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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at and a music writer for and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk of course.

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Posted: February 11, 2019

Hot shows to cut through the cold of winter

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

I’ve had it with winter. As always, it’s not so much the cold, it’s the near-slips on the ice that really wreak havoc with both my body and spirit. Few things cheer me up more though, especially in winter, than getting out a black razor-point Sharpie and marking up my kitchen calendar with concerts. There’s something immensely satisfying about putting pen to paper, old-school style.

So as we sit here in the middle of February, with spring seemingly a million years away, I invite you to consider this carefully selected bunch of five shows in February, March and April to get you out of the house – slippery driveways, sidewalks and all – and out into the world for some live music.


Paula Cole photo by Tim Llewellyn

Though some may think of Cole as a ’90s artist with hits like “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” and “I Don’t Want to Wait,” she’s quietly been releasing albums for the last several years, and the most recent one is the double record “Ballads.” On it are 20 takes by Cole of jazz standards from the likes of John Coltrane, Billie Holiday and Rodgers and Hart. Cole also tackles more contemporary tunes, including Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and, my personal favorite, Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.” Expect to hear some of these songs along with some of the classic Cole originals during her Gardiner performance. And trust me when I tell you, her sensational vocals are as potent as ever.

Paula Cole

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23
WHERE: Johnson Hall, 280 Water St., Gardiner

Dwight & Nicole photo by Shervin Lainez

Burlington, Vermont’s Dwight & Nicole is a three-piece indie-soul band with Dwight Ritcher and Nicole Nelson along with Ezra Oklan. Their latest release is the five-song EP “Electric Lights,” and every song is a banger. Both Ritcher and Nelson sing, and both have fantastic voices. Also, super fun fact: Portland’s Katie Matzell with her golden pipes will be opening the show.

Dwight & Nicole with Katie Matzell

WHEN: 8 p.m. Feb. 23
WHERE: One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $12 in advance, $15 day of show


Bells Atlas photo courtesy of the artist

California’s Bells Atlas is a five-piece band fronted by singer Sandra Lawson-Ndu. I’m stealing their Facebook page’s description of “kaleidosonic afro-soul, rhythm popsicles, taste the r’nbow” because it’s perfect. Their sound combines jazz, experimental and R&B with pulsating ferocity. They’re all over the map, and one can only assume the live show will be quite a trip. If you need a one-song preview, hop online and listen to “Be Brave.”

Bells Atlas with Kafari

WHEN: 8 p.m. March 6
WHERE: Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $8 in advance, $10 day of show


Gerry Buckley and Dewey Bunnell of America. Photo courtesy of the artist

Want to know why you should be excited about the thought of seeing America? It’s simple: Their hits are certifiable shining stars of the ’70s. Children of that decade might remember riding in the way back of the family faux wood-paneled station wagon hearing their songs on the radio, specifically “the big three.” America had way more than three hits, but “Sister Golden Hair,” “Horse with No Name” and, especially, “Ventura Highway” stand out among them.


WHEN: 9 p.m. March 16
WHERE: Aura, 121 Center St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $49.50 to $95.50, 18-plus show


Squirrel Nut Zippers photo courtesy of the artist

You might remember retro swing band Squirrel Nut Zippers from its 1996 “Hot” album with songs “Hell” and “Put a Lid on It.” The latter is a swampy, sassy number with lead female vocals from Katharine Whalen and, once you hear it, good luck putting a lid on anything without singing it. The band went on a lengthy hiatus but last year released “Beasts of Burgundy,” its first album in 18 years. Listen to “Karnival Joe (From Kokomo)” if you want convincing that their live show is not to missed.

Squirrel Nut Zippers

WHEN: 9 p.m. April 19
WHERE: Aura, 121 Center St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $25 to $55, 18-plus show


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