I love catching the big name acts that come to the Music Hall—who wouldn’t swoon to Al Green? But I get even more jazzed about seeing emerging talent push musical boundaries—known to music critics and fans but new to me—like the infectious, high-energy band David Wax Museum, who played to a sold-out house at the Loft on Sunday April 7.
And, as a writer, I hate to miss any of the Writers on a New England Stage or Writers in the Loft events. It’s fascinating to get a privileged peek inside the heads of these authors, each with a singular voice and point of view.
So it goes without saying that I’m excited about the expanded lineup of the Portsmouth Singer-Songwriter festival this year, starting with the Pulitzer prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon with his book The Word on the Street: Rock Lyrics on Wednesday, April 17; and ending with a double bill of Aimee Mann and Sharon Van Etten on Sunday, April 21. (All appendages crossed that Aimee and Sharon will decide to sing a song or two together for us. . .)
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes came into Portsmouth with one goal in mind: to bring the New Jersey rock to The Music Hall. Southside Johnny, who is sometimes referred to as the “Godfather of the New Jersey sound,” started playing just after 9 p.m. to a massive roar of applause. For over an hour and a half, Johnny & the Asbury Jukes rocked the crowd filling the Music Hall almost to its entirety. The fans sang along and clapped to every song, including their hit “I Don’t Want To Go Home.” The band also added a personal touch to their performance, interacting with the crowd during the entire show. The rock ‘n’ roll that echoed through The Music Hall was nostalgic for many people in the crowd, bringing them back to earlier days when they listened to Southside Johnny (and similarly Bruce Springsteen). The fantastic performance by Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes was felt all throughout downtown Portsmouth – something that is always welcome.
Chris Thile’s newest creation- Punch Brothers, a five-person band founded in 2006, was most recently nominated by the Americana Music Awards for best band. Thile, the former mandolinist in the critically acclaimed band Nickel Creek, was also nominated as best instrumentalist along with Dave Rawlings and Buddy Miller. Thile released his first five solo albums when he was just 13, and by the time he was twenty he was attracting a following among pop, country, and alternative-rock audiences.
Thing is, I’m lucky. I’m lucky and I’m ever so appreciative. My friends are awesome and generous and wildly talented. I make a lot of songs and am always enlisting folks to help realize them. For my last album, North for the Winter 30 different musicians accompanied me and all brought their own unique sensibility.
If you come and stay with us and there’s a spare 15 minutes before heading off to swim at a swimming hole, I might ask you to sing a little backing vocal up in the attic where I record. Sorry, I’m presumptuous that way. Sorry, as well, but I might ask you to sing about some unseemly topics. Thing is, you smash it. You make it so nice in a way I didn’t know it could be and take it on as though it were your own.
Back in the early Seventies when Al Green made his name, I was a Rock ‘n Roll gal. I enjoyed Al’s sweet voice and lovestruck lyrics, but his music wasn’t at the front of my radar. Now I have come to appreciate the tremendous talent this singular icon of soul is bringing to The Music Hall on Tuesday, August 28.
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