PHOTOS / RECAP: Strangefolk @ State Theatre, Portland, ME 3/31/12

It was a few weeks ago now that I was driving up to Portland, Maine on a Strangefolk mission. And today as I sit here and write, I am still feeling the “high” of seeing one of my most favorite bands back together for the first time in over a decade.

When word was out that there was a reunion in the works, Strangefolk fans were in a frenzy of excitement. The band created a “Strangefolk Reunion” Facebook page where hundreds of memories, pictures, old stubs, flyers, tapes and CD’s of days past all came back to the surface for this now mature fan-base to reflect upon. Old friends and “family” were getting in touch from all over the country to start planning for what was to come. When Strangefolk formed in the early 90’s, I don’t think that any of the members of the band knew what would come of it all. Their music drew and formed a community of people who, to this day, remain to be some of the most loyal fans out there.

The “original lineup” of Reid Genauer on (rhythm) guitar, Jon Trafton on (lead) guitar, Erik Glockler on bass and Luke Smith on drums were bringing it all back for us. The first show would be in the band’s old stomping grounds of Burlington, VT at Higher Ground and their second show would take place in Portland, ME at The State Theater.

When the tickets went on sale, the Burlington show sold out instantly and without hesitating, a second night at Higher Ground was added to their mini-tour. It, too, was an instant sell-out. Literally hours after I scooped up my Portland tickets, I woke to news of THAT show selling out as well. A few weeks after that, keeping on with their trend, they added and sold out a FOURTH show to kick off their run at Brooklyn Bowl in NY. Without a doubt, this was going to be an epic four night run. Just epic.

Unlike the 90’s, when the band first came together, this time we live in now allows us fans to have instant information readily available. The NY show was on a Wednesday and from that evening on, I couldn’t stop looking at photos, reading reviews and watching YouTube clips. Friends were posting up to the minute reports from the shows as they were happening. The anticipation was intoxicating. And sure I had to be at work mid-day Sunday in Connecticut, but that didn’t stop me from driving north for a Saturday evening show.

To top things off, the band had established an “open camera” policy for this evening; meaning me and my SLR were going to have a good time without any hassle at all. I won’t lie… as much as I was “on assignment” for this one, it was completely all my pleasure.

In line, old taper friends were high-fiving and catching up on where they have been and how happy they were to be back. Just inside was the “Strangers Helping Strangers” table. This non-profit group was formed in 1997 by a group of fans that wanted to give back. And even though the “original lineup” had scattered about, to this day, SHS still comes together to organize food drives at concerts throughout the country. According to the SF Reunion FB page, the two shows in VT alone gathered over 750 pounds of food for those in need. It is incredible what the power of good will can achieve!

The last time that I saw these guys live, they were playing clubs the size of stage that they were now standing on. Making my way into the crowd, I was a bit taken back at the historic backdrop. The State Theater, built in the 1920’s, has survived through the ages and through much turmoil. The house lights went dim and goose bumps popped up all over my body as the boys struck his their first cord and with Reid front and center, the quartet opened with “Reuben’s Place.” My soul drew me as close to the soundboards as possible as me and my crew established our space for the evening.

I turned to look at the crowd and spotted a young lady with a huge set of protective headphones on while sitting on her dad’s shoulders. Like the individuals in the band, the fans had grown. A now mature crowd, complete with mothers and fathers around every corner, are able to pass the experience along to their young ones. No one held out on the opportunity to see this show. And as I sat there photographing that moment, Reid sang….

“On a wooded hilltop, there where the pavement stops
There is a house, seven children strong
And when they were young’uns, their mama gave them lovin
Their mama gave them, their mama gave them
What they need, look at how they’ve grown”

…very fitting caption!

It was hard to not be impressed with the lightshow that was splashing the walls every which way giving the theater that extra sparkle. Jeff Waful was to thank for that and his work reminded me a lot of moe. Coincidentally he did lights for moe. from 2004 to 2008, and now he woos all of the Umphrey’s McGee fans with his magic. He took some time to lend a hand to Strangefolk during this awesome four evening run.

The band kept playing hit after hit and were very clearly enjoying themselves as there was not a moment when they weren’t smiling behind all of their singing and playing. I can’t imagine what it felt like for them looking out into some 1800 fans who were just as happy to be there as they to be playing. The energy in the room was the most I have ever felt at any single show in my life (to date.) The sound was incredible and the band was tight. And as excited as everyone was through the months leading up to it, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that this reunion would be as truly amazing as it actually was.

For me, I was simply looking forward to just hearing some of my favorite tunes live again by one of the bands that I grew up with. But because of all of the components from this evening: the band, the fans, the lights, the sound, the good vibes, the friends, the families, the energy…because that all happened, I had to knock out one of my current “top ten live shows” off the list and add this one in.

Strangefolk will be performing a few other times over the course of this summer. Next stop will be at Wormtown Trading Company’s Strangecreek Campout over Memorial Day weekend. Beyond that you can plan to see them at Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport CT in July. And to wrap it all up, their final (scheduled and announced) show of the summer will take place under the stars on a summer evening in Burlington VT on August 11th. For the most up to the minute information on the Reunion, check out their Facebook page.

SETLIST: Strangefolk @ State Theatre Portland ME 3.31.12

Set 1
Reubenís Place
All The Same
Valhalla
Hildegard
Whatever
A Great Long While
New Glock II
Dance

Set 2
Oxbow
Westerly
Faces
Elixir
Blue & Grey
Two Boys
So Far Gone
Far From Yourself
Neighbor
So Well
—-
Lines