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Published: 2012/04/11
by Tina Kelleher

On the Road Again with Strangefolk

Photo by WGK

The State Theater – Portland, ME: March 31st

Set I: Reuben’s Place, All the Same, Valhalla, Hildegard, Whatever, Great Long While, Rather Go Fishin’, Dance
Set II: Oxbow, Westerly, Faces, Elixir, Blue & Gray, Two Boys, So Far Gone, Far From Yourself, Neighbor, So Well
Encore: Lines & Circles (w/ Swing Low, Sweet Chariot lyrics)

Like the Higher Ground shows, the State Theater show sold out superfast. I heard it through the grapevine that it sold out faster than Jane’s Addiction did when they played there. While it’s worth mentioning that Jon and Erik are Maine natives and both had plenty of friends and family in attendance, even stretching beyond that network of support, there is no question that Maine has always been one of the most rabid pockets of Strangefolk fandom in the country. Some would argue it even rivals the Vermont crowd where the band first started making a name for themselves in and around the UVM campus back in the early-to-mid 90s.

From the first note to the last, the energy level was through the roof at the State Theater. When thinking about what I wanted for a set opener in Brooklyn, “Reuben’s Place” had come to mind simply because I have a sentimental attachment to it; it was the first Strangefolk song I ever heard, courtesy of a random gift tape of Set II from Colby College 9/9/95 that was added to a Phish trade I had set up through AOL’s Phish Bowl chat room back in October of 1995 (Ryan with the DOB of 9/27/75… are you out there?). Not only would Luke’s thundering drums make a fitting return to the stage, the lyrics spoke to the atmosphere as well: “Excuse me, think I’ve been there once before… it seems so… so familiar don’t you know… “. When they opened the run with Poland instead, I wasn’t at all disappointed as that one has been tops on my list of songs I never get tired of (plus the “pony in Brooklyn” line was just as apropos). Looking back, I’m glad they didn’t open with Reuben’s Place in Brooklyn and instead saved it for the Portland opener… the crowd’s energy was there in spades, which made it that much more intense. Even after all this time has passed, it seems their ability to read and respond to the crowd is still absolutely there.

I haven’t listened back to the recordings yet, but I’m willing to bet you’ll be able to hear the crowd singing along to most songs during the show, especially so during “Reuben’s Place,” “Valhalla,” “Two Boys,” “So Far Gone,” “So Well” and “Lines & Circles.”

Near the end of the show, Jon took to the mic to thank everyone for coming out, express how overwhelmed they all have been with the whole experience and to let everyone know that they’d be set up at a table in the lobby to say hello to anyone who wanted to stop by. Considering how big the State Theater is (close to 2,000 I’d guesstimate) and the fact that they had a gaggle of friends and family waiting to see them post-show, I thought that was exceptionally generous of them and as such, is worth mentioning.

In summary, all those worried doubts I had in my mind about Jon’s solos, Reid’s voice and stage presence, Erik’s harmonies and Luke’s ability to both fill and expand the gaps were beyond dispelled over the course of the four shows, but especially so in Portland. The consensus was that each show was progressively better than the last and the experience of being there for not only the music, but to experience the family vibe of the Strangefolk community all together again made it all more than worth whatever hoops any of us had to jump through to make the trip.

And in the end…

We’re still lacking any official word on what the future might hold for Strangefolk, but if this run offered them any kind of glimpse into whether or not the fans had been patiently waiting for the original line up to get back together again, I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind that the collective reply was a resounding, “YES!!!”. At present, they’re confirmed to appear at this year’s Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport, CT on July 21st and at the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival (an event dubbed “Edge of Eden” as a nod to their annual Garden of Eden festival) at Waterfront Park in Burlington, VT on August 11th.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a question around what a permanent reunion might mean for “Newfolk”, there absolutely is and I think it’s safe to say that those who stuck around after Reid’s departure would love to hear that that incarnation of the band will carry on in some capacity, be it Dirigo or something else. Our love for “Oldfolk” doesn’t detract from how we feel about “Newfolk”. I’d imagine it’s a lot like having two kids: though each one is completely different, you don’t have any less love for one in comparison to the other.

We live in and of each other, we will remain… (and Pete Shapiro is a god among men! ).

*“Newfolk” and “Oldfolk” are monikers used by fans to distinguish the two versions of the band marked by the departure of founding member, Reid Genauer in September of 2000. With Reid (circa 1993-2000) is known as “Oldfolk”, with guitarist Luke “Patchen” Montgomery and pianist Don Scott (post-2000) is “Newfolk”.

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