I’m not from the Midwest. I’ve lived on the east coast for the majority of my life. But if there’s one thing I love above all else, it’s music. And that’s one thing New England and the Midwest have in common; some of the most amazing music scenes in the United States. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to give you a look into some local acts here in exchange for the wonderful bands RFC has exposed me to.
In the winter of 2007, I moved from the sprawling suburban nightmare of southern New Hampshire to the great town of Portland, Maine. I knew little to nothing about the city, other than it shared a name with the more popular Portland west and the lobster is worshiped like the cat was in ancient Egypt. Everyone knows Portland Oregon as one of the meccas of great music. And while the Vacationland equivalent may be lesser known, it has one of the tightest knit music communities you can find in all of New England. I quickly fell into the Portland routine; work by day, trudging through the slush and snow of Congress Street at night to one of the local bars for a few rounds of PBRs and Shipyards. Each Wednesday was spent at Slainte, a quaint little wine bar, for open-mic. On a cold snowy evening, a petit girl headed to the stage with guitar in hand. She couldn’t have stood much taller than 5 feet. But what came out of her mouth could not be measured.
She was Aly Spaltro or, as she is known, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. Her voice was like an orchestrated mix of Janis Joplin and the deep soul of Billie Holiday. I have no idea where she kept this kind of voice in her tiny frame, but I didn’t care. I turned to my roommate, and in not so many words uttered “I am completely in love with this girl.” Some people need the backing of a great band to compliment their voice. But Lady Lamb needs nothing. She wouldn’t even need her guitar were it not for the way she manipulates it to carry both rhythm and percussion. That night I witnessed one of the many musicians would make my stay in Portland a memorable one. (I also think I ended up throwing up in front of Cumberland Farms and answering an adult personal from the Portland Phoenix, but that’s a tale for another time).
It’s hard to get everyone in a bar to be quiet and focus on what’s on stage. Between clanking beer bottles and loud drunken conversations about why Animal Collective just plain sucks, it’s amazing how Lady Lamb can captivate a crowd. Listening to her is like throwing all your thoughts and emotions in a blender and drinking the mixture, chasing it with a cigarette. Child-like whimsy mixes with the thoughts of your first love tearing your heart out. But the taste left in your mouth can only be described as satisfying. Lyrics like “Hey stranger on the street. May I please have a piggyback ride?” make her instantly adorable. Songs like “Until I Am Bones” and “He Comes Galloping” create surreal visuals in your head that might remind you of Alice Through the Looking Glass. It’s innocent love with a twist of macabre.
Lady Lamb is not just another girl with a guitar bemoaning the days of past of loves. Leave that up to Paramore. (Question; Is Paramore still around?). She is an artist, plucking the thoughts floating above your head and constructing them into an image that somehow makes perfect sense. Lady Lamb is now moving on to greater things. A few weeks ago she started the new chapter of her life by moving to New York City. Her farewell show was an emotional night with support from other great local artists like Don Dumont, Elizabeth Taillon and Jacob Augustine. If it sounds like I am gushing, I sure as shit am. If you ever have the chance to see her live, you will understand. She is an endearing person who makes the Portland music scene (and now NYC) a presence to be proud of.