Real Estate @ Port City Music Hall – photo by Grace Hager
It would be hard to believe that Tuesday night’s show at Port City Music Hall was Real Estate’s first outing to the somehow-still-growing coastal city of Portland (when was the last time you didn’t see some sort of giant hole in the ground where there was once someone’s house? Or steel girthers jettisoning out of the quiet neighborhood of Munjoy Hill?).
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 evening when the sun finally sets after a long summer day. 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.
Less than a few tracks into the night’s setlist the band was giddy to give a shout-out to their longtime friends (and our personal favorites) Will and Kathleen Pratt of Tandem Coffee Roasters with a heartfelt shout-out to Portland’s newly established coffee connoisseurs first family.
Bleeker was the true star of the night — coaxing the band into a ramshackle rendition of The Surfari’s classic “Wipeout”— if only for a minute or two. And Numerous times throughout the night’s show, Bleeker kept on stepping back in amazement that it was hilarious and somewhat nerve-wracking that so many people the band knew were in attendance at the full venue.
Let’s get this out of the way — humblebrag or not, I’ve seen my fair show of live music. From a night full of Ryan Adams’ weed-fueled Grateful Dead conjuring never-ending solos; to the beer soaked madness of a Swearin’ show (for the record: my favorite show to this day); to the black-eye and permanent scar I achieved from a Hold Steady show thanks to an overzealous drunk (it was a Hold Steady show in 2010 — I was a late bloomer to hyper-literate songs about growing up in Brooklyn).
Tuesday’s night show however, was home to one of the most humble, kind and positive vibe emanators since possibly Dave Matthews Band Under The Table.. heyday — and that’s in no way meant to be insult. From my vantage point in the front row, not once did I (or our photographer) feel unsafe, unwelcome or filled with absolute comfort.
I’ll attribute this mostly to the eclectic crowd of neo-hippies, surf bros, good vibe seekers and Urban Outfitters ready attendees. Of course, the smell reflected that with the steady stream of incense, the sweet smell of vape and of course, weed. It was everything I was expecting and the band was the tightest I have ever seen a “professional” musical act on stage — the missteps were minimal and easily hidden from the crowd with lightning quick adaptations.
Of course, not all was perfect — the music of Real Estate doesn’t exactly lend itself to an overly energetic stage presence, and come on guys — J’s Oysters instead of Eventide Oyster Co.? I guess if you really want the authentic Portland tourist experience you cant get much better than J’s.
Another problem is that Real Estate have only released three full-length studio albums — and there were very few tracks not performed from that trio, and with little to absolutely no variation on their tried and true studio recordings arrangements.
So go see Real Estate if you have the chance, hell — go see the aforementioned Alex Bleeker And The Freaks who have played Portland before, or lead-guitarist Matt Mondanile’s own more lo-fi project Ducktails — who have played numerous times across the city.
And one final tidbit: Alex Bleeker and Matt Mondanile’s first out-of-state show for one of their first bands was at our very own hole-in-the-wall Mecca, Strange Maine. Credibility gained.
Check out our gallery of Real Estate’s set at PCMH / photos by Grace Hager