But the Ridgewood, New Jersey sextet seemed right at home Tuesday night — and rightfully so. Portland, Maine and Ridgewood, NJ have plenty in common: the race to preserve crumbling historical landmarks; relatively small populations to their nearby metropolitan neighborhoods. And of course, the smell of Atlantic Air being a constant presence from the moment the sunrises to the night the sun finally sets after a long sumer night. Of course, Portland is right on the ocean — but the transportation infrastructure is quite a bit more advanced than our Metro System — and Ridgewood is less than an hour from Rockaway Beach.
To put it simply: Real Estate felt right at home on Tuesday night and bassist Alex Bleeker (of Alex Bleeker And The Freaks) was more than eager to share their immediate connection to our city.
It’s been about a month since the inaugural All Roads Music Festival happened in Belfast, ME (May 16, 2015). HillyTown photographer Conall O’Brien was there to catch the action, and we checked in with festival director Meg Shorette for her thoughts on the experience, and to find out what lies ahead.
Spencer Albee @ All Roads Festival / Photo by Conall O’Brien
HT: First, what led you to launch the festival?
MS: In a way, the opportunity to do this festival sort of found me. I started my nonprofit, Launchpad, last fall with the intention to run statewide, artist-led events and programs, but we were still in our early stages in January when the Belfast Creative Coalition approached us to bring a spring music presence back to Belfast, Maine. I wrote down everything I loved about indie music, festivals and “the scene,” and also everything that really bummed me or artist friends/colleagues out about them. Our intent was to make sure All Roads Music Festival had as many “Pro” column elements as possible.
What were your guiding principles in booking musical acts to perform?
I set out to book bands that I felt were making a difference in the Maine and regional music scene. I guess that could mean a lot of things, really. Artists who are working actively to not only promote themselves but consciously making choices to collaborate, innovate and re-invent make me excited about working in the arts in Maine right now. I think music supporters fans feel the same way. I don’t think we really had any “You Can’t Play Here If….” rules but bands that are creating their own music were definitely on our radar.
How was the turnout/audience response? Did it meet or exceed your expectations?
When you bring hundreds of people together like we did, it’s hard to know what the “vibe” will be but I could not have asked for a better community of musicians and music fans (of all ages). We exceeded our expectations for attendance and received so many kind emails and notes from attendees and musicians the days following the event. It was such a humbling experience.
There are obvious similarities to the discontinued Belfast Free Range Festival (some of the same venues, an afterparty at Three Tides, etc.), but what we’d like to know is how All Roads differs, and what it brought to Belfast in a music festival that perhaps Free Range wasn’t, if anything.
Free Range had a great model and part of that is how Belfast as a town is set up. There are so many venues that you transform into a pop-up music space for a day and that’s a great asset, so we really wanted to continue that with All Roads. I think both event organizers had our eyes on supporting indie and emerging talent but a goal of All Roads is to really focus on artist development. In 2016, musicians can expect many more panels, networking events and professional development opportunities being offered on festival weekend. One thing we consciously did was stagger sets so that musicians and attendees could move around the festival to see their friends perform or support bands they had just met rather than being forced to choose. That’s a model I hope to maintain.
Will this be an annual event? Or at least, is is happening in 2016? And/or will there be other All Roads events happening in Belfast or elsewhere?
All Roads will be back in Belfast in 2016. We are already working with Belfast Creative Coalition to add some really get components in our second year. Controlled growth that makes sense for the mission is the name of the game.
I think my entire team would love to do a few showcases throughout the year in different areas on the state but we don’t have anything currently lined up.
What was the most memorable performance of the festival for you personally? For me, it’s a tie. The energy at the Spencer Albee show at the Colonial Theatre was incredible. At the closing part at Three Tides & Marshall Wharf, watching Spencer Albee, Jeff Beam and Spose all take turns jumping on stage for songs with Dominic and the Lucid pretty much summed up the day for me-I’m so lucky I get to work with these people.
