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The Stowaways Are Sheer Joy

Venue: Empire Dine and Dance, Portland ME ~ February 13, 2012 ~

Feb 15, 2012
Kimmy Sophia Brown

My daughter, Grace, invited me to join her at the EmpireDine and Dance in Portland, where the local bluegrass band, The Stowaways, plays every Monday night. I have spent very little time in bars during my adult life, so it was a new experience for me, as silly as that might sound. I loved the atmosphere of the Empire, with its beamed ceilings, worn wooden floors and large black and white photos of musicians on the walls. The Stowaways were already playing on stage when we got there -- Erica Brown on fiddle and vocals, Matt Shipman on guitar, Steve Roy on standup bass, Joe Walsh on mandolin and vocals, Ron Cody on banjo, and for some songs, Dave Talmage on guitar. They recently celebrated their four-year anniversary playing at the Empire, and they were very much at home on the stage. Their playing is relaxed and absolutely excellent. They performed two hour-long sets.

StowawaysThe entrance unfortunately divides the bar into a U shape.The band played on one side and we were sitting on the other side at first, so it was hard to hear them. Later some people left and we were able to snag a table. Grace invited some of her friends to join us so we had a friendly time chatting it up. As I sat there, I tried to figure out what was different with this bar experience from when I was young and it dawned on me that there was no smoke! When did they create that law? Duh!

I felt very comfortable surrounded by the cheerfulatmosphere of the hard-working, thirty-something folks who were  kicking back with a few beers and listening to the great music. There were lots of beards and pea coats and pretty ladies on the bar stools. A few folks were dancing in front of the stage and from where I was sitting they reminded me of little troll dolls bouncing up and down. I don’t know why! The Stowaways played “Hummingbird”, “Turkey in the Straw”, “Black Eyed Susie” and many more tunes. At one point Dave Talmage said, “Imagine I’m a beautiful woman,” and he sang lead on the song, “I’m a Banjo Pickin’ Girl”. 

For the Stowaways, taking the stage every Monday night isall about fun and spontaneity. What new thing might they try? In honor of the passing of Whitney Houston this week, they performed a playful version of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, bluegrass style, with Steve Roy doing the lead vocal. It was pretty funny.  Like all great musicians they made it look so dang easy!  Maybe I’ll become one of the Portland regulars who clears my plate on Monday nights so I can go hear theStowaways. I am now an official fan!

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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