Our Night at Tupelo Music Hall

This is going to be a super long post because I took notes throughout the entire show. Some low tech blogging while I was there. Notes are all over the menu, the schedule, the letter from the woman sponsoring the ticket contest and the envelope the ticket came in. So sit back and dig in for this read.

Last evening Allison and I went to see Ellis Paul, Christopher Williams (my inspiration for Photo-A-Day, see his Photo-A-Day project from 2002.) and Don Conoscenti play at Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry NH. Allison won the tickets by answering a trivia question on the Ellis Paul message boards. Opening for Ellis, Christopher, and Don was Dan Cloutier. Dan opened for Vance Gilbert this past December and at that time we were not very impressed. But you know what Dan has vastly improved since then. His music is much more polished. Even songs that we did not really enjoy last time were so much more accessible. Dan has a good voice and his guitiar play is good. Some songs still feel like they ramble a bit, but we were not dissapointed. His songs still have too many refrains of the same exact thing. The refrain for Jerusalem repeated six times. It is a good song but the refrain six times is a bit much. Christopher Williams jammed with Dan on the last song that he played called “Soul of a Man” Allison heard that it was a cover but not who originally sang the song.

When we arrived at Tupelo we met this woman named Alice who is also a huge fan of Ellis Paul. She even went to a three day retreat with him in Stowe Vermont. I guess he does these retreats once a year or so. Not sure on the details, but basically you go and watch him perform for three nights and hang out with him during the downtime, it is limited to about 35 people so it is small and intimate. Sounds like a great time. Alice came all the way down from Montpelier Vermont. Quite the distance to travel.

We got in at 7:15 or so and were the second people through the door. We got our assigned seat, table 31 and lo and behold who is sitting there but Christopher Williams, we gave him a hard time about sitting in our seats and joked around a bit, then we talked with him about the upcoming wedding and the whole coincidence that our wedding date is the will be his 1st year anniversary. He is so laid back and cool. We can’t wait to see him when he comes to Norton again to the Lyons Den at Wheaton college.

During a brief intermission we picked up a piece of Death by chocolate cake. We were able to bring alcoholic drinks with us to the show. We picked up a bottle of Moselland: Lighthouse series Riesling. At Tupelo if you bring alcohol with you it costs $3.00 per person. This must cover some sort of insurance fee or something. The wine was pretty good, cool bottle too.

Ellis was joined on stage by Don Conoscenti and Christopher Williams. He started the night off with Take All the Sky You Need from his American Jukebox Fables Album. He played this song on Thursday night’s show on the Comcast channel with Barry Nolan.

Song #2 was Maria’s Beautiful Mess from the Speed of Trees Album. Allison loves this song. I mistook the intro as the one to Roll Away Bed which is also on the Speed of Trees Album and a song we used in our super secret wedding project that I can’t wait to talk about but I have to wait till the wedding. But I also like Maria’s Beautiful Mess.

Song # 3 was Jukebox on My Grave from the American Jukebox Fables Album. It is funny to remember hearing this song when Ellis was still working the kinks out of it. During the song Ellis got so caught up in Don playing of the guitar that he lost his place. But ever the commanding entertainer he picked back up, made the crowd laugh and kept going.

Song #4 was The One Way from the Side of the Road album which was an album that Ellis and Vance Gilbert put out. The song was written by Mark Erelli, (someone I want to see live too. This song was written after the attacks on September 11, 2001 and is one man’s response to the acts of terrorism. Just keep living and not to be afraid. Keep living and giving. Such a great message in this song.

Song #5 was 3000 Miles from the Stories, Sweet Mistakes and Live (Disc 1) Albums. There was a great extended intro to the song by Ellis and Don Conoscenti. This is my absolute favorite song by Ellis. When Christopher Williams kicked in with percussion it was very powerful. A great song about traveling and being on the road for such a long time and then things that one sees while being on the road. It really speaks to me.

Song #6 Ellis took to the piano for the song Home which is on Americna Jukebox Fables. A very powerful and moving song about losing your house to a fire, but not losing what is most important to you in that of your family, your wife in this case. And the fact that the house was just a building but you my wife are my home.

Song # 7 Ellis stayed at the piano and played what he called the greatest song ever written which was When Hank Williams came to town by Johnny Cash. I liked his rendition of the song very much. We are very excited to see the Johnny Cash biopic called Walk the Line.

