Lady Lamb (Aly Spaltro) performing in her midcoast yard on Aug. 22. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Aly Spaltro, who uses the moniker Lady Lamb, is a nationally known independent musician from Brunswick who until recently had called New York City home for the past decade.

In 2019, Spaltro released the album “Even in the Tremor” and toured extensively in both the U.S. and Europe, including headlining a show at Portland’s State Theatre last year.

A lot has changed since then. Spaltro is once again a Mainer, and she recently transformed the front yard of her midcoast home into a performance space called The Hive. Six 45-person shows in August and September sold out within minutes. She’s considering adding more.

Spaltro is donating 20 percent of ticket and merchandise sales from the shows to the Wabanaki Community Response Fund, the Abyssinian Meeting House in Portland and Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons. She said she feels it’s important to give to local nonprofits that are doing important work for the immigrant population, people of color and indigenous people.

The first of these Hive shows was on Aug. 22, and I was lucky enough to have been there, my first ticketed show since March. With my spouse Tracy, our face masks, a cooler bag and two beach chairs, I took to the woods and sat beneath the tall trees and stars while Lady Lamb played a riveting solo acoustic show that drew heavily from her 2013 “Ripely Pine” and 2015 “After” albums.

Aly Spaltro stands in front of the mural she painted on her mid coast property. 08.30.20 Photo by Aimsel Ponti

The Hive felt like a sanctuary in that CDC guidelines were followed to the letter, but also in the well-thoughtout setup, from lighting to signage and sound. There was a fire pit that fans could (safely) sit by after the show and plenty of land on which to spread out. During a conversation with Spaltro the day after the show, she told me she was hoping to create a microfestival environment. Mission accomplished, and then some. It was a sublime, late summer night’s dream come true for live-music-starved fans. This was nourishment, like how sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D.

Spaltro said it felt both sweet and surreal when she started the show just after 7:30 p.m. and saw us all spread out on her front lawn. She was also pleasantly shocked that nearly everyone there purchased merchandise. (I left with a T-shirt and signed poster.) Spaltro handled a midshow, fly-swallowing moment with comedic ease. “I feel blessed to be back. It’s like coming full circle coming back home,” she told us during the performance. Spaltro swapped out her acoustic guitar for a banjo and closed out the show with “Regarding Ascending the Stairs” from “Ripely Pine.”

“I left like it was a total success. I got the feeling people were just appreciative to have a really great excuse to go on a little mini road trip,” said Spaltro. When asked whether she felt nervous about having people know where she lives, Spaltro said she sat with the idea for a while and decided she had enough faith in her fans to proceed with the shows. “I feel this sort of kindred thing with everyone that is loyal to Lady Lamb, which is that I feel like we’re all pretty like-minded and I have always only experienced nothing but respect and responsible people.” Spaltro continued to gush. “Every fan that I know has only ever been kind and appropriate and compassionate, just wonderful people. I have never felt threatened in my own show space.” She did, however, bolster her home security with additional outdoor lighting and a security camera.

The performance space created by Lady Lamb at her midcoast yard. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

What gave Spaltro the idea for The Hive in the first place? She saw a sign. Literally. A portable marquee sign was for sale in front of the closed Wiscasset Diner on Route 1. Spaltro drove by it several times over a couple weeks and had a “Field of Dreams”-esque vision. “I thought, this sign is so cool but there’s no reason for me to buy it unless I’m going to do something with it.” In her mind’s eye, it clicked: Fire pit, lawn and marquee lend themselves perfectly to a small venue. If she builds it, maybe people will come. And indeed we did. The marquee sign, lettered with the words “Live from the Hive,” served as a perfect backdrop along with pine trees and a string of white lights.

Spaltro, 31, moved back to Maine after closing on her midcoast home on March 12, which was exactly when it became all too clear that live music as we know it was no longer happening.

In fact, Spaltro barely made it out of Spain in February when the alarm was being sounded all over Europe that the pandemic was very real and sinking in its teeth. She and her girlfriend, Erica Peplin, who was accompanying her on the European tour dates, had to make quick work of getting back home. “It felt like we were in a car speeding away from an explosion. We just narrowly missed every big, huge shutdown in Europe, and we got home maybe two days before Americans were having a huge issue getting home.”

Back in the U.S., the dozen spring shows she had planned with a string quartet never happened. In fact, they were two hours out of Manhattan en route to the first show in Atlanta in March when they got the call and turned the car around. Those shows have been rescheduled to fall of 2021. Fingers crossed.

Spaltro’s return to Maine wasn’t, however, pandemic-influenced. It had, in fact, been inspired by something joyful – her sister Jay’s news that she was expecting her first child. The two are very close, and once Spaltro heard that she’d be an aunt for the first time, she immediately started looking at homes. Turns out, the timing was perfect, as she spent mid-March into July fixing it up, seeing only her mother and two siblings who are all relatively close by. “I was alone for the whole thing, but I also was so elated to have a house project. I had such a big distraction.” Peplin quarantined with her family in Michigan, but the couple was reunited in Maine on Spaltro’s birthday in July.

Spaltro said she’s thankful she was able to collect unemployment as a self-employed person, though she’s used to living with what she described as extreme financial unpredictably for her entire career as a musician.

The fact that Port City Music Hall has closed and, across the country, countless venues are vulnerable is terrifying to Spaltro as both an artist and a person who believes in the arts. “They’re integral to our human experience. We need to be able to congregate together and listen to music and experience music together; it’s incredibly cathartic and fulfilling.” For now, Spaltro’s trying her best to not succumb to pessimism, and the series of Hive shows is helping.

At the moment, all scheduled Live from The Hive shows are sold out, but Spaltro encourages people to keep an eye on the Lady Lamb Facebook and Instagram pages, as she’s likely to schedule additional solo shows, as well as one in October with a string quartet that she hopes to livestream.

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