Any dream bookings for next time? Hmm…Murcielago & Maine Youth Rock Orchestra/Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra collabo?
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with HillyTown readers about All Roads or any other projects coming up?
We are prepping to launch EMERGE, the nonprofits first funding support program (cash money for creatives). EMERGE is a program of Launchpad that will be dedicated to providing assistance toward the growth and development of the independent artists, musicians, filmmakers of all types working in New England. The program administers contributions from supporting individuals and organizations. The program is divided into 3 separate funding opportunities and windows: Music, Film, and Visual Arts. Check it out!
A few years back, we had the chance to do an interview with the talented Jana Hunter of Lower Dens. Now, with the band’s third full length record fully absorbed into our systems and an upcoming show next Tuesday at Asylum (along with locals Snaex and harmony-loving indie poppers TEEN), we talked to Jana once again for an update on the band’s development and to get some insight into the new album, Escape From Evil.
Want to go to the show? Send us an email (hello-at-hillytown-dot-com) with Lower Dens in the subject and your name in the body of the email, and we’ll pick one winner to get a pair of tickets to the show next week! Winner will be picked at random and notified at 9am on Monday morning, so get those entries in this week!
HT: We’re loving the new record. It feels familiar, but at the same time it’s clear that there’s been a shift in your songwriting and production that gives the songs a different sort of voice to your music, that seems to be at once more personal and more pop-oriented. What may have contributed to the change/were they conscious choices or did the evolution just happen naturally as you worked on the album?
JH: When the band was touring Nootropics, we started talking about moving toward simplicity. We’ve always been drawn to restriction as a means of drawing new ideas of ourselves, and I guess the first notion about a post-Nootropics project was that we’d reduce elements of songwriting to their most basic versions. Also, in a reaction to the headiness and the intellectual reaching of the last record, I wanted to come from the furthest opposite end of the spectrum in terms of lyrical content, meaning I wanted to bypass all things sentimental and write about things that are true, being honest with myself past the point of worrying how I’d be seen. To me there was a parallel movement in writing very simple song elements and in writing very basic, true things in our lyrics. Finally, when it came time to record and produce, I wanted to draw from the first music that was very important to me, which were the songs my older siblings loved. This led me to remembering and in a few cases revisiting The Smiths, U2, Prince, 10,000 Maniacs, and a few others. In particular, I think the guitar work on The Smiths and the production on the Eno/Lanois U2 records had a significant influence while we were in the production phases of making the album. In my opinion, we’ve always been a pop band, but I say this as somebody coming originally from classical music; to me there never was much outside of classical and jazz that wasn’t pop. I know what you mean though, and I use that definition of “pop” as well, but what I think it means is “accessible.” We didn’t try to write songs that would be accessible, but I think our other goals led us in that direction. Pop is, or has been, the music that the western world has used for a little while now to communicate very basic universal notions that could be understood by wide swaths of people. I hope we’ve done something like that.
The synth elements that appeared on Nootropics have moved even more into the sonic foreground on Escape From Evil, along with tighter, dancier drums that definitely contribute to the 80’s feel that everybody who hears it seems to notice. Where does that come from/is there a specific influence that inspired it (either a band or motivation from within LowerDens)?
In addition to making the songwriting simpler, making the lyrics more raw, we wanted to strip back the reverb and other effects. Essentially we wanted everything very present. Rather than burying guitars and synths in distortion and reverb, we spend a lot of time carefully finding the right tones and then applying very small amounts of effects. I’d say that beyond the Eno/Lanois production, our other guides in this were much more often from the early 90’s. I think people have latched onto the ‘80s as a touchstone in part because we led with a song that has an ‘80s feel but also because people have a more and more difficult time sifting through the past and reconciling it with the chaotic nature of our culture and world, and don’t realize that instead of situating a thing culturally for the purposes of criticism and understanding, they’re regurgitating labels made for and by the marketplace that have nothing to do with real meaning but are instead a desperate attempt to cling to the meaning that used to exist and doesn’t any longer.
