a very high energy “Wolf.” I remember they played a sweet new song to end the night that was fantastic, too. The Thieves are again and again keeping their spot high on my list of favorite live acts. I hope to most of you at their next show. (See show photos below!)
The Ballroom Thieves’ Martin Earley on guitar
The Ballroom Thieves’ percussionist, Devin Mauch
The Thieves’ cellist, Calin Peters
Calin and Maine Youth Rock Orchestra Director Kevin Oats
Calin and the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra
Tall Heights joined the Thieves and the MYRO