Monday Night Bluegrass is Back at OTTO

Three years ago, the acclaimed bluegrass player Joe K Walsh started a Monday night tradition in Portland’s Arts District: Bluegrass Night at OTTO.

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Photo by Gabe Souza/PPH

Joe and Friends have been a staple at the 576 Congress Street location, laying down some of the best performances (of any genre) you will find anywhere in Maine.

We’re pleased to announce that, after a short winter hiatus (while Joe was on tour with Mr. Sun, his band with Darol Anger, Grant Gordy, and Ethan Jodziewicz), Bluegrass Night is back, starting Monday, March 28. The first edition of 2016 will feature Joe, along with Steve Roy, Lincoln Meyers, and Lukas Pool.

For the uninitiated, Joe Walsh was the first student at Berklee College of Music to graduate with a degree in performance specializing in mandolin. He currently teaches at Berklee, where he serves as Managing Director of the American Roots Music Program.

The world-renowned fiddle legend Darol Anger called Walsh “one of my favorite musicians on earth.”

Joe has played in several renowned bands, including Joy Kills Sorrow, the New England Bluegrass BandNorthern Lights, and the Grammy nominated Gibson Brothers.

Writing in the Portland Press Herald, Bob Keyes wrote, “Walsh is the most in-demand mandolin player in Maine, and one of the most sought-after in America. He could easily live in Nashville, Austin or any other acoustic music hotbed, but chooses Portland because he loves the city and is well-treated here.”

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Photo by Gabe Souza/PPH

And he loves it so much, each Monday night he assembles a handful of the best roots musicians in Maine, or in America, for a fireworks-display of fretwork, lonesome harmonies, and good times.

Some of Bluegrass Night’s past guests have included members of Crooked StillDella Mae, the Josh Ritter Band, and the Ray LaMontagne band. You never know who might pop up, but you can always expect to be blown away.

And to boot, the shows are 100% free.

So, grab your family and friends, pop over for a few pies, some local craft beer, and take in some of the very best bluegrass you’re likely to hear anywhere.

Celebrate OTTO’s 5th Birthday with Elliott Brood at One Longfellow Square

Join us for an unforgettable celebration of food, friends, music, and community

We don’t usually make a big stink about birthdays, but we’re coming up on our 5th, and it just seemed wrong to not throw a party.

While we have multiple events and surprises planned for the weeks leading up to our actual birthday (June 18) and beyond, this is the big one — a celebration of food, friends, music, and community at One Longfellow Square on Saturday, May 24.

Brood_1Some of you may have seen a little three-piece band from Toronto called Elliot Brood at OTTO’s Munjoy Hill location about 18 months ago. And if you were ever in our original slice shop back in the day, chances are you heard Elliott Brood blasting while we cranked out pies. You might even say they fueled a lot of what we have built over the past five years.

An absolute favorite of OTTO owners and staff, Juno Award-winning Elliott Brood is a powerful three-piece specializing in an artfully unique brand of alt-country guaranteed to move you — physically and emotionally.  Whether churning out urgent, boot-stomping sing-alongs or lyrically-rich soot-stained ballads, these guys are the real deal. You really don’t want to miss them.  We’re thrilled that they agreed to be part of our celebration.

Sharing the stage will be Sympathy & The Lion, an alt-folk duo out of Lancaster, PA.

There will be giveaways, prizes and other surprises.

In case you need additional incentive:

“Elliott Brood shows are known to be lively affairs.”Washington Post

“Elliott Brood knows how to get a crowd off its laurels.”SF Weekly

“Elliott Brood holds fast to the notion that a great story-song sounds even better played fast and rough, propelled by frenzied strumming and rattling percussion.”The Onion’s AV Club

Get your tickets now.  It’s gonna be a good time.

Joe Walsh & Friends: Free World-Class Bluegrass Every Monday Night at OTTO

179759_559817904030144_1944109_nOTTO’s Arts District location (574 Congress St, Portland) is extremely proud to host mandolin-picking wunderkind Joe Walsh every Monday night at 8pm.

For several weeks now, the acclaimed bluegrass player (not to be confused with The Eagles guitarist) has been helping OTTO break in the new dining room and bar expansion. We’re not sure how long we’ll be lucky enough to host Joe & friends, but it has certainly been a treat.

