“If it could only be like this always, always summer, the fruit always ripe.”
– Evelyn Waugh
Music journalist Lindsey Zoladz, who writes the excellent biweekly blog/playlist The Amplifier for the NY Times, opened her recent post with the following quasi-disclaimer: “Dear listeners, I sincerely hope I am not the first person to break this news to you, but it’s true: summer is almost over.” She’s right, of course: I don’t want to hear about the equinoxes, to me (and most people, I’m pretty sure) summer is a calendar month function and once Labor Day hits it’s the fall. Which is okay – crisp, Carhartt vest-wearing weather, eye-catching foliage and all that. But the hours-longer, impossibly sultry days of summer are what I truly crave. Plus, living in Maine I know what brutal fate awaits after fall.
“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Zoladz’s column focused on the roster of summer ’23 concerts she’d attended, highlighted by both the Taylor Swift and Beyonce mega-tours, retro visits to see John Cale and Tanya Tucker, and filled out with an array of hipsterish artists significantly beyond my coolness zone. So in turn, I thought I might offer a quick review of the shows I entered into my concert history Excel spreadsheet (yes, it’s true) for the three months that made up the now sadly concluded summertime.
“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
– William Shakespeare
It began with jam-fusion stalwarts Umphrey’s McGee at Portland’s vibey State Theater. Then continued with multiple outdoor shows on the edge of the Fore River at beautiful Thompson’s Point as headlined by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Fleet Foxes, Cake, and two consecutive nights of my family’s favorite band, Guster, part of their annual On The Ocean Portland festival (I sat out the opening evening of the full weekend extravaganza, but wife & daughter attended for all three). There was psychobilly king Reverend Horton Heat playing some gigantic guitar at small club Aura. And the unexpected highlight of the list, Melvin Seals & JGB for a sunny afternoon show at Maine Craft Distilling, faithfully recreating the music of the Jerry Garcia Band, Jerry’s 20-year side project, and being led by Seals, one of its longtime members.
There was also a return to NYC’s Beacon Theater for the triumphant return of real country music’s best band, the Turnpike Troubadours. Plus a chance to see my madly music-making son Max appearing with four – count ‘em, four – different bands: Space Camp, Tetchy, Rong, and Fred Cracklin, three of which happening at Portland’s quirky Apohadion Theater. (Which reminds me, too, of the one would’ve-been-great show that got away: Bluegrass phenom Billy Strings, scheduled for Max & I to attend back at Thompson’s Point, which had to be skipped due to my unfortunate return engagement with Covid). That’s 13 in all. Not bad, I guess, for the most cherished three months of my year. But despite how cliché it is to say, I still can’t believe how fast the summer went.
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
– John Steinbeck
So I’ll finish by trying to capture that mood, ending this post and formally concluding the season with a brand new tune from Austin swamp-soul band Shinyribs, whose 2023 song ‘Little Drops of Summer,’ which I heard for the first time just this week as August drew to its close, seems to hit just the right melancholy note of a long-anticipated, treasured time sadly fading away while arriving at the threshold of something else, well, a little less special coming in to take its place.
Or at least colder.
267 days ’til Memorial Day.
As the aforementioned NYT columnist Zoladz closes her pieces, so shall I:
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