As campus band Suck my NESCAC opened Junior-Senior Ball in Brunswick on Saturday night, Toronto-based pop-punk duo Moon King warmed up the crowd for the first of three transporting shows this weekend at Space Gallery, one of Portland’s most versatile art venues. Twin Sister and School of Seven Bells headlined Saturday’s concert, Pearl and the Beard took the stage on Sunday, and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper opened for Kaki King to conclude the event series on Tuesday night.
Space Gallery is known for its esoteric exhibitions, contemporary film screenings and Indie concerts that cater to Portland’s aesthete crowd. The minimalistic space is kept sparse to accommodate all types of art, and has been used for interpretive dance performances and large-scale sculpture installations. It’s always packed come Art Walk, and is known to throw holiday parties worth going to. Tickets rarely exceed $15, and the reasonable price point coupled with a well-stocked bar means that Mainers of all ages frequent the place.
The five-man indie pop group Twin Sister brought the ethereal, listless sound of its debut album, “In Heaven,” to Space Gallery on Saturday night. The bewitching vocals of Andrea Estella and talents of guitarist Eric Cardona commanded the show, but hits like “Bad Street” and “Gene Ciampi” fell noticeably short of the pulsating energy of the band’s EP. At times it felt like Twin Sister’s cool had all but taken the life out of the ensemble, with Estella dreamily pacing center stage, hitting her tambourine as if the beat was only an afterthought. Perhaps all the energy of Twin Sister was siphoned off to School of Seven Bells, whose performance was over-thought and over-styled. Fresh off the release of a new EP, “Put Your Sad Down,” the duo, composed of vocalist Alejandra Deheza and guitarist Benjamin Curtis, was determined to put on a good show but tried too hard to make a dance beat out of their ambient instrumentals.
Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri, the voices of the Cambridge, Mass. folk-pop duo You Won’t, opened Sunday’s concert in the latest stop on their East Coast tour with New York-based Pearl and the Beard and Lucius. You Won’t released its debut album, Skeptic Goodbye, this summer after years of collaboration—Arnoudse and Sastri met as drama classmates in Lexington High School. The album casts a nostalgic backward glance at childhood; lyrics like “If I was a sad eighteen, I would cut all the holes in your jeans for you, / But now what can I say / I’m too little too late” in “Who Knew” are downright incredulous at the passing of time. The rousing, folksy beat of “Television,” coupled with Arnoudse’s beguilingly Dylan-esque vocals and Sastri’s piano accompaniment, were enough to move the crowd.
You Won’t ended the night by jumping off the stage and playing its last song from the center of the gallery, with Arnoudse spending some time perched on the lap of Pearl and the Beard guitarist Jeremy Styles. The audience—charmed by the band’s vaguely retro, jocular style—swayed along as Arnoudse and Sastri broke out wind chimes and a harmonium, which as Arnoudse explained, is a hand-pumped keyboard instrument that “Indie groups have blasphemed to the top of the charts.” A fitting end, as that’s certainly where You Won’t is heading.
Lucius had to bow out of the show due to illness, apparently shared by both band members, so Pearl and the Beard was up next. The indie folk trio, composed of Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price and Jeremy Styles, is known for impressive live performances, and Sunday night was no exception. With Mackenzie playing glockenspiel and sometimes kazoo, Hope Price on cello, and Styles on guitar—and all three harmonizing on the band’s rich, powerful vocals—the sound of Pearl and the Beard shook the bones of everyone gathered between Space Gallery’s uncharacteristically blank walls. A few technical difficulties were quickly put to rest by Peter McLaughlin ’10, of The Milkman Union, who works the sound at Space (“He has the hands of a baby surgeon,” Styles said of McLaughlin).
Highlights of the night included an unearthly a cappella solo from Hope Price and an off-stage encore that brought Pearl and the Beard, You Won’t and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (who was in the audience that evening) together in the center of the gallery for a heartwarming rendition of Lady Lamb’s “Apple,” which she co-wrote with Hope Price. “If you walked away / I would be a lonely apple / In the core of me / There grows a seed / And it’s trying to become / Become, become, become…” they sang, holding hands and swaying together, surrounded by an audience that didn’t hesitate to sing along.
Brunswick native Lady Lamb (a.k.a Aly Spaltro), 23, was the real star of the concert series. Tuesday night brought by far the largest turnout of the weekend, and Lady Lamb took advantage of the occasion (“I feel like I got my start here,” she said of the venue) to announce that her debut studio album, “Ripley Pine” drops on February 19, and that the kick-off show will be held at Space shortly thereafter.
With family and close friends in the audience, the show was a true homecoming for Lady Lamb, who first started writing music while working the counter of Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion in Tontine Mall and last played at Bowdoin in November 2010.
After starting with an affecting a cappella opener, Lady Lamb ran through old favorites, like “Milk Duds,” which she said is about a time when she was young and in love, living in Bath, and the feeling of going to the candy store with the person you love and just “going to town on the candy.” The set list also included tracks from her forthcoming album, like “Crane Your Neck” and the melancholic “Little Brother.” The show was one of the final stops on Lady Lamb’s first nationwide tour; before leaving the stage to Kaki King she reminded the crowd that she’ll be back at Space in no time.
Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, Me. space538.org