For the uninitiated, Joe Walsh was the first student at Berklee College of Music to graduate with a degree in performance specializing in mandolin. He currently teaches at Berklee, where he serves as Managing Director of the American Roots Music Program.

The world-renowned fiddle legend Darol Anger called Walsh “one of my favorite musicians on earth.”

While in Boston, Joe played in several bands, including Joy Kills Sorrow, the New England Bluegrass Band and Northern Lights. Since 2007, Joe has called Portland home. He is currently a full time member of the Gibson Brothers, recently named the 2012 IBMA Entertainers of the Year.

Joe Walsh Press ShotAlthough Joe is certainly one of Portland’s busiest and most celebrated musicians, he has found time to pull together an enormously talented rotating group of friends to perform each Monday night at OTTO. The performances are loose and fun, but certainly not lacking in fireworks.

And to boot, the shows are 100% free.

We can’t think of a better way to spend a Monday night.

Grab your family and friends, pop over for a few pies, some craft beer, and take in some of the best bluegrass you’re likely to hear anywhere.

Here’s a taste of Joe’s playing, from a recent performance at One Longfellow Square:

Pizza In Music: From The Classics to The Inexplicable

Perhaps more than any other food item, pizza has found its way into they lyrics of countless songs. Sometimes, pizza serves to elicit a sensory response — to bring a setting to life. In this way, pizza is poetry. Other times, pizza serves as the entire reason for the song’s existence. (Some bands really, really like pizza.)

Whether it’s an elegant staple of Italian dining, or a raucous celebration of everyone’s favorite party food, the consensus is unanimous: pizza is awesome.

We have selected a wide array of pizza songs for your your enjoyment. A few of these are transcendent. One or two of them will never be forgotten. And several of them are simply inexplicable.

Feel free to add your entries in the comments section.

“That’s Amore” – Dean Martin


“The Pizza Song” – Bouncing Souls


“Eat To The Beat” – Blondie


“Pizza Day” – Jonathan Coulton


“Pizza Pie” – System of a Down


“Krusty Krab Pizza” – SpongeBob SquarePants


“Pizza Nif” – Horse The Band


“Pizza Song” – Brak (Space Ghost)


“Pizza Girl” – Jonas Brothers


“Imagine (There’s No Pizza)” – Herman Cain


“Gimme Pizza” – Olsen Twins

Who is Elliott Brood? And Why Should You Care?

Elliott Brood is on tour and playing a bunch of shows in the northeast before heading over to Europe.

Music is an important ingredient at OTTO Pizza – we listen to it all the time. We listen to music while we’re setting up shop in the morning; it’s playing during the day when we’re taking care of our customers, and we crank it up at night while we’re cleaning up the shop to do it all over again the next day.

Some of the folks who work at OTTO Pizza are musicians themselves, and there are a ton of local bands that we love as well, but every once in a while, a band comes along that really grabs us and maybe we go a little crazy.

Elliott Brood is such a band. These guys are amazing. But don’t take our word for it. Check ’em out for yourself.

And apparently, Elliott Brood is on tour right now, which is great. Anybody else really like Elliott Brood? Why don’t you drop us a line at ottopizza668@gmail.com?

OTTO Pizza’s Lady Zen Has What It Takes — And More

Lady Zen delivers some spoken word truth at the OTTO Pizza Christmas party in December 2011, which took place at the OTTO Pizza on Munjoy Hill.

The folks who work at OTTO Pizza are an eclectic bunch, no doubt, but it’s not often that one of our own gets a cover story in a well-read local mag.

Lady Zen, a jazz singer and poet who also happens to work at OTTO Pizza‘s Munjoy Hill shop at 225 Congress St., in Portland, Maine, got a helluva write-up this month in The Bollard, a monthly magazine in Portland that’s become a must-read for anyone who wants to keep up with the lowdown on what’s going on culturally in this town.

Not only did The Bollard’s publisher, Chris Busby, who wrote the piece himself, manage to convey a compelling account of her life story, he also delivered a convincing argument as to why her shows are quickly becoming can’t-miss events wherever she plays.

From The Bollard piece:

The most powerful voice in Portland belongs to a 40-year-old Brazilian Buddhist from the Bible Belt who makes her living slinging pizza. Her name is Alzenira Santos Amaral Quezada. You may know her as Lady Zen.