All of the songs are so poetic and strong, but “I Am The Earth” seems particularly potent. Maybe it’s the change in tempo, leaving the upbeat tenor of the other songs for more of a dirge at first, but it certainly stands out from the rest of the tracks. What I’m wondering is where that one came along in the process, and how it came to be – almost a return to form that would be at home on Twin-Hand Movement with its sparse guitars and drums.
It was one of the few that was written, musically, almost all at once during our initial band writing sessions. We even had a name and a concept for lyrics. Later, fleshing the songs out and adding lyrics, I couldn’t figure it out. It had a very triumphant second half initially. After I rewrote it as the kind of relentless, tragic epic it is now, the lyrics came very quickly. It was intended as an apology that begins sincerely, and as the narrator comes to believe more and more in the righteousness of whatever transgression their apologizing for, they recant, kind of, by being a sarcastic prick. That idea is still there in that “I Am the Earth” means the narrator is refusing to confront their part in someone getting hurt, opting instead to shut the world out, become a world unto themselves.
Recently, I saw a comedian do an entire show – an incredibly hilarious one, in fact – about their own dealings with severe depression, and at one point they said that what helped to survive it was doing just that – taking control over it on a stage and sharing it, and that the theatre was like a church in a way, because anybody in the room who felt similarly might get some comfort or strength from the show. On Escape From Evil, you’re often singing about similarly tough subject matter – broken hearts, death, loss, depression. When you wrote these songs, and as you’re performing them each night on tour, taking on the characters’ voices, is your experience anything like that at times? Or do you have any other comment on that idea?
When I wrote them, yes. Which is all I care to say about it at the moment in terms of my own experience. However, I’ll say that I think that music transforms, that it is one of the few ritual practices that we engage in en masse that has the power to liberate us from our anger, confusion, sadness, vindictiveness, etc., and it’s that I want to, we want to, share with an audience. Even if that’s not stated, even if we aren’t all aware that’s happening, I think anybody who leaves a show feeling renewed has literally been changed. It’s so much more effective than so many of the lame pacifications that we’re offered by society.
The last time we spoke with you, LowerDens was still a very new project and we were very focused on that newness in light of your previous work. Now, 5 years in, there’s so much history and music here for LowerDens to stand on its own. What has changed for you and the band since then? Would you still point to the same bands as references (Wire, Joy Division, Velvet Underground, and Television), and are you still psyched to have people dancing to your music?
People dance to/with us more often now. It’s always great. It’s the very best thing. I still love all those bands. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time learning about making music and crafting sound and I spend more time with music equipment than with other people’s music these days. When I am listening to music, it’s usually jazz or dance. I have a lot to learn from jazz and dance.
I love and understand my bandmates and our band much better than I did before, and whereas I always felt like Atlas back in those days, even though we’re not making much better money or whatever other false measures of success, I think having dedicated ourselves and having learned to support each other is what makes me feel like we’ve made it. That and the fact that I feel lucky to playing with such incredible people/performers every night. Seriously sometimes I don’t know how I fooled them into letting me play with them.
This Fall you’ll be touring in Europe after your Summer US tour. Do you ever feel like audiences in a particular place “get” the band more than in others, or respond differently to your music somehow?
I think, yes, inevitably people from different cultures respond differently. Sometimes they yell or don’t yell. They dance more, or less, or better, or longer, or harder. They do different drugs. They don’t do drugs. They were more or less clothing. They say, “You’re the shit!” vs. “I have very much enjoyed what you have played this evening. I do not usually say this.” I mean, I guess they do respond differently, but I try to be in the moment, so I don’t know if they’re responding differently makes that much of an impact or matters all that much to me.
Do you already have a plan for the next LowerDens album? Is it likely to be another wait of a couple years, or is there already more in the works?
I don’t know!
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, and have a great tour! We look forward to catching the show!
Thanks so much! Very much looking forward to playing!
