Monday, August 12, 2019
Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine
I saw Dan Mills play on campus at Bowdoin College back in 2009 when his uncle Barry was our president. I really enjoyed him then and have seen him on the rare occasions when he’s come back to Maine. Dan Mills played a co-headlining show with Mipso at One Longfellow Square in 2015. Mipso’s fiddle player, Libby, invited me to that show, and since I knew I liked Dan Mills, I was totally game to check them out for the first time. I think I’ve seen Mipso a half dozen times now, and I will always make an effort to see them whenever they come to town.
My Dan really likes Mipso (and our musical tastes are not super compatible, so that’s saying something), so he joined me for the show. We had our first meal at Eaux and it was DELICIOUS. My former student is a sous chef there and I loved getting to see him in his element. We walked off some of our chicken and waffles on our way over to Port City Music Hall. We grabbed a spot up front and Dan Mills took the stage soon after we arrived.
Dan Mills interacted warmly with the audience. He joked that “when you’re married, you know exactly what’s not going to happen when your wife puts in her mouthguard” before playing a sweet song about a married couple. It’s on his new EP–Small Talk and Saturdays–that he recorded in Parsonfield, Maine at Great North Sound Society. Joseph and Libby from Mipso joined Dan Mills on “Girl from Baltimore.” He told us he’d decided to scrap the whole music thing, and then a beautiful new song poured out of him just after making that choice. He played it for us as his closing song, and it was so, so lovely. Maybe it’s called “Only One,” and the lyrics “there’s aint a lighthouse you could find or any highway exit sign that’s shining brighter than the one that gets you home” hit me right in the feels. I can’t wait to hear it again.
Mipso is lovely, and I am always happy to see them live. I appreciate their warm energy, regard for one another, and crystal clear, lyric-drive,n heartfelt songs. Mipso is Joseph Terrell (lead vocal and guitar), Jacob Sharp (mandolin), Wood Robinson (upright bass), and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle). They added Yan Westerlund on drums in 2017, which I’ve adjusted to even though my Dan will you tell you that I hate drums.
I can’t really pick a favorite Mipso song, but always enjoy “Down in the Water,” “Coming Down the Mountain,” “My Burden With Me,” and “Marianne.” Their cover of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” is perfect. Mipso tours a lot, so they were especially excited to have their first day off in two weeks the day after the show. They told us they’ve always played Portland in the winter, so they were really excited to enjoy a summer day in Maine.
I love when Mipso sings surrounding one microphone. There’s an intimacy to their shows that I really appreciate. Jacob shared the heavy inspiration behind “Hallelujah,” which I was so glad to know:
It’s a funny experience to be so intensely looking at our new songs and the emotions and experiences that we’ve had, because what we do, more than anything, is drive, and then second most, is being up here playing for you. We wrote “Hallelujah” after the Pulse shootings in Orlando. I remember starting to write it thinking that I was losing the ability to be shocked by mass shootings and that’s such a wild experience and a different type of hopelessness and helplessness than I’d felt before. I thought that surely it would feel dated by the time we sang it for people, but it feels realer and realer all the time. I remember being sad at that moment and now I just feel angry and it’s such bullshit that we can’t do anything. I think we can do something and I think there are people we can elect to office who will do something. I hope we can unite about a couple of things at least that seem pretty damn obvious.
The lyrics express that frustration, too–”We’ll say their names / Try our best to spread the blame / We’ll do the dance / We’ll hide from shame.” This song has power.
It’s always a pleasure to see Mipso, and I hope you’ll put them on your radar and check them out. This was a lovely night from start to finish!