Lady Zen’s music mirrors her life: both have been all over the map. On the heels of a heartbreaking year, Lady Zen is poised to make her strongest music yet in 2012. She’s learning how to meld her influences into a sound that’s uniquely her own.

You’ve never heard anyone like Lady Zen around here. And you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.

Lady Zen, who works the OTTO Pizza kitchen on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and also takes a turn hosting on Friday nights, has a couple of gigs coming up that promise to showcase different aspects of her amazing talent and engaging persona.

The first is set for Feb. 14, (Valentine’s Day, ya know) at The Big Easy, where she’ll recreate Erykah Badu‘s phenomenal record, “Baduizm,” in its entirety — for the first set. In the second set, she and her band will present a complement of her original tunes, which she said she’s reworking specifically for this performance.

“We’re rearranging the songs to reflect the feel of Erykah Badu’s album, so the show will flow,” Lady Zen said. “This isn’t going to be some sit-down jazz thing, it’s going to be a get-up-and-shake-your-booty kind of thing.”

The second gig on the horizon represents something else entirely — exactly what, however, remains to be seen: Lady Zen will be participating in the Space Gallery’s 48-hour Music Festival, with a show set for Saturday, Feb. 18.

What, you make ask, is the 48-hour Music Festival? Let’s let the folks from the Space Gallery answer that one. From the Space Gallery’s webpage:

Thirty adventurous artists from different Portland bands of all genres agree to step out of their comfort zones and be randomly shuffled into 6 supergroups, announced on Thursday afternoon. No members of these newly formed bands are allowed to have previous musical history with one another. From there, each band has exactly 48 hours to construct and practice a 25 minute set of material, culminating in the Saturday performance.

So, mark the dates down in your datebooks, folks, and try to hit at least one or both, if at possible.

And if you find yourself on Munjoy Hill sometime, stop in at OTTO Pizza, grab a slice and a refreshing beverage, and introduce yourself to Lady Zen — and maybe you’ll be able to say you knew her when …

In the meantime, you can check out a couple of tunes from her recent gig at the Big Easy at The Bollard’s website, or you can go straight to the source at her own website.

Yeah, That Was Jonathan Richman Playing at OTTO Pizza the Other Night …

Jonathan Richman entertains the crowd at Portland, Maine's Space Gallery with songs from his latest release, "O Moon."

Ask the folks who live and work in and around Portland, Maine, and they’ll tell you that the city’s burgeoning arts scene plays a large role in what makes Portland such a cool little town. Of course, there are many other reasons, but the astonishing variety of artists, musicians, actors, writers, poets and playwrites who call Portland home, or pass through as they’re doing shows here, produce an aura of creative possibility that has become part of the fabric of life in the greater Portland area.

And OTTO Pizza‘s Arts District Shop at 576 Congress Street is right in the heart of the action — and because of that, every once in a while, something happens that allows us to transcend the rhythm of our day-in, day-out lives, step back and wonder at the beauty of it all.

Which is exactly what happened the recently when Jonathan Richman stopped in before his recent show at the Space Gallery. The show was part of his ongoing tour in support of his new record, “O Moon.”

Turns out that OTTO Pizza co-owner Mike Keon, as well as a couple of the members of the crew at the OTTO Pizza Arts District shop are big Jonathan Richman fans. The Space Gallery’s only a few doors down, so Mike had sent down a couple of pizzas so Jonathan wouldn’t have to take the stage hungry.

To show his thanks, Jonathan decided to stop in with his guitar, unannounced, and play a couple of tunes.

Seth Condon, the manager who was on that night, said he wasn’t exactly sure what was going on when Richman came in and started playing. He didn’t announce himself or say anything, Seth said, he just started playing, strolling through both OTTO and ENZO, the attached wine bar, before heading out the door and back down the street to the Space Gallery to do his show.

“I didn’t recognize any of the tunes he did,” Condon said, “but a couple of the customers knew exactly who he was when he started playing.”

Unfortunately, no one got so much as a photo of Jonathan during his visit to OTTO Pizza but the OTTO contingent that attended the show that night did get a couple of shots of him on stage at the Space Gallery.

And, for what it’s worth, if Jonathan Richman’s playing in your town, don’t miss it. He’s a great songwriter who puts on a fantastic show.