2013 was year that I committed to seeing live music. Didn’t see many movies, instead most of the entertain budget went to going to shows around the area.
I love the value of the seeing music: from zero dollars to, I think, the most expensive single show was $35 dollars for a ticket. The average price was probably 12 to 15 dollars. Getting so much entertain value is great, but knowing that you are also supporting musicians makes spending the money actually feel good! And watching the musicians work hard at what the love to do, play music, is also very satisfying.
Literally, I did not see a show that I did not enjoy this year. From the anarcho-punk band, Ramshackle Glory to Chamber Music at the Marlboro Music Festival, from Marlboro, VT-based Red Heart the Ticker to JD McPherson, from The Devil Makes Three to the Duhks — it was all good.
Both the Green River Festival and the Roots on the River Festival were a lot of fun. And there are always surprises when you see live music, like buying Sauerkraut Seth’s sauerkraut at the Wyios show at the Next Stage in Putney, Vermont, or buying Ray’s Polish Fire hot sauce at the Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellies concert at the Parlor Room in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Thank you to the venues that we visited this year including,
- The Parlor Room (Northampton, MA)
- Calvin Theater (Northampton, MA)
- Hooker-Dunham Theater (Brattleboro, VT)
- Vermont Arts Exchange (North Bennington, VT)
- The Next Stage (Putney, VT)
- Green River Festival (Greenfield, MA)
- Roots on the River Festival (Bellows Falls, VT)
- The Stone Church (Brattleboro, VT)
- The Iron Horse Music Hall (Northampton, MA)
- Twilight on the Tavern Lawn Music Series (Putney, VT)
- American Repertory Theater (Cambridge, MA)
Top Shows of the Year
It is almost impossible narrow down my favorites shows of the year, but I am going to try.
- Poor Old Shine (Starting at the Parlor Room and ending at the ART theater in Cambridge, MA). Learned about Poor Old Shine from Jim Olsen (of Signature Sounds) at the first show I went to at the Parlor Room. Jim described the band as having a “band vibe” something like classic bands of the 1960’s, like The Band. That intrigued me enough to go to see the band sight unseen at the Parlor Room. Our instinct (and Jim) were right: this was an energetic band that played Alt Americana music tightly and joyfully. They played ballads, gospel songs, and raucous string arrangements. We knew from the first few songs that this was going to have to be a band that we would want to follow. And we did, we saw them four times over the course of the year, and they never disappointed.One of my first thoughts when I tried to describe the band was a 21st century Kingston Trio. Not because they were bland or “white bread”, but because they played together as a band, they played songs like “Sweet Virginia Lee”, “Long Road to Redemption” and “Will the Circle be Unbroken” which somehow seemed to be in the story telling vein of the Kingston Trio. BUT… I don’t think the comparison will work for most people; there are too many negatives when people think of the Kingston Trio. I think my 20-something friend Maggie said it better, Poor Old Shine is like the Avett Brothers, but younger and for younger people.The last time I saw them this year was December 28th at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. They provided the music for David Farr’s play “The Heart of Robin Hood.” But provided the music isn’t quite right; they were also part of the play. Almost all of the songs came from their new album, but if you didn’t know that before the play started, I am not sure you would have guessed it from the play itself. The music, the lyrics, the band’s vibe meshed perfectly with the play. It was magic.
Poor Old Shine was my favorite “new find” for 2014!
- David Wax Museum (Calvin Theater w/ Lake Street Dive) Full confession: David Wax Museum has been a favorite of mine since the 2012 Green River Festival. Have seem them six times since July 2012 (including four times this year.) And I wrote a glowing review of their Knock Knock Get Up album on this blog. So, of course, they are going to be on my top shows of the year list. But the tricky part is what show to single out. Every time I see them, they just get better. But I am going to single out the New Year’s Eve show where they opened for Lake Street Dive at the Calvin Theater on New Year’s Eve. Unlike when we saw them open for the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Calvin in the Spring (see below), this was a dance concert. We were pressed up at the stage, and they simply nailed it.- “Harder Before It Gets Easier” was the best version I ever heard.
– “Let Me Rest” was as beautiful as ever, but Suz and David’s voices really came together. (I love this song, but I would love to talk with the band about it — it is a strange, inverted gospel song.)
– Suz was on fire with the fiddle.
– The two new songs they played “Everytime Katie” and “At Least I Tried” are great! They bode well for the next DWM album!
- Girls, Guns and Glory (Parlor Room) I had no idea who these guys were before I won tickets to the show (I was going to buy tickets if I hadn’t own them, I swear!) I wasn’t even sure that they were “guys”, I kind of presumed that they were an all woman band. Which would have been interesting, because the show they were doing was a celebration/tribute for the 90th Anniversary of Hank Williams Sr.’s birth. I wanted to go because I thought it would be a nice treat for Carol, not because I was all that into Hank Williams. But what we found was an butt-kicking, rocking country band from Situate, MA… apparently according to the lead singer, the Country Capital of Massachusetts. (Certainly the South Shore of Boston must be the Capital with Lori McKenna living in Stoughton.)They made Hank come alive. They sang the songs with obvious joy, passion and maybe reverence.The last few songs that they did were their own, and I have to admit, I want to hear more.
- Gogol Bordello (Green River Festival) Gogol Bordello headlined Saturday of the Green River Festival. More then others years, the band drove a lot of people away, but I also never saw the folks who remained be so into a band. I stayed, and even though they were challenging, it was a heck-of-a-show! They were big, loud and brash. They were a carnival – driven and relentless. Their album Pura Vida Conspiracy was a family favorite album of the year — especially with our 13 and 10 year old.Forrest (1o years old) came with us to the show; he loved it.
- Rushad Eggleston (Parlor Room) Didn’t know what to expect, and wasn’t disappointed. Rushad apparently played with the band Crooked Still, but I wasn’t into the band at the time. What I encountered was a fellow dressed like a jester who carried his cello like a guitar with a shoulder strap. He jumped, he danced, he made up lyrics, it was mesmerizing. And at the same time I heard some of the most beautiful cello music that I have ever heard; music so beautiful it almost made me cry.If you get the chance to see this guy, suspend your disbelief, and check him out. It will be worth it.
- Carolina Chocolate Drops (Calvin Theater with David Wax Museum) This was the third time that I saw CCD (first time was at the Green River Festival in 2012 and at Freshgrass at Mass Moca in 2012. I was immediately taken with them. (Even decided that I wanted Snowden’s Jig to be played at my funeral someday.)The Calvin show was great. Seeing CCD is like going to school, and I mean that in the best way possible. I always learn something about the traditions, about the instruments or about the history. I have jokingly said that they should offer a study-guide to accompany their shows. (Or maybe a MOOC (massively open online course!))I think they are playing the Calvin again in April this year. Pretty sure I will get tickets for that show!
- Frank Turner (Calvin Theater) I only learned about Frank Turner this year through our local radio station, WRSI. Loved his song Recovery, so I got the album, and when I heard about the concert, I got tickets. The show was great, but it was almost like crashing someone else’s concerts. It was a huge sing-along. It seemed that everyone knew all the words. The crowd in front of the stage was big, and there was even some moshing going on.I am psyched to learn more of Frank’s back catalog!
Now go out there in 2014, and support live music.