Song #8 was God’s Promise and it is on the Speed of Trees Album. The lyrics were written by Woody Gurthrie when he was about 35 while lying in a hospital bed. Did you know that Woody Gurthrie wrote over 200 songs but only recorded about 70 of them. The Guthrie family has commissioned songwriters to put Woody’s words to music so that those songs are not lost forever. Ellis Paul makes God’s Promise a collaboration and celebration with Woody Gurthrie. This song is also on the super secret wedding favor project. It is a very powerful and moving song and to listen to it and to think that this was written as Woody Gurthrie was in so much pain is incredible.

Song #9 was Sweet Mistakes from the Sweet Mistakes Album. The song was also featured in the movie Shallow Hal. Ellis told a funny story about how the movie was on one day and he hadn’t seen it in a while so he decided to watch it to see his song featured and it got to the point where the cong comes in and they played 4 notes of the song and cut to commercial. The song was very appropriate to the movie, but alas network TV needs those commercials.

Song # 10 was If You Break Down and is on the Speed of Trees Album and was featured in the TV show Ed. It was funny because there is a long pause in the song and the crowd thought it was over and started clapping but the song wasn’t over, so we laughed and they continued to play the song after a moment of awkwardness and humor.

Song #11 was The Martyr’s Lounge from the Sweet Mistakes Album and the Live Album Disc 1. This is such a great song. It talks about all the Matyr’s in heaven and how they hang out in a bar. There are some fantastic lines like, “Now Jesus don’t need no introduction He’s got a famous old man” and “Marilyn Monroe, Jacques Cousteau Talk about the sharks they used to know…” There was a tremendous jam session during this song. The crowd totally responded to that and it pumped up the feeling of the song as well. Even though it was a great song to begin with.

Song # 12 was Alice’s Champagne Palace and is from American Jukebox Fables. Every time I hear this song I want to jump in a plane to go to this bar and see Alaska. That would be fantastic. This song also kinda makes me feel that Alice from Arlo Guthrie’s song Alice’s Restaurant (A thanksgiving day tradition is to listen to this in our household) sold the restaurant in Stockbridge, MA after the Thanksgiving incident and moved to Homer, Alaska to open a bar and welcome everyone in. It just has the feel to me.

Song # 13 was one of three acoustical songs. Ellis and Don Conoscenti and Christopher Williams unplugged and cae out into the crowd. They played Blacktop Train from American Jukebox Fables. This is a song about Route 66. The guys really let loose during the song and enjoyed themselves and the music. so much feeling in the music.

Song #14 was Bad, Bad Blood from American Jukebox Fables. An exposition of this country’s obsession with true crime and live TV of true crime events as well as our voyeuristic nature to make reality and tragedy entertainment. And also about the need for 15 minutes of fame despite who it hurts, whether it be seeking the 15 minutes or contributing to it.

Song #15 was the official last song. Some great chatter amongst the guys as they returned to the stage to retune their instruments. There was even mention of the Red Sox and how they needed last night’s loss so they could rise again today and beat the Yankees. The song they did was The World Ain’t Slowing Down from the movie Me, Myself and Irene and from the album Translucent Soul and the Live Album Disc 2. The movie was filmed partially in Jamestown, RI and was one of the first songs we heard of Ellis’ in a movie. Ellis’ lyrics are infectious and smart. The crowd gave a standing ovation at the end and the guys dashed off to a side room for about 3 seconds and came back out to perform the first encore of the night.

Encore song #1 Conversations With a Ghost from the Say Something album and the Live Album Disc 2. Allison loves this song. Very mellow song, winding the night down.

Encore #2 not sure of the name of the song or what album it was from or if it was even one of Ellis’ songs either. The refrain said “I’ve been doing some hard traveling. It was a song that they hadn’t done in a while and it was a great one for them just to jam on and end the night. It was performed acoustically.
Update: Allison did some research. The song is called “Hard Travelin'” by Woodie Guthrie.

After that the crowd gave another standing o
vation and Ellis came back out for one more song and it was a Christmas song that he wrote in Texas. It was to the tune of a Dylan song, but we couldn’t identify it.

After the show we waited around to talk with Ellis and tell him what a great time we had and that we saw him on CN8 the other night. He was very gracious and warm and we chatted for a little bit. Then we said goodbye to Christopher Williams and told him we would see him in December and he told us good luck with the wedding and to remember that no matter what happens on the day of the wedding we will be married when that day is done.

We had a great time at Tupelo. There are some other fantastic shows coming to the venue and we may go back to see Don White in February and Catie Curtis in December. We’ll see.

Even though we love seeing Ellis play on his own, having Don Conoscenti and Christopher Williams there to play with him really added something special to the evening. The energy and enthusiasm of these three men playing together was infectious. The crowd gave two standing ovations. It was a fantastic night of great music.