Lower Dens tour dates Jun 16 Ferndale, MI – The Loving Touch Jun 17 Toronto, ON – Legendary Horseshoe Tavern (NXNE) Jun 19 Montreal, QC – Bar Le Ritz PDB Jun 20 Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair Jun 21 Providence, RI – Columbus Theatre Jun 22 Portsmouth, NH – 3S Artspace Jun 23 Portland ME – Asylum Jul 17 Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop Jul 21 Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry Jul 24 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios Jul 25 Vancouver, BC – Electric Owl Jul 28 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge Jul 29 Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge Aug 04 Atlanta, CA – The Earl Aug 05 Chapel Hill, NC – King’s Barcade
Every year an ominous specter of fried food, tweens and (somehow more) paintings of lighthouses completely shut down an entire city as Portland’s Old Port Festival beats it into our heads that yes, summer is fast approaching. And a plea that we have bands that can make a nice crossover hit or two.
This of excludes the Maine Academy of Modern Music Stage which is doing amazing things like a Mad Scientist on the Children’s Performance Stage, or a MAMM Slam from 2-3:30 p.m. and shows from bands who are ranging in age from children to parents. What the Maine Academy Modern Music does is spectacular and necessary.
So yes, of course there is music at the Old Port Festival and a complete list of this year’s festival events can be found here — but if our tone didn’t give it away, the Old Port Festival isn’t exactly for everyone, or more likely anyone usually found wandering into Hilly blog territory.
So for those of you who want an alternative to the mass of tourists and selfiesticks — the fourth annual Rooftop Show at Mathew’s Pub located at 133 Market Street kicked off last night — oh, and is still going on.
Sorry. But don’t freak out too much if you missed some great acts like Fur or Mouth Washington…or the dare we say criminal genius of Jeff Beam
Anyway, this year’s rooftop show started with a set by HillyTown sweethearts Cheerwine upstairs on the roof.
And let’s just say Hillytowncore will be very represented.
And the group of bands closing it down during the first now…well, downstairs is comprised of everyone’s favorites including ours. Leveret, Jeff Beam, IDMTHEFTABLE and the amazement of what a Hi Tiger show is in person. Day one completely wraps up tonight with a rooftop show at 9:40 p.m. by Great Western Plain that will end Day One of the 4th Annual Rooftop ( what has now become the) Festival.
We don’t know about you, but the $3 that you spent for the whole day will be worth it just for that closing set. Have you listened to Elastic Smile? Because you should.
Remember the days before social media, when there were just a few ways you’d usually hear about a great new band? One was to catch them opening for another band you already liked. That was how I first heard the indie rock singer-songwriter Mirah – in 2002, opening for Sleater-Kinney (along with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) at Irving Plaza in NYC, where her sweet and powerful voice made an immediate impression. The other method of discovery until around that time was through mix tapes (or cds, if you were fancy). In the spirit of that music sharing tradition, we’ve got something special for you today, in anticipation of tomorrow’s show at SPACE Gallery, featuring Mirah, local band Plains, and Kid In The Attic. Mirah and Maia (aka Kid In The Attic, and also in Mirah’s band) put together a very special HillyTown Mix Tape (ok, a Spotify playlist, but you get it) to share some of their favorite music to listen to on the road. Check it out and read on to see what they have to say about each song, then grab your tickets to see them live at SPACE!
Mirah and Maia
SIDE A: MIRAH
1. Kate Bush – “Suspended in Gaffa” I love this song, I love this video, I love this woman. I often don’t know why I’m crying either, it just sort of happens.
2. Death Vessel – “Velvet Antlers” I lay down in tightened boots with vegetation. Best lyric!
3. Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron and Fred Squire – “With My Hands Out” Listening to Phil and Julie sing together makes me feel like everything is going to be ok, because even though so many things are scary, there is also so much beauty.
4. Dinah Washington – “This Bitter Earth” I first fell in love with this song while watching the movie Killer of Sheep. Both the song and the movie, steeped in truth.
SIDE B: MAIA 5. Downtown Boys – “Mostro” Downtown Boys are going to rule the world.
6. This is the Kit – “With Her Wheels Again” We listen to Kate in the car a lot. She is a genius. This song sums up my feelings about my bike.
7. Toto la Momposina – “Tres Golpes” Toto is from the same Colombian town my grandpa was from. I love everything she does. Those drums!
8. Little Dragon – “Crystalfilm” Little Dragon songs make me super nostalgic. This song makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing.
9. Diane Cluck – “Draw Me Out” “You draw me out like a splinter from my own life.” I mean.
10. Tweedy – “Diamond Light” On one of the last tours, Mirah and I missed our highway exit because we were listening so closely to the drum part.
Did you already forget? The Portland Phoenix announced the winners of its 2015 Best of Portland, and it includes some BEST BUDS like SPACE Gallery (best gallery), Bull Moose (best CDs) and State Theatre (best rock venue). It seems that the alt-weekly’s best blog category, of which Hilly Town has been a past recipient, has been killed off in favor of the more satiating best food blog category. It’s aight tho. Portland Food Map is dope.
Now I’m directing your attention to Jakob Battick’s review of Brown Bird’s last album, because I think he does a good job of summing up how much MorganEve Swain and the late David Lamb have meant to this local music scene:
From their early days on Portland’s own Peapod Recordings through their time as an internationally acclaimed touring folk act, Lamb could always be trusted to write songs as intense as they were beautiful, and as razor-sharp in vision as they were humble and soulful. It’s a stupefying tragedy that he should have been taken away from the world so soon, but Axis Mundi stands as the most perfect possible parting note Lamb could have left.
If you found yourself laughing in the back of a truck at today’s First Friday Art Walk, it’s likely you were enjoying the work of the Portland Comedy Co-op (and you didn’t even know it!). Check out our Q&A with the show’s host, Aharon Hebert, right here.
Builder of the House is playing a show at SPACE Gallery on Saturday. If you go, you will bear witness to the Maine Marimba Ensemble, a group that gives me absolute glee every time I see them. I also always feel compelled to take an Instagram video of them for some reason:
Last night, Mr. Wonderful himself, Action Bronson, the pride of Flushing, NY, brought the party to the State Theatre in Portland (he’s on what appears to be an endless tour). Sure, he showed up late, but Meyhem Lauren got the show started, and apparently when he finally hit the stage, Action and producer The Alchemist made it well-worth the wait (if you were there and near the stage, you know what we mean). Check out the full photo gallery below from our ace photog, Andrew Foster.
This First Friday the art walk will be getting a dose of local stand-up comedy in an unconventional venue: the back of a truck. Portland Comedy Co-op, a collective of comedians performing together since 2013, will be bringing their sets outside of the dark bars and clubs usually frequented by stand-ups in the Maine comedy scene.
I spoke with Aharon Hebert recently, a performer with the co-op and host of Friday’s show:
HT: How long has Portland Comedy Co-op been around? What is your mission statement?
AH: The Portland Comedy Co-op’s been around since 2013. We’re six comics that hung out a lot and figured we should have a name like the Justice League or the Baltimore Orioles. BELIEVE YOU ME there was some friction coming up with the name. We had to put it to a vote. We would like to build a returning comedy audience like the music scene. I think people go to a show and figure, “I saw it. I saw the comedy.” But, we’re always doing new jokes and every show is different. People get so excited at shows, thank us after, say it was amazing and then we don’t see them again. COME BACK!
What inspired you guys to do an alternative show like this?
Food trucks, art trucks, and I did a show in Boston in a truck, so theft. But, people don’t say everyone doing comedy in buildings is stealing from someone, so I don’t feel too bad. We’re doing this mostly to promote our monthly show at One Longfellow Square and renting a truck is cheaper than a newspaper ad.
Can we expect any other unconventional events in the future?
We are planning a show in a grocery store bathroom for July, so look for that. And if this truck show, goes well we’ll do it again.
How can someone newer to the comedy scene get involved with Portland Comedy Co-op?
If you’re going to open mics and shows and talking to other comics you probably know us but, if not, come to a show and talk to us.
Curbside Enthusiasm hosted by Doug Collins and Aharon Willows 6-8pm First Friday at 51 Oak St
With James Spizuoco, Katie Ferreira, Connor McGrath, Anna Conathan and more!
Other upcoming shows featuring PCC:
“Fun Longfellow” every first Monday at One Longfellow. Doors at 7, show at 8. $5.
May 4th features Tawanda Gona and Sam Jay from Boston and Brad Howe from NYC.
Guthries in Lewiston every first Thursday at 8.
“Brew Haha” at Rising Tide Brewery June 26th at 8.
I am writing on a computer that has seen far better days. This was once a glorious laptop I could take to coffee shops, but now it’s hooked into an external monitor out of necessity. It’s as if the poor thing is on life support, except I’m totally ready to blast it into smithereens.
You know who is seeing far better days?
The Portland Phoenix’s Jakob Battick, who who won’t have to face a repeat of The Great Fan Backlash of 2011 after writing a favorable review of The Mallett Brothers’ new album, Lights Along The River. You may recall that Battick didn’t like The Mallett Brothers’ second album in his review for Dispatch Magazine, prompting quite the spat with their fans. It sounds like he doesn’t want the fans to forget about those darker times, but he’s willing to make amends:
To anyone who still hates my guts for that Low Down review: when I was about 10, I waited a long time in line after a Dave Mallett concert with my grandmother so we could get his autograph. We’re not that different, you and I.
Battick also has an album review for Nashville-based Today Is The Day, what he calls “one of the most terrifying bands to ever emerge from the American South’s metal scene.”
Did anyone find anything sweet on Record Store Day? Mike Cunnane sure did.
WMPG, greater Portland’s beloved community radio station, was dealt quite the blow this week when a water pipe burst and damaged around 3,000 vinyl records (just the thought of it tugs at our collective Hilly Town heartstrings). As a former staffer of The Free Press, the University of Southern Maine’s student newspaper that is in the floor above WMPG, I’m heartened to see that our newspapers are finally being used as something meaningful: album covers.
We are sad to see Ben McCanna retire his amazing local music photoblog, Post Mortem, but as he explains in his farewell post, he needs to take this time to focus on taking care of himself and his family. While he writes that he “can’t say whether Post Mortem truly accomplished anything lasting,” I will just go on the record and say that you, Ben, created something of meaning for a community you care about and a community that cares about you. We wish you all the best.
Ben Folds, one of my favorite artists of yesteryear, told mainetodayin an interview published this week that he considers his latest project a rather “bizarre” one. But is mixing a classic ensemble with your pop-rock sensibilities really that strange?
If you’re curious about how that new Spencer Albee album is, Emily Burnham of the Bangor Daily Newshas you covered with her review of Mistakes Were Made.
It might be a broad statement — but it’s safe to say that the Portland-based trio Fur were doing a lot more to celebrate April 20th than you likely did all day when they dropped the killer 2 Hearted Horse. A huge step ahead from their scruffier, punk roots heard in their earlier recordings as part of The RattleSnakes; 2 Hearted Horse takes the best of Tara and Brian Cohen’s musical minds and puts it to mic inside their basement.
By taking the stripped-down, garage-rock melodies of Tara’s Bath Salts band from a few years back and combining them with the more ambitious second-to-last ‘Snakes album Spine;2 Hearted Horse is just what we were hoping to hear from the trio.
But before Friday night’s show, and a few days before their debut dropped, Tara and Brian Cohen (2/3 of Fur — minus bassist Greg Bazinet) visited the Portland Middle Street location of our very own Bull Moose to check-out their ever-growing and eclectic vinyl selection.
From Doolittle to The Beastie Boys, it’s easy to see where their influence’s came from and what exactly they are experimenting with when you hear their shared vast catalog of musical knowledge (by the end of our visit, they left with a large stack of vinyl to buy that night.) Fur is sure to become the quintessential “critic’s band” of Portland and for all the best reasons.
We’re big fans of Jacob Augustine and his unforgettable voice and songwriting around here, so this is a friendly reminder to catch him on the road over the next couple of weeks. He hits the road tonight with his band, traveling South all the way to Tennessee before making his way back up to Vermont for Waking Windows. Check out all of his albums on Bandcamp (where you can order one-of-a-kind hand-painted cds of any of them) and head out to a show!
Just for fun, here’s that single shot video we made with Jacob at Mayo Street a few years back. We still love this performance.
Jacob Augustine April 2015 Tour:
4/22 – New Haven, CT – Cafe Nine w/ Tall Tall Trees & Eurisko
4/23 – Brooklyn, NY – The Rock Shop w/ Field Guides & Frog
4/24 – Philadelphia, PA – Montrose Fun Zone w/ Evan Cory Levine
4/25 – Allentown, PA – Allentown Brew Works w/ Brother JT & Golden Specter
4/26 – Washington, DC – Mousai House w/ Veve & Tha Rebels
4/27- Asheville, NC – The Mothlight w/ Daniel Shearin Music & Matt Townsend and The Wonder of the World
4/28 – Knoxville, TN – WDVX Blue Plate Special w/ Low Cut Connie (at 12pm)
4/28 – Gatlinburg, TN – Sugarland Distilling
4/29 – Brevard, NC – 185 King Street
4/30 – off day – contact us if you’ve got any ideas!
5/1 – Abingdon, VA – Wolf Hills Brewing
5/2 – Charlottesville, VA – The Garage w/ The Sun Flights
5/3 – Winooski, VT – Waking Windows (4:45pm at Birdfolk)
Sufjan Stevens @ Merrill Auditorium 4.14.15 photo by Hannah Hays
Death is the elephant in the room of our lives. It’s one of the few universal inevitabilities we all face in our world, and yet we pretend it doesn’t exist and choose to ignore its impact until we’re directly faced with it. The thought of death, of losing our loved ones, or even ourselves, can paralyze us if we let it overcome us.
Sufjan Stevens confronts death directly on his new album, Carrie & Lowell, named for his mother and stepfather. Stevens’ mother passed away recently, and this new 11-song album is an auditory documentation of processing his loss and grief, as well. The result is a devastating, meditative, but ultimately hopeful understanding of death. It is Stevens’ most personal & introspective album to date; it is also among his very best work.
Carrie & Lowell is a more sparse effort than most anything prior in Stevens’ recent discography, trading in bombastic arrangements for more minimalist acoustic production. The “return-to-indie/folk” sound occasionally recalls the fingerpicked guitar and double-tracked vocals of the late Elliott Smith. Subtle orchestration and warm synthesizers round out the sound, resulting in the most intimate and serious sounding work for Sufjan Stevens’ career.
This Saturday, April 18th, record stores around the state will participate in the 8th annual Record Store Day. It’s no surprise that Bull Moose has the biggest list of events for this new holiday, since record guru/longtime Bull Moose employee Chris Brown actually invented the holiday. If you have about two hours to spare, his annual RSD preview video is pretty all inclusive:
Bull Moose Brunswick, 151 Main Street
8-11 a.m. – Custom Home Theater Systems will be on-site with a hi-fi audio demo station set up for customers to listen to their Record Store Day purchases. The demonstration will feature a Debut Carbon turntable with Ortofon OM-10 cartridge, NAD receiver, and PSB speakers.
Bull Moose Lewiston, 20 East Ave.
12-2 p.m. – Original WrestleMania tournaments on 8-Bit Nintendo to celebrate The Wrestling Album and Piledriver release.
2:30 p.m. – Jeff Beam acoustic in-store performance.
Bull Moose Portland, 151 Middle Street
2:30 p.m. – Dot Wiggin Band signing.
4:00 p.m. – Worried Well acoustic in-store performance.
5 – 6 p.m. – Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots tournament.
Bull Moose Scarborough, 456 Payne Road
12 – 2 p.m. – WCYY DJ Mark Curdo DJ Set
2 – 3 p.m. – Murcielago in-store performance.
Bull Moose South Portland, 219 Waterman Drive
1:00 p.m. – An Overnight Low acoustic in-store performance.
Bull Moose Waterville, 80 Elm Plaza
12 – 12:45 p.m. – Audio Apocalypse in-store performance.
1 – 2 p.m. – Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots tournament.
Bull Moose Portsmouth, 82-86 Congress Street
1 – 2 p.m – Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots tournament.
3 – 4 p.m. – “Professor Colletta’s Music History Trivia A to Z”
5 – 6 p.m. – Wheel-O-Fun. Spin the prize wheel— every spin wins something!
Bull Moose Salem, 419 South Broadway
2 p.m. – Carissa Johnson acoustic in-store performance.
Locally, Portland folk rockers Tall Horse will be releasing their new single on VHS, of all formats. Will it be an audio visual experience? Will it be the first installment in a new formatting trend? Where did I put my VCR?
Prolific Portland pop rocker Spencer Albee will also be cranking out another new release for the holiday, a CD called Mistakes Were Made.
Some Maine locations do choose to participate, but not hold any special events, which means some of the exclusive RSD releases will also be available at Newbury Comics on South Portland, Manny’s in Camden, Music Plus in Biddeford and Record Connection in Waterville.
Of course RSD is so much about supporting independent record stores and the local community, but what would this holiday be without a little consumerism? So what should we be excited for? Well I can tell you didn’t watch that whole video, so here’s some highlights:
Jack White is re-releasing Elvis’ first ever vinyl release which was originally recorded in 1953 and features “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.”
Courtney Barnett’s Kim’s Caravan 12” featuring “Kim’s Caravan” and “Close Watch” (a John Cale cover!)
Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybee 7” on a heart shaped vinyl (whoa) featuring “I Love You, Honeybear” (acoustic) and a new song “Never Been a Woman.”
Johnny Marr’s I Feel You 7” featuring his covers of Depeche Mode’s “I Feel You” and kinda himself with a version of The Smiths’ “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.”
Vampire Weekend’s Step 12” featuring “Step,” the remix featuring Danny Brown, Heems, and Despot and the instrumental.
Blitzen Trapper’s Harvest 12”, a live recording from the other Portland of the band covering tracks from Neil Young’s Harvest album.
J Dilla’s Love 7” featuring previously unreleased material and a reissue of his “Fuck The Police” on a 7” shaped like a badge.
Metallica’s 1982 demo tape No Life Til Leathr, on cassette no less.
D’Angelo’s The Charade 7” which features “Charade” and “1000 Deaths” Rhino Records is also releasing a “Side by Side 7” Series,” which features two artists doing their own versions of the same song, one the original, and one a cover. R.E.M. and Syd Barrett doing “Dark Globe,” David Bowie and Tom Verlaine doing “Kingdom Come,” Death Cab for Cutie and Freedy Johnston doing “Bad Reputation,” Stiff Little Fingers and Grandmaster Flash doing “The Message,” the Lemonheads and Gram Parsons doing “Brass Buttons,” and The Stranglers and Dionne Warwick doing “Walk on By.”
On the national level, RSD’s official 2015 ambassador is Dave Grohl, who is releasing a batch of early recordings from the Foo Fighters titled Songs From The Laundry Room, and even hehas a video.
The official RSD beer is Dogfish Head, and they’ll be releasing a compilation called Music To Drink Beer To, which was compiled by the brewers and features Bob Dylan & The Band, Uncle Tupelo, Iggy & The Stooges, Cheap Trick (!) and a Tribe Called Quest (?) among some other well known artists.
As with every record store day, its usually a good idea to check online on Friday to make sure the record you’re looking for is at the location you plan on hitting up, and when you do head in to get a RSD exclusive, you may want to get in line early. It’s like Christmas, you guys, Nerd Christmas